Sabathia cruises as Yankees pick up 3-0 win over Red Sox in first game of doubleheader


Source: FanGraphs

For the first time since winning six straight from June 7th though June 12th, the Yankees have won back-to-back games. It had been far too long. The Yankees rode great starting pitching, timely hitting, and more zeroes from the bullpen (?!?) to a 3-0 win over the Red Sox in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader. Feels good. It’s Sunday and there’s no chance I’m writing two full recaps in one day, so let’s recap with bullet points:

  • Building A Three-Run Lead: Considering everyone looked out of gas following Saturday’s marathon, the Yankees did a nice job against Rick Porcello. One baserunner in the first, two in the second, then one in the third before finally breaking through in the fourth. A single (Didi Gregorius), a Xander Bogaerts error (Clint Frazier), a single (Austin Romine), and a sac fly (Ji-Man Choi) got the Yankees on the board. Ronald Torreyes drove another run in with a two-out single to left. Frazier made a great slide around at the tag at the plate for the 2-0 lead. One inning later Gregorius stretched the lead to 3-0 with a 295-foot home run (!) around the Pesky Pole. Clutch hits and a dinger. My kind of offense.
  • Six Strong From Sabathia: Things did not look out of the gate. Sabathia walked the first two batters he faced Sunday, but two ground balls got him out of the jam, and he went on to hold the Red Sox to two hits in six scoreless innings. He did walk five, which is atypical, but I guess making two starts in the last five weeks will do that. Sabathia threw 97 pitches — his limit for the day — and he did exactly what the Yankees needed him to do. Soak up innings in the front end of the doubleheader after the 16-inning game last night. The big man is down to a 3.54 ERA (4.21 FIP) on the season. I’ll take it.
  • Three From The Bullpen: With the bullpen taxed and his options limited, Joe Girardi handed the ball to Tyler Clippard for the seventh inning with a 3-0 lead, and he pitched around a leadoff infield single. So many infield singles this series. Clippard has been terrible for a good month now, but if you’re going to have to use him, using him with a three-run lead against the bottom of the lineup is the time to do it. Chad Green had to pitch around two two-out walks in the eighth, then Aroldis Chapman, pitching for the third straight day, nailed down the save despite allowing a two-out single. I’m a bit surprised the Yankees were willing to use him three straight days after the shoulder injury, but whatever.
  • Leftovers: Aaron Judge snapped out of his little 0-for-12 slide with an infield single, extending his on-base streak to 42 starts … two hits apiece for Chase Headley, Gregorius, Frazier, Choi, and Torreyes. The 5-6-7-8-9 hitters went 9-for-19 (.474) … the Yankees have held the Red Sox scoreless over their last 22 innings. The BoSox are 2-for-51 with runners in scoring position against the Yankees this year, and one of the two hits didn’t even score a run. Good gravy.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page either. The Yankees and Red Sox will wrap up this four games in three games series later today with the second game of the doubleheader. That’s the 8pm game on ESPN. Masahiro Tanaka and David Price as the scheduled starting pitchers.

Game 89: Let’s Play Two

(Rich Gagnon/Getty)
(Rich Gagnon/Getty)

Between yesterday’s 16-inning affair and today’s doubleheader, the Yankees and Red Sox are going to play (at least) 34 innings of baseball in about 34 hours this weekend. Pretty crazy that the All-Star break ended three days ago and the pitching staff is already overworked. Baseball can be a real jerk like that sometimes.

Anyway, the Yankees are an Aroldis Chapman blown save away from winning the first two games of this series, but that cuts both ways. The Red Sox are a Craig Kimbrel blown save away from winning the first two. As poorly as the Yankees have played these last few weeks, these two teams always seem to be evenly matched when they meet. It’s weird but also kinda fun and puke inducing. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup for Game One:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. LF Clint Frazier
  7. C Austin Romine
  8. 1B Ji-Man Choi
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    LHP CC Sabathia

It is a lovely day for two games in Boston. Nice and sunny with temperatures right around 80. Not a bad day to spend 18 innings at the park. This afternoon’s game will begin shortly after 1pm ET. You’ll be able to watch on YES locally and TBS nationally. Enjoy the game.

Roster Moves: As expected, the Yankees have reinforced the bullpen for today’s doubleheader. Bryan Mitchell is up as the 26th man, and both Domingo German and Caleb Smith have been called up as well. Jonathan Holder and Ben Heller have been sent down. Joe Girardi said they might make more moves between games depending how things go. Neither Holder nor Heller deserve to be sent down after last night’s performances, but that’s the way it goes with young relievers. Michael Pineda (elbow) was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot for Smith, who will be the 12th player to make his MLB debut with the Yankees this season whenever he gets into a game.

Cause for Concern

(Adam Glanzman/Getty)
(Adam Glanzman/Getty)

Ever since 2013, expectations for the Yankees have been ratcheted down in preseason discussion. Their roster construction from then on limited their outlook to wildcard contenders rather than division favorites, as they’d been for the 15-20 years before then, excepting 2008 (a brief digression: The ’08 Yankees won 89 games despite getting 30 starts from the combination of Darrel Rasner and Sidney Ponson; that’s incredible).

While spectacular–or even good–results were hard to count on, one thing was pretty sure: the Yankees would have a good bullpen. It helps when your relief corps is led by Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman over the last 20 or so years, but after that, whether it was Joe Girardi pushing the right buttons, the team cycling through and replacing options quickly and efficiently, some combination of those things, or bullpen fairy dust, the Yankees always did well in relief. This year, things have not followed that pattern.

Before the All Star Break, Betances and Tyler Clippard had well-publicized meltdowns. It seemed just about every reliever was taking his turn in coughing up winnable games for the Bombers during their futile June and early July. Things came to a head on Friday night in Boston when Chapman blew a save in grand fashion, walking in the winning run after experiencing some combination of bad luck and bad performance, a bit of a microcosm of his season.

From certain angles, things look good for Chapman. He hasn’t allowed a home run all year. His K/9 is in line with his career norm. He’s got a 1.66 FIP. Then there’s the weird stuff. His ERA is sky high (for him) at 3.74. His strikeout percentage is down to 34.3 (which is still good!), way off from the 42.1% mark he’s had for his career; he hasn’t been under 40% since 2011. His strand rate–normally around 80%–is at 67.7%. His BABIP is .415, which seems insane for a guy who throws that hard (and has a career BABIP of .290).

That strand rate seems odd to me, so I checked out his splits with runners on and it turns out his K% is “only” 30%. It hasn’t been that low since 2011. Batters are hitting .277 against him when they’ve never hit over .186 in those situations. He also seems to be allowing much more hard contact and much less soft contact in those situations. That and the BABIP suggest a lot of flukiness in the runs he’s given up–excluding, of course, that awful walk to Andrew Benintendi on Friday night.

The underlying data, though, suggest some reasons to be concerned. Let’s start with velocity, which is an odd place to start considering how hard Chapman throws. This year, he’s hucking fastballs at a ridiculous 100.08 MPH on average; that’s absurd. Human beings shouldn’t be able to do that. What’s crazy is that it’s actually down a full MPH from the 101.08 mark he averaged in 2016. There are explanations–playoff hangover, time on the DL this year–but any time you see a drop like that, it’s a bit iffy. The tables also show that Chapman is getting slightly less horizontal movement on his slider this year than he was last year; Friday, he threw only fastballs in his outing, which seemed odd. More odd was that of 23 pitches, Chapman got just one swing and miss.

2017 has seen big drops in whiff/swing rate on Chapman’s pitches over where they were in 2016 and that is scary for any pitcher, especially one who’s going to be in big leverage spots. This helps explain the above trouble with runners on, too; if guys aren’t whiffing, they’re making more contact and they’re gonna get more hits and they’re gonna score more runs, etc. Indeed, Chapman’s contact rates are up, and have been trending in the wrong direction for a few years now. The only ‘comfort’ is that the jumps this year are so extreme that they should even out towards his career norms at some point (right?).

The first year of Chapman’s five year deal has been fraught with a lot of things, including frustration that the deal is even a thing. Now, there’s been a mix of injury, worse-than-normal performance, and a little bit of negative flukiness. There’s nothing we can do as fans but sit and wait for an adjustment. It’s in the hands of Chapman and the staff to make that adjustment. If there isn’t one to be made, though, and this is a sign of things to come, this may be a long, long five years.

DotF: Adams labors in win, Acevedo really struggles in loss

That 16-inning win took a lot out of me and I’m not really feeling a full DotF tonight. Here’s the short version of tonight’s minor league action:

  • Triple-A Scranton (2-1 win): CF Mason Williams and 1B Rob Refsnyder both went 0-for-4. Mason’s hitting streak ended at 14 games. LF Billy McKinney had a double and 3B Miguel Andujar had a single and double. RHP Chance Adams struggled, walking four in 4.2 innings.
  • Double-A Trenton (7-6 loss): 2B Jorge Mateo had a single and CF Tito Polo had four hits, including a double. SS Thairo Estrada picked up his daily double. RHP Domingo Acevedo got knocked around for six runs on nine hits and two walks in four innings. Ouch. He allowed three homers.
  • High-A Tampa (5-4 win): 2B Nick Solak and CF Trey Amburgey each had a single while LF Alex Palma had two. RHP Dillon Tate allowed three runs, including two homers, in his 6.1 innings.
  • Low-A Charleston (5-4 win): 2B Diego Castillo, who has been swinging well for a while now, had three hits, including a pair of doubles. DH Blake Rutherford extended his hitting streak to ten games with a single. CF Estevan Florial struck out three times in four hitless at-bats.
  • Short Season Staten Island (5-3 win): A triple for SS Oswaldo Cabrera, a single for 3B Nelson Gomez, and no hits for 2B Wilkerman Garcia or CF Leonardo Molina. RHP Drew Finley struck out seven and allowed three runs in six innings.
  • Rookie Pulaski (9-7 loss): Three hits for my man CF Pablo Olivares, all singles. 3B Dermis Garcia and RF Steven Sensley both had two hits as well. One of Sensley’s left the yard. DH Brayan Emery had two hits too. Nothing interesting happened on the mound.
  • Rookie GCL Yanks East Game One (9-0 loss): One single but no walks for LF Canaan Smith. RHP Harold Cortijo came out of the bullpen and allowed four runs in 1.2 innings.
  • Rookie GCL Yanks East Game Two (8-3 loss): DH Canaan Smith had three hits but again, no walks. He must be broken. RF Jonathan Amundaray had a single. RHP Roansy Contreras, last year’s $300,000 bonus baby, allowed five runs in five innings in his stateside debut. He’s 17.
  • Rookie GCL Yanks West (6-5 win): SS Oswald Peraza, DH Gustavo Campero, and 1B Miguel Flames all went hitless.

Yankees 4, Red Sox 1: Victory snatched from jaws of defeat in 16 innings

It took forever and it wasn’t always fun to watch, but damn does it feel good. The Yankees were three outs away from yet another disheartening loss Saturday afternoon, but a few hours later, they were celebrating a 4-1 win over the Red Sox. It only took 16 innings. And, amazingly, it was only their second longest win of the season in terms of innings played. They had that 18-inning win at Wrigley Field.

(Rich Gagnon/Getty)
(Rich Gagnon/Getty)

Eight Innings of Pain
There’s nothing quite like facing Chris Sale to make a team struggling as much as the Yankees feel even worse about things. Sale toyed with the Yankees all afternoon, holding them to three hits and two walks in 7.2 scoreless innings. He struck out 13 and he was ahead of hitters all day. Seventeen of the 29 batters he faced saw a first pitch strike and 12 of those 29 saw an 0-2 count. How are you supposed to hit like that? Against a guy like Sale, no less?

The Yankees did have some chances against Sale. Brett Gardner started the game with a leadoff walk but never advanced as far as second base. Starlin Castro didn’t budge following his leadoff double in the second. Gary Sanchez stood and watched the final out after his two-out double into the third. That’s about it. Sale retired 15 of the final 18 batters he faced, and one of the baserunners reached on an error by third baseman Tzu-Wei Lin.

The last best chance against Sale came in the eighth inning, when his pitch count was over 100. Gardner blooped a single into shallow right field, bringing Sanchez to the plate as the go-ahead run. Sanchez doubled earlier in the game too. Sale struck him out though. Alas. Red Sox manager John Farrell went to closer Craig Kimbrel for the four-out save. Aaron Judge put together a great ten-pitch at-bat, including five straight two-strike foul balls, before lining out to right field to end the eighth inning. So it goes.

(Rich Gagnon/Getty)
(Rich Gagnon/Getty)

Toe to Toe with the Best
On most days seven innings of one run ball would be good enough to win, even with the Yankees bullpen. On Saturday, it was enough to put Luis Severino on the hook for a loss. Severino allowed that one run on a Mitch Moreland sac fly in the third inning. The Red Sox had the bases loaded with one out that inning and Severino escaped with minimal damage. His final line: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K and 114 pitches.

The most impressive thing about Severino’s start is that he did that without his best pitch. The slider wasn’t really cooperating Saturday afternoon. It was real short for whatever reason, almost like a cutter. Just one of those days, I guess. Severino relied on his fastball primarily, and mixed in the slider and changeup occasionally. Last year a bad slider day turned into a disaster start. Now it’s seven innings and one run. What a year for Sevy.

Extra Innings
I’m not going to lie, when the top of the ninth started, I was already writing a blurb about the no shutout streak being over. Instead, the Yankees are still the only team in baseball not to be shutout this season. Matt Holliday knotted things up 1-1 with a long leadoff home run against Kimbrel in that ninth inning. The fastball was as middle-middle and middle-middle gets:

matt-holliday-craig-kimbrel

That was pretty awesome. Castro, the next batter, then reached on an error by Xander Bogaerts, and pinch-runner Jacoby Ellsbury immediately stole second. Runner on second with no outs! Strikeout, strikeout, strikeout. Yuck. I really can’t explain Didi Gregorius pinch-hitting for Clint Frazier that inning either. Gregorius has been struggling and Frazier turned around a Corey Knebel heater for a walk-off home run last weekend. He can had handle velocity an Gregorius was coming off the bench cold against Kimbrel.

Well, whatever. To extra innings they went. Adam Warren bailed out Chasen Shreve, who allowed back-to-back leadoff singles, in the tenth. The Yankees wasted a free baserunner when Holliday was not called for interference in the 11th. It was a weird play. Holliday was on first and for some reason he retreated to the bag on Ellsbury’s 3-6-3 double play ball. Moreland couldn’t catch the return throw because Holliday was in the way. Textbook interference. They didn’t call it and the Red Sox played the rest of the game under protest. Very weird.

(The protest won’t be upheld. First of all, protests are almost never upheld, and besides, that play had no impact on the final score. The Red Sox got out of the inning without Ellsbury advancing beyond first base.)

In the 11th, Jonathan Holder pitched around a leadoff single and wild pitch. Ronald Torreyes managed to bunt into a 5-4-3 double play in the 12th. Holder went three up, three down in the 12th and 13th. Ellsbury drew a walk and Chase Headley singled to start the 14th, then none of the next three batters hit the ball out of the infield. Aroldis Chapman walked the first batter he faced on four pitches in the 14th but escaped. No swings and misses among his 12 pitches.

It wasn’t until the 16th inning — 16th inning! — that the Yankees broke through. Red Sox fifth starter Doug Fister was in his third inning of work at that point, and the first four batters reached base. Ellsbury doubled off the Green Monster, Headley singled to center, Gregorius singled to right to score Ellsbury, then Austin Romine singled to right to score Headley. The Yankees got a third run that inning on Sanchez’s sac fly. The Red Sox intentionally walked Gardner to load the bases for Sanchez and Judge. That won’t happen often.

Anyway, a 4-1 lead was built, and it was glorious. Ben Heller, the last guy in the bullpen, went back out for his second inning of work, and retired the BoSox with a stress free 1-2-3 inning to seal the win. Man, major props to the bullpen. All seven relievers pitched and here’s the result: 9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K. Hell yeah. Holder (three innings) and Heller (two innings) did the real heavy lifting. The Yankees are a Chapman blown save away from winning the first two games of this series. Alas.

(Rich Gagnon/Getty)
(Rich Gagnon/Getty)

Leftovers
Welcome back, Starlin Castro. He went 1-for-3 with a double and a walk in his first game back from the DL. I thought the double was going to be a triple off the bat, but fresh off a hamstring strain? And leading off the second inning? No reason to push it. Starlin also make an insane tag on Dustin Pedroia’s stolen base attempt in the eighth. Sanchez’s throw was sailing wide, but Castro reached out, caught the ball, then swung his arm around to tag Pedroia. It was amazing. Nice to have Castro back.

It took until the 13th inning, but Judge’s on-base streak has reached 41 starts. That dates back to May 26th and it is longest such streak in baseball this season. (Judge did come off the bench and fail to reach base in his only at-bat on one occasion during that streak.) Judge went 0-for-6 with two walks in the game and he still doesn’t have a hit since the All-Star break. He’ll be fine though. He’s hit a bunch of balls hard.

The top six hitters in the starting lineup all reached base at least twice. Frazier and Garrett Cooper both went 0-for-3 before being removed for a pinch-hitter in that ninth inning. Torreyes went 0-for-6 overall, but did get a sac bunt down in the 16th, which set up the Gardner intentional walk and Sanchez sac fly. Not a good series for Toe overall.

And finally, seriously, give it up to the bullpen. They’ve thrown 14 innings the last two days and Chapman’s ninth inning Friday night was the only stinker. Dellin Betances is starting to look like Dellin Betances again. Now it’s time to get Aroldis back on track.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head over to ESPN for the box score and updated standings, and MLB.com for the video highlights. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page either. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Red Sox will wrap up this series with a doubleheader Sunday. It’ll be CC Sabathia, not Bryan Mitchell in the first game. The Yankees made the change following Saturday’s game, presumably because they need Sabathia to soak up some innings. Sabathia will be opposed by Rick Porcello in the day game (1pm ET), then it’ll be Masahiro Tanaka and David Price in the night game (8pm ET). Sixteen innings Saturday, a doubleheader Sunday, then a flight to Minnesota. Busy few days for the Yankees.

Game 88: Starlin Returns

All-Starlin. (Mark Brown/Getty)
All-Starlin. (Mark Brown/Getty)

The month-long slide officially has the Yankees in third place. The Rays beat the Angels late last night out on the West Coast, so the Yankees are now 4.5 games back of the Red Sox and one game back of the Rays in the AL East. Remember when they were four games up? Good times. They’ve won seven times in 26 games since.

Last night’s loss was more of the same. The bullpen blew it and you could see it coming a mile away. It didn’t help that the offense went to sleep in the late innings, but still, hand a lead to your $86M closer and you expect to win. It didn’t happen. Now the Yankees will try to rebound today against Chris Sale. They beat him once already this year. Doing it again would be cool. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. LF Clint Frazier
  8. 1B Garrett Cooper
  9. SS Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Luis Severino

Now the bad news: there’s rain in the forecast this afternoon. Or maybe that’s the good news? It doesn’t seem like it’ll be anything super heavy though, so maybe they’ll play through it. We’ll see. This afternoon’s game will begin shortly after 4pm ET and you can watch on YES locally or FOX Sports 1 nationally. Try to enjoy the game.

Roster Move: As you can see from the lineup, Castro is back. He was activated off the disabled list today, the Yankees announced. Tyler Wade was sent down to clear a roster spot.

Saturday Links: Bour, Trade Value, Conlon, Rasmussen

Bour. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)
Bour. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

Later today the Yankees and Red Sox will continue their four games in three days series with the second game at Fenway Park. That’s a 4pm ET start. Until then, here are some links to check out.

Bour trade talks only “cursory”

According to Buster Olney, trade talks between the Yankees and Marlins about first baseman Justin Bour have only been “cursory, non-specific.” Olney says the Marlins have let teams know they’re open for business while Jon Heyman reports the club has no intention to trade its affordable core players. That sounds like posturing to me. They’re willing to trade them but say they won’t in an effort to build some leverage.

Bour, 29, is hitting .289/.367/.556 (136 wRC+) with 20 home runs in 77 games this season, plus he’s under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2020. He put on quite a show in the Home Run Derby before getting knocked out by Aaron Judge. On one hand, Bour would be an enormous first base upgrade for the Yankees, and he’d provide a DH option going forward should Greg Bird ever get healthy. On the other hand, something about trading prospects for a 29-year-old late bloomer at the bottom of the defensive spectrum doesn’t sit well with me.

Three Yankees make FanGraphs’ trade value series

Over the last week Dave Cameron has posted his annual trade value series, in which he ranks the top 50 players in baseball by trade value. It’s not just about performance. It’s about performance and years of team control, things like that. Bryce Harper is obviously excellent, though he doesn’t make the top 50 because he’ll be a free agent after next season. Anyway, three Yankees make the top 50, and they’re the young cornerstones of the franchise.

6. Aaron Judge
12. Gary Sanchez
35. Luis Severino

Judge is behind Carlos Correa, Mike Trout, Corey Seager, Kris Bryant, and Francisco Lindor in that order. I have no problems with that. Judge is awesome and he won’t be a free agent until after the 2022 season, though he’s only been this for half-a-season. Those other guys have done it for a full season, at least. Sanchez is the highest ranked catcher and Severino is the 12th ranked pitcher, which is pretty great. Last year there were no Yankees in the trade value series. Now there are three, including two in the top 12.

O’s fourth rounder now a free agent

Jack Conlon, a fourth round pick by the Orioles in this year’s draft, is now an unrestricted free agent, according to both Jim Callis and Hudson Belinsky. The O’s saw something they didn’t like in Conlon’s physical and declined to sign him. They didn’t even make him the minimum offer (40% of his slot value), which is why he’s now a free agent. MLB.com ranked the Texas high school right-hander as the 175th best prospect in the draft class. Here’s a piece of their scouting report:

Conlon can pitch at 92-95 mph with life on his fastball and back it up with an 81-84 mph slider on days when his mechanics are in sync. His changeup lags behind his other two pitches, though it has some fade and he shows some feel for it. He has a classic pitcher’s build at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds that bodes well for his durability. Conlon lacks consistency, however, because he has a rough delivery with effort and a head whack.

There haven’t been any reports connecting Conlon to the Yankees (or any other team), and they might never come. This might be one of those situations where we skip straight to the signing announcement. I’m certain the Yankees will look into signing Conlon because hey, it’s not often you can pick up a decent pitching prospect for nothing but cash, though the failed physical is an issue. The Orioles are notoriously tough with their physicals, so maybe it’s nothing. Then again, it could be a serious arm problem, so much so that spending money on him isn’t worth the increased risk.

Also, I should note the Rays did not sign Oregon State right-hander Drew Rasmussen, the 31st selection in this year’s draft, also because something popped up in his physical. There are conflicting reports out there about his current status. Some say he’s a free agent because the Rays didn’t make the minimum offer while others say the Rays did make the minimum offer, and Rasmussen will return to school for his senior season rather than become a free agent. Who knows.