Eliminated: Yankees knocked out of postseason contention with 9-5 loss to O’s

It’s official: the 2014 Yankees will not go to the postseason. They were eliminated from playoff contention with Wednesday afternoon’s come-from-ahead 9-5 loss to the Orioles. This is the first time the Yankees have missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons since 1992-93.

( Jim McIsaac/Getty)
( Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Six-Run Fourth
In his final start of the 2014 season, Greene retired the first seven batters he faced and then only four of the next 14. His meltdown started in the third inning, when a single (Ryan Flaherty) and two walks (Nick Markakis and David Lough) loaded the bases with two outs. Greene got Adam Jones to ground out weakly to escape the jam and end the inning. The end result was a zero on the board, though the inning was unfortunately a sign of things to come.

Baltimore’s six-run rally in the fourth inning started with a simply little Nelson Cruz ground ball single kinda sorta back up the middle. It was just out of the reach of both Greene and the shifted infield. Steve Clevenger followed that with a single to center to put two on with no outs. Greene struck out Jimmy Paredes for the first out, then the line just kept moving. Kelly Johnson walked to load the bases, Ryan Flaherty drove in two runs with a double into the corner, Caleb Joseph struck out, Markakis singled in two runs with a soft liner to right, Lough tripled in another run, then Jones drove in Lough with a bunt hit. That finally ended Greene’s afternoon.

David Huff started warming in the bullpen after Flaherty doubled into the corner, but Joe Girardi decided to stick with Greene against the lefty hitting Markakis and Lough and it cost them. Not sure why you’d bother warming Huff up if you weren’t going to use him there. Anyway, Greene ended his season on a down note (3.2 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 5 K) like Brandon McCarthy on Tuesday, though he still finished the year with a 3.78 ERA (3.72 FIP) in 78.2 innings — his ERA jumped from 3.12 to 3.78 in that fourth inning — with a 9.27 K/9 and a 50.2% ground ball rate. That is pretty awesome. Bad ending but otherwise a very nice season for Greene.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

One, One, One … Two
The Yankees built a nice picket fence in the early going, scoring exactly one run in the first, second, and third innings. A Chase Headley single and a Mark Teixeira double, both with two outs, created the game’s first run in the first inning. Stephen Drew clubbed a solo homer off Bud Norris in the second inning and then Headley did the same in the third to give New York a 3-0 lead. At one point spanning the first through third innings, the Yankees sent nine men to the plate and all nine either homered (Drew and Headley) or struck out (everyone else).

The team’s best chance to climb back into the game came in the bottom of the fourth, immediately after the Orioles scored those six runs. Frankie Cervelli singled and Drew walked to put runners on first and second with no outs, but Chris Young lined into a bad luck double play (runner doubled off second) and Antoan Richardson flew out to end the inning. Teixeira hit a two-run homer off the right field foul pole in the eighth inning, but by then the O’s had blown the game open and it was nothing more than a garbage timer. Young grounded out with two men on base to end the eighth inning, their last real chance to stay in the postseason hunt.

Leftovers
Huff replaced Greene in the fourth and stopped the bleeding at six runs. He threw two scoreless innings. Chase Whitley and David Phelps let the game get out of reach in the eighth inning, as Whitely put two men on and Phelps let both score in addition to one of his own. Surprisingly, intentionally walking the leadoff man (Markakis) to load the bases with Jones and Cruz looming didn’t work out. Those last three insurance runs especially sucked after Teixeira’s homer.

Derek Jeter went 0-for-4 to end his hitting streak at seven games. He was left on deck when the 27th out was recorded. Headley had three hits, Teixeira had two, and Cervelli, Drew, Young, and pinch-hitter Jose Pirela had one hit apiece. Cervelli and Drew drew walks. Buck Showalter used six pitchers in the span of 12 batters at one point.

It seems like the Yankees have been blowing big-ish leads to the Orioles all season, so I decided to look it up. They had a multi-run lead in nine of their 18 games against the O’s this year yet managed to win only five of those nine games. That’s not very good, especially for a team with Dellin Betances and David Robertson in the bullpen.

Aside from saying goodbye the Jeter, the last item on the 2014 agenda is securing a winning season. The Yankees’ next win will be their 82nd and will clinch the team’s 22nd consecutive winning season. That would be the second longest such streak in baseball history behind the 1926-64 Yankees, who did it 39 straight years.

And finally, recently claimed outfielder Eury Perez entered the game in the eighth inning after Brian McCann pinch-grounded out for Richardson. Perez was the 58th different player used by the Yankees this year, extending the franchise record.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and video highlights, head over to MLB.com. FanGraphs has some other game stats and the updated standings are at ESPN. As I said, the Yankees have been officially eliminated from postseason contention, so there is no more scoreboard watching to be done.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Orioles wrap-up this four-game series on Thursday night, in the final home game of Jeter’s career. Hiroki Kuroda and Kevin Gausman will be on the mound. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to risk a rainout and catch that game live. I’m sure it’ll be special.

Jorge Mateo ranks fourth among Baseball America’s top 20 GCL prospects

Baseball America officially kicked off prospect season today by releasing their list of the top 20 prospects from the rookie Gulf Coast League. The list is free but the scouting reports are not. Red Sox 3B Rafael Devers, Marlins RHP Tyler Kolek, and Braves SS Ozhaino Albies claim the top three spots. The Yankees had two players make the list: SS Jorge Mateo at No. 4 and SS Angel Aguilar at No. 15. OF Leonardo Molina was the only other serious candidate to make it, but he didn’t have a great summer at all (58 wRC+).

Mateo, 19, hit .276/.354/.397 (119 wRC+) with 11 steals in 12 attempts in 15 games while missing time with wrist inflammation. “An explosive, premium athlete, Mateo is a top-of-the-scale runner … He has plus bat speed with average power potential and solid understanding of the strike zone, though he will swing through good breaking pitches. At shortstop he has good range and footwork, while his arm is another plus tool,” said the scouting report. GCL Yanks manager Patrick Osborne compared Mateo to Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson for his quick-twitch athleticism.

The 19-year-old Aguilar hit .331/.373/.536 (159 wRC+) with seven homers in 39 games around a groin injury this summer. The scouting report lauds his strength and bat speed, calling him “an intriguing profile as a shortstop who can hit for average and power.” The next list of interest to Yankees fans is the short season NY-Penn League, which probably won’t come out until late next week. The Staten Island Yankees weren’t exactly loaded with prospects this year but I think C Luis Torrens is a lock to make it. RHP Ty Hensley didn’t throw enough innings to qualify for the list.

Game 158: On The Brink

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The Yankees are on the verge of being officially eliminated from postseason play. One more loss or one more win by both the Royals and Athletics will do the job. The Mariners and Indians are ahead of the Yankees as well, remember. This isn’t a simple “hope the Yankees win out and hope the Royals lose all of their games” scenario. Seattle and Cleveland would need to cooperate as well.

It’s inevitable New York will be eliminated from postseason contention at some point soon, I just hope it happens because the Royals win and not because the Yankees lose. You know what I mean? Force the other issue and make the other team eliminate you, don’t eliminate yourself. That would be the tiniest of consolation prizes. Here is the Orioles lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. DH Derek Jeter
  3. 3B Chase Headley
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Frankie Cervelli
  6. 2B Stephen Drew
  7. LF Chris Young
  8. RF Antoan Richardson
  9. SS Brendan Ryan
    RHP Shane Greene

It is cool and overcast in New York today, but there is no rain in the forecast. This afternoon’s game is scheduled to begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: Joe Girardi confirmed that it is “going to be pretty tough” for both Jacoby Ellsbury (hamstring) and Carlos Beltran (elbow) to get healthy in time to play again this year.

McCann’s recent homer binge an encouraging sign heading into the offseason

(Andy Marlin/Getty)
(Andy Marlin/Getty)

The Yankees are one loss (or one Royals and Athletics win) away from being eliminated from postseason contention because their offense simply did not produce enough this summer. Specifically, the team’s big money middle of the order bats did not perform as expected. Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, and Brian McCann have all been major disappointments in 2014, combining to hit .229/.302/.403 in nearly 1,500 plate appearances. The Yankees won’t be playing in October for many reasons and those three are among the biggest.

Unlike Teixeira and Beltran, who have battled nagging wrist and elbow problems down the stretch, McCann is actually finishing the season on a high note. He went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer off the ultra-tough Andrew Miller in last night’s loss, his eighth homer in 21 games this month. His .240/.308/.560 batting line in September is both better than what he did from April through August (.234/.287/.384) and a reminder that 82-plate appearance samples can produce weird slash lines.

McCann is 6-for-23 (.261) with three homers in six games on the homestand but his run of solid production really dates back to the beginning of July. He’s hit .252/.301/.473 with 14 homers in 62 games since the start of July, which is basically last year’s .256/.336/.461 batting line minus a bunch of walks. McCann has a career-low 6.0% walk rate this year (5.3% since July), down from 9.7% last year and 9.1% for his career. His 14.5% strikeout rate is identical to his career rate and he’s swung at 28.3% of the pitches he’s seen out of the zone, in line with his 29.4% career average.

For whatever reason, McCann stopped walking this year. It could be a decline in pitch recognition, it could be unfamiliarity with the new league and new pitchers, he could be pressing, it could be all of that and more. We’ll have a nice long offseason to sit around and wonder why McCann has suddenly stopped accepting free passes this year. The most important thing to me are the results he’s getting when he puts the ball in play. The first three months of the season were miserable, but since July McCann has been recording base hits and hitting for power at the same rate as last year. That’s good! That’s what we want.

My theory is McCann focused on trying to go the other way to beat the shift this season and it fouled him up. I don’t think it’s a coincidence he’s put more balls in play to the opposite field this year (94) than he has in any season since 2008 (100). (His high from 2009-13 was 86 balls in play the other way in 2009.) I know I’m not the only one who thinks this because an unnamed team official said “I wish (McCann)  would pull more” to Ben Lindbergh earlier this year. Here’s a quick look at his pre- and post-July 1st spray charts, courtesy of Baseball Savant:

Left: Before July 1st. Right: Since July 1st.
Left: Before July 1st. Right: Since July 1st.

It … kinda looks like he’s pulled the ball more since July 1st? Maybe. McCann did eliminate his toe tap and make some changes to his batting stance at midseason, but he abandoned those changes a few weeks ago (I’m not sure when exactly, but I noticed it in early-August) and went back to the setup he had been using at the plate previously. It could be that he simply stopped trying to be something he wasn’t, so he went back to what worked with the Braves and sent him to seven All-Star Games. Toe tap, pull the ball, whatever.

Either way, McCann has gotten much better results these last two and a half months whenever he’s put the ball in play. He still isn’t walking for whatever reason and that might be a long-term problem. The power is still there though — his 23 homers are second only to Devin Mesoraco’s 25 among big league catchers — and his average has climbed back into the mid-.250s, where it normal sits. McCann is not going to be a .300-ish hitter. That’s just not who he is at this point of his career.

Of the team’s three disappointing middle of the order bats, I felt McCann was by far the most likely to rebound even before this recent homer binge. He’s the youngest of the trio and also the healthiest, as far as we know. Beltran will turn 38 soon after Opening Day and is scheduled to have elbow surgery in like a week. Teixeira will turn 35 next April and his surgically repaired wrist continues to be a problem, not to mention all his other nagging injuries. It’s tough to look at these two and feel good about their performance in 2015.

The same would have been true of McCann had he not started to turn things around in July and put an exclamation point on his season with all these dingers this month. These last few weeks don’t erase his overall disappointing season, but at least now McCann and Yankees fans can go into the offseason encouraged by his strong finish and feeling better about what he might bring to the table next year as well as the final four years of his contract.

Comeback falls short, Yankees lose 5-4 to O’s

The Yankees are officially on the brink of elimination from postseason contention after dropping Tuesday night’s game to the Orioles by the score of 5-4. Even if they win all five of their remaining games, they’ll still need help to play in October.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Finale
Brandon McCarthy‘s last start of the season — and possibly his last start for the Yankees — did not go so well. He allowed five runs on eleven hits in only 5.1 innings, and three of those eleven hits left the yard. McCarthy allowed three homers in his first 58.1 innings with the team and has now allowed seven homers in his last 33 innings. That was bound to happen at some point. Yankees’ pitchers always seem to struggle to keep the ball in the park because of Yankee Stadium.

The eleven hits were a personal season-high for McCarthy and a few of them were weak grounders that found holes. One literally went through Mark Teixeira‘s legs at first base and was ruled a hit. Don’t ask me why. McCarthy did manage to strike out eight and generate 14 swings and misses out of 92 total pitches, though he didn’t exactly miss many barrels. The Orioles had a lot of comfortable swings and just seemed to be on everything. It happens. If this was McCarthy’s final start in pinstripes, it was a bit of a letdown. Regardless, the man was outstanding during his brief time with the team. Well done, Brandon.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Chip Away
The Yankees were down four runs before they even recorded their first hit against Ubaldo Jimenez. Teixeira broke up the no-hit bid with a double into the right field corner with one out in the fourth. Between Brett Gardner‘s leadoff walk in the first and Chase Headley‘s one-out walk immediately prior to Teixeira’s double, Ubaldo retired ten straight batters. Nine of those ten batters hit the ball in the air and balls in the air tend to be high-percentage outs.

Anyway, the Yankees scored their first run when Chris Young grounded out following Teixeira’s double, allowing Headley to trot in from third. McCarthy gave that run back on a Nelson Cruz solo homer, his 40th, in the next half-inning. The Yankees loaded the bases with one out in the sixth but only managed one run, on Stephen Drew‘s hard-hit sacrifice fly to center. Ichiro Suzuki struck out feebly — he has really mastered the art of the ugly swinging strikeout, hasn’t he? — to end the rally with men on the corners.

A two-out, two-run homer by Brian McCann off Andrew Miller brought the Yankees to within one in the seventh. Jose Pirela and Gardner made two quick outs to start the inning, but Derek Jeter beat out an infield single and McCann took advantage. Coming into Tuesday, Miller had held left-handed batters to a .152/.198/.220 (.191 wOBA) batting line with a 49.5% strikeout rate, so taking him deep was no small feat. Don’t care that it was a first row Yankee Stadium cheapie either. It was a line drive over the right fielder’s head for extra bases no matter what. Just like that, the score was 5-4.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
The offense was unable to score that fifth run to tie the game, so the comeback fell short. Gardner did beat out an infield single with two outs in the ninth, but Jeter struck out to end the game. I’m pretty sure Yankee Stadium would have exploded if he managed to tie or win the game there. Alas.

McCann was the only starter with two hits. He singled in addition to the homer. Gardner, Jeter, Teixeira, and Ichiro had the other hits. Jeter’s infield single extended his hitting streak to seven games. Gardner and Young each drew one walk. Headley drew two. The Yankees went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

The bullpen — Rich Hill (one out), Esmil Rogers (four outs), Dellin Betances (three outs), and David Robertson (three outs) — deserves credit for keeping the Orioles off the board and giving the offense a chance to come back. They did allow six hits in those 3.2 scoreless innings, but hey — bend, don’t break.

The Yankees allowed 17+ hits in a nine-inning game for the second time this year. The first? Against the Orioles of course, back in April. Here’s the box score. This was only the third time in team history the Yankees allowed 17+ hits and five or fewer runs in a nine-inning game. The others: May 1918 against the Red Sox (box score) and September 1925 against the Browns (box score). Crazy.

And finally, the Yankees set a new franchise single-season strikeout record when Robertson fanned Jonathan Schoop to end the ninth inning. It was their 1,319th strikeout of the season. The previous record was set two years ago. They still have another five games to pad that strikeout total.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs has the other stats, and ESPN has the updated standings. The Royals beat the Indians, so the Yankees are now five games back of the second wildcard spot with five games to play. No bueno. One more win by Kansas City or one more loss by the Yankees will officially eliminate New York from the postseason. Just for kicks, FanGraphs puts their postseason odds at 0.2% right now.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
These two teams will play the third game of this four-game series on Wednesday afternoon. Yes, afternoon. It’s a day game because of Rosh Hashanah. Shane Greene and Bud Norris will be the pitching matchup for the matinee. There are only two (!) home games left in the season and Jeter’s career, so make sure you head over to RAB Tickets if you want to catch one of them live.