If the fat lady hasn’t started singing yet, it might be time to get her warmed up. The Yankees were blown out 7-2 by the last place Blue Jays on Wednesday, dropping two of three in the series and four of six on the road trip.
Fatigue or regression or whatever can be cruel. Hiroki Kuroda, the usually ultra-reliable and crazy effective Hiroki Kuroda, got smacked around the park for the third consecutive start. Eight of the first dozen batters he faced on Wednesday reached base and six came around to score. There were softly hit singles, well-struck doubles, a monster homer, a two-run strikeout (more on that in a second) … a little bit of everything. The only common thread was Kuroda’s general inability to fool the Blue Jays hitters. They hit him hard.
The end result for Kuroda was seven runs (five earned) on five singles, three doubles, one walk, one homer, and one hit batsman on 99 pitches in five innings. With a) two long men in the bullpen, b) an off-day on Thursday, and c) September call-ups right around the corner, I thought Kuroda should have been out of game after the second inning. He was obviously laboring and I didn’t see the point to sparing the bullpen. Hiroki has clearly run into a wall and this was a good opportunity to give him a bit or a rest. No need to make him throw all those stressful pitches. Alas, Joe Girardi felt differently.
“You’re still a cheater A-ROID!!!” guy yells below the press box. “A cheater on first base!” Rodriguez yells back.
— Brendan Kennedy (@BKennedyStar) August 29, 2013
I’ve watched a lot of baseball in my life and I can now say I’ve seen a two-run strikeout. That one wasn’t on the bucket list, believe it or not. Chris Stewart muffed a fastball right down the middle in the first inning, then compounded the problem when he hit the runner with the throw on his way to first. The ball ricocheted into foul territory and two runs scored. Two runs scored after a called strike three. Two*.
The Yankees had a small chance to get back into the game in the fourth, after Todd Redmond walked the first two batters of the inning. They scored one run on Alex Rodriguez‘s single and another on Mark Reynolds‘ booming double to left, but A-Rod was thrown out at the plate by a mile on the play. Replays confirmed third base coach Robbie Thomson waved Alex in. Maybe don’t send the 38-year-old with two bad hips down five runs? Instead of having runners on second and third with one out, they had a runner on second with two outs. Sucks.
Aside from that fourth inning, the Robinson Cano-less lineup did a whole bunch of nothing. Redmond struck out seven in 5.2 innings and the Yankees were held to five hits and four walks. Reynolds had three of those five hits while Derek Jeter and Rodriguez had one apiece. Brett Gardner drew two of the walks, Curtis Granderson and Alfonso Soriano the others. Only three of the final 19 men they sent to the plate reached base.
Joba Chamberlain (two innings), Shawn Kelley (one out), and Boone Logan (two outs) wrapped things up in relief of Kuroda. I wasn’t paying attention in that eighth inning — did Girardi actually mix and match his relievers with a five-run deficit? Or was Kelley hurt? That would be the icing on the cake.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and video highlights, go to MLB.com. For some much nerdier stats, go to FanGraphs. For the updated standings, go to ESPN. The Athletics destroyed the Tigers again, so the Yankees are now six games back of the second wildcard spot in the loss column. Cool Standings gives them a 6.2% chance of making the postseason with 29 games to play.
The Yankees are off on Thursday and will open a hugely important three-game series against the Orioles in the Bronx on Friday night. That is legitimately the biggest series of the year, at least until the next series after that. CC Sabathia and Miguel Gonzalez will be your pitching matchup for the opener. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch the game live.
For the first time this season and the first time in 175 games dating back to last year, Robinson Cano is not in the Yankees starting lineup tonight. He is day-to-day with a left hand contusion after being hit by a J.A. Happ pitch last night. With the off-day tomorrow, it’s no surprise they’re resting him tonight and hoping the two consecutive days off have him ready to go for the Orioles series come Friday. Assuming he won’t come off the bench at some point, this will be Robbie’s first full game off since August 15th of last year, when a stiff neck sidelined him for a day. #lazy
Here’s the lineup Joe Girardi is running out there against right-hander Todd Redmond:
- CF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- DH Curtis Granderson
- LF Alfonso Soriano
- 3B Alex Rodriguez
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- 2B Mark Reynolds — Eduardo Nunez and his sore knee didn’t make it through batting practice
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- C Chris Stewart
And on the mound is right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who is coming off his worst start of the season. The Yankees need him to get back to pitching like a true ace if they want to have any chance at the postseason.
First pitch is scheduled for a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.
Homeruns are fun, and no one is having more fun right now than Alfonso Soriano. In 30 games since returning to the Yankees, Soriano has hit eleven homers, including several dramatic late-inning game-winners. The Bombers may not make the postseason this year, but it won’t be because he didn’t deliver after coming over from the Cubs. Soriano has been excellent and a major shot in the arm for the offense (and, somewhat surprisingly, the defense as well).
From 2011-2012, no one had more fun that Curtis Granderson. He led all of baseball with 84 homers during those two seasons, ten more than tied-for-second Miguel Cabrera and Ryan Braun. The self-proclaimed “not a power hitter” was baseball’s premier power hitter until a pair of fluke hit-by-pitch injuries sabotaged his 2013 season. Oddly enough, homeruns are the reason Granderson is being overlooked right now. Soriano is stealing the show.
In 24 games since coming off the DL, Curtis is hitting .291/.412/.456 (140 wRC+) with three homers, six steals (in seven attempts), 17 walks (17.5%), and 25 strikeouts (25.8%). The power production isn’t the same as it has been in recent years, but hopefully that will come around as he gets further away from the forearm and hand fractures. Granderson does have a .196 ISO in his last 15 games after putting up a .107 ISO in his first nine games back, so that’s encouraging. (Also: Hooray arbitration endpoints.)
Instead, Granderson’s recent production has come in the form of on-base ability. He reached base three times (two singles and a walk) in last night’s blowout win over the Blue Jays and has reached base at least once in 20 of his 22 starts since rejoining the team. Curtis went 0-for-4 in his first game off the DL and 0-for-4 in Friday’s series opener against the Rays. That’s it. Heck, he’s reached base at least twice in 12 of those 22 starts. That ridiculous 17.5% walk rate isn’t being padded by intentional walks (just one) or hit-by-pitches (zero) either.
Because he is a high-strikeout hitter, Granderson was stereotyped as someone who rarely walked in recent years. I have no idea why people think someone who strikes out a lot doesn’t walk much, usually the exact opposite is true, but that line of thinking does exists. Granderson doesn’t fit the bill at all though, his career walk rate (10.3%) is well-above-average and he’s been even better as a Yankee (11.4%). He has also consistently ranked among baseball’s leaders in pitches per plate appearances throughout his career. Walks require working deep counts and strikeouts are a byproduct. They come with the territory.
Obviously a 17.5% walk rate is probably not something Granderson will be able to maintain long-term. Only two guys — Jose Bautista (20.2% in 2011) and Adrian Gonzalez (17.5% in 2009) — have managed a walk rate that high over a full season in the last five years. You would expect that number to come down and his power production to go up in the coming weeks, but the season is almost over. There’s no guarantee Granderson’s walk and power rates will regress to his career norms — or, really, to his current talent level — before the end of the season. Instead of being a power hitter, he might be more of an on-base guy for the Yankees this year.
Either way, Granderson has been very productive for New York since coming off the DL. The shape of that production has been a little different than what we’ve come to expect — instead of a power-heavy 140 wRC+ it’s been an on-base heavy 140 wRC+. That’s perfectly fine. Production is production, and frankly the Yankees probably need the on-base skills more than the power right now given the rest of the roster. The rank 17th out of the 30 clubs with a 7.7% walk rate, their lowest as a team since 1991. Soriano’s homers are stealing the show, but Granderson has been outstanding as well these last few weeks.
Via Bryan Hoch: Michael Pineda and his stiff shoulder have resumed throwing on flat ground. This report is actually ten days old — I flat whiffed and missed it — so there’s a chance Pineda has already progressed to throwing in the bullpen. “I think if everything is as we hope it to be, then he will have a chance to do that,” said Brian Cashman when asked if the right-hander could help in September.
Pineda, 24, landed on the Triple-A Scranton DL after leaving his August 2nd start with stiffness. Tests showed no structural damage. The minor league regular season ends on Tuesday, so unless they send him to Double-A Trenton for their playoff run, he’ll only be able to make one minor league tune-up start. Of course, the longer they take with his rehab the more money they’ll save in the future. Pineda had a 3.86 ERA and 3.11 FIP in 23.1 innings across six starts for the RailRiders before going on the DL. · (21) ·
Later today, the Yankees will send their ace to the mound in the rubber game against the last place Blue Jays. It won’t be CC Sabathia. He’s pitched his way out of ace-hood this year. It’ll instead be Hiroki Kuroda, the All-Star snub who led the AL in ERA up until a few starts ago. The veteran right-hander heads into tonight’s game with a stellar 2.71 ERA and 3.45 FIP in 26 starts. Excellent numbers no matter how you slice ‘em.
Lately though, the 38-year-old Kuroda has been something less than an ace. He gave up seven runs and a career-high four homers against the Rays last time out, and in his start before that he surrendered a career-high eleven hits to the Red Sox. Every pitcher has a bump in the road at some point, it’s inevitable during the 162-game season, but seeing Kuroda go through it is a little unsettling. He isn’t exactly young and the Yankees need every win possible. If he suddenly became ineffective, their playoff hopes would be crushed.
Kuroda, as you surely remember, was dynamite for the Yankees last season as well. He did run into a wall right around start #25 though, enough of a wall that he stopped throwing his usual between-starts bullpen session in September. That’s a pretty big deal. When a pitcher has to alter his routine to remain fresh and effective, you know he’s running on fumes. Here Hiroki’s pre- and post-wall numbers for reference:
|IP/GS||ERA||FIP||K%||BB%||BABIP||Opp. ISO||Opp. OPS|
Despite the fatigue, Kuroda’s velocity did not drop off down the stretch. You can see his start-by-start fastball velocity graph right here. No decline at all. Instead, the fatigue showed up in a BABIP and power spike. Not every increase (or decrease) in BABIP is luck-related. Kuroda may have been more hittable down the stretch because he was gassed and hitters were able to get better swings against him. Tired pitchers tend to make more mistakes, and more mistakes usually result in more hits allowed. That’s typically how it works.
“It was really strange; [Kuroda] just didn’t have his stuff tonight,” said Joe Girardi to Mark Feinsand following the team’s loss to the Rays on Friday. “He kept trying to find it and find it, but I didn’t think his slider was extremely sharp and I didn’t think he had the great command of his fastball tonight.”
Stuff that wasn’t as crisp as usual could be a sign of fatigue, but we really don’t know. After all, two subpar starts against the Red Sox and Rays shouldn’t be all that surprising. Those are two of the five best offenses in baseball. That said, Kuroda’s age and the fact that he hit a wall around this time last year make his performance something worth monitoring going forward. That’s obvious, right? If he starts to stink every five days, it’s a problem.
The Yankees were in much better shape at this time last year because Sabathia and Phil Hughes were pitching anywhere from good to great. Nowadays they’re getting pounded every five days and Kuroda’s importance to the team is much greater. He has to be the stopper, the guy that extends winning streaks and ends losing streaks. If he runs out of gas these last few weeks like he did last season — for what it’s worth, Kuroda did rebound and was excellent in the postseason, including one start on three days’ rest — the Yankees playoff odds will go from tiny to zero. They need their ace to bounce back in a big way against the lowly Blue Jays tonight.
For the first six or seven innings, the outcome of Tuesday’s game was secondary. Robinson Cano took a J.A. Happ pitch to the left hand in his first at-bat and had to leave the game at the end of the inning. Since it was a direct hit, it was easy to think the worst. Thankfully, x-rays were negative and Robbie is just day-to-day with a contusion. Add in the 7-1 beatdown of the Blue Jays and Tuesday was a win-win for New York.
Bombs Over Toronto
This was the best kind of game. The Yankees led 4-0 after just four batters thanks to some small ball (Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter) and a three-run long ball (Alfonso Soriano), which came one batter after Cano took the pitch to the hand. The homer was a bomb into the second deck down the left field line. No-doubter. Those were all the runs the Yankees would need, but they tacked on three more solo homers — Soriano, Mark Reynolds, and Alex Rodriguez — just to rub it in a little bit.
The 4-5-6 hitters drove the offense, going a combined 6-for-13 (.462) with three homers and two walks. Those three hitters? Soriano, A-Rod, and Curtis Granderson. The three guys who returned to the lineup a few weeks ago and added some much-needed thump. Soriano has eleven homers in 30 games with the Yankees, A-Rod has the same number of homers in 20 games (four) that the team’s replacement third basemen had in the first 112 games, and Granderson is sitting on a .412 OBP in 24 games since coming off the DL. Offensive production and lineup depth, glorious offensive production and lineup depth.
These last few starts have been very encouraging for Andy Pettitte. The veteran left-hander held Toronto to three singles, two doubles, and two walks in seven scoreless innings on Tuesday, throwing 58 of his 86 pitches for strikes (67%). Andy ran into a wall around the 85-90 pitch mark in each of his previous two starts, so smart move by Joe Girardi to get him out of there with the big lead. Save some bullets for the tighter games next month.
With CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes stinkin’ up the joint twice every five days, the Yankees desperately needed Andy to right the ship and give the club a third quality starter alongside Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova. Pettitte has now allowed five runs (two earned) in his last four starts and has a 2.95 ERA (~3.70 FIP) in his last seven starts. That’s huge. He may not be able to give the team 110 (or even 100) quality pitches anymore, but 85 or so pitches of Pettitte is much better than what they’re getting from any non-Kuroda/Nova starter at the moment.
Soriano’s second homer was the 400th homer of his career, making him the 43rd member of the 2,000-hit, 400-homer club. Add in 250 career steals and we’re down to just six players: Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, A-Rod, Andre Dawson, Gary Sheffield, and Soriano. That’s some company right there.
Eduardo Nunez caught a spike and twisted his knee in the eighth inning, though he remained in the game long enough to bat in the top of the ninth. He was lifted for a pinch-hitter and Reynolds finished the game at second base. He actually made a really nice double play pivot at the bag on the game-ending double play. A-Rod to Reynolds to Lyle Overbay on the 5-4-3 double play. Just like they drew it up in Spring Training. Nunez is day-to-day.
Gardner (double, moved to third on wild pitch) and Jeter (single) put together the first run before the homerun bats showed up. Jeter went 2-for-5 with two identical hits back up the middle. Nunez singled off the bench after Cano left the game and Vernon Wells chipped in a single and a walk. Seven runs on a dozen hits and three walks is a pretty good day at the office.
Adam Warren allowed a run on five hits and a walk in the final two innings to close things out. The rookie right-hander has been pretty solid in long relief this year, but he’s now allowed 20 runs and 67 base-runners in 37.1 innings since the start of June. That’s bad.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Athletics mopped the floor with Justin Verlander and won a rain-shortened game, so the Yankees remain five back of the second wildcard spot in the loss column. New York did gain a game on the Rays, Indians, and Orioles, however. So that’s good.
The Yankees and Blue Jays will wrap up this three-game series with the road trip-ending rubber game on Wednesday night. Hiroki Kuroda and right-hander Todd Redmond is your pitching matchup.
Triple-A Scranton (2-1 win over Pawtucket)
- C J.R. Murphy: 2-3, 1 BB, 1 K — had been in a 6-for-37 (.162) rut
- 3B Ronnie Mustelier: 0-4, 1 RBI
- 2B David Adams: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K
- RHP Graham Stoneburner: 6 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 9/3 GB/FB — 47 of 74 pitches were strikes (64%)
- RHP Dellin Betances: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HB, 1/1 GB/FB — 24 of 41 pitches were strikes (59%) … 23/5 K/BB in his last 15.2 innings at this level
9:11pm: X-rays were negative and Cano is day-to-day, the Yankees announced. I have to imagine he’ll miss a game or three, but ex-friggin-hale. That is a huge bullet they just dodged.
8:46pm: They’re calling it a “left hand contusion” is a moment, but Cano is heading to the hospital for x-rays. Apparently they don’t have an x-ray machine in the ballpark.
7:25pm: This is bad. Robinson Cano left tonight’s game after being hit by a pitch in the left hand on a check swing. It was pretty much a direct hit. Robbie initially stayed in the game to run the bases before exiting after the inning. Hopefully it’s just a precaution with the big early lead. Losing Cano for any length of time would be disastrous, obviously. Fingers crossed. · (50) ·
Three losses in four days really has a way of taking the air out of the optimism balloon. The Yankees were flying high before heading to Tampa over the weekend, winning five straight and ten of 12 while playing some really good (Tigers and Red Sox) and really bad (Angels and Blue Jays) teams. The games against the good teams are tough enough, but it’s these games against the bad clubs where the Yankees have to fatten up their win total. Losses like last nights, in which the offense couldn’t sustain a rally and the starter couldn’t get out of the fifth, are the kind that lead to the team playing golf and not baseball in October. Here’s the lineup that will face left-hander J.A. Happ:
- CF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- 2B Robinson Cano
- LF Alfonso Soriano
- 3B Alex Rodriguez
- RF Curtis Granderson
- DH Vernon Wells
- 1B Mark Reynolds
- C Chris Stewart
And on the mound is left-hander Andy Pettitte, who has pitched well of late but seems to be running into a wall somewhere in the 85-90 pitch range. It’s happened in each of his last two starts.
First pitch is scheduled for a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES. Try to enjoy.
The Yankees are sending OF Mason Williams, OF Tyler Austin, and C/3B Peter O’Brien to play for the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League after the season. Each team sends seven guys to the AzFL, so New York must still name four more players. Expect most if not all of them to be pitchers. The entire Scottsdale roster is right here.
Josh Norris says Austin (101 wRC+) will spend some time working out at first base with the Scorpions. He’s played the position plenty in the past. Austin was placed on the Double-A Trenton DL with a bone bruise in his right wrist in mid-July, though he did play in his first rehab game with the Rookie GCL Yanks this afternoon. He’ll be making up for lost time in the AzFL. Williams has had a down year at the plate (87 wRC+), so hopefully he’ll rebound in the extreme hitter’s environment. O’Brien has had a strong year (146 wRC+) and will look to continue progressing. · (14) ·