Yankees waste Tanaka’s gem, lose 7-5 heartbreaker to Red Sox in series opener

Woo boy. That was bad. The Yankees wasted Masahiro Tanaka‘s gem in Thursday’s series opener against the Red Sox because they stranded 12 runners and an obviously fatigued Dellin Betances was allowed to give the game away. The result was a crushing 7-5 walk-off loss. The Yankees have now lost four of their last five games. That wasn’t the final nail in the postseason coffin, but it was close.


Out of Gas, Out of Time
For the second straight September, it looks like Betances is completely worn down. He’s worked a lot recently, including pitching back-to-back-to-back days several times this year (he did it as recently as last week), and that’s something he very rarely did from 2014-15. Betances took the loss Wednesday after a kinda stupid inning with two errors and one hard-hit ball. Thursday’s loss was a full blown meltdown.

The Yankees took a 5-2 lead into the ninth and usually that means Betances time, but because he worked the last two days, Joe Girardi tried to stay away from him. Oh, and Tyler Clippard was unavailable too. Adam Warren had already pitched as well. That meant the ninth inning fell on the shoulders of Tommy Layne and Blake Parker, at least temporarily. Layne struck out his batter before Parker hit Chris Young with a breaking ball. That put the wheels in motion.

Apparently the leash was one batter. Parker let a curveball slip loose and plunked Young right on the top of the helmet, and that was it, Girardi had seen enough. In came Betances, and four of his first five pitches were out of the zone. Dustin Pedroia drew a walk to bring the tying run to the plate. The inning actually started like this: Layne comes in, strikeout, Parker comes in, hit-by-pitch, Dellin comes in, stolen base, walk, double steal. Three steals within his first seven pitches. Brutal. (They were actually scored defense indifferences, but come on.)

After Betances got Xander Bogaerts to hit a chopper back to the mound for the second out, he fell behind in the count 3-1 to David Ortiz and allowed a run-scoring single. Then Mookie Betts pulled a 1-1 pitch through the left side to score another run and put the tying run on third. Bad. Bad bad bad. Betances was obviously fatigued and only half of his 16 pitches had gone for strikes. Fewer were actually in the zone. (He got some chases off the plate.)

The at-bat against Hanley Ramirez was classic bad Betances. He fed him nothing but breaking balls, fell behind in the count 3-1, then tried to throw a fastball by him when his back was up against the wall. Hanley was ready for it and Jacoby Ellsbury could do nothing nothing but watch the ball sail over his head into the center field stands for the three-run walk-off home run. The pitch was on a tee:

Dellin Betances

It’s worth noting first base umpire D.J. Reyburn unquestionably missed a called on Ramirez’s check swing in the 2-1 count. Replays showed Hanley clearly went around and chased the breaking ball of the plate, but Reyburn said no swing, so instead of a 2-2 count, it was a 3-1 count. Huge difference. Huge huge huge. To wit:

MLB average in 2-2 counts: .179/.184/.279
MLB average in 3-1 counts: .371/.699/.677

Yup. Brutal missed call, but you know what? The game shouldn’t have gotten to that point in the first place. Betances was ineffective in general and he wasn’t exactly put in the best position to succeed. Was he available or not? If yes, put him in to start the inning with a clean slate and stop getting cute with Layne and Parker. If not, they stay away. What kind of day off is it if Betances is going to warm up in the ninth anyway?

Stranded Runners
The Yankees scored five runs and I swear, I don’t remember any of them. Billy Butler had a sac fly in the first inning, right? He had a run-scoring single later in the game too, so his Yankees career got off to a nice start. I’m drawing a blank on the other three runs. The box score says Starlin Castro, Chase Headley, and Castro again singled in those other three runs. Eh, whatever. The five runs the Yankees scored are not important. The runs they didn’t score are.

Overall, the Yankees went 5-for-16 (.313) with runners in scoring position and they still managed to strand 12 runners. The missed opportunities absolutely came back to bite them. Look at these chances:

Second inning, two runners stranded. Tyler Austin dunked a bloop double down the right field line with two outs — it landed just fair and hopped into the seats — and Brett Gardner followed by being hit by a pitch. Ellsbury then flew out to end the inning.

Third inning, two runners stranded. The Yankees scored two runs in the inning but it should have been three; Headley dunked a run-scoring single to right and for some reason Didi Gregorius stayed at second to tag up. He’s got to be halfway with one out there. Would have scored if he was. Alas. Headley later stole second on the first pitch, putting men on second and third with one out. Rob Refsnyder then struck out against righty Heath Hembree and Austin grounded out.

Fifth inning, one runner stranded. Gregorius led off with a double and moved over to third on the most terrible great play ever. He stole third for some reason and the throw absolutely beat him to the bag, but Gregorius was able to swim move around the tag. Replay confirmed it. Stealing third with no outs in Fenway Park is totally unnecessary. Headley, Refsnyder, and Austin then struck out to strand Didi at third. That was the third time Refsnyder struck out with a man on third and less than two outs in the last two games. At least he makes up for it by hitting for zero power and playing poor defense.


Eight inning, Joe Espada strikes again. I can’t ever recall seeing a third base coach make as many baffling sends as Espada. Every team has runners thrown out at the plate. It’s inevitable. But Espada seems to specialize in those OMGWTF sends. It’s uncanny. A single (Headley), a bunt (Mason Williams), and a walk (Austin) put runners on first and second with one out. Gardner flew out to center, then Ellsbury hit a soft-ish grounder back up the middle. Bogaerts reeled it in and for whatever reason Espada sent Headley home. Replays show him waving him around even though the ball never left the damn infield. Headley was out by a mile. Is it possible for a third base coach to have a negative WAR?

Ninth inning, three runners stranded. The ninth inning was when it became clear that yeah, stranding all those runners was going to come back to hurt the Yankees. Two singles put runners on the corners with no outs, but pinch-hitter Brian McCann struck out. Boo. Then Gregorius drew a walk to load the bases. Woo! Then Headley struck out. BOO! Then Williams ripped a line drive right at Joe Kelly’s stupid little head that he caught out of self-preservation. Threw his glove up and caught it. What can you do? It was ticketed for center field and at least one run, if not too.

In case you weren’t keeping track through all of that, the Yankees went 0-for-5 with five strikeouts with a runner on third and less than two outs. Yup. As miserable as the Betances meltdown was, he never should have had to pitch anyway. The offense came up mighty small several times — Espada sure didn’t help matters — and managed to turn 17 baserunners in Fenway Park into only five runs. Gross. What a traveshamockery.


Masahiro My Hero
Oh Masahiro, you don’t deserve to be stuck with these sad sacks. Tanaka did not have his best stuff or his best location Thursday night — he got four swings and misses and did not strike out a batter — yet he worked through seven innings of one-run ball. Damn is he good. I don’t know if he deserves the Cy Young, but you’ll have a hard time convincing me there are three better pitchers in the AL right now. (He leads the league with a 2.97 ERA.)

Tanaka’s biggest mess was self-induced. It was in the third inning. He walked Jackie Bradley Jr. to start the inning, got a ground ball out, allowed a single to Pedroia, and walked Bogaerts to loaded the bases with one out for Ortiz. Hmmm. Not ideal. Ortiz flew out to deep left field to score the run on a sac fly, then Tanaka got Betts to ground out to third to limit the damage. That was the only time Tanaka seemed to be in real danger.

The final tally: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 0 K. Tanaka got 15 ground ball outs and only six in the air. None of the final ten batters he faced hit the ball out of the infield. Why was Tanaka lifted after throwing only 93 pitches in seven innings? Beats me. He was cruising, and you’d think that with Betances and Clippard unavailable Girardi would want as much length out of Tanaka as possible. He was awesome. Tanaka deserves zero blame for this loss.


Warren allowed a solo home run to Ortiz in the eighth to help the Red Sox start the comeback. It seems Girardi went to Warren in the eighth because the middle of the order was due up, then he was going to roll the dice with Layne and Parker against the bottom of the order in the ninth. Smart. Too bad it all blew up in his face.

Ellsbury, Gary Sanchez, Castro, Gregorius, and Headley each had two hits. That 2-3-4-5-6-7 portion of the lineup went 13-for-28 (.464) and that’s really good. Timing is everything in this game though, so all those stranded runners wound up costing the Yankees the game. Fourteen hits and three walks in Fenway and only five runs? Good grief.

And finally, the Blue Jays won but the Tigers and Orioles lost. The Yankees are three games back of Toronto for the second wildcard spot with 16 games to play. The Tigers and Mariners are both two games out. The Yankees aren’t out of it — they still have four games left with the Jays, after all — but losses like this remind you this team just isn’t good enough. Hasn’t been all year.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to ESPN for the box score and updated standings, and MLB.com for the video highlights. We have Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages too. Here’s the devastating win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Unfortunately, the Yankees have to play again Friday. Then Saturday too. The worst. Hate baseball. Luis Cessa and Clay Buchholz will be on the mound Friday night. Eat at Arby’s.

DotF: Solano, Lail lead Scranton to a win in Game Three of Championship Series

Triple-A Scranton (3-0 win over Gwinnett) they now lead the best-of-five International League Championship Series two games to one, so one more win and they’ll be the champs

  • LF Mark Payton: 0-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
  • RF Clint Frazier: 1-5, 3 K — 2-for-13 (.154) in the series
  • 3B Donovan Solano: 2-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 HBP — 8-for-18 (.444) with four walks and two strikeouts in six postseason games
  • 1B Chris Parmelee: 1-3, 1 RBI, 2 BB
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 1-3, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K — he’s driven in seven runs in the six postseason games
  • CF Jake Cave: 0-4
  • DH Cesar Puello: 0-4, 1 K
  • RHP Brady Lail: 6.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 2 HB, 8/3 GB/FB — 59 of 93 pitches were strikes (63%) … he’s struggled big time in Triple-A, but he came up huge in Game Three tonight
  • LHP Dietrich Enns: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K — 18 of 22 pitches were strikes (82%)
  • RHP J.R. Graham: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0/2 GB/FB — 14 of 25 pitches were strikes (56%) … nice to have a former big leaguer closing

Double-A Trenton had a scheduled off-day. They trail the best-of-five Eastern League Championship Series two games to none. LHP Justus Sheffield will be on the mound when the series resumes tomorrow.

High-A Tampa lost the Florida State League Championship Series while both Low-A Charleston and Short Season Staten Island lost their first round postseason matchup. Their seasons are over.

The season is over for Rookie Pulaski, Rookie GCL Yanks East, and Rookie GCL Yanks West. None of the three teams qualified for the postseason.

Game 146: Start of the Road Trip

Hold me. (Presswire)
Hold me. (Presswire)

Would it be a stretch to call this a season-defining road trip? I don’t think so. The Yankees are going to come out of this eleven-game road trip either firmly in the race with a chance to go to the postseason, or so far out of it we’ll all know the season’s basically over. This is make or break time, folks.

The Yankees are in Boston for the first of four with the Red Sox tonight, so we’re in for a bunch of nice low-intensity ballgames that are in no way stressful and definitely won’t last more than two-and-a-half hours. No way will these four games feature 16 hours of gut-wrenching baseball. No siree. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. DH Billy Butler
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. RF Rob Refsnyder
  9. 1B Tyler Austin
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It’s a cool and clear night in Boston. Definitely gonna have a postseason baseball feel to it. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:10pm ET, and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Roster Move: The Yankees officially announced the Butler signing earlier today. He’s in the starting lineup, so duh. Nathan Eovaldi was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a roster spot.

Injury Update: Aaron Judge (oblique) has a Grade II strain and is officially done for the year. Those take a while to heal. He’s expected to be good to go for Spring Training though. The Yankees placed Judge on the 15-day DL for whatever reason.

News: The Yankees announced earlier today they will hold a pregame ceremony honoring David Ortiz prior to their game on Thursday, September 29th. That will be Ortiz’s final game in the Bronx. Go forth with faux outrage.

9/15 to 9/18 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox


And now, the final road trip of the season. It’s a big one too. Eleven games spanning 12 days and three cities. The trip starts tonight with the first of four in Boston. If you’re still hoping the Yankees will go on a run and win the AL East, this series is pretty much a must sweep. Thing aren’t quite that desperate in the wildcard race, but it’s close. The Yankees are 5-7 against the BoSox this season, including 2-4 at Fenway Park.

What Have They Done Lately?

Last night the Red Sox lost only the fourth 1-0 game in Fenway Park since the start of the 2013 season. Mark Trumbo’s homer and Kevin Gausman’s brilliance did them in. Nice to see Gausman pitch well against a team other than the Yankees for once. Anyway, the BoSox have dropped their last two games but did win five of six prior to that. They’re 81-64 with a +169 run differential overall. That’s the third best record and first best run differential in the AL. Boston is in first place in the AL East; they’re one game up on the O’s, two up on the Blue Jays, and four up on the Yankees. And 19 up on the Rays, but no one cares about them anymore.

Offense & Defense

The Red Sox have the best offense in baseball and the best offense by any team since the 2009 Yankees. These Red Sox are averaging 5.55 runs per game. The 2009 Yankees averaged 5.65 runs per game. Boston has a team 114 wRC+ and their only injured position players are 3B Pablo Sandoval (shoulder), IF Josh Rutledge (knee), and C/OF Blake Swihart (ankle). They all had season-ending surgeries.

Pedroia. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)
Pedroia. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)

Manager John Farrell has changed up his lineup fairly recently. Nowadays 2B Dustin Pedroia (127 wRC+) leads off with SS Xander Bogaerts (111 wRC+) second, DH David Ortiz (161 wRC+) third, RF Mookie Betts (132 wRC+) fourth, and 1B Hanley Ramirez (121 wRC+) fifth. Farrell moved Betts down to better take advantage of his power. Pedroia is hitting .435/.461/.519 (164 wRC+) since moving to the leadoff spot last month, which is ridiculous. The top of that lineup is not fun at all.

Right now IF Aaron Hill (88 wRC+) and 1B/3B Travis Shaw (98 wRC+) are platooning at third while ex-Yankee OF Chris Young (139 wRC+) and C Sandy Leon (150 wRC+) are the everyday left fielder and catcher, respectively. Leon’s having an insane out-of-nowhere season, though he has cooled off of late, especially in the power department. CF Jackie Bradley Jr. (120 wRC+) is back hitting eighth and ninth. Farrell likes Bradley hitting lower in the order because he acts as a second leadoff man.

UTIL Brock Holt (91 wRC+) and C Ryan Hanigan (18 wRC+) are the regular bench players, and it’s worth noting OF Andrew Benintendi (123 wRC+) recently came off the DL following a knee injury. He’s available but it sounds like the Red Sox don’t want to use him unless it’s an emergency, so he must not be 100% physically. C Bryan Holaday, C Christian Vazquez, IF Marco Hernandez, IF Deven Marrero, and IF Yoan Moncada are the September additions. Moncada has a 60.0% strikeout rate so far. See? The Yankees knew what they were doing all along.

The Red Sox are a good defensive team, particularly up the middle. Pedroia, Bradley, and Betts are all excellent in the field while Young and Bogaerts are good as well. Shaw and Hanley are liabilities on the corners though. We’ve seen it a few times firsthand this season. Leon and Hanigan are both strong defensive catchers. Leon’s thrown out 43% of attempted basestealers in his career, so don’t run on him.

Pitching Matchups

Thursday (7:10pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. BOS) vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (vs. NYY)
Rodriguez, 23, has given the Yankees a lot of fits the last two years. He has an unsightly 4.70 ERA (4.87 FIP) in 16 starts and 88 innings this year, though it’s worth noting he’s been much better of late, pitching to a 2.63 ERA (3.48 FIP) in seven starts since the beginning of August. The peripherals across the board are not that great (19.0 K%, 8.6 BB%, 33.3 GB%, 1.53 HR/9), and his platoon split is small. Rodriguez sits in the mid-90s with his four-seamer and sinker, and his go-to secondary pitch is a quality upper-80s changeup. He’s thrown his mid-80s slider a little more often of late, though it’s still his worst pitch. The Yankees have faced the young southpaw twice this season, and he held them to one run in seven innings both times. Annoying!

Friday (7:10pm ET): RHP Luis Cessa (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Clay Buchholz (vs. NYY)
Man, what an awful season for Buchholz. He started the year in the rotation, got demoted to the bullpen, moved back to the rotation, got demoted again, and now he’s back in the rotation thanks to Steven Wright’s shoulder injury. The 32-year-old Buchholz has a 5.31 ERA (5.38 FIP) in 120.1 innings covering 18 starts and 16 relief appearances, and his numbers as a starter are ghastly: 5.71 ERA (5.76 FIP) with 16.0% strikeouts, 9.4% walks, 42.5% grounders, and 1.84 HR/9. Yikes. Lefties have hit him a lot harder than righties too. These days Buchholz sits in the low-to-mid-90s with his four-seamer and a tick below that with his cutter. A low-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball are his two non-fastballs. Amazingly, the Yankees have only seen Buchholz once this season. He came out of the bullpen last month, faced one batter, and got two outs. (Starlin Castro grounded into a double play.)

Price. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)
Price. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)

Saturday (1:05pm ET): RHP Bryan Mitchell (vs. BOS) vs. LHP David Price (vs. NYY)
The Yankees didn’t see Price when these two teams played last month, and I’m pretty sure that’s the first time Price did not start during a series against the Yankees in about six years. I haven’t bothered to look it up, but that sounds like it could be true. He never seems to miss them. Price, 31, has had an overall disappointing first season with the Red Sox (3.81 ERA and 3.36 FIP in 205.2 innings), though he has a 2.99 ERA (3.32 FIP) in the second half, and that’s the David Price we’re used to seeing. As usual, his strikeout (24.8%) and walk (5.2%) rates are excellent while his grounder (44.7%) and homer (1.05 HR/9) rates are worse than the league average. He’s always been a soft contact/pop-up guy. Price’s platoon split is small and his fastballs are still humming in the mid-90s. His cutter is a notch below that and it’s a nasty pitch he likes to backdoor to righties. A mid-80s changeup in his primary offspeed pitch, and he’ll also throw a few low-80s curves per start as well. The Yankees have seen Price three times this year: six runs in seven innings in May, six runs in 4.2 innings later in May, and three runs in 5.2 innings in July.

Sunday (8:00pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. BOS) vs. LHP Drew Pomeranz (vs. NYY)
In the grand scheme of things, the 27-year-old Pomeranz has had a breakout season in 2016, posting a 3.25 ERA (3.75 FIP) in 28 starts and 160.2 innings. He was a deserving All-Star too. Now, that said, his season can be broken down in 17 ace-caliber starts with the Padres (2.47 ERA and 3.14 FIP in 102 innings) and eleven meh starts with the Red Sox (4.60 ERA and 4.81 FIP in 58.2 innings). Not exactly what the BoSox were hoping for so far. Pomeranz has a great strikeout rate (26.8%) and a good ground ball rate (46.3%), though he walks too many (9.6%) and doesn’t limit dingers (1.12 HR/9). His homer rate with the Red Sox is 1.84 HR/9. Egads. Pomeranz has a negligible platoon split thanks mostly to his big upper-70s curveball and new-ish mid-80s cutter. He throws the curve about as often as he throws his low-90s four-seam fastball, so he uses it a lot. For whatever reason he’s more or less abandoned his changeup after the trade to Boston. The Yankees have seen Pomeranz twice this year. He held them to one run in seven innings while with the Padres back in July, then he held them to one run in 5.1 innings with the Red Sox last month.

Bullpen Status

(Mitchell Layton/Getty)
Kimbrel. (Mitchell Layton/Getty)

Boston’s rotation has turned things around a bit in the second half, though their bullpen remains a real weakness, especially in the middle innings. It’s no surprise then that they’re carrying 12 relievers thanks to expanded rosters. Might as well load up that bullpen, right? Here is Farrell’s bullpen:

Closer: RHP Craig Kimbrel (2.78 ERA/2.65 FIP)
Setup: RHP Koji Uehara (4.05/3.69), RHP Brad Ziegler (2.37/3.11), LHP Robbie Ross Jr. (3.33/3.16)
Middle: RHP Matt Barnes (4.19/3.68), LHP Fernando Abad (3.30/3.57), RHP Junichi Tazawa (4.44/4.51)
Extra: RHP Heath Hembree, RHP Joe Kelly, LHP Henry Owens, RHP Noe Ramirez, LHP Robbie Scott

Uehara missed close to two months with a pectoral injury and returned just last week. The Red Sox eased him back into things with low-leverage innings at first, but he’s back to being the primary eighth inning guy now. Ziegler isn’t necessarily the seventh inning guy. He’s more like the backup setup man. He pitches the eighth the days Uehara isn’t available.

Uehara was the only reliever used yesterday and he threw just 14 pitches. Farrell doesn’t like to use the 41-year-old on back-to-back days though, so Ziegler figures to be the eighth inning guy tonight. Hopefully the Red Sox don’t need him. Head on over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s relief crew.

Yankeemetrics: It’s getting late early [Sept. 12-14]


Growing pains
On Monday night, the Yankees hit another speed bump in their surprising three-week sprint to the playoffs, getting hammered by the Dodgers, 8-2. It was an all-around sloppy game, where — for the most part — their fielders didn’t field well, their pitchers didn’t pitch well and their hitters didn’t hit well. The Yankees hit the trifecta, I guess.

Bryan Mitchell was not nearly as effective as he was in his debut last week against the Rays when he tossed five scoreless innings, getting hit hard early before being pulled in the third inning after giving up six runs on eight hits. He did get burned by two costly errors from a couple of his fellow Baby Bombers (Judge and Sanchez), so only two of those six runs were earned.

It had been more than five years since a Yankee pitcher gave up at least four unearned runs in fewer than three innings pitched. The last guy to do it was Bartolo Colon on July 14, 2011 against the Blue Jays. Colon didn’t make it out of the first inning thanks to a two-out error by Eduardo Nunez (NunEEEEEEE!) that loaded the bases and ultimately resulted in an ugly eight-run frame.

Richard Bleier saved the bullpen and held the Dodgers scoreless through the seventh with four hitless innings. You have to go back more than 15 years to find the last Yankee reliever to pitch at least four innings without allowing a hit at Yankee Stadium, when Todd Erdos did so against the Mets on June 6, 1999. The starting pitchers in that game? Al Leiter and Roger Clemens.

Aaron Judge did his best to try to make up for his untimely error by crushing a monster 436-foot shot into the left-center bleachers in the fifth inning, a ball that left his bat at 115.2 mph. Judge the only Yankee over the last two seasons — since Statcast tracking began — to hit a fair ball that far (436 feet) and that hard (115.2 mph).

(NY Post)
(NY Post)

Bench mob leads the way
The $200 million Little Engine That Could kept its postseason dreams alive — for one day, at least — and snapped out of its mini two-game funk with a resounding 3-0 win over the Dodgers on Tuesday night.

CC Sabathia held LA’s lineup in check with a truly turn-back-the-clock effort. He threw 6 1/3 shutout innings and gave up just three hits while striking out seven. It was a stellar outing that might be surprising given Sabathia’s late-season fade, but less improbable when you consider the pre-game matchup numbers. The Dodgers are the worst-hitting team against left-handed pitchers in the majors this season, ranking last among all teams in batting average, slugging percentage and OPS versus southpaws.

The hero on the offensive side was Jacoby Ellsbury, who replaced an injured Aaron Judge in the fifth inning and then delivered the Yankees’ latest clutch hit two frames later. Ellsbury won a nine-pitch battle with Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling, pummeling a full-count breaking ball into the right field seats to break a scoreless tie in the seventh.

He is just the third Yankee over the last two decades to hit a go-ahead homer in the seventh inning or later in an at-bat of nine-or-more pitches; Curtis Granderson (Sept. 17, 2011 vs. Blue Jays) and Derek Jeter (June 9, 2004 vs. Rockies) are the others.

Didi Gregorius (pinch-hitting for Ronald Torreyes) followed up Ellsbury with his own solo homer on the very next pitch, completing a historic sequence of longballs in the Bronx. Gregorius and Ellsbury became the first set of Yankees in 60 years to come off the bench and hit back-to-back homers in a game.

Moose Skowron and Tommy Byrne (who also got the win with 4 1/3 scoreless innings in relief) were the last pair to do it on July 14, 1957 against the White Sox. Byrne was one of the best power-hitting pitchers in franchise history, slugging .393 with 11 homers in 425 at-bats as a Yankee in the 1940s and ‘50s. Among Yankee pitchers with at least 60 at-bats for the team, he ranks second in slugging percentage behind Bullet Joe Bush (.449).

Looking just at position players going deep in consecutive at-bats after not starting the game, the last Yankees to do that were Bob Serv and Elston Howard on July 23, 1955 in a 8-7 loss against the Kansas City A’s.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Yankees get Kershaw’d
The Yankees stumbled again in their desperate push to make the playoffs, losing another mistake-filled game to the Dodgers on Wednesday.

Two errors in the ninth led to the only two runs of the game, both of them unearned, as the team from the west coast left the Bronx with a 2-0 victory. This was just the third time in the last 20 years that the Yankees lost a game in which they didn’t allow an earned run. The other two similarly ugly losses occurred in a three-day span in 2014, against the Royals on September 5 and 7.

Playing their final non-division game of the season, the Yankees wrapped up their Interleague schedule at 8-12, clinching their second-worst Interleague record in franchise history. The only year they had a worse mark against NL teams was 1997 when they went 5-10.

Led by an efficient and utterly dominant performance from Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers completely shut down the Yankee bats. The Best Pitcher on the Planet struck out five, walked none and allowed one hit, needing just 64 pitches to get through five scoreless innings.

In the 94-year history of Yankee Stadium, just two other starting pitchers have finished with a line of zero walks, at least five strikeouts and no more than one hit allowed in a game against the Yankees. The first was Hank Aguirre for the Tigers on August 3, 1960 and the second was Pedro Martinez in his epic 17-strikeout, 1-hitter on Sept. 10, 1999.

Thoughts prior to the final road trip of the season


Yesterday afternoon the Yankees wrapped up a successful ten-game homestand in which they went 7-3. It feels like it could have been better because they lost three of the last four games, but 7-3 is still pretty good. Now the Yankees are heading out on a long eleven-game road trip through Boston, Tampa, and Toronto. Come the end of that trip we’ll know whether the Yankees are really in this race. Going to be fun. Nerve-racking, but fun. Anyway, I have some thoughts.

1. The Aaron Judge injury stinks for multiple reasons. First and foremost, he’s losing at-bats and experience against big league pitching, which brings his adjustment period to a screeching halt. Those reps have a lot of value. Secondly, we won’t be able to watch him hit the occasional massive dinger. It’s been far too long since the Yankees had a guy who can hit baseballs as far as Judge. And thirdly, the team defense takes a hit. Rob Refsnyder might be an offensive upgrade in right field, at least in terms of on-base ability, but the defensive drop-off will be noticeable. It would have been nice to see Judge get hot and finish the season strong so he could head into the offseason feeling good about things. Alas, it was not meant to be. I think Judge will be perfectly fine though. He seems really even-keeled.

2. One more quick note on Judge: because his season is over, he will retain his rookie (and prospect) eligibility next season. He doesn’t come close to exceeding the service time limit for rookies (45 days outside September) and he’ll finish the season with 84 at-bats, well short of the 130 at-bat cutoff for rookie status. Judge will still be Rookie of the Year eligible next season and you’ll see him on all the prospect lists too. That should be interesting. Several publications, most notably Baseball America and MLB.com, dropped Judge in their rankings last year because he struggled when he got to Triple-A. He figured out Triple-A this year and struggled after getting to MLB. Will Judge fall in the rankings again, or will prospect rankers look at his history of making adjustments and give him the benefit of the doubt? My guess is the former. It’s so much easier to drop a guy in the rankings in favor of the new hotness in A-ball than it is to stick to a ranking when a talented upper level guy struggles.

3. I’m glad Mason Williams has been called up but I understand he’s not going to play all that much. Refsnyder and, once healthy, Aaron Hicks figure to be the Joe Girardi‘s go-to right fielders down the stretch. And once Hicks returns, he’ll likely get any spot start duty in center field too. Williams might only get to play defense in the late innings for Refsnyder — he took over in right field yesterday after Refsnyder was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning — and soak up some at-bats late in blowouts. That’s better than nothing. Williams is not a top prospect anymore but he still has really nice skills, namely his bat-to-ball ability and top notch defense, so he could still be useful down the road. He has an option left for next season and I expect the Yankees to take advantage of it and stash Williams in Triple-A. I’d be very surprised if he’s an offseason 40-man roster causality. The Ben Gamel trade puts Mason at the front of the line for a call-up next season whenever an outfielder is needed.

(Jason O. Watson/Getty
(Jason O. Watson/Getty

4. I do find it kinda funny that after releasing Alex Rodriguez last month, the Yankees went out and signed Billy Butler to be their right-handed platoon DH last night. The circumstances are totally different, of course. Rosters are expanded now, so carrying a limited player like that is no big deal. Also, Butler is ten years younger than A-Rod, so the chances of him finding it for a few weeks are much higher. But still, it’s kinda funny. The Yankees are tentatively scheduled to face seven left-handed starters during this eleven-game road trip, including three in Boston this weekend, so something had to be done. Austin Romine couldn’t be their primary righty DH these last 17 games. Hopefully Butler hits a random big home run like Chris Young after he was picked up off the scrap heap in 2014. Unlike Young though, Butler is not worth bringing back next season. Way too limited. Plus he’s kind of a jerk.

5. Conspiracy theory incoming: placing Hicks and Chad Green on the 15-day DL this month had more to do with CC Sabathia than Hicks and Green. At this point finishing the season on the disabled list with a shoulder injury is the only way Sabathia’s $25M option for next season won’t vest. The 15-day DL is useless in September. Rosters are expanded and putting a player on the 15-day DL accomplishes nothing. It doesn’t buy the team a roster spot or anything. Now, should Sabathia hurt his shoulder at some point, the Yankees could place him on the 15-day DL this month and it wouldn’t be out of character. Had they kept Hicks and Green active then suddenly DL’ed Sabathia, it’d look weird, you know? The MLBPA would surely fight the move given all the money on the line, and they’d argue the DL stint is not common practice for September and was made solely to prevent the option from vesting. Now the Yankees can better defend themselves against a potential grievance by pointing to Hicks and Green and saying “hey, we put them on the DL too!” What do you think? Am I on to something or completely crazy? Probably the latter.

6. Forgive me for being optimistic and looking ahead, but if the Yankees stay on rotation the rest of the season, they can’t line Masahiro Tanaka up for the wildcard game. Even if they use Monday’s off-day to skip another starter and move Tanaka up a day, it won’t work. He’d still have to start the wildcard game on three days’ rest. The only way to line Tanaka up for the wildcard game is by skipping a regular season start somewhere along the line, and there’s pretty much no chance that will happen. Not with the Yankees far from a lock for the postseason and needing as many starts from their ace as possible. As it stands right now, both Sabathia and Michael Pineda would be lined up for the wildcard game, which I assume means Sabathia gets the ball. I’d happily take my chances with Sabathia or Pineda in the wildcard game at this point because that means, you know, the Yankees are in the postseason. Playoff baseball this season would be a gift from the baseball gods.

7. I can’t help but look at the schedule and think that final series against the Orioles is going to be huge. The Yankees host the O’s in Yankee Stadium for Games 160-162 in two weeks, and a postseason spot could very well be on the line. Hopefully the Yankees close the gap in the standings between now and then, but you know what? Going into that series needing a sweep to go to the postseason would be a-okay in my book. I’ve had zero expectations of this team going to the playoffs since, like, May. This late season run is fun as hell and the fact there are a bunch of kids chipping in along the way makes it that much better. Going into that final series with a shot at the postseason would be awesome. It would be far more than I ever could have hoped for at the trade deadline. Even if the Yankees fall short, this 2016 team is much more entertaining than the 2013 and 2014 teams, the other two recent clubs to miss the playoffs.

Yankees let winnable game slip away, drop series finale 2-0 to Dodgers

That was a tough one. Thanks in part to the rain, the Yankees were able to wait out Clayton Kershaw in Wednesday afternoon’s series finale against the Dodgers, but the offense never bothered to show up, and eventually some defensive miscues led to a 2-0 loss. Brutal. The Yankees have lost three of four since their seven-game winning streak.

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

Defensive Meltdown
Might as well start with the ninth inning since that’s when all the important stuff happened. The game was still scoreless in the top of the ninth, and the inning started with a bad Starlin Castro error. Dellin Betances was on the mound and Corey Seager lifted a little line drive right to Castro, but he misplayed it and the ball scooted by. Easily catchable ball and a play a Major League second baseman must make.

Because Betances was on the mound, Seager stole second almost immediately, and the play wasn’t all that close even with Gary Sanchez behind the plate. Justin Turner followed with a ground ball double just beyond the reach of a diving Chase Headley, which scored Seager and gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead. Blah. Turner moved up to third on Adrian Gonzalez’s deep fly ball, so Los Angeles had the lead and a runner at third with one out.

A runner at third with one out stinks because an out can score a run there, so you’re hoping Betances can get a strikeout to keep the runner at third. Rather than the strikeout, Yasmani Grandal hit a weak tapper back to the mound, which is almost as good. Turner broke for home and would have been out by a mile had Betances, you know, made a good throw home. He shot-putted the ball to the backstop, allowing the run to score.

Dellin Betances

Sigh. Dellin’s two biggest flaws were on full display that inning. He can’t hold runners — opponents are now 19-for-19 in steal attempts against him after Seager’s stolen base — and he struggles throwing to the bases. Usually it doesn’t matter much because Betances is so good at everything else, but those flaws cost the Yankees on Thursday. Castro’s error was obviously huge too. That started the game-winning rally. Sloppy baseball at a very bad time.

Not Enough Offense
In the three biggest at-bats of the game, Rob Refsnyder and Austin Romine faced Kershaw, and Brian McCann hit against a lefty. Not great, Bob. Kershaw retired the first dozen batters he faced before a 56-minute rain delay, and because he stayed loose in the batting cage underneath the stands during the delay, he came back out for the fifth inning too. That surprised me. Whatever.

That fifth inning was the Yankees’ best chance to score all game. Castro started the inning with a hot shot grounder off Turner’s glove at third base, then Headley followed with a legit single through the left side of the infield. The Yankees had runners on first and second with no outs, and with Didi Gregorius set to face a lefty annihilator like Kershaw, he laid down a bunt. Fine with me. It was textbook and advanced the runners.

The Yankees were in position to score a run with an out, but it never came. Kershaw overpowered both Refsnyder and Romine, striking them out to end the inning. Why did Refsnyder and Romine bat there? Beats me. At the very least, Mark Teixeira should have pinch-hit for Romine. I’d argue he should have pinch-hit for Refsnyder because you need a fly ball, and Refsnyder is a very ground ball heavy hitter.

Their other best chance to score came in the seventh inning. Castro singled and Headley walked, both with one out, though Pedro Baez got Gregorius to fly out to center for the second out. Joe Girardi lifted Refsnyder for pinch-hitter Brian McCann, which was great! Except the Dodgers countered with lefty Luis Avilan, and McCann hit anyway. He came into the game with a .205/.314/.356 (82 wRC+) line against lefties. Naturally, McCann struck out to end the threat.


The Yankees scored five runs in the three games against the Dodgers and all five came on solo homers. They had bad matchups in their three most important at-bats of the game Wednesday even though there were better options on the bench. The offense stunk in general, doing get me wrong. The loss falls on the entire offense, not one or two guys. But did Refsnyder and Romine give the Yankees the best chance to succeed in the fifth? Did McCann in the seventh? You’ll have a hard time convincing me they were the best available options at the time.

Michael Pineda didn’t allow a run! He also threw 83 pitches in four innings. Pineda closed out his outing with a nice 3-6-1 inning-ending double play with the bases loaded, during which he took an awkward step at first base and appeared to hurt himself. I’m not sure if he left the game hurt or because he was laboring so much. The Yankees can’t really afford to lose another starter.

The Yankees had five baserunners total: two singles by Castro, a single and a walk by Headley, and a walk by Brett Gardner. Gardner’s walk came with two outs in the eighth inning of a scoreless game and he never tried to steal second. Dude. The Yankees struck out 14 times as a team in this game, their second highest strikeout total in a nine-inning game this season. The Astros struck out 15 Yankees back in July.

Aside from Betances, nice work by the bullpen. Tommy Layne and Tyler Clippard each threw a scoreless inning and Luis Severino threw two. Those three combined to allow one hit. Also, both of the runs were unearned against Betances because of the errors.

The Orioles and Tigers both won while the Blue Jays lost Thursday. The wildcard standings look like this at the moment:

Orioles: +1.0 GB (first wildcard)
Blue Jays: — (second wildcard)
Tigers: 1.0 GB
Yankees: 2.0 GB

Also, if the Mariners beat the lowly Angels later Wednesday night, they’ll be 1.5 games back of the second wildcard spot and jump over the Yankees in the standings. That’s annoying, but they’re the Mariners. I’m sure they’ll screw up somehow before it’s all said and done.

And finally, there were two rain delays in this game. The second one was the big one, the 56-minute delay we all hoped would knock Kershaw from the game. The first delay lasted 12 whole minutes in the third inning. It was somehow sillier than two rain delays against the Blue Jays last week. Not a great week for the tarp-callers.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has both the box score and updated standings while MLB.com has the video highlights. We have Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages too, so check those out. Here’s the unfortunate win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The homestand is over and the Yankees will now head out on a eleven-game, three-city road trip. First up: four games in Boston. Fun fun fun. Masahiro Tanaka and Eduardo Rodriguez are the scheduled starters for Thursday night’s opener.