Red Sox 5, Yankees 1: Bad offense, bad bullpen let a game slip away

Source: FanGraphs

The Yankees are likely going to be a second place team this year and they looked every bit the part against the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon. Out-hit, out-pitched, out-defended, out-managed. Pretty gross effort all around. The final score was 5-1. It’s Sunday, so I’m going to recap this mess of a game with bullet points:

  • Sonny’s Grind: Tough afternoon for Sonny Gray. Kinda remarkable he was able to hold the Red Sox to two runs in five innings. The two-run double to Jackie Bradley Jr. was annoying, though the bigger mistake that inning was being unable to put away Sandy Leon in an 0-2 count with two outs. Leon singled to extend the inning. Gray did not have a finish pitch at all. He struck out zero of the 23 batters he faced. Only four swings and misses compared to 17 foul balls.
  • One Run & Done: Really weak showing by the offense. Three hits and three walks scattered. Brett Gardner wrapped his 20th home run of the season around the Pesky Pole in the sixth inning for his team’s only run. And that was it. The Yankees did not have a baserunner the rest of the way. Fourteen up, 14 down to end the game. Their best chances to score came in the second and fourth, when they had two on with two outs. Tyler Austin struck out to end the inning both times.
  • Anti-Shutdown Bullpen: Aroldis Chapman threw 1.1 scoreless innings both don’t be fooled. He didn’t look good. Had no idea where the ball was going and the Red Sox took some big comfy swings against him. Chapman was also the team’s most effective reliever Sunday. Adam Warren allowed a run and Tommy Kahnle allowed two runs when Caleb Smith couldn’t strand the inherited runners. Smith did wiggle out of a bases loaded, no outs jam though, so good for him. Kahnle, meanwhile, has had a rough last week or so.
  • Leftovers: Gardner went 2-for-4 and the rest of the Yankees went 1-for-26. Chase Headley had the other hit, a double … Aaron Judge went 0-for-4 with a strikeout and really shouldn’t be hitting third these days … also, Mookie Betts straight up deked Judge into a lollipop throw. Betts was on second, it was a routine fly ball, and after pretending he would stay at second, Betts took off for third once he saw the toss to the cutoff man. Can’t happen and it shouldn’t happen again.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page. The Yankees have an off-day Monday and the road trip will continue Tuesday night in Detroit. Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to come off the disabled list to make that start. Lefty Matt Boyd will be on the bump for the Tigers.

Game 123: Sonny Sunday


Big game today. They’re all kinda big games at this point, but especially today because today’s the difference between three games back in the AL East and five games back in the AL East. The Yankees have an off-day tomorrow, so I imagine Joe Girardi won’t hold back with the bullpen. If he needs four or five outs from David Robertson or Dellin Betances, he’s going to ask for them.

Sonny Gray is getting his first taste of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry this afternoon and that should be fun. He’s thrown at least six innings and allowed no more than two earned runs in nine straight starts, far and away the longest such streak in the AL. The Yankees could use another effort just like that. And runs, too. Lots of runs. The more the merrier. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. C Gary Sanchez
  6. 1B Chase Headley
  7. 3B Todd Frazier
  8. DH Tyler Austin
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Sonny Gray

Perfect day for baseball in Boston. Nice and sunny and not too hot either. Good day to spend at the ballpark. Today’s series finale will begin at 1:30pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and TBS nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Clint Frazier (oblique) is still in rest mode. He is feeling better but has not yet been cleared to swing. Hard to think we’ll see him before rosters expand on September 1st.

Full Strength–Or Something Like It

Apr 4, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; New York Yankees first baseman Greg Bird (33) works out during batting practice prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Like any full baseball season worth its salt, the second half for the Yankees has been an unpredictable series of ups and downs. At times, they’ve looked as dominant as they did in the early season; at other times, they’ve looked as hapless as they did in June. Overall, though, they’re holding the line and keeping their first wildcard position with some room to spare. The division is also in reach, but they’re gonna need a boost to catch the Red Sox. Enter Starlin Castro, Matt Holliday, and Greg Bird. All three are on rehab assignments right now and are the cavalry to the Yankees’ main fighting force.

All three players are returning from varying circumstances. Castro is in the midst of an All-Star season, just injury riddled. Holliday is hoping to recover from a mid-season crash after a solid start. And Bird is hoping to take off, finally, after a disastrous and frustrating stretch of bad health. Despite those different paths to this spot, the ‘destination’ is clear: give the Yankee lineup a much wanted and much needed spark to help push them over the edge. The challenge for the Yankees, then, is to incorporate these guys into a lineup that has been molded and established without them.

Let’s not worry about arrival times for the moment and just take a look at what the lineup may look like when all three are back in action.

Though Holliday was hitting there during his hot times early on and Bird was slotted for there at the beginning of 2017, neither should bat at the top of the lineup right now. The top five, really, should look about the same as it has recently:

  1. Brett Gardner OF
  2. Aaron Hicks OF
  3. Aaron Judge RF
  4. Gary Sanchez C
  5. Didi Gregorius SS

Now comes the part where we might expect Bird to hit, but I’d imagine Joe Girardi would want to break up the lefties. He can do so in two ways, by either inserting Holliday in the six spot, or keep Chase Headley there, who’s had a solid, if powerless, season. Also, given Bird’s presence in the lineup, this shifts Headley back to third and Todd Frazier to a bench role (I imagine he’ll play against LHP to ease Bird’s transition). The other wrinkle here is Castro. Given the year he’s had, I think he’d get preference to bat sixth, bumping Headley down to seventh. The ripple effect here, of course, is it pushes the veteran Holliday to eighth and Bird to ninth.

6. Castro 2B

7. Headley 3B

8. Holliday DH

9. Bird 1B

That lineup is…really friggin’ good. It has the potential to absolutely mash. Best laid plans and all, but that lineup, with Frazier, Ronald Torreyes, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Austin Romine on the bench is just fierce. Even if Girardi gives deference to Castro and Holliday as veterans and moves them around towards the top, the bottom loses nothing with Gregorius and/or Hicks moving down.

Is this a bit of rosterbating? Sure, but why not? This year has been better than any of us could’ve imagined and I’m feeling positive right now. That lineup, combined with a rotation of Luis Severino, Sonny Gray, Masahiro Tanaka, and CC Sabathia in the playoffs, backed up by a dominant bullpen, is a recipe for playoff success. Get there, Yanks, and you’ll do some damage.

Austin’s power gives the Yankees a 4-3 win over the Red Sox in Sabathia’s return from the DL

Was it easy? No. But a win is a win, and that was an impressive win considering the tough loss Friday night. The Yankees rebounded to beat Chris Sale and the Red Sox 4-3 on Saturday night. They’re 3-1 against Sale this year, you know. They’d be 4-0 if Aroldis Chapman could protect a one-run lead.

This is a good photo. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)
This is a good photo. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)

Austin’s Power
I have to say, of all the weird baseball stuff that could’ve happened Saturday night, Tyler Austin taking Sale way deep over the Green Monster for a three-run home run is not something I would’ve seen coming. It’s not that Austin doesn’t have power, he definitely does, but Sale is just so damn good. Austin took him for a ride twice in this game, in fact. He ripped a long line drive Jackie Bradley Jr. had to jump to catch at the center field wall.

That three-run second inning rally started with what looked like a home run off the bat from Didi Gregorius. Well struck to right field. Almost certainly a home run into the short porch at Yankee Stadium. At Fenway Park, it was a ground rule double into the right field corner. Todd Frazier took a pitch to the calf to put two runners on base for Austin, who went up and got a high fastball. It was crushed. Gone off the bat. Look at this thing:

Don’t sleep on the bat flip. It’s kinda hard to see in the video, so here’s a better clip. Love it. I don’t care that Austin has been in the big leagues for like ten minutes. You crush a no-doubter against Chris Sale during one of the most meaningful Yankees-Red Sox games in about five years, and you deserve to enjoy it. Pimp every homer like it’s your last.

Between the three-run homer and the fly ball Bradley caught at the wall, Austin hit about 850 feet worth of baseball against Sale in his first two at-bats Saturday. Can’t imagine many players have squared him up that well twice in one game this season. Exit velocity on the homer: 108.6 mph. Exit velocity on the caught line drive: 106.1 mph. I like Garrett Cooper. Seems like a nice guy. But it’s nice to have a righty platoon bat who can hit for power.

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

Big Stoppa
The Yankees are now a perfect 8-0 when CC Sabathia starts following a Yankees’ loss this season, and in those eight starts, Sabathia has a 1.46 ERA and is averaging 6.1 innings per start. The big man has stepped up and stopped (potential) losing streak after (potential) losing streak this year. He did it again Saturday night.

Against the Red Sox, Sabathia showed zero ill-effects from his recent knee trouble, and cruised through four scoreless innings on only 42 pitches. The Red Sox finally broke through for two runs in the fifth and it was a stupid little rally. A walk (Xander Bogaerts), a soft line drive single (Rafael Devers), a run-scoring tapper to second (Sandy Leon), and a run-scoring soft line drive single to left (Bradley) got two runs on the board for Boston.

Sabathia appeared to hit a bit of a wall in the sixth inning, though he was able to strand Mookie Betts at second base following his leadoff double. There was definitely some luck that inning, because Hanley Ramirez smashed a line drive that Frazier dove to grab at third base. Chase Headley also made a nice play hustling to catch a foul pop-up near the dugout for the third and final out. Sabathia’s final line: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K. Give me like nine more starts like that this year, CC.

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

Homegrown Bullpen
With Chapman having been (temporarily?) demoted, the Yankees went with three homegrown relievers to close out Saturday’s win. Fortunately, Frazier gave the Yankees an insurance run first. He went down and golfed a Sale slider into the very first row of the Green Monster seats for a solo homer. Can of corn in pretty much every other ballpark. In Fenway Park, it’s a homer. Frazier really fits that park well with all the fly balls to right.

Anyway, the 4-2 lead turned into a 4-3 lead two batters into the seventh inning. Adam Warren gave up a solo home run to Devers that hit inside the yellow line in center field, and deflected into the seats behind the bullpens. The ground rules say that’s a home run. For real. From the official ground rules site:

Batted ball in flight striking left of line in right-center field at a point above the bullpen and continuing into the bullpen: Home Run.

So what’s the point of the yellow line then? Eh, whatever. Warren recorded one more out before giving way to David Robertson, who finished the seventh with a one-pitch out. The eighth inning got a little hairy. The Red Sox loaded the bases with two outs on a strikeout/wild pitch (Andrew Benintendi), a double (Hanley), and an intentional walk (Mitch Moreland). I didn’t like the intentional walk. It gave Robertson no margin for an error. A hit batter or a walk ties the game.

Fortunately Robertson is a boss and he struck out Bogaerts on three curveballs, each nastier than the one before it, to end the inning. A nice big fist pump followed. Dellin Betances, the closer du jour, nailed down the save thanks to Gary Sanchez‘s rocket arm. Leon reached base on a strikeout/wild pitch with one out and, predictably, pinch-runner Brock Holt tried to steal second to get the tying run into scoring position. Everyone runs on Dellin. But Sanchez threw him out. Go look at this throw. Look at it.

Good gravy. That’s why you don’t move Sanchez to first base or DH, folks. That’s why you work and work and keep working with him on his blocking. Gary is a special hitter with a special arm and you keep him at catcher because he’s a special player there. Move him to first base or DH and he’s just another guy. What an unbelievable throw. Statcast clocked it at 86.4 mph. 86.4 mph!

After that throw, Betances got Bradley to hit a routine fly ball to left field to end the game. That’s my closer. The final bullpen line: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K. The walk was intentional. Three relievers came in to nail down an important win and all three came up from the farm system. Yeah, Warren and Robertson spent a little time elsewhere, but they’re back in pinstripes now, and I couldn’t be happier.

Don't run on Gary. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)
Don’t run on Gary. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)

The Yankees won despite the 3-4-5 hitters (Aaron Judge, Sanchez, Headley) going a combined 0-for-12. Judge did draw a walk, but he also struck out three times, including once with runners on first and second and two outs in the eighth. The Yankees ultimately did not need the insurance runs, though they would’ve been nice.

During that eighth inning rally pinch-runner Jacoby Ellsbury was thrown out at the plate on the stupid contact play that never works because it’s stupid and dumb. Austin reached base on a double, Ellsbury pinch-run, and Ronald Torreyes bunted him up. Bunting after pinch-running your fastest pinch-runner is an underrated weird baseball move. Gardner hit a hard-hit grounder to Devers at third, who came home for the out. Womp womp.

Two hits for Gardner and Austin and three for Gregorius. Gardner saw 20 pitches in four at-bats against Sale and didn’t swing and miss once. That’s impressive. Sale chews up left-handed hitters. Frazier hit his home run and Aaron Hicks hit a pop-up double off the wall. Can of corn turned double. Fenway Park is cool sometimes.

And finally, with his second inning strikeout of former Yankee Chris Young, Sabathia now has more strikeouts than any other left-handed pitcher in AL history. That is pretty ridiculous. Here’s the leaderboard coming into this game. Congrats, big guy.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has the box score and updated standings and has the video highlights. We have a Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Red Sox wrap-up this three-game series Sunday afternoon. That’s a 1:30pm ET start. Sonny Gray and Rick Porcello are the scheduled starting pitchers.

DotF: Bird stays hot on rehab assignment in Scranton’s loss

C Kyle Higashioka is back on the Triple-A Scranton disabled list, reports Conor Foley. Not sure if the back issue flared up again, or if this is something new. I wonder what the Yankees will do about a third catcher in September if Higashioka doesn’t get healthy in time. I guess C Eddy Rodriguez by default?

Triple-A Scranton (8-4 loss to Durham)

  • LF Jake Cave: 0-4, 2 K
  • 2B Starlin Castro: 1-3, 1 R, 1 K, 1 E (throwing) — played five innings in the field as scheduled … here’s video of the single
  • DH Greg Bird: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K — here’s video of the double … 6-for-14 (.429) in four rehab games so far
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 1-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 HBP, 1 SB
  • RF Billy McKinney: 0-3
  • LHP Joe Mantiply: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 4/0 GB/FB — 28 of 40 pitches were strikes (70%) … made the spot start because Caleb Smith is in the big leagues
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 2 WP, 4/0 GB/FB — 26 of 36 pitches were strikes (72%) … only the second outing in which he’s allowed a run this year … 19 of his 21 appearances have been scoreless
  • RHP Ben Heller: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K — 14 of 21 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Game 122: Sabathia Returns

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

Tough loss last night. Another tough loss last night. The Yankees have made a habit of those lately. Pretty annoying. The best thing about baseball is that they play everyday, so tonight the Yankees have a chance to erase that memory and grab a win. There are still six weeks left in the season, but to have a realistic chance at the AL East title, they have to start beating the Red Sox. They’ve lost their last three games against Boston and in two of the three they let a late lead slip away. Can’t happen.

CC Sabathia returns to the mound tonight following a quick little ten-day hiatus related to his achy right knee. Sabathia left his last start in pain and it seemed like he would miss time, and he did, but it seemed like it would be an extended disable list stint. Instead, cortisone and lubrication injections did the trick, and Sabathia is on the mound tonight. He’s thrown 14 scoreless innings against the Red Sox this year, you know. Hopefully he ups that to about 21 scoreless innings today. Here is the Red Sox’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. C Gary Sanchez
  5. 1B Chase Headley
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 3B Todd Frazier
  8. DH Tyler Austin
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP CC Sabathia

Much nicer weather in Boston tonight. A little cloudy but otherwise on the cool side. Nice night for a ballgame. Then again, the forecast said it was supposed to rain all night last night and that didn’t happen, so who knows. Tonight’s game will begin a little after 7pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Roster Move: Jordan Montgomery was sent down to Triple-A to clear a roster spot for Sabathia, the Yankees announced. Montgomery was originally called back up to fill in for Sabathia. I imagine the Yankees will go back to their plan to limit his workload now.

Closer Update: Aroldis Chapman is out as closer, at least temporarily. Joe Girardi said he does “not necessarily” have a set closer right now and will use Chapman “at any point” in the game. Given Girardi’s tendencies, I imagine he’s going bump everyone up an inning, meaning Dellin Betances in the ninth and David Robertson in the eighth. We’ll see.

Rotation Update: Masahiro Tanaka (shoulder) will be activated and rejoin the rotation Tuesday in Detroit. That’s the first day he’s eligible to be activated off the disabled list.

Saturday Links: Judge, Playoffs, Cave, Automatic Strike Zone

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

The Yankees and Red Sox will continue their three-game weekend series later tonight at Fenway Park. That’s a 7pm ET start. Remember when they used to play baseball on Saturday afternoons? That was fun. Anyway, here are some links and notes to check out until first pitch.

Yankees not considering moving Judge to first base

According to David Lennon and Bob Klapisch, the Yankees have not considering moving Aaron Judge to first base to unclog the outfield logjam and potentially address first base long-term. Judge did play first base in high school, you know. He moved to the outfield in college because Fresno State already had a pretty good first baseman. Even if the Yankees were considering moving Judge, they wouldn’t do it midseason. They’d wait until Spring Training.

Two thoughts on this. One, Judge’s right field defense is way too good right now to move him. He’s an asset out there, particularly his throwing. Move him to first base and you’re wasting his arm. And two, I think it’s only a matter of time until Judge winds up at first base permanently. There’s a reason you don’t see many players that size running around the outfield. It’s tough on the knees and tough on the body. That doesn’t mean Judge will have to move to first base next year. But maybe in four or five years? Yeah, it’s possible. Right now though, it is not a consideration for the Yankees, and that is absolutely the right move in my opinion.

Hal says missing postseason would be a “failure”

It seems the Yankees have gone from “World Series or bust” to “transition year” to “postseason or bust” within the last 18 months or so. Earlier this week, Hal Steinbrenner said it would be a “failure” if the Yankees missed the playoffs this year. “If we don’t make the playoffs, it’s a failure … It’s been a tough last two months for the most part. But I think they’re coming out of it … (We’re) going to have a strong last five, six weeks,” said Hal to Anthony Castrovince.

The continued shift in expectations this year has been pretty fascinating. The Yankees sold at the trade deadline last year and, for the most part, I think people considered this a “step back before taking a step forward” year. Break in some young players, deal with the growing pains, then gear up for 2018. Instead, the young players hit the ground running and the Yankees got off to a great start. They’ve been a .500-ish team for three months now though. It went from “rebuilding year” to “let’s shock the world!” to “please just get a wildcard spot.” If the Yankees miss the postseason now, it’ll feel like a disappointment. Five months ago, it was kinda expected.

Four Yankees among most improved prospects

Cave. (AP)
Cave. (AP)

Dan Szymborski used his ZiPS system to find the position player and pitching prospects who have improved their stock the most this season. In a nutshell, he compared each player’s preseason projection to their current projection. He lists 18 prospects total and four are Yankees:

  • RHP Chance Adams: 5.32 ERA preseason to 4.35 ERA now
  • OF Jake Cave: .617 OPS preseason to .709 OPS now
  • 1B Garrett Cooper: .679 OPS preseason to .751 OPS now
  • RHP Domingo German: 5.70 ERA preseason to 4.88 ERA now

SS Gleyber Torres and OF Billy McKinney were among the honorable mentions. The Cave projection is most interesting to me because ZiPS basically says he made the jump from non-prospect to potential fourth outfielder this season. From the write-up:

Of the 1,400 projections for hitters run by ZiPS coming into 2017 (about 1,250 “official” ones and 150 for prospects at very low levels for which I have little confidence), only four players got a larger boost than Cave’s 92-point OPS boost: Ryan Zimmerman, Aaron Judge, Justin Smoak and Zack Cozart.

ZiPS still isn’t convinced Cave will be more than a fourth outfielder, but it’s damn hard to add 100 points of OPS to a projection in four months.

Huh. Cave will be a minor league free agent this offseason and I think it’s likely the Yankees will add him to the 40-man roster and make sure he doesn’t get away. He is going to be 25 in December, so he’s not super young, but hit .343/.387/.610 (176 wRC+) with 13 homers in 54 Triple-A games while playing center field, and you’re going to make yourself worth keeping around.

Electronic strike zone not on the horizon

No surprise here, but commissioner Rob Manfred told Anthony Castrovince the league is not close to implementing an electronic strike zone. The technology isn’t there yet, and even once it is available, Manfred is leery of moving away from human umpires. Balls and strikes are everything to umpires. I suspect they’ll fight an electronic strike zone tooth and nail when the time comes.

Personally, I don’t have much interest in an electronic strike zone. Yes, I would like the umpires to be better behind the plate, but I feel like an electronic zone would take more away from the game than it would provide. Consistency is boring. Also, I get the sense that shifting to an electronic strike zone would have some unintended consequences. We could see some pretty drastic shifts in pitcher (and therefore hitter) performance with an unambiguous zone.

Jeter becomes a dad

And finally, Derek Jeter is now officially a father. Derek and Hannah welcomed their daughter, Bella Raine Jeter, into the world on Thursday, it was announced on The Players’ Tribune (of course). Congrats to them. Not a bad gene pool to come from, huh?