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.
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.
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:
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.