Wednesday Night Open Thread

I suppose the good news is the Yankees have suffered so many of these soul-crushing losses lately that I’m getting to be immune to them. I’ve gotten pretty good at #ZenBaseball over the last years, but geez, these last few weeks have been brutal. I plan on staying far away from baseball and the Yankees in general tomorrow. I need a break from these guys.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Mets are playing tonight and MLB Network will have a regional West Coast game later on. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s loss, or anything else here that isn’t religion or politics.

Blue Jays 7, Yankees 6: Bullpen spoils a great comeback

The slump is getting dangerously close to a full-fledged collapse. The Yankees dropped Wednesday’s series finale 7-6 to the Blue Jays and are now 6-16 in their last 22 games. At one point they were 15 games over .500. Now they’re five. At one point they were four games up in the AL East. Now they could be a half-game back of the second wildcard spot before their next game depending what the Rays, Twins, and Royals do between now and then. Just fast forward to the All-Star break already.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Small Mike
Impressively terrible outing for Michael Pineda, who retired only eight of 18 batters faced, and allowed five runs in three innings plus two batters. He allowed homers to three of the final seven batters he faced, including back-to-back shots by Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales, and the first opposite field home run of Kevin Pillar’s career. Pineda gave up one homer on a fastball (Pillar), one on a slider (Morales), and one on a changeup (Morales). Amazing. His final line: 3 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 1 K and 65 pitches.

At this point, it’s crystal clear the Pineda we saw at the start of the season was not in fact a new Pineda. He’s still the same old Michael Pineda. Unpredictable, occasionally great, mostly mediocre. He just happened to have one of his “oh man is he turning it around?” streaks at the start of the season, so everyone kinda got their hopes up. April baseball is full of lies, man. In his last seven starts Pineda has allowed 29 runs (25 earned) on 53 hits (nine homers) and nine walks in 36.2 innings. Thanks for coming.

The Comeback
It all started with an Aaron Judge home run. Of course it did. But this home run tied a record. Judge’s fourth inning two-run shot was his 29th* homer of the season, tying the franchise’s single-season home run record among rookies. Joe DiMaggio hit 29 in 1936. It’s July 5th. The Yankees still have 79 games to play, and already Judge has hit as many home runs as any rookie in franchise history. Wild.

(* I still haven’t forgotten about that stupid triple. Wednesday’s home run should have been Judge’s 30th of the season.)

The home run brought the Yankees to within 5-2 and and it gave them some life. That was actually their first hit of the afternoon. The fifth inning is when the offense finally broke out and took the lead. A lot happened that inning, so let’s annotate the play-by-play.

yankees-vs-blue-jays-play-by-play

(1) Welcome to the Yankees, Ji-Man Choi. Tough to make a better first impression than clobbering a 457-foot dinger in your second at-bat. That was the third longest home run by a Yankee this season and the longest by a Yankees left-handed batter since Statcast became a thing in 2015. No joke. Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran … none of those dudes hit a longer homer from the left side of the plate. Ji-Man is a He-Man, as John Sterling said. That got the Yankees to within one.

(2) To me, the Brett Gardner walk was the “okay, time to take out Marco Estrada” moment. He wasn’t locating, his pitch count was sitting at 96, and Judge was about to see him for the third time. With two men on base and after hitting a long home runs his last time up, no less. There should have been warning bells going off, no? That seems like a “time for a new pitcher” moment. But no, John Gibbons stuck with Estrada. And kept sticking with him.

(3) The most amazing part of Judge’s season is his batting average. Hitting 29 homers before the All-Star break is remarkable, it really is, but I would have guessed he’d hit 29 homers before the break rather than hit .330-something before the break eight days a week and twice on Sundays. And yet, it’s not luck. I mean, sure, there’s probably some good luck in that .423 BABIP, but it’s not all luck. Judge hits rockets all over the fields. He hit a rocket to right field to load the bases in that fifth inning.

(4) Gary Sanchez against Estrada coming into the game: 4-for-8 with four home runs. And Gibbons still stuck with him. Amazing. He got away with it too, because Sanchez got under a 2-2 changeup and popped up in foul territory behind the third base. Yuck. Sanchez with the bases loaded against a struggling pitcher? Sign me up. Estrada (and Gibbons) got away with it though. Gary did hit a foul ball about 400 feet earlier in the bat. Too bad he couldn’t straighten it out.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

(5) As good as he’s been this season, Didi Gregorius has hit a bit of a rough patch lately, coming into the game in a 4-for-21 (.190 skid). Fortunately Gibbons stuck with the struggling Estrada — he was trying to get Estrada through the inning to get him a win, right? had to be — and Estrada’s 108th and final pitch was a fastball up in the zone, which Gregorius tomahawked into right field for a two-run go-ahead single. The Yankees put five runs on the board in one full turn through the lineup spanning the fourth and fifth innings.

Also, on that Gregorius single, third base coach Joe Espada was waving Judge home, but Judge recognized the Blue Jays executed a pretty good set of relay throws, so he held up. He would have been toast at the plate. Chase Headley didn’t come through with another two-out hit there, but still. At least he had a chance to hit. Judge would have been thrown out by a mile had he not stopped at third.

Death By Bullpen
Asking the bullpen to hold a one-run lead for four innings was a tall order. That one-run lead vanished in the seventh, when Chad Green served up a leadoff home run to Russell Martin. Sigh. Green’s been pretty awesome this year so it’s tough to complain about him. Given how things have been going though, that home run felt pretty crushing.

The Yankees did get their leadoff man on base in the bottom of the seventh — Tyler Wade drew a walk against Aaron Loup, a funky lefty — then they went into small ball mode for some reason. Gardner bunted Wade to second, the Blue Jays intentionally walked Judge, then Sanchez struck out and Gregorius flew out to end the inning. Two things about that inning:

  1. Why not have Wade steal? He was 24-for-28 in steal attempts in Triple-A. The catcher, Miguel Montero, is 1-for-31 throwing out basestealers this year. 1-for-31! He was literally designated for assignment by the Cubs last week because he is so bad at throwing that he blamed the pitcher.
  2. Why is Gardner bunting anyway? He squared around four times and finally got the bunt down with two strikes. After the game Girardi said he was bunting for a hit, which is so silly I refuse to believe it’s true. The element of surprise was long gone. Either Girardi is covering for himself or Gardner. At some point someone in the dugout has to tell Gardner to stop trying to bunt, right? You know they’re going to walk Judge if you get the bunt down. Swing away. Geez.

The Yankees played for one run that inning and got none, which is what they deserved. Playing for one run in Yankee Stadium with the middle of the order coming up is pretty ridiculous. Besides, the bullpen has been so bad lately. Did they really think one run would be enough to win? What a terrible, awful, no good inning. Just swing the stupid bat.

Anyway, with the score tied 6-6, Girardi went to Dellin Betances in the eight inning. His inning: walk, walk, walk, strikeout, walk to force in the winning run. At one point Betances threw ten straight balls. It was pretty clear he didn’t have it when he fell behind 2-0 to the third batter, and he probably should have been out of the game there. A little proactivity would be cool. Adam Warren came in and escaped the jam to hold the Blue Jays to just the one run, not that it really mattered.

More like BB-etances amirite? (Presswire)
More like BB-etances amirite? (Presswire)

For Dellin, he now has an 8.6 BB/9 and a 21.1% walk rate on the season. He’s walked eleven of the last 22 batters he faced and hit another with a pitch. That walk rate is completely and totally unacceptable for a late-inning reliever. The Yankees have to get Betances out of the eighth inning until he’s right. Girardi can be loyal to a fault. He sticks with his guys longer than he probably should. That must change. They can’t use Dellin in close games when he’s pitching like this.

Leftovers
The Yankees only had six hits on the day. Two by Judge and one each by Gardner, Gregorius, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Choi. They did draw six walks though. Two by Gardner, two Austin Romine, and one each by Judge and Wade. Six runs is usually enough. Not when your starter goes three innings and your bullpen is an untrustworthy as it gets.

Not sure what else to add here, so I’ll close with this: the Yankees are the first team in MLB history to use two South Korean born position players in a season. Choi joins Rob Refsnyder. (Refsnyder was born in South Korea and adopted by an American family as an infant.)

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go to ESPN for the box score, MLB.com for the video highlights, then back to ESPN for the updated standings. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
An off-day, finally. The Yankees have off Thursday — I think we can all use a little break from this team — and will be back at Friday night, with the first of three against the Brewers. Jordan Montgomery and splitter specialist Junior Guerra will be on the mound for that interleague matchup. There are only three games remaining before the All-Star break. RAB Tickets can get you in the door to any of ’em.

Game 83: The 16th Day

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Today marks the end of a 16 games in 16 days stretch for the Yankees, their longest stretch without an off-day this season. (They had their 20 games in 20 days stretch interrupted by a rainout halfway through.) And boy, the first 15 games of this stretch did not go well. The Yankees are 6-9 in those games even though they’ve only been outscored 80-76. A few bullpen meltdowns have changed everything.

Anyway, this afternoon is yet another chance for the Yankees to win a series for the first time in three weeks. They haven’t won a series since decimating the Orioles at Yankee Stadium last month. The Yankees have gone from having a four-game division lead to facing a four-game deficit in 22 days. Pretty terrible. Win a stupid series for once and go into the off-day feeling kinda sorta good. Can we do that? Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. DH Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  7. 1B Ji-Man Choi
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. 2B Tyler Wade
    RHP Michael Pineda

It’s a lovely day for baseball in the Bronx. A little cloudy, but there’s no rain in the forecast and it’s not oppressively hot either. Not a bad afternoon to sit in the ballpark. Anyway, this afternoon’s series finale will begin at 1:05pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Matt Holliday (illness) is feeling better and he hopes to return to the lineup Friday. He ran and took some batting practice today. Holliday said tests found a virus, and I guess they knocked it out with some medication.

The Yankees have cut ties with Chris Carter (again), but that doesn’t solve their first base problem

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Chris Carter‘s second stint in pinstripes is over. Following yesterday’s loss, the Yankees designated Carter for assignment for the second time this season. Second time in the last two weeks, really. The only reason he was brought back was Tyler Austin‘s hamstring injury. The Yankees decided enough was enough yesterday.

All told, Carter hit .201/.284/.370 (73 wRC+) with eight homers and a 36.5% strikeout rate in 62 games with the Yankees, including 1-for-12 (.083) with four strikeouts since being brought back. When a guy is in the lineup for his bat and he’s being removed for pinch-hitters like Austin Romine and Tyler Wade in the late innings, the writing was on the wall. Joe Girardi‘s patience ran out weeks ago.

With Austin and Greg Bird still sidelined, the Yankees will now turn the first base reins over to Ji-Man Choi, a 26-year-old journeyman on a minor league contract. Choi has bounced from the Mariners to the Orioles to the Angels to the Yankees over the last 19 months. Last season, in his first and so far only big league stint, Choi hit .170/.271/.339 (67 wRC+) in 54 games with the Halos. If he does that again, he’ll be a downgrade from Carter.

The Yankees are turning to Choi for three reasons, basically. One, they’ve exhausted their patience with Carter. They’ve given him plenty of chances and he hasn’t produced. The Yankees and Girardi would live with the strikeouts if he were hitting the ball out of the park like last season, but he’s not. He’s not hitting home runs and his defense, which was fine in April and May, has become untenable. Carter has failed to make too many routine plays.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Two, Choi has been hot lately. He’s hitting .289/.371/.505 (137 wRC+) in 56 Triple-A games overall this year, and that includes a 14-for-45 (.311) stretch with six home runs in his last 12 games. He has eight home runs on the season overall, and six have come in the last two weeks. If you’re going to make a change and bring up someone new to play first base, the guy who is on a hot streak in Triple-A is as good a choice as anyone.

And three, the Yankees simply have nowhere else to turn. Bird is hurt, Austin is hurt, Matt Holliday is hurt, and playing Romine or Rob Refsnyder at first base on an everyday basis is not something anyone wants to see. I know I don’t. The trade market has yet to heat up too. Choi is the best option. Once the Yankees decided Carter wasn’t their guy, next up on the depth chart was Choi because of injuries.

Make no mistake though, Choi is a band-aid, not a permanent solution. I mean, I suppose he could have an unexpected hot streak and hold things down until Bird and/or Austin return, though I can’t imagine the Yankees are expecting Choi to be the guy at first base going forward. Brian Cashman and his staff are surely scouring the trade market for a more permanent solution will Bird’s status is unknown.

The Yankees have lost 15 of their last 21 games (!) and the bullpen has been the primary culprit. First base has been a problem all year though — even when Bird was healthy, he stunk — and the Yankees reached the point where it was time to try someone else. Heck, they reached that point with Carter a few weeks ago, but then Austin got hurt. I don’t think Choi is the answer and yeah, he can be worse than Carter, but the bar has been set so low. It was time to try someone new. Chances are the Yankees will again be looking to try someone new in a few weeks.

Sabathia returns, but the offense never shows up in 4-1 loss to Blue Jays


Source: FanGraphs

That had to be one of the least exciting games in recent memory. What a bore. The Yankees dropped Tuesday’s Independence Day matinee to the Blue Jays, 4-1, and aside from Aaron Judge‘s solo home run, nothing interesting happened. That one will not be a Yankees Classic. It’s a holiday, so let’s recap with bullet points:

  • All With Two Outs: CC Sabathia retired the first eight batters he faced and none of the final six batters he faced. The Blue Jays scored four runs in the third inning and it all started with a two-out walk to No. 9 hitter Darwin Barney. The inning went walk, wild pitch, single (run scores), single, walk, walk (run scores), single (two runs score). Sabathia was yanked after the two-run single. He threw 63 pitches and was apparently only slated to throw 75-80. In hindsight, having him make a start on a pitch limit with no rehab start right before the All-Star break wasn’t a great decision.
  • One Token Run: The Yankees scored their only run on Judge’s 28th home run of the season, a 456-foot missile that dented the metal garage door awning in center field. Here’s the video. Aside from the homer, the Yankees had three hits, all singles, two of which did not leave the infield. They drew leadoff walks in the sixth (Gary Sanchez) and seventh (Chris Carter) innings and never advanced the runner as far as second. Their best chance to get back in the game came in the fifth, when Judge had two on with two outs. He struck out though. Alas.
  • Leftovers: Shout out to Luis Cessa for sparing the rest of the bullpen. He threw 4.2 scoreless innings after Sabathia’s early exit … Adam Warren returned and got one out, escaping Sabathia’s jam in the third before giving way to Cessa … Clint Frazier went 0-for-3 with two fly outs and a pop-up. He has hit two ground balls in 14 big league plate appearances … Tyler Wade grounded out to end the game. It was his first Yankee Stadium plate appearance. Many more to come.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page either. The Yankees and Blue Jays will wrap-up this three-game series Wednesday afternoon. That’s a 1pm ET start. Michael Pineda and Marco Estrada are the scheduled starting pitchers.

Minor League Update: I’m not going to be able to stick around for a full minor league update tonight. Here are the box scores. Most of today’s games are night games.

Fourth of July Open Thread

Here’s an open thread for the remainder of the holiday. Hope you’re enjoying it. I wish I had someplace to grill on days like today. Anyway, both ESPN and MLB Network will have games throughout the day. Talk about those games or anything else here, as long as it’s not religion or politics.

Game 82: Independence Day

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Happy birthday, America. What better way to celebrate our nation’s independence than by beating the one MLB team not stationed in the good ol’ US-of-A? The Yankees beat the Blue Jays in last night’s series opener and now they’re trying to win back-to-back games for the first time in three weeks. It’s been far too long.

Anyway, the Yankees are starting to get healthier, folks. CC Sabathia and Adam Warren are both back from the disabled list. Sabathia is starting this afternoon’s game and Warren is available in the bullpen. The Yankees could really use the pitching help. Getting Warren back will be particularly helpful given the recent bullpen issues. Beat the Blue Jays. It’s the American way. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. DH Aaron Judge
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  7. 1B Chris Carter
  8. 2B Ronald Torreyes
  9. RF Clint Frazier
    LHP CC Sabathia

It’s a lovely day for baseball in New York. Nice and sunny with only a few clouds in the sky. Not exceedingly hot either. This afternoon’s game will begin a little after 1pm ET and YES will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Starlin Castro (hamstring) took ground balls and hit in the cage today. He is making progress but is unlikely to return before the All-Star break … Matt Holliday (illness) is feeling better.

Roster Moves: To make room for Sabathia and Warren, the Yankees sent Domingo German and Bryan Mitchell down to Triple-A Scranton. Luis Cessa remains as with the team as the stretched out long man. German needs to pitch. He hasn’t been doing much of that the last few weeks.

Final Vote Update: Gregorius is currently third in the Final Vote voting, MLB announced this morning. Mike Moustakas is the leader (duh) and Xander Bogaerts is in second. Here’s the ballot. Voting ends Thursday afternoon.