4/10 to 4/13 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays


Welcome back, baseball. The Bronx has missed you. The Yankees open the Yankee Stadium portion of their schedule this afternoon with the first of three games against the Rays. The same Rays they played in Tampa last week. The Yankees may be out of Florida, but the Florida has followed them back to New York. Figures. They dropped two of three at Tropicana Field last week, as you know.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Rays come into this series, their first road series of the season, riding a three-game winning streak. They took three of four from the Blue Jays over the weekend. Tampa Bay is 5-2 on the young season, which, believe it or not, is the best start in franchise history. This is the first time the Rays (or Devil Rays) have ever won five of their first seven games. They also have a +7 run differential.

Offense & Defense

Kiermaier. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Kiermaier. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

Tampa currently ranks fifth in baseball with 33 runs scored, and they’re hitting .271/.356/.411 (126 wRC+) as a team so far. OF Colby Rasmus (hip), C Wilson Ramos (knee), and SS Matt Duffy (Achilles) are all on the disabled list, just like they were last week, when these clubs played in St. Pete. Here are the early season numbers and projections:

2017 Stats 2017 ZiPS Projection
C Derek Norris 4-for-18 (.222) .229/.302/.382 (80 wRC+)
1B Logan Morrison 8-for-24 (.333), 1 HR .242/.318/.399 (96 wRC+)
2B Brad Miller 5-for-26 (.192), 1 2B .248/.313/.440 (104 wRC+)
SS Tim Beckham 3-for-21 (.143), 1 2B .236/.286/.388 (82 wRC+)
3B Evan Longoria 6-for-26 (.231), 2 HR .266/.318/.485 (113 wRC+)
LF Mallex Smith
4-for-26 (.250), 1 2B, 3 SB .231/.296/.322 (71 wRC+)
CF Kevin Kiermaier 8-for-27 (.296), 1 2B, 1 3B .258/.316/.426 (101 wRC+)
RF Steven Souza 10-for-24 (.417), 3 2B, 1 HR .242/.314/.419 (101 wRC+)
DH Corey Dickerson
9-for-25 (.360), 2 2B, 2 HR .251/.300/.461 (103 wRC+)
C Jesus Sucre 2-for-7 (.286), 1 HR .236/.263/.292 (51 wRC+)
IF Daniel Robertson 3-for-10 (.300) .241/.316/.340 (83 wRC+)
OF Peter Bourjos 0-for-4 .230/.286/.361 (71 wRC+)
UTIL Rickie Weeks 2-for-8 (.250), 1 2B .213/.299/.374 (85 wRC+)

Manager Kevin Cash has been platooning Morrison with Weeks, Bourjos with Smith, and Robertson with Dickerson. The Yankees are throwing all righties this series though, so if we see those guys, it figures to be off the bench. Longoria, Miller, and Souza always seem to crush the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Hopefully they can keep them in park this week. I’ll set the over under on their combined homers for the series at 3.5.

Since we just previewed the Rays last week, I’m going to copy and paste what I wrote about the defense before the series in Tampa:

The Rays started sacrificing defense for power a few years ago, leading to Souza in right and Miller at second. Both are liabilities in the field. Kiermaier is excellent, probably the best defensive center fielder in baseball, and Longoria is very good at the hot corner. The Smith/Bourjos platoon will save runs in center field. Beckham and Morrison are solid defenders, and while Norris doesn’t have much of an arm, he rates as a very good pitch-framer. So, overall, the Rays are good defensively, but not otherworldly like they were three or four years ago.

Tampa Bay looked better than that last week, so maybe I sold them short. Or maybe it was just a random three-game sample. Eh, whatever. We just saw the Rays a few days ago. You remember what they’re all about, right?

Pitching Matchups

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Monday (1pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. TB) vs RHP Alex Cobb (vs. NYY)
It only took seven games for the Yankees to face a pitcher for the second time this season. They saw Cobb last week in Tampa and he held them to one run on four hits and a walk in 5.2 innings. He struck out four. Cobb returned from Tommy John surgery at midseason last year and was pretty terrible, throwing 22 innings with an 8.59 ERA (5.60 FIP). He’s better than that though. We saw it last week. Cobb sets up his knockout mid-80s splitter with a low-90s four-seam fastball. He’ll also throw an upper-70s curveball. Hopefully the Yankees will have more success against him the second time around.

Wednesday (1pm ET): RHP Luis Severino (vs TB) vs. LHP Blake Snell (vs. NYY)
Yes, this is a 1pm ET start for some reason. Weird. There’s also an off-day Tuesday, the token off-day after the home opener in case it rains. (It won’t rain today.) Anyway, my lasting memory of Snell last season was his eight-out, 88-pitch grind against the Yankees on September 9th. The Yankees were not a good offensive team last year but they worked Snell hard that night. Aside from that though, he handled New York pretty well in 2016. Three runs in 15.1 total innings in three other starts. Snell had a tough time with the Blue Jays in his first start of the season last week, allowing five runs (four earned) in 6.2 innings. Last year he had a 3.54 ERA (3.39 FIP) with 24.4% strikeouts and 12.7% walks in 89 innings. His ground ball (36.5%) and home run (0.51 HR/9) rates don’t match up. One of those numbers figures to climb going forward. Snell has a mid-90s fastball and a good mid-80s changeup, and his breaking ball is more of a slurve than a true curveball or slider. It sits in the 78-82 mph range.

Thursday (7pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. TB) vs. RHP Matt Andriese (vs. NYY)
The Rays opted to go with Andriese as their fifth starter, though from what I understand he’s basically keeping the rotation spot warm for top pitching prospect Jose DeLeon, who came over from the Dodgers in the Logan Forsythe trade. DeLeon was just placed on the Triple-A disabled list with a flexor mass issue though, so he might not be coming up anytime soon. Anyway, if Andriese’s name sounds familiar, it’s probably because he’s the guy who gave up the back-to-back home runs to Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge last season. Here’s the video. I’ll post this video any chance I get from now through the end of time:

Andriese had a tough go of it in his first start of the season last week, allowing five runs (four earned) in four innings against the Blue Jays. Last season he posted a 4.37 ERA (3.78 FIP) in 127.2 innings overall, including a 4.80 ERA (3.95 FIP) with 20.2% strikeouts and 4.9% walks in 19 starts and 105 innings. Andriese is a cutter pitcher. The low-90s cutter is his main fastball, and he also throws a mid-80s changeup and a curveball right around 80 mph. I could go for some more back-to-back dingers Thursday, couldn’t you?

Bullpen Status

Cash has gotten nice work from his relievers so far. They’ve combined to allow only five runs (four earned) in 22 total innings, and the Yankees are responsible for two of those five runs. (Including the unearned run.) The personnel has not changed since last week. Here is Tampa’s current bullpen:

Role 2017 Stats 2017 ZiPS
RHP Alex Colome Closer 4.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K 2.93 ERA (3.18 FIP)
RHP Danny Farquhar Setup 3.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K 3.79 ERA (3.92 FIP)
LHP Xavier Cedeno Setup 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 0 K 3.40 ERA (3.45 FIP)
RHP Tommy Hunter Middle 3.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K 3.81 ERA (3.70 FIP)
RHP Jumbo Diaz Middle 4.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K 3.82 ERA (4.20 FIP)
RHP Erasmo Ramirez Middle 3.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K 4.08 ERA (4.61 FIP)
RHP Austin Pruitt Long 1.2 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 3 R, 2 BB, 1 K 4.69 ERA (4.51 FIP)

Pruitt, a 27-year-old rookie, is the only reliever who has had a tough time for the Rays early this season. This group collectively doesn’t miss a ton of bats — Colome typically does and I’m sure he will as the season progresses — which is preferable to a bullpen that comes in and blows everyone away. They’ll give you a chance to put the ball in play.

The Rays bullpen is in good shape going into the series. Diaz threw two innings and 32 pitches yesterday while Hunter threw one inning and eleven pitches. Everyone else got the day off. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s relievers.

Fan Confidence Poll: April 10th, 2017

Record Last Week: 2-3 (22 RS, 18 RA)
Season Record: 2-4 (25 RS, 25 RA, 3-3 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: vs. Rays (three games, Mon. to Thurs.), vs. Cardinals (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
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DotF: Fowler and Andujar both go deep twice in big day in the farm system

There were a series of roster moves in the farm system today, most as a result of the C Gary Sanchez injury. Here’s a recap before we get to one of the most exciting days in the system in recent memory:

  • C Wilkin Castillo has been bumped up from Double-A Trenton to Triple-A Scranton to replace C Kyle Higashioka, who was called up to replace Sanchez. Also, LHP Jordan Montgomery has officially joined the RailRiders.
  • C Jorge Saez went from High-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton to replace Castillo. And, as expected, RHP Chad Green went from Tampa to Trenton as well. He and Montgomery are lined up for April 16th, the next time the Yankees need a fifth starter.
  • RHP Josh Roeder, RHP Christian Morris, and C Wes Wilson all went from Extended Spring Training to High-A Tampa. They’re replacing Montgomery, Green, and Saez on the roster. Got all that?

Triple-A Scranton Game One (4-3 loss to Buffalo in seven innings, walk-off style) make up of Thursday’s Opening Day rainout

  • SS Tyler Wade: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K, 1 SB
  • RF Clint Frazier: 0-2, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 SB — he also reached on an error, so three times on base without a hit
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 0-4, 1 RBI
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 0-3, 1 RBI, 1 HBP
  • LF Mason Williams: 0-3 — threw a runner out at second
  • LHP Dietrich Enns: 6 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HB, 7/4 GB/FB — 57 of 93 pitches were strikes (61%) … he’ll inevitably get called up as part of the bullpen shuttle at some point, though since he’s in the rotation, the timing will have to be right … they’re not going to call him up when he’s still a day or two away from being available
  • RHP Ben Heller: 0.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 0/1 GB/FB — eight of 14 pitches were strikes (57%) … gave up the two-run walk-off homer

[Read more…]

Yankees come back late to avoid sweep, beat Orioles 7-3

The Orioles are no longer the only undefeated in baseball. The Yankees rallied in the late innings for a 7-3 win in Sunday afternoon’s series finale. They needed that. I think fans needed it more.

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

Six Solid From Sabathia
For the first time this season, the Yankees had a starter record an out after the fifth inning. Three outs, in fact. CC Sabathia chucked six workmanlike innings Sunday afternoon, holding the Orioles to three runs on six hits and four walks. He struck out three and threw 98 pitches. Pretty? No way. Effective? Yeah, effective enough. Starts like this have become the norm for Sabathia at this point of his career.

Also the norm for Sabathia at this point of his career: weak contact. He was second among all starters in soft contact rate (24.0%) and first in average exit velocity (85.3 mph) last season. We saw that again Sunday. I’m not sure any of the six hits Sabathia allowed were well-struck. Most were soft liners to the shallow outfield. The O’s scored their first run on a Chris Carter misplay — they had runners on the corners with one out, Sabathia got the weak grounder to first, and for some reason Carter threw to second rather than throwing home. Mark Trumbo was running and Carter had a clear lane to throw and plenty of time, yet he threw to second. I do not understand.

That all happened in the second inning to give the Orioles a 1-0 lead. They scored another run later that inning on J.J. Hardy’s (yup) soft single to right, then, in the fifth, Trumbo gave the O’s a 3-0 lead with another soft single, this one to center field. For some reason the Yankees had their outfielders deep all afternoon. I know the O’s have a lot of power, but maybe bring them in a few steps when Sabathia is pitching? He gives up a ton of those soft line drive singles in front of the outfielders.

Off The Hook
Orioles starter Wade Miley came out and walked four of the first eight, and six of the first 12 (!) batters he faced Sunday, and the Yankees let him off the hook. None of those walks runs scored. There’s two ways you can look at that, I suppose. One, the Yankees are terrible and they didn’t capitalize on the walks because the offense stinks. Or two, Miley was never around the plate, so the Yankees didn’t get anything to hit. I’m feeling optimistic after this win, so I’ll go with the latter.

Matt Holliday worked a two-out walk in the first inning, then was immediately erased on a pickoff. Holliday wasn’t going anywhere, Miley just has a really great move and got him. So it goes. Miley then walked the bases loaded in the second inning, only to have Ronald Torreyes bail him out with what was easily the worst at-bat of the day:

ronald-torreyes-wade-mileyThat purple dot way outside the zone? That’s the one Torreyes swung at for strike three. He looked like a young kid trying to hit a five-run homer in a big spot. Miley threw a purpleball out of the zone and got him swinging to escape the jam. Nine batters, four walks, no runs through two innings.

It wasn’t until there were two outs in the fifth inning that the Yankees recorded their first hit. Aaron Hicks managed to find a hole back up the middle with a hard-hit ground ball. Miley threw away a pickoff throw and walked Holliday one last time for good measure before getting out of the inning. His final line: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 7 BB, 5 K. Good grief. Amazingly, this is the second time Miley has walked seven and not allowed a run in his career. He did it back in 2013 as well. The last time someone did that against the Yankees was 2000. Dan Reichert walked nine in eight scoreless innings at Yankee Stadium. The 2000 Yankees had no heart!

Gavel: slammed. (Patrick Smith/Getty)
Gavel: slammed. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

The Comeback
Fighting Spirit! Turns out all the Yankees had to do to score some runs Sunday was get the pitcher who was walking everyone out of the game. In the sixth inning the Yankees struck for two runs with two outs courtesy of a Torreyes triple. That second inning at-bat was terrible. No doubt about it. Torreyes made up for it with the two-run triple in the sixth. Aaron Judge and Austin Romine strung together back-to-back singles to set that two-out rally up.

The Torreyes triple brought the Yankees to within 3-2. They tied the game 3-3 in the eighth inning, on Judge’s first home run of the season. It came in a two-strike count too. The at-bat went called strike, ball, called strike, ball, foul, dinger. I’m pretty sure Judge got it off the end of the bat too. He definitely didn’t square it up:

Either way, squared up or off the end of the bat, Judge hit the ball out to tie the game. Big fan of Judge hitting homers. Would watch again.

The comeback did not end there. This wasn’t one of those “rally to tie the game but lose anyway” games. The Yankees struck for four runs in the top of the ninth inning and boy oh boy did the Orioles help them out. The inning started with Holliday’s fifth walk of the day. Fifth! He’s the first Yankee to draw five walks in a game since Mark Teixeira back in 2009. Jacoby Ellsbury pinch-ran and stole second, though it didn’t really matter because Carter walked as the next batter. Carter’s walk was the team’s tenth of the day. Ten walks. Geez.

Based on that ninth inning, Darren O’Day is bad now. Remember when he used to chew up Alex Rodriguez? He couldn’t buy an out in that ninth inning. Following the back-to-back walks, O’Day left a pitch up that Starlin Castro sent back up the middle for a go-ahead single. Ellsbury crossed the plate to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead. They didn’t stop there either. Chase Headley drew yet another walk to load the bases with no outs. The Yankees had the lead and they were in business.

Judge, who tied the game in the eighth inning, drove in an insurance run with a weak ground ball to first base. Chris Davis scooped it and was readying to throw home for the force, but he tripped over his own feet and tumbled to the grass. He recovered in time to get the out at first, but the run was in. It’s about time the Yankees scored a run like that. We’ve seen them make some hilarious errors already this year. This was the first time they benefited from one.

The Judge grounder pushed the lead to 5-3. Romine made it 7-3 with a two-run sac fly. He hit the ball deep to right field, deep enough for Headley to tag up from second and go to third, and the throw eluded Manny Machado. It hopped into foul territory, far enough away that Headley was able to chug home. Back-to-back silly plays to score runs. Yay. Aroldis Chapman slammed the door in the ninth inning. Judge made a diving catch for the 27th out. Love this team, you guys.

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

All told, the Yankees drew eleven walks in this game. It’s the first time they’ve walked eleven times in a nine-inning game since, well, last September. I thought it would be a much longer time ago. Holliday had the five walks and Carter had two. Brett Gardner, Headley, Judge, and Romine had the others. The Yankees had eleven walks Sunday after drawing 16 walks total in their first five games of the season.

The 7-8-9 hitters (Judge, Romine, Torreyes) went a combined 6-for-12 with a triple, a homer, two walks, and one strikeout. Very nice production from the bottom of the lineup. Gardner went 0-for-5 with a walk and three strikeouts. He was the only Yankee to hit safely in each of the first five games this season. In the ninth inning, after Pete Kozma pinch-ran for Carter, Joe Girardi opted to slide Headley over to first rather than use Greg Bird. Bird is nursing an ankle issue and he’s sick. Seems like he wasn’t available at all today.

The unsung heroes: Tyler Clippard and Dellin Betances. Six up, six down for those two in the seventh and eighth innings, paving the way for the comeback. Clippard faced the top of the lineup — Machado took a big ol’ hack in a 3-0 count and hit a ball to the warning track, which was scary — while Betances handled the middle, including Trumbo and Davis. Nice work holding the O’s down those two innings.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head over to ESPN for the box score and MLB.com for the video highlights. ESPN has the standings, if you’re paying attention to them already. (It’s too early.) Also, don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the win probability graph. It’s nice to see one of these bend in favor of the Yankees for a change.

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The home opener, finally. Glad to have baseball back in the Bronx. The Yankees open the Yankee Stadium portion of their schedule Monday afternoon against the Rays. That’s a 1pm ET start. Michael Pineda and Alex Cobb are the scheduled pitchers. Head over to RAB Tickets if you want to go to that game, or any other game on the nine-game homestand.

Sunday Open Thread

Here’s an open thread for the rest of the weekend. The weather is gorgeous in New York today, so I hope you’re out enjoying it. If not, the Mets and Marlins are the ESPN Sunday Night Game (Syndergaard vs. Volquez), plus all three local hockey teams are in action. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s win, or anything else right here. Just not religion or politics. Thanks in advance.

Game Six: Avoid the Sweep

The start of the season in picture form. (Patrick Smith/Getty)
The start of the season in picture form. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

So this series — and the season, really — isn’t going too well right now. The last two days the Yankees have blown the types of games they really can’t afford to blow this season. Their margin for error isn’t big enough to cough up three and four-run leads. Hopefully that ends today.

CC Sabathia, who started New York’s only win of the season last week, is on the mound today. The Orioles have stacked their lineup with righties — Chris Davis is the only lefty in the starting lineup — and that almost kinda plays to Sabathia’s strength nowadays. He pounds righties inside with his cutter and gets them to chase soft stuff away. Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 1B Chris Carter
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. RF Aaron Judge
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. SS Ronald Torreyes
    LHP CC Sabathia

It’s a wonderful day in Baltimore. Sunny and on the cool side. Pretty much perfect baseball weather, as far as I’m concerned. This afternoon’s series finale will begin at 1:35pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Roster Move: As expected, Kyle Higashioka has been officially called up to replace Gary Sanchez (biceps). He’s wearing No. 38. Congrats to Higashioka for getting to the big leagues after grinding through 9+ years in the minors. Sanchez was placed on the 10-day disabled list following yesterday’s game. He’s going to see the team doctor in New York tomorrow.

Injury Update: Greg Bird (ankle) feels better, though now he’s sick. He had the flu or food poisoning or something like that last night. The Red Sox and Orioles have had the flu go through the clubhouse early this season. Hopefully the Yankees aren’t next.

The Gary-less Lineup


If you haven’t heard by now–though the collective worried gasp of Yankee fans everywhere yesterday afternoon probably gave it away–Gary Sanchez is injured, and will be going on the 10-day disabled list with a right biceps issue.

This leaves the Yankees with a gaping hole at what is the most important defensive position on the field–where Sanchez has shown great skill–and arguably the most important position in the lineup; slotting Sanchez in second made sense and was a big show of confidence in him by Joe Girardi and the coaching staff. Now, that’s for naught–at least for the next ten days. So, what can the Yankees do in Sanchez’s lineup absence?

My first thought was one I suggested previously, using DH Matt Holliday as the second hitter thanks to his combination of skills. However, without Sanchez to be in the clean up spot–and no one yet reliable enough to take his place–I don’t think that idea works. Holliday should stick at fourth, which is just as important as the second spot. But, since the route they’ll likely take is sticking Jacoby Ellsbury–who’s off to a good start–back into the second slot, giving the Yankees a more traditional look at the top of the lineup, that would mean three lefties–Gardner, Ellsbury, and Greg Bird stacked together, and that could lead to matchup problems late in games. So, I assume Girardi will split the lefties and have Holliday bat third with Bird cleaning up.

The team can go one of two ways with the fifth spot. The first way is to bump Chase Headley up a spot, rewarding him for a hot start. I’d be totally fine with that. The other would be to give the spot to Aaron Judge. This could show faith in him, challenge him, and give him an opportunity to hit behind better players, increasing the likelihood of him batting with men on base. That second option probably isn’t going to happen, but I think that’s the one I’d like, if only to keep up the ‘give the kids a shot’ theme that this season is likely to have.

Best hi-five ever (Source: AP)
Best hi-five ever (Source: AP)

So, the combination of the most likely scenario/what I’d want to see would look like this:

  1. Gardner, LF
  2. Ellsbury, CF
  3. Holliday, DH
  4. Bird, 1B
  5. Judge, RF
  6. Castro, 2B
  7. Headley, 3B
  8. Romine, C
  9. Torreyes, SS

You could flip Castro and Headley if you like, and I might do the same. But the main takeaway here is that without Sanchez, this lineup seems a whole lot shorter and a whole lot thinner than it did just 24 hours ago. Losing a big bat at a premium position always hurts, and that goes double when a backup quality player–Torreyes–is already in the every day lineup. Get well soon, Gary; the lineup needs you.