Game 153: The Final Road Series


The final road series of the season is upon us. Well, I guess the Yankees could make the postseason and play a wildcard game on the road, but they’re basically going to have to run the table for that to happen. I’d be pretty cool with a season-ending ten-game win streak, wouldn’t you? One thing at a time though. Get the win tonight and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. DH Gary Sanchez
  4. 1B Billy Butler
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. RF Aaron Hicks
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Bryan Mitchell

It’s cool and cloudy in Toronto tonight. No idea if the Rogers Centre roof will be open or closed. We’ll find out soon enough. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:07pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and ESPN2 nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury News: Starlin Castro (hamstring) won’t return this series but could be play during the homestand. I imagine the team’s place in the postseason race will be a factor in Castro’s return.

9/23 to 9/26 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

(Photo Credit: Flickr user James D. Schwartz via Creative Commons license)
(Photo Credit: Flickr user James D. Schwartz via Creative Commons license)

We’ve reached the final road series of the season. Crazy, huh? This season flew by. The Yankees are in Toronto for a four-game series against the Blue Jays, a team they are kinda sorta chasing in the wildcard race. At this point it doesn’t matter who the Yankees play. They need wins. The Yankees are 6-9 against the Blue Jays this season, including 1-5 at Rogers Centre. They did sweep three games from them at Yankee Stadium two weeks ago though.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Blue Jays just wrapped up a late-season West Coast trip through Anaheim and Seattle. They split four games with the Angels and took two of three from the Mariners, though they lost the series finale on a Robinson Cano walk-off sacrifice fly Wednesday. Overall, the Blue Jays are 83-69 with a +83 run differential. They’re sitting in the top wildcard spot at the moment.

Offense & Defense

It’s not the devastating offense we saw last season, but the Blue Jays are still averaging 4.75 runs per game with a team 102 wRC+, so they’re going to score and score a lot. They’re much better at home (5.04 R/G and 109 wRC+) than on the road too (4.47 R/G and 96 wRC+). Manager John Gibbons’ team is completely healthy on the position player side too. No one hurt or even day-to-day.

Donaldson. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
Donaldson. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Gibbons changed his lineup a tad after getting swept in Yankee Stadium two weeks ago. 2B Devon Travis (111 wRC+) moved to the leadoff spot, so the three-headed monster of 3B Josh Donaldson (154 wRC+), DH Edwin Encarnacion (137 wRC+), and RF Jose Bautista (115 wRC+) hits 2-3-4. C Russell Martin (101 wRC+) and SS Troy Tulowitzki (101 wRC+) follow as the No. 5 and 6 hitters. Scary lineup is scary. It feels like a miracle whenever a pitcher gets through that top six without allowing a run.

1B Justin Smoak (92 wRC+) and CF Kevin Pillar (81 wRC+) are the other regulars, and lately LF Michael Saunders (120 wRC+) has been platooning with OF Melvin Upton Jr. (85 wRC+). C Dioner Navarro (57 wRC+), IF Darwin Barney (85 wRC+), and OF Ezequiel Career (82 wRC+) are the other regular bench players. They don’t play a whole lot. C Josh Thole, IF Ryan Goins, OF Darrell Ceciliani, and OF Dalton Pompey are the extra September players. Pompey is the designated pinch-runner.

The Blue Jays are a very good defensive team — they’re second in baseball with a 0.716 Defensive Efficiency, which means they turn 71.6% of batted balls into outs — with Bautista their only below-average defender. He’s got a great arm but doesn’t cover as much ground as he once did. Playing on turf all those years isn’t good for the knees. Pillar, Donaldson, and Martin are among the elite defenders at their positions.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7:07pm ET): RHP Bryan Mitchell (vs. TOR) vs. LHP Francisco Liriano (vs. NYY)
The Pirates, who I’m told can fix any pitcher, were so desperate to unload Liriano at the trade deadline that they had to give the Blue Jays two legitimate prospects to take him. All they got back was Drew Hutchison too. Anyway, Liriano has a 5.08 ERA (5.17 FIP) in 150.2 total innings this season, including a 3.89 ERA (4.86 FIP) in 37 innings with Toronto. His strikeout (22.3%) and ground ball (52.0%) rates are very good as always, though he walks too many (12.0%) and can’t keep the ball in the park (1.55 HR/9). Righties have had a little more success against him than lefties. Liriano has nasty stuff. He still sits in the mid-90s with his sinker and both his mid-80s slider and mid-80s changeup can miss bats, at least when he’s locating. When he’s on, Liriano can dominate. The Yankees saw him in relief two weeks ago and mustered nothing in two innings.

Saturday (4:07pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Marcus Stroman (vs. NYY)
It seemed like a lot of people viewed Stroman as an ace coming into the season, didn’t it? I never understood that. The 25-year-old has a 4.50 ERA (3.74 FIP) in 30 starts and 190 innings, and his success is built on limiting walks (6.1%) and keeping the ball on the ground (60.4%). His strikeout (19.7%) and homer (0.99 HR/9) numbers are average. Stroman’s platoon split is small because he throws six pitches: mid-90s four-seamers and sinkers, low-90s cutters, upper-80s sliders and changeups, and a low-80s curveball. The sinker, cutter, and slider are his three main offerings. He tends to get cute and try to beat hitters with his fifth and sixth best pitch, which has hurt him a bunch of times this year. The Yankees have seen Stroman only twice this year: two runs in eight innings in April, and two runs in five innings in September. I thought they hit him harder than that two weeks ago. Huh.

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

Sunday (1:07pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Marco Estrada (vs. NYY)
I have no idea if this has any effect on the field, but I like that the Blue Jays have all different looks in their rotation. Their starters are all different. The Yankees have a bunch of hard-throwing fastball/slider guys. Toronto’s rotation mixes it up. Estrada, a finesse guy, has a 3.62 ERA (4.19 FIP) in 27 starts and 164 innings this year. His peripherals don’t jump out at you (22.9 K%, 9.1 BB%, 33.3 GB%, 1.21 HR/9) but his ability to generate weak pop-ups means very few balls fall in for hits. Estrada has a .236 BABIP this year, up from .216 last year. It’s not a fluke. It’s the result of all the pop-ups. The 33-year-old righty uses an upper-80s fastball and an upper-70s changeup to keep hitters off balance. The changeup is why he has a reverse split this year. He’ll also throw a few upper-80s cutters and mid-70s curves per start, but the fastball/changeup combo is his bread and butter. Estrada has made three starts against New York in 2016: three runs and seven innings in May, eight scoreless innings later in May, and five runs in four innings in August.

Monday (7:07pm ET): TBA vs. LHP J.A. Happ (vs. NYY)
Happ, 33, is going to get a bunch of Cy Young votes this year thanks to his 20-4 record. His 3.28 ERA (3.92 FIP) in 30 starts and 181.1 innings is really good, don’t get me wrong, but those 20 wins are going to get the most attention. Happ is another contact manager like Estrada — the underlying numbers: 21.7 K%, 7.3 BB%, 42.1 GB%, 1.09 HR/9, .273 BABIP — though not to the same extreme. Righties hit him harder than lefties. Happ throws low-90s four-seamers, low-90s sinkers, mid-80s changeups, and upper-70s curves. Nothing sexy there. The Yankees have seen him four times this season: one run in six innings in April, one run in seven innings in May, one run in six innings later in May, and four runs in 7.1 innings in August.

Bullpen Status

The bullpen outside the ninth inning was a real weakness for the Blue Jays earlier this season. They were able to overhaul the bullpen on the fly through minor trades, and it’s worked well. Their middle relief is much more reliable now. Here is the relief unit Gibbons has at his disposal:

Closer: RHP Roberto Osuna (2.42 ERA/2.98 FIP)
Setup: RHP Joaquin Benoit (2.93/3.94), RHP Jason Grilli (3.36/3.74)
Middle: RHP Joe Biagini (2.84/3.09), LHP Brett Cecil (4.05/3.64)
Long: RHP R.A. Dickey (4.46/5.01), RHP Scott Feldman (3.97/4.22)
Extra: RHP Danny Barnes, LHP Matt Dermody, LHP Aaron Loup, RHP Bo Schultz, RHP Ryan Tepera

It’s crunch time now, so Gibbons has used Osuna for some four-out saves recently, and he’s even brought him into tie games on the road. No one does that. Benoit and Grilli have turned back the clock in the seventh and eighth innings. Biagini has been a nice Rule 5 Draft find too. Seems like teams are doing a better job finding gems in the Rule 5 Draft the last few years.

The Blue Jays had an off-day yesterday as they returned from their West Coast trip, so the bullpen is as fresh as it’s going to get. It’s worth noting Osuna has worked a lot in the last week though. He’s thrown multiple innings three times in the last seven days. Fatigue could be a factor this weekend. Head on over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen.

Yankeemetrics: The final countdown begins [Sept. 20-22]


Gary For President
Fueled by the heroics of Gary Sanchez and a dominant outing by the enigmatic Michael Pineda in the series opener on Tuesday night, the desperate Yankees kept their faint postseason hopes alive for at least one more day.

Sanchez delivered the biggest blow in the seventh inning, when he pounced on a first-pitch slider and hammered it 437 feet over the left-center field wall for a tie-breaking, three-run homer that put the Yankees ahead 5-2. It was the 17th time he’s gone deep in his big-league career, and the first time (of many, hopefully) he’s homered to give the Yankees a lead in the seventh inning or later.

Sanchez wasn’t the only star of the game, of course, as Pineda pitched a gem and made sure the Yankees had a chance to record their 42nd comeback win of the season. He had absolutely filthy stuff, striking out 11 of the 22 batters he faced, including 10 of them swinging.

Pineda increased his strikeout total to 195, and a whopping 175 of them (89.7 percent) are of the swinging variety. Among all pitchers with at least 125 Ks this season, Pineda has the highest percentage of swinging strikeouts in the majors.

Pineda was yanked by Joe Girardi after Brad Miller singled with one out in the sixth inning, producing this Yankeemetric that perhaps best defines his tantalizing — and frustrating — talent: Pineda’s 11 strikeouts against the Rays are the most ever by a Yankee pitcher in an outing of of 5 1/3 innings or fewer.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

LOL, Gary Sanchez
This is Gary Sanchez’s world, and we’re just living in it. Yup, the Sanch-ino (Thanks John Sterling!) did it again.

Sanchez continued to re-write baseball history at an incredible and frenetic pace, going deep twice while driving in a career-high five runs in the 11-5 win. He truly is must-see television as fans have a chance to witness something every time he comes to the plate.

On Wednesday, Sanchez clobbered his 18th and 19th home runs, becoming the fastest player ever to reach those marks. No other major-leaguer had even hit 19 homers in their first 50 career games (Wally Berger had the previous record with 19 in 51 games), and Sanchez compiled that number in a mere 45 games.

He made his mark on the franchise record books, too, becoming the first rookie in Yankees history to homer in four straight games. This was also the third time he’d hit two homers in a game, making the 23-year-old Sanchez the youngest Yankee with three multi-homer games in a season since Bobby Murcer in 1969.

There are so many ways to quantify his ridiculous home run pace and put his Superman-like slugging into perspective. Here’s another one (all data per Statcast):

Through Wednesday, one of every 6.5 balls that he put into play turned into a home run, and roughly one of every 18 pitches he swung at went over the fences! Both of those rates were by far the best among all players with at least 10 homers this season. #YoSoyGary

It’s a good thing that Sanchez is a human highlight reel, or else this game would have been decided by Masahiro Tanaka’s inexplicable four-homer meltdown in the third inning. Although he settled down after that blip, Tanaka still joined this illustrious list of Yankees to give up a quartet of longballs in a single inning: Chase Wright (2007), Randy Johnson (2005), Scott Sanderson (1992) and Catfish Hunter (1977).


“We need to win 11 out of 10
That quote above is from Brett Gardner following the Yankees 2-0 loss to the Rays on Thursday night, and pretty much sums up the daunting task ahead of the Yankees in the final week of the season. Do you believe in miracles? Because that’s what it might take for this team to avoid making tee times for October.

For the 417th time this season (approximately) the Yankees failed to close out a series sweep, getting blanked by the Rays as their near-impossible trek towards a postseason berth became even more improbable.

The Yankees and Rays played six series this season; in four of them the Yankees had a chance to win every game in the series, and four times they lost the final game to come up empty in the sweep opportunity. #Sigh

The Yankees season-long problem of coming up empty in scoring situations reared its ugly head once again, with the Yankees going 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position while stranding 11 baserunners. This is the 17th time this year they’ve left at least 11 men on base in a game; last year, it happened only 12 times.

This was also their 73rd loss of the season, meaning the Yankees will fail to win 90 games for fourth year in a row. That’s their longest stretch of sub-90-win campaigns (excluding strike-shortened seasons) since the dark days of the late 1980s and 90s, when they didn’t reach the magical 90-win mark from 1987-1993.

Mailbag: McCarthy, Mateo, Drury, Moore, Straily, Sanchez

There are 13 questions in this week’s mailbag. Use the RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com email address to send us anything throughout the week. Questions, links, comments, whatever.

McCarthy. (Dustin Bradford/Getty)
McCarthy. (Dustin Bradford/Getty)

Lou asks: What are your thoughts about a possible reunion with Brandon McCarthy? Dodgers almost packaged him with Puig to Brewers and McCarthy pitched well his first time with Yankees. Could be a good #4 and lessen dependence on Cessa, Green or Warren as starters and not pressure Severino at outset.

I wanted the Yankees to re-sign McCarthy two years ago but definitely not at that price. The $12M annual salary is fine. It’s a bargain in this market, if anything. The years are the problem. Four years for a guy with zero track record of staying healthy is asking for bad news. I wouldn’t even have done three years and I’m pretty sure I wrote that at some point that offseason.

McCarthy, now 33, made four starts last year before blowing out his elbow and needing Tommy John surgery. He came back this year, made eight starts, then had to be shut down with a hip problem. Chances are he’s done for the season. McCarthy has thrown only 54.2 innings the last two years, and even then he was hurting, so we don’t really know what his stuff looks like nowadays. I don’t think it’s safe to assume he’ll be the guy we saw with the Yankees two years ago again.

As with any move, it all depends on the price. If the Yankees can get McCarthy cheap, as in one or two low-grade prospects, then it might be worth taking on his salary as long as the medicals check out. He was reportedly set to be included in the Ryan Braun-Yasiel Puig trade as a way to offset salary, not as a legitimate chip with trade value. As long as he’s healthy and comes super cheap, I’d roll the dice. The upcoming free agent class is so bad.

Michael asks: Mike, in the chat this past week you said Billy Butler becomes an FA after this season, regardless. Is this always the case? If a player is released with say 5 years left on a contract (hypothetically), every year he becomes a free agent with the team he signs with on the hook for the league minimum?

Yes. The player’s contract with his former team does not apply to his new team. Released players can sign a new multi-year deal with another team, but that never happens. These guys get released for a reason. Jose Reyes had two years left on his contract when the Rockies released him, and the Mets signed him to a one-year contract with a club option for 2017, all at the league minimum. They wanted to be able to bring him back in case he plays well. Yes, the Mets could have simply re-signed him after the season, but now there’s no competition. They can pick up the option and not have to worry about Reyes, say, signing with the Nationals because they’re offering more playing time. The player’s old contract means nothing. Butler will be a free agent after the season.

Dan asks: You mentioned Jorge Mateo earlier as one of the guys you would add to the the 40 man roster. He has played poorly in High A Tampa, is he really a risk to be taken in the rule 5 draft?

Yes, absolutely. Too much upside and too much athleticism at a hard to fill position. A rebuilding team like the Padres, who have had a hole at shortstop for basically their entire existence, would grab Mateo in an instant and figure out a way to make it work. They could use him as a utility infielder at the start of the year and gradually increase his playing time. Mateo is a top 50 prospect in the game. Maybe top 30. Give teams a chance to pick him up for nothing — well, nothing other than the $50,000 Rule 5 Draft fee — and they’re going to take it.

Michael asks: To continue the theme of D-Backs players from last week, would the Yankees have interest in Brandon Drury instead of Jake Lamb? Lamb’s hit better this year but Drury has more positional flexibility and is a nice player in his own right – might be better than Castro right now. Any thoughts on him?

Drury is basically what the Yankees hope Rob Refsnyder can be. He’s a super utility type who can play second, third, and the two corner outfield spots while putting up decent offensive numbers from the right side of the plate. The 24-year-old Drury is hitting .277/.326/.449 (100 wRC+) with 15 homers in 460 plate appearances this year, but the numbers hate his defense, which is why both versions of WAR has him at replacement level.

As with most bench players, I think Drury is pretty replaceable and not worth paying big to acquire. A lot of people seem enamored with the idea of a super utility guy who is in the lineup at a different position every day and actually provides offense too, but that player doesn’t exist. Even Ben Zobrist at his peak was a full-time second baseman who occasionally played elsewhere. Is Drury better than Refsnyder? Yeah, probably. I definitely do not believe he’s better than Starlin Castro though.

Drury. (Norm Hall/Getty)
Drury. (Norm Hall/Getty)

Ethan asks: Given the terribleness of the bullpen and the complete lack of starting pitching this year could you see the Yankees spending big on bullpen? Maybe going for Jansen and Chapman to recreate their 3 headed monster as well as 2 or 3 quality arms?

As I’ve said, I think the Yankees will definitely add another top notch reliever this offseason, likely Aroldis Chapman because it costs nothing but money. I think earlier this year we saw the “load up the bullpen because the rotation stinks” plan doesn’t really work though. Bullpen usage is based on the game situation created by the other players on the roster. If the starter stinks or the offense comes up empty, Chapman or whoever else isn’t much help. Would adding another great reliever be a good move? Of course. But it doesn’t mitigate the need for rotation help in any way.

Richard asks: Do the Yanks and Giants match up in a trade? If so, what type of package to you think it would take to land Matt Moore?

Basically what the Giants gave up to get Moore, right? His value hasn’t changed much the last few weeks. The Giants gave up a good young big leaguer with four years of control (Matt Duffy), a top prospect in Low-A (Lucius Fox), and another lottery ticket prospect (Michael Santos) to get Moore. San Francisco isn’t rebuilding. They’re not going to take a bunch of prospects. They’ll want players who can help in MLB immediately.

Also, I’m not sure I’d want to spend big on Moore even given New York’s need for pitching and the crummy free agent class. He hasn’t looked all that good since returning from Tommy John surgery last year — he has a 4.62 ERA (4.51 FIP) in 245.2 innings since returning — and things just don’t look as easy as they once did. Moore used to throw 95-98 mph and look like he’s playing catch. Now there’s effort behind every pitch.

I know Moore is young (27) and cheap (owed $26M through 2019 via club options), but that stuff is only good if he’s effective, right? The Rays know pitching. They could have kept Moore at an affordable rate for another three years and waiting until he rebuilt some trade value. Instead, they cut bait with his stock down a year after surgery. That’s a red flag. I thought Moore was going to be a megastar when he first broke in. That never materialized, and now he’s damaged goods.

Alex asks: Is Gio Gallegos an actual bullpen prospect? His stats look good. Is it enough to get a look in spring training and/or a spot on the shuttle?

Yes and no. He’s not a top bullpen prospect or anything but he has a chance to pitch in the big leagues at some point. Don’t obsess over minor league reliever stats. There are literally hundreds of bullpeners in the minors with sexy numbers. Gallegos had a 1.17 ERA (1.97 FIP) with a 36.5% strikeout rate and a 5.7% walk rate in 84.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A this year, and that’s awesome. He was dominant. More importantly, Gallegos has a mid-90s fastball and a breaking ball that might not be consistent enough to miss bats in the big leagues. He’ll be Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter and the Yankees have no room for him on the 40-man roster, so Gallegos could end up getting a look in Spring Training with another team.

Kenny asks: Mike, would taking a flier on Dan Straily next season be worth it? His numbers don’t speak to how well he has pitched this season, and he has AL experience with Oakland. What would it take to get him (assuming he’s not a FA) and how do you think he would fare being our #3-4 next season? A few top 20 prospects?

The Reds have had Straily in the rotation for most of the season because they didn’t have any better options. He’s been okay, pitching to a 3.83 ERA (4.82 FIP) in 178.2 innings. His strikeout rate is good (20.3%), but Straily does two things that usually don’t work well together: he walks people (9.3%) and he doesn’t keep the ball in the park (1.41 HR/9). That’s not limited to this year either. Straily’s career rates are 9.4% walks and 1.37 HR/9.

Moving an extremely fly ball prone righty (31.3% grounders this year) with an upper-80s fastball who walks people into the AL East and Yankee Stadium probably won’t have a happy ending. It’s not just the short porch. Straily would have to pitch in the other hitter friendly ballparks in the division too. Unless the Yankees think they can teach him a sinker or something, I think the downside far outweighs the upside here.

Straily. (John Sommers II/Getty)
Straily. (John Sommers II/Getty)

Rich asks: Bud Norris DFA by Dodgers, do we take a flyer the last 2 weeks of the season on him???

True story: I once wanted the Yankees to trade for Norris, back when he was with the Astros. He went to the Orioles instead and gave them a good 2014 season (3.65 ERA and 4.22 FIP), but that’s about it.

Anyway, the “actually, Bud Norris is good now” stories that made the rounds after the Dodgers got him were so predictable and laughably wrong. He had a 6.54 ERA (5.15 FIP) in 42.2 innings with the Dodgers and over the last two years he has a 5.79 ERA (4.62 FIP) in 196 innings. He also has a reputation for being a major jerk (example). So no. The Yankees should not take a flier on Bud Norris. They’re not that desperate for pitching.

Bob asks (short version): The Padres waited until after the Triple-A Championship Game to call up their top prospects. The Yankees didn’t. What’s going on here? Would SWB’s management/ownership be angry at the Yankees for these actions and possibly endanger their contractual agreement?

The Padres are the exception here, not the Yankees. Almost every team prioritizes the needs of the big league club over the minor league postseason. I have no idea why the Padres waited so long to call up top prospects like Austin Hedges, Manuel Margot, and Hunter Renfroe. You’d think they’d want to get as much of a look at them as possible in September. The Triple-A title is relatively meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Being affiliated with the Yankees is far more valuable to the RailRiders than winning a championship. They’re not going to be upset over having their roster gutted every September. And, if they are, other Triple-A franchises will line up for a chance to be affiliated with the Yankees brand.

Dan asks: I know you’ve said before that no prospect is untouchable but with the new additions from the trade deadline do you still feel that way? If so which ones? I know prospects are completely unreliable but everyone falls in love with them. (Can’t what to see Frazier drop bombs in pinstripes)

Still feel that way. Among the guys still in the minors, Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres are the two guys I’d least like to give up, but if they can get the Yankees a good young starter, they’d be foolish not to make them available. I consider Frazier the better prospect, though I’d trade him before Torres, weirdly. The Yankees are loaded with outfielders at the upper levels. Torres is going to play the infield, likely either short or third, and a potential star at those positions is more necessary long-term than a big outfield bat.

Mike asks: Which is more likely to happen, Tanaka winning the AL Cy Young Award or Sanchez winning the AL Rookie Of The Year Award?

Gary Sanchez winning Rookie of the Year. Masahiro Tanaka‘s been awesome, but there are a whole bunch of other guys performing just like him. Sanchez has burst onto the scene with a historically great start to his career. He has no peers. I mean, he’s hit 19 homers in 44 games this year. I would have been thrilled if he hit 19 homers across the full season as the starting catcher. I think Sanchez winning Rookie of the Year is far more likely than Tanaka winning the Cy Young at the moment.

Julian asks: I’ve noticed that Eric Young Jr has only pinch ran once since rosters expanded when they called him up to pinch run. Why are they not using him more?

He’s pinch-run twice, actually. Young has appeared in three games as a Yankee:

  • September 2nd: Played an inning in center field at the end of a blowout loss.
  • September 6th: Pinch-ran for Brian McCann with two outs in the eighth inning of a game the Yankees led by one. Chase Headley homered two pitches later. This was the Brett Gardner catch game against the Blue Jays.
  • September 18th: Pinch ran for Sanchez with two outs in the ninth inning of a game the Yankees trailed by one. Mark Teixeira flew out to end the game four pitches later. Young never attempted to steal.

The Yankees haven’t had very many opportunities to use Young as a pinch-runner this month. I don’t remember any “why isn’t he pinch-running?” moments at all. This could change in a hurry. Young could pinch-run three times this weekend for all we know. Generally speaking though, the September pinch-runner rarely has a big impact. He’ll appear in a handful of games and that’s it.

Yankees can’t finish sweep, drop finale 2-0 to Rays

Well that was a wasted opportunity. The Yankees failed to complete the sweep Thursday night — they’ve been quite good at this season — and dropped the series finale 2-0 to the Rays. They’re still alive in the postseason race with ten games to go, but it’s going to take a miracle at this point.

Just a little out in front. (Mike Carlson/Getty)
Just a little out in front. (Mike Carlson/Getty)

You Can’t Win If You Don’t Score
Two weeks ago the Yankees forced Blake Snell to throw 88 pitches in 3.2 innings. Thursday night he used 88 pitches to cruise through five scoreless innings. Well, maybe cruise isn’t the right word. It’s not like the Yankees had zero baserunners. They had men on base in all five innings against Snell, including multiple runners in the first and third innings. And yet, zero runs.

Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury started the game with back-to-back singles and were stranded. Sigh. Two strikeouts and a pop-up doomed that inning. Then, in the third, the Yankees loaded the bases with two outs on a walk (Gary Sanchez), a single (Billy Butler), and a walk (Mark Teixeira) before Chase Headley flew out to end the inning. They also wasted leadoff singles in the fourth and ninth.

All told, the Yankees went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position against Snell and various relievers. The biggest culprit? Teixeira. He went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts with men on base. He’s hitting .197/.289/.343 (71 wRC+) and here he is, still batting in the middle of the order in Game 152. It’s not your fault, Mark. You don’t make the lineup. The Yankees were held to eight singles and three walks, and they scored no more than one run for the AL-leading 32nd time.

Six Strong From Cessa
Aside from the #obligatoryhomer problem, Luis Cessa has been rock solid since joining the rotation last month. He held the Rays to two runs in six innings Thursday night, one on a solo homer and the other after Aaron Hicks appeared to lose a fly ball in the roof and let it drop in for a leadoff single. Either way, lost in the roof or not, it was a ball that had to be caught. Two ground ball singles got that run home in the first inning.

(Mike Carlson/Getty)
(Mike Carlson/Getty)

Between Brad Miller’s run-scoring single in the first inning and Corey Dickerson’s solo dinger in the sixth, Cessa retired 15 of 19 batters faced and allowed only five balls to be hit out of the infield. Sanchez helped him out by throwing out one runner trying to steal and picking another off second with a snap throw. Cessa struck out six and allowed the two runs on six hits and two walks in his six innings. He has a 3.83 ERA in seven starts now. That’ll work.

Butler, Gregorius, and Hicks each had two hits. Sanchez drew two walks and it looked pretty obvious the Rays finally decided to stop pitching to him. He saw nothing close to the strike zone. For some reason Ronald Torreyes was allowed to face Alex Colome while representing the tying run in the ninth. Not sure I get that one. Maybe pinch-hit someone who can tie the game with one swing? Just a thought.

Luis Severino struck out three and allowed one hit in two scoreless innings. He was the only reliever used. But! Dickerson took Cessa deep with Tommy Layne warming. Second night in a row a right-handed pitcher gave up a home run to a left-handed batter with Layne ready in the bullpen. That’s the good stuff.

Assuming the Red Sox beat the Orioles again, the Yankees will remain two games back in the loss column for the second wildcard spot. The Tigers could jump the O’s and take over the second wildcard spot if they beat the Twins tonight.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN is the place to go for the box score and updated standings. has the video highlights. RAB has Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the loss probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees are headed up to Toronto for their final road series of the 2016 season. Bryan Mitchell and Francisco Liriano are the scheduled starters for Friday’s series opener. That’s a four-game series.

Game 152: Finish the Sweep

(Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty)
(Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty)

Amazingly, the Yankees have just one three-game sweep this season. It was two weeks ago against the Blue Jays. Tonight they have a chance to finish a three-game sweep of the Rays, a team they did beat three straight times earlier this month. That was part of a four-game series though. With a 2.5-game deficit and four teams ahead of them in the wildcard race, and only eleven games to play, every game is a must-win from here on out. Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. DH Billy Butler
  5. 1B Mark Teixeira
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. RF Aaron Hicks
  9. 2B Donovan Solano
    RHP Luis Cessa

Another cloudy and humid day in St. Petersburg. The weather is always great in Tropicana Field though. Tonight’s series finale will begin at 7:10pm ET. You’ll be able to watch on WPIX locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Trade!: The Yankees traded Phil Coke to the Pirates for cash earlier today, the team announced. Coke was not on the 40-man roster. The Triple-A season ended Tuesday and the Yankees weren’t going to call him up, so they turned him into some extra cash.