Game 158: Looking for No. 82


There are five games left this season and the Yankees are currently 81-76, so we know they won’t have a losing record this season. With one more win, No. 82 of the season, the Yankees will clinch a winning record for the 24th (!) straight season. That would be the second longest streak in history, behind the 1926-64 Yankees, who did it in 39 straight seasons. Crazy.

Of course, the Yankees also need a win to keep their faint postseason hopes alive. Things broke their way last night — they won and the Orioles lost — and they need that to happen again tonight. Any combination of Yankees wins and Orioles losses totaling three these next two nights will make this weekend’s series against the O’s meaningful. Could be cool. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. DH Brian McCann
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 1B Mark Teixeira
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. RF Mason Williams
    RHP Bryan Mitchell

It’s very cool and cloudy in New York today. Windy too. Fall weather, but not the good kind. There’s a little bit of rain in the forecast later tonight, but it doesn’t look like anything that will impact the game. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on WPIX. Enjoy the game.

Roster Update: Nick Goody has left the team and returned home to attend to a family issue, according to Chad Jennings. His locker is cleaned out, so it seems like he’s done for the year. Hope everything’s okay at home.

Update: Yankees remove James Kaprielian from Arizona Fall League roster


Wednesday: Well, so much for that. Kaprielian has been removed from the Scottsdale roster, according to MLB Pipeline. Jack Curry says Kaprielian hasn’t suffered a setback. He was added to the AzFL roster prematurely. If Kaprielian completes his rehab work in Instructional League, he’ll pitch in the AzFL.

Monday: Right-hander James Kaprielian has been added to the Scottsdale Scorpions roster, according to the Arizona Fall League transactions page. The Yankees had one open pitching spot and were reportedly hoping to use it on Kaprielian, who has missed almost the entire season with an flexor tendon strain.

“I’m pretty happy and excited with the progression we’ve made,” he said to Brendan Kuty last week. “We’ve obviously taken our time with this and tried to deal with it smart. The Yankees have done a really good job with handling me and the process and I feel good with where I’m at.”

Kaprielian, 22, threw a two-inning simulated game last Tuesday and was scheduled throw again yesterday, according to Erik Boland. The plan was to have him make an Instructional League start this week if yesterday’s throwing session went as planned. The fact Kaprielian has been added to the AzFL roster indicates everything is going well. The Yankees wouldn’t add him to the roster if there any doubt about his health.

The Yankees selected Kaprielian with their first round pick (16th overall) in last year’s draft. He experienced a pretty significant velocity spike last year, going from 88-91 mph as a sophomore at UCLA to 92-93 mph by the end of his junior year, then 94-96 mph by the end of his first pro season. Kaprielian was reportedly up to 97-99 mph this spring. Unfortunately, big velocity spikes are followed by elbow woes more often than not, it seems.

In three starts with High-A Tampa this season Kaprielian had a 1.50 ERA (2.03 FIP) in 18 innings. He was dominant, as expected. Coming into the season the hope was Kaprielian would tear through High-A and Double-A, reach Triple-A in the second half, and possibly make his MLB debut in September. Obviously those plans had to be put on hold by the injury. The good news is he’s healthy now and going to the AzFL.

Kaprielian will join Greg Bird (shoulder surgery) as rehabbing Yankees in the AzFL. Tyler Wade, Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Josh Roeder, J.P. Feyereisen, and Dillon Tate are going as well. Yankees’ prospects will be on a team with Angels, Giants, Phillies, and Mets prospects. The AzFL season begins October 11th.

Layne may be pitching his way on to the 2017 Yankees, but roster space will be tight


For much of the first four months of the season, the Yankees had two of the three best left-handed relievers in baseball in their bullpen in Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller. Those two plus Zach Britton are the holy trinity of end-game southpaws. They’re not lefty specialists. They dominate batters on both sides of the plate.

After wisely trading away Chapman and Miller at the deadline, the Yankees picked up lefty Tommy Layne as soon as the Red Sox cut him loose. Boston acquired Fernando Abad at the trade deadline and didn’t need Layne anymore, so they flat out released him. Abad’s been pretty terrible, so that hasn’t worked out for them. Such is life. The Yankees wound up with a decent southpaw and gave up nothing to get him.

The 31-year-old Layne has done a fine job for the Yankees since being picked up, pitching to a 3.00 ERA (4.01 FIP) in 15 innings overall while holding lefties to a .161/.257/.161 (.205 wOBA) batting line. His finest moment in pinstripes came Monday night, when he was brought in to face the middle of the Blue Jays’ lineup — all righties, of course — with the bases loaded and no outs. He closed out the win thanks in part to his own great play at the plate:

Layne had a rough outing last night, including giving up a home run to the right-handed hitting Aaron Hill, though that’s not a big deal. It was the second of back-to-back days after a stressful game Monday night — Layne threw 24 pitches Monday after throwing 24 pitches total in his previous five outings — so I’m sure the tank was far from full. Such is the life of a left-handed specialist.

At the moment the Yankees are not particularly deep in lefty relievers. Chasen Shreve seems to have fallen out of favor, Jacob Lindgren will be out until 2018 following Tommy John surgery, and others like Richard Bleier and James Pazos probably aren’t the guys you want to count on in big spots. I suppose Tyler Webb and/or Dietrich Enns could be options starting next season should the Yankees protect them from the Rule 5 Draft.

That last part is pretty important. Space on the 40-man roster will be tight this offseason, so Webb or Enns or both might not be protected. The Yankees are going to have to free up several spots soon after the end of the World Series, and while much of that can be accomplished by cutting loose players like Anthony Swarzak and Kirby Yates, it won’t be enough. In most cases a scrap heap lefty specialist like Layne would be on the chopping block too.

Therein lies the question: how confident are the Yankees in Layne performing this way going forward? The Red Sox didn’t release him out of the kindness of their hearts. Lefties hit .255/.355/.333 (.312 wOBA) against Layne when he was with Boston earlier this year, and that’s no good. Success can be very fleeting for relievers like him, the funky finesse guys who rely on deception. Remember Clay Rapada? He was nails in 2012 but couldn’t even get through Spring Training in 2013.

If nothing else, I think Layne has moved to the back of the line of players who could lose their 40-man roster spot this offseason. There are others in front of him who figure to go first, including Swarzak and Yates, and maybe even guys like Johnny Barbato and Conor Mullee. Unless you have a Miller or Chapman, the best approach with lefty relievers seems to be stockpile as many as possible, and hope someone emerges. Layne went from scrap heap pick up to potential part of the 2017 roster in a hurry, but his spot may not be secure.

Baseball America ranks three Yankees among best short season league prospects for 2016

Rutherford. (@MiLB)
Rutherford. (@MiLB)

A few days ago the crew at Baseball America started their annual look at the top 20 prospects in each minor league for the 2016 season. So far they’ve made their way through the various short season leagues — at least the ones relevant to the Yankees — which include the Gulf Coast League, Appalachian League, and NY-Penn League. The Yankees have two GCL teams plus one each in the Appy League and NYPL.

Starting with the Appy League (subs. req’d), Blue Jays OF Vladimir Guerrero Jr. claimed the top spot and was followed by two Yankees farmhands: OF Blake Rutherford and OF Estevan Florial are Nos. 2 and 3, respectively. In the chat, Hudson Belinsky singled out 3B Dermis Garcia, SS Wilkerman Garcia, SS Oswaldo Cabrera, OF Leonardo Molina, OF Isiah Gilliam, and C Donny Sands as others who received consideration. RHP Rafael Lara was mentioned as a sleeper.

“Rutherford controls at-bats and has a sound understanding of which pitches he can drive. His swing is geared more for line drives than home runs, and he hits lots of hard doubles from gap to gap, projecting for more over-the-fence power as he matures,” said the write-up. They also note Rutherford has very good outfield instincts but may lack the straight line speed needed to remain in center field long-term.

As for Florial, the write-up says he “wowed evaluators with his raw tools this summer,” particularly his “plus bat speed … giving him plus-plus raw power in batting practice.” Florial also has true center field defensive skills. The biggest red flag is a very aggressive swing that led to a 29.1% strikeout rate. “When he does connect, however, the ball explodes off his bat,” added the scouting report.

The GCL prospects list (subs. req’d) was, predictably, lead by Phillies OF Mickey Moniak, the first overall pick in this summer’s draft. Tigers RHP Matt Manning and Nationals OF Juan Soto round out the top three. SS Diego Castillo is the only Yankees prospect on the list and he ranked 19th. Ben Badler said 3B Nelson Gomez has huge raw power in the chat, but also “the approach he showed this year is worrisome,” which is why he didn’t make the top 20.

“(Castillo) has great feel for the barrel with a short, simple stroke with good bat path. He is a high contact hitter with an inside-out approach, wearing out the opposite field,” said the write-up, which also noted Castillo doesn’t have much power. His defense at short is very good as well, enough that he projects to remain at the position long-term. “He’s a smart, instinctive player who has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.”

The Yankees did not have a single player on the NYPL prospects list (subs. req’d), which isn’t surprising. The Staten Island Yankees weren’t a particularly deep prospect team this year. 2B Nick Solak was by far the best healthy prospect on the team, and he’s didn’t make the cut in a league loaded with first round picks and high profile international signees. Athletics LHP A.J. Puk, the sixth pick in this year’s draft, was the league’s top prospect.

You can see the complete top 20 lists without a subscription right here. You just can’t read the scouting reports. I’m not sure what the posting schedule is, but the next list relevant to the Yankees is the Low-A South Atlantic League. SS Hoy Jun Park and RHP Dillon Tate are the Yankees prospects most likely to appear on the list. Others like C Luis Torrens and RHP Domingo Acevedo won’t meet the playing time criteria and aren’t eligible.

Fixing Dellin Betances is a process that should start now, not next season

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

After five excellent months, Dellin Betances has hit a wall in September and hit it hard. He’s allowed 13 runs in 8.1 innings this month while also putting 19 guys on base. Two nights ago Dellin faced three batters and didn’t retire any of them before giving way to Tommy Layne. Opponents have hit .282/.404/.385 against Betances in September. Bad. Bad bad bad.

The biggest problem with Betances, as it often is, are the walks and an overall lack of control. He’s walked eight in 8.1 innings this month after walking 20 batters in his first 63.2 innings of the season. The other night Dellin threw three strikes out of eleven total pitches, and he wasn’t exactly missing just off the plate. It wasn’t a bunch of borderline calls going against him. From Brooks Baseball:

Dellin Betances Blue Jays

“Honestly, right now I just feel like my mechanics are off,” said Betances to Chad Jennings following’s Monday game. “I’m yanking a lot of pitches and falling behind; that’s what’s hurting me. I’ve said it all along. Earlier in the year, I wasn’t walking guys. Later part of this year, I’ve been walking a lot of guys and that’s what’s been hurting me.”

Control problems — extreme control problems at that — are nothing new for Betances, who flamed out as a starter in the minors because he couldn’t throw strikes. I don’t mean paint the corners. Basic get the ball over the plate stuff. Dellin walked 69 batters in 74.2 innings as Triple-A starter in 2012, then another 16 in 24 innings in 2013 before being moved to the bullpen full-time.

Why have Betances’ mechanics fallen out of whack? There are a million possible reasons. It could be fatigue. Maybe it’s because he’s 6-foot-8 with long limbs and isn’t the most athletic guy in the world. Or maybe he’s a mental wreck because the pressure of closing for the New York Yankees is just too much to take. I highly doubt it that’s last one, Dellin’s been getting huge outs for the Yankees for three years now, but you never know.

Whatever it is — my guess is it’s a combination of fatigue and being prone to mechanical lapses — this is something the Yankees and Betances have to figure out, and that process should start right now. Not next year. I understand wanting to shut him down for the season, I totally get it, but as long as he’s healthy, he should pitch and work on getting himself right. There are five games left this season. There’s no reason he can’t pitch in two or three of them.

“No, I don’t think (shutting him down is) a good thing to do. I think he needs to get out on some good notes,” said Joe Girardi to Brendan Kuty following Monday’s game. “I think he’s a little frustrated. But we’ll get that ironed out. He’s been through this before. I know I’ve said that, but he’s been through this. We’ll get it ironed out. We’ll give him a day off and we’ll get him back out there. ”

Now, if Betances goes to the Yankees and says he’s running on fumes, then yeah, shut him down. Pitching is inherently risky. Pitching while fatigued is even riskier. The Yankees want to get Betances right but they’re not going to risk injury in the process. If he’s dealing with nothing more than normal late-September fatigue, then fine, let him pitch. Learning to be effective when less than 100% is part of being a big leaguer.

Either way, Betances is a total mess right now, and to me it seems to be mechanical more than anything. He’s just out of sorts and needs to get himself back on track. It’s not the first time he’s gone through this — it’s the first time he’s done at the MLB level, but not in his life — and chances are it won’t be the last. He’s worked his way out of it before. Betances knows how this works.

I don’t see shutting down a struggling player as a way to deal with the problem. That’s avoiding the problem. As long as Dellin is healthy, get him out there on the mound and use these last five game as an opportunity to work on things and hopefully get him back on track.

Austin’s late homer leads Yankees to 6-4 win over Red Sox

Not dead yet! The Yankees, with an assist from the Blue Jays (groan), avoided elimination from postseason contention Tuesday night with a 6-4 win over the Red Sox in the series opener. Five games left in the season and this team still hasn’t been eliminated. Pretty wild.

Rookie of the Decade. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
Rookie of the Decade. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Kid No. 1
The Yankees were led by four young players Tuesday night. Young players they hope will be part of the next great Yankees team. Right at the front of the line is, of course, catcher Gary Sanchez, who smacked his 20th home run of the season in the first inning. He jumped on David Price’s first pitch fastball for a two-run home run into the Red Sox’s bullpen for a quick 2-0 lead. Sanchez has four homers in eight career games against Boston. He’s a Red Sox killer already. Love it.

Kid No. 2
I don’t know about you folks, but boy do I like what I’ve seen from Luis Cessa since he moved into the rotation. He held the Red Sox to two runs in six innings overall Tuesday night, and he started the game with five scoreless innings on only 56 pitches. There were some just misses mixed in there — the Red Sox hit a few balls I thought had a chance to get out, but ultimately stayed in the park — but hey, five scoreless innings is five scoreless innings.

The messy sixth inning started after Cessa appeared to hurt his back during his warmup tosses. He made his eight warmup pitches, then flexed his back, which prompted a visit from the trainer. Cessa stayed in the game and didn’t even throw any test pitches. The Yankees were up 3-0 at the time, and that sixth inning started with an error — Cessa threw away a soft ground ball, allowing Andrew Benintendi to go to second — and two base hits to score a run and put runners on second and third.

Suddenly that 3-0 lead was very much in jeopardy. It was now 3-1 with the tying run on second, and of course David Ortiz was due up. Given Cessa’s home run problems and five innings worth of near misses, everyone expected Ortiz to put a ball into orbit. Instead, Cessa struck him out for the first out of the inning and his first strikeout of the game. Well timed, I’d say. Mookie Betts drove in a run with a ground out, then Cessa fanned Hanley Ramirez to preserve the 3-2 lead.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The final line: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K. Not too shabby for a rookie making his eighth career start, especially against a great hitting team that had just seen him two weeks ago. Cessa now has a 3.72 ERA in 46 innings as a starter this season. The home runs are a problem — this was only his second homer-less start — but I like everything else I’ve seen. Cessa throws four pitches, works quick, and showed some real gumption to escape that sixth inning jam with the lead.

Kid No. 3
Kid No. 3 isn’t a rookie, but he’s a young player who is important to the Yankees long-term. It’s Didi Gregorius. A half-inning after Cessa escaped that sixth inning with a 3-2 lead, Gregorius swatted his 20th home run of the season to give the Yankees another multi-run lead. It was a line drive into the short porch against Price. I have to say, getting 20 homers from a very good defensive shortstop is pretty awesome. Especially since he’s only 26 years old. Heck of a season for Didi.

Kid No. 4
Because these games are never easy, the Red Sox rallied to tie the game 4-4 in the seventh inning. Aaron Hill hit a solo home run against Tommy Layne, then later in the inning Dustin Pedroia poked a run-scoring single inside the first base bag to bring home the tying run. I’m not quite sure why Layne was facing Pedroia in that spot, especially with Blake Parker ready to go in the bullpen, but he faced him and it led to the tying run. Blah.

Luckily Tyler Austin came through in the next half-inning. Austin Romine opened the frame with a single to left — I was pretty surprised Eric Young Jr. didn’t pinch-run — then Price tried to get cute and blow Austin away with fastballs. The first was fouled off, the second was swung through for an 0-2 count, and the third was inside-outed into the right field seats for a two-run home run. The Yankees retook the lead, this time 6-4.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Austin has hit four home runs this season and all four have a) given the Yankees the lead, and b) been opposite field jobs at Yankee Stadium. His right field pop is very real. Austin has been glued to the bench for the last two weeks or so, but he got a chance Tuesday night, and he came through with yet another important home run. That must have felt good. The kids did some nice work against the Red Sox on Tuesday.

The B-Team Bullpen
Luis Severino‘s short start Monday night meant the Yankees went into Tuesday’s game with limited reliever availability. That’s why Layne, Parker, and Richard Bleier had to bridge the two-inning gap between Cessa and Tyler Clippard, the closer du jour. Those three guys each got two outs. Bleier got Chris Young to ground out to third and Jackie Bradley Jr. to strike out in the eighth, both while representing the tying run. He’s done some nice work this month.

Clippard came in for the ninth inning with the Yankees up 6-4, and again, these games are never easy, so of course Benintendi doubled to right with one out to bring the tying run to the plate. Clippard then walked Pedroia to put the tying run on base. Sure. Fine. Great. Clippard got Xander Bogaerts to pop up on the first pitch for the second out inning, which brought Ortiz to the plate as the go ahead run. Drama at the ballpark.

Ortiz at the plate in the ninth inning representing the go-ahead run meant we were all about to have our hearts broken. Especially with Clippard on the mound. He’s served up some pretty crushing home runs lately. The Red Sox buried the Yankees in Fenway Park two weeks ago and it was about to happen again. A weird thing happened though. Clippard struck Ortiz out to end the game. Who’d a thunk it? Here’s the at-bat:

Tyler Clippard David Ortiz

One fastball the entire at-bat, and it was way up and out of the zone. Clippard threw Ortiz a steady diet of changeups — PitchFX classified some of his changeups as a splitter for whatever reason, though it’s functionally the same pitch — and got him to swing through a mistake pitch up and out of the zone for strike three. Ortiz swung at four ball. How about that? No soul-crushing home run would come on this night. Hooray for that.

The Yankees had 13 hits as a team, including three each by Gregorius and Austin, and two each by Ellsbury and Romine. The 6-7-8-9 hitters went a combined 8-for-15 (.533) with four runs scored and three runs driven in. Always nice to get that kind of production from the bottom of the lineup. Especially from Austin after he was stuck on the bench.

This was Price’s fifth start against the Yankees this season, and the third time he allowed six runs. He allowed five runs in another start, and in the other one, he allowed three runs on eleven hits in 5.2 innings. All told, the Yankees scored 26 runs on 47 hits and six walks in 29.2 innings against Price this season. That’s the good stuff right there.

There was a pretty silly moment in the stands in the fourth inning. Some guy proposed to his girlfriend on the scoreboard, and he managed to drop the damn ring when he was about to pop the question. Other fans in the section and security guards spent an inning looking for it. They eventually found it and the guy made a proper proposal. Check it out:

If nothing else, those two have a pretty great engagement story. That had to be embarrassing and terrifying, and also a giant relief once they found the ring. Hope the couple has a happy life together.

And finally, the Blue Jays beat the Orioles, which means the Yankees are now only four games back of the second wildcard spot. Their tragic number remains two. It ain’t over yet.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has the box score and updated standings, has the video highlights, and RAB has Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the win probability graph, which doesn’t accurately reflect the tension of that ninth inning:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Game two of this three-game series. Bryan Mitchell and Clay Buchholz will be on the mound Wednesday night. There are only five games left this season, so head on over to RAB Tickets if you want to catch any of them live at Yankee Stadium.

Game 157: The Final Homestand

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

The Yankees have six games remaining this season, all at home. Three with the Red Sox, then three with the Orioles. They are mathematically still alive in the postseason race, and for those final three games with the O’s to mean anything, they need some combination of Yankees wins and Orioles losses totaling at least five these next three days. If that happens, New York could sweep that final series and force a Game 163 tiebreaker. (Well, the Tigers and Astros and Mariners could throw a big wrench into this, but humor me.)

Of course, that means having to root for the small time Blue Jays these next few days since the Orioles are in Toronto. The Yankees’ tragic numbers is two, so even if they miraculously sweep the BoSox this week, they could be knocked out should the O’s win two of three from the Jays. One thing at a time though. Get a win over the Red Sox tonight and hope the stupid Blue Jays beat the stupid Orioles in stupid Rogers Centre. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. DH Gary Sanchez
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. RF Aaron Hicks
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. 1B Tyler Austin
    RHP Luis Cessa

It’s cloudy and cool and weirdly humid in New York today. There is no rain in the forecast tonight and that’s most important. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:05pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and ESPN2 nationally. Enjoy the game, folks.

Injury Update: Masahiro Tanaka (forearm) played catch today and “felt nothing at all.” He’s going to long toss tomorrow, and he wants to make his start Saturday regardless of whether the Yankees are in the race or not.

Red Sox Rotation Update: Drew Pomeranz has forearm soreness and won’t make his schedule start Thursday. Lefty Henry Owens will go instead. He hasn’t pitched in a game since September 5th.