Game 129: Rubber Match

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

Since June 8, the Yankees have split the first two games of a three-game series 10 times. And each time they’ve played the third game, they’ve lost. That’s right: They’re 0-10 in their last 10 rubber games.

Luckily, the Bombers can turn to Masahiro Tanaka, who has been his normal self for the last two months. In his last 10 starts since June 23, he’s pitched to a 3.09 ERA with 69 strikeouts in 64 innings while allowing just 67 baserunners. After allowing 21 home runs in his first 14 starts, he’s limited opponents to eight in the aforementioned stretch.

Tanaka is 5-0 with a 2.51 ERA in six starts against the Mariners, although the one no-decision came in a loss earlier this season. He’ll duel with Andrew Albers, one of Seattle’s 16 starters and 37 overall pitchers this season.

Here is the Mariners’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

    1. LF Aaron Hicks
    2. DH Starlin Castro
    3. Gary Sanchez
    4. RF Aaron Judge
    5. SS Didi Gregorius
    6. 1B Chase Headley
    7. 3B Todd Frazier
    8. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
    9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
      RHP Masahiro Tanaka

The forecast is relatively clear in the Bronx, so it should be a nice day for baseball. The 1:05 PM start will be broadcast on the YES Network locally and TBS nationally. Happy Sunday!

Still Cause for Concern

(Adam Glanzman/Getty)
(Adam Glanzman/Getty)

A little over a month ago, I wrote that things were looking bleak for (then) closer Aroldis Chapman. Since then, things haven’t exactly gone well. He’s lost that closer’s spot and, like he has for most of the season, he just hasn’t looked quite right at all. The return to normalcy for Chapman just hasn’t happened (yet?) and it’s still somewhat baffling as to why.

His fluky high swing and contact numbers are still fluky high and haven’t really corrected themselves. What stands out here is that Chapman is generating fewer swings but batters are making more contact than they ever have against him. For the second year in a row, well over half of his pitches (around 54% both times) have been in the zone. Previously, he sat around just 48-49% in the zone. With a pitcher like Chapman, who has incredible stuff, you’d assume living in the zone wouldn’t be too bad, especially since he had success last year. This year, though, as it seems to have been at every turn, that’s not the case.

Let’s take a look first at Chapman’s slider, a pitch he’s used slightly more often this year, though it’s had–for the first time–slightly negative value.



My first impression is that the slider isn’t getting as much bite as it used to. Ideally, a lefty throwing a slider wants the pitch down and away against lefties and bearing down and in against righties, which isn’t really happening. Those big red spots in the middle portions of the zone could hit at why Chapman’s slider hasn’t been as effective this year. Pitches in those areas, even sliders, are going to get hit. Last year’s heatmap for the slider shows a lot more action in that low, glove side zone where you want a slider as a lefty.

The slider location, though, is sill just one piece of the puzzle. Is there a mechanical issue? Is there a physical issue? Is there a confidence issue? It’s hard to tell this year. As Mike has pointed out frequently, moments of complete, Chapman-level dominance have been few and far between this year, and I can’t remember the last one offhand. I’m running out of ways to say this is all worrying so, I’ll just keep saying it that plainly: this is all worrying. Unless Chapman is hurt and not speaking up or is just supremely hungover from the World Series run with the Cubs last year, this is going to make the next four-plus years very difficult to watch. You never want to root for an injury, but at this point, we almost have to hope Chapman is at least a little hurt so this can have some sort of easy explanation.

But there’s the other easy explanation: maybe he’s just…done. Baseball is cruel enough sometimes that players–even ones as relatively young as Chapman–can just lose it in the blink of an eye. If that’s the case, Chapman and the Yankees are going to be walking in some dark woods together while this contract unfolds.

Yankees 6, Mariners 3: Pickles cuts up Seattle in Bird’s return

Source: FanGraphs

Nice bounceback win for the Yankees following that frustrating loss Friday night. The Yankees received some timely hits from Jacoby Ellsbury and great pitching from Sonny Gray, which is exactly why they brought him in. To halt losing streaks. Saturday afternoon’s final score was 6-3.

I only caught the last inning of Saturday’s game — not even, I caught the last four outs or so — so I can’t talk too intelligently about the game. Here are some assorted notes instead.

1. Pickles spears the Mariners. One run, three hits, one walk, seven innings. Nine strikeouts too. The good version of Gray is pretty excellent, is he not? I know it’s Carlos Ruiz, but I’m not going to sweat one solo homer across seven innings from any starter, especially in a game at Yankee Stadium. Through five starts Gray is sitting on a 2.70 ERA (3.46 FIP) in 30 innings with the Yankees. He has a 3.26 ERA (3.35 FIP) on the season overall. The Yankees got themselves a good one.

2. Ellsbury did a thing! Playing time has been hard to come by for Ellsbury the last few weeks — and that’s on him, if he’d played better earlier this season, he’d be playing more in the second half — though when he has played, he’s had a tendency to make some noise. On Saturday he drove in his team’s first run of the game with a single, and then drove in their second, third, and fourth runs with a three-run home run into the short porch. That was a two-out rally too. Two-out single by Greg Bird, two-out walk by Chase Headley, two-out three-run homer by Ellsbury. In a perfect world, Ellsbury would be 1996 Tim Raines the rest of the season, that high-end fourth outfielder who seems to do something every time he finds himself in the lineup.

3. Bird returns. Greg Bird is back! Hooray for that. I didn’t get to see any of his at-bats, so that stinks, but 1-for-2 with two walks and 22 pitches seen sure looks like the good version of Greg Bird to me. Statcast tells me he got the benefit of the doubt on few borderline calls …


… but who cares. Those will even out over the course of the season. Bird has military caliber discipline at the plate, so when he’s laying off those borderline pitches, that’s a good thing. You know he feels like himself at the plate. The Yankees went into Saturday’s game with 183 runs in the second half, ninth most in the AL and 16th most in MLB, so the offense really needs a shot in the arm. Hopefully Bird can provide that.

Also, what the heck was that send by third base coach Joe Espada on Ellsbury’s single to open to scoring? I watched the highlight and, uh, that’s bad. Bird is not fleet of foot, and this was literally his first game back from ankle surgery. I guess Espada was hoping Ben Gamel would make a poor throw? Otherwise I’m not sure what that send was about.

* * *

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. The Yankees and Mariners will wrap up this three-game series Sunday afternoon — that’s another 1pm ET start — when Masahiro Tanaka and Andrew Albers will be on the mound. That’s the kind of game a true division contender should win at this point of the season. Tanaka has been pretty great his last 12 starts (3.38 ERA and 3.65 FIP) and Albers was pitching in an independent league last year. Yeah.

Minor League Update: I’m out of town and don’t have time for a full DotF tonight. Here are the box scores. Most of the games today are night games, so they haven’t even started as of this writing.

Game 128: Welcome Back, Mr. Bird

(Fred Adams/Times Leaders)
Bird is back. (Fred Adams/Times Leaders)

Despite all of the hand-wringing over suspensions, injuries, losses, and poor performances, there is a strong sense of optimism for the Yankees this afternoon. The team is eking closer and closer to full health, as Starlin Castro returned to the lineup last night, and Greg Bird will make his first appearances in pinstripes in nearly four months. Matt Holliday is still out, but this afternoon’s lineup is the closest to full strength that we have seen in quite some time:

  1. Brett Gardner, LF
  2. Aaron Judge, RF
  3. Gary Sanchez, DH
  4. Didi Gregorius, SS
  5. Starlin Castro, 2B
  6. Greg Bird, 1B
  7. Chase Headley, 3B
  8. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
  9. Austin Romine, C

Sonny Gray will get the start, and here’s the Mariners lineup that he’ll face.

For those of you who haven’t been following, Bird lit-up Triple-A in his eight-game rehab stint following ankle surgery, batting .375/.448/.833 with 2 2B and 3 HR in 29 PA. The reports surrounding his swing, running, and general conditioning have been glowing (at least as much as his gait can be praised), and it isn’t difficult to envision him solidifying the middle of the Yankees lineup all but immediately. It’s been a long road back for Bird, and I’ll be happy to see him this afternoon.

Today’s first pitch is scheduled for 1:05 PM, and the game will be broadcaste on the YES Network.

Yankees come together as a team after brawl with Tigers to lose 2-1 to Mariners

Source: FanGraphs

Well, if nothing else, maybe this will put an end to the ridiculous notion that Thursday’s brawls with the Tigers would spark the Yankees and get them to rally together. They lost Thursday’s game after the brawls and they lost Friday’s game too. The final score was 2-1. The Yankees looked completely helpless against the Mariners.

I alternated between watching Friday’s game on my phone and listening to the radio, plus I missed big chunks of it, so I can’t do a full recap. Instead, here are some notes and observations.

1. These baserunners are made for stranding. This game was lost when the Yankees left the bases loaded three times. Three freaking times. They did it in the third (Aaron Hicks and Gary Sanchez flew out), in the fourth (Todd Frazier struck out), and in the eighth (Frazier struck out). The Yankees went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position and it was a total team effort. Eight of the nine players in the lineup had an at-bat with runners in scoring position. Only Didi Gregorius did not. A medium deep fly ball scores a run in the third and fourth innings, when the Yankees had a man on third and less than two outs, and they couldn’t do it. Impressively terrible showing by the offense.

2. You don’t need 50 seconds to ask for that replay. How in the world does that Gregorius slide at third base not get challenged in the eighth inning? Didi made a terrible baserunning play. He broke from second base on a ground ball hit in front of him. It looked like he was thrown out at third, but replays showed he managed to avoid the tag with a fantastic slide. And yet, no challenge was made. Joe Girardi said after the game it took too long (50 seconds, to be exact) to get the thumbs up from replay guy Brett Weber, which is why the play was not challenged.

That is complete and total crap. Eighth inning of a tie game, and you’re talking about a bang-bang play that would’ve put the go-ahead run at third base with one out. That’s an insta-challenge. I’ve been harping on these for a while. On plays that important and that just close, just challenge it. Who cares about the team’s challenge success rate? Have them look at it. The difference of that play:

  • Successful challenge (runners on the corners, one out): 77.1% win probability
  • No challenge (runner on first, two outs): 57.8% win probability

The Yankees did end up needing their challenge in the 11th inning to overturn the egregiously bad out call on Brett Gardner‘s stolen base, though the game could’ve been over long before that. Maybe the Yankees waste that opportunity anyway given how poorly they performed with men in scoring position. Probably would have. But man, letting that play go unchallenged is awful. Just awful. A bang-bang play in which the go-ahead run was thrown out at third base in the eighth inning is one of these situations where waiting even 30 seconds for the replay guy to chime in should not happen. Use those challenges. You don’t get bonus points for a high success rate.

3. Chapman is a disaster. An unmitigated disaster. After allowing one home run to a left-handed batter in his first six-plus seasons as a big leaguer, Aroldis Chapman has now done it twice in the last month. This time Yonder Alonso turned around a 100 mph fastball like he knew it was coming for the game-winning home run. And he probably did know it was coming because Chapman throws fastball after fastball after fastball. Thirteen fastballs and one slider Friday. Fourteen pitches and zero swings and misses. Chapman was booed off the mound, which is funny, because Hal Steinbrenner said one of the reasons the Yankees signed him was how pumped up fans were when he entered the games last year. Sound logic.

4. Sabathia is still a boss. On the bright side, CC Sabathia is still the man. Seven innings of one run ball. Five hits, one walk, six strikeouts. Only 94 pitches too. Sabathia allowed a solo homer to Mike Zunino and that’s it. The big man passed Mike Mussina for sole possession of 19th place on the all-time strikeout list Friday night. Awesome. Sabathia is forever cool with me. Damn shame the Yankees wasted this outing.

* * *

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. The Yankees and Mariners will continue this series Saturday afternoon. That’s a regular 1pm ET start. Hooray for baseball on Saturday afternoons. Sonny Gray and Yovani Gallardo are the scheduled starting pitchers.

Minor League Update: I don’t have time for a full DotF tonight and I won’t all weekend, so here’s the box scores and here’s the short version: 3B Miguel Andujar had a single and a walk, LF Billy McKinney had a single and a double, RHP Domingo German struck out eight in 6.1 innings of one-run ball, LHP Stephen Tarpley allowed his first run of the season, SS Kyle Holder had four hits, RHP Freicer Perez allowed one hit and one run in six innings, RHP Trevor Stephan struck out six in 2.2 innings, and LHP Justus Sheffield tossed two scoreless innings in his first rehab game back from the oblique injury.

Game 127: Back to Business

(Gregory Shamus/Getty)
(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

After handily winning back-to-back games against a lackluster Tigers squad, the Yankees let themselves get sidetracked by retaliation and brawls in a loss on Thursday afternoon. It was ugly. It was disappointing. To borrow a phrase from Joe Girardi, it’s not what you want.

So now it’s time for the Bombers to get back to business, shaking off a horrid getaway day and embracing the light side of the force. It is Star Wars day after all!

The Yankees start a 10-game homestand tonight, beginning with a three-game set against the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners are just four games back of the Yankees and are in the thick of the Wild Card chase. There are only big games remaining, just to varying degrees of importance.

Here is the Mariners’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup, featuring the return of their starting second baseman:

    1. LF Brett Gardner
    2. CF Aaron Hicks
    3. Gary Sanchez
    4. RF Aaron Judge
    5. SS Didi Gregorius
    6. 2B Starlin Castro
    7. DH Tyler Austin
    8. 1B Chase Headley
    9. 3B Todd Frazier
      LHP CC Sabathia

This will be the first time the Yankees have ever worn nicknames on the back of their uniforms with baseball’s first ever Players Weekend. Should be fun to see A-A-Ron and Kraken bat back-to-back.

Cloudy skies are on tap in the Bronx as the Yankees take the field for the 7:05pm ET start. The game will be broadcast on WPIX 11 locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game!

Roster move: To make room for Castro on the roster, Tyler Wade was optioned to Triple A.

Sanchez suspended four games, Romine two games following brawl with Tigers

(Gregory Shamus/Getty)
(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

As expected, MLB has handed down several suspensions and fines following Thursday’s brawl(s) with the Tigers. Here’s a recap of the discipline, as announced by MLB this afternoon:

  • Miguel Cabrera: Seven-game suspension for “inciting the first bench-clearing incident and fighting.”
  • Alex Wilson: Four-game suspension for “intentionally throwing a pitch at Todd Frazier” after warnings had been issued.
  • Gary Sanchez: Four-game suspension for “fighting, including throwing punches.”
  • Austin Romine: Two-game suspension for “fighting, including throwing punches.”
  • Brad Ausmus: One-game suspension for “the intentional actions of Wilson.”

Joe Girardi, Rob Thomson, Tommy Kahnle, Brett Gardner, Garrett Cooper, Clint Frazier, and Jose Iglesias all received fines but were not suspended. Cooper and Frazier were fined for entering the field of play while on the disabled list. I’m kinda surprised Dellin Betances escaped without any discipline, even if he didn’t hit James McCann on purpose. Same with Michael Fulmer, who started the whole thing by hitting Sanchez.

I imagine Sanchez and/or Romine are going to appeal their suspension. I mean, they kinda have to, otherwise the Yankees won’t have any catchers tonight. Sanchez will definitely appeal because he (and the Yankees) want to get that suspension knocked down as much as possible. The more Gary is on the field, the better. Every game without him hurts the team’s chances at the postseason.

Kyle Higashioka is currently on the Triple-A Scranton disabled list, so the Yankees don’t have a obvious third catcher to call-up for the time being. They’ll have to add someone (Eddy Rodriguez, most likely) to the 40-man roster. The Yankees do have an open 40-man spot, though that’ll go to Greg Bird when he returns. Also, suspended players can’t be replaced on the roster. Teams have to play short.

All things considered, I think the Yankees got off pretty light here. I thought Sanchez was heading for six or seven games given the sucker punches. Rougned Odor got eight games (reduced to seven on appeal) for punching Jose Bautista when he was squared up. Sanchez threw punches at defenseless Cabrera. Whatever. Forget this pointless nonsense, be happy no one got hurt, and move on.

Update: Not surprisingly, Sanchez and Romine both said they will appeal their suspensions. Ken Rosenthal hears the appeals may not be heard until after rosters expand on September 1st, which would make it a million times easier to deal with losing a catcher(s). Also, Jack Curry hears Sanchez was only suspended four games because Cabrera instigated the brawl. Gary on reacted, basically.