Thoughts in the middle of the seven-game road trip

Eyes open, Clint. (Presswire)
Eyes open, Clint. (Presswire)

The Yankees had a mid-road trip off-day yesterday, and tonight they’ll begin a three-game series with the last place Blue Jays. The Blue Jays being in last place doesn’t mean these games will be easy though. They never are. It sure would be nice to gain some ground in the AL East race this week before the Red Sox come to New York for a three-game set this weekend. Anyway, let’s get to some thoughts.

1. Given how crummy he’s been the last few weeks, I can’t help but wonder whether the Yankees will just keep Matt Holliday on the 10-day DL until rosters expand on September 1st. Probably not, but they did do something similar with Dustin Ackley in 2015. Ackley was placed on the disabled list with a right lumbar strain on August 4th — Holliday was put on the disabled list with a left lumbar strain on August 6th — and the Yankees didn’t activate him until September 1st even though he’d been on a rehab assignment and was ready to go before rosters expanded. What’s the upside here? Not tying up a 25-man roster spot with a designated hitter who stopped hitting, basically. The difference is Holliday is a respected veteran while Ackley was a change of scenery reclamation project guy, so maybe the Yankees don’t want to treat Holliday like that. I guess it depends how the offense performs between now and then. If they’re still slumping, the Yankees might bring Holliday back to see if he can give them a spark with a healthy back. If they’re clicking, they might extend that disabled list stint a little bit until they have those extra roster spots in September.

2. Obvious thought is obvious: the Yankees are going to use a rotating designated hitter while Holliday is out. Holliday’s injury buys Clint Frazier more time in the big leagues (I think), which means when Aaron Hicks returns, the Yankees will have five outfielders on the roster. The Yankees will be able to get four of them into the lineup every game going forward. A designated hitter rotation also means more rest for Gary Sanchez, whose passed ball issues could be fatigue related, and don’t forget about Chase Headley or Starlin Castro either. Being able to keep Castro in the lineup while getting him off his feet so soon after the hamstring injury seems beneficial. I guess the same is true with Greg Bird, should he make it back before the end of the month. Point is, I don’t see anyone taking over that designated hitter spot full-time with Holliday out. Everyone is going to get time there, and given the current roster, that’s not a bad thing at all. Once Hicks comes back the Yankees will have four outfielders worth playing every day, and now they can do that.

3. Speaking of Hicks, I am really looking forward to seeing him back in the lineup. Hopefully it happens later this week. I totally understand why someone would be worried he will revert to the 2014-16 version of Hicks after the injury — as great as he was before the injury, it was only 242 plate appearances — and hey, it might happen, but I’m all-in on the new Hicks. I think the 2017 version is here to stay. That doesn’t mean he’ll sustain his current .290/.398/.515 (145 wRC+) batting line forever and ever, but I buy him as a true talent .380 OBP hitter with 20+ homer power going forward. A switch-hitter who can do that, steal some bases, and play strong outfield defense is one heck of a ballplayer. Hopefully Hicks hits the ground running when he comes back. The Yankees could use another legit bat, especially from the left side of the plate. Hicks and Bird would really help balance the lineup, though one thing at a time. Get Hicks back first and go from there.

4. How about Chad Green? I thought he had a chance to be a real nice short reliever — it was one of my ten bold predictions before the season, after all — but never did I think he would be this. What is this, exactly? This is this:

ERA FIP K% BB% GB% HR/9 Opp. AVG/OBP/SLG
2017 Green (as reliever) 1.41 2.31 39.3% 6.8% 32.1% 0.81 .133/.205/.243
2014 Dellin Betances 1.40 1.64 39.6% 7.0% 46.6% 0.40 .147/.218/.224

That 2014 season was Dellin’s huge breakout season and his most dominant season to date. It’s one of the best reliever seasons of the century. And yet, the only real difference between 2017 Green and 2014 Betances is ground ball rate and, by extension, home run rate. Otherwise the two are indistinguishable. That’s how good Green has been this season. I understand the temptation to make him a starter again, though as far as I’m concerned, he should never start another game. Some guys are just built for the bullpen. Wade Davis is that way. Untouchable in relief but decidedly mediocre as a starter. Green doesn’t have a changeup and he probably wouldn’t be able to continue throwing his fastball 70% of the time when he has to turn a lineup over a second (and third) time. The Yankees have, for all intents and purposes, dug up another Betances. Green’s been that good.

5. The Yankees are going to have to get a new backup catcher this offseason. I like Austin Romine. Seems like a nice guy. He was magnificent when the Yankees need him to play everyday in April. But he’s not very good. Not even by backup catcher standards. He’s hitting .221/.283/.297 (55 wRC+) and that’s awful. Runners are 18-for-21 (86%) — 18-for-21! — stealing bases against him and that too is awful. Go back to last year and it’s 38-for-45 (84%). The catcher defense stats at Baseball Prospectus say he’s is a tick above average at framing pitches (+2.4 runs) and exactly average at blocking (+0.0 runs). Romine is a classic Nichols Law catcher. What’s the carrying tool here? You want your backup catcher to be able to do something well, right? Usually it’s throw and play defense, but some clubs have gone offense first with their backup. Romine doesn’t give you any of that. He doesn’t hit and his defense is just okay, both according to the numbers and the eye test. There’s something neat about a homegrown guy overcoming a litany of injuries in the minors to carve out a big league career, but neat stories don’t win games. The drop off from Sanchez to his backup is always going to be substantial. That’s unavoidable because Sanchez is so good. But the Yankees can do better than Romine. They can and they should. We’ll have all offseason to talk about potential trade and free agent backup catcher targets. Right now, all I’m saying is Romine isn’t very good, even by backup catcher standards. That roster spot has a lot of room for improvement.

6. I am really curious to see how the Yankees are going to handle Luis Severino‘s workload down the stretch. Joe Girardi has pushed Severino a little harder and a little deeper into the game than I expected the last few times out. He threw 116 stressful pitches in five innings against the Tigers last Monday, then threw 107 pitches in 6.2 innings against the Indians on Sunday. Severino started the seventh inning with 95 pitches and a seven-run lead Sunday. If you’re looking to save bullets wherever possible, that seems like a spot to do it. The Yankees know Severino and his health better than anyone, so maybe they’re comfortable letting him throw 200-something innings this season. Other 23-year-olds have done it — Felix Hernandez (238.2 innings in 2009), Clayton Kershaw (233.1 in 2011), and Madison Bumgarner (201.1 in 2013) are the most notable recent examples — and been perfectly fine short and long-term. (Others like Patrick Corbin and Jair Jurrjens haven’t been as lucky.) Severino threw a career high 161.2 innings two years ago, so the push up to 200 might not be that big a deal. There is no standard blueprint for this stuff. Some guys can handle it and some can’t. I have no doubt whatsoever the Yankees will do whatever they believe to be best for Severino long-term. I just never considered the possibility that it could be letting him pitch with no real restrictions.

DotF: Holder and Sands lead Tampa to huge comeback win

There is less than one month to go in the minor league regular season, so let’s update the standings tonight. Here are some links and notes to get us started:

  • Conor Foley wrote about OF Jake Cave, and the lower half mechanical changes he’s made in an effort to get the ball airborne more often. Cave’s ground ball rates from 2013-17: 51.2%, 49.2%, 57.1%, 45.8%, 43.6%. Hmmm. This is pretty interesting. At least now there’s reason to believe Cave has fundamentally changed as a hitter, and isn’t just the same guy having a good year.
  • RHP Deivi Garcia made this week’s Monday Morning Ten Pack (subs. req’d). “His fastball is already a plus offering, coming in at 91-93, with mild sink. His best offering at present is a 74-77 curveball that shows 10/4 shape with good downer action … The rosy projection is an intriguing starting pitcher, but the most likely outcome is a later-inning arm,” said the write-up.
  • OF Isiah Gilliam was named the Low-A South Atlantic League Offensive Player of the Week. He went 10-for-26 (.385) with four doubles and two home runs last week. Gilliam received an over-slot $550,000 bonus as the Yankees’ 20th round pick in 2015. He’s hitting .268/.343/.470 (133 wRC+) with 13 homers this year.
  • The Yankees have released OF Austin Aune, reports Matt Eddy. The Yankees bought Aune away from a football scholarship to TCU with a $1M bonus as their second round pick in 2012. He’s a career .226/.285/.335 (85 wRC+) hitter with a 36.8% strikeout rate in over 1,500 minor league plate appearances, none above High-A.

Triple-A Scranton (5-0 win over Gwinnett) they are 73-41 and have a 5.5 game lead in the North Division … their season ends Monday, September 4th

  • CF Mason Williams: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — he’s hitting .240/.288/.284 this season
  • RF Jake Cave: 2-5, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 2 K — got picked off second
  • 3B Miguel Andujar & 1B Ji-Man Choi: both 1-4, 1 K
  • DH Billy McKinney: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B
  • RHP Brady Lail: 4.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 2/4 GB/FB — 45 of 74 pitches were strikes (61%) … he started in place of Bryan Mitchell, who I assume is getting called up to replace Jordan Montgomery
  • RHP Jonathan Holder: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 13 of 18 pitches were strikes (72%)
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 17 of 29 pitches were strikes (59%)
  • RHP Ben Heller: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 0/1 GB/FB — nine of 15 pitches were strikes (60%) … 63/17 K/BB in 46 innings down here

[Read more…]

Monday Night Open Thread

Sad news to pass along: former Yankee Don Baylor passed away yesterday following a long battle with multiple Myeloma. He was 68. Baylor played 19 years in the big leagues from 1970-88 and was named AL MVP while with the Angels in 1979. He played for the Yankees from 1983-85 and was an All-Star for them in 1983 and 1985. After his playing days were over, Baylor coached and managed for several teams. He was the first manager in Rockies history, most notably. Our condolences go out to his family and friends.

* * *

Here is an open thread for the evening. Very light baseball schedule tonight. Only seven games. MLB Network will have a regional game at 7pm ET and ESPN will have the Cubs and Giants at 10pm ET. Talk about those games or anything else here, as long as it’s not politics or religion. Get that outta here.

(In case you missed it last week, I highly recommend checking out Ben Reiter’s incredible story on the life and death of Hideki Irabu.)

Jordan Montgomery was sent to Triple-A and that was the plan all along

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Following yesterday afternoon’s win the Yankees announced they’ve sent Jordan Montgomery down to Triple-A Scranton, which gets the team back to a normal five-man rotation. They haven’t announced who is coming up to replace him, but I’d bet on it being a boring eighth reliever. Maybe Bryan Mitchell so Adam Warren and Chad Green don’t have to throw mop-up innings? We’ll see.

The decision to send Montgomery down comes after a strong start against a very good Indians team. Montgomery held them to one run in five innings and needed only 65 pitches to do it. Joe Girardi pulled him because he said he felt it was time to go to his rested bullpen in a close game, so he did. And hey, it worked it. The bullpen put up zeroes for four innings and the Yankees won. They really needed that win.

Sending Montgomery down after such a strong performance tells us the Yankees planned to send him down all along. They used a six-man rotation last week to give everyone a little extra rest, but they don’t want to do it long-term, and Montgomery is the odd man out. He pitched well last time and Jaime Garcia didn’t, yet Garcia remains. Why? Because the Yankees don’t base decisions on one game or one start. I mean:

  • Montgomery since July 1st: 5.29 ERA (4.26 FIP) in seven starts and 34 innings
  • Garcia since July 1st: 4.88 ERA (2.47 FIP) in five starts and 31.1 innings

Montgomery was pretty terrible in July. He made six starts and could only get through five full innings three times. I assume that tough month was one reason the Yankees went out and got two starters at the trade deadline even though they only had one open rotation spot. Montgomery seemed to be hitting a bit of a rookie wall there. It’s okay. It happens.

Two things about this decision. One, it’s not permanent. Montgomery will be back soon enough. I’m guessing we’ll see him again before rosters expand on September 1st. Two, the Yankees need to keep Montgomery’s workload in check. (Luis Severino‘s too, and that’s why I think Montgomery will be back pretty soon.) Sending Montgomery to Triple-A makes it easier to space out his starts and cap him at five innings or whatever they want to do. Wins and losses don’t really matter down there.

Also, if you’re into such things, sending Montgomery down for at least ten days allows the Yankees to “buy” an extra year of control. Right now Montgomery is due to become a free agent at age 30 during the 2022-23 offseason. Ten days in the minors pushes that back to age 31 and the 2023-24 offseason. I don’t think that’s a big deal or motivation for the demotion at all. Buy the extra year for elite prospects. Everyone else isn’t worth the hassle.

Anyway, Montgomery was sent down and the Yankees will (presumably) give him a bit of a breather so he can be ready to help them down the stretch and into September. You know they’re going to need him. They were either going to have to find a way to keep him fresh and rested at the MLB level, which is hard to do, or they could do it in Triple-A. Garcia allows them to do it in Triple-A. There’s not much more to it than that.

A calm, rational discussion about Gary Sanchez’s defense

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Yesterday afternoon, for the second straight game, Gary Sanchez was not behind the plate for the Yankees. He started at designated hitter Saturday and did not play at all Sunday. Austin Romine caught the day game after the night game. Joe Girardi said Sanchez would catch Sunday after Saturday’s game, but nope, didn’t happen. “I really loved what Romine did,” said Girardi, explaining the change in plans.

Sanchez did not catch Saturday and Sunday for one reason and one reason only: his defense. He’s struggled blocking balls in the dirt all season and it all came to a head Friday night, when Sanchez didn’t stop a Jaime Garcia fastball and a run crossed the plate. Here’s the play:

That was Sanchez’s league leading 12th passed ball of the season. He missed about a month with the biceps injury earlier this season, remember. That’s 12 passed balls in 553.2 innings. Yasmani Grandal, the only other catcher with double-digit passed balls this year, has eleven in 708 innings. Sanchez is first in passed balls and 20th in innings caught. That’s not good.

Sanchez’s inability to consistently block blockable pitches is unquestionably a problem. I can’t imagine anyone will disagree. Is it enough of a problem that all of this was necessary? The back-to-back Romine starts, all the public comments, and taking Sanchez’s bat out of the lineup Sunday? I know the Yankees broke out for eight runs without Sanchez, but still. Let’s talk this all out.

1. Yes, this is a message. Prior to yesterday’s game Girardi insisted sitting Sanchez in favor of Romine was not a message. Here’s exactly what he said, via Andrew Marchand:

“The start is not the message,” Girardi said. “The message came from us verbally that, ‘Your defense needs to improve. That you need to get better. You need to work at it.’ We have stressed how important it is. There are certain situations that some people may not think that something that happens in the game affects the next game. It could if it leads to 10 extra pitches for a reliever.”

Come on. This was very clearly a message. You can talk to the player as much as possible and tell him whatever you want. Nothing will get a player’s attention quite like taking away his playing time. Girardi did not fall so in love with anything Romine did Saturday that he just had to put him in the lineup Sunday. Nope. Sitting Sanchez yesterday was a message, and that message was you need to be better defensively.

2. Is it possible the passed ball problems are being exaggerated? Like I said, Sanchez has allowed 12 passed balls in 553.2 innings this season. That’s one every 46.1 innings. One every five games plus one inning, or thereabouts. One a week, basically, when you factor in rest days and all that. Is one passed ball a week that huge a deal when a guy is hitting .265/.339/.488 (119 wRC+)? Eh, maybe it is.

The real problem isn’t 12 passed balls in 553.2 innings. It’s three passed balls in the last five games and five passed balls in the last 12 games. Sanchez committed only seven passed balls in his first 52 games, and now it’s five in the last 12 games. That’s making all this look worse than it really is. That’s probably not the right way to put it. Five passed balls in 12 games is a definite problem. Sanchez hasn’t been allowing them at that pace all season though.

Perhaps this is a fatigue issue? This is Sanchez’s first full season as a starting big league catcher, and while he’s caught full seasons in the minors before, it’s not really the same thing. There’s much more responsibility at this level. Add in the All-Star Game and the Home Run Derby and all that, and I’m guessing the body isn’t feeling as fresh these days as it usually does. Sanchez is only 24, but man, catching is brutal.

3. There’s more to catching than blocking balls. Defense stats in general are pretty sketchy, and that goes double for catcher defense stats. It’s hard to quantify what they actually do back there, especially when it comes to working with pitchers. Here, for the sake of discussion, is where Sanchez ranks among the 87 catchers to play a big league game this season in the various catcher defense metrics at Baseball Prospectus:

  • Framing: +4.0 runs (13th)
  • Blocking: -1.3 runs (80th)
  • Throwing: +0.8 runs (10th)
  • Total Fielding: +3.5 runs (15th)

Blocking pitches is the only thing Sanchez does poorly according to these stats, which may or may not be accurate. I don’t see how looking at these is any different than the pointing out Sanchez leads the league in baseball balls. The more information, the better. These are all tools in the shed. To call Sanchez a bad defensive catcher is unfair. He’s bad at blocking balls. He’s a quality framer and thrower and that stuff matters too.

4. Sanchez won’t improve on the bench. Let me make something crystal clear: Sanchez is the catcher of the present and the catcher of the future. He’s not moving to first base or designated hitter anytime soon. Great teams are strong up the middle and Sanchez is the man behind the plate. And that’s probably part of the reason these passed balls are so frustrating. You can’t help but want him to be that complete player right now.

That’s not really how it works though. Catching is very hard and pretty much every young catcher struggles with something. Most struggle offensively because they’re so focused on defense. Not everyone comes up and is an immediate two-way impact player like Buster Posey. Posey’s going to the Hall of Fame (yup) because there was no learning curve. He had instant success. Not everyone is so lucky.

Sanchez is not going to become that catcher of the future by sitting on the bench. He does all the drills with Tony Pena, arguably the best catching instructor in baseball, but nothing can replicate game action. You want Sanchez to be better at blocking balls in the dirt? Then you’ve got to put him in the game and make him block balls in the dirt. That’s the only way. If Girardi and the Yankees want Sanchez to improve, they can’t continue to bench him.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

5. Girardi went about this in the best way possible (probably). Think about how long this had to be brewing for Girardi to say what he said Friday — “He needs to improve. Bottom line, he needs to improve” — and to actually go through with benching Sanchez on Sunday. Girardi is very protective of his players. He typically defends them even when they aren’t worth defending.

We saw Girardi pull Sanchez aside in Chicago a few weeks ago, when he let a Masahiro Tanaka splitter get through his legs. I can only imagine the conversations we haven’t seen. This has been going on for a while now and Girardi finally decided enough was enough, it’s time for tough love. Words aren’t working so it’s time to send a message the most effective way a manager can send a message, and that’s by taking away playing time.

Girardi said what he had to say Friday. He let Sanchez serve as the DH on Saturday, then sat him out entirely on Sunday. There’s an off-day today, so that’s three straight days away from catching for Sanchez. Three days away from catching but only one game completely on the bench. It gets Sanchez away from catching long enough to drive home the “you need to be better” point without hurting the team that much.

* * *

The Yankees and Girardi know Sanchez better than anyone. They know when to be gentle with him and they know when to be tough. The passed ball problems have become extreme of late — again, three in his last five games and five in his last 12 games — and they couldn’t go unaddressed any longer. No one actually thinks the Yankees are a better team with Romine behind the plate, right? I mean:

  • Pitchers with Sanchez: 3.48 ERA (3.43 FIP) with 25.8% strikeouts and 7.2% walks
  • Pitchers with Romine: 4.22 ERA (4.02 FIP) with 24.1% strikeouts and 8.7% walks

If the pitchers prefer throwing to Romine, it isn’t showing up in the stats. Are they more comfortable bouncing a two-strike breaking ball with Romine behind the plate? Yeah, probably. Do they enjoy having a great hitter at the catcher position and getting all that run support? You bet they do. Literally the only thing Romine does better than Sanchez is block balls in the dirt. The numbers say Sanchez is a better framer and thrower, and I’m pretty sure he could out-hit Romine one-handed.

The Yankees are going to continue to work with Sanchez to improve his defense, and, truth be told, he’s already worked really hard to get to where he is today. Sanchez was not a great defender when he signed as a teenager. He was never Jesus Montero bad, but he was bad. Now he’s not so bad, recent passed ball issues notwithstanding. Sanchez is a core player for the Yankees going forward and the Yankees are going to spend a lot of time and energy helping him get better. The benching this weekend was a timeout intended to remind Gary he can be better, not a sign his days at catcher are numbered.

Yankeemetrics: Two up, two down in Cleveland (Aug. 3-6)

(AP)
(AP)

Sorry, Sonny
Thursday’s series opener in Cleveland — a sloppy and frustrating 5-1 loss — was definitely not the ideal way to welcome Sonny Gray to the New York Yankees franchise.

Four batters into the game and the Yankees had already committed three errors behind Gray and the Yankees were quickly in a 2-0 hole. Whoops. It was the first time the Yankees committed three errors in any inning since October 2, 2010 against the Red Sox.

For Gray, this was a recurring nightmare that he thought had ended when he left Oakland, which leads the league in errors. Instead, he now has 13 unearned runs allowed on his ledger, tied with Derek Holland for the most in the majors through Thursday.

Gray pitched well as the Yankee gloves failed behind him, showing his toughness in pitching out of jams and limiting the damage on the scoreboard. He finished with two earned runs allowed on four hits in six innings, and for that solid effort, gets our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Series:

Gray is the first pitcher in nearly 60 years to post those numbers or better (at least 6 innings, 2 earned runs or fewer, 4 hits or fewer) in his debut with the Yankees — and lose. The last guy to be this unlucky was Duke Maas in 1958. Maas (no relation to Kevin, I think) was traded by the A’s to the Yankees in mid-June, and then made his pinstriped debut as the starter in a 1-0 loss to the Tigers on June 21.

The Yankees bats also provided little offensive support as they were dominated by Corey Kluber, who tossed an 11-strikeout, three-hit complete game while giving up one run. That was his fourth straight start with at least eight strikeouts and one earned run or fewer allowed against the Yankees, the longest such streak ever by any pitcher against the Yankees.

(AP)
(AP)

Bad News Bombers
It was deja vu all over again on Friday night for the Yankees, as the mistakes in the field piled up and their offense remained in a miserable slump, resulting in another disappointing loss.

The “star” of the defensive lowlights was Gary Sanchez, who had his 12th passed ball of the season, the most in the majors despite the fact that he missed nearly a month of games in April and early May. He also has 10 errors, the second-most among catchers through Friday.

While the Yankees could barely touch Kluber’s stuff on Thursday, they put plenty of runners on base against Trevor Bauer and the Indians bullpen, but repeatedly failed to cash in on those chances. For the 15th time this season, they outhit their opponent (11-8) but still lost; only the Blue Jays (16) and White Sox (21) had suffered more losses in games when out-hitting their opponents through Friday.

Jaime Garcia contributed to the miserable night with a mediocre outing. He coughed up six runs in 4⅔ innings and couldn’t find the strike zone (four walks, one wild pitch), earning himself this #NotFunFact:

He’s one of just seven players in the Live Ball Era (since 1920) to allow that many runs, not get out of the fifth inning and walk at least four batters in his Yankee debut. The most recent guy to do it was CC Sabathia on Opening Day 2009 … okay? And the others are Tim Redding (2005), Bob Wiesler (1951), Fred Sanford (1949) and Karl Drews (1946).

(AP)
(AP)

Chase “Hero” Headley
While the bats remained silent on Saturday, the defense was outstanding and the Yankees got a stellar effort from Jordan Montgomery to survive a 2-1 nail-biter in Cleveland.

It was perhaps one of the team’s most unlikely wins, given how dominant Danny Salazar and the rest of the Indians pitchers were against a feeble Yankee lineup. They struck out 15 times, were on base just nine times and scored only two runs. In the last 100 years, no Yankee team had ever won a game with that many strikeouts, fewer than 10 baserunners and no more than two runs scored … before Saturday.

Montgomery was terrific, allowing one run on three hits in five innings, and making a strong statement that he should be a key part of the rotation down the stretch (which is now a hot topic for us banter about after he was optioned to Triple-A following Sunday’s game). Although Monty rarely dazzles like a Severino or Pineda, he consistently puts up solid numbers and keeps the Yankees in the game while he’s on the mound.

Consider this stat: Saturday was the 16th time this season that he held the opponent to three runs or fewer. Only five other Yankee pitchers have done that within their first 21 career games: Dave Righetti, Doc Medich, Masahiro Tanaka, Mel Stottlemyre and Spec Shea.

Chase Headley rescued the Yankees from another depressing loss when he belted a tie-breaking home run in the top of the eighth inning. Headley, who has quietly been one of the best hitters in the league since the All-Star break deserves a #FunFact for his heroics on Saturday: He is just the third Yankee first baseman in the last four decades with a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning or later against the Indians – Jason Giambi (2005) and Don Mattingly (1984 and 1986) are the others.

(AP)
(AP)

#Sevy4MVP
Finally … the Bronx Bombers are back. The Yankees offense, which had been M.I.A. for the past week, exploded for eight runs on Sunday, more than they had scored in their previous five games combined. But it was the brilliant pitching of Luis Severino and a shutdown performance by the Yankee bullpen that truly shined in the 8-1 win.

It was the fourth game this year that the pitching staff allowed no more than three baserunners. The last time a Yankees team did that? 1929!

Sevy, the undisputed ace of the 2017 staff, cemented his status as a no-doubt Cy Young contender with another lights-out performance: two hits, one run, nine strikeouts over 6⅔ dominant innings. I think this is a good list to be on:

He also became the first Yankee pitcher in more than 20 years to beat the Indians in Cleveland while holding them to no more than two hits. The last guy to do it? David Cone in the 1996 opener … and we know how that season ended.

Severino’s effort would have been another wasted gem in a deflating loss if not for the team’s offensive explosion in the sixth and seventh innings. The five-run sixth was sparked by the most unlikely source, a bases-loaded triple off the bat of Jacoby Ellsbury. The struggling lefty entered the day hitting .163 with runners in scoring position, the sixth-lowest batting average among AL players (min. 50 PA).

The three-run seventh, on the other hand, was powered by a much more familiar name — Mr. Aaron Judge — who smoked a 94 mph fastball into the rightfield seats for his 35th homer of the season. And, of course, with that blast, Judge etched his name in the baseball record books once again: He is the only rookie outfielder in major-league history with at least 35 homers and 75 walks in a season.

Fan Confidence Poll: August 7th, 2017

Record Last Week: 3-4 (23 RS, 23 RA)
Season Record: 59-51 (570 RS, 458 RA, 66-44 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, @ Blue Jays (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), vs. Red Sox (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

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