Baseball is weird, man. The Mets destroyed the Yankees and their pitching staff in the first two games of the Subway Series, scoring 21 runs in the two games at Yankee Stadium. Then, naturally, the Yankees shut their crosstown rivals out in the two games at Citi Field. Rookie starter Chase Whitley and three relievers followed Masahiro Tanaka‘s shutout with a combined shutout of their own on Thursday. The final score was 1-0.
One Run? That’s All You’ll Get And You’ll Like It
This game was a pitcher’s duel for the first 6+ innings. Whitley (more on him in a bit) and fellow rookie righty Jacob deGrom traded zeroes for a while, and it wasn’t until there were two outs in the seventh that the Yankees broke through. Mark Teixeira drew a one-out walk but was erased at second on Brian McCann‘s fielder’s choice. He beat out the would-be double play thanks to a poor relay throw from second. Alfonso Soriano made the Mets pay with a double into the left-center field gap, scoring McCann all the way from first base. He was huffing and puffing the whole way.
Aside from that rally, the only other time the Yankees put a runner at third base came in the eighth inning, when Derek Jeter grounded out weakly to short with the infield in. The runner was cut down at the plate. Kelly Johnson and Brett Gardner drew walks earlier in the inning and advanced on a wild pitch. deGrom retired eleven in a row at one point and looked very sharp in the middle innings. The Yankees had their hands full with the rookie hurler. He made basically one mistake pitch in that seventh inning and they pounced.
Based on the fact that he picked up his first career hit before allowing his first career hit, Whitley’s big league debut was a success. Throw in the fact that he held the Mets to two singles and two walks in 4.2 scoreless innings and I’d say it was a definite success. Despite his lack of experience as a starter, Whitley didn’t seem nervous on the mound and he filled the strike zone before tiring in the fifth inning. It was only the fourth scoreless MLB debut by a starter in team history and the first since Sam Militello in 1992. Yep.
I’m sure Joe Girardi was very tempted to let Whitley get the final out of that fifth inning, especially since the pitcher’s spot was due to lead off the next half-inning, but I thought he pulled him at just the right time. Whitley was starting to tire in that final inning (back-to-back walks) even though he threw only 74 pitches on the night — his season-high in Triple-A was 88 pitches two weeks ago, his only game over 78 pitches — and the most important thing is always winning the game. The bullpen bailed him out of the second-and-third jam and Whitley can spend the next few days feeling good about his debut.
All told, Whitely struck out four and got eight ground ball outs compared to only two in the air. The only hard hit ball was Lucas Duda’s fly out to the left-center field warning track to end the second inning. That’s it. The two hits were a ground ball through the right side and a bloop to center. Whitley was missing barrels, that’s for sure. Here’s hit pitch breakdown, courtesy of Brooks Baseball (PitchFX data may change overnight):
- 37 fastballs, 26 strikes, three whiffs, averaged 92.3 mph and topped out at 94.4
- 23 changeups, 10 strikes, four whiffs, averaged 84.8 and topped out at 87.9
- 14 sliders, seven strikes, three whiffs, averaged 86.8 and topped out at 88.8
The Yankees’ pitching staff is full of opportunity right now and I have to think Whitley will make another start in five days (six, really, because of an off-day). He’ll remain in the rotation almost by default. Whitley pitched very well though, especially considering he’s been a starting pitcher for basically two and a half months. He gave the Yankees a much needed shot in the arm — this was the first scoreless outing by one of the team’s non-Tanaka starters in four weeks, since Vidal Nuno in Tampa — and it was good to see someone come up from Triple-A and contribute right away for once.
Dellin Betances came into this game with a 41.3% strikeout rate (14.85 K/9) and left it with a 44.8% strikeout rate (15.72 K/9). The big man got a ground ball to third to escape Whitley’s jam in the fifth inning, then he tacked on another two scoreless innings. He struck out the side. Both times. Seven batters faced and six strikeouts, all in a row. Betances was overpowering. The Mets had no chance. David Robertson is awesome, but I can’t remember the last time the Yankees had a pitcher this dominant on an inning-by-inning basis. Maybe Mariano Rivera in 1996? Dellin’s awesome.
Adam Warren got the ball to start the eighth inning, and he ran into a little self-inflicted pickle by walking the reanimated corpse of Bobby Abreu with one out. Following an Eric Young Jr. strikeout, Daniel Murphy put runners on the corners with two outs by slapping a soft ground ball single inside the third base foul line. Girardi did what he said he would do a few days ago and went to Robertson for a four-out save, which was absolutely the right move. One-run game, runners on the corners, David Wright at the plate? Get your best reliever in there. Robertson coaxed a ground out from Wright and then tossed a 1-2-3 ninth for his seventh save. Girardi did a great job with the bullpen by going to Betances and Robertson in the biggest spots of the game.
According to the batted ball data at FanGraphs, Jeter hasn’t hit a ball in the air since last Wednesday, the final game of the series in Anaheim. He made four outs in three plate appearances in this game (lined softly back to the pitcher for a double play) and failed to get an insurance run in from third in the seventh inning when the runner was thrown out at home. Jeter was double-switched out of the game when Robertson was brought in, a move that would not have happened had the game been played in an AL. I wouldn’t expect this to be a regular thing. Either way, the Cap’n could probably use a day or two off this weekend.
Yangervis Solarte had really rough day, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout and two double plays. He killed a potential rally in the ninth with a double play and I thought Girardi should have challenged the call at first. It was very close and replays showed he probably out, but in that situation, just use the challenge and see if you get lucky. Maybe the umpire in Midtown sees it differently. I understand wanting to save the challenge for potential call in the bottom of the ninth (you could always “encourage” the umps to review a play in the ninth, as per the rulebook), but chances are you won’t need it and the rally could have been extended. Oh well.
The Yankees only had six hits on the night, including two by Soriano. Jacoby Ellsbury doubled, Teixeira single, McCann singled, and Whitley singled. Gardner drew two walks while Teixeira and Johnson drew one apiece. Zoilo Almonte struck out in his first at-bat of the season, which wasn’t surprising considering he was facing a lefty. He is a switch-hitter, but that doesn’t mean much. He had a .946 OPS against righties in Triple-A compared to a .392 OPS against lefties. Eek.
In addition to his 44.8% strikeout rate, Betances is now down to a 0.82 FIP on the season. The three relievers combined to strike out ten batters in 4.1 innings and they did not allow a ball to leave the infield in the air. Murphy’s single that stayed just fair as it rolled by third base was the only ball they allowed to leave the infield in general.
The Yankees continue the Yankee Stadium portion of the homestand with a three-game series against the Pirates this weekend. Edinson Volquez and David Phelps kick that one off on Friday night. Worst pitching matchup of the year? Possibly. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you want to catch any of the three games.
The High-A Tampa game is finally over following two lengthy rain delays and the post has been updated. Here are some notes:
- C Austin Romine was placed on the Triple-A DL, according to Donnie Collins. He left yesterday’s game with a hand injury. LHP Fred Lewis, meanwhile, was activated off the DL. He had been out with a blister issue.
- LHP Matt Tracy and RHP Eric Ruth have swapped places, according to Nick Peruffo. Tracy goes up to Triple-A Scranton and Ruth goes down to Double-A Trenton.
- Here’s a good article from Bill Ballew on OF Aaron Judge. He discussed why he went to college instead of turning pro out of high school, what he’s trying to improve, stuff like that.
Triple-A Scranton (7-1 loss to Lehigh Valley)
- SS Dean Anna: 0-4
- LF Adonis Garcia & CF Ramon Flores: both 1-4, 1 2B
- 3B Scott Sizemore: 0-3, 1 K
- 1B Kyle Roller: 1-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K — second homer in his last three games and eleven homers in 27 games this season
- RHP Shane Greene: 5 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 4/4 GB/FB — 55 of 84 pitches were strikes (65%)
- RHP Danny Burawa: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 4/0 GB/FB — half of his 30 pitches were strikes
- LHP Fred Lewis: 0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 0 K — eleven of 20 pitches were strikes (55%) … rough first game back
- RHP Mark Montgomery: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K — 13 of 19 pitches were strikes (68%) … 22/10 K/BB in 18.2 innings
Thanks to injuries to each team’s Opening Day starter, both the Yankees and Mets will have a pitcher make his MLB debut tonight. Righty Chase Whitley is filling in for CC Sabathia (knee) while fellow righty Jacob deGrom steps in for Dillon Gee (lat). Neither Whitley nor deGrom is a top prospect, but they have the potential to be useful big league arms in some capacity. Whitley only recently converted from reliever to starter, so it’ll be interesting to see how he handles turning over a big league lineup.
Via Bryan Hoch, Elias says this is the first time the Yankees have been involved in a game in which both starters were making their MLB debut since October 1908. They were still the Highlanders back then. That is kinda nuts. The Mets were involved in one of these games back in September 2010, when Gee made his debut against Yunesky Maya. That’s the last time two starters have made their debuts in the same game. It just so happened to include the Mets. Here is the Mets lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- C Brian McCann
- RF Alfonso Soriano
- 3B Yangervis Solarte
- 2B Brian Roberts
- RHP Chase Whitley
It is cloudy and cool in New York, and it was raining overnight and for a good chunk of the morning. There is no more rain in the forecast though, so they shouldn’t have any trouble getting this game in. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on both YES and SNY locally, as well as MLB Network nationally. Depending on where you live, of course. Enjoy the game.
Roster Moves: In case you missed it earlier, Carlos Beltran (elbow) has been placed on the 15-day DL. That cleared a 25-man roster spot for Whitley. The Yankees are back to a normal seven-man bullpen and four-man bench. Righty Bruce Billings was activated off the 15-day DL and designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot for Whitley, the team announced. He was out with a forearm strain.
Spencer Adams | RHP
Adams is from Cleveland, Georgia, a tiny little town in the northern part of the state. He plays three sports at White County High School and is a standout basketball player. There is video of him dunking all over YouTube. Adams is committed to Georgia, where he would play baseball only.
Listed at a projectable 6-foot-4 and 180 lbs., Adams is one of the very best athletes in the entire draft. He has a quick arm and usually sits in the low-90s with his fastball, occasionally touching 95. Adams throws three different offspeed pitches, but his tight low-80s slider is the best of the bunch and a potential out pitch. He also throws inconsistent curveballs and changeups. There is some effort in his delivery and Adams throws from a lower arm slot, so he’s not picture perfect on the mound. Whichever team drafts him will hope his high-end athleticism will lead to improved mechanics and command as he focuses exclusively on baseball.
Baseball America, MLB.com, and Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked Adams as the 24th, 27th, and 35th best prospect in the draft class, respectively. He came into the spring as more of a second round talent but has climbed draft boards in recent weeks. I’ve become kinda obsessed with athletic pitchers after reading this article about the Cardinals’ scouting and development strategies, but the Yankees will need some luck if they want Adams to fall to their top pick, 55th overall. He has all the look of a guy who will come out of college as a potential top three overall pick in three years.
4:17pm: The Yankees have indeed placed Beltran on the 15-day DL, the team announced. “I’m getting better, but not to the point where I can swing the bat 100%,” he said. A decision about surgery will be made at the end of the DL stint. It would sideline him for 6-8 weeks.
3:51pm: It appears the Yankees have placed Carlos Beltran on the disabled list. He is not listed on today’s lineup card, which is usually a very good indication of a demotion or DL stint. Obviously he’s not going to the minors, so DL it is. Beltran is currently out with a bone spur in his elbow that may require surgery. We’ll find out more before tonight’s game, so stay tuned for updates. · (88) ·
I have this buddy — most of you probably know him — who IMs me at least once a week clamoring for the Yankees to sign Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales.
Drew we know makes some level of sense. The Yankees still need some infield help. Despite his relative health so far, and his improving performance, they can’t ignore the injury risk of Brian Roberts. Fun as he’s been to watch, Yangervis Solarte could go away at any time. The Yankees can’t really afford that kind of drop-off at this point.
Once they signed Carlos Beltran, Morales didn’t make sense for the Yanks. They had Mark Teixeira installed at first base, and with four outfielders they had their DH needs covered. There just weren’t enough at-bats for a guy who certainly deserves them. There was always the “if Mark Teixeira misses significant time” caveat, but other than that there wasn’t much connection between Morales and the Yankees.
Beltran’s injury changes the scene a bit. If he does require immediate surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow, the Yankees have room to add a bat. With two MLB players waiting for a team to sign them, the Yankees have a perfect opportunity to improve.
Morales: DH and spelling Teixeira
The Yankees need a healthy Teixeira if they’re going to make a run at the postseason. They’ve already missed him for two weeks. To lose him again, especially with Beltran out, would further cripple the offense. We got a little scare earlier this week, when Teixeira sat out a game and complaining of tired legs. He ran poorly, even for himself, during the weekend series in Milwaukee.
Adding Morales gives Girardi a viable backup for Teixeira. Playing Morales at first allows Teixeira to take a full day off, or to rest up a bit at DH. Kelly Johnson could do that, sure, but what happens if Roberts gets hurt? Johnson can’t play the entire right side of the infield.
Morales’s primary role would be at DH, with Alfonso Soriano taking over in right field. His arm might not be fit for the job, but he’s shown considerably more range than Beltran this season. It’s a trade-off that the Yankees will have to take. They can still get Soriano days at DH and on the bench, as he’s been doing all year. That will free up some at-bats for Ichiro as well.
Drew: Mitigating Jeter
The rise of Solarte has made the Yankees infield a bit better than we anticipated going into the season. Unfortunately, Jeter’s defense has been even worse than imagined. The pitching staff has had its troubles, and it’s tough to blame the entire problem on shaky infield defense, but it sure hasn’t helped them. Drew is no defensive wizard, but he represents an upgrade over the current corps.
Signing Drew only works if Girardi makes Jeter the primary DH in Beltran’s absence. Perhaps Jeter can stay fresher if he’s off the field, providing a bit more offense than he is now. Drew plays his natural position, at which his bat provides the most value.
Given the state of the Yankees infield, there doesn’t need to be a very strong case made for Drew. He’d help.
What about pitching?
With three-fifths of the Opening Day rotation on the DL, the Yankees might need some pitching help. We know Ivan Nova is lost for the season. Who knows if CC Sabathia, with a degenerative knee condition, or Michael Pineda, with an injury so close to his surgically repaired right shoulder will come back — let alone come back and pitch effectively. If the Yankees are going to open their wallets, shouldn’t it aid the pitching staff?
In an ideal world, sure. But in the real world, there aren’t any major league caliber pitchers on the free agent market. A few might become available in July, but the Yankees can’t count on that. They have to take measures to improve the team where they can when the opportunities arise. Right now, the opportunities lie in Drew and Morales.
There is little to no chance the Yankees sign both, giving up their second- and third-round draft picks in the process. (Unless Boras comes up with one of his creative package deals, a la Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez.) Either could help the Yankees if Beltran misses significant time. Strangely enough, it might even make them a more balanced team in the process.
The Yankees had a very position player heavy farm system coming into the season. In my stupid little Preseason Top 30 Prospects List, their top six and ten of their top 14 prospects were position players. Two of the four pitchers in the top 14 are with Low-A Charleston and another is an injury prone Triple-A reliever. The other is lefty Manny Banuelos, who was the team’s top prospect as recently as 2012.
Banuelos hurt his elbow twice during that 2012 season — first he suffered a bone bruise, then he tore his UCL during the rehab and needed Tommy John surgery — and he did not pitch at all last year. Banuelos missed close to two full seasons due to the injuries but he is fully healthy now and back pitching in the minors. Last night’s two-out, three-walk outing was a disaster, but overall he has 23 strikeouts and eight walks in 22.1 innings this year, which is pretty good following elbow reconstruction.
The Yankees have limited Banuelos to short, three-inning outings for the most part. Considering there is a lot of talk right now about the recent rash of second Tommy John surgeries (Jarrod Parker, Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, Cory Luebke, Daniel Hudson, etc.) stemming from teams and players being too aggressive during the first Tommy John surgery rehab process, I’m glad the Yankees are taking it slow with Banuelos. Here is his game log:
|1||2014-04-03||Tampa Yankees||@||Lakeland Flying Tigers||3.0||0||0||0||1||3||0||0||10|
|2||2014-04-08||Tampa Yankees||@||Clearwater Threshers||3.0||4||0||0||0||2||0||1||14|
|3||2014-04-13||Tampa Yankees||Daytona Cubs||3.0||0||0||0||0||6||0||0||9|
|4||2014-04-19||Tampa Yankees||@||Daytona Cubs||0.2||5||4||4||0||1||0||0||7|
|5||2014-04-24||Tampa Yankees||@||Lakeland Flying Tigers||3.0||1||0||0||1||2||0||0||10|
|6||2014-04-29||Trenton Thunder||@||New Hampshire Fisher Cats||3.0||2||0||0||0||4||0||0||11||40||29|
|7||2014-05-04||Trenton Thunder||Richmond Flying Squirrels||3.0||2||2||2||1||3||1||1||13||58||35|
|8||2014-05-09||Trenton Thunder||Reading Fightin Phils||3.0||3||2||2||2||2||0||0||13||48||31|
|9||2014-05-14||Trenton Thunder||Erie SeaWolves||0.2||2||2||2||3||0||0||0||7||33||17|
Banuelos was scheduled to work three innings in that April 19th start but got knocked out early because his pitch count was getting out of control. The same thing happened last night, though according to Nick Peruffo, Banuelos was scheduled to throw four innings for the first time this season. (He was scheduled to throw innings five through eight following Bryan Mitchell, who started and is working his way back from his own elbow injury.)
The Yankees took it very easy on Banuelos for the first five or so weeks of the season but now they are beginning to stretch him out. I’m sure he’ll throw four innings a handful of times before progressing up to five innings and eventually six. Obviously they’re doing this because of the elbow surgery, but that’s not the only reason. Banuelos is on some unknown innings limit this year and the Yankees want to make sure there are plenty available later in the season so he could help the big league team down the stretch.
“He’ll increase (the length of his outings) over the course of the year,” said VP of Baseball Ops Marks Newman to Chad Jennings recently. “We don’t want to cut back at the end of the year. You never know, if he makes great progress, maybe he’s a Major League option (at some point). We don’t want to run out of innings by September 1st or August 1st … We’re going to make sure we have enough innings left at the end of the year.”
The idea of taking it easy early in the season so there are plenty of innings left later in the year always makes me a little nervous because Banuelos could get hurt at some point — not necessarily re-injure the elbow, he could roll an ankle covering first base or something — and then he falls short of his prescribed innings total, leaving everyone stuck doing this again next year. I usually like getting the innings in early and shutting the guy down in the second half, especially prospects. That said, Banuelos is returning from a long layoff and major surgery, so I’m more than fine with it in this situation. That he might be in position to help the MLB squad in the second half is just a bonus.
Banuelos was said to be very advanced for his age — he just turned 23 in March even though it feels like he’s been around forever — before the injury but he was not big league ready, pitching to a 4.32 ERA (~3.88 FIP) with a 10.9% walk rate and a 1.83 K/BB ratio in 58.1 Triple-A innings before getting hurt. He had a 2.89 ERA (~3.45 FIP) with a 9.0% walk rate and a 2.73 K/BB ratio in 311 combined minor league innings before getting to Triple-A, so his trademark command had deserted him a bit. That’s one of the things he will need to iron out in the coming weeks before becoming a legitimate big league option.
The good thing is that Banuelos’ stuff has returned following elbow surgery, which is something we take for granted at times. Baseball America ranked him as the team’s 11th best prospect before the season and noted he was sitting “at 93-94 in simulated games last fall” in their Prospect Handbook, plus we saw him throw both his changeup and curveball in Spring Training. Harnessing that stuff is his biggest issue and that’s where the injury really hurts. It’s a lot of lost development time. He has to make up for a lot of lost innings.
Most importantly, Banuelos is healthy. He’s healthy and he’s pitching, something he wasn’t able to do for nearly two years. (Sunday is the two-year anniversary of the last time he pitched before this season.) Helping the Yankees later this season would be some major icing on the cake and I don’t think the team should be counting on him as anything more than a token September call-up. I know the big league staff is a bit of a wreck and the carrot has been dangled, but right now Banuelos should be focused on improving his command, getting innings under his belt, and putting himself in position to make the 2015 team. It looks like he is very much back on track following the elbow problems. It’s exactly what the Yankees wanted and needed to see from him this year.
It’s only Mid-May, but the Yankees have already used seven different starters — all of them have made multiple starts too — this season. They will use their eighth starter tonight, when right-hander Chase Whitley makes his big league debut in the Subway Series finale. It remains to be seen how the Yankees will make room for him on the 40-man roster (Bruce Billings to the 60-day DL?), but Joe Girardi already confirmed he will get the start. It’ll happen somehow.
If you had told me about a year ago the 24-year-old Whitley would make his Major League debut as a starting pitching pitcher, I would have thought you were nuts. He was a reliever all through college — Whitley was actually more highly regarded as a hitter at Southern Union State Community College before focusing on pitching full-time during his junior season at Troy — and 135 of his first 138 pro appearances came as a reliever. The three starts were just spot starts in doubleheaders, nothing fancy.
Whitley made five starts for Triple-A Scranton at the end of last season out of necessity; they simply had no one else to start due to injuries and call-ups late in the year. He managed a 1.64 ERA with 18 strikeouts and five walks in 22 innings in those five starts, and impressed enough that the Yankees gave him another chance to start in 2014. In six starts this year, Whitley has a 1.61 ERA with 28 strikeouts and six walks in 22.1 innings. That put him on the map for a call up.
The move into the rotation worked (at least so far) because Whitley was not your typical bullpen prospect. Guys like Mark Montgomery and Danny Burawa are two-pitch pitchers with nasty breaking balls. That’s not Whitley. I ranked him as the team’s 25th best prospect before last season and here’s part of what I wrote:
A three-pitch reliever who isn’t a blow-you-away type, Whitley lives in the low-90s with his fastball and backs it up with both a slider and changeup. His control is fine and his delivery creates some deception. He doesn’t offer the same kind of exciting, shutdown reliever potential as some other players on this list, but Whitley is a big and physical — listed at 6-foot-3 and 215 lbs. — right-hander who throws strikes and works both sides of the plate. He’ll pitch in the big leagues at some point as long as he stays healthy, possibly before the All-Star break.
My timetable was off, but hey, Whitley is a big leaguer. Baseball America ranked him as the club’s 29th best prospect before the 2012 season and said “both his changeup and slider are plus pitches at their best” in their Prospect Handbook. Whitley has a weapon for righties (slider) and a weapon for lefties (changeup), plus there’s a little funk in his delivery. (He pitches from the stretch exclusively from what I understand.) Here’s some video from earlier this month in which you can see all three pitches in action:
Because he’s only been a starter for a few months, it’s really tough to know what to expect out of Whitley tonight. There’s no track record. I thought he was going to be a good middle reliever and now he’s in the rotation. It’s weird. Whitley was passed over in the Rule 5 Draft this past offseason, which is an indication of how the rest of the league views him. If he succeeds as a starter, even temporarily, it will be quite an accomplishment on his part and a big developmental win for the Yankees. We’re talking about a former 15th round pick here.
Yesterday we learned CC Sabathia has a “degenerative change” in his twice surgically repaired right knee and I don’t know what that means, but I know it sounds scary. He could be out longer than the minimum 15 days. Vidal Nuno has gotten roughed up in three of his five starts (and four of his last six appearances overall) and David Phelps has had one good start and one bad start so far. Hiroki Kuroda‘s been inconsistent at best and very ineffective at worst. The non-Masahiro Tanaka portion of the rotation is a mess right now.
That mess of a rotation is the opportunity of a lifetime for Whitley. The bar has been set quite low and he won’t have to do much to stick with the big league team. A good start tonight means he’ll get another one, almost guaranteed, and stringing a few good starts together means he’ll stick around for a while, even if it is only as a long reliever. The pitching staff is the land of opportunity right now. Whitley was in his third straight year at Triple-A and facing a stalled out career a few days ago. Now he has a change to help the Yankees win games and help himself secure a big league roster spot.
No matter how long the losing streak gets and no matter how much the other starters get knocked around, every fifth day there is Masahiro Tanaka to make things right. The Yankees ace chucked his first career MLB shutout on Wednesday night, carrying his team to a 4-0 win over the Mets. It was their first Subway Series win since 2012. I’m taking about an individual game, not the whole season series.
The Yankees have won five games in the month of May and Tanaka has been on the mound for three of them. He was in total control on Wednesday, basically playing a game of catch with catcher Brian McCann and having his way with opposing hitters all night. Tanaka allowed three singles and one double in his nine scoreless innings, striking out eight and generating 22 swings and misses out of 114 low-stress pitches. He face the minimum three hitters in six of nine innings and only faced four batters in the other three innings.
The Mets did not have a runner reach third base against Tanaka and only two made it as far as second. Tanaka threw a first pitch strike to 21 of 30 batters and only went to three three-ball counts all night. By Game Score (87), this was the best pitched game by a Yankees starter since … Tanaka last month. He also had an 87 Game Score in that game against the Cubs (8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 10 K). Tanaka is the first Yankee with two 87+ Game Scores in a single season since Mike Mussina in 2002. It’s only May.
And just because what he did on the mound wasn’t enough, Tanaka slapped a ground ball single back up the middle for his first career MLB hit in the ninth inning. You know a pitcher has done his job when he get four at-bats in a game. Tanaka was masterful, putting hitters away with every pitch in his arsenal — he got a swing-and-miss with five different pitches and at least six whiffs with three different pitches (four-seamer, splitter, slider) according to Brooks Baseball — and never once ran into trouble. This guy is in total control when he’s on the mound. It’s a blast to watch.
One Run, Four Times
The Yankees built something of a picket fence in the middle innings, scoring one run in each of the second, fourth, sixth, and seventh innings. The first run scored because Mets left fielder Eric Young Jr. made the bone-headed decision to dive for a soft line drive, only to fall short and watch the ball scoot by him for a Brian Roberts triple. Yangervis Solarte drew a walk before that and came around to score. There were two outs in the inning and Tanaka was due to hit. Why in the world is he diving? Whatever.
The second and third runs were pretty straight forward: Solarte jumped all over a 3-1 fastball for his fourth homer — if he starts regularly hitting dingers, oh boy — and Mark Teixeira yanked a 1-0 pitch out into the bullpen for his team-leading eighth homer. Solarte’s was a annihilated and he hit it with style too, dropping to one knee a la Adrian Beltre. Here is the requisite GIF:
The Yankees scored their fourth run with two hits that traveled maybe 100 feet combined. Brett Gardner beat out an infield single to second base, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on Derek Jeter‘s chopper out in front of the plate. The throw pulled first baseman Lucas Duda off the bag and Jeter was safe, which was good because they were two outs in the inning. I wonder if Joe Girardi would have gone to David Robertson in the ninth inning if the score was 3-0 instead of 4-0? I guess we’ll never know.
The Yankees had at least one man on base in seven of nine innings and really worked rookie right-hander Rafael Montero hard early on. He threw 69 pitches in the first three innings — at one point he and Tuesday’s starter Zack Wheeler had combined to throw 187 pitches to get 22 outs — and wound up throwing 108 pitches in six innings. He faced 25 hitters and had to throw at least four pitches to 14 of them. The Yankees really wore Montero down in his MLB debut. They have now scored at least four runs in each of their last eight games, their longest such streak since doing it in 12 straight back in July 2012.
Roberts went 2-for-4 with two triples, the first two-triple game of his career. He was pretty awesome and fast back in the day. I figured he would have had two triples in one game at some point, but I guess not. It’s the first two-triple game by a Yankee since Curtis Granderson in 2010. Gardner had two more hits and is 22-for-62 (.355) in his last 16 games. Jeter (single), Teixeira (homer), Solarte (homer), and Tanaka (single) had the other hits while Jacoby Ellsbury and Solarte drew walks.
The daily defensive miscue did not come back to bite the Yankees on Wednesday. In the bottom of the first, as he was trotting out to shallow right field for the shift, Solarte got caught with his back to infield and Daniel Murphy stole second base uncontested. The Mets tried it again in the fifth inning, but Solarte was paying attention and he got to the bag in time to receive the throw and tag out Chris Young.
And finally, Tanaka is pretty awesome. I just needed to say that again. I’m sure you understand.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and video highlights, go to MLB.com. For some additional stats, go to FanGraphs. For the updated standings, go to ESPN. The Yankees have lost nine of their last 14 games are still a half-game back of the Orioles for the division lead. The AL East sucks this year.
The Yankees and Mets wrap up the 2014 Subway Series on Thursday night at Citi Field. The starters — Chase Whitley and Jacob deGrom — will both be making their MLB debuts. It will be the first time two starters make their big league debut in one game since September 2010 (Dillon Gee and Yunesky Maya) according to @BRefPlayIndex. Neat. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch the game live.
OF Slade Heathcott (knee) will be activated off the disabled list by Double-A Trenton tomorrow, according to Matt Kardos. Hooray for that. Also, in today’s Minor League Roundup, Josh Norris notes RHP Luis Severino ran his fastball up to 99 mph during last night’s outing.
Triple-A Scranton (3-2 loss to Lehigh Valley)
- 2B Scott Sizemore: 0-3, 1 RBI
- SS Dean Anna: 0-4, 1 K
- CF Adonis Garcia: 2-4, 1 R, 1 3B — 20-44 (.455) during his eleven-game hitting streak
- 1B Kyle Roller: 1-4, 2 K
- C Austin Romine: 1-2 — left the game in the sixth inning with an injured hand … not sure if it was a foul tip or what, but hopefully he’s okay
- RHP Joel De La Cruz: 7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 15/5 GB/FB — 59 of 90 pitches were strikes (66%) … 69/20 K/BB this season (3.45)
- RHP Branden Pinder: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 0/1 GB/FB – ten of 13 pitches were strikes (77%) … 21/2 K/BB in 20 total innings this season