Sunday Open Thread

I missed this yesterday, but make sure you check out Joe Posnanski on the rise of the Yankees. It is still ridiculously early in the season, and I know today’s loss was stupid, but I it’s tough not to feel like this Yankees team is different than the 2013-16 teams. There’s a very different vibe around the club and, most importantly, they’re playing much better on the field. On both sides of the ball. They’re fun and they’re exciting.

Anyway, here is an open thread for the rest of the weekend. The Cubs and Red Sox are the ESPN Sunday Night Game (Hendricks vs. Rodriguez), plus you’ve got some NBA and NHL playoff games on as well. Talk about those games, the Posnanki article, this afternoon’s loss, or anything else right here. Just not politics or religion. Thanks in advance.

Rangers claim Pete Kozma off waivers from Yankees

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier today the Rangers claimed Pete Kozma off waivers from the Yankees, the team announced. Kozma was designated for assignment Friday when Didi Gregorius returned from the disabled list. Texas needed a backup infielder, apparently.

Kozma, 29, went 1-for-9 (.111) at the plate and played 34 innings in the field, all but one at shortstop, during his short time in pinstripes. He was on the roster as the backup infielder while Gregorius was on the disabled list and that’s pretty much it. That was the only reason he was around.

With Kozma gone and Donovan Solano out long-term with a calf injury in Triple-A, the Yankees lost some infield depth this week. They still have Tyler Wade and Ruben Tejada in Triple-A, plus Rob Refsnyder as well, so maybe it’s not a big deal.

Game 23: Finish the Sweep

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

So the last two games have gone well, eh? The last four games, really, but especially the last two. The Yankees have punished the Orioles so much the last two days that Baltimore had to send out two relievers (Jayson Aquino and ex-Yankee Vidal Nuno) and call up two others (Logan Verrett and ex-Yankee Richard Bleier) just to make sure the bullpen was fresh today. Allowing 26 runs in the span of 24 hours will do that to a team.

This afternoon’s series finale is a chance to clinch the series sweep over the O’s and gosh, that sure would be fun. The Yankees have not swept the Orioles since a three-game set at Yankee Stadium in July 2015. They are 13-17 against Baltimore since then, and that includes the last two games. The series win has been clinched. Now it’s time to get greedy and start padding that lead in the AL East. Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 1B Chris Carter
  9. C Kyle Higashioka
    LHP Jordan Montgomery

It is cool and cloudy in New York this afternoon. Not the most pleasant baseball weather, but plenty playable. This afternoon’s series finale will begin a little after 1pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

A Funny Thing Happened

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

It wasn’t supposed to go like this. The Yankees were supposed to be more fun to watch this year with a trio of young, exciting hitters in the lineup and a high-upside starter in the rotation. Then the starting shortstop got hurt. Then one of the trio got hurt. Then one of the trio started off the year terribly. But a funny thing happened: the fun kept coming and the Yankees began…winning?

If we told you that the Yankees would literally miss Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez for pretty much the entire month of April and that Greg Bird would do, well, what Greg Bird has “done” in April, there’s no way you’d be able to guess that the Yankees would end the season’s first month with the league’s best record and run differential. Regardless, that’s the case and it is just downright awesome.

As many have said and written and noted, the last few years of watching the Yankees have, at times, felt like a chore. They were okay, but not really good. And while it was still baseball and thus fun to us, there was something missing. Something ineffable and indescribable that made the nightly ritual seem a bit a of a slog.┬áNow, each night at 7, we have something to look forward to that will actually engage, energize, and excite us in ways we’re not really used to as Yankees fans.

Sure, we’re used to winning, used to being at the top–even if the team hasn’t been that of late–but seeing a young group lead the team is a distant memory for fans of my generation, who may have been just a touch too young to really get what was going on in the mid-late 90’s, despite enjoying all the winning.

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

Given what we know about baseball and about this specific team, there’s going to be an instinct inside of us to wait for the shoe to drop. That shoe is probably going to drop soon–despite how it’s gone, it’s hard to imagine this team keeping this up all year–but we should remember to live in the moment for this team. Let’s keep enjoying the hell out of every Judge home run. Let’s keep getting pumped for every Severino strikeout. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for Greg Bird and welcome back Gary and Didi.

Speaking of Gary and Didi, I want to end this on something I noticed during yesterday’s game. After Judge’s home run, he was sitting atop the bench, flanked on his right by Sanchez and on his left by Didi. They were talking, presumably about the homer or the game, and just…laughing. This belies my ‘stay in the moment’ sentiment, but I could go for about ten more years of those three guys laughing and buddying it up in the dugout after big homers and big outs. That moment encapsulated the feeling of this season so far: fun. Who knows what’s coming today and after as we turn the calendar to May, but this April ride has been absolutely fantastic. Indeed, a funny thing happened on the way to a rebuild.

 

DotF: Gleyber’s huge game helps Trenton to a win

A couple roster notes before we get to a fun night in the farm system:

  • OF Jake Cave has been activated off the Triple-A Scranton disabled list and sent down to Double-A Trenton, according to Shane Hennigan. He had arthroscopic knee surgery over the winter. Cave hit .261/.323/.401 (106 wRC+) with the RailRiders last year, but there’s simply no room for him at that level right now.
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen was activated off the disabled list and RHP Colten Brewer was added to the Double-A Trenton roster, according to Matt Kardos. Feyereisen missed two weeks with a shoulder issue. Brewer was sent from High-A Tampa to Extended Spring Training yesterday, which seemed weird. Turns out it was only a paper move.
  • The Yankees have released LHP Evan Rutckyj and RHP Kyle Haynes, reports Kardos. These moves clear roster spots for Feyereisen and Brewer. I’m sure Rutckyj will hook on somewhere else quickly seeing how he’s left-handed and breathing. Haynes came over from the Pirates in the Chris Stewart trade a few years back.
  • RHP Ronald Herrera will be activated off the Double-A disabled list tomorrow, according to Kardos. He’s been out since Spring Training with a shoulder issue. Also, in addition to 3B Miguel Andujar working out at first base, SS Thairo Estrada will see time in the outfield, Trenton manager Bobby Mitchell told Kardos.

Triple-A Scranton (8-5 loss to Indianapolis) prevented the system sweep … lame!

  • 3B Tyler Wade: 1-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SS — Shane Hennigan says Wade made a great diving stop … this is his first game of the season at the hot corner … he only had two games and 7.2 career innings at the position prior to today
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 2-5, 1 RBI, 1 E (throwing) — 15-for-44 (.341) with five walks and seven strikeouts in his last eleven games, so he’s shaken off the slow start nicely
  • RF Clint Frazier: 1-5, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • 1B Rob Refsnyder: 1-4, 1 BB, 1 K
  • RHP Brady Lail: 7 IP, 12 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 9/8 GB/FB — 67 of 95 pitches were strikes (71%) … has a 5.10 ERA in 151.2 career innings at Triple-A and a 3.00 ERA in 354.1 career innings at all other levels

[Read more…]

Gardner, Judge, Romine power Yankees to 12-4 win over O’s

For the first time since August 22nd, 2015 — 616 days ago — the Yankees are in sole possession of first place in the AL East. At least one of my ten bold predictions will come true. The Yankees followed Friday night’s stunning come-from-behind win with a 12-4 depantsing of the Orioles on Saturday. They’ve now won four straight and 14 of their last 17 games. And because the Mets beat the Nationals, the Yankees now have baseball’s best record at 15-7. Their +46 run differential is tops in the game too. They play today, they win today. Das it.

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

Gardner Plants Two
The Yankees started Saturday’s game with back-to-back home runs, kinda. After Matt Holliday ended Friday’s game with a walk-off home run, Brett Gardner led off this game with home run into the right field second deck for a quick 1-0 lead. I’m making the executive decision to count those as back-to-back home runs. They came in consecutive at-bats, right? Right. Back-to-back dingers it is.

Gardner has not had a good start to the season overall and the home run was his first in 303 plate appearances and 69 games dating back to July 30th of last season. He didn’t have to wait long to go deep again. Just one inning. In the second Gardner homered again, this time hitting a three-run shot into the home bullpen to give his club a 5-0 lead. Ubaldo Jimenez cured whatever ailed him, I guess. The Yankees have been scoring plenty early on this year. Getting Gardner going would make them even more dangerous.

That second inning four-run rally started with a Didi Gregorius single to right center. It continued with back-to-back walks by Aaron Judge — based on how carefully they pitched him Saturday, the O’s are terrified of Judge (as they should be!) — and Greg Bird. Ubaldo gonna Ubaldo. That loaded the bases for Austin Romine, who lifted a sacrifice fly to right field to get the run home. That made it 2-0 good guys before Gardner homered for the 5-0 lead.

Big Mike‘s Big Grind
Two runs in 5.1 innings is a good start overall, though it didn’t come easily for Michael Pineda. He had just one 1-2-3 inning, the fourth, and his defense saved him at least one run and possibly two in the third inning. The Orioles had men on first and second with one out when Chase Headley made a spectacular diving catch to rob Manny Machado of extra bases. The ball was ticketed for the left field corner. The best part? Headley’s reaction. He was fired up:

chase-headley-catch

Thanks to that play, Pineda got through the first five innings scoreless, though he allowed some baserunners along the way and needed 93 pitches to do it. It wasn’t until the sixth inning that the O’s broke through — the Yankees had a healthy 7-0 lead at the time — thanks to a Machado double (he’s so good I hate it) and a Headley error. Headley made another great diving stop, but he pulled Bird off the bag with the throw, allowing Machado to score.

All told Pineda was charged with two runs (both unearned thanks to Headley’s error) on five hits and one walk in 5.1 innings. He threw 104 pitches total and had eight strike ’em outs. There were just a lot of long at-bats. Nine of the 23 batters Pineda faced saw at least five pitches. Machado alone saw 20 pitches in his three at-bats against Pineda, including a 12-pitch battle in the first inning. Not the crispest outing for Big Mike, but he worked through it. This was the kind of start that could have gotten out of hand in previous years.

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

Keep Adding On
One thing these 2017 Yankees do that the 2013, 2014, and 2016 Yankees did not do often enough is tack on insurance runs. Those teams would build a one or two-run lead and try to protect it the rest of the way. This team keeps adding on. That’s why they have six wins by at least five runs and only four by two runs or fewer so far.

The first four of Saturday’s insurance runs came courtesy of Romine. He drove in two runs with a single back up the middle in the fourth inning and another two runs with a homer in the sixth inning. Romine drove in five runs on the afternoon and became the first No. 9 hitter to drive in five runs for the Yankees since … Joe Girardi! Girardi drove in seven runs as the No. 9 hitter during a game against the Rangers in August 1999. Love it. Here’s that box score.

That fourth inning rally was set up by a Judge single and a Bird walk. Judge stole third with one out (!) and Bird took second on the throw. The homers get all the attention, but Judge is a well rounded player. Offense, defense, baserunning, the whole nine. Of course he then homered too, because that’s what he does. Judge’s seventh inning two-run shot the other way into the right field bleachers (lol) stretched the lead to 12-2. Look at this:

aaron-judge

How does a 6-foot-7 guy get his hands like that and inside-out a ball into the damn bleachers? Who does that? Judge joins Graig Nettles (11 in 1974) and Alex Rodriguez (14 in 2007) as the only Yankees with double-digit home runs in April. He should have eleven too if not for that stupid triple. Judge went 2-for-2 with two walks, a homer, four runs scored, and a steal of third base on the afternoon. He’s hitting .301/.393/.767 (217 wRC+) overall. My large adult baseball son is all grown up.

Leftovers
Adam Warren replaced Pineda in the sixth inning and looked a bit shaky at first. He allowed a single to Hyun-Soo Kim, hit Jonathan Schoop with a pitch to load the bases — Schoop left the game an inning later, by the way — then uncorked a wild pitch to give the O’s a run. Warren escaped the jam when Caleb Joseph swung through a hanging slider. He then settled down and retired six of seven batters faced in the seventh and eighth innings.

The 6-7-8-9 hitters went a combined 6-for-10 with a double, two homers, and five walks. They drove in eight of the team’s 12 runs. The Yankees rarely got production like that from the bottom of the lineup the past few years. Now it seems to happen every other day. Add Gardner to the mix and the wrap-around 6-7-8-9-1 portion of the lineup went 8-for-14 (.571) with a double, four homers, and five walks. Goodness.

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

Tommy Layne, who had thrown 14 pitches total the previous 16 days, finished the game with a messy ninth inning. His inning went single (Ryan Flaherty), homer (Joseph), single (Craig Gentry), strikeout (Joey Rickard), walk (Machado), strikeout (Mark Trumbo), fly out (Trey Mancini). I know Layne hasn’t pitched a whole lot, but he’s been pretty bad so far. The Yankees need him to straight it out sooner rather than later since he’s the only non-Aroldis Chapman lefty in the bullpen.

And finally, Judge has tied the MLB rookie record with ten home runs in April. Trevor Story did it last year and Jose Abreu did it in 2014. Judge has one more April game remaining to break that record.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and updated standings, go to ESPN. For the video highlights, go to MLB.com. For our Bullpen Workload page, go to RAB. Here’s the lopsided win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees will go for the sweep when they wrap up this three-game series with the Orioles on Sunday. That’s another 1pm ET start. Rookie lefty Jordan Montgomery and veteran lefty Wade Miley are the scheduled starting pitchers. There are four games remaining on the homestand and RAB Tickets can get you in the door for all four of them.

Saturday Open Thread

I can’t get the video to embed for some reason, but you should definitely check out this Law & Order: Aaron Judge Unit video. The Law & Order theme song would make great walk-off music for Judge, no? Anyway, MLB is probably going to have that video taken down soon, so watch it while you can.

Here’s an open thread for the rest of the day. Fox Sports 1 will have games now (Red Sox vs. Cubs) and at 7pm ET (Angels at Rangers), and MLB Network will have a late West Coast regional game. There’s also some NHL and NBA playoff games — the (hockey) Rangers are playing right now on NBC — and I do believe the NFL Draft is still going on as well. Talk about that stuff, this afternoon’s win, or anything else right here. Just not religion or politics please. Those conversations never end well.