DotF: Mateo stays hot, Littell tosses gem in Tampa’s win

Two quick injury notes:

  • SS Thairo Estrada hasn’t played since Tuesday and is a little banged up, according to Matt Kardos. It’s nothing serious and he is not on the disabled list. Estrada’s injury is why SS Gleyber Torres has played shortstop in every game but one up to this point. The Yankees plan to get Torres time at second and third bases this year, but they need Estrada to get back on the field first. He’s the only other natural shortstop on the roster.
  • LHP Dietrich Enns has been placed on the Triple-A disabled list with a shoulder strain, reports Shane Hennigan. He’ll be shut down 3-4 weeks before starting a throwing program, so chances are we won’t see him again until midseason. Enns left last night’s start with shoulder discomfort. He’s on the 40-man roster and was a potential bullpen shuttle option.

Triple-A Scranton (10-3 loss to Buffalo)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 0-4, 2 K
  • LF Clint Frazier: 1-3, 1 2B, 1 BB — he has six hits this year: four doubles and two singles
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 0-4
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 2-4, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 E (throwing) — came into the game 3-for-22 (.136) with no extra-base hits
  • RF Mason Williams: 0-3, 1 RBI, 3 K
  • RHP Luis Cessa: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 4/6 GB/FB — 57 of 88 pitches were strikes (65%) … the big league rotation is on a bit of a roll right now, but it’s only a matter of time until we see Cessa in the Bronx again
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 0.1 IP, 1 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 1 K — half of his 26 pitches were strikes
  • RHP Ernesto Frieri: 1 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 18 of 32 pitches were strikes (56%) … at least he got this out of his system in a blowout game and not during a save situation

[Read more…]

Yankees win sixth straight, beat Cardinals 3-2 as Sabathia’s renaissance continues

The winning streak has hit six. Saturday afternoon the Yankees capitalized on some defensive mistakes and outlasted the Cardinals for a 3-2 win on Jackie Robinson Day. The six-game winning streak is the longest by any team in baseball so far this season. Fun!

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

Carsten Charles In Charge
Man oh man am I enjoying CC Sabathia‘s late career renaissance. The Cardinals had seven righties and one switch-hitter in Saturday’s starting lineup — Matt Carpenter was the only lefty —  and Sabathia cut through them for 7.1 innings with cutters in and everything else away. He had some help from the defense — Brett Gardner made an excellent leaping catch with two on and two outs in the second inning (video) — but hey, sometimes you need your defense. It is a team sport, after all.

Following that Gardner catch to end that second inning, Sabathia retired 13 of the next 15 batters he faced, and only five of those 15 batters managed to hit the ball out of the infield. His afternoon ended when Randal Grichuk Jedd Gyorko lifted his 97th pitch into the short porch for a solo home run to get the Cardinals on the board. Seven innings plus one out, three hits, one walk, one run, six strikeouts. I have no idea what the future holds, but Sabathia is still a boss. Love seeing the big man thrive after all those tough seasons when he looked done. Like done done.

(Adam Hunger/Getty
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

No Contact? No Problem
Cardinals ace Carlos Martinez is one of the best young pitchers in baseball, and eleven batters into Saturday’s game, he set a new career high with six walks. It wasn’t until Jacoby Ellsbury‘s leadoff single in the third — the 13th batter Martinez faced — that the Yankees put a ball in play. Commissioner Rob Manfred must have been sobbing in his office. What an odd start to the game.

Martinez walked six batters in the first two innings (!) and the Yankees turned only one into a run because, well, they couldn’t put the ball in play. It took a passed ball by Yadier Molina and a wild pitch by Martinez for Gardner to cross the plate with two outs in the opening inning. Inevitably Martinez settled down because that’s what good pitchers do. After throwing 57 pitches in the first two innings, he needed only 49 pitches to get through the next three innings.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny sent Martinez back out to start the sixth inning even though his pitch count was sitting at 106. They were 106 high stress pitches too. Martinez had to grind for five innings. That sixth inning started with a classic case of baseball being dumb. Ronald Torreyes lifted a pop-up to shallow left field that everyone lost in the sun. It dropped in for a hit and Torreyes used a swim move to avoid the tag at second base:


The Cardinals challenged the play and replay confirmed Torreyes was safe. Joe Girardi on the slide after the game: “It’s Toe being Toe.” Indeed. The Yankees were still leading 1-0 at that point and I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t help but worry they would regret wasting all those walks and scoring opportunities given to them by Martinez. He was trying to give the game away. The gift leadoff double was much appreciated.

Thankfully, the Yankees made the Cardinals pay. Gardner moved Torreyes to third with a ground out, then Aaron Hicks hit a tapper back to the mound that Martinez threw away. He tried to come home to cut down the runner, and the throw sailed way wide of the plate and to the backstop. Chris Carter, who up to that point was 0-for-3 with three three-pitch strikeouts on the afternoon, pulled a single to left to score Hicks as the next batter. That stretched the lead to a much more comfortable 3-0.

Unnecessary Pitching Change Is Unnecessary
Prior to Saturday’s game Girardi said neither Aroldis Chapman nor Dellin Betances would be available due to their recent workloads, which meant the rest of the bullpen would have to pick up the slack. Adam Warren replaced Sabathia in that eight inning and recorded the final two outs without incident. He has now retired all 20 batters he’s faced this season. Not bad for the manager’s fourth most trusted option in the bullpen, huh?

For whatever reason Girardi opted to replace Warren with Tyler Clippard for the ninth inning — he said after the game it was because Clippard has more experience closing, so yeah, there’s the reason — and it did not go smoothly. Clippard allowed a solo homer to Stephen Piscotty, another opposite field shot into the short porch a la Grichuk’s against Sabathia, then he allowed an infield single and a walk with two outs. The tying run was at second base when Clippard got Grichuk to wave at a changeup out of the zone for the 27th out. Exhale.

Clippardbot set to: Cardiac Closer. (Adam Hunger/Getty)
Clippardbot set to: Cardiac Closer. (Adam Hunger/Getty)

Leftovers
The Yankees struck out 17 times at the plate and went 1-for-13 (.077) with runners in scoring position. They’re 1-for-30 (.033) with runners in scoring position over the last three games, yet have won all three. Dingers are cool. So is the other team making mistakes, like the wild pitch that scored Gardner in the first and the Martinez error that scored Torreyes in the sixth. They can’t bank on the other team making errors forever though.

The Yankees had five hits total: two by Ellsbury and one each by Gardner, Carter, and Torreyes. The Torreyes hit was the sun-aided double. The Yankees also drew eight walks and stole two bases (Ellsbury and Chase Headley). As of this writing they lead the league with 12 stolen bases in eleven games. It seems like the Yankees are running more often this year, so I was surprised to see they stole 13 bases in the first eleven games last year. Go figure.

And finally, another tough day for Greg Bird, who went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts. He is now 0-for-18 with two walks and eleven strikeouts in his last five games. Also, when Bird grounded out in the seventh inning, he could only jog down to first base. If he’s hobbled that much by the ankle, why in the world is he playing and not on the disabled list?

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
You can find the box score at ESPN and the video highlights at MLB.com. ESPN also has the updated standings. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page too. That comes in handy when you’re trying to figure out who is available each day. Now here is the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The first ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game of the season. Yuck. I hate having to wait all day to watch the Yankees on the weekend. Anyway, Michael Pineda and Adam Wainwright will be the mound as the Yankees look for their second consecutive series sweep. It’s not often Pineda matches up with a pitcher as tall as he is, but it’ll happen in the series finale. RAB Tickets can get you in the door for that game, or any of the other three games remaining on the homestand.

Saturday Open Thread

I’m a few days late on this, but don’t miss Andrew Marchand’s piece on Jean Afterman, the Yankees longtime assistant general manager. She was instrumental in getting Alfonso Soriano to the Yankees, but from the other side of the table — she worked for Soriano’s agent at the time and helped find a loophole that allowed him to leave the Hiroshima Carp in Japan and sign with the Yankees. After being hired by Brian Cashman, she helped lure Hideki Matsui to the Bronx. “You go east. But if you don’t come back with him, you just keep heading east. Don’t ever turn around,” said George Steinbrenner to Afterman before she left to recruit Matsui in Japan. Make sure you check it out. Really great stuff.

Here is an open thread for the rest of the day. The Mets are playing later and MLB Network is showing regional games throughout the afternoon and evening. The NBA playoffs begin today with a bunch of games on ABC and ESPN while the NHL playoffs continue with games on NBC and NBCSN. The (hockey) Rangers aren’t playing today though. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s win, or anything else here as long as it’s not religion or politics.

Game 11: Jackie Robinson Day

(Getty)
(Getty)

On this date 70 years ago, the great Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier and made his big league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He hit .297/.383/.427 with 31 doubles, 12 homers, 29 steals, 74 walks, and 36 strikeouts that season and was named Rookie of the Year. (There was only one Rookie of the Year award back then.) I don’t think there’s any question Robinson’s debut is one of the most important days in not only baseball history, but American history. The man is a true hero.

“You reflect on what Jackie went through, and the struggles that he went through for equality, and it makes your struggles feel like, ‘Really? You’re worried about this and you’re worried about that?'” said Joe Girardi this morning. “(He represents the idea) that we’re all created equal and we’re supposed to love our fellow man at time where our world seems to be in a uproar. I think we can learn a lot from Jackie and how he handled situations with grace and always took the high road.”

The Yankees are going for their sixth straight win this afternoon and have their only African American starting pitcher on the mound. Pretty cool CC Sabathia gets to wear No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day. Sabathia has been the team’s best pitcher two turns through the rotation and as bad as the Cardinals have been this season, we saw last night they don’t go quietly. He’ll have to be sharp today to stretch that winning streak to seven. Here is the Cardinals’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Hicks
  3. DH Chris Carter
  4. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. 1B Greg Bird
  8. C Kyle Higashioka
  9. SS Ronald Torreyes
    LHP CC Sabathia

There are some clouds in the sky in New York this afternoon though there is no rain in the forecast, so that’s good. Not the best baseball weather, but it’ll do. This afternoon’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game, folks.

Injury Updates: Matt Holliday was a late scratch from today’s lineup with lower back stiffness … Gary Sanchez (biceps) has started light workouts — he’s swinging a bat underwater, specifically — but is still roughly two weeks away from throwing … Didi Gregorius (shoulder) is progressing well with his rehab and he could begin playing in minor league rehab games as soon as this coming week … Aaron Judge is fine. Just a day off and a chance to get Hicks in the lineup, according to Girardi.

Yankees top the Cardinals 4-3 for a five-game winning streak

Five straight wins! How about that? It seems like forever ago when the Yankees were 1-4 and many were prematurely calling for a lost year. While the young hitters were quiet tonight, the veteran bats stepped up to score runs and the bullpen stopped the Cardinals bats to preserve the first victory for Masahiro Tanaka this season.

You get two, we take three

Tanaka didn’t ease fans with his performance from the get-go. In the first inning, he allowed a 2-run homer to Matt Carpenter into the bleachers on a 94.5 mph fastball. Tanaka was supposed to locate it in the outside corner but he missed it all the way across to the inside corner. Maybe a little rust from an extra day’s rest? Anyways, after a shaky start, Tanaka later went on to have a solid outing.

Yankees got two right back in the bottom of that frame. After Brett Gardner got on base with a leadoff walk, Starlin Castro hit a two-run homer just above the right field fence. The Yankees added another run in the second with an Austin Romine (!) dinger to the right. Neither of the homers were hit all that far (385 ft from Castro and 364 ft from Romine) but hey, you play in Yankee Stadium, you play with the Yankee Stadium dimensions.

Tanaka Solid

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

After the two-run first, Tanaka went into a vintage groove. From the second to sixth inning, he was in absolute control, throwing five innings and allowing only one hit, a walk and striking out four. We saw Tanaka missing spots and unnecessarily overthrowing to get out of jams last time out. But during that five-inning stretch, he was in command, mixing pitches well, and flustering Cardinals hitters with his usual craft.

However, he left the game on a very tough spot. With 4-2 lead in the top of seventh, Tanaka gave up a run by allowing a double to Randal Grichuk with runners on first and second. As a result,Joe  Girardi replaced him with Tyler Clippard with runners on second and third with only one out. Fortunately for the Yankees, Clippard induced a shallow fly (not enough to score the runner from third) and a heart-attack inducing big flyout to Dustin Fowler to get out of the inning. Had Fowler pulled it a smidge more, we could be talking about a whole ‘nother ballgame. Whew.

Anyways, a start like this is definitely encouraging for a staff ace who struggled the first two appearances of the season. Tanaka’s offspeed pitches were definitely working today. Per Brooks Baseball, he got 3 whiffs from his fastball/sinker, another 3 from his slider and 6 from his splitter. After tonight’s outing, his ERA dropped to 8.36. Not the number you’d expect to see from your no. 1 starter but it’s a long season — he’ll be just fine.

Holding the lead (thankfully)

Set the Clipparbot to
Set the Clippardbot to “Joy” and “Relief” (Elsa/Getty)

New York extended the lead to 4-2 in the bottom of fifth thanks to a Cardinals defensive gaffe. Jacoby Ellsbury reached with a single and Chase Headley followed it up with a double to right. It seemed like Ellsbury was going to stop and stay put on the third base, but Kolten Wong’s throw to home went a bit off-line and went past Yadier Molina. Ellsbury saw it right away and sprinted home to score. Whoops. I’ll take it though. That run ended up being pretty big for the Yankees later on the game.

I talked about how Clippard just got out of the seventh inning jam he inherited, right? At the time, with the score at 4-3, I thought Girardi would bring in Dellin Betances to try to get strikeouts but Clippard is a good punchout pitcher in his own rights (10.29 K/9 IP last year, 12.46 prior to tonight). He struck out neither of the batters he faced but he got the job done.

Betances had an easier outing tonight than he did yesterday. He struck out the side while giving up a walk to Stephen Piscotty, which turned out to be harmless. Aroldis Chapman, however, pitching in his third consecutive game, had a hell of a time trying to get that save. After getting the first two outs easily (Molina strikeout, Jhonny Peralta fly out to right), he walked Grichuk after a full-count battle.

The Cardinals sent out pinch-hitter Jose Martinez for Kolten Wong’s spot. With one strike to go to end the game, Chapman threw a fastball inside that Martinez somehow squared up for a double to the left. Because Gardner played it well off the wall, the Cardinals held the runner up at third. If Martinez hit it towards the right field, St. Louis might have tied the game up. Instead, there were runners on second and third with two outs and Dexter Fowler came up to hit. Thankfully for the Yankees, Chapman induced a ground out to second to end the game. That made fans nervous for a bit but the Yankees won 4-3.

Also, note, I doubt Yankees will bring out Chapman tomorrow if they get into another save situation. Just a hunch.

Miscellaneous

Starlin Castro had a 2-for-4 night at the plate, raising his season batting line to .350/.366/.525. Totally sustainable, right? Probably not (but what do I know) but it’s good to see a guy like him getting some solid hits while the kids are struggling. Speaking of veteran bats, Ellsbury and Headley combined for a 4-for-7 night out of the no. 4 and 5 spots. Ellsbury hitting cleanup was a bit odd but hey, he got the job done tonight. It’ll also be a nice trivia someday.

Box score, WPA graph, standings

Here is tonight’s box score, WPA graph and standings.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees have a 1:05 pm EST matinee game tomorrow for the game two of the Cardinals series. CC Sabathia is gonna go up against one of the league’s finest young aces Carlos Martinez. Have a good Friday night, y’all.

DotF: Clarkin strikes out eight in Tampa’s win

RHP Albert Abreu placed third in the first Prospect Hot Sheet of the minor league season. He struck out eleven in his first start of the season the other day, and the Hot Sheet write-up says he touched 100 mph with his fastball. Abreu was not among the pitchers to reach 100 mph in the minors last year, so that’s new.

Triple-A Scranton (2-1 loss to Buffalo)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 1-3, 1 K, 1 SB, 1 HBP, 1 E (fielding) — still no time in the outfield (or a position other than short, for that matter) … he did play one game at second base though
  • CF Mason Williams: 0-1, 2 BB, 1 CS
  • LF Dustin Fowler: 0-4, 2 K — off to a 4-for-28 (.143) start
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K
  • LHP Dietrich Enns: 5 IP 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 6/4 GB/FB — 47 of 71 pitches were strikes (66%) … Shane Hennigan says Enns left the game with shoulder discomfort and will see a doctor tomorrow, so that’s not good … he’s not high up on the depth chart, but pitching is pitching
  • RHP Ben Heller: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HB, 1/2 GB/FB — 16 of 29 pitches were strikes (55%)

[Read more…]

Game Ten: Time for Tanaka to right the ship

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Through the first two turns through the rotation, Masahiro Tanaka has been the Yankees’ worst starting pitcher, and I didn’t expect to say that at any point this season. Tanaka’s last start wasn’t truly awful (5 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 5 K) but he still didn’t look quite like himself. His location was poor, and hey, Tanaka said he didn’t feel right mechanically all throughout Spring Training. We all just kinda brushed it off because he was dominating.

Tonight Tanaka and the Yankees will face the St. Louis Cardinals, who are making their first ever trip to the new Yankee Stadium. The last time they visited New York for an interleague series with 2003, when Tino Martinez returned to the Bronx for the first time since being let go as a free agent. This series is the return of, uh, Eric Fryer? Fryer, the Cardinals backup catcher, is the guy the Yankees got from the Brewers in the Chase Wright trade in 2009. The Yankees later sent Fryer to the Pirates for Eric Hinske at the deadline. So there’s your tie-in for the series. Here is the Cardinals’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 2B Starlin Castro
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. CF Jacoby Ellsbury (OMG)
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. RF Aaron Judge
  7. 1B Greg Bird
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. SS Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Another gorgeous day here in New York. The weather has been great all week. It’ll be a bit cold tonight, though the sky will be clear. Pretty much perfect. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.