Sabathia, Gardner, Gregorius help the Yankees avoid sweep with 3-2 win over Rays

Good win. Not an easy win, but a good win nonetheless. The Yankees avoided the sweep Sunday afternoon against the Rays to clinch a 3-3 road trip. Could have been better. Could have been a lot worse. Sunday’s final score was 3-2.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Righties Are Not Right
Fortunately, the first inning did not set the tone for the rest of the game. The Yankees were gifted a rally in the top of the first and failed to capitalize. Brett Gardner started the game with a single, then shortstop Tim Beckham threw away Gary Sanchez‘s tailor made 6-4-3 double play ball. He flipped it into right field. The Yankees had runners on second and third with no outs, then:

Those three batters swung at eleven of the 15 pitches they saw and missed seven times. Joe Girardi goes to such great lengths to split up the lefties in the lineup, yet he’ll bat four righties in a row against Chris Archer, who has a disgusting slider and has held right-handed batters to a .229/.296/.362 (.290 wOBA) batting line with a 27.5% strikeout rate since the start of 2015. Shrugs.

Naturally, the left-handed hitting Jacoby Ellsbury, who went into the game a career .514/.561/.703 hitter against Archer, doubled on the first pitch to leadoff the second. Shrugs again. Two batters later Didi Gregorius got Ellsbury home with a one-out single, and two batters after that Gardner got Gregorius and himself home with a two-out, two-run home run. Eighth dinger of the year for Gardner. He’s hit one more home run than last season in 468 fewer plate appearances. Is that good? That seems good.

The Yankees did not score again against Archer, who exited after throwing 108 pitches in 6.1 innings. Left-handed batters went 6-for-11 (.545) with a double and a home run against him. Righties went 0-for-15 with ten strikeouts. Free advice for future managers: stacking righties in the lineup against Archer isn’t a good idea, especially when several of them are strikeout prone like Holliday, Judge, and Chris Carter. Fortunately the left-handed bats picked up the righties.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

A Strong Start For Sabathia
Good to see CC Sabathia have another solid outing after that string of clunkers a few weeks ago. Throwing six scoreless innings against the awful Royals last time out is one thing. The Royals are real bad. The Rays can hit though, and they were going to present some trouble for whoever the Yankees threw out there. Sabathia allowed two runs (one earned) in five innings plus one batter Sunday, and looked about as good as you could have hoped.

The first run was sorta stupid, as it was built on an infield single, a walk, and a Sanchez error. He tried to pick Evan Longoria off first base with a snap throw, and the off-line throw sailed into right field. Carter actually got there and got his glove on the ball, but it went through his legs. Bad throw by Sanchez — and an unnecessary throw, I’d say, since Longoria wasn’t that far off first base — and a bad play by Carter. He’s got to knock that down. Corey Dickerson scored from second on the play.

Tampa scored their other run on a Derek Norris solo home run in the fifth, and I can’t remember Sabathia giving up any other hard hit balls. I’m sure he did at some point, but they were infrequent. Sabathia retired 12 straight before the Norris home run. His afternoon ended after Dickerson slapped an opposite field single leading off the sixth. Sabathia was definitely at the end of the line there — he had to work hard to get Beckham to ground out to end the fifth — but Girardi sent him back out to get the left-on-left matchup. Didn’t work, but a good start overall for Sabathia. The Yankees needed it.

The Final 12 Outs
This game had a very 2013-16 vibe to it, by which I mean the Yankees built a small lead, then turned things over to their bullpen and held on for dear life. First out of the bullpen was Chad Green, who inherited the runner on first from Sabathia. He got a clutch double play from … Aaron Judge? Aaron Judge. Longoria smoked a line drive into the right-center field gap, then this happened:

Judge went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts, but good players help you win games even when they do nothing at the plate. The funny thing is replays showed Dickerson, the runner at first, did slow down to read the play before taking off for third base. He didn’t think Judge would get there. Whoops. Judge laid out for the tremendous diving catch — if you’re into Statcast, that ball had a catch probability of 26% — and threw to first for the easy double play. Love it.

Green started the seventh inning with a four-pitch walk, because of course. Two ground balls and a stolen base later, Kevin Kiermaier was at third base with two outs, representing the tying run. Girardi went to Tyler Clippard against pinch-hitter Logan Morrison, who worked an eleven-pitch at-bat. Eventually he popped up a full count fastball to end the inning, preserving the 3-2 lead.

Clippard went back out for the eighth and struck out pinch-hitter Colby Rasmus and Beckham, then Girardi went to Dellin Betances for the four-out save. Betances struck out Dickerson hilariously to end the eighth — it was one of the silliest swings you’ll ever see — then cruised through the ninth. Longoria popped up, Michael Martinez struck out, and Steven Souza struck out. Dellin was throwing fire. That was as good as he’s looked at any point since 2014.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
Strikeouts are becoming a real problem. The Yankees struck out 17 times Sunday, their second nine-inning game with 17 strikeouts this season. They did it only twice in their history prior to this season. The Yankees have struck out 10+ times in 18 of their 41 games this season. The single-season franchise record is 37 10+ strikeout games set back in 2013. The 2017 Yankees project to get there by the All-Star break. Everyone is striking out more these days, but geez guys.

Four-hit game for Sir Didi! Two-hit game for Gardner! One-hit game for Ellsbury! No-hit game for literally everyone else. Both Judge and Holliday went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. Castro went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. So the 3-4-5 hitters went 0-for-12 with eleven strikeouts. They’ve had better days. The Yankees went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Both hits came in that three-run second inning innings. Didi’s single and Gardner’s dinger.

Sanchez is probably glad this road trip is over. He took a beating behind the plate. Sanchez took a foul tip to the right forearm in this one, after taking a foul tip to the jaw Saturday. He also got his bell rung by a few foul tips in Kansas City. I have no idea why anyone catches. It looks like no fun at all.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to ESPN for both the box score and updated standings. MLB.com has the video highlights. RAB has a Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the ol’ win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
HOPE Week! One of the best weeks of the season. The Yankees are heading home for a seven-game homestand. The week home begins with a four-game set against the Royals, who the Yankees just saw last week. The A’s come to town after that. Jason Hammel and Michael Pineda are the scheduled starting pitchers for Monday night’s series opener. RAB Tickets can get you in the door for any of the seven games on the homestand.

Sunday Open Thread

Here’s an open thread for the remainder of the weekend. MLB Network is showing a regional game right now, and the ESPN Sunday Night Game is the Rangers and Tigers. There are also NBA and NHL playoff games on. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s win, or anything else here. Just not religion or politics, por favor.

Game 41: Sabathia Sunday

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

So the last three games haven’t gone well. Sucks. The good news is there’s another game today, so there’s a chance to get back into the win column. A win today avoids the sweep and sends the Yankees home with a 3-3 road trip. Not great, not awful. Could be worse.

CC Sabathia is on the mound this afternoon and he was very good last time out, though that was against the free-swinging Royals, the worst hitting team in baseball this year. The Rays have some thump, annoyingly. This will be a tough one for Sabathia. I believe in the big man though. Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 1B Chris Carter
    LHP CC Sabathia

It’s nice and sunny in St. Petersburg today, and dark and gloomy inside Tropicana Field. First time this series the teams probably wish they could play outside. Alas. This afternoon’s game will begin a little after 1pm ET. YES has the broadcast. Try to enjoy.

Injury Updates: Aroldis Chapman (shoulder) will see a doctor tomorrow for a check up. He went on the disabled list last weekend, and the Yankees said he will be shut down at least two weeks, so a throwing program isn’t imminent … Greg Bird (ankle) continues to increase his running. He could beginning hitting this week.

Roster Update: The Yankees have called up Bryan Mitchell and sent down Gio Gallegos, the team announced. I had a feeling that was coming. They need a fresh long man. Mitchell was scheduled to start for Triple-A Scranton today, though he’s only gotten stretched out to 60 pitches or so since being sent down, so he won’t be able to go super long.

Tanaka and the Dingers 2017 Edition

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Before stepping to the mound yesterday afternoon in Tampa, Masahiro Tanaka had already surrendered ten home runs to opposing hitters. Then he gave up three more. His HR/9 currently sits at an unconscionable 2.44 and his HR/FB% is absurdly high at 24.5%. Tanaka’s always been prone to giving up home runs, but they’re flying out at a ridiculously rapid rate in 2017. How?

The first culprit that jumps out is the fastball. Per Brooks, that pitch had a 50% HR/(FB + LD) rate going into yesterday’s game. That pitch accounts for the lowest percentage of Tanaka’s pitches this season, and he’s famously avoided throwing it recently, sticking more to a sinker, splitter, slider mix. But two of the homers he gave up yesterday–the ones to Corey Dickerson–were both on the four seam fastball. The other homer, from Longoria, came against a sinker.

Then, there’s the splitter. As always, this has been a generally effective pitch for Tanaka. Its whiff/swing% is over 30 and its grounder rate is pushing 70%. But on the flip side, its led to three homers against Tanaka and batters are hitting it to a .229 ISO, not counting yesterday’s start. Its HR/(FB+LD)% is up at 27.27. For his career, it’s predictably low at 7.3%.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The slider, conversely, has been right along with his career rates in its success this year. Basically, all the hard stuff Tanaka throws is being hit equally hard, leading to lots of homers, lots of runs, and lots of frustration. Taking a look at the ISO marks against the hard stuff, it’s clear that Tanaka’s command of those pitches is off.

A solution to this problem isn’t necessarily easy to find. It’d be wrong to suggest a pitcher with elbow issues in the past begin throwing more sliders, but we can’t just click our heels or cross our fingers and expect Tanaka’s command to be back to form.

It's not what you want (Source: Getty)
It’s not what you want (Source: Getty)

Time is likely the best answer since this is such an extreme exaggeration of one of the few issues Tanaka has had on the mound since joining the Yankees. Were this a year like 2016, this might be less worrisome. But given that the Yankees seem to be, well, actually pretty good this season, Tanaka performing like his normal self is imperative. 2017 was lined up to be a ‘house money’ type of year for the Yankees. If they did well, great! If not, hey, at least there’s a bunch of young, exciting guys. Luckily for us, the two things seem to be converging. Regardless of that, one thing was true heading into this year–as it has been the last few years–if anything good was going to happen to this team, it needed Tanaka to be its strongest pitcher. That hasn’t happened so far in 2017. And given the rest of the Yankee rotation, if Tanaka doesn’t get back to his regular levels, the charm of an unexpected playoff season may not last too long.

DotF: Tyler Austin begins rehab assignment with Trenton

Josh Norris was at last night’s Double-A Trenton game, and he posted video of SS Gleyber Torres‘ grand slam and 3B Miguel Andujar‘s home run. Here’s the link. Norris also wrote something on RHP Domingo Acevedo’s Double-A debut, so check that out too.

Triple-A Scranton (5-4 win over Rochester in eleven innings, walk-off style)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 1-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 E (missed catch)
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 1-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K — six homers in 37 games this year after hitting 12 homers in 132 games last year … getting out of Trenton is good news for a left-handed hitter
  • DH Clint Frazier: 1-5, 2 K
  • 1B Mike Ford: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB — 9-for-30 (.300) with two doubles and four homers since the promotion
  • LF Mason Williams: 0-4, 1 BB, 1 K
  • RF Mark Payton: 2-5, 1 RBI, 1 K — walk-off single … also threw a runner out at second
  • 2B Cito Culver: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 E (missed catch) — seven homers in 30 games!
  • LHP Caleb Smith: 5.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 5/4 GB/FB — 64 of 104 pitches were strikes (62%)
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 31 of 44 pitches were strikes (70%) … 32 strikeouts and zero walks in 22 innings this year … he’s 26, left-handed, and at Triple-A for the third straight full season … being a Rule 5 Draft pick this spring might have been his best chance to reach MLB at this point
  • RHP Ben Heller: 2 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 4/0 GB/FB — 13 of 18 pitches were strikes (72%) … 28/7 K/BB in 21.1 innings

[Read more…]

Tanaka gets hammered again, Yankees fall 9-5 to Rays


Source: FanGraphs

Yeesh. The Yankees have played better ballgames. The pitching staff imploded again Saturday — the Yankees have allowed 37 runs in their last six games despite playing three of those games against the Royals, the worst hitting team in baseball — and the Yankees fell 9-5 to the Rays. The Yankees have suddenly lost seven of their last ten games. Annoying! It’s Saturday, so let’s give this game no one wants to remember the bullet point recap treatment:

  • Terrible Tanaka: Masahiro Tanaka has been so crappy this year you’d think he’s a Mets starter. He had another disaster start Saturday, allowing six runs on nine hits and three walks in three innings plus five batters, including three home runs. Tanaka has now allowed 16 runs and eight homers in his last 5.2 innings. Oy vey. His location was terrible again in this game and his pitches were flat. Look at the Evan Longoria homer. Flat. Look at the Jesus Sucre double. Flat. The ball just spins and does nothing. Cement mixers. I’m not sure what the Yankees do now. Skip his next start? That’s tough to do when you’re five games into a 20 games in 20 days stretch. Stick him in an MRI tube? Okay, I guess. Either way, Tanaka’s performance has officially crossed over from “annoying slow start” to “major cause for concern.” He has become a Big Problem.
  • Aaron & Gary: On the bright side, both Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez hit home runs, and that’s always fun. This was the second of hopefully many times both go deep in the same game. They also did it on August 14th last year, in Judge’s second MLB game. Judge smacked a solo shot in the second inning to tie the game 1-1. Sanchez hit a solo homer in the fifth to cut Tampa’s lead to 6-4. Between the dingers, Chase Headley had a clutch two-out, two-run double to tie the game 3-3 in the fourth. The game still felt winnable at that point. Then Tanaka and the bullpen barfed it away.
  • Out of Reach: The bottom of the fifth was probably the lowest point of the season since the 1-4 start. Tommy Layne and Gio Gallegos combined to allow three runs on three hits, two walks, and one hit batsman. They needed 41 pitches to do it. Also, both Joe Girardi and Larry Rothschild were ejected for arguing balls and strikes. Girardi covered home plate with dirt and home plate ump Scott Barry didn’t even bother to clean it off. Sanchez had to do it. Pretty embarrassing all around.
  • Leftovers: Matt Andriese hit Judge in the sixth as retaliation for Layne hitting Corey Dickerson in the fifth. Dickerson hit two homers earlier in the game. I don’t think Layne hit Dickerson on purpose, I think he’s just not very good, but the Rays retaliated. Andriese was ejected and Judge was fine. So stupid … Sanchez took a brutal foul tip to the face mask in the sixth. It came up and hit him in the jaw. He stayed in the game, but yikes. Gary’s been on the wrong end of a few foul tips this road trip … Chasen Shreve (four outs) and Jonathan Holder (three outs) were the only pitchers not to get knocked around … the trainer came out to look at Shreve in the seventh after he shook his arm, but he threw some test pitches and stayed in the game … Sanchez (single, homer) and Judge (homer, double, hit-by-pitch) led the way offensively … 12 of the final 13 Yankees to bat made outs.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page either. The Yankees will try to avoid the sweep in the series finale Sunday afternoon. That’s a regular 1pm ET start. CC Sabathia and Chris Archer are the scheduled starters. I’m sure it’ll be fine. /sobs

Game 40: Getting Tanaka Back On Track

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

For the first time since getting crushed by the Astros last weekend, Masahiro Tanaka will be on the mound this afternoon, looking for a solution to his early season woes. There have been some flashes of 2016 Tanaka throughout the season so far, but flashes aren’t enough. The Yankees need him to pitch well pretty much every time out to stay in the AL East race.

Tanaka will have what is almost certainly the best possible lineup the Yankees could field behind him. We could quibble about the batting order and all that, but these nine names represent the best the Yankees have to offer right now. This is the A+ team, basically. Get a win today, then try to win the series tomorrow. Sounds like a plan. Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. 1B Matt Holliday
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. DH Aaron Judge
  6. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. RF Aaron Hicks
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It is cloudy, hot, and humid in St. Petersburg and a cool 72-ish degrees inside Tropicana Field. This afternoon’s game will begin at 4:10pm ET. You can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Injury Update: Turns out Sanchez has a stiff neck, which is why the Yankees didn’t want to use him last night. Obviously he’s feeling better, because he’s in the lineup today. Sanchez took some foul tips to the face mask in Kansas City. I assume those contributed to his neck woes.