While the Yankees were busy shutting out the Athletics for their fourth straight win last night, another New York sports team was a couple hundred miles south in Los Angeles, playing the franchise’s most important game in two decades. The (hockey) Rangers were trying to climb out of a three games-to-none deficit in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Finals, winning Game Four on Wednesday to force a Game Five against the Kings on Friday.
The Rangers lost the game and thus the series last night. It all happened in the blink of an eye in double overtime too, as gut-wrenching a loss as you’ll ever see. Here’s how the season ended:
Brutal. It was over before you knew what the hell happened. Just like that, it was done.
If you’ve been reading RAB long enough you know that I’m a Rangers fan — not nearly as much as I am a Yankees fan, hockey is a distant second sport to baseball for me — so naturally I was pretty bummed out about the loss. But not nearly as much as I have been for recent Yankees postseason exits. The feelings were way different.
To make a long story short, the Rangers were clear underdogs not just in the series against the Kings, but throughout almost the entire postseason. They rallied back from a three games-to-one deficit in the second round and were not the best team in the conference. Not by a long shot, yet they rode an all-world goaltender and overcame some serious adversity to reach the Finals. It was the epitome of the “just get into the postseason and anything can happen” mentality.
So, when the Rangers lost last night, I was disappointed but not devastated. The regular season and especially the postseason run were thrilling and exciting, every step of the way. Following the Rangers as they exceeded expectations and got to within three wins of a championship as a legitimate underdog was not something I was used to seeing as a sports fan. The Yankees are never the underdog. The notion of them even being considered an underdog is silly. That’s just not who they are.
When the Yankees won the World Series in 2009, I felt like there was a sense of relief to go along with the excitement. They were supposed to win. They’re the Yankees. When they lost the ALCS in 2010 and 2012, there were no thoughts of how exciting it was to watch the team get there. All the focus was on their inability to advance further. That whole “win the World Series or the season is a failure” mantra has consumed the franchise and it’s sucked some of the joy out of winning. Not all of it, but some of it. At least that’s how I feel. You’re welcome to feel differently.
Sports are supposed to be fun, right? I watch (entirely too much) baseball because I love it and it’s fun and it’s a great escape from everyday life. There will be some devastating losses along the way, that comes with the territory, but as a Yankees fan the good has outweighed the bad over the years. The opposite is true of being a Rangers fan. There has been more bad than good over the last 15-20 years. So, even though the Rangers lost last night and it completely sucked, it didn’t diminish the ride. All the exciting moments and huge wins over the last few weeks were some of the best times in my life as a sports fan and that’s never going away.
I don’t know, I think this post is coming off as pretty dumb and I’m not sure I’m making my point. I guess I’m trying to say that watching the Rangers the last few weeks was a breath of fresh air in my life as a sports fan. It reminded me that sometimes you’re going to lose and it isn’t a complete and total failure. The memories are still there. I love the Yankees and I choose to be a fan and I fully accept the whole “win or it’s a failure” life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But seeing how the other half lives was eye-opening. If you’re not going to sit back and enjoy the ride regardless of the outcome, then what’s the point?
Four straight wins! It’s been a while since they’ve done that. Almost exactly a month, in fact. Since the Mets and Pirates series. The Yankees rode a quality pitching performance and some well-timed base hits to a 7-0 win over the powerhouse Athletics in the first game of their weekend series on Friday night. Let’s recap the dubya:
- Strike First: Early runs have become something of a habit on this road trip. I approve. Brett Gardner, Derek Jeter, and Jacoby Ellsbury opened the game with three straight singles for a quick 1-0 lead, then Mark Teixeira followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0. Just like that, boom boom boom (boom), the Yankees had the lead. A single (Brian Roberts), a walk (Kelly Johnson), and another single (Gardner) led to the team’s third run an inning later. Six of the first ten men they sent to the plate reached base against Sonny Gray.
- Two-Hit Wonder: David Phelps had some early breathing room, and he must have been real comfortable because he carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning. Derek Norris broke it up with a single to left. Phelps allowed a double to Jed Lowrie in the seventh to end his night. His final line: 6.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 4 K. Very, very nice. I thought it was the best he looked all season both stuff and location wise. The Yankees have been getting some very good starting pitching of late and Phelps kept it going Friday.
- Strike Second: Tack-on runs? What is this sorcery? The Yankees scored … ready for this? … four runs in the eighth inning to make a comfortable lead a really comfortable lead. All four runs were driven in with two outs too. Ichiro Suzuki (infield single), Roberts (single), and Johnson (single) had the key hits. These late extra runs are something the club has not been able to get at all this year. It was refreshing to watch the rally unfold.
- Leftovers: Ellsbury’s first inning single extended his hitting streak to 17 games. That’s the longest by a Yankee since Robinson Cano in 2012 (23 games) … Dellin Betances and Jose Ramirez combined to record the final seven outs (three strikeouts). Hooray for homegrown arms. Include Phelps in that too … Carlos Beltran was the only starter without a hit while Gardner, Jeter, Ichiro, and Roberts all had two apiece … the 12 hits were the team’s most since the middle game of the Twins series at the end of last month. They went 6-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
For the box score and video highlights, head over to MLB.com. FanGraphs has some additional stats and ESPN has the updated standings. These same two teams will play the second game of the series on Saturday night — yes, a 10pm ET start on a Saturday. I can’t wait for California to break off and sink into the ocean — when veterans Hiroki Kuroda and Scott Kazmir get the ball
Triple-A Scranton (4-3 loss to Columbus)
- 1B Jose Pirela: 1-4, 1 K, 1 SB
- LF Zoilo Almonte: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI — four homers in nine games since being sent back down
- DH Kyle Roller: 0-4, 2 K
- RF Zelous Wheeler: 2-4, 1 R, 1 K
- 3B Scott Sizemore: 0-3, 1 BB, 2 K
- 2B Rob Refsnyder: 0-4, 2 K — back-to-back hitless games … you’re not in Double-A anymore, kid
- C Austin Romine: 1-3, 1 RBI, 1 K – 11-for-35 (.314) in his last ten games
- RHP Bruce Billings: 5 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 4/5 GB/FB — 50 of 89 pitches were strikes (56%)
- RHP Alfredo Aceves: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 19 of 27 pitches were strikes (70%)
- RHP Heath Bell: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K — nine of 17 pitches were strikes (53%) … he was signed to a minor league contract earlier today
Sweeping the Mariners in Seattle earlier this week sure was a lot of fun, but life is about to get much more difficult for the Yankees. They are in Oakland for a three-game weekend set against the Athletics, who are the best team in baseball by almost any measures. They have scored the most runs (336) and allowed the fewest runs (206) in MLB. If that doesn’t qualify you as elite, nothing will.
The Athletics took two of three in the Bronx last week but even that one win was tough for the Yankees. Masahiro Tanaka had to grind through six innings and the tying run was at third base when the 27th out was recorded. The Yankees are playing better right now than they were a week ago, though I’m not how much that matters. Oakland is damn good. Here is the Athletics lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury — back in the lineup following last night’s hip tightness scare
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- C Brian McCann
- DH Carlos Beltran
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- 2B Brian Roberts
- 3B Kelly Johnson
RHP David Phelps
It’s sunny with temperatures in the low-70s in Oakland, so pretty much classic California weather. Perfect night for baseball. Tonight’s game will begin a little after 10pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.
Injury Updates: C Frankie Cervelli (hamstring) will rejoin the team on Tuesday, after they get home from the road trip … CC Sabathia (knee) continues to play catch off flat ground … in case you missed it earlier, Michael Pineda (shoulder) will be out until at least August.
Friday: DeCarr received a $1M bonus, according to Jim Callis. So technically he got slightly below double slot. Every little bit counts these days. Keep tabs on the draft pool situation with our 2014 Draft Pool Tracker.
Tuesday: Via New England Baseball Journal: Third round pick RHP Austin DeCarr will report to Tampa to sign with the Yankees tomorrow. They offered him double the $585,100 slot value for the 91st overall pick, so he’s getting a cool $1,170,200. Good for him. That’s a big chunk of draft pool change they’ll have to save elsewhere. (h/t @JoshSabo1)
DeCarr, 19, graduated from high school last year but did a post-graduate year at The Salisbury School in Connecticut. He’s a low-to-mid-90s fastball guy who, on his best days, has an out pitch hammer curveball. Like most pitching prospects from the Northeast, DeCarr doesn’t have a ton of innings or experience under his belt. He was committed to Clemson. You can see all of the team’s picks at Baseball America. · (31) ·
Michael Pineda is not expected to return to the rotation until August at the earliest, Joe Girardi told reporters. He has not had another setback, that’s just the realistic timetable. It’s entirely possible Big Mike will be out even longer than that. That would really suck.
Pineda, 25, has been out since early-May with a strained muscle in his shoulder. He then suffered a setback following an Extended Spring Training outing a few weeks ago and has yet to even begin playing catch. Pineda had shoulder surgery two years ago and guys who have shoulder surgery tend to continue having shoulder problems. He managed only four starts and 19.2 innings before getting hurt.
With Pineda out until at least August and CC Sabathia still several weeks away, the Yankees do not have any rotation reinforcements on the horizon. They’ll stick with Vidal Nuno, David Phelps, and Chase Whitley behind Masahiro Tanaka and Hiroki Kuroda for the time being. They have reportedly been looking at the trade market for rotation help and you can expect their search to intensify in the coming weeks.
Only three more games left on this West Coast trip. Use this as the open thread until the regular game thread comes along in a few hours. The Mets are playing, MLB Network is airing a regional game, there’s a World Cup game still being played, and the (hockey) Rangers will once again try to extend the Stanley Cup Finals. Talk about those games or anything else right here. Have at it.
The Yankees have signed former All-Star closer Heath Bell to a minor league contract, according to Chad Jennings. The struggling Mark Montgomery was demoted from Triple-A Scranton to Double-A Trenton to clear a roster spot. He’s walked 18 in 29.1 innings this year.
Bell, 36, had a 7.27 ERA (4.52 FIP) in 17.1 innings for the Rays before being released earlier this year. He spent some time in Triple-A with the Orioles after that (4.22 ERA and 3.24 FIP in 10.2 innings), but eventually opted out of his contract when they didn’t add him to the MLB roster. Triple-A Scranton currently has six pitchers on the disabled list and they simply need some arms to abuse the next few weeks. Bell will be that guy. · (31) ·
The Yankees are coming off a pretty awesome three-game sweep of the Mariners in Seattle, and now they head down to the Bay Area for three games against the AL-best Athletics. These are the Yankees’ final three West Coast games of the regular season. Oakland won two of three in the Bronx last week.
What Have They Done Lately?
Since that series in Yankee Stadium, the A’s took two of three from the Orioles and lost two of three to the Angels. They still own the very best record in the league at 40-26, and their +130 run differential is the best in baseball by a mile. The Giants have the next highest at +59. That’s what happens when you score the most runs (336) and allow the fewest runs (206) in the game. The A’s are a powerhouse.
Like I said, Oakland leads baseball in runs scored. They’re excellent on a rate basis as well, averaging 5.09 runs per game with a team 111 wRC+. Manager Bob Melvin is currently without OF Josh Reddick (75 wRC+), who is on the disabled list with a knee injury. He is not eligible to be activated this weekend. Other than that, the A’s are healthy.
OF Yoenis Cespedes (125 wRC+) is the team’s biggest name player, but 3B Josh Donaldson (140 wRC+) and 1B/OF Brandon Moss (155 wRC+) are their most productive regulars by a rather large margin. Donaldson does come into the series riding a 1-for-28 (.036) slump, but for some reason that doesn’t make me feel any better about facing him this weekend. The catcher platoon of C John Jaso (133 wRC+) and C Derek Norris (151 wRC+) is insanely productive. You can run on them though — runners are 41-for-47 (87%) in stolen base attempts against the duo.
OF Coco Crisp (129 wRC+) and SS Jed Lowrie (92 wRC+) are pretty much the club’s only two other regular players. The rest of the lineup is based on platoons and matchups. OF Craig Gentry (81 wRC+), C/OF Stephen Vogt (113 wRC+ in limited time), 1B Kyle Blanks (155 wRC+ in limited time), and IF Alberto Callaspo (78 wRC+) are all useful when used properly. IF Nick Punto (99 wRC+) has been solid, IF Eric Sogard (44 wRC+) less so. As we saw last week, this lineup is rather relentless. If nothing else, they make the pitcher really work for his outs.
Friday: RHP David Phelps (vs. OAK) vs. RHP Sonny Gray (vs. NYY)
Believe it or not, the Athletics have only two homegrown players on their entire roster. The 24-year-old Gray is one of them. He has emerged as the staff ace since making his debut late last year, and this season he owns a 2.83 ERA (3.47 FIP) in 13 starts and 86 innings. His strikeout (7.53 K/9 and 20.3 K%) and walk (3.24 BB/9 and 8.8 BB%) numbers are not eye-popping, though he does excel at getting ground balls (55.3%) and keeping the ball in the park (0.63 HR/9 and 9.4 HR/FB%). He doesn’t have a platoon split either. Gray works in the low-to-mid-90s with his two and four-seam fastballs, and will occasionally mix in an upper-80s cutter. A power low-80s curveball is his moneymaker. It’s nasty. He’ll also throw some mid-80s sliders and changeups per start. The Yankees did not face Gray in New York last week.
Saturday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. OAK) vs. LHP Scott Kazmir (vs. NYY)
Kazmir, 30, has brought his career back from the dead these last two years following all sorts of arm problems and a stint in an independent league. He has a 2.20 ERA (2.94 FIP) in 13 starts and 82 innings with solid to excellent peripherals across the board: 7.68 K/9 (21.9 K%), 1.87 BB/9 (5.3 BB%), 0.55 HR/9 (6.3 HR/FB), and 49.3% grounders. It’s worth noting that while his platoon split is kinda small, Kazmir has been quite a bit better at home (.237 wOBA) than on the road (.268 wOBA). The O.co Coliseum is a good place to pitch. Kazmir sits in the low-90s with his sinking two-seamer and will occasionally hump it up to 94-95. We saw a little of that last week. He still throws his low-80s slider but has since added an upper-70s changeup and mid-70s curveball to his repertoire. Kazmir struck out ten and held the Yankees to two runs in 6.1 innings a week ago.
Sunday: LHP Vidal Nuno (vs. OAK) vs. RHP Jesse Chavez (vs. NYY)
The Athletics have a knack for finding productive pitchers in weird places. Chavez, 30, was literally purchased from the Blue Jays two years ago, and he’s since gone from long man to starter because of the injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin. Through 13 starts and 80 innings, he has a 3.04 ERA (3.59 FIP) with very good strikeout (8.33 K/9 and 22.0 K%) and walk (2.36 BB/9 and 6.3 BB%) rates. The ground ball (44.9%) and homer (1.01 HR/9 and 11.3 HR/FB%) numbers are a bit less impressive. Chavez does not have a big home/road split like Kazmir, but lefties (.339 wOBA) have had much more success against him that righties (.247 wOBA). As a starter, Chavez sits in the low-90s with his two and four-seam fastballs, and a tick below that with his cutter. A low-80s changeup and mid-70s curveball are his two secondary pitches. The Yankees managed to push across four runs in six innings against Chavez last week.
Melvin’s bullpen is led by closer LHP Sean Doolittle (1.18 FIP), who has 44 strikeouts and one walk in 31 innings. That is kinda nuts, especially since he was a first baseman as recently as early 2012. (Doolittle is the other homegrown player.) RHP Luke Gregerson (2.54 FIP) handles most of the setup work now that RHP Jim Johnson (4.04 FIP) has flopped. Former Yankees property RHP Dan Otero (3.39 FIP) will also see high-leverage innings. New York had him for about three days between waiver claims last spring.
The rest of the bullpen includes LHP Fernando Abad (2.42 FIP), RHP Ryan Cook (4.27 FIP), and long man LHP Jeff Francis (5.05 FIP). The Athletics were off yesterday, so their bullpen is as fresh as can be in mid-June. Masahiro Tanaka and Chase Whitley took the ball deep into the game the last two nights, so the Yankees’ bullpen is decently rested as well. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for recent reliever usage, then head over to Athletics Nation and Beaneball for the latest and greatest on the best team in the game.