Bad pitching, bad defense send the Yankees to an 8-2 loss to the Dodgers

The improbable run to the postseason has hit bump in the road. The Yankees dropped their second straight game Monday night, this one 8-2 to the Dodgers in the series opener. The Orioles lost and the Tigers won, so those two teams are now tied for the second wildcard spot. The Yankees remain two games back with 19 games to play.


Bad Matchup
Bryan Mitchell had a bad night that would have been slightly less bad with a little more luck and defensive help. The Dodgers were able to find some holes with ground balls in the first inning, during which they scored their first run on a failed double play ball. The play developed slowly. Starlin Castro‘s flip to second was a little slow and Ronald Torreyes need a moment to avoid the take-out slide before throwing to first, so Adrian Gonzalez beat it out. So it goes.

The big blow, the one that put the game firmly on the side of the Dodgers, was Aaron Judge‘s error in the second inning. Chase Utley hit a two-out bases loaded rocket into right-center field that Judge very nearly ran down, but the ball clanked off the end of his glove and fell in. I thought it was a tough error. He went a long way for that ball and nearly made the full extension catch at full speed. But, the ball Judge’s his glove, so an error it is. Either way, two runs scored to give the Dodgers a 3-0 lead. Corey Seager then pulled a ground ball just out of the reach of Castro to make it 4-0.

I first-guessed the decision to send Mitchell out for the fifth because the lefties were giving him such a hard time. Yes, there was some poor luck and shoddy defense in there, but there were also a lot of comfortable swings. Mitchell doesn’t have a changeup and has to use his cutter to neutralize lefties, and it obviously wasn’t working Monday. Sure enough, Mitchell went out for the third, gave up two more hits to lefties, then was pulled. Predictable outcome is predictable.

All told, Mitchell was charged with six runs — only two were earned thanks to Judge’s error — on eight hits in 2.1 innings. He struck out two and got only three swings and misses out of 47 pitches. Lefties went 6-for-12 against him and it would have been 7-for-12 had the Judge error been called an Utley triple. Some things didn’t break Mitchell’s way — he was charged with the sixth run when Chasen Shreve allowed an RBI infield single to Howie Kendrick — but he wasn’t fooling the lefties either. Bad matchup led to bad results.

Two Token Runs
The Yankees made some very loud contact against Dodgers rookie Jose De Leon. Castro absolutely walloped a long solo home run into the second deck in left field in the second inning, cutting the Dodgers’ lead to 3-1. Then, in the fifth inning, after the Dodgers stretched the lead to 6-1, Aaron Judge exit velocity-ed the crap out of an even longer solo homer into the left field bleachers. That ball was well-struck. Check it out:

Goodness. You live with the strikeouts — to his credit, Judge only has four strikeouts in his last five games and 16 plate appearances, which is manageable — because he can do that when he connects. At 115.2 mph, Judge’s home run was the single hardest hit ball by a Yankee this season, home run or otherwise. Long solo homers are still solo homers, so Judge’s blast only cut the Dodgers’ lead to 6-2.

Gary Sanchez smashed a hard-hit ball of his own later in the fifth inning, though it hooked foul. The Yankees were starting to get to De Leon, which is why Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts pulled him after the fifth at only 83 pitches. Amazing to see a manager be proactive when there are warning signs rather than get cute and go batter-to-batter. The Yankees only had three hits and two walks against De Leon in his five innings. Luckily two of the three hits left the yard.

Ain’t No Lie, Blei Blei Blei
Shreve replaced Mitchell in the third inning and allowed that annoying RBI infield single to Kendrick before closing out the frame. Girardi then went to lefty long man Richard Bleier to start the fifth, and Bleier gave the Yankees four innings of no effs given relief. Four innings, no hits, no runs, one walk. He also hit Utley with a pitch, which I’m sure Chase had coming to him for something.

Bleier struck out three and his nine other outs were ground balls. He didn’t allow a single ball to be hit to the outfield in his four innings. Pretty awesome. Bleier did exactly what the Yankees needed him to do, and that was soak up innings and not let the Dodgers tack on runs. The offense never did get back into the game, but that’s not Bleier’s fault. He was pretty awesome. James Pazos and Ben Heller, who allowed garbage time solo homers to Yasiel Puig and Justin Turner, were decidedly less awesome.

You see a giant Dodgers flag in Yankee Stadium, ownership sees tickets sold. (Presswire)
You see a giant Dodgers flag in Yankee Stadium, ownership sees tickets sold. (Presswire)

The Dodgers schooled the Yankees with their own move. Kendrick stole second in the second inning, and as soon as Sanchez made the throw, Josh Reddick broke for home from third. Sanchez’s throw was well wide of the bag and sailed into center field, but it didn’t really matter. Reddick broke as soon as the ball was out of Sanchez’s hand, and it was going to take a perfect throw back to the plate to get him. Rookie mistake. Eat the ball and let them steal second with two outs.

Torreyes went 1-for-4 and the single was his third hardest hit ball of the night. He hit a line drive to left-center that Joc Pederson managed to run down in the third, and two innings later Torreyes did the exact same thing, except this time left fielder Andrew Toles ran it down. Two really nice catches robbed Torreyes of extra bases. That’s a deceiving 1-for-4 right there.

Tyler Austin went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts and is now 0-for-9 with eight strikeouts since his walk-off home run. It looked like he was starting to find it, then poof, it was gone. Judge went 1-for-4 with the homer and two strikeouts. The Yankees had five hits total, including two by Castro. They had only three at-bats with runners in scoring position all night.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN is the place to go for the box score and updated standings. has the video highlights. Make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the over early win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Game two of this three-game interleague series. The Yankees and Dodgers will be back at it Tuesday night. Veteran lefty CC Sabathia and rookie lefty Julio Urias are the scheduled starters. Chances Urias has as good a career as Sabathia? I’ll say … 5.648%. Anyway, there are only eight home games left this season (eight!), so if you want to catch any of them live, head on over to RAB Tickets.

DotF: Tampa unable to stay alive in Championship Series

Two quick notes before we get to the day’s postseason action:

  • LHP Justus Sheffield was included in today’s Monday Morning Ten Pack, and his write-up is above the paywall, so make sure you check it out. “He peppered everywhere from 91-95 with tremendous life, the fastball especially explosive when thrown up in the zone. He also mixed in a good, hard slider and a solid change,” said the write-up, based on one of Sheffield’s recent starts.
  • OF Blake Rutherford is one of eight prospects the folks at 20-80 Baseball pegged as a breakout candidate for 2017. “The arm works and might be enough for right field should he need to shift to a corner, but ultimately it’s going to be the bat that makes Rutherford a future Yankee regular, and potentially an anchor in their lineup,” said the write-up.
  • Baseball America released their end-of-season minor league All-Star teams. RHP Chad Green (Triple-A), LHP Jordan Montgomery (Double-A), Gleyber Torres (High-A), and 2B Nick Solak (Short Season) all made various lists. Torres did most of his work this year with the Cubs, obviously.
  • RHP Yefrey Ramirez was placed on the High-A DL, the team announced. He got rocked yesterday, which could indicate injury, though I think this might be a paper move to add an extra arm to the roster. Ramirez isn’t scheduled to pitch again this series. RHP Chase Hodson took the roster spot.

Triple-A Scranton swept their first round postseason series. They’ll play Gwinnett (Braves) in the best-of-five International League Championship Series. That series begins tomorrow. Shane Hennigan says LHP Jordan Montgomery will start Game One, and be followed in order by LHP Phil Coke, RHP Brady Lail, and LHP Daniel Camarena. The Game Five starter is TBA at the moment.

Double-A Trenton won their first round postseason series. They’ll play Akron (Indians) in the best-of-five Eastern League Championship Series, which begins tomorrow. The Thunder held a workout in Trenton today before making the six and a half hour bus ride out to Akron.

High-A Tampa (4-1 loss to Bradenton) they lost the best-of-five Florida State League Championship Series in four games … tough finish to an otherwise very good year in Tampa

  • 2B Jorge Mateo: 0-4, 1 K, 1 E (missed catch) — went 3-for-30 in the postseason
  • CF Rashad Crawford: 1-4, 1 K
  • SS Gleyber Torres: 0-4, 3 K — went 1-for-17 (.059) in the finals
  • 1B Kevin Cornelius: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 K — hit 15 homers in 62 total games this year
  • LF Trey Amburgey: 1-4, 1 K
  • RF Tito Polo: 0-2, 1 K, 1 HBP
  • 3B Thairo Estrada: 2-3 — like Mateo in the first round, Thairo was dropped to eighth in the lineup in a must-win game because he simply hasn’t hit this series
  • LHP Josh Rogers: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 6/5 GB/FB — 47 of 68 pitches were strikes (69%) … last year’s 11th rounder, who signed for $485,000, finishes the season with a 2.50 ERA and a 119/22 K/BB in 147.1 total innings, postseason included
  • RHP Jordan Foley: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0/2 GB/FB — nine of 13 pitches were strikes (69%)

Both Low-A Charleston and Short Season Staten Island lost their first round postseason matchup. Their seasons are over.

The season is over for Rookie Pulaski, Rookie GCL Yanks East, and Rookie GCL Yanks West. None of the three teams qualified for the postseason.

Game 143: The Random Mid-September Interleague Series

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)
(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

One of the many joys of modern baseball is the random interleague series in the middle of the September postseason push. The Dodgers are in town for three games this week and that’s pretty cool. Unfortunately it also means the Yankees won’t be playing head-to-head games against one of the teams they’re chasing in the standings. They’ll need help to gain ground tonight.

Bryan Mitchell will make second his big league start of the season tonight, and the first went very well. He held the high-powered Blue Jays scoreless over five innings. Toronto also had eight right-handed batters in their lineup that day. The Dodgers have six lefties and one switch-hitter in the lineup tonight. Pretty big difference. Here is the Dodgers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. DH Brian McCann
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. 1B Tyler Austin
  8. RF Aaron Judge
  9. SS Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Bryan Mitchell

Absolutely gorgeous night for baseball here in New York. Nice and cool with a slight breeze, and only a few clouds in the sky. Autumnal. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Didi Gregorius is “really beat up” and could sit tomorrow too, said Joe Girardi. All the recent hit-by-pitches and foul balls off his legs are taking their toll. Gregorius is available tonight if necessary … Aaron Hicks (hamstring) has resumed running and hitting in the cage. He’s going to head to Tampa at the end of the homestand to ramp up his rehab work, and he could be activated off the DL next week.

TicketIQ: For Fans, Yankees’ Playoff Push Is a Cheap Ticket in the Bronx

Don’t let computers do the talking – the Yankees are still very much in the playoff hunt.

Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Rays was accompanied by Orioles and Red Sox wins, keeping the Bombers in neutral at two games behind the Blue Jays for the second wild-card spot and four games back from the division-leading Red Sox. By Sunday night the Yankees’ chances of making the playoffs dropped to 14.3 percent on, down from 18.2 percent prior to the series finale with the Rays.

Still, even with the notable percentage drop, there’s reason to believe this team will be sporting an x in the standings by the regular season’s end. The schedule is tough – the Dodgers, Red Sox, Jays and Orioles are all ahead – but that also means that considerable ground can be made with a good showing from here on out.

With playoff-bound team come marquee names, but Yankees tickets at Yankee Stadium won’t burn a hole in the wallet through the end of the year. The Dodgers, Red Sox and Orioles will each bring notable storylines with them to the Bronx over the next three weeks, from Clayton Kershaw’s second start back from the DL to Big Papi’s last games on 161st Street, and fans can find tickets for relatively cheap on the primary market.

The Dodgers are in town for a three-game series between Monday and Wednesday. While Kershaw is expected to pitch the finale on Wednesday afternoon, the Dodgers will also showcase young talent Julio Urias on Tuesday, providing plenty of incentive to hit the ballpark this week. Tickets in the outfield bleachers and upper level seating start from just $21 each across the three-game affair. Knit cap and Yankees t-shirt giveaways are also on tap for the first 18,000 fans in attendance for Tuesday and Wednesday’s game, respectively.

An 11-game road trip follows the Dodgers series, bringing the Yankees to Boston, Tampa and Toronto between September 15-26. They’ll then return home for two final series against the Red Sox and Orioles, and tickets remain relatively inexpensive across those six games.

The Red Sox head to Yankee Stadium for what may be the final time this season between September 27-29. David Ortiz’s last games aren’t dictating much of a price premium for tickets, however, as tickets also start from $21 in the outfield bleachers and 400-level sections. It’ll cost a little extra to give Papi a proper New York farewell from field level on the 29th, however, as tickets are priced for as low as $77 each in the 100-level sections.

The cheapest remaining tickets at Yankee Stadium can be found during the Orioles series from September 30-October 2. In what could potentially serve as de facto games for both teams and their postseason hopes, tickets start from just $17 each on Ticketmaster over the three-game series. Roger Maris bobblehead day is scheduled for October 1, with the first 18,000 fans receiving the special figurine upon entering Yankee Stadium.

9/12 to 9/14 Series Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers


For the last time this season, the Yankees will play a series against a non-division rival this week. The NL West leading Dodgers are in the Bronx for a three-game set starting tonight. This is only the second time the Dodgers have visited Yankee Stadium during interleague play, you know. They were here back in 2013 for a quick little two-game series. There’s an awful lot of history between these two franchises, though none of it is recent.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Dodgers dropped two of three to the Marlins in Miami over the weekend — the one win was Rich Hill‘s near perfect game — and they come to the Bronx with an 80-62 record and a +74 run differential. That’s the third best record in the NL and tied for the sixth best record in all of baseball. The Yankees are looking to continue their playoff push while the Dodgers are trying to extend their NL West lead.

Offense & Defense

Los Angeles has a pretty good offense by NL standards, though it’s only middle of the pack among the 30 clubs. They’re averaging 4.47 runs per game with a team 99 wRC+ (106 wRC+ for non-pitchers). The Dodgers have already set a Major League record by placing 28 players on the DL this season, though most are pitchers. Platoon players OF Scott Van Slyke (wrist) and OF Trayce Thompson (back) are their only injured position players. Van Slyke is done for the year. Thompson might be.

Seager. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty)
Seager. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty)

Rookie manager Dave Roberts platoons 2B Chase Utley (93 wRC+) and UTIL Howie Kendrick (98 wRC+) in the leadoff spot, with SS Corey Seager (147 wRC+), 3B Justin Turner (125 wRC+), 1B Adrian Gonzalez (116 wRC+), and C Yasmani Grandal (123 wRC+) his regular 2-3-4-5 hitters. Seager is really special. He’s got the Rookie of the Year locked up and could very well finish in the top three of the MVP voting too. RF Josh Reddick (100 wRC+) is the regular right fielder, and since being called up from Triple-A, OF Yasiel Puig (101 wRC+) has spent more time on the bench than in the lineup.

CF Joc Pederson (129 wRC+) platoons in center with UTIL Enrique Hernandez (73 wRC+), and OF Andrew Toles (170 wRC+) gets spot start duty. C Carlos Ruiz (98 wRC+) is the backup and OF Andre Ethier (0-for-4) just came off the DL. He broke his leg with a foul ball Mark Teixeira style in Spring Training and returned a few days ago. C Austin Barnes, OF Charlie Culberson, and former Yankees farmhand UTIL Rob Segedin are the extra players. I’m not sure what Roberts has planned for the DH spot this series. Ethier and Puig will probably factor in there.

The Dodgers are a good team defensively, especially when Reddick is in right and someone other than Kendrick is in left. (Yes, Kendrick plays left field now.) Puig’s a good defender with a great arm too, he just has a knack for boneheaded plays. Turner, Seager, and Gonzalez are all above-average and Utley is closer to average these days. Generally speaking, Los Angeles has a good defensive team. There’s not many butchers on their roster.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (7:05pm ET): RHP Bryan Mitchell (No vs. LAD) vs. RHP Jose De Leon (No vs. NYY)
The Yankees are going to see some fun pitchers this week. De Leon, 24, was a top 100 prospect coming into the season and this will be his second career start. He allowed four runs (three earned) in six innings in his first start against the Padres last week. Struck out nine, walked none. De Leon had a 2.61 ERA (3.24 FIP) with a 32.5% strikeout rate and a 5.9% walk rate in 86.1 Triple-A innings around a shoulder problem earlier this year. His fastball sits 91-94 mph and he can hump it up to 97 mph on occasion. A mid-80s changeup in his top secondary pitch, and these days his breaking ball is a mid-70s curveball. De Leon’s low-80s slider hasn’t been much of a factor this year for whatever reason. He didn’t throw it at all during his start last week. As John Flaherty would say, De Leon is proud of his fastball. He throws hard and he throws the heater a lot.

Tuesday (7:05pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. LAD) vs. LHP Julio Urias (No vs. NYY)
The 20-year-old Urias came into the season as arguably the top pitching prospect in baseball — it was either him or Nationals RHP Lucas Giolito — and he’s done nothing but justify the hype. The southpaw has a 3.69 ERA (3.15 FIP) in 68.1 innings spread across 13 starts and two relief appearances. He’s 20, remember. Three months younger than Justus Sheffield and nine months older than Blake Rutherford. Yeah. Urias has a very good strikeout rate (25.5%), though he walks a few too many (8.7%) and doesn’t get many grounders (41.6%). His homer rate (0.66 HR/9) figures to climb a bit unless the ground ball rate gets better. His platoon split is small. Urias works in the low-to-mid-90s with his four-seamer and he throws three secondary pitches regularly: mid-80s slider, low-80s changeup, and mid-70s curveball. Two things worth noting: one, Urias is well over his previous career high in innings and he’s had trouble holding his velocity the last few times out. And two, he throws a lot of pitches. Urias averages 4.18 pitches per plate appearance and 18.2 pitches per inning. He’d lead all pitchers in pitches per inning if he had enough innings to quality for the ERA title.

Kershaw. (Marc Serota/Getty)
Kershaw. (Marc Serota/Getty)

Wednesday (4:05pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. LAD) vs. LHP Clayton Kershaw (vs. NYY)
The Yankees will indeed see the best pitcher in the world this series, though they won’t see him at full strength. Kershaw missed more than two months with a back injury, and in his first start off the DL last week, he was limited to three innings and 66 pitches. The expectation is Kershaw will throw five innings and about 80 pitches on Wednesday. They’re slowly building him up. I’m a bit surprised the Dodgers didn’t give him more time in the minors on his rehab assignment, but whatever.

Kershaw, 28, has a 1.89 ERA (1.73 FIP) in 17 starts and 124 innings, and his underlying stats are absurd: 33.0% strikeouts, 2.0% walks, 49.7% grounders, and 0.51 HR/9. In his last start he became the first pitcher in history to strike out 150 batters before walking ten. Ridiculous. Inner-circle Hall of Famer, no doubt. Righties have more success against Kershaw than lefties, but that’s relatively speaking. Righties are hitting .200/.233/.313 (.230 wOBA) against him. Kershaw sits 92-95 mph with his four-seamer and has two lethal breaking balls in his upper-80s slider and mid-70s curveball. He doesn’t have a changeup. Everything plays up because of the deception in his delivery and his 80 command. Best pitcher on the planet. Spare me the Madison Bumgarner in the postseason argument.

Bullpen Status

Like the Yankees, the Dodgers are carrying 13 relievers in their bullpen. They have 35 players on their active roster at the moment. Rosters expanded and the Dodgers are taking advantage. I don’t blame ’em. Here’s the bullpen they’re carrying:

Closer: RHP Kenley Jansen (1.75 ERA/1.36 FIP)
Setup: RHP Joe Blanton (2.44/3.47), LHP Grant Dayton (1.77/3.34)
Middle: RHP Pedro Baez (3.50/4.19), RHP Luis Coleman (3.50/3.28), LHP J.P. Howell (4.34/3.63), LHP Adam Liberatore (3.20/2.99)
Long: RHP Jesse Chavez (4.16/4.28)
Extra: LHP Luis Avilan, RHP Josh Fields, RHP Bud Norris, RHP Josh Ravin, RHP Ross Stripling

The Dodgers have so many extra relievers that I’m not even sure their recent workload matters. Avilan (eight pitches) and Chavez (26 pitches) were the only relievers they used yesterday, so all the key end-game arms had the day off. Baez will see some high-leverage work along with Blanton and Dayton. I’m not sure why, but he does. Roberts loves him.

Our Bullpen Workload page can keep you updated on the Yankees’ relievers. Everyone is in good shape except Luis Severino, who had an extended outing yesterday and will be down for a few days.

The end of Didi’s slump and four others things that must happen for the Yankees to make the postseason

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Against all odds, the Yankees remain in the postseason race with less than three weeks to go in the regular season. They lost yesterday, but prior to that they won seven straight and 13 of their previous 17 games. The Yankees are two games back of the second wildcard spot and FanGraphs puts their postseason odds at 13.5%. They were 2.3% eight days ago.

As well as the Yankees have played recently, with seemingly a different player stepping up each night, they’re going to need to be even better over the final 20 games to sneak into the postseason. The schedule only gets more difficult from here on out. New York’s best chance to make the playoffs involves continuing their current play and getting some more from a few players on the roster. Here are five things I think need to happen to maximize the team’s postseason chances.

Gregorius snaps out of his slump

Didi Gregorius has been, rather easily, the Yankees’ best all-around position player this season. His 17 home runs are nearly double his previous career high (nine last year), and he’s still making a lot of contact and playing strong defense. I was skeptical when the Yankees acquired Didi because I didn’t believe in his bat. Boy was I wrong.

As good as Gregorius has been this season, he’s been slumping hard this month, going 3-for-34 (.088) with eight strikeouts and zero unintentional walks in September. Slumps happen, but with Didi it seems like fatigue might be a factor as well. His bat looks a little slow, and even in the field there’s been some moments when his first step wasn’t as quick as usual.

A day off could do Gregorius some good — the Yankees are ten games into a 17 games in 17 days stretch — though it is tough to get him out of the lineup given what he does defensively. We all love Ronald Torreyes, but he’s no Didi. No one is expecting Gregorius to hit five homers in a ten-game span like he did in late-June/early-July. The Yankees do need more offense from him than they’ve been getting this month, however.

Gardner and Ellsbury stay hot

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Overall, both Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury have had disappointing seasons atop the lineup for the Yankees. Gardner’s power has disappeared, and up until recently, Ellsbury wasn’t getting on base all that much. Disappointing middle of the order veterans like Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez are the main reason the Yankees have had a below-average offense this year. The two guys at the top of the lineup aren’t without fault though.

Not coincidentally, the team’s recent strong play coincides with both Ellsbury and Gardner getting hot. Ellsbury has gone 9-for-27 (.333) with two homers, four walks, and only one strikeout during this recent 7-1 stretch while Gardner is 10-for-26 (.385). Their combined on-base percentage is .417. During the 13-5 stretch, Ellsbury has hit .311/.394/.541 and Gardner has hit .317/.386/.350.

Gardner’s power still hasn’t resurfaced, but he has been hitting for average and getting on base the last three weeks. Ditto Ellsbury. The Yankees look like an entirely different team when these two are hot at the same time. We’ve seen it at various points the last three seasons. Gardner and Ellsbury continuing to set the table like they have been the last few weeks is essential to getting the Yankees into the postseason.

Betances and Clippard be automatic

At this point Joe Girardi‘s bullpen pecking order is clear: Dellin Betances is the closer (duh) and Tyler Clippard is the eighth inning guy. For a little while after the trade deadline Clippard was the seventh inning guy, but he and Adam Warren have flipped spots, which is for the best. Warren is better able to go multiple innings, which means Girardi won’t hesitate to use him to put out fires in the sixth inning, if necessary.

The Yankees seem to play nothing but close games these days — eight of their last 13 wins have come by no more than three runs and seven have come by no more than two runs — and that doesn’t figure to change, which means Betances and Clippard are going to have to be perfect in the last two innings, meaning protect every lead. The Yankees can’t afford to led late leads slip away and the two righties are the last line of defense out of the bullpen. When they’re handed a lead, it has to hold up.

Pineda becomes a reliable second starter

Right now the Yankees have a bonafide ace in Masahiro Tanaka and four other guys in the rotation who don’t make you feel all that comfortable. Maybe comfortable isn’t the right word. They’re just unpredictable from start to start. CC Sabathia is in the twilight of his career, Bryan Mitchell and Luis Cessa are just kids, and Michael Pineda is one of the most enigmatic pitchers in all of baseball.

Pineda is also one of the most talented pitchers in baseball — it’s good to be 6-foot-7 with a mid-90s cutter and a wipeout slider — and I think he has the best chance to emerge as a second reliable starter these last three weeks. The problem is Pineda has given Girardi no real reason to trust him. We all saw Girardi pull Pineda one out short of qualifying for the win with a five-run lead the other night.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

As bad as the offense has been for long stretches of time this season, it seems more likely the rotation will be the Yankees’ downfall these final few weeks. Ivan Nova‘s been traded and both Nathan Eovaldi and Chad Green got hurt, meaning the Yankees have no choice but to rely on two rookies and a fading Sabathia. Pineda is young and he’s in what should be the prime of his career. He’s the club’s best hope for second solid starter.

One of the kids contributes from the bottom of the lineup

The Yankees committed to their youth movement last month and the kids have really improved the team, not only on the field, but in the dugout. The Yankees seem more energetic than they have been in years. It’s fun to watch. Gary Sanchez has been a monster who is rightfully hitting in the middle of the lineup. Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge, two other rookies, have had a tougher go of it. Here are their MLB numbers:

Austin: .224/.274/.414 (81 wRC+), 3 HR, 6.5 BB%, 35.5 K% in 62 plate appearances
Judge: .177/.258/.316 (53 wRC+), 3 HR, 9.0 BB%, 43.8 K% in 89 plate appearances

Both have shown signs of coming around of late, especially Austin, but the fact remains both have been negatives at the plate since being called up. (Judge has at least improved the right field defense.) If the Yankees were well out of the race like many expected them to be this month, running both kids out there everyday would be no big deal. The experience is the most important thing.

The Yankees need impact to get the postseason though, and it would be a huge help if either Austin or Judge started to figure things out and contribute from the bottom of the lineup. It would be cool if both did it, but let’s not get greedy. One of the two getting locked in would lengthen the lineup and make the offense that much dangerous. The kids are a big reason the Yankees are remotely close to a playoff spot right now, and if they’re going to sneak into the postseason, rookies like Austin and Judge will have to be a driving force.

Yankeemetrics: Stayin’ alive, against all odds [Sept. 8-11]


Another Baby Bomber earns his pinstripes
The surging, red-hot Yankees took another step towards making their once-laughable postseason dreams a reality as they celebrated yet another wild and crazy win on Thursday night against the Rays.

Their magical and improbable rise up the standings continued thanks to a dramatic two-out, walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth inning by Tyler Austin, the latest Baby Bomber to deliver in the clutch for these never-say-die Yankees.

With the Yankees down to their last strike before extras, Austin crushed a 3-2 fastball into the right-field seats, etching his name on several pages in the franchise record books with that game-winning blast. He is the:

  • only Yankee first baseman to ever hit a walk-off homer against the Rays
  • second Yankee since 1988 (when pitch data is available) to hit a walk-off shot on a full count with two outs; the other was Brian McCann on Aug. 24, 2014 vs White Sox
  • first Yankee rookie with a walk-off homer since Melky Cabrera on July 18, 2006 vs Mariners
  • first Yankee rookie with two-out walk-off home run since Bobby Murcer on Aug. 5, 1969 vs Angels

Austin wasn’t the only player to clear the fences in this game as a late-season Home Run Derby broke out at Yankee Stadium. Brian McCann hit two ultra-important homers, giving the Yankees a lead in the second and fourth innings of this back-and-forth contest.

Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza both went deep twice for the Rays, becoming the first set of outfielders homer twice in a game against the Yankees since the Braves’ Andruw Jones and Ryan Klesko on July 16, 1999. The last AL outfield pair to pull off the feat was Carl Yastrzemski and Bernie Carbo for the Red Sox on June 18, 1977.

Overall, this was the 17th time since 1913 that teammates have each hit two homers in a nine-inning game versus the Yankees, but it was just the third time that the Yankees actually won the game. The only other times it happened in that span were July 21, 2002 against the Red Sox and June 21, 1990 against the Blue Jays.

Tex message slams Rays
And then there was one …

The Yankees youth brigade has fueled this incredible and improbable late-summer run, but it was an aging veteran who stole the spotlight on Friday night and provided the decisive blow in the 7-5 victory that brought the Yankees to within a single game of the final playoff spot.

Thirty-six-year-old Mark Teixeira broke open the game with a grand slam in the fourth inning, giving the Yankees a 7-2 cushion. It was Teixeira’s 11th career bases-loaded home run; among switch-hitters, only Eddie Murray (19) has more in baseball history.

The crucial hit was also a significant milestone blast for Teixeira, his 203rd homer as a Yankee, tying him with Roger Maris for 15th place on the franchise list. And it was his 406th career homer overall, one shy of matching Duke Snider for 54th place on the major-league all-time list.

tanaka cap tip
This is real, folks
The implausible has suddenly turned into the believable. Backed by a masterful and brilliant performance from their ace, Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees continued their out-of-nowhere push to the playoffs with another win on Saturday afternoon.

They’ve now won seven straight and 14 of the last 16 games started by Tanaka, and are 22-7 in his starts overall; no team in baseball this season has won more games behind a single starting pitcher than the Yankees when Tanaka is on the mound (22).

Tanaka delivered another gem, taking a shutout into the eighth inning and finishing with the first double-digit strikeout, no-walk game of his MLB career. He got a season-high 20 swings-and-misses among the 102 pitches thrown, including 18 (!) with his splitter and slider, the most he’s ever generated on those two pitches combined in a single start.

The game was a pitchers’ duel until Jacoby Ellsbury snapped a scoreless tie with a two-run homer in the sixth inning off Chris Archer, which was perhaps the least shocking hit in the game. Ellsbury is now 19-for-34 (.559) versus Archer, his highest batting average against any pitcher he faced at least 15 times.

gary didi

The legend of Gary Sanchez kept growing on Saturday, too, when he crushed a 420-foot homer into the left-field bullpen, the 13th time he’s gone deep in the big leagues.

He tied the major-league record for the most homers in a player’s first 35 games (the others to do it are Wally Joyner, Mike Jacobs, Kevin Maas and Wally Berger), but Sanchez is the only one in that group that also had compiled at least nine other extra-base hits in those 35 games.

Yet that towering homer wasn’t even his most impressive feat. The Rays tried to intentionally walk him in the eighth, but Sanchez reached out and connected on a 52-mph pitch that he sent 407 feet to the warning track for a sac fly. It was easily the slowest pitch that anyone has hit at least 400 feet over the last two seasons (since Statcast began tracking distance/velocity).

The Sunday Letdown
The Rays finally cooled off the red-hot Yankees, who dropped the final game of the series, 4-2, snapping their seven-game win streak. Still, even with the loss, #TeamSell is 24-14 since August 1; in that span, only the Cubs and Royals have better records than the Yankees.

The Sunday Letdown was in full effect as the Bronx Bombers’ offense stalled and the homer-prone Luis Cessa couldn’t contain the Rays’ bats. This was the Yankees’ 51st game this season scoring two or fewer runs; that’s the most among all American League teams this season, and the Yankees’ most at the 142-game mark since 1990.

The Rays had just five hits off Cessa in 5⅔ innings, but three of them went over the fence, increasing his total to 13 home runs served up in 47⅔ innings this season. Of the 25 runs he’s surrendered this season, 20 have come via the longball. His rate of 2.45 homers allowed per nine innings would be the second-highest in a single season in franchise history among guys that pitched at least 40 innings, behind only Hideki Irabu’s 2.53 in 1997.