Thursday Night Open Thread

Got a fun little quiz to pass along tonight: SB Nation put together a ten-question quiz about obscure baseball rules. I got six right out of ten and one of my correct answers was a total guess. There are a lot of really, really weird rules in this game. Check it out. It’s pretty fun.

Once you’ve done that, here is your open thread for the night. The Mets are playing plus both the (football) Giants and Jets are playing their final preseason games. Talk about those games, the quiz, this afternoon’s loss, or anything else right here.

Offense no-shows, Tigers walk-off with 3-2 win in series finale

Another winnable game slips through their fingers. The Yankees lost Thursday afternoon’s series finale to the Tigers by the score of 3-2, mostly because the offense didn’t bother to show up for the final five innings of the game. Two runs won’t win you much in this league.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

One Run At A Time
The Yankees and Tigers traded runs each inning from the second through fifth. A single (Nick Castellanos), a hit-and-run (Don Kelly), and a sacrifice fly (Alex Avila) gave Detroit a 1-0 lead in the second inning. The Yankees responded with an infield single and an advance on an error (Zelous Wheeler) plus another single (Jacoby Ellsbury) to score a run in the next half-inning, all with two outs. The hardest hit ball in those two rallies was probably Avila’s sac fly. They didn’t exactly knock the cover off the ball.

A more traditional rally gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead in the fourth. Martin Prado led off the inning with a single, then moved to third on Carlos Beltran‘s one-out line drive double to left. It took a weird carom off the side wall and deflected right to Kelly, the left fielder, otherwise I’m pretty sure Prado would have scored from first on the hit. It ultimately did not matter because Brian McCann pulled a two-strike pitch on the ground to the right side of the infield to score the runner from third. A productive out, as they say. I prefer to call it a less bad out.

Anyway, the Tigers tied the game at two in the bottom of the fifth thanks a leadoff walk (Kelly) and a wild pitch. Hiroki Kuroda gift-wrapped that rally for them. Kelly moved to third on Andrew Romine’s ground out and scored on Rajai Davis’ two-out single. Again, I’m pretty sure the hardest hit ball against Kuroda was Avila’s sacrifice fly. Well, Victor Martinez lifted two long fly balls to left field, but that’s pretty much it. The Tigers didn’t square him up at all. But still, the score was knotted at two through five innings.

No More Offense
Somehow the Yankees only managed the two runs (one earned) in six innings against rookie left-hander Kyle Lobstein even though he gave up a ton of long fly balls and did not strike out a batter (one swing-and-miss out of 83 pitches). Here is the team’s spray chart against Lobstein (taken from Gameday), just in case you don’t believe me about the long fly balls:

Kyle Lobstein spray chart1

No, the Yankees didn’t hit any homers off Lobstein, so those two data points over the left field fence give you an idea of just how unreliable batted ball data is. But yeah, they hit four balls very deep to left field another deep to center, all for outs. The Yankees had some well-struck balls against Lobstein, just not well-struck enough. Blah.

Anyway, after Beltran doubled to left in the fourth inning, Lobstein and relievers Blaine Hardy and ex-Yankee Joba Chamberlain combined to retire 16 straight Yankees before Mark Teixeira drew a two-out walk in the ninth. Beltran followed that with a single to shallow center, moving Teixeira to third, but McCann struck out to end the inning. He just missed a three-run homer by a few feet earlier in the at-bat. It had plenty of distance but hooked just foul. The Yankees have just seven hits in 15 innings since recording nine straight hits off David Price in the third inning on Thursday.

(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

Walked Off
For the second time this year, the Yankees were beaten by the fading bat of Alex Avila. He hit an extra-innings go-ahead solo homer in New York a few weeks ago, and on Thursday he clubbed a walk-off single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Shawn Kelley pitched into the mess by allowing a leadoff double to Victor Martinez and a walk to J.D. Martinez, but he rebounded to strike out both Castellanos and pinch-hitter Torii Hunter. He recorded both strikeouts with fastballs because his slider just wasn’t working. Naturally, Avila hit the slider.

The game-winning hit looked to be gone off the bat, but it ended up hitting off the wall in right field. Ichiro Suzuki either alligator-armed it or simply timed his jump poorly and completely whiffed on the ball. It certainly wasn’t a routine play, but it was catchable based on the fact that he was right there when it hit the wall. Not exactly the most graceful defensive play you’ll see. I know the slider is Kelley’s trademark pitch, but it was clearly his less effective offering on Thursday and that’s what he got beat on. If you’re not going to bring in David Robertson in situations like this, maybe at least have a lefty ready for Avila?

(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

Leftovers
Kuroda’s biggest mistake of the afternoon was probably the leadoff walk to Kelly in the fifth inning. He held the Tigers to those two runs on just four singles and a walk in seven innings, striking out four and recording 15 of his 21 outs on the infield. Kuroda looked very good considering he was making a late-August start on normal rest. Usually he hits a wall around 80 pitches this time of year — he threw 91 in this game, 58 for strikes (64%) — but that was not the case Thursday. Just another strong start in a recent string of them for the rotation.

The offense had five hits all afternoon: a single and a double by Beltran, and singles by Ellsbury, Prado, and Wheeler. Teixeira drew two walks. Derek Jeter went 0-for-4 with three ground outs and is down to .265/.313/.317 (76 wRC+) on the season. It’s amazing the Yankees continue to shoot themselves in the foot by batting him second.

Dellin Betances threw a scoreless eighth inning but did walk Ian Kinsler — who immediately stole second — to bring Miguel Cabrera to the plate with a chance to drive in the go-ahead run. He struck out Miggy on four pitches and got the two-time defending AL MVP to take one of the silliest swings you’ll ever see for strike three.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to MLB.com for the box score and video highlights. FanGraphs has some additional game stats. The updated standings are at ESPN. The Mariners are off Thursday, so the Yankees are three games back of the second wildcard spot at the moment. Depending on the outcome of the night game, they’ll be either six games (Orioles lose) or seven games (Orioles win) back of the top spot in the AL East. FanGraphs puts New York’s postseason odds at 12.9% at the moment.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees are off to Toronto for a three-game weekend set against the struggling Blue Jays. Finesse lefties Chris Capuano and Mark Buehrle will open the series on Friday night.

Tanaka throws 49 pitches in second simulated game

As expected, Masahiro Tanaka threw his second simulated game this morning. He threw 49 pitches across three innings while facing Brendan Ryan, who batted both right- and left-handed. Tanaka threw all of his pitches and said he feels nothing more than normal soreness, though he is rusty. Joe Girardi called it a “good step in the right direction.”

The Yankees will wait to see how Tanaka and his partially torn elbow ligament feel in the coming days before setting the next step in stone. Girardi indicated his ace will throw at least two and likely three more simulated games before returning to the team. The minor league season ends Monday, so Tanaka will have to do all of his rehab and prep work in simulated games. That’s not ideal but there’s really nothing they can do.

Game 132: Rubber Game

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees are playing their best baseball of the season right now. The rotation is giving them a quality outing just about every day, and the offense is finally starting to consistently score runs. Scoring 16 runs in 14.2 innings against Chris Sale, James Shields, and David Price these last few days is something that would have never happened earlier this year.

This afternoon’s rubber game against the Tigers gives the Yankees a chance to climb to within two games of the second wildcard spot (the Mariners are off today) with 30 games left to play. They also have a chance to draw closer to Detroit in the wildcard race. Passing one team is tough enough. Having to jump two is very difficult, which is why these head-to-head games are so important. Here is the Tigers lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. SS Derek Jeter
  3. 2B Martin Prado
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. DH Carlos Beltran
  6. C Brian McCann
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. LF Brett Gardner
  9. RF Zelous Wheeler
    RHP Hiroki Kuroda

It is nice and sunny in Detroit this afternoon. Cool, too. Temperatures are in the low-70s. These games are starting to have playoff level intensity and the weather is appropriate. First pitch is scheduled for 1:08pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally, depending on where you live.

Makeshift rotation setting the tone during Yanks’ recent surge

(Duane Burleson/Getty)
(Duane Burleson/Getty)

The story of last night’s win over David Price and the Tigers will be the nine consecutive hits in the third inning and rightfully so, but, just as importantly, rookie right-hander Shane Greene had another solid start and continues to solidify his place in the rotation going forward. I mean, nine straight hits is cool and all, but it’s an anomaly. Greene pitching well has become the norm.

Greene’s performance against the Tigers was particularly impressive because he was facing them for the second time. It was the first time a team got a second look at him as a starter. He threw eight scoreless innings against Detroit three weeks ago and followed that up with seven innings of two-run ball last night. Chase Whitley‘s second turn through the league was a disaster — the Blue Jays, the first team to face him a second time, pounded him for eight runs on eleven hits and three walks in 3.1 innings the second time around. It was good to see Greene more than hold his own against a team somewhat familiar with him.

The Yankees have now won six of their last seven games and eight of their last eleven games overall. Greene’s outing continued a stretch of strong starting pitching from the makeshift rotation — the Yankees are on what, their eighth through 12th starters at this point? I’ve lost count — that has kept the team afloat during their offensive struggles. Here is what the rotation has done since August 16th, the start of this eleven-game stretch (via Baseball Musings):.

NYY rotation 8-16 to 8-27

The table does not include Greene’s strong start against the Tigers last night — I didn’t have time to wait for the Baseball Musings database to update, so sue me — which was his third excellent outing during this eleven-game stretch. Include him and the rotation has a 3.36 ERA (2.69 FIP) with a 5.50 K/BB in 69.2 innings during these eleven games. Stretches like this explain why the rotation has a 3.82 ERA (3.75 FIP) this summer despite all the injuries.

The only real terrible start in the table above is Brandon McCarthy‘s outing on Tuesday, when he clearly didn’t have his usual command and ability to locate. He walked two batters and a hit a guy in the second inning alone. He never does that in a full start, nevermind one inning. Pitchers have off nights once in a while and that was one for McCarthy. The bullpen (specifically Adam Warren) deserves some level of blame for allowing two inherited runs to score during Chris Capuano‘s start against the Astros, the other eyesore in the table.

Otherwise the Yankees have been getting strong start after strong start during his eleven-game stretch. And, really, it dates back even further than that. The team has been getting strong starting pitching for several weeks now, but the offense has failed to hold up to its end of the bargain most nights. These last few offensive explosions — you do realize the Yankees scored 16 runs in 14.2 innings against Chris Sale, James Shields, and David Price these last few days, right? — have been nice but they are hardly he norm for this club.

The Yankees don’t win if they get anything less than a strong outing from their starter. They aren’t capable of winning high-scoring games consistently and may the baseball gods have mercy on their soul if the bullpen is any worse than dominant on a given night. In this low-scoring day and age, it all starts with pitching, and the Yankees have been getting lots of it from everywhere imaginable. Scrap heap pickups, trades, big money free agents, you name it and they’ve helped out.

These eleven games have helped the Yankees climb back into the wildcard race — they’re 2.5 games back and FanGraphs has their postseason odds at 13.8%, so they still have a ton of ground to make up — and they’ve had a chance to win just about every game because of the rotation work. This season could have (and, depending on who you ask, should have) been sunk once the regular rotation members started going down with injury. Guys like Greene, McCarthy, and Capuano have picked up the slack, and it has been especially evident during this recent surge.