Yanks lose to Blue Jays, look bad doing it

These were supposed to be the easy games, three at home against the last place and injury-riddled Blue Jays. Instead, the Yankees lost the rubber game on Wednesday to drop the series, continuing their second half skid.

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

Needed More (Pitching)

The bullpen was short-handed and the Yankees needed a real quality outing from CC Sabathia, but instead he turned in his worst start against Toronto since 2005. It was his first lost at the hands of the Jays since 2007. The offense handed their ace two leads — 2-0 and 4-3 — and he blew them both with some help from his defense (more on that later). Sabathia did complete seven innings of work and only two of the five runs he allowed were earned, but it wasn’t good enough.

In the third inning, the Jays loaded the bases with no outs on two dinky singles and walk, and it appeared as though the Yankees would escape unscathed after Mike McCoy bounced into a 5-2 double play. Instead, the Jays came through with three straight two-out hits to plate three runs. The first two singles were dinky, but the double down the left field line was well-struck. In the sixth, Yunel Escobar took Sabathia deep after an Adam Lind single. Outside of those two innings, Sabathia retired 15 of 16 batters faced with the one exception being a Derek Jeter error. He struck out eight and walked zero, but those two innings did him and the Yankees in.

Needed More (Hitting)

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

You know what was nice? The Yankees jumped out to a two-run lead right in the very first inning. They’ve been struggling in a bad way offensively, so scoring early is always a relief. Andruw Jones (single to center) and Curtis Granderson (fielder’s choice) did the run-driving-in honors after Jeter singled and Nick Swisher walked. In the third, one half-inning after Toronto took the lead, the Yankees responded with two runs when Granderson doubled over the head of Rajai Davis with two outs. Swisher and Jones came around to score after drawing walks.

But, of course, there were plenty of blown opportunities. Jayson Nix drew a leadoff walk in the fifth and moved to third on Ichiro Suzuki‘s double, putting men on second and third with no outs. The Yankees didn’t capitalize because Chris Stewart popped up on the first pitch and both Swisher and Robinson Cano struck out following an intentional walk to Jeter. It was his first intentional walk in two years. Leadoff double in the sixth? Stranded. One-out double in the seventh? Stranded. Raul Ibanez and Russell Martin hit back-to-back doubles to score a run leading off the eighth — Martin’s hit the third base bag and bounced over Adeiny Hechavarria — but Martin was left stranded at second. All told, the Yankees went 3-for-17 with runners in scoring position as Jeter, Cano, Ichiro, and Eric Chavez each came up empty on multiple occasions.

Visual representation of the team’s play of late. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

Needed More (Defense)

The Yankees didn’t just pitch poorly and hit poorly, they also played the field poorly as well. Jeter botched a ground ball in the first inning that didn’t come back to bite them, but Nix booted a grounder in the third that contributed to the three-run inning. Chavez misplayed a ground ball of his own in the ninth, eventually leading to two more runs. Jones made a pair of diving grabs in right but didn’t manage to hold onto the ball either time — I didn’t see the first one, but the second one was a ball that had to be caught — leading to runs in the sixth and ninth. The Bombers aren’t a great defensive club to start with, but having three infielders boot ground balls while two catchable balls find grass in the outfield is too much to take. You can only give a Major League team so many extra outs before they make you pay. To Toronto’s credit, they turned four of the five miscues into runs.


(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

In a not-so-shocking turn of events, the non-David Robertson and non-Rafael Soriano portion of the bullpen allowing multiple runs after Sabathia exited the game. Derek Lowe (two hits, zero outs), Boone Logan (struck out the only batter he faced), Cody Eppley (one inning, one walk), Clay Rapada (walked the only man he faced), and Joba Chamberlain (one hit, two outs) combined to allow three late-inning runs in two innings of work. Some of that poor defense was a factor, but that’s five pitchers allowing five baserunners while record six outs.

The Yankees had eight hits total but no one had more than one. Jeter (single, walk), Swisher (single, two walks), Jones (single, walk), and Nix (double, walk) all reached base multiple times. Stewart and Steve Pearce were the only starters not to reach base while Ibanez and Martin provided knocks off the bench. Somehow the Yankees mustered six doubles and only one of those guys came around to score. They needed a bad read from Davis and a lucky bounce off the bag to score three of the five runs.

Escobar came into the game with a .246/.292/.328 batting line on the season, and he managed to go 4-for-5 with three doubles and a homer. It was just his second multi-extra-base hit game of the season (double and a triple against the Rangers in May) and the first four-extra-base hit game of his 758-game big league career. In terms of WPA (+.486), it was the fifth best game of his career. Again, a .246/.292/.328 batting line coming into the afternoon.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, ESPN the updated standings. The Orioles lost and the Rays won, so they’re now three and four games back in the loss column, respectively. The magic number actually dropped down to 30. That’s entirely undeserved on the Yankees’ part, but I’ll take it.

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

The Yankees will look themselves in the mirror and try to regroup during Thursday’s off-day before welcoming the Orioles to town for a three-game weekend series. It is unquestionably the most important series of the season (to date), and that could have been avoided had the Yankees not been playing .500 baseball since the All-Star break. Hiroki Kuroda and Miguel Gonzalez kick things off Friday. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch the game.

Gamel stays hot with three-hit night in win

The Arizona Fall League rosters were partially announced, and the Yankees are indeed sending OF Slade Heathcott, C Austin Romine, and IF David Adams to the desert this year. They still have four pitching slots to fill, and I’m willing to bet all four will be relievers.

In other news, both LHP Nik Turley and 1B Kyle Roller have been named to the High-A Florida State League end-of-season All-Star Team. Congrats to both.

Triple-A Empire State (5-2 loss to Lehigh Valley) clinching the division will have to wait one more night
SS Eduardo Nunez: 0-5, 1 K
1B Kosuke Fukudome & 2B Corban Joseph: both 0-3, 2 BB — CoJo struck out
LF Ronnie Mustelier, C Frankie Cervelli & 3B Ramiro Pena: all 1-4 — Mustelier struck out … Cervelli scored a run … Pena drove in a run and struck out
DH Austin Romine: 0-4, 1 K
CF Melky Mesa: 0-2, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 SB
RF Cole Garner: 3-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI
LHP Mike O’Connor: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 7/2 GB/FB — 58 of 90 pitches were strikes (64%)
RHP Kelvin Perez: 1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 3 K — 20 of 31 pitches were strikes (65%)
LHP Juan Cedeno: 0.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1/0 GB/FB — five pitches, three strikes
RHP Manny Delcarmen: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 3/2 GB/FB — 15 of 27 pitches were strikes (56%)

[Read more…]

Wednesday Night Open Thread

Can the kids from Uganda get a runner in from second? Maybe throw a scoreless inning out of the bullpen? Inquire within. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

The Yankees are playing like absolute trash right now. Lose a series to the last-place Blue Jays and go 3-3 against them and the Indians? Pathetic. They need a spark in a big way, and maybe getting shown up by the Orioles at home this weekend will do the trick. The Yankees are just lucky they still have a month left in the season to wake the frig up, because right now this hilarious level of garbage play is taking them nowhere.

Anyway, I just needed to get that off my chest. Here’s your open thread for the night. The Mets are playing the Phillies (Harvey vs. Tyler Cloyd) and the Pirates and Cardinals will be on ESPN (Rodriguez vs. Joe Kelly). The Giants are also playing a preseason game for those of you with the NFL Network. Talk about those games or whatever else you want here. Have at it.

Yanks hope Pettitte can throw off mound this weekend, begin “accelerated” program

Andy Pettitte‘s fractured left leg is healing well according to recent checkups, and he continues to throw with increased intensity off flat ground. Prior to this afternoon’s game, Joe Girardi said that the club hopes to get the veteran left-hander back on a mound this weekend so he can begin an aggressive rehab program that will have him ready in time for a potential postseason series.

“Whenever he does get on a mound, the process is probably going to have to be accelerated a little bit just because of the time frame,” said the skipper. The minor league regular season ends early next week, though Pettitte could make a few rehab starts during the Double-A postseason like he did in 2010. The absolute latest he could come off the DL while still getting making two regular season big league starts is September 29th, so one month from today. It’s starting to approach crunch time here.

Game 130: A Happy Day

(Mike Stobe/Getty)

It’s a gorgeous day for a baseball game in New York, and the Yankees have to be feeling a bit better about how things are going after last night’s win over the Blue Jays. They’ve got a chance to win the series today — it would be their second straight series win — and as I always say, off-days always feel so much better coming off a win. Let’s hope Thursday’s a great off-day. Here’s the lineup…

SS Derek Jeter
1B Nick Swisher
2B Robinson Cano
RF Andruw Jones
CF Curtis Granderson
DH Steve Pearce
3B Jayson Nix
LF Ichiro Suzuki
C  Chris Stewart

LHP CC Sabathia

This afternoon’s game is scheduled to start at 1:05pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Yankees have not yet placed A-Rod on trade waivers

Hundreds of players have already been passed through revocable trade waivers this month, but the Yankees have yet to run Alex Rodriguez though the process according to Ken Davidoff. A-Rod is currently sidelined with a broken hand and given the five years and $114M left on his contract, no team would claim him anyway. We can dream about the Dodgers taking on his contract, but I suspect they’ve already satisfied their quota for nine-figure commitments this month.

Hughes goes to the slider against Blue Jays

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

The Yankees won last night’s game over the Blue Jays thanks primarily to their pitching staff, as David Robertson and Rafael Soriano combined for two dominant innings at the end of the game even though both were pitching for the third consecutive day. Phil Hughes stepped up and handled the first seven innings, allowing just one run on four hits. It was his thirth straight start of at least seven innings and no more than two earned runs, continuing a stretch of really strong pitching that started back in mid-May (3.44 ERA and 4.46 FIP in 128.1 innings).

That stretch started when Hughes decided to scrap his cutter, a pitch that helped him earlier in his career but had essentially transformed into a batting practice fastball. He started varying the break on his curveball soon thereafter to give hitters a look at two different breaking pitches, and in his two starts prior to last night, he really started emphasized his changeup. Last night against the Blue Jays, Hughes broke out another pitch, this one a little slider.

“I was working on a little cutter/slider hybrid deal in the bullpen and I figured this would be a good team to use it against because they have a lot of right-handed bats in that lineup,” said Hughes after last night’s game. “I was just kind of messing around with it during catch, threw a few at the end of a bullpen one time and it was decent, so I just kind of started to mix it a little more in. In our scouting report meetings before today’s game, [pitching coach Larry Rothschild] said, ‘Do you feel comfortable going to it if you need to? Not a whole lot obviously, but just something?’ I said, yeah. The first one was a 3-2 to (Yorvit Torrealba) that I threw. After that, (Russell Martin) and I found a few more spots to use it.”

According to the PitchFX data at Brooks Baseball, Hughes threw this cutter/slider hybrid thing about ten times against Toronto. Six of the ten went for strikes, including a trio of swings and misses. It has slider velocity in the low-80s, with more break than a cutter but less than a slider. I’ve heard of these being called “loaded cutters,” which are thrown with the fingers more off to the side of the ball and with less velocity by design. It’s a baby slider more than a cutter, really. Regular old cutters are thrown just like a fastball with a slightly different grip and finger pressure, but I digress.

Hughes threw all ten of his cutter/sliders to right-handed batters as you’d expect, and the pitch helped him hold the Blue Jays’ righties to four hits and two walks in 22 plate appearances. Same-side hitters went into last night’s game with a .327/.359/.622 batting line (.415 wOBA) against Phil, so he was doing something right against Toronto. The fact that half their regulars are injured and that this is a one-start sample certainly work in his favor, so we’re stuck in wait-and-see mode as far as whether this new pitch can actually help against righties.

Although he has been maddeningly homer-prone this season, Hughes has remained effective because he does a good job of limiting the damage to solo shots. He’s struggled against left-handed hitters in the past but for whatever reason that platoon split has been reversed this summer, so hopefully this new cutter/slider thing will help even it out. Phil seemed to make it clear after last night’s outing that it will remain his third or fourth offering, not something he’ll rely on heavily for the time being. He did throw a slider in high school, so this isn’t an entirely new experience, and working the pitch into game situations will be the next challenge.