The big trade with the White Sox is having a huge impact so far this postseason

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Later tonight, the Yankees will again play another elimination game as they meet the Indians in Game Five of the ALDS. The Yankees were down 0-2 in this series once upon a time. They won Games Three and Four at home to force tonight’s winner-take-all Game Five. I’m sure the Indians are feeling some pressure right now. The Yankees? No one expected them to win anyway. This is all gravy.

The Yankees are one win away from the ALCS for many reasons, including their starting pitching performances in Games Three and Four. Greg Bird has been especially productive so far this postseason, ditto Aroldis Chapman out of the bullpen. You don’t get to where the Yankees are right now by leaning or one or two guys. It takes a team effort to get here and the many folks have contributed to the team’s success.

Through five postseason games so far, one thing is pretty clear: the Yankees don’t get to Game Five of the ALDS without making that big trade with the White Sox in July. The trade that sent Tyler Clippard and three prospects, most notably 2016 first rounder Blake Rutherford, to Chicago’s south side for Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle. That was a pretty fun night. The news of the trade broke, and we all waited for the games to end so it could be made official. Remember that?

Immediately after the trade, Robertson rejoined the bullpen Circle of Trust™ and Frazier stepped in as the everyday third baseman, pushing Chase Headley to first. Kahnle never really had a set role during the regular season aside from the guy who pitches when the top relievers aren’t available for whatever reason. All three guys helped the Yankees get to the playoffs, and they’ve all contributed in the postseason, especially Robertson and Kahnle.

  • Frazier: Had three hits in ALDS Game Two and also opened the scoring with a double against Trevor Bauer in Game Four on Monday.
  • Kahnle: Five innings of no effs given relief. 15 up, 15 down. That includes 2.1 innings in the Wild Card Game and a two-inning save in ALDS Game Four.
  • Robertson: He’s allowed one run in 5.1 innings so far. Most notably, Robertson threw 3.1 innings of hero ball in the Wild Card Game last week.

When the Yankees acquired Robertson and Kahnle, they brought them in to supplement what was already a strong bullpen … on paper. Chapman struggled basically all year prior to September, and Dellin Betances hasn’t been able to stop walking people. Robertson and Kahnle went from luxury pieces — as if there is such a thing as too many good relievers — too essentials, Robertson in particular.

Frazier is, quite clearly, a flawed hitter. He hits for a low average and pops up a lot — those two things are very related — but he also draws walks and can hit for power, and he improved the third base defense as well. And, on top of that, Frazier has been a Grade-A clubhouse dude. He seems to genuinely love playing in New York and everyone with the team seems to love having him around. Frazier joined the Yankees and fit right in.

To me, the key to the White Sox trade was the fact the Yankees gave up basically nothing off their big league roster. Moving Clippard in the trade was essentially addition by subtraction because he was so bad. These were three immediate upgrades to the roster. Robertson replaced Clippard. Kahnle replaced Chasen Shreve, who was sent to Triple-A. Frazier replaced Ji-Man Choi, who was designated for assignment and eventually sent to Triple-A.

For all intents and purposes, the Yankees turned three revolving door roster spots into quality MLB players with this one trade. They also told the guys who were already here that hey, we believe in you, you’re good enough to win, and we’re going to get you the help we need. First base was a problem, so they got Frazier and moved Headley to first. The bullpen was a problem, so they got two high-strikeout arms. All without moving a player who was helping them win games.

Sure, Rutherford could rebound from his down season and become a future All-Star and No. 3 hitter. Ian Clarkin could develop into a mid-rotation starter and Tito Polo could stick in the league for a decade as a fourth outfielder. There’s always the risk that you’re trading away a quality player(s) and end up regretting up. Every trade is a calculated risk. The Yankees were willing risk Rutherford’s long-term potential for the immediate impact of Frazier, Kahnle, and Robertson, and there’s zero chance they regret it right now.

Keep in mind the big trade with the White Sox was not a pure rental deal. Frazier will be a free agent after the season, but Robertson is under contract next year and Kahnle is under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2020. That was part of the appeal. The trade helps now and later. And right now, the three players acquired in the trade are having an impact in the postseason, especially Robertson and Kahnle. This deal is a major reason why the Yankees are one win away from the ALCS.

Thoughts prior to Game Five of the 2017 ALDS

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Once again, the Yankees will play with their season on the line tonight. It’ll be their fourth elimination game in the last eight days. Not sure I need this much baseball-related stress in my life right now but whatever. Game Five is tonight. Yankees vs. Indians, winner faces the Astros in the ALCS and the loser goes home. Lets get to today’s thoughts.

1. I don’t know about you, but I am oddly zen about this whole series. Don’t get me wrong, I still feel the nerves once the game gets underway. That’s unavoidable. But I don’t live and die with every pitch like I did when I was younger. Maybe it’s just a function of getting older, or maybe it has to do with the fact the Yankees have wildly exceeded expectations this season, and I feel fortunate they’ve gotten this far. I’m enjoying the ride. That’s all. This has been the most fun Yankees season for me in quite some time. It’s been better than 2009 in a lot of ways. In 2009, the Yankees were expected to win, and when they did, it almost felt like a relief. This is nothing like that. The Yankees are (a lot) better than I expected, the team is ultra-likeable, and they’re just a lot of fun to watch play. Whatever happens tonight, win or lose, I’ve enjoyed the heck out of this season. It’s been a very long time since a Yankees team made me feel this way.

2. Against a guy like Corey Kluber, who is legitimately one of the five best pitchers on the planet, it can be easy to get caught up in the “work the count, raise his pitch count, get him out of the game as fast as possible” mentality. Of course you want to do those things. You want to do that against every pitcher. But I also think there’s something to be said for hunting a certain pitch (a fastball, usually) early in the count and taking a big rip if you get it. Kluber’s not going to give you many hittable pitches. If you happen to get one first or second pitch, you don’t want to pass it up for the sake of working the count. The downside here is that if you do hunt those early count fastballs and don’t do damage, you might look up in the sixth inning and see Kluber cruising at 65 pitches. At the same time, if you take pitches and try to drive up his pitch count, Kluber’s going to be ahead in the count 0-2 on a lot of guys, and that’s no way to hit. The Yankees have several smart, patient hitters in the lineup — Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro are the only real hackers — so I trust that they’ll work the count against Kluber, and also jump on that hittable early count fastball should it present itself.

3. A crazy idea that won’t and shouldn’t happen: Ronald Torreyes at DH. Or maybe Castro at DH and Torreyes at second. The idea is Torreyes in the lineup over the hodgepodge of unproductive DHs the Yankees have used this postseason. Kluber is super tough and it’s not just that hard contact is hard to come by, contact in general is hard to come by against him. Torreyes excels at putting the ball in play. That’s his thing. And hey, he sure as heck won’t let a hittable fastball go by early in the count. Chase Headley and Jacoby Ellsbury have contributed nothing this series and Matt Holliday hasn’t played in over a week. Putting him in the lineup for the first time in nine days in an elimination game against Kluber is asking for trouble. Torreyes hasn’t played much either, but he does get the bat on the ball, and maybe that’ll lead to something big in Game Five. Like I said though, this ain’t happening. It was just a thought.

4. Speaking of the DH, rumor has it Edwin Encarnacion will be back in the lineup tonight. Terry Francona hinted at the possibility yesterday, when Encarnacion ran in the outfield and took batting practice to test the ankle. They’re not paying this guy to run. As long as he is healthy enough to mash a baseball, the Indians will put him in the lineup, and live with the station-to-station baserunning. It’s not like he gives them that much more than that when healthy anyway. I can’t imagine Encarnacion is 100% physically right now — that was a really ugly ankle roll, they’re lucky the injury wasn’t worse — but I expect him to tough it out and be in the lineup tonight, and that’s unfortunate for the Yankees. Encarnacion changes the entire complexion of Cleveland’s lineup.

5. So I guess I need to make another prediction? I mean, I already predicted the Yankees in five, so I can’t go back on that. I also predicted Aaron Judge will have the big game-winning hit against Andrew Miller in Game Five, so I’m sticking with that too. Furthermore, I’m thinking this game will be low-scoring into the late innings thanks to two very different pitching performances — Kluber dominates while CC Sabathia pitches in and out of jams before giving way to the bullpen in the fifth inning — before the Yankees get the lead late. The final three outs? Painful. Tying run on base, middle of the order due up, something wild like that. Isn’t that always how these games go? I don’t foresee a quick 1-2-3 ninth inning with two ground balls and a strikeout on ten pitches. I’m expect a good ol’ makes-you-want-to-puke ninth inning in Game Five.

Tuesday Night Open Thread

Somehow, someway, the Yankees are still playing baseball. Just not tonight. The Yankees and Indians have an off-day today and will play the decisive Game Five of the ALDS tomorrow night in Cleveland. I am pretty thrilled they made it this far. Win or lose tomorrow, it’s been a hell of a season. Lots of fun and lots of exciting developments for the future. Win tomorrow and keep it going. I’m not ready for the season to end yet.

Here is an open thread for the night. The Cubs and Nationals were rained out, so there is no baseball tonight at all. Sucks. The (hockey) Rangers are playing, plus there’s other NHL action on NBCSN and preseason NBA on ESPN. Talk about those games or anything else here. Just not politics or religion.

Tuesday Links: Sabathia, Girardi, Mets, Judge, Tate, Abreu

(Gregory Shamus/Getty)
(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Thanks to wins in Games Three and Four of the ALDS the last two days, the Yankees will play for a spot in the ALCS tomorrow night. What a fun season this has been. I hope it never ends. Anyway, here are some stray links to check out now that we all have a chance to catch our breath a bit during the off-day.

Sabathia still wants to pitch in 2018

Over the weekend CC Sabathia reiterated to Jon Morosi that he plans to pitch in 2018. He said this back over the winter too, but at 37 years old and with a balky knee, he could’ve changed his mind at some point during the season. And heck, maybe the Yankees will win the World Series and Sabathia will decide to ride off into the sunset as a champion. That’d be cool, as much as I’d miss CC.

Regardless of what happens tomorrow night, I am totally cool with bringing Sabathia back on one-year contracts for pretty much the rest of his career, Andy Pettitte style. He showed this year that last season’s success was no fluke. The new Sabathia is here to stay. Between the perpetual need for pitching depth and Sabathia’s leadership role in the clubhouse, bringing him back is a no-brainer. And why would Sabathia want to leave? The Yankees are good and fun, and he lives here year-round. The going rate for veteran innings dudes (Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey, etc.) is one year and $10M to $12M these days. Maybe Sabathia gets $15M because he’s basically a legacy Yankee?

Mets have discussed Girardi

I had a feeling this was coming. According to Mike Puma, the Mets have internally discussed pursuing Joe Girardi should Girardi and the Yankees part ways when his contract expires after the season. Terry Collins was essentially pushed out as Mets manager after the season, and the team is looking for a new skipper. Also, as George King writes, Girardi has given some indications he could step away after the season to spend more time with his family and avoid burnout.

While we should never rule out Girardi going elsewhere or simply stepping away to be with his family, these two reports struck me as plants from Girardi’s camp as a way to build leverage for contract talks. The best thing for Girardi would be the Nationals and Dusty Baker having trouble finding common ground for an extension, because then he could use them as leverage too. I think Girardi wants to come back — who’d want to leave given how well set up the Yankees are for the future? — and I think both Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman want him back. The chances of a reunion seem quite high to me. Maybe as high as 95/5.

Judge named BA’s Rookie of the Year

(Abbie Parr/Getty)
(Abbie Parr/Getty)

A few days ago Baseball America named Aaron Judge their 2017 Rookie of the Year, which should surprise no one. They give out one award for all of MLB, not one for each league. Baseball America has been giving out their Rookie of the Year award since 1989 and Judge is the second Yankee to win it, joining Derek Jeter in 1996. From their write-up:

“You watched him in the minor leagues and you saw the raw power and athletic ability,” one pro scout told BA during the season. “You saw a big swing and high strikeout numbers. Then you have to ask yourself does he have the ability to make adjustments and shorten the swing. The answer was yes.’

“If anybody says they expected this I would have to call them a liar. Nobody in their right mind expected this.”

The last few Baseball America Rookies of the Year include Corey Seager, Kris Bryant, Jose Abreu, Jose Fernandez, and Mike Trout. Judge is for sure going to win the AL Rookie of the Year award — he’d be the first Yankee to win that since Jeter — and he should win unanimously. The real question here is the MVP race. I see way more people explaining why Judge shouldn’t win it (his slump) than why Jose Altuve should win. Kinda weird.

Tate removed, Abreu added to AzFL roster

Dillon Tate has been removed from the Scottsdale Scorpions roster with Albert Abreu taking his place, the Arizona Fall League announced. Also, Chris Gittens was removed from the roster as well. I’m not sure why Tate was dropped from the roster, but it could one of countless reasons. He could’ve gotten hurt. The Yankees could’ve decided to shut him down after Instructional League. The Yankees may think those innings would be better spent on Abreu. Who knows.

Abreu came over in the Brian McCann trade and he threw only 53.1 innings around elbow and lat injuries this year. He finished the season healthy though, and is obviously healthy enough to go to the AzFL, so he’ll be able to squeeze in some more innings there. That’s good. Abreu has an awful lot of upside, maybe the most of any pitcher in the system. As for Gittens, he was removed because Billy McKinney was added to the AzFL roster, and he’s going to start playing some first base there. Only so many first base roster spots to go around, so Gittens gets dropped.

Despite all the attention on the bullpen, the Yankees forced Game Five with great starting pitching

(Abbie Parr/Getty)
(Abbie Parr/Getty)

Incredibly, the ALDS is going back to Cleveland. The Yankees, after dropping Games One and Two at Progressive Field — Game Two in particularly gut-wrenching fashion — rallied to win Games Three and Four at Yankee Stadium to force a decisive Game Five tomorrow night. This team, man. They don’t go down with a fight. We’ve seen it all year.

The Yankees are in the ALDS because their bullpen bailed out Luis Severino in the Wild Card Game last week. Severino recorded one (1) out before a parade of relievers held the Twins to one run in 8.2 innings. The Yankees didn’t build a deep power bullpen for that reason, but it sure came in handy. New York’s bullpen is their greatest weapon.

And yet, the Yankees did not force Game Five with their bullpen. More than anything, they’re going to play for an ALCS spot tomorrow night because they received great starting pitching from Masahiro Tanaka and Severino in Games Three and Four. The bullpen, particularly Aroldis Chapman and Tommy Kahnle, helped along the way, as did some timely hitting, but the starters were the stars of the show.

  • Tanaka in Game Three: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
  • Severino in Game Four:  7 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 9 K

The Indians did touch Severino up for two home runs in the middle innings last night, but he finished very strong and completed seven innings to give the gassed bullpen a rest. Considering his miserable Wild Card Game start last week, that was a monster performance for Severino. What a great rebound.

“Part of it is the steps I’ve seen him take this year. You’ve seen players continue to take that step and he’d done it all year,” said Joe Girardi after last night’s win. “I told him after the game, he grew up a lot today. He started to get tired after the six innings and it was the part of the lineup giving him trouble and he was able to get the extra inning, which was good for our bullpen. To me, that’s growing up.”

Even after that Wild Card Game performance, the Yankees were never going to stave off elimination in the ALDS without quality starting pitching. Riding the bullpen in the postseason is one of those ideas that sounds great, and works a lot of the time, but isn’t practical on a daily basis. You can’t pitch Chad Green and David Robertson every single game. Chapman can’t get five-out saves day after day. It can’t be done. Thees guys are human and they get tired. They’re not robots.

The Yankees, especially after getting crummy starting pitching performances in the Wild Card Game and Game One of the ALDS, were going to need great starts from Tanaka and Severino in Games Three and Four. Not good starts. Great starts. The Indians are too good to beat with bad starting pitching. Every team in the postseason is too good to beat with bad starting pitching. The Yankees needed more from their starters and Tanaka and Severino provided it.

“I think every win starts in the pitcher’s hand,” added Girardi. “Your starting pitcher and how he does and how he goes out and attacks the hitter and gets them out and gives you a chance to win.”

Thoughts following Game Four of the 2017 ALDS

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

The 2017 Yankees are not going down without a fight. Did you expect anything else? This team has been resilient all season. The Game Four win last night means a winner-take-all Game Five tomorrow night at Progressive Field. The Yankees are 3-0 in elimination games already this postseason, you know. Lets get to some thoughts, shall we?

1. This probably sounds lame as hell, but man am I proud of Luis Severino. He got smacked around in the Wild Card Game and was booed off the field, then he came back last night and shoved against the best team in the American League in a win or go home game. Yes, Severino did allow those two home runs in the middle innings, but he shook them right off and finished the game strong. He was throwing upper-90s in the seventh inning with his pitch count over 100 and showing no fear. Going right after hitters. Severino’s come a long way since just last season. Last year any little rally would snowball into something big and ugly. This year Severino limits the damage and goes back about his business. He’s matured so much as a pitcher and we saw it last night. He rebounded from that Wild Card Game start like a champ. I’m proud of the kid. I don’t care if it sounds lame.

2. Obvious statement is obvious: getting the top relievers a night off last night was huge. Chad Green and Aroldis Chapman did warm up during Game Four, though it was more like playing catch to get loose than getting on the bullpen mound intending to get hot and pitch in the game. A little catch is nothing. For all intents and purposes, Chapman and David Robertson will go into Game Five with two days of rest and Green will go into Game Five with four days of rest. Also, Sonny Gray was not needed last night, so he’ll be available in the bullpen tomorrow (with an extra day of rest) in case things go haywire. This works both ways — Andrew Miller will go into Game Five with two days of rest too — but I’m feeling pretty good about the bullpen situation right now. Chapman, Robertson, and Green should be as close to 100% as we could reasonably expect after the last week.

3. I’m a big Sonny Gray fan but I think the Yankees are 100% making the right call starting CC Sabathia in Game Five tomorrow. No doubt in my mind. They’re not going to ask him to dominate for eight innings, though they’d happily take it. Realistically, the Yankees need what, four good innings from Sabathia? They could piece together the final five innings from Green, Robertson, Chapman, and the suddenly untouchable Tommy Kahnle. You know Sabathia is not going to be overwhelmed by the moment and you know Sabathia is going to be motivated to beat his former club. Can you believe this? Sabathia was so terrible from 2013-15 and now here is, getting the ball in an elimination game in 2017 and pretty much everyone agrees he’s the right man for the job. What a time to be alive. By the way, the last time the Yankees won a full postseason series? The 2012 ALDS against the Orioles, when Sabathia threw a complete-game in Game Five.

Ouch. (Mike Stobe/Getty)
Ouch. (Jason Miller/Getty)

4. Know what’s had a big impact on this series? Edwin Encarnacion’s injury. That dude is a terror at the plate. He started slow this season — Encarnacion was hitting .199/.333/.356 (89 wRC+) as late as May 20th — yet he still finished the year at .258/.377/.504 (132 wRC+) with 38 home runs. He’s that good. Encarnacion has not played since rolling his ankle at second base in Game Two and Michael Brantley, who has stepped in at DH for the time being, has gone 1-for-11 with a walk and four strikeouts. Brantley returned from an ankle injury of his own very late in the regular season — he got three whole at-bats before the start of the postseason — and looks very much like a player who is still searching for his timing at the plate. And hey, maybe he’ll find it tomorrow. It can happen quick and Brantley is really good. For now though, the Indians lost their top power hitter and a very dangerous middle of the order presence. The Encarnacion injury has undeniably changed the series and helped the Yankees. Just think, how does Game Three play out if he’s in the lineup? I don’t even want to think about it.

5. Speaking of the DH, good gravy, I have no idea what the Yankees can do at that spot. Chase Headley went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts last night and the DH spot has now gone 0-for-18 in five postseason games. That’s bad. Real bad. I was on board with starting Matt Holliday last night because he’ll at least work the count and maybe pop a dinger, but tomorrow night, against Corey Kluber? Kluber will chew Holliday up. Holliday has been lost against righties the last few weeks, especially anyone with mid-90s gas, and Kluber is no ordinary righty. Starting Holliday at DH against Kluber in Game Five after having him sit on the bench for nine days seems doomed to fail. I dunno. I guess Jacoby Ellsbury is best DH option tomorrow. Neither he nor Headley have looked good lately, but, if nothing else, Ellsbury might be able to make something happen with legs. Force an error, beat out a double play, something like that. Headley gives you basically no shot at that. There’s no good DH solution right now, and if the Yankees do manage to advance to ALCS, they have to seriously consider dropping Holliday from the roster in favor of Tyler Austin or Clint Frazier, someone who can bring a little more to the table defensively while still being able to hammer a mistake.

6. Speaking of Kluber, his Game Two performance was an aberration as far as I’m concerned. I don’t think the Yankees have his number or have figured something out or anything like that. I think it was just an anomaly performance from a truly great pitcher. That said, if that Game Two performance gives the Yankees confidence and/or puts a little doubt in Kluber’s mind, great! I’m just not sure it actually means anything. Kluber struggled to locate from the get-go in Game Two and the Yankees took advantage. Sometimes great players have bad days. That’s all it was, probably. Kluber just had a bad day. The Yankees are going to have their hands full tomorrow. No doubt about that. Kluber is a monster. I wish that Game Two showing made me feel more confident.

7. I don’t normally put much stock in “they’re feeling the pressure!” and things like that, but geez, I have to think the Indians are starting to feel it a little bit, don’t you? They had a 2-0 series lead and couldn’t put it away in Games Three or Four, and now they have to play a decisive Game Five. Furthermore, this team blew a 3-1 series lead in the World Series last year, remember. And aside from Encarnacion and Jay Bruce, it’s basically the same group of players. The Yankees are the Yankees, it’s hard to consider them an underdog, but they absolutely are the underdog this series given everything that’s happened the last 18 months or so. Cleveland was the best team in the league this season, they had that AL record 22-game winning streak, and they were supposed to win the ALDS after winning Games One and Two. The Yankees were supposed to quit on Joe Girardi after the non-challenge in Game Two and that would be that. It hasn’t happened. If anything, the Yankees have rallied around Joe’s blunder, and now suddenly the Indians are left wondering how a 2-0 series lead turned into a decisive Game Five. The Yankees? This is all gravy baby. No one thought they’d last this long after Game Two. Enjoy the ride.

Yankees 7, Indians 3: Severino sends ALDS back to Cleveland for Game Five

The season no one wants to end still ain’t over. After going down 0-2 in the ALDS, the Yankees have battled back to force a Game Five. Four Indians errors and five unearned runs (!) helped the Yankees to a 7-3 win in Game Four on Monday night. The Fighting Spirit. It is strong with this team.


Taking Advantage Of Mistakes
Shout to the Indians for starting Trevor Bauer on short rest in Game Four. I am forever cool with the idea of using starters on short rest in the postseason, but only frontline aces. Not guys like, well, Trevor Bauer. The decision to start Bauer really backfired Monday. He didn’t make it out of the second inning and the Yankees forced him to throw 55 pitches to get five outs. Bauer wasn’t nearly as crisp as he was in Game One.

To make matters worse for Bauer, third baseman Giovanny Urshela gave the Yankees a free out. He booted Starlin Castro’s hard-hit ground ball to put a man on first with one out in the second. It wasn’t a routine play because it was hit hard, but I think it was a play a Major League third baseman should make. Let’s recap that inning with an annotated play-by-play, because a lot happened.


(1) Over the weekend, Sunny wrote the Yankees would need some plain ol’ good luck to come back in this series, and they got it in Game Four. First the usually sure-handed Urshela made the error, then Todd Frazier jumped all over a hanging 3-1 curveball for a run-scoring double into the left field corner. The ball was a line drive that landed on the foul line. Look:


When you’re going bad, that ball hooks just foul. When you’re going good, that ball stays fair. The ball stayed fair and Castro scored the game’s first run. Nice job by Frazier to hammer the hanging curveball.

(2) Bauer was clearly having trouble with the Yankees at this point, so during that Aaron Hicks at-bat, he broke out his changeup. Threw two of them back-to-back to get ahead in the count 1-2. Hicks was able to foul off a two-strike pitch to stay alive, take a curveball down below the zone, then hammer another hanging curveball into center field to score Frazier. Love that two-strike hitting.

(3) Once again, Bauer jumped ahead in the count 1-2, this time to Brett Gardner. And once again, the Yankees hitter spoiled a two-strike pitch, took a ball, then laced a single back up the middle. Gardner’s was a ground ball though. Hicks hit it in the air. That was two straight two-strike hits with two outs, the second of which scored a run to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead. Then to really rub it in, Gardner stole second base uncontested. Bauer was running out of ideas. He couldn’t put the Yankees away and get that third out of the second inning.

(4) Aaron Judge has not had a good ALDS. It’s no secret. He was 0-for-11 with nine strikeouts (!) in the series going into Game Four, and of course Bauer quickly got ahead of Judge with two quick strikes. Back-to-back curveballs in the zone for an 0-2 count. Judge went into battle mode after that. He spit on two curveballs out of the one to even things up 2-2, fouled off two straight two-strike pitches, took another curveball for a ball, then crushed a high fastball for a two-run double. Look at this thing:


Good gravy. We’ve seen the Indians — and several other teams this season — beat Judge upstairs with high fastballs. It works … as long as you get it high enough. Bauer, apparently, did not. Judge ripped it to left field to score two runs and give the Yankees a 4-0 lead. That was huge. Scoring just the two runs that inning would’ve been nice. Getting those last two felt huge. It turned a good inning into a great inning. Three straight two-out hits with two strikes. Love it.

(5) Didi Gregorius? More like BB Gregorius! Because he’s drawn a lot of walks this series, you see. That second inning walk was not only Didi’s second walk of the game. It was his fifth walk of the series and his fourth walk in four plate appearances dating back to Game Three. And! And he drew a walk next time up. Five walks in five plate appearances for Gregorius spanning Games Three and Four. Can you imagine? He drew 25 walks during the entire regular season. Now he has six in four ALDS games. Huh.

Anyway, in the third inning, the Yankees benefited from another Urshela error. They loaded the bases with one out against Mike Clevinger on a walk (Greg Bird), a double (Castro), and another walk (Frazier). Hicks followed with a ground ball to first base — Carlos Santana threw home for the force out — for the second out of the inning. Suddenly the rally was on life support. That’s when Gardner hit a routine grounder to Urshela, who unnecessarily looked at second, then airmailed the throw to first. Santana had to jump to make the catch, which kept him off the base long enough for Gardner to beat out the play and a run to cross the plate. Is it better to be lucky or good? How about both. The Yankees were both in Game Four.


Lucky Number Sevy
After the Wild Card Game, I don’t think it was unreasonable to be worried Luis Severino might again be a little too amped up in Game Four on Monday night. He was all over the place in the Wild Card Game and the Twins made him pay for his mistakes. The Indians are a lot better than the Twins, so if Severino was overthrowing again, things could’ve gotten out of hand in a hurry.

Sure enough, Severino came out and was missing up and away with his fastball in the first inning. It looked like he was overthrowing again. His first inning fastball locations:

luis-severino-fastballsHmmm. The good news is Severino retired the side in order in that first inning, so if he was overthrowing, it didn’t come back to bite him. Severino really settled in after that, retiring eight of the next nine men he faced following the first inning. Things did speed up on him a bit in the fourth, after the Yankees scored their fifth run. Severino walked Jay Bruce with two outs, then left a slider a little too up in the zone to Santana, who parked it beyond the center field wall for a two-run homer. Suddenly 5-0 became 5-2.

Then, one inning later, Roberto Perez reached out and poked a fastball into the short porch for another home run, this one a solo shot to further trim New York’s lead to 5-3. Bad things were happening. Severino allowed two homers in the span of four batters, and his final out of the fifth inning was a line drive Castro caught at the apex of his leap at second base. The Indians were starting to make hard contact, and with the lead down to 5-3, I thought maybe it was time to get the bullpen involved.

Instead, Joe Girardi stuck with Severino, and he rewarded him with quick sixth and seventh innings. His final pitch, No. 113 on the night, was a 99.1 mph fastball. Ridiculous. Severino’s final line: 7 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 9 K. The two homers stunk, sure, but that is a Grown Ass Man outing from the 23-year-old kid in an elimination game. If Severino doesn’t get a chance to pitch again this season, he gets to finish on a high note. What a performance.

The Wrath of Kahnle. (Presswire)
The Wrath of Kahnle. (Presswire)

The Late Innings
Much to the delight and appreciation of everyone, the Yankees tacked on insurance runs after the Santana and Perez homers cut the lead to 5-3. In the fifth inning, Frazier reached second base when Danny Salazar threw a ball into foul territory. Frazier hit a little grounder and the ball got by Santana at first base. Another error. Frazier moved to third on a Hicks ground out and scored on Gardner’s sac fly. Shout out to the Indians for playing Jason Kipnis in center. The career second baseman had no momentum behind his throw at all, allowing Frazier to slide in safely.

In the sixth, the Yankees added another run on Gary Sanchez’s second home run of the ALDS. The first was a two-run shot against Corey Kluber. This one was a solo shot the other way against Bryan Shaw, who was out there throwing 99 mph cutters. For real. The Yankees did strand plenty of runners in Game Four — they went 4-for-13 (.308) with runners in scoring position and still managed to strand eleven runners — which is annoying, but the Indians made a lot of defensive mistakes and the Yankees capitalized. There are no style points at this point. However the runs score works for me.

With a 7-3 lead and his top relievers all worn down, Girardi went to Dellin Betances in the eighth, and bad Dellin showed up. Two walks to start the inning, then the hook. He threw a dozen pitches and only four were strikes. His pitch locations.

dellin-betances-pitch-locationsYeah. The thing is, Betances was great in Game One of the series and great for his first two innings in Game Two. Then Bad Dellin showed up in Game Four. Sigh. Girardi pulled him after the second walk because he had to, and in came Tommy Kahnle. Six up, six down, five strikeouts for Kahnle. He has retired all 15 batters he’s faced in the postseason. Like I said after the Wild Card Game, Kahnle is going full 1996 David Weathers this October. He’s just going to come in and shove. Awesome.

Eight hits and six walks for the Yankees overall. Gardner had two hits, Gregorius had three walks, and Bird, Castro, and Frazier each had a hit and a walk. Another rough night for the DH spot though. It was occupied by Chase Headley in Game Four. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. The DH spot is 0-for-18 in the postseason now. Gross.

I had no problems with Girardi’s bullpen usage, not that anyone asked me. I was fine with going to Betances in the eighth, I was fine with yanking him after two walks, and I was fine with Kahnle completing the game. I know people were screaming to pull Betances after the first walk, but that’s not realistic. You can’t send a reliever out there with a one baserunner leash every time. The dude will be walking on eggshells each time he pitches.

Chad Green and Aroldis Chapman did warm up in the bullpen at various points, though they didn’t really get hot. It was more like playing catch to get loose. Green was throwing in the sixth in case Severino ran into trouble and Chapman was throwing in the ninth in case Kahnle got into trouble. Again, fine with me. Having Playing a little catch never hurt anyone.

And finally, according to Statcast, the slowest fastball thrown by the Yankees in Game Four registered at 96 mph. That is ridiculous. It’s not an accident either. The Yankees built their pitching staff around power and it was on full display Monday.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go to ESPN for the box score and for the video highlights. Here is our Bullpen Workload page and here is the win probability graph …

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Game Five. After losing the first two games, that’s all you could hope for. A chance to play Game Five. Tuesday is an off-day, then the two teams will reconvene at Progressive Field on Wednesday night for the series finale. That one will feature a CC Sabathia vs. Corey Kluber rematch. Fun fun fun.