Game 154: A Win And They’re In

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Even though the Yankees lost last night’s series opener to the Blue Jays, the magic number dropped to one because both the Angels and Rangers lost. Thanks for that, Astros and Athletics. The clinching scenario is very simple now. With their next win, the Yankees clinch a postseason spot. They’d also clinch with one loss each from the Angels and Rangers, but that’s lame. Winning to clinch your spot is so much cooler.

Last night’s loss combined with the Red Sox’s win essentially puts the AL East title out of reach — FanGraphs put New York’s division odds at a mere 3.0% — which means it’s wildcard or bust. Win Saturday, clinch a postseason spot, then party like hell. Then go out and win three more to clinch homefield advantage in that Wild Card Game. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. DH Chase Headley
  6. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  7. 2B Starlin Castro
  8. 1B Greg Bird
  9. 3B Todd Frazier
    RHP Sonny Gray

Another nice and sunny day in Toronto, so the Rogers Centre roof figures to be open. Today’s game will begin a little after 4pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Luis Severino was hit by a line drive in the back of his left shoulder during batting practice. He was down on the ground for a bit before he resumed playing catch. The Yankees say he’ll ice is down and is otherwise fine. Good gravy … Adam Warren (back) threw another bullpen session today and is slated to throw a simulated game Tuesday. He’ll be activated after that if all goes well … Aaron Hicks (oblique) played in an Instructional League game today, according to Antonio Mendes. The Yankees hope to get him back sometime next week so he can play in a few big league games before the postseason.

Game 152: Finish the Sweep

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

So the first two games of this important series against the Twins have gone well. The Yankees won both and are now a season high 17 games over .500. It’s the first time they’ve been 17 games over .500 since late in the 2015 season. Also, the Yankees are now six games up on the Twins for the first wildcard spot and 7.5 games up on the Angels for a wildcard spot in general. Pretty cool.

On the mound going for the sweep this afternoon is Luis Severino, who wasn’t going to make this start originally. The Yankees shifted gears a day or two ago. Why? Because hiding Severino from the Twins until the Wild Card Game is overrated — he’s faced lots of team multiple times this year and it hasn’t seemed to help anyone — and, more importantly, they want to be able to start him in Game 162 if the division is winnable. Focus on today though. Get the sweep and bury the Twins. Here is the Twins’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. DH Matt Holliday
  7. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  8. 3B Todd Frazier
  9. 1B Greg Bird
    RHP Luis Severino

It is cloudy and windy yet again in New York today. Par for the course these days. Fortunately there is no rain in the forecast. At least nothing heavy. This afternoon’s series finale will begin at 1:05pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Afternoon game on ESPN? Huh. Anyway, enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Aaron Hicks (oblique) is heading to Tampa to get at-bats in Instructional League. That is the only place to get at-bats now aside from the big leagues. The hope is he’ll return sometime next week … Adam Warren (back) threw a bullpen session today. He’ll throw another in the coming days and, if deemed necessary, he’ll pitch in a simulated game after that.

Game 149: Score runs for Sonny

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

Following yesterday’s game the Yankees shuffled their rotation to ensure CC Sabathia and his balky knee will not start on the turf in Toronto next week, which means Sonny Gray gets the start this afternoon. Gray has made eight starts as a Yankees, and in those eight starts, the Yankees have scored 24 total runs. Nine of the 24 came in one game. They’ve scored four runs in his five losses. Get that man some runs!

The good news is the Yankees are facing the Orioles at home today, and gosh, they’ve destroyed the O’s in Yankee Stadium all season. They’re 7-1 with a +57 run differential against the Orioles at home. Overall, the Yankees have scored 150 runs in 18 games — 150 runs in 18 games! — against the O’s this season. No team has scored more runs against any other team since baseball expanded in 1961. Crazy. How about another blowout today? Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. DH Matt Holliday
  7. 1B Greg Bird
  8. 3B Todd Frazier
  9. LF Clint Frazier
    RHP Sonny Gray

Another cloudy and humid but not crazy hot day in New York. There’s also a little rain in the forecast. Not much. Probably not enough to interrupt the game. This afternoon’s series finale — it really is a shame this series has to end, isn’t it? — will begin a little after 1pm ET, and YES will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Adam Warren (back) played catch again today and everything feels good. He’s still on track to get in a few games before the end of the regular season … Caleb Smith was placed on the 10-day DL with a viral infection, the Yankees announced. That might end his season. Only two weeks left.

Roster Move: Domingo German was called up from Triple-A Scranton, the Yankees announced. He essentially replaces Smith as the extra long man. The Yankees did not need to place Smith on the disabled list to call up German. German had been down for much more than ten days.

Game 148: Beat up on the O’s (again)

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

Two games, two comfortable wins so far this series. The Yankees have crushed the Orioles at Yankee Stadium all year. They’re 7-1 against the O’s at home this season and they’ve outscored them 88-37 in the eight games. The Yankees have scored 141 runs against the Orioles this year overall. 141 runs! No team has scored more runs against any other team in 2017.

Anyway, those last two wins tonight were nice, but they don’t mean anything today. Gotta go out and score a boatload more runs this afternoon. The lead for the top wildcard spot is four games and the lead for a wildcard spot in general in six games. Would be nice to gain ground on the Red Sox one of these days, but for now, keep creating separation with the other wildcard hopefuls. Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. DH Chase Headley
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  7. 3B Todd Frazier
  8. 1B Greg Bird
  9. C Austin Romine
    LHP Jordan Montgomery

It is a bit cloudy and humid in New York today, and there’s some rain in the forecast later on. Nothing heavy and nothing that should interrupt the game. Today’s game will start a little after 4pm ET. YES will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Roster Moves: Both Jonathan Holder and Miguel Andujar were called up from Triple-A Scranton, the Yankees announced. There are now 35 players on the active roster.

Injury Updates: Adam Warren (back) threw on flat ground this afternoon. The hope is he’ll be back within a week to a week and a half.

Game 146: Back in the Bronx

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The Yankees have been home in New York for three days now, and tonight they return home to Yankee Stadium for the start of a seven-game homestand against two wildcard hopefuls. Three neutral site games at Citi Field was kinda neat — the circumstances were terrible, obviously — but it’s good to be back home. Home home. The Yankees have 17 games remaining this season and 14 will be in the Bronx. Hooray for that.

The Orioles are in town for four games this weekend and it is basically do or die time for them. They are seven games behind the Yankees and, more importantly, 4.5 games behind the Twins for the second wildcard spot. With five teams ahead of them. Sucks for them. The Yankees are still within striking distance of the Red Sox for the AL East crown. This weekend is a good chance to beat up on some bad pitching and gain ground. Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. 1B Chase Headley
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 3B Todd Frazier
  8. 2B Ronald Torreyes
  9. LF Clint Frazier
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It is cloudy and kinda sticky in New York right now. It rained on-and-off this afternoon and it is expected to do the same tonight. Doesn’t look like it’ll be anything heavy enough to delay the game, however. Hope not. Tonight’s game will begin a little after 7pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Greg Bird (back) is ready to play, though he is not in tonight’s lineup against left-hander Wade Miley. He is expected to play tomorrow … Aaron Hicks (oblique) has started working out but has yet to swing a bat. He’s been sick the last day or two and the Yankees have had him stay home … Adam Warren (back) remains shut down. The Yankees are hopeful he’ll be back before the end of the season.

Game 139: Rain Delayed

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

Thankfully, the weather is not an issue this afternoon in Baltimore. The Yankees and Orioles waited out a long rain delay two days ago and were rained out last night, forcing them to give up today’s off-day to play this makeup game. There’s only one off-day left this season now. One off-day and 24 games. Pretty wild, eh?

Tuesday’s loss was one of the worst of the season, and while the Manny Machado walk-off homer was the big blow, that game was lost in the middle innings, when a 6-1 lead became a 6-5 lead and the Yankees never tacked on runs against a suspect pitching staff. Whatever. What’s done is done. Win the makeup game and actually win a series in Camden Yards for once. Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 1B Chase Headley
  3. 2B Starlin Castro
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. DH Matt Holliday
  7. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  8. 3B Todd Frazier
  9. C Austin Romine
    RHP Sonny Gray

It is nice and sunny in Baltimore and on the cool side too. Pretty much a perfect September afternoon for baseball. Today’s game is scheduled to begin at 1:35pm ET and both YES and MLB Network will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: The Yankees placed Adam Warren on the 10-day DL retroactive to Saturday with lower back spasms, the team announced. That explains why he hasn’t pitched in typical Adam Warren spots the last few days. He’s going to be shut down completely for two weeks, and if this thing lingers, there’s a chance he’ll miss the rest of the regular season. That’s not good … CC Sabathia received a lubrication injection in his right knee yesterday. He’s been getting those for a while now. They’re part of his regular maintenance.

Schedule Update: MLB is still evaluating options for next week’s series in Tampa, reports Marc Topkin. Joe Girardi said the two teams will not trade home series this month, essentially leaving two options: play the series at a neutral site, or postpone Monday’s game and play a doubleheader either Tuesday or Wednesday if the area doesn’t get hit hard by Hurricane Irma. Baltimore and Chicago’s south side have been mentioned as neutral site possibilities. MLB’s decision isn’t expected until Friday.

The Yankees lack a reliable lefty specialist, but they probably don’t need one either

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)
(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Since the start of this past offseason, the Yankees have reportedly been looking for a reliable left-on-left reliever. They looked for one all winter and again before the trade deadline, but came up empty. Tommy Layne (remember him?) started the season in that role before pitching his way off the roster. The Yankees haven’t had a true lefty specialist since.

Chasen Shreve has spent the bulk of the summer on the big league roster and he’s not really a lefty specialist, and Joe Girardi doesn’t use him like one. Shreve has been throwing one or two innings in lopsided games for a few weeks now. He’s essentially a short relief mop-up man, not a matchup guy. This is why:

  • Righties against Shreve (career): .208/.301/.412 (.307 wOBA)
  • Lefties against Shreve (career): .248/.336/.428 (.329 wOBA)

Shreve is a fastball-splitter pitcher. He lacks that quality breaking ball he can sweep across the plate to get left-handed hitters to chase, hence his career-long reverse split. Shreve doesn’t have the tools to be a left-on-left matchup guy. Asking him to do that would be to ignore his skill set and focus only on handedness.

The Yankees have two other left-handed relievers on the roster right now: Aroldis Chapman and Caleb Smith. Smith is a long man who has the same problem as Shreve as a fastball-changeup pitcher. He doesn’t have that put-away breaking ball. Chapman has lost his closer’s job and would be the most overqualified lefty specialist in history based on his career accomplishments. The Yankees are trying to get him back on track so he can pitch full innings in close games, not match up in the middle innings.

I suppose the Yankees could always make a rare September trade for a lefty reliever — they did make a September trade for Brendan Ryan in 2013, after Derek Jeter got hurt — but I doubt that’ll happen. Besides, that player wouldn’t be eligible for the postseason roster anyway. He could help in September but not October. The Yankees do not have a reliable left-on-left reliever right now — even Chapman has had some issues with lefties lately — and, truth be told, they really don’t need one, because:

(vs. LHB) AVG/OBP/SLG wOBA K% BB% GB% HR/9
Dellin Betances .116/.269/.151 .216 46.2% 11.5% 55.3% 0.00
Chad Green .143/.200/.286 .211 50.7% 6.7% 18.8% 0.87
David Robertson .171/.240/.284 .228 37.5% 8.3% 52.9% 1.09
Adam Warren .211/.268/.293 .237 24.4% 7.3% 45.5% 0.47

Aside from Tommy Kahnle, who hasn’t had much success against lefties this year (.318 wOBA), the Yankees top right-handed relievers are all very effective against lefties. Betances and Robertson have been better against lefties than righties this year, at least in terms of wOBA, and both Green and Warren have been great against opposite hand batters too. I know Green’s shockingly low 18.8% ground ball rate against lefties is a little scary, but I’ll live with it when it comes with a 50.7% strikeout rate. He doesn’t get squared up often anyway.

The Yankees aren’t desperate for a left-on-left matchup reliever right now because they have four righties who can get out lefties. And here’s the important part: Girardi seems to understand that. Girardi leaves all those guys in to throw full innings, often more in the cases of Green and Warren. He doesn’t get cute trying to match up with a lefty. He didn’t do it when they had Layne and he’s not doing it now. That’s good. Stick with your best arms rather than try to force something for the sake of handedness.

Looking ahead to the postseason — the Yankees have to get there first, of course — potential opponents do have some quality left-handed hitters. The Indians have Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley, at least when they’re healthy. The Astros have Brian McCann. The Red Sox have Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Mitch Moreland. The Twins have Joe Mauer, Max Kepler, and Eddie Rosario. The Orioles have Chris Davis and Seth Smith. The Angels have Kole Calhoun. So on and so forth.

Potential postseason opponents have strong lefties in their lineup, so it would’ve been nice to add a quality left-handed specialist at some point. It’s a little too late though, and besides, in the late innings of a close game, who do you want facing Brantley or Benintendi or Davis, some lefty specialist or Robertson or Betances or Green? Exactly. Give me the high-end righties over the matchup lefties. That’s what we’re going to see down the stretch and that’s why I don’t think the lack of a reliable lefty specialist is that big a deal.

Now, here’s the x-factor: Jaime Garcia. Even though he had his last start skipped, he’s going to end up starting against at some point during the regular season. It’s hard to see how he fits into a potential postseason rotation barring injury though. He has that killer breaking ball to neutralize lefties and could be a potential left-on-left matchup option. The numbers:

  • Righties against Garcia (2017): .263/.347/.441 (.335 wOBA) with 16.0 K% and 11.3 BB%
  • Lefties against Garcia (2017): .242/.277/.379 (.282 wOBA) with 26.3 K% and 3.9 BB%

Jordan Montgomery‘s numbers against lefties aren’t so great (.319 wOBA), plus he’s never pitched out of the bullpen before, which is why I don’t think he’s much of a lefty reliever candidate. Garcia has some bullpen experience — he relieved a bunch as a rookie and made two bullpen appearances last season — and besides, unlike Montgomery, the Yankees presumably aren’t worried about his long-term development. Garcia very well might be the team’s best option for a left-on-left matchup reliever in the postseason, should they decide they absolutely need one.

At this point in time, the Yankees do not have an obvious lefty specialist in their bullpen, and it’s really no big deal considering how effective their top righties are against lefties. A lefty specialist is one of those things teams would like to have but don’t absolutely need. Neither the Cubs nor the Indians had a lefty specialist last year. They just had really good relievers. That’s where the Yankees are. Who needs a lefty specialist when Robertson, Betances, Green, or Warren (or Chapman) could be getting those outs instead?