Yankeemetrics: Disaster averted in Baltimore [Sept. 2-4]

(UPI)
(UPI)

Nightmare on Eutaw Street
It’s hard to think of a worse start to September baseball for the Yankees than the shellacking they endured on Friday night in Baltimore.

All the momentum they had piled up after an inspiring series win in Kansas City was suddenly gone after their deflating 8-0 loss to the Orioles. This was the worst shutout loss the Yankees have ever suffered at Camden Yards, which opened in 1992. The last time they had a shutout loss that bad in Baltimore was Sept. 9, 1991 at Memorial Stadium.

The Yankees fell behind quickly as the O’s hammered them early and often with all eight runs and four homers in the first four innings. This was the eighth game this year that the Yankees surrendered at least four longballs, the most such games in a season in franchise history.

Their punchless offense did little to counter the awful performance by the pitching staff, hitting just two singles in the third inning. Welp. It had been more than a decade since they played a game in Baltimore and had two hits or fewer: on August 5, 2006 Adam Loewen, Todd Williams and LaTroy Hawkins combined for a one-hitter in the Orioles 5-0 win. (Yes, that game really happened.)

Deja booooo
The Yankees’ September swoon continued on Saturday night as they were shut out for the second game in a row, 2-0, extending their recent stretch of miserable baseball in Baltimore. Following Saturday’s loss, they fell to 10-26 at Camden Yards since the start of 2013, their worst record at any American League ballpark in that span, and the worst mark by any AL team at Camden Yards over the past four seasons.

girardi sad
(Getty)

It was just a week ago that the Yankees scored an unthinkable 27 (!) runs in the first two games of their series against this same team (Orioles), and then they scored exactly zero runs in the first two games of this series. That’s baseball, folks.

The end result was their ninth game being shut out this season — four of which have come against the Orioles, who rank 12th in the AL in team ERA — and the eighth time they’ve been shut out in a game away from Yankee Stadium. Those eight road shutouts are the most they’ve suffered in a single season since 1973 when they somehow had 12 (!) of them.

For the second night in a row the Yankees’ bats were silenced as they finished with just four hits, all of them singles again. In the last 100 seasons, only once before had the Yankees been held scoreless with four hits or fewer — and no extra-base hits — in back-to-back road games versus the same opponent: the Kansas City A’s did it to them on Aug. 27-28, 1965.

Even worse is the fact that Saturday’s game marked the third straight time the Orioles had blanked the Yankees, dating back to a 5-0 loss in the final game of their matchup last week.

The 2016 Orioles are the eighth team in baseball history to post three straight shutouts against the Yankees, but just the second one to do it in the last 75 years. The rest of this group includes the 1973 White Sox, 1934 Tigers, 1929 Browns, 1913 Senators, 1909 Browns, 1908 Senators and 1906 White Sox.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Stayin’ alive
The Yankees kept their scant playoff dreams alive with a season-saving win on Sunday afternoon, avoiding the series sweep in what Joe Girardi deemed “the most important game of the year”.

After getting blanked in the first two games, the Yankees wasted little time in making sure it wouldn’t be a hat trick. They plated three runs in the first inning thanks to a couple RBI hits by Chase Headley and Austin Romine. And, mercifully, disaster was averted in Yankeeland.

We also get to trumpet our “If That Had Happened Yankeemetric of the Week” (cap-tip to Mark Simon for that name … he is also more famous for authoring an excellent Yankees book, which I guarantee you will enjoy if you are reading this post):

As noted above, the Orioles were the eighth team to post three straight shutouts against the Yankees. No team had ever allowed zero runs in four consecutive games versus the Yankees, and that statistical fact will remain intact in the record books … for now.

While the Bronx Bombers did manage to finally put runs on the scoreboard, their six hits were all singles for the third straight game. This is just the second time in the last three decades the Yankees went three games in a row without an extra-base hit; the other streak was May 13-16, 2000 against the Tigers and White Sox.

You have to go back even further to find the last time an opponent held the Yankees without an extra-base hit in three consecutive games within a series: the Orioles did it in September 1976.

The biggest outs of the game were recorded by Luis Severino, who took over for Pineda in the fifth inning with the Yankees clinging to a two-run lead, a runner on second base and no one out. He got himself into a bases-loaded jam but escaped without allowing a run, and then threw a perfect sixth inning to earn the win.

Here’s some fun with small sample sizes: In 11 1/3 innings as a bullpen arm, Severino has faced 40 batters. Just one of those guys has a hit (an infield single by Neil Walker on August 3), and nearly one-third (13) of them have struck out. He is the only pitcher in baseball this season that has faced at least 30 batters as a reliever, allowed zero earned runs and no more than one hit.

9/2 to 9/4 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

(Mitchell Layton/Getty)
(Mitchell Layton/Getty)

The Yankees are about to wrap-up a pretty important 12-game stretch against three wildcard competitors. They took two of three from the Mariners, two of three from the Orioles, two of three from the Royals, and now they play three more against the Orioles this weekend. This series is in Baltimore though, not the Bronx. The Yankees are 7-6 against the O’s this season, but they’ve lost two of three in each of their two previous visits to Camden Yards.

What Have They Done Lately?

Like I said, the Yankees beat the Orioles twice in three games last weekend at Yankee Stadium. The O’s returned home after that and lost two of three to the Blue Jays earlier this week. Baltimore is struggling, folks. They’ve lost five of their last seven games and 14 of their last 23 games. The O’s and Tigers have identical 72-61 records and they’re tied for the second wildcard spot. The Yankees are 2.5 games back. This series is: huge.

Offense & Defense

The Orioles can score runs. That’s what they do. Their pitching is a bit shaky but their bats are going to do damage. They come into this series averaging 4.69 runs per game with a team 102 wRC+. Their 209 home runs are the most in baseball. No one else has hit 200 yet. The O’s have two injured position players: OF Joey Rickard (85 wRC+) is out long-term with a thumb issue, and CF Adam Jones (102 wRC+) is day-to-day with a hamstring problem. He missed two games in New York with it last weekend.

Schoop. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
Schoop. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Jones had been hitting leadoff, but since his injury, manager Buck Showalter has used four different leadoff hitters in five games. The O’s just picked up OF Michael Bourn (73 wRC+) from the Diamondbacks to add outfield depth and I wouldn’t at all be surprised if he leads off tonight, should Jones remain out of the lineup. The middle of the order is 3B Manny Machado (138 wRC+), 1B Chris Davis (113 wRC+), and RF Mark Trumbo (121 wRC+). That’s the scary part of the lineup. Those dudes can all hit the ball a very long way when they connect.

OF Hyun-Soo Kim (123 wRC+) and UTIL Steve Pearce (144 wRC+) have been platooning in left lately, and DH Pedro Alvarez (115 wRC+) starts against righties. 2B Jonathan Schoop (108 wRC+), SS J.J. Hardy (81 wRC+), and C Matt Wieters (80 wRC+) are the other regulars. OF Nolan Reimold (79 wRC+) is the extra outfielder, UTIL Ryan Flaherty (61 wRC+) is the extra do everything player, and C Francisco Pena (36 wRC+) is the backup catcher. The Orioles have not announced their September call-ups as of this writing, so I’m not sure who else is on the bench.

The Yankees and Orioles just played last week, so I’m going to take the easy way out and copy and paste what I wrote about Baltimore’s team defense in the last series preview:

Defensively, the O’s are very good up the middle with Wieters, Hardy, Schoop, and Jones. Machado is outstanding at third base and Davis is underrated at first. Trumbo is a nightmare in right and none of the guys they use in left are anything to write home about. It’s a solid team defense overall with a glaring weakness in right.

The only difference now will be Bourn over Jones, which is a downgrade. Bourn’s legs are not what they used to be.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7:05pm ET): RHP Chad Green (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Dylan Bundy (vs. NYY)
After several years of injuries, the Orioles are finally getting some value from the still only 23-year-old Bundy. He has a 3.71 ERA (4.45 FIP) in 85 innings overall this season, including a 4.21 ERA (5.08 FIP) in nine starts and 47 innings since moving into the rotation. Bundy’s strikeout rate (24.5%) has been very good as a starter, but his walk (8.7%), grounder (38.0%), and homer (1.91 HR/9) numbers are a bit of a problem. Righties have hit him harder than lefties so far this season. As a starter, Bundy works with a 93-95 mph fastball as well as a mid-80s changeup and an upper-70s curveball. The changeup was very good last week. The Yankees scored five runs in four innings against Bundy last weekend, the only time they’ve seen him as a starter this season. (He threw 3.2 innings of relief against them earlier this year.)

Saturday (7:05pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Kevin Gausman (vs. NYY)
Blah. Can’t escape him. Gausman, 25, has achieved Yankees Killer™ status this season. He has a solid 3.73 ERA (4.16 FIP) in 24 starts and 140 innings overall, and that’s broken down into a 0.98 ERA in four starts against the Yankees and a 4.41 ERA in 20 starts against everyone else. His strikeout (23.6%) and walk (6.4%) numbers are good, his grounder (43.1%) and homer (1.48 HR/9) rates less so. Righties have hit Gausman harder than lefties and that’s not unusual because he has a nasty mid-80s splitter. His fastball sits mid-to-high-90s and he’ll also throw some low-80s curveballs. Here are Gausman’s four starts against the Yankees this season: eight scoreless innings in April, one run in six innings in June, two runs in 6.2 innings in July, and seven scoreless innings last weekend. I really don’t know what the Yankees could do at this point. The regulars haven’t gotten it done against Gausman this year, so maybe change it up and give guys like Austin Romine and Rob Refsnyder and Ronald Torreyes a crack at him? It might be worth a try at this point.

Kevin F. Gausman. (Rob Carr/Getty)
Kevin F. Gausman. (Rob Carr/Getty)

Sunday (1:35pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. BAL) vs. LHP Wade Miley (vs. NYY)
I didn’t understand the point of the Miley trade at all. The O’s traded a Major League ready pitching prospect (Ariel Miranda) the projection systems like more than Miley to the Mariners for Miley, and took on a boatload of money in the process. The veteran southpaw has 7.14 ERA (4.94 FIP) in six starts with Baltimore too. LOL Orioles, I guess. Miley, 29, has a 5.43 ERA (4.80 FIP) in 25 starts and 141 total innings this season. His underlying stats are completely forgettable (18.2 K%, 7.0 BB%, 46.7 GB%, 1.53 HR/9) and righties have hammered him all year. These days Miley sits in the low-90s with his four-seamer and sinker, and pairs them with low-to-mid-80s changeups and sliders. He’ll also toss a few upper-70s curves per start too. The Yankees have not seen Miley at all this season. Not when he was with Seattle and not since he joined the Orioles.

As for the Yankees, I can’t help but wonder if they’ll use yesterday’s off-day to shuffle their rotation once again, allowing Masahiro Tanaka to pitch Sunday instead of Pineda. Tanaka would be on normal rest and he only threw 71 pitches in five innings last time out because of the rain delay, so it’s definitely doable. That would allow the Yankees to throw their ace against the team they’re chasing in the wildcard race. Maybe that decision depends on how the first two games of the series go. Remember, they flipped Sabathia and Pineda for matchup reasons last weekend.

Bullpen Status

Given the state of their rotation, I’m sure Showalter will be very happy to have a bunch of extra relievers on his roster now that it’s September. They’re still without ace setup man RHP Darren O’Day, who is out with a shoulder problem. His return is not imminent. Here is the O’s current bullpen:

Closer: LHP Zach Britton (0.67 ERA/2.01 FIP)
Setup: RHP Brad Brach (1.76/2.71)
Middle: RHP Mychal Givens (3.63/3.47), RHP Tommy Hunter (4.18/3.10), LHP Donnie Hart (0.00/2.93)
Long: RHP Oliver Drake (8.10/5.24), RHP Vance Worley (3.51/4.53)

Like I said earlier, the Orioles have not yet announced their September call-ups, so I’m not sure who else they’ll have in the bullpen tonight. You can be sure there will be a bunch of extra arms out there though.

Britton has been off-the-charts good this season and Brach has been excellent as well, though he’s come back down to Earth a bit in the second half. Givens is the No. 3 guy at the moment. Like the Yankees and most of the rest of the league, the Orioles had an off-day yesterday, so their bullpen is as fresh as it’s going to get this late in the season.

Update: The Orioles have called up RHP Tyler Wilson, C Caleb Joseph, and LHP Jayson Aquino, the team announced. Also, Bourn and OF Drew Stubbs were added the roster as well. They were acquired in minor moves earlier this week. There’s the O’s first wave of call-ups.

Yankeemetrics: No sweep for you [Aug. 26-28]

(NY Post)
(NY Post)

Mr. Unstoppable
One of the most incredible starts to a career continued on Friday night with Gary Sanchez extending his unprecedented assault on big-league pitching in the series opener. He added three more hits, including a double and a homer, and drove in four runs to lead the Yankees to a 14-4 blowout win.

Sanchez is setting the record books ablaze every time he steps the plate as his feats are reaching epic proportions and every at-bat becomes must-see television for Yankee fans everywhere. At this point in his record-breaking spree, it’s just easier to recap with bullet points, so here we go:

  • By hitting his 10th homer on Friday, all of which have come in August, Sanchez broke the Yankee rookie record for homers in a calendar month. The previous mark of nine was set by Joe DiMaggio in August 1936 and later tied by Tom Tresh in August 1962.
  • He became the third-fastest player in MLB history to reach 10 homers, behind only Rockies shortstop Trevor Story (21 games earlier this year) and Red Sox infielder George Scott (21 games in 1966)
  • The three-hit, four-RBI performance also pushed his career totals in those stats to 31 and 20, respectively. The only Yankee to reach 30 career hits faster than Sanchez was Joe DiMaggio (16[!] games in 1936); the only Yankees to reach 20 career RBI faster than Sanchez were Hideki Matsui (20 games in 2003) and DiMaggio (21).
  • Where Sanchez truly stands alone in baseball history is his unique combination of elite hit and power tools: He is the first player in major-league history to compile at least 10 homers and 30 hits this early into his career (22nd game).

And we’ll finish this section with a #FunFact, because why not? Sanchez is the youngest Yankee catcher with at least three hits, three runs scored and four RBI in a game since a 23-year-old Yogi Berra on Aug. 3, 1948 against the Tigers.

Sanchez is not human
On Saturday, this Sanchez kid officially zoomed past the basic level of historic and entered the upper realm of absurdity. Since we’re beginning to run out of words to describe Sanchez’s mind-boggling pace, I’ll just put this GIF here instead:

on fire

Yup, he did it again. Sanchez homered for the 11th time this season, fueling another pinstriped offensive explosion as the Yankee routed the Orioles, 13-5. With his 370-foot blast to right-center in the fourth inning, he became the fastest player in the history of major-league baseball to reach the 11-homer mark, doing so in his 23rd career game.

All 11 of his homers came since his recall in early August, making this not just an unbelievable career-opening run, but also one of the best power-hitting months by any young player in recent memory. To the bullet points again:

  • Sanchez is the third Yankee ever to hit at least 11 homers in any month in his age-23 season or younger, joining Mickey Mantle (12 in August 1955) and Joe DiMaggio (15 in July 1937).
  • The rookie phenom is also the youngest big-league catcher since Johnny Bench in 1970 to go yard 11-plus times in a month.
  • And Sanchez is the first American League player in his age-23 season or younger to pile up at least 11 homers and 30 hits in a month since Alex Rodriguez (11 homers, 36 hits) for the Mariners in August 1999.

Sanchez wasn’t the only Yankee with a monster game. One of the guys he shared the spotlight with was Starlin Castro, who repeatedly destroyed the baseball on Saturday as he went 4-for-6, scored three runs, stole a base and drove in three runs.

Only one other second baseman in franchise history has enjoyed such a productive night at the plate — at least four hits, three runs, three RBI and a steal: Alfonso Soriano had a game with those numbers on April 8, 2002 against the Blue Jays.

Overall, for the second time in two games against the Orioles, the Yankee bats punished Orioles pitching — in record-breaking fashion. Coupled with Friday’s offensive fireworks, this is the first time since at least 1913 (and likely ever) that the Yankees have scored at least 13 runs, gotten 18 or more hits, and went deep at least three times in back-to-back games.

(AP)
(AP)

The Sunday Letdown
Nothing lasts forever, right? The Orioles somehow managed to cool off the torrid bat of Gary Sanchez and the streaking Yankees, blanking them, 5-0, on Sunday afternoon. For the seventh time this season the Yankees were going for a three-game sweep … and for the seventh time they failed to complete it.

The lack of three-game sweeps might be an odd stat, and sweeps are not “easy,” but it does speak to the inconsistency — and an inability to go on an extended season-changing run — that has plagued this Yankee team since day one. (Though, to be fair, they do have two four-game sweeps.)

The Orioles did manage to keep Sanchez from sending a ball over the fences, but the young slugger’s power binge was merely tempered. He still finished with two hits, a single and a double, in four at-bats, giving him a whopping 19 extra-base hits in the big leagues.

Only two major-league players in the last century had that many hits for extra bases this early into their careers (24th game): Mandy Brooks had 22 for the Cubs in 1925 and DiMaggio had 19 for the Yankees in 1936. Oh, and he now has more than twice as many multi-hit games (10) as hitless games (4) among the 22 contests he has started in pinstripes.

The fact that Orioles starter Kevin Gausman shut down the Bronx Bombers’ surging bats is hardly surprising given his dominance of them this year. After throwing seven scoreless innings on Sunday, he now owns a 0.98 ERA across four starts versus the Yankees. The last pitcher to finish a season with a sub-1.00 ERA in four-or-more starts against the Yankees was Angels lefty Chuck Finley in 1996 (0.57).

8/26 to 8/28 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

(Mitchell Layton/Getty)
(Mitchell Layton/Getty)

The calendar says August, but the Yankees are playing postseason baseball right now. They’re 4.5 games back of the second wildcard spot at the moment, and it just so happens the team they are chasing, the Baltimore Orioles, will be in the Bronx for three games this weekend. Pretty big series, yes? Yes. The Yankees are 5-5 against the O’s this season, including 3-1 at Yankee Stadium.

What Have They Done Lately?

August has not been kind to the Orioles, who are 11-12 this month and have gone from one game up in the division to one game back with both the Red Sox and Blue Jays ahead of them. The O’s got shut out by the Nationals yesterday to fall to 70-57 with a +24 run differential on the season. I have to say, I never thought they would have this much success this season given the state of their rotation.

Offense & Defense

Baltimore is in the race despite their shaky rotation (4.89 ERA and 4.72 FIP) because they do score plenty of runs. They average 4.73 runs per game with a team 103 wRC+, and they lead all of baseball with 197 home runs. Dingers are their thing. The Orioles only have one injured position player: Rule 5 Draft pick and reserve OF Joey Richard (85 wRC+), who is out long-term with a damaged thumb ligament.

Trumbo. (Rob Carr/Getty)
Trumbo. (Rob Carr/Getty)

Manager Buck Showalter has been batting CF Adam Jones (103 wRC+) leadoff since late-May despite his less than stellar on-base ability (.317 OBP this year). Lately LF Hyun-Soo Kim (129 wRC+) and UTIL Steve Pearce (136 wRC+) have been platooning in the second spot of the lineup. Megastar 3B Manny Machado (137 wRC+) hits third and 1B Chris Davis (113 wRC+) and RF Mark Trumbo (122 wRC+) follow as the fourth and fifth hitters. Scary lineup is scary.

2B Jonathan Schoop (109 wRC+) and SS J.J. Hardy (86 wRC+) are the middle infielders, and C Matt Wieters (80 wRC+) is the regular catcher. DH Pedro Alvarez (118 wRC+) starts against righties and sits against lefties. On the bench is where you’ll find OF Nolan Reimold (80 wRC+), UTIL Ryan Flaherty (65 wRC+), and backup C Francisco Pena (49 wRC+). Francisco is Tony’s son, you know. This much is certain: the O’s have a ton of power throughout their lineup. A ton.

Defensively, the O’s are very good up the middle with Wieters, Hardy, Schoop, and Jones. Machado is outstanding at third base and Davis is underrated at first. Trumbo is a nightmare in right and none of the guys they use in left are anything to write home about. It’s a solid team defense overall with a glaring weakness in right.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7:05pm ET): TBA vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo (vs. NYY)
Things have not gone well for the 30-year-old Gallardo in 2016. First he flunked his physical and had to accept a reduced contract offer. Then he missed a bunch of time with a shoulder problem. When he has been healthy enough to pitch, Gallardo has put up a 5.08 ERA (5.02 FIP) in 17 starts and 90.1 innings. His peripheral stats are thoroughly mediocre: 15.5% strikeouts, 12.2% walks, 42.8% grounders, and 1.10 HR/9. Both lefties and righties have hit him hard this year. Gallardo’s four-seamer and sinker sit right around 90 mph, and his trademark slider is still humming in around 87 mph. He’ll also throw mid-80s changeups and upper-70s curveballs. The Yankees scored four runs in seven innings against Gallardo last month, the only time they’ve faced him this year.

Saturday (1:05pm ET): TBA vs. RHP Dylan Bundy (vs. NYY)
Man, I thought Bundy was going to be a star back in the day. He still might be down the road, but injuries and the Curse of Orioles Pitching Prospects™ have gotten in the way. So far this season the still only 23-year-old Bundy has a 3.33 ERA (4.40 FIP) in 81 innings spread across eight starts and 22 relief appearances. He moved into the rotation right out of the All-Star break and has a 3.56 ERA (5.03 FIP) in those eight starts. Bundy has a very nice strikeout rate (24.1%) as a starter, though his walk (8.1%), grounder (39.7%), and homer (1.88 HR/9) numbers need work. Righties have actually hit him harder than lefties this season. As a starter, Bundy works with a 93-95 mph fastball as well as a mid-80s changeup and an upper-70s curveball. His best pitch in high school — Bundy was the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft, if you’re unaware — was a nasty low-90s cutter, but the O’s made him stop throwing it because they were worried he’d get hurt. So they took away his best pitch (he lost feel for it and has abandoned it all together) and he got hurt anyway. Yeah. The Yankees have seen Bundy twice this season as a reliever, scoring three runs in 3.2 total innings. This will be the first time they see him as a starter.

Bundy. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
Bundy. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

Sunday (1:05pm ET): TBA vs. RHP Kevin Gausman (vs. NYY)
Gausman, 25, is having the same kind of okay but not great but probably decent season he’s been having for about three years now. That means a 3.92 ERA (4.35 FIP) in 23 starts and 133 innings. Meh. Gausman has nice strikeout (23.1%) and walk (6.7%) rates but yucky grounder (42.3%) and homer (1.56 HR/9) rates. Again: meh. Righties have hit him much harder than lefties and that’s not unusual for Gausman because he has a nasty mid-80s splitter. That pitch is the equalizer against batters of the opposite hand. His fastball sits mid-to-high-90s and he’ll also throw some low-80s curveballs. The Yankees have seen Gausman three times this year: eight scoreless innings in April, one run in six innings in June, and two runs in 6.2 innings in July. Progress?

For whatever reason the Yankees have their entire rotation listed as TBA at the time of this writing. No idea what that’s about. Luis Cessa, Chad Green, and Michael Pineda are lined up to starting Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, respectively. Unless the Yankees use yesterday’s off-day to rearrange things, we don’t have any reason to think those three guys won’t start this weekend.

Bullpen Status

As usual, the Orioles have a pretty strong bullpen this year, though stalwart setup man RHP Darren O’Day has been limited to only 27.1 innings due to nagging hamstring and shoulder problems. He’s on the DL now and won’t be back this weekend. Maybe not even next weekend when these two clubs meet again. Here is Showalter’s relief crew:

Closer: LHP Zach Britton (0.69 ERA/1.98 FIP)
Setup: RHP Brad Brach (1.57/2.67)
Middle: LHP Donnie Hart (0.00/3.02), RHP Mychal Givens (3.17/3.42), RHP Logan Ondrusek (9.95/5.36)
Long: RHP Mike Wright (5.89/5.50), RHP Vance Worley (3.19/4.27)

Britton has been phenomenal this season. Good enough to get serious Cy Young consideration. He recently allowed his first earned run since April. The guy has a 31.0% strikeout rate and a 79.7% ground ball rate. Britton has faced 197 batters and only 26 have put the ball in play in the air. Crazy.

Only Ondrusek (32 pitches) and Wright (12 pitches) pitched last night, so Baltimore’s bullpen is in good shape coming into tonight’s series opener. The Yankees had an off-day yesterday as they flew west to east. Check out our Bullpen Workload page anyway.

Yankeemetrics: Many questions, no answers [July 18-21]

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

The winning formula
Inconsistency has been the theme of this year’s Yankees team, but they have been remarkably consistent in one thing: their winning formula. Combine solid starting pitching with justenough offense to get a slim lead thru six innings, and then unleash their high-powered, flame-throwing bullpen trio to seal the victory.

The plan worked to perfection on Monday night as the Yankees opened their series against the AL East-leading Orioles with a 2-1 win.

Alex Rodriguez sparked the lineup with a towering home run to left field in the second inning. It was just his second homer at Yankee Stadium this season. A-Rod entered the game with a .226 slugging percentage in home games, the second-worst in the majors among players with at least 100 plate appearances.

The blast was his 69th against the Orioles, breaking a tie with Harmon Killebrew for the fifth-most hit against the franchise. The four guys ahead of him are Babe Ruth (96), Lou Gehrig (92), Jimmie Foxx (87) and Ted Williams (80).

And one more milestone for A-Rod: that homer was also his 1,578th hit in a Yankee uniform, passing Wally Pipp for 17th place on the franchise all-time hits list.

Aroldis Chapman’s blazing fastball was in peak form as he closed out the game for his 19th save. Per Statcast, his 1-2 pitch to J.J. Hardy reached 105.1 mph, matching the fastest pitch ever recorded by Statcast dating back to 2008. Chapman also threw a pitch that went that fast on Sept. 24, 2010 to Tony Gwynn, Jr.

Chapman hit 104 mph on three other pitches in the inning, and Ryan Flaherty actually put one of those heaters in play … barely. Chapman’s 0-2 fastball to him was clocked at 104.9 mph and broke his bat, resulting in an easy grounder for the final out of the game. That was the fastest pitch put in play by a batter in the Statcast era (since 2008).

(Getty)
(Getty)

#TeamBuy
A funny thing happened on the way to the Trade Deadline … the Yankees decided to build some momentum and hold off the cries to SELL!!! for another day as they routed the Orioles, 7-1.

Starlin Castro has hardly been a consistent run producer during his debut campaign in pinstripes, but he’s definitely come up huge at times this season. His two-run blast in the second inning gave the Yankees an early 2-0 lead they wouldn’t relinquish in this must-win game.

It was his 11th homer of the season (matching his total from last year) and his sixth that gave the Yankees a lead. That’s the most go-ahead homers of any Yankee this season.

Jacoby Ellsbury made sure the fans in the Bronx would witness history on Tuesday night when he reached base via catcher’s interference for the ninth time this season, breaking the major-league record set by Roberto Kelly in 1992. The number becomes even more ridiculous when you consider that every other player in the American League has combined for six catcher’s interferences this season.

Huge Mike
The Yankees continued their desperate push toward contender status with another victory and another dominant performance from their pitching staff on Wednesday night. It was their fourth straight win overall and the fourth game in a row they allowed no more than one run and no more than five hits.

This is the first time since 1932 that the Yankees have put together a four-game win streak at home, giving up one run or fewer and five hits or fewer in each game.

pineda
(Getty)

The Yankees took an early 1-0 lead thanks a leadoff triple by Brett Gardner and a Carlos Beltran sac fly in the bottom of the first. That snapped a franchise-record 23-game scoreless streak in the first inning dating back nearly a month. Remember, this is a team that last year led the majors with 125 runs scored in the first frame.

Carlos Beltran capped off the scoring, too, with a solo homer in the eighth inning to give the Yankees a 5-0 lead. It was his 20th homer, making him just the second switch hitter to hit 20 home runs in his age-39 season or older. Eddie Murray reached that milestone in both 1995 and 1996, at age 39 and 40.

Michael Pineda spun a gem as he pitched six scoreless innings for his first win since June 7. He featured a nasty, sharp slider that baffled the Orioles lineup, netting him a whopping 18 whiffs and six of his eight punch outs. The 18 swings-and-misses are the most that any pitcher has gotten with a slider in any game this season, one more than Clayton Kershaw had against the Blue Jays on May 7.

Back to losing
The Yankees had their confidence-boosting four-game win streak snapped on Thursday afternoon, failing to complete the sweep thanks to a listless 4-1 loss. Their all-too-familiar anemic offense mustered just one run on five hits, the 20th time in 95 games that they’ve been held to no more than a single run. The only other AL team with 20 games of zero or one run scored this season is the last-place Tampa Bay Rays.

CC Sabathia had little to celebrate on his 36th birthday as his downward spiral deepened with another discouraging outing (four runs, seven hits, 6 2/3 innings). He’s now given up at least seven hits and four runs in each of his last six starts, the first time in his career he put together a six-game streak with that many hits and runs allowed in each game.

Coincidental or not, the large lefty has historically struggled on his birthday as a major-leaguer. He’s now 0-3 with a 6.99 ERA in five starts on July 21 and his team has lost all five games.

7/18 to 7/21 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

This ten-game homestand against three (most likely) postseason bound teams continues this week with four games against the Orioles. Believe it or not, this is the O’s first trip to Yankee Stadium this season. The two teams played two series in Camden Yards in the first half. The Yankees lost two of three both times.

What Have They Done Lately?

The O’s lost to the lowly Rays yesterday — Tampa is 4-24 in their last 28 games! — but won four straight dating back to the first half prior to that. They’ve won six of their last eight games overall. Baltimore is 53-37 with + 40 run differential. They’re atop the AL East, two games ahead of the Red Sox and three games ahead of the Blue Jays. The Yankees are 8.5 back.

Offense & Defense

Offensively, the O’s are pretty much exactly who we expected them to be. They’re averaging a healthy 5.00 runs per game with a team 109 wRC+ and an MLB leading 141 homers. OF Hyun-Soo Kim (136 wRC+) is their only injured position player. He’s nursing a hamstring issue and is day-to-day.

Trumbo. (Presswire)
Trumbo. (Presswire)

Manager Buck Showalter has a fairly set lineup, with CF Adam Jones (98 wRC+) batting leadoff despite a .309 OBP. It’s been working, so whatever. 2B Jonathan Schoop (123 wRC+) has been hitting second with Kim hurt, and 3B Manny Machado (140 wRC+) bats third. 1B Chris Davis (120 wRC+) and RF Mark Trumbo (138 wRC+) have been alternating the fourth and fifth spots the last few days. C Matt Wieters (87 wRC+) slots in sixth and SS J.J. Hardy (84 wRC+) hits seventh. So there you have it.

DH Pedro Alvarez (113 wRC+) will start against righties, and both OF Nolan Reimold (104 wRC+) and Rule 5 Draft pick OF Joey Rickard (84 wRC+) split time in the various outfield spots. C Caleb Joseph (10 wRC+) and UTIL Ryan Flaherty (77 wRC+) are the other bench players. The O’s carry a normal four-man bench — unlike most teams these days, it seems — though it’s a three-man bench until Kim gets the green light.

The O’s are a good team defensively, especially on the infield. Machado is excellent at third, Hardy and Schoop are above-average on the middle infield, and Davis is underrated at first. He doesn’t get enough credit for his athleticism and glove work. Jones is solid in center, but the corner outfield spots are a mess, especially when Trumbo is in right. Hit it that way if you can, Yankees.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (7:05pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Kevin Gausman (vs. NYY)
Gausman, 25, is probably the most successful homegrown O’s starter — by homegrown I mean drafted and developed by the team — since Sidney Ponson. They’ve not had much luck developing starters at all. Gausman goes into tonight’s start with a 4.15 ERA (4.29 FIP) despite excellent strikeout (22.1%) and walk (5.1%) rates in 15 starts and 86.2 innings. He gives up a few too many fly balls (43.9% grounders) and lots of homers (1.56 HR/9), and righties have hit him a lot harder than lefties. The reverse split is not unusual for Gausman because he has a nasty mid-80s splitter. His fastball sits mid-to-high-90s and he’ll also throw some low-80s curveballs. The Yankees have seen Gausman twice this year: eight scoreless innings in April and one run in six innings in June.

Tuesday (7:05pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Vance Worley (vs. NYY)
The O’s are desperate for help at the back of the rotation, and right now they’re basically cycling through a bunch of in-house options until they can make a trade. Worley will get the start Tuesday after throwing 16 pitches in relief yesterday, and it should be noted he hasn’t thrown more than 63 pitches in an outing since April. He might not be able to go long tomorrow. The 28-year-old righty has a 2.98 ERA (3.94 FIP) in 45.1 innings spread across two starts and 17 relief appearances this season. His strikeout rate (17.4%) is low, but otherwise his walk (7.7%), grounder (47.2%), and homer (0.79 HR/9) rates are solid. Lefties have hit Worley hard this year and last, though his career split is pretty small. He works mostly in the upper-80s with his four-seamer and sinker as a starter, and will also feature a mid-80s slider and mid-70s curveball. Worley will also mix in a few low-80s changeups. The Yankees managed a run in two-thirds of an inning of relief against the bespectacled righty earlier this year.

Gallardo. (Presswire)
Gallardo. (Presswire)

Wednesday (7:05pm): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo (vs. NYY)
Over the winter Gallardo fell victim to the infamous Orioles Physical™. He originally agreed to a three-year deal worth $35M, then the O’s found something in his physical, destroyed his market, and got him to accept a smaller contract (two years, $22M). The 30-year-old Gallardo is not the first player to fail an O’s physical and he won’t be the last. So far this season he has a 5.77 ERA (5.14 FIP) in ten starts and 48.1 innings around a shoulder issue — see, the Orioles were right! — and his underlying stats are awful: 14.5% strikeouts, 12.2% walks, 40.4% grounders, and 1.12 HR/9. Left-handed batters have had much more success against him than righties, both this year and throughout his career. Gallardo’s four-seamer and sinker sit right around 90 mph, and his trademark slider is still humming in around 87 mph. He’ll also throw mid-80s changeups and upper-70s curveballs. The Yankees didn’t see Gallardo in either of the two series in Baltimore earlier this year.

Thursday (1:05pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Chris Tillman (vs. NYY)
Tillman, 28, is the staff ace almost by default. He’s had a solid year overall (3.29 ERA and 4.23 FIP in 120.1 innings) but has been so very up and down throughout his career. His strikeout (20.6%) and homer (1.05 HR/9) rates are about average, but his walk (9.4%) and ground ball (39.5%) numbers aren’t as good as you’d like. So far this year he has a pretty big platoon split, though historically it’s been small. Tillman has actually added some velocity this season and he now sits closer to 92-94 mph than 91-93 mph with his four-seam fastball. A big upper-70s curveball is his trademark pitch. Tillman also uses mid-80s changeups and upper-80s cutters as well. He’s made one good (one run in seven innings) and one bad (five runs in five innings) start against the Yankees in 2016.

Bullpen Status

Once again, the O’s have a rock solid bullpen, and they’ve done it without ace setup man RHP Darren O’Day (3.15 ERA/5.42 FIP) for the last month and a half. He’s been out since early-June with a hamstring injury. Here is Showalter’s current bullpen:

Closer: LHP Zach Britton (0.68 ERA/1.96 FIP)
Setup: RHP Brad Brach (0.88/2.47)
Middle: RHP Mychal Givens (3.27/3.68), RHP Chaz Roe (3.60/5.97), LHP Donnie Hart
Long: RHP Ordisamer Despaigne (2.87/4.96)

Like the Yankees, the Orioles had two All-Star relievers this season in Britton and Brach. They’ve been really awesome. Hart was just called up and he made his MLB debut yesterday, getting lefties Corey Dickerson to fly out and Kevin Kiermaier to strike out. He’s a classic left-on-left matchup guy with a funky sidearm slot (video).

Hart (six pitches) and Despaigne (25 pitches) both pitched yesterday. Everyone else should be good to go coming into the series. Head on over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s ‘pen.

Yankeemetrics: Buried in Baltimore [June 2-5]

#TrueYankee (AP Photo)
#TrueYankee (AP Photo)

Refsnyder to the Rescue
The Yankees halted their mini-three-game skid with a 5-4 win against the Tigers on Thursday night. If not for Rob Refsnyder, the mood on the Yankees flight from Detroit to Baltimore would have been remarkably different.

Refsnyder played a starring role in the biggest moments of the game, starting with his leadoff double in the sixth inning which broke up Matt Boyd’s unlikely no-hit bid. The 25-year-old went on to score the tying run two batters later on Jacoby Ellsbury‘s sacrifice fly, and then two frames later, he delivered a tie-breaking RBI single to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead.

It was Refsnyder’s first career go-ahead RBI, and the first go-ahead RBI in the seventh inning or later by a Yankee second baseman against the Tigers since Alfonso Soriano on June 1, 2003.

Refsnyder’s heroics might have stolen the headlines, but it was Michael Pineda‘s strong bounceback performance on the mound that made sure the Yankees had a chance to win this game. Pineda entered Thursday with the league’s highest ERA among qualified pitchers (6.92), and in his previous four starts had surrendered a whopping 20 earned runs and 30 hits in 20 1/3 innings.

So, of course, Pineda pitched his best game of the season, allowing one run in 5 2/3 innings with eight strikeouts and no walks. He dominated the Tigers lineup with his wipeout slider, which generated 14 whiffs on 22 swings, a season-best 64 percent whiff rate for the pitch. Per Statcast data, Pineda now has 97 total swings-and-misses on his slider this season, second only to Clayton Kershaw among all major-league pitchers.

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

A trip to the (Not) Charm City
Baltimore has mostly been a miserable place for the Yankees in recent years — they entered this series with a 9-22 record at Camden Yards since 2013, their worst mark at any AL ballpark — and did little to reverse that trend in the series opener.

On a day when the Yankee bats surprisingly came alive, it was their recently-excellent starting pitching and normally-lockdown bullpen that struggled in Friday night’s frustrating 6-5 loss.

Nathan Eovaldi, 5-0 with a 2.03 ERA in his previous five starts, was charged with five runs in 5 1/3 innings; the mortal version of Dellin Betances coughed up the game-winning run in the seventh.

A-Rod and Carlos Beltran did their part in sparking the offense with homers in consecutive at-bats in the fourth inning. They are just the third pair of teammates aged 39 or older to hit back-to-back home runs in major-league history. The others were Ted Williams and Mickey Vernon for the Red Sox on Sept. 21, 1957 and Jeff Kent and Luis Gonzalez for the Dodgers on April 29, 2007.

A-Rod breaks out
The Yankees used another unlikely offensive outburst — yes, it was unlikely for a team that began the weekend with the lowest batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage in the AL — to beat the Orioles, 8-6, on Saturday night. They piled up 16 hits, their most hits in a game at Camden Yards since Sept. 2, 2009.

A-Rod had his second three-hit game of the season and it was his RBI single in the ninth inning that might have been his most notable swing of the night. Vance Worley threw a two-strike slider that A-Rod sliced up the middle to score Aaron Hicks from second base. That was his first hit off a breaking pitch this season; he was 0-for-17 with nine strikeouts in at-bats ending in a curve or slider before that hit.

Jacoby Ellsbury scored the seventh run of the game on a well-executed double steal with Brett Gardner. It was the second time in 2016 that Ellsbury has stolen home, joining Chris Chambliss in 1977 as the only Yankees in the last 60 years with two steals of home in a single season.

The worst rain delay ever
For the second time in three games, the Yankees snatched defeat from the arms of victory. They had a 1-0 advantage in the eighth inning, and after sitting through a one-hour-and-37-minute rain delay, they blew the lead and suffered yet another brutal loss.

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)
This one was different from the others, though equally gut-wrenching. For the first time this season, the Yankees lost a game when taking a lead into the eighth inning; they’re now 25-1 in that situation.

It also clinched their eighth straight series loss in Baltimore, a wholly depressing and unprecedented streak. This is the first time that the Yankees have dropped eight series on the road in the history of this rivalry, which dates back to 1903, including when the Orioles were the St. Louis Browns.

Moving on to more positive notes … CC Sabathia turned in another stellar, though inefficient, effort with just two hits allowed in five scoreless innings. He needed 111 pitches to get those 15 outs, because of several long at-bats and a career-high-tying six walks.

The last Yankee pitcher to walk at least six guys and not give up a run was A.J. Burnett on Aug. 7, 2009 against the Red Sox. (That was the 15th inning A-Rod walk-off homer game.) Ya know, sometimes you can predict baseball.

Sabathia has now pitched at least five innings and given up no more than three runs in each of his last nine road starts, the longest such streak by a Yankee pitcher since Ron Guidry had nine starts in a row like that spanning the 1977 and 1978 seasons.