Yankees lose Mike Ford, five others in 2017 Rule 5 Draft

Ford. (NY Times)
Ford. (NY Times)

The Winter Meetings came to a close this morning with the 2017 Rule 5 Draft, baseball’s mechanism for helping players stuck in the minors get a chance at the big leagues. As expected, the Yankees lost several players in the Rule 5 Draft. That’s usually what happens when you have a deep farm system. There aren’t enough 40-man roster spots for everyone.

Here are the full Rule 5 Draft results. Here are the players the Yankees lost in the Major League phase:

  • Braves: RHP Anyelo Gomez
  • Mariners: 1B Mike Ford
  • Orioles: LHP Nestor Cortes and RHP Jose Mesa Jr.

I’m surprised Ford was picked, despite his strong minor league numbers. The 25-year-old hit .270/.404/.471 (144 wRC+) with 20 homers and way more walks (94) than strikeouts (72) this season, mostly at Double-A. Ford is only the fourth full-time first baseman picked in the Rule 5 Draft over the last two decades. I guess the Mariners will see whether he and Ryon Healy can be a productive first base platoon going forward.

The three pitchers getting selected was not a surprise. Gomez is the most notable and best prospect of the bunch. The soon-to-be 25-year-old has an upper-90s fastball and a very good changeup, and this past season he broke out with a 1.92 ERA (2.19 FIP) and 31.0% strikeouts in 71 innings at four levels. Cortes has always posted great minor league numbers, though he’s a finesse southpaw who rarely cracks 90 mph with his heater. Joe Table II has okay stuff and started to put it together this year. RHP J.P. Feyereisen and RHP Cale Coshow were among those Rule 5 Draft eligible but not selected.

As a reminder, players selected in the Rule 5 Draft must spend the entire 2018 season on their new team’s active 25-man roster, or be placed on waivers and offered back to their old team. Most Rule 5 Draft players are offered back, usually before the end of Spring Training. I think Gomez has by far the best chance of sticking among the four players the Yankees lost today. The O’s do have a history of riding it out with Rule 5 Draft players no matter how poorly they perform, however, so perhaps Cortes and/or Mesa will stick.

In the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft, the Yankees lost depth C Sharif Othman (Marlins) and converted infielder RHP Yancarlos Baez (Twins). The Yankees selected OF Junior Soto from the Indians as well. The 20-year-old hit .172/.208/.408 (67 wRC+) in 52 Low-A games last season. Soto was a big deal as an international free agent years ago — he signed for $600,000 in 2013 — but things haven’t worked out. The Yankees are taking a flier because why not?

The minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft works differently than the Major League phase. Players lost in the minor league phase do not have to be offered back and there are no roster rules. They’re just gone. So, after all that, the Yankees lost six players (Ford, Gomez, Cortes, Mesa, Baez, Othman) and added one (Soto). The four Major League phase guys could all end up coming back at some point. Pretty much business as usual at the Rule 5 Draft.

Yankeemetrics: Kings of the Comeback (Wild Card & ALDS)

(AP)
(AP)

Wild, wild win
From a nightmare start to a very happy ending, the Yankees used their relentless power bats to overcome a debacle on the mound in a crazy Wild Card Game victory. With the win, the Yankees snapped a five-game postseason losing streak, which was tied for the second-longest in franchise history.

Luis Severino produced one of the worst playoff starts ever, becoming the third starter in franchise history to give up three or more runs while getting pulled before recording two outs in a postseason game. The others were Art Ditmar in the 1960 World Series and Bob Turley in the 1958 World Series.

Down 3-0 before even swinging a bat and your ace is in the showers? No big deal for this Yankees team: they had the second-most wins when their opponent scored first during the regular season (36). Yet still, this victory was nearly unprecedented in major-league history. Only once before had a team won a postseason game in which their starter lasted 1/3 of an inning and allowed at least three earned runs – the Pirates in Game 7 of the 1925 World Series against the Washington Senators.

The game quickly became a battle of the bullpens and the relief crew responded with a historic performance. Chad Green, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle and Aroldis Chapman allowed just one run while striking out 13, the most strikeouts ever by a bullpen in a winner-take-all playoff contest.

Robertson’s epic outing deserves a couple #FunFacts. He’s the first Yankee reliever to throw at least 3 1/3 scoreless innings and strike out five guys in the playoffs since Mariano Rivera in Game 2 of the 1995 ALDS, and just the third reliever in major-league postseason history do that in a winner-take-all game. The other two? Pedro Martinez (1999 ALDS) and Walter Johnson (1924 World Series).

Aaron Judge put an exclamation point on the comeback with a two-run laser shot into the leftfield seats that gave the Yankees a 7-4 cushion in the fourth. Adding to his ever-growing legendary rookie campaign, he became the youngest player in franchise history to go deep in his first career postseason game. Judge also became the second-youngest Yankee to homer in a sudden-death playoff win; the other dude was a 20-year-old Mickey Mantle in Game 7 of the 1952 World Series. #NotClutch

(Newsday)
(Newsday)

Overmatched in Cleveland
The Yankees offense was a complete no-show in Game 1 of the Division Series as they were dominated from start to finish by the AL’s best team. Not only were they blanked, 4-0, but they had only three hits, the seventh postseason game all-time that the Yankees were shut out on three hits or fewer.

Adding in the 14 strikeouts, and the Yankees entered the MLB record books – in the worst possible way. This was the fifth time in major-league playoff history that a team scored zero runs, had no more than three hits and struck out at least 14 times. The Yankees are the owners of two of the five games: Thursday night and 2010 ALCS Game 3 vs Rangers. Welp.

Trevor Bauer used his nasty fastball-curve combo to throw one of the most dominant playoff pitching performances ever against this franchise. Bauer, Pedro Martinez (1999 ALCS Game 3) and Cliff Lee (2010 ALCS Game 3) are the only starters to allow no runs and two hits or fewer while striking out at least eight Yankees in a postseason game.

While the Yankees bats went M.I.A., Sonny Gray was a mess on the mound. He really struggled with his command, issuing four walks, hitting a batter and throwing a wild pitch. Only one other Yankee pitcher crammed all that into a single playoff appearance: Jack McDowell in the 1995 ALDS.

Even worse, Gray gets our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Series with this #NotFunFact: only one other starter in major-league postseason history walked four guys, hit a guy and tossed a wild pitch while pitching fewer than four innings: Ramon Ortiz (Angels) in the 2002 ALDS … against the Yankees.

(Getty)
(Getty)

No challenge, no win
Speechless.

The Yankees have suffered plenty of heart-breaking and frustrating losses this season, yet somehow Game 2 managed to top them all, zooming to first place in the W.L.O.T.S. (Worst Loss of the Season) standings. How improbable was this loss?

  • The five-run blown lead was tied for their second-largest in the postseason; the last time they gagged a five-run lead in the playoffs was the 2002 ALDS (Game 3) against the Angels. And it was the first time ever the Indians erased a deficit of five-plus runs to win a playoff game.
  • Scoring eight runs, fueled by three homers, should have been enough offense to win this game. Before Friday’s loss, the Yankees were 14-0 all-time in the postseason when scoring at least eight runs and going deep three times in a game.
  • It was just the second time the Yankees lost a postseason game on the road in the 13th inning or later. It’s probably best to not mention the other one (Game 5 of 2004 ALCS vs. the Red Sox). Sorry.

And still, sometimes, baseball is predictable. This was the third extra-inning playoff contest between these two teams — and the Yankees have now lost all three.

Obviously the major pivot point of the game was the non-challenge by Joe Girardi in the sixth inning. Before we get to the numbers, Girardi’s non-challenge was clearly an inexcusable mistake given the circumstances. Anyways, here’s a couple stats related to the at-bat.

First, Chad Green had faced 190 left-handed batters in his career entering Game 2, and had hit exactly one of them (Chris Davis last year). And Francisco Lindor’s grand slam was the first extra-base hit that Green had allowed with the bases loaded in his career. Second, the Yankees challenged six hit-by-pitch calls in the regular season, which was the most of any team (they ranked 13th in total challenges with 42). And overall, the Yankees 75 percent success rate on all challenged plays this season was the best in the majors.

Now that The Ugly chapter of this game has been written, let’s finish off with The Good. Remember, the Yankees pummeled the likely AL Cy Young winner, Corey Kluber, for six runs and seven hits. Gary Sanchez kick-started the offense with a two-run homer in the first inning. The 24-year-old is the youngest Yankee catcher to homer in a postseason (a 22-year-old Yogi Berra homered in the 1947 World Series as a pinch-hitter).

Aaron Hicks then sent Kluber to the showers with a three-run bomb in the third inning that put the Yankees ahead 6-3. That gave us a nice #FunFact: he joined Bernie Williams and Mickey Mantle as the only Yankee centerfielders to hit a tie-breaking, multi-run homer in the playoffs.

Finally, Greg Bird extended the lead to 8-3 with a towering shot to rightfield in the fifth. Bird and Sanchez became the second set of Yankee teammates under age 25 to homer in a postseason game. Joe DiMaggio and Charlie Keller also did it in Game 3 of the 1939 World Series.

(Getty)
(Getty)

It ain’t over ’til …
The Yankees staved off elimination with a dramatic 1-0 win in Game 3 on Sunday night, showing off their Fighting Spirit once again in this rollercoaster, never-say-die season.

It was the sixth 1-0 win in franchise postseason history and the third in a potential elimination game (also 2001 ALDS Game 3 and 1962 World Series Game 7). Their only other 1-0 playoff win in the Bronx was in Game 1 of the 1949 World Series against the Dodgers.

In contrast to the rest of this run-happy postseason, Game 3 was a classic – and unprecedented – pitchers duel. It was the first postseason game in major-league history where each starter allowed zero runs, no more than three hits and had at least five strikeouts.

Masahiro Tanaka delivered an ace-like performance for the Yankees, carving up the Indians lineup with his nasty, dive-bombing splitter and late-breaking slider. Considering the magnitude of the game, Tanaka’s gem becomes even more impressive and historic. A worthy #FunFact for our ‘Hiro: he is the first Yankee pitcher ever to toss at least seven scoreless innings, strike out seven-or-more guys and give up three hits or fewer in a potential postseason elimination contest.

Aroldis Chapman also came through in the clutch with a white-knuckle, five-out save to seal the win. Since saves became official in 1969, the only other pitcher in baseball history to record a save of at least five outs in a 1-0 win with his team facing postseason elimination was Mariano Rivera in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS.

As brilliant as Tanaka and Chapman were, the Yankees couldn’t have won the game without the heroics of Greg Bird and his solo homer in the seventh off Andrew Miller. Two other Yankees have gone deep in the seventh inning or later of a postseason contest to break a 0-0 tie — Tommy Henrich in the 1949 World Series (Game 1) and Charlie Keller in the 1939 World Series (Game 4).

Finally, another #FunFact for the Birdman: he is the first player in major-league history to snap a 0-0 tie with a homer in the seventh inning or later and his team on the brink of being eliminated from the playoffs.

(Getty)
(Getty)

Stayin’ Alive
The never-say-die Yankees forced a winner-take-all Game 5 with a convincing 7-3 win at the Stadium on Monday night. The Yankees broke out of their mini-offensive slump with seven runs and were helped out by a sloppy Indians defense that led to six of them being unearned. This was just the second postseason game where a Yankee opponent allowed six or more unearned runs; the other was in Game 2 of the 1960 World Series against the Pirates.

Gary Sanchez added an insurance run in the sixth inning with a solo drive to right-center for his second homer of the postseason. Power-hitting young catchers shining in October is special; only four other backstops under age 25 have hit multiple homers in a single playoffs: Johnny Bench (1970, ’72), Javy Lopez (1995), Brian McCann (2005) and Yadier Molina (2006).

While the offensive fireworks were cool, the star of this game was Luis Severino. He bounced back from his disastrous Wild Card game outing with seven superb and gutty innings. Sevy is the second-youngest Yankee with nine strikeouts in any postseason game (trailing 22-year-old Dave Righetti in the 1981 ALDS). And he is only the fourth pitcher – of any age – in franchise history to win a potential elimination game while striking out at least nine guys. CC Sabathia (2012 ALDS Game 5), Bob Turley (1958 World Series Game 5) and Vic Raschi (1952 World Series Game 6) are the others.

(Getty)
(Getty)

#LoveThisTeam
The Yankees are Kings of the Improbable Comeback, winning Game 5 to become the 10th team in baseball history to overcome a two-games-to-zero deficit in a best-of-five series. Combined with their similar rally in the 2001 ALDS against the A’s, they joined the Red Sox as the only franchises to achieve this incredible feat twice.

Making this amazing victory even more impressive is that it came against a 102-win Indians club that was the AL’s best in the regular season. The Yankees are now 9-2 in postseason series against 100-plus-win teams, and their only losses were to the Reds in the 1976 World Series and the Cardinals in the 1942 World Series.

They’ve been at their best with their backs against the wall this entire season and especially in the playoffs, improving to 4-0 in potential elimination games and 2-0 in winner-take-all games in this postseason. It is the first time in franchise history they’ve won four games when facing elimination in a single postseason, and the first time they’ve won multiple winner-take-all games in a single postseason.

(New York Post)
(New York Post)

Didi Gregorius had a performance for the ages, lighting up the scoreboard early and often, with a solo homer in the opening frame and then going deep again in the third inning. He joined Jason Giambi (2003 ALCS Game 7) and Yogi Berra (1956 World Series Game 7) as the only Yankees with multiple homers in a winner-take-all postseason game. And … he’s the first shortstop in franchise history to go yard twice in any playoff game.

While Didi provided the power, Brett Gardner brought the grit. He won a grueling 12-pitch battle with Cody Allen in the ninth inning, lacing an RBI single into right field to give the Yankees a three-run cushion with three outs to go. Remarkably, it was the longest at-bat of his career that G.G.B.G. ended with a hit.

CC Sabathia was lights-out through four innings before getting into trouble in the fifth, but still finished with nine strikeouts. That matched his career postseason high that he set in the deciding Game 5 of the 2012 ALDS. Sabathia is just the fourth pitcher in major-league history to whiff at least nine guys in a winner-take-all game twice in his career. The others? Bob Gibson, Curt Schilling and Justin Verlander.

Aroldis Chapman sealed the win with two near-perfect innings and entered the record books with this remarkable #FunFact: He is the first pitcher in postseason history to save a winner-take-all game by throwing at least two hitless innings and striking out four or more guys.

************
We will see you Friday night!

The Indians are forcing the Yankees to hit breaking balls by not throwing fastballs

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

Last night, in Game One of the ALDS, the Yankees were thoroughly dominated by Trevor Bauer for the first six innings and change. Bauer held the Yankees to two hits and one walk in 6.2 scoreless innings, and struck out eight. He, along with Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, held New York to three hits total in the shutout loss. The Yankees were overmatched.

Bauer pitched very well down the stretch in the regular season — he had a 2.42 ERA (3.66 FIP) in his final 12 starts and 78 innings — so last night’s performance didn’t come out of nowhere. It was just a continuation of what he’d done over the final three months of the season. What was different was Bauer’s pitch selection. He went curveball heavy Thursday night.

  • Fastball: 50.0% (49.5% during the regular season)
  • Curveball: 36.7% (29.1%)
  • Cutter: 9.2% (8.2%)
  • Changeup: 4.1% (6.3%)

Sample size noise? Sure, that’s always possible. Recent postseason history suggests it was by design, however. Last postseason the Indians went to the World Series by emphasizing breaking pitching pitches and making life miserable for hitters. Josh Tomlin, the epitome of a back-end starter, had great success doing exactly that. Consider Cleveland’s pitch selection last year:

Regular Season Postseason
Fastballs 65.4% 57.9%
Curveballs 11.9% 16.9%
Sliders 10.3% 15.1%
Changeups 9.7% 4.5%

Fewer fastballs, fewer changeups, more bendy pitches. Why more bendy pitches? Because bendy pitches are hard to hit. The Indians increased their breaking ball usage considerably in the postseason last year and they’re poised to do it again this year. They did it last night. Bauer, Miller, and Allen combined to throw 38.5% breaking balls last night. Four out of ten pitches were breaking balls. It was 29.4% during the regular season.

The Yankees were a good breaking ball hitting team during the regular season. They were a good hitting team overall during the regular season. All types of pitches. You don’t lead baseball in homers and finish second in runs by hitting only fastballs. Look at their numbers:

  • Fastballs: .360 wOBA (.351 league average)
  • Curveballs: .274 wOBA (.267 league average)
  • Sliders: .297 wOBA (.274 league average)
  • Changeups: .351 wOBA (.304 league average)

That’s all well and good, but here’s the thing: it’s harder to hit breaking balls than fastballs. Look at the league averages. Generally speaking, a great curveball hitting team hits curveballs worse than a bad fastball hitting team hits fastballs. Bendy stuff is hard to hit, even if you’re good at it. The Indians are trying — and based on last postseason and last night, succeeding — to gain an advantage by emphasizing breaking balls.

Also, keep in mind the Indians do not have a normal pitching staff here. They have pitchers with great breaking balls. Miller’s slider. Allen’s curveball. Bauer’s curveball. Corey Kluber’s slider. Carlos Carrasco’s slider. The Indians aren’t sending a bunch of generic middle relievers out to the mound and telling them to throw more breaking balls. They’re telling pitchers with some of the best breaking balls on the planet to throw more breaking balls. That’s tough.

So what do you do if you’re the Yankees? It’s easy to say “sit breaking ball,” but that creates it’s own set of problems. Do that and you’re going to miss hittable fastballs. Most hitters prefer to sit fastball and adjust to the breaking ball because it’s easier to react and slow down your bat than react and speed it up to catch up an unexpected heater. Maybe sit location and zero in on that, then adjust when you’re down to two strikes? I’m not sure.

A case can be made the Indians had the best pitching staff in history during the regular season. I won’t make that case, but it can be done. Now that they’re in the postseason, the Indians are again going breaking ball heavy, which means their pitching staff will be that much harder to hit. The one thing the Yankees can’t do it sit back and wait for fastballs. They’re not coming. They’ll instead have to hope for mistakes, and try to hit a steady diet of some of the nastiest curveballs and sliders in the game.

Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, and the importance of Game One of the ALDS

Klubot. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
Klubot. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

A few hours before the Yankees won last night’s Wild Card Game, Indians manager Terry Francona announced Trevor Bauer, not Corey Kluber, will start Game One of the ALDS tomorrow. Kluber is, by almost any measure, the best right-handed pitcher in the AL and the likely AL Cy Young winner. The Tribe are instead giving the ball to Bauer.

“We’re trying to get as much flexibility as we can. There are a lot of factors, but I think we set it up (well). We didn’t try to over-complicate it,” said Francona to Jordan Bastian. “I think for a number of reasons, it makes good sense … The biggest thing was keeping him on his five-day. That was really important to Kluber. That was really the only way we could do it.”

Long story short, the Indians are starting Bauer in Game One because they feel he is better equipped to come back on short rest in Game Four, if necessary. (It’ll be Josh Tomlin if they don’t bring Bauer back on short rest.) They don’t want to use Kluber on short rest (yet) after asking him to do it three times last postseason, including twice in the World Series. As it stands, he can now start Game Two and then Game Five on normal rest. There’s a lot going on here, so let’s talk out how this affects the Yanks.

1. It gives the Yankees a better chance to win Game One. This is very simple. Trevor Bauer is not as good as Corey Kluber, thus the Indians’ chances of winning Game One decrease while the Yankees’ chances of winning Game One increase. How much, exactly? Eh, that’s up for debate. But I’d rather face Bauer than Kluber in any game, let alone a postseason game, roughly a zillion times out of a zillion.

I love Francona as a manager, he’s the best in the business as far as I’m concerned, but I can’t help but wonder if he and the Indians are getting a little too cute here. In the LDS era, the team that wins Game One in the best-of-five series has gone on to win the series 71% of the time. I get the big picture view the Indians are taking, but geez, if this were the Yankees, I’d want them to just start the best pitcher in the league in Game One and try to take an early series lead. In the postseason, the most important game is always the next game on the schedule.

(Maddie Meyer/Getty)
Bauer. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)

2. Expect Bauer’s leash to be short tomorrow. As we saw last year, Francona is very aggressive with his bullpen in the postseason, and there’s no reason to think this year will be different. Should Bauer struggle early, it won’t be long before Andrew Miller starts warming up. And because the Indians have Kluber lined up for Game Two and can reasonably expect him to pitch deep into the game (because he’s so damn good), Francona might push his top relievers a little more than usual in Game One, knowing he probably won’t need them as much in Game Two.

Point is, the Yankees are going to have to capitalize on Francona’s decision to start Bauer over Kluber in Game One by actually scoring runs against Bauer, before he gets the hook and bullpen comes into play. Bauer faced the Yankees twice during the regular season, both times in the second half, and allowed two runs in 13 innings. If he does something like that again, the Yankees are in trouble. The bullpen will ready to go at a moment’s notice.

3. Game One is basically a must win. No, it is not a literal win or go home must win, but the Yankees do not want to be down 1-0 in the series with Kluber lined up for Game Two. That’s a good recipe for a quick 2-0 series deficit. Even with Chad Green and David Robertson presumably available for Game Two, facing Kluber down in the series is a tough assignment. Every postseason game is important, and that is especially true when trying to avoid having your back up against the wall against a guy like Kluber.

4. It’s gonna rain Friday. The current weather forecast calls for rain pretty much all day in Cleveland on Friday, meaning Game Two might get postponed. Should that happen, the game would be played Saturday, during the scheduled off-day, and Games Two through Four would be played three consecutive days. That’ll screw up each team’s bullpen deployment a bit. It’s also ruin the whole “start Kluber on regular rest in Game Five” plan. If Game Two gets rained out and he has to pitch Saturday instead, Kluber would have to start Game Five on short rest. Hmmm.

* * *

Joe Torre used to say Game Two was the biggest game of the series because you had a chance to go up 2-0 or down 0-2, and that’s why he always started Andy Pettitte in Game Two. He trusted Andy. Of course, that’s easy to say when you have David Cone or David Wells or Rogers Clemens or Mike Mussina to start Game One, not Trevor Bauer. But that’s pretty much the approach the Indians are taking. They’re starting their best in Game Two.

With Kluber looming, the Yankees don’t want to lose Game One and fall behind in the series. They don’t want to lose Game One and fall behind in the series no matter who is pitching Game Two, but with Kluber set to pitch that game, if feels like there’s even more urgency to win Game One. It does to me, anyway. Hopefully the decision to start Bauer backfires and the Yankees can pick up a Game One win against a pitcher not as good as Kluber. If they do that, suddenly it’ll be Kluber on the mound feeling that urgency in Game Two.

Yankees acquire Erik Kratz from Indians for cash

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees have brought in some extra catcher depth. The team announced this afternoon they’ve acquired veteran journeyman backstop Erik Kratz from the Indians for cash considerations. He is not on the 40-man roster and I assume he’s heading to Triple-A Scranton for the time being.

Kratz, 37, hit .270/.359/.472 (132 wRC+) with 13 homers in 326 Triple-A plate appearances with the Indians before the trade. He has MLB time with the Phillies, Blue Jays, Royals, Astros, and Pirates, and is a career .200/.248/.362 (62 wRC+) big league hitter. Twenty-four homers in 647 plate appearances is nothing to sneeze at though.

At some point Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine will have their appeals heard and serve their suspensions stemming from last week’s brawl with the Tigers. Kyle Higashioka, the third catcher, is currently on the Triple-A disabled list with a shoulder injury. Also, Triple-A backup Wilkin Castillo left last night’s game with a knee injury, so yeah. The Yankees needed another backstop.

Midnight tonight is the deadline for teams to acquire players and have them be eligible for the postseason roster, and that’s a hard deadline. The player doesn’t have to be in the big leagues or even on the 40-man roster, but he has to be in the organization by midnight, otherwise no postseason. No exceptions or loopholes. Kratz is postseason eligible for the Yankees.

Yankeemetrics: Rocked and rolled by Cleveland (Aug. 28-30)

(Getty)
(Getty)

Kluber’d
Monday’s lackluster 6-2 loss to the Indians was not the way the Yankees wanted to kick off perhaps the toughest week of their schedule so far – a grueling seven-games-in-seven-days stretch against two first-place teams.

Cleveland’s ace, Corey Kluber, put on a masterful performance in silencing the Yankee bats, which is hardly surprising given his history of shutting down the Bombers (and the way he’s dominated the rest of the league this year).

He’s made two starts against the Yankees this year, and in each of those games has pitched eight-or-more innings while allowing no more than three hits. Before Kluber, the last pitcher on any team to have two such outings in a season against the Yankees was Roger Clemens in 1991. Kluber’s success goes back further than this year, too. He’s riding a streak of five straight starts against the Yankees with at least seven strikeouts and two earned runs or fewer. The only other pitchers in baseball history to do that are Roy Halladay (2001-02) and Nolan Ryan (1973-75).

Kluber has also won each of those five starts, earning an Obscure Yankeemetric award for this stat: he is the only guy ever to win five consecutive starts against the Yankees, while striking out at least seven and allowing no more than two earned runs in each game.

The Yankees had their ace on the mound, too, but Luis Severino was ultimately outdueled in the matchup of Cy Young contenders. It was a confusing performance by Sevvy, who mixed some good (9 strikeouts), a little bad (3 walks) and too much ugly (3 homers).

The only other time in his big-league career he allowed three longballs in a game was May 8 last year vs the Red Sox, and it’s just the ninth time in 59 career appearances that he’s allowed more than one home run. The Yankees are now 0-9 when Severino surrenders multiple homers in a game.

via GIPHY

The good news is that there’s some statistical evidence that this was just a rare blip in what has been a fantastic season for Severino. He did a reasonably solid job of limiting hard contact and dangerous flyballs, aside from the three that went over the fence, indicating some random bad luck.

  • Per statcast, only five of the 108 pitches he threw (4.6%) were hit with solid contact. This season, he allowed a higher rate of hard contact in 18 of his 25 other starts.
  • His average exit velocity on batted balls was 85 mph, his sixth-lowest mark in a game this year.
  • He gave up only three flyballs that were hit beyond the infield; and somehow all three of them went over the fence!
  • According to ESPN’s Hit Tracker, Jose Ramirez‘s first-inning homer to right-center would have been a home run in only three other ballparks besides Yankee Stadium.

Bad luck aside, the three home runs were real, and the freezing-cold Yankee bats couldn’t overcome those three mistakes.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

One is the loneliest number
Did I mention freezing-cold bats? Trevor Bauer and the Indians bullpen kept the Bronx Bombers’ bats on ice in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader and the Yankees added to their growing list of frustrating games lost by one run.

The tally is now at 23 one-run losses, the most in the American League and the third-most in baseball. They fell to 15-23 (.395) in 1-run games, putting them in danger of posting just the fifth sub-.400 record in such games in a season in franchise history (also 1981, 1966, 1935, 1925).

Jaime Garcia (with some help from Gary Sanchez) put the Yankees in an early hole when he gave up two runs on three singles and a passed ball in the first inning. While Sanchez has been above-average in framing pitches and throwing out baserunners this season, he continues to struggle with his blocking. This was his 13th passed ball (in 699 innings caught), the most by a Yankee since Jorge Posada also had 13 in 2007 (1,111 innings caught).

While Garcia threw his best game so far in pinstripes, Chad Green was the true pitching superstar on Wednesday afternoon. He replaced Garcia in the sixth and then tossed 2⅔ scoreless innings, allowing one hit with seven strikeouts.

Green has been a strikeout machine all season, and in this game he etched his name in the franchise and MLB record books:

  • His seven strikeouts are the most for any Yankee who pitched fewer than three innings in a game.
  • He is the only major-league pitcher ever to strike out at least seven guys in an outing where he faced eight or fewer batters.
(AP)
(AP)

A new low
The Yankees capped off a miserable day in the Bronx with another uninspiring loss, 9-4, as the Indians completed a rare series sweep of the pinstripers.

This was just the third time in the last 50 years that the Yankees were swept by the Indians in a series of at least three games – it also happened April 7-9, 1989 and September 11-13, 1970. And entering this week, the Yankees had only been swept once the entire season, which was the second-fewest in the majors; the Dodgers are the lone team that hasn’t yet been swept in a series this year.

It was deja vu all over again for the hometown team to start the nightcap of the twinbill. Before they even swung a bat, the Yankees faced another insurmountable deficit, as Jordan Montgomery coughed up four runs on five hits in the opening frame. That snapped a streak of 16 straight games in which Yankee starters had allowed no more than three earned runs, their longest such streak since June/July of 1988.

Greg Bird and Aaron Hicks were a two-man offensive show, with Bird driving in all four of the Yankees runs and Hicks getting half of the team’s eight hits. There was little to celebrate from this game (and the series), so let’s end with a couple #FunFacts:

  • Hicks is the first Yankee since Bernie Williams on October 5, 1991 with at least four hits and a run scored in a loss to the Indians.
  • Bird’s three-run homer in the bottom of the inning kept them from getting “blown out” and preserved this obscure stat: the Yankees are still the only team in the majors that hasn’t lost a game by a margin of eight or more runs this season.

8/28 to 8/30 Series Preview: Cleveland Indians

(Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Jason Miller/Getty Images)

A debt of gratitude is owed to the Orioles and Indians, who combined to win 5 of 7 against the Red Sox last week. As a result of this (and taking two of three from both the Tigers and the Mariners), the Yankees are now within 2.5 games of first place, with four games against the Sox this coming weekend. That doesn’t mean that the Yankees should be looking beyond this series, though, as the Indians are arguably among the five best teams in baseball.

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees and Indians split a four-game series in Cleveland earlier this month. You may remember this as the series in which Joe Girardi called out Gary Sanchez for his defensive effort, and benched him for a game. That seems so long ago, doesn’t it? Some other notes from the series:

  • Sonny Gray made his Yankees debut in the first game, and was treated to some horrendous defense. He pitched to the following line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 4 R (2 ER), 3 BB, 6 K.
  • Jaime Garcia made his debut the next day, and also dealt with some lackluster defense in the form of a Sanchez passed ball. Unlike Gray, though, he was kind of bad, going 4.2 IP and allowing 5 hits, 6 runs, and 4 walks, while striking out 4.
  • Game three was much more fun for Yankees fans, as Jordan Montgomery had a great start (5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 7 K), and Headley hit a clutch go-ahead home run in the bottom of the 8th, as the good guys won 2-1.
  • And, to make this a pitcher-friendly section, Luis Severino was dominant (if inefficient) in the last game. He went 6.2 IP and allowed just 2 hits, 1 run, and 1 walk, while striking out 9. It took him 107 pitches to do so, as his control was a bit off. His stuff was so good that it didn’t matter.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more in-depth information.

Injury Report

Cleveland is pretty banged-up right now, with a slew of talent on the disabled list. Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis, former Yankee Boone Logan, former Yankee Andrew Miller, and Danny Salazar are all out with injuries, and their returns are up in the air. There’s an outside chance that Brantley and Chisenhall could be back for this series, but no announcement has been made as of this morning. The rest will not be back until September (aside from Logan, who’s likely done for the year).

Their Story So Far

The Indians are currently 73-56, with a 6.5 game lead in the AL Central and a +145 run differential (good for third in the majors). They’ve won four in a row, even as they deal with the aforementioned injuries, and rank among the most formidable teams in the game. They’re second in the majors in runs allowed and eighth in runs scored, and they stand to get better in the coming weeks.

Post-non-waiver deadline acquisition Jay Bruce has been incredible for the Indians, batting .311/.391/.590 (159 wRC+) with 4 HR and 13 RBI in 17 games. His presence has allowed the team to replace Brantley without missing a beat, even improving the heart of their order along the way.

The Lineup We Might See

Despite his willingness to buck common practice with his bullpen, manager Terry Francona has had a mostly steady hand with the lineup. The only reason for whatever shake-ups have occurred are rooted in injuries – and that works just fine for them. Here’s the group that we’ll probably see in Yankee Stadium this week:

  1. Francisco Lindor, SS
  2. Austin Jackson, LF
  3. Jose Ramirez, 2B
  4. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B
  5. Jay Bruce, RF
  6. Carlos Santana, 1B
  7. Yandy Diaz, 3B
  8. Bradley Zimmer, CF
  9. Yan Gomes, C

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Monday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. RHP Corey Kluber

If you prefer traditional statistics, Kluber may well be the best pitcher in the American League. He leads the Junior Circuit in ERA, WHIP, and H/9; and, if you want to go by a bit more advanced measures, he also leads in ERA+ and bWAR. Kluber is averaging 12.3 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9, as well, both of which are second to Chris Sale. In short, he’s an ace – and the Yankees saw that first-hand on August 3 (9 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 11 K).

Last Outing (vs. BOS on 8/23) – 7.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 12 K

Tuesday (7:05 PM EST): LHP Jaime Garcia vs. RHP Trevor Bauer

Bauer has had a middling 2017, which is par the course for his career. His 4.59 ERA is good for a 101 ERA+, and his 3.88 FIP is just about league-average. He’s a perfectly fine back-end starter, whose high-level stuff and draft pedigree (he went 3rd overall in a loaded 2011 draft class) make fans desperate for more.

Last Outing (vs. BOS on 8/24) – 5.1 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 8 K

Wednesday (1:05 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Josh Tomlin

I have long referred to Tomlin as a crafty lefty that just so happens to throw with his right hand, and I will stick to that for as long as he’s in the majors. That’s just the sort of pitcher that he is, and I am constantly baffled when I see him pitch. He has been on the disabled list since the end of July, so Wednesday will be his first appearance in just over four weeks.

Tomlin is a four-pitch guy, with a couple of fastballs in the upper-80s (four-seamer and cutter), a low-80s change-up, and a mid-70s curveball.

Last Outing (vs. CHW on 7/30) – 4.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K

The Bullpen

Injuries to key relievers has not slowed down this group, as the Indians bullpen sports a 2.99 ERA in 390.2 IP, along with 2.93 BB/9 and 10.1 K/9. It’s a strong bullpen from top to bottom, and, amazingly, that’s true with Andrew Miller and his 1.65 ERA, 13.0 K/9, and 2.8 BB/9 on the disabled list.

Cody Allen handles the closer role, and he’s sitting on a 2.94 ERA and 12.1 K/9. Former Yankees Nick Goody (2.98 ERA and 12.5 K/9) and Zach McAllister (2.52 ERA and 9.6 K/9) join Bryan Shaw (3.25 ERA) in the middle innings, and deadline pick-up Joe Smith (3.25 ERA and 12.2 K/9) has slid into a set-up role.

Who (Or What) To Watch

I’m ridiculously excited to see Luis Severino versus Corey Kluber tonight, even though I fear what Kluber can do to this (or any) lineup on a given night. These are two of the best pitchers in baseball right now (top-four in the majors by fWAR, top-four in the AL by bWAR), so you couldn’t ask for much more.

And, as always, Francisco Lindor is a joy to watch.