Yankeemetrics: How sweet it is, Bombers sweep Twinkies (Sept. 18-20)

(AP)
(AP)

Who needs clutch hitting?
In what was billed as a potential Wild Card game preview, the Yankees struck first with a narrow 2-1 win in the series opener over the Twins. They overcame another massive RISPFAIL (0-for-12 with runners in scoring position) thanks to justenough power at the plate and a (mostly) lock-down performance on the mound.

Aaron Judge continued the steady climb out of his post-break slump with a first-inning solo bomb. It was his 28th home run in the Bronx this year, moving him into a tie for fourth place on the franchise single-season list for homers hit at home. A few guys named Gehrig (30 in 1934), Maris (30 in 1961), and Ruth (29 in 1928) are ahead of him.

After the Twins tied it in the fifth, Todd Frazier delivered a game-winning bases-loaded sac fly in the sixth inning. Here’s a “betcha didn’t know” stat: that was the Yankees’ 52nd sacrifice fly of the season, the second-most in the majors behind the Astros. The last time they finished first or second in sac flies was 20 years ago (!) when they hit an MLB-best 70 in 1997.

Jaime Garcia pitched his finest game in pinstripes, allowing one unearned run on four hits while striking out nine, before getting pulled with two outs in the sixth. He remained winless as a Yankee, though, giving us an excuse for another #KillTheWin Yankeemetric:

Garcia is the third pitcher over the last 100 seasons to not get a win in his first seven starts with the Yankees – the others were Steve Trout in 1987 and Mike Kekich in 1969 – but his 3.86 ERA is by far the best among that trio (both those other guys had ERAs way above 5.00 during their streaks).

The Yankees nearly wasted Garcia’s gem as Dellin Betances‘ control problems re-surfaced in an ugly eighth inning, during which three of the four guys he faced reached base without a hit (two walks, hit-by-pitch). Adding in the wild pitch he threw, and Betances gets our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Series.

Yes, it is very hard to cram all of that wildness into such a short outing. He is the first Yankee since at least 1912 to hit a guy, throw a wild pitch and issue multiple walks — while facing no more than four batters in a game.

Walks have always been a problem for Betances but he’s taken the hit-by-pitch issue to another level this year. It was the 10th time he hit a guy, becoming the first reliever in franchise history to plunk double-digit batters in a season. Betances had a total of nine hit-by-pitches in his major-league career before this year.

(Getty)
(Getty)

Don’t forget about the Elder Bombers
The Yankees continued to build momentum down the stretch with a 5-2 win on Tuesday, clinching their sixth straight series win. Over the last month, the only series they have lost was to the Indians (August 28-30) during their historic 22-game win streak.

The win also was their third in five games against the Twins in 2017, and with Wednesday’s finale being the only remaining matchup, the Yankees still haven’t lost a season series to the Twins since 2001. That is … good?

CC Sabathia battled through a shaky first inning, but recovered for one of his sharpest and most efficient starts of the season (77 pitches, six innings, two runs). Sabathia’s ability to come up huge in the most critical games has been well-documented here. And now we’ve got another “Big Game CC” stat to chew on: following Tuesday’s solid outing, he is 6-0 with a 1.25 ERA in seven starts against opponents with a .500 record or better this season. That’s the best record and lowest ERA in the majors among pitchers that have started at least five games against winning teams.

We’ve also got a Milestone Alert Yankeemetric for the big fella: his strikeout of Chris Gimenez to end the second inning was the 2,833rd of his career, moving him past Mickey Lolich for 18th place on the major-league all-time strikeout list, and third place among left-handers.

Most Strikeouts by LHP in MLB History
1. Randy Johnson – 4,875
2. Steve Carlton – 4,136
3. CC Sabathia – 2,836
4. Mickey Lolich – 2,832

Brett Gardner stuffed the stat sheet and provided the offensive spark at the top of the order, with three hits, two RBIs and a stolen base. The last Yankee leadoff batter to reach each of those totals in a game was Derek Jeter on July 9, 2011.

If that date sounds familiar …. yup, it was the Mr. 3000 game, when Jeter got his 3,000th hit against the Rays and produced one of the most iconic highlights in franchise history.

#TooManyHomers
The Bronx Bombers returned to their bread-and-butter winning strategy – explosive innings and dingers galore – in sweeping the Twins with a 11-3 win on Wednesday. It was their ninth sweep in 2017, nearly twice as many as they had last year (5).

If these teams do end up meeting for a one-game playoff in less than three weeks, the Yankees should like their chances based on recent history.

Their .721 winning percentage (44-17) in the regular season against the Twins since 2009 is the highest in any head-to-head matchup between any MLB teams (min. 25 games) over the past nine seasons. The Yankees’ domination extends to the postseason, too. They are 12-2 against the Twins in the playoffs – their best postseason record against any opponent (min. 10 games) in franchise history – and have won all four series played between the two clubs.

So … back to Wednesday’s game …. Not only did we get a ton of offensive fireworks to enjoy, but we also saw a bunch of rare, historical feats. Let’s dive into the stat madness!

(AP)
(AP)

Judge started the party with a two-run homer in the third inning, his 45th of the season. He is the second outfielder in baseball history with 45 homers and 115 walks in his age-25 season or younger. The other? Babe Ruth in 1920.

The homer also gave him 100 RBIs for the year (he added RBI No. 101 later in the game on a sac fly), and when combined with his triple-digit-plus walk and run-scoring numbers, Judge has put himself in some very impressive company. Judge is the …

  • Fifth Yankee age 25 or younger with at least 100 RBI, 100 runs and 100 walks: Mickey Mantle, Charlie Keller, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth are the others
  • Second rookie all-time to with more than 100 walks, runs and RBIs, joining Ted Williams (1939)
  • Only right-handed batter in Yankees history to have a 100-walk, 100-RBI, 100-run season

Gary Sanchez then went back-to-back with Judge in the third, belting a mammoth 439-foot blast deep into Monument Park. Fifteen of his 32 homers this season have gone at least 425 feet, the highest rate (47 percent) among all players with at least 20 homers.

The Yankees turned the game into a rout with a six-run fourth inning, sparked by Jacoby Ellsbury‘s one-out triple. Ellsbury wasn’t part of the homer-fest, but he still got on base four times via a single, double, triple and a walk – and that performance is worthy of a #FunFact. Over the last four decades, just two other Yankee centerfielders have produced a game with at least one single, double, triple and a walk: Bernie Williams (1998) and Dave Winfield (1984).

The biggest blow in the fourth inning was delivered by Didi Gregorius. His three-run shot to cap off the scoring made him the only shortstop in franchise history with 25 homers in a season, surpassing the 24 that Derek Jeter hit in 1999.

Attractive Opposites

World Series Phillies Yankees Baseball

I’ve said often that the 2009 World Series winning Yankee team is my favorite of all the championship teams. I was finally old enough to appreciate a World Series win and I watched nearly every inning of that season. Additionally, I was (way too) active on this site and met a lot of great people through it. Every night was a new, fun, exciting experience on the road to dominance and an eventual championship. On its face, the 2017 version of the Yankees has very little to do with that team.

The 2009 team was built and focused around veterans. There were the ‘holdovers’ like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon, and Robinson Cano. The team brought in Nick Swisher, CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeria. That team was expected to win and to win big. And that’s what they did. Including the playoffs, they won 114 games en route to World Series number 27. The 2017 team, on the other hand, was built around young players and the hope that maybe if everything broke right, they could fight for the second Wild Card spot. Obviously, things have gone better than that and this year has been, probably, the most enjoyable year of my Yankee fandom since 2009.

Every night, this team is fun to watch. Of course, there have been frustrating moments of offensive and bullpen related frustrations, but those pale in comparison to how great it feels to watch young players playing great on a nightly basis. From Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge knocking dingers, leading their respective positions in offense, to Didi Gregorius‘s further offensive development and stellar throwing arm, to Luis Severino and Chad Green reaching heights that seemed well beyond anything we could think of, to Clint Frazier making an unexpected debut, young players have fueled the good times in 2017.

2009 featured walk off after walk off and it was amazing. I’ll not soon forget he A-Rod walk off against the Red Sox or walk off weekend against the Twins or all the playoff heroics of A-Rod and others. That sense of drama hasn’t quite been there more than a few times in 2017, but the wins have been satisfying nonetheless.

We’ve talked a lot about expectations this year and how the lack thereof has made this a stress free year of rooting. A different feeling than the expectations-laden one in 2009 for sure. But, at the end of the rooting day, there is a sense of calm I’ve felt regarding both squads. In 2009, I always knew the team would come through. I knew they’d get the big hit. I knew they’d win even when it looked like they wouldn’t. There was a level of comfort knowing just how damn good they were, knowing that they were the best. Even as expectations now rise for the 2017 team–anything less than a DS appearance would be disappointing at this point–there’s a comfort level in knowing that they blew past what we should have expected long ago.

Baseball is supposed to be fun, whether you’re playing or watching. Since 2012, the fun times for the Yankees have been few and far between, with plenty of frustration flung in there. 2017 hasn’t been that at all. 2009 seemed predestined for a championship and I’ve got no idea what 2017 will really do, but the ride has been fun as all hell and I hope it goes on for a long time and ends with a big parade.

Saturday Links: Cave, McKinney, Gardner, Robertson, Top Tools

McKinney. (Times Leader)
McKinney. (Times Leader)

The Yankees and Orioles will continue their four-game series with the third game later this afternoon. That’s a 4pm ET start for whatever reason. Here’s some notes and links to check out in the meantime.

Yankees planning to add Cave, McKinney to 40-man

According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees plan to add outfielders Jake Cave and Billy McKinney to the 40-man roster this offseason. Unless they trade them first, of course. McKinney, who came over in last year’s Aroldis Chapman trade, will be Rule 5 Draft eligible this December. Cave is due to become a minor league free agent, so he’ll have to be added to the 40-man pretty much right after the World Series. McKinney doesn’t have to be added until late-November.

Cave, 24, hit .305/.351/.542 (145 wRC+) with a career high 20 home runs this season. He reportedly made some swing changes in an effort to get the ball airborne more often, which explains the career high home run total, career low ground ball rate (43.1%), and career high strikeout rate (26.3%). The 23-year-old McKinney hit .277/.338/.483 (124 wRC+) with 16 homers this year. Both he and Cave split the season between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton. I’m not sure either guy is a long-term piece for the Yankees, but you can’t lose them for nothing either, so on the 40-man they will reportedly go.

Several Yankees among Law’s best tools

Last month Keith Law published his rankings of the best tools in baseball (hitting, fielding, pitching). Best hit tool, best power, best fastball, so on and so forth. I always enjoy lists like this. Anyway, several Yankees pop up in the various categories, so let’s round ’em up:

  • Best Power: Aaron Judge (second to Joey Gallo)
  • Best Fastball: Aroldis Chapman (second to Chris Sale)
  • Best Splitter: Masahiro Tanaka (first)
  • Best Curveball: David Robertson (fourth behind Corey Kluber, Lance McCullers Jr., Aaron Nola)
  • Best Catcher Arm: Gary Sanchez (fourth behind Willson Contreras, Jorge Alfaro, Yadier Molina)
  • Best Outfield Arm: Aaron Hicks (second to Bryce Harper)

The only real surprise to me is no Luis Severino in the best fastball category. (The top five was Sale, Chapman, James Paxton, Joe Kelly, and Justin Verlander.) Nothing else seems out of place to me. Sorta bold prediction: Chad Green tops the best fastball list next year, unless the only criteria is velocity. Green’s fastball is ridiculous.

Gardner, Robertson nominated for awards

Within the last few weeks MLB and the MLBPA announced nominees for two prestigious awards. Brett Gardner is the Yankees’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award while Robertson has been nominated for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award. Both awards are decided by fan voting, which seems ridiculous, but whatever. Here is the Marvin Miller Man of the Year ballot. Voting for the Roberto Clemente Award doesn’t begin until October. Here are the nominees.

The Roberto Clemente Award is giving annually to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” Curtis Granderson won the award last year and Derek Jeter won in 2009. As for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, that one goes to the player “whose on-field performance and contributions to his community inspire others to higher levels of achievement.” Granderson won that last year too. Mariano Rivera won it in 2013. Congrats to Gardner and Robertson. Just getting nominated for these awards is an honor.

MLB, NPB negotiating new posting agreement

Before Shohei Otani can come over to the big leagues, Major League Baseball and Nippon Pro Baseball must first agree to a new posting system. The release fee system, which brought Tanaka to MLB four years ago, had to be renewed each year, and earlier this year MLB requested a renegotiation. There’s technically no posting system in place right now, so there’s no official way for Otani to leave Japan for MLB.

Anyway, Jim Allen recently broke down the latest posting system proposals. In both proposals, the compensation paid to the player’s former NPB team would be a percentage of the money he receives from an MLB team. It’s basically 15% up to a maximum of $20M. So, for example, if the Yankee were to sign Otani for $2M, they’d pay the Nippon Ham Fighters a $300,000 release fee. Needless to say, NPB teams are not having it. Under the now expired system, the NPB team sets the release fee ($20M max) and the MLB tam pays it when they sign the player.

Yankeemetrics: Bronx Bombers invade Texas (Sept. 8-10)

(AP)
(AP)

Terrible Tanaka
If you were to bottle up the Yankees 2017 season and play it out over the course of a nine-inning game, you probably would end up with what happened on Friday night. The 11-5 loss perfectly captured this rollercoaster campaign.

A quick recap: the Yankees offense burst of the gate with five runs on eight hits in the first four innings, jumping out to a 5-1 lead, but then were totally blanked the rest of the game, with zero hits and zero runs in the final five frames. The pitching staff suffered its own collapse, too, allowing the Rangers to score 10 unanswered runs and cruise to the blowout win.

While this loss might not be as heart-breaking as others, it still ranks as one of the most embarrassing and contributes to this depressing stat: The Yankees now have five losses in games they had a lead of at least four runs, their most since 2006 (when they had six of them). It’s also one more such loss than they tallied in the 2015 and 2016 seasons combined.

After more than two months of the Good Tanaka churning out solid outings – he entered the game with a 2.77 ERA over his previous 12 starts – the Terrible Tanaka took the mound in Arlington and was pummeled. He coughed up seven runs on eight hits before getting pulled in the fifth inning. Yet in typical Jekyll-and-Hyde mode, Tanaka also flashed dominance as seven of the 12 outs he recorded were strikeouts.

The first big blow was a towering blast by Nomar Mazara in the second inning, the 30th longball Tanaka has given up the year. He is the ninth pitcher in franchise history to reach that mark, but none of the others averaged at least a strikeout per inning like Tanaka is doing this season. [/shrug]

The frequency of these disaster Tanaka starts underscores how much of an outlier the 2017 season is for the four-year veteran:

  • Fourth start with at least seven runs allowed, which matches the same number he had over 75 starts from 2014-16.
  • Seventh start that he failed to complete five innings; that’s four(!) more than he had in his first three seasons combined

As we pile on the mess that Tanaka produced Friday, its only fitting we give him our Obscure Yankeemetric: He is the first Yankee ever to allow at least seven earned runs, eight-plus hits and throw two wild pitches in a game while facing no more than 20 batters.

(AP)
(AP)

Super Sevy
As they’ve done all summer, the Yankees bounced back from one of their most horrible losses with one of their most inspiring wins of the season. Fueled by a late offensive surge and backed by a dominant pitching performance from their young ace, the Yankees won 3-1 with the lone Rangers run coming on their only hit of the gamein the fifth inning. It was their fourth game this season allowing no more than two hits, their most such games in a season since 1998.

The offense was M.I.A for the first seven innings as the Yankees seemed headed for another boring loss, until they finally put together a rally in the eighth and ninth innings. Tyler Austin played the unlikely hero role as his bases-loaded RBI single in the top of the ninth broke a 1-1 tie.

Despite limited playing time, has proved he can deliver in the clutch. Austin has a 1.599 OPS in “Late and Close Situations” (at-bats in the seventh inning or later with batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck) since getting called up to the bigs last year, the highest among all players over the last two seasons (min. 15 PA).

While the bats were in a deep slumber for much of the game, Luis Severino kept the game close with perhaps his most outstanding performance of the season. He allowed one hit and struck out 10 over seven masterful innings, adding to his Cy Young resume and legacy as one of the best young pitchers ever to wear the pinstripes. Lets go bullet-point style to recap his awesomeness:

  • Second Yankee to give up one or fewer hits in an outing of at least seven innings against the Rangers, joining Catfish Hunter, who threw a one-hit shutout on May 31, 1975 in Texas.
  • 15th start with no more than one run allowed, the most of any pitcher in the majors this season.
  • The 23-year-old is the youngest pitcher in franchise history to have 15 one-or-zero-run starts in a season, and the first Yankee of any age to do it since Mike Mussina in 2001.
  • Sevy is the second-youngest Yankee to give up no more than one hit while striking out at least 10 batters in a game; the youngest was a 22-year-old Al Downing, who threw a 10-strikeout, 1-hit shutout against the White Sox on July 2, 1963.

Severino has pitched brilliantly in the second half of the season (2.07 ERA since the break), and befitting of his incredible toughness and grit, has done his best work on the road over the past two months: 5-0 with a 0.89 ERA and 48 strikeouts in six starts away from the Bronx since July 15. He has pitched more than six innings and allowed one earned run or fewer in each of those outings, the longest such streak of road games in a single season by any Yankee pitcher. Ever.

(Getty)
(Getty)

Two many homers
When the Yankees bats are healthy, happy and clicking on all cylinders (facing a below-average pitching staff helps too) you get an offensive explosion like Sunday’s 16-7 rout of the Rangers.

They bashed their way to victory, with two of the the Baby Bombers — Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge — each going deep twice while etching their names in the record books multiple times. The last time that two Yankees as young as Sanchez and Judge had matching two-homer performances in the same game was September 23, 1973 against the Indians (Ron Blomberg and Otto Velez!).

Sanchez sparked the offensive fireworks with a first-inning laser shot to left field, and went deep again in the eighth, a 461-foot mammoth shot, for his 29th and 30th homers this year. His 30 homers match the single-season franchise record for a player whose primary position was catcher, set by Jorge Posada (2003) and Yogi Berra (1956, 1952). Sanchez is the youngest Yankee to reach the 30-homer milestone in a season since a 24-year-old Don Mattingly in 1985.

Those two bombs were also his 49th and 50th career homers (in his 161st big-league game), as he joined Mark McGwire and Rudy York as the lone players in MLB history to reach 50 dingers before their 162nd major-league game. And it was his seventh career multi-dinger game, a feat that only McGwire reached this early into his MLB career.

Together with Aaron Judge, they became the second set of Yankees age 25 or younger to hit 30-plus homers in the same season — Joe DiMaggio and Joe Gordon also did it in 1940.

Judge had a record-breaking afternoon, too, drawing his 107th walk of the season in the second inning, which set the modern era (since 1900) rookie mark. Two frames later he hit a solo dinger to center, his 40th home run of the season.

With that blast Judge joined a group of franchise legends to hit 40 homers in their age-25 season or younger: Mickey Mantle (1956), Joe DiMaggio (1937), Lou Gehrig (1927) and Babe Ruth (1920). Judge added his 41st home run in the sixth inning, a gigantic 463-foot blast that made him and Sanchez the only pair of teammates to each crush a 460-foot-plus home run in the same game this season.

And finally there’s this little historical nugget that sums up Judge’s unprecedented combo of patience and power: He is the first Yankee right-handed batter ever to hit 40 homers and walk 100 times in a season.

Game 137: Quick Turnaround

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Last night’s win was one of my favorite games of the season, but because baseball can be a real jerk, the Yankees have a quick turn around today and can’t enjoy it too much. They’re in Baltimore for a Labor Day matinee after playing a night game in New York last night. I’m sure Jordan Montgomery, today’s starter, flew ahead and got a good night’s sleep. The rest of the team? Not so much.

Anyway, this three-game set against the Orioles is pretty darn important. The Yankees currently sit in the first wild card spot and are two games up in the Twins, and 3.5 games up on both the Angels and Orioles. You know Buck Showalter wants to make up a lot of ground these next three days. The Yankees haven’t won a series at Camden Yards since September 2013. Seriously. Would be nice to get off the schneid this week. Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

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

Great baseball weather in Baltimore today, according to the internet. The sky is clear and it warm but not oppressively hot. This afternoon’s series opener will begin at 2:05pm ET. YES will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Suspension Update: Gary Sanchez‘s suspension was reduced to three games and he begins serving it today. He can work out with the Yankees and all that, but he can’t be in the ballpark during the game. There’s a pretty good chance Gary was going to sit today anyway — it’s a day game in Baltimore after a night game in New York, and he’d caught each of the last four games, including a day game Saturday after a night game Friday (plus Romine is Montgomery’s personal catcher) — so he’s really only missing two games. No word on Romine’s suspension yet, though I imagine he’ll begin serving it after Sanchez’s suspension ends.

Roster Move: Tyler Wade has been called up, the Yankees announced. They now have 31 players on the active roster. Wade is the de factor fourth outfielder until either Aaron Hicks or Clint Frazier returns from the disabled list. The minor league regular season ends today, so Wade finished with a .310/.382/.460 (136 wRC+) batting line and seven homers and 26 steals (in 31 attempts) in 85 games with Triple-A Scranton. Unless Twins journeyman Matt Hague can miraculously add 15 points to his batting average today, Wade won the International League batting title by a large margin. He’s also only three points off the OBP lead.

News: The Yankees announced today they are donating $100,000 to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, and the Yankees players themselves have pledged $9,000 per win the rest of the season. That’s another reason to root for a great September and a run to the AL East title. Also, the Yankees and Red Sox will auction off autographed items from last night’s game — including all game-worn jerseys — with all the proceeds going to the relief effort. Here are the Yankees and Red Sox auctions.

Yankeemetrics: Stayin’ Alive (Aug. 31-Sept. 3)

(Getty)
(Getty)

Old Man Ace + Baby Bombers = Win
The Yankees kicked off the Most Important Series of the Season® with a 6-2 romp over the Red Sox on Thursday night.

While other pitchers on the team have better pure stuff than CC Sabathia, there isn’t a guy the Yankees would rather have on the mound trying to halt a three-game slide while facing their hated division rival:

  • Sabathia is now 8-0 with a 1.44 ERA in 10 starts following a Yankee loss this season. That’s the best ERA among all MLB pitchers with at least six such starts through Thursday.
  • He went 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA in four starts against the Red Sox this season. That’s tied for the fifth-lowest single-season ERA by a Yankee against the Red Sox, among the nearly 200 guys that have made at least four starts vs them.
  • Only four other starters in franchise history won at least four games in a season versus Boston with an ERA as low as Sabathia’s: Spud Chandler (1943), Lefty Gomez (1934), Bob Shawkey (1923).
  • Sabathia has won five straight starts against the Red Sox dating back to September last year. Over the past 50 years, Mike Mussina (2001-02) and Sabathia are the lone Yankee pitchers to beat the Red Sox five starts in a row.

Gary Sanchez capped off another stellar August by going 2-for-5, hammering a game-tying solo homer in the third and then delivering a game-winning RBI single in the fifth. He finished with 12 homers in the month, producing a slew of cool statistical nuggets:

  • Sanchez is the fifth player under age 25 in franchise history to hit a dozen homers in any calendar month, joining Don Mattingly (Sept. 1985), Mickey Mantle (three times), Joe DiMaggio (twice), and Lou Gehrig (June 1927).
  • The only Yankee right-handed batters in the last six decades with 12-or-more dingers in a month are Sanchez and Alex Rodriguez (August 2005, April 2007).
  • Sanchez and Yogi Berra (1952) are the only catchers in franchise history with a dozen homers in a calendar month.
  • He is one of six Yankees to reach 12 homers in August. You might have heard of the other guys: A-Rod (2005), Mantle (1955, ’56), DiMaggio (1939) and Babe Ruth (1929).

Combined with his awesome August last year, Sanchez now has a 1.133 OPS in 52 career games in the month. Here’s a list of MLB players with the highest career August OPS (min. 100 plate appearances) over the last 100 seasons:

Name OPS
Babe Ruth 1.134
Gary Sanchez 1.133
Lou Gehrig 1.111

Slipping away
One up, one down …. the Yankees rollercoaster season kept chugging along on Friday night as they followed up an encouraging win with another lackluster loss.

(Getty)
(Getty)

The Red Sox got only five hits off Sonny Gray, but three of the them went over the fence and resulted in all four of the runs Boston scored in the game. That snapped Gray’s streak of 11 straight starts with no more than two earned runs allowed, the longest in the majors this season.

That the streak ended because he got burned by the longball was stunning: Gray entered the game with the majors’ lowest home run rate allowed (0.71 per 9 IP) among pitchers with at least 120 innings. Also prior to Friday, the Red Sox had hit the fewest homers in the AL and ranked 29th in MLB in percentage of runs scored via home runs (34.7%).

Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi continued his assault on Yankee pitching with a solo homer. It was his fifth dinger at Yankee Stadium in 2017, joining Jim Rice (1983) as the only Red Sox players to hit five homers there in a single season. More impressive, the 23-year-old became the youngest visiting player ever to go deep five times in a season at either version of the storied ballpark.

(AP)
(AP)

Ace ‘Hiro
In full desperation mode and facing perhaps their most critical game of the season so far on Saturday, the Fighting Spirit kicked in and the Yankees pulled off their latest and greatest Biggest Win of the Season®.

Masahiro Tanaka‘s transformation from dud to stud over the last two-plus months has been remarkable. His seven-inning, five-hit, one-run gem against the Red Sox gave him a 2.77 ERA over his last 12 starts, a massive turnaround from the 6.34 ERA he posted through his first 14 starts of the season.

He dominated the Red Sox by pounding the bottom of the zone with a well-located mix of sharp sliders and splitters, generating a ton of weak contact and grounders. Per Fangraphs, half of the 22 balls in play against Tanaka were classified as “soft contact,” the highest rate in any of Tanaka’s 101 career starts. And Statcast tracked those batted balls with an average exit velocity of 78.8 mph, the lowest that Tanaka has allowed in the 81 starts he’s made in the Statcast era (since 2015). As you can see in the spray chart below, nearly everything the Red Sox hit was either in the infield or a weak fly ball:
masahiro-tanaka-9

Matt Holliday‘s overall numbers are well below his career standards, but he still has been a difference-maker in the lineup because of his ability to consistently deliver big, clutch hits. His tie-breaking, three-run homer in the sixth inning increased his slugging percentage with RISP to .671 this season, the fourth-best mark in the AL (min. 90 PA).

(AP)
(AP)

Victory with an exclamation point
The Yankees kept alive their dreams of an AL East title with an emphatic 9-2 win on Sunday night, cutting Boston’s division lead to 3 1/2 games with one month left in the season.

Chase Headley sparked the offensive explosion with a line-drive homer in the third inning. The wallscraper came on an 0-2 pitch from Chris Sale, making it one of the unlikeliest homers of the season. It was the 129th career homer allowed by Sale but just the fifth one that came on an 0-2 pitch. And it was just the third time in Headley’s career that he homered off an 0-2 pitch from a lefty, and the first since 2013.

The Yankees continued to pummel Sale in the next frame when Matt Holliday and Todd Frazier homered in consecutive at-bats to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead. It was the first time ever that Sale has allowed back-to-back homers in a game. Each of the three longballs that Sale coughed up came in a two-strike count — a remarkable feat by the Yankees considering that entering Sunday, Sale had allowed a slugging percentage of .167, the second-lowest mark in the majors (min. 200 batters faced).

Aaron Judge joined the homer party when he crushed a 469-foot bomb to left-center in the sixth inning. It was his 38th home run of the season, matching Wally Berger (1930) and Frank Robinson (1956) for the second-most ever hit by a rookie in major-league history; the only player with more is Mark McGwire with 49 in 1987.

Luis Severino bolstered his own Cy Young case with another dominant gem, holding the Red Sox to one unearned run on two hits while striking out nine. It was his 14th start surrendering no more than one run, the most such games by any pitcher in MLB this year.

Sevy also reach a significant milestone when he whiffed Sandy Leon for the final out of the fifth inning. It was his 200th strikeout of 2017, as he joined Al Downing (1964) as the only pitchers in franchise history to strike out at least 200 batters in a season at age 23 or younger.

Game 135: Need More Than A Split

(Corey Perrine/Getty)
(Corey Perrine/Getty)

Now that they’ve split the first two games of this four-game series with the Red Sox, the only way the Yankees can gain ground in the AL East race this weekend is by winning the next two games. A split does nothing. It’s actually a negative, because they’d leave the series with the same 5.5 game deficit they started with, only with four fewer games on the schedule. Important games, these are.

Of course, gaining ground will require offense, and three times in the last five games the Yankees have been held to two runs or fewer. It’s four times in the last eight games overall. I’m not sure what more the Yankees can do at this point other than keep running the same guys out there and hoping it clicks. The pitching has been really good overall in the second half. The bats have to pick it up. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. RF Aaron Judge
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. DH Matt Holliday
  8. 1B Greg Bird
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It is cool and cloudy in New York today, and there’s a little bit of rain in the forecast later this afternoon. Nothing that should interfere with the game. This afternoon’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and MLB Network out-of-market. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Starlin Castro needed some emergency dental work this morning — apparently he bit into something and lost a tooth last night — which is why he’s not in the lineup. He’s expected to be available to pinch-hit.

Appeals Update: Still no update on the Sanchez and Austin Romine suspensions. I imagine a ruling won’t come until after Labor Day. MLB’s offices are closed for the weekend.