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.

Game 134: Meet Me In Center Field

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

This CC Sabathia/bunting story is peak baseball stupid. But! I am pro-trash talk, and Sabathia said if the Red Sox have a problem with him, they can meet him in center field. I’m sure Andrew Benintendi has the finest hair product recommendations and Dustin Pedroia knows when Gap Kids will have their fall collection available. If it takes a dumb bunting story to add some spice to the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, I am all for it.

Anyway, as for the actual baseball game, this is yet another important one for the Yankees, who are trying to chase down the BoSox in the AL East. Last night’s win was great, but last night is last night, and if the Yankees are not on their game, that 4.5 game deficit in the AL East could become 5.5 games again real quick. One game at a time. Win tonight, then worry about tomorrow tomorrow. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

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

Pretty much perfect weather in New York today. Not too hot and not too hold. It’s a bit cloudy out now, so it might even be chilly at the ballpark. Tonight’s game will begin shortly after 7pm ET. YES and MLB Network will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Roster Moves: In case you missed it earlier, the Yankees added five players to the active roster earlier today, the first day rosters can expand. Matt Holliday has been activated off the disabled list and Jordan Montgomery, Ben Heller, Bryan Mitchell, and Erik Kratz were all called up from Triple-A Scranton. Luis Cessa was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot for Kratz.

Injury Update: Clint Frazier (oblique) is throwing and hitting in the batting cage. He’s not going to travel with the Yankees on their next road trip and is instead expected to begin a minor league rehab assignment. The minor league regular season ends this weekend, so one of the affiliates is getting Frazier for their postseason run.

Appeals Update: Sanchez and Austin Romine were scheduled to have their appeals today. I assume they happened. No reason to think otherwise. The rulings may not be handed down until the middle of next week, however, because MLB’s offices are closed for Labor Day weekend. Also, apparently Sanchez and Romine will not have to serve their suspensions at the same time. They’ll be staggered.

Game 133: The Biggest Series of the Season (For Real)

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

So this is it. The most important series of the season. Truly. These four games with the Red Sox will determine whether the Yankees have any chance at winning the AL East, or will have to shift gears and begin focusing on the wildcard. And, truth be told, the Yankees probably need to sweep this series to have a shot at the division title. They’re 5.5 games back. A split accomplishes nothing. Winning three of four gets the Yankees to within 3.5 games with 26 to play, but no head-to-head games against the Red Sox. One game at a time though.

The Yankees just got swept by the Indians and it was abundantly clearly which team went to the World Series last year and which team is hoping to get to the postseason for only the second time in five years. The Yankees have to treat these four games like postseason games. They really do. Because this is their postseason. The wildcard race is tight and the division title is becoming more and more unrealistic. Win tonight, move on to the next one. 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. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. RF Aaron Judge
  7. DH Chase Headley
  8. 1B Greg Bird
  9. 3B Todd Frazier
    LHP CC Sabathia

Cool and cloudy in New York today. Damn near autumnal. Tonight’s series opener will begin a little after 7pm ET And you’ll be able to watch on WPIX locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Clint Frazier (oblique) continues to progress and started throwing today. Now that he’s throwing and swinging a bat, I imagine it won’t be too long before he begins a minor league rehab assignment.

Roster Moves: The Yankees have sent Caleb Smith and Jordan Montgomery to Triple-A Scranton, and called up Gio Gallegos, the team announced. Gallegos replaces Smith. Montgomery was the 26th man for yesterday’s doubleheader and had to go back down after the game.

Appeals Update: MLB has scheduled Sanchez’s and Austin Romine‘s appeal hearings for tomorrow, reports Mike Mazzeo. The ruling will not necessarily come tomorrow, however. Hunter Strickland had to wait six days between the hearing and the ruling after throwing at Bryce Harper earlier this year, though that was unusually long. Sanchez and Romine probably won’t have to wait that long. Either way, the Yankees picked up Erik Kratz earlier today for extra catcher depth.

Game 131: Let’s Win Two

Pls bring Votto to NY to keep Reds reunion going. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
Pls give Votto to Yankees to keep Reds reunion going thx. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Thanks to yesterday’s rainout, the Yankees and Indians will play a single admission doubleheader today. Second one of the season for the Yankees, and their third doubleheader overall. Can’t beat two games for the price of one. Yeah, it’s going to do a number on the pitching staff the day before the start of a hugely important four-game series with the Red Sox, but what can you do? At least reinforcements are coming Friday.

Winning two games today sure would be swell, but before you can win two, you have to win one. The Yankees got shut down by Corey Kluber on Monday and hey, it happens. Kluber is really good. Trevor Bauer though? That’s another story. I know he pitched well when these two teams met in Cleveland, but if you want to win a postseason spot, he’s the kinda guy you’ve got to beat up on. Here is the Indians’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Hicks
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 1B Ha Cheese Lady
  6. DH Greg Bird
  7. 3B Todd Frazier
  8. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    LHP Jaime Garcia

Lovely weather in New York today. Doubleheader weather. Much better than all that rain yesterday. The first game of today’s doubleheader is scheduled to 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: Aaron Judge (shoulder) feels better, though he continues to receive treatment. He’s going to play in the second game of the doubleheader. Judge has not had an MRI or a cortisone shot, though it has been discussed. I have no idea what the Yankees are waiting for. Between this and letting Bird play on a bad ankle for a month, they’re really Metsing it up with the injuries to their young guys this year.

Appeals Update: Joe Girardi said MLB has not yet scheduled appeal hearings for Sanchez and Austin Romine. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen tomorrow, but right now there’s nothing on the books. Sure sounds like the hearings won’t happen until after rosters expand Friday though. Sanchez was suspended four games and Romine two games for their roles in the brawl with the Tigers last week.

Sanchez suspended four games, Romine two games following brawl with Tigers

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

As expected, MLB has handed down several suspensions and fines following Thursday’s brawl(s) with the Tigers. Here’s a recap of the discipline, as announced by MLB this afternoon:

  • Miguel Cabrera: Seven-game suspension for “inciting the first bench-clearing incident and fighting.”
  • Alex Wilson: Four-game suspension for “intentionally throwing a pitch at Todd Frazier” after warnings had been issued.
  • Gary Sanchez: Four-game suspension for “fighting, including throwing punches.”
  • Austin Romine: Two-game suspension for “fighting, including throwing punches.”
  • Brad Ausmus: One-game suspension for “the intentional actions of Wilson.”

Joe Girardi, Rob Thomson, Tommy Kahnle, Brett Gardner, Garrett Cooper, Clint Frazier, and Jose Iglesias all received fines but were not suspended. Cooper and Frazier were fined for entering the field of play while on the disabled list. I’m kinda surprised Dellin Betances escaped without any discipline, even if he didn’t hit James McCann on purpose. Same with Michael Fulmer, who started the whole thing by hitting Sanchez.

I imagine Sanchez and/or Romine are going to appeal their suspension. I mean, they kinda have to, otherwise the Yankees won’t have any catchers tonight. Sanchez will definitely appeal because he (and the Yankees) want to get that suspension knocked down as much as possible. The more Gary is on the field, the better. Every game without him hurts the team’s chances at the postseason.

Kyle Higashioka is currently on the Triple-A Scranton disabled list, so the Yankees don’t have a obvious third catcher to call-up for the time being. They’ll have to add someone (Eddy Rodriguez, most likely) to the 40-man roster. The Yankees do have an open 40-man spot, though that’ll go to Greg Bird when he returns. Also, suspended players can’t be replaced on the roster. Teams have to play short.

All things considered, I think the Yankees got off pretty light here. I thought Sanchez was heading for six or seven games given the sucker punches. Rougned Odor got eight games (reduced to seven on appeal) for punching Jose Bautista when he was squared up. Sanchez threw punches at defenseless Cabrera. Whatever. Forget this pointless nonsense, be happy no one got hurt, and move on.

Update: Not surprisingly, Sanchez and Romine both said they will appeal their suspensions. Ken Rosenthal hears the appeals may not be heard until after rosters expand on September 1st, which would make it a million times easier to deal with losing a catcher(s). Also, Jack Curry hears Sanchez was only suspended four games because Cabrera instigated the brawl. Gary on reacted, basically.

Yankeemetrics: Rolling through Motor City (Aug. 22-24)

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

El Kracken Show
It’s been quite an emotional rollercoaster for the Yankees and their fans over the past month, making the drama-free night on Tuesday in Detroit even sweeter. Backed by a relentless and powerful attack combined with solid starting pitching, the Bombers pummeled the Tigers, 13-4.

This was their 14th game scoring more than 10 runs, which led the majors through Tuesday’s slate, and incredibly, it’s also twice as many such games as they had all of last year. Over the last six decades, 1998 and 2000 were the only other seasons that the Yankees had 14 games scoring at least 11 runs at this point in the schedule (before game number 125). Boom-tastic.

The offensive onslaught was fueled by Gary Sanchez‘s red-hot bat as he crushed a monstrous 493-foot homer in the first inning to put the Yankees up 2-0. It was the second-longest homer by any player in 2017, and tied for the fourth-longest that Statcast has recorded over the past three seasons.

Name Distance Date
1. Giancarlo Stanton 504 Aug. 6, 2016
2. Aaron Judge 495 June 11, 2017
3. Kris Bryant 495 Sept. 6, 2015
4. Gary Sanchez 493 Aug. 22, 2017
5. Michael Taylor 493 Aug. 20, 2015

But Sanchez wasn’t done lighting up the scoreboard. He drilled an opposite-field blast into the right field seats in the ninth inning, his 25th homer of the season, and a nice round number for the record books. He is the …

  • Third catcher in American League history to hit at least 25 homers in his age-24 season or younger, joining a couple Tigers backstops, Matt Nokes (1987) and Rudy York (1938).
  • First Yankee since Don Mattingly (1985) with 25-plus dingers in a season before age 25.
  • And the third right-handed batter in franchise history to reach the 25-homer milestone in his age-24 season or younger. The others? Hall of Famers Joe Gordon and Joe DiMaggio.

El Gary also deserves a cool #FunFact: He joined Yogi Berra (June 19, 1952) as the only Yankee catchers to hit at least two homers and drive in at least four runs in a game in Detroit.

The other Baby Bomber that shined in this rout was Aaron Judge, who reached base four times in four plate appearance with three walks and a single. Yes, you did the math correctly, he didn’t strike out, ending his streak at 37 games, the longest ever by a position player. And thankfully the last time we’ll ever mention it.

The stat that’s most important is the three walks. It’s not a shocking number even during his slump, during which he’s maintained mostly the same approach at the plate since the break. Did you know that after Tuesday’s game … Judge had a higher walk rate in the second half (20.1%) than the first half (16.7%); or that only Joey Votto (41) had more walks among all MLB players in the second half than Judge (32).

(Getty)
(Getty)

Sharp Sevy, Scorching Sanchez
The offensive fireworks were on display again Wednesday as Yankee bats delivered another lopsided win, 10-2.

It’s the first time in more than 20 years that they’ve lit up the Tigers for 10-plus runs in consecutive games within the same series, since a blowout-filled three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium on May 6-8, 1996. A 21-year-old rookie named Derek Jeter went 6-for-13 (.462) with a triple and 3 RBIs, while veteran outfielder Paul O’Neill reached base nine times in 15 plate appearances and drove in five runs during that three-game romp.

Gary Sanchez ignited the offensive fireworks again on Wednesday, with a solo homer in the first inning and two-run bases-loaded single in the third. That gave him 10 homers and 21 RBIs in 20 games this month, a nearly unprecedented encore to the amazing August that he produced last season (11 homers, 21 RBIs in 24 games).

Only four other players in franchise history have put together multiple months of at least 10 dingers and 20-plus RBIs before age 25: Don Mattingly, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig.

While El Gary extended his August Assault, Luis Severino bolstered his resume as the staff ace and legit Cy Young candidate with another gem. He pitched into the seventh inning, holding the Tigers to a single run while striking out eight. It was his 13th start this season allowing one run or fewer, which led all major-league pitchers through Wednesday.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the 23-year-old’s season is the poise and consistency he’s shown pitching in hostile environments. He’s put up video-game-like numbers in his last five road games — 0.80 ERA, 38 strikeouts and eight walks – and is the first Yankee since Whitey Ford (1964) to pitch at least six innings while giving up no more than one run in five straight road games.

Overall, he’s surrendered one or fewer runs in 10 of his 14 outings away from the Bronx, becoming the only Yankee pitcher in the last 100 years with 10 such road starts in a single season.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Basebrawl in Detroit
Amidst the boxing match between the Yankees and Tigers on Thursday at Comerica Park, an actual baseball game broke out, and the Yankees lost, 10-6.

The final tally from the chaotic, brawl-filled afternoon was eight ejections between the two teams and a whole lot of ugliness. It was the most total ejections in a game since the infamous Blue Jays-Rangers slugfest on May 16 last year.

Back to baseball.

Gary Sanchez and Brett Gardner did their best to make up for a horrid performance by the Yankee pitching staff, combining to go 6-for-9 with three RBIs while the rest of the lineup had two hits in 23 at-bats.

Mr. August continued his ridiculous power binge with another mammoth home run in the fourth inning and an RBI single in the seventh. He is the first Yankee since Tino Martinez to homer in three straight games in Detroit. And if you’re looking for a definition of a hot streak, he now has …

– six homers in his last 7 games,
– eight homers in his last 10 games,
– nine homers in his last 12 games,
– 10 homers in his last 15 games

The solo blast was also the 47th of his big-league career, making him one of two players in the last 100 years (along with Tigers catcher/first baseman Rudy York) to hit 47 homers before their 150th career game.

Gardner celebrated his 34th birthday in style with a season-high four hits, earning himself the coveted Obscure Yankeemetric of the Series and a place on one of the most unique lists we’ve ever produced. Three players in franchise history have gotten at least four hits and drove in a run on his birthday: Gardner, Jerry Mumphrey (1981) and Lou Gehrig (1931).

Gary Sanchez, passed balls and all, is an absolute star

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Fresh off Monday’s off-day, the Yankees pounded the Tigers in their series opener last night, and that’s exactly what I’m sure we were all hoping they’d do. The Tigers are not good, not by any stretch, and Matt Boyd has had a rough year. After getting shut down by a few too many crummy pitchers in recent weeks, the Yankees hung seven runs on Boyd in three innings and cruised to a 13-4 win. Perfect.

Leading the way offensively was catcher Gary Sanchez, who has been leading the way offensively for a few weeks now. He bookended last night’s attack with two two-run home runs. One pulled to left field in the first inning and the other driven the other way to right field in the ninth inning. The first home run traveled 493 feet. Second longest home run in baseball this season. Only Aaron Judge has hit a ball farther. He had that 495-footer against the Orioles.

Following last night’s performance Sanchez is hitting .304/.375/.739 (183 wRC+) with nine home runs in August, and .274/.348/.536 (131 wRC+) with 25 home runs overall. The franchise record for home runs in a season by a catcher is 30 by Jorge Posada (2003) and Yogi Berra (1952, 1956). Sanchez might get there by the end of August despite missing just about the entire month of April with a biceps strain.

Since arriving in the big leagues for good a little more than one year ago, Sanchez has slugged 45 home runs in 143 games, which is far and away the most by a catcher. Salvador Perez and Willson Contreras are tied for distant second with 27 home runs each. Here’s where Sanchez ranks among the 21 catchers with at least 300 plate appearances this season:

  • AVG: .274 (7th)
  • OBP: .348 (5th)
  • SLG: .536 (1st)
  • wRC+: 131 (3rd)
  • HR: 25 (1st)

There’s a very good chance Sanchez will hit 30 home runs this season — again, he missed almost all of April with that biceps injury — and if he does, he’ll be the sixth catcher in history to swat 30+ homers in a season at age 24 or younger. Johnny Bench did it twice. Mike Piazza, Gary Carter, Rudy York, and Matt Nokes did it as well. Sanchez is poised to join that group. Heck, he has a chance to join Bench and Piazza as the only catchers to hit 35+ homers in a season before their 25th birthday.

The knock against Sanchez has never been his bat, of course. He’s always been rough around the edges defensively, and while he has improved quite a bit over the years, he’s not going to get confused for Yadier Molina anytime soon. Sanchez currently leads baseball with 12 passed balls despite missing a month, and that’s a problem. It is. That’s 12 free bases (more, really, if two runners were on base) and some of those led directly to runs.

Blocking balls in the dirt is an ongoing problem and the Yankees continue to work with Sanchez to help him improve. They’re not giving him a first base mitt anytime soon. They’re sticking with him as a catcher because that’s where he’s most valuable to the team. Blocking balls has been a issue. Throwing has never been.

Sanchez has gone 17-for-45 (38%) throwing out runners this year, the fourth best rate among the 23 catchers with at least 600 innings behind the plate this year. Only Yan Gomes (46%), Tucker Barnhart (43%), and Martin Maldonado (41%) have been better. As far as pitch-framing goes, Baseball Prospectus ranks Sanchez the 14th best framer — among 92 total catchers — at +3.7 runs saved.

The only glaring deficiency in Sanchez’s game is his blocking. That’s it. He hits, he throws, and he frames. I guess he’s not much of a runner, but running isn’t all that important when you’re hitting so many glorious dingers. The point is this: Sanchez is a star. Not “he’ll be a star one day” or “he could be a star with some fine tuning” or anything like that. He is a star. Right now. Today. Barely more than one full year in his MLB career.

Is that hyperbole? Premature, maybe? No. It’s not. Sanchez, even with the passed ball issues, is an impact player on both sides of the ball. He’s the best power hitting catcher in baseball and one of the best throwers and pitch-framers. Gary’s blocking is an obvious deficiency he needs to work to improve, and he will. And you know what? Even if he never improves, he still does enough to help the Yankees win. More than enough.

The Yankees are in the middle of this youth movement right now and Sanchez, as the field general behind the plate and the thumper in the middle of the lineup, is the center piece. You build championship teams up the middle, and the Yankees have a bonafide franchise catcher behind the plate in Sanchez. He’s not going to be star one day. He is a star right now. Everything he’s done in the 143 games since being called up last year makes it crystal clear.