Yankeemetrics: Rocky Mtn. High and Low [June 21-22]

(USA TODAY Sports)
(USA TODAY Sports)

From Super-Nova to Black Hole
The Yankees returned to the Bronx for their final homestand before the All-Star break but gave their fans nothing to cheer about on Tuesday night against the Rockies. This was another sloppy performance with multiple baserunning blunders, two errors committed and poor clutch hitting (0-for-10 with runners in scoring position), resulting in an 8-4 loss.

Yankee pitchers flashed dominance with 13 strikeouts, but also were pounded by Colorado’s lineup, allowing 15 hits. It’s just the fourth time in the last 100 years that the Yankees have reached both of those thresholds in a nine-inning game; the most recent was a 12-8 loss to the Red Sox on Sept. 6, 2013.

The game couldn’t have started worse as Ivan Nova allowed a leadoff homer on the third pitch he threw to Charlie Blackmon. He’s now given up at least one homer in 12 straight starts dating back to last season, matching Phil Hughes (2012) for the second-longest streak in franchise history. The only longer one is a 14-start streak by Dennis Rasmussen in 1986.

Nova’s first couple weeks in the starting rotation looked promising, with a 1.65 ERA in his initial three turns. But he’s really struggled over the past month, posting a 6.88 ERA in his last six starts. The biggest culprit during this poor stretch has been an erratic sinker that’s not doing much sinking lately. Batters are slugging .606 against the pitch over his last six starts, compared to .324 in his first three starts.

Blackmon wasn’t the only Rockie who clobbered Nova; Carlos Gonzalez had a couple hits, including a bullet line-drive double to right field in the fifth inning that left his bat at 118 mph, per Statcast. That’s the fourth-highest exit velocity for any batted ball this season, and the highest mark given up by a Yankee pitcher in the last two seasons (since Statcast began recording exit velocity data).

(AP)
(AP)

A star is born
Welcome to the True Yankee® club, Mr. Castro. Starlin Castro saved the Yankees from another horrific loss on Wednesday afternoon, belting a no-doubt homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Yankees one of their wildest and most dramatic wins of the season.

It was a game that neither team seemingly wanted to win as both teams managed to blow four-run leads, with the Yankees delivering the final blow thanks to the clutch bat of Castro.

It was the 26-year-old infielder’s first career walk-off homer, as he became the fourth Yankee with a walk-off homer in Interleague play. The others are Russell Martin (2012 vs. Mets), Alex Rodriguez (2006 vs. Braves) and Jason Giambi (2005 vs. Pirates).

In the last 50 years, only one other Yankee second baseman has hit a walk-off shot: Robinson Cano did it on August 28, 2009 against the White Sox. Before that, you have to go all the way back to July 11, 1953 when Billy Martin beat the Senators with a solo homer to lead off the bottom of the 10th.

(AP)
(AP)

Chase Headley gave the Yankees a 4-0 lead when he crushed a 97 mph fastball dead-center into Monument Park in the second inning for his first grand slam in pinstripes (fourth in his career), and the first one by a Yankee this year.

The last time the Yankees went this deep into the season (by date) without a bases-loaded homer was 1991, when Matt Nokes hit the team’s only grand slam on September 23 against the Brewers.

CC Sabathia gave that lead right back to the Rockies with his worst performance of the year. He gave up a season-high six runs in 4 1/3 innings, matching the number of runs he allowed in his previous seven starts spanning 44 innings pitched.

Regression came swiftly for Sabathia, but it’s hardly surprising that he faltered against the Rockies. He now has a 6.08 ERA in eight career starts against them, his second-highest ERA versus any team in his career. The highest? A 6.16 ERA in nine starts versus the Yankees.

Despite the win, it is hard to ignore how historically inept the pitching staff was in their four games against the Rockies this year. The 8.74 ERA, .633 slugging percentage and 1.034 OPS allowed were each the highest marks by a Yankee team in a season series against any opponent over the last 100 years.

Yankeemetrics: Rocky Mountain Low [June 14-15]

(Getty )
(Getty )

Mile High Mess
For much of Tuesday night, not even the thin Colorado air or a mediocre Rockies pitching staff was enough to cure the Yankees’ most recent offensive malaise. They didn’t score a run until the sixth inning, and trailing 12-3 after seven innings, the Yankees seemed destined to be blown out in the first of two games at Coors Field.

Then the floodgates opened in the eighth, as the Yankees sent 12 men to the plate and scored seven runs on eight singles. Alas, the late rally ultimately fell short, resulting in an ugly 13-10 loss.

Instead, the Yankees suffered their first loss when scoring at least 10 runs since May 29, 2010 against the Indians. (Should we mention here that the 2010 Indians finished 69-93?) That snapped a streak of 72 straight wins in games with 10-or-more runs, which was the longest active streak among AL teams.

This was also the Yankees second loss in Interleague play when scoring in double digits. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the only other time that happened was in this same ballpark – a 14-11 loss to the Rockies on June 20, 2002. The 13 runs they allowed on Tuesday was also their second-most in a road Interleague game, behind only the aforementioned 2002 slugfest against the Rockies in Denver.

Jorge De La Rosa’s performance was mostly overshadowed by the offensive fireworks, but he actually shut down the Yankees lineup, holding them to three hits and no runs in five innings. The lefty has a career 4.64 ERA, but has somehow managed to dominate the Yankees in his 13 big league seasons. He’s now 4-0 with a 0.00 ERA in his four starts against them dating back to 2006.

De La Rosa is the only pitcher in major-league history to win four straight starts against the Yankees without giving up an earned run. Four guys have put together three-start streaks like that: Schoolboy Rowe (1934-35), Doc Ayers (1917), Babe Ruth (1916) and Walter Johnson (1913).

(AP)
(AP)

Nova Rocked
Coors Field continued to be a house of horrors for the Yankees, who fell to 4-7 all-time at the ballpark after Wednesday’s loss. That’s their worst record in the last 100 seasons at any stadium where they’ve played at least 10 games.

Ivan Nova, despite impressive career numbers against National League teams and in National League ballparks, was no match for the Coors Field curse.

He entered this game with a 2.13 ERA in 13 Interleague games (12 starts), sixth-best all-time among pitchers with at least 10 Interleague starts. Nova was even better on the road, going 5-0 with a 1.12 ERA in six starts at NL stadiums before this series.

And then on Wednesday he gave up five runs in five innings against the Rockies — the same number of earned runs he’d allowed in 40 1/3 innings over his first six career Interleague outings on the road.

When Nova is at his best, his bowling-ball sinker and biting curveball generate a ton of grounders and weak contact. Against the Rockies, his ground ball rate was just 38.9 percent and he gave up a season-high 10 hits. He’s now had four starts with a ground ball rate below 50 percent, and his ERA in those games is 6.85 (with at least four runs allowed in each game); in his other four starts he has an ERA of 2.38 (with three or fewer runs allowed in each start).

Let’s end with a positive note. One night after delivering a pinch-hit RBI single in his first appearance as a Yankee, Ike Davis started his first game in pinstripes (well, actually road greys) on Wednesday afternoon. Davis, of course, is the son of former Yankee pitcher Ron Davis, making them just the second father-son combo to each play in an MLB game for the Yankees. You might have heard of the other duo: Yogi and Dale Berra.

The elder Davis spent only four seasons in the Bronx but still carved out a niche in the franchise record books. He went 14-2 in 1979 working exclusively out of the bullpen, a mark that is notable for a couple reasons: His 14 wins as a reliever are tied for the second-most by a Yankee in a single season (Luis Arroyo had 15 in 1961); his .875 win percentage is the second-highest by any Yankee pitcher with at least 15 decisions in a season, behind only Ron Guidry’s 25-3 (.893) Cy Young-winning campaign in 1978.

Ivan the Starter

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

This is my third piece on Ivan Nova this season, including Spring Training. For a player whose game I’m not necessarily overly fond about, that seems like a lot. However, when I wrote my first piece about him in 2016, I did so making a fairly bold claim with regards to what Nova should do with his pitches out of the bullpen. As such, I feel an obligation to check in on how he’s done with the strategy I proposed way back when. Now that Nova’s in the starting rotation–and has been for almost a month–I figured it was worth checking in on the suggested repertoire I laid out back in late January.

Since being placed in the rotation, Nova has made six starts for the Yankees, dating back to a 4.2 inning ‘debut’ on May 9. In those starts, Nova’s thrown 35 innings and given up 36 hits. He’s walked seven and struck out 26. His ERA as a starter is a fairly respectable 4.11, which you’d more than live with from a back-end guy. And though the unsolicited advice I offered was done so with the belief he’d be a reliever, Nova has used that strategy as a starter in 2016.

(Getty)
(Getty)

Having ditched the four-seamer, change up, and slider, Nova’s thrown almost exclusively sinkers and curveballs, even as a starter. And for the most part, those pitches have been at least reasonably effective. The sinker, for instance, has shown slight improvement over his career (up to 5/8/2016) numbers in whiff/swing%, line drives per balls in play, fly balls per balls in play, and pop ups per balls in play. Ivan’s uncle Charlie has also seen big jumps in whiff/swing% and ground ball rate. However, there is a problem with both of these pitches and it speaks to something unmentioned in the previous paragraph.

In his six starts this year, Nova has had a bit of a problem with extra bases. Of the 36 hits he’s given up, 15 of them have gone for extra bases; eight of them have been doubles and seven have been homers. In fact, he’s given up at least one home run in each start he’s made.

(AP Photo/Gail Burton)
(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

Therein lies the problem with Nova’s streamlined arsenal. The more pitches you throw of the same type, the more likely it is that you’ll make some mistakes with them, and that might be what’s happening to him. His sinker, which until this recent string of starts carried a 6.4% rate, currently sports a 13.64% mark for HR/FB+LD. Additionally, the curve sits way higher than ‘normal’ (10.26): 16.67%. If you’re giving up dingers on sinkers and curves, they’re likely not sinking and dropping enough, so that’s something Nova will need to iron out going forward.

Ivan started out hot, giving up just three runs in his first three starts. The last three, however, have seen him surrender at least four each time. Granted, they’ve been against Toronto and Baltimore and that’s not good for a pitcher who’s finding himself prone to giving up the long ball. Given that the Yankees don’t seem to have any other viable rotation options at the moment–barring a reemergence from Luis Severino–it’s imperative that he perfect–or at least come close to that–his new pitch selection and keep the ball down.

Saturday Links: Mateo, Reyes, Ticket Revenue, Nova

The present and future of the leadoff spot. (Presswire)
The present and future of the leadoff spot. (Presswire)

The Yankees and Orioles continue their three-game series with an always annoying Saturday night game today. Blargh. Hate those. Give me day baseball on the weekend. Anyway, check out these two recent Players’ Tribune posts from Jorge Posada and Carlos Beltran, then check out these links and notes as you wait for first pitch.

Yanks offered Mateo for Reyes?

According to Jon Heyman, last summer the Yankees were “willing to send” top shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo to the Rockies for Jose Reyes and cover half the $44M left on Reyes’ deal. This was right after Colorado picked up Reyes in the Troy Tulowitzki trade, before all the domestic violence stuff in the offseason. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard the Yankees talked to the Rockies about Reyes.

This one doesn’t pass the sniff test at all. Mateo would be a Rockie right now if the Yankees were indeed willing to make that trade. The Rockies didn’t want Reyes — they took him in the trade as a way to offset some money — and they tried to flip him at the deadline and again in the offseason. Reyes has been in obvious decline for a few years now. You mean the tell me the Colorado turned down a top 100 prospect and a ton of cash for a player they didn’t even want in the first place? C’mon. I don’t buy this rumor at all.

Ticket revenue dropped again in 2015

The Yankees’ ticket and suite revenue dropped for the sixth straight year in 2015, reports Jim Baumbach. The team reported $276.9M in ticket revenue to bondholders last year, which includes $36.6M in postseason sales. (That includes ALDS and ALCS tickets that were sold in advance but we’re needed.) Ticket revenue was $396.9M in the first year of the new Yankee Stadium. Even though they’re down 30% in six years, the Yankees still generated more ticket revenue last year than they did in the final year of the old Yankee Stadium ($266.9M).

It’s no secret attendance is lower this year than it has been at any point since the new Stadium opened. We see it every night. (To be fair, the park does seem to fill up in the second and third innings as people get out of work, make their way up to the Bronx, and get through the metal detectors.) The Yankees are averaging 38,457 fans per game this season, down from 39,894 last year and 45,918 in 2009. At the same time, they still lead the AL in attendance this year and are fourth in MLB overall.

“There was a real identification with those players who were great players and won a lot of championships. They were big stars, big attractions. There’s no doubt about it. I think the fact that they all retired in a period of time had an impact,” said Randy Levine to Baumbach, referred to Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada. An attendance and ticket revenue drop was inevitable once those guys were gone. But the Yankees kinda suck now too, so it seems like things are going to get worse before they get better.

Nova being sued by landlord

It’s been a while since we had a good hard-partying Yankee story. According to Emily Saul, Ivan Nova is being sued by his former landlord for trashing his former White Plains home. The lawsuit alleges Nova and his wife lived in the house from 2014-15 and left the place “uninhabitable” due to “raucous partying.” They smashed lights, broke appliances, all sorts of stuff.

The landlord is suing Nova for more than $150,000 to recover damages and lost income. Ivan told Julie Kayzerman he is fighting the lawsuit because he didn’t live there during that time. He was in Tampa rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. “I haven’t done anything. People want to take advantage of opportunities, but you have to understand that I’m good and I had nothing to do with that and I’m going to fight it,” he said.

Yankeemetrics: D’Oh, Canada [May 30-June 1]

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

Lost in translation
The Yankees crossed the border for another series in Toronto, but the script for Monday’s game was a familiar one: the starting pitching was mediocre while the offense continued to flounder and reach historic lows, producing a 4-2 loss to the Blue Jays.

Through 50 games, the Yankees are putting up offensive numbers that resemble some of the weakest squads in franchise history. Their batting average (.233) and on-base percentage (.302) are both their worst at this point in the season since 1969, while they’ve scored their fewest runs (192) at the 50-game marker since 1990.

One glimmer of hope is that twice before in the Wild Card Era they’ve been under .500 through their first 50 games – 1995 and 2007 – and both times they rebounded to make the playoffs that season.

Ivan Nova entered the game with a terrible track record against the Blue Jays and did little to improve it. He now has a 5.66 ERA in 17 games (15 starts) vs. Toronto, the second-worst among active pitchers with more than 10 starts against them.

Nova was pounded by the Blue Jays’ lineup, giving up four extra-base hits and a bunch of loud outs in six innings pitched. The results were hardly surprising, though, despite Nova’s recent solid work in the rotation: he entered the game allowing an average exit velocity of 97.0 mph on line drives and fly balls, the worst mark among MLB pitchers this season (min. 100 balls in play).

cc
Deja Blue
Once again the Yankees squandered another strong outing from their starting pitcher as the offensive struggles deepened in a 4-1 loss to the Blue Jays on Tuesday night.

After the losing the first two games, the Yankees clinched their fifth consecutive series loss against the Blue Jays dating back to last year. The last time the Jays won five straight series against the Yankees was a six-series streak spanning the 1992 and 1993 seasons.

CC Sabathia wrote another chapter in his incredible renaissance season, holding the Blue Jays scoreless through six innings before being charged with a couple runs in the seventh. Still, he finished up the month with a sparkling 1.04 ERA, the best by a Yankee pitcher with at least three starts in May since Allie Reynolds (1.00) in 1952.

He hasn’t given up more than three runs in any start this year, the first time in his career he’s begun a season with eight straight starts of three-or-fewer runs allowed.

Deja Blue Part II
Re-read the first sentence of the section above and replace it with a 7-0 score — their worst shutout loss to the Blue Jays since Oct. 1, 2004 — and you’ve got the quick recap of Wednesday’s game.

With the loss, the Yankees were swept in series of three-or-more games at Toronto for the first time since Sept. 19-21, 2000. Their struggles in this city go behind the current season, though. They are now just 24-36 at the Rogers Centre since 2010, easily their worst record at any AL stadium in that span.

It’s not just the string of losses in Toronto; they’ve also been held to two runs or fewer in five straight games here for the first time in the history of this rivalry. The last time the Yankees scored two or fewer runs in five straight games at any road ballpark was in 1996 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.

Masahiro Tanaka‘s performance wasn’t perfect (and that’s basically what he needed to be with this version of the Bronx Bummers supporting him), but he worked out of jams and was good enough to hold the Blue Jays to just two runs — one earned — in six innings.

He owns an AL-best road ERA of 1.36, and has gone at least five innings and allowed no more than two earned runs in each of his six road starts this year. The only pitchers in franchise history with longer such streaks to begin a season are Hideki Irabu (1998) and Whitey Ford (1958).

The Yankees and the difference between actual velocity and perceived velocity

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Since the start of last season, Statcast has opened our eyes to all sorts of cool stuff that we knew existed in baseball, but were unable to measure. Exit velocity, outfielder first step quickness, things like that. All this information is new and we’re still learning how to use it — at-bat by at-bat exit velocity updates are the worst thing on Twitter these days — but it’s all really neat and interesting.

One of these fun new Statcast tools is “perceived velocity,” which measures how fast a pitch “plays” when factoring in things like extension and release point. We’ve all seen pitchers with a 92 mph fastball who get hitters to react like it’s 95 mph, and vice versa. Here is the perceived velocity definition from MLB.com’s glossary:

Perceived Velocity is an attempt to quantify how fast a pitch appears to a hitter, by factoring the Velocity of the pitch and the release point of the pitcher. It takes Velocity one step further — because a 95 mph fastball will reach a hitter faster if the pitcher releases the ball seven feet in front of the rubber instead of six.

To attain Perceived Velocity, the average Major League “Extension” must first be obtained. Any pitcher who releases the ball from behind the average Extension will have a lower Perceived Velocity than actual Velocity. On the other hand, if a pitcher releases the ball from in front of the average Extension, he’ll have a higher Perceived Velocity than actual Velocity.

Perceived velocity seems pretty important, right? More important than actual velocity, I think. Since the start of last season the league average fastball velocity is 92.5 mph while the league average perceived velocity is 92.1 mph. That’s not a negligible difference. There’s much more to it than the raw radar gun reading.

So, with an assist from Baseball Savant, let’s look over the Yankees’ pitching staff and compare average fastball velocities to perceived fastball velocities. These are numbers since the start of last season to give us the largest sample possible.

The Starters

Average Velocity Perceived Velocity “Gain”
CC Sabathia 89.96 90.93 +0.97
Michael Pineda 93.42 93.65 +0.23
Luis Severino 95.83 95.47 -0.36
Masahiro Tanaka 91.81 91.03 -0.78
Nathan Eovaldi 97.29 96.43 -0.86
Ivan Nova 93.31 92.32 -0.99

There are some pretty big differences between average velocity and perceived velocity in the rotation. Sabathia is a big man with a long stride, so it makes sense his fastball plays up and appears faster than what the radar gun tells you. He’s releasing the ball that much closer to home plate. Of course, a 90.93 mph perceived velocity is still well below the league average, but that’s what Sabathia has to work with at this point of his career.

On the other end of the spectrum is Nova, who is unable to gain any extra velocity through extension despite being 6-foot-4. His fastball looks a full mile an hour slower to the hitter than what the radar gun says. The ability to see the ball well out of Nova’s hand has always been a knock against him. He doesn’t have much deception in his delivery and the perceived velocity data suggests he lacks extension too. That’s why Nova’s always been more hittable than his stuff would lead you to believe.

The same is true of Eovaldi, though he brings much more raw velocity to the table than Nova and most other starting pitchers. Eovaldi is not as tall as most of his rotation mates (6-foot-2) so his stride isn’t as long, which costs him some perceived velocity. He’s the poster child for pitchers with big fastballs and small results. His new splitter has really made a big difference because it gives hitters something else to think about. Before they could zero in on the fastball.

I have nothing to back this up, but the 0.78 mph difference between Tanaka’s average fastball and perceived fastball seems to matter less to him than it would other pitchers. Tanaka is basically a splitter/slider pitcher with a show-me fastball. Nova and Eovaldi rely on their fastballs much more heavily because their secondary pitches aren’t as good. I don’t mean that as a knock. Most pitchers rely on their heater. Tanaka’s an outlier. The lack of perceived velocity could help explain why he’s so homer prone though.

The Relievers

Average Velocity Perceived Velocity “Gain”
Andrew Miller 94.60 95.41 +0.81
Aroldis Chapman 99.92 100.32 +0.40
Dellin Betances 97.49 97.65 +0.16
Chasen Shreve 91.85 91.28 -0.57
Kirby Yates 93.16 92.05 -1.11

These five guys have been the constants in the bullpen this season. The other two spots — sometimes it has been three other spots — have been used as shuttle spots to cycle arms in and out as necessary.

The big three all gain some velocity through their release points because they’re all so damn tall. I’m actually sort of surprised the difference between Betances’ average fastball velocity and perceived fastball velocity is so small, relatively speaking. He has such a massively long stride …

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

… that you’d think his fastball would play up. Then again, it’s not where your leg lands, it’s where you release the ball. Miller has those long lanky arms and he seems to sling his pitches towards the batter, and those long limbs and funky angles make his already speedy fastball seem ever faster. Same with Chapman. Good grief. His fastball somehow looks faster to the hitter than the radar gun reading. That can’t be fun.

Yates is pretty interesting. He’s listed at 5-foot-10 and he has that compact little delivery, so his fastball looks much slower to the hitter than what the radar gun tells us. That said, Yates is not a reliever who tries to throw the ball by hitters. His key to his success is his slider, which he throws nearly 40% of the time. The fastball may play down according to perceived velocity, but he’s not trying to get guys out with the heater anyway. It’s all about the slider with Kirby.

Miscellaneous Arms

Average Velocity Perceived Velocity “Gain”
Branden Pinder 92.25 94.35 +2.10
Bryan Mitchell 95.67 96.57 +0.90
Chad Green 94.43 95.32 +0.89
Nick Rumbelow 93.60 93.90 +0.30
Nick Goody 91.54 91.54 +0.00
James Pazos 94.16 93.59 -0.57
Jacob Lindgren 89.78 89.20 -0.58
Luis Cessa 92.53 91.62 -0.91
Johnny Barbato 95.28 93.54 -1.74

These are the so-called shuttle pitchers, some of whom haven’t pitched in the big leagues at all this season due to injury. The samples are all very small — Mitchell leads the group with 298 fastballs thrown since the start of last year, and in some cases (Green, Pazos, Cessa, Lindgren) we’re looking at 60 or fewer fastballs — so these numbers are FYI only. There’s something to look at that, not something that should be taken seriously right now.

The numbers are on the extremes are pretty fascinating. Statcast says Pinder’s fastball has played more than two full miles an hour faster than what the radar gun says. Barbato is the opposite. His fastball plays down nearly two miles an hour. Pinder is listed at 6-foot-4 and Barbato at 6-foot-1, so there’s a big height difference, but look at their strides too (you can click the image for a larger view):

Barbato (left) via Getty, Pinder (right) via Presswire
Barbato (left) via Getty; Pinder (right) via Presswire

I know this is amateur hour with the photos, sorry. In my defense, it’s really tough to find photos of up and down relievers who have thrown a combined 41.2 innings in the big leagues.

Anyway, you can still kinda see the differences in their strides with those two photos. Both are about to release the ball, yet Pinder is so much closer to the plate that his back foot is already disconnected from the rubber. Look at the angles of their legs too. Barbato is standing a bit more upright, which means he’s not striding as far forward.

Just like regular old velocity, perceived velocity alone is not the key to pitching, but it is definitely part of the equation. Those extra miles an hour — or, to be more precise, the appearance of those extra miles an hour — disrupt timing and give hitters less time to react. Mike Fast once showed a difference of one mile an hour of velocity equates to roughly one-quarter of a run of ERA.

Perceived velocity still doesn’t tell us why Eovaldi’s fastball is less effective than Miller’s, for example. Eovaldi’s heater has Miller’s beat in terms of both average and perceived velocity. I do find it interesting someone as tall as Sabathia can “add” a mile per hour to his heater with his size while a short pitcher like Yates “losses” a mile an hour. Intuitively it all makes sense. It’s just cool to be able to put some numbers on it now.

Yankeemetrics: How sweep it is [May 19-22]

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

Supernova sinks the A’s
Given the massive hole the Yankees had dug themselves into during the first month of the season, and coupled with their recent struggles in the Bay Area, this weekend’s trip to Oakland was foreboding.

Entering the series, the Yankees were 2-8 at the Oakland Coliseum since 2013, their worst road record against any AL team in that span. They’d lost four straight series in Oakland, their longest such streak since dropping 12 series in a row at the ballpark from 1985-91.

Not ideal. The Yankees buried that trend from the get-go with a much-needed win in the series opener on Thursday night.

Ivan Nova was a model of efficiency on the mound, firing 62 pitches in six innings while giving up just one run on four hits. His sinker was in peak form, averaging its most horizontal movement and second-best downward movement of the season. The A’s went 2-for-14 when putting a two-seamer in play, as he pounded the bottom of the strike zone with the pitch.

Nova is now 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA in three starts this season and hasn’t allowed more than one run in any of those outings. The last Yankee to be unbeaten through his first three starts while giving up one run or fewer in each game was Kevin Brown in 2004.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Welcome back, Large Lefty
Breaking news: The Yankees finally put together a win streak of more than two games after beating the A’s, 8-3, on Friday night. The Astros are now the only team in baseball that hasn’t won at least three games in a row this season.

There were plenty of heroes for the Yankees, starting with their new (old) ace, Carsten Charles Sabathia. Pitching for the first time since going on the DL two weeks ago, Sabathia spun another gem with one run allowed and eight strikeouts in six strong innings. He’s now won back-to-back games, surrendering no more than one run in each outing, for the first time since 2011.

Sabathia wasn’t the only veteran that turned back the clock on Friday night. Thirty-nine-year-old Carlos Beltran went 3-for-5 with three doubles and three RBI to lead the Yankees’ latest offensive outburst.

Beltran is the oldest player in franchise history with three doubles in a game, and just the fifth guy in major-league history age 39 or older to hit three doubles and drive in three runs in a game. The four others are David Ortiz (2015), Tony Perez (1985), Pete Rose (1980), and Joe Judge (1933).

#TANAK
The Yankees continued their winning ways with a 5-1 victory on Saturday that gave them their first road series win of 2016, ending a streak of six straight winless series away from the Bronx. That was their longest such drought to begin a season since 1991.

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

Thanks to a Blue Jays loss in Minnesota, the Yankees also climbed out of the basement in the AL East for the first time since April 23. That was their longest stretch in last place since spending the final four months of the 1990 season at the bottom of the division.

Masahiro Tanaka continued the Yankees’ recent stretch of terrific starting pitching as he went seven innings and allowed one run for his second win of the season. He’s now 3-0 with a 1.31 ERA in three career games against the A’s, and has allowed one earned run or fewer in each of those outings.

The only other Yankee since 1980 to win three straight starts versus the A’s without giving up more than an earned run in each game was Andy Pettitte (1997-2000).

Broom Broom
The Yankees capped off this successful West Coast swing with a 5-4 win, completing their first four-game sweep in Oakland since July 1979. They also avoided losing their fourth straight season series against the A’s, something that hadn’t happened in this rivalry since they dropped seven season series in a row to the Philadelphia A’s from 1908-14.

Consider the amazing turnaround that the Bombers have engineered in the past week. When the Yankees started this road trip, they were:

  • Without a win streak of more than two games … Done.
  • Without a road series win … Done.
  • Without a series sweep … Done.

And stuck in last place in the AL East … not anymore. With the win on Sunday, they’re now in third place, their highest rank in the standings since April 17.

Two players that had struggled mightily this season were surprise key contributors to the win. Michael Pineda, riding the longest losing streak of his career (0-5 in prior seven starts), tossed a quality start for his first victory since April 6. His 6.60 ERA entering Sunday was the highest among qualifiers in the AL and second-highest in the majors.

Mark Teixeira brought a .133 batting average against righties into this game, the worst among 286 players with at least 50 plate appearances versus right-handed pitchers this season. Also, he’d yet to record an RBI in his 48 at-bats with two outs this season, the most two-out at-bats without an RBI by any player.

So, of course, he delivered the game-tying hit in the sixth inning via a two-out RBI single off righty Jesse Hahn.

“Well, Suzyn, you know, you just can’t predict baseball!”