Game 52: Party like it’s 2010

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Last night’s win was one of those wins that makes you feel good all day, you know? The Yankees had a tough go of it in Baltimore, but they came out and laid a beating on the Blue Jays early in the series opener. Always nice to see them turn things around so quickly. Hopefully it continues tonight.

Tonight the Yankees have a chance to do something they haven’t done since way back in 2010, and that’s win 32 of their first 52 games. At 31-20, the Yankees currently have their best record through 51 games since that 2010 team also went 31-20. Only three times this century have the Yankees won 32 of their first 52 games: 2002 (34-18), 2004 (33-19), and 2010 (32-20). Pretty cool the Yankees are where they are. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. CF Aaron Hicks
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 1B Chris Carter
    RHP Michael Pineda

The internet tells me it is cool and cloudy in Toronto tonight. I’m not sure whether the Rogers Center roof will be open. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:07pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Jacoby Ellsbury (concussion) was scheduled to hit a little bit today. Joe Girardi said it is unlikely Ellsbury will be activated during this series.

Awards!: Congrats to Judge, who was named AL Rookie of the Month for the second straight month. He’s the first Yankee ever to win the award twice, and he did it back-to-back months. Sanchez won it last August, so Yankees have been named AL Rookie of the Month in three of the last four months. Is that good? That seems good.

Game 49: Waiting For The Offense To Come Back

(Matt Hazlett/Getty)
(Matt Hazlett/Getty)

Not-so-fun fact: the Yankees have not won a series at Camden Yards since September 2013. How? I mean, you’d think you’d win a series by accident at some point since then, right? But no, the Yankees keep losing series in Baltimore. A loss tonight clinches another series loss in that admitted beautiful ballpark. Pretty annoying, I’d say.

From a big picture standpoint, the bigger concern tonight is getting the offense back on track, not worrying about who wins in what building. The Yankees have scored only 37 runs in their last eleven games, and they scored nine of those 37 runs Sunday afternoon. I miss April, when it felt like the Yankees started each game with a three-run head start. Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. CF Aaron Hicks
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 1B Rob Refsnyder
    RHP Luis Severino

Now the bad news: there’s rain in the forecast tonight. Not a ton, but enough that it could delay the game in the middle innings. It’s supposed to start sometime around 8pm ET and end around 11pm ET. Yuck. Hopefully it stays away long enough. Tonight’s game is scheduled to start at 7:05pm ET and YES will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Jacoby Ellsbury (concussion) is feeling better, though he has not yet been cleared by doctors to resume baseball activities.

The two Aarons and thinking about a new top of the lineup

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Once upon a time, I was a lineup complainer. The lineup would be posted each day at 4pm-ish and I’d complain about it. So and so is hitting too low, this guy is hitting too high, why is bench player flavor of the week not playing, that sort of stuff. A few times a year the Yankees would play the “ideal” lineup. Otherwise it was the same story, day after day. The lineup stinks and I was Mad Online.

I’ve outgrown that, thankfully. Daily lineup complaints are no way to go through life. As long as Joe Girardi doesn’t do something crazy like bat his best hitter ninth (which he never does and would never do), whatever lineup he runs out there is fine with me. So this post shouldn’t construed as me complaining about the lineup. This is more of a rational discussion about the batting order nearly one-third of the way through the season.

For the most part, I think we can all agree on one thing regarding the lineup: Brett Gardner should lead off, and Chase Headley and Chris Carter should bat eighth and ninth, really in either order. I guess that’s three things. Anyway, that stuff is straight forward. Gardner is, yet again, one of the team’s best on-base players and count-workers. Headley and Carter have been terrible and should get the fewest at-bats. Simple, right? Right.

The few spots beyond Gardner are what I really want to discuss. This is my ideal top of the lineup right now, given the available personnel:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. RF Aaron Judge

The three outfielders, left to right. Gary Sanchez has been hitting second most of the season and I am totally cool with that. It works for me. Sanchez has looked a little jumpy at the plate the last few days, but I’m not worried. Hitters go through their ups and downs. Sanchez is one of the team’s best hitters, so by all means, hit him second. Josh Donaldson and Kris Bryant won MVPs hitting second in recent years. Power hitters can hit there too.

That said, I like Hicks hitting second over Sanchez right now because, well, Hicks has been the better hitter this season. The better overall hitter and, more importantly, the better on-base threat. Hicks has a .426 OBP this year. Sanchez has a .356 OBP. That’s still good! But it’s not .426. Batting Hicks second means more runners on base for Judge, who has inarguably been the Yankees’ best hitter this season.

Judge started the season hitting lower in the lineup and understandably so, but he’s forced his way up, and now he is in entrenched as the No. 5 hitter. Moving Judge up even further to the No. 3 spot means more at-bats. More at-bats over the course of the season, and a better chance to get Judge that one extra at-bat in an individual game. Through 48 team games the No. 3 spot has 14 more plate appearances than the No. 5 spot for the Yankees. That’s 14 more times Judge would have come to the plate in the late innings. It’s not nothing!

We’re not splitting atoms here. Hicks (.426), Judge (.419), and Gardner (.363) have the three highest OBPs on the Yankees. They make fewer outs than anyone else. Judge is also one of the game’s top power threats. Batting Gardner and Hicks first and second is, by far, the best way to get men on base for Judge. Batting these three atop the lineup also means they get the most at-bats, therefore giving the Yankees more chances to score.

Going with Gardner-Hicks-Judge atop the lineup and Headley-Carter at the bottom leaves you Sanchez, Starlin Castro, Matt Holliday, and Didi Gregorius for the 4-5-6-7 spots. What’s the best way to order them? I’m not sure there’s a wrong answer. I’d prefer hitting Sanchez fourth because I think he’s most likely to be an impact bat the rest of the season, but if you said the same thing about Castro or Holliday, I wouldn’t argue (much).

The important thing, as far as I’m concerned, is getting Judge more at-bats because because the guy is a monster, and the more he plays, the better the Yankees’ chances to win. Jacoby Ellsbury‘s concussion — Girardi said yesterday Ellsbury is still experiencing headaches, so he remains shut down indefinitely — ensures Hicks will be in the lineup everyday, and as long as he’s hitting like this, Hicks is the perfect No. 2 hitter. On-base ability, power, speed, switch-hitter, the whole nine. Perfect.

The lineup almost seems to write itself from there. Gardner leads off, Hicks hits second, Judge hits third. Your two best on-base players and your most devastating hitter. Sanchez, Holliday, Castro, and Gregorius add quality lineup depth through the No. 7 spot too. I get why Girardi hits Sanchez second, Holliday third, and Castro fourth. I do. But nearly 50 games into the season, it’s the clear the more Aaron Judge hits with men on base, the better. The lineup should be built in such a way that maximizes those opportunities.

Game 48: Beat the O’s

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

This afternoon’s Memorial Day matinee at Camden Yards begins a stretch of 13 games in 14 days against AL East rivals for the Yankees. Two weeks from now, we should have a better idea of their status as a division title contender. The Yankees already have the fourth best postseason odds in the league (by a mile), but give me that division title. Not another wildcard game. This stretch is pretty darn important by late-May/early-June standards.

The Orioles come into this series having lost seven straight games — they’ve been outscored 38-17 in the seven games — and 13 of their last 16 games overall. They are weak and vulnerable right now. The Yankees are catching them at a good time. Then again, intra-AL East games never seem to be easy regardless of the opponent’s record. Just keep winning series. Here is the O’s lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. CF Aaron Hicks
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 1B Chris Carter
    LHP Jordan Montgomery

It is cloudy in Baltimore today, though there’s no rain in the forecast until much later tonight, so the Yankees and Orioles should have no trouble getting this afternoon’s game in. Today’s game will start a bit after 1pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: Aroldis Chapman (shoulder) played catch again today … Greg Bird (ankle) took live batting practice in Tampa. The tentative plan is to get him into minor league rehab games later this week … Jacoby Ellsbury (concussion) is still shut down. He has not yet been cleared to resume baseball activities.

Game 46: My Kingdom For Some Runs

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Over the last five games, dating back to Masahiro Tanaka‘s blowup in Tampa, Yankees starters have allowed six runs (five earned) total in 33.1 innings. None of the five starters allowed more than two runs in their starts. And yet, the Yankees went only (“only”) 3-2 in those five games because the offense is slumping so hard. The Yankees scored only 13 runs in those five games, and they’ve scored only 23 runs in their last eight games. Geez.

Things could turn around in an instant, of course. Tanaka threw literally the two worst starts of his MLB career back-to-back, then bam, he dominated and struck out a career high 13 last night. The offense has scored 13 runs in their last five games and they’re perfectly capable of putting up 13 runs in five innings this afternoon. I hope it happens. Few things in baseball are less enjoyable than a lack of offense. Here is the A’s lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. CF Aaron Hicks
  8. 1B Chris Carter
  9. 3B Ronald Torreyes
    LHP CC Sabathia

Not a bad afternoon for baseball in the Bronx. It is cloudy out, but it’s a pleasant 72 degrees and there’s no rain in the forecast. Today’s game will begin a little after 1pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Try to enjoy.

Injury Updates: Aroldis Chapman (shoulder) played catch today for the first time since going on the disabled list. He reported no issues … Greg Bird (ankle) is still on track to head to Tampa tomorrow and begin playing in minor league rehab games. His rehab work has gone well the last few days … Jacoby Ellsbury (concussion) is following the concussion protocol and there’s not much he can do right now. He’s shut down until the doctors say he can resume baseball activities.

Yankees place Ellsbury on disabled list, call up Rob Refsnyder

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

As expected, the Yankees have placed Jacoby Ellsbury on the 7-day concussion disabled list, the team announced. Rob Refsnyder has been called up to fill the roster spot. The Yankees have already been rained out today. We won’t see Refsnyder in uniform until tomorrow night.

Ellsbury left last night’s game after crashing into the wall making a catch on literally the first pitch of the game. Trainer Steve Donohue checked him out and Ellsbury did stay into complete the inning — no other balls were hit his way — before being removed prior to the second inning. It’s a concussion and a neck strain, the Yankees say.

The fact Refsnyder was called up rather than a true outfielder like Mason Williams tells us Aaron Hicks will step into the lineup full-time to replace Ellsbury. That’s the best move. Hicks is having a great year, and the Ellsbury injury gives the Yankees a chance to get the switch-hitter into the lineup everyday.

Refnsyder can play both corner outfield spots, but when Hicks sits, Brett Gardner will have to slide over into center field. That’s no big deal. He’s more than capable. The Yankees have not given any sort of timetable for Ellsbury’s return. He’s having a nice year and losing a good player stinks.

Yankeemetrics: Bronx Bummer (May 11-14)

(AP)
(AP)

Game of Inches
Entering Thursday the Astros and Yankees were baseball’s two best teams, separated by just .001 in the win percentage column, so it was fitting that the first game of the series was decided on the final play, by mere inches.

Down two runs in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and two men in scoring position, Gary Sanchez lined a single through the left side of the infield; Aaron Hicks scored easily from third base but Jacoby Ellsbury – racing home from second – was thrown out at the plate as the potential game-tying run.

Those types of rally-killing outs on the bases have been piling up for the Yankees this season. It was the sixth baserunning out at home plate by a Yankee this season, tying the Red Sox for the most in the AL through Thursday, and one shy of the major-league-leading Marlins.

Yet, the heart-wrenching nature of this play is actually quite rare: This was just the third time since 1930 that a game ended on a base hit with a Yankee being thrown out at home as the potential game-tying run.

The last time it happened was August 12, 1987 against the Royals when Wayne Tolleson was nailed at the plate trying to score from first on Roberto Kelly’s double to left field. Before that, you have to go back all the way to May 9, 1930 against the Tigers, when Tony Lazzeri was thrown out trying to score from second on Bill Dickey’s single.

Ellsbury was also involved in the Yankees only other run, when he got a catcher’s interference call with the bases loaded in the fifth inning. It was his 28th catcher’s interference, one shy of tying Pete Rose for the all-time MLB record. Of course, Rose is also the all-time record-holder in career plate appearances (15,890), while Ellsbury ranked 960th in that stat (5,084) through Thursday.

In yet another oddity, it was the first time in his career that Ellsbury got a catcher’s interference call with the bases loaded. And it had been more than two decades since any Yankee did that – the last one was by Pat Kelly in 1992 against the A’s.

(Newsday)
(Newsday)

Dead Bats Society
The Yankees offense went into a deep freeze on a chilly Friday night in the Bronx, barely avoiding a shutout in a listless 5-1 loss to the Astros. Didi Gregorius‘ RBI single with two outs in the ninth kept the Yankees as one of three teams (Twins, Nationals) that haven’t been blanked this season.

Brian McCann delivered the big blow for the Astros when he clubbed a three-run homer in the fourth inning to break a scoreless tie. It was his 47th homer at Yankee Stadium since 2014, the most home runs hit by any player at the Stadium in that span – and 12 more than the next guy on the list (Carlos Beltran, who also was sitting in the visiting dugout this weekend).

Lance McCullers dominated the Yankee lineup with a devastating mix of 95-mph fastballs and knee-buckling curves, holding them to zero runs on four hits over six innings while striking out seven and walking none. That seems good, eh? McCullers (23 years, 222 days) is the youngest pitcher ever to throw at least six scoreless, walk-free innings with seven-plus strikeouts in his first road appearance against the Yankees.

(AP)
(AP)

Comeback kings strike again
The Yankees kicked off Mother’s Day/Derek Jeter Night with a slump-busting, 11-6 come-from-behind win in the first game of Sunday’s double-header. It was their eighth victory when trailing by at least two runs, the second-most in baseball this season.

The first rally came in the fourth inning and was sparked by a couple longballs off the bats of Starlin Castro and Aaron Judge. Castro’s two-run homer knotted the score at 3-3, his fourth game-tying homer of the season, which matched Freddie Freeman for the most in the majors. Judge’s go-ahead, 441-foot solo blast to dead-center was his MLB-leading sixth home run of at least 430 feet in 2017, two more than any other player.

The second and decisive rally came in the seventh inning, when the Yankees erupted for six runs to erase a 6-4 deficit. The biggest blow was a tie-breaking, bases-loaded triple by Chase Headley. In the last 20 years, the only other Yankee with a go-ahead, bases-clearing triple in the seventh inning or later was Bernie Williams on June 21, 2005 against Tampa Bay.

(Getty)
(Getty)

#RE2PECT2JETER
The excited buzz and loud cheers lingering from the Stadium crowd following Derek Jeter’s number retirement ceremony were quickly silenced when George Springer stepped into the batter’s box and led off the game with a home run. That sparked a six-run first inning for Houston and paved the way for a deflating 10-7 loss by the Yankees.

Masahiro Tanaka was clobbered amid a chorus of boooooos, producing the worst start of his major-league career. He matched career-worsts in innings pitched (1 2/3) and homers allowed (4), while surrendering a career-high eight runs, and etching his name in the record books — for the wrong reason.

Tanaka became the first pitcher in Yankees history to give up at least eight earned runs and four home runs in a game while pitching fewer than two innings.

Three of those home runs came in the first inning, putting the Yankees in a huge early hole that even the Comeback Kings couldn’t dig out of. Going back to 1950 (as far back as Baseball-Reference.com has mostly complete play-by-play data), the Astros are the only visiting team to hit three-or-more home runs in the first inning of a game at Yankee Stadium.

As horrible as this game ended up, we can still end this Yankeemetrics on high note by honoring The Captain with the ultimate #JeterFunFact.

Here’s the list of players in major-league history to compile at least 3,000 hits, 250 homers, 350 stolen bases and 1,300 RBIs in a career: Derek Sanderson Jeter.