Yankeemetrics: Babe Sanchez does it again [Aug. 22-24]

(AP)
(AP)

Gary is Good
Despite the superhuman feats of a scorching-hot Gary Sanchez, not to mention a two-dinger night from the streaky Starlin Castro, the Yankees still managed to lose the opener in Seattle, 7-5. It snapped their eight-game winning streak at Safeco Field, which was tied with the White Sox (2011-12) for the longest by any opponent at the ballpark.

Sanchez added yet another chapter to his Baby Bomber tale, crushing two more home runs to bring his total to eight in 19 career games. He is the first Yankee to hit at least eight homers before playing in his 20th big-league game, and just the fourth American League player in the last 100 seasons to do it. The others? Carlos Delgado (Blue Jays), Alvin Davis (Mariners) and George Scott (Red Sox).

The right-handed hitting Dominican also added a single, giving him 54 total bases since his debut in the bigs. Only one other Yankee has compiled at least 50 total bases this early into his major-league career (first 19 games), and you might have heard of him before: Joe DiMaggio.

Starlin Castro was Sanchez’s co-star on Monday night, going deep twice for his first multi-homer game in pinstripes. Castro and Sanchez became the first Yankees age 26 or younger to each hit at least two homers in the same game since September 23, 1973, when Ron Blomberg and Otto Velez did it in a 9-1 rout against the Indians.

Castro and Sanchez’s numbers became a mere footnote in history and not part of a winning effort when Anthony Swarzak served up a hanging slider to Mike Zunino, who deposited the pitch into the right-field seats to give the Mariners a 6-5 lead.

In his postgame press conference, Girardi said that he went to Swarzak “because of his slider,” an interesting comment given these stats:

  • Eight of the 10 homers that Swarzak has allowed this season have come off his slider
  • Opponents are slugging .682 (!) off Swarzak’s slider, the highest mark among the 150-plus pitchers that have thrown at least 200 sliders this year
(USA Today)
(USA Today)

An old guy steals the spotlight
On a day when the lineup’s young superstar was mortal, the Yankees got masterful performance from the rotation’s elder statesman, CC Sabathia, and beat the Mariners, 5-1, to even the series at a game apiece.

Sabathia, mired in a miserable 11-game stretch during which he posted a 6.78 ERA, was brilliant as he delivered a vintage performance to help stop the Yankees two-game losing streak. He fired seven innings of one-run ball, allowing just three hits and a walk with seven strikeouts in what was his best outing since mid-June.

While Sabathia’s dominant effort might have been surprising given his recent struggles, it shouldn’t have been given his history of pitching extremely well in the Pacific Northwest. Overall, he’s 9-1 with a 2.09 ERA in 13 career starts at Safeco Field, the second-best ERA among the 51 pitchers than have made at least 10 starts at the ballpark.

He’s also a perfect 5-0 with a 1.27 ERA and 0.961 WHIP in six starts at Safeco as Yankee. Going back 100 years, that ERA is the second-lowest mark any Yankee pitcher has posted at any ballpark where he’s made at least five starts. The guy atop the list is Mel Stottlemyre, who had a 1.25 ERA in nine starts at Anaheim Stadium from 1966-73.

Sanchez didn’t go yard in this game but he still maintained a near-record-breaking pace to start his career by going 1-for-4 with a walk. His 26 hits as a major-leaguer are tied with Bob Meusel for the third-most by any Yankee (since at least 1913) in his first 20 MLB games. The only others with more are Joe DiMaggio (37!!) and Oscar Azocar (28).

(AP)
(AP)

The Gary and Tanaka Show
The Yankees shut out the Mariners, 5-0, in the rubber game of this series thanks to the amazing and unprecedented — yet somehow predictable — performances by Gary Sanchez and Masahiro Tanaka.

The Yankees’ underrated ace spun another gem, tossing seven scoreless innings with five strikeouts while lowering his ERA to 3.11. The only “blemish” was a third-inning walk to Seth Smith, the first free pass he’d issued since July 27.

That snapped a streak of four straight starts with at least 25 batters faced and zero walks, the longest by a Yankee since David Wells in 2003. Tanaka also saw his fantastic run of three straight games with at least eight punch outs and no walks come to an end, which was tied for a major-league record.

Tanaka is now up to five starts of at least seven scoreless innings pitched, the most among all American League pitchers. Entering Thursday, Tanaka was third among AL starters in strikeout-to-walk ratio, third in FIP, sixth in innings pitched, sixth in WHIP and seventh in ERA. He is the only AL pitcher ranked in the top-7 in each of those categories this season. And, oh yeah, he’s tied with Corey Kluber for the league lead in fWAR (Fangraphs version of Wins Above Replacement).

Sanchez wasted little time in continuing his homer barrage as he crushed a mammoth 420-foot shot into the left-center field seats on the first pitch he saw, his franchise-record ninth home run in 21 career games. His light-tower power is crazy: He’s now hit more 400-foot homers (seven) than every other Yankee this season except for Starlin Castro (11), and remember, Sanchez has only been a full-time player since August 3.

Gary added another double in the fifth inning, giving him 15 extra-base hits as a major-leaguer. The only Yankee to reach 15 career extra-base hits faster (in terms of games) than Sanchez was that DiMaggio dude again.

The Mariners soon learned their lesson — DO NOT PITCH TO THE KRAKEN — and intentionally walked him in each of his final two plate appearances.

The last Yankee to receive multiple intentional walks in a game within his first 21 career games was Joe Gordon in 1938. Sanchez is also youngest Yankee with at least two intentional walks and two hits in a game since a 23-year-old Yogi Berra on July 22, 1947.

And lastly, just for fun, Sanchez is the first Yankee catcher to be intentionally walked twice in a game since John Flaherty on June 15, 2004. Yes, Flash was batting eighth in an Interleague game in Arizona. The manager was not drunk.

Yankeemetrics: Birth of the Baby Bombers [Aug. 12-14]

(Getty)
(Getty)

Saying Bye-Rod
The Yankees made sure that Mr. Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez’s farewell game in pinstripes would be a memorable and winning one, as they sent the controversial slugger off into the sunset with an exhilarating comeback victory on Friday night against the Rays.

A-Rod’s final game with the Yankees (and perhaps his career) marks the final act of one of the most confounding and polarizing, yet also brilliantly talented, players in the history of this sport. Earlier this week we detailed a few of his many baseball superlatives; now here are two more numbers that put his complicated and fascinating tenure with the Yankee franchise into perspective.

(AP)
(AP)

Rodriguez enters the pinstripe record books with a batting line of .283/.378/.523 across 12 seasons in the Bronx. Among the hundreds of players that have compiled at least 200 plate appearances with the Yankees, only four others have reached each of those thresholds in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage: Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.

Although A-Rod has frequently been chastised for his purported lack of clutch hitting in the playoffs, there is this stat to consider: A-Rod had four career game-tying or go-ahead hits in the ninth inning or later in the postseason, the most among all players in major-league history.

With the adrenaline pumping, A-Rod kicked off his last game in style, sending a 96 mph fastball from Chris Archer into right-center field for a first-inning RBI double. It was his first hit on pitch of more than 95 mph since June 7, a single off Angels reliever Cam Bedrosian.

Dellin Betances struck out the side in the ninth inning, recording his 100th, 101st and 102nd strikeouts of the season. This is the third year in a row he’s racked up at least 100 strikeouts, becoming the third reliever in American League history with back-to-back-to-back 100-K campaigns. The others are Dick Radatz (1962-65) and Duane Ward (1989-92), who both put together four-season streaks of at least 100 Ks.

(Getty)
(Getty)

New Kids in the Bronx
These are certainly not your father’s Yankees anymore. On Day One of the post-Alex Rodriguez Era, it was clear that the franchise’s much-hyped youth movement is in full swing.

The team called up highly-touted prospects Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge before Saturday’s afternoon contest and Joe Girardi immediately wrote their names on the lineup card, Judge in right field and Austin at first base. They were the first Yankee teammates to make their big-league debuts as starters in the same game since John Ellis and Jim Lyttle on May 17, 1969 against the Angels.

The two Baby Bombers wasted little time in earning their True Yankee pinstripes. Batting seventh and eighth, the duo electrified the Yankee Stadium crowd early with back-to-back solo homers in the second inning, fueling an offensive explosion that resulted in a fun-to-watch and rousing 8-4 win.

With those two blasts, Austin and Judge completed a stunning and unprecedented feat, becoming the first teammates in baseball history to each homer in their MLB debut in the same game. Before they went deep, only three other Yankees had ever homered in their first career at-bats in the bigs: Andy Phillips in 2004, Marcus Thames in 2002 (on the first pitch from Randy Johnson!) and John Miller in 1966.

Austin added a stolen base to his historic debut, becoming the first AL player to homer and steal in his first major-league game since Bert Campaneris (Kansas City A’s) in 1964; he is the only Yankee to accomplish the feat since at least 1913.

Starlin Castro, Aaron Hicks and Didi Gregorius soon joined the home run party on this hot and humid day, sending the ball over the fence in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings, respectively.

That gave the Yankees five players age 26 or younger with a longball, the first time in franchise history they’ve had that many under-27 guys go deep in the same game. Only three other teams have ever done this in the regular season over the past century: the 2016 Cubs, 2013 Astros and 1996 Brewers (the Cubs also did in Game 3 of the NLDS last year).

Even more impressively, each of the five youngsters also added another hit, making the Yankees the only MLB team in last 100 years to have five different players under the age of 27 with at least two hits and a homer in the same game.

Judge, jury and … homers!
The Yankees emotional ceremony-filled weekend ended with a thud on Sunday afternoon. They were creamed by the Rays, 12-3, snapping their four-game win streak and pushing them further back in the wild card race.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Luis Severino got hammered for seven runs in 3 2/3 innings, falling to 0-8 with a 8.58 ERA as a starter this season. That is the longest losing streak as a starter to begin a season by a Yankee since Fred Talbot lost his first eight starting decisions in 1968.

Even more depressing, the Yankees have still yet to win a game with Severino on the mound as the starting pitcher. Over last 100 years, this is the only time that the Yankees have lost the first nine games of a season started by a pitcher.

His fastball command was inconsistent and his changeup again was non-existent, though his slider was nasty at times, as he racked up seven strikeouts.

That bizarro performance produced a crazy pitching line that no major-league pitcher had recorded in nearly a decade. The last guy to allow at least seven earned runs and strike out at least seven batters in an outing of fewer than four innings pitched was Kenny Rogers in 2008 for the Tigers.

The lone highlights of the game were provided by the bats of the newly-christened Baby Bombers as Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez both homered in the loss. Judge became just the second player in franchise history to go deep in each of his first two major-league games, joining the immortal Joe Lefebvre (1980).

Sanchez’s two-run shot left his bat at 102 mph; he now has an average exit velocity of 91.6 mph this season, the highest among all Yankees with at least 10 batted balls in play.

Yankeemetrics: The Not-Farewell Tour [Aug. 9-11]

(AP)
(AP)

Severino stumbles again
The Yankees opened their series at Fenway Park in familiar fashion — with a loss that dropped them back to .500 (56-56). This was the 17th time they’ve been exactly even in the win-loss ledger, which easily tops all MLB teams this season.

Another thing that has become commonplace for this Yankee club is mediocre starting pitching. Luis Severino returned to the rotation hoping to build on the promising work he’d done out of the bullpen the past few weeks, but instead reverted back to the same struggling pitcher he was at the beginning of season.

He was roughed up for five runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings and fell to 0-7 with a 7.78 ERA as a starter this season. The last Yankee pitcher to lose his first seven decisions of the season as a starter was Doyle Alexander in 1982.

Even worse is the fact that the Yankees still haven’t won a game started by Severino in 2016. This is the first time in more 80 years that the Yankees have lost the first eight games started by any pitcher in a season. In 1934, they lost the first eight times that Russ Van Atta took the mound as a starting pitcher.

While the Yankees’ recent youth movement has been well-documented, the Red Sox also boast an enviable cavalry of young and exciting players. The latest call-up is 22-year-old Andrew Benintendi, who had a tremendous night at the plate, going 3-for-3 with an RBI double and two runs scored.

The former Arkansas Razorback star is the answer to our latest #FunFact, becoming the youngest Red Sox outfielder with at least three hits against Yankees at Fenway Park since Ted Williams in 1940.

(NY Daily News)
(NY Daily News)

A Yankee legend is born
The Yankees bounced back from Tuesday’s loss with an impressive and uplifting win on Wednesday night, as they stormed back from a 4-1 deficit with eight unanswered runs in the seventh and eighth innings en route a stunning 9-4 victory.

The outlook for a win was grim early on when starter Nathan Eovaldi was removed after pitching one inning due to elbow discomfort. Joe Girardi was then forced to churn through seven relievers to finish off the contest. The eight pitchers used was the most ever by a Yankee team in a nine-inning game before Sept. 1 (when rosters expand).

Starlin Castro capped off the Yankees’ furious seventh inning rally with a tie-breaking, bases-loaded, two-run double for a 6-4 lead. That hit upped Castro’s batting average with the bases full to .467 (7-for-15) this season, the highest mark among players with more than 10 at-bats in that situation through Wednesday’s games.

Castro wore the hero’s cape but it was Gary Sanchez who grabbed the headlines with his spectacular 4-for-5 performance at the plate.

The 23-year-old Sanchez is the youngest Yankee with a four-hit game against the Red Sox since Derek Jeter on July 2, 1996 (in the Bronx), and the youngest Yankee to have four hits in a game at Fenway Park since Don Mattingly on June 12, 1984.

But not only did Sanchez have four hits, he also crushed his first major-league home run, a mammoth shot to center field in the eighth inning. That made him the first Yankee age 23 or younger with at least four hits and a home run in a game against the Red Sox since Mickey Mantle on May 22, 1954.

A-Rod says goodbye to Fenway
For the second night in a row, the Yankees seemed doomed for another loss before staging an improbable late-inning rally, this time winning by the final score of 4-2.

Down 2-1 in the eighth inning with the bases loaded, Jacoby Ellsbury drilled a line drive double to left field, scoring two runs. It was the first time in pinstripes that he’s delivered a go-ahead hit with the team trailing in the eighth inning or later, and is the only Yankee to do that this season.

The good version of Michael Pineda showed up in Boston as he scattered eight hits across six innings, allowing just two runs against a potent Red Sox offense. This was his 10th start versus the Red Sox as a Yankee, and the eighth time he’s given up no more than two runs. Since his first season in pinstripes in 2014, that’s the most such starts among all major-league pitchers and twice as many as any other Yankee in that span.

(AP)
(AP)

A-Rod’s final cuts in Yankee road grays were hardly memorable (except for the loud booing) as he went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. If this is the end for A-Rod, he’ll finish his career with 59 career homers against the Red Sox, the sixth-most all-time and the most among players in the Divisional Era (since 1969). The only men ahead of him are Babe Ruth (90), Lou Gehrig (70), Mickey Mantle (69), Al Kaline (62) and Harmon Killebrew (61).

The other Rodriguez in this game, the Red Sox starter Eduardo, stifled the Yankee bats as he held them to a single run on three hits in seven innings pitched. He’s made a habit of dominating the Bronx Bombers: he hasn’t surrendered more than two runs in any of his six career starts against them.

Rodriguez is the first Red Sox pitcher in the last 100 years to have six straight starts versus the Yankees with two or fewer runs allowed in each game. The last pitcher on any team to begin his career with a streak like that against the Yankees was Dave Davenport for the St. Louis Browns in 1916.

Yankeemetrics: Surprising news, big wins [Aug. 5-7]

(AP)
(AP)

Tribute to Teix
The first stunning news conference of the weekend came just a couple hours before the opening game of this Yankees-Indians series, when Mark Teixeira announced that he will retire at the end of the 2016 season.

One of the defining numbers of Teixeira’s legacy is his unprecedented combination of power and defense, at a position where most players either excel in one of those two tools, but rarely both. Teixeira is the only first baseman with at least five Gold Gloves (awarded since 1957) and at least 400 homers.

Teixeira was also unique in that he produced at a high level right out the gate as a rookie, and showed impressive consistency during the prime years of his career. He reached the 25-homer mark in each of his first nine career seasons (2003-11), one of four players in major-league history to do that: Darryl Strawberry, Albert Pujols and Eddie Mathews are the others.

The next season he hit 38 homers and drove in 112 runs, kicking off an incredible eight-year run of 30-plus homers and 100-plus RBI. Among players that played at least 50 percent of their games at first base during the season, the only other guys to match that streak are Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx.

Teixeira was in the Bronx for less than a decade, but he still has a place alongside the all-time great first basemen to wear the pinstripes. He is one of three Yankee first baseman to compile at least 200 homers and 800 hits with the franchise. You might have heard of the others: Don Mattingly and Lou Gehrig.

Just hours after Teixeira’s emotional announcement, the Yankees took the field and produced one of their finest offensive performances of the season in routing the AL Central-leading Indians, 13-7.

Starlin Castro delivered the biggest blow of the game with his first career grand slam in the third inning. Thanks to that blast, Castro upped his batting average with the bases loaded this season to .429 (6-for-14 plus a sac fly), the second-highest in the majors among players with at least 15 plate appearances through Friday.

(Getty)
(Getty)

The letdown
The Yankees rollercoaster-like offense continued its up-and-down path, while another so-so performance from their starting pitcher doomed them in a 5-2 loss to the Indians on Saturday afternoon

Since the calendar flipped to August (and through Saturday), the Yankees game-by-game run totals have been as follows: 6, 1, 9, 1, 13, 2. For the season, that’s 44 games with two or fewer runs scored, by far the most among AL teams (no one else in the league even has 40 such games).

CC Sabathia retired the first 10 batters faced, but once again was victimized by the longball, giving up solo shots to Jason Kipnis in the fourth and Mike Napoli in the sixth inning. This was the third straight start that Sabathia has given up multiple homers, the first time in his career he’s done that.

After a shaky second inning during which he coughed up two runs, Corey Kluber dominated the Yankee lineup the rest of the way, facing the minimum number of batters over his final six innings while striking out eight batters. It was his third straight win over the Yankees, and in each of those games he’s given up no more than two runs and gotten at least eight strikeouts.

Only four other players in major-league history have fashioned such a streak — three straight games pitched with a win, eight-plus strikeouts and two or fewer runs allowed — versus the Yankees: Felix Hernandez (2010), Pedro Martinez (1999-00), Bob Feller (1946) and Lefty Grove (1926).

(Reuters)
(Reuters)

An A-bomb from A-Rod
For the second time in three days a shocking off-field news item grabbed the headlines in Yankeeland. Just hours before Sunday’s series finale, Alex Rodriguez and the team announced that the 41-year-old would play his final game on August 12 and then join the front office in a special advisor/instructor role.

A-Rod might be one of the most complicated and polarizing figures in baseball, but it’s hard to ignore his staggering (though tainted) statistical pedigree. He’s compiled numerous historic feats during his 22-season career, but most notably, he arguably possessed the best power/speed/run-producing combo tool of any hitter.

His 11 seasons of at least 100 RBI, 30 homers and 15 steals are the most all-time (and four more than anyone else), and he is the only player in major-league history with at least 2,000 RBI, 500 homers and 300 steals in a career.

Most people would agree that A-Rod’s signature moment in pinstripes was his incredible production during the Yankees’ 2009 World Series run. He hit .365/.500/.808 with six homers and 18 RBI, putting together one of the greatest single-postseason hitting lines in franchise history.

Among Yankees with at least 25 at-bats in a postseason, his 1.308 OPS ranks third behind only Mickey Mantle in 1960 (1.345) and Reggie Jackson in 1978 (1.315). Additionally, he is the only Yankee with more than five homers and more than 15 RBI in a single postseason.

There was still a game to be played after A-Rod’s announcement, and the Yankees once again rode the momentum of yet another tearful and emotional press conference, beating the Indians 3-2.

Masahiro Tanaka was masterful on the mound, scattering six hits across six innings while striking out eight and allowing just one run. He is now 5-1 with a 2.07 ERA in 10 starts following a Yankee loss. Among MLB pitchers with at least nine such starts this season, only Jacob deGrom (1.99) has a better ERA than Tanaka.

Tanaka’s final strikeout — the result of winning a 12-pitch battle with Lonnie Chisenhall to end the sixth inning — was also the 400th strikeout of his career. The only other Yankee to reach that milestone this early into his major-league career (67th game) was Al Downing.

Yankeemetrics: Playing for pride [Aug. 1-4]

(Getty)
(Getty)

#TeamFun
With the white flag flying high in the Bronx, the Yankees ushered in a new era of pinstriped baseball on Monday night with a dramatic — and thoroughly fun-to-watch — win in 10 innings over the Mets. This was their first extra-inning win in the Subway Series since May 20, 2006 at Shea Stadium.

It was a back-and-forth battle with the Yankees erasing two deficits before finally edging the Mets with some rare clutch hitting. Trailing by two runs in the eighth inning, Didi Gregorius added another gold star to his stellar season with a two-out, game-tying two-run single.

That timely hit upped his batting average with runners in scoring position and two outs to a whopping .341, the sixth-best mark among all MLB players with at least 40 at-bats in that situation through Monday. It was also the first time in Didi’s career he delivered a two-out, game-tying/go-ahead RBI in the eighth inning or later.

Starlin Castro won the game with a tie-breaking, bases-loaded sacrifice fly to the warning track in the 10th inning. This was the first extra-inning sac fly hit by a player on either team in the history of the Mets-Yankees rivalry.

The Yankees overcame another disappointing effort from CC Sabathia, who allowed five runs before getting pulled in the sixth inning. It was the 33rd time a Yankee starter gave up at least five runs in a game this season; through Monday’s slate, no other team in baseball had more such starts by their pitchers than your 2016 Yankees.

(Getty)
(Getty)

The new reality
One day after one of the most inspiring and exciting games of the season, the Yankees responded with one of their all-too-familiar lackluster and boring performances on Tuesday night, losing in a rout, 7-1.

On paper, Masahiro Tanaka seemed poised to have a strong outing against the Mets. Not only had he already thrown a shutout at Citi Field in 2014, but he also was the owner of a 1.88 ERA in nine Interleague starts, the third-best ERA among active pitchers (min. 60 IP).

Instead, things went horribly wrong as Tanaka produced a dud, allowing a career-high seven earned runs. Entering this game, he was the only MLB pitcher in the 20-season history of Interleague play to throw a quality start in each of his first nine career Interleague appearances.

For the Mets, Jacob deGrom dominated the Yankees both on the mound and at the plate, tossing seven scoreless innings while going 2-for-3 with two runs scored. (Yes, the 28-year-old right-hander crossed home plate more times than the entire Yankee team.)

deGrom is the first pitcher with multiple hits and multiple runs in a game vs. the Yankees since Ken Brett (brother of George) on Oct. 2, 1972. The pitching Brett was actually a prolific hitter, who once homered in four straight games and finished with a .698 career OPS. That’s the second-best mark among pitchers who began their career after WWII (min. 300 PA), behind only Don Newcombe (.705).

Mark Teixeira reached a nice round-number milestone with his 400th double in the sixth inning. He is the only switch-hitter in major-league history to hit at least 400 doubles and 400 home runs within the first 14 seasons of his career.

New kids on the block
Wednesday’s contest quickly devolved into an unlikely slugfest and resulted in one of the wildest — if not bizarre — games of the season. The good news is that the ending was a happy one for the Yankees, who won 9-5 to move back above the .500 mark again.

Chad Green allowed the first five batters to reach base, including a leadoff homer by Curtis Granderson; he’s now given up eight homers in 18 innings as a starter and zero homers in 9 1/3 innings as a reliever.

(Getty)
(Getty)

It was also the sixth leadoff homer surrendered by Yankee pitchers this season, the third-most by a Yankee staff in the last 75 years. The only seasons with more were in 2001 (7) and 2014 (9).

The Yankees eventually rallied with Mark Teixeira delivering the decisive blow in the second inning with a tie-breaking three-run homer off the lefty Matz. It was Teixeira’s first homer from the right side of the plate since July 31 of last year.

In between those longballs — from August 1, 2015 through August 2, 2016 — Teixeira slugged .248 as a righty, the sixth-lowest slugging percentage among the 274 players with at least 100 plate appearances as a right-handed batter in that span.

Luis Severino was brilliant in relief of the struggling Green, taking over in the fourth and finishing his outing with just one unearned run allowed on one hit in 4 1/3 dominant innings. After the game, Joe Girardi praised Severino, noting that “his slider [was] better” and “his fastball command was better … Tonight was the best I’ve seen him.”

Severino’s postgame Pitch F/X numbers echo Girardi’s comments: his darting, mid-90s fastball got strikes nearly 70 percent of the time, and his wipeout slider got whiffs on half of the 10 cuts that the Mets took against it. That was his highest slider swing-and-miss rate in any game where he’s thrown at least 15 sliders.

One is not enough
A 4-1 loss on Thursday night gave the Yankees a split in this four-game series against the Mets, an outcome that is very fitting for this Yankees team that has mastered the art of being .500 this season. They’re now 54-54 overall, which includes 44-44 before the break, 10-10 since the break, 13-13 in July and 2-2 in August.

This was the 25th time this season that the Yankees have scored one run or fewer, the most such games among all major-league teams entering the weekend slate.

Nathan Eovaldi‘s dinger problem reared its ugly head again on Thursday night, allowing his 22nd and 23rd homers of the season in the fifth inning. His rate of 1.67 homers per nine innings this year would be the worst in franchise history for any Yankee pitcher that qualified for the ERA title in a non-strike season. It was also his eighth game in 2016 giving up two or more homers, the most among all major-league pitchers.

Bartolo Colon enjoyed his return to the Bronx as he silenced the Yankee bats, surrendering just one run on five hits in 6 2/3 innings. The 43-year-old righty is the oldest pitcher ever to beat the Yankees at Yankee Stadium while pitching at least six innings and allowing no more than one run.

Yankeemetrics: Many questions, no answers [July 18-21]

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

The winning formula
Inconsistency has been the theme of this year’s Yankees team, but they have been remarkably consistent in one thing: their winning formula. Combine solid starting pitching with justenough offense to get a slim lead thru six innings, and then unleash their high-powered, flame-throwing bullpen trio to seal the victory.

The plan worked to perfection on Monday night as the Yankees opened their series against the AL East-leading Orioles with a 2-1 win.

Alex Rodriguez sparked the lineup with a towering home run to left field in the second inning. It was just his second homer at Yankee Stadium this season. A-Rod entered the game with a .226 slugging percentage in home games, the second-worst in the majors among players with at least 100 plate appearances.

The blast was his 69th against the Orioles, breaking a tie with Harmon Killebrew for the fifth-most hit against the franchise. The four guys ahead of him are Babe Ruth (96), Lou Gehrig (92), Jimmie Foxx (87) and Ted Williams (80).

And one more milestone for A-Rod: that homer was also his 1,578th hit in a Yankee uniform, passing Wally Pipp for 17th place on the franchise all-time hits list.

Aroldis Chapman’s blazing fastball was in peak form as he closed out the game for his 19th save. Per Statcast, his 1-2 pitch to J.J. Hardy reached 105.1 mph, matching the fastest pitch ever recorded by Statcast dating back to 2008. Chapman also threw a pitch that went that fast on Sept. 24, 2010 to Tony Gwynn, Jr.

Chapman hit 104 mph on three other pitches in the inning, and Ryan Flaherty actually put one of those heaters in play … barely. Chapman’s 0-2 fastball to him was clocked at 104.9 mph and broke his bat, resulting in an easy grounder for the final out of the game. That was the fastest pitch put in play by a batter in the Statcast era (since 2008).

(Getty)
(Getty)

#TeamBuy
A funny thing happened on the way to the Trade Deadline … the Yankees decided to build some momentum and hold off the cries to SELL!!! for another day as they routed the Orioles, 7-1.

Starlin Castro has hardly been a consistent run producer during his debut campaign in pinstripes, but he’s definitely come up huge at times this season. His two-run blast in the second inning gave the Yankees an early 2-0 lead they wouldn’t relinquish in this must-win game.

It was his 11th homer of the season (matching his total from last year) and his sixth that gave the Yankees a lead. That’s the most go-ahead homers of any Yankee this season.

Jacoby Ellsbury made sure the fans in the Bronx would witness history on Tuesday night when he reached base via catcher’s interference for the ninth time this season, breaking the major-league record set by Roberto Kelly in 1992. The number becomes even more ridiculous when you consider that every other player in the American League has combined for six catcher’s interferences this season.

Huge Mike
The Yankees continued their desperate push toward contender status with another victory and another dominant performance from their pitching staff on Wednesday night. It was their fourth straight win overall and the fourth game in a row they allowed no more than one run and no more than five hits.

This is the first time since 1932 that the Yankees have put together a four-game win streak at home, giving up one run or fewer and five hits or fewer in each game.

pineda
(Getty)

The Yankees took an early 1-0 lead thanks a leadoff triple by Brett Gardner and a Carlos Beltran sac fly in the bottom of the first. That snapped a franchise-record 23-game scoreless streak in the first inning dating back nearly a month. Remember, this is a team that last year led the majors with 125 runs scored in the first frame.

Carlos Beltran capped off the scoring, too, with a solo homer in the eighth inning to give the Yankees a 5-0 lead. It was his 20th homer, making him just the second switch hitter to hit 20 home runs in his age-39 season or older. Eddie Murray reached that milestone in both 1995 and 1996, at age 39 and 40.

Michael Pineda spun a gem as he pitched six scoreless innings for his first win since June 7. He featured a nasty, sharp slider that baffled the Orioles lineup, netting him a whopping 18 whiffs and six of his eight punch outs. The 18 swings-and-misses are the most that any pitcher has gotten with a slider in any game this season, one more than Clayton Kershaw had against the Blue Jays on May 7.

Back to losing
The Yankees had their confidence-boosting four-game win streak snapped on Thursday afternoon, failing to complete the sweep thanks to a listless 4-1 loss. Their all-too-familiar anemic offense mustered just one run on five hits, the 20th time in 95 games that they’ve been held to no more than a single run. The only other AL team with 20 games of zero or one run scored this season is the last-place Tampa Bay Rays.

CC Sabathia had little to celebrate on his 36th birthday as his downward spiral deepened with another discouraging outing (four runs, seven hits, 6 2/3 innings). He’s now given up at least seven hits and four runs in each of his last six starts, the first time in his career he put together a six-game streak with that many hits and runs allowed in each game.

Coincidental or not, the large lefty has historically struggled on his birthday as a major-leaguer. He’s now 0-3 with a 6.99 ERA in five starts on July 21 and his team has lost all five games.

Yankeemetrics: South side flop [July 4-6]

(AP)
(AP)

#RISPFAIL
The Yankees opened the second half of the schedule against the White Sox with a game that had a familiar tune: substandard starting pitching, lack of clutch hitting and a listless loss.

The Yankees had plenty of chances to make a dent in the scoreboard but their sputtering lineup went hitless in 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position. It was their worst 0-fer with a man on second and/or third since Sept. 12, 2012 against the Red Sox, a game they actually won 5-4; the last time they had such an awful day with RISP and lost was May 21, 2012 in a 6-0 loss to the Royals.

Starlin Castro was one of the few Yankees who actually provided some offensive fireworks with four hits in four at-bats, including two doubles, in his first game back in Chicago.

He’s the first Yankee second baseman to go 4-for-4 or better against the White Sox since Willie Randolph in 1976. With that perfect line, Castro upped his batting average at U.S. Cellular Field to .397 (25-for-63), the highest mark by any active player with at least 50 at-bats there.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The Bronx hitmen
The Yankees flipped the script on Tuesday night with a lopsided 9-0 victory in the Windy City. They put together one of their most complete games of the season — a rare confluence of terrific starting pitching and explosive bats.

The last time the Yankees had at least 20 hits and allowed zero runs was an 11-0 win on August 11, 1997 against the Twins at the Metrodome. They’d never done it before in any game against the White Sox, a rivalry that dates back to the beginning of the franchise in 1903.

The team’s offensive breakout was encouraging, but the frustrations with men on base continued as the Yankees stranded 14 guys. The only other game in the last decade where they had 20 or more hits while leaving 14 or more men on base was September 13, 2009 in a 13-3 win over the Orioles.

And if it felt like they should have scored a bunch more runs based on their bloated hit total … you’d be correct. This was the first time in at least the last 100 years that the Yankees pounded out at least 20 hits in a nine-inning game but failed to score in double digits.

Masahiro Tanaka bounced back from his worst outing of the season, firing 7 2/3 scoreless innings for his sixth win of the season. With that ace-like performance, he lowered his road ERA this season to 1.14, the lowest among starting pitchers the majors through Tuesday. It was his ninth straight road start allowing no more than two runs, the longest such streak by any Yankee pitcher since at least 1913.

From heroes to zeroes
With a chance to get back to .500 and build some momentum heading into their final pre-break series, the Yankees laid an egg as they were blanked by the White Sox, 5-0, on Wednesday night. It was just the second time they’ve ever been shut out at the current version of Comiskey Park/U.S. Cellular Field (which opened in 1991); the other game was also a 5-0 loss on April 13, 1994.

With the loss, the Yankees fell to 5-11 at U.S. Cellular since 2012, their worst record at any AL ballpark in that span, and the second-worst record by any AL team at that stadium over the past five seasons (the Rangers are 4-11).

(AP)
(AP)

Looking to extend a solid run of six June starts during which he posted a 2.75 ERA with 49 strikeouts, Michael Pineda reverted back to his early-season form, giving up five runs across six innings. Four of the five runs were scored with two outs in the second frame, highlighting two of his biggest statistical bugaboos this season: early-game troubles and difficulties closing out innings.

He’s now allowed 17 runs in the first inning, and 17 runs in the second inning this season (compared to 25 runs in all other innings combined). The 34 total runs given up in the first and second frames are the second-most by any pitcher the majors, behind only James Shields (38). Pineda also now leads all MLB pitchers with 37 two-out runs allowed.

Pineda will enter the All-Star break with first-half statistics that are both dominant (113 strikeouts in 95 1/3 innings) and dreadful (3-8 record, 5.38 ERA).

The Good: his strikeout rate of 10.69 per nine innings is the second-best in franchise history before the break (min. 60 innings), just a hair behind David Cone’s 10.72 in 1997. The Bad: he is the second Yankee pitcher to make more than 10 starts before the break and post an ERA of at least 5.30 with a win percentage of .273 or worse; the other, coincidentally (or not), was David Cone in 2000 (1-7, 6.40 ERA in 16 starts).

Putting it all together, his mix of strikeout excellence and awful run prevention is unprecedented in baseball history. Pineda’s 5.38 ERA is the highest by any pitcher heading into the All-Star break who also had a strikeout rate of at least 10 batters per nine innings and at least 75 innings pitched.