Yankeemetrics: Return of the Bronx Bombers (Sept. 4-6)

The Future looks really good right now. (Getty Images)
The Future looks really good right now. (Getty Images)

Singles are for losers …
… at least when you’re the Bronx Bombers and can hit baseballs really high and far. The Yankees turned four hits into five runs thanks to three home runs from the middle of the order, which was just enough offense to beat the Rays on Friday night.

Overall they had six baserunners the entire night, making this the first time the Yankees scored at least five runs in a game with six or fewer baserunners since a 5-4 win over the Royals on April 26, 1988.

Sure, the home runs by A-Rod, Brian McCann and Greg Bird were nice and all, but the real star of the game was Luis Severino, who pitched another gem in his sixth major-league start. With 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball he lowered his ERA to 2.04, the third-lowest by any Yankee pitcher through his first six career games (all starts) since at least 1914. The only guys better than Severino in that span are Bob Porterfield (1.94 in 1948) and Bill Piercy (1.70 in 1917).

Severino has pitched at least six innings and surrendered no more than one run in each of his last three starts, putting up a 0.98 ERA in that span. He’s the first Yankee aged 21 or younger to have three straight games of six-plus innings and one or fewer run allowed since Hall of Famer Waite Hoyt in 1921.

Andrew Miller closed out the game with his 30th save of the season, becoming the fourth different Yankee in the last four seasons to reach 30 saves (David Robertson in 2014, Mariano in 2013, Rafael Soriano in 2012). In the previous 15 years (1997-2011), the Yankees had 14 30-save seasons — all by one guy, Mr. Rivera.

Unlucky No. 13
Not even the Yankees’ official good-luck charm — Nathan Eovaldi — could help the Yankees avoid loss to the Rays on Saturday afternoon in the Bronx. The bats failed in key scoring opportunities — they went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position — but it wasn’t because they didn’t smack the ball around hard enough.

According Statcast, the line drive Didi Gregorius hit for the final out of the eighth inning with the bases loaded left his bat at 107 mph. It was the third time this season Gregorius hit a ball that hard … the previous two went for a double and a homer.

Eovaldi got tagged with his first loss since June 16 and his streak of unbeaten starts ended at 13. It was the second-longest streak of starts without a loss by a Yankee in the last 10 seasons, behind only Ivan Nova’s 20-start unbeaten run spanning the 2011-12 seasons.

The Yankees were held to six hits or fewer for the sixth straight home game, matching their longest such streak ever at Yankee Stadium (old or new). The last time it happened was July 26-30, 1988.

Another ace goes down
In the span of two pitches, the Yankees went from facing a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 deficit against the Rays and their ace Chris Archer to enjoying a 4-3 advantage. It was a lead they wouldn’t relinquish en route to a crucial 6-4 win on Sunday afternoon.

Brian McCann tied the game in the sixth inning with his career-high 25th homer of the season, a towering two-out shot into the right field seats off Archer. He’s just the second left-handed catcher in the last two decades with at least 25 homers and 80 RBI in a season. The other was Joe Mauer during his 2009 MVP campaign.

A-Rod then immediately gave the Yankees the lead, sending the very next pitch over the fence in right-center. It was his team-leading fourth go-ahead homer in the sixth inning or later this year, and the most such homers he’s hit in any season since 2010.

The Yankees ended up tagging Archer for five runs, the most they’ve ever scored off him in his nine career starts facing them. Archer entered the game 5-0 with a 1.78 ERA versus the Yankees, the lowest ERA and best record by any active pitcher with more than five starts against the team.

9/4 to 9/6 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

Kevin Kiermaier

Tonight the Yankees begin a ten-game homestand with the first of three against the Rays. This is a Very Important Homestand as far as the AL East race goes. The Yankees really need to take care of business these next ten days at home. Can’t have a repeat of the last homestand. Not if they want to win the division. Anyway, the Yankees are 8-5 against the Rays this season, including 4-2 at Yankee Stadium.

What Have The Rays Done Lately?

Tampa Bay took two of three from the fading Orioles in Baltimore earlier this week but are still 4-6 in their last ten games overall. Remember when the AL East was a wide-open four-team race a few weeks back? That’s not the case anymore. The Rays are in third place at 66-67 (-11 run differential), a whopping 8.5 games behind the Yankees. The division is a two-horse race now.

Offense & Defense

Despite a team 99 wRC+, the Rays have scored the second fewest runs (506) among AL teams this year, barely better than the White Sox (505). The disconnect between the wRC+ and runs total stems from their inability to cash in run scoring opportunities — the Rays have an 89 wRC+ with runners in scoring position and unfathomable 55 OPS+ with the bases loaded. (FanGraphs doesn’t have a bases loaded split, so no wRC+, had to go with OPS+).

Forsythe. (David Banks/Getty)
Forsythe. (David Banks/Getty)

Rookie manager Kevin Cash is currently without OF Steven Souza (wrist), OF Desmond Jennings (knee), and C Curt Casali (hamstring), all of whom are on the DL and will not return this series. Cash can still build his lineup around 3B Evan Longoria (110 wRC+) even though his production is not what it once was. UTIL Logan Forsythe (134 wRC+) is having an excellent year and 1B James Loney (86 wRC+) always kills the Yankees. They can’t get him out.

SS Asdrubal Cabrera (101 wRC+) and OF Kevin Kiermaier (96 wRC+) both play everyday while OF Grady Sizemore (79 wRC+), 1B/OF Daniel Nava (57 wRC+), OF Brandon Guyer (127 wRC+), and OF Joey Butler (107 wRC+) all kinda rotate in the outfield corners. DH John Jaso (129 wRC+) not longer catches and is the DH only. C Rene Rivera (37 wRC+) is the starting catcher with Casali out. C J.P. Arencibia, C Luke Maile, IF Tim Beckham, and IF Richie Shaffer are the September call-ups.

Overall, the Rays have a strong team defense with excellent defenders in center (Kiermaier), on the infield corners (Longoria and Loney), and behind the plate (Rivera). Asdrubal and Forsythe are serviceable on the middle infield and everyone in that outfield rotation other than Guyer is a weak spot. Back in the day the Rays would catch everything. It was annoying. Now? Not so much.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7pm ET): RHP Luis Severino (No vs. TB) vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi (vs. NYY)
Odorizzi, 25, has been excellent when healthy this year, pitching to a 3.18 ERA (3.17 FIP) in 22 starts and 133 innings. He missed a few weeks with an oblique problem earlier this summer. Odorizzi has good strikeout (21.4%) and walk (6.0%) rates, but he doesn’t keep the ball on the ground (39.7%) and he doesn’t give up homers either (0.68 HR/9). He’s become adept at getting weak pop-ups. Righties (.317 wOBA) have hit Odorizzi harder than lefties (.262 wOBA) — he had a reverse split last year as well — and it’s worth noting he has been much more effective at home (2.61 ERA and 2.72 FIP) than on the road (3.68 FIP and 3.56 FIP) this year. Odorizzi’s money-maker is a filthy mid-80s splitter he learned from teammate Alex Cobb. It gave him the swing-and-miss pitch he needed to be something more than a back-end starter. He also throws low-90s four-seamers, mid-80s cutters, and a few slow upper-60s curveballs. It’s almost like an eephus pitch. The Yankees have seen Odorizzi twice this year, scoring three runs in six innings in April and four runs in 6.1 innings in May.

Saturday (1pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. TB) vs. LHP Matt Moore (vs. NYY)
Moore is a Tommy John surgery cautionary tale. He had his elbow rebuilt last year, came back this summer, and had an 8.78 ERA (5.61 FIP) in six starts and 26.2 innings before the team had to send him to the minors. Moore was better in Triple-A (3.57 ERA and 3.26 FIP in 40.1 innings) and this will be his first start with the big league team since early-August. Moore’s strikeout (12.9%) and walk (9.9%) rates were ghastly before being sent down (34.9% and 7.2% in Triple-A, respectively), as were his grounder (35.7%) and homer (1.35 HR/9) rates. Righties (.448 wOBA) and lefties (.362 wOBA) both smacked him around. He looked nothing like the pre-Tommy John surgery Matt Moore, basically. Before getting sent down, the 26-year-old sat in the low-90s with his two and four-seam fastballs and in the low-80s with his changeup, his go-to secondary pitch. He also throws an upper-80s slider. The Yankees have not faced Moore since before he had his elbow rebuilt.

Moore. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Moore. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

Sunday (1pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. TB) vs. RHP Chris Archer (vs. NYY)
The Yankees managed to avoid Archer a few times earlier this season, but not this series. The 26-year-old has a 2.78 ERA (2.56 FIP) in 28 starts and 181 innings with dynamite strikeout (30.8%), walk (6.4%), grounder (46.3%), and homer (0.75 HR/9) numbers. He’s dominated both righties (.263 wOBA) and lefties (.250 wOBA). Archer uses mid-90s two and four-seamers to set up his upper-80s slider, which is the best slider in baseball. At least among right-handed pitchers. It’s devastating. He also throws a handful of mid-80s changeups per start. The slider is what makes him an ace though. Unhittable pitch. Archer has faced the Yankees twice this year, allowing two runs in seven innings in May and then throwing 6.2 scoreless innings in July.

Bullpen Status
Like the Yankees, the Rays had an off-day yesterday, so their bullpen is relatively fresh. RHP Brad Boxberger (3.40 ERA/4.10 FIP) is closing and right now RHP Alex Colome (3.71/3.77) is setting him up. Colome started the season in the rotation but later moved to the bullpen. LHP Jake McGee, Boxberger’s usual setup man, is done for the season following knee surgery.

RHP Steve Geltz (3.73/3.90), LHP Xavier Cedeno (2.25/3.46), RHP Brandon Gomes (3.56/3.95), and RHP Matt Andriese (4.45/4.21) are the team’s other regular relievers. LHP C.J. Riefenhauser, LHP Enny Romero, and RHP Kirby Yates are the extra September arms. Head over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s expanded bullpen, then head over to The Process Report and DRays Bay for the latest on the Rays.

Yankeemetrics: Walk-off edition, finally (July 3-5)

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Best. Win. Of. The. Season
It’s games like Friday night’s 7-5 win over the Rays that make you love this baseball team. Facing a Cy Young candidate? No problem. Down by three runs with five outs to go? Big deal. Down by two runs in extra innings? No sweat.

Brian McCann put the finishing touches on arguably the best and most dramatic win of the season, sending a deep fly ball into the right-field seats in the bottom of the 12th inning to turn a 5-4 deficit into an improbable win — their first walk-off in 2015. The last time the Yankees went this deep into the season before their first walk-off win was 1996, when it came in their 103rd game on July 28.

McCann is just the third Yankee in the last 25 years to hit a walk-off homer in extra innings with the team trailing: A-Rod’s two-run blast to beat the Braves on June 28, 2006, and Jason Giambi’s epic 14th-inning game-ending grand slam against the Twins on May 17, 2002 are the others.

McCann would not have been the hero without Mark Teixeira’s game-tying three-run shot in the eighth inning off Kevin Jepsen. It was his 10th game-tying or go-ahead homer in the eighth inning or later as a Yankee, the most of anyone on the team since he first put on pinstripes in 2009.

The home run was also the 20th of the season for Teixeira, and the 12th time in 13 major-league campaigns that he’s reached that mark. Only eight other players in MLB history have hit at least 20 homers in 12 (or more) of their first 13 career seasons: Eddie Mathews, Albert Pujols, Chipper Jones, Eddie Murray, Reggie Jackson, Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.

A win is a win, no matter how you get it
So, the Yankees had zero walk-off wins in the first 79 games — and then two in the next two games. Cue the cliches … Or not.

The Yankees can thank Brad Boxberger for Saturday’s win — he fielded Ramon Flores’ bunt and bounced a throw to first base that got away and allowed Jose Pirela to score the decisive run. It was the first time the Yankees won via a game-ending error by the pitcher since Sept. 28, 1975 against the Orioles, when Rick Dempsey scampered home after a botched pickoff attempt at third base from reliever Dyar Miller.

The last time the Yankees walked off in back-to-back games was Sept. 21-22, 2012 against the Athletics. In the first game, a catcher (Russell Martin) hit a game-ending extra-inning home run for the win; in the second game, a young utility guy (Eduardo Nunez) reached base on a error to score the winning run.

Sound familiar? Yeah, you can’t make this stuff up, folks.

The Yankees were in position to complete this bizarre string of coincidences only because Dellin Betances served up a game-tying homer to Steven Souza Jr. in the top of the ninth inning. It was the first longball Betances had surrendered since August 13 last season, snapping a 54-game streak without allowing a home run which was the fourth-longest by any Yankee pitcher in the last 100 seasons.

A loss is a loss, right?
The Yankees squandered a chance for their seventh sweep of the season when they were blown out by the Rays on Sunday, 8-1. The same Rays team that entered the afternoon riding a seven-game losing streak during which it was averaging 2.6 runs per game.

The Yankees offense was so bad that they had as many hits as double plays grounded into. Believe it or not, this is actually the second time this season they’ve had an equal number of hits as DPs or worse (had more double plays than hits against Angels last week). Before this season, no Yankee team had done it in a game since 2006.

James Loney finished the series 4-for-13 and now has a .402 batting average in 27 games at the new Yankee Stadium. That’s the highest batting average by any player with at least 100 at-bats at either version of Yankee Stadium.

Okay, that’s enough about this game.

7/2 to 7/5 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

This describes Tampa's play of late. (Presswire)
This describes Tampa’s play of late. (Presswire)

Just three series left until the All-Star break, and this weekend the Yankee play a pretty important three-game set against the Rays. The AL East race is super tight and these two clubs (as well as some others) figure to be neck and neck all season. The Yankees are 6-4 against the Rays this season, though they haven’t met since mid-May. Been a while.

What Have The Rays Done Lately?

Tampa Bay was just swept in a four-game series at home by the Indians. They lost yesterday’s game in extra innings after Cleveland’s starters flirted with a no-hitter in each of the first three games. Yikes. The Rays have lost five straight and nine of their last eleven games. They’re 42-39 with a -2 run differential overall, yet remain in the four-team cluster that is the AL East race. The Yankees are tied for first with the Orioles while the Rays and Blue Jays are one game back.

Offense & Defense

As nearly getting no-hit three games in a row suggests, the Rays are not very good offensively. They’re averaging only 3.59 runs per game with a team 95 wRC+ this year, so they’re solidly below average with the sticks. They are getting Yankees killer 1B James Loney (96 wRC+) back from a finger injury just in time for him to kill the Yankees this weekend — he’ll be activated off the DL today — though they’re without OF Desmond Jennings (knee) and DH John Jaso (wrist) with long-term injuries. Neither is due back this weekend.

Forsythe. (Presswire)
Forsythe. (Presswire)

Manager Kevin Cash’s lineup revolves around 3B Evan Longoria (116 wRC+), who’s having a good year but is no longer the monster he was from 2008-13. His power keeps disappearing. 2B Logan Forsythe (134 wRC+) has been a nice surprise and both OF Brandon Guyer (120 wRC+) and OF Joey Butler (140 wRC+) have been very good in platoon roles. OF Steven Souza (104 wRC+) is an all or nothing guy (14 homers and a 35.0 K%).

OF David DeJesus (103 wRC+) started great but has slowed down considerably. SS Asdrubal Cabrera (78 wRC+) hasn’t gotten going at all and OF Kevin Kiermaier (96 wRC+) is really streaky. He goes on major tears then disappears for weeks at a time. DH Grady Sizemore (76 wRC+) was just added to the roster and C Rene Rivera (33 wRC+) is a total black hole at the plate. It’s the curse of Buster Posey. The Rays haven’t been able to find a catcher who can hit since passing on Posey with the first overall pick in the 2008 draft to take IF Tim Beckham. (Posey went fifth overall to the Giants.)

Anyway, C Curt Casali (109 wRC+) and IF Jake Elmore (71 wRC+ in limited time) round out the bench. Kiermaier, Longoria, and Loney are all excellent defensively while Souza has a knack for great plays and hilariously bad plays. Asdrubal and Forsythe are at best average on the middle infield. Guyer and DeJesus are fine in the outfield. The Rays have a strong team defense overall, though they do miss Jennings running down balls alongside Kiermaier.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. TB) vs. RHP Chris Archer (vs. NYY)
Katie did a great job breaking down the Archer matchup earlier today, so I’m going to link back to that rather than regurgitate everything here. The 26-year-old Archer has a 2.31 ERA (2.46 FIP) in 17 starts and 109 innings, and he leans heavily on his high-octane fastball/slider combination. He doesn’t use his changeup much. Archer’s really good. Any questions? No? Good. Go read Katie’s post.

Saturday (1pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. TB) vs. RHP Nathan Karns (vs. NYY)
Karns, 27, has a 3.26 ERA (3.78 FIP) in 16 starts and 91 innings this year, though Cash tries to avoid letting him face the lineup a third time whenever possible. Karns has completed six full innings just three times in his last nine starts and he hasn’t once thrown more than six innings during that time. His strikeout (21.9%), ground ball (44.7%), and home run (0.89 HR/9) rates are all close to league average while his walk rate (9.4%) is a bit high. Lefties (.303 wOBA) have had a little more success against him than righties (.284 wOBA). Karns uses low-to-mid-90s four-seamers to set up his big breaking low-80s curveball, the pitch that got him to the big leagues. He also throws a mid-80s changeup. The Yankee have seen Karns three times already this year, scoring two runs in five innings twice and one run in 4.2 innings the other time.

Erasmo. (Presswire)
Erasmo. (Presswire)

Sunday (1pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. TB) vs. RHP Erasmo Ramirez (vs. NYY)
Like Karns, Cash tries to limit Ramirez’s exposure by preventing him from facing the lineup a third time whenever possible. The 25-year-old righty has a 4.01 ERA (3.66 FIP) in 67.1 innings spread across eleven starts and seven relief appearances this season. His strikeout (20.9%), walk (7.9%), and ground ball (47.3%) numbers are all average-ish while his homer rate (0.67 HR/9) is way south of his career average (1.18 HR/9). Erasmo was incredibly homer prone with the Mariners the last few seasons. A sinking low-80s changeup has allowed Ramirez to have more success against lefties (.250 wOBA) than righties (.332 wOBA). He sets the changeup up with low-90s two and four-seamers, and he’ll also throw a few low-80s breaking balls as well. The changeup is his moneymaker. That’s his go-to pitch. Ramirez has faced the Yankees four times this year (three relief appearances and one start) and has held them to two runs in nine innings total.

Bullpen Status
The Indians did a number on the Tampa bullpen the last few days. RHP Brad Boxberger (3.37 FIP), LHP Jake McGee (0.97 FIP), and RHP Kevin Jepsen (3.94 FIP) are Cash’s primary late-inning guys and all three pitched yesterday, as did LHP Xavier Cedeno (4.10 FIP) and RHP Steve Geltz (3.19 FIP). RHP Brandon Gomes (4.18 FIP) and LHP C.J. Riefenhauser (8.45 FIP in very limited time) are the team’s other two relievers.

Although Boxberger has racked up 20 saves this year, the Rays haven’t had a set closer since McGee returned from his offseason elbow surgery a few weeks back. McGee has three saves since then, Jepsen has five, and even Geltz has two. Part of this is matchup based — Boxberger and McGee are their Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller — and I also think part of it is keeping Boxberger’s and McGee’s future arbitration salaries down by limiting their save totals. They can’t afford big money relievers. Anyway, head over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s relievers, then head over to DRays Bay and Process Report for everything to need to know about the don’t call me Devil Rays.

How the Yankees can beat Chris Archer

gardner rays
(Getty)

The offensive numbers for the Yankees over the past week are just plain ugly: seven games, 18 runs and a .214/.286/.328 slashline. And half of those runs came in one game! The only team in the majors that can probably be jealous of the Yankees’ bats right now is the Mets.

With a matchup against the Rays’ ace Chris Archer looming tonight, conventional wisdom would suggest the Yankees have little-to-no chance of ending their offensive slump.

Archer is having a fantastic breakout campaign, ranking among the league leaders in nearly every pitching statistic, from ERA (third) to FIP (second) to strikeouts (second) to WHIP (first). He’s also dominated the Yankees during his four major-league seasons, going 5-0 with a 2.01 ERA in seven starts, and hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any of those games. The list of players to start their career with a streak of at least seven unbeaten starts and three-or-fewer runs allowed against the Yankees is a very short one: Chris Archer. Yup, that’s it.

Fortunately, this Yankees team has defied logic and common sense all season. This bizarro version of the Bronx Bombers has already crushed such aces as David Price, Jacob deGrom, Felix Hernandez and Max Scherzer — while, of course, getting dominated by the likes of Tom Koehler and Joe Kelly. (Yes, Dallas Keuchel recently made the Yankees look silly, but you can’t win ’em all, right?)

Although Archer is arguably among the top-3 pitchers in the AL right now, he has struggled at times this season. He’s allowed at least four runs in four games, including his most recent outing when the Red Sox scored five times and hit three home runs against him on June 28.

So you're telling me there's a chance. - Imgur

Unfortunately, the Yankees biggest advantage against Archer might have been getting Jacoby Ellsbury back in the lineup, who has crushed Archer in their previous matchups. But he’s still working to get his legs back into baseball shape, so instead the Yankees will turn to the scorching-hot Brett Gardner — who has also had a ton of success against Archer in the past — to lead the hit parade against the Rays’ ace on Friday night.

ellsbury gardner

No player in baseball has dominated Archer like Ellsbury. He owns the highest batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage against Archer by anyone that has faced him at least 10 times. Gardner’s 1.172 OPS is fourth among that group of batters, and he is the only player that has four extra-base hits against Archer.

The rest of the Yankees, however, have not fared as well, going a combined 9-for-63 (.143) against the Rays’ right-hander.

rest of team

The Yankees have already seen Archer once this season: on May 12 he held them to two runs on seven hits over seven innings. Nearly all that damage came in a 32-pitch first inning during which the Yankees scored two runs on four hits and a walk. Archer threw just 73 pitches over the next six frames and retired 16 of the final 19 batters.

Getting to Archer early appears to be the best game plan in trying to beat him. Nearly half of the runs he has allowed this season (14 of 33) have come in the first two innings, during which his ERA “jumps” to 3.18; after the second inning, he has a 1.92 ERA.

The Yankees also need to lay off his nasty slider, which he often throws with two strikes and buries below the knees. Opponents have hit just .163 against the pitch this season, and 93 of his 133 strikeouts have been with the breaking ball.

The Yankees were far too aggressive against the pitch in their matchup earlier this season, swinging at 24 of the 36 sliders he threw, most of which were in the dirt or unhittable (see the red dots in the image below). It was a boom-or-bust strategy for the Yankees in that game. They they whiffed on 13 (!) of those 24 swings, but got five hits on the seven sliders they were able to put into play.

archer vs yankees 5-12

It would be smart to try and jump on his heater, which he starts an at-bat with nearly 70 percent of the time. Opponents have hit .304 when putting a first-pitch fastball in play this season against Archer. If he does decide to go with a breaking ball or something off the plate initially, the Yankees need to be disciplined and lay off the pitch. Getting ahead early might be the second-best strategy against him. Archer has allowed a .754 OPS after a 1-0 count, which is only slightly better than the MLB average in those situations.

While there’s no guarantee you’ll have success, it’s better than the alternative — if you fall behind 0-1 against Archer, you’re gonna be in trouble. His OPS allowed after an 0-1 count this season is a ridiculous .362, the second-best mark among starters.

Archer has clearly established himself as one of the elite pitchers in the game and is a leading Cy Young contender, but that shouldn’t worry the Yankees tonight. They’ve already shown that they can beat the best arms in baseball, and have been a much better offensive team at home than on the road this season.

If they can execute a game plan similar to the one outlined above and take advantage of the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, there’s a good chance we’ll see the return of the real Bronx Bombers and be able to celebrate a much-needed win over a division rival.

Sunday Links: A-Rod Promo, Eddy Julio Martinez, Drew

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

The Yankees and Rangers wrap-up their three-game series later tonight with the ESPN Sunday Night Game. Sigh. Getting sick of all these late Sunday games. Anyway, here are a handful of links to hold you over until first pitch.

Minor league team apologizes for A-Rod “juice” box promotion

On Friday, the High-A Charlotte Stone Crabs (Rays) scheduled an Alex Rodriguez “juice” box promotion for their game against the Tampa Yankees. The team was going to hand out juice boxes labeled “The Sports Drink: 100% Juiced. Side Affects include: tainted records, inflated ego, omission from the Hall of Fame, and more!”

First of all, an A-Rod steroids joke? I award you no points for creativity. Secondly, Marc Topkin reports both the Yankees and Rays objected to the promotion, so it was cancelled. The Stone Crabs then issued an apology, according to Topkin. Here’s part of the text:

“On behalf of our entire organization I apologize to the New York Yankees, our affiliate club the Tampa Bay Rays, and all fans who may have taken offense,” said Stone Crabs General Manager, Jared Forma.  “While our intent was to raise awareness for the Charlotte County Homeless Coalition and the Salvation Army, we realize this promotion may have been offensive to many and for that we are sorry and have decided to cancel the promotion.  The Stone Crabs organization has the utmost respect for the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays organizations and wishes both organizations only the best in the future.”

Yeah, that probably wasn’t a good idea. It’s fine to hate A-Rod, most do, but an affiliated minor league club scheduling a promotion mocking an active player? That’s not going to sit well with the team, the league, and the MLBPA. Better luck next time.

Yankees among teams interested in Cuban OF Eddy Julio Martinez

According to Jesse Sanchez, the Yankees are one of several teams interested in free agent Cuban center fielder Eddy Julio Martinez, who has already been cleared to sign by MLB and the Office of Foreign Assets Control. Sanchez says Martinez is in showcase mode right now — he’s held several workouts for scouts and has a few more scheduled.

Martinez, 20, has been described as an “impact talent” according to Kiley McDaniel, who says he has 70 speed and 50 power on the 20-80 scouting scale. Jeff Passan hears Martinez’s signing bonus could approach $10M. There’s no indication whether Martinez is ready to sign, but he is subject to the international spending pools, so the Yankees can offer him any amount until June 25th, the final day of the 2014-15 signing period. If Martinez doesn’t sign by then, New York can only offer him $300,000 due to the penalties from last year’s international spending spree.

I don’t know much about Martinez at all, just what’s in this post basically, but, as always, I am pro adding young up-the-middle talent at all times. The Yankees have dipped their toe in the Cuban market the last few years but have yet to dive in — they attend showcases and invite players in for private workouts, but have yet to pull the trigger and sign one. Their last notable Cuban signing was Jose Contreras more than a decade ago.

(In other Cuban player news, Ben Badler reports highly touted 21-year RHP Norge Ruiz has left the island, but the Yankees won’t have a shot to sign him because he won’t be cleared until well after June 25th.)

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

For first time, Cashman noncommittal about Drew’s job security

A few weeks ago, when Stephen Drew was scuffling offensively but playing solid defense, Brian Cashman told Andrew Marchand the team was not considering a change at second base. “No. I think Drew’s been fine,” said the GM. “Right now, I’m not looking at anyone being an alternative at second base to Drew. I’m surprised you asked the question.”

Now, in late-May, Drew is still scuffling at the plate and playing solid defense, and, for the first time, Cashman indicated Drew’s job may not be set in stone. “(Drew has) got rope, but if someone pushes his way into the mix, so be it,” said Cashman to Joel Sherman yesterday. “I am open to having Drew all year or someone else taking this if they can. I can’t predict what is going to happen.”

That someone would be Rob Refsnyder, who continues to tear the cover off the ball for Triple-A Scranton after shaking off his slow start. His defense is pretty bad, so he’d fit right in with the Yankees (hardy har har), but at least there’s a shot at an offensive upgrade. Drew’s been terrible at the plate, has been going back to last season, and his leash shouldn’t be all that long. Slade Heathcott is doing well in his very (very) limited big league cameo. Maybe that will make the Yankees more willing to roll with another young player.

Yankeemetrics: May 11-14 (Rays)

(Steve Nesius/AP)
(Steve Nesius/AP)

From zero to hero
Finally. CC Sabathia got his first win of the season on Monday night as the Yankees beat the Rays in the series opener. His 0-5 record to start the season was the fourth-worst opening stretch by any Yankee lefty in the last 100 years.

The odds of getting a win were really stacked against CC entering the game. His 4-8 record at Tropicana Field was his worst at any ballpark he’d started more than five games, and the Yankees offense had scored just 13 runs during his first six starts this season. It makes perfect sense then that the Yankees broke out for 11 runs and gave the large lefty a rare win at Tropicana Field. Of course, what else were you expecting?

The Yankees backed Sabathia with barrage of home runs – five of them – and gave him plenty of run support to work with. It was their first five-homer game with Sabathia on the mound since May 8, 2011 against the Rangers. Since that night four years ago, the Yankees had eight other games with at least five homers — and somehow either Ivan Nova or Phil Hughes was the starting pitcher in five of them!

Singles night at the Trop
The Yankees scored two runs in the top of the first inning on Tuesday night but were then held scoreless the rest of the night despite generating a good number of scoring chances, and lost as the Rays rallied to win.

One day after it seemed like every ball went over the fence, the Yankees were held to just eight singles – that’s it. It was the first time since Opening Day that they didn’t have at least two extra-base hits in a game. That 32-game streak with multiple extra-base hits was tied for the fourth-longest by the franchise over the last 100 years.

Chris Archer held the Yankees to just two runs in seven innings, and though he didn’t get the win, he still hasn’t lost or given up more than three runs in seven starts vs. the team. He is the only pitcher to start his career with a streak of least seven unbeaten starts and three-or-fewer runs allowed against the Yankees in the last 100 years.

Deja vu?
The Yankees scored two runs in the top of the first inning on Wednesday night but were then held scoreless the rest of the night despite generating a good number of scoring chances, and lost as the Rays rallied to win.

Wait, what?! Did I just plagiarize myself? Sadly, yes.

They were also held without an extra-base hit for the second game in a row, scattering 10 singles off four Rays pitchers. It marked the first time the Yankees had at least eight hits, without any of them going for extra bases, in consecutive losses since Sept. 6-7, 1965 against the Orioles.

Adam Warren was the tough-luck loser on the mound for the Yankees, allowing three runs in a career-best seven innings. It was the first time in his 10 career starts that he completed at least six frames. Warren enters the record books as the only Yankee to debut in the last 100 years and pitch fewer than six innings in each of his first nine major-league starts.

A-Rod to the rescue
The offensive drought continued for the Yankees on Thursday, losing 6-1 to the Rays in the series finale. Alex Rodriguez saved the team from being shut out for the first time this season with a ninth inning solo homer, which also was their first extra base hit since Mark Teixeira homered in the ninth inning of Monday’s game. In between those longballs, the Yankees played 26 innings and hit 22 singles.

That was A-Rod’s fourth homer in seven games this year at Tropicana Field. No player on any team — even the Rays — has hit more homers at the ballpark this season. It also was his 1,000th RBI with the Yankees, making him the 13th player in team history to reach that milestone. Since RBI became official in 1920, that is easily the most 1,000-RBI players on any franchise (Cubs and Tigers are second with seven).

Erasmo Ramirez is the third starting pitcher in 2015 to hold the Yankees to one hit with five-or-more innings pitched (Anibal Sanchez on April 23, Joe Kelly on April 11). Only three pitchers did that against the team in all of 2014. There’s still four-and-a-half months left of baseball to play this season.