Yankeemetrics: Stayin’ alive, against all odds [Sept. 8-11]

(AP)
(AP)

Another Baby Bomber earns his pinstripes
The surging, red-hot Yankees took another step towards making their once-laughable postseason dreams a reality as they celebrated yet another wild and crazy win on Thursday night against the Rays.

Their magical and improbable rise up the standings continued thanks to a dramatic two-out, walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth inning by Tyler Austin, the latest Baby Bomber to deliver in the clutch for these never-say-die Yankees.

With the Yankees down to their last strike before extras, Austin crushed a 3-2 fastball into the right-field seats, etching his name on several pages in the franchise record books with that game-winning blast. He is the:

  • only Yankee first baseman to ever hit a walk-off homer against the Rays
  • second Yankee since 1988 (when pitch data is available) to hit a walk-off shot on a full count with two outs; the other was Brian McCann on Aug. 24, 2014 vs White Sox
  • first Yankee rookie with a walk-off homer since Melky Cabrera on July 18, 2006 vs Mariners
  • first Yankee rookie with two-out walk-off home run since Bobby Murcer on Aug. 5, 1969 vs Angels

Austin wasn’t the only player to clear the fences in this game as a late-season Home Run Derby broke out at Yankee Stadium. Brian McCann hit two ultra-important homers, giving the Yankees a lead in the second and fourth innings of this back-and-forth contest.

Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza both went deep twice for the Rays, becoming the first set of outfielders homer twice in a game against the Yankees since the Braves’ Andruw Jones and Ryan Klesko on July 16, 1999. The last AL outfield pair to pull off the feat was Carl Yastrzemski and Bernie Carbo for the Red Sox on June 18, 1977.

Overall, this was the 17th time since 1913 that teammates have each hit two homers in a nine-inning game versus the Yankees, but it was just the third time that the Yankees actually won the game. The only other times it happened in that span were July 21, 2002 against the Red Sox and June 21, 1990 against the Blue Jays.

Tex message slams Rays
And then there was one …

The Yankees youth brigade has fueled this incredible and improbable late-summer run, but it was an aging veteran who stole the spotlight on Friday night and provided the decisive blow in the 7-5 victory that brought the Yankees to within a single game of the final playoff spot.

Thirty-six-year-old Mark Teixeira broke open the game with a grand slam in the fourth inning, giving the Yankees a 7-2 cushion. It was Teixeira’s 11th career bases-loaded home run; among switch-hitters, only Eddie Murray (19) has more in baseball history.

The crucial hit was also a significant milestone blast for Teixeira, his 203rd homer as a Yankee, tying him with Roger Maris for 15th place on the franchise list. And it was his 406th career homer overall, one shy of matching Duke Snider for 54th place on the major-league all-time list.

tanaka cap tip
This is real, folks
The implausible has suddenly turned into the believable. Backed by a masterful and brilliant performance from their ace, Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees continued their out-of-nowhere push to the playoffs with another win on Saturday afternoon.

They’ve now won seven straight and 14 of the last 16 games started by Tanaka, and are 22-7 in his starts overall; no team in baseball this season has won more games behind a single starting pitcher than the Yankees when Tanaka is on the mound (22).

Tanaka delivered another gem, taking a shutout into the eighth inning and finishing with the first double-digit strikeout, no-walk game of his MLB career. He got a season-high 20 swings-and-misses among the 102 pitches thrown, including 18 (!) with his splitter and slider, the most he’s ever generated on those two pitches combined in a single start.

The game was a pitchers’ duel until Jacoby Ellsbury snapped a scoreless tie with a two-run homer in the sixth inning off Chris Archer, which was perhaps the least shocking hit in the game. Ellsbury is now 19-for-34 (.559) versus Archer, his highest batting average against any pitcher he faced at least 15 times.

gary didi
(Getty)

The legend of Gary Sanchez kept growing on Saturday, too, when he crushed a 420-foot homer into the left-field bullpen, the 13th time he’s gone deep in the big leagues.

He tied the major-league record for the most homers in a player’s first 35 games (the others to do it are Wally Joyner, Mike Jacobs, Kevin Maas and Wally Berger), but Sanchez is the only one in that group that also had compiled at least nine other extra-base hits in those 35 games.

Yet that towering homer wasn’t even his most impressive feat. The Rays tried to intentionally walk him in the eighth, but Sanchez reached out and connected on a 52-mph pitch that he sent 407 feet to the warning track for a sac fly. It was easily the slowest pitch that anyone has hit at least 400 feet over the last two seasons (since Statcast began tracking distance/velocity).

The Sunday Letdown
The Rays finally cooled off the red-hot Yankees, who dropped the final game of the series, 4-2, snapping their seven-game win streak. Still, even with the loss, #TeamSell is 24-14 since August 1; in that span, only the Cubs and Royals have better records than the Yankees.

The Sunday Letdown was in full effect as the Bronx Bombers’ offense stalled and the homer-prone Luis Cessa couldn’t contain the Rays’ bats. This was the Yankees’ 51st game this season scoring two or fewer runs; that’s the most among all American League teams this season, and the Yankees’ most at the 142-game mark since 1990.

The Rays had just five hits off Cessa in 5⅔ innings, but three of them went over the fence, increasing his total to 13 home runs served up in 47⅔ innings this season. Of the 25 runs he’s surrendered this season, 20 have come via the longball. His rate of 2.45 homers allowed per nine innings would be the second-highest in a single season in franchise history among guys that pitched at least 40 innings, behind only Hideki Irabu’s 2.53 in 1997.

9/8 to 9/11 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

Admiring the 2011 and 2013 wildcard banners, I see. (Presswire)
Admiring the 2011 and 2013 wildcard banners, I see. (Presswire)

There are only four home series left this season, folks. The Blue Jays are leaving town and now the Rays are coming in. This is a four-game series too, so the Yankees have a chance to pile up wins against a last place team. They’re 6-6 against Tampa Bay so far this season, including 4-2 at Yankee Stadium.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Rays hung on to beat the Orioles yesterday, snapping their three-game losing streak. They actually won six of ten games prior to that three-game skid. Tampa is 59-79 with a -29 run differential this season — they’re 28-47 in their last 75 games — which puts them firmly among the league’s cellar dwellers. They’re heading for their first top ten draft pick since taking Tim Beckham first overall in 2008. Good thing they didn’t take consensus No. 1 draft prospect Buster Posey that year, eh?

Offense & Defense

Including yesterday’s seven-run outburst, the Rays are averaging 4.24 runs per game with a team 99 wRC+. They’re so unhappy with their offense that they fired longtime hitting Derek Shelton earlier this week. Tampa’s only seriously injured position player is SS Matt Duffy (83 wRC+), who will have season-ending Achilles surgery in the near future. 3B Evan Longoria (127 wRC+) is day-to-day after taking a pitch to the hand earlier this week, though he was in the lineup at third base yesterday.

Kiermaier. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Kiermaier. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

The top four spots of manager Kevin Cash’s lineup stay pretty consistent from day-to-day. Longoria bats third with 2B Logan Forsythe (125 wRC+) leading off and CF Kevin Kiermaier (99 wRC+) hitting second. 1B Brad Miller (115 wRC+) is the cleanup man. He has 26 home runs, you know. UTIL Nick Franklin (132 wRC+) has taken over at short since Duffy got hurt, and the rotating corner outfielders are OF Corey Dickerson (89 wRC+), OF Steven Souza Jr. (79 wRC+), and OF Mikie Mahtook (29 wRC+). Franklin played some outfield too.

DH Logan Morrison (97 wRC+) is the other regular and C Bobby Wilson (87 wRC+) has taken over as the regular catcher. C Luke Maile (80 wRC+) is the backup. C Curt Casali and IF Richie Shaffer are the only September call-ups for now. The Rays didn’t exactly load up the bench. Longoria and Kiermaier are by far Tampa’s best defensive players. Forsythe is solid at second and so is Souza in right. Wilson’s a fine catcher. Left field, shortstop, and first base are weak spots.

Update: The Rays signed veteran SS Alexei Ramirez (61 wRC+) earlier today, according to Marc Topkin. He was released by the Padres a few days ago. I assume Ramirez will be their regular shortstop the rest of the way following the Duffy injury. He’s certainly their best option defensively.

Pitching Matchups

Thursday (7:05pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. TB) vs. RHP Alex Cobb (vs. NYY)
Unlike Masahiro Tanaka, Cobb was unable to successfully rehab an elbow injury, which forced him to undergo Tommy John surgery last May. The 28-year-old returned to the team’s rotation last week and held the Blue Jays to two runs in five innings while on a strict pitch count. He fanned seven, walked one, and got twice as many ground outs as fly outs. Cobb was really good from 2013-14 (2.82 ERA and 3.29 FIP), but that was two years and one elbow ligament ago. In his start last week Cobb averaged 91.4 mph with his sinker, 86.3 mph with his splitter, and 80.1 mph with his curveball. That’s down a mile or two an hour across the board from before the injury, though chances are he’s still building up arm strength.

Friday (7:05pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. TB) vs. LHP Blake Snell (vs. NYY)
The Rays are using a six-man rotation right now to control Snell’s innings and make life easy on Cobb following elbow reconstruction. The 23-year-old Snell has had a fine rookie season, pitching to a 3.39 ERA (3.42 FIP) in 15 starts and 74.1 innings. His strikeout (23.8%) and walk (12.7%) numbers are high, and there’s a disconnect between his ground ball rate (37.5%) and home run rate (0.48 HR/9). Something will have to give at some point. Not surprisingly, righties have had more success against him than lefties. Snell sits in the mid-90s with his heater, and his array of offspeed pitches includes a mid-80s changeup, a low-80s slider, and an upper-70s curveball. The Yankees have seen the young southpaw twice this season: one run in five innings in April, his MLB debut, and two runs in 5.1 innings in July.

Archer. (Bob Levey/Getty)
Archer. (Bob Levey/Getty)

Saturday (4:05pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. TB) vs. RHP Chris Archer (vs. NYY)
What a disappointing season for Archer. He finished fifth in the Cy Young voting last year and could have placed even higher, and rather than build on that success, Archer has a 4.06 ERA (3.62 FIP) in 29 starts and 175.1 innings. That’s not awful — heck, it’s better than every Yankees starter aside from Tanaka — but it’s certainly not what he or the Rays had in mind this season. Archer’s strikeout (28.4%), walk (8.2%), and grounder (47.3%) numbers are right where they were last year, but he’s been more homer prone (1.23 HR/9) and righties are having more success against him than ever before. The 27-year-old northpaw sits in the mid-90s with his heater and the upper-80s with his trademark slider. It’s nasty. One of the best sliders in baseball. It’s like a right-handed Andrew Miller slider. He also has an improved upper-80 changeup. The Yankees have faced Archer twice this season: four runs in eight innings in May, and five runs in six innings in August. The latter was Alex Rodriguez‘s final game.

Sunday (1:05pm ET): RHP Luis Cessa (vs. TB) vs. RHP Matt Andriese (vs. NYY)
Andriese, 27, has a 4.58 ERA (3.79 FIP) in 106 innings split across 15 starts and ten relief appearances this season. His peripherals are generally strong (21.1 K%, 5.2 BB%, 44.4 GB%, 1.19 HR/9) and his platoon split is relatively small. As a starter Andriese uses a low-90s four-seamer and a mid-80s changeup as his two main pitches. He added an upper-80s cutter recently that has apparently been a real nice pitch for him. He’ll also throw a few low-80s curveballs per start, but at the end of the day, Andriese is a fastball/changeup/cutter pitcher. The Yankees saw him as a starter last month and scored six runs in five innings.

Bullpen Status

Like the Yankees, the Rays loaded up their bullpen as soon as rosters expanded on September 1st. They’re carrying a dozen relievers in addition to their six starters. Here is Cash’s relief crew:

Closer: RHP Alex Colome (2.05 ERA/3.26 FIP)
Setup: RHP Brad Boxberger (3.00/4.75), LHP Xavier Cedeno (3.70/2.64)
Middle: RHP Danny Farquhar (3.64/5.13), RHP Kevin Jepsen (5.48/5.88), LHP Enny Romero (5.53/4.48)
Long: RHP Erasmo Ramirez (3.73/4.64)
Extra: RHP Eddie Gamboa, RHP Ryan Garton, RHP Steve Geltz, LHP Justin Marks, RHP Chase Whitley

Ace Whitley! He’s all done rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and was called up Monday. Good for him. Hopefully he pitches this series, but only in a blowout win for the Yankees. Gamboa, another September call-up, is a knuckleballer. He joins R.A. Dickey and Steven Wright as the only knuckleballers in MLB at the moment. All three in the AL East. Figures.

Colome is firmly established as the closer and Cash likes to rotate his setup men. Boxberger and Cedeno get the majority of the setup work, but Erasmo and Farquhar and Jepsen will see high-leverage work on occasion too. Garton (29 pitches), Jepsen (12 pitches), Boxberger (eight pitches), Farquhar (13 pitches), and Colome (13 pitches) all pitched yesterday. Farquhar is the only one coming off back-to-back days.

Head on over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s relievers. Those guys have worked an awful lot the last few days, so even though the Yankees are carrying 12 relievers, the bullpen is a little worn down.

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.

8/12 to 8/14 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

We’ve reached the final series of Alex Rodriguez‘s career. The final day, really. He will be in the lineup for tonight’s series opener against the Rays before being released and heading home to Miami. Bummer. A-Rod will be back as a special advisor/instructor next season, but this is still the end of a very complicated yet very entertaining era. The Yankees are 4-5 against Tampa Bay so far this season, by the way.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Rays have been in absolute free fall since mid-June. They’ve lost four of their last six games and are 15-35 in their last 50 games. Tampa was 31-32 on June 15th. Now they’re 46-67 with a -44 run differential overall. Only the Twins (46-69) and Braves (43-72) have worst records this season. Of course, that didn’t stop the Rays from sweeping the Yankees at Tropicana Field two weeks ago. That was the series that reportedly pushed ownership to sell at the trade deadline.

Offense & Defense

The Rays aren’t in last place by accident. They’re averaging only 4.02 runs per game with a team 98 wRC+, and that’s no good. (The Yankees are at 4.12 and 88, respectively.) The Rays are without three not very good players due to injury: OF Oswaldo Arcia (elbow), OF Desmond Jennings (knee), and 1B Logan Morrison (back). Arcia (89 wRC+) might be back this weekend. The other two were just placed on the DL this week.

Kiermaier. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
Kiermaier. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Skipper Kevin Cash changed up his lineup recently, albeit slightly. 2B Logan Forsythe (124 wRC+) and 3B Evan Longoria (129 wRC+) still bat first and third, respectively, but now CF Kevin Kiermaier (93 wRC+) hits second and 1B Brad Miller (119 wRC+) cleans up. Yes, Miller is a first baseman now. He’d been the shortstop up until last weekend. OF Mikie Mahtook (27 wRC+), DH Corey Dickerson (89 wRC+), and RF Steven Souza Jr. (92 wRC+) are lineup regulars as well.

The Rays added SS Matt Duffy (88 wRC+) in the Matt Moore trade with the Giants and he was activated off the DL today. He’s been out since mid-June with a heel injury. Duffy played third with the Giants but is a natural shortstop, and Tampa is moving him back to that position. C Luke Maille (19 wRC+) and C Bobby Wilson (58 wRC+) are the catchers, and IF Tim Beckham (82 wRC+) and UTIL Nick Franklin (106 wRC+) are the other bench players.

Tampa is a good club defensively and they’ll be better going forward with Duffy at short and Miller at first. Miller was a mess at short. He’s inexperienced at first, but at least he’ll do less damage there. Forsythe, Souza, and Mahtook are solid at their positions, Longoria moreso, and Kiermaier even moreso than that. The Yankees should be able to run on Maille and Wilson.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7:05pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. TB) vs. RHP Chris Archer (vs. NYY)
Man, what a rough year for Archer, who finished fifth in the AL Cy Young voting last season. He’s had to string together four straight quality starts to get his numbers down to 4.26 ERA (3.95 FIP) in 24 starts and 143.2 innings. His strikeout (27.3%) and grounder (47.1%) numbers are very good and right in with with last year, but he’s walking more people (8.9%) and giving up way more homers (1.38 HR/9). Thanks to his very improved upper-80s changeup, the 27-year-old Archer has closed up his platoon split. He still sits in the mid-90s with his heater and his upper-80s slider is vicious. It might be the best slider in baseball, at least among right-handers. The Yankees saw Archer back in May, and he allowed four runs in eight innings.

Saturday (1:05pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. TB) vs. RHP Matt Andriese (vs. NYY)
Andriese, 26, has moved into the rotation full-time thanks to the Moore trade. He has a 2.90 ERA (3.10 FIP) in 80.2 innings spread across ten starts and ten relief appearances this year, and he does it by limiting walks (5.6%) and homers (0.56 HR/9). His strikeout (19.4%) and grounder (46.0%) numbers are average-ish, and his platoon split has been tiny this year after being huge last year. Andriese is a low-90s fastball guy as a starter, and he also uses a mid-80s cutter. The cutter is a big pitch for him. A mid-80s changeup and low-80s curve are his two secondary pitches. The Yankees saw Andriese as a reliever late last month; he allowed one run in two innings.

Andriese. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Andriese. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

Sunday (1:05pm ET): TBA vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi (vs. NYY)
Odorizzi is quickly becoming one of those guys the Yankees can’t escape. He seems to start against them every time these two teams meet. So far this season the 26-year-old righty has a 3.69 ERA (4.00 FIP) in 24 starts and 136.2 innings, and his underlying numbers are a mixed bag: 22.1% strikeouts, 7.1% walks, 37.2% grounders, and 1.25 HR/9. Odorizzi’s had a reverse split throughout his career because his best pitch is a nasty mid-80s splitter. He sets it up with low-90s four-seamers. A low-80s cutter/slider is his third pitch, and he’ll also flip a few low-70s curves per start to mess with hitters. The Yankees have seen Odorizzi twice this year: two runs in seven innings in May, and 6.2 scoreless innings in July.

As for the Yankees, they need to come up with starters for Sunday and Monday thanks to Nathan Eovaldi‘s injury. Both Severino and Chad Green are lined up to start Sunday, so chances are they will start those two games in some order. I’d throw Luis Cessa into that mix too.

Bullpen Status

The Rays are carrying eight relievers these days, which many teams seem to do. That’s becoming a thing now. Here is Cash’s collection of relievers:

Closer: RHP Alex Colome (2.03 ERA/2.67 FIP)
Setup: RHP Brad Boxberger (3.38/5.95), LHP Xavier Cedeno (4.33/2.91)
Middle: RHP Danny Farquhar (6.28/7.74), RHP Ryan Garton (5.14/3.70), RHP Kevin Jepsen (5.12/5.12), RHP Erasmo Ramirez (3.91/4.61)
Long: RHP Dylan Floro (4.50/2.20)

Colome has had a fine season and was Tampa’s token All-Star this year. Boxberger has missed a ton of time this season with abdominal problems and is just now starting to settle in. Cedeno has left-on-left matchup guy stuff, but Cash uses him for full innings for whatever reason. Erasmo fills the Adam Warren role. I think you know what I mean.

The Rays had an off-day yesterday even though they only had to travel from Toronto to New York. Their bullpen is relatively fresh. Head over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen.

Yankeemetrics: Mediocrity at its finest [July 29-31]

(AP)
(AP)

Loss for #Yankees, Win for #TeamSell
With this weekend’s series against the Rays representing one final opportunity to convince the front office to keep the band together for a late-summer playoff push, the Yankees inched closer to declaring themselves sellers with another frustrating loss on Friday night.

All 10 of their hits were singles and they scored just one run in a 5-1 loss, going 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The the only other major-league team this season (through Friday) that had a game with double-digit hits, none for extra bases, and scored one or fewer runs was the Brewers in a 8-1 loss to the Phillies on June 5.

Ivan Nova — who had posted a 2.66 ERA in his previous four turns during a stellar month of July — was predictably horrendous in Tampa against the last-place Rays lineup, allowing five runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings.

Tropicana Field has become a house of horrors for Nova. This was his first start at the dome since April 19, 2014, his final game before being diagnosed with a torn UCL that required Tommy John surgery. And he now owns a 7.03 ERA in seven appearances (six starts) at the ballpark, the highest among all active pitchers with at least two starts and 25 innings pitched there.

The Rays clobbered Nova, with five of the six hits he allowed going for extra bases. This continues a yearlong trend of tons of loud contact against Nova, who has given up an average exit velocity of 94.9 mph on line drives and fly balls, the second-highest mark in the majors (min. 100 batted balls).

Chad Green kept the Yankees within spitting distance as he relieved Nova in the fifth inning and went the distance, throwing 3 2/3 scoreless innings. It was his third straight relief appearance with more than two innings pitched and no runs allowed. Green is just the second Yankee pitcher in the last two decades to put together a streak like that; Ramiro Mendoza had a three-gamer in 2001 and a four-gamer 2002.

You can’t spell ‘Sell’ without a couple ‘L’s’
Saturday’s deflating 6-3 defeat gave the Yankees two losses in two games to the last-place Rays, providing another layer of evidence that this team is not fit for October and needs a re-boot.

arod
(Getty)

The Yankees got off to another rocky start as Nathan Eovaldi surrendered a first-inning home run to Brad Miller, the 20th homer allowed by Yankee pitchers in the opening frame this season; through Saturday’s games, the only MLB teams that had allowed more first-inning dingers were the Twins and Royals, both with 22.

Eovaldi gave up a second homer to the Rays No. 9 hitter, catcher Curt Casali, giving him 21 homers allowed in 116 2/3 innings this year. That rate of 1.62 homers per nine innings is on pace to be the third-highest single-season mark by any Yankee qualifying pitcher, behind Phil Hughes (1.65 in 2012) and Terry Mulholland (1.79 in 1994).

Starting for the first time in a week, A-Rod did little to show management that he deserved more at-bats, going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. It was the fourth game in his Yankee career that he came to the plate at least four times and struck out each time; only one other player in franchise history had four such games during their career: Mickey Mantle.

Drew Smyly, with a career strikeout rate of 24 percent (just a few ticks above the MLB average of 20 percent), is an unlikely candidate to be A-Rod’s personal kryptonite. But these are the facts: He has struck out in nine of 12 plate appearances (including playoffs) against Smyly, his highest whiff rate versus any of the 600-plus pitchers he’s faced more than five times in his 22-season career.

Just your average Yankees
On the same day the Yankees put the proverbial For Sale sign outside team headquarters in Tampa, they sunk deeper and deeper into the depths of mediocrity, losing to the Rays, 5-3.

They are now 52-52 this season, which includes a 44-44 record before the break, 8-8 after the break and a 13-13 mark in July. #TeamMediocre

It was their fifth time being swept this year, the same number they had in 2015 … with 58 games and two months remaining. And they’ve now scored no more than three runs in 55 of their 104 games, their highest total at this point in the season since 1972.

Michael Pineda once again delivered a maddeningly inconsistent performance, flashing dominance and looking strong at times (eight strikeouts), but ended up with disappointing results and a crooked final pitching line (five runs on six hits in six innings). It was his third game this season with at least eight punch outs and five earned runs allowed; no other American League pitcher has more than one such game.

Carlos Beltran put the Yankees on the board in the sixth inning with a two-run homer that sliced the Rays lead to 3-2. It was his his 22nd homer in 2016, matching Eddie Murray (1996) for the most by a switch-hitter in his age-39 season or older.

7/29 to 7/31 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

(Getty)
(Getty)

Time for the final series before the trade deadline. The Yankees have already made one huge move by sending Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs. Will they do anything else before Monday? My guess is yes. This group could look a lot different in a few days. The Yankees are in Tampa for three games against the Rays this weekend, by the way.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Rays just wrapped up a West Coast trip in which they won four of nine games. They lost four of the final five games on the trip though. Tampa’s season completely raveled in mid-June. They were 31-32 on the morning of June 16th, and since then they’ve lost 29 of 37 games. Woof. No other team has lost more than 22 games since June 16th. The Rays are 39-61 with a -57 run differential overall. Only the Twins and the ain’t even tryin’ Braves have a worse record this season. The Yankees won two of three both times these clubs met earlier this season, including a series at Tropicana Field in late-May.

Offense & Defense

The Rays aren’t good at anything. Seriously. Below-average all the way around, even their vaunted pitching staff. Tampa is averaging only 3.95 runs per game with a team 96 wRC+. They have a 58 wRC+ as a team in high-leverage spots. Good gravy. The Rays are without OF Desmond Jennings (hamstring) and OF Mikie Mahtook (hand). Neither is expected back this series.

Miller. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Miller. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

Manager Kevin Cash stacks the top of the lineup the same way pretty much every game: 2B Logan Forsythe (113 wRC+) leads off, SS Brad Miller (104 wRC+) bats second, and 3B Evan Longoria (135 wRC+) bats third. Longoria’s power has come back this year, it seems. He’s hit 23 homers in 98 games this season after hitting 22 and 21 homers the last two years. DH/OF Corey Dickerson (93 wRC+), UTIL Steve Pearce (147 wRC+), and 1B Logan Morrison (85 wRC+) occupy the rest of the middle of the order.

CF Kevin Kiermaier (90 wRC+) and RF Steven Souza (88 wRC+) are the other notable regulars. OF Oswaldo Arcia (87 wRC+) and OF Brandon Guyer (110 wRC+) get platoon duty while C Curt Casali (54 wRC+) is the primary catcher. C Luke Maille (30 wRC+) is the backup. IF Tim Beckham (93 wRC+), the first overall pick in the 2008 draft, is finally carving out a role as a part-time player. Imagine if the Rays had taken Buster Posey, the consensus top prospect in the 2008 draft, instead of Beckham. Everything would be different.

Tampa is not a good defensive team. In fact, that’s partially by design. They accepted defensive downgrades at first (Morrison) and short (Miller) as well as behind the plate (Casali) in an effort to add offense. It hasn’t really worked. Kiermaier is an outstanding defender in center and Longoria’s really good too. Souza and Forsythe are fine. That’s about all there is to say about that. Miller has a knack for hilarious errors, just FYI.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7:10pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. TB) vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi (vs. NYY)
Two pitchers reportedly on the trade block will be on the mound tonight. Unless they’re traded within the next few hours, of course. Odorizzi, 26, has a 4.10 ERA (4.14 FIP) in 21 starts and 118.2 innings so far this season. His strikeout (22.5%), walk (7.2%), and grounder (37.2%) rates are the same as always, though he has been more homer prone (1.37 HR/9) this year than in the past. Odorizzi has a pretty big reverse split this year, which is not unusual for him. His best pitch is a nasty mid-80s splitter, which he uses to neutralize lefties. A low-to-mid-90s four-seamer sets it up. Odorizzi also throws a mid-80s cutter/slider hybrid and a soft low-70s curve. The Yankees have seen Odorizzi once before this season, when he flirted with a no-hitter. Starlin Castro ended up hitting a two-run bomb to spoil things. The Yankees won that game despite being one-hit.

Saturday (6:10pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. TB) vs. LHP Drew Smyly (vs. NYY)
It’s probably not a good thing when you trade a legitimate ace and two years later the main piece in the return has a 5.42 ERA (4.44 FIP) in 19 starts and 111.1 innings. The 27-year-old Smyly has battled injuries and inconsistency since coming over in the David Price deal, and this summer he’s been both fly ball (32.4%) and homer (1.70 HR/9) prone. His strikeout (23.5%) and walk (6.3%) rates are good though. Both lefties and righties have hit him hard this season. Smyly is a four-pitch southpaw, using a low-90s four-seamer and a mid-80s cutter to set up his low-80s changeup and mid-70s curveball. The Yankees saw Smyly back in April and, naturally, he held them to one run in seven innings.

Babyface Snell. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Babyface Snell. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

Sunday (1:10pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. TB) vs. LHP Blake Snell (vs. NYY)
Coming into the season the 23-year-old Snell was one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. The Rays selected him years ago with the compensation pick they received for losing Brad Hawpe (!) as a free agent. That was back in the old Type-A/B free agent days. Snell has a 3.05 ERA (3.12 FIP) in eight big league starts and 44.1 innings. His walk rate (11.4%) is a tad high and his strikeout (20.7%) and grounder (42.2%) rates are close to average. He hasn’t given up many homers at all (0.20 HR/9) and his platoon split is negligible. Snell sits in the mid-90s with his heater, and his array of offspeed pitches includes a mid-80s changeup, a low-80s slider, and an upper-70s curveball. He uses each of his three offspeed pitches at least 12% of the time too, so he throws everything. The Yankees saw Snell back in April — that was his MLB debut — and scored just one run in five innings.

Bullpen Status

The Rays have a bullpen with relievers in it. Some are good, some are bad. Their closer was an All-Star because the rules say the Rays needed an All-Star. That about sums up the state of Cash’s relief crew. Boring. Generic. Here’s the bullpen.

Closer: RHP Alex Colome (2.27 ERA/3.17 FIP)
Setup: LHP Xavier Cedeno (3.62/2.40), RHP Erasmo Ramirez (3.90/3.56)
Middle: RHP Kevin Jepsen (5.77/5.44), LHP Enny Romero (5.58/5.16)
Long: RHP Matt Andriese (2.70/2.91), RHP Dylan Floro (4.15/2.56)

Jepsen couldn’t get anyone out when we saw him in Minnesota a few weeks back. He’s since managed to land in Tampa. Romero throws very hard and Erasmo is kind of a multi-inning fireman reliever. Cash is pretty creative with him. Cedeno is a true left-on-left matchup guy who Cash uses for full innings for some reason. I dunno.

Like the Yankees, the Rays had an off-day yesterday. They were coming back from their West Coast and the rules say you have to have an off-day when flying west to east. Their bullpen is as fresh as it’s going to get. Same with the Yankees, but check out our Bullpen Workload page anyway.

Yankeemetrics: A Ray of Hope [May 27-29]

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Super Hiro
A couple veteran sluggers made sure that the Yankees wouldn’t waste another pitching gem in Friday night’s series opener at Tampa Bay. Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran both homered in support of another brilliant performance by Masahiro Tanaka, leading the Bronx Bombers to a 4-1 win over the Rays.

Tanaka took a perfect game into the fifth inning, allowing just two hits and no walks over seven scoreless innings. He is now 3-0 in 10 starts this season, the first Yankee pitcher with a double-digit streak of unbeaten starts to begin a season since Orlando Hernandez in 2004.

Tanaka continued his dominance away from Yankee Stadium, delivering his third straight road outing of at least seven innings, one run or fewer and no more than five hits allowed. The last Yankee with a streak like that was Mike Mussina in August 2003. He lowered his road ERA to 1.34, the best in the American League through Friday’s games (min. 15 IP).

The 27-year-old right-hander was brilliant in finishing off hitters, as the Rays went 0-for-11 in two-strike counts with four strikeouts. Tampa Bay’s left-handed bats were also held in check by Tanaka, going 0-for-10 and hit just one ball out of the infield (a fly out by Corey Dickerson in the fifth inning).

A-Rod and Beltran supplied the offensive fireworks needed for the win, becoming the first set of Yankee teammates age 39 or older to homer in the same game, and the 21st pair overall to achieve that feat. The most recent guys to do it were Frank Thomas and Matt Stairs for the Blue Jays on June 23, 2007, and the first guys were Ty Cobb and Zack Wheat for the Philadelphia A’s on July 15, 1927.

The 6-foot-7 elephant in the room
Saturday’s game went pretty much as predicted given that Michael Pineda was listed as the starting pitcher for the Yankees. The big righty gave up a bunch of first-inning runs and was hit hard all afternoon, adding another ugly pitching line to his ledger, and the Yankees lost to the Rays.

(Getty  Images)
(Getty Images)

Pineda added three more runs and four hits to his league-leading totals in the first inning, which now stand at 16 runs and 26 hits. His 14.40 first-inning ERA would easily be the highest single-season mark by any Yankee that started more than five games.

It was also his fourth game with at least six earned runs allowed this season, the most by any pitcher in the majors through Saturday’s slate. The only other Yankee in the last 60 seasons to have four such games this early into the schedule (through 48 team games) was Terry Mulholland in 1994.

On a more positive note … Beltran reached another significant statistical milestone in this game, hitting his 12th homer of the season in the fourth inning for his 2,500th career hit. He’s the 99th player all-time and the 10th switch-hitter with that many hits, but also joined an even more exclusive club when looking at his rare combo of speed, power and on-base skills.

Just three other players in major-league history, along with Beltran, have compiled at least 2,500 hits, 400 homers, 300 stolen bases and 1,000 walks: Barry Bonds, Willie Mays and Alex Rodriguez.

One is enough
One swing changed everything for the Yankees on Sunday afternoon. With Starlin Castro‘s two-run homer in the seventh inning, they avoided becoming a historical footnote in baseball history and instead added another rare win to their franchise record books. The go-ahead blast ended Jake Odorizzi’s no-hit bid in emphatic fashion and delivered one of the most unusual victories ever recorded by a Yankee team.

It was the first time since at least 1913 that the Yankees won a game of nine or more innings while recording just one hit or fewer. The only other instance of this happening in a contest of any length was July 10, 1914 against the Indians, the second game of a doubleheader that lasted only six innings. The next day, on July 11, a 19-year-old named Babe Ruth made his major-league debut for the Boston Red Sox.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

This was also the first time since at least 1913 that the Yankees were held to one hit or fewer and scored more than one run in a game, regardless of the length or outcome.

Just three other times in the Live Ball Era (since 1920) have the Yankees played a game where their only hit was a home run: Sept. 10, 1999 vs. the Red Sox (Pedro’s 17-strikeout one-hitter); June 1, 1960 vs. the Orioles; Aug. 11, 1943 vs. the Browns.

Lost in the statistical madness was another fantastic outing by Nathan Eovaldi. He threw six innings of one-run ball, winning his fifth straight start and improving to 6-0 with a 2.72 ERA in his last seven starts. Nasty Nate now has a streak of back-to-back-to-back starts of at least six innings and no more than one run allowed for the first time in his career.