Yankeemetrics: Dawn of a new era in the Bronx [Aug. 15-17]

(Getty)
(Getty)

Mean Green Chad
In what could become a familiar storyline over the final month-and-a-half of the regular season, two rookies were the difference-makers in the series-opening 1-0 win, giving the Yankees their first victory this season when scoring exactly one run (their 0-20 mark in those games before Monday was easily the most such losses without a win among all teams).

The scorching-hot bat of Aaron Judge drove in the game’s only run with a booming double to center field, while Chad Green spun a gem on the mound, tossing six scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts and no walks. Thanks to those fantastic efforts, both carved out a place in the Yankee record books and baseball history.

  • After hitting homers on Saturday and Sunday, Judge became the first Yankee with at least one extra-base hit in each of his first three career games … that’s right, Mantle, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Jeter, etc. never did it.
  • He also is the only player in American League history to have an extra-base hit and drive in at least one run in each of his first three major-league games.
  • At 25 years and 83 days old, Green is the youngest pitcher in franchise history to strike out at least 11 batters and allow no more than two baserunners in a game.
  • Green is just the second player in Major-League history to have an outing with more than 10 strikeouts, no walks and two or fewer baserunners this early into this career (ninth game). The other gem? Kerry Wood’s epic 20-strikeout, 1-hit masterpiece on May 6, 1998 against the Astros.

If not for the dazzling pitching performance by Green and the clutch hitting of Judge, this could have been a demoralizing loss for the Yankees, who squandered numerous scoring opportunities throughout the night. It’s amazing they actually won the game considering the lineup went 2-for-18 with RISP and stranded a small navy of runners on the basepaths.

The 14 men left on base were the most by any Yankee club in a nine-inning 1-0 win over the past century. In fact, the last time they even managed to do that in a 1-0 victory of any game length was July 4, 1925 against the Philadelphia A’s. The Yankees won that game on a walk-off single by backup catcher Steve O’Neil in the 15th inning, while Herb Pennock earned the win after throwing a 15-inning, four-hit, no-walk shutout.

(Getty)
(Getty)

From awesome to awful
From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, Tuesday’s ugly loss to the Blue Jays perfectly captured the Yankees’ maddeningly inconsistent season in a nutshell.

It was a tale of two games, as the Yankees built up a 5-0 lead before a thunderstorm halted the game in the middle of the fifth inning. When play resumed after a 42-minute rain delay, the Yankees tacked on another run for a seemingly insurmountable six-run lead, before everything went horribly wrong. Thanks to a few horrific performances from Anthony Swarzak (2 outs, 4 ER), Adam Warren (1 out, 4 ER) and Chasen Shreve (0 outs, 4 ER), the bullpen imploded in historic fashion and the Blue Jays scored 12 unanswered runs en route to a 12-6 victory.

The Yankees epic bullpen meltdown can be summarized in this one stat: This was the second game in franchise history where three relievers each allowed at least four earned runs; the other was July 19, 1987 against the Texas Rangers.

Even worse, it was first game in American League history in which a team had three relievers who each pitched fewer than one inning and gave up four or more earned runs. (It has happened twice before in the National League: the Giants against the Expos on May 7, 1997, and the Pirates against the Cardinals on August 6, 1959.)

Gary Sanchez provided one of the few highlights for the Yankees, going 3-for-4 with four RBI while crushing his third and fourth career home runs. The 23-year-old phenom is the youngest Yankee catcher with a multi-homer game since Bill Dickey (age 22) in 1929. Along with Sanchez, the only other Yankee backstops age 23 or younger to have a four-RBI game were Dickey and Yogi Berra.

(AP)
(AP)

Sanchez shines, Sabathia slumps
For the second day in a row, the Yankees struggled to contain Toronto’s explosive offense and lost, 7-4, as a terrible pitching performance once again doomed the home team. Tuesday night’s culprit was the bullpen, and on Wednesday afternoon the blame shifted to the rotation (plus some shoddy defense).

CC Sabathia was both electric and dreadful on the mound, striking out 12 (!) while giving up seven (!) runs on nine hits, and producing one of the strangest pitching lines you’ll ever see. He is the only player in Yankee history to have at least 12 strikeouts and give up at least seven earned runs in a game.

In fact, only four other pitchers in baseball history have done that in an outing of nine innings or fewer: Cole Hamels (2006), Curt Schilling (1997, 2001), Randy Johnson (1998) and Nolan Ryan (1973, 1977).

Gary Sanchez stole the show again with another towering homer onto the netting over Monument Park in his first at-bat of the game. He made Joe Girardi look smart for slotting him in at the No. 4 spot in the lineup, as the 23-year-old Sanchez became the youngest Yankee starting cleanup hitter to hit a home run since Bobby Murcer on August 29, 1969 against the Royals.

Sanchez now has five home runs and 11 RBI in the bigs, giving him one of the most prolific starts to a career by any Yankee: He is the only player in franchise history to hit at least five homers and drive in more than 10 runs within his first 15 major-league games.

Most impressively, all five of his longballs have been moonshots, measuring at 437, 419, 403, 407 and 426 feet, per Statcast data. Since he went deep for the first time on August 10, Sanchez is the only player in the majors to hit five 400-foot homers in that span.

8/15 to 8/17 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

One AL East rival leaves town and another comes in. The first place Blue Jays are in the Bronx for a three-game series this week. The Yankees are still kinda sorta in the postseason race, and if they’re going to make things interesting, they have to keep winning series. They’ve won their last three series and need to keep it going. Unfortunately, the Yankees are 2-7 against the Blue Jays this season. They’ve been outscored 39-21. It hasn’t been pretty.

What Have They Done Lately?

Like last season, Toronto started off slowly this season before catching fire at midseason. They bottomed out at 19-23 on May 18th and have gone 48-28 since. That’s the best record not just in the AL, but all of baseball since that admittedly arbitrary date. Toronto is 67-51 overall with a +88 run differential. They’re a half-game up in the AL East and 6.5 games better than the Yankees.

Offense & Defense

Last season the Blue Jays had baseball’s highest scoring offense since the 2009 Yankees. This year’s they’re averaging a healthy 4.81 runs per game with a team 103 wRC+, so they’re merely one of the best lineups and not the best lineup. Manager John Gibbons is without two important regulars: RF Jose Bautista (114 wRC+) and CF Kevin Pillar (79 wRC+). Bautista has a knee injury and Pillar has a thumb injury. Neither is coming back this week. OF Ezequiel Carrera (Achilles) is out too.

Encarnacion. (Presswire)
Encarnacion. (Presswire)

Even without Bautista, the Blue Jays still have an insane middle of the order led by 3B Josh Donaldson (157 wRC+) and DH Edwin Encarnacion (143 wRC+). SS Troy Tulowitzki (107 wRC+) has been much better of late too. 2B Devon Travis (120 wRC+) has come back very well from shoulder surgery, and LF Michael Saunders (129 wRC+) has been great this year. Those five guys are Toronto’s top offensive threats with Bautista sidelined. They do the majority of the damage.

C Russell Martin (92 wRC+) and 1B Justin Smoak (94 wRC+) are the other regular regulars. With Bautista and Pillar out, the Blue Jays have had to play OF Melvin Upton Jr. (87 wRC+) in center with an OF Junior Lake (74 wRC+)/OF Darrell Ceciliani (-31 wRC+) platoon in the other outfield spot. Not great. IF Darwin Barney (75 wRC+) and C Josh Thole (27 wRC+) are the other bench players. Only a three-man bench for the Blue Jays right now. More and more teams seem to be doing that.

The Blue Jays are very good defensively when at full strength. Losing Pillar and Bautista definitely hurts though. Upton and the Lake/Ceciliani platoon are a big downgrade. The infield is very good though — Donaldson is Gold Glove caliber at third, the other three guys are very good — as is Martin behind the plate. He’s still one of the top defensive catchers in the game.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (7:05pm ET): RHP Chad Green (vs. NYY) vs. RHP R.A. Dickey (vs. NYY)
Four years ago the Blue Jays acquired Dickey to be their ace, and now he’s their sixth best starter. The 41-year-old has a 4.61 ERA (5.28 FIP) in 24 starts and 142.2 innings, with the kind of peripherals you’d expect to see from a 41-year-old knuckleballer: 17.0% strikeouts, 8.6% walks, 43.4% grounders, and 1.64 HR/9. He also has a very small platoon split. Dickey’s knuckleball sits in the mid-70s and his show-me fastball averages 82 mph. He used to throw two knuckleballs with the Mets, a slow one in the low-70s and a harder one in the upper-70s, but not anymore. The Yankees scored four runs in 6.2 innings against Dickey back in May.

Tuesday (7:05pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Marco Estrada (vs. NYY)
Estrada, 33, has shown last year’s success was no fluke. He’s followed up his breakout season (3.13 ERA and 4.40 FIP) with a 2.95 ERA (3.92 FIP) in 20 starts and 128.1 innings this season. Estrada’s underlying stats don’t jump out at you (23.4 K%, 8.9 BB%, 34.3 GB%, 1.05 HR/9, small platoon split), but he’s a proven FIP beater because he’s adept at getting pop-ups and weak fly balls. The guy has a .217 BABIP this year after having a .216 BABIP last year. It’s not a fluke after 309.1 innings. Those pop-ups and weak fly balls are easy outs. Estrada does it with a dynamite upper-70s changeup that he throws with the same arm action as his upper-80s fastball. He screws up the hitter’s timing as well as any pitcher in the game. Estrada also throws some upper-80s cutters and mid-70s curves, but the fastball/changeup combo is his bread and butter. The Yankees have seen the veteran righty twice this season and it didn’t go well either time: three runs in seven innings and eight shutout innings, both in May.

Estrada. (Presswire)
Estrada. (Presswire)

Wednesday (1:05pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. TOR) vs. LHP J.A. Happ (vs. NYY)
Spoiler alert: Happ is going to get a healthy number of Cy Young votes this season. That’s what going 16-3 with a 2.96 ERA does for you. The 33-year-old has a 3.75 FIP in 23 starts and 143 innings, and like Estrada, his peripherals don’t stand out (21.6 K%, 7.5 BB%, 42.4 GB%, 0.94 HR/9, small platoon split), but the guy gets so much weak contact in the air that it works. Happ throws low-90s four-seamers, low-90s sinkers, mid-80s changeups, and upper-70s curves. Nothing sexy there. Happ has faced the Yankees twice this season, and he limited them to one run in six innings both times.

Bullpen Status

The Blue Jays have a three-man bench but only a seven-man bullpen. That’s because they’re currently using a six-man rotation as a way to control Aaron Sanchez’s and Marcus Stroman’s innings. Here’s the relief crew Gibbons has to work with:

Closer: RHP Roberto Osuna (1.89 ERA/2.49 FIP)
Setup: RHP Joaquin Benoit (3.94/4.67), RHP Jason Grilli (3.16/3.46)
Middle: RHP Joe Biagini (2.09/2.25), LHP Brett Cecil (4.74/3.91), RHP Ryan Tepera (3.68/3.82)
Long: RHP Scott Feldman (3.74/4.04)

The bullpen, specifically the middle innings, has been a problem for the Blue Jays for much of the season. The Grilli and Benoit pickups have helped, as has the emergence of Biagini, a Rule 5 Draft pick from the Giants. Cecil is the only lefty and he’s the kind of guy who can go a full inning if necessary.

Benoit, Grilli, and Cecil all pitched yesterday, though none of them threw more than nine pitches. Grilli pitched Saturday as well. Other than that, Toronto’s bullpen is in pretty good shape. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s relief crew.

Trade Deadline Notes: Nats, Sabathia, Blue Jays, Pineda

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The trade deadline is now only nine days away, and according to FanGraphs, the Yankees have a 9.6% chance to make the postseason. That’s not very good. Buster Olney (video link) said yesterday Aroldis Chapman could be dealt as soon as this weekend, though I’m not sure I buy that. “The Yankees are playing it smart and will likely take it to the end to get the most,” said an official with another team to George King. Here are the latest trade rumblings.

Nats make top prospects off-limits

Despite their interest in Chapman, Barry Svrluga reports the Nationals will not trade top prospects Lucas Giolito, Trea Turner, Victor Robles, or Reynaldo Lopez for the hard-throwing lefty. Every team says they’re unwilling to trade their top prospects this time of year, so I wouldn’t make too much of this. It’s just posturing.

If the Nationals are serious about getting Chapman (or Andrew Miller), they’ll have to put one of those guys on the table. Lopez seems most likely, mostly because he’s the lowest rated prospect of the bunch. He’s not bad — Baseball America had him 48th in their midseason top 100 — the other guys are just really, really good. Based on what Miller fetched two years ago, I think Lopez would be a fair return for Chapman.

Blue Jays scouted Sabathia

The Blue Jays had a scout watching CC Sabathia‘s most recent start, reports Jon Heyman. George King says the Astros, Mets, Marlins, and Cubs also had scouts on hand Thursday. It’s worth noting Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro was in the Indians’ front office all those years Sabathia was in Cleveland, including most as GM. There’s a bit of a connection there.

We heard Sabathia has been drawing some interest the other day, though I have a hard time believing it’s serious interest. I’m guessing it’s more “if you eat a ton of money we’ll take him off your hands” interest. Also, an intradivision trade with the Blue Jays probably isn’t happening, even though you could argue trading Sabathia to an AL East rival would be good for the Yankees.

Giants, Astros, Cubs among teams to scout Pineda

The Giants, Astros, Cubs, and “a ton” of others were on hand to see Michael Pineda‘s most recent start, report Jon Morosi and Chris Cotillo. Pineda had his first scoreless start of the season Wednesday, and he had maybe his nastiest slider of the season too. As Katie pointed out in Yankeemetrics, Pineda generated 18 swings and misses with his slider that game, the most by any pitcher in baseball in 2016.

The Yankees are at the point where they have to figure out what they want to do with Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi. Do they want to keep them long-term? If so, they should start thinking about extensions. If they don’t want them long-term, then they should trade them soon to get as much back as possible. I understand waiting and hoping they rebuild value in the second half, but I think it’s more likely they’ll lose value going forward between the injury risk and being closer to free agency.

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

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5/30 to 6/1 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Blue Jays again? The Blue Jays again. These two teams met in New York last week and now they’ll play three games in Toronto. This is their third series of the season overall and their second at Rogers Centre. The Yankees won the first game and dropped the next two in each of the first two series against the Blue Jays this year. Stop that. Win this series, please.

What Have They Done Lately?

While the Yankees were winning two of three in Tampa, the Blue Jays took two of three from the Red Sox at home. They did drop the series finale yesterday though. The Blue Jays have won seven of their last ten games overall and are 26-26 on the season with a +3 run differential. They’re in third place and the Yankees are a half-game back despite having one fewer loss.

Offense & Defense

Toronto is getting hot, folks. It was bound to happen eventually. They’ve scored 31 runs in their last five games, raising their season averages to 4.17 runs per game and a team 97 wRC+. SS Troy Tulowitzki (81 wRC+) is on the DL with a quad strain he suffered at Yankee Stadium last week, so he won’t be back this series. 1B Chris Colabello is out too. He’s still serving his performance-enhancing drug suspension.

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

As we saw last week, the Blue Jays have rearranged their lineup in an effort to generate more offense. RF Jose Bautista (138 wRC+) now bats leadoff with 3B Josh Donaldson (141 wRC+) and DH Edwin Encarnacion (105 wRC+) right behind them. They don’t wait around. They throw the thunder right at you. No sense in forcing a speedy leadoff hitter when you don’t have one, right? Right. LF Michael Saunders (148 wRC+) and 1B Justin Smoak (122 wRC+) back up the big bats as the No. 4 and 5 hitters.

2B Devon Travis (56 wRC+) came off the DL in New York last week and effectively replaces Tulowitzki in the lineup. IF Ryan Goins (15 wRC+) slid over from second to short. C Russell Martin (43 wRC+) is having a poor season despite those two homers he hit in the Bronx last week. CF Kevin Pillar (67 wRC+) is the other regular. C Josh Thole (24 wRC+), IF Darwin Barney (122 wRC+), OF Ezequiel Carrera (159 wRC+), and UTIL Jimmy Paredes (141 wRC+) are the bench players.

Even with Tulowitzki out, the Blue Jays have a strong team defense, with top notch defenders at third (Donaldson), short (Goins), center (Pillar), and catcher (Martin). Smoak, Travis, and Saunders are solid glovemen as well. Bautista is the weak link in the field and he’s not exactly Carlos Beltran out there. His arm his strong but his range is a little limited. Overall, this team can really catch the ol’ baseball.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (7pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Marco Estrada (vs. NYY)
The 32-year-old Estrada is one of the most unconventionally effective pitchers in the game. He has a 2.76 ERA (3.85 FIP) in nine starts and 58.2 innings despite sitting around 88 mph with his fastball. Estrada disrupts timing expertly with an upper-70s changeup that he throws with the same arm action as his heater. By time you’re able to tell the two pitches apart, it’s too late. You’ve started your swing already. Estrada has a good strikeout rate (22.0%) and not so good walk (9.8%) and grounder (37.6%) rates. Most of his fly balls are weak pop-ups though, which is why his homer rate (0.92 HR/9) is roughly league average. Estrada will throw some upper-80s cutters and mid-70s curves per start, and he’s typically more effective against righties than lefties. Last week he held the Yankees to three runs in seven innings.

Tuesday (7pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. TOR) vs. LHP J.A. Happ (vs. NYY)
There is growing evidence that when Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage fixes a pitcher, he stays fixed. Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez were dynamite under his watch — Volquez left the Pirates and he’s still very good — and last year Happ was outstanding following a midseason trade to Pittsburgh. He’s continued to be outstanding with the Blue Jays this year. Happ, 33, had a 3.20 ERA (4.29 FIP) in ten starts and 64.2 innings this season despite middling peripherals: 16.3% strikeouts, 7.8% walks, 44.4% grounders, and 0.97 HR/9. He’s been better against lefties than righties, as expected. Happ throws low-90s four-seamers, low-90s sinkers, mid-80s changeups, and upper-70s curves. Last week the Yankees scored just one run in seven innings against the veteran southpaw.

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)
(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Wednesday (7pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Aaron Sanchez (vs. NYY)
The 23-year-old Sanchez is starting to get the hang of this starting pitcher thing. He has a 3.29 ERA (3.24 FIP) in ten starts and 65.2 innings this season, and he’s done it by combining strikeouts (21.5%) and grounders (59.7%). His walk rate (8.5%) is okay and he keeps the ball in the park (0.55 HR/9). Sanchez lives off his mid-90s sinker and he backs it up with an upper-70s curveball and an improving upper-80s changeup. The changeup is still a work in progress, but it is getting better. Lefties still give him trouble when he can’t keep the change down. Sanchez held New York to two runs (one earned) in six innings back in April. He did not face them in the Bronx last week.

Bullpen Status

The Red Sox did the Yankees a real solid this weekend by taxing Toronto’s bullpen. They played eleven innings yesterday and manager John Gibbons had to get 11.2 total innings out of his bullpen in the three games, and most of them were high-leverage innings. Here is the status of their relief crew and the number of pitches they threw against the BoSox:

Role ERA FIP Sunday Saturday Friday
RHP Roberto Osuna Closer 1.17 2.20 19 0 13
RHP Gavin Floyd Setup 3.91 4.46 18 15 0
RHP Jesse Chavez Middle 3.36 5.42 24 9 0
RHP Drew Storen Middle 7.02 4.97 14 17 0
LHP Aaron Loup LOOGY 0.00 -2.89 0 9 0
LHP Chad Girodo LOOGY 4.82 7.91 7 0 0
RHP Joe Biagini Long 0.91 2.51 26 0 20

(Don’t read to much into Loup’s stats. He recently came off the DL and has thrown two-thirds of an inning this season.)

Osuna has pitched four times in the last five days. This is a 21-year-old kid we’re talking about. I can’t imagine he will be available tonight. The Blue Jays want to protect his arm and sending him out there five times in the span of six days is just … no. No. Not happening. Biagini has pitched four times in the last six days as well.

Estrada is mighty good, but, given the status of Toronto’s bullpen, the Yankees have to be patient tonight and get Estrada’s pitch count up. Gibbons’ only two fresh relievers are lefty specialists. Getting to the bullpen as early as possible will help the Yankees tonight and over the rest of the series as well. This bullpen is capital-T Taxed. I wouldn’t be surprised if they made a roster move to add a fresh long man before tonight’s game.

As for the Yankees, their bullpen is in pretty good shape. Joe Girardi should have his three big end-game arms tonight if necessary. Head on over to our Bullpen Workload page to see how many pitches each of New York’s relievers have thrown over the last ten days.

Yankeemetrics: Fun while it lasted [May 24-26]

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Famous Nathan
A cross-country trip and an off-day did little to slow down the Yankees’ momentum as they extended their win streak to six games on Tuesday with a 6-0 blanking of the Blue Jays.

The victory also lifted them to the magical .500 mark for the first time since April 14; that 35-game blip with a sub-.500 record was their longest such stretch since the middle of the 1995 season.

Nathan Eovaldi continued his personal run of excellence with one of his strongest outings of the season. He gave up just two hits in six shutout innings, his second straight start going that deep into the game surrendering no more than two hits, and the third time overall in 2016 he’s done that.

Through Tuesday’s games, the only other pitcher in the majors this season with three games of at least six innings pitched and two or fewer hits allowed was Jake Arrieta. The last Yankee pitcher to compile three such outings within the team’s first 45 games was Bob Shawkey in 1919.

Eovaldi dominated the Toronto lineup with a nasty combo of 98-mph heaters and diving splitters. Of the 87 four-seam fastballs and split-finger fastballs that he threw, the Blue Jays swung at 42 of them and missed 11 times, his second-most combined whiffs on those two pitches in a start this season. Toronto went 0-for-18 in at-bats ending in either a four-seamer or splitter, including five strikeouts, all with the splitter.

Chasen nothing
The Yankees win streak came to a screeching halt on Wednesday after getting pounded by the Blue Jays, 8-4, and once again falling below .500 on the season.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Looking at the final score, you hardly could have predicted that this would be a loss for the Yankees. Entering the game, the Yankees were 17-1 when scoring at least four runs (best record in MLB) and the Blue Jays were 0-21 when allowing at least four runs (worst record in MLB).

The game was tight through the middle innings until Chasen Shreve entered in the seventh … and then things quickly got out of hand as the struggling lefty surrendered two homers and a double to the first three batters he faced. That gave him seven longballs allowed in 19 innings pitched this season, a rate of 3.32 per nine innings that would easily be the highest single-season mark by a Yankee pitcher with at least 15 innings pitched.

The last Yankee to give up at least three extra-base hits, including two homers, in an outing of one inning or fewer was … Shreve on August 2, 2015 against the White Sox. The only other player in franchise history to have two such games in their Yankee career was Catfish Hunter (in 1977 and 1978).

The one-man show
The Yankees wasted a stellar outing from CC Sabathia and dropped the rubber game on Thursday afternoon, 3-1. They’ve now lost four straight series at Yankee Stadium to the Blue Jays, their longest home series losing streak in the history of the rivalry.

Sabathia turned in another dazzling performance on the mound, holding Toronto to just two hits and two runs (both unearned) in seven innings. He’s now allowed three-or-fewer runs in each of his first seven starts, matching the longest such streak to begin a season in his career. He also did it in 2006 as a 25-year-old with the Indians.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Sabathia has quietly been one of the best pitchers in the entire American League dating back to the final month of last season. His 2.56 ERA since Sept. 1, 2015 is the fourth-lowest among AL pitchers with at least 10 starts in that span.

Carlos Beltran returned to the outfield but couldn’t keep up his scorching-hot production with the bat, going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. The only other Yankee right fielders in the last 25 seasons to come to the plate at least four times in a game and strike out every time were Paul O’Neill (1997) and Raul Mondesi (2002).

5/24 to 5/26 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees are back home from the West Coast but only temporarily. They’ll play three games against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium this week before heading back out on the road for a ten-game trip. Also of note: the Yankees will play their next four series against AL East rivals. Time to make up some ground in the division. The Yanks lost two of three to the Jays in Toronto last month.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Blue Jays took three of four from the lowly Twins over the weekend, but they were struggling pretty hard before that. Like five straight losses and eight losses in eleven games hard. Toronto is 22-24 with a +2 run differential overall in 2016. They occupy the AL East cellar at the moment, a spot the Yankees occupied for far too long this season.

Offense & Defense

Last season the Blue Jays scored more runs than any team since the 2009 Yankees. This year they’re averaging only 4.04 runs per game with a team 97 wRC+. Can’t say I saw that coming! The Blue Jays are still without 2B Devon Travis, who is currently on a minor league rehab assignment after having shoulder surgery last year. Over the weekend manager John Gibbons told Arden Zwelling he “wouldn’t expect” Travis to be back this series. Also, 1B Chris Colabello is currently out serving a performance-enhancing drug suspension.

Bautista. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
Bautista. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Toronto has been struggling offensively so much this month that last week the players got together, held a team meeting to talk things out, and then made some lineup suggestions to Gibbons. As a result, RF Jose Bautista (139 wRC+) now bats leadoff. Yes, really. 3B Josh Donaldson (137 wRC+) and DH Edwin Encarnacion (106 wRC+) bat second and third with 1B Justin Smoak (132 wRC+) settling in as the cleanup hitter. SS Troy Tulowitzki (83 wRC+) and LF Michael Saunders (164 wRC+) follow as the five-six hitters.

The bottom of the lineup has been wholly unproductive for the Blue Jays. C Russell Martin (14 wRC+) is having a miserable season, which means he’s going to hit like five homers with a .750 OBP this series. CF Kevin Pillar (76 wRC+) and 2B Ryan Goins (12 wRC+) round out the regulars. C Josh Thole (30 wRC+), UTIL Jimmy Paredes (11 PA), IF Darwin Barney (127 wRC+), and OF Ezequiel Carrera (136 wRC+) are the four bench players, though they don’t play a whole lot. Gibbons tends to stick with his regulars.

The Blue Jays have a sneaky good team defense. That part of their game gets overlooked because their offense was so dynamic last season. Pillar, Martin, Donaldson, and Goins are all excellent defenders while Tulowitzki, Smoak, and Saunders are all above-average as well. Bautista doesn’t have much range these days but his arm is a cannon. He’ll shut down the running down without even having to make a throw a la Aaron Hicks.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday (7:05pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. TOR) vs. RHP R.A. Dickey (vs. NYY)
What better way to start the series than against the knuckleballer? (Note: There are many better ways to start a series.) Dickey, 41, has a 4.50 ERA (4.45 FIP) in nine starts and 54 innings this year. His peripherals look like the peripherals of every other knuckleballer in history: 17.5% strikeouts, 7.4% grounders, 45.0% grounders, and 1.33 HR/9. He’s also been hammered by lefties this year but historically has a small platoon split. Dickey’s knuckler sits in the mid-70s and he throws it roughly 90% of the time. Back in the day with the Mets he threw two knuckleballs, a hard one in the upper-70s and a softer one in the upper-60s, but that is no longer the case. A low-80s fastball is his get-me-over pitch. The Yankees did not see Dickey when these two clubs met in April.

Wednesday (7:05pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Marco Estrada (vs. NYY)
I have to say, I did not expect Estrada to repeat the success he had last year at all. He didn’t add a new pitch, didn’t change his pitch selection, nothing. I don’t want to say his success was a fluke, but it didn’t seem repeatable. Boy was I wrong. The 32-year-old Estrada has a 2.61 ERA (3.24 FIP) in eight starts and 51.2 innings this year, which is actually better than what he did last year (3.13 ERA and 4.40 FIP). His strikeout (24.2%) and homer (0.70 HR/9) rates are strong while his walk (9.2%) and grounder (40.7%) rates leave something to be desired. Estrada is a proven FIP beater because he’s adept at getting pop-ups and weak fly balls. He does it with a dynamite upper-70s changeup that he throws with the same arm action as his upper-80s fastball. It’s impossible to tell the two pitches apart until it’s too late. Estrada screws up the hitter’s timing as well as any pitcher in the game. He also throws some upper-80s cutters and mid-70s curves, but the fastball/changeup combo is his bread and butter. Like Dickey, the Yankees did not face Estrada in the series last month.

Estrada. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)
Estrada. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Thursday (4:05pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Aaron Sanchez (vs. NYY)
Don’t ask me why this is a 4:05pm ET start. It just is. Anyway, it seems young Mr. Sanchez is starting to find his way as a starting pitcher in this league. The 23-year-old has a 3.20 ERA (3.30 FIP) in nine starts and 59 innings by pairing an above-average strikeout rate (21.4%) with an excellent ground ball rate (58.1%). He walks a few too many (8.6%) and keeps the ball in the park (0.61 HR/9) with his heavy mid-90 sinker. Sanchez backs the sinker up with an upper-70s curveball and an improving upper-80s changeup. The changeup is still a work in progress, but it is getting better. Lefties still give him trouble when he can’t keep the change down. Sanchez held the Yankees to two runs (one earned) in six innings last month.

Bullpen Status

The bullpen has been a big problem for the Blue Jays all season. Their relievers have a 3.79 ERA (4.29 FIP) overall and they’ve been extremely home run prone (1.32 HR/9). Who knows what will happen in any given game, but, generally speaking, this is not a shutdown bullpen. Here are the relievers Gibbons has at his disposal:

Closer: RHP Roberto Osuna (1.40 ERA/2.24 FIP)
Setup: RHP Gavin Floyd (3.05/3.84)
Middle: RHP Drew Storen (7.80/5.40), RHP Joe Biagini (0.59/2.80), LHP Chad Girodo (3.38/6.07)
Long: SwP Pat Venditte (4.50/4.57)

Toronto had an off-day yesterday, so everyone is fresh. Storen has had some rather big meltdowns this season (what else is new?) so these days he gets lower leverage innings rather than setup work. Floyd is handling eighth inning duties for the time being. It’s worth noting Girodo has been in the big leagues for about three weeks, so the Blue Jays don’t have an established left-on-left reliever.

The Yankees, like the Blue Jays, had an off-day yesterday, so their bullpen is as rested as it’s going to get. Check out our Bullpen Workload page either. I know the Blue Jays have not been tearing the cover off the ball like they did last year, but these intra-division games are never easy. The Yankees are going to need their bullpen to win them some games this week.