Yankeemetrics: April 20-23 (Tigers)

Good times in Motown. Photo credit: Associated Press)
Good times in Motown. Photo credit: Associated Press)

Don’t blame CC
The Yankees wasted a dominant pitching performance by CC Sabathia in the opening game of the series, losing 2-1 to the Tigers on Monday night. Sabathia, who faced the minimum number of hitters through six innings, went the distance and allowed just two runs on seven hits.

Sabathia ended up losing for the third time in three starts this season, despite not having given up more than four earned runs in any of those outings. Bad luck? He is the first Yankee to lose his first three games of the season, allowing four-or-fewer earned runs in each game, since Fritz Peterson and Mel Stottlemyre both had streaks like that to begin the 1972 season.

While the loss was painful, at least it was over quickly. The game last two hours, 20 minutes, the second time this season the Yankees have played a game in less than two-and-a-half hours. The only other year since 2000 that they played multiple sub-2:30 games within their first 13 games was 2003.

Two outs are better than one
Nathan Eovaldi pitched seven innings of one-run ball on Tuesday to pick up his first win in pinstripes (he was wearing road greys, I know).

Like Sabathia in the first game, Nate the Great was helped out by an infield defense that converted four double plays behind him. This was the first time that Yankee starters generated at least three GIDPs in back-to-back games since Fritz Peterson and Mel Stottlemyre (them again!) on April 14 and 15, 1973.

Chris Young continued to swing a hot bat, going 3-for-3 with two walks and fell a triple short of the cycle. Before Young, the last Yankee right fielder to reach base at least five times, make no outs and hit a home run in a game was Shane Spencer on August 7, 1998 against the Royals.

Snow is the Yankees best friend
The winter-like forecast for Wednesday night’s game couldn’t cool down the Yankee bats, as they routed the Tigers 13-4 and pushed their record over .500 (8-7) for the first time this season.

Jacoby Ellsbury picked up his first RBI of the year in the Yankees six-run first inning, ending a drought of 65 plate appearances without driving in a run to start the season. It was the longest such streak by any Yankee since 1967, when Mike Hegan didn’t get his first RBI until his 88th plate appearance of the year.

Breaking news: You cannot stop Chris Young, you can only hope to contain him. Young went 3-for-6 and scored two runs, raising his batting line to a ridiculous .368/.442/.816 in 13 games. He also became first Yankee outfielder with back-to-back three-hit games vs. the Tigers since Bernie Williams in 1995 (a fitting tribute on the same day that Bernie announced his retirement from baseball).

The Yankees did nearly all their damage against former Cy Young winner David Price, who got shelled by the Bronx Bombers for the second time in a row. Last August he gave up eight runs on 12 hits; Wednesday he was tagged for eight runs on 10 hits.

He’s in pretty good company, though, with those two awful performances: The last pitcher to allow at least eight runs and double-digit hits in consecutive outings against the Yankees was Hall of Famer Bob Feller in 1938-39.

Hits are overrated
The Yankees ended their 10-game road trip with another win in Detroit on Thursday, giving them a ton of momentum heading into the weekend matchup against the streaking Mets.

Masahiro Tanaka delivered another strong outing, pitching six-plus innings of one-run ball and giving up only three hits to the powerful Tigers lineup. Here is the list of Yankees in the last 100 years to throw back-to-back road games of more than six innings pitched, three or fewer hits allowed and at least six strikeouts within a single season: Masahiro Tanaka, Whitey Ford (1962). Yup, that’s it.

Andrew Miller pitched a perfect ninth inning with two strikeouts to get his sixth save in six chances. Since saves became an official stat in 1969, Miller is just the second player to begin his Yankee career by converting his first six save opportunities while giving up no more than one hit in those games. The other was the immortal Xavier Hernandez, who was part of the trio of closers the Yankees used in the 1994 strike-shortened season (along with Steve Howe and Bob Wickman).

Yankeemetrics: April 17-19 (Rays)

Welcome back, Alex. (Photo credit: Chris O'Meara/Associated Press)
Welcome back, Alex. (Photo credit: Chris O’Meara/Associated Press)

Back to the future, Part I
Alex Rodriguez delivered a vintage performance in the series opener against the Rays, leading the Yankees to a 5-4 win at Tropicana Field. A-Rod was almost literally the entire Yankees offense on Friday night. Seriously.

Rodriguez went 3-for-4 with four RBI and scored two runs; the rest of the lineup produced one run and went 2-for-26 in the game. Each of his three hits either gave the Yankees the lead or tied the game: his second-inning solo homer put the Yankees up 1-0, his sixth inning two-run blast tied the game at 4-4, and his eighth inning single drove in the game-winning run.

Let’s give A-Rod’s performance the proper Yankeemetric treatment, in bullet-point form:

• His first homer traveled 477 feet, according to hittrackeronline.com, the longest home run in the majors this season and the second-longest by any Yankee over the last 10 seasons. The only longer one was a 488-foot shot by Rodriguez on June 15, 2006 off Cliff Lee at the old Yankee Stadium.

• He is the second-oldest Yankee ever to have multi-homer game with four-or-more RBI, behind only a 43-year-old Enos Slaughter July 19, 1959 vs. the White Sox.

• He ended the night with four homers and 11 RBI after the first 10 games of the season. A-Rod is the first Yankee in franchise history to hit that many homers and have that many RBI in the team’s first 10 games at the age of 39 or older. The last 39-year-old (or older) on any team to reach those totals this early into the season was Eddie Murray for the Indians in 1995.

A-Rod’s eighth-inning heroics were set up by a lead-off single from Carlos Beltran. It was his 1,000th hit in the American League, making him the eighth player in major-league history with at least 1,000 hits in both leagues. The others are Frank Robinson, Dave Winfield, Vladimir Guerrero, Fred McGriff, Orlando Cabrera, Carlos Lee and Alfonso Soriano.

Back to the future, Part II
Masahiro Tanaka tossed his first (and hopefully not last) gem of the season on Saturday night as the Yankees clinched their first series win of the season with a 9-0 victory. It was the second-biggest shutout win for the Yankees at Tropicana Field, behind only a 10-0 blowout on April 10, 2010.

Tanaka dominated the Rays lineup, throwing seven scoreless innings with eight strikeouts, no walks and two hits allowed. The last Yankee right-hander with a performance like that – at least eight strikeouts, zero walks and no more than two hits given up – was Mike Mussina in his near-perfect game against the Red Sox on Sept. 2, 2001.

The game was a pitchers duel until the sixth inning when Brian McCann ripped a two-run triple to break a scoreless tie. It had been more than 15 years since a Yankee catcher hit a go-ahead triple that late in a game. Jorge Posada‘s sixth-inning bases-loaded triple on April 13, 2000 was the game-winning hit against the Rangers.

Chris Young turned the game into a rout with a grand slam in the seventh inning. He is the first Yankee right-fielder with a grand slam against the Rays since Paul O’Neil on August 16, 2001. Before Young, no Yankee right-fielder had ever hit a grand slam at Tropicana Field.

How sweep it is
The Yankees finished off their first sweep of the season with a 5-3 win on Sunday. Last year the team didn’t record its first series sweep of three games or more until June 10-12 at Seattle.

Yes, the Yankees have certainly lived up to their Bronx Bombers nickname this season (17 homers in 12 games) but don’t underestimate their ability to play smallball, too. They scored two of their five runs via sacrifice flies on Sunday, bring their total to an MLB-best 10 sac flies on the season. It is just the second time since they became an official stat in 1954 that the Yankees have hit double-digits sac flies in the team’s first 12 games (had 12 in 1997).

Andrew Miller struck out three batters after giving up a leadoff double for his fourth save of the season. It was his third consecutive outing with a save and at least three strikeouts, the first Yankee reliever ever to have a streak of games like that (Mariano Rivera never did it more than two appearances in a row, believe it or not).

Yankeemetrics: April 13-15 (Orioles)

Stephen Drew, grand slam. Not a joke. (Photo credit: NY Daily News)
Stephen Drew, grand slam. Not a joke. (Photo credit: NY Daily News)

Going streaking
The Yankees started their 10-game road trip with a 6-5 win over Orioles at Camden Yards, fueled by a three-homer outburst that gave them an AL-best 12 longballs through the first seven games. It’s just the seventh time in franchise history they’ve hit at least a dozen homers this early into the season, and the first time since 2011.

Stephen Drew was the unlikely hero for the Yankees, delivering the big blow with a pinch-hit grand slam in the seventh inning to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 6-4 lead. How rare was Drew’s homer? The only other Yankee in the past 75 years with a two-out, go-ahead pinch-hit grand slam was Johnny Blanchard on July 21, 1961 vs. the Red Sox. Prior to Drew, the last Yankee with a pinch-hit slam in the month of April was Bobby Murcer on April 9, 1981 against the Rangers.

Michael Pineda got the win despite a shaky outing in which he was pulled in the seventh inning after giving up five runs on nine hits. It was the first time as a Yankee he had allowed more than two runs in a start on the road. Pineda’s streak of seven consecutive road starts giving up two-or-fewer runs was the longest to begin a Yankee career over the last 100 seasons.

Sabathia’s least favorite road trip
So much for winning streaks. The Yankees lost the middle game of their three-game set vs. the Orioles, 4-3, as CC Sabathia was knocked around for four runs on seven hits in seven innings. This is the first time in his 15-year career that he’s started a season with two losses in his first two outings.

Sabathia, who once dominated the O’s in Baltimore (10-1, 2.73 ERA in first 12 starts at Camden Yards), fell to 0-5 in his last seven road starts against the Orioles. The only Yankee pitcher with a longer road losing streak against the Orioles in Baltimore is Stan Bahnsen, who lost six straight decisions from 1968-71.

Mark Teixeira tried to rally the Yankees with an RBI double in the sixth inning. Prior to that hit, Teixeira was hitless in 14 at-bats against Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez. That was his second-worst 0-fer vs. any pitcher in his career, behind only an 0-for-16 mark against Freddy Garcia. #WeirdBaseball.

Alex Rodriguez had a chance to tie the game when he pinch hit for Drew with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and the Yankees down 4-3, but grounded out for the final out. That dropped A-Rod‘s career line as a pinch hitter to 1-for-19, including the postseason. The lone hit was a 10th-inning single in a win over the Rays on August 25, 2013.

It’s just one game, right…
The Yankees relief corps entered the rubber game against the Orioles as one of the best bullpens in the AL, ranking second in ERA and third in batting average allowed. But they imploded on Wednesday night and blew a 3-2 lead in spectacular fashion, giving up nearly as many earned runs (5) in the sixth inning alone as they had in the first eight games combined (7). That paved the way for an eventual 7-5 loss, dropping the Yankees to 3-6 on the season, their worst nine-game start since 1991.

A-Rod provided one of the offensive highlights for the Yankees, hitting a deep bomb to left field for his 656th career home run (four away from Willie and potential $6 million bonus!) and 32nd at Camden Yards. That’s 10 more homers at the ballpark in Baltimore than any other visiting player.

The Yankees tagged Orioles pitcher Bud Norris for three runs in five innings but he ended up with a no-decision when the Orioles rallied to take the lead in the sixth inning. Norris remained perfect (4-0) in five career games against the Yankees, becoming just one of five Orioles pitchers (since the team moved to Baltimore in 1954) to go unbeaten in his first five major-league starts against New York. The others are Hoyt Wilhelm, Tom Phoebus, Rudy May, and Bob Milacki.

Yankeemetrics: April 10-12 (Red Sox)

Chase Headley, clutch Yankee. (Photo credit: Richard Perry/The New York Times
Chase Headley, clutch Yankee. (Photo: Richard Perry/New York Times)

I watched the entire game!
Three times a charm, right? Wrong.

In the series opener against their most-hated rival, the Yankees somehow erased three separate one-run deficits with their backs against the wall in the ninth, 16th and 18th innings – but could never get the big hit needed to complete the rally against the Red Sox. There are brutal losses, and then there’s the way that the Yankees lost in 19 innings on Friday night.

Let’s recap the craziness of this epic marathon in bullet-point form. First, some notes on the game length:

• It was the sixth game of at least 19 innings in franchise history and the first since a 5-4 19-inning win on August 25, 1976 against Minnesota.
• The only other time the Yankees lost a game that lasted at least 19 innings was a 3-2 loss in 19 innings on May 24, 1918 vs. Cleveland.
• The game was the longest the Yankees have ever played this early into the season (first four games).
• The Yankees and Red Sox have been playing each other since 1903. The only other game in the rivalry that lasted longer than this one was a 20-inning win on August 29, 1967.
• The game lasted six hours and 49 minutes, the longest game ever played by the Yankees in the Bronx. It was just shy of the longest game the Yankees have played anywhere, which was a seven-hour marathon at Detroit on June 24, 1962.

And now let’s put into context how improbable the clutch, game-saving hits were by Chase Headley, Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran:

• Headley became the first Yankee with a game-tying two-out homer in the ninth inning against the Red Sox since Roberto Kelly in 1991; the last Yankee to do that against Boston at Yankee Stadium was Roy White in 1977.
• Teixeira’s 16th inning homer is latest game-tying home run by an American League player since the Jim Finigan (Kansas City Athletics) tied the game in the 17th inning against the Senators in 1956. Before Tex, no Yankee had done it in at least the last 75 years.
• Beltran’s 18th inning game-tying double is the latest game-tying hit by an American League player since the Tom Paciorek’s single for the White Sox in the 21st inning against the Brewers in 1984.

Oh, and did you forget that Nathan Eovaldi actually started this game and pitched the first 5 2/3 innings? All he did was become the first pitcher in at least the last 100 years to throw at least two wild pitches and hit a batter in his Yankee debut. Good times, everyone.

The hangover
Red Sox starter Joe Kelly completely dominated the Yankees lineup on Saturday afternoon (W, 7 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 8 K), paving the way for an eventual 8-4 loss by the home team. He became the first Red Sox pitcher to allow no more than one hit and strikeout at least eight batters against the Yankees in a game at Yankee Stadium since Pedro Martinez’s one-hit, 17-strikeout gem on September 10, 1999.

Although the Yankees’ bats eventually woke up in the sixth game of the season (see below), but it’s worth noting how anemic the offense was through five games. Again, to the bullet-points:

Through five games, the Yankees…
• .622 OPS is their lowest since 1998 (.610)
• .280 OBP is their lowest since 1989 (.259)
• .193 BA is their lowest since 1968 (.176)
• 46 strikeouts are their most in at least the last 100 years

Seventh heaven
The Yankees wasted no time in getting on the scoreboard in the Sunday night finale, jumping out to a 7-0 lead in the first inning. It was the first time the Yankees scored at least seven runs in the first inning against the Red Sox since Aug. 15, 1954, when they took a 8-0 lead en route to a 14-9 victory at Yankee Stadium.

Prior to this game, not only had the Yankees never scored first in a game this season, they didn’t even have a hit in the first inning – the only the team in the majors that entered Sunday’s schedule without a first-inning hit.

The Yankees tagged Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz for 10 runs before he was pulled in the fourth inning. He is the only Red Sox pitcher to allow 10-or-more runs in fewer than four innings pitched against the Yankees over the last 100 years of the rivalry.

The Yankees broke out of their offensive slump in Sunday’s 14-4 win, but their sloppy glovework continued as they committed another error, bringing their league-leading total to nine after the first week of the season. Even worse, they have allowed at least one unearned run in each of their first six games, joining the 1995 White Sox as the only teams in the last 75 years to do that.

Yankeemetrics: April 6-9 (Blue Jays)

First win of the season! (Photo credit: NY Daily News)
First win of the season! (Photo credit: NY Daily News)

[For those of you new to these Yankeemetrics posts, what I try to do is recap each game in the series using interesting, fun and sometimes quirky statistical notes. Hope you enjoy it.]

Marathon, not a sprint
Opening Day did not go exactly as planned, to put it mildly. The Yankees lost 6-1 to the Blue Jay on Monday afternoon, extending their streak of Opening Day losses to four. That’s the longest such streak for the franchise since 1982-85. The Elias Sports Bureau also notes that for the first time in team history, the Yankees have lost three straight season openers by a margin of at least three runs.

The Yankees also failed to score more than two runs for the third Opening Day in a row, just the third time the Bronx Bombers have done that in the last 100 years. The other seasons were in 1978-80 and 1935-37.

Masahiro Tanaka, who was the youngest righty to start on Opening Day for Yankees since Doc Medich in 1975, allowed five runs in four innings and made every Yankee beat writer hit the panic button. It was the shortest Opening Day start by any Yankee since Phil Niekro in 1985 vs. Red Sox.

While a ton of the focus was on Tanaka’s poor outing, the Yankee bats certainly didn’t help him out with just one run on three hits. The last time the Yankees scored no more than one run and had three or fewer hits in the season’s first game was 1968 (yes, the so-called Year of the Pitcher).

So you’re saying there’s a chance…
Phew. The Yankees got back to .500 with a 4-3 win on Wednesday, avoiding what would have been a franchise-record fourth straight 0-2 start. Down 3-1 entering the eighth frame, the Yankees pulled off what has to be one of the more improbable rallies in recent memory.

They tied the score when Brian McCann was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. The last time the Yankees had a game-tying HBP after the seventh inning was when Reggie Jackson was plunked in 1978 against the Brewers.

Chase Headley had the game-winning RBI in the next at-bat when his ground ball up the middle bounced off Blue Jays pitcher Brett Cecil and squirted into the outfield. It was Headley’s third go-ahead hit in the eighth inning or later with the team, the most such hits by any Yankee since he arrived in the Bronx on July 22 last year.

Michael Pineda may not have made his case to be the Yankees ace, but he had strong performance in his 2015 debut (ND, 6 IP, 2 R, 6 K, 1 BB). This was the fifth time in his Yankee career he’s given up two runs or fewer in at least six innings pitched without getting the win –- and three of those games have now come vs. Toronto.

Second to none
CC Sabathia‘s first regular season start in nearly a year was ruined by a disaster second inning when he gave up four runs on five singles; he allowed just three hits and one run in the other 4 2/3 innings he pitched. Of the 17 outs he recorded in the game, 16 were either by strikeout (8) or groundout (8). That’s pretty darn good…except for the five runs he allowed on the night. Oops.

So the Yankees ended up losing the rubber game, 6-3, and Sabathia lost his fourth straight home start, his longest such losing streak in pinstripes. The only Yankee left-handers to lose more than four starts in a row at Yankee Stadium are Whitey Ford (5, 1965-66) and Sam McDowell (6, 1973-74).

Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira tried to rally the Yankees when they hit homers in the sixth inning to make it 5-3. For A-Rod, it was his 57th homer vs. Toronto, the most by any player against the Blue Jays franchise. Of course it was also his 655th career home run, five away from tying Willie Mays and earning a cool $6 million bonus.