For the second time this season, the Yankees followed up a thrilling series sweep with a collective thud. The dinger-filled sweep in Baltimore was followed by blown leads in Houston. The exciting two-game sweep against the Red Sox? The Yankees followed that by getting four-hit by the Royals. They dropped Thursday night’s series opener 6-1. The Yankees are 3-7 against the Orioles, Tigers, White Sox, and Royals at home this season. Great stuff.
Literally Homer Bailey
Seriously? I don’t care that Homer Bailey has a new splitter, and I don’t care that he threw seven shutout innings against the Indians last time out. When a crummy team comes to your home run happy ballpark and starts a guy with a 6.19 ERA since Opening Day 2015, and he shuts you down for six innings, it can’t be chalked up to “it happens.” Not when the Yankees are playing the way they have early this season.
Then again, what are we supposed to expect when Brett Gardner is still getting more at-bats than anyone else on the team, DJ LeMahieu is in full blown BABIP regression mode (now 2-for-20 in his last five games), and the bottom third of the order is Mike Ford, Austin Romine, and Tyler Wade? The Yankees aren’t exactly running a powerhouse lineup out there these days. Clint Frazier went from fun story to integral part of the offense in a hurry.
The Yankees scored their lone run Thursday night in the most boring way imaginable. Aaron Judge beat out an infield single when shortstop Adalberto Mondesi fumbled the ball and bounced the throw, Luke Voit snuck a 68.8 mph exit velocity ground ball back through the middle to set up the first and third situation, and Gleyber Torres lifted a sacrifice fly to center field. Had me on the edge of seat.
Aside from that rally, the Yankees had their best chance to score against Bailey in the second inning. Frazier wound up at second base when Jorge Soler and Billy Hamilton knocked into each other and let Clint’s pop-up drop in. Ford flew out in his first MLB at-bat, Romine flew out on the first pitch, and Wade grounded out on the first pitch. After Frazier’s popup-turned-double, 23 of the final 28 Yankees to bat made outs. For real.
Six Innings From Domingo
Kind of a weird start for Domingo German. He was very good at times — legitimately dominant — yet he paid for every mistake. Judge’s dive fell short in the first inning, turning Mondesi’s soft single into a double, then German left a fastball up to Alex Gordon, and it wound up in right field for a double and a 1-0 first inning lead. Judge is typically a very good defender. Not often he misses a dive and allows an extra base like that.
In the second inning German hung the hell out of a breaking ball to Soler, and it turned into a rare Yankee Stadium left field cheapie. Usually the cheapies go to right field. How cheap was it? Statcast says similar batted balls (based on exit velocity, launch angle, and trajectory) go for a base hit only 6% of the time. That one carried into the seats. Soler’s reaction says it all:
Two innings later German gave up another solo homer, that one on a fastball that was up juuust enough. Ryan O’Hearn muscled it out to left-center field. There was no frustrated reaction after O’Hearn’s swing. Judge made a mistake diving for that ball in the first inning, German made mistake pitches to Soler and O’Hearn, and it turned into three runs. No breaks at all. Every mistake hurt.
German’s final line: 6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 2 HR on 88 pitches. Remember when he walked five batters in five innings in his first start? He has 16 strikeouts and two walks in 14 innings since. That’ll work. German generated 19 swings and misses Thursday, one fewer than James Paxton did in his masterpiece the other night. The Yankees couldn’t possibly ask their sixth starter to give them more than German has in the early going this year.
Tack-On Runs Allowed
There was a lot of bad in the top of the top of the seventh inning, when a 3-1 deficit became a 5-1 deficit. First of all, why is Jonathan Holder being brought into a winnable game? He’s stunk this year and the bullpen’s well-rested. Secondly, Holder allowed singles to the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters to put two men on base with one outs. You’d think he’d eventually have a clean outing out of random chance, but nope. Even if it was a bad decision to bring him in, the guy’s gotta get outs at some point.
And third, why was Holder left in to face Whit Merrifield? I mean, I know the answer to that. It was to get the right-on-right matchup. Zack Britton was warming in the bullpen, yet the ineffective Holder stayed in, and allowed a ground-rule double to pot an insurance run. Only then did Britton come in, and he gave up a sacrifice fly to score another insurance run. That entire mess of an inning felt avoidable. Bad managing, bad pitching.
As for Chad Green, he still isn’t right despite throwing a scoreless inning. The two excuse-me singles against the shift are no big deal. It happens. The problem was not being able to put away Lucas Duda and Martin Maldonado. Duda fouled away six two-strike pitches before striking out to end his 12-pitch at-bat. Maldonado battled for seven pitches before popping up. The outs aren’t coming easy for Green at all this year. He used to blow guys away with two strikes.
Joe Harvey pitched the top of the ninth and allowed his first run as a big leaguer. He committed the cardinal sin of walking Hamilton as the leadoff hitter. A stolen base, a ground out, and a sacrifice fly followed. Put together a list of reasons the Yankees lost this game, and Harvey doesn’t crack the top 20.
Like I said in the intro, the Yankees had four hits on the night. Fortunately two came consecutively to help score a run. Those were Judge’s infield single and Voit’s weak ground ball single. Frazier had two singles and Voit, Ford, and Wade walked. I was hoping RAB would shut down before the “Gio Urshela, Strategic Pinch-Hitter” era arrived, but no luck. He struck out on three pitches for Wade in the eighth.
And finally, Voit’s first inning single extended his MLB leading on-base streak to 29 games. It is the longest by a Yankee since Judge’s 32-gamer in 2017. Voit’s streak is the longest by a Yankee other than Judge since Derek Jeter had a 36-gamer spanning 2012 and 2013.
Game two of this four-game series. CC Sabathia is making the second start of his final season in that one. Jake Junis will be on the mound for the Royals. I imagine he’ll hear it from the crowd after (unintentionally) breaking Judge’s wrist last year. That is a normal 7:05pm ET start. No more 6:35pm ET games for a while.