Mother Nature had mercy on the Yankees on Friday night. They lost a rain-shorted six-and-a-half inning game that featured nine innings worth of stink. The White Sox won the series opener 9-6. I know there are 149 games still to play this season, but between the injuries and several healthy guys looking awful, it feels like it’s getting late early for the 2019 Yankees.
Two In The First, Two In The Second
Getting swept makes it easy to forget the Yankees had a pretty good series offensively in Houston. Three runs in six innings against Justin Verlander and three runs in seven innings against Gerrit Cole? I’ll take it. Then the Yankees scored six runs in the series finale. Given all the injuries, the offense has held its own recently. The pitching is more to blame for those losses in Houston.
The depleted lineup continued to make noise Friday night, and they had some help. They Yankees loaded the bases in the first inning on an error and two walks. It was a tough throwing error on Tim Anderson — the ball was probably wet and Jose Abreu had a chance to make the scoop at first — but the walks were good at-bats. Luke Voit went from 0-2 to a walk and Gleyber Torres went from 1-2 to a walk. Lucas Giolito can be (very) wild and the Yankees let him work himself intro trouble.
Greg Bird swung through a 95 mph fastball out over the plate to strike out for the second out — I know hitting a 95 mph fastball isn’t easy, but goodness, it would be nice to see Bird catch up to velocity at some point this decade — but DJ LeMahieu picked him up with a two-out, two-strike, two-run single to right field. It included the daily baserunning weirdness. The video:
LeMahieu’s single turned an early 1-0 deficit into an early 2-1 lead, then the Yankees scored another two runs in the second inning to make it a 4-1 lead. The inning started with a Clint Frazier walk. It was Giolito’s third walk to the first seven batters. Gio Urshela followed with a double into the right-center field gap and, off the bat, I thought it was a little flare single. Even the outfielders seem surprised that it carried so much.
The Urshela double put runners on second and third with no outs. Austin Romine cashed in a run with a single up the middle — Romine going on a hot streak while Gary Sanchez is sidelined would be swell — and Aaron Judge brought in another run with a sacrifice fly to left. It was more like a sacrifice line drive. Judge hit it right on the screws (111.9 mph) to Eloy Jimenez in left field. Two runs in the first, two runs in the second, and a 4-1 lead.
J.A. Stands For Just Awful
Three starts into the new season, J.A. Happ has allowed 12 runs and put 24 runners on base in 12.1 innings. He’s thrown only 25 pitches after the fourth inning and has two 1-2-3 innings on the year, both in his first start two weeks ago. His opponents in his three starts? The Orioles (twice) and White Sox. I am not looking forward to Happ against a good offense. (Now watch him throw seven scoreless innings against the Red Sox on Wednesday.)
The Yankees were down before they even got a chance to bat Friday night. Leury Garcia hit the very first pitch of the game over Brett Gardner’s head in center field for a double, and Yonder Alonso brought him home later in the inning with a two-out single. In the fourth, Happ walked No. 7 hitter James McCann (career 76 wRC+) and No. 9 hitter Adam Engel (career 55 wRC+), then gave up a two-run double into the corner to Garcia (career 69 wRC+). Cool.
The lead officially disappeared in the fifth inning. Abreu dunked a single to center and Alonso hit a go-ahead two-run home run off the top of the wall in left-center. Happ currently holds a 4-3 lead over Judge in the home run race. My quick math says opponents are hitting .345/.400/.654 against Happ so far this season. I wasn’t too optimistic about Happ coming into the season but I never expected him to be this bad. This? This is untenable.
The final line: 4 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 HR on 88 pitches. Happ owns a 8.76 ERA (6.42 FIP) and has yet to record even 14 outs in a start this season. The Yankees are beat up but there are no injury issues with Happ. He is healthy as far as we know. He’s just bad. The fastball doesn’t have much life and we don’t need Statcast to tell us that. Read the swings. Is it bad I’m already thinking up bad contract for bad contract trade scenarios involving Happ and Zack Britton?
In theory, the Yankees should beat the White Sox (!) in a battle of the bullpens. They could not Friday. It was 5-5 in the fifth inning when Happ exited with a man on first and no outs. Four pitches later, the White Sox led 7-5. First career home run for Jimenez. Jonathan Holder gave it up. In the seventh, Chad Green gave up Jimenez’s second career homer and a James McCann homer for good measure. Green has struck out one of his last 21 batters faced. Bad.
The Yankees had their best chance to get back into the game in the sixth inning. LeMahieu walked, Frazier singled to right, and Urshela singled to center to bring a run home and cut the deficit to 7-6. The Yankees were all set up with the lineup about to turn over. Then Romine had a putrid at-bat — he tried to bunt the first pitch and struck out three pitches — and Gardner hit a force out grounder at second. An inning that started so well was suddenly in danger of being squandered.
The White Sox went to hard-throwing righty Nate Jones against Judge and Voit and, given his stalling, he was not comfortable on the mound. Stepped off a bunch, asked for new baseballs, the works. It was almost like the umpires were giving the Yankees a chance to take the lead there before calling for the tarp. Jones eventually hit Judge with a breaking ball and got Voit to hit a line drive to Jimenez in left field for the final out. The Yankees had the right guys at the plate, but didn’t cash in. Then came the heavy rain. So it goes, so it goes.
Gardner short-porched a solo home run for a 5-3 lead in the fourth inning. He went 1-for-4 in the game and is hitting .200/.298/.420 (94 wRC+) on the season. I gotta say, Gardner becoming a homer or nothing guy this year was not expected. He shouldn’t be hitting leadoff, but whatever. What I say doesn’t matter. That was career homer No. 99 for Gardner though, and that’s pretty cool. Never expected him to approach 100 homers during his prospect days.
The 6-7-8-9 hitters: 6-for-10 with a double and four runs batted in. The 1-2-3-4-5 hitters: 1-for-14 (.071) with the one being Gardner’s homer. Voit and Gleyber did draw walks though. Bird went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and is down to .194/.324/.290 (77 wRC+) on the season. Two of his last nine batted balls have cleared 87 mph exit velocity and none have cleared 94 mph. How many opportunities can one guy squander? Good grief.
And finally, according to friend of RAB James Smyth, the Yankees have already lost seven games in which they held a lead this season. This was game No. 13. Last year they suffered their seventh such loss on June 13th, in game No. 64. Woof.
The Yankees and White Sox will be back at it Saturday afternoon in the middle game of this three-game series. CC Sabathia will be activated off the injured list to make that start. Stephen Tarpley was sent to Triple-A Scranton following this game to clear a roster spot, so I guess Joe Harvey is sticking around. Former Yankee Ivan Nova will be on the bump for the ChiSox. Saturday’s game is a 1:05pm ET start.