As a friend of RAB who shall remain nameless pointed out tonight, the Red Sox have suffered every kind of loss imaginable this season except a heartbreaking blown lead in the late innings. Brett Gardner and the Yankees were happy to oblige Wednesday night. Gardner’s grand slam gave his team a 5-3 win and the two-game series sweep. It was only two games, yeah, but that was sorely needed sweep. The Yankees are within a game of .500 at 8-9.
Let The Gardy Party Begin
Nathan Eovaldi went into Wednesday’s game sporting an 8.40 ERA (9.20 FIP) on the young season. His overall pitching line was so bad it’s hard to believe: 15 IP, 18 H, 14 R, 14 ER, 10 BB, 10 K, 6 HR. Yikes! So, naturally, Eovaldi picked the Yankees apart on Wednesday, holding them to one unearned run on three hits and a walk in six innings. He fanned six. Just like last year, Eovaldi shoved against his former club.
On the bright side, the Yankees did force Eovaldi to throw 104 pitches in those six innings, so they were going to have three innings to make noise against the Red Sox bullpen. They only needed one. Brandon Workman came in to face the 6-7-8-9 hitters in the seventh inning and three of ’em reached base. Clint Frazier smacked a single to center, Mike Tauchman walked, and then Austin Romine walked to load the bases with one out.
That same bottom of the lineup blew the Yankees’ best (only) chance to score against Eovaldi earlier in the game. They had runners on second and third with one out in the fourth inning, then Tauchman struck out and Gio Urshela grounded out to strand the runners. After the Frazier single in the seventh, it was easy to get those “the bottom of the order is going to blow this” feelings again. Instead, they loaded the bases. Do the damn thing Gardy:
Happ Grinds It Out
For the first time his season, J.A. Happ was able to complete five innings. He completed 6.1 innings, in fact. Only allowed two homers in the process as well. (He’s up 6-4 in his homer race with Aaron Judge at the moment.) Is it bad that Happ’s best start of the season (best start of the season by a mile, no less) was just okay? Yes. Yes it is bad. Happ has allowed a first inning run(s) in all four starts and he’s been scored upon in nine of his 19 innings.
The Yankees were down 1-0 in the blink of an eye and 3-0 before you even realized they were down 1-0. J.D. Martinez smacked a solo home in the first inning and noted terrible hitter Christian Vazquez (career 66 wRC+) short-porched a two-run home run in the second. Happ is up to six homers in 18.2 innings this year. Add in Spring Training and it’s 12 homers in 30 innings in the 2019 calendar year. That’s a 3.60 HR/9. Seems bad.
To Happ’s credit, he did settle down following the Vazquez homer, retiring 13 of the final 17 batters he faced. First time through the lineup: 3-for-9 (.333) with two homers and one strikeout. Thereafter: 2-for-15 (.133) with one walk and three strikeouts. Huh. After giving up two homers on four-seamer fastballs, Happ basically stopped throwing the pitch. Here’s his pitch selection as the game progressed:
The black dots (four-seamer) became less frequent as the game went on. Going into the game opponents were hitting .313 with a .500 ISO (!) against Happ’s four-seamer this season. (The league averages are .264 and .220, respectively.) A fastball heavy pitcher with a bad fastball is, uh, not good. After two more home runs Wednesday night, it was time for Happ to put the four-seamer in his pocket.
Happ’s final line: 6.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 2 HR on 84 pitches. The Craig Biggio of pitching lines. Obviously good, but … that’s it? Happ and the Yankees have to hope Wednesday’s start, specifically his final 4.1 innings, is a sign something clicked. The Yankees re-signed Happ to be a solid mid-rotation innings guy. This was the first time this year he kinda sorta lived up to it.
Otto & Chappie
I gotta say, I didn’t love Aaron Boone going to Tommy Kahnle with a runner on second and one out in the top of the seventh. The Yankees were only down two, so the game was still well within reach (obviously), and I thought that was an Adam Ottavino spot. Get those outs and keep the game close, you know? Especially since Ottavino had only pitched once in the last eight days. (Remember when we were all worried about his workload?)
Boone went to Kahnle though, and he got those two outs to end the inning. That set things up perfectly in the eighth inning after Gardner’s grand slam. Ottavino vs. Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez. All righties. That’s the matchup the Yankees want (or should want, anyway). Two quick outs then single, single, walk to load the bases with two outs. Gah. It’s too early for stressful baseball.
Fortunately, Eduardo Nunez isn’t very good, and he chased a first pitch slider out of the zone and flew out routinely to end the threat. Just that like, the inning was over. Bit of a mess, but three outs are three outs. Aroldis Chapman went 1-2-3 in the ninth on 12 pitches. Believe it or not, it was his first 1-2-3 inning against the Red Sox since his first appearance against them as a Yankee back in 2016. Boston had his number the last few years.
Two singles and double for Frazier. The double was down the line to score a run in the fourth inning. Clint’s sitting on a .333/.347/.622 (153 wRC+) batting line at the moment. Once he really settles in and starts drawing walks, he’s going to be a force. Meanwhile, Yankees not named Frazier had two hits total. Luke Voit doubled in the first and Gardner had the grand slam. Not many hits overall, but boy did the Yankees make them count.
Voit’s double extended his on-base streak to 28 games. Tommy Pham’s streak came to an end at 48 games tonight, so Voit now owns the longest active on-base streak in baseball. It is the longest by a Yankee since Aaron Judge had a 32-gamer back in 2017. Voit’s not hitting like he did late last year (doing that again was not going to be easy), but he is doing a little something each night. His .213/.333/.443 (113 wRC+) batting line is on the rise.
And finally, the grand slam was the 100th home run of Gardner’s career. He’s the first Yankee to hit a grand slam for his 100th homer since … Jacoby Ellsbury in 2017. Remember Ellsbury’s grand slam in that huge comeback win against the Orioles? That was it. I never would’ve guessed Gardner would get to 100 big league homers back when he was a prospect. Considering he had to walk on in college, he’s had a hell of a career.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and video highlights, go to MLB.com. ESPN has the updated standings. Here’s our Bullpen Workload page and here’s the win probability graph:
This quick little two-game series is over and the Royals come to the Bronx for a four-game series next. Can the Yankees win a series against a rebuilding team? I hope so! Domingo German and Homer Bailey will be the starting pitchers for Thursday night’s opener. That’s another 6:35pm ET start.