April 8: Bullpen Bummer
The Yankees road trip continued to Houston and the series began with a familiar story: another wasted another gem by Masahiro Tanaka as the much-hyped bullpen blew a late lead and instead the Yankees end up with a painful loss.
Since joining the Astros in late-summer 2017 — and prior to Monday — Justin Verlander had dominated the Yankees, allowing just two runs in 30 2/3 IP (0.59 ERA). Somehow the Yankees finally made him look human, scoring three runs in six innings off him. Aaron Judge had two hits — including an opposite-field laser shot into the rightfield seats — and a walk; entering this series, Judge was 0-for-13 with seven strikeouts against Verlander, his worst 0-fer vs any pitcher.
Tanaka was stellar in holding the Astros to one run on three hits in six innings. His 1.47 ERA is easily the best of his MLB career through this first three starts. It’s also a near-360 reversal from his notable early-season struggles in recent years, when he had a 5.19 ERA last year and a 8.36 ERA in 2017 after three turns.
Adam Ottavino allowed the go-ahead run after issuing a one-out walk and consecutive singles by Michael Brantley and Carlos Correa, the latter a dribbler towards first base that went 22 feet and had an exit velocity of 28.9 mph. Prior to that meltdown, Ottavino had not allowed a hit or run in his first five appearances of the season.
April 9: Bullpen Bummer II
Another day, another game, another brutal and crushing loss thanks another bullpen implosion.
Luke Voit staked the Yankees to an early 1-0 lead with a solo homer to dead-center field. We know Voit has big muscles, and one good use for those big muscles is destroying baseballs to the farthest reaches of the park, notably deep center field. Since the start of last season (through Tuesday), 384 players had hit at least 40 balls to center; Voit’s 1.065 slugging percentage on batted balls to center ranked first in that group.
On Tuesday it was Jonathan Holder and Chad Green’s turn to play the starring roles in the late-inning collapse. Holder allowed the game-tying run in the seventh on back-to-back doubles by Alex Bregman and Michael Brantley.
Bregman’s double was the result of a bad defensive misplay and awkward dive by Clint Frazier. Per Statcast tracking, the ball had a catch probability of 95 percent. (Catch probability is defined as the likelihood that a batted ball to the outfield will be caught, based on four data points: 1. How far did the fielder have to go? 2. How much time did he have to get there? 3. What direction did he need to go in? 4. Was proximity to the wall a factor?)
Through Tuesday, Frazier had three batted balls hit to him with a catch probability of less than 99 percent (routine play) but greater than 50 percent (50/50 play). He missed the catch on all three of those defensive plays.
Green took the loss, charged with the three runs allowed in eighth. It was the first appearance of his career that he gave up at least three runs and got fewer than three outs.
Knowing that it’s still super-early into the season and that the following stats get the small-sample-size warning, here are some numbers to chew on (through Tuesday’s games):
- Three blown saves and four bullpen losses were both tied for the MLB lead
- Two losses (Monday and Tuesday) when leading at the end of the sixth inning; only Cubs and Rockies had more (3). Yankees last year had only five such losses, tied for fewest in MLB.
- Four losses when tied at the end of the seventh inning, the most in MLB this season. Yankees had only seven last year.
April 10: Paxton Pummeled
At least there was no lead for the bullpen to blow on Wednesday night. That’s about the only “positive” thing you can say about the terrible 8-6 loss they suffered as the road trip came to a depressing end in Houston, capping the first-ever series sweep by the Astros over the Yankees. Is this a good time to mention that there are still 150 games left in the season?
The Yankees and its fans were feeling pretty good three pitches into the game when Gardy went Yardy for his 15th career leadoff homer but those good feelings were quickly erased when James Paxton coughed up a solo homer to Jose Altuve and an RBI triple by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the frame. Paxton dominated the Astros in four starts last year (4-0, 2.05 ERA) and had a 1.89 ERA in eight starts against them from 2017-18, but this game was a complete disaster:
Despite Paxton’s track record of success against the Astros, this loss was hardly surprising based on more recent team trends:
- The Yankees fell to 4-6 when scoring first this season. Last year they had the second-best record when scoring first, winning 81 percent of those games. On average, teams that score first go on to win 66 percent of the time.
- This was the 11th time in 12 games this season that the Yankees held a lead … and they are 5-6 in those games. Last year they had a .797 win percentage in such games. The only other teams this season with a below-.500 record when leading at any point in the game are the Red Sox (3-6) and Royals (2-7).
- Eight of their 12 games have been decided by two runs or fewer, and they are 2-6 in those games, one of the five worst marks in MLB. Last year the Yankees had a .561 win percentage in those games, seventh-best in the majors.
The Yankees put their rally caps on in the eighth inning and mounted a gutsy near-comeback to pull within a run. But Gary Sanchez, inserted in the lineup to pinch hit for Tyler Wade with two outs and a man on third, struck out to end the inning. In a very small sample, El Gary has been … umm … not good when coming to the plate cold off the bench:
Gary Sanchez as Pinch Hitter:
0 Sac Flies
— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) April 11, 2019