Game 54: The other side of a blowout

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Oof. That was ugly. The Yankees blew out Toronto a couple of times last week, and tonight, the Blue Jays returned the favor. The final in this one: 11-5.

This one was over early as Michael King and Jonathan Loaisiga got knocked around in the third and fourth innings. Meanwhile, the offense couldn’t muster much against Matt Shoemaker and the Jays’ bullpen. Here are the takeaways:

Michael King isn’t a big league starter. At least, not yet. There are reasons to like King, but his start tonight was emblematic of his entire season. He got off to a good start but wore down once the opposing lineup got a second look at him. Now, the times-through-the-order penalty applies to just about every pitcher. But for King, it’s particularly bad. Take a look:

Times Facing Opponent in Game
Split PA HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS tOPS+ sOPS+
1st PA in G, as SP27156.182.333.409.74281108
2nd PA in G, as SP26134.318.423.455.878116134
3rd PA in G, as SP1000.000.000.000.000-100-100
1st PA in G, as RP38218.278.316.528.844100127
2nd PA in G, as RP15112.286.333.571.905114115
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/21/2020.

Opposing hitters’ OPS go way up in a second plate appearance against King, though the jump is particularly noticeable as a starting pitcher. He’s kind of consistently bad as a reliever, whereas when starting, his first time through is actually pretty decent.

Tonight, King looked great his first time through the order. He allowed two hits and struck out five. One of those hits absolutely shouldn’t have been a hit, by the way. Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge let a ball drop in the outfield that turned into a triple. Anyway, point is: King shut down the Blue Jays in their first look tonight. He capped off that first time through with a beauty, too:

After that is when things unraveled. With one on, one out, and the top of the order due up, here’s what happened. King walked Cavan Biggio and then gave up back-to-back singles to Bo Bichette and Teoscar HernĂĄndez, which put Toronto ahead 2-1. Next, King fanned Lourdes Gurriel Jr. for the second out, but Randal Grichuk delivered the final blow right after: an RBI single to make it 3-1. In short, Toronto hitters reached in four of the first five plate appearances in the second turn through the batting order. Not good. Jonathan Loaisiga relieved King, but allowed two of his inherited runners to score, putting the Yankees down 5-1 through 3 innings.

In fairness to King, some of the hits in that third inning weren’t scalded. Still, hits are hits and King has shown us time and time again that he doesn’t fare well against opposing hitters twice. As long as this issue remains, he’s not a viable starting pitcher.

King now has a 7.76 ERA and 5.13 FIP in 26 2/3 innings this season. If this is it for King this year, yikes. He had a chance to grab a rotation spot this year, but his poor performance, Deivi GarcĂ­a’s success, and JA Happ’s resurgence never allowed it to be a possibility. My one big takeaway from King’s season, aside from the times through the order stuff: he’s gotta find a way to get his sinker down. Here’s his heat map on the pitch this season:

He flashes an excellent sinker (that Pitching Ninja gif, for example), but far more often than not it’s up and over the plate. If he can get that down, maybe he can get himself back on track as a back-end starter type.

Jonathan Loaisiga hasn’t looked great since returning from his unknown illness. In his third outing off the injured list, Loaisiga let this one get out of hand. He entered when it was 3-1 and allowed a couple of inherited runs to score, as mentioned earlier. Then, the next inning, he proceeded to give up four more runs. Loaisiga allowed five hits and walked two before Nick Nelson relieved him in the middle of the fourth inning.

Loaisiga’s pitch usage really stood out to me tonight. Of his 39 pitches in this one, 32 were fastballs. He’s got a great heater, but he also possesses a high spin curve and a sharp changeup, both with whiff rates north of forty percent this year. So, it’s a bit odd to see him spin off five breakers and two changeups tonight. He did something similar in his last outing too.

Granted, Loaisiga’s had some other high fastball usage outings this season. But considering how poorly things went tonight, it’s strange how he and Gary SĂĄnchez kept going to the well. Maybe he just didn’t have a feel for the breaker or change, I don’t know. In any case, he also didn’t elevate his fastball at all, something he’s had success with before.

Hopefully this is just a case of Loaisiga trying to get back into a groove after missing a couple weeks of action. He showed some flashes of excellence in short relief last month and looked like a great option to graduate into late relief, particularly with Tommy Kahnle out for the year. It’d be nice to see him sort things out before the postseason.

Leftovers:
  • Gio Urshela drove in two of the three of the Yankees’ runs tonight. One was an RBI single that gave the Yankees’ a short-lived 1-zip lead in the second. The other was an RBI groundout in garbage time.
  • Giancarlo Stanton plated the Yankees’ third run with his RBI double in the eighth.
  • More from the too little, too late department: Mike Tauchman delivered a three-run double in the ninth inning against Wilmer Font.
  • Nick Nelson threw two innings in relief. The only run he allowed came on Randal Grichuk’s solo shot.
  • Chad Green and Adam Ottavino got some work in relief as well. Green gave up one run, a solo homer to Alejandro Kirk. Adam Ottavino pitched a clean eighth inning.
  • The Rays’ magic number for the division title is now 1. Additionally, the Yankees now trail the Twins by 1.5 games for the 4th seed.

Welp, on to the next one. The Yankees have now lost two straight, but it’s nice to have Gerrit Cole on the bump tomorrow. Have a good night, everyone.

Game 54: Back in Buffalo

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Now that the Yankees have clinched a postseason spot, it’s time to play out the string. Including tonight, seven games remain and the only thing left to play for is seeding. First place in the division technically isn’t out of the question, but making up 3.5 games on Tampa Bay is highly unlikely. That leaves the focus on the fourth seed, which the Yankees (31-22) currently trail the Twins (33-22) for. Yankees-Twins will be the first round matchup in all likelihood, but where those games will be played has yet to be determined. Tonight, the Yankees can continue to make a push for home field advantage. Here are the lineups for tonight’s game in Buffalo:

New York Yankees (31-22)

  1. DJ LeMahieu, 2B
  2. Aaron Judge, RF
  3. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
  4. Luke Voit, 1B
  5. Gleyber Torres, SS
  6. Aaron Hicks, CF
  7. Gio Urshela, 3B
  8. Gary SĂĄnchez, C
  9. Brett Gardner, LF

RHP Michael King

Toronto Blue Jays (27-26)

  1. Cavan Biggio, 3B
  2. Bo Bichette, SS
  3. Teoscar HernĂĄndez, RF
  4. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., DH
  5. Randal Grichuk, CF
  6. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B
  7. Jonathan Villar, 2B
  8. Alejandro Kirk, C
  9. Jonathan Davis, LF

RHP Matt Shoemaker

News & Notes

Tonight’s game starts at 6:37 p.m. EDT. You can watch on YES and MLB Network (out-of-market) or listen on WFAN and WADO. Enjoy the ballgame.

Toronto Blue Jays Series Preview: 9/21 to 9/24

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Last call for the Blue Jays. Wasn’t it just a week ago that these two sides were duking it out for second place in the AL East? Now, Toronto sits in the 8th seed at 27-26 whereas the Yankees are four games ahead of them at 31-22. It ain’t over ’til it’s over, but barring a Blue Jays four game sweep, this series isn’t going to change the outcome of the AL East race.

Since we last saw them

Hasn’t been all that long since the Yankees and Blue Jays previously squared off. This will be the third consecutive week that these two sides have a series against one another. Most recently, the Yankees swept the Blue Jays in three games at Yankee Stadium. This wasn’t any ordinary sweep, by the way. The Yanks outscored Toronto 43-15.

Things haven’t gone much better for the Jays since they departed the Bronx. Toronto lost three of four down in Philadelphia, though it could have been worse. Philly tacked on 15 runs in Friday’s doubleheader to open the series. This, after the Yankees’ 43 run shellacking of the Jays’ pitching staff. Then, Toronto finally got a well-pitched game from Hyun-Jin Ryu, but still lost. Vince Velazquez outpitched Ryu to beat the Jays, 3-1. At long last, Toronto returned to the win column yesterday to salvage the series and break a six game losing streak.

Injury Report

  • Rowdy Tellez, 1B (strained knee)
  • Derek Fisher, OF (knee contusion)
  • Yennsy Diaz, RHP (strained lat)
  • Elvis Luciano, RHP (undisclosed)
  • Nate Pearson, RHP (strained flexor)
  • Matt Shoemaker, RHP (strained lat)
  • Trent Thornton, RHP (elbow surgery)
  • Ken Giles, RHP (strained flexor)
  • Jordan Romano, RHP (strained middle finger)
  • Jacob Waguespack, RHP (strained back)

Spotlight: Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

There are a lot of exciting young players on the Blue Jays. Whether its Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, or Cavan Biggio, one guy seems to get a little less notice: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. But like the first three, he’s got baseball in his lineage as older brother Yuli plays for the Astros.

The almost 27 year-old outfielder has been a strong contributor in Toronto since he debuted in 2018. Gurriel came up as a shortstop, but was moved to left field last year in favor of Freddy Galvis (though really in preparation for Bo Bichette’s call-up). Regardless of where he’s played, his bat has been superb.

Gurriel has a lifetime .285/.327/.507 (121 wRC+) in 807 plate appearances. He’s got plenty of power (41 homers, .222 ISO) and has a more than tolerable strikeout rate (22.9 percent) considering his power production. 2020 has been his best offensive season: .303/.348/.530 (137 wRC+), 10 homers, and a 19.9 percent strikeout rate in 201 trips to the plate. He’s also boosted his walk rate to 7.0 percent, comfortably above the 4.8 percent walk rate he had from 2018 through 2019.

If it’s not clear based on more than 800 big league plate appearances, Gurriel’s Statcast data also backs up his offensive results.

Plenty of hard contact leading to good results. And a lot of those hard hits have come against the Yankees this year, by the way. Gurriel enters this series with a .550/.550/1.100 batting line in 20 plate appearances against the Yankees this season. He also has three homers, two coming against Masahiro Tanaka.

Projected Lineup

  1. Cavan Biggio, RF (.247/.371/.409, 121 wRC+)
  2. Bo Bichette, SS (.306/.327/.551, 133 wRC+)
  3. Teoscar HernĂĄndez, DH (.307/.356/.639, 165 wRC+)
  4. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., LF (.303/.348/.530, 137 wRC+)
  5. Randal Grichuk, CF (.258/.296/.447, 98 wRC+)
  6. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B (.237/.312/.407, 96 wRC+)
  7. Travis Shaw, 3B (.233/.307/.397, 93 wRC+)
  8. Joe Panik, 2B (.248/.363/.333, 101 wRC+)
  9. Danny Jansen, C (.160/.297/.292, 69 wRC+)

Bench:

  • Alenjandro Kirk, C (200/.273/.200, 37 wRC+)
  • Jonathan Villar, INF/OF (.241/.310/.307, 73 wRC+)
  • Jonathan Davis, OF (.333/.500/.750, 233 wRC+)

Pitching Matchups

Tonight, 6:37 p.m. EDT:

TBD

The Yankees pushed back Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka in preparation for the postseason rotation, which opens up today’s slot. Michael King seems like a possibility to start tonight, though nothing has been announced.

RHP Matt Shoemaker

This will be Shoemaker’s first start in a month. He’s been on the injured list with a lat strain. In 25 2/3 innings pre-injury, the righty had a 4.91 ERA and 6.10 FIP. Tonight will be his first start against the Yankees as a Blue Jay.

Shoemaker.
Tomorrow, 6:37 p.m. EDT:

RHP Gerrit Cole

The Yankees’ ace in on a roll of late. He faced this same Jays squad last week and allowed just one run in seven innings. Expect Kyle Higashioka to catch Cole again.

RHP Tanner Roark

Roark has been dreadful this season (6.41 ERA, 7.71 FIP in 39 1/3 innings). The Yankees shelled the veteran last time out and surely are salivating to face him again.

Roark.
Wednesday, 6:37 p.m. EDT:

RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Tanaka had his longest outing of the season — 7 innings — against Toronto on the 17th. He’s been good all season (3.27 ERA, 4.25 FIP) and is getting ready for a Game 2 start in the Wild Card round.

RHP Chase Anderson

Like Roark, the Yankees crushed Anderson last week. Anderson’s had a brutal season (7.45 ERA, 7/15 FIP in 29 innings) and this Yankees’ lineup is not a good matchup for him.

Anderson.
Thursday, 6:37 p.m. EDT:

LHP JA Happ

The previously written-off 37 year-old lefty now has a 3.25 ERA after throwing eight scoreless innings against Boston on Saturday. His turnaround after two dreadful starts to open up the 2020 campaign has been remarkable.

LHP Robbie Ray

Toronto acquired Ray at the trade deadline, but he hasn’t been all that great. Better than Arizona (7.84 ERA and 7.28 FIP), but that’s a low bar to clear. In 16 2/3 innings with the Jays, Ray has a 5.94 ERA and 5.70 FIP.

Ray.

Bullpen Status

RHP: Rafael Dolis, Anthony Bass, Julian Merryweather, A.J. Cole, Thomas Hatch, Patrick Murphy, Shun Yamaguchi, Wilmer Font, Ross Stripling, T.J. Zeuch

LHP: Ryan Borucki

Bass (14 pitches), Hatch (27), and Yamaguchi (21) pitched yesterday. Everyone else has had a day of rest, although Borucki and Cole pitched back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday.

Aaron Boone Evaluation Survey: September 21st, 2020

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The Yankees may have lost yesterday, but it was undoubtedly a good week for Aaron Boone’s squad. The team went 5-1, ran up its winning streak to 10 games, and clinched a playoff spot. Here’s the latest on Boone before we get to the survey questions:

Please take a moment to vote on the three poll questions below. Then click read more to see the results through last week.

Game 53: All good things must come to an end

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The Yankees’ ten game winning streak came to a halt this afternoon at Fenway Park. The Red Sox toppled the Yankees, 10-2. In a battle of rookie starters, Deivi GarcĂ­a struggled and Tanner Houck pitched well. Boston jumped out to a 6-0 lead by the third inning and didn’t look back. The Yankees will have to wait and see if the Mariners lose today in order to clinch, otherwise, tomorrow’s another opportunity. Let’s break this one down.

Deivi GarcĂ­a didn’t have much working. His final line was pretty indicative of how he pitched: 3 innings, 8 hits, 6 runs, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts, and 2 homers. It was unlike the Deivi we had seen in his first four big league starts. Previously, GarcĂ­a induced a good deal of soft contact, missed bats, and was incredibly efficient. Today was the opposite. Boston was all over him and GarcĂ­a needed 76 pitches to complete three frames.

Two things jumped out at me in this one. First, GarcĂ­a’s fastball velocity just wasn’t there. He averaged 90.8 MPH and maxed out at 92.8 on his heater. Deivi had an average fastball velocity of 92.3 entering this game. I don’t think it’s anything to be alarmed about as GarcĂ­a isn’t known for a high velocity fastball. He can reach back for mid-90s when he needs it, but he’s usually sitting in the low 90s anyway. Still, losing a tick off the heater does help the hitters a bit. Boston put 10 of his fastballs in play at an average exit velocity of 98.4 MPH.

The other takeaway from Deivi’s start: he didn’t have any feel for his breaking pitches. That’s bigger than losing fastball velocity. The young righty is known for his knee-buckling curve and his developing sharp slider. Not today, though. He threw 9 breaking balls today, well below the rate he usually uses them. Mind you that Deivi typically throws the combination of his slider and curve almost a quarter of the time. Here are the locations on the ones he threw today:

Not great! A couple of these were hanging sliders that Michael Chavis hit homers against.

Deivi wasn’t going to be great each and every time out. No one is, of course. On the bright side, he didn’t look flustered on the field. I’m sure he’s disappointed since he was looking forward to pitching on the same mound as his idol Pedro MartĂ­nez once did. Oh well. Just wasn’t his day, unfortunately. We’ll see how he bounces back in his next start, likely his final one of the regular season.

Congratulations to the Red Sox for finally finding a competent starting pitcher. Rookie Tanner Houck shut down the Yankees’ lineup today. He allowed just one hit and three walks in six innings today and didn’t run into much trouble until his final frame. In fact, he held the Yankees hitless through five innings before Tyler Wade broke the no-no up with a double to lead off the sixth. The righty held down the Bombers’ resurgent offense thanks to excellent command of his sinker.

Houck’s sinker heat map.

The Yankees’ average exit velocity against his sinker was 80.7 on five balls in play, though Giancarlo Stanton’s 49.8 MPH groundout skews things a tad.

Houck’s lone run allowed was unearned. After Wade led off with a double in the sixth, Christian VĂĄzquez allowed a passed ball which moved him to third. DJ LeMahieu walked to put runners on the corners and it seemed the Yankees might have had a chance to rebound and get back in the game (down 6-0 at the time). But Luke Voit bounced into a run-scoring double play to effectively end the threat.

So, a nice performance by Houck. It’s about time the Red Sox found a starter, I guess. The 24 year-old now has thrown 12 innings and has allowed just one unearned run. He was the team’s first round pick back in 2017, so it’s not as if his success was a total surprise. You know, maybe they could have ran him out before going to the scrap heap for guys like Zack Godley or Dylan Covey or whoever other no names they started this season. But these Red Sox are committed to the tank this year. If you know, you know.

Erik Kratz pitched. Lol. Aaron Boone turned to the Yankees’ third-string catcher to pitch the eighth inning of this one with the game already out of hand. J.D. Martinez hit a homer against him. Good for J.D., who’s really struggled this year as I wrote in the series preview. Heh.

The veteran righty topped out at 86.3 on the gun and mixed in a knuckler! The homer was Kratz’s only mistake.

It’s a lot easier to chuckle and take a loss like this in stride after a ten game winning streak. Clinching a postseason spot will just have to come another day. I’ll trade that in for watching Kratz get on the bump in a mostly meaningless game.

The one downside is that the Yankees are still fighting for that fourth seed with the Twins, likely the team’s opponent in the first round. Whoever gets that fourth seed will be the home team for the Wild Card round. Minnesota, 32-22, plays tonight against the Cubs. The Yankees are 31-22.

Leftovers

  • This is the last time we’ll see the Red Sox in 2020. The Yankees took 9 of 10 from Boston this season.
  • Luke Voit hit his league leading 21st homer in the ninth inning against Jeffrey Springs. He may be in pain (you know, foot stuff), but it’s certainly not holding him back performance-wise. Voit’s dinger was the only other hit for the Yankees aside from Wade’s double.
  • Someone broke into Fenway Park during this game and started throwing things on the field. WTF?

The Yankees now head off to Buffalo for a four game series against the Blue Jays starting tomorrow night. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday.

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