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ALDS Game 5: Yanks Fall to Rays 2-1, Joyless Season Comes to an End

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Ah, well. Nevertheless. The Yankees got a phenomenal pitching performance tonight and it wasn’t enough. At one point the Rays had no hits in their last 30 plate appearances against the Yanks. The staff held the Rays to 2 runs in an elimination game but they got beat by Tampa. I have been loathe to admit this all season, but it’s pretty clear now that the Yankees were the inferior team.

The Yanks fell 2-1 to the Rays in Game 5 of the ALDS tonight, and it was a fitting end for a season that felt utterly joyless at times. Even still, I am very sad to see it end. I wanted to watch more Yankee baseball. We got preciously little of it this year. Alas, it was not to be.

Let’s get right to the takeaways, if you want to bear with me still.

ALDS Game 5: An Elimination Game, This Time With Gerrit Cole

Game 5 is here. This is what we’ve been waiting for all day. I am oddly very confident heading into a do-or-die elimination game. It hasn’t oscillated at all. I have been confident all day and that’s that. That’s because the Yankees are starting Gerrit Cole this time. Let’s hope that he can give a performance that would have made Whitey Ford (RIP) proud. He could also follow in the tradition of the last Yankee ace to start Game 5 of the ALDS:

That will do, thanks. Anyway, here are the lineups as the Yankees look to vanquish the Rays and move on to the ALCS against Houston:

New York Yankees (2-2)
1. DJ LeMahieu, 2B
2. Aaron Judge, RF
3. Aaron Hicks, CF
4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
5. Luke Voit, 1B
6. Gio Urshela, 3B
7. Gleyber Torres, SS
8. Brett Gardner, LF
9. Kyle Higashioka, C
Gerrit Cole, RHP

Tampa Bay Rays (2-2)
1. Austin Meadows, RF
2. Brandon Lowe, 2B
3. Randy Arozerena, LF
4. Ji-Man Choi, 1B
5. Yandy Díaz, DH
6. Joey Wendle, 3B
7. Willy Adames, SS
8. Kevin Keirmaier, CF
9. Mike Zunino, C
Tyler Glasnow, RHP

Nothing surprising here. Giancarlo should be cleanup. Gardner should be playing. And Higashioka was obviously going to catch Cole. This is a good lineup, folks. We have to like our chances with this one, no matter who the Rays throw out there.

News & Notes

  • The Yankees will wear a number 16 patch on their jerseys tonight in honor of Whitey Ford, who passed away last night while watching the game. He was the winningest pitcher in franchise history. (Yankees)
  • There will be no pitch count for Gerrit Cole tonight, so the Yankees will ride him until he is no longer effective. That’s how it should be. (Bryan Hoch)
  • They can do that because he is an “animal“, as Aaron Boone described him earlier today. It tracks! (Bryan Hoch)
  • Zack Britton says the weirdest part of the ALDS is switching jerseys but not traveling. I’ll tell you: it is also weird for me to watch. (Lindsey Adler)
  • Luke Voit guaranteed a win in Game 5 last night. I love the confidence and I also share it.

First pitch of this elimination game will be at 7:10 pm ET in San Diego, with TBS carrying the broadcast nationally. Check out WFAN, as usual, to listen to Sterling and Waldman. It should be a good one. Let’s go Yankees, and I’ll see you after the game.

Thoughts Before Do-or-Die ALDS Game 5

Well, last night’s game sure was great. I know that these Yankees have a reputation with some fans for backing down when the going gets tough, but I don’t see it. They’ve consistently not gone away all season – even when they folded for a bit in September, they stormed back to win 10 in a row – and last night was no different. They needed to win, and they did. In dominating fashion, really.

This sets up a do-or-die, must-win Game 5 against Tampa Bay tonight. I am amped up and extremely ready. This is why we’re fans, right? For games like these. Anyway, here is what’s on my mind heading into this one.

ALDS Game 3: Yanks Face Elimination After 8-4 Loss to Tampa

We can’t blame bad strategy for that one. The Yankees simply got outplayed (again) by the Rays in a huge game and lost 8-4. They are down 2 games to 1 in the ALDS and, frankly, they deserve to be. The series is not over yet, though. There is a game tomorrow and the Yankees will have to win it. If they are going to do that, they will have to play better than they did tonight from top to bottom.

So, with that out of the way, let’s get right to the takeaways.

1. Tanaka’s Potential Swan Song, Not So Good: I really hope that wasn’t it for Masahiro Tanaka in pinstripes. People have very short memories and were declaring in our mentions that they’ve Had Enough of Masahiro Tanaka. This is silly. He is very good, and the Yankees should bring him back. That said, he was not very good tonight. This about says it all, really:

There are three bad things about this chart. First, there is way, way too much over the heart of the zone. Second, there are way, way too many yellow (slider) and aqua (curveball) dots up and over the heart of the plate. Third, there are not nearly enough gray (splitter) dots low and below the zone. You don’t want to be reductionist or overly simplistic, but that formula is almost never going to work out.

The Rays put 15 balls in play against Tanaka and 7 of those could be considered “hard hit”, aka harder than 95 mph. This about tells the story of the night:

That was one of the good outcomes! Tanaka just didn’t have it. Here was the first run of the game, which came in the 2nd inning:

Perez, if you are curious, is a career .221/.286/.314 (67 wRC+) hitter with a 28% strikeout rate in 230 career plate appearances. He was batting 9th for the Rays tonight. Annoying! Anyway, the other big blow against Tanaka was also extremely annoying, but for different reasons.

It came in the 4th inning, which Joey Wendle led off with a walk. Tanaka was very concerned with Wendle stealing, kept throwing over, and ultimately ended up in a full count against Willy Adames. He threw said pitch in this location:

Which, as you can see, was called a ball. For context, here is the whole at-bat:

This would be bad enough, but making matters worse is the fact that Wendle indeed steal second on the pitch…and was caught dead to rights on Higgy’s throw. It would have been a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play, or, put another way, exactly what the doctor ordered. Instead, it put men on first and second with nobody out. Here is the very next pitch:

That is a back-breaking home run for Kiermaier regardless of the previous pitch. It is even worse in context. Last night’s umpiring display from CB Bucknor was a disgrace, and so to was this. That is just inexcusable, and it is a 2-run swing at least. At the very least. It should not have happened. Now, lest you think I am solely going to blame the umpiring here, this is what Tanaka threw Keirmaier:

Awful, awful stuff. It really is. I was and continue to be extremely mad about the non-strike call to Adames. That can’t happen. But neither can that pitch in that spot. For those keeping track at home, the 8th and 9th hitter were responsible for the first 4 runs off Tanaka. In the words of an old friend, it is not what you want.

Tanaka did settle down and escaped the 4th without further incident. The first batter of the 5th – Randy Arozerena, because of course – absolutely obliterated a hanging slider into the left-field seats to end Tanaka’s night. He lasted 4+ innings, gave up 5 runs on 8 hits (2 HR), walked 1, and struck out 4. It was an ugly performance from Tanaka in a game in which the Yankees really needed him to step up.

Thoughts as the Yankees Look to Take a 2-0 Lead in the ALDS

Friends, that was a great ballgame last night. I would absolutely watch it again twice more, if the Yankees feel like repeating it. They now have a 1-0 lead in the ALDS over the hated Rays and it feels really good. I want more, though. Let’s make it 2-0 tonight, shall we?

Here are some outstanding thoughts as the Yankees look to do just that against Tyler Glasnow and the Rays tonight at 8:07 pm ET.

1. The Bronx Bombers are Back: The Yankee offense, essentially from top-to-bottom, has just been incredible so far in the postseason. There’s no other word for it. They’ve faced the American League’s two best pitching staffs so far in Cleveland (3.29 ERA) and Tampa Bay (3.56 ERA) and pummeled them for 31 runs in 3 games. Great pitching? No problem for this offense, at least so far. As a team, the Yankees are hitting .333/.424/.675 in with 11 home runs. It is an impressive, impressive display of force – and they are reminding everyone that home runs, in fact, do play in the postseason.

A huge reason why the offense has been so successful is because they have been so patient at the plate. I wrote about this earlier in the recap, as well as in thoughts posts yesterday and last week, so it’s definitely a well-known thing at this point, but they’re averaging over 4 pitches per plate appearance as a team over the three games. If it feels like every at-bat has been productive, that’s probably because they have been. They are making pitchers work, they’re laying off junk out of the zone, and they’re attacking when they get the pitch they want. Couldn’t draw it up any better.

Ironically, the worst player in the lineup so far has been Aaron Judge. He’s hitting just .143/.250/.571 over the three games with 5 strikeouts in 16 plate appearances. But, as is the often case with Judge, he has stepped up in the big moment. Both of his hits are home runs, and both have been huge. Last night’s was another example, which made it 4-3 Yanks:

Judge hammered a hanging Snell curveball into the seats for his 10th career playoff home run and the 5th that gave the Yankees the lead. Not too shabby. (A-Rod had 10 home runs in his entire NYY playoff career, for comparison’s sake.) Anyway, it’s good to see Judge’s power stroke return – it was missing there for a while – and let’s hope he can heat up, as the Yanks will face an imposing opponent tonight in Tyler Glasnow.

Glasnow, who held opponents to a .200 batting average against and a .673 OPS against in 2020, will rely on the Yankees chasing his nasty off-speed offering out-of-the-zone with two strikes to be successful. Here are all of Glasnow’s strikeout locations in 2020:

More of the same, right? The Yankee gameplan should be the same as it has been with Bieber and Snell. They will need to be disciplined at the plate and lay off a nasty bender, especially with two-strikes. It is easier said than done, of course. But, so far, the Yankees have done that far better than anyone could have reasonably hoped against some of the American League’s best pitchers. Let’s just hope they keep it up tonight.

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