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Author: Ana Apostoleris Page 1 of 3

Game 63: That Sucked

Well … yeah, that was bad.

I had a completely different Takeaways bit written until about 11:42PM Eastern time, when it became clear that Aroldis Chapman did not have his best stuff.  Despite leading from the jump, the Yankees dropped the series finale to the Minnesota Twins 7-5 as Chapman gave up two two-run home runs without getting a single out in the bottom of the ninth to blow a two run lead for the first time this season.

I was looking forward to getting the Joe Biden “Minnesota” GIF up on this blog for the third time this week, but I guess it’s less apt now.  To the takeaways:

Chapman’s velocity was not encouraging. I’m going to spend as little time on Chapman as possible here, because we all saw what we saw. I will say that he was sitting 95-97 today on his four-seamer instead of the 99-100 we’ve seen from him for much of the season, and it’s like those few miles per hour on his fastball make an entirely different pitcher. Hopefully it was just an off-night and not a sign of anything structural.

The offense did enough.  Gleyber Torres went 3-for-5 today and continued his hot streak.  Over the first 10 days of June, Torres is hitting .387 (12 for 31) with more RBI (4) than strikeouts (3).  The Yankees got multi-hit performances today from Torres, Gio Urshela, Miguel Andujar, and DJ LeMahieu.  The Yankees lineup was constructed to have multiple guys who could carry you on any given day, and that’s exactly what happened today.  Urshela, especially, pounded the ball all evening, hitting a home run and a triple and making hard contact on a few of his outs.  Giancarlo Stanton, although he only got one hit on the day, made the most of it by demolishing a 422 foot, 107 mile per hour bomb to put the Yankees up by three in the first inning.  To find a negative, the team was only 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position, indicating that their situational hitting is still an issue, but you’d be hard pressed to really pin this loss on the offense.

Mike King could have been worse.  Mike King, who has slotted into the fifth spot in the rotation over the past few weeks, showed flashes of good stuff but was mostly mediocre.  He struggled to locate, walking three batters and throwing 69 pitches over 3.2 innings.  He wound up surrendering two runs on his final line.

Aside from Chapman, the bullpen gutted it out. The Yankees were in position to win going into the bottom of the ninth because of a gritty combined performance from the middle relievers. Lucas Luetge was called on to finish King’s fourth inning, and after hitting Jorge Polanco with a pitch he struck out Josh Donaldson on a nasty cutter.

There were several situations throughout the evening where it seemed like the game could have gotten away from the Yankees, but the bullpen did a good job of bailing the team out in key spots.  Jonathan Loaisiga relieved Luetge with one out in the fifth and two runners on, and got a pop-up and a groundout to prevent a Twins rally.  Similarly, Chad Green came in for a shaky Wandy Peralta in the 7th after Peralta allowed a run on a Nick Gordon single and a Nelson Cruz double, and struck out Miguel Sano, who has 12 home runs this year, on a 3-2 curveball to preserve the lead. Had Chapman been able to hold on, the bullpen would have been one of the great stories of this game.

Gary contributed on all sides. Gary Sanchez continued to make good contact, lacing a hard single in the 6th.  He is hitting .323 since May 29 with 3 doubles and 5 RBI.  His season average, which has been below .200 for much of this season, is up to .218.  His biggest contribution to this game, however, was on the basepaths two batters later.  After a single by Andujar, Chris Gittens hit into what easily could have been a rally-killing double play, but Sanchez distracted Donaldson at third base by doing what can best be described as a little “can you catch me” dance.  This appeared to take Donaldson out of double-play mode as he chased Sanchez out of the baseline to record just one out, and that play led directly to a run as DJ LeMahieu singled home Andujar with two outs in the inning.  Even with the unfortunate outcome of the game, it’s nice to see the Yankees making heads-up plays on the basepaths instead of just directly running into outs.

Leftovers:

  • Loaisiga pitched 1.2 scoreless innings, which constituted his tenth appearance of the season where he pitched more than 1.1 innings and gave up no runs.
  • After tripling in the first inning, Gio Urshela got thrown out at home on a would-be wild pitch, proving that even in Minnesota the team can’t help but get thrown out on the basepaths.
  • Gittens came this close to having his first major league hit be a two-run home run.  In the top of the fourth inning, Gittens hit what was originally called a home run that would have made it a 6-1 ballgame, but after significant on-field confusion ensued (which was echoed by John Sterling in the radio booth) it was unfortunately, but correctly, ruled a foul ball.  Gittens is still seeking his first major league hit.
  • Green’s uneventful eighth inning was assisted by an excellent outfield play from Andujar, who played Gilberto Celestino’s would-be double off the wall and fired a great throw to second base for the final out. 
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Boston Red Sox Series Preview: June 4 to 6

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When I previewed the 2021 Red Sox team back in March, it’s possible that I gave them too little credit for the roster they started the season with.  Coming off an atrocious 2020 season, many were not really expecting the Red Sox to contend in the East this year, focusing more on the Yankees, Rays, and Blue Jays.

It’s still early, but as the Yankees enter their first series of the season against their historic rival, there they are, contending.  The Sox have actually spent much of the season in first place, but were recently overtaken by the streaking Rays. The Yankees are currently looking up at Boston and Tampa in the standings, but are running just 2.5 games behind the Sox, so this first New York-Boston series of the season is a big one for both clubs.

Game 57: It’s Not What You Want

I’m pretty sure most of the Yankees players and staff would like the last three hours back, thank you very much.

After showing signs of life in the last two games against the Rays, the Yankees imploded this afternoon, taking a 9-2 loss and dropping back to 4.5 games out of first place with a 31-26 record.  Particularly painful was that the Yankees seemed poised for a series win against their division rival, with ace Gerrit Cole on the mound, but it was not to be.  To the takeaways:

Gerrit Cole uncharacteristically struggles.  For his last few starts Gerrit Cole, while mostly still good, has not seemed to be his best self, and today culminated in probably his worst start of the young season. For the first few innings it appeared as though Cole would grind through another solid performance without his best stuff, but a two-run home run in the top of the 4th and a few two-out RBI singles in the top of the 5th left him with a 5 inning, 5 earned run performance, bringing his season ERA from 1.78 to 2.26.  Cole walked two, and has now walked batters in four straight starts after a stretch of five consecutive starts where he didn’t issue a base on balls.  Cole would likely tell you he has not been happy with his recent performances – he’s posted a 4.30 ERA over his past four starts after starting the season at 1.37 in his first eight.  Although his overall numbers are still excellent, today was a particularly bad day for him to be “off,” as the bullpen was stretched thin from two taxing games. Nick Nelson allowed four more runs in an inning and two thirds before Luis Cessa and Brooks Kriske finished out the game.

Yes, the umpiring was that bad.  This game would have been a lot more frustrating if it were closer, because Chad Whitson’s strike zone was both terrible and biased.  Rays starter Ryan Yarbrough, who wound up throwing a complete game, got eight pitches significantly out of the zone called strikes, while Cole got zero.  A picture is worth a thousand words here, so I’ll leave it at that.  Would the Yankees have won this game with better umpiring? Probably not.  Is it still maddening?  Absolutely.

The Yankees continue to struggle with situational hitting.  Before the game got out of hand, it appeared for a while as though the Yankees were actually positioning themselves for another win.  After Cole gave up a two-run home run to Austin Meadows in the fourth inning, the Yankees, down 2-1, opened the fifth by putting runners on second and third with no one out after back to back hits from Gio Urshela and Aaron Judge.  Rougned Odor popped up, and Yarbrough then struck out Clint Frazier and Miguel Andujar.  

The caveat here is that in no universe should Clint Frazier have struck out – in a six-pitch at bat, only one pitch from Yarbrough was actually in the zone, and Whitson called three of them for strikes.  The Yankees should have had the bases loaded and one out instead of second and third with two outs after that at bat.  Andujar’s strikeout was legit, though, and the Yankees have struggled all season to score runs when they have runners on third and less than two outs – in 79 plate appearances in that scenario, coming into this afternoon, the team has 18 strikeouts and has grounded into 10 double plays, only recording 14 hits and 33 RBIs. Good umpiring or bad umpiring, they’re going to lose games if they can’t cash in on opportunities like this.

Brett Gardner had a good day. Probably the only Yankee to have a legitimately good day today was Brett Gardner.  He put the Yankees on the board in the third inning with a home run, his first since Game 1 of the Wild Card series against Cleveland last September, and ripped a double in the fifth.  He is inching back up towards the Mendoza line, bringing his batting average up to .197.

Leftovers

  • Gio Urshela attempted a 4th inning imitation of Derek Jeter in 2004, hurling his body towards the left field stands on a foul pop up.  Unlike Derek Jeter, however, he bounced off the netting and did not catch the ball.
  • The Yankees sat Giancarlo Stanton today after only playing him for one game (he had a pinch hit at bat on Tuesday but did not start).  Stanton made some good contact yesterday, and the Yankees should want to get his bat going and get him into a groove, so the decision to sit him was a bit surprising unless he’s dealing with lingering injury.
  • Miguel Andujar hit a solo home run in the 7th inning; he’s now hit 3 in the Yankees’ last 4 games.

Remembering Some (Excellent) Guys as Gerrit Cole Keeps Rolling

It’s no secret that Gerrit Cole is off to an incredible start in 2021. Through 10 starts, he is doing exactly what the Yankees acquired him to do and more – he’s currently 6-2 with a 1.81 ERA, 92 strikeouts in only 64.2 innings, and an incredible 226 ERA+. Even his bad starts are merely average.  Although the true Gerrit Cole experience in New York may have been delayed, fans are finally hoping to see what a full season of ace pitching will look like from the team’s marquee 2019 signing, and so far we have not been disappointed.

If we were to project Cole’s early-season stats to an entire year, assuming he pitches approximately 200 innings, the results would be pretty mind-blowing; you would see something in the range of an 18-win season with over 270 strikeouts and 8+ WAR. Although the year is young, I couldn’t help but wonder – that would be the Yankees’ best starting pitching season in a really long time, right?  Where could Gerrit Cole rank in the pantheon of recent Yankees’ aces when the book is closed on 2021?

Throughout their vaunted history, the Yankees have employed many great pitchers who have done many great things. However, most lists of the “greatest Yankees starting pitchers of all time” and “greatest single-season Yankees starting pitching performances” feature predominantly, if not exclusively, performances from before 1980.  1980 was a long time ago – Gerrit Cole, in fact, was not born until September 8, 1990.  Cole is clearly poised to become the standard-bearer for a new era of Yankees pitching, but he may also be on his way to the best season the Yankees have seen since before his own birth.  To contextualize, I bring you a few excellent seasons by Yankees starting pitching, post-1990 edition.

Houston Astros Series Preview: May 4 to 6

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Here it is.  The moment Yankees fans have been waiting for since news of the Houston Asterisks cheating scandal broke in late 2019 – starting this evening, the Bronx faithful will have the opportunity to boo the Trashstros out of Yankee Stadium.  I’ll be there, and I look forward to sharing that collective catharsis with the other 10,000 people who are there for the same reason.

The series comes at a good time for the Yankees, who seem to be in the process of recovering from their early season struggles.  They are coming off a three game sweep of the Detroit Tigers, which featured outstanding pitching performances from Corey Kluber and Gerrit Cole and offensive breakouts up and down the lineup.  If the team can continue its production on both sides of the ball throughout the week, Houston, who is coming off a 2-of-3 series win against Tampa, might have a problem.

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