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Game 15: King of the hill

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One down, one more to go. The Yankees took the first game of today’s doubleheader in Tampa Bay, 8-4, and now go for the sweep. We didn’t know the starting pitchers until just a few moments ago, though a bullpen game was anticipated. The Rays are going with Ryan Thompson and will bullpen this one entirely. Meanwhile, the Yankees hand the ball to Michael King for his first big league start. King last pitched on August 2nd and threw 60 pitches, so he should be able to give some length. Here’s the lineup behind him and the lineup he’ll face.

New York Yankees (10-4)

  1. DJ LeMahieu, 2B
  2. Aaron Judge, RF
  3. Aaron Hicks, CF
  4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
  5. Gleyber Torres, SS
  6. Luke Voit, 1B
  7. Gio Urshela, 3B
  8. Mike Tauchman, LF
  9. Erik Kratz, C

RHP Michael King

Tampa Bay Rays (6-8)

  1. Austin Meadows, RF
  2. Brandon Lowe, LF
  3. José Martínez, DH
  4. Ji-Man Choi, 1B
  5. Joey Wendle, 3B
  6. Yoshi Tsutsugo, LF
  7. Willy Adames, 3B
  8. Kevin Kiermaier, CF
  9. Michael Perez, C

RHP Ryan Thompson

Mike Ford, Brett Gardner, and Gary Sánchez have this one off. That means it’s the return of the Kratzen, who’s filling in for the injured Kyle Higashioka. The 40 year-old Kratz is the Yankees’ all-time leader in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, minimum two plate appearances (1.000/1.000/1.500). Can he maintain this pace?

This one gets underway any minute and can be seen on YES or heard on WFAN and WADO. Enjoy the game!

Game 14: Ford steers Yankees’ offense back on track

The Bronx Bombers returned after a one game absence yesterday. No shutout this time around as the Yankees topped the Rays 8-4 in the first of two this afternoon. Mike Ford’s two-run blast got things going again and the rest of the offense followed. The Rays did make Gerrit Cole work hard, but the bullpen held things down after Cole’s early exit. Let’s break it down.

An inauspicious start

It looked like the Yankees were going to be in for a challenge with Tyler Glasnow on the mound for the Rays. And after Glasnow’s easy 1-2-3 eight pitch first inning, all I could think was: here we go again.

The Yankees didn’t score in the second inning, but perhaps it was a harbinger of things to come. In fairness, it was an incredibly frustrating inning, but it did show that Glasnow was vulnerable today. Let’s walk through it. Giancarlo Stanton and the slumping Gleyber Torres hit back-to-back singles to begin the frame. Glasnow rebounded and blew away Mike Tauchman for the first out, but subsequently walked Gio Urshela to load the bases.

So with the bases full and one out, Gary Sánchez stepped to the plate. As has been well documented, Gary is off to a horrific start. He’s been swinging through in-zone fastballs left and right, but in this at-bat, Glasnow got Gary to chase. Sánchez worked a 3-2 count, but chased a fastball way above the zone to bail out the Rays’ righty.

It’s one thing to slump while missing hittable pitches. It’s another to get oneself out by chasing bad ones. That’s what Gary did here. Frustrating, to say the least.

Brett Gardner followed with a strikeout of his own to end the inning. Chances against Glasnow are few and far between, and the Yankees blew this one. It was not a good feeling. Fortunately, that negativity was premature.

Ford jump-starts Yankees offense

The third inning went much better for the Yankees’ offense. The Bombers ended a thirteen inning scoreless streak just three batters into the frame. DJ LeMahieu lined out, but Aaron Judge singled to set up Mike Ford for this.

Truck month is back, folks. We haven’t seen too much of Ford yet this season, and he hadn’t done much in his minimal opportunities, but this was a big knock. Ford obliterated that pipeshot 2-0 fastball 107 MPH and 437 feet away. That rally-killing dinger made it 2-0 Yankees.

After Ford, Stanton and Torres drew back-to-back walks. Tauchman then struck out, setting up the potential for Glasnow to work out of another jam. Not on Gio’s watch!

My goodness is Urshela a monster. He delivered in all four of his plate appearances today. Urshela singled, walked, and had a sacrifice fly. That sac fly made the score 8-4 in the seventh. He’s up to .341/.429/.659 (201 wRC+) on the season.

The other Yankees runs scored on dingers from the Yankees’ two very large sluggers, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. First, Stanton’s solo blast that made it 5-1:

Then Judge’s which made things 7-3:

That was Judge’s league-leading eighth home run, by the way.

The Rays wore down Cole

This was a really weird one for Gerrit Cole. On one hand, I thought he had his best command and stuff of the season. On the other hand, the Rays really made him work and knocked him out with two outs in the fifth.

First, the good. Cole struck out 10 batters this afternoon and induced his highest whiff rate of the season. Entering this start, Cole had at 25.4 percent whiff rate in 22 1/3 innings. That was comfortably below either of his two seasons in Houston, particularly last year when he posted a 37.2 percent rate. Today, Tampa Bay hitters swung-and-missed on 23 of 52 attempts (44.2 percent). So the stuff was clearly there today.

I thought Cole’s location was solid too. As per the above, the vast majority of his fastballs up and to his arm side, which is where he normally likes to be. I mentioned after a previous Cole outing that he was hooking some of his fastballs to the glove side. That wasn’t really the case today. Gerrit also did a good job burying his slider down and out of the zone today too, save for a few strays. It’s no wonder the Rays whiffed on 8 of 11 swings against the pitch.

Now, for the downside. Cole was very inefficient and ran out of steam by the fifth. His pitch count by inning: 19, 18, 21, 22, and 27. Tampa Bay did foul off 19 of his 107 pitches, with 15 of those being fastballs. In particular, Yoshi Tsutsugo’s fourth inning leadoff walk on the 12th pitch of the at-bat.

Of those six foul balls, five were on Cole’s heater. That really broke up any potential for Gerrit to get into a rhythm in this one. 80 pitches through four frames all but insured that Cole wouldn’t go past five. Turns out, he couldn’t even finish the fifth inning.

Even though Cole had a high pitch count, there didn’t seem to be much concern about him getting through the fifth unscathed. The Yankees had a 4-0 lead and Tampa Bay really hadn’t threatened. Cole began the frame by striking out Kevin Kiermaier. Mike Zunino followed with a double, but Cole got to two outs by fanning Yandy Díaz. That’s when the righty finally ran out of gas. First, Ji-Man Choi cut the lead to 5-1 with a double.

Matt Blake came out for a mound visit with Cole at 104 pitches, but clearly the goal was to have Gerrit finish the frame. Was it so Cole could get the win and reach 20-0 in his last 20 decisions? Who knows. It did seem like he had an upcoming favorable matchup against José Martínez, who’s known to be a lefty masher. Cole had struck him out twice already, too. Instead, this happened:

That was it for Cole’s day. Chad Green worked out of it for him. The final line: 4 2/3 innings, 6 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, and 10 strikeouts.

Leftovers

  • Chad Green and Adam Ottavino combined to wrap this one up. Green didn’t look particularly sharp, but did keep things mostly in check to earn his second win of the year. Green didn’t allow any hits, but two walks and a wild pitch led to a Kiermaier RBI groundout in the sixth. Ottavino threw a scoreless ninth (and made a nice defensive play to boot).
  • Gleyber Torres had a better day. He was aboard in two of four plate appearances: one single and one walk. Hopefully he’s turning things around.
  • Game two will begin relatively shortly. No announcement on who starts yet, but we’ll have that in the upcoming game thread.

Game 14: Dueling aces

You didn’t think the Yankees were going to cruise through this 60-game season, did you? After last night’s frustrating 1-0 loss to the Rays, the Yankees have now lost three of four. It’s the club’s first (mini) skid of the season. Fortunately, the Yankees have Gerrit Cole as the stopper on the hill for the first game of today’s straight doubleheader. However, it’s really the offense that needs to get in gear after last night’s shutout.

Scoring won’t be easy today either, especially with Tyler Glasnow going for the other side. Cole-Glasnow is a marquee pitching matchup and also happens to be a reboot of Game 5 of last year’s Astros-Rays ALDS. Here are the lineups both pitchers will face in what could be another low scoring affair:

New York Yankees (9-4)

  1. DJ LeMahieu, 2B
  2. Aaron Judge, RF
  3. Mike Ford, 1B
  4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
  5. Gleyber Torres, SS
  6. Mike Tauchman, LF
  7. Gio Urshela, 3B
  8. Gary Sánchez, C
  9. Brett Gardner, CF

RHP Gerrit Cole

Tampa Bay Rays (6-7)

  1. Yandy Díaz, 3B
  2. Ji-Man Choi, 1B
  3. José Martínez, DH
  4. Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, 1B
  5. Hunter Renfroe, RF
  6. Joey Wendle, 2B
  7. Willy Adames, SS
  8. Kevin Kiermaier, CF
  9. Mike Zunino, C

RHP Tyler Glasnow

Roster News: Kyle Higashioka has an oblique strain and was placed on the injured list. Erik Kratz will replace him. Additionally, the Yankees recalled Thairo Estrada and designed Nick Tropeano for assignment. Lastly, Albert Abreu is the team’s 29th man for the doubleheader.

This one gets started at 2:10 p.m. EDT. The second game of the doubleheader will stsart roughly 35 minutes after the end of game one. YES and MLB Network (out of market only) carry this first one on TV, while WFAN and WADO have the radio call. Enjoy the game, everyone.

Tampa Bay Rays Series Preview: 8/7 to 8/9

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With absolutely no apologies to the Orioles and Red Sox, this is the Yankees first big intra-divisional series of the season. The Yanks will play four games in three days against the Rays with an opportunity to create even more distance from the team that’s supposed to be the Bombers toughest competition in 2020. Right now, Tampa Bay (5-7) is four games behind the Yankees (9-3) in the American League East.

Their story so far

It’s been a bizarre start for the Rays thus far. After starting 4-1 against Toronto and Atlanta at home, Tampa Bay lost five straight. All of those were on the road. Two of those were in Atlanta, which in the scheme of things isn’t terrible considering the talent of that club. However, things turned for the worse from there. The Orioles swept the Rays in three games at Camden Yards, during which Tampa Bay mustered just eight runs. This came right after the Yankees won two in Baltimore and scored 17 runs while doing so.

As usual, Tampa Bay’s pitching staff has been just fine (3.63 ERA), but it’s offense has really held them back. You could probably glean that after I told you how many runs they scored in Baltimore. Granted, Austin Meadows just returned and has only played two games thus far, but the return of one player isn’t going to make or break an offense. They have a .211/.303/.365 batting line in 442 plate appearances to date and have swatted just 10 home runs. The only team with fewer home runs that hasn’t had postponements due to COVID-19 are the Diamondbacks, who have just 6.

As a result of this slow start, the Rays have seen their division title chances drop precipitously. It stood at 34.3 percent at Opening Day, but is now down to 15.5 percent. Tampa Bay’s playoff hopes are certainly still in tact though, especially with an expanded postseason.

Injury Report

  • OF Randy Arozarena and LHP Brendan McKay are unavailable for undisclosed reasons.
  • RHP Yonny Chirinos was just placed on the injured list with triceps inflammation retroactive to August 3rd.
  • LHP Colin Poche is out for the season. He had Tommy John surgery on July 29th.
  • Not an injury, but LHP José Alvarado was placed on the paternity list today and could miss this series.

Spotlight: Nick Anderson

Who? Nick Anderson, perhaps the league’s best reliever, that’s who. The 30 year-old righty is basically unknown, and understandably so. Anderson’s been around the block, but finally got his chance to shine last season in time with the Marlins and Rays. It took a while for him to get here, though.

The Brewers drafted Anderson in the 32nd round back in 2012, but the righty did not sign and instead pitch in Indy-ball through 2015. The Twins were the first to bring him into affiliated ball, where he eventually reached Triple-A in 2018. There, he recorded a stellar 36.2 percent strikeout rate in the Rochester bullpen, but there was still no room for him in the big leagues. Minnesota traded him to Miami that offseason.

The Marlins gave Anderson his first shot, and he succeeded right away. In 43 2/3 innings, Anderson delivered a 3.92 ERA/2.71 FIP and struck out 69 opponents. Maybe the entire league hadn’t taken notice yet, but the Rays certainly did. Tampa Bay sent Ryne Stanek and prospect Jesús Sánchez to the Marlins to pick up Anderson. After that, Anderson really burst onto the scene.

In 21 1/3 post trade deadline innings, Anderson recorded a 2.11 ERA/1.62 FIP. He struck out a whopping 51 batters (52.6 percent!) and walked only two (2.6 percent). He’s off to a similarly fast start this season: in four games, Anderson has yet to allow a run or walk in 3 1/3 innings. He’s given up just two hits and fanned four batters. I think it’s safe to say that not only is he the best reliever you’ve never heard of, but he also might be the best reliever in baseball, period.

What makes Anderson so dominant? It’s the way he effectively pairs his fastball and curveball. He basically has Chad Green’s fastball paired with the curveball that Green’s trying to incorporate now. Take a look at the fastball:

Metric (2019)GreenAndersonLeague Avg.
FB velo 969693
FB spin246323262287
FB drop (in.)121016
FB Whiff %29%30%22%

Pretty similar! And even though Green has more spin on his fastball, Anderson’s doesn’t drop as much (i.e. it appears to rise more than Green’s). This is because Anderson’s release point is a bit more efficient to maximize that spin rate (not that Green’s is bad, or anything).

That’s not where the similarities end, by the way. Even though it’s really tough to square up Anderson and Green, hitters do make loud contact when they’re fortunate enough to do so. Last year, both were near the bottom of the league in exit velocity and hard hit percentage against. Green was in the 1st (!) percentile for both, while Anderson was in the 12th and 10th, respectively. Of course, making contact against these two is easier said than done.

Now, what differentiates Anderson is the curveball. On the face of things, it doesn’t look terribly impressive. It’s spin and movement are way below league average, in fact. The spin is in the 7th percentile and it drops about seven inches below average as well. Yet, it’s an incredibly effective offering for Anderson. He garnered an absurd 54.2 percent whiff rate against the pitch last year, for reference. How does this happen in spite of low spin and little movement? Deception.

Anderson is incredibly consistent with his release point between his curveball and fastball. Take a look:

Red = Fastball, Blue = Curveball. (via Statcast)

On top of that, his curve is a true 12-6 offering. With almost no horizontal movement, batters are either getting a (seemingly) rising fastball or a hard curveball with a quick downward drop coming out of the same arm slot. That’s not easy to decipher. See below:

Lighter graphics with dotted lines represent league average. (via Statcast)

Unfortunately for the Yankees, Anderson is pretty fresh coming into this series. He hasn’t pitched since Tuesday when he recorded an 11 pitch save against the Red Sox. Let’s hope we don’t have to see much of him this series.

Projected lineup

I’d look that frustrated if I was Kevin Cash, too. Tampa Bay has the league’s 20th-ranked wRC+, and even though Austin Meadows is back, this lineup wasn’t supposed to be particularly great anyway. Here’s the Roster Resource projected lineup:

  1. Austin Meadows, LF (.250/.250/.500, 104 wRC+)
  2. Brandon Lowe, 2B (.302/.375/.605, 175 wRC+)
  3. Yandy Díaz, 3B (.211/.362/.263, 97 wRC+)
  4. Ji-Man Choi, 1B (.148/.273/.333, 77 wRC+)
  5. Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, DH (.182/.289/.303, 78 wRC+)
  6. Willy Adames, SS (.290/.389/.419, 138 wRC+)
  7. Hunter Renfroe, RF (.184/.279/.395, 95 wRC+)
  8. Kevin Kiermaier, CF (.171/.237/.229, 38 wRC+)
  9. Mike Zunino, C (.077/.200/.192, 23 wRC+)

Off the bench, Tampa Bay has two catchers (Michael Perez and Kevan Smith) along with infielders Mike Brosseau and Joey Wendle. José Martínez (136 wRC+) is the team’s platoon bat vs. southpaws, so we’ll likely see him against James Paxton this weekend.

Pitching Matchups

Tonight, 6:40 p.m. EDT: Masahiro Tanaka (vs. Rays) vs. Blake Snell (vs. Yankees)

As sweet as it would be for the Rays to beat the Yankees, it’d be just as sweet to put a sock in Snell’s mouth tonight. He’s made two starts so far, but has only thrown five innings as he’s still getting stretched out following some elbow soreness back in spring training. That same elbow has been in rough shape since last year: he had arthroscopic surgery to remove some loose bodies last July and had a cortisone shot in it this spring.

He hasn’t been the same since his excellent Cy Young campaign in 2018 when he posted a 1.89 ERA. Given his health, I guess that’s not a surprise. He had a 4.29 ERA (3.32 FIP) in 107 innings last season and has been so-so in an extremely limited sample this year. On the bright side, his fastball velocity (95 MPH) hasn’t gone away. It sounds like he could pitch four or five innings tonight.

Snell.

Masahiro Tanaka will probably go a similar distance as Snell tonight. Tanaka tossed 2 2/3 innings in his first start of the season last week against Boston. His fastball velocity and usage were unexpectedly up from past years, so that’ll be something to keep an eye on tonight.

Saturday (Game 1 of 2), 2:10 p.m. EDT: Gerrit Cole (vs. Rays) vs. Bullpen/Tyler Glasnow (vs. Yankees)

Glasnow is likely to pitch one of the two games in Saturday’s doubleheader. He’ll be a handful for the Yankees’ lineup whenever he does go. He’s got incredible stuff. Glasnow looked like a Cy Young contender last year before he got hurt. The young righty had a 1.86 ERA in 48 1/3 innings through early May before suffering a forearm strain.

Glasnow.

Glasnow’s one downside: he doesn’t provide much length. He’s averaged roughly five innings per start in his Rays career and hasn’t thrown more than 4 2/3 innings in either of his two starts this season. That said, he did average six innings per start last year before he got hurt. It also helps that this will be a seven inning game.

Cole is slated for the first game of the doubleheader for the Yankees. It’ll already be his fourth start in pinstripes even though it’ll be just the 14th team game for the Bombers. Oddly enough, those postponements against the Phillies a couple of weeks ago really benefited the Yanks’ starting staff by essentially giving Cole an extra turn. Though it’s a little bit of a different Tampa Bay lineup, Cole absolutely eviscerated the Rays in the ALDS last year. He won both Game 2 and Game 5 thanks to 15 2/3 innings, one run allowed, and 25 strikeouts. More of the same here, please.

Saturday (Game 2 of 2): TBD vs. Bullpen/Tyler Glasnow

Surprisingly, the Rays haven’t done an official opener/bullpen game yet this year (though Snell’s short starts effectively were bullpen games). A couple of candidates to get the starting nod: Trevor Richards and Andrew Kittredge.

Similar to the Rays, the Yankees will have a bullpen game during this doubleheader. Jonathan Loaisiga seems like a plausible candidate after he served as an opener on Thursday. Luis Cessa, David Hale, Michael King, and Nick Tropeano are candidates as well.

Sunday, 1:10 p.m. EDT: James Paxton (vs. Rays) vs. Charlie Morton (vs. Yankees)

This is going to be a battle of two pitchers still working out the kinks. Morton didn’t look very sharp in his first couple of outings, particularly with diminished fastball velocity. He sat 92 in his first two starts, but average 93 in his most recent game against Boston. This is still well down from 96 in 2018 and 95 in 2019. Overall, Morton has a 5.52 ERA in 14 2/3 innings.

Morton

Paxton’s yet to go more than three innings in his two starts this season, and that wasn’t by design. His fastball velocity is way down and his mechanics are all over the place. The Yankees need to see some progress for him really soon. The Big Maple was really good against Tampa last year (12 innings, 18 strikeouts, 3.00 ERA), but it’ll be hard to repeat that without his usual velocity.

Bullpen Status

RHP: Nick Anderson, Oliver Drake, Diego Castillo, Chaz Roe, Peter Fairbanks, Andrew Kittredge, Trevor Richards

LHP: Aaron Loup, Jalen Beeks, Sean Gilmartin

Per Fangraphs, this is the league’s top bullpen. I’d argue the Yankees have a better crew, but that’s neither here nor there. There’s no set closer in this bullpen, though Drake is the only one with saves (2) on the roster. Anderson or Castillo can do the job as well. Alvarado has closer experience with Tampa Bay, but as noted earlier, is inactive to start the series. The other big absence is Poche, who’s out for the year as mentioned before as well.


Considering that this series is at the (hated) Trop and the Rays are going to trot out three of their best starters, I think a split would be satisfactory. Especially with a double header in line for Saturday, as those are generally tough to sweep. Taking three of four or sweeping Tampa Bay would virtually put the Rays’ hope for a divisional title out of reach, however.

Game 12: Randy’s worst nightmare

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The stars have aligned, folks. Tyler Wade is in the starting lineup and Randy is handling tonight’s recap. In case you somehow aren’t in on the joke, maybe listen to our podcast?

Tonight’s the last of the Yankees and Phillies four game set before the Bombers head down to Tampa Bay. And similar to yesterday, Aaron Boone is providing more rest for his usual starters, especially because the Yankees-Rays series will include four games in three days. Tonight, Aaron Judge and DJ LeMahieu get a breather. With that, here are the lineups:

New York Yankees (9-2)

  1. Mike Tauchman, RF
  2. Luke Voit, 1B
  3. Aaron Hicks, CF
  4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
  5. Gleyber Torres, SS
  6. Brett Gardner, LF
  7. Gio Urshela, 3B
  8. Gary Sánchez, C
  9. Tyler Wade, 2B

LHP Jordan Montgomery

Philadelphia Phillies (2-4)

  1. Andrew McCutchen, LF
  2. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
  3. Bryce Harper, RF
  4. J.T. Realmuto, C
  5. Phil Gosselin, DH
  6. Didi Gregorius, SS
  7. Scott Kingery, 2B
  8. Neil Walker, 3B
  9. Roman Quinn, CF

RHP Zach Eflin

News & Notes

  • Friendly reminder: our mailbag is open for questions. Shoot us a note at viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com for a chance to featured in an upcoming mailbag.
  • Some roster news: the Yankees selected RHP Nick Tropeano from its player pool and transferred Tommy Kahnle to the 60-day injured list. Tropeano is a local product from West Islip and played college ball at Stony Brook. He’s a starter by trade so he can give a few innings in relief if need be.
  • In case you missed it, the Yankees optioned Miguel Andújar, Thairo Estrada, and Nick Nelson today too.

This one starts at 6:05 p.m. EDT. You can watch on YES and listen on WFAN or WADO.

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