That was a frustrating loss. The Yankees were in an early hole and despite a valiant effort were unable to pull off the comeback. They lose the rubber game of this series against the Phillies by the score of 5-4. Their record now sits at 9-3. Here are the takeaways.
Monty Continues The Starters’ Woes
Jordan Montgomery was excellent in his first start of the year against Boston. In his second start of the year, he was anything but that. Monty was effective against Boston because of efficient effectiveness. That wasn’t the case tonight. Montgomery was fighting his command and control all night. It led to high pitch count innings. He was falling behind the hitters a ton forcing him to throw hittable pitches in the zone. All you have to do is look at this pitch chart to get an idea of how wild he was:
This is a mess. It is important to point out that a lot of these strikes were foul balls. This leads to a concerning trend early on in the season for the Yankees’ pitchers. It is becoming increasingly clear that the staff is struggling to put batters away with two strikes and/or two outs. The JT Realmuto three run home run in the first inning was on a 1-2 hanging curve ball. The Bryce Harper single prior to the home run was on a 1-2 sinker. Rhys Hopkins walked on a 3-2 change up. The big double by Phil Gosselin in the third inning came on a 1-2 change up with two outs. You get the point.
This isn’t just a Montgomery issue. We’ve seen it from Paxton, Happ, and Loaisiga amongst others. This leads to long innings, high pitch counts, and damage from the opposing lineup. It is emerging as a trend that needs to halt sooner than later. There are too many pitchers on the staff right now who can’t put hitters away when they have the chance. Outside of Gerrit Cole, the staff struggles to get to the fifth inning let alone qualify for a quality start. The Yankees have a great bullpen, but most games shouldn’t come down to the pen and lineup. The starters have to step it up.
Montgomery is a good pitcher on an off night. This isn’t a Paxton or Happ situation. Gumby faced a pretty good lineup without his best command. He paid for it. I fully expect Montgomery to bounce back in his next start.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Sanchez
It is hard to criticize the Yankees lineup. They are top three in almost every team offensive category. The Yankees sluggers were able to muster a comeback against a weak Phillies bullpen. This is despite some major pieces struggling so far. Gleyber Torres is in a major slump. Aaron Hicks hasn’t found his power stroke yet. Giancarlo Stanton has cooled down a bit. Gary Sanchez is the lineup’s biggest issue at the moment. So of course, he hits a big opposite field home run to bring the Yankees back.
We all know Gary’s horrid start to the year. His K% is over 53.3. His wOBA is .141. He has a ton of swing and miss in his at bats. His plate discipline is poor. Despite all of this, Gary is still hitting the ball hard. He sits in the 88th percentile of exit velocity and the 76th percentile of hard hit percentage. It feels like his issues are timing, pitch recognition, and plate discipline. If he gets a pitch in the zone he’s stinging the ball. That was the case with this home run:
Gary is driving the ball well to the opposite field this year when he swings at strikes. He drove a good pitch on the outer third to the seats. I’ve said this a few times, but a lot of Gary’s success comes down to his timing. Now, he’s been displaying terrible plate discipline lately, but the slump started with poor timing. We like to say that big moments like this could be the breakthrough moment. I’m not sure we’re there yet. It is nice to see him drive the ball to the opposite field though.
The Bullpen Is Great Again
You can really appreciate the Yankees bullpen when you see the Phillies’ pen. Even with lower guys on the depth chart, the Yankees relievers give the offense a chance to compete throughout the entire game. David Hale and Jonathan Holder came on after Jordan Montgomery with four effective innings of no-run ball. Holder was especially effective with three strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings. If Luke Voit’s drive in the ninth inning finds a gap or goes over the wall, we’re praising the work of the two relievers.
The duo were still important in this game. They were the main reason the ninth inning was interesting. Holder had five swing and misses out of his 12 change ups. The pitch induced soft contact as well. The exit velocity on the change was 52.6 MPH. He was able to get some big strikeouts in the latter stages of the game to give the Yankees a chance late.
David Hale did the heavy lifting on the pitching end. He came on in relief of Montgomery and slowed the Phillies bats down. Despite a few walks, Hale challenged hitters with his four seamer with success. This was an especially important outing because the Yankees were down some quality arms after yesterday’s double header. Hale was able to save some arms and keep the game within reach. That is exactly what you’re looking for from a guy like Hale. That has value.
Despite the loss, the Yankees are off to a great start. Some of their stars are struggling. The non-Cole starters haven’t hit their stride. With that said, the Yankees still have a 3.5 game lead in the division. That is important because they’ve already completed 20% of their weird season. It is crazy to say that, but it’s true. They have an opportunity to put some significant distance between them and the Tampa Bay Rays starting tomorrow night. It will be Masahiro Tanaka against Blake Snell. Blake Snell apparently enjoys beating the Yankees, which is weird because he doesn’t do it much. The game starts at 6:40pm ET. Have a great night.