Game 11: Ryu dominates, but Sánchez’s baserunning blunder foils comeback

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Tonight’s 7-3 loss to the Blue Jays never really felt all that close, aside for a brief moment in the eighth inning. Before that, Toronto’s ace Hyun Jin Ryu shut down the Yankees’ bats while Jameson Taillon struggled with his command in a short outing. And yet, things started to go the Yankees’ way in the eighth against the Blue Jays’ bullpen.

The Yankees had the tying run at the plate in Aaron Hicks against lights-out closer Julian Merryweather with two outs in the eighth. Unfortunately, Merryweather didn’t even need to retire Hicks to escape. Instead, Gary Sánchez got caught in a rundown after a pitch in the dirt and was tagged out to end the threat.

There’s no doubt it was atrocious baserunning, and it’s very frustrating that the bat was taken out of Hicks’ hands. Still would have been a really difficult matchup for the Yankees’ center fielder, but you never know. Anyway, to the takeaways:

This was not Jameson Taillon’s night. Aaron Boone had to pull the plug on Taillon in the fourth inning of this one. I can’t say I expected that after the righty had an easy 8 pitch 1-2-3 first inning. His final line: 84 pitches across 3.2 innings, 8 hits, 5 runs, 1 walk, and 3 strikeouts.

The righty’s second inning was the root of his issues tonight. He had a couple of opportunities to put away hitters, but failed to do so. An 0-2 count to Lourdes Gurriel led to a hit by pitch and a 1-2 count against Danny Jansen resulted in a walk. Jays’ rookie right fielder Josh Palacios eventually capitalized with a seeing-eye two run single to center field. It was a bit of a tough luck hit (.220 xBA), but Taillon also could have done a better job against previous hitters.

Taillon’s second inning pitch chart. He clearly had a tough time locating.

So instead of a potentially quick second frame, Taillon used 34 pitches to work into and out of trouble. That long inning may have wore him down, particularly by the fourth inning when Toronto really started to square him up.

While Taillon’s location wasn’t great in the second frame, he had a particularly tough time spotting his two breaking balls throughout this outing.

As a result, Toronto hitters swung-and-missed just once on 19 swings against sliders and curveballs combined. Taillon garnered a 35.3 percent whiff rate against those offerings in his first start, mind you.

On the bright side, the righty’s fastball looked pretty good tonight. He consistently kept it up in the zone, which is something he’s striving to do more of now that he’s out of the Pirates organization.

That’s exactly what you want to see. He picked up 9 whiffs on 26 swings (35 percent) against the pitch, topped out at 95.6 MPH, and averaged 93.7 on the gun.

Granted, Toronto did strike a couple of his fastballs for extra base hits in Taillon’s final frame of work. Both Marcus Semien’s solo homer and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s RBI double came against high fastballs. They were located where Taillon wanted, but I’d bet that a couple of things hurt the Yankees’ starter here: the third time through the order penalty and slightly diminished velocity as he tired. The Vlad double came against a 92 MPH heater, though Semien’s was 93.5.

Overall, this was a step back from his first start, but I didn’t see anything alarming. He just didn’t have great command tonight. It happens.

The Yankees offense has been bad, but Hyun Jin Ryu put on a master class tonight. Seriously, even if the lineup was firing on all cylinders, I’m not sure the Bombers would have done much damage against the southpaw. Ryu faced the minimum through four and wound up completing 6.2 innings, allowing just one run in the top of the seventh. Why do I say Ryu was so good, regardless of how the Yankees’ bats have been doing lately? Just look at this:

That’s called painting the black, folks. So to no surprise, he held the Yankees to a weak 86.8 MPH average exit velocity against. He also picked up 13 swings-and-misses on 46 hacks (28 percent).

And yes, Ryu was the beneficiary of a wide strike zone early in this one. The Yankees dugout was none too pleased and you could hear the shouting on the broadcast.

Aaron Hicks was the only guy who had much success against Ryu tonight. Just as you had guessed, right? Hicks went 2-for-3 with a double against Ryu. Good to see that from the center fielder after a rough start to his campaign.

Anyway, sometimes you truly do have to tip your cap to the opposing pitcher. It’s not lip service for a struggling lineup tonight, either. Ryu was simply on his game. Of course, facing a pitcher in a groove was also the last thing the Bombers’ bats needed right now.

Perhaps more evidence that Ryu was virtually untouchable was what happened once he left the game. The Yankees scalded a few balls against Toronto relievers David Phelps and Jordan Romano in the eighth. Frazier ripped a 107 MPH liner off Phelps’ back, who left thereafter with the trainer. Ouch. DJ LeMahieu (101.4 MPH) and Giancarlo Stanton (120 MPH!) rocketed two more hits to cut the lead to 6-3. Eventually, as noted in the intro, Aaron Hicks came to the dish as the tying run and Charlie Montoyo went to the closer, Julian Merryweather.

As you know, Merryweather made the Yankees look silly in the opening series. Once again, the Yankees bats had no chance against him tonight, but not exactly for the reasons you’d think. Instead of Hicks having a chance to swing the bat and continue the comeback, Danny Jansen threw out Gary Sánchez after a pitch in the dirt.

I have no idea what Gary was doing there. He seemed to get a good jump, but inexplicably stopped. I’m not sure if he thought Hicks told him to hold up, but whatever the case, that was just brutal baserunning. Sánchez has been off to a really good start this year, but this one stung. Hopefully just a blip.

The Yankees need length from the rotation eventually. Of Yankees starters, only Gerrit Cole (twice) and Jordan Montgomery (twice) have completed five innings in a start this season. Bump that up to six innings and it’s Cole (twice) and Monty (once). I know the Yankees are being careful with Taillon and Corey Kluber, but tonight’s performance (and Kluber’s most recent one) weren’t short simply to protect their arms. Then there’s Domingo Germán, who was demoted after two poor outings (though that may not be the reason he was sent down — an overworked bullpen and enough off-days to skip his next turn(s) likely were).

Even with a lack of length and poor statistics thus far, I wouldn’t sound the alarm on the Yankees rotation yet. I don’t think the struggles so far in the non-Cole division are for a lack of ability. Kluber and Taillon (at least tonight) are searching for command. Montgomery is a personal favorite and looked really good in his first outing, garnering a ton of soft contact. Germán is more of an uncertainty to me, but the team has other options like Deivi García to turn to.

Now, I do understand where people’s worries are coming from. Kluber and Taillon are coming off significant injuries. The numbers, as evidenced by Hoch’s above tweet, are ugly. But again, I’m going to point to the quality of stuff we’ve seen thus far.

So while my confidence in the rotation hasn’t wavered just yet, we do need to start seeing some length. As great as the bullpen has been, Boone can’t keep asking them to enter the game this early and this often. It’ll catch up to them sooner or later if things don’t improve. Luckily though, tonight was just the 11th game of the year. There’s plenty of time to turn things around.

Leftovers

  • Yet again, the Yankees bullpen did a fine job. Lucas Luetge gave up the lone blemish, a solo homer to Rowdy Tellez. He retired the four other hitters he faced though, and three by strikeout. Luis Cessa followed Luetge with two blank frames. Albert Abreu pitched the ninth, but was really wild and gave up a run without allowing a hit. That’s not easy to accomplish. Anyway, in total: 4.1 innings and two runs allowed from the low-leverage guys? Not bad.
  • More double plays: the Yankees bounced into three more tonight, bringing the team’s league-leading total to 14.
  • Gio Urshela looked OK at shortstop, although he made a costly throwing error in the third inning. Urshela’s low throw that Jay Bruce couldn’t scoop pushed Bo Bichette to second base to lead off the inning. It would have been an infield single instead, but the error cost the team an extra base. Bichette later came around to score. Of course, a better (or real) first baseman probably makes that pick on Urshela’s throw.

The Yanks and Jays have split the first two of this series, making tomorrow night’s affair the rubber game. Same time, same place. Have a good night.

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8 Comments

  1. Dan

    Game today is at 1pm for anyone unaware (article above has it as a night game)

  2. CentralScrutinizer

    Boy you’re really trying to put lipstick on a pig in discussing Taillon’s night. Third-time through the order penalty? Never mind that that trope is a really tired excuse – it was the 4th inning!. If the order is coming up for the third time in less than 4 innings – that’s an ugly outing no matter how many whiffs he got on high fastballs. It’s not spring training any more. The games count now and the Yankees’ #2 and #3 starters – both high-risk reclamation projects – are really struggling and have trouble going 4 innings. It’s pretty much Cole and Monty and pray for rain at this point.

  3. JJ Dools

    That error on Urshela would have been saved by most decent 1Bs. He never should have thrown that ball, but Bruce is one of the worst defenders at 1B I have seen when it comes to scooping throws. He is awful and that has been really costly thus far. His negative WAR tells no lies.

  4. JG (Brendan Ryan)

    Well that sucked

  5. Charlie

    If this malaise continues through half a season, I’m ready to dissassemble what’s possible. That starts with dumping Sanchez, trading Voigt for pitching, consider moving Judge or Torres in a big package and moving on from Boone at the end of the year (can’t see what he’s done to justify an extension thus far.).

    It would also be time to sunset Cashman’s tenure. Sticking with Torres at short this off-season was a glaring first-guess mistake.

    • Jeremy

      Relax

    • Adam

      1.) 11 games is not 81 games
      2.) Tough to have opinions on players who’s names you can’t spell.
      3.) You don’t get big trade packages for players who aren’t good and can’t stay healthy.
      4.) Relax, like Jeremy said.

      • Charlie

        “2.) Tough to have opinions on players who’s names you can’t spell.”

        Right, because the Internet is known for being a bastion of errorless prose. The Yanks should have traded Voit during the offseason — his value was never going to be higher and as is currently being established, they needed more starting pitching.

        “3.) You don’t get big trade packages for players who aren’t good and can’t stay healthy.”

        Torres and Judge are good. One can’t stay healthy. The other can’t play shortstop. Seeing what kind of value they can bring in a trade is a totally worthy exercise, as explained in an article by Joel Sherman last week.

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