The Yankees dropped this afternoon’s affair to the Blue Jays, 5-4. Bo Bichette, who homered twice in this one, delivered a walk off home run against Chad Green in the ninth. The Yankees are now 5-7 and have lost three of the four series they’ve played thus far.
Corey Kluber delivered another less-than-ideal outing and the offense sputtered again. The bullpen kept the Yankees in the game, but the relievers can only keep doing so much. I’ll expand on Kluber, the bats, and the ‘pen in the takeaways from this one after the jump.
Just when it looked like the bats were about to break out, things went quiet. Sigh. Another frustrating game for the lineup. Toronto’s bullpen set down 10 of the last 11 batters faced, with the one being a (poorly scored) error which Aaron Judge reached base on.
Speaking of Judge: he was a bit of a one man show in this one. He stroked two homers, bringing his season total to four.
The other two runs came thanks to a clutch two out hit from Gio Urshela in the fourth. In doing so, he bailed out Jay Bruce, who continues to look toast. Bruce struck out with runners on 2nd and 3rd before Urshela’s single, and went 0-for-4 overall with 5 runners stranded. He also hit into two double plays, though one came on a soft liner in which Gleyber Torres got doubled up. Torres should not have been so far off the base. In any event, the Bruce DFA has to be coming sooner or later. Miss you, Luke Voit.
Anyway, after that four run fourth inning, the only other threat came in the sixth. Gary Sánchez and Gleyber Torres both reached base with one out, but Bruce followed with the aforementioned lineout double play. From there, the offense never put up much of a fight. So it goes so far this season.
The bullpen can only do so much. As written about multiple times so far this year, the bullpen has been this team’s saving grace. It’s helped win games and has kept them within striking distance for many games, including today. Still, there are going to be days when one of the team’s better relievers makes a mistake. It’s just part of the game. Today, Chad Green hung a curveball to Bo Bichette in the ninth inning. Even with poor location on the pitch, it didn’t look like the shortstop got all of it. And yet:
That’s the first earned run Green has given up all season. Came at a bad time, but then again, the Yankees can’t keep expecting the bullpen to shut opposing offenses down all season long. There are going to be days where this happens, even if this walk off homer got out by surprise.
And it’s not like the bullpen didn’t keep the Yankees alive for most of this game, anyway. As I will touch on later, Jonathan Loaisiga gave up one run which was aided by a missed call and missed block. After him, Darren O’Day and Justin Wilson tossed clean seventh and eighth innings, respectively. The offense, once again, couldn’t beat Trent Thornton or Anthony Castro. Brand names, I know. At least Rafael Dolis, who threw a scoreless ninth, is actually good.
This offense is too talented to continue struggling, even with Voit sidelined and retreads like Bruce and Rougned Odor playing frequently. It’s just frustrating to see — for what feels like the umpteenth time — the bullpen keep the team in the game, only to have the bats not pick them up.
Corey Kluber struggled again, but I think there are two positives from his outing. Don’t worry, I’ll discuss the bad in a moment. I’m not excusing him from another short outing. But I do think it wasn’t all bad. Let’s quickly discuss the good.
First, Kluber’s velocity was noticeably up from his first two starts of the season.
|Pitch||Today||Prev. 2 Starts||+/-|
As long as this isn’t a calibration issue in Dunedin, this is great to see. It means that Kluber’s adding some strength. Look, he’s not a power pitcher at this stage of his career by any stretch of the imagination, but a couple more ticks always helps. Not that he was ever a power pitcher, of course.
The other positive: lots of whiffs, particularly against his cutter. It was easily his best pitch today. Jays hitters swung through 10 of them on 19 hacks (53 percent). And when they did make contact, it’s not like they squared it up.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s single was crushed, but the low launch angle prevented it from being much damage. Nothing else was struck well against the cutter.
OK, so that’s the good. Now, we have to discuss the bad. Obviously, lasting just four innings isn’t what you want. As I wrote this morning, outside of Gerrit Cole, the Yankees’ rotation is really having a difficult time giving length.
Kluber labored through this one from start to finish. It took him 77 pitches to complete four frames and he didn’t have a single 1-2-3 inning. In fact, Kluber has yet to record a clean frame in his first three starts. He has faced the minimum in an inning twice, but both times were a result of double plays. The fact of the matter is that he’s allowing too much traffic on the basepaths. And a big reason for that is a lack of command.
Kluber was missing off the plate to the first base side a lot in this one. These weren’t all bad pitches, per se, but Toronto hitters were able to lay off a lot of these. When Kluber’s right, the red on the heatmap will be a bit closer to the corner, forcing hitters to either take strikes on the black or make weak contact.
Also not great: Kluber gave up two more homers today, bringing his total to five allowed in 14.1 innings this season. This is very un-Kluber-like. In his prime, he consistently posted sub-1 home runs allowed per nine. He’s 35 now, so obviously his best years are far behind him, but this isn’t pretty. Hopefully there’s a little regression coming.
One of the homers Kluber allowed today brings me back to one of my points from my thoughts post this morning. Non-Cole starters are having a hard time putting away hitters away with two strikes, which is exactly what happened to Kluber in the second inning. Twice, in fact. He got to an 0-2 count against both Rowdy Tellez (single) and Alejandro Kirk (homer).
Those are a couple of awful 0-2 pitches. Tellez singled on a changeup over the heart of the plate and Kirk hit a dinger on a hanging curve.
The other homer he allowed, a solo shot by Bo Bichette, came against a sinker he didn’t get in on his hands enough. Still, it’s not an easy pitch to hit a dinger against, let alone to right center. Bichette is special.
I get that writing up a few positives about Kluber’s outing today can ring a bit hollow. Especially when he had yet another short outing in the midst of the team’s rotation struggling. But I’ll keep beating a dead horse: it’s early. If Kluber’s stuff looked terrible, I’d be honest about it. But to this point, I still think there’s enough to point to that indicates Kluber has something left in the tank. Get back to me in a few more starts if this keeps up.
Defense, as always, seems to keep finding new ways to hurt the Yankees. Jonathan Loaisiga pitched a clean fifth in relief of Kluber (in part thanks to a weird out between third and home discussed in Leftovers), but come the sixth, things got dicey. The young righty reliever, who’s in the midst of a breakout campaign, gave up a couple of leadoff singles to start the frame. Then the misfortune rolled in. The score was 4-3 Yankees at the time, by the way.
Before the defensive gaffe, a bad call hurt the Yankees. After those two singles, Loaisiga appeared to have caught Kirk looking at strike three for the first out. Except, not in the eyes of home plate umpire Tripp Gibson.
So instead of a called strike three, the count moved to 2-2. The very next pitch? Hit by pitch to load the bases. Sigh.
Yet, Loasiga appeared to bear down. He induced a force out at home plate against the next hitter, Josh Palacios. Up next: Marcus Semien, who Loaisiga eventually retired via a shallow fly out, but not before the Yankees’ defense struck again. Loaisiga was tagged with a wild pitch, but this was a poor effort by Kyle Higashioka:
Gotta make a better attempt there. Loaisiga got Bichette out after Semien to end the frame, and not to get all Michael Kay on you, but: fallacy of the predetermined outcome, Loaisiga could have been out of that unscathed with the lead in tact.
- With an 0-for-3 today, Rougned Odor is off to a slow start. He’s now 2-for-15 with a couple of singles.
- Forgot to mention in the Game Thread that this was just a regular day off for DJ LeMahieu. He had started all 11 previous games, so he was due a rest.
- Aaron Judge is clearly playing things safe in right field this season, and for good reason. In the fifth, he tried to back a backhand shoestring catch on a sinking liner off Cavan Biggio’s bat. He whiffed and the ball went to the wall. Fortunately, Judge made a good throw to third base and Biggio rounded third a bit too much, and was hung up and tagged out.
- I guess Deivi García isn’t a candidate to start Friday. He threw 76 pitches today at the Alternate Site, and pitched well. (Conor Foley)
There’s an off day tomorrow, thankfully. On Friday, the Yankees start a weekend series against the Rays. Hopefully the reprieve tomorrow and some home cooking turn things around. Until then, have a good evening everyone.