Now THAT is more like it. That game had a playoff atmosphere (at least it seemed so from the couch) and the last two strikeouts at the end each elicited a true fist pump. I love when that happens. Anyway, the Yanks return to 40 games over .500, improving to 82-42 and retain their huge lead on their AL East competition. You love to see it.
It’s Friday night and that was a tense one, so get right into the takeaways, shall we?
1. Masterful Masahiro Returns Again: Let me be the first to say it: I’m hardly the most objective analyst of Masahiro Tanaka. I just straight up love the dude. He’s a fierce competitor, I love his style of pitching, and I root for him extremely hard. That said, this year has been a bit of a challenge for my man, obviously, and I know that his HR struggles get on fans’ nerves (and for good reason!). His last two starts, though, have been exactly what the doctor has ordered. Check it out:
- August 11 vs. Toronto: 8.0 IP, 3 H, zeros, 4 K
- August 16 vs. Cleveland: 6.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 2 K
Add that all up and you have a pretty damn solid stretch, and he’s provided the Yanks the opportunity to rest some of their taxed bullpen arms. That’s the Tanaka we all expect. Anyway, here is his strike zone plot from tonight:
A lot of balls over the middle of the plate, but he also kept the ball down in the zone and the results were pretty good. Hard to complain, especially with the way Cleveland has been swinging the bats lately. He did, of course, surrender two home runs. Here are the videos of those:
Gross! But those were the only blemishes on the night, which was otherwise quite good. He was really feeling it into the 7th inning, before Puig’s home run. He did give up a double to Ramírez (more on him below) that kept the game tense and in the balance, but Tommy Kahnle (also more on him below) bailed him out.
Let’s keep the good times rolling in 5 days, Masahiro. We’d all appreciate it.
2. Does Judge Look Like Judge?: Aaron Judge, by far the best hitter in the Yankee lineup, is in a slump. You know it. I know it. He knows it. The idiot fans who booed him last night know it. But the thing with a player as good as Judge is that we all know he’ll snap out of it eventually, and you don’t have to squint that hard to hope that tonight was the beginning of that.
He started off the game with a hard single over Lindor’s head at short. He’d later score in the inning. He lined out sharply to Yasiel Puig in right in his next at-bat, then he added a double in his 3rd at-bat, and he walked in his 4th at-bat. If you were wondering if they were cheap, check this out:
That’s more like it. Now, this isn’t exactly surprising. Despite his huge slump, check out the exit velocity leaderboards for batters with at least 150 balls put in play so far in 2019:
- Aaron Judge: 96.7 mph
- Nelson Cruz: 94.2 mph
- Miguel Sano: 93.4 mph
- Christian Yelich: 93.4 mph
- Yoan Moncada: 93.0 mph
That’s a pretty stark difference right there. Two whole miles per hour! Now, exit velocity isn’t the end-all, be-all by any means, but this is a solid reminder that even when slumping, Judge absolutely rockets the ball. It’s also a sign that he’s going to snap out of this funk sooner or later. Besides, our man is still hitting .262/.385/.452 (121 wRC+) with a 16.0% walk rate in a “down” year with a huge slump. If that’s a floor, I have to say: seems pretty good!
3. Gio Urshela Makes Me The Most Happy Fella: Another night, another takeaway about Gio Urshela. I suspect none of you mind, though, because what a story this guy is. Anyway, tonight, let’s focus on his skills with runners in scoring position. Our guy was hitting .378/.402/.537 with RISP entering tonight with 42 RBI. That will improve following this one:
That’s just another well-struck ball for Gio, who drove the ball the other way to drive in Judge. That made the score 3-1. (He also added another single with two on in the 7th, but didn’t drive in a run.)
What more can you say about this dude? He has been just an unbelievable, unbelievable addition to the team this year. Our guy, as Derek noted earlier, is close to qualifying for the AL batting title…and, when he does, he’ll be positioned to win it. He’s now up to .340/.381/.586 (150 wRC+) following tonight’s 2-3 performance. Amazing. Just amazing.
4. José Ramírez is a Certified Yankee Killer: Let it be known that I am officially sick of José Ramírez. What a certified pain in the ass this guy is. He’s a hell of a player, of course, and his early-season struggles were genuinely confounding, but my word does he destroy the Yankees. And I mean destroy the Yankees. In 130 plate appearances against the Yankees before tonight, here was Ramírez’s line against New York: .362/.408/.623 with 8 home runs and 25 RBI. That’s essentially Mike Trout, for what it’s worth.
Anyway, tonight didn’t buck the trend. Ramírez went 3-4 with a homer, as you saw above, a single, and a double for good measure. He’s up to .253/.326/.465 (100 wRC+) on the season now, which is pretty remarkable given how atrocious he was through June. He’s regressing to the mean in a serious way, and I for one hate it. That aside, though, how satisfying was that Aroldis Chapman strikeout of Ramírez. I was convinced, and I mean convinced, that he was going to launch one to right field, but Chapman got the best of him.
(I’d also be remiss not to point out one delicious, delicious statistic: Ramírez hit .100/.182/.100 in 25 at-bats in the 2017 ALDS. I’d take that again this year, if it comes to that. Wouldn’t you?)
- Gleyber Torres, Still Just 22: I just wanted to point this out quickly, in case anyone forgot. Gleyber Torres is 22 years old! 22! I bring this up because our guy added another RBI single tonight in a 1-4 night, which brings his season line to .282/.347/.523 (123 wRC+) with 27 home runs, 77 runs scored, 71 RBI, and an improved walk/strikeout ratio over last year. Did I mention he’s just 22? What a damn stud. Here’s the video of the single:
- Puig’s Arm Makes an Impact: With the Yanks up 2-0 in the 2nd inning and Maybin on 3rd with 1 out, the Yanks sent Maybin home on a short flyout from DJ LeMahieu to RF Yasiel Puig. It was a phenomenally stupid send given: 1) the short fly ball, 2) Puig’s arm, and 3) the fact that Aaron Judge, slump or not, was on deck. He was out by a mile and couldn’t even slide. The Yankees remembered in the 7th inning, too, as two similar fly balls hit by Torres and Sánchez with the bases loaded did not result in sends. Annoying, but it’s an example of how defensive tools really change a game. It ain’t all about the offense. Here’s the video of the double play:
- Tommy Kahnle: I’ve said this on Twitter a bunch of times now, but my word do I love the completely unexpected return of 2017 Playoff Tommy Kahnle™. Tonight, he came in with Ramírez on 2nd and 1 out in the 7th with the Yanks hanging on to a 3-2 lead. The result? Two strikeouts and no sweat. That changeup is filthy, man. It really is. Kahnle now has a 2.88 ERA with 73 strikeouts in 50 innings pitched. He often looks just unhittable. I love it.
- Jim Kaat Sounds Like the Yankees: I am out of town back home in Massachusetts and caught today’s game on MLB Network, and I have to say it was nice to hear Jim Kaat calling a Yankee game again. It just reminds me of Yankee games of old, and it was oddly soothing. He just sounds like the Yankees, doesn’t he? Even if he’s paired with the (to me, I know he’s a legend) insufferable Bob Costas. It’s just familiar, and I love it.
The battle of the first-place teams continues tomorrow afternoon when the Yanks face Cleveland for the third game of this four-game set (and potential playoff matchup). James Paxton (8-6, 4.40 ERA) and his new approach will take on Zach Plesac (6-3, 3.27 ERA) at 1:05 pm. Catch the game on MLB Network nationally, YES locally, and on WFAN for the radio broadcast. Enjoy the rest of your Friday night, everyone.