The Yankees dropped their third straight game and second in Oakland in a 6-4 loss to the Athletics on Wednesday. J.A. Happ allowed five runs in four-plus innings, once again allowing a pair of homers.
With the loss, New York no longer has baseball’s best record, though they maintain a two-game advantage on the Astros thanks to Houston’s loss earlier.
To the takeaways:
1. J.A. Happ can’t pitch from behind
You can argue that Happ can’t pitch to hitters in just about any count this season, but he’s struggled particularly when he puts himself behind. Happ has been dominant when ahead in the count, then pretty dreadful in even in the count or behind. It seems he’s too reliant on his fastball that batters can hunt it and do damage against it. Furthermore, his offspeed isn’t good enough at the moment to get past top-end MLB hitters.
For the first six batters, Happ attacked and got ahead, inducing weak contact or swings and misses. Then Stephen Piscotty blooped a single to center field, bringing up a slumping Khris Davis. Davis was in an 0-for-17 slump, but Happ got behind him 3-0. He worked the count back to 3-2 before leaving a fastball belt high on the outside part of the plate.
Happ had a resurgence of velocity in his outing and that one came in at 94.4 mph, but Davis took it the other way after not being able to do much of anything for weeks. Welp.
An inning later, Happ issued a leadoff walk and got to 1-1 on Marcus Semien. Semien has been low-key one of the better hitters in baseball. Happ tried going offspeed all at-bat and left a nothing slider right over the heart of the plate. It was drilled.
Happ retired the next six batters before leaving the bases loaded with none out in the fifth. His ERA is up to 5.58 after he gave up four hits, two walks and two homers while striking out four. He is now tied for second in baseball with 31 home runs allowed.
2. Plenty of life from the offense. Not quite enough
For the second straight night, the Yankees out-hit the Athletics, putting together 11 hits and putting pressure on Oakland’s pitching staff. They brought the tying or go-ahead run to the plate in the fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings. They just didn’t find a way to break through and even up the game.
They actually scored first in the game with an RBI single from Mike Tauchman bringing home Didi Gregorius. However, in the fourth inning down 4-1, Cameron Maybin struck out with men on the corners.
In the sixth, the Yankees had a chance to put a real dent in the A’s 5-1 lead when Gio Urshela singled before Gregorius walked and Gleyber Torres hit an infield single. That chased Mike Fiers from the game but the combination of lefty Jake Diekman and righty Yusmeiro Petit held the Bombers to a sac fly.
The seventh started with the Yankees down 6-2, though Mike Ford hit a solo homer right away. With two outs, the Yankees got a pair of bloop singles to the spacious right field before Didi hit a line-drive double to score one and put the tying runs in scoring position. Torres grounded out.
And in the eighth, the Athletics went to top prospect A.J. Puk for his MLB debut. He walked Tauchman and nearly had two men on when Maybin popped one into right field. However, Jurickson Profar may have saved the game with a sliding catch.
Still, the Yankees were undeterred as Ford singled. That brought up DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge. Bob Melvin didn’t mess around and went to closer Liam Hendriks for a five-out save. Hendriks shut the game down from there, striking out both men before tossing a 1-2-3 ninth inning to close the game.
The Yankees finished 3-for-9 with RISP and left 10 men on base. Just one of those nights, for the second straight night.
3. A glimpse of Playoff Chad Green?
Green was called in to handle Happ’s bases-loaded, none-out jam in the fifth inning and he got the job done with two foul pop outs and a weak grounder to the left side. Unfortunately, that grounder was enough in the hole to score a run, though he got another right afterward to limit the damage.
This was Green’s first outing since his bad opener stint Thursday and he tossed three innings, acting as both a stopper and long reliever to keep the team in the game. He gave up a leadoff homer to start his second inning of work before retiring the last six batters he faced, including two strikeouts.
Green has now allowed runs in five of his last nine outings after giving up just one run over 20.2 innings from early June to late July. He got just four swings and misses in 35 pitches and had a few too many balls in play for it to be classic Green.
Still, he kept the Yankees in the game when a hit in the fifth inning would have blown the contest open. He tossed 80 percent strikes, showing strong command while striking out both Matt Chapman and Jurickson Profar looking.
You have to wonder if this would be Green’s role early in a playoff series, as it was in 2018 ALDS Game 1. The pitcher who comes in early if the starter doesn’t have it and gives the team some length. He’s well suited for it in certain matchups, though he needs to right the ship after his recent struggles.
- Ford went 3-for-4, raising his average to .200 for the first time this season. Urshela, Gregorius and Tauchman each had two hits, Gary Sanchez and Torres had one hit apiece. Meanwhile, LeMahieu, Judge and Maybin each went 0-for in the game.
- Adam Ottavino tossed a 1-2-3 eighth inning while facing three righties. He threw nine pitches, all strikes, and had the good slider going to get a strikeout with two easy fly outs.
- The YES broadcast pointed out that first-base umpire Rob Drake is one of the few umpires you see with a beard. He pulls it off. Props to Thursday’s home plate umpire, though you won’t be able to see it under his mask.
- ICYMI: Top prospect Deivi Garcia will be working out of the bullpen for the rest of the season as he prepares for a potential relief role in the Bronx down the stretch.
- Also, Ford did the Gardner-bat celebration after his eighth-inning single and … uh … it doesn’t look great.
The Yankees look to avoid a sweep in a 9:37 p.m. start Wednesday. It’ll be Masahiro Tanaka (9-6, 4.56 ERA) opposing Tanner Roark (7-8, 4.01). The game will be on YES.