Oakland feels like a house of horrors. The Yankees just do not play well against the A’s in the Bay Area. Tonight’s game was more of the same. The Yanks lose the game by the score of 5-3 (box score here). They are 83-36 and have a 8.5 game lead in the AL East. They are now on a four game losing streak. It is there first such streak since mid-April.
There was poor pitching, uninspiring offense and sloppy defense. It was a total team effort. The only positive is that the team is leaving Oakland. Here are the takeaways.
1. Terrible Tanaka: Masahiro Tanaka was in trouble as soon as he threw his second pitch in the game. Marcus Semien ripped a double to left field and the inning went downhill from there. Tanaka couldn’t control the strike zone let alone command it. After the Semien double, Masa walked the next two batters to put himself in a bases loaded no out jam. After getting a bizarre out on a Matt Olson fielder’s choice (more on this later), Tanaka threw a wild pitch which allowed Olson to advance to second. Mark Canha stepped up to the plate and singled home two runs against a drawn in infield in the first inning (more on this later as well). Tanaka ended the inning throwing 33 pitches.
It was a struggle for Masahiro all game. There didn’t appear to be one pitch that he could consistently rely upon. You could make a case that his slider was ok, but even then it only forced six swinging strikes out of 34 pitches. Here is Masa’s strike zone plot for the night:
For clarity, some of the strikes in this graphic represent a bunch of foul balls. Tanaka wasn’t getting much past the A’s. You can also see how many pitches missed the zone and by a considerable amount. The balls that were hit in play were hit pretty damn hard. Take a look at this exit velocity chart:
There is a little too much red in this chart. There is a clear connection between a lack of command and hard hit contact.
To his credit, Tanaka did do a better job of controlling the A’s as his start went on. He finished with a line of 6IP, 8H, 5ER, 2BB, 5SO. It didn’t look like he would survive the first so settling down and going six innings is impressive. And in all fairness, the team didn’t do much to pick him up early in the game.
2. Beat By The Shift: The Yankees rely heavily on the shift. They are one of the more successful teams to employ that strategy. Tonight was one of those rare nights where it cost them runs. Despite his clear struggles in the first, Masahiro Tanaka did do enough to get out of the first inning with limited damage. The positioning of the infield did him no favors.
In Matt Olson’s at bat with the bases loaded and no out, the Yankees employed a shift where three defenders were on the right side. DJLM was playing in the shortstop hole. Despite having a pitcher who lives at the bottom of the zone and really needing a double play, the infield defense was playing like there wasn’t anyone on base. Sure enough, Matt Olson hit a ground ball that would’ve been a double play with a less extreme shift. The Yankees were barely able to get one out on the play on a bizarre decision by Didi to flip to second instead of throwing to first.
In the following at bat with Mark Canha, Boone decided to play the infield in. This was a pretty curious decision. It was the first inning with a pitcher that can get a ground ball and the opposing pitcher was Tanner Roark. It was pretty early to employ such a defensive strategy. Mark Canha hit what should have been a ground ball out. Instead, Canha knocked in two runs. Tanaka didn’t have a great start, but some of the early damage was due to poor defense.
3. Another Quiet Night For The Bats: The Yankees potent lineup was shut down by Homer Bailey, Mike Fiers and Tanner Roark in this series. The A’s clearly went into the matchup with the intention of mixing their pitches to keep the Yankees off balance. They did an excellent job of executing that plan.
In today’s game, Roark had decent stuff. Roark isn’t overpowering, but features a solid and diverse repertoire. Tanner was able to keep guys guessing with his four seamer, two seamer, change up, slider and curve. He pumped the zone with strikes and forced the Yankees hitters to swing at his pitches. The Yankees offense wasn’t able to take advantage of mistakes Roark made in the zone.
There are legitimate questions about the lineup construction as well. The Yankees actually out hit the A’s in the first two games of the series. They couldn’t get the big hit to make the games more competitive. It would make sense to construct a lineup tonight that would address this issue. Instead, an inconsistent Didi Gregorius was hitting third. Gary Sanchez was hitting behind Gio Urshela. And Gleyber Torres, who hit two bombs, was hitting sixth behind Brett Gardner. The Yankees really need to re-evaluate where certain hitters are placed in the lineup to jump start the offense. There is no reason for Brett Gardner to be hitting in the middle of the lineup ahead of Gleyber Torres. Gleyber really should be the three hitter at this point. I know lineup complaints are annoying at times, but this scenario calls for the critique.
Thankfully, the Yankees are done playing in Oakland. The bad news is they go to Los Angeles where the Dodgers will be waiting. It should be a fun series. Hyun-Jin Ryu will face James Paxton to start off the three game tilt. The game will start at 10:10pm. Hopefully, the Yanks will be able to break their losing streak and begin a nice long winning streak. Have a great night.