With their 4-1 win tonight, the Yankees reach their high water mark of the season. They are now 43 games over .500 with a record of 92-49. Their AL East lead is up to 10 games and the elimination number now sits at 12. The Astros had the night off so the Yanks hold a 1.5 game lead in the race for home field throughout the AL portion of the playoffs. You can find the boxscore here. This was a pretty uneventful game so the takeaways are limited.
1. Cessa Shines: The Yankees started the game with their designated opener Chad Green tonight. Green had yet another solid performance in that role, but the most important innings tonight were thrown by Luis Cessa. Normally, the second pitcher behind Green is Nestor Cortes Jr., but he threw a couple of innings a few days ago, so the job fell to Cessa. He took full advantage.
As we all know, Luis Cessa has been inconsistent out of the the pen all season. He will have long stretches where he is terrible and mix in a few stretches where he’s effective. Cessa is currently experiencing the latter as he came into tonight’s game pitching eight consecutive scoreless innings over his last few appearances. His biggest issue is strike zone command. Tonight he not only showed that command, but he was efficient in the zone as well. Here is his strike zone plot for the night:
This type of command will work when you have the stuff that Cessa features. He was effective with both his four seamer and slider. When his slider is working, he is a pretty good relief option out of the pen. Out of his 33 pitches, 14 of them were the slide piece. He threw 11 of them for strikes along with 9 swings and 4 whiffs. It was clear that he was feeling good about the pitch all night.
I highly doubt Luis Cessa will make the post season roster. Outside of the decreasing need for multiple long men in the pen during the playoffs, Cessa isn’t nearly consistent enough to pitch meaningful innings in October. This is the type of performance that the organization can look at when determining to keep someone on the 40 man roster. The Yankees brass may see value in keeping him around next year in this role. That may not make many Yankees fans happy, but improved consistency could go a long way towards being an effective long man.
2. That Gleyber Guy Is Pretty Good: It was mentioned on Twitter that Gleyber Torres could be Brian Cashman’s best acquisition of his career. At first glance, this feels like an overstatement. But Gleyber is establishing himself as one of the best players in the league.
With the Yankees leading 2-0, Gleyber stepped up to the plate in the fourth inning:
This is Gleyber’s 34th home run on the season. He is a 22 year old middle infielder who didn’t project to have a significant power profile when he was still in the minors. One possible explanation for this impressive power output is his approach at the plate. Here is a nice nugget from Inside Edge Scout:
Gleyber is hunting fastballs and putting his A swing on them. This feels like a plan of attack that many hitters should have, but don’t always seem to incorporate. Gleyber knows that he is going to get at least one fastball per at bat and he centers his at bats around that pitch. He is a good enough hitter to adjust to poor breaking balls, but he clearly wants the heater. Torres is exceptional at executing this plan and the results are very impressive.
With every homer he hits, Gleyber continues to make history. Here are two really interesting facts about Torres:
You can make a pretty compelling case that Gleyber is already the Yankees best player. He is playing solid defense at both middle positions and is dominating at the plate. There is a strong possibility that Gleyber could end the season with 40 home runs. There is rightfully a lot of talk about Ronald Acuña and Juan Soto, but Gleyber is in their class. He feels a bit overshadowed by the likes of Judge, Sanchez and DJLM, but Torres is clearly one of the most important pieces of this team. He shares the team lead in home runs with Gary Sanchez. Now if only Aaron Boone would leave him in the three hole for the rest of the year.
3. Power and Patience: As the team prepares for the playoffs, it is important to monitor the trends during the month of September. This game was a good sign for the offense. Lance Lynn is having a nice season and was a good test for a compromised Yankee lineup. They were able to beat Lynn through their age old philosophy of making the pitcher work and hitting home runs.
The lineup forced Lynn to throw 109 pitches in five innings. Most of the Yankees at bats felt like a grind for Lynn. The hitters were comfortable with taking their walks and passing the baton to the next guy. When Lynn made a mistake in the zone, Judge and Gleyber made him pay.
This offense is really versatile. They can beat you in so many ways. It is important to see them have games like tonight and last night. As Bobby pointed out in this fantastic post, home runs are going to be important weapons in the postseason. It is going to be really hard to string together four or five hits in an inning against the likes of Justin Verlander, Gerritt Cole and Mike Clevinger. Quickstrikes are going to be key. They are even more effective if you can create some traffic on the basepaths with walks. As they head into the tournament, seeing the Yankees hitters control the zone and punish mistakes is a great sight to behold.
The Yankees have an off day tomorrow before they start a four game series with some team up in New England. Domingo Germán will get the start and the fun starts at 7:10pm. Enjoy your night everyone.