Maybe it is the large lead in the division. It could be the late start time at the end of a busy sports weekend. It is possible that all of Alex Cora’s pitching changes took the air out of the building. Whatever the reason, this game felt like a slog. The good guys won tonight’s game by the score of 10-5. The Yankees are a season high 44 games above .500 with a record of 94-50. Their magic number to clinch the division is 10. They remain tied with the Houston Astros for the best record in baseball. You can find the box score here. Let’s get to the takeaways.
1. Tanaka Inconsistency Strikes Again: Coming into this game, there was legitimate concern for a potential stinker from Masahiro Tanaka. He hasn’t pitched all that well on the road and he’s had issues with the Red Sox this season. That concern was tempered a bit by his recent run of strong performances ever since adjusting the grip on his splitter. His start tonight was a bit of a mixed bag. His stuff was pretty good, but his command was inconsistent with most, if not all, of his pitches.
Here is a graph of Tanaka’s pitch selection and the location of each pitch:
There are two pitches here that stand out the most. Those are Tanaka’s four seamer and his splitter. Tanaka doesn’t feature top end velocity most of the time so location is paramount for that pitch. There are too many heaters that are living up in the zone. In fact, the Jackie Bradley Jr. home run came on a fastball up and away. This is normally a tough pitch to handle, but without a ton of velocity, Bradley was able to get on plane and drive it over the monster.
The splitter wasn’t very effective tonight for Masa. There were too many that lived higher in the zone than one would like. The split didn’t seem to have the same depth it’s had over Tanaka’s recent starts. Of his 80 total pitches, 20 of them were the splitter. He didn’t get one swing and miss on that pitch. That is a pretty strong indicator that it wasn’t at its best. Red Sox hitters were able to either foul it off or put it in play. The splitter should be Tanaka’s ace swing and miss pitch, but it wasn’t that tonight.
The slider was once again Masahiro’s best pitch. It allowed him the opportunity to limit damage. He threw 96% of the slider for strikes and chalked up 8 swing and misses on the pitch. It was also Tanaka’s most frequently used pitch as he threw it 25 times. The slider is definitely his most reliable pitch over the course of the season. It was really good tonight. He finished his night with a line of 4IP, 8H, 4ER, 0BB, 2K.
2. Homer History: The Yankees lineup made a bit of history tonight. Aaron Judge hit a solo home run in the top of the fifth to extend the Yankees’ lead to 7-4. That homer was their 268th (!!!) of the season. It broke the single season franchise record set last year. This is pretty remarkable given all of the injuries and the brand names that haven’t been available throughout the season. Yes, the ball is juiced. Home runs are up across the board. Neither of these two facts should minimize how hard it is to actually hit a home run. The Yankees are not only getting impressive power contributions from guys like Judge, Sanchez and Torres, but also Tauchman, Urshela, LeMahieu and Gardner. Here is video of the record breaking home run:
There are 18 games remaining in the season. The Yankees have a shot to hit 300 home runs in 2019. In fact, there is a chance there will be multiple teams to hit 300 homers in a single season. This may not be a popular opinion, but I’m all for the homers. With all of the premium pitching in the game, quickstrikes feel more important than ever. It is really hard to string together multi-hit, rallies so training for the best outcome makes sense. The home runs were the difference in the game tonight. It’s tough to imagine scoring ten runs solely on a bunch of singles.
3. Tauchman Exits: It appears the injury bug has struck again. In the bottom of the 4th inning, Brock Holt hit a line drive to left field that Mike Tauchman had a chance to catch. Except he pulled up lame going after the ball. Here is the play:
Despite his bat slowing down in recent weeks, Mike Tauchman provides important value to the team. He is currently the only outfielder on the big league club that can back Brett Gardner up in center. With Aaron Hicks experiencing a recent setback in his rehab, the Yankees could be in a precarious situation when it comes to centerfield.
Taking this one step further, the Yankees may be facing another outfield depth issue despite September call ups being an option. The team clearly doesn’t want to play Frazier much and Cameron Maybin is dealing with a wrist issue. We also don’t have a firm timeline for Giancarlo Stanton’s return. We know he is doing baseball activities, but that doesn’t tell us how close he is to playing in big league games.
Getting rest for the core players is important heading into the playoffs, but that plan is compromised if there aren’t enough players to provide depth. Hopefully, it isn’t a long term thing for Tauchman, but it didn’t look good in real time.
4. Chad Green Shines: Chad Green relieved Masahiro Tanaka in the fifth inning with the Yankees up 6-4. The Red Sox put together a nice rally in the fourth and knocked Tanaka out of the game. Green completely shut Boston down. His fastball was electric and dominant. The slider was sharp and devastating. Green wasn’t messing around either. He was attacking the zone with great success:
Green was averaging 96.6MPH on his fastball and commanded the upper part of the zone. That is exactly what you should do when you feature a fastball like Green’s. Greeny got seven swing and misses along with 10 foul balls on the pitch. The Red Sox hitters couldn’t do much with it. He finished the night pitching three innings of shut out relief with five strikeouts.
There is talk of the Yankees potentially using an opener in the playoffs. The reasoning is sound. But if Severino returns to the big league club, and shows he can get hitters out on the MLB level, it may be better to have Sevy start. Chad Green is an important weapon and it feels like using him as an opener in a playoff game minimizes his potential impact. Using Green as one of your higher leverage relievers later in the game makes more sense to me. The stakes are only going to increase as a playoff game moves along so why use a really effective piece in the first inning? I would be fine if Green was used as an opener, but it does feel slightly less impactful.
The Yankees will play their final game of 2019 against the team from New England tomorrow night. It will be James Paxton against Eduardo Rodriguez. The game will start at 7:10pm. Have a great night everybody.