The Yankees have won the division! They really did so a long time ago, of course, but now it is official. I, for one, am excited. It’s about damn time the Yankees have reclaimed the American League East. No more Wild Card! Thank God for that, right? This was also their 100th win, which means Aaron Boone is the first manager in MLB history to record 100 wins or more in his first two seasons as manager. Pretty rad.
The Yankees pounded the Angels and won 9-1 (Box Score). This was a fun one from the jump, as Tanaka was rolling and the Yanks took an early lead. It was great. Now the only race is for home-field advantage. It would be nice for the Yankees to get that, but I feel pretty damn good about this team regardless. What an incredibly fun season this has been.
Let’s get right to the takeaways on this one before we all pop some champagne at home.
1. Masterful Tanaka, How Nice to See You Again: Masahiro Tanaka brought his A-game tonight, that’s for sure. 60 of his 86 pitches (69%, nice) went for strikes. Here is his strike-zone plot:
Love to see that. He was pounding the ball down in the zone, which is exactly what Tanaka does when he is right. And here’s some additional good news: the sinker was in full force tonight. Check out his pitch usage among his big three pitches:
- Fastball: 20
- Slider: 27
- Splitter: 28
He featured the splitter more than any other pitch, which is vintage Tanaka. And it was working, too. He got 18 swings on those 28 pitches and got 7 swings-and-misses. That’s 38%. That is capital-v Vintage Tanaka right there. It’s also a really, really encouraging sign going into the playoffs. Although, honestly, I’m not sure why anyone would be surprised that Tanaka is heating up as the weather cools down. That’s exactly what our guy does.
Here is his final line on the night: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 6 K. It’s very fitting that Big Game Tanaka dialed in this performance in the division-clinching game, isn’t it? Very on-brand. #TANAK forever.
2. DJ LeMahieu, It’s French for “The MVP”: Okay, no it isn’t (it’s actually French for “The Mahieu”, as we all know), as the American League MVP is Mike Trout. But he has certainly been the Yankees’ MVP, has he not? It’s only fitting that, on the night that the Yankees clinched the American League East, they did it on the back of infielder extraordinaire DJ LeMahieu.
After a Cameron Maybin walk and Runnin’ Romine beat out an infield single (for real! also, I have been so, so wrong about Romine this year), DJ LeMahieu did this:
That made it 3-0 Yanks. You could just feel the game being over there, too. At least I could. You knew the Yanks wanted to wrap this one up tonight and once they took the lead, they weren’t giving it back. Anyway, Look at the location of that one:
Those are just the kind of pitches that DJ hasn’t missed all year. That’s how you hit .329/.378/.519 (137 wRC+), after all. Anyway, LeMahieu went 1-5 on the night, and he’s still in the hunt for the batting crown, as you know. There’s just something really fitting about having him be at the center of the clinching game. You love to see it.
3. Savages in the Box: The above LeMahieu home run was his 25th of the season, which is a nice round number I guess but also means this:
That is….nuts. Nuts I tell you. Juiced ball and all that, sure, but man, the Yankees really can drive the ball. As I laid out a few weeks ago, that is really going to help them in the playoffs. The teams that win in the postseason tend to hit a lot of home runs–don’t believe the narrative–and the Yankees do that, even up the middle. Good stuff.
4. Brett Gardner Keeps it Going: Speaking of power up the middle, can we just take another moment to appreciate how insane Brett Gardner’s season has been? He has 25 home runs! He also hit one over the bullpen tonight in right-center field, because of course he did. Check it out:
All I have to say to that is this: LOL. Here is the Statcast visualization with the accompanying stats:
That is just majestic, and it made the score 4-1. This being 2019, though, Brett Gardner was not satisfied with just one extra-base hit and simply one RBI. That is just not enough. So with runners on 2nd and 3rd in the bottom of the 6th, he did this:
That is a classic Gardner hit: slapped the other way, heads up baserunning, and using his trademark speed to his advantage. That made it 6-1 Yankees and was his 3rd RBI of the year.
Gosh, I just love Brett Gardner. I really do. That would be true even if he weren’t hitting .254/.329/.508 (117 wRC+) with 26 home runs, but that sure doesn’t hurt. What a season. I fully expect him to be back again next year, and boy has he earned it.
- Luke Voit With Some Bad Luck: You gotta feel for Luke Voit tonight, don’t you? After Andrelton Simmons’ unreal play against him last night, Voit continued to smash the ball and got absolutely no results. Voit put two balls in play tonight. Both left the bat at over 101 mph and both had an expected batting average over .680, and yet he came up hitless. Baseball is a cruel sport sometimes, but it’s nice to see Voit continuing to lace the ball. The idea that he won’t play every night in October is insane to me. Anyway, this was a nice play (if frustrating for Voit), so it’s worth sharing. Check it out:
- Giancarlo Stanton At the Plate: Giancarlo Stanton went 0-3 with a strikeout and a walk, which feels like it’s worth noting because Giancarlo Stanton is playing! Each of those at-bats inches us closer to Normal Giancarlo, which is good news for the Yankees and bad news for everyone else.
- Aroldis Chapman Sighting: Hey, would you look at that! Aroldis Chapman pitched in a Yankees game! I say this because tonight was only his 3rd appearance in September, if you can believe that. I’m too lazy to look this up now (future post alert) but I think Chapman is much better when he pitches regularly, so I hope the Yanks find a way to get him some work before the postseason. That said, I’m glad that he won’t be gassed. Not sure where I’m going with this one, honestly.
- Cameron Maybin Goes Deep: Cameron Maybin hit a home run tonight, too, joining the party. Here is the video:
- The Return of Red Thunder: Clint Frazier didn’t want to be left out, either. Check out his blast that made it 9-1 in the bottom of the 8th inning:
- Didi’s Defense: Didi Gregorius is just a wizard in the field, isn’t he? He made a number of good plays tonight, none more impressive than this one:
A celebration! The Yankees will be celebrating all night tonight, of course, and they should. This is the team’s first division title since 2012 and they finally won’t have to play in the damn Wild Card game.
After that, though, they’ll play the Blue Jays tomorrow at 7:05 in the Bronx. J.A. Happ (12-8, 5.07 ERA) will take the ball against Jacob Waguespack (4-5, 4.70 ERA) for Toronto. You can catch that one on YES and on WFAN. Enjoy your night everyone, though I suspect that will be easy. The Yankees are division champs, after all.