That was a no good, awful, infuriating baseball game to cap off a really disappointing 2-5 road trip from the Yankees. The Yankees blew a 3-0 lead with one out in the 7th inning to lose the game 4-3 on a walk-off single in the 9th inning. The offense was horrendous, James Paxton – who was otherwise excellent – wasted a great start by collapsing at the end, and Zack Britton was all over the place.

The Yankees fall to 10-6 on the season while the Rays improve to 8-8. They had a chance to really bury the Rays this weekend and they did not do it, instead dropping 3 out of 4. I am grouchy as hell about this baseball game so let’s just get right to the takeaways so we can be done with this one.

1. James Paxton Turns A Corner: To date, James Paxton’s struggles have been my biggest concern in the 2020 season. We all know the drill. His release point is way off, and it is impacting his fastball. It’s been a real problem so far. We all know about the velocity drop, but there’s also been an associated drop in spin rate:

Couple that together and what you have is a recipe for disaster. We’ve seen that manifest all year, particularly on his fastball. Check out some key indicators coming into today:

  • July 25 (@ WAS): 22 FB, 16 swings, 3 whiffs (19%)
  • August 2 (BOS): 34 FB, 21 swings, 3 whiffs (14%)
  • Total: 56 FB, 37 swings, 6 whiffs (16%)

Batters were sitting fastball, swinging at 66% of them, and making loud contact on those swings (average exit velocity of 93 mph). I bring all of this up not to be redundant but to place what Paxton did today into its proper context. He looked like an entirely different pitcher – and his fastball is the obvious reason why.

Today, by contrast, he got 7 whiffs on 25 swings (28%) and maxed out at 94 mph. It was encouraging. Furthermore, the YES broadcast noted that his spin rates were up (north of 2200 RPM) and that tracks with the eye test. That all allows Paxton’s other offerings to play up and results in swings like this:

All of these numbers were better before the 7th inning, too. That’s when it all fell apart. Jose Martinez led off the inning with a double. After getting an out, Mike Brosseau did this:

And one batter later, Hunter Renfroe did this:

Just like that, it was a 3-3 game. Gah. I saw some chatter than sending Paxton back out there for the 7th was too aggressive, but I don’t know if I agree with it. The dude was absolutely cruising and had just 77 pitches. The bullpen was taxed and I absolutely get trying to maximize Paxton’s performance today. If he was going to come out, though, it should have been after the Brosseau HR. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Again: gah.

There is work yet to do for Paxton – in an ideal world, he is throwing 97 again – but this was an extremely encouraging performance. This was a gross game but let’s keep that in perspective. This was a huge breath of fresh air from Big Maple. Here’s his final line: 6.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 11 K. And here is his final pitch plot:

2. Jonathan Holder’s Adventures, Courtesy of Joe West: Joe West and the umpiring crew had no interest in helping out Jonathan Holder, who relieved Paxton, in the 8th inning. It was maddening and it almost cost the Yankees the game. Here is the strike zone plot for the first at-bat of the inning against Ji-Man Choi:

That is just horrendous. Sure, the orange called strike just off the plate there benefited the Yanks, but it was a makeup call for the prior pitch (the very obvious strike). And even still, Choi was gifted two balls when he otherwise should have struck out. It was irritating, but that wasn’t all. Look at this one:

That blue dot there was on a 1-2 pitch. It was an obvious strike, even though Holder missed his location (Gary was set up high). West just blew it. This was about to be about 100 times MORE infuriating because of the NEXT blown call, which came on Renfroe’s grounder to Urshela:

He was originally called safe at first, but Boone’s challenged salvaged that and the Yanks got out of the inning. The umpires did everything they could to gift the Rays a run there but, to his credit, Holder didn’t allow them to. He threw 1.2 innings of 2 hit, 1 BB ball. He didn’t surrender a run. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked. Somehow.

3. More Wasted Opportunities: Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Yankees blew a ton of opportunities at Tropicana Field. And I mean a ton, beginning right away. Rays starter Charlie Morton wasn’t right all game – he left with an injury – and it was apparent immediately. The Yanks loaded the bases in the first inning after a DJLM single, Aaron Hicks double, and Luke Voit walk. They were unable to truly capitalize: Gleyber flied out to shallow right and Urshela grounded out. The team got lucky that Morton hit Mike Ford with a pitch in-between those at-bats. It was a gift.

The trend continued throughout the day, as the Yankees continued to get on base but unable to get the hit they really needed. Their second and third runs came in the 5th inning. Luke Voit singled and Gleyber doubled (!) to set up 2nd and 3rd with two outs. Again, the Yankees did nothing. Mike Ford popped up, which brought up Gio Urshela. That resulted in this:

Urshela hit the ball hard, but Margot just has to catch that. So, in other words, all 3 of the Yankees’ runs came gift-wrapped by the Rays. They did a good job setting up those situations, to be fair, but they should have scored far more than 3 runs this afternoon. Were it not for the Rays mishaps, the Yankees very easily could have scored zero runs.

In total, every single Yankees batter left at least one runner on base. The team left 9 individuals on base total, though the individual batters left 20 on base. They had chance after chance in this game to really end it and they did not. A 3-run lead in the 7th inning should be plenty to win a game for the Yankees – especially when the other team seemingly wants to lose – but the offense didn’t do themselves any favors.

4. 9th Inning Frustration: Zack Britton came on in the 9th inning and he did not do the job. He was all over the place. Look at this:

He was ineffectively wild and surrendered a double, walk, a wild pitch (Gary probably should have blocked it), and a walk-off hit. Mike Brosseau led off the action with a double to left, though he was immediately thrown out at 3rd in the next at-bat. It was a grounder up the middle to Torres and he took off. Torres, to his credit, made a perfect throw to 3rd, but it was a bad decision by Brosseau in my opinion. Another gift from the Rays wasted by the Yankees, as Michael Perez ended the game for the Rays and put us all out of our misery just two batters later. Here’s the video of that, for some reason:

5. DJ LeMahieu, Hitting Savant: I want to end on a positive note, so let’s talk about DJ LeMahieu. The man is just a wizard at the plate. DJLM went 2-5 with a walk today, which is just more of the same from the Yanks’ most reliable hitter. He now has 67 multi-hit games since joining the team in 2019. He’s only played in 160 games, so that means he has two or more hits in 42% of them. That is just ridiculous.

Anyway, LeMahieu’s performance today brought his average right back to .400 on the season. He’s now hitting .397/.426/.517 (171 wRC+) on the season. Let’s keep him around beyond 2020, shall we?

Leftovers

  • Slump Busters: Gary Sánchez, Gleyber Torres, and Aaron Hicks each had a hit today. Torres and Hicks each added in a walk, too. Gary just missed a home run, but it curved foul. There wasn’t a massive breakout performance or anything, but sometimes getting out of a slump is a process. There was something to be optimistic about for each of these guys, who have been really struggling. So that’s good, I guess.
  • Good Riddance to the Trop: The Yanks are not scheduled to return to Tropicana Field for the rest of 2020. Thank god for that. Good riddance to that absolute house of horrors.
  • Charlie Morton: Today sucked for Charlie Morton, who left today’s game with an injury. He didn’t look good and his velocity has been down all season, so I think there’s some cause for concern there for Tampa Bay. There’s a real chance that could have been the last start of his career, which would be a bummer for him.

The Yanks are off tomorrow as they return to the Bronx for a nine-game homestand. They’ll take on Atlanta for a two-game set on Tuesday and Wednesday before playing the Red Sox for four games and Tampa Bay for another three. Go enjoy the rest of your weekend and forget all about this awful performance.