It’s good to be back home. The Yankees have won the first two games of this homestand by completing a two-game sweep of the Braves in the Bronx tonight. The final score in this one: 6-3. Clint Frazier, who stepped in for Aaron Judge today, was an offensive juggernaut and homered in his first at-bat of the season. DJ LeMahieu had a huge game in multiple facets. The bullpen was strong albeit for a minor scare in the 9th. In all, a good win to head into the off day. Now, the takeaways:
Clint Frazier wastes no time
Was Clint prophetic or what? It took just one at-bat to make his presence felt. He went back-to-back (and belly-to-belly) with Gary Sánchez in the second inning.
These two dingers leveled the score at two at the time. Frazier finished the day 3-for-4 with a single, double, and strikeout. He scalded everything he hit:
This is exactly what he needs to do to make a lasting impression with Giancarlo Stanton (and potentially Aaron Judge) down. OK, maybe asking for 3-for-4 on a nightly basis is a bit much. But as we talked about on the podcast, the Yankees really haven’t been keen on giving Frazier many opportunities even as he’s hit well. So maybe he’ll have to do a little extra to stick around this time.
DJ LeMahieu does it all
The Machine recorded 4 hits to raise his batting average to .431 on the season, which is now officially 30 percent complete. He was also a home run away from the cycle. While we often rave about LeMahieu’s hitting ability (and rightly so), there’s so much more to him as a player. Two moments stood out in this game for DJLM.
LeMahieu saved a run with his glove in the third inning, and he did so without even recording an out. After Tanaka issued back-to-back two out walks, Adam Duvall bounced a grounder up the middle that nearly snuck through the infield. Instead, LeMahieu was able to keep it from getting to the outfield which assuredly would have scored a run and given Atlanta a 3-2 advantage. Alas, no video from MLB for me to share here but it was a big play as Tanaka wiggled out of the jam thereafter to keep the game tied.
In the fourth, LeMahieu scored the go-ahead run on Aaron Hicks’s double. It wasn’t an easy trot to home plate for DJ, though. He scored from first after Ender Inciarte had difficulty with the carom off the wall. LeMahieu is not fast (32nd percentile in sprint speed), so even with the Inciarte’s bobble there was going to be a play at the plate. It was close, but a good slide helped him avoid a good relay throw home.
What a complete player. Extend him now.
Not Tanaka’s best
Aaron Boone pulled Masahiro Tanaka a little earlier than I anticipated tonight. After throwing 51 and 59 pitches in his first two starts, respectively, Tanaka finished this evening with 66 pitches through four innings. In fairness, Tanaka didn’t look as sharp as his previous two outings and he would have faced Travis d’Arnaud, Freddie Freeman, and Marcell Ozuna for the third time had he started the fifth inning. Perhaps this was a proactive pull.
Tanaka gave up his fair share of hard contact tonight and it started right from the get go. Dansby Swanson led off the game with a line drive single to center. The next batter, Travis d’Arnaud, nearly took Tanaka deep. The Atlanta catcher hit one 103.4 MPH off the bat and 405 feet to right-center, but Aaron Hicks tracked it down with a nifty leaping catch. Take a look:
Masa ran into some more hard contact in the second. The big blow came off Johan Camargo’s bat: a two-run shot down the right field line. He jumped on a 1-2 fastball that he seemed to be sitting on:
That was Tanaka’s 7th fastball of 25 pitches through that point, and perhaps the bomb scared him off the pitch. Just 7 of his last 41 pitches were heaters, and he threw just one in the fourth inning. He’s had better fastball velocity this year, but it’s still not the caliber of his splitter and slider. He may have also fallen in love with his four-seamer after inducing a 38.9 percent whiff rate in his first two outings on the pitch.
After Tanaka eschewed the fastball, he really only had his slider going. He got just one swing-and-miss on his splitter on 12 swings against it. Much of that boils down to location. Even though you’ll see a few splitters down and out of the zone (grey dots below), a bunch were up that he got away with. Even his slider location wasn’t ideal, though he did seem to get his best results from it.
Tanaka’s final two innings after Camargo’s dinger weren’t easy. After recording the first two outs of the third, Atlanta’s heart of the order reached via walk, walk, and infield single. Fortunately, Tanaka got out of that mess as noted above in the LeMahieu section. In the fourth, Tanaka worked around a one out single and his day was done. The final line: four innings, five hits, two runs, two walks, and three strikeouts. Maybe he’ll get up to 80 pitches next time out.
- Gary’s homer above was his second of the season. It came on a middle-in 1-2 mistake changeup. He went hitless in his next four at-bats, including a strikeout against a hanging curveball from Josh Tomlin. Gary hit an opposite field homer in Philly last week, but that wasn’t a turning point so we’ll have to reserve judgement after tonight’s dinger.
- On the other hand, Gleyber Torres seems to be looking a bit more comfortable at the plate. He had an RBI single to right field and has a hit in four of his last five games (and reached base via walk in the other). Including tonight, Torres has been aboard in 10 of his last 20 plate appearances and has a .286/.500/.357 triple-slash in that span. More power would be nice, but it’s good to see some production nonetheless. Lastly, he looked a little more confident defensively as well.
- Jonathan Loaisiga looked great in two-plus innings. He faced 9 batters, struck out three, and allowed just two hits. It probably should have just been seven batters, but Boone put him out there to start the seventh and he promptly gave up back-to-back singles. Chad Green, who seems to pitch everyday, worked out of that jam. Maybe it’s time to just have Loaisiga pitch in one or two inning stints — he seems to run out of steam by the third.
- Jonathan Holder couldn’t finish this one off in the ninth. After the Braves cut the score to 6-3, Boone summoned Zack Britton to close this one out. Britton, who’s now pitched in 8 of 18 games, didn’t look sharp but shut it down for the save.
Tomorrow’s another off day, but the Red Sox come to town for a wraparound series this weekend.