Well, that wasn’t much fun to watch. After an exciting win behind Gerrit Cole on Thursday night, the Yankees laid a huge egg tonight. Outside of Giancarlo Stanton and some nice moments from Michael King, the performance ranged from lackluster to flat out bad. With the 9-2 loss tonight, the Yankees drop to 1-1 in this sprint of a season.
1. Paxton needs more Summer Camp: We’ll cut right to the chase here. James Paxton was terrible. When Summer Camp broke, James mentioned concerns regarding his mechanics. According to Jack Curry from the YES network, Paxton said he was having difficulty getting “full extension” on his delivery. That lack of extension was making it hard for him to get the extra ticks on his fastball.
That was clearly the case tonight. His fastball was 91-93MPH in his 1+ innings of work. It is natural to have some concerns about the drop in velocity, but I don’t have any yet. Paxton was clear he wasn’t comfortable with his mechanics and we didn’t see enough of his outing to really come to any conclusions.
His appearance was short simply because he didn’t have anything. He didn’t have his slider. He didn’t have command. There was no control. He just had a bad night and it feels worse coming off a nice win on Thursday in a shortened season. It was frustrating to watch, but not a cause for alarm yet. This start becomes alarming if we hear news of Paxton dealing with a health issue. I tend to trust the players when they address their performances directly. Hopefully, it is just an issue of mechanics. He needs to get those ironed out quickly. He is obviously a crucial piece to the Yankees success this season.
2. A Mixed Bag For King: Mike King entered the game in relief of Paxton and did a great job early on of keeping the Yankees in the game. He found himself in a second-inning bases-loaded jam with no outs. What a way to start off your 2020 season. King was able to get a huge double play from Trea Turner and then a fly out from Adam Eaton to get out of Paxton’s mess. It was an impressive display. He was able to continue that strong momentum with a clean third inning.
The fourth inning began with Brett Gardner unable to make a diving catch on a short fly ball from Kurt Suzuki. It was a challenging play, but one we all expect Gardy to make. The ball popped out of his glove and Suzuki ended up on first base. King struck out Carter Kieboom for the first out. Victor Robles stepped up and hit a home run on a pitch up in the zone, but looked way off the plate. Robles got his hands inside the ball and knocked it off the foul pole for a two-run home run.
The homer felt like a pretty big blow since it halted the momentum from Stanton’s home run. It was equally a great piece of hitting from Robles and King leaving the ball too high in the zone for a pitcher that needs to be around the lower third of the zone to be successful.
King had more issues in the fifth inning. He gave up a leadoff single to Eaton, and following a strikeout of favorite ex-Yankee Starlin Castro, committed an error on a pickoff throw to first. The next batter was longtime Yankees nemesis Howie Kendrick who doubled in Eaton. Boone made the switch to Jonathan Holder who promptly gave up a double to Asdrubal Cabrera. King’s final line was 3.1IP, 4H, 4ER, 0BB, 2K.
There was some chatter on Twitter regarding King’s overall stat line. Many felt King’s line wasn’t indicative of his performance. As the subheading indicates, I thought it was pretty representative. He kept the team in the game in the second and third innings, but the longer he was in the game the less effective he became. The biggest indicator for me was his location. As previously noted, King needs the lower third of the zone to be successful. This plot showed he had some struggles with that tonight:
There are too many pitches hovering around the middle to the upper part of the zone for a pitcher like King. Out of his 24 fastballs, he only had one swinging strike. And out of his 13 curveballs, he generated three swinging strikes. I thought King was effective, but this feels like a case where the stat line was pretty indicative of the performance.
Overall, King’s night was encouraging for the future. He was big time in the second and third innings when the team really needed him. As is the case with many young pitchers, he needs to figure out how to navigate through a lineup more than one time. I believe he will.
3. The Offense Misses One Too Many Opportunities: Stephen Strasburg was unable to make his start tonight due to a nerve issue in his pitching hand. The Nats replaced him with Eric Fedde. On paper, this looked like a mismatch. But that is why you play the games. The Yankees had a great chance to blow this game wide open in the first inning. DJ LeMahieu reached base on a Howie Kendrick error. After a frustrating Aaron Judge strikeout (he was ahead 3-0 in the count), Gleyber Torres reached on an error by Castro. Giancarlo Stanton came up to bat. It felt like young Fedde would be in for a long night. Instead, he induced a ground ball double play and escaped the jam.
In the fourth inning, Giancarlo Stanton came up again looking to atone for his double play. It is safe to say mission accomplished:
There isn’t much to say about this moon shot. Stanton is easily the most dangerous hitter in the Yankees lineup early on. Here is the data on that bomb:
It is great to see Stanton start off the season on fire. We all know the criticism he receives. If he remains healthy and maintains his balance at the plate, he is going to be a devastating force all season.
Unfortunately, Stanton was alone this evening. Despite the Nationals committing five errors, the Yankees could only muster two runs. The Yanks had the bases loaded again in the fourth, but DJLM grounded out weakly to first base. There was only one hit amongst the group of Judge, Torres, Hicks, Voit, and Sanchez. You’re not going to do much damage when that happens. It is obviously early on so there shouldn’t be any panic. It was just one of those frustrating nights.
Leftovers: Let’s just remove this disaster from our minds shall we? The Yankees will be back in action tomorrow afternoon at 1:05pmET. The Nationals will send Patrick Corbin to the mound while the Yankees will go with an opener. The team hasn’t announced who it will be, but you can safely bet it’s either Chad Green or Jonathan Loaisiga. Have a great night everyone.