The Yankees took care of business against the Tigers this afternoon, winning 6-4. Jameson Taillon pitched five strong innings and Aaron Judge delivered a couple of big hits to seal this one. The Yanks have now won the first two of this series and can complete a sweep of the lowly Tigers tomorrow afternoon.
I think it’s safe to say that this team has turned a corner, no? They’re 7-3 over the last ten games and it doesn’t necessarily feel like they’ve quite hit their stride. There are still some players scuffling and some fundamental mistakes, but as a whole, the offense is scoring and the rotation is rounding into shape.
Now, let’s break down today’s W:
Jameson Taillon definitely wore down in the fifth, but I wish he had a chance to go one more inning. File this as a minor complaint, but I wanted to see more from today’s starter. I get the logic for pulling him after five innings. He labored through a 27 pitch fifth and was in the midst of facing Detroit’s lineup for a third time. Still, he ended the frame with an economical 79 pitches, seemingly leaving room for more. It’s not like his stuff deteriorated, either:
Taillon has now tossed 74, 84, 80, 82, and 79 pitches in five starts. Maybe this is just a matter of the team capping his pitch count around 85 in the early going. He is coming off a second Tommy John surgery, after all. The righty also has a new arm motion, too.
Yet, if there was any time to challenge or test Taillon, today would have been a good opportunity. This is an atrocious Tigers lineup, after all. Aaron Boone had already left him in to face the first three hitters in their lineup for a third time, so why stop there?
In any event, Taillon’s stuff was terrific and that’s more important than squeezing one more inning out of him. He garnered a ton of whiffs (38 percent) and a third of his pitches were either called strikes or swings-and-misses. His fastball was dominant and well executed up in the strike zone and he frequently buried his curveball down. A couple of great examples:
Jameson Taillon, 80mph Curveball and 94mph Fastball, Overlay. pic.twitter.com/ijbdKWqLWL— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 1, 2021
Seeing those overlays makes it no wonder why Taillon can be so hard to hit. And aside from one flat changeup that Jeimer Candelario blasted for a solo shot in the third, Taillon mowed down Detroit’s lineup this afternoon. He struck out eight and allowed three hits — the two non-homer hits weren’t exactly lasers, by the way. Niko Goodrum blooped (78.1 MPH EV) single to lead off the fifth and JaCoby Jones’s ground ball single (admittedly hit hard — 103.2 MPH) hit Goodrum’s foot for an out, anyway. It was a good break for the Yankees to get.
Taillon probably would have gotten a sixth inning of work had he not issued back-to-back walks after the Jones/Goodrum play. At least he finished strong by blowing a high heater past Miguel Cabrera. Maybe we’ll see Taillon get a taste of the sixth inning in his next start vs. Washington. In all though, Taillon pitched very well today.
Aaron Judge rules. I don’t have too much, if anything, to add to what Randy already wrote about Judge last night. All I’ve really got to say is that Judge looked great today (once again), and if load management is going to let him play 130-140 games this season, I’m all for it.
Today, Judge went 3-for-4, including a RBI double in the fifth and a clutch two-out two-run single in the sixth.
The sixth inning hit was huge. Two out RBIs are always great, but that Judge picked up a couple of his teammates in doing so was even better. Initially, the Yankees had the bases loaded and nobody out, but Brett Gardner popped out and DJ LeMahieu struck out ahead of Judge. After watching Judge do this sort of thing time and time again, I can’t believe some people seriously said that the team’s de facto leader uses injuries as an excuse.
Judge is someone who has played through injuries before. Surely, you remember the banged up shoulder he had in his rookie season or the broken rib/collapsed lung (that he unknowingly) had in 2019. Players have pride and want to keep playing through pain if it’s manageable, but in reality, it’s not often worth it. I’m sure he still wants to play through the soreness he’s currently dealing with, but it’s smart not to mess around given his injury history. Protecting the team’s best player is vital, and just because this sort of thing didn’t happen twenty years ago doesn’t mean it’s bad now.
Aaron Hicks is a mess from the left side of the plate. Now that Gary Sánchez has lost playing time to Kyle Higashioka, the team’s center fielder seems to be the new person receiving a ton of scrutiny for poor play. Understandably so.
There’s no question Hicks has been bad this season. His struggles are purely from the left side of the plate, which is unfortunately also the strong side of the platoon. Entering today, Hicks had a 20 wRC+ batting left-handed and a 154 wRC+ from the other side. He slugged a homer as a righty yesterday, and this afternoon, he went 1-for-3 with a single and hit by pitch. Nice to see him get a hit, but as I’ll touch on shortly, it was more of a good result despite a bad process.
The two outs he made in his first two at-bats were a microcosm of his season. In the first inning, he popped out on a fastball over the heart of the plate:
Hicks was visibly frustrated to not smoke that ball. Can’t blame him. His second at-bat was worse, however.
In the third inning, Hicks came up with the bases full and two outs and quickly got ahead 2-0 against Spencer Turnbull. From there, his typical patient approach faltered:
Instead of laying off two borderline pitches, he swung away to level the count 2-2. Then, he chased a high fastball out of the zone for strike three. Just a really poor approach for a guy who historically doesn’t expand the zone. To me, this matchup was a clear sign that Hicks is pressing and trying to do too much.
Even Hicks’s third at-bat, in which he singled, wasn’t great. He swung over a slider in the dirt and fouled off a fastball at his shoulders before he hit a hard ground ball single to right. Take a look:
Perfect example of a good result albeit a poor approach.
Hicks is now batting .161/.253/.322 (67 wRC+) with a 9.1 percent walk rate. It’s ugly. He probably should play less. But at the same time, who can Boone turn to? Brett Gardner has been just as bad, if not worse, than Hicks. Estevan Florial is not a serious option right now. Something is obviously not right for Hicks from the left side, but it’s not like it’s always been this way. In fact, he hasn’t posted a better split as a righty since 2017. Entering this year, here were his splits from 2018 through 2020:
- as LHB: .240/.372/.456 (127 wRC+)
- as RHB: .240/.326/.438 (107 wRC+)
The team is just going to have to ride this out with Hicks. I’m fine if they want to play the hot hand in center between him and Gardner, but as long as Gardner keeps struggling, I’d rather see Hicks try to work through it.
- Jonathan Loaisiga tossed a clean inning in relief of Taillon, but Justin Wilson struggled. The lefty’s velocity wasn’t great (93.2 MPH) and neither was his command (two walks). At least Chad Green bailed out Wilson before the game got any closer, but it’d be nice to see Wilson get going soon. Seems like he’s had a tough time putting together a clean inning in the majority of his appearances this year.
- Aroldis Chapman continues to dominate. He recorded an easy 7 pitch save to lock this one down, including two strikeouts.
- DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres both had multi-hit games today. Both now have five game hitting streaks. Now we’re just waiting for Gleyber’s home run power to show.
- Clint Frazier had a little bit of a defensive adventure in the first inning. The first at-bat of the game, in fact. He dropped what appeared to be a routine fly ball to right and was charged with an error. Didn’t come back to hurt the Yankees, and in fairness, the wind has been ridiculous in the New York area since yesterday.
Another day game at the Stadium tomorrow. Corey Kluber takes on Jose Ureña. Have a great rest of your Saturday, everyone.