Well, that sure was a game. It was not clean and it often wasn’t pretty, but it was a 3-2 Yankee win. (Box score) The Yankees won their first series of 2020 and improve to 2-1 on the season. That they did so on a day when Patrick Corbin was downright unhittable makes it even sweeter. You never “steal” a win – you almost always earn it – but if you’re the Yanks, you gotta feel good about this one.
Let’s get right to the takeaways.
1. Jonathan Loaisiga Belongs in the Bullpen: As you all know by now, I am a huge, huge believer in Jonathan Loaisiga and his stuff. It’s only fitting his first 2020 appearance was also my first recap. Loaisiga definitely justified my faith in him today. He allowed just 2 hits in 3 innings of work, with one walk and 3 strikeouts. The one run came on a solo shot by Trea Turner:
Before that, Loaisiga looked pretty damn impressive. He averaged 97 on his fastball, though he generated just one swing-and-miss on the pitch. (He also got 2 swings-and-misses on 13 curves and 1 on a change.) Crucially for him, 32 of his 51 pitches (62%) went for strikes – his command will be worth watching all year.
It took him just 41 pitches to get his final 11 outs, after a long, 11-pitch battle with Trea Turner that was reminiscent of Phil Hughes. But even that relatively frustrating at-bat ended with a 99-mph fastball on the black:
Nasty. I wish that he hadn’t given up the homer, but what can you do? Solo homers aren’t going to kill you anyway. (Ask 2019 Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander about that.) It was another reminder that Loaisiga struggles the second time through, too, but the Yanks can counter that by putting him in the pen all year. He can turn into a real weapon. In fact, if today is any indication, he may already be one.
2. Don’t Go Right to David Hale: Oddly enough, after Loaisiga came out, the Yankees turned to David Hale for the 4th inning. For those keeping track at home, this means, Hale, Mike King, Jonathan Holder, David Hale, Ben Heller, and Luis Avilán all got 2020 game action before any of the Yankees’ top bullpen arms. Just like we all drew it up, eh? It was a weird choice – I would have gone to Green – and the Yankees paid for it.
Hale made the Yankees pay, though, that’s for sure. He didn’t generate a single swing-and-miss and literally all of the contact against him was loud:
Thames’ RBI single was a scorcher, but I’m sure Voit would say he should have made the play. Here’s the video:
Yeah, probably should have got that one. Still, as I said, Hale missed no bats and the Nats were all over him. The 32-year-old was pretty good in 2019 (3.1 ERA, 3.32 FIP) in 32 innings for the Yankees last year, but I don’t get going to him before using the big arms for the middle of the Nats order. Oh well. I’m not going to get too worked up about this. Yet. Here’s the final line for Hale:1.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, and 12 of his 19 pitches (63%) went for strikes.
3. Chad Green Uses His New Curveball: I love watching Chad Green. The dude is all fastball, all the time, and he is unhittable anyway. In a now annual tradition, Green worked on a curveball this spring. I still think he should try using it, but we’ve seen this year after year at this point. He tries it out and then sticks to the fastball in the regular season. According to Statcast, Green didn’t use it at all today, but I think it misclassified it as a slider.
Of his 23 pitches, just four were “sliders.” That’s not a lot, but it’s about as expected – even if he does develop a breaking pitch, it’ll mostly be for show. The good news is that 2 of those 4 went for strikes, which is the crucial thing to watch. If it’s a real pitch, it can add another element to Green’s game.
In any case, Green got 4 swings-and-misses on his dominant fastball en route to 2 hitless innings with 2 Ks and a walk. He completely overpowered Eric Thames, too, which was great to see. We’ll keep an eye on Green’s off-speed stuff because it would be a nice addition to his arsenal. But even still, as he’s shown time and time again, he probably doesn’t need it.
4. It’s Very Cool that Gleyber Torres is a Yankee: Ever just stop and think to yourself that it’s cool that Gleyber Torres is a Yankee? It can’t just be me, right? Didn’t think so. Today was definitely one of those days! Gleyber was responsible for 2 of the Yankees runs during a 3-4 day. He was the only baserunner for the Yankee before the 7th inning after he singled off a dominant Corbin. Then, in the 7th, he did this with the Yanks down 2-0:
That got the Yanks on the board. Then, in the 8th, he came to bat with runners on first and second and two outs against the National’s Sean Doolittle. He scorched the ball, too – it left the bat at 103 mph – and gave the Yankees the lead. Here it is in all its glory:
5. Luke Voit Can Still Mash: For some reason, people in Yankees’ fandom absolutely love to doubt Luke Voit. Not me! I do not get it, as our man has been a legitimate middle-of-the-order force since he arrived in the Bronx. I guess some people just love being proven wrong? Who knows. I mean:
Anyway, Voit looked really good at the plate today. He went 1-4 with a homer but was even more impressive than that. He hit a scorcher off Patrick Corbin, who was deadly all day, that came off the bat at 95+ miles-per-hour. It had an expected batting average of .910, which is pretty good! Unfortunately, Asdrubal Cabrera made a tremendous catch to rob him of a double:
Definitely a frustrating one, but Luke got the last laugh in his next at-bat, when he did this:
That one tied the game at 2. It should hopefully serve as a reminder that Luke Voit has done nothing but hit when he’s been healthy. As long as he’s a steady presence on the field in 2020, we should expect to see a lot more where that came from. (Even if he did strike out with the bases loaded in the 8th.)
- Tommy Kahnle’s changeup is disgusting. It’s just disgusting. It absolutely bailed out Gleyber Torres (he had a rough day at short) and DJ LeMahieu, who combined on an ugly play to put Trea Turner on. After a double to Adam Eaton, Kahnle struck out Starlin Castro and Eric Thames on a truly disgusting series of changeups. It’s no secret why batters hit .130 and .105 against that pitch over the last two years. Look at this thing:
- Not bad for a bullpen game, huh? The Yankees really did the damn job, questionable Hale decision aside. Their pen is so, so deep. I expect it’ll be an even bigger weapon than normal in a year like this. It wasn’t without hiccups – nor was it without a really dumb attempted steal of third in the 9th – but they got the job done. Can’t ask for more.
- Kyle Higashioka really flashed the leather behind the plate today, showing exactly why the Yanks entrusted him with the backup catcher role. He threw Victor Robles out on an attempted steal of 2nd in the 2nd and made two really impressive blocks in the 6th inning. More of that, please.
- Masahiro Tanaka (42 pitches) and Luis Cessa (24 pitches) both participated in a sim game in Scranton today, per beat writer Conor Foley. That’s good news and it keeps Tanaka on track for his expected July 31 return. As for Cessa, it means he’s fully recovered from COVID, thankfully, and also means he might be an option for the pen soon. Finally, we gotta give Foley credit. He’s doing everything he can to bring us this information.
The Yanks head back north tomorrow to take on the Philadelphia Phillies in the City of Brotherly Love. J.A. Happ will be making his season debut against Jake Arrieta for the Phils at 7:05 pm. Enjoy the rest of your weekend, everyone.