Dellin Betances came to the rescue!
The former Yankee uncoiled one of his familiar wild pitches but this time it handed a victory for the Yankees. The 2-1 win breaks the Yankees seven-game losing streak. According to the YES Network, the Yanks are still the only team in the last twenty-five years to not have an eight-game winning streak. That is remarkable. The pinstripes are now 17-13. I am very happy with this victory even if the takeaways are a bit critical. Speaking of which, let’s jump into them.
1.Happ’s Best Start of the Year: J.A. Happ is experiencing a season and a half long stretch of disaster. Every Yankees fan knows this. If you go by his comments to the press recently, it appears Happ is the only one unaware of this. That clearly isn’t the case, but the lefty has been pretty defiant of the idea that his performance isn’t concerning. It was time for him to back up his words. To his credit, with his team scuffling big time, Happ had the best start of his season.
Happ was aggressive and effective. There were a few at-bats with high pitch counts, but overall, he was largely efficient. We know that Happ is fastball reliant. Today wasn’t any different. The difference is the command of his four-seamer and two-seamer. He was particularly effective against the Mets left-handed hitters. Happ relied heavily on his two-seamers and sliders against lefties. He found success with this combo. Here is Happ’s pitch pie against lefties:
Happ threw over 60% two-seamers to lefties. As you can see from the graphic above, he was running it on the batters all game long. He and Eric Kratz employed the classic pitching strategy of busting the hitter in and making them chase away. Happ’s command was the key to unlocking this approach. Yes, his velocity has diminished over the last few seasons, but his command has eluded him more times than not in his starts. Today was not one of those days and Happ was dare I say, dominant.
Overall, J.A. mixed his pitches up well. Happ was effectively using his two fastballs, slider, and changeup all day. The called strike+whiff percentage was pretty good and consistent amongst his offerings. His four-seamer and two-seamer both sat at 35%, while his slider earned a 38%. This is a pretty good reflection of Happ’s need to be aggressive in the zone. His game is based on challenging hitters in the zone simply because he doesn’t have great secondary stuff.
That aggression led to pretty muted contact from the Mets hitters. Happ gives up pretty loud contact when he is going bad. The average exit velocity on his four-seamer and two-seamer was 85 MPH and 80.3MPH respectively. His slider, which hasn’t been his best pitch this year, registered an average exit velocity of 67.6MPH. The home run ball is Happ’s biggest bug-a-boo. He not only kept the Mets in the park but controlled their contact all game. Happ is the first Yankees pitcher to go beyond the seventh inning this season. The Yankees needed a big performance and Happ delivered. Kudos to him.
2. The Non-Voit/Frazier/DJLM Lineup Continues to Struggle: First, here is the good news. The Machine is back and, upon his return, immediately impacted the game at the plate. Even with some of the big bats still on the IL, LeMahieu immediately changes the dynamic of the lineup. He works counts. He extends at-bats. His contact is consistent. It is truly remarkable. In his second at-bat, he drove an outside pitch to the right-field wall for a triple. He worked a great at-bat in the 7th with the bases loaded, but as is the case during this awful losing streak, he couldn’t get the big hit.
This takes me to my larger point. A lot of emphasis during this losing streak is on the bullpen losing late leads. It makes sense because those are the dramatic moments of the game. Adam Ottavino immediately blowing the lead will get more attention. The far bigger concern in my eyes is the offense. One painfully obvious reason is the injuries. When you don’t have Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Giancarlo Stanton, and up until today, DJLM, you’re going to slow down. We know and understand this.
With that said, the lineup isn’t totally barren. Luke Voit continues to be a rock for the team. Outside of him and Clint Frazier, who is stepping up? Aaron Hicks, possibly due to Tommy John surgery, has lost his power stroke. Gary Sanchez has been brutal all year. If we’re being totally honest, Gary has created far too many outs over the last two seasons. Brett Gardner is ineffective. Mike Tauchman has hit a skid. All of these players entered the season with expectations to contribute. They’re simply not doing the job.
The attention to detail must increase when you’re scuffling on the offensive end. The Yankees have to cash in on opportunities to get cheap runs. That was not the case in the third inning. With Mike Tauchman on third and one out, Clint Frazier was up to bat. The Mets had the infield in. Frazier hit a routine ground ball to third baseman JD Davis. The Yankees had the contact play on and Tauchman was thrown out at home. Tauchman’s speed made the play closer than it should’ve been but that play simply can’t happen. I fully understand the conventional wisdom of the contact play.
Conventional wisdom doesn’t account for context. The Yankees need runs by any means. They can’t willfully give up these chances because the contact play is something you automatically do. The game action dictated Tauchman to stay at third. It’s an easy read. Instead, it was an easy out.
This was especially tough to swallow because Brett Gardner hit a booming double to center field. Clint Frazier was thrown out at the plate on a close play. The send was a good one. The issue was the contact play prior. The Yankees would’ve had a run in with second and third. In true losing streak fashion, they ended up empty handed. Here is an alarming stat from ESPN’s Marly Rivera:
There are far too many moments when the Yankees have failed to cash in. Yes, the bullpen is falling off a cliff but they’re not protecting big leads. Oftentimes, teams need more than one run to win a ballgame. The Yankees are creating some chances and then blowing them. The offense simply needs to find a way even with some of their big bats out.
3. Same Story, Different Day: The Yankees bullpen is atrocious during this streak. I think that pretty much covers it.
Leftovers: The Yankees won a baseball game. It was ugly and frustrating but who cares. The team needs victories. Let’s savor this one.
There is another doubleheader tomorrow. It will be Rick Porcello against TBD in the first game. You may see one of Deivi García or Clarke Schmidt tomorrow. It will most likely be Deivi because of 40 man concerns. Have a great evening everyone.