Well, that was an unfortunate game. The Yanks lost to the Nationals 11-4 in a game that was actually a low-scoring, 3-3 affair heading into the 8th inning. The wheels unraveled from there, though. Oh well. Can’t win them all. Just try to get ’em tomorrow.
Let’s get to the takeaways.
1. Jameson Taillon Has A Home Run Problem: It’s true: Taillon has a bit of a home run problem. If and when he can dial that in, though, he is going to be a very, very effective pitcher for the Yankees. It was on display in full force today. Taillon was honestly very good today, throwing 6.1 solid innings of 3 run work. He walked just 1, struck out 5, and allowed just 2 hits overall. It was more solid work for Jameson. Unfortunately, two of those hits left the yard.
Here’s one of them, to his old teammate:
And here is the other, which came just a few batters later:
Those were the 6th and 7th homers of the season that he’s allowed. That is definitely not great, but it leads me to my next point: Taillon is very much a work in progress. He is changing his approach as a pitcher right in front of our eyes. First, there is the fact that he is throwing his fastball up in the zone more, just as he did tonight:
This is exactly the approach that I wanted to see from him coming into the season and right after the trade, so I’m glad to see him use it. The downside to the upper-zone fastball, though, is that it gives up home runs. (It’s not a coincidence that HR and K are up across the league lately.) Miss low, and it can get curhsed. That’s exactly what happened tonight. Still, it is the right approach. It’s why his strikeout rate is up, and I’m confident it will deliver results moving forward.
That is the first adjustment. The second one was new to tonight but surely was deliberate: Taillon threw 11% changeups, significantly higher than normal (4%). I just wrote about the fact that the Yankees are using more changeups overall the other day, which is why I’m confident it was deliberate. And, like it has with everyone else, it worked. Check out the locations:
That’ll work. It also explains why the pitch got 2 whiffs on 3 swings. It also caught Juan Soto looking on a 3-2 beauty to end the 6th inning. Couple that with a curveball that was really working – 36% whiff-per-swing rate – and that’s why Taillon retired 15 in a row after the two-run homer. I’ll take it.
Aaron Boone let him rock as he got into a roll, which I thought was great. I am all for letting guys build up, but in order to do that, you have to let them pitch. It is nice to see Taillon get deep into a game for the first time. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of it soon, if the under-the-hood data is any indication.
2. DJ LeMahieu Appreciation: The Yankees’ leadoff hitter got his 300th career hit as a Yankee today in just his 225th game in pinstripes. It’s the second-fastest rate in Yankee history. Only Joe DiMaggio did it faster. Pretty neat! LeMahieu had himself a hell of a night. He kicked it off with a leadoff homer against Patrick Corbin, who he has absolutely owned his entire career. Now, it’s possibly a bit generous to call it a home run – it was a true Yankee Stadium cheapie. Check it out in all of its .170 expected batting average glory:
That was not the only DJ homer of the day, either. LeMachine threw in another RF HR in this one, though this was more of a real home run:
All in all, LeMahieu went 3-4 with 2 HR and a single. He’s definitely been struggling a bit at the plate this season, and yet he’s hitting .283/.372/.400 (126 wRC+) on the young season. That’s not so bad. Neither is this:
3. The Yanks Pay for Sloppy Play: Sloppy, sloppy defense always hurts you. It definitely hurt the Yankees today. The game was tied in the top of the 8th inning, with Jonathan Loaisiga on the hill for the Yanks. Back-to-back errors led to a first and third, no-out situation:
- Aaron Judge booted a single hit right at him, allowing Yadiel Hernandez to reach second.
- DJ LeMahieu then threw it wide to first on a bunt, and only a great play from Miguel Andújar (yes, really!) kept the ball from sailing into the outfield.
A single and a mammoth home run followed, and it was quickly 7-3 Nationals. Loaisiga could have tried getting a few outs, but the sloppy defense really set him up for failure. And that was not all! Aaron Boone quickly removed Loaisiga after the game got out of hand, electing to go to Luis Cessa after a Juan Soto single. Two more sloppy defensive plays followed:
- Aaron Judge threw home on a Kyle Schwarber single that was off-line, allowing Schwarber to go to 2nd – where Gleyber Torres was unable to handle a Gary Sánchez throw. Had he done so, it looked like he may have been able to get the tag down. Alas.
- Then, the next batter hit a soft grounder to Gleyber, who just missed it entirely. Another run scored.
All of this added up to a 6-run inning, aided entirely by sloppy, sloppy defense. Nobody will argue that Loaisiga or Cessa were good – just 1 of Loaisiga’s 4 runs were unearned – but come on. The defense has to do its part, and it absolutely did not. This could have been a manageable inning, even given the struggles. Instead, it became a laugher right away. In my opinion, the defense is clearly to blame for that. Three errors in one inning is unacceptable stuff. (It is worth noting, at least, that Torres made a slick play to end the inning. Fair is fair.) Anyway, woof, what a bad inning.
- Aaron Hicks is Turning it Around: Don’t look now, but Aaron Hicks is quietly red-hot. Coming into tonight’s game, he was 9 for his last 20 (.450) with an even amount of strikeouts and walks. He is starting to look more and more like the Hicks we’ve come to expect. Hicks did not log a hit today, but he did laser a few line drives and a walk. I think his approach offensively is looking much better. That is a good sign indeed.
- Wandy Peralta Continues to be Solid: I have been very impressed with Wandy Peralta so far. The Yankees have used him as the first guy out of the pen quite a bit, and even in a high-leverage spot against Houston this week. He is living up to the challenge. Tonight, he struck out both batters he faced while relieving Jameson. Good stuff.
- Gary Looks Good: Good night for Gary Sánchez at the plate. He worked a tough walk in the 7th, and he crushed a home run in his first at bat of the game. In the 9th, he launched another ball to the track in right center. Check the homer:
- It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s…Clint Frazier?: Hell of a play for Clint Frazier in this one. I mean, seriously. He also added a base hit in the 9th that scored Aaron Hicks. Check one the defensive play:
- Not Cessa’s Best Night: That was not Luis Cessa’s best night. He didn’t have good stuff – he gave up a blast to Juan Soto in the 9th – and the Yankees had to get Mike King going in the pen. You know they didn’t want to do that. It was clearly his game to wear…kudos to him, at least, for bearing down and keeping King in the pen.
- All Good Things Come to an End: Giancarlo Stanton’s 12-game hitting streak ended tonight. However, it was not really his fault – he scorched the ball to left in the middle innings, but it was poorly placed. It could easily have been a double, though.
The Yanks and Nationals will play the second of a three-game set tomorrow at 1:05 pm. It will be a battle of Cy Young winners: Max Scherzer (2-2, 2.54 ERA) will be taking on Corey Kluber (2-2, 3.03 ERA) in the Bronx. Enjoy the rest of your night, everyone. See you then.