The Yankees finally ended their six-game losing streak against the Rays and beat their new rival 5-3 in the Bronx (box score). It was a ridiculously weird game that involved a good pitching performance from Masahiro Tanaka, a literal little league home run from Gio Urshela, and a benches-clearing almost brawl after the game ended thanks to a high and tight pitch from Aroldis Chapman.
The important thing, though, is that the Yankees won the game. Let’s get right to the takeaways from this one.
1. It’s Tanaka Time Again: Masahiro Tanaka righted the ship from his last start against the Rays and delivered another masterful performance tonight. He lasted six innings, struck out seven, allowed three hits, and walked just one batter. It was a classic performance that included a lot of sliders like this:
Love it. In fact, the game was almost entirely all sliders from Tanaka: nearly half (48%) of his offerings tonight were sliders. For good reason, too, as he got 11 whiffs on 28 swings for a neat 39% whiff-per-swing rate. The splitter is Tanaka’s trademark, but the slider is probably his most dependable pitch.
Tanaka’s pitch plot really demonstrates how effective he was tonight. Check it out:
Almost nothing out in the middle-of-the-plate. He pounded the Rays with sliders down, mixed in some fastballs to keep them honest, and occasionally flirted with his four-seamer up. One of my favorite parts of watching Tanaka pitch, honestly, is that this plot looks different every time. He is a wizard.
Anyway, he did leave a few too many sliders up. One of them ended up in the right-field seats:
This one tied the game, but it was really the only blemish against Tanaka this evening. (And, for once, the Yankees offense actually picked up their man – with an assist from Keirmaier, ironically.) He did give up some hard contact in the middle innings:
But that was it against Tanaka. Impressively, he settled in in the 6th and retired the middle of the Rays order without a hitch. Folks, that’s what you like to see. What’s that? What time is it? That’s right. It’s:
2. David John Makes Long Gone: It doesn’t really need to be said at this point, but man oh man is DJ LeMahieu essential to the Yankees. He is a true table-setter atop the lineup – and, in fact, always has been, as he’s 11% better than his average when hitting first – and that was on display yet again. Here is how the game started off for the Yanks, courtesy of DJ:
That made it 1-0 Yankees. It was a welcome sight, too. The Yankees struggled to get anything going last night against Tyler Glasnow, so it was nice to see an early hit (let alone a run!) tonight. But DJ wasn’t done just yet, as he added another in his second at-bat, this time in the third inning:
That one made it 2-0 in the 3rd inning. Again, it was a welcome sight and I’m not surprised it came via DJ LeMahieu. I did think it was funny that LeMahieu pulled a home run and then hit one the opposite way. It’s very indicative of the type of hitter he is. Check out his homer spray chart since joining the Yankees last year, minus today’s two:
He goes the opposite way more than he doesn’t, to be sure, but he is very clearly capable of driving the ball to all fields. What an impressive player…who, by the way, is hitting over .400 again. He’s up to .411/.454/.600 (190 wRC+) on the season. (If you’re wondering, in order to qualify for the batting title, LeMahieu will need 186 plate appearances. He has 97 so far. The watch is officially on.)
3. Lol WTF: The Yankees have been involved in some weird, weird baseball recently. Sunday was legitimately ridiculous, but I gotta say: I think the bottom of the 6th inning might be the weirdest play of the week. Here’s what happened:
- Luke Voit single
- Aaron Hicks lineout
- Clint Frazier single
That brought up Gio Urshela for one of the most bizarre plays you’ll ever see:
This is officially a 2-RBI double with a throwing error by Willy Adames (with a nice bobble by Ryan Thompson, after which Gio Urshela took off for home. He’d completely stopped before that.
In real time, I thought Gio was toast. I really did. But he was safe because of a hell of a swim move slide. I couldn’t get the slo-mo video, so I did my best with this:
There isn’t a good angle anyway – the Rays did challenge – but I honestly think Gio evaded the tag. He snuck his left hand in before getting tagged on the hip. I’m sure of it. What a play by Gio. This little league home run gave the Yanks a 5-2 lead. It was glorious. Here’s another perspective, just for good measure:
4. The Bullpen: The Yankee pen has been much-maligned of late, but they definitely
- Jonathan Loaisiga: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 2 K, 0 BB
- Zack Britton: 1.0 IP, zeroes, 1 K
- Aroldis Chapman: 1.0 IP, zeroes, 1 K
Good stuff all around. I was very glad to see Jonathan Loaisiga come in for a high-leverage, one-inning spot in relief. As I’m sure all of you know by now, I think that’s where he’s best suited to pitch. So, of course he gives up a home run. I’m undeterred, though. Keep sending him out there.
It was also nice to see Britton return and pitch a scoreless 8th inning. As we’ve seen, doubleheaders and no Britton has made for a very depleted bullpen, so it’s good to have Britton back. Chapman did what Chapman does and the Yankee bullpen allowed just the 1 hit, struck out 4, and walked 0 in three high-leverage innings. That’ll do.
But there was a bit of drama. Aroldis Chapman did this:
Which led to a long conference of the umpires, who eventually warned both benches. I guess they thought he did it on purpose? Meh. I don’t know. We have all seen Chapman be wild a bunch of times and I think it just slipped. At least I sure hope it did, because yikes. Not only is it an incredibly dangerous thing to do, but it also would have put the tying run on with 2 outs for no reason.
The Rays, for their part, did think it was on purpose. The benches cleared after the game, the two teams chirped at each other, and Kevin Cash was ejected:
So, more to come tomorrow, I guess. Sigh.
- Gary Sánchez Hits It Hard: Gary Sánchez just missed another homer tonight, and while he was 0-3, he did hit the ball hard twice. I think he’s starting to turn a corner, myself.
- Luke Voit is Killing It: I could talk about Luke Voit forever, so I’ll just reserve him for a leftover tonight. Voit went 2-4 and raised his season line to .308/.368/.701 (183 wRC+) on the season. What a player..292 .404 .56
- Clint Frazier Defense: Clint Frazier ooks like a different player in 2020. He’s a long, long way away from that consussion now. Red Thunder added a hit and raised his line (in 57 PA to .292/.404/.563 (163 wRC+) on the season, but he also did this in right field:
The Yankees and Rays will meet again tomorrow at 7:05 to complete this three-game set. Charlie Morton (1-1, 5.40 ERA) will make his return against Jordan Montgomery (2-1, 4.44 ERA) in the Bronx. Enjoy the rest of your night, everyone.