Game 38: Urshela saves the day

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Just when you thought this one was shaping up to be an ugly loss, Gio Urshela said: not so fast. His pinch hit three-run homer in the seventh gave the Yankees a 5-4 lead that the bullpen preserved. The win improves the Yankees to 21-17 on the season.

Really nice to get a win like this after a barrage of injury news prior to the game. Hopefully, we get better news about Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton over the weekend. In the meantime, here are the takeaways from tonight’s game.

Corey Kluber was great for the first four innings, but things fell apart in the fifth. It took just 49 pitches for Kluber to complete four frames this evening. And through that point, his lone blemish was an Austin Hays solo shot. His movement and command was pretty terrific:

Those are whiffle balls. You can’t tell me otherwise. Kluber used that kind of filthy stuff to strike out five, walk one, and allow very little hard contact through four innings (again, aside from the Hays homer). Just take a look at all the blue…

…until that fifth inning. To lead off, DJ Stewart got lucky not once, but twice in the same play. First, Aaron Judge just missed making a nice diving catch for the second out. But Judge had Stewart at second with a good throw, until, Tyler Wade intervened:

Mind you that this came after Wade popped out a bunt attempt on a 3-1 count in the top half of the inning. This is the Kluber section of the post, so I wont’ diverge too much, but: what exactly does Wade bring to the table? It’s one thing not to hit. But to consistently make fundamental mistakes is simply unacceptable. You can’t drop that throw as a major league player. Can’t.

And after a Maikel Franco groundout, the Orioles started making louder contact to tally three more runs. Nearly four if not for a good relay to home plate to cut down another and end the inning.

As you’ll see in the following chart, Kluber’s command started to betray him a bit in the fifth. That’s partially to blame for the crooked number on the scoreboard. Still, the first run was on Wade.

Kluber pitched a scoreless sixth to give him a final line of: 6 innings, 7 hits, 4 runs (all earned), 2 walks, and 6 strikeouts. He definitely pitched better than his line indicated, particularly in all innings other than the fifth. After four mediocre starts to begin the season, the veteran righty has been throwing much better in his last four outings. It’s great to see.

The offense has gone through a lot of ups and downs this season (and let’s be real: mostly downs), but Gio Urshela has been incredibly consistent. Tonight, Gio didn’t start because of some knee trouble he’s been dealing with over the last week or so. But today, he came up in a big spot and delivered. Because why wouldn’t he? He came up as the go ahead run in the seventh and delivered after a long battle against Travis Lakins Sr.:

The homer brought Urshela’s line up to .298/.347/.482 (134 wRC+) in 124 plate appearances. And while that’s not the team’s best offensive mark (see Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton), it sure feels like he’s been the lineup’s steady hand all year long. Just look how little his wOBA has wavered since the eighth game of the season:

Impressive. Judge has probably been the closest in terms of consistency, but even he had a bit of a slump.

Urshela’s now 7-for-14 with 7 runs batted in in High Leverage situations this year, far and away the best line on the club. So not only has he been consistent, but he’s also delivered when it’s mattered most. Urshela’s really blossomed into such a special player over the last three years. Now, put him in bubble wrap and protect that knee at all costs.

It’s safe to say that Aaron Judge’s slump is over. From the last game of the Detroit series (May 2nd) through the Washington series (May 7th), Judge hit .083/.185/.083 in 27 plate appearances with an alarming 14 strikeouts. Slumps happen to everyone (except Gio, I guess), but there has been a lingering concern about his lower body soreness from earlier in the year. Well, ever since the Tampa series, Judge has put those worries to bed.

After the right fielder went 6-for-12 with a double and homer at the Trop, Judge deposited two more homers this evening at Camden Yards. He’s now hitting .282/.382/.565 (167 wRC+) with 10 long balls in 144 trips to the plate. Pretty, pretty good. Both of his home runs today were impressive, but I think everyone was in awe with his first tater:

Did that curve hang up there? Yes. But it was also pretty far off the plate, and yet, Judge pulled his hands in and clobbered it.

Judge’s second dinger, which put the Yanks up 2-1, was more of your run-of-the-mill meatball.

Still beautiful, though. Anyway, it’s great to see Judge hitting again. It’s especially important that he’s snapped out of it given everything else that’s gone wrong of late with the position player group. Hopefully, Aaron Hicks’s wrist isn’t as bad as feared and Giancarlo Stanton’s quad injury doesn’t sideline him for too long. Perhaps Gleyber Torres won’t be out for too much longer. Even with Luke Voit back, the lineup was pretty slim pickings today, making it all the more important that key cogs like Judge contribute. And he did just that.

The Yankees need to address position player depth. The Yankees ran out a five through nine of Clint Frazier, Brett Gardner, Miguel Andújar, Kyle Higashioka, and Tyler Wade today. Brutal. Just brutal. Now, you can’t necessarily prepare for things like Torres’s COVID-19 positive, but given everything that’s gone on for this team health-wise in recent seasons, you’d think the team would have done something to solidify its position player depth in the offseason. Nope.

Tyler Wade is bad and has been bad for a few years now. And look, I don’t want to bash the guy too much — he’s bad at baseball relative to major leaguers — but he just doesn’t belong here. The Yankees have left the team’s middle infield depth unaddressed for two years now (i.e. since Didi Gregorius’s departure) and it’s come back to bite them. It took until this April for the team to make an upgrade in Rougned Odor, and even he comes with huge risks.

Writing off Brett Gardner has proven to be a fool’s errand time and time again, but at some point, he will run out of gas. He’s at .171/.268/.214 (45 wRC+) after tonight in 83 plate appearances. He’s 37. Has his time come? Maybe.

We know Hicks, Stanton, and Judge have injury histories. Surely, something could have been done to better prepare for injury. It’s like what we said in the offseason: bringing back Gardner is fine, but how about upgrading over Mike Tauchman? Now, the team doesn’t even have Tauchman (though I wouldn’t undo that trade — Wandy Peralta has been very good).

First base was a disaster until Luke Voit returned. I’ll admit I had some hope for Jay Bruce, but his recent track record made it clear that he was pretty washed up. Mike Ford has been a black hole and probably doesn’t belong on the 40-man roster either.

Now, maybe the depth wouldn’t look so bad if some of the regulars were performing up to expectations. Clint Frazier, in particular. That’s made the outfield look even worse than anyone could have anticipated. Even DJ LeMahieu hasn’t gotten into gear yet.

Ultimately though, the front office decided to run things back with all of the same position players as last year and hope a non-roster invitee (Bruce or Derek Dietrich) could provide lightning in a bottle. So much for that.

The team won in spite of a thin lineup, but this is an area the Yankees should look to address at the trade deadline. The regulars who haven’t performed up to expectations yet still have plenty of time to get going, but there’s never enough depth.

Leftovers

  • Chad Green, Wandy Peralta, and Jonathan Loaisiga shut this one down. Nice to give Aroldis Chapman a day off, who’s worked a lot lately. Green is Green, Peralta is proving to be quite the find, and Loaisiga is continuing his breakout. Love to see it.
  • Kluber picked up his 1,500th strikeout in this one. Congrats to him. Gerrit Cole just did so in his most recent start, too.
  • Voit is still looking for his first hit of the season. He’s 0-for-11 with a walk in three games. I’m not concerned though, he’s been hitting the ball pretty hard.
  • Frazier had a pretty awful baserunning gaffe in this one. His judgement on the basepaths can be pretty suspect. Today, he was retired via fielder choice on a fly ball to left center that was just out of reach of a diving Cedric Mullins. He went more than halfway to second, but after Mullins missed it, Frazier went back. It looked really bad on replay.

Both sides are back at it tomorrow. It’s a somewhat unusual Saturday night game. See you then.

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5 Comments

  1. David Pieragistini

    Maybe should have kept Estrada after good spring instead of losing for nothing- could have cut Bruce ties a few days earlier. Instead of wade maybe pick up galvis or Adrianna(Atlanta) both signed for 1.5 mill.

  2. Voit is still hitless, but Andujar got on the board before the Urshela HR!
    Miggy Mantle could make everything better offensively…

  3. Wire Fan

    The aggregate wRC+ may be improving but the offense is just bad (and is why folks should be careful using aggregated stats). Yeah some of it is randomness and sequencing (RISP, etc) but…

    Take two ​team with a 100 wRC+ that consists of
    A) 9 players that have a 100 WRC+
    B) 6 players that have a 75wRC+ and 3 players with a 150 wRC+

    Which team scores more runs? Or since they have the same wRC+, you expect the exact same output?

    The Yankees right now are more like team B. And early in the season the Yankees “analytics” group compounded the problem by shoe horning in guys like Gardner, Bruce, Odor and Hicks between the good hitters (this insanity thankfully has stopped).

    • The only stat that actually matters for an offense is how many runs it scores. That statement is intentionally hyperbolic and the underlying stats can be used to diagnose if there’s a hidden issue, but starting with anything but runs scored is a common mistake.

  4. Jason

    Gio Urshela really saved Kluber of slander today.

    The “Jonathan Loaisiga future 2 inning dominant closer of the Yankees” train is accepting passengers.

    Wandy Peralta is a steal. If the ump didnt rob him of that strike 2 call, he gets DJ Stewart out.

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