Game 40: Montgomery struggles, offense goes quiet after first inning in loss

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Well that was a terrible loss. Up 4-0 after a half inning and 5-2 entering the bottom of the third, the Yankees lost this one, 10-6. Jordan Montgomery couldn’t finish off a number of Orioles in spite of inducing plenty of soft contact, and the Yankees’ offense went down meekly after the first inning. Baltimore scored nine runs with two outs. Frustrating!

Even though this is another series win (and five straight series victories), the Yankees are now 1-6 in games with an opportunity to sweep a series (note: I left out the two-game set against Atlanta as an opportunity in today’s game thread). Sure feels like a lot of these series finale sweep attempt losses have been ugly ones, too. With that, let’s get to the takeaways.

Soft contact wasn’t enough to save Jordan Montgomery from self-inflicted mistakes. Obviously, Montgomery’s pitching line (5 runs in 3 innings) was bad, especially against the lowly Orioles. There were too many baserunners (8) and some control issues (2 walks, 2 wild pitches). And yet, even though all the runs surrendered were earned runs, the Orioles didn’t exactly smack Montgomery around (84.9 MPH EV). That doesn’t absolve Montgomery from today’s performance, of course.

Of Baltimore’s eight hits, three were categorized as Hard Hit (i.e. >95 MPH exit velocity). Two of the hits had xBA of .050 or lower. Both were doubles, the first off Ryan Mountcastle’s bat in the first inning (86.8 MPH EV, .020 xBA) which Clint Frazier probably should have caught (more on that in a bit). The other: Austin Hays’ third inning double (73.1 MPH EV, .050 xBA).

Now, even though there was plenty of not-so-great contact against Montgomery, I wouldn’t argue that he pitched well. Both first inning runs scored after the starter retired the first two batters of the game. Soft hit or not, going walk-double-single-single is extremely frustrating after getting the first two outs with ease. Especially after the lineup gave him a four-spot in the top of the first.

Baltimore’s three-run third inning was more annoying. The aforementioned Hays double started things off, but Montgomery made matters worse thereafter. He threw a wild pitch to let Hays get to third and walked Trey Mancini (for a second time) after getting ahead 1-2. Balls two, three, and four weren’t particularly close to the zone:

Ryan Mountcastle made it 5-3 with a sacrifice fly, but Montgomery rebounded to strike out Pedro Severino for the second out. The rebound was short lived, though. Yet again, he couldn’t finish things off. Maikel Franco drove in a run with a double to make it 5-4 (after a wild pitch moved Mancini to second, by the way). Then, Montgomery got ahead in the count 1-2 vs. Freddy Galvis. But like the Mancini walk, Montgomery couldn’t finish the job and Galvis singled. Once again, the last three pitches of the at-bat were noncompetitive.

By this point, Orioles hitters were finally squaring up Montgomery. Franco’s double had an xBA of .800 even though it was only hit 87.6 MPH off the bat. Galvis’s knock was a rocked (105.7 MPH). And the last out, Pat Valaika, just missed a homer (372 foot fly out). It was pretty clear he was toast at that point.

I’d argue that Montgomery was a tad unlucky in the first inning, but the third inning is more on him. Letting one hitter reach base after a 1-2 count happens on occasion, but allowing that to occur twice in one inning is a recipe for disaster.

So look, it’s nice that Montgomery can induce a lot of soft contact. Sometimes that will help him escape trouble. But he needs to do a better job of finishing off his opponents, particularly against an offense as inept as Baltimore’s. Instead of what looked like a potential laugher, Monty departed with the score 5-5.

Bruce Zimmermann inexplicably shuts down Yankees’ offense. The Yankees scored four runs against Adam Plutko in the first inning and a sweep looked certain. Gary Sánchez and Clint Frazier hit back-to-back dingers to get the offense up and running.

Plutko’s day was over after the first inning. Enter southpaw Bruce Zimmermann, who the Yankees hit hard back in April. He gave up 9 hits and 4 runs against the Yankees on April 27th.

So somehow, Zimmermann faced 20 batters and allowed just three to reach base. The only one to do damage? None other than the red-hot Aaron Judge, who also homered against Zimmermann on the 27th.

Judge aside, this was a pretty pitiful performance offensively after the second inning. Zimmermann came into this game with a 5.40 ERA in 30 innings with a propensity to give up the long ball (7 homers allowed). So naturally, the Yankees couldn’t square the ball up against him (81.1 average EV), including six batted balls lower than 70 MPH. Yuck.

Look, I know this Yankees lineup is missing some key bats in Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, and Aaron Hicks. Instead, we’re seeing the likes of Ryan LaMarre and Tyler Wade starting. But that’s really no excuse to go down quietly against a pitcher with these underlying metrics:

Zimmermann.

Again, it’s not like the Yankees were hitting rockets right at the defenders. Zimmermann had the hitters off-balance all afternoon. Not only did he induce a ton of weak contact, but he also picked up six strikeouts. Simply put, the Yankees’ offense has to do better. Did the Yankees secretly trade Montgomery for Zimmermann today? Because the performances those two gave would have been expected from the opposite pitcher going into this game.

Clint giveth, and Clint taketh away. Hey, it was great to see Clint Frazier go yard after Matt’s in-depth piece on the failings of the Yankees’ left field situation this morning (yes, Clint played right field today but that was because Aaron Judge DH’d).

Unfortunately, Frazier helped give a run back in the bottom half of the first inning. The Mountcastle double, which I mentioned earlier, wasn’t necessarily an easy play to make, but it’s also one that should be made more often than not. Per Statcast, this had a 60 percent catch probability (courtesy of Seth Rothman):

So instead of recording the third out and finishing the inning up 4-0, the Orioles stayed alive to score twice. You can see that he took a bit of a circuitous route too.

Frazier has been pretty bad defensively this season, akin to what we saw earlier in his career and absolutely nothing like last season when he deservedly was a Gold Glove finalist. Some year-over-year defensive stats to consider:

Stat20202021
OAA (percentile)80th1st
Outfielder Jump (percentile)62nd1st
Expected – Actual Catch %+2-10
Feet covered (feet)33.829.7

So Frazier has gone from one of the better corner outfielders in 2020 to *the worst* in 2021, per Statcast.

In fairness to Frazier, he made a heck of a diving catch in the 7th inning. We have seen him make some spectacular diving plays this season. But what we’re missing from him is consistency in the outfield corners.

Great play aside, if Clint’s defense was more in line (even with some regression) to last season, I probably would have given him a pass for not coming up with Mountcastle’s fly ball. But at this point, the numbers and eye test are telling a not-so-good story. Not even a few highlight reel diving plays can prop up his numbers.

Last year was such a revelation for Frazier, but this season has been nothing short of disappointing. It constantly feels like he’s taking one step forward and two steps back. On Friday, as you may recall, he made a baserunning gaffe after ripping a single to left field. Today, it’s turning a potential third out of an inning into a hit right after Frazier drilled a homer.

Leftovers:

  • Mike King (two innings, one run) and Lucas Luetge (one inning, no runs) did a fine job in relief of Montgomery.
  • Unfortunately, Wandy Peralta finally had a poor showing with the Yankees. The two-run homer he gave up to Maikel Franco in the 8th made this one 8-5.
  • Luis Cessa coughed up two more runs in the ninth with the rain coming down hard. It effectively put this one out of reach, if Peralta’s work hadn’t done so already.
  • DJ LeMahieu singled in the Yankees’ sixth run of the game in the top of the ninth against César Valdez.
  • Judge’s homer was his 12th of the year, tied for the major league lead. It’s also his seventh homer against the Orioles this season. He’s going full 2019 Gleyber vs. the Orioles, huh?

Next up: four with the Rangers in Texas, starting tomorrow. Enjoy the rest of your weekend, all.

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12 Comments

  1. Dani

    did anyone else notice that Frazier did the most useless outfield dekes?

    First faking a catch with no one on base. Later in the game faking a catch believing this will hold the runners … with 2 outs! Somebody please help him, he’s completely lost 😀

  2. Wire Fan

    If the game were tied do you think the Yankees analytics group, ummm… I mean Boone… Would have used Loaisiga and Green from the 7th on? Is there an informal rule they don’t work when trailing?

    Starting to lose a little faith in the bottom of the order getting going well (Frazier Gardy Sanchez), I actually think Sanchez will hit a little but still be a largely all or nothing, streaky hitter. But hopefully DJL and Torres pick it up and Stanton isn’t hurt. That would give them a good top 6.

  3. MikeD

    Normally taking 2 of 3 in the opposition park is a good thing, that is, unless it the lowly Baltimore Orioles and the Yankees had a 4-0 lead and then a 5-2 lead. It was a bit of a weird game with the Orioles getting tons of two-out hits, many not all that hard hit. Regardless, Montgomery has to battle through a win a game like this. Deflating.

    I’m a bit surprised that Socrates Brito didn’t get the call instead of Ryan LaMarre. Did they have to add LaMarre to the 40-man or was he already there? Brito is not, so that might explain it, but if not, Brito makes more sense. A lefty, can play all three OF positions, and CF has been his primary position in the minors. If you’re looking for this year’s Mike Tauchman surprise player, meaning the guy in June you’re scratching your head wondering how they Yankees had this great find, Brito is more likely to play that role. There is talent there and there’s some evidence he’s been a bit unlucky. That said, LaMarre does offer the easy platoon with the lefty Gardner. Hopefully, Hicks can avoid surgery. Florial is not the answer. Start praying that age has not finally caught up to Gardner because he’s going to be needed.

    • Wire Fan

      I’m pretty sure LaMarre wasn’t on the 40man. My guess is what you mentioned – a righty bat to platoon with Gardy

      Also if Hick’s injury is short term, the Yankees are probably not worried about DFA’ing LaMarre. There is probably some chance Brito would be claimed (this would only be a consideration if the Hicks injury is believed to be a short term thing)

  4. Mungo

    Performances like this from Monty is why I don’t believe he can be anything more than a 5th starter on a contending team. He’s a MLB pitcher, but he needs all his pitches and command working to dominate, and most nights that won’t happen. If a couple pitches evade him and his command is off, he’s toast.

    With Severino progressing, Garcia looking stronger in AAA, and Schmidt eventually returning, my guess is Montgomery will lose his starting rotation spot.

  5. Gerreddardit Cole

    I thought it was the worst loss of the season, Derek. If I were scouting the Yankees I’d sign every single soft tossing lefty I could because they’ve never been able to hit them going back decades. As I said before I just don’t think Boone has the killer instinct needed to win at the major league level. He’s a nice guy and a good talking head but he doesn’t have the fire in his belly that a Joe Torre or even a Joe Girardi had. TV personalities make for good Presidents or cabinet secretaries but not Yankee managers. This was the third straight series he had to go for the kill and failed. 2 out of 3 ain’t bad said Mealoaf but when your facing the Orioles you’ve gotta squeeze the life out of them especially when you’re up 4-0 in the 1st! My God, anybody could see Monty didn’t have it today. With a rested pen there shoulda been a much quicker hook. Have King soak up some innings and then send him down tomorrow for a fresh arm. And why was Brandon Hyde the only one arguing the horrible strike zone? Boone didn’t utter one peep and I suspect it’s because his doctor told him not to get his pacemaker too worked up. And for christ sake get rid of that 32 year old journey man Hedy Lamar or whatever his name is and call up Florial! He’s a 32 year old journeyman for a reason. Florial would give us some energy and hit better than Gardy. And getting Odor back would be a double shot. Hicks is out for the year so might as well try Florial out and see if Cash needs to trade for a CFer. Stanton I worry is out for the year too. This medical staff has a tendency to turn a quad strain into polio real fast.

    • AFM791

      Dude, i know the game was frustrating and you’re clearly not a fan of Boone, but poking fun at the fact that the man has a pacemaker is pretty low.

  6. dasit

    greg allen picked a terrible time to get hurt
    i picked him as a surprise “next-man-up” contributor in 2021

    • Zach

      If you have so little depth that you’re counting on Greg Allen to contribute, something has gone very wrong with roster construction.

      • dasit

        and you could say the same for wade/ford/odor
        the roster is a mess

  7. I didn’t watch the game until the 8th inning (the Knicks are far more compelling and fun right now) but letting the O’s back in the game after jumping out to a big lead usually means trouble.

    The Yankees are going to need a regular center fielder as I doubt Hicks is back this year and probably isn’t a long term solution anyway-none of the scrubs or prospects in the minors is the guy for 2021 so they will need to make a trade, I wonder how much it would take to pry Byron Buxton away from the Twins or another regular from a team needing to rebuild with a legitimate centerfielder.

  8. DZB

    This one looked to be over early, so it is a really awful game to lose. For the CF situation, I see that Florial had three K’s today in an 0-4 performance, so that is not a great way to impress the organization. At least Deivi had a bounceback with 9 K’s and zero ERs.

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