Well, that was a ridiculous game. A five-run 1st inning followed by silence from the Yankee bats as the Orioles chipped away throughout the night but never really threatened. There was a 90-minute rain delay and a back-breaking homer in the 8th made it look over, but then Aaron Judge snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and the Yankees won 8-6. Look at the win probability chart from this one:
Amazing. Baseball is an extremely stupid and infuriating sport and I love it so, so much. Here is the box score as the Yankees improve to 4-1 and defeat the Orioles for the 18th consecutive time. Let’s get right to the takeaways.
1. J.A. Happ is Not Going to Cut It: We collectively spent a ton of oxygen talking about J.A. Happ’s vesting option. Oddly, we still don’t know what will make that option vest, but I’m pretty confident at this point saying it shouldn’t. And not because of any nefarious roster machinations or luxury tax considerations. The Yankees just have better options with higher upside. (For his part, Happ might be a decent lefty reliever out of the bullpen, as he does still fare well against LHB generally.)
Anyway, the Yankees gifted Happ a 5-0 lead in the top of the first inning, and 47 pitches, 2 home runs, and 2 walks later, that lead was just 5-4 heading into the top of the 3rd. That is just not going to cut it. I can be sympathetic to Happ – he was a very good pitcher in the AL East for a very long time – and believe that he was set up for failure with the juiced ball. The two postponements also messed with his schedule, so perhaps his rhythm was off. But his leash should be very, very short.
Happ was still sitting in the middle of the zone far too much for my liking, given his diminished velocity:
Again, that is not going to cut it. All in all, this was Happ’s line: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 4 R, and 2 BB. He looked better after the 2nd inning, but he still got absolutely hammered by Baltimore. I mean:
That is way, way too much red. The results may have improved a bit but the underlying hits were not promising. I think he looked a bit worse than his line indicated, honestly.
One thing that is interesting, though, is that Happ was much less reliant on his fastball tonight than he was in year’s past. Last year, he threw his fastball 48% of the time while tonight it was closer to 40%. If he’s going to right this ship – and I do hope he can, regardless of what I said above – then that’s going to be the way to do it. He just shouldn’t be afforded too many more chances to be the captain.
2. Luke Voit, Your Everyday First Baseman: Look, I like Mike Ford too. I wrote a whole long post about how he looks like the real deal. He is also a lefty, and the Yankees don’t have very many lefty bats. There’s definitely a place for him on the roster. That place, though, is not yet as an everyday first baseman. That job still belongs to Luke Voit, of the 141 wRC+ since joining the New York Yankees two years ago.
Voit had his second and third hits of the year tonight. The first one was the first grand slam of his career. To wit:
Look at that Sosa hop. I love it so much. Anyway, Voit was one of the best hitters on the team in the first half of the season last year and was even hitting the ball hard during his very rough September. I truly believe Voit will be a force to be reckoned with in 2020. Even though he has just 3 hits, 2 of which came tonight, he’s been hitting the ball hard. When you do that, like he did tonight, good things will happen:
Expect a lot more where this came from, even if he did strike out with runners on second and third in the 8th, which came back to bite the Yanks. For a minute.
3. Giancarlo Stanton is Locked In: What more can we say about Giancarlo Stanton’s season so far? Our dude is absolutely locked the hell in and that’s about that. This is his line on the year so far: 8-19 (.421) with 2 HR, 2 2B, and 5 BB. And, somehow, even that line doesn’t do him justice.
Coming into tonight, Giancarlo was averaging 98 miles-per-hour on his batted balls on the season. Inexplicably, he raised that average today because he is just scorching the ball. Here is what his night looked like on Statcast:
That’s good, right? Here’s an example of how that looks in the real world:
Giancarlo added three hits and a walk to his season line tonight. He looks as locked in at the plate as he ever has in a Yankee uniform, and I am absolutely 100% here for it. Give me this Stanton all year long, please.
4. Bullpen, Bullpen, Bullpen: It was another long day for the Yankee pen, as Happ lasted just 4 innings.
Here are their respective lines:
- Adam Ottavino: 1.0 IP, 1 H, zeros
- Jonathan Loaisiga: 3.0 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 4 K, 2 BB
- Zack Britton: 1.0 IP, zeros, 2 K
Aaron Boone turned to Adam Ottavino for the bottom of the 5th inning – even though the Orioles had a lefty coming up – and I liked the decision. The rain was coming and there was no reason to avoid going to a top-shelf reliever. I also liked going to Loaisiga in the 6th. My man worked himself into trouble with two walks and three 3-2 counts, but he got out of it. He looked much better in his second inning of work with some absolutely nasty curves, too. At the time, I was thinking Chad Green: This Time With a Curveball, here we come.
Aaron Boone was apparently thinking the same thing, as he sent Loaisiga out for the 8th inning. It was an aggressive move and it did not work out. After a hit-by-pitch with one out, Loaisiga gave up a massive home run to Pedro Severino on this pitch:
It was a 96-miles-per-hour fastball in on the hands, and Severino just drilled it. What are you going to do? It spoiled what was otherwise a very nice outing for Loaisiga. It was the only hit he allowed.
I’ll be curious to hear why Boone didn’t go to Tommy Kahnle, who is presumably well-rested. (Edit, 12:00 am: Turns out he was unavailable. More to come on that, I’m sure.) I’ve been leading the Loaisiga in the bullpen train for a while now, but going to the well a third time with Loaisiga there was probably a bit too ambitious. Gah. However…
5. Aaron Judge is the Best: …it didn’t batter, because Aaron Judge is so good. After a Gio Urshela walk and DJ LeMahieu single, Judge came up to the plate. Here is the strike zone plot from this particular at-bat:
Judge swung through that orange one up there early in the at-bat. For some reason, though, Orioles closer Cole Sulser decided to challenge Judge again and, well, it went like this:
Beautiful. Listen to the Yankee dugout explode as that one left the yard. That is just beautiful. Anyway, what more can you even say about Aaron Judge? (Also, the second challenge pitch is especially hilarious because Tyler Wade was on deck. Sure, the Yanks would have pinch-hit Mike Ford, but still.) The guy is just the damn best. What a player.
- John Means’ Pedro Impression: John Means had a good 2019 (seriously, he had a 3.60 ERA) but he was not nearly good enough to imitate Pedro Martínez. He did that anyway, though, hitting both Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres in the first inning. The Gleyber HBP looked pretty painful, as it hit him square in the elbow. He left the game in the 4th inning because of course he did. (X-rays were negative. You can exhale.)
- Gary Struggles at the Plate, Shines Behind the Dish: Woof, is Gary Sánchez struggling. He is now 0-15 with 10 strikeouts on the season, though he did reach base on a hit-by-pitch. He’ll be fine, but he looks downright horrible right now. He did look at least slightly less horrible in a competent at-bat in the 8th, but he still struck out. In the bottom of the 6th, though, he made two really good blocks on some tough Loaisiga pitches in the dirt with two on. In the 7th, he framed a nice pitch below the zone for a called strike (even if it was a makeup call). Nice work by Gary (and Tanner Swanson) there.
- Andújar Sighting: Everyone’s favorite free-swinging Yankee started in left field tonight. I don’t recall him getting any fielding opportunities, and he didn’t look great at the plate, but it’s nice to see him out there. Give him the opportunities, and he’ll hit. I believe that. (The Yankees removed him from the game after the 90-minute rain delay, which made sense. Tauchman replaced him probably for defensive reasons in the close game anyway.)
The Yankees are heading north (for real this time) for their home opener tomorrow night. That’ll be against the lowly Boston Red Sox. Ryan Weber (0-1, 14.73 ERA) will take on Jordan Montgomery starting at 7:05 pm EDT. We’ll have you covered tomorrow. Until then, enjoy your night, everyone.