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Oof. That was ugly. The Yankees blew out Toronto a couple of times last week, and tonight, the Blue Jays returned the favor. The final in this one: 11-5.

This one was over early as Michael King and Jonathan Loaisiga got knocked around in the third and fourth innings. Meanwhile, the offense couldn’t muster much against Matt Shoemaker and the Jays’ bullpen. Here are the takeaways:

Michael King isn’t a big league starter. At least, not yet. There are reasons to like King, but his start tonight was emblematic of his entire season. He got off to a good start but wore down once the opposing lineup got a second look at him. Now, the times-through-the-order penalty applies to just about every pitcher. But for King, it’s particularly bad. Take a look:

Times Facing Opponent in Game
Split PA HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS tOPS+ sOPS+
1st PA in G, as SP27156.182.333.409.74281108
2nd PA in G, as SP26134.318.423.455.878116134
3rd PA in G, as SP1000.000.000.000.000-100-100
1st PA in G, as RP38218.278.316.528.844100127
2nd PA in G, as RP15112.286.333.571.905114115
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/21/2020.

Opposing hitters’ OPS go way up in a second plate appearance against King, though the jump is particularly noticeable as a starting pitcher. He’s kind of consistently bad as a reliever, whereas when starting, his first time through is actually pretty decent.

Tonight, King looked great his first time through the order. He allowed two hits and struck out five. One of those hits absolutely shouldn’t have been a hit, by the way. Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge let a ball drop in the outfield that turned into a triple. Anyway, point is: King shut down the Blue Jays in their first look tonight. He capped off that first time through with a beauty, too:

After that is when things unraveled. With one on, one out, and the top of the order due up, here’s what happened. King walked Cavan Biggio and then gave up back-to-back singles to Bo Bichette and Teoscar Hernández, which put Toronto ahead 2-1. Next, King fanned Lourdes Gurriel Jr. for the second out, but Randal Grichuk delivered the final blow right after: an RBI single to make it 3-1. In short, Toronto hitters reached in four of the first five plate appearances in the second turn through the batting order. Not good. Jonathan Loaisiga relieved King, but allowed two of his inherited runners to score, putting the Yankees down 5-1 through 3 innings.

In fairness to King, some of the hits in that third inning weren’t scalded. Still, hits are hits and King has shown us time and time again that he doesn’t fare well against opposing hitters twice. As long as this issue remains, he’s not a viable starting pitcher.

King now has a 7.76 ERA and 5.13 FIP in 26 2/3 innings this season. If this is it for King this year, yikes. He had a chance to grab a rotation spot this year, but his poor performance, Deivi García’s success, and JA Happ’s resurgence never allowed it to be a possibility. My one big takeaway from King’s season, aside from the times through the order stuff: he’s gotta find a way to get his sinker down. Here’s his heat map on the pitch this season:

He flashes an excellent sinker (that Pitching Ninja gif, for example), but far more often than not it’s up and over the plate. If he can get that down, maybe he can get himself back on track as a back-end starter type.

Jonathan Loaisiga hasn’t looked great since returning from his unknown illness. In his third outing off the injured list, Loaisiga let this one get out of hand. He entered when it was 3-1 and allowed a couple of inherited runs to score, as mentioned earlier. Then, the next inning, he proceeded to give up four more runs. Loaisiga allowed five hits and walked two before Nick Nelson relieved him in the middle of the fourth inning.

Loaisiga’s pitch usage really stood out to me tonight. Of his 39 pitches in this one, 32 were fastballs. He’s got a great heater, but he also possesses a high spin curve and a sharp changeup, both with whiff rates north of forty percent this year. So, it’s a bit odd to see him spin off five breakers and two changeups tonight. He did something similar in his last outing too.

Granted, Loaisiga’s had some other high fastball usage outings this season. But considering how poorly things went tonight, it’s strange how he and Gary Sánchez kept going to the well. Maybe he just didn’t have a feel for the breaker or change, I don’t know. In any case, he also didn’t elevate his fastball at all, something he’s had success with before.

Hopefully this is just a case of Loaisiga trying to get back into a groove after missing a couple weeks of action. He showed some flashes of excellence in short relief last month and looked like a great option to graduate into late relief, particularly with Tommy Kahnle out for the year. It’d be nice to see him sort things out before the postseason.

Leftovers:
  • Gio Urshela drove in two of the three of the Yankees’ runs tonight. One was an RBI single that gave the Yankees’ a short-lived 1-zip lead in the second. The other was an RBI groundout in garbage time.
  • Giancarlo Stanton plated the Yankees’ third run with his RBI double in the eighth.
  • More from the too little, too late department: Mike Tauchman delivered a three-run double in the ninth inning against Wilmer Font.
  • Nick Nelson threw two innings in relief. The only run he allowed came on Randal Grichuk’s solo shot.
  • Chad Green and Adam Ottavino got some work in relief as well. Green gave up one run, a solo homer to Alejandro Kirk. Adam Ottavino pitched a clean eighth inning.
  • The Rays’ magic number for the division title is now 1. Additionally, the Yankees now trail the Twins by 1.5 games for the 4th seed.

Welp, on to the next one. The Yankees have now lost two straight, but it’s nice to have Gerrit Cole on the bump tomorrow. Have a good night, everyone.