In a loss that looked oddly similar to the night before, the Yankees handed first place back to the Rays in a 7-4 loss to Cleveland.
1. A little too much CC
CC Sabathia’s final season could be getting ugly. His season started with both fanfare and the Sabathia we’ve seen in recent seasons. However, his increased propensity for the long ball — and a lack of soft contact — is catching up to him.
The big man held things together the first time through the order. He allowed leadoff hits in both the first and second innings but used a double play and timely strikeouts to keep Cleveland off the board. Classic Sabathia. He then struck out the side in the third inning, getting some late swings on high-80s fastballs. Retro Sabathia!
His start took the turn for the worse in the fourth inning in a predictable way. Sabathia is looking less like a five-and-fly pitcher and more of a “Does he need an opener?” pitcher if he were younger.
A hard-hit single and double, a sac fly that was hit to the warning track, and a double that was inches from a homer, all against the middle of the Indians’ less-than-stellar offense.
The big blow came from a combo of being left out too long and his growing problem of 2019. With two outs in the fifth, he gave up a double to Francisco Lindor that squeaked down the left field line. OK, fine, you live with that, even if CC probably shouldn’t have faced Lindor a second time.
But he was burned by a hanging slider off the outside corner. Not a terrible pitch, but hittable for the young Oscar Mercado, who took it deep.
Sabathia now has an FIP of 5.92 and a HR/9 of 2.41. That’s not going to cut it, even for a fifth starter. His average exit velocity this season going into Saturday’s start was 86.5 mph, his highest since 2015, so before his renaissance on the mound. His hard-hit rate is up from 26.6 percent to 33.3, just a smidge better than league average. When a pitcher who excels at inducing weak contact isn’t doing that anymore, it’s a problem.
Didi’s (even more) back
Didi Gregorius showed off his wheels in his debut and got two hits and one TOOTBLAN. Even with the mistake, it was nice to have him back.
In his second game, he showed off his power right away.
He hooked Adam Plutko’s ball 92.5 mph into the right-field seats, looking a lot like his blasts of Corey Kluber in the 2017 ALDS.
Didi struck out in his next AB but hit a hard grounder that knocked over Oliver Perez his third plate appearance. Perez gloved the ball and had a throw that beat the shortstop to first … but he threw it away. Was ruled a single for some reason, but Didi’s batting average will take it!
In eight plate appearances, the Yankees already have a home run and four hits from Gregorius. Very much needed.
An offensive drought
Outside of Didi, it was a struggle to get to Plutko on Saturday. The Bombers mustered just three hits off the right-hander over six frames. No walks, four punchouts. Just Didi’s homer, an infield single from DJ LeMahieu and a liner from LeMahieu.
After the Gregorius homer, Plutko retired 16 of the last 17 batters he faced.
The Indians’ bullpen was a little more flimsy. Inheriting a 7-2 lead, Perez immediately gave up a run on a Gleyber Torres double, who scored on a Gio Urshela sacrifice fly.
The bottom four guys in the Yankees’ order (Kendrys Morales, Clint Frazier, Urshela and Austin Romine) went 1-for-12 with a single and walk by Frazier. Some more soft contact from Morales and Romine. Gary Sanchez pinch hit in the seventh but grounded out.
Brett Gardner nearly had himself a day. He led off and hit a no-doubt homer off Plutko … but it went foul. In the sixth inning, he led off with another near-homer and was robbed of a double by Jordan Luplow. Tough night for the dude, who threw his helmet after the Luplow catch and the helmet rebounded to hit him in the face
Not a lot going Gardner's way lately. Can't even get mad without taking a shot to the face. pic.twitter.com/U1rEOUyBAX— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) June 8, 2019
That ended up requiring six stitches for Gardy.
Can’t Holder ’em in
Jonathan Holder’s one inning of relief put the game to bed. He allowed three runs on two absolute blasts to Roberto Perez and Kevin Plawecki, Cleveland’s two catchers. They were just his third and fourth homers allowed this season, but they were hit 105.8 and 104.2 mph, respectively. The single he gave up was 105.8 mph as well.
Holder still has decent K:BB numbers and his homers are just over one per nine, yet his ERA is nearly 5.00. He should be firmly in low leverage for now.
Luis Cessa allowed one run over two OK innings of relief. Not his worst outing.
The Yankees now attempt to avoid a sweep against the Indians when they close their series at 1:10 p.m. on Sunday. It’ll be a bullpen game of some sorts with Masahiro Tanaka on paternity leave while the Indians will have RHP Shane Bieber (5-2, 3.57 ERA) on the mound.