Friends, the New York Yankees are very, very good at baseball. They are now 6-1 after defeating the Red Sox 5-2 (box score) tonight on the back of a Gio Urshela grand slam and a lockdown performance* from Luis Avilán, Nick Nelson, and David Hale. Yes, that’s right.
I put the asterisk there because Hale did allow a walk and single in the 9th inning, which brought up the tying run to the plate with 2 outs. Hale got out of it, though. (I assume Britton was not available because he threw Thursday and warmed up twice yesterday, though that somehow didn’t merit a mention on the FOX broadcast.)
Anyway, the Yanks jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the 3rd inning and didn’t score again, but that bullpen trio held the Red Sox to just 2 hits with 9 strikeouts in 6.1 innings of work. Amazing. Baseball is just the greatest sport.
Let’s get to the takeaways.
1. It’s Tanaka Time, For a Little While: It’s always nice to see Masahiro Tanaka out on the mound, isn’t it? Love that guy. It was a quick outing – just 2.2 innings – but that was to be expected. Conor Foley estimated that Tanaka threw 42 pitches in his last sim game on Sunday, so you knew the leash would be somewhat short. (Remember, he throws in the bullpen while warming up and the team keeps track of that.) I personally thought Tanaka looked very sharp. He allowed 2 runs in 2.2 innings of work, with 4 hits, 3 strikeouts, and 2 walks. Tanaka only really got hit hard at the end of his leash, which makes sense.
Here’s his pitch plot:
One thing that’s interesting is that Tanaka really, really featured his fastball tonight. Statcast says he threw it 59% of the time, which is way above his career average. He even opened the game with four in a row, which is something I personally can’t ever remember him doing.
That could be related to the fact that his average velocity tonight was 92.9 mph (last year, it was 91 mph) and he was touching 94. Or maybe it was a function of the short outing. Who knows? We’ll need to see more Tanaka innings to find out. Before the game, I wanted to see his splitter. He threw 11 of them, got 1 whiff, and allowed 1 hit on it. Here’s how it looked:
Pretty good! That’s an encouraging sign for Tanaka and for the Yankees alike. All in all, a pretty good first start back for Masahiro. Looking forward to his next start already.
2. Aaron Judge is Pulling the Hell Outta the Ball: Remember last summer, when Aaron Judge hadn’t pulled a single home run? It was a whole thing. Matt even wrote about it here. Well, it’s safe to say that we can forget all about that now. Judge hit his first pulled shot on August 20 in Oakland and proceeded to hit 5 more of them before the end of the year. Here’s what he did tonight:
Yes, the fake fans almost ruin that one, since you can’t see it land. (Hint: it landed really far away.) Still, there are two main points here. One, Aaron Judge is absolutely on fire. That is his fourth consecutive game with a home run. That’s the third year in a row that a Yankee has done that (Gleyber in 2018, Cameron Maybin in 2019). Second, Judge is pulling the hell out of the ball again.
He’s hit 4 home runs on the season, and he pulled 3 of them. He pulled first homer of the year on Wednesday, ripped his go-ahead home run on Thursday night to left, and hit that one tonight. Judge jumping all over pitches like this green one…
…and smashing them to left field is a pretty clear sign that Aaron Judge is feeling healthy at the plate, so that’s good. Also good? Watching those home runs. It’s great. On the night, Judge was 1-3 with a walk. Keep it up, Aaron.
3. Gio Urshela Might Just Be Legit: Gio Urshela’s breakout last year was one of the most unbelievable things I’ve ever seen in baseball. It came out of absolutely nowhere and it very much appeared legitimate. Still, a lot of people – myself included – were very curious to see how he’d come out in 2020. The early returns, as they say, are pretty promising. He has two home runs on the season, including this grand slam tonight:
Who ever thought Gio Urshela would be smashing grand slams to dead center field in Yankee Stadium? Definitely not me, that’s for sure. I’ll admit that. It’s been very encouraging to see Gio hit the ball with authority in 2020 – 3 of his 5 hits are for extra bases – and I hope he keeps it up. I think he will. And, hey, even if he doesn’t, he will keep doing this:
4. Nick Nelson Pitches Himself into the Mix: The loss of Tommy Kahnle is a big one for the Yankees, but it creates opportunities for some other arms in the Yankee organization. The most obvious one is Jonathan Loaisiga, who is now a very important piece. Nick Nelson, New York’s 2016 4th rounder who made his Major League debut tonight, made a pretty good case for himself to get a longer look.
Nelson was rated #16 on MLB.com’s Top 30 NYY prospect list before the season and was tagged as a “bullpen stalwart” by FanGraphs. It’s easy to see why. He has some good velocity (sits 94-97) and that was on display tonight right away. Nelson averaged 96 and touched 98 on his heater tonight. That kind of velocity is necessary for bullpens these days and it makes changeups like this play up:
The point is that 24-year-old righty looked really good out of the pen tonight. The knock against Nelson has never been his stuff but rather his command and consistent delivery. That, obviously, matters less out of the pen, so a marriage here might make sense. We’ll see. For now, the first experiment went well. Nelson threw 3.0 innings, allowed zero hits, and struck out 4 guys. He did walk two batters, but he got out of it.
Nelson earned himself a longer look, that’s for sure. I leave you with this:
- Gary Sánchez Looks Better: Gary Sánchez had himself a decent night at the plate, in my opinion. He’s started to turn the corner. Sánchez got his first hit of the season and walked on the night. He laid off some tough pitches while working the walk, too. He just missed two fly balls to left, too, in a performance reminiscent of Game 4 of the 2018 ALDS. Gary was 1-3 on the night, and let’s hope it was the start of something nice. For all of our sakes.
- All Luke Voit Does is Hit: Luke Voit is a middle-of-the-order force and he kept it up tonight. Sure, it wasn’t a fireworks display, but he added 2 more hits and scored a run. When he’s healthy, Voit is always in the middle of the action.
- Mike Tauchman Joins the Fun: Mike Tauchman also had 3 hits tonight, which was cool. They were all just singles, but that’s okay. The Yanks have plenty of power. He also stole two bases, which is even cooler. He scored a run and is looking every bit the part of a 4th outfielder. The Yankee roster is deep, friends.
- Bullpen Does the Thing: This really shouldn’t be a leftover, but I spent so much time on Nelson that I threw this down here. The Yankees reserve bullpen core did a pretty damn good job. Luis Avilán threw 1.1 hitless innings in relief of Tanaka and David Hale pitched a scoreless 8th and 9th inning. Sandwiched between was Nelson’s performance. The Yankees bullpen is just out of control good to begin the year.
- Virtual Fans: The virtual fans are horrible and FOX should get rid of them immediately. I don’t have anything else to add to this. They’re just bad.
The Yanks and Sox will conclude their three-game set tomorrow night at 7:08 pm. It’s Yanks/Sox, so it’s obviously on ESPN. James Paxton (0-1, 27.00 ERA) is starting for the Yanks while Boston hasn’t announced their starter. See you then. Until then, have a great night, everyone.