Gah. All good things come to an end, right? The Yanks lost for only the second time in 15 games (is that good?) and their MLB-record run of 31 consecutive games with a home run came to an end, too. The Yanks fell to the Mets 4-2 tonight, falling to 54-29.
This was a dumb one, so let’s get right to the takeaways.
1. That was a Nice Start for James Paxton: Well, that was an encouraging start from James Paxton, wasn’t it? Big Maple had been struggling before tonight. Here was his line coming into tonight since coming back from injury on May 29: 2-1, 6.08 ERA (5.64 FIP) 2.03 HR/9 (19.4% HR/FB%) 5.06 BB/9 (12.1 BB%). That’s not good. That’s way, way too many walks, and far too many home runs.
Tonight, though, was encouraging. Here’s how he did tonight: 6.0 IP, 8 H, 1 R (1 ER), 2 BB, 3 K. The one run did come via home run and there were a few too many guys on the bases for my tastes, but that’s a much better performance than what he’s done recently.
There are encouraging signs if you dig deeper, too. Big Maple generated 6 swings-and-misses on 22 swings on his fastball (27%) and kept the ball around the zone with the pitch (61% strike rate). Even more encouragingly, Paxton got the Mets to pound the ball into the ground tonight. He generated a grounder 61% of the time tonight, which is much better than his 37% rate since returning from injury. Missing bats and getting grounders. That’s more like it, James.
Hopefully, he can build on this start, as he’ll have the last start before the ASG. Paxton is very important, and it’d be nice to see him back on track.
2. Defense is Important, Too: The importance of playing solid defense was really on display tonight, wasn’t it? A few plays really stick out, and they make a big difference. Let’s start in the 2nd inning. The Yankees already had a one-run lead thanks to a Torres RBI single, but they threatened with first and third with one out. The problem? James Paxton was up, because the National League is stupid. The solution? The Mets, of course.
Check this out:
Yup. After Paxton laid down a bunt, nobody on the Mets bothered to cover home after Ramos threw to first–and Encarnación smartly took off for home and scored. 2-0 Yanks. Beautiful.
Then, in the bottom half of the very same inning, the Mets had men on first and second with only one out. This was a true high-leverage situation, as it was only a 2-0 game at the time. On a 3-2 pitch, Paxton induced a ground ball that looked like it was going to sneak through…except that Gleyber Torres had other plans in mind:
Jeez, how good is Gleyber Torres? The kid does something every single game to impress you, and he’s only 22-years-old! He’s going to be a stud for a long, long time. Anyway, that slick double-play may have stopped a big inning and kept the game at 2-0.
And THEN, in the 8th inning (more on this one below), erstwhile MVP DJ LeMahieu made an uncharacteristic throwing error on a grounder by the leadoff man, Pete Alonso. A double followed, and it wasn’t just any usual double. It was hit hard, for sure, but it was also hit straight. But the Yankee shift had Hicks playing shifted way to the right. Check it out:
He just missed making a phenomenal play, but wasn’t able to recover. The game was tied and a big inning followed. Defense, defense, defense. It matters a lot.
3. The Yankee Bullpen Falters, For Once: The Yankee bullpen has been one of the best in the bigs (its 3.7 fWAR is tied for 3rd best in the league) but it let them down tonight. It inherited a 2-1 lead from James Paxton and things started out right. Tommy Kahnle entered in the 7th and did this: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.
Then, all hell broke loose. Ottavino wasn’t helped by his defense, but he was still hit hard. Here was his line: 0.1 IP, 2 H, 3 R (2 ER), 1 BB, 1 K. Again, not helped out here by the defense, but this was not Ottavino’s best night.
Zack Britton came in with the bases loaded and one out (good move! he is the sinkerballer, after all) and promptly allowed a 2-run double to Michael Conforto and the Yanks were down 4-2. Britton had been so good, but he’s really not the same lately. That’s not great. At least Germán is back now and Chad Green can return to the back of the pen. Anyway, not the best night for the Yanks’ ace bullpen arms. Oh well. Can’t get too worked up about it. It happens. The Yanks are 47-2 in 49 games with a lead after 7 innings in 2019, after all. They’re good. We’ll forget about this one soon enough.
4. A Jet-lagged Offense: The Yankee offense was clearly off tonight. The Yanks’ offense is as dangerous as any in the league. Here’s how the first 5 batters performed tonight: 1-14, 2 BB, 6 K and 7 men left on base. Rough. It’s hard to do much when your best hitters do that. The Yankees just scored 29 runs in 18 innings, so whatever. I do want to flag some unusual performances, though.
- Gary Sánchez: since hitting home runs in three consecutive games, Gary came into tonight hitting .154/.241/.154. (11 wRC+) in his last 6 games. It’s only 29 PA, but The Kraken went 0-4 with a K tonight, and he’s in a bit of a funk lately. Not worth worrying about, though. He’ll be fine.
- Edwin Encarnación: since being traded to the Yanks, Edwin is hitting just .140/.260/.395 (71 wRC+) in 50 ABs. He went 1-4 tonight, which will raise those figures (which don’t include tonight yet).
I’m not worried about either guy, but these are notable players who are struggling of late. Hopefully they turn it around soon.
- WAR, WAR, what is it good for: There was once a time in my life when I was much more critical of announcers, but I’ve tried to become more pleasant in recent years. It’s a tough job. That said, Michael Kay saying on tonight’s broadcast that “once you gain WAR, you can’t lose it. It’s in the bank” made me audibly groan. That belies a basic, conceptual misunderstanding of what WAR is and what it tries to encapsulate. I love the fact that analytics have made their way into the mainstream these days, but good grief. At least understand what you’re talking about.
- Aaron Judge is quietly great: The Yankees’ best player may have had an 0-3 night (he did walk), but did you realize that Judge has a 169 wRC+ since returning from injury (6/21)? This is his line in that time: .333/.467/.583 (169 wRC+) with 2 HR in 31 PA. He’s walking (19%) almost as much as he’s striking out (22%). Not a huge sample size obviously, but it’s really wild how freaking good he is. Ho hum, he returned from a very serious injury and didn’t miss a beat. The guy is on the short-list of the very best players in the big leagues. I love it. I love it so much.
- What are you doing, Didi: Man, did Didi Gregorius get lucky tonight. He inexplicably broke for second with two outs in the 9th and, honestly, I think he was thrown out to end the game. He was called safe on the field, though, and the video crew didn’t see enough to overturn the call. The Yanks caught a huge, huge break here. David Cone ripped into him, and honestly? He was right. That’s an inexplicable attempt from Didi.
The Yankees and Mets will meet for the final time in 2019 tomorrow night at 7:10 pm at Citi Field. Domingo Germán (9-2, 3.86 ERA) will make his return from the IL and match up against Jason Vargas (3-3, 3.66 ERA). You can catch the game on YES locally and ESPN nationally. 660 WFAN will have the call in what will be John Sterling’s final game before the All-Star break. Have a good night, everyone.