Game 85: Offense strikes early, Cessa bridges gap in win

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It probably shouldn’t have been close, but a win’s a win. The Yankees are 44-41 with tonight’s 5-4 victory over the Mariners in Seattle. It’s the team’s third consecutive win, and tomorrow, they can complete the series sweep.

The Yanks tallied all five runs in the first two innings against Yusei Kikuchi, only to go quietly the rest of the night. Early runs were just what the doctor ordered with a spot starter in Nick Nelson tonight, although the Yanks were going to need a lot of offense considering how scheduled starter Domingo Germán (scratched because of a root canal) has pitched of late. Especially when Nelson couldn’t complete the first inning and was dreadful. But thankfully, the unheralded Luis Cessa saved the day in long relief even as the Yankees’ offense cooled off.

Germán did get into this one later, only to make it interesting by allowing a three-run homer, but Jonathan Loaisiga and Chad Green slammed the door to preserve the lead and win. Here are the takeaways:

Luis Cessa does a thankless job pretty darn well. It’s not often that a team’s low leverage/mop up/long reliever gets much attention, but today, Cessa deserves it.

Again, Nelson looked awful as the spot starter. He recorded two outs before yielding to Cessa, who entered with the Yankees up 3-1 and the bases loaded for Seattle’s Shed Long. The situation had a 3.04 leverage index (very high, particularly for early in a game), but Cessa induced a fielder’s choice groundout to escape.

From there, the righty was on cruise control. He threw 3.1 innings, allowed just one hit, walked nobody, and struck out one. Only took him 36 pitches to do that, too. You really couldn’t ask for more. The team was already in a bind without its planned starting pitcher, only to have the spot starter implode. Cessa put out the fire and put things at ease.

This outing dropped Cessa’s ERA to 3.00 in 36 innings this season. And entering tonight, the righty owned a 3.79 ERA in 135.1 innings dating back to 2019. That’s terrific for one of the last — if not the last — guy out of the bullpen.

Aaron Boone typically doesn’t ask of much from Cessa. Of the team’s regular relievers, Cessa has the lowest average game entrance leverage index (0.53). That says a lot about his role: pitch well, and no one typically cares because it’s often in a not-so-close game. Pitch poorly? Groan. But Cessa does his job with aplomb, and while it is a thankless gig, someone has to pitch these innings. They’re important in the sense that they allow the key cogs to get the breathers they need. So kudos to Cessa for a great outing when the Yankees really needed someone to step up. He’s a pretty good pitcher for the role he assumes.

Scoring first is great, but tacking on is better. Aaron Judge has spoken about the importance of scoring first over the last week or so. And what do you know: the Yankees have struck first in each of their last three games and have won all three of ’em. They did it against the Mets in the Sunday doubleheader nightcap and now in each of the first two games in Seattle.

Playing from behind hasn’t been easy on the Yankees, especially of late when they’ve been starved for offense (at least, up until the last couple of days). So, getting ahead early has been nice to see. Judge himself contributed the big blow, a two-run homer in the second frame that put the Yankees up 5-1 at the time.

The offense really quieted down from there, though. No way in hell did I think M’s starter Yusei Kikuchi was going to pitch five innings considering how hard the Yankees hit him in the first two frames:

It’s supposed to get tougher for the pitcher multiple times through the order. I suppose there’s still a fair amount of red in there from innings three and onward, but Kikuchi did retire the last seven hitters he faced.

Seattle has a good bullpen, as I noted in the series preview, so not putting more pressure on Kikuchi early could have come back to bite the Yanks. Especially when Tom Murphy’s three-run shot against Germán (in relief) cut the score to 5-4. Fortunately, that was too little, too late for the Mariners.

Chad Green should continue to close until the All-Star break, at the very least. There are only four games left until then, so it’s a pretty short-term thing anyway. Looks pretty clear that this is the organization’s plan, too. You don’t need me to provide any numbers to explain why Green deserves this over Chapman, or rather, why Chapman no longer can be trusted in the role. Like last night, let Chapman work things out in low leverage spots for the next few days. Then, re-evaluate after the break next week.

Hopefully, Chapman turns it around quickly because this bullpen is much better and deeper with him as the closer. Obvious statement, I know. It’s good to have someone like Green (or Loaisiga!) waiting in the wings, though. Both Green and Loaisiga were nails this evening to secure the W.

Leftovers

  • By no means has Nick Nelson been good this year, but tonight was by far the worst he’s looked. He walked three and hit a batter before his night was over. On YES, John Flaherty wondered aloud if something may have ailed the righty. He did appear to grimace and look uncomfortable. Also worth noting: his spin rates were way down, albeit in very small sample sizes. His four-seamer (19 pitches, -128 RPM), slider (3, -306), and curveball (3, -712) took dramatic hits. Those are so large, especially on the breaking balls, that I’m not certain it’s actually sticky stuff as compared to something health-related. I guess we’ll find out more from Boone at some point.
  • Not a great day for Germán. First, the emergency root canal. That’s the worst of it all, of course. But he was handled a bit strangely from there on out. Why did he warm up after the bottom of the first inning? Could he have simply started the game instead? Then, when he finally got into this one after Cessa’s brilliance, he did throw three frames, but the aforementioned Murphy dinger was a big blemish. It’s been about a month since Germán has been a good pitcher for the Yankees, and that’s a problem.
  • Gleyber Torres had a two-run single in the first (104.2 MPH) and two deep fly outs (393 and 389 feet, respectively). Both of those flyouts were “barrels”, per Statcast. Tough luck for a guy who badly needs a break. On the bright side, it is good to see him lift the ball with some authority, I suppose.
  • We won’t see Darren O’Day anytime soon, who hit the injured list with a hamstring injury. It’s been deemed a significant injury, though no timetable given yet. Nelson was the move for O’Day. (Lindsey Adler)

The Yankees go for the sweep tomorrow afternoon before departing to Houston. First pitch is scheduled for 4:05pm eastern.

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6 Comments

  1. The Original Drew

    Can someone explain to me how one gets scratched from a start but ends up pitching in the game anyway?

  2. Esteddardban Florial

    A good little win, Derek. I didn’t watch or I woulda had a heart attack. I just don’t know what they see in Nick Nelson and why they protected him over Whitlock. He’s been the opener twice and bombed twice. Typically the idea of an opener is they dominate the first few hitters and then hand it off to a long reliever. You don’t start with your worst reliever only to have to use the long reliever to bail him out with the starter warming up in the pen because he couldn’t start! Boone got lucky Cessa, Loisaga and Green dominated and held on because he really bungled that one. We’ve gotten closer to the 2nd WC but Boone will probably rest half the roster today because he already got his series win. Locastro looks like a good scrappy player to have around. He should be playing every day. Put him in CF and Miggy in LF. Gardy looks cooked.

  3. David Pieragostini

    Nelson shouldn’t have been on active roster. After good spring training he’s been bad in MLB and minors. Seems like Scranton used him as starter last couple times to improve effectiveness. Get that Yankees picked him over Abreu hoping for more relief length but bad decision. Though hardly great Abreu has been better pitcher.

  4. DZB

    I haven’t seen any spin rate analyses for German, but his decline could reflect that issue. (this also makes me worry a bit for how Kluber will look if he ever returns).

    Speaking of analytics, I wonder if the team will ever call up Park. I noticed yesterday that he was leading all of the minors in OPS and I believe he played both SS and LF (or maybe RF) in the double header yesterday.

  5. Wire Fan

    Memo to the Yankees crack “analytics” staff… Using an opener doesn’t mean using your worst bullpen arm to start the game. STOP FRIGGIN USING NICK NELSON AS AN OPENER. It is dumb. You actually want a good reliever to face the best three hitters in the lineup, not your worst bullpen arm.

    Nick Nelson should only be facing good hitters when it is a blowout, or there are no other arms available. Good grief, for a team that is supposedly analytics driven, they are incredibly stupid. The FO seems to be doubling down on this guy to prove a point (and he is sadly one of the reasons Whitlock was unprotected)

  6. Steve

    Yay! Positive run differential!

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