Game 88: Yanks Fall to Rays 2-1, Head to All-Star Break Atop AL East

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You can’t win ’em all, can you? The Yanks fell to the Rays 2-1 today, bested by Charlie Morton and a stellar Rays bullpen. The Yanks enter the All-Star break with a 57-31 record, which is near the top of the league. They have a 6.5 game lead in the AL East over the Rays, and it’s 8 games in the loss column. That is about as good a first half as you can imagine, injuries or no injuries.

Let’s get right into the takeaways.

1. James Paxton Continues to Struggle in the 1st Inning…: The Yanks’ big offseason acquisition has had an up-and-down first half in New York, and one big reason why is because Big Maple hasn’t been able to get through the first inning without allowing some damage. Here were his numbers coming into tonight in the first: 14 IP, 15 ER (9.64 ERA), 8 BB, 6 HR, 14 H. Opposing batters were hitting .259/.349/.667 (1.016 OPS) off him. Here’s how the first three batters did today to start the game:

  1. d’Arnaud double
  2. Pham double
  3. Díaz single

Just like that, it was 1-0 Rays. While there was some annoying defense on the Pham hit (just-called-up Valera didn’t cover second on the throw back into the infield, allowing Pham to take the base) this was not the start to the game Paxton wanted. Here are his updated numbers:

2. …But the Rest of the Starts Continue to be Fine: As usual, Paxton rebounded hard after the 1st inning today. After the first 3 batters, really. He proceeded to strike out 2 of the next 3 batters after those first 3 hits, and ended up with 11 K on the day. Here was his final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 11 K. That is a very good start, first inning aside.

Here is a fun nugget about Paxton today: he generated a ton of swings-and-misses today. Here is his whiff-per-swing percentage broken down by pitch:

  • Four-Seam Fastball: 40 swings, 15 whiffs (37%)
  • Cutter: 9 swings, 3 whiffs (33%)
  • Knuckle Curve: 6 swings, 2 whiffs (33%)

All told, that’s a 36% whiffs-per-swing rate on the day. He was topping out at 98+ mph there in the 6th inning as he struck out the final 3 batters he saw after allowing a 1st and 3rd situation to start the inning. You truly love to see it. This guy can be a real difference maker in October, and you’d better start believing it if you don’t already.

3. The Large, Annoying Zone Against Judge Continues: The Yanks had something cooking in the 3rd following singles by Valera and Romine, which put men on the corners with nobody out for Hicks, Judge, and Gregorius. The Yankees scored exactly zero (0) runs in the inning after Hicks and Judge struck out and Didi flew out. Annoying! Even more annoying, though, was the Judge at-bat. After falling behind 0-2, he battled back to 3-2. He fouled off the first 3-2 pitch (#6 in the AB) and then was called out on pitch #7. This pitch #7:

The one that is clearly, clearly below the zone. This has been a long-standing pattern against Judge in his career, and it drives me insane. It’s been 2+ seasons now, and you’d think umpires would adjust to the fact that Judge is huge. Alas, they have not. Check this out from Lindsey Adler:

This one really cost the Yanks though, as instead of a bases-loaded, one-out situation for Didi and Sánchez, it was two outs and runners on the corners. Big difference. Oh well. Annoying is annoying, I guess.

4. Brett Gardner is Red Hot: Oh boy is Brett Gardner hot. Coming into today, Gardner as played in 24 games since Sunday, June 9 (four weeks ago). Here’s how he has done in that span, which is 83 PA: .311/.414/.595 (165 wRC+) with 6 HR and 19 RBI. He’s walking almost 14% of the time and striking out only 16% of the time. The man still has some moves.

Gardner has also owned Charlie Morton in his career, hitting .375/.474/.813 (1.286 OPS) with 2 HR in 19 PA against him. Add that all up and you have a recipe for success, and Gardner did not disappoint. He did this in the 2nd:

That’s his 3rd homer of the series and his 3rd homer in his career off Morton. Pretty good stuff right there, and it immediately followed the 2-0 hole the Yanks found themselves in.

He added a double later in the game, going 2-4 on the day. That raises his season line to .246/.328/.470 (109 wRC+). Imagine that. Our man has been about 10% better than the average player, and he’s going to hit the All-Star break with an OPS around .800 and 15 total home runs. Incredible.

A second-half slide may be inevitable, but it sure is nice to see the Yanks’ longest-tenured player remind folks (remember the ridiculous whining that the team gave him [checks notes] $8m in the offseason?) why he’s been around so long.

Leftovers

  • Edwin Encarnación is Still Struggling: As Matt explored today, Encarnación has really struggled since joining New York. Those struggles continued today, as he went 0-4 with 2 strikeouts. The Yankees will need Encarnación to pick up the pace after the break, so hopefully the time off helps him get back on track. I suspect it will.
  • So is Gary Sánchez: The Kraken came into today in a 5-50 slide since June 23 with just the one homer. His .111/.200/.178 line amounts to a 2 wRC+. Not great! He’ll be just fine–I couldn’t be less worried. He went 1-4 today with 2 Ks, so his struggles continued (even if this will raise his recent line).
  • Bullpen Notes: The Yanks used Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino, and Chad Green to finish this one up. Here is their line: 2.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K. Just what you want the big guys to do: hold the opposition down and allow the offense to make a comeback. The bullpen did their part tonight.
  • Kevin Kiermaier is Annoying: He stole 2 bases today in addition to his 2 hits, and for some reason, this guy has just always driven me insane. He seems like he’s always a thorn in the Yankees side, even though he hits only .232/.286/.382 against them in his career. Who said sports fandom is rational, anyway?

Up Next

Nothing! The Yankees are off for the All-Star Break and won’t resume playing until Friday against the Blue Jays in the Bronx. That game will commence at 7:10 pm, though obviously no word on who will start for either team. The Home Run Derby will take place tomorrow night and the All-Star Game will be on Tuesday. Enjoy the rest of your day, folks.

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6 Comments

  1. YankeeManDan

    So is it time to give up on there ever being a reckoning for these umps who can’t grasp the concept of taller dudes having higher knees? I want my robot umps and I want them yesterday!

  2. Wire Fan

    Well at least DJL and Torres will be rested for the day off tomorrow. It’s not like that 2nd run caused by Valera’s brain freeze made much of a difference.

    I’m all for resting guys, but do it in the middle of a long stretch of games, doubleheader, day game after a night game, etc. Didn’t see many other teams resting players today to get them ready to play 3-5 innings of an All Star game on Tues. I wonder if they would have sat if the Yankees lost the first 3 games of the series?

    Paxton looked good, even in the first inning – that D’Arnaud double was a groundball the other way on a pitch Paxton got in on him. And the Pham double was just a routine single and he doesn’t score if that was the case. The Yandy single was also on a pretty good fastball that was on the inside corner.

  3. Rich

    Is the most over-rated executive in sports still taking bows for his acquisition of EE? He has been the worst hitter in ML since he got here. Not only did the Yanks not need him, he has made the lineup worse, not better. But hey, Frazier didn’t talk to the media! The RISP fails and K’s in big spots are back in full force. And that is without Stanton! Houston is salivating!!

    • dasit

      it’s been a truly disastrous first half considering the perfect health of the roster
      hopefully cashman is feeling the heat

  4. The Original Drew

    Two very winnable games where the Yankees trotted out an inferior lineup while Frazier toils in AAA. I can’r wrap my mind around it.

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