Well, you can’t win them all, I guess. A 9th inning rally (Hicks walk, DJLM single, Judge single) kept the no-shutout streak rolling at 172 games but ultimately came up empty, as the Yanks fell to the Blue Jays 2-1. The Yankees are 58-32 (.644) and still have a firm grip on the AL East. This was a very frustrating game.
Let’s get right into the takeaways.
1. J.A. Happ is Looking Much Better: J.A. Happ got obliterated by the Astros two starts ago, allowing 8 runs in just 4 innings. He was much better on the 4th of July, and he built upon that good start with another one today. He went 5.1 innings, allowing 5 hits and 2 runs with 5 strikeouts and just 1 walk. His performance was actually a bit better than that (more on that in a moment), too.
Good signs under the hood, too. As you can see from his strikezone plot, Happ was attacking the zone:
And better yet, he was very successful with this approach. He generated 13 swings-and-misses today, which is his second-highest total of the season. A lot of that success came via his slider, which was by far his best pitch today. He threw 19 of them, resulting in 13 swings and 6 whiffs. That’s a 46% whiffs-per-swing rate on the pitch, which more than gets the job done.
His line would look even better if it weren’t for…
2. … A Very Unlucky 6th Inning: Happ came out to start the 6th inning, and I think that was absolutely the right move, even though he has pronounced splits going through the order a third time:
But honestly, even though the Jays plated 2 runs in the inning, it was a very unfortunate series of plays for the Yanks. After allowing a sharply struck seeing-eye grounder to Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Happ induced a soft pop up (hit only 89 mph) that just fell into no man’s land. That ended his day.
In a scoreless game with 2 men on and 1 out in the 6th, Boone did what he usually does, turning to his high-leverage extraordinaire, Adam Ottavino. That’s the right move, even when it doesn’t work out.
And this time, it didn’t work out. The Jays executed a double steal after Ottavino made Vladito look silly, and Randal Grichuck then did this:
Infuriating. Just infuriating. A 66 mph popup that landed in the perfect spot. That made the score 2-0 Blue Jays. Both Ottavino and Happ pitched better than the line shows here.
3. The Yanks Bad Luck Extended to Offense, Too: As if that weren’t enough, the Yanks had just left the bases loaded in what is possibly the most infuriating way: on a fantastic, run-saving defensive play by offensive hero Grichuck.
Gardner struck a one-out single, which was followed by a Judge seeing-eye single (his second such hit of the day). An ugly Voit strikeout brought up the struggling Gary Sánchez, who ripped a sinking liner (91 mph) into center field. Off-the-bat, I thought it was going to fall in and give the Yanks a 2-0 lead. Instead:
Ugh. That ended the inning, which was then immediately followed by the string of weak hits that gave the Blue Jays a 2-0 lead.
And then, in the bottom of the 7th, the Yankees were robbed of another opportunity. This time, though, the culprit was home-plate umpire Andy Fletcher. After a great at-bat by Gardner (more on that below), Judge worked the count full with 2 outs. He took the 7th pitch of the at-bat and was called out on strikes. Here is the plot:
That was a called strike! By a Major League Umpire! Instead of 1st and 2nd and 2 outs for Voit, the Yanks were retired on that bogus call. I don’t think this was due to Judge’s size or anything, but it’s yet another example of the ways he is routinely screwed by a home plate umpire’s zone. It happens all of the time.
4. Brett Gardner, Brett Gardner, Brett Gardner: I am going to sound like a broken record at this point, but man, Brett Gardner just continues to absolutely crush it. A 2-4 game for our man today, keeping the good times rolling for him. He’s up to .253/.333/.483 (113 wRC+) on the season. Incredible.
Last night, I highlighted his enduring speed. Today, I’m going to highlight another enduring skill of Gardner’s: his ability to work the count. His 7th inning at-bat against Tim Mazya is a perfect case study. Check out the plot:
A 9-pitch at-bat and another 3-2 count. That’s a Brett Gardner special, right there. (Remember his at-bat against Cody Allen in Game 5 of the 2017 ALDS?) More to the point, check out Brett’s pitches seen per plate appearance the last few seasons, with his league ranking among qualified hitters in parentheses:
- 2015: 4.16 (11th)
- 2016: 4.09 (30th)
- 2017: 4.23 (12th)
- 2018: 4.24 (9th)
- 2019: 4.17 (20th)
Brett at the top of this leaderboard, you say? Some things never change, do they?
- Welcome Back, Luke Voit: Welcome back to Luke Voit, the Yankees leading player by wRC+, if you can believe it. The Yankees activated him prior to today’s game (after sending down Valera last night), and he hit 3rd. The lineup is much deeper with him in it, and I’m glad to see him back. He demonstrated his value today, earning 2 walks even as he struck out three times, including to end the game. I want to see this full, healthy Yankee team, and this was a step in that direction.
- Aaron Judge is So Good: Judge’s only out tonight was the absolutely ridiculous called third-strike I highlighted above. Otherwise, he was 3-4. That raises his season line to .288/.404/.528 (143 wRC+) with 9 home runs in 152 plate appearances. We haven’t seen the full power outburst yet this season thanks time missed to the oblique injury, but it will come. And in the meantime, Judge just continues to produce in other ways. He is so, so good.
- Another Nice Appearance for Nestor Cortes: A outing for Nestor Cortes today, who allowed 0 hits and only 1 walk in 1.2 innings of work today. He struck out 3 of the 6 batters he faced. Cortes has been very good in his limited role with the Yanks this year, and despite a 4+ ERA, he’s striking out more than 9 men per 9 in his 33 innings. Very nice.
The Yanks will take on the Blue Jays tomorrow at 1:05 pm in the Bronx. That will be the final game of this three-game set. Masahiro Tanaka (5-5, 3.86 ERA) is set to take on potential Yankee Marcus Stroman (5-9, 3.18 ERA). Enjoy the rest of this beautiful Saturday, folks.