This is more like it. The Yankees take the rubber game of this three game series against the Toronto Blue Jays. Behind strong pitching and some timely hitting the Yankees win by the score of 4-2. The Yankees are 59-32 (.648) and have a six game lead in the AL East. Let’s get to the takeaways.
1.Tanaka Time Once Again: Coming off his strong inning of relief in Tuesday’s All Star Game, Masahiro Tanaka pitched another steady and efficient game for the Yankees. Possibly the most encouraging takeaway from Masa’s start is the slow return of his splitter. We all know the struggles Tanaka has with his main out pitch this year. It seems the pitch was a pretty good weapon for him today.
Of his 79 total pitches, 23 of them were splits. 16 of those pitches went for strikes. His splitters induced 14 swings and 4 whiffs. Beyond the numbers, it looked like a more effective pitch to the eye. Here is Masa’s strike zone plot:
There are a lot of pitches down in the zone. Some of these are his slider as well, but this is the type of location you want to see from Tanaka. There isn’t enough you can say about Masahiro and his importance to the team. He’s once again emerged as their de facto ace and he performs with calm efficiency. He finished his day with a line of 6IP, 4H, 2ER, 0BB and 5K. It is just another day in the office for the All Star.
2.Stroman’s Audition Goes Well: It is unusual to include the opposing team’s pitcher in our takeaways, but Marcus Stroman is an exception. Bobby wrote an excellent trade capsule on Stroman earlier this month and the Blue Jays ace did not disappoint today. Given his previous comments about embracing the potential opportunity to pitch with the Yankees, it was pretty clear Stroman knew this was an audition.
His start lived up to his profile. Stroman was largely able to keep the ball on the ground and didn’t give up any home runs. Just like Tanaka, he was efficient and aggressive. He relied on his two-seamer, cutter and a really good slider. He made it tough on the Yankees all day. Even the two run single he gave up to Gio Urshela was a ground ball that found a hole. He was pretty impressive today.
Stroman would be a strong addition to the rotation. The Yankees didn’t have their A lineup, but he performed well. His aggression and competitiveness were nice to see. Maybe his next start will be this Friday at the Stadium (probably not, but you never know).
3.This Team Is Really Good: There were some strong moments and not so strong moments in today’s game. The defense was up and down. The offense didn’t have an explosive day. All of this is true, but it is important to mention how great this team is. They are especially great at home. Take a look at this:
This is what title contenders do. They take take of business at home against anyone that has the unfortunate task of coming to Yankee Stadium. They’ve beat bad teams, good teams and title contenders.
Oftentimes we get caught up in the day to day dealings of the team. Why is this guy in the lineup? Why did Boone make this bullpen decision? If you take a look at my twitter feed, I’m clearly guilty of this. It is important to remind ourselves that our team is currently one of the top two teams in baseball, if not the best. This is shaping up to be a memorable season and it’s ok to take a step back from time to time and acknowledge that. This is awesome.
4.Showing Love To The Glove: Admittedly, the Yankees didn’t have the best defensive game so this may not be the best time to talk about defense, but here we are. They were able to overcome two errors by Gleyber and one by DJLM. There were some fantastic plays on display as well. Here is Gio Urshela with what feels like a routine play at this point:
Dude caught this behind himself while sliding towards the line. And he made it look super easy. He does something impressive with the glove almost every game.
Looking to redeem himself after some tough plays earlier in the game, Gleyber makes the highlight reel:
There is a lot of discussion lately on Yankees twitter and beyond about the team’s overall defense. Statistically, they appear to be struggling, but to the eye this feels like a much better unit than last year’s edition. There are a lot of plays being made that I just have a hard time believing would have been made last year.
The additions of Gio and DJLM are big reasons, but even having someone like Mike Tauchman around makes a difference. Going into the postseason last year, there was legitimate concern for the performance of the team’s defense. The starting third baseman was replaced in the sixth inning in a big playoff game. It doesn’t feel like that will be the case this year. The metrics may not be the biggest fans, but it’s pretty clear they’re a better defensive team than last year.
The Yankees continue this long homestand tomorrow starting a big series against the second place Tampa Bay Rays. Hopefully, the Yankees will put out their best lineup for all four games. We’ll have a fun pitching match up tomorrow as James Paxton squares off against Blake Snell. Have a great night everyone.