Game 92: Taillon, small ball, and long ball

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Just when you thought the Yankees were dead, they win two of three from the first place Red Sox by taking tonight’s rubber game, 9-1. I gotta say: I was preparing myself for a sweep after they fell behind 1-0 yesterday and looked pretty lifeless. So much for that.

With tonight’s win, the Yankees are now 7.5 games out of first place (six in the loss column). That’s still a big hill to climb, though these two sides meet again this weekend at Fenway Park. There’s also Toronto and Tampa Bay in between, of course. Meanwhile, the Bombers are 3.5 games (two in the loss column) out of a Wild Card spot. The season is far from over, as unpleasant as it’s been.

Tonight’s victory featured a little bit of everything. Jameson Taillon looked sharp, the bullpen did its thing, and the offense contributed a mix of small ball and long ball. Let’s break it down right after the jump.

It looks like Jameson Taillon has turned his season around. Tonight, the righty threw 5.1 shutout frames, with an assist from Chad Green who stranded two runners Taillon left aboard upon departure. Since hitting rock bottom in Philadelphia on June 12th, when he only recorded one out before getting the hook, Taillon has a 2.86 ERA in his last six starts (34.2 IP). Simply put, he’s been much better of late.

Taillon looked terrific out of the gate tonight. He retired 11 of the first 12 Red Sox he faced. The righty wasn’t overpowering, as he only picked up three strikeouts on the day, but Boston couldn’t square him up either. The Red Sox had a .190 xBA against Taillon through five before finally getting to him in the sixth.

Now, about that sixth inning, when he was facing the Sox lineup for a third time. Much of the story around Taillon’s season has been his difficulty turning the lineup over. That remained true this evening:

  • 1st time: 0-for-8, 1 BB, 1 K
  • 2nd time: 2-for-8, 1 BB, 2 2B, 1 K
  • 3rd time: 2-for-4, 2 2B, 1 K

Yeah, things started crashing down in a hurry, but Aaron Boone did a good job calling on Green before things could have unraveled. I do want to see Taillon get more opportunities to work through some of his third-time-through troubles, but in an important game like this, Boone absolutely made the right call.

Maybe Taillon can figure out how to go deeper effectively in games, but he has a chance to be a very good five-and-dive pitcher. He’s been doing this for about a month now, which is a very good development for a guy who was starting to look like a bust not long ago. And that’s really all the Yankees need from him, provided they have a healthy and effective bullpen.

Gleyber Torres looks more comfortable at the plate. Since the start of the Houston series — small sample size caveats apply — Torres is 6-for-20 with two homers, a double, four walks, and four strikeouts. That includes tonight’s 1-for-2 with a homer and two walks. As silly as it is to make much out of two series worth of results, it’s really good to see Torres lifting the ball:

Torres isn’t a guy who lights up exit velocity leaderboards, so it’s important for him to hit the ball in the air. This year, he has a career-high ground ball rate (43.9 percent) which just isn’t going to cut it with his typically meh hard contact rates.

Now, he’s got homers in back-to-back games and a seemingly more confident approach at the dish. As great as his second inning dinger was, I really loved the at-bat he took against Brandon Workman in the seventh.

All but pitch number three (a cutter) were curveballs. Workman was being really careful — perhaps too careful, even — but Torres went with it. He didn’t try to do too much. This is purely anecdotal, but it feels like a big part of Gleyber’s troubles this year have been him getting himself out in situations like this. Workman threw a pretty nasty 3-2 curveball that just missed off the plate for ball four, and I can’t help but wonder if earlier this season, Torres would have flailed at such a pitch.

All that said, it’s way too soon to declare that Torres has turned his season around. We’re seeing some good signs at least: more balls in the air and better plate discipline. For now, let’s be happy that he’s showing some semblance of life again offensively. Hopefully, it continues.

The small ball was fun to watch. Tonight, we saw the Yankees execute a successful hit-and-run (DJ LeMahieu), drag bunt (Rougned Odor), go first to third on a single (Ryan LaMarre), hit a sac fly (Greg Allen), and steal two bases (LaMarre and Allen). It was different! It was exciting!

We’ve harped on the Yankees needing more lineup diversity, and tonight exemplified that to an extent. The reason I say “to an extent” is because there’s no way the replacements from Triple-A can salvage the Bombers this season. The Yankees still need external help, particularly in the outfield. They also need their existing personnel to hit like they have in the past (Gleyber, for instance).

Point is: the Yankees should look to invigorate this offense with players who offer some different skillsets. Whether or not you believe this team can contend in 2021, it’s something that should be addressed for the short and long-term. There are players available on the trade market who can do what the likes of Allen and LaMarre did tonight, and then some. Think Starling or Ketel Marte, for instance.

The funny thing about bringing up the team’s small ball success today: the Yankees hit three homers, responsible for five of the nine runs scored. It’s always easier to put up runs in bunches via the long ball, and I want the Yankees to continue to emphasize power, but they don’t need to be so one-dimensional either.

Leftovers:

  • Rougned Odor went 2-for-3 with a homer and a walk and is up to .224/.297/.443 (103 wRC+) this season. I get some of the complaints about him — he shouldn’t bat third — but he’s a good bench piece. He will frustrate you with some ugly, high strikeout stretches, but he seems to have found a home here after a couple of awful seasons for Texas.
  • Aroldis Chapman pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to finish this one off. He still looked a bit wild and gave up a deep flyout, but I’d say this was progress nonetheless.
  • Luis Severino threw 30 pitches at Yankee Stadium today. The plan is to have him ready to pitch five or six innings by the time he returns. (Bryan Hoch)
  • Jonathan Loaisiga was cleared to rejoin the team, but it sounds like he needs to build up some arm strength again before getting back into game action. (Justin Shackil)
  • Darren O’Day is likely done for the season, per Aaron Boone. He’s dealing with a severe hamstring strain.
  • Trey Amburgey left this one with a hamstring cramp. He was trying to beat out a double play ball at first before he pulled up lame.

The Yankees are off tomorrow before playing two games against Philadelphia in the Bronx starting Tuesday. Have a good night all.

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13 Comments

  1. Mungo

    Any update on Andujar? Need as many reinforcements as possible.

  2. I will never understand why ‘modern’ baseball thinks that slugging and small ball can’t be played within the same game.

    The great Yankees teams of the ’50s did it all the time as well as the last dynasty. Last night was a one game reminder of just how effective it could be-they put up some runs with some scratch hits and good base running, got the back end of the bullpen, and hit two more bombs with runners on base.

    You take what is given whether it’s an opportunity to move a runner from 2nd to 3rd with one out and score on a ground ball or sac fly or hit a bomb when you get the right pitch.

    Winning baseball is a combination of all of those things and more and when that gets ‘rediscovered’ by teams winning championships (as will no doubt happen) then this era of launch angle and ‘exit velo’ will be just another page in the record books.

  3. The Original Drew

    So the $8 million they “saved” by trading Ottavino to a division rival and the team they are chasing in the standings, completely backfired huh? O’Day was a bust, Wilson has been awful and Gardner is playing like a 38 year old outfielder. Awesome.

    • Tim Loceddardstro

      It was one of the dumbest trades Cash has ever made. You don’t trade to the Sox, ever. Thankfully Ottavino didn’t hurt us this weekend and we finally got to Whitlock. O’day is a bust. Britton and Chapman are vastly overpaid. Better to develop great young relievers like Loisaga and Green. Cheaper and higher ceilings. And they don’t get injured every other week.

      • Mooooooose

        lol, what is loaisiga’s highest ceiling as a sinker baller? and chad green’s as a flame-thrower? oh right, zack britton & aroldis chapman.

      • The Yankees didn’t ‘develop’ Green, they traded for him (along with Cessa) for Justin Wilson. That one worked out well but some don’t, it’s been like that since long before Cashman became the GM. How about Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps, Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, or Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio?

    • O’Day and Wilson have been a waste but what’s the fascination with Ottavino? His ERA in 2020 was almost 6 and he stunk up the 2019 playoffs. He’s pitching well for the Sox but that’s the way it goes with relief pitching.

  4. Mungo

    After taking the last game in the Mets series, the Yankees have won 2 of 3 from the Mariners, 2 of 3 from the Astros and now 2 of 3 from the Red Sox. All good teams, including perhaps the two best in the league. The White Sox might disagree. The way they took 2 of 3 from the Red Sox feels much better than the two prior series!

    Does anyone find it strange that the Yankees went out and got Locastro when they had a perfectly fine back-up speedy OFer already in the system with Allen? Why not call him up prior? I guess the possible answer is shown by what happened. Once they call Allen up they’d have to pass him back through waivers, so they opted to bring in Locastro to keep Allen in AAA in case there were more injuries. If so, a wise choice. With the Yankees OFers, injuries are always a play away.

  5. Tim Loceddardstro

    I thought it was the best win of the season, Derek. I thought we’d win the series and we did in empathic fashion. This island of misfit toys has done more in two days than the A team did in 4 months. Greg Allen is a future star. Where has he been all season when we desperately needed OF help? He reminds me a lot of Grandy. Lamarre also showed a good glove and pop in his bat. Those two need to be playing every day. Florial needs to be called up with yet another injury to Ambergy. I don’t care what he did in AAA, I care what he does in the majors.

    This clearly shows that the kids can add fire and energy to a sluggish team. This is what we’ve been saying all year. Wasn’t it nice to see some stolen bases, sac flies, bunts and running 1st to 3rd? It’s been a long time since we’ve seen actual baseball in the Bronx. And they worked the count and drew walks too. Tallion was brilliant again. Ninja Cash struck gold with that one. Nice bounce back for Green. Britton got his feet wet. Chappy looks fixed and needs to throw that splitter more.

    Boone needs to pull a Norman Dale and when the regulars do return he needs to say “my ballclub is the one on the field, the one that beat the Sox.” They’re a lot more fun to watch and they win too. This time next week we could be within a game of the lead. That wouldn’t surprise me one bit with the way they’re playing.

    • Seth

      Think about all of the late inning & extra inning games NYY has lost for lack of situational hitting, inability to sacrifice bunt and steal a base. This mess is on Cashman and Boone due to their desire to feature a one dimensional offense. They can’t claim they didn’t know that extra inning games would start with a runner on 2nd base. And yet, they still went down a path with a roster that was poorly designed for the rules of the game in 2021.

      • MikeD

        Fans and the media overcomplicate simple but obvious issues. The offense was supposed to be a strength, but it hasn’t been. It’s not about situational hitting and small ball. It’s about not hitting period. Small or big ball.

        The Yankees pitching staff has more than held its own when balancing the starters and the relievers contributions. They’re why the team is above .500 and still has a shot at at least a WC entry. Judge and Stanton overall have been productive, but they’re being significantly hurt by their surrounding cast. Outside of those two, maybe Urshela can be pointed to at least not being an automatic out. DJLM is not setting the table at anywhere an acceptable level. The belief is he’s been coming around, but is there evidence of that? Arbitrary begin points here: Since July 1st, LeMahieu is hitting .244/.358/.267. That’s worse than his overall anemic full-season stat line. Since June 1st, LeMahieu is hitting ,278/.352/.392. That’s marginally but barely better than his overall anemic seasonal slash line. DJ has never been the driving force at the top the lineup this year that he was in the prior two seasons. That’s significant, because he’s supposed to set the stage for Judge and Stanton. The hitters behind Judge and Stanton have mostly been a disaster. Offense from CF, LF, 1B and SS is non-existent. That means a pitcher can basically decide when to pitch around Judge and Stanton to get to one of the many near-automatic outs behind those two. If DJ was doing more damage, and the hitters behind Judge and Stanton were doing their job, then Judge and Stanton would also be more dangerous.

        Situational hitting? No. Just lack of hitting overall.

        • Mooooooose

          preeeeeaaaachhh mike!

          although the stolen bases & drag bunt was fun as hell last night.

          • MikeD

            Agreed! I have nothing against more lineup diversity at all…as long as they hit!

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