Game 96: Yankees Best Rockies 8-2, Extend Division Lead to 9 Games

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The Yankees defeated the Rockies 8-2 on a very steamy night in the Bronx. The Yankees improve to 63-33 on the season and, because Tampa Bay and Boston both lost tonight, the Yankees extended their division lead over their rivals to 9 and 11 games, respectively. That right there, my friends, is beautiful. Just beautiful.

Anyway, this was a long one, so let’s get right to the takeaways.

1. J.A. Happ Bent, But Did Not Break: I wrote after Happ’s last start that he looked like he was starting to look much better because he’d then posted two consecutive good starts, surrendering just 3 runs on 8 hits in 10.2 IP, with no home runs to 4 walks and 10 K. Tonight wasn’t quite up to that standard, but he hung around despite not having his best stuff. Check out his strikezone plot:

All over the place there, really. Definitely didn’t seem like Happ was in control, but you know what? He got the job done, limited the damage, and kept the Yankees in the game.

He gave up two runs, both in the 2nd inning. The first was a solo home run surrendered to Ryan McMahon, his 10th of the season. Here’s the video:

The 2nd run came three batters later, as Garrett Hampson doubled in Chris Ianetta. Again, here’s some video:

Good defense would bail him out of both the 3rd and 4th innings (more on that in a moment), and he worked himself out of a jam again in the 5th. With runners on 2nd and 3rd and 2 outs, Happ got revenge against McMahon, striking him out to end his night and end the rally. MLB.com was generous enough to provide the video, so check it out:

All told, Happ went 5 innings, surrendering 8 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks and generating 8 strikeouts. 59 of his 90 pitches (66%) went for strikes. That’s a decent start and much, much better than it could have been. Happ’s ERA is down to 4.86 on the season, much closer to respectability.

2. Yankees Outfield Arms: Clint Frazier is in Triple-A because of the fact that the Yankees value Mike Tauchman’s defense more than Clint’s offense. In the 2nd inning tonight, Tauchman was busy in the outfield, taking a long time to field a Garrett Hampson double and then firing an off-line throw that Gleyber misplayed, too. Gleyber took the error on the play, a run scored, and Hampson took third. Then, Happ induced a flyball from Charlie Blackmon, and this happened:

That play is impressive in its own right, but it is even more impressive in context. Hampson, Colorado’s shortstop, is simply one of the fasted players in the league: his 30 feet per second sprint speed ranks him in the top 1% of the league. In other words, the Rockies tested Mike Tauchman, and he answered the call with a 91 mph throw from left. Sometimes, the Yankees know a thing or two. Who knew! (It’s still annoying how Clint is in Triple-A, but as Steven laid out here, it’s complicated.)

But Tauchman is not the only Yankee outfielder who can throw, now is he? No, he is not, because the Yankees employ the somehow underrated Aaron Judge, who has one of his own. With Nolan Arenado (walk) on first base and two outs, Ian Desmond hit a soft single (only 69 mph off the bat) in front of Aaron Judge. Arenado, though, decided to take a big turn and Judge made him play. Check it out:

Another rocket, and, really, just a heads up play from Judge overall. I have a post in the works about Judge’s quiet greatness, but I think this really underscores the point: he is so aware of the whole field and he very rarely makes a mental mistake. He’s so much more than just a power hitter. Here’s just another example of his greatness, per Katie Sharp:

Two innings, two rockets from the corner outfielders to save at least one run and stop a two-out rally before it begins. That’s how you pick up your pitcher right there. That’s what good teams do, and I think it’s pretty clear by now that the Yankees are a good team.

3. Edwin Encarnación is Red Hot: We all know that Encarnación struggled when he first got to the Bronx, as so many do–it’s almost like having your life uprooted and having to move cross-country overnight isn’t simple–but we are seeing some really promising signs. Check it out:

  • Since joining the Yankees (June 15): .165/.260/.447 (78 wRC+) with 7 HR in 96 AB (26.0 K% to 9.0% BB%)
  • In last 3 games (July 15): .308/.438/1.000 (246 wRC+) with 3 HR in 16 AB (12.5 K% to 18.8% K%)

Now, that’s a very short sample–obviously–but watching Encarnación lately makes it pretty clear that he’s seen the ball better at the plate these days. Today, he batted with the bases loaded in the third inning, and he promptly unloaded the bases. To the video:

That is an absolute missile right there, leaving his bat at 102 mph and leaving the Stadium in a hurry. That makes it 8 HR for Encarnación since joining the Yankees and 4 since July 15. He has 29 in the season, which ranks 5th overall in baseball and 2nd in the AL behind just Mike Trout, who has 30 (because of course). Encarnación is very good, folks, and let’s hope he can keep this hot streak rolling. (Yes, I know he was only 1-5, but that’s a lot of homers lately.) A red-hot Encarnación can carry a team much worse than the Yankees.

4. The Offense Does the Job: The Yankee lineup tonight hit .333 (12-36), drawing 4 walks. They hit two homers (Judge added one on top of Encarnación’s grand slam) and went .285 (2-7) with RISP. They scored 8 runs. Of their 12 hits, just 3 went for extra bases (Tauchman doubled) so it was a singles party in the Bronx, but the Yankees did more than enough to beat Colorado tonight. Sure, they left 14 men on base, but that’s a mighty fine offensive performance (and also a mighty fine performance from Stephen Tarpley Jr., who slammed the door shut as the offense did its thing).

Leftovers

  • DJ LeMahieu, RBI Machine: With his RBI single in the 7th, DJLM officially set a new single-season career-high with 67. I guess that’s what happens when you go 37-83 (.446) with runners in scoring position, driving in 53 runs, right?
  • Adam Ottavino is Nasty: Ottavino struck out the side tonight on 15 pitches, and man, he really just showed how nasty he is again. When this guy is on, he is on. Hey, you don’t get a 1.66 ERA with a 33% K rate for nothing, folks.
  • Weird Happ Injury: As Happ threw his final warmup pitch before the 5th, Gary Sánchez flagged to Josh Bard and the Yankees medical staff that something seemed off. They came out, evaluated Happ and he threw an additional warmup pitch but remained in the game. Weird.
  • Nice Game from Tauchman: Nice game for Tauchman against his former club. In addition to the throw highlighted above, in the bottom of the 4th with two out, Tauchman poked a soft fly ball (57 mph) just passed an outstretched Arenado and boldly stretched it into a double. It was a true hustle play, and it paid off immediately: DJ LeMahieu, Mr. Two Out RSIP Extraordinaire himself, hit a grounder through the hole and Tauchman scored to make it 5-2 Yankees. That’s basically a manufactured run in my book, and it all started because Tauchman really hustled. (He also created a run in the 6th, charging home on a ground ball and beating out a nice throw from Arenado.) You love to see that…
  • The Judge Zone is Still Absurd: …but what you don’t love to see is the absurdly low zone still being called against Aaron Judge. I know I am a broken record on this and that there is absolutely nothing I can do about it, but man, this really drives me nuts. It’s so infuriating. Tonight, in a 1-2 count immediately following DJLM’s RBI single, home plate umpire Doug Eddings called pitch 4 here strike 3:

I mean, come on. That is just ridiculous. Judge actually said something to Eddings on his way back to the bench, and acting manager Josh Bard did, too. Good. This happens all the time, and it’s really frustrating. It even happened later in this game following DJ LeMahieu’s second RBI single. It’s just so annoying.

Up Next

The Yankees and Rockies will play a matinee tomorrow at 1:05 pm in what will be a sweltering, sweltering day in the Bronx. Seriously, if you’re going to this one, stay as hydrated as possible. It will be brutal there. Masahiro Tanaka (6-5, 3.81 ERA) will take the bump against Antonio Senzatela (8-6, 5.79 ERA).

The game will be broadcast on MLBN nationally, YES locally, and on WFAN on the radio. Enjoy the rest of your night, everyone.

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2 Comments

  1. dasit

    whatever the analytics team is doing to uncover voits, urshelas and tauchmans, keep it up

  2. Wire Fan

    The double that scored a run for the Rockies died under the padded wall and didn’t kick out like it normally does. Tauchman took a while to get to the ball because he was playing for the carom. If he goes right to the corner, the ball could have kicked by him for either a triple or even an inside the parker (Tauchman couldn’t know that the ball would stick)

    The relay seemed fine, Torres just botched it trying to catch, turn and throw all in one motion (I don’t think they would have had a shot at home anyway)

    Current MLB #s this year:
    Tauchman 107 wRC+
    Frazier 116 wRC+

    Frazier clearly has more future potential upside with the bat. But the current gap is not nearly as large as the perception seems to be. There seems to be this impression among a lot of fans that Frazier was mashing the ball. A 116 is pretty good for a corner OF (if they can field), but it is not a great bat. Frazier will need to cut down on the K’s and walk more to start getting into that territory.

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