Category: Game Recaps Page 1 of 28

Game 14: Ford steers Yankees’ offense back on track

The Bronx Bombers returned after a one game absence yesterday. No shutout this time around as the Yankees topped the Rays 8-4 in the first of two this afternoon. Mike Ford’s two-run blast got things going again and the rest of the offense followed. The Rays did make Gerrit Cole work hard, but the bullpen held things down after Cole’s early exit. Let’s break it down.

An inauspicious start

It looked like the Yankees were going to be in for a challenge with Tyler Glasnow on the mound for the Rays. And after Glasnow’s easy 1-2-3 eight pitch first inning, all I could think was: here we go again.

The Yankees didn’t score in the second inning, but perhaps it was a harbinger of things to come. In fairness, it was an incredibly frustrating inning, but it did show that Glasnow was vulnerable today. Let’s walk through it. Giancarlo Stanton and the slumping Gleyber Torres hit back-to-back singles to begin the frame. Glasnow rebounded and blew away Mike Tauchman for the first out, but subsequently walked Gio Urshela to load the bases.

So with the bases full and one out, Gary Sánchez stepped to the plate. As has been well documented, Gary is off to a horrific start. He’s been swinging through in-zone fastballs left and right, but in this at-bat, Glasnow got Gary to chase. Sánchez worked a 3-2 count, but chased a fastball way above the zone to bail out the Rays’ righty.

It’s one thing to slump while missing hittable pitches. It’s another to get oneself out by chasing bad ones. That’s what Gary did here. Frustrating, to say the least.

Brett Gardner followed with a strikeout of his own to end the inning. Chances against Glasnow are few and far between, and the Yankees blew this one. It was not a good feeling. Fortunately, that negativity was premature.

Ford jump-starts Yankees offense

The third inning went much better for the Yankees’ offense. The Bombers ended a thirteen inning scoreless streak just three batters into the frame. DJ LeMahieu lined out, but Aaron Judge singled to set up Mike Ford for this.

Truck month is back, folks. We haven’t seen too much of Ford yet this season, and he hadn’t done much in his minimal opportunities, but this was a big knock. Ford obliterated that pipeshot 2-0 fastball 107 MPH and 437 feet away. That rally-killing dinger made it 2-0 Yankees.

After Ford, Stanton and Torres drew back-to-back walks. Tauchman then struck out, setting up the potential for Glasnow to work out of another jam. Not on Gio’s watch!

My goodness is Urshela a monster. He delivered in all four of his plate appearances today. Urshela singled, walked, and had a sacrifice fly. That sac fly made the score 8-4 in the seventh. He’s up to .341/.429/.659 (201 wRC+) on the season.

The other Yankees runs scored on dingers from the Yankees’ two very large sluggers, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. First, Stanton’s solo blast that made it 5-1:

Then Judge’s which made things 7-3:

That was Judge’s league-leading eighth home run, by the way.

The Rays wore down Cole

This was a really weird one for Gerrit Cole. On one hand, I thought he had his best command and stuff of the season. On the other hand, the Rays really made him work and knocked him out with two outs in the fifth.

First, the good. Cole struck out 10 batters this afternoon and induced his highest whiff rate of the season. Entering this start, Cole had at 25.4 percent whiff rate in 22 1/3 innings. That was comfortably below either of his two seasons in Houston, particularly last year when he posted a 37.2 percent rate. Today, Tampa Bay hitters swung-and-missed on 23 of 52 attempts (44.2 percent). So the stuff was clearly there today.

I thought Cole’s location was solid too. As per the above, the vast majority of his fastballs up and to his arm side, which is where he normally likes to be. I mentioned after a previous Cole outing that he was hooking some of his fastballs to the glove side. That wasn’t really the case today. Gerrit also did a good job burying his slider down and out of the zone today too, save for a few strays. It’s no wonder the Rays whiffed on 8 of 11 swings against the pitch.

Now, for the downside. Cole was very inefficient and ran out of steam by the fifth. His pitch count by inning: 19, 18, 21, 22, and 27. Tampa Bay did foul off 19 of his 107 pitches, with 15 of those being fastballs. In particular, Yoshi Tsutsugo’s fourth inning leadoff walk on the 12th pitch of the at-bat.

Of those six foul balls, five were on Cole’s heater. That really broke up any potential for Gerrit to get into a rhythm in this one. 80 pitches through four frames all but insured that Cole wouldn’t go past five. Turns out, he couldn’t even finish the fifth inning.

Even though Cole had a high pitch count, there didn’t seem to be much concern about him getting through the fifth unscathed. The Yankees had a 4-0 lead and Tampa Bay really hadn’t threatened. Cole began the frame by striking out Kevin Kiermaier. Mike Zunino followed with a double, but Cole got to two outs by fanning Yandy Díaz. That’s when the righty finally ran out of gas. First, Ji-Man Choi cut the lead to 5-1 with a double.

Matt Blake came out for a mound visit with Cole at 104 pitches, but clearly the goal was to have Gerrit finish the frame. Was it so Cole could get the win and reach 20-0 in his last 20 decisions? Who knows. It did seem like he had an upcoming favorable matchup against José Martínez, who’s known to be a lefty masher. Cole had struck him out twice already, too. Instead, this happened:

That was it for Cole’s day. Chad Green worked out of it for him. The final line: 4 2/3 innings, 6 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, and 10 strikeouts.

Leftovers

  • Chad Green and Adam Ottavino combined to wrap this one up. Green didn’t look particularly sharp, but did keep things mostly in check to earn his second win of the year. Green didn’t allow any hits, but two walks and a wild pitch led to a Kiermaier RBI groundout in the sixth. Ottavino threw a scoreless ninth (and made a nice defensive play to boot).
  • Gleyber Torres had a better day. He was aboard in two of four plate appearances: one single and one walk. Hopefully he’s turning things around.
  • Game two will begin relatively shortly. No announcement on who starts yet, but we’ll have that in the upcoming game thread.

Game 13: Yanks Lose 1-0, But At Least Tanaka Was Really Good

That game was dumb and bad, as so many games against the Rays are at Tropicana Field. The Yanks had just 2 hits tonight en route to a 1-0 loss (box score) to the 2nd-place Rays. It was an infuriating game filled with missed opportunities and unforced errors for the Yankees. The good news is that they’re 9-4 and get to play again tomorrow to cleanse the palate. Thank god for that.

Let’s get to tonight’s takeaways.

1. Tanaka Time at the Trop: I absolutely love watching Masahiro Tanaka pitch. When that dude is on, he pitches with surgical precision. That’s exactly what he did tonight in his second start of the season, throwing 5 innings of 1-hit ball with no walks and 5 strikeouts. He threw 59 pitches and 44 of them (75%) went for strikes. I’m not sure he missed his location even once. Check it out:

All of the fastballs were located up in the zone. All of the splitters, sliders, and curveballs are at the bottom of the zone are just below it. There was absolutely nothing in the middle of the plate. He threw 12 splitters, 12 fastballs, and 11 sliders. He had a 35% whiff-per-swing on his splitter/slider combo, which is something you just love to see. That tends to happen when your slider looks like this:

All in all, it was a masterful performance from Tanaka, who continues a solid stretch of dominating the Rays. It’s a shame he was on a pitch count – remember, he really didn’t have a camp – because it felt like he would have kept this up all night. The non-Cole starters have struggled to give the Yankees length in 2020, but this was an encouraging start from Tanaka. He should help correct this problem once he is fully stretched out again. That’s the best thing I can say about tonight. (To be fair, it’s a good thing.)

2. The Yankees Bullpen is Still Elite: All in all, this was a very sturdy performance from the Yankees bullpen this evening. Luis Cessa and Adam Ottavino combined for one-hit, one-run ball in 3 innings of work with 3 strikeouts and 2 walks. On nearly any night, that sort of performance – especially not out of the top guys in the pen – will be enough to get the job done. It was not tonight.

Luis Cessa was great (2 innings of one-hit ball) and looked a lot like the very good reliever we saw in 2019. Adam Ottavino, on the other hand, looked pretty bad. He manufactured a run for the Rays, which is not something you want to do. Here is his plot:

Yikes. That is all over the place, and it’s exactly how you walk 2 guys and manufacture a rally for the Rays. Couple that with an unacceptable wild pitch with 1st and 2nd and 1 out and you have a recipe for a loss. Sure enough, Michael Perez his a sac fly to deep center and the Rays took a 1-0 lead. Ottavino surrendered no hits and barely any hard contact but couldn’t get out of his own way. Infuriating.

Adam Ottavino deserves a lot of blame for this game, but not all of it. The offense simply did not do the job at all. Again, 1 run from the pen should be enough.

3. Too Many Wasted Opportunities: However, the offense did the staff absolutely no favors. The Yankees really couldn’t get out of their own way in this one. It was an evening filled with bad offense and blunders. Frankly, there was not a lot happening in the first 6 innings. The Yanks were completely shut down by Blake Snell, Andrew Kittredge, and Peter Fairbanks. Through 6 innings, the Yankees had just 3 baserunners on 2 walks and 1 hit. They’d struck out 6 times. You gotta tip your cap to the Rays’ pitching, which was stellar, but there were a ton of ugly at-bats from New York.

They had their chances after that, though. Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton both walked to open up the 7th inning and the Yankees were in business for the first time, with Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, and Gio Urshela due up. Voit hit a shallow fly to left that I thought might dunk in…except Austin Meadows made a very good running catch:

Gleyber Torres then made a two-pitch out, followed by an Urshela walk (more on that below) to load the bases. That brought up Gary Sánchez, who got completely overpowered by Nick Anderson. He frankly wasn’t even close. Here is the plot:

And here is the video:

Let’s be fair for a second. There’s a good chance that Anderson is the best reliever in baseball right now. It’s hard to hit him! Especially when he has a nasty curve that plays off that gas. Still, Gary looked atrocious here. It was frustrating.

More frustrating even than this, though, was Mike Tauchman’s baserunning blunder in the top of the 8th. He lead off the frame with a double, which was very good. DJ LeMahieu followed that up with a grounder to short and Tauchman took off for third for some reason. He was dead in the water and that was basically that for the rally. It’s an unacceptable baserunning mistake. It just cannot happen, especially not when the opponent’s bullpen throws pitches like this:

Against guys like that, you just cannot waste opportunities or run into outs as the Yankees did tonight. It’s not a good recipe for winning games.

4. Gio Urshela is So Damn Good: I keep harping on this but it’s because I can’t really believe how good Gio Urshela is. The dude was a nobody before 2019 and now he’s a legitimate force. It’s always easy to point something like this out when a player hits a huge home run or delivers a game-winning hit, but less obvious when a player doesn’t even have a hit. Still, though, Gio had a great night at the plate despite his 0-2 line. He really worked the count and looked very comfortable against some dominant Rays pitching. Check out his overall plot:

His at-bat in the 7th inning, against the filthy Nick Anderson, was a sight to behold. It was a 10-pitch at-bat in which he fouled off touch pitch after tough pitch before working a walk to load the bases. Just because it didn’t amount to a run doesn’t mean it wasn’t valuable. Gio deserves props for that. Here’s how that at-bat looked:

Frankly, this and his at-bat against Snell early on in the game were basically the only good at-bats the Yankees had tonight. Go figure.

Leftovers

  • Gleyber Torres’ Slump: Gleyber Torres is zero for his last 24 at-bats. He has zero walks over that stretch and has struck out. He’s not making good contact. He is really, really struggling and I hope he snaps out of it soon. The Yankees are much better when he’s in top form. (The same is true for Aaron Hicks and Gary Sánchez, too, who are also mired in some awful slumps.)
  • Rays Bullpen is Nasty: The Rays bullpen is infuriating. I’m sure I’m saying this in a more petulant manner than I’d like but I don’t care: they are infuriating. They completely dominated the Yankees tonight (6 innings, 2 H, 6 K) and looked nasty in doing so. The Rays are beatable – that offense is Not Good – but it is difficult to score runs off of these guys. May tomorrow be a better day.
  • The Trop Sucks: I can’t write the first recap of the season in Tropicana Field without saying it. That field is horrible and it really feels like nothing good ever happens to the Yankees there. On the other hand, it was the most normal game of the season so far. The lack of fans was actually reassuring for once. Things can go back to normal indeed, huh?

The Yanks and Rays are playing a double-header tomorrow, so expect a full day of baseball ahead. Gerrit Cole (3-0, 2.55 ERA) will take the ball for the Yankees against Tyler Glasnow (0-, 3.12 ERA). A marquee pitching matchup, that is. The first pitch of the first game will be at 2:10 pm EDT.

We’ll keep you covered on both games and anything and everything that happens in between. Until then, enjoy your night, everyone.

Game 12: Another Short Start

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That was a frustrating loss. The Yankees were in an early hole and despite a valiant effort were unable to pull off the comeback. They lose the rubber game of this series against the Phillies by the score of 5-4. Their record now sits at 9-3. Here are the takeaways.

Monty Continues The Starters’ Woes

Jordan Montgomery was excellent in his first start of the year against Boston. In his second start of the year, he was anything but that. Monty was effective against Boston because of efficient effectiveness. That wasn’t the case tonight. Montgomery was fighting his command and control all night. It led to high pitch count innings. He was falling behind the hitters a ton forcing him to throw hittable pitches in the zone. All you have to do is look at this pitch chart to get an idea of how wild he was:

This is a mess. It is important to point out that a lot of these strikes were foul balls. This leads to a concerning trend early on in the season for the Yankees’ pitchers. It is becoming increasingly clear that the staff is struggling to put batters away with two strikes and/or two outs. The JT Realmuto three run home run in the first inning was on a 1-2 hanging curve ball. The Bryce Harper single prior to the home run was on a 1-2 sinker. Rhys Hopkins walked on a 3-2 change up. The big double by Phil Gosselin in the third inning came on a 1-2 change up with two outs. You get the point.

This isn’t just a Montgomery issue. We’ve seen it from Paxton, Happ, and Loaisiga amongst others. This leads to long innings, high pitch counts, and damage from the opposing lineup. It is emerging as a trend that needs to halt sooner than later. There are too many pitchers on the staff right now who can’t put hitters away when they have the chance. Outside of Gerrit Cole, the staff struggles to get to the fifth inning let alone qualify for a quality start. The Yankees have a great bullpen, but most games shouldn’t come down to the pen and lineup. The starters have to step it up.

Montgomery is a good pitcher on an off night. This isn’t a Paxton or Happ situation. Gumby faced a pretty good lineup without his best command. He paid for it. I fully expect Montgomery to bounce back in his next start.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Sanchez

It is hard to criticize the Yankees lineup. They are top three in almost every team offensive category. The Yankees sluggers were able to muster a comeback against a weak Phillies bullpen. This is despite some major pieces struggling so far. Gleyber Torres is in a major slump. Aaron Hicks hasn’t found his power stroke yet. Giancarlo Stanton has cooled down a bit. Gary Sanchez is the lineup’s biggest issue at the moment. So of course, he hits a big opposite field home run to bring the Yankees back.

We all know Gary’s horrid start to the year. His K% is over 53.3. His wOBA is .141. He has a ton of swing and miss in his at bats. His plate discipline is poor. Despite all of this, Gary is still hitting the ball hard. He sits in the 88th percentile of exit velocity and the 76th percentile of hard hit percentage. It feels like his issues are timing, pitch recognition, and plate discipline. If he gets a pitch in the zone he’s stinging the ball. That was the case with this home run:

Gary is driving the ball well to the opposite field this year when he swings at strikes. He drove a good pitch on the outer third to the seats. I’ve said this a few times, but a lot of Gary’s success comes down to his timing. Now, he’s been displaying terrible plate discipline lately, but the slump started with poor timing. We like to say that big moments like this could be the breakthrough moment. I’m not sure we’re there yet. It is nice to see him drive the ball to the opposite field though.

The Bullpen Is Great Again

You can really appreciate the Yankees bullpen when you see the Phillies’ pen. Even with lower guys on the depth chart, the Yankees relievers give the offense a chance to compete throughout the entire game. David Hale and Jonathan Holder came on after Jordan Montgomery with four effective innings of no-run ball. Holder was especially effective with three strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings. If Luke Voit’s drive in the ninth inning finds a gap or goes over the wall, we’re praising the work of the two relievers.

The duo were still important in this game. They were the main reason the ninth inning was interesting. Holder had five swing and misses out of his 12 change ups. The pitch induced soft contact as well. The exit velocity on the change was 52.6 MPH. He was able to get some big strikeouts in the latter stages of the game to give the Yankees a chance late.

David Hale did the heavy lifting on the pitching end. He came on in relief of Montgomery and slowed the Phillies bats down. Despite a few walks, Hale challenged hitters with his four seamer with success. This was an especially important outing because the Yankees were down some quality arms after yesterday’s double header. Hale was able to save some arms and keep the game within reach. That is exactly what you’re looking for from a guy like Hale. That has value.

Leftovers

Despite the loss, the Yankees are off to a great start. Some of their stars are struggling. The non-Cole starters haven’t hit their stride. With that said, the Yankees still have a 3.5 game lead in the division. That is important because they’ve already completed 20% of their weird season. It is crazy to say that, but it’s true. They have an opportunity to put some significant distance between them and the Tampa Bay Rays starting tomorrow night. It will be Masahiro Tanaka against Blake Snell. Blake Snell apparently enjoys beating the Yankees, which is weird because he doesn’t do it much. The game starts at 6:40pm ET. Have a great night.

Game 11: Worth the wait

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A long day of baseball has come and gone. Game one’s loss was frustrating, especially after watching 6 1/2 innings of bad baseball only to see a late rally come up short. This evening’s nightcap was particularly satisfying after game one, however. Sure, Aaron Nola mowed down the lineup, but the elite Yankees’ bullpen did its job to keep things in check. Once the Bombers finally got Nola out of the game, the Yankees struck for a couple of runs to win this one, 3-1. Let’s get to the details.

Loaisiga does his usual thing

This was yet another hot-and-cold outing for Loaisiga. Overall, he’s pitched well this season, but he’s had some frustrating moments. Tonight was no different.

The first inning was a bit of a slog for him, though he escaped unscathed. The good: a dominant, three pitch strikeout against Bryce Harper with runners on first and second and nobody out. The meh: it took him 26 pitches to complete the inning. The only two base runners were via infield single and walk, so it’s not like he got smacked around, but there were a bunch of long at-bats aside from Harper’s. Of those 26 pitches, the Phils swung 14 times, including two whiffs and 14 foul balls.

The second inning was annoying. Loaisiga has a tendnecy, at least anecdotally, to finish things off. The third strike or third out can be elusive for him at times, and this inning was a prime example. He got two quick outs to start the frame: Jay Bruce grounded out and Scott Kingery fanned swinging. That’s when the two out rally began. Neil Walker ripped a double down the right field line. After that, Loaisiga got to 0-2 on light hitting Andrew Knapp, but couldn’t put him away:

Was that a bad pitch, per se? No. A fastball up-and-in at 97 miles per hour blooped for a hit is a bit of tough luck. But perhaps Loaisiga could have tried to get Knapp to chase. I’m probably nitpicking a bit here, in fairness. That was all the damage Loaisiga allowed tonight, anyway.

To start the third inning, Loaisiga showed what potentially makes him so darn special:

Hoskins is not a guy who strikes out on three pitches often. In fact, he led the league in pitches per plate appearances last season. Of course, Loaisiga took a step back the next batter and hit Bryce Harper with a (literal) backfoot breaking ball. At 51 pitches, that was the end of Loaisiga’s night. In sum: 2 1/3 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 1 hit by pitch, and 3 strikeouts. Not bad by any stretch, but it was a bit of a mixed bag.

Nola stymies Yankees offense

It’s not often that a lineup like the Yankees’ has to tip its cap to the opposing starter, but tonight was one of those nights. Aaron Nola was on his A-game and carved up the Yankees’ offense, save for one bad pitch to Luke Voit. And yes, I know a few Yankees hitters are struggling (Gleyber Torres, Gary Sánchez, and Miguel Andújar in particular), but that’s no matter given how good Nola looked.

Nola faced 21 batters in six innings and struck out 12 (57.1 percent). He didn’t walk anyone and allowed just three hits, and really only two of them were well-struck. Nola struck out every single Yankee in the lineup except DJ LeMahieu (because of course). And perhaps unsurprisingly given how they’ve hit lately, Gary and Gleyber combined to go 0-for-5 with 5 strikeouts against Nola.

How’d he dominate? By keeping his breaking ball and changeup down while featuring his fastball upstairs. Take a look:

There’s almost no blue (curveball) or green (changeup) above the knees per that graphic. You see that one mini pie chart with the blue and green down the middle and thigh high? That’s where he threw Voit and hanger. Here’s what happened:

A classic hanger. That was one of two hard hit balls (per Statcast) against Nola. The other was an Aaron Judge single.

The bullpen holds down the fort

When you have someone like Nola dealing for the opponent, it’s pivotal that the pitching staff keeps the game within reach. That’s exactly what the Yankees’ relievers did. After Loaisiga exited, Luis Avilán, Chad Green, and Adam Ottavino didn’t allow a single baserunner as the bridge to interim closer Zack Britton.

Aaron Boone deployed the lefty Avilán at a good time — maybe even one batter too late. Perhaps he should have faced Harper instead of Loaisiga, but it didn’t matter. With Harper on and one out, the southpaw induced a popout from lefty swinging Didi Gregorius and then fanned righty Jean Segura. Avilán came out to start the fourth inning against another lefty, Jay Bruce, and got the job done again with a strikeout.

It’s a little weird to have someone like Avilán on the roster nowadays, particularly as a lefty specialist type given the three batter minimum rule. However, it’s a bit easier to justify with expanded rosters. It’s also sometimes worth the risk of facing one righty between a handful of lefties when you do things like this:

After Avilán, Boone summoned Chad Green. Green is good. He faced seven batters, retired all of ’em, and struck out two in the process. It only took him 21 pitches to do so. For whatever reason, Boone replaced him with Adam Ottavino to face Jean Segura to finish up the sixth inning. Otto got the job done, but Green was cruising. No harm, no foul at least.

After the Yankees took the lead in the top of the seventh (more on that in a moment), Britton continued the bullpen’s dominance. He threw a 1-2-3 frame to notch his fifth save of the season. In all, after Loaisiga’s exit, Yankees’ pitchers retired all 14 Phillies batters.

Happy to see the Phillies’ bullpen

Just like game one, when the Yankees almost came back after Zack Wheeler’s night was done after six innings, the Bombers’ offense came to life once Nola was out of this one. Could Nola have gone one more frame with just 88 pitches through six? Probably, but it’s early in the (short) season and pitchers have been dropping like flies anyway. Perhaps it just wasn’t worth the risk.

Anyway, Boone went to Tommy Hunter for the seventh inning and it didn’t take long for the Yankees to get things going. Giancarlo Stanton and Luke Voit hit back-to-back singles to open the inning. Mike Tauchman, who got the start over Aaron Hicks, delivered in the clutch:

That gave the Yankees’ a 2-1 lead. Scary moment immediately after that at-bat, though. Hunter drilled Gary Sánchez with a 90 MPH sinker directly on the elbow. That’s the last thing a slumping Gary needed. Fortunately, he remained in the game but that ball will leave a mark. So, with the bases loaded, up came Gio Urshela who delivered a single to make it 3-1. Was anyone shocked to see him come through? Just look at what he’s done with the bases full since joining the Yankees, tonight included:

Last year’s next men up are still delivering in 2020.

Philadelphia’s Adam Morgan managed to escape without any further trouble, but that was all the Yankees’ needed. 3-1 was the final score.

Leftovers

  • With Voit’s homer, the Yankees have homered in each of the team’s 11 games to start the season, a franchise record.
  • Phillies’ closer Hector Neris, who was forced pitched in game one during the Yankees’ failed comeback, was presumably unavailable tonight. That certainly came in handy when the Yankees rallied in the seventh.
  • Tonight was just the second game this season that DJ LeMahieu went hitless.

The Yankees have one more in Philadelphia tomorrow evening. Jordan Montgomery and Zach Eflin are the pitchers. Have a good night everyone.

Game 10: U-G-L-Y

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Let’s forget about this one. Behind bad everything, the Yankees lost 11-7 to the Phillies. The score makes it look a little closer than it really was, though the Yankees did have the tying run on deck in the final inning. The seven game win streak is now over and the Yankees are 8-2. Thank goodness this one only had to go seven innings. To the recap before the final game of this doubleheader.

Enough’s enough with Happ

Looking back, it’s a minor miracle that it took until the third inning for the Phillies to score any runs against JA Happ. His command was absolutely dreadful this afternoon, and it’s not like he has the stuff to get away with it. His final line: three innings, three hits, four runs, six (!!!) walks, and one strikeout.

We got our first sign of the bad Happ in the first inning. After a quick two outs to start the game, he proceeded to walk Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto. Jean Segura then popped out to end the threat. Happ worked out of more trouble in the second. After Phil Gosselin doubled with one out, Happ retired the next two hitters to escape. Although, he needed a little help from Miguel Andújar. Miggy, in his first game at third base this year, made a diving catch to rob Kyle Garlick of an RBI single.

Happ’s luck ran out in the third. After a four pitch leadoff walk to Andrew McCutchen, Happ recovered to get to 0-2 against Bryce Harper. Except, he did this on the 0-2:

Middle-in 89 MPH fastball to Harper? Yeah, that’s what’s gonna happen. That dinger made it 3-2 Yanks. The next hitter, Realmuto, walked on five pitches to continue the rally. Then, Segura hit a bloop single in shallow center, and thanks to an odd throwing error by DJ LeMahieu, runners moved to second and third with no one out. Happ’s control really went by the wayside thereafter. He walked Scott Kingery on five pitches and subsequently threw four straight balls to Gosselin to walk in a run and make it 3-all. Happ did retire the next two batters, but one more run came in to score on Roman Quinn’s RBI groundout. When the inning was all said and done, it was 4-3 Phillies and the end of Happ’s night.

Six walks tells you all you need to know about Happ’s location today, but let’s illustrate anyway. Look at this brutal pitch plot:

Yikes. There’s not much in the strike zone! That’s now two straight clunkers for Happ to start the year. And coming off a rough 2019, I just can’t imagine allowing him to start another game for a little while. With an expanded postseason and no reason to want the southpaw’s 2021 vesting option to kick in, why keep doing this? Throwing Clarke Schmidt or Michael King out there could be worse, in theory, but how much of a risk would it be? I think we know what Happ is at this point. It’s time to move on. Maybe he can take over the Luis Avilán role.

What’s up with Gleyber?

This probably merits a post on its own, but Gleyber Torres has been really off to start the season. Entering today, Torres had a .179/.258/.286 (59 wRC+) batting line. Point being: he had a huge opportunity to bust out of it in the first inning. He came up in the first with the bases loaded and no one out. Check out this fastball he got to hit:

I don’t care that Wheeler threw it 97 MPH. A fastball like that right down the middle should be crushed. Instead, Torres bounced into a 6-4-3 double play. It scored a run to put the Yanks ahead 1-0, but it also let Wheeler (and Jean Segura, who made an error earlier) off the hook.

In his next at-bat, Torres grounded to short on another high fastball. And to round out his day at the plate, he struck out on a heater way up and out of the zone. He seemed to carry his offense out into the field too. He was a bit slow to turn a couple of potential double plays later.

As frustrating his day was, it’s not time to freak out. Everyone goes through slumps, even 23 year-old wunderkinds.

Nelson and his defense let this one get away

Nick Nelson was awfully impressive in his debut. He blanked Boston over three innings over the weekend, but today, he wore it. Nelson entered in the fifth with the Yankees down 4-3. By the time he departed, it was 11-3. He didn’t get a ton of help from his defense, but he also really scuffled.

In the fifth, Nelson gave up a solo shot to Realmuto. Not great, but it also didn’t seem like a huge deal at the time. But in the sixth, things really unraveled. Single, single, walk, and a Rhys Hoskins RBI single brought it to 6-3. Cue the circus for the next at-bat:

You have to catch that ball. The floodgates really opened from there and Nelson was mercifully yanked. The other frustrating part was that not many balls were hit out of the infield: Didi Gregorius had an infield single and the Phils beat out to potential ground ball double plays in the frame.

Comeback?

A four run seventh forced Phillies’ closer Hector Neris into this one. I guess if there’s any solace in this one, it’s that Joe Girardi probably won’t be able to go to his closer in the nightcap.

Girardi brought in Austin Davis to relieve Wheeler to close out what looked like a laugher. Instead, Mike Tauchman and Brett Gardner singled around a Higashioka pop-up. That brought pinch-hitter Thairo Estrada to the plate (in favor of DJ LeMahieu, who was 3-for-3 and up to .459 on the season). Thairo delivered a seemingly innocuous single to make the score 11-4. Up came Aaron Judge, however:

Bam. 11-7. Things got interesting, especially because Aaron Hicks and Tyler Wade hit back-to-back singles to keep the rally going. Up came Mike Ford, who didn’t have too good of an at-bat. After he swung at a couple of pitches that would have been ball four (though one was a check swing that inexplicably wasn’t checked by the third base ump), Ángel Hernández rung him up for the second out. Take a look, folks:

The orange dot right off the inner edge of the plate was strike called strike three. Too close to take? Maybe, but it’s also not a strike! Ah, that’s everyone’s favorite umpire. Ford was pissed and third base coach Phil Nevin got ejected. The Yankees dugout was seething. I can’t blame them, but Ford also got a little too aggressive in this at-bat with the count 3-1.

After that, Girardi summoned Neris. He got Miguel Andújar to fly out to fairly deep right to end it. It only took one pitch, but maybe it will force him out of the nightcap.

Leftovers

  • Bryce Harper left this game early. The team trainer looked at him after the fielder’s choice/error Higashioka made, but Harper stayed in at the time. He didn’t come back out for the bottom half of the inning. We’ll see if he’s available for the second game. (Meghan Montemurro)
  • Brett Gardner’s answer for Phil Hughes? Another dinger, this time of the pulled variety. His third homer of the year gave the Yankees a 3-0 advantage in the second inning. It was one of the few well struck balls against Wheeler today.
  • Happ’s second inning strikeout of Roman Quinn was the lefty’s 1,500th career punchout.
  • I failed to mention this in the game thread, but Luis Cessa is back on the roster (positive for COVID-19). The Yankees optioned Brooks Kriske to the alternate site in Scranton to make room. Cessa entered with this one way out of hand in the sixth inning for his first outing of the season.
  • Aroldis Chapman has or will throw a bullpen today. Aaron Boone doesn’t expect him back anytime soon. (Bryan Hoch)
  • Chris Iannetta will remain in the organization. He was sent outright to Scranton after he was designated for assignment in advance of Masahiro Tanaka’s first start.

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