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ALDS Game 4: Yankees Live to See Another [Gleyber] Day

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The Yankees aren’t done yet. They beat the Rays 5-1 to force a deciding Game 5 tomorrow night in San Diego. The Bombers finally got a well pitched game from someone other than Gerrit Cole and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Let’s get to the takeaways:

Gleyber Day arrives just when the Yankees needed it. The shortstop’s 2-run homer in the sixth inning gave the Yankees some breathing room, putting the Bombers up 4-1. Up until that point, I had a lingering concern that an earlier wasted opportunity — scoring just one run after loading the bases with no one out in the second inning — would later haunt the Yankees. Thankfully it didn’t, and Gleyber’s bomb eased those concerns:

What a shot. How many dingers would the Yankees send over the Western Metal Supply Co. building if this was actually the team’s home ballpark?

Keep in mind that Gleyber fouled a ball off his shin in his previous at bat against Yarbrough. It took a while for him to get back in the box after it, too. I guess it’s safe to say he’s OK now!

By the way, Torres reached base two other times this one. Once via single, once via walk. He stole a base in the ninth and scored a run too. He had a really nice series against Cleveland last week, but had been relatively quiet until tonight against the Rays. Nice to see a big game from him tonight. Would be even better to see him carry it into tomorrow.

ALDS Game 3: Yanks Face Elimination After 8-4 Loss to Tampa

We can’t blame bad strategy for that one. The Yankees simply got outplayed (again) by the Rays in a huge game and lost 8-4. They are down 2 games to 1 in the ALDS and, frankly, they deserve to be. The series is not over yet, though. There is a game tomorrow and the Yankees will have to win it. If they are going to do that, they will have to play better than they did tonight from top to bottom.

So, with that out of the way, let’s get right to the takeaways.

1. Tanaka’s Potential Swan Song, Not So Good: I really hope that wasn’t it for Masahiro Tanaka in pinstripes. People have very short memories and were declaring in our mentions that they’ve Had Enough of Masahiro Tanaka. This is silly. He is very good, and the Yankees should bring him back. That said, he was not very good tonight. This about says it all, really:

There are three bad things about this chart. First, there is way, way too much over the heart of the zone. Second, there are way, way too many yellow (slider) and aqua (curveball) dots up and over the heart of the plate. Third, there are not nearly enough gray (splitter) dots low and below the zone. You don’t want to be reductionist or overly simplistic, but that formula is almost never going to work out.

The Rays put 15 balls in play against Tanaka and 7 of those could be considered “hard hit”, aka harder than 95 mph. This about tells the story of the night:

That was one of the good outcomes! Tanaka just didn’t have it. Here was the first run of the game, which came in the 2nd inning:

Perez, if you are curious, is a career .221/.286/.314 (67 wRC+) hitter with a 28% strikeout rate in 230 career plate appearances. He was batting 9th for the Rays tonight. Annoying! Anyway, the other big blow against Tanaka was also extremely annoying, but for different reasons.

It came in the 4th inning, which Joey Wendle led off with a walk. Tanaka was very concerned with Wendle stealing, kept throwing over, and ultimately ended up in a full count against Willy Adames. He threw said pitch in this location:

Which, as you can see, was called a ball. For context, here is the whole at-bat:

This would be bad enough, but making matters worse is the fact that Wendle indeed steal second on the pitch…and was caught dead to rights on Higgy’s throw. It would have been a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play, or, put another way, exactly what the doctor ordered. Instead, it put men on first and second with nobody out. Here is the very next pitch:

That is a back-breaking home run for Kiermaier regardless of the previous pitch. It is even worse in context. Last night’s umpiring display from CB Bucknor was a disgrace, and so to was this. That is just inexcusable, and it is a 2-run swing at least. At the very least. It should not have happened. Now, lest you think I am solely going to blame the umpiring here, this is what Tanaka threw Keirmaier:

Awful, awful stuff. It really is. I was and continue to be extremely mad about the non-strike call to Adames. That can’t happen. But neither can that pitch in that spot. For those keeping track at home, the 8th and 9th hitter were responsible for the first 4 runs off Tanaka. In the words of an old friend, it is not what you want.

Tanaka did settle down and escaped the 4th without further incident. The first batter of the 5th – Randy Arozerena, because of course – absolutely obliterated a hanging slider into the left-field seats to end Tanaka’s night. He lasted 4+ innings, gave up 5 runs on 8 hits (2 HR), walked 1, and struck out 4. It was an ugly performance from Tanaka in a game in which the Yankees really needed him to step up.

ALDS Game 2: So you centered a gameplan around JA Happ

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There’s a lot to complain about in this one, folks. The Yankees fell 7-5 in spite of Giancarlo Stanton’s heroics. The decision to use Deivi García as an opener for JA Happ backfired, CB Bucknor had himself a night, and the Yankees offense just fell short against Tampa Bay’s bullpen. This best-of-five series is now level at one a piece. Let’s get to the takeaways.

If I were the Yankees, I’d simply would have waited as long as possible to use JA Happ in this series. I know, I know. Happ had a resurgence during the regular season. But there’s no way I want to see him get the ball before Masahiro Tanaka in a playoff series with both guys fully rested. It’s overthinking things. Yes, hindsight is 20/20 and all, but give me Tanaka over Happ as the bulk guy every time.

ALDS Game 1: Yankees Take 1-0 Series Lead, Smash Rays 9-3

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Now that was a baseball game. The Yankees smashed the Rays 9-3 (box score) and took a nice 1-0 lead in this series. This one was extremely close throughout and was just a one-run game heading into the 9th inning before the Yankees and Giancarlo Stanton blew it wide open. Two more just like it, please.

Let’s get right to the takeaways in this great game, shall we?

1. Gerrit Cole Does Enough: The Yankees paid Gerrit Cole a third of a billion dollars to win a game just like this, so what does he do? He comes out and wins a game just like this. It wasn’t all pretty from Cole – he really didn’t have a good feel for his fastball early on – but he worked his way through it and, after 6 innings and 97 pitches, turned the ball over to the Yankees pen with a one-run lead. Can’t ask for much more.

Cole pitched 6 innings, allowing 3 runs on 6 hits (2 HR) while striking out 8 and walking 2. I thought he could have gone back out there for the 7th, but I understood why Boone removed him when he did. I thought there were two big takeaways from Cole’s performance.

First, as I said, Cole didn’t really have his fastball – at least not early in the game. He was consistently missing low and over the plate with it. To their credit, the Rays made him pay. Here is Cole’s first real mistake, which ended like this:

And here was the location:

That was a big mistake, as it gave the Rays the first inning run right back. It was, as an old friend would say, not what you want. Neither was the second big mistake, which came with the Yankees up 2-1 in the 4th inning:

And here is the location:

This was a trend early on, but Cole was able to work out of it largely because of pitches like this one:

Filth. That is pure filth. Cole’s curve got a ridiculous 7 whiffs on 11 swings (64% whiff-per-swing rate), which shows how unhittable it was. It made his fastball play up a bit, which brings me to the second key takeaway from Cole: he really, really found his fastball as the game went on, particularly in the 5th and 6th innings. It was good timing.

Cole worked his way into a jam in the 5th, walking Brandon Lowe with two outs before allowing (another) single to Randy Arozarena. That brought up Cole-killer Ji-Man Choi, who the Yankees walked after Cole fell behind him 2-0, opting instead to face Manuel Margot. I hate walking a guy with Cole – I want him to embarrass everyone – but I get it. And boy did it pay off. Here is the pitch plot of the AB:

I’ll have more to say about why pitch 2 was a ball below, but pitch 4 was exhilarating: it came in at 100 mph and looked like this.

Just incredible. Cole then blew through the Rays in the 6th inning, striking out the last two guys he faced. He threw 99+ mph on his 97th and final pitch of the evening. It was a good reminder that, even though Cole is going to occasionally give up HR on his fastball, he needs to be aggressive with that pitch. It’s his best offering, and it’s what makes him great. Aggressive Cole is a good Cole.

“We Have Seen Too Much” Yanks Win Topsy-Turvy Game 2 to Advance

Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes it rains. For the Yankees and Cleveland in Game Two of their Wild Card matchup, all three things happened. 

On the way to a 10-9 win by the Yankees,  there were two rain delays and questions about why the game started when it did and whether or not it should’ve been played at all. But play they did in a marathon, back-and-forth game that saw the Yankees advance to the ALDS.

Indeed those rain-soaked questions arose early for the Yankees as Masahiro Tanaka got off to an incredibly rough start. It was clear the rain was messing with him as his command and control were absolutely all over the place, leading to a four run inning for Cleveland, right off the literal and metaphorical bat. Before the game was delayed a second time, he gave up back-to-back doubles to Cesar Hernandez and Jose Ramirez to get Cleveland on the board. Any thoughts of a reset after the rain delay were quickly washed away.

After getting Carlos Santana out, he fell behind Franmil Reyes, eventually walked him, then gave up a two-run double to Josh Naylor followed by a rocket on the ground to Roberto Perez that took a bad hop, ate up Gleyber Torres at short, and plated a fourth run for the home side. Tanaka looked about as bad as possible in his interrupted first inning.

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