Tag: Aaron Hicks Page 1 of 7

Thoughts with the Yankees on the brink of elimination

Sure as hell isn’t Giancarlo’s fault that the Yankees are in this predicament.

Game 4 is just a few hours away and the Yankees are in a position that appeared unforeseeable after Monday’s victory. Sentiments sure can change quickly in October, huh? I bet we’d all be pretty fired up about tomorrow if the Yankees can top the Rays tonight. With that, I have a few things I want to discuss before first pitch.

We have all winter to discuss the future of this team. I’m not denying that these last two losses have been dreadful to watch, but there’s no reason to act like this series is over. Do the Yankees have their work cut out for them? Yes. It’s not going to be easy to overcome a 2-1 deficit. At the same time, it’s not an impossible task.

It’s natural to start forward-thinking at this stage. I’m guilty of that myself; offseason scenarios have already begun to cross my mind. There are obvious needs, namely pitching depth, that the Yankees have to address this winter. Frankly, they should have addressed them at the trade deadline. But again, that’s neither here nor there. The Yankees are still alive, even with lackluster performances on the mound from everyone not named Gerrit Cole compounded by highly questionable strategies. Until the clock actually strikes midnight on the Yankees, I’m going to save my energy on the future of this team or lament about what the team didn’t do for the 2020 roster. Let’s save that for the long and cold winter.

Giancarlo Stanton has been amazing, but let’s also show Aaron Hicks some love. Stanton’s getting a ton of attention for turning this postseason into a home run derby of his own, and deservedly so. It’s really nice to hear all of his detractors shut up for once. He is one of the greatest hitters in the sport and is delivering when the Yankees need it. I take joy in dancing on the grave of horrible takes like the following, but I also never want to see something like this again:

My goodness. Tyler Wade over Giancarlo Stanton.

Anyway, I’d like to spend some time highlighting Aaron Hicks’s excellent series. Believe it or not, Hicks (+3.03 percent) has a higher championship probability added than Stanton (+1.88 percent) in the ALDS. Game level win probability is a bit closer, with Hicks at 0.29 to Stanton’s 0.22.

Game 59: Deivi and the offense bounce back

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The Yankees toppled the Marlins today, 11-4. Deivi García pitched excellently in spite of some bad luck and the offense finally woke up after an inauspicious start. Let’s get right to the takeaways:

After an ugly start, we were reminded of this offense’s potency. The Yankees hit into five double plays yesterday and hit into another in the first inning today. DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge reached base to start the game, but Giancarlo Stanton bounced into a 6-4-3 DP thereafter. From there, Marlins’ starter Trevor Rogers retired six of the next seven Yankees he faced to end his outing. It was an ugly start and had the feeling of “here we go again”, especially after the Marlins scored three fluky runs in the third (more on that momentarily).

That sentiment was erased in the fifth and sixth innings, thankfully. As you’d expect, Tyler Wade got the Yankees on the board with a two-run dinger against Ryne Stanek.

Again, just as you’d expect. But the run scoring didn’t end there. The Yankees tied it with a two out rally from Judge and Stanton. Judge walked, and after Don Mattingly summoned James Hoyt from the bullpen to replace Stanek, Stanton drove in Judge.

The offense blew this one wide open in the next inning against old friend Stephen Tarpley. The lefty faced six batters and recorded just one out: a sacrifice bunt by Wade (the team’s first sac bunt this season, by the way). The big blows: Aaron Hicks’s two-run homer to make it 5-3 and and LeMahieu’s 2-run double to make it 7-3.

Later, with Nick Vincent in to relieve Tarpley, Voit tallied his league leading 22nd homer of the season to make this one a laugher.

It was good to see this offense break out even if it wasn’t against some of the best pitchers a team has to offer. The Yanks had scored just five runs in the last three games, all losses. A lineup this deep, especially now at full strength, can only be held down for so long though. I’d love to see today be the catalyst for a hot run of hitting into the playoffs.

Deivi García is unshakeable. Another really impressive start from the 21 year-old righty today. Deivi finally took some lumps in his previous start, but bounced back nicely in this one against Miami. Hell, Deivi had to overcome some adversity today too. The Marlins got a ton of breaks in the third inning and scored three runs against García. All you really need to see is this:

That’s a lot of weak contact for three runs to score on. The only ball hit remotely hard was Miguel Rojas’s RBI double, which made it 1-0. But even that wasn’t struck too hard. In fact, it probably should have been a lineout and a double play. Take a look:

The Marlins called for a hit-and-run with Monte Harrison on first. You typically see the second baseman cover second with a right-handed hitter up, but the Yankees had shortstop Tyler Wade break to second instead. I guess they were banking on Rojas trying to go to the right side. But uh, his spray chart for grounders and line drives says otherwise:

It was frustrating to watch the Yankees fall behind 3-0 on a bunch of seeing eye hits, but it clearly didn’t bother García. Deivi pitched into the seventh inning of this one before getting pulled due to a pitch count (103).

The rookie’s final line: 6 2/3 innings, 7 hits, 4 runs, 1 walks, and 7 strikeouts. That 4th run came with Adam Ottavino on the mound, who gave up back-to-back singles upon Deivi’s exit. Anyway, that’s a good line for Deivi although he pitched better than it reflects. He was getting whiffs and soft contact against all of his pitches and had good command too.

Pitch TypeUsage (%)Exit Velo (MPH)Whiffs / Swings
4-Seamer55.389.87 / 30
Changeup14.646.51 /6
Curveball18.477.93 / 9
Slider11.781.82 /5

I’m very happy with how Deivi pitched even with Miami not running out its best lineup. Yes, the Marlins sat Starling Marte, Corey Dickerson, Brian Anderson, and Jesús Aguilar, but you have to like this kind of response from a rookie after his first bad start. It’s no wonder that the team is prepared to hand him the ball for a postseason start. Now it’s just a matter of what game it will be. He’ll be on regular rest for Game 3 of the Wild Card round.

Leftovers

  • Keep your eyes on the scoreboard tonight. The Yankees can clinch the fifth seed if the Orioles beat the Blue Jays tonight. If not, the Yankees will need either another victory or a Blue Jays loss tomorrow.
  • Nice job by Miguel Yajure in the last two innings. He struck out three batters in a row after a walk and single to lead off the eighth inning. He then finished the game off with a scoreless ninth.
  • Every Yankee hitter had a base hit except for Judge, Clint Frazier, Gary Sánchez. Even so, the Judge and Sánchez combined to reach base five times via base on balls. Judge has struggled since returning from the injured list and Gary’s season has been a mess, but it’s good to see them find some way to contribute.
  • Clint’s in a bit of a slump, by the way. He entered today with one hit (a single) and four walks in his last 21 plate appearances. Today: 0-for-3 with a hit by pitch and stolen base.
  • The season finale is tomorrow at 3:05 p.m. EDT. See you then.

Game 41: Does rock bottom exist?

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The Yankees blew 2-0 and 6-2 leads in this one and ultimately lost 12-7. A sixth inning bullpen meltdown in which the Blue Jays scored 10 runs (you read that right) sunk the ship tonight. The Yankees are 21-20 and reeling, to put it kindly. Here are the takeaways.

These are the 2020 Yankees, so something had to go wrong. Things were fairly smooth for the Yankees up until the bottom of the sixth inning. Yes, Jordan Montgomery squandered an early 2-0 lead, but the Yankees offense picked him up a few innings later. Up 6-2, Aaron Boone turned to Chad Green. It all fell apart from there.

Green threw 29 pitches and recorded just one out. He’s one of the best at missing bats, and yet tonight, he literally couldn’t miss one. Toronto swung at 14 of his 29 pitches, fouled off 11, and didn’t whiff once. Still, Green nearly stopped the bleeding. Rowdy Tellez kept fouling off pitch after pitch, but on the 10th offering, he bounced one to first. It was not struck well (67.8 MPH off the bat, .050 xBA) and yet, Luke Voit booted it.

Was it an inbetween hop? Maybe, but that’s a play that needs to be made. Has to. That’s when the “here we go again” feeling really sunk in. It should have been a 6-3 game with two outs and two on. Still trouble! But not as bad as bases full and just one out. That was it for Green. Enter Adam Ottavino.

Ottavino faced six batters. He didn’t record a single out. Single, single, walk, single, and a walk made it 8-6 Toronto. Then came the back-breaker:

Atrocious, and yet, unsurprising given how things have gone this year. That effectively was the end of the ballgame.

Green might have been bad, but Ottavino had absolutely nothing. 29 pitches, 12 swings, 1 whiff, 7 fouls, and an average exit velocity of 103.9 MPH on 4 balls in play. He got absolutely rocked. What an embarrassing performance all around.

As bad as Green and Ottavino were, Boone probably should have had a quicker trigger to get these guys out. But by the time he got Luis Cessa in, it was already too late. As for who he could have gone to? I don’t know, but anyone else would have been better. Someone should have been warming by the time Ottavino had failed to record an out after three batters. It was already tied at that point and Ottavino did not look good anyway.

Do you really care to read any other takeaways? Well, I had written a decent amount as the score built up to 6-2, so I’ll let you have those as well.

That could have been a lot worse for Jordan Montgomery. Boone pulled the 6-foot-6 lefty with one out in the fourth inning. It’s the second straight short outing for Monty, though at least he made it out of the first inning this time (a low bar to clear, of course). It was pretty obvious that he didn’t have it right away. His location was a mess, particularly in the first inning. Pitches were bouncing to the plate and sailing way high and out of the zone. It was frustrating to watch after the Yankees staked him to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first.

Montgomery’s 1st inning pitch chart.

It took him 31 pitches to complete the frame and he was probably fortunate to allow just one run. It would have been more had Lourdes Gurriel’s 107 MPH line drive wasn’t hit right to Brett Gardner. Otherwise, Toronto could have had a crooked number.

Monty wasn’t much better come inning number two. Travis Shaw stroked an opposite field double off the wall. Up came Santiago Espinal, who initially squared around to bunt Shaw over. Instead, he worked the count full and delivered an RBI single to tie the game at two. Montgomery escaped without further damage, but he did get some help from Luke Voit who stole a single from Cavan Biggio a couple batters after Espinal leveled the score.

He didn’t allow a run the rest of his outing, but he didn’t exactly recover. He gave up two more hits in the third and walked the ninth hitter, Danny Jansen, with one out in the fourth. That was the final straw for him. In total, Monty surrendered eight baserunners in 3 1/3 innings. Jonathan Holder cleaned up the fourth and then pitched a scoreless fifth.

It’s crucial for Montgomery to get things going and soon. He really impressed back in spring training and summer camp and even had a few solid outings earlier in the regular season. But his last two starts have been alarming for a rotation that’s already depleted. There are bigger problems on this team than him (duh), but Montgomery’s gone from a pleasant surprise to a concern in a hurry.

Miguel Andújar needs to be in the lineup until further notice. I think we’re all pretty tired of watching Mikes Ford and Tauchman play. Andújar can and should effectively replace both of them (though that means we have to live with the struggling Brett Gardner in left field while Miggy DHs). We know of Miggy’s limitations in the field, but he’s an incredibly talented hitter. Look what he did against Jays’ starter Hyun-Jin Ryu in the fourth:

Hanging curve over the fence? Who knew big league hitters were allowed to do that. Must have felt good for Miggy to hit his first big league homer since September of 2018. It put the Yankees back in the lead after Monty coughed up a couple of runs.

Andújar had a three hit game yesterday, so perhaps that along with his homer tonight is the start of a hot streak. The Yankees sure could use another hitter in this lineup to produce. Since Andújar has returned from the Alternate Site, he’s (5-for-10, 4 singles, 2 walks, 1 triple entering tonight).

In any case, I’d much rather watch Andújar get opportunities and struggle than Ford or Tauchman. Miggy is still just 25 years-old and really needs to competitive at-bats, anyway. Ford and Tauchman don’t look like long-term chips, whereas Andújar still can be one. Miggy already lost all of last year, and letting him stagnate in Scranton doing whatever they’re doing is less than ideal. Big league at-bats, good or bad, are better for him. Productive big league at-bats? Even better. DH him as much as possible.

Leftovers

  • Erik Kratz and Kyle Higashioka have gone 0-for-8 since Gary Sánchez was benched. I’m fine with giving Gary a break to clear his head and work on things, but he should be back in the lineup tomorrow. Kratz and Higashioka aren’t actively helping even if this latest lousy performance wasn’t their fault.
  • It feels like eons ago, but the Yankees jumped out of the gate quickly thanks to back-to-back homers in the first inning by Luke Voit and Aaron Hicks. Those two along with Miggy’s came against Hyun-Jin Ryu, who had allowed just three homers in 43 innings entering this one.
  • The other contributor offensively? None other than Clint Frazier. He had (at the time) a big 2-run double that gave the Yankees some breathing room in the 5th. He’s been terrific.
  • Clarke Schmidt did much better in his second big league outing. He did walk two batters, but also struck out two in a scoreless eighth inning.

More baseball tomorrow, if you can stomach it. JA Happ will try to stop this skid. It’s another 6:37 p.m. EDT start tomorrow. Have a good night.

Aaron Hicks Exits Game With Apparent Injury

The Yankees just had an extremely fun comeback to win the first of this doubleheader and Deivi Garcia is currently cruising, so it was only a matter of time before something bad happened. And, as usual, it was in the form of an injury – this time to Aaron Hicks, who apparently injured himself on this 3-1 swing:

It definitely looks weird. Aaron Boone immediately came to check on him, Hicks convinced him to go away and worked a walk…but Boone removed him the second he got to first base. So, yeah.

Who knows what’s wrong with Hicks. We’ve seen multiple Yanks get injured while swinging in the past few years. It’s baffling. Perhaps, though, Hicks was already hurt. Check out this tweet from Yankees Magazine’s Jon Schwartz:

Let’s hope Hicks is okay. I’ll update this once we hear more, but until then, let’s enjoy his huge HR from game one:

UPDATE (7:30 pm): He had “cramping” in both calves, apparantly. Hopefully, his post-game routine now involves drinking several big glasses of water. It usually works for me.

https://twitter.com/yankees/status/1300213407887568897?s=21

Game 22: So long Boston, we’ll miss you

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It’s too bad the Yankees don’t face the lowly Red Sox again until September. The Yankees completed a four game sweep against Boston at Yankee Stadium to improve to 16-6, 2.5 games ahead of the Rays in the division. Meanwhile, the Red Sox depart at 6-17 and their season all but over. The final in this one: 6-3.

Rain halts Jordan Montgomery’s best start of the season. A one hour and 23 minute rain delay cost Monty a chance to get a win in this one. The delay came with two outs in the fourth, which turned out to be the end of Montgomery’s evening. In sum, the lefty threw 3 2/3 innings, struck out four, and allowed just one run (that he probably shouldn’t have, more on that below). Montgomery had just about everything working. He was throwing hard, missing bats, locating his pitches, and generating a lot of weak contact.

It sure looks like the lefty’s velocity uptick is here to stay. Montgomery averaged 92.9 MPH on his fastball and topped out at 94.1 on the evening. His sinker sat 92.7 and touched 93.8. That’s not overpowering in today’s sense, but it’s very good for Monty. Considering how well he spotted his pitches today, that velo really did him wonders.

Save for a couple sinkers down the middle (both taken for strikes), Monty lived on the edges this evening. That’ll do.

Monty also had good feel for his curve and changeup in this one, which worked well off his fastball/sinker. He got nine whiffs on 27 swings, and when the Red Sox did make contact, it wasn’t well struck. Boston’s average exit velocity was a paltry 77.8 MPH on the evening.

That’s a lot of blue. Soft contact has become Montgomery’s forte this year, by the way. Entering tonight:

  • Exit Velocity: 96th percentile
  • Hard Hit %: 68th percentile
  • Barrel %: 74th percentile

That’s great stuff. Even with a little more hump on his fastball this season, Montgomery isn’t going to be a strikeout pitcher. He’ll need to limit hard contact to maintain success, and so far, so good. I just wish we got to see him go a little deeper in this one.

Nerdy stuff aside, Montgomery really got into a groove after the Torres error in the first. He recorded eleven straight outs thereafter up until back-to-back-to-back singles with two outs in the fourth. Then mother nature came calling.

Bats and B-List relievers keep A-listers fresh for Tampa Bay series. Chad Green, Adam Ottavino, and Zack Britton didn’t have to warm up for this one. That’s big going into an important series against the Rays tomorrow, who were off today and will have a fresh bullpen themselves. Aroldis Chapman wrapped this one up, but he was expected to get into this game regardless of the score. It’s his first game back from the COVID-19 injured list, after all.

The offense took care of business pretty early. Part of it was a self inflicted wound by Boston starter Martín Pérez, though. With two outs in the second, he pegged ninth hitter Tyler Wade. You just can’t let Wade reach base like that and the top of the order made him pay. Hicks ripped a double to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead. Then came Luke Voit:

That wasn’t his only longball of the day. The first baseman also did this in the fifth:

Those were Voit’s sixth and seventh homers of the year. Thairo Estrada delivered one of his own between those two Voit dingers, by the way.

Aaron Hicks added one for good measure.

Enough about the homer parade, how about the bullpen work of Luis Avilán and Michael King? Avilán came into this one with two on and two out in the fourth as play resumed after the rain delay. He worked out of trouble and then pitched a clean fifth inning. Avilán has been sneaky good thus far: he’s got a 2.25 ERA in eight innings.

King came in after Avilán. It was his first appearance since August 8th, but King didn’t show any rust. He threw three innings, allowed just one run, and struck out two. That one run probably shouldn’t have happened, by the way. Miguel Andújar couldn’t track down what turned into a ground rule RBI double by Alex Verdugo in the sixth. Anyway, King was given the win for this one, his first of his career. Congrats to him.

Again, this was a clutch performance from Avilán, King, and the offense. Aaron Boone should be able to use Green, Ottavino, and Britton often in this upcoming series.

We have to talk about Gleyber Torres’s defense. Although things have started to come around offensively, Gleyber’s defense has been another story this season. In short, it hasn’t been very good. Tonight, Torres made two throwing errors. He now has six on the season, second to Boston’s Rafael Devers who has 8. Gleyber also couldn’t haul in a Christian Vázquez bloop single in the fourth inning that arguably should have been caught.

Tonight’s game started with his first error. Kevin Pillar hit a routine grounder to short, but Torres couldn’t convert it into an out. His throw to first pulled Luke Voit off the bag toward home plate. Per Statcast, that grounder had an expected batting average of .050. Pillar is a good runner, so perhaps that put some pressure on Gleyber to make a good throw. In any case, it’s a play Torres has to make. The good news is that Montgomery worked around that error to pitch a scoreless first, including a 6-4-3 double play turned by Torres and Tyler Wade.

Moving on to the Vázquez single, which cut the Yankees lead to 3-1 at the time. Let’s take a look:

Torres seemed to have a quick first step, but then slowed down and took a circuitous route to the landing spot. He got his glove on it but couldn’t haul it in. Look, I’m not saying that this is an easy play, but it’s one he probably should have made. If you didn’t notice his odd route to the ball on video, you can get a better sense of it from Statcast below:

Statcast also has that batted ball at an expected batting average of .580, but that may be somewhat misleading. Namely, Statcast only considers launch angle and exit velocity. In other words, it treats that blooper’s hit probability the same as if it was hit down the right field line.

Torres wasn’t done there though. He made another throwing error in the top of the top of the fifth inning. This time, it was a grounder off of José Peraza’s bat. Peraza is very fast — 87th percentile in sprint speed — but this was yet another routine grounder that should have been an out.

In fairness to Gleyber, he is just 23 and this is his first (sort of) full season at shortstop at the big league level. I’m a little more willing to give him a pass on the blooper, but he needs to be more consistent on routine plays.

Leftovers

  • This was the Yankees’ fourth rain delay of the season. It clocked in at one hour and 23 minutes.
  • Interesting game for Miguel Andújar, who’s back with the team with DJ LeMahieu on the injured list. He *just* missed a grand slam in his first at-bat: he hit a 381 foot flyout to end the first inning. Later, he scorched a line drive right at Peraza. Nice to see some good swings from Miggy. Now, for the not so good. I touched on this earlier, but he took an awkward route on a very catchable fly ball hit by Verdugo to left field in the sixth. But instead of hauling it in, it landed for a ground rule double. Andújar is very new to left field, so we’ll cut him some slack here. Mike Tauchman came in as a defensive replacement later.
  • To add to Gleyber’s rough night in the field, he also got picked off first base in the seventh inning by Sox catcher Christian Vázquez. At least it didn’t take the defense and baserunning to the plate. He reached base via walk twice tonight.
  • Aroldis Chapman looked good in the ninth despite allowing a run. His fastball reached 100 MPH four times.

Up next: the Rays for three games in the Bronx. Should be a good one. See you tomorrow.

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