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.
I’m glad there are no more games in Buffalo. The Yankees lost to the Blue Jays tonight at Sahlen Field, 4-1. Toronto trails the Yanks by two games with three to be played. There’s no reason to doubt a second place finish yet, but it’s getting uncomfortable. Also: the Yankees missed a chance to gain on the White Sox for the fourth seed. The South Siders lost but remain two ahead of the Yanks.
We’re doing abbreviated takeaways tonight as all of us are a bit busy today. Here they are:
Jordan Montgomery’s roller coaster regular season ends on a high note. What a strange season for the lefty. There was a bit of hype after some impressive performances in spring training and summer camp, but his regular season was all over the place. There were some strong outings and some awful outings. Overall, including tonight, he finished with a 5.11 ERA and 3.86 FIP in 10 starts and 44 innings pitched. He allowed 3 runs (1 of those was inherited by Adam Ottavino) in 5 1/3 innings and looked sharp. Vlad Guerrero Jr.’s homer was the big blow, but Monty also struck out 8 and walked nobody. I presume that he’s the teams fifth starter this postseason if the Yankees advance past the Wild Card round.
More than a personal catcher? It now looks like Kyle Higashioka could be more than Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher. Aaron Boone dropped that bomb before today’s game. Starting for a second straight night, Higgy went 0-for-3 today, though he was pinch hit for by Gary Sánchez in the 8th inning. More on that Sánchez in a moment. I think some forgot that Higashioka was hitting .188/.188/.281 (20 wRC+) in 32 plate appearances before that three homer game last week. Or that he was a career .164/.212/.336 (41 wRC+) hitter in 156 plate appearances at the big league level entering 2020. It can be worse than Gary Sánchez has hit this year (66 wRC+), folks. And it’s not that I don’t like Higashioka. To the contrary; he’s hit well in the minors and has a good defensive reputation. But if you think you’re getting an offensive upgrade with him instead of Gary, think again. Defensively? I won’t fight you on that.
2020 has shown no mercy on Gary Sánchez. As if the batting line wasn’t bad enough, Sánchez ran into some bad luck as a pinch hitter tonight in the eighth. Up in place of Higgy and as the tying run, Gary barreled one to left center that Randal Grichuk made a leaping catch on for the final out of the inning. Gary has mostly earned his stat line this season, but he didn’t deserve the below tonight. Would have been a two-run double to make things 4-3. And it had an .880 expected batting average, per Statcast.
The bats don’t show up on the road again. The Yankees have knocked around Hyun-Jin Ryu a couple of times in the last year (once with the Dodgers, once with the Blue Jays). Not tonight. He twirled a gem this evening. He blanked the Yankees across seven innings and barely gave up any well-struck batted balls. The Yankees’ average exit velocity against Ryu was 83.4 MPH in this one. It was yet another instance of the Yankees’ offense struggling away from the Bronx. The Yankees did hit Ryu well at Sahlen Field earlier this month, so maybe credit to him for adjusting. Or, maybe the Yankees are just going through the motions at this point. Or maybe there is a problem away from home. Who knows for sure, but the numbers are glaring:
Home: 176 runs, .276/.366/.588, 150 wRC+
Away: 124 runs, .221/.318/.354, 87 wRC+
I was about to say that Adam Ottavino has looked better lately. Entering tonight, Ottavino hadn’t allowed a run in his last five outings. He had faced 18 batters, allowed 3 hits, walked 1, and struck out 7 while not allowing a run. This came after that horrendous performance in Buffalo when he faced six hitters and didn’t record a single out. Tonight, the bad Ottavino returned. He gave up a two-run double to Alejandro Kirk in the sixth which put the Yankees behind 4-0. One of those runners was on Montgomery’s line. Sigh. Ottavino is an enigma.
Three games remain, all at Yankee Stadium. The final regular season series begins tomorrow with the Marlins in town. Have a good night everyone.
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.
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 Andújarneeds 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.
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.
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:
Luis Avilan vs LHB This Season: 10 batters faced 0 hits 6 K 1 BB
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.
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.
The new baseball season is going to bring with it a number of new rule changes, with one of the most significant being the new extra innings rule. Remember, after the 9th inning, each team will start with a runner on 2nd base. That runner will be the last batter to hit in the last half of the previous inning. It will be a big adjustment.
I’m not a huge fan of the change, but that makes no difference: it’s here, and it’s probably here to stay. Teams will adapt unique extra innings strategy to capitalize the rule changes. New strategies are always interesting to think about, at least. The Yankees themselves tried it out yesterday:
I have thoughts about the Yankees bunting – in 9 out of 10 situations, they should not do it –but will save those for another day. In yesterday’s workout, Wade stole 3rd, which prompted me to consider Adam Ottavino and his usage in extra innings. Otto’s inability to hold runners on might turn into a real extra innings liability. Let’s get into this.
Ottavino and Stolen Bases
Let’s start with the basics: one of the biggest weaknesses in Ottavino’s game is his inability to hold runners on base. It’s actually a glaring hole. With a major assist from Baseball Prospectus’ Lucas Apostoleris, I put together some stolen base against leaderboards for relievers that really underscore this problem. The leaderboard on the left is stolen base attempts against relievers and the one on the right is stolen base attempts of third. In both instances, the number in parentheses is the success rate. Check it out, limited to MLB relievers in 2016-19:
Stolen Base Attempts Against
Adam Ottavino: 51 (88%)
Dellin Betances: 44 (91%)
Sam Dyson: 39 (72%)
Chris Devenski: 37 (84%)
Jared Hughes: 37 (76%)
Stolen Base Attempts of 3rd
Adam Ottavino: 11 (91%)
Jared Hughes: 7 (71%)
Justin Wilson: 7 (86%)
Juan Minaya: 6 (83%)
Kyle Crick: 6 (83%)
It is worth noting a few factors. First, this is not a function of opportunity. Ottavino has faced 942 batters since 2016, which is actually the second lowest among the group on the left. (Among the group on the left, it is second highest, to be fair.) This strongly suggests that opponents view this as a real weakness that can be exploited. Second, the success rate is extremely high. Teams are successfully exploiting it. Third, and most importantly, there’s a very visible reason why he struggles so much here.
Check out this video of Ottavino throwing from the stretch last September against Texas:
See that double tap around the 0:02 mark? It really elongates what is an already slow delivery. Here is another example in bases loaded situation from May. In this case, you can really see it:
That is really, really slow! Granted, the bases were loaded here, so Ottavino didn’t have to worry about holding guys on, but it does imply that when Ottavino is really trying to focus on his delivery that he really slows down and is deliberate.
For his part, Ottavino knows it. It was a minor storyline this March. He tweaked his delivery to remove the glove tap, saying that he “was just so sick of my glove tap and I had to break this habit.” When it comes to stealing bases, pitcher delivery time is crucial. Historically, according to Ottavino, his delivery time is 1.7 seconds. That’s much higher than the average, as you probably could have guessed.
Ottavino says that he’s now down to about 1.3 seconds, which should make a huge difference in theory. Unfortunately, there’s no way to validate this yet. We’ll have to take his word on it until we get some clearer video. (It looks like his usual delivery in GIF posted above, but I can’t tell.) It’s a good sign that he is working on this, though.
Extra Inning Strategy
Until we know for sure, this weakness could really come into play as teams deploy new extra inning strategies. We’re already hearing about how teams will probably bunt the runner over to 3rd in many cases. The idea is straightforward. A runner on second with no outs scores 61% of the time. By bunting him over, you get a guy on 3rd with one out. That runner scores 66% of the time. A seemingly small advantage, to be sure, but one teams will exploit. (Again, the Yankees should not do this most of the time.)
With Ottavino on the mound, though, opponents might not even bother. Since most teams will pinch run their designated “fast guy” to be this baserunner, why wouldn’t they steal third? If successful, the run expectancy jumps to 84%, which is considerably higher than either above scenario. Also, teams have already shown a willingness to steal on Ottavino. It’s not like this would be some new approach. It already works.
Ottavino has never been able to hold runners on. Maybe the new tweak helps, but that’s far from a guarantee. Every year, a player makes some adjustment in camp that doesn’t hold. Pitchers are creatures of habit and making these adjustments stick under the adrenaline of a real game is a different animal than bullpens in camp. At the very least, we should expect teams to to try this if Ottavino is pitching in extras. I know I would.
This leads us, finally, to Ottavino’s usage. Given the fact that he’s trying to repair this hole in his game, it’s clear that both he and the Yankees are aware. It makes me wonder if the Yanks will go to Ottavino earlier in close games to minimize his exposure to extra innings and save other, less vulnerable options for later.
Of course, I’d rather use him than not – he is a dangerous weapon out of the bullpen. It would be dumb to not utilize him in close games and the Yankees should absolutely not limit his usage. With that said, these otherwise marginal advantages take on even more importance in an unprecedented season where games count even more than normal. It is going to be worth watching, at least.