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Game 53: All good things must come to an end

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The Yankees’ ten game winning streak came to a halt this afternoon at Fenway Park. The Red Sox toppled the Yankees, 10-2. In a battle of rookie starters, Deivi García struggled and Tanner Houck pitched well. Boston jumped out to a 6-0 lead by the third inning and didn’t look back. The Yankees will have to wait and see if the Mariners lose today in order to clinch, otherwise, tomorrow’s another opportunity. Let’s break this one down.

Deivi García didn’t have much working. His final line was pretty indicative of how he pitched: 3 innings, 8 hits, 6 runs, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts, and 2 homers. It was unlike the Deivi we had seen in his first four big league starts. Previously, García induced a good deal of soft contact, missed bats, and was incredibly efficient. Today was the opposite. Boston was all over him and García needed 76 pitches to complete three frames.

Two things jumped out at me in this one. First, García’s fastball velocity just wasn’t there. He averaged 90.8 MPH and maxed out at 92.8 on his heater. Deivi had an average fastball velocity of 92.3 entering this game. I don’t think it’s anything to be alarmed about as García isn’t known for a high velocity fastball. He can reach back for mid-90s when he needs it, but he’s usually sitting in the low 90s anyway. Still, losing a tick off the heater does help the hitters a bit. Boston put 10 of his fastballs in play at an average exit velocity of 98.4 MPH.

The other takeaway from Deivi’s start: he didn’t have any feel for his breaking pitches. That’s bigger than losing fastball velocity. The young righty is known for his knee-buckling curve and his developing sharp slider. Not today, though. He threw 9 breaking balls today, well below the rate he usually uses them. Mind you that Deivi typically throws the combination of his slider and curve almost a quarter of the time. Here are the locations on the ones he threw today:

Not great! A couple of these were hanging sliders that Michael Chavis hit homers against.

Deivi wasn’t going to be great each and every time out. No one is, of course. On the bright side, he didn’t look flustered on the field. I’m sure he’s disappointed since he was looking forward to pitching on the same mound as his idol Pedro Martínez once did. Oh well. Just wasn’t his day, unfortunately. We’ll see how he bounces back in his next start, likely his final one of the regular season.

Congratulations to the Red Sox for finally finding a competent starting pitcher. Rookie Tanner Houck shut down the Yankees’ lineup today. He allowed just one hit and three walks in six innings today and didn’t run into much trouble until his final frame. In fact, he held the Yankees hitless through five innings before Tyler Wade broke the no-no up with a double to lead off the sixth. The righty held down the Bombers’ resurgent offense thanks to excellent command of his sinker.

Houck’s sinker heat map.

The Yankees’ average exit velocity against his sinker was 80.7 on five balls in play, though Giancarlo Stanton’s 49.8 MPH groundout skews things a tad.

Houck’s lone run allowed was unearned. After Wade led off with a double in the sixth, Christian Vázquez allowed a passed ball which moved him to third. DJ LeMahieu walked to put runners on the corners and it seemed the Yankees might have had a chance to rebound and get back in the game (down 6-0 at the time). But Luke Voit bounced into a run-scoring double play to effectively end the threat.

So, a nice performance by Houck. It’s about time the Red Sox found a starter, I guess. The 24 year-old now has thrown 12 innings and has allowed just one unearned run. He was the team’s first round pick back in 2017, so it’s not as if his success was a total surprise. You know, maybe they could have ran him out before going to the scrap heap for guys like Zack Godley or Dylan Covey or whoever other no names they started this season. But these Red Sox are committed to the tank this year. If you know, you know.

Erik Kratz pitched. Lol. Aaron Boone turned to the Yankees’ third-string catcher to pitch the eighth inning of this one with the game already out of hand. J.D. Martinez hit a homer against him. Good for J.D., who’s really struggled this year as I wrote in the series preview. Heh.

The veteran righty topped out at 86.3 on the gun and mixed in a knuckler! The homer was Kratz’s only mistake.

It’s a lot easier to chuckle and take a loss like this in stride after a ten game winning streak. Clinching a postseason spot will just have to come another day. I’ll trade that in for watching Kratz get on the bump in a mostly meaningless game.

The one downside is that the Yankees are still fighting for that fourth seed with the Twins, likely the team’s opponent in the first round. Whoever gets that fourth seed will be the home team for the Wild Card round. Minnesota, 32-22, plays tonight against the Cubs. The Yankees are 31-22.

Leftovers

  • This is the last time we’ll see the Red Sox in 2020. The Yankees took 9 of 10 from Boston this season.
  • Luke Voit hit his league leading 21st homer in the ninth inning against Jeffrey Springs. He may be in pain (you know, foot stuff), but it’s certainly not holding him back performance-wise. Voit’s dinger was the only other hit for the Yankees aside from Wade’s double.
  • Someone broke into Fenway Park during this game and started throwing things on the field. WTF?

The Yankees now head off to Buffalo for a four game series against the Blue Jays starting tomorrow night. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday.

Game 40: Another terrible performance

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It didn’t take long for this one to feel over. DJ Stewart hit a two-run homer in the first inning against Masahiro Tanaka and the Orioles never looked back. Baltimore topped the Yankees 5-1. The O’s took three of four from the Bombers this weekend. Not good. Anyway, since it’s a holiday weekend and a beautiful Sunday afternoon in the New York area, we’re going to keep these takeaways short and sweet. On we go:

  • One bad pitch is enough to do this team in. That’s the kind of state this offense is in, folks. Tanaka pitched really well today, but left in line for the loss because the bats were lifeless yet again. It would have been nice to see Tanaka give a little more length (he left after 5 1/3 innings), but it was a solid outing nonetheless. His one mistake? The aforementioned Stewart’s 2-run homer in the first inning. Tanaka left a splitter up and Stewart made him pay.
  • This lineup has no punch. The Yankees were actually lucky to score a run in this one. The offense scored on Erik Kratz’s RBI fielders choice in the second inning. It probably should have been an inning-ending double play given Kratz’s speed, but third baseman Rio Ruiz’s hesitation gave Kratz just enough time to beat the throw. This came after Mike Ford and Mike Tauchman missed hittable pitches earlier in the frame (as they so often do). This lineup has nowhere to turn until the big bats get healthy. The depth just isn’t any good at the moment.
  • Second guessing Aaron Boone’s seventh inning. After back-to-back one out singles, Aaron Boone let Erik Kratz bat while down 4-1. That’s just inexcusable. He’d already used Aaron Hicks as a pinch hitter in the previous at bat, but he still had Gleyber Torres and Gary Sánchez at his disposal. Don’t want to use Gary? Fine, I get it. He’s been awful. But pinch hit Gleyber then. Don’t wait until the next batter to do it! Kratz wound up flying out, but what if he grounded into a double play? Torres would have never had a chance to hit with runners aboard. Just bad managing. Who’d have thought that the day the Yankees bench Gary, Kratz would have two of the biggest plate appearances of the game? Sigh. By the way, since Torres did wind up pinch hitting, why couldn’t he play at all? I get that he was replaced defensively by Thairo Estrada, but man that’s frustrating too.

The Yankees are now 21-19. Toronto is currently up by four against Boston, so it looks like the Yankees will fall into third place and the American League’s eighth seed by the end of the day. This comes as the Yankees begin a three game set against the Blue Jays tomorrow. A pretty big series upcoming, indeed.

Game 38: Orioles end the skid

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The Yankees dropped the second game of today’s doubleheader at Camden Yards, 6-3. The loss marks the end of the Yankees’ 19 game winning streak against Baltimore.

It’s late, it’s a Friday night, and it’s the second game of a doubleheader where the first game took nearly four hours. That means an abbreviated takeaways, bullet points style. Off we go:

  • The Orioles put Deivi García to work, despite just one player really getting to the rookie. The 21 year-old righty wasn’t as good as his first start, but he did a nice job nonetheless. He exited with two on and two out in the fifth and Ryan Mountcastle due up. The Yankees ahead 3-2. Those two runners did come around to score, leaving Deivi with a final line of: 4 2/3 innings, 5 hits, 4 runs, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts, and 1 homer. It wasn’t as efficient of an outing as last time out because the Orioles fouled off 23 of his 95 pitches. His big mistake: a two-run homer by Mountcastle in the 2nd inning. It wasn’t a bad pitch as it was in and off the plate. Boone probably didn’t want to let him see Deivi a third time, by the way. To close on a positive note: he showed nice poise after recovering from two fielding errors (one official) earlier in the game. He himself made an error and Miguel Andújar played a routine grounder into an infield single.
  • In retrospect, Clarke Schmidt’s debut should have been in a clean inning. Hindisght is 20/20, but Aaron Boone perhaps should have brought in Adam Ottavino instead of Schmidt to inherit Deivi’s two runners. It’s asking a lot to have Ottavino go for a third straight day, but I suppose he only wanted to use him if a save situation arose. Keep in mind Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Chad Green, and Jonathan Holder were all unavailable after pitching game one. Well, that save situation never came. Schmidt surrendered three straight hits upon entrance and the Orioles took a 6-3 lead, which wound up being the final score. Schmidt wasn’t hit hard though: the exit velocities were 75, 94, and 81 MPH. He escaped with his first career strikeout (Dilson Herrera), but struggled with his command in the sixth. We’ll just have to see Schmidt at his best his next time on the mound, preferably as a starter.
  • Seeing Erik Kratz get a big hit with Deivi starting was delightful. We know how fond Kratz is of tonight’s starter. He was emotional in discussing it before today’s games. So to pick up the rookie with a two-run single in the fourth inning, which gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead at the time, was nice to see. Not much more to add to that.
  • Miguel Andújar’s defense at thid base is — you guessed it — not good. I think many of us wanted to see Andújar back from the Alternate Site to give the offense a lift, but not under these circumstances. Rather than displace Mike Ford, Mike Tauchman, or Brett Gardner, he’s back as a result of Gio Urshela’s IL stint. As mentioned before, he turned what should have been an easy 5-3 into a base hit. He double-clutched before he threw, which gave Mountcastle enough time to beat the throw.

After almost 7 hours, this day of Yankees baseball is over. It’s a good thing the Bombers have a night game tomorrow. That starts at 7:35 p.m. EDT. Have a good night.

The 40-man roster chopping block

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Before the Yankees can call up Clarke Schmidt or bring in a new player via trade, the front office will have to trim the 40-man roster. That could make for a relatively busy week depending on how active the Yankees are before next Monday’s trade deadline. That’s right, the deadline is just seven days from now.

The Yankees’ full 40-man roster has already been called out by the manager in recent days. In discussing Schmidt potentially joining the team’s rotation, Aaron Boone indicated that the team’s roster status complicates matters. Does that mean Schmidt would already be here if there was a 40-man opening? That’s not totally clear. In any case, the Yankees will have to make space for Schmidt or others in the near-term. Here’s a look at who could go:

Injury List Shuffle Candidates

Luis Severino and Tommy Kahnle are on the 60-day injured list and thus off the 40-man roster, but those two could be joined by others.

Luis Avilán just went on the 10-day injured list with shoulder inflammation, but if there’s something more serious going on there, he could be shifted to the 60-day and open a spot. Imaging revealed nothing more than the inflammation, however.

Kyle Higashioka’s is already eligible to return from the 10-day IL, but Boone noted nothing is imminent even though he’s making good progress. Any setback could land Higgy on the 60-day though. If and when Higashioka returns, Erik Kratz will almost certainly be DFA’d and removed from the 40.

If either Avilán or Higashioka hit the 60-day IL, they won’t be seen for the rest of the season. Boone seemed to have Avilán in his circle of trust, but the lefty wouldn’t be a huge absence if lost. Losing Higashioka would hurt more because catching depth is pivotal, even if Higgy isn’t necessarily anything too special.

Barring significant news, no one else on the 10-day IL is a candidate for shuffling off the roster. The Yankees need the likes of DJ LeMahieu, James Paxton, and Giancarlo Stanton (among others) to return this season.

Fringe relief arms

Jonathan Holder seems like a prime DFA candidate. Even though his changeup is somewhat intriguing, he’s maddeningly inconsistent and really hasn’t been effective since 2018. Holder has one minor league option remaining (and it has yet to be used this year). He is also arbitration eligible this offseason. The Yankees may be able to carry forward that option to next year, but Holder will get a raise in arbitration from his $750k salary (albeit nothing drastic), so it wouldn’t shock me to see him non-tendered this winter anyway. The Yankees could just decide to get that decision out of the way sooner.

After Holder comes Ben Heller, who the team really hasn’t given much of an opportunity yet. He’ll have one more minor league option remaining next season, but he could also be arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason depending on how many days he spends in the majors in 2020. Do the Yankees want to pay him an increased (but still not big) salary for a reliever with hardly any big league experience? He could be non-tendered as well, so the Bombers could just get ahead of things here.

We’ve yet to see much of Brooks Kriske in 2020, who just joined the 40-man roster entering this season. I can’t imagine he’d be a straight DFA, but perhaps he could be traded like Joe Harvey last year. Remember, Harvey was a newbie on the 40-man, but the Yankees dealt him mid-season to clear space.

I mentioned Kriske as a small trade candidate, but Holder or Heller could fall in that boat as well. The Phillies desperately need bullpen help even after a few recent moves, so maybe they’d come calling to help relieve the Yankees’ 40-man jam.

Trade chips

There are a number of players that likely won’t factor as contributors in 2020 but currently take up space on the 40-man. Those include: Albert Abreu, Luis Gil, Luis Medina, Miguel Yajure, and Estevan Florial. Now, we’ve see Abreu get in a game this year and Yajure on the major league roster, but neither are expected to play big roles. Either of those two along with the others could be included in a bigger trade to land help for the Yankees’ rotation or bullpen.

We should also throw in Nick Nelson and Deivi García here. Nelson has pitched a bit for the Yankees this season, but he’s not untouchable via trade. I threw him into a trade proposal last week (MTPS). As for Deivi: I don’t expect the Yankees to actively shop him. Teams will ask for him, though.

Down ballot candidates

Most of the Yankees’ position players are anchored to the 40-man. Only the catching situation and Florial appear to be potential opening opportunities. Otherwise, things look pretty set. Clint Frazier, oft-rumored in trades in the past, appears safe once again because of the team’s injury situation. Further, I don’t see the team selling low on Miguel Andújar. But there is one other rostered position player that’s trending downward: Mike Ford.

I don’t think it’s any secret that we have been Ford fans on this here blog, but I also wouldn’t rule him out in this roster crunch. He’s off to a slow start (.175/.227/.375, 58 wRC+) in 44 plate appearances. There’s no defensive versatility either. There are still a number of guys to cut before him, but he’s starting to play his way into the conversation.

Back to pitchers: what about JA Happ? Cutting him has probably crossed everyone’s mind. It’s almost certainly not going to happen, however. The Yankees seem to have a lot of (blind?) faith in Happ. Perhaps more importantly, pitchers are dropping like flies this year and it would probably behoove the team to keep him around as depth. He’d still get his 2020 salary on or off the team, anyway (aside: his vesting option would be voided upon release, for what it’s worth).

Game 15: Yankees lose game, potentially Stanton

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It’s hard to win a game when the pitching staff issues nine walks in six innings. It’s also hard to win when the offense can only muster one run. That’s what happened to the Yankees this evening as they fell to the Rays, 5-3. The two sides split today’s doubleheader, leaving the Yankees in need of a win tomorrow to salvage a series split.

The loss stinks, but the bigger story is Gianarlo Stanton’s health. More on this below, but Mike Ford pinch hit for Stanton in the sixth inning of this one. It’s possible that Giancarlo hurt himself while running the bases in the fourth. We’ll pass along more information as it’s available.

A King without control

Michael King is still looking for a modicum of consistency early in his career. Once again, we saw him at his best and at his worst in this outing, which happened to be his first big league start. He had made two relief appearances earlier this season. Against the Nationals, he gave up 4 runs in 3 1/3, but all but one of those runs came in his final frame of work. Last week against Boston, King made just two mistakes in 3 2/3 innings — both solo homers. No other baserunners otherwise. Tonight was more of the same.

Perhaps King was a little too amped up in the first inning considering it was his debut as a starter. After Austin Meadows led off with a double, King recorded two quick outs. But from there, things broke down. The 25 year-old rookie walked the next three batters in a row to force in a run before finally getting out of further trouble. Although was around the zone, but couldn’t find it. The bigger problem, at least to me, is that he couldn’t get his sinker down. To wit:

That points to a guy being a little too excited for his first start.

King rebounded after a rough first. He struck out the side in the second and at one point had retired nine in a row, which had brought him to an out away from finishing four innings. That’s when he ran into trouble with the base on balls once again. King walked the next two hitters and Aaron Boone decided that was enough. In came Luis Avilán, who allowed two to score on a bloop single by Meadows. It wasn’t a bad pitch at all…

…but Meadows fisted it into shallow left field for the two-run knock. The 65.4 MPH single gave the Rays a 3-1 lead. Avilán got out of further trouble, which closed King’s line at: 3 2/3 innings, 1 hit, 3 runs, 5 walks, and 4 strikeouts. Another game of hot and cold for King.

Bats go quiet and things get ugly

The Yankees didn’t get anyone into scoring position until the fourth inning of this one. Ryan Thompson and Diego Castillo held their own in the early going, though the Yankees finally broke through in that fourth frame. After a one out walk by Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres and Luke Voit strung together back-to-back singles to score a run. At the time, the Voit RBI tied this one at 1. However, it was bittersweet because Torres tried to go first-to-third but was hosed for the second out of the frame.

That baserunning blunder effectively killed the rally against Peter Fairbanks. In the next frame, the Yanks went down quietly vs. Andrew Kittredge, 1-2-3.

Struggles aside, the Yankees bench grew more and more frustrated with the umpiring crew in this one. DJ LeMahieu and Gio Urshela were recipients of some chin music in this one, and the Yankees clearly were not happy. At the minimum, the bench clearly wanted some sort of warning to protect the Yankees’ hitters. That didn’t come, and after the top of the fifth, ejections came. Both Aaron Boone and Marcus Thames were sent packing.

That wasn’t the end of the Yankees’ tribulations with the umps, however. But first, let’s get to potentially more significant news. In the sixth, with the Yankees down 5-1, Mike Ford pinch hit for Giancarlo Stanton with runners on first and second and nobody out against southpaw Jalen Beeks. YES later showed replays of Stanton running the bases apparently grimacing after sliding into second base. Meredith Marakovits reported that he left with a tight left hamstring. Not great!

Now, about that Ford at-bat. This is where the Yankees had beef with home plate umpire Vic Carapazza again. Or should I say, Carapazza antagonized the Yankees.

After Carapazza rung up Ford on a couple of close pitches, he seemingly barked and followed Ford back to the dugout. Not pretty, though cooler heads prevailed. After that, Gleyber bounced into an inning ending double play to effectively end any chance for a comeback. Torres was having a nice doubleheader up until that point.

Leftovers

  • Comeback foiled: the Yankees tried to muster a rally in the seventh, but (literally) came up just short. DJ LeMahieu plated two runs with an RBI single against Jalen Beeks. That brought up Aaron Judge, and in came Rays’ relief ace Nick Anderson. He hit a 391 foot flyout to end the game. Just missed it.
  • Albert Abreu made his big league debut tonight serving as the roster’s 29th man for the doubleheader. As he’s known to do, Abreu struggled with control in 1 1/3 innings. He gave up 3 hits, 2 runs, and 2 walks on 41 pitches. He also struck out 2. Abreu did flash some nasty stuff, however. His fastball touched 98 and his slider had a ton of movement.
  • Ben Heller made his second appearance of the season in a clean sixth inning.
  • Aroldis Chapman threw his second bullpen today in Scranton. He’s expected to face hitters in the coming days.
  • Erik Kratz maintained his 1.000/1.000/1.500 lifetime batting line with the Yankees’ since 2017 through one plate appearance today. Kratz walked against Castillo, but was finally put away by Kittredge to end his run. In the seventh, Kratz doubled down the right field line.

One more game left in this series as the Yankees hope to salvage a split in this series. It’s a matinee tomorrow featuring James Paxton and Charlie Morton. Hopefully we see a better version of Paxton tomorrow.

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