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Game 63: That Sucked

Well … yeah, that was bad.

I had a completely different Takeaways bit written until about 11:42PM Eastern time, when it became clear that Aroldis Chapman did not have his best stuff.  Despite leading from the jump, the Yankees dropped the series finale to the Minnesota Twins 7-5 as Chapman gave up two two-run home runs without getting a single out in the bottom of the ninth to blow a two run lead for the first time this season.

I was looking forward to getting the Joe Biden “Minnesota” GIF up on this blog for the third time this week, but I guess it’s less apt now.  To the takeaways:

Chapman’s velocity was not encouraging. I’m going to spend as little time on Chapman as possible here, because we all saw what we saw. I will say that he was sitting 95-97 today on his four-seamer instead of the 99-100 we’ve seen from him for much of the season, and it’s like those few miles per hour on his fastball make an entirely different pitcher. Hopefully it was just an off-night and not a sign of anything structural.

The offense did enough.  Gleyber Torres went 3-for-5 today and continued his hot streak.  Over the first 10 days of June, Torres is hitting .387 (12 for 31) with more RBI (4) than strikeouts (3).  The Yankees got multi-hit performances today from Torres, Gio Urshela, Miguel Andujar, and DJ LeMahieu.  The Yankees lineup was constructed to have multiple guys who could carry you on any given day, and that’s exactly what happened today.  Urshela, especially, pounded the ball all evening, hitting a home run and a triple and making hard contact on a few of his outs.  Giancarlo Stanton, although he only got one hit on the day, made the most of it by demolishing a 422 foot, 107 mile per hour bomb to put the Yankees up by three in the first inning.  To find a negative, the team was only 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position, indicating that their situational hitting is still an issue, but you’d be hard pressed to really pin this loss on the offense.

Mike King could have been worse.  Mike King, who has slotted into the fifth spot in the rotation over the past few weeks, showed flashes of good stuff but was mostly mediocre.  He struggled to locate, walking three batters and throwing 69 pitches over 3.2 innings.  He wound up surrendering two runs on his final line.

Aside from Chapman, the bullpen gutted it out. The Yankees were in position to win going into the bottom of the ninth because of a gritty combined performance from the middle relievers. Lucas Luetge was called on to finish King’s fourth inning, and after hitting Jorge Polanco with a pitch he struck out Josh Donaldson on a nasty cutter.

There were several situations throughout the evening where it seemed like the game could have gotten away from the Yankees, but the bullpen did a good job of bailing the team out in key spots.  Jonathan Loaisiga relieved Luetge with one out in the fifth and two runners on, and got a pop-up and a groundout to prevent a Twins rally.  Similarly, Chad Green came in for a shaky Wandy Peralta in the 7th after Peralta allowed a run on a Nick Gordon single and a Nelson Cruz double, and struck out Miguel Sano, who has 12 home runs this year, on a 3-2 curveball to preserve the lead. Had Chapman been able to hold on, the bullpen would have been one of the great stories of this game.

Gary contributed on all sides. Gary Sanchez continued to make good contact, lacing a hard single in the 6th.  He is hitting .323 since May 29 with 3 doubles and 5 RBI.  His season average, which has been below .200 for much of this season, is up to .218.  His biggest contribution to this game, however, was on the basepaths two batters later.  After a single by Andujar, Chris Gittens hit into what easily could have been a rally-killing double play, but Sanchez distracted Donaldson at third base by doing what can best be described as a little “can you catch me” dance.  This appeared to take Donaldson out of double-play mode as he chased Sanchez out of the baseline to record just one out, and that play led directly to a run as DJ LeMahieu singled home Andujar with two outs in the inning.  Even with the unfortunate outcome of the game, it’s nice to see the Yankees making heads-up plays on the basepaths instead of just directly running into outs.

Leftovers:

  • Loaisiga pitched 1.2 scoreless innings, which constituted his tenth appearance of the season where he pitched more than 1.1 innings and gave up no runs.
  • After tripling in the first inning, Gio Urshela got thrown out at home on a would-be wild pitch, proving that even in Minnesota the team can’t help but get thrown out on the basepaths.
  • Gittens came this close to having his first major league hit be a two-run home run.  In the top of the fourth inning, Gittens hit what was originally called a home run that would have made it a 6-1 ballgame, but after significant on-field confusion ensued (which was echoed by John Sterling in the radio booth) it was unfortunately, but correctly, ruled a foul ball.  Gittens is still seeking his first major league hit.
  • Green’s uneventful eighth inning was assisted by an excellent outfield play from Andujar, who played Gilberto Celestino’s would-be double off the wall and fired a great throw to second base for the final out. 
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Minnesota Twins Series Preview: June 8 to June 10

Embed from Getty Images

With a much needed day off behind the Yankees, it’s time for a three game series against the Twins in Minnesota. The Bombers are 17-8 against non-divisional opponents this season (though most recently lost three straight to Detroit), so hopefully getting out of the AL East will be a welcome reprieve.

Their story so far

If you think the Yankees are having a disappointing season, just take a look at the Twins. They’re 24-35 and tied for last in the AL Central with the Tigers. It’s going to be pretty difficult for Minnesota to climb out of the cellar and into a playoff spot at this point. They’re 12 games out of first place and 9 games behind the pace for a Wild Card position. Things are pretty bleak.

ALDS Game 3 Starter Preview: Jake Odorizzi

Odorizzi (MLB Gifs)

With the Twins on the brink of elimination, they turn to their No. 2 starter, the 29-year-old, free-agent-to-be Jake Odorizzi.

Basic Stats

159 innings over 30 starts, 3.51 ERA (3.36 FIP, 4.23 DRA), 139 H, 178 K, 53 BB, 16 HR, 19 percent K-BB rate, 35 percent GB rate

Why Odorizzi in Game 3

Odorizzi seemed like a slam-dunk choice to start in Game 2, yet Rocco Baldelli held him for Game 3. The right-hander faced the Yankees twice in the regular season and his one poor start came in Minnesota, so it isn’t just that.

But Odorizzi is an extreme fly ball pitcher, which better suits Target Field than Yankee Stadium. Among pitchers with at least 150 innings this year, Odorizzi was tied for the second-lowest groundball rate.

Furthermore, Odorizzi may have needed time for health reasons. He left his start on Sept. 24 with hamstring tightness and missed the season finale. He’ll have to prove he’s healthy, in addition to his ability to compete with the Yankees’ lineup.

His Stuff

Odorizzi sports one of the best fastballs in baseball and he uses it often. His four-seamer leads his repertoire ahead of a cutter, splitter and curveball, though he’s mostly a fastball-splitter pitcher with few curves.

Of his secondary pitches, he throws the cutter nearly exclusively to righties, while saving the splitter for left-handed batters. The curveball is mostly there to steal strikes early in a count, not as a putaway pitch. The 75.4 mph offering won’t be seen frequently.

Odorizzi’s cutter is more along the lines of James Paxton’s cutter than CC Sabathia’s cutter as it’s legitimately offspeed, nearly in the vein of a slider. Odorizzi averaged a career-high 92.9 mph on his fastball while his cutter comes in at 85.4 mph. Both the four-seamer and cutter get significant horizontal break.

% to RHB% to LHBAvg. Velo (mph)Whiff %
Four-seam FB50.465.992.930.8
Cutter32.43.885.420.6
Splitter10.823.885.227.4
Curveball6.46.275.416.2

As you can see in the table above, his fastball is potent, getting swings and misses at an extremely high rate for a starter. With a new pitching coach and more velocity, he’s throwing it more often and more effectively than ever.

Odorizzi’s four-seam/cutter approach against righties has led to a significant platoon split. Same-sided hitters batted just .194/.266/.319 (57 OPS+) while lefties hit .277/.335/.426 (100 OPS+) off the right-hander.

With the Yankees sporting seven right-handed batters in their regular lineup, Odorizzi will have to hit them with fastballs up in the zone and cutters/sliders down and away. If his season splits hold up, this could be an ideal matchup for the right-hander.

As a side note, Odorizzi loves to make pickoff throws, but he’s been successful at nabbing runners infrequently. One of his two pickoffs this season was of DJ LeMahieu in May.

History vs. NYY

Odorizzi has had a confusing career against the Yankees, particularly since joining the Twins. In 2018, he was slammed at Yankee Stadium before pitching a gem at Target Field. In 2019, the opposite happened.

He shut out the Yankees for six innings on May 4, allowing just a pair of singles around four walks. On July 24 in Minnesota, he was slammed for nine runs in 3 2/3 innings, allowing extra-base hits to Edwin Encarnacion, Didi Gregorius, Mike Tauchman, Aaron Hicks and Gleyber Torres.

Six of the projected members of the Yankees’ lineup have home runs against him, though he’s held the Bombers to a .215/.303/.424 average in his career. He’s been particularly good against Encarnacion, Gregorius and Brett Gardner, but Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge have hit him well in small samples.

Keys to the Start

Homers, homers, homers: These first two keys are carryovers from Randy Dobnak’s Game 2 outing, but they’re just as important for Odorizzi.
Dobnak kept the Yankees in the ballpark while doing little else. Odorizzi had a career-low 0.91 home runs per nine innings, yet his flyball tendencies could take a turn for the worse against the Bombers.

Going deep: The Twins have gotten a total of six innings from their starters in Games 1 and 2. Even with a day off before Game 3, they still need length from Odorizzi with a bullpen game looming in Game 4.

Granted, the Yankees also have a J.A. Happ-led bullpen game coming, but this series has exposed the Twins’ lack of capable arms.

Via Baseball Prospectus, the Twins are 9-1 this season when Odorizzi completes six innings. Even five strong innings with Taylor Rogers looming for two frames would be a godsend for Minnesota.

Fastball (up and) in the zone: Odorizzi has had average command this season, but that won’t cut it against the Yankees. They’ve pulverized Twins pitchers with their selectivity in the first two games of this series and they did the same to Odorizzi back in July. If he can’t throw effective strikes with his fastball, he’ll be in for a short outing.

But if he can recreate his May success in the Bronx and throw his fastball by the Yankees’ righty-heavy nine, he can helps the Twins extend this series.

ALDS Game 2: Yankees clobber Twins behind Didi, Tanaka

Curtain call. (MLB Gifs)

It’s Yankees-Twins. What did you expect?

For the 12th straight time, the Yankees topped Minnesota in the postseason and they didn’t mess around this time, clobbering the Twins for an 8-2 victory in ALDS Game 2.

The Bombers now have a 2-0 lead in the ALDS and will have three chances to take the series, starting with Game 3 on Monday in Minnesota. But before we turn our attention to the road, let’s appreciate the dominant Yankees win Saturday.

The Yankees lineup broke the Twins in Game 2

It took all of two batters for the night to turn for Twins starter Randy Dobnak. Facing DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge, he gave up a double and was worked for a walk. The rookie seemed tentative and the crowd was on him right away.

The Yankees didn’t waste the opportunity. After a flyout advanced LeMahieu, Edwin Encarnación lined a single into left for a lead the Bombers wouldn’t surrender. A Giancarlo Stanton double play ended the rally (he looks a little slow out of the box, right? I might be imagining things), but the Bombers kept the pressure on.

After two two-out singles in the second inning failed to score, Judge led off with a single in the third. Brett Gardner promptly walked and Encarnación singled again, basically to the same spot.

There, Rocco Baldelli had to admit defeat on the Dobnak experiment. The rookie couldn’t handle the moment and with a 1-0 deficit and the bases juiced, he called on Tyler Duffey.

Duffey couldn’t stop the bleeding. He gave up a long sacrifice fly to Stanton and an RBI single to Gleyber Torres before hitting Gary Sánchez with a pitch. He got to two strikes on all three hitters and was now down 3-0 with the bases again loaded.

Enter Didi Gregorius.

THAT’S YOUR STARTING SHORTSTOP!

The Didi Grand Slam

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

Remember when there was talk about Sir Mariekson Julius Gregorius not starting in October? LOL. Aaron Boone had to answer questions about whether he was healthy before this game. I think those questions can officially go away with his third inning.

With the bases juiced and a 3-0 lead, Didi immediately got behind 0-2. After tossing a ball, Duffey left a fastball over the heart of the plate and … GREGORIUS WAS ABSOLUTE BOX OFFICE.

OK, that video was good. But let’s get the proper angle.

The pause at home plate. The “Oh, did I do that?” expression. The nonchalant bat flip. Didi taught a class in how to pimp a homer with that celebration. That was a special moment. Not his top October moment, mind you, but this is in the pantheon of overall Gregorius moments.

Postseason #TanakaTime

From the first batter of the game, it was clear that Masahiro Tanaka was sharp. The right-hander once again saved his best for October and came out firing with sliders and splitters that flabbergasted the Twins.

His only jam came in the first inning. He hit Jorge Polanco with a misplaced slider and gave up an infield single to Nelson Cruz. It would have been a double play if it didn’t deflect off Tanaka.

No worries, though: Tanaka promptly got a 3-6-1 double play off Eddie Rosario’s bat. (Sidebar: Tanaka should have received a Gold Glove by this point in his career. He’s a superb fielder and covering first there was just another example).

After that, he retired the next seven batters he faced before walking Cruz in the fourth inning.

The Twins strung together two singles after Cruz’s walk in the fourth to score a run, but Tanaka focused in to strike out Luis Arraez and Miguel Sano (Sano was just waving at anything. Not a good AB). Arraez struck out twice in a game just four times all season, but Tanaka got him in each of his first two at-bats.

Tanaka finished his night with a 1-2-3 fifth inning. Even with an 8-1 lead, Boone didn’t want to mess around and have Tanaka go through the order a third time.

In the end, Tanaka tossed 83 pitches, 52 for strikes, and faced 19 batters. He gave up three hits, walked one and struck out seven. He got 16 swings and misses and threw just 16 fastballs (19.3 percent of his pitches), opting for 35 sliders and 28 splitters. It was vintage #TANAK.

Offense tepid after Didi slam

The Yankees got another run in the third inning. Devin Smeltzer took over after Duffey walked LeMahieu and allowed back-to-back singles to Judge and Gardner. Boom. 8-0 lead.

From there, the left-hander stifled the Bombers for 3 1/3 innings. He couldn’t get a 1-2-3 inning as he scattered a couple hits and three walks, but he settled the game down, though the Yankees’ pitchers didn’t let the Twins back in the game.

Combined with sterling mop-up relief against the Yankees in July, Smeltzer passed a silent audition for a Game 4 (if necessary) start. Unless Jose Berrios goes on short rest, it would probably be a bullpen game started by Smeltzer if the Twins make it to Game 4.

Still, the Twins were unable to get through a single inning without a Yankees hitter reaching base. Though the Bombers took their foot off the gas, they kept the Minnesota relievers working.

Leftovers

  • The Yankees tied their franchise postseason record for runs in an inning with the seven-run third.
  • Can we talk about Aaron Judge? Oh my goodness. After going 1-for-3 with two walks in Game 1, he went 2-for-3 with two walks in Game 2. All the hits were singles, but he is incredibly locked in and just keeps the lineup moving from the No. 2 spot. Between him and LeMahieu, the Yankees are giving themselves multiple runners on every time the lineup turns over.
  • The Yankees’ top relievers cleaned up. Tommy Kahnle went 1-2-3 with two strikeouts against the 2-3-4 hitters for the Twins, then Adam Ottavino pitched around a one-out double for a scoreless seventh.
  • From there, Tyler Lyons struck out two in a scoreless inning and Jonathan Loaisiga gave up a run with two outs in the ninth.
  • Stanton went 0-for-2 with a walk and sac fly. He again was lifted for a pinch runner (Cameron Maybin) and played just six innings. Keeping him fresh when he’s not 100 percent is possible when you’re up by seven runs.
  • Encarnación, Gregorius, Judge and Gio Urshela each had two hits while LeMahieu and Gardner each had a hit and a walk. Sánchez walked and was hit by a pitch. Encarnación and Gregorius also walked. Everyone got in on the action.
  • The last team to overcome a 2-0 deficit to win the ALDS? The 2017 Yankees. Before them, it was the 2012 Giants topping the Reds after blowing Games 1 and 2 at home.

The Yankees have a day off and will then try to close out the series in Minnesota on Monday night. It’ll be Luis Severino against Jake Odorizzi on FS1 with an 8:40 p.m. start. Late-night Yankees!

ALDS Game 2: Yankees clobber Twins behind Didi, Tanaka

Curtain call. (MLB Gifs)

It’s Yankees-Twins. What did you expect?

For the 12th straight time, the Yankees topped Minnesota in the postseason and they didn’t mess around this time, clobbering the Twins for an 8-2 victory in ALDS Game 2.

The Bombers now have a 2-0 lead in the ALDS and will have three chances to take the series, starting with Game 3 on Monday in Minnesota. But before we turn our attention to the road, let’s appreciate the dominant Yankees win Saturday.

The Yankees lineup broke the Twins in Game 2

It took all of two batters for the night to turn for Twins starter Randy Dobnak. Facing DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge, he gave up a double and was worked for a walk. The rookie seemed tentative and the crowd was on him right away.

The Yankees didn’t waste the opportunity. After a flyout advanced LeMahieu, Edwin Encarnación lined a single into left for a lead the Bombers wouldn’t surrender. A Giancarlo Stanton double play ended the rally (he looks a little slow out of the box, right? I might be imagining things), but the Bombers kept the pressure on.

After two two-out singles in the second inning failed to score, Judge led off with a single in the third. Brett Gardner promptly walked and Encarnación singled again, basically to the same spot.

There, Rocco Baldelli had to admit defeat on the Dobnak experiment. The rookie couldn’t handle the moment and with a 1-0 deficit and the bases juiced, he called on Tyler Duffey.

Duffey couldn’t stop the bleeding. He gave up a long sacrifice fly to Stanton and an RBI single to Gleyber Torres before hitting Gary Sánchez with a pitch. He got to two strikes on all three hitters and was now down 3-0 with the bases again loaded.

Enter Didi Gregorius.

THAT’S YOUR STARTING SHORTSTOP!

The Didi Grand Slam

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

Remember when there was talk about Sir Mariekson Julius Gregorius not starting in October? LOL. Aaron Boone had to answer questions about whether he was healthy before this game. I think those questions can officially go away with his third inning.

With the bases juiced and a 3-0 lead, Didi immediately got behind 0-2. After tossing a ball, Duffey left a fastball over the heart of the plate and … GREGORIUS WAS ABSOLUTE BOX OFFICE.

OK, that video was good. But let’s get the proper angle.

The pause at home plate. The “Oh, did I do that?” expression. The nonchalant bat flip. Didi taught a class in how to pimp a homer with that celebration. That was a special moment. Not his top October moment, mind you, but this is in the pantheon of overall Gregorius moments.

Postseason #TanakaTime

From the first batter of the game, it was clear that Masahiro Tanaka was sharp. The right-hander once again saved his best for October and came out firing with sliders and splitters that flabbergasted the Twins.

His only jam came in the first inning. He hit Jorge Polanco with a misplaced slider and gave up an infield single to Nelson Cruz. It would have been a double play if it didn’t deflect off Tanaka.

No worries, though: Tanaka promptly got a 3-6-1 double play off Eddie Rosario’s bat. (Sidebar: Tanaka should have received a Gold Glove by this point in his career. He’s a superb fielder and covering first there was just another example).

After that, he retired the next seven batters he faced before walking Cruz in the fourth inning.

The Twins strung together two singles after Cruz’s walk in the fourth to score a run, but Tanaka focused in to strike out Luis Arraez and Miguel Sano (Sano was just waving at anything. Not a good AB). Arraez struck out twice in a game just four times all season, but Tanaka got him in each of his first two at-bats.

Tanaka finished his night with a 1-2-3 fifth inning. Even with an 8-1 lead, Boone didn’t want to mess around and have Tanaka go through the order a third time.

In the end, Tanaka tossed 83 pitches, 52 for strikes, and faced 19 batters. He gave up three hits, walked one and struck out seven. He got 16 swings and misses and threw just 16 fastballs (19.3 percent of his pitches), opting for 35 sliders and 28 splitters. It was vintage #TANAK.

Offense tepid after Didi slam

The Yankees got another run in the third inning. Devin Smeltzer took over after Duffey walked LeMahieu and allowed back-to-back singles to Judge and Gardner. Boom. 8-0 lead.

From there, the left-hander stifled the Bombers for 3 1/3 innings. He couldn’t get a 1-2-3 inning as he scattered a couple hits and three walks, but he settled the game down, though the Yankees’ pitchers didn’t let the Twins back in the game.

Combined with sterling mop-up relief against the Yankees in July, Smeltzer passed a silent audition for a Game 4 (if necessary) start. Unless Jose Berrios goes on short rest, it would probably be a bullpen game started by Smeltzer if the Twins make it to Game 4.

Still, the Twins were unable to get through a single inning without a Yankees hitter reaching base. Though the Bombers took their foot off the gas, they kept the Minnesota relievers working.

Leftovers

  • The Yankees tied their franchise postseason record for runs in an inning with the seven-run third.
  • Can we talk about Aaron Judge? Oh my goodness. After going 1-for-3 with two walks in Game 1, he went 2-for-3 with two walks in Game 2. All the hits were singles, but he is incredibly locked in and just keeps the lineup moving from the No. 2 spot. Between him and LeMahieu, the Yankees are giving themselves multiple runners on every time the lineup turns over.
  • The Yankees’ top relievers cleaned up. Tommy Kahnle went 1-2-3 with two strikeouts against the 2-3-4 hitters for the Twins, then Adam Ottavino pitched around a one-out double for a scoreless seventh.
  • From there, Tyler Lyons struck out two in a scoreless inning and Jonathan Loaisiga gave up a run with two outs in the ninth.
  • Stanton went 0-for-2 with a walk and sac fly. He again was lifted for a pinch runner (Cameron Maybin) and played just six innings. Keeping him fresh when he’s not 100 percent is possible when you’re up by seven runs.
  • Encarnación, Gregorius, Judge and Gio Urshela each had two hits while LeMahieu and Gardner each had a hit and a walk. Sánchez walked and was hit by a pitch. Encarnación and Gregorius also walked. Everyone got in on the action.
  • The last team to overcome a 2-0 deficit to win the ALDS? The 2017 Yankees. Before them, it was the 2012 Giants topping the Reds after blowing Games 1 and 2 at home.

The Yankees have a day off and will then try to close out the series in Minnesota on Monday night. It’ll be Luis Severino against Jake Odorizzi on FS1 with an 8:40 p.m. start. Late-night Yankees!

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