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News & Notes: Boone stays, Thames interviewing, Germán’s return, Britton’s option, Hank Aaron Award

He’s staying.

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t spent too much time watching baseball since the Yankees were eliminated. I’ve tried to tune in to the NLCS, but my goodness, Globe Life Field is incredibly depressing. What an awful ballpark. As for the ALCS? Just can’t do it. Seeing Tampa Bay going for the sweep tonight is a bummer knowing that the Yankees would have stomped Houston. Sigh. Anyway, here’s the latest in the Yankees’ world:

  • End of season press conferences: Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman spoke to the media today. We recapped it here.
  • Boone is staying: In case you couldn’t already tell from press conference earlier, this is not a huge surprise. Yesterday, Hal Steinbrenner said on The Michael Kay Show that the manager would return in 2021. At the minimum, that means the team will pick up his 2021 option. It could also mean an extension. We’ll see.
  • Marcus Thames interviews for Detroit’s open managerial gig: The hitting coach would be missed here in the Bronx, but is more than deserving. He interviewed with the Tigers last week.
  • Domingo Germán’s future: In the same interview, Hal was asked about whether or not he’d be comfortable having Germán on the roster next season. His response: “I have to absolutely feel comfortable that he deeply, deeply regrets and is sorry for what he did, and I absolutely have to be comfortable with the fact that he’s turned his life around”. The details of the incident aren’t public, but it sure doesn’t sound good.
  • Details on Zack Britton’s option: The reliever told the New York Post that, based on his understanding, the Yankees have to decide on his 2022 option three days after the end of the World Series. If declined, Britton will have two days to decide on opting out of 2021.
  • DJ LeMahieu is the Yankees’ Hank Aaron Award Nominee: MLB announced each team’s candidate this morning. LeMahieu, who won the batting title with a .364 batting average, also had the American League’s best wRC+ (177). He’s got to be the favorite in the AL, no?
  • Send us your mailbag questions: Just a friendly reminder here. Shoot an email to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com and we’ll consider your question for upcoming mailbag posts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game 36: Murphy’s law

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Are you having fun this season? Well, I’m not. The Yankees fell to 20-16 with an excruciating extra innings loss to the Mets, 9-7. The offense finally woke up, but of course, a late inning bullpen meltdown and horrid baserunning wasted that performance. Let’s break it down.

What can go wrong will go wrong. That’s the 2020 Yankees in a nutshell, folks. Injuries, horrendous slumps, you name it. Tonight’s poison? A bullpen meltdown and an inexcusable baserunning gaffe.

It all started in the eighth inning with the Yankees up 7-4. Zack Britton entered to hold things down. The Mets hadn’t score since the fourth inning and things seemed to be under control. The baseball gods had other plans, though. Britton gave up two runs before finishing the inning, though he wasn’t atrocious, per se. All three hits he surrendered were well placed grounders. A walk didn’t help either, but yeah. Even when Britton is getting grounders like we want him to, things occasionally go bad.

Then came the ninth. Aroldis Chapman came in for his second save attempt of the season (he blew his first to none other than the Mets). The inning got off to an inauspicious start: Jeff McNeil walked and speedster Billy Hamilton pinch ran. Hamilton wound up on second quickly because Chapman balked. Then, the Yankees got an absolute gift:

It proved to be a teaase, though. J.D. Davis did this:

Sigh. Chapman’s now 0-for-2 in save chances this season. This was simply an awful pitch to Davis. Doesn’t matter how hard he throws if it’s down the middle and thigh high. Especially with an 0-2 count!

Chapman preserved the tie to send this one to extras. That meant the extra inning rule was in effect with the previous inning’s last out starting on second base. In this case? It was Tyler Wade for the top of the tenth, whose speed we’ve been told is incredibly valuable. Not unless bad baserunning gets in the way.

Wade decided to one-up Hamilton’s mistake earlier. Just completely inexcusable. The Yankees would not score. This one came to an end in the bottom half of the frame. Albert Abreu, meet Pete Alonso:

At least the offense came alive. The Yankees plated four runs in the second inning of this one. They’ve scored that many runs in an entire game just six times in their last 13 games. By the time this one was over, the Bombers pushed 7 runs across. They went 6-for-12 with runners in scoring position. That feels unheard of!

It all began with a Gio Urshela, who dunked a single into right field with one out. Brett Gardner followed with a walk and Kyle Higashioka ripped a single between third and short. That brought up Tyler Wade, who came into today’s game feeling “unbelievable” at the plate. Yes, “unbelievable” in spite of a .163/.260/.279 batting line. So naturally, Wade hit a soft line drive into center field for an RBI single.

That made it 1-0 Yankees. It was a little surprising that Gardy didn’t score from second, but it proved to be no big deal as DJ LeMahieu hit a sacrifice fly thereafter to make it 2-0. Up next? Luke Voit, who did as he has often does this season:

What a season for Voit. Entering today, his 172 wRC+ was second in the American League only to Nelson Cruz.

The Yankees’ offense cooled down and didn’t score in innings three through six. Old pal Chasen Shreve and Jeurys Familia blanked the Yanks’ offense for 4 1/3 innings and allowed just one baserunner in doing so. It felt like the bad times were coming back all over again, and that maybe it wasn’t the Yankees offense, but rather Robert Gsellman, who deserved blame for the run scoring earlier. Plus, Happ couldn’t hold the lead which was further demoralizing (more on that shortly).

Fortunately, those doubts were premature. The bats perked up to score two in the seventh against Miguel Castro and another in the eighth vs. Justin Wilson. But as you know, it wasn’t enough.

Meet the new Happ. Same as the old Happ. We should have known this was coming. Make no bones about it, Happ was terrific in his previous start (7 1/3 shutout innings against the Mets) and good in the one prior vs. Boston (1 run over 5 2/3). But there was just no way he could maintain that run. It’s a story we’ve heard since last year: his fastball is no longer effective as it used to be and he doesn’t have good secondaries. He’s been trying to reinvent himself since last year, namely with a sinker that worked very well last time out, but it’s just not consistent.

The southpaw allowed a lot of loud contact in the early going, but ironically, the one run he allowed in the first three innings of this one was a wall scraping homer by Todd Frazier in the second frame. It had a .120 expected batting average and came 94.4 MPH off the bat. Of the more than 1,400 homers hit across the league this season, only 31 dingers this year had a lower xBA. Here it is:

After a clean third, Happ unraveled in the fourth. Perhaps most frustrating? It all came apart with two outs. To get that second out, he had to strike out Alonso while Frazier stood at third base. Up came Jake Marisnick, who, to put it kindly, isn’t a very good hitter. So of course, Happ leaves a hanging slider in any hitter’s wheelhouse:

Kyle Higashioka wanted it down out of the zone, but Happ couldn’t get it there. That’s a huge let down. You’ve just struck out the Mets’ best hitter (even if he’s struggling this year) and have a chance to strand a runner in scoring position with a comfortably below average hitter at the plate.

After Marisnick, Happ gave up three consecutive singles which brought in two more runs and tie the game at four. He escaped further trouble, but it seemed like Happ’s day was done with the heart of the order due up in the fifth. Naturally, Happ retired Michael Conforto, Dom Smith, and Frazier in order. I guess Aaron Boone really wanted to steal an inning with a doubleheader coming tomorrow. Lucky gamble, I guess.

Happ’s final line: 5 innings, 8 hits, 4 runs, 1 walk, and 4 strikeouts. Simply put, the Mets tattooed him:

I don’t know how the Yankees can keep sending him out there, but I’m not confident a change will be made either. I’d like to see Clarke Schmidt a shot, but the Yankees might just fall back on Happ’s previous two good starts and run him out there again Tuesday against Toronto. I mean, they went back to Happ after they skipped him due to ineffectiveness earlier this year. What makes this time different?

Leftovers

  • Looking for a positive? Urshela is starting to heat up. He’s now got a hit in four straight games and has tallied two hits in each of the last three. He was in a rut for a while there.
  • The number change did Mike Ford no good: he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, a walk, and five men left on base. As Bobby mentioned last night, I’d rather watch Miguel Andújar struggle than Ford at this point.
  • The Yankees will now embark for Baltimore for four games in three days. It all starts with a doubleheader tomorrow a little after 5 p.m. See you all then.

Zack Britton to the injured list among other roster moves

Following last night’s rough outing, Aaron Boone told the media that Zack Britton was hurt. This morning, the lefty reliever was placed on the injured list with a hamstring strain and will undergo (or already has undergone) an MRI. Ben Heller will replace him in the bullpen. It’s an unfortunate blow to a bullpen that had just regained Aroldis Chapman. Britton, who has a 2.00 ERA and 2.48 FIP, was 8-for-8 in save opportunities during Chapman’s absence. His lone blemishes are a pair of losses at the hands of the Rays, including yesterday.

Additionally, the Yankees sent Miguel Andújar back to the Alternate Site in Scranton. He just hasn’t gotten things rolling in sporadic opportunities with the Bombers this season. He was 2-for-21 with no extra base hits and one walk. Unfortunately, his is shaping up to be another lost season for Miggy, who’s returning from shoulder surgery.

Miguel Yajure is up in place of Andújar. He’s a 22 year-old righty who’s hardly pitched about High-A Tampa, but has excellent minor league numbers. He threw 138 2/3 innings (only 11 of those in Double-A Trenton) last year and had a 2.14 ERA and 2.65 FIP. MLB Pipeline ranks him the organization’s 15th-best prospect.

Game 11: Worth the wait

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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:

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.

Leftovers

  • 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.

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