That was a fun one. Giancarlo Stanton returned from the IL, Edwin Encarnación hit a home run, and the Yankees defeated the Rays 6-3 tonight to extend their lead to 2.5 games in the AL East. Things are good. Very good.
Let’s get to the takeaways.
1. J.A. Happ Did Not Give Up A Home Run: J.A. Happ started the game tonight for the Yankees, and guess what–he did not surrender a home run! That is the only the third start this season, out of 15 total, in which Happ did not allow a big fly. This is a relatively new problem for Happ, for what it’s worth. Here are his HR/9 numbers over the last 5 seasons, with HR/FB% in parentheses:
- 2015: 0.84 (9.2%)
- 2016: 1.02 (11.1%)
- 2017: 1.11 (12.3%)
- 2018: 1.37 (13.4%)
- 2019: 2.03 (17.5%)
That’s certainly a trend, and not a good one, but there really wasn’t much there to suggest that Happ was going to see such a serious increase in his homers this year. There really wasn’t. Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come.
Anyway, Happ has really struggled of late, with 5.06 ERA (5.20 FIP) in his last 5 starts coming into tonight, so it was nice to see him with a relatively strong performance tonight. Here’s his line: 5 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 3 K, 0 BB. A few too many hits for my liking–particularly early–but this is a start to build on. Let’s get more like this one, J.A.
2. Adam Ottavino Is Just Nasty: What else can you even say about Adam Ottavino at this point? The Yanks’ big offseason bullpen addition has been everything he’s been billed to be so far in 2019, owning a 1.69 ERA (4.24 FIP) with a K% north of 30%. He’s nearly impossible to hit, with batters whiffing 34% of their swings against his slider and 36% of their swings against his cutter. The guy is just unreal.
Tonight, he showed yet again why Aaron Boone has repeatedly turned to him in the highest leverage situations (his average leverage index of 1.61 is the highest of Ottavino’s career). With a new 4-2 lead and J.A. Happ newly departed, Boone turned to Ottavino to hold down the lead. He struck out 2, walked 1, and did not surrender a hit. It’s exciting whenever he enters the game.
3. Cameron Maybin is Making it Tough on the Yankees: With Aaron Judge set to return soon, Cameron Maybin is on the hot seat, but he’s sure not playing like he’s under pressure. The veteran outfielder came into tonight with homers in his last three games, and tonight he did this…
… which also extends the Yanks’ team streak to 21 consecutive games with a home run. As for Maybin, the guy is just red hot. He’s hitting .315/.387/.505 (139 wRC+) with 5 home runs in 141 plate appearances with New York, and while he’s certainly not going to keep up that production, these at-bats have been real. You can’t take them back. He’s helped the Yankees. What a year 2019 has been.
As far as what to do with Maybin when Judge gets back, gosh, I just don’t know. It’s hard to just DFA a guy who is producing like this, but let’s be real: this isn’t the real Cameron Maybin, and everyone knows it. However, I hope they find a way to keep him around. He is fun and a joy to watch, and frankly, I’m sick of a 13-man bullpen. The Yankees will survive with a 12-man pen, in my opinion. DFA’ing Luis Cessa, who has 9 lives with the Yankees, would solve this little log jam. We’ll have to see what happens, but I doubt it’ll be that.
4. The Yankees are in First Place: I know, I know. This isn’t news. The Yanks have been in first place for a while now, and their lead is now 2.5 games. But it’s worth taking a moment to pause and just reflect on that. Giancarlo Stanton returned tonight after missing 68 games. Luis Severino and Dellin Betances haven’t thrown a single pitch. Aaron Judge hasn’t played in weeks. I can go on and on. And yet the Yankees are in first place and getting healthy. I have a really good feeling about 2019, folks. I really do.
That was a fun one. Last night, too. The Yanks have already taken 2 of 3 from Tampa Bay, but you know what? I’m not satisfied. Let’s go for the sweep tomorrow afternoon and create even more space between the Yanks and the Rays, shall we?
Tomorrow’s game will feature CC Sabathia (3-4, 4.42 ERA) for New York (45-27) and reigning AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell (4-5, 3.70 ERA) for Tampa Bay (43-30). First pitch will be at 1:05 PM, and you can watch the game on YES. Have a good night, everyone.