Tanaka Deals, Betances Flops

Dellin Betances, for the 2nd consecutive year, appears to have run out of gas in September. Perhaps the sheer dominance with which he has pitched most of the season is both a blessing and a curse, as it leads to his overuse.  Last night, he flushed a Yankees victory and surrendered 3rd, 4th and 5th runs in the last two nights.

Masahiro Tanaka was strong, if not masterful, despite not having a strikeout pitch for the first time as a Yankee. He now leads the Junior Circuit in ERA (2.97).  Betances, who can only be partly held accountable due to Girardi’s bullpen mismanagement, fell to 3-6 on the season, blowing his fifth save and costing Tanaka what would have been a career high 14th win.

Last night’s loss seemingly erased all hope of a Yankees division title, and left them three games back in a Wild Card hunt that is quickly becoming a pipe dream.

The good news? Aroldis Chapman is a free agent this winter.

 

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Yankees Still Have Wild Card Chance; Division Hopes Fading

Towering home runs from Aaron Judge and Starlin Castro could not make up for the rough start by Bryan Mitchell, who was knocked out of the game in the third inning.  Defensive miscues and lucky, soft hits helped the Dodgers jump to a 6-1 lead, which they would never relinquish.

Fortunately for the Yankees, their recent hot streak was enough to allow them to control their own destiny in the wild card race, as they sit just 2 games back of Baltimore, separated only by Detroit.  If the Yankees can start winning again, they have a chance to face off in a wild card game against either Toronto, Baltimore or Boston, whichever team finishes in 2nd place in the East.

The Yankees will send CC Sabathia to the mound on Tuesday as the Yankees face a near must-win scenario, with the prospect of facing off against Clayton Kershaw on Wednesday.

 

Austin Powers the Yankees Towards a Playoff Birth

Something unthinkable is happening in the Bronx: The Yankees are contending.

The movement to re-build the Yankees seems to only have lasted a few days, as the “Baby Bombers” continue to rip the competition to shreds in their quest to get back to the postseason.

Luis Severino is dominating out of the Yankees bullpen.  Gary Sanchez, though he has slowed down considerably, has become the Yankees #3 hitter.  Tyler Austin has hit two dramatic home runs in the last three nights.  Aaron Judge has gone 1 day without striking out.  Things are looking up!

The Yankees have three more games with the Rays before the Dodgers come to town, which will lead them into what they hope is a crucial match-up against the division-leading Red Sox. Momentum is on the Yankees side at this point, and if they can stay hot for another week or two, they might just find themselves in the postseason.

Yankees Collect Biggest Win of the Year, Despite Depleted Bullpen

Justin Smoak drove the ball towards the auxiliary scoreboard in left field.  The crowd, for a moment, collectively held their breath.  Brett Gardner retreated, felt the dirt of the warning track beneath his feet, leapt awkwardly backwards, and felt the ball settle into his glove.   With joy, he jumped with both hands in the air as if he had just caught the last out of a World Series Game 7.

599801800It wasn’t a Championship, a Division title or even a Wild Card, but it was the biggest win of the season.  With help from the bats of Tyler Austin, Didi Gregorius, and Chase Headley, the Yankees hit just enough to compensate for a bullpen that is running on fumes.

Aaron Judge struck out twice, again, but his single turned out to be crucial when he scored on the long, majestic home run from Austin, who was celebrating his 25th birthday.

After Kevin Pillar put the Jays back on top with a 2-run double off of the left field wall, the Yankees struck back with a triple by Gregorius and a line drive home run from Headley.

The Yankees still face a difficult climb to reach the postseason. They sit 4.5 games back of the Red Sox and Blue Jays in the AL East, and 3.5 back in the Wild Card – behind Baltimore, Detroit and Houston.

The Yankees will face off against Marcus Stroman on Wednesday night as they try to complete the sweep.  Stroman dominated a very different Yankees team on April 14th, but has struggled this year with a 4.58 ERA.  He has pitched much better lately, though, with a 3.35 ERA in his last six starts.

 

 

Judge Continues to Struggle with the Breaking Ball

yin29s-1-webAaron Judge’s biggest weakness has always been the breaking ball, and it took less than one trip through the American League for pitcher’s to catch on. It goes like this:

Curveball outside.  Strike one.

Fastball out of the zone. Ball one.

Fastball up in the zone, or inside – fouled off. Strike two.

Curveball in the dirt. Strike three.

It has become almost a certainty that Judge will strikeout once or twice per game, and his batting average has fallen under .200.  Judge is certain to get plenty of playing time this September, and he will have to adjust or he simply won’t make it in the big leagues.

Predicting the September Callups

The rosters will expand on September 1st to 40 players – one of the weirdest rules in sports.  The Yankees find themselves 2.5 games back of the Wild Card and have a chance to face off against the Red Sox, probably in Boston, for what would be an epic win-or-go-home Wild Card game.

Here are some of the likely call-ups:

Rob Refsnyder – Util
Not only is it good to have a guy who can play several positions – Refsnyder has played 1B, 2B, RF and LF this season, but he can also hit a little bit and could be useful as a pinch hitter down the stretch.

James Pazos – LHP
The Yankees currently have just one lefty in the bullpen, and Pazos is a hard-throwing lefty who has pitched well in Scranton, and occasionally with the Yankees.

Bryan Mitchell – RHP
Mitchell made the opening day roster before injuring his foot and missing the first five months of the season.  He’s healthy again and has been starting in Scranton. He’s ready to go.

Luis Severino – RHP
Severino will almost certainly not get a start with the big league team while they are still in the race, but he was deadly out of the bullpen and could be a useful setup man in September.

Eric Young, JR.  – OF
Young is a 31-year-old outfielder who can be extremely useful as a pinch runner, though he doesn’t hit very much.

Nick Goody – RHP
Goody is another right hander that can provide some depth, but is unlikely to see crucial innings.

 

Pineda Struggles & Yankees Fall in Standings

For a brief moment during the height of Gary Sanchez’s emergence and the stellar pitching of Luis Cessa and Chad Green, the Yankees looked to be contenders once again. Monday night, Michael Pineda reminded everyone why the Yankees are $220 million pretenders.

Pineda struggled in the first inning, allowing 3 runs to the red hot World Champion Royals, and ultimately allowed 5 runs in just over 5 innings.  He also struck out eight and walked none, a perfect microcosm of his season so far: enough stuff to wiff batters, not enough brains to keep the ball out of the middle of the plate.

Other notes:

  • Aaron Judge struck out twice and is now 9-for-46 (.196) with 22 strikeouts, as major league pitchers appear to be exploiting weaknesses in his approach.  Judge has struggled a little at each level, though, before putting things together.
  • Tyler Austin picked up two hits and is now 6-for-32 (.188).
  • The Yankees may call up Jonathan Holder from AAA.  Holder, a former starter that has been turned into a relief pitcher, has been dominant.  After striking out 11 consecutive batters on Sunday, he has 101 strikeouts in just 65 minor league innings.
  • The Yankees are 3.5 games back of the 2nd wild card spot and 7.5 games back in the AL East with 32 games to play.  To ensure a playoff birth, the Yankees will likely need to win at a pace they have not done all season.

 

Shameless self-promotion:  My first book in a series of three is now available.  Musings of a Human is a collection of essays and topics that are sure to fascinate.  Later this year I will publish the follow-up, Musings on Armageddon: 8 Things That Could Kill Us All.

Musings of a Human

with bar codeAs humans, we are condemned to short lives with our tiny brains, and by the time we start to figure out how to live, we die. Musings of a Human tackles pressing questions such as “Are we alone in the universe?” and “What should we make of artificial intelligence?” from the perspective of an average human. Part philosophy, part science, and part humor, this book is a light read for anyone who enjoys learning, thinking, and laughing.

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