Sunday, June 18, 2017

No Fight in this "Dog"...

Credit:  Tony Avelar-Associated Press
A’s 5, Yankees 2…

A funny thing happened on our way to a fun and exciting season.  We got our butts kicked by the American League’s worst team. The season-high losing streak has now reached five games (three in a row to the lowly A's) as the agony on the West Coast continues.  

After the return of the “batting practice” pitcher (Masahiro Tanaka), the Yankees thrust a Triple A pitcher into the role of stopper later today.  It’s going to be a very long flight back to New York for the Yankees if they can’t at least salvage the final game of the four game series.

Masahiro Tanaka’s performance yesterday showed me that I really hope that he opts out of his contract at the end of the year.  But unfortunately, the worse he pitches, the more foolish he’d walk away from guaranteed money that he’d be unable to top on the open market.  Tanaka is no ace and I am becoming very pessimistic about his chances to reclaim any resemblance of a top of the rotation guy.

Tanaka did strike out 10 batters, when the A’s weren’t sending the pitches out of the park (three home runs in the first four innings).  In fact, Tanaka is the only pitcher in the last 100 years to strike out at least ten while allowing three homers in four innings or less.  It’s not exactly a record that I’d be proud of.

After the Yankees failed to score any runs in the top of the first inning despite a runner in scoring position, the A’s Matt Joyce hopped on the first pitch thrown by Tanaka and homered to right-center.  Tanaka struck out the next 3 batters to end the first (giving the false illusion that the homer was an aberration).  

The next inning, the Yankees took a 2-1 lead when they scored two runs on three successive singles and a sac fly against A’s starter Jesse Hahn.  But it was temporary.  In the bottom of the 2nd, Ryon Healy blasted a shot to left center to tie the game.  Like the inning before, Tanaka subsequently recorded all three outs by strikeout, leaving runners at first and second through a double and a walk which followed the homer.  Tanaka faced the minimum of three batters in the third (one by strikeout), but Ryon Healy opened the fourth with his second home run of the game.  The A’s had the lead for good, 3-2.  It was another inning of all three outs recorded by strikeout, but sadly they were mixed in with four singles that produced two more runs.  5-2, A’s.

Credit:  Getty Images
Tanaka (5-7, 6.34 ERA) didn’t come back for the fifth inning, and he was replaced by Domingo German who finished up the game (protecting the other tired arms in the bullpen).  German did an admirable job with four scoreless innings (6 strikeouts of his own) but the Yankees offense was silent for the remainder of the game.  Swinging strikeouts in the 9th by Chris Carter, Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine ended the game (leaving Ronald Torreyes, who had singled and taken second on defensive indifference, stranded).  

The Boston Red Sox missed out on an opportunity to tie the Yankees (38-28) for the AL East lead and they remain one game back thanks to their 7-1 loss to the Houston Astros.  The Red Sox seem to be having their own Tanaka-like problems with last year’s AL Cy Young Award winner, Rick Porcello (3-9, 5.05 ERA).  The Tampa Bay Rays and the Baltimore Orioles both won so they are 4 1/2 and 5 1/2 games behind, respectively.  

Luis Cessa will be on the mound for the Yankees later today, making his season debut.  The Yankees bullpen will be at its strongest for the first time in a long time with the expected activation of closer Aroldis Chapman.  I am hopeful that the return of Tyler Clippard to the 7th inning allows him to be more effective with the pressurized latter innings under the control of Dellin Betances and Chapman.  

Odds & Ends…

Since his elevation to the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 28th, first baseman/outfielder Cody Bellinger, son of former Yankees pitcher Clay Bellinger, has been on a home-run tear.  He already has four multi-homer games, and his 19th home run yesterday matched Gary Sanchez’s MLB record for most home runs in a player’s first 49 games.  The Dodger Days for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, currently on the DL with a degenerative disc in his lower back, appear to be numbered.

Credit:  Jeff Roberson-Associated Press
The Yankees received a scare yesterday when top prospect Gleyber Torres was pulled from the game with an injury suffered on a headfirst slide at home plate.  He has been diagnosed with a hyperextended elbow.  X-rays performed after the game were negative.  He’ll undergo further medical evaluation before returning to Scranton.  Hopefully all is well except for a few days of rest.

I hadn’t really seen a list yet, but Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported this weekend that the Yankees must place the following players on the 40-man roster between now and November 20th or risk losing them in the Rule 5 draft:  Gleyber Torres, Albert Abreu, Domingo Acevedo, Tyler Wade, Zack Littell, Thairo Estrada, Clint Frazier, Dustin Fowler, Ian Clarkin, Billy McKinney and J.P. Feyereisen.  It would seem that the abundance of talented prospects requiring protection will be a factor in the days leading up the trading deadline next month.  

Happy Father’s Day to all dads in the Yankees Universe!  I hope it’s a tremendous day for you, complete with a Yankees victory!  Enjoy!

This Day in New York Yankees History 6/18: Roger is Acquitted & Derek is Grand

On this day in 2012 Roger Clemens was finally acquitted of all charges after a ten week trial. Clemens was found not guilty to lying and obstructing Congress when he testified about his steroid use in baseball. Clemens claimed that his success later in his career was due to "over the top" work ethic and not performance enhancing drugs.

Also on this day in 2005 Derek Jeter finally hit his first grand slam of his career. Jeter had accumulated 136 at bats and 155 plate appearances with the bases loaded before taking one out over the fences. The grand salami ended the longest drought, in at bats and number of home runs, among current major leaguers without hitting a grand slam.

Also on this day in 1979 Billy Martin came back to manage for the Yankees for the second time, replacing Bob Lemon. Lemon replaced Martin last season and led the team to the World Series title before being replaced by Martin the next season. Martin will spend 95 games as the manager of the club and will finish in fourth place winning 55 of those games.

Finally on this day in 1977 the Bronx erupted into flames when Yankees manager Billy Martin removed All Star Reggie Jackson from a game in the bottom of the sixth inning against the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park. Martin later explained that he did not appreciate Jackson's "curious" approach to a fly ball that turned into a cheap double for Jim Rice. In the dugout the two began screaming at one another and had to be separated by Yogi Berra and Elston Howard. The Bronx was burning.