Sunday, June 24, 2018

I Thought the Yankees Owned Tampa...

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Julio Aguilar)
Tampa’s Best Resident treated rudely by the St Pete Rays…

The last couple of days have not been fun.

I was afraid after the Yankees finished off the sweep of the surging Seattle Mariners, the Yankees might struggle against a losing team. I know, every team goes through mini-slumps and it is inevitable the Yankees will lose from time to time as difficult as it may be for Yankees fans. They’ll eventually lose around sixty games (give or take) by the time the season is finished so Loss #24 on June 23rd is not the end of the World. Winning 116 games in the regular season does not guarantee anything. Just ask the Mariners. The goal is to win the division, not to see if the Yankees can top the 114 victories by the 1998 Yankees.

I think the toughest part of Friday night’s 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays was the inability of the Yankees to score runs off the Rays rotation by bullpen. Trailing 2-0 in the 7th inning, Aaron Judge delivered a run-scoring single off one-time brief Yankee Chaz Roe and had the Yankees set up in scoring position with Brett Gardner at second and Judge at first and only one out. But both Giancarlo Stanton and Didi Gregorious both grounded out to end the Yankees best chance to tie the game. Otherwise, it was a very quiet night.

On the same night as the Yankees were floundering in St Petersburg, the Boston Red Sox overcame deficits of 0-5 and 5-10 to defeat the Seattle Mariners by a score of 14-10. The Yankees couldn’t squeeze out one more run while the Red Sox had no problem erasing not one but two five-run deficits.  

Yesterday’s loss might have been easier to take for no other reason than the Red Sox finally lost. The Mariners snapped their five-game losing skid with a 7-2 victory over Boston and nine-game winner Edwin Rodriguez.  

There were not very many positives with Saturday’s game as the Rays bullpen held the Yankees scoreless on four hits en route to the 4-0 win over the Yanks. Sonny Gray gave up three runs in the first two innings to put the Yankees in a hole and the last hitter he faced in the bottom of the 7th, rookie Willy Adames, took him yard. Credit Gray for the stretch of hitters when he retired 15 Rays in a row, but ultimately it was just another loss for the disappointing Gray (5-5, 4.93 ERA).  

Photo Credit: Getty Images

I do not understand Wilmer Font’s mastery of the Yankees. Font lost jobs earlier this year with the Los Angeles Dodgers (11.32 ERA) and Oakland A’s (14.85 ERA) but against the Yankees, Font is 1-0 and has limited the team to only 2 runs over 11 1/3 innings with 9 strikeouts. The Yankees have almost single-handedly revived Font’s career.

The most painful at-bat for me yesterday was Giancarlo Stanton’s strikeout (against Rays reliever and Friday night’s “opener” Ryne Stanek) to end the top of the 6th inning, leaving Aaron Judge stranded at third. Leaving runners in scoring position has plagued the Yankees in both losses and the last couple of weeks. Friday night, they were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and they left nine men on base. Yesterday, they were 1-for-8 (Didi Gregorius advanced Judge from second to third prior to Stanton’s swinging strikeout) but couldn’t get anyone home.

The Yankees offense really hasn’t done anything since the two-homer outburst in the first inning of the series finale with the Mariners last Thursday.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Julio Aguilar)

The Yankees (50-24) hold a slim one-game lead over the Red Sox (51-27) in the AL East. After helping the Rays climb closer to .500, the Yankees have a tough week ahead. When today’s game is over, they’ll hop on a plane bound for Philadelphia to play a three-game set against the Phillies. The Phillies currently have a better record than the Washington Nationals and sit just a game and a half behind the surprising Atlanta Braves in the NL East. There’s no doubt they’ll be ready to play when the Yankees come to town. The Phillies are riding a three-game winning streak entering play today. After a much-needed day off on Thursday, the Yankees return home to face the Boston Red Sox for three games next weekend. The Braves follow the Red Sox so the Yankees have clearly missed an opportunity to beat up on a losing team before another difficult stretch. Time to get the team’s offense going. Today is better than tomorrow. I’ve really missed Michael Kay’s “See ya!” calls.  

I was going to rip on Chasen Shreve but the Yankees did it for me. Shreve relieved Sonny Gray yesterday after the homer by Willy Adames and he had the Rays set up for more runs with a couple of walks and a hit to load the bases. Fortunately he struck out Wilson Ramos to leave the bases full, but it appears this may have been his final Yankees appearance. The Yankees designated Shreve for assignment today, recalling Tommy Kahnle from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. As a lefty who has experienced some success at the MLB level, I doubt Shreve clears waivers so thus endeth his Yankees career. The Yankees need another lefty for the pen but I am not sad to see Shreve go. He was the bullpen’s weakest link.  

Welcome back, Tommy Kahnle!  The Philadelphia Eagles fan was 1-1 with 3.12 ERA in eight games for the RailRiders. He struck out 15 batters in 14 innings and yielded only 3 walks. I am glad to have Kahnle back even if his 7th inning role has been supplanted by Jonathan Holder.  He gives Aaron Boone a few choices before he pulls the Dellin Betances-Aroldis Chapman card late in games.

I cannot talk about the RailRiders without mentioning Brandon Drury. Drury’s two-run homer  yesterday was the difference-maker in the RailRiders’ 4-2 win over the Rochester Red Wings.  Drury continues to be an on-base machine even if he was only 1-for-4 in the game. For a big league club that’s struggling to advance base runners, Drury could help. At this point, I’d be ready to eat the balance of Neil Walker’s contract to open a spot for Drury. Walker has done a fine job supporting first base, but the athletic Drury can be equally as effective (if not more so).  

Very nice job on Saturday by Yankees pitching prospect Garrett Whitlock for the Tampa Tarpons (High-A). Whitlock, 22, picked up the win over the Jupiter Hammerheads with a three-hit shutout. He beat former Yankees prospect Jorge Guzman (the hard-thrower who went to Miami in the Giancarlo Stanton trade), striking out eleven Hammerheads over seven innings while only walking one. Whitlock was drafted in the 18th round of the 2017 MLB Draft. He is currently rated as the 26th best Yankees prospect by MLB.com. He is exceeding expectations (5-3, 1.41 ERA  in combined A ball, with 81 strikeouts and only 15 walks in 70 innings) and should advance his stature within one of baseball’s best farm systems with his breakout season. Whitlock has only given up one homer this year (only the second of his minor league career) and none for the Tarpons. I suspect that we’ll be hearing more and more about Whitlock in the coming months.

Photo Credit: Mark LoMoglio

Hard to believe that the calendar will soon turn to July. Trade talks should be heating up in the coming weeks. That should spark some good Bryan Van Dusen posts. It will be a fun month, made even better if the Yankees can put some distance between themselves and the Red Sox. 

Never a better day to start winning than today. Go Yankees!

Update:  Sounds like the DFA of Chasen Shreve was fake news or just my wishful thinking. Bummer.  I am ready for the guy to go and for Tommy Kahnle to rejoin the Yanks.  

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