It's Time to End the Nova Experiment

The alternative title to this post was "Ivan has gone supernova." I steered away from that tasty pun as I didn't want to step on Stacey's toes too much - yet I felt the need to reference it somewhere, as I am rather proud of it. And, for what it's worth, I do worry that some might give the term 'supernova' a positive connotation; Nova simply doesn't deserve that.

Through Nova's first three starts, it seemed as though the Yankees might have caught a break in the back of the rotation, as he pitched to the following line - 16.1 IP, 14 H, 2 BB, 8 K, 1.65 ERA, 67.3 GB%. There were chinks in the armor, as he allowed a home run in each start and failed to pick up swings and misses (which led to a 4.93 FIP), and his .224 BABIP was bound for regression ... but we had seen Nova pitch competently before. His sinker was sinking, his slider was sliding, and his control was spot on. Unfortunately, those warning signs turned into disaster in relatively short order.

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Game 75 Recap: TEX 9 NYY 6

If you were awake to see the finish of this one, my heart goes out to you.  I really hope you use a personal day or something to catch up on sleep because you deserve it after that.  The Yankees blew multiple leads last night in the series opener against the Texas Rangers, the final one after a 3+ hour rain delay in the top of the 9th.  Good grief.

Ivan Nova stinks, but you already knew that.  He kept the stench turned up last night, giving up 4 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks in 5 innings pitched.  Ian Desmond teed him up for a solo home run in the second at-bat of the game and it was typical Nova from there.  He doesn't have a third pitch and there are stretches when his sinker doesn't sink.  That makes it kinda tough to be an effective Major League starter.

The Yankee bats battled to support Nova with a barrage of singles against Texas starter Chi Chi Gonzalez.  Hard singles, bloop singles, it was a cornucopia of singles that produced 5 runs over the first 5 innings.  Mark Teixeira broke the cycle with a solo home run in the bottom of the 7th to give the Yankees a 6-4 lead, and that's when the shenanigans started.

The rain that had been present for most of the game started to pick up in the 7th inning.  Dellin Betances had no issues with it, cruising through a 1-2-3 inning on 11 pitches.  But it intensified in the 8th inning and Andrew Miller did the unthinkable and gave up a home run to a lefty in the bottom of the 8th.  By the time the 9th inning came, it was a downpour and the field was soaked.  Aroldis Chapman was having problems gripping the ball and threw 7 balls on his first 9 pitches, and after Joe came out to argue with the umpires about the conditions, the game was stopped.

It restarted 3 hours and 35 minutes later, and when it did it went down the toilet in a hurry.  Kirby Yates, in for Chapman, came back to strike the 3-1 hitter out for the first out of the inning.  He then hit the next 2 batters to load the bases and gave up the lead on a 2-run single by Adrian Beltre.  But that wasn't all.  Yates hit Prince Fielder in the next at-bat and gave up another 2-run single to Elvis Andrus to seal the game.  Helluva job.

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Game 75: Gonzalez vs. Nova

Earlier this evening, Josh Thomson wrote about the Yankees decision to sit Alex Rodriguez more often against right-handed pitchers. Rodriguez is batting just .200/.236/.348 against northpaws this season, which is ... well ... awful. Shifting him to the bench allows the team to improve its offense as well as its defense, as Carlos Beltran moves to the DH slot and Aaron Hicks starts in right (and his .247/.290/.388 line against righties does represent a bit of an upgrade over Rodriguez).

Here is the team's lineup for this evening:

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
  2. Brett Gardner, LF
  3. Carlos Beltran, DH
  4. Brian McCann, C
  5. Mark Teixeira, 1B
  6. Starlin Castro, 2B
  7. Didi Gregorius, SS
  8. Chase Headley, 3B
  9. Aaron Hicks, RF

Weekend Recap: NYY vs. MIN

Friday- The Yankees kicked off their weekend series against the Twinkies with and on the right foot, using the formula of 6 strong innings from their starter and the final 3 from the big three to wrap things up.  Masahiro Tanaka wasn't at his best but he was still good enough to win, and the offense provided plenty of cushion for the late game trio thanks to solid games by A-Rod, Carlos Beltran, horrible defense by the Twins, and a rare Aaron Hicks home run.  Oh yeah, Aroldis Chapman threw the ball really hard in a 3-strikeout 9th inning.

Saturday- The offense got bested by Ervin Santana again, but Michael Pineda turned in easily his best performance of the season to lead the Yanks to their third straight victory.  He threw 6 innings of 1-run ball with 8 strikeouts and 1 walk, his only real mistake pitch resulting in a Brian Dozier solo home run.  Joe probably could have used him more, but he stuck with the late-game formula in a close game and was rewarded when the Minnesota defense gifted the Yankees a run in the 8th.  

Sunday- Yesterday's series finale was a classic "it's not what you want" game.  Nathan Eovaldi got shelled in his 6 innings, serving up the first 4 of what would become a 6-dinger day for the Twinkies, and the offense had already packed up its tent and loaded it in the car before the game even started.  Minny starter Tyler Duffey took a perfect game into the 6th and the Yankee bats only squeezed out 2 hits on the day.  One of them was a solo home run by Mark Teixeira, his first home run in a long time, but it was hardly enough.  For the second time in a week and the second time with Eovaldi on the mound, the Yankees dealt themselves a bad finish to what could have been a very good series.

Game 74: Duffey vs. Eovaldi

With a win today, the Yankees would climb to two games above .500 for the first time since April 12, when they sat at 4-2. To do so, they will likely need last month's version of Nathan Eovaldi to step-up this afternoon, as opposed to the one that has allowed 20 ER in 20 IP in June. Though, I suppose that that's what happens when I write something brimming with praise for the 26-year-old flamethrower.

While you're waiting for the first pitch, give the latest episode of the IIATMS podcast a listen - EJ and I recorded it on Friday night.

Here's today's lineup:

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
  2. Brett Gardner, LF
  3. Carlos Beltran, DH
  4. Brian McCann, C
  5. Mark Teixeira, 1B
  6. Starlin Castro, 2B
  7. Didi Gregorius, SS
  8. Chase Headley, 3B
  9. Aaron Hicks, RF

The Once and Future Shortstop

The majority of the writing and conjecture involving the Yankees of late has revolved around the notion that this season is all but over. The team is once again a game below .500, and their run differential yields a Pythagorean record of 33-38 (a 75 win pace). And while they have not be awful, the sense of pessimism is nothing short of pervasive. As a result of this, there have been plenty of discussions regarding who should be dealt, and who should be kept to be a part of the next great Yankees team. 

As of now, there is no strong consensus in this matter, outside of the free agents to be and the players that we wish we could ... well ... wish away. Didi Gregorius is one of the most polarizing players in this respect, and he is young enough to be a part of the future core, yet unexciting enough that some feel he isn't worth keeping around (though, the presence of Jorge Mateo may be the cause of that) - particularly if he can fetch something of value. So where does the truth lie?

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Game 71 Recap: NYY 9 COL 8

Well that was fun, huh??  Today's series/season finale against the Rockies was arguably the greatest roller coaster ride of the no-longer-so-young 2016 season.  From up 4 early to down 4 late, and when the ride was over the Yankees came away with a win courtesy of Starlin Castro's walk-off home run in the bottom of the 9th.

That early 4-run lead came in the bottom of the 2nd and all 4 runs came on one swing.  Colorado starter Jon Gray loaded the bases on 2 walks and a Castro infield single and Chase Headley came up looking for a strike to drive.  He got just that on the first pitch of the at-bat and he unloaded it into Monument Park for a grand slam.  A little of the old power and patience.

That should have been more than enough for CC Sabathia with the way he's pitched for the last month, but today was an off-day for the big fella.  He gave 2 of those runs back immediately in the top of the 3rd on a bloop 2-run single by Charlie Blackmon.  Sabathia helped set that situation up by throwing away a bunt attempt, and compounded his problems in the 4th by serving up a 3-run homer to Nick Hundley on a poorly located 2-strike cutter.  He didn't make it through 5 innings and got tagged for 6 runs, but hey, as great as he's been I think we can give him a pass on this one.

The Rockies' lead ballooned to 8-4 in the 5th when Anthony Swarzak came in to relief CC and gave up a double (CC's run) and a 2-run shot to Ryan Raburn.  But luckily Walt Weiss' bullpen is just as crappy as Joe's, and they gave it all back in a big bottom of the 7th.  Carlos Beltran got things started with a 3-run homer to pull New York within 1 and Didi Gregorius came through with a clutch 2-out base hit to tie the game up at 8.

That got things into the hands of the late-game crew and for a change they didn't foul anything up.  Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman each fanned 2 in scoreless innings in the 8th and 9th, and Starlin wasted little time sending everybody home in the bottom half of the 9th.  He hit a no-doubter to left on the second pitch he saw and that was all she wrote.  Big moment for Starlin, who's been pretty awful since the first few weeks of April.

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Game 71: Don't Get Swept By The Rockies

The Yankees are 0-3 against the Colorado Rockies this season, and this afternoon's mini-series finale is the last chance they'll have to get a victory against them this year.  If being on the losing end of a season sweep to the Rockies doesn't tell you everything you need to know about where the Yankees stand these days, I don't know what does.  Here's the starting lineup that will try to avoid that embarrassment:

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury- CF
  2. Brett Gardner- LF
  3. Carlos Beltran- RF
  4. Alex Rodriguez- DH
  5. Brian McCann- C
  6. Starlin Castro- 2B
  7. Didi Gregorius- SS
  8. Chase Headley- 3B
  9. Rob Refsnyder- 1B

And CC the stopper is on the hill, so we've got that going for us.  First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 PM local time, here's your game thread.  Let's get nuts.