Weekend Games Thread

Once Saturday's action kicks off, we will be less than 48 hours from the trade deadline - it's on 4 PM EST on Monday, August 1. Heading into Saturday evening's game, the Yankees are 4.5 GB of the second Wild Card spot, with a couple of teams ahead of them, as well. Their playoff odds have slipped to 7.7% (as per FanGraphs) since mid-week. It is somehow both comforting and frightening that so much seems to hinge on these next two games.

Saturday's game starts at 6:10 PM, featuring a battle of the disappointments on the mound in Nathan Eovaldi and Drew Smyly (and his 5.42 ERA, which is tied for second-worst in baseball). Though, to be fair, Eovaldi wasn't considered a centerpiece to a trade involving David Price, so the level of disappointment is relative. 

And Sunday's pitching-matchup will be Michael Pineda and rookie Blake Snell, who was a consensus top-20 prospect heading into this season. Snell has struggled with his control in his brief stint in the Majors, but he has been quite good in his last three starts - 18.2 IP, 12 H, 7 BB, 20 K, 1.93 ERA. This will be his second time facing the Yankees, who he held to 1 run in 5 IP in his debut. Sunday's game is slated to begin at 1:10 PM.

Game 102: Nova vs. Odorizzi

Early this afternoon, Jon Morosi tweeted that the Nationals would be willing to swap top prospect Lucas Giolito straight-up for Andrew Miller. Within an hour, Jon Heyman shot that down ... by pointing out that the Yankees would not make that deal. In other words, Hal & Co. would not deal Miller for (arguably) the top pitching prospect in baseball. And the Nationals might deal said prospect for a reliever. What a time to be alive.

Here's tonight's lineup:

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

The first pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM.

The Trade Deadline Push

Just under two weeks ago, the Yankees returned from the All-Star break sitting 5.5 GB in the Wild Card race. Since then, they have gone 8-5 - a nearly 100 win pace - with series victories over the Orioles, the Giants, and the Astros (that's two division leaders, and one of the teams that they're chasing for that second wild card).  And despite this, they sit 4 GB in the playoff race, and still have to leapfrog three teams (the Red Sox, Tigers, and Astros) to make up that gap. That seems more likely now than it did two weeks ago ... but their playoff odds remain low (10.5% according to Baseball Prospectus, 9.4% per FanGraphs).

Their strong play during this stretch has revolved around the performance of the pitching staff. See for yourself:

As a group, the Yankees have an MLB-best 2.27 ERA since the break - that's good! Their 3.67 FIP is a still-solid 3.67 (10th in the Majors), and most every pitcher has shown flashes of figuring something out of late. The offense has been another story entirely:

The word 'disaster' just about sums it up, as the team's 67 wRC+ ranks 27th in the Majors, and they've scored just over 3 runs per game. Two-thirds of their lineup has been nothing short of terrible in this stretch and this isn't a new occurrence for the team - they ranked 25th in wRC+ heading into the break, after all.

Much of this is small sample size noise, to be sure. It's two or three starts for the starting pitchers, a handful of appearances for the relievers, and 50ish PA for the position players. It is also, in many ways, representative of what has plagued the team all season - when they're pitching well, they don't hit. And when they're hitting well, the staff can't get outs quickly enough.

With a three-game set against the Rays separating the Yankees from the trade deadline, it is important that the front office figure out where this team actually stands. They have gained little ground in the playoff race despite their recent success, and it is difficult to count on bounce-backs from everyone - particularly those who have struggled for quite some time now. Moreover, the pitching staff has not shown that it is capable of carrying the team for an extended period of time. So while the team has been successful of late, the bigger picture means a great deal more.

All that being said, I have no idea where the team will go from here. As EJ and I discussed last night, selling only really works if there are willing buyers out there. Masahiro Tanaka and Andrew Miller may net a huge return - but they could also ostensibly be a part of a reloaded Yankees team in a year or two. Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova are free agents after this season, but how much are they really worth? Beltran has raked, but I suspect most teams view him as a DH-only. And so despite being a proponent of selling for the right price, I realize that there is more in play than simple import/export - the bigger picture, so to speak.

Here's hoping the Yankees do, too.

Game 101 Recap: HOU 4 NYY 1

So Lance McCullers is pretty good at pitching.  Now I see why the Yankees wanted him when the Astros came around asking about Andrew Miller.  He grossly outpitched a shaky Masahiro Tanaka last night to prevent the Yankees from sweeping the series and gaining a game all their major Wild Card competition.

The Yankees got their lone run in the top of the 4th on a Brian McCann solo shot.  McCullers left a fastball in a bad spot and McCann was ready for it.  Other than, he mostly held the Yankee lineup down over 6 innings.  He worked his fastball to both sides of the plate and his curveball was incredible.  The Yankee bats couldn't do a thing with it.  They could barely make contact with it.

Tanaka was not his usual sharp self last night.  He missed off the outside corner to a lot of hitters with all of his pitches, and neither his sinker nor his splitter was working like they usually do.  He had to battle through almost every inning and Houston drove him out of the game after 5 innings.  Walks and wild pitches turned into RBI singles in the 2nd and 3rd innings, but the big blow was a 2-run homer by Colby Rasmus, who came into the at-bat 0 for his last 29.  That made it 4-1 and that was enough for McCullers and the Houston 'pen.

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Game 100 Recap: NYY 6 HOU 3

When you're good you're good, and CC Sabathia was good last night.  He kept the Houston Astro hitters in check for 6+ innings and watched his teammates beat up on Doug Fister as the Yankees took another one from an AL contender and continued to ruin the plans for Team Sell.

Much like Michael Pineda before him, CC got bit early by the longball.  This time it took until the 6th pitch of the 1st, when Marwin Gonzalez clocked one to put Houston ahead 1-0, and it looked like CC was going to be in for a long night.  Then he struck out Jose Altuve and Evan Gattis to end the inning, didn't allow another hit until the 5th, and worked into the 7th without giving up another run before Gattis hit a solo shot to lead off that inning.

The 1-0 Houston lead didn't last long.  The Yankee lineup struck back for 2 in the top of the 2nd when Brian McCann singled and Mark Teixeira doubled to lead off, and came around to score on a Didi Gregorius sac fly and a Chase Headley single.  The Yanks worked Fister hard in the 2nd and in the next inning when they scratched another run across on 2 a pair of singles sandwiched around a walk, and all those early pitches paid off in the 5th.

Fister hit McCann with a pitch to start things off and Teix singled to center to put 2 on with nobody out again.  Just a couple of table setters doing what they do, you know?  Fister intentionally walked Starlin to load the bases with 1 out, but Headley plated a run with a deep flyout and Aaron Hicks of all people came through with a 2-run triple to right to plate the other 2 and give the Yankees a 5-run cushion.

CC used up a bit of that on the Gattis homer and Anthony Swarzak used up a bit on another solo shot, but once Joe went to his real bullpen it was over.  Dellin Betances worked out of a partially self-made jam in the 8th and Andrew Miller was cash money in the 9th.  For what feels like the first time in a long time, to me at least, a good CC start was not wasted.

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Quick Hit: The Prospects in the Chapman Deal

As I am sure everyone knows by now, the Yankees dealt Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs yesterday, for old friend Adam Warren, and prospects Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney, and Rashad Crawford. EJ posted a brief synopsis of the trade yesterday, as did most every baseball website in the land - it was a major deal, to say the least. In lieu of offering more of the same, I have compiled some of the more in-depth takes on the prospects involved in the deal for your reading pleasure.

And, for those of you who may be interested, MLB.com's Prospect Watch updated their Yankees list yesterday. Torres was ranked as the top prospect in the system and McKinney placed fifth, with the duo bookending Jorge Mateo, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez. The list does not include the 2016 draft class as of yet.

Game 99 Recap: NYY 2 HOU 1

 went to bed embarrassingly early last night, so I don't have much to offer on this game.  Here are the quick bullet points:

- Michael Pineda outpitched Dallas Keuchel, going 7 innings, giving up 1 run on 5 hits, and striking out 8.  The 1 run came on the first pitch of the 1st inning to George Springer.  Springer hit it for a solo home run, and that was all the Astros would get.

- Yankees got their runs in the 5th on a Didi double and Chase Headley single and in the 8th when Headley started the rally with a leadoff single and came around to score on a double by Austin Romine.

- Headley and Romine were each 2-3 with an RBI.  Carlos Beltran went 2-4 as he continues to audition for a new role.  Starlin Castro went 0-4 with 3 strikeouts.

- Now back to a twosome, Deldrew Millances worked the final 2 innings to preserve the 1-run lead.  No runs, no walks, 4 Ks.  Business as usual.

Game 99: Pineda vs. Keuchel

Today was a great victory for #TeamSell, as Cashman sent Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs for top-25 prospect Gleyber Torres, fringe top-100 prospect Billy McKinney, former Yankee Adam Warren, and fourth outfield prospect Rashad Crawford. Calling it a tremendous return may well be an understatement - so much so that I almost want to root for the team to lose so that we can find out what two-plus years of Andrew Miller is worth.

Here's tonight's lineup, as the quest begins:

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

The first pitch is schedule for 8:10 PM.