Game 132: Cessa vs. Kennedy

Tonight is Game 132 of a 162-game season and the Yankees are still trying to pull a wildcard berth out of Bullwinkle's hat. And much tonight rests on whether or not Luis Cessa is successful against a pesky Royals' lineup. Thanks to last night's rain delay, the bullpen will be a bit gassed so a lot will rest on young Cessa.

In the meantime, the Yankees will face erstwhile Yankee, Ian Kennedy, who is having his best season since 2012. The Yankees will feature only one of their baby bomber bunnies (back to Bullwinkle's hat) in Gary Sanchez. So they will arguably face Kennedy with their strongest possible lions...er...lineup.

The Lineups:

New York Yankees:

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

SP - Luis Cessa: 4-0, 4.11 ERA, 5.79 FIP (too many homers)

Kansas City Royals:

  1. Jarrod Dyson - CF
  2. Cheslor Cuthbert - 3B  Cheslor!?
  3. Eric Hosmer - 1B
  4. Kendrys Morales - DH
  5. Salvador Perez - C
  6. Alex Gordon - LF
  7. Paulo Orlando - RF
  8. Alcides Escobar - SS
  9. Raul Mondesi - 2B

SP - Ian Kennedy: 9-9, 3.57 ERA, 4.67 FIP

The game is scheduled for 8:15 ET and will be available on the YES Network if that network is available to you. The weather looks pleasant, so there should be no weather problems tonight.

Enjoy the game!

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I Dream of (Yasiel) Puiggie

On Tuesday afternoon, Jon Heyman reported that Yasiel Puig had been claimed on waivers by a mystery team. Pursuant to revocable waiver rules, the Dodgers can simply let him go to the other team without incident, work out a trade, or pull him off of waivers and keep him until the off-season. The Dodgers are not desperate to move Puig at this point, nor should they be, but it is interesting to see where this may lead.

It would not be surprising to many if they did let Puig go for next to nothing, considering how disliked he seems to be on all fronts. Molly Knight's excellent book The Best Team Money Can Buy outlines numerous confrontations between Puig and his teammates, including Zack Greinke and Justin Turner. And just last off-season there were rumors that Clayton Kershaw had asked that Puig be traded, which were followed by a report that a former teammate had called him "the worst person I've ever seen in this game."

Despite all of this, last night, a few of us in the IIATMS e-mail chain discussed whether we would be interested in the Yankees acquiring Puig. And, despite his warts, the consensus was a resounding yes. Why is that?

Simple, really - Puig is, when healthy, a dynamic talent. He's 25-years-old, and owed just over $17 MM between 2017 and 2018. He's a strong defensive right-fielder, and he hit .305/.386/.502 (151 OPS+, 153 wRC+) over his first two years, with 10.2 bWAR in 252 games (a 6.5ish bWAR pace over 650 PA). We may be a couple of years removed from Puig being truly great, but amidst all of the controversy and shenanigans he has remained a solid player these last two years.

Between 2015 and 2016, Puig has played 160 games, accumulating 614 PA. In that stretch, he has hit .258/.321/.411 (101 OPS+, 104 wRC+) with 22 2B, 5 3B, 18 HR, and 8 SB. Both Baseball-Reference (1.9 WAR) and FanGraphs (2.0 WAR) peg him as a league-average player over that stretch. That may not be ideal production, particularly from a player that has been known to cause headaches, but it is indicative of the talent that he has. Moreover, most of these problems within the clubhouse did not begin until Puig started missing time with injuries, so there may be more to it than him simply being a jackass (though, I wouldn't dismiss those issues entirely).

In my mind, there are only two real issues in this discussion - the likelihood that the Yankees were the team making the claim (which may well be nil), and the logjam in the team's outfield. The former may well make this moot, but there's still a chance that he isn't dealt now, and is more fully shopped in the off-season. If that's the case, we can discuss this more later. As for the latter ... I don't see that as an issue at all.

The Yankees could move Brett Gardner fairly easily, even if it is for a less than ideal return, and recent history has shown us that Jacoby Ellsbury isn't immovable. Puig's addition could represent a move for both now and 2018 (which may be the most realistic year to compete), and everything else could work itself out around that. The talent that he has shown and his relatively low cost makes it worth using assets like Mason Williams, Dustin Fowler, and Ben Gamel elsewhere for the time being. And if Puig could only split the difference between 2013/2014 and 2015/2016, he would still be a middle of the order bat.

I know that this is a team that has long preached professionalism, but they have made moves for less than savory characters before (see: Chapman, Aroldis) when the potential reward was great. Puig's sins are mostly character related, and may be chalked up to immaturity (allegations about him striking his sister turned out to be false) - and if the Yankees do not trust their coaching staff and players to coach-up a talented yet mercurial player, then there is a serious problem.

There may be a great deal of risk associated with Puig, but the rewards could be immense. The Yankees need to, at the very least, see what the Dodgers are asking for in return.

Game 131 Recap: NYY 5 KC 4 (10 Innings)

Well that was a wild game.  The Yankees survived a rain delay that knocked out their ace starting pitcher, multiple blown run scoring opportunities early, a blown 4-run lead, and more bad bullpen decision making by their manager to steal the second game of this KC series.

That early lead came against Edinson Volquez, who absolutely sucked last night.  Aaron Judge tagged him for a 2-run home run in the top of the 2nd inning and Jacoby Ellsbury hit an RBI double later in the inning.  The Yanks loaded the bases with nobody out in the 3rd and got another run on a sac fly.  They also didn't get any more runs in that inning, wasted a great chance in the 1st, and left 2 men on base in the 4th.  They beat up on Volquez, but they really could have blown things open early.

They didn't, and after a solid 5 innings of 2-run ball from Tanaka and the 1-hour rain delay, they paid the price for it.  KC picked up a run in the 6th against Adam Warren on a Lorenzo Cain ribbie double, and another in the 8th on a leadoff walk, stolen base, advance on the throw, and a sac fly.  That came after Joe decided to let a gassed Tyler Clippard start the 8th and then replaced him with Dellin Betances after the walk.

No matter.  The Yankees loaded the bases on a pair of singles and a 2-out walk in the top of the 10th and Jacoby Ellsbury picked up the go-ahead run on an infield single that deflected off the pitcher.  With Warren, Clippard, and Betances used up, Joe had to go to Ben Heller for the save.  Heller mucked things up into a bases loaded/1 out situation, and then Joe had to go to Chasen Shreve for the save.  Shreve got Kendrys Morales to strike out on 3 pitches, then coaxed a fly ball out from Salvador Perez to end the game.  It sure wasn't pretty, but I'll take it.

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Game 130 Recap: KC 8 NYY 5

It was a very early night for me last night, so I didn't see the late rally by either team, but I think I saw everything I needed to see in the early innings as the Yankees dropped their second straight to a team right in front of them in the Wild Card race.

Michael Pineda gave up 5 hits and 3 earned runs in the bottom of the 1st inning.  3 of the 5 hits and all of the runs came with 2 outs in the inning, and more than 1 of the hits came with 2 strikes.  It was classic Pineda, nothing we haven't seen before.

The Yankees should have been able to overcome that early deficit against Dillon Gee and his 5+ ERA as a starter, but instead they curled up into a ball and pissed themselves for the first 7 innings, scraping 1 run across on a pair of doubles in the top of the 4th.  There have been some bad games this year, but getting held to 1 run over 6 innings by Dillon Gee might be one of the lowest points.

In keeping with typical Pineda tradition, Joe left him in to start the 7th after he breezed through the previous 5 innings.  Of course Pineda caved and gave up base hits to the first 2 batters of the inning.  Joe compounded his previous bad decision by making an ever dumber one and bringing Tommy Layne into a 2-run game.  Layne gave up a 3-run home run to Alcides Escobar, pushing the Royals lead to 6-1 and opening the floodgates for an even bigger inning.

To their credit, the offense did mount a comeback in the top of the 8th.  A leadoff catcher's interference by Jacoby Ellsbury, a walk, and a hit batsman loaded the bases with no outs, and Didi Gregorius came through with a 2-run double to get things started.  Starlin Castro sac flew in another run to bring the Yankees within 4, and a Chase Headley ribbie single made it 8-5.  Unfortunately that was when the rally stopped and the disastrous bottom of the 7th was too big a hill to climb.

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Game 130: Pineda vs. Gee

On August 13, the Royals were 56-60, and sat 10-plus games out of the playoffs. Since then, they have won 12 of 14, and are now just 3 games out of the second wild card spot. Their stock hasn't been all that different from the Yankees, with both teams clawing their way back into the playoff hunt after being left for dead, which adds an interesting wrinkle to this series.

Here's tonight's lineup:

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
  2. Aaron Hicks, LF
  3. Gary Sanchez, C
  4. Didi Gregorius, SS
  5. Starlin Castro, 2B
  6. Brian McCann, DH
  7. Chase Headley, DH
  8. Aaron Judge, RF
  9. Tyler Austin, 1B

The first pitch is scheduled for 8:15 PM.

Weekend Recap: Yanks vs. Orioles

Friday (NYY 14 BAL 4)- This one got out of hand early.  The Yankees put 8 runs on the board in the first 2 innings, including a 6-run 2nd, and led 12-1 after 5.  Teix, Chase Headley, and Gary Sanchez all hit 2-run homers, Brett Gardner drove in 3, Ronnie T stayed hot, and Luis Cessa did a good enough job avoiding too much damage in his 6 innings of work.  Not a good night for Buck or his pitching staff.

Saturday (NYY 13 BAL 5)- More of the same from the Yankee offense.  They got out 5-2 after 4 innings, and when Baltimore climbed back within 1 on back-to-back solo shots in the top of the 5th, they turned it on again for 7 runs over the next 2 innings to put the game away.  Chad Green wasn't quite as successful as Cessa in avoiding damage and that put more on the New York 'pen, but they held up well in the late innings and got big games from Starlin Castro, Brian McCann, and Aaron Hicks.

Sunday (BAL 5 NYY 0)- The Yanks definitely used up all the runs in the first 2 games.  For what felt like the 5th or 6th time this year, they got outmatched by Kevin Gausman and his fastball/changeup combination.  He pitched 7 scoreless innings with 9 strikeouts while a few big Baltimore hits in the 7th inning ruined what was a pretty good CC Sabathia start.  Sanchez and Ronnie T did their job (2 hits apiece), but it wasn't enough to overcome the mighty Gausman.

Weekend Games Thread

On Saturday afternoon, the Yankees will get their first look at Dylan Bundy the starting pitcher. After missing a great deal of time from 2013 through 2015, Bundy has begun to round into form as a big leaguer. Through his first eight starts, he's pitched to the following line - 43.0 IP, 32 H, 14 BB, 42 K, 3.56 ERA. Considering the fact that many thought that Bundy's career may have been over before it really started, it's great to see him having some measure of success. And, for those optimists out there, he's still only 23-years-old.

The Yankees will counter Bundy with Chad Green, who has also found his stride of late. He's allowed just one run in his last two starts (12 IP), striking out 16 against one walk. 

And on Sunday, Kevin Gausman will square-off against ... TBA. Or TBD, depending upon where you look. Michael Pineda is in-line for the start, but the team has not made an official announcement as to who will be toeing the rubber on Sunday afternoon as of this writing.