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.

Game 70 Recap: COL 8 NYY 4

I have no amusing into for this recap.  The Yankees stink and they're incapable of beating the Colorado Rockies in any park, American League or National.

Charlie Blackmon started off last night's game with a leadoff home run against Ivan Nova, and if that wasn't a sign of what was in store over the next 8 and a half innings, I don't know what is.  Nova gave up 2 more runs in the 1st, another in the 2nd, one more in the 4th on another Charlie Blackmon home run, and he got charged with one in the 5th after giving up a leadoff double and a walk without recording an out.  It was the latest in what is becoming a long string of poor starts by Nova and it should be his final start in a Yankee uniform.

To their credit, the offense tried to put up a fight to keep up with Nova's awful pitching as only they can.  Alex Rodriguez drove in a run in the bottom of the 1st on a GIDP (#ProductiveOuts) and Didi Gregorius scored on a fielding error in the 2nd to make it 4-2.  An A-Rod sac fly scored another run in the 5th and Didi tripled home the final run in the 6th, but by then Nova and Nick Goody had already done too much damage.

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Game 70: Bettis vs. Nova

The Yankees have returned home to play the same teams they played on the road last week. Let's hope they can actually beat the Rockies this time.

Jacoby Ellsbury is sitting this one out due to a nasty bout with the stomach flu. If all goes well, he'll be back tomorrow and the rest of the team won't catch the bug.

Here are your lineups: 

ROCKIES

1. Charlie Blackmon (L) CF

2. DJ LeMahieu (R) 2B

3. Nolan Arenado (R) 3B

4. Carlos Gonzalez (L) RF

5. Trevor Story (R) SS

6. Daniel Descalso (L) DH

7. Mark Reynolds (R) 1B

8. Ryan Raburn (R) LF

9. Tony Wolters (L) C

YANKEES

1. Brett Gardner (L) LF

2. Carlos Beltran (S) RF

3. Alex Rodriguez (R) DH

4. Brian McCann (L) C

5. Starlin Castro (R) 2B

6. Didi Gregorius (L) SS

7. Chase Headley (S) 3B

8. Aaron Hicks (S) CF

9. Rob Refsnyder (R) 1B

Enjoy the game! 

The Best-Laid Plans

Two-thirds of June is in the books, and it is officially Summer. The Yankees bullpen has largely looked the part of the dominant force that most expected this month, leading all bullpens in K/9, while sitting 2nd in BB/9, 2nd in K/BB, and 6th in fWAR. Despite this, the bullpen also sits dead last in ERA, with an ugly 5.47 mark .

Much of the blame for this has been laid at the feet of the non-No Runs DMC pitchers - but that isn't quite fair. Dellin Betances sports a 5.00 ERA in June, having allowed runs in four of his nine appearances. Aroldis Chapman's ERA is a bit better, at 4.70; however, he has allowed runs in four of eight appearances (though, to be fair, one of those games involved an unearned run). Andrew Miller has held down the fort, though, with a tidy 2.00 ERA. In this case, however, two out of three isn't too good.

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Hal Steinbrenner Open to Selling?

Former NFL head coach Bill Parcells once uttered the phrase "you are what your record says you are" and that is the perfect way to describe the New York Yankees these days. 

The Yankees look like a mediocre baseball team with the only consistent thing about them being their inconsistency, and their record says they're 34-35. They have flashes of brilliance over mostly bad teams and then go into ruts against better ones. That all adds up to a .500 team. We have never seen a .500 or below .500 Yankees team in over 20 years, so we're not really familiar with how one looks, but now we know.   

The big subject looming over the Yankees is will upper management hold out hope on an unlikely turn around or will they face the reality of the situation and try to add pieces for the future by trading off their valuable trade chips? Hal Steinbrenner talked to ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews at the Bids for Kids fundraising dinner and shed some light on the situation. 

"We'll have to see at the end of July, the way we always do," Steinbrenner told Matthews. "We'll take a look at everything. We'll see what injuries, if any, we've had from here to then and where the deficiencies are. We'll go from there. But if we stay healthy, I've always believed we have a shot. I believe we're going to be right smack in the middle of it." 

The issue with this approach is the longer you wait the less value impending free agents like Aroldis Chapman and Carlos Beltran have to contenders. FanGraphs projects the Yankees to finish 80-81 with a 3.2 percent chance of winning the division and 10.4 percent chance of claiming a wild card spot.

Four games out of the second wild card spot certainly doesn't seem impossible to overcome, but the Yankees are also behind five teams. The second wild card was designed exactly to keep teams like the Yankees thinking they have a chance. It' a trap set by MLB to keep as many teams and fan bases engaged for as long as possible. 

It will be interesting to see what happens if the Yankees are in a similar spot at the end of July. My belief is that I will have to see the Yankees tear it down before I believe it. They can easily sell the fact that they're in it at four games back and they want more than anything to not tear things up. They likely don't want to because fans will not show up at Yankee Stadium to watch a rebuilding team, even though most fans say they want it to happen. The Yankees lead the AL with an average home attendance of 38,099, before you counter with the narrative that nobody shows up to Yankee Stadium anyways. 

Riding the middle is usually never the right approach, and as we have seen with the Red Sox a big market team can retool rather quickly, but the Red Sox were willing to tear it down and the Yankees haven't yet. Actions speak louder than words, and we have to see Steinbrenner do what is best for the baseball team and not the bottom line before buying that he will.