Two Out Nightmares

The Yankees' starting pitching has been better lately. Ivan Nova would have notched the team's seventh consecutive quality start if the relief pitching hadn't betrayed him. Six innings pitched with three or less runs allowed will get the job done. One nagging problem that keeps popping up this season is the starters' inability to get the third out of an inning.

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Game 45 Recap: TOR 8 NYY 4

The winning streak is over.  The record has dropped back below .500.  All hope is lost.  Enjoy Arby's.  The Toronto offense decided to show up last night , conveniently when most of the offense didn't, and they beat up on the Yankee middle relief to secure a double-up victory in the second game of this series.

He took the loss in the scorebook, but this one wasn't on Ivan Nova.  He turned in another solid start with 6.2 innings of 3-run ball and 8 strikeouts.  The fourth run charged to him was on the relief pitcher in my book.  Even the first 2 could have been avoided if Chase Headley was able to make a play on a soft grounder.  But he couldn't, the inning continued, and Ryan Goins smacked a 2-run double to right on a 3-1 fastball to put the Blue Jays ahead 2-1.  Nova's other run came on a Russell Martin solo shot in the 6th.

When things really fell apart was in the top of the 7th, when Nova exited after hitting Edwin Encarnacion with a pitch with 2 outs.  Joe played the matchups and went to Chasen Shreve to face lefty Michael Saunders, and watched as Saunders hit a hanging 3-2 slider for a 2-run home run.  Justin Smoak followed up with a double, Martin hit his second home run of the game to make it 7-1 Jays, and the game was essentially over.  

The 4 runs for the Yankees is a tad misleading.  They had but the 1 heading into the bottom of the 7th, and even back-to-back solo home runs by Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius didn't really bring them close.  The sad reality is that the 6 Yankee hits last night all come from the bats of Headley (2), Didi (3), and Austin Romine.  That's the bottom third of the lineup, so when they're the only ones producing the chances of winning aren't good.  Oh well, CC the stopper is back on the hill today.

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Game 45: Estrada vs. Nova

While you're waiting for tonight's action to start, you should listen to the latest episode of our podcast, featuring Stacey, E.J., and me.

Here's tonight's lineup:

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

They'll be facing Marco Estrada, who is pitching even better than he did in his breakout 2015 campaign. The last time he faced the Yankees was on September 22, 2015, when he tossed 6.2 IP and allowed 2 ER (the good guys ended up winning 6-4 anyway).

Consistency is Key for Eovaldi

It may already be old news, yet it bears repeating that Nathan Eovaldi has played an integral role in the Yankees about-face over the last several weeks. He has pitched to the following line in his last four starts, all of which resulted in wins - 25.0 IP, 17 H, 5 BB, 19 K, 2.16 ERA, 3.31 FIP. Eovaldi has thrown a quality start (using the somewhat archaic definition of 6-plus IP and three or fewer ER) in five of his last seven starts, as well - which is important for a team that is built to slam the door shut in innings 7 through 9.

This is not the first time that Eovaldi has impressed for a stretch, of course. He reeled off a strong fourteen start stretch from June 20 through September 5 (the end of his season, unfortunately), posting a 3.43 ERA/2.86 FIP in 84.0 IP. That largely coincided with his discovery of a devastating splitter, and the expectation was that it would carry over to this season. And, after a few bumps in the road, it seems that he is once again figuring things out.

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Podcast Episode 44: The Future of the Yankees

Domenic, Stacey and EJ answer your mail bag questions about the future of the Yankees, and discuss if the Yankees are better off with Alex Rodriguez on the DL.

Important reminder: We have changed podcast feeds! There is a new one by the same name that you will have to subscribe to if you want to continue listening to the podcast. Links are below, and on the site. You can also find it by searching for "It's About the Money" in your favorite podcasting app or library.

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Game 44 Recap: NYY 6 TOR 0

It doesn't necessarily make me feel great that I'm this pumped for the Yankees to get back to .500.  But hey, sometimes you need to create small victories and this was one.  The Yankees have been playing a better brand of baseball the past few weeks and that trend continued last night in a thorough whooping of the basement-dwelling Toronto Blue Jays.

Nathan Eovaldi was on point again, holding the Toronto lineup down with a solid 3-pitch mix and a willingness to attack.  He wasn't as efficient or as dominant as he's been in some of his other recent great starts, but you don't expect to be against that many dangerous hitters and his ability to battle and get big outs when he needed them was what got him through 6 scoreless innings.

The offense chipped away at R.A. Dickey early before putting the game away late.  Carlos Beltran hit an RBI groundout in the bottom of the 1st to cash in on a Jacoby Ellsbury leadoff triple (aided by Jose Bautista's horrific diving catch attempt), and smacked a second deck solo home run in the 4th to put the Yanks ahead 2-0.  When Dickey tired in the 7th, the Yanks got to to him for 2 insurance runs on an Austin Romine double and Ellsbury single, and they tacked on 2 more in the 8th on a Chase Headley sac fly and Didi Gregorius base hit.

Joe went to Dellin Betances quickly in the 7th and Betances responded with a perfect inning.  Once the runs started to accumulate, Joe changed gears and went with the B-squad.  Kirby Yates and Luis Cessa each tossed scoreless frames to wrap up the shutout and give the Yankees their 6th straight win.

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Game 44: Dickey vs. Eovaldi

Tonight begins a stretch of twenty games in twenty days (thanks to a make-up game against the Tigers on June 2). Twelve of those twenty games are against AL East opponents, including six against the Blue Jays, and three apiece against the Rays and Orioles. So it goes.

Here's tonight's lineup:

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

Nathan Eovaldi will face the middling Blue Jays offense, while the Yankees get to deal with the knuckleballing R.A. Dickey. And, for those who may be curious, Alex Rodriguez will be playing with the Trenton Thunder tonight as he works his way back from injury.

As the Top of the Order Turns

The last eight months or so have not been kind to Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, insofar as fan sentiment is concerned. Ellsbury's struggles over the last calendar year are well-documented, and folk have grown tired of Gardner's annual second-half swoon. This is not to say that these gripes are unfounded or unwarranted - Ellsbury is still batting .239/.292/.361 (77 wRC+) over the last calendar year, and Gardner is still a career .236/.326/.351 (88 wRC+) hitter in the second-half. And this is not my attempt to have it both ways, or renege on the fact that I have picked on both players quite a bit of late (even saying that I would deal Ellsbury for Melvin Upton in the off-season ... though, when taking contracts into consideration, I stand by that).

Rather, this is to point out two simple facts that have gone semi-unnoticed: Ellsbury and Gardner are playing quite well right now, and the team has played better as a result (at least in part).

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Game 43 Quick Recap: NYY 5 OAK 4

The Yankees got their brooms out and swept the A's out of their own park this afternoon, picking up their fifth straight win in the process and bringing themselves back to the brink of .500 as they head home and get a well deserved off-day tomorrow.

He wasn't great by any means, but Michael Pineda was better than he has been today.  The A's got to him for a run in the 1st on a single and a pair of stolen bases by Billy Burns and an RBI groundout, but he held it together from there through the 4th and didn't let things get too out of hand when his 2-out/2-strike troubles crept up again in the 5th.  All in all he held things together nicely through 6 innings of 3-run ball, and that's as good as you can ask for from the team's #5 starter in terms of effectiveness.

The offense got its start with the long ball, taking an early lead on solo home runs by Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury.  But they did their best work after Pineda coughed up the lead in the 5th, immediately erasing the deficit with a 2-run 6th inning.  Mark Teixeira drove in the game-tying run with an infield single and Starlin Castro put the Yankee ahead for good with a run-scoring base knock of his own.  Just for fun, Carlos Beltran doubled home a run in the 7th to keep his hot bat smoldering.

Joe had his bullpen aces rested and he followed the formula after getting 6 from Pineda.  Dellin Betances struck out 2 in a scoreless 7th, Andrew Miller worked around some piss poor middle infield defense in the 8th with a solitary unearned run to his credit, and Aroldis Chapman made it 6-6 in save opportunities with a 1-2-3 9th.

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Game 42 Quick Recap: NYY 5 OAK 1

The good starting pitching vibes kept on vibing this afternoon as the Yankees won their fourth straight game and third straight in this Oakland series, inching ever closer back to the .500 line in the process.  They'll go for the sweep tomorrow.

Masahiro Tanaka was the pitching star of the day today, giving up a single run in 7 innings.  He wasn't overwhelming, but he was much better than he had been in his previous 2 outings.  He was efficient, he got supported by his defense, and he made his best pitches when he really needed to get guys out with runners on to stymie rallies in the 4th and 5th innings.

It took the offense a little while to get going against Oakland starter Sean Manaea, but when they did they made it count.  They got to him for 4 runs in the top of the 4th on 2 walks, 2 singles, a sac fly, and a 2-run double off the bat of Rob Refsnyder.  That came on the 10th pitch of the at-bat and it was the pivotal moment in the game.

The Yanks tacked one on in the 7th on a Starlin Castro RBI double, and Nick Goody handled the final 2 innings without delay.  A chance for a sweep and the bullpen horses will be well-rested.  Hopefully Michael Pineda can get through the first few innings.

Game Notes:

- 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 4 K for Tanaka on 92 pitches, and he got a bunch of GB outs.  He was good on extra rest as he usually is, and he'll have it again the next time he starts after the off-day on Monday.

- 3-hit day for Starlin, who had been struggling a bit.  The first 2 were bloops, but the ribbie double was a solid line drive down the left field line.  It would be nice to see him get back to raking as A-Rod comes off the DL to balance out the lineup.

- Another 2-hit game for Beltran, who scored a run and drove in a run in the 4th.

- Did you know Nick Goody has a 1.64 ERA in 11.0 IP?  It's true.  Struck out 12 and only walked 1 too.  He hasn't really been asked to handle anything super important, but he's been solid.