Game 6 Recap: Yankees 3 Blue Jays 2

[caption id="attachment_80969" align="aligncenter" width="525"]Yankees Win vs TOR News being spread. Courtesy of the AP[/caption] The Yankees were a well-rested bunch heading north of the border for the first time this year for a meeting with the divisional rival Blue Jays.  The rainout on Sunday in Detroit made sure of that.  That extra day of rest meant Joe had the option of leaning on his lights out bullpen more if he needed to last night, and Joe didn't hesitate to do that when the opportunity presented itself.  The bullpen did what they've been doing: prevented runs, provided distance, protected leads, and struck guys out, and the Yankees took the first game of the series.

Joe was probably hoping he wouldn't have to ask a lot of his 'pen in ace Masahiro Tanaka's second start of the year.  Tanaka was pretty good in his first start, but a lack of pinpoint command on the corners and a careful approach with men on base drove his pitch count up and he didn't get through the 6th inning.  It was more of the same last night, as Tanaka racked up a lot of pitches early and only completed 5.

It started in the bottom of the 1st when he got 2 relatively quick outs before walking Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion on 13 pitches.  The Encarnacion at-bat was especially frustrating because Tanaka started him off with 2 swinging strikes and then never came close to putting him away on the next 4 pitches.  Tanaka survived the inning unscathed and worked around a leadoff walk in the second, but his command problems finally cost him in the 3rd, when a leadoff hit batsman in an 0-2 count turned into 2 Toronto runs on a Josh Donaldson single and Jose Bautista double.  To be fair to Tanaka, it was Jacoby Ellsbury's misread that allowed Bautista's double to be a double.  Not sure what he saw, but it was a bad play and it gave Toronto an extra run.

It took the Yankees a while to match that 2-spot against Toronto starter Aaron Sanchez.  They got a run in the top of the 2nd on a pair of walks and a ribbie groundout by Starlin Castro, but for the most part Sanchez was in control.  He was hitting spots with his fastball, drawing big swings and misses with his curveball, and working around trouble.  The only real mistake he made on the night was a 3-2 fastball to Brian McCann in the 6th that drifted over the middle of the plate.  McCann crushed it for a solo home run to right to tie the game and set the stage for Ellsbury's redemption.

Also credit the guys in front of him for their stage-setting performance as well.  Chase Headley welcomed Brett Cecil to the game with a leadoff single in the 7th, then Cecil conveniently walked Castro on 4 pitches.  This allowed Didi Gregorius to get down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners up, and here came Ellsbury.  He drew a full count against Cecil and went the other way with a 3-2 fastball, getting just enough of it to plop it in between the shortstop and left fielder for the go-ahead single.  It wasn't pretty, but it got the job done and gave the bullpen the lead.

Oh yeah, the bullpen.  All they did was throw 4 scoreless, hitless innings with 5 strikeouts.  Barbato to Shreve to Betances to Miller.  These guys are good and the Yankees are too.  4-2 in their first 6 games with Big Mike returning to the hill tonight.

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Quick Hit: Rumbelow Needs TJS

Didn't get to this last night, but it appears as though we have our first significant arm injury of the year.  As first reported by Chad Jennings, Nick Rumbelow needs Tommy John Surgery in his right elbow and will miss the rest of this season.  The report was picked up by a bunch of other beat guys and later confirmed by GM Brian Cashman. Rumbelow was in the running for an Opening Day bullpen spot earlier in Spring Training.  He pitched to a 4.02/3.84/3.87 tripleslash in 17 big league appearances last year and figured to factor into the SWB shuttle at some point this season, although the Yankees had been experimenting with stretching him out as a starter after he was reassigned to MiL camp.  He made a relief appearance on Sunday and had to leave the game with an injury.  That injury was to his pitching elbow and it will require TJS.  Major bummer for Rumbelow.

Also a major bummer for the Yankees, who have lost another piece of relief depth.  They're already without Bryan Mitchell for at least the next 4 months and Aroldis Chapman for the next 24 games.  Now without Rumbelow they're down to Nick Goody and Branden Pinder as the only righty relievers left on the 40-man roster, along with lefties James Pazos, Jacob Lindgren, and Tyler Olson.

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Tuesday Morning Links: 4/12/16

The HR chick at my work is on vacation this week.  Before she left, she printed out a copy of the weather forecast for Riviera Maya for this week and taped it onto her office door as her way of letting everybody know she'll be out of the office.  It's the first thing I see when I turn the lights on in my section of the office in the morning and I honestly don't know if I can make it through that emotional gut punch for the next 3 days.  It's such a ruthless a-hole move that I can't decide if I love it or hate it, but I respect the hell out of it.  Now onto the links. - Last Tuesday, William Juliano of The Captain's Blog laid out the 3 different scenarios that could play out this season depending on how healthy the Yankees stay.

- On Thursday, Jason Cohen of Pinstripe Alley looked back at the 5 longest home runs hit at the new Yankee Stadium before Carlos Correa's shot off the restaurant.

- On Friday, Katie Sharp of RAB dished out her first serving of Yankeemetrics this year.  Mmmmmmm, metrics...

- On Monday, Austin Yamada of BP Bronx reviewed the recent bad history (and bad luck) of Yankee 1st round picks.

- David Schoenfield asked if the Twins' season is already over after their 0-7 start.  I don't know if it is yet, but it definitely will be when they get done playing the Yankees for the first time.

From the IIATMS team:

- On Wednesday, Stacey broke down Masahiro Tanaka's Opening Day start.  I feel like we see 6+ innings of good ball today with the extra rest.

- On Thursday, I looked at the pitch location from Michael Pineda's first start and the high concentration of 2-strike pitches that were located inside the strike zone.  More than anything else, he needs to start correcting that problem.

Have a good day, folks.  Shout out to my fellow cube monkeys out there.  Stay strong.

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Fun with Numbers II, Or: He’s on-pace for what?!

A bit less than a year ago, I tackled some of the most interesting "on-pace for" lines throughout the Majors. It is an exercise in futility, given the fact that we are dealing with excruciatingly small sample sizes (to wit, the Yankees have 97% of their season remaining) - but it is fun nevertheless, as it gives us a glimpse into just how early it actually is, and the hilarious absurdity that we can see over a five or six game stretch. While every game certainly matters, and the counting stats are already booked, the odds of these numbers being representative of what we can expect going forward are incredibly remote. These projections are based on statistics that are current as of the morning of April 12, prior to any games being played. All numbers have been prorated to a full-ish season (650 PA for hitters, 33 starts for starting pitchers, current usage rate for relievers), and rounded where appropriate. And, again, this is just for fun. Let's start with a handful of Yankees.

Starlin Castro .450/.476/.850, 93 R, 62 HR, 247 RBI, 0 SB, 0 CS, 15.5 fWAR

Didi Gregorius .333/.350/.500, 62 R, 31 HR, 93 RBI, 31 SB, 31 CS, 6.2 fWAR

Ronald Torreyes .800/.800/1.200, 260 R, 0 HR, 260 RBI, 0 SB, 0 CS, 26.0 fWAR

Dellin Betances 97 G, 87 IP, 65 H, 65 BB, 194 K, 0.00 ERA, 1.10 FIP, 3.2 fWAR

Michael Pineda 33 GS, 165 IP, 264 H, 0 BB, 165 K, 10.80 ERA, 9.75 FIP, -6.6 fWAR

That's one hell of a bottom of the order, isn't it? And, yes, I know Torreyes isn't going to get anywhere near 650 PA (barring a series of unfortunate events the likes of which have never been seen) - but I find a great deal of humor in the fact that he's currently a career .545/.583/.818 hitter, and I'm trying to spread the gospel. There's something inherently likable about him; though, to be fair, I'm a sucker for utility players.

And I, for one, would not be shocked if Betances led the team in strikeouts. He was only 25 off the pace last season, after all.

Venturing outside of the Yankees, here are ten more from around the league:

Jose Altuve .286/.375/.429, 162 R, 20 HR, 41 RBI, 122 SB, 20 SB, 6.1 fWAR

Bryce Harper .313/.522/.813, 141 R, 57 HR, 85 RBI, 85 SB, 0 CS, 14.1 fwAR (and 198 BB/28 K)

Kendrys Morales .190/.208/.524, 54 R, 54 HR, 135 RBI, 0 SB, 0 CS, 0.0 fWAR

Jorge Soler .130/.192/.261, 75 R, 25 HR, 75 RBI, 0 SB, 0 CS, -5.0 fWAR

Trevor Story .333/.357/1.111, 162 R, 162 HR, 278 RBI, 0 SB, 0 CS, 16.2 fWAR

Eugenio Suarez .370/.433/.815, 195 R, 87 HR, 195 RBI, 22 SB, 0 CS, 13.0 fWAR

Jose Fernandez 33 GS, 187 IP, 165 H, 33 BB, 429 K, 7.94 ERA, 1.58 FIP, 9.9 fWAR

Martin Perez 33 GS, 204 IP, 149 H, 149 BB, 49 K, 3.65 ERA, 6.59 FIP, -3.3 fWAR

A.J. Ramos 65 G, 65 IP, 0 H, 130 BB, 34 K, 0.00 ERA, 8.35 FIP, -3.2 fWAR

Trevor Rosenthal 69 G, 77 IP, 46 H, 23 BB, 184 K, 0.00 ERA, -0.55 FIP, 11.5 fWAR

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Can CC Sabathia be 2013 Andy Pettitte?

The Detroit Tigers were about as bad a matchup on paper as CC Sabathia could have possibly gotten for his opening start of the 2016 season. Eight of the Tigers' nine batters were righties, including sluggers Justin Upton, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez. Sabathia's splits against righties and lefties were drastic last season with righties having a .370 wOBA against Sabathia compared to a .231 wOBA for lefites. The Yankees were desperate for a six inning start since neither of their first four starting pitchers achieved that. Since you can't predict baseball, Sabathia was able to do it as he allowed three earned runs over six innings, including retiring the first nine Detroit hitters. It was extremely clear that Sabathia was trying to reinvent himself as a new pitcher trying to follow what Andy Pettitte did with great success at the end of his career.

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Quick Hit: Don't Stress About The Rest

I mentioned this briefly in my game recap on Saturday night, but I wanted to go back and revisit Joe's decision to use Dellin Betances with a 4-run lead in the 8th inning of that game.  There were people asking why he would use Betances in that situation and some early chatter of concern on Twitter about Joe overusing him.  I honestly almost laughed out loud reading some of the comments. I tweeted this out yesterday morning, but if you're unfortunate enough to not follow me, I'll do it again here.  This was Dellin Betances' workload last week:

Monday- Did not pitch (rainout) Tuesday- 0.2 IP, 30 pitches Wednesday- Did not pitch Thursday- 1.0 IP, 13 pitches Friday- Did not pitch Saturday- 1.0 IP, 26 pitches Sunday- Did not pitch (rainout)

3 appearances, 2.2 innings pitched, 69 pitches thrown.  Now the rainouts certainly helped limit Betances' usage, but I would be willing to bet that Joe would have given Betances the night off anyway yesterday just in the interest of not using him back-to-back early when he threw 25+ pitches the game before.  Either way, Betances would have gotten another day off before going into today's scheduled off-day, which Joe surely knew he had available to rest his bullpen.  5 off-days and 3 days of work.  That's not a very strenuous schedule for the first week of the regular season.  For the sake of comparison, Betances pitched 4.1 innings in 4 appearances and threw 95 pitches over the first week of last season.  None of those appearances were back-to-back either.

The point here is that it is foolish to start getting worked up about Betances' workload and whether he's getting enough rest in the first week of the season.  He's had plenty of rest and Joe hasn't been working him too hard.  Had Betances not walked the yard and thrown the ball away on Opening Day, he wouldn't have had to throw so many pitches.  Joe gave him a day off after that outing and he'll have 2 days off after a 25+ pitch outing on Saturday.  He's fine.

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Tonight's game has been postponed

Thanks to Mother Nature acting like it's February instead of April, tonight's game in Detroit has been postponed. The makeup date is July 28 according to Marly Rivera. So now the Yankees have two off days before starting their series against the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday and that's a good thing for everyone, I think.

Game 5 Recap: Yankees 8 Tigers 4

[caption id="attachment_80934" align="aligncenter" width="525"]A-Rod HR vs DET Courtesy of the AP[/caption] Somehow the Yankees and Tigers managed to forge on in the sub-arctic temperatures this afternoon, though clearly the Yankees were better equipped to win in those inhuman weather conditions.  They jumped out to an early lead, built a big cushion on one key swing, and used that cushion to make it comfortably to the finish.

The early lead came off of Detroit starter Mike Pelfrey, who really didn't have much today.  Alex Rodriguez drove a 3-2 sinker into deep left field for a solo home run, his first of the year, to get the scoring started in the top of the 1st.  Didi Gregorius singled home Brian McCann with 2 outs in the 2nd to make it 2-0, and then that key swing came in the bottom of the 4th.

McCann got things started with a 1-out walk, back-to-back singles by Carlos Beltran and Starlin Castro loaded the bases, and a Didi sac fly plated McCann again to make it 3-0.  Ronald Torreyes singled on the infield to reload the bases, and the lineup turned over for a third time.  Jacoby Ellsbury was 0-2 on the day coming into his third at-bat, but he got a 1-0 sinker from Pelfrey that didn't sink and he laced it into the right-center field gap to clear the bases and double the lead to 6-0.  It ended Pelfrey's day and gave the Yankee pitching staff all the breathing room it would need.

CC Sabathia was the anchor of the staff today, making his first start of 2016 and trying to build off his strong finish to last season.  He sat down the Tigers in order over the first 3 innings and looked like the kind of lower-velocity pitcher we always hoped he'd become.  He was mixing all his pitches well, he was getting ahead in the count locating down in the strike zone, and generating a lot of weak contact that his defense easily handled.

Sabathia did get into trouble in the 4th and 5th, however, and the Tigers got 2 runs back in the 4th on a trio of walks and a 2-run single by James McCann.  CC wasn't as sharp out of the stretch as he was in the first 3 innings, but he did a good job of limiting the damage to 2 and became the first Yankee starter to successfully navigate the 6th when he went 1-2-3 on the middle of the Tiger order.  Not a bad way for the old workhorse to get his year started.

The brief Tiger rally in the 4th was snuffed out by a monster Beltran home run in the top of the 5th and even a messy 7th inning wasn't enough to cause anybody to break a sweat.  Joe went for the sure win by using Dellin Betances in the 8th and Andrew Miller in the 9th and they responded as they normally do.  The Yankees evened the series and have their ace on the mound tomorrow night as they look to go 2-2 in series wins.

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Quick hit: Nick Swisher's back with the Yanks

While it's only a minor league deal, old friend Nick Swisher is returning to the Yankees organization. Per Chad Jennings:

Nick Swisher is working out at the Yankees minor league complex. Team anticipates signing minor league deal as DH/1B/OF depth.

Swisher's contract pays him $15M this year, all but the minimum will be paid for by the Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians. Presumably this puts some pressure on Dustin Ackley, but unless Swish hits, it's just a trip down memory lane.

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Game 5: Sabathia vs. Pelfrey (Played On Hoth)

Did you guys know it's cold in Detroit today?  Well it is.  It's suuuuuuper cold, so cold that there was ICE on the field this morning.  I know, I can't believe it either.  Hopefully the Yankees and Tigers are able to survive these conditions and complete this afternoon's game without getting severe frostbite and having to amputate their fingers and toes.  CC Sabathia will make his first start of the 2016 season and here's the lineup that will take the field with him: 1) Jacoby Ellsbury- CF 2) Brett Gardner- LF 3) Alex Rodriguez- DH 4) Mark Teixeira- 1B 5) Brian McCann- C 6) Carlos Beltran- RF 7) Starlin Castro- 2B 8) Didi Gregorius- SS 9) Ronald Torreyes- 3B

First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 EST.  Temperature at first pitch should be around -400 degrees, give or take.  This is your game thread.  Let's go Yankees!

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Game 4 Quick Recap: DET 4 NYY 0

First road game of the season, day game after a sorta-night game, short lineup to get some guys an early rest, short bullpen with a young starter pitching in cold weather.  This game had all the makings of a stinker and the Yankees lived up to those low expectations by going down quietly this afternoon in Detroit.  No matter, they didn't win on Tuesday and they still took that series.  Rest up and come back tomorrow. Luis Severino probably pitched better than his final results indicated today.  He gave up a run on an Ian Kinsler double and Miguel Cabrera single in the bottom of the 1st, and then got bad lucked to death in the 4th.  Jacoby Ellsbury misplayed a fly ball that would have been the second out of the inning into a single and from there Detroit put 2 more runs on the board on a pair of groundball singles and a groundout.  Could have easily been a 1-2-3 inning and it basically turned into the end of the game.

Reason being the Yankee offense didn't show up.  It wasn't fixing to be a high-scoring game with Joe giving A-Rod, Beltran, and Big Mac full days off, but the Yankee lineup managed just 3 hits all day, all of them singles.  Only 2 of those came against Detroit starter Jordan Zimmerman and Jacoby Ellsbury was the only Yankee to reach second base at any point during the game.  The game was never completely out of reach, but the bats never woke up to muster up any kind of a comeback.

That game was a giveaway, and Joe knew that going in.  I just hope he knows what he's doing tomorrow.  He's got a short bullpen and he'll be counting on CC Sabathia for length in the game.

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About Last Night: Alex Rodriguez finally gets a hit

Our long national nightmare is over, Alex Rodriguez finally got a base hit. In fact, he hit two! Entering yesterday's game, A-Rod was 2-10 with three walks and was not looking great at the plate. This, of course, led to some people, mostly dunderheads on Twitter, declaring his career over because as we all know, everything about a baseball season, and a player's future performance, should be based upon a handful of at bats.

But I digress.

Here's Alex's spray chart for the day.

arodspraychart4716

Those are the three balls he hit yesterday—the two line drives were his singles.

Next up, the pitches thrown to him broken down by pitch category. As you can see, he was thrown almost entirely fastballs. (13 fastballs, 1 off-speed)

Brooksbaseball-Chart (8)

Rodriguez finally broke through and got his first hit of the season in the fifth inning off Houston's starter Mike Fiers. No, he didn't hit it for a home run, but it was a solid line drive, RBI single that tied the game at five and it came off a 91 mph fastball that got too much of the plate.

This is about a millisecond before Alex makes contact with the ball.

arodsinglestillshot

And here's video of that same fifth inning RBI single:

Once Rodriguez got that first hit out of the way, he followed it up with another line drive single in the seventh against Houston reliever Ken Giles. As you can see from the spray chart above, the singles landed in nearly the same spot.

Alex saw three pitches from Giles and he swung at all of them. He swung through the first two which were clocked at 97.2 and 98.0 mph respectively, and it looked like Giles would just blow him away on the third pitch, but he didn't.

The third pitch was just a little bit harder than the second—it came in at 98.1 mph. But the thing about Giles' pitches were that they weren't really moving and were all thrown straight into the strike zone. Sure, they were very hard fastballs, but Alex Rodriguez is a 20-year veteran of MLB and if you're just going to keep throwing straight fastballs at him, he'll eventually adjust.

And he did.

So stop worrying about the old man. Now that he's gotten hits number one and two out of the way, he should be fine.

Game 3 Quick Recap: NYY 8 HOU 5

[caption id="attachment_80908" align="aligncenter" width="525"]Teix HR vs HOU 16 Teix working on his Michael Jackson pose. Courtesy of the AP[/caption] I didn't watch a second of this game yesterday, and I only followed the last few innings on Twitter and Gameday.  Shame too, because it seemed like this would have been a great game to watch.  The Yankees battled back from 2 early deficits to take a late lead and lock up a home-opening series win with their lockdown late-inning bullpen.

Those early deficits were caused by starter Nathan Eovaldi, who made like Mike Pineda and gave up 5 runs in 5 innings on a couple of long balls and no walks.  Tyler White and Preston Tucker each got ahold of Eovaldi's splitter and hit it out in the top of the 2nd to make it 3-0, and then White came through with a 2-run single in the 4th to put Houston back up 3.

The Yankees chipped away at those 2 3-run leads over the course of 4 innings.  They got 1 in the 2nd on a Chase Headley sac fly, another in the 3rd on a Jacoby Ellsbury ribbie double, 2 in the 4th on solo homers by Brian McCann and Starlin Castro, and a run in the 5th to tie the game on an Alex Rodriguez base hit.  That set the stage for Mark Teixeira, who hit a 3-run home run off of Ken Giles in the bottom of the 7th to give the Yankees the lead.

That lead was well protected by Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller.  They struck out 5 in 2 scoreless innings and backed up a solid scoreless 2-run performance by Chasen Shreve and Kirby Yates ahead of them.  An excellent team effort by the relief corps to send the Yankees to Detroit above .500.

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Game 4: Severino vs. Zimmermann

Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran have the day off, and Mark Teixeira has a 'half-day' at DH.

New York Yankees Detroit Tigers
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF Ian Kinsler, 2B
Brett Gardner, LF Justin Upton, LF
Starlin Castro, 2B Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Mark Teixeira, DH Victor Martinez, DH
Dustin Ackley, 1B J.D. Martinez, RF
Chase Headley, 3B Nick Castellanos, 3B
Didi Gregorius, SS James McCann, C
Aaron Hicks, RF Jose Iglesias, SS
Austin Romine, C Anthony Gose, CF
Luis Severino, SP Jordan Zimmermann, SP
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Game 3: Blame it on the rain?

Welcome to today's game thread. The Yankees are looking to take two out of three from the Astros which would be nice because they haven't won a series against them since September 2013. It's time, boys.

Here are your lineups: ASTROS Altuve 2B Springer RF Correa SS Rasmus LF Gomez CF Valbuena 3B White 1B Tucker DH Kratz C

Fiers P

YANKEES Ellsbury CF Gardner LF Rodriguez DH Teixeira 1B McCann C Beltran RF Headley 3B Castro 2B Gregorius SS

Eovaldi P

Enjoy the game! The Yankees are saying that they hope to start the game by 4:15.

About Last Night: Starlin Castro

If you're like me, you're enjoying what Starlin Castro has done in the last two games. (Yes, minuscule sample sizes abound.) So I thought we could take a look at his hits: Where the pitches landed, what pitches he hit, the velocity, etc. Let's do this.

Here's his run scoring double off Dallas Keuchel on Opening Day:

trumedia_baseball_heatmap (7)

It was an 0-1 cutter, it was 85 mph, it was inside and Castro was able to keep it fair.

Yesterday was a much bigger day for Castro who couldn't stay off the bases. He went 4 for 5 with a home run, a double and two singles.

He started things off with a single in the Yankees' big first inning.

trumedia_baseball_heatmap (8)

It was a 3-2 fastball (93 mph) off Michael Feliz who had come in to relieve starter Collin McHugh who was already knocked out of the game. Castro went after a high pitch, hit it into the ground, but hit it where there weren't any fielders and it turned into a single.

In the bottom of the second, after the Astros turned the Yankees' somewhat-comfy five-run lead into a not-so-comfy, honestly-quite-sweaty one-run lead, Castro unloaded on Feliz and hit a three-home run.

trumedia_baseball_heatmap (5)

This time, it was an 81 mph slider that didn't slide enough, got too much of the plate and Castro deposited it into the visitor's bullpen.

I included the video so you can really see where the pitch landed in the strike zone:

In the sixth inning, Castro hit a double off Tony Sipp.

trumedia_baseball_heatmap (6)

It was a 76 mph slider that, again, got way too much of the plate and didn't slide.

And for his finale, Castro hit an RBI single in the bottom of the seventh that made the score 16-6.

trumedia_baseball_heatmap (9)

It was a 93 mph fastball that didn't catch any of the plate and Castro was able to smack between first and second.

Here's a still shot, right before he makes contact with the pitch.

Castro7thinningsingle

So there you have it. All of Starlin Castro's hits so far. Let's hope he keeps it up!

Quick Hit: Two-Strike Mike

[caption id="attachment_80873" align="aligncenter" width="550"]Pineda 2-Strikes vs HOU Courtesy of Brooks Baseball[/caption] It's foolish to make too much out of one start, but take a look at that pitch plot from Michael Pineda's start last night.  That's pitch location broken down by strikes in the count and the yellow dots indicate where his 2-strike pitches were thrown.  Unless you have some kind of color blindness, you can see that a lot of those 2-strike pitches are located in the strike zone and too many of those pitches in the strike zone are in the middle portion of it.

As I discussed in the game recap, poor 2-strike pitch location was a problem for Pineda again last night.  It wasn't his downfall, as all the home runs off him came early in the count, but it perfectly exemplifies the command and location problems that have hounded him during his time in pinstripes.  We should be seeing a lot more of those yellow dots down and out of the strike zone, in places where hitters either can't make contact and strike out or make weaker contact that leads to easy outs from the defense.  I only count 3 of those such pitches, compared to 13 in the strike zone.

I'm sure the cold weather had something to do with Pineda's location struggles last night, especially when it comes to his slider.  It would be a gross over-reaction to say that last night's poor showing is a predictor of things to come this season.  At the same time, this is not a new problem for Pineda and it is one that he needs to correct regardless of what the weather is.  We know he's got the stuff and the command to be a very good starting pitcher.  That's reflected in his K and BB rates and we've seen him be dominant in a few starts.  But he needs to be better with 2 strikes and the best way to do that is to throw more pitches out of the strike zone.  2-strike counts are not the time to let a hitter square the ball up.

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Game 2 Recap: Yankees 16 Astros 6

[caption id="attachment_80868" align="aligncenter" width="525"]Castro vs HOU Have a day, Starlin. Courtesy of the AP[/caption] What's the best way to get over another Opening Day loss?  By coming out and whoopin' up on that team that beat you in game 2.  That's exactly what the Yankees did last night, forcing Houston to go to their bullpen in the 1st inning and never looking back on their way to a double-digit beatdown of the Astros.

That end result came no thanks to New York starter Michael Pineda.  After a strong start to his spring, Pineda came back to earth at the end of camp and his traditional set of problems were all front and center last night.  He threw fastball after fastball that drifted over the plate, he left slider after slider up in the strike zone, and he did both of those things with regularity when he had 2 strikes on guys.  The 2 pitches he threw that Carlos Correa tattooed for home runs were some of the worst pitches you'll see, and the one that George Springer hit for a grand slam to briefly bring the Astros back into the game in the top of the 2nd wasn't much better.

To his credit, Pineda did manage to complete 5 innings after looking like he was going to need the hook in the 2nd or 3rd.  And he didn't walk a batter.  But he was far too hittable and his 2-strike execution was brutal.  It was a bad first start and he's lucky he got the support that he did from his lineup.

Because that's what this game was all about.  The lineup.  The textbook Yankee power and patience combo was on full display, well really more patience and power since they basically forced Houston starter Colin McHugh out of the game by taking a bunch of pitches and drawing walks.  Jacoby Ellsbury got on to lead off the bottom of the 1st on catcher's interference in a 6-pitch at-bat, then Brett Gardner drew a walk on 7, A-Rod took one on 6 after going down 0-2, and Mark Teixeira singled on the 7th pitch of his AB to score Ellsbury.  From there, Brian McCann doubled to make it 3-1, Chase Headley singled to make it 5-1, and McHugh hit the showers with 1 out to his credit on 43 pitches.

The power took over from there, with Starlin Castro clubbing a 3-run homer to left in the bottom of the 2nd.  Teix followed that up with a 3-run shot to right in the 3rd that put the Yankees back up 12-5 and up for good.  They got their licks in against sacrificial bullpen lamb Michael Feliz and didn't stop when he left.  Carlos Beltran banged a solo homer off of Tony Sipp to lead off the 6th and the bench got into the act when Ronald Torreyes tripled in 2 against Josh Fields in the 7th.

That made life very easy for Ivan Nova, who came out to replace Pineda in the top of the 6th and looked pretty darn good taking the game to the end in his first relief appearance of the year.  He gave up 4 hits in his first 2 innings, but worked efficiently out of trouble both times and struck out 5 over 4 innings, including Correa swinging in the 9th.  He really had the curveball working and it was probably good for him to have some early success in a low-stress setting.  If he has to settle into a relief role for the long term, that's a nice way to start the process.

Yanks evened things up last night and they'll have a chance to take the series win this afternoon if the weather allows.  The forecast looks pretty crappy and we're on tap for first pitch a little after 4 PM.  If it happens, the starting pitchers will be Nathan Eovaldi and Mike Fiers.

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