Game 124: Eovaldi vs. Feldman

Here’s your game thread for this evening. Tonight’s lineups are:

Houston Astros New York Yankees
Jose Altuve, 2B Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Marwin Gonzalez, LF Brett Gardner, LF
Carlos Correa, SS Alex Rodriguez, DH
Colby Rasmus, RF Brian McCann, C
Carlos Gomez, CF Carlos Beltran, RF
Evan Gattis, DH Greg Bird, 1B
Luis Valbuena, 3B Chase Headley, 3B
Chris Carter, 1B Didi Gregorius, SS
Hank Conger, C Stephen Drew, 2B
Scott Feldman, SP Nate Eovaldi, SP

Enjoy the game!

Quick Hit: How Hurt Is Brian McCann?

One of the most talked about topics in the broadcast booth this weekend, besides the memories of Jorge and Andy’s careers, was the change in Brian McCann‘s batting stance.  YES cameras showed McCann standing with almost all of his weight on his front leg, a change from his usual balanced stance with more weight on his back leg.  John Flaherty said he asked McCann about it and McCann told him it was just something he was experimenting with, trying different things to tweak his swing.

While I’m not saying I don’t buy that answer, I can’t help but think back to that game earlier in the month when McCann hurt his left knee late in a blowout win over the Red Sox.  There were a lot people questioning whether it was smart to leave him in that game, and the issue was at least serious enough for McCann to get the next 2 games off with what was called “inflammation”.  McCann hasn’t been swinging a hot bat lately, he’s wearing a sizable brace on that left knee, and he was the DH for the 2 weekend games against Cleveland.  This all feels like it has to add up to a more serious knee injury that McCann and the Yankees aren’t letting on to, doesn’t it?

For what it’s worth, McCann’s slash line since August 4th – the night he initially tweaked the knee – is .167/.224/.426 with a 5.2% BB rate and 24.1% K rate.  Prior to that night, McCann was hitting .255/.325/.477 with 8.1% BB and 18.8% K rates.  His line drive rate has also sunk to 10.0% since 8/4 with sizable increases in fly ball contact in general and infield fly ball contact specifically, compared to a 19.3% LD rate prior to 8/4.

These statistical comparisons all come with the requisite SSS warning.  There’s nothing in this current 15-game sample that can tell us anything definitively about whether or not McCann has a more serious knee injury than we know about or what the severity of the injury is.  But there certainly is a sizable pile of circumstantial and statistical evidence to support the claim.  If McCann’s knee is in bad enough shape that he can’t set his weight normally, that’s surely something that would negative impact his timing, swing, and production at the plate.

The Yankee offense keeps fluctuating between extreme levels of production and the recent injury to Mark Teixeira has helped put them back into slump mode.  With other players around him needing time off to rest and ramp up for the September stretch run, McCann could be gutting one out for his team and trying to do the best he can to pick up the slack.  We’ve already seen how that plan works out with a pitcher nursing a bad knee.  I’d hate to see something similar happen to Big Mac.

Was This The End For CC Sabathia?

CC Sabathia future in doubt as Yankees fall out of 1st
Courtesy: Bill Kostroun, NY Post

I was in attendance for Andy Pettitte day yesterday at Yankee Stadium, and it was a huge day of mixed emotions. It certainly started off with a bang with the Pettitte ceremony. It was awesome, even if the crowd again gave a bigger applause to Derek Jeter just like they did on Saturday to Jorge Posada, which was annoying. To see your whole childhood out there on that field really makes you remember why you fell in love with this game and franchise. I even learned some things I didn’t know, like how Pettitte used to throw a knuckle ball. It was very cool stuff.

Then the game happened and it was a train wreck. Sure, a 4-3 game doesn’t seem so bad, yet it was the most excruciating Yankees game I’ve ever been to. There were 16 combined walks and the Yankees struck out 11 times. The umpiring seemed crazy inconsistent from what I could tell in my seats in right field. The Indians made countless errors and the Yankees could just never take advantage. Trevor Bauer was struggling badly coming in and could not find the strike zone, and yet the Yankees could not do anything against him. CC Sabathia was getting creamed, and Branden Pinder could not throw a strike to save his life. It seemed like there was a meeting at the mound every two minutes. I was at the game earlier this year when Masahiro Tanaka got bombed by the Tigers, and this was much worse to sit through.

Earlier in the week when the Yankees slotted Bryan Mitchell into the rotation, I knew it would mean I would be seeing Sabathia instead of Nathan Eovaldi. This was certainly bad news and I was not thrilled about it, and that feeling sucked because of what Sabathia has meant to this franchise. It wasn’t too long ago when you wanted to go see a Sabathia start.

However, the truth is sometimes painful in life, and Andrew Marchand’s story on ESPN New York last night was correct. The Yankees are much better off without Sabathia. If they still want to use a six-man rotation, Mitchelll would give them a better chance to win. If they do not, then the other five guys in the rotation are better options than CC. It’s very hard to write that. Sabathia lead the team to its last championship in 2009. He was everything an ace was supposed to be on and off the field during his first contract. Not many players in that clubhouse want to succeed as much as him. His teammates have his back at every turn because of how he has theirs.

Unfortunately, his body gave out on him like it does to everybody at some point in life. Who knows how much Sabathia’s knee has been bothering him all year, but it certainly seems like he was protecting it all year before finally letting loose in these last few starts when he threw harder and pitched better. Of course, it only took a few outings before that knee failed him again.

I just hope I wasn’t at Yankee Stadium for the symbolic end of Sabathia’s great Yankees career. A day that was supposed to be for celebrating a Yankee great may also be remembered for another one’s final stand.

Quick About Last Night: Dellin Betances and the pitch of doom

This is the pitch Francisco Lindor hit off Dellin Betances to break a 3-3 tie in the eighth inning of yesterday’s game.


How deflating. The Stadium was in shock and I actually said, “Did that just happen?”

It just stinks that the home run came off a pitch from Betances of all people because he’s been so reliable this season, but the Yankees offense also needs to do a better job against someone like Trevor Bauer who came into the game with an ERA above 4.

On to the next one…

Looking At The Short And Long-Term Implications Of CC’s Latest Knee Injury

While we’ve all been calling for CC Sabathia‘s removal from the starting rotation for some time now, I don’t think any of us were rooting for an injury to be the reason he got removed.  Unfortunately that’s exactly what happened yesterday and now the Yankees are left to scramble again to keep their pitching staff whole while Sabathia is likely to hit the DL and ponder where he goes from here.

The condition of Sabathia’s right knee has been a red flag all year, with 2 drainings having already taken place and a cortisone shot administered recently.  In Andrew Marchand’s article on the injury yesterday afternoon, Sabathia himself basically admitted that he’s been protecting the knee all season and that his decision to say “screw it” and pitch as hard as he could without focusing on protecting it was the reason for his recent uptick in velocity.  There’s a lot of moving parts to this latest setback, so let’s break it down in terms of short and long-term effects to make it more manageable.

Shorter Short Term– In the immediate short term, not much really changes for the Yankees.  They were already planning to activate Michael Pineda from the DL on Wednesday, presumably to work in a 6-man rotation for the foreseeable future.  With Sabathia out, Pineda will step back in and the rotation will just continue along as a 5-man. Bryan Mitchell has already started pitching again after his scary on-mound incident last week, so the option of a 6th starter remains open should the Yankees decide to go that route in September.  They keep their rotation rest plans intact and Sabathia rests the knee to see if he can return this year.

Longer Short Term– The loss of Sabathia could put additional strains on an already hard worked bullpen.  The rotation hasn’t provided a lot of length all season, and we’re still a week away from rosters expanding.  Even if Pineda coming off the DL on an 80-90 pitch limit his first time out is a better option than a 100% healthy Sabathia with no pitch limit, the cumulative effect of multiple starts of 5-6 innings in a week isn’t going to help Joe give more rest to his relievers that need it.  Not that Sabathia was providing much length anyway.  He’s been one of the biggest drains on the bullpen all season.  But him being out does diminish the overall depth of the pitching staff, and that’s never something you want or need when you’re in the middle of a pennant race.  If Sabathia is going to be out for more than 15 days, that’s more slack for everybody to pick up.

Shorter Long Term (2016)– The question of whether or not Sabathia is even going to come back this season is a fair one to ask given the history of that knee.  As of the timing of this post, we still have not heard an official diagnosis on the nature of the injury.  I imagine we’ll get the results of yesterday’s MRI and that diagnosis later today, and depending on the severity there could be some impact on next year.  If Sabathia was holding back and pitching at less than full effort all year to protect his knee, there’s little reason to expect that to change next year.  The sad truth is that Sabathia’s knee might not be physically capable of standing up to the rigors of pitching anymore, and if that’s the case then the Yankees can’t afford to keep him in the rotation.  He’s no help to the team if he can’t pitch at full strength and pitch effectively every time out and it doesn’t sound like his knee will allow him to do those things in a starting role.  So if he isn’t a starter next year, what do the Yankees do with him?

Longer Long Term (2017)– If we’re assuming that Sabathia won’t be able to pitch as a starter anymore because of his knee condition, it’s worth wondering if he’ll be able to pitch again at all.  He has that 2017 option in his contract that vests as long as he’s not hampered by shoulder injuries, but if he really isn’t physically capable of pitching at 100% max effort and risks further damage to the knee every time he does, is that worth hanging around for?  Serious knee injuries don’t get better as pro athletes get into their mid-30s and Sabathia sounds like a guy who already knew this one wasn’t going away or getting better any time soon.  He’s got 50 million reasons to try to hang around and collect a paycheck, but CC is a pretty prideful guy, not exactly the type who would want to stick around and collect said paycheck while being a pitching punching bag.  It wouldn’t shock me if this injury and the continuing problems with the knee forced him to walk away.

There were a few last glimmers of hope that CC could turn things around heading into this season, but after this latest knee injury those glimmers have all been snuffed out.  We’ve now got a sample size of about 60 starts and 400 innings pitched over the last 3 seasons that says CC Sabathia is not a good starting pitcher anymore and a degenerative knee condition that says his body can’t hold up to the physical toll of starting pitching anymore.  Of course we’re all in “wait and see” mode until the results of the MRI come out, but at this point it would be foolish to think Sabathia can come back from this and be even a league average pitcher.  This is another reminder that time catches up to us all, and it certainly appears to have caught CC and grabbed him by the back of his baggy baseball pants.

Game 123 Quick Recap: CLE 4 NYY 3

CC Injury vs CLE
Not the type of meeting on the mound you want to see. Courtesy of Getty Images

A win this afternoon and a series split would have been OK after losing the first 2 games.  It also would have been a cool way to end the weekend with back-to-back W’s on Jorge Day and Andy Pettitte Day.  Unfortunately it wasn’t in the cards, as another mostly non-existent offensive performance and more shoddy late-game relief work combined to give the Indians just enough to take the game and the series.

The big story of the day was CC Sabathia and his early exit.  CC didn’t look good from the start, giving up 2 runs in the top of the 1st on a monster Carlos Santana home run and putting 8 men on base (4 hits, 4 walks) in 2.2 innings.  On the pitch that recorded the eighth out, Sabathia appeared to hurt himself and immediately left the game.  We came to find out that it’s another problem with his right knee and the bullpen was left with a crapton of work to do.

Give credit where it’s due, the ‘pen almost completely lived up to the challenge.  Nick Rumbelow and Branden Pinder, a couple of strange choices to enter after Sabathia’s exit, combined to pitch 4 innings of 1-run ball and keep the game manageable going into the final third.  Chasen Shreve chipped in a big strikeout to end the 7th, and the library quiet offense responded with 2 runs in the bottom half on a Carlos Beltran 2-out double to tie the game.

Dellin Betances took over in the top of the 8th, and for the second straight game he was not at his best.  Fastball command was off, curveball was inconsistent, and he hung one to Francisco Lindor with 1 out that Lindor smacked into the right field seats for a go-ahead home run.  The offense couldn’t muster up anything in their final 2 chances and Andy Pettitte Day ended on a disappointing note.

Game Notes:

– Yankees’ first run came in the 3rd when Jacoby Ellsbury singled, stole second, moved to third on a flyout, and scored on an error when Brett Gardner tried to steal second base.

– The Lindor HR came right after Betances walked the leadoff man and then watched Brian McCann erase him with a perfect throw for a caught stealing.  Absolute crusher.  Also the first home run Betances has ever given up to a left-handed hitter.  (h/t to IIATMS alum Katie Sharp for that one)

– Ellsbury was the only guy with multiple hits.  McCann went 0-4 with 3 K, AKA the silver sombrero.

– Strange decision by Joe to pinch hit A-Rod for John Ryan Murphy in the bottom of the 7th.  In doing so, he sacrificed the DH as McCann moved to catcher and left himself with very few options when the now pitcher’s spot came up in the bottom of the 9th.  Joe used Chris Young for that at-bat and Young struck out swinging.

BREAKING: CC Sabathia Leaves Start With Right Knee Injury (UPDATED)

CC Sabathia has exited his start this afternoon after apparently injuring himself on a pitch in the top of the 3rd inning.  He struck out the batter on a fastball with the pitch and looked uncomfortable as he completed his delivery and came off the mound.  Joe and the trainer came out to check on him immediately and he left the game with little discussion.

It was hard to tell what the injury was watching replays of the pitch.  Sabathia didn’t appear to land funny on his bad right knee and he didn’t grab at anything or strain his body in any way.  Whatever it was, it had to be pretty serious, as CC has pitched through knee and hamstring injuries before.  As poorly as he’s pitched this year, he has been better lately working on extra rest and the Yankee rotation is already a man down without Pineda.  Further injuries to the rotation do not help, even if they happen to the weakest link of that rotation.

More on this story as it develops…

** UPDATE 1:45 PM- Via Andrew Marchand, Sabathia left the game with pain in his right knee and is being taken for an MRI.  That knee has been a problem for a long time and it’s already been drained twice this season, so this is obviously not good news. **

Game 123: Andy Pettitte Day

Andy Pettitte

The New York Yankees won on Jorge Posada Day so let’s see if the team can square up the series on Andy Pettitte Day at the Stadium. It will be a warm afternoon with CC Sabathia on the mound for the Yankees facing Trevor Bauer of the Cleveland Indians. Alex Rodriguez will sit this one out as once again, Brian McCann will be the DH with John Ryan Murphy behind the plate.

The Lineups

Cleveland Indians:

  1. Francisco Lindor – SS
  2. Mike Aviles – 2B
  3. Michael Brantley – LF
  4. Carlos Santana – 1B
  5. Ryan Raburn – DH
  6. Yan Gomes – C
  7. Abraham Almonte – CF
  8. Jerry Sands – RF
  9. Giovanny Urshela – 3B

Trevor Bauer – SP

New York Yankees:

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury – CF
  2. Brett Gardner – LF
  3. Carlos Beltran – RF
  4. Brian McCann – DH
  5. Gregory Bird – 1B
  6. Chase Headley – 3B
  7. Didi Gregorius – SS
  8. Stephen Drew – 2B
  9. John Ryan Murphy – C

CC Sabathia – SP

In other news: Brian Cashman announced that Michael Pineda will not pitch for the Yankees until September.

The game starts at 1:05 if not delayed by today’s festivities. Enjoy the game!

Game 122 Quick Recap: NYY 6 CLE 2

McCann-A-Rod vs CLE
This picture made me laugh. Courtesy of the AP

It was Jorge Posada Day at The Stadium today.  Nice job by the Yankees to not ruin it and snap that horrid 2-game losing streak.  Some of you guys in the comments were getting a little panicky again, so I’m hopeful this righting of the ship did a little to calm you down.

It was a damn home run fest in the 1st inning.  Francisco Lindor hit a solo shot off of Luis Severino to put the Indians on the board in the top half, and Brett Gardner and Brian McCann each took Danny Salazar yard in the bottom.  Gardner’s homer came with Jacoby Ellsbury on base, and the Yankees were staked to a 3-1 lead.

They added to that lead with a pair of manufactured runs in the bottom of the second.  2 singles from the bottom of the order set the table, a throwing error by Salazar on an Ellsbury grounder brought in the first run, and a Carlos Beltran sac fly brought in the second.

That was all the offense the Yanks would generate until the 8th inning, and it was all Severino would need.  He avoided some trouble in the 3rd and worked around 2 consecutive 2-out walks in the 6th to finish his day with only Lindor’s run charged against him.  Cleveland managed to push a run across against Dellin Betances in the 8th, but overall the bullpen was solid and nailed the game down in the final 3 innings.  Chance for a split tomorrow.

Game Notes:

– 2-hit days up (Ellsbury and McCann) and down (Didi and Drew) the lineup today.  13 as a team and every starter had at least 1.

– McCann’s 2 hits were his first since Monday.  He matched last season’s RBI total of 75 with the 1st inning HR.  Gardner’s homer was his first since July 28th.

– Severino was tough to hit again.  Cleveland only got to him for 3 and he’s allowed a total of 17 in his 23 innings pitched over 4 starts.  He’s also struck out 24.

Adam Warren struck out 2 in a scoreless 7th.  His dominant month of August continues.

– The run in the 8th was the first ER given up by Betances since July 7th.  You remember that, the second straight game in which he gave up a home run and people started worrying about him?  Bet those people feel stupid now.