Thursday, June 5, 2014

Game 59 Wrap-Up: NYY 2 OAK 1

(Lotta these talks today in the 4th and 5th.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

Masahiro Tanaka was on the mound for this afternoon's series finale against AL kings of the mountain Oakland and he was the team's best chance to win.  Actually, he may have been their only chance to win with the way they've been playing.  The A's had yet to experience Tanaka and all that comes with him, and even though they made him work for it they were unable to solve the riddle and get enough against him to get the sweep.

Game Notes:

- The Oakland hitters knew how to approach Tanaka even without any experience against him.  John Jaso got a first-pitch sinker that stayed up on the second AB of the game and hit it out for a solo home run and a quick 1-0 lead.

- The Yanks created plenty of early chances against Oakland starter Drew Pomeranz.  They blew one stranding runners on second and third with 1 out in the bottom of the 1st, but made up for it with an Alfonso Soriano (!!!) RBI single in the 2nd and Brett Gardner solo HR in the 3rd.

- Tanaka and Pomeranz each traded zeros after the 3rd, with Tanaka's coming much more difficultly.  He lasted 6 innings and needed 104 pitches to get through them, with only 4 strikeouts.  Pomeranz pitched 7 on 101 pitches and struck out 7.

This early scoring chances disappeared in the later innings.  The Yankees only managed to get 1 baserunner to second after the 3rd inning and failed to put more than 1 runner on in any inning.

- Joe went back to his bullpen horses to maintain the lead this time and they were back to normal.  Dellin Betances struck out 2 in a perfect 7th, Adam Warren pitched around 2 RISP with 2 BIG strikeouts in the 8th, and David Robertson locked down the 9th with 2 whiffs of his own.

AB4AR 2014 MLB Draft Preview

Everybody knows I'm not a big draft guy.  I don't follow the pre-draft rankings that much and I don't read too many scouting reports on players.  But I can say I did make an honest effort to follow some of the players and storylines involving the Yankees for this draft and I do have a few SCORCHING HOT TAKES on tonight's proceedings.
  • Love Grant Hockin as a potential top pick for the Yankees at 55.  Love him.  Righty HS pitcher out of Los Angeles.  Good frame (6'3"/195), throws 4 pitches, 2 of them already decent-to-good offspeed pitches, smooth delivery, easy mechanics, very good makeup.
  • Hockin could be a bit of a reach at 55, but I think that's a risk worth taking with the 55th pick being the Yankees' first pick.  After that, I expect them to go with mostly cheaper college players for the next few rounds and save their amateur money for the big international spending spree.
  • Case in point, Pat Connaughton, righty pitcher out of Notre Dame.  The Yanks have been reportedly linked to him, prep catchers Chase Vallot, K.J. Harrison, and Jakson Reetz, and Indian first baseman Sam Travis by name as early round targets.
  • Travis is a very polished college bat with power potential, similar to Jagielo last year.  If they could somehow manage to get him in the 2nd and Hockin in the 3rd, I'd be ecstatic.
The draft starts at 6 PM Eastern tonight and it'll be a few minutes before the Yankees' turn comes around.  Most of my draft recap and analysis will be coming tomorrow, but if I can hop online later tonight and touch on the Yankees' picks I will.

More On Soriano's Slump

On Tuesday, I took a painful look at Alfonso Soriano and his middling production this season.  He's been a major drain on the middle of the order and even more un-productive than Brian McCann, and it looked like it was attributable to nothing more than him being old and losing bat speed.  On that same day, Matt Bove of IIATMS/TYA also pointed out Soriano's drastic decline in power and spike in strikeouts, which inspired me to dig a little deeper.  Turns out Soriano has a major platoon split this season.  He's got an .805 OPS against right-handed pitching and a .563 against lefties, with more walks and strikeouts against southpaws.

Knowing that Soriano has been getting beaten badly by the fastball this season, is it possible that Soriano is getting a little of the Derek Jeter treatment and being pitched to in a way by righties that exploits his apparent loss of bat speed?

Joe Searching For Some Life On A Lifeless Ballclub

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

I didn't watch much of last night's game even though I had it on ESPN because the Rangers were obviously the priority, but I did have the Gameday feed up so I followed along enough to know that last night was another in what's become a common theme of Yankee losses.  It was their 4th in a row, 6th in their last 8 games, and the 6th straight game in which they failed to score more than 4 runs.  They scored early, with 4 runs in the 3rd inning, then never scored again as their below replacement-level 5th (4th??) starter and Quad-A middle relief corps slowly and methodically killed the 4-run lead they were given.

In boxing terms, last night's game was like a Floyd Mayweather fight.  The A's were the better team, the Mayweather in the matchup, and they knew it.  Instead of changing their approach, they stuck with what they do best, played their game, and slowly picked the Yankees apart by outclassing them as a baseball team and winning an easy decision.  Outclassed is a perfectly appropriate term here too, because last night the Yankees were outclassed by the A's.  The A's did everything better than the Yankees last night.  There was never any doubt, in my mind, that they were going to come back and win that game the minute Yoenis Cespedes hit his first home run to get them on the board.

Beltran To Return Today? (UPDATED)

Nothing's official yet, and won't be until later this afternoon, but all signs point to Carlos Beltran returning to the Yankee lineup tonight today.  He came through his ExST games without any problems in his elbow, he was on his way back to New York to rejoin the team yesterday, and when asked about his status before last night's game, Joe had this to say:

“He could possibly be in the lineup tomorrow. We’ll make a decision tomorrow, see how he feels, and he could be in the lineup tomorrow.  I just didn't reveal it because sometimes if a guy has a day setback, it becomes a huge story. And I don’t want it to become a huge story.”

So as long as Beltran doesn't wake up with pain in his elbow today or hit his funny bone really hard on anything in the clubhouse, he should be good to go.  The Yankees have been on a bad streak when it comes to setbacks, so smart move by Joe not saying anything until he knows Beltran is good to go.

Beltran returning could be huge if he truly is over the pain in his elbow.  There's no way of knowing how long that will last, but with Joe planning to use him as the primary DH he should be able to limit the wear and tear on that elbow.  The more Beltran can give them, the better.

** UPDATE 10:37 AM- Beltran has indeed been activated, with Scott Sizemore getting sent down, and is batting 5th in today's lineup as the DH. **

Game 58 Wrap-Up: OAK 7 NYY 4

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

Lineup shakeup on Tuesday night, bullpen shakeup on Wednesday afternoon.  If anybody thought Joe and Cash hadn't noticed how horrible the Yankees have been playing, there were your answers.  Joe stuck with Murphy behind the plate again last night while McCann DH'd and Ichiro got the start in right field against the righty Jesse Chavez.  In the 'pen, he wasn't sure if he was going to have Betances and Warren available after Tuesday night, so newbies Jose Ramirez and Wade LeBlanc were both good bets to get called upon if Vidal Nuno had another rough start in The Stadium.  It wasn't rough, but the collective pitching effort wasn't enough to hold onto a lead provided by another "one and done" offensive output.

Game Notes:

- Nuno's first 3 innings were typical Nuno.  Lot of deep counts, lot of pitches fouled off, and the inability on his part to puts guys away with 2 strikes.  They were also scoreless and sometimes that's all that matters.

- He got a bigger margin for error in the bottom of the 3rd thanks a nice little 4-run inning.  Ichiro started it off with a leadoff walk, Derek Jeter singled him in with an infield hit (as only Jeter can), and Jacoby Ellsbury cranked a 3-run home run to right-center for the big blow.

- Good thing Nuno had the margin too, because Yoenis Cespedes hit a home run off him on the second pitch he saw to start the top of the 4th.  Nuno escaped further damage with a double play ball and then limited the damage to 1 run when he worked into trouble again in the 5th before exiting with 2 outs.

- Matt Daley took the first crack at bridging the middle inning gap and got burned on a classic Yankee Stadium cheapie home run by Cespedes in the 6th.  A Jeter error extended the inning and came around to score on a sac fly to tie the game at 4.

- As they always seem to do, the Yankee bats went stone cold after the 3rd inning.  They stranded 2 in the 4th and 7th innings and the A's kept hammering away at the Yankee 'pen.  Ramirez gave up a solo HR in the 2 innings of work and LeBlanc got tagged for 2 in the 9th to put the game out of reach.