Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Kelly Johnson Is Starting To Get Some Shine

("Thanks for the at-bats, guy."  Courtesy of Getty Images)

When the offseason ended and the Yankee roster started to take shape over ST, it looked like Kelly Johnson was going to be an important piece.  He could play a lot of positions, he could play the infield ones well, he had left-handed power.  He was like Joe's "Draw 4" Wild card in Uno that he could use at any time in any situation.  Then Yangervis Solarte came out hitting like a maniac and Brian Roberts' switch-hitting body managed to stay healthy enough to play and suddenly KJ was the odd man out, getting his only playing time when Teix was hurt and he had to play out of position at first.

Now Solarte is really slumping at the plate, Roberts' body is banged up, and Johnson finds himself back in his regular position getting regular playing time.  He's been a fixture in the bottom of the batting the last few games and could finally be starting to settle into the role he should have been playing all along.

Wednesday Morning Food For Thought: Nothing Like A Good Old Strikeout

Mashiro Tanaka: 113 K in 99.2 IP
Dellin Betances: 68 K in 40.2 IP
David Robertson: 43 K in 23.2 IP

The strikeout is the best possible outcome for any at-bat from the pitching side.  The Yankees have 3 of the best in the business when it comes to getting strikeouts and all 3 of them were in action last night.  Correction, they WERE the action last night.  15 combined Ks in 9 innings, 6 of those victims being Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion, the 3 best Toronto hitters.  Tanaka struck out all 3 for the side in the 5th inning, Betances nailed them twice in the 8th, and D-Rob ended the game with a K after a 2-out triple.

Betances and D-Rob's combined total of 111 strikeouts is the most by any relief duo in baseball.  By a lot.  The next closest is Andrew Miller and Koji Uehara with 88.  Tanaka is tied for 2nd most among all starters behind David Price.  When you're playing a lot of close games and not scoring a lot of runs, run prevention becomes even more important.  The best way to prevent runs is to prevent guys from putting the ball in play and these 3 have shown a tremendous knack for coming up with those big strikeouts in big moments.

Game 69 Wrap-Up: NYY 3 TOR 1

(The guy fields his position too, NBD.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

What more can you say about Masahiro Tanaka?  The guy is a killer.  A stone cold assassin.  He gave up a home run to the first batter he faced in last night's series opener (the second time he's done that in 2 games against the Blue Jays), then proceeded to shut them the hell down for the next 6 innings.  Is it a fair statement to say that the Yankees have the best starting pitcher and relief pitcher in the American League?  In all of MLB?  It's at least up for debate after the tag team effort by Tanaka and Dellin Betances last night that propelled the Yankees to another win over the Jays at home.

Game Notes:

- So yeah, that leadoff homer.  Tanaka actually gave up 2 more hits in the top of the 1st, both with 2 outs, before ending the only real threat he'd face on the night with a strikeout.

- The Yankees really made Marcus Stroman work for his outs.  They took a lot of pitches, fouled off a lot of pitches, and cashed in on that in the bottom of the 3rd when the lineup cycled around to Brett Gardner and he popped a YS3 Special home run down the right field line to give his team the lead.

- Stroman was knocked out before he could finish the 4th, and the Yanks got their insurance run against the bullpen in the 5th.  Derek Jeter singled, moved to second on a wild pitch, third on a groundout, and scored on Mark Teixeira's ribbie base knock to make it 3-1.

- Tanaka only allowed 2 baserunners to reach second after the 1st inning and he struck out 10 through 6 innings, including the side in the 5th (Melky, Joey Bats, Encarnacion) on splitter, slider, splitter.  Joe pulled him after 6 and 104 pitches and let his 'pen take him home.

- They did that alright.  Betances pitched a perfect 7th and perfect 8th with 3 more strikeouts, David Robertson only gave up a triple because Gardner missed a diving catch attempt and struck out 2 more of his own in the 9th.