Nothing much has been normal for the Yankees this year and yesterday in Colorado epitomized their whole season to date. It was so crazy that Joe Girardi batting David Phelps eighth was not the strangest thing that happened. After Chris Nelson got pinched hit for in the top of the ninth, Girardi had nobody else to turn to play third base other than Vernon Wells. It was the first time in his 15 major league seasons that he had played even an inning at third base.
“I got hit in the mouth at second base when I was 12 and immediately moved to the outfield,” Wells told Wally Matthews. “So you can imagine how it felt when, in the ninth inning, Wells looked at the Yankees’ dugout and saw infield coach Mick Kelleher waving him closer to the hitter. “I was like, ‘What? I’ve got to play in? I’m [playing in] already!”‘ he said. “It was definitely an eye-opening experience for me, that’s for sure.”
Wells was a huge part of the reason that the Yankees were even in the game to begin with. He already had three hits, including a two-run home run that had accounted for their only runs through eight innings and an infield single that started the Yankees’ rally in the ninth. However, Wells’ fun had only just started. The Yankees took the lead in the ninth inning with one of the softest rallies you will ever see.
Wells opened the inning with an infield single and stole second in front of Lyle Overbay walking. Ichiro Suzuki bunted the runners over and Jayson Nix was intentionally walked after a 3-0 count to load the bases. This is when things got interesting. With no backup infielders available, Girardi pinch hit Travis Hafner for Chris Nelson because the Yankees needed to take the lead right there. Hafner struck out, but Brennan Boesch got the run home on an infield single to give the Yankees a 3-2 when Nolan Arenado’s throw after a great diving effort was just a little late.
However, the Yankees still had three outs to get, and Wells had to go out to third base to replace Nelson. You knew that the baseball Gods were not going to let Wells off the hook without having to field a ball. Carlos Gonzalez hit a one-hopper that Wells had to take two steps to his left to get to. He fielded it and fired a perfect strike to Overbay at first. Wells looked like a natural on that play and you would have never realized that he had never played an inning of third base in his life.
The trade to acquire Wells was ridiculed and laughed at by just about everybody. However, Wells has been a consummate team player for the Yankees and one of the most productive players in the lineup. Even though Wells has struggled so far in May, (.240/.240/.360/.600) he proved yesterday that he does not plan on returning to playing like he did in Los Angeles any time soon.
That game last night epitomized what the 2013 Yankees have been. You really have no idea how they do it, yet they just keep on winning. With a lineup filled of mostly formerly washed up players and “AAAA” players, the Yankees find themselves at 19-13 and only one game behind the Orioles and Red Sox for first place in the AL East. It has been done with mostly guts and guile, things you do not normally associate with a team with about a $230 million payroll. With Curtis Granderson and Kevin Youkilis possible coming back next week, things can start to get even more fun soon.
It’s the first game of Interleague with the Yankees and Rockies! Here is the starting lineup!
– David Robertson will test his knee before the game. He anticipates that he’ll be able to pitch today.
– Brett Gardner will sit at least the beginning of the game out. Taking Gardner out of the lineup gives Joe Girardi some pinch-hitting options with Gardner, Travis Hafner and Brennan Boesch. In a dire situation, which one would you want?
Phil Hughes takes a lot of grief from Yankees fans for not living up to the ace that he was hyped up to be. Most of this grief has been unearned because just because Hughes is not Matt Harvey or Stephen Strasburg does not mean he is not a solid pitcher. The calls for him to be taken out of the rotation whenever he struggles are mind boggling. Right now, only Hiroki Kuroda is pitching better than him on the Yankees, and Hughes has demonstrated the best stuff on the team.
In his past four starts, Hughes has pitched 28 innings, allowed six earned runs for a 1.93 ERA, 23 hits, five walks and 30 strikeouts. This has lowered his ERA for the season from 4.67 to 3.60.
Hughes was the reason the Yankees didn’t get swept this weekend, as he turned in a masterful eight innings against Oakland and allowed only one run. The Yankees needed all eight innings out of Hughes as well because the bullpen would have likely blown the lead without Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson. His fastball was absolutely dominant, as he seemingly got ahead 0-1 to every Oakland hitter. Out of Hughes’ 118 pitches, 79 of them were fastballs, 60 of them were thrown for strikes and he got 12 swings and misses out of his fastball. Also, his fastball had the velocity on it that we had not seen from Hughes for awhile now, as he topped out at 95 MPH without losing control. With Hughes’ short arm delivery, his fastball gets on hitters very quickly, so it appears even faster than that.
Hughes’ two main problems over his career have been his inability to put batters away and allowing too many home runs. His HR/FB rate is 9.6% this season compared to 12.4% last season, so he has improved there. For the season, Hughes’ foul ball rate on his fastball is still 26.17%, which is still too high. However, with 18 strikeouts over his last two outings, he is starting to show improvement there as well.
Part of the reason for the added strikeouts has been the development of Hughes’ slider. He implemented it around the middle of last season when he started to have success and it has really taken off this season. Hughes has thrown his slider 20.7& of the time this season compared to just 4.2% last season. His slider has a whiff percentage of 14.75% this season. It has replaced his curveball as his number one off speed pitch, which is good because Hughes’ curveball just was not effective enough to be an out pitch, but it is much better served to be his third pitch. Also, he has completely scrapped his cutter, which was an awful pitch for him, as it had a higher line drive percentage (6.67%) than whiff percentage (5%) last season. He has four solid pitches to get people out and he can control of all of them, as his outstanding 8.74 K/9 and 1.80 BB/9 this season.
Hughes is in a contract season and if he keeps this up he will be in line for a very big deal. He should get around the five-year deal worth $77.5 million that Anibal Sanchez received from the Tigers. Hughes would be even more valuable to a team with a big ballpark, as more of his fly balls would not turn into home runs. It has been assumed that Hughes will be out of the Yankees’ price range due to the $189 million budget. However, with CC Sabathia being the only pitcher you can count on being under contract next season, the Yankees will have a big hole in the rotation. With talk of the Yankees maybe going away from that budget, perhaps there is more of a chance Hughes returns. If Hughes does leave as a free agent, fans will miss him more than they think, and maybe they will finally appreciate him.
Here we go, it’s the last game of the homestand! We have Andy Pettitte on the mound who plans to bounce back from his last start! Here’s the lineup!
Andy Pettitte LHP
Yankees are facing their old teammate Bartolo Colon in Game 2. This is a must win game for the Yankees if they want to even the series! Here’s the lineup.
RHP Phil Hughes
A lot of movement this week between the big club and the affiliates… we saw both Austin Romine and my personal favorite Vidal Nuno get the call to the BX, Corban Joseph get the yo-yo treatment coming up and then getting sent back down without a single AB, and then just recently Preston Claiborne get the nod out of the pen to replace the Joba monster. Many were pining for the debut of one Mark Montgomery, but Claiborne has been pretty solid himself, and has a bit more experience at the upper levels. As much as I’m looking forward to getting Monty up, I can’t say I’m too broken up about the choice. It gives Monty a bit more seasoning time and could keep him from reaching super two status. Not that the salary of a reliever should be that much concern, but until we see Hal loosen the purse strings on the future it’s not a bad idea. On with the show…
SWB RailRiders 5-0 on the week
Scranton finished off the week perfect going 5-0, led by Ziolo Almonte who went 9-23 with a pair of doubles, a HR and 5 RBI’s. He cut his K’s to 5 these last few games but didn’t manage any walks. Fellow free swinger Melky Mesa chipped in six hits of his own in 18 AB’s, including a double and a homer. He drove in two but struck out six times with zero free passes. The Yanks continue their search for a right-handed bat, indicating the OF’ers give them little reprieve with their hacktastic ways. Speaking of which, Ronnier Mustelier completed his rehab stint and made his first appearance for the Railriders. He went 0-3 but managed a walk and then came around to score. Austin Romine got in all of one AB before getting pulled in response to Cervelli getting hit with a pitch and joining half the team on the DL. With Cerv looking reborn it’s a shame to lose him, but it gives Romine a chance at some time with the big boys. David Adams went 4-15 this week, clubbing a HR and driving in a pair.
As mentioned earlier Nuno got the call and didn’t log any innings in PA this week. Good news on the reclamation front though, as Chien-Ming Wang continues to put up solid innings. He went 7 innings, giving up a run on 6 hits, walking one and striking out a pair. On the down side, for those of you awaiting the return of the Wanger you’ll have to wait. News from the FO is that they want to see him working more on his secondary stuff, as his sinker isn’t what it used to be. They feel for him to be successful he’ll have to sharpen up his off speed stuff and learn to work with reduced velocity. Torn capsules are a death sentence, so the fact that he’s doing what he has is pretty remarkable. Dellin Betances threw a ton of pitches to get just 3.1 innings deep, giving up a pair of runs in the process. He walked three and struck out six. I’m still in the Dellin-to-the-pen camp, but the upside to him starting is that he’ll log more time on the hill. Brett Marshall has picked things up though, tossing 12.1 innings of 9 hit, 1 run ball. He’s still struggling with control a bit as he walked 8 and registered 9 K’s. Mark Montgomery threw two innings in relief, giving up a run and a walk while striking out just one. Preston Claiborne chipped in 2.2 innings of his own, giving up two runs on four hits before getting the nod to the BX. He might not be able to step into Joba’s shoes right away, but anything that keeps shawn Kelley off the mound right? Read the rest of this entry
It’s a brand new series and we’re lucky enough to have our ace CC Sabathia on the mound! Let’s get to the lineups!
Lineup vs. Athletics:
CC Sabathia LHP
– The Yankees have officially placed Joba Chamberlain on the 15-day disabled list. The Yankees called up Preston Claiborne from Triple-AAA Scranton. The Yankees have DFA’d RHP Cody Eppley to make room for Claiborne on the 40-man roster.
– Tonight’s game is the 1,000th game that Joe Girardi will manage. He is 574-425 (.575) in his seven year managerial career.
It’s the series finale for the Yankees and Astros before an off-day tomorrow. Here’s your lineup!
David Phelps RHP
Notes and thoughts:
– Brett Gardner is out of the lineup again. As of right now, we’re speculating it’s a day-off but it’s a little odd. He just had a day-off on Sunday. I thought Gardner had enough offense to play against LHP. Gardner’s a better option than Ben Francisco, you know.
Going into the season, the goal for the Yankees in April was to just tread water and not fall completely out of the race with all the injuries they had. The Yankees not only survived April, but they thrived in April. After yesterdays 7-4 win over Houston, the Yankees ended April at 16-10 and only two games behind Boston in the AL East. That 16-10 record incredibly puts the Yankees on a pace to win over 100 games this season. The Yankees had many unexpected players step up for them in the month.
The Yankees are tied for first in the AL with 36 home runs on the season, when nobody expected them to hit as many home runs as they did last year. However, the Yankees are not only scoring most of their runs off of home runs this year like they did last year. The Yankees have a more diverse offense so far this season and have made many comebacks that they did not seem to make last season. In seven of their last 10 wins the Yankees had been trailing at some point in the game. All four of their wins in a four game sweep of Toronto were come from behind wins. Also, they had an exciting comeback against David Price and Fernando Rodney in Tampa and in their two wins over Arizona.
Robinson Cano, Travis Hafner, Vernon Wells and the pitching staff have helped carry the Yankees to this 16-10 record. Cano was going to have to be one of the players to carry the Yankees and he has performed at an MVP level. Without much protection in the lineup, Cano has hit .327, with 7 HR’s, 17 RBI and a .977 OPS. Also, he has .413 w/OBA and a 161 wRC+ that would both be career highs for him. Hafner has been incredible and seems to get a big hit whenever he has a chance too. Especially lately, he had three hits and three RBI in yesterdays win and on Saturday Hafner hit a huge game tying home run. For the season, Hafner is hitting .318 with 6 HR’s, 17 RBI, a 1.104 OPS, a .460 wOBA and a 192 wRC+. Wells has been on of the few consistent Yankees right handed hitters, and who knows where they would be without him either. His approach at the plate has been excellent, as he has been using the opposite field more and taking a lot of walks.
The big three of the Yankees rotation has been about what you would expect it to be and winning when Sabathia, Kuroda and Pettitte were pitching was essential in April. Kuroda has been the best of the three, as he is 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. Opposing hitters are only hitting .206 off of him and Kuroda’s 52.4% GB percentage has been the key to his success. He is one of Brian Cashman’s best free agent signings ever. All the talk about Sabathia has been how his fastball is only averaging 89.8 MPH, but you can hardly tell that by looking at his results. He is 4-2 with a 3.35 ERA and he has been giving the Yankees great length no matter what his stuff is. His changeup (21.90% whiff %) and slider (14.20% whiff %) have been outstanding. Pettitte’s numbers are skewed by his disastrous start on Monday, but he has thrown quality starts in four of his five outings and has been just as good as he was last year for the Yankees.
Incredibly, the Yankees did not get any healthier in April and in fact they had to endure even more injuries. Youkilis had to leave the game on April 20th at Toronto with a back injury and has only played one game since and is now on the DL. Francisco Cervelli broke his hand after filling in so well for Russell Martin and is expected to miss six weeks. So, without those two players, the lineup is even shorter these days. Jayson Nix, who is awful, had to bat sixth yesterday. The Yankees will have to survive about two more weeks before Youkilis and Curtis Granderson may return. The teams coming up on the schedule over the next two weeks are Oakland, Colorado, Kansas City, Cleveland Seattle, and Toronto, which is certainly not a murders row of teams. The Yankees made it through April and now they have to make it just a few more weeks before the reinforcements should be ready.
Here is the lineup. We’ll end the lineup post with some notes.
Hiroki Kuroda RHP
– The Yankees placed Kevin Youkilis on the 15-Day Disabled list with a lumbar spine sprain (retroactive to April 28.) The Yankees called up Corban Joseph to take his place on the roster. Why not David Adams? Well, David Adams was released, then re-signed and he’s not on the 40-man roster. He also wouldn’t have been eligible to come to the Majors until May 15, hence making Joseph the obvious choice at this point.
It’s that time of the season where we introduce the newest member of the AL…the Houston Astros. Let’s hope this ends out fun for the Yankees. Here’s your lineup.
Andy Pettitte HLP