Yanks acquire elite Reliever for Stretch Run…
I am not sure how I felt when I first heard that trade negotiations were heating up between the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles. In 2016, there was not a more dominant reliever in baseball than Zach Britton. He was 2-1 with 47 saves and was virtually unhittable with 0.54 ERA (giving up only four earned runs in 67 innings pitched). He struck out 74 batters and was only touched for one home run. He thrust his name in the arena of elite closers, but then the last couple of years have been injury-filled. After accumulating 120 saves between 2014 and 2016, he has only 19 this year and last. By comparison, the interim closer for the O’s, Brad Brach, has 29 saves for 2017 and YTD 2018.
When healthy, there are not too many pitchers better than Britton. Plus, he’s a lefty so that’s huge plus for Yankee Stadium. Hopefully this means that Chasen Shreve’s days are numbered. When Britton returned from the DL, he was generally effective although his ERA was torched by a bad outing in Atlanta on June 22nd when he gave up 4 runs on 5 hits while recording only a single out. But in July, he’s been his dominant self, allowing no runs over 7 innings and striking out 13. He shut down the Yankees for an inning on July 10th (the two-homer game by former Oriole Manny Machado), picking up the win on the walk-off single by Jonathan Schoop. He struck out the last two Yankees he faced (Miguel Andujar and Greg Bird).
I am in favor of the Britton trade, but I think I was as grateful he wasn’t traded to the Houston Astros or the Boston Red Sox as I was with the thought of him restoring the three-headed beast in the bullpen that has been missing since the Yankees traded away Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman in 2016 (with no offense to David Robertson, who remains one of my favorite Yankees).
Yesterday must have been weird for Britton. His team was playing the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards in Baltimore. When the game started, Britton and the Orioles were 42 ½ games behind the Red Sox in the AL East Standings. By the time the rain-delayed game ended, Britton had gained 37 ½ games on the Red Sox, thanks to his new Pinstripes. Britton first became aware of the potential Yankees trade during the rain delay when he was met with countless messages and texts on his cell phone so it must have been bittersweet for him to watch his teammates defeat the Red Sox when play resumed. Part of me wished that the O’s had brought Britton out one last time (nothing better than to see him defeat the Red Sox), but the Orioles were not going to risk potential injury to jeopardize the trade. So Brad Brach came in to close it out and nearly blew the game in the rain-marred 9th inning. But in the end, he left the game-tying and -winning runs stranded on base by inducing the great Mookie Betts to hit into a game-ending double play. The win allowed Britton to walk away from Camden Yards on a positive note.
So, welcome to the New York Yankees, Zach Britton! Whether your stay is only for a few months or long-term should you decide to sign with the Yankees in the off-season, we are glad to have you. With Chapman’s knee issues, I am sure that there will be save opportunities for you. Looking forward to watching you send AL hitters home frustrated with that deadly sinker.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rich Schultz)
As for the guys the Yankees gave up, the one I probably hated to see leave the most was Cody Carroll. I’ve liked the reliever for the last few years but the loaded Yankees pen has kept him at Triple A. Although he has been assigned to the O’s Triple A club in Norfolk, there’s no doubt he’ll soon be making his Major League debut for his new club. Former Yanks like Richard Bleier and Yefry Ramirez (the winner pitcher in Baltimore’s win over the Red Sox yesterday) have done very well for the Orioles and I expect no less from Carroll. The headliner was Dillon Tate who has restored his stock as a quality prospect this year after once being selected fourth overall in the 2015 MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers. Tate, acquired in the trading deadline deal that sent Carlos Beltran to the Texas Rangers two years ago, may turn out to be a fine middle-of-the-rotation starter or a good setup reliever but he was never going to get that opportunity in New York. There are too many better guys in front of him. Josh Rogers has been a nice left-handed starter for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders but I agree with one Yankees beat writer that labeled him as a “poor man’s Jordan Montgomery”. With so many players needing protection from the Rule 5 Draft in December, I have no problem clearing the board of some of the fringe prospects. The fact the Yankees got an elite reliever without giving up a player from the cream of their prospects is incredible. The Yankees paid more for Britton than the A’s paid for Mets closer Jeurys Familia but it was worth it. Casey Stern’s famous quote (“Prospects are cool…Parades are cooler”) is very appropriate in this situation. If the Yankees win the World Series, I am not going to worry about future damage that Tate, Carroll and Rogers may do to the Yankees just like Cubs fans do not regret the trade that sent the very talented young Gleyber Torres to the Yankees.
There’s now less than a week to go to the non-waivers trading deadline next Tuesday. I still fully anticipate a trade for a proven starter although I do not feel the Yankees will be making any surprise stealth moves to acquire premium starters like Jacob deGrom or Madison Bumgarner. At this point, I probably feel more strongly than ever that J.A. Happ of the Toronto Blue Jays has a future in the Bronx. Given the Yankees are responsible for the full pro-rated balance of Britton’s one-year deal, I think they’ll tread lightly for luxury tax avoidance purposes. So, Happ makes more sense to me than Cole Hamels even though the latter has the better post-season resume. Although Happ has generally been awful for his last few starts, he held the Orioles to 1 run on 4 hits over 5 innings in his most recent start, striking out 9. He has shown the ability to beat the Astros and Red Sox so I’d have no qualms about adding him to the rotation. Zach Britton represents huge insurance and protection for Happ’s addition.
Lost in the Britton trade was the dominating performance of Masahiro Tanaka last night as the Yankees took down the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-0. Tanaka pitched a complete game shut-out, giving up only three hits and avoiding his usual obligatory home runs. He walked a batter and struck out 9 while throwing 105 pitches and lowering his season ERA to 4.09. After watching Luis Severino fall down against the Rays the night before, the Yankees needed a solid effort from Tanaka and they got it.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Ehrmann)
The win allowed the Yankees (64-35) to pick up a game on the Red Sox (71-32). The Yankees are 5 games behind the Red Sox entering play today and they are 5 games up on the Seattle Mariners in the AL Wild Card Standings.
I haven’t heard yet when Britton will join his new team but I think it would be foolish to make him travel to Tampa, Florida for today’s game, particularly given its early start time. The Yankees bullpen is rested and they can afford to wait a day for Britton’s arrival. Therefore, I’d send Britton to New York in anticipation of Thursday’s game against the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium. It would give Britton a breather to adjust to the change and to make temporary living accommodations. I’ve wondered if third base coach Phil Nevin will give up #53 for Britton. It’s not like he is married to the number. I guess we’ll soon find out.
Luis Cessa (1-1, 3.00 ERA) makes his return to the Yankees today for the start in the series finale with the Rays. He’ll be opposed by former (and maybe future?) Yank Nathan Eovaldi (3-4, 4.26 ERA). The Yankees are expected to activate Gleyber Torres before today’s game. It will be interesting to see the roster move made to open a spot for Torres. Cessa’s spot was opened by last night’s demotion of Giovanny Gallegos to Triple A. The most likely guy to join him with the RailRiders is Tyler Wade although Brandon Drury could certainly be an option if he needs a stint on the DL following his hand injury yesterday. Test results on the hand were negative but Drury’s hand is bruised and he could miss a few days. A short stint on the DL might be good for him. Inevitably, I see the road coming to an end for Neil Walker but I don’t expect to see his name on the transactions wire today. Getting Torres back might be the single greatest “acquisition” the Yankees make this month. The Yankees have done a much better job winning with Gleyber’s name in the lineup than not so his presence is tremendous for the team.
Today is a great day for a Yankees victory. Cessa, please make it happen. Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rich Schultz)
Baby Bombers Power Yanks to Victory…
OK, the winning pitcher and the reliever who picked up the save have celebrated the Big 3-0, but the young bats of Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar and 26-year-old Aaron Judge homered to propel the Yankees to a one-run win over the New York Mets, 4-3, on Saturday.
The game had a bizarre beginning when Aaron Hicks led off with a shot to right that went into the Yankees bullpen through an open door. The potential triple wound up as a ground-rule double thanks to the inattentive unknown individual who left the door open. The Mets got out of the inning when Mets pitcher Steven Matz caught Hicks straying too far from second with two outs and nailed him with a tag out at second to end the inning. Perhaps if he had been on third, the results for the inning (goose egg) would have been different. Fortunately, the Mets would leave the door open for the Yankees to win the game after they scored three runs in the bottom of the first on homers by Todd Frazier and Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera’s hit was a two-run shot after a triple by Brandon Nimmo.
It looked like it was going to be a short outing for Domingo German but he settled down after the rough first inning. He ended up going five more strong innings without allowing anymore runs after the Mets’ uprising in the first. On 96 pitches, he struck out nine batters. He didn’t figure into the decision since he left with the game tied after completing the sixth inning but clearly the Yankees would not have won the game if the 25-year-old German did not shut down the Mets after those early home runs. With the announcement prior to the game that Masahiro Tanaka had been placed on the 10-day DL with the hamstring tightness in both legs, the Yankees need German now more than ever. The way he shook off the early problems showed veteran prowess despite his youth.
Photo Credit: New York Post (Corey Sipkin)
Like Jacob deGrom had done the day before, Steven Matz held the Yanks in check early. Gleyber Torres finally got the Yankees on the board with a solo shot in the top of the third inning to make it a 3-1 game. In the top of the sixth, after Gary Sanchez had walked with one out, Miguel Andujar, displaying why he, and not the Toddfather nor Brandon Drury for that matter, is the Yankees third baseman, blasted a Matz pitch into the left field stands. The Yankees had knotted the game at three.
Photo Credit: Newsday (Joseph D Sullivan)
David Robertson took over for German in the bottom of the seventh and immediately gave up a lead-off double to Adrian Gonzalez on the first pitch. Fortunately, he retired the next three batters, which included a great defensive play by Didi Gregorius to end the inning, stranding A-Gon at second and leaving the game deadlocked.
The Mets inserted former Yankees reliever Anthony Swarzak to start the top of the eighth inning and he was greeted with a Judgian blast on the first pitch, a shot to left by Aaron Judge to give the Yankees a one-run lead. The Yankees proceeded to get runners at the corners with two outs, but failed to score any further runs when Greg Bird, pinch-hitting for Tyler Austin, grounded out to second.
Bottom of the eighth it was three up and three down by strikeout for Dellin Betances. Man, oh man, he looks good lately. Earlier this season, I didn’t want Dellin anywhere near the ninth inning but he has restored my confidence in him. A day after Aroldis Chapman had a mound visit by Trainer Steve Donahue for ongoing tendonitis in his knee, I probably would have left Chappy on the bench for this game. I would have held Betances for the ninth after burning D-Rob earlier in the game. Of course, it’s easy to say in hindsight but suffice it say that I am very happy that Betances is becoming a trusted resource once again.
As for Chapman, it was a shaky performance. He walked Jay Bruce to start the ninth, a batter who cannot seem to hit the broad side of a barn this season. He struck out the next two batters including former Toronto villain Jose “Joey Bats” Bautista but a walk of Kevin Plawecki put Bruce in scoring position. Fortunately, the next batter was Jose Reyes, who is struggling to hold his roster spot with the Mets. A liner to right into the waiting glove of Aaron Judge ended the game and handed Chapman his 17th save of the season.
Prior to the season, I didn’t want rookies at second AND third but here we are. Andujar and Torres have clearly proved me wrong. I still feel bad for Brandon Drury, a player I like, but I am thrilled with the performances of the rookies. I never expected this kind of power from the very talented Torres who now has 11 homers for the year. The only time he had double-digit homers in the minors was 2016 between two Class A clubs. He certainly never displayed this type of power while he was in the Chicago Cubs organization. I remember being saddened when the Yankees traded Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs. I guess I’ve recovered…and then some. I love this Yankees team and the rookies are at the forefront of the team’s success.
Photo Credit: Associated Press (Bill Kostroun)
The Yankees (42-18) maintained their half-game lead over the Boston Red Sox (44-21) in the AL East with the win. The Sox beat the other Sox, 4-2, to keep pace. Hopefully the White Sox can take today’s game.
With the placement of Tanaka on the disabled list, the Yankees recalled utility-man Ronald Torreyes prior to the game. It brought multiple comments of “The cameraman is back!” on Twitter but Toe’s value to the chemistry of the 2018 Yankees cannot be understated. The clubhouse was very happy to see him and it reinforces how this team supports one another. Toe made it into yesterday’s game as a pinch-hitter for Dellin Betances in the ninth. He grounded out to short, but when his name is called upon the next time, his bat or glove, as always, will be ready. Welcome back, Toe!
Just when I thought Josh Rogers is putting his name into the conversation for spot starter, he threw his second consecutive stinker yesterday for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. After giving up six runs in 1 1/3 innings on June 3rd, Rogers allowed 13 hits and five runs in 4 2/3 innings yesterday as the Louisville Bats coasted past the RailRiders, 9-4, with a 20-hit attack. Many are saying that Jonathan Loaisiga will get the call to make the spot start on Friday but I also think A.J. Cole, the forgotten man on the bench, should get consideration. The Yankees really need to see what they have with Cole. Either they need to give him an opportunity or they need to move on and open his spot for one of the talented young arms in the system ready to take the next step.
The Yankees can sweep the Mets today with our best pitcher (Luis Severino, like I needed to mention his name) on the mound. A good day for baseball and a great day for a victory.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)|
Yanks overcome mistakes and Astros…
There have been a few games the Yankees have lost this year that they should have won, but Tuesday’s game probably should have been a loss. Sure, the Yankees got fourteen hits, but they struck out seventeen freakin’ times and committed an incredulous five errors. Charlie Morton, Clark Kent in Pittsburgh but Superman in Houston, struck out ten Yankees in six innings of work. He did allow three runs to inflate his season ERA to 2.26 but he was in line for the victory with a 5-3 lead when he departed.
CC Sabathia did not look great but credit to him for holding the Astros to only five runs (three earned) on eight hits before departing after five innings and turning the game over to the bullpen. If Sabathia would have given up any more runs, there most likely would have been no dramatic comebacks on this night. ‘Keep it close and get the game into the hands of the bullpen’ is something I’ve been saying from the start of this series. There’s no doubt I’d prefer to take my chances with the Yankees pen over the Astros’ mess. Houston may have the best five starters in the game right now, but their bullpen is about as bad as Roseanne Barr on Twitter.
Every game, I am amazed about the play of Gleyber Torres. Considering he had two of the five errors, he had every reason to clunk this game. But there he was in the bottom of the tenth inning with the winning run on second. A ball that was generously called a strike by the home plate umpire aggravated Torres, but perhaps with an assist from third base coach Phil Nevin, Torres was able to shake it off and wait for his pitch. On a 2-2 count, he drove Brad Peacock’s two-seam fastball into right field, easily allowing Miguel Andujar to race home well ahead of the off-line throw from the outfield, scoring the walk-off winning run. 9 home runs, 26 RBI’s, .321 batting average. The guy has only had 117 plates appearances in the Major Leagues. The dude is only 21 years old. When Charlie Hayes caught the pop-up to end the 1996 World Series, Gleyber was still marinating in his mother’s stomach. How is this possible? Amazing, simply amazing and something quite special.
The heroics by Torres were made possible by none other than the ancient Brett Gardner. I know, 34 is not old but on a team of twenty-somethings, he’d be the gray-haired man (if he had hair). Not one but two home runs by Gardy put the Yankees in position to win. The second home run, a two-run bomb off Houston’s Chris Devenski in the bottom of the ninth, tied the game to send it into extra innings.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Frank Franklin II)|
It figures that Miguel Andujar played a key role in both the tying and winning moments. His walk to open the ninth set the stage for Gardy’s home run to tie it, and his double in the tenth, laced into left with the fury like ABC used to cancel Roseanne’s show, put him in position to score the walk-off run.
Also, mention must go to the spectacular play by Gary Sanchez to end the top of the tenth inning. With Houston’s Tony Kemp on second base and two outs, closer Aroldis Chapman’s 100 mph fastball sailed above El Gary’s head to the backstop. The sheer force and velocity of the pitch ricocheted the ball back to Gary who, in turn, fired a strike to third base to nail the sliding Tony Kemp. There was the pesky Miguel Andujar again, applying the tag for the final out.
The Yankees (34-17) won the game 6-5 and remain two games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East. The Sox, winners of eight of their last ten and two in a row, thumped the Toronto Blue Jays, 8-3. The Yankees and Red Sox have the equal number of losses (17), but Boston has four more wins.
On a side note about the seventeen strikeouts, every batter in the Yankees lineup struck out at least once and three guys (Greg Bird, Gary Sanchez, and Aaron Hicks) struck out three times. I am getting a little tired of watching Hicks take meatballs down the center of the plate with his bat on his shoulder. Count me among those who’d prefer to see what Red Thunder could do in center.
Despite two strikeouts of his own and the previously mentioned couple of errors, I am so proud to have Gleyber Torres on this team. He has given me a sense of confidence about second base that I haven’t felt since Robinson Cano patrolled these parts (I’d like to think drug-free, but who knows). Nothing against Giancarlo Stanton, but I feel Torres has been the most valuable new addition to the team this year. Maybe when Stanton starts crushing massive home runs every day with one of his typical monster tears I’ll feel differently but for now, I’ll just sit back and enjoy watching young Gleyber play…and win.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Al Bello)|
Yesterday, I mentioned Josh Rogers as a potential callup for the Yankees. The 23-year-old lefty delivered a dominating performance on the road Tuesday for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders against the Louisville Bats. Rogers, who went to the University of Louisville and grew up nearby, pitched a five-hit shutout for seven innings. He walked two and struck out three while lowering his season ERA from 2.80 to 2.48 in the RailRiders’ 4-0 win. Rogers, unlike Chance Adams, is pitching like he wants a free ride to the Bronx. If he keeps this up, he’ll get it.
|Photo Credit: Todd Hiller|
The Yankees conclude their season series with the Astros tonight. Noted Yankee killer Dallas Keuchel is on the mound but he’ll be going against our best, Luis Severino. I am sure we’ll see Keuchel again in October. Nothing better than sending him away with a loss to think about for the next few months. I gotta admit I have wondered what Keuchel would look like without that beard if he decides to try on pinstripes over the upcoming winter.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)
Eventually, the Wish will become Reality…
I was not too confident about the Yankees’ chances against Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander yesterday and unfortunately I was right as the Bombers fell to the Astros, 5-1. As if the cold bats against Verlander weren’t bad enough, the sight of him walking off the field while tipping his cap to the jeers from the Yankee Stadium crowd was sickening. When I think of Verlander, I can still see his ugly mug in the midst of the brawl in Detroit last summer.
I don’t like Justin Verlander. I’ll just get that out there. I do not wish the Yankees had been the team to acquire him last summer regardless of what he has done wearing an Astros uniform. I don’t want him on my team. I want my team to beat him, to crush him like an ant. If the Yankees can beat Verlander in the post-season, a regular season loss to him will mean absolutely nothing. So, for now, I’ll take solace in the fact the Yankees are watching and learning. The day will come when they tee off on Verlander and he’ll look like the aging pitcher he was in the final days of wearing Detroit Tigers gear. I look forward to our next meeting with Verlander which could very well happen in October.
The next two games against the Astros will be tough. Whatever it is about pitching in Houston, Charlie Morton is drinking the water. An average starter at best in Pittsburgh, he’s become a different man in Houston and has pitched very well against the Yankees. Morton is undefeated this season (7-0), carrying a low ERA of 2.04 (which of course is high compared to Verlander’s 1.11). I wish I felt more confident with CC Sabathia on the mound. Frankly, I don’t know what we are going to get today with CC (2-1, 3.55 ERA). I guess my philosophy is the same as yesterday. Try to keep it close and get the game into the hands of the bullpen. Bullpen to bullpen, I like the Yankees’ chances.
Tomorrow, for the series finale, the Astros will have proven Yankee-killer Dallas Keuchel on the mound. If there is a silver lining, this has been a down year for Keuchel (3-6, 3.39 ERA) which also happens to be his walk year. We’ll throw the best we’ve got (Luis Severino, 7-1, 2.28 ERA) at Houston but down year or not, I expect Keuchel to be on his game. It should be a classic pitching duel.
One positive from yesterday’s game (at least for me)…Greg Bird’s swing is a thing of beauty.
Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)
I know there were positives in Domingo German’s performance yesterday with the number of whiffs (he did record seven strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings) but a loss is a loss. I know, he’s learning and it is part of the process. The Astros fans were probably very confident yesterday knowing who was pitching for them. I want that kind of guy. Again, not Verlander (for me), but a pitcher who instills confidence the way he does for his team. It’s not Sabathia, it’s not Masahiro Tanaka nor German, and it sure the hell isn’t Sonny Gray. I am getting a little tired of the usual suspects with rumored potential trade candidates. Michael Fulmer is 2-3 with 4.08 ERA and 1.273 WHIP. He may be young and controllable but his numbers are trending in the wrong direction. Same with Chris Archer. He is 3-3 with 4.29 ERA and 1.304 WHIP. To Archer’s defense, outside of a poor start against the Baltimore Orioles on May 12th when he gave up six runs in a loss, he has pitched much better in May than he did in April. At the end of April, Archer had a 6.61 ERA so even with the dog start against the O’s, he has lowered his ERA by more than two runs in a month. Fulmer is probably the better option since he’s younger and maybe his numbers help make his price tag more affordable. I don’t know. I can’t see either pitcher being “the guy” in October.
Hopefully, GM Brian Cashman uncovers a gem (or two) prior to this year’s trading deadline. Go ahead, surprise us with a true ace. An improved pitching staff to go with the team’s offense would be the catalyst for the Yankees to overcome the Boston Red Sox and charge into October with significant momentum. I want another shot at Justin Verlander. Only next time, I expect to win.
So, the Cleveland Indians have promoted Justin Bieber to start this week. Oh sorry, make that Shane Bieber. Bieber was taken in the MLB Draft two years after the Indians selected Justus Sheffield and three rounds later. Bieber is a year older than Top Sheff and has blazed through the Indians system. I think we’ll see Sheff in a couple of months. Not really trying to draw a comparison between the two given Bieber was a college pitcher and much closer to the Majors than Sheffield was when he was taken in the first round of the 2014 Draft. But the emergence of rookie starters for contenders is heightening the excitement of Sheff’s impending arrival even if we have to wait awhile longer. Josh Rogers (4-3, 2.80 ERA) is scheduled to pitch today for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He is quietly inserting his name above Chance Adams as another arm that could make his Major League debut for the Yankees in the not-so-distant future.
Josh Rogers / Photo Credit: Scranton Times-Tribune
Despite the home run he allowed to Jose Altuve yesterday, I’d probably give German’s next start to A.J. Cole. I remained intrigued with the pitcher. I know, he’s not the answer and he was never more than a borderline Number 5 starter for the Washington Nationals. But I’d still like to see what he could do with a spot start. At one time, Nats fans thought Cole could be dominant but it never materialized. After originally being drafted by the Nationals in 2010, he did spend a year in the Oakland A’s farm system, but was reacquired by the Nats in 2013. The optimist in me tries to see Cole as a late bloomer (tapping on the potential that Washington scouts once saw) but the realist in me knows that he is a future DFA candidate. I’d just like to see what we have before he goes.
Today is a new day. As the Mariano Duncan quote goes, “We play today. We win today.” Let’s do it. Go Yankees!