The Yankees just lost for the sixth time in seven days, but the night’s most significant loss just might be Jacoby Ellsbury.
Although Joe Girardi said after the game that an MRI would determine the extent of the injury, the team went ahead and announced that Ellsbury will go on the 15-day disabled list with a right knee sprain. They’ll call up prospect Slade Heathcott to take his place on the roster.
“Is it real serious? I don’t think so,” Girardi said. “But we really won’t know until the MRI.”
It’s serious enough to cost the Yankees two weeks of their leadoff hitter and center fielder, and Ellsbury has been one of the elite leadoff hitters in the game this season. He’s currently 10th in the majors in on-base percentage, and he’s tied for the American League lead in steals.
FanGraphs lists him with the highest WAR on the team.
If Ellsbury hasn’t been the Yankees’ best player, he’s certainly been one of them.
“Jacoby is our leadoff guy, gets on base and kind of gets things started,” Brian McCann said. “We’re hoping for the best. I’m not sure what the news is, but we’re hoping for the best.”
Ellsbury had opened the fourth inning with a walk and took second on a ground ball. It was only after he got second that assistant trainer Mark Littlefield came onto the field to check on him. Ellsbury stayed in and scored a run, but he did not return to play defense in the bottom of the inning. The injury itself actually occurred during the at-bat when Ellsbury took an awkward swing at a changeup.
“I saw it when he was hitting so I kind of waited to see what was going to happen there,” Girardi said. “I think he walked and then when he ran to second, he ran kind of gingerly. Then we decided to go out. I went out and talked to him and I said, are you in a lot of pain? He said, no, not really. I said, can you run? He said, let me see, let me get through this inning and let me see. When he got in the dugout, we just said, that’s it.”
So now the Yankees have to get themselves back on track, and they have to do it without a leadoff hitter who’s been one of their most reliable sources of offense. Heathcott can be an electric player, and Chris Young has been plenty productive as a fourth outfielder, but Ellsbury is difficult to replace.
“It’s not what you want,” Girardi said, leaning on one of his most often-used phrases. “If we are going to lose him for some time, somebody’s got to step up. That’s the bottom line. It’s part of the game.”
• Heathcott is not on the 40-man roster. I assume Chase Whitley will move to the 60-day disabled list to open a roster spot. The Yankees face a right-handed pitcher tomorrow, so Heathcott could be in the lineup.
• Andrew Miller had not allowed a run this year before he gave up that walk-off home run to Ryan Zimmerman. Two outs in the 10th, Miller said he simply made a bad pitch. “I can’t do that there,” Miller said. “He laid off what I wanted to throw him. I have to execute a better pitch in that situation. … Not a fastball up and away. That’s kind of what he hits and I knew that going into it. I just made a really poor pitch. It stinks. I let everybody down.”
• Zimmerman laid off some pitches that Miller thought he might swing at. “Honestly, when he laid off those pitches, I need to look at the lineup and maybe give way to the next guy with Ramos on deck,” Miller said. It was a 3-1 pitch that Zimmerman hit.
• Of course, the home run off Miller was the first blemish in an exceptional season. The reliever who had a worse night, really, was David Carpenter. He also allowed a home run, a game-tying shot by Wilson Ramos. Otherwise, Carpenter’s first inning was fine, but in his second inning of work he put two guys on and the Yankees had to lean on Chasen Shreve for a huge strikeout against Bryce Harper.
• Really, the Yankees did an excellent job against Harper tonight. He had the home run and a walk against Nathan Eovaldi, but each of the Yankees left-handed relievers faced him and got him out. Justin Wilson got him to hit into an inning-ending double play in the fifth, Shreve struck him out to leave two on in the seventh, and Miller struck him out in the 10th.
• For Shreve, the Harper at-bat was a big one. He and Harper were teammates in high school and remain close friends. “A lot more serious than I thought it would be facing him for the first time,” Shreve said. “I just tried to focus on the glove, not focus on who I’m facing. Just focus on making pitches.”
• Really rough start for Nathan Eovaldi. It really wasn’t that bad until the fifth inning, but that fifth was a mess, beginning with a walk, then an RBI double by a pinch hitter, then three straight singles before Wilson bailed him out of trouble. “In the fifth inning I just fell apart,” Eovaldi said. “Walking the leadoff batter after we put up four runs in the fourth, and two more in the fifth, it’s just frustrating, I’ve got to be able to bear down, make better pitches than that and get back to the dugout.”
• Eovaldi allowed two homers in the first inning, but the home run by Harper came on a breaking ball at his feet. “It’s a good pitch down,” Eovaldi said. “But he goes down there and gets that pitch. I’ve got to do a better job of making a better pitch than that one to Desmond. I fell behind, and it’s easy to get on that fastball for a good hitter.”
• McCann on Eovaldi: “It’s about dictating the count. It’s about getting ahead. That one inning he fell behind and that was the difference.”
• Girardi on Carpenter: “He got behind in the count and made a bad pitch. He left it out over the plate, a 3-0 count. He makes some good pitches, then he got behind and he threw one that looked about belt-high down the middle and the kid hit it out.”
• Might have missed it, but Larry Rothschild was ejected in the ninth inning for arguing balls and strikes while Dellin Betances was on the mound. “I turned around at that point,” Girardi said. “I thought I had calmed things down. The next thing I know, he’s gone. … We thought there were some close pitches. It’s part of the game. We yell on a constant basis.”
• Stephen Drew snapped a career-worst 17 game streak without an RBI. He had a two-run single that put the Yankees ahead in the fourth. He hadn’t driven in a run since April 27. … Mark Teixeira’s 12th home run of the year was the 375th of his career, tying Carlos Beltran for fourth-most all-time for a switch hitter.
• Final word goes to McCann: “We’re fine. This is why you play 162 games. You’re going to have ups and downs. It’s a matter of getting out of it. We haven’t played our best baseball here of late, but it’s going to change.”
Associated Press photos