The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Yankees carry three catchers, eight relievers for wild card

Astros Yankees Baseball

The Yankees have set their roster for tonight’s game (as a reminder, they can change this if they advance to the division series). They ultimately decided to carry three catchers and two starting pitchers as relievers.

Catchers: Brian McCann, John Ryan Murphy, Gary Sanchez
Infielders: Greg Bird, Dustin Ackley, Rob Refsnyder, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, Brendan Ryan
Outfielders: Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Chris Young, Rico Noel, Slade Heathcott
Designated hitter: Alex Rodriguez
Starter: Masahiro Tanaka
Bullpen: Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Justin Wilson, Adam Warren, Bryan Mitchell, James Pazos, Ivan Nova, Luis Severino

Luis SeverinoSome interesting choices here:

The third catcher: For one game, teams can carry a short pitching staff and an unusual bench. I don’t think there was much doubt Noel would make the roster, and Heathcott brings speed, defense and a solid left-handed bat. The interesting decision was carrying a third catcher, specifically choosing less experienced Sanchez (who has a bigger bat) ahead of Austin Romine (who’s actually caught in the big leagues before).

The three starters: Obviously Tanaka is the only starting pitcher tonight, but the Yankees also have Nova and Severino in the bullpen. Hard to say, though, how many innings they can give after each started a game on Saturday. Probably can’t get more than two or three innings out of them. The true long man tonight might be Warren.

The third right-hander: Not counting Nova and Severino, the bullpen has only three right-handed relievers. Betances (obviously), Warren (of course) and Mitchell (who gave up a home run on Sunday and hasn’t looked good for a while now). I assume Mitchell gets the nod because he can give multiple innings if this game goes into extras. He got the nod over Andrew Bailey, Caleb Cotham, Nick Rumbelow and Branden Pinder.

The third lefty: There was no doubt Miller and Wilson would be in the bullpen, but the Yankees wanted a third lefty. They settled on Pazos ahead of either Chris Capuano or Chasen Shreve. Pazos has pitched well, but he’s actually been much better against righties than lefties. If CC Sabathia were available, I wonder if he would have been the go-to left-on-left option.

The other second baseman: I suppose what’s interesting about this decision is that it isn’t very interesting (or surprising) that Refsnyder is on the roster. Go back three weeks, and I don’t think anyone would have expected Refsnyder to be in the mix. Now there’s a good chance he’ll be not only on the roster but in the lineup.

Rob RefsnyderThere are still some decisions to be made:

Who’s at second? I assume it’s Refsnyder, but it could be Ryan and it could be Ackley. Refsnyder has been the regular against lefties the past two weeks, but would Girardi be tempted to go defensive in this game?

Who’s in left? I assume it’s Young, but it certainly could be Gardner (and some would say it should be Gardner). Young, though, has good numbers against Keuchel. Also, if Young is in the lineup, is Gardner the one who sits or is it Ellsbury?

Who’s catching? I assume it’s McCann, but Murphy has been excellent in the second half and would give the Yankees another right-handed hitter against Keuchel (who’s incredible against lefties).

What are the bullpen roles? How quickly will the Yankees go to the Big 3? Could you ask each one to give four outs and let Wilson come into the game to start the sixth? If Tanaka fall apart for some reason, how quickly would Girardi go to either Warren or Severino? What’s Mitchell’s role? Is he here just to eat innings if the Yankees get a huge lead to save the reset of the arms?

What’s the lineup going to look like? If I have to guess, this would be it:

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Chris Young LF
Alex Rodriguez DH
Carlos Beltran RF
Brian McCann C
Chase Headley 3B
Greg Bird 1B
Rob Refsnyder 2B
Didi Gregorius SS

Associated Press photos


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 at 10:54 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Five questions to determine tonight’s wild card game

Alex Rodriguez

Welcome to the playoffs! Sort of.

By definition, tonight’s wild card game is certainly a postseason game. It carries all of the pressure and implications of October baseball, and the Yankees will certainly treat it as the first step toward a possible World Series. But whatever you label it, a one-game series just doesn’t feel like the playoffs. It feels more like a play-in game.

However you want to label it, tonight’s game is the biggest at Yankee Stadium in three years. The Yankees haven’t been even in this position since 2012 (and if this were still the previous playoff format, they’d be a wild card playoff team without question).

The stakes are obvious. Win and advance. That’s all there is to it. It’s not really more nuanced than that.

“It’s what you play for all year,” Alex Rodriguez said. “It’s just fun. I haven’t been in one, but I’ve been in a couple Game 5s and Game 7s. It’s kind of fun. This is the first time since I’ve been here in New York that we’re going to be major underdogs in a game. I think with everything we’ve done this year, we’ve surprised a lot of people, and that’s hard to do when you wear pinstripes. Going into this year, if you rewind seven months and told us that we would have an opportunity to play at home and defend our home court in a wild card game, I think we would have signed up for that.”

Five questions that need to be answered tonight:

Masahiro TanakaWill Masahiro Tanaka rise to the occasion?

Beyond his youth and his talent, Tanaka’s demeanor and experience were also attractive to the Yankees when scouting him all those years in Japan. Tanaka had a big game reputation overseas, and he pitched in the Japanese postseason. The Yankees wanted that kind of pitcher on their staff, and Tanaka wanted this sort of opportunity in America. He said postseason opportunities were “one of the biggest reasons” he signed with the Yankees.

“As far as the intensity of the game, I think it should be pretty much the same (as Japan),” Tanaka said. “But obviously MLB is a little bit bigger than the professional baseball in Japan, so maybe the lights might be a little more brighter.”

When Tanaka faced the Astros back in June, he had one of his worst starts of the year allowing a season-high six earned runs in five innings. That was not long after he returned from the early forearm issue, and it was the second back-to-back starts in which he didn’t pitch well. He’s turned things around considerably since then.

“I do remember that I wasn’t at my best during that particular time,” Tanaka said. “So this time around it’s going to be different. … Obviously I can’t go into much detail about the other team without going into (my plan) the game tomorrow, but all I can say now is that I should be able to show everybody a different Masahiro from last time out.”

Astros Yankees BaseballCan the Yankees score against Dallas Keuchel?

In two tries, the Yankees haven’t scored against Keuchel so far this season. In two starts against the Yankees, the potential American League Cy Young winner has pitched 16 scoreless innings with 21 strikeouts and one walk. When he pitched at Yankee Stadium in late August he allowed just three hits through seven innings.

“I don’t think it’s just been against us,” Brian McCann said. “I think it’s been against the whole league. He’s a good pitcher, works the ball in and out and gets good depth on his sinker and pounds the bottom of the zone.”

One notable difference this time: Keuchel will be pitching on three-days rest.

“I’ve done it a few times over the course of my career,” Keuchel said. “Not in professional ball, but I did it in college with the College World Series in Omaha. But it’s just something that’s going to need to be done, and whether or not I feel good when the game starts, it’s going to be up to me to start the game and help the team win. So I’m very blessed I’m in this position, and I’m going to give them everything I’ve got and we’ll see at the end of the game whether that’s good enough or not.”

Dellin BetancesHow many relievers will the Yankees have to use?

Sunday’s disappointment was a pretty glaring example of the trouble the Yankees can get into when they have to dig too deep into their bullpen. Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller form a potent Big 3 in the late innings — and if the Yankees can hand a lead to those three, they’ll feel pretty good about it — but having go to the bullpen before the seventh inning could be problematic.

The Yankees will have Adam Warren available for multiple innings if necessary, but even that possibility carries some concern now that CC Sabathia is unavailable. Surely the Yankees would like to have Warren available to start in the division series, but that’s a problem for another day. For now, he could be a key piece of the puzzle.

“You have to be a little bit, probably, more creative (without Sabathia),” Girardi said. “But it’s something I’ve gotten a lot of practice over the three years of being extremely creative, and we’ve had to do it during the course of this season with the rotation of the relievers, the shuttle between Scranton, the starters that we’ve had to replace at different times, starters going down and someone stepping in. So we have to be creative a little bit, but we’ll do that.”

Some of that creativity could come into play if the Yankees get into extra innings or if Tanaka can’t pitch more than an inning or two for whatever reasons. Presumably the Yankees will have at least one of Luis Severino and Ivan Nova on the roster, but how many innings could one of those two pitch after starting Saturday? And if Severino and Warren each pitch tonight and the Yankees win, who would start Thursday’s division series opener? Again, that’s a problem for another day. Have to get through tonight first.

Carlos CorreaDo the young Astros have it in them?

The Astros have been a team on the rise for quite a while now. They spent years stockpiling young talent and getting that talent to the verge of the big leagues, and this season — perhaps a year earlier than most outsiders expected — that young talent put the Astros into the postseason. But now that they’re in a must-win game, how will this young team respond?

“We’ve had to grow up,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “This month was a little bit unique for us because we started out in the month in first place. We had a very, very difficult first 10 days. Got beat up in Texas and had to respond under the spotlight. And during the year, we had a couple of different five-game losing streaks where we ended with six or seven out of eight, and to do that in September on the road at the end showed me a lot about our team. So I think our playoff-caliber baseball we’ve had to play for the better part of three or four weeks should pay dividends. It’s certainly something that we talk about inside of having to play one game at a time for about the last month. So I would expect our team to relish in it.”

The Yankees often tout their experience. The Astros can push their youthful energy. It’s an interesting contrast, and let there be no doubt, plenty of attention will be on 21-year-old shortstop Carlos Correa.

“I think we’re all somewhat surprised sometimes how good a player can be at such a young age,” Girardi said. “When you see so many players, they work so hard, and I’m not saying — Carlos worked extremely hard — but (other young players are) at 25, maybe 26. (This) kid should be in college, and he’s playing at an extremely high level, hitting third in a team that’s going to the playoffs. He’s an amazing young talent.”

Astros Yankees BaseballAre platoon players true difference makers?

If you assume a team’s “everyday” lineup is the one it uses against lefties, then the Yankees have only one right-handed everyday player. They have a few switch hitters, but their lineup is built on lefties (and those lefties are meant to be built for Yankee Stadium). How many right-handers will they put in the lineup tonight?

“I’ll have a lineup tomorrow,” Girardi said when asked whether Chris Young in particular would be in there.

At this point, we almost have to assume Rob Refsnyder will be playing second base after playing the position against every lefty the Yankees saw down the stretch (Refsnyder said he had not been told whether he would be playing tonight). But what about Young — a .300/.333./500 career hitter against Keuchel — over, say, Brett Gardner? Would Girardi go a step further and play John Ryan Murphy over Brian McCann? Lefties have a .461 OPS against Keuchel this year. Righties have a .606.

“Look, we haven’t swung the bats well in a while now,” Rodriguez said. “But if we won nine out of 10 and we were on fire, it all goes back to resetting at 0-0. That’s the fun part; new game, new opportunity and the winner goes on.”

Associated Press photos


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 at 8:50 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Cashman: “What CC’s dealing with is a life issue”

CC Sabathia

Think of all the ways CC Sabathia could have slipped away without becoming the latest celebrity alcoholic.

He could have complained of fresh pain in his right knee and never told the Yankees he was having a problem. He could have cited personal reasons and left his teammates to answer uncomfortable questions about what was going on. He could have cited some sort of vague sickness and sent every reporter searching for answers.

“He literally had the choice,” Brian Cashman said. “He knew the Yankees were providing the support (by saying), ‘It’s OK, go get this taken care of,’ and we could be sitting here right now talking about, ‘CC has been given permission to be away from the club to deal with some personal issues’ and we would no comment further. But he’s taking a different approach. He spoke to some teammates yesterday before he left, told them exactly what was going on. He issued a statement today, giving everything obviously in that statement that he could give, and so he’s trying to tackle this in a very open way.”

Brian CashmanNot everyone in the clubhouse left Baltimore knowing exactly what Sabathia was dealing with, but he did speak to some of them. The rest knew only that something was going on, but the exact nature of the problem wasn’t known until today. And it wasn’t limited to that clubhouse. It was announced with a lengthy statement and an Instagram post.

Sabathia is not hiding.

“It’s a very courageous thing to do,” Alex Rodriguez said. “We play for CC now. CC has gone to the mat for us many, many times. I know me personally, a lot of us in here, we wouldn’t have a ring if it wasn’t for CC. So now we go to the mat for him.”

The feeling in the clubhouse was not one of disappointment or frustration. Even in private conversations, the Yankees expressed nothing but support.

It seems that by the time Sabathia approached the Yankees with his issues, he was already planning to seek treatment immediately. Both Cashman and Joe Girardi said the never tried to convince Sabathia to postpone the decision or wait until after the postseason to address it.

“The first thing he said is, I need help,” Girardi said.

And so, the team will be without its most experienced and accomplished starting pitcher. They’ll be without him at a time when it really seemed Sabathia could help them again. He pitched to a 2.86 ERA in his past nine starts, won the game that clinched a playoff spot, and could have been a lefty specialist on Tuesday before — if all goes well — starting either Game 1 or 2 of the division series.

Nathan Eovaldi, CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka“He’s carried this franchise on his back in that past and led us to places we wanted to go,” Cashman said. “And I think obviously now he’s raised his hand and said, I need someone to help and guide me through some circumstances that are really tough. … The fact that he is tackling this in an honest and open way, the fact that he’s doing it right before our postseason starts, you take a step back and you acknowledge the courage that that must take.”

There are hard questions to ask, and by making his addiction public, it seems Sabathia plans to answer those questions when the time is right. For now, the Yankees can only say that they were surprised. Of course they knew Sabathia enjoyed a drink now and then, but they had no idea he had a problem.

Was there an incident this weekend that made Sabathia decide now was the time to act?

“I didn’t ask the question,” Cashman said. “I’m curious too. … When someone comes to you with the issue that he came to us with and said that he needs to get help and he needs it immediately, then that’s the only focus.”

Odd timing? Of course it is. But that seems to speak to the nature of the problem.

“He is addressing an issue that needs to be addressed, and everything else is second to that,” Cashman said. “And so our prayers are for him and his family and he’s going to get the help necessary. And again, the strength of our organization and our season way it’s gone so far, has been one of if we lose somebody, somebody else is going to get an opportunity to step in and take advantage of that new opportunity that comes their way. So CC needs to take care of what he needs to take care of, and we’ll do our best to take care of what we need to take care of in his absence.

“… What CC’s dealing with is a life issue; it’s bigger than the game that we have tomorrow night. And so because of that, it’s vitally important that that gets put in the proper perspective and place.”

Associated Press photos



Posted by:Chad Jenningson Monday, October 5th, 2015 at 7:59 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Eovaldi’s timetable accelerated (also: piecing together Yankees’ wild card roster)

Nathan Eovaldi

As of Saturday, the plan for Nathan Eovaldi was to throw a 35-pitch bullpen today and face hitters somewhere down the road. There was some chance of him being in the bullpen for the division series, but the ALCS seemed more realistic.

In the wake of the CC Sabathia news, though, Eovaldi’s timetable has been accelerated.

This afternoon, Eovaldi threw a short 10-pitch bullpen, then he faced hitters for the first time since being shutdown with elbow inflammation in early September. Eovaldi said he hasn’t been told anything for certain, but he expects to be ready and available out of the bullpen if the Yankees advance to the division series.

“No chance tomorrow, especially after going today,” Eovaldi said. “But I would assume for Kansas City. I just got done out there, so I don’t know when I would be throwing next or what I need to do, but 25 or 30 pitches today. … Everything felt good. Felt good, just felt a little rusty. Other than that, it felt great.”

If the Yankees advance, they’ll have to find someone to fill Sabathia’s rotation spot. The most logical choices are surely Adam Warren or Ivan Nova. Warren probably makes the most sense, but losing him would deprive the Yankees of a go-to reliever. Maybe Eovaldi could fill that role while Warren helps fill Sabathia’s?

It would be a roll of the dice a little bit — Eovaldi hasn’t pitched in weeks, and he hasn’t pitched out of the bullpen since 2011 — but that just might be the kind of risk the Yankees have to take under the circumstances.

They’re obviously hoping to face such a decision.

Rico NoelJoe Girardi said he will not announce a wild card game roster until tomorrow. Here are a few things we can piece together after a handful of conversations in the Yankees’ clubhouse.

1. Stephen Drew is back with the team, but he’s still dealing with concussion symptoms and doesn’t expect to play again this year.

2. Slade Heathcott and Rico Noel stopped short of saying they’re definitely on the wild card roster, but each said he thought he would be (I assume that’s just a product of two rookies not wanting to reveal something before it’s been announced). They seem to be in.

3. Caleb Cotham, Nick Rumbelow and Branden Pinder each said they’re flying to Tampa to throw at the minor league complex and stay ready in case they’re needed in a future series, but none of those three will be on tomorrow’s roster. Jose Pirela is also going to Tampa to take some at-bats and stay ready, but he too will not be on the roster. Nick Goody and Chris Martin already had their lockers cleared out, so they clearly aren’t on the roster.

4. Chris Capuano said he’s staying with he big league team, but he won’t be on the roster tomorrow.

5. Adam Warren said he will definitely be in the bullpen tomorrow. The Yankees aren’t holding him back so that he can start in the division series. If Warren becomes a starter in the next round, it will be after he’s been in the bullpen on Tuesday.

6. It’s hard to believe Michael Pineda would be available after pitching Sunday.

7. Chasen Shreve told Marly Rivera that he will not be on the wild card game roster.

Barring a choice to carry three catchers — the Yankees could carry either Austin Romine or Gary Sanchez just to make pinch hitting, pinch running and double switches a little easier — the team’s wild card roster seems set:

Catchers: Brian McCann, John Ryan Murphy
Infielders: Greg Bird, Dustin Ackley, Rob Refsnyder, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, Brendan Ryan
Outfielders: Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Chris Young, Rico Noel, Slade Heathcott
Designated hitter: Alex Rodriguez
Starter: Masahiro Tanaka
Bullpen: Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Justin Wilson, Adam Warren, Andrew Bailey, Bryan Mitchell, James Pazos, Ivan Nova, Luis Severino

If the Yankees have decided they don’t want both Nova and Severino — each of whom pitched Saturday and wouldn’t be able to give many innings — then they might as well carry a third catcher. Just to make it easy to either pinch run for someone or to use either McCann or Murphy as a pinch hitter.

Either way, it’s worth remembering this is a one-game-only roster decision. The Yankees can and will change the roster if they advance to the division series.

Associated Press photos


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Monday, October 5th, 2015 at 5:27 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Cashman: Yankees will stick with Sabathia

Brian Cashman said he got a phone call from CC Sabathia early Sunday afternoon. That’s the first Cashman knew Sabathia had a drinking problem that required professional help. Sabathia explained the situation and detailed his plan to attend a rehab facility.

“I think CC is demonstrating a great deal of courage,” Cashman just said during a press conference. “… I applaud him for stepping up to do everything necessary (to deal with the issue).”

Cashman made it clear that the Yankees are standing by Sabathia and will stick with him through this process. Cashman said there was not, to his knowledge or that he can speak to, a single incident that led to this decision at this time. Cashman also said there was no attempt to convince Sabathia to postpone his treatment.

“What CC’s dealing with is a life issue,” Cashman said. “It’s bigger than the game we have tomorrow night.”

Cashman said Sabathia was given the option of taking an unspecified leave and the Yankees would have no-commented about the matter. It was Sabathia’s choice to be honest publicly about the nature of the situation.

“He’s taking the responsibility and the necessary step to try to fix this problem,” Cashman said.


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Monday, October 5th, 2015 at 2:48 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

CC Sabathia checking himself into alcohol rehab

Stunning statement from CC Sabathia. The statement was just released by the Yankees.

Nathan Eovaldi, CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka“Today I am checking myself into an alcohol rehabilitation center to receive the professional care and assistance needed to treat my disease.

“I love baseball and I love my teammates like brothers, and I am also fully aware that I am leaving at a time when we should all be coming together for one last push toward the World Series. It hurts me deeply to do this now, but I owe it to myself and to my family to get myself right. I want to take control of my disease, and I want to be a better man, father and player.

“I want to thank the New York Yankees organization for their encouragement and understanding. Their support gives me great strength and has allowed me to move forward with this decision with a clear mind.

“As difficult as this decision is to share publicly, I don’t want to run and hide. But for now please respect my family’s need for privacy as we work through this challenge together.

“Being an adult means being accountable. Being a baseball player means that others look up to you. I want my kids — and others who may have become fans of mine over the years — to know that I am not too big of a man to ask for help. I want to hold my head up high, have a full heart and be the type of person again that I can be proud of. And that’s exactly what I am going to do.

“I am looking forward to being out on the field with my team next season playing the game that brings me so much happiness.”

Associated Press photo



Posted by:Chad Jenningson Monday, October 5th, 2015 at 1:24 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Full of bravado, Astros bringing young confidence to Yankee Stadium

A.J. Hinch

You know all about the Yankees. Well, here’s a little something about the team they’re about to play. Bob Nightengale from USA Today was in Phoenix yesterday as the Astros clinched their wild card berth and made it clear that they expect to beat the Yankees on Tuesday. This is a young team, and it’s a confident team. Here’s Bob’s story:

PHOENIX – There is Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch, ignoring the live TV cameras in the middle of the clubhouse, giving a brief profanity-laden celebratory speech, as his players sprayed him in the face with beer and champagne.

There is Astros outfielder Colby Rasmus, running around the clubhouse shirtless, and feeling too exhilarated to even feel the ice-cold beverages dumped over his head.

There is Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, walking around in a swim suit and flip-flops as if he’s going to the beach, and not to the postseason, admiring it all in the back of the room with team president Reid Ryan.

Dallas KeuchelThe Astros, who have made their clubhouse celebrations legendary after regular-season victories, saved their best for Sunday, winning an American League wild card berth – even after losing, 5-3, to the Arizona Diamondbacks – and advancing to the postseason for the first time in 10 years.

They will be the Cinderella story of the postseason, facing the longest odds, beginning with a winner-take-all game Tuesday night against the powerful New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

Yet, instead of showing any fear, any disappointment that their loss prevented them from hosting the wild-card game, they actually are savoring the idea they’re taking their act to New York.

This is where legends are made, and judging by the bravado displayed in the Astros’ clubhouse, the Yankees should be the ones afraid.

Just listen.

“Nobody else outside this clubhouse thought we had a chance,” Hinch yelled to his team in the middle of the clubhouse. “You can say a lot of things about this team, right?

“Well, the one thing they’ll say forever, is that we’re a (expletive) playoff team.

“It’s going to take a few more wins, and we’re going to have to earn them, but I’ll bet on this team.

“I love you (expletives).”

Hinch is immediately doused by his players, the music is cranked back on, and the party continues.

They don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

The Astros, with kids barely out of high school, let alone old enough to drink, are convinced they’ll beat the Yankees in that wild-card game.

“Every kid grows up dreaming of having that magical moment at Yankee Stadium,” Luhnow said. “To play a wild card game there, it’s a script you can’t write. We have a chance to beat them. These guys are young, they’re energetic, they can’t be stopped.

“Hopefully, they’ll be making a movie about this one day.”

Jose Altuve, Carlos CorreaThe Astros believe they’re a team of destiny, the team that was the laughingstock of baseball just two years ago, averaging 108 losses a year during a three-year stretch only to become the game’s greatest surprise.

If you don’t want to believe in them, show up Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, and they’ll show you themselves.

“It’s kind of cool it’s Yankee Stadium,” said Chad Qualls, 37, the only one in the clubhouse who was in the organization the last time the Astros reached the postseason in 2005. “It’s not old Yankee Stadium, but in the same retrospect, it’s still the New York Yankees, with their unbelievable history.

“It would be fitting for the Houston Astros, the team that’s made noise all year, and come out of nowhere, goes into Yankee Stadium to see if we can beat them and move on.”

If you want to know the cold-hearted truth, underneath their beer-soaked T-shirts, the Astros actually are quite confident they’ll be moving onto Kansas City and playing the Royals in the American League Division Series.

Really, can you blame them?

You see, they’ve got Dallas Keuchel on the mound Tuesday night, the same dude who likely will win the American League Cy Young award, and who overpowered the Yankees the two times he faced them during the season.

Ready for this? He’s 2-0 with a 0.00 in 16 innings against them this year, limiting them to nine hits, one walk and 21 strikeouts. If you want to break down the numbers, they’re even uglier for the Yankees: .161 batting average, .175 on-base percentage and .179 slugging percentage.

No wonder Hinch, with his eyes stinging from the champagne, refusing to wear goggles, had his arm draped around Keuchel in the clubhouse, giving him the official word that he will be the one starting Tuesday, pitching on three days’ rest.

Colby Rasmus, Jake Marisnick, George Springer“I think he’ll be just great, just like he has been all season,” Astros center fielder Jake Marisnick said. “He’s been doing it all year. We’re ready to show people how good we are, and there’s no one else we’d rather have than Dallas on the mound.”

Keuchel, the honoree of a quiet champagne toast Friday night by his teammates when he won his 20th game, says nothing could ever compare to the celebration on this day.

“This is my first time celebrating like this,” said Keuchel, who suffered through seasons of 107 and 111 losses his first two years in the majors. “We had been so bad, and now look at us. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m the happiest guy in the world.

“Going to Yankee Stadium, it’s the most electric atmosphere I’ve played in. I can’t wait. It was a blessing getting to the playoffs, and now we’re in, we’ll try to run with it.”

The Astros’ 111-loss season in 2013 prompted Luhnow to change his license plate to “GM111,” to remind himself each day how much work needed to be one. Now, they can’t help but feel that they’re atop the baseball world.

“No matter what team we play,” said All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve, unaware they were playing the Yankees, “we’re going to go into the World Series.

“When we started this season, we closed our eyes, and as soon as we opened them, we were in first place, and we knew we have a big chance to be in this situation.”

Now, they have it.

The whole world is about to see it.

Associated Press photos


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Monday, October 5th, 2015 at 11:59 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Had a bad week? The Yankees have certainly been there before

Masahiro Tanaka

One week ago, the Yankees actually weren’t playing all that poorly.

They’d just gone on the road to take two of three against the Rays, two of three against the Mets — who were hot and dangerous — and one of three against the Blue Jays. They’d come home to take three of four against the White Sox. In that stretch, they’d beaten Chris Archer, Noah Syndergaard and Chris Sale. They’d won nine of 14 overall and were 17 games above .500.

They weren’t going to catch the Blue Jays in the division, and they weren’t scoring a ton of runs, but they weren’t falling flat on their faces either.

Then the past week happened, and suddenly the Yankees look like a lost cause.

“Right now, the regular season is over,” Carlos Beltran said, after Sunday’s final indignation. “We can’t think about the regular season anymore. We have to just concentrate on this one game, and hopefully we’re capable of playing well. There’s nothing you can say to a team that’ll make us hit better or pitch better. We just have to do it ourselves.”

One week provides a convenient snapshot within a season. A week of a baseball schedule almost always begins with the start of one series and the end of another. It’s a nice capsule of time. And for the Yankees, their season seems to have changed wildly from week to week.

Throughout the year, the Yankees have been a team of extremes, and their best weeks have been awfully impressive. The Yankees have a winning record against the A.L.-leading Royals, they’ve beaten some of the top pitchers in baseball — though certainly not Dallas Keuchel — and they led the American League East for much of the season. In so many ways they outperformed expectations, but it’s hard to think about that when they’ve played so poorly at the end.

Question is, can a team that’s played below .500 since the first of August really string together a winning month against a series of playoff teams?

“We’ve been up and down,” Joe Girardi said. “And we’ve always seemed to bounce back when we need to bounce back.”

Since they’re coming off a brutal week, here are the Yankees’ worst weeks of the season — Monday through Sunday — along with the way they responded each time:

Mashiro Tanaka, Edwin EncarnacionAPRIL 6-12
Record: 2-4
Response: Went 4-2 the next week.

This was the first week of the season, and it was the beginning of a bad start to the year. The Yankees lost six of their first nine games and lost each of their first three series, but they responded by winning seven of their next eight and 13 of their next 16. They got on an absolute roll through early May, until…

MAY 11-17
Record: 2-5
Response: Lost their next five in a row.

This was the start of the Yankees’ worst stretch of the season. May 11 was a win, but starting on May 12, the Yankees went 1-10 including six straight losses at one point. This was a bad week that turned into a bad two weeks. In fact, if we’re measuring the worst Monday to Sunday stretches of the season, this complete meltdown gets to entries…

MAY 18-24
Record: 0-5
Response: Won the next three straight and 11 of their next 14 overall

Two off days might have been the only thing that kept the Yankees from an 0-for-7 week. This was the back end of that 1-10 stretch — it included the two games in Washington, and a three-game sweep by the Rangers — but the Yankees came out of it on fire, beginning with a three-game series against the Royals (which started with a 14-1 blowout in the opener). The Yankees also swept series in Seattle and against the Angels in the weeks that followed. The Yankees literally had their worst two weeks of the year, followed immediately by their best two weeks. Followed by…

Yankees Angels BaseballJUNE 22-28
Record: 3-4
Response: Lost five of their next seven

The record for that one week in late June really doesn’t do justice to the kind of struggle the Yankees fell into. That week of June 22-28 came right in the middle of an extended stretch during which the Yankees lost 12 of 20, including a 3-7 record in the final 10 games of June. Of course, that ugly stretch at the end of June gave way to a 17-7 month of July. That was the Yankees’ best month of the season, and it came immediately after one of their worst 10-game stretches. But when July ended…

Record: 2-4
Response: Split a six-game road trip through Cleveland (1-2) and Toronto (2-1)

The end of that week in early August was the start of a five-game losing streak that saw the Yankees lose their grip on first place in the division. As soon as that five-game losing streak ended, though, the Yankees won six of their next seven and pulled back into first place by two games. That 2-1 series in Toronto is when they went into Rogers Centre and snapped the Blue Jays 11-game winning streak. They were still in the mix until…

Record: 2-5
Response: Won five of their next eight, all on the road

This was probably the most disappointing week of the season. It started with a win and ended with a win, but in between the Yankees did nothing but lose including three in a row against the Blue Jays (that includes the doubleheader sweep at Yankee Stadium when the Yankees really let the division slip away). It was a really ugly and disappointing week, but the Yankees did legitimately bounce back to have a nice road trip against some tough pitching. And we all know what happened next…

Record: 1-6
Response: Wild card game on Tuesday

This past week was about as bad as it gets. The only win was the one that clinched a playoff spot, and the week ended with the Yankees wrapping up home field advantage in the wild card game, but the week was still a complete mess. Bad stretches are nothing new for this team, and given enough time, they’ve always bounced back to start winning again. This time, though, the Yankees have to get it turned around at a specific moment in a specific game and against a specific team. If they can’t turn this around in a hurt, their season will be finished on Tuesday.

Associated Press photos


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Monday, October 5th, 2015 at 9:00 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Postgame notes: “You win, you move on”

Chris Davis, Didi Gregorius

There was no celebration. Joe Girardi saw the Astros final on the scoreboard and began pulling his regulars for pinch hitters. Greg Bird said he heard some rumblings in the dugout, but it wasn’t until he got to the clubhouse that he was really sure the Yankees had clinched home field advantage.

“In order to win the World Series, you’re going to have to win on the road no matter what,” Bird said. “So we were prepared either way, but you want to play at home.”

The Yankees will do that. They ultimately accomplished what they need to accomplish this weekend. Everyone got a day off on Friday, the key relievers got a little bit of work to stay sharp Saturday and Sunday, and the team finished with the top wild card spot. They did not get there the way they wanted to get there, but they got there.

“I’ve been on teams that played extremely well going in and don’t get it done, and vice versa,” Joe Girardi said. “Tuesday is a new day. We’ll wake up tomorrow, it’s a new day and we’re where we want to be. We’re in the playoffs. I think the guys feel good about that and they’ll be ready Tuesday.”

Will they, though? Will this team that’s lost six of seven against a pair of non-playoff teams really be ready to handle Dallas Keuchel and the Astros? Is it possible to feel good about that right now?

“It is what it is,” Carlos Beltran said. “This is not the first time that we went through a bad stretch as a team. In the regular season, you’re going to go through stretches like that. Unfortunately for us, it happened at the end. The regular season is over. Tomorrow we have a practice. Now it’s about getting ready for what’s coming, focus on the game, and trying to do our best.”

This team has a losing record since the end of July, it’s struggled against lefties ever since Mark Teixeira got hurt, and today was one more example of how far the pitching staff has fallen. There’s no way to pretend the Yankees played well down the stretch or that they’re charging into the playoffs with momentum. There is only that familiar idea that the playoffs are something new, and winning a championship is all about playing the best baseball at the right time.

“Lose seven out of 10 or win seven out of 10, on Tuesday you’re still zero-zero,” Alex Rodriguez said. “You start again. So, veteran team, you know what you have to do. You win, you move on.”

Michael Pineda• Remember way back in early May when Michael Pineda struck out 16 batters, cut his ERA to 2.72 and looked like an All-Star who could be a legitimate No. 2 starter behind Masahiro Tanaka? Now he looks more like the Yankees’ fourth starter heading into the postseason, and that’s assuming he starts ahead of Adam Warren. He finished the season with a 4.37 ERA built on the strength of some terrific starts and dragged down by some truly awful starts. He did ready 160.2 innings, which pretty close to his previous high set in 2011. “Right now, I don’t feel very good,” he said. “I had a couple of years I don’t throw a lot of innings like this year, so I’m OK with that, you know? But now I don’t feel very good.”

• Pineda clarified that he doesn’t feel good only because he knows today wasn’t a very good start. “My shoulder feels good,” he said. “I feel fine with that. … I try to do the best today and got a couple of base hits in the first inning. I was in trouble for me, you know?”

• Why pull Pineda after just 83 pitches? “I didn’t think he threw horrible,” Girardi said. “He had thrown so many pitches in four innings, I thought if he’s going to do anything in (the postseason) he has to be good and I don’t want to wear him down. If he’s going to pitch, he’s going to pitch in the second round, so that’s why I took him out.”

• More on the decision to pull Pineda so early: He actually had good career numbers against the lefty Ryan Flaherty, but Girardi said he thought 83 pitches in less than four innings was too much. “Too many pitches,” Girardi said. “This is a guy that’s had major shoulder surgery. We can’t lose him. It’s not what I wanted to do — I was hoping he would roll through six or seven innings today — but it didn’t happen, so I have to think on the other side. I have to protect him.”

• Going to Chris Capuano was clearly an effort to replicate what Capuano did last week against the Red Sox when he struck out back-to-back lefties in a situational role. This was a pretty clear attempt to figure out if Capuano could play that sort of role in the postseason, but he gave up hits to the two lefties he faced. He’ll finish this year with a 1.82 WHIP and a 7.97 ERA.

• By the way, Adam Warren was told he would not be pitching today. He threw three innings on Thursday and the Yankees presumably want him available for long relief on Tuesday.

Caleb Cotham• For that left-on-left at-bat, any thought of going straight to Justin Wilson (even though it was the fourth inning)? “No,” Girardi said. “Too early.” Going to be very interesting to see who the Yankees put in the bullpen for this wild card game. Obviously Wilson, Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Warren and CC Sabathia will be there (probably to serve as a just-in-case long man), but who else would Girardi trust in a big spot? James Pazos hasn’t done well against lefties, Bryan Mitchell’s been rocked lately, Caleb Cotham allowed a home run today, Andrew Bailey has a 1.73 WHIP and obviously Chasen Shreve has been a mess lately. I’m just not sure who the Yankees trust.

• If this had been a winable game, Girardi said he would have been comfortable using both Wilson and Miller for a full inning. Instead he had each of them get one out as a tuneup for Tuesday.

• Continuing a trend for the past two months or so, the top three spots in the Yankees’ lineup went 0-for-13 with three strikeouts (all by Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner) and two walks (both by Rodriguez). “That’s not what you want,” Girardi said. “But I thought we swung the bats better today. It all starts over. Regular season doesn’t matter anymore. It comes down to Tuesday.”

• Ellsbury is going to finish the year with a .257 average and Gardner with a .259. Ellsbury has a .318 on-base percentage and Gardner a .343.

• For better numbers, look to Carlos Beltran who was 3-for-3 this afternoon and finished the year with a .276 average. The only Yankee who played as many as 25 games and finished with a higher average is John Ryan Murphy at .277. “I feel good,” Beltran said. “Thank God I was able to finish strong. That was important for me. After the first month, things weren’t going well, and I was able to make that adjustment, and I was able to make myself comfortable at the plate and consistent. That’s what you look for as a hitter.”

• Greg Bird finished the season with a seven-game hitting streak (in games with an at-bat) during which he’s hit .360 with two doubles, a home run and three RBI. Gardner’s seven-game hitting streak came to an end today.

• Dustin Ackley and Didi Gregorius each had triples today. It’s the second time this season the Yankees had two triples in a game. On April 22, Beltran and Headley — of all people — did it against Detroit.

• Final word goes to Girardi: “Everything is erased. It doesn’t matter what you did the day before, two days before; it doesn’t matter if you win 20-1. It doesn’t matter. The bottom line is I thought we swung the bats better today. We had a shot. We have to come out and swing good and pitch well.”

Associated Press photos



Posted by:Chad Jenningson Sunday, October 4th, 2015 at 10:15 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Reports: Angels to name Billy Eppler general manager


It seemed every winter, Yankees assistant general manager Billy Eppler was declared a finalist for a GM opening. This year, he’s landed one of those jobs.

First reported by Bill Shaikin and then confirmed by basically every national baseball writer in the country, the Angels will announce on Monday that they’ve hired Eppler as their new general manager. In recent weeks, Eppler was seen as the favorite for the job.

A former scout and scouting director, Eppler is from Southern California and seems like a natural fit for the Angels job. He joined the Yankees in 2004 after first working with the Rockies, and fairly quickly Eppler became a key piece of the Yankees’ front office underneath Brian Cashman, who has long praised Eppler as a future GM.

“He checks all the boxes,” Cashman told the Daily News last year when Eppler missed out on the Padres’ GM job. “He’s got the analytics side checked off, he’s got the administrative side checked off and he’s got the scouting side checked off. He’s got the leadership side checked off because he’s a great communicator.

“They’re all equal. Very few people possess all those strengths and all those qualities. He does, in my opinion. He’s built a great reputation that he’s earned and we’re lucky to have him. He’s an important piece of my pyramid.”

Associated Press photo


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Sunday, October 4th, 2015 at 8:41 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

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