April 18: WTF cold bats
All of the momentum from the sweep of the Red Sox was quickly erased in a boring 6-1 loss to Kansas City on Thursday night. Four singles. The only run was scored on an out (sac fly). Gross.
Domingo German was hit hard in the first few innings, before he settled down and ultimately gave the Yankees a “quality start” (six innings, three runs). German had allowed just three singles to the 50 batters he faced in his first three outings… And then the regression-dragon smacked him right in the face, as two of the first three batters he faced on Thursday hit doubles and two more guys later added solo homers. Before Thursday, German was the only pitcher in the majors that had faced at least 50 batters and not allowed an extra-base hit.
The game was still winnable when German departed after the sixth inning, trailing 3-1. But Jonathan Holder effectively torched any chance of a comeback when he coughed up two runs on three hits while getting just one out in the seventh. This is not the first time Aaron Boone has called on Holder in a tight game and he’s imploded.
Prior to Thursday, Holder had the highest average Leverage Index (when entering a game) on the team — basically Boone called on him in the most-pressured situations on average this season — and yet his 7.00 ERA following Thursday’s implosion was the second-highest among Yankee relievers. Hmmm …
April 19: Let the old guys play
The Yankees bounced back from Thursday’s loss as the old guys sparked a 6-2 win on Friday night. Brett Gardner delivered an early game-changing homer and CC Sabathia turned back the clock in another vintage performance.
Gardner’s two-run shot in the third inning quickly flipped a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead that the Yankees wouldn’t relinquish. It was his fifth of the season, and through Friday, the only player in MLB with more homers as a centerfielder was Mike Trout (6).
CC Sabathia continued his incredible late-career resurgence with another strong outing, holding the Royals to just one unearned run in five innings. It was his 247th career win, tying Bartolo Colon and Jack Quinn on the all-time list. But more important is this note on CC The Stoppah:
CC Sabathia Following Yankee Loss since 2017 (reg. season):
22-5 team w-l
— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) April 20, 2019
Sabathia showed why he is the king of soft contact, generating a bunch of easy grounders and lazy flyouts. Only one of the 12 balls in play was “hard-hit” (95-plus mph), averaging just 77.5 mph off the bat. Through Friday, that was the sixth-lowest average exit velocity in a game for any starting pitcher this season (min. 10 balls in play).
April 20: Injury gods hate the Yankees
The Yankees crushed the Royals, 9-2, on Saturday, but it was a win only on the scoreboard. They added another player to their M.A.S.H. unit when Aaron Judge left the game with an oblique injury in the sixth inning. With Judge added to the IL on Sunday, the Yankees now have an MLB-high 13 players on the injured list and those 13 players, based on preseason ZIPS projections, account for a combined 32.7 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). That’s more projected WAR than 17 teams this season.
Clint Frazier’s scorching-hot bat sparked the offense again, as he went 3-for-4 with a homer, double and a single while driving in two runs. He finished the night with a .351 batting average and five dingers on the season. That seems good:
Yankees Under-Age 25 with 5+ HR and .350+ BA in Team’s 1st 20 Games:
Clint Frazier (2019)
Derek Jeter (1999)
Mickey Mantle (1956)
Lou Gehrig (1927)
— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) April 21, 2019
April 21: Romine to the rescue
The Yankees capped off a second straight series win at the Stadium in thrilling fashion, riding a rollercoaster of blown leads and late-game rallies to beat the Royals on a 10th inning walk-off hit by Austin Romine. Believe it or not, but their 11-10 record is just one game back of their mark through 21 games last year (12-9).
Romine, who also tied the game in the eighth with a run-scoring single, saved the Yankees from arguably their most awful and crushing loss in nearly a decade. The last time the Yankees lost a game when leading by at least five runs entering the eighth inning was September 28, 2011 vs Rays (click at your own risk). Instead, Romine joined some Yankee legends with his clutch hitting and first career walk-off RBI.
The Walkoff HeRo. pic.twitter.com/b9CoagSyyD
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) April 21, 2019
He is the third Yankee in the last 30 years with an extra-inning walk-off hit against the Royals, along with Brett Gardner (August 16, 2008) and Don Mattingly (May 19, 1990). And most impressively, produced our #FunFact of the game, becoming the second Yankee catcher since 1925 with a game-tying hit in the eighth inning or later and then a walk-off hit in the same game. The other? Yogi Berra on July 2, 1954.
James Paxton would have been the star of the highlights if not for an epic eighth-inning bullpen meltdown that robbed him of the win and made the walk-off heroics necessary. Paxton pitched his second straight gem, striking out 12 in six scoreless innings. Let’s recap this historic two-start stretch:
- Joined David Cone (1998) as the only Yankees with at least a dozen strikeouts in back-to-back games.
- Sixth lefthander in MLB history with two games in a row of at least 12 punchouts and no earned runs. The rest of the list: Clayton Kershaw (2015), Chris Sale (2015), Randy Johnson (2001), Sandy Koufax (1965), Karl Spooner (1954).
- Second major-league pitcher (since 1908) to strike out at least 12 batters, while allowing zero runs and fewer than five baserunners, in consecutive games. Some dude named Randy Johnson is the other.
And, finally, Paxton now has his own page in the franchise record book:
James Paxton is 1st pitcher in Yankees history with back-to-back games of 12+ K and 0 runs allowed.
— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) April 21, 2019