Missing Offense

While much is being made of the Yankees need to construct a plan to get 27 outs from their pitching tonight, I think the hitting, or lack of it, is the bigger concern.

Consider this from last night. After the first inning, the Yankees had one batter reach base. That was Didi’s single in the fourth. That’s it, they finished the game 0-for-13, going down in order. If they hadn’t strung a couple of hits together in the first, they lose.

To me, the reason for the lack of offense is because the Yankees have changed their approach. In the regular season they worked counts, taking pitches and waiting to take a swing. In the playoffs, they are jumping on the first pitch, hoping to do some damage. So far, that’s produced a .199 average and 17 runs. Maybe it’s time to work some counts?

And yeah, beyond that they will have to get 27 outs. That will be a challenge. I expect they will use the whole bullpen tonight starting with Green for 1-2 innings and then matching up from there. Guys like Happ, Cessa, Loaisiga, and probably Lyons will need to get some big outs. But it won’t matter at all if the offense can’t fix itself.

Rain Out

MLB got smart and spared the fans the slog of waiting through a huge rain delay. For the Yankees, this means they can pitch both Tanaka and Paxton on normal rest in Games 4&5, but they will either have to bring Severino back on short rest, or come up with another plan if they reach Game 6. And, since the forecast after today is rain-free, and Houston has a retractable roof, the Yankees could play up to four-straight games to close out this series. That’s going to require some rethinking about how they use the bullpen.

Meanwhile, the Washington Nationals have swept the NLCS. One of my favorite old time baseball quotes was about their predecessors, the Senators- “Washington, first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League”. Well, for the first time since 1933, they have a World Series team. Congrats to their fans.

And this means that the Mariners are the only franchise without a trip to the World Series. While people like to trot out various cities for the “honor” of most tortured fans, I never hear Seattle and I think we should. The Mariners have not only never gone to the Series, but their 116-win juggernaut didn’t make it. Their football team may have won a Super Bowl, but they also lost from their opponents one-yard line with the chance to win. To cap it all off, their basketball team was the first to lose to a #8 seed as a #1 and has since left town for Oklahoma City. They are getting a hockey team, so that’s something, but I think they have to be in the conversation.

If anything breaks between now and tomorrow’s game, I will post, otherwise expect something Friday as I’ve got two tickets to tomorrow’s game!

Where Are the Bats?

The Yankees had chances tonight. Gerrit Cole was good, but he wasn’t dominant. The Yankees just couldn’t cash in. Since the sixth inning of Sunday’s game, their hitters have gone 6-for-48. That’s not going to win anything.

The also have a problem with Adam Ottavino. I’m not blaming Ottavino for tonight’s loss, but he certainly didn’t help and the Yankees need to think long and hard before using him in a big spot again.

And now we sit and watch the weather. If the Game is rained out tomorrow, the Yankees can start Tanaka in Game 4 and Paxton in Game 5, but would then have to use an opener in Game 6 (if they got there). Part of the problem tonight was the Yankees need to keep an opener for tomorrow, which forced them to remove Green after eight pitches. That led to Kahnle in the sixth, and Ottavino in the seventh, which didn’t go well. When the Yankees use Green as the opener, how will they link him to the back end of the bullpen? I’m not sure they really know.

Ugh

Just like in 2017, the Yankees lost a heartbreaker in Game 2. It sucked, but if history follows suit, the Yankees will win three-straight at home and head to the World Series.

I’m not predicting that, in fact I think the Yankees are going to face a real challenge thanks to Mother Nature. If you haven’t heard, it’s supposed to be really wet Wednesday. Really, really wet. So the chances of a rain out are high and that’s going to cause a big problem for the Yankees.

If Wednesday’s game is move to Thursday, that means that the potential final four games of the ALCS will be on consecutive days. That’s going to make the way the Yankees use their bullpen very hard to pull off and also put them in a tough spot starter-wise if a Game 6 rolls around. On the flip side, if they feel the rain is a certainty, they can bullpen tomorrow’s game like they did in Game 2. And against Gerrit Cole, that might be necessary.

Figures

At this point, what’s another injury? But this is weird. Giancarlo Stanton got hurt in his first at bat last night, but stayed in the game and even hit a homer with what is being described as a strained quad.

For the Yankees it means he’s on the bench tonight and Maybin, not Hicks, is in. They are going to see how he does tomorrow and probably Tuesday morning before making a decision. If they IL him, that it, he can’t return for the Series. The thing is, if he plays again, it’s probably as DH, which reconfigures the entire lineup.

Stay tuned

A Perfect Start

The Yankees couldn’t have asked for anything else from tonight’s game. Not only did they get a completely dominant performance from Masahiro Tanaka, he did it with only 68 pitches. That means they could consider him a candidate for the start in Game 4.

And they did it with only three relievers appearing, and only two of the big ones- Ottavino and Britton. That means the bullpen will be ready at any point tomorrow and the Yankees could conceivably cover the 4th through 9th innings with Green, Kahnle, Ottavino, Britton, and Chapman.

Oh and the hitting looked pretty good too. I keep reminding myself that Gleybar is 22. It doesn’t seem possible.

Big one tomorrow against Verlander. Can the Yankees find a way to beat him and take control of the series?

Roster Decisions

The Yankees have announced their roster and it has two changes from the ALDS. Sabathia and Hicks are on, Wade and Voit are off.

It will be interesting to see how they use both. Will Hicks start, or is he just on the roster for defense/pinch running? Is Sabathia a matchup guy for a lefty, or are the Yankees willing to use him for more? Beyond that, we should assume the Yankees are going to use Encarnacion at first, LeMahieu at third, and Stanton at DH with Urshela coming in late for defense.

The Yankees have also announced that their rotation in the first three games is Tanaka, Paxton, and Severino. Tanaka is an interesting choice, his road ERA is 6.05 while his home ERA is 3.05. He did pinch a good game in Houston earlier this year and in the 2017 playoffs, but he did not pitch very well in his other three starts there in his career. Paxton has a career ERA of 3.92 in 14 starts at Minute Maid.

It’s a huge spot for Severino in Game 3. With three consecutive games, facing Gerrit Cole, and the possibility of using an opener in Game 4, the Yankees will need him to be an ace.

It’s only been two years since the Yankees faced the Astros in the ALCS, but they will have at least four, and maybe five different faces in the lineup tonight. But, just like in 2017, the key will be getting the Astro starters out if the game and feasting on the bullpen. If they can do that, they have a great chance to win. If not, expect Gerrit Cole to finally be wearing pinstripes next season.

On to Houston

Well this is what we expected when the playoffs started and unlike the NL, where upsets ruled the day, the ALCS will see the top two teams in the league meet. It’s going to be one heck of a series and the Yankees are going to have a very tough battle on their hands.

I’ll be back once rosters are announced.

ALCS Bound

The clincher in Minnesota is a good example of this whole series. On paper, it looks like a fairly easy win. But it, and this series, were not easy at all. Take away a Yankee defensive play or two and give the Twins a key hit or two and you could imagine a world where the Yankees are facing elimination tomorrow down 2-1. But that didn’t happen. The Yankees bent at times, but they didn’t break. They executed those defensive plays and they got some very key hits. And now they will head to their 4th ALCS of the decade, hoping it ends better than the first three did.

The first question is who their opponent will be. Tampa punched back today and now Houston has to win tomorrow or they face the prospect of a Game 5 on Thursday. The Yankees have already earned a small advantage thanks to Houston pitching Verlander tomorrow, which presumably means they won’t try him on three-days rest to start Game 1 of the ALCS. Another Tampa win would definitely help the Yankees and a third one, making them the next opponent, would be ideal as that would give New York homefield advantage in the next round.

The next question is going to be the roster. The Yankees used the same lineup in each of these three games and only used one substitute- Cameron Maybin. The next round has the potential for three-straight games, so do the Yankees go back to 13 pitchers? And if so, does that mean Wade or Voit gets the hook? I would guess that CC’s knee will determine this. If he is healthy, I think the Yankees bring him and Voit gets benched as they aren’t removing LeMahieu from the game. We also need to keep an eye on Britton’s health as he left tonight with an ankle injury.

I’ll be back later in the week once we know who the next opponent is.

Good Start

The Yankees used their usual game plan tonight to beat Minnesota. Just enough starting pitching combined with some nice bullpen work and a relentless lineup to earn a 10-4 victory. The win is the 11th-consecutive playoff victory for the Yankees over Minnesota, the last time they lost was Game 1 of the 2004 ALDS. Minnesota also got swept by Oakland in an ALDS since then, so they have lost 14-straight playoff game,s breaking the record thy held with the Red Sox of 1986-1995.

I’m not inclined to quibble with the decision to let Paxton face Polanco. Polanco is much tougher in righties than lefties, so I don’t think going to Ottavino would have been the right call. I suspect, if CC had been healthy, he might have come into the game there, and there is no way he could bring in Lyons there. (I’m also not sure what Lyons is doing on the playoff roster). My one complaint is using Chapman in that game. I get it, he needs work, but have him warm up a bit more or throw after the game. Having him throw 18 pitches in a blowout doesn’t strike me as a great idea, especially with Game 2 tomorrow.

But, things clicked and the Yankees will try to get control of the series tomorrow afternoon. With a 5:07 start time, the shadows may keep the scoring down early, but the sun sets at 6:30 and I bet the bats show up.