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TWiYB: This week in Yankees baseball – week 21

Week 21 was certainly eventful for the Yankees. It seems like ages ago, but the Yankees did drop another series vs Boston which makes their division hopes that much more slim.

While I’m not giving up on the division, the Yankees are currently 4.5 games behind the Red Sox which means they probably need to sweep them on Labor Day weekend to have a realistic shot at the AL East. Despite that, the Yanks are in good shape to make the playoffs as we near September. They are +3.5 games on the Twins, who currently hold the second Wild Card. KC, Anaheim, Seattle, and Texas are all bunched up by a game or less, and the Yankees would not only be at home vs those teams in a 1-game do-or-die, they’d have Luis Severino on the mound, and I like my chances in that situation.

The Yankees start a 3-game set vs Seattle this weekend, and then host Minnesota for 3 on September 18-20 and KC for a makeup game five days later. In other words, they control their own Wild Card destiny.

Check out last week in Yankees baseball which included my renewed hatred for the Red Sox, more Judge talk, and Sir Clutch.

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Fight!

We all thought Thursday would just be your casual getaway day game with the Yankees trying to sweep the pitiful Tigers, then all hell broke loose.

By now you know what happened, but in case you missed it, here’s a recap: Michael Fulmer hit Gary Sanchez in the 5th inning. The plunking seemed intentional because Sanchez single-handedly dismantled the Tigers this week. Fulmer, the Tigers, and the Yankees had some bad blood from earlier this season when the Yanks hit Mikie Mahtook twice in a game on July 31. Then, Fulmer hit Jacoby Ellsbury in retaliation. Thursday it was Sanchez, and that’s why things escalated.

In the 6th, Tommy Kahnle tried to hit Miguel Cabrera but missed behind him. How you miss that big ogre is beyond me, but Kahnle missed him and was tossed out of the game. Here’s where the umpires screwed up; if they thought things were getting out of hand then they should have issued each team a warning after Sanchez was hit, but they didn’t. Instead they tossed Kahnle without explanation, which is why Girardi exploded. Then Cabrera and Austin Romine got into it, things were said, and Miggey decided to take his frustrations out on the Yankees backup catcher.

Look at Romine! First of all, props to him for removing his mask. You may remember during the ARod-Varitek brawl in 2004, Varitek left his mask on so his lispy jaw wouldn’t get rearranged. Romine was a man about it and got in Miggey’s face, who has about 4 inches and 40 pounds on him. He also dodged every punch from Cabrera like he was Mayweather and took him to the ground. Romine held his own in this fight and then some.

So many things happened from this point on that I have to break them down one at a time.

Gary Sanchez

Sanchez, who was DH-ing, ran in and sucker punched Cabrera when he was already on the ground. There’s no excuse for that, and it especially hurts because right now El Gary is demolishing everything he sees. Over his last 16 games he is hitting .344 with 10 home runs. It’s the second August in a row that he’s been the best hitter in baseball and now the Yankees are probably going to lose him to a few game suspension.

After the game Sanchez  was asked about his actions during the brawl: “I was in the dugout and I saw Romine rolling on the [ground] with the other guys,” Sanchez said. “At that moment, just instincts take over, because you want to defend your teammate. That’s your family out there.”

I totally get the reaction from Sanchez, but after the brawl ended and considering the Yankees still lost the game, it really hurts the team.

David Robertson

If the Yankees need a pinch runner down the stretch, send in DRob.

Dellin Betances

This is where the game turned for the Yankees. After the initial brawl, the Yankees were actually down 3 runs but fought back and tied the game. Betances came in to start the 7th and hit James McCann in the head. Betances would have to be a fool to have been trying to hit McCann in a tie game in the bottom of the 7th with no outs.

Yes, Jeff, so stupid. I get why McCann was pissed. He got drilled with 98-mph heat in the dome! But I don’t think for a second that it was intentional and that is not my Yankees homerism speaking. Dellin would literally have to be the dumbest athlete on earth to throw at McCann in that situation, after everything that happened in the game. What was he trying to do? No clue. Sanchez was set up outside and Betances missed the target by 4 feet. Maybe he was over-amped. We know he’s been wild all season. Whatever the reason, it totally screwed the Yankees and was the number one reason why they lost the game.

Brett Gardner 

The next inning Todd Frazier was hit by a pitch and the benches cleared again. Everyone ran out like “Oh we’re doing this again?” except Brett Gardner, who popped a few blood vessels during this scrum.

Brett was fired up all game. I think I might be buying into this whole Brett Gardner is “their” captain thing. Also Omar Vizquel is on the Tigers’ coaching staff? Who knew.

It was a tough loss for the Yankees. Lost in the shuffle was another bad start by Jaime Garcia, who’s ERA is now 6.32 in 3 starts for the Yankees so far. The bats did fight back after the first brawl, but all the momentum was shifted to the Tigers’ side once Betances inadvertently, but stupidly, hit McCann. The only positive I can take out of this game is maybe it will unite them for a playoff run, assuming they can get past a number of suspensions coming their way.

Señor Agosto

Gary Sanchez loves the month of August. In 44 career August games, he’s hitting .355/.422/.799 with 21 home runs and 42 RBIs. Last year, the month in which he put the name Gary Sanchez on the map, he almost carried the Yankees to the post season after they were declared dead. This year, he has once again injected some life back into the offense that should be getting a healthy Starlin Castro and Greg Bird back any day.

We still have not seen Gary and Aaron Judge hit at the same time. This week on The Bronx Pinstripes Show we discussed Sanchez’ torid August, his 493-foot blast at Comerica Park, and what it will mean if we see the two Yankees sluggers hot at the same time (20:00 minute mark).

The Streak Is Over

Aaron Judge’s nightmarish 37-game strikeout streak finally came to an end this week. Judge hit a pathetic .176/.335/.351 with 7 home runs and 2 doubles over that span of games that began on July 8. As if those numbers aren’t alarming enough, perhaps the biggest factor to his struggles — more than the strikeouts — is his hard contact rate.

It doesn’t take a mathematician to notice Judge’s hard-hit percentage plummet right around the 120-game mark, which coincided with his extended slump. Toward the beginning of the season Judge was hitting nearly 60% of the balls he made contact with hard — an insane number. It’s why he did so much damage to stadium features and pitchers’ egos; balls were flying off his bat at a rate we’ve never seen before. Now, with Judge making contact less often and with fewer of his hits being hard, we are seeing a less impactful Aaron Judge.

The positives are that he had a good series vs Detroit. Sanchez and Didi continuing to mash around Judge are also helping. For the season he still has a 44.4% hard-hit rate, which FanGraphs categorizes as “excellent.” Since strikeouts are and always will be a part of his game, Judge simply needs to start hitting the ball hard again to be dangerous.

Chase deserves credit

The question above is very hard to answer. Full transparency, I answered Chase Headley as the bigger surprise.

You may know that I’m not the biggest Headley fan, so writing this is going to be difficult. But Chase deserves credit for his second half, and not just at the plate where he’s slashing .325/.385/.508. After the Yankees acquired Todd Frazier, Headley willingly moved to first base where he had played only a handful of games throughout his career. He responded by continuing to hit and playing respectable defense. The first base void that plagued the Yankees during the first half has been temporarily filled.

Greg Bird, who’s had a strong rehab after ankle surgery, is ready to return. I expect the Yankees to utilize 1B, 3B, and DH for the three players — Headley, Frazier, and Bird — based on match-ups. With Castro also ready to return, the Yankees are getting a nice boost for their September run.

 

Follow: @Andrew_Rotondi

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