CLEVELAND – Sonny Gray made his New York Yankees debut on Thursday night against arguably one of the best pitchers in baseball, Corey Kluber. The Cleveland Indians’ pitcher dazzled and threw a complete game, allowing only one earned run in their 5-1 victory.
This series opener had the feel of a postseason matchup, as the two aces were both dealing. Gray’s night ended after six effective innings. He allowed two earned runs (two unearned), walked three and struck out six in what looked to be a step in the right direction for the Yankees’ pitching staff.
If you eliminate the three first inning errors by the Yankees, the game looks more like 3-1 – but at the end of the day, the Yankees’ offense just isn’t producing at the level it should be. There were three opportunities that the Bronx Bombers failed to capitalize on with runners in scoring position.
Leading off the top of the fourth inning, Clint Frazier laced a double down the right field line, giving the Yankees their first hit of the night off of Kluber and their first sign of life. Didi Gregorious followed Frazier’s at-bat with a loud fly out to center field, advancing Frazier to third base.
Gary Sanchez and Jacoby Ellsbury both failed to drive in Frazier from third base, and the Yankees ended the inning without scoring a run. Opportunities like those are incredibly hard to come by, especially against a pitcher like Kluber — so making the most of your chances is vital.
Overall, the Yankees rank among one of the worst teams in baseball in terms of leaving runners in scoring position. According to teamrankings.com, the Yankees have left nearly four RISP per game this season. And over their last three games, they have left approximately five RISP per game.
Pitching can only take you so far when your offense cannot produce. A very undervalued piece of the offense this season has been Starlin Castro, who is currently sitting on the 10 day disabled list. Once Castro returns, look for him to bolster the Yankees’ lineup and take some of the pressure off of the guys at the top of the order.