The homestand for the Yankees continued this week with a 4-game set against the World Series champion Kansas City Royals. The Yankees were fresh off of a series win against the Boston Red Sox as they seek to right the ship from a disappointing start to the 2016 campaign.
The Bombers play long ball
Ivan Nova would get his first start of the season in place of the injured C.C. Sabathia. Nova was on a pitch count on Monday night, but a good showing could lead to a regular return to the rotation for the right-hander.
The Yankees would get on the board quickly courtesy of a Brian McCann solo home run. The team would go on to batter Chris Young for five home runs in his short outing, all of which were solo shots. Carlos Beltran would get in on the act twice and Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks would go back-to-back in the third inning. Young was missing location in his 2.2 innings of work and the Yankees made him pay. The team has had a power struggle all season, so it was nice to see a breakout in this game.
Nova was solid in this game. A couple of defensive miscues on his part cost him a chance to pick up a win. Joe Girardi removed him after 4.2 innings with his pitch count at 81. 6 hits and 1 run with 3 strikeouts is nothing to write home about, but with Aroldis Chapman’s return to solidify the bullpen and shorten the game, the Yankees will take it. If they get him stretched out a little further, Nova has the possibility of being a very serviceable fifth starter.
Phil Coke pitched .2 innings in relief in his return in pinstripes. After getting Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances warmed up in the bullpen, Kirby Yates, Chasen Shreve, and Chapman finished the night for the Yankees. Shreve would allow a home run in his inning of work and Chapman gave up a couple of hits and a run as he tries to knock off the rust getting his 2016 season underway. Shreve has now served up 5 home runs in his last 5.2 innings. Yikes.
The solo blasts would be enough for the Yankees on this night to get the job done. Hicks would add a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning and the Bombers would take the series opener 6-3. The Royals have been struggling offensively, just not to the same degree as the Yankees. With the loss, they drop to 15-16 on the season.
Showing some grit
Masahiro Tanaka would face off against Kris Medlen in the second game of the series and it turned out to be a back and forth affair. Lorenzo Cain did his best and then some to try to keep the Royals in it, but the Yankees never quit and came away with a 10-7 win.
The Yankees got to a Royals starter quickly for a second night in a row. Medlen would only last 2+ innings, giving up four runs. A bases loaded double by Gregorius would highlight the barrage against Medlen and give the Yankees a 5-3 lead. Cain would do his best to keep the Yankees from running away with things. His 3-run blast in the fifth would give the Royals a 6-5 lead.
Tanaka would not have his best stuff on Tuesday, but did manage to give the Yankees 7 innings and give the team an opportunity to make a comeback and spare the bullpen from extensive innings in the middle of the game. Sometimes part of being a front line starting pitcher is gutting things out on days when you are not on top of your game and keeping your team alive.
This game would end up in the hands of the bullpens and normally that spells disaster for the opposition. Tonight would be a different story for the Royals pen. Joakim Soria would come on to pitch the seventh, but would be touched up for RBI hits by Dustin Ackley and Aaron Hicks to reclaim the lead for the Yankees at 7-6.
Kansas City would immediately tie the game in the eighth on Cain’s third home run of the night, a solo shot off of Andrew Miller. This was Miller’s first run allowed in 11.2 innings on the season.
Kelvin Herrera would get the call in the bottom half of the inning for the Royals and would promptly be tagged for his first runs of the season as well. So much for the vaunted bullpens. A Brett Gardner double would chase home Ben Gamel and Brian McCann would narrowly miss a home run, settling instead for a two-run double.
Chapman would bring a bit of normalcy to the ninth as he got Cain to pop up to end the game and earn his first save as a Yankee. The Yankees would win by the final score of 10-7 and take their fifth game out of the last seven.
Some nights are just that way
Michael Pineda has some ugly splits to his pitching performance early in 2016. After his last start, I showed his stats with two outs in an inning. He is getting teed off on. After his start on Wednesday, his first inning numbers are horrifying as well. How about a first inning slash line against of .500/.535/1.026 to go along with a 15.43 ERA?? The Royals would tag him for four runs in the first on this night highlighted by Salvador Perez’s three-run shot. Everything was hit hard, even the outs.
The Yankees would cut the lead in half in the second inning courtesy of Beltran’s solo home run and an RBI single from Chase Headley. Pineda would settle down for a bit, but would get into more trouble as Joe Girardi tried to squeeze a sixth inning out of him. His night would end after 5.2 innings giving up 6 runs on 6 hits with 4 walks and 2 hit batsmen. A pretty ugly evening all the way around. Now the question has to be asked. With C.C. Sabathia’s return looming in another week, does Nova take Pineda’s spot instead of Luis Severino? Both Pineda and Severino are having some location issues, but at this point, it might be more desirable to have Pineda out of the rotation than Severino.
Before the Royals put the game away in the sixth, the Yankees had trimmed the lead to 4-3. This would have probably been a good spot for Girardi to go to the pen and try to keep things close. With the way the Bombers have been hitting the past week, it definitely seemed like sound strategy. Instead, Pineda would stay in and after putting a couple of two out runners, Nick Goody would come in and give up a two-run single to Cain. Phil Coke would finish the night on the mound, going 3.1 innings and only giving up a solo home run to Kendrys Morales.
The Yankees would drop this one 7-3, but still have a chance on Thursday to pull out the series win. Beltran and Hicks were the offense for the Yankees on Wednesday. Beltran was 2-for-4 with the home run and Hicks had three hits and has been solid while getting regular at bats since Jacoby Ellsbury’s injury.
Homers all around…Headley too
The Yankees are getting timely hits – say goodbye RISPFail – and good enough starting pitching to play consistent baseball now. This would be true on Thursday night as Nathan Eovaldi would only give the team five innings, allowing three runs on eight hits. The offense would back him up with home runs from Starlin Castro, Gregorius, and Chase Headley. Yes, that’s right, Chase Headley. His first extra base hit of the 2016 season.
The magic formula would see the Yankee bullpen pitch four innings of shutout relief as they would take three out of four from the Royals with a 7-3 victory. Five to seven innings of decent stuff from their starters, a lockdown pen, and enough power from their offense this week all added up to another series win. Their second in a row and sixth win in their last ten games. Not the hottest team in baseball, but a quality product on the field and definitely much more fun to watch than two weeks ago.
The Yankees are playing consistent baseball for the first time in 2016 but will have to step up their game another notch this weekend as the AL Central leading Chicago White Sox come to town for a three game set.