Same opponent, different city. The Yankees were set to take on the Minnesota Twins one week after taking three out of four against the Twins in Minneapolis. The Bombers were on another push trying to get back to .500 for the season and gain some traction in the AL East race as they still trail the Orioles, Red Sox, and Blue Jays.
I’ll take Tanaka for the W
The Yankees trotted out Masahiro Tanaka in the series opener and although he didn’t have his best stuff of the season, it was good enough against the Twins. Even on days when Tanaka does not pitch well, he still is able to keep the team in the game. He does not have very many of those disastrous blowout games.
After giving up a pair of runs on an Eduardo Nunez single, the Yankees would get them right back courtesy of a Carlos Beltran double and an Alex Rodriguez single. The Twins would put up a run in the top of the fourth, but the Yankees would quickly retake the lead in the bottom half of the inning on an Austin Romine sacrifice fly and a Rob Refsnyder single.
Tanaka would go six innings in this one, giving up seven hits and three runs while striking out seven. With the Yankees up 4-3 after six, it was time for the bullpen to do its job. And once again, things worked to perfection. Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman worked three perfect innings, striking out five. Aaron Hicks would add a solo home run in the eighth to set the final score at 5-3.
The win got the Yankees back to .500 and now the job is to move on from there. They have played with the .500 mark for several weeks, clawing their way up and then falling right back down.
Big Mike back in stride
Michael Pineda has seen his work on his mechanics with pitching coach Larry Rothschild pay off in recent weeks. Saturday was the best performance in that stretch as Pineda would pitch six innings of two-hit baseball, giving up one run and striking eight. It was a far cry from earlier in 2016 as speculation was rampant about moving Pineda to the bullpen or even a demotion to the minors.
Pineda has seen his ERA drop almost a run and a half in his last five starts. He is back to generating swings and misses on his slider. And at least for Saturday, he stayed out of trouble with two outs and was able to finish off innings.
Pineda would not get a whole lot of offensive support Saturday. They would be limited to one run in the first seven innings courtesy of a Beltran RBI single. The Yankees had base runners and opportunities throughout, but once again, could not come through. 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position with 10 left on base. Sigh.
With the score tied at 1 after Pineda exited, the game became a battle of the bullpens. And the Yankee pen was slightly better in this one. Betances, Miller, and Chapman would once again blow through the final three innings, striking out 4. The winning run would come across in the eighth as Hicks would score on an error and the Yankees would win this one, 2-1.
With the win, the Yankees pulled a game over .500, at 37-36. Because the Orioles swept a doubleheader from the Rays, they still dropped a half game in the standings. They have been beating up on the struggling teams they have played of late, but have not played winning baseball against contenders. That will have to change in the coming weeks as they try to decide whether to become buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.
Homer happy Twins
The Yankees went into Sunday’s matchup looking for a series sweep knowing that the Big Three in the bullpen were probably unavailable. The combination of Nathan Eovaldi and the offense made certain they would not be needed and would get a day of rest. And not in a good way, either.
The day started out well enough for Eovaldi as he allowed two hits and a run through the first five innings. The run coming courtesy of a third inning home run from Danny Santana. Fast forward to the sixth inning with the Twins lineup getting their third look at Eovaldi. We know how disastrous that can usually be. The numbers are out there. They don’t lie and i’m done looking them up. Again, I get it. With three of your bullpen pieces being out supposedly, what do you do?
By the time Eovaldi got the third out in the sixth inning, the Twins had scored four runs from three home runs. All after two were out in the inning. 6.0 innings, 6 hits, 5 runs, 3 walks, and 4 strikeouts. Close to a good outing ended up with an ERA of 5.19 on the season. That’s 6.16 with 12 home runs allowed in his last seven starts. Yep, pretty ineffective.
The offense did very little against Tyler Duffey as he took a perfect game into the sixth inning. They ended up with two hits on the day. A home run from Mark Teixeira and an Aaron Hicks double. The Twins would add a pair of home runs during mop up duty to end up with six on the day and the final score of 7-1 could have been much worse.
The Yankees sit at 37-37 and are 7.5 games back of the Orioles in the AL East. They have been winning games against the bottom of the league and still are dropping back in the standings. They host the Texas Rangers in a four game set beginning Monday night. The Rangers have the best record in the American League and it will be a test to see if the Yankees can win ballgames against a club with a winning record. They haven’t had much luck with that this year.