May 062017

The Yankees were stifled last night by the World Champion Cubs. While they out-hit the Cubs, with 9 hits in 8 innings to the Cubs 4, the Yankees were 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position (and that one hit did not drive in a run), the Cubs had 2 HRs in their four hits and sported a 2-0 lead. But Wade Davis had been used for three consecutive nights, so they called on Hector Rondon to close out the game. Gregorius grounded out on a 2-2 count to open the frame, but Headley hit a 3-1 fastball to left for a single. What must the Cubs thought about the Yankee lineup when they saw that 2016 NL Home Run leader Chris Carter was batting eighth? Anyway, Carter came up and Rondon’s first pitch went to the backstop, Headley taking second. This was relevant, of course, because Carter has not three but four true outcomes: HR, K, BB, GIDP 😉 Carter did his thing, getting to 0-2, fouling off 3 of the next four pitches while taking one ball, and striking out on a 1-2 slider that broke back over the plate. 2 out, 1 on. Ellsbury pinch hit for Holder (the pitcher) and the bat never left his shoulder in a 5-pitch walk. This brought up Gardner, who up until 5 games before had NO RBI on the season, but who had had a recent hot streak. After 3 pitches in which there were no swings, he was down in the count 1-2 and forced to swing. He fouled off two good pitches, took a ball outside, and the stage was set. The catcher called for the ball low and outside, it was actually low and inside (probably not a strike), but Gardner saw it clearly, swung low and met it squarely, and put it about 6 rows deep in the rightfield stands, fairly near the line but in no danger of being foul, nor of being caught, despite a wind that was blowing in. 3-2 Yankees. And Chapman and Betances were BOTH available. Headley made a two-base error on the leadoff batter, but with Chapman on the mound it didn’t matter: strikeout, groundout, strikeout and NY moved to 18-9.

It broke a long Cubs streak: the previous 152 times they entered the ninth inning with a 2-run lead they had won the game. And in only a couple of them had they given up the tying run and won it in extra innings (like the Yankees loss to Toronto, where they turned a 4-2 deficit into a 4-4 game dramatically, but lost 7-4 in 11).

But some prognosticators have stopped dismissing the hot start out of hand, and think the Yankee resurgence may well be real. Their pitching is erratic (Sabathia has 3 great starts and 3 awful starts, for example) but overall pretty solid, they are scoring a bunch of runs and it’s not just Aaron Judge, and while some players (Headley, Castro, Hicks, Judge) figure to get worse, others (Sanchez, Bird, Gardner) figure to get better. It IS a scary lineup; 41-HR Carter WAS batting 8th in an NL park. ESPN currently projects them for 97 wins – no one else in the AL East projects for more than 85. I don’t buy those numbers, but I do think they might win in the low 90s, and that might be enough to win the division.

It’s certainly early days. but last year they won 84 games with an 8-17 start. if they only play as well as they did the rest of last year, hardly a blistering pace, they’ll win 92 games and be in the hunt all season. And they could well be better than that.

For sure they’ll be more fun.

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