The first West Coast swing of the season for the New York Yankees did not go to plan.
Coming off a red-hot homestand with series wins over division rivals like Boston and Baltimore, the Bombers could only win one game in Anaheim and Oakland combined. Obviously, a lot had to go wrong for that to happen. And it did.Embed from Getty Images
Yankee pitching was uncharacteristically bad during the trip. In those seven games, the staff allowed 10 home runs and pitched to a 4.99 ERA. In 61⅓ innings, they allowed 67 hits. Compare that to 33 hits in 54 innings during the recent homestand (also a 2.17 ERA).
Starting pitchers were not giving Yankees length during the road trip. CC Sabathia‘s injury Tuesday in Anaheim forced the Yankees to use six relievers. They lost the following game because they were forced to recall a reliever from AA Trenton to patch the holes in the bullpen. Relievers were also taxed because multiple games went into extra innings.Embed from Getty Images
Tyler Clippard pitched to a 5.40 ERA with two blown saves on the trip, while the team’s best reliever Dellin Betances threw just three innings. Honestly, that’s unacceptable. Aroldis Chapman only returned for the final game of the trip, throwing a perfect eighth inning Sunday.
It seems the Yankees left their offense in the Bronx, too. They struck out 72 times over seven games, hit just eight home runs and hit to a .266 team average. Compare that, again, to the homestand: they hit .358, homered 18 times and struck out 43 times in six games.
Part of that can be attributed to Aaron Hicks seeing a bit of a correction from his hot streak. From May 23 (when Jacoby Ellsbury was DL’d) to the end of the homestand, Hicks was slashing an impressive .354/.429/.631. Whether it was the travel, fatigue or the beginnings of his Achilles injury, Hicks was just 4-for-19 (.211), and walked just once compared to seven strikeouts. Gary Sánchez was also nursing an injury, but managed to contribute six hits and five RBIs.Embed from Getty Images
The real hole in the Yankee lineup continues to be at first base. Chris Carter slashed .160/.222/.400 during the trip, with four hits compared to 14 strikeouts. He did hit two home runs, but overall, received an awful -3.52 in run expectancy (given the bases occupied/out situation, how many runs did the batter add in the resulting play, per Baseball Reference).
Where Do We Go From Here?
The Yankees need to take a deep breath, and just relax on this off-day. They hit 20 points better and pitch to a 37-point lower ERA at Yankee Stadium this season. The key now is to avoid further injuries, and look to have another homestand where they win both series.
The team should also be looking at fixes, both external and internal, to the issues above. Most importantly, the first base debacle. Greg Bird had his rehab shut down after a setback, so he will not save the Yankees from Carter anytime soon. Meanwhile, 40-man roster member Tyler Austin is slashing .304/.364/.494 for AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He has a 33% strikeout rate there, compared to 42% for Carter at the MLB level this season. He might be a solution for a position that has been an ugly hole in the lineup all year.
First and foremost, the bullpen needs rest. This off-day will allow everyone to exhale and regroup. Having Chapman back in the ninth inning means everyone moves down the food chain a notch. That takes pressure off of guys who are not used to it, which hopefully brings their performance level up.
In general, let’s hope this team gets their performance level up starting tomorrow against the Los Angeles Angels.Embed from Getty Images