It was obvious from the start that the potential was there for a long day. Check out the location of the three pitches that led to a 3-0 count on Dustin Pedroia to start the game.
Brandon Morrow went on to walk Pedroia on five pitches. He later walked David Ortiz with one out, only to get out of the first on a double-play ball from Mike Carp.
The second inning played out the same way: Grady Sizemore and A.J. Pierzynski walked, but then Will Middlebrooks flew out to the wall in right and Jonathan Herrera grounded into a double play.
The third inning, on the other hand, started with two quick outs. And then everything unraveled. Morrow walked four in a row, bringing him up to eight for the afternoon and getting him pulled from the game, even though he still hadn’t allowed a hit. Chad Jenkins replaced him and immediately gave up a grand slam to Pierzynski, followed by another homer to Middlebrooks.
For Morrow, it was an ugly combination of bad control, a patient offense and a horrible day from Jeff Kellogg behind the plate. Just 26 of his 66 pitches were strikes, but as you can see, even before he established himself as lacking command on the day, the pitches on the corners weren’t being called. Opposing starter Clay Buchholz struggled with the same phenomenon, though he did bounce back nicely after a three-run first.
Morrow became the first starter to walk eight and throw no more than three innings since Houston’s Jonathan Johnson against the Red Sox in 2003. David Ortiz was in Boston’s lineup for that one, too, but he didn’t walk in the contest.
Prior to that, Kerry Wood walked eight in 1 1/3 innings for the Cubs in Sept. 2000. Steve Adkins did it for the Yankees in 1990. Those are the only three times it happened in the previous 35 years.
The writing was on the wall, but the Yankees made it official on Saturday: Aroldis Chapman is no longer closing games for the Bronx Bombers. Comments from manager Joe Girardi suggested that the move is a temporary one, however, and he told reporters that Chapman will be utilized at “different points” in the game as the Yankees try to pinpoint the source of the left-hander’s struggles.
There’s no question that the flame-throwing southpaw has been off his game for a while, and his season 4.29 ERA, 4.3 BB/9 and 12.6 SO/9 hints at some of the issues he’s been facing. He imploded in each of his last three appearances, issuing a cumulative five hits, six runs and five strikeouts over just 3 1/3 innings. It seems plausible that the left rotator cuff inflammation that sidelined him several months ago has resurfaced, but the veteran lefty said Friday that he doesn’t believe any physical issues have caused his decline.
While Chapman works out the kinks in his mechanics, the Yankees will look to some combination of Dellin Betances and David Robertson to cover the ninth inning. Girardi wouldn’t commit to either reliever in the closer’s spot, however, and said he’d take it on a case-by-case basis depending on the match-ups in any given game. The long-term plan is still to reinstate Chapman, whenever that might make sense for the team.
“He’s been scuffling over the past 10 days, two weeks,” Girardi said. “I just thought for us to get him back on track, maybe the best way would be to move him around a little bit until he gets going. When we get him going like I believe he’ll get going, there’s a good chance I’ll put him right back in that closer’s role.”
The Nationals officially activated Stephen Strasburg off the 10-day disabled list, the team announced Saturday. They’ll pencil him into the starting lineup for their second set against the Padres on Saturday night. Strasburg is expected to assume Max Scherzer‘s roster spot after Scherzer landed on the disabled list with neck inflammation prior to Friday’s series opener. No other roster moves appear to be necessary for the time being.
Strasburg, 28, is finally looking stable after serving a 26-day stint on the DL with a right elbow nerve impingement. It’s the first serious injury he’s sustained since last August, when he missed 20 days with inflammation in his right elbow, and one the Nationals are taking seriously as they juggle multiple stints for their elite starters. He’ll enter Saturday’s competition with a 10-3 record in 20 starts, supplemented by a 3.25 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 through 121 2/3 innings.
Elbow issues are nothing to be played around with, but Strasburg’s performance in his lone rehab outing relieved any residual apprehension the Nats might have had about his activation this weekend. He tossed 66 pitches for High-A Potomac, hitting 95 MPH with his heater and logging three hits, one run, one walk and five strikeouts over five innings. Club manager Dusty Baker is hoping for a similarly dominant start against the Padres, and told reporters that he’ll hold Strasburg to a performance count as the righty works his way back to a full-time gig.