Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Yankees punished for being too miserly to pay for Jay Bruce

27 Comments

Outfielder Jay Bruce is a valued member of the Indians’ outfield, but he almost became a member of the Yankees back in August. Yankees ownership was too miserly to take on the entirety of his remaining contract — a few million dollars — to acquire him from the Mets. The much smaller-market Indians were willing to take on Bruce’s entire remaining salary, so they got him.

Instead, during Game 1 of the ALDS at Progressive Field on Thursday evening, the Yankees watched Bruce almost singlehandedly power the Indians’ offense to a victory. Bruce drilled a two-run home run against Sonny Gray in the bottom of the fourth inning. He knocked in another run in the fifth on a sacrifice fly against Jaime Garcia.

The Yankees’ outfield — Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, and Aaron Judge — combined to go 1-for-10 with six strikeouts in Game 1.

It wasn’t that the Yankees weren’t willing to pay at all. The club was reportedly willing to give the Mets “multiple prospects.” But adding in a few million dollars was a bit too much for the Yankees, who had an Opening Day payroll approaching $200 million and are valued as a franchise around $3.5 billion.

The Yankees will have to take on AL Cy Young Award candidate Corey Kluber on Friday with a 1-0 series deficit. And they will have to hope Bruce doesn’t punish them any more than he already has.

The Astros gave the Yankees an opening. Keuchel and Verlander will try to close the door.

Associated Press
1 Comment

If Game 4 of the ALCS had been even remotely conventional, it’d stand at 3-1 in favor of Houston right now. The Yankees’ starter pitched well but got no run support. A mighty Astros team with an ordinarily good closer in Ken Giles had a 4-0 lead in the late innings. As the Yankees set out to mount a comeback, a base runner fell down in between first and second and should’ve been dead to rights. This is playoff baseball, however, so stuff, as they say, happens. The runner was safe, the closer struggled, the Yankees rallied and now we’re tied 2-2.

But are we even at 2-2?

On paper, no, because the Astros now will send Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander out in Games 5 and 6, and that gives them a clear advantage. Keuchel dominated the Yankees in Game 1, tossing seven scoreless innings and striking out ten batters. Verlander struck out 13 batters in a 124-pitch complete game in which he allowed only a single run. Beyond the mere facts of the box scores, however, the Yankees have looked profoundly overmatched by both of the Astros’ aces, in this postseason and on other occasions on which they’ve faced off against them. Most notably in the 2015 wild-card game at Yankee Stadium when Keuchel pitched six scoreless innings in the 3-0 victory.

But remember: stuff happens.

Stuff like Aaron Judge‘s and Gary Sanchez‘s bats waking up. The two most important sluggers in the Bombers lineup combined to go 3-for-6 with two doubles, a homer, a walk and five RBI in last night’s victory. Each of them had been silent for the first three games of the series but if they’re heating up, the Yankees will be a lot harder to pitch to.

Stuff like Masahiro Tanaka showing that he can tame the Astros’ lineup. Which he did pretty well in Game 1, giving up only two runs on four hits in six innings. He was overshadowed by Keuchel in that game, but it was a good performance against a strong lineup in a hostile environment. Tanaka pitches much better at Yankee Stadium than he does on the road, so don’t for a second think that the Astros bats will have an easy time of it today.

Stuff like the Yankees bullpen still being the Yankees bullpen. Yes, the Astros got to David Robertson yesterday, but it’s still a strong, strong group that gives the Yankees a clear advantage if the game is close late or if they hold a lead.

All of which is to say that we have ourselves a series, friends. While, 48 hours ago, it seemed like we were on our way to an Astros coronation, the Yankees have shown up in a major way in Games 3 and 4. If you’re an Astros fan you should feel pretty confident with Keuchel and Verlander heading into action over the next two games, but we have learned that absolutely nothing is guaranteed in the postseason.