The Yankees are moving on to the American League Championship Series. There is still plenty more that the team hopes to accomplish in 2019, but they have taken a step in the right direction not just by advancing, but by advancing with ease. The Twins led just once in the entire series when they were up 2-0 in the early stages of game one, but after that, it became all Yankees. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the surprising of the 2019 ALDS.
Despite giving up early home runs in game one to Jorge Polanco and Nelson Cruz, James Paxton pitched as advertised. He was able to settle down and go 4.2 innings and strike out eight while allowing three earned runs. It was by no means an absolutely dominating performance, but he didn’t let his first-inning struggles get the best of him. For an off-season acquisition to come in and rebound like that to pitch well enough to win a playoff game is an encouraging sign. The Yankees acquired Paxton to be a relied upon horse throughout October, and it was good to see that he was able to not let the moment get the best of him in game one.
Game two was owned by Masahiro Tanaka, who has now made a name for himself by showing up in big games. Tanaka pitched five innings, giving up one earned run while striking out seven and only walking one. He was also able to keep the ball on the ground, inducing seven groundballs to three fly balls. It’s also important to note that he only threw 83 pitches thanks to the fact that the Yankees practically had the game in the bag by the fifth inning, so he should be more than fresh once the ALDS rolls around. Tanaka seems to tap into a different mode when it comes to pitching in Postseason games, and we saw more of the same of that in his Game 2 start.
Luis Severino battled his way through four innings in game 3, giving up no runs on four hits while striking out four and walking two. He ran into some major trouble in the bottom of the second inning when he found himself in a 3-2 count with the bases loaded and nobody out against Miguel Sano. Severino got Sano to pop out on a high fastball, struck out Marwin Gonzales on a nasty 1-2 breaking ball, and then froze Jake Cave on a 2-2 breaking ball on the inner half. To see Severino pump his fastball up to the 98-99MPH mark and then rip off nasty breaking ball after nasty breaking ball is nothing short of an encouraging sign. It’s also important to note that he flat out looked confident on the mount at all times. He mentioned after the game that he didn’t want to repeat what happened to him against the Twins in the 2017 Wild Card Game, so he was able to overcome that moment to come through.
The Yankees didn’t exactly find themselves in close games late in this series other than in game 3. Nonetheless, the Yankees saw nice series’ from Zack Britton, Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle, who all played a role in closing out game 3. Britton threw 2.1 innings in the series giving up just one earned run on one hit and walking only one batter. I would have liked to see Britton get ahead in counts more often because that is when he is at his best, but he has become more reliable than he was last year without question and forced many of his signature groundballs. He also did a great job of covering first base on a slow ground ball to Gelyber Torres in the seventh inning of game 3. If he isn’t there on time, then the Yankees may be looking at a longer series.
Chad Green was solid in this series pitching 2.0 innings and not allowing a run. I take his numbers with a grain of salt, as he got bailed out by a superb Aaron Judge running catch in the bottom of the sixth inning in game three that would have scored a run, then came awfully close to giving up a home run to Marwin Gonzales in the next at-bat. Nonetheless, he provided the Yankees with some much-needed length out of the bullpen. At the end of the day, he didn’t give up any runs.
Tommy Kahnle also saw a lot of action out of the bullpen this series, throwing 2.1 innings and striking out three while giving up an earned run on a home run. His changeup looked good all series long, so Tommy can take some momentum into the ALCS.
D.J LeMahieu, perhaps the Yankees’ MVP in 2019, picked up where he left off. He slashed .286/.333/.643 with a home run, an RBI, and four runs scored in the series. Despite dropping a pop up in game one, he was able to show his versatility by making two key defensive plays in game 3. He singlehandedly busted game one open with a bases-clearing double to make it 10-4 and got the ball rolling in game two with a leadoff double, later scoring on an Edwin Encarnacion single. You hear the players say it but it’s hard not to feel confident when D.J is at the plate. He controls the zone so well with his approach and it feels like he has the ability to get on base every time he’s up.
There is a marked difference between 2018 Gleyber Torres and 2019 Gleyber Torres. 2019 Gleyber Torres is a much more patient hitter. He doesn’t look as overwhelmed by the moment in his 2019 postseason at-bats and it is showing in his numbers. So far in the postseason, Gleyber is slashing .417/.462/.917 a home run, three doubles, and 4 RBI. He has struck out just twice in 13 plate appearances.
Sure, Judge was a tad quiet this series, but there’s a reason for that. He didn’t get a lot of pitches to hit. The judge recorded a .538 OBP in the series, drawing four walks in 14 plate appearances. He finished the series 3-for-9 (.333) with just one strikeout. Judge is a smart player, but also an unselfish one. He knows how good this Yankees lineup is and if he can consistently get on base for the guys behind him then it’s going to be awfully difficult for the pitchers to go deep into games.
As you can tell, a lot of things went well for the Yankees this series. Another one of those things was Edwin Encarnacion’s performance, specifically in game one. After missing a lot of the final month of the season, Edwin smacked two doubles in game one, one of which scored a run, to energize the crowd and get the Yankees into a groove. Encarnacion is a major x-factor for this team going forward, so it was nice to see that he was able to slash a nice .308/.357/.462 in the series.
I did not love what I saw out of Giancarlo Stanton this series. He slashed a measly .167/.455/.167 while striking out twice. What I did like was that he was able to lay off those down-and-away pitches that have been his kryptonite the past two seasons, but I just didn’t like the way he looked. He looked slow on the base paths and slow in the field, and I think that he is still feeling the effects of the sprained PCL he suffered in his right knee back in late June. You can even see a fairly large brace around that knee. I don’t think he is going to be particularly reliable in left field and we will see plenty of late defensive substitutions for him in the ALCS. For Stanton, I guess the negativity comes not so much from the way he played, but the way he moved physically.
Gary failed to perform at the plate in this series. He slashed .125/.417/.125 with four strikeouts and just one hit. He struck out at a 33% clip but was able to show some discipline with three walks. I’ll say this, however, he did take some nice looking swings in game 3. All season it looks like Gary has just been missing balls that he should be driving, so we’ll have to see if he is able to get right in the ALCS.
The way the Yankees used Ottavino in this series had to come as a surprise to many Yankee fans. He came in twice on two separate occasions to face one batter, and he didn’t even get those batters out. I’m sure he is going to be the high leverage guy the rest of the way, but it was interesting to see that he just did not get that many reps in this series. It was also a bit discouraging to see hitters doing a really good job of laying off of his nasty slider as he walked two batters. I would have expected to see more of Ottovino this series, but maybe he will get his fair share of appearances in the ALCS.
Didi Gregorius took this series by storm. It all started with his epic Grand Slam in game two to practically ice the game, and probably the series. After having struggled for much of 2019, Didi slashed .400..500/.700 in this series with a home run and six RBI. He also made a nice diving catch to save the game in the ninth inning and was reliable in the field all series long per usual. Didi has been a fan favorite for a long time but had taken a back seat to some of the bigger names in the Yankee lineup. This series, however, he made sure people remembered the name.
I think most of the surprise pertaining to Brett Gardner came prior to the series when he was penciled into the three-hole in the lineup for game one. He quickly dissolved any semblance of doubt in game one, when he smacked a solo home run to put the Yankees up 7-4. He also had an RBI base hit to follow up Didi’s Grand Slam in game two and added a big RBI single in game 3 on a pitch that he slapped past third baseman Miguel Sano. Gardner slashed .250/.357/.500 in the series with a home run and three RBI. While it may appear weird to have him in the three-hole, he seems to be splitting up the lineup nicely as a lefty bat at the top of the order. So, as far as we can tell we will probably be seeing more of Brett Gardner batting third if he continues to produce in that spot.
All in all, there weren’t too many negatives in this series. The Yankees dominated wire to wire and have given themselves plenty of rest heading into the ALCS. There’s a chance that that time off can turn into rust, but rest assured that the Yankees are going to come into that series confident and prepared regardless of who they face. This team has a very smart and dedicated baseball operations staff that puts in a lot of work down to every pitch of the game. Combine that with really good players that are currently playing well, and the Yankees become a very hard team to beat four times out of seven games.