Monthly Archives: May 2018

With Power and Precision, Yankees Take Another From the Cubs In Baseball

The Chicago Cubs pounded baseballs over the wall and had the best starting rotation in baseball last season. But what they did better than any other team was play defense — and they did it by a historic margin.

With their effective use of shifts and Gold Glove Award winners at first base in Anthony Rizzo and right field in Jason Heyward, a worthy Gold Glove candidate in shortstop Addison Russell and the defensive dynamo Javier Baez at second base, the Cubs converted batted balls into outs better than any team had in 34 years, according to Baseball Prospectus.

The Yankees had the solution in their 11-6 victory over the Cubs on Saturday night. They simply hit the ball where the Cubs could not reach it — spraying one after another down the foul lines during a five-run first inning and a couple of others over the ivy-covered walls of Wrigley Field for good measure.

It made for a comfortable night for the rookie left-hander Jordan Montgomery, who allowed just three hits and two earned runs in six and two-thirds innings as the Yankees won their fourth in a row and remained atop the American League East.

Starlin Castro, a former Cub, continued to make his return to Wrigley a memorable one. He hit one of the balls that ended up where no Cub could catch it, into the left-field bleachers for a two-run homer, and he has five hits in the series.

Cubs fans, as is their tradition for home runs by the visiting team, tossed the ball back onto the field. Aaron Hicks received a similar treatment after his three-run homer in the eighth.

It was fourth hit of the night for Hicks, whose turnaround from last season, when he hit .217, embodies the Yankees’ early reversal from a year ago. Hicks, who has replaced the injured Jacoby Ellsbury in the lineup since Monday, is hitting .355. Manager Joe Girardi was reluctant to play him last season, but now he is seeking out ways to get him at-bats.

“I give him a lot of credit because he wasn’t happy during spring training,” Girardi said, referring to his decision to award the right field spot to Aaron Judge.

Hicks, a former first-round draft pick, did not argue with Girardi’s assessment that he has matured. “I have more of a plan, an idea of what I want to do in every at-bat, and it’s been working out so far,” Hicks said.

As Hicks reached first base after his home run, he pointed to C. C. Sabathia in the dugout. Before Hicks had come to the plate, Sabathia had suggested that Hicks — who at the time had five home runs to his name this season — had not hit one in a while. Hicks had shrugged the idea off.

“Then I ended up hitting it, and I got excited,” he said.

But the Yankees built their lead not with power but with placement.

Brett Gardner, who won the series opener on Friday with a two-out, two-strike, three-run homer in the ninth inning, ripped the third pitch he saw in the first inning between Rizzo and the first-base line for a double

“Rizzo covers a lot of ground, not just front and back but side to side,” Gardner said. “When he dove for it, I wasn’t sure. If he gets that, who knows how that changes the inning?”

Hicks then beat out a bunt, which he had laid down to move the runner up, and Gardner raced home when pitcher Brett Anderson threw the ball past Rizzo. Castro drove in Hicks by slicing the first pitch of his at-bat just inside the right-field line. After Judge struck out, Gary Sanchez lashed a single a few feet inside the left-field line past a lunging Kris Bryant, scoring Castro.

Didi Gregorius followed by dropping a soft liner into shallow left field. Chase Headley drove home Sanchez and Gregorius when his liner landed down the right-field line for a double.

Anderson then left with what the Cubs announced was a low back injury. He had recorded one out.

Although the Yankees jumped to an 8-0 lead, and restored the margin to 11-3 after Hicks hit his home run in the eighth, the Cubs made the Yankees sweat a little when they pushed across three runs in the eighth before Adam Warren replaced Tommy Layne and escaped further damage by striking out Ben Zobrist with runners at second and third.

The Cubs, already thin on pitching, waved the white flag in the ninth — they sent catcher Miguel Montero to the mound. After walking Sanchez, he got Gregorius to ground into a forceout, retired Headley on a liner and, after a walk by Chris Carter, got Rob Refsnyder to fly out to center.

As Cubs center fielder Albert Almora Jr. camped under the ball, the crowd rose to its feet and gave Montero a standing ovation. He responded by tipping his cap as he jogged back to the dugout, having performed a feat the Cubs’ starter could not: getting three outs.

INSIDE PITCH

The Yankees could have Jacoby Ellsbury back in center field and Matt Holliday at first base on Sunday night. Ellsbury has not played since he injured his elbow crashing into the Yankee Stadium wall on Monday. Holliday, the designated hitter, has not played in the field this season. … Aaron Judge, who was moved into the cleanup spot for the first time this season, was hitless in five at-bats on Saturday night.

This Atlanta’s New Ballpark Has Pitchers Sweating

The Launching Pad has been reborn, much to the dismay of R. A. Dickey and other Atlanta Braves pitchers.

The Braves’ most recent homestand provided more evidence that the new SunTrust Park is a great place to play — if you are a hitter.

“It’s a fact that the ball seems to be carrying here so far,” Dickey said.

The season is still young, but the ball seems to be carrying especially well for the Braves’ opponents.

Entering Monday, Atlanta’s 5.61 E.R.A. in home games is easily the worst in the majors. Colorado’s Coors Field has been known as the toughest park for pitchers, but Rockies pitchers are a distant second at 5.31.

Dickey said he felt it was safe to conclude that the new park will yield a lot of homers, including some “that might seem like cheapos.”

The barrage of long balls is no surprise to the former Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, who walked into the new park and immediately joked that he retired too early.

Jones said he felt the whoosh of air in his face when he first walked onto the field through a door in the center field wall. He knew in an instant that would be bad news for pitchers.

“There weren’t too many cheap homers at Turner Field,” Jones said last month. “This place, I don’t think you’re going to have to necessarily crush one to get it out of here.”

The Braves were outscored by 51-26 and outhomered by 12-4 in their 1-5 homestand. Atlanta pitchers have given up 21 homers at home, putting them on pace for 130. The most Braves pitchers allowed at Turner Field was 95.

Dickey, 42, signed with Atlanta following four seasons with Toronto, where the Rogers Centre was a home-run friendly park.

“So you certainly go from a place like that to here and you think it’s not going to be so bad, right?” Dickey said. “It’s still a small sample size so we’re not in a panic yet, but at the same time it’s similar, for sure.”

Including all games through Sunday, the Braves’ 4.82 E.R.A. ranks 29th in the majors, just ahead of Detroit’s 4.83.

Atlanta added the veterans Dickey, Bartolo Colon and Jaime Garcia as a short-term fix to allow prospects time to develop. Manager Brian Snitker said the early struggles would not force the team to rush the prospects to Atlanta.

“I think we can be real patient,” he said. “We’re running through a little stretch here, that’s all.”

He added: “They’ll bounce back. They’ll make some adjustments and they’ll be O.K. They always have. All those guys we’re talking about wouldn’t have been playing as long as they have if they hadn’t been able to do that.”

On the other hand, those veterans never had to pitch at SunTrust Park before this year.

Draymond Green is really disappointed Cavs’ opponents going down easily

Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green is disappointed in the level of competition the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors have been able to put up against the Cleveland Cavaliers in these playoffs.

“I thought teams would compete a little harder,” Green said after shootaround on Monday. “I just watched San Antonio-Houston. I like to watch good basketball. When you watch Cleveland play, you’re only watching one side of the good basketball. That’s kind of weak.

“I like watching a good game, not even necessarily that it’s going to be a close game. I like to watch teams playing good basketball. When you watch them, you watch one team playing good basketball and everybody else do something. I don’t know what that something is.”

The Cavaliers are 8-0 this postseason and have beaten their opponents by an average of 8.3 points. Golden State is 7-0, beating the opposition by an average of 13.7 points.

Green says that even though they’re handling teams with more ease than the Cavaliers, he argues they’re facing stiffer challenges.

“Nah, but I think Utah is still playing good basketball,” he said. “Regardless if they win or not, I think we’re a better team. But at the same time, they still play a good brand of basketball.”

The All-Star power forward said the team isn’t looking ahead to a potential third consecutive NBA Finals matchup with the Cavaliers.

“No, we have a long way to go,” Green said. “We still got to get five more wins before we can even think about participating in the NBA Finals.”

Golden State has a chance to close out Utah on Monday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena and match Cleveland’s record.

“We don’t want to be 8-0 in the playoffs because Cleveland is 8-0. It doesn’t matter,” Green said.