This was pretty funny, however:
Bend the knee. 👑 pic.twitter.com/LjqudpzD9N
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) August 18, 2017
That's a "Game of Thrones" reference. That's this show about the battle for the Iron Throne, and there's this mother of dragons and this other evil queen and this guy Jon Snow trying to fend off the army of the dead and ... well, it's all very confusing and a little bloody, and there seems to be no resolution in sight -- kind of like the American League wild-card race, except with English accents.
Anyway, Judge went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in the Yankees' 7-5 win over the Mets, but Gary Sanchez hit two home runs and drove in five runs. Here's one of those home runs:
El Gary 💙 August. He's hitting .333 with 6 HR and 11 RBI this month! pic.twitter.com/HS2R7oTIxT
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) August 17, 2017
That's some big-boy power there. It looked like he was lunging at a pitch to slap a base hit to right field, but it carried over the fence in left-center. So much of the talk about Sanchez this season has been about his defense, but he has quietly had an impressive season at the plate, hitting .277/.352/.526 with 22 home runs and 64 RBIs. Sanchez homered in three of those four wins over the Mets and has hit .333 with six home runs in August.
As Judge has slumped, Sanchez has helped pick up some of the slack. He's a big reason that the Yankees are four games back of the Red Sox as the teams get ready for another clash this weekend at Fenway Park. I'd also argue that the emphasis on Sanchez's defensive struggles has been overstated. Does he need to improve on balls in the dirt? Yes. Is he killing the Yankees? No.
Entering Thursday, the Yankees had allowed 54 wild pitches, which was eighth-worst in the majors but just nine more than MLB average. The Yankees were second in the majors with 15 passed balls, six more than the MLB average, and Sanchez was leading the majors with 12. That's 15 more extra bases allowed on passed balls and wild pitches than the average team. It isn't insignificant, but it isn't reason to start acting like Sanchez's future as a catcher is in doubt.
Let's break down those wild pitches. Sanchez had allowed 32 in 616 innings, one every 19.3 innings. Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka had allowed 22 in 450 innings, one every 20.5 innings. That means the rate with Sanchez is slightly worse but not large enough that you'd notice without examining the numbers.
Then there's his arm: Sanchez has thrown out 36 percent of base stealers. Romine is at 14 percent. Finally, there's pitch framing. The estimates at Statcorner.com rate Sanchez as basically average in this regard.
Here's the point: Sanchez's shortcomings on balls in the dirt aren't so bad as to outweigh his positive contributions at the plate.
Jon Lester's injury. The Reds beat the Cubs 13-10 at Wrigley as this happened:
Jon Lester is the only pitcher in the last 30 seasons to allow 9+ runs in an inning multiple times in a single-season.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 17, 2017
The Reds had seven hits off Lester, including Joey Votto's home run, in scoring nine runs in the second inning. After the game, it was revealed that Lester left due to tightness in his left lat muscle, which explains why his velocity was down.
"When a pitcher of his stature is potentially injured, of course you're a little bit concerned," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said after the game. "But I'm not going to jump to any kind of negative conclusions."
Lester will undergo an MRI on Friday, but it sounds like he's headed to the DL. Pitchers with a lat strain often miss four to six weeks (longer if it's a tear), so this could mean that Lester will miss the rest of the regular season.
Mike Montgomery, who pitched 4 1/3 innings in relief of Lester on Thursday, would take over Lester's spot in the rotation, but that removes a valuable piece from the bullpen. The good news in the rotation is that Jake Arrieta has been much better of late, with a 2.10 ERA in his past eight starts. Only three of those starts came on four days of rest, however, and given the tight race with the Brewers and Cardinals, Maddon might not have the luxury of giving his starters five or six days off between starts. With just three more off days the rest of the season, he's going to have to start riding his top guys more than he has.
The Cubs don't play the Brewers again until Sept. 8 and the Cardinals until Sept. 15. Considering that the Cubs haven't yet gone on that hot streak everyone is expecting, it now seems less likely that they'll go on that hot streak. That three-way race in the NL Central might stretch deep into September.