Game 123: NYY vs. BOS — Rubber match dropped

Sonny Gray actually had a pretty decent outing in this afternoon’s finale against the Red Sox, but there was almost nothing on the Yankees offensive side that could help overcome even the smallest moments of strength for the Red Sox today. Gray threw 106 pitches in his 5 innings and gave up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs without striking out a single batter. In the 2nd, a 1-out single and 2-out single scored on a big triple to get the Red Sox on the board and in the lead early.

Adam Warren came on in the 6th. He gave up a 1-out single that advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on a single. Then the Yankees called on their new middle reliever — Aroldis Chapman — to finish the inning with a solid strikeout. He basically sailed his way through 4 outs, 2 of which were great strikeouts. Not a bad way to “reset” his pitching after his struggles.

Tommy Kahnle came on in the 8th inning and struggled his way through 3 batters, giving up a walk, a double, and 2-RBI double to ensure the Red Sox’s lead. Caleb Smith continued the struggle a bit, giving up a walk and single to load the bases before getting a quick 3 outs to escape the jam, thanks in part to the stellar defense on show this week from the Yankees.

But unfortunately, like I said at the top of the post, the offense for the Yankees was basically non-existent this afternoon at Fenway, only collecting 3 hits and 3 walks, and only from the Red Sox’s starter. Their lone run came as Brett Gardner’s 5th inning 1-out solo home run, his 20th of the season.

It was simply not enough.

Final score: 5-1

The Yankees are off tomorrow before beginning their mid-week series against the Tigers. Then they’ll head back to the Bronx for a long homestand, which will include (you guessed it!) the Red Sox again (in 2 weekends). But on a positive note, it will be the last time the Yankees and Red Sox face off in the regular season.

Anyway, the Yankee are back to being 5 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East, but still solidly in the Wild Card race, leading it actually. But there’s still 39 games left in the season, so everything is still up for grabs, at least for those in the running for postseason like the Yankees and Red Sox.

Next weekend is the first annual “Players Weekend“. So while the Yankees will host the visiting Mariners, all the players will wear specially made jerseys, hats, socks, and gear. For the first time ever, the Yankees players will wear names on the backs of their jerseys. Well, specially selected nicknames actually. And game-worn jerseys will be sold at a special auction to support a charity close to the players’ heart — youth baseball. But in the mean time, you can buy your own replicas if you’d like.

So, Yankee Universe will be cheering on “All Rise”, “D-Dawg”, “Kraken”, “Chief”, and “Pickles“. Here’s a list of other players’ chosen nicknames around the league. It should be a fascinating series against the Mariners for the sake of enjoying “Players Weekend” alone.

Go Yankees!

Game 122: NYY vs. BOS — #CCStrong at Fenway after return

The funny thing about tonight’s game was that in the middle of the 5th inning, it felt like the game was going fast (and it was). Then suddenly slammed on its breaks and slowed down to a crawl. And it was still a fairly fast game for a rivalry game between the Yankees and Red Sox (at 3 hours and 9 minutes).

And part of the reason it got off to a really quick start was the fact that CC Sabathia’s first start off the DL was just Sabathia breezing through the Red Sox lineup for most of his outing. Overall, he threw just 80 pitches in 6 innings, gave up 4 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and struck out 4 Boston batters to set himself up for his 10th win of the season.

The Red Sox didn’t find any opening to score until the 5th inning. With 1 out, Sabathia gave up that lone walk and a single to put runners on the corners. A ground out scored the lead runner, moving the other one to 2nd who then scored on deep single and off-center throw home. (If you’re keeping score, outside of that inning, he only gave up 2 hits, which is a great return to the rotation from the DL.)

The Yankees got on the board first in the 2nd inning. With 1 out, Gregorius hit a ground-rule double and Todd Frazier was plunked in the shin by a nasty inside pitch. So it would be Tyler Austin to hit a 3-run home run deep into the seats atop the Green Monster. Austin actually hit really well off the Red Sox’s ace pitcher. Slightly bruised up Todd Frazier hit a 2-out solo home run in the 6th inning to give the Yankees a much-needed insurance run.

Now, Adam Warren came on for Sabathia in the 7th inning. With 1 out, a batter hit a ball that bounced off the back center field wall and bounced into the stands. In any other stadium, that would be a ground-rule double, but Fenway’s special rules make it a home run (along with hitting almost every single wall except the big one out in left field). You learn something new everyday, I guess, like that Fenway is way more of a “hitter’s park” than Yankee Stadium.

Anyway, after 2 outs in the 7th, the Yankees went to David Robertson for a single pitch to close out the inning. Robertson came back out for the 8th inning, getting all 3 outs with strikeouts as only Robertson can. Dellin Betances breezed through the 9th inning with just 14 pitches and added his own 2 strikeouts and earned his 9th save of the season.

Final score: 4-3 Yankees

Roster moves: Before the game, the Yankees activated CC Sabathia off the 10-day disabled list due to his recurring knee injury. In exchange, they sent Jordan Montgomery back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

With Aroldis Chapman‘s recent struggles, the Yankees are looking at their plethora of options in the bullpen for alternatives to the closer’s role. With closers like Betances and Robertson, the Yankees do have credible options while Chapman works through his issues when it really counts. And now that we’re down to the time of year where every game really does matter, the Yankees need reliability and consistency.

You know, like Sabathia’s surprisingly been this year outside of his pesky injuries. Glad to have him back and pitching like he did tonight again.

Go Yankees!

Game 121: NYY vs. BOS — A typical night in Fenway, a 4 hour game with blown leads

Well, rivalry week continues in Boston as the Yankees hoped to narrow the broadening gap between the AL East leaders (the Red Sox) and the leaders of the wild card race (the Yankees). And neither team was about to make it easy on the other. But then, this is the ultimate rivalry in sports, so I don’t think anyone was expecting an easy game.

Jordan Montgomery got the start tonight in the opening game of the weekend series at Fenway. He threw 77 pitches through his 5 innings, gave up 4 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, striking out just 3 Boston batters. In the 2nd, with 2 outs, a batter doubled and then scored as part of a 2-run home run to get the Red Sox on the board first. A lead-off homer in the 5th added an extra cushion for the home team.

Now, the Yankees were held off by the Red Sox’s starter, who was only in the game into the 4th inning before leaving due to a back injury. His replacement carried on that momentum, fending off the Yankee offense through the 5th inning. Handing the ball over to a new reliever (the 3rd of 8 pitchers the Red Sox would use tonight), the Yankees saw their opportunity in the 6th inning.

With a new reliever and 1 out, Headley singled and then scored as part of Todd Frazier’s 2-run home run into the Green Monster seats to get the Yankees on the board and within 1 run of the Red Sox’s lead. After another out and 2 more singles, the Red Sox went again to their bullpen, and the new reliever promptly hit Aaron Hicks to load the bases. That opportunity ended up being wasted as a ground out ended that hope.

In the 7th, Gary Sanchez led-off with a game-tying solo home run also into the seats atop the Green Monster, his 23rd of the season (and yes, he does seem to heat up offensively in August once again!). After Gregorius walked and Headley singled, the Red Sox changed relievers again. So Frazier walked to load up the bases. Fortunately, next up was Ronald Torreyes, who hit a solid single off the Green Monster that scored both Gregorius and Headley to give the Yankees the lead for the first time in the game.

Finally, the Red Sox got the first out of the inning, a strikeout before loading the bases again with a walk to Gardner. Aaron Hicks then promptly got plunked again, keeping the bases loaded, but scoring another run. But then a new reliever closed out the inning without allowing another run to score. And that continued through the next 2 innings, with the final 2 relievers racking up 6 total strikeouts.

And that would be all fine and good if the Yankees’ stellar bullpen didn’t get to show off their stellar-ness (it’s a word) tonight. Chad Green came on in the 6th and held things steady after Montgomery left the game, but got into some trouble in the 7th. With 1 out, Green gave up his lone allowed single and a walk. Now responsible for both those runners, he handed the ball over to Tommy Kahnle.

Kahnle also found his own trouble trying to get out of the inning. He gave up a single to load up the bases, a sacrifice fly scored the lead runner, and a single scored the next. After giving up a walk to load up the bases (with 2 outs), he gave up a single to a pinch-hitter that scored both the tying and winning runs. Finally getting out of the 7th inning, the Yankees now trailed the Red Sox once again.

Both teams had blown 3-run leads at this point, but the Red Sox weren’t done yet. Aroldis Chapman’s struggled continued as he came out for the 8th inning. He gave up a single and walk that both pulled off a double steal to put them both in scoring position. And then they did just that on a long single to give the Red Sox a 3-run lead once again. Then Chapman buckled down and got all 3 outs to get out of the inning without further damage.

With no last-minute rally to blow the Red Sox lead again, it was enough damage to widen the Red Sox lead in the AL East again.

Final score: 9-6 Red Sox

With the Red Sox sending up their ace for tomorrow’s game, and the Yankees desperately needing a win against them, the Yankees will activate CC Sabathia after spending time there due to a recurring knee injury flared up and cut short his last start to just 3 innings (in Toronto). Eventually, Sabathia will need surgery to repair his knee, but he was certainly hoping it would be so soon, as plans were to do so this off-season. An MRI showed nothing serious, so treatments of injections were given to see if his body responded to nurse him back to health.

Sabathia, in his final year of his contract, almost a month after turning 37, knows his days as a pitcher are numbered, especially if injuries keep plaguing the veteran starter. The pain in his last start stuck with him and put some things in perspective: “…it hurt. It’s just not worth it…. I’ve pitched for a long time now…. I’m doing this for fun and to try to win a championship. If I can’t have fun and help this team win, then there’s no need for me to be out there.” Spoken like a true veteran. Fingers crossed for a great finish to both his start tomorrow and the season for him (and the team).

Go Yankees!

Game 120: NYY vs. NYM — Kings of New York in the #SubwaySeries

Call it a sweep either way, but the Yankees are the winners of the Subway Series. Light up the Empire State Building, celebrate with a pint at the local bar, and rest up. Because now the Yankees head to Fenway to face the red-hot Red Sox yet again.

And a good portion of why tonight’s game was so successful was thanks to starter Luis Severino (who still needs a proper hashtag, Yankee Universe). He threw 106 pitches into the 7th inning, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 1 unearned run, and struck out 9 Mets batters. That lone run came in the final inning for Severino, the 7th. With 1 out, a batter reached on a fielding error and then advanced all the way to 3rd on a messy wild pitch before scoring easily on a single.

So the Yankees turned to Chasen Shreve to close out the 7th and breeze his way through the 8th inning, adding 3 more strikeouts to the count.

The Yankees also gave Severino (and the rest of the pitching staff) a nice cushion with their offense that only sparked in 2 innings all night. In the 1st, Gardner led off and reached on a throwing error and Hicks worked a walk. Gary Sanchez then hit a 1-out 3-run home run to get the Yankees on the board early.

Then in the 4th, the Yankees loaded up the bases with singles by Austin, Torreyes, and Severino (yes, he pitches and hits!). Brett Gardner’s double scored 2 runs to keep the momentum going. With 1 out, the Yankees loaded up the bases again when Judge was hit by a pitch. That was the end of the Mets’ starter, but the first reliever gave up a single to Sanchez that scored 2 more runs for the Yankees.

And with that now hefty lead, the Yankees’ bullpen and defense spent the remainder of the game defending that. Any chances of adding to it were shut out by a surprisingly good showing by the Mets’ bullpen tonight.

So, into the bottom of the 9th, the Yankees needed just a quick 3 outs to get out with the game and earn that sweep. But Bryan Mitchell was having one of those days you don’t want to have in cases like this. He threw just 12 pitches, gave up a double, a single, and a walk to load up the bases before giving up a beautiful grand slam to a certain former Yankee. It put the Mets within striking distance, so the Yankees put a call into their bullpen for a life-preserver of sorts.

It would be Dellin Betances — 11 pitches, 3 outs, 8th save of the season. Game over, sweep won.

Final score: 7-5 Yankees, Yankees sweep Mets 4-0 (or 2-0 if you count the two 2-game series separately)

Injury news: Garrett Cooper was placed on the 10-day disabled list due to tendonitis in his left hamstring, after reporting some discomfort following yesterday’s game. In his place, the Yankees recalled Tyler Austin, who started tonight’s game at 1st base. Austin made his MLB debut with the Yankees a year ago this week, and is now back after battling injuries for most of this season — a broken ankle and strained hamstring.

And now, we’re off to Boston. Fingers crossed that we can narrow that 4 game lead in the AL East that the Red Sox currently hold over the Yankees. They’re also hoping to broaden their own lead in the Wild Card race.

Over halfway through August means that there’s only about 6 weeks left of the season, and the Yankees have made it clear that not making the postseason is a failed season. And with the loaded roster, it’s hard to believe the Yankees won’t make October baseball. It’s certainly still up in the air as to where they’ll land to play in the postseason. Only one team in the league is talking about being eliminated from contention right now, as most divisions are still very up in the air.

But isn’t that what makes this time of year kind of fun? The unknown is still very alive. Anything really is possible. And that’s just kind of wonderful.

Go Yankees!

{Personal note: Charlottesville, Sierra Leone, Barcelona, the USS Fitzgerald, and far too many places in this world… Cherish the moments you have and the people you are privileged to share them with; life is too short to cling to hate and anger and exist in placid passivity. Our hearts and prayers go out to all those who have lost loved ones in these recent tragedies.}

Game 119: NYY vs. NYM — #SubwaySeries victory tour continues in Queens

The Subway Series continued in Queens, before yet another sold-out crowd, their 5th one in 6 games (and the 6th one came within a few hundred seats of being another sell-out). And they decided to make things interesting before a New York hometown crowd.

Like the other newer starter yesterday, Jaime Garcia had a pretty good outing tonight. He threw 91 pitches into the 6th inning and gave up 5 hits, 3 walks, and 3 runs, striking out just 3 Mets batters. In the 1st, a lead-off double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a sacrifice fly to give the Mets a small early lead. Garcia held off the Mets for a time, later giving up a 2-out solo home run in the 5th. And in the 6th, with 2 runners on and just 1 out, Garcia’s night came to a close (with both those runners on his account).

Tommy Kahnle unfortunately promptly gave up a sacrifice fly that scored the lead runner (charged to Garcia), but then closed out the inning with a fly out, handing the game to Adam Warren. Warren sailed through 2 innings, adding 3 strikeouts of his own, in a rather strong showing for the now veteran bullpen staple. David Robertson’s 9th inning was everything we expect from tonight’s closer (see below), sewing up the game with 2 more strikeouts and his 14th save on the season.

Meanwhile, the Yankees played a bit of “tag” with the Mets for a good portion of the game. After the Mets scored in the 1st, the Yankees tied up the game in the 2nd when Chase Headley worked a walk, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, then to 3rd on a passed ball, and scored on Garrett Cooper’s ground out. Aaron Judge’s monster home run (all 457 feet into the upper deck in left field) led-off the 4th to put the Yankees in the lead.

Then the Mets caught up with the Yankees and tied up the game, so the Yankees forged ahead in the 6th, loading up the bases with a single and 2 walks. After the Mets’ starter left the game, Headley’s sacrifice fly scored lead-runner Judge to put the Yankees back on top.

When the game got tied up again in the bottom of the 6th, the Yankees weren’t about to just sit on their laurels. So in the 7th, Torreyes led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt, and then watched as the bases were loaded with Ellsbury and Hicks’ walks. After 1 out, Didi Gregorius hit a solid double into the corner of right field that scored 2 runs to give the Yankees the lead their strong bullpen wasn’t about to surrender.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees

Aroldis Chapman was unavailable to pitch today due to some tightness he felt in his hamstring during yesterday’s game. He’s hoping to avoid the disabled list, and the Yankees still consider him their primary closer. But with the likes of Betances and Robertson (who closed out the game tonight), the Yankees are not hurting for back-end of their bullpen.

In fact, their bullpen might be one of the strongest points of this season. Even when other parts weren’t clicking (like starting pitching or a lagging offense), the bullpen was able to often save the game from getting out of hand. I would even wager to say that the bullpen may be the primary reason the Yankees are still in contention for the postseason. Of course, it’s one of the few parts of the team that rarely gets a lot of attention, but those relievers are something else to watch, a crucial part of the team’s success story.

It’s so easy to overlook the players who don’t make the big splashy plays. Isn’t it like life though? It’s the little things, the under-the-radar moments, the ones that won’t make the headlines that matter the most. The so-called “small stuff” matters because it’s in that “small stuff” that we find consistency of character, the foundation for how to handle life’s “big stuff”, the moments that catch all the glory (or shame, as the case may be).

And in a team like the Yankees, we see things like persistence and perseverance and possibilities in the small stuff — the consistency of the middle relievers like Warren or Green, the strong but quiet defense of guys like Torreyes or Romine, or the flexibility and rally of Headley. So it’s no wonder the same stuff is then reflect in the big stuff — like a Judge or Sanchez homer, Gardner’s highlight reel outfield plays, or Chapman’s 103mph fastball.

Go Yankees!

Game 118: NYM vs. NYY — “It’s always Sonny in the Bronx”

I just read a statistic about the Mets ace starter tonight. In his 12.1 innings pitched at Yankee Stadium, he’s given up 5 home runs of his 11 total earned runs and allowed 17 hits. To put this in perspective, tonight, he threw 7.1 innings, gave up 9 hits and 5 earned runs, 2 of which were home runs. I’m thinking he doesn’t like pitching in Yankee Stadium so much.

All the better for Yankee Universe as Sonny Gray made his first start in pinstripes in Yankee Stadium and had a pretty decent outing. Pitching 104 pitches into the 7th inning, Gray gave up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, striking out 5 Mets batters. Actually, he kept the Mets scoreless through his first 6 innings, only having a bit of trouble in the 7th. He gave up a lead-off walk that scored as part of a 2-run home run to get the Mets on the board.

Now, on a plus side for the Mets (for the lone Mets fan I know will come across this blog at some point), the batter who hit the homer is playing in just his 5th MLB game, and that was his very first MLB home run. And let’s be honest, if you’re going to hit your first major league homer, Yankee Stadium is the dream place to do so.

Anyway, the Yankees opted for their bullpen after the home run, calling on Kahnle to close out the 7th inning, in just 10 flawless pitches. Betances followed that up with a 19-pitch scoreless 8th, setting Aroldis Chapman up for the save.

But Chapman’s recent struggles cropped up again as he just needed 3 outs in the 9th. After one stellar strikeout, he gave up a single, but then the Mets complicated things by another rookie hitting his 2nd MLB home run to double their score. (So a good day for Mets’ rookies, but not so much for the Yankees’ closer.) Chapman came back and got the 2 outs, a couple of ground outs, and the eventual save, but it was a little too close for comfort.

Of course, in order to even be up for a save, the Yankee offense had to be productive. And like I said in the opening paragraph, the Mets’ ace must hate pitching in the Bronx. In the 3rd, Torreyes led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on Gardner’s sacrifice bunt, and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ single. And with 2 outs in the 4th, Headley worked a walk and then scored as part of Jacoby Ellsbury’s line-drive 2-run home run into the right field seats.

Gary Sanchez got in on the fun with a lead-off solo home run in the 6th. And in the 8th, Judge led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on Gregorius’ single, and then scored on Sanchez’s sacrifice fly. That was the end of the Mets starter. It was also the end of the Yankees’ runs, but the Mets’ bullpen only needed 2 more outs to get out of the inning.

Final score: 5-4 Yankees

Now, technically, the Yankees won this series 2-0. So if you consider each location as one series, then the Yankees just swept the series. Or, if you’re like me, we’re just halfway through this Subway Series, so the winner of the series has yet to be determined.

Injury news: so, apparently, Luis Cessa’s back injury is actually a ribcage injury, so the Yankees placed him on the 10-day disabled list. Thus, the assumption and talk that he’ll be okay by his next start on Saturday is totally wrong. Saturday’s starter is now a giant question mark. (Stay tuned!) In his place on the roster, the Yankees recalled Caleb Smith once again from AAA Scranton.

Also, the Yankees announced that both Greg Bird and Starlin Castro will begin their rehab assignments this week, on Wednesday and Friday, respectively. Bird is hopefully done with all the lingering ankle issues, especially after his last surgery. Castro has been nursing a badly strained hamstring. So, if they’re both headed to Scranton this week, that should be a great sign that things are back on track for both infielders.

Now, what they decide to do with the plethora of infielders they already have when those two are ready to come back… well, that’s anyone’s guess! (Of course, I have mine, but you’ll have to wait and see!)

Go Yankees!

{Title note: totally stole that from a t-shirt I saw today promoting Sonny Gray’s first start as a Yankee in the Bronx.}

Game 117: NYM vs. NYY — #SubwaySeries starts strong

Rivalry week continues as the Yankees and Mets play their now annual 4-game split between the Bronx and Queens. We began tonight in the Bronx with a strong showing by the Yankees.

Recently recalled Luis Cessa got the start tonight and threw a pretty good outing. He threw just 66 pitches into the 5th inning, giving up 5 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and striking out 5 Mets’ batters. Those two runs came as solo home runs in the 3rd inning. And that would be it for the Mets tonight. However, Cessa had some physical issues that caused him to be pulled from the game early.

Fortunately, the bullpen was strong and ready to go. Chad Green closed out the 5th solidly and remained dominant through the 6th and 7th innings. David Robertson continued that momentum in the 8th, getting all 3 outs with stellar strikeouts. And Dellin Betances’ 9th inning closed out the game well and earned the save tonight.

The Yankees faced a bit of resistance from the Mets’ starter for much of his 6 innings. So they played a little small ball in the 4th. They loaded up the bases with a single and 2 walks and lead runner Hicks scored on Gary Sanchez’s sacrifice fly to get the Yankees on the board. And then Aaron Judge led-off the 6th with a big solo home run into the right field seats, his 36th of the season, to tie up the game.

Once the Yankees dipped into the Mets’ bullpen, they found another opening in the 8th. Aaron Hicks led-off with a solo home run to score the winning run. After 2 outs and 2 pitching changes, Gary Sanchez joined in on the fun with a solo home run of his own for that insurance run.

Final score: 4-2 Yankees

Roster moves/Scranton Shuttle: before the game, the Yankees optioned reliever Caleb Smith back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and recalled tonight’s starter Luis Cessa.

Injury news: Luis Cessa felt a weird tightening in the 5th inning, coming up from a pitch with a new twinge in his back. He is scheduled to have a precautionary MRI tomorrow on his right rhomboid muscle (the upper back area). However, it doesn’t seem to be so serious, so after some rest and treatment, he could be ready for his next scheduled start on Saturday in Fenway.

Now, this wasn’t a bad way to start the “Subway Series”. The Yankees will wrap up the first half tomorrow night before the teams shift over for the final 2 games to CitiField in Queens, about 10 miles east of Yankee Stadium (or about an hour train ride or 30 minute Uber).

Before the game, journalist and 2017 Hall of Fame award winner Claire Smith was honored and threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Smith was the first female MLB beat writer covering the Yankees from 1983 to 1987 for a Connecticut paper. She later worked for major papers like The New York Times and is currently a news editor for ESPN. She was recently the 2017 winner of the JG Taylor Spink Award, an award given at the Hall of Fame ceremony every year to celebrate “meritorious contributions to baseball writing”. She is the first woman and fourth African-American to win the award and has her own section in Cooperstown.

From one female writer to another, my sincerest congratulations!

Go Yankees!