As the large and loud crowd of fans poured off the trains and into the stadium today, you could sense the anticipation, almost expectation, of another win this hot summer afternoon in the Bronx. Over 42,000 ticket holders were hoping for a continued winning streak as the Yankees begin their rise in the standings. Under a clear and sunny sky, the teams were announced, and the National Anthem was proudly sung. With cheers and applause and many smiles, the crowd settled into their blue seats, with hot dogs and ice cream in hand, and welcomed the players to the field for the first pitch. Hopes were high. Unfortunately, winning streaks have their hiccups, and today was just that.
Yankee starter, CC Sabathia, celebrated his 36th birthday today on the mound in the series finale against Baltimore with hopes for a win as a nice birthday gift. But the first inning proved to be quite a struggle as Sabathia loaded the bases, followed by a ground ball that scored 2 for Baltimore. The second and third innings were 3 up and 3 down as Sabathia seemed to regain control of his pitches into the fourth and fifth innings with no further runs scoring.
Top of the sixth, with two outs on the board, Sabathia allowed a runner to reach first on his throwing error, and then, facing the next batter, proceeded to get charged with a balk when he tripped, falling off the mound, and advanced a runner. Fortunately, Sabathia was uninjured and secured the final out of the sixth with no runs scored. At the top of the seventh, Sabathia gave up two hits, followed by a double to right field, scoring 2 more runs for the Orioles. With that, Sabathia’s night was done and a pitching change gave the ball to Chad Green. Over 6 2/3 innings, Sabathia threw 97 pitches, retired 15 of 17 batters, but gave up 7 hits and 4 runs. Green took a strong and calm command of the mound, giving up 2 hits but no runs and effectively shutting down the advancing Orioles.
With a couple walks and a hit, the Yankees did claim a few bases in the first inning, but failed to score. Bottom of the second, Did Gregorius doubled to left field. Rodriguez then flied out to advance Gregorius to 3rd base. And a line drive RBI single by Starlin Castro allowed Gregorius to score the first of what would be the only run of the day for the Yankees.
Actually, Castro was impressive this afternoon, both at bat and on the field. Top of the third inning, Castro refused to let a hit sail get past him, as he snagged it, spun around, and fired it to first for the out. It seemed to be a day for players toppling over on the field when in the top of the fifth, a hard line drive caught for the out by Castro knocked him down and almost toppled the second base umpire behind him. Back in the top of the sixth, fans were treated again to Castro’s impeccable fielding skill as he grabbed another hit on the run, throwing it to first to deny the runner a base. Torreyes joined in the defensive fun by showing his skill at the backhanded catch, drilling it to first for an out in the eighth.
Actually, the Yankee defense put on quite a nice show today for the fans, something they certainly needed to make up for the fact that, except for a single to center by Gardner in the eighth, the offense was left swinging away at the plate for most of the game.
Final score: 4-1 Orioles, Yankees take the series 3-1.
Support for Sabathia: Despite grumblings from the press and sports announcers, Girardi spoke very positively and was very supportive of Sabathia in spite of the final score. After the game, he repeated several times that he liked the way Sabathia was throwing today. Girardi was also very pleased with Green’s time on the mound that helped keep the bullpen quiet and ready for the next game.
Scranton Shuttle: Obviously, Chad Green made his way to the Bronx for today’s game, from AAA Scranton. In return, the Yankees sent back Nick Goody. Basically, if you’re a young reliever in the organization, be prepared for a call up for a day or two to be the clichéd “fresh arm”. It’s a good thing Scranton and the Bronx are relatively close geographically. Some teams have their AAA team on the opposite side of the country from their home team. It certainly makes it easier to grab a “fresh arm” from time to time.
Football, anyone?: Didi Gregorius is a man of many talents, including, apparently soccer. Or should we say “football”, as it’s properly known by the sport’s “true fans”. Yankee stadium may be known for the legendary baseball team we know and love, but the ballpark is also home to the NYCFC of Major League Soccer. Gregorius spent yesterday afternoon kicking the ball around with the team at their practice facility and impressed many with his talent. Despite Gregorius’ obvious skill at soccer/football, the Yankees are not likely to let him go at this point!
Also, earlier this week, Didi Gregorius was this year’s Yankee winner of the Heart & Hustle Award. Every year, the Players Alumni Association select a player from each team who best represents the sport and its values and tradition through their (wait for it) “Heart and Hustle” on the field. Of those 30 players selected, one will receive the top honors later this year. Past Yankee winners include Gardner (4 times), Jeter (2 times), and Rivera.
Update on Headley’s recent absence: Headley took time off to be with his family when his 4-year-old son suffered complications from a medical procedure and was rushed back into surgery. Fortunately, Colt is doing much better today. Headley was back at the stadium today as a pinch-hitter, but clearly, he was exactly where he needed to be yesterday. Character is so reflected in how we choose our priorities. Here’s hoping Colt heals quickly and completely.
And wishing a very happy birthday and great year to CC Sabathia today!