Game 131: NYY vs. KC — Tanaka Time, a rain delay, & an extra inning

Like so many of the country recently, the Midwest certain faced the threat of drenching rain for most of the day. The looming storm system delayed through most of the day and then bee-lined for Kauffman Stadium, east of the city to show up about halfway into the game. So one of those fair-weather fans, basically.

Which is a shame because the Yankees, behind starter Masahiro Tanaka, were rather dominant in the game tonight. At least, pre-rain delay. Tanaka threw just 71 pitches through 5 innings, gave up 4 hits, no walks, and 2 runs, striking out 4 Royals batters. In the 3rd, a 2-out single scored easily on a really nice triple. And a 1-out solo shot in the 4th doubled the Royals’ score under Tanaka.

Meanwhile, the Yankees certainly pushed the Royals’ starter out early, in the middle of the 4th inning. They came on strong early. McCann led-off with 2nd with a single and then scored on Aaron Judge’s big 1-out, 2-run home run. Gardner later worked a 2-out walk and then scored on Jacoby Ellsbury’s double. Then with the bases loaded in the 4th with consecutive singles, Chase Headley’s sacrifice fly scored one run, but back-to-back strike outs to end the inning. With 2 runners on base in the 4th and just 1 out, the Royals relieved their exhausted starter for their bullpen, which seemed to keep the Yankees from adding to their lead for a bit.

And then it rained. Now, technically, if there is a delay that they can’t overcome or come back from, it’s only considered a full game if there have been a full 5 innings played, which I think is what they were doing as both teams pushed their way through that 5th inning as the radar looked “not promising” when the skies opened and the rain came down in literal sheets.

After 59 minutes, the heavy rain had moved on to plague a different part of the area, though it certainly lingered with a bit of drizzle for much of the rest of the night. And the game continued on, however, Tanaka, unfortunately having sat for 59 minutes, was done for the night.

So it was on to Adam Warren, who couldn’t seem to get a handle on pitching tonight, giving up a single and RBI double to start the bottom of the 6th inning. Tommy Layne did a bit better by getting a ground out before hitting a batter. The Royals crowd seemed to think the right response was booing. One reporter commented on this reaction with a well-placed sarcastic observation: “Because, obviously, Layne intentionally hit Morales with an 0-2 pitch. Yes, every fan base does this.”

Tyler Clippard to the rescue, getting the next batter to ground into an around-the-horn double play (3rd baseman to 2nd for the first out to 1st for the second).  Clippard shut the Royals down through the 7th inning as well and so came out for the 8th, but he walked his first batter.

And it was onto Dellin Betances. The runner promptly stole 2nd and ended up at 3rd on a throwing error by (gasp) Gary Sanchez. That runner then scored on a sacrifice fly to tie up the game, much to the glee of the what was left of the 22,000 Royals fans. But then Betances sailed through the 9th, matching the Royals’ 9th inning pitcher with 3-up, 3-down. So it was onto extra innings.

In the 10th, Brian McCann led-off with a single and was pinch-run by Hicks. Headley’s single moved Hicks to 2nd. Two strikeouts and a wild pitch later, they were in scoring position. Then Gardner worked a walk to load up the bases. All Yankee fans held their collective breaths. Jacoby Ellsbury singled and scored Hicks, the winning run, keeping the bases loaded. But a pop-up ended the hopes for an insurance run.

So it was the Royals’ turn to try to regain the lead. Ben Heller came on for the save and hit the first batter who then stole 2nd. A single put runners on the corners for a second before the speedy runner at 1st stole 2nd too. A strike out later, Heller opted to intentionally walk the next batter and load up the bases, partly to give his relief a chance to warm up.

So it was Chasen Shreve now to sew things up. He threw a grand total of 5 pitches, all strikes, for a strikeout and a fly out to end the game and earn his first career save. Shreve later said, “I want to be that guy. It’s been a frustrating year for me. I’m just trying to finish strong. If I can help the team win, that’s what I’m here to do.”

Final score 5-4 Yankees, in 10 innings.

A few other players worth noting tonight were the Yankee veterans: at the plate, Jacoby Ellsbury went 4-for-6 with 2 RBIs tonight, and Brian McCann 3-for-5, with a run scored; and in the field, Chase Headley and Brett Gardner showed off their defensive instincts. Basically, it was the 30-somethings reminding the Baby Bombers that they’re still pretty good too. (And believe me, we 30-somethings are pretty awesome.)

Roster updates: Before the game, obviously, the Yankees recalled Chasen Shreve from AAA Scranton. To make room for him, the Yankees optioned Kirby Yates to the Pulaski Yankees. Now, this is actually good news because their season is over, so it means they’re probably sending him down just to pull him back in 2 days for the September call-up.

And as part of the Ivan Nova trade, the Yankees were to be given “players to be named later”. They acquired outfielder Tito Polo and pitcher Stephen Tarpley today as said players.

One more game in Kansas City, well, later tonight actually. And then it’s September call-ups time. There’s always a few surprises, so be prepared. This season has been anything but normal. But baseball, like life, is anything but predictable. And really, who wants predictable? Be adventurous!

Go Yankees!

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