The Yankees postseason chances are looking slimmer and slimmer these days, especially as there’s only 7 more games left — one more in Toronto tomorrow night and then two 3-game series back in the Bronx. And after this afternoon’s game, the Yankees are officially out of the AL East and only 2 games from being eliminated from the Wild Card race. Yeah, things are looking like the Yankees will be enjoying the playoffs from their respective couches.
But for a few glorious moments, it looked like today might be different. Michael Pineda got the start in the third game of the wraparound weekend series in Toronto. He threw 97 pitches just shy of 6 innings, gave up just 3 hits, 3 walks, and a run, and struck out 7 batters. He even earned his 200th career strike out in the 3rd inning. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo home run in the 4th inning. Adam Warren got the nod to finish Pineda’s 6th and got out of a self-induced jam in his 7th inning, keeping the Blue Jays from adding to their score.
In the top of the 7th, the Yankees broke their scoreless innings streak at 33 (going back to their last game against Tampa Bay) when Didi Gregorius led-off the inning with a solo home run to tie up the game.
It didn’t last long. Dellin Betances came on in relief of Warren in the 8th and got back into his recent struggles. His first batter walked, stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on an RBI single to give the Blue Jays back their lead. Betances buckled down and got 2 rather nasty strikeouts to get out of the inning.
So it was the Yankees’ turn to respond in the top of the 9th. Teixeira led things off with a single, and then Refsnyder came on to pinch-run for him. Butler pinch-hit a single only to be pinch-run by Solano. Both runners moved up on an easy ground out. Mason Williams’ nice single scored Refsnyder to tie the game again and move runners to the corners. And Ronald Torreyes’ sacrifice fly scored Solano to give the Yankees the lead.
All they had to do was hang onto that lead with 3 simple outs in the bottom of that inning. Betances came back out and walked his first batter, so the Yankees opted for Tyler Clippard. (Now, hindsight is 20/20, so I’m going to leave the managing to Girardi and continue my recap now.) A single put runners on the corners, and then things got a bit messy. The next batter bunted a single, which due to a terrible throwing error allowed the runner to score and the other 2 to move into scoring position. Clippard then recorded the first out of the inning, a strikeout, but intentionally walked the next batter to load up the bases. Needless to say, things weren’t looking so good for the Yankees. The final batter easily singled home the winning run for a walk-off victory for the sold-out home crowd.
Random game facts: both 9th inning pitchers recorded a blown save in addition to a win-loss statistic. Doesn’t happen in every walk-off situation, but it makes for a weird trivia bit. And between both pitching staffs, there were 21 total strikeouts handed out today. Not bad overall, but the final few innings certainly doesn’t say a lot for either bullpen today.
Final score: 4-3 Blue Jays.
And sadly, the entire baseball world was rocked by some terrible news this morning. Some time last night, young Marlins ace Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident off the coast of Miami. He was just 24. Fernandez’s two friends, one who owned the boat, also perished in the accident.
After three failed attempts and even time in jail, Fernandez fled Cuba with his mother at age 15. During the trip, he even rescued her from drowning. They settled in Tampa where he went to Alonso High School and, of course, played baseball. He caught the eye of scouts and signed with the Florida Marlins right out of high school. He made his stellar debut with the Marlins at age 21 in 2013, where he earned numerous awards including Rookie of the Year (rightly deserved).
Following his debut season, the Marlins arranged to bring his beloved grandmother to Florida from Cuba, who spent the rest of his career at every game she could, right next to his mother and other beloved family. Fernandez singled himself out as an outstanding starter, solidifying his role as the Marlins’ ace. About halfway through the 2014 season, he underwent Tommy John surgery and threw his first game after recovery just before the All-Star Break in 2015. He having a strong 2016 season, even earning his second All-Star Game selection (his 1st was in 2013).
He was even scheduled to start today’s game against the Braves, but they pushed back his start to Monday so that he would be on schedule to pitch the final game of the season. All across baseball today, before every game, there was a moment of silence to honor his memory. Athletes, executives, journalists, and people everywhere took to social media to pay their tribute, express their grief and often near disbelief at such a tragedy, or just remember a friend, teammate, or budding sports icon.
On a personal note, as much as Fernandez loved baseball and his teammates, never losing his sense of fun and joy, he never forgot his first priority was his family. He and his girlfriend just found out this week that they are having a baby daughter, due early next year.
Today’s Braves-Marlins game was, of course, cancelled to allow his teammates the time to grieve his passing. Fernandez was one of those guys in the league that everyone loved and genuinely loved everyone. He owned up to his young missteps when made, and never forgot to enjoy every moment of a life he literally risked his life for.
Our continued thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and teammates, and especially with his daughter who will never get to meet her father.