Game 67: NYY vs. OAK — Swept away on Father’s Day

On this Father’s Day 2017, I am reminded of my own father who loved this great game of baseball. He was what you would call a fan of the game. I remember sitting with him and my brothers in a dreary stadium by Lake Erie, and even when our team lost yet another one, my dad never thought of them as a “mistake on the lake”. No, he appreciated the strategy and called it a “thinking man’s game”.

Of course, he did have a favorite team, but he actually just loved the game no matter who was playing. He always told us that when he watched the players, he was reminded they all were once little leaguers with big dreams. Maybe he identified as such because he also once had big dreams of playing ball.

When my dad was growing up in the first part of the 20th century, baseball was the sport to play. Summer afternoons saw neighborhood kids gathered in a local park with tattered gloves and old bats to play a game just for the fun of it. At home or even in local stores, fans gathered around the radio, listening to games from Cleveland or Chicago or New York. This love of baseball resulted in friendships that lasted a lifetime.

My dad’s love of the game connected our family together. On Father’s Day, there is usually a ballgame playing somewhere, and while many of us now root for different teams, it is my dad’s love for the game that gave us this gift of connection over this shared interest in baseball.

And there was, of course, a baseball game today, as the Yankees closed out their road trip with this final game in Oakland against the Athletics. The Yankees were looking at winning one in the “Bright Side of the Bay” (which it clearly wasn’t for the Yankees this weekend). And Luis Cessa got the start this Father’s Day afternoon, throwing 73 pitches in his 4 innings, giving up 5 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, striking out just 4 Oakland batters.

All of Oakland’s runs were scored in the 3rd inning, clearly Cessa’s weakest time today (he gave up 4 of his 5 hits in that inning alone). With 1 out, a single and double put runners in scoring position so that they could on another double to get the A’s on the board. Then another player hit a 2-out 2-run home run to double their score and push them into the lead.

Other than that lone inning, Cessa had a pretty good outing, despite setting himself up for the loss. He handed the game over to Chad Green, whose 5th and 6th innings continued that same pattern of keeping the A’s from doing much. Tyler Clippard’s 7th was nearly flawless, but it would be recently reinstated Aroldis Chapman sailed through his 8th inning with just 8 pitches. (Talk about a comeback!)

Now, the Yankees weren’t exactly shut out or sitting on their laurels through this game. In fact, they struck first when Matt Holliday fired a solo home run to lead off the 2nd inning. Gardner led-off the 3rd with a double and then scored on Aaron Judge’s 1-out single.

Didi Gregorius smacked a long ball to the right field seats, just to the left of the foul pole. The umpires called it a home run, but just to cover their bases, the umpires called for a review themselves to make sure the ball really was a home run. It was, and the Yankees were within a run of the Athletics after their big 3rd inning.

But the A’s starter did a pretty decent job of fending of any potential Yankee rallies into the 7th inning and the bullpen (surprisingly for this team) just breezed through the final 8 outs and shut the Yankees down in order.

Final score: 4-3 Athletics, Athletics sweep series 4-0 (Yankees’ West Coast road trip: 1-6)

Roster moves: The Yankees sent Kyle Higashioka back to AAA Scranton to make room for Aroldis Chapman, who is now back from his rehab assignment and off the disabled list.

The Yankees took a few moments to honor their dads and reflect on what this day means to them, as so many of them are now fathers themselves. Manager Joe Girardi shared his insights. Gary Sanchez was recently featured in a special article, talking about how the birth of his daughter Sarah changed him as a man and as a player. He sees becoming a father as a turning point in his life, a sentiment I believe most fathers would echo.

And so, on this day that honors so many fathers, I am remembering my dad with thankfulness for introducing me to this wonderful game of baseball. I wish I could be sitting with him today cheering on the team, eating peanuts, and keeping the box score. I will always remember how he had a way of using baseball to teach us life lessons when watching a game, that character counts, that integrity and honesty and loyalty are to be valued. By his example, I learned to support the whole team, not just individual players. To find the positive in even a negative situation. That there’s always another day and another game. To always hope. And above all, to never give up.

My dad remembered the one year his team did win the World Series when he was a boy (hint: it was 1948) and almost saw it happen again in his lifetime (about 10 years before he passed away). But even in his later years, he was ever the fan, even wearing a team cap when he watched a game on TV, hopeful that this might be “the year”.

Which brings me to this year. In 2017, there is a very real chance that could be “the year” for the Yankees. (Despite the current outcome of this road trip!) That elusive #28 is a real possibility. But no matter how the season ends, we’ll still remember that there’s always the hope for “the year” — as if we just know it’s an eventuality. And with the Yankees, we know from experience that it really is.

So, thanks, Dad.

Go Yankees!

Games 34 & 35: HOU vs. NYY — Let’s Play 2! Mother’s Day in the Bronx, pink caps and all

I come from a long line of baseball fans. Amazingly, not everyone is a Yankees fan! Some root for the Braves or the Dodgers or the Cubs or even (brace yourself…) for the Red Sox. My dad just loved the game, no matter what team was playing, but the women in my family chose their teams and fiercely stuck by them for decades, no matter the standings. My mother was an ardent Indians fan, collecting the newest hats and t-shirts and sending them to her family. Both my grandmothers were lifelong Pirates fans who loved listening to games on the radio, discussing stats and batting averages with me, even when I was a little girl.

Growing up with brothers, I was told sports were not for girls, but my mom and my grandmothers taught me that was nonsense. I owe a great deal to the women in my family who loved this great game of baseball and passed that on to me and to my daughter.

On this Mother’s Day, as I prepared to watch a Yankees-Astros doubleheader, I was reminded that much of the joy and zeal I have for baseball is because of these amazing women who I am so grateful to call my family and to honor them on Mother’s Day. Much of what they loved about the game (integrity, persistence, teamwork, hope, and character) applies to so much in life. And for that lesson, I am also grateful.

Mother’s Day in the Bronx this year was packed with events, some planned, some not so much. After yesterday’s rainout, fans today were pleasantly surprised to attend a single-admission doubleheader, complete with a much publicized ceremony honoring a former Yankee. Oh, and there was pink (the color, not the singer). Lots and lots of pink, but all for a good cause! The fans may have been decked out in their NYY blue and white fan gear, but the players on the field sported pink shoes or pink uniforms or pink caps. In fact, stadiums across Major League Baseball today were awash in pink this Mother’s Day to encourage awareness for women’s health issues for the annual fundraiser for the Susan G. Komen Foundation and Stand Up 2 Cancer.

Game 1
The first game in the Bronx this afternoon (the 3rd game in this weekend series) did not disappoint the (officially) sold-out crowd despite the bleak start. Facing the Houston Astros, Luis Severino started for the first game but struggled throughout his short time on the mound today, throwing 76 pitches into just the 3rd inning, giving up 6 hits and 3 runs and striking out just 2 batters. In the 3rd inning, the lead-off batter was hit by a pitch, moved to 2nd on a single, then to 3rd on a ground out, and scored on a single. Two more singles scored 2 more runs. Then with the bases loaded, Chad Green stepped in for the bulk of the game only to keep the Astros from adding to their lead.

In the 7th inning, new pitcher Adam Warren take his turn for a couple of innings, but had his own issues. With 1 out and runners on the corners, Warren had trouble getting out of the inning. A single scored one run, a failed force attempt and throwing error scored another, and a sacrifice fly scored the final run for the Astros in Game 1. Warren had a cleaner 8th inning, but Jonathan Holder pitched a strong ninth inning, keeping the Astros scoreless and hitless that inning.

The Yankees were the first to score in the 1st inning. Brett Gardner led off with a double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Matt Holliday’s ground out. Then down by 2 runs going into the bottom of the 4th, Holliday led-off with a walk. Starlin Castro then hit a nice 2-run home run, only to be followed by a big home run to center by Aaron Judge. And the Yankees were back in the lead.

But after losing the lead at the top of the 7th, the Bombers battled back in the bottom of the inning. With 2 men on base and just 1 out, Holliday’s single scored Gardner and moved Ellsbury to third base. Facing a new pitcher, Castro doubled, scoring Ellsbury and moving Holliday to third, and Judge was intentionally walked to load the bases. Chase Headley promptly tripled on a line drive to right field, clearing the bases and scoring Holliday, Castro, and Judge. Chris Carter took the batter’s box and doubled to left field, as Headley scored the 6th run of the inning. The Yankees had a strong lead. Brett Gardner added his own home run to right center field to lead-off the bottom of the 8th in what would be the final run for the Yankees.

Game 1 final score: 11-6 Yankees

After a ceremony to retire his jersey number (more on that later), Derek Jeter, the former Yankee shortstop, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Standing in front of the mound, he lobbed the ball over the plate (no one ever hired him as a pitcher) as fans cheered for him one last final time.

Game 2:
Despite the earlier win and some strong bats, the New York pitchers had a surprisingly weak outing for this second game of the doubleheader. Masahiro Tanaka struggled from the start, giving up 7 total hits, 8 runs, including 4 home runs, only pitching into the 2nd inning. His first two batter hit consecutive solo home runs, within the first 9 pitches of the game. Then, with 2 outs and the bases loaded, the next batter his a grand slam to give the Astros a fairly hefty lead in the 1st inning. Another lead-off solo home run began the 2nd inning. Then with 2 outs, a former Yankee hit a RBI double to score yet another Astros run that would spell the end of the Tanaka’s brief outing tonight.

Giovanni Gallegos took over on the mound from Tanaka and had a decent outing, save a few problems in the 4th. A lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a catcher’s interference and to 3rd on a fly out before scoring on a sacrifice fly. Relievers Shreve and Layne combined to allow no further runs. Dellin Betances’ came on in the 9th inning for the final out, but he had a momentary blip. With 2 outs, Betances gave up 2 singles to put runners on the corners before a passed ball scored the final Astros run.

The Yankees offense were held scoreless for the first 4 innings. So, in the bottom of the 5th and down by 9 run, the pinstriped bats woke up to get on the board. With 1 out, Chris Carter worked a walk, moved to 2nd on a ground out, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s single. Sanchez’s line drive single into center field added another baserunner before Matt Holliday smacked a big 3-run home run to right center field.

Still down in the 9th, New York showed their Bronx persistence in their attempt to win. Torreyes singled and then moved to 3rd on a double by Sanchez. With Castro at bat, a wild pitch at the plate allowed Torreyes to score and moved Sanchez to 3rd. Fans in the stands were cheering wildly with hope for this late game rally. Starlin Castro singled to center and scored Sanchez, and then Aaron Judge hit a line drive to left field and scored Castro. With Judge on third thanks to a bad fielding error, Gregorius worked a walk. But despite all the persistence, even with two men on base, a ground out then ended the rally and the game.

Game 2 final score: 10-7 Astros, Astros win series 3-1.

Roster updates: Aroldis Chapman was placed on a 10-day DL, retroactive to yesterday, May 13, due an inflamed rotator cuff. The Yankees recalled Chad Green and Rob Refsnyder from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Refsnyder was then sent back to after the second game of the doubleheader today, as he was considered the “26th man” for the day.

Records are made to broken! Aaron Judge continues to amaze his fans and coaches. As of today, he has 14 league-leading home runs. Gotta feel like he’s just getting started! Yet, on this Mother’s Day, he give a lot of credit to his mom for where he is today. And the Yankees also recorded a special video thanking their moms (and a few wives) for the special roles they played in their lives to this day.

In between the two games of this doubleheader, the New York Yankees held a ceremony to officially retire Derek Jeter’s jersey number, #2. Accompanied by his family, including his grandmother who first introduced him to Yankees baseball, Jeter accepted a plaque to be displayed in Monument Park in Yankee Stadium. Several former teammates, coaches, and friends, including the Steinbrenner family, were present for the honors. Fans held homemade signs and cheered as the former shortstop once again waved goodbye to the crowd, reminiscent of the Captain’s final game at Yankee Stadium in 2014.

{Media note: watch the full 40 minute pre-game ceremony here.}

This is the end of a chapter in Yankee baseball. It’s a fresh, new era. This 2017 team has potential to far surpass anything we have seen in pinstripes in a very long time.  It’s time for the new players to show what they can do as part of their team. To live their dream of playing baseball for New York Yankees. And may they all be able to join Joltin’ Joe and say, “I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee.”

And on that note of being thankful, on this Mother’s Day,  I would also like to honor all the moms of baseball represented by many of the players we see on the ball field. The moms who faithfully watched countless games of T-Ball and Little League and college baseball. The moms who racked up miles on their car driving to games. The moms who sat in rickety stands in little towns everywhere, faithfully cheering their young one at every at-bat, no matter the outcome. The moms who were there for both the discouraging times and for the victorious times. The moms who encouraged their children to be people of integrity and courage. The moms who taught the importance of being part of a team, to be there for each other, to work hard, to dream, to hope, to be persistent, and to never give up. And for the moms that taught that character really does count. That character counts on and off the field, win or lose. We, the fans of baseball, thank you, Baseball Moms, for all you did so we can have for the joy of watching such fine young men (and women) as they play the game they love.

Go Yankees!

Gardner for the Gold!

The 2016 MLB season may be over, but Yankee Universe is celebrating a big win last night! Congratulations to Brett Gardner for winning his first Rawlings Gold Glove Award!

After 9 seasons in the majors, Gardner is one of 9 first-time winners to be named among the best of baseball’s defensive players for 2016. Gardner had some tough competiton, but beat out fellow nominees Alex Gordon (Royals) and Colby Rasmus (Astros). This makes Gardy the first Yankee to win a Gold Glove since Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano in 2012, and the first Yankee win for an outfielder since Bernie Williams in 2000. He joins four other Yankee legends- Mantle, Maris, Winfield, and Mercer- who also received a Gold Glove Award. Not bad company for a kid from Holly Hill, South Carolina who began his college career as a walk-on player and wound up as an All-American by his senior year. A sign of great things to come.

The Rawlings Gold Glove Award originated in the 1950s when a Rawlings sales manager noticed that the majority of ballplayers were using their brand of gloves. An idea was born to honor “the finest in the field”, a term that Rawlings coined and copyrighted to reward excellence on the ball field. The selection process for the Gold Glove Award has evolved over the decades, and currently, nominees are chosen by team managers and coaches with input from the SABR Defensive Index (SDI).
Brett Gardner, a homegrown Yankee, continues to be one of NYY’s most productive players. It’s understandable why Gardy is a fan favorite since he continues to persevere at the plate, makes stellar plays on the field, or steals bases with his lightning speed.  In 2016, Gardner had 249 putouts and was second in fielding percentage.  Always ready to chase down fly balls wherever they may be, Gardner was second in the AL in defensive runs saved, third in assists, and first in plays made outside his zone. His sliding catches, those seemingly impossible mid-air leaps to snag a ball for the out, and those powerhouse throws from the outfield are consistent and impressive.

His focus and his staying power may have something to do with his work ethic. The day he was called up to the Yankees in 2008, Gardner shared that the “hard part is not to get to the big leagues, it’s to stay in the big leagues”. I’d say that Brett Gardner has had a bit of success with that!  Nine seasons with the New York Yankees. The currently longest tenured player in pinstripes. Last year, an All-Star. And now, a Gold Glove winner. All good things for this Yankee veteran.

The Rawlings Gold Glove Award ceremony will be this Friday, November 11. Yankee fans now have the opportunity to cast your vote here for Brett Gardner as the best overall defensive player in the American League in the contest for the Rawlings Platinum Glove Award to be announced this Friday, November 11. We’re looking forward to 2017 with our #11 in the outfield!

And the holiday season is upon us, and many families will be separated from loved ones serving our country. So what do the Yankees do? They once again partnered with the USO to send thousands of holiday care packages to active duty troops serving across the world. Volunteers from Disney, Delta, FedEx, and Metlife join with the NYC community, Yankee team members and veterans, and the Yankee family, including broadcasters, Suzyn Waldman and David Cone, today Wednesday at Yankee Stadium in the Great Hall to assemble the packages.

Thanks to all of you who have donated and/or are volunteering to exhibit the giving spirit of the season to those far from home. You are amazing!

Go Yankees!

Tired of politics? #VoteGardy instead!

New Year’s Eve is generally a day of celebration and hope. People gather with family and friends to remember the year with all its ups and downs, reflecting on what was and what might have been, and look forward to a new year filled hopes for what could be. But on December 31, 1972, the baseball world was rocked with the tragic news that one of their own, a man of great talent and even greater character, lost his life in a plane crash while on a mission to bring much needed supplies to earthquake survivors in Nicaragua.

Roberto Enrique Clemente Walker, known to the baseball world as Roberto Clemente, was born in Puerto Rico and drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates. While not the first Hispanic to play major league ball, Clemente was the first to rack up so many achievements that eventually secured him a spot in the Hall of Fame. Over his 18 years with the Steel City’s Bucs, the outfielder excelled on the ball field, but even more importantly, he excelled at quietly helping others in need, including charity work at home in Puerto Rico.

After Clemente’s death, the MLB Commissioner’s Award was renamed The Roberto Clemente Award and is given to the player who  “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement, and the individual’s contribution to his team”. Each year, every MLB team nominates a player they feel best represents these values. In honor of the winner, a vehicle and cash are donated to the winner’s chosen charity, with additional donations to the Roberto Clemente Sports City in Puerto Rico that provides local children sports opportunities to pursue their dreams.

This year, the New York Yankees have nominated Brett Gardner for the Roberto Clemente Award. Like Clemente, Gardner is a quiet man from humble roots, with strong character, and good values both on and off the field. Like Clemente, Gardner was raised on a farm, the son of a father who taught the value of character, respect, hard work, and persistence. Like Clemente, Gardner was taught to use the gifts God gave him to the best of his ability. Like Clemente, Gardner has stayed loyal to one team and is a positive influence on his teammates. Like Clemente, Gardner is an outfielder with a strong arm and an upbeat and “never quit” attitude, playing hard every game while supporting his teammates. Like Clemente, Gardner’s work ethic has helped him as he struggled to overcome injuries that might have kept less resilient players off the field. And like Clemente, Gardner is a family man with a generous heart and a compassion to reach out to his community and help those in need.

Brett Gardner and his family are actively involved in several community outreach organizations, including visiting children in hospitals and at the Ronald McDonald House (South Carolina and NYC), which is also home to a therapy dog, “Gardy”, donated by the Gardners for the children receiving hospital care. The Gardner family is also involved with the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program providing Christmas gifts to children in need and also assist in helping the Taylor Hooton Foundation’s Advisory Board to educate youth about performance-enhancing drugs. This compassionate and generous spirit exemplifies Roberto Clemente’s mission to help others wherever and whenever possible.

We are proud of the Yankees for choosing Brett Gardner and believe his life choices honor the example and memory of Roberto Clemente.

Vote for Gardy! #VoteGardy

To cast your vote for Brett Gardner, simply post #VoteGardy on  Twitter (@MLB) and Facebook.com/MLB. Deadline for fan voting is coming up soon — October 2 — so cast your vote early and often!

Go Yankees!

Mark Teixeira: a model of talent, teamwork, and character

I clearly remember the first day I set eyes on the new Yankee Stadium in the summer of 2009. Off the train with the crowd moving as one big mass down the stairs. Stepping out of the dingy stairwell into the bright sun. Crossing the street while dodging crazy traffic. Screaming vendors hawking their wares. The kind young man in his wheelchair selling candy. The NYPD strolling through the crowd keeping watch. All this amid the joyful sounds of excited fans arriving at Gate 6. The “wow factor” of the new stadium literally made me stop and just take in the moment of this new era in Yankee baseball.

After my daughter gifted me with a bright green Yankee hat to signify this fresh new season, my first purchase at the gift shop was an “officially licensed collectible pin” depicting a pinstripe jersey honoring #25, Mark Teixeira. He was new to the team, so I thought he was a great addition to the Yankees for his talent. But I also respected how he reflected a fine personal character.

And through his years in pinstripes, Teixeira has continued to reflect character, class, and sportsmanship. All qualities to be admired, not just in a baseball player, but also in life. Despite being plagued with injuries the last few years, “Tex” (as he was affectionately dubbed) continued to play each game 110%, with all that he had to give, and always with a positive attitude. As he stated to the media last week, “I gave you everything I had. It wasn’t always enough, but I tried my best.” Always the team player, always classy, the epitome of the kind of ball player that all Little Leaguers can look up to and aspire to be.

As for actual baseball statistics, Teixeira can be proud of that record as well. He has over 400 career home runs, participated in a Home Run Derby, was a three-time All Star, and awarded five Gold Gloves, three Silver Sluggers, and of course that 2009 World Series ring with the New York Yankees.

Outside baseball, Teixeira continues to give back to the community around the country. As a nod to his ties to Atlanta, first at Georgia Tech and then as player for the Braves, he became a board member and founding investor in an Atlanta non-profit group, the Emerald Corridor Foundation, that restores green spaces in inner-city neighborhoods for families and children to enjoy. In New York, Teixeira serves on the board of Harlem RBI that not only provides an opportunity to learn baseball, but also mentors kids by focusing on “teamwork, respect, diversity, promise, effort, integrity, and fun”. The group also offers opportunity for students to attend the Dream Charter School for further educational opportunities. Harlem RBI recently honored Tex as a positive role model and thanked him for his continued support.

Teixeira is such an integral part of the Yankees for so long that to imagine the team without him would seem like a valued part is missing. It appears now that the “Teixeira Era” is beginning to wind down. So it was with great sadness that I watched Teixeira tearfully announce his retirement at the end of this season in a press conference before Friday’s game. Tears flowed as he began to speak, warning the media that “Teixeiras are criers”, but that he is so grateful the he “got to live out his dream” of playing ball. The room hushed, yet supportive; the reporters gracious and patient, allowing him time to share his gratitude to the fans and to the Yankees. His fine character showed in the way he thanked everyone who was part of his time in baseball, including family, friends, fans, coaches, management, owners, and players all the way back to his days as a Little League player.

Declaring himself a Yankee fan forever, Teixeira said he was honored to wear the pinstripes for so many years, even calling the team “the greatest franchise in sports history”. He also thanked his wife Leigh (“my rock”) and his kids (“my three little cheerleaders”). After thanking his late mom for her support, he honored his dad, who taught him his foundational baseball skills, like how to switch-hit when he only 6 years old. But above all, Teixeira thanked God for the gift of being able to play ball and for always being there with him, in good times and bad.

Since his retirement announcement, the media and fans circulated so many descriptors of Teixeira: all-around player, good character, talented, hard-working, switch-hitter, world champion, team player, funny, kind, generous, family man, and a man of faith. It is this last descriptor that perhaps means the most to Tex. In an interview discussing his active faith, Teixeira firmly stated that God is the top priority in his life, both on and off the field. He credits his athletic ability as a God-given gift that allowed him to play the game he loves for so long.

While the Yankees will not be the same without Mark Teixeira and he will be much missed, I do see some of the same priorities, character, and talents in many of the younger players taking their place on the Yankee roster. So before this post gets too sad, it’s good to remember that the season isn’t over yet! There are still have several games left to see Teixeira play as part of this great New York team. So go to a game or two or fifty-one, and enjoy the season! And when Teixeira takes the field or comes up to bat, be sure to show him your appreciation for all he has done to represent the New York Yankees so well.

Thank you, Mark Teixeira!

Go Yankees!

Game 95: BAL vs. NYY — Streakless birthday for CC

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!

Go Yankees!

Game 94: BAL vs. NYY — Night to shine & shutout

A short train ride from the glittering night lights of New York City, the Bronx had its own night-light shining over Yankee Stadium tonight. The full moon, aglow in deep orange, hung low in the sky over the ballpark. Perhaps as a reminder that 47 years ago today, man first walked on the moon. A milestone for the space program that was determined to reach a goal despite the odds. Tonight, fans at Yankee Stadium tonight saw their pinstriped team defy the odds against the AL East leader, taking charge of the mound and the field and never backing down. This was a night for New York to shine and Baltimore really never had a chance.

Yankee starting pitcher Michael Pineda threw 113 pitches over 6 full innings, giving up 5 hits and 2 walks, with 8 strikeouts. Faltering a bit in the fourth, Pineda loaded the bases on two hits and a walk, but managed to get out of the inning allowing no runs. Despite some threats by the Orioles batters, Pineda deftly commanded the mound and shut down any scoring opportunities for Baltimore.

Pineda was replaced by Dellin Betances in the seventh who faced three batters for a quick three outs in just 11 pitches. Nick Goody replaced Betances in the eighth, throwing just 10 pitches for another three up and three down. To close the game at the top of the ninth,  Chasen Shreve calmly shut down another three batters in a row with two strikeouts and a ground out to secure another Yankee win. The Yankees seem to be experimenting with a few different pitchers to close the last few innings. Clearly, it seems to be working.

The Yankee bats had a few shining moments tonight. Gardner started it all off in the first inning with a triple to center after the ball bounced off the fielder’s glove. With Gardner on 3rd, Beltran hit a RBI sacrifice fly to center that plated Gardner, and the Yankees were the first on the board. The hopeful crowd of 35,681 was roaring in support.

A couple of quiet innings followed, and then in the fourth inning, Teixeira, just back from a few days off to rest a sore foot, slammed a homer to right to score the Yankees second run. In the sixth, Ellsbury smacked a lead off single to left followed by a bunt to 3rd by Beltran and a walk by McCann. With bases loaded and no outs, Teixeira came to the plate and RBI walks, scoring Ellsbury.

The Yankees continued to dominate the game in the seventh inning when Torreyes (in for Headley tonight) smacked a triple on a line drive to right field. Gardner then hit an RBI sacrifice fly to score Torreyes, and the Yankees are up by 4 over the scoreless Orioles.

In the eighth, a pitching change proved beneficial to New York as Beltran hit a solo homer to right field and into the second deck and the waiting glove of a fan in a Beltran jersey. This dinger marks Beltran’s 412th career home run and 20th homer for this season. With three quick outs in the top of the ninth by Shreve, the Yankees shut out the Orioles and won their fourth game in a row.

Final score: 5-0, Yankees

Welcome Back, Tex: Despite his recent hitting slump, Teixeira is back in the lineup and breaking said slump apparently. Refsnyder, who took Tex’s spot at first in the last couple games, is to be applauded for his utility work in both the infield and the outfield, plus several good at-bats. Teixeira has emphasized he just wants to stay healthy til the end of the season, and he knows part of that is improving his at-bats, which showed in his time at the plate tonight.

Doing the lineup shuffle: Headley was not in the lineup tonight, being excused for personal reasons and replaced at third base by Ronald Torreyes. Headley’s absence had the team scrambling some to readjust the lineup. Hicks was put in Headley’s batting slot (#8) and Torreyes batted ninth. Hope to see Headley back in his corner on the field soon.

Welcome to the neighborhood: In 2017, Yankee Stadium will have a new neighbor when the Roberto Clemente Urban Youth Academy will be built in the Bronx. The facility will feature new baseball and softball fields, complete with all instructors, fees, and equipment for free to the kids of the local community. Harlem RBI, the MLB Players Association, and the State of New York, with support from Commissioner Rob Manfred and Yankees veteran Alex Rodriguez, are joining forces to create a safe and encouraging environment for young athletes. Rodriguez, in particular, got his start playing ball at a Boys and Girls Club in Miami and emphasized the importance of community programs that allows kids the chance to dream big and to develop positive life skills.

Go Yankees!