Game 136: BOS vs. NYY — #SevySharp to narrow Red Sox’s division lead

Well, that helped narrow things a bit. The Yankees have the luxury of being in the same division with the lowest ranked division leader in the AL. All that means is that no one has run away with the AL East just yet (unlike a few other divisions across the league). In other words, the postseason race is still very much on, and the Yankees are very much in it.

Luis Severino was just spectacular once again in tonight’s start, throwing just 87 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up just 2 hits and a lone unearned run, and solidly striking out 9 Boston batters. In fact, he didn’t give up that run until his final inning. Two fielding errors allowed 2 runners to reach base safely and into scoring position before a passed ball scored the lead runner. In other words, it was a momentary slip in the defense that allowed a run to score and not Severino’s great night.

Now, the Yankees gave Severino enough run support that he didn’t have to push himself tonight. Chase Headley got things started with a lead-off solo home run in the 3rd. Then Matt Holliday and Todd Frazier hit back-to-back solo home runs in the 4th to give the Yankees a solid lead.

Part of the reason this was rather impressive is that the Red Sox had their almost unstoppable ace starter (who’s regularly in the conversation when it comes to AL Cy Young candidates this year), but he clearly was having a bad night and gave the Yankees plenty of room to make a dent against him. The Red Sox also pulled him in the 5th inning after he’d racked up 109 pitches already before calling on 6 relievers to try to stop the Yankees. It didn’t really work in the long run.

Now, with the Red Sox barely on the board in the 6th, the Yankees answered back in the bottom of that inning. Holliday led-off by working a walk, and 1-out later, the Red Sox dug back into their bullpen for a new reliever. Ellsbury singled and Gardner walked to load up the bases, and yet another reliever was called out. After another strikeout and those loaded bases, Gary Sanchez stepped up to the plate. He hit the ball and it was initially called a ground out in the relay, but the Yankees challenged the timing of the play. And then won. And that made all the difference.

As a result of Sanchez’s awarded single, Holliday scored a run, and the bases were still loaded. So Starlin Castro hit a solid double that cleared the bases and just solidified the Yankees’ eventual victory. Only to be followed by Aaron Judge’s monster 2-run home run (his 38th of the season) deep into the left field seats.

After Severino left the game with a rather secure lead, the Yankees turned to their bull pen for the final third of the game. First up was Tommy Kahnle, who struggled at first, giving up a walk and single before buckling down and getting his 3 needed outs. Chasen Shreve then breezed through the 8th inning in just 13 pitches.

Giovanni Gallegos had some issues of his own in the 9th. A lead-off single moved to 2nd on a wild pitch before Gallegos got 2 outs. A walk allowed another base runner before a single scored a run for the Red Sox. Gallegos got final batter swinging at an ironically high slider.

To be perfectly fair, both pitching staff got 28 strikeouts, but the Yankee batters got 13 total hits off Boston pitchers. But if we’re being frank here, it was the 4 total home runs by Yankee batters that really did the most damage.

Final score: 9-2 Yankees, Yankees win series 3-1

Injury news: on a long catch in yesterday’s game, Aaron Hicks strained his oblique. He’s just off the DL for another oblique injury, but this one is on the opposite side and seems quite a bit less severe. So I doubt he’ll be out of the lineup for long.

In trivia news: tonight’s starter Luis Severino threw his 200th strikeout this season, making him the 2nd Yankee to throw 200+ strikeouts in a single season age 23 and under. The only other Yankee pitcher to do so that young was Al Downing in 1964, and no other pitcher has done this since 2009 (Felix Hernandez, Seattle).

And the Yankees and Red Sox decided to team up today for a final show of support for the people of Texas just now beginning to dry out and recover from Hurricane Harvey. Both teams signed a big Texas flag that team managers Girardi and Farrell unfurled at home plate before tonight’s game, and both teams set up online auction sites to allow fans to bid on special products in which all proceeds will go to relief efforts in Texas.

The Yankees are selling game-used jerseys, a signed home plate, autographed caps, and more. (As of this post, the Aaron Judge game-used jersey is currently sitting at over $9000, but there are plenty of signed caps from the stellar bullpen guys still sitting at the minimum bid of $100 for any interested fans.) The Red Sox‘s online site has similar items for their own fans. The auction closes in a week (September 10) to ensure all profits make it to the recipients soon to begin recovery efforts.

Boston and New York both understand the national response and support from the entire baseball community after their own tragedies — 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing, and Hurricane Sandy hit both areas hard. So it is a natural response to stand with the hard-hit areas after Hurricane Harvey and do what we can to help them come back stronger than ever. Just as the country did for Boston and New York during their time of need and healing. Our continued thoughts and prayers are with those just beginning to recover from the storm and its massive flooding.

Go Yankees!

Game 135: BOS vs. NYY — Cloudy Saturday is #TanakaTime

It’s a rather cloudy day in the Bronx, nearby clouds linger with promises of rain through the night. But it held off for the afternoon game against the Red Sox for the nearly 50,000 fans to cheer on their rivals today.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start today and threw just a beautiful game in this third game of the 4-game weekend series against the division leaders. He threw 97 pitches into the 8th inning, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and a run and striking out just 3 Boston batters to set himself up for the win. That lone run came when a lead-off double in the 6th moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a wild pitch.

But Tanaka led the Yankees to keep the Red Sox at that lone run, and the Yankee fans showed their appreciation when he left the mound in the 8th inning with a nice standing ovation. David Robertson continued that momentum, completing a scoreless 8th inning, handing the ball to Dellin Betances for a 12-pitch, 3-strikeout flawless 9th.

The Yankee offense was there to back up their starter with the run support to narrow the Red Sox’s lead in the AL East. In the 2nd, Chase Headley got things started for the Yankees with a 1-out solo home run into the left field seats. {Media note: no media link, sorry. MLB.com has changed their video availability, and initially, it is often difficult to find the more traditional plays to share with the public.} A bit later in the inning, the Yankees loaded up the bases, but couldn’t add to their score at that point.

With the game now tied up in the 6th, the Yankees found a big opportunity. Gregorius led-off with a walk and ended up at 3rd on Headley’s single. They both then scored as part of Matt Holliday’s big 3-run home run. (Personal note: I actually looked at my mom as they were jogging the bases and said, “Welcome back, Mr. Holliday! So much for that back injury.”) Ellsbury led-off the 7th with a triple and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s single to cap off the Yankees’ scoring this afternoon.

Final score: 5-1 Yankees

Well, a big happy 25th birthday to Ronald Torreyes, who got the start at 2nd due to Starlin Castro’s dental issues. Apparently, sometime between last night’s game and 7 am, Castro lost a tooth and needed an emergency root canal, sitting in the dentist’s chair from 7 am until just before game time. So when Girardi announced the line-up change, he was hoping the regular starter would be available at least off the bench, noting that lack of sleep and early dental surgery may not be ideal for even a back-up player today.

Fortunately, the finale is tomorrow evening, so both the Yankees and Castro himself have time to recover and rest in hopes of taking this series from the Red Sox. As someone who’s had root canal surgery (twice), my thoughts are with Castro today. Fingers crossed for about 24 hours (from now) in recovery to come back strong and help the Yankees win tomorrow night too.

Go Yankees!

Game 134: BOS vs. NYY — September off to a stunted start

And just like that fortunes reversed. September begins, and the Yankees are still in heated contention with the Red Sox (and a few other teams) for the postseason. Sonny Gray got the start tonight, and certainly had mixed results. On one hand, he struck out 9 Boston batters in just 7 innings, but on the other, he gave up 4 runs.

Gray threw 98 pitches in those 7 innings, giving up 5 hits and a walk. And those pesky 4 runs, all scored on home runs. In the 3rd, he allowed his lone walk before a home run scored both runners to put the Red Sox in the lead. A 2-out solo home run in the 5th and a lead-off solo shot in the 7th added those 2 more runs for the Red Sox.

Meanwhile, the Yankees kicked off the offense in the 1st when Brett Gardner hit a lead-off double and then scored on Aaron Judge’s double. Then they struggled with much offense, only getting 2 more hits and a walk off the Red Sox’s starter in his 7 innings.

Aroldis Chapman’s 8th inning was almost perfect, where he got all 3 outs as strikeouts. And Adam Warren kept the Red Sox from adding to their score with a 14-pitch 9th. But unfortunately, the Red Sox’s relievers for both innings followed the example and threw 2 scoreless innings as well, leaving the Yankees in the dust.

Final score: 4-1 Red Sox

Before the game today, former Yankee legend (and Grammy-nominated classically trained guitarist) Bernie Williams performed an amazing version of the national anthem as Little Leaguers from the area who narrowly missed representing the US in the recent Little League World Series joined Yankee players all over the field to be honored for their success this season.

Roster moves: just in time for the September call-ups, the Yankees activated Matt Holliday from the DL, after his recovery from a back injury. They also transferred pitcher Luis Cessa, who is still dealing with his ribcage injury, from the 10-day to the 60-day DL, effectively removing him off the 40-man roster. This made room for the Yankees to select the contract of newly acquired Erik Kratz, promoting him from AAA Scranton.

They also recalled pitchers Jordan Montgomery, Ben Heller, and Bryan Mitchell from AAA Scranton. There is still room for additions this month, but the Yankees also want the RailRiders to work on their own upcoming postseason and potential repeat of their championship in a few weeks. They finish their season on Monday as division leaders (by 7 1/2 games!).

Like the big leagues, the team with the most wins will face the winner of the Wild Card games (to be played on Wednesday and Thursday). The RailRiders are ready for that role unless they get swept by the Phillies’ AAA team. Their Division Series (best of 5) begins next weekend. Their Championship Series is shortly after that (beginning September 12) for the “Governor’s Cup”. And the ultimate championship game between the Pacific Coast League and the International League (where the RailRiders play) to be played on September 19 at PNC Park (the RailRiders’ home park). Best of luck to you guys once again in your postseason!

Go Yankees!

Game 133: BOS vs. NYY — #CCStrong to lead the dramatic way

The Yankees head into this 4-game weekend series against the division leading Boston Red Sox with every intention to reduce the 5 1/2 game their rivals had over them. Now, every game between the rivals is always a nail-biter, even when both teams are terrible. But when you add in the end of the season push, where both teams are likely to end up in the postseason, it creates a big drama.

CC Sabathia threw another stellar game, setting himself up for the 5th consecutive win against the Red Sox (tying former Yankee Mike Mussina for the honor, since they created divisions in the league in 1969). Sabathia threw 102 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up just 4 hits and 1 run, but walking 5 Boston batters, striking out 6.

In the 3rd, the lead-off batter singled and ended up at 3rd on the next batter’s single. The next guy got a little greedy and dove in for 2 bases getting tagged out. Originally, he was called safe, but a Yankees’ challenge overturned the call for the first out of the inning. After giving up a walk, a ground out at 2nd still scored the Red Sox’s first run. In a bit of turnabout, the call was initially called it a double play (at 2nd and 1st), but the Red Sox challenged and the call was ruled safe at 2nd but out at 1st. Despite another allowed walk, the Yankees got out of the inning and jam with a ground out.

After a flawless 7th inning, David Robertson got into a bit of a dramatic situation in the 8th thanks to a lead-off walk and a fielding error, but then he pitched his way out of the drama, as usual. Dellin Betances, as usual, kicked the drama up to a whole other level in the 9th inning, quickly loading up the bases with a walk and 2 hit-by-pitches. After a strikeout, he gave up a walk to scored the Red Sox’s 2nd run, before an infield fly was called for out #2 and a long fly ball caught by Gardner in left field ended the jam and drama.

Meanwhile, the Yankees chipped away progressively at the Red Sox. With 2 outs in the 3rd, Gary Sanchez powered a solo home run into the right field seats to tie up the game. In the 5th, Gardner hit a 1-out single, moved to 3rd on Hicks’ single, and then scored on Sanchez’s single. After another out, Castro’s single loaded the bases, but a pop-up ended that hope to increase their lead.

Then in the 6th, Headley led-off the inning with a double and then scored as part of Greg Bird’s big 2-run home run. Todd Frazier then singled, and with no outs in the inning, the Red Sox’s starter called it a night. Frazier advanced to 2nd on Hick’s 1-out single and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ 2-out single. Another new reliever closed that inning out, but the Yankees kept charging. And in the 7th, Judge led-off with walk and sped all the way to 3rd on Headley’s single before scoring on Bird’s single.

Final score: 6-2 Yankees

In anticipation of the suspensions to be served by both catchers (Sanchez and Romine, though we are waiting on the results of their appeals), the Yankees looked at adding another back-up to further their depth chart in that spot. So they signed Erik Kratz, a veteran catcher, from the Indians. Kratz has played with many teams on the league as their back-up catcher, a role he’s clearly comfortable with.

The appeals will be heard tomorrow with decisions coming shortly thereafter. Also, the September call-ups begin tomorrow. The Yankees will expand their active roster from 25 to 40, so expect to see some familiar faces back in the Bronx this weekend.

Go Yankees!

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!