Game 113: NYY vs. TOR — More lost ground in the AL East race

Four games. The Yankees are now four games behind the Red Sox in the AL East, which because it’s this kind of year, still keeps them in 2nd place and firmly in the Wild Card race. Of course, this doesn’t help that the schedule now has them headed home to face.. yep, the red-hot Red Sox.

Sonny Gray got his second start as a Yankee in the finale against the Blue Jays, and this one didn’t go much better than the first one. In his 6 innings, he threw 103 pitches, gave up 4 hits, 4 walks, and 3 runs (2 earned), and struck out 6 Toronto batters. In the 2nd, Gray gave up a 1-out double who ended up at 3rd on a pick-off error and then scored on a sloppy fielder’s choice.

A 1-out walk in the 3rd stole 2nd on a strikeout and then scored on an RBI single who ended up on 2nd, despite a questionable call and challenge that was unfortunately (due to lack of evidence) upheld. And in the 4th, a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt and then scored on an RBI single.

Gray handed the game over to Chasen Shreve for the final two innings, and Shreve had a fairly outstanding outing save a single allowed hit — a 2-out solo home run in the 7th inning.

The Yankees unfortunately faced one of the best pitchers on the Blue Jays, and he was rather good once again. He went 7 innings on the Yankees, and still gave up 5 hits and 3 walks but completely kept the Yankees from crossing home plate. In other words, the Yankees batters were able to get on base but not able to score any runs.

Even the Blue Jays’ relievers kept that momentum, giving up base-runners but refusing to allow any runs. In other words, the Yankees were shut out from tonight’s game.

Final score: 4-0 Blue Jays, Blue Jays win series 2-1.

Injury news: Clint Frazier was placed on the 10-day DL due his left oblique strain. In his place, the Yankees activated outfielder Aaron Hicks, who had to catch a last-minute plane from Connecticut, where AA Trenton were on the road, to Toronto, to join the Yankees again.

So, during yesterday’s big run-scoring inning last night, third base coach Joe Espada was busy waving home runners when he took a bit of a tumble in the foul territory between 3rd base and home. Today, as the Yankees arrived for tonight’s game, they took a gander out at the foul territory between 3rd base and home plate to see a chalk outline in the shape of Joe Espada. Rumors abound as to who took the initiative to commemorate the moment, with Espada himself pointing to his boss Girardi.

Next up: as I said before, the Yankees head back home to face the Red Sox in a series that could alter the AL East. Fingers crossed that it’s in the Yankees’ favor.

Go Yankees!

Game 112: NYY vs. TOR — It was close, until it wasn’t

Masahiro Tanaka got the start for the middle game of this mid-week series in Toronto. He had a bit of a struggle tonight, throwing 88 pitches into the 5th inning, giving up just 2 hits, but 5 walks, and 3 runs (just 2 earned), striking out just 2 Toronto batters.

In the 2nd, with 2 runners in scoring position, a ground out scored the Blue Jays’ first run. A fielder’s choice got the other runner coming home in a wild rundown play with far too many throws, just a standard 5-2-6-2-6-1 play. The lead-off batter in the 3rd reached on catcher’s interference (and it wasn’t Ellsbury!), but then Tanaka quickly loaded the bases with 2 walks. A sacrifice fly scored the only run as they worked their way out of the inning without further damage. After a lead-off home run and a walk in the 5th, Tanaka’s night was over.

He handed the ball off to Chad Green, who promptly ended the 5th with 3 consecutive strikeouts. But then Green got into trouble of his own in the 6th. With 1 out and a runner on 1st, a double scored another run for the Blue Jays, and it was on to Tommy Kahnle for relief. A wild pitch moved the runner to 3rd, and after a walk and out, a single scored yet another Toronto run.

But that would be it for the Blue Jays as the back-end of the bullpen came in with great momentum. Robertson and Betances just sailed through the 7th and 8th innings, and Warren, despite allowing 2 baserunners, got out of the 9th unscathed.

Meanwhile, it seemed like quite the cat-and-mouse game. After the Yankees, who got on the board first, would score, the Blue Jays would come back and grab a few of their own runs. But then the Yankees got to the point where their offense was uncatchable and their relievers were too strong for the Blue Jays to catch-up completely.

To lead off the 2nd inning, Gary Sanchez and Todd Frazier hit consecutive solo home runs to start tonight’s run-scoring. Then Didi Gregorius got in on the game with a 2-out solo home run of his own in the 3rd. In the 5th, with 2 outs, Judge and Gregorius were in scoring position and the starter handed over the ball to the bullpen. Todd Frazier’s double scored both runners, and Jacoby Ellsbury followed that up with a double of his own to score Frazier.

They jumped on the Blue Jays’ bullpen and their less-than-stellar outing tonight. In the 8th, Frazier led-off with a single, and the Blue Jays changed pitchers. After a strikeout, they changed pitchers again. Garret Cooper (who ended up with a 4-hit night, by the way) doubled, and Ronald Torreyes’ single scored both runners {Note: no media link, sorry}.

Finally, in the 9th, the Yankees loaded up the bases after Gregorius and Sanchez singled and Frazier was hit by a pitch. All the runners moved up on Jacoby Ellsbury’s ground outground out, so Gregorius scored. Cooper’s single then scored both Sanchez and Frazier to cap off the Yankees’ big night of scoring.

The Yankees’ roster was heavy on the offense tonight, with 17 total hits. Every starter got on base, most with hits, most with multiple hits. It was just a big show of Yankee power.

Final score: 11-5 Yankees

Injury news: so last night, CC Sabathia only threw 3 innings because in the 3rd, he kind of tweaked his knee, the same knee he’s had trouble with in the past. Despite today’s MRI showing no new damage, knee injuries are difficult to diagnose and treat. Sabathia is confident he won’t have to go on the DL or miss his next start. As someone who also has a lingering knee issue, I hope he is able to deal with this without much drama or lingering pain.

Clint Frazier was out of tonight’s game due to a tightness in his oblique. It was a last-minute change, just 40 minutes before the game. Hopefully, this is just a short-lived injury. But there is talks that Aaron Hicks is close to being activated. His rehab stints are going well, and he was recently transferred to be with AA Trenton. There is talk that Hicks will be back on Friday, when the Yankees return to the Bronx to host the Red Sox for the weekend.

In the interim, the Yankees close out their North of the Border series tomorrow night, helmed by Sonny Gray, hoping to have a better outing than his last time on the mound for the Yankees. Fingers crossed that the Yankees can head home with a series win this time.

Go Yankees!

Game 111: NYY vs. TOR — Falling short North of the Border

The Yankees are north of the border for their mid-week series against the Blue Jays. And with the season beginning to wind down, the Yankees are looking for every game to put them in line for the postseason. Unfortunately, the last place in the AL East Blue Jays aren’t willing to go down easily.

CC Sabathia go the start and, thanks to a single batter who seemed to have his number, he threw a less-than-stellar outing. He threw 57 pitches in just 3 innings, giving up 6 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, striking out just 3 batters. In the 1st, Sabathia gave up a lead-off double, who moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt and then scored as part of a big 2-run home run to get Toronto on the board early. And a lead-off single in the 3rd scored as part of another 2-run home run (by the same player in the 1st inning) to double the Blue Jays’ score.

From there, the Yankees called on Bryan Mitchell for long-term relief, and he promptly threw a beautiful scoreless 4 innings. Mitchell kept the Blue Jays to their early lead in anticipation of the Yankees’ offense to catch-up and take-over. David Robertson’s 8th inning continued that momentum, again lying in wait for the Yankees’ fabled offense.

Fabled would be the right word tonight, as it seemed quite a bit stilted against the Toronto’s pitching staff. They had just two minor opportunities to play some small ball. In the 2nd, Headley led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Gregorius’ single, ended up at 3rd on a double play, and then scored on Garrett Cooper’s single.

Then in the 8th, consecutive Yankees (Sanchez and Headley) were hit by pitches and Todd Frazier worked a 1-out walk to load up the bases. It would be Cooper again for the RBI, this time a sacrifice fly {NOTE: no media link, sorry} to double the Yankees’ score and halve the Blue Jays’ lead.

But the Yankees didn’t have a last-minute rally in them, so dropped this first game in Toronto.

Final score: 4-2 Blue Jays

The Advanced-A Tampa Yankees are hosting their version of HOPE Week this week, starting today and running through Saturday. On the schedule are many amazing Tampa area organizations: the Lighthouse Center for Creative Learning, a school for children with autism; A Kid’s Place of Tampa Bay, a foster or transitional home for displaced children; Trinity Cafe, a proper restaurant that specifically serves the area’s homeless and hungry; the local chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation; and Tampa Yankees’ players, staff, and fans will participate in the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation’s “Cut for a Cure”, a fundraiser where kids (who also are cancer survivors) shave participants’ heads.

And in sad news, former ball player and manager Don Baylor passed away yesterday after a long struggle with multiple myeloma, a nasty blood cancer. He was just 68 years old. Baylor had a 19-year professional career with the Orioles, Athletics, Angels, Red Sox, Twins, and Yankees (1983-1985), an All-Star who also won an MVP Award and a World Series. He went on to manage the Rockies and Cubs, winning 1995 NL Manager of the Year, before retiring from baseball entirely 15 years ago around the time of his diagnosis. He was close to many in the game, even being a groomsman in Yankee teammate Dave Winfield’s 1988 wedding. Our hearts go out to his family, including his wife Rebecca. He will be missed.

Go Yankees!

Game 110: NYY vs. CLE — Series split & #SeverinoNeedsAHashtag

Luis Severino is really becoming the go-to guy for the Yankees when they need that crucial starter to get them the win. In other words, Severino is clearly the Yankees’ ace, and each game he pitches he further proves this.

Severino got the start in this afternoon’s game, the finale of this 4-game weekend series in Cleveland. He threw 107 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up just 2 hits, a walk, and a single run, striking out 9 Cleveland batters. The lone allowed run was a 2-out solo homer in the 1st, and then nothing else for the entire game.

After Severino set the pace for staying strong and keeping things close, Kahnle closed out the 7th inning in just 5 pitches. And then Warren and Shreve threw a pair of amazing innings to close out the game, both only throwing 14 pitches each.

Meanwhile, the Yankees didn’t get many chances for most of the starter’s outing until his final inning — the 6th. Gardner led-off with a single and moved to 3rd on Clint Frazier’s double. With 1 out, the Indians’ starter intentionally walked Judge to load up the bases. Chase Headley’s sacrifice fly scored Gardner to tie up the game. But once the bases were loaded up again after a walk to Todd Frazier, it would be Jacoby Ellsbury’s monster triple to clear the bases and put the Yankees nicely into the lead.

That would be it for the Indians’ starter, so they opened their bullpen. It didn’t stop the Yankees, as Ronald Torreyes promptly singled home Ellsbury. Then in the 7th, with a new reliever and 1 out, Clint Frazier walked and then moved to 3rd on Gregorius’ single. So Aaron Judge hit his 35th home run, a 3-run power blast to ensure the Yankees’ lead. The Yankees hit 12 hits off the Indians’ pitchers today, by far the highest offense day for the Yankees this series.

Final: 8-1 Yankees, Yankees split series 2-2.

Roster moves: The Yankees officially placed Matt Holliday on the 10-day DL due to “left lumbar strain” and recalled Garrett Cooper from AAA Scranton. Headed to Scranton is odd-man-out Jordan Montgomery. Despite his good outing yesterday, with the two new starters, someone had to leave the rotation, and it was going to be “the kid”, the rookie, who has plenty of time to work his way back into a starting spot again. The corresponding roster move has yet to be announced.

For all the talk we’ve had this series on the nicknames of Cleveland, I’m going to leave you with a personal note. The most time I’ve ever spent in Cleveland collectively has to be the airport. I’ve never lived in Ohio, but so much of my family has (up until recently). So I’ve traveled there quite often. I used to know the airport almost better than any other airport I’ve flown into/out of.

And while airports have always fascinated me, the CLE will always hold a special place for me because it meant I was going to see or had just seen my grandparents, who are no longer with us. Like many in my family, my grandparents were huge baseball fans — my grandmother was a diehard Indians’ fan, and my grandfather nearly played ball himself taught us all how to love the game in general. While he was certainly a long-time Indians’ fan, he also appreciated great players, with a special fondness for Mickey Mantle.

So, while this particular series is special and personal for me, it always serves to remind me of two people who made the “CLE”, the “Mistake on the Lake”, “Plum City”, “Forest City”, or “Believeland” something more than just another city, another team, another nickname. It was where my family lived, where they were from. And that is what made it something special.

Go Yankees!

 

Game 109: NYY vs. CLE — “Cleveland’s a Plum”, at least tonight

Okay, my apologies to the city of Cleveland yesterday seemed to work. Of course, it could very well be the fact that the Yankees just played way better than they have the last two games at Progressive Field.

Competing for that fifth rotation spot, assumed odd man out Jordan Montgomery certainly worked very hard at trying to prove he deserved to at least remain in consideration for that spot. Montgomery threw just 65 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 3 hits and just 1 run, striking out 7 Cleveland batters. That lone run was a 1-out solo home run in the 2nd inning.

But between Montgomery and the rest of the bullpen, the Yankees held the strong Indians’ lineup from doing much of anything else. David Robertson came on for 2 innings, the 6th and 7th, and kept that momentum strong. Dellin Betances had a flawless 8th inning, turning the game over to Aroldis Chapman, who earned his 14th save of the season.

Not that the Yankees’ offense was blowing the Indians’ pitching staff out of the water or anything. In the 1st inning, Gardner led-off with a walk, moved to 2nd on Judge’s 1-out single, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ (just-inches-shy-of-a-home-run) RBI double to get the Yankees on the board early.

Once the Indians tied the game up in the next inning, the battle was on for who would break the tie, and as the Indians’ pitching is certainly one of their strongest elements, it was quite the feat. It wouldn’t be until the 8th inning, and it would be Chase Headley to break the stalemate. Headley hit a nice 1-out solo home run into the right field seats.

Final score: 2-1 Yankees

Injury news: Matt Holliday was out of tonight’s lineup due to a sore back. Apparently, he tweaked it last night during one of his at-bats, and it didn’t get better with rest and treatment. So, it looks like he might be headed back to the DL again. He has been struggling since he came off the DL last time (due to a virus), so maybe this could be a reset as well as a time to rest and recover.

Okay, since you all enjoyed my nickname exploration (and if you didn’t, sorry), I decided to do more research. I found sites that list many other nicknames for Cleveland, some I believe, some I question. Again, to recap, the most common I’ve heard (and this is primarily from family that lives or lived in the area) are the “Mistake on the Lake”, “Rock & Roll Capital of the World”, and “Believeland”.

One nickname was attached to the city around the early days of statehood for Ohio — “Forest City” — due to its heavily forested areas. More recently, the city has tried to market itself for urbanites seeking gentrified city living as the “North Coast“. But my absolute favorite (and one that absolutely no one I know ever heard of) is “Plum City” — supposedly on a 1970s marketing campaign to attract tourists a la the “Big Apple”.

Small note here: I’m not sure why the fruit thing works for New York, but it falls terribly flat when literally any other city tries to use a local fruit and apply it as their nickname or slogan. Here’s a few clearly failed attempts — Big Orange (LA), Big Peach (Atlanta), Big Strawberry (Garden Grove, CA), Big Tomato (Sacramento), Big Guava (Tampa), and the Big Pineapple (Honolulu). Stop with the fruit, people! (I’m looking at you Atlanta and your decidedly weird peach obsession…)

Alright, pop culture reference alert: even my family would probably prefer to be more like Jack Donaghy of 30 Rock and refer to the city as “The Cleve”. For reference, the direct quote is regarding what he believes is the vacation wishes of every red-blooded American: “We’d all like to flee to the Cleve and club-hop down at the Flats and have lunch with Little Richard…” (And if you have no idea who Jack, 30 Rock, or why that’s a funny scene, you are due for a good binge-watching session; it’s on Netflix.)

Well, that’s all from “The Cleve” tonight. Fingers crossed to split the series tonight or “Plum City” might feel a little more like a prune.

Go Yankees!

Game 108: NYY vs. CLE — Bumpy start ends in continued slump (but the Lake & rivers are clean…er)

Based on how tonight’s game panned out, I think the city of Cleveland is seeking revenge for calling them the “Mistake on the Lake” in yesterday’s post. (More below after the game recap.) To be perfectly fair and reveal some full disclosure, my mom’s family grew up in Northeast Ohio, and they always called the city that. (Literally, I only here that phrase in my mother’s voice. Thanks, Mom!)

They also grew up diehard Indians’ fans, still waiting for their next World Series win, most of them not even alive the last time Cleveland won (1948). This makes this series a whole lot more interesting personally, making the one thing both sides of this have in common is that we both root against the Red Sox. (Though I’m still a little murky as to why the Indians think of the Red Sox as a valid rivalry.)

Anyway, the Yankees called on their other newly acquired starter Jaime Garcia. This ended up being Garcia’s third straight start with three different teams — July 21 with the Braves, July 28 with the Twins, and tonight with the Yankees. But Garcia got roughed up in this particular team debut. He threw 87 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 5 hits, 4 walks, and 6 runs (only 5 earned), and struck out just 4 Cleveland batters.

In the 2nd, with 2 outs, Garcia gave up a walk and then scored on a double. The runner ended up at 3rd on the throw and then scored on a passed ball. Despite giving up a walk and a single to load up the bases, Garcia got out of the inning with a line out to Gregorius. In the 3rd, a lead-off single scored on another single and throwing error. The base runner ended up at 2nd on that play, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on a sacrifice fly.

Garcia just couldn’t find the momentum to get through these innings. In the 5th, a 1-out walk stole 2nd and then scored on a single. Then that runner moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, and ended up at 3rd on a ground out. That would be it for Garcia.

It was on to Chad Green, whose wild pitch scored one more run for the Indians that inning before getting that 3rd out of the 5th. Green then breezed through the next 2 innings, tallying up 5 strikeouts himself. He then handed the game over to Tommy Kahnle for the 8th inning, who found his own trouble — a lead-off double scored on an RBI double to add the Indians’ final run of the night.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were hitting off the Indians’ pitchers tonight — racking up 11 total hits (more than the Indians’ offense got tonight), 7 off the starter alone. Those hits (and the 2 walks) just weren’t adding up to runs-scored. In fact, for most of the game, it felt like the Indians’ pitcher and defense were much more dominant tonight.

Then in the 5th, Todd Frazier hit a 1-out solo home run into the right field seats to get the Yankees on the board. The Yankees then loaded up the bases later in the inning, but a swinging strikeout ended that potential rally and stopped them in their tracks.

The Yankees got one more chance in the 9th inning. Despite a lead-off single that got erased in a double play, it would be Ronald Torreyes to kick off a potential moment of hope. He hit a solid single, moved to 2nd on defensive indifference, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s single. But a fielder’s choice ground out ended the inning and the game. Too little, too late.

Final score: 7-2 Indians

Okay, more on the nicknames… “The Mistake on the Lake.” Look, a lot of this points back to the late 1960s before much of current clean water restrictions were enacted and Lake Erie was so polluted and that fed into its major rivers. At one point, it was so bad that the Cuyahoga River (the main river through Cleveland) actually caught on fire in 1969. Fortunately, with the passing of the Clean Water Act three years later, the city was forced to clean up its waterways and the big lake on its north shore. But the reputation for being the city whose river once caught on fire stuck, especially with those from the area (or rather the suburbs around the area).

In its place, the city has tried to refocus attention on its biggest attraction — the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Thanks to the rise of the genre, and how many of its biggest stars were from the area, the natural connection to the city evolved over time only to be cemented by the Hall when they built it in 1983. Since then, I think most people think of this (or Drew Carey) when they think of Cleveland.

That is until last year. When Cleveland became “Believe-land” as both their biggest sports were the Cavaliers (basketball) and Indians (side burn: even my Cleveland-area family aren’t Browns fans, but that’s a completely different story). Both the Cavs and Indians went to their respective championships, all the way to Game 7. Only the Cavs came up as winners in the end, but it still made last year something for Clevelanders everywhere to be proud of that wasn’t music or pollution-related history.

On a personal note, due to family connections, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Cleveland, and I’ve never been to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or a Cavaliers game. No, growing up, we explored less nickname-worthy places. Like finding out their art museum has an Armor Court. And their historical society has an extensive antique car and aviation exhibit. And there’s a village stuck in the early 1800s, much like Colonial Williamsburg but 1820s rural Ohio.

Despite the deep roots here, this may actually explain why I’m a Yankees fan.

Go Yankees!

Game 107: NYY vs. CLE — Not-so-Sonny Yankees’ soggy, sloppy debut

It was actually quite a soggy and stormy day in Cleveland right up until about an hour before game time. And then suddenly, the hometown fans in the “Mistake on the Lake” were ready to watch their ace pitcher throw a complete game in this first game of the 4-game weekend series in Cleveland.

Newly acquired starter Sonny Gray certainly had a rough debut tonight, thanks in part to some costly fielding errors, 3 in the sloppy 1st inning. Gray threw 98 pitches in 6 innings, giving up just 4 hits, 3 walks, and 4 runs (only 2 earned), striking out 6 Cleveland batters.

That 1st inning was just not good for the Yankees in any way. The lead-off batter reached 1st on a bobbled fielding error to kick off the game. That runner moved to 2nd on a ground out and then to 3rd on another hit into a fielding error to put runners on the corners. A single then easily scored those 2 runners, and the play ended with the runner standing on 3rd thanks to a throwing error.

But then Gray (and the Yankees’ defense) got back into gear and played better baseball. So to bookend Gray’s outing, his 6th inning was a more legitimate show of small-ball for the Indians as Gray searched for that hard-fought 3rd out. With 2 outs, Gray gave up a walk and single that both scored on a solid double.

Chasen Shreve came on in relief of Gray for 2 innings, only giving up a single hit. It was unfortunate that it would be a 1-out solo shot in the 7th, but at that point, the Indians were already safely in the lead. So it didn’t make much of a difference.

Now, the Indians’ starter is really good. And tonight was no exception, going so far as to throw a complete game — 106 pitches in 9 innings, giving up just 3 hits, a walk, and a run, and striking out 11 Yankees’ batters along the way. It’s hard not to appreciate that kind of show, even if it clearly wasn’t in the Yankees’ favor. The only run he allowed was a 1-out solo home run by Gary Sanchez into the first row of the seats out over left-center field.

It just wasn’t going to happen for the Yankees tonight. Not with the sloppy start. And not against this pitcher in this mode.

Final score: 5-1 Indians

Tomorrow the new men in pinstripes continue. (Or “away greys”, I should say.) Jaime Garcia will make his Yankee debut, hopefully with a bit more success than Sonny Gray today. A bit more storms tomorrow afternoon in the area, but should be clear once again by game time.

And Clint Frazier had a bit of a homecoming of sorts today. This is the first time Frazier has been able to connect with his former teammates since the trade last year (part of the exchange that sent star reliever Andrew Miller to the Indians) that made his a major Yankee prospect late last season. Frazier greeted former teammates with his usual gusto, admitting he followed last year’s World Series closely and felt part of the reason the Indians went so far was making sure a great pitcher like Miller was on the team.

Okay, I guess that makes sense to me. Let’s blame Frazier for the reason the Indians got so far. But if they also beat the Yankees this year to get to or during the postseason again, the same rule applies… just saying… (Don’t open that can of worms with Yankee fans, “Red Thunder”!)

Go Yankees!