Game 119: NYY vs. NYM — #SubwaySeries victory tour continues in Queens

The Subway Series continued in Queens, before yet another sold-out crowd, their 5th one in 6 games (and the 6th one came within a few hundred seats of being another sell-out). And they decided to make things interesting before a New York hometown crowd.

Like the other newer starter yesterday, Jaime Garcia had a pretty good outing tonight. He threw 91 pitches into the 6th inning and gave up 5 hits, 3 walks, and 3 runs, striking out just 3 Mets batters. In the 1st, a lead-off double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a sacrifice fly to give the Mets a small early lead. Garcia held off the Mets for a time, later giving up a 2-out solo home run in the 5th. And in the 6th, with 2 runners on and just 1 out, Garcia’s night came to a close (with both those runners on his account).

Tommy Kahnle unfortunately promptly gave up a sacrifice fly that scored the lead runner (charged to Garcia), but then closed out the inning with a fly out, handing the game to Adam Warren. Warren sailed through 2 innings, adding 3 strikeouts of his own, in a rather strong showing for the now veteran bullpen staple. David Robertson’s 9th inning was everything we expect from tonight’s closer (see below), sewing up the game with 2 more strikeouts and his 14th save on the season.

Meanwhile, the Yankees played a bit of “tag” with the Mets for a good portion of the game. After the Mets scored in the 1st, the Yankees tied up the game in the 2nd when Chase Headley worked a walk, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, then to 3rd on a passed ball, and scored on Garrett Cooper’s ground out. Aaron Judge’s monster home run (all 457 feet into the upper deck in left field) led-off the 4th to put the Yankees in the lead.

Then the Mets caught up with the Yankees and tied up the game, so the Yankees forged ahead in the 6th, loading up the bases with a single and 2 walks. After the Mets’ starter left the game, Headley’s sacrifice fly scored lead-runner Judge to put the Yankees back on top.

When the game got tied up again in the bottom of the 6th, the Yankees weren’t about to just sit on their laurels. So in the 7th, Torreyes led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt, and then watched as the bases were loaded with Ellsbury and Hicks’ walks. After 1 out, Didi Gregorius hit a solid double into the corner of right field that scored 2 runs to give the Yankees the lead their strong bullpen wasn’t about to surrender.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees

Aroldis Chapman was unavailable to pitch today due to some tightness he felt in his hamstring during yesterday’s game. He’s hoping to avoid the disabled list, and the Yankees still consider him their primary closer. But with the likes of Betances and Robertson (who closed out the game tonight), the Yankees are not hurting for back-end of their bullpen.

In fact, their bullpen might be one of the strongest points of this season. Even when other parts weren’t clicking (like starting pitching or a lagging offense), the bullpen was able to often save the game from getting out of hand. I would even wager to say that the bullpen may be the primary reason the Yankees are still in contention for the postseason. Of course, it’s one of the few parts of the team that rarely gets a lot of attention, but those relievers are something else to watch, a crucial part of the team’s success story.

It’s so easy to overlook the players who don’t make the big splashy plays. Isn’t it like life though? It’s the little things, the under-the-radar moments, the ones that won’t make the headlines that matter the most. The so-called “small stuff” matters because it’s in that “small stuff” that we find consistency of character, the foundation for how to handle life’s “big stuff”, the moments that catch all the glory (or shame, as the case may be).

And in a team like the Yankees, we see things like persistence and perseverance and possibilities in the small stuff — the consistency of the middle relievers like Warren or Green, the strong but quiet defense of guys like Torreyes or Romine, or the flexibility and rally of Headley. So it’s no wonder the same stuff is then reflect in the big stuff — like a Judge or Sanchez homer, Gardner’s highlight reel outfield plays, or Chapman’s 103mph fastball.

Go Yankees!

Game 117: NYM vs. NYY — #SubwaySeries starts strong

Rivalry week continues as the Yankees and Mets play their now annual 4-game split between the Bronx and Queens. We began tonight in the Bronx with a strong showing by the Yankees.

Recently recalled Luis Cessa got the start tonight and threw a pretty good outing. He threw just 66 pitches into the 5th inning, giving up 5 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and striking out 5 Mets’ batters. Those two runs came as solo home runs in the 3rd inning. And that would be it for the Mets tonight. However, Cessa had some physical issues that caused him to be pulled from the game early.

Fortunately, the bullpen was strong and ready to go. Chad Green closed out the 5th solidly and remained dominant through the 6th and 7th innings. David Robertson continued that momentum in the 8th, getting all 3 outs with stellar strikeouts. And Dellin Betances’ 9th inning closed out the game well and earned the save tonight.

The Yankees faced a bit of resistance from the Mets’ starter for much of his 6 innings. So they played a little small ball in the 4th. They loaded up the bases with a single and 2 walks and lead runner Hicks scored on Gary Sanchez’s sacrifice fly to get the Yankees on the board. And then Aaron Judge led-off the 6th with a big solo home run into the right field seats, his 36th of the season, to tie up the game.

Once the Yankees dipped into the Mets’ bullpen, they found another opening in the 8th. Aaron Hicks led-off with a solo home run to score the winning run. After 2 outs and 2 pitching changes, Gary Sanchez joined in on the fun with a solo home run of his own for that insurance run.

Final score: 4-2 Yankees

Roster moves/Scranton Shuttle: before the game, the Yankees optioned reliever Caleb Smith back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and recalled tonight’s starter Luis Cessa.

Injury news: Luis Cessa felt a weird tightening in the 5th inning, coming up from a pitch with a new twinge in his back. He is scheduled to have a precautionary MRI tomorrow on his right rhomboid muscle (the upper back area). However, it doesn’t seem to be so serious, so after some rest and treatment, he could be ready for his next scheduled start on Saturday in Fenway.

Now, this wasn’t a bad way to start the “Subway Series”. The Yankees will wrap up the first half tomorrow night before the teams shift over for the final 2 games to CitiField in Queens, about 10 miles east of Yankee Stadium (or about an hour train ride or 30 minute Uber).

Before the game, journalist and 2017 Hall of Fame award winner Claire Smith was honored and threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Smith was the first female MLB beat writer covering the Yankees from 1983 to 1987 for a Connecticut paper. She later worked for major papers like The New York Times and is currently a news editor for ESPN. She was recently the 2017 winner of the JG Taylor Spink Award, an award given at the Hall of Fame ceremony every year to celebrate “meritorious contributions to baseball writing”. She is the first woman and fourth African-American to win the award and has her own section in Cooperstown.

From one female writer to another, my sincerest congratulations!

Go Yankees!

Game 116: BOS vs. NYY — Blown save & extra inning disappointment

It’s funny, actually. Going into the later innings, despite the game being tied, all the “people that know” were giving the Yankees a 60-70% chance of winning the game. And then everything went so terribly wrong.

Jordan Montgomery certainly showed no ill effects from his foul ball connection yesterday, having a pretty good outing in tonight’s finale against the visiting Red Sox. He threw 84 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 2 hits, 3 walks, and a single run, and struck out 4 Boston batters. Montgomery held the Red Sox off until the 5th inning, when a 1-out walk moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on an RBI single.

Robertson came in to close out the 6th for Montgomery and sailed his way through the 7th, keeping the Red Sox to that lone run. Betances followed that up with a flawless 12-pitch 8th inning.

Like I said before, the Yankees had tied up the game, right in the bottom of the 5th. Headley hit a 1-out single and then easily scored on Austin Romine’s powerful triple. Up against the Red Sox’s ace pitcher, the Yankees always have a bit of trouble (as does every other team, if we’re being honest) trying to do much of anything. The Yankees racked up his pitch count, but he countered by getting the Yankee batters to strike out 12 times in just 7 innings.

So when the Red Sox’s ace starter finally left the game in the 7th, the Yankees saw their opportunity to make up for lost time. With 1 out in the 8th, the Yankees loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a single. Todd Frazier’s long sacrifice fly scored lead-runner Hicks to break the tie (and those winning odds skyrocketed, by the way). But with a new reliever on the mound, the next batter struck out in just 3 pitches.

And it was on to Aroldis Chapman for just 3 outs to hand the Yankees the win. He struck out the first batter in just 3 pitches (and 101+ mph fastballs that just stunned the veteran powerhitter). But the next batter, a young rookie on the roster, promptly sent a fastball into the visitor’s bullpen out in left-center field to tie up the game.

And the Yankees tried to make something happen in the bottom of the 9th to walk-off a win — a lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt and then to 3rd on a ground out, but the Yankees left him stranded there. Chapman continued into the 10th inning, getting a lead-off strikeout, but then hitting a batter and walking the next.

Tommy Kahnle walked the next batter to load up the bases, and then gave up a single so the Red Sox could score the winning run before Kahnle pitched through the next 2 batters with the bases loaded. Once again, all the Yankees needed was to catch up and retake the lead in the bottom of the inning. But oddly, the Red Sox closer (who normally struggles against the Yankees this season) was on point and breezed through the necessary 3 outs to advance the Red Sox’s lead in the AL East.

Final score: 3-2 Red Sox, in 10 innings, Red Sox win series 2-1.

Scranton Shuttle: the Yankees optioned reliever Giovanni Gallegos back to AAA Scranton and recalled reliever Caleb Smith for a fresh arm in the bullpen.

Yes, the Yankees are now 5 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East. We are solidly in the Wild Card race, leading the Angels by 1 1/2 games. But we are winding down the series and there are just 46 games left in the Yankees’ season. Even so, there’s still time for many things to happen, especially as the Yankees will face the Red Sox again next month.

And in more fun news: today marked the anniversary of Aaron Judge’s debut as a Yankee. Yes, exactly one year ago today, #99 began his legacy in the Bronx. A legacy that certainly kind of faltered a bit by the end of last season, but then became something to talk about beginning in Spring Training of this year. He’s had similar struggles as last season in this post All-Star break, but there’s no reason to think he’s stuck there permanently.

Because it’s Judge — the kid who won the Home Run Derby and hit home run balls well over 500 feet, who hasn’t faltered in the outfield at all and is known for his quick and strong arm, who still (despite his struggles this year) is still very much in contention for rookie of the year (and deserves it in my opinion), and who really could be the first retired #99 in Monument Park and Cooperstown in like 25 years.

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 104: DET vs. NYY — Yankees remain strong, last-minute trade grab

Today was the final day of the big MLB trade deadline, and even the Yankees benefited from some last-minute trade deals. But at the expense of some pretty great prospects. More after the game recap, as they still had to play a game in the Bronx.

The Yankees continued their home stand with this 3-game midweek series against the visiting Tigers. The Yankees are hoping to keep their winning momentum going with this new series, so it was only natural to look to Luis Severino to start tonight’s game. Severino threw 116 pitches in just 5 innings, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and a run, and still struck out 8 Detroit batters.

The still hashtag-less Severino had his toughest inning was the 4th. With 2 outs, he struggled to get that final out, giving up a single that scored on an RBI double. The Yankees’ defense also earned their 2 fielding errors that inning, though it ultimately didn’t affect the score. It just helped push up his pitch count, which was really the roughest part of his outing.

Tommy Kahnle came on in relief for the 6th inning and had a bit of his own struggles. His lead-off batter was hit by a pitch, moved to 2nd on a single, and then scored on a 2-out single to double the Tigers’ score.

Betances had better luck in the 7th, keeping the Tigers from adding to their score, and Jonathan Holder kept things smooth in the 8th. Holder’s 9th inning, however, wasn’t so smooth. With just 1 out on the board, Holder loaded up the bases with consecutive singles and a hit-by-pitch, before handing over the ball to Aroldis Chapman. A fielder’s choice (or rather a late effort at a double play) scored just one more run for the Tigers before a 3-pitch strikeout ended the Tigers’ last-minute rally.

Meanwhile, the Yankees took their opportunities when they found them. In the 4th, they loaded up the bases with a walk, a fielding error, and a walk. Chase Headley’s double scored 2 runs, and then Todd Frazier’s single scored 2 more. All before the Yankees got a single out that inning, and suddenly the Yankees leapt ahead of the Tigers.

Aaron Judge added an extra cushion to the lead with a 1-out solo home run in the 5th into the left field seats. In the 7th, lead-off batter Ellsbury was hit by a pitch, stole 2nd, and then scored on Clint Frazier’s giant triple. After Judge worked a walk, the Tigers pulled their starter and went to their bullpen. Gary Sanchez’s sacrifice fly scored Frazier for the final Yankees’ run of the night.

Final score: 7-3 Yankees.

Scranton Shuttle: before the game, for fresh arms in the bullpen, the Yankees optioned pitcher Luis Cessa to AAA Scranton and recalled Jonathan Holder, who ended up in tonight’s game.

Okay, the big trade of the day has the Yankees picking up a new pitcher for the starting rotation — Sonny Gray, a 27-year-old starter from the Athletics. In trade, the Yankees sent 3 of their prospects — outfielder Dustin Fowler, infielder Jorge Mateo, and pitcher James Kaprielian. Yes, Fowler and Kaprielian are on the DL recovering from surgeries, which should tell you how valuable both teams think of these players.

Sonny Gray was a first round draft pick in 2011 for the Athletics, after pitching at Vanderbilt. Gray came up in the A’s organization, making his MLB debut in 2013 and the 2015 All-Star team. He’s had a bit of a rough season last year on and off the DL, and another small one early this season. But he’s got the history of consistency and the youth that the Yankees really need for some potential long-term players.

The Yankees also picked up extra money for the international draft market (also called “Future Considerations”) on this trade. They picked up even more when they sent pitching prospect Yefry Ramirez to the Orioles. This is good for the Yankees as they continue to expand internationally and pick up more players in a broader market.

Go Yankees!

Game 101: TB vs. NYY — Bronx Bombers back #TanakaTime

Basically, tonight’s game was everything you’d want a game to be if you’re a Yankee fan. Except it was super short. Clocking in at 2 hours and 23 minutes, it’s easily one of the shorter games of the season, and it’s really easy to place the blame on the Yankees for this. They came in ready to continue this winning momentum, and then they did just that.

And most of the reason for the ease of this game was that starter Masahiro Tanaka was just a beast tonight, getting the visiting Rays batters to strike out a whopping 14 times. He even held them to a no-hitter until a 6th inning 2-out single snuck by Gregorius. But then Tanaka got back in the game with a strikeout. Tanaka gave up just one more hit, a 2-out solo shot to allow the Rays their lone run of the game.

So after 8 innings and 109 pitches, Tanaka Time was done. The game was turned over to David Robertson, who breezed his way through the 9th inning in just 6 pitches. Boy, it’s good to have him back on our side of the game.

The Yankees were able to support Tanaka’s outstanding pitching effort with enough run support on the backs of home runs by their outfielders. In the 1st, Brett Gardner liked that 3rd pitch of the at-bat again to lead off the inning with a big solo home run into the Yankees’ bullpen. Aaron Judge followed suit with a 1-out solo shot, his 33rd home run of the season.

Then in the 5th, Todd Frazier worked a 1-out walk, and Gardner worked a 2-out walk. This set up Clint Frazier to hit a no-doubter 3-run home run deep into the left field seats, above the visitor’s bullpen.

After a couple of innings against a former teammate, the Yankees decided to change things up and play some small ball in the 8th. Gardner was hit on the back shoulder by a pitch (he’s fine) and, after a strikeout, moved to 2nd on a ground out. The Rays’ reliever intentionally walked Sanchez, so a wild pitch moved both Gardner and Sanchez into scoring position. Didi Gregorius then singled to score Gardner easily, but then Sanchez tried to score too and got caught out at home to end the inning.

But the Yankees already had a hefty lead, so it was all good at the end.

Final score: 6-1 Yankees

So, I left out a small part of the “Gardy Party” celebration last night because I wanted to see how the story played out. And honestly, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. Gardner, as you know, hit the game-winning home run in the 11th inning last night, and as he came into home where the team was waiting to celebrate, he tossed his helmet off. Well, Judge saw the stray helmet and thought someone might trip over it, so he picked it up. In the process of celebrating, the helmet bounced off someone else and bounced into Judge’s face, chipping his front left tooth.

No worries for Judge and his thousand-watt smile. A dentist fixed it this morning, and Judge clearly was in tonight’s game and continued to make an impact like nothing happened. After last night’s game, the reporters asked guys in the clubhouse who broke the tooth, and there was a bit of back and forth blaming each other in good fun — fingers pointing to Clint Frazier and Austin Romine. But really, it was a chipped tooth. Very fixable.

And I didn’t think it was that big of a deal last night, but my Twitter feed (when not filled with political drama) was filled with dental jokes, comments, and pictures of Yankees security searching the field for the piece of the tooth (which they never found). Maybe I wasn’t as concerned because I’ve chipped teeth before. They’re fixable. It’s not fun to get done, but it’s no big deal. I don’t know.

But it’s a good filler for a short game tonight.

Tooth drama is over. Judge is good. (Despite the naysayers on message boards that still think he and Sanchez are battling the “Home Run Derby Curse”.) The Yankees are on a roll, and we’re all on board to chase the October baseball dreams.

Go Yankees!

Game 96: NYY vs. SEA — 3rd & 10th inning woes

Before a sell-out crowd in Seattle, the Yankees were looking for a third win in a row, but the Mariners weren’t about to be swayed by their bad record recently and certainly gave the Yankees a rather hard time in the process. Well, actually, save one inning early in the game, it was a Yankee-dominated game in most respects.

Masahiro Tanaka started tonight’s game and outside of that one aforementioned inning, he had a pretty great outing. Outside of that inning, he gave up just 2 hits in 5 innings, throwing just 58 pitches. But in the 3rd, he threw 39 pitches and gave up 5 hits and 4 runs.

A lead-off home run got the Mariners on the board, followed by another solo home run just an out later. Tanaka got another out, but then struggled to find that third out. A single and hit-by-pitch put a threat on base before the Mariners came in and got consecutive singles to score consecutive runs to double their score.

Other than that, Tanaka powered through and kept the Mariners at bay (sea-faring metaphoric pun intended). Green plowed through the 7th and kept the score as-is, but David Robertson’s 1st pitch in the 8th inning became a solo home run into the left field seats to add to the Mariners’ score. But then Robertson breezed through the next 3 batters, followed up by Kahnle in the 9th doing the same in 3 strikeouts.

Meanwhile, the Yankees did dominate quite a bit of the game. They even struck first in the 2nd. Gary Sanchez led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on Gregorius’ single, and then scored on a double play. In the 5th, Garrett hit a big 1-out triple and then scored on Ronald Torreyes’ sacrifice fly.

With 1 out and a new pitcher in the 6th, Aaron Judge hit his 32nd home run of the season into the right field seats. In the 8th, with 1 out, the Yankees loaded up the bases (including an intentional walk to Judge), but the only thing the Yankees could make happen in this scenario was a Matt Holliday sacrifice fly. In the 9th, Gregorious led-off with a walk and, 2 outs later, was pinch-run by Ellsbury. Ellsbury promptly stole 2nd and then scored on Torreyes’ single to tie up the game.

And into the 10th they went. The Yankees were shut down in order at the top of the inning, turning to Adam Warren to push things into the 11th. But Warren immediately struggled. Warren gave up a lead-off double and then intentionally walked the next batter. A single then scored the winning walk-off run to hand the victory to the Mariners.

Final score: 6-5 Mariners, in 10 innings

Roster moves: before the game, the Yankees announced that Starlin Castro would be headed to the 10-day disabled list due to a lingering hamstring issue, suffered initially in Minnesota on Wednesday. In his place, they recalled Tyler Wade.

The Yankees have one more game tomorrow in Seattle, their last game on the West Coast this season (at least during the regular season). Fingers crossed for a game win which means the first series win since early June.

Go Yankees!