Game 70: LAA vs. NYY — So maybe… and not so much…

Things were looking so good. And then they weren’t. Perhaps it was indicative of how the recent week has been. Or perhaps it’s the end of whatever bad luck lingers from the West Coast trip, brought to New York by the West Coast-based Angels as they finished up this mid-week series.

Luis Severino had a rare mixed bag for tonight’s start. He threw 99 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up 8 hits, 2 walks, and 6 runs (only 5 earned), and struck out just 5 batters. His 2nd pitch found its way into the left field seats to put the Angels on the board early in this game. And in the 3rd, with 2 outs and runners on the corners, consecutive singles scored 2 more runners.

Then Severino buckled down and threw a few more typical innings for him. Until the 6th inning, a lead-off double scored on a single. A single and error in the 7th put runners on the corners, but Severino’s night was done. But he was still responsible for both runners (except not really, because of the error).

Chasen Shreve took over for Severino and got a sacrifice fly who scored the first runner in just 3 pitches. Dellin Betances took over next, but had his own share of issues. The runner at 1st stole 2nd and ended up at 3rd on a throwing error before scoring on a single. Then after a walk, Betances got a nice strikeout, but then a double scored 2 more runs to push the Angels even more in the lead.

Domingo German came on for the final 2 innings. With 1 out in the 8th, he gave up a double, a wild pitch, and a walk. But then German’s pick-off error scored the lead runner moving the other runner all the way to 3rd where he scored on a sacrifice fly to cap off the Angels’ big run-scoring evening.

And despite all that, the Yankees actually started the game really well. In the bottom of the 1st, with 2 outs and 2 runners on base with walk, Starlin Castro’s single scored Judge to tie up the game. In the 2nd, with 1 out, Carter doubled and moved to 3rd on Torreyes’ single. A fielder’s choice (these are almost always failed double plays) on Brett Gardner’s hit scored Carter. Then with Hicks also on base with a single, Aaron Judge was set up for a monster 3-run home run, his 25th of the season, just straight up to Monument Park.

But with the Yankees unable to find their offensive footing beyond this early rally, and their pitchers suffering with a weird inability to be able to keep the Angels from retaking the lead and then taking over the game, it was just not going to be a better outcome tonight for the Yankees. That late-inning rally never did materialize tonight.

Final score: 10-5 Angels, Angels win series 2-1

The Yankees will face the Rangers for a weekend series starting tomorrow night. But this will also include many celebrations leading up to the Old Timers’ Game on Sunday. Again, it’s time to get back on the winning track, and maybe the presence of winning legends from championship teams will rub off and help the current team out a bit.

Go Yankees!

Game 68: LAA vs. NYY — Skidding out of 1st place

Well, coming home didn’t help the Yankees’ West Coast skid, now on a 7-game losing streak. Maybe it’s because they technically brought the West Coast with them starting this mid-week series against the Angels. This also means that the Yankees have slipped out of 1st place in the AL East to the (ugh!) Red Sox.

And here’s how that happened tonight…

Michael Pineda actually had a pretty decent outing tonight, after a bit of a messy start. He threw 105 pitches into the 6th inning, giving up 7 hits, a walk, and 3 runs (only 1 earned), and striking out 7 Angels’ batters. In the 1st, a lead-off double scored on an RBI single to get the Angels on the board (the only earned run allowed by Pineda). The lead-off batter in the 2nd reached on a fielding error, ending up at 2nd as a result, and then scored on a 1-out double. That batter then scored on a 2-out single to give the Angels an easy early (and mostly unearned) lead.

Meanwhile, the Yankees took advantage of the Angels starter, who only gave up 2 hits, but also 5 walks in his 5 innings. In the 4th, Castro led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Sanchez’s walk, to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on Chase Headley’s sacrifice fly. Aaron Judge hit a 2-out solo home run, his 24th homer of the season, in the 5th. Then facing a new pitcher, Gary Sanchez hit a 1-out solo home run into the right field seats to tie up the game.

And things were looking good for the Yankees. Pineda finished his outing strong, handing the final out of the 6th to Chasen Shreve who used just 5 pitches to get that final strikeout. But Tyler Clippard just struggled out of the gate in the 7th inning, giving up a lead-off solo home run, a double, a fly out (yay!), and an RBI triple. And that was it for Clippard.

Jonathan Holder came on to stem the tide, but still had his own issues. An RBI single scored one more run, charged to Clippard. In the 8th, a lead-off ground-rule double moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt, and then scored on a single. And to cap off the game for the Angels, a player hit a 2-out solo homer up the middle.

And the Yankees’ offense against the Angels’ bullpen? Holliday’s double in the 8th. And that’s it. The Angels’ bullpen was showing their strength tonight in the Bronx, and the Yankees, well, weren’t.

Final scores: 8-3 Angels

Prospect watch: Yankees’ #2 prospect Gleyber Torres was pulled from a game on Saturday due to some soreness in his left elbow after an awkward slide. After some tests, it was revealed that Torres hyper-extended his elbow on that slide, tearing his ulnar collateral ligament (or UCL), which requires the surgery named for famed pitcher Tommy John to repair it. Because Torres is not a pitcher, nor is the injury in his actual throwing arm, the return to baseball activities is less than standard for the injury and surgery option. Torres will miss the rest of this year, and there is no set date for the surgery as of yet. Speedy recovery, kid.

And just a quick heads up: 20 of the 40 players drafted last week in the MLB draft have signed with the Yankees, but a few more (including the top 2 picks) are expected to exercise their option and sign on as well. Players can opt out of the selection and choose a different path for this next year, putting themselves up for the draft next year or doing something else entirely. But over 50% signed to be Yankees? And in the middle of this losing streak? Yeah, I’ll take it as a sign for good things to come for the organization.

Now, if only that can make that happen on the field… like this week… like tomorrow…

Go Yankees!

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!

Game 66: NYY vs. OAK — A long stroll through Oaktown

I don’t know about you, but I am so ready for it to be next week already. The Yankees will be back in New York, next Sunday is Old Timers’ Day, and maybe the world will be right again. But right now, they have one more game in Oaktown (today’s nickname choice for Oakland, courtesy of Urban Dictionary), where the Athletics are looking to sweep the Yankees and the Yankees just want a win at the O.Co.

Masahiro Tanaka had another ironically long, messy outing — 82 pitches in just 4 innings, giving up 8 hits, a walk, and 5 runs, but also striking out an impressive 10 batters. (That means that of the 12 outs he had to make, 10 of them were by strikeouts, or a nice sign that Tanaka may be back in this case.)

On the 1st pitch in the bottom of the 1st, Tanaka gave up a solo home run (his 4th lead-off homer allowed this season). In the 2nd, he gave up another homer, a 1-out shot to the left field seats. Then despite loading up the bases, he got out of the inning with one of those pesky strikeouts.

But the hardest inning was the 4th. A lead-off home run put the A’s in the lead. And then a single ended up at 3rd on a 2-out single and scored on another single. Another single scored a final run for the A’s. That would be it for Tanaka, as well as for the Athletics’ run-scoring.

Reliever Domingo German threw 79 pitches through the final 4 innings, giving up 4 hits and 3 walks, but keeping those A’s from adding to their score.

Meanwhile, the Yankees had plenty of opportunity to do something, getting the starter to throw 105 pitches in just 5 innings, but they didn’t capitalize on that except for one inning. In the 2nd, Torreyes hit a 1-out single, moved to 3rd on Williams’ single, and then scored on Austin Romine’s single. Williams then scored on Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly. And that would be it for the Yankees offense this afternoon.

Once the Oakland starter left the game, the Yankees were limited to 2 allowed hits and that was it for their offense.

Final score: 5-2 Athletics

About 75 miles east of the Oakland Coliseum is a tiny suburb of Stockton, California, known as Linden. A favorite son of Linden happens to now be one of the hottest rookies in MLB, and he happens to be the home run leader and in the running for his first All-Star Game and possible MVP and Triple Crown awards this season. Oh, and his name is Aaron Judge.

Apparently, Judge’s friends and family have been requesting tickets to games all weekend, but today saw the largest contingent of homegrown Judge fans, about 150 people, including the congregation of Judge’s home church. They even took a couple of buses to the game to make sure everyone got the chance to see their hometown hero.

Unfortunately, Judge’s only on-base moment was a walk in the 1st inning, but I doubt they minded so much. Plus, one lucky fan from his hometown even caught a foul ball out there in their right field seats. Judge even reconnected with his high school baseball and football coach before the game. But so much of this series for Judge was like coming home, even so much as all of “home” that came to him.

Go Yankees!

Game 65: NYY vs. OAK — A bumpy ride in “Bump City”

Oakland was dubbed “Bump City” after author John Krich’s 1979 book Bump City: Winners and Losers in Oakland about the history of the city, known mainly for its pictures by Dorothea Lange from the collection of the Oakland Museum. But no one from Oakland really knows that and are not a huge fan of said nickname. But it fits my purposes, especially with the way this road trip is going.

Luis Severino had a pretty good outing except a single inning. And thanks to that, he threw 109 pitches in just 6 innings, overall giving up 4 hits, 4 walks, and 4 runs, striking out 6 Oakland batters.

In the 2nd, Severino faced all 9 batters in the Oakland lineup as he struggled his way through the inning. He gave up consecutive walks before getting a strikeout, and then a double scored the first A’s run. A ground out scored another run, but initially the runner was called safe at 1st. The Yankees challenged, and it was overturned for the 2nd out of the inning. And it was back to the game for a single to score yet another run. Another single moved runners to the corners, and another single scored the 4th run of the inning.

So, the Yankees had a bit of catching up to do. In the 3rd, with 2 outs and runners on the corners, Aaron Judge hit his 23rd home run of the season, a 3-run shot to the right field seats to put the Yankees a whole lot closer to the A’s lead.

And in the 5th, Torreyes hit a 1-out double and then scored on Mason Williams’ single to tie up the game. Williams ended up at 2nd on the throw, but Oakland challenged him being safe at 2nd. The call was upheld after a rather long review. Despite the Yankees loading up the bases with a couple of walks, they weren’t able capitalize on it then and break the tie.

Until Chris Carter led-off the 6th with a solo home run, that is, straight up the middle of the O.Co (Oakland Coliseum). And in the 7th, Judge hit a 1-out triple and then scored on Starlin Castro’s single for an insurance run.

So, with a 2-run lead, Chasen Shreve took over for Severino. Shreve had his own issues. With 1 out, he gave up a walk and a single to put runners on the corners, and a sacrifice fly scored the lead runner to put the Athletics within 1 run. Jonathan Holder had a worse time in the 8th, loading up the bases with a walk, a ground-rule double, and an intentional walk before a single scored both the tying and winning runs for the A’s. The final play was a double play, but was originally just a fielder’s choice until the Yankees continued their streak of challenge-and-overturn in their favor.

Final score: 7-6 Athletics

Injury news: (and boy, is it a doozy lately!)
The Yankees officially placed CC Sabathia on 10-day DL, retroactive to June 14, due to his strained left hamstring. Adam Warren is also now on the 10-day DL with right shoulder inflammation. On day-to-day are Aaron Hicks (with achilles tendon soreness) and Gary Sanchez (with groin tightness).

And in roster maneuvers:
The Yankees reassigned Aroldis Chapman to AA Trenton to continue his rehab assignment. He is hoping to be activated and rejoin the team in Oakland by Sunday’s game. (Fingers crossed!) The Yankees also optioned pitchers Ronald Herrera to AA Trenton and Gallegos to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, recalling relievers Domingo German and Luis Cessa from AAA Scranton. They also recalled Mason Williams and Kyle Higashioka from AAA Scranton to fill in for Hicks and Sanchez, respectively. (I hope they got a group rate on the Scranton to Oakland flight!)

Two more games in Oakland this weekend (and they’re not late-night games for us East Coasters!), and the Yankees are looking to right the ship again. For a bit there tonight, it looked like the Yankees would pull through and win it once again. But that West Coast drain kicked in and just flipped the story on them. Time to take control of that story and change the narrative.

Go Yankees!

Game 61: NYY vs. LAA — Back to #TanakaTime helps make it 6 in a row

An extra day’s rest seemed to be exactly what tonight’s starter Masahiro Tanaka needed to get back into form. Not that it was the greatest outing, but it was certainly more “Tanaka-esque” compared to his more recent outings. Not quite back to the Tanaka who dominated Spring Training, but more on par with a regular season kind of Tanaka.

In this first game of the series in Anaheim against the Angels, Tanaka threw 89 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up just 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs (though only 1 was earned), and struck out an impressive 8 batters. Actually, he was quite dominant tonight. He gave up a 1-out solo home run in the 1st inning but then held the Angels off for most of his outing. In his final inning, the 7th, with 1 out, a batter reached on a fielding error, stole 2nd, and then scored on an RBI single.

The Yankees then handed the ball off to Tyler Clippard to finish the 7th inning. Clippard gave up an RBI double that technically blew Tanaka’s win, but then buckled down and got that 3rd out and then the first 2 of the 8th inning. Dellin Betances came out for a 4-out save, breezing through them in just 18 pitches, including 3 strong strikeouts.

Meanwhile, the Yankees had to catch up to the Angels early small lead, get out in front, and then overtake them again to win this game. The Yankees hit into the Angels’ starter pretty hard, pushing him to 93 pitches and exiting the game in just the 5th inning.

First, in the 3rd, with 2 outs, Holliday and Castro each worked a walk, and Didi Gregorius’ single scored Holliday to initially tie up the game. Then in the 5th, Judge worked a 1-out walk, and Castro hit a 2-out single. Gregorius’ single then scored Judge to break the tie.

Deep into the bullpen already, the Angels sent in a new reliever for the 7th inning. Judge led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on a ground out, watched the reliever intentionally walk Gregorius with 2 outs, and then scored on Chase Headley’s single. Despite a walk to Carter loading the bases, the Yankees couldn’t capitalize at that moment to gain any further ground.

After the Angels tied up the game in the bottom of the 7th, the Yankees immediately came back in the 8th to retake the lead. Aaron Hicks hit a nice 1-out double and waited for another pitching change. And then Aaron Judge promptly hit his 22nd home run of the season, a 2-run shot to the right field seats to give the Yankees the ultimate win, setting Betances up for the save.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees

It’s worth noting that Didi Gregorius was on fire tonight, going 4-for-4, with a walk and 2 RBIs. He’s now batting .344 for the season. He’s still 2nd on the team for batting average (Judge, of course, is 1st with .347), but it’s worth noting of the 9 players who started tonight’s game 4 have batting averages above .300 (Judge, Gregorius, Castro, and Hicks), while of the regular roster, there’s 9 players who have averages above .260 (the four above plus Ellsbury, Torreyes, Holliday, Sanchez, and Gardner).

And today was the first day of the MLB Draft: the Yankees first pick (and 16th overall) was right-handed pitcher Clark Schmidt, a junior at the University of South Carolina (and former fellow classmate and teammate of current starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery). Schmidt is actually still on recovery from Tommy John surgery this April. So despite being a first-round draft pick, he won’t be able to resume baseball activities for another year, meaning he will probably still finish his education while he recovers.

For the Yankees other pick of the day, the second round and 54th pick overall, they selected Matt Sauer, another right-handed pitcher, who graduates from a California high school this year. Oddly, because of Schmidt’s current status on the unofficially disabled list, Sauer was actually rated much higher on the Draft prospect list than Schmidt. But the funniest thing about the draft is that you just never know who’s going to be the next hall-of-famer and who might have more success as a high school baseball coach.

There’s two more days and 38 more rounds of the draft tomorrow and Wednesday, and you never know who might they might pick up  along the way.

Go Yankees!

Game 60: BAL vs. NYY — Judge-ment Day

The Yankees went into this afternoon’s game looking to end this homestand on an upwards swing before heading for their first West Coast trip of the season. And they certainly succeeded.

Chad Green was called up yesterday for the start in today’s finale against the Orioles, but he had a mixed bag. It started off pretty well, but he ended on a bit of a sour note. He threw 53 pitches into the 3rd inning, giving up 2 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, striking out just 3 batters. In the 3rd, the lead-off batter doubled and then scored on the next batter’s double. That would be it for Chasen Shreve, but he too struggled to find the footing (and that runner was Green’s responsibility.

Shreve promptly gave up a double that scored Green’s remaining runner, and then he gave up yet another double (the 4th consecutive one of the inning) to score Shreve’s first runner before getting those pesky 3 outs of the inning. Jonathan Holder was able to hold off the Orioles from adding to their score for the 4th and into the 5th inning, something Adam Warren picked up in the 5th and ran with into the 7th inning.

Recent call-up Domingo German came on for a long-term close finishing up the final third of the game, sailing through right up until that final inning. He just had to make a dramatic flourish right there in the end. But he was also able to hold off the Orioles.

Meanwhile, while the bullpen got quite the workout, the Yankees offense did what they love to do — hit big and hit a lot. In the 1st, the Yankees loaded up the bases with 2 singles, a walk, and an out. Starlin Castro’s single scored Gardner and Judge to kick things off for the Yankees’ runs today. Of course, Gary Sanchez promptly opened things wide open with a big 3-run home run.

Despite that big 1st inning, the O’s starter was able to tamp down on the Yankees’ offense. That is until the 4th inning. With 1 out, Hicks walked and ended up at 3rd on Judge’s double. They both scored on Matt Holliday’s single. And that would be it for the Orioles’ starter, who didn’t make it out of that 4th inning.

And the true weakness of the Orioles was certainly exposed this weekend, as the bullpen continued to get hammered by the Yankees’ offense. In the 6th, Aaron Judge hit the biggest home run of the season, 495 feet over the left field bleachers (into the wheelchair row behind the bleachers on the concourse out there). After Holliday reached on a fielding error, Starlin Castro got in on the fun and hit a nice 2-run home run.

In the 7th, with 1 out, Torreyes and Gardner both walked and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ double. Then Judge hit a 2-run home run into the right field seats, his 2nd of the game and 21st of the season to cap off the game.

Final score: 14-3 Yankees, Yankees sweep Orioles 3-0

After Judge’s first home run in the 6th, it was basically all anyone could talk about. Judge had a really perfect day actually, going 4-for-4, with 4 runs scored, hitting in 3 RBIs. And of course, there were those 2 home runs. That 495 foot homer is the longest hit home run this season, and tied for 2nd longest in the “Statcast Era”, just 6 feet short of the longest homer hit by a certain Miami slugger.

But overall, not a bad way to hop a plane to California… on a 5-game big winning streak.

It’s that time of year again. The MLB draft begins tomorrow and will run through Wednesday. The Yankees have one draft pick per round this year — #16, #54, & #92. Then for rounds 4-40, they pick 17th in each round until the end. In addition to following the games against the Angels, I’ll be posting draft updates for the Yankees.

Recent Yankee draft picks have certainly found their way around the league, some still with the Yankees, others traded to other teams’ farm systems. But just because they’re not picked in the 1st round doesn’t mean they won’t do something amazing or make it in the majors. Gardner was selected in the 2005 3rd round, Refsnyder in the 2012 5th round, and Betances in the 2006 8th round. In fact, though Judge was selected in the 1st round, he was the 32nd pick. That’s right, 31 other players were selected in 2013 before the Yankees went with the current home run king and All-Star leader. (Though he wasn’t even the Yankees first pick!)

Go Yankees!