ALCS 3: HOU vs. NYY — #CCStrong, Judge-power, Home Sweet Home

If any of the games this postseason can be credited with a home field advantage, it would easily be tonight’s game. Yankee Universe knows there’s nothing like Yankee Stadium.

I took my diehard Indians’ fan uncle (and yes, he’s a little bitter after the ALDS) to see a Yankees game this year, his first in Yankee Stadium ever (it was also Old Timers’ Day, by the way). We entered the stadium from the main gate (Gate 6) and into the Grand Concourse, and I took him to view the field from the main level’s concourse. He got chills, literal goosebumps. I thought taking him to Old Timers Day would make up for not seeing the Indians play, which was true as he loved the legends and silliness of the pre-game game.

There is nothing like Yankee Stadium. We all have those stories about our first visits or a memorable visit or special moment in the stadium. The stadium basically is a collection of stories, both for the guys on the field and the fans in the stands.

Anyway, one of those veteran players got the start in this crucial game against the Astros. CC Sabathia came out strong and just powered his way through the game, boosted by a great defense (like Judge slamming into the right field wall or diving in the outfield to make a stellar catch) and some just powerful run-scoring. Sabathia threw 99 pitches through his 6 scoreless innings, gave up 3 hits and 4 walks, and struck out 5 Houston batters. Adam Warren followed him up with 2 more scoreless innings.

Okay, in the mean time, the Yankees racked up that run-support for their pitchers off the Astros’ starter. In the 2nd, with 2 outs, Castro and Hicks worked back-to-back singles. Next batter Todd Frazier had a kind of sloppy swing and promptly sent the ball into the right field seats for a 3-run home run to get the Yankees on the board.

The Yankees came back in the 4th to add to their lead, starting with Bird’s lead-off ground-rule double. After Frazier worked a walk, Bird then scored on Chase Headley’s single, and Sanchez was hit by a pitch to load up the bases. That was also it for the Houston starter’s night. The Astros had enough and dipped into their bullpen to stem the tide, though it certainly didn’t help at first. A wild pitch promptly scored Frazier from 3rd, moving all the runners up. The rest of them scored when Aaron Judge fired a long line drive into the left field seats for a 3-run home run to seal the Yankees’ victory.

So with that huge lead, the Yankees kept the Astros totally scoreless until the 9th inning. Dellin Betances had a bit of an off-night, walking his first 2 batters. So it was on to Tommy Kahnle to clean things up, but he promptly gave up a single to load up the bases before finally getting a much-needed strikeout. So a walk scored the Astros’ lone run before a double play ended the inning and the game.

Final score: 8-1 Yankees, Astros lead series 2-1

Now, that’s exactly what the Yankees needed to restart their momentum. The Yankees need 3 more wins this series and are hoping to continue the win streak with Sonny Gray’s start tomorrow afternoon. First pitch for the ALCS is 5:08 EST, with the NLCS first pitch in Chicago at 7:08 CST (8:08 EST).

And in other news (and I guess we’re starting news relating to “End of the Season”): MLB announced its nominees for the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award. (History of the award here including past 3-time winner Rivera.) Winner will be awarded at Game 4 of the World Series (October 28). Fans can add their voice via Twitter until October 26, but finalists are also voted on by a panel of former relievers including both Rivera and Hoffman, who will be on hand to present the winners of their namesake awards.

AL finalists are the Astros’ Ken Giles, the Red Sox’s Craig Kimbrel (who has won the NL award when he was with the Braves in 2014), and the Yankees own David Robertson. NL finalists are the Cubs’ Wade Davis, the Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen, and the Brewers’ Corey Knebel. It is worth noting that all but Knebel are making postseason appearances this season as well. The Yankees’ former closer (now with the Indians) Andrew Miller won the award in 2015; Miller was also nominated last year.

Go Yankees!

ALDS Game 1: BOS vs. HOU & NYY vs. CLE — Space City Shoots for the Moon, Mistake on the Lake K-zone theft & shutout

Neither team in the playoffs from the AL East is going to be easy tonight back in their respective hotel rooms. But both home teams are riding high on their show in front of their respective home town crowds. And we’ve really just gotten started with October baseball.

Game 1: Red Sox at Astros
Honestly, I really thought this game was going to be quite the pitching duel between the two ace starters, both recent acquisitions of both teams with the intentions of being right where they were tonight. But one thing that nobody counted on was the outstanding offense from the Astros, except maybe the electric crowd in Houston tonight.

Both starters did pitch into the 6th inning, but the Astros certainly had the edge on them in one area — 4 home runs tonight. Starting in the bottom of the 1st, with 1 out, 2 batters hit back-to-back home runs to get the home team on the board first.

The Red Sox answered back in the 2nd by working 2 walks to threaten. With 2 outs, the next batter singled and scored the Red Sox’s first run as the out was being made by tagging the runner at 3rd. Originally, the umpires ruled that the runner did not cross the plate before the out was made, so the Red Sox challenged the timing. It was overturned, the score counted and the inning was over. Boston got another chance to catch up to the Astros’ early lead in the 4th. A lead-off double moved to 3rd on a single and then scored on a sacrifice fly to tie up the game.

But that certainly didn’t last long. In the bottom of the 4th, the Astros answered back. With 1 out, a batter doubled, and then the next one singled. Well, originally, they thought it was a fly ball out on a diving catch, but Houston’s challenged proved that the outfielder caught it on a slight bounce and trapped it into his glove. Even as an outfielder, most of these plays are so close that you’re going to think you caught it on the fly. Replay proved it was trapped and not caught, so it was overturned for a single. With another out, a solid double scored both runners to give the Astros back their lead.

And they didn’t stop there, they added another run in the 5th with a 2-out solo shot (by one of the same guys from the 1st inning. And in the 6th, a double and walk ended the Boston ace’s night, and a reliever promptly loaded up the bases with a short single. Then a 1-out single scored 2 more runs. Then the same multi-home run hitter from before did it again with a lead-off solo homer in the 7th inning.

Final score: 8-2 Astros, Astros lead series 1-0

Game 2: Yankees at Indians
Before the game, one reporter commented that the home plate umpire has one of the most inconsistent strike zones in the league. Turns out he was very right. Almost all the called strikes, especially those who were called on a strike 3, were very much not strikes. This was notably harsh for the Yankees as it may not have changed the outcome of the game (yes, I do think the Indians would have won, but I’ll explain this in a moment), but it certainly changed the outcome of these at-bats. And being called out when one is clearly not was noticeably frustrating for even the calmer batters (like Headley and Judge).

Sonny Gray got the start and certainly struggled through his outing. He threw 73 pitches into the 4th inning, gave up 3 hits, 4 walks, and 3 runs, and struck out 2 Cleveland batters. In the 2nd, he loaded up the bases with a double, single, and hit-by-pitch before a double play scored the Indians’ first run. But he was able to stave them off again before the 4th inning really closed the night for him. A lead-off walk scored as part of a 2-run home run, and then with 1 out and 2 more runners on base with walks, the Yankees went to their bullpen.

Adam Warren, just coming off the DL recently, gave up single to load up the bases, but then immediately got out of trouble with a strikeout and fly out. In the 5th, Warren gave up a single and moved to 2nd on a wild pitch. One out later, the Yankee went back to their bullpen to pull out an unlikely long-term option — Jaime Garcia. A wild pitch from him moved the runner to 3rd, and that runner scored on a sacrifice fly.

But Garcia was a great option for the Yankees from the bullpen. He gave a strong 8 outs, even getting 3 strikeouts (which with a floating strike zone was a lot harder to do than you think). Dellin Betances then breezed his was through the 8th inning in just 11 pitches. Yankee Universe, this is good news. Betances was sharp again, after struggling for most these last few weeks, and even he felt like he was back to being Betances-like again.

Meanwhile, the Yankees’ offense was serious stifled by that strike zone issue. They only got 3 hits all night. Which is why they would have lost tonight’s game even with a more clear and consistent strike zone. They just weren’t hitting. And once the Indians got into their bullpen, they called on a certain former Yankee closer and the Indians’ ace closer for the final 7 outs of the game. The Indians’ pitchers are really good, but even they have to feel cheated by a bad strike zone. They didn’t need help.

Final score: 4-0 Indians, Indians lead series 1-0

Look, the Indians and Astros were easily the best teams in the AL this season, so it doesn’t surprise me that either of them will take early leads or even dominate in the postseason. It just leaves a sour taste when one can’t compete fairly. And it’s not a team’s fault, but rather the consideration once again about the necessity of a fallible home plate umpire in a technologically advanced age.

Even my mom (who, if you remember, grew up an Indians fan and is really torn this series) complained about the strike zone issues. All the more, if it fell in favor of the Yankees, I would have issues with it. Unfortunately, the Yankees weren’t really at the place tonight where that mattered.

Go Yankees!

Game 162: TOR vs. NYY — Hello, October baseball… Farewell, regular 2017 season…

As this game didn’t really count for much of anything, it certainly lightened the mood and intensity off this afternoon’s finale in the Bronx. Closing out the season against the Blue Jays, the Yankees rotated out their starting roster quickly to allow some of the other guys on the roster to get a chance to play in the game that doesn’t count. After a recent rather warm trend in the City, the weather finally caught up to the calendar today, as if turning the page to October meant it was suddenly hoodie and boot weather. Only fitting as the playoffs that lead to the Fall Classic begin in just 2 days.

Again, today’s game mattered for nearly nothing (much closer to a Spring Training type feel than an exhibition game) because regardless of the outcome all over the AL today, the Yankees will face the Twins on Tuesday in the Wild Card game, and the Blue Jays will be watching the postseason from their respective couches.

Jordan Montgomery got the start in today’s game, throwing 62 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up just 2 hits, a walk, and a run and struck out 3 Toronto batters. He held them off for most of the game until the 4th inning, giving up a 1-out walk and single to put runners in the corners before a sacrifice fly scored the lead runner to get the Blue Jays on the board.

Just reinstated off the DL today, Adam Warren took over for Montgomery in the 6th and breezed his way through the next 3 outs (and into the 7th inning) in just 13 pitches. Domingo German was up next, asked to get the next 5 outs. German had an issue in the 8th inning when the lead-off batter struck out on a wild pitch and made it safely to 1st (I still don’t get this weird loophole). He then moved to 2nd on a walk, then to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt, and then scored on a ground out. Ben Heller breezed through the 9th in just 14 pitches.

Meanwhile, the Yankees weren’t exactly sending balls out of the park today. With the Blue Jays leading in the 4th, the Yankees didn’t answer back until the 7th inning with Matt Holliday’s 1-out solo home run deep into the left field seats to tie up the game at that point. Bird then worked a walk and ended up at 3rd on Andujar’s double, but 2 ground outs later and their best shot at jumping ahead left both runners stranded on the bases.

They didn’t get another shot at tying the game or taking the lead. On the other hand, it was very strange way to lose a game for the Yankees. According to those who know such things, it was the first time they lost at home when they allowed 2 hits or fewer since August 1979.

Final score: 2-1 Blue Jays, Yankees win series 2-1

The Yankees end their 2017 season with 91 wins and 71 losses and will start their journey towards the #28 on Tuesday night in the Wild Card game against the Twins. The game will be held at Yankee Stadium as they ended the season 6 games ahead of the Twins.

Before today’s game, the Yankees presented Aaron Judge with a special award to commemorate his rookie home run record. They awarded him with a specially designed glass gavel. Judge, who did not play in today’s game, ended his rookie season with 52 home runs. He also joins Red Sox great Ted Williams (back in 1939) in the record books as only the second rookie to score at least 100 runs, hit at least 100 RBIs, and work at least 100 walks. But by now, we’re rather used to seeing Judge’s name tightly woven with baseball’s legends.

And in more positive news, the Yankees announced today that they will be expanding their netting at both Yankee Stadium and Steinbrenner Field in Tampa (where they play their home Spring Training games) for the upcoming 2018 season. Plans aren’t fully finalized, but the netting is said to be in place prior to any official home games to further protect fans from dangerous incidents like the one just a few weeks ago with the little girl.

Postseason prep: All the games are wrapping up for this season as I post this, and as everyone has a day off before October baseball really begins, I’ll do a much deeper post in preparation for the postseason. This will include my predictions on the onset, the only time during the year I will publicly make postseason predictions. I must be a glutton for punishment because I am always wrong. Because baseball really is rather unpredictable, especially in the postseason.

Go Yankees!

Game 149: BAL vs. NYY — A rather “Gray Sonday”

It actually started off this afternoon as a bit cloudy over the stadium. I mean, it progressively got sunnier and the late afternoon shadows started creeping across the field as they always do on sunny matinee game days. The Yankees were hoping for a sweep of the Orioles in today’s finale of their 4-game series, but it was not to be. As sunny as it was today, it wasn’t so much for the Sonny on the mound today.

Sonny Gray got the start, throwing 80 pitches in just 4 innings. He gave up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 5 runs, striking out just 4 Orioles’ batters. In the 2nd, Gray gave up a 1-out double that moved to 3rd on a ground out and later scored on an RBI single to get the O’s on the board early. A 1-out single in the 3rd scored on a 2-out double to double their score. And in the 4th, the Orioles worked a lead-off walk and a 2-out single that moved up to scoring position on a wild pitch and then promptly scored on a big 3-run home run.

With that rather substantial lead, the Yankees turned to their bullpen in the form of Bryan Mitchell for the 5th inning. He gave up consecutive singles that put runners in the corners. A fielder’s choice ended up scoring the lead runner to cap off the Orioles’ runs today. But then Mitchell found his groove and settled into a nice pattern through the next 2 innings. Betances and Kahnle closed out the final 2 innings with flawless pitching, just 10 and 11 pitches (respectively) in each inning.

So, all the Yankees had to do was make up for it. And they were facing the one starter in the league with the highest ERA. Who, apparently, decided to have a pretty good day, unfortunately for the Yankees. In his 5 innings, he only gave up 3 hits and a walk and a 2nd inning lead-off solo home run to Didi Gregorius. (And by the way, the lady who got Gregorius’ home run ball couldn’t be happier!)

The Yankees found a few opportunities to advance once the Orioles got into their bullpen. In the 6th, Sanchez worked a 1-out walk and moved to 2nd on Castro’s 2-out single. Both then scored on Matt Holliday’s double. And Judge led-off the 8th with a double, moved to 3rd when Gregorius reached safely thanks to a throwing error, and then scored on Starlin Castro’s sacrifice fly {No media link}. But the Yankees weren’t able to do much more than that. And it wasn’t enough.

Final score: 6-4 Orioles, Yankees win series 3-1.

Injury updates: there are a few Yankees who are stuck on the disabled list, but the Yankees. Adam Warren has been out since September 3 (officially) with back issues and is threw some long toss prior to yesterday’s game with no issues. Warren has been an effective part of the bullpen, usually solid for long-term relief, so his hole on the roster has definitely been felt. They are hopeful that he will be back in the ‘pen before the end of the season, however.

Aaron Hicks is still recovering from his oblique injury, doing some minor workouts to get back into the momentum of coming back soon. He was briefly sidelined from his recovery due to strep throat last week, but the Yankees are hopeful that successful batting practice in the next few days will open the door to his return to pinstripes shortly thereafter.

Roster moves: reliever Caleb Smith is currently battling a viral infection, so the Yankees placed him on the 10-day DL yesterday, retroactive to September 13 (the last time he pitched in a game). Reliever Domingo German was recalled AAA Scranton to fill in Smith’s spot in the bullpen.

Postseason Prep: Okay, so despite the Yankees’ loss today, there is some good news. The Red Sox also lost their game today (thanks, Rays!), so the standings remain the same. Not that the steady spot in the standings is what you want, but it’s better than the Red Sox gaining in their lead over the Yankees in the AL East.

If the standings remain the same, the Yankees will face the Twins for the one-off Wild Card game following the regular season. The Twins are on their way to New York for a 3-game mid-week series, so people are watching how this series pans out. The Yankees are hoping to gain ground on the Red Sox and push the Twins further down the standings. But the Twins are hoping to gain ground on the Yankees and close the gap between the potential Wild Card teams. Now, as of posting, the Twins are dominating the Blue Jays, and their assumed win will mean they are just 4 games behind the Yankees. It’s going to be a rather tight final 2 weeks of this season.

But that’s what makes it rather fun!

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 130: CLE vs. NYY — Uphill battle against the ace, #ForHouston

There was nothing inherently wrong with how Luis Severino pitched today. I mean, it wasn’t ideal in that he ended up with a loss, but overall, had there been enough run-support, we’d be having a different conversation in this blog post. Of course, a wonky strike zone didn’t help either.

To kick off the first game of this mid-week series against the Indians, the Yankees turned to Severino. Again, he actually had a pretty great game, throwing 108 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 4 runs (3 earned), and striking out 9 Cleveland batters. His biggest flaw was giving up 2 different 2-out solo home runs to the same batter in the 1st and 6th innings. He then gave up a 1-out solo shot in the 7th, a single, and then a strikeout before getting the hook.

Adam Warren came on in relief, but left that runner to Severino’s record. The runner made a dash for 2nd, but a missed catch error allowed him to make it all the way to 3rd where a wild pitch would score him (hence the unearned run on the starter’s stats). Warren finally got a ground out to end the 7th inning, and ended up giving up a 1-out solo home run in the 8th that caused a bit of a ruckus. A fan did the stupid thing and reached for it. It bounced off his hands and onto the field.

Now, fan interference generally is ruled as an automatic double, but if the video can show the ball would’ve been out, it’s ruled a home run. The trajectory had the ball bouncing off the top of the left field wall, and thus a home run which was upheld by the umpire review. {Media note: the attached video link doesn’t show it so clearly, but it was going to be a home run despite the poor fan.} The right call, but a bummer for the run scoring and the guy who could have been escorted from the stadium for interfering with the state of play. At the very least, the fans in his section would make the rest of the game rather uncomfortable.

Chasen Shreve’s 9th didn’t really go much smoother. A 1-out walk scored on an RBI double. And with a runner lingering at 3rd on a wild pitch Shreve got the last 2 outs (all 3 of his outs were strikeouts, by the way) to keep the Indians from adding much more to their lead.

The Yankees, on the other hand, seemed to be waiting for a rally they just never had. To be perfectly fair, the Indians’ starter tonight is an easy nominee for the Cy Young Award this season, continuing his stellar breakout season that helped his team make it all the way to the World Series. The Yankees didn’t hit much off him — just 3 hits and a walk in his 8 innings.

One of those hits was Chase Headley’s lead-off solo home run in the 3rd. The other 2 hits came in the 5th with 2 outs. Ellsbury doubled and then scored on Todd Frazier’s single. But that would be it for the Yankees against the Indians’ starter.

While the Yankee pitching staff certainly got more strikeouts (12 overall), the only stat that matters is runs scored. And tonight, the Yankees fell a bit short.

Final score: 6-2 Indians

In other news around the league (a rare feature in this blog): Due to the increasing destruction that Hurricane Harvey is inflicting on the Texas and northwestern Gulf area, the Astros-Rangers series that is scheduled to begin tomorrow will be played at the Rays’ home in Tropicana Field. The Rays are on the road, currently in Kansas City, which might see the outer bands of the storm later this week. It’s a logical and kind thing to do for the teams, so that they can finish out their season (especially Houston as it continues to dominate the AL).

If you’re in the Tampa area and want to catch the game, tickets are $10 general admission. They’re using the hashtag #ForHouston as part of the promotion, so even if you can’t go, you can use the hashtag on your social media account to remind people to be proactive and get involved in relief efforts in some way.

If you’re looking for a way to donate or help, the Astros’ Spring Training facility in West Palm Beach will be accepting donations starting tomorrow that will be later taken to the relief centers in Houston. The Astros Foundation and ownership will be donating $4 million to relief efforts, including the American Red Cross. This follows MLB and the MLB Players Association’s announcement of its own donation of $1 million for relief efforts. And for the rest of the season, the Astros will use their 50/50 raffle during games to raise money for the American Red Cross’ relief efforts in the Houston area.

Our hearts and prayers are with those in the path of the storm, who are still watching flood waters rise around them. New York knows what it means to survive and ride out the worst disasters, so we stand with you in the midst of the storm and by your side once recovery begins. Stay safe.

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!