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 114: BOS vs. NYY — Now, that was a game

I went to a minor league game recently. Yes, I do care about baseball outside of the Yankees. Okay, it was a Yankees’ minor league affiliate, but the point remains — go see a minor league game (plus it was like $5 for the ticket and free parking).

Anyway, so I was at this game, and the home team was down by a run in the 4th inning when the fans already started heading for the exit. Even after they tied up the game in the 5th, the fans trickled out. The home team ended up getting 5 runs in the 7th inning, but only half the original crowd was there to witness it. And by the final inning, where the home team ended up just shutting out the visitors, the crowd was just a scattering of people in the stands.

But it’s a thing I see in nearly every game. People just leave if they think the game is over regardless of who’s in the lead. When will they learn?

Fortunately, in a rivalry game, this kind of thing is rarely a problem. The Fenway Faithful and Yankee Universe jointly know the cardinal rule of baseball — “it ain’t over ’til it’s over”. And tonight’s sell-out crowd in the Bronx was there to watch the opening of rivalry week against the Red Sox for this weekend series. And they were given quite the show.

Jaime Garcia was given the start for tonight’s game, throwing 103 pitches into the 6th inning. He gave up 7 hits, 3 walks, and 3 runs, and struck out 6 Boston batters. Garcia is clearly still finding his way on the mound in pinstripes, but his outing tonight was a bit better than his one in Cleveland. In the 1st, a 1-out walk scored as part of a 2-out 2-run home run to get the Red Sox on their board first. He held them off for most of his outing, giving up a 2-out solo home run in the 5th to give the Red Sox an insurance run.

After Garcia went into triple digits in his pitch count, he struggled to get the final out of the 6th inning. So disappointingly, he handed off the game to Adam Warren, who came on for some longer relief and successfully kept the Red Sox from adding to their lead. Warren closed out the 6th and then breezed his way through the 7th and 8th innings.

The Yankees’ offense only got 2 hits and 2 walks off the Red Sox’s starter, so they had to wait for the bullpen, who up until tonight has been really good (one of the prime reasons they’re at the top of the AL East). So the Yankees found their opening in the 8th inning. To lead-off the inning, pinch-hitter Gardner was hit by a pitch. Well, originally, the umpire didn’t call it as such, thinking it was just a bad bouncing ball. But a Yankees challenge and replay overturned the call and sent Gardner down the 90 feet to 1st base.

Aaron Hicks is back in action and proved his worth tonight by hitting a 2-run home run into the seats in the corner of right field. With the Yankees finally on the board (and only down by a run), the stadium sparked alive with rally energy. Sanchez singled and moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, and Judge worked a walk. And with absolutely no outs recorded in this inning, the Red Sox went back to their bullpen.

It didn’t really help them much. Didi Gregorius promptly singled and scored Sanchez to tie up the game, and Todd Frazier followed that up with his own RBI single to score Judge (the winning run). After a strikeout (the first out of the inning), Ellsbury singled to load up the bases. Ronald Torreyes’ long sacrifice fly scored Gregorius for an insurance run, and Gardner (yes, the Yankees batted through the line-up in a single inning) worked a walk to load up the bases again. This prompted the Red Sox to go back to the bullpen again and they finally found that 3rd out.

So, with the Yankees now leading, they turned to Aroldis Chapman to close out the 9th inning and earn the save. But Chapman had some trouble with his command today walking his first 3 batters to load up the bases. Suddenly, the Red Sox contingency in the stadium were awake and cheering wildly. The next batter hit into a sacrifice fly double play, as Hicks caught the sacrifice fly that scored the lead runner, but fired the ball to Frazier at 3rd to tag out the runner there trying to advance. Even a challenge from the Red Sox upheld the original call. A fly out to center field ended the inning, the game, and the threat.

Final score: 5-4 Yankees

And in injury news: CC Sabathia was placed on the 10-day disabled list with inflammation in his right knee. In his place, the Yankees have recalled Jordan Montgomery. (I told you he wouldn’t be gone long.) Now, Sabathia’s knee injury is a concern, as it’s the same knee he’s had trouble with for some time. His original plan for maintenance this season kind of fell to the wayside as he felt really good with it and hasn’t needed special care since before Spring Training. And truth be told, he’s been rather strong in his outings this season, so I can understand thinking things were finally better for him.

However, as someone who also has a recurring knee issue, I know the perils of being too optimistic in these cases. Just when you’ve had no issues for months and it feels like you could run up three flights of stairs, you do something normal — like run up three flights of stairs — and suddenly, you’re back out of commission for the next six weeks having to nurse your old injury that suddenly tweaked weird about halfway up the three flights of stairs that you still insisted on climbing in its entirety just to prove you’re not really injured. And you didn’t want everyone to know you couldn’t finish the climb. And you don’t want their pity unless they want to carry you up the last half of the stairs like a pack mule up the mountainside.

Anyway, the point being — take care of that knee, Sabathia. We’re going to need it and that left arm at its peak come October.

Go Yankees!

Game 105: DET vs. NYY — Coming up short despite stellar defense

On this warm Tuesday afternoon, the first day of August, the Yankees were looking to continue this winning streak high they’ve been on for this home stand. But in the end, they came up a bit short, despite even some last-minute hope, against the visiting Tigers in this middle game of the midweek series.

CC Sabathia got the start tonight, and despite earning the loss, he actually had a decent outing. He threw 97 pitches in his 6 innings, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, and struck out just 3 Detroit batters. In the 2nd, Sabathia gave up a single and a double to put runners in scoring position. The next batter hit into a great play where the defense took out the lead runner with a fielder’s choice at 3rd. But a 3-run home run put the Tigers on the board early. A 2-out solo homer in the 3rd added an insurance run for them.

So, with Adam Warren throwing a beautiful 2 innings in relief for Sabathia, the Yankees’ pitching staff was just waiting for their offense to pick up the slack and give them some run support. Even David Robertson got into some trouble in the 9th, giving up 3 singles, but it would be the defense to come to the rescue and keep the Tigers from adding to their score.

The Yankees’ offense did pick up and the stats do show they were pretty evenly matched tonight. In the 4th, Sanchez led-off with a double and then scored as part of Didi Gregorius’ 2-run home run to get the Yankees on the board. The Tigers’ pitching kept the Yankees from adding their offense into runs-scored for most of the game. And in the 8th, Sanchez hit a 1-out single and ended up at 2nd on a fielding error. After a pitching change, Gregorius’ single scored Sanchez.

So, the Yankees looked at that last-minute bottom of the 9th inning for some hope. With 2 outs, Ellsbury worked a walk, and then the Tigers opted to intentionally walk Gardner. After a pick-off error and stolen base, the speedy outfielders were in scoring position. The air thick with tension. But then an infield pop up ended that potential rally and the game.

Final score: 4-3 Tigers

The Yankees wrap up their series against the Tigers and their home stand tomorrow afternoon. They are off to Cleveland to face the Indians for a 4-game weekend series. It will be there that the Yankees will see the club debut of newly acquired starters Sonny Gray (on Thursday) and Jaime Garcia (on Friday). Both starters are excited about joining the Yankees, both saying it’s a dream come true. Garcia even admitted that his family’s favorite team has always been the Yankees, as his late grandfather was a huge long-time fan.

I once heard a former ball player say that there are guys meant to be Yankees and guys meant to play against them. Sure, some kids dream of playing against the Yankees, but we don’t hold it against them. We’ll find the ones that dream of being a Yankees and embrace them into Yankee Universe — like Gray and Garcia.

Go Yankees!

Game 102: TB vs. NYY — A Gardy Party, part 2

In the tooth drama and the weekend, one thing that seemed to get lost is the fact that Yankee Universe got to wake up this morning in 1st place in the AL East. Yes, readers, the Yankees are on top and holding.

So, the Yankees asked young starter Caleb Smith to start this third game of this 4-game weekend series against the visiting Rays. Smith threw 71 pitches into the 4th inning, giving up 3 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs, striking out 4 Rays batters. He gave up a lead-off solo homer to start the game and give the Rays an early lead. And in the 3rd, with 1 out, Smith loaded the bases with a couple of singles and a walk so that the lead runner scored on a sacrifice fly.

Adam Warren closed out the 4th and gave up a 2-out solo shot in the 5th to give the Rays the lead. And Betances and Kahnle kept the Rays scoreless through the 6th and 7th innings, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Yankees played a little catch-up. In the 2nd, Gary Sanchez led-off with a ground-rule double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ sacrifice fly. Sanchez then added to the Yankees’ score with a lead-off solo home run in the 4th. And Matt Holliday led-off with a single in the 6th and ended up scoring as part of pinch-hitter Chase Headley’s 2-run home run to the left field seats to put the Yankees in the lead.

David Robertson came on to set-up the 8th inning for the Yankees’ win. But he gave up a lead-off solo home run to tie up the game for the Rays. He regrouped and got through the inning, despite the blown save, before handing the game over to Aroldis Chapman, who sailed through the Rays in a 13-pitch 9th inning.

So, it was back to the Yankees for that last-minute hope to do something awesome. And they did in the bottom of the 9th. With a new reliever on the mound, Headley led-off the inning by working a walk. Ellsbury came in to pinch-run for him and promptly stole 2nd base. Todd Frazier was hit by a pitch and Torreyes singled to load up the bases. And with no outs yet in the inning, the Rays pulled their closer for a new reliever. It didn’t help them, as Brett Gardner promptly singled home Ellsbury for another great walk-off win, the second one this series already.

Final score: 5-4 Yankees

Continuing the dental drama: Aaron Judge was a bit cautious during the celebration for Gardner’s walk-off single, even covering his mouth and making sure he knew exactly where Gardner’s helmet was at all times. He also took it upon himself to be the one to douse Gardner during his post-game interview, with YES reporter Meredith Marakovits skillfully dodging the blue Gatorade.

Now the Yankees continue this march back into dominance this season, nicely back in 1st in the AL East, ready for a sweep of the Rays with tomorrow’s game. After tomorrow’s closer, the Yankees faced the visiting Tigers for an early week series to closer out this home stand. They are on quite the winning streak and continuing to do so could secure their place in October baseball this season, a much-needed boost to the franchise and a rather realistic goal for the first time in many years.

Only 102 games in, and there’s still quite a bit of time left. I mean, sure they’ve already started the category for the wild card that explains how many games a team must lose before being eliminated from even the wild card spot in the postseason (the lowest number is 41 right now).

Also, a random trivia bit: today’s starter, Caleb Smith, celebrated his 26th birthday yesterday. So a slightly belated Happy Birthday to Caleb!

Go Yankees!

Game 98: CIN vs. NYY — The old “Jersey-Ohio Triple Play”

Back in the Bronx tonight, the Yankees hosted their first of two games against the visiting Reds for a short series. And they made sure it was a quick game (just 2 hours and 38 minutes) for the Yankees home debut of New Jersey native Todd Frazier against his former team. And they also made sure it was a quite memorable.

Jordan Montgomery got the start tonight and had a rather great outing tonight. He threw just 85 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up just 2 hits, a walk, and a run, striking out Cincinnati batters, and setting himself up for the win. That lone run was scored in the 6th when a lead-off double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on another ground out.

Tommy Kahnle finished off the 7th inning in just 4 pitches, handing things over to Dellin Betances for the 8th. But Betances had some trouble with his strike zone tonight. With 2 outs, and after walking 2 batters, he gave up a double that scored the lead runner to double the Reds’ score. Adam Warren got out of the jam with a 7-pitch strike out. Aroldis Chapman breezed through the 9th with just 8 pitches, earning his 12th save of the season.

Meanwhile, the Yankees got on board in rather dramatic fashion thanks to New Jersey-born Todd Frazier. First, the Yankees loaded up the bases in the 2nd with consecutive singles to Holliday, Gregorius, and Headley. Things were looking up for the first at-bat as a Yankee for Frazier, but he hit a little grounder to the shortstop as Holliday came in to score the run. The Reds shortstop stepped on 2nd for out #1 and then fired it to 1st for a fairly standard double play (out #2 at 1st). But they caught Gregorius between 2nd and 3rd and got him in a rundown, between 3rd and the shortstop who started it all for out #3 of what became a triple play. Yes, that is a 6-6-3-3-5-6 for your scoring geeks. But I call it the “Jersey-Ohio Triple Play” (which is really-what?-Pennsylvania?).

Anyway, fortunately, the Yankees weren’t fazed by such a weird play and kept adding to their score bit-by-bit. In the 4th, Judge led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on a ground out, was sent to 3rd on a balk, and then scored on Gregorius’ sacrifice fly. With 1 out and Wade on 1st in the 5th, Wade scored on Austin Romine’s double. Later in that inning, the Yankees loaded up the bases with 2 outs, but a ground out ended that threat. For an insurance run, Didi Gregorius hit a big 2-out solo home run in the 8th to keep the Yankees in the lead and seal their victory tonight.

 

Final score: 4-2 Yankees.

Fun triple play trivia: Tonight’s play was the 3rd one this season, the first time a run scored safely during a triple play since May 2006 in all of MLB, and the Reds’ first one in over 22 years (May 12, 1995). The article linked above listed the Yankees’ last triple play as against the Rays on September 27, 2011. But that could be slightly misleading. To clarify, 2011 was the last time before tonight that the Yankees batting into a triple play, but they’ve certainly had a their share as fielders. I’ve covered two in my time on this blog — one against the Rays in April 2014 and another against the Orioles in 2013 (this is the fun one!).

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!

Game 95: NYY vs. SEA — Quite a birthday bash, hosted by Judge

Well, the Yankees have won 12 of their last 13 games at Safeco Field in Seattle. So much for that so-called “home field advantage”.

CC Sabathia celebrated his 37th birthday today by starting tonight’s game against the Mariners. His biggest problem tonight was his pitch count, throwing 98 pitches into the 6th inning. He gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and a run and struck out 5 batters. In the 1st, with 2 outs, Sabathia gave a walk that moved to 3rd on a single and then scored on another single. Yet another single loaded the bases before a grounder ended the initial threat. In other words, outside of that 1st inning, Sabathia only allowed a hit and 2 walks, which was great.

After allowing a walk in the 6th, Sabathia turned things over to Tommy Kahnle, who threw a solid 10 pitches to breeze his way through the 6th. Then David Robertson made his 2017 debut as a Yankee, throwing his first Yankee strikeout since September 26, 2014. Robertson threw 13 pitches and got 3 consecutive strikeouts for the 7th.

Dellin Betances made the 8th inning interesting (par for the course with Betances), giving up a couple of big hits but not allowing a run and still striking out 2 batters along the way. Adam Warren’s 11-pitch 9th inning was almost perfect. Somehow, the bullpen righting itself recently has set things in motion for the rest of the team. Whatever it takes to revert the Yankees back to their momentum of earlier this season.

Anyway, on the flip side of the field, the Yankees had a decent outing against the Mariners’ starter, racking up 9 hits in just 6 innings. And in the 3rd, Headley led-off with a double and then scored on Clint Frazier’s double to tie up the game. A fly out moved Frazier to 3rd, and after a walk, Aaron Judge’s sacrifice fly scored Frazier to move the Yankees into the lead.

In the 5th, with 1 out, Gardner and Sanchez each singled and sat on the corners. And then it would be Aaron Judge to hit just a monster 3-run home run deep into the left field seats. That would be his 31st home run this season, but his first since July 7 (so 14 days, including the 4-day All-Star break and excluding the 47 BP-like ones he hit during the HR Derby).

But anyway, that was more than enough to keep the Yankees’ streak in Seattle solid.

Final score: 5-1 Yankees

So, this was CC Sabathia’s first ever win on his birthday, despite being his 6th birthday start — 2002 and 2006 with Cleveland; 2011, 2013, 2016, and 2017 with the Yankees. However, he also has a current 10 wins and 1 loss in his career at Safeco Field, though it’s 6-0 as a Yankee. Maybe then that stat about the Yankees being great in Seattle has a whole lot to do with Sabathia. It’s almost surprising the Mariners didn’t do more to try to buy Sabathia’s contract. But then all the better for Yankee Universe.

Happy Birthday, CC!

Go Yankees!