It’s almost Spring…

Well, now that the other major American sport has taken its bow, it’s time to focus on the real American pastime. And before you’re wondering, I write a blog about the New York Yankees, which team could I possibly back in the big game last night — the team that plays in Boston or the one that doesn’t?

Anyway, just a couple of days ago, the Yankees posted pictures of their staff loading up all their equipment, loading it onto the truck, and sending it on its way down to Tampa. Many on the current roster and invitees (including quite a few of the Baby Bombers on the top 100 prospects list) are showing up at the minor league complex for early workouts. Tickets to games are being purchased, renovations at the field are almost done, and the countdown in down to mere days. Yes, Yankee Universe, it’s almost Spring Training.

The Yankees have wrapped up the last few weeks of their off-season in many ways. Last month, Chance Adams, Starlin Castro, Clint Frazier, Chase Headley, Matt Holliday, James Kaprielian, CC Sabathia, Gary Sanchez, Justus Sheffield, and Gleyber Torres helped out with the Yankees first ever “Winter Warm-up“, an event designed to introduce new players to New York and its legacy and community with the help of some of the veterans. This included surprising a life-long fan with VIP tickets; touring the City and Yankee Stadium; holding a live-streamed town hall for fans; visiting a senior center, an elementary school, a senior community event, and cancer center; calling season ticket holders personally; and surprising Bronx residents joining them for lunch at a local restaurant.

At a special awards banquet in January, quite a few Yankees were recognized for their contributions in baseball this past season. Last year’s “Warriors Three” (or No-Runs DMC, as some rogue reporters seems to believe they should be dubbed), Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman were recognized by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America with the “Willie, Mickey, and the Duke Award” for their outstanding teamwork this year. What is especially significant is that this three-headed monster was split in July when Chapman went to the Cubs (and got a ring) and Miller went to the Indians (and almost got a ring, settling for the AL MVP instead). Betances took over the closing role to finish the season but is more than willing to slide back to set-up man after the Yankees resigned Chapman in December. The local writers’ group also honored other Yankees at that dinner. Chase Headley received the “Good Guy Award” and Mark Teixeira shared the Slocum Award for Long and Meritorious Service with Boston’s David Ortiz, in addition to a number of other awards given across baseball.

Overlapping Spring Training once again is the World Baseball Classic. As of this posting, only two Yankees have committed to play for the WBC. Didi Gregorius will play for the Dutch team, which is scheduled to start its games March 7 in Seoul against South Korea, Taipei, and Israel. Dellin Betances has committed to play for the Dominican Republic, which starts its games March 9 in Miami against Canada, the United States, and Columbia. There was talk that Sanchez might join Betances on the reigning championship team, but the closer to Spring Training, the less likely the chances. Masahiro Tanaka was offered a spot on the Japanese team, but opted for Spring Training to get back in the momentum of being a Yankee and come out stronger than last year.

In a single day last month, the baseball world lost two of its members in separate car accidents in the Dominican Republic. Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura, 25, was a key part of the Royals’ 2014 World Series attempt and their 2015 World Series win, even earning Rookie of the Year in 2014. Former third baseman Andy Marte, 33, was originally signed by the Braves in 2005 before spending the bulk of his career with the Indians and most recently the 2014 season with the Diamondbacks and a team in South Korea. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with their families and friends as they mourn their loved ones.

I wish I could tell you the Yankees had some good news about the Hall of Fame results, but it was not to be this year. Instead, the BBWAA (the same guys who recognized Teixeira, Betances, and Headley) decided that just three former players would make it to Cooperstown this year — Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez. The trio are the only three who made the cut-off at 75% of the earned votes. Most Yankee fans will probably only remember two names — Mike Mussina (holding on for another year at 51.8% of the vote) and Jorge Posada (who failed to get the minimum 5% voting needed to stay on the ballot next year at 3.8%).

Bagwell spent all 15 seasons (1991-2005) with the Astros, as their star first baseman. Raines is predominantly known as the left fielder of the Expos (1979-1990, 2001), but he also spent some of his 23 seasons with the White Sox, Athletics, Marlins, Orioles, and Yankees. Raines spent his time with the Yankees during the start of the most recent dynasty, 1996-1998, even earning a 1996 World Series ring for his postseason contributions. Rodriguez spent the majority of his 21 seasons with the Rangers (1991-2002, 2009), eventually spending time with the Marlins, Tigers, Astros, Nationals, and Yankees. Rodriguez may be the most familiar to current Yankee fans as he spent the latter half of the 2008 season in pinstripes as back-up catcher. As expected, neither of the former Yankees will be donning a Yankee insignia on their monument plaque in the Hall of Fame, which will be honored and unveiled on July 30.

Okay, so here’s important Spring dates to remember: February 14 — pitchers and catchers report to camp (8 days away); February 15 — pitcher and catchers work out day, Steinbrenner Field open to public if you want to watch the work outs (9 days); February 18 — full squad reporting day (12 days); February 19 — full squad work out day (13 days); February 24 — Spring Training home opener vs. Phillies (18 days); April 2 — Season Opener at the Rays (55 days); and April 10 — Home opener vs. the Rays (62 days).

Yes, it’s almost Spring…

Go Yankees!

Game 104: NYY vs. TB — A sweeping loss

Okay, before we dive into the major news of the day that even overshadowed the game, we need to talk about the game. Being as it is the series against the Rays, I should resign to using water metaphors and puns. “Swept out to sea”, “sunk again”, and “dive bombed” might be appropriate phases, and to make matters worse, one of the home runs today was hit into the Rays touch tank the Trop has out over center field. (By the way, it’s super cool if you’re ever at the Trop; but get in line early, like when the gates first open, or you won’t get in before the game.) But I won’t resort to pirated phrases… okay, a few might sink in there from time to time.

Michael Pineda got the start this afternoon in the closing game of this weekend series against the Rays. Pineda actually threw a pretty decent game for the first half of his 6 innings, keeping the Rays scoreless and with just 1 hit. But then he struggled in the 4th getting runners in scoring position with no outs before they both scored on consecutive ground outs to give the Rays a lead.

A 2-out solo home run in the 5th added another run for the Rays (that’s the one that ended up floating in the touch tank). And in the 6th, with 2 outs and runners again in scoring position, Pineda intentionally walked a batter, hoping to go after the next batter. But a pitch left just a little up in the strike zone became a 2-RBI single to pad the Rays’ lead.

After 93 pitches, 6 hits, 4 walks, 5 runs, and 8 strikeouts, Pineda’s day was done. Luis Severino came on to throw a near perfect 2 innings and kept the Rays from adding to their score or doing much in the way of base runners.

In the meantime, the Yankees did their best to reduce the Rays’ lead. In the 4th inning, they loaded up the bases with a couple of singles and a walk and just 1 out, but the next batter quickly ended that hope by grounding into a double play.

It wasn’t until the 6th inning, they finally broke through. Ellsbury led-off with a walk and then scored when Carlos Beltran hit a big 2-run home run. The Yankees were on the board and watching the Rays enjoy their lead. So in the 8th, Starlin Castro led-off with a single and ended up at 2nd on a messy throwing error, before scoring on Brian McCann’s single. But a double play and line out later, the Yankees rally and run-scoring was at an end.

Honestly, most of the game featured pretty similar stats — 23 total strikeouts between the two teams, 15 hits, and 9 walks. But what does it always come down to? Those runs scored numbers.

Final score: 5-3 Rays, Rays sweep series 3-0.

And for the big news of the day… the Warriors Three and the Dynamic Duo are officially done. At 8:30 this morning, Andrew Miller got the call that informed him that he had been traded to Cleveland (more below). Sorry, Miller fans, but he’s headed to the “Mistake on the Lake”. Now, here’s the upside for Miller — Cleveland is doing really good this year, like they’re the best team in the AL as of this posting. Their chances of the postseason are really high (95%), which means Miller (who will wear #24 with the Indians) will most likely be playing October baseball. (More than I can say for most of his now former teammates — the Yankees’ postseason chances are down to 5%.)

Okay, so here’s the trade details: Miller was traded to the Indians as part of a big swap. In exchange for the closer, the Yankees acquired 4 prospects, including 2 of the Indians top prospects — outfielder Clint Frazier (#1) and left-hander Justus Sheffield (#5), as well as right-handers Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen. In addition, to fill the gap on the roster due to Miller’s trade, the Yankees traded for an old face to some fans — pitcher Tyler Clippard is back from the Diamondbacks in exchange for pitching prospect Vicente Campos.

After updating the Yankees’ farm system rankings and the league’s farm system rankings, the Yankees’ farm system is actually one of the best in the entire league. This is really good news. It means the future is looking bright again, even if the current season isn’t looking so good. Comparisons are being made to the farm system that produced the core of what became the dynasty of the 1990s and early 2000s. Again, this is good news.

Go Yankees!

Game 100: NYY vs. HOU — 100 games, a win, & on the plus side

For the middle game of this Houston series, the Yankees sent up CC Sabathia to start the game, hoping that he could continue his climb towards evening out his own stats this season. (After this game, he’s sitting at 6-8.) Sabathia threw 103 pitches in just shy of 7 innings, giving up just 4 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and striking out 5 Houston batters. And the most interesting fact about Houston’s offense is that all their runs scored tonight were solo home runs. First, a 1-out solo shot in the 1st inning, and then a lead-off solo homer in the 7th inning.

Then with 2 outs and a single, the Yankees called in Anthony Swarzak to relieve Sabathia. Swarzak immediately struck out the final batter of the 7th inning. Swarzak now wears #41, giving recently re-signed Adam Warren his old number (#43) back before the game. He came back out in the 8th to strike out the lead-off batter before giving up the third and final solo homer to the Astros of the night. Another strike out and a walk, and it was time for a new pitcher. So in came Dellin Betances, who then walked 2 more batters to load up the bases, before getting out of his own jam. And the Yankees’ new (and once again) closer Andrew Miller made his way through the 9th inning to earn his 9th save.

Now, of course, a save means the Yankees must have some kind of offense. Which they did. Beginning in the 2nd inning, the Yankees started dented the Astros starter. McCann singled, and Teixeira doubled to put them in scoring positions. Didi Gregorius’ sacrifice fly scored McCann, and Castro’s single put runners in the corners. Chase Headley’s single then scored Teixeira. But even with the bases loaded on Gardner’s walk, the Yankees were left stranded at the end of the 2nd inning, but ahead of the Astros by a run.

Then in the 3rd, Beltran single, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, and then watched Teixeira work a 1-out walk. Gregorius hit into a fielder’s choice to put runners on the corners, so that Starlin Castro’s single scored Beltran. In the 5th, McCann was hit by a pitch and Teixeira singled, and then both moved to scoring position on a ground out. The Astros’ starter intentionally walked the hot-hitting Castro. Headley’s sacrifice fly scored McCann and moved runners to the corners. Then Aaron Hicks’ amazing triple scored both Teixeira and Castro and forced the Houston starter out of the game right there in the 5th inning.

And that made all the difference for the Astros in the end because not one Yankee crossed the plate again tonight from that point on. However, the Yankees still racked up a total of 13 hits off Astros’ pitchers.

Final score: 6-3 Yankees

The Yankees now have a winning record through 100 games for the 24th straight season. The Yankees have 52 wins and 48 losses. Now, they’re currently still in 4th place in the AL East because the AL East is just really good this season (again). But they’re only 6.5 games behind Baltimore (the leaders). Toronto is just 2 games behind Baltimore, and Boston is 2.5 games behind. In other words, the Yankees actually have a chance. Recent stats said the Yankees have a 1.3% chance at winning the AL East and a 7.7% chance at a Wild Card spot. And that is my positive spin for the day on hopes for October baseball.

Go Yankees!

Game 99: NYY vs. HOU — Goodbye, new friend… Hello, old friends

Okay, the trade rumors proved true to an extent. One pitcher is on his way to the Cubs, and another is on his way to join the Yankees in Houston for their series there this week. Plus, the Yankees clearly got the better end of the deal picking up 3 prospects, including one rather promising 19 year old infielder. But that’s covered below after the game.

Because despite all the chatter being about the trade, it was still a game day, and the Yankees began their 3-game mid-week series in Houston facing the Astros, who are doing a pretty good job this year themselves. Plus, the Yankees faced off against their ace tonight, and like they did with the Giants, the Yankees proved they’re a better team than their current stats say they are.

Michael Pineda got the start tonight for the Yankees, and his command from start to finish was one of a mature starter who is now settled into his role on this team. He threw 103 pitches in his full 7 innings, giving up just 5 hits, 2 walks, and a single run, and striking out 8 Houston batters. That lone run was a lead-off solo home run right in the 1st inning, but the Astros couldn’t do much after that. In fact, they didn’t add any further runs to their score. This meant that Pineda, his relievers, and the defense spent the rest of the game defending and waiting for their offense to pick up.

Of course, it helped that Pineda’s relievers were the “Dynamic Duo” (formerly combined in with the “Warriors Three”, but that’s further explained below). Dellin Betances breezed his way through the 8th with 3 seemingly easy strikeouts, and Andrew Miller’s 9th inning and game-ending double play (after a messy attempt at one just a batter earlier) gave him his 8th save of the season.

And this save came into play because the Yankees did respond offensively against the Astros’ ace starter, albeit a few small contributions. But sometimes, the route to a win is via that “small ball”. In the 5th, with 2 outs, Didi Gregorius doubled and then scored on Chase Headley’s single. And with the game tied, the Yankees went into the 8th inning with a great opportunity in Headley’s lead-off single. He then came in to score the winning run on Austin Romine’s double. Two outs and Romine on 3rd, the starter was out of the game, and they brought in a fairly efficient reliever to close out the Yankees attempt at an insurance run. That reliever shut down the Yankees in order in the 8th.

But that 1-run difference was enough in the end. That, and the Yankee pitchers combining for 12 total strikeouts.

Final score: 2-1 Yankees.

Before the game, former Yankee and long-time Houston resident Andy Pettitte stopped by to visit his former team and help out by throwing batting practice. Pettitte, still enjoying retirement, loves visiting with his former team when they’re in town, chatting up the newer guys, checking in with the veterans, and giving some great advice to the rookies.

Roster moves: Okay, the Yankees sent their flame-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs in exchange for 4 players, including Adam Warren. Seen as getting the better end of the deal for many reasons, the Yankees acquired outfielding prospects Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford and infielding prospect Gleyber Torres in addition to former Yankee reliever Adam Warren. (Warren was traded to the Cubs this offseason. Torres, however, is the one everyone is talking about as he’s considered one of the best prospects in the game (ranked #24).

And in case you were wondering, Torres and Crawford have been assigned to High-A Tampa, McKinney to AA Trenton, and Warren joins the Yankees in Houston.

For all you Chapman fans out there, know that Chapman is a free agent after this season. This means he could get his wish (“God willing,” as he said in an interview) and head back to New York for next season. Chapman reassured the press (and himself) that this was a good thing because the Cubs do stand a pretty good chance to be in the World Series this year. He’s right, of course, but he did express a bit of regret not being able to finish the season with his new “family” as he dubbed the Yankees. So, who knows?

Also, Luis Severino is back, being recalled to the Yankees after spending some time with their AAA Scranton team after his rehab stint back in May. The corresponding roster move hasn’t been announced yet, but I imagine before next game and all the pieces have been moved around the board, we’ll know something and things will be settled into place.

Go Yankees!

Game 97: SF vs. NYY — Extra inning let-down

Even if it’s summertime, a mid-afternoon game that goes into extra innings is bound to face a few natural issues — loss of sunlight, shadows creeping across the diamond, heat exhaustion, and the inexplicable progressive reduction of fans in the seats. Of course, today’s game was nearly four and a half hours long. And the nearly 47,000 fans had sat through a rather tight, rather uneventful (at times) game. But still, “it ain’t over…” and all that.

And then it was.

But first, Ivan Nova dominated this middle game with the visiting Giants from the pitcher’s mound, going 96 strong pitches through his full 7 innings. He gave up just 6 hits and 2 walks, allowing just 1 run, and struck out 7 Giants batters. His lone run allowed was a lead-off solo shot in the 5th inning. So between him and the defense, the Giants weren’t doing nothing.

Of course, the Yankees certainly had their own issues of a similar nature. Facing another great starter of recent World Series fame (though with a team that won in the odd years), the Yankees made him pitch a lot — 117 pitches in just 6 innings, got 6 hits and a walk, and struck out 9 times. Plus, they also scored a run, albeit an unearned run because the Giants defense just isn’t what it should be for how high they are in the standings. (Seriously now, how bad does that make the NL West that a sloppy defensive team is at the top of the standings? Research is needed clearly.)

Anyway, the Yankees got on the board first in the 4th inning. With 1 out, Didi Gregorius singled to get on base. Then Mark Teixeira singled, but thanks to a lovely fielding error by the outfielder, Gregorius made it all the way home to score the run. Of course, it helps that Gregorius is rather speedy in base-running.

{Video of Yankees’ defense showing off: Gardner, Headley, the teamwork of Gardner-Gregorius, and the infield collectively.}

Anyway, with the game all tied up for the 8th inning, the Yankees sent out Andrew Miller for a quick shutdown of the Giants — 10 pitches, 2 strikeouts, a standard Miller inning really. Aroldis Chapman found his somewhat normal position in the 9th, but then came out for the 10th to continue the set-down, adding 3 total strikeouts of his own over his 2 innings. Extra baseball continued when Dellin Betances made his appearance in the 11th, adding another strikeout to the total. (The Warriors Three out of order, but still incredibly effective.)

And on into the 12th inning, the game still tied. New reliever Anthony Swarzak sent in to keep the momentum going, except it didn’t. He gave up a lead-off double. And those in the stands in navy sat down as the scattering of orange wildly cheered. A 1-out single scored that runner to break the tie and give the Giants a slight edge. (The single was hit by the same guy who hit the homer earlier in the game, by the way.) A pop-out later, the Yankees called on Richard Bleier to finish the inning, which he did rather quickly.

So the Yankees turned their sights on offense in the bottom of the 12th. But the Giants’ closer today shut the Yankees down in order, in an efficient 12 pitches. Game over.

Final score: 2-1 Giants, in 12 innings.

The Yankee pitchers threw a rather impressive 13 total strikeouts today, but the Giants nearly matched them at 12. Actually, today’s game felt like a back-and-forth of equally matched teams. See, this is where standings and statistics don’t line up. You have one of the better teams in baseball (Giants) versus the 4th place AL East team (Yankees), and yet, they play like the old time days when the Giants were still in New York and they were intense rivals.

Trade rumors alert: Okay, I know I don’t do much as far as rumors go, but this one has been rather persistent. The rumor is that the Yankees have been looking to trade Aroldis Chapman and/or Andrew Miller. Chapman is set to be a free agent come this off-season, and Miller is seen as the “weaker” of the Three because he doesn’t hit 100mph on his fastball. (You can imagine my scoffing and arguments there if you’d like, and you’d be right.) But now, it’s looking like the rumors have settled on the fact that Chapman might be the lone trade. Again, still rumors, so whatever.

Tomorrow is Hall of Fame Induction Day at Cooperstown. The ceremony will be broadcast live on MLB Network beginning at 11 am. The Class of 2016 inductees are Mike Piazza (Mets) and Ken Griffey Jr. (Mariners), both well-deserved honors for a couple of great ball players.

Go Yankees!

Game 96: SF vs. NYY — Errors make for easy runs, apparently

There were 45,304 fans who spent a rather muggy Friday night at the stadium to watch the series opener against the visiting Giants. Now, the Giants are basically one of the best teams in baseball, which makes sense as it’s an even-numbered year. (Reminder: the Giants won the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014.)

Masahiro Tanaka started the game and pretty much dominated the game for his 6 innings. He threw a rather efficient 83 pitches during his tenure, allowing just 4 hits, 2 walks, and no runs, striking out 4 Giants batters.

The Yankees struck first offensively tonight, which actually kind of shocked me, as they faced the Giants main ace and one of the stars of their last World Series Championship (he won the MVP in 2014). In the bottom of the 1st, Brett Gardner led-off with a single and then scored on Starlin Castro’s double. Castro ended up at 3rd due to a bad throwing error (the first of the Giants’ 4 errors tonight) as Gardner slid head-first into home. A couple of outs and a couple of walks later, the bases were loaded, and finally that ace pitcher pulled through and got Romine to fly out for the final out of the inning, escaping that jam.

Then in the 2nd, with 2 outs and Torreyes on base with a single, Castro singled and moved Torreyes to 3rd on a fielding error (sloppy play). Torreyes then easily scored on Carlos Beltran’s RBI single. And with that, the Yankees were up 2-0 in the 2nd inning. But while they continued to collect a handful of hits and walks, the Giants were able to band together and shut them down from scoring.

Now, the biggest defensive star tonight was easily Carlos Beltran. The veteran outfielder ranged for a running and leaping catch to save a double in 6th and had a nice catch and throw home with his rocket arm to gun down a runner trying to score at home for a double playin the 3rd. Now, the Giants wanted to make sure the out was really out at home. Which, of course, it was (even after a challenge and replay)

Still, Tanaka had a nice lead to protect and pass onto the Warriors Three tonight. Now, until tonight, the Yankees’ bullpen kept a scoreless streak 31 innings. That ended tonight. In the 7th, Dellin Betances walked his first batter and then struck out the next two. The next batter doubled, putting both runners in scoring position, so that a wild pitch easily scored the Giants’ first run of the night. Not to be outdone, Andrew Miller added his own contribution to the break of that streak. With 2 outs and runners on the corners, a pinch-hit double scored the lead runner and tied up the game. But Miller got out of it with a strikeout.

That tie didn’t last long. In the bottom of the 8th, Chase Headley led-off with a single and Teixeira walked. Austin Romine hit a little grounder that they tried to make into a double play. They got Teixeira out at 2nd and then (what else tonight?) a bad throwing error allowed Headley to sprint to home to put the Yankees back in the lead.

A pitching change ended the Yankees rally, but the damage was done. It was Aroldis Chapman for his 20th save and some nasty fireballs in the 9th inning. His last 8 fastballs were listed as: 104.3, 104.0, 104.9, 105.3, 104.9, 104.8, and 104.0 mph. Nasty stuff.

Final score: 3-2 Yankees.

The injury this game was on other team this time, as the catcher took a foul ball off his foot. For anyone interested, he’s fine; it’s “just a bruise”. But I have to say after a good portion of this season having to report about a Yankee injury, it was a bit of a relief to not report about a Yankee injury. Though a game without any injury report is better than a game with an injury (even if it is the “other guys”).

Also, as I’m back now, I want to give a big thanks and shout out to my guest blogger “pinstripes08” for filling in for me this month. Pinstripes08 will be back to do special features in the near future. So stay tuned!

Go Yankees!

Game 92: BAL vs. NYY — 105? Time for a winning streak

After a bit of a stifling weekend and mixed results within the stadium (and no, I’m not talking about the craze that’s taken over as a hybrid of a particular video game, though I’m told there are several “creatures” in the Bronx that aren’t cheering loudly from the bleachers), the Bronx was blessed with a cooler evening tonight for the start of a 4-game series with the Baltimore Orioles. Yankee fans were treated to stellar pitching and a win against the first place team in the AL East that is hopefully the start of a much needed winning streak for the Yankees.

Taking strong command of the mound tonight, Yankee starter Ivan Nova pitched 6 complete innings, threw 97 pitches, gave up only 4 hits and a home run (the only run allowed for Baltimore). For the last three innings, the 31,102 fans packing the stands were once again treated to terrific pitching to close the game and shut down Baltimore. Top of the seventh, Dellin Betances threw 20 pitches for 2 strikeouts, allowing 1 walk and no runs. Andrew Miller took the helm in the eighth, giving up 1 hit but no runs with 12 pitches, inducing a fairly nifty double play. Top of the ninth with the Yankees ahead by 2, Aroldis Chapman calmly took the mound, throwing his fireballs to four batters, walking one but allowing no runs to earn the save. This powerful pitching trio for New York is a joy and a wonder for Yankee fans to witness. Hoping management has no plans for splitting up these “Warriors Three”.

The Yankees worked their defense and offense well tonight. In the top of the second, Jacoby Ellsbury snagged a fly ball for an out at the center field fence. In the fourth, Headley and Castro coordinated to get the out in a rundown. Headley and Refsnyder played their corners well, keeping potential runs off first base. That double play in the 8th under Miller was swiftly executed by Gregorius to Castro to Refsnyder that kept another potential run off base.  In fact, the entire Yankee infield tonight played strong and confident, determined to keep Baltimore from scoring. And the outfield was busy running down all those “almost home runs” from the team leading in home runs this year.

The New York offense had 7 hits, scoring twice with a home run in the 2nd by Alex Rodriguez (his 9th of the year) and a sacrifice fly in the 3rd by Brian McCann that scored Gardner. New York took the lead and never let it go. Beltran had 3 hits in 4 at bats tonight, including a double that tied him with Willie Mayes on the all-time doubles list; basically, every hit for Beltran is some milestone these days. The Yankees attempted several scoring opportunities, especially later in the game, but couldn’t seem to get anything else past the Orioles’ pitching and defense. (There is a reason they’re in 1st in the AL East.)

Of course, all most people could talk about were Chapman’s rocket balls. He hit 105 mph on the radar gun for just the second time in MLB history. And he’s the only person to do this ever, let alone do this twice. In fact, he throws so hard that MLB stats for this year have a “Chapman” filter. He throws the fastest balls in the league, but when they throw up who’s throwing the fastest, they never list him except as a caveat — as in: all these pitchers throw super hard, but as we’re all aware that Chapman literally owns all the top pitches ever this season, we’re going to feature all the guys except him to show what’s going on beyond the Yankees’ 9th inning.

Anyway, Chapman gave the Yankees their second win in a row, and I, for one, am hoping this continues a nice winning streak for the Yankees.

Final score: 2-1, Yankees.

On this day in Yankee history: On July 18, 1999, with Joe Girardi catching, David Cone threw the third perfect game in team history against the Montreal Expos at the old Yankee Stadium. Check out this vintage video of all 27 outs to relive it, or (maybe) to see it for the first time. Cone’s game occurred on “Yogi Berra Day” with Don Larsen and Yogi Berra in the stands (after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch) to witness and perhaps to relive a little of their own perfect game versus the Brooklyn Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series (the first in team history, but also the only postseason perfect game in MLB history). In May of 1998, the second Yankee perfect game (vs the Twins) was thrown by David Wells, with Jorge Posada catching.

And a big happy Birthday to Joe Torre, a man of many talents indeed — MLB’s Chief Baseball Officer, 9-time All-Star, Hall of Fame Manager, Player, Rookie of the Year, MVP, Gold Glove Winner, broadcaster, and the list goes on. Baseball as we know it would not be the same without Joe Torre. Baseball fans everywhere are grateful for his passion for the game and his many contributions to baseball from nearly every angle — player, manager, executive. (Next stop: owner?) Thank you, Joe, and may this be the happiest of birthdays and the best of years.

Go Yankees!