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 118: NYM vs. NYY — “It’s always Sonny in the Bronx”

I just read a statistic about the Mets ace starter tonight. In his 12.1 innings pitched at Yankee Stadium, he’s given up 5 home runs of his 11 total earned runs and allowed 17 hits. To put this in perspective, tonight, he threw 7.1 innings, gave up 9 hits and 5 earned runs, 2 of which were home runs. I’m thinking he doesn’t like pitching in Yankee Stadium so much.

All the better for Yankee Universe as Sonny Gray made his first start in pinstripes in Yankee Stadium and had a pretty decent outing. Pitching 104 pitches into the 7th inning, Gray gave up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, striking out 5 Mets batters. Actually, he kept the Mets scoreless through his first 6 innings, only having a bit of trouble in the 7th. He gave up a lead-off walk that scored as part of a 2-run home run to get the Mets on the board.

Now, on a plus side for the Mets (for the lone Mets fan I know will come across this blog at some point), the batter who hit the homer is playing in just his 5th MLB game, and that was his very first MLB home run. And let’s be honest, if you’re going to hit your first major league homer, Yankee Stadium is the dream place to do so.

Anyway, the Yankees opted for their bullpen after the home run, calling on Kahnle to close out the 7th inning, in just 10 flawless pitches. Betances followed that up with a 19-pitch scoreless 8th, setting Aroldis Chapman up for the save.

But Chapman’s recent struggles cropped up again as he just needed 3 outs in the 9th. After one stellar strikeout, he gave up a single, but then the Mets complicated things by another rookie hitting his 2nd MLB home run to double their score. (So a good day for Mets’ rookies, but not so much for the Yankees’ closer.) Chapman came back and got the 2 outs, a couple of ground outs, and the eventual save, but it was a little too close for comfort.

Of course, in order to even be up for a save, the Yankee offense had to be productive. And like I said in the opening paragraph, the Mets’ ace must hate pitching in the Bronx. In the 3rd, Torreyes led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on Gardner’s sacrifice bunt, and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ single. And with 2 outs in the 4th, Headley worked a walk and then scored as part of Jacoby Ellsbury’s line-drive 2-run home run into the right field seats.

Gary Sanchez got in on the fun with a lead-off solo home run in the 6th. And in the 8th, Judge led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on Gregorius’ single, and then scored on Sanchez’s sacrifice fly. That was the end of the Mets starter. It was also the end of the Yankees’ runs, but the Mets’ bullpen only needed 2 more outs to get out of the inning.

Final score: 5-4 Yankees

Now, technically, the Yankees won this series 2-0. So if you consider each location as one series, then the Yankees just swept the series. Or, if you’re like me, we’re just halfway through this Subway Series, so the winner of the series has yet to be determined.

Injury news: so, apparently, Luis Cessa’s back injury is actually a ribcage injury, so the Yankees placed him on the 10-day disabled list. Thus, the assumption and talk that he’ll be okay by his next start on Saturday is totally wrong. Saturday’s starter is now a giant question mark. (Stay tuned!) In his place on the roster, the Yankees recalled Caleb Smith once again from AAA Scranton.

Also, the Yankees announced that both Greg Bird and Starlin Castro will begin their rehab assignments this week, on Wednesday and Friday, respectively. Bird is hopefully done with all the lingering ankle issues, especially after his last surgery. Castro has been nursing a badly strained hamstring. So, if they’re both headed to Scranton this week, that should be a great sign that things are back on track for both infielders.

Now, what they decide to do with the plethora of infielders they already have when those two are ready to come back… well, that’s anyone’s guess! (Of course, I have mine, but you’ll have to wait and see!)

Go Yankees!

{Title note: totally stole that from a t-shirt I saw today promoting Sonny Gray’s first start as a Yankee in the Bronx.}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Yankees!

Game 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 109: NYY vs. CLE — “Cleveland’s a Plum”, at least tonight

Okay, my apologies to the city of Cleveland yesterday seemed to work. Of course, it could very well be the fact that the Yankees just played way better than they have the last two games at Progressive Field.

Competing for that fifth rotation spot, assumed odd man out Jordan Montgomery certainly worked very hard at trying to prove he deserved to at least remain in consideration for that spot. Montgomery threw just 65 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 3 hits and just 1 run, striking out 7 Cleveland batters. That lone run was a 1-out solo home run in the 2nd inning.

But between Montgomery and the rest of the bullpen, the Yankees held the strong Indians’ lineup from doing much of anything else. David Robertson came on for 2 innings, the 6th and 7th, and kept that momentum strong. Dellin Betances had a flawless 8th inning, turning the game over to Aroldis Chapman, who earned his 14th save of the season.

Not that the Yankees’ offense was blowing the Indians’ pitching staff out of the water or anything. In the 1st inning, Gardner led-off with a walk, moved to 2nd on Judge’s 1-out single, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ (just-inches-shy-of-a-home-run) RBI double to get the Yankees on the board early.

Once the Indians tied the game up in the next inning, the battle was on for who would break the tie, and as the Indians’ pitching is certainly one of their strongest elements, it was quite the feat. It wouldn’t be until the 8th inning, and it would be Chase Headley to break the stalemate. Headley hit a nice 1-out solo home run into the right field seats.

Final score: 2-1 Yankees

Injury news: Matt Holliday was out of tonight’s lineup due to a sore back. Apparently, he tweaked it last night during one of his at-bats, and it didn’t get better with rest and treatment. So, it looks like he might be headed back to the DL again. He has been struggling since he came off the DL last time (due to a virus), so maybe this could be a reset as well as a time to rest and recover.

Okay, since you all enjoyed my nickname exploration (and if you didn’t, sorry), I decided to do more research. I found sites that list many other nicknames for Cleveland, some I believe, some I question. Again, to recap, the most common I’ve heard (and this is primarily from family that lives or lived in the area) are the “Mistake on the Lake”, “Rock & Roll Capital of the World”, and “Believeland”.

One nickname was attached to the city around the early days of statehood for Ohio — “Forest City” — due to its heavily forested areas. More recently, the city has tried to market itself for urbanites seeking gentrified city living as the “North Coast“. But my absolute favorite (and one that absolutely no one I know ever heard of) is “Plum City” — supposedly on a 1970s marketing campaign to attract tourists a la the “Big Apple”.

Small note here: I’m not sure why the fruit thing works for New York, but it falls terribly flat when literally any other city tries to use a local fruit and apply it as their nickname or slogan. Here’s a few clearly failed attempts — Big Orange (LA), Big Peach (Atlanta), Big Strawberry (Garden Grove, CA), Big Tomato (Sacramento), Big Guava (Tampa), and the Big Pineapple (Honolulu). Stop with the fruit, people! (I’m looking at you Atlanta and your decidedly weird peach obsession…)

Alright, pop culture reference alert: even my family would probably prefer to be more like Jack Donaghy of 30 Rock and refer to the city as “The Cleve”. For reference, the direct quote is regarding what he believes is the vacation wishes of every red-blooded American: “We’d all like to flee to the Cleve and club-hop down at the Flats and have lunch with Little Richard…” (And if you have no idea who Jack, 30 Rock, or why that’s a funny scene, you are due for a good binge-watching session; it’s on Netflix.)

Well, that’s all from “The Cleve” tonight. Fingers crossed to split the series tonight or “Plum City” might feel a little more like a prune.

Go Yankees!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final score: 7-3 Yankees.

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

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

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

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

Go Yankees!

Game 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!