ALCS 2: NYY vs. HOU, NLDS 1: CHC vs. LAD — Home field advantage?

Another day where home field advantage meant both nothing and everything. Once again, the Yankees are playing like the postseason we all knew they were, only to be edged out at the very end by the Astros… again. And on the West Coast, the Cubs found out why the Dodgers have the best record in the league.

Game 1: ALCS — Yankees at Astros
Honestly, it was quite the pitching duel between the Yankees and Astros for a good portion of the game. Both starters gave up just 1 run each to tie up the game for most of it. Let me be perfectly frank, the Astros’ starter is a recent acquisition and former foe of the Yankees in previous postseasons. And I haven’t seen a postseason starter this strong since the Giants’ ace in the 2014 postseason. The Astros’ starter threw 124 pitches in the full 9 innings, striking out 13 Yankee batters, and only giving up 5 hits and a walk.

The Yankees got on the board in the 5th. With 2 outs, Aaron Hicks hit a solid double and then scored when Todd Frazier hit a ground-rule double. The best part about Frazier’s double was that the ball flew out of the stadium and then lodged itself in the chain-link fence by the Yankees bullpen in center field. Now, it was about 10 feet up from the ground and about 10 feet below that tell-tale yellow line that circles the stadium to signify how high a ball must travel to be counted as a home run. The center fielder tried throwing his glove up to dislodge it, and most long-term Astros’ associates and beat reporters have never seen a ball lodged there before.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were a little hurt when their starter was a little hurt. Luis Severino got the start and was very sharp again. He threw 62 pitches through his 4 innings, giving up just 2 hits and 2 walks, but not striking out any Houston batters. His lone allowed run came in the 4th when a long ball landed in a kid’s glove right at the top of the right field wall for a home run. Judge seeing the kid, slowed down and braced himself for impact against the wall. I believe that had that been an adult (like the kid’s dad) instead, Judge would have jumped and grabbed that ball back. An umpire review proved that the ball was definitely out, the kid’s glove was right at the top of the wall not over into the field. But Judge’s caution due to it being a kid was clearly evident.

But after 4 innings, Severino was having shoulder issues on his throwing arm. He said he felt fine, but the shoulder just wasn’t loosening up. And with Severino’s potential for some great outings in the future, the Yankees weren’t taking any chances and pulled him. Of course, Severino wanted to stay in and finish his job like a professional, but the bullpen was ready to do their job and do it well in such cases. And there didn’t seem to be anything obviously wrong upon some initial tests, but they will keep an eye on him over the next few days.

Tommy Kahnle breezed his way through the next 2 innings, and David Robertson got the next 2 innings. Both relievers kept the Astros from adding to their score and the game stayed tied, both waiting for the Yankees’ breakthrough that just never came. As once again, they just ran out of outs.

In the bottom of the 9th, the sold out crowd of hometown fans got what was clearly their wish, as Aroldis Chapman clearly did not. Their star player hit a solid 1-out single and then when the next guy doubled, the Astros’ star raced all the way from 1st to slide in home. Judge fielded the ball in right field and fired it to Gregorius at 2nd (who sort of stumbled over the runner sliding into 2nd for his double). Gregorius, unable to make the play at 2nd, fired the ball to Gary Sanchez at home, but either due to Gregorius’ stumble or Sanchez’s over-excitement. But Sanchez dropped the ball as he was trying to make the tag at home.

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

Game 2: NLCS — Cubs at Dodgers
Both starters in the first game of the NLCS were pretty evenly matched, going 5 innings each, throwing 87-89 pitches, giving up minimal hits (2-4) and walks (1-2), striking out 4 batters, and each giving up 2 runs. And that makes sense as the Cubs’ starters and power-hitters are pretty comparable to the Dodgers.

In the 4th, the Cubs got on the board first with a lead-off single and then scored as part of a 2-run home run. But the Dodgers tied it up in the bottom of the 5th. With 1 out, they worked 2 walks who then both scored on a double and sacrifice fly to tie up the game. So it would be down to the bullpen for the difference of the game. And that’s where the Dodgers clearly outshone the visiting Cubs, keeping the Cubs to those 2 runs.

In the 6th, the Dodgers led-off with a solo home run to break the tie. And then did it again in the 7th. With runners in the corners thanks to a double and single (and another new reliever), a single score another run. But initially, the run was declared out. The Dodgers challenged the call on a possible violation of the home plate collision rule, and it was overturned. Of course, that made the Cubs manager hopping mad, and he hopped right out of the game when he was ejected. Much to the delight of the home crowd in LA.

Final score: 5-2 Dodgers, Dodgers lead series 1-0

The Dodgers-Cubs continue tomorrow (Sunday) for Game 2 in their series. And the Yankees head back to the Bronx to hopefully redeem the series (starting Monday). The Yankees are still 4 wins or 2 losses away from either going to the World Series or watching it from their couches.

Go Yankees!

ALDS 5: NYY vs. CLE, NLDS 4: WAS vs. CHC — Hometown losers, Yanks to ALCS, NLDS to Game 5

Today was easily two of the most interesting games in the entire postseason, but for two very different reasons. Except they had one thing in common — both home town crowds walked away very disappointed.

Game 1: Nationals at Cubs (make-up for rainout on Oct. 10)
In the longest game (nearly 4 hours) these teams have played this postseason, it was like watching a very different pair of teams than any of the previous three games. And I think I could blame the mold in the A/C in the Chicago hotel the Nationals are staying in  if the mold was something out of a comic book. Because the Nationals were clearly the strongest team today in nearly every possible way. (By the way, I don’t doubt there’s a mold problem as I stay in lots of hotels and have run into this problem many times, even in high-end establishments like I’m sure the Nationals are staying in.)

Their starter threw a really great outing, going a solid 7 scoreless innings, giving up just 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 12 Cubs’ batters. And the final 2 innings and relievers kept the scoreless streak going. But the Cubs’ pitchers just didn’t have it at all today. Their starter only went 4 innings, and their relievers each had shaky outings of their own. In the 3rd, a 1-out double moved to 3rd on a wild pitch and then scored later on a fielding error to get the Nats on the board with an unearned run early.

Despite the unsurity of the Cubs’ pitchers, they were able to hold off the Nationals from scoring for most of the game. But then came the 8th inning, and things just didn’t get better for the home team. With 1 out, a batter worked a walk and then got picked off of 1st, thanks in part to a Cubs’ challenge that overturned the original safe call. Then after a batter singled, the Cubs went back to their bullpen. But the bases were quickly loaded with consecutive walks. A new reliever then gave up a big grand slam to solidify the Nationals win and nearly silence the entirety of Wrigley Field. Literally, fans were headed for the exits after that hit.

Final score: 5-0 Nationals, series split 2-2, NLDS heads back to D.C. for Game 5

Game 2: Yankees at Indians
The Yankees and Indians entered tonight’s game with that winner-take-all attitude that is so wonderful in the postseason. I had a conversation with my mother (who you might remember grew up an Indians fan), and we concluded that the winner of this game would be the team that really deserved it, the one that played better at the end of the day. And they did.

The Yankees seem to have the Indians’ ace starter’s number and began their advance early in the game thanks solely to Didi Gregorius, who hit a 2-out solo home run in the 1st. And then he came back in the 3rd, with 1 out and Gardner on 1st with a lead-off single to hit another home run to give the Yankees an early lead. The Indians’ starter left the game in the 4th inning and their bullpen held the Yankees off for most of the game.

In the mean time, CC Sabathia got the start tonight, throwing just 69 pitches into the 5th inning, striking out 9 Cleveland batters, and fending them off for the first 4 innings. It wasn’t until the 5th that the Indians started to chip away at Sabathia’s strong outing and the Yankees’ lead. With just 1 out, Sabathia gave up 4 consecutive singles to score 2 runs before David Robertson came on to relieve him and promptly got the next batter to ground into a beautiful double play to end the threat. Robertson breezed his way through the next 2 innings, handing things over to Aroldis Chapman for the final 2 innings.

The Yankees held onto that minuscule lead for most of the second half of the game until the 9th inning when they had a bit of fun. Aaron Hicks hit a 1-out single and ended up at 2nd on a sloppy fielding error. Todd Frazier worked a 2-out walk to join Hicks on the baseline. Then after a really big nail-biting 12-pitch at-bat, Brett Gardner hit a solid single that scored both Hicks and Frazier thanks to a throwing error that allowed Gardner to land at 2nd on the play. It was enough of a lead to make the crowd at Progressive Field feel a whole lot like the crowd at Wrigley.

Final score: 5-2 Yankees, Yankees win ALDS, advance to ALCS

Yes, that’s right, the Yankees, the team everyone thought would barely break even in the regular season just beat the best team in the American League. Sorry to all my family who are huge Indians fans (and still follow my Yankees-centric blog, because … family), but you’ll have to try again next year to break your now 70 year championship drought.

Okay, so Game 5 of the NLDS is tomorrow night to decide how the Championship Series will look. (And I’ll do my Division Series’ bracket outcome and predict the next series.) The Yankees will face off the Astros in Houston starting on Friday night. The winner of the Cubs-Nationals series will face off against the waiting Dodgers in LA starting Saturday. So things are really just getting started, folks!

Go Yankees!

ALDS 3: HOU vs. BOS & CLE vs. NYY — Sweeps denied!

Two teams were headed into enemy territory on the East Coast looking to sweep their respective series and head into the ALCS to face each other. But both home teams were like, “Sweep denied!”

Game 1: Astros at Red Sox
Fenway was rocking for their home team, as only Fenway can do. And the Red Sox, who had been out scored by the Astros 16-4 in the last 2 games, were ready to make up some of that ground on their home turf. So they did.

Once again, neither starter had much success, the Red Sox starter only making it into the 2nd inning, the Astros’ starter only the 3rd. Which meant again that the bullpen would be the deciding option, and today that would be the Red Sox’s bullpen to show off, thanks in part to a former starter going 4 scoreless innings through the middle of the game, keeping the Red Sox in command of the game.

The Astros got on the board first in the 1st inning. A lead-off single stole 2nd and then scored on an RBI single. That runner then scored on a 1-out 2-run home run to give the Astros a nice early lead. But that home team bullpen wouldn’t let them add to their lead, and the Red Sox offense caught up and then surpassed. Big time.

First, loading up the bases in the 2nd, but only scoring 1 run on a single. In the 3rd, with 2 outs, a batter doubled and then scored on an RBI single. With the starter now out, the next batter hit a big 2-run home run to suddenly shift the narrative. The Red Sox were in the lead. And then they had the 7th inning, loading up the bases again so that a double would score 2 of those runners and a single the third. One out later, a 3-run home run cemented the Red Sox’s big victory.

Final score: 10-3 Red Sox, Astros lead series 2-1

Game 2: Indians at Yankees
Three people are to blame for tonight’s game in the Bronx — Tanaka, Judge, and Bird. First, Masahiro Tanaka threw an absolute gem, breezing through the Indians’ roster with a near perfect outing. He threw 92 pitches in his 7 scoreless innings, gave up 3 hits and a walk, and struck out 7 Cleveland batters. He sped through the power-hitters, pushing the game at a pace that is very familiar when it’s Tanaka Time in the Bronx. At one point, Tanaka’s scoreless outing was saved by all 6-feet 7-inches of Aaron Judge jumping and grabbing a fly ball from crossing into the right field seats (and landing in the clutches of an infamous ball “collector”).

David Robertson threw only 9 pitches in the 8th, but with a runner on base with a walk, the Yankees needed to shut things down. They asked Aroldis Chapman to come on for a 5-out save, 4 of his outs would be strikeouts, topping out at 104 mph at one point, despite getting 2 base runners in the 9th.

The Yankees faced off against the Indians’ starter, who pretty much shut them down for most of his outing, into the 6th inning. But they started hitting and getting base runners, so the Indians went to their bullpen to save the day. That, of course, didn’t help when Greg Bird led-off the 7th inning with an absolute bomb into the 2nd deck of the right field seats. That would be the only run scored tonight, but all the winner needs is one more run than their opponent to win the game.

Final score: 1-0 Yankees, Indians lead series 2-1

There’s a tomorrow in Boston and New York. Both teams forced at Game 4, so tomorrow will be packed again with 4 games. (And a semi-blown bracket for me!) In other words, there’s still so much baseball left to play this year.

Go Yankees!

ALDS 2: BOS vs. HOU & NYY vs. CLE, NLDS 1: CHC vs. WAS & ARI vs. LAD — Home field advantage… and the Cubs

Big day in the world of baseball with four consecutive games. Well, there was quite a bit of overlap for a couple of games thanks to a bad call and far too many extra innings. And because there’s some games out West, one game lasted well into the next morning, making today far longer than this East Coast girl is used to.

Game 1: ALDS 2 — Red Sox at Astros
It took exactly 4 hours for the Astros to dominate the Red Sox and send the series to Fenway in their favor. The Astros called on their ace starter to pitch into the 6th inning, and he really stepped up to the plate (so to speak), fending off the Red Sox batters for most of the game, only giving up 3 hits, 3 walks, and a run and striking out 7 batters. His allowed run was in the 2nd when a lead-off double stole 3rd and later scored on a 1-out single. The Astros’ bullpen kept that momentum going until the 9th inning, when a 1-out single moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a 2-out single.

The Red Sox’s pitching was pretty much on line with their offense. For example, their starter only went 2 full innings (and 3 batters in the 3rd) and their bullpen followed that example. In the 1st, with 2 outs and a man on base with a single, a 2-run homer got the Astros on base early. A lead-off homer in the 3rd added to the score. A double followed that only to score on the next player’s single. Despite loading the bases, the Red Sox finally got some outs in the inning to get out of the jam.

To finalize the game, the Astros roughed up the Red Sox again in the 6th. With runners on the corners and 1 out, a fly ball and throwing error allowed the runners to advance and thus score an extra run. After intentionally walking the next batter, the Red Sox gave up a double to score 2 more and a single to score the last one. The reality is that the Red Sox are rather out-matched by the Astros, and this series shows it very well. However, anything can happen in Fenway… just ask the Yankees.

Final score: 8-2 Astros, Astros lead ALDS 2-0

Game 2: ALDS 2 — Yankees at Indians
The problem with tonight’s game is that it was actually a really good game for the Yankees, but then things happened that shouldn’t have happened, decisions will be permanently and suitably questioned, and the game spiraled out of control. As evidenced by the 5 hour and 8 minute game time and 13 innings played. CC Sabathia threw a great game, just 77 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 3 hits, 3 walks, and 4 runs (only 2 earned), and struck out 5 Cleveland batters.

In the 1st, Sabathia loaded up the bases with a fielding error, a walk, and a hit-by-pitch. A single scored 2 runners before the next batter lined into a double play as the runner at 2nd double off base. That runner also badly sprained his ankle. And a lead-off batter in the 2nd moved to 2nd on a questionable throwing error, ended up at 3rd on a sacrifice bunt, and then scored on an RBI single.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were actually hitting off the Indians’ ace starter, knocking him out after 76 pitches in the 3rd inning after racking up 7 hits, a walk, and 6 runs. In the 1st, Judge worked a 1-out walk and then scored as part of Gary Sanchez’s 2-run home run straight up the middle. In the 3rd, Sanchez hit a 1-out single, moved to 2nd on a ground out, and then scored on Starlin Castro’s single. Bird then singled, so that would make Aaron Hicks’ big hit a 3-run home run. That ended the Indians’ starter’s night and really set the Yankees with a big lead. Gregorius later worked a lead-off walk in the 5th and then scored as part of Greg Bird’s big 2-run home run.

Okay, so the 6th inning… known forever now as the inning that changed everything. Sabathia was still pitching and gave up a lead-off walk and got an out. That was it for Sabathia, so the Yankees called in Chad Green. This is decision to question #1. Why remove Sabathia when he’s having a great outing and has such a low pitch count? Okay, so Green gets out #2, but then gives up a double to put runners in scoring position.

Then things get weirder. The next batter is “hit-by-a-pitch”, or rather his bat was. He was awarded 1st base (to load up the bases), which was a surprise even to the batter. Gary Sanchez stood up to alert Girardi that it wasn’t a HBP and should be challenged on a replay. By he was practically ignored (questionable decision #2), so the bases were loaded. The next batter promptly hit a home run, a grand slam to put the Indians within a run of the Yankees’ lead. Well, the entire sold-out crowd at Progressive Field certainly loved it. Most of Yankee Universe took to social media (including myself) to express their displeasure.

It was on to David Robertson for the next 5 outs, closing out the 6th and through the 7th and into the 8th. In the 8th, he gave up a lead-off solo home run to tie up the game right there. After another out, the Yankees flipped the game to Tommy Kahnle for the final 2 outs of the inning before turning to Aroldis Chapman in the 9th.

It is worth noting that the Cleveland fans treated every out after that run tying home run as if it was the last one of the game. Chapman actually pitched through the 9th and then the 10th as the game went into extra innings. The Yankees’ batters were able to get runners on base, but they weren’t able to finish the job and score a run. Dellin Betances came on in the 11th and pitched 2 scoreless innings, and for some reason (questionable decision #3), came out for the 13th inning. A lead-off walk stole 2nd and then promptly scored on a single to score the walk-off run for the home team.

Final score: 9-8 Indians, Indians lead ALDS 2-0

Game 3: NLDS 1 — Cubs at Nationals
About the time the Yankees began their spiral into the “questionable decisions” territory, the Cubs-Nationals game began in the nation’s capital. It was a quick 3 hour and 2 minute game that began with a ceremonial first pitch by Representative Steve Scalise, who was seriously injured earlier this year when a gun man opened fire on a Congressional baseball practice. Scalise threw a great first pitch and set the tone for the game to come.

Both teams sent in some stellar pitchers, who were pretty much locked in a pitching duel for a the first half of the game. Honestly, I didn’t realize how evenly matched the Cubs and Nationals were until this game. Both starters went a full 7 innings, gave up minimal hits, and kept the score low. Their 2 respective relievers followed suit in their single innings.

But it would the Cubs to buck today’s trend of home field advantage and come out on top thanks to their gift of small ball tonight. In the 6th, the lead-off batter reached on a fielding error, moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt, and then scored on an RBI single and throwing error that moved that batter to 2nd. Then he scored on another RBI single to give the Cubs a solid lead. With new pitching in the 8th, the lead-off batter for the Cubs doubled, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on a 2-out double for that insurance run they’d never need tonight.

They finished their game just a few minutes after the previous one did in extra innings. It wasn’t as talked about post-game, but the pitcher’s duel was something in the postseason, a season so far dominated by home runs and sloppy pitching. It was nice to see starting pitchers duke it out old-school.

Final score: 3-0 Cubs, Cubs lead NLDS 1-0

Game 4: NLDS 1 — Diamondbacks at Dodgers
This game started about 10:30 pm Eastern Time, roughly 11 minutes after Cleveland scored its walk-off run three time zones away. And in regular postseason fashion, it would last 3 hours and 37 minutes because the Dodgers came to play ball, thanks mostly to their ace starter who threw into the 7th inning (100 pitches) and struck out 7 Arizona batters along the way. Over on the other hand, the Diamondbacks’ starter only threw 1 inning, but racked up a whopping 48 pitches.

Here’s how: the Dodgers hit a lead-off single and worked a walk which both scored as part of a big 3-run home run to kick things off in Los Angeles. The next batter singled and then scored on a double before the pitcher finally got an out. He would get all 3 outs as strikeouts, but the damage was done awfully early. The Diamondbacks answered back in the 3rd with a 2-out solo shot, a mere blip on the scoreboard at that point. And their pitchers weren’t doing the greatest job of fending off the power-hitting Dodgers. In the 4th, with 1 out and 2 runners on base, consecutive singles scored 2 more runs for the home team.

The Diamondbacks chipped away at the Dodgers’ lead the only way they could — with home runs. With 2 outs in the 6th, they launched one into the left field seats to double their score. And in the 7th, with 1 out, they hit back-to-back left field solo home runs. That was it for the Dodgers’ ace, but not for the rest of the game. As the Dodgers got those 2 runs back in the 8th. A lead-off single later scored on a 1-out triple, and then that runner scored on an easy single.

Finally, playing a little small ball, the D-backs made the 9th inning a little interesting. A 1-out single moved to 2nd on defensive indifference and later scored on a fielder’s choice and throwing error of sorts.

Final score: 9-5 Dodgers, Dodgers lead NLDS 1-0

The ALDS teams head to the East Coast to continue their series on Sunday, with the Astros and Indians hoping for an easy 3rd game. The NLDS plays their second game tomorrow. But clearly, there’s nothing easy about the postseason. What’s that old phrase? Or it might be called “football”? Yeah, something like that…

Go Yankees!

AL Wild Card: MIN vs. NYY — Rough start, solid finish thanks to big bats

The last time the Yankees won a postseason game was the 2012 ALDS, game 5, against the Orioles, Raul Ibanez was dubbed “King of New York” for his postseason heroics, and Derek Jeter would break his ankle diving for a ball in the 12th inning in the next game, game 1 of the ALCS against the Tigers. In other words, things were very different five years ago.

Tonight, the Yankees moved onto the ALDS after defeating the Twins in the winner-take-all Wild Card Game. It took nearly four hours in front of a sold-out crowd in the Bronx, and it took all of the energy and emotions to electrify the fans during the game.

We are all human and thus have off-nights. But for Luis Severino, tonight was one of the worst possible times to experience an off-night. And Girardi continued his recent short-leash for the pitching staff. Severino threw just 29 pitches in the 1st inning, giving up 4 hits, a walk, and 3 runs. He didn’t make it out of that 1st inning.

Severino gave up a lead-off home run, a 1-out walk, a 2-run home run, a single, and a double before Girardi had enough. With runners firmly in scoring position and just 1 out, Severino’s outing was over. So Chad Green was called in early to do Chad Green things. He quickly got out of the 1st inning with 2 solid strikeouts to strand the Twins runners. He breezed his way through the 2nd inning, but found some trouble in the 3rd inning loading up the bases with a single and 2 walks (and just 1 out).

While Green was responsible for all the runners as he passed the torch to David Robertson. The first batter hit into a fielder’s choice (a late double play) that scored the lead runner, but then Robertson got the first of his 5 strikeouts (of his 10 total outs) in his outing tonight. And Robertson’s outing was easily the best thing from the mound today, throwing 52 pitches over 3.1 pitches. It was stellar and ended up being the perfect recipient for the eventual win.

Tommy Kahnle was called on to close out the 6th for Robertson and then breeze his way through the 7th and 8th innings in just 29 pitches. Aroldis Chapman’s 9th inning was pretty good too, hitting 103 mph pitches as if they were nothing, and getting all 3 outs as strikeouts. The final out came as a beautiful swing, the whole stadium on its feet, the place alive with energy and hope.

Now, beyond the great job of the bullpen, which had to start so very early tonight, the Yankees’ offense actually worked tonight too. The Twins’ starter had his own rough night, only lasting 2 innings and throwing a whopping 64 pitches over that short time span. In the 1st, Gardner led-off with a walk, and Judge singled to put runners in the corners. With 1 out, it would fall to Didi Gregorius to his a big 3-run home run to tie up the game at that point, so very early on in the night.

Brett Gardner added a run in the 2nd with a 2-out solo home run that bounced off the front row barrier of the 2nd deck of the right field seats. With the starter out, the Yankees faced the Twins bullpen, which clearly isn’t nearly as good as the Yankees’, so the Yankees kept adding to their score.

In the 3rd, Sanchez led-off with a double and then scored on Greg Bird’s 2-out single. And Gardner hit a 1-out single in the 4th and then scored on Aaron Judge’s first postseason homer, a 2-run home run bouncing off the top of the left-field wall for a couple more insurance runs.

The Twins bullpen was able to focus in and keep the Yankees from adding more to their score. Until the 7th inning, that is. Judge led-off with a walk and then ended up at 3rd on Sanchez’s single and a throwing error. Gregorius was intentionally walked to load up the bases, and the Twins got their first out of the inning. A new reliever got a strikeout, and another new reliever promptly walked Aaron Hicks to walk in Judge to add just one more run to the score.

Look, both teams started off really messy and shaky, but both teams pulled it together to show how matched they really were. And it ended Yankees-side up.

Final score: 8-4 Yankees

So, now the Yankees advance to the ALDS against Indians in Cleveland on Thursday, for the best-of-5 game series. Just a reminder, the format goes 2 games in Cleveland, 2 games in the Bronx, and 1 game back in Cleveland, if necessary. The first team to win 3 games advances to the ALCS. But first, tomorrow night, we shift to the National League to watch their Wild Card game between the Rockies and Diamondbacks.

Before tonight’s game, the Yankees held a moment of silence for the victims of the Las Vegas tragedy. They asked reliever and Las Vegas native Chasen Shreve to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in their honor.

Go Yankees!

Game 161: TOR vs. NYY — A bittersweet #CCStrong victory

We knew it would be close this season, and this one was pretty close to the wire. With the Yankees’ win today, they were one step closer to possibly taking the division from their Boston rivals. But they too won their game, and as the magic number was 1, the division win goes to the other guys this year. (More after the recap.)

CC Sabathia got the start today for this middle game of the final weekend series of the season, replacing Garcia in the rotation so that the incredible season of Sabathia could get yet another shot. Sabathia has had a truly stellar year, and he ends his 2017 regular season on another win, his 14th actually. He threw 75 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up just 4 hits and no runs, striking out 6 Toronto batters along the way.

Chad Green got the final out of the 6th inning for Sabathia and pitches through the 7th inning, keeping the Blue Jays scoreless, as Green tends to do all season long. Tommy Kahnle, however, had a less-than-stellar outing of his own, entering the game in the 8th inning. He gave up single and a walk, and with no outs, all the pitchers are on short leashes lately.

So, the Yankees turned to David Robertson, but even he had a few issues today. With 1 out, Robertson loaded up the bases with a walk. But then a sacrifice fly scored the Blue Jays’ lone run before Robertson got his 2nd strikeout to get out of the inning. Aroldis Chapman, of course, came on for the 9th inning and sailed through the Blue Jays’ lineup for his 22nd save.

The Blue Jays had a better outing today over the Yankees compared to recent games, as far as pitching goes at least. Even still, the Jays’ starter only pitched through 4 innings, still holding off most of the Yankees’ offense until his final inning. Aaron Judge led-off the 4th inning with his 52nd home run of the season, a monster homer that cleared the bleachers in left field, landing on the concourse in front of the retired numbers wall out there. Then with 1 out, Gregorius singled, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, and then scored on Starlin Castro’s single. Another out later, Frazier’s single put runners on the corners, but a line drive ended Yankee hopes to add to their lead.

The Blue Jays then called on their bullpen to patch together their remaining 4 innings, and they did a pretty good job of fending off the Yankee offense, despite giving up another hit and 3 walks. The Yankees just couldn’t piece anything else together for themselves. But it was enough.

Final score: 2-1 Yankees

Postseason prep: So, the Yankees finished their game and immediately turned the attention to Boston where the Red Sox are hosting the Astros for their final series. But the Red Sox got an early lead, thanks to the Astros’ starter having a pretty bad day. So upon their final out, the Red Sox officially solidified their division title and sealed the Yankees as the first Wild Card contender.

With only one game left to play (bring on the tears), here’s how the postseason picture looks. The AL Division Champions are the Red Sox, the Indians, and the Astros. The AL Wild Cards are the Yankees and the Twins. Over in the NL, the Division Champions are the Nationals, the Cubs, and the Dodgers. Their Wild Card race is coming down to the wire. The Diamondbacks are definitely the first Wild Card, but the other one is still up for grabs between the Rockies and the Brewers. Currently, the Brewers are a game behind the Rockies in the standings, and are right now winning their game. The Rockies play later tonight, and a win will seal their fate as the second Wild Card.

Okay, here’s how the postseason works: the one-off Wild Card games will be played on Tuesday, October 3 (Twins at Yankees) and Wednesday, October 4 (TBD at Diamondbacks). And the Division Series (a best of 5 games series) begins on Thursday (October 5) for the AL and Friday (October 6) for the NL. The winners of the Wild Card games will play the best teams of each league (the Indians and Dodgers, respectively), and the remaining two teams per league will play each other. It’s a best of 5 games series, so the first one to 3 games goes on to the next round — the Championship Series (best of 7 games series), which begins October 13-14. The World Series begins Tuesday, October 24, with a potential Game 7 on Wednesday, November 1.

It’s going to be an interesting October once again.

Go Yankees!

Game 160: TOR vs. NYY — #TanakaTime x15

There’s no other way to say it — Tanaka was just spectacular to watch this afternoon. In this first game of the final series of the season, the Yankees need every player to be at their absolute best. And today, Tanaka, who’s had mixed results all season, was just back to the Tanaka that Yankee Universe fell for a few years ago.

Masahiro Tanaka threw 103 pitches in his 7 scoreless innings, only giving up 3 hits while striking out a career-high 15 batters in a single game. This set him up for what would become his 13th win of the season. Tanaka’s pitches were just on point, and that was the baseline that the Yankees needed to spur them on to push for the win.

Robertson took over in the 8th to keep the Blue Jays from scoring. And then they handed the game over to Betances. But he didn’t have control today, promptly giving up a single, a passed ball, and a walk to allow 2 base runners. That put things into a save situation, so the Yankees called out their closer. Aroldis Chapman needed just 9 pitches to breeze through 3 outs (including 2 strikeouts) and earn his 21st save of the season.

Meanwhile, the Yankees just needed a single run to win. They did slightly better than that, though not much. They had “bookend” opportunities against the Blue Jays’ starter, only scoring in his beginning and ending innings. In the 1st, Ellsbury hit a 1-out single and stole 2nd. Judge worked and walk, and Gregorius singled to load up the bases. Starlin Castro hit a single to scored Ellsbury, keeping the bases loaded, and Greg Bird’s sacrifice fly scored Judge. But a strikeout ended any further chance to add to their score then. Then, in the 5th, with 2 outs and Hicks on 2nd base, Aaron Judge singled. That scored Hicks, but Judge was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.

{Media note: sorry, but there’s some missing available highlights for this game as the focus was clearly on Tanaka’s strikeout frenzy rather than the runs scored.}

With a new reliever, the Yankees found one more opportunity to add an insurance run in the 6th. Gregorius led-off with a single, stole 2nd (the 4th stolen base of the game) on Castro’s strikeout, and then scored on Greg Bird’s single. Once the Blue Jays went to a new reliever, the Yankees saw their chances to add to their lead evaporate, starting with a double play to end that inning.

But it was more than enough. Especially as the Yankee pitching staff racked up 18 total strikeouts, 15 of those from Tanaka alone this afternoon.

Final score: 4-0 Yankees

Postseason prep: because the Yankees played a day game, in part due to Yom Kippur beginning at sundown (Gmar tov or Yom tov to all who are observing the holiday tonight), there isn’t a lot of postseason updates to talk about so early in the day. Fingers crossed for the Astros to just continue to dominate the Red Sox this weekend (go Astros!).

However, it should be noted that with today’s win, the Yankees officially hit 90 wins this season. And as there were a number of “talking heads” that thought the Yankees would be lucky to hit 80-something, this number feels pretty good.

Okay, everyone, hold tight, there’s just 2 more games to win (and 3 games for the Sox to lose). It’s sad when I have to write that we’ve hit 100 games, but it’s worse when I hit 150 because we’re almost done. So at 160, and still a minute chance at the division title, it’s like holding my breath, crossing fingers and toes, and praying for every measure of favor possible. This just makes it all the more interesting.

Go Yankees!