ALDS 4: HOU vs. BOS & CLE vs. NYY, NLDS 3: WAS vs. CHC & LAD vs. ARI — Halfway to a Championship Series

Two Championship Series teams are ready to go, and two are still battling it out. And two teams are now officially in their off-season.

Game 1: Astros at Red Sox
It took over four hours, a managerial ejection, and 4 starters to determine this afternoon’s game. Both teams sent in 2 starters for long-term stints to try to push their respective causes — the Red Sox needing to win to stay alive for Game 5, and the Astros ready to win to close out this series and focus on the next. After the Astros got on the board in the first when a lead-off double scored on double play, the Red Sox answered back with a 1-out solo home run.

The Astros’ lead-off triple in the 2nd scored on a 2-out single, putting them ahead by a slim margin. The Red Sox found their opportunity to strike back in the 5th. A 1-out walk ended the Astros’ starter’s outing and the reliever promptly gave up a 2-run home run to put the Red Sox in the lead for the first time today. But then the Astros bounced back with a lead-off solo shot in the 8th to tie up the game. And then they continued their push forward. A batter ended up singling on fan interference, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on an RBI single. They added another one in the 9th when a hit-by-pitch later scored on a 2-out double for the insurance run they would need.

In a last-ditch effort, the Red Sox had the final half-inning to make up the difference to say alive. It was suddenly electric at Fenway when the lead-off hitter hit an inside the park home run after the Astros’ outfielder had trouble fielding the long hit ball. But then the Astros’ closer ended the Fenway faithful’s hopes, as the rain dripped into the stadium and the stadium organist played what can only be described as funeral music.

Final score: 5-4 Astros, Astros win series 3-1, Astros advances to ALCS

Game 2: Nationals at Cubs
Another pitchers’ duel between these two teams keeps things interesting and tight in this series. And rather short, just over 3 hours. Both starters pitched well into the game with minimal offense allowed. It really is a rather well-matched series. It wasn’t until the 6th inning that the Nationals broke through the scoreless game. With 2 outs, a batter ended up all the way at 3rd by a single fielder making 2 errors in a single play. He then scored on a double when the first reliever came into the game.

But this kind of game keeps things far too close, and an unearned run wasn’t going to go unanswered for long. In the bottom of the 7th, a Cubs batter hit a 1-out double. And with the Nationals going to their bullpen, a similar thing happened — a single scored that runner to tie up the game. In the 8th, the Cubs came back again to break the tie. A lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt. After a strikeout and a new reliever, another Cubs’ batter singled to score that runner, but then ended up getting thrown out going for 2nd to end the inning.

Final score: 2-1 Cubs, Cubs lead series 2-1

Game 3: Indians at Yankees
The Yankees weren’t about to let the Indians take the series, at least not on their home turf. Which came at a slight advantage to them when the Indians couldn’t pitch or defend tonight for anything. Meanwhile, Luis Severino held the Indians off enough for the Yankees to do something amazing. Severino threw a solid 113 pitches in his 7 innings, gave up just 4 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and struck out 9 batters. Actually, all of his allowed runs were off home runs — a 2-out walk and 2-run homer in the 4th, and a 1-out solo shot in the 5th. Dellin Betances had trouble in the 8th, walking his 2 batters, so the Yankees opted for a surprising choice — Tommy Kahnle — for the final 6 outs of the game. Of those 6 outs, 5 of those were strikeouts. Kahnle was just as strong as we’ve seen him all year.

On the flip side, the Indians couldn’t pitch or defend their way out of a paper bag tonight. Their starter (on short rest from Game 1) only pitched into the 2nd inning, but the Indians went through 7 relievers. In the 2nd inning, the Yankees started their offensive dominance thanks to some defensive incompetence. With 1 out, Castro made it safely to 1st on a fielding error. He moved to 2nd on a passed ball and then scored on Todd Frazier’s double. Frazier then scored on Aaron Hicks’ single, who then moved to 3rd on Gardner’s single. After Gardner moved to 2nd on a stolen base, both he and Hicks scored on Aaron Judge’s double.

And that was just the start of it. In the 3rd, Bird walked and moved to 3rd on Castro’s double, and with 1 out, Frazier worked a walk to load the bases. A ground out finally snapped the Indians’ defense into high gear and got the out at home, but kept the bases loaded. Brett Gardner hit into what should be an easy grounder, but once again, a throwing error worked into the Yankees’ advantage, scoring Castro for an extra run.

And into the 5th inning, Frazier hit a small grounder that was fielded by the pitcher and poorly thrown to the waiting 1st baseman, ending with Frazier at 2nd due to that throwing error. Frazier moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly. And Gary Sanchez hit a big 1-out solo home run to cap off the Yankees’ offense tonight.

Final score: 7-3 Yankees, series tied 2-2

Game 4: Dodgers at Diamondbacks
The NL is traditionally known for its pitchers, and both NLDS games featured some pretty good pitching. Both pitchers in this late game threw into the 6th inning, though the better outing was easily on the Dodgers’ side. That included the offense too. The Dodgers led-off the game with a double that later scored on a ground out. Later, they doubled that scored with a 2-out solo home run.

The Diamondbacks did their best to come back, but the Dodgers’ pitching staff was really good today, showing why the Dodgers were the best team in the league. The D-backs got a single shot with a 2-out solo home run in the 5th inning to get them on the scoreboard. The Dodgers, however, answered back in the 6th with a lead-off solo home run.

Final score: 3-1 Dodgers, Dodgers sweep series 3-0, advance to NLCS

So, there we have it: the Astros and Dodgers each await the results of the other 2 Division Series to see who they’ll face off in the next series. Yankees pushed a Game 5, and the Cubs-Nationals are going to duke it out to the end.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Yankees!

Game 147: BAL vs. NYY — Didi’s RBI gem backs #SevySharp

It took just 2 hours and 38 minutes for the Yankees to close the book on tonight’s game against the visiting Orioles. And that is primarily due to a dominant show by tonight’s starter, and the Yankees’ offense sparking at all the right times once again.

Luis Severino was once again showing why he’s become the most reliable starter of the 2017 season. He threw 95 pitches in his 8 innings, gave up 3 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and struck out just 7 Baltimore batters. I realize that using “just” there seems a little weird there, but Severino is a strikeout machine. So anything less than one per inning seems low for a pitcher like Severino. The only allowed runs for the Orioles came in the 2nd inning, when a 2-out walk scored as part of a solid 2-run home run into the right field seats.

That all set up Severino for his 13th win of the season. David Robertson came on for the 9th inning and certainly worked hard to get those 3 outs, despite giving up a walk, keeping the O’s from adding to their score.

Meanwhile, the Yankees got on the board first. Gardner led-off the 1st inning with a double, moved to 3rd on Sanchez’s 1-out single, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ sacrifice fly. Headley led-off the 2nd with a single, moved to 2nd on Holliday’s 1-out single, and then scored when Bird hit into a failed force attempt and fielding error.

And the game was tied. So, they found their next opening in the 5th, when Judge worked a 1-out walk. Then with the Orioles’ starter out of the game and a new reliever in, Judge stole 2nd. After another out, Didi Gregorius hit a big 2-run home run to double the Yankees’ score.

But the Yankees weren’t done yet. In the 7th, Bird led-off with a walk, and Gardner reached on a force attempt and fielding error. After a new reliever came into the game, Judge worked a walk to load up the bases. Gary Sanchez singled to score Bird, keeping the bases loaded.

And the Orioles went back to their bullpen for a new reliever, who gave up another sacrifice fly (the first out of the inning) to Gregorius (his 4th RBI of the night) to score Gardner. After a second out, Chase Headley singled to score Judge, but the Orioles remembered how to defend and got Sanchez out running for 3rd. Greg Bird capped off the Yankees’ offense tonight with a big 2-out solo home run into the 2nd deck of right field in the 8th.

Final score: 8-2 Yankees

Before tonight’s game, the Yankees honored the memory of Gene “Stick” Michael. They took a moment of silence, played a nice commemorative video, and former Yankees placed flowers at home plate. The Yankee grounds crew also put a #17 in the infield grass; 17 was Stick’s jersey number when he coached for the team. Currently, its legacy continues on today on the back of Matt Holliday.

Injury news: Todd Frazier was out of tonight’s line-up due to some back stiffness. But it wasn’t so terrible as he was still available off the bench and is expected to be back at 3rd base sometime for the rest of this weekend series.

In other news, recently, the Yankees filed a complaint with the league citing that the Red Sox had been stealing signs during recent games. The Red Sox countered a complaint saying that the Yankees were doing the same thing. What made the Red Sox’s cheating different was that they were using technology like Apple watches to communicate the information. The Red Sox’s complaint was that the Yankees were using the YES Network feed to do something similar.

Okay, first of all, “stealing signs” is not new, nor is it outright banned in the league. It is certainly “frowned upon”, but it’s not illegal or novel in any sense. But using technology to do so takes it from something you probably shouldn’t do to feeling like outright cheating. Like accidentally seeing a friend’s test answers isn’t great, but it isn’t like using your phone to Google “what year was the Battle of Bunker Hill?” (FYI: 1775.)

Commissioner Rob Manfred concluded his investigation today and released his findings and discipline for both teams. The Red Sox have been fined an undisclosed amount for their use of technology to steal signs in August. The Yankees also received what was considered a lesser fine due to violating a rule about use of a dugout phone in a prior season. Both fines will be sent to relief efforts in Florida as the clean-up begins following the devastation of Hurricane Irma. MLB also warned that any team with similar violations will risk more serious disciplines than simple fines.

Also, the Yankees announced they will be donating $500,000 to help victims of Hurricane Irma — half will go to the American Red Cross, half to the Salvation Army. You can join the efforts by donating to a number of great recognized organizations like those or by donating online via MLB’s campaigns for both recent hurricanes.

Postseason Prep: the Indians snapped their “Windians” streak tonight, losing to the Royals at home 4-3. The 1916 NY Giants still hold the record for most consecutive wins at 26. Hey, it was bound to happen someday, and the Indians certainly have the AL Central sewn up.

And the Yankees are still awaiting word of what happens at the Trop tonight, where the Red Sox and Rays are (at the time of this posting) all tied up and in extra innings. A loss to the Red Sox (what I’m rooting for) means the Yankees are only 2 games behind them in the standings. A win means the Yankees are still 3 games back. So… Go, Rays! Go Rays all weekend long… like I said, I’m rooting for teams that will ultimately help the Yankees with a better shot in the postseason. And basically, that sums up to any team that plays the Red Sox over the next couple of weeks.

Because really, it’s always…

Go Yankees!

Game 136: BOS vs. NYY — #SevySharp to narrow Red Sox’s division lead

Well, that helped narrow things a bit. The Yankees have the luxury of being in the same division with the lowest ranked division leader in the AL. All that means is that no one has run away with the AL East just yet (unlike a few other divisions across the league). In other words, the postseason race is still very much on, and the Yankees are very much in it.

Luis Severino was just spectacular once again in tonight’s start, throwing just 87 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up just 2 hits and a lone unearned run, and solidly striking out 9 Boston batters. In fact, he didn’t give up that run until his final inning. Two fielding errors allowed 2 runners to reach base safely and into scoring position before a passed ball scored the lead runner. In other words, it was a momentary slip in the defense that allowed a run to score and not Severino’s great night.

Now, the Yankees gave Severino enough run support that he didn’t have to push himself tonight. Chase Headley got things started with a lead-off solo home run in the 3rd. Then Matt Holliday and Todd Frazier hit back-to-back solo home runs in the 4th to give the Yankees a solid lead.

Part of the reason this was rather impressive is that the Red Sox had their almost unstoppable ace starter (who’s regularly in the conversation when it comes to AL Cy Young candidates this year), but he clearly was having a bad night and gave the Yankees plenty of room to make a dent against him. The Red Sox also pulled him in the 5th inning after he’d racked up 109 pitches already before calling on 6 relievers to try to stop the Yankees. It didn’t really work in the long run.

Now, with the Red Sox barely on the board in the 6th, the Yankees answered back in the bottom of that inning. Holliday led-off by working a walk, and 1-out later, the Red Sox dug back into their bullpen for a new reliever. Ellsbury singled and Gardner walked to load up the bases, and yet another reliever was called out. After another strikeout and those loaded bases, Gary Sanchez stepped up to the plate. He hit the ball and it was initially called a ground out in the relay, but the Yankees challenged the timing of the play. And then won. And that made all the difference.

As a result of Sanchez’s awarded single, Holliday scored a run, and the bases were still loaded. So Starlin Castro hit a solid double that cleared the bases and just solidified the Yankees’ eventual victory. Only to be followed by Aaron Judge’s monster 2-run home run (his 38th of the season) deep into the left field seats.

After Severino left the game with a rather secure lead, the Yankees turned to their bull pen for the final third of the game. First up was Tommy Kahnle, who struggled at first, giving up a walk and single before buckling down and getting his 3 needed outs. Chasen Shreve then breezed through the 8th inning in just 13 pitches.

Giovanni Gallegos had some issues of his own in the 9th. A lead-off single moved to 2nd on a wild pitch before Gallegos got 2 outs. A walk allowed another base runner before a single scored a run for the Red Sox. Gallegos got final batter swinging at an ironically high slider.

To be perfectly fair, both pitching staff got 28 strikeouts, but the Yankee batters got 13 total hits off Boston pitchers. But if we’re being frank here, it was the 4 total home runs by Yankee batters that really did the most damage.

Final score: 9-2 Yankees, Yankees win series 3-1

Injury news: on a long catch in yesterday’s game, Aaron Hicks strained his oblique. He’s just off the DL for another oblique injury, but this one is on the opposite side and seems quite a bit less severe. So I doubt he’ll be out of the lineup for long.

In trivia news: tonight’s starter Luis Severino threw his 200th strikeout this season, making him the 2nd Yankee to throw 200+ strikeouts in a single season age 23 and under. The only other Yankee pitcher to do so that young was Al Downing in 1964, and no other pitcher has done this since 2009 (Felix Hernandez, Seattle).

And the Yankees and Red Sox decided to team up today for a final show of support for the people of Texas just now beginning to dry out and recover from Hurricane Harvey. Both teams signed a big Texas flag that team managers Girardi and Farrell unfurled at home plate before tonight’s game, and both teams set up online auction sites to allow fans to bid on special products in which all proceeds will go to relief efforts in Texas.

The Yankees are selling game-used jerseys, a signed home plate, autographed caps, and more. (As of this post, the Aaron Judge game-used jersey is currently sitting at over $9000, but there are plenty of signed caps from the stellar bullpen guys still sitting at the minimum bid of $100 for any interested fans.) The Red Sox‘s online site has similar items for their own fans. The auction closes in a week (September 10) to ensure all profits make it to the recipients soon to begin recovery efforts.

Boston and New York both understand the national response and support from the entire baseball community after their own tragedies — 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing, and Hurricane Sandy hit both areas hard. So it is a natural response to stand with the hard-hit areas after Hurricane Harvey and do what we can to help them come back stronger than ever. Just as the country did for Boston and New York during their time of need and healing. Our continued thoughts and prayers are with those just beginning to recover from the storm and its massive flooding.

Go Yankees!

Game 135: BOS vs. NYY — Cloudy Saturday is #TanakaTime

It’s a rather cloudy day in the Bronx, nearby clouds linger with promises of rain through the night. But it held off for the afternoon game against the Red Sox for the nearly 50,000 fans to cheer on their rivals today.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start today and threw just a beautiful game in this third game of the 4-game weekend series against the division leaders. He threw 97 pitches into the 8th inning, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and a run and striking out just 3 Boston batters to set himself up for the win. That lone run came when a lead-off double in the 6th moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a wild pitch.

But Tanaka led the Yankees to keep the Red Sox at that lone run, and the Yankee fans showed their appreciation when he left the mound in the 8th inning with a nice standing ovation. David Robertson continued that momentum, completing a scoreless 8th inning, handing the ball to Dellin Betances for a 12-pitch, 3-strikeout flawless 9th.

The Yankee offense was there to back up their starter with the run support to narrow the Red Sox’s lead in the AL East. In the 2nd, Chase Headley got things started for the Yankees with a 1-out solo home run into the left field seats. {Media note: no media link, sorry. MLB.com has changed their video availability, and initially, it is often difficult to find the more traditional plays to share with the public.} A bit later in the inning, the Yankees loaded up the bases, but couldn’t add to their score at that point.

With the game now tied up in the 6th, the Yankees found a big opportunity. Gregorius led-off with a walk and ended up at 3rd on Headley’s single. They both then scored as part of Matt Holliday’s big 3-run home run. (Personal note: I actually looked at my mom as they were jogging the bases and said, “Welcome back, Mr. Holliday! So much for that back injury.”) Ellsbury led-off the 7th with a triple and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s single to cap off the Yankees’ scoring this afternoon.

Final score: 5-1 Yankees

Well, a big happy 25th birthday to Ronald Torreyes, who got the start at 2nd due to Starlin Castro’s dental issues. Apparently, sometime between last night’s game and 7 am, Castro lost a tooth and needed an emergency root canal, sitting in the dentist’s chair from 7 am until just before game time. So when Girardi announced the line-up change, he was hoping the regular starter would be available at least off the bench, noting that lack of sleep and early dental surgery may not be ideal for even a back-up player today.

Fortunately, the finale is tomorrow evening, so both the Yankees and Castro himself have time to recover and rest in hopes of taking this series from the Red Sox. As someone who’s had root canal surgery (twice), my thoughts are with Castro today. Fingers crossed for about 24 hours (from now) in recovery to come back strong and help the Yankees win tomorrow night too.

Go Yankees!

Game 134: BOS vs. NYY — September off to a stunted start

And just like that fortunes reversed. September begins, and the Yankees are still in heated contention with the Red Sox (and a few other teams) for the postseason. Sonny Gray got the start tonight, and certainly had mixed results. On one hand, he struck out 9 Boston batters in just 7 innings, but on the other, he gave up 4 runs.

Gray threw 98 pitches in those 7 innings, giving up 5 hits and a walk. And those pesky 4 runs, all scored on home runs. In the 3rd, he allowed his lone walk before a home run scored both runners to put the Red Sox in the lead. A 2-out solo home run in the 5th and a lead-off solo shot in the 7th added those 2 more runs for the Red Sox.

Meanwhile, the Yankees kicked off the offense in the 1st when Brett Gardner hit a lead-off double and then scored on Aaron Judge’s double. Then they struggled with much offense, only getting 2 more hits and a walk off the Red Sox’s starter in his 7 innings.

Aroldis Chapman’s 8th inning was almost perfect, where he got all 3 outs as strikeouts. And Adam Warren kept the Red Sox from adding to their score with a 14-pitch 9th. But unfortunately, the Red Sox’s relievers for both innings followed the example and threw 2 scoreless innings as well, leaving the Yankees in the dust.

Final score: 4-1 Red Sox

Before the game today, former Yankee legend (and Grammy-nominated classically trained guitarist) Bernie Williams performed an amazing version of the national anthem as Little Leaguers from the area who narrowly missed representing the US in the recent Little League World Series joined Yankee players all over the field to be honored for their success this season.

Roster moves: just in time for the September call-ups, the Yankees activated Matt Holliday from the DL, after his recovery from a back injury. They also transferred pitcher Luis Cessa, who is still dealing with his ribcage injury, from the 10-day to the 60-day DL, effectively removing him off the 40-man roster. This made room for the Yankees to select the contract of newly acquired Erik Kratz, promoting him from AAA Scranton.

They also recalled pitchers Jordan Montgomery, Ben Heller, and Bryan Mitchell from AAA Scranton. There is still room for additions this month, but the Yankees also want the RailRiders to work on their own upcoming postseason and potential repeat of their championship in a few weeks. They finish their season on Monday as division leaders (by 7 1/2 games!).

Like the big leagues, the team with the most wins will face the winner of the Wild Card games (to be played on Wednesday and Thursday). The RailRiders are ready for that role unless they get swept by the Phillies’ AAA team. Their Division Series (best of 5) begins next weekend. Their Championship Series is shortly after that (beginning September 12) for the “Governor’s Cup”. And the ultimate championship game between the Pacific Coast League and the International League (where the RailRiders play) to be played on September 19 at PNC Park (the RailRiders’ home park). Best of luck to you guys once again in your postseason!

Go Yankees!