Game 120: NYY vs. NYM — Kings of New York in the #SubwaySeries

Call it a sweep either way, but the Yankees are the winners of the Subway Series. Light up the Empire State Building, celebrate with a pint at the local bar, and rest up. Because now the Yankees head to Fenway to face the red-hot Red Sox yet again.

And a good portion of why tonight’s game was so successful was thanks to starter Luis Severino (who still needs a proper hashtag, Yankee Universe). He threw 106 pitches into the 7th inning, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 1 unearned run, and struck out 9 Mets batters. That lone run came in the final inning for Severino, the 7th. With 1 out, a batter reached on a fielding error and then advanced all the way to 3rd on a messy wild pitch before scoring easily on a single.

So the Yankees turned to Chasen Shreve to close out the 7th and breeze his way through the 8th inning, adding 3 more strikeouts to the count.

The Yankees also gave Severino (and the rest of the pitching staff) a nice cushion with their offense that only sparked in 2 innings all night. In the 1st, Gardner led off and reached on a throwing error and Hicks worked a walk. Gary Sanchez then hit a 1-out 3-run home run to get the Yankees on the board early.

Then in the 4th, the Yankees loaded up the bases with singles by Austin, Torreyes, and Severino (yes, he pitches and hits!). Brett Gardner’s double scored 2 runs to keep the momentum going. With 1 out, the Yankees loaded up the bases again when Judge was hit by a pitch. That was the end of the Mets’ starter, but the first reliever gave up a single to Sanchez that scored 2 more runs for the Yankees.

And with that now hefty lead, the Yankees’ bullpen and defense spent the remainder of the game defending that. Any chances of adding to it were shut out by a surprisingly good showing by the Mets’ bullpen tonight.

So, into the bottom of the 9th, the Yankees needed just a quick 3 outs to get out with the game and earn that sweep. But Bryan Mitchell was having one of those days you don’t want to have in cases like this. He threw just 12 pitches, gave up a double, a single, and a walk to load up the bases before giving up a beautiful grand slam to a certain former Yankee. It put the Mets within striking distance, so the Yankees put a call into their bullpen for a life-preserver of sorts.

It would be Dellin Betances — 11 pitches, 3 outs, 8th save of the season. Game over, sweep won.

Final score: 7-5 Yankees, Yankees sweep Mets 4-0 (or 2-0 if you count the two 2-game series separately)

Injury news: Garrett Cooper was placed on the 10-day disabled list due to tendonitis in his left hamstring, after reporting some discomfort following yesterday’s game. In his place, the Yankees recalled Tyler Austin, who started tonight’s game at 1st base. Austin made his MLB debut with the Yankees a year ago this week, and is now back after battling injuries for most of this season — a broken ankle and strained hamstring.

And now, we’re off to Boston. Fingers crossed that we can narrow that 4 game lead in the AL East that the Red Sox currently hold over the Yankees. They’re also hoping to broaden their own lead in the Wild Card race.

Over halfway through August means that there’s only about 6 weeks left of the season, and the Yankees have made it clear that not making the postseason is a failed season. And with the loaded roster, it’s hard to believe the Yankees won’t make October baseball. It’s certainly still up in the air as to where they’ll land to play in the postseason. Only one team in the league is talking about being eliminated from contention right now, as most divisions are still very up in the air.

But isn’t that what makes this time of year kind of fun? The unknown is still very alive. Anything really is possible. And that’s just kind of wonderful.

Go Yankees!

{Personal note: Charlottesville, Sierra Leone, Barcelona, the USS Fitzgerald, and far too many places in this world… Cherish the moments you have and the people you are privileged to share them with; life is too short to cling to hate and anger and exist in placid passivity. Our hearts and prayers go out to all those who have lost loved ones in these recent tragedies.}

Game 108: NYY vs. CLE — Bumpy start ends in continued slump (but the Lake & rivers are clean…er)

Based on how tonight’s game panned out, I think the city of Cleveland is seeking revenge for calling them the “Mistake on the Lake” in yesterday’s post. (More below after the game recap.) To be perfectly fair and reveal some full disclosure, my mom’s family grew up in Northeast Ohio, and they always called the city that. (Literally, I only here that phrase in my mother’s voice. Thanks, Mom!)

They also grew up diehard Indians’ fans, still waiting for their next World Series win, most of them not even alive the last time Cleveland won (1948). This makes this series a whole lot more interesting personally, making the one thing both sides of this have in common is that we both root against the Red Sox. (Though I’m still a little murky as to why the Indians think of the Red Sox as a valid rivalry.)

Anyway, the Yankees called on their other newly acquired starter Jaime Garcia. This ended up being Garcia’s third straight start with three different teams — July 21 with the Braves, July 28 with the Twins, and tonight with the Yankees. But Garcia got roughed up in this particular team debut. He threw 87 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 5 hits, 4 walks, and 6 runs (only 5 earned), and struck out just 4 Cleveland batters.

In the 2nd, with 2 outs, Garcia gave up a walk and then scored on a double. The runner ended up at 3rd on the throw and then scored on a passed ball. Despite giving up a walk and a single to load up the bases, Garcia got out of the inning with a line out to Gregorius. In the 3rd, a lead-off single scored on another single and throwing error. The base runner ended up at 2nd on that play, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on a sacrifice fly.

Garcia just couldn’t find the momentum to get through these innings. In the 5th, a 1-out walk stole 2nd and then scored on a single. Then that runner moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, and ended up at 3rd on a ground out. That would be it for Garcia.

It was on to Chad Green, whose wild pitch scored one more run for the Indians that inning before getting that 3rd out of the 5th. Green then breezed through the next 2 innings, tallying up 5 strikeouts himself. He then handed the game over to Tommy Kahnle for the 8th inning, who found his own trouble — a lead-off double scored on an RBI double to add the Indians’ final run of the night.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were hitting off the Indians’ pitchers tonight — racking up 11 total hits (more than the Indians’ offense got tonight), 7 off the starter alone. Those hits (and the 2 walks) just weren’t adding up to runs-scored. In fact, for most of the game, it felt like the Indians’ pitcher and defense were much more dominant tonight.

Then in the 5th, Todd Frazier hit a 1-out solo home run into the right field seats to get the Yankees on the board. The Yankees then loaded up the bases later in the inning, but a swinging strikeout ended that potential rally and stopped them in their tracks.

The Yankees got one more chance in the 9th inning. Despite a lead-off single that got erased in a double play, it would be Ronald Torreyes to kick off a potential moment of hope. He hit a solid single, moved to 2nd on defensive indifference, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s single. But a fielder’s choice ground out ended the inning and the game. Too little, too late.

Final score: 7-2 Indians

Okay, more on the nicknames… “The Mistake on the Lake.” Look, a lot of this points back to the late 1960s before much of current clean water restrictions were enacted and Lake Erie was so polluted and that fed into its major rivers. At one point, it was so bad that the Cuyahoga River (the main river through Cleveland) actually caught on fire in 1969. Fortunately, with the passing of the Clean Water Act three years later, the city was forced to clean up its waterways and the big lake on its north shore. But the reputation for being the city whose river once caught on fire stuck, especially with those from the area (or rather the suburbs around the area).

In its place, the city has tried to refocus attention on its biggest attraction — the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Thanks to the rise of the genre, and how many of its biggest stars were from the area, the natural connection to the city evolved over time only to be cemented by the Hall when they built it in 1983. Since then, I think most people think of this (or Drew Carey) when they think of Cleveland.

That is until last year. When Cleveland became “Believe-land” as both their biggest sports were the Cavaliers (basketball) and Indians (side burn: even my Cleveland-area family aren’t Browns fans, but that’s a completely different story). Both the Cavs and Indians went to their respective championships, all the way to Game 7. Only the Cavs came up as winners in the end, but it still made last year something for Clevelanders everywhere to be proud of that wasn’t music or pollution-related history.

On a personal note, due to family connections, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Cleveland, and I’ve never been to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or a Cavaliers game. No, growing up, we explored less nickname-worthy places. Like finding out their art museum has an Armor Court. And their historical society has an extensive antique car and aviation exhibit. And there’s a village stuck in the early 1800s, much like Colonial Williamsburg but 1820s rural Ohio.

Despite the deep roots here, this may actually explain why I’m a Yankees fan.

Go Yankees!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final score: 5-4 Yankees

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

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

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

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

Go Yankees!

Game 101: TB vs. NYY — Bronx Bombers back #TanakaTime

Basically, tonight’s game was everything you’d want a game to be if you’re a Yankee fan. Except it was super short. Clocking in at 2 hours and 23 minutes, it’s easily one of the shorter games of the season, and it’s really easy to place the blame on the Yankees for this. They came in ready to continue this winning momentum, and then they did just that.

And most of the reason for the ease of this game was that starter Masahiro Tanaka was just a beast tonight, getting the visiting Rays batters to strike out a whopping 14 times. He even held them to a no-hitter until a 6th inning 2-out single snuck by Gregorius. But then Tanaka got back in the game with a strikeout. Tanaka gave up just one more hit, a 2-out solo shot to allow the Rays their lone run of the game.

So after 8 innings and 109 pitches, Tanaka Time was done. The game was turned over to David Robertson, who breezed his way through the 9th inning in just 6 pitches. Boy, it’s good to have him back on our side of the game.

The Yankees were able to support Tanaka’s outstanding pitching effort with enough run support on the backs of home runs by their outfielders. In the 1st, Brett Gardner liked that 3rd pitch of the at-bat again to lead off the inning with a big solo home run into the Yankees’ bullpen. Aaron Judge followed suit with a 1-out solo shot, his 33rd home run of the season.

Then in the 5th, Todd Frazier worked a 1-out walk, and Gardner worked a 2-out walk. This set up Clint Frazier to hit a no-doubter 3-run home run deep into the left field seats, above the visitor’s bullpen.

After a couple of innings against a former teammate, the Yankees decided to change things up and play some small ball in the 8th. Gardner was hit on the back shoulder by a pitch (he’s fine) and, after a strikeout, moved to 2nd on a ground out. The Rays’ reliever intentionally walked Sanchez, so a wild pitch moved both Gardner and Sanchez into scoring position. Didi Gregorius then singled to score Gardner easily, but then Sanchez tried to score too and got caught out at home to end the inning.

But the Yankees already had a hefty lead, so it was all good at the end.

Final score: 6-1 Yankees

So, I left out a small part of the “Gardy Party” celebration last night because I wanted to see how the story played out. And honestly, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. Gardner, as you know, hit the game-winning home run in the 11th inning last night, and as he came into home where the team was waiting to celebrate, he tossed his helmet off. Well, Judge saw the stray helmet and thought someone might trip over it, so he picked it up. In the process of celebrating, the helmet bounced off someone else and bounced into Judge’s face, chipping his front left tooth.

No worries for Judge and his thousand-watt smile. A dentist fixed it this morning, and Judge clearly was in tonight’s game and continued to make an impact like nothing happened. After last night’s game, the reporters asked guys in the clubhouse who broke the tooth, and there was a bit of back and forth blaming each other in good fun — fingers pointing to Clint Frazier and Austin Romine. But really, it was a chipped tooth. Very fixable.

And I didn’t think it was that big of a deal last night, but my Twitter feed (when not filled with political drama) was filled with dental jokes, comments, and pictures of Yankees security searching the field for the piece of the tooth (which they never found). Maybe I wasn’t as concerned because I’ve chipped teeth before. They’re fixable. It’s not fun to get done, but it’s no big deal. I don’t know.

But it’s a good filler for a short game tonight.

Tooth drama is over. Judge is good. (Despite the naysayers on message boards that still think he and Sanchez are battling the “Home Run Derby Curse”.) The Yankees are on a roll, and we’re all on board to chase the October baseball dreams.

Go Yankees!

Game 100: TB vs. NYY — A walk-off Gardy Party

100 games. The Yankees hit this milestone on an upswing, winning their last 5 of 6 games, and just a game behind the Red Sox in the AL East. So they went into this 4-game weekend series against the visiting Rays with this momentum.

CC Sabathia got the start tonight and held off the Rays for most of his outing, but then struggled to find his footing in his final inning. Sabathia threw 86 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 5 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, but struck out just 3 batters. He gave up a lead-off home run in the 4th to get the Rays on the board, but it would be the 5th inning that would give him trouble. With 1 out, he gave up consecutive doubles that scored one more run. After a walk, the Yankees gave Sabathia to hook and replaced him with Chad Green.

Unfortunately, Green promptly gave up a double that scored 2 more runs for the Rays, both charged to Sabathia, before Green got himself out of the inning. Green had some issues in the 6th as well, giving up a 1-out solo home run. It wasn’t clean, but the damage was limited.

Kahnle did a fantastic job in the 7th, throwing just 9 pitches to breeze through the Rays. With 2 quick outs in the 8th, Betances, of course, gave up a couple of singles to make things interesting before getting a ground out to get out of the threat. Warren’s 9th inning also kept the Rays from adding to their score.

The Yankees actually got on the board first. In the 2nd inning, Headley hit a 1-out single and then scored on Jacoby Ellsbury’s double. Ellsbury then scored on Todd Frazier’s single. Gary Sanchez’s 1-out solo home run in the 3rd to keep the Yankees in the lead, but after the Rays caught up and passed them, the Yankees took their time to catch up.

In the 8th, Gregorius led-off with a single and moved to 3rd on Headley’s single. After a new Rays pitcher, pinch-hitter Matt Holliday hit into a fielder’s choice out at 2nd, but scored Gregorius. And Brett Gardner led-off the 9th inning with a triple and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s 2-out single to tie up the game and force them into extra inning.

Aroldis Chapman just fired his way through the 10th and 11th innings in just 19 total pitches and 4 stellar strikeouts, setting himself up for the win. Brett Gardner liked the 3rd pitch in the 11th inning and hit a big home run into the right field seats, his 18th of the season, for the walk-off home run victory.

Final score: 6-5 Yankees, in 11 innings.

CC Sabathia earned his 2800th career strikeout tonight. He currently sits at 21st on the all-time strikeout leaders, just 3 behind legendary pitcher Cy Young. Sabathia also the leader among all active pitchers, nearly 400 more than the next active pitcher. {Note: the graphic on the video link and posts on Twitter list Sabathia as now surpassing Young, but every other noteworthy source, even MLB.com itself, has Cy Young listed at 2803 strikeouts, not the 2799 you’ll see on the link. I’m assuming it has to do with how often scoring differences and record-keeping occurred before a lot of general regulations we’ve become so accustomed to these days.}

In a brief side note, the strike zone was a little high tonight (basically shoulder to mid-thigh, rather than the standard numbers to knees), which angered both teams for most of the game. Eventually, it would be Girardi to get the boot in the 7th

Both Aaron Hicks and Tyler Austin are nearing their rehab assignments, which will probably both be right after this weekend series. Hicks’ oblique issue is concerning because it can feel deceptively better and then a slight twist to the torso can tweak it all over again. Austin’s hamstring is a fairly common injury, but still needs caution in the process of recovery.

Muscle issues are much harder to bounce back from than broken bones. When broken bones are healed, there’s definitive evidence — it’s not broken any more and the bone has fused itself back together (it’s actually a really cool process). But with muscles, there’s no clear-cut way to tell if you’re 100% healed, even if it feels much better. Minute tears in the muscle can hide and suddenly cause much more damage, setting back recovery even further. Stay safe, guys!

Go Yankees!

Game 97: NYY vs. SEA — Losing streak broken

I find it interesting that it was a West Coast trip that the Yankees’ recent losing streak. So it’s only fitting that a West Coast trip could end it. And with the final West Coast game of the season, the Yankees needed a win to move forward with the rest of the season.

So they called on rookie Caleb Smith to start today’s final game in Seattle. After a pretty clean first third of the game, Smith a bit of a struggle towards the end of his outing. Overall, he threw 56 pitches into the 4th inning, gave up 5 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, most of that was in the 4th inning actually. He loaded up the bases with 2 singles and a walk. Two outs later, he gave up a 2-RBI single and then a 2-RBI double to push the Mariners into a nice lead. And Smith’s outing was over, handing things off to Chad Green who ended the rally with a nice strikeout.

Green went on to throw through the 5th and 6th innings, keeping the Mariners from adding to their score and setting the momentum for the rest of the bullpen — Dellin Betances’ clean 7th and David Robertson’s 10-pitch 8th. Aroldis Chapman made things a little interesting but still managed to keep things together for the 9th and the eventual save.

Meanwhile, the Yankees kicked off the game with a solo home run by Brett Gardner, his 17th of the season. And Didi Gregorius added one more run in the 2nd with a solid solo shot into the right field seats only to do it again in the 4th with another one, a great 2-homer game for Gregorius.

And in the 6th, with a new pitcher, the Yankees loaded up the bases with a couple walks and a single. Brett Gardner’s single scored Headley to tie up the game. With a new pitcher, the Yankees kept their momentum going as Clint Frazier’s double scored 2 more runs. Despite loading up the bases with Judge’s intentional walk, the Mariners finally remembered their defense and got 2 quick outs.

After that, neither team managed to do much more offensively, and with Chapman’s save, the Yankees were set up for a game win and a series win.

Final score: 6-4 Yankees, Yankees win series 3-1

Roster moves: Well, the Yankees orchestrated a trade with the Blue Jays, where they sent infielder Rob Refsnyder in exchange for 1st baseman Ryan McBroom, a prospect from the AA affiliate. They also outrighted Ji-Man Choi to AAA Scranton and traded reliever Dillon McNamara (formerly with AA Trenton) to the Giants.

And with that, the Yankees are headed back to the East Coast to start a long 9-game home stand on Tuesday (facing the Reds, Rays, and Tigers). Hopefully, carrying this winning thing with them and setting the momentum to carry them into October baseball.

Go Yankees!

Game 94: NYY vs. SEA — New number, new position, new series, new win

Luis Severino was on point tonight, which the Yankees certainly needed in a game where they faced one of the Mariners’ star pitchers, their former ace who still has his own fan club in the left field corner of Safeco Field. Severino threw 100 pitches in his 7 scoreless innings, gave up 8 hits and a walk, and struck out 6 batters.

Now, he’s always been a starter with quick a bit of power, but he actually threw the fastest pitch by a starter this season — a 101.2 mph fastball. With the bases loaded and 2 outs in the bottom of the 4th, and a 1-2 count, Severino cranked it up a notch trying to get an out and threw that speedy pitch, but the batter fouled it off to stay in the game. He eventually grounded into a fielder’s choice on the 8th pitch of the at-bat.

Anyway, the Yankees’ offense had some trouble hitting off the Mariners’ starter for most of the game. That is until Brett Gardner hit a solid 1-out solo home run in the 6th inning to get the Yankees on the board and in the lead.

Once the Mariners turned to their bullpen, the Yankees found more opportunities. Headley hit a 1-out single in the 8th and moved to 2nd when Gardner made it safely on base thanks to a fielding error. A new pitcher then walked Sanchez to load the bases. Aaron Judge then singled to score Headley before a double play ended the threat that inning.

And in the 9th, the Mariners sent in a new reliever, and the Yankees still put 2 runners on base with singles and 2 outs. And then Chase Headley hit a short grounder into shallow right field, but then the Mariners’ 2nd baseman totally missed the throw to the 1st baseman. Headley moved on to 2nd as the players scurried to get the ball, and that allowed both runners to double the Yankees’ score. This means that the only run the Yankees actually earned tonight was Gardner’s homer.

Meanwhile, the Yankees called on Dellin Betances for the 8th inning, who was able to escape his own self-inflicted jam with a great strikeout, before turning things over to Aroldis Chapman for the 9th. Chapman, unfortunately, had a bit of trouble, giving up a lead-off walk. That runner moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then to 3rd on a second strikeout. He then scored on an RBI double to get the Mariners on the board. But a fly out ended the inning, the threat, and the game.

Final score: 4-1 Yankees

Okay, it looks like there’s an answer to the giant question about having 2 veteran 3rd basemen on the roster. Shortly after news broke about the recent trade, Chase Headley spoke to Girardi and told him that he would be willing to do whatever necessary for the good of the team. So Girardi came back and asked Headley to play 1st, so that Todd Frazier could play 3rd. This means that the rookie Cooper would platoon Headley at 1st, and utility wunderkind Torreyes can fill in at 3rd.

Also, it certainly says a lot to me about Headley. Now, he could have pulled rank and insisted on not moving from the spot he’s played for most of his career, the position he’s known for, insisting the “new guy” play the other spot. But no, Headley put the good of the team above whatever sentiments he may have for the position. And honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to flip that around to see if that could work. However, the most important part was the character of the players willing to put the name on the front of their jersey first over the number on their back.

And speaking of which, while Todd Frazier grew up a Yankees fan, idolizing #21 Paul O’Neill, Frazier was assigned #29, despite having worn #21 with his former teams. While there was some chatter initially about petitioning O’Neill for permission for Frazier to wear his beloved #21, Frazier said earlier today that he’s totally fine with #29 and wouldn’t be asking for a change. O’Neill hasn’t commented on the issue and #21 isn’t actually retired, but it isn’t in circulation due to O’Neill popularity with the fans. If anyone could have brought back the #21 with justice, it would be Frazier, but I rather admire the fact that he’s sticking with something new.

A new chapter, a new number, a new position… sounds like a new turn of events for the Yankees this season. And if that breaks up whatever slump they’ve been in recently, I’m really okay with that too.

Go Yankees!