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 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!

NL Wild Card: COL vs. ARI — Another messy start, “wild” cards indeed, and postseason is just beginning

So, if one thing watching these last 2 wild card games has taught me, it’s that starters really don’t have it for the 4th and 5th place teams in either league. Tonight in Phoenix, the Diamondbacks faced off against their geographic rivals, the Rockies, for the one-off NL Wild Card title. Despite rather disappointing starts once again, neither team was willing to give up so easy. Neither team had really great bullpens either.

That would explain the 30 total allowed hits and 19 total allowed runs scored tonight. For the playoffs, you want and usually see low scores more like international football) and not like American football type scores. Tonight was definitely not usual.

The Rockies starter was pushed out of the game in the 2nd inning (and 41 pitches), after giving up 7 hits and 4 runs, and striking out just 2 batters; comparatively, the Diamondbacks starter threw 58 pitches into the 4th inning, gave up 6 hits, 4 runs, and struck out a single batter. And then, like last night’s game, both teams had to rely on their bullpens to pick up the game. But neither bullpen was really built for such an event, and both bullpen certainly dropped the ball. One team would rack up the points, and then the other team would catch up, and they basically did this all night long.

The Diamondbacks really commanded the game from the start offensively. In the 1st, with consecutive singles, a big 3-run home run got them on the board before an out was recorded against them. A 1-out single in the 2nd scored on a big triple, that kicked the Rockies’ starter out of the game right there. A new reliever in the 3rd gave up a single that scored as part of a 2-run home run to give the D-Backs a really big lead for the first third of the game.

Down 6-0, the Rockies had quite a bit to catch up. But they did, starting in the 4th inning. With 1 out, and 2 runners on base with singles, another single scored the lead run. A ground out moved both runners to scoring position which they promptly did on an RBI double and RBI single. That would be it for the D-backs starter at that point.

Things settled down somewhat for the middle section of the game until the Rockies found another opportunity in the 7th. A lead-off double moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then later scored on a sacrifice bunt. But that reduced gap didn’t last long. In the bottom of the inning, a lead-off Arizona batter singled and another batter worked a 1-out walk. They opted to send up their reliever, despite 2 outs on the board, to save their bench guys for bigger options. Which worked out well, as the reliever hit a big triple that scored both runners. It was his first professional extra-base hit ever.

He then struggled once he got back out on the mound (talk about a rollercoaster of emotion). He gave up consecutive home runs to put the Rockies back within striking distance again. But then the D-backs answered back, almost as if in revenge, in the bottom of the 8th. With 2 outs, 2 runners on base, and the 2nd reliever of the inning on the mound, a wild pitch moved both runners to scoring position before they did just that on yet another solid triple. That batter then later scored on an RBI single.

The D-backs called on their closer, who had his own issues but was able to rein them in just in time. A lead-off single advanced 2 bases on defensive indifference and then scored on a 2-out single. A little dribbler up the middle allowed for an easy force out at 2nd and to hand the Diamondbacks the win after a big battle back-and-forth.

Final score: 11-8 Diamondbacks, they advance to NLDS and will face the Dodgers in LA on Friday.

Okay, so I did well in my predictions for the Wild Card games. So far batting 1.000, but this will definitely change. Now that we know which teams are facing each other in the next stage of the postseason, I have my next phase of predictions:

  • ALDS 1 — Yankees over Indians, in 5 games
  • ALDS 2 — Astros over Red Sox in 4 games
  • NLDS 1 — Dodgers over Diamondbacks in 3 games
  • NLDS 2 — Nationals over Cubs in 5 games

Disclaimer: This doesn’t mean this is who I’m “rooting for” in each game, just which team I think will win each series. In fact, in one series, I’m hoping for the result to be reversed. Full disclosure: it’s not the Yankees-Indians series.

During their warm-up day at Progressive Field in Cleveland, the Yankees took some time to meet with the media, and they announced their starters for the ALDS. Game 1 will be Sonny Gray, followed by Sabathia, Tanaka, and Severino. Tanaka is being saved for when the series moves back to the Bronx as his home record is way better than his road record. And if they hit Game 5, the Yankees will announce their starter then. It could be Montgomery or Garcia, or they could call on Gray on short rest or one of the long-relief guys in the bullpen like Cessa. It really depends on how big of competition the Indians will be in the first few games.

Also, you can now “Vote Gardy” for Brett Gardner to win the Roberto Clemente Award, an honor given to a single player from all across the league who exemplifies excellence on the field and integrity and philanthropy off the field. Gardner is the Yankees nominee this season and deserves the recognition for being an excellent outfielder but also for his generous spirit and compassion in giving back to his home community in South Carolina and his work with the Yankees in the local New York area.

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 159: TB vs. NYY — Division hopes get pear-shaped

You know how you have one of those days where everything is working out in your favor, and then suddenly, everything goes pear-shaped and you just can’t do anything about it. Yeah, that was the Yankees’ Thursday night in the Bronx tonight. Much to the chagrin of basically everyone in Yankees’ universe.

Sonny Gray actually had a pretty good night for a good portion of his outing. Through his first 4 innings tonight, Gray threw just 58 pitches, gave up 2 hits, a walk, and a run. In the 1st, he gave up a 1-out solo home run to get the Rays on the board early. But he really reined it in and pushed the Yankees through a solid next few innings.

But then, Gray just kind of collapsed in the 5th inning. With 1 out, he gave up 2 singles to put runners on the corners. A wild pitch scored one run and a throwing error moved the other runner to 3rd. After a nice strikeout allowed the Yankees to hope the inning was almost over, it was not to be. Gray promptly walked the next batter and then gave up a big 2-run home run. After yet another allowed single, that would be it for Gray tonight.

Jonathan Holder came on in relief of Gray, but just couldn’t find that final out either. He hit his first batter with a pitch, gave up a single that scored one runner, and a big triple that scored the remaining 2 runners. That would be it for him too.

It would Chasen Shreve to get the final out of the 5th inning, a sigh of relief in the form of a strikeout. Shreve was breezing through the 6th until he gave up a pinch-hit solo home run, followed by a walk. Girardi wasn’t about to see a repeat of the previous inning, so he went back to the bullpen for Heller. Heller was very strong through the 7th and 8th innings as well, before handing the game to Gallegos who breezed through the 9th in just 12 pitches.

Remember, when I said things were great for the Yankees at first? They really were. Brett Gardner liked the 2nd pitch of the 1st inning and sent it into the 2nd deck of the right field seats for a lead-off home run. Aaron Judge followed that up with his own solo home run (that landed really close to where Gardner’s landed) to get the Yankees on the board early.

In the 2nd, with 1 out, Ellsbury singled, moved to 2nd on a passed ball, and then scored on Todd Frazier’s single. Greg Bird added to the score with a lead-off solo home run in the 4th inning after the Rays pulled their starter.

With another pitcher in the 5th (after the disastrous top of the inning), the Yankees were looking for a big comeback. Gardner led-off with a walk, moved to 2nd when Sanchez was hit by a pitch, ended up a 3rd on a fielder’s choice, and then scored on Starlin Castro’s single.

The Rays were able to piece together a better bullpen again, which didn’t help the Yankees in their efforts to reduce the deficit of runs. In the 9th inning, with yet another reliever on for the Rays, pinch-hitter Aaron Hicks jumped in and smacked a 1-out solo home run that bounced off the bench in the Yankees’ bullpen to get the Yankees back in the game. But 2 outs later, the game was done.

Pear-shaped hit rock-bottom.

Final score: 9-6 Rays, Yankees win series 2-1

Postseason Prep: What makes tonight’s loss even harder to swallow is that the Red Sox were so dominated tonight by the Astros (12-2), keeping the Red Sox at 3 games ahead of the Yankees in the standings. The Yankees host the Blue Jays starting tomorrow for the final series of the season. Basically, in order to win the AL East at this point, the Astros need to sweep the Red Sox (go Astros!) and the Yankees need to sweep the Blue Jays.

On this day in Yankees History: on Sept. 28, 1968, Yankees icon and legend Mickey Mantle played his final career game actually at Fenway. He started the game and hit 3rd in the order. In the 1st inning, he popped out and was promptly replaced (at his request). He just wanted one final game, one final at-bat. He was almost 37, at the height of his alcoholism, and still dealing with a lingering terrible hip injury. He was done with baseball that day nearly 50 years ago, but he spent the next 27 years of his life becoming a better man personally and cherishing the memories he made on the field. So a tip of the cap in memory of old #7.

Go Yankees!

Game 156: KC vs. NYY — #CCStrong, Make-up batting practice, historic afternoon

Today’s afternoon game was a minor blip in the regular schedule, a make-up game from a rain-out back on May 25. The Yankees start their final week of the season, 2 3-game series in the Bronx — the Rays and Blue Jays. The visiting Royals flew in from Chicago after the weekend and will head home to Kansas City for their own final week at home.

CC Sabathia got the start today and really had a great afternoon against the Royals. He was absolutely stellar through the first 3 innings, not giving up a hit until the 4th. But even then he really didn’t allow much until his final blip on the mound. He threw 80 pitches into the 7th inning, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and struck out 4 batters. In fact, until the 7th inning, Sabathia limited the Royals to that walk and 3 hits alone.

So, feeling strong, and with a low pitch count, Sabathia came out for the 7th, but then found some trouble in the heart of the Royals’ order with their veteran power-hitters. He gave up a lead-off single, a 2-run home run, and a solo home run. That would be it for his afternoon. All pitchers are on a short leash now, so if you can’t limit the damage, it’s time to depend on the next guy to see you through.

And today, once again, that worked out well. Chad Green came on to do what Chad Green does, but after allowing a walk to his first batter. Then he promptly set the Royals down in order, righting the ship, as it were. Robertson’s 8th inning was a flawless 3-strikeout moment, and Kahnle’s 9th closed things out for the Yankees, overall limiting the damage to that lone blip by Sabathia in the early 7th.

Meanwhile, the Yankees took advantage of the late summer warm weather and found their swings early and often. Gardner led-off the 1st with a single, moved to 3rd on Sanchez’s double, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ ground out to get the Yankees on the board early. In the 3rd, Gardner worked a 1-out walk, and then Aaron Judge followed him with a big 2-run home run, his 49th of the season. (More on this after the recap.)

In the 6th, Gregorius hit a 1-out single and then scored all the way from 1st on Matt Holliday’s double. Greg Bird smacked a big 2-run home run into the 2nd deck of the right field seats to keep the momentum going. After an out, the Royals opted to go to their bullpen and piece together the rest of the game. But they just don’t have the bullpen they did a few years ago.

In the 7th, with 2 outs, the Yankees just let loose. Aaron Judge hit a really big solo home run that bounced into the left field bleachers — his 50th home run of the season, breaking the rookie home run record (more below). Gary Sanchez immediately followed that up with his own solo home run into the left field seats, his 33rd of the season. (Remember, Sanchez had about a month out due to injury too!) Despite loading up the bases a bit later, the Yankees couldn’t add any more to their score.

Well, that inning. Because in the 8th, they came back and added just a few more. With a new reliever and 1 out, Torreyes got another hit today (he went 3-for-4 today), and because they missed the catch originally, Torreyes got all the way to 2nd, but the player fumbled the throw and that error allowed Torreyes to keep going all the way to 3rd. He then scored on Brett Gardner’s double. Judge worked a walk (pinch-run by Clint Frazier) and Sanchez singled to load up the bases. Didi Gregoirus singled home Gardner, and Matt Holliday’s sacrifice fly scored Frazier to cap off the Yankees’ monster afternoon.

The Yankees’ offense racked up 15 hits and 4 walks, while getting only 5 strikeouts. The latter part of the game was basically Yankees’ batting practice after a while.

Final score: 11-3 Yankees

Technically, the Yankees win that May series with today’s game, winning 3 of the 4 games against the Royals. Boston doesn’t play until later tonight, so where they land on the standings is still a giant question mark.

Postseason prep: tonight… go Blue Jays! (Seriously, they beat the Yankees this weekend, surely they can take out the Red Sox.)

Now, both of Aaron Judge’s home runs mattered and ended up in Judge’s memory case. In 1987, Mark McGwire hit 49 home runs in his rookie season. Coming into today’s game, Judge was sitting at 48. That first one in the 3rd inning meant that Judge tied McGwire for the record. But the one in the 7th was #50, a new record for a rookie player.

Also, Judge has now homered off every AL team (including the 4 he hit late last season). As of now, he’s hit off 4 of the 15 NL teams — Mets, Brewers, Pirates, and Dodgers. So, there’s 11 teams waiting for a Judge home run. By the way, active players who have hit off all 30 teams are former Yankee (and current Astro) Carlos Beltran and current Ranger Adrian Beltre (who also has hit a home run in the 40 stadiums of the modern era). Judge’s name is already being thrown around with names of some great players, but setting records at every turn will do that to you.

And it’s not like CC Sabathia is some slouch in the midst of these rookies building their greatness. The veteran pitcher is certainly making a case to include his name in future Hall of Fame talks. His win today tied him with Yankee great Whitey Ford, as left-handed pitchers with 236 wins. Only 2 more lefties have more wins — 240 by Frank Tanana (who played for a few teams including the Angels, Rangers, and Tigers 1973-1993) and 239 by David Wells (a name that might be familiar to Yankee fans from his brief stint during the dynasty days, but also flitted around the league with teams like the Blue Jays 1987-2007).

To be perfectly fair, Sabathia is only at 17 seasons this year, 4 less than either Tanana or Wells and just 3/4 game wins behind them. He could very well jump both early next season. That is if he plans on renewing his contract after his current one expires following this season. And in pure disclosure: Whitey Ford earned his 236 wins in just 16 seasons, however, it was during the time (1950, 1953-1967) when the Yankees and winning games was almost a foregone conclusion.

I kind of miss those days… but these days are pretty awesome too…

Go Yankees!

Game 152: MIN vs. NYY — Sweep dreams of postseason potential this afternoon

In today’s afternoon finale against the Twins, the Yankees went in with every intention to sweep their potential Wild Card opponents and press on to closing that gap between them and the AL East leaders. The Yankees did both. Hopefully, but more on that later.

Luis Severino is technically being set up for the first game in the postseason, potentially the one-off Wild Card game. But fingers crossed he’s more #SevySharp and less whatever he was today. Yes, Severino was certainly less than sharp today, throwing 71 pitches in just 3 innings, giving up 5 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and striking out just 3 Minnesota batters. To borrow a popular phrase the Yankees skipper often says in press conferences: “it’s not what you want”.

But to be fair, it wasn’t really bad until Severino’s final inning. Outside of that, he allowed just 1 hit, no runs, and no walks. He just wasn’t quite finding it today. All of those allowed runs came in the 3rd inning. With 1 out, Severino gave up 2 singles and a walk to load up the bases. Another single scored the Twins’ first run, and one more single scored 2 more runs. Severino then focused in and got those other 2 outs of the inning, but he was just not having a good day. And as we’re down to just 10 games of the season, every single game matters. Every pitch, every out, every strike, every hit, every run matters. There’s no more leash allowed.

So that was it for Severino. But the game was in good hands. Chasen Shreve came on and just breezed his way through the middle third of the game. Shreve pitches just 33 pitches through 3 innings, setting himself up for the eventual win. Heller came on in the 7th and kept things scoreless, German’s final 2 innings were near perfect, adding 4 more strikeouts and holding the Twins to those 3 early runs scored.

Technically, any team that scores second and then takes the lead becomes a “come-from-behind” win, even when they come from behind to dominate. I’m not a fan of this terminology, as it puts home teams at a weird language disadvantage (though not a physical one). The Yankees weren’t the underdogs today, in any sense of the word. Not that the Twins were, but the Yankees just played better. They played better the entire series, so it is a deserved win overall.

Anyway, with the Twins leading, getting onto the board first in the top of the 3rd inning, the Yankees saw their opportunity against the Twins’ starter, who was having a less-than-stellar day today as well. Bird led off the bottom of the 3rd with a double and then scored as part of Aaron Judge’s 45th homer of the season, a big 1-out 2-run home run into the right field corner seats. Gary Sanchez backed that up with his own home run, a solo shot up the middle, his 32nd of the season, to tie up the game right then and there.

Then in the 4th, Ellsbury hit a 1-out triple, watched Frazier work a walk, and then scored on Greg Bird’s double. That was it for the Twins’ veteran starter, but their bullpen didn’t have good luck out the gate, which was great for the Yankees’ momentum. Brett Gardner singled to score Frazier for that insurance run. After another out, Sanchez singled to score Bird. So with 2 runners on base, Didi Gregorius smacked a 3-run home run into the right field seats to ensure the Yankees victory today.

And into the 5th, with a new reliever on the mound, Holliday singled, Ellsbury walked, and a fly out moved Holliday to 3rd. A wild pitch then scored Holliday. Then the Yankees loaded the bases with Bird’s single and Gardner’s hit-by-pitch. And the Twins knew they needed to stop this free-for-all and called in a new reliever again. First, Aaron Judge’s sacrifice fly easily scored Ellsbury, and then Sanchez’s single loaded up the bases again. But a strikeout on a foul tip stranded all on the bases looking to add more runs to the Yankees’ big lead.

But they didn’t need to. And they really wouldn’t get much more chances. A few more hits (15 total today), but nothing collectively to add more.

But again, they really didn’t need to pad their lead any more.

Final score: 11-3 Yankees, Yankees sweep series 3-0.

PSP: Sometimes, I try to stall posting this blog a few extra minutes so that I can add information about upcoming opponents or waiting on a milestone or injury news. But I won’t do that today. The opponent the Yankees are watching constantly is the Red Sox, and they don’t play until tonight. So for now, that means the Yankees are just 2 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East. (Go Orioles tonight!)

In other numbers, the Yankees are floating around the “magic number” that means they are officially in the postseason. Currently, that number is 4. Yes, that means, the Yankees need 4 games to clinch postseason, and there are only 10 games left of the season. We shall see how that all pans out in the next coming weeks.

Also, in the 5th inning today, Todd Frazier hit a foul ball line drive into the seats and it directly hit a young girl. She was treated on the scene and taken to a local hospital for further treatment. Due to HIPPA medical privacy laws, there isn’t much more information at this time. But our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family right now as she recovers.

Go Yankees!