Game 114: BOS vs. NYY — Now, that was a game

I went to a minor league game recently. Yes, I do care about baseball outside of the Yankees. Okay, it was a Yankees’ minor league affiliate, but the point remains — go see a minor league game (plus it was like $5 for the ticket and free parking).

Anyway, so I was at this game, and the home team was down by a run in the 4th inning when the fans already started heading for the exit. Even after they tied up the game in the 5th, the fans trickled out. The home team ended up getting 5 runs in the 7th inning, but only half the original crowd was there to witness it. And by the final inning, where the home team ended up just shutting out the visitors, the crowd was just a scattering of people in the stands.

But it’s a thing I see in nearly every game. People just leave if they think the game is over regardless of who’s in the lead. When will they learn?

Fortunately, in a rivalry game, this kind of thing is rarely a problem. The Fenway Faithful and Yankee Universe jointly know the cardinal rule of baseball — “it ain’t over ’til it’s over”. And tonight’s sell-out crowd in the Bronx was there to watch the opening of rivalry week against the Red Sox for this weekend series. And they were given quite the show.

Jaime Garcia was given the start for tonight’s game, throwing 103 pitches into the 6th inning. He gave up 7 hits, 3 walks, and 3 runs, and struck out 6 Boston batters. Garcia is clearly still finding his way on the mound in pinstripes, but his outing tonight was a bit better than his one in Cleveland. In the 1st, a 1-out walk scored as part of a 2-out 2-run home run to get the Red Sox on their board first. He held them off for most of his outing, giving up a 2-out solo home run in the 5th to give the Red Sox an insurance run.

After Garcia went into triple digits in his pitch count, he struggled to get the final out of the 6th inning. So disappointingly, he handed off the game to Adam Warren, who came on for some longer relief and successfully kept the Red Sox from adding to their lead. Warren closed out the 6th and then breezed his way through the 7th and 8th innings.

The Yankees’ offense only got 2 hits and 2 walks off the Red Sox’s starter, so they had to wait for the bullpen, who up until tonight has been really good (one of the prime reasons they’re at the top of the AL East). So the Yankees found their opening in the 8th inning. To lead-off the inning, pinch-hitter Gardner was hit by a pitch. Well, originally, the umpire didn’t call it as such, thinking it was just a bad bouncing ball. But a Yankees challenge and replay overturned the call and sent Gardner down the 90 feet to 1st base.

Aaron Hicks is back in action and proved his worth tonight by hitting a 2-run home run into the seats in the corner of right field. With the Yankees finally on the board (and only down by a run), the stadium sparked alive with rally energy. Sanchez singled and moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, and Judge worked a walk. And with absolutely no outs recorded in this inning, the Red Sox went back to their bullpen.

It didn’t really help them much. Didi Gregorius promptly singled and scored Sanchez to tie up the game, and Todd Frazier followed that up with his own RBI single to score Judge (the winning run). After a strikeout (the first out of the inning), Ellsbury singled to load up the bases. Ronald Torreyes’ long sacrifice fly scored Gregorius for an insurance run, and Gardner (yes, the Yankees batted through the line-up in a single inning) worked a walk to load up the bases again. This prompted the Red Sox to go back to the bullpen again and they finally found that 3rd out.

So, with the Yankees now leading, they turned to Aroldis Chapman to close out the 9th inning and earn the save. But Chapman had some trouble with his command today walking his first 3 batters to load up the bases. Suddenly, the Red Sox contingency in the stadium were awake and cheering wildly. The next batter hit into a sacrifice fly double play, as Hicks caught the sacrifice fly that scored the lead runner, but fired the ball to Frazier at 3rd to tag out the runner there trying to advance. Even a challenge from the Red Sox upheld the original call. A fly out to center field ended the inning, the game, and the threat.

Final score: 5-4 Yankees

And in injury news: CC Sabathia was placed on the 10-day disabled list with inflammation in his right knee. In his place, the Yankees have recalled Jordan Montgomery. (I told you he wouldn’t be gone long.) Now, Sabathia’s knee injury is a concern, as it’s the same knee he’s had trouble with for some time. His original plan for maintenance this season kind of fell to the wayside as he felt really good with it and hasn’t needed special care since before Spring Training. And truth be told, he’s been rather strong in his outings this season, so I can understand thinking things were finally better for him.

However, as someone who also has a recurring knee issue, I know the perils of being too optimistic in these cases. Just when you’ve had no issues for months and it feels like you could run up three flights of stairs, you do something normal — like run up three flights of stairs — and suddenly, you’re back out of commission for the next six weeks having to nurse your old injury that suddenly tweaked weird about halfway up the three flights of stairs that you still insisted on climbing in its entirety just to prove you’re not really injured. And you didn’t want everyone to know you couldn’t finish the climb. And you don’t want their pity unless they want to carry you up the last half of the stairs like a pack mule up the mountainside.

Anyway, the point being — take care of that knee, Sabathia. We’re going to need it and that left arm at its peak come October.

Go Yankees!

Game 112: NYY vs. TOR — It was close, until it wasn’t

Masahiro Tanaka got the start for the middle game of this mid-week series in Toronto. He had a bit of a struggle tonight, throwing 88 pitches into the 5th inning, giving up just 2 hits, but 5 walks, and 3 runs (just 2 earned), striking out just 2 Toronto batters.

In the 2nd, with 2 runners in scoring position, a ground out scored the Blue Jays’ first run. A fielder’s choice got the other runner coming home in a wild rundown play with far too many throws, just a standard 5-2-6-2-6-1 play. The lead-off batter in the 3rd reached on catcher’s interference (and it wasn’t Ellsbury!), but then Tanaka quickly loaded the bases with 2 walks. A sacrifice fly scored the only run as they worked their way out of the inning without further damage. After a lead-off home run and a walk in the 5th, Tanaka’s night was over.

He handed the ball off to Chad Green, who promptly ended the 5th with 3 consecutive strikeouts. But then Green got into trouble of his own in the 6th. With 1 out and a runner on 1st, a double scored another run for the Blue Jays, and it was on to Tommy Kahnle for relief. A wild pitch moved the runner to 3rd, and after a walk and out, a single scored yet another Toronto run.

But that would be it for the Blue Jays as the back-end of the bullpen came in with great momentum. Robertson and Betances just sailed through the 7th and 8th innings, and Warren, despite allowing 2 baserunners, got out of the 9th unscathed.

Meanwhile, it seemed like quite the cat-and-mouse game. After the Yankees, who got on the board first, would score, the Blue Jays would come back and grab a few of their own runs. But then the Yankees got to the point where their offense was uncatchable and their relievers were too strong for the Blue Jays to catch-up completely.

To lead off the 2nd inning, Gary Sanchez and Todd Frazier hit consecutive solo home runs to start tonight’s run-scoring. Then Didi Gregorius got in on the game with a 2-out solo home run of his own in the 3rd. In the 5th, with 2 outs, Judge and Gregorius were in scoring position and the starter handed over the ball to the bullpen. Todd Frazier’s double scored both runners, and Jacoby Ellsbury followed that up with a double of his own to score Frazier.

They jumped on the Blue Jays’ bullpen and their less-than-stellar outing tonight. In the 8th, Frazier led-off with a single, and the Blue Jays changed pitchers. After a strikeout, they changed pitchers again. Garret Cooper (who ended up with a 4-hit night, by the way) doubled, and Ronald Torreyes’ single scored both runners {Note: no media link, sorry}.

Finally, in the 9th, the Yankees loaded up the bases after Gregorius and Sanchez singled and Frazier was hit by a pitch. All the runners moved up on Jacoby Ellsbury’s ground outground out, so Gregorius scored. Cooper’s single then scored both Sanchez and Frazier to cap off the Yankees’ big night of scoring.

The Yankees’ roster was heavy on the offense tonight, with 17 total hits. Every starter got on base, most with hits, most with multiple hits. It was just a big show of Yankee power.

Final score: 11-5 Yankees

Injury news: so last night, CC Sabathia only threw 3 innings because in the 3rd, he kind of tweaked his knee, the same knee he’s had trouble with in the past. Despite today’s MRI showing no new damage, knee injuries are difficult to diagnose and treat. Sabathia is confident he won’t have to go on the DL or miss his next start. As someone who also has a lingering knee issue, I hope he is able to deal with this without much drama or lingering pain.

Clint Frazier was out of tonight’s game due to a tightness in his oblique. It was a last-minute change, just 40 minutes before the game. Hopefully, this is just a short-lived injury. But there is talks that Aaron Hicks is close to being activated. His rehab stints are going well, and he was recently transferred to be with AA Trenton. There is talk that Hicks will be back on Friday, when the Yankees return to the Bronx to host the Red Sox for the weekend.

In the interim, the Yankees close out their North of the Border series tomorrow night, helmed by Sonny Gray, hoping to have a better outing than his last time on the mound for the Yankees. Fingers crossed that the Yankees can head home with a series win this time.

Go Yankees!

Game 111: NYY vs. TOR — Falling short North of the Border

The Yankees are north of the border for their mid-week series against the Blue Jays. And with the season beginning to wind down, the Yankees are looking for every game to put them in line for the postseason. Unfortunately, the last place in the AL East Blue Jays aren’t willing to go down easily.

CC Sabathia go the start and, thanks to a single batter who seemed to have his number, he threw a less-than-stellar outing. He threw 57 pitches in just 3 innings, giving up 6 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, striking out just 3 batters. In the 1st, Sabathia gave up a lead-off double, who moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt and then scored as part of a big 2-run home run to get Toronto on the board early. And a lead-off single in the 3rd scored as part of another 2-run home run (by the same player in the 1st inning) to double the Blue Jays’ score.

From there, the Yankees called on Bryan Mitchell for long-term relief, and he promptly threw a beautiful scoreless 4 innings. Mitchell kept the Blue Jays to their early lead in anticipation of the Yankees’ offense to catch-up and take-over. David Robertson’s 8th inning continued that momentum, again lying in wait for the Yankees’ fabled offense.

Fabled would be the right word tonight, as it seemed quite a bit stilted against the Toronto’s pitching staff. They had just two minor opportunities to play some small ball. In the 2nd, Headley led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Gregorius’ single, ended up at 3rd on a double play, and then scored on Garrett Cooper’s single.

Then in the 8th, consecutive Yankees (Sanchez and Headley) were hit by pitches and Todd Frazier worked a 1-out walk to load up the bases. It would be Cooper again for the RBI, this time a sacrifice fly {NOTE: no media link, sorry} to double the Yankees’ score and halve the Blue Jays’ lead.

But the Yankees didn’t have a last-minute rally in them, so dropped this first game in Toronto.

Final score: 4-2 Blue Jays

The Advanced-A Tampa Yankees are hosting their version of HOPE Week this week, starting today and running through Saturday. On the schedule are many amazing Tampa area organizations: the Lighthouse Center for Creative Learning, a school for children with autism; A Kid’s Place of Tampa Bay, a foster or transitional home for displaced children; Trinity Cafe, a proper restaurant that specifically serves the area’s homeless and hungry; the local chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation; and Tampa Yankees’ players, staff, and fans will participate in the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation’s “Cut for a Cure”, a fundraiser where kids (who also are cancer survivors) shave participants’ heads.

And in sad news, former ball player and manager Don Baylor passed away yesterday after a long struggle with multiple myeloma, a nasty blood cancer. He was just 68 years old. Baylor had a 19-year professional career with the Orioles, Athletics, Angels, Red Sox, Twins, and Yankees (1983-1985), an All-Star who also won an MVP Award and a World Series. He went on to manage the Rockies and Cubs, winning 1995 NL Manager of the Year, before retiring from baseball entirely 15 years ago around the time of his diagnosis. He was close to many in the game, even being a groomsman in Yankee teammate Dave Winfield’s 1988 wedding. Our hearts go out to his family, including his wife Rebecca. He will be missed.

Go Yankees!

Game 105: DET vs. NYY — Coming up short despite stellar defense

On this warm Tuesday afternoon, the first day of August, the Yankees were looking to continue this winning streak high they’ve been on for this home stand. But in the end, they came up a bit short, despite even some last-minute hope, against the visiting Tigers in this middle game of the midweek series.

CC Sabathia got the start tonight, and despite earning the loss, he actually had a decent outing. He threw 97 pitches in his 6 innings, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, and struck out just 3 Detroit batters. In the 2nd, Sabathia gave up a single and a double to put runners in scoring position. The next batter hit into a great play where the defense took out the lead runner with a fielder’s choice at 3rd. But a 3-run home run put the Tigers on the board early. A 2-out solo homer in the 3rd added an insurance run for them.

So, with Adam Warren throwing a beautiful 2 innings in relief for Sabathia, the Yankees’ pitching staff was just waiting for their offense to pick up the slack and give them some run support. Even David Robertson got into some trouble in the 9th, giving up 3 singles, but it would be the defense to come to the rescue and keep the Tigers from adding to their score.

The Yankees’ offense did pick up and the stats do show they were pretty evenly matched tonight. In the 4th, Sanchez led-off with a double and then scored as part of Didi Gregorius’ 2-run home run to get the Yankees on the board. The Tigers’ pitching kept the Yankees from adding their offense into runs-scored for most of the game. And in the 8th, Sanchez hit a 1-out single and ended up at 2nd on a fielding error. After a pitching change, Gregorius’ single scored Sanchez.

So, the Yankees looked at that last-minute bottom of the 9th inning for some hope. With 2 outs, Ellsbury worked a walk, and then the Tigers opted to intentionally walk Gardner. After a pick-off error and stolen base, the speedy outfielders were in scoring position. The air thick with tension. But then an infield pop up ended that potential rally and the game.

Final score: 4-3 Tigers

The Yankees wrap up their series against the Tigers and their home stand tomorrow afternoon. They are off to Cleveland to face the Indians for a 4-game weekend series. It will be there that the Yankees will see the club debut of newly acquired starters Sonny Gray (on Thursday) and Jaime Garcia (on Friday). Both starters are excited about joining the Yankees, both saying it’s a dream come true. Garcia even admitted that his family’s favorite team has always been the Yankees, as his late grandfather was a huge long-time fan.

I once heard a former ball player say that there are guys meant to be Yankees and guys meant to play against them. Sure, some kids dream of playing against the Yankees, but we don’t hold it against them. We’ll find the ones that dream of being a Yankees and embrace them into Yankee Universe — like Gray and Garcia.

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 95: NYY vs. SEA — Quite a birthday bash, hosted by Judge

Well, the Yankees have won 12 of their last 13 games at Safeco Field in Seattle. So much for that so-called “home field advantage”.

CC Sabathia celebrated his 37th birthday today by starting tonight’s game against the Mariners. His biggest problem tonight was his pitch count, throwing 98 pitches into the 6th inning. He gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and a run and struck out 5 batters. In the 1st, with 2 outs, Sabathia gave a walk that moved to 3rd on a single and then scored on another single. Yet another single loaded the bases before a grounder ended the initial threat. In other words, outside of that 1st inning, Sabathia only allowed a hit and 2 walks, which was great.

After allowing a walk in the 6th, Sabathia turned things over to Tommy Kahnle, who threw a solid 10 pitches to breeze his way through the 6th. Then David Robertson made his 2017 debut as a Yankee, throwing his first Yankee strikeout since September 26, 2014. Robertson threw 13 pitches and got 3 consecutive strikeouts for the 7th.

Dellin Betances made the 8th inning interesting (par for the course with Betances), giving up a couple of big hits but not allowing a run and still striking out 2 batters along the way. Adam Warren’s 11-pitch 9th inning was almost perfect. Somehow, the bullpen righting itself recently has set things in motion for the rest of the team. Whatever it takes to revert the Yankees back to their momentum of earlier this season.

Anyway, on the flip side of the field, the Yankees had a decent outing against the Mariners’ starter, racking up 9 hits in just 6 innings. And in the 3rd, Headley led-off with a double and then scored on Clint Frazier’s double to tie up the game. A fly out moved Frazier to 3rd, and after a walk, Aaron Judge’s sacrifice fly scored Frazier to move the Yankees into the lead.

In the 5th, with 1 out, Gardner and Sanchez each singled and sat on the corners. And then it would be Aaron Judge to hit just a monster 3-run home run deep into the left field seats. That would be his 31st home run this season, but his first since July 7 (so 14 days, including the 4-day All-Star break and excluding the 47 BP-like ones he hit during the HR Derby).

But anyway, that was more than enough to keep the Yankees’ streak in Seattle solid.

Final score: 5-1 Yankees

So, this was CC Sabathia’s first ever win on his birthday, despite being his 6th birthday start — 2002 and 2006 with Cleveland; 2011, 2013, 2016, and 2017 with the Yankees. However, he also has a current 10 wins and 1 loss in his career at Safeco Field, though it’s 6-0 as a Yankee. Maybe then that stat about the Yankees being great in Seattle has a whole lot to do with Sabathia. It’s almost surprising the Mariners didn’t do more to try to buy Sabathia’s contract. But then all the better for Yankee Universe.

Happy Birthday, CC!

Go Yankees!

Games 89 & 90: NYY vs. BOS — Let’s split 2, #CCStrong, & finally shut out

The first game of today’s doubleheader was a make-up game from the rain out on April 25. But after last night’s marathon 16 innings, it was bound to be a long finish to this weekend’s rivalry series at Fenway.

Game 1:
For the afternoon game, the Yankees turned almost at the last-minute to veteran starter CC Sabathia who had a truly great outing this afternoon, coming off his recent stint on the DL. He threw 97 pitches in his 6 innings, gave up just 2 hits, 5 walks, and no runs, striking out 3 batters along the way. Plus, he set himself up for the win, his 8th of the season actually.

The Yankees needed the likes of veteran reliable starters like this vintage Sabathia to give the exhausted bullpen a chance to recoup some of its strength. And he did. Clippard and Green kept the scoreless streak alive through the 7th and 8th innings, and Chapman’s 9th was strong enough to earn him the save and continue the momentum of the game.

The Yankees’ hitters managed to hit quite a bit off the Red Sox’s pitchers in the first game today, a total of 12 hits. However, they only managed to break through the defense in two innings. In the 4th, with 1 out, the Yankees loaded the bases with a single, an error, and another single. Ji-Man Choi’s sacrifice fly scored Gregorious to get a run on the board, and then Ronald Torreyes’ single scored Frazier to double the score. Despite the bases being loaded with a hit-by-pitch, they ended up grounding out to end the rally. Didi Gregorius added an insurance run in the 5th, a 2-out solo home run into the right field seats.

Final score: 3-0 Yankees

Game 2:
About 4 hours later, it was time for the regularly scheduled game, the rare late Sunday night game. And the Yankees called on another veteran starter to try to extend the life of the bullpen. Masahiro Tanaka definitely helped with the bullpen, and his outing was actually pretty good overall. He threw 112 pitches into the 8th inning, gave up 8 hits, no walks, and 3 runs, striking out 9 Boston batters.

In the 3rd, a 1-out single scored as part of a 2-out 2-run home run to give the Red Sox the lead. And then in the 6th, a lead-off single ended up at 2nd on a throwing error, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on an RBI single. But that would be it for the Red Sox. Even as Chasen Shreve closed out the 8th with a 5-pitch strikeout to make it an even 10 for the Yankee pitchers this game.

All that was needed was for the Yankee batters to do something. And normally, off this particular starter, they can and do. But while they got 8 total hits, they didn’t do much else with that. They also racked up 10 strikeouts, but they were unable to find a hole in the defense large enough to walk home.

And thus, the Yankees became the final team this season to be shut out of a game. It took 90 games, but someone had to do it. Somehow, it’s only fitting that it’s the Red Sox.

Final score: 3-0 Red Sox

Final series outcome: Red Sox and Yankees split the series 2-2.

In roster moves: before the doubleheader, the Yankees transferred Michael Pineda from the 10-day to the 60-day disabled list due to the partial tear in his right UCL (elbow). The Yankees selected the contract of reliever Caleb Smith and recalled Domingo German and Bryan Mitchell (who was scheduled to be their 26th man) from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In their place, they optioned Jonathan Holder and Ben Heller back, due to their extensive work in last night’s game.

But I wouldn’t put down roots there just yet. Keep the “Scranton Shuttle” fired up and ready. They’ll be more roster moves before the Yankees start their series in Minnesota.

Also, our hearts go out to the family of legendary Hall-of-Fame broadcaster Bob Wolff. Wolff passed away Saturday at his home in New York at the age of 96. He is the voice that called the Don Larsen perfect game in 1956 and is still the current World Record holder for the longest broadcasting career, awarded in 2014. The passing of another iconic voice in the sports world is always a sad day, closing another chapter of the great past and legacy of this team.

Go Yankees!