Game 119: NYY vs. NYM — #SubwaySeries victory tour continues in Queens

The Subway Series continued in Queens, before yet another sold-out crowd, their 5th one in 6 games (and the 6th one came within a few hundred seats of being another sell-out). And they decided to make things interesting before a New York hometown crowd.

Like the other newer starter yesterday, Jaime Garcia had a pretty good outing tonight. He threw 91 pitches into the 6th inning and gave up 5 hits, 3 walks, and 3 runs, striking out just 3 Mets batters. In the 1st, a lead-off double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a sacrifice fly to give the Mets a small early lead. Garcia held off the Mets for a time, later giving up a 2-out solo home run in the 5th. And in the 6th, with 2 runners on and just 1 out, Garcia’s night came to a close (with both those runners on his account).

Tommy Kahnle unfortunately promptly gave up a sacrifice fly that scored the lead runner (charged to Garcia), but then closed out the inning with a fly out, handing the game to Adam Warren. Warren sailed through 2 innings, adding 3 strikeouts of his own, in a rather strong showing for the now veteran bullpen staple. David Robertson’s 9th inning was everything we expect from tonight’s closer (see below), sewing up the game with 2 more strikeouts and his 14th save on the season.

Meanwhile, the Yankees played a bit of “tag” with the Mets for a good portion of the game. After the Mets scored in the 1st, the Yankees tied up the game in the 2nd when Chase Headley worked a walk, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, then to 3rd on a passed ball, and scored on Garrett Cooper’s ground out. Aaron Judge’s monster home run (all 457 feet into the upper deck in left field) led-off the 4th to put the Yankees in the lead.

Then the Mets caught up with the Yankees and tied up the game, so the Yankees forged ahead in the 6th, loading up the bases with a single and 2 walks. After the Mets’ starter left the game, Headley’s sacrifice fly scored lead-runner Judge to put the Yankees back on top.

When the game got tied up again in the bottom of the 6th, the Yankees weren’t about to just sit on their laurels. So in the 7th, Torreyes led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt, and then watched as the bases were loaded with Ellsbury and Hicks’ walks. After 1 out, Didi Gregorius hit a solid double into the corner of right field that scored 2 runs to give the Yankees the lead their strong bullpen wasn’t about to surrender.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees

Aroldis Chapman was unavailable to pitch today due to some tightness he felt in his hamstring during yesterday’s game. He’s hoping to avoid the disabled list, and the Yankees still consider him their primary closer. But with the likes of Betances and Robertson (who closed out the game tonight), the Yankees are not hurting for back-end of their bullpen.

In fact, their bullpen might be one of the strongest points of this season. Even when other parts weren’t clicking (like starting pitching or a lagging offense), the bullpen was able to often save the game from getting out of hand. I would even wager to say that the bullpen may be the primary reason the Yankees are still in contention for the postseason. Of course, it’s one of the few parts of the team that rarely gets a lot of attention, but those relievers are something else to watch, a crucial part of the team’s success story.

It’s so easy to overlook the players who don’t make the big splashy plays. Isn’t it like life though? It’s the little things, the under-the-radar moments, the ones that won’t make the headlines that matter the most. The so-called “small stuff” matters because it’s in that “small stuff” that we find consistency of character, the foundation for how to handle life’s “big stuff”, the moments that catch all the glory (or shame, as the case may be).

And in a team like the Yankees, we see things like persistence and perseverance and possibilities in the small stuff — the consistency of the middle relievers like Warren or Green, the strong but quiet defense of guys like Torreyes or Romine, or the flexibility and rally of Headley. So it’s no wonder the same stuff is then reflect in the big stuff — like a Judge or Sanchez homer, Gardner’s highlight reel outfield plays, or Chapman’s 103mph fastball.

Go Yankees!

Game 115: BOS vs. NYY — Not so stellar start, but valiant effort at the end

Luis Severino still needs a hashtag, but fortunately for you, he certainly didn’t need one this afternoon as he had a less than stellar outing, one that he won’t be adding to the highlight reel. In this middle game of the weekend series against the visiting Red Sox, Severino got roughed up by the younger power-hitters of Boston’s roster.

He threw 90 pitches into the 5th inning, giving up 8 hits, 2 walks, and 10 runs (though only 8 were earned), striking out just 4 batters. After 2 stellar innings, Severino started losing momentum. In the 3rd, with 1 out, Severino gave up 2 walks and a fielding error loaded up the bases. A single scored the Red Sox’s first 2 runs, and a big 3-run home run gave the Red Sox a nice lead. After 2 consecutive singles, the Yankees defense buckled down and got a line out into a double play, getting the lead runner to double off 2nd.

Then in the 5th, Severino allowed runners in scoring position with consecutive hits and no outs, and then gave up another 3-run home run (to the same player, by the way). After the first out was recorded for the inning, the Red Sox got runners in the corners with a double and a throwing error. And that would be it for Severino’s afternoon.

It was on to the bullpen, and first up was Giovanni Gallegos. He promptly gave up a 2-run double (both runs charged to Severino), but then zeroed in and got the 2 outs needed to get out of the inning and then breezed through the next 2 innings, accumulating 4 strikeouts along the way and keeping the Red Sox from adding to their double digit score.

Bryan Mitchell was up next for the Yankees’ bullpen, pitching a flawless 8th and getting into a sticky situation in the 9th. But he got out of it, thanks once again to the Yankees defense.

So, the Yankees’ offense had quite a bit of work to do. They actually got on the board first. Gardner led-off the 1st with a single and then scored as part of a 2-out 2-run home run by Gary Sanchez. Once the Red Sox took the lead, the Yankees started playing catch-up. In the 4th, the Yankees loaded up the bases with no outs, so Jacoby Ellsbury’s ground out moved all the runners up and scored lead runner Gregorius.

But then the Red Sox kept the Yankees from gaining any ground for most of the game. It wasn’t until the final inning that the Yankees attempted a monster catch-up rally. Chase Headley led-off the 9th with a solo home run, and Ellsbury followed that up with a solo home run of his own. But the rally quickly ended after 3 consecutive runs, leaving the Yankees high and dry.

Final score: 10-5, Red Sox

Injury news (can we get less of this please?): Jordan Montgomery was hit by a foul ball in the head, while he was playing catch in the outfield during batting practice today. He was a bit dazed and came off the field under his own power, but he was examined by the medical staff and pronounced fine. He is still scheduled to pitch tomorrow’s finale in the Bronx against the Red Sox, in hopes that the Yankees can come up on the plus side of this series.

Masahiro Tanaka is headed to the 10-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. The Yankees have called up Giovanni Gallegos to fill his roster spot, putting him in the long-term relief spot in the bullpen. To fill in Tanaka’s rotation spot, they are looking at today’s other reliever Mitchell or more likely (the other Luis) Cessa.

Go Yankees!

Game 110: NYY vs. CLE — Series split & #SeverinoNeedsAHashtag

Luis Severino is really becoming the go-to guy for the Yankees when they need that crucial starter to get them the win. In other words, Severino is clearly the Yankees’ ace, and each game he pitches he further proves this.

Severino got the start in this afternoon’s game, the finale of this 4-game weekend series in Cleveland. He threw 107 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up just 2 hits, a walk, and a single run, striking out 9 Cleveland batters. The lone allowed run was a 2-out solo homer in the 1st, and then nothing else for the entire game.

After Severino set the pace for staying strong and keeping things close, Kahnle closed out the 7th inning in just 5 pitches. And then Warren and Shreve threw a pair of amazing innings to close out the game, both only throwing 14 pitches each.

Meanwhile, the Yankees didn’t get many chances for most of the starter’s outing until his final inning — the 6th. Gardner led-off with a single and moved to 3rd on Clint Frazier’s double. With 1 out, the Indians’ starter intentionally walked Judge to load up the bases. Chase Headley’s sacrifice fly scored Gardner to tie up the game. But once the bases were loaded up again after a walk to Todd Frazier, it would be Jacoby Ellsbury’s monster triple to clear the bases and put the Yankees nicely into the lead.

That would be it for the Indians’ starter, so they opened their bullpen. It didn’t stop the Yankees, as Ronald Torreyes promptly singled home Ellsbury. Then in the 7th, with a new reliever and 1 out, Clint Frazier walked and then moved to 3rd on Gregorius’ single. So Aaron Judge hit his 35th home run, a 3-run power blast to ensure the Yankees’ lead. The Yankees hit 12 hits off the Indians’ pitchers today, by far the highest offense day for the Yankees this series.

Final: 8-1 Yankees, Yankees split series 2-2.

Roster moves: The Yankees officially placed Matt Holliday on the 10-day DL due to “left lumbar strain” and recalled Garrett Cooper from AAA Scranton. Headed to Scranton is odd-man-out Jordan Montgomery. Despite his good outing yesterday, with the two new starters, someone had to leave the rotation, and it was going to be “the kid”, the rookie, who has plenty of time to work his way back into a starting spot again. The corresponding roster move has yet to be announced.

For all the talk we’ve had this series on the nicknames of Cleveland, I’m going to leave you with a personal note. The most time I’ve ever spent in Cleveland collectively has to be the airport. I’ve never lived in Ohio, but so much of my family has (up until recently). So I’ve traveled there quite often. I used to know the airport almost better than any other airport I’ve flown into/out of.

And while airports have always fascinated me, the CLE will always hold a special place for me because it meant I was going to see or had just seen my grandparents, who are no longer with us. Like many in my family, my grandparents were huge baseball fans — my grandmother was a diehard Indians’ fan, and my grandfather nearly played ball himself taught us all how to love the game in general. While he was certainly a long-time Indians’ fan, he also appreciated great players, with a special fondness for Mickey Mantle.

So, while this particular series is special and personal for me, it always serves to remind me of two people who made the “CLE”, the “Mistake on the Lake”, “Plum City”, “Forest City”, or “Believeland” something more than just another city, another team, another nickname. It was where my family lived, where they were from. And that is what made it something special.

Go Yankees!

 

Game 109: NYY vs. CLE — “Cleveland’s a Plum”, at least tonight

Okay, my apologies to the city of Cleveland yesterday seemed to work. Of course, it could very well be the fact that the Yankees just played way better than they have the last two games at Progressive Field.

Competing for that fifth rotation spot, assumed odd man out Jordan Montgomery certainly worked very hard at trying to prove he deserved to at least remain in consideration for that spot. Montgomery threw just 65 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 3 hits and just 1 run, striking out 7 Cleveland batters. That lone run was a 1-out solo home run in the 2nd inning.

But between Montgomery and the rest of the bullpen, the Yankees held the strong Indians’ lineup from doing much of anything else. David Robertson came on for 2 innings, the 6th and 7th, and kept that momentum strong. Dellin Betances had a flawless 8th inning, turning the game over to Aroldis Chapman, who earned his 14th save of the season.

Not that the Yankees’ offense was blowing the Indians’ pitching staff out of the water or anything. In the 1st inning, Gardner led-off with a walk, moved to 2nd on Judge’s 1-out single, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ (just-inches-shy-of-a-home-run) RBI double to get the Yankees on the board early.

Once the Indians tied the game up in the next inning, the battle was on for who would break the tie, and as the Indians’ pitching is certainly one of their strongest elements, it was quite the feat. It wouldn’t be until the 8th inning, and it would be Chase Headley to break the stalemate. Headley hit a nice 1-out solo home run into the right field seats.

Final score: 2-1 Yankees

Injury news: Matt Holliday was out of tonight’s lineup due to a sore back. Apparently, he tweaked it last night during one of his at-bats, and it didn’t get better with rest and treatment. So, it looks like he might be headed back to the DL again. He has been struggling since he came off the DL last time (due to a virus), so maybe this could be a reset as well as a time to rest and recover.

Okay, since you all enjoyed my nickname exploration (and if you didn’t, sorry), I decided to do more research. I found sites that list many other nicknames for Cleveland, some I believe, some I question. Again, to recap, the most common I’ve heard (and this is primarily from family that lives or lived in the area) are the “Mistake on the Lake”, “Rock & Roll Capital of the World”, and “Believeland”.

One nickname was attached to the city around the early days of statehood for Ohio — “Forest City” — due to its heavily forested areas. More recently, the city has tried to market itself for urbanites seeking gentrified city living as the “North Coast“. But my absolute favorite (and one that absolutely no one I know ever heard of) is “Plum City” — supposedly on a 1970s marketing campaign to attract tourists a la the “Big Apple”.

Small note here: I’m not sure why the fruit thing works for New York, but it falls terribly flat when literally any other city tries to use a local fruit and apply it as their nickname or slogan. Here’s a few clearly failed attempts — Big Orange (LA), Big Peach (Atlanta), Big Strawberry (Garden Grove, CA), Big Tomato (Sacramento), Big Guava (Tampa), and the Big Pineapple (Honolulu). Stop with the fruit, people! (I’m looking at you Atlanta and your decidedly weird peach obsession…)

Alright, pop culture reference alert: even my family would probably prefer to be more like Jack Donaghy of 30 Rock and refer to the city as “The Cleve”. For reference, the direct quote is regarding what he believes is the vacation wishes of every red-blooded American: “We’d all like to flee to the Cleve and club-hop down at the Flats and have lunch with Little Richard…” (And if you have no idea who Jack, 30 Rock, or why that’s a funny scene, you are due for a good binge-watching session; it’s on Netflix.)

Well, that’s all from “The Cleve” tonight. Fingers crossed to split the series tonight or “Plum City” might feel a little more like a prune.

Go Yankees!

Game 104: DET vs. NYY — Yankees remain strong, last-minute trade grab

Today was the final day of the big MLB trade deadline, and even the Yankees benefited from some last-minute trade deals. But at the expense of some pretty great prospects. More after the game recap, as they still had to play a game in the Bronx.

The Yankees continued their home stand with this 3-game midweek series against the visiting Tigers. The Yankees are hoping to keep their winning momentum going with this new series, so it was only natural to look to Luis Severino to start tonight’s game. Severino threw 116 pitches in just 5 innings, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and a run, and still struck out 8 Detroit batters.

The still hashtag-less Severino had his toughest inning was the 4th. With 2 outs, he struggled to get that final out, giving up a single that scored on an RBI double. The Yankees’ defense also earned their 2 fielding errors that inning, though it ultimately didn’t affect the score. It just helped push up his pitch count, which was really the roughest part of his outing.

Tommy Kahnle came on in relief for the 6th inning and had a bit of his own struggles. His lead-off batter was hit by a pitch, moved to 2nd on a single, and then scored on a 2-out single to double the Tigers’ score.

Betances had better luck in the 7th, keeping the Tigers from adding to their score, and Jonathan Holder kept things smooth in the 8th. Holder’s 9th inning, however, wasn’t so smooth. With just 1 out on the board, Holder loaded up the bases with consecutive singles and a hit-by-pitch, before handing over the ball to Aroldis Chapman. A fielder’s choice (or rather a late effort at a double play) scored just one more run for the Tigers before a 3-pitch strikeout ended the Tigers’ last-minute rally.

Meanwhile, the Yankees took their opportunities when they found them. In the 4th, they loaded up the bases with a walk, a fielding error, and a walk. Chase Headley’s double scored 2 runs, and then Todd Frazier’s single scored 2 more. All before the Yankees got a single out that inning, and suddenly the Yankees leapt ahead of the Tigers.

Aaron Judge added an extra cushion to the lead with a 1-out solo home run in the 5th into the left field seats. In the 7th, lead-off batter Ellsbury was hit by a pitch, stole 2nd, and then scored on Clint Frazier’s giant triple. After Judge worked a walk, the Tigers pulled their starter and went to their bullpen. Gary Sanchez’s sacrifice fly scored Frazier for the final Yankees’ run of the night.

Final score: 7-3 Yankees.

Scranton Shuttle: before the game, for fresh arms in the bullpen, the Yankees optioned pitcher Luis Cessa to AAA Scranton and recalled Jonathan Holder, who ended up in tonight’s game.

Okay, the big trade of the day has the Yankees picking up a new pitcher for the starting rotation — Sonny Gray, a 27-year-old starter from the Athletics. In trade, the Yankees sent 3 of their prospects — outfielder Dustin Fowler, infielder Jorge Mateo, and pitcher James Kaprielian. Yes, Fowler and Kaprielian are on the DL recovering from surgeries, which should tell you how valuable both teams think of these players.

Sonny Gray was a first round draft pick in 2011 for the Athletics, after pitching at Vanderbilt. Gray came up in the A’s organization, making his MLB debut in 2013 and the 2015 All-Star team. He’s had a bit of a rough season last year on and off the DL, and another small one early this season. But he’s got the history of consistency and the youth that the Yankees really need for some potential long-term players.

The Yankees also picked up extra money for the international draft market (also called “Future Considerations”) on this trade. They picked up even more when they sent pitching prospect Yefry Ramirez to the Orioles. This is good for the Yankees as they continue to expand internationally and pick up more players in a broader market.

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 99: CIN vs. NYY — Matinee magic & #SeverinoNeedsAHashtag

Luis Severino currently leads the Yankees pitchers in strikeouts at 145 (after today’s game), making his 4th in the AL and 9th overall. In his 20 games, he’s thrown 127.2 innings (the most of Yankees) and kept his opponents to a .224 batting average (best of Yankee starters).

Anyway, for today’s rare midweek matinees, Severino got the start for this finale game in this short series against the visiting Reds. He threw 112 pitches in his 7 innings, giving up just 3 hits, 2 walks, and 2 unearned runs, and struck out an impressive 9 batters. In fact, Severino held off the Reds until his final inning. The lead-off batter reached on a fielding error and then scored on a double. A wild pitch moved that runner to 3rd and then scored a bit later on a ground out. This strong outing set Severino up for his 7th win of the season.

Meanwhile, the Yankees padded their lead to give Severino cushion he clearly didn’t need. With 2 outs in the 3rd, Torreyes singled, moved to 2nd on Gardner’s single, and then scored on Clint Frazier’s single to get the Yankees on the board early. In the 5th, with 2 outs again, the 3 of them did exactly the same thing — Torreyes’ single, Gardner’s single, and Frazier’s RBI single. It was “deja vu all over again”.

Then in the 6th, with 1 out, Gregorius reached based on a sloppy throwing error, ending up at 2nd, and then scored on Chase Headley’s single. {Media note: apologies as there doesn’t seem to be a related video available.} After Todd Frazier was hit-by-a pitch, Ellsbury reached on a force attempt and fielding error to load the bases, after the Yankees challenged the out at 2nd and rightly won the overturn. Ronald Torreyes grounded out, but moved all the runners up and scored Headley.

In the 7th, the Yankees proved they weren’t done yet. Clint Frazier led off by working a walk and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s double. Sanchez then scored on Matt Holliday’s single. That was enough for the Reds’ starter who had yet to record an out in the 7th. But the Yankees weren’t done yet. Didi Gregorius hit a nice 2-run home run into the right field seats. And then Todd Frazier earned his Yankee pinstripes with his first Yankee home run, a 1-out solo shot to the left field seats for the “ToddFather“, as he was thus dubbed.

Luis Cessa took over for Severino and had a bit of trouble. A strikeout on a wild pitch allowed a runner to reach base (no, I still don’t like this “loophole”). Cessa then gave up a walk and a 3-run home run to add to the Reds’ score. Fortunately, the Yankees had quite a bit of a cushion. Again, not for Severino apparently, but for the other Luis today. David Robertson breezed through the 9th inning in just 7 pitches, continuing to remind Yankee fans what they loved about him the first time around.

In total, the Yankee pitchers got the Reds to strike out 12 times, while only allowing 4 hits. The Reds’ pitching staff had the reverse numbers — 12 allowed hits and just 4 strikeouts.

Final score: 9-5 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-0.

Now, regarding today’s title, I spent some time trying to figure out what to dub Severino in honor of his increasing push to be the Yankees’ newest ace pitcher. I mean, currently, we have hashtags for the other starters — Sabathia’s #CCStrong, #TanakaTime, Pineda’s #BigMike, and Montgomery’s minor league moniker that evolved into #GumbyNation. We’ve used other adjectives for pitchers that used to be part of the team, but I can’t seem to find a consensus when Severino has a great game, which lately is more often than not.

I mean, Emoji King Didi Gregorius uses the baby emoji to signify Severino’s role as part of the Baby Bombers to find a breakout role in last season. But that doesn’t really translate to hashtag material.

So I’m turning to you, faithful readers. If you have any ideas, use the comments section below or message me. I’m curious to see what you can come up with. You have about 5 days before his next start to come up with something good!

Go Yankees!