ALCS 3: HOU vs. NYY — #CCStrong, Judge-power, Home Sweet Home

If any of the games this postseason can be credited with a home field advantage, it would easily be tonight’s game. Yankee Universe knows there’s nothing like Yankee Stadium.

I took my diehard Indians’ fan uncle (and yes, he’s a little bitter after the ALDS) to see a Yankees game this year, his first in Yankee Stadium ever (it was also Old Timers’ Day, by the way). We entered the stadium from the main gate (Gate 6) and into the Grand Concourse, and I took him to view the field from the main level’s concourse. He got chills, literal goosebumps. I thought taking him to Old Timers Day would make up for not seeing the Indians play, which was true as he loved the legends and silliness of the pre-game game.

There is nothing like Yankee Stadium. We all have those stories about our first visits or a memorable visit or special moment in the stadium. The stadium basically is a collection of stories, both for the guys on the field and the fans in the stands.

Anyway, one of those veteran players got the start in this crucial game against the Astros. CC Sabathia came out strong and just powered his way through the game, boosted by a great defense (like Judge slamming into the right field wall or diving in the outfield to make a stellar catch) and some just powerful run-scoring. Sabathia threw 99 pitches through his 6 scoreless innings, gave up 3 hits and 4 walks, and struck out 5 Houston batters. Adam Warren followed him up with 2 more scoreless innings.

Okay, in the mean time, the Yankees racked up that run-support for their pitchers off the Astros’ starter. In the 2nd, with 2 outs, Castro and Hicks worked back-to-back singles. Next batter Todd Frazier had a kind of sloppy swing and promptly sent the ball into the right field seats for a 3-run home run to get the Yankees on the board.

The Yankees came back in the 4th to add to their lead, starting with Bird’s lead-off ground-rule double. After Frazier worked a walk, Bird then scored on Chase Headley’s single, and Sanchez was hit by a pitch to load up the bases. That was also it for the Houston starter’s night. The Astros had enough and dipped into their bullpen to stem the tide, though it certainly didn’t help at first. A wild pitch promptly scored Frazier from 3rd, moving all the runners up. The rest of them scored when Aaron Judge fired a long line drive into the left field seats for a 3-run home run to seal the Yankees’ victory.

So with that huge lead, the Yankees kept the Astros totally scoreless until the 9th inning. Dellin Betances had a bit of an off-night, walking his first 2 batters. So it was on to Tommy Kahnle to clean things up, but he promptly gave up a single to load up the bases before finally getting a much-needed strikeout. So a walk scored the Astros’ lone run before a double play ended the inning and the game.

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

Now, that’s exactly what the Yankees needed to restart their momentum. The Yankees need 3 more wins this series and are hoping to continue the win streak with Sonny Gray’s start tomorrow afternoon. First pitch for the ALCS is 5:08 EST, with the NLCS first pitch in Chicago at 7:08 CST (8:08 EST).

And in other news (and I guess we’re starting news relating to “End of the Season”): MLB announced its nominees for the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award. (History of the award here including past 3-time winner Rivera.) Winner will be awarded at Game 4 of the World Series (October 28). Fans can add their voice via Twitter until October 26, but finalists are also voted on by a panel of former relievers including both Rivera and Hoffman, who will be on hand to present the winners of their namesake awards.

AL finalists are the Astros’ Ken Giles, the Red Sox’s Craig Kimbrel (who has won the NL award when he was with the Braves in 2014), and the Yankees own David Robertson. NL finalists are the Cubs’ Wade Davis, the Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen, and the Brewers’ Corey Knebel. It is worth noting that all but Knebel are making postseason appearances this season as well. The Yankees’ former closer (now with the Indians) Andrew Miller won the award in 2015; Miller was also nominated last year.

Go Yankees!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final score: 8-2 Yankees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because really, it’s always…

Go Yankees!

Game 146: BAL vs. NYY — Batting practice during #TanakaTime

Well, the Yankees are back home, a short 10 miles from the Tampa Bay’s temporary home this week. And they are hosting the visiting Orioles for this 4-game weekend series.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start for tonight’s game, throwing 102 pitches through his 7 innings. He gave up 8 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, striking out 8 Baltimore batters. Both allowed runs were solo home runs — a lead-off home run in the 4th and a 1-out solo shot in the 6th. Basically, Tanaka was back into fine form tonight, setting himself up for the eventual win.

And the Yankees’ offense certainly gave Tanaka enough room to work within. In the 1st inning, Ellsbury led-off with a single, moved to 3rd on Judge’s single, and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s double. Matt Holliday’s ground out was the first out of the inning and still scored Judge. Chase Headley’s single scored Sanchez, and Gregorius then singled. That set up Todd Frazier’s big 3-run home run up the middle to secure the Yankees’ early lead and end the Orioles’ starter’s night with just 1 out in the very 1st inning.

A new reliever shut down the Yankees until the 4th inning when Clint Frazier led-off with a single, and Ellsbury worked a walk. They both then scored as part of Aaron Judge’s 3-run home run. A new reliever once again sailed his way through the 5th, but then found trouble in the 6th against the charging Yankees. Clint Frazier led-off with a walk, and Ellsbury worked another walk. And once again, it would be Aaron Judge for another 3-run home run, his 43rd homer of the season. Gary Sanchez then followed it up with a solo home run of his own.

Finally, the Yankees stopped the charge forward, but the Yankee pitchers needed to keep up the momentum. Though they struggled in their own right. In the 8th, Bryan Mitchell came on to relieve Tanaka. The lead-off batter singled, moved to 2nd and 3rd on consecutive ground outs, and then scored on an RBI double. Another double then scored that base runner. Coming on in the 9th, Giovanni Gallegos gave up a lead-off solo home run to give the O’s just one more run tonight.

Final score: 13-5 Yankees.

Okay, there is a meme/video/picture going around of a man from Monday’s game who is giving a thumbs-down to the Yankees’ offense. Todd Frazier picked up on the man’s staid show and actually gave him a thumbs-down on Monday when he got his 3-run home run that night. Well, it continued tonight with Frazier giving a thumbs-down when he got his home run tonight, and the Yankees’ dugout was doing the same as if it were how they cheered on good things that happened to their teammates. All with big smiles on their faces, of course.

And in Yankees doing good things around the City news… Didi Gregorius and Dellin Betances teamed up with Mr. Peanut and Boxed (a wholesale company) and found Yankee fans. They asked them a few questions, and fans with correct answers ended up winning tickets to a Yankees’ game. Plus, they got to hang out with, hug, and selfie with Gregorius and Betances.

Postseason outlook: I’m starting this section as we’re winding down the season, and I want to keep you informed on what’s going on so you’re not surprised when all of these teams suddenly enter the picture in a few weeks. So, the biggest story is that the Indians are currently at 22 straight wins after tonight’s extra innings win against the Royals. They are definitely on a roll, and I can’t imagine that bodes well for any of the other teams looking for AL pre-postseason momentum themselves. (Including the Yankees.)

I imagine I’ll see posts of this in my timeline tomorrow from my family who are avid Cleveland fans, donning their continued (and well-deserved, if I’m being honest) hashtag #Windians. (Also, I still think I like “Believeland” better.)

Fun joke at the expense of my Cleveland family: You know why the Yankees don’t need cheesy hashtags to promote their wins and prove they’re actually winning? The Yankees don’t need to self-promote or convince people they’re good because everyone already equates Yankees with winning. (…cheesy dad joke groan, rimshot, and sad trombone sound…)

Go Yankees!

 

Game 142: NYY vs. TEX — Baby Bombers show off in Texas finale

I wish I could say that this afternoon’s game was a great game. At first glance, it might look great because the outcome was in the Yankees’ favor. But a second look, and one has to wonder how either team was lucky enough to keep the game under 4 hours with the pitching being a bit less than stellar.

With today’s finale in Texas, the Yankees were looking to continue their march towards that postseason with some kind of power, looking to their offense to carry them into October. Usually, the pitching is there to give them some back up, but today, there was a rather mixed bag in that case.

Jordan Montgomery got the start today and once again had some struggles through his abbreviated outing. He threw 79 pitches into the 4th inning, giving up 3 hits, 4 walks, and 3 runs, and striking out just 3 Texas batters. In the 2nd, a 1-out solo home run got the Rangers on the board, but with 2 outs and 2 runners in scoring position, Montgomery relied on his defense to get the final out of the inning and out of the jam. In the 4th, he gave up consecutive walks before a 1-out double would score another run.

The Yankees called on Chad Green to do what Chad Green does, and give the Yankees some long-term relief so early in the game. He gave up a sacrifice fly that scored Montgomery’s lingering runner before Green got a well-placed strikeout. Even Green had a spot of trouble in the 5th inning when his lead-off batter doubled and then promptly scored on an RBI single. But then Green zeroed in and breezed his way through his next 5 outs (and in doing so, set himself up for the win).

Tommy Kahnle closed out Green’s 6th inning and basically breezed his way through the 7th before handing the ball over to Dellin Betances. Betances found his own sticky spot in the 8th inning, despite getting 3 strikeouts for his 3 outs this inning. With just 1 out, Betances gave up consecutive walks that both scored on a double. Caleb Smith got 2 quick outs in the 9th and then gave up a walk that scored on a double before getting that 3rd out to close out the game.

And all those statistics would not spell good news for the Yankees if the Rangers had a better pitching staff. But really, they are just not good, or at least they weren’t so good tonight. The Rangers’ starter only throwing into the 4th inning. In the 1st inning, Gary Sanchez kicked things off with a solo home run into the left field seats, his 29th of the season.

Gardner singled to lead off the 3rd, moved to 2nd when Sanchez was hit by a pitch, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ double. This broke the early tie, but the Yankees weren’t done yet. Castro reached safely on a fielder’s choice, and due to the slowness of the Rangers’ defense, all runners were safe on all 3 bases. Aaron Judge’s long sacrifice fly scored Sanchez.

In the 4th, Ellsbury was hit by a pitch (yes, this happened a lot tonight) and Romine singled, and that would be it for the Rangers’ starter. Not that they could depend on the bullpen to halt the Yankees’ charge. Brett Gardner smacked a nice triple that scored both runners. A fairly routine single by Chase Headley scored Gardner. After Sanchez’s double, Didi Gregorius’ single scored Headley. (All of this before an out was scored this inning.) Then on a double play, Sanchez still scored to keep the momentum alive. Only to be followed up by Aaron Judge’s 40th home run of the season.

And the Rangers finally went to their bullpen to get out of this inning. But that reliever found his troubles in the next inning loading up the bases with consecutive doubles and a fielding error. Didi Gregorius singled and scored the 2 lead runners before being thrown out trying for 2nd base.

To show off a bit, Aaron Judge hit a 1-out solo home run in the 6th, and Gary Sanchez followed that with a solo home run to lead off the 8th. (More on this after the recap.) And in the 9th inning, the Yankees proved they weren’t done yet. Ellsbury led-off with a walk, and Romine singled. Tyler Wade singled home Ellsbury, and pinch-hitter Erik Kratz had his first Yankee hit, a double, that scored both Romine and Wade to cap off the Yankee runs scored today.

Now, back to what I started with is a bit of why I have a hard time calling this a great game. A “great game” is one where the pitching, hitting, defense, base running, and bullpen are all really good, even more so if both teams do so. But statistics show a different story. In total, pitchers gave up 28 hits, 10 walks, and 23 runs (5 of them homers). And here’s the biggest difference in pitching staffs — the Yankees got the Rangers’ batters swinging at 13 strikeouts, while the Rangers entire staff only got the Yankees to strikeout twice. Again, it’s hard to call this a “good game”, let alone a great one. But it’s nice to win it anyway they can.

Final score: 16-7 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-1

Now, those “Baby Bombers” Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. Both young stars hit two home runs each in today’s game, showing off the Yankee offense in the best possible way. For Aaron Judge, he hit is 40th and 41st home runs of the season, officially becoming the 2nd rookie in MLB history to hit over 40 home runs in a single season. And he’s got 20 games to at least tie up the record holder (Mark McGwire) at 49. Judge is also in some very vaunted company as the 5th Yankee to hit at least 40 home runs age 25 and under — Mantle, DiMaggio, Gehrig, and Ruth.

Now, Gary Sanchez isn’t exactly a footnote here. He has hit 50 home runs in his first 162 games (over the last 2 seasons). This season alone, Sanchez leads all catchers in the league with 30 home runs and 83 RBIs after today, and this is despite missing an entire month of baseball earlier this year. And speaking of catchers, Sanchez’s 30 home runs this season tied other legendary Yankee catchers in most home runs in a season — Posada in 2003 and Berra in 1952 and 1956.

And remember, folks, there’s still 20 games left in this season. Both Sanchez and Judge have about 20 more games to just surge ahead and show off some more. And don’t think they won’t try. We are watching the next Berra-Mantle anchored dynasty, like my grandfather used to talk about. My grandkids will hear my stories of the Sanchez-Judge era of greatness. And just maybe they’ll get their own dynasty of legends in the making.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: having a bit of trouble with the links, so I included the recap, but it only covers Judge and Sanchez’s home runs. Will link the rest as soon as I can.}

Game 141: NYY vs. TEX — #SevySharp, his 1-hitter, & a 9th inning rally

Now, that’s how you reverse whatever happened yesterday. Of course, it certainly helps that the Yankees have a starter like Luis Severino who threw a 1-hitter this afternoon in the middle game this weekend in Texas. Severino threw 100 pitches in his 7 innings, giving up a lone hit, a lone run, and walking 3, all while striking out 10 Texas batters. That lone run and hit actually were part of the same play in the 5th. With 2 outs and a runner on 1st (after a walk), a double scored that runner to get the Rangers on the board.

Actually, both starters were able to hold off both teams for most of the game. After the Rangers got on the board first with that RBI double in the 5th, the Yankees had some catching up to do. They got their opportunity in the 8th inning. After Todd Frazier was hit by a pitch, the Rangers turned to their bullpen. Pinch-hitter Holliday singled, moved Frazier to 3rd, and then was pinch-run by Wade. Then with 1 out, Chase Headley hit a nice sacrifice fly to score Frazier and tie up the game.

So, with a solid chance, the Yankees called on David Robertson, who just sailed through the bottom of the 8th in just 8 pitches. And almost in response, the Yankee offense made yet another move in the 9th inning. With 1 out and Judge on 1st, Ellsbury singled to put runners on the corners. A new reliever promptly plunked Frazier to load up the bases, so the Yankees called in pinch-hitter Tyler Austin for a chance. He delivered with a nice single to score Judge, the go-ahead run. After another out, Chase Headley worked a walk to walk in Ellsbury for the insurance run the Yankees wouldn’t really need.

Aroldis Chapman fell back into the closing role as he commanded and dominated the bottom of the 9th in just 13 pitches (2 strikeouts) for his 17th save opportunity of the season. Yankee pitchers today racked up 13 strikeouts, keeping the Rangers to that lone hit and lone run given up by Severino.

Final score: 3-1 Yankees

Okay, so here’s the postseason standings with just 21 games left of the regular season for the Yankees. {Note: at time of publishing, not all games have completed for this day and thus some stats will alter by a half or whole game by the end of the day.} The Yankees are now 4 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East, with the Orioles trailing behind the Yankees another 5.5 games (or 9.5 games behind the Red Sox). The Rays are just behind them another game, and the Blue Jays are scraping the bottom at 16 games behind the Red Sox.

Now, in the AL divisions, the Indians are 11.5 games ahead of their next division rivals thanks mostly to their 17-game winning streak (my family likes promoting that stat and their newest hashtag #windians around lately). The Astros are also in a similar situation in the AL West, currently sitting at 14.5 games ahead of their next rival.

And similarly, the NL is having nearly the same issue. The Nationals and Dodgers are dominating their divisions, sitting at 19 and 10 games ahead, respectively. Meanwhile, the Cubs are just 4 games ahead of the Brewers and Cardinals, making this a division still very much in flux.

Meanwhile, the Wild Card is much less secure. In the NL, the Diamondbacks are doing really well this year, but being in the same division as the dominant Dodgers forces the Arizona team into the first Wild Card spot, 6 games ahead of their geographic rival — the Rockies. (This also makes the NL West one of the strongest divisions in the league right now, by the way.) But the NL Central 2nd place teams (the Brewers and Cardinals) are just 3 games behind them. So if the Cubs slip, they could still be looking at the postseason, but from the Wild Card spot instead.

And over here in the AL, things are much less certain. Yes, the Yankees currently lead the Wild Card race, but they are only 2 games ahead of the surging Twins. And then it’s super tight with the next few teams just half-games a part from each other — Angels (behind 2 games from the Twins), Rangers (3), Orioles (3.5), Mariners (4), and Rays and Royals (4.5).

In other words, the postseason is still basically a giant crap shoot. Which makes September baseball all that more interesting because now every little detail counts for everything!

Go Yankees!

Game 139: NYY vs. BAL — Make-up matinee win for Stick

The rain that plagued the East Coast for the last two days soaked Baltimore yesterday without any let up, pushing last night’s game to today. Both teams are headed to other cities tomorrow (Yankees to Texas, Orioles to Cleveland), so they both had open travel days today. The teams agreed to a matinée make-up game today (when it was bright and sunny) to allow both teams to head out this afternoon before the night games tomorrow. (And this still allows both rosters to rest up before their weekend series.)

Anyway, so they played their finale in Baltimore this afternoon before another small crowd. (It’s like the citizens and precipitation-associated games don’t mix well.) Sonny Gray got the start and threw a pretty decent outing. He threw 102 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 1 unearned run, and struck out 5 Baltimore batters.

Gray and the Yankees’ defense held off the Orioles until the 6th inning. With 2 outs and 2 runners on base, a batter hit into a force attempt on a fairly easy grounder but a throwing error allowed the runner to reach safely, and the other 2 batters to advance 2 bases, scoring the lead runner. The error making the run scored unearned.

That would be it for Gray, handing the ball over to Chad Green, who did what Chad Green does really well — closed the 6th and then powered through the 7th inning to keep the O’s at that lone run scored. Kahnle and Heller each took an inning to close out that game, breezing through the Orioles’ roster with such ease. Basically, the three of them showing off why the Yankees’ bullpen is still quite feared by their opponents.

The Orioles’ pitching staff, however, is not quite so fearsome. Their starter certainly got hit pretty hard by the Yankee offense, and the bullpen got dinged up a bit too. In the 1st, Brett Gardner led-off with a walk, stole 2nd, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ 2-out double. Aaron Judge’s 39th home run of the season followed that, a big 2-run home run up the middle to put the Yankees firmly in an early lead.

In the 3rd, Gregorius hit a 1-out single, moved to 2nd on Judge’s walk, and then scored on Matt Holliday’s single. Then while Jacoby Ellsbury hit into a force out at 2nd, when the Orioles couldn’t turn the double play at 1st as well, Judge hustled it home to add yet another run to the score. The Orioles’ starter was done after just 3 innings, but the Yankees couldn’t be stopped.

In the 4th, Gardner hit a 1-out double and then scored as part of Chase Headley’s 2-run home run. And with a new reliever in the 6th, and 2 outs, Starlin Castro’s solo home run kept things moving solidly in the wind column. Todd Frazier decided to match that with his own 2-out solo home run in the 7th inning to cap off the Yankees’ runs today. Baltimore pitchers finally figured out how to stop the Yankee bats, but the lead was solidly in the win column.

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

I saw that the last time the Yankees won a series in Baltimore, the winning pitcher was Mariano Rivera back on September 12, 2013. The Yankees always seem to struggle at Camden Yards, with someone once attributing their issues as a “Oriole Voodoo Curse”, but that seems a bit extreme. I mean, it’s not like they were caught stealing signs with Apple watches. (When that’s resolved, probably in the off-season, I promise to talk more about this.)

And in absolutely disheartening news, former Yankees GM and special advisor Gene “Stick” Michael passed away earlier today at his home in Oldsmar, Florida (part of the Tampa Bay area). He was a huge part of the Yankees organization for many years, a great presence, genuine heart, and one of the smartest analysts of the game. His long list of contributions include helping to sign and develop the “Core Four” and the team that would become the latest dynasty, winning 4 World Series Championships in 5 years.

But even more than that, Stick was a man of good character, quick humor, and sincere friendship. The Yankees and Orioles took a moment of silence before today’s game, and the Yankees donned black armbands on their uniforms in his memory. The legend and legacy of Stick Michael will not be soon forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his widow Joette and his many friends and family during this time.

Go Yankees!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Yankees!