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!

ALDS 3: HOU vs. BOS & CLE vs. NYY — Sweeps denied!

Two teams were headed into enemy territory on the East Coast looking to sweep their respective series and head into the ALCS to face each other. But both home teams were like, “Sweep denied!”

Game 1: Astros at Red Sox
Fenway was rocking for their home team, as only Fenway can do. And the Red Sox, who had been out scored by the Astros 16-4 in the last 2 games, were ready to make up some of that ground on their home turf. So they did.

Once again, neither starter had much success, the Red Sox starter only making it into the 2nd inning, the Astros’ starter only the 3rd. Which meant again that the bullpen would be the deciding option, and today that would be the Red Sox’s bullpen to show off, thanks in part to a former starter going 4 scoreless innings through the middle of the game, keeping the Red Sox in command of the game.

The Astros got on the board first in the 1st inning. A lead-off single stole 2nd and then scored on an RBI single. That runner then scored on a 1-out 2-run home run to give the Astros a nice early lead. But that home team bullpen wouldn’t let them add to their lead, and the Red Sox offense caught up and then surpassed. Big time.

First, loading up the bases in the 2nd, but only scoring 1 run on a single. In the 3rd, with 2 outs, a batter doubled and then scored on an RBI single. With the starter now out, the next batter hit a big 2-run home run to suddenly shift the narrative. The Red Sox were in the lead. And then they had the 7th inning, loading up the bases again so that a double would score 2 of those runners and a single the third. One out later, a 3-run home run cemented the Red Sox’s big victory.

Final score: 10-3 Red Sox, Astros lead series 2-1

Game 2: Indians at Yankees
Three people are to blame for tonight’s game in the Bronx — Tanaka, Judge, and Bird. First, Masahiro Tanaka threw an absolute gem, breezing through the Indians’ roster with a near perfect outing. He threw 92 pitches in his 7 scoreless innings, gave up 3 hits and a walk, and struck out 7 Cleveland batters. He sped through the power-hitters, pushing the game at a pace that is very familiar when it’s Tanaka Time in the Bronx. At one point, Tanaka’s scoreless outing was saved by all 6-feet 7-inches of Aaron Judge jumping and grabbing a fly ball from crossing into the right field seats (and landing in the clutches of an infamous ball “collector”).

David Robertson threw only 9 pitches in the 8th, but with a runner on base with a walk, the Yankees needed to shut things down. They asked Aroldis Chapman to come on for a 5-out save, 4 of his outs would be strikeouts, topping out at 104 mph at one point, despite getting 2 base runners in the 9th.

The Yankees faced off against the Indians’ starter, who pretty much shut them down for most of his outing, into the 6th inning. But they started hitting and getting base runners, so the Indians went to their bullpen to save the day. That, of course, didn’t help when Greg Bird led-off the 7th inning with an absolute bomb into the 2nd deck of the right field seats. That would be the only run scored tonight, but all the winner needs is one more run than their opponent to win the game.

Final score: 1-0 Yankees, Indians lead series 2-1

There’s a tomorrow in Boston and New York. Both teams forced at Game 4, so tomorrow will be packed again with 4 games. (And a semi-blown bracket for me!) In other words, there’s still so much baseball left to play this year.

Go Yankees!

ALDS 2: BOS vs. HOU & NYY vs. CLE, NLDS 1: CHC vs. WAS & ARI vs. LAD — Home field advantage… and the Cubs

Big day in the world of baseball with four consecutive games. Well, there was quite a bit of overlap for a couple of games thanks to a bad call and far too many extra innings. And because there’s some games out West, one game lasted well into the next morning, making today far longer than this East Coast girl is used to.

Game 1: ALDS 2 — Red Sox at Astros
It took exactly 4 hours for the Astros to dominate the Red Sox and send the series to Fenway in their favor. The Astros called on their ace starter to pitch into the 6th inning, and he really stepped up to the plate (so to speak), fending off the Red Sox batters for most of the game, only giving up 3 hits, 3 walks, and a run and striking out 7 batters. His allowed run was in the 2nd when a lead-off double stole 3rd and later scored on a 1-out single. The Astros’ bullpen kept that momentum going until the 9th inning, when a 1-out single moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a 2-out single.

The Red Sox’s pitching was pretty much on line with their offense. For example, their starter only went 2 full innings (and 3 batters in the 3rd) and their bullpen followed that example. In the 1st, with 2 outs and a man on base with a single, a 2-run homer got the Astros on base early. A lead-off homer in the 3rd added to the score. A double followed that only to score on the next player’s single. Despite loading the bases, the Red Sox finally got some outs in the inning to get out of the jam.

To finalize the game, the Astros roughed up the Red Sox again in the 6th. With runners on the corners and 1 out, a fly ball and throwing error allowed the runners to advance and thus score an extra run. After intentionally walking the next batter, the Red Sox gave up a double to score 2 more and a single to score the last one. The reality is that the Red Sox are rather out-matched by the Astros, and this series shows it very well. However, anything can happen in Fenway… just ask the Yankees.

Final score: 8-2 Astros, Astros lead ALDS 2-0

Game 2: ALDS 2 — Yankees at Indians
The problem with tonight’s game is that it was actually a really good game for the Yankees, but then things happened that shouldn’t have happened, decisions will be permanently and suitably questioned, and the game spiraled out of control. As evidenced by the 5 hour and 8 minute game time and 13 innings played. CC Sabathia threw a great game, just 77 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 3 hits, 3 walks, and 4 runs (only 2 earned), and struck out 5 Cleveland batters.

In the 1st, Sabathia loaded up the bases with a fielding error, a walk, and a hit-by-pitch. A single scored 2 runners before the next batter lined into a double play as the runner at 2nd double off base. That runner also badly sprained his ankle. And a lead-off batter in the 2nd moved to 2nd on a questionable throwing error, ended up at 3rd on a sacrifice bunt, and then scored on an RBI single.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were actually hitting off the Indians’ ace starter, knocking him out after 76 pitches in the 3rd inning after racking up 7 hits, a walk, and 6 runs. In the 1st, Judge worked a 1-out walk and then scored as part of Gary Sanchez’s 2-run home run straight up the middle. In the 3rd, Sanchez hit a 1-out single, moved to 2nd on a ground out, and then scored on Starlin Castro’s single. Bird then singled, so that would make Aaron Hicks’ big hit a 3-run home run. That ended the Indians’ starter’s night and really set the Yankees with a big lead. Gregorius later worked a lead-off walk in the 5th and then scored as part of Greg Bird’s big 2-run home run.

Okay, so the 6th inning… known forever now as the inning that changed everything. Sabathia was still pitching and gave up a lead-off walk and got an out. That was it for Sabathia, so the Yankees called in Chad Green. This is decision to question #1. Why remove Sabathia when he’s having a great outing and has such a low pitch count? Okay, so Green gets out #2, but then gives up a double to put runners in scoring position.

Then things get weirder. The next batter is “hit-by-a-pitch”, or rather his bat was. He was awarded 1st base (to load up the bases), which was a surprise even to the batter. Gary Sanchez stood up to alert Girardi that it wasn’t a HBP and should be challenged on a replay. By he was practically ignored (questionable decision #2), so the bases were loaded. The next batter promptly hit a home run, a grand slam to put the Indians within a run of the Yankees’ lead. Well, the entire sold-out crowd at Progressive Field certainly loved it. Most of Yankee Universe took to social media (including myself) to express their displeasure.

It was on to David Robertson for the next 5 outs, closing out the 6th and through the 7th and into the 8th. In the 8th, he gave up a lead-off solo home run to tie up the game right there. After another out, the Yankees flipped the game to Tommy Kahnle for the final 2 outs of the inning before turning to Aroldis Chapman in the 9th.

It is worth noting that the Cleveland fans treated every out after that run tying home run as if it was the last one of the game. Chapman actually pitched through the 9th and then the 10th as the game went into extra innings. The Yankees’ batters were able to get runners on base, but they weren’t able to finish the job and score a run. Dellin Betances came on in the 11th and pitched 2 scoreless innings, and for some reason (questionable decision #3), came out for the 13th inning. A lead-off walk stole 2nd and then promptly scored on a single to score the walk-off run for the home team.

Final score: 9-8 Indians, Indians lead ALDS 2-0

Game 3: NLDS 1 — Cubs at Nationals
About the time the Yankees began their spiral into the “questionable decisions” territory, the Cubs-Nationals game began in the nation’s capital. It was a quick 3 hour and 2 minute game that began with a ceremonial first pitch by Representative Steve Scalise, who was seriously injured earlier this year when a gun man opened fire on a Congressional baseball practice. Scalise threw a great first pitch and set the tone for the game to come.

Both teams sent in some stellar pitchers, who were pretty much locked in a pitching duel for a the first half of the game. Honestly, I didn’t realize how evenly matched the Cubs and Nationals were until this game. Both starters went a full 7 innings, gave up minimal hits, and kept the score low. Their 2 respective relievers followed suit in their single innings.

But it would the Cubs to buck today’s trend of home field advantage and come out on top thanks to their gift of small ball tonight. In the 6th, the lead-off batter reached on a fielding error, moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt, and then scored on an RBI single and throwing error that moved that batter to 2nd. Then he scored on another RBI single to give the Cubs a solid lead. With new pitching in the 8th, the lead-off batter for the Cubs doubled, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on a 2-out double for that insurance run they’d never need tonight.

They finished their game just a few minutes after the previous one did in extra innings. It wasn’t as talked about post-game, but the pitcher’s duel was something in the postseason, a season so far dominated by home runs and sloppy pitching. It was nice to see starting pitchers duke it out old-school.

Final score: 3-0 Cubs, Cubs lead NLDS 1-0

Game 4: NLDS 1 — Diamondbacks at Dodgers
This game started about 10:30 pm Eastern Time, roughly 11 minutes after Cleveland scored its walk-off run three time zones away. And in regular postseason fashion, it would last 3 hours and 37 minutes because the Dodgers came to play ball, thanks mostly to their ace starter who threw into the 7th inning (100 pitches) and struck out 7 Arizona batters along the way. Over on the other hand, the Diamondbacks’ starter only threw 1 inning, but racked up a whopping 48 pitches.

Here’s how: the Dodgers hit a lead-off single and worked a walk which both scored as part of a big 3-run home run to kick things off in Los Angeles. The next batter singled and then scored on a double before the pitcher finally got an out. He would get all 3 outs as strikeouts, but the damage was done awfully early. The Diamondbacks answered back in the 3rd with a 2-out solo shot, a mere blip on the scoreboard at that point. And their pitchers weren’t doing the greatest job of fending off the power-hitting Dodgers. In the 4th, with 1 out and 2 runners on base, consecutive singles scored 2 more runs for the home team.

The Diamondbacks chipped away at the Dodgers’ lead the only way they could — with home runs. With 2 outs in the 6th, they launched one into the left field seats to double their score. And in the 7th, with 1 out, they hit back-to-back left field solo home runs. That was it for the Dodgers’ ace, but not for the rest of the game. As the Dodgers got those 2 runs back in the 8th. A lead-off single later scored on a 1-out triple, and then that runner scored on an easy single.

Finally, playing a little small ball, the D-backs made the 9th inning a little interesting. A 1-out single moved to 2nd on defensive indifference and later scored on a fielder’s choice and throwing error of sorts.

Final score: 9-5 Dodgers, Dodgers lead NLDS 1-0

The ALDS teams head to the East Coast to continue their series on Sunday, with the Astros and Indians hoping for an easy 3rd game. The NLDS plays their second game tomorrow. But clearly, there’s nothing easy about the postseason. What’s that old phrase? Or it might be called “football”? Yeah, something like that…

Go Yankees!

ALDS Game 1: BOS vs. HOU & NYY vs. CLE — Space City Shoots for the Moon, Mistake on the Lake K-zone theft & shutout

Neither team in the playoffs from the AL East is going to be easy tonight back in their respective hotel rooms. But both home teams are riding high on their show in front of their respective home town crowds. And we’ve really just gotten started with October baseball.

Game 1: Red Sox at Astros
Honestly, I really thought this game was going to be quite the pitching duel between the two ace starters, both recent acquisitions of both teams with the intentions of being right where they were tonight. But one thing that nobody counted on was the outstanding offense from the Astros, except maybe the electric crowd in Houston tonight.

Both starters did pitch into the 6th inning, but the Astros certainly had the edge on them in one area — 4 home runs tonight. Starting in the bottom of the 1st, with 1 out, 2 batters hit back-to-back home runs to get the home team on the board first.

The Red Sox answered back in the 2nd by working 2 walks to threaten. With 2 outs, the next batter singled and scored the Red Sox’s first run as the out was being made by tagging the runner at 3rd. Originally, the umpires ruled that the runner did not cross the plate before the out was made, so the Red Sox challenged the timing. It was overturned, the score counted and the inning was over. Boston got another chance to catch up to the Astros’ early lead in the 4th. A lead-off double moved to 3rd on a single and then scored on a sacrifice fly to tie up the game.

But that certainly didn’t last long. In the bottom of the 4th, the Astros answered back. With 1 out, a batter doubled, and then the next one singled. Well, originally, they thought it was a fly ball out on a diving catch, but Houston’s challenged proved that the outfielder caught it on a slight bounce and trapped it into his glove. Even as an outfielder, most of these plays are so close that you’re going to think you caught it on the fly. Replay proved it was trapped and not caught, so it was overturned for a single. With another out, a solid double scored both runners to give the Astros back their lead.

And they didn’t stop there, they added another run in the 5th with a 2-out solo shot (by one of the same guys from the 1st inning. And in the 6th, a double and walk ended the Boston ace’s night, and a reliever promptly loaded up the bases with a short single. Then a 1-out single scored 2 more runs. Then the same multi-home run hitter from before did it again with a lead-off solo homer in the 7th inning.

Final score: 8-2 Astros, Astros lead series 1-0

Game 2: Yankees at Indians
Before the game, one reporter commented that the home plate umpire has one of the most inconsistent strike zones in the league. Turns out he was very right. Almost all the called strikes, especially those who were called on a strike 3, were very much not strikes. This was notably harsh for the Yankees as it may not have changed the outcome of the game (yes, I do think the Indians would have won, but I’ll explain this in a moment), but it certainly changed the outcome of these at-bats. And being called out when one is clearly not was noticeably frustrating for even the calmer batters (like Headley and Judge).

Sonny Gray got the start and certainly struggled through his outing. He threw 73 pitches into the 4th inning, gave up 3 hits, 4 walks, and 3 runs, and struck out 2 Cleveland batters. In the 2nd, he loaded up the bases with a double, single, and hit-by-pitch before a double play scored the Indians’ first run. But he was able to stave them off again before the 4th inning really closed the night for him. A lead-off walk scored as part of a 2-run home run, and then with 1 out and 2 more runners on base with walks, the Yankees went to their bullpen.

Adam Warren, just coming off the DL recently, gave up single to load up the bases, but then immediately got out of trouble with a strikeout and fly out. In the 5th, Warren gave up a single and moved to 2nd on a wild pitch. One out later, the Yankee went back to their bullpen to pull out an unlikely long-term option — Jaime Garcia. A wild pitch from him moved the runner to 3rd, and that runner scored on a sacrifice fly.

But Garcia was a great option for the Yankees from the bullpen. He gave a strong 8 outs, even getting 3 strikeouts (which with a floating strike zone was a lot harder to do than you think). Dellin Betances then breezed his was through the 8th inning in just 11 pitches. Yankee Universe, this is good news. Betances was sharp again, after struggling for most these last few weeks, and even he felt like he was back to being Betances-like again.

Meanwhile, the Yankees’ offense was serious stifled by that strike zone issue. They only got 3 hits all night. Which is why they would have lost tonight’s game even with a more clear and consistent strike zone. They just weren’t hitting. And once the Indians got into their bullpen, they called on a certain former Yankee closer and the Indians’ ace closer for the final 7 outs of the game. The Indians’ pitchers are really good, but even they have to feel cheated by a bad strike zone. They didn’t need help.

Final score: 4-0 Indians, Indians lead series 1-0

Look, the Indians and Astros were easily the best teams in the AL this season, so it doesn’t surprise me that either of them will take early leads or even dominate in the postseason. It just leaves a sour taste when one can’t compete fairly. And it’s not a team’s fault, but rather the consideration once again about the necessity of a fallible home plate umpire in a technologically advanced age.

Even my mom (who, if you remember, grew up an Indians fan and is really torn this series) complained about the strike zone issues. All the more, if it fell in favor of the Yankees, I would have issues with it. Unfortunately, the Yankees weren’t really at the place tonight where that mattered.

Go Yankees!

Games 131 & 132: CLE vs. NYY — Rain created a double-header steam roller

After yesterday’s rainy mess that was the entire tri-state area, the Yankees rescheduled their game to combine into a single-admission double-header — the make-up game starting a mere 30 minutes following the close of the first game. It was more than slightly disappointing.

Game 1: (The regularly scheduled Wednesday game)
Jaime Garcia got the start today and just had a rough start right out of the gate. He threw 87 pitches into the 6th inning, and despite not giving up many runs, every inning was just a struggle for the new-ish starter. He gave up 6 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs (only 1 earned), striking out just 5 batters.

In the 1st, the lead-off batter singled, stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a single, and then scored on a passed ball (the unearned run). Another single scored the other base runner to put the Indians up fast and first. But then they spent the rest of the game defending this super early lead.

Of course, the Yankees did their best to limit the Indians to those 2 runs as well. And they certainly succeeded. Despite Green’s struggles through each inning, he kept the Indians from cross the plate under the rest of his tenure. He passed the ball to the outstanding Chad Green, who just sailed through the end of the 6th, 7th, and most of the 8th inning, thanks to 7 stellar strikeouts (of his 8 outs). Tommy Kahnle closed out the 8th and threw a great 9th to keep the Indians from adding to their score through the end of the game.

In the mean time, the Yankees tried to ding into the Indians minor lead, and for the most part were unsuccessful. In the 3rd, with 1 out, Hicks worked a walk, moved to 2nd on a ground out, advanced to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ double. Then despite getting Gregorius into scoring position with hopes to tie up the game, they left him stranded there. And that became the story of the game — leaving runners in scoring position without getting them home.

Final score: 2-1 Indians

Game 2: (the make-up game)
Thirty minutes later, the Yankees were ready to take the field, in all efforts to take one game of the series. Today’s 26th man Jordan Montgomery got the start for the make-up game today, and unfortunately, he didn’t have the greatest outing either.

Montgomery threw 92 pitches in just 4 innings, gave up 6 hits, 3 walks, and 4 runs, and struck out 5 Cleveland batters. His biggest weakness, following his predecessor today, was the 1st inning. A lead-off batter singled, moved to 2nd on a walk, and then scored on a 1-out single. A double then scored the next run, and a single scored 2 more to give the Indians another early lead. Then despite loading up the bases, Montgomery got out of the inning with a well-timed strikeout. (Actually, all 3 outs that inning were strikeouts.)

The Yankees offense answered back again rather softly. In the 2nd, Judge led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on a 1-out single, and then scored on Greg Bird’s single. Once again, they played the get runners on base without getting them home. Which didn’t help Montgomery’s short start.

And it certainly didn’t help ease the relievers, who had their own struggles today. Chasen Shreve came on in the 5th and promptly gave up a lead-off solo home run. Two doubles in the 6th added one more run. Caleb Smith closed out the 6th, but then a 1-out walk in the 7th scored on a 2-out 2-run home run. He also gave up a lead-off solo home run in the 8th, but sailed his way through the next 6 outs.

That was quite the deficit to face as the Yankees were hoping for an 8-run rally in the bottom of the 9th (to tie up the game), as evidenced by the lingering small crowd in the stadium. With 1 out, Todd Frazier worked a walk, and Aaron Hicks singled (his 4th hit of the game, by the way) with hopes for a rally. It would be Greg Bird to the rescue again with a big 3-run home run to reduce the Indians’ lead. But 2 outs later, the rally hopes were dashed, and the Yankees were swept.

Final score: 9-4 Indians, Indians sweep the series 3-0.

Some trivia thanks to the online people who know these things: The last time the Indians swept the Yankees in a 3-game series was April 1989, and the last time the Yankees lost both games of a double-header to the Indians was 1995. Also, the Yankees are the only team in the league that hasn’t lost a game by at least 8 runs thanks to Bird’s last-minute big home run.

Roster move: as I mentioned before, the Yankees chose Jordan Montgomery as their 26th man on the roster, as allowed for all double-headers. I imagine he will be on his way back to Scranton tonight, but no worries, the September calls up is just 2 days away. He’ll be back.

And in a fun story, the stadium had food delivered to each dugout so that the players and staff could munch on stuff during their long stint on the field. One rather brave employee balanced a rather large trays of food, including a rather precariously placed plate of cookies. Just as he was stepping down close to the dugout, the plate was tilting and slipping ever so slightly, but another employee reached up a hand to grab the plate before it fell and the tray was safely delivered. (Hope someone gave the “Cookie Hero” a nice tip!) A fun, positive spin on a rather disappointing day.

Next up: the Red Sox… which is the ultimate series to win this weekend.

Go Yankees!

Game 130: CLE vs. NYY — Uphill battle against the ace, #ForHouston

There was nothing inherently wrong with how Luis Severino pitched today. I mean, it wasn’t ideal in that he ended up with a loss, but overall, had there been enough run-support, we’d be having a different conversation in this blog post. Of course, a wonky strike zone didn’t help either.

To kick off the first game of this mid-week series against the Indians, the Yankees turned to Severino. Again, he actually had a pretty great game, throwing 108 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 4 runs (3 earned), and striking out 9 Cleveland batters. His biggest flaw was giving up 2 different 2-out solo home runs to the same batter in the 1st and 6th innings. He then gave up a 1-out solo shot in the 7th, a single, and then a strikeout before getting the hook.

Adam Warren came on in relief, but left that runner to Severino’s record. The runner made a dash for 2nd, but a missed catch error allowed him to make it all the way to 3rd where a wild pitch would score him (hence the unearned run on the starter’s stats). Warren finally got a ground out to end the 7th inning, and ended up giving up a 1-out solo home run in the 8th that caused a bit of a ruckus. A fan did the stupid thing and reached for it. It bounced off his hands and onto the field.

Now, fan interference generally is ruled as an automatic double, but if the video can show the ball would’ve been out, it’s ruled a home run. The trajectory had the ball bouncing off the top of the left field wall, and thus a home run which was upheld by the umpire review. {Media note: the attached video link doesn’t show it so clearly, but it was going to be a home run despite the poor fan.} The right call, but a bummer for the run scoring and the guy who could have been escorted from the stadium for interfering with the state of play. At the very least, the fans in his section would make the rest of the game rather uncomfortable.

Chasen Shreve’s 9th didn’t really go much smoother. A 1-out walk scored on an RBI double. And with a runner lingering at 3rd on a wild pitch Shreve got the last 2 outs (all 3 of his outs were strikeouts, by the way) to keep the Indians from adding much more to their lead.

The Yankees, on the other hand, seemed to be waiting for a rally they just never had. To be perfectly fair, the Indians’ starter tonight is an easy nominee for the Cy Young Award this season, continuing his stellar breakout season that helped his team make it all the way to the World Series. The Yankees didn’t hit much off him — just 3 hits and a walk in his 8 innings.

One of those hits was Chase Headley’s lead-off solo home run in the 3rd. The other 2 hits came in the 5th with 2 outs. Ellsbury doubled and then scored on Todd Frazier’s single. But that would be it for the Yankees against the Indians’ starter.

While the Yankee pitching staff certainly got more strikeouts (12 overall), the only stat that matters is runs scored. And tonight, the Yankees fell a bit short.

Final score: 6-2 Indians

In other news around the league (a rare feature in this blog): Due to the increasing destruction that Hurricane Harvey is inflicting on the Texas and northwestern Gulf area, the Astros-Rangers series that is scheduled to begin tomorrow will be played at the Rays’ home in Tropicana Field. The Rays are on the road, currently in Kansas City, which might see the outer bands of the storm later this week. It’s a logical and kind thing to do for the teams, so that they can finish out their season (especially Houston as it continues to dominate the AL).

If you’re in the Tampa area and want to catch the game, tickets are $10 general admission. They’re using the hashtag #ForHouston as part of the promotion, so even if you can’t go, you can use the hashtag on your social media account to remind people to be proactive and get involved in relief efforts in some way.

If you’re looking for a way to donate or help, the Astros’ Spring Training facility in West Palm Beach will be accepting donations starting tomorrow that will be later taken to the relief centers in Houston. The Astros Foundation and ownership will be donating $4 million to relief efforts, including the American Red Cross. This follows MLB and the MLB Players Association’s announcement of its own donation of $1 million for relief efforts. And for the rest of the season, the Astros will use their 50/50 raffle during games to raise money for the American Red Cross’ relief efforts in the Houston area.

Our hearts and prayers are with those in the path of the storm, who are still watching flood waters rise around them. New York knows what it means to survive and ride out the worst disasters, so we stand with you in the midst of the storm and by your side once recovery begins. Stay safe.

Go Yankees!