Game 143: NYY vs. TB — 4th inning to back up #CCStrong

One day, you’re going to see a random trivia question about the time when a New York team played in New York (and not against a fellow New York team) and wasn’t the home team. And you’re going to know the answer — the Yankees “visited” the Rays, the temporary hosts of Citi Field.

And I have to be honest, it was really weird to be at Citi Field for a Yankees game when the other team wasn’t the Mets. But some rather familiar vibes lingered around the stadium with the overwhelming majority of the fans being Yankee fans (something Rays fans are rather familiar with the split representation on their home turf). Almost all 15,327 people at CitiField were avid Yankee fans completely thrilled for a few bonus games closer to home.

But it was a rather typical Yankees-Rays game tonight, with CC Sabathia at the helm to start tonight’s opener in this misplaced series. Sabathia threw a pretty great outing once again, throwing 88 pitches into the 5th inning, giving up 6 hits, 2 walks, and a single run, and striking out a solid 6 Rays’ batters. A lead-off walk in the 2nd scored on a 2-out triple to score the Rays’ sole run tonight.

Sabathia got the hook in the 5th with 1 out and after allowing 2 runners on base and the one Rays batter that seems to consistently do well against him (even when he’s having a good day). So it was on to David Robertson for some long-term relief, throwing a season high 36 pitches to get a nice 8 outs and sail the Yankees through the 5th, 6th, and 7th innings. He also set himself up for the win for finishing the 5th inning for Sabathia.

Dellin Betances had a bit of trouble in the 8th, but certainly got himself out of it all with 2 stellar Betances-esque strikeouts. But it was Aroldis Chapman who pretty much sailed through the 9th inning in just 10 pitches. Yankee pitchers got the Rays to strikeout 12 times.

The Yankees actually only got half the hits the Rays did tonight (just 4 hits), but they also got double the amount of walks (6 total). And the Yankees only needed a single inning to make all the difference off the Rays’ starter, who didn’t make it out of that inning. In the 4th, the Yankees sent 10 batters up to the plate.

Judge led-off with a walk and ended up at 3rd on Sanchez’s deep single. Didi Gregorius hit into a sacrifice fly that scored Judge to initially tie up the game. After a second out, the Yankees just pounced. Matt Holliday profited from a fielding error, ending up at 2nd and scoring Sanchez for the go-ahead run. Then Jacoby Ellsbury got a free base because of (what else?) catcher’s interference (more after the recap).

So with 2 men on base and 2 outs, it would be Todd Frazier’s 24th home run of the season, a 3-run home run into the left field seats to assure the Yankees of a solid lead. After Tyler Austin’s double and Gardner’s walk, the Rays pulled their starter for the bullpen. And the Rays’ bullpen clearly had a better time against the Yankee’s offense, as the Yankees didn’t even come close to scoring after the Rays’ starter left the game.

Final score: 5-1 Yankees

Okay, so Jacoby Ellsbury set a new MLB record for catcher’s interferences. In just 5,310 plate appearances, Ellsbury has reached base due to 30 total interferences. The previous record holder was Pete Rose, who got 29 interferences in 15,890 total plate appearances over his career.

Injury news: so before tonight’s game, the Yankees activated Clint Frazier from his rehab stint and the DL due to a strained oblique. But just before the game, Greg Bird was a last-minute scratch due to “lower back tightness”, and the Yankees went with Tyler Austin in his spot. Fingers crossed for nothing worse that a weird momentary tweak for Bird.

And a big happy birthday to Jacoby Ellsbury! A great group along the 1st base line took a moment to sing “Happy Birthday” to Ellsbury after he worked a walk and stole 2nd in the 8th inning, which Ellsbury clearly appreciated.

Finally, let us take a moment to remember the events of this day 16 years ago. Today, we honor the memory of those we lost, the legacy of the heroes and first responders, and the pray for those still grieving their loss or dealing with health-related illnessness from that day. Baseball was one of many bridges used in healing the nation that desperately needed something to talk about, to think about, to focus on that wasn’t about destruction.

Many of today’s Yankees (as well as around the league) were just children 16 years ago, which just further impacts how our world has changed. Again, our thoughts and prayers are with those who are still mourning their lost loved ones as we join you in remembering their story, their journey, their contribution to our world cut short. They are never forgotten thanks in part to you.

Go Yankees!

Game 127: SEA vs. NYY — Extra innings letdown, disciplined, down but not out

Players Weekend officially kicked off for the Yankees back at home against the visiting Mariners, and the Yankees enjoyed their specialized cleats, gloves, and baseball gear down to the fun creative colors and designs of their own making (like showing off the artistic talents of “Sir Didi”, Didi Gregorius. On the back, the Yankees donned fun nicknames like “Dub”, “The ToddFather”, “All-Starlin”, “The Missile”, and “All Rise”. A patch on their sleeve allowed players to write in who inspires them or who helped them become the players and men they are today, and many rightfully thanked their families.

CC “Dub” Sabathia got the start today, and despite another pretty good outing, the Yankees offense failed to give him much run support tonight. “Dub” threw 94 pitches in his 7 innings, gave up 5 hits, a walk, and a run, striking out 6 Seattle batters. That lone run was a 1-out solo home run to get the Mariners on the board.

Now, the Yankees’ offense did hit the Mariners’ starter hard in that they racked up his pitch count up to 99 pitches in the 5th inning, though they couldn’t find any runs in the process. In fact, the Yankees didn’t get on the board until they faced a former Yankee in the 8th inning. Aaron “All Rise” Judge worked a 1-out walk and then scored on Didi “Sire Didi” Gregorius’ double and a fielding error. The Yankees then loaded up the bases on a fielder’s choice and 2 walks, but then a new reliever struck out the final batter and ended the Yankees’ rally hopes.

Meanwhile, Chad “Greeny” Green continued his strong show as a middle reliever, breezing through the 8th inning in just 8 pitches. “D-Dawg” Betances’ 9th inning allowed quite the threat of Seattle offense, but he was able to get out of the game thanks in part to the stellar Yankees’ defense.

So when the Yankee didn’t manage to break the tie in the bottom of the 9th, the game went into extra innings. “D-Rob” Robertson kept things rolling with a scoreless 10th inning, and things were looking up for Aroldis “The Missile” Chapman in the 11th, quickly getting 2 outs. His 3rd batter slammed a big solo home run up the middle to break the tie.

Being the home team, the Yankees got a chance in the bottom of the inning to come back and make a final effort to win. With a new Mariners’ reliever and 2 outs, Brett “Gardner” Gardner worked a walk and then stole 2nd. Originally called out, the Yankees challenged and called for a replay, where it was very easily overturned. And the game continued on. That is until the final batter struck out and ended the game.

Final score: 2-1 Mariners, in 11 innings

Roster moves: before tonight’s game, the Yankees activated Starlin Castro from the 10-day DL, and optioned Tyler Wade back to AAA Scranton.

Now, as a result of yesterday’s melee in Motor City, MLB examined all the footage and finalized the discipline for the ruckus. The primary instigator, the Tigers’ DH Cabrera was suspended for 7 games for inciting the initial incident and specifically for picking a fight with Austin Romine. Romine was given a 2-game suspension for fighting and throwing punches, and likewise, Gary Sanchez was given a 4-game suspension. The Tigers’ pitcher Wilson was suspended for 4 games for intentionally hitting Todd Frazier after warnings had been issued (and honestly, for also showing no remorse for doing so, showing he completely intended to be nasty). As protocol, Tigers’ manager Brad Ausmus automatically received a 1-game suspension for his pitcher doing this. All five also were fined undisclosed amounts.

Also fined were other key players in the mess — Joe Girardi, bench coach Rob Thomson, Brett Gardner, and Tommy Kahnle, as well as Detroit infielder Iglesias. Two Yankee rookies made the mistake of entering the field while not on active roster (on the DL), Garrett Cooper and Clint Frazier, and also received fines for violating that rule. (A clear “rookie mistake”, but one your only have to make once to learn.)

All players are appealing their suspensions and will continue to play on until their appeal is heard. If the suspensions are upheld, the Yankees have no clear catcher. Third string catcher Kyle Higashioka is not expected to come off the DL of his own until September 1st. So there is talk about staggering the suspensions so they’re not out a catcher in the mean time.

So, with the postseason in flux, this is certainly the last thing the Yankees wanted to be dealing with. And there are players making wild accusations against certain other Yankee stars, but fortunately, in the era of video footage on every angle, the truth is pretty easy to discover and prove as simple malarkey.

Go Yankees!

Game 113: NYY vs. TOR — More lost ground in the AL East race

Four games. The Yankees are now four games behind the Red Sox in the AL East, which because it’s this kind of year, still keeps them in 2nd place and firmly in the Wild Card race. Of course, this doesn’t help that the schedule now has them headed home to face.. yep, the red-hot Red Sox.

Sonny Gray got his second start as a Yankee in the finale against the Blue Jays, and this one didn’t go much better than the first one. In his 6 innings, he threw 103 pitches, gave up 4 hits, 4 walks, and 3 runs (2 earned), and struck out 6 Toronto batters. In the 2nd, Gray gave up a 1-out double who ended up at 3rd on a pick-off error and then scored on a sloppy fielder’s choice.

A 1-out walk in the 3rd stole 2nd on a strikeout and then scored on an RBI single who ended up on 2nd, despite a questionable call and challenge that was unfortunately (due to lack of evidence) upheld. And in the 4th, a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt and then scored on an RBI single.

Gray handed the game over to Chasen Shreve for the final two innings, and Shreve had a fairly outstanding outing save a single allowed hit — a 2-out solo home run in the 7th inning.

The Yankees unfortunately faced one of the best pitchers on the Blue Jays, and he was rather good once again. He went 7 innings on the Yankees, and still gave up 5 hits and 3 walks but completely kept the Yankees from crossing home plate. In other words, the Yankees batters were able to get on base but not able to score any runs.

Even the Blue Jays’ relievers kept that momentum, giving up base-runners but refusing to allow any runs. In other words, the Yankees were shut out from tonight’s game.

Final score: 4-0 Blue Jays, Blue Jays win series 2-1.

Injury news: Clint Frazier was placed on the 10-day DL due his left oblique strain. In his place, the Yankees activated outfielder Aaron Hicks, who had to catch a last-minute plane from Connecticut, where AA Trenton were on the road, to Toronto, to join the Yankees again.

So, during yesterday’s big run-scoring inning last night, third base coach Joe Espada was busy waving home runners when he took a bit of a tumble in the foul territory between 3rd base and home. Today, as the Yankees arrived for tonight’s game, they took a gander out at the foul territory between 3rd base and home plate to see a chalk outline in the shape of Joe Espada. Rumors abound as to who took the initiative to commemorate the moment, with Espada himself pointing to his boss Girardi.

Next up: as I said before, the Yankees head back home to face the Red Sox in a series that could alter the AL East. Fingers crossed that it’s in the Yankees’ favor.

Go Yankees!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final score: 11-5 Yankees

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

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

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

Go Yankees!

Game 107: NYY vs. CLE — Not-so-Sonny Yankees’ soggy, sloppy debut

It was actually quite a soggy and stormy day in Cleveland right up until about an hour before game time. And then suddenly, the hometown fans in the “Mistake on the Lake” were ready to watch their ace pitcher throw a complete game in this first game of the 4-game weekend series in Cleveland.

Newly acquired starter Sonny Gray certainly had a rough debut tonight, thanks in part to some costly fielding errors, 3 in the sloppy 1st inning. Gray threw 98 pitches in 6 innings, giving up just 4 hits, 3 walks, and 4 runs (only 2 earned), striking out 6 Cleveland batters.

That 1st inning was just not good for the Yankees in any way. The lead-off batter reached 1st on a bobbled fielding error to kick off the game. That runner moved to 2nd on a ground out and then to 3rd on another hit into a fielding error to put runners on the corners. A single then easily scored those 2 runners, and the play ended with the runner standing on 3rd thanks to a throwing error.

But then Gray (and the Yankees’ defense) got back into gear and played better baseball. So to bookend Gray’s outing, his 6th inning was a more legitimate show of small-ball for the Indians as Gray searched for that hard-fought 3rd out. With 2 outs, Gray gave up a walk and single that both scored on a solid double.

Chasen Shreve came on in relief of Gray for 2 innings, only giving up a single hit. It was unfortunate that it would be a 1-out solo shot in the 7th, but at that point, the Indians were already safely in the lead. So it didn’t make much of a difference.

Now, the Indians’ starter is really good. And tonight was no exception, going so far as to throw a complete game — 106 pitches in 9 innings, giving up just 3 hits, a walk, and a run, and striking out 11 Yankees’ batters along the way. It’s hard not to appreciate that kind of show, even if it clearly wasn’t in the Yankees’ favor. The only run he allowed was a 1-out solo home run by Gary Sanchez into the first row of the seats out over left-center field.

It just wasn’t going to happen for the Yankees tonight. Not with the sloppy start. And not against this pitcher in this mode.

Final score: 5-1 Indians

Tomorrow the new men in pinstripes continue. (Or “away greys”, I should say.) Jaime Garcia will make his Yankee debut, hopefully with a bit more success than Sonny Gray today. A bit more storms tomorrow afternoon in the area, but should be clear once again by game time.

And Clint Frazier had a bit of a homecoming of sorts today. This is the first time Frazier has been able to connect with his former teammates since the trade last year (part of the exchange that sent star reliever Andrew Miller to the Indians) that made his a major Yankee prospect late last season. Frazier greeted former teammates with his usual gusto, admitting he followed last year’s World Series closely and felt part of the reason the Indians went so far was making sure a great pitcher like Miller was on the team.

Okay, I guess that makes sense to me. Let’s blame Frazier for the reason the Indians got so far. But if they also beat the Yankees this year to get to or during the postseason again, the same rule applies… just saying… (Don’t open that can of worms with Yankee fans, “Red Thunder”!)

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 101: TB vs. NYY — Bronx Bombers back #TanakaTime

Basically, tonight’s game was everything you’d want a game to be if you’re a Yankee fan. Except it was super short. Clocking in at 2 hours and 23 minutes, it’s easily one of the shorter games of the season, and it’s really easy to place the blame on the Yankees for this. They came in ready to continue this winning momentum, and then they did just that.

And most of the reason for the ease of this game was that starter Masahiro Tanaka was just a beast tonight, getting the visiting Rays batters to strike out a whopping 14 times. He even held them to a no-hitter until a 6th inning 2-out single snuck by Gregorius. But then Tanaka got back in the game with a strikeout. Tanaka gave up just one more hit, a 2-out solo shot to allow the Rays their lone run of the game.

So after 8 innings and 109 pitches, Tanaka Time was done. The game was turned over to David Robertson, who breezed his way through the 9th inning in just 6 pitches. Boy, it’s good to have him back on our side of the game.

The Yankees were able to support Tanaka’s outstanding pitching effort with enough run support on the backs of home runs by their outfielders. In the 1st, Brett Gardner liked that 3rd pitch of the at-bat again to lead off the inning with a big solo home run into the Yankees’ bullpen. Aaron Judge followed suit with a 1-out solo shot, his 33rd home run of the season.

Then in the 5th, Todd Frazier worked a 1-out walk, and Gardner worked a 2-out walk. This set up Clint Frazier to hit a no-doubter 3-run home run deep into the left field seats, above the visitor’s bullpen.

After a couple of innings against a former teammate, the Yankees decided to change things up and play some small ball in the 8th. Gardner was hit on the back shoulder by a pitch (he’s fine) and, after a strikeout, moved to 2nd on a ground out. The Rays’ reliever intentionally walked Sanchez, so a wild pitch moved both Gardner and Sanchez into scoring position. Didi Gregorius then singled to score Gardner easily, but then Sanchez tried to score too and got caught out at home to end the inning.

But the Yankees already had a hefty lead, so it was all good at the end.

Final score: 6-1 Yankees

So, I left out a small part of the “Gardy Party” celebration last night because I wanted to see how the story played out. And honestly, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. Gardner, as you know, hit the game-winning home run in the 11th inning last night, and as he came into home where the team was waiting to celebrate, he tossed his helmet off. Well, Judge saw the stray helmet and thought someone might trip over it, so he picked it up. In the process of celebrating, the helmet bounced off someone else and bounced into Judge’s face, chipping his front left tooth.

No worries for Judge and his thousand-watt smile. A dentist fixed it this morning, and Judge clearly was in tonight’s game and continued to make an impact like nothing happened. After last night’s game, the reporters asked guys in the clubhouse who broke the tooth, and there was a bit of back and forth blaming each other in good fun — fingers pointing to Clint Frazier and Austin Romine. But really, it was a chipped tooth. Very fixable.

And I didn’t think it was that big of a deal last night, but my Twitter feed (when not filled with political drama) was filled with dental jokes, comments, and pictures of Yankees security searching the field for the piece of the tooth (which they never found). Maybe I wasn’t as concerned because I’ve chipped teeth before. They’re fixable. It’s not fun to get done, but it’s no big deal. I don’t know.

But it’s a good filler for a short game tonight.

Tooth drama is over. Judge is good. (Despite the naysayers on message boards that still think he and Sanchez are battling the “Home Run Derby Curse”.) The Yankees are on a roll, and we’re all on board to chase the October baseball dreams.

Go Yankees!