Winter Meetings and roster shifting

I am ashamed it’s taken me almost 3 weeks to publish, but I do have completely legitimate reasons that really none of you care about (geography, health, holidays, stress, source issues, writer’s block, etc.). So I apologize for my procrastination, and here we go because there’s a lot to cover.

Okay, Winter Meetings in sunny San Diego are underway and providing interesting fodder for rumors and then confirmation of a few of them. This unfortunately includes David Robertson departing the pinstripes for… well, pinstripes. Robertson is on his way to play for the pinstriped men of the Second City, known to the world as the Chicago White Sox. The Sox deal locks him in for 4 years and $46 million, which leaves the Yankees with a bonus draft pick because Robertson declined the option last month and then opted to sign elsewhere. We wish Robertson and his family well on his new endeavors, except (of course) when the Yankees play them towards the end of next season.

In his stead, the Yankees are left looking to their current bullpen like Betances, Warren, Whitley, and Phelps leap to mind, but as we all know, the Spring will certainly shake things up in that (and every other) area. But I know they are looking to reinforce the pen, as they did with the signing of Andrew Miller, a free agent most recently with the Orioles and Red Sox. The left-handed reliever threw 103 strikeouts in 62.1 innings over 73 games just last year and is very comfortable in the set-up role, but (on par with many recent signees) he is willing to fill whatever role they ask of him. Another reason Spring is crucial is to play around with the bullpen and see where all the pieces fall into a comfortable rhythm.

In another recent move, the Yankees, the Tigers, and the Diamondbacks negotiated a 3-team trade deal. The Yankees sent Shane Greene to the Tigers, the Tigers sent a pitcher and minor leaguer to the Diamondbacks, and the Diamondbacks sent shortstop Didi Gregorius to the Yankees. In other words, everyone was wondering who was going to fill that monster hole in the middle infield, and this is the answer — Didi Gregorius. Well, it will probably be split between him and Brendan Ryan.

Also if you’re keeping track of anything in the Baby Bomber world, the Yankees denied arbitration with outfielder Slade Heathcott and pitchers Jose Campos and David Huff; all three elected free agency.

And because no Yankee post seems to be complete without news from a recently retired Captain, here’s the update…

There are postseason awards given by MLB Network affectionately called “GIBBYS“, short for “Greatness in Baseball Yearly” Awards. Basically, it’s a collection of moments in the season that fans, viewers, and network people vote for the best of those moments in specially decided categories. Jeter’s final Yankee Stadium game was the winner in two categories — what became known as the “2 Good to Be True” highlight became the Moment of the Year and the Walk-Off of the Year. If you can’t remember that moment (and apparently were in hibernation somewhere in September), this link is to jog your memory.

And Jeter hosted his annual Turn 2 Foundation Holiday Express for local kids, gifting them with packs filled by his “Jeter’s Leaders” a few weeks ago, hanging out with Santa, and then treating them to an early release of the upcoming kids’ movie Annie, a redone, updated version to be released nationwide on Christmas Day. I know it’s always a highlight and a treat for the kids of New York.

Well, with Winter Meetings still in progress, I can imagine there is a handful of other announcements to be made in the near future before everyone hunkers down for the holidays.

Go Yankees!

Bits and pieces on Veteran’s Day

Before I dive into this week’s bits and pieces of news from Yankee Universe this Veteran’s Day, the Bronx was abuzz with activity again, though not specifically baseball-related. The field is still recovering from its transformation into a football field for the Army-UConn game this past Saturday (Army beat UConn 35-21), but the Grand Concourse was lined with tables laden with items that would be stuffed into 5000 Welcome Bags by over 150 volunteers. Volunteers included Joe Girardi and his wife Kim; broadcasters David Cone, Michael Kay, John Sterling, and Suzyn Waldman. The bags filled with Yankees souvenirs and daily necessities and luxuries like snacks, puzzle books, and toothpaste will then be distributed by the USO to troops serving in Afghanistan. Delta, FedEx, and MetLife also sponsored the event.

Now the news bits:

The infield may still be a bit of giant question mark with Rodriguez’s return, a hole at starting shortstop, and the possible re-signing of Headley. But the outfield seems to be now set. Gardner, Ellsbury, and Beltran are all signed to multi-year deals and thus in pinstripes. But now the addition (and return) of Chris Young, the outfield looks pretty solid now. Young’s disappointing 2014 season with the Mets certainly improved with a cross-town change of venue. This means that should Ichiro be looking to return to the Yankees himself, unfortunately there is no more room; he is now a free agent, and though his time with New York has done nothing but endear him to Yankee fans these past few years, it seems unlikely he will be suiting up in pinstripes in 2015 should he decide to play.

Last week, the qualifying offers went out, one specifically to David Robertson. Yesterday, Robertson sent word that he was denying the offer in hopes of seeking a multi-year deal. The offer is always a gamble for both parties, but a relatively young pitcher like Robertson desiring a more permanent contract, even at a possible pay-cut really seems like the most logical option. Do I think he won’t be pitching for the Yankees next year? On the contrary, I think this puts both Robertson and the Yankees in a much better position to consider the future of their assumed closer and lock him in for years to come. Of course, come Spring Training, I could be very, very wrong, but I would be really surprised if he chooses to go somewhere else, despite his high-standing in the free agent market after refusing the qualifying offer.

We are deep in postseason awards now, though the Yankees seem to be coming up short lately. Yesterday was the closest a Yankee came to an award. Dellin Betances came in 3rd for the AL Rookie of the Year, as presented by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The young reliever had a truly outstanding rookie season, his fastball pitches regularly hitting upper-90’s (often over 100mph), a 1.40 ERA in his 70 appearances, led all AL relievers in innings pitched (90), and set the record for most strikeouts by a rookie reliever since 1986 with 135. Well, he had my vote (metaphorically, that is, if I could actually vote).

And in a surprise twist, Girardi came in 6th in the AL Manager of the Year. I suppose it’s because he was able to keep the Yankees alive right up until the last week of the season despite all the injuries and near-dissolution of the starting rotation. It is rather an impressive feat if you think about it, and he deserved to be recognized.

Brett Gardner had minor surgery in October and is currently on the quick road to recovery to be ready for Spring. The injury to his right rectus abdominis muscle affected Gardner periodically in July and September this past season, which led Gardner to opt for core corrective surgery. Following his completion of physical therapy, Gardner will begin his usual off-season routine of preparing for Spring. In other words, the problem is solved, holidays are coming, and he’ll ready for Spring. No biggie.

GM Brian Cashman and other special Yankees personnel are currently in Arizona at GM meetings. After last season’s big splash with the signings of Tanaka, McCann, Ellsbury, and Beltran, many are waiting to see what “big splashes” come from Cashman this off-season. Like I said before, there are some holes in the infield and potentially on the pitching staff, so perhaps we will see one or two (my best guess would be whoever they sign for shortstop). I doubt the Yankees are in the place where 4 big splashes are necessary.

And finally, Alfonso Soriano is officially hanging up his cleats. Soriano spent 16 years in the major leagues, beginning with the Yankees (1999-2003), before spending time with Texas (2004-5), Washington (2006), and the Cubs (2007-13), and then getting traded back to the Yankees in mid-2013. Soriano was released in mid-2014, much to the chagrin of many New York fans, so perhaps it will ease a little of the loss as Soriano retires a Yankee. Best of luck to him and his family as he pursues the many opportunities that comes to a recently retired ball player.

And that’s the basic gist of things around Yankee Universe…

I saw various tweets today to honor our veterans this Veteran’s Day. Some were personal and sentimental, some were drench in history, some held the placid standard message. But a few stood out to me as they reminded Twitter-verse that Veteran’s Day is but one day on the calendar that we should honor our military personnel past and present. The reason the Yankees still “Honor America” with a recognition of veterans present and sing “God Bless America” at every home game during the 7th inning stretch is because one day is never enough to honor our men and women in the armed forces. We should recognize their sacrifice and service at every opportunity. So yes, we honor them today, but let us always honor them — be it a thank you to the guy in uniform on the plane next to you, or stuffing a USO Welcome Bag, or a letter to a soldier through a penpal-like program, or simply sitting with grandparents or relatives to hear their stories.

A very special “thank you” to my own family and friends who have served and their families who support and love them. You are so appreciated, more than you could ever know.

Go Yankees!

The off-season begins with a look to the past and a look to the future

For my first off-season post of the year, I’m splitting my time talking about both the past and the future. I think the hardest part about off-season posts is that’s all you have to talk about — what was and what will (or may) be. It’s hard to believe it’s already November, but it certainly makes it easier to hold your breath until Spring Training. Thanksgiving is in a few weeks, Christmas just a month after that, the New Year, and then suddenly it’s February and the hopeful Baby Bombers roll into the Tampa complex with dreams of playing in the Bronx in 2015, sharing lockers and swapping stories with veteran Yankees. (By the way, season tickets for Spring Training are already on sale; single tickets will be for sale in January.)

Okay, looking forward first…

Yesterday was the Qualifying Offer deadline for those with a contract option for an extension on their current contracts. Two players had such an option — David Robertson and Hiroki Kuroda. Robertson was extended a qualifying offer of $15.3 million; he has 7 days to accept or deny this offer. (That number is set by MLB and the MLBPA, not the Yankees and is a 1-year deal and will allow the player to enter free agency following the end of the season.) Kuroda didn’t receive an offer.

Now, this is a tricky move for most players. If they think they can fare better on the free agent market (like a handful of players that made the postseason and offered yesterday), they will decline the offer and send their agents to the phones to wheel and deal. Should they be towards the end of their career or perhaps had a poor performance last year, they might choose to accept the offer and see if they can spend this next year improving their odds for next year’s free agency market. A declination of the offer (from either side) doesn’t mean the player won’t be playing for the same team next year, but rather it sends everything back to the negotiation tables.

Following that thought, there are some new developments on the free agent market, but the Yankees have already made it clear they aren’t going after many of the “big-ticket” players (for those interested, names like Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, James Shields, and Pablo Sandoval have all been crossed off the list). But I don’t hold much stock in rumors (as you know by now), so until all those guys have been signed elsewhere, anything can still happen. Personally, I don’t really see any of those guys playing in a Yankee uniform any time soon. I expect most of their current teams will try to negotiate contracts to keep their stars home.

However, two of last year’s players are in negotiations with the Yankees — Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy. Headley’s name has been tossed about for retention since he was picked up by the Yankees in the middle of last season, and his performance since donning pinstripes has been outstanding, plus he’s very interested in staying in New York and with the team as long as he isn’t used as a bench-warmer. Not that I blame him on that line of thought, but the return of Alex Rodriguez does add a wrinkle to Headley. Word came last month that the team wants Rodriguez taking fielding practice at 1st base as well, so it looks a bit more promising for Headley. Perhaps the plan is to use Rodriguez as a DH and then relief at 1st and 3rd (for Teixeira and Headley, respectively) until he is back up to a daily playing routine in his age-40 season.

McCarthy comes as no surprise either as he became a crucial part of the dwindling, oft-injured rotation this past year. But he is considered one of the better free agent starters this off-season, so the Yankees could be in for a fight to land him. Tanaka, Sabathia, and Pineda will all be back for Spring, with Nova’s Tommy John surgery recovery completed by mid-2015 at the latest. So the starting rotation come Opening Day is still a big question mark. “Aggressive negotiations” with McCarthy seem like a good idea in that light.

There are some other players’ names being tossed about in the rumor mill, but between these qualifying offers, free agents, and arbitration-eligible players, it’s still fairly early in the off-season. Every year that I dive deeper into the contract business, I still feel a little overwhelmed by all the different aspects of the contracts. There is no such thing as a formulaic contract in baseball, though they all follow a similar basic pattern depending on the initial signing of the player. However, once they hit free agency, it’s really left to the most creative agents and lawyers and GMs to craft unique contract terms for the individual player. It almost makes me want to go to law school and study contract law just so I can get a better understanding. Almost…

“This Day in Yankees History” — Wednesday, November 4, 2009 — Yankees defeat the Phillies 7-3 in Game 6 at Yankee Stadium to claim their 28th title. Matsui was awarded the World Series MVP, for hitting 3 home runs, 8 RBIs, and going 8-for-13 during the Series. It was his last full season with the Yankees. It was the first year the Yankees played in the new Yankee Stadium, so this win was a great way to christen it. It was also the last postseason in which “the Boss” was alive; Steinbrenner would pass away the following July. In many ways, it was a send-off year for so many. But what I remember most is watching the Series with my mom at my place; my mom had just started liking the Yankees after I took her to her first Yankee game at Yankee Stadium that April. She and I intensely followed the team that year, something that was rather rewarding as they won 103 games and the AL East division that year. It was rather reminiscent of the late-90’s Yankees, except instead of my mom rooting against them in her Cleveland hat, she donned her new bright green NY cap and joined me in cheering on the likes of Posada, Jeter, Damon, Teixeira, and Swisher as they just plowed through to win it all that year. It was a very good year.

Go Yankees!

Game 160: NYY vs. BOS — A win is still a win, no matter who’s playing

Before I get into tonight’s game, I have to confess I’m rather proud of myself. Unlike last year, I didn’t mess up the game numbers in the titles of the blog posts once. I was actually afraid as we were winding down that I’d end Sunday’s game on Game 161 or 163 or something. But nope, humble brag here — consistency is my friend this year. At least on my game numbering.

A joke I heard repeated by multiple sources in many variations went something like: tonight’s game was the meeting of the Scranton and Pawtucket clubs but at big league prices in a game that doesn’t matter for either club. It’s a little insulting on so many levels, and while there were not as many “big names” on the rosters of either the Yankees or the Red Sox, it’s still guys signed to major league contracts to play major league baseball. And no matter how many cheers and chants and the occasional booing for not seeing a specific player pinch hit, those players played a good game, and it ended up being a Yankee win. So how exactly can we fault the selected starters tonight?

Chris Capuano took the start at Fenway tonight, throwing 91 pitches over his 6.2 innings, allowing just 4 hits and 1 run, striking out 5 Boston batters. In the 2nd, with 2 outs and a runner on 2nd, that runner scored on a deep single to put Boston up 1-0 early.

But the Yankees, even in enemy territory, don’t put up with Boston leads very well. In the 3rd, with 1 out, recently signed Perez struck out but reached 1st on a passed ball; he then advanced to 2nd on another passed ball and scored on Francisco Cervelli’s single to tie up the game. Cervelli later scored on John Ryan Murphy’s ground out. Then in the 6th, Murphy on base with a lead-off double, advanced to 3rd on Romine’s single, and scored on Zelous Wheeler’s sacrifice fly.

So when Capuano came back for the 7th inning, the Yankees were leading 3-1. After getting a quick 2 outs, the Yankees opted for Shawn Kelley, who promptly gave up a solo home run before getting out of the inning. It was 3-2 Yankees.

Adam Warren’s flawless 8th and David Robertson’s great 9th kept the Yankees in the lead, hand-delivering the win to the Yankees. And maybe it doesn’t count to qualify for postseason any more, but a win is still a win.

Both Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran are essentially finished for the season, with the powers that be not wanting to further injure two of the players they invested a lot of money in pre-season. And at this point, healthy players are always a preferred option, especially if their replacements are doing as well as they did tonight.

I think the natural tendencies for most athletes is to just push past the pain and go for it, even to the point of neglecting all long-term care. But the wise course of action is always to take a break, heal completely, and come back stronger and healthier and raring to go and redeem whatever lost time spent on the bench.

Go Yankees!

Game 159: BAL vs. NYY — Jeter says farewell to the Bronx

Jeter-finalYS
photo credit: YES Network

Only for Derek Jeter could the Yankees script such a storybook farewell in the last game he would ever play in Yankee Stadium. It poured all over New York all day long, and suddenly as game time approached, the skies cleared, the tarp came off the field, the drying agent applied to the infield, and it was game time as scheduled in the Bronx. And there would be no rain, but instead a glorious orange sunset streaking across the sky as the Yankees warmed up for their final home game this season.

Hiroki Kuroda started tonight’s game, in what may be his own last game in pinstripes (as he has yet to announce his plans for next year). And despite a rocky start, Kuroda settled down and just put the Orioles in their place. In his 8 innings, he threw 95 pitches, gave up just 3 hits and 2 runs, and struck out 9 Baltimore batters. Those runs came as back-to-back solo home runs in the 1st inning. But after that, Kuroda became the Kuroda the Yankees know and love, just keeping those pesky birds from doing much in front of this sold-out crowd.

The Yankees, however, weren’t going to let the Orioles just have this game. In the 1st inning, Brett Gardner singled and then scored as Jeter doubled. Jeter then stole 3rd on a wild pitch and scored on a fielding error that got Brian McCann safely to 1st. The game was tied 2-2 at the end of the 1st inning.

Then came the 7th inning, which has to be the inning where the Orioles realized they weren’t going to win this game. I watched this inning and honestly wondered how a team so sloppy in their defense could possibly be where they are in the standings (much like I did in the first game of this 4-game series). Drew led-off with a strikeout, but ended up safely at 1st due to a passed ball (a rule I still don’t understand exactly, but I’m happy to watch it land in the Yankees’ favor). Ichiro Suzuki then walked, in what could also be his last game in pinstripes, as he too has yet to announce his plans beyond Sunday’s game in Fenway. And then Pirela singled on a bunt and the bases were loaded. Gardner’s groundout gets Drew trying to come home.

Bases are still loaded as the Captain steps up to the plate, and the Orioles bring in a new pitcher as this guy certainly wasn’t doing the job. Jeter actually has a really poor hit on a broken bat, but the Orioles’ shortstop bobbles it badly, so Ichiro and Pirela each score as Jeter and Gardner end up on the corners. Another new pitcher and it’s McCann again for a sacrifice fly to score Gardner.

And it’s 5-2 Yankees.

And into the 9th inning, Jeter takes his place at shortstop for the last time in the Bronx; chants of “Der-ek Je-ter” echo through the stadium, met with a couple of tips of the hat and waves with his glove; David Robertson on the mound for the 9th inning; Yankee fans just praying for those 3 outs to victory. A lead-off walk on base and one out, a 2-run home run to the 2nd deck of left field put the Orioles within 1 run. Another out. And then another left field home run to tie up the game. You could feel the air being vacuumed out of the stadium in an instant. Robertson would get out of the inning with a blown save.

No one moved like the usually do at this point. The guy they came to watch was up 3rd, and his family was right behind the netting, waiting for his final at-bat. Everyone in New York (and I’m guessing across the viewing audience) was praying for something spectacular. Pirela led-off with a single, before speedy Antoan Richardson was pinch-run for him. Gardner’s sacrifice bunt moved Richardson to 2nd. And the world waited. An 86 mph change-up was all it took — a single into right field, Jeter rounding 1st, ball thrown into home, Richardson sliding in… SAFE! WALK-OFF!! It’s what Girardi himself ordered for Jeter’s final at-bat. And when the boss puts in an order, the Yankees deliver.

Game over. Yankees win 6-5. And the madness in the Bronx began. It was as if they had won a Championship. The entire team celebrated, hugging their Captain goodbye. Former Yankees Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Tino Martinez, Gerald Williams, and Bernie Williams were waiting to celebrate with former manager Joe Torre. Interviews, time alone on the field, greeting his family, more interviews, the customary Gatorade shower (by Gardner and Sabathia), and the final walk down the dugout steps to the clubhouse for the final time. And that was it.

Another farewell that makes me a little sad is that with Jeter’s final at-bat also goes the “Voice of the Yankees” Bob Sheppard. Before Sheppard passed away in 2010, three years after he stepped away from the microphone in 2007, Jeter specifically requested that his at-bats at Yankee Stadium were always going to be Sheppard’s voice announcing him: “Now batting, number 2, Derek Jeter…. number 2”. It’s as nearly familiar to any Yankee fan as Jeter himself. So as we in New York bid farewell to the one announced, we also bid farewell to the Voice that echoed through Yankee Stadium since 1951 announcing the likes of DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra, Rizzuto, and Jackson. It’s part of the old game that now fades into the history books and our memories.

Go Yankees!

Game 157: BAL vs. NYY — You can’t say they didn’t try

Well, I can’t really say that the Orioles showed up to play tonight, but they did have one thing going for them — they proved they’re in 1st place in the AL East because they can hit. It’s like they knew how to hit off the pitching staff tonight, while yesterday, they just seemed baffled by the concept of baseball in general. I will say this though, without those key big hits, the Orioles would have easily lost tonight’s game. It’s going to be interesting watching them in the postseason, as they’re really not the team they were in 2012, where they really were a pretty decent candidate for the Series.

But before I dive into the stats of the game, the biggest stat and the one that stings the most is that hit total — 17. If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. 17 hits is ridiculous. I can justify 17 hits over a 3-game series, but 17 hits in one game is beyond ridiculous. The Yankees should feel very grateful those 17 hits only added up to 5 runs scored. That credit goes to the Yankee defense for keeping runners away (for the most part) from home plate.

Anyway, it was Brandon McCarthy’s start tonight, and McCarthy really struggled his way through his 5.1 innings and 92 pitches. Like I said, it was like the Orioles almost knew what was coming. They got 11 of their hits and all 5 of their runs off him, but he also struck out 8 of them. Let’s clarify something. Had 3 of those hits not been home runs, the Yankees would have won because McCarthy actually did a pretty decent job of keeping a hitting-monster of a team from absolutely slaughtering the Yankees.

In the 2nd, a former Yankee (Kelly Johnson) led off with a solo home run. Two outs later, with runners on the corners, McCarthy gave up an RBI single. Then in 4th inning, with a runner on base with a single, a home run scored 2 more runs for the Orioles. Adding in a lead-off solo home run in the 5th and the Orioles had their 5 runs scored for the game.

In relief, the 6th inning was split between McCarthy, Rich Hill, and Esmil Rogers to get three outs that inning. Rogers would then pitch through the 7th, and Betances would take the 8th (of course). David Robertson’s 9th inning kept the Orioles scoreless, but what everyone wanted to talk about was Robertson’s sole strikeout of the inning — it was the 1,319 strikeout of the season, a franchise single season record, beating the 2012 record by one. With a few more games left of this season, that bar will be set even higher. That says a lot for the Yankees’ pitching staff and their abilities to get those well-placed pitches to strikeout their opponents. In my mind, that is due to strikeout pitchers like Tanaka, Robertson, and especially Betances (who bested Rivera’s single-season record of strikeouts recorded just a few days ago).

Now, the Yankees weren’t going to let the birds steamroll over them entirely. In the 4th inning, Chris Young grounded out to score a waiting Headley on 3rd. Then in the 6th, it’s Stephen Drew’s sacrifice fly that scored the runner on 3rd, this time McCann. Then it would be in the 7th inning with Jeter on 1st with a single, and Brian McCann’s right field seats 2-run home run that put the Yankees within 1 run of the Orioles. The Yankees just ran out of inning, despite a decent rally attempt in the last half inning with Gardner and Jeter.

So it would be the Orioles to take tonight’s game 5-4.

Before the game, retiring MLB Commissioner Bud Selig was at Yankee Stadium to present Derek Jeter with the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award. Jeter is the 15th recipient of the award and joins the ranks of Ripken, Bonds, Griffey, and teammates Ichiro Suzuki and Mariano Rivera (Rivera was awarded his last year). The award is presented to those people who have a lifetime of impact on the sport of baseball. Selig had many positive things to say about Jeter in their joint and then his solo press conference prior to tonight’s game, touching on subjects like watching Jeter develop as a player under his time as commissioner, Selig’s personal feelings on Jeter and their coinciding retirements, and Jeter’s plans to own a team one day. Selig also presented Jeter with a check for $222,222.22 for Turn 2 on behalf of MLB.

And because I have to end this on a positive note, some creative genius somewhere put together a recreation of Jeter’s Top 10 career highlights using Lego figures. It’s the best thing I think I saw all night (with a few exceptions from tonight’s game). Enjoy!

Go Yankees!

Game 155: TOR vs. NYY — Tanaka’s back for a win

Tanaka’s back, franchise home runs number 14,999-15,001 slammed out of the park, the Yankees won and took the series from the Blue Jays (3 of 4 games), oh and it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. I already love having to write today’s blog post.

Masahiro Tanaka threw 70 pitches in his 5.1 innings over the final game of the 4-game weekend series against the Blue Jays. Most people did not think Tanaka was going to make the rehab push to return before the end of the season, and yet, it was Tanaka to start today, delivering what many believed to be a similar outing to his pre-injury days. In other words, the Tank is back.

Tanaka allowed 5 hits and just 1 run, striking out 4 Toronto batters. That sole run came right in the 1st inning when Tanaka was shaking off the rust. After putting runners on the corners with back-to-back singles and no outs, Tanaka got a batter to ground into a double play, and though it scored a run early in the game, the Blue Jays should have seen this particular play as the start of things to come for them. Because once Tanaka gets rolling, he doesn’t let up.

And on a personal note, I almost forgot how much I love watching Tanaka pitch. It’s like a study in fluid perfection.

Adam Warren came on in relief of Tanaka in the 6th inning, once Tanaka hit the magic number of 70 pitches (all he would be allowed for today’s start). And Warren kept the Blue Jays to that sole run through the 7th inning as well. Dellin Betances gave up a single that stole 2nd and 3rd and then scored on another single. But that was it for the Blue Jays’ offense, as “Sweet Home Alabama” played David Robertson in for the 9th inning and earned Robertson his 38th save (and Tanaka’s 13th win) of the season.

Now, in order for a win and a save and the above-mentioned milestones, there needed to be some offensive contributions. And I’m sure the Blue Jays found it rather offensive (sorry, I’ve been waiting to do that pun for almost 2 years now). In the bottom of the 1st inning, with 2 outs and Blue Jays up by 1 already, Brian McCann tied the game with a solo home run — also the Yankees’ franchise home run #14,999.

Social media did not have to wait long to find out who was going to hit #15,000. That honor went to Brett Gardner in the 5th inning to push the Yankees over the Blue Jays 2-1, a lead the Yankees never gave up. Gardner met with the family in the right field seats that caught his home run today, spending time chatting and autographing bats and balls.

But the Yankees weren’t done there. In the 7th, Gardner led off with a double, ended up at 3rd on a passed ball, and then scored on Derek Jeter’s double. (3-1 Yankees) But it wasn’t quite enough. Brian McCann hit another home run, this one a 2-run dinger into the right field seats (a very popular place for home runs in Yankees Stadium, by the way) to push the Yankees up 5-1.

Even with the Blue Jays’ extra run in the 8th, the game still wound up favoring the Yankees with a final score of 5-2.

Also worth noting, Carlos Beltran has opted to delay his elbow surgery until the close of the 2014 season, though he probably won’t see much play time unless absolutely necessary. But Jeter is expected to play every game until the end of the season, with a few games slotted for the DH role, also known as a “half-day off”. I suppose to most people it would seem to appease the rabid fans with their camera phones, signs, screams, and chants who want to see the Captain just one more time. But I’m guessing it’s probably more related to the fact that Jeter said he hates “days off”, and perhaps instead, it’s more to appease him for not having to warm the bench in what will be his final week playing regular season baseball.

Bring on Baltimore… the Yankees are just getting warmed up. A little late in the season perhaps, but it ain’t over just yet…

Go Yankees!