ALCS 6: NYY vs. HOU — Forcing a Game 7

To be totally fair, the Astros’ strategy was very smart — for this crucial game, start the only pitcher that’s been able to really stop the Yankees all series. And once again, he did just that. Except the Yankees also did that — send up their best starter, Luis Severino.

Neither teams really broke through much until the 5th inning. Technically, the Yankees were hitting off the Astros’ starter, but they weren’t getting any runs. Thanks in part to the Astros’ defense that suddenly remembered this game that they won 101 games this season for a reason. The Yankees got 5 hits and a walk off the Astros’ starter through his 7 innings, but could not score a run.

Okay, so that 5th inning was messy for the Yankees. Severino was coasting through the game quite a bit, only giving up a walk and a single in the first 4 innings. But then he got into trouble, giving up 2 walks and 1 out. A ground-rule double scored one run and a walk loaded the bases. Another out gave the Yankees hope to minimize the damage, but then that little power-hitting infielder smacked a big 2-run single.

The Yankees called on Chad Green to complete the inning and then sail his way through the next 2 innings. With a minor lead, the Yankees were just looking to get on the board and make their advances. The Yankees got a single shot in the 8th when the Astros finally went to their bullpen and then Aaron Judge hit a 1-out solo home run straight up the middle. The Yankees got another hit and a walk in the 9th off another reliever, but they never crossed the plate again, thus stuck at that lone run today.

Of course, keeping the Astros’ score to a minimum didn’t help as David Robertson was having that rare off-day, unable to record a single out in the 8th inning. He gave up a lead-off solo home run to kick off his bad inning. He then gave up a double and a single to put runners on the corners, and a long double ended up at 3rd when the throw home was a bit off-center and Sanchez couldn’t handle the bad throw and 2 runs scored.

So, the Yankees went back to the bullpen for Dellin Betances, who got a strikeout before giving up a sacrifice fly to score the runner at 3rd to cap off the Astros’ runs tonight. Which means that the Yankees and Astros must now play a winner-take-all Game 7 tomorrow night.

Final score: 7-1 Astros, series tied 3-3

I was reminded that lots of things happen in Game 7 — Reggie Jackson, Aaron Boone, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, and Madison Bumgarner are probably the most familiar to Yankee Universe and in recent series. Game 7 of last year’s World Series went into extra innings, keeping both Midwestern fan bases on the edges of their seats for a truly deserved Game 7. Either way, it’s bound to be another one of those nail-biters. And this postseason has been full of them for the Yankees — the Wild Card game, the full 5 games of the ALDS, and now this ALCS.

It’s going to be interesting either way. Because that’s the postseason for you…

Go Yankees!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Yankees!

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!

Game 150: MIN vs. NYY — A solid start makes all the difference

There’s a lot of talk about this particular series as if the standings remain as they are, the Yankees will face the Twins in the Wild Card game in just a couple of weeks. So, beginning tonight, we could be looking at a preview of things to come. I mean, I get why the Twins are something this season, but there are still quite a few games left of the season that could certainly change everything.

Jaime Garcia had a really stellar outing in pinstripes. After struggling so much in the beginning of his Yankee career, it’s nice to see him settling into the pitcher they knew he could be, the one they traded for. He threw 85 pitches into the 6th inning, giving up just 4 hits and one unearned run, while striking out a solid 9 batters. That unearned run came in the 5th inning. A lead-off single ended up at 3rd on a single and a fielding error and then scored on a fielder’s choice out. The error, of course, made it unearned.

David Robertson came on to finish off the 6th inning and then pitch through the 7th to keep the score fairly clean. Dellin Betances came on for the 8th and really struggled his way through — hitting the first batter with a pitch, a sacrifice bunt, a walk, a wild pitch, and a walk to load up the bases.

Not willing to take any chances, the Yankees called on Aroldis Chapman for what became a 5-out save. And boy, did he deliver, starting with a well-placed strikeout to keep the bases loaded in the 8th and then a fly out to get out of the jam. And then breezing through the 9th inning to seal it all up for them.

Meanwhile, the Yankees didn’t really do that much damage against the Twins’ pitching staff. Aaron Judge hit a 1-out solo home run into the right field seats, his 44th of the season, to kick off the scoring for the Yankees. The Yankees were able to get on base often (8 hits and a walk), but they weren’t able to capitalize much on that.

In the 6th, with 1 out, Headley and Castro singled and then moved into scoring position with a wild pitch. The Twins intentionally walked Ellsbury to load up the bases, and then gave up a sacrifice fly to Todd Frazier to score Headley to double the Yankees’ low score. That would be the end of the Twins’ starter, and their bullpen had pretty good luck against the Yankee offense, keeping them at their low score.

Both teams spent most of the game waiting for their offense to pick up and do something. But neither team really did.

Final score: 2-1 Yankees

David Robertson is one of this year’s finalists for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, an annual honor given to the player “whose on-field performance and contributions to his community inspire others to higher levels of achievement.” It is part of the players’ choice awards, awarded in the postseason and voted on by secret ballot to honor fellow players who have made an outstanding impact in this past season. Mariano Rivera is the only Yankee to win the MMMotY award, back in 2013.

Robertson is recognized for his outstanding on-field performance, but he dedicates much of his off-field time to the foundation he runs with his wife Erin — High Socks for Hope. In the past, they have helped with relief efforts following natural disasters like tornadoes and Hurricane Sandy, and they are already involved in current efforts to clean up following the two recent disasters in Texas and Florida. They also have a few special branches of the foundation including one that helps with homeless veterans and a fund set-up in honor of Erin’s dad who lost his battle with cancer last year.

Fans selected the nominees from each division, and now players will vote for the player they believe is worthy of the honor this year. Robertson is up against other very philanthropic players from all over the league, and I wish them all the best in their endeavors to give back to their communities through so many different charities.

Postseason Prep: I don’t know what it is but the Red Sox are really working these extra inning games lately. As of this posting, they’re holding strong against the Orioles in the 11th inning. And I think you can guess that I’m pretty much “Go, Baltimore!” for that series. They’re still flirting that 3-game gap between the Red Sox and the Yankees for the AL East — meaning the Yankees have to keep winning and the Red Sox need to lose some of these games to stop the status quo and actually make some headway in the standings.

That reminds me… I got a text from my brother earlier today, asking for help. No, it wasn’t about his love life or something life shattering. He felt a little flustered because this guy he works with always wants to talk about baseball, and my brother is really not that into sports. Sure, he’ll go to a game, and he definitely has his favorite teams (almost anyone except Boston, smart man that he is). But he doesn’t really follow the season. At all. So I ended up sending him 21 texts about the current status of the season and league within about 10 minutes. He talks to the guy for like a minute every day, but now, he’s good for the next week or so. (You’re welcome!)

Or, you know, he could just read my blog…

Go Yankees!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final score: 13-5 Yankees.

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

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

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

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

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

Go Yankees!

 

Game 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!