ALDS 5: NYY vs. CLE, NLDS 4: WAS vs. CHC — Hometown losers, Yanks to ALCS, NLDS to Game 5

Today was easily two of the most interesting games in the entire postseason, but for two very different reasons. Except they had one thing in common — both home town crowds walked away very disappointed.

Game 1: Nationals at Cubs (make-up for rainout on Oct. 10)
In the longest game (nearly 4 hours) these teams have played this postseason, it was like watching a very different pair of teams than any of the previous three games. And I think I could blame the mold in the A/C in the Chicago hotel the Nationals are staying in  if the mold was something out of a comic book. Because the Nationals were clearly the strongest team today in nearly every possible way. (By the way, I don’t doubt there’s a mold problem as I stay in lots of hotels and have run into this problem many times, even in high-end establishments like I’m sure the Nationals are staying in.)

Their starter threw a really great outing, going a solid 7 scoreless innings, giving up just 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 12 Cubs’ batters. And the final 2 innings and relievers kept the scoreless streak going. But the Cubs’ pitchers just didn’t have it at all today. Their starter only went 4 innings, and their relievers each had shaky outings of their own. In the 3rd, a 1-out double moved to 3rd on a wild pitch and then scored later on a fielding error to get the Nats on the board with an unearned run early.

Despite the unsurity of the Cubs’ pitchers, they were able to hold off the Nationals from scoring for most of the game. But then came the 8th inning, and things just didn’t get better for the home team. With 1 out, a batter worked a walk and then got picked off of 1st, thanks in part to a Cubs’ challenge that overturned the original safe call. Then after a batter singled, the Cubs went back to their bullpen. But the bases were quickly loaded with consecutive walks. A new reliever then gave up a big grand slam to solidify the Nationals win and nearly silence the entirety of Wrigley Field. Literally, fans were headed for the exits after that hit.

Final score: 5-0 Nationals, series split 2-2, NLDS heads back to D.C. for Game 5

Game 2: Yankees at Indians
The Yankees and Indians entered tonight’s game with that winner-take-all attitude that is so wonderful in the postseason. I had a conversation with my mother (who you might remember grew up an Indians fan), and we concluded that the winner of this game would be the team that really deserved it, the one that played better at the end of the day. And they did.

The Yankees seem to have the Indians’ ace starter’s number and began their advance early in the game thanks solely to Didi Gregorius, who hit a 2-out solo home run in the 1st. And then he came back in the 3rd, with 1 out and Gardner on 1st with a lead-off single to hit another home run to give the Yankees an early lead. The Indians’ starter left the game in the 4th inning and their bullpen held the Yankees off for most of the game.

In the mean time, CC Sabathia got the start tonight, throwing just 69 pitches into the 5th inning, striking out 9 Cleveland batters, and fending them off for the first 4 innings. It wasn’t until the 5th that the Indians started to chip away at Sabathia’s strong outing and the Yankees’ lead. With just 1 out, Sabathia gave up 4 consecutive singles to score 2 runs before David Robertson came on to relieve him and promptly got the next batter to ground into a beautiful double play to end the threat. Robertson breezed his way through the next 2 innings, handing things over to Aroldis Chapman for the final 2 innings.

The Yankees held onto that minuscule lead for most of the second half of the game until the 9th inning when they had a bit of fun. Aaron Hicks hit a 1-out single and ended up at 2nd on a sloppy fielding error. Todd Frazier worked a 2-out walk to join Hicks on the baseline. Then after a really big nail-biting 12-pitch at-bat, Brett Gardner hit a solid single that scored both Hicks and Frazier thanks to a throwing error that allowed Gardner to land at 2nd on the play. It was enough of a lead to make the crowd at Progressive Field feel a whole lot like the crowd at Wrigley.

Final score: 5-2 Yankees, Yankees win ALDS, advance to ALCS

Yes, that’s right, the Yankees, the team everyone thought would barely break even in the regular season just beat the best team in the American League. Sorry to all my family who are huge Indians fans (and still follow my Yankees-centric blog, because … family), but you’ll have to try again next year to break your now 70 year championship drought.

Okay, so Game 5 of the NLDS is tomorrow night to decide how the Championship Series will look. (And I’ll do my Division Series’ bracket outcome and predict the next series.) The Yankees will face off the Astros in Houston starting on Friday night. The winner of the Cubs-Nationals series will face off against the waiting Dodgers in LA starting Saturday. So things are really just getting started, folks!

Go Yankees!

AL Wild Card: MIN vs. NYY — Rough start, solid finish thanks to big bats

The last time the Yankees won a postseason game was the 2012 ALDS, game 5, against the Orioles, Raul Ibanez was dubbed “King of New York” for his postseason heroics, and Derek Jeter would break his ankle diving for a ball in the 12th inning in the next game, game 1 of the ALCS against the Tigers. In other words, things were very different five years ago.

Tonight, the Yankees moved onto the ALDS after defeating the Twins in the winner-take-all Wild Card Game. It took nearly four hours in front of a sold-out crowd in the Bronx, and it took all of the energy and emotions to electrify the fans during the game.

We are all human and thus have off-nights. But for Luis Severino, tonight was one of the worst possible times to experience an off-night. And Girardi continued his recent short-leash for the pitching staff. Severino threw just 29 pitches in the 1st inning, giving up 4 hits, a walk, and 3 runs. He didn’t make it out of that 1st inning.

Severino gave up a lead-off home run, a 1-out walk, a 2-run home run, a single, and a double before Girardi had enough. With runners firmly in scoring position and just 1 out, Severino’s outing was over. So Chad Green was called in early to do Chad Green things. He quickly got out of the 1st inning with 2 solid strikeouts to strand the Twins runners. He breezed his way through the 2nd inning, but found some trouble in the 3rd inning loading up the bases with a single and 2 walks (and just 1 out).

While Green was responsible for all the runners as he passed the torch to David Robertson. The first batter hit into a fielder’s choice (a late double play) that scored the lead runner, but then Robertson got the first of his 5 strikeouts (of his 10 total outs) in his outing tonight. And Robertson’s outing was easily the best thing from the mound today, throwing 52 pitches over 3.1 pitches. It was stellar and ended up being the perfect recipient for the eventual win.

Tommy Kahnle was called on to close out the 6th for Robertson and then breeze his way through the 7th and 8th innings in just 29 pitches. Aroldis Chapman’s 9th inning was pretty good too, hitting 103 mph pitches as if they were nothing, and getting all 3 outs as strikeouts. The final out came as a beautiful swing, the whole stadium on its feet, the place alive with energy and hope.

Now, beyond the great job of the bullpen, which had to start so very early tonight, the Yankees’ offense actually worked tonight too. The Twins’ starter had his own rough night, only lasting 2 innings and throwing a whopping 64 pitches over that short time span. In the 1st, Gardner led-off with a walk, and Judge singled to put runners in the corners. With 1 out, it would fall to Didi Gregorius to his a big 3-run home run to tie up the game at that point, so very early on in the night.

Brett Gardner added a run in the 2nd with a 2-out solo home run that bounced off the front row barrier of the 2nd deck of the right field seats. With the starter out, the Yankees faced the Twins bullpen, which clearly isn’t nearly as good as the Yankees’, so the Yankees kept adding to their score.

In the 3rd, Sanchez led-off with a double and then scored on Greg Bird’s 2-out single. And Gardner hit a 1-out single in the 4th and then scored on Aaron Judge’s first postseason homer, a 2-run home run bouncing off the top of the left-field wall for a couple more insurance runs.

The Twins bullpen was able to focus in and keep the Yankees from adding more to their score. Until the 7th inning, that is. Judge led-off with a walk and then ended up at 3rd on Sanchez’s single and a throwing error. Gregorius was intentionally walked to load up the bases, and the Twins got their first out of the inning. A new reliever got a strikeout, and another new reliever promptly walked Aaron Hicks to walk in Judge to add just one more run to the score.

Look, both teams started off really messy and shaky, but both teams pulled it together to show how matched they really were. And it ended Yankees-side up.

Final score: 8-4 Yankees

So, now the Yankees advance to the ALDS against Indians in Cleveland on Thursday, for the best-of-5 game series. Just a reminder, the format goes 2 games in Cleveland, 2 games in the Bronx, and 1 game back in Cleveland, if necessary. The first team to win 3 games advances to the ALCS. But first, tomorrow night, we shift to the National League to watch their Wild Card game between the Rockies and Diamondbacks.

Before tonight’s game, the Yankees held a moment of silence for the victims of the Las Vegas tragedy. They asked reliever and Las Vegas native Chasen Shreve to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in their honor.

Go Yankees!

Game 156: KC vs. NYY — #CCStrong, Make-up batting practice, historic afternoon

Today’s afternoon game was a minor blip in the regular schedule, a make-up game from a rain-out back on May 25. The Yankees start their final week of the season, 2 3-game series in the Bronx — the Rays and Blue Jays. The visiting Royals flew in from Chicago after the weekend and will head home to Kansas City for their own final week at home.

CC Sabathia got the start today and really had a great afternoon against the Royals. He was absolutely stellar through the first 3 innings, not giving up a hit until the 4th. But even then he really didn’t allow much until his final blip on the mound. He threw 80 pitches into the 7th inning, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and struck out 4 batters. In fact, until the 7th inning, Sabathia limited the Royals to that walk and 3 hits alone.

So, feeling strong, and with a low pitch count, Sabathia came out for the 7th, but then found some trouble in the heart of the Royals’ order with their veteran power-hitters. He gave up a lead-off single, a 2-run home run, and a solo home run. That would be it for his afternoon. All pitchers are on a short leash now, so if you can’t limit the damage, it’s time to depend on the next guy to see you through.

And today, once again, that worked out well. Chad Green came on to do what Chad Green does, but after allowing a walk to his first batter. Then he promptly set the Royals down in order, righting the ship, as it were. Robertson’s 8th inning was a flawless 3-strikeout moment, and Kahnle’s 9th closed things out for the Yankees, overall limiting the damage to that lone blip by Sabathia in the early 7th.

Meanwhile, the Yankees took advantage of the late summer warm weather and found their swings early and often. Gardner led-off the 1st with a single, moved to 3rd on Sanchez’s double, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ ground out to get the Yankees on the board early. In the 3rd, Gardner worked a 1-out walk, and then Aaron Judge followed him with a big 2-run home run, his 49th of the season. (More on this after the recap.)

In the 6th, Gregorius hit a 1-out single and then scored all the way from 1st on Matt Holliday’s double. Greg Bird smacked a big 2-run home run into the 2nd deck of the right field seats to keep the momentum going. After an out, the Royals opted to go to their bullpen and piece together the rest of the game. But they just don’t have the bullpen they did a few years ago.

In the 7th, with 2 outs, the Yankees just let loose. Aaron Judge hit a really big solo home run that bounced into the left field bleachers — his 50th home run of the season, breaking the rookie home run record (more below). Gary Sanchez immediately followed that up with his own solo home run into the left field seats, his 33rd of the season. (Remember, Sanchez had about a month out due to injury too!) Despite loading up the bases a bit later, the Yankees couldn’t add any more to their score.

Well, that inning. Because in the 8th, they came back and added just a few more. With a new reliever and 1 out, Torreyes got another hit today (he went 3-for-4 today), and because they missed the catch originally, Torreyes got all the way to 2nd, but the player fumbled the throw and that error allowed Torreyes to keep going all the way to 3rd. He then scored on Brett Gardner’s double. Judge worked a walk (pinch-run by Clint Frazier) and Sanchez singled to load up the bases. Didi Gregoirus singled home Gardner, and Matt Holliday’s sacrifice fly scored Frazier to cap off the Yankees’ monster afternoon.

The Yankees’ offense racked up 15 hits and 4 walks, while getting only 5 strikeouts. The latter part of the game was basically Yankees’ batting practice after a while.

Final score: 11-3 Yankees

Technically, the Yankees win that May series with today’s game, winning 3 of the 4 games against the Royals. Boston doesn’t play until later tonight, so where they land on the standings is still a giant question mark.

Postseason prep: tonight… go Blue Jays! (Seriously, they beat the Yankees this weekend, surely they can take out the Red Sox.)

Now, both of Aaron Judge’s home runs mattered and ended up in Judge’s memory case. In 1987, Mark McGwire hit 49 home runs in his rookie season. Coming into today’s game, Judge was sitting at 48. That first one in the 3rd inning meant that Judge tied McGwire for the record. But the one in the 7th was #50, a new record for a rookie player.

Also, Judge has now homered off every AL team (including the 4 he hit late last season). As of now, he’s hit off 4 of the 15 NL teams — Mets, Brewers, Pirates, and Dodgers. So, there’s 11 teams waiting for a Judge home run. By the way, active players who have hit off all 30 teams are former Yankee (and current Astro) Carlos Beltran and current Ranger Adrian Beltre (who also has hit a home run in the 40 stadiums of the modern era). Judge’s name is already being thrown around with names of some great players, but setting records at every turn will do that to you.

And it’s not like CC Sabathia is some slouch in the midst of these rookies building their greatness. The veteran pitcher is certainly making a case to include his name in future Hall of Fame talks. His win today tied him with Yankee great Whitey Ford, as left-handed pitchers with 236 wins. Only 2 more lefties have more wins — 240 by Frank Tanana (who played for a few teams including the Angels, Rangers, and Tigers 1973-1993) and 239 by David Wells (a name that might be familiar to Yankee fans from his brief stint during the dynasty days, but also flitted around the league with teams like the Blue Jays 1987-2007).

To be perfectly fair, Sabathia is only at 17 seasons this year, 4 less than either Tanana or Wells and just 3/4 game wins behind them. He could very well jump both early next season. That is if he plans on renewing his contract after his current one expires following this season. And in pure disclosure: Whitey Ford earned his 236 wins in just 16 seasons, however, it was during the time (1950, 1953-1967) when the Yankees and winning games was almost a foregone conclusion.

I kind of miss those days… but these days are pretty awesome too…

Go Yankees!

Game 155: NYY vs. TOR — Ending the road with a whimper… and a sliver of hope

Wow, that’s not what you want. Especially when there’s still a postseason up for grabs. But it is what it is. So there you go.

Enough clichés.

The Yankees closed out their final road game sputtering a bit. Jaime Garcia still really hasn’t found his footing as a Yankee, and today’s finale in Toronto was no exception. He threw 60 pitches into the 3rd inning, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 5 runs, and struck out 4 batters. Trouble began when his 2nd pitch became a lead-off solo home run (the 3rd time this particular player has done so this series, by the way).

In the 2nd, a lead-off double stole 3rd and then scored on a sacrifice fly. And then he got into some real trouble in the 3rd. With 1 out, he loaded up the bases with a double and 2 consecutive walks. That would be it for Garcia. The Yankees weren’t about to take any chances. And things looked good for Holder, immediately get a pop out. But then a solid bases-clearing double (runs charged to Garcia) solidified the Blue Jays growing lead. And then Heller got a strikeout to get out of the inning.

Bryan Mitchell certainly didn’t help in the 4th inning. He gave up a single and a walk to get things started. Then a single scored one run, a wild pitch moved runner to scoring position, and another walk loaded the bases. Another single scored another run. And then things got interesting as a single scored 2 runners, but then another runner got greedy and was thrown out at home. The Blue Jays challenged the play as a violation of the home plate collusion rule, but the call was upheld. Out at home.

Heller came in to close out the inning with a double play and then had a pretty good 5th inning. Sadly, the first good inning of the game today. But the pattern of struggles was broken. Gallegos’ 6th and 7th innings kept the Jays from adding to their big lead. Betances continued that through his scoreless 8th inning.

But it’s not like the Yankees were exactly quiet on their end. They didn’t get a big opportunity until the 4th inning. Headley and Judge worked walks to lead off the inning. Didi Gregorius’ single scored Headley to get the Yankees on the board. Castro hit into a fielder’s choice that was originally called a double play. The Yankees’ challenged, and Castro was safe a 1st. But 2 outs later, the runners were stranded on the corners.

Aaron Judge led off the 6th inning with a solo home run, his 47th of the season. Two outs later, Ellsbury hit a ground-rule double up the middle, and after walking Frazier, the Blue Jays pulled their starter. The first reliever promptly gave up a double to Greg Bird, which scored Ellsbury. That’s all he got, and the Blue Jays went back to their bullpen.

He got out of the 6th and started the 7th. With 1 out, Headley singled. And then Aaron Judge did it again — another homer, his 48th, his 2nd of the game — a 2-run home run over the left field wall. Suddenly, the Yankees were within striking distance. But then the Jays went to their bullpen again.

And that’s all they’d write in Toronto.

Final score: 9-5 Blue Jays, Blue Jays win series 2-1.

Aaron Judge is just 1 home run shy of the rookie record. In 1987, a young power-hitting Oakland player named Mark McGwire hit 49 home runs in his rookie season. Now, the only AL team Judge hasn’t homered off this season is the Royals, which they play a make-up game tomorrow afternoon back in the Bronx. And wouldn’t that make a really cool story — homering off the Royals (and thus all the AL teams) and tying the rookie record doing so. And if we’re being honest, there’s still 6 more games beyond that for Judge to make that rookie record his.

The Yankees slipped to 5 games behind the Red Sox, reducing the magic number for the Red Sox to clinch the AL East to 3. Yeah, that means the Red Sox need to win just 3 more games or the Yankees need to lose 3 more to hand over the division to the Red Sox. In other words, they need to not play like they did today.

But I believe it can happen. Because… why not? Weirder things have happened. The Yankees were supposed to win in 2004. I mean, they were up 3 games over the Red Sox, and they just needed 1 more game to clinch. And then the Red Sox just took over. Ah, memories all of Yankee Universe would prefer to forget…

But it can happen. I mean, it’s not like they’re not already going to the postseason…

Go Yankees!

Game 152: MIN vs. NYY — Sweep dreams of postseason potential this afternoon

In today’s afternoon finale against the Twins, the Yankees went in with every intention to sweep their potential Wild Card opponents and press on to closing that gap between them and the AL East leaders. The Yankees did both. Hopefully, but more on that later.

Luis Severino is technically being set up for the first game in the postseason, potentially the one-off Wild Card game. But fingers crossed he’s more #SevySharp and less whatever he was today. Yes, Severino was certainly less than sharp today, throwing 71 pitches in just 3 innings, giving up 5 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and striking out just 3 Minnesota batters. To borrow a popular phrase the Yankees skipper often says in press conferences: “it’s not what you want”.

But to be fair, it wasn’t really bad until Severino’s final inning. Outside of that, he allowed just 1 hit, no runs, and no walks. He just wasn’t quite finding it today. All of those allowed runs came in the 3rd inning. With 1 out, Severino gave up 2 singles and a walk to load up the bases. Another single scored the Twins’ first run, and one more single scored 2 more runs. Severino then focused in and got those other 2 outs of the inning, but he was just not having a good day. And as we’re down to just 10 games of the season, every single game matters. Every pitch, every out, every strike, every hit, every run matters. There’s no more leash allowed.

So that was it for Severino. But the game was in good hands. Chasen Shreve came on and just breezed his way through the middle third of the game. Shreve pitches just 33 pitches through 3 innings, setting himself up for the eventual win. Heller came on in the 7th and kept things scoreless, German’s final 2 innings were near perfect, adding 4 more strikeouts and holding the Twins to those 3 early runs scored.

Technically, any team that scores second and then takes the lead becomes a “come-from-behind” win, even when they come from behind to dominate. I’m not a fan of this terminology, as it puts home teams at a weird language disadvantage (though not a physical one). The Yankees weren’t the underdogs today, in any sense of the word. Not that the Twins were, but the Yankees just played better. They played better the entire series, so it is a deserved win overall.

Anyway, with the Twins leading, getting onto the board first in the top of the 3rd inning, the Yankees saw their opportunity against the Twins’ starter, who was having a less-than-stellar day today as well. Bird led off the bottom of the 3rd with a double and then scored as part of Aaron Judge’s 45th homer of the season, a big 1-out 2-run home run into the right field corner seats. Gary Sanchez backed that up with his own home run, a solo shot up the middle, his 32nd of the season, to tie up the game right then and there.

Then in the 4th, Ellsbury hit a 1-out triple, watched Frazier work a walk, and then scored on Greg Bird’s double. That was it for the Twins’ veteran starter, but their bullpen didn’t have good luck out the gate, which was great for the Yankees’ momentum. Brett Gardner singled to score Frazier for that insurance run. After another out, Sanchez singled to score Bird. So with 2 runners on base, Didi Gregorius smacked a 3-run home run into the right field seats to ensure the Yankees victory today.

And into the 5th, with a new reliever on the mound, Holliday singled, Ellsbury walked, and a fly out moved Holliday to 3rd. A wild pitch then scored Holliday. Then the Yankees loaded the bases with Bird’s single and Gardner’s hit-by-pitch. And the Twins knew they needed to stop this free-for-all and called in a new reliever again. First, Aaron Judge’s sacrifice fly easily scored Ellsbury, and then Sanchez’s single loaded up the bases again. But a strikeout on a foul tip stranded all on the bases looking to add more runs to the Yankees’ big lead.

But they didn’t need to. And they really wouldn’t get much more chances. A few more hits (15 total today), but nothing collectively to add more.

But again, they really didn’t need to pad their lead any more.

Final score: 11-3 Yankees, Yankees sweep series 3-0.

PSP: Sometimes, I try to stall posting this blog a few extra minutes so that I can add information about upcoming opponents or waiting on a milestone or injury news. But I won’t do that today. The opponent the Yankees are watching constantly is the Red Sox, and they don’t play until tonight. So for now, that means the Yankees are just 2 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East. (Go Orioles tonight!)

In other numbers, the Yankees are floating around the “magic number” that means they are officially in the postseason. Currently, that number is 4. Yes, that means, the Yankees need 4 games to clinch postseason, and there are only 10 games left of the season. We shall see how that all pans out in the next coming weeks.

Also, in the 5th inning today, Todd Frazier hit a foul ball line drive into the seats and it directly hit a young girl. She was treated on the scene and taken to a local hospital for further treatment. Due to HIPPA medical privacy laws, there isn’t much more information at this time. But our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family right now as she recovers.

Go Yankees!

Game 149: BAL vs. NYY — A rather “Gray Sonday”

It actually started off this afternoon as a bit cloudy over the stadium. I mean, it progressively got sunnier and the late afternoon shadows started creeping across the field as they always do on sunny matinee game days. The Yankees were hoping for a sweep of the Orioles in today’s finale of their 4-game series, but it was not to be. As sunny as it was today, it wasn’t so much for the Sonny on the mound today.

Sonny Gray got the start, throwing 80 pitches in just 4 innings. He gave up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 5 runs, striking out just 4 Orioles’ batters. In the 2nd, Gray gave up a 1-out double that moved to 3rd on a ground out and later scored on an RBI single to get the O’s on the board early. A 1-out single in the 3rd scored on a 2-out double to double their score. And in the 4th, the Orioles worked a lead-off walk and a 2-out single that moved up to scoring position on a wild pitch and then promptly scored on a big 3-run home run.

With that rather substantial lead, the Yankees turned to their bullpen in the form of Bryan Mitchell for the 5th inning. He gave up consecutive singles that put runners in the corners. A fielder’s choice ended up scoring the lead runner to cap off the Orioles’ runs today. But then Mitchell found his groove and settled into a nice pattern through the next 2 innings. Betances and Kahnle closed out the final 2 innings with flawless pitching, just 10 and 11 pitches (respectively) in each inning.

So, all the Yankees had to do was make up for it. And they were facing the one starter in the league with the highest ERA. Who, apparently, decided to have a pretty good day, unfortunately for the Yankees. In his 5 innings, he only gave up 3 hits and a walk and a 2nd inning lead-off solo home run to Didi Gregorius. (And by the way, the lady who got Gregorius’ home run ball couldn’t be happier!)

The Yankees found a few opportunities to advance once the Orioles got into their bullpen. In the 6th, Sanchez worked a 1-out walk and moved to 2nd on Castro’s 2-out single. Both then scored on Matt Holliday’s double. And Judge led-off the 8th with a double, moved to 3rd when Gregorius reached safely thanks to a throwing error, and then scored on Starlin Castro’s sacrifice fly {No media link}. But the Yankees weren’t able to do much more than that. And it wasn’t enough.

Final score: 6-4 Orioles, Yankees win series 3-1.

Injury updates: there are a few Yankees who are stuck on the disabled list, but the Yankees. Adam Warren has been out since September 3 (officially) with back issues and is threw some long toss prior to yesterday’s game with no issues. Warren has been an effective part of the bullpen, usually solid for long-term relief, so his hole on the roster has definitely been felt. They are hopeful that he will be back in the ‘pen before the end of the season, however.

Aaron Hicks is still recovering from his oblique injury, doing some minor workouts to get back into the momentum of coming back soon. He was briefly sidelined from his recovery due to strep throat last week, but the Yankees are hopeful that successful batting practice in the next few days will open the door to his return to pinstripes shortly thereafter.

Roster moves: reliever Caleb Smith is currently battling a viral infection, so the Yankees placed him on the 10-day DL yesterday, retroactive to September 13 (the last time he pitched in a game). Reliever Domingo German was recalled AAA Scranton to fill in Smith’s spot in the bullpen.

Postseason Prep: Okay, so despite the Yankees’ loss today, there is some good news. The Red Sox also lost their game today (thanks, Rays!), so the standings remain the same. Not that the steady spot in the standings is what you want, but it’s better than the Red Sox gaining in their lead over the Yankees in the AL East.

If the standings remain the same, the Yankees will face the Twins for the one-off Wild Card game following the regular season. The Twins are on their way to New York for a 3-game mid-week series, so people are watching how this series pans out. The Yankees are hoping to gain ground on the Red Sox and push the Twins further down the standings. But the Twins are hoping to gain ground on the Yankees and close the gap between the potential Wild Card teams. Now, as of posting, the Twins are dominating the Blue Jays, and their assumed win will mean they are just 4 games behind the Yankees. It’s going to be a rather tight final 2 weeks of this season.

But that’s what makes it rather fun!

Go Yankees!

Game 148: BAL vs. NYY — Monty keeps up the momentum

The Yankees continue their drive towards the postseason with momentum. This is the one part of the schedule that is clearly working in the Yankees’ favor. Yesterday’s win was Joe Girardi’s 900th win as the manager of the Yankees, joining the likes of the legendary Joe Torre and Casey Stengel. And that is certainly helping that aforementioned momentum.

Jordan Montgomery had a much better outing than any other one in the recent month, setting himself up for the first win since July. He threw 95 pitches in his 6 innings, gave up 4 hits and a walk, and struck out 6 batters, all while keeping the Orioles completely scoreless. Kahnle and Heller continued that scoreless streak through the next two innings.

Chasen Shreve found some trouble in the 9th inning. He gave up a 1-out walk that scored on a 2-run home run before loading up the bases with 3 consecutive walks on 2 outs. Giovanni Gallegos came on to stop the anti-momentum of Shreve, which was odd enough in itself. He unfortunately promptly balked to move all the runners up that also scored another run for the Orioles. But then he got a strikeout to close out the game.

Meanwhile, the Yankees pressed into the Orioles’ pitching staff enough to force their starter out of the game in just the 4th inning. In the 3rd, with 2 outs, Headley and Judge worked walks and then were part of Didi Gregorius’ 3-run home run into the right field seats to get the Yankees on the board. Then in the 4th, Ellsbury doubled and Todd Frazier walked, so Greg Bird’s 5th homer of the season became a 3-run home run to double the Yankees’ lead. And that would be it for the O’s starter.

In the 5th, with 1 out, Gregorius singled, moved to 2nd on Castro’s hit-by-pitch, and then scored on Jacoby Ellsbury’s single. And with a new pitcher in the 7th, Gregorius led off with a single and then scored as part of Todd Frazier’s 2-out 2-run home run up the middle to cap off the Yankees’ big offense tonight. (And the “thumbs-down” thing is still a thing apparently.)

The biggest downfall for Yankee pitchers tonight, which fortunately didn’t go against them that much, was the 8 total allowed walks. That stat has to improve as against another team that would take advantage of that, that could be quite detrimental to the Yankees’ hopes for October baseball.

Final score: 9-3 Yankees

Roster moves: before today’s game, the Yankees recalled reliever Jonathan Holder (who pitched rather well again this afternoon) and infielder Miguel Andujar from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Andujar made his MLB debut today late in the game as a DH substitute, and for his first MLB at-bat, he grounded out. That first hit is coming.

Postseason prep: well, the Red Sox won their marathon game last night against the Rays in the 15th inning, after getting 7 runs in that final inning to beat the home team 13-6. That kept the Red Sox 3 games ahead of the Yankees, and after tonight’s win against the Rays, they remain that 3 games ahead of the Yankees in the AL East. Again, it’s still very much “Go, Rays!” this weekend, while the Yankees need a final win tomorrow to sweep the Orioles and head into their final 2 weeks of the season with that winning momentum.

Go Yankees!