Game 162: TOR vs. NYY — Hello, October baseball… Farewell, regular 2017 season…

As this game didn’t really count for much of anything, it certainly lightened the mood and intensity off this afternoon’s finale in the Bronx. Closing out the season against the Blue Jays, the Yankees rotated out their starting roster quickly to allow some of the other guys on the roster to get a chance to play in the game that doesn’t count. After a recent rather warm trend in the City, the weather finally caught up to the calendar today, as if turning the page to October meant it was suddenly hoodie and boot weather. Only fitting as the playoffs that lead to the Fall Classic begin in just 2 days.

Again, today’s game mattered for nearly nothing (much closer to a Spring Training type feel than an exhibition game) because regardless of the outcome all over the AL today, the Yankees will face the Twins on Tuesday in the Wild Card game, and the Blue Jays will be watching the postseason from their respective couches.

Jordan Montgomery got the start in today’s game, throwing 62 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up just 2 hits, a walk, and a run and struck out 3 Toronto batters. He held them off for most of the game until the 4th inning, giving up a 1-out walk and single to put runners in the corners before a sacrifice fly scored the lead runner to get the Blue Jays on the board.

Just reinstated off the DL today, Adam Warren took over for Montgomery in the 6th and breezed his way through the next 3 outs (and into the 7th inning) in just 13 pitches. Domingo German was up next, asked to get the next 5 outs. German had an issue in the 8th inning when the lead-off batter struck out on a wild pitch and made it safely to 1st (I still don’t get this weird loophole). He then moved to 2nd on a walk, then to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt, and then scored on a ground out. Ben Heller breezed through the 9th in just 14 pitches.

Meanwhile, the Yankees weren’t exactly sending balls out of the park today. With the Blue Jays leading in the 4th, the Yankees didn’t answer back until the 7th inning with Matt Holliday’s 1-out solo home run deep into the left field seats to tie up the game at that point. Bird then worked a walk and ended up at 3rd on Andujar’s double, but 2 ground outs later and their best shot at jumping ahead left both runners stranded on the bases.

They didn’t get another shot at tying the game or taking the lead. On the other hand, it was very strange way to lose a game for the Yankees. According to those who know such things, it was the first time they lost at home when they allowed 2 hits or fewer since August 1979.

Final score: 2-1 Blue Jays, Yankees win series 2-1

The Yankees end their 2017 season with 91 wins and 71 losses and will start their journey towards the #28 on Tuesday night in the Wild Card game against the Twins. The game will be held at Yankee Stadium as they ended the season 6 games ahead of the Twins.

Before today’s game, the Yankees presented Aaron Judge with a special award to commemorate his rookie home run record. They awarded him with a specially designed glass gavel. Judge, who did not play in today’s game, ended his rookie season with 52 home runs. He also joins Red Sox great Ted Williams (back in 1939) in the record books as only the second rookie to score at least 100 runs, hit at least 100 RBIs, and work at least 100 walks. But by now, we’re rather used to seeing Judge’s name tightly woven with baseball’s legends.

And in more positive news, the Yankees announced today that they will be expanding their netting at both Yankee Stadium and Steinbrenner Field in Tampa (where they play their home Spring Training games) for the upcoming 2018 season. Plans aren’t fully finalized, but the netting is said to be in place prior to any official home games to further protect fans from dangerous incidents like the one just a few weeks ago with the little girl.

Postseason prep: All the games are wrapping up for this season as I post this, and as everyone has a day off before October baseball really begins, I’ll do a much deeper post in preparation for the postseason. This will include my predictions on the onset, the only time during the year I will publicly make postseason predictions. I must be a glutton for punishment because I am always wrong. Because baseball really is rather unpredictable, especially in the postseason.

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!

Games 89 & 90: NYY vs. BOS — Let’s split 2, #CCStrong, & finally shut out

The first game of today’s doubleheader was a make-up game from the rain out on April 25. But after last night’s marathon 16 innings, it was bound to be a long finish to this weekend’s rivalry series at Fenway.

Game 1:
For the afternoon game, the Yankees turned almost at the last-minute to veteran starter CC Sabathia who had a truly great outing this afternoon, coming off his recent stint on the DL. He threw 97 pitches in his 6 innings, gave up just 2 hits, 5 walks, and no runs, striking out 3 batters along the way. Plus, he set himself up for the win, his 8th of the season actually.

The Yankees needed the likes of veteran reliable starters like this vintage Sabathia to give the exhausted bullpen a chance to recoup some of its strength. And he did. Clippard and Green kept the scoreless streak alive through the 7th and 8th innings, and Chapman’s 9th was strong enough to earn him the save and continue the momentum of the game.

The Yankees’ hitters managed to hit quite a bit off the Red Sox’s pitchers in the first game today, a total of 12 hits. However, they only managed to break through the defense in two innings. In the 4th, with 1 out, the Yankees loaded the bases with a single, an error, and another single. Ji-Man Choi’s sacrifice fly scored Gregorious to get a run on the board, and then Ronald Torreyes’ single scored Frazier to double the score. Despite the bases being loaded with a hit-by-pitch, they ended up grounding out to end the rally. Didi Gregorius added an insurance run in the 5th, a 2-out solo home run into the right field seats.

Final score: 3-0 Yankees

Game 2:
About 4 hours later, it was time for the regularly scheduled game, the rare late Sunday night game. And the Yankees called on another veteran starter to try to extend the life of the bullpen. Masahiro Tanaka definitely helped with the bullpen, and his outing was actually pretty good overall. He threw 112 pitches into the 8th inning, gave up 8 hits, no walks, and 3 runs, striking out 9 Boston batters.

In the 3rd, a 1-out single scored as part of a 2-out 2-run home run to give the Red Sox the lead. And then in the 6th, a lead-off single ended up at 2nd on a throwing error, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on an RBI single. But that would be it for the Red Sox. Even as Chasen Shreve closed out the 8th with a 5-pitch strikeout to make it an even 10 for the Yankee pitchers this game.

All that was needed was for the Yankee batters to do something. And normally, off this particular starter, they can and do. But while they got 8 total hits, they didn’t do much else with that. They also racked up 10 strikeouts, but they were unable to find a hole in the defense large enough to walk home.

And thus, the Yankees became the final team this season to be shut out of a game. It took 90 games, but someone had to do it. Somehow, it’s only fitting that it’s the Red Sox.

Final score: 3-0 Red Sox

Final series outcome: Red Sox and Yankees split the series 2-2.

In roster moves: before the doubleheader, the Yankees transferred Michael Pineda from the 10-day to the 60-day disabled list due to the partial tear in his right UCL (elbow). The Yankees selected the contract of reliever Caleb Smith and recalled Domingo German and Bryan Mitchell (who was scheduled to be their 26th man) from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In their place, they optioned Jonathan Holder and Ben Heller back, due to their extensive work in last night’s game.

But I wouldn’t put down roots there just yet. Keep the “Scranton Shuttle” fired up and ready. They’ll be more roster moves before the Yankees start their series in Minnesota.

Also, our hearts go out to the family of legendary Hall-of-Fame broadcaster Bob Wolff. Wolff passed away Saturday at his home in New York at the age of 96. He is the voice that called the Don Larsen perfect game in 1956 and is still the current World Record holder for the longest broadcasting career, awarded in 2014. The passing of another iconic voice in the sports world is always a sad day, closing another chapter of the great past and legacy of this team.

Go Yankees!

Game 82: TOR vs. NYY — #Happy4th and #SirDidi4Sure

Happy Independence Day, America!

This day has a few moments of significance for “America’s team”. In 1983, pitcher Dave Righetti threw a no-hitter against Boston, the first since 1951. And in 1939, Lou Gehrig gave his memorable “Luckiest Man” speech in honor of his retirement and Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day. Also, it’s the birthday of the late George Steinbrenner and long-time Yankees radio broadcaster John Sterling.

And today, they hosted the Blue Jays for their second game (of three) in this first series this week in the Bronx. CC Sabathia, recently activated from his stint on the DL, had a great start to his outing — he threw 34 pitches to sail through his first 8 batters. And then he got into trouble with a walk and wild pitch that put his first allowed runner in scoring position to do so on an RBI single.

But then he loaded the bases with a single and walk. Sabathia was in a jam. It didn’t help that he couldn’t seem to pitch his way out of it — he walked in a run and then gave up a single that scored 2 more runs. That would be it for Sabathia’s return to the mound — throwing 63 total pitches in less than 3 full innings and setting himself up for the loss.

Also coming off the disabled list today, Adam Warren came on to close out the 3rd inning for Sabathia, needing 6 pitches to get that 3rd out of the inning. But that brought everything back to how Sabathia began the game this afternoon. Luis Cessa gave some long-term relief, easing his way into the 8th inning, giving up just 5 hits along the way but keeping the Jays from adding to their lead. Chasen Shreve closed out the 8th inning and handed over the game to Tyler Clippard for a solid 9th inning.

But it would not be enough that the bullpen had itself a strong inning if the Yankees’ offense didn’t kick it up a notch. And they really didn’t, only managing 4 total hits and 3 walks off the Blue Jays staff, despite driving up the pitch count on the starter. The only run the Yankees scored today came from a 4th inning lead-off solo home run from (who else?) Aaron Judge that actually dented the stadium.

Final score: 4-1 Blue Jays

Roster moves: Before the game, the Yankees activated CC Sabathia and Adam Warren from the 10-day disabled list, optioning Domingo German and Bryan Mitchell back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. After the game, the Yankees designated Chris Carter for assignment (again) and selected the contract of Ji-Man Choi (who we saw in Spring Training in March). There is a lot of talk about the Yankees being on the hunt for a more permanent 1st baseman, especially if things don’t look good for Bird, and with the trade deadline coming up, I imagine there might be a few more moves to see what can work for the Yankees in the long-run.

And in All-Star Game news: As of today, Didi Gregorius is currently 3rd in the final fan voting, so let’s make it happen, Yankee Universe. Vote via text (up to 35 times) or Twitter (using the hashtag #SirDidi4Sure) or online (unlimited times). So go vote for Gregorius before the voting ends Thursday, July 6 at 3:59 pm EST!

Go Yankees! And Happy 4th!

Game 80: NYY vs. HOU — Still not shut out, strong ASG representation, #SirDidi4Sure

Well, it was quite the sell-out game for the 41,761 at Minute Maid Park this afternoon. There was still quite the contingency of Yankees’ fans amid the Astros’ orange, but the ones in orange certainly had a better outcome.

In this final game in Houston, with the series split, the Yankees were looking to narrowing the lead the Astros currently have on the AL. It didn’t happen. Luis Severino had a pretty rough start for him, throwing 87 pitches into the 6th inning. He gave up 9 hits, a walk, and 6 runs, and still struck out 7 batters along the way, even getting out of several tight jams.

In the 2nd, a former Yankee led-off with a double and then scored as part of a big 2-run home run to start the Astros’ big afternoon. Two outs later and a runner on 2nd with a double, another double scored that runner to solidify the Astros’ lead. In the 4th, Severino loaded up the bases, and with 2 outs, a double scored 2 more runs for the home team. After an out and a double, Severino’s afternoon was done.

It was on to Tyler Webb for relief, though Severino was responsible for that runner he left standing on 2nd. A walk and fielder’s choice put runners on the corners before a single scored one more run (that runner of Severino’s). Domingo German took over in the 7th and had a bit of trouble initially. His lead-off batter singled and then ended up at 3rd after a wild pitch and bad throwing error. Then with one out, a 2-run home run capped off the Astros’ big afternoon. His 8th inning was much smoother.

The Yankees managed to rack up the pitch count of the Astros’ starter, pushing him to 105 pitches in just 4 innings, but they certainly didn’t manage any runs. They got on base, but couldn’t do anything about it. The first three relievers had a bit better luck against the Yankees’ roster, and the Yankees were in danger of being shut out for their first game all season.

But no, they may not be able to come back enough for a win, but they sure weren’t going to be shut out of today’s game. Chase Headley led off the 9th inning with a double and then scored on Chris Carter’s shattered bat single. After pinch-hitter Refsnyder walked, that pitcher was given the hook and replaced with one who breezed through the final 2 batters for a double play and strikeout to end the game.

Final score: 8-1 Astros, Astros win series 2-1.

It’s official. Aaron Judge is an All-Star. Of course, we’ve known this for a while, but it’s nice that everyone else understands this fact too. But Judge isn’t the only Yankee headed to Miami in just 9 days. Joining the rookie All-Star will be Dellin Betances, Luis Severino, Gary Sanchez, and Starlin Castro. And now, possibly Didi Gregorius.

While Judge was the only fan-elected starter (and with 4,488,702 votes, he led all other AL starters by far), the new system of filling out the rosters is a mix of player-elected ballots and MLB-selected players. Sanchez and Castro were chosen as reserve players in their positions by their fellow players, as were Betances and Severino to pitch during the Midsummer Classic.

Here’s how the votes happened to fill out the roster: we know that the fans voted for their selected starters. But instead of the managers choosing their respective teams to fill out the reserves and pitching staff, the league’s players were responsible for choosing the 16 reserves (8 pitchers and a backup for each position, plus a DH for the AL) Then the commissioner’s office at MLB HQ chose 4 more pitchers for each league and 3 more position players for the NL and 1 for the AL. This was to make sure each team has at least one representative.

The final spot is now up to the fans again in the Final Fan Vote. And in the AL, one nominee is Didi Gregorius. I’ve already started voting, as you can vote as often as you’d like online, using Twitter, or via text. So #SirDidi4Sure!

Congrats to all the All Stars, but especially to our strong showing that will represent us well in Miami in just over a week! Also, no, Judge has made no announcement if he will do the Home Run Derby the day before the All-Star Game. Maybe if we ask him nicely?

Go Yankees!

Game 75: NYY vs. CHW — Last-second loss in Second City

The Yankees are now 37-1 when leading in the 9th inning, thanks to tonight’s game. And up until then things were looking rather hopeful in this second game (of four) of this series on the south side of Chicago.

Honestly, Luis Severino threw a beautiful game tonight — 105 pitches in 7 innings, giving up 6 hits, no walks, and a single run, and striking out a whopping 12 White Sox batters. Easily one of his more dominant starts. In the 3rd, a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a 1-out single and then scored on a 2-out double to get the first run on the board.

Meanwhile, the Yankees offense was a bit stymied by the White Sox’s starter, only getting 2 hits but 4 walks off him, so they weren’t exactly advancing much. In fact, they didn’t do much until the second reliever they faced in the 8th inning.

With 1 out, the Yankees called on pinch-hitter (and recent call-up) Tyler Wade (making his MLB debut). Wade ended up working a walk and moved to 2nd on Ellsbury’s single. After another out, Aaron Judge broke the stalemate with a single and scored Wade to tie up the game. Then it would be Gary Sanchez’s solid double to score both Ellsbury and Judge for a little cushion. But that would be all the Yankees would get all game.

Domingo German came on for the Yankees in the 8th, now that Severino was on the hook for the win. All he had to do was breeze through 3 outs. But that seemed to be a bit difficult as he threw just 10 pitches to 2 batters, 8 of which were balls to walk both batters. So, with no outs, the Yankees called on Tyler Clippard.

Clippard needed an opportunity to get back on track, and tonight seemed to be the night. Despite loading the bases with a walk, he got a great strikeout and a fly out to get the Yankees’ hopes up. Another walk scored the lead runner, putting the White Sox within 1 run of the Yankees’ lead before getting a much-needed strikeout to end the rally right there (and excite Girardi, which almost never happens during a regular game).

And had this been the 9th inning, this would have been a great game. But it wasn’t, so it wasn’t.

The Yankees turned to Dellin Betances, who seemed to follow the suit of the bullpen recently. With 1 out, Betances loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a hit-by-pitch. After a fly out put both teams on the edge of their seats, Betances gave a single that scored 2 runners — the tying run and the winning one. A walk-off single to hand the White Sox the win.

Final score: 4-3 White Sox

Roster moves: After yesterday’s game and tests, the Yankees placed Starlin Castro on the 10-day disabled list with a right hamstring strain. So they selected the contract of Tyler Wade from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and called him up to make his debut with the Yankees tonight. They also optioned reliever Jonathan Holder to Scranton and recalled Tyler Webb for a fresh bullpen arm.

And in a brief follow-up from the draft earlier this month, the Yankees have signed 22 of their 40 draftees (numbers 1-17, 19-22, and 27), including their top 2 picks — Clarke Schmidt and Matt Sauer. Schmidt is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, but is looking forward to getting back into baseball, this time as part of the Yankees organization.

The future continues to look bright for the Yankees, even if the present is somewhat a bit disappointing at times. And that’s what carries us through the disappointing moments in life — hope. A belief that it certainly can’t stay bad. That the future is still filled with unlimited possibilities, the best option being another championship run, even a new dynasty. And with the Yankees, it’s never a matter of “if”, but “when”.

Go Yankees!

Game 70: LAA vs. NYY — So maybe… and not so much…

Things were looking so good. And then they weren’t. Perhaps it was indicative of how the recent week has been. Or perhaps it’s the end of whatever bad luck lingers from the West Coast trip, brought to New York by the West Coast-based Angels as they finished up this mid-week series.

Luis Severino had a rare mixed bag for tonight’s start. He threw 99 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up 8 hits, 2 walks, and 6 runs (only 5 earned), and struck out just 5 batters. His 2nd pitch found its way into the left field seats to put the Angels on the board early in this game. And in the 3rd, with 2 outs and runners on the corners, consecutive singles scored 2 more runners.

Then Severino buckled down and threw a few more typical innings for him. Until the 6th inning, a lead-off double scored on a single. A single and error in the 7th put runners on the corners, but Severino’s night was done. But he was still responsible for both runners (except not really, because of the error).

Chasen Shreve took over for Severino and got a sacrifice fly who scored the first runner in just 3 pitches. Dellin Betances took over next, but had his own share of issues. The runner at 1st stole 2nd and ended up at 3rd on a throwing error before scoring on a single. Then after a walk, Betances got a nice strikeout, but then a double scored 2 more runs to push the Angels even more in the lead.

Domingo German came on for the final 2 innings. With 1 out in the 8th, he gave up a double, a wild pitch, and a walk. But then German’s pick-off error scored the lead runner moving the other runner all the way to 3rd where he scored on a sacrifice fly to cap off the Angels’ big run-scoring evening.

And despite all that, the Yankees actually started the game really well. In the bottom of the 1st, with 2 outs and 2 runners on base with walk, Starlin Castro’s single scored Judge to tie up the game. In the 2nd, with 1 out, Carter doubled and moved to 3rd on Torreyes’ single. A fielder’s choice (these are almost always failed double plays) on Brett Gardner’s hit scored Carter. Then with Hicks also on base with a single, Aaron Judge was set up for a monster 3-run home run, his 25th of the season, just straight up to Monument Park.

But with the Yankees unable to find their offensive footing beyond this early rally, and their pitchers suffering with a weird inability to be able to keep the Angels from retaking the lead and then taking over the game, it was just not going to be a better outcome tonight for the Yankees. That late-inning rally never did materialize tonight.

Final score: 10-5 Angels, Angels win series 2-1

The Yankees will face the Rangers for a weekend series starting tomorrow night. But this will also include many celebrations leading up to the Old Timers’ Game on Sunday. Again, it’s time to get back on the winning track, and maybe the presence of winning legends from championship teams will rub off and help the current team out a bit.

Go Yankees!