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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final score: 2-1 Mariners, in 11 innings

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

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

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

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

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

Go Yankees!

Game 120: NYY vs. NYM — Kings of New York in the #SubwaySeries

Call it a sweep either way, but the Yankees are the winners of the Subway Series. Light up the Empire State Building, celebrate with a pint at the local bar, and rest up. Because now the Yankees head to Fenway to face the red-hot Red Sox yet again.

And a good portion of why tonight’s game was so successful was thanks to starter Luis Severino (who still needs a proper hashtag, Yankee Universe). He threw 106 pitches into the 7th inning, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 1 unearned run, and struck out 9 Mets batters. That lone run came in the final inning for Severino, the 7th. With 1 out, a batter reached on a fielding error and then advanced all the way to 3rd on a messy wild pitch before scoring easily on a single.

So the Yankees turned to Chasen Shreve to close out the 7th and breeze his way through the 8th inning, adding 3 more strikeouts to the count.

The Yankees also gave Severino (and the rest of the pitching staff) a nice cushion with their offense that only sparked in 2 innings all night. In the 1st, Gardner led off and reached on a throwing error and Hicks worked a walk. Gary Sanchez then hit a 1-out 3-run home run to get the Yankees on the board early.

Then in the 4th, the Yankees loaded up the bases with singles by Austin, Torreyes, and Severino (yes, he pitches and hits!). Brett Gardner’s double scored 2 runs to keep the momentum going. With 1 out, the Yankees loaded up the bases again when Judge was hit by a pitch. That was the end of the Mets’ starter, but the first reliever gave up a single to Sanchez that scored 2 more runs for the Yankees.

And with that now hefty lead, the Yankees’ bullpen and defense spent the remainder of the game defending that. Any chances of adding to it were shut out by a surprisingly good showing by the Mets’ bullpen tonight.

So, into the bottom of the 9th, the Yankees needed just a quick 3 outs to get out with the game and earn that sweep. But Bryan Mitchell was having one of those days you don’t want to have in cases like this. He threw just 12 pitches, gave up a double, a single, and a walk to load up the bases before giving up a beautiful grand slam to a certain former Yankee. It put the Mets within striking distance, so the Yankees put a call into their bullpen for a life-preserver of sorts.

It would be Dellin Betances — 11 pitches, 3 outs, 8th save of the season. Game over, sweep won.

Final score: 7-5 Yankees, Yankees sweep Mets 4-0 (or 2-0 if you count the two 2-game series separately)

Injury news: Garrett Cooper was placed on the 10-day disabled list due to tendonitis in his left hamstring, after reporting some discomfort following yesterday’s game. In his place, the Yankees recalled Tyler Austin, who started tonight’s game at 1st base. Austin made his MLB debut with the Yankees a year ago this week, and is now back after battling injuries for most of this season — a broken ankle and strained hamstring.

And now, we’re off to Boston. Fingers crossed that we can narrow that 4 game lead in the AL East that the Red Sox currently hold over the Yankees. They’re also hoping to broaden their own lead in the Wild Card race.

Over halfway through August means that there’s only about 6 weeks left of the season, and the Yankees have made it clear that not making the postseason is a failed season. And with the loaded roster, it’s hard to believe the Yankees won’t make October baseball. It’s certainly still up in the air as to where they’ll land to play in the postseason. Only one team in the league is talking about being eliminated from contention right now, as most divisions are still very up in the air.

But isn’t that what makes this time of year kind of fun? The unknown is still very alive. Anything really is possible. And that’s just kind of wonderful.

Go Yankees!

{Personal note: Charlottesville, Sierra Leone, Barcelona, the USS Fitzgerald, and far too many places in this world… Cherish the moments you have and the people you are privileged to share them with; life is too short to cling to hate and anger and exist in placid passivity. Our hearts and prayers go out to all those who have lost loved ones in these recent tragedies.}

Game 119: NYY vs. NYM — #SubwaySeries victory tour continues in Queens

The Subway Series continued in Queens, before yet another sold-out crowd, their 5th one in 6 games (and the 6th one came within a few hundred seats of being another sell-out). And they decided to make things interesting before a New York hometown crowd.

Like the other newer starter yesterday, Jaime Garcia had a pretty good outing tonight. He threw 91 pitches into the 6th inning and gave up 5 hits, 3 walks, and 3 runs, striking out just 3 Mets batters. In the 1st, a lead-off double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a sacrifice fly to give the Mets a small early lead. Garcia held off the Mets for a time, later giving up a 2-out solo home run in the 5th. And in the 6th, with 2 runners on and just 1 out, Garcia’s night came to a close (with both those runners on his account).

Tommy Kahnle unfortunately promptly gave up a sacrifice fly that scored the lead runner (charged to Garcia), but then closed out the inning with a fly out, handing the game to Adam Warren. Warren sailed through 2 innings, adding 3 strikeouts of his own, in a rather strong showing for the now veteran bullpen staple. David Robertson’s 9th inning was everything we expect from tonight’s closer (see below), sewing up the game with 2 more strikeouts and his 14th save on the season.

Meanwhile, the Yankees played a bit of “tag” with the Mets for a good portion of the game. After the Mets scored in the 1st, the Yankees tied up the game in the 2nd when Chase Headley worked a walk, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, then to 3rd on a passed ball, and scored on Garrett Cooper’s ground out. Aaron Judge’s monster home run (all 457 feet into the upper deck in left field) led-off the 4th to put the Yankees in the lead.

Then the Mets caught up with the Yankees and tied up the game, so the Yankees forged ahead in the 6th, loading up the bases with a single and 2 walks. After the Mets’ starter left the game, Headley’s sacrifice fly scored lead-runner Judge to put the Yankees back on top.

When the game got tied up again in the bottom of the 6th, the Yankees weren’t about to just sit on their laurels. So in the 7th, Torreyes led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt, and then watched as the bases were loaded with Ellsbury and Hicks’ walks. After 1 out, Didi Gregorius hit a solid double into the corner of right field that scored 2 runs to give the Yankees the lead their strong bullpen wasn’t about to surrender.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees

Aroldis Chapman was unavailable to pitch today due to some tightness he felt in his hamstring during yesterday’s game. He’s hoping to avoid the disabled list, and the Yankees still consider him their primary closer. But with the likes of Betances and Robertson (who closed out the game tonight), the Yankees are not hurting for back-end of their bullpen.

In fact, their bullpen might be one of the strongest points of this season. Even when other parts weren’t clicking (like starting pitching or a lagging offense), the bullpen was able to often save the game from getting out of hand. I would even wager to say that the bullpen may be the primary reason the Yankees are still in contention for the postseason. Of course, it’s one of the few parts of the team that rarely gets a lot of attention, but those relievers are something else to watch, a crucial part of the team’s success story.

It’s so easy to overlook the players who don’t make the big splashy plays. Isn’t it like life though? It’s the little things, the under-the-radar moments, the ones that won’t make the headlines that matter the most. The so-called “small stuff” matters because it’s in that “small stuff” that we find consistency of character, the foundation for how to handle life’s “big stuff”, the moments that catch all the glory (or shame, as the case may be).

And in a team like the Yankees, we see things like persistence and perseverance and possibilities in the small stuff — the consistency of the middle relievers like Warren or Green, the strong but quiet defense of guys like Torreyes or Romine, or the flexibility and rally of Headley. So it’s no wonder the same stuff is then reflect in the big stuff — like a Judge or Sanchez homer, Gardner’s highlight reel outfield plays, or Chapman’s 103mph fastball.

Go Yankees!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final score: 11-5 Yankees

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

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

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

Go Yankees!

Game 111: NYY vs. TOR — Falling short North of the Border

The Yankees are north of the border for their mid-week series against the Blue Jays. And with the season beginning to wind down, the Yankees are looking for every game to put them in line for the postseason. Unfortunately, the last place in the AL East Blue Jays aren’t willing to go down easily.

CC Sabathia go the start and, thanks to a single batter who seemed to have his number, he threw a less-than-stellar outing. He threw 57 pitches in just 3 innings, giving up 6 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, striking out just 3 batters. In the 1st, Sabathia gave up a lead-off double, who moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt and then scored as part of a big 2-run home run to get Toronto on the board early. And a lead-off single in the 3rd scored as part of another 2-run home run (by the same player in the 1st inning) to double the Blue Jays’ score.

From there, the Yankees called on Bryan Mitchell for long-term relief, and he promptly threw a beautiful scoreless 4 innings. Mitchell kept the Blue Jays to their early lead in anticipation of the Yankees’ offense to catch-up and take-over. David Robertson’s 8th inning continued that momentum, again lying in wait for the Yankees’ fabled offense.

Fabled would be the right word tonight, as it seemed quite a bit stilted against the Toronto’s pitching staff. They had just two minor opportunities to play some small ball. In the 2nd, Headley led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Gregorius’ single, ended up at 3rd on a double play, and then scored on Garrett Cooper’s single.

Then in the 8th, consecutive Yankees (Sanchez and Headley) were hit by pitches and Todd Frazier worked a 1-out walk to load up the bases. It would be Cooper again for the RBI, this time a sacrifice fly {NOTE: no media link, sorry} to double the Yankees’ score and halve the Blue Jays’ lead.

But the Yankees didn’t have a last-minute rally in them, so dropped this first game in Toronto.

Final score: 4-2 Blue Jays

The Advanced-A Tampa Yankees are hosting their version of HOPE Week this week, starting today and running through Saturday. On the schedule are many amazing Tampa area organizations: the Lighthouse Center for Creative Learning, a school for children with autism; A Kid’s Place of Tampa Bay, a foster or transitional home for displaced children; Trinity Cafe, a proper restaurant that specifically serves the area’s homeless and hungry; the local chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation; and Tampa Yankees’ players, staff, and fans will participate in the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation’s “Cut for a Cure”, a fundraiser where kids (who also are cancer survivors) shave participants’ heads.

And in sad news, former ball player and manager Don Baylor passed away yesterday after a long struggle with multiple myeloma, a nasty blood cancer. He was just 68 years old. Baylor had a 19-year professional career with the Orioles, Athletics, Angels, Red Sox, Twins, and Yankees (1983-1985), an All-Star who also won an MVP Award and a World Series. He went on to manage the Rockies and Cubs, winning 1995 NL Manager of the Year, before retiring from baseball entirely 15 years ago around the time of his diagnosis. He was close to many in the game, even being a groomsman in Yankee teammate Dave Winfield’s 1988 wedding. Our hearts go out to his family, including his wife Rebecca. He will be missed.

Go Yankees!

Game 110: NYY vs. CLE — Series split & #SeverinoNeedsAHashtag

Luis Severino is really becoming the go-to guy for the Yankees when they need that crucial starter to get them the win. In other words, Severino is clearly the Yankees’ ace, and each game he pitches he further proves this.

Severino got the start in this afternoon’s game, the finale of this 4-game weekend series in Cleveland. He threw 107 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up just 2 hits, a walk, and a single run, striking out 9 Cleveland batters. The lone allowed run was a 2-out solo homer in the 1st, and then nothing else for the entire game.

After Severino set the pace for staying strong and keeping things close, Kahnle closed out the 7th inning in just 5 pitches. And then Warren and Shreve threw a pair of amazing innings to close out the game, both only throwing 14 pitches each.

Meanwhile, the Yankees didn’t get many chances for most of the starter’s outing until his final inning — the 6th. Gardner led-off with a single and moved to 3rd on Clint Frazier’s double. With 1 out, the Indians’ starter intentionally walked Judge to load up the bases. Chase Headley’s sacrifice fly scored Gardner to tie up the game. But once the bases were loaded up again after a walk to Todd Frazier, it would be Jacoby Ellsbury’s monster triple to clear the bases and put the Yankees nicely into the lead.

That would be it for the Indians’ starter, so they opened their bullpen. It didn’t stop the Yankees, as Ronald Torreyes promptly singled home Ellsbury. Then in the 7th, with a new reliever and 1 out, Clint Frazier walked and then moved to 3rd on Gregorius’ single. So Aaron Judge hit his 35th home run, a 3-run power blast to ensure the Yankees’ lead. The Yankees hit 12 hits off the Indians’ pitchers today, by far the highest offense day for the Yankees this series.

Final: 8-1 Yankees, Yankees split series 2-2.

Roster moves: The Yankees officially placed Matt Holliday on the 10-day DL due to “left lumbar strain” and recalled Garrett Cooper from AAA Scranton. Headed to Scranton is odd-man-out Jordan Montgomery. Despite his good outing yesterday, with the two new starters, someone had to leave the rotation, and it was going to be “the kid”, the rookie, who has plenty of time to work his way back into a starting spot again. The corresponding roster move has yet to be announced.

For all the talk we’ve had this series on the nicknames of Cleveland, I’m going to leave you with a personal note. The most time I’ve ever spent in Cleveland collectively has to be the airport. I’ve never lived in Ohio, but so much of my family has (up until recently). So I’ve traveled there quite often. I used to know the airport almost better than any other airport I’ve flown into/out of.

And while airports have always fascinated me, the CLE will always hold a special place for me because it meant I was going to see or had just seen my grandparents, who are no longer with us. Like many in my family, my grandparents were huge baseball fans — my grandmother was a diehard Indians’ fan, and my grandfather nearly played ball himself taught us all how to love the game in general. While he was certainly a long-time Indians’ fan, he also appreciated great players, with a special fondness for Mickey Mantle.

So, while this particular series is special and personal for me, it always serves to remind me of two people who made the “CLE”, the “Mistake on the Lake”, “Plum City”, “Forest City”, or “Believeland” something more than just another city, another team, another nickname. It was where my family lived, where they were from. And that is what made it something special.

Go Yankees!

 

Game 96: NYY vs. SEA — 3rd & 10th inning woes

Before a sell-out crowd in Seattle, the Yankees were looking for a third win in a row, but the Mariners weren’t about to be swayed by their bad record recently and certainly gave the Yankees a rather hard time in the process. Well, actually, save one inning early in the game, it was a Yankee-dominated game in most respects.

Masahiro Tanaka started tonight’s game and outside of that one aforementioned inning, he had a pretty great outing. Outside of that inning, he gave up just 2 hits in 5 innings, throwing just 58 pitches. But in the 3rd, he threw 39 pitches and gave up 5 hits and 4 runs.

A lead-off home run got the Mariners on the board, followed by another solo home run just an out later. Tanaka got another out, but then struggled to find that third out. A single and hit-by-pitch put a threat on base before the Mariners came in and got consecutive singles to score consecutive runs to double their score.

Other than that, Tanaka powered through and kept the Mariners at bay (sea-faring metaphoric pun intended). Green plowed through the 7th and kept the score as-is, but David Robertson’s 1st pitch in the 8th inning became a solo home run into the left field seats to add to the Mariners’ score. But then Robertson breezed through the next 3 batters, followed up by Kahnle in the 9th doing the same in 3 strikeouts.

Meanwhile, the Yankees did dominate quite a bit of the game. They even struck first in the 2nd. Gary Sanchez led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on Gregorius’ single, and then scored on a double play. In the 5th, Garrett hit a big 1-out triple and then scored on Ronald Torreyes’ sacrifice fly.

With 1 out and a new pitcher in the 6th, Aaron Judge hit his 32nd home run of the season into the right field seats. In the 8th, with 1 out, the Yankees loaded up the bases (including an intentional walk to Judge), but the only thing the Yankees could make happen in this scenario was a Matt Holliday sacrifice fly. In the 9th, Gregorious led-off with a walk and, 2 outs later, was pinch-run by Ellsbury. Ellsbury promptly stole 2nd and then scored on Torreyes’ single to tie up the game.

And into the 10th they went. The Yankees were shut down in order at the top of the inning, turning to Adam Warren to push things into the 11th. But Warren immediately struggled. Warren gave up a lead-off double and then intentionally walked the next batter. A single then scored the winning walk-off run to hand the victory to the Mariners.

Final score: 6-5 Mariners, in 10 innings

Roster moves: before the game, the Yankees announced that Starlin Castro would be headed to the 10-day disabled list due to a lingering hamstring issue, suffered initially in Minnesota on Wednesday. In his place, they recalled Tyler Wade.

The Yankees have one more game tomorrow in Seattle, their last game on the West Coast this season (at least during the regular season). Fingers crossed for a game win which means the first series win since early June.

Go Yankees!