ALCS 2: NYY vs. HOU, NLDS 1: CHC vs. LAD — Home field advantage?

Another day where home field advantage meant both nothing and everything. Once again, the Yankees are playing like the postseason we all knew they were, only to be edged out at the very end by the Astros… again. And on the West Coast, the Cubs found out why the Dodgers have the best record in the league.

Game 1: ALCS — Yankees at Astros
Honestly, it was quite the pitching duel between the Yankees and Astros for a good portion of the game. Both starters gave up just 1 run each to tie up the game for most of it. Let me be perfectly frank, the Astros’ starter is a recent acquisition and former foe of the Yankees in previous postseasons. And I haven’t seen a postseason starter this strong since the Giants’ ace in the 2014 postseason. The Astros’ starter threw 124 pitches in the full 9 innings, striking out 13 Yankee batters, and only giving up 5 hits and a walk.

The Yankees got on the board in the 5th. With 2 outs, Aaron Hicks hit a solid double and then scored when Todd Frazier hit a ground-rule double. The best part about Frazier’s double was that the ball flew out of the stadium and then lodged itself in the chain-link fence by the Yankees bullpen in center field. Now, it was about 10 feet up from the ground and about 10 feet below that tell-tale yellow line that circles the stadium to signify how high a ball must travel to be counted as a home run. The center fielder tried throwing his glove up to dislodge it, and most long-term Astros’ associates and beat reporters have never seen a ball lodged there before.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were a little hurt when their starter was a little hurt. Luis Severino got the start and was very sharp again. He threw 62 pitches through his 4 innings, giving up just 2 hits and 2 walks, but not striking out any Houston batters. His lone allowed run came in the 4th when a long ball landed in a kid’s glove right at the top of the right field wall for a home run. Judge seeing the kid, slowed down and braced himself for impact against the wall. I believe that had that been an adult (like the kid’s dad) instead, Judge would have jumped and grabbed that ball back. An umpire review proved that the ball was definitely out, the kid’s glove was right at the top of the wall not over into the field. But Judge’s caution due to it being a kid was clearly evident.

But after 4 innings, Severino was having shoulder issues on his throwing arm. He said he felt fine, but the shoulder just wasn’t loosening up. And with Severino’s potential for some great outings in the future, the Yankees weren’t taking any chances and pulled him. Of course, Severino wanted to stay in and finish his job like a professional, but the bullpen was ready to do their job and do it well in such cases. And there didn’t seem to be anything obviously wrong upon some initial tests, but they will keep an eye on him over the next few days.

Tommy Kahnle breezed his way through the next 2 innings, and David Robertson got the next 2 innings. Both relievers kept the Astros from adding to their score and the game stayed tied, both waiting for the Yankees’ breakthrough that just never came. As once again, they just ran out of outs.

In the bottom of the 9th, the sold out crowd of hometown fans got what was clearly their wish, as Aroldis Chapman clearly did not. Their star player hit a solid 1-out single and then when the next guy doubled, the Astros’ star raced all the way from 1st to slide in home. Judge fielded the ball in right field and fired it to Gregorius at 2nd (who sort of stumbled over the runner sliding into 2nd for his double). Gregorius, unable to make the play at 2nd, fired the ball to Gary Sanchez at home, but either due to Gregorius’ stumble or Sanchez’s over-excitement. But Sanchez dropped the ball as he was trying to make the tag at home.

Final score: 2-1 Astros, Astros lead series 2-0

Game 2: NLCS — Cubs at Dodgers
Both starters in the first game of the NLCS were pretty evenly matched, going 5 innings each, throwing 87-89 pitches, giving up minimal hits (2-4) and walks (1-2), striking out 4 batters, and each giving up 2 runs. And that makes sense as the Cubs’ starters and power-hitters are pretty comparable to the Dodgers.

In the 4th, the Cubs got on the board first with a lead-off single and then scored as part of a 2-run home run. But the Dodgers tied it up in the bottom of the 5th. With 1 out, they worked 2 walks who then both scored on a double and sacrifice fly to tie up the game. So it would be down to the bullpen for the difference of the game. And that’s where the Dodgers clearly outshone the visiting Cubs, keeping the Cubs to those 2 runs.

In the 6th, the Dodgers led-off with a solo home run to break the tie. And then did it again in the 7th. With runners in the corners thanks to a double and single (and another new reliever), a single score another run. But initially, the run was declared out. The Dodgers challenged the call on a possible violation of the home plate collision rule, and it was overturned. Of course, that made the Cubs manager hopping mad, and he hopped right out of the game when he was ejected. Much to the delight of the home crowd in LA.

Final score: 5-2 Dodgers, Dodgers lead series 1-0

The Dodgers-Cubs continue tomorrow (Sunday) for Game 2 in their series. And the Yankees head back to the Bronx to hopefully redeem the series (starting Monday). The Yankees are still 4 wins or 2 losses away from either going to the World Series or watching it from their couches.

Go Yankees!

ALDS 4: HOU vs. BOS & CLE vs. NYY, NLDS 3: WAS vs. CHC & LAD vs. ARI — Halfway to a Championship Series

Two Championship Series teams are ready to go, and two are still battling it out. And two teams are now officially in their off-season.

Game 1: Astros at Red Sox
It took over four hours, a managerial ejection, and 4 starters to determine this afternoon’s game. Both teams sent in 2 starters for long-term stints to try to push their respective causes — the Red Sox needing to win to stay alive for Game 5, and the Astros ready to win to close out this series and focus on the next. After the Astros got on the board in the first when a lead-off double scored on double play, the Red Sox answered back with a 1-out solo home run.

The Astros’ lead-off triple in the 2nd scored on a 2-out single, putting them ahead by a slim margin. The Red Sox found their opportunity to strike back in the 5th. A 1-out walk ended the Astros’ starter’s outing and the reliever promptly gave up a 2-run home run to put the Red Sox in the lead for the first time today. But then the Astros bounced back with a lead-off solo shot in the 8th to tie up the game. And then they continued their push forward. A batter ended up singling on fan interference, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on an RBI single. They added another one in the 9th when a hit-by-pitch later scored on a 2-out double for the insurance run they would need.

In a last-ditch effort, the Red Sox had the final half-inning to make up the difference to say alive. It was suddenly electric at Fenway when the lead-off hitter hit an inside the park home run after the Astros’ outfielder had trouble fielding the long hit ball. But then the Astros’ closer ended the Fenway faithful’s hopes, as the rain dripped into the stadium and the stadium organist played what can only be described as funeral music.

Final score: 5-4 Astros, Astros win series 3-1, Astros advances to ALCS

Game 2: Nationals at Cubs
Another pitchers’ duel between these two teams keeps things interesting and tight in this series. And rather short, just over 3 hours. Both starters pitched well into the game with minimal offense allowed. It really is a rather well-matched series. It wasn’t until the 6th inning that the Nationals broke through the scoreless game. With 2 outs, a batter ended up all the way at 3rd by a single fielder making 2 errors in a single play. He then scored on a double when the first reliever came into the game.

But this kind of game keeps things far too close, and an unearned run wasn’t going to go unanswered for long. In the bottom of the 7th, a Cubs batter hit a 1-out double. And with the Nationals going to their bullpen, a similar thing happened — a single scored that runner to tie up the game. In the 8th, the Cubs came back again to break the tie. A lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt. After a strikeout and a new reliever, another Cubs’ batter singled to score that runner, but then ended up getting thrown out going for 2nd to end the inning.

Final score: 2-1 Cubs, Cubs lead series 2-1

Game 3: Indians at Yankees
The Yankees weren’t about to let the Indians take the series, at least not on their home turf. Which came at a slight advantage to them when the Indians couldn’t pitch or defend tonight for anything. Meanwhile, Luis Severino held the Indians off enough for the Yankees to do something amazing. Severino threw a solid 113 pitches in his 7 innings, gave up just 4 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and struck out 9 batters. Actually, all of his allowed runs were off home runs — a 2-out walk and 2-run homer in the 4th, and a 1-out solo shot in the 5th. Dellin Betances had trouble in the 8th, walking his 2 batters, so the Yankees opted for a surprising choice — Tommy Kahnle — for the final 6 outs of the game. Of those 6 outs, 5 of those were strikeouts. Kahnle was just as strong as we’ve seen him all year.

On the flip side, the Indians couldn’t pitch or defend their way out of a paper bag tonight. Their starter (on short rest from Game 1) only pitched into the 2nd inning, but the Indians went through 7 relievers. In the 2nd inning, the Yankees started their offensive dominance thanks to some defensive incompetence. With 1 out, Castro made it safely to 1st on a fielding error. He moved to 2nd on a passed ball and then scored on Todd Frazier’s double. Frazier then scored on Aaron Hicks’ single, who then moved to 3rd on Gardner’s single. After Gardner moved to 2nd on a stolen base, both he and Hicks scored on Aaron Judge’s double.

And that was just the start of it. In the 3rd, Bird walked and moved to 3rd on Castro’s double, and with 1 out, Frazier worked a walk to load the bases. A ground out finally snapped the Indians’ defense into high gear and got the out at home, but kept the bases loaded. Brett Gardner hit into what should be an easy grounder, but once again, a throwing error worked into the Yankees’ advantage, scoring Castro for an extra run.

And into the 5th inning, Frazier hit a small grounder that was fielded by the pitcher and poorly thrown to the waiting 1st baseman, ending with Frazier at 2nd due to that throwing error. Frazier moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly. And Gary Sanchez hit a big 1-out solo home run to cap off the Yankees’ offense tonight.

Final score: 7-3 Yankees, series tied 2-2

Game 4: Dodgers at Diamondbacks
The NL is traditionally known for its pitchers, and both NLDS games featured some pretty good pitching. Both pitchers in this late game threw into the 6th inning, though the better outing was easily on the Dodgers’ side. That included the offense too. The Dodgers led-off the game with a double that later scored on a ground out. Later, they doubled that scored with a 2-out solo home run.

The Diamondbacks did their best to come back, but the Dodgers’ pitching staff was really good today, showing why the Dodgers were the best team in the league. The D-backs got a single shot with a 2-out solo home run in the 5th inning to get them on the scoreboard. The Dodgers, however, answered back in the 6th with a lead-off solo home run.

Final score: 3-1 Dodgers, Dodgers sweep series 3-0, advance to NLCS

So, there we have it: the Astros and Dodgers each await the results of the other 2 Division Series to see who they’ll face off in the next series. Yankees pushed a Game 5, and the Cubs-Nationals are going to duke it out to the end.

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!

Game 157: TB vs. NYY — Hicks’ theft & Yankee offense keep division hopes alive

Well, that certainly helps matters this postseason. The Yankees are looking to collect as many wins as possible this final week, these final 6 games. So tonight was a very good start.

Jordan Montgomery got the start in tonight’s opener against the visiting Rays. He threw 79 pitches in his 6 innings, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and a lone run, and struck out 5 Rays batters. And except for a pretty sloppy 1st inning, Montgomery actually reined it in and set up the Yankees for the eventual win.

In the 1st inning, Montgomery gave up 2 singles and a walk to quickly load up the bases with no outs. He finally got a well-placed strikeout to start the momentum for the Yankees. But it would be another Yankee that would really flip the switch. Again, the bases are loaded, so the next batter hit a big, long fly ball right over the wall by the Yankees’ bullpen. And that would be detrimental except for Aaron Hicks, who leapt, reached over, and brought that ball back over the wall to remove the potential grand slam and flip it into a sacrifice fly. So the Rays scored 1 run (rather than 4), and the Yankees were just getting started.

The final third of the game was split between the strong Yankee bullpen that’s just been dynamic this season. Kahnle and Robertson shut the Rays down through the 7th and 8th innings, and Dellin Betances breezed his way through a 7-pitch 9th inning to effectively end the Rays’ hopes completely.

The Rays’ starter has been having a pretty good season. But whatever he did this season certainly didn’t transfer up to the Bronx tonight. He only pitched into the 2nd inning. And the Yankees just got to him in that 2nd inning and didn’t let up tonight. Starlin Castro kicked off the inning with a solo home run to instantly tie up the game. But then 3 consecutive singles to both Fraziers and Torreyes loaded up the bases. With hopes for the dramatic alive, the Aarons were up next, but they both rather anti-climatically worked walks [Note: only Hicks’ walk is available, though Judge’s one looked rather similar as it’s a walk] to walk in both Fraziers.

And with still no outs, the Rays couldn’t bear it and pulled their starter right there in the 2nd inning. Their first reliever got Sanchez to line into a double play and get Hicks to double off 2nd to finally get a couple of outs on the board. A wild pitch scored Torreyes, but a fly out ended the Yankees monster inning.

The Rays’ bullpen did a better job keeping the Yankees from adding to their score for most of the game after that. But in the 8th, they found another opportunity. In the 8th with 1 out, Torreyes worked a walk, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, and ended up at 3rd on a ground out. Judge worked a walk, and then Gary Sanchez’s single scored Torreyes and moved Judge to 3rd. Matt Holliday’s single then scored Judge to cap off the Yankees’ offense tonight. [Note: Holliday’s RBI video is also missing, but it’s a standard play. You’ve seen him hit plenty before.]

Final score: 6-1 Yankees

Roster moves: Obviously, the Yankees activated Aaron Hicks off the disabled list before tonight’s game. Coming off an oblique injury, Hicks proved absolutely vital to tonight’s game right from the start with that insane catch and then got on base 3 times by working 3 walks, one of those walking in an RBI. So, clearly, everyone is glad to see Hicks again. (Except maybe the Rays.)

Postseason prep: So many things happened as a result of tonight’s games. First, the Red Sox lost their game tonight to the Blue Jays, leaving that particular magic number at 3 games. But this also makes the Yankees just 3 games behind them in the standings. Hope is still alive for that division title.

Now, should the Yankees not beat the Red Sox in the division, with tonight’s win, they have secured home field advantage for the Wild Card game. As to the 2nd Wild Card spot, that is still technically open. Tonight, the Royals, Rangers, and Rays have all been eliminated for that spot. That leaves the Angels, who face elimination in one more loss or one more Twins’ win. In other words, chances are with the Twins being that 2nd Wild Card spot. But which East Coast stadium they’ll be vying for the Wild Card spot is still very much up for grabs.

In other words, who knows? So, we’re still rooting on the Blue Jays tomorrow!

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 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 147: BAL vs. NYY — Didi’s RBI gem backs #SevySharp

It took just 2 hours and 38 minutes for the Yankees to close the book on tonight’s game against the visiting Orioles. And that is primarily due to a dominant show by tonight’s starter, and the Yankees’ offense sparking at all the right times once again.

Luis Severino was once again showing why he’s become the most reliable starter of the 2017 season. He threw 95 pitches in his 8 innings, gave up 3 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and struck out just 7 Baltimore batters. I realize that using “just” there seems a little weird there, but Severino is a strikeout machine. So anything less than one per inning seems low for a pitcher like Severino. The only allowed runs for the Orioles came in the 2nd inning, when a 2-out walk scored as part of a solid 2-run home run into the right field seats.

That all set up Severino for his 13th win of the season. David Robertson came on for the 9th inning and certainly worked hard to get those 3 outs, despite giving up a walk, keeping the O’s from adding to their score.

Meanwhile, the Yankees got on the board first. Gardner led-off the 1st inning with a double, moved to 3rd on Sanchez’s 1-out single, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ sacrifice fly. Headley led-off the 2nd with a single, moved to 2nd on Holliday’s 1-out single, and then scored when Bird hit into a failed force attempt and fielding error.

And the game was tied. So, they found their next opening in the 5th, when Judge worked a 1-out walk. Then with the Orioles’ starter out of the game and a new reliever in, Judge stole 2nd. After another out, Didi Gregorius hit a big 2-run home run to double the Yankees’ score.

But the Yankees weren’t done yet. In the 7th, Bird led-off with a walk, and Gardner reached on a force attempt and fielding error. After a new reliever came into the game, Judge worked a walk to load up the bases. Gary Sanchez singled to score Bird, keeping the bases loaded.

And the Orioles went back to their bullpen for a new reliever, who gave up another sacrifice fly (the first out of the inning) to Gregorius (his 4th RBI of the night) to score Gardner. After a second out, Chase Headley singled to score Judge, but the Orioles remembered how to defend and got Sanchez out running for 3rd. Greg Bird capped off the Yankees’ offense tonight with a big 2-out solo home run into the 2nd deck of right field in the 8th.

Final score: 8-2 Yankees

Before tonight’s game, the Yankees honored the memory of Gene “Stick” Michael. They took a moment of silence, played a nice commemorative video, and former Yankees placed flowers at home plate. The Yankee grounds crew also put a #17 in the infield grass; 17 was Stick’s jersey number when he coached for the team. Currently, its legacy continues on today on the back of Matt Holliday.

Injury news: Todd Frazier was out of tonight’s line-up due to some back stiffness. But it wasn’t so terrible as he was still available off the bench and is expected to be back at 3rd base sometime for the rest of this weekend series.

In other news, recently, the Yankees filed a complaint with the league citing that the Red Sox had been stealing signs during recent games. The Red Sox countered a complaint saying that the Yankees were doing the same thing. What made the Red Sox’s cheating different was that they were using technology like Apple watches to communicate the information. The Red Sox’s complaint was that the Yankees were using the YES Network feed to do something similar.

Okay, first of all, “stealing signs” is not new, nor is it outright banned in the league. It is certainly “frowned upon”, but it’s not illegal or novel in any sense. But using technology to do so takes it from something you probably shouldn’t do to feeling like outright cheating. Like accidentally seeing a friend’s test answers isn’t great, but it isn’t like using your phone to Google “what year was the Battle of Bunker Hill?” (FYI: 1775.)

Commissioner Rob Manfred concluded his investigation today and released his findings and discipline for both teams. The Red Sox have been fined an undisclosed amount for their use of technology to steal signs in August. The Yankees also received what was considered a lesser fine due to violating a rule about use of a dugout phone in a prior season. Both fines will be sent to relief efforts in Florida as the clean-up begins following the devastation of Hurricane Irma. MLB also warned that any team with similar violations will risk more serious disciplines than simple fines.

Also, the Yankees announced they will be donating $500,000 to help victims of Hurricane Irma — half will go to the American Red Cross, half to the Salvation Army. You can join the efforts by donating to a number of great recognized organizations like those or by donating online via MLB’s campaigns for both recent hurricanes.

Postseason Prep: the Indians snapped their “Windians” streak tonight, losing to the Royals at home 4-3. The 1916 NY Giants still hold the record for most consecutive wins at 26. Hey, it was bound to happen someday, and the Indians certainly have the AL Central sewn up.

And the Yankees are still awaiting word of what happens at the Trop tonight, where the Red Sox and Rays are (at the time of this posting) all tied up and in extra innings. A loss to the Red Sox (what I’m rooting for) means the Yankees are only 2 games behind them in the standings. A win means the Yankees are still 3 games back. So… Go, Rays! Go Rays all weekend long… like I said, I’m rooting for teams that will ultimately help the Yankees with a better shot in the postseason. And basically, that sums up to any team that plays the Red Sox over the next couple of weeks.

Because really, it’s always…

Go Yankees!