Spring Game 12: NYY vs. PIT — Shaken, but not stirred

Well, the eked out days of losing games this Spring had to end some time. But it was just a terribly messy game and the score reflected just a weak show of pitching, fielding, and offense that we hadn’t seen from the Yankees in a real way at all this season. So, let’s hope this was an odd Monday quirk, a one-off thing.

The Yankees took on the Pirates again, this time at their Spring home in Bradenton (about an hour south of Steinbrenner Field), and it just wasn’t good from start to finish for the Yankees. The strength the Pirates showed yesterday was in full force this beautiful Monday afternoon, and it effectively shut the Yankees down and out almost from the beginning.

Honestly, the biggest issue was easily the pitching today. Overall, the staff gave up 13 hits and 5 walks, and still struck out 7 Pirates’ batters. There were only a few clean innings, and that allowed opportunity for the Pirates to pounce and then shine for their Spring hometown crowd.

Bryan Mitchell struggled into the 3rd inning with his start. In the 2nd, he loaded up the bases with consecutive singles, and then all of those runners scored on a 2-RBI double and a ground out. A lead-off solo home run began the 3rd inning, and after a 1-out single, the Yankees went to JP Feyereisen. Feyereisen kept things interested loading up the bases with 2 walks and 2 outs on the board before getting the needed 3rd out and leaving the runners stranded.

Under Montgomery in the 5th, he watched a lead-off walk score on an RBI double and then that runner score on another RBI double before he got the 3 outs to get out of that inning. Rutckyj’s messy 7th inning was not entirely his fault, though. After loading up the bases with 2 singles and a walk, a fielding error allowed one run to score and kept the bases loaded. Rutckyj walked in the next run before a bases-clearing double put the Pirates into double-digits on the scoreboard.

With no outs scored and a runner at 3rd, the ball went to Graham who promptly got 2 strikeouts. But then a double easily scored the runner, and the next batter doubled that guy home. Graham got that much-needed 3rd out on the 11th batter of the half-inning.

The Yankees faced former teammate Ivan Nova, whose 3 innings seemed to breeze through the roster at first. In the 3rd, Nova’s own errors allowed the lone Yankees’ run of the afternoon. Brett Gardner reached on Nova’s throwing error (trying to throw him out at 1st and missed), which landed Gardner at 2nd. Gardner then advanced to 3rd on a wild pitch before rushing home as Jacoby Ellsbury benefited from Nova’s fielding error.

Other than that, the Yankee worked a grand total of 5 hits and 1 walk all afternoon, striking out 9 times. Like I said, it was not a good day for the Yankees. The Pittsburgh fans, however, think Monday is a great day.

Final score: 13-1 Pirates

And, early this morning (as in 4:30 am EST), the World Baseball Classic began in Seoul as the home team (South Korea) took on the much-talked about team representing Israel. Going into extra innings, Israel came out on top 2-1 over South Korea. Israel plays again later tonight, facing Chinese Taipei (at 10:00 pm EST).

Now, if you’re wondering if the Yankees are well-represented in the World Baseball Classic, they are. And they’re all over the world: catcher Kellin Deglan is playing for Canada; pitcher Dewin Perez, outfielders Tito Polo and Carlos Vidal, and infielder Donovan Solano represent Columbia; pitchers Dellin Betances and Luis Severino are suiting up for the reigning WBC champions Dominican Republic; pitcher Richard Bleier is playing for Israel; pitcher Tommy Layne represents Italy; pitcher Giovanny Gallegos is throwing for Mexico; infielder Didi Gregorius is playing for the Netherlands; and pitcher Tyler Clippard is part of Team USA.

So, while I probably should be rooting for Team USA, I’ll be keeping a close eye on all those other teams with our pinstriped guys. And, honestly, if you can claim heritage to play on certain teams, USA is the only personal heritage I could qualify for, as the other teams got knocked out in the qualifying rounds last year. Let’s just say, my “heritage” teams are probably more familiar with the World Cup than the World Series.

Go Yankees!

{Note: I chose today’s title because although a certain famous fictional spy loves his martinis as such, every good bartender knows it’s the surest way to destroy of martini. Shaking it bruises the vodka (or gin) and thus muddles the taste. A true martini should be stirred to allow the mixer to blend naturally with the liquor. Thus it applies to today as they did a lot of things really wrong, and the result left a metaphorically nasty taste in the mouth and a temptation to grab an alcoholic beverage to forget the mess that was this afternoon.}

Game 105: NYY vs. NYM — Subway series opening drama

Yes, there is much to talk about with the last-minute extended trade deadline today, and it’s once again kind of sad for Yankee Universe for now but also kind of positive for Yankee Universe in the future. But more on that later.

Today marked the opening day for the annual “Subway Series”. This year the Yankees play 2 game at CitiField in Queens, and then the Mets come to the Bronx for 2 more games to complete the series. Tonight, for the opener, the Yankees sent up CC Sabathia who really had a bit of an okay start overall. He threw 103 pitches into the 6 inning, gave up 8 hits, 3 walks, and 5 runs, striking out just 5 Mets batters.

A lead-off solo home run in the 2nd got things started for the Mets. A 1-out single in the 5th gave them another run on a 2-out RBI double. And in the 6th with 2 runners on base with singles and 1 out, Sabathia gave up a big 3-run home run to push the Mets into the lead. After another out and a walk, the Yankees brought in Richard Bleier, who promptly loaded the bases with a single and a walk. Nick Goody got them out of the inning in 5 pitches.

In the mean time, the Yankees weren’t exactly letting the Mets have this game easily. In the 4th, Ellsbury led-off with a double and Teixeira joined him on the base paths with a walk. McCann’s fly out moved Ellsbury to 3rd which then allowed him to score on a wild pitch. And in the 5th, with 1 out, Refsnyder worked a walk, moved to 2nd on Sabathia’s sacrifice bunt, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s double. Gardner himself then scored on Jacoby Ellsbury’s single.

While the Mets had a slim lead over the Yankees, the Yankees’ pitching staff sailed through the Mets’ roster. Recently re-acquired Tyler Clippard (more below) breezed through the 7th inning in just 12 pitches. And Adam Warren continued to show the Yankees why he was needed back in pinstripes (or away greys tonight) through the scoreless 8th and 9th innings.

The Yankees tied everything up in the 8th. Gardner, on base with a walk, 2 outs, a new pitcher, and McCann singled on base only to be pinch-run by the speedy Torreyes, who proceeded to immediately take 2nd on a wild pitch. The stage was set for Didi Gregorius’ single to score both quick runners to tie up the game and make the Mets uncomfortable and heightened the drama for the over 40,000 fans in Queens.

And into extra innings, this game went. In the 10th, Ellsbury led-off with a walk and Teixeira singled. Pinch-hitter (and recently recalled) Ben Gamel then laid out a perfect bunt and beat the throw to load the bases. Something was cooking in Queens and it wasn’t coming from Shake Shack near center field. Then with 1 out, Starlin Castro hit a big sacrifice fly that scored Ellsbury to break the tie. It was just enough for the Yankees.

They sent in Dellin Betances, the new closer by default, for the 10th inning. But there was more drama to come. A lead-off double moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt; a hit-by-pitch landed runners in the corners; and a ground out put runners in scoring position. CitiField was split down the middle with the fans in orange hoping for a walk-off something and the fans in pinstripes hoping for an out. A nice strikeout it was, and Betances got his first save of the season.

Final score: 6-5 Yankees, in 10 innings.

Of course, one of the more interesting plays in the game happened at the very beginning. On the 2nd pitch of the game, Brett Gardner hit the ball right off the back wall of the park and safely had a triple. But due to his speediness and (according to Statcast) hitting 20.1 mph at one point, Gardner tried to stretch it into an inside-the-park home run. It was officially ruled as a triple with an out at home on the relay from right-center field. But we should have known this was going to be one of those games right then and there.

So trade updates… today, the Yankees said goodbye to Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova. And I don’t know which one Yankees fans are more upset about losing. The Yankees sent Beltran to the Rangers for 3 young pitchers — Dillon Tate (who went 4th overall in last year’s draft), Erik Swanson, and Nick Green. And the Yankees dealt Nova to the Pirates for 2 players to be named later.

Beltran has become a veteran presence on and off the field, in the clubhouse, and especially in the Latino arm of MLB. Plus, his recent spike in offensive contribution had people already talking about Cooperstown. Nova is considered a “homegrown Yankee”, having grown up in the farm system and making his debut with the team in 2010; this made 2016 his 7th season with the Yankees. Both join recent trades like Miller and Chapman in the growing list of now former Yankees that will be missed by the fans.

With all the empty spots on the active roster, the Yankees recalled outfielder Ben Gamel and reliever Nick Goody, and added recent trade acquisition Tyler Clippard to the active roster. Clippard was originally drafted by the Yankees in 2003 and made his debut with them in 2007 before he bounced around the league pitching for the Nationals, Athletics, Mets, and Diamondbacks. And now, full circle back to the Yankees.

It appears to many that the Yankees have “pulled the plug” on 2016 and are regrouping for the future. And to some extent, I agree with that. I think they realize that the nostalgic pull of the late 1990s dynasty is over (and as to when that actually ended is up for debate), and people are wanting a regrouping to focus on the next dynasty.

I think it can be compared to several times throughout Yankee history when the team needed to close the door on what were great stretches of great teams — Murders’ Row of the late 20’s and the 1950s with DiMaggio into Mantle, et al. greatness comes to mind. I think history is more likely to group the late-90s dynasty with those 2 eras rather than the almost fluke that was the late-70s “Bronx is Burning” team. Chalk it up to the known players or the multiple World Series wins or just a better overall team. Whatever makes you happiest, I guess.

Because for the first time in many current fans’ lives, the team isn’t dominating the AL East consistently. It’s playing… well, like a normal team. It’s nowhere near as bad as the Yankees that most of the bulk of their current fan base were born under (as I was) — most of the 1970s (save a couple of fluke years), the 1980s, and the early 1990s. We got spoiled. We got used to winning. We got used to being the “Evil Empire” and dominating all the little “rebel forces” trying to usurp our rightful throne.

So here’s the fun upshot in all this sudden cold rush of reality: the Yankees will always come back and dominate with another dynasty. It’s in their blood. It’s the DNA of the organization. It may not look like Gehrig or DiMaggio or Berra or Rivera. But it will happen again. And I’d actually bet the farm (so to speak) that it will happen again in our lifetime. Because that’s what the Yankees do. They win. They excel. They set the standard. And when they’re not doing it, they fight as hard as they can to right the ship so they’re on top once again.

Don’t give up on the boys just yet. It may be a long road, but they’re still fighting. And so should you.

Go Yankees!

Game 102: NYY vs. TB — It’s all about the pitching… and the hitting… and the scoring…

You know, they say that if you don’t have pitching, you don’t have anything. Of course, I guess the same could be true about many aspects of the game. If you don’t have hitting, you don’t have anything. But let’s be really honest here: if you don’t have runs scored, you don’t have anything. And that’s the whole thing really. Whoever has the most runs scored at the end of the game is the winner, which makes a weakness in any other area completely void.

Tonight, Ivan Nova got the start for the Yankees in the weekend opener against the Rays. Nova’s name has been tossed around a bit with the trade deadline looming, and he certainly didn’t have a night for the scouts to drool over tonight. He threw 76 pitches into the 5th inning, giving up 6 hits, 3 walks, and 5 runs, and striking out just 3 batters. He started off the game by giving up a lead-off solo home run to the Rays, and then 2 outs later giving up another one to give the Rays an early lead. A lead-off triple in the 3rd scored on a fielder’s choice in a double play attempt (ending in a throwing error). And the lead-off double scored on an RBI double to kick off the 5th inning. After an out and a single, Nova’s night was done.

Now, the biggest problem for Nova is that he (like many of the Yankees) is a perfectionist and holds himself to a high standard. And to be fair, some of the pitches called balls clipped the lower edge of the strike zone on many television and computer graphics programs. But you aren’t allowed to argue balls and strikes.

So as Nova was walking off the field, angry mostly at himself, the plate umpire started arguing at him believing Nova to be “too emotional” or some nonsense. Yes, Nova chattered back at him because he didn’t understand why the umpire was interrupting his walk (and minor pity party) off the field. The umpire pointed to the scoreboard as if to say “that’s your problem not me”. Nova later admitted he had no clue why the umpire felt he needed to yell at him as he walked off the field. This, of course, added fuel to the frustrated pitcher who took it out on his glove as he tossed it against the wall of the dugout when he got back to the bench. Not a great reaction, but seriously. What was all the chatter about?

Anyway, in came Chad Green to finish up the inning. But he loaded the bases with a walk (seeing Nova’s frustration with a higher strike zone), gave up a sacrifice fly (the run charged to Nova), loaded the bases again with a walk, and finally got a strikeout to end the inning. Then Green sailed his way through the rest of the game, only allowing 2 more base runners and getting 4 more strike outs.

Not that the Yankees’ bats were exactly silent. They racked up 10 total hits and a walk against the Rays’ pitching staff, who after the starter left in the middle of the 7th, seemed more like a rotating door at the Empire State Building. And though they could get men on base, the same old story of not being able to score runs was playing at the Trop tonight.

It wasn’t until the 8th inning, on the 3rd pitcher of the evening, that the Yankees offense got through. With 2 outs and Ellsbury on 1st, McCann singled to put Ellsbury in scoring position so that he could easily score on Mark Teixeira’s against-the-shift straight up the middle single. Of course, another pitching changed ended that attempt at a rally. But the Yankees weren’t shut out of the game.

I mean, it was still a loss, but not a shutout.

Final score: 5-1 Rays.

Like I said, the trade deadline is approaching — July 31. So rumors and chatter and ridiculous theories abound from the internet to the talking heads on every sports network that actually talks about baseball more than a 30 second spot. (I’m looking at you… famous sports network I can’t name that never gives baseball more than a brief blip in the middle of the season.) And since I don’t do rumors or anything that’s not solid information, I’ll leave it at that. Rumors aren’t worth the energy to listen and repeat.

Now, facts… well, those are stubborn things.

Go Yankees!

Game 97: SF vs. NYY — Extra inning let-down

Even if it’s summertime, a mid-afternoon game that goes into extra innings is bound to face a few natural issues — loss of sunlight, shadows creeping across the diamond, heat exhaustion, and the inexplicable progressive reduction of fans in the seats. Of course, today’s game was nearly four and a half hours long. And the nearly 47,000 fans had sat through a rather tight, rather uneventful (at times) game. But still, “it ain’t over…” and all that.

And then it was.

But first, Ivan Nova dominated this middle game with the visiting Giants from the pitcher’s mound, going 96 strong pitches through his full 7 innings. He gave up just 6 hits and 2 walks, allowing just 1 run, and struck out 7 Giants batters. His lone run allowed was a lead-off solo shot in the 5th inning. So between him and the defense, the Giants weren’t doing nothing.

Of course, the Yankees certainly had their own issues of a similar nature. Facing another great starter of recent World Series fame (though with a team that won in the odd years), the Yankees made him pitch a lot — 117 pitches in just 6 innings, got 6 hits and a walk, and struck out 9 times. Plus, they also scored a run, albeit an unearned run because the Giants defense just isn’t what it should be for how high they are in the standings. (Seriously now, how bad does that make the NL West that a sloppy defensive team is at the top of the standings? Research is needed clearly.)

Anyway, the Yankees got on the board first in the 4th inning. With 1 out, Didi Gregorius singled to get on base. Then Mark Teixeira singled, but thanks to a lovely fielding error by the outfielder, Gregorius made it all the way home to score the run. Of course, it helps that Gregorius is rather speedy in base-running.

{Video of Yankees’ defense showing off: Gardner, Headley, the teamwork of Gardner-Gregorius, and the infield collectively.}

Anyway, with the game all tied up for the 8th inning, the Yankees sent out Andrew Miller for a quick shutdown of the Giants — 10 pitches, 2 strikeouts, a standard Miller inning really. Aroldis Chapman found his somewhat normal position in the 9th, but then came out for the 10th to continue the set-down, adding 3 total strikeouts of his own over his 2 innings. Extra baseball continued when Dellin Betances made his appearance in the 11th, adding another strikeout to the total. (The Warriors Three out of order, but still incredibly effective.)

And on into the 12th inning, the game still tied. New reliever Anthony Swarzak sent in to keep the momentum going, except it didn’t. He gave up a lead-off double. And those in the stands in navy sat down as the scattering of orange wildly cheered. A 1-out single scored that runner to break the tie and give the Giants a slight edge. (The single was hit by the same guy who hit the homer earlier in the game, by the way.) A pop-out later, the Yankees called on Richard Bleier to finish the inning, which he did rather quickly.

So the Yankees turned their sights on offense in the bottom of the 12th. But the Giants’ closer today shut the Yankees down in order, in an efficient 12 pitches. Game over.

Final score: 2-1 Giants, in 12 innings.

The Yankee pitchers threw a rather impressive 13 total strikeouts today, but the Giants nearly matched them at 12. Actually, today’s game felt like a back-and-forth of equally matched teams. See, this is where standings and statistics don’t line up. You have one of the better teams in baseball (Giants) versus the 4th place AL East team (Yankees), and yet, they play like the old time days when the Giants were still in New York and they were intense rivals.

Trade rumors alert: Okay, I know I don’t do much as far as rumors go, but this one has been rather persistent. The rumor is that the Yankees have been looking to trade Aroldis Chapman and/or Andrew Miller. Chapman is set to be a free agent come this off-season, and Miller is seen as the “weaker” of the Three because he doesn’t hit 100mph on his fastball. (You can imagine my scoffing and arguments there if you’d like, and you’d be right.) But now, it’s looking like the rumors have settled on the fact that Chapman might be the lone trade. Again, still rumors, so whatever.

Tomorrow is Hall of Fame Induction Day at Cooperstown. The ceremony will be broadcast live on MLB Network beginning at 11 am. The Class of 2016 inductees are Mike Piazza (Mets) and Ken Griffey Jr. (Mariners), both well-deserved honors for a couple of great ball players.

Go Yankees!

Game 93: BAL vs. NYY — The streak is on!

On another warm midsummer evening in the Bronx, trade rumors swirled in what could have been a distraction to players who long to stay in pinstripes but know that may not happen. But being a Yankee, even for a season, is being part of a team that pulls together and refuses to stay down. So with renewed vigor and a drive to win their way up in the standings, the Yankees treated the 31,192 fans tonight to an exciting and well-played game.

It just seemed like all the pieces fell in place tonight. Stellar pitching combined with strong defense and active bats added up to the kind of ball that leads to the playoffs. Tonight, Eovaldi, Swarzak, and Goody, yet another (surprising) Yankee pitching trio, showed their stuff.

Yankee fans gave a warm “welcome back” to Nathan Eovaldi as then starting pitcher in the second game of the series against Baltimore. After spending some time in the ‘pen, tonight Eovaldi confidently took command of the mound, and it seemed like “Nasty Nate” was back and in charge. He quickly dismissed the Orioles bats in the first 5 innings, allowing 2 hits but no runs. But the top of the sixth, Eovaldi began to falter quickly, loading the bases with a walk, a single, and a double that allowed the first run for Baltimore. A coaching visit to the mound and another walk, and it was time for Eovaldi to call it a night. Leaving the bases loaded, overall Eovaldi gave up just 4 hits and 1 run during his 5 1/3 inning tenure tonight. (Not a bad comeback, really.)

The pitching change in the sixth put the rather surprising choice of Anthony Swarzak on the mound with the bases loaded and just one out. Swarzak quickly got a couple of shallow pop ups to keep the bases loaded and the Yankees out of a jam, effectively halting Baltimore’s advance.

Betances was seen briefly warming up in the bullpen, but Swarzak continued his strong outing into the seventh with a quick 3 up and 3 down. And then he returned for the eighth with no one warming up in the Yankee bullpen. Swarzak kept consistent command on the mound, and because of the great backup from the pinstripe defense, the Yankees maintained their lead. The New York infield continued to amaze with their skill as Gregorius snagged a ball and, still sliding in the dirt, drilled it to first for the out. Actually, the entire infield — Refsnyder, Castro, Gregorius, Headley — pretty much dominated tonight on the infield and at the batter’s box.

And in the top of the ninth, one last pitching change allowed Nick Goody to quickly secure the win for New York. Facing 3 batters, he struck out the side in 13 pitches.

The offense and defense were equally strong tonight — getting runs on the board and preventing the Orioles from scoring. Basically, the Yankees were on their game against the AL East leaders Orioles tonight. In the first inning, (because as one reporter quipped, “maybe you can predict baseball”) Jacoby Ellsbury reached first as a result of a record ninth catcher interference, an MLB season record. The second inning saw a 2-out walk for Gregorius who then scored when Castro homered on a line drive right over the left field fence. The Yankees were on the board and leading by 2.

And the Yankees never lost their lead, adding runs to the board while stopping Baltimore from adding runs of their own. In bottom of the 5th, Refsndyer led-off with a walk and then scored on Ellsbury’s single. An odd tag play was successfully challenged and overturned in the O’s favor to help end that inning before the Yankees could tag on any more runs. At least then. Because in the bottom of the 6th, McCann led-off with a walk, and Gregorius’ single put them in the perfect place for Starlin Castro’s double to score both of them to double their score.

Bottom of the eighth, with 2 outs and Castro at first on a fielder’s choice, Chase Headley sent a home run soaring into the right center field stands, scoring Castro and ensuring Yankee victory. Goody’s precision pitching at the top of the ninth, the win streak continues! Once again, the Yankees just played like a well-oiled machine. Complete with hits worthy of the name “Bronx Bombers”. Seems like we are getting glimpses of a team that wants Girardi to change his number to 29.

Final score: 7-1, Yankees.

Tonight, for the seventh inning stretch, fans rose and removed their caps to honor a decorated veteran who served in both the Korean War and World War II.  The cheer was deafening as they honored this veteran, and all the vets in attendance reminded us of life outside of baseball. As the strains of “God Bless America” began and the crowd joined in singing, it gave me pause to remember how important it is for us to express to our military our gratitude for all they do to serve our country. And to remember that those who sacrifice so much for our freedom is one of the reasons we can enjoy a happy night at the ballpark with our family and friends.

Okay, trade rumors are heating up, and every sportswriter and media outlet has an opinion. And just trust me that they’re all very wrong. It seems that Beltran’s name is popping up more and more. Eovaldi, Nova, Pineda, and Chapman also seem to be a couple of other names being discussed. But the rumors continue to be rumors for now. So we’ll leave it to the actual decision-makers to do their work instead. Seriously, the Yankees have 11 more days of a packed schedule to think about contributing towards the postseason push. The chatter is just meant to be distracting and give the talking heads something to jabber on about. Because the on-field action every day isn’t enough?

Mark Teixeira is still off the roster with a sore foot after smacking it with a foul ball a few days ago. And that’s the bad news, of course. But Refsnyder is doing really well at first and at bat, so there’s some good news. On one particular play in the sixth, Rob Refsnyder nicely caught a foul ball on the run and immediately fired it home to hold runners. Really not bad for the back-up of the back-up of the back-up first baseman. And after all the troubles plaguing anyone who plays first this season for the Yankees, it’s nice to see Refsndyer seems to be the exception, especially as he’s actually doing pretty well there.

Go Yankees!

Game 92: BAL vs. NYY — 105? Time for a winning streak

After a bit of a stifling weekend and mixed results within the stadium (and no, I’m not talking about the craze that’s taken over as a hybrid of a particular video game, though I’m told there are several “creatures” in the Bronx that aren’t cheering loudly from the bleachers), the Bronx was blessed with a cooler evening tonight for the start of a 4-game series with the Baltimore Orioles. Yankee fans were treated to stellar pitching and a win against the first place team in the AL East that is hopefully the start of a much needed winning streak for the Yankees.

Taking strong command of the mound tonight, Yankee starter Ivan Nova pitched 6 complete innings, threw 97 pitches, gave up only 4 hits and a home run (the only run allowed for Baltimore). For the last three innings, the 31,102 fans packing the stands were once again treated to terrific pitching to close the game and shut down Baltimore. Top of the seventh, Dellin Betances threw 20 pitches for 2 strikeouts, allowing 1 walk and no runs. Andrew Miller took the helm in the eighth, giving up 1 hit but no runs with 12 pitches, inducing a fairly nifty double play. Top of the ninth with the Yankees ahead by 2, Aroldis Chapman calmly took the mound, throwing his fireballs to four batters, walking one but allowing no runs to earn the save. This powerful pitching trio for New York is a joy and a wonder for Yankee fans to witness. Hoping management has no plans for splitting up these “Warriors Three”.

The Yankees worked their defense and offense well tonight. In the top of the second, Jacoby Ellsbury snagged a fly ball for an out at the center field fence. In the fourth, Headley and Castro coordinated to get the out in a rundown. Headley and Refsnyder played their corners well, keeping potential runs off first base. That double play in the 8th under Miller was swiftly executed by Gregorius to Castro to Refsnyder that kept another potential run off base.  In fact, the entire Yankee infield tonight played strong and confident, determined to keep Baltimore from scoring. And the outfield was busy running down all those “almost home runs” from the team leading in home runs this year.

The New York offense had 7 hits, scoring twice with a home run in the 2nd by Alex Rodriguez (his 9th of the year) and a sacrifice fly in the 3rd by Brian McCann that scored Gardner. New York took the lead and never let it go. Beltran had 3 hits in 4 at bats tonight, including a double that tied him with Willie Mayes on the all-time doubles list; basically, every hit for Beltran is some milestone these days. The Yankees attempted several scoring opportunities, especially later in the game, but couldn’t seem to get anything else past the Orioles’ pitching and defense. (There is a reason they’re in 1st in the AL East.)

Of course, all most people could talk about were Chapman’s rocket balls. He hit 105 mph on the radar gun for just the second time in MLB history. And he’s the only person to do this ever, let alone do this twice. In fact, he throws so hard that MLB stats for this year have a “Chapman” filter. He throws the fastest balls in the league, but when they throw up who’s throwing the fastest, they never list him except as a caveat — as in: all these pitchers throw super hard, but as we’re all aware that Chapman literally owns all the top pitches ever this season, we’re going to feature all the guys except him to show what’s going on beyond the Yankees’ 9th inning.

Anyway, Chapman gave the Yankees their second win in a row, and I, for one, am hoping this continues a nice winning streak for the Yankees.

Final score: 2-1, Yankees.

On this day in Yankee history: On July 18, 1999, with Joe Girardi catching, David Cone threw the third perfect game in team history against the Montreal Expos at the old Yankee Stadium. Check out this vintage video of all 27 outs to relive it, or (maybe) to see it for the first time. Cone’s game occurred on “Yogi Berra Day” with Don Larsen and Yogi Berra in the stands (after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch) to witness and perhaps to relive a little of their own perfect game versus the Brooklyn Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series (the first in team history, but also the only postseason perfect game in MLB history). In May of 1998, the second Yankee perfect game (vs the Twins) was thrown by David Wells, with Jorge Posada catching.

And a big happy Birthday to Joe Torre, a man of many talents indeed — MLB’s Chief Baseball Officer, 9-time All-Star, Hall of Fame Manager, Player, Rookie of the Year, MVP, Gold Glove Winner, broadcaster, and the list goes on. Baseball as we know it would not be the same without Joe Torre. Baseball fans everywhere are grateful for his passion for the game and his many contributions to baseball from nearly every angle — player, manager, executive. (Next stop: owner?) Thank you, Joe, and may this be the happiest of birthdays and the best of years.

Go Yankees!

Game 85: NYY vs. CLE — Lakefront victory

Cleveland has many nicknames. “The Forest City”, “The North Coast”, and “C-Town”. It’s most infamous moniker, “The Mistake by the Lake”, is a nod to the city’s myriad of struggles in the 1970s. But Cleveland baseball is no mistake this year. There is a lot to admire about the Tribe this season, and the Yankees were facing a tough team to beat going into this long weekend series. But there was nothing mistaken tonight about who was the tougher team.

Ivan Nova took the mound for the Yankees and started well, but struggled some with Tribe’s bats. Nova went 5 1/3 innings, gave up 4 runs and 5 hits. Nova gave up two homers in the third — a lead-off solo shot straight up the middle, and a 2-out solo homer. Nova started the bottom of the sixth only to give up a consecutive doubles that put runners in scoring position. A wild pitch easily allowed the lead runner to score and moved the other to 3rd.

After a ground out, the Yankees turned to the “Warriors Three” to shut down the Indians’ charging offense. Dellin Betances got the final two outs, with a bit of sacrifice play to start — a ground out that easily scored another run for Cleveland. But he stopped the advance with another ground out. Betances came out in the 7th to complete his 5-out stint. He was, of course, later backed up by fellow flame throwers Miller and Chapman, so the Yankees breezed through the Indians line-up to keep the game close and within reach.

The Indians put up 5 pitchers tonight, with their 4 relievers each taking an inning in the last 4. The starter certainly kept the Yankees’ bats rather quiet for the first half of the game. But after the Indians got on board in the 3rd, the Yankees were looking for their opportunity. They found it, and the Yankee bats woke up in the fifth with a 1-out home run by Didi Gregorius to kick things off. Then with Headley and Refsnyder on base with singles and 2 outs, Brett Gardner’s RBI single allowed Headley to score another run to tie the game. Despite loading up the bases with Beltran’s walk, the Yankees weren’t able to capitalize on the chance to break the tie at that point under the Indians’ starter.

At the top of the sixth, the Yankee offense came back and stayed alive. Castro and Gregorius hit back-to-back 1-out singles, and then Castro scored on Chase Headley’s RBI single to break the tie, giving the Yankees the lead. Though not without a bit of drama and replay challenge (which the Yankees won quite easily). Rob Refsnyder’s sacrifice fly brought in Gregorius, and after the Indians finally gave their starter the boot, a single by Jacoby Ellsbury brought in Headley. All this only to have Ellsbury picked-off 1st for the final out.

The top of the ninth, the Indians changed pitchers yet again. With 2 outs and 2 runners on the corners, the Yankees were looking for an insurance run or two, but a strikeout ended that hope. Thus, the Yankees were holding onto a 1-run lead at the bottom of the ninth with Chapman headed to the mound for his 17th save. It would be a grounder to be the interesting play with a challenge and everything, relayed from Teixeira to Castro to Chapman for the tag at 1st for the final out. (Though the Cleveland broadcast specifically listed that final play as Chapman “stealing” the win… so much for unbiased journalism.) Great teamwork, by the way, infield.

Final score: 5-4, Yankees.

Prospect news: Congratulations to power-hitter Aaron Judge (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre), who was selected to participate in the Triple-A Home Run Derby on July 11 at BB&T Park in Charlotte, NC. In 79 games this season, he has hit 16 homers and 53 RBIs.

And there is still time to cast your vote for the final roster of the MLB 2016 All-Star Game on July 12. Click here for the link to the ballot. Deadline for voting is tomorrow (Friday, July 8) at 4 pm ET.

Go Yankees!