Game 118: NYM vs. NYY — “It’s always Sonny in the Bronx”

I just read a statistic about the Mets ace starter tonight. In his 12.1 innings pitched at Yankee Stadium, he’s given up 5 home runs of his 11 total earned runs and allowed 17 hits. To put this in perspective, tonight, he threw 7.1 innings, gave up 9 hits and 5 earned runs, 2 of which were home runs. I’m thinking he doesn’t like pitching in Yankee Stadium so much.

All the better for Yankee Universe as Sonny Gray made his first start in pinstripes in Yankee Stadium and had a pretty decent outing. Pitching 104 pitches into the 7th inning, Gray gave up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, striking out 5 Mets batters. Actually, he kept the Mets scoreless through his first 6 innings, only having a bit of trouble in the 7th. He gave up a lead-off walk that scored as part of a 2-run home run to get the Mets on the board.

Now, on a plus side for the Mets (for the lone Mets fan I know will come across this blog at some point), the batter who hit the homer is playing in just his 5th MLB game, and that was his very first MLB home run. And let’s be honest, if you’re going to hit your first major league homer, Yankee Stadium is the dream place to do so.

Anyway, the Yankees opted for their bullpen after the home run, calling on Kahnle to close out the 7th inning, in just 10 flawless pitches. Betances followed that up with a 19-pitch scoreless 8th, setting Aroldis Chapman up for the save.

But Chapman’s recent struggles cropped up again as he just needed 3 outs in the 9th. After one stellar strikeout, he gave up a single, but then the Mets complicated things by another rookie hitting his 2nd MLB home run to double their score. (So a good day for Mets’ rookies, but not so much for the Yankees’ closer.) Chapman came back and got the 2 outs, a couple of ground outs, and the eventual save, but it was a little too close for comfort.

Of course, in order to even be up for a save, the Yankee offense had to be productive. And like I said in the opening paragraph, the Mets’ ace must hate pitching in the Bronx. In the 3rd, Torreyes led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on Gardner’s sacrifice bunt, and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ single. And with 2 outs in the 4th, Headley worked a walk and then scored as part of Jacoby Ellsbury’s line-drive 2-run home run into the right field seats.

Gary Sanchez got in on the fun with a lead-off solo home run in the 6th. And in the 8th, Judge led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on Gregorius’ single, and then scored on Sanchez’s sacrifice fly. That was the end of the Mets starter. It was also the end of the Yankees’ runs, but the Mets’ bullpen only needed 2 more outs to get out of the inning.

Final score: 5-4 Yankees

Now, technically, the Yankees won this series 2-0. So if you consider each location as one series, then the Yankees just swept the series. Or, if you’re like me, we’re just halfway through this Subway Series, so the winner of the series has yet to be determined.

Injury news: so, apparently, Luis Cessa’s back injury is actually a ribcage injury, so the Yankees placed him on the 10-day disabled list. Thus, the assumption and talk that he’ll be okay by his next start on Saturday is totally wrong. Saturday’s starter is now a giant question mark. (Stay tuned!) In his place on the roster, the Yankees recalled Caleb Smith once again from AAA Scranton.

Also, the Yankees announced that both Greg Bird and Starlin Castro will begin their rehab assignments this week, on Wednesday and Friday, respectively. Bird is hopefully done with all the lingering ankle issues, especially after his last surgery. Castro has been nursing a badly strained hamstring. So, if they’re both headed to Scranton this week, that should be a great sign that things are back on track for both infielders.

Now, what they decide to do with the plethora of infielders they already have when those two are ready to come back… well, that’s anyone’s guess! (Of course, I have mine, but you’ll have to wait and see!)

Go Yankees!

{Title note: totally stole that from a t-shirt I saw today promoting Sonny Gray’s first start as a Yankee in the Bronx.}

Game 115: BOS vs. NYY — Not so stellar start, but valiant effort at the end

Luis Severino still needs a hashtag, but fortunately for you, he certainly didn’t need one this afternoon as he had a less than stellar outing, one that he won’t be adding to the highlight reel. In this middle game of the weekend series against the visiting Red Sox, Severino got roughed up by the younger power-hitters of Boston’s roster.

He threw 90 pitches into the 5th inning, giving up 8 hits, 2 walks, and 10 runs (though only 8 were earned), striking out just 4 batters. After 2 stellar innings, Severino started losing momentum. In the 3rd, with 1 out, Severino gave up 2 walks and a fielding error loaded up the bases. A single scored the Red Sox’s first 2 runs, and a big 3-run home run gave the Red Sox a nice lead. After 2 consecutive singles, the Yankees defense buckled down and got a line out into a double play, getting the lead runner to double off 2nd.

Then in the 5th, Severino allowed runners in scoring position with consecutive hits and no outs, and then gave up another 3-run home run (to the same player, by the way). After the first out was recorded for the inning, the Red Sox got runners in the corners with a double and a throwing error. And that would be it for Severino’s afternoon.

It was on to the bullpen, and first up was Giovanni Gallegos. He promptly gave up a 2-run double (both runs charged to Severino), but then zeroed in and got the 2 outs needed to get out of the inning and then breezed through the next 2 innings, accumulating 4 strikeouts along the way and keeping the Red Sox from adding to their double digit score.

Bryan Mitchell was up next for the Yankees’ bullpen, pitching a flawless 8th and getting into a sticky situation in the 9th. But he got out of it, thanks once again to the Yankees defense.

So, the Yankees’ offense had quite a bit of work to do. They actually got on the board first. Gardner led-off the 1st with a single and then scored as part of a 2-out 2-run home run by Gary Sanchez. Once the Red Sox took the lead, the Yankees started playing catch-up. In the 4th, the Yankees loaded up the bases with no outs, so Jacoby Ellsbury’s ground out moved all the runners up and scored lead runner Gregorius.

But then the Red Sox kept the Yankees from gaining any ground for most of the game. It wasn’t until the final inning that the Yankees attempted a monster catch-up rally. Chase Headley led-off the 9th with a solo home run, and Ellsbury followed that up with a solo home run of his own. But the rally quickly ended after 3 consecutive runs, leaving the Yankees high and dry.

Final score: 10-5, Red Sox

Injury news (can we get less of this please?): Jordan Montgomery was hit by a foul ball in the head, while he was playing catch in the outfield during batting practice today. He was a bit dazed and came off the field under his own power, but he was examined by the medical staff and pronounced fine. He is still scheduled to pitch tomorrow’s finale in the Bronx against the Red Sox, in hopes that the Yankees can come up on the plus side of this series.

Masahiro Tanaka is headed to the 10-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. The Yankees have called up Giovanni Gallegos to fill his roster spot, putting him in the long-term relief spot in the bullpen. To fill in Tanaka’s rotation spot, they are looking at today’s other reliever Mitchell or more likely (the other Luis) Cessa.

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 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 100: TB vs. NYY — A walk-off Gardy Party

100 games. The Yankees hit this milestone on an upswing, winning their last 5 of 6 games, and just a game behind the Red Sox in the AL East. So they went into this 4-game weekend series against the visiting Rays with this momentum.

CC Sabathia got the start tonight and held off the Rays for most of his outing, but then struggled to find his footing in his final inning. Sabathia threw 86 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 5 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, but struck out just 3 batters. He gave up a lead-off home run in the 4th to get the Rays on the board, but it would be the 5th inning that would give him trouble. With 1 out, he gave up consecutive doubles that scored one more run. After a walk, the Yankees gave Sabathia to hook and replaced him with Chad Green.

Unfortunately, Green promptly gave up a double that scored 2 more runs for the Rays, both charged to Sabathia, before Green got himself out of the inning. Green had some issues in the 6th as well, giving up a 1-out solo home run. It wasn’t clean, but the damage was limited.

Kahnle did a fantastic job in the 7th, throwing just 9 pitches to breeze through the Rays. With 2 quick outs in the 8th, Betances, of course, gave up a couple of singles to make things interesting before getting a ground out to get out of the threat. Warren’s 9th inning also kept the Rays from adding to their score.

The Yankees actually got on the board first. In the 2nd inning, Headley hit a 1-out single and then scored on Jacoby Ellsbury’s double. Ellsbury then scored on Todd Frazier’s single. Gary Sanchez’s 1-out solo home run in the 3rd to keep the Yankees in the lead, but after the Rays caught up and passed them, the Yankees took their time to catch up.

In the 8th, Gregorius led-off with a single and moved to 3rd on Headley’s single. After a new Rays pitcher, pinch-hitter Matt Holliday hit into a fielder’s choice out at 2nd, but scored Gregorius. And Brett Gardner led-off the 9th inning with a triple and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s 2-out single to tie up the game and force them into extra inning.

Aroldis Chapman just fired his way through the 10th and 11th innings in just 19 total pitches and 4 stellar strikeouts, setting himself up for the win. Brett Gardner liked the 3rd pitch in the 11th inning and hit a big home run into the right field seats, his 18th of the season, for the walk-off home run victory.

Final score: 6-5 Yankees, in 11 innings.

CC Sabathia earned his 2800th career strikeout tonight. He currently sits at 21st on the all-time strikeout leaders, just 3 behind legendary pitcher Cy Young. Sabathia also the leader among all active pitchers, nearly 400 more than the next active pitcher. {Note: the graphic on the video link and posts on Twitter list Sabathia as now surpassing Young, but every other noteworthy source, even MLB.com itself, has Cy Young listed at 2803 strikeouts, not the 2799 you’ll see on the link. I’m assuming it has to do with how often scoring differences and record-keeping occurred before a lot of general regulations we’ve become so accustomed to these days.}

In a brief side note, the strike zone was a little high tonight (basically shoulder to mid-thigh, rather than the standard numbers to knees), which angered both teams for most of the game. Eventually, it would be Girardi to get the boot in the 7th

Both Aaron Hicks and Tyler Austin are nearing their rehab assignments, which will probably both be right after this weekend series. Hicks’ oblique issue is concerning because it can feel deceptively better and then a slight twist to the torso can tweak it all over again. Austin’s hamstring is a fairly common injury, but still needs caution in the process of recovery.

Muscle issues are much harder to bounce back from than broken bones. When broken bones are healed, there’s definitive evidence — it’s not broken any more and the bone has fused itself back together (it’s actually a really cool process). But with muscles, there’s no clear-cut way to tell if you’re 100% healed, even if it feels much better. Minute tears in the muscle can hide and suddenly cause much more damage, setting back recovery even further. Stay safe, guys!

Go Yankees!

Game 81: TOR vs. NYY — Halfway to October, but first #SirDidi4Sure

Tonight’s game marks the Yankees technical halfway point in the season. They have now played 81 of their 162 games and are now 2.5 games behind the Red Sox for the AL East thanks to the recent skid of losses. Not exactly where they want to be, but there’s still a whole half of a season left to make up the difference.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start tonight as the Yankees take on the visiting Blue Jays for the beginning of their 3-game series of this homestand, this final stretch before the All-Star break (the official halfway point of the season). Tanaka threw 11 pitches in 7 strong innings, giving up 5 hits, a walk, and a run, striking out 8 Toronto batters. In fact, the Blue Jays didn’t get on the board until his final inning when a hit-by-pitch stole 2nd and ended up at 3rd on a throwing error before scoring on an RBI single.

Dellin Betances kept things going in the 8th, with his 20 pitches and 2 strikeouts. He then handed things over to Aroldis Chapman, but the closer struggled a bit through the 9th inning. A lead-off double scored on a 1-out double, and then that runner scored on a single. Then Chapman focused in and got the final 2 outs to close out the game. But he certainly made it look like work.

However, before all that, the Blue Jays showed why they’re holding up the bottom of the AL East. The Yankees got things started in the 1st inning by loading up the bases with 1 out. Chase Headley was hit by a pitch, which scored Judge, and Jacoby Ellsbury’s walk scored Sanchez. (Basically, the 2 most boring run scoring options available in baseball.) Then the Jays starter kept the Yankees from doing much, and his first 2 relievers followed suit.

The Yankees found their next opportunity in the 8th. Judge led-off with a single, Sanchez doubled, and Gregorius walked to load up the bases, with no outs. Headley’s double scored both Judge and Sanchez. And then after an out, a really strange play that could only be called a fielder’s choice thanks to a missed catch error. Torreyes hit a short dribbler in the infield which the pitcher fielded and threw home for the runner there, but the catcher lost it on the tag. So Gregorius was safe, and then while they were still trying to find the ball, Headley came in to score too.

It gave the Yankees the lead they’d need through the 9th inning struggles and still stay in command of the game and the win.

Final score: 6-3 Yankees

Today, Aaron Judge made up his mind about the Home Run Derby. He’s in, but he’s not going alone. Gary Sanchez will be joining him on next Monday night in Miami. Don’t forget to vote in the final fan vote for Didi Gregorius to join Judge, Sanchez, Castro, Severino, and Betances at the All-Star Game next week.

The Yankees have also sweetened the deal for your final fan voters, offering ticket discounts for voters to select summer games. You can vote a maximum 35 times via text (text A3 to 89269), and an unlimited number of times online and via Twitter (one hashtag #SirDidi4Sure per tweet). Online voting ends July 6, 2017, at 3:59 pm EST. So vote often!

The Yankees are sending Greg Bird to get some exploratory surgery to figure out why his ankle still isn’t healing from his injury. He’s not been able to play in rehab games without pain in a long time, so clearly something is wrong. The Yankees have made it clear if there’s no clear-cut solution for Bird by the end of this month, they will be looking for options from the trade market to shore up their 1st base position. That trade deadline (of July 31) looms heavy on whatever the doctors decide with Bird.

Go Yankees!

Game 78: NYY vs. HOU — A “Gardy Party”

I think my favorite tweet about tonight’s game was the Yankees’ “Everyone’s invited to a Gardy party!” It’s a terrible attempt at a pun, of course, thanks in part to Yankees’ radio announcer John Sterling and his infamous old-school radio calls. But it was certainly a nice wrap up for the offense that was Brett Gardner tonight in the opening game against the Astros.

Of course, Gardner’s push had huge support thanks to starter Michael Pineda, who threw 91 pitches in 6 innings, giving up 7 hits, no walks, and 3 runs (only 2 earned), and striking out 3 Houston 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 Astros an early lead. With 1 out and 2 runners in scoring position in the 4th, a ground out scored the first and a single scored the second to give the Astros a nice lead over the Yankees.

Recently called-up Bryan Mitchell came on for the final third of the game for the Yankees, giving them the kind of solid, consistent long-term relief they’ve been needing for a few weeks. He threw just 30 pitches in 3 innings and still managed to give up a run, in his middle inning, the 8th. A lead-off double ended up at 3rd on a fielding error and then scored on a ground out.

And that wouldn’t be good enough if the Astros were playing like one of the best teams in baseball (as they are), but the Yankees seemed to remember that they’re also one of the best teams in baseball. And it would be Brett Gardner (of course) to start the whole thing for the Yankees with a lead-off double in the 3rd and then scoring on Didi Gregorius’ 2-out double to tie up the game, at that point.

Down 3-1, the Yankees began their rally and eventual rout in the 6th inning. Gregorius led-off with a single and moved to 2nd on Romine’s 1-out walk. The Astros’ starter was done, but the bullpen wasn’t any better. Ronald Torreyes’ single scored Gregorius and then after another strikeout, the rally began. Chris Carter single scored Romine, Gardner’s single scored Torreyes (to finally put the Yankees in the lead), and Jacoby Ellsbury’s single scored Carter as an error moved runners into scoring position. Aaron Judge’s walk was on a wild pitch that scored Gardner. That ended the 6th inning run rally as a new reliever found the final out of the inning.

But it would be the 7th inning that would leave everyone talking. The Yankees loaded up the bases with singles to Headley and Romine and a walk to Torreyes. Wade hit into a ground out that the Astros kicked into defensive gear and got the best out at home. A new reliever got a strikeout but then got Gardner to work up a full count before he sent a 82 mph slider into the right field seats for a home run, his 3rd career grand slam to ensure a Yankees victory tonight.

To add just a pinch more, the Yankees took advantage of the Astros sending in a position player to close out the game in the 9th. Torreyes and Wade each worked a walk. Carter’s double scored Torreyes, Gardner’s sacrifice fly score Wade, and Ellsbury’s ground out scored Carter before the position player reliever got home run leader Aaron Judge to fly out to end the inning and set up the Yankees for the big win.

Final score: 13-4 Yankees.

Roster moves: Before tonight’s game, the Yankees put Dustin Fowler on the 10-day disabled list with his ruptured right patellar tendon injury (more below) and optioned reliever Ronald Herrera back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In their place, the Yankees recalled tonight’s long closer Bryan Mitchell and the hero rookie from two days ago Miguel Andujar from AAA Scranton.

A few hours before tonight’s game, the Yankees all crowded into Girardi’s office to Facetime with their injured teammate Dustin Fowler in a Chicago hospital. Fowler will be discharged from the hospital and sent to New York to begin his roughly 6 months of recovery. It’s a bit shorter than a torn ACL, but a knee injury, regardless of how intense, is never an easy road to recovery. Fowler deserves a chance to show what a great player he can be in the big leagues, and at this point, it looks like maybe next year he gets that chance.

Go Yankees!