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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final score: 5-3 Yankees

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

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

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

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

Go Yankees!

Game 114: BOS vs. NYY — Now, that was a game

I went to a minor league game recently. Yes, I do care about baseball outside of the Yankees. Okay, it was a Yankees’ minor league affiliate, but the point remains — go see a minor league game (plus it was like $5 for the ticket and free parking).

Anyway, so I was at this game, and the home team was down by a run in the 4th inning when the fans already started heading for the exit. Even after they tied up the game in the 5th, the fans trickled out. The home team ended up getting 5 runs in the 7th inning, but only half the original crowd was there to witness it. And by the final inning, where the home team ended up just shutting out the visitors, the crowd was just a scattering of people in the stands.

But it’s a thing I see in nearly every game. People just leave if they think the game is over regardless of who’s in the lead. When will they learn?

Fortunately, in a rivalry game, this kind of thing is rarely a problem. The Fenway Faithful and Yankee Universe jointly know the cardinal rule of baseball — “it ain’t over ’til it’s over”. And tonight’s sell-out crowd in the Bronx was there to watch the opening of rivalry week against the Red Sox for this weekend series. And they were given quite the show.

Jaime Garcia was given the start for tonight’s game, throwing 103 pitches into the 6th inning. He gave up 7 hits, 3 walks, and 3 runs, and struck out 6 Boston batters. Garcia is clearly still finding his way on the mound in pinstripes, but his outing tonight was a bit better than his one in Cleveland. In the 1st, a 1-out walk scored as part of a 2-out 2-run home run to get the Red Sox on their board first. He held them off for most of his outing, giving up a 2-out solo home run in the 5th to give the Red Sox an insurance run.

After Garcia went into triple digits in his pitch count, he struggled to get the final out of the 6th inning. So disappointingly, he handed off the game to Adam Warren, who came on for some longer relief and successfully kept the Red Sox from adding to their lead. Warren closed out the 6th and then breezed his way through the 7th and 8th innings.

The Yankees’ offense only got 2 hits and 2 walks off the Red Sox’s starter, so they had to wait for the bullpen, who up until tonight has been really good (one of the prime reasons they’re at the top of the AL East). So the Yankees found their opening in the 8th inning. To lead-off the inning, pinch-hitter Gardner was hit by a pitch. Well, originally, the umpire didn’t call it as such, thinking it was just a bad bouncing ball. But a Yankees challenge and replay overturned the call and sent Gardner down the 90 feet to 1st base.

Aaron Hicks is back in action and proved his worth tonight by hitting a 2-run home run into the seats in the corner of right field. With the Yankees finally on the board (and only down by a run), the stadium sparked alive with rally energy. Sanchez singled and moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, and Judge worked a walk. And with absolutely no outs recorded in this inning, the Red Sox went back to their bullpen.

It didn’t really help them much. Didi Gregorius promptly singled and scored Sanchez to tie up the game, and Todd Frazier followed that up with his own RBI single to score Judge (the winning run). After a strikeout (the first out of the inning), Ellsbury singled to load up the bases. Ronald Torreyes’ long sacrifice fly scored Gregorius for an insurance run, and Gardner (yes, the Yankees batted through the line-up in a single inning) worked a walk to load up the bases again. This prompted the Red Sox to go back to the bullpen again and they finally found that 3rd out.

So, with the Yankees now leading, they turned to Aroldis Chapman to close out the 9th inning and earn the save. But Chapman had some trouble with his command today walking his first 3 batters to load up the bases. Suddenly, the Red Sox contingency in the stadium were awake and cheering wildly. The next batter hit into a sacrifice fly double play, as Hicks caught the sacrifice fly that scored the lead runner, but fired the ball to Frazier at 3rd to tag out the runner there trying to advance. Even a challenge from the Red Sox upheld the original call. A fly out to center field ended the inning, the game, and the threat.

Final score: 5-4 Yankees

And in injury news: CC Sabathia was placed on the 10-day disabled list with inflammation in his right knee. In his place, the Yankees have recalled Jordan Montgomery. (I told you he wouldn’t be gone long.) Now, Sabathia’s knee injury is a concern, as it’s the same knee he’s had trouble with for some time. His original plan for maintenance this season kind of fell to the wayside as he felt really good with it and hasn’t needed special care since before Spring Training. And truth be told, he’s been rather strong in his outings this season, so I can understand thinking things were finally better for him.

However, as someone who also has a recurring knee issue, I know the perils of being too optimistic in these cases. Just when you’ve had no issues for months and it feels like you could run up three flights of stairs, you do something normal — like run up three flights of stairs — and suddenly, you’re back out of commission for the next six weeks having to nurse your old injury that suddenly tweaked weird about halfway up the three flights of stairs that you still insisted on climbing in its entirety just to prove you’re not really injured. And you didn’t want everyone to know you couldn’t finish the climb. And you don’t want their pity unless they want to carry you up the last half of the stairs like a pack mule up the mountainside.

Anyway, the point being — take care of that knee, Sabathia. We’re going to need it and that left arm at its peak come October.

Go Yankees!

Game 108: NYY vs. CLE — Bumpy start ends in continued slump (but the Lake & rivers are clean…er)

Based on how tonight’s game panned out, I think the city of Cleveland is seeking revenge for calling them the “Mistake on the Lake” in yesterday’s post. (More below after the game recap.) To be perfectly fair and reveal some full disclosure, my mom’s family grew up in Northeast Ohio, and they always called the city that. (Literally, I only here that phrase in my mother’s voice. Thanks, Mom!)

They also grew up diehard Indians’ fans, still waiting for their next World Series win, most of them not even alive the last time Cleveland won (1948). This makes this series a whole lot more interesting personally, making the one thing both sides of this have in common is that we both root against the Red Sox. (Though I’m still a little murky as to why the Indians think of the Red Sox as a valid rivalry.)

Anyway, the Yankees called on their other newly acquired starter Jaime Garcia. This ended up being Garcia’s third straight start with three different teams — July 21 with the Braves, July 28 with the Twins, and tonight with the Yankees. But Garcia got roughed up in this particular team debut. He threw 87 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 5 hits, 4 walks, and 6 runs (only 5 earned), and struck out just 4 Cleveland batters.

In the 2nd, with 2 outs, Garcia gave up a walk and then scored on a double. The runner ended up at 3rd on the throw and then scored on a passed ball. Despite giving up a walk and a single to load up the bases, Garcia got out of the inning with a line out to Gregorius. In the 3rd, a lead-off single scored on another single and throwing error. The base runner ended up at 2nd on that play, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on a sacrifice fly.

Garcia just couldn’t find the momentum to get through these innings. In the 5th, a 1-out walk stole 2nd and then scored on a single. Then that runner moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, and ended up at 3rd on a ground out. That would be it for Garcia.

It was on to Chad Green, whose wild pitch scored one more run for the Indians that inning before getting that 3rd out of the 5th. Green then breezed through the next 2 innings, tallying up 5 strikeouts himself. He then handed the game over to Tommy Kahnle for the 8th inning, who found his own trouble — a lead-off double scored on an RBI double to add the Indians’ final run of the night.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were hitting off the Indians’ pitchers tonight — racking up 11 total hits (more than the Indians’ offense got tonight), 7 off the starter alone. Those hits (and the 2 walks) just weren’t adding up to runs-scored. In fact, for most of the game, it felt like the Indians’ pitcher and defense were much more dominant tonight.

Then in the 5th, Todd Frazier hit a 1-out solo home run into the right field seats to get the Yankees on the board. The Yankees then loaded up the bases later in the inning, but a swinging strikeout ended that potential rally and stopped them in their tracks.

The Yankees got one more chance in the 9th inning. Despite a lead-off single that got erased in a double play, it would be Ronald Torreyes to kick off a potential moment of hope. He hit a solid single, moved to 2nd on defensive indifference, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s single. But a fielder’s choice ground out ended the inning and the game. Too little, too late.

Final score: 7-2 Indians

Okay, more on the nicknames… “The Mistake on the Lake.” Look, a lot of this points back to the late 1960s before much of current clean water restrictions were enacted and Lake Erie was so polluted and that fed into its major rivers. At one point, it was so bad that the Cuyahoga River (the main river through Cleveland) actually caught on fire in 1969. Fortunately, with the passing of the Clean Water Act three years later, the city was forced to clean up its waterways and the big lake on its north shore. But the reputation for being the city whose river once caught on fire stuck, especially with those from the area (or rather the suburbs around the area).

In its place, the city has tried to refocus attention on its biggest attraction — the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Thanks to the rise of the genre, and how many of its biggest stars were from the area, the natural connection to the city evolved over time only to be cemented by the Hall when they built it in 1983. Since then, I think most people think of this (or Drew Carey) when they think of Cleveland.

That is until last year. When Cleveland became “Believe-land” as both their biggest sports were the Cavaliers (basketball) and Indians (side burn: even my Cleveland-area family aren’t Browns fans, but that’s a completely different story). Both the Cavs and Indians went to their respective championships, all the way to Game 7. Only the Cavs came up as winners in the end, but it still made last year something for Clevelanders everywhere to be proud of that wasn’t music or pollution-related history.

On a personal note, due to family connections, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Cleveland, and I’ve never been to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or a Cavaliers game. No, growing up, we explored less nickname-worthy places. Like finding out their art museum has an Armor Court. And their historical society has an extensive antique car and aviation exhibit. And there’s a village stuck in the early 1800s, much like Colonial Williamsburg but 1820s rural Ohio.

Despite the deep roots here, this may actually explain why I’m a Yankees fan.

Go Yankees!

Game 105: DET vs. NYY — Coming up short despite stellar defense

On this warm Tuesday afternoon, the first day of August, the Yankees were looking to continue this winning streak high they’ve been on for this home stand. But in the end, they came up a bit short, despite even some last-minute hope, against the visiting Tigers in this middle game of the midweek series.

CC Sabathia got the start tonight, and despite earning the loss, he actually had a decent outing. He threw 97 pitches in his 6 innings, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, and struck out just 3 Detroit batters. In the 2nd, Sabathia gave up a single and a double to put runners in scoring position. The next batter hit into a great play where the defense took out the lead runner with a fielder’s choice at 3rd. But a 3-run home run put the Tigers on the board early. A 2-out solo homer in the 3rd added an insurance run for them.

So, with Adam Warren throwing a beautiful 2 innings in relief for Sabathia, the Yankees’ pitching staff was just waiting for their offense to pick up the slack and give them some run support. Even David Robertson got into some trouble in the 9th, giving up 3 singles, but it would be the defense to come to the rescue and keep the Tigers from adding to their score.

The Yankees’ offense did pick up and the stats do show they were pretty evenly matched tonight. In the 4th, Sanchez led-off with a double and then scored as part of Didi Gregorius’ 2-run home run to get the Yankees on the board. The Tigers’ pitching kept the Yankees from adding their offense into runs-scored for most of the game. And in the 8th, Sanchez hit a 1-out single and ended up at 2nd on a fielding error. After a pitching change, Gregorius’ single scored Sanchez.

So, the Yankees looked at that last-minute bottom of the 9th inning for some hope. With 2 outs, Ellsbury worked a walk, and then the Tigers opted to intentionally walk Gardner. After a pick-off error and stolen base, the speedy outfielders were in scoring position. The air thick with tension. But then an infield pop up ended that potential rally and the game.

Final score: 4-3 Tigers

The Yankees wrap up their series against the Tigers and their home stand tomorrow afternoon. They are off to Cleveland to face the Indians for a 4-game weekend series. It will be there that the Yankees will see the club debut of newly acquired starters Sonny Gray (on Thursday) and Jaime Garcia (on Friday). Both starters are excited about joining the Yankees, both saying it’s a dream come true. Garcia even admitted that his family’s favorite team has always been the Yankees, as his late grandfather was a huge long-time fan.

I once heard a former ball player say that there are guys meant to be Yankees and guys meant to play against them. Sure, some kids dream of playing against the Yankees, but we don’t hold it against them. We’ll find the ones that dream of being a Yankees and embrace them into Yankee Universe — like Gray and Garcia.

Go Yankees!

Game 103: TB vs. NYY — Big show by “Toe” ends in “no go”… a timely trade and Cooperstown Class of ’17

And that is my last time I attempt a New York Post style headline…

Anyway, the Yankees were looking for a sweep of the Rays with this final game of their 4-game weekend series. But despite some great offense by a single player, the pitching early on had some serious issues, so Ronald Torreyes’ shining afternoon wasn’t enough to pick up the Yankees over the Rays.

Jordan Montgomery got the start today and just had a really difficult time getting through his afternoon. He threw 71 pitches into just the 3rd inning, giving up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs, and still struck out 5 Rays batters. In the 1st, a 1-out walk moved to 2nd on a 2-out single and then scored on another single to get the Rays on the board early. Montgomery loaded up the bases in the 3rd with 2 outs and then cleared the bases through the process of a 2-RBI single and an RBI single.

Luis Cessa was called in to get out of the jam, and despite an initial wild pitch that moved runners to scoring position, Cessa got that necessary strikeout to escape the 3rd inning unscathed. Cessa ended up pitching into the 7th inning, throwing a rather clean game up until that 7th inning where he gave up a walk and single before handing things over to Chasen Shreve.

Shreve loaded up the bases but got 2 outs in the 7th before passing the baton to Chad Green who got out of the jam with a great strikeout (though the Rays batter certainly didn’t like the call). Green went on to finish off the game, getting into his own bit of trouble only in the 8th inning. A lead-off single stole 2nd and then scored on a 2-out double. Green added 6 strikeouts of his own through his pretty good outing to the total for the Yankees’ pitchers tonight at 16.

The Yankees’ offense rested on a single utility/bench player. Ronald Torreyes is really good when he needs to be. In the 2nd, Headley worked a 1-out walk and ended up at 2nd on a wild pitch. Then it was Torreyes to hit a great 2-run home run into the left field seats to briefly give the Yankees the lead. Behind again in the 4th, Todd Frazier worked a 2-out walk and then scored on Torreyes’ solid double to put the Yankees within a run of the Rays’ lead.

Unfortunately, the Rays had a random day where their bullpen actually did its job, so the Yankees were stunted a bit in the latter half of the game, despite some hope with 2 base runners in the bottom of the 9th that just didn’t pan out in the end.

Final score: 5-3 Rays, Yankees win series 3-1.

Injury news: Austin Romine seemed to have a target on his body today for the ball. He was hit twice by the ball. In the 2nd, an bad foul ball bounced up into his throat, which stunned the catcher for a bit, but he stayed in the game like the trooper he is. But then in the 6th, while at bat, he was hit by a pitch on the side of his hand. He stayed in the game initially, but as his hand continued to swell, he was pulled from the game and sent for the requisite x-rays. X-rays came back negative, but I imagine lots of ice and rest (for both hand and throat) are in order for the next few days.

Scranton Shuttle: Before today’s game, the Yankees optioned Caleb Smith back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and recalled Chasen Shreve, who ended up in today’s game.

Over night, the Yankees finalized a trade to add to their lagging starting rotation. They acquired left-handed veteran starter Jaime Garcia from the Twins for minor league pitchers Zack Littell (previously with AA Trenton) and Dietrich Enns (previously with AAA Scranton) and cash considerations.

Garcia was with the Cardinals for much of his 9-year career, even helping them win the 2011 World Series. He started this year with the Braves before moving briefly to the Twins, only to be used as trade-bait for the Yankees. They now expect him to make his Yankee debut on Thursday in Cleveland when the Yankees start their 4-game weekend series there.

And just a couple hundred miles northwest of Yankee Stadium, crowds gathered to celebrate the newest inductees to the baseball Hall of Fame. Former players Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan Rodriguez and executive John Schuerholz and MLB Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig were honored and officially became part of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Congratulations to the newest legends of the game we all love!

Go Yankees!