Game 97: NYY vs. SEA — Losing streak broken

I find it interesting that it was a West Coast trip that the Yankees’ recent losing streak. So it’s only fitting that a West Coast trip could end it. And with the final West Coast game of the season, the Yankees needed a win to move forward with the rest of the season.

So they called on rookie Caleb Smith to start today’s final game in Seattle. After a pretty clean first third of the game, Smith a bit of a struggle towards the end of his outing. Overall, he threw 56 pitches into the 4th inning, gave up 5 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, most of that was in the 4th inning actually. He loaded up the bases with 2 singles and a walk. Two outs later, he gave up a 2-RBI single and then a 2-RBI double to push the Mariners into a nice lead. And Smith’s outing was over, handing things off to Chad Green who ended the rally with a nice strikeout.

Green went on to throw through the 5th and 6th innings, keeping the Mariners from adding to their score and setting the momentum for the rest of the bullpen — Dellin Betances’ clean 7th and David Robertson’s 10-pitch 8th. Aroldis Chapman made things a little interesting but still managed to keep things together for the 9th and the eventual save.

Meanwhile, the Yankees kicked off the game with a solo home run by Brett Gardner, his 17th of the season. And Didi Gregorius added one more run in the 2nd with a solid solo shot into the right field seats only to do it again in the 4th with another one, a great 2-homer game for Gregorius.

And in the 6th, with a new pitcher, the Yankees loaded up the bases with a couple walks and a single. Brett Gardner’s single scored Headley to tie up the game. With a new pitcher, the Yankees kept their momentum going as Clint Frazier’s double scored 2 more runs. Despite loading up the bases with Judge’s intentional walk, the Mariners finally remembered their defense and got 2 quick outs.

After that, neither team managed to do much more offensively, and with Chapman’s save, the Yankees were set up for a game win and a series win.

Final score: 6-4 Yankees, Yankees win series 3-1

Roster moves: Well, the Yankees orchestrated a trade with the Blue Jays, where they sent infielder Rob Refsnyder in exchange for 1st baseman Ryan McBroom, a prospect from the AA affiliate. They also outrighted Ji-Man Choi to AAA Scranton and traded reliever Dillon McNamara (formerly with AA Trenton) to the Giants.

And with that, the Yankees are headed back to the East Coast to start a long 9-game home stand on Tuesday (facing the Reds, Rays, and Tigers). Hopefully, carrying this winning thing with them and setting the momentum to carry them into October baseball.

Go Yankees!

Game 93: NYY vs. MIN — Another series loss despite new additions

The Yankees haven’t won a series since the sweep on June 9-11. And now, as the Yankees board a plane for their second West Coast trip to start an early weekend, that fact is still true after dropping today’s game and the mid-week series to the Twins.

Jordan Montgomery got the nod to close out the series this afternoon, throwing 104 pitches in his 6 innings. He gave up 7 hits, a walk, and 6 runs, striking out just 3 Minnesota batters. Actually, outside of a single inning, Montgomery had a stellar outing. In just the 2nd inning, Montgomery threw 38 pitches, gave up 5 hits and a walk, and allowed all 6 of the Twins’ runs this game.

In that inning, with 2 outs and runners in scoring position, a single scored 2 runs. After a walk, another single scored another run, and a big 3-run home run doubled the Twins’ score and lead. It created a rather big mountain for the Yankees to scale during the game. Perhaps they left their hiking boots back in the Bronx.

The Yankees were able to get on base during the game, but they didn’t do anything to collect runs. In fact, they were held off from doing so until the 7th inning, the end of the Twins’ starter’s day. Clint Frazier led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Romine’s hit-by-pitch, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s single. An error on that same play moved Gardner and Romine to scoring position, but a new pitcher shut down any hopes for a comeback rally that inning.

Well, the bullpen in both cases continued their pretty strong showing this series. The Yankees’ offense was unable to break through again for the final two innings, and the Yankees’ relievers also fended off the Twins’ bats from adding to their solid lead. Chad Green and new Yankee Tommy Kahnle each gave a scoreless inning, but the Yankees would fall short in the end thanks to that monster early lead.

Final score: 6-1 Twins, Twins win series 2-1

Big roster news: the Yankees and White Sox orchestrated a big trade. In preparation, the Yankees optioned Chasen Shreve back to AAA Scranton and designated Rob Refsnyder and Ji-Man Choi for assignment.

The Yankees sent prospect pitcher Ian Clarkin and prospect outfielders Blake Rutherford and Tito Polo along with Yankees’ bullpen staple Tyler Clippard (who was decidedly sad to go but understood the reasoning) to the southside of Chicago. In exchange, the White Sox sent reliever Tommy Kahnle (who pitched in today’s game), infielder Todd Frazier (also the 2015 HR Derby winner), and former Yankee closer David Robertson. (Yes, Yankee Universe, D-Rob and his “high socks” are back in the Bronx.) All three new Yankees arrived during the game, suited up, and a Kahnle and Frazier even got to play later in the game.

Now, how this will pan out will be interesting. Todd Frazier is usually a regular 3rd baseman, but he does have experience at 1st; so while Headley is still on the team and playing, I can’t see Girardi using Frazier for anything but 1st. Kahnle will naturally fall right into the bullpen, which shouldn’t be much of an issue, except whether he is a 1-inning guy or long-term may yet be determined.

The biggest question mark really is Robertson, who is a great closer and was great as one for the Yankees, though he fell into the 8th inning slot next due to the Yankees’ legend Mariano Rivera being the everyday closer. With the likes of Chapman and Betances still in play on the team, the most common thought will be having Robertson slide back into his 8th inning role and move Betances to sticky situations or closing out non-save games.

And if you’re wondering, Todd Frazier donned #29, Kahlne #48, and Robertson is back in his old #30. Clint Frazier willingly gave up his #30 for Robertson, asking instead for #77, a quirky nod to hero Mantle (#7) and good friend Judge (#99).

Go Yankees!

Games 89 & 90: NYY vs. BOS — Let’s split 2, #CCStrong, & finally shut out

The first game of today’s doubleheader was a make-up game from the rain out on April 25. But after last night’s marathon 16 innings, it was bound to be a long finish to this weekend’s rivalry series at Fenway.

Game 1:
For the afternoon game, the Yankees turned almost at the last-minute to veteran starter CC Sabathia who had a truly great outing this afternoon, coming off his recent stint on the DL. He threw 97 pitches in his 6 innings, gave up just 2 hits, 5 walks, and no runs, striking out 3 batters along the way. Plus, he set himself up for the win, his 8th of the season actually.

The Yankees needed the likes of veteran reliable starters like this vintage Sabathia to give the exhausted bullpen a chance to recoup some of its strength. And he did. Clippard and Green kept the scoreless streak alive through the 7th and 8th innings, and Chapman’s 9th was strong enough to earn him the save and continue the momentum of the game.

The Yankees’ hitters managed to hit quite a bit off the Red Sox’s pitchers in the first game today, a total of 12 hits. However, they only managed to break through the defense in two innings. In the 4th, with 1 out, the Yankees loaded the bases with a single, an error, and another single. Ji-Man Choi’s sacrifice fly scored Gregorious to get a run on the board, and then Ronald Torreyes’ single scored Frazier to double the score. Despite the bases being loaded with a hit-by-pitch, they ended up grounding out to end the rally. Didi Gregorius added an insurance run in the 5th, a 2-out solo home run into the right field seats.

Final score: 3-0 Yankees

Game 2:
About 4 hours later, it was time for the regularly scheduled game, the rare late Sunday night game. And the Yankees called on another veteran starter to try to extend the life of the bullpen. Masahiro Tanaka definitely helped with the bullpen, and his outing was actually pretty good overall. He threw 112 pitches into the 8th inning, gave up 8 hits, no walks, and 3 runs, striking out 9 Boston batters.

In the 3rd, a 1-out single scored as part of a 2-out 2-run home run to give the Red Sox the lead. And then in the 6th, a lead-off single ended up at 2nd on a throwing error, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on an RBI single. But that would be it for the Red Sox. Even as Chasen Shreve closed out the 8th with a 5-pitch strikeout to make it an even 10 for the Yankee pitchers this game.

All that was needed was for the Yankee batters to do something. And normally, off this particular starter, they can and do. But while they got 8 total hits, they didn’t do much else with that. They also racked up 10 strikeouts, but they were unable to find a hole in the defense large enough to walk home.

And thus, the Yankees became the final team this season to be shut out of a game. It took 90 games, but someone had to do it. Somehow, it’s only fitting that it’s the Red Sox.

Final score: 3-0 Red Sox

Final series outcome: Red Sox and Yankees split the series 2-2.

In roster moves: before the doubleheader, the Yankees transferred Michael Pineda from the 10-day to the 60-day disabled list due to the partial tear in his right UCL (elbow). The Yankees selected the contract of reliever Caleb Smith and recalled Domingo German and Bryan Mitchell (who was scheduled to be their 26th man) from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In their place, they optioned Jonathan Holder and Ben Heller back, due to their extensive work in last night’s game.

But I wouldn’t put down roots there just yet. Keep the “Scranton Shuttle” fired up and ready. They’ll be more roster moves before the Yankees start their series in Minnesota.

Also, our hearts go out to the family of legendary Hall-of-Fame broadcaster Bob Wolff. Wolff passed away Saturday at his home in New York at the age of 96. He is the voice that called the Don Larsen perfect game in 1956 and is still the current World Record holder for the longest broadcasting career, awarded in 2014. The passing of another iconic voice in the sports world is always a sad day, closing another chapter of the great past and legacy of this team.

Go Yankees!

Game 86: MIL vs. NYY — Fouled over finale before Break

That was not exactly how the Yankees wanted to enter the All-Star Break. Though truthfully, it wasn’t like they handed over the game all that easily. Add into the fact that the Yankees haven’t won a series since they swept the Orioles in early June, and it was a hard Sunday afternoon in the Bronx.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start today for the final game in this homestand against the Brewers, and once again, he got a bit roughed up. He threw 83 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and 5 runs, striking out 5 batters. In the 1st, with runners on the corners with singles and 1 out, a big 3-run home run got the Brewers on the board in a hurry. They added another run with a lead-off solo shot in the 2nd. And the first out of that inning was thanks to a nifty grounder catch by Ji-Man Choi at 1st — he literally did a split to catch the ball and make the out.

After that, Tanaka was able to hold them off for a bit until things got dicey in the 5th. With 1 out, he gave up 2 singles before he was pulled from the game. Chasen Shreve came on in relief and promptly gave up an RBI single. So it was Adam Warren’s turn on the mound.

Warren had a much better outing closing out the 5th and into the 6th, with 3 strikeouts out of his 4 total outs. Tyler Webb got the final out of the 6th in just 4 pitches before handing things over to Chad Green. Green breezed his way through 2 full innings, with just 33 pitches, striking out 4 batters in the process. Aroldis Chapman had a few miscues in the 9th, but still kept the Brewers from adding to their score.

So, with a decent outing from the bullpen (including 8 of 13 total strikeouts), it would be left to the Yankees’ offense to pick up the pace. But despite ample opportunities, the Yankees had minimal moments of true power today. In the 4th, with 2 outs, Ellsbury singled, stole 2nd, and scored on Chase Headley’s single. Then Clint Frazier hit his third home run of the year, a nice solid 2-run home run into the Yankees’ bullpen to give the Yankees a fighting chance.

So, the crowd waited. And for a moment in the 6th, there was hope. Sanchez singled and Ellsbury walked to lead-off the inning, and the Brewers brought in a new pitcher. And Chase Headley smacked a long ball deep into the right field corner. As all three Yankees rounded the bases, a small nattering began in the visitor’s dugout and among the umpires. The umpires took it upon themselves to review the call, and it was overturned as foul (apparently, the review said it “hooked foul” at the last minute). He ended up striking out on the at-bat.

And that would be it in the end.

Final score: 5-3 Brewers, Brewers win series 2-1

Five Yankees are now on their way to Miami for the All-Star Game (they got their bright blue American League warm-up jerseys before the game today), and two Yankees will play in tomorrow night’s Home Run Derby. And right now, two young Yankee prospects are playing in the All-Star Futures Game — Domingo Acevedo (a pitcher from AA Trenton) and Estevan Florial (an outfielder from Full-A Charleston). It’s All-Star Week, people, and we’re just getting started!

Go Yankees!

Game 84: MIL vs. NYY — A soggy disappointment

It took nearly 4 hours, plus a 51 minute rain delay in the middle of the game, for the Yankees to fall short thanks to their biggest weakness of late — their bullpen. They hosted the opening game of the weekend series against the surprisingly surging Brewers, in their final series before the All-Star break.

Jordan Montgomery got the start tonight, throwing a 74 pitches into the 5th inning, giving up 7 hits, no walks, and 2 runs, striking out 4 batters. While the Brewers got a sprinkling of hits, they didn’t do much until the 4th inning against the rookie pitcher. A lead-off double scored as part of a 1-out 2-run home run to get Milwaukee on the board.

Meanwhile, the Yankees began collecting their score against the Brewers’ starter. They got on the board first in the 2nd when Didi Gregorius singled and ended up all the way at 3rd due to a fielding error. He then scored on Clint Frazier’s sacrifice fly. A walk and another fielding error later, and runners were stranded in scoring position.

Then in the 4th, as the rain started pouring over the Bronx, Gregorius led-off the inning by reaching 1st safely thanks to yet another fielding error. He then scored as part of Ji-Man Choi’s big 1-out 2-run home run, hit into the 2nd deck of the right field seats. After Romine reached on a missed catch error (are you seeing a trend?), the starter threw a strike to the new batter (Wade) and the umpires called for the tarp. And we were in rain delay.

For 51 minutes. The Yankees were ahead, and most of the conversation was along the lines of wishing they were already in the bottom of the 5th so they could call the game and hand the Yankees a shortened victory.

But that was not to be. When everyone came back, a new pitcher was on the mound for the Brewers and Wade eventually struck out. After Gardner’s walk, another strike out left more runners stranded. Aaron Judge hit his 30th home run of the season to lead-off the 5th inning (more later). But that would be it for the Yankee offense.

The Brewers’ defense made 5 errors in 4 innings (a season high) and the Yankees just didn’t capitalize on that small detail much at all.

Back to the Yankees’ mound… Tyler Webb came on to close out the 5th inning for Montgomery, which he did thanks to some great defense by Tyler Wade. But then he gave up a walk and double to put runners in scoring position as he handed the ball over to Tyler Clippard. A wild pitch moved runners up, scoring the first runner, and a sacrifice fly scored the next runner and tied up the game. The Yankees lone fielding error allowed a runner to get on base, but Clippard got out of the inning without further damage.

Well, in that inning, that is. With 1 out in the 7th, Clippard walked consecutive batters, and then after another out, intentionally walked the next to load up the bases. So, at this point, we’re all looking for that last out to get out of the jam. Instead, it worked in the Brewers’ favor, in the exact opposite of the Yankees — a grand slam to double the Brewers’ score over the Yankees.

Chasen Shreve came on to stop the bleeding, but even he struggled to get a hold of the game, giving up a lead-off double that scored on an RBI single. But then, as turn about is fair play, he walked a batter and then let a ground out leave a couple of runners stranded. Luis Cessa had a better night, closing out the game’s final 2 innings, keeping the Brewers scoreless.

But overall, the Yankees’ pitchers gave up 14 total hits and struck out just 5, while their batters only got 4 hits and earned 12 strikeouts. And that is what made the difference.

Final score: 9-4 Brewers

Roster move: before the game today, the Yankees announced that they sent Mason Williams outright to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. And with the upcoming break, I’d expect a few more moves before they come back to face the Red Sox next Friday at Fenway.

On that big Aaron Judge home run: Judge beat Yankee great Joe DiMaggio’s rookie home run record for most homers by a Yankee in their rookie season. Technically, Judge is on track to hit 57-ish home runs this season, still short of the Babe Ruth/Roger Maris mark (60/61). But neither of them hit that many in their rookie season. And the record belongs to Mark Maguire in 1987 with 49. He also holds the record for most homers by a rookie before the All-Star break at 33. (Though right now, Judge may cut it close on that last one.)

Now, I’ve been told that people think both Judge and his NL competitor (and potential rookie rival on Monday night) will fade in the 2nd half of the season due to the “Home Run Derby” curse and perhaps just lack of faith. But I don’t put much stock in predictions and talking heads and odds-makers. Judge will do what Judge does — play baseball as best he can. His best just happens to be heads above most others (yes, this was an intentional height joke).

And as I’m sure you know, the Yankees are sending just 5 players to Miami next week. Didi Gregorius finished 3rd in Final Fan Voting yesterday, falling short of the Royals’ and Red Sox’s nominees, but only just barely. My newsfeed timeline yesterday was packed with Gregorius support from all over, but it just wasn’t enough. This time. Now, Gregorius also spent much of his off-day wandering around the City doing good deeds — giving tourist directions, helping with photos, giving people a free subway swipe, handing out umbrellas, making burritos, and more. Basically, he was being a Yankee ambassador to the City. A day well-spent in my mind.

Didi, you’ll always be an All-Star to Yankee Universe!

Go Yankees!

Game 83: TOR vs. NYY — No last minute rally, but still go & vote #SirDidi4Sure

They say that if you don’t have pitching, you’d don’t have anything. And today’s afternoon closer against the visiting Blue Jays certainly proved that true.

Michael Pineda got the start today and really just got roughed up, an oddity in what’s been a fairly strong season for him. He threw 65 pitches into just the 4th inning, gave up 9 hits, a walk, and 5 runs, and struck out just a single Toronto batter. The Blue Jays dinged into him right in the 1st inning when a lead-off single scored on a 1-out RBI single to get the Jays on the board early.

The 3rd inning was the hardest hit for him. With 1 out and a runner on 1st, a big 2-run home run pushed them further in the lead, only to be followed up by a solo home run. Add on a lead-off solo shot in the 4th, Pineda just didn’t have the game today. With a runner on 1st with a single, his outing ended as he handed the game over to Chasen Shreve. Shreve walked his first runner but then breezed through the next 6 outs to shut down the Jays and give the Yankees a chance to catch up.

So they did just that. In the bottom of the 4th, Gardner led-off with a walk and then scored as part of Aaron Judge’s big home run. His 29th of the season landed right in the Yankees’ bullpen. Then in the 5th, Ellsbury led-off with a single and then scored as part of Ji-Man Choi’s 2-run home run, his first ever as a Yankee.

With the Yankees within a run of the lead, they loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a single, sitting there hoping for a miracle. Two outs later, Didi Gregorius (#SirDidi4Sure, go vote!) hit a solid double into right field scoring the tying run and the go-ahead run in Romine and Gardner. That would be it for the Blue Jays starter, who is a fairly good starter and had a great outing against the Yankees until this final inning.

His bullpen did a much better job of fending off the Yankees’ offense. Which was incredibly unfortunate, as the Yankees’ bullpen wasn’t as lucky today. Chad Green came on in the 6th and did a stellar job of getting through that inning. But then a lead-off solo home run in the 7th to tie up the game. But that’s okay, the Yankees have played many games where they pulled out a last-minute rally. They just needed to stay tied to make it work.

And then Dellin Betances had some real trouble finding the strike zone in the 8th inning. He walked his first 3 batters, then found a strikeout. But then after he walked another batter, walking in the Blue Jays’ winning run, his afternoon was done. It was on to Adam Warren, who shut them down with the bases loaded and then sailed through the 3 outs in the 9th — 5 outs in just 16 pitches.

That last-minute rally of the Yankees? Yeah, stalled in both the 8th and 9th innings. It wasn’t going to happen.

Final score: 7-6 Blue Jays, Blue Jays win series 2-1.

Doctors figured out what’s wrong with Matt Holliday. After testing, they discovered that Holliday was battling the Epstein-barr virus, a common illness that most people get at some point in their lives but also one that comes with some heavy symptoms (extreme fatigue, fever, sore throat, swollen glands, rash, and more). While it does knock its victims out for a bit, it is recoverable, as evident by Holliday now getting back to some easy work outs this week. And with the All-Star Break coming up, he will have some time to recuperate further.

Today in Aaron Judge breaks/sets another record/defies logic… Aaron Judge has tied Joe DiMaggio for most home runs hit by a Yankee rookie at 29. DiMaggio set this Yankee this record in 1936, and Judge is getting ready to break it (and very well could have if not for the intentional walk late in the game). It should be noted that the statistic is during the full 1936 season. Yes, Judge is only just over halfway through the season and has tied the Yankee Clipper’s 81 year old record. (I have a feeling we’ll be saying things like that a lot with this certain rookie.)

I won’t get into the minor blip, a clear case of “sour grapes” regarding Gary Sanchez and his invitation to be part of the home run derby next week in Miami. It’s rather reminiscent of the 2012 HRD issue with the Royals (the ridiculous reason they still boo Cano). Does Sanchez have less home runs than the complainant? Yes, but he’s also played far fewer games this season thanks to a stint on the DL earlier this year. But here’s the facts: in 104 games (back to August 3, 2016), Sanchez has 33 homers, while the other guy has just 28 in 100 games over the exact same time span. So the invite goes to Sanchez… obviously.

And there’s less than a day left to get Didi Gregorius to the All-Star Game, so vote and vote often (through Twitter, text, and online). Gregorius is still running 3rd, but come on, Yankee Universe, we’re bigger than the Royals and Red Sox! Let’s make it happen! Seriously, stop what you’re doing and go vote!

Go Yankees!

Game 82: TOR vs. NYY — #Happy4th and #SirDidi4Sure

Happy Independence Day, America!

This day has a few moments of significance for “America’s team”. In 1983, pitcher Dave Righetti threw a no-hitter against Boston, the first since 1951. And in 1939, Lou Gehrig gave his memorable “Luckiest Man” speech in honor of his retirement and Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day. Also, it’s the birthday of the late George Steinbrenner and long-time Yankees radio broadcaster John Sterling.

And today, they hosted the Blue Jays for their second game (of three) in this first series this week in the Bronx. CC Sabathia, recently activated from his stint on the DL, had a great start to his outing — he threw 34 pitches to sail through his first 8 batters. And then he got into trouble with a walk and wild pitch that put his first allowed runner in scoring position to do so on an RBI single.

But then he loaded the bases with a single and walk. Sabathia was in a jam. It didn’t help that he couldn’t seem to pitch his way out of it — he walked in a run and then gave up a single that scored 2 more runs. That would be it for Sabathia’s return to the mound — throwing 63 total pitches in less than 3 full innings and setting himself up for the loss.

Also coming off the disabled list today, Adam Warren came on to close out the 3rd inning for Sabathia, needing 6 pitches to get that 3rd out of the inning. But that brought everything back to how Sabathia began the game this afternoon. Luis Cessa gave some long-term relief, easing his way into the 8th inning, giving up just 5 hits along the way but keeping the Jays from adding to their lead. Chasen Shreve closed out the 8th inning and handed over the game to Tyler Clippard for a solid 9th inning.

But it would not be enough that the bullpen had itself a strong inning if the Yankees’ offense didn’t kick it up a notch. And they really didn’t, only managing 4 total hits and 3 walks off the Blue Jays staff, despite driving up the pitch count on the starter. The only run the Yankees scored today came from a 4th inning lead-off solo home run from (who else?) Aaron Judge that actually dented the stadium.

Final score: 4-1 Blue Jays

Roster moves: Before the game, the Yankees activated CC Sabathia and Adam Warren from the 10-day disabled list, optioning Domingo German and Bryan Mitchell back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. After the game, the Yankees designated Chris Carter for assignment (again) and selected the contract of Ji-Man Choi (who we saw in Spring Training in March). There is a lot of talk about the Yankees being on the hunt for a more permanent 1st baseman, especially if things don’t look good for Bird, and with the trade deadline coming up, I imagine there might be a few more moves to see what can work for the Yankees in the long-run.

And in All-Star Game news: As of today, Didi Gregorius is currently 3rd in the final fan voting, so let’s make it happen, Yankee Universe. Vote via text (up to 35 times) or Twitter (using the hashtag #SirDidi4Sure) or online (unlimited times). So go vote for Gregorius before the voting ends Thursday, July 6 at 3:59 pm EST!

Go Yankees! And Happy 4th!