Game 69: LAA vs. NYY — Snapping the skid

Sometimes, all it takes to right the ship is a single moment or a single game. This was that game to snap the Yankees really out-of-character recent spiral, and reset the focus. Though it was certainly not without its questionable moments in this middle game against the visiting Angels.

The Yankees struck first in the 2nd. With 1 out, Sanchez singled and then scored as part of Didi Gregorius’ solid home run into the 2nd deck of the right field seats. It was a good sign of things to come for the Yankees, who would eventually rack up 12 total hits and 5 walks during the game.

Jordan Montgomery got the start and continued impressing with his 97 pitches into the 6th inning. He gave up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, striking out 5 Angels’ batters. His only allowed runs were in the 4th inning. With 2 outs, he gave up a single that moved to 2nd on a balk, but then a batter hit a big 2-run homer to tie up the game at that point.

But the Yankees came back in the 5th to break the tie and push themselves back into the lead. With 2 outs, Matt Holliday smacked his 15th home run of the season, a solo shot into the right field seats. And Sanchez led-off the 6th with a single, and Headley worked a 1-out walk to end the Angels’ starter’s night.

A new pitcher gave up a double to Austin Romine that scored both Sanchez and Headley for a few insurance runs. Romine moved to 3rd on a flyout and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ single. Holliday led-off with a double and then scored on Starlin Castro’s single. Castro later scored on Chase Headley’s 2-out single.

Meanwhile, Chad Green came on to finish Montgomery’s 6th inning and pitched a fairly clean 7th. Dellin Betances breezed through the 8th inning in just 14 pitches, including 2 strong strikeouts.

But it would be Tyler Clippard that made things interesting. Despite looking forward to stopping his own skid this season, his 9th inning was troubling. He gave up a lead-off double that scored on a 2-run home run to halve the Yankees’ lead. But the Yankees weren’t about to lose this game and sent in their insurance plan — Aroldis Chapman for a 9-pitch outing, ratcheting up the heat to 103 mph for the final strikeout pitch.

Final score: 8-4 Yankees.

The Yankees now will be looking to surge forward in victory, closing out this midweek series against the Angels on a win before facing the weekend series against the Rangers. In an update to the standings: the Yankees are back on top in the AL East with this win (and the Red Sox’s loss) tonight. But just by half a game.

Actually, looking at the standings daily is amusing. Because it so fluctuates at this point in the season. At first, at the beginning of the season, it’s so extreme in the standings. And then by almost the half-way point in the season, it’s a matter of a series that can change who’s leading a division. And this pattern continues through most of the season, right up until the end.

Of course, there’s always that one team that runs away from their division (I’m looking at you NL East right now). And it’s not a matter that the one team is that good, but rather the rest of the division is just that bad in comparison. But sometimes, there’s a 1998 Yankees season where they run away with the division because they’re just that good (setting a league record of 114 wins during the regular season, and 11 more in the postseason, plus the World Series).

But right now, it’s still very much anyone’s game. You never know which team’s going to get hot, which team’s going to be bogged down with injuries, and which team’s going to just surprise everyone and do the unexpected. Because that’s baseball… you learn to expect the unexpected.

And it certainly makes life a whole lot more fun.

Go Yankees!

Game 64: NYY vs. OAK — Another extra innings disappointment

Boy, this California trip is going like my last one did — not how I expected and more than slightly disappointing. Plus, it’s hard to adjust to the 3-hour time difference, and it ends up running longer than into the night than I can deal with. Yeah, the similarities are there, and we’re coming to the point where I can’t wait to get back home to New York.

Jordan Montgomery had a touch-and-go kind of start tonight in the series opener against the Athletics. He threw 83 pitched into the 6th inning, gave up 7 hits, a walk, 4 runs, and struck out just 5 Oakland batters. A 2-out solo home run in the 1st started things off for the A’s. Then in the 2nd with 2 outs, Montgomery gave up a walk and a ground-rule double to put runners in scoring position. A double then scored both runners. A 1-out solo home run in the 6th capped things off for Montgomery as he handed over the game to the bullpen.

Meanwhile, the Yankees did what they could to catch up to the lead the A’s kept taking all night. In fact, it seemed to be a pattern for them to load up the bases and then only get a run at most. As tough as the game was on Yankee pitchers, it seemed the Athletics had the same issues tonight.

Despite loading up the bases and putting runners into scoring position multiple times, the Yankees didn’t get on board until the 6th inning after (you guessed it!) loading up the bases. With 1 out and the bases loaded, Chase Headley’s single scored both Castro and Sanchez, and Chris Carter’s single scored Gregorius to tie up the game (get used to that phrase tonight). After the A’s retook the lead in the bottom of the 6th, the Yankees tied up the game in the top of the 7th. With 2 outs and a new reliever, Castro singled, stole 2nd, and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s double. Tied game.

The bullpen didn’t help the early struggles of Montgomery. Chad Green closed out the 6th but got into trouble in the 7th. A single led-off the inning, moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt, and then scored on an RBI single. The A’s back in the lead again. But the Yankees faced a new reliever in the 8th and Chris Carter tied up the game again with a 1-out solo home run into the left field seats.

Tyler Clippard came on for the 8th and gave up a single and walk and just 1 out, so the Yankees went to Dellin Betances, who promptly loaded the bases with a walk. The next batter hit into a fielder’s choice (another failed double play, unfortunately), so the lead runner scored to put the A’s back in the lead. And in the 9th, Castro hit a 1-out double and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s single to tie up the game again. Sanchez stole 2nd and Headley was intentionally walked, and then Torreyes came in the game to pinch-run for an injured Sanchez. (more later)

And so into the 10th inning the game went. The Yankees leapt ahead to lead for the first time tonight. With 1 out, Gardner and Refsnyder singled, and Judge walked to (yep!) load the bases. Starlin Castro’s sacrifice fly scored Gardner to give anyone still up on the East Coast watching the game a bit of hope. All they had to do was get 3 outs and the game would be filed in the win column.

Giovanni Gallegos was called on to do just that in the bottom of the 10th. But after 2 outs, Gallegos got into trouble because he loaded up the bases with a single, a double, and intentional walk. But then a single scored the tying and winning run for a walk-off win for the Athletics.

Bummer.

Final score: 8-7 Athletics, in 10 innings

Injury news: So, Gary Sanchez had a great offensive night, going 3-for-3, with 2 walks, 2 RBIs, and a run scored. But then on that stole base in the 9th, Sanchez felt a tightness in his abductor muscles around the groin. It could be something or nothing, which will depend on test results and how he feels tomorrow. Fortunately, Romine is a very strong back-up catcher, so if he needs a few days rest, it’s covered.

In less positive news, Greg Bird suffered a big set-back in rehab assignment. It doesn’t seem to be related to his initial ankle injury, but he’s been shut down for now with no timetable as of yet.

And in much better news: former 2015 HOPE Week honoree Chris Singleton was recently selected by the Cubs in the 19th round of the MLB draft (585th overall). Singleton, whose mother was one of 9 parishioners who were killed when a white supremacist gunned down a Bible study at a Charleston church in 2014. Singleton ended up playing baseball at Charleston Southern University and gained some notoriety as a great center fielder, making friends with Yankees outfielder (and Charleston native) Brett Gardner. And now, he has an option to go pro in the sport he loved, and filled with memories of his number one fan — his mother.

To close: two days ago, at an Alexandria (VA) sandlot, members of Congress and their aides were practicing for an upcoming charity match when a man opened fire and shot Representative Scott Scalise (Majority Whip and Republican of Louisiana), former aide and current lobbyist Matt Mika, Congressional aide Zach Barth, and two Capitol Police officers (Crystal Griner and David Bailey) before the officers on site fatally shot the shooter.

And in a great show of unity, the 108th charity game went on as planned tonight at Nationals Park. They sold a record number of tickets (nearly 25,000) and over $1 million was raised. After prayer at 2nd base (Scalise’s position) and a moment of silence, the game commenced, with Joe Torre giving the honor of the ceremonial first pitch to Officer Bailey (crutches and all). The Democrats won the game 11-2, but in the end, they opted to give the trophy to the Republicans to put in Scalise’s hospital room as he continues to recover from his wounds. Scalise has had 3 surgeries so far, dealing with the most damage and remains in serious condition. Our thoughts and prayers are with him as he recovers.

There is something healing and uniting about baseball. It was the game that helped New York (and the country) heal after the 9/11 attacks. It was the game that supported Boston after the Marathon Bombing. And it will be the game after this tragic event that reminds us of the shared love for “America’s Game” can unite us all even in these highly divided times. In the end, we’re all just Americans with a shared love of a kids’ game we played in backyards, sandlots, or little leagues around the country.

Go Yankees!

Game 61: NYY vs. LAA — Back to #TanakaTime helps make it 6 in a row

An extra day’s rest seemed to be exactly what tonight’s starter Masahiro Tanaka needed to get back into form. Not that it was the greatest outing, but it was certainly more “Tanaka-esque” compared to his more recent outings. Not quite back to the Tanaka who dominated Spring Training, but more on par with a regular season kind of Tanaka.

In this first game of the series in Anaheim against the Angels, Tanaka threw 89 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up just 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs (though only 1 was earned), and struck out an impressive 8 batters. Actually, he was quite dominant tonight. He gave up a 1-out solo home run in the 1st inning but then held the Angels off for most of his outing. In his final inning, the 7th, with 1 out, a batter reached on a fielding error, stole 2nd, and then scored on an RBI single.

The Yankees then handed the ball off to Tyler Clippard to finish the 7th inning. Clippard gave up an RBI double that technically blew Tanaka’s win, but then buckled down and got that 3rd out and then the first 2 of the 8th inning. Dellin Betances came out for a 4-out save, breezing through them in just 18 pitches, including 3 strong strikeouts.

Meanwhile, the Yankees had to catch up to the Angels early small lead, get out in front, and then overtake them again to win this game. The Yankees hit into the Angels’ starter pretty hard, pushing him to 93 pitches and exiting the game in just the 5th inning.

First, in the 3rd, with 2 outs, Holliday and Castro each worked a walk, and Didi Gregorius’ single scored Holliday to initially tie up the game. Then in the 5th, Judge worked a 1-out walk, and Castro hit a 2-out single. Gregorius’ single then scored Judge to break the tie.

Deep into the bullpen already, the Angels sent in a new reliever for the 7th inning. Judge led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on a ground out, watched the reliever intentionally walk Gregorius with 2 outs, and then scored on Chase Headley’s single. Despite a walk to Carter loading the bases, the Yankees couldn’t capitalize at that moment to gain any further ground.

After the Angels tied up the game in the bottom of the 7th, the Yankees immediately came back in the 8th to retake the lead. Aaron Hicks hit a nice 1-out double and waited for another pitching change. And then Aaron Judge promptly hit his 22nd home run of the season, a 2-run shot to the right field seats to give the Yankees the ultimate win, setting Betances up for the save.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees

It’s worth noting that Didi Gregorius was on fire tonight, going 4-for-4, with a walk and 2 RBIs. He’s now batting .344 for the season. He’s still 2nd on the team for batting average (Judge, of course, is 1st with .347), but it’s worth noting of the 9 players who started tonight’s game 4 have batting averages above .300 (Judge, Gregorius, Castro, and Hicks), while of the regular roster, there’s 9 players who have averages above .260 (the four above plus Ellsbury, Torreyes, Holliday, Sanchez, and Gardner).

And today was the first day of the MLB Draft: the Yankees first pick (and 16th overall) was right-handed pitcher Clark Schmidt, a junior at the University of South Carolina (and former fellow classmate and teammate of current starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery). Schmidt is actually still on recovery from Tommy John surgery this April. So despite being a first-round draft pick, he won’t be able to resume baseball activities for another year, meaning he will probably still finish his education while he recovers.

For the Yankees other pick of the day, the second round and 54th pick overall, they selected Matt Sauer, another right-handed pitcher, who graduates from a California high school this year. Oddly, because of Schmidt’s current status on the unofficially disabled list, Sauer was actually rated much higher on the Draft prospect list than Schmidt. But the funniest thing about the draft is that you just never know who’s going to be the next hall-of-famer and who might have more success as a high school baseball coach.

There’s two more days and 38 more rounds of the draft tomorrow and Wednesday, and you never know who might they might pick up  along the way.

Go Yankees!

Game 58: BAL vs. NYY — Home field advantage, home field dominance

It was Reggie Jackson bobblehead night in the Bronx, Mr. October himself having a bit of fun with it as he too bobbled his head in response to the recognition before the game. Also, it was basically a gorgeous Friday night for baseball, the weather quite a bit warmer and the sky streaked with colors of the coming sunset as the Yankees prepared to continue their home dominance in this new series against the visiting Orioles.

The rookie pitcher Jordan Montgomery got the start, and really had a fantastic outing. In his 7 innings, he threw 94 pitches, giving up just 5 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and struck out an impressive 8 Baltimore batters. After a near flawless 3 strikeout, 15-pitch 1st inning, Montgomery found his only real trouble of the game in the next inning. He gave up that lone walk to lead off the inning who promptly scored on a 2-run shot up the middle for the O’s only runs of the night. Then Montgomery dialed back in and fairly breezed through the rest of his outing.

Tyler Clippard then followed suit with a beautiful 10-pitch 8th inning, and birthday boy Jonathan Holder (Happy 24th!) closed out the game in the 9th to give the Yankees (and Montgomery) the win.

Technically, if the winning team is not the first ones to score, it is considered a comeback win. Which I think is ridiculous, as it should only be a “comeback” if there’s an incredible run difference and it’s late in the game. Like it truly matters. But it’s the way it is, so whatever.

So, despite being down 2-0 going into the bottom of the 2nd inning, the Yankee staged their “comeback”. Starlin Castro led-off with a solo home run. Sanchez then doubled, moved to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on Chase Headley’s long (and just about 2 feet shy of a homer) sacrifice fly to tie up the game. Aaron Hicks smacked a lead-off solo home run in the 6th inning (into the new “Judge’s Chambers”) to push the Yankees into the lead.

In the 7th, with a new pitcher, Chase Headley reached 1st on a fielding error, moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt, ended up at 3rd on a ground out, and then scored as part of Aaron Hicks’ 2nd home run of the game (and 10th homer of the season), this one off the 2nd deck in right field. Judge then worked a walk and made a nice slide to come in and score on Matt Holliday’s (just inches shy of a homer so it bounced off the back wall) double.

Another new reliever didn’t seem to help the Orioles as the Yankees loaded up the bases in the 8th with 2 singles and a walk. Austin Romine’s single scored Sanchez and Gregorius, but Headley ended up getting thrown out going to 3rd (also the 1st out of the 8th inning). The defense buckled down and got the final 2 outs of the inning on fielder’s choice ground outs.

But the dent had been made. And the Yankees racked up 11 hits tonight.

Final score: 8-2 Yankees.

Injury updates: Aroldis Chapman is on his way to Florida to begin his rehab after his shoulder injury. He will work his way back into baseball activities with a goal to rejoin the team in the Oakland series next weekend in California.

And HOPE Week continues around the Yankee farm system. The Single-A Charleston RiverDogs had their own HOPE week at the end of May honoring great organizations around the Charleston area.

And AA Trenton Thunder are in the middle of their HOPE Week. They are out this week serving the greater Trenton area (which often extends from Philadelphia to Princeton). The AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders will start their HOPE Week on Jun 19, and other affiliates are scheduled to join in the fun later this summer.

Basically, it’s good to see the Yankees all across Yankee Universe continue to give back in whatever community they’re planted. A good reminder for all their fans across the globe — you can make an impact wherever you are, but just reaching out to fill a need or taking the time to care about someone. You may not change the whole world in that moment, but you certainly can change someone’s world. And that’s really what matters.

Go Yankees!

Game 53: NYY vs. TOR — Strong start, stronger late-inning bombs

A lovely 64° and sunny in Toronto (not a sign of “The Big Smoke” in sight), with the roof open at Rogers Centre and a great view of the landmark CN Tower for the sellout crowd today. In other words, it was a beautiful day for some baseball.

Jordan Montgomery got the start today. The rookie throwing what had to be his strongest start of the season so far. He threw 103 pitches through the 6 innings, giving up just 3 hits and 3 walks, and striking out 5 Toronto batters, setting himself up for the win. But the important part of the whole outing was that there were no runs scored by the Blue Jays, thanks in part to the outstanding performance by the great Yankees defense.

That continued through the latter third of the game, as Warren, Clippard, and Betances each took an inning to shut the Blue Jays down and keep putting up those zeroes on the scoreboard.

Of course, this would all mean nothing unless the Yankees had some offense to counter it. And actually, the Blue Jays starter had a pretty good outing himself for the first 7 innings. The Yankees weren’t even able to score until the 3rd inning. Refsnyder made it safely to 1st on a fielding error, stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ double. Hicks then scored on Aaron Judge’s double to put the Yankees in the lead on a few unearned runs. And in the 7th, Castro led off with a double and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ double. Gregorius would later get caught in a rundown.

The Blue Jays starter had a pretty good day if the Yankees’ pitchers didn’t have a better one. Or if the Jays’ bullpen didn’t have a really off 8th inning. Brett Gardner led-off with a solo shot to right field. And 2 outs later, the Yankees decided to back-to-back-to-back — Matt Holliday, Starlin Castro, and Didi Gregorius.

It would be just the 4th time in Yankees history they hit 4 homers in a single inning — 1977 (in Toronto, the 8th), 2005 (against the Rays, the 8th), 2012 (against the Red Sox, the 2nd), and then today (in Toronto in the 8th). Though oddly none of them were 4 consecutive homers.

Final score: 7-0 Yankees.

Injury news: Jacoby Ellsbury has been shut down due to the return of his concussion symptoms. He had been taking swings in the batting cages and running a bit in the outfield for practice and to work his way back to the team. But with the recurrence of his symptoms, he’s officially shut down from all baseball activities.

Also… Greg Bird continues his rehab with the Tampa Yankees. And Aroldis Chapman threw a light session today and is feeling good. So he’s nursing that shoulder and easing his way back into baseball shape.

And despite taking a bad foul ball off his knee, Austin Romine stayed in the game. He clearly was in pain through the game, even as he jogged to 1st a couple of times. He should have a nasty bruise to nurse for the next few days, but Sanchez is scheduled to start with Severino’s start tomorrow.

Go Yankees!

Game 48: NYY vs. BAL — Less than charming afternoon

I’ve always heard the Baltimore uses “Charm City” as its primary nickname, and honestly, I’ve never really cared much to figure out why. But watching today’s game was exhausting, so I reluctantly turned to Google to answer a question I never really had. Apparently, in the 1970s, an ad executive was hired to transform Baltimore’s seedy reputation (satirically referenced in the Hairspray movie and musical) into something that might increase tourism and new residents. So, they came up with “Charm City”, as in “Come see Baltimore for all its charm“. There was even a campaign that gave out charms for a charm bracelet as people checked in to see the “sites of the city”.

Of course, they also tried a handful of other marketing campaigns through the years, but “Charm City” stuck enough, thanks in part to their public bus system being named the Charm City Circulator and now a popular local bakery made famous thanks to reality TV. How charming it really is depends on your perspective, I guess. But seeing as I’ve only seen the city as enemy territory (or breezed through it on an East Coast road trip years ago), I’ve yet to discover this mystical “charm”.

Jordan Montgomery got roughed up a bit in today’s start against the Orioles in Camden Yards. He threw 100 pitches into just the 5th inning, giving up 8 hits, a walk, and 3 runs (though only 1 was earned), and striking out 5 Baltimore batters.

The first batter of the game singled, moved to 2nd on a ground out, and then scored on a 2-out single. After another single put runners on the corners, Montgomery got a well-placed strikeout to get out the jam in that 1st inning. Then in the 3rd, with 1 out, a batter reached 1st on a messy fielding error and moved to 2nd on a 2-out single. And a double scored both runners (neither were considered earned due to the timing of the error).

With 2 runners on base in the 5th and just 1 out, the Yankees turned to reliever Jonathan Holder to set things right. Something he did quite well with 2 amazing strikeouts. Holder breezed through the 6th inning, setting the Yankees back on the right course. Chasen Shreve’s 2-innings found a similar momentum, shutting the Orioles down for the remainder of the game. Collectively, the Yankees pitching staff worked an impressive 11 strikeouts.

But that certainly wasn’t enough to do much against the Orioles. They had opportunities this afternoon, but only managed to cobble together a few successful offensive plays. In the 2nd, Starlin Castro was hit by a pitch to lead-off the inning, moved to 2nd on a fly out, made it to 3rd on Gregorius’ single, and then scored on Aaron Hicks sacrifice fly to tie up the game at that point. And Aaron Judge led-off the 7th with a monster solo home run up the middle, his 17th of the season to put the Yankees just shy of the O’s lead.

But with the new relievers in the 8th and 9th innings, the Yankees failed to do more than make 6 outs fairly easy for the Orioles.

Final score: 3-2 Orioles.

Before the game today, local service men joined the starting Orioles on the field for a moment of silence and for a truly amazing rendition of the national anthem by SFC Randy Wight, who came back to sing “God Bless America” during the 7th inning stretch.

Being so close to our nation’s capital, the plethora of active servicemen and women serves as a reminder to us. In the Bronx, the Yankees honor their service at every home game. But today, the country stops to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country. We carry their legacy with us everyday and express our gratitude to them and their families for their willingness to serve and protect and defend our country.

You are not forgotten. Thank you.

Go Yankees!

Lots of rain means tonight’s game postponed, but that doesn’t dampen the fun in the Bronx

Early this morning, the powers-that-be checked the weather radar (or simply opened their curtains) and figured out that it’s going to rain all day, with a possible minor break around game time before thunderstorms roll back in again. Basically, not exactly ideal weather for the Yankees and Royals to play their final game of this week’s series.

So, they called it postponed and rescheduled the finale for Monday, September 25 to squeeze in a game on a mutual off-day. The Yankees will be coming in from a short series in Toronto before their final homestand, and the Royals will make a brief trip eastward after a weekend series in Chicago before heading home for their final homestand.

Game information, start time, and rainout policy details are found here.

Last night, the first pitch of the game had Jacoby Ellsbury ran hard tracking down a long fly ball, slamming into the back wall with his head and right arm. He made the out, of course, probably saving a double or even a triple from the speedy Royals lead-off runner. But it also landed him on the 7-day disabled list with a concussion and sprained neck. There is no timetable for his projected recovery.

Aaron Hicks, who came on at the top of the 2nd inning to replace Ellsbury, will likely see more time on the playing field. So to fill his spot as the utility outfielder, the Yankees recalled Rob Refsnyder from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Day 4 of HOPE Week continued on as planned. Today, the Yankees recognized A Moment of Magic Foundation, a non-profit organization that began as “The Princess Project” in which college-age students dress up as popular fairy tale princess to visit children’s hospitals and schools. Now nationwide, A Moment of Magic sends out “The Fairytale Force” (the princesses) or “Mission Super Hero” (popular comic book superheroes), college students from around the US, dressed as princesses and heroes to visit children at local hospitals and schools.

In a fun twist, A Magic Moment’s local Fairytale Force paired with certain Yankees dressed as superheroes to surprise participants from another great organization called Friends of Jaclyn, an organization the Yankees honored in 2014. Friends of Jaclyn is a foundation in honor of Jaclyn Murphy, who, after being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, was paired with a local college lacrosse team. Her lasting legacy is now to pair sick children with local high school and college athletic teams “to show them love, support, and friendship”.

It would be the starting rotation that showed up to surprise lucky Friends of Jaclyn at a party held at Yankee Stadium — Superman (CC Sabathia), Supergirl (CC’s wife, Amber Sabathia), Iron Man (Luis Severino), Wolverine (Michael Pineda), the coolest ninja turtle Michelangelo (Masahiro Tanaka), Captain America (Jordan Montgomery) and Spider-man (GM Brian Cashman).

What a great way to put a smile on children’s faces, giving them the amazing gift of joy and wonder! Genuine love, support, compassion, and encouragement can go a long way in recovery and healing for both the kids and their parents. It’s good to see foundations like A Moment of Magic and Friends of Jaclyn continue this legacy of compassion and joy.

One more day of HOPE Week tomorrow before the Yankees take on the Athletics as they begin their weekend series. With hopefully, a bit less precipitation.

Go Yankees!