Game 70: LAA vs. NYY — So maybe… and not so much…

Things were looking so good. And then they weren’t. Perhaps it was indicative of how the recent week has been. Or perhaps it’s the end of whatever bad luck lingers from the West Coast trip, brought to New York by the West Coast-based Angels as they finished up this mid-week series.

Luis Severino had a rare mixed bag for tonight’s start. He threw 99 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up 8 hits, 2 walks, and 6 runs (only 5 earned), and struck out just 5 batters. His 2nd pitch found its way into the left field seats to put the Angels on the board early in this game. And in the 3rd, with 2 outs and runners on the corners, consecutive singles scored 2 more runners.

Then Severino buckled down and threw a few more typical innings for him. Until the 6th inning, a lead-off double scored on a single. A single and error in the 7th put runners on the corners, but Severino’s night was done. But he was still responsible for both runners (except not really, because of the error).

Chasen Shreve took over for Severino and got a sacrifice fly who scored the first runner in just 3 pitches. Dellin Betances took over next, but had his own share of issues. The runner at 1st stole 2nd and ended up at 3rd on a throwing error before scoring on a single. Then after a walk, Betances got a nice strikeout, but then a double scored 2 more runs to push the Angels even more in the lead.

Domingo German came on for the final 2 innings. With 1 out in the 8th, he gave up a double, a wild pitch, and a walk. But then German’s pick-off error scored the lead runner moving the other runner all the way to 3rd where he scored on a sacrifice fly to cap off the Angels’ big run-scoring evening.

And despite all that, the Yankees actually started the game really well. In the bottom of the 1st, with 2 outs and 2 runners on base with walk, Starlin Castro’s single scored Judge to tie up the game. In the 2nd, with 1 out, Carter doubled and moved to 3rd on Torreyes’ single. A fielder’s choice (these are almost always failed double plays) on Brett Gardner’s hit scored Carter. Then with Hicks also on base with a single, Aaron Judge was set up for a monster 3-run home run, his 25th of the season, just straight up to Monument Park.

But with the Yankees unable to find their offensive footing beyond this early rally, and their pitchers suffering with a weird inability to be able to keep the Angels from retaking the lead and then taking over the game, it was just not going to be a better outcome tonight for the Yankees. That late-inning rally never did materialize tonight.

Final score: 10-5 Angels, Angels win series 2-1

The Yankees will face the Rangers for a weekend series starting tomorrow night. But this will also include many celebrations leading up to the Old Timers’ Game on Sunday. Again, it’s time to get back on the winning track, and maybe the presence of winning legends from championship teams will rub off and help the current team out a bit.

Go Yankees!

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 68: LAA vs. NYY — Skidding out of 1st place

Well, coming home didn’t help the Yankees’ West Coast skid, now on a 7-game losing streak. Maybe it’s because they technically brought the West Coast with them starting this mid-week series against the Angels. This also means that the Yankees have slipped out of 1st place in the AL East to the (ugh!) Red Sox.

And here’s how that happened tonight…

Michael Pineda actually had a pretty decent outing tonight, after a bit of a messy start. He threw 105 pitches into the 6th inning, giving up 7 hits, a walk, and 3 runs (only 1 earned), and striking out 7 Angels’ batters. In the 1st, a lead-off double scored on an RBI single to get the Angels on the board (the only earned run allowed by Pineda). The lead-off batter in the 2nd reached on a fielding error, ending up at 2nd as a result, and then scored on a 1-out double. That batter then scored on a 2-out single to give the Angels an easy early (and mostly unearned) lead.

Meanwhile, the Yankees took advantage of the Angels starter, who only gave up 2 hits, but also 5 walks in his 5 innings. In the 4th, Castro led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Sanchez’s walk, to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on Chase Headley’s sacrifice fly. Aaron Judge hit a 2-out solo home run, his 24th homer of the season, in the 5th. Then facing a new pitcher, Gary Sanchez hit a 1-out solo home run into the right field seats to tie up the game.

And things were looking good for the Yankees. Pineda finished his outing strong, handing the final out of the 6th to Chasen Shreve who used just 5 pitches to get that final strikeout. But Tyler Clippard just struggled out of the gate in the 7th inning, giving up a lead-off solo home run, a double, a fly out (yay!), and an RBI triple. And that was it for Clippard.

Jonathan Holder came on to stem the tide, but still had his own issues. An RBI single scored one more run, charged to Clippard. In the 8th, a lead-off ground-rule double moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt, and then scored on a single. And to cap off the game for the Angels, a player hit a 2-out solo homer up the middle.

And the Yankees’ offense against the Angels’ bullpen? Holliday’s double in the 8th. And that’s it. The Angels’ bullpen was showing their strength tonight in the Bronx, and the Yankees, well, weren’t.

Final scores: 8-3 Angels

Prospect watch: Yankees’ #2 prospect Gleyber Torres was pulled from a game on Saturday due to some soreness in his left elbow after an awkward slide. After some tests, it was revealed that Torres hyper-extended his elbow on that slide, tearing his ulnar collateral ligament (or UCL), which requires the surgery named for famed pitcher Tommy John to repair it. Because Torres is not a pitcher, nor is the injury in his actual throwing arm, the return to baseball activities is less than standard for the injury and surgery option. Torres will miss the rest of this year, and there is no set date for the surgery as of yet. Speedy recovery, kid.

And just a quick heads up: 20 of the 40 players drafted last week in the MLB draft have signed with the Yankees, but a few more (including the top 2 picks) are expected to exercise their option and sign on as well. Players can opt out of the selection and choose a different path for this next year, putting themselves up for the draft next year or doing something else entirely. But over 50% signed to be Yankees? And in the middle of this losing streak? Yeah, I’ll take it as a sign for good things to come for the organization.

Now, if only that can make that happen on the field… like this week… like tomorrow…

Go Yankees!

Game 63: NYY vs. LAA — Not quite a good night in the City of Angels

Angels Stadium is often called “Yankee Stadium West” because there is a rather large contingent of Yankee fans in the LA area who come out in droves for Angels-Yankees games every year. And that’s apparent by how much blue and white fill the cherry red seats and that the games are sold out in the middle of the week.

But I’m thinking it felt a little less like a second (or third?) home for the Yankees after this series. Despite the strength the Yankees showed this week, even coming from behind, it seemed to fall short in the end in these last two games. Pretty much faulting the less-than-ideal pitching show from both teams in the last 48 hours.

It’s really no surprise that the Yankees broke through right in the top of the game. Gardner led-off with a single and moved to 3rd on Judge’s 1-out single. After Judge stole 2nd (and has just 1 less stolen base than Gardner this year), Matt Holliday’s sacrifice fly scored Gardner to get the Yankees on the board. Castro was then hit by a pitch to set-up a big breakthrough by Gary Sanchez, who hit a great 3-run home run into the left field seats.

Michael Pineda certainly had an off-night tonight. He threw 102 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up 10 hits, a walk, and 5 runs overall, and striking out just 2 Angels batters. After the Yankees gave him a nice lead, Pineda struggled right from the start, giving up 3 singles to load the bases with 1 out. A sacrifice fly got the Angels on the board. It was only a sacrifice fly because of the amazing defensive skills of Aaron Hicks actually reached over the center field wall and caught it, robbing that batter of a grand slam that would’ve quickly tied up the game. But Pineda got out of the inning without further damage.

It didn’t last long. After a lead-off single in the 2nd, a 2-run home run edged the Angels closer to the Yankees’ lead. And in the 3rd, the lead-off single moved to 2nd and then 3rd on 2 ground outs. After a walk, Pineda threw a really messy wild pitch, which easily scored the runner from 3rd (the runner who is not fast at all, a veteran with a persistent injury and better known for some towering home runs) to tie up the game. Another single scored another run and put the Angels in the lead.

The Yankees came back to tie it all up again in the 6th. Sanchez led-off with a single and ended up at 2nd on a throwing error. After 1 out, Chase Headley hit a single which scored Sanchez, and then Headley got caught in a rundown between 1st and 2nd. The game was tied again, but it was only the 6th inning.

Pineda was able to fend off the Angels for the second half of his outing, but he handed over the game to recent call-up (see below) Ronald Herrera. Despite getting ahead in the 7th with 2 quick outs, Herrera gave up a walk and then a big 2-run home run to give the Angels back the lead. Herrera had trouble getting that 3rd out of the inning. The next batter was hit by a pitch and then stole 2nd, ending up at 3rd due to a throwing error (Sanchez having a bad defense day, but a great offense day). But then Herrera got the strikeout he needed to stop the Angels’ advance.

Like I said, neither pitching staff was really at their best tonight. The Angels’ starter only made it into the 4th inning due to a potential injury, and both teams gave up 26 collective hits and got just 9 total strikeouts.

Final score: 7-5 Angels, Angels win series 2-1

Injury news: after last night’s unexpected injury and exit, CC Sabathia was tested and examined for what caused the tightening of his hamstring. An MRI revealed a grade 2 hamstring strain, which makes a stint on the disabled list unavoidable. As of yet, the Yankees haven’t set a timetable or announced a rotation replacement (for Sunday’s start) or a corresponding roster move.

Roster moves: The Yankees have been busy moving people around. Chapman is working with the Tampa Yankees on his rehab assignment. After designating Tommy Layne for assignment, they ended up outrighting him to AAA Scranton (like I said, they still want him around). Before the game today, they optioned Ben Heller to AAA Scranton, recalling tonight’s newest addition to the bullpen Ronald Herrera from AA Trenton. And in completion of a trade made earlier (Johnny Barbato) with the Pirates, the Yankees picked up pitching prospect Matt Frawley.

And the final day of the MLB Draft was earlier today, and the Yankees filled out their draft choices with 19 pitchers, 4 outfielders, 5 infielders, and 2 catchers.

Pitchers: Shawn Semple, Harold Cortijo, Aaron McGarity, Garrett Whitlock, Ron Marinaccio, Bryan Blanton, Janson Junk, Colby Davis, Riley Thompson, Austin Crowson (L), Alex Mauricio, Shane Roberts, Tristan Beck, Jacob Stevens, Jordan Butler (L), Andrew Abbott (L), Tanner Burns, Brent Burgess, and Andrew Nardi (L)
Outfielders: Steven Sensley, Pat DeMarco, Jake Mangum, and Jimmy Herron
Infielders: Eric Wagaman (1B), Ricky Surum (SS), Chris Hess (2B), Alika Williams (SS), and Hayden Cantrelle (SS)
Catchers: Ryan Lidge and Steven Williams

Overall in the draft, the Yankees clearly sent a message as they sought 28 total pitchers, 5 outfielders, 5 infielders, and 2 catchers. In thinking back to these last few seasons, the biggest weakness is the pitching and the Yankees are clearly setting themselves up for a future of stronger pitching options. And prospective pitchers made good trade bait if the Yankees need to fill an offensive hole along the way. It was a good move for the organization.

Go Yankees!

Game 62: NYY vs. LAA — Angelic walk-off sours West Coast hopes

West Coast Week is hard on all of us East Coasters. But an extra innings night game, over 4 hours of play, and one with an unfavorable outcome, is rather less than thrilling. Add in a potential loss of a starter who’s been on a great run, due to an injury, and it’s basically not going to be a good night.

CC Sabathia was looking for his 5th straight win tonight, but fell a bit short. And not by his own fault. Actually, overall once again, he had a pretty good outing. In his 4 strong innings, he only gave up 3 hits, a walk, and an unearned run, striking out 4 Angels batters. But coming up off a pitch in the 4th and grabbing his leg was definitely not a good sign. (More after the recap)

In the 4th, with 2 outs, a batter reached on a missed catch error at 1st, ending up at 2nd on the play. He then scored on an RBI single, though due to the error, it was unearned for Sabathia, keeping his ERA in pretty good shape. The runner got caught stealing (“you don’t run on Gary!”) to end the inning for Sabathia, a good thing as he was clearly injured at that point.

After Sabathia left, the Yankees bullpen got quite the workout. Giovanni Gallegos got the first 2 innings (5th & 6th) and fairly sailed through them, as did Warren in the 7th. But Tyler Clippard gave up a lead-off solo home run in the 8th to tie up the game at that point.

To get to that point, the Yankee actually relied almost solely on one player for their scoring tonight — the unlikely hero of Chase Headley. In the 5th, Headley hit a 1-out ground-rule double and then hustled home to score on Brett Gardner’s single. And then in the 7th, Headley hit a 1-out solo home run up the middle.

When the starter came out of the game that inning with 2 men on base and 2 outs, the Yankees once again left them stranded (a common theme in this game, actually). And while they certainly had opportunities to do something (read: that common theme), the Yankees didn’t capitalize on them.

With the game now tied, Yankees reliever Holder started the bottom of the 9th inning, but struggled his way through 2 hits and 2 outs before the Yankees opted for Chasen Shreve who got out of the jam and then pitched his way into and out of another jam the 10th.

As they hit the 4-hour mark, the game turned into 11 innings. The Yankees weren’t adding to the score, and the Angels saw their only opening in the bottom of the 11th when Shreve gave up a lead-off walk. After an out, Shreve was responsible for that lone runner at 1st as Heller came on to close out the inning. That runner moved to 2nd on a ground out, watched as another baserunner joined him on a walk, and then promptly scored on a bloop single to score a walk-off win.

Final score: 3-2, in 11 innings, Angels

Injury news: Sabathia felt his leg “grab” on his 2nd to last pitch, and then said when he could push off (a necessary move for a pitcher, as you can imagine) for that final pitch, he knew something was terribly wrong. They will send him for testing, mainly an MRI, to get a timetable of recovery before deciding on a DL stint (and his replacement on the rotation), but with a hamstring injury, there’s always going to be a DL stint.

Aroldis Chapman was to begin his rehab with the Advanced-A Tampa Yankees (against the Bradenton Pirates affiliate) tonight, but severe weather forced a postponement. They are scheduled to play in Bradenton tomorrow night and the weather is looking much better. Chapman is nearing his return, still shooting for the end of the Oakland series, but I guess that depends on whether weather will cooperate with his rehab starts at this point.

Today was also the second day of the MLB Draft. The Yankees continued picking up pitchers (mostly right-handers), and mostly juniors and seniors in college.
Pitchers: Trevor Stephan, Arkansas junior, (round 3, 92nd overall); Glenn Otto, Rice junior (round 5, 152nd); (the lefty) Dalton Lehnen, Augustana College junior (round 6, 182nd); Dalton Higgins, Dallas Baptist junior (round 7, 212nd); Kyle Zurak, Radford University senior (round 8, 242nd); Austin Gardner, University of Texas Arlington (round 9, 272nd); and Chad Whitmer, Southern Illinois University Carbondale senior (round 10, 302nd). And an outfielder: Canaan Smith, Rockwall-Heath High School (round 4, 122nd overall).

One more day and 30 more picks. Basically, this is an offer by the Yankees to these young players. They can accept the offer for a chance to play ball with the Yankees organization and enter the realm of professional sports, or they can decline the offer and continue their studies or pursue a different avenue. Some will decline to hone their skills and try again next year for the draft, especially the younger players. I’ve heard stories of high school kids getting drafted (even at early rounds) but declining because they made a deal with their parents to get through at least 2 years of college first. They may come back at get drafted again or even attempt a tryout at an open call.

There is no typical draft story. One example is current Yankees rep at the draft Andy Pettitte. Technically, he was selected in the 22nd round for the 1990 draft right out of high school. But he chose to enroll in a local junior college and came to an agreement with the Yankees of what’s called a “draft-and-follow prospect”. He eventually signed with the Yankees a year later. But he and his wife later made their sons promise to go to college, despite being very good athletes (and still drafted) themselves. It certainly depends on the player, their circumstances, and their life choices.

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 123: NYY vs. LAA — Angelic sweep denied

To be fair, the Yankees seriously outscored the Angels this weekend 12-3. And I sometimes wish that mattered. But games are individually counted, not series. So the Angels surprisingly denied the sweep to the Yankees today to close out the weekend series in Anaheim.

Chad Green got the start for the Yankees today, and honestly, he actually did a pretty good job overall. He threw 99 pitches in his 6 innings, gave up just 5 hits, a walk, and a run, and struck out 5 Angels’ batters. His lone run came in the 1st inning when a 2-out single scored on an RBI single a couple batters later to get the Angels on the board. He got a bit of help from the excellent defense, in plays like Ellsbury stealing a home run away from an Angels’ power-hitter in the 5th inning (almost diving into those beautiful waterfalls out there in center field).

Anthony Swarzak threw a beautifully clean 14-pitch 7th inning, while Adam Warren’s 8th was marred with some hiccups. With 1 out, Warren walked a batter who promptly got thrown out by catcher Gary Sanchez trying to steal 2nd. Two singles later and runners were on the corners. Another single scored the lead runner, but quick instincts nabbed the runner going to 3rd to end the inning.

All this while waiting for the Yankee bats to spark alive. And they did hit some, collecting 6 hits and 3 walks, but not enough to cobble together much of anything as far as runs scored.

Overall, it was rather a lackadaisical kind of game. But on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Southern California, how could you not take in a ball game?

Final score: 2-0 Angels, Yankees win series 2-1.

Funny moment during the game: apparently, right in the 1st inning, Gary Sanchez fouled a ball back into the crowd, but this particular foul went directly into the YES Network broadcasting booth and hit one of the broadcaster’s laptops. No worries though, the laptop is just fine.

Now, onto Seattle… enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Go Yankees!