Game 134: BOS vs. NYY — September off to a stunted start

And just like that fortunes reversed. September begins, and the Yankees are still in heated contention with the Red Sox (and a few other teams) for the postseason. Sonny Gray got the start tonight, and certainly had mixed results. On one hand, he struck out 9 Boston batters in just 7 innings, but on the other, he gave up 4 runs.

Gray threw 98 pitches in those 7 innings, giving up 5 hits and a walk. And those pesky 4 runs, all scored on home runs. In the 3rd, he allowed his lone walk before a home run scored both runners to put the Red Sox in the lead. A 2-out solo home run in the 5th and a lead-off solo shot in the 7th added those 2 more runs for the Red Sox.

Meanwhile, the Yankees kicked off the offense in the 1st when Brett Gardner hit a lead-off double and then scored on Aaron Judge’s double. Then they struggled with much offense, only getting 2 more hits and a walk off the Red Sox’s starter in his 7 innings.

Aroldis Chapman’s 8th inning was almost perfect, where he got all 3 outs as strikeouts. And Adam Warren kept the Red Sox from adding to their score with a 14-pitch 9th. But unfortunately, the Red Sox’s relievers for both innings followed the example and threw 2 scoreless innings as well, leaving the Yankees in the dust.

Final score: 4-1 Red Sox

Before the game today, former Yankee legend (and Grammy-nominated classically trained guitarist) Bernie Williams performed an amazing version of the national anthem as Little Leaguers from the area who narrowly missed representing the US in the recent Little League World Series joined Yankee players all over the field to be honored for their success this season.

Roster moves: just in time for the September call-ups, the Yankees activated Matt Holliday from the DL, after his recovery from a back injury. They also transferred pitcher Luis Cessa, who is still dealing with his ribcage injury, from the 10-day to the 60-day DL, effectively removing him off the 40-man roster. This made room for the Yankees to select the contract of newly acquired Erik Kratz, promoting him from AAA Scranton.

They also recalled pitchers Jordan Montgomery, Ben Heller, and Bryan Mitchell from AAA Scranton. There is still room for additions this month, but the Yankees also want the RailRiders to work on their own upcoming postseason and potential repeat of their championship in a few weeks. They finish their season on Monday as division leaders (by 7 1/2 games!).

Like the big leagues, the team with the most wins will face the winner of the Wild Card games (to be played on Wednesday and Thursday). The RailRiders are ready for that role unless they get swept by the Phillies’ AAA team. Their Division Series (best of 5) begins next weekend. Their Championship Series is shortly after that (beginning September 12) for the “Governor’s Cup”. And the ultimate championship game between the Pacific Coast League and the International League (where the RailRiders play) to be played on September 19 at PNC Park (the RailRiders’ home park). Best of luck to you guys once again in your postseason!

Go Yankees!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final score: 5-4 Yankees

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

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

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

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

Go Yankees!

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

Game 117: NYM vs. NYY — #SubwaySeries starts strong

Rivalry week continues as the Yankees and Mets play their now annual 4-game split between the Bronx and Queens. We began tonight in the Bronx with a strong showing by the Yankees.

Recently recalled Luis Cessa got the start tonight and threw a pretty good outing. He threw just 66 pitches into the 5th inning, giving up 5 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and striking out 5 Mets’ batters. Those two runs came as solo home runs in the 3rd inning. And that would be it for the Mets tonight. However, Cessa had some physical issues that caused him to be pulled from the game early.

Fortunately, the bullpen was strong and ready to go. Chad Green closed out the 5th solidly and remained dominant through the 6th and 7th innings. David Robertson continued that momentum in the 8th, getting all 3 outs with stellar strikeouts. And Dellin Betances’ 9th inning closed out the game well and earned the save tonight.

The Yankees faced a bit of resistance from the Mets’ starter for much of his 6 innings. So they played a little small ball in the 4th. They loaded up the bases with a single and 2 walks and lead runner Hicks scored on Gary Sanchez’s sacrifice fly to get the Yankees on the board. And then Aaron Judge led-off the 6th with a big solo home run into the right field seats, his 36th of the season, to tie up the game.

Once the Yankees dipped into the Mets’ bullpen, they found another opening in the 8th. Aaron Hicks led-off with a solo home run to score the winning run. After 2 outs and 2 pitching changes, Gary Sanchez joined in on the fun with a solo home run of his own for that insurance run.

Final score: 4-2 Yankees

Roster moves/Scranton Shuttle: before the game, the Yankees optioned reliever Caleb Smith back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and recalled tonight’s starter Luis Cessa.

Injury news: Luis Cessa felt a weird tightening in the 5th inning, coming up from a pitch with a new twinge in his back. He is scheduled to have a precautionary MRI tomorrow on his right rhomboid muscle (the upper back area). However, it doesn’t seem to be so serious, so after some rest and treatment, he could be ready for his next scheduled start on Saturday in Fenway.

Now, this wasn’t a bad way to start the “Subway Series”. The Yankees will wrap up the first half tomorrow night before the teams shift over for the final 2 games to CitiField in Queens, about 10 miles east of Yankee Stadium (or about an hour train ride or 30 minute Uber).

Before the game, journalist and 2017 Hall of Fame award winner Claire Smith was honored and threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Smith was the first female MLB beat writer covering the Yankees from 1983 to 1987 for a Connecticut paper. She later worked for major papers like The New York Times and is currently a news editor for ESPN. She was recently the 2017 winner of the JG Taylor Spink Award, an award given at the Hall of Fame ceremony every year to celebrate “meritorious contributions to baseball writing”. She is the first woman and fourth African-American to win the award and has her own section in Cooperstown.

From one female writer to another, my sincerest congratulations!

Go Yankees!

Game 104: DET vs. NYY — Yankees remain strong, last-minute trade grab

Today was the final day of the big MLB trade deadline, and even the Yankees benefited from some last-minute trade deals. But at the expense of some pretty great prospects. More after the game recap, as they still had to play a game in the Bronx.

The Yankees continued their home stand with this 3-game midweek series against the visiting Tigers. The Yankees are hoping to keep their winning momentum going with this new series, so it was only natural to look to Luis Severino to start tonight’s game. Severino threw 116 pitches in just 5 innings, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and a run, and still struck out 8 Detroit batters.

The still hashtag-less Severino had his toughest inning was the 4th. With 2 outs, he struggled to get that final out, giving up a single that scored on an RBI double. The Yankees’ defense also earned their 2 fielding errors that inning, though it ultimately didn’t affect the score. It just helped push up his pitch count, which was really the roughest part of his outing.

Tommy Kahnle came on in relief for the 6th inning and had a bit of his own struggles. His lead-off batter was hit by a pitch, moved to 2nd on a single, and then scored on a 2-out single to double the Tigers’ score.

Betances had better luck in the 7th, keeping the Tigers from adding to their score, and Jonathan Holder kept things smooth in the 8th. Holder’s 9th inning, however, wasn’t so smooth. With just 1 out on the board, Holder loaded up the bases with consecutive singles and a hit-by-pitch, before handing over the ball to Aroldis Chapman. A fielder’s choice (or rather a late effort at a double play) scored just one more run for the Tigers before a 3-pitch strikeout ended the Tigers’ last-minute rally.

Meanwhile, the Yankees took their opportunities when they found them. In the 4th, they loaded up the bases with a walk, a fielding error, and a walk. Chase Headley’s double scored 2 runs, and then Todd Frazier’s single scored 2 more. All before the Yankees got a single out that inning, and suddenly the Yankees leapt ahead of the Tigers.

Aaron Judge added an extra cushion to the lead with a 1-out solo home run in the 5th into the left field seats. In the 7th, lead-off batter Ellsbury was hit by a pitch, stole 2nd, and then scored on Clint Frazier’s giant triple. After Judge worked a walk, the Tigers pulled their starter and went to their bullpen. Gary Sanchez’s sacrifice fly scored Frazier for the final Yankees’ run of the night.

Final score: 7-3 Yankees.

Scranton Shuttle: before the game, for fresh arms in the bullpen, the Yankees optioned pitcher Luis Cessa to AAA Scranton and recalled Jonathan Holder, who ended up in tonight’s game.

Okay, the big trade of the day has the Yankees picking up a new pitcher for the starting rotation — Sonny Gray, a 27-year-old starter from the Athletics. In trade, the Yankees sent 3 of their prospects — outfielder Dustin Fowler, infielder Jorge Mateo, and pitcher James Kaprielian. Yes, Fowler and Kaprielian are on the DL recovering from surgeries, which should tell you how valuable both teams think of these players.

Sonny Gray was a first round draft pick in 2011 for the Athletics, after pitching at Vanderbilt. Gray came up in the A’s organization, making his MLB debut in 2013 and the 2015 All-Star team. He’s had a bit of a rough season last year on and off the DL, and another small one early this season. But he’s got the history of consistency and the youth that the Yankees really need for some potential long-term players.

The Yankees also picked up extra money for the international draft market (also called “Future Considerations”) on this trade. They picked up even more when they sent pitching prospect Yefry Ramirez to the Orioles. This is good for the Yankees as they continue to expand internationally and pick up more players in a broader market.

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!

Game 99: CIN vs. NYY — Matinee magic & #SeverinoNeedsAHashtag

Luis Severino currently leads the Yankees pitchers in strikeouts at 145 (after today’s game), making his 4th in the AL and 9th overall. In his 20 games, he’s thrown 127.2 innings (the most of Yankees) and kept his opponents to a .224 batting average (best of Yankee starters).

Anyway, for today’s rare midweek matinees, Severino got the start for this finale game in this short series against the visiting Reds. He threw 112 pitches in his 7 innings, giving up just 3 hits, 2 walks, and 2 unearned runs, and struck out an impressive 9 batters. In fact, Severino held off the Reds until his final inning. The lead-off batter reached on a fielding error and then scored on a double. A wild pitch moved that runner to 3rd and then scored a bit later on a ground out. This strong outing set Severino up for his 7th win of the season.

Meanwhile, the Yankees padded their lead to give Severino cushion he clearly didn’t need. With 2 outs in the 3rd, Torreyes singled, moved to 2nd on Gardner’s single, and then scored on Clint Frazier’s single to get the Yankees on the board early. In the 5th, with 2 outs again, the 3 of them did exactly the same thing — Torreyes’ single, Gardner’s single, and Frazier’s RBI single. It was “deja vu all over again”.

Then in the 6th, with 1 out, Gregorius reached based on a sloppy throwing error, ending up at 2nd, and then scored on Chase Headley’s single. {Media note: apologies as there doesn’t seem to be a related video available.} After Todd Frazier was hit-by-a pitch, Ellsbury reached on a force attempt and fielding error to load the bases, after the Yankees challenged the out at 2nd and rightly won the overturn. Ronald Torreyes grounded out, but moved all the runners up and scored Headley.

In the 7th, the Yankees proved they weren’t done yet. Clint Frazier led off by working a walk and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s double. Sanchez then scored on Matt Holliday’s single. That was enough for the Reds’ starter who had yet to record an out in the 7th. But the Yankees weren’t done yet. Didi Gregorius hit a nice 2-run home run into the right field seats. And then Todd Frazier earned his Yankee pinstripes with his first Yankee home run, a 1-out solo shot to the left field seats for the “ToddFather“, as he was thus dubbed.

Luis Cessa took over for Severino and had a bit of trouble. A strikeout on a wild pitch allowed a runner to reach base (no, I still don’t like this “loophole”). Cessa then gave up a walk and a 3-run home run to add to the Reds’ score. Fortunately, the Yankees had quite a bit of a cushion. Again, not for Severino apparently, but for the other Luis today. David Robertson breezed through the 9th inning in just 7 pitches, continuing to remind Yankee fans what they loved about him the first time around.

In total, the Yankee pitchers got the Reds to strike out 12 times, while only allowing 4 hits. The Reds’ pitching staff had the reverse numbers — 12 allowed hits and just 4 strikeouts.

Final score: 9-5 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-0.

Now, regarding today’s title, I spent some time trying to figure out what to dub Severino in honor of his increasing push to be the Yankees’ newest ace pitcher. I mean, currently, we have hashtags for the other starters — Sabathia’s #CCStrong, #TanakaTime, Pineda’s #BigMike, and Montgomery’s minor league moniker that evolved into #GumbyNation. We’ve used other adjectives for pitchers that used to be part of the team, but I can’t seem to find a consensus when Severino has a great game, which lately is more often than not.

I mean, Emoji King Didi Gregorius uses the baby emoji to signify Severino’s role as part of the Baby Bombers to find a breakout role in last season. But that doesn’t really translate to hashtag material.

So I’m turning to you, faithful readers. If you have any ideas, use the comments section below or message me. I’m curious to see what you can come up with. You have about 5 days before his next start to come up with something good!

Go Yankees!

Game 92: NYY vs. MIN — Even a plague of moths can’t stop a Yankee win tonight

On this day in Yankee history in 1999, David Cone became the 3rd Yankee pitcher and 16th MLB player to throw a perfect game. Cone threw just 88 pitches to the visiting Montreal Expos’ lineup, striking out 10 of them. There was a 33-minute rain delay in the middle of the 3rd inning, but it didn’t seem to affect Cone’s momentum in the slightest. The Yankees went on to win the game 6-0. Cone’s catcher that day was current manager Joe Girardi. And the manager of the Yankees then, Joe Torre, was also celebrating his birthday. So, happy anniversary on the game and happy birthday, Mr. Torre!

For tonight’s game against the Twins, the Yankees called on Luis Cessa to start, but Cessa had a bit of trouble tonight. He threw 76 pitches into the 4th inning, gave up 4 hits, 4 walks, and 3 runs, striking out just 2 batters. Right in the 1st, he loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a hit-by-pitch and 2 outs, he walked another batter to get the Twins on the board early, but then got out of the jam with the first of his 2 strikeouts.

A 1-out solo home run in the 3rd doubled their score. And in the 4th, a 1-out double scored on a big triple. After 1 more out, the Yankees opted to go to their bullpen and call on Chasen Shreve. And once they opened that bullpen door, it was one of the best things they did for the team. Shreve closed out the 4th and got through the 5th scoreless, albeit a bit of a jam.

Warren’s beautiful 6th and 7th innings continued the momentum and set up the final two relievers — Betances who found some 8th inning drama but got out unscathed, and Chapman’s 16-pitch 9th inning for his 10th save of the season.

Now, that could be bad, but the Yankees were hitting quite a bit tonight — 13 total hits off the Twins’ pitching staff, 8 of those alone off the starter. The Yankees did all of their big damage in the middle of the game. In the 4th, Judge led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Gregorius’ single, then to 3rd on a fielder’s choice, and scored on Chase Headley’s single to get the Yankees on the board. (Judge’s productive offense tonight clearly negates whatever silly “home run derby jinx” the online trolls seem bent on believing.)

Still down in the 5th, the Yankees decided to grab the lead and not let go. Torreyes led-off with a single and ended up on 3rd after Gardner’s ground-rule double. Then Gary Sanchez (another victim of those online “derby jinx” trolls) hit a big double that scored both Torreyes and Gardner. That ended the Twins’ starter’s night. Aaron Judge’s single scored Sanchez, and then he scored as part of Didi Gregorius’ solid 1-out 2-run home run to ensure the Yankees’ lead and eventual victory tonight.

Final score: 6-3 Yankees.

Also, about the 6th inning of tonight’s game, Target Field was seemingly invaded by thousands of moths. It was almost like a Biblical plague, but with floating white, non-biting things, almost like big, thick snow flakes in appearance, in the air. I thought they were paper or debris on the field and in the air at first, but was later corrected when I could see their buzzing wings in close-up shots. Fortunately, it was nowhere near as bad as the infamous “midges game” back in 2007.

Roster moves: before the game, the Yankees optioned Bryan Mitchell back to AAA Scranton, recalling tonight’s starter Luis Cessa.

Injury updates: Greg Bird and Michael Pineda had their scheduled surgeries today to repair their injuries. Bird released a post-op statement, stating his intention to get back in the game as soon as he possibly can. Here’s hoping for their quick return to full health.

Go Yankees!