Game 159: BOS vs. NYY — A farewell, a sweep, an elimination

Before tonight’s game, the Yankees said farewell to a long-time rival who played his final game at Yankee Stadium tonight. For the first time in his 20 year career, Yankee Stadium gave David Ortiz a standing ovation as he, and his wife and children, were part of a special pre-game ceremony. The Yankees, represented by former Yankees pitcher David Cone and former Red Sox teammater Jacoby Ellsbury, presented Ortiz with a specially crafted leatherbound book that had memories retold by current and former Yankees. And to present a special painting of Ortiz at the stadium, Mariano Rivera surprised the power-hitter and helped unveil the gift.

Ortiz retires following this current season, but his memories and contributions to the recent rise of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry are part of history. Not that he contributed much to this particular series, with his 4 strikeouts, 2 walks, and no hits. But his season batting average can afford to take a hit, leaving the game with .316 average.

And they also had a game to play tonight. Only fitting, CC Sabathia got the start, his final start this season, and he did spectacular job. Into the 8th inning, Sabathia threw 105 pitches, gave up just 4 hits, 2 walks, and the lone Red Sox run, and struck out an impressive 8 batters. All this set him up for the inevitable win tonight.

His lone run came in the 4th inning as a 1-out solo home run. The next batter was Ortiz, who walked and when he was replaced with a pinch-runner, and Yankees Stadium gave him his final farewell, a really nice standing ovation.

Anyway, when Sabathia too exited to his own standing ovation, Tyler Clippard came on to close out the 8th inning for Sabathia, using just 7 pitches to breeze through the next 2 outs. And Richard Bleier closed things out quickly in his 12-pitch 9th inning.

Now, for being the AL division champions, the Red Sox certainly haven’t showed such a strength in their final series against the Yankees, especially in regards to their pitching staff. The Yankees paced their way through the game, poking holes in their pitching staff wherever and whenever they could. In the 1st, with 1 out, Ellsbury walked, stole 2nd on a strikeout, and then scored on Starlin Castro’s double to get the Yankees on the board.

With the game tied, the Yankees came back in the 5th with Hicks’ lead-off bunt single. Hicks later scored on Ellsbury’s 2-out double that also saw the end of the Red Sox’s starter’s evening. In the 6th, with 2 outs and the bases loaded, Tyler Austin worked a walk to score the lead runner, and a wild pitch scored the next runner for the extra insurance run.

In the 8th, with 1 out, Brian McCann worked a walk and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ double. Now why that is significant is because McCann, who is arguably one of the slowest guys on the active roster scored from 1st base on a double, like he was one of the faster runners on the team. Then, with another out and a wild pitch, 2 more walks loaded the bases, but the Red Sox wisely pulled that pitcher for another one and closed out the Yankees run-scoring machine this week.

Overall, the Yankees got 8 hits and 7 walks off Red Sox pitchers tonight. Comparatively, the Yankees pitchers only gave up 4 hits and 2 walks. Clearly, the Red Sox weren’t going to win this series. Not with the way they played these last 3 games.

Final score: 5-1 Yankees, Yankees sweep Red Sox 3-0.

However, while it’s great to celebrate their victory, the clubhouse was still rather quiet. The Yankees were officially eliminated from the postseason, despite their win and sweep tonight. It’s still a close race for both wild card races, but the Yankees aren’t in it anymore. The goal every single season is to win a World Series, so that not even making the postseason is heartbreaking.

Now, before you also take out your pitchforks to Girardi, please note that Girardi has actually led his team to a winning season every single season he’s been the Yankees manager. By winning, I mean that they are on the plus side of .500, or they have more wins than losses during the season. But you can’t blame him for how the game has shifted in the last few years. The legends of the 1990s and early 2000s are gone, or retiring this season, and it’s a very different playing field with younger, untested athletes as well as the changing culture of the game.

Remember, the Yankees were supposed to be holding up the bottom of the league or, at best, muddling through the middle by the beginning of September. And yet, it took them until 4 games before the end of the season to end their race for the postseason. While it’s just crushing not be in it, you can’t say it wasn’t a good run, nor can you say the Yankees just gave up.

My mom always loves to say that these guys “just don’t give up”. And she’s right. I don’t expect the next 3 games to be an easy series for the Orioles. Because that’s not who the Yankees are.

Go Yankees!

Game 117: TB vs. NYY — Mo remembers, but Baby Bombers falter

Before the final game in the weekend series against the Rays, to cap off a rather eventful weekend in the Bronx, the Yankees honored legend Mariano Rivera with a special plaque to be placed in Monument Park. In addition to his wife and sons, present for his ceremony were the many of the lingering teammates from yesterday’s 1996 Championship reunion like Cone, Girardi, Jeter, Martinez, O’Neill, Pettitte, Posada, Wetteland, Williams, and former manager Joe Torre. The Yankees also presented Rivera with a framed replica of his plaque and a special ring to commemorate today’s honor. Rivera also threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game. (Still ridiculously on point there!)

{Watch the full pre-game ceremony here, including his brief speech to thank to his family, friends, fans, and especially God.}

After two pretty amazing games against the Rays, the Yankees were looking to ride the sweep led by the newly dubbed “Baby Bombers”. But it was not to be. Luis Severino certainly struggled his way through his shortened outing. In less than 4 innings, Severino threw 67 pitches, gave up 8 hits, a walk, and 7 runs, but also struck out 7 batters. His trouble started right off the top of the game when a lead-off double scored on a 1-out double to get the Rays’ runs started this afternoon.

In the 3rd, a solo shot added another run to the Rays’ score. And in the messy 4th, with 1 out and runners in scoring position with a single and double, a 3-run homer just multiplied the Rays’ total. Then with 2 more singles and a strike out, Severino was just done. So he handed the game to the other Luis — Luis Cessa, who promptly loaded the bases with a walk and then gave up a bases-clearing double.

Cessa didn’t exactly have the cleanest outing himself, getting 9 total outs, but struggling in his beginning (the 4th inning) and his end (the 7th). With 1 out in the 7th and runners on the corners with consecutive singles, another single scored yet another Rays’ run before a big 3-run homer pushed the Rays into double-digits on the scoreboard. With 1 more out, the Yankees opted for new guy Blake Parker to finish the inning with a strikeout.

Parker then worked his way through the 8th inning, before Chasen Shreve breezed through the Rays in the 9th in just 11 pitches. In total, the Yankees gave up 15 hits to the Rays’ batters, but still struck out 12 of them.

Once again, the Baby Bombers did some damage to the Rays, but it really wasn’t enough to combat the troubles the Yankee pitching staff had early on in the game. Aaron Judge hit another big home run to lead off the 3rd inning and get the Yankees on the board. And in the 4th with 2 outs and McCann on base with a single, Gary Sanchez’s 2-run home run to the left field seats gave the Yankees hope for just a bit before the Rays came back and crushed it.

Despite some really great defense, like the double play started by Didi Gregorius in the 2nd or when Tyler Austin snagged a sharp line drive in the 4th, the Yankees were pretty helpless against the early lead the Rays piled on and never surrendered.

Final score: 12-3 Rays, but the Yankees win series 2-1.

Scranton Shuttle: after the game, the Yankees optioned today’s starter Luis Severino back to AAA Scranton. The corresponding move hasn’t yet been announced as of this post, but the Yankees do have some options including Cessa, who pitched in relief today.

And because I’m always looking for a bit of fun, even on a rough loss day like today, I found two great promo clips the Yankees made to market their new “Baby Bomber” status. One is called “Lost in Translation” and the other simply “Baby Bombers“. Enjoy!

Go Yankees!

Game 115: TB vs. NYY — Alex says “farewell”… for now

On a Friday evening at the stadium, you can expect to find a band playing in the concourse, people milling about after work in everything from suits to full-on Yankees gear, that constant hum and chatter from the thousands in anticipation of a new series and the weekend in the city. Of course, it wasn’t an ordinary game, and the crowd was littered with #13 jerseys. The air was hot and sticky, as the sky above darkened as if Nature itself knew that it was going to be one of those days.

Of the 46,459 people packed into the stadium, just 5 (and those closely related to them, hanging out in the special suite to watch the whole event) mattered the most to the one man everyone was there to see. Before the game, the tarp on the field, the smell of rain in the air, the announcer called for one of the last times: “Alex Rodriguez!” Rodriguez came jogging onto the field in front of the infield tarp to the roar of the crowd, pointing to specific people and sections (including a special nod to the “A-Rod! A-Rod!” cheering Bleacher Creatures) for his pre-game ceremony.

The Yankees escorted out Rodriguez’s mother (Reggie Jackson did the honors), his sister and brother (by Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro), and his daughters (escorted by surprise guest Mariano Rivera). A few special messages, like from his first pro manager with the Mariners Lou Pinella (who is now part of the Yankee organization too). The Steinbrenners also presented Rodriguez with an encased 3rd base signed by the whole team and a framed #13 jersey to commemorate his final game and season in pinstripes.

Just as he was being presented these gifts, the nearby lightning and thunder turned into a bit of rain. Which turned into quite a bit of rain. The Florida residents (the Rodriguez and Steinbrenner families) meandered their way off the field, while the poor New Yorkers were jogging up the steps heading for cover. (We Floridians don’t flinch much when it comes to inclement weather, as it usually has to be like “ark level” weather for us to really care.)

So for 30 minutes, the Yankees and their fans waited for what would be a rather interesting final game for #13. See, in the scope that would be tonight and will be the events of this weekend, the Yankees are still in a bit of a Wild Card race, just 3.5 games out of the Wild Card. And tonight, they start their weekend series against the Rays.

And CC Sabathia got the start tonight, and despite a bit of a disappointing 1st inning, he certainly pulled it together for the most part for the rest of the game. He threw 100 pitches over his 6 innings, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 3 runs, and a nice 7 strikeouts. A lead-off 4-pitch walk was quickly erased with a snazzy double play, but then a solo home run (by the Rays’ leading run-producer) got the Rays on the board first.

But it wasn’t like the Yankees were going to let them get away with it for long. In the bottom of the 1st, Gardner took an errant pitch of his foot/ankle and kind of hobbled his way down to 1st. He stayed in the game (with what will probably be a nasty bruise for the next few days), which is a good thing because when Alex Rodriguez stepped into the batter’s box (amid a standing ovation of fans), his 1-out double to shallow right field easily scored Gardner to tie up the game.

In the 3rd, the Rays worked a 1-out walk and a 2-out single to put runners on the corners. Another single scored the lead runner before Sabathia got a strikeout to end the inning (a fairly common theme for both starters tonight actually). The Yankees answered back in the bottom of the 4th, after Rodriguez’s 2nd at-bat turned into a little ground out, Teixeira got on base with a single and moved to 3rd on Gregorius’ nice 2-out double. Starlin Castro’s big single then scored both Teixeira and Gregorius to put the Yankees in the lead.

But in the 5th, a Rays’ lead-off double moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt and then scored on a sacrifice fly to tie up the game again. (Rodriguez’s 3rd at-bat in the bottom of the 5th was a simple 3-pitch strike out.) In the bottom of the 6th, the Yankees finally dented into the Rays’ starter. Teixeira led-off with a single and a stolen base (his 2nd of the year), and 2 outs later, Castro’s 2-run home run gave the Yankees a lead they’d never surrender tonight.

With both starters out of the game, the Yankees secured their lead and continued the excitement of the night, while the Rays seem to do what they do most of the year as they kind of gave into the inevitable. For the Yankees, relievers Clippard and Warren breezed through the Rays’ line up in the 7th and 8th innings, keeping the Yankees firmly in the lead.

Aaron Hicks led-off the 7th inning with a great solo home run to the left field seats to give the Yankees that total security they were looking for in the game. Three batters later, Rodriguez’s final at-bat ended in another little ground out, but fans (perhaps knowing it was the last) almost refused to stop cheering him on. A brief conversation with Girardi and Rodriguez was headed to the clubhouse with a big smile on his face.

In the 9th, Chase Headley stood at the top of the steps that lead to the clubhouse from the dugout, waiting. Alex Rodriguez jogged his way up those steps, nodding and smiling at the regular 3rd baseman. In his hand, a black fielder’s glove. Yes, Alex Rodriguez was going to play 3rd base for the final time. And the crowd exploded in cheers and support. For a few moments, the only person on the field was Rodriguez with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen, eyes shining, and a glimpse of that kid who just wanted to play ball nearly skipping his way to the hot corner.

Dellin Betances took the mound for this final inning and got his first strikeout. And suddenly, Rodriguez made his way back across the field, hugging his way off as Ronald Torreyes came out to replace him. Apparently, Rodriguez specially agreed to Girardi’s allowance but only for 1 batter; Girardi was willing to have him out there longer, but I think Rodriguez knew he was out of practice and didn’t want to screw anything up for the team. Because that’s the kind of player he is.

A strike out (and overturned challenge) later, the count 1-2, the entire stadium on their feet, the batter sort of half-swung at the final pitch and was ruled out, and Betances gets the save.

Final score: 6-3 Yankees.

Alex Rodriguez was allowed one more chance to be on the field to greet his teammates in that “good game” winning line they always do, getting the game ball from Betances himself. But then he kind of hung out on the field for a bit, asking silently for a moment to himself. He wandered over to where he used to plant himself on the infield, defending 3rd base, crouched down, and gathered a handful of dirt, shoving it into his back pocket for safe keeping. Before he was finally ready to face the media. Between interviews, he signaled for his daughters to join him on the field, and they were handed on over the barrier and ran across the field to their dad to envelop him with the biggest hugs.

{Media links: articles covering the final game on MLB.com — by reporters Hoch, BloomSuss, Kaneko, and Needelman; statements from former teammates, Rodriguez’s pre-game press conference, Rodriguez’s interview with FOX, Headley on being “replaced”, Girardi’s post-game press conference, and Rodriguez’s post-game press conference.}

And there were some roster moves: the Yankees placed Nathan Eovaldi on the 15-day DL (retroactive to August 11) with his right elbow tendon injury. This is not good news in the long run, but it doesn’t seem to be a tear or something to be surgically repaired but rather a rest-and-see kind of thing. They also recalled Luis Severino from AAA Scranton.

And as promised, following tonight’s game, the Yankees officially released Alex Rodriguez as a player. He adamantly reminded interviewers from the field to the post-game press conference that he is still part of the organization. And he is. They will continue his contract as a special adviser and instructor, especially in relation to all the young prospects in the organization. Rodriguez may not be playing in a Yankee uniform any more, but he’s still very much part of the team.

After all, once a Yankee, always a Yankee.

Go Yankees!

Game 57: LAA vs. NYY — HOPE Week, high honors, & home runs

On this day, 72 years ago, thousands of Allied military personnel stormed the northern coasts of France in effort to take back the possessed European lands from the Axis powers. In one of the greatest military strategies and invasions of all time, Operation Neptune (the amphibious landing at Normandy more commonly called “D-Day”) effectively turned the tide in the second world war and started the Allied nations on a course that would lead to global victory in just over a year.

Yankee great the late Yogi Berra was one of many American soldiers on those beaches that day, as was tonight’s veteran honoree for the 7th inning stretch. Our thanks continues to go out to all the veterans and current military personnel for their sacrifice and service to our country, including those the Yankees helped out for the start of HOPE Week today (more below).

Tonight was also the opening game of this 4-game home series against the Angels. And in honor of today’s historic significance, I feel it’s only fitting that the teams represent the expanse of the continental US, two of its most populous cities, and the millions of people between them. I don’t think they planned that back at MLB HQ, but it certainly worked out well.

So it was Masahiro Tanaka to start who, despite a couple of soft spots early on, still had a pretty good game tonight. He threw 91 pitches through 7 innings, gave up just 6 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, while striking out just 3 Angels’ batters. In the 1st, a lead-off single scored on a 2-out single to get the Angels on the board. Then in the 3rd, a lead-off ground-rule double (by a player who wore pinstripes for a couple months last year) started things off, moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt, and then scored on a sacrifice fly.

The hardest part about the whole game was that the Angels’ starter seemed to just dominate the Yankees offense for most of the game, keeping his pitch count low and only gave up 4 hits to the Yankees through his first 6 innings. But, like it’s done so many times at Yankee Stadium, “God Bless America” changes things. In the bottom of the 7th, with 2 outs, Brian McCann and Starlin Castro smacked their 8th home runs of the year consecutively and to opposite fields (and deep into the 2nd deck) to tie up the game.

Miller came on in the 8th and set the Angels’ offense down in order with 3 strikeouts in just 13 pitches. So he was the pitcher on record when the Yankees burst forth in the bottom of the 8th. With 2 outs once again (because what’s baseball without a bit of dramatic effect?), Ellsbury and Gardner each singled to sit in the corners as the Angels’ starter finally exited the game. His replacement promptly gave up a solid 3-run home run to Carlos Beltran (his 14th of the season) to push the Yankees nicely into the lead.

Chapman, of course, closed the game in a very effective 9 pitches, and the Yankees took game 1 of the series and homestand. Though it’s worth noting that all the Yankee runs were scored off home runs tonight. Perhaps, a sign of good things to come this weekend and a return to the Bronx Bombers moniker? I’ll take it.

Final score: 5-2 Yankees

It’s HOPE Week in the Bronx! My favorite week of the year! HOPE Week is an annual event in which the Yankees select and honor 5 different charities and organizations in the area as part of their initiative to give back to their local community.

This year for Day 1 of HOPE Week, perhaps rightly in correspondence with the date, the Yankees surprised and honored 14 year old Jake Gallin and his amazing idea called “Stars for Cars”. Jake and his now-nationwide organization sell star-shaped magnets to the public in honor of military personnel who earn Stars for their service and (far too often) personal sacrifice and then donate their profits entirely to the USO in their honor.

So as part of the effort, Brett Gardner, Nick Goody, Chase Headley, Brian McCann, and Mariano Rivera helped Jake sell the stars in front of New Rochelle City Hall, even adding stars to the cars in the parking lot to raise awareness. The Yankees also presented the USO with a $10,000 check in Jake’s name for his good work, and Jake got to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before tonight’s game. But like any kid, Jake was totally stoked to hang out with the Yankees all day rather than take his Latin final (apparently). Lucky Jake! Thanks for your amazing example, Jake!

(If you’re on Snapchat, you can follow the Yankees all week for pictures, videos, and updates from all the HOPE Week events.)

Go Yankees!

World Series Game 2: NYM vs. KC — Cueto “took the Crown”

A relatively drama-free game tonight. No blackouts, no pouring rain (though rain was certainly a part of the game), no extra innings, no monster home runs, just some pretty nifty and pretty not-so-nifty pitching.

World Series Game 2 — Mets at Royals

Honestly, I was feeling great about the match-up between the two pitchers, two aces from each of these leading teams. And I was right about that, right up until the 5th inning. Both starters kept it very tight and close, making it feel like an easily anticipated postseason game. But then it shifted and by the end of the 5th inning, it felt more like a plain old regular season game. Sure, it was cold and rainy again in Kansas City, which can’t make playing a game any easier. But somehow the Royals made it look rather easy.

For his first 4 innings, Mets starter deGrom held the Royals off to just 1 hit and 2 walks, getting them to hit into ground balls and pop outs to plow through them in just a handful of pitches. But, like I said, his 5th inning was just off for the rookie starter, who made a name for himself in Queens for both his flowing mane and for being one of those pitchers batters didn’t want to face. His last inning certainly sealed the deal for the Mets’ outcome tonight — a lead-off walk, a single, an RBI single, a ground out that moved runners to scoring position, a line out (hope for the Mets!), a 2-RBI single, another single put runners on the corners, one more RBI single, and a ground out to end the inning and deGrom’s night (pushing him up to a whopping 94 pitches through just those 5 innings).

Mets relievers seemed to be a bit of a mixed bag for the rest of the night. The 6th and 7th innings were near-flawless, but the 8th inning started that off-centered feel again for the Mets. A single, a double, and an RBI double with no outs, and the reliever was on his way to the dugout. A new reliever gave up a sacrifice fly and a triple to score 2 more runs for the Royals this inning before a final reliever eliminated any chances for further run-scoring (in just 4 very effective pitches, by the way).

Now on the other side of things, today’s game belonged solely to Royals starter Cueto, who threw a complete game for the Royals. The well-built, chatty pitcher reminds me of early Sabathia in many ways — in physique, his extroverted tendencies, his pitching quirks, his strong command of the game, and his tenacity and determination and fierce competitive edge. He gave up just 1 run to the Mets the entire night in the 4th inning — 2 runners on base with 2 outs, a single (one of only 2 he’d allow all night) scored the Mets’ lone run. Command doesn’t really sum it up. 122 pitches in 9 inning, sharp and on-point all night. The Mets’ couldn’t seem to find his pattern and beat him tonight.

So after just under 3 hours (see, a regular season feel to it), it was clearly Cueto’s team to come out ahead.

Final score in Kansas City: 7-1 Royals, Royals lead series 2-0.

The Series heads to New York now, and the Mets love being home in front of their rabid fans (almost as much as the Royals and their fans do at Kauffman Stadium). So it will be interesting to see how this turns out once the games are in Queens.

And we have Yankee Universe News! (I know you’ve been missing this almost as much as I have!) Before today’s game, MLB honored Yankee closer Andrew Miller with the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award. He and his wife and child were on hand to accept the award from Rivera himself before the game. The NL Award, named for another great closer Trevor Hoffman, was presented to Pirates’ reliever Mark Melancon. The MLB commissioner named said awards in honor of the first and second greatest closers in MLB history, who were on hand to present their respective awards to the 2015 recipients.

Miller rightly deserves this honor (which you’ll know if you’ve followed this blog at all this season), with his 36 of 38 save opportunities (an AL best in percentage), 100 strikeouts (an average of 14.59 strikeouts per 9 innings, by the way), 0.86 WHIP, 2.04 ERA, and an opposing batting average of .151. Actually, the Yankee bullpen set records all over the place this year — Miller and Betances (the “Dynamic Duo”) set a franchise record for both having 100 strikeouts in a season, and the bullpen got a total of 596 strikeouts (a MLB record). It’s one of the many reasons the Yankees played October baseball this year.

Go Yankees!

Game 58: WAS vs. NYY — 7-game winning streak

The Nationals are in town for a quick 2-game mid-week series, which the Yankees bookend with days off. The Yankees enter this series hoping for their 3rd consecutive sweep, and tonight was a very good start in that direction.

Well, there was quite a bit of talk about seeing a pitchers’ duel as the Yankees put up Masahiro Tanaka versus one of Washington’s great starters (actually, one of the things Washington has going for them is their plethora of really good pitchers). And honestly, this game was as promised, with both pitchers matching each other pretty well for a good portion of the game. That is, right up until that pesky 7th inning.

Tanaka threw just 87 pitches through his full 7 innings, and I half-expected him to come out for the 8th (but he didn’t, as he wasn’t really needed). In addition to the 6 strikeouts, he gave up just 5 hits, no walks, and the only run the Nats would score tonight — a solo shot deep to center field in the 4th inning.

To counter this, the Nats starter threw 116 pitches to the Yankees’ batters, striking out 7 batters and giving up 8 hits, 1 walk, and 4 runs. Initially, it was Stephen Drew’s big solo home run (and 1,000th career hit) to lead off the 3rd inning that got a run on the board for either team, so that run from the Nationals tied up the game and kept it there. The Yankees pushed the starter’s pitch count up with some decent attempts to score, and some bad base-running in the 6th that kept the score tied.

But again, it was that pesky 7th inning that changed it all. Going into the break, right before “God Bless America”, I remarked to a friend watching the game with me that all the Yankees needed to do was scored a few runs because Tanaka really deserves the win for his outing tonight. And apparently, the baseball gods agreed with me.

With 2 outs and Flores and Gardner on base with singles, Rodriguez hit a sharp ground ball to a diving shortstop, who opted to throw it to 3rd to get Flores. The ball instead hit Flores and bounded into the stands, allowing for all runners to advance safely — Flores scored, Gardner went to 3rd, and Rodriguez to 2nd. The winning run had scored, so the Nationals went to their bullpen to bring in a former Yankee to shut down the scoring. Didn’t work. He intentionally walked the red-hot hitting Teixeira (understandably), but then a quick single from Brian McCann scored both Gardner and Rodriguez, moving Teixeira easily to 3rd. Teixeira then scored on a Carlos Beltran single before a line out ended the Yankees rally.

Like I said, Tanaka’s night was through, but he was now on for the coming win as Dellin Betances took the mound for the 8th inning and 14 pitches (and a 1-2-3 inning) later, it was looking good.

In the bottom of the 8th, Drew added an exclamation point on the Yankees’ scoring with another solo home run into the 2nd deck seats in right field to just make sure the Yankees were set for the win.

And with no save situation possible, the Yankees turned to Chasen Shreve for the 9th. Shreve got 2 outs, but also allowed 2 base runners with a single and a walk. To ensure the win, the Yankees called on what has become almost a sure thing these days — Andrew Miller. 1 batter, 9 pitches, and a ground out to end the game and secure the win.

Final score: 6-1 Yankees.

That makes the Yankees on a big winning streak — seven straight games now. They win with pitching, with the bullpen, with home runs, with singles, and (for the most part) with defense. Ah, well, they can’t be perfect…

And can I talk about Ramon Flores for a moment… he was my “one to watch” this spring because he was the “one to watch” in Spring Training. I knew it was only a matter of time before we’d see him in the Bronx, and I really like being right. I’m sure he likes that too, and I’m sure the Yankees are liking that about now as well. Flores went 3-for-4 tonight with a run scored (the winning run, by the way) in the batter’s box alone, but he also got a couple of really great plays in left field (like this one in the 8th). He’s still “one to watch”.

 

Also, in case you were wondering, here’s the update on the Yankee draft picks so far (round 1-10 over days 1 and 2): RHP James Kaprielian (16th overall, 1st round); SS Kyle Holder (30th overall, 1st round); LHP Jeff Degano (57th, 2nd round); RHP Drew Finley (92nd, 3rd); CF Jeff Hendrix (123rd, 4th); RHP Chance Adams (153rd, 5th); 2B Brandon Wagner (183rd, 6th); RF Jhalan Jackson (213th, 7th); 3B Donny Sands (243rd, 8th); 1B Ryan Krill (273rd, 9th); and LHP James Reeves (303rd overall, 10th round).

And fun draft fact: Mariano Rivera’s son, also named Mariano Rivera, was selected by the Nationals in the 4th round of the draft, the 134th selection overall. Last year, Rivera was selected by the Yankees in the 29th round, 872nd overall, but Rivera opted to continue his studies at Iona and build up his pitching arm with their baseball team. This paid off because it got him recognized beyond just being the son of a legend.

Like all the draftees, he will need to decide whether to sign or decline the offer. Each young man makes a decision based on many factors — position in the draft, academic choices, professional aspirations, team selection, among other things. And there’s still one more day of the draft left to go. Some sign, some don’t, some work out, some never make it past initial training camp, and somewhere there’s a potential legend in the making, whether he’s the first guy on the list or the very last. You just never know. But I hope he’ll be wearing pinstripes very soon.

Go Yankees!

Game 44: TEX vs. NYY — Bernie Williams Day and a sweep

I honestly didn’t expect to hear the words “Texas sweeps” this weekend. I don’t think any Texas fans did either. But that’s the way it ended up.

Chris Capuano got the start in tonight’s game, the final game in the 3-game series against the Rangers. He struggled some, like he’s still getting back into the groove of being a starter. He threw 84 pitches over his 4.1 innings, gave up 8 hits, 3 runs (2 earned), and no walks, striking out 4 Texas batters. The 1st inning started rather dramatically. The first batter hit a little grounder and ran to 1st base as the infielders attempted a put-out, but the umpire instantly called it “out”. The Yankees challenged, they underwent a review, and it was clearly overturned. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a challenge on the first play of the game, but okay. It was that kind of game.

The next batter reached on a fielding error, a bit of a bobble of the ball delayed an actual play and set up that runner to score on the next batter’s double. Then in the 2nd inning, after 2 quick outs, a batter singled and then scored on a 2-run home run. After two more singles, Capuano finally got that elusive 3rd out of that inning without any further damage.

And then there was the scary 3rd inning, the inning that damaged the Yankees for the past 2 games. But it was over almost before it began and everyone breathed normally.

Capuano found himself in a spot of trouble again in the 5th, so the Yankees called on Shreve to shut it down. And he did — 20 pitches to close out the 5th and work into the 6th, even getting a strikeout. And then it was time for Justin Wilson. Now, recently, Wilson’s been sharp and a real asset to the Yankees bullpen, but not tonight. After successfully getting out of the 6th inning, Wilson’s struggles just imploded in the 7th — a lead-of triple, an RBI double, a wild pitch moved the runner to 3rd, and an RBI single. And there was still no outs on the board.

So it was time for Dellin Betances to shut it down. And even though there was nothing to set-up, Betances hadn’t pitched in a while. So it was time to dust off the cobwebs, throw 9 pitches, get a quick 3 outs, and send it into the 7th inning stretch. David Carpenter’s 8th inning went better than some of his recent outings, keep the Rangers to those 5 runs, and Andrew Miller’s 9th continued that pattern and gave him some time on the mound again (like Betances).

And unfortunately, the Yankees’ offense didn’t really spark. In the 1st inning, Gardner led-off by reaching 1st on a fielding error and then he got thrown out on Headley’s single as Gardner slid into 3rd. Rodriguez singled, and then he and Headley moved up on Teixeira’s ground out before both scoring on Brian McCann’s single. Beyond that, the Yankees collected only 6 total hits (to the Rangers’ 13, by the way) and couldn’t really do much in the clutch to add to their score.

Final score from the Bronx: 5-2 Rangers, Rangers sweep the Yankees 3-0.

Next up: Royals come for a 3-game mid-week series before they head to the West Coast (read: late nights for us East Coasters).

5 All-Star appearances, 4 Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, 4 World Series rings, 1996 ALCS MVP, and 16 years in pinstripes, it was Bernie Williams Day at Yankee Stadium. Before tonight’s game, Williams was honored by family, friends, former teammates, coaches, and mentors as they officially retired his #51 and placed a plaque in Monument Park where the legacy of the former center fielder will remain forever. Williams gave a small speech thanking family, friends, the Yankees, and the fans.

#51 is now the 18th number retired for the Yankees, to be joined later this summer by #20 and #46 to honor Williams’ former teammates and special guests today Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte. To fill out the Core Four at the pre-game ceremony were Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter (his first Yankee Stadium appearance since his retirement last September). Joining them were former teammates David Cone, Tino Martinez, and Paul O’Neil and former dugout staff Gene Michaels, Roy White, Willie Randolph, and (of course) Joe Torre.

(The entire pre-game ceremony can be viewed here.)

Williams was a clubhouse and fan favorite, known for his calm, steady personality and his penchant for naps just as much as he was known for his competitive tenacity. Another former teammate summed it up best:

Roster moves: The Yankees optioned pitcher Branden Pinder back to AAA Scranton, moved injured infielder Brendan Ryan from the 15-day to the 60-day DL, and selected the contract of pitcher Jacob Lindgren from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Go Yankees!

(And we miss you, Bernie!)