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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that would be it in the end.

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

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

Go Yankees!

Game 85: MIL vs. NYY — A new rookie walk-off champion leads offense

Last year, thanks mostly to the wonder that was/is Gary Sanchez, the world was talking about the “Baby Bombers”. The appellation was appropriate then, but it’s even more relevant this season. With the constant stream of young farm talent making their MLB debuts (or at least their Yankee debuts) this year, the chances for a new Baby Bomber to earn the designation continues to rise.

And today, another one earned the title. (And Didi Gregorius revealed a new emoji nickname! If you have Twitter and you’re not following him, click the follow button to get in on the fun.)

Anyway, one of the stars of last year’s Baby Bomber introduction and this year’s All-Star, Luis Severino got the start in the middle game of this weekend’s series against the Brewers. He threw 102 pitches in his 7 innings, gave up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, and struck out an impressive 10 batters. Actually, Severino’s weakest spot was his 1st inning, though all 3 of those outs were strikeouts. He gave up a double, hit-by-pitch (though not really, despite what they said on the replay, it totally didn’t hit him), and then a 3-run home run to get the Brewers on the board early.

They would also be the only runs the Brewers scored all day. Dellin Betances threw an 11-pitch flawless 8th inning, adding 2 more strikeouts. And Aroldis Chapman just slammed through the 9th with 3 consecutive strikeouts, topping out at (just) 102 mph today. So with those 15 total strikeouts from the Yankees pitching staff (including two 2017 All-Stars), the Yankees seemed to be back on track.

Of course, the offense continued to be a bit stymied by the Brewers’ pitching. Only getting 2 hits and a walk off the starter in the first 6 innings, the first hit breaking up his no-hitter, a single by rookie Clint Frazier. But then in the 7th, the Yankees found their opportunity. With 1 out, Chase Headley hit a ground-rule double and moved to 3rd on Ellsbury’s single. A bad pick-off attempt and error scored Headley, and then Ellsbury scored when Clint Frazier hit a really solid triple. This is Frazier’s second triple in as many days, and the Brewer’s starter was done for the day.

Two outs later, and the Yankees were still a run shy of the Brewers. So with Betances and Chapman proving to be the force the Yankees hired them to be, it was up to the offense to see if they could pull of a last-chance rally. With a new reliever hoping to close out the game for the Brewers, the Yankees pounced on his bad outing. In 4 pitches, he walked Gregorius. After a strikeout, in another 4 pitches, he walked Ellsbury. And then “Red Thunder” Clint Frazier stepped up to the plate. The second pitch of the at-bat was a 97 mph perfect fastball that Frazier sent into the left field seats for a walk-off 3-run home run, his first homer in Yankee Stadium and his first career walk-off.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees

Roster moves: Scranton Shuttle Alert! Before today’s game the Yankees recalled Ben Heller and Jonathan Holder, optioning Luis Cessa and Jordan Montgomery back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Now, before you Montgomery fans (hello, Gumby Nation!) get all concerned, remember that his next start wouldn’t be until next Sunday (July 16) in Fenway. In the meantime, the Yankees’ bullpen has just been struggling lately. So, if they can play a little strategy to get through the weekend and maybe into next weekend after the All-Star Break, maybe they can right the ship in time for Montgomery to be recalled for his schedule start on that Sunday.

Today’s strong outing certainly helped! Fingers crossed for more of this. And more Baby Bombers!

Go Yankees!

Game 84: MIL vs. NYY — A soggy disappointment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final score: 9-4 Brewers

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

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

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

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

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

Go Yankees!

Game 36: NYY vs. MIL — A walk-off loss

CC Sabathia is now on the 15-day DL with “fluid on the knee”, which is a lot better than a feared meniscus tear that an MRI quickly ruled out. Matt Daley was called up to fill the roster position, and it is assumed that Alfredo Aceves will slide into Sabathia’s rotation spot. Okay, can we stop with the injuries now? Even the minor ones are getting on my nerves.

So since this game was quite a bit of back-and-forth, it’s going to be easier to do this chronologically…

Batting with pink bats to show their support of breast cancer survivors and its continued research, the Yankees decided to make their Mothers proud today with an impressive display in the 1st inning. Gardner led off with a double, Ellsbury and Teixeira walk to load the bases, and Kelly Johnson’s ground-rule double scored Gardner and Ellsbury. Solarte’s sacrifice fly then scored Teixeira for the Yankees to jump ahead 3-0 over the Brewers.

Then David Phelps took the mound for the Yankees. He would go on to pitch into the 6th inning, but trouble in the 3rd caused some drama. Runners on base with a double and hit by pitch advanced on a sacrifice bunt. The first runner scored on a single, and then the two runners advanced on a balk (yes, another one this series; have there been so many called before?), and another run scored on another single. But Phelps was able to get out of that mess and keep pushing forward until the 6th inning. The first two batters were allowed singles, before relief came in. Phelps pitched just 70 pitches, allowed 8 hits, and threw just 1 strikeout. And then those runners scored pushing him to 4 earned runs.

Matt Thornton was brought on briefly but was pulled when that batter’s single scored the tying run for the Brewers. So they turned to Dellin Betances to shut it down, but it wasn’t so easy. With 2 outs, a double scored the last of Phelps runners, and a fielding error by Jeter allowed another run to score before it was over. And it was suddenly 5-3 Brewers.

On into the 7th, with Teixeira on 2nd and 2 outs, Solarte’s single scored Teixeira and bumped up the Yankees chances ever so slightly. And Betances helps out with a quick 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the 7th. The 8th is also pretty unimpressive, with Adam Warren helping the pursuit to overcome the difference.

And talk about clutch: with 2 outs and a full count at-bat, Mark Teixeira came up big for the Yankees in the 9th inning with his 7th home run of the season and tied up the game 5-5. All the Yankees had to do was hold onto that tie and roll it into extra innings. But Warren seemed to feel the pressure and lost his command of a couple of pitches ever so slightly in the bottom of the inning. A double that advanced to 3rd on a wild pitch and 2 outs on the board, the Yankees were looking for that 3rd out. Instead, they got a walk-off single and the Brewers won 6-5. Bummer.

Like I said, it was back-and-forth, and it was still a pretty great game.

Prior to the game today, the Brewers wanted to honor Derek Jeter in his last game in Miller Park. They presented him with a few things, most notably a bronzed bat (a replica of his own Louisville Slugger) and a $10,000 check to Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation. Presenting the honors were the team’s owners and special assistant to the Brewers Dick Groch. Groch was the Yankee scout who campaigned for the team to sign a very young Jeter in 1992. Groch and Jeter will be forever tied to one another, and as such, Groch is almost as much of a legend to Yankee fans as Jeter is.

After last year’s “farewell tour” of Mariano Rivera, I’ve been watching this year’s “special ceremonies” (remember: it’s NOT a “farewell tour”) to see how they unfold. Some are confusing, some are amusing, some are just nice, some are special, and some are perfect. Milwaukee is certainly is leaning toward the better end of that curve.

And perhaps what really pushed me over that curve was that the Brewers used the same walk-up announcement you hear at Yankee Stadium every time Jeter walks up to the plate — the voice of the late, great announcer Bob Sheppard. “Now batting… number two… Derek… Jeter… … … number two.” And the sold-out crowd was on their feet to say “thank you“.

Go Yankees!

And a Happy Mother’s Day! Blog shout-out to my own mom — she’s always the first to read my posts (and often catches my mistakes), the one who shares my love of this crazy game, the one who loves going to games with me, the one who really continues to boost my enthusiasm not just for baseball but also for the Yankees. Thanks for being my mom!

Game 35: NYY vs. MIL — Errors, a balk, and home runs… oh my!

Sometimes it’s the little things, sometimes it’s the big things, but most of the times it’s a combination of the two that add up to a loss.

CC Sabathia took the mound against one of his former teams tonight and had some trouble with command. The Brewers seemed to find some sweet spots that allowed them to collect 8 hits, 4 runs (3 of them home runs), and a walk off Sabathia in his 5.1 innings. In the 1st inning, Sabathia allowed a lead-off home run to put the Brewers in a quick lead. They came back in the 3rd and got a quick 2 outs before a fielding error by Brendan Ryan (in his 2014 debut) set the table for a back-to-back 2-run home run and a solo home run, pushing the Brewers further ahead.

In the meantime, the Yankees collected a couple of their own runs to try to salvage the game. In the 3rd, with 2 outs, Ellsbury reached 1st on catcher interference (always an oddly fun call) and then easily scored on Brett Gardner’s really nice triple. Gardner then scored on Carlos Beltran’s single.

And in the 6th, Mark Teixeira hit a lead-off home run. Well, originally, the Brewers tried to pass it off as an off-the-wall double, but after a brief umpire conference, it was ruled a home run. And it definitely helped (just not enough).

So when Dellin Betances took the mound in the 6th, with 2 men on base and just one out, Betances did what he does best — shut them down. He threw just 7 pitches and struck out the next two batters. Flawless as usual.

The Yankees tied up the game in the top of the 7th. A walk and a single put runners on base before an Alfonso Soriano single scored the tying run. But a double play ended the inning swiftly, halting a budding Yankee rally.

Alfredo Aceves was charged with the 7th and 8th innings, but it caused him a bit of trouble. In the 7th, 2 outs and a man on base with a double, that runner advanced to 3rd on a balk (another odd call) and then scored on a single. This pushed the Brewers ahead 5-4, and there they stayed and there they won.

So it was errors, a balk, and home runs that handed the Brewers the ultimate victory, but it was still a rather hard-fought game. I rather enjoy a back-and-forth game, but I didn’t like the things I listed in the title as it seemed to just hand the Brewers the game. Without giving up those runs or making a fielding error or that balk, the Brewers aren’t really strong enough to overcome that for the win. I wouldn’t really call it an “off-day” for the Yankees, more just sloppy. And of course, we all have those from time to time. I just don’t have to be happy it. So you learn from your mistakes, grow, strengthen the weaknesses, and move onto the next game tomorrow. It happens, and fortunately, with the Yankees, it doesn’t (or shouldn’t) happen often.

Go Yankees!

Game 34: NYY vs. MIL — Tanaka & Robertson continue their win streak

Masahiro Tanaka went to work tonight with a spotless record for this season and left with it intact. David Robertson also had the same problem and solution. For a little bit of interleague play tonight, the Yankees are in Milwaukee for a weekend series. And tonight, they set the tone right.

Tanaka’s outing was actually his one of his lessor ones, but you couldn’t tell based on numbers alone — 108 pitches, 6.1 inning, 7 hits, 2 runs, and 7 strikeouts. And for most everyone else, this would be a remarkable outing, but it’s Tanaka, so it’s just okay. (When did we get to this kind of comparison? It must be like when Mantle or Ruth didn’t hit a home run in a game, but rather a couple of doubles and everyone just thought they were having an off-day.) Anyway, those runs came in his weakest inning — the 6th. He allowed back-to-back doubles to score the first run for the Brewers, and an RBI single for the second.

Adam Warren came on in relief in the 7th as Tanaka put runners on the corners with just one out. A nifty double play by Warren, McCann, and Jeter got them the double play that they needed to get out of the inning by striking out the batter and catching the runner stealing 2nd all in a matter of seconds. It was a really pretty play, probably my favorite one of the night.

David Robertson came in looking for his 6th save, which he earned in a 19-pitch 9th, which would have been shorter had he not given up a solo home run to his former Yankee Reynolds. No, seriously, he struck out the other three batters in the inning with his usual ridiculousness.

I really have to commend the pitching today. They were rather on their game and really delivered and deserved the win tonight.

Fortunately, the Yankees were able to back up that bid not only in the field, but also at the plate. Their biggest dent came in the 4th inning. Beltran and McCann on with a walk and a single respectively, Yangervis Solarte decided to make his mark on Wisconsin with a long 3-run home run. Then with Gardner on base with a single, it’s Brian Roberts’ double that scored the speedy Gardner to push the Yankees up to 4 runs by the end of that inning.

They eventually got a nice cushion in the 8th inning. Beltran doubled, Ichiro in for the pinch-run, Ichiro stole 3rd almost too easily, and then Teixeira’s ground out scored Ichiro because the cut-off man decided to go for the out at 1st. Honestly, (and I say this despite the fact that I’m on the Yankees side of this and love that we benefited from this) that was a poor fielding choice; you can tell Ichiro would have been out at home, and the Brewers needed every out at home they could get. I guess I’d prefer to see sharp, strategic plays on the field by professionals, even if it’s by the opposing team.

So the Yankees won 5-3 against the Brewers tonight.

Oh, and the most talked about thing was Tanaka’s first MLB at-bat. Overall, he went 0-for-3 with 3 strikeouts. He was able to run up the pitch counts a bit, but he’s clearly a pitcher for a reason. Not that I’m complaining.

Okay, there was a bit of an incident in the 6th inning, and I’ve debated whether or not to include it. Look, nobody on the professional side of the game ever really acknowledges when fans come on the field to try to talk to the players or whatever because it’s stupid, it delays the game unnecessarily, they always get arrested, and it puts the players in danger. But tonight’s was just odd. This guy goes running up to Jeter asking for a hug. Jeter looks at him and says, “You’re going to get in trouble, man. Look out…” And then the guy gets tackled by security guards and hauled him off to jail.

It baffles me that people still think this is a cool thing to do. I get cheering and enthusiasm and the camaraderie that comes with your standard professional sporting event. But there are stupid fan things that make no sense to me. The Wave in the middle of the game? It says you’re totally bored with the game and have decided to take your focus off the field and onto the stadium to entertain yourself. On your phone the whole game? Same thing. Obnoxiously harassing the players or other fans? You’re just a drunk jerk. Running onto the field during a game? You’re an idiot headed for a night in jail; good luck getting a job or into college.

And none of those activities make any sense to me. I’m fully aware that going to a game isn’t a cheap event. You are essentially renting that seat space for the duration of the game. Thus, it would serve everyone best to do what that seat was designed for — for you to enjoy (or at least watch) the action on the field. Please cheer, please be enthusiastic, please enjoy the camaraderie with your fellow section-mates, please sing loudly in between the innings to “YMCA” or “Happy” or “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, please sing proudly our national anthem and “God Bless America”, please sing “New York, New York” with gusto after every Yankee win in the Bronx, and please be a great representative of a Yankee fan (or at least a baseball fan).

Go Yankees!