Game 93: NYY vs. MIN — Another series loss despite new additions

The Yankees haven’t won a series since the sweep on June 9-11. And now, as the Yankees board a plane for their second West Coast trip to start an early weekend, that fact is still true after dropping today’s game and the mid-week series to the Twins.

Jordan Montgomery got the nod to close out the series this afternoon, throwing 104 pitches in his 6 innings. He gave up 7 hits, a walk, and 6 runs, striking out just 3 Minnesota batters. Actually, outside of a single inning, Montgomery had a stellar outing. In just the 2nd inning, Montgomery threw 38 pitches, gave up 5 hits and a walk, and allowed all 6 of the Twins’ runs this game.

In that inning, with 2 outs and runners in scoring position, a single scored 2 runs. After a walk, another single scored another run, and a big 3-run home run doubled the Twins’ score and lead. It created a rather big mountain for the Yankees to scale during the game. Perhaps they left their hiking boots back in the Bronx.

The Yankees were able to get on base during the game, but they didn’t do anything to collect runs. In fact, they were held off from doing so until the 7th inning, the end of the Twins’ starter’s day. Clint Frazier led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Romine’s hit-by-pitch, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s single. An error on that same play moved Gardner and Romine to scoring position, but a new pitcher shut down any hopes for a comeback rally that inning.

Well, the bullpen in both cases continued their pretty strong showing this series. The Yankees’ offense was unable to break through again for the final two innings, and the Yankees’ relievers also fended off the Twins’ bats from adding to their solid lead. Chad Green and new Yankee Tommy Kahnle each gave a scoreless inning, but the Yankees would fall short in the end thanks to that monster early lead.

Final score: 6-1 Twins, Twins win series 2-1

Big roster news: the Yankees and White Sox orchestrated a big trade. In preparation, the Yankees optioned Chasen Shreve back to AAA Scranton and designated Rob Refsnyder and Ji-Man Choi for assignment.

The Yankees sent prospect pitcher Ian Clarkin and prospect outfielders Blake Rutherford and Tito Polo along with Yankees’ bullpen staple Tyler Clippard (who was decidedly sad to go but understood the reasoning) to the southside of Chicago. In exchange, the White Sox sent reliever Tommy Kahnle (who pitched in today’s game), infielder Todd Frazier (also the 2015 HR Derby winner), and former Yankee closer David Robertson. (Yes, Yankee Universe, D-Rob and his “high socks” are back in the Bronx.) All three new Yankees arrived during the game, suited up, and a Kahnle and Frazier even got to play later in the game.

Now, how this will pan out will be interesting. Todd Frazier is usually a regular 3rd baseman, but he does have experience at 1st; so while Headley is still on the team and playing, I can’t see Girardi using Frazier for anything but 1st. Kahnle will naturally fall right into the bullpen, which shouldn’t be much of an issue, except whether he is a 1-inning guy or long-term may yet be determined.

The biggest question mark really is Robertson, who is a great closer and was great as one for the Yankees, though he fell into the 8th inning slot next due to the Yankees’ legend Mariano Rivera being the everyday closer. With the likes of Chapman and Betances still in play on the team, the most common thought will be having Robertson slide back into his 8th inning role and move Betances to sticky situations or closing out non-save games.

And if you’re wondering, Todd Frazier donned #29, Kahlne #48, and Robertson is back in his old #30. Clint Frazier willingly gave up his #30 for Robertson, asking instead for #77, a quirky nod to hero Mantle (#7) and good friend Judge (#99).

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!

Game 91: NYY vs. MIN — A case of the Mondays

I did the math. We’re looking at a team that’s on track for 85 wins this season, quite a few less than the last time I did that math on my mirror. But looking at the standings and how the Yankees are playing right now, none of that really surprises me in the slightest.

Bryan Mitchell got the start tonight in the opening game against the Twins. He threw 90 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs (only 1 earned), striking out just 2 batters. In the 2nd, a 1-out walk scored on an RBI double to get the Twins on the board.

And after loading up the bases in the 3rd, the Yankees’ defense jumped into action getting the first 2 outs in a solid double play, first by a line drive to Judge in right field and then firing it home to get the runner trying to score there. But then a missed catch error by Mitchell led to the next batter scoring.

The Yankees’ offense caught up in the middle of the game, in the 5th. With 2 outs, Garrett Cooper doubled and then scored on Austin Romine’s double. And in the 7th, Headley hit a 1-out double and then scored on Cooper’s double to tie up the game.

So, the Yankees looked at rookie Caleb Smith (the 12th Yankees making his debut this season) to give some long-term relief and ultimately close out the game. He was fine until the 8th inning. He gave up consecutive singles to lead-off the inning. A pinch-hit single scored the winning run, and a double scored the insurance run. But then Smith got things under control, intentionally walking one batter and loading up the bases before getting his 5th strikeout of his outing.

The Yankees’ offense got a few chances to do something, like in the 8th inning, but they didn’t do anything except leave base runners stranded (yeah, that old song!).

Final score: 4-2 Twins

Injury updates: tomorrow, both Greg Bird and Michael Pineda will undergo surgery to repair their respective injuries. Bird chose surgery to deal with his lingering ankle issue, now diagnosed as an excess bone growth on his right ankle. His surgery will occur in New York and about 6 weeks of rehab is scheduled to follow. This means Bird could potentially resume baseball activities in early September.

Pineda opted for Tommy John surgery to repair his partially torn UCL in his right elbow. After his initial diagnosis and recommendation, he sought a second opinion with the Reds’ medical director in Cincinnati. That physician will perform the surgery tomorrow, and then Pineda is looking about about 15-ish months before he’s back on the mound.

With the looming trade deadline (July 31), these two surgeries, and the current slump of the team, I expect the Yankees might be in the market for a few new faces in pinstripes. No one saw the likes of Ichiro Suzuki or Chase Headley in such instances, but both veteran players were (and are) key to the team’s upswing for the rest of the season they jumped into.

In other words, new faces do work, even at the loss of some familiar ones, because the ultimate goal is #28. Every single season until it happens. And then it’s on to #29… #30… #31…

Go Yankees!

2017 All-Star Game: Millennial take-over

For a city so synonymous with aging Boomers and the height of a young Gen-X, it seems like it got a bit of a makeover, filled with Millennial who weren’t even born while iconic Miami-based shows like Miami Vice (1984-1990) were still on the air. Well, maybe a few during the run of Golden Girls (1985-1992), but that would be generally less than ideal comparison for a group of competitive 20-something young ball players. They would probably prefer shows like the more recent action spy show Burn Notice (2007-2013) which was sometimes referred to by fans as the 21st century version of Miami Vice (but without Don Johnson’s floppy hair and those hideous pastel suits on the lead heroes).

So it was the National League (and their reserves) against the American League (and their reserves) to face off for the 88th All-Star Game. And despite the ridiculous show of power 8 key players put on last night, tonight’s game was a pitcher’s game from the start to finish. Each team put up 9 pitchers who each threw about 15 pitches per inning and struck out a total of 22 batters overall.

But it wasn’t like the batters weren’t hitting, as they racked up 17 total hits (and 6 walks) over the game, but they just weren’t exactly given much chance to do much with those hits thanks to the defense. Again, it was an All-Star Game, and for the first time in a really long time, it felt like both teams were fairly evenly matched in every aspect of the game — pitching, batting, base-running, and defense. And tonight’s game proved that.

No one got close to scoring until the 5th inning with the AL up at bat. With 2 outs, Schoop (Orioles) doubled and then scored on Sano’s (Twins) single. A nice bit of redemption for the power-hitter after falling short to Judge last night, responsible for the first run scored of the night. The National League answered back in the 6th when their veteran catcher Molina (Cardinals) hit a long home run into the corner of the AL bullpen to tie up the game.

And the game ended up being played into extra innings thanks to all those aptly named all-star players. So when NL manager Joe Maddon sent in his lone Cubs pitcher and closer Davis, he unfortunately didn’t count on Cano (Mariners) liking the third pitch, sending it into the AL bullpen for the winning home run.

Only fittingly so, AL interim manager Brad Mills (filling in for a recovering Terry Francona, who made an “appearance” in the AL clubhouse) sent in his own closer Miller (Indians) who got out of the 10th inning and saved the game for the AL with a final strikeout.

Final score: 2-1 in 10 innings, American League over National League

Robinson Cano, of course, got the All-Star Game MVP award thanks to that 10th inning, game-winning homer. And after accepting the glass bat trophy, he was asked to choose between a red Chevy Colorado pickup truck and a special Transformers edition blue Chevy Corvette. Cano wisely chose the Corvette.

Okay, Yankee Universe, you’re wondering how our 5 All-Stars did. Aaron Judge started the game in right field and batted third in the lineup, but he went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Judge later admitted he was a bit tired after last night’s Derby and nervous and excited about the game tonight. Gary Sanchez came on for the second half of the game as the back-up catcher and ended up batting 8th, and he went 0-for-2 with a strikeout. Starlin Castro was present but unable to play due to his lingering wrist injury, so he spent time in the dugout cheering on his teammates and the American League.

In pitching, Dellin Betances showed the world what it felt like when he wanted to throw in some drama in the 3rd. He gave up a lead-off single, then struck out 2 batters, a wild pitch moved the runner to 2nd before he walked the batter, another wild pitch moved runners to scoring position, another walk loaded up the bases (and had everyone but Yankee Universe biting their nails), and a dribbling ground out ended the threat and the inning, getting Betances out of the jam… as usual.

Luis Severino would have pitched in the 11th inning had the NL tied up the game, and while he was disappointed not to see any play time in Miami, he really just wanted to see the AL win the game. Wish granted.

It is worth noting that the All-Star Game no longer counts for much of anything in the long-run more than bragging rights. As of this year, with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the players and the league, the home field advantage goes to the team that has the best record between the AL and NL champions (which was always a much better idea). Full disclosure: the players of the winning ASG team do get a $20,000 bonus check; so I guess it’s a bit more personal than bragging rights.

Okay, the millennial invasion of Miami was never more apparent than at what became one of the most talked about moments in the game. Mariner’s designated hitter (and one of the oldest guys, on either roster) Nelson Cruz came up to bat in the 6th innings and walked over to the home plate umpire Joe West and asked for a picture with him as he pulled out his phone from his back pocket. NL (and Cardinals) catcher Yadier Molina (also one of the older players) took the picture for Cruz as West seemed both confused and amused at the concept. While not technically a selfie, it went around the internet quickly that Cruz wanted a selfie with West (who is just called his 5000th game last week and is often one of the least liked umpires in the business, which may explain Cruz calling him a “legend”).

In a touching tribute before the game tonight, the league honored Latin-American baseball legends and Hall of Famers in an on-field ceremony — Roberto Alomar, Luis Aparicio, Rod Carew, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, Pedro Martinez, Tony Perez, Ivan Rodriguez (who was part of the 2003 Marlins’ championship team), and the late Roberto Clemente (who was represented by his wife Vera). Then, they all threw out the ceremonial first pitch to current All-Star players of Latin-American birth. It was a great way to “pass the torch”, as it were.

We’re back after a couple of days rest in Fenway to restart the season with the rivalry series in Boston on Friday. Enjoy the rest of your week!

Go Yankees!

Game 74: MIN vs. NYY — Tex & defense not strong enough against home runs

Sweep denied. Despite what was really a mostly average pitching game for the Yankees (as sad as that sounds right now), and a fantastically stellar defense (led by Mark Teixeira and Aaron Hicks), there’s not much you can do when all the runs in the game are scored off home runs.

I once heard a pitcher talking about the reality of home runs from a pitching perspective. A pitcher wants to throw strikes; a batter wants to convert those strikes to hits and runs. So that’s going to happen on occasion when those two desires collide, the pitcher gives up those home runs. It’s just unfortunate when it happens to happen more than once or twice in a game. It’s just awful when that’s basically the game for the starting pitcher.

Such was Nathan Eovaldi’s afternoon against the Twins in the series finale. The Yankees were going for the sweep, but it clearly wasn’t going to happen for this series. Eovaldi threw 92 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up 6 hits, 3 walks, and 5 runs, stirking out just 4 Twins batters. Like I said before, all of the runs in this game were scored on home runs. A 1-out solo home run in the 3rd inning kicked things off, but as Eovaldi kind of had the game under control for a while, it wasn’t that bad.

But then in the 6th inning, the Twins’ just surged. A lead-off single was caught stealing by the alert Brian McCann behind the plate. So with 2 outs and a walk, the Twins proceeded to hit 3 consecutive home runs (a 2-run and 2 solos) to solidify their lead over the Yankees this afternoon. Needless to say, Eovaldi’s afternoon was over.

Recently returned to the Bronx, Luis Cessa threw the 7th inning and followed suit by giving up a 2-out solo home run to push the Twins up even further. Cessa returned for the 8th for a couple of easy outs before Richard Bleier closed out that inning with a strikeout. Kirby Yates closed out the game for the Yankees and added his own allowed solo home run to the mix.

The Yankees’ offense wasn’t much this inning — a 6th inning double by Aaron Hicks broke up the Twins’ starter’s no-hitter bid, and a lead-off solo home run by Mark Teixeira in the 8th. To be fair, the Twins’ starter was very, very good today, and the Yankees just couldn’t get anything off him save Teixeira’s homer and 8 total strikeouts.

Final score: 7-1 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-1.

Scranton Shuttle: For the sake of a fresh arm, Nick Goody was sent back to AAA Scranton. In his place, the Yankees recalled Luis Cessa, who promptly pitched in today’s game.

Next up: the Yankees host the Texas Rangers for a 4-game series before heading out of the road next weekend to the West Coast. And with the Yankees back at .500, the Yankees will need to go at least 50-38 for the rest of the season to match their record for last year. But sometimes, the All-Star Break is exactly what the team needs to rest and regroup and push forward into focusing on finishing stronger. It may be just what is needed this season. But only time will tell, as it always does.

Go Yankees!

{Media Note: writing on the road in hotels, airports, and planes isn’t exactly allowing for easy and consistent wifi. I will add in the links before the next game when I know I will have good wifi again. Not that it was much to see today, but sorry!}

Game 73: MIN vs. NYY — Strong pitching dominates Saturday game

It was a beautiful, warm summer Saturday afternoon in the City. Basically, a perfect day for a pretty good ball game, like this afternoon’s middle game in this weekend series against the visiting Twins.

Michael Pineda got today’s start and the worst thing I can say about his outing is that his pitch count was a bit high (94 pitches in 6 innings). But his other numbers were just stellar — 2 allowed hits, a walk, a run, and 8 strikeouts. The lone allowed run was a lead-off solo home run in the 2nd inning. Basically, Pineda was just dominant today, and that certainly helped the Yankees work their way to a win.

The Warriors Three were also on hand to continue the Yankees’ pitching dominance. Betances threw just 9 pitches, all of them strikes, in his 7th inning. Collectively, all 4 Yankee pitchers threw 12 strikeouts to the Twins.

Now, the Yankees were a little late to the hit party, but once they joined it was looking up. In the bottom of the 5th, with 2 outs, Ellsbury and Gardner singled to get on base, and Carlos Beltran’s single scored Ellsbury to tie up the game. Up until that inning, the Twins’ starter kept the Yankees to just a single hit. But once they broke through, they racked up the hits (total of 10 this afternoon), which didn’t exactly translate into runs.

In the 8th, Rodriguez led-off with a single and then was pinch-run by Hicks. Hicks moved to 3rd on McCann’s single. They sat on the corners watching a strikeout. Then Starlin Castro reached on a force attempt to try to get the out at 2nd, but made it on a sloppy fielding error. So Hicks scored, and McCann landed at 2nd. Gregorius loaded the bases, but then Headley flied out into a double play when the left fielder got the tag out at home. A challenge and replay upheld the call, and the inning was over.

But the Yankees held on and came through.

Final score: 2-1 Yankees.

Roster Update: Mark Teixeira is back, as predicted, at 1st base and in pinstripes once again after his brief detour on the DL for his knee issues. Before this afternoon’s game, the Yankees announced the corresponding roster move would be Ike Davis. Davis was officially designated for assignment. Now, he has expressed interest in a minor league assignment (back to AAA Scranton) to stay with the organization once he clears waivers, but you never know what happens with someone on DFA. Davis is a bit limited as he only plays 1st where as many of the other possible back-ups (like Refsnyder) are more utility players now.

FYI… Yankees are now 1 game over .500 after today’s game. Consider it an upswing. Fingers crossed for how long this lasts.

Also, less than a week left for the All-Star Game voting… go vote!

Go Yankees!

Game 72: MIN vs. NYY — Remembering The Mick with pitching & a bobblehead

TGIF… especially with the Twins being in town right now and the Yankees just aching to prove they’re as good as they seem on paper. Not that I’m complaining.

Masahiro Tanaka got the chance to earn his 5th win of the season today, throwing 95 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up 8 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, striking out 7 batters. In the 3rd, with no outs and runners in scoring position, a certain former (often helmet-less) Yankee hit both runners in with a single to get the ball rolling tonight. And in the 4th with 1 out and runners in scoring position once again, a ground out scored just the lead runner to cap off the Twins’ offense tonight. Mostly, Tanaka kept the Twins swinging at his pitches and setting up the Yankees offense to do something.

So they did something. In fact, every time the Twins scored a run, the Yankees would answer back in the bottom of that inning to keep things interesting. In the bottom of the 3rd, down 2-0, with 2 outs and Gardner at 1st, Carlos Beltran’s double scored Gardner, only to be followed up by Alex Rodriguez’s single scoring Beltran to tie up the game.

And when the Twins got back in the lead with their 3rd run in the 4th, the Yankees came back in the bottom to tie things up again… and then some. They loaded the bases (with no outs) with a walk, a single, and a fielding error. Austin Romine’s sacrifice fly scored the run to tie the game. A force out put runners on the corners so that Rob Refsnyder’s single scored Gregorius. A walk loaded the bases again with 2 outs, but the Twins’ pitching change (the starter out of the game already) allowed for a momentum shift and the Yankees went down swinging leaving those bases loaded with a very slim lead.

And there they maintained. So the Yankees trotted out the Warriors Three from the bullpen, and man, were they on point tonight. The three flame-throwing pitchers plowed through 9 straight batters in 3 near-perfect innings to close out the game. It was exactly what everyone who dreamed up these three pitchers could do and be for the Yankees.

In fact, Chapman nearly threw a perfect inning (save 2 foul balls). His 10 fast balls were 101, 102, 102, 102, 103, 103, 103, 103, 103, and 104 mph. (He is the only guy in the entire league since 2008 to throw more than 1 pitch at 103 or faster — he’s thrown 77 actually.) Only to get the guy swinging at a 91 mph change-up for a final strike and get his 14th save.

Of course, the Yankees did give him an extra cushion — Aaron Hicks’ 1-out solo home run in the 8th inning. That was Hicks’ first home run from the right side (he’s a switch-hitter) this season.

Also worth noting is that the Yankees really out-pitched the Twins tonight, especially with their strikeouts. The Yankee batters struck out just 6 times, which their pitchers earned 12 strike outs tonight.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees

So, the biggest news in Yankee Universe is that Mark Teixeira is coming back to the Bronx for tomorrow afternoon’s game. Yes, his knee (which may still need surgery at some point this off-season) is better and rehabbed and ready to play again. Now the big question is going to be the corresponding roster move. Will the Yankees send Refsnyder back to Scranton (though he’s been excellent both at 1st and at the plate recently)? Or will they move recently signed Davis (though he’s certainly had his own contributions and has more time solidly at 1st)? I have my opinions, but they don’t consult me on major roster moves. So what happens will happen likely before tomorrow afternoon’s game.

Tonight, the big giveaway at Yankee Stadium was a Mickey Mantle bobblehead figure. And before tonight’s game, Mantle’s sons David and Danny threw out the first pitch. The figurine and tonight were in honor of the 60th anniversary of Mantle’s Triple Crown achievement. In 1956, Mantle led the American League in batting average (.353), home runs (52), and RBIs (130). Even with today’s power-hitting skyscraping standards, those are pretty impressive numbers, and it’s still one of the best records in history. It’s only fitting that one of the best players in the history of baseball also played for one of the greatest baseball teams. Once a Yankee…

Go Yankees!