Game 78: NYY vs. HOU — A “Gardy Party”

I think my favorite tweet about tonight’s game was the Yankees’ “Everyone’s invited to a Gardy party!” It’s a terrible attempt at a pun, of course, thanks in part to Yankees’ radio announcer John Sterling and his infamous old-school radio calls. But it was certainly a nice wrap up for the offense that was Brett Gardner tonight in the opening game against the Astros.

Of course, Gardner’s push had huge support thanks to starter Michael Pineda, who threw 91 pitches in 6 innings, giving up 7 hits, no walks, and 3 runs (only 2 earned), and striking out 3 Houston batters. In the 1st, a lead-off double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a sacrifice fly to give the Astros an early lead. With 1 out and 2 runners in scoring position in the 4th, a ground out scored the first and a single scored the second to give the Astros a nice lead over the Yankees.

Recently called-up Bryan Mitchell came on for the final third of the game for the Yankees, giving them the kind of solid, consistent long-term relief they’ve been needing for a few weeks. He threw just 30 pitches in 3 innings and still managed to give up a run, in his middle inning, the 8th. A lead-off double ended up at 3rd on a fielding error and then scored on a ground out.

And that wouldn’t be good enough if the Astros were playing like one of the best teams in baseball (as they are), but the Yankees seemed to remember that they’re also one of the best teams in baseball. And it would be Brett Gardner (of course) to start the whole thing for the Yankees with a lead-off double in the 3rd and then scoring on Didi Gregorius’ 2-out double to tie up the game, at that point.

Down 3-1, the Yankees began their rally and eventual rout in the 6th inning. Gregorius led-off with a single and moved to 2nd on Romine’s 1-out walk. The Astros’ starter was done, but the bullpen wasn’t any better. Ronald Torreyes’ single scored Gregorius and then after another strikeout, the rally began. Chris Carter single scored Romine, Gardner’s single scored Torreyes (to finally put the Yankees in the lead), and Jacoby Ellsbury’s single scored Carter as an error moved runners into scoring position. Aaron Judge’s walk was on a wild pitch that scored Gardner. That ended the 6th inning run rally as a new reliever found the final out of the inning.

But it would be the 7th inning that would leave everyone talking. The Yankees loaded up the bases with singles to Headley and Romine and a walk to Torreyes. Wade hit into a ground out that the Astros kicked into defensive gear and got the best out at home. A new reliever got a strikeout but then got Gardner to work up a full count before he sent a 82 mph slider into the right field seats for a home run, his 3rd career grand slam to ensure a Yankees victory tonight.

To add just a pinch more, the Yankees took advantage of the Astros sending in a position player to close out the game in the 9th. Torreyes and Wade each worked a walk. Carter’s double scored Torreyes, Gardner’s sacrifice fly score Wade, and Ellsbury’s ground out scored Carter before the position player reliever got home run leader Aaron Judge to fly out to end the inning and set up the Yankees for the big win.

Final score: 13-4 Yankees.

Roster moves: Before tonight’s game, the Yankees put Dustin Fowler on the 10-day disabled list with his ruptured right patellar tendon injury (more below) and optioned reliever Ronald Herrera back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In their place, the Yankees recalled tonight’s long closer Bryan Mitchell and the hero rookie from two days ago Miguel Andujar from AAA Scranton.

A few hours before tonight’s game, the Yankees all crowded into Girardi’s office to Facetime with their injured teammate Dustin Fowler in a Chicago hospital. Fowler will be discharged from the hospital and sent to New York to begin his roughly 6 months of recovery. It’s a bit shorter than a torn ACL, but a knee injury, regardless of how intense, is never an easy road to recovery. Fowler deserves a chance to show what a great player he can be in the big leagues, and at this point, it looks like maybe next year he gets that chance.

Go Yankees!

Game 74: NYY vs. CHW — Not always a guaranteed win at Guaranteed Rate Field

I’ve been calling the White Sox home field, on the south side of Chicago, US Cellular Field pretty much since they changed the name in 2003, including since last August, when they apparently changed their name to “Guaranteed Rate Field“. Despite “the Cell” having naming rights until 2023, the mortgage company bought a 13-year naming deal that overrode the old one, and it went into effect late August 2016.

I should make the caveat that I haven’t been to Chicago since the name change, and I don’t live in the Chicago area where apparently it was such a big deal that they started a hashtag on social media: #BetterSoxStadiumNames. And believe me that is a hashtag, I can get behind, as I have issues with a Spring Training stadium the Yankees visit every year named after a local used car lot — the Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.

I do get teams selling the naming rights to make up for a sluggish ad budget, but I suppose I’m a little old school and prefer my stadiums (and fields) named after the teams or a person (like, I don’t know, Yankee Stadium and Steinbrenner Field). Though I suppose the Yankees make up for the lack of naming rights because they make more money than almost any other team in the MLB from other ad buys, being one of the largest markets and a team people actually want to watch play regularly.

Anyway, all that to say that I’m with the majority of Chicagoans, who now have to suffer Guaranteed Rate Field through the next 13 years (or however long until the next company buys out the naming rights). Except I only have to endure such a sentiment for a short series each year and then I’ll forget it until a brief thought will flit through my head during Spring Training when the Yankees will play the Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.

Anyway, there was a game at this newly dubbed stadium, and the rookie pitcher threw a great outing. Jordan Montgomery threw 100 pitches through his 7 innings, giving up just 5 hits, a walk, and a run (a lead-off solo home run in the 2nd), and striking out 8 White Sox batters. He set the Yankees up for a strong start to this 4-game series in Chicago they desperately need after the disappointing home stand.

The Yankees didn’t break through the White Sox starter in any real way until the 4th inning. Judge led-off with a walk and moved to 3rd when Sanchez hit into a force attempt fielding error. Tyler Austin’s sacrifice fly scored Judge to tie up the game. After Ellsbury singled, Chase Headley’s single scored Sanchez, and Romine’s walk loaded up the bases. Then Ronald Torreyes hit into a weird play — he hit a long ball out to center field for a sacrifice fly to score Ellsbury, but then the White Sox played a little defense to get Headley out in a bit of a rundown to become a sacrifice double play.

In the 6th, Tyler Austin hit his 1st home run of the season, a 1-out solo shot to the White Sox bullpen in left field. Ellsbury reached safely on a fielding error moving to 3rd on Headley’s double. That ended the White Sox’s starter night. Ellsbury then scored on Austin Romine’s sacrifice fly, and a passed ball moved Headley to 3rd before he then scored on a bad missed catch error on Torreyes’ at-bat.

This gave the Yankees a healthy lead to take them all the way through the game. And they’d need it because their bullpen made things interesting. Jonathan Holder came on in the 8th for a couple of outs, a walk, and a single. With runners in the corners, Dellin Betances came on to loaded up the bases with a walk and then get out of the jam with a great strikeout to end the White Sox rally.

But that certainly wasn’t it for the White Sox who took advantage of Chasen Shreve’s bad night in the 9th inning. In just 12 pitches, Shreve got an out, 2 singles, and a 3-run home run to put the White Sox within viable striking distance of the Yankees. At this point, this became a save opportunity, so they brought in Aroldis Chapman. Chapman continued the struggle, giving up a single that scored on an RBI double to put the Sox within a run of the Yankees lead. Fortunately, a ground out held the runner at 2nd and put the Yankees in need of a lone out, which would be a fly out to left field to preserve the Yankees’ lead and get another save.

Final score: 6-5 Yankees

Starlin Castro was pulled from tonight’s game due to a hamstring injury he got running out a ground ball in the 3rd inning. This after he missed Sunday’s game due to a sore wrist and now this. It’s got to be frustrating. Nothing definite yet about a DL stint or possible replacement or anything else.

So many roster moves before the game: Aaron Hicks was officially sent to the disabled list with his oblique strain, and the Yankees activated Jacoby Ellsbury from the DL after his concussion finally healed. And for some relief in the outfield and in the bullpen, they sent Mason Williams and Tyler Webb back to AAA Scranton and recalled Rob Refsnyder and Ronald Herrera.

And Aaron Judge still leads the American League in All-Star Game fan votes. He has been asked to do the Home Run Derby during the festivities, but he’s not made his decision on that front yet, despite his batting practice home runs making a splash all over social media for hitting televisions, almost hitting vendors and stadium crew, and delighting young fans all over the country by shooting these balls in far off places they shouldn’t really be traveling around the stadium (very Mantle-esque, if you ask me). (Also, please say “yes!” to the HRD!)

But other Yankees are hoping for a last-minute surge in fan voting to get to the game next month in Miami. (You can vote until Thursday, June 29 at 11:59 pm EST.) At least one representative from each team will be at the game in Miami, and the Yankees almost always get a representative in the AL bullpen (selected by the AL coaching staff leading up to the game).

Go Yankees!

Game 65: NYY vs. OAK — A bumpy ride in “Bump City”

Oakland was dubbed “Bump City” after author John Krich’s 1979 book Bump City: Winners and Losers in Oakland about the history of the city, known mainly for its pictures by Dorothea Lange from the collection of the Oakland Museum. But no one from Oakland really knows that and are not a huge fan of said nickname. But it fits my purposes, especially with the way this road trip is going.

Luis Severino had a pretty good outing except a single inning. And thanks to that, he threw 109 pitches in just 6 innings, overall giving up 4 hits, 4 walks, and 4 runs, striking out 6 Oakland batters.

In the 2nd, Severino faced all 9 batters in the Oakland lineup as he struggled his way through the inning. He gave up consecutive walks before getting a strikeout, and then a double scored the first A’s run. A ground out scored another run, but initially the runner was called safe at 1st. The Yankees challenged, and it was overturned for the 2nd out of the inning. And it was back to the game for a single to score yet another run. Another single moved runners to the corners, and another single scored the 4th run of the inning.

So, the Yankees had a bit of catching up to do. In the 3rd, with 2 outs and runners on the corners, Aaron Judge hit his 23rd home run of the season, a 3-run shot to the right field seats to put the Yankees a whole lot closer to the A’s lead.

And in the 5th, Torreyes hit a 1-out double and then scored on Mason Williams’ single to tie up the game. Williams ended up at 2nd on the throw, but Oakland challenged him being safe at 2nd. The call was upheld after a rather long review. Despite the Yankees loading up the bases with a couple of walks, they weren’t able capitalize on it then and break the tie.

Until Chris Carter led-off the 6th with a solo home run, that is, straight up the middle of the O.Co (Oakland Coliseum). And in the 7th, Judge hit a 1-out triple and then scored on Starlin Castro’s single for an insurance run.

So, with a 2-run lead, Chasen Shreve took over for Severino. Shreve had his own issues. With 1 out, he gave up a walk and a single to put runners on the corners, and a sacrifice fly scored the lead runner to put the Athletics within 1 run. Jonathan Holder had a worse time in the 8th, loading up the bases with a walk, a ground-rule double, and an intentional walk before a single scored both the tying and winning runs for the A’s. The final play was a double play, but was originally just a fielder’s choice until the Yankees continued their streak of challenge-and-overturn in their favor.

Final score: 7-6 Athletics

Injury news: (and boy, is it a doozy lately!)
The Yankees officially placed CC Sabathia on 10-day DL, retroactive to June 14, due to his strained left hamstring. Adam Warren is also now on the 10-day DL with right shoulder inflammation. On day-to-day are Aaron Hicks (with achilles tendon soreness) and Gary Sanchez (with groin tightness).

And in roster maneuvers:
The Yankees reassigned Aroldis Chapman to AA Trenton to continue his rehab assignment. He is hoping to be activated and rejoin the team in Oakland by Sunday’s game. (Fingers crossed!) The Yankees also optioned pitchers Ronald Herrera to AA Trenton and Gallegos to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, recalling relievers Domingo German and Luis Cessa from AAA Scranton. They also recalled Mason Williams and Kyle Higashioka from AAA Scranton to fill in for Hicks and Sanchez, respectively. (I hope they got a group rate on the Scranton to Oakland flight!)

Two more games in Oakland this weekend (and they’re not late-night games for us East Coasters!), and the Yankees are looking to right the ship again. For a bit there tonight, it looked like the Yankees would pull through and win it once again. But that West Coast drain kicked in and just flipped the story on them. Time to take control of that story and change the narrative.

Go Yankees!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Yankees!