Off Season Update: Holiday Wrap-up

Well, the Astros are the reigning World Champions, much to the city of Houston’s glee. The parade through the streets of Houston, which had been nearly devastated just a few months earlier was a big encouragement to those who are still trying to rebuild their homes and lives after Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas coast in late August.

Winter Meetings begin on Monday, and between the Astros winning Game 7 over the Dodgers and the Winter Meetings on Monday, it’s not exactly been a quiet off-season. Especially for the Yankees.

Awards Season: Almost immediately following the World Series, MLB Universe wraps up its season by handing out all sorts of awards. Mostly, it was Aaron Judge that was up for many of the awards like MVP and Rookie of the Year, but it was a tough year for nearly every category as there was some really outstanding players and plays made this season. You can catch up on all the awards (with extensive coverage and video clips) here. But I’m just going to do a brief Yankee Universe summary.

As expected, the MVPs and Hank Aaron Awards of both the AL and NL went to the Astros’ Jose Altuve and Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton, though Judge’s name was tossed about quite a bit for the AL versions of both awards. Judge did snag Rookie of the Year, voted so unanimously, the first Yankee to do so since Jeter in 1996. (Side note: also in the mix for ROTY — breakout starter Jordan Montgomery.) Judge was also awarded the Silver Slugger for right field, something he shared this year with teammate Gary Sanchez, who won it for his catching position. And Judge was also voted on by his fellow players for the Players’ Choice Award of Outstanding AL Rookie.

Now, Esurance sponsors its own array of awards for the season and quite a few Yankees graced the finalists lists. Best Major Leaguer was awarded to Altuve over 9 other finalists including MLB legends like Stanton and Trout as well as (of course) Judge. Severino was nominated for Best Pitcher, but lost to the Indians’ Corey Kluber (who had an outstanding postseason in his own right). Of the 6 finalists for Best Rookie, who else but Aaron Judge became the natural choice. The Astros’ manager AJ Hinch edged out 9 other finalists for Best Manager, including Joe Girardi, and Brian Cashman got the same treatment in the Best Executive category as the Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow snagged that one. Other awards include Best Postseason Moment, Best TV/Radio Call, Best Play, Personality of the Year, and Best Fan Catch, none of which unfortunately include any Yankees

Hello, old friend: At the end of October, before the World Series was even complete, the Yankees announced they were parting ways with their long-term manager Joe Girardi, and began the search for their new skipper. With former bench coach Rob Thomson singing on to be the Phillies’ new bench coach and 3rd base coach Joe Espada the Astros’ bench coach, the Yankees ended up narrowing the manager candidates down and included two former Yankee players — Carlos Beltran and Aaron Boone. Just a few days ago, the Yankees announced that they were going with Aaron Boone, known to most Yankee fans as the hero of the 2003 World Series and more recently as a ESPN broadcaster. Boone, who will wear #17, will be thrust back into Yankee Universe in a crucial role, one that could either expose his inexperience as a manager or one that could see him flourish thanks to his extensive baseball knowledge, legacy, and intelligence. Only time will tell.

Big splash denied, big splash made: All 30 MLB clubs were hoping to sign an international sensation, 23-year-old Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani, who is known both as a stellar pitcher and as a big power-hitter. The international market has some complex rules about signings, and many assumed that Ohtani would sign with a big name NL team so that he could use both of his famed tools. Almost immediately, most East Coast teams were eliminated, including big market teams like the Yankees and Red Sox. With most of the chatter leaning towards the Mariners (despite being an AL team), the big surprise was when the Angels (also an AL team) announced their newest acquisition just a few days ago.

But without that possibility, the Yankees started searching for their big splash. Within about 24 hours of word leaking that the Marlins were shopping their superstar Giancarlo Stanton, it was confirmed just today. Former HR Derby champion Stanton would join current HR Derby champion Judge in the Yankees outfield and in Yankee pinstripes for the 2018 season. Details are forthcoming, but it looks like the Yankees will send prospect pitcher Jorge Guzman (the #9 Yankee prospect), prospect shortstop Jose Devers, and Starlin Castro to the Marlins in exchange for Stanton and about $30 million. Castro has 2 years and about $23.7 million left on his current contract.

Okay, what that means and leaves wide open for the Yankees to answer questions this off-season. First, removing Castro from 2nd leaves a wide open space for perhaps Ronald Torreyes to play more frequently, especially as he was clearly one of the more reliable and consistent defenders and hitters (basically the ideal bench/utility player) for the last 2 seasons. However, there are several prospects that could earn the everyday position in Spring Training including the much talked about Gleyber Torres.

The Yankees now have 6 potential outfielders — Gardner, Ellsbury, Judge, Stanton, Hicks, and C. Frazier. Frazier will likely spend time in AAA once again, which leaves either Gardner or Ellsbury (mostly due to age, unfortunately) as the prime potential for a trade. However, Ellsbury has a no-trade clause in his contract, one that he could easily waive if asked or volunteer to be traded on his own if he so desires. A lot of that usually depends on who’s asking. That prevents players from being traded into a clubhouse or organization they don’t like. If I was a player, there are definitely certain clubs I would avoid like the plague, or take a pay cut to play with a better team.

Also, the Yankees are dealing with 8 arbitration-eligible players and 10 with less than 3 years on their contracts, most notably Headley, Robertson, and Gardner, who are all on their final year of their deals. Arbitration-eligible means that the Yankees will extend an offer (a proposed salary) to keep them on their roster, and the player either accepts it or counter offers and it goes to arbitration for the mediator to pick the correct number. Basically, it’s a negotiation tool, and this off-season, the Yankees will have to negotiate with Betances, Gray, Gregorius, Hicks, Kahnle, Romine, Shreve, and Warren. Unless they trade them, of course.

Again, the Winter Meetings start on Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Florida (a.k.a. Disney World’s Swan & Dolphin Resorts, for anyone not familiar with Central Florida geography). Winter Meetings are when representatives from all the MLB clubs and their minor league teams, as well as MLB executives, meet up for about four days and do business face-to-face. So, there’s going to be trades, discussions, executive meetings to discuss baseball operations and potential alterations to rule of play. Often scouts, owners, general managers, international visitors, job-seekers, and trade show exhibitors will also be milling around the meetings. In other words, we can expect more news to come out of this next week’s meetings. And I was going to wait until after that to post, just in case the Yankees make another big splash, which they could as they still need to shore up the starting rotation. But today’s news was too big to pass up.

But barring a big splash, I hope everyone has a good holiday season as we close out this 2017 and hope for a really wonderful 2018. I mean, it really looks like 2018 could be the year we finally celebrate #28.

Go Yankees!

Game 135: BOS vs. NYY — Cloudy Saturday is #TanakaTime

It’s a rather cloudy day in the Bronx, nearby clouds linger with promises of rain through the night. But it held off for the afternoon game against the Red Sox for the nearly 50,000 fans to cheer on their rivals today.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start today and threw just a beautiful game in this third game of the 4-game weekend series against the division leaders. He threw 97 pitches into the 8th inning, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and a run and striking out just 3 Boston batters to set himself up for the win. That lone run came when a lead-off double in the 6th moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a wild pitch.

But Tanaka led the Yankees to keep the Red Sox at that lone run, and the Yankee fans showed their appreciation when he left the mound in the 8th inning with a nice standing ovation. David Robertson continued that momentum, completing a scoreless 8th inning, handing the ball to Dellin Betances for a 12-pitch, 3-strikeout flawless 9th.

The Yankee offense was there to back up their starter with the run support to narrow the Red Sox’s lead in the AL East. In the 2nd, Chase Headley got things started for the Yankees with a 1-out solo home run into the left field seats. {Media note: no media link, sorry. MLB.com has changed their video availability, and initially, it is often difficult to find the more traditional plays to share with the public.} A bit later in the inning, the Yankees loaded up the bases, but couldn’t add to their score at that point.

With the game now tied up in the 6th, the Yankees found a big opportunity. Gregorius led-off with a walk and ended up at 3rd on Headley’s single. They both then scored as part of Matt Holliday’s big 3-run home run. (Personal note: I actually looked at my mom as they were jogging the bases and said, “Welcome back, Mr. Holliday! So much for that back injury.”) Ellsbury led-off the 7th with a triple and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s single to cap off the Yankees’ scoring this afternoon.

Final score: 5-1 Yankees

Well, a big happy 25th birthday to Ronald Torreyes, who got the start at 2nd due to Starlin Castro’s dental issues. Apparently, sometime between last night’s game and 7 am, Castro lost a tooth and needed an emergency root canal, sitting in the dentist’s chair from 7 am until just before game time. So when Girardi announced the line-up change, he was hoping the regular starter would be available at least off the bench, noting that lack of sleep and early dental surgery may not be ideal for even a back-up player today.

Fortunately, the finale is tomorrow evening, so both the Yankees and Castro himself have time to recover and rest in hopes of taking this series from the Red Sox. As someone who’s had root canal surgery (twice), my thoughts are with Castro today. Fingers crossed for about 24 hours (from now) in recovery to come back strong and help the Yankees win tomorrow night too.

Go Yankees!

Game 129: SEA vs. NYY — #TanakaTime, and an offense aided by a quintet of errors

We come to the end of Players Weekend, which means tomorrow, all things go back to the normal that is a bunch of elite athletes play a children’s game while everyday people eat thousands of calories and pay hundreds of dollars to watch them do their work and critique their performances. But I digress…

Masahiro “Masa” Tanaka got the start in this afternoon’s finale against the visiting Mariners. He threw 99 pitches in his 7 innings, giving up 6 hits, a walk, and the Mariners’ lone run, striking out 10 Seattle batters. He clearly set himself for the win, his 10th of the season (making him break even at 10 wins and 10 losses for 2017).

In the 1st, with 1 out, a Seattle batter singled and ended up on 2nd on an early fielding error. He moved to 3rd on another single and then scored on a double to get the visitors on the board. But then with runners sitting tight in scoring position, Tanaka got a well-placed strikeout and then a fly out to end the jam and keep the Mariners to that lone run.

Tanaka then would cruise through the next six innings, giving up just 3 more hits that would amount to nothing for the Mariners. Reaching his peak in the 7th, he handed the ball over to Caleb “Smith” Smith, who sailed his way through the 8th and 9th innings in just 20 total pitches.

Meanwhile, the Yankees capitalized on the fact that the Mariners’ defense just didn’t show up today. After the Mariners’ got on the board in the top of the 1st, the Yankees pounced right away in the bottom of the 1st. With 1 out, “All-Starlin” Castro double and then scored on Gary “Kraken” Sanchez’s single. A missed catch error allowed Sanchez to end up at 2nd. Then they loaded up the bases with Judge’s walk and a fielding error on a hit by “Sir Didi” Gregorius. {No media link, sorry!}

Then Chase “Head” Headley followed that up by reaching on another fielding error, where all runners were safe and advanced as Sanchez scored the next run. With another out, Jacoby “Chief” Ellsbury hit a bases-clearing double and ended up at 3rd due to a missed catch error by an infielder. He then scored on Ronald “Toe” Torreyes’ single.

So, with the Yankees now firmly in the lead, they continued their advance. In the 3rd, with 2 outs, Torreyes singled, moved to 2nd on “A-A-Ron” Hicks’ single, and then scored on Starlin Castro’s single.

Castro led-off the 6th with a single and moved to 2nd on Sanchez’s walk. That was the end of the Mariners’ starter’s afternoon. A wild pitch by the new reliever moved both runners up to scoring position before they were joined by “All Rise” Judge on the bases. Then with 1 out, Headley hit a long fly ball, a sacrifice fly that scored Castro, but the cut-off man noticed a lingering Sanchez in the base paths and tagged him out instead for the final out of the inning and to complete the double play.

In the 7th, the Yankees loaded up the bases again with a walk and 2 singles. Then with 1 out, pinch-hitter Greg “Bird” Bird singled home “The Toddfather” Frazier and Ellsbury to add 2 more runs to the Yankees massive lead.

It is worth noting that the Yankees collected 15 total hits off the Mariners’ pitchers. And of their 10 runs, only half of them were earned thanks to the 5 errors in that 1st inning by the Mariners’ defense.

Final score: 10-1 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-1

On a bit of a side note, Joe Girardi received his 40th career ejection today, his 35th as the Yankee manager, his 5th of the year, and his 2nd of the week. In the 3rd inning, with a runner on 1st, the Mariners hit a short grounder to 1st base where Headley fielded it and threw it to 2nd for the first part of what should be a double play. But it bounced oddly, as Gregorius tagged 2nd for the first out, and the runner at 1st ended up safely reaching base.

However, a sharp-eyed Girardi noticed that the runner from 1st left the standard base path (an automatic out) and cut inside and onto the infield grass, which could interfere with the standard flow of play. Like any other interference calls, you can’t interfere with other players trying to do their job during a play. So he called for the umpires to review the play as the runner was clearly out of line. But they reviewed the play and upheld the call. Girardi was less than pleased and had no problem showing that, including a hat toss, some heated words, and a few head wags. So, yeah, ejection was bound to happen.

But Girardi certainly wasn’t wrong. It’s just fortunate the Yankees outplayed the Mariners today. I hate it when plays that get miscalled like that affect the outcome of the game. It’s especially crucial in these last few weeks of the regular season as both teams are really in the middle of a playoff race. (The Mariners are now a game and a half out of the second Wild Card spot, while the Yankees are comfortably still the first Wild Card.)

The most comprehensive list I could find on the Yankees’ Players Weekend nicknames was this:

Tyler Austin — Austin
Dellin Betances — D-Dawg
Greg Bird — Bird
Starlin Castro — All-Starlin
Luis Cessa — Quique
Aroldis Chapman — The Missile
Jacoby Ellsbury — Chief
Todd Frazier — Toddfather
Clint Frazier — Red Thunder
Jaime Garcia — J-Gar
Brett Gardner — Gardner
Sonny Gray — Pickles
Chad Green — Greeny
Didi Gregorius — Sir Didi
Chase Headley — Head
Aaron Hicks — A-A Ron
Matt Holliday — Holliday
Aaron Judge — All Rise
Tommy Kahnle — The Kahn
Bryan Mitchell — Mitch
Jordan Montgomery — Monty
Michael Pineda — Big Mike
David Robertson — D-Rob
Austin Romine — Ro
CC Sabathia — Dub
Gary Sanchez — Kraken
Luis Severino — Sevy
Chasen Shreve — Shrever
Caleb Smith — Smith
Masahiro Tanaka — Masa
Ronald Torreyes — Toe
Tyler Wade — T-Wade
Adam Warren — Rocket

Which name did you like best? Or like least? Which one surprised you most? What would you get on the back of your jersey?

And can the Yankees continue their hot streak as they face division leaders Indians and Red Sox this coming week?

Go Yankees!

Game 125: NYY vs. DET — #SevySharp in Yankees offensive show redux

Okay, so either the Yankees are playing really well or the Tigers are really not. And based on a lot of the game today, it’s the latter. Which isn’t great for the Yankees in the long-run, but it certainly looks great on paper.

Luis Severino got the start tonight in the middle game in Detroit, and showed off why the Yankees should consider him one of their best assets. (Like the hashtag? Hate it? Comment below.) He threw 100 pitches into the 7th inning, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and a run, and struck out 8 Detroit batters.

Severino held off the Tigers for the most part until the 6th inning, where he gave up a lead-off home run and 2 singles before getting those 3 outs to get out of one of the only real jams of the night.

Chad Green continued his strong 2017 season coming in to close out the 7th and sailing his way through the 8th. All 4 of his outs were strikeouts, by the way. Tommy Kahnle came on for the 9th, got 2 outs, gave up a solo home run and a double, and then closed out the game.

So with only 2 allowed runs (and 13 total strikeouts) by the Yankees’ pitching staff, the Yankees offense was ready for a repeat performance of last night’s monster showing. Gary Sanchez started things off tonight in the 1st inning with a 2-out solo home run into the left field seats.

In the 3rd, with 1 out and loaded bases, Sanchez singled home 2 of the runners, and Aaron Judge doubled home the other. Didi Gregorius then singled and scored Sanchez, before Chase Headley’s sacrifice fly scored Judge. Gregorious tagged another run on in the 5th with a 2-out solo home run.

The Tigers only sent 2 pitchers to the mound tonight, and the Yankees hit well off both of them. So in the 6th, the new pitcher walked Frazier and Ellsbury. Ronald Torreyes’ single scored Frazier. And Chase Headley’s 2-out solo home run in the 7th added one more, hitting it deep into the left field seats. In the 8th, with 2 outs and Gardner on 2nd due to a throwing error trying to turn a double play, Aaron Hicks singled and scored Gardner to make it a double-digit score for the Yankees, a second night in a row.

Final score: 10-2 Yankees

I read an interesting statistic early in the game that Gary Sanchez’s last 10 hits have been a home run, a single, 2 home runs, a single, 2 home runs, a single, and 2 home runs (including that 1st inning one). He went 2-for-5 tonight, with 2 runs scored and 3 RBIs. And he followed the set pattern above by making his 2nd hit of the night a single.

This Sanchez is so reminiscent of the 2016 Sanchez, heating up in August, helping drive the team towards October, suddenly in contention for all sorts of postseason awards (he finished 2nd in AL Rookie of the Year voting). It is fortunate that this is coming, yet again, at a time when the Yankees certainly need an offensive boost if they want to solidify their postseason plans.

Now, if more players can start clicking and heating up, and pitchers can be as sharp as Severino, that 28th title isn’t looking so blurry in the distance.

Go Yankees!

Game 124: NYY vs. DET — Bronx Bombers in Motor City

Well, that certainly made up for some Fenway failure this last weekend. So tonight’s opener against the Tigers in Detroit was a mix between some pretty great pitching and some just stellar offense.

Recently activated off the DL, tonight’s starter was Masahiro Tanaka, who threw 90 pitches in his 7 innings. He gave up 6 hits, no walks, and 3 runs, striking out just 4 Detroit batters. In the 3rd, a lead-off single scored on a 2-out double to get the Tigers on the board. And a 1-out double in the 7th scored as part of a 2-run homer for a few more runs for the home team.

Chasen Shreve continued a pretty good start with 2 innings of his own to close out the game. One of the 2 allowed hits was a 2-out solo inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the 9th inning to add one more run for the Tigers in tonight’s game.

Meanwhile, the Yankees kicked off tonight’s game by making a big offensive show and then continuing to do so throughout the game, just dominating the Tigers all night. The first 3 pitchers for the Tigers only pitched 2 1/3 innings a piece, struggling to get control of the game. In the 1st inning, Hicks hit a 1-out single and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s monster 2-run home run, a 493 foot shot nearly hitting the big scoreboard out in left field (more below). Then Judge works a walk and ends up at 3rd on Gregorius’ double before scoring on Tyler Austin’s sacrifice fly.

In the 3rd, in a pseudo-moment of deja vu, Judge worked a lead-off walk, moved to 2nd on Gregorius’ single, and then scored on Tyler Austin’s single. Todd Frazier hit a deep 1-out triple that scored both Gregorius and Austin. {No media link, sorry!} That was the end of the Tigers’ starter, but the new reliever gave up a sacrifice fly to Torreyes that scored the waiting Frazier from 3rd.

Consecutive singles led-off the 5th, and a force out at 2nd put runners on the corners. A belated fielder’s choice (though it looked more like a fielding error) allowed Hicks to reach safely and also scored Frazier. Aaron Judge’s single scored Gardner and kicked another Tigers’ pitcher out of the game.

Gardner tripled to lead-off the 7th and then scored as part of Aaron Hicks’ 13th home run of the season, a 2-run shot into the right field seats. And Wade hit a lead-off single in the 9th and scored as part of Gary Sanchez’s second home run of the game, his 25th of the season to just solidify the Yankees’ huge lead in tonight’s game.

Final score: 13-4 Yankees

Tonight, Gary Sanchez hit two big home runs. His first onefirst one in the 1st inning was a 493 foot shot, the second longest home run of 2017. Second to his teammate Aaron Judge, who hit a 495 foot homer back in June.

And speaking of Aaron Judge, he has been on a weird streak in the last month. In the last 37 games, he struck out at least once in every game, breaking former strikeout streaks (mostly by players even I’ve never heard of). So with tonight’s line score reading much better — going 1-for-1, with 3 walks, 2 runs scored, and 1 RBI — I’m sure he’s glad that strikeout streak is done. Not exactly the best thing to have the record for, but I’m guessing the 37 home runs so far this year is the one we’ll remember more.

Roster moves: after Sunday’s game, the Yankees optioned reliever Bryan Mitchell back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in anticipation for tonight’s move. They activated tonight’s starter Masahiro Tanaka from the 10-day disabled list, after dealing with some shoulder inflammation.

Go Yankees!

Game 121: NYY vs. BOS — A typical night in Fenway, a 4 hour game with blown leads

Well, rivalry week continues in Boston as the Yankees hoped to narrow the broadening gap between the AL East leaders (the Red Sox) and the leaders of the wild card race (the Yankees). And neither team was about to make it easy on the other. But then, this is the ultimate rivalry in sports, so I don’t think anyone was expecting an easy game.

Jordan Montgomery got the start tonight in the opening game of the weekend series at Fenway. He threw 77 pitches through his 5 innings, gave up 4 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, striking out just 3 Boston batters. In the 2nd, with 2 outs, a batter doubled and then scored as part of a 2-run home run to get the Red Sox on the board first. A lead-off homer in the 5th added an extra cushion for the home team.

Now, the Yankees were held off by the Red Sox’s starter, who was only in the game into the 4th inning before leaving due to a back injury. His replacement carried on that momentum, fending off the Yankee offense through the 5th inning. Handing the ball over to a new reliever (the 3rd of 8 pitchers the Red Sox would use tonight), the Yankees saw their opportunity in the 6th inning.

With a new reliever and 1 out, Headley singled and then scored as part of Todd Frazier’s 2-run home run into the Green Monster seats to get the Yankees on the board and within 1 run of the Red Sox’s lead. After another out and 2 more singles, the Red Sox went again to their bullpen, and the new reliever promptly hit Aaron Hicks to load the bases. That opportunity ended up being wasted as a ground out ended that hope.

In the 7th, Gary Sanchez led-off with a game-tying solo home run also into the seats atop the Green Monster, his 23rd of the season (and yes, he does seem to heat up offensively in August once again!). After Gregorius walked and Headley singled, the Red Sox changed relievers again. So Frazier walked to load up the bases. Fortunately, next up was Ronald Torreyes, who hit a solid single off the Green Monster that scored both Gregorius and Headley to give the Yankees the lead for the first time in the game.

Finally, the Red Sox got the first out of the inning, a strikeout before loading the bases again with a walk to Gardner. Aaron Hicks then promptly got plunked again, keeping the bases loaded, but scoring another run. But then a new reliever closed out the inning without allowing another run to score. And that continued through the next 2 innings, with the final 2 relievers racking up 6 total strikeouts.

And that would be all fine and good if the Yankees’ stellar bullpen didn’t get to show off their stellar-ness (it’s a word) tonight. Chad Green came on in the 6th and held things steady after Montgomery left the game, but got into some trouble in the 7th. With 1 out, Green gave up his lone allowed single and a walk. Now responsible for both those runners, he handed the ball over to Tommy Kahnle.

Kahnle also found his own trouble trying to get out of the inning. He gave up a single to load up the bases, a sacrifice fly scored the lead runner, and a single scored the next. After giving up a walk to load up the bases (with 2 outs), he gave up a single to a pinch-hitter that scored both the tying and winning runs. Finally getting out of the 7th inning, the Yankees now trailed the Red Sox once again.

Both teams had blown 3-run leads at this point, but the Red Sox weren’t done yet. Aroldis Chapman’s struggled continued as he came out for the 8th inning. He gave up a single and walk that both pulled off a double steal to put them both in scoring position. And then they did just that on a long single to give the Red Sox a 3-run lead once again. Then Chapman buckled down and got all 3 outs to get out of the inning without further damage.

With no last-minute rally to blow the Red Sox lead again, it was enough damage to widen the Red Sox lead in the AL East again.

Final score: 9-6 Red Sox

With the Red Sox sending up their ace for tomorrow’s game, and the Yankees desperately needing a win against them, the Yankees will activate CC Sabathia after spending time there due to a recurring knee injury flared up and cut short his last start to just 3 innings (in Toronto). Eventually, Sabathia will need surgery to repair his knee, but he was certainly hoping it would be so soon, as plans were to do so this off-season. An MRI showed nothing serious, so treatments of injections were given to see if his body responded to nurse him back to health.

Sabathia, in his final year of his contract, almost a month after turning 37, knows his days as a pitcher are numbered, especially if injuries keep plaguing the veteran starter. The pain in his last start stuck with him and put some things in perspective: “…it hurt. It’s just not worth it…. I’ve pitched for a long time now…. I’m doing this for fun and to try to win a championship. If I can’t have fun and help this team win, then there’s no need for me to be out there.” Spoken like a true veteran. Fingers crossed for a great finish to both his start tomorrow and the season for him (and the team).

Go Yankees!

Game 114: BOS vs. NYY — Now, that was a game

I went to a minor league game recently. Yes, I do care about baseball outside of the Yankees. Okay, it was a Yankees’ minor league affiliate, but the point remains — go see a minor league game (plus it was like $5 for the ticket and free parking).

Anyway, so I was at this game, and the home team was down by a run in the 4th inning when the fans already started heading for the exit. Even after they tied up the game in the 5th, the fans trickled out. The home team ended up getting 5 runs in the 7th inning, but only half the original crowd was there to witness it. And by the final inning, where the home team ended up just shutting out the visitors, the crowd was just a scattering of people in the stands.

But it’s a thing I see in nearly every game. People just leave if they think the game is over regardless of who’s in the lead. When will they learn?

Fortunately, in a rivalry game, this kind of thing is rarely a problem. The Fenway Faithful and Yankee Universe jointly know the cardinal rule of baseball — “it ain’t over ’til it’s over”. And tonight’s sell-out crowd in the Bronx was there to watch the opening of rivalry week against the Red Sox for this weekend series. And they were given quite the show.

Jaime Garcia was given the start for tonight’s game, throwing 103 pitches into the 6th inning. He gave up 7 hits, 3 walks, and 3 runs, and struck out 6 Boston batters. Garcia is clearly still finding his way on the mound in pinstripes, but his outing tonight was a bit better than his one in Cleveland. In the 1st, a 1-out walk scored as part of a 2-out 2-run home run to get the Red Sox on their board first. He held them off for most of his outing, giving up a 2-out solo home run in the 5th to give the Red Sox an insurance run.

After Garcia went into triple digits in his pitch count, he struggled to get the final out of the 6th inning. So disappointingly, he handed off the game to Adam Warren, who came on for some longer relief and successfully kept the Red Sox from adding to their lead. Warren closed out the 6th and then breezed his way through the 7th and 8th innings.

The Yankees’ offense only got 2 hits and 2 walks off the Red Sox’s starter, so they had to wait for the bullpen, who up until tonight has been really good (one of the prime reasons they’re at the top of the AL East). So the Yankees found their opening in the 8th inning. To lead-off the inning, pinch-hitter Gardner was hit by a pitch. Well, originally, the umpire didn’t call it as such, thinking it was just a bad bouncing ball. But a Yankees challenge and replay overturned the call and sent Gardner down the 90 feet to 1st base.

Aaron Hicks is back in action and proved his worth tonight by hitting a 2-run home run into the seats in the corner of right field. With the Yankees finally on the board (and only down by a run), the stadium sparked alive with rally energy. Sanchez singled and moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, and Judge worked a walk. And with absolutely no outs recorded in this inning, the Red Sox went back to their bullpen.

It didn’t really help them much. Didi Gregorius promptly singled and scored Sanchez to tie up the game, and Todd Frazier followed that up with his own RBI single to score Judge (the winning run). After a strikeout (the first out of the inning), Ellsbury singled to load up the bases. Ronald Torreyes’ long sacrifice fly scored Gregorius for an insurance run, and Gardner (yes, the Yankees batted through the line-up in a single inning) worked a walk to load up the bases again. This prompted the Red Sox to go back to the bullpen again and they finally found that 3rd out.

So, with the Yankees now leading, they turned to Aroldis Chapman to close out the 9th inning and earn the save. But Chapman had some trouble with his command today walking his first 3 batters to load up the bases. Suddenly, the Red Sox contingency in the stadium were awake and cheering wildly. The next batter hit into a sacrifice fly double play, as Hicks caught the sacrifice fly that scored the lead runner, but fired the ball to Frazier at 3rd to tag out the runner there trying to advance. Even a challenge from the Red Sox upheld the original call. A fly out to center field ended the inning, the game, and the threat.

Final score: 5-4 Yankees

And in injury news: CC Sabathia was placed on the 10-day disabled list with inflammation in his right knee. In his place, the Yankees have recalled Jordan Montgomery. (I told you he wouldn’t be gone long.) Now, Sabathia’s knee injury is a concern, as it’s the same knee he’s had trouble with for some time. His original plan for maintenance this season kind of fell to the wayside as he felt really good with it and hasn’t needed special care since before Spring Training. And truth be told, he’s been rather strong in his outings this season, so I can understand thinking things were finally better for him.

However, as someone who also has a recurring knee issue, I know the perils of being too optimistic in these cases. Just when you’ve had no issues for months and it feels like you could run up three flights of stairs, you do something normal — like run up three flights of stairs — and suddenly, you’re back out of commission for the next six weeks having to nurse your old injury that suddenly tweaked weird about halfway up the three flights of stairs that you still insisted on climbing in its entirety just to prove you’re not really injured. And you didn’t want everyone to know you couldn’t finish the climb. And you don’t want their pity unless they want to carry you up the last half of the stairs like a pack mule up the mountainside.

Anyway, the point being — take care of that knee, Sabathia. We’re going to need it and that left arm at its peak come October.

Go Yankees!