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 128: SEA vs. NYY — “Pickles” & “Chief” keep Yankees from sour repeat

Just an average beautiful summer Saturday in the Bronx, except with different uniforms (that I still don’t like) and names on the back of the jerseys (which is okay because I know it’s temporary, but it feels more like something you’d find in the minor leagues). The visiting Mariners seemed to enjoy the competition once again as they are still in the race for the second Wild Card spot.

Sonny “Pickles” Gray got the start in a pretty good outing for the new-ish starter. He threw 106 pitches in his 7 innings, giving up just 3 hits, 2 walks, and a run and striking out 9 Mariners’ batters. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo home run in the 3rd to get the Mariners’ on the board. Then Gray held them to that lone run for the rest of his outing.

Chasen “Shrever” Shreve came on in the 8th, but instantly had some trouble. He gave up a lead-off double and then the next runner reached on a fielding error before the lead runner scored on a single. The Yankees weren’t going to risk today’s game, so they went to the bullpen to call on Tommy “The Kahn” Kahnle. He got 2 quick outs, moving runners to the corners, and a single scored a run, the unearned run due to the earlier error.

Dellin ‘D-Dawg” Betances’ stellar 9th inning added 2 more strikeouts for the total 12 from Yankee pitchers tonight, setting himself up for the save, his 10th of 12 opportunities this season.

Meanwhile, the Yankees found a few opportunities to advance. In the 2nd, with consecutive walks, “Head” Headley’s sacrifice bunt moved both runners up into scoring position, something they both tried to do on Jacoby “Chief” Ellsbury’s bloop single, though second runner Bird was tagged out sliding into home. And in the 4th, with 2 outs, “Bird” Bird singled and Headley walked, so that Ellsbury could smack a bit 3-run home run into the right field seats.

In the 7th, with 2 singles put runners on base and 2 outs, :”Sir Didi” Gregorius worked a walk. Starlin “All-Starlin” Castro’s long single scored both “Ro” Romine and “Gardner” Gardner. Greg “Bird” Bird loaded up the bases again, but a fly out ended the Yankees’ rally.

But that would be enough in the end.

Final score: 6-3 Yankees

Roster moves: before today’s game, the Yankees activated Greg Bird off the disabled list and optioned Tyler Austin back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

There’s one more game against the Mariners tomorrow, the final game of the first annual Players Weekend. The home stand continues on Monday against the Indians and then the Red Sox, both are the current respective division leaders, so this week is certainly a must-win for the Yankees if they want to continue their push for the postseason.

And if you’re wondering about today’s starter and how he got his quirky nickname, it basically evolved like all quirky ones do — a random inside joke related to something rather mundane but stuck to create a nickname to haunt the bearer for life.

Go Yankees!

Game 127: SEA vs. NYY — Extra innings letdown, disciplined, down but not out

Players Weekend officially kicked off for the Yankees back at home against the visiting Mariners, and the Yankees enjoyed their specialized cleats, gloves, and baseball gear down to the fun creative colors and designs of their own making (like showing off the artistic talents of “Sir Didi”, Didi Gregorius. On the back, the Yankees donned fun nicknames like “Dub”, “The ToddFather”, “All-Starlin”, “The Missile”, and “All Rise”. A patch on their sleeve allowed players to write in who inspires them or who helped them become the players and men they are today, and many rightfully thanked their families.

CC “Dub” Sabathia got the start today, and despite another pretty good outing, the Yankees offense failed to give him much run support tonight. “Dub” threw 94 pitches in his 7 innings, gave up 5 hits, a walk, and a run, striking out 6 Seattle batters. That lone run was a 1-out solo home run to get the Mariners on the board.

Now, the Yankees’ offense did hit the Mariners’ starter hard in that they racked up his pitch count up to 99 pitches in the 5th inning, though they couldn’t find any runs in the process. In fact, the Yankees didn’t get on the board until they faced a former Yankee in the 8th inning. Aaron “All Rise” Judge worked a 1-out walk and then scored on Didi “Sire Didi” Gregorius’ double and a fielding error. The Yankees then loaded up the bases on a fielder’s choice and 2 walks, but then a new reliever struck out the final batter and ended the Yankees’ rally hopes.

Meanwhile, Chad “Greeny” Green continued his strong show as a middle reliever, breezing through the 8th inning in just 8 pitches. “D-Dawg” Betances’ 9th inning allowed quite the threat of Seattle offense, but he was able to get out of the game thanks in part to the stellar Yankees’ defense.

So when the Yankee didn’t manage to break the tie in the bottom of the 9th, the game went into extra innings. “D-Rob” Robertson kept things rolling with a scoreless 10th inning, and things were looking up for Aroldis “The Missile” Chapman in the 11th, quickly getting 2 outs. His 3rd batter slammed a big solo home run up the middle to break the tie.

Being the home team, the Yankees got a chance in the bottom of the inning to come back and make a final effort to win. With a new Mariners’ reliever and 2 outs, Brett “Gardner” Gardner worked a walk and then stole 2nd. Originally called out, the Yankees challenged and called for a replay, where it was very easily overturned. And the game continued on. That is until the final batter struck out and ended the game.

Final score: 2-1 Mariners, in 11 innings

Roster moves: before tonight’s game, the Yankees activated Starlin Castro from the 10-day DL, and optioned Tyler Wade back to AAA Scranton.

Now, as a result of yesterday’s melee in Motor City, MLB examined all the footage and finalized the discipline for the ruckus. The primary instigator, the Tigers’ DH Cabrera was suspended for 7 games for inciting the initial incident and specifically for picking a fight with Austin Romine. Romine was given a 2-game suspension for fighting and throwing punches, and likewise, Gary Sanchez was given a 4-game suspension. The Tigers’ pitcher Wilson was suspended for 4 games for intentionally hitting Todd Frazier after warnings had been issued (and honestly, for also showing no remorse for doing so, showing he completely intended to be nasty). As protocol, Tigers’ manager Brad Ausmus automatically received a 1-game suspension for his pitcher doing this. All five also were fined undisclosed amounts.

Also fined were other key players in the mess — Joe Girardi, bench coach Rob Thomson, Brett Gardner, and Tommy Kahnle, as well as Detroit infielder Iglesias. Two Yankee rookies made the mistake of entering the field while not on active roster (on the DL), Garrett Cooper and Clint Frazier, and also received fines for violating that rule. (A clear “rookie mistake”, but one your only have to make once to learn.)

All players are appealing their suspensions and will continue to play on until their appeal is heard. If the suspensions are upheld, the Yankees have no clear catcher. Third string catcher Kyle Higashioka is not expected to come off the DL of his own until September 1st. So there is talk about staggering the suspensions so they’re not out a catcher in the mean time.

So, with the postseason in flux, this is certainly the last thing the Yankees wanted to be dealing with. And there are players making wild accusations against certain other Yankee stars, but fortunately, in the era of video footage on every angle, the truth is pretty easy to discover and prove as simple malarkey.

Go Yankees!

Game 97: NYY vs. SEA — Losing streak broken

I find it interesting that it was a West Coast trip that the Yankees’ recent losing streak. So it’s only fitting that a West Coast trip could end it. And with the final West Coast game of the season, the Yankees needed a win to move forward with the rest of the season.

So they called on rookie Caleb Smith to start today’s final game in Seattle. After a pretty clean first third of the game, Smith a bit of a struggle towards the end of his outing. Overall, he threw 56 pitches into the 4th inning, gave up 5 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, most of that was in the 4th inning actually. He loaded up the bases with 2 singles and a walk. Two outs later, he gave up a 2-RBI single and then a 2-RBI double to push the Mariners into a nice lead. And Smith’s outing was over, handing things off to Chad Green who ended the rally with a nice strikeout.

Green went on to throw through the 5th and 6th innings, keeping the Mariners from adding to their score and setting the momentum for the rest of the bullpen — Dellin Betances’ clean 7th and David Robertson’s 10-pitch 8th. Aroldis Chapman made things a little interesting but still managed to keep things together for the 9th and the eventual save.

Meanwhile, the Yankees kicked off the game with a solo home run by Brett Gardner, his 17th of the season. And Didi Gregorius added one more run in the 2nd with a solid solo shot into the right field seats only to do it again in the 4th with another one, a great 2-homer game for Gregorius.

And in the 6th, with a new pitcher, the Yankees loaded up the bases with a couple walks and a single. Brett Gardner’s single scored Headley to tie up the game. With a new pitcher, the Yankees kept their momentum going as Clint Frazier’s double scored 2 more runs. Despite loading up the bases with Judge’s intentional walk, the Mariners finally remembered their defense and got 2 quick outs.

After that, neither team managed to do much more offensively, and with Chapman’s save, the Yankees were set up for a game win and a series win.

Final score: 6-4 Yankees, Yankees win series 3-1

Roster moves: Well, the Yankees orchestrated a trade with the Blue Jays, where they sent infielder Rob Refsnyder in exchange for 1st baseman Ryan McBroom, a prospect from the AA affiliate. They also outrighted Ji-Man Choi to AAA Scranton and traded reliever Dillon McNamara (formerly with AA Trenton) to the Giants.

And with that, the Yankees are headed back to the East Coast to start a long 9-game home stand on Tuesday (facing the Reds, Rays, and Tigers). Hopefully, carrying this winning thing with them and setting the momentum to carry them into October baseball.

Go Yankees!

Game 96: NYY vs. SEA — 3rd & 10th inning woes

Before a sell-out crowd in Seattle, the Yankees were looking for a third win in a row, but the Mariners weren’t about to be swayed by their bad record recently and certainly gave the Yankees a rather hard time in the process. Well, actually, save one inning early in the game, it was a Yankee-dominated game in most respects.

Masahiro Tanaka started tonight’s game and outside of that one aforementioned inning, he had a pretty great outing. Outside of that inning, he gave up just 2 hits in 5 innings, throwing just 58 pitches. But in the 3rd, he threw 39 pitches and gave up 5 hits and 4 runs.

A lead-off home run got the Mariners on the board, followed by another solo home run just an out later. Tanaka got another out, but then struggled to find that third out. A single and hit-by-pitch put a threat on base before the Mariners came in and got consecutive singles to score consecutive runs to double their score.

Other than that, Tanaka powered through and kept the Mariners at bay (sea-faring metaphoric pun intended). Green plowed through the 7th and kept the score as-is, but David Robertson’s 1st pitch in the 8th inning became a solo home run into the left field seats to add to the Mariners’ score. But then Robertson breezed through the next 3 batters, followed up by Kahnle in the 9th doing the same in 3 strikeouts.

Meanwhile, the Yankees did dominate quite a bit of the game. They even struck first in the 2nd. Gary Sanchez led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on Gregorius’ single, and then scored on a double play. In the 5th, Garrett hit a big 1-out triple and then scored on Ronald Torreyes’ sacrifice fly.

With 1 out and a new pitcher in the 6th, Aaron Judge hit his 32nd home run of the season into the right field seats. In the 8th, with 1 out, the Yankees loaded up the bases (including an intentional walk to Judge), but the only thing the Yankees could make happen in this scenario was a Matt Holliday sacrifice fly. In the 9th, Gregorious led-off with a walk and, 2 outs later, was pinch-run by Ellsbury. Ellsbury promptly stole 2nd and then scored on Torreyes’ single to tie up the game.

And into the 10th they went. The Yankees were shut down in order at the top of the inning, turning to Adam Warren to push things into the 11th. But Warren immediately struggled. Warren gave up a lead-off double and then intentionally walked the next batter. A single then scored the winning walk-off run to hand the victory to the Mariners.

Final score: 6-5 Mariners, in 10 innings

Roster moves: before the game, the Yankees announced that Starlin Castro would be headed to the 10-day disabled list due to a lingering hamstring issue, suffered initially in Minnesota on Wednesday. In his place, they recalled Tyler Wade.

The Yankees have one more game tomorrow in Seattle, their last game on the West Coast this season (at least during the regular season). Fingers crossed for a game win which means the first series win since early June.

Go Yankees!

Game 95: NYY vs. SEA — Quite a birthday bash, hosted by Judge

Well, the Yankees have won 12 of their last 13 games at Safeco Field in Seattle. So much for that so-called “home field advantage”.

CC Sabathia celebrated his 37th birthday today by starting tonight’s game against the Mariners. His biggest problem tonight was his pitch count, throwing 98 pitches into the 6th inning. He gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and a run and struck out 5 batters. In the 1st, with 2 outs, Sabathia gave a walk that moved to 3rd on a single and then scored on another single. Yet another single loaded the bases before a grounder ended the initial threat. In other words, outside of that 1st inning, Sabathia only allowed a hit and 2 walks, which was great.

After allowing a walk in the 6th, Sabathia turned things over to Tommy Kahnle, who threw a solid 10 pitches to breeze his way through the 6th. Then David Robertson made his 2017 debut as a Yankee, throwing his first Yankee strikeout since September 26, 2014. Robertson threw 13 pitches and got 3 consecutive strikeouts for the 7th.

Dellin Betances made the 8th inning interesting (par for the course with Betances), giving up a couple of big hits but not allowing a run and still striking out 2 batters along the way. Adam Warren’s 11-pitch 9th inning was almost perfect. Somehow, the bullpen righting itself recently has set things in motion for the rest of the team. Whatever it takes to revert the Yankees back to their momentum of earlier this season.

Anyway, on the flip side of the field, the Yankees had a decent outing against the Mariners’ starter, racking up 9 hits in just 6 innings. And in the 3rd, Headley led-off with a double and then scored on Clint Frazier’s double to tie up the game. A fly out moved Frazier to 3rd, and after a walk, Aaron Judge’s sacrifice fly scored Frazier to move the Yankees into the lead.

In the 5th, with 1 out, Gardner and Sanchez each singled and sat on the corners. And then it would be Aaron Judge to hit just a monster 3-run home run deep into the left field seats. That would be his 31st home run this season, but his first since July 7 (so 14 days, including the 4-day All-Star break and excluding the 47 BP-like ones he hit during the HR Derby).

But anyway, that was more than enough to keep the Yankees’ streak in Seattle solid.

Final score: 5-1 Yankees

So, this was CC Sabathia’s first ever win on his birthday, despite being his 6th birthday start — 2002 and 2006 with Cleveland; 2011, 2013, 2016, and 2017 with the Yankees. However, he also has a current 10 wins and 1 loss in his career at Safeco Field, though it’s 6-0 as a Yankee. Maybe then that stat about the Yankees being great in Seattle has a whole lot to do with Sabathia. It’s almost surprising the Mariners didn’t do more to try to buy Sabathia’s contract. But then all the better for Yankee Universe.

Happy Birthday, CC!

Go Yankees!

Game 94: NYY vs. SEA — New number, new position, new series, new win

Luis Severino was on point tonight, which the Yankees certainly needed in a game where they faced one of the Mariners’ star pitchers, their former ace who still has his own fan club in the left field corner of Safeco Field. Severino threw 100 pitches in his 7 scoreless innings, gave up 8 hits and a walk, and struck out 6 batters.

Now, he’s always been a starter with quick a bit of power, but he actually threw the fastest pitch by a starter this season — a 101.2 mph fastball. With the bases loaded and 2 outs in the bottom of the 4th, and a 1-2 count, Severino cranked it up a notch trying to get an out and threw that speedy pitch, but the batter fouled it off to stay in the game. He eventually grounded into a fielder’s choice on the 8th pitch of the at-bat.

Anyway, the Yankees’ offense had some trouble hitting off the Mariners’ starter for most of the game. That is until Brett Gardner hit a solid 1-out solo home run in the 6th inning to get the Yankees on the board and in the lead.

Once the Mariners turned to their bullpen, the Yankees found more opportunities. Headley hit a 1-out single in the 8th and moved to 2nd when Gardner made it safely on base thanks to a fielding error. A new pitcher then walked Sanchez to load the bases. Aaron Judge then singled to score Headley before a double play ended the threat that inning.

And in the 9th, the Mariners sent in a new reliever, and the Yankees still put 2 runners on base with singles and 2 outs. And then Chase Headley hit a short grounder into shallow right field, but then the Mariners’ 2nd baseman totally missed the throw to the 1st baseman. Headley moved on to 2nd as the players scurried to get the ball, and that allowed both runners to double the Yankees’ score. This means that the only run the Yankees actually earned tonight was Gardner’s homer.

Meanwhile, the Yankees called on Dellin Betances for the 8th inning, who was able to escape his own self-inflicted jam with a great strikeout, before turning things over to Aroldis Chapman for the 9th. Chapman, unfortunately, had a bit of trouble, giving up a lead-off walk. That runner moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then to 3rd on a second strikeout. He then scored on an RBI double to get the Mariners on the board. But a fly out ended the inning, the threat, and the game.

Final score: 4-1 Yankees

Okay, it looks like there’s an answer to the giant question about having 2 veteran 3rd basemen on the roster. Shortly after news broke about the recent trade, Chase Headley spoke to Girardi and told him that he would be willing to do whatever necessary for the good of the team. So Girardi came back and asked Headley to play 1st, so that Todd Frazier could play 3rd. This means that the rookie Cooper would platoon Headley at 1st, and utility wunderkind Torreyes can fill in at 3rd.

Also, it certainly says a lot to me about Headley. Now, he could have pulled rank and insisted on not moving from the spot he’s played for most of his career, the position he’s known for, insisting the “new guy” play the other spot. But no, Headley put the good of the team above whatever sentiments he may have for the position. And honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to flip that around to see if that could work. However, the most important part was the character of the players willing to put the name on the front of their jersey first over the number on their back.

And speaking of which, while Todd Frazier grew up a Yankees fan, idolizing #21 Paul O’Neill, Frazier was assigned #29, despite having worn #21 with his former teams. While there was some chatter initially about petitioning O’Neill for permission for Frazier to wear his beloved #21, Frazier said earlier today that he’s totally fine with #29 and wouldn’t be asking for a change. O’Neill hasn’t commented on the issue and #21 isn’t actually retired, but it isn’t in circulation due to O’Neill popularity with the fans. If anyone could have brought back the #21 with justice, it would be Frazier, but I rather admire the fact that he’s sticking with something new.

A new chapter, a new number, a new position… sounds like a new turn of events for the Yankees this season. And if that breaks up whatever slump they’ve been in recently, I’m really okay with that too.

Go Yankees!