Game 118: NYM vs. NYY — “It’s always Sonny in the Bronx”

I just read a statistic about the Mets ace starter tonight. In his 12.1 innings pitched at Yankee Stadium, he’s given up 5 home runs of his 11 total earned runs and allowed 17 hits. To put this in perspective, tonight, he threw 7.1 innings, gave up 9 hits and 5 earned runs, 2 of which were home runs. I’m thinking he doesn’t like pitching in Yankee Stadium so much.

All the better for Yankee Universe as Sonny Gray made his first start in pinstripes in Yankee Stadium and had a pretty decent outing. Pitching 104 pitches into the 7th inning, Gray gave up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, striking out 5 Mets batters. Actually, he kept the Mets scoreless through his first 6 innings, only having a bit of trouble in the 7th. He gave up a lead-off walk that scored as part of a 2-run home run to get the Mets on the board.

Now, on a plus side for the Mets (for the lone Mets fan I know will come across this blog at some point), the batter who hit the homer is playing in just his 5th MLB game, and that was his very first MLB home run. And let’s be honest, if you’re going to hit your first major league homer, Yankee Stadium is the dream place to do so.

Anyway, the Yankees opted for their bullpen after the home run, calling on Kahnle to close out the 7th inning, in just 10 flawless pitches. Betances followed that up with a 19-pitch scoreless 8th, setting Aroldis Chapman up for the save.

But Chapman’s recent struggles cropped up again as he just needed 3 outs in the 9th. After one stellar strikeout, he gave up a single, but then the Mets complicated things by another rookie hitting his 2nd MLB home run to double their score. (So a good day for Mets’ rookies, but not so much for the Yankees’ closer.) Chapman came back and got the 2 outs, a couple of ground outs, and the eventual save, but it was a little too close for comfort.

Of course, in order to even be up for a save, the Yankee offense had to be productive. And like I said in the opening paragraph, the Mets’ ace must hate pitching in the Bronx. In the 3rd, Torreyes led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on Gardner’s sacrifice bunt, and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ single. And with 2 outs in the 4th, Headley worked a walk and then scored as part of Jacoby Ellsbury’s line-drive 2-run home run into the right field seats.

Gary Sanchez got in on the fun with a lead-off solo home run in the 6th. And in the 8th, Judge led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on Gregorius’ single, and then scored on Sanchez’s sacrifice fly. That was the end of the Mets starter. It was also the end of the Yankees’ runs, but the Mets’ bullpen only needed 2 more outs to get out of the inning.

Final score: 5-4 Yankees

Now, technically, the Yankees won this series 2-0. So if you consider each location as one series, then the Yankees just swept the series. Or, if you’re like me, we’re just halfway through this Subway Series, so the winner of the series has yet to be determined.

Injury news: so, apparently, Luis Cessa’s back injury is actually a ribcage injury, so the Yankees placed him on the 10-day disabled list. Thus, the assumption and talk that he’ll be okay by his next start on Saturday is totally wrong. Saturday’s starter is now a giant question mark. (Stay tuned!) In his place on the roster, the Yankees recalled Caleb Smith once again from AAA Scranton.

Also, the Yankees announced that both Greg Bird and Starlin Castro will begin their rehab assignments this week, on Wednesday and Friday, respectively. Bird is hopefully done with all the lingering ankle issues, especially after his last surgery. Castro has been nursing a badly strained hamstring. So, if they’re both headed to Scranton this week, that should be a great sign that things are back on track for both infielders.

Now, what they decide to do with the plethora of infielders they already have when those two are ready to come back… well, that’s anyone’s guess! (Of course, I have mine, but you’ll have to wait and see!)

Go Yankees!

{Title note: totally stole that from a t-shirt I saw today promoting Sonny Gray’s first start as a Yankee in the Bronx.}

Game 113: NYY vs. TOR — More lost ground in the AL East race

Four games. The Yankees are now four games behind the Red Sox in the AL East, which because it’s this kind of year, still keeps them in 2nd place and firmly in the Wild Card race. Of course, this doesn’t help that the schedule now has them headed home to face.. yep, the red-hot Red Sox.

Sonny Gray got his second start as a Yankee in the finale against the Blue Jays, and this one didn’t go much better than the first one. In his 6 innings, he threw 103 pitches, gave up 4 hits, 4 walks, and 3 runs (2 earned), and struck out 6 Toronto batters. In the 2nd, Gray gave up a 1-out double who ended up at 3rd on a pick-off error and then scored on a sloppy fielder’s choice.

A 1-out walk in the 3rd stole 2nd on a strikeout and then scored on an RBI single who ended up on 2nd, despite a questionable call and challenge that was unfortunately (due to lack of evidence) upheld. And in the 4th, a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt and then scored on an RBI single.

Gray handed the game over to Chasen Shreve for the final two innings, and Shreve had a fairly outstanding outing save a single allowed hit — a 2-out solo home run in the 7th inning.

The Yankees unfortunately faced one of the best pitchers on the Blue Jays, and he was rather good once again. He went 7 innings on the Yankees, and still gave up 5 hits and 3 walks but completely kept the Yankees from crossing home plate. In other words, the Yankees batters were able to get on base but not able to score any runs.

Even the Blue Jays’ relievers kept that momentum, giving up base-runners but refusing to allow any runs. In other words, the Yankees were shut out from tonight’s game.

Final score: 4-0 Blue Jays, Blue Jays win series 2-1.

Injury news: Clint Frazier was placed on the 10-day DL due his left oblique strain. In his place, the Yankees activated outfielder Aaron Hicks, who had to catch a last-minute plane from Connecticut, where AA Trenton were on the road, to Toronto, to join the Yankees again.

So, during yesterday’s big run-scoring inning last night, third base coach Joe Espada was busy waving home runners when he took a bit of a tumble in the foul territory between 3rd base and home. Today, as the Yankees arrived for tonight’s game, they took a gander out at the foul territory between 3rd base and home plate to see a chalk outline in the shape of Joe Espada. Rumors abound as to who took the initiative to commemorate the moment, with Espada himself pointing to his boss Girardi.

Next up: as I said before, the Yankees head back home to face the Red Sox in a series that could alter the AL East. Fingers crossed that it’s in the Yankees’ favor.

Go Yankees!

Game 107: NYY vs. CLE — Not-so-Sonny Yankees’ soggy, sloppy debut

It was actually quite a soggy and stormy day in Cleveland right up until about an hour before game time. And then suddenly, the hometown fans in the “Mistake on the Lake” were ready to watch their ace pitcher throw a complete game in this first game of the 4-game weekend series in Cleveland.

Newly acquired starter Sonny Gray certainly had a rough debut tonight, thanks in part to some costly fielding errors, 3 in the sloppy 1st inning. Gray threw 98 pitches in 6 innings, giving up just 4 hits, 3 walks, and 4 runs (only 2 earned), striking out 6 Cleveland batters.

That 1st inning was just not good for the Yankees in any way. The lead-off batter reached 1st on a bobbled fielding error to kick off the game. That runner moved to 2nd on a ground out and then to 3rd on another hit into a fielding error to put runners on the corners. A single then easily scored those 2 runners, and the play ended with the runner standing on 3rd thanks to a throwing error.

But then Gray (and the Yankees’ defense) got back into gear and played better baseball. So to bookend Gray’s outing, his 6th inning was a more legitimate show of small-ball for the Indians as Gray searched for that hard-fought 3rd out. With 2 outs, Gray gave up a walk and single that both scored on a solid double.

Chasen Shreve came on in relief of Gray for 2 innings, only giving up a single hit. It was unfortunate that it would be a 1-out solo shot in the 7th, but at that point, the Indians were already safely in the lead. So it didn’t make much of a difference.

Now, the Indians’ starter is really good. And tonight was no exception, going so far as to throw a complete game — 106 pitches in 9 innings, giving up just 3 hits, a walk, and a run, and striking out 11 Yankees’ batters along the way. It’s hard not to appreciate that kind of show, even if it clearly wasn’t in the Yankees’ favor. The only run he allowed was a 1-out solo home run by Gary Sanchez into the first row of the seats out over left-center field.

It just wasn’t going to happen for the Yankees tonight. Not with the sloppy start. And not against this pitcher in this mode.

Final score: 5-1 Indians

Tomorrow the new men in pinstripes continue. (Or “away greys”, I should say.) Jaime Garcia will make his Yankee debut, hopefully with a bit more success than Sonny Gray today. A bit more storms tomorrow afternoon in the area, but should be clear once again by game time.

And Clint Frazier had a bit of a homecoming of sorts today. This is the first time Frazier has been able to connect with his former teammates since the trade last year (part of the exchange that sent star reliever Andrew Miller to the Indians) that made his a major Yankee prospect late last season. Frazier greeted former teammates with his usual gusto, admitting he followed last year’s World Series closely and felt part of the reason the Indians went so far was making sure a great pitcher like Miller was on the team.

Okay, I guess that makes sense to me. Let’s blame Frazier for the reason the Indians got so far. But if they also beat the Yankees this year to get to or during the postseason again, the same rule applies… just saying… (Don’t open that can of worms with Yankee fans, “Red Thunder”!)

Go Yankees!

Game 105: DET vs. NYY — Coming up short despite stellar defense

On this warm Tuesday afternoon, the first day of August, the Yankees were looking to continue this winning streak high they’ve been on for this home stand. But in the end, they came up a bit short, despite even some last-minute hope, against the visiting Tigers in this middle game of the midweek series.

CC Sabathia got the start tonight, and despite earning the loss, he actually had a decent outing. He threw 97 pitches in his 6 innings, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, and struck out just 3 Detroit batters. In the 2nd, Sabathia gave up a single and a double to put runners in scoring position. The next batter hit into a great play where the defense took out the lead runner with a fielder’s choice at 3rd. But a 3-run home run put the Tigers on the board early. A 2-out solo homer in the 3rd added an insurance run for them.

So, with Adam Warren throwing a beautiful 2 innings in relief for Sabathia, the Yankees’ pitching staff was just waiting for their offense to pick up the slack and give them some run support. Even David Robertson got into some trouble in the 9th, giving up 3 singles, but it would be the defense to come to the rescue and keep the Tigers from adding to their score.

The Yankees’ offense did pick up and the stats do show they were pretty evenly matched tonight. In the 4th, Sanchez led-off with a double and then scored as part of Didi Gregorius’ 2-run home run to get the Yankees on the board. The Tigers’ pitching kept the Yankees from adding their offense into runs-scored for most of the game. And in the 8th, Sanchez hit a 1-out single and ended up at 2nd on a fielding error. After a pitching change, Gregorius’ single scored Sanchez.

So, the Yankees looked at that last-minute bottom of the 9th inning for some hope. With 2 outs, Ellsbury worked a walk, and then the Tigers opted to intentionally walk Gardner. After a pick-off error and stolen base, the speedy outfielders were in scoring position. The air thick with tension. But then an infield pop up ended that potential rally and the game.

Final score: 4-3 Tigers

The Yankees wrap up their series against the Tigers and their home stand tomorrow afternoon. They are off to Cleveland to face the Indians for a 4-game weekend series. It will be there that the Yankees will see the club debut of newly acquired starters Sonny Gray (on Thursday) and Jaime Garcia (on Friday). Both starters are excited about joining the Yankees, both saying it’s a dream come true. Garcia even admitted that his family’s favorite team has always been the Yankees, as his late grandfather was a huge long-time fan.

I once heard a former ball player say that there are guys meant to be Yankees and guys meant to play against them. Sure, some kids dream of playing against the Yankees, but we don’t hold it against them. We’ll find the ones that dream of being a Yankees and embrace them into Yankee Universe — like Gray and Garcia.

Go Yankees!

Game 104: DET vs. NYY — Yankees remain strong, last-minute trade grab

Today was the final day of the big MLB trade deadline, and even the Yankees benefited from some last-minute trade deals. But at the expense of some pretty great prospects. More after the game recap, as they still had to play a game in the Bronx.

The Yankees continued their home stand with this 3-game midweek series against the visiting Tigers. The Yankees are hoping to keep their winning momentum going with this new series, so it was only natural to look to Luis Severino to start tonight’s game. Severino threw 116 pitches in just 5 innings, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and a run, and still struck out 8 Detroit batters.

The still hashtag-less Severino had his toughest inning was the 4th. With 2 outs, he struggled to get that final out, giving up a single that scored on an RBI double. The Yankees’ defense also earned their 2 fielding errors that inning, though it ultimately didn’t affect the score. It just helped push up his pitch count, which was really the roughest part of his outing.

Tommy Kahnle came on in relief for the 6th inning and had a bit of his own struggles. His lead-off batter was hit by a pitch, moved to 2nd on a single, and then scored on a 2-out single to double the Tigers’ score.

Betances had better luck in the 7th, keeping the Tigers from adding to their score, and Jonathan Holder kept things smooth in the 8th. Holder’s 9th inning, however, wasn’t so smooth. With just 1 out on the board, Holder loaded up the bases with consecutive singles and a hit-by-pitch, before handing over the ball to Aroldis Chapman. A fielder’s choice (or rather a late effort at a double play) scored just one more run for the Tigers before a 3-pitch strikeout ended the Tigers’ last-minute rally.

Meanwhile, the Yankees took their opportunities when they found them. In the 4th, they loaded up the bases with a walk, a fielding error, and a walk. Chase Headley’s double scored 2 runs, and then Todd Frazier’s single scored 2 more. All before the Yankees got a single out that inning, and suddenly the Yankees leapt ahead of the Tigers.

Aaron Judge added an extra cushion to the lead with a 1-out solo home run in the 5th into the left field seats. In the 7th, lead-off batter Ellsbury was hit by a pitch, stole 2nd, and then scored on Clint Frazier’s giant triple. After Judge worked a walk, the Tigers pulled their starter and went to their bullpen. Gary Sanchez’s sacrifice fly scored Frazier for the final Yankees’ run of the night.

Final score: 7-3 Yankees.

Scranton Shuttle: before the game, for fresh arms in the bullpen, the Yankees optioned pitcher Luis Cessa to AAA Scranton and recalled Jonathan Holder, who ended up in tonight’s game.

Okay, the big trade of the day has the Yankees picking up a new pitcher for the starting rotation — Sonny Gray, a 27-year-old starter from the Athletics. In trade, the Yankees sent 3 of their prospects — outfielder Dustin Fowler, infielder Jorge Mateo, and pitcher James Kaprielian. Yes, Fowler and Kaprielian are on the DL recovering from surgeries, which should tell you how valuable both teams think of these players.

Sonny Gray was a first round draft pick in 2011 for the Athletics, after pitching at Vanderbilt. Gray came up in the A’s organization, making his MLB debut in 2013 and the 2015 All-Star team. He’s had a bit of a rough season last year on and off the DL, and another small one early this season. But he’s got the history of consistency and the youth that the Yankees really need for some potential long-term players.

The Yankees also picked up extra money for the international draft market (also called “Future Considerations”) on this trade. They picked up even more when they sent pitching prospect Yefry Ramirez to the Orioles. This is good for the Yankees as they continue to expand internationally and pick up more players in a broader market.

Go Yankees!