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 112: NYY vs. TOR — It was close, until it wasn’t

Masahiro Tanaka got the start for the middle game of this mid-week series in Toronto. He had a bit of a struggle tonight, throwing 88 pitches into the 5th inning, giving up just 2 hits, but 5 walks, and 3 runs (just 2 earned), striking out just 2 Toronto batters.

In the 2nd, with 2 runners in scoring position, a ground out scored the Blue Jays’ first run. A fielder’s choice got the other runner coming home in a wild rundown play with far too many throws, just a standard 5-2-6-2-6-1 play. The lead-off batter in the 3rd reached on catcher’s interference (and it wasn’t Ellsbury!), but then Tanaka quickly loaded the bases with 2 walks. A sacrifice fly scored the only run as they worked their way out of the inning without further damage. After a lead-off home run and a walk in the 5th, Tanaka’s night was over.

He handed the ball off to Chad Green, who promptly ended the 5th with 3 consecutive strikeouts. But then Green got into trouble of his own in the 6th. With 1 out and a runner on 1st, a double scored another run for the Blue Jays, and it was on to Tommy Kahnle for relief. A wild pitch moved the runner to 3rd, and after a walk and out, a single scored yet another Toronto run.

But that would be it for the Blue Jays as the back-end of the bullpen came in with great momentum. Robertson and Betances just sailed through the 7th and 8th innings, and Warren, despite allowing 2 baserunners, got out of the 9th unscathed.

Meanwhile, it seemed like quite the cat-and-mouse game. After the Yankees, who got on the board first, would score, the Blue Jays would come back and grab a few of their own runs. But then the Yankees got to the point where their offense was uncatchable and their relievers were too strong for the Blue Jays to catch-up completely.

To lead off the 2nd inning, Gary Sanchez and Todd Frazier hit consecutive solo home runs to start tonight’s run-scoring. Then Didi Gregorius got in on the game with a 2-out solo home run of his own in the 3rd. In the 5th, with 2 outs, Judge and Gregorius were in scoring position and the starter handed over the ball to the bullpen. Todd Frazier’s double scored both runners, and Jacoby Ellsbury followed that up with a double of his own to score Frazier.

They jumped on the Blue Jays’ bullpen and their less-than-stellar outing tonight. In the 8th, Frazier led-off with a single, and the Blue Jays changed pitchers. After a strikeout, they changed pitchers again. Garret Cooper (who ended up with a 4-hit night, by the way) doubled, and Ronald Torreyes’ single scored both runners {Note: no media link, sorry}.

Finally, in the 9th, the Yankees loaded up the bases after Gregorius and Sanchez singled and Frazier was hit by a pitch. All the runners moved up on Jacoby Ellsbury’s ground outground out, so Gregorius scored. Cooper’s single then scored both Sanchez and Frazier to cap off the Yankees’ big night of scoring.

The Yankees’ roster was heavy on the offense tonight, with 17 total hits. Every starter got on base, most with hits, most with multiple hits. It was just a big show of Yankee power.

Final score: 11-5 Yankees

Injury news: so last night, CC Sabathia only threw 3 innings because in the 3rd, he kind of tweaked his knee, the same knee he’s had trouble with in the past. Despite today’s MRI showing no new damage, knee injuries are difficult to diagnose and treat. Sabathia is confident he won’t have to go on the DL or miss his next start. As someone who also has a lingering knee issue, I hope he is able to deal with this without much drama or lingering pain.

Clint Frazier was out of tonight’s game due to a tightness in his oblique. It was a last-minute change, just 40 minutes before the game. Hopefully, this is just a short-lived injury. But there is talks that Aaron Hicks is close to being activated. His rehab stints are going well, and he was recently transferred to be with AA Trenton. There is talk that Hicks will be back on Friday, when the Yankees return to the Bronx to host the Red Sox for the weekend.

In the interim, the Yankees close out their North of the Border series tomorrow night, helmed by Sonny Gray, hoping to have a better outing than his last time on the mound for the Yankees. Fingers crossed that the Yankees can head home with a series win this time.

Go Yankees!

Game 111: NYY vs. TOR — Falling short North of the Border

The Yankees are north of the border for their mid-week series against the Blue Jays. And with the season beginning to wind down, the Yankees are looking for every game to put them in line for the postseason. Unfortunately, the last place in the AL East Blue Jays aren’t willing to go down easily.

CC Sabathia go the start and, thanks to a single batter who seemed to have his number, he threw a less-than-stellar outing. He threw 57 pitches in just 3 innings, giving up 6 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, striking out just 3 batters. In the 1st, Sabathia gave up a lead-off double, who moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt and then scored as part of a big 2-run home run to get Toronto on the board early. And a lead-off single in the 3rd scored as part of another 2-run home run (by the same player in the 1st inning) to double the Blue Jays’ score.

From there, the Yankees called on Bryan Mitchell for long-term relief, and he promptly threw a beautiful scoreless 4 innings. Mitchell kept the Blue Jays to their early lead in anticipation of the Yankees’ offense to catch-up and take-over. David Robertson’s 8th inning continued that momentum, again lying in wait for the Yankees’ fabled offense.

Fabled would be the right word tonight, as it seemed quite a bit stilted against the Toronto’s pitching staff. They had just two minor opportunities to play some small ball. In the 2nd, Headley led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Gregorius’ single, ended up at 3rd on a double play, and then scored on Garrett Cooper’s single.

Then in the 8th, consecutive Yankees (Sanchez and Headley) were hit by pitches and Todd Frazier worked a 1-out walk to load up the bases. It would be Cooper again for the RBI, this time a sacrifice fly {NOTE: no media link, sorry} to double the Yankees’ score and halve the Blue Jays’ lead.

But the Yankees didn’t have a last-minute rally in them, so dropped this first game in Toronto.

Final score: 4-2 Blue Jays

The Advanced-A Tampa Yankees are hosting their version of HOPE Week this week, starting today and running through Saturday. On the schedule are many amazing Tampa area organizations: the Lighthouse Center for Creative Learning, a school for children with autism; A Kid’s Place of Tampa Bay, a foster or transitional home for displaced children; Trinity Cafe, a proper restaurant that specifically serves the area’s homeless and hungry; the local chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation; and Tampa Yankees’ players, staff, and fans will participate in the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation’s “Cut for a Cure”, a fundraiser where kids (who also are cancer survivors) shave participants’ heads.

And in sad news, former ball player and manager Don Baylor passed away yesterday after a long struggle with multiple myeloma, a nasty blood cancer. He was just 68 years old. Baylor had a 19-year professional career with the Orioles, Athletics, Angels, Red Sox, Twins, and Yankees (1983-1985), an All-Star who also won an MVP Award and a World Series. He went on to manage the Rockies and Cubs, winning 1995 NL Manager of the Year, before retiring from baseball entirely 15 years ago around the time of his diagnosis. He was close to many in the game, even being a groomsman in Yankee teammate Dave Winfield’s 1988 wedding. Our hearts go out to his family, including his wife Rebecca. He will be missed.

Go Yankees!

Game 83: TOR vs. NYY — No last minute rally, but still go & vote #SirDidi4Sure

They say that if you don’t have pitching, you’d don’t have anything. And today’s afternoon closer against the visiting Blue Jays certainly proved that true.

Michael Pineda got the start today and really just got roughed up, an oddity in what’s been a fairly strong season for him. He threw 65 pitches into just the 4th inning, gave up 9 hits, a walk, and 5 runs, and struck out just a single Toronto batter. The Blue Jays dinged into him right in the 1st inning when a lead-off single scored on a 1-out RBI single to get the Jays on the board early.

The 3rd inning was the hardest hit for him. With 1 out and a runner on 1st, a big 2-run home run pushed them further in the lead, only to be followed up by a solo home run. Add on a lead-off solo shot in the 4th, Pineda just didn’t have the game today. With a runner on 1st with a single, his outing ended as he handed the game over to Chasen Shreve. Shreve walked his first runner but then breezed through the next 6 outs to shut down the Jays and give the Yankees a chance to catch up.

So they did just that. In the bottom of the 4th, Gardner led-off with a walk and then scored as part of Aaron Judge’s big home run. His 29th of the season landed right in the Yankees’ bullpen. Then in the 5th, Ellsbury led-off with a single and then scored as part of Ji-Man Choi’s 2-run home run, his first ever as a Yankee.

With the Yankees within a run of the lead, they loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a single, sitting there hoping for a miracle. Two outs later, Didi Gregorius (#SirDidi4Sure, go vote!) hit a solid double into right field scoring the tying run and the go-ahead run in Romine and Gardner. That would be it for the Blue Jays starter, who is a fairly good starter and had a great outing against the Yankees until this final inning.

His bullpen did a much better job of fending off the Yankees’ offense. Which was incredibly unfortunate, as the Yankees’ bullpen wasn’t as lucky today. Chad Green came on in the 6th and did a stellar job of getting through that inning. But then a lead-off solo home run in the 7th to tie up the game. But that’s okay, the Yankees have played many games where they pulled out a last-minute rally. They just needed to stay tied to make it work.

And then Dellin Betances had some real trouble finding the strike zone in the 8th inning. He walked his first 3 batters, then found a strikeout. But then after he walked another batter, walking in the Blue Jays’ winning run, his afternoon was done. It was on to Adam Warren, who shut them down with the bases loaded and then sailed through the 3 outs in the 9th — 5 outs in just 16 pitches.

That last-minute rally of the Yankees? Yeah, stalled in both the 8th and 9th innings. It wasn’t going to happen.

Final score: 7-6 Blue Jays, Blue Jays win series 2-1.

Doctors figured out what’s wrong with Matt Holliday. After testing, they discovered that Holliday was battling the Epstein-barr virus, a common illness that most people get at some point in their lives but also one that comes with some heavy symptoms (extreme fatigue, fever, sore throat, swollen glands, rash, and more). While it does knock its victims out for a bit, it is recoverable, as evident by Holliday now getting back to some easy work outs this week. And with the All-Star Break coming up, he will have some time to recuperate further.

Today in Aaron Judge breaks/sets another record/defies logic… Aaron Judge has tied Joe DiMaggio for most home runs hit by a Yankee rookie at 29. DiMaggio set this Yankee this record in 1936, and Judge is getting ready to break it (and very well could have if not for the intentional walk late in the game). It should be noted that the statistic is during the full 1936 season. Yes, Judge is only just over halfway through the season and has tied the Yankee Clipper’s 81 year old record. (I have a feeling we’ll be saying things like that a lot with this certain rookie.)

I won’t get into the minor blip, a clear case of “sour grapes” regarding Gary Sanchez and his invitation to be part of the home run derby next week in Miami. It’s rather reminiscent of the 2012 HRD issue with the Royals (the ridiculous reason they still boo Cano). Does Sanchez have less home runs than the complainant? Yes, but he’s also played far fewer games this season thanks to a stint on the DL earlier this year. But here’s the facts: in 104 games (back to August 3, 2016), Sanchez has 33 homers, while the other guy has just 28 in 100 games over the exact same time span. So the invite goes to Sanchez… obviously.

And there’s less than a day left to get Didi Gregorius to the All-Star Game, so vote and vote often (through Twitter, text, and online). Gregorius is still running 3rd, but come on, Yankee Universe, we’re bigger than the Royals and Red Sox! Let’s make it happen! Seriously, stop what you’re doing and go vote!

Go Yankees!

Game 82: TOR vs. NYY — #Happy4th and #SirDidi4Sure

Happy Independence Day, America!

This day has a few moments of significance for “America’s team”. In 1983, pitcher Dave Righetti threw a no-hitter against Boston, the first since 1951. And in 1939, Lou Gehrig gave his memorable “Luckiest Man” speech in honor of his retirement and Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day. Also, it’s the birthday of the late George Steinbrenner and long-time Yankees radio broadcaster John Sterling.

And today, they hosted the Blue Jays for their second game (of three) in this first series this week in the Bronx. CC Sabathia, recently activated from his stint on the DL, had a great start to his outing — he threw 34 pitches to sail through his first 8 batters. And then he got into trouble with a walk and wild pitch that put his first allowed runner in scoring position to do so on an RBI single.

But then he loaded the bases with a single and walk. Sabathia was in a jam. It didn’t help that he couldn’t seem to pitch his way out of it — he walked in a run and then gave up a single that scored 2 more runs. That would be it for Sabathia’s return to the mound — throwing 63 total pitches in less than 3 full innings and setting himself up for the loss.

Also coming off the disabled list today, Adam Warren came on to close out the 3rd inning for Sabathia, needing 6 pitches to get that 3rd out of the inning. But that brought everything back to how Sabathia began the game this afternoon. Luis Cessa gave some long-term relief, easing his way into the 8th inning, giving up just 5 hits along the way but keeping the Jays from adding to their lead. Chasen Shreve closed out the 8th inning and handed over the game to Tyler Clippard for a solid 9th inning.

But it would not be enough that the bullpen had itself a strong inning if the Yankees’ offense didn’t kick it up a notch. And they really didn’t, only managing 4 total hits and 3 walks off the Blue Jays staff, despite driving up the pitch count on the starter. The only run the Yankees scored today came from a 4th inning lead-off solo home run from (who else?) Aaron Judge that actually dented the stadium.

Final score: 4-1 Blue Jays

Roster moves: Before the game, the Yankees activated CC Sabathia and Adam Warren from the 10-day disabled list, optioning Domingo German and Bryan Mitchell back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. After the game, the Yankees designated Chris Carter for assignment (again) and selected the contract of Ji-Man Choi (who we saw in Spring Training in March). There is a lot of talk about the Yankees being on the hunt for a more permanent 1st baseman, especially if things don’t look good for Bird, and with the trade deadline coming up, I imagine there might be a few more moves to see what can work for the Yankees in the long-run.

And in All-Star Game news: As of today, Didi Gregorius is currently 3rd in the final fan voting, so let’s make it happen, Yankee Universe. Vote via text (up to 35 times) or Twitter (using the hashtag #SirDidi4Sure) or online (unlimited times). So go vote for Gregorius before the voting ends Thursday, July 6 at 3:59 pm EST!

Go Yankees! And Happy 4th!

Game 81: TOR vs. NYY — Halfway to October, but first #SirDidi4Sure

Tonight’s game marks the Yankees technical halfway point in the season. They have now played 81 of their 162 games and are now 2.5 games behind the Red Sox for the AL East thanks to the recent skid of losses. Not exactly where they want to be, but there’s still a whole half of a season left to make up the difference.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start tonight as the Yankees take on the visiting Blue Jays for the beginning of their 3-game series of this homestand, this final stretch before the All-Star break (the official halfway point of the season). Tanaka threw 11 pitches in 7 strong innings, giving up 5 hits, a walk, and a run, striking out 8 Toronto batters. In fact, the Blue Jays didn’t get on the board until his final inning when a hit-by-pitch stole 2nd and ended up at 3rd on a throwing error before scoring on an RBI single.

Dellin Betances kept things going in the 8th, with his 20 pitches and 2 strikeouts. He then handed things over to Aroldis Chapman, but the closer struggled a bit through the 9th inning. A lead-off double scored on a 1-out double, and then that runner scored on a single. Then Chapman focused in and got the final 2 outs to close out the game. But he certainly made it look like work.

However, before all that, the Blue Jays showed why they’re holding up the bottom of the AL East. The Yankees got things started in the 1st inning by loading up the bases with 1 out. Chase Headley was hit by a pitch, which scored Judge, and Jacoby Ellsbury’s walk scored Sanchez. (Basically, the 2 most boring run scoring options available in baseball.) Then the Jays starter kept the Yankees from doing much, and his first 2 relievers followed suit.

The Yankees found their next opportunity in the 8th. Judge led-off with a single, Sanchez doubled, and Gregorius walked to load up the bases, with no outs. Headley’s double scored both Judge and Sanchez. And then after an out, a really strange play that could only be called a fielder’s choice thanks to a missed catch error. Torreyes hit a short dribbler in the infield which the pitcher fielded and threw home for the runner there, but the catcher lost it on the tag. So Gregorius was safe, and then while they were still trying to find the ball, Headley came in to score too.

It gave the Yankees the lead they’d need through the 9th inning struggles and still stay in command of the game and the win.

Final score: 6-3 Yankees

Today, Aaron Judge made up his mind about the Home Run Derby. He’s in, but he’s not going alone. Gary Sanchez will be joining him on next Monday night in Miami. Don’t forget to vote in the final fan vote for Didi Gregorius to join Judge, Sanchez, Castro, Severino, and Betances at the All-Star Game next week.

The Yankees have also sweetened the deal for your final fan voters, offering ticket discounts for voters to select summer games. You can vote a maximum 35 times via text (text A3 to 89269), and an unlimited number of times online and via Twitter (one hashtag #SirDidi4Sure per tweet). Online voting ends July 6, 2017, at 3:59 pm EST. So vote often!

The Yankees are sending Greg Bird to get some exploratory surgery to figure out why his ankle still isn’t healing from his injury. He’s not been able to play in rehab games without pain in a long time, so clearly something is wrong. The Yankees have made it clear if there’s no clear-cut solution for Bird by the end of this month, they will be looking for options from the trade market to shore up their 1st base position. That trade deadline (of July 31) looms heavy on whatever the doctors decide with Bird.

Go Yankees!

Game 54: NYY vs. TOR — Late inning power leads to Queen City split

I realize that a “Queen City split” sounds like something you’d find in bowling or poker. But that’s what we find as a result of this weekend’s series in Toronto. Each team taking half of the pie, with the Yankees headed home after a disappointing road trip to division rivals. What makes it worst is that it was actually a tight, really good game until late in the game.

The Yankees faced a pretty tough pitcher in the Jays’ starter, but they were able to get on the board in the 4th and keep the lead for a bit. Aaron Judge hit a 1-out single and then stole 2nd, ending up at 3rd on a throwing error. He then scored on Matt Holliday’s double. And in the 6th, Brett Gardner led off with a single, moved to 2nd on a walk, to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on Holliday’s fielder’s choice out (another failed double play attempt).

Luis Severino got the start this afternoon under the dome, throwing 98 pitches through his 7 innings, giving up 6 hits, a walk, and just 2 runs, striking out 7 Toronto batters. And Severino didn’t give up any runs at all until the 6th inning. With 2 outs, Severino gave up a single looking to keep the Jays’ scoreless and get out of the inning. But a well-placed strike became a 2-run home run to tie up the game.

Honestly, Severino threw a really good game, ending up fortunately with a no-decision. (I always hate it when a pitcher has a great day and still ends up with a loss.) But then the Blue Jays’ starter also had a great outing. But what made the difference was the Blue Jays’ bullpen — giving up a hit, but blasting through the Yankees’ roster in just 27 pitches in 3 innings, making the Yankees collect 5 strikeouts.

Tyler Clippard needed to do the same thing, and he was on his way to doing so. His lead-off batter, a former AL MVP, worked his way to a full count before smacking a solid shot over the right field wall to give the Blue Jays the lead. Clippard admitted the pitch wasn’t where he wanted it, leaving it too high in the zone for the batter. But then Clippard was able to get the next 3 outs fairly easily.

However, the Yankees’ offense was unable to cobble anything together except 3 strikeouts in the 9th for a comeback rally.

Final score: 3-2 Blue Jays, series split 2-2.

And have you voted yet for the All-Star Game starters? Vote your daily 5 times now, and maybe help the Yankee starters rise in the ranks. You can vote every day, up to 5 times daily, up to 35 total until June 29 at 11:59 pm EST. The Yankees could be represented by Judge or Castro or Sanchez, so this could be a great opportunity for them to shine in the Summer Classic.

The Yankees travel back to the Bronx, and after an off-day tomorrow, will host the Red Sox for a three-game mid-week series. Currently, the Red Sox are 2 games behind the Yankees in the standings, coming into this next series hoping to flip that around. But wouldn’t it be kind of nice to see them behind 5 games?

Go Yankees!

{Side note: We stand with London and Manchester today as they continue to recover and heal and stand strong, united in love which defeats fear and hate every day.}