Game 93: NYY vs. MIN — Another series loss despite new additions

The Yankees haven’t won a series since the sweep on June 9-11. And now, as the Yankees board a plane for their second West Coast trip to start an early weekend, that fact is still true after dropping today’s game and the mid-week series to the Twins.

Jordan Montgomery got the nod to close out the series this afternoon, throwing 104 pitches in his 6 innings. He gave up 7 hits, a walk, and 6 runs, striking out just 3 Minnesota batters. Actually, outside of a single inning, Montgomery had a stellar outing. In just the 2nd inning, Montgomery threw 38 pitches, gave up 5 hits and a walk, and allowed all 6 of the Twins’ runs this game.

In that inning, with 2 outs and runners in scoring position, a single scored 2 runs. After a walk, another single scored another run, and a big 3-run home run doubled the Twins’ score and lead. It created a rather big mountain for the Yankees to scale during the game. Perhaps they left their hiking boots back in the Bronx.

The Yankees were able to get on base during the game, but they didn’t do anything to collect runs. In fact, they were held off from doing so until the 7th inning, the end of the Twins’ starter’s day. Clint Frazier led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Romine’s hit-by-pitch, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s single. An error on that same play moved Gardner and Romine to scoring position, but a new pitcher shut down any hopes for a comeback rally that inning.

Well, the bullpen in both cases continued their pretty strong showing this series. The Yankees’ offense was unable to break through again for the final two innings, and the Yankees’ relievers also fended off the Twins’ bats from adding to their solid lead. Chad Green and new Yankee Tommy Kahnle each gave a scoreless inning, but the Yankees would fall short in the end thanks to that monster early lead.

Final score: 6-1 Twins, Twins win series 2-1

Big roster news: the Yankees and White Sox orchestrated a big trade. In preparation, the Yankees optioned Chasen Shreve back to AAA Scranton and designated Rob Refsnyder and Ji-Man Choi for assignment.

The Yankees sent prospect pitcher Ian Clarkin and prospect outfielders Blake Rutherford and Tito Polo along with Yankees’ bullpen staple Tyler Clippard (who was decidedly sad to go but understood the reasoning) to the southside of Chicago. In exchange, the White Sox sent reliever Tommy Kahnle (who pitched in today’s game), infielder Todd Frazier (also the 2015 HR Derby winner), and former Yankee closer David Robertson. (Yes, Yankee Universe, D-Rob and his “high socks” are back in the Bronx.) All three new Yankees arrived during the game, suited up, and a Kahnle and Frazier even got to play later in the game.

Now, how this will pan out will be interesting. Todd Frazier is usually a regular 3rd baseman, but he does have experience at 1st; so while Headley is still on the team and playing, I can’t see Girardi using Frazier for anything but 1st. Kahnle will naturally fall right into the bullpen, which shouldn’t be much of an issue, except whether he is a 1-inning guy or long-term may yet be determined.

The biggest question mark really is Robertson, who is a great closer and was great as one for the Yankees, though he fell into the 8th inning slot next due to the Yankees’ legend Mariano Rivera being the everyday closer. With the likes of Chapman and Betances still in play on the team, the most common thought will be having Robertson slide back into his 8th inning role and move Betances to sticky situations or closing out non-save games.

And if you’re wondering, Todd Frazier donned #29, Kahlne #48, and Robertson is back in his old #30. Clint Frazier willingly gave up his #30 for Robertson, asking instead for #77, a quirky nod to hero Mantle (#7) and good friend Judge (#99).

Go Yankees!

Game 84: MIL vs. NYY — A soggy disappointment

It took nearly 4 hours, plus a 51 minute rain delay in the middle of the game, for the Yankees to fall short thanks to their biggest weakness of late — their bullpen. They hosted the opening game of the weekend series against the surprisingly surging Brewers, in their final series before the All-Star break.

Jordan Montgomery got the start tonight, throwing a 74 pitches into the 5th inning, giving up 7 hits, no walks, and 2 runs, striking out 4 batters. While the Brewers got a sprinkling of hits, they didn’t do much until the 4th inning against the rookie pitcher. A lead-off double scored as part of a 1-out 2-run home run to get Milwaukee on the board.

Meanwhile, the Yankees began collecting their score against the Brewers’ starter. They got on the board first in the 2nd when Didi Gregorius singled and ended up all the way at 3rd due to a fielding error. He then scored on Clint Frazier’s sacrifice fly. A walk and another fielding error later, and runners were stranded in scoring position.

Then in the 4th, as the rain started pouring over the Bronx, Gregorius led-off the inning by reaching 1st safely thanks to yet another fielding error. He then scored as part of Ji-Man Choi’s big 1-out 2-run home run, hit into the 2nd deck of the right field seats. After Romine reached on a missed catch error (are you seeing a trend?), the starter threw a strike to the new batter (Wade) and the umpires called for the tarp. And we were in rain delay.

For 51 minutes. The Yankees were ahead, and most of the conversation was along the lines of wishing they were already in the bottom of the 5th so they could call the game and hand the Yankees a shortened victory.

But that was not to be. When everyone came back, a new pitcher was on the mound for the Brewers and Wade eventually struck out. After Gardner’s walk, another strike out left more runners stranded. Aaron Judge hit his 30th home run of the season to lead-off the 5th inning (more later). But that would be it for the Yankee offense.

The Brewers’ defense made 5 errors in 4 innings (a season high) and the Yankees just didn’t capitalize on that small detail much at all.

Back to the Yankees’ mound… Tyler Webb came on to close out the 5th inning for Montgomery, which he did thanks to some great defense by Tyler Wade. But then he gave up a walk and double to put runners in scoring position as he handed the ball over to Tyler Clippard. A wild pitch moved runners up, scoring the first runner, and a sacrifice fly scored the next runner and tied up the game. The Yankees lone fielding error allowed a runner to get on base, but Clippard got out of the inning without further damage.

Well, in that inning, that is. With 1 out in the 7th, Clippard walked consecutive batters, and then after another out, intentionally walked the next to load up the bases. So, at this point, we’re all looking for that last out to get out of the jam. Instead, it worked in the Brewers’ favor, in the exact opposite of the Yankees — a grand slam to double the Brewers’ score over the Yankees.

Chasen Shreve came on to stop the bleeding, but even he struggled to get a hold of the game, giving up a lead-off double that scored on an RBI single. But then, as turn about is fair play, he walked a batter and then let a ground out leave a couple of runners stranded. Luis Cessa had a better night, closing out the game’s final 2 innings, keeping the Brewers scoreless.

But overall, the Yankees’ pitchers gave up 14 total hits and struck out just 5, while their batters only got 4 hits and earned 12 strikeouts. And that is what made the difference.

Final score: 9-4 Brewers

Roster move: before the game today, the Yankees announced that they sent Mason Williams outright to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. And with the upcoming break, I’d expect a few more moves before they come back to face the Red Sox next Friday at Fenway.

On that big Aaron Judge home run: Judge beat Yankee great Joe DiMaggio’s rookie home run record for most homers by a Yankee in their rookie season. Technically, Judge is on track to hit 57-ish home runs this season, still short of the Babe Ruth/Roger Maris mark (60/61). But neither of them hit that many in their rookie season. And the record belongs to Mark Maguire in 1987 with 49. He also holds the record for most homers by a rookie before the All-Star break at 33. (Though right now, Judge may cut it close on that last one.)

Now, I’ve been told that people think both Judge and his NL competitor (and potential rookie rival on Monday night) will fade in the 2nd half of the season due to the “Home Run Derby” curse and perhaps just lack of faith. But I don’t put much stock in predictions and talking heads and odds-makers. Judge will do what Judge does — play baseball as best he can. His best just happens to be heads above most others (yes, this was an intentional height joke).

And as I’m sure you know, the Yankees are sending just 5 players to Miami next week. Didi Gregorius finished 3rd in Final Fan Voting yesterday, falling short of the Royals’ and Red Sox’s nominees, but only just barely. My newsfeed timeline yesterday was packed with Gregorius support from all over, but it just wasn’t enough. This time. Now, Gregorius also spent much of his off-day wandering around the City doing good deeds — giving tourist directions, helping with photos, giving people a free subway swipe, handing out umbrellas, making burritos, and more. Basically, he was being a Yankee ambassador to the City. A day well-spent in my mind.

Didi, you’ll always be an All-Star to Yankee Universe!

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 75: NYY vs. CHW — Last-second loss in Second City

The Yankees are now 37-1 when leading in the 9th inning, thanks to tonight’s game. And up until then things were looking rather hopeful in this second game (of four) of this series on the south side of Chicago.

Honestly, Luis Severino threw a beautiful game tonight — 105 pitches in 7 innings, giving up 6 hits, no walks, and a single run, and striking out a whopping 12 White Sox batters. Easily one of his more dominant starts. In the 3rd, a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a 1-out single and then scored on a 2-out double to get the first run on the board.

Meanwhile, the Yankees offense was a bit stymied by the White Sox’s starter, only getting 2 hits but 4 walks off him, so they weren’t exactly advancing much. In fact, they didn’t do much until the second reliever they faced in the 8th inning.

With 1 out, the Yankees called on pinch-hitter (and recent call-up) Tyler Wade (making his MLB debut). Wade ended up working a walk and moved to 2nd on Ellsbury’s single. After another out, Aaron Judge broke the stalemate with a single and scored Wade to tie up the game. Then it would be Gary Sanchez’s solid double to score both Ellsbury and Judge for a little cushion. But that would be all the Yankees would get all game.

Domingo German came on for the Yankees in the 8th, now that Severino was on the hook for the win. All he had to do was breeze through 3 outs. But that seemed to be a bit difficult as he threw just 10 pitches to 2 batters, 8 of which were balls to walk both batters. So, with no outs, the Yankees called on Tyler Clippard.

Clippard needed an opportunity to get back on track, and tonight seemed to be the night. Despite loading the bases with a walk, he got a great strikeout and a fly out to get the Yankees’ hopes up. Another walk scored the lead runner, putting the White Sox within 1 run of the Yankees’ lead before getting a much-needed strikeout to end the rally right there (and excite Girardi, which almost never happens during a regular game).

And had this been the 9th inning, this would have been a great game. But it wasn’t, so it wasn’t.

The Yankees turned to Dellin Betances, who seemed to follow the suit of the bullpen recently. With 1 out, Betances loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a hit-by-pitch. After a fly out put both teams on the edge of their seats, Betances gave a single that scored 2 runners — the tying run and the winning one. A walk-off single to hand the White Sox the win.

Final score: 4-3 White Sox

Roster moves: After yesterday’s game and tests, the Yankees placed Starlin Castro on the 10-day disabled list with a right hamstring strain. So they selected the contract of Tyler Wade from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and called him up to make his debut with the Yankees tonight. They also optioned reliever Jonathan Holder to Scranton and recalled Tyler Webb for a fresh bullpen arm.

And in a brief follow-up from the draft earlier this month, the Yankees have signed 22 of their 40 draftees (numbers 1-17, 19-22, and 27), including their top 2 picks — Clarke Schmidt and Matt Sauer. Schmidt is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, but is looking forward to getting back into baseball, this time as part of the Yankees organization.

The future continues to look bright for the Yankees, even if the present is somewhat a bit disappointing at times. And that’s what carries us through the disappointing moments in life — hope. A belief that it certainly can’t stay bad. That the future is still filled with unlimited possibilities, the best option being another championship run, even a new dynasty. And with the Yankees, it’s never a matter of “if”, but “when”.

Go Yankees!

Game 72: TEX vs. NYY — It still only counts as one…

It was a beautiful afternoon for baseball. A little warm after the morning showers sped through the City, but a clear blue sky and a bit windy at times. And the Yankees were looking to restart a winning streak after last night’s late, extra-inning win. But great circumstances and hopes can be nothing if you don’t deliver.

Luis Cessa got the start today against the visiting Rangers, and overall had a pretty good outing. He threw 86 pitches in 5 innings, gave up just 3 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, striking out 8 batters. In the 1st, a lead-off walk stole 2nd and then scored on a 1-out single to get the Rangers on the board, eventually getting out of a jam and the inning. Then with a runner on base in the 4th and 1 out, a 2-run homer gave them a nice lead.

Jonathan Holder got through the 6th inning cleanly, but got into a bit of trouble in the 7th thanks to a lead-off home run. After 2 outs, the Yankees turned to Tyler Webb who breezed his way through the next 4 outs (through the 8th) in just 17 pitches, easily the cleanest outing of the Yankees tonight.

But the weak spot was easily Tyler Clippard’s 9th inning. Clippard continued his struggles today, though it didn’t matter as much in the scope of things (more on that later). It was still disappointing to watch a reliever that is normally much better have such recent troubles. Today, a lead-off walk stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on a wild pitch. After another walk and single (and another out), a double scored 2 more runs for the Rangers before Clippard got out of the inning with a strikeout.

The Yankees got a few hits, but nothing truly impactful in the long-run except Aaron Judge’s 1-out solo home run in the 6th. So the Yankees were stuck with a less-than-memorable game this afternoon.

Final score: 8-1 Rangers

Like I said, the amount of runs Clippard gave up in the 9th ultimately didn’t matter because the Yankees clearly weren’t going to win this one. And unlike some other sports, it doesn’t matter the run differential in the standings. You could win by one run or one hundred, and it still only counts as one win. In the same way, you can lose to a team that scores 7 more runs or just 1 more run, and it’s still going to be a loss. So as the Yankees were going to lose anyway, why not let Clippard work out his struggles, even if he does allow the Rangers’ lead to grow exponentially?

Roster moves: There were some changes made to the infield today. The Yankees decided to designate Chris Carter for assignment and recall Tyler Austin. Austin has been doing good in his rehab assignment and extended Spring Training with the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders recently, and with Carter just never finding his stride with the Yankees, the move makes sense. Austin will be the Yankees everyday first baseman now. (Especially as Bird’s injury still lingers and his return has yet to be determined with any kind of certainly beyond a few “hopes”.)

Also, Jacoby Ellsbury will play in tonight’s game with the RailRiders against the Red Sox’s AAA affiliate, beginning his rehab assignment there after passing all the required tests for a concussion recovery. I don’t foresee him lingering there for long.

And tomorrow is the Old Timers’ Day game at the stadium. The festivities start at 11:30 am, with the regular game (the rubber match now) against the Rangers starting at 2pm. According to the weather people, it’s supposed to be another beautiful day. Great circumstances sometimes don’t indicate outcome, but maybe tomorrow they could. Of course, that means more than just Judge climbing the home run charts as far as offense goes. (Though that’s a whole lot of fun in the middle of all this!)

Go Yankees!

Game 69: LAA vs. NYY — Snapping the skid

Sometimes, all it takes to right the ship is a single moment or a single game. This was that game to snap the Yankees really out-of-character recent spiral, and reset the focus. Though it was certainly not without its questionable moments in this middle game against the visiting Angels.

The Yankees struck first in the 2nd. With 1 out, Sanchez singled and then scored as part of Didi Gregorius’ solid home run into the 2nd deck of the right field seats. It was a good sign of things to come for the Yankees, who would eventually rack up 12 total hits and 5 walks during the game.

Jordan Montgomery got the start and continued impressing with his 97 pitches into the 6th inning. He gave up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, striking out 5 Angels’ batters. His only allowed runs were in the 4th inning. With 2 outs, he gave up a single that moved to 2nd on a balk, but then a batter hit a big 2-run homer to tie up the game at that point.

But the Yankees came back in the 5th to break the tie and push themselves back into the lead. With 2 outs, Matt Holliday smacked his 15th home run of the season, a solo shot into the right field seats. And Sanchez led-off the 6th with a single, and Headley worked a 1-out walk to end the Angels’ starter’s night.

A new pitcher gave up a double to Austin Romine that scored both Sanchez and Headley for a few insurance runs. Romine moved to 3rd on a flyout and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ single. Holliday led-off with a double and then scored on Starlin Castro’s single. Castro later scored on Chase Headley’s 2-out single.

Meanwhile, Chad Green came on to finish Montgomery’s 6th inning and pitched a fairly clean 7th. Dellin Betances breezed through the 8th inning in just 14 pitches, including 2 strong strikeouts.

But it would be Tyler Clippard that made things interesting. Despite looking forward to stopping his own skid this season, his 9th inning was troubling. He gave up a lead-off double that scored on a 2-run home run to halve the Yankees’ lead. But the Yankees weren’t about to lose this game and sent in their insurance plan — Aroldis Chapman for a 9-pitch outing, ratcheting up the heat to 103 mph for the final strikeout pitch.

Final score: 8-4 Yankees.

The Yankees now will be looking to surge forward in victory, closing out this midweek series against the Angels on a win before facing the weekend series against the Rangers. In an update to the standings: the Yankees are back on top in the AL East with this win (and the Red Sox’s loss) tonight. But just by half a game.

Actually, looking at the standings daily is amusing. Because it so fluctuates at this point in the season. At first, at the beginning of the season, it’s so extreme in the standings. And then by almost the half-way point in the season, it’s a matter of a series that can change who’s leading a division. And this pattern continues through most of the season, right up until the end.

Of course, there’s always that one team that runs away from their division (I’m looking at you NL East right now). And it’s not a matter that the one team is that good, but rather the rest of the division is just that bad in comparison. But sometimes, there’s a 1998 Yankees season where they run away with the division because they’re just that good (setting a league record of 114 wins during the regular season, and 11 more in the postseason, plus the World Series).

But right now, it’s still very much anyone’s game. You never know which team’s going to get hot, which team’s going to be bogged down with injuries, and which team’s going to just surprise everyone and do the unexpected. Because that’s baseball… you learn to expect the unexpected.

And it certainly makes life a whole lot more fun.

Go Yankees!

Game 68: LAA vs. NYY — Skidding out of 1st place

Well, coming home didn’t help the Yankees’ West Coast skid, now on a 7-game losing streak. Maybe it’s because they technically brought the West Coast with them starting this mid-week series against the Angels. This also means that the Yankees have slipped out of 1st place in the AL East to the (ugh!) Red Sox.

And here’s how that happened tonight…

Michael Pineda actually had a pretty decent outing tonight, after a bit of a messy start. He threw 105 pitches into the 6th inning, giving up 7 hits, a walk, and 3 runs (only 1 earned), and striking out 7 Angels’ batters. In the 1st, a lead-off double scored on an RBI single to get the Angels on the board (the only earned run allowed by Pineda). The lead-off batter in the 2nd reached on a fielding error, ending up at 2nd as a result, and then scored on a 1-out double. That batter then scored on a 2-out single to give the Angels an easy early (and mostly unearned) lead.

Meanwhile, the Yankees took advantage of the Angels starter, who only gave up 2 hits, but also 5 walks in his 5 innings. In the 4th, Castro led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Sanchez’s walk, to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on Chase Headley’s sacrifice fly. Aaron Judge hit a 2-out solo home run, his 24th homer of the season, in the 5th. Then facing a new pitcher, Gary Sanchez hit a 1-out solo home run into the right field seats to tie up the game.

And things were looking good for the Yankees. Pineda finished his outing strong, handing the final out of the 6th to Chasen Shreve who used just 5 pitches to get that final strikeout. But Tyler Clippard just struggled out of the gate in the 7th inning, giving up a lead-off solo home run, a double, a fly out (yay!), and an RBI triple. And that was it for Clippard.

Jonathan Holder came on to stem the tide, but still had his own issues. An RBI single scored one more run, charged to Clippard. In the 8th, a lead-off ground-rule double moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt, and then scored on a single. And to cap off the game for the Angels, a player hit a 2-out solo homer up the middle.

And the Yankees’ offense against the Angels’ bullpen? Holliday’s double in the 8th. And that’s it. The Angels’ bullpen was showing their strength tonight in the Bronx, and the Yankees, well, weren’t.

Final scores: 8-3 Angels

Prospect watch: Yankees’ #2 prospect Gleyber Torres was pulled from a game on Saturday due to some soreness in his left elbow after an awkward slide. After some tests, it was revealed that Torres hyper-extended his elbow on that slide, tearing his ulnar collateral ligament (or UCL), which requires the surgery named for famed pitcher Tommy John to repair it. Because Torres is not a pitcher, nor is the injury in his actual throwing arm, the return to baseball activities is less than standard for the injury and surgery option. Torres will miss the rest of this year, and there is no set date for the surgery as of yet. Speedy recovery, kid.

And just a quick heads up: 20 of the 40 players drafted last week in the MLB draft have signed with the Yankees, but a few more (including the top 2 picks) are expected to exercise their option and sign on as well. Players can opt out of the selection and choose a different path for this next year, putting themselves up for the draft next year or doing something else entirely. But over 50% signed to be Yankees? And in the middle of this losing streak? Yeah, I’ll take it as a sign for good things to come for the organization.

Now, if only that can make that happen on the field… like this week… like tomorrow…

Go Yankees!