Catching up & prepping for Spring

My apologies for my delinquency in posting this off-season. Like many of us bloggers, I have another job that promoted me last fall, which meant that much of my extra time normally reserved for blogging and baseball vanished into paperwork and emails.

Tomorrow officially kicks off the 2020 Yankees baseball season. And in camp are pitchers Albert Abreu, Zack Britton, Luis Cessa, Aroldis Chapman, Gerrit Cole, Deivi Garcia, Luis Gil, Chad Green, J.A. Happ, Ben Heller, Jonathan Holder, Tommy Kahnle, Michael King, Brooks Kriske, Jonathan Loaisiga, Luis Medina, Jordan Montgomery, Nick Nelson, Adam Ottavino, James Paxton, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, and Miguel Yajure; catchers Kyle Higashioka and Gary Sanchez; infielders Miguel Andujar, Thairo Estrada, Mike Ford, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela, Luke Voit, and Tyler Wade; outfielders Estevan Florial, Clint Frazier, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Mike Tauchman.

Non-roster invitees include: pitchers Domingo Acevedo, Luis Avilan, Chad Bettis, David Hale, Tyler Lyons, Dan Otero, Clarke Schmidt, Nick Tropeano, Alexander Vizcaino, and Tony Zych; catchers Kellin Deglan, Chris Iannetta, Erik Kratz, Wynston Sawyer, and Josh Thole; infielders Chris Gittens and Kyle Holder; outfielders Trey Amburgey, Zack Granite, Rosell Herrera, and Thomas Milone.

And there’s a few new rules for the 2020 season. Among them include changes to the roster, pitching, and injured list length. First, the roster expands from 25-players to 26 during the regular season, but reduces to just 28 for the September call-ups rather than 40 from previous years. Plus, only half of the roster can be composed of pitchers for both scenarios. Pitchers must face at least 3 batters, except in the case of injury, effectively eliminating the “specialist reliever” who was brought in for a single tough batter. Being on the injured list returns to 15-days from last season’s 10-day length. This does allow for longer periods of healing and won’t push teams to force shortened recovery times just to get a player back sooner, and anything that helps increase player health is a good rule in my book.

But as we prepare for another season, there’s a bit of catching up to do in other areas. While there weren’t many major deals made this off-season, the Yankees had some minor splashes. We said farewell to a few Yankee favorites like Didi Gregorius (Phillies), Dellin Betances (Mets), and Austin Romine (Tigers) and breathed a sigh of relief when they re-signed Brett Gardner for another year. But that still left room for a new starter in Gerritt Cole, who arrived at camp earlier this month and got a standing ovation by fans during an open practice.

Cole was originally signed with the Pirates in 2011, moving up through that organization and into the big leagues in 2013. The Pirates traded him to the Astros in 2018 for a handful of prospects. Cole was part of the Astros’ championship runs in 2018 and 2019 (more later) before signing with the Yankees in December as a free agent. His best year as a pitcher was last year, which made him a hot commodity on the free agent market this off-season, and the Yankees have desperately needed starters for about as long as I’ve been blogging about them.

Now with Sabathia in retirement, some strong veteran presence on the mound is necessary, and the Yankees think Cole could be the answer, adding to the roster with Happ and Tanaka, among others. Jordan Montgomery is back in camp this year, hoping to re-earn his spot on the rotation after Tommy John surgery, and it looks like Luis Severino might be dealing with some yet-to-be diagnosed arm soreness. In addition to Montgomery, this could open a spot for Cessa and Loaisiga or potential prospects King and Garcia.

Pitcher James Paxton is going to be out of commission for a few months. Earlier this month, he underwent spinal surgery to remove a small cyst. He has been battling some lower back pain for quite some time, so doctors finally made the decision that surgery was the best option for both pain relief and long-term care. He will be out 3-4 months for recovery. So, no Spring for “Big Maple”, but he might be back in time for the Summer Classic.

Last month, at the BBWAA dinner, DJ LeMahieu was awarded as New York’s Player of the Year, an honor from the writers’ association’s local chapter to the player they believe has had the most impact on baseball in the City.

CC Sabathia was named a Special Adviser to the Yankees, a position held by his former teammates like Swisher, Rodriguez, Beltran, and Pettitte. This keeps Sabathia in the New York area, where he is currently raising his family.

Former Yankee legend (and current Marlins owner) Derek Jeter was almost unanimously elected to Cooperstown, missing that coveted honor by a single vote. He will join his former teammate Mariano Rivera in the Hall of Fame during his induction ceremony this coming summer.

However, the big story this off-season hasn’t been any particular trade or signing, but rather on the scandal of the Astros’ postseason cheating to win their championships in 2017 and 2018. Basically, after some investigation by MLB, they determined that the Astros used cameras, buzzers worn under jerseys, and banging on a trash can in the dugout (so both high and low-tech) to communicate stolen signs from opposing pitchers to their batters to win. While the only official consequences are firing their former coaches, team fine, and a stern lecture in the form of a letter from the Commissioner, the backlash from the media, the other players, and the fans has been, well, overwhelming.

It’s all most people can talk about in regards to baseball, including Yankees’ players like Judge, Torres, and Tanaka. And in all the mess, some star players were mentioned as holding key roles in the scandal, including Mets’ recent hire for their manager, former Yankee and Astro Carlos Beltran. However, people who know him best, like Yankees manager Brian Cashman, question the accusations. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe the worst of people you know and like, but sometimes, innocent people get caught up in the drama.

That’s the tough part about these kinds of things — because of how it was handled from its start to today, it’s a big mess, and that mess is going to get on people who were in the vicinity but had no part in it. But when dealing with a team issue, it’s kind of hard not to fault the entire team, much like the “Black Sox” scandal from the early days of baseball. Almost everyone on that team got dragged through that mud, and they still aren’t cleared or forgiven.

Further, those who both admitted and were accused of steroid use, even during the so-called “Steroid Era” are forever marked with an invisible asterisk by their name. Their accomplishments, once touted as greatness, are permanently marred by suspicion and tinged with the shame of “cheating”. There’s a reason many from that era have trouble getting into Cooperstown, even today.

And it’s not like other teams haven’t been doing something similar in recent years. In 2017, both the Yankees and Red Sox were accused of cheating via technology — the Yankees via their TV cameras and the review room and the Red Sox with their Apple watches. MLB investigated and warned the entire league of potential consequences for their choice to participate in such activities, as it clearly was just the tip of the iceberg as far as what they were doing. And yet, things still persisted. Call it arrogance or stupidity (or both, according to my friend) — but the Astros developed (and/or continued) a system and kept cheating even after they were warned.

Whatever happened during these last few years within the organization, people everywhere will question the players and coaches’ reputations for the rest of their careers. It will never go away. When it comes time for some of those championship Astro players to be considered for the Hall of Fame, I certainly won’t be surprised if the writers opt to exclude them. It’s hard to be considered great if there’s always going to be that asterisk by your name, whether it’s officially there or not.

Go Yankees!

2019 World Series: What “home-field advantage”?

The most interesting part of this year’s World Series was the fact that neither home team won in their own ball park. In other words, the myth of “home-field advantage” was clearly busted during this championship series. Both teams really only did well before the opposite team’s fans. The reigning theory among my circle is that both team thrived on the displeasure of the home crowd.

Game 1: For the first game, the Nationals started slow but came to play with the steady surety that seemed to sum up their postseason. The Astros were on the board first in the 1st, but the Nats starter held the game strong to allow his teammates to catch up and take the lead, with the Nationals edging out a victory over the Astros. 5-4 Nationals

Game 2: But this game was all about the visiting team. Once again, the Astros got on the board in the 1st, tying up the game, and the game looked to be a bit of pitching duel. Right up until a big 7th inning, when the Nats collected 6 big runs. 12-3 Nationals

Game 3: The series moved to the nation’s capital, and the play just shifted again. In this first game, both teams kind of eked out their runs scored throughout the game, despite both teams having a lot of hits and base runners. The defense was really pushed to the test for both teams, and the visitors came out on top. 4-1 Astros

Game 4: The Astros went into this game with some powerful determination and played a game that certainly demonstrated that. A strong show by their pitching staff also helped, but it was quickly clear it was the Astros’ night from the start.  8-1 Astros

Game 5: In a raucous Sunday evening in D.C., the Nationals just couldn’t piece together much of a game. And they allowed the visiting Astros to take the lead for the first time this series. 7-1 Astros

Game 6: Now back in Houston, the lack of “home field advantage” just continued, unfortunately for the home team. The Nationals grabbed this game and flipped the script, tying up the series once again. Of course, this was also filled with all sorts of drama, strange calls, and even the very rare World Series ejection. 7-2 Nationals

Game 7: So for a winner-take-all game, this game was all that it should have been. The Astros got the lead early, and it looked like they might take home their second title in 3 years. But then the Nationals found a wide open 7th inning to jump ahead. And then they kept cushioning their lead until that final out and celebration. 6-2 Nationals

Nationals win World Series in 7 games, 4-3.

A key to many of the crucial games in the series, Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg took home the coveted honor of World Series MVP, at the potential end of his decade-long tenure with the team.

At least my predictions for this ended up on the right side, but my postseason guesses have truly been stabs in the dark this year. But a congratulations to the Nationals on their first World Series win in their franchise history.

Finally, some Yankees news: The Yankees officially dismissed pitching coach Larry Rothschild last week, despite a year remaining on his contract. The comes as the Yankees are looking to expand their starters, with Sabathia retired and a few pitchers slowly coming back off injuries. The starting pitching has been an issue for the Yankees for a few years now, so this move may be in their continued efforts to fix something that hasn’t worked. A figure in the dugout for some time now, he will be missed.

Yankee prospects have spent the last 6 weeks in Arizona playing other prospects as part of the Arizona Fall League to help hone their craft. The Yankees sent pitchers Daniel Bies, Derek Craft, Aaron McGarity and Glenn Otto; a catcher Donny Sands; outfielder Josh Stowers; and infielder Brandon Wagner. It’s been mixed results, but the point of the league is to work on their skills in the minor league off-season.

Aroldis Chapman received the AL’s highest honor for relievers — the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award. On Saturday, before Game 4, Rivera was on-hand to present a fellow Yankee with the award. Chapman converted 37 of his 42 save opportunities and held an ERA of 2.21 in his 60 game appearances, and despite how he went out in the ALCS, he was dominant for most of this season. The Brewer’s Josh Hader was selected for the NL version of the award.

More awards are coming next week, so stay posted.

Go Yankees!

NLCS & ALCS: STL vs. WAS & NYY vs. HOU — A sweep & a struggle

Predicting baseball, especially in the postseason, is like predicting life — there’s never going to be an exact science.

NLCS: High off their power through the best team in baseball (Dodgers), the Nationals just came in and dominated the favored Cardinals in this series to sweep through their way to their first World Series.

Game 1: Honestly, this was going to be a close game either way, but the Nationals eked out a win by being the only team to actually score in this game. Part of the reason this worked in the Nats’ favor was their starter, only giving up a single hit the entire game and not until a pinch-hit single in the 8th inning. 2-0 Nationals

Game 2: The Nationals continued their strong show this postseason, but the Cards certainly showed up to play today. The Cardinals certainly had the opportunity, with their starter getting 11 strikeouts to match the Nats’ starter. But the Nats’ edged over the Cards holding them to just 3 hit and a run, with the Nats managing 3 runs off 7 hits overall. 3-1 Nationals

Game 3: Now back in their home, the Nationals began a pair of games that delighted their hometown crowd. The Nats continued their strong starters, a clear sign they might have “stacked the deck”, so to speak for this postseason in particular. But this night in particular, the bats also showed up big. 8-1 Nationals

Game 4:  This game was a little more evenly matched, with the Nationals showing their weakness a bit in a missing 4th starter. However, the Cards proved their bullpen is quite the strength for them. It was a bit of a lopsided series in that respect, with the Nationals riding the backs of their starters to the World Series. 7-4 Nationals

Nationals sweep the series 4-0 and head to the World Series.

ALCS: This was going to be a battle regardless of who was going to end up on top. The top 2 teams in the AL battling for their spot in the Series, both Championship veterans with championship-worthy teams to face off against the rookie Nationals.

Game 1: Actually, this was a great game for Yankee Universe. After sweeping through the Twins, the Yankees had quite a bit of rest to gear up for the game that ended up being “Tanaka Time”, thanks to his 1-hit wonder through 6 innings. The Yankees shutout the Astros, to the dismay of the Houston crowd, with some power homers from Torres, Stanton, and Urshela.  7-0 Yankees

Game 2: This game was actually more indicative of how this series felt and ended up. Each team duking it out behind stellar pitching, the Yankees using a compilation of throwers like Paxton, Green, and eventually Sabathia out of the bullpen. The Astros’ star starter got a bit rattled with a 2-run home run by Judge in the 4th. As the game went into extra innings, this game proved it was going to be this kind of series, with the Astros hitting a walk-off homer in the 11th to give them the game. 3-2, in 11 Astros

Game 3: The series headed to the Bronx split. The Astros got to starter Severino with a pair of early home runs in the 1st and 2nd. After a wild pitch and sac fly doubled their lead, the visitors were looking to skate their way into a shutout. But the Yankees broke that with one swing from Torres, an 8th inning solo shot into right field. They just didn’t much else. 4-1 Astros

The series had a day’s rain delay due to a freak autumn storm off the coast that brought flooding and high winds to the area. And I think all of Yankee Universe was hoping the long rest would spur a bit of deja vu, with the Yankees coming out like they did in Game 1.

Game 4: But it was not to be, despite the pitching match up being the exact same starters. After a rough 1st inning, with the Yankees scoring their first run on a walk by Gardner, the Astros collected 2 big 3-run home runs in the 3rd and 6th to take charge of the game. Tanaka was hit hard and the Yankee bats just weren’t there to support him. Sanchez added a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 6th to edge the Yankees closer, but the Astros were determined to take this game. 8-3 Astros

Game 5: Part of me did not want to watch this game for fear the Astros would win the series on New York’s turf, which is really the ultimate hardship for fans in the area. And yet, I was proved wrong. Paxton commanded from the mound, out-dueling an Astros’ star for the win. A solo homer from LeMahieu to lead-off the 1st, followed by a 3-run home run by Hicks in the same inning, handed the Yankees their eventual victory thanks to great pitching and defense for the next 8 scoreless innings. 4-1 Yankees

Game 6: Once they were back in Texas, the Astros pressed in for their home field advantage. The Yankees again used an “opener”, but the usually unflappable Green gave up 3 runs that 1st inning. And yet, the Yankees came back to tie up the game, including a 4th inning solo shot by Torres and the big 2-run homer by LeMahieu to tie it all up in the 9th inning. The Yankees were looking at winning the game in extra innings right up until Chapman left a high slider up for the Astros’ batter to hit a walk-off 2-run home run. This stunned the entire Yankee team, after they battled back to tie up the game, especially Chapman, who barely moved from the mound until the batter was rounding 2nd. 6-4 Astros

Astros win in 6 to advance to the World Series.

My predictions: So, I’m not getting any better at this predicting thing this season. I knew the ALCS was going to be a struggle this season, but I can honestly say I never saw the Nationals coming. Partly because I don’t follow the NL that closely, and partly because they’ve been such a mixed bag of a team in recent seasons.

  • NLCS: Cardinals over Nationals in 6 games — Nationals in 4
  • ALCS: Yankees over Astros in 7 games — Astros in 6

Now for the World Series: (And let’s be honest, I’ve got no horse in this race any more.)

  • Nationals over Astros in 6 games

The hardest part about this postseason now is not watching the final lap of CC Sabathia. This weekend, he wrote a touching note to the fans to say “goodbye” and posted it on his social media as a final farewell to baseball. No final ride through the canyon of heroes, no extra ring for the souvenir cabinet, no last chance for a Bronx victory. No, next stop for the great pitcher will be that special weekend in Cooperstown.

Go Yankees!

NLDS & ALDS: ATL vs. STL, WAS vs. LAD & TB vs. HOU, MIN vs. NYY — 3 Game 5s & a 3-game sweep

There is nothing normal about the postseason most years, and this year continues to prove this once again. Three of the series went to a Game 5, and only one series was a sweep. And none of those is what you might expect.

NLDS A: The Cardinals and Braves duked it out through 5 games, and it wasn’t until the 5th that the Cardinals came on strong and just made the decision to win this series.

NLDS
Game 1: Actually, the Braves had this game right up until the final inning, when the Cards came out swinging. The Braves just could not catch up in the end. 7-6 Cardinals

Game 2:
The Braves decided they weren’t going to let the series head to St. Louis without a hometown win, using this game to prove why they came out on top of the NL East by blanking the visiting Cardinals. 3-0 Braves

Game 3: This was one of those super tight games, with the Cards eking a single run by the Braves until the 9th. The visitors scored 3 big runs in that inning and ended up taking the lead in the series. 3-1 Braves

Game 4: Another nail biter in the series, as the game was tied and went into the 10th inning before the Cardinals got a walk-off home run to tie up the series. 5-4, in 10 Cardinals

Game 5: Back in Atlanta, the Braves lost their home field advantage in that 1st inning, giving up 10 runs to the visitors, who ended up dominating this game. 13-1 Cardinals

Cardinals win the series in 5 games

NLDS B: Almost everyone “knew” who was going to win this series. Almost everyone “knew” they were going to sweep this series. Almost everyone was very wrong.

Game 1: However, after this first game, “they” were rather confident they “knew” how this was going to work as the Dodgers quickly shut out the Nationals. 6-0 Dodgers

Game 2: But then the Nationals came back and just edged out the home team. 4-2 Nationals

Game 3: In DC, the Dodgers came back just crushing the home team with a big 6th inning. 10-4 Dodgers

Game 4: And somehow, the Nats weren’t about to go away quietly, relying on some solid pitching to tie up the series again and force a Game 5. 6-1 Nationals

Game 5: Another nail-biter in the NL. The game was tied right into the 10th, right up until the Dodgers’ reliever gave up a huge grand slam. The deficit too big to overcome by the home team, costing them the rest of the postseason. 7-3, in 10 Nationals

Nationals win the series in 5 games

ALDS A: As with the other league’s version of this series, games between the league leader and the wild card winner aren’t anything normal or predictable. Especially as the Rays were on quite the tear this last month in their quest for a postseason. But in this series alone, it was all about the “home field advantage”.

Game 1: The Astros started the series strong, only giving up runs to the Rays in the 8th. 6-2 Astros

Game 2: The Astros’ starter the game was just amazing, streaming through the Rays’ lineup and collecting 15 strikeouts. Not that the Rays were slacking. The Astros just played better. 3-1 Astros

Game 3: Once the game was at the Trop, the Rays came out swinging and just didn’t stop. They certainly weren’t about to let the Astros just run away with this series. 10-3 Rays

Game 4: While this wasn’t as poweful in the end, the Rays still collected 13 total hits, giving them more opportunities to score and eventually tie up the series. 4-1 Rays

Game 5: Again, this series was all about home field advantage. Once they were back in Houston, the Astros took command again and showed their fans why they deserve to go to the ALCS once again. 6-1 Astros

Astros win series in 5 games

ALDS B: The one series nobody was really talking about. Outside Yankee Universe, that is. But this one was something to really watch, as the Yankees were about to show off a bit.

Game 1: The Yankees had some really big innings, including home runs by LeMahieu and Gardner. Though Paxton started, it was Kahnle who ended up with the win for his 5th & 6th inning stint to essentially save the game early on until the Yankees powered their way through with those big runs in the 6th. 10-4 Yankees

Game 2: It was Tanaka Time in the Bronx for this game. Aand once again, the Yankee bats came through to support their starter, including a big 3rd inning offense. And while most of their runs were off RBI singles, but i was Didi Gregorius’ grand slam to ensure the Yankees’ eventual win. 8-2 Yankees

Game 3: Home field advantage didn’t seem to matter to the Yankees this series, as they took their momentum on the road. They used an opener in Green, who showed his reliability with a strong start and set the pattern for the rest of the game, backed by a good offense with homers by Torres and Maybin. 5-1 Yankees

Yankees sweep series in 3 games.

An interesting article I found was the idea that no one gives an MVP award for the Division Series. This is one writer’s idea of who should get this hypothetical award. I agreed (or at least understood) his picks in most of these games. But what do you think?

Championship Series begins tomorrow night with NLCS and Saturday with the ALCS. It is a best-of-7 series, so the first team with 4 wins will move onto the World Series next week.

My predictions: So, this first round was a mixed bag. I completely blew the NLDS. First is my prediction, second is the outcome.

  • NLDS A: Braves over Cardinals in 5 games — Cardinals in 5
  • NLDS B: Dodgers over Nationals in 3 games — Nationals in 5
  • ALDS A: Astros over Rays in 4 games — Astros in 5
  • ALDS B: Yankees over Twins in 5 games — Yankees in 3

Now for the Championship Series: (Perhaps, I’ll be better this round.)

  • NLCS: Cardinals over Nationals in 6 games
  • ALCS: Yankees over Astros in 7 games

It’s clearly going to be one of those postseasons. And let’s be honest, it’s really just beginning. But isn’t that what makes October Baseball more intriguing — that you don’t know what’s going to happen?

Go Yankees!

NLWC & ALWC: MIL vs. WAS & TB vs. OAK — 2019 Postseason Begins

It’s officially October Baseball. The regular season came to a close last Sunday, some teams headed into the postseason, some to their family vacations and couches for the duration of 2019. But either way, things are heating up if your team is one of the few who grace this month with its presence.

Tuesday: NL Wild Card (Brewers at Nationals)
The National League postseason began on Tuesday night as the Brewers challenged the Nationals for the final wild card spot. And at first, the Brewers looked to have a decided victory. They out-pitched the home team, with a strong showing, giving up a solo home run in the 3rd, sailing through most of the game in command.

The Nats’ ace had a bit of trouble keeping the Brewers’ bats under control. A lead-off walk in the 1st scored as part of a 2-run home run, getting the visitors on the board even before an out was recorded in the game. The Brewers tagged another run on with a lead-off solo shot up the middle in the 2nd. Things were looking great for the Brewers to advance to the NLDS.

Until that 8th inning. The Nationals figured out they weren’t going to let another October pass them by and took back the game. With 1 out, a challenged hit-by-pitch made it to base. After another out, the Nats gave up a single and a walk to load up the bases. Then a single and really sloppy fielding error cleared the bases, with the Nats scoring the go-ahead run. The Brewers’ defense snapped into action and got that runner trying to stretch into 3rd to end this messy inning, but the damage was done.

Final score: 4-3 Nationals, Nationals advance to NLDS to face the Dodgers

Wednesday: AL Wild Card (Rays at Athletics)
There was a lot of talk about which team might have the advantage in this game tonight. The A’s have had some pretty strong pitching, but the Rays are quite tenacious this season. It was going to be quite the toss-up, but the Rays really proved their mettle in the end, commanding the mound and the game.

The Rays’ pitchers walked away from tonight’s game with no earned runs, only one unearned run. In the 3rd, the lead-off batter hit into what looked like an easy grounder, but a throwing error allowed him to make it all the way to 3rd. A sacrifice fly then scored that runner for the A’s only run of the night.

Their pitching was uncharacteristically lacking in their starter tonight. He gave up a lead-off solo home run to the Rays right in the 1st. And then a single and 2-run homer in the 2nd. After another lead-off home run in the 3rd, they realized it wasn’t working and sent in their bullpen. They were markedly better, except a 2-out solo home run in the 5th to add just one more run for the visitors.

Final score: 5-1 Rays, Rays advance to the ALDS to play the Astros

Postseason Schedule: The Division Series starts tomorrow with the NLDS. The Braves will host the Cardinals, and the Dodgers host the Nationals to begin each of their series. The ALDS starts on Friday with the Astros hosting the Rays and the Yankees hosting the Twins. This series a “best of 5”, with the higher seed hosting for 2 games before the lower seed hosts 2, with an off-day between. A 5th game, if necessary, will be held back in the original stadium for a 2-2-1 possibility of the series.

The NLCS will begin next Friday, October 11, and the ALCS will start Saturday, October 12. That will be a “best of 7”, 2-3-2 hosting pattern.

My Division Series Predictions: I always hesitate to make my predictions known every year because it’s always with mixed results. Honestly, neither of my selected teams won their respective Wild Card games, but maybe I’ll have better luck in this next series.

  • NLDS A — Braves over Cardinals in 5 games
  • NLDS B — Dodgers over Nationals in 3 games
  • ALDS A — Astros over Rays in 4 games
  • ALDS B — Yankees over Twins in 5 games

It’s anybody’s guess how this season will turn out. It rarely goes as predicted. But such is life. At this point, truly anything is possible. Except for the fact that only one of these 8 teams will be crowned champions before the end of this month. Fingers crossed for your favorite team. I’ve got mine crossed for… well, you know…

Go Yankees!

Game 162: NYY vs. TEX — 102 wins, 305 HRs, AL East champs, and the Yanks head to postseason

And suddenly, the season is over. It really doesn’t seem that long ago that we were sitting in our seats in Steinbrenner Field in Tampa enjoying the first day of Spring Training. One of the perks of a Florida spring is watching Yankee veterans and rookies and minor leaguers play on the same field. The anticipation of a new fresh season is palpable as fans chatter about which players are returning or what new young hopeful has been invited for the spring. It is always amazing to watch the roster come seamlessly together for the a new season.

It has been quite the season, summer baseball filled with new records set and new faces earning their much deserved spot on the Yankee roster. Despite the unexpected record injuries that saw the rise of a new generation of Yankees, we all witnessed New York pull together as a team and keep moving forward to earn their well-deserved spot as the AL East Division Champions.

And so here we are now in late September in Texas to face the Rangers before a sell-out crowd on a warm day in Arlington. It may not have been the final score Yankee fans hoped for, but with Game 162 now in the record books, all Yankee eyes are now on the postseason and October baseball.

For this last game of the season today, 6 Yankee pitchers shared the mound and gave up 10 hits for 6 runs. In the 1st inning, Chad Green was chosen to start as the opener for the Yankees. Facing 5 batters in the 1st inning, Green gave up a walk to the lead-off batter followed by a single. A throwing error allowed the 2 runners to do a double steal and score a run. Green followed with 2 strikeouts and an outfield fly out to end the inning.

Masahiro Tanaka came to the mound for a long-term relief outing, starting in the 2nd. His first inning was smooth, facing 3 batters for 3 outs, including a stellar infield play caught with a backhanded catch by Gio Urshela on 3rd for the throw to DJ LeMahieu for the out. Tanaka’s 3rd inning was a bit messier, giving up a 1-out double and a single to put runners on the corners. A sloppy throwing error on a pick-off attempt by Tanaka allowed a run. A fly out to right moved a runner to 3rd, who then scored on a single to left field. With 2 outs, a pop up caught by Urshela at 3rd finally ended the inning.

Then, in the 4th, after fielding a grounder for the out at 1st base, Urshela left the game with a sore ankle and was replaced by Wade at 3rd. After a strikeout swinging, Tanaka gave up 2 singles and a walk to load the bases before coming on strong, retiring the side with a ground out, stranding 3 on base.

In the 5th, Tommy Kahnle replaced Tanaka and gave up a single to left, a hit by pitch, and a walk to load the bases with no outs. A fielder’s choice caught the runner at home for a stellar defensive play for the out, but left the bases loaded. Kahnle gave up a single that scored 2 runs, but a great double play ended the inning.

Adam Ottavino took the mound in the 6th, giving up a single and a walk. He gave up a grounder for a force out to put runners on the corners. A sacrifice fly scored a run, and a pop out ended the inning. Britton came out for the 8th, giving up a single, but a great defensive double play and a swinging strikeout closed the inning. Chapman got some work in for a quick 3-out 8th inning.

The Yankee lineup was scoreless for the first two innings. In the 3rd, Aaron Judge hit his 27th season homer 408 feet over the left field fence to tie the game and give the Yankees a record 305 season home runs. Perhaps Judge’s homer for the first run scored in this last game was only fitting for the season wrap up since the first run scored for the Yankees on opening day this year was also homer, a 3-run long ball by Luke Voit.

The Yankee lineup struggled to reach base and remained scoreless for the rest of the game. Coming down to the 9th inning for their final chance for the win or at least to add a couple home runs to best the Twins for the season home run record. But three outs later, regular season play for New York was over.

Final score: 6-1 Rangers, Rangers win the series 2-1

Injury updates: The Yankees are optimistic that Edwin Encarnacion might be available for post-season play, but he is not currently in the lineup. Gio Urshela twisted his ankle on a jumping throw during an infield out in today’s game. Doctors diagnosed Urshela with a mild sprain that should heal quickly and no further tests are planned at this time.

Yankee postseason rosters, more injury updates, and postseason predictions are forthcoming. The Wild Card games are this Tuesday and Wednesday (October 1-2), with the NLDS starting on Thursday (October 3) and the ALDS on Friday (October 4). It’s shaping up to be some very interesting October baseball.

Go Yankees!

Game 161: NYY vs. TEX — 6th inning spirals into big loss

Yankee fans in the crowd tonight at Arlington watched a game that began with high hopes to see New York win its 104th game of the season, only to see it all fall apart in the 6th inning. It reminded me of growing up a Tribe fan when my dad and I would watch Cleveland start well, only to lose it all in the final innings.

I know, I know! Cleveland isn’t New York. But the game tonight reminded of those times watching my dad’s team battle on, only to have hope deferred. But then I am reminded that the Yankees have already secured their playoff spot as the 2019 AL East champs, and all that hope returns!

Luis Severino started for New York to face the Texas Rangers and threw 72 pitches over 3 innings. In the 1st, Severino gave up a walk to the lead-off batter followed by a strike out swinging. After another walk, Severino gave up a double that allowed both runners to score. After a mound visit and yet another walk, the 2 runners made a double steal, but an infield ground out ended the inning.

Severino found his normal momentum in the 2nd, quickly shutting down 3 batters with 3 solid strikeouts. But in the 3rd, Severino allowed his 4th walk before 3 outs to close out the inning and keep it a close game.

David Hale took the mound in the 4th, giving up a double and a walk. Another double scored both runners, so after a strike out, Hale was replaced by Tyler Lyons who eventually ended the inning with no further allowed runs. Luis Cessa took the helm in the 5th. Despite some allowed base runners, some solid defense got him out of the inning scoreless.

And then came that aforementioned 6th inning — where everything fell apart for the Yankees. Cessa returned to the mound and gave up consecutive singles and a a walk that loaded the bases. He then gave up another walk that scored a run and kept the bases loaded. After a mound visit, Cessa finally got a nice strikeout.

With just that one out and the bases still loaded, Nestor Cortes Jr. replaced Cessa and promptly gave up a grand slam, solidly placing the home team in the lead. Another 3 singles and 1 run later, this 6-run inning mercifully ended. Heller took over for Cortes in the 7th and successfully retired the side. Something Gearrin followed up in the 8th to shut down the Rangers’ big night.

The Yankee lineup started well in the 1st inning when Aaron Judge sent a triple deep to center. A sacrifice fly by Brett Gardner allowed Judge to score and put the Yankees on the scoreboard first. There was a few other chances for the Yankees when they actually got base runners, but they really failed to put runners in scoring position until the 9th inning.

Down by 8 runs, there was a glimmer of hope as Frazier worked a walked and moved to 3rd on Wade’s single. Voit’s hit-by-pitch loaded the bases, Didi Gregorius sent a 3-run RBI double to right field to clear the bases. Yankee hopes were running high despite 2 outs, but chances to score more runs ran out when a fly ball to right field was caught for the final out of the game.

Final score: 9-4 Rangers

This day in Yankee history: On September 28, 1923, in a game facing the the rival Boston Red Sox, and with legends like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig on the team, the New York Yankees tallied up 30 hits that included just 2 home runs (one by Ruth) and 8 doubles to earn a single-game franchise record that is still unbroken almost a century later. And most of their runs that day came in (you guessed it) the 6th inning. The final score on that day 96 years ago — 24-4, Yankees!

Go Yankees!