Game 122: TOR vs. NYY — Abbreviated victory

I have mixed feelings about a shortened game, even more so by a game like this. In this opener against the Blue Jays, they were on a race against the oncoming storm. Yet another instance where the weather decided to stomp all over another game.

Lance Lynn got the start in today’s game, and while it wasn’t the strongest start, it certainly matched the Blue Jays’ starter. So they both pitched to a no-decision. Lynn threw 99 pitchers into the 5th, gave up 6 hits, 3 walks, and 5 runs, and struck out 5 batters.

Most of that damage came in the 1st inning. The lead-off batter walked and was out on a force out grounder at 2nd. A wild pitch moved the runner to 2nd, and a walk allowed another runner on base. A single scored the lead runner, and after a nice strikeout, another single scored another run. After a walk loaded the bases, another single scored 2 more runs before Lynn got out of the inning.

After holding strong through the next 3 innings, Lynn came out for the 5th. He gave up a double that promptly scored on an RBI single to cap off the Blue Jays’ runs tonight. And it would also be end of the Lynn’s night. Chad Green came on for a strong outing of his own, 2 solid innings in just 18 pitches to set himself up for the win. David Robertson’s 7th was a perfect scoreless one amid the drizzle.

Meanwhile, the Yankees paced out their offense through the game, taking opportunities when they came. In the 1st, with 2 outs, Hicks worked a walk and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ great triple. Then Gregorius scored on Miguel Andujar’s double. And in the 4th, with 1 out and Torres and Bird on base with a double and walk, Neil Walker smacked a big 3-run home run.

Hicks led-off the 5th with a walk, ended up at 3rd on Andujar’s 1-out single, and then scored on a fielder’s choice that Gleyber Torres hit into. And leave it to Giancarlo Stanton to lead-off the 7th inning with a solo home run as the skies rumbled along and the drizzle picked up. And after Hicks struck out, the rain was just too much to continue.

So they went into rain delay. For an hour and twenty-five minutes before they made the decision to just call the game. Which ended up being a good thing because there is going to be no letting up in the rain for most of the night. And they have an afternoon game tomorrow.

Final score: 7-5 Yankees, in 7(ish) innings

Today was the first day of this declared anniversary weekend, the 20th anniversary of the 1998 Championship Yankees. There’s a ton of fun events planned for the fans, including a display of a replica of the 1998 World Series trophy, alumni meeting fans, a special ceremony tomorrow before the game, fan favors like replica rings, and more surprises for the fans throughout the weekend.

Okay, so, I do have mixed feelings about an abbreviated game. I see the reasoning behind why they called it. There is no way they could reasonably resume play at any point tonight and get enough sleep before tomorrow’s game. And the game is not a tie, so there is a definite winner already, and it’s beyond the 5th inning, so it’s considered a complete game.

But it wasn’t exactly an easy win. The Blue Jays kept things close enough to strike back at any point. And if the Yankees were on the flip side of the score, I’d be upset they didn’t have a chance to come back and at least attempt a win. Yes, I might be a little more willing to accept the result if the Yankees were stomping on the Jays like 7-0 because when they dominate, such a result would feel more like mercy. Because a win is a win regardless of by how much.

However, that win matters a whole lot to the Yankees, but due to the Blue Jays’ losing season, a loss doesn’t make a difference. There’s no way they’re going to the postseason, but the Yankees need every win possible to ensure their October spot. It worked out for Yankee Universe in the end, but I don’t think I’m ever going to feel entirely comfortable with this kind of abbreviated game.

Go Yankees!

Game 121: TB vs. NYY — Good start wasted on quiet bats

Well, that was not how the Yankees wanted to end today or this series. Masahiro Tanaka had a pretty good outing tonight, keeping the Rays to just 2 runs, but the Yankee bats just didn’t capitalize when they could to flip the narrative today. So the Yankees ended up on the wrong end of the series.

Other than the 1st inning, Tanaka breezed his way through the next 5 innings and still earned the loss. In the 1st, he gave up a single, a stolen base, an RBI double, another single, and an RBI double. The other runner got a little greedy on that last double, and the defense snapped into action to get the second runner out at home. Then Tanaka got out of the inning with 2 of his 6 strikeouts.

Britton threw a beautiful 11-pitch 7th inning before handing things over to David Robertson. Robertson had his own issues as the Rays continued to try to add to their minuscule lead. He gave up a single that moved to 3rd on a throwing error and then scored on a sacrifice bunt. But he was able to get out of the jam without allowing further damage. Kahnle closed out the game with a clean 9th inning.

But the Yankees just weren’t doing much to hit off the Rays’ pitchers, despite them using a more normal pitching pattern of a regular starter and then a collection of relievers to fill out the rest of the game. The Rays’ starter held the Yankees’ batters to just 2 hits and a walk and kept them scoreless through 5 innings. And his relievers, for the most part, continued that pattern.

But in the 8th, with 1 out, pinch-hitter Romine singled, and Hicks hit into a failed double play only getting Romine out at 2nd but a messy throwing error allowed Hicks to make it all the way to 2nd. Then Giancarlo Stanton hit a double off the right field wall, and for some reason, the umpires called it a home run, and the Rays’ outfielder didn’t bother to chase the ball down because he thought it was a foul.

Yeah, that left everyone kind of confused. So they did an umpire review and it was easily overturned as a home run, but the question remained as to what the call should be. The logical choice ended up being essentially the equivalent of a ground-rule double for a compromise, mainly because the Rays’ outfielder didn’t hustle to get what was a live ball rolling around in the outfield after it bounced off the wall.

Okay, after finally getting on the board, the Yankee had one more opportunity in the bottom of the 9th and it looked like it was going to work. Gregorius and Torres singled and Walker worked a walk to load up the bases. There was no outs, and the Rays decided to shut it down with a new reliever. Just 9 pitches later, the game was over.

Final score: 3-1 Rays, Rays win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees host the Blue Jays for the weekend to close out this home stand. After a travel day on Monday, they will play a short series in Miami before another travel day has them arriving in Baltimore for a weekend series there. And then it’s back to the Bronx again to close out the month.

Roster moves/Scranton Shuttle alert: After yesterday’s game, the Yankees optioned Luis Cessa back to AAA Scranton. They also recalled reliever Tommy Kahnle. Kahnle, as stated above, ended up pitching well in tonight’s game.

Go Yankees!

Game 120: TB vs. NYY — When you don’t have pitching, you don’t have anything

They always say that when you don’t have pitching, you don’t have anything (Sometimes it’s “you don’t have nothing”, but I was an English major and can’t allow myself to use a double negative unless I’m using a direct quote to make a point). But the point of that statement is proof that as much as you need those runs, you need a strong pitcher that won’t give up those runs for the other guys.

And Luis Cessa was just not having a great game tonight, in this middle game against the Rays. He threw 65 pitches into the 4th inning, gave up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 5 runs, and struck out 4 batters. In the 2nd, a 1-out double scored on a 2-out single to get the Rays started.

Then in the 3rd, he loaded up the bases with 2 singles and a walk and no outs. But then he got a good strikeout, so there was hope. The next batter hit into a grounder that the Yankees failed to turn into a double play, so the lead runner scored. Another run scored on an RBI single to give the Rays a hefty lead.

They added two more when a 1-out single scored as part of a 2-run homer in the 4th. And that was the end of Cessa’s night, handing things over to Holder. Holder had a better night, getting two solid strikeouts to close out the inning. Another good outing for the reliever who’s had some issues recently.

Sonny Gray really had a chance to show off his long-term reliever skills again, starting in the 5th and pitching into the 8th. Gray had some issues, but was able to space most of them out through his outing after a bit of a snag in the 5th. A 1-out double later scored on a 2-out single to cap off the Rays’ runs tonight. Green breezed his way through the final 5 outs in just 12 pitches and kept the Rays from adding to their lead.

The Yankees’ offense was really kept to a minimum and also spread throughout the game. They collected 5 hits and 4 walks (and 2 hit-by-pitches), but only managed one run — Miguel Andujar’s lead-off home run in the 2nd. They just weren’t finding the right holes to make a difference, several times getting enough runners in scoring position but getting halted from scoring runs, and Cessa’s troubled start laid the groundwork for the eventual loss.

Final score: 6-1 Rays

Roster moves: Before tonight’s game, the Yankees designated last night’s reliever George Kontos for assignment in order to recall Luis Cessa.

And as we’ve said (or rather presumed) in previous posts, Cashman confirmed the obvious — Aaron Judge‘s return will not be just 3 weeks from his initial injury (July 26). He recently received a cortisone shot to help with the healing, but he’s still not resuming baseball activities like swinging a bat or playing catch.

The reality is that he broke a bone (that’s why the word “fracture” is in “chip fracture”) and bones take time to heal. And it’s not until they heal that one can even start the recovery process. It’s going to hurt. The muscles and surrounding area have been irritated by the injury and will also require time to adjust to the healing process.

Look, injuries are both simple and complicated. They’re complicated in that there is no exact formula on healing and the process because each person and each injury is going to be different. And they’re simple for the same reason — they’re going to heal when they heal and there’s not much you can do until they do. It’s frustrating, but it’s just part of life, especially when one is an elite athlete.

It certainly makes me feel like I write about injuries almost as much as I write about roster moves. So, to me, it seems that injuries are as much a part of the business of baseball as figuring out the best combination for the bullpen. It’s certainly lends itself to part of the reason why baseball is so unpredictable.

Go Yankees!

Game 119: TB vs. NYY — Happ in charge & Romine’s power drive

Rain seems to be the biggest foe of baseball this season. But tonight’s game was only held off by a 21 minute delay at the beginning of the game to dry out the field a bit before the Yankees and Rays began their opening game of this mid-week series.

JA Happ got the start tonight and threw a pretty good game to earn his 3rd win as a Yankee and 13th win overall this season. Happ threw 106 pitches in his 7 scoreless innings, gave up just 1 hits and 4 walks, and struck out 4 Rays batters. Happ is certainly finding his stride as a Yankee and fitting in very nicely to the Yankees rotation.

The Yankees batters faced the odd Rays pitching pattern again. The “starter” only threw just 1 inning before his primary reliever threw 5 innings. Normally, the longest pitcher starts the game and then relievers piece together an inning or two to finish out the game. Now, the Rays were the one of the first teams to use the extreme fielding shifts and now doing this strange pitching pattern, so maybe it will catch on too.

Anyway, it’s not like it worked out well. The Yankees dinged into the Rays’ “starter” in the 1st inning. With 1 out, Stanton doubled and then advanced to 3rd on a pick-off throwing error and then scored easily on Aaron Hicks’ single. The Yankees then loaded up the bases with Gregorius’ single and Bird’s walk, but a ground out ended the early threat.

The long-term reliever (I guess) actually held off the Yankees for much of his 5 innings, pitching into the 6th. However, in the 5th, the Yankees found a small hole to capitalize on from an unlikely suspect. Walker led-off with a walk, and then Austin Romine liked the first pitch and plopped it into the right field seats for a 2-run home run to give the Yankees’ lead some cushion.

Under the Rays’ final reliever, the Yankees found one more chance to add a run in the 8th. With 2 outs, Andujar doubled and was pinch-run by Robinson. Robinson then scored on Greg Bird’s double to cap off the Yankees’ night.

Dellin Betances came out for the 8th inning, and the Rays’ lead-off batter took his first pitch into the visitors’ dugout for a solo home run to get the Rays on the board. But then Betances breezed through a quick 3 outs. And Aroldis Chapman only needed 9 pitches to earn his 31st save to close out the game.

Final score: 4-1 Yankees

There is quite a bit of conversation in regards to this year’s Rookie of the Year candidate. And it should both please and not really surprise any in Yankee Universe that both Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. While Torres has pretty much always been in the conversation due to the pre-set expectations as a prospect, the biggest standout and surprise is the rise of Andujar.

Andujar has been a consistent force for the Yankees, virtually taking up the starter’s role at 3rd and being quite the power hitter at the plate, with the team’s highest batting average and doubles. Torres, of course, made the All-Star team as the back-up 2nd baseman (finishing 2nd in voting behind a veteran superstar infielder), a huge honor for his rookie year, but Andujar was in the mix for his position, finishing 3rd behind 2 big star players for other teams. That’s how valuable these players are.

Both are great candidates for Rookie of the Year, but voting and awards season is still so far off and there’s still quite a bit of baseball yet to play. Though it would be something to have another Yankee rank so high in this category. Sanchez was 2nd in 2016, Judge won the honor last year, and both Torres and Andujar are up for it in 2018.

I’ve said it for a few years now. The Yankee farm system is really good, and it’s given me hope for the future of the franchise. And if they keep churning out these kinds of players, Yankee Universe shouldn’t be worried either.

Go Yankees!

Game 118: NYM vs. NYY — Crosstown rivals surge in damp make-up game

Let’s be honest here. A few days ago, they came out with which team had the hardest schedule and which team had the easiest one. The Yankees were said to have the 5th easiest schedule because they’re mostly facing teams sitting on the bottom half of the standings, including tonight’s opponent. But you can’t really predict when a team will oddly surge or sputter. So there’s just no guarantee.

Tonight’s game was a good example of this. The Mets are having a really terrible year. Mets fans everywhere are complaining, and rightly so, about how poorly their team is performing and the fact that they’re competing with the Marlins for worst team in the NL East. (The Marlins are 4.5 games behind the Mets right now, if you’re wondering.) But baseball isn’t predictable or easy. And oh, by the way, it sort of rained some during the game, but the game played on.

Luis Severino is just not having a good time lately, and his struggles continued tonight. He threw 98 pitches in just 4 innings, gave up 7 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, and struck out 6 Mets batters. Things started right from the first batter of the game, giving up a lead-off solo home run.

Then a double moved to 3rd on a grounder before scoring on a 2-out RBI single. In the 4th, he gave up a single and 2-run home run to double the Mets’ score. Green came on for the 5th and kept the Mets from adding to their score with a fairly clean 14-pitch inning.

AJ Cole came on for the 6th and promptly gave up a lead-off homer. Then in the 7th, with 1 out, he gave up back-to-back solo home runs. Then after a walk, the Yankees called in recent call-up George Kontos, who despite allowing a single got out of the inning without giving up more and then cleanly going through the 8th inning.

Zach Britton had a messy 9th inning to cap off this less-than ideal night for the Yankees. With 1 out, a hit-by-pitch and single threatened. The next batter hit into a ground out and potential double play, but Torres bobbled the transfer so the run scored.

Initially, the runner going to 2nd was called out, but the Mets challenged the call as if Torres didn’t properly have the ball from Gregorius before touching 2nd before the ball was bobbled. But replay worked, the call was upheld — 1 out at 2nd, runner safe at 1st, the other runner scored. Britton then gave up 2 more singles to load up the bases before the next batter hit into an easy force out at 2nd.

Now, the Yankees weren’t exactly silent, but neither were they having a great offensive day. Part of that is because the Mets sent up their strongest starter, who held the Yankees to a minimal offense into the 7th inning, while striking out an impressive 12 Yankee batters.

In the 3rd, Romine led-off with a single and Gardner walked. Giancarlo Stanton hit into a force ground out at 2nd to eliminate Gardner, but Romine still scored. A throwing error (when the infielder tried to turn two he overthrew it at 1st) helped advance Stanton to 2nd and Romine score safely. Aaron Hicks’ single later scored Stanton to tie up the game at that point.

Gardner hit a 1-out double in the 5th and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ 2-out single to chip away at the Mets’ lead. But the Mets’ starter held the Yankees off for most of his outing. The next opportunity the Yankees got was in the 8th under a new pitcher. With 2 outs, Hicks worked a walk and then scored as part of Miguel Andujar’s big 2-run home run into the left field seats.

Final score: 8-5 Mets. Picking up from the series last month that this game was the make-up from, the loss on this game means the Mets won this series 2-1.

Next up: The Yankees host division rivals, the Rays and Blue Jays, for the next 6 games through the rest of the week before hitting the road. They’ll be down in Miami for 2 games and back to Baltimore for 4 games. The Rays are the only team of those four that have a winning season so far, but they’re only 2 games above .500 and 14 games behind the Yankees.

Injury news/roster moves: After pitching a strong game yesterday, CC Sabathia felt it in his surgically repaired knee and is now on the 10-day DL with knee inflammation. This means he will miss his next start, something that has always been on the table as they watch the veteran starter’s previous injuries closely.

Now, the Yankees needed to make some moves to compensate for this temporary move. First, they moved Jordan Montgomery from the 10-day DL to the 60-day DL, a move they’ve been needing to make since Montgomery will be out recovering from his Tommy John surgery far into next season.

They also optioned infielder Luke Voit to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. So, with 2 open spots on the 25-man roster, they selected the contracts of pitcher George Kontos (who pitched in tonight’s game) and infielder Ronald Torreyes from AAA. Yes, that’s right, the “Toe-Night Show” is back!

And for all you trivia nerds: On this day in 2016, two very particular Yankee prospects made their MLB debut — Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin. In their very first at-bats, they hit back-to-back home runs and had everyone talking about the greatness of Yankee future. Of course, Austin is now with the Twins, as part of the trade where the Yankees acquire starter Lynn, and Judge is out on the DL with that nasty chip fracture in his wrist. But what a great memory for those who still believe in the greatness of Yankee future.

I still believe… seriously, the Yankees are still one of the best teams in baseball. Don’t forget that. Like the only team that’s better than them is the Red Sox in all of MLB. The Yankees are 74 wins (and 44 losses), while most division leaders have 60-something wins. Any other year, this would be a blowout for the Yankees, but the Red Sox are just having a ridiculous year.

Go Yankees!

Game 117: TEX vs. NYY — Sundays are for #CCStrong

CC Sabathia was in prime condition in today’s finale against the Rangers. He threw 97 pitches in his 6 scoreless innings, gave up just 1 hit and 3 walks, and struck out 7 Texas batters along the way to earning his 7th win of this season.

Of course, he was backed up by the Yankees’ defense (also this) and offense today early and often. In the 1st, Giancarlo Stanton hit his 30th homer of the season, a 1-out solo home run to get things started for the Yankees. Later, in the 5th, with 1 out, Romine singled and moved to 3rd on Gardner’s double. They both scored on Aaron Hicks’ single.

Stanton continued this big inning with a single put runners on the corners. Miguel Andujar hit into a fielder’s choice at 2nd that still scored Hicks, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ solid 2-run home run into the right field seats. Voit led-off the 6th with a single, moved to 2nd on Walker’s single, advanced to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s single.

Now, with a firm lead, the Yankees handed the game over to their new long-term reliever Sonny Gray who had a bit of trouble in the 7th. He gave up a lead-off single and double to move runners into scoring position. They did so on a ground out and a single. After a challenge and review by the Yankees, the tag at 1st on the single was upheld (though the replay might lead you to a different opinion.

It didn’t matter anyway. The game was the Yankees from start to finish, thanks to 2 strong scoreless innings to close out the game by Jonathan Holder, something both he and the Yankees needed.

Final score: 7-2 Yankees, Yankees win series 3-1

Next up: The Yankees host the Mets for the make-up game of the rain out from last month to complete the first series they had after the All-Star Game. Then they face the Rays and the Blue Jays for 3 games a piece before heading on the road again.

One interesting trivia bit out of today’s game was that Giancarlo Stanton is the first Yankee in his first year with the team to hit 30 home runs since 2009 when Teixeira hit 39, a stat that he should easily beat with about 6 weeks left in the season. Especially at the rate he’s going — hitting 5 homers in his last 6 games and leading the team in homers, RBIs, and hits.

It’s funny really. After a career high of 59 homers last season with the Marlins, 30 at this point in the season sounds kind of low. But different team, different season, different schedule, and recent hamstring issues. And still he’s one of the leaders of the league. Baseball is a funny sport.

Go Yankees!

Game 116: TEX vs. NYY — A soggy Saturday save

It’s raining along much of coast of the northeast, including over Yankee Stadium this lovely Saturday afternoon. It wasn’t initially, but the skies progressively darkened, drizzled, and then drenched the near sold-out crowd in this third of 4 games against the visiting Rangers.

Lance Lynn threw 99 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 5 hits, 3 walks, and just 1 run, and struck out an impressive 8 Texas batters. His lone allowed run was in the 3rd. A lead-off double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on an RBI single. Lynn, once again, turned out a fine performance, clearly etching his place on the Yankee rotation.

The Yankees had enough oomph to give themselves the lead early on today. In the 1st, Giancarlo Stanton hit a solid 1-out solo home run to kick things off. After another out, Andujar singled and then scored easily on Greg Bird’s double. They kept their minuscule lead until the 6th when Bird led-off with another double and then scored on Walker’s 1-out single.

That should have been enough for the Yankee bullpen and defense to coast on to victory, but with the looming clouds, it couldn’t exactly be a drama-free day, despite Robertson’s beautiful 15-pitch clean, scoreless 6th inning.

Zach Britton was called on to continue his strong show from previous games. He took 5 pitches to get 2 quick outs, but then things unraveled. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases before another allowed walk scored their lead runner. Britton was just not finding that 3rd out, so the Yankees turned to Dellin Betances.

Now, Betances has been really good lately. But when the runner at 3rd spooked him, Betances fidgeted just enough to balk, and it moved all the runners up again and scored that runner from 3rd, just before he struck that batter out. Betances later sailed his way through the 8th cleanly.

With the game now tied and the rain beginning to really unload, the Yankees were determined to find the opportunity. It would be in the bottom of that 7th inning. With 1 out and another new reliever, Stanton singled and then scored as part of Miguel Andujar’s big 2-run home run into the right field seats, his 17th homer of the season.

Aroldis Chapman now needed just 3 outs for his 30th save. However, due to the rain, that was coming down in sheets at this point, he had less control over his pitches, allowing a single, a strikeout, a single, and a pop-up, before hitting the next batter to load up the bases. Things were tense, but somehow, even with a full count, Chapman pulled through and got the batter to swing at that 98 mph 3rd strike.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees

Injury updates: Aaron Judge is taking it slow coming off the chip fracture in his right wrist. He’s hoping to start swinging a bat early next week and then progress from there. The original timeline has him potentially coming back before the end of this month, but injuries rarely check man’s expectations and schedules as they heal.

Giancarlo Stanton has been dealing with hamstring tightness since the series in Boston. It hasn’t entirely hampered his playing, relegating him to play DH and instead allowing young players like Robinson and utility players like Walker playing in the outfield. And they too are doing well with the challenge.

And Gary Sanchez has been working out in the Yankees minor league complex in Tampa, recovering from a lingering groin injury. He’s been running and doing baseball activities, but he is expected to fly up to New York to rejoin the team and complete his rehab with them. That’s a great sign because it means that he’s progressing well enough to have the team keep him close for an overnight activation when they deem him ready.

Look, for all their recent injuries and frustrating losses, the Yankees are still one of the best teams in baseball. It’s rather unfair that they’re in the same division as the absolute best team in baseball (Red Sox), but that team is having a real record-setting kind of year of their own. While the NL is quite close and competitive, the AL is splitting into the teams that are having obviously stellar seasons and those that are really struggling.

And nowhere is that highlighted more than just within the AL East, which hosts both the best team in MLB (Red Sox) and the worst (Orioles). The AL East has long been a really strong division, but this year, it’s really showing its extremes — still really competitive for the top 2-3 teams and just discouraging for the others.

Go Yankees!