Game 18: KC vs. NYY — Slow Thursday evening slowed streak

No dance party in the Yankees’ clubhouse tonight. The Yankees couldn’t keep their rivalry momentum going with this new series, as the Royals came into town for a long weekend and somehow silenced the Yankees’ offense.

The Yankees’ lone run tonight was in the 1st inning. With 1 out, Judge singled, moved to 3rd on Voit’s single, and then scored on Gleyber Torres’ sacrifice fly. For the rest of the game, they only got 2 more hits and a few walks without scoring another run. It was rather lethargic in light of the games earlier this week.

Despite the outcome, the Yankee pitching was actually pretty decent. Domingo German got the start, throwing 88 pitches through 6 innings, giving up 6 hits and 3 runs, and striking out 9 Kansas City batters. In the 1st, with 1 out, 2 doubles scored their first run. And lead-off solo homers in the 2nd and 4th gave the Royals the lead they’d need to sail in for the win.

Jonathan Holder came on in the 7th and had a rare sloppy night. With 1 out, he gave up a single that moved to 2nd on another single and then scored on a ground-rule double. Zack Britton came on, but he gave up a sacrifice fly that scored one more run. Chad Green gave up a couple of hits in the 8th but managed to get out of the inning scoreless.

And Joe Harvey’s 9th started with a walk that stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a line drive, and then scored on another sacrifice fly. Collectively, Yankee pitchers got the Royals to strikeout 14 times, but it was the 11 hits that led to 6 runs that made all the difference (compared to the Yankees’ 4 hits and 1 run).

Final score: 6-1 Royals

Actually, the coolest play of the night was Aaron judge’s diving grabdiving grab for the ball in the 5th inning. The lead-off batter for the Royals smacked a solid hit into right field, that by any other means should have been a nice single. But Judge came in running for it, diving head first, and sliding along the grass to make the catch.

I’m almost sorry to say that’s one of the few memorable moments of the night, but baseball isn’t always dance-party-worthy. Sometimes, it’s just a game you file into the books, close the chapter, and start again the next day.

It’s worth remembering that highlight reels aren’t actually “highlights” if they’re the regular stuff. Not every moment is going to be something to capture forever. Think about how many mundane things you do at your job. But that one great sale, meeting, accomplishment, sliding catch, whatever — those are the things you talk about, post about, add to social media/your resume/your own highlight reel.

Go Yankees!

Game 17: BOS vs. NYY — Milestone slam for Gardy Party Sweep

Now, that is the way to win a game and sweep the opposing team. The Yankees sent the Red Sox on their way after sweeping their rivals in this quick 2-game mini-series. Of course, a nice come-from-behind win thanks to a bang by a veteran’s milestone.

JA Happ got the start in tonight’s game, throwing 84 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up 6 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and struck out 4 Boston batters, and most of that was in the first two innings. He gave up a 2-out solo homer in the 1st, and in the 2nd, a lead-off single scored as part of a 2-out, 2-run home run to get the Red Sox on the board and in the lead early.

The Yankees were held off until the 4th inning. Voit led-off by working a walk, moved to 2nd on a fielder’s choice and error, and then scored on Clint Frazier’s 1-out double. But it would be the 7th inning that would leave everyone talking. They loaded up the bases with Frazier’s single and walks to Tauchman and Romine. So, with 1 out and a new pitcher, it would be Brett Gardner for tonight’s heroics. Gardner smacked a grand slam into the right field seats, instantly giving the Yankees the lead.

After Happ’s exit in the 7th, Tommy Kahnle closed out the inning with just 6 pitches to get 2 outs. Adam Ottavino got into a jam in the 8th but worked his way out without the Red Sox chipping away at the Yankees’ lead. And Aroldis Chapman earned his 3rd save of the season with 12 pitches in the 9th.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees, Yankees sweep 2-0

Next up: The Royals come into town for a 4-game weekend series before the Yankees hit the road for their first West Coast trip of the season. They will visit the Angels, Giants, and Diamondbacks before heading back home for their May home stand.

That grand slam was actually a major milestone for the veteran outfielder. It was his 3rd career grand slam (two more than Jeter, by the way), but it was also his 100th career home run. Gardner is more known for his snazzy defense and his speedy base running, so when he clubs these monster hits, it’s always something to celebrate. But tonight’s was just a little extra sweet — a career milestone… to take the win… against Boston… by a homegrown Yankee… and veteran.. and fan and clubhouse favorite.

By the way, the kid who got the grand slam ball ended up meeting Gardner outside the clubhouse, exchaning the ball for autographs and selfies. Bet he wasn’t planning on that fun twist to his night when he got tickets for tonight’s game.

Speaking of the clubhouse… the Yankees have been determined to celebrate a home series victory since Day 1 but have fallen short every time until tonight. Someone (no one’s naming names) brought in a smoke machine and flashing lights and boosted the music so that the players could celebrate their sweeping victory with a dance party in the clubhouse. None of which would have been noticed except for the smoky haze that still lingering when they allowed the media in for interviews.

Well, celebrate away and take that momentum and feeling into the next series.

Go Yankees!

Game 16: BOS vs. NYY — #BigMaple’s big rivalry shutout

James Paxton, tonight’s starter, certainly put it in words all in Yankee Universe can understand: “We want to beat Boston every time.” And maybe it was that mindset that helped surge him and the rest of the Yankee team to just dominate the visiting Red Sox in the first of their 2-game mini-series in the Bronx.

Paxton threw a stellar 110 pitches through 8 scoreless innings, giving up just 2 hits and a walk and striking out 12 Boston batters to earn tonight’s win. Joe Harvey came in to close out the game with 14 pitches in the 9th inning to complete the shutout.

The Red Sox’s ace got the start for them and was only able to throw 5 innings tonight against the power-hitting of the Yankees. He held them off until the 3rd, when Gardner led-off with a double and later scored on DJ LeMahieu’s 2-out single. LeMahieu moved to 2nd on Judge’s walk and then scored on Luke Voit’s single. Clint Frazier led-off the 4th with a solo home run. Two outs later, Romine singled and then scored on Mike Tauchman’s double.

After the Red Sox went to their bullpen in the 6th, the Yankees didn’t seem to know how to slow down. Urshella doubled, Gardner walked, and both moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt. Then it would be Mike Tauchman to smack a big 3-run home run into the second deck of the right field seats. And Gleyber Torres capped off the Yankees’ big night with a 1st pitch lead-off home run in the 7th.

Final score: 8-0 Yankees

Injury news and roster moves: The Yankees announced that Greg Bird has once again been plagued by the injury bug and placed on the Injured List. This time he has torn his plantar fascia, which is the connective tissue between the ball of the foot and the heel that is under the instep/arch. It is the step beyond the common injury of plantar fasciitis, or a strain in the same area, usually due to a sudden trauma or injury and is accompanied by a pop and bruising in the area. It can take up to 12 weeks to completely heal, and surgery is rarely needed.

Anyway, so Bird will actually be wearing a boot on his foot for 10-14 days during the initial pain and injury period. He won’t be back in baseball activities for at least a month, but this can’t be the kind of year Bird has been wanting.

To fill that void, the Yankees moved Jacoby Ellsbury to the 60-day IL to make room for  Spring Training stand-out Mike Ford, called up from AAA Scranton. New Jersey native Ford grew up loving recent Yankee legends like Tino Martinez and Derek Jeter, so to don the pinstripes and play in the same dirt is truly a dream come true.

Go Yankees!

Game 15: CHW vs. NYY — Grand slammed out of series win

Once again, the Yankees were edged out of a win in a single moment, today’s being a really spectacular one for the visiting White Sox. And unfortunately for the Yankees, this also means they lost 3 consecutive home series, something they haven’t done since 1982 by the way. (They finished 79-83 that year, a losing season and still nowhere near last place.)

The Yankees certainly started off pretty well. Judge worked a 1-out walk in the 1st and then scored on Luke Voit’s 2-out double. And in the 3rd, Tauchman walked, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, and scored on Aaron Judge’s single. Once again, the Yankees led the game first with the backing of a strong pitching staff.

Masahiro Tanaka actually started out really sharp, leading most of us to home for a good return to “Tanaka Time”, breezing his way through 3 solid innings. But then it was the 4th inning, and things kind of fell apart. With 1 out, he loaded the bases with a double and 2 walks before a monster grand slam got the White Sox on the board in a big way. After loading the bases in the 5th, the Yankees opted to end Tanaka’s outing after 81 pitches (nearly half in the last 2 innings).

Luis Cessa came on to stem the White Sox’s momentum, getting a quick sacrifice fly to score just one more run for them before closing things out for the inning and pitching into the 6th. Kahnle came in for the final 2 outs of that inning, shutting the Sox down in just 9 pitches. Ottavino, Harvey, and Green finished out the final third of the game with a clean inning a piece.

Collectively, the Yankee pitchers amassed 14 strikeouts, and they still couldn’t seem to overcome that grand slam. The Yankee batters have been really struggling this series against the White Sox relievers, and today was no exception.

Final score: 5-2 White Sox, White Sox win series 2-1

Next up: After an off-day tomorrow (maybe to do taxes), the Yankees will host the Red Sox for 2 games, with the first day being an observance of Jackie Robinson Day. The Royals come to town on Thursday for a 4-game weekend series before the Yankees hit the road again to start their first West Coast trip of the season.

And in fun trivia news: On this day in 1955, the Yankees first African-America player, Elston Howard, made his MLB debut. The Yankees lost to the Red Sox in Boston that day, but Howard, normally a catcher, came into the game in the 6th as a replacement in left field. He also got an RBI single in his first at-bat in the 8th, scoring Mickey Mantle. Not a bad way to make your mark on Yankees history.

Go Yankees!

Game 14: CHW vs. NYY — Sun shines on CC’s Saturday return

If one could script a return to the rotation for a retiring pitcher’s final season, I’m pretty sure Hollywood would demand more dramatics, more pitches, and more strikeouts. But for the Yankees right now (and their veteran starter), this was a pretty great way to write the comeback story for CC Sabathia’s final season with the Yankees.

Sabathia threw just 62 pitches through his 5 scoreless innings, giving up just a single hit in the 3rd and striking out 3 White Sox batters along the way. The visiting White Sox didn’t really stand much of a chance against today’s Yankee pitchers, with Sabathia leading the way once again. Domingo German powered through the 6th and 7th before Britton and Chapman each breezed through 9-pitch innings to close out the game and completely blank the White Sox.

I will give credit where credit is due. The Yankees faced a former teammate in Chicago’s starter, and he held the Yankees off the scoreboard through 6 strong innings. After giving up a single to Torres in the 7th, the White Sox went to their bullpen. Bird made it safely to 1st on a fielder’s choice fielding error.

After another pitching change, Frazier’s single loaded up the bases. The Yankees called on Luke Voit to pinch hit, and his single scored Torres to break through the scoreless tie. Kyle Higashioka’s sacrifice fly scored Bird and moved Frazier to 3rd so that he could then score on Tyler Wade’s sacrifice bunt.  Aaron Judge’s lead-off solo home run in the 8th capped off the Yankees’ runs, but it was more than enough for a victory celebration in the Bronx.

Final score: 4-0 Yankees

CC K count: 2989

{Note: We’re adding this new segment after every CC Sabathia start for the rest of the season. The 3000 strikeout club is an elite group of pitchers, nearly all are in the Hall of Fame. The last name on the list, the one right above Sabathia right now, is Braves pitcher John Smoltz with 3084, but 11 more strikeouts gets Sabathia on the list forever. Only 1 other pitcher earned the honor as a Yankee, Phil Niekro, though a few others have been Yankees at some point in their careers.}

Roster moves: Before today’s game, the Yankees reinstated CC from the IL and sent Stephen Tarpley to AAA Scranton to make room for the veteran starter. I imagine we’ll see Tarpley again before long.

Injury news: There is an update on Dellin Betances. When the Yankees originally signed him in 2006, they were aware of an asymptomatic bone spur behind his right shoulder (his throwing arm). But the most recent diagnosis is that it’s no longer the case and the cause of his most recent discomfort and shut down the All-Star reliever for at least 3 weeks from baseball activities.

They are treating him with a cortisone injection to target the bone spur, a normal part of treatment. Surgery is only necessary if the spur causes significant damage to the area, but right now, that does not seem to be the case. This is good news for Betances and the Yankees because it means that his return is weeks away, just a few more than they initially hoped.

And they certainly need all the hope they can get with the growing list of players on the IL, hopefully and progressively dropping off the IL sooner rather than later. Stay healthy, guys!

Go Yankees!

Game 13: CHW vs. NYY — Drenched and shortened loss

Tonight’s home stand opener certainly didn’t go as well as they thought. And the weather itself certainly agreed. The skies threatened to storm the entire evening, even drizzling through most of the game, but it finally broke through and drenched the Bronx enough to force them to call the game early. Which, of course, meant the Yankees ran out of time to try to regain their lead against the visiting White Sox.

Starter JA Happ really struggled through his outing tonight. He threw 88 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 9 hits, 2 walks, and 6 runs, and struck out 5 Chicago batters. A lead-off double in the 1st scored on a 2-out single to get the White Sox on the board early and first. In the 4th, he gave up 2 walks that scored on a 2-out double.

While this was actually tolerable for the Yankees, it was the 5th inning that things really started falling apart. Happ gave up a single, a 2-run home run, and another single before the Yankees called in Jonathan Holder for relief. But then he promptly gave up a 2-run home run before powering his way through 3 strikeouts to end the inning and then keeping the Sox scoreless through the 6th.

Okay, backing up a little, the Yankees did actually do pretty well on the offense side tonight. Down by 1 run in the 1st, the Yankees answered back in the bottom of the inning. With 1 out, they loaded up the bases with a throwing error on Judge’s at-bat and 2 walks to Voit and Torres. After another out, DJ LeMahieu’s single scored both Judge and Voit. But then, Torres was caught out in a rundown trying to make it to 3rd. His distraction was enough to allow both runners to score before he got tagged out, so the risk was worth it.

Now in the lead, the Yankees continued to surge forward in the 2nd. Frazier led-off with a walk, moved to 3rd on Urshela’s double, and then scored on Austin Romine’s single. Later, Aaron Judge’s sacrifice fly scored Urshela. Brett Gardner hit a solid 2-out solo home run in the 4th. And in the 6th, LeMahieu walked and Frazier singled. After a pitching change, Gio Urshela’s single scored LeMahieu, and despite loading up the bases later, the Yankees’ offense stalled that inning.

And they never got another chance to restart it because it started raining. They sent Chad Green out in the 7th, and like his 2 predecessors, he had his own issues with his outing. With 1 out, he gave up back-to-back solo homers. And by then the rain was just too much.

After 41 minutes of a delay and no end in sight, the game was called as is.

Final score: 9-6 White Sox, in 7 innings

Roster moves: Before tonight’s game, the Yankees sent Gary Sanchez to the injured list with left calf strain. He originally sat out the previous game with some calf discomfort, not wanting to push himself to actually get injured. But on yesterday’s off-day, he noticed it was still problematic and got it check out, hoping to be able to play through the stiffness. Diagnosis: strain. So they called up Kyle Higashioka for back-up to Romine.

And be prepared: the Yankees are set to activate CC Sabathia from the IL for tomorrow’s game, so the corresponding roster move (probably a pitcher) is forthcoming. But it’s nice to see someone coming off the IL rather than being put on. Yeah, we need more of that please.

Go Yankees!

Game 12: NYY vs. HOU — Swept away in Space City, but don’t get swept away

Consider it an interesting turnabout for the Yankees. They swept the Orioles; the Astros swept them. And the road trip finishes with 2 sweeps, but only 1 in the Yankees’ favor. And of course, social media exploded by giving up on the Yankees after only 12 games, as if they are now destined to lose the next 150. Talk about your fickle “fans”.

The honest truth is that the Yankees just didn’t play well tonight. (And no, it had nothing to do with the fact that the Astros opened the roof of their field for all 3 games. Silly superstitions.) James Paxton got the start for the Yankees tonight and struggled his way through 95 pitches into the 5th inning.

In the 1st, Paxton gave up a 1-out solo home run to get the home team on the board. Then a 2-out walk scored on a long triple. With 1 out in the 3rd, a single scored on a double. After another solo home run (by the same Astros’ star) and a single, the Yankees went to their bullpen, but they too found their own issues.

Tommy Kahnle promptly gave up a 2-run home run. After an out, 2 singles put runners on the corners. After another single scored the lead runner, the Yankees called on newly called-up Joe Harvey. Harvey was just stellar in his MLB debut, closing out the 5th with a strong strikeout and then sailing his way into the 7th inning with 2 more strikeouts. Tarpley closed out the 7th with just 3 pitches.

Things were looking better for the Yankees, miles away from the problems that have plagued their bullpen all series (and most of the season so far). Zack Britton came out for the 8th, in hopes of maintaining that momentum. It was not to be. A lead-off single ended up at 2nd due to a throwing error before scoring on another single. Britton later loaded up the bases with just 1 out, but the Yankees’ defense made it up for him with a snazzy double play to get out of trouble.

Meanwhile, the Yankees once again got on the board first with Brett Gardner’s big lead-off home run into the right field seats in the 1st. But then things got relatively quiet for the Yankees’ offense. In the 4th, Torres led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on Bird’s single, and then scored on DJ LeMahieu’s sacrifice fly.

With quite the deficit on the scoreboard, the Yankees found one last chance for a rally in the 8th in what proved to be the Astros’ lone weak inning. With a new reliever, Judge led-off with a walk and scored as part of Luke Voit’s big 2-run home run. Then Torres singled, and Bird worked a walk. After a pitching change, LeMahieu, who is definitely on quite the hitting streak, got another RBI with a great double to score Torres.

Clint Frazier’s deep sacrifice fly then scored Bird, but a pitching change and 2 outs later, the rally fizzled. The deficit proved to large to overcome as the Yankees just ran out of outs.

Final score: 8-6 Astros, Astros sweep 3-0

Next up: After an off-day/travel day tomorrow (Thursday), the Yankees return home to host a 9-game home stand. They host the White Sox this weekend. After an off-day on Monday, the Yankees host their first rivalry games — a 2-game mini-series against the Red Sox. They will finish the week with a 4-game weekend series against the visiting Royals before they head out for their first West Coast road trip of the season.

Roster moves/”Scranton Shuttle”: Before the game, the Yankees sent Jonathan Loaisiga back to AAA Scranton and recalled Joe Harvey. This was due mainly to get a fresh pitching arm. With so many injuries and Severino’s recent setback, I imagine we’ll see lots of these kinds of moves. I think we can officially say the “Scranton Shuttle” has returned for this season.

Again, I just want to reiterate that it’s a long season. I know it gets spoken so often it really could be a cliché, but it doesn’t make it any less true. I don’t worry about the standings or the statistics until much later. Check back about the All-Star Break for a better idea of where things stand.

Look, there’s not a sports team or fan in the world that doesn’t want to win every game and isn’t upset when they lose. No one goes into this dreaming of losing 100+ games every season. And as Yankee fans, we’re used to winning more than we’re used to losing. But don’t just drop your team because you don’t like the outcome of a few games.

Think about all the Cubs or Red Sox fans that stood by their team through “curses” and major losing streaks, still showing up to every single game to hope “maybe this year”. Because that’s what it’s all about — the hope that you might be there to witness some crucial moment in time that leads to the championship, the one where they win it all. And we, of all fan bases, know that it’s not so much an “if” but “when” for the Yankees.

Go Yankees!