Game 117: MIN vs. NYY — Walk-off bobble to start HOPE Week

It was a very weird game. I think that’s the nicest possible way to put that. It basically had a little bit of everything and the kitchen sink all in one very long, very weird game. In four hours and 13 minutes, the Yankees hosted the first game of the series against the visiting Twins today in what will be a very long week for the Yankees, complete with HOPE Week (more after the game coverage) and several VIP ceremonies this coming weekend.

The Yankees’ offense struck first in the bottom of the 1st. With Ellsbury and Rodriguez on base with a single and a walk and two outs, Brian McCann hit his 21st home run of the season — a 3-run homer to right field. The Yankees currently lead the entire league in runs scored in the 1st inning alone with 99 (after tonight); the team in 2nd place is the Royals with 86.

The Yankees, with a long home stand and no off days until the 27th, chose to add a 6th starter to their rotation to give all the regular starters an extra rest day. They opted for the young right-handed pitcher Bryan Mitchell to start tonight’s game. Mitchell was doing a pretty decent job in his outing before he was forced from the game due to an injury. With two outs and two runners on base, on his 39th pitch, the batter hit a line drive (warning: rather hard to watch, you will cringe) right back to Mitchell’s face. A run scored while Mitchell was face-down on the mound, clutching his bloodied face.

He never lost consciousness, a good sign, and walked off the field under his own power, another good sign. Mitchell was taken to New York Presbyterian for a full evaluation. He was later diagnosed with a “small nasal fracture” (broken nose) and will be monitored by the Yankee medical staff for signs of a minor concussion. Everyone really had some terrible cases in their heads, even from recent injuries, very serious injuries, this really could have been so much worse.

Caleb Cotham came on in relief for Mitchell to finish off the 2nd inning and try to give Mitchell’s start some length. But after the initial success ending the 2nd in one batter, he struggled quite a bit. Going into the 3rd inning, the Yankees with a slim 3-1 lead over the Twins, Cotham gave up a lead-off single and then a 1-out 2-run home run to tie up the game. Another single, a fielder’s choice and throwing error, and another single scored another Twins’ run so that the Twins could take the lead.

It didn’t last long. In the bottom of the 3rd, the Yankees led-off with Ellsbury’s single and Gardner’s walk. A force out got Ellsbury going home and put runners on the corners. A flyout later (in a weird call and challenge that didn’t make a lot of sense to anyone, including the players on both teams) and a stolen base by Rodriguez set up the Yankees to take the lead with McCann’s single, deep enough to score both Gardner and Rodriguez. (At this point in the game, all 5 of the Yankees’ runs were on McCann’s RBIs.)

The Twins tied it back again in the top of the 4th inning with a lead-off solo home run. A single was later caught stealing going to 2nd by a sharp throw by McCann, his first of three tonight. After another out, reliever Chasen Shreve came on to get the final out of the 4th for Cotham. Shreve got into his own troubles when the Twins pushed ahead with another lead-off solo home run in the 5th. And as if we were on some weird repeat cycle, the next batter singled and then got caught stealing 2nd before finishing off the inning.

In the 6th, Justin Wilson came on in relief to get two consecutive strikeouts and two consecutive singles. Another single allowed another Twins’ run before a strikeout got the 3rd out and end the inning. But the Yankees earned all those runs back in the bottom of the 6th. Mark Teixeira hit a foul ball off his leg and earned a walk. Bird came in to pinch-run for Teixeira (and eventually take over at 1st). Bird would then score on Carlos Beltran’s big 2-run home run to tie up the game once again.

By the way, Teixeira was later diagnosed with a “bruised lower leg”, so he may be out for at least a game, though I expect Teixeira to be the least happy with that result.

And there, the score sat for the rest of the regular game. Adam Warren threw 9 pitches to get the first two outs of the 7th before handing the ball over to Dellin Betances for a longer outing this game. Betances threw 26 pitches to close the 7th and then through the 8th and 9th innings, getting 3 just crazy strikeouts. When neither offense could break the tie, the game went into extra innings into the 10th inning. And it was Andrew Miller for a sharp 8-pitch outing, including 2 strikeouts (bringing the grand total of strike outs by Yankee pitchers to 14).

Then in the bottom of the 10th, the Yankees started things off right when Greg Bird hit his first hit in Yankee Stadium, a double to kick off the Yankee offense. McCann’s double nearly scored Bird, but the Twins’ defense kept him at 3rd. The Twins intentionally walked Beltran to load the bases with no outs. (Really, what were they thinking here?) Ryan was sent in to pinch-run for Bird and very quickly scored when Chase Headley hit into bobbled groundout. Headley was out at 1st, but Ryan easily scored the walk-off run to end the game.

Final score: 8-7 Yankees in 10 innings.

HOPE Week started with surprising a young baseball hopeful on national television. But this young college player is a bit different. Two months ago, a very different young man crashed a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, and opened fire on its attendants, killing 9 people, including Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, a pastor at the church and single mother of three great kids — Chris, Camryn, and Caleb. Chris Singleton made national headlines when he spoke the day after the murders to call for forgiveness and love, in the same line of faith his mother taught him. At age 19, he is currently a student at Charleston Southern University and a rising star on its baseball team, with dreams of making it to the big leagues one day.

Today, the Yankees allowed him to dream. The TODAY show first invited him to share his story once again and then surprised him with a special gift via Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner, and Dellin Betances — an invitation to spend the day with the team, including throwing out the first pitch at tonight’s game. After their TODAY show appearance, the Yankees took Chris and his two younger siblings to meet Willie Randolph, Chris Young, Jacoby Ellsbury, and other Yankees for lunch and a private tour of the new One World Observatory. And then, they brought them to Yankee Stadium, where Chris was given his own locker and jersey (the #3 like he wears at CSU) to participate in batting practice with the team.

Apparently, Chris did a pretty good job, even hitting some home runs as part of Batting Group A (with Drew, Gardner, Gregorius, and McCann). Gardner and Chris bonded over their commonalities, both South Carolina natives and college ball players. Chris, Camryn, and Caleb all threw out the first pitch to Bird, Young, and Tanaka. I do believe their mother would have been awfully proud of her kids today and their walk of faith and forgiveness as they continue to heal from this tragedy.

Go Yankees!

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