Game 36: CHW vs. NYY — A bit of the old tug-o-war

I have a good friend who lives outside of Chicago. Her idea of being a sports fan is anything Chicago. She rooted for the Cubs, of course, last postseason. She was a passionate Blackhawks fan last year. She’ll be a Bears fan this fall. But her biggest love is the Windy City. Chicagoland. Chi-town. The 312. The Second City. So when it comes to debating all things Chicago versus New York, I always wait to pull out the ultimate ace-in-the-hole — The Second City, to remind her just who exactly will always be First.

The name came from a 1950s New Yorker article not so subtlely referring to the building boom of the 19th and 20th centuries, later made popular by the famous comedy group. It should be noted that many of their famed alumni like Alan Arkin, Bill Murray, Jim Belushi, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, and Amy Pohler are all New Yorkers (either native or current residents).

So whenever a team from the Second City plays the Yankees, I have to bring up this geographic rivalry. Though no real sports rivalry exists between the cities because it seems that whenever one city’s sports team is good, the other’s just isn’t. So there’s no real athletic competition. It’s just as imaginary as the building rivalry a century ago. And it’s about as serious as the silly banter my friend and I have every now and then.

For three hours and thirty-six minutes today, the Yankees and White Sox closed out this weekend series (and the Yankees’ home stand) with a rather extended tug-o-war. Neither team’s pitching staff was extraordinary, which was very odd for the Yankees as it was a Masahiro Tanaka start. Tanaka just struggled his way through his 5 innings, pushing his pitch count up to 102 pitches, giving up 8 hits, 3 walks, and 4 runs. One stat that was very Tanaka-esque was one that shows his 7 strikeouts.

In the 2nd, with 1 out, Tanaka put 2 runners on base with walks, so that a single scored the lead runner before he got 2 great strikeouts. Then a lead-off solo shot in the 3rd inning added to the White Sox score. And the lead-off batter in the 4th singled, stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a single, and scored on a sacrifice bunt. Another single in that inning scored their 4th run.

Meanwhile, the Yankees started things off right with Ellsbury and Gardner’s consecutive singles in the bottom of the 1st. Ellsbury then scored on Carlos Beltran’s sacrifice fly. Then in the 3rd, with 2 outs, the Yankees loaded up the bases. Starlin Castro’s single scored Gardner, and then Dustin Ackley worked a walk to scored Beltran.

The Yankees were down 4-3 as Tanaka exited the game. Yates took over in the 6th and kept the White Sox from adding to their lead. But then in the bottom of the 6th, with 1 out, Ellsbury reached on a throwing error and moved to 2nd on a ground out. A pitching change didn’t seem to help Chicago as Carlo Beltran smacked a beautiful 2-run home run into the left field seats to push the Yankees up and over the White Sox. That was also his 400th career home run for the switch-hitter, making him only the 4th switch-hitter to do so (joining the likes of Mickey Mantle, Eddie Murray, and Chipper Jones).

Dellin Betances came on to keep that lead in the 7th, and well, didn’t. Consecutive singles threatened, and a double scored the lead runner even before Betances got a single out. But then he breezed through and got 3 consecutive outs, including 2 nasty strikeouts to get out with a tied game and a blown save.

But then the Yankees decided they wanted this game and put Betances in position for a win. With 2 outs in the bottom of the 7th (can anyone say “God Bless America”?), Gregorius worked a walk and then scored on Chase Headley’s pinch-hitting double to break the tie. Despite a bases-loaded scenario just a few batters later, the Yankees couldn’t get that insurance run.

That’s okay. That came in the next inning with Brian McCann’s 1-out solo home run.

Of course, Miller breezed his way through the 8th, like usual, setting up the closer Chapman. Chapman first battled with the lead-off hitter (12 pitches in that at-bat), finally winning that battle and then quickly getting through the next two in just 4 pitches for the save.

It should be noted that while there were 22 total hits and 9 walks between the 2 teams this afternoon, of the 15 strikeouts, 12 were issued by Yankee pitchers. Because… well, have you seen them pitch?

Also, coolest play the Yankees made today was a hopping tag out at 2nd base. So, on a low ball in the 6th inning, the Chicago runner tried to steal 2nd base on Didi Gregorius. But McCann fired the ball to Gregorius who had to jump over the sliding runner to avoid being taken out himself. But in the process Gregorius tagged him on the foot just before he tagged 2nd. Initially called safe (a stolen base), the Yankees challenged, the play was reviewed, and then it was overturned and added to the highlight reel. Perhaps all those childhood games of leap frog came into good use today for him.

Final score: 7-5 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-1. (“Second City” indeed, my friend.)

It was “Play Ball” weekend at Yankee Stadium these last 2 days. Yesterday, Alex Rodriguez met young fans at one of the gates at the stadium to personally hand out his replica bat and take pictures with the fans. Today, youth baseball and softball players got to parade around the stadium before the game and meet some of the current players. Two local kids got to throw out the ceremonial first pitch (to McCann and Romine), and a local championship middle school softball team were honored before the game. This weekend across MLB was to stay connected with youth sports and encourage kids to get active and get involved.

Go Yankees!

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