Well, that was a roller coaster ride I’d rather not have been on. Tonight’s match against the visiting Blue Jays certainly gave both teams a chance to prove why every game matters for both of them for rather different reasons. The Jays are still trying to hold onto their lead in the AL East, and the Yankees are trying to keep their Wild Card dreams alive. They both needed a win, but as that isn’t possible, they certainly both made quite the effort to do so.
Luis Cessa got the start tonight for the Yankees, throwing 85 pitches into the 6th innings, giving up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and striking out 3 Toronto batters. In the 1st inning, after 2 sharp strikeouts, a solo home run into left field got the Blue Jays on the board for an early lead. In the 5th, with 2 runners on base with singles and 1 out, another single scored one runner, but Cessa got out of that inning shortly thereafter, thanks in part to Chase Headley’s diving defense.
In the 6th, after 1 out and walking a batter, the Yankees went to James Pazos for relief, but he gave up a single. Then it was on to Adam Warren, who loaded the bases with his lone allowed walk before getting the next batter to ground out into a double play to end the Blue Jays’ attempt to add to their score. Warren sailed through the 7th inning, and after 2 out sin the 8th, added a runner via a single.
The Yankees opted for Tommy Layne, but after a walk, they went back again for Ben Heller. Heller gave up a 2-RBI double and a walk before the Yankees brought in Chasen Shreve for a 4-pitch strikeout to end the Blue Jays’ rally.
Now, the Yankees weren’t exactly silent on the offensive side of things. They got on the board in the 4th inning with Brian McCann’s big 2-out solo home run into the 2nd deck right field seats. And in the 7th (I’m telling you… “God Bless America”… every time!), with 2 outs, Aaron Judge singled and then Tyler Austin smacked a very big 2-run home run into the bleachers to give the Yankees back the lead in the game.
Today is also Tyler Austin’s 25th birthday. The last Yankee to hit a home run on his birthday was Alex Rodriguez last year (July 27, 2015). Not a bad way to celebrate your birthday.
After the Blue Jays took back the lead in the top of the 8th, the Yankees came back in the bottom of the inning. Ellsbury led-off the inning with a walk and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ nice 1-out RBI triple. Gregorius then scored on Starlin Castro’s sacrifice fly. Then McCann walked and was pinch-run by Young. And it was Chase Headley to hit a nice 2-run home run to cap off the Yankees’ scoring for the evening.
So it was onto the 9th inning to close out the Yankees’ lead. But things got complicated really fast. Now, in the last couple of games, Dellin Betances has breezed through his innings in 10 and 12 pitches. But Betances got into quite a bit of trouble, walking consecutive batters to start the inning.
The next batter faced quite a bit of drama himself. First, a wild pitch moved the runners up to scoring position. Then there was a bit of a dispute over whether a particular play was a foul or catcher’s interference. (For the record, it was catcher’s interference, but because the umpire didn’t see it, it was ruled a strike instead, even after the Jay’s manager had a brief conversation about it.) That batter then got his own revenge with an RBI single that put runners in the corners (and then was pinch-run for speed).
Finally, Betances got an out — a strikeout against a former teammate actually. But then he loaded the bases with yet another walk, before a single scored one more run, putting the Blue Jays within a single run. So it was time to call it a night after throwing 40 pitches (yikes!), just 1 out, and the bases loaded.
Blake Parker to the rescue, getting a 6-pitch strikeout to give the Yankees hope and put the Blue Jays on edge. Everyone in the stadium was standing. Parker then threw a final pitch to his last batter, who sent it deep to left field where Brett Gardner ran and leapt for an amazing catch right at the wall for the final out to preserve the game for the Yankees.
Final score: 7-6 Yankees.
Now, that amazing Brett Gardner is also the Yankees’ nominee for the annual Roberto Clemente Award, awarded to the player who “best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field”. In other words, a well-deserved honor and recognition for the outfielder and Yankee veteran.
Every team nominates their candidate, and the final winner selected by the fans and a special committee will be awarded in November. Beginning Wednesday (tomorrow), which is also the 15th annual Roberto Clemente Day, fans can express their support for Gardner via social media (#VoteGardy) through October 2. Previous Yankee winners include Derek Jeter in 2009, Don Baylor in 1985, and Ron Guidry in 1984.
Roster news: Chad Green got some good news today — no surgery, but will definitely need some time to rehab the flexor tendon (the elbow). I would expect a trip to the DL for the rest of the season, as he won’t be ready to throw again for some time. We’ll see him again at Spring Training. In the mean time, the Yankees recalled both James Pazos (who pitched tonight) and Bryan Mitchell from AAA Scranton.
Current standings: Boston and Toronto sit atop the AL East tied. Baltimore is just a game behind them. Then it’s Detroit a game back, then Houston another game back, and then the Yankees another game and a half back. So the Yankees are just 3.5 games out of the Wild Card. But it’s the three pesky teams at the top of the AL East in their way — Boston, Toronto, and Baltimore that are both battling it out for the AL East title and for the 2 Wild Card spots.
(And if you’re interested in weird, random facts like me, if the season ended today and the World Series was played based on the best teams in both leagues, it would be the Rangers against the Cubs. That would be a weird a series, but that could actually happen this year. Welcome to 2016 baseball.)