Game 75: HOU vs. NYY — HOPE Week sweep

The Yankees continue their dominance in HOPE Week, and with tonight’s win, the Yankees overall HOPE Week record since 2009 is 38 wins to 13 losses. It’s almost as if generosity is good for the soul and for the morale.

James Paxton got the start in tonight’s second game of this 4-game series against the visiting Astros. Paxton threw a strong game, with 100 pitches in 5 innings, giving up 5 hits, 3 walks, and 1 run, and striking out 7 batters. In the 4th, with 2 outs, consecutive doubles scored the Astros’ lone run of the game.

Ottavino, Kahnle, Britton, and Chapman closed out the final 4 innings of the game, keeping the Astros at bay from adding to their score and handing Chapman yet another save (his 21st).

The Yankees started the scoring in the 3rd. With 1 out, Maybin singled and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s monster 2-out 2-run home run. And then in the 7th, with 1 out, Gardner doubled, and Gleyber Torres edged a 2-run home run just over the right field fence for a 2-run home run to double the home team’s score.

Final score: 4-1 Yankees

Injury updates/roster moves: Aaron Hicks began today on day-to-day with some shoulder pain, but he was called in when Cameron Maybin had to come out of the game. Maybin felt a “pop” in his calf as he ran the bases during Sanchez’s 3rd inning homer, and as he struggled to even go down the dugout stairs, an MRI would be the next step to determine the severity of his strain.

And before the game, the Yankees activated Aaron Judge from the 10-day injured list and optioned reliever Nestor Cortes Jr. back to AAA Scranton. The move with Maybin going on the IL and his replacement is forthcoming.

All-Star Game Primary Results: Tonight, MLB announced the results of the voting for the All-Star Game starters. The top 3 from each position (and top 9 in the outfield) are considered finalists, and all the vote counts reset to 0 for the final starter vote. The Yankees are well-represented in the finals with the entire infield being finalists.

Gary Sanchez (catcher) and Luke Voit (1st base) topped their categories, Sanchez coming in as the most voted for Yankee with over 2 million votes. Gio Urshela (3rd base) came in 2nd, Gleyber Torres (shortstop) and DJ LeMahieu (2nd base) were 3rd, and Aaron Judge (outfield) was 7th in their respective categories.

Final voting starts Wednesday at noon and will open just 28 hours for fans to select their favorite of the finalists, closing at 4 pm on Thursday. Selected starters will be announced Thursday night at 7 pm and the rest of the roster revealed Sunday at 5:30 pm. (All times are Eastern.)

HOPE Week Day 5: For the final day of HOPE Week, the Yankees honored two amazing people. First, Sandra Alfonzo, the founder of AdaptAbility, a non-profit that builds custom-made bicycles for kids with disabilities. Alfonzo owns a bike repair shop, Behind Bars in Brooklyn, and in 2015, she noticed kids in the park unable to enjoy the freedom of riding a bike because they were limited by their disabilities. So she used her skills to found AdaptAbility to give all kids the opportunity to ride a bike. And how Sandra met Kiko, the other half of today’s honoree, is a great chain of events that is pure kismet.

Last summer, Kiko Mina attended a special bike camp as part of the iCan Shine program, an organization that provides recreational activities for kids with limited abilities. A special guest of the program met Kiko and later invited him and his parents to a special event he was participating, Tour De Farm. There, the Minas met the Epsteins who volunteer with InTandem, a nonprofit that bikes on special tandem bikes (bicycles built for two people) with children of limited mobility. After Kiko learned how to ride tandem, the Epsteins let the Minas know about AdaptAbility, and they applied for a special bicycle for Kiko.

It takes an average of 2-3 months and $4000-5000 to build a single bicycle at Adaptability, so on Friday, Kiko’s new bike was ready to go. But it wasn’t just the new bike, he also made some new friends. Aaron Boone, Aaron Hicks, DJ LeMahieu, Cameron Maybin, and Adam Ottavino showed up to surprise both Kiko and Sandra. Maybin even took Kiko out on his new tandem bicycle around the area and through the park.

Before tonight’s game, Kiko was the one to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. The fourteen year old got to show off his baseball skills as a former player with the Little League Challenger Division, an adaptive baseball for special needs children. The Yankees also donated $10,000 to help AdaptAbility continue their generosity.

A HOPE Week Final Thought: I say it every year, and it’s no less true this year, but HOPE Week is my favorite week of the year. As a baseball blogger, one might assume that my favorite week should be the World Series or even the All-Star Game. But baseball is more than just the game on the field. Professional athletes, as public figures and representatives of both MLB and their teams, have a responsibility to be not just good players but also good people.

I believe that a truly great player must have three things — ability, teamwork, and character. Ability (often boosted by natural talent) is the stuff we see on the field, teamwork is what the organization sees in the clubhouse, and character is what we see when nobody is watching. Of the three, it’s character that matters most. Your abilities will come and go, and relationships change with time and simple organizational trades. But character — that’s what will carry you through life, that makes someone more than just a good ball player. It makes you a great person.

Go Yankees!

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