Game 56: BOS vs. NYY — Rain drama, drama, & more drama

There are so many better ways to spend an evening — a nice dinner, a good ball game, family time, a movie, time with friends, maybe even your house of worship. A near-monsoon in the Bronx is probably not an ideal place for most, nor would a hospital ER. And that’s what happened in my world.

Tonight’s game was “dry delayed” for 50 minutes at the start of the game because of the threat of weather. And when it did finally start the game, starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda was his usual self through the first three innings. In the fourth inning, two singles made room for an easy Boston run on a ground out to put the Red Sox ahead 1-0. On the first pitch of the fifth inning, one of Boston’s weaker hitters hit his first home runs of the season to left field and the score was 2-0 Boston. As the predicted rain finally began to fall, power hitter David Ortiz slammed a long home run towards the Bleacher Creatures in Section 203 (or what was left of them due to the rain) to settle Boston in at 3-0 before the rain made it impossible to continue the inning.

The umpires halted play shortly thereafter, and the tarp was brought out for 37 minutes. When the game resumed, Boone Logan was brought in to close out the top of the inning before play was called again due to another rain delay. The Yankees, easily stymied by tonight’s Red Sox pitcher (who only allowed 2 Yankee hits all 5 1/2 innings), were never able to get their revenge, as the game was called in the middle of the 5th inning giving Boston tonight’s win — officially 3-0 in 6 innings.

In the middle of the second rain delay, I found myself in that lovely place called the Emergency Room. No broken bones but a sprained wrist has me on my own personal DL for a few weeks. By the time I walked out with a splint on my hand, the game had been called and the ugly black monstrosity on my wrist further symbolized the defeat of the day — my own and the Yankees. (But my doctor’s son is a Yankees’ fan, so if you come across this, your mom was nice, hello to you, and thanks for reading my blog!)

It’s never easy to admit defeat, or watch a loss, or watch hopes of potential late victory wash away in the deluge. And it’s especially hard to do all those things when you are up against a great rival like the Red Sox (least of all as a Yankee fan). But I suppose that’s part of the game, and I suppose that’s why there are more than a handful of games to be played in a season. I think it gives teams more than their fair share of attempts to prove that they are worth the postseason, not only to their fans but to themselves. You don’t see that a lot in other professional sports, and it’s part of the reason that I love baseball.

So if baseball continues to be a metaphor for life, it is those many chances that we get throughout a season in life to prove that we are worth those extra innings, those extra games, those extra investments. And isn’t that what we always want — to prove to the people we care about that we are worth caring about?

This season hasn’t been easy on any team with the weather, the DL, and countless other factors have plagued just about every team in the league. Even teams that should be on top (and I’m not calling anybody out in particular) clearly are victims of bad timing, or circumstance, or even bad luck (if you want to call it that). Perhaps that’s why I wait to draw my conclusions about particular teams until there is actually time to draw conclusions given proper information. Assumptions can only get you so far, and honestly they are usually wrong. Most pre-season or even early season predictions are just assumptions based on incomplete facts. We haven’t even hit the halfway point (the All-Star break), and the Yankees are still due a good portion of their team off the DL in the next few months at the latest. And really, who know what’s going to happen? And isn’t that part of the fun — the not knowing?

Go Yankees!

Game 55: BOS vs. NYY — 11-1

11-1 Boston. And because tonight’s game wasn’t really something to rejoice over (unless you’re a Red Sox fan, and if you are, why are you reading a pro-Yankees blog?), I won’t really dive into too much of the damage.

Starting pitcher Phil Hughes really struggled tonight, throwing 100 pitches over only 4.1 innings. He started out really good through the first two innings, but really let some poorly placed pitches get the better of him in the 3rd inning. A double, a single, an RBI double (1-0), a strikeout, an intentional walk to power slugger David Ortiz to load the bases, a grand slam (5-0), and 2 strikeouts to end the inning.

At the bottom of the 4th inning, Chris Stewart earned the only score for the Yankees tonight through a sacrifice fly to center field. Stewart was later pulled from the game with dehydration, perhaps more of a symbol of what the Yankees were suffering from (metaphorically) than anything else that happened on the Yankee side of things.

But the Red Sox weren’t nearly done beating up on the Yankees. Claiborne filled in some middle relief for Hughes after he hit 100 pitches and was able to keep Boston away from much damage. As did his replacement Adam Warren, coming into the game in 7th inning to give 3 full innings of work. In the 8th, a 3-run homer pushed Boston further ahead to 8-1, and in the 9th, pitching got a little sloppy allowing a solo home run, an RBI single, and a sacrifice ground out for the final score of 11-1. The Red Sox outhit the Yankees 18-6 as well.

I knew watching that grand slam in the 3rd that somehow tonight’s blog wasn’t going to be filled with much celebration. Sometimes things just work, or even you get that feeling that late in the game they’re just going to pull it all together. This, however, wasn’t one of those nights. I know lots of people have been doing it, but it made me long for the days when some of the “usual suspects” return to what we know them as and play like the championship team the world knows they are. It’s tough watching things fall apart before your eyes, but I can’t imagine how tough it would be to be on the field and know you can’t do a thing to stop it from falling apart.

I guess it still boils down to pitching. We really didn’t have any consistent pitching tonight, and the 1st place Red Sox figured that out really quick and kept their ball rolling. Not that they had stellar pitching tonight, but rather we also were missing some consistent offense. So when your pitchers have off-days and your hitters have off-days, I’m guessing you’re not going to win many games, least of all when you’re playing a team that’s playing as well as Boston.

So, let’s leave the off-day on today, and remember that tomorrow is another day, fresh with no mistakes in it… yet. It’s something we need to remember every day — every day we get a fresh start to do something amazing that we’ve never done before. A little too optimistic? Perhaps. But as they say, “I’d rather be an optimist and wrong, than a pessimist and right.” At least optimists still hope, and until October, there’s still hope.

Go Yankees!

Game 54: BOS vs. NYY — Back in business & ain’t it grand

Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis picked a great night to come back. The rivalry of the Boston-New York is alive and well, especially as the two teams are currently battling for domination over the AL East. And coming off a 5-game losing streak, the Yankees certainly needed a win tonight, and a win is what they got thanks to the dominance of CC Sabathia. Sabathia was in fine form tonight, throwing 109 pitches over 7.1 innings, allowing only 1 run (an RBI double in the 7th) off 6 hits, walking no one, and striking out 10 Red Sox batters. That last statistic alone is what makes me think Sabathia is back in true form. Most teams are lucky to get 10 strikeouts over an entire game from 3 pitchers; in fact, the Red Sox notched 8 Yankee strikeouts for all 3 of their pitchers tonight, and their starter is about as good as Sabathia with his form and consistency, including strikeouts.

But the Yankees weren’t going to let their slide continue. So the offense struck early. Teixeira earned a lead-off walk in the 2nd inning, Vernon Wells doubled, Jayson Nix singles and scored Teixeira (nice way to mark your 2013 MLB debut), a strike out, Ichiro Suzuki singles Wells home, and a double play to end the inning. The Yankees were 2-0 very quickly.

Then we had some drama in the 5th inning, with a close call on David Adams, for which Girardi went out to argue and promptly was ejected from the game. Unfortunately, the umpires got the call right, but it was nice to make a fight for his player. At the end of the inning, Kevin Youkilis singles to hit in Ichiro to make it 3-0, and right after he scored the run, Stewart makes a run for 3rd and is tagged out for the 3rd out. It’s not often that you can score a run and make the 3rd out in what is essentially the final play of the inning.

In the bottom of the 7th inning, after two Yankee singles by Ichiro and Stewart, a replacement pitcher allows a single to Brett Gardner which scored Ichiro again for the 4-1 final score. The bullpen finally kept the Yankees from doing any further damage, getting the next five batters out straight.

On the Yankees’ side of things, David Robertson is really developing very nicely in his role as set-up man for Mariano Rivera. Both threw excellent games tonight to wrap up the final 5 outs in the game. To me, a near perfect game is when Sabathia starts through 7 innings, Robertson sets-up in the 8th, and Rivera closes for the save in the 9th. And that’s what we saw tonight. And with recent bouts of inconsistency on some of these very reliable pitchers, it was rather reassuring to see these three back into their usual momentum and excellence.

To make room for Teixeira and Youkilis on the roster, Ivan Nova and Vidal Nuno were optioned to AAA Scranton, which means either of them can be pulled up again easily if they are needed, but they will be able to play more on a regular basis rather than waiting for a bullpen opening.

Also on the random news front, the postponed Blue Jays-Yankees game from May 19 will be made up August 20 in the early game of a doubleheader to start off their next series. And on July 28, the Yankees will re-sign former Yankees slugger Hideki Matsui for one day so that Matsui can retire as a Yankee. Matsui played seven seasons (2003-2009) with the Yankees, his last appearance in pinstripes was in the final game of the 2009 World Series where he hit a home run, drove in 6 runs in Game 6, and was unanimously picked as the Series MVP. Matsui will don his old number 55 and officially announce his retirement. This day also coincides with the promotional Hideki Matsui bobble head day. It will be an honor for the fans in the stadium that day as they play the Rays (the last team Matsui played for) in the Bronx to witness the retirement of yet another great Yankee legend, known affectionately as “Godzilla”.

It just goes to show you that no matter how many other teams you may play for, or how many other uniforms you may don, once a Yankee, always a Yankee. Congratulations on your impending retirement, Matsui.

Go Yankees!

Game 53: NYM vs. NYY — Swept away

I suppose series sweeps are rather rewarding for teams not used to sweeping a series. It was unfortunate that today it was another loss to and thus series sweep by the Mets. And this is unfortunate because short of some minor struggles in the 2nd inning, starting pitcher Vidal Nuno was actually pretty decent through 6 innings. Nuno allowed only 3 hits, one was a 2-run home run to put the Mets on top. Shawn Kelley came into the game and pitched into the 8th inning, allowing a walk, who would eventually score on an RBI single off Joba Chamberlain.

But the Yankees offense couldn’t get past the Mets’ starter, who over 7.1 inning only allowed 4 hits and a solo home run by Robinson Cano in the 3rd inning, the only score the Yankees would get tonight. And honestly, there isn’t much to talk about on either side of this game. The Mets pitched well, and the Yankees pitched pretty well. It’s just one of those games.

On a lighter note, I came across this on Twitter tonight. The Empire State Building uses its outside lights to honor different parts of the city or different events that happen around the city every night, like red for Valentine’s Day, green for St. Patrick’s Day, purple when the Baltimore Ravens won the Superbowl, and red, white, and blue for patriotic holidays. And so to honor the Mets victory tonight, they lit the ESB blue and orange. And people noticed and used social media to make amusing remarks. This was my favorite:

So we may be coming to the end of high wave of the “no name” team, as witnessed by this 5th game losing streak and our drop to 2nd place in the AL East. And maybe the timing is right for this. Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis are making their way to the Bronx to be ready for the series against the team in 1st place in the AL East (Boston) this weekend. Perhaps the series of historic rivalries and the return of some of the standard players will do well to reinvigorate the team. (Also, what this says for who gets released or moved back to AAA is still speculation.) And Andy Pettitte is right behind them and should be scheduled to pitch on Monday against Cleveland.

I think the presence of veteran Yankees (is it weird that I can call Youkilis this?) will do wonders for the team. They bring the consistency and stability that the newer guys just haven’t fully found. It’s not their fault at all; it’s something they fall into. I heard someone say that chemistry of a team is forged when the team wins, and I think there’s some merit to that. You meld together fighting for victory and celebrated together as victors. But I think it’s in defeat and in slumps that is the test of a team’s camaraderie. And veterans bring that consistency through the highs and the lows. They rally the troops, as it were, to keep fighting because until the season’s over, it’s not over and there’s yet another battle to be fought. And right now, we’re missing a huge chunk of those veterans.

Speaking of veterans, Robinson Cano tweeted a picture today of his recently received “Lifetime Pass” from MLB; this means he and a guest have access to any major league baseball park in the country for life. It is a long-standing tradition that only a handful of players, coaches, scouts, and “friends of MLB” receive one as recognition for their impact and status in MLB history. A big congratulations to him.

Go Yankees!

Game 52: NYM vs. NYY — The streak continues

By the end of the 1st inning tonight, I wasn’t looking forward to writing this blog post. The unfortunate part about watching a pitcher having an off day is that there really isn’t much anyone can do to help him out, short of pulling him before he really does much damage to the scoreboard. Tonight was that kind of night for David Phelps. Normally, Phelps is by far one of the most reliable pitchers no matter where he has worked, as a starter and out of the bullpen. Tonight he managed one out in the 1st inning before Girardi mercifully pulled him from the game to begin working the bullpen. I should also note that at this point the Mets had scored 5 runs off Phelps. Yes, not exactly the greatest way to start a game.

The Mets continued to work through the bullpen facing Claiborne through the first two innings and Warren in the next two. Warren allowed 3 more runs over his 2 innings to run up the score to 8-0 Mets by the 5th inning. And then a seemingly stroke of genius was to put in Ivan Nova who worked his way through 5 innings, keeping the Mets scoreless until an RBI single in the 9th inning. Nova really put in a good outing, and had the first few innings played out differently, he would receive more recognition for his efforts.

The Yankees offense wasn’t really finding its place tonight either. Brennan Boesch, continuing to show the front office execs why he deserves a more permanent spot on the roster, struck first with a solo home run at the bottom of the 4th inning. (Defensively, he also stretched to make a nice running catch in the top of the 3rd.) In the 6th, the Yankees finally pierced the Mets defense again, at least momentarily. Hafner singles, Overbay hits a ground-rule double, Boesch (who ends up going 3-for-4 for the night) singles and scores Hafner, pop out, Jayson Nix singles and scores Overbay, a line out, and fly out to end the inning. And finally, in the 9th inning, down to their last out, Gardner singles and steals 2nd and scores on a Cano soft single to left field to score the final run in the 9-4 Mets game.

Honestly, it wasn’t the easiest game to watch, and not because the Mets were jumping ahead so quickly, but because the Yankees struggled to find the rhythm of the game for so long. I know the old adage that to hit for an average of .300 (considered a great batting average), you have to fail 7 out of 10 times you get up to bat. In fact, when I think about it, baseball is really a game that celebrates the little things you do and doesn’t harp on the enormous failures that follow every batter. But when I say celebrates, I should qualify that.

I was at a game recently where the crowd was applauding every strike their pitcher threw. Why did they do that? It wasn’t like it was the closer, where every pitch really counts for the save. It was their starter. And I could only think of two logical things. First, this must be their way of shoving the batter’s failure for not hitting the ball in the batter’s face. (It was that kind of crowd.) Or second, they saw so little success out of this team that every strike was seen as a micro-win. (It was that kind of team.) But cheering for someone doing their job (which is essentially what they were doing) is like cheering every time a receptionist makes collated copies or a janitor mops the floor or a nurse takes a temperature. Perhaps they are each good steps toward a job well done, but cheering and congratulations are for when the job is finished — which is why we applaud when a pitcher makes his way to the dugout later in the game after throwing 100 pitches (and usually 60+ strikes).

Maybe these are the same people who reward their children for doing every small task and believe that everyone should get an award regardless of accomplishment. I hated those awards when I was a kid, and I really hate the precedent they set as an adult. (Okay, if you’re one of those people who does this, I’m sorry if I offend you, but this is my blog so I get to have my opinions. You can leave your comments below.) Awards are meant to signify an accomplishment has been achieved. Not winning an award doesn’t have to say to someone who you are a failure, but instead that you need to try harder next time if you want recognition. Or you learn that all important lesson that life isn’t fair and someone will always be better than you at some things. It’s not fun, especially for those of us who like winning and like being the best, but it’s reality and it’s part of any sport and any life stage. Save the stickers, the bribes, the awards-for-nothing because all they teach your child is that they don’t have to work for anything because they are always entitled to a prize of some sort.

It’s not that hard to find out how many players have won various awards and recognition over the years, and in that same search, you can find out how many good players never get any awards. Why? Because sometimes, some people are just better at something than them. Last year, the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera won baseball’s Triple Crown because he had the highest batting average and the most runs batted in and home runs in the league. He also scored the annual honor of being named the AL MVP. But he didn’t hit the most hits (Derek Jeter did), and he wasn’t the best 3rd baseman (that went to Adrian Beltre in the form of the Golden Glove award). And I personally was rooting for another popular player (and a non-Yankee, sorry fans) to win the MVP, and he was one of the runners-up. So even though Cabrera got all the recognition for his batting, he still wasn’t the best at everything, and I can guarantee he would be one of the first ones to admit that.

We need more of that striving for excellence, but accepting of our own limitations in every area of our lives. What’s the old saying, “hope for the best, prepare for the worst”. And that, to me, sums up the entire game of baseball. Working toward the goal of the World Series championship, but if it doesn’t happen (and it won’t for 29 teams and 1160 players), life will go and preparations for next year’s journey to the championship begin a little earlier. But then again, maybe you do have what it takes to win it all. After all, we are the Yankees!

Go Yankees!

Game 51: NYY vs. NYM — Perfectus interruptus

Perhaps giving Mariano Rivera a job to do before the game, other than greet fans and accept parting gifts from opposing team, is a bad idea. Today, following a nice ceremony in which Rivera was gifted with an FDNY call box and hose nozzle by the Mets and the FDNY fire commissioner, the Mets asked Rivera to throw out the ceremonial first pitch to former Mets closer and legend John Franco.

Or maybe it was the 1 hour and 31 minute rain delay that shook everything up. But either way, today’ s loss was really unexpected.

There has been a lot of talk recently about the Mets starting pitcher (Matt Harvey) because of his 5-0 record so far this year for them. He is quickly filling in a much-needed spot of consistency missing from the Mets rotation in recent years. He kept the Yankees offense on their toes, striking out 10 Yankee batters over 8 innings and allowing a single run — an RBI single by Lyle Overbay to hit Brett Gardner home. Short of that, Harvey showed why National League batters seem to fear his pitching. But it was his replacement that earned the win because of what the Mets middle of the lineup power hitters pulled out of their hat in the 9th inning.

Starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda went 7 innings, keeping the Mets scoreless, limiting them to 4 hits and earning 7 strikeouts. Robertson continued the streak in the 8th inning, keeping the Yankees on top 1-0. And Gardner for the 2nd time in the series makes a fun jumping catch at the wall in the 6th inning to spare a Mets batter from putting something on the board at that point. Also in the 6th, Kuroda also picked off a runner at 1st base for the final out of that inning, which earned the wrath of the Mets’ manager who was quickly tossed from the game.

So when Mariano Rivera stepped onto the mount to preserve the lead and earn his 19th save for the year, things suddenly didn’t work. With no outs in the 9th inning, he allowed a ground-rule double, followed by an RBI single to blow the save opportunity. A throwing error by Gardner at the plate allows the runner to score and the batter to reach 2nd base. Again with no outs, the next batter singles out to right field and the runner at 2nd base scores easily for a walk-off single for the Mets win tonight 2-1.

Rivera has been perfect all year, so this blown save is unexpected. And it’s a shame really for both Rivera and for Kuroda who really had an outstanding outing today in Queens. And yes, it’s a shame for the Yankees to lose again, which keeps our team a solid 1 game behind Boston in the AL East.

Also Joba Chamberlain has been activated following his stint on the DL, which was made possible by designating recent acquisition David Huff for assignment. And Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis are on their way to AA Trenton for their rehab assignments. This means the corner infielders are on their way back into the regular lineup, but this also means that someone will have to go home on a more permanent basis within a couple of weeks.

That is certainly not a job I envy having to dictate people’s careers at the shifting of another person’s careers. I think of that scene in Moneyball, where the assistant GM is having to tell some player that he’s been traded and it’s harder on the assistant than it is on the player. I suppose some players get used to being shifted around like chess pieces. I think it would be harder on the person who has to give the bad news than it is for the person who has to receive it. But then again, I’ve never been on either side of that conversation.

Something tells me that however the pieces land, the Yankees will still continue to reach potentials unexpected of them this year because they are, after all, a team first. It’s the team that ultimately either wins or loses. It’s the team that makes the playoffs and the individual that watches them from his home in October. It’s the individual that has to have their name, their face, their trick plays on display, in the papers, and on fans jerseys for every game, and the team that celebrates every good play, hit, and personal victory. And while names and individuals will continue to be shuffled around, it’s the team that continues on whether the “names” are suiting up to play or the “no-names” are. Either way, they’re all Yankees, and once a Yankee…

Go Yankees!

Game 50: NYY vs. NYM — Subway Series Opening Loss

All across America today, the “natural rivals” began their split series against each other — like Los Angelenos flocking to Angels vs. Dodgers, San Franciscans to Giants vs. Athletics, Missourians at Cardinals vs. Royals, Buckeyes saw Indians vs. Reds, and the Windy City hosted Cubs vs. White Sox. But for New Yorkers today was the start of the Subway series, coined as such during the 2000 World Series (which the Yankees won, in case you could forget). They split the series 2 in Citi Field (the Met’s home field in Queens, just a stone’s throw from where Shea Stadium was until 2009), and 2 back in the Bronx.

Tonight’s starter Phil Hughes really did an outstanding job keeping the Mets scoreless, backed up by an outstanding defense. Even with a 1st inning triple off the back wall by Mets’ star 3rd baseman (and recently appointed captain) David Wright, Hughes only allowed 3 hits for the first 6 innings. It was a solo home run off Wright in the 7th that broke the Mets scoreless streak.

David Robertson, however, saw the most eventful 8th inning — a strikeout looking, a ground-rule double, a walk, a fielder’s choice that Cano threw to get the out at home, an RBI single, and Wright hit by the pitch (a minor delay, but he’s fine). Finally Logan was brought in to get the last out with a swinging strikeout. Robertson also earned his first loss, as the Yankees’ bats couldn’t hit off the Mets closer to score in the 9th.

The Yankees’ offense hit in the 6th inning, starting with a Brett Gardner triple. He easily scored on a Jayson Nix single to give the Yankees their only score of the evening. In total, the Yankees got 9 hits off Mets pitchers, but their defense just didn’t allow the Yankees to advance much past their initial hit.

Now, my favorite play of the night (and most of the people online and behind the sports desks agree) is from Brett Gardner, who continues to prove to the Yankees why he’s one of the best things to set foot in the outfield since the likes of Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams, Mickey Mantle, and Joe DiMaggio. In the 6th inning, with two outs, a Mets player snaps a long ball out to center field. Gardner follows it all the way to the ball way and jumps up to snatch it out of the air, stealing a 2-run homer from the Mets and ending the inning.

In honor of Memorial Day, the players donned desert camo-tinged uniforms — camo hats with their insignias and their jersey’s numbers and front names were filled in with camo instead of their regular team colors. The Yankees and many in Major League Baseball have been outspoken in their support of veterans’ projects like the Wounded Warrior Project, and the Yankees continue to find ways to honor American veterans who continue to serve and sacrifice every day across the world for us, including “God Bless America” during every 7th inning stretch at home and many away games.

And while it would’ve been nice to see the guys win, it was something to continue to see how more teams continue to recognize those who have dedicated their lives to the service of their country. On Memorial Day, we do take a day to remember those who have given their lives for this task and thank those who have served. But this is something we should do every day. We should always be grateful to those who spend their lives (sometimes at the cost of their own life) in the service to others. That’s why the Yankees’ 7th inning tradition is important, and taking a moment to thank a soldier you encounter is important. Not just on a single day of the year, but every single day. After all, they give their every single day for us.

And so, I say thank you to many of my family and friends who have served and those who are on active duty, serving across the globe. Your sacrifice isn’t forgotten; you are not forgotten; you are very greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Go Yankees!