Game 148: TOR vs. NYY — Falling just short of a comeback

After yesterday’s wipe-out of the Blue Jays, the Yankees certainly continued the dramatics in the middle game of the weekend series. CC Sabathia got the start tonight and after a quick 3 outs in the 1st got roughed up for the rest of his brief outing this afternoon. He threw just 50 pitches into the 3rd, gave up 7 hits and 5 runs, and struck out only 2 batters.

In the 2nd, Sabathia gave up a lead-off solo homer on the 1st pitch to get the Blue Jays started. With 1 out, the next batter singled (as it was deemed after an overturned challenge), moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, then to 3rd on a single, and scored on another single. After another out, another single scored the lead runner for another Toronto run.

Then with 1 out in the 3rd, Sabathia gave up consecutive solo home runs to call an end to his afternoon. Chad Green was called on to replace him and started keeping things in check, holding the Blue Jays scoreless into the 5th inning. And Holder closed out the 5th and threw a solid 6th inning to keep the momentum going.

The Yankees, meanwhile, were also being held off, mostly by the Blue Jays’ starter, who only gave up 2 hits in his 5 innings and struck out 10 Yankee batters. It wasn’t until the 6th that they broke the Jays’ stranglehold on the scoreboard. Didi Gregorius led-off the 6th with a solo home run into the right field seats, making this his 2nd consecutive season with 25+ home runs. Then despite loading up the bases, the Yankees left them stranded again, failing to capitalize on these easy opportunities to chip away at the Jays’ lead.

Tommy Kahnle came on for the 7th inning and struggled his way through, loading up the bases. A great play by the defense got the lead runner out at home on a ground out. After a great strikeout, Kahnle gave up a 2-RBI single to expand the Jays’ lead. He turned things over to Stephen Tarpley, who gave up a single to score one more run.

The Yankees found one more big chance to make an impact in the bottom of the 7th. Giancarlo Stanton liked the 1st pitch he saw and sent it deep into the left field seats for his 34th home run of the season.. After a pitching change and 1 out, Didi Gregorius again smacked a solo home run to edge the Yankees closer.

Another out later, Torres doubled, Walker walked, and another new reliever walked Voit to load up the bases once again. This time, Miguel Andujar made the difference — a big grand slam to put the Yankees within a single run.

Betances and Britton each gave up a 9-pitch inning to close out the game, waiting for the Yankee batters to pull a last-minute comeback rally. It was not going to happen today.

Final score: 8-7 Blue Jays

Yankee Universe encompasses much of this nation, being “America’s Team”. But recently, one of their farm teams found themselves in the path of a major disaster. Yesterday, Hurricane Florence made landfall along the Carolina coastline. The Charleston River Dogs, the Yankees’ Single-A minor league team, finished their season earlier this month. But so many people are still under the hurricane’s destruction as it lingers and creeps itself up the coast.

David Robertson’s foundation, High Socks For Hope, has a history of helping with disaster relief, like after tornadoes, Hurricane Harvey in Texas last year, and other major disasters in the southeastern U.S. Today, they announced that they will be accepting monetary and practical donations to help, if you would like to be generous.

Our prayers are with those still under the thumb of the hurricane and in its path.

Go Yankees!

Game 147: TOR vs. NYY — Big home blowout + #TanakaTime

Sometimes, it’s good to be back in your own surroundings. The fans in the stands are in familiar regalia, the cheers makes sense with the plays, the smells and sounds are just right. It’s part of why people put a lot of stock in “home field advantage”. Not because there’s anything particularly “lucky” about your home turf, but because players are familiar with how things work and that surrounding familiarity knocks out distractions and helps them focus on the game. At least, that’s my theory.

Tonight’s game rather supported that. Especially when you throw in an opposing team that is really having a string of so-called “bad luck” recently. And Masahiro Tanaka was on point in tonight’s weekend opener against the Blue Jays. He threw 90 pitches in 6 scoreless innings, gave up 4 hits and 2 walks, and struck out 8 Toronto batters to earn his 12th win of the season.

Luis Cessa continued Tanaka’s great start with 3 scoreless innings of his own, adding 4 more strikeouts. And according to the rules, he earned the save for pitching those final 3 innings. (Statistics are rather complicated sometimes.)

The Yankee batters, meanwhile, had quite the field day in the Bronx. Every starting player got at least 1 hit, and every starter either scored a run or hit a run in, though most did both. The Blue Jays’ pitchers just couldn’t figure out how to pitch to the hot Yankee bats tonight.

In the 1st, McCutchen led-off with a double, and Stanton walked. Aaron Hicks’ single scored McCutchen, and a late throw allowed both runners to move into scoring position. After an out, Didi Gregorius hit an easy grounder that allowed Stanton to score, and Gleyber Torres’ single scored Hicks. After Sanchez singled to join Torres on base, Luke Voit hit both of them home with his double.

With a solid lead, the Yankee hits kept coming. In the 3rd, Gregorius was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Voit later worked a 2-out walk. Brett Gardner’s single scored Gregorius and signaled the end of Toronto’s starter’s night. The new reliever loaded up the bases with McCutchen’s walk before giving up a single to Giancarlo Stanton that scored both Voit and Gardner.

Andrew McCutchen led-off the 5th with a solo home run (his 1st homer in Yankee Stadium ever, by the way), and Didi Gregorius followed his example with a lead-off solo shot in the 8th. Then, with 1 out in the 8th, Sanchez doubled and was pinch-run by Higashioka. Voit reached on a fielding error, moving Higashioka to 3rd. Then Brett Gardner hit a long fly ball out to center that scored Higashioka, but they ended up catching Voit off 1st for a delayed double play to end the inning.

Final score: 11-0 Yankees

Roster moves: Good news, Yankee Universe! Today, they activated Aaron Judge from the Disabled List. His wrist’s chip fracture is healed to the point where he could come into tonight’s game late to run and play defense, but he’s not going to be hitting just yet. They want that 100% swing back without any residual pain from the power-hitter before they pencil him in the lineup. But take today’s activation as a good sign of progress.

And earlier today, the kids at PS 71 in the Bronx were treated to a fun surprise. The PitCCh In Foundation, founded by CC and Amber Sabathia, hosted a special event to celebrate the beginning of the school year. While CC was on “daddy duty”, Amber hosted Yankee stars Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks to have some fun with the local students (including a dance party with a live DJ) and hand out backpacks filled with school supplies to help the kids start the new year right, much like they did last week in California (where the Sabathias grew up).

Gregorius also considered today’s outreach as part of his #DidisDeeds, his random acts of kindness campaign wherever he is, including in Toronto in July. These guys are just amazing in how they represent the Yankee spirit of excellence and character on and off the field.

In that spirit, Sabathia is the Yankees’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, an annual award to honor those players who embody excellence and character on and off the field. You can vote for Sabathia and read more about all the other nominees and how they’re impacting their communities.

Go Yankees!

Game 146: NYY vs. MIN — Deny a no-hitter, have a pitchers’ duel, and still lose the game

“Baseball will punch you in the mouth now and then.” (Aaron Boone, tonight)

That sentiment feels about right as the Yankees wrap up this road trip and head back home for their final home stand. The Yankees actually played really well in their final game against the Twins, and somehow were outplayed by a team having that random better week.

Luis Severino threw 83 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up just 4 hits and 1 run, and struck out 5 batters. In fact, he held off the Twins’ batters for most of the game. Until the 6th inning, Severino only gave up a single hit in the 1st before keeping the Twins’ offense rather silent. With 1 out in the 6th, he gave up a single that scored on a double. Another single put runners on the corners, and a strikeout allowed one runner to move to scoring position.

With that threat looming, that was it for Severino. David Robertson came in and got a quick grounder to end the threat. He came back out in the 7th and got 2 quick outs before getting into a spot of trouble himself. A double scored on a single, and that runner scored on a double. But then he got a stellar strikeout to stem the Twins’ offense. And Zach Britton threw a flawless 12-pitch 8th inning to reset the earlier game momentum.

The Twins sent in a familiar face for the Yankees, a former foe from an AL East team, signed this year to the Twins after 5 seasons with the Rays. And he held the Yankees to a no-hitter for 7 innings. Though he still gave up a couple walks along the way, he hadn’t allowed a hit, frustrating the Yankee batters.

In the 8th, with 1 out, he gave up a walk to Luke Voit. And on the 120th pitch, Greg Bird knocked a solid double to score Voit, break his no-hitter bid, and end the shutout. That was it for the Twins’ starter’s night, a standing ovation from the home team fans, and the Yankees left Bird stranded at 2nd through 2 relievers and 2 strikeouts. Andujar hit a 1-out single in the 9th, but again, the Yankees stranded him there as the Twins’ reliever earned the save.

Final score: 3-1 Twins, Twins win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees head home tomorrow on their off-day/travel day. Then they will host the Blue Jays for the weekend. After a final off-day on Monday, they will host the Red Sox and Orioles to complete their home stand. A final road trip will include 4 games against the Rays and 3 games to close the season in Boston.

That means that the Yankees face all 4 of their division rivals for the last 16 games of the season. With the Athletics breathing down their necks in the Wild Card race, the Yankees need to take advantage of their position within the division to advance and get some space to ensure their October spot.

Injury news: It looks like Aroldis Chapman could be back very soon, maybe early next week. After some promising sessions in the Tampa complex, the Yankees brought Chapman back to rejoin the team for his final workouts to see his progress in person. His lingering issue with knee tendonitis finally moved him to the DL at the end of last month to focus on healing.

Aaron Judge got some legitimate batting practice in today, with one of the regular BP groups before the game. They expect he will continue to do this before Friday’s game back at Yankee Stadium. They won’t send him to a rehab assignment, as the RailRiders (AAA) are making a push for their league’s postseason, though there is some talk about giving him some simulated-type games and other workouts at the Tampa complex.

And if you’ve been wondering where Brett Gardner is, the veteran outfielder has been out for the last two games due to some right knee inflammation. On Monday, he dove for a line drive in the 2nd inning and fell awkwardly on his knee. While not an injury that requires any DL time, the Yankees are allowing him to rest and recover while keeping him available off the bench. Fortunately, the Yankees have a ton of current help thanks to the September call-ups.

Speaking of the call-ups, the Yankees recalled pitcher Chance Adams from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre today. Every little bit counts in the Yankees’ final push towards that postseason. Fingers crossed, everyone.

Go Yankees!

Game 145: NYY vs. MIN — Big offense falls short against big offense

In a game where a team can make great defense plays and hit some major offense, it’s unfortunate when the other team can do the same, despite being below .500 and officially eliminated from the postseason. But the reality is that most teams under .500 aren’t there because they’re terrible (well, a few of them are). They’re having a losing season because they’ve been inconsistent.

Inconsistency will sink a team every time. They go through really terrible streaks at the worst possible times in the schedule, and hit those random highs in the weirdest times, usually against teams they should lose easily to. Let me also clarify that the Yankees have moments of inconsistency, but they have not been consistently inconsistent. It’s why they’re still very much in the postseason picture, though the A’s are just 2 games behind them now in the Wild Card race.

Sonny Gray was called on for a spot-start in this middle game against the Twins and had a tough go of it. He threw 63 pitches in his 3 innings, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 3 runs (2 earned), and struck out just 2 Minnesota batters. He did hold off the home team until the 3rd inning. He loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a single. A passed ball scored the lead runner and moved the other runners into scoring position, something they did on a 2-RBI single, before he got out of the inning.

Jonathan Loaisiga took over in the 4th, but even he had issues against the Twins. In the 4th, a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a ground out and then scored on a 2-out double. But it would be the 5th inning that combined for the real blow to the Yankees tonight. Loaisiga loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a single before giving up another walk to score the lead runner and a 1-out single scored another.

So with bases loaded, Loaisiga responsible for all the base runners, it would be Tommy Kahnle to the mound in the relief. But a missed pitch became a monster home run grand slam over the center field wall to ensure the Twins’ eventual win. After a single, the Yankees’ defense kicked into gear and got a great double play to end this terrible inning.

Stephen Tarpley had the best outing of the Yankee pitchers tonight, throwing 2 solid, scoreless innings. All the while, Yankee Universe was hoping for a bit of a late-inning comeback rally.

The Twins also pieced together their pitching staff tonight, matching the bullpen-heavy names on the Yankee pitching roster. But the Yankees made every effort to not just hand the victory to the Twins (despite what happened above). They got on the board first in the 2nd when Didi Gregorius hit a 1-out triple and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s sacrifice fly.

After the Twins’ big 5th inning, the Yankees had their own big inning in the top of the 6th. With 1 out, they loaded up the bases with Hicks, Andujar, and Stanton. The Twins went to their bullpen again, and the new pitcher promptly gave up a home run grand slam to Didi Gregorius, his 2nd career grand slam.

Riding high on that, the Yankee offense were looking to continue that momentum in a late-inning rally. It just never came. The Twins’ final 2 pitchers in the last third of the game kept the Yankees off the bases, thus away from their large lead.

Final score: 10-5 Twins

I would post about the status of the postseason. However, while the AL is a bit more clear-cut, with the biggest competition happening in the AL West, the NL picture is really competitive with 8 teams still competing for a wildcard spot, and 6 of those with a legitimate chance. The AL may be set soon as the final 2 weeks of games within the division approaches. But the NL is going to go down to the wire.

Finally, I want to once again recognize the lives and legacy of the men and women we lost 17 years ago on this day in New York, D.C. and Pennsylvania. We honor your memories again today and pray for your families as they continue to find their “new normal” with your daily absence. We will never forget.

Go Yankees!

Game 144: NYY vs. MIN — Big win in the “Mini Apple”

The Yankees kicked off their series in dramatic fashion, bringing a little “Big Apple” power to the “Mini Apple”. Yes, as a sort of play on its name, Minneapolis is actually nicknamed the “Mini Apple”, something I didn’t know until today despite always thinking of its pronunciation as such. But it also works well when comparing another fruit-based nicknamed city, like New York.

JA Happ got the start in tonight’s final interdivisional opener. Yes, it’s the last regular season series between the Yankees and a team not in the AL East. And it’s a shame because tonight’s game is proof that they kind of rock playing around the league this season. Happ threw 91 pitches in his 6 scoreless innings to earn his 16th win of the season.

In fact, Happ and the Twins’ starter had a bit of a pitchers’ duel for the first half of the game. Happ came out on top because the Yankees broke through on the back of Gary Sanchez’ 2-out big solo home run in the 6th inning. After giving up a walk to Bird right after that on his 118th pitch, the Twins’ starter called it a night and handed the ball to his first reliever, who gave a walk up to Torres but then stranded both runners.

But the Yankees had that slight lead and came back in the 7th against the Twins’ bullpen that didn’t seem to know what to do with them. First, McCutchen and Hicks each walked and then collectively scored on Miguel Andujar’s double. Giancarlo Stanton doubled to score Andujar, and the Twins brought in a new reliever. But then he gave up a double to Didi Gregorius that scored Stanton, and the Twins went back to their bullpen.

Sanchez’s single and Bird’s walk loaded up the bases, and Gleyber Torres’ single kept them loaded, scoring Gregorius. After finally getting an out, a strikeout, the Yankees went back to the top of the batting order and McCutchen’s sacrifice fly score Sanchez. Hicks’ walk loaded up the bases again, but a line drive out left them loaded.

But the damage that inning was done, which helped as Luis Cessa came on in relief for the Yankees. After a decent bottom of the 7th, his 8th inning was a bit of a struggle. With 1 out, he gave up 2 singles. A double scored the first runner, and a ground out scored the second. After a wild pitch moved the last runner to 3rd, Cessa buckled down and got a great strikeout to end the little threat.

Jonathan Holder made quick work of the 9th inning, sailing through with just 8 pitches to close out the game.

It’s worth noting that the Yankee batters got 11 hits and 10 walks, meaning 21 base runners tonight. It’s not unusual for the team with the highest number of base runners to get the highest number of runs. It does happen from time to time, usually because of some great defensive plays or out-of-jam pitching. But comparatively for tonight, the Twins got 10 hits and no walks. Sometimes, stats do matter.

Final score: 7-2 Yankees

Gary Sanchez’s big 6th inning home run was the third longest Yankee home run this season, coming in at 460 feet. He comes behind Judge’s 471 foot homer (May 23 in Texas) and himself with a 461 foot homer (May 4 against Cleveland). And tonight’s homer was just his 16th of the season thanks to his 2 stints on the DL for injuries. It’s a good reason to remember why Sanchez is still a key part of the Yankees, despite whatever other stats follow his name.

Go Yankees!

Game 143: NYY vs. SEA — Mariners stay afloat but sink series

The Yankees say “farewell” to the West Coast with a disappointing end to their series in Seattle this afternoon, despite the team doing its best to attempt a solid sweep of the Mariners on their home turf.

CC Sabathia got the start and had a decent outing today, throwing 84 pitches in 5 innings, giving up 7 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and striking out 4 batters. In the 1st, with 2 outs, he gave up 2 singles to get runners on base, and then 2 more singles to score both runners to get the Mariners on the board.

Chad Green came on for 2 solid innings to continue Sabathia’s good start, but Dellin Betances had a minor blip in his 8th inning that made all the difference. He gave up a lead-off walk that stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt, and then scored on a fielder’s choice.

The Yankees actually got on the board first in the top of the 1st. Stanton hit a nice 1-out double and then scored on Miguel Andujar’s double. After the Mariners took the lead in the bottom of the inning, the Yankees came back in the 4th to tie up the game. First, they loaded up the bases with singles to Walker, Voit, and Torres. Then 2 outs later, Andrew McCutchen worked a walk to score Walker.

But after the Mariners re-took the lead in the 8th, the Yankees had a frustrating 9th inning, including the very rare ejection of Brett Gardner. Gardner had issue with the strike zone, something he was actually right about, by the way. But Gardner’s last ejection was back in 2014, and he’s a pretty even-keel guy.

Final score: 3-2 Mariners, Yankees win the series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees are on their way to Minnesota for a 3-game series against the Twins. After a travel day on Thursday, they will head back to the Bronx for their final home stand, 3 series against division rivals, before a final road trip against more division rivals to wrap up the season.

Injury update: Unfortunately, the lingering wrist injury of Aaron Judge has been causing some recent pain to return. His recent swings in the batting cages have caused some increased pain, something you don’t really want to deal with when you’re supposed to be coming back from an injury. That said, it means that his return time has been less assured. It also means that he may miss the rest of this season. Only time will tell over these next few weeks.

Go Yankees!

Game 142: NYY vs. SEA — Yankee homers edge out victory

It’s about the time of the season when the teams really reveal who they are, who they’ve really been the whole season. It’s the time when teams are solidly eliminated from the postseason and focus on just finishing on an upswing. It’s the time when teams still in competition for the postseason are in a final push to ensure their spot for October baseball. And many players start vying for spots both on postseason teams but also on next season’s rosters.

Lance Lynn got his shot to try to show the Yankees who he can be to them, and tonight, in the middle game of this weekend series in Seattle, he had a pretty good outing. He threw just 76 pitches through 6 innings, giving up just 3 hits and 2 runs, striking out just 2 Mariners’ batters.

A lead-off solo homer off his first pitch in the 3rd was his first allowed run. But he held the home team off for much of the game. The other one squeaked by in the 5th. With 1 out and a runner at 1st, a grounder moved that runner to 2nd before he raced home on an RBI single.

But once he handed the game off to the bullpen, Lynn was ensured the win. Britton and Robertson each took an inning and kept the Mariners at bay. (By the way, they are the only MLB team where this phrase is an actual pun.) Dellin Betances earned his save the hard way, giving up a walk and single in the 9th to threaten the Yankees’ lead, but Betances’ strikeouts stunned the Mariners and sealed the deal.

The Yankees’ batters faced off against the Mariners’ former ace who used to stun opposing teams, but he was having an off-night against the visiting Yankees tonight. Andrew McCutchen, clearly proving how much he loves SafeCo Field, hit a lead-off home run in the 1st inning off that ace starter. That was also McCutchen’s 2nd run in as many days. Perhaps, he should misplace his luggage more often?

After the M’s tied up the game, the Yankees found their next opportunity in the 5th. Brett Gardner led-off by working a walk and then stole 2nd. McCutchen followed him by also working a walk. And that would be the end of the Mariners’ starter’s night. But his reliever didn’t help things. A passed ball moved the runners up to scoring position. And Giancarlo Stanton’s sacrifice fly easily scored Gardner to give the Yankees back the lead.

Then after the M’s tied up the game again, the Yankees looked to an unexpected source to put them back on top. Austin Romine hit his 10th homer of the season, a 1-out solo home run in the 7th inning. Romine becomes the 10th Yankee to his 10 or more home runs this season. This also moves the Yankees up to 232 collective homers this season, far in 1st over all other MLB teams and just 32 short of the record (by the 1997 Mariners, coincidentally).

But for an insurance run, the Yankees pieced it together in the 9th inning. Andujar led-off the inning by being hit by a pitch and pinch-run by Wade. (He’s alright, by the way, a little shaken up and sore, but a speedy substitution to get the run was a good idea in the end.) Hechavarria’s single moved Wade to 3rd so that he could score on Gleyber Torres’ sacrifice fly, the Yankees’ 51st sac fly this season (for all you trivia nerds).

Final score: 4-2 Yankees

In an interesting and random bit of trivia, the Yankees on quite the streak. Based on the fact that there’s only 20 games left of the season, they can officially say that they have 26 straight years of winning seasons. That means this particular streak is older than Andujar, Holder, Loaisiga, Severino, Tarpley, Torres, and Wade, and as old as Bird, Cessa, Cole, Judge, Sanchez, and Torreyes. In other words, for all these current Yankees, the Yankees have always been a winning team. And that is rather impressive.

Go Yankees!