Game 90: TOR vs. NYY — Slow Saturday falls short

As the Southeastern US gets a battering by Hurricane Barry (stay safe!), it’s a beautiful sunny, warm day in the Bronx as the Yankees hosted their second game of this weekend series against the visiting Blue Jays. It was actually kind of a lazy Saturday afternoon for baseball, with somewhat strong pitching, but super strong defense.

JA Happ got the start for the Yankees, throwing 89 pitches into the 6th inning. He gave up 5 hits and a walk, was responsible for the Blue Jays’ 2 runs, and struck out 5 batters. He actually held them off until that final inning. With 1 out, he gave up 2 singles to end his outing this afternoon.

Adam Ottavino took over for Happ and got a great strikeout. Both runners then stole their next base to put themselves into scoring position. The next batter singled both of them home for the only runs the Blue Jays would score today.

Cortes sailed his way through the 7th and into the 8th, with Britton closing out the 8th in just 4 pitches. Hale’s scoreless 9th kept the door open for a Yankees’ last-minute rally.

The Yankees still racked up 8 hits and 3 walks off Blue Jays’ pitchers. Their starter only lasted 2 innings due to an injury, but the rest of the bullpen stepped up to guard against the Yankees’ offense for most of the game. Their biggest opportunity came in the 5th when the Yankees loaded up the bases, but a final out to the center fielder ended that chance.

Aaron Hicks led-off the bottom of the 9th with a walk. Two outs later, DJ LeMahieu singled to put the tying run on base. Beyond just wanting to win today’s game, the Yankees were also facing the end of their streak of not being shutout. But then Aaron Judge singled Hicks home to get the Yankees on the board. An inside strikeout later, the game was a loss, but the no-shutout streak is still alive.

Final score: 2-1 Blue Jays

Roster moves: Before today’s game, the Yankees activated Luke Voit from the 10-day injured list. Voit had been dealing with lower abdominal strain, using the All-Star Break to work out at the minor league complex in Tampa. To make room, they optioned infielder Breyvic Valera back to AAA Scranton.

Finally, a Happy Birthday to DJ LeMahieu! The 31-year-old All-Star infielder is having quite the banner year, leading the Yankees in batting average (.330), hits (114), doubles (21), runs scored (65), and RBIs (64). Plus, he’s a stellar infielder, with outstanding defensive plays like today.

Go Yankees!

Game 89: TOR vs. NYY — Strong shutout opens second half

The Yankees finished the first half strong, leading the AL and heading straight for the postseason. After a good showing at the All-Star Game, the Yankees needed to come out strong in the second half without any rust from the break. So, they started this second half and this home stand with a shutout against a division rival to keep things rolling for good.

Domingo German got the start and earned his 11th win of the season in this first game against the visiting Blue Jays. He threw just 78 pitches through 6 scoreless innings, giving up just 3 hits and striking out 7 Toronto batters. Kahnle continued his momentum with a scoreless 7th, and Green closed out the final 2 innings with more scoreless-ness.

The Yankee offense was slow to start against the Blue Jays’s pitching. It wasn’t until the 5th that they cracked on the board. Brett Gardner led-off with his 66th career triple and then scored on DJ LeMahieu’s ground out. Then, they loaded up the bases with Judge’s single, Hicks’ double, and Sanchez’s hit by pitch. Edwin Encarnacion’s double, just inches from a grand slam, smacked a big bases-clearing double to ensure the Yankees’ victory.

While the Yankees didn’t add any more to their score, they certainly didn’t need to with their strong pitching and defense.

Final score: 4-0 Yankees

Yankee Universe new: Yankees radio announcer John Sterling is back on the air after his much-needed break. He celebrated his 81st birthday just before the All-Star Break and stayed home for the final series against the Rays before the break. Sterling had a long, unbroken streak of calling 5,060 straight Yankees games for over 30 years. Now that the streak is broken, the 81-year-old legend and “Voice of the Yankees” will take more breaks from his job, perhaps even stepping back from the away games to stay closer to his New Jersey home. Still, it will always be a good thing to hear him call a game.

Go Yankees!

2019 All-Star Game

Today, the American and National Leagues met for the 90th All-Star Game, hosted this year in Cleveland at Progressive Field. The players arrived at the field with their families on the red carpet, looking stylish, greeting cheering fans, and posing for pictures. After a weekend of fan festivities and a rather eventful workout day and Home Run Derby, everything was leading up to this one exhibition game.

And for the seventh year in a row, the American League came out on top. This year, that was mostly due to their stellar pitching, AL pitchers collecting 16 total strikeouts on their road to victory. And the Yankees were represented on the field and on the mound, earning significant recognition for their efforts.

The AL hitters also got on the board first. In the 2nd, Bregman (Astros) hit a 1-out single and then scored on a double by Brantley (Astros). And the Yankees’ own Gary Sanchez led-off the 5th with a double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and scored on a single by Polanco (Twins).

The NL finally broke through the AL’s pitching in the 6th with a big 2-out solo home run up the middle by Blackmon (Rockies). But the AL came back in the 7th. Chapman (Athletics) worked a walk, got to 3rd on McCann’s (White Sox) single, and then scored on a double play incurred by Bogaerts (Red Sox). After the only mid-inning pitching change of the game, Gallo (Rangers) smacked a 1st pitch solo home run into the right field seats.

But the NL made their best effort at a rally in the 8th, loading up the bases with a walk to Grandal (Brewers), a single to Dahl (Rockies), and a 1-out walk to DeJong (Cardinals). After a strikeout, last night’s Home Run Derby champion Alonso (Mets) singled home the 2 lead runners to put the NL within a run. The remaining runners staged a double steal to move into scoring position, but a pop-up foul and great catch by McCann (White Sox) ended the NL’s hopes.

That, and an absolute stellar outing by Aroldis Chapman to close out the game and earn the save. Chapman needed just 12 pitches to breeze through his 3 batters for 3 great strikeouts to shut down the NL’s hopes of a comeback.

Final score: 4-3 American League (further bits from the game here)

The powers that be decided that the All-Star Game’s MVP would be Cleveland’s own Shane Bieber. Bieber threw a 19-pitch scoreless 5th inning to strikeout the side, meaning he struck out all 3 batters he faced. The remaining crowd in Cleveland cheered on their hometown reliever, becoming the 3rd All-Star Game MVP to win in their own park (Pedro Martinez won in 1999 in Boston, and Sandy Alomar won in 1998 in Cleveland.) While Bieber did have a great outing, he wasn’t on my list (which was led by Chapman and Gallo), but then I don’t have a vote.

The Yankees were quite the contributors to the AL victory in the Midsummer Classic tonight. Offensively, it was a mixed bag. DJ LeMahieu went 0-for-2, Gleyber Torres got a single to lead off the 8th in one of his 2 at-bats, and Gary Sanchez went 1-for-2 with that lead-off double in the 5th and scored a run in that inning.

Defensively, Sanchez held his own behind the plate for the first half of the game, catching his battery mate Masahiro Tanaka through a scoreless 2nd inning and earned the eventual win. And I’ve already mentioned Aroldis Chapman’s great 9th outing and earned the save. They become the first Yankee teammates to earn the win and the save in an All-Star Game in over 70 years.

In a fun moment in the game, after his first two quick outs, Chapman was visited at the mound by CC Sabathia, who enjoyed stealing a moment of the game just to say hello to his teammate. It made Chapman laugh, and he sailed his way to victory on a swinging strikeout.

So, we can all blame Sabathia, who also threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Indians’ legend Sandy Alomar before the game. Maybe he was the true MVP all along…

Go Yankees!

2019 Home Run Derby

With no Yankees in this year’s Home Run Derby, especially following up on Aaron Judge’s monster showing in 2017, it was with some reluctance to tune in to tonight’s festivities. With no “horse in the race”, it was actually a lot easier to pick my favorites in each round. As with every year, the players go to great lengths to prove why they deserved to be in the Home Run Derby. But this year, some players decided to break records to do so.

A quick reminder: The Home Run Derby is set-up into brackets (like the college football playoffs), placing a pair of players to face off per round and the winners advancing to pair off with each other. Eight players down to four, to the final two, until there’s a winner that will walk away with that trophy and $1million in prize money.

Round 1 was actually fairly usual for the Derby, and each pair facing off was mostly well-matched, with a single exception. Joc Pederson (Dodgers) started the Derby off with 21 home runs over the 16 hit by Alex Bregman (Astros). Vladimir Guerrero Jr (Blue Jays) broke records for Round 1, with a power show of 29 homers over the Derby’s last-minute replacement Matt Chapman (Athletics) with just 13. Ronald Acuna Jr hit 25 to defeat Josh Bell’s (Pirates) 18. And the 14 runs by Pete Alonso (Mets) edged out home town hero Carlos Santana (Indians), who fell short at 13.

But it was the semi-finals round that left everyone talking. 20-year-old rookie (and potential Rookie of the Year) Vladimir Guerrero Jr faced off against Joc Pederson. It was like a never-ending game of “HORSE” — Guerrero would hit a ridiculous amount of runs, Pederson would tie it up at the last minute, and they’d go into overtime. Three times. After the initial time, they went into a 30 second extra time, and then two rounds of 3-swings baseball. In the end, Pederson only hit 1 of his last 3 swings, falling short of the young power-hitter 40-39. And yes, that was another record set in the Home Run Derby.

The other pair had Pete Alonso getting a last-minute extra run over Ronald Acuna Jr to advance to the finals with 20-19. After the show in the previous pairing, this one seemed rather mundane. And because Alonso hadn’t endeared himself to the crowd by defeating their own star player, there was mixed response to Alonso’s entire journey tonight.

Both players are rookies this year, but that young enthusiasm was just oozing out tonight. However, they were both exhausted by the time they hit in the final round, which showed as both hit more potential doubles than home runs in all the contact they made. After Guerrero set an impressive standard with 22 homers, a few short of what much of his cheering crowd was hoping for, Alonso came in and hit his 23rd home run in the last few seconds of his time. It was almost as if Alonso needed the push to challenge him to go further.

At the end of it, it was Florida-native and Mets’ rookie first baseman Pete Alonso (and potential NL Rookie of the Year) hoisted the trophy at the end of the night, accepting the million dollar prize money with some of it earmarked for charities like Wounded Warrior Project and Tunnels to Towers.

It is worth noting that Vladimir Guerrero Jr is the son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero Sr. Senior played mostly for the Expos and Angels, was a 9-time All-Star, the 2004 AL MVP, and 8-time Silver Slugger before retiring in 2014 and elected to the Hall of Famer in 2018 with 92.9% of the vote. He also participated in 2 Home Run Derby competitions — 2000 and 2007. He won the 2007 Derby, making Senior and Junior the only father and son duo to ever both be Home Run Derby champions, though partly because of the newer format, Junior crushed 91 total runs compared to his father’s 19.

It was certainly an event that left everyone talking. Something baseball fans, regardless of team loyalties, will reminisce about for years to come. It can only mean good things for the coming All-Star Game tomorrow night, but it also means that people are certainly enjoying their time in Cleveland, a city that certainly needs the boost.

Go Yankees!

Game 88: NYY vs. TB — Sleepy Sunday to close out the first half

For all the drama from the first three games of this series, this afternoon’s finale was quite mundane in comparison. James Paxton got the start for the Yankees today, throwing 99 pitches through 6 innings. He gave up 7 hits and 2 runs and struck out an impressive 11 Rays’ batters.

In the 1st, a lead-off double scored on another double. A single moved that runner to 3rd before a fielder’s choice scored the Rays’ second run. After that, the Yankees held off the Rays for the rest of the game. Kahnle, Ottavino, and Green each took 2 outs to close out the final 2 innings of the game and keep the Rays’ from adding to their early lead.

Unfortunately, the only shot the Yankees’ offense got was a 2-out solo home run in the 2nd by Brett Gardner. Collectively, both pitching staffs got 27 strike outs today, and that seemed to make quite a bit of difference by the end of the game.

Final score: 2-1 Rays, the series is split 2-2

Next up: The All-Star Break is officially underway for those not traveling to Cleveland. On Friday, the Yankees will begin the second half of the season with a long home stand against the Blue Jays, Rays, and Rockies. They’ll hit the road again to face the Twins and Red Sox.

Today, in Cleveland, as part of the All-Star Game festivities, there are two exhibition games scheduled for fans — the Celebrity Softball Game and the Futures Game. The Futures game features some of the best prospects within the minor league system. The Yankees are represented by a single player, pitcher Deivi Garcia of AA Trenton Thunder. The players used to be divided into American and World teams, but more reflective of the game on Tuesday, they now simply represent the American and National Leagues.

On Monday, the players will meet the media, workout at Progressive Field, and then have fun watching the Home Run Derby. Then Tuesday is the main event — the 90th Annual All-Star Game. In addition to Sabathia’s honoring, the Yankees are represented by Chapman, LeMahieu, Sanchez, Tanaka, and Torres. So, there’s a lot for Yankee fans to see this next week.

Go Yankees!

Game 87: NYY vs. TB — #CCStrong, despite offense falling short

The Rays are certainly doing their best to try to claw their way up from 2nd place in the AL East, giving the 1st place Yankees quite a challenge this weekend. In this 3rd game of the 4-game series, things were looking rather similar to the first 2 games before the Yankees were edged out by the home team.

Actually, the Rays seemed to answer back for every Yankee offensive game. After the Yankees scored at the top of the 2nd, 7th, and 9th, the Rays scored in the bottom of each of those innings to shift things in their favor. It was quite the roller coaster for the fans in the packed stadium in St. Petersburg this afternoon.

CC Sabathia was rather good today, throwing just 89 pitches in his 7 innings. He gave up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs and struck out 5 Rays’ batters. In the 2nd, Brett Gardner hit a nice 2-out solo home run to get the Yankees on board first. So, the Rays took advantage in the bottom of the 2nd. A 1-out walk moved to 3rd on a single and then scored on a 2-out single to tie up the game.

The teams held each other to that tie for most of the game. Urshela led-off the 7th with a single, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, advanced to 3rd on a double play, and then later scored on Aaron Hicks’ single. With 2 outs in the bottom of the 7th, the Rays got a single that scored on a solid 2-run home run to flip the score into their favor.

Adam Ottavino breezed through a scoreless 8th inning, and Aaron Hicks smacked a 2-out solo home run in the 9th to tie up the game again. So, Chad Green got the chance to send the game into extra innings again, but with 2 outs, the next batter hit a big walk-off solo homer to give the Rays their first win of the weekend.

Final score: 4-3 Rays

Roster moves/Scranton Shuttle: The Yankees selected the contract of reliever Daniel Camarena to add a fresh arm to the roster this weekend. They optioned infielder Mike Ford to AAA Scranton to make room.

Masahiro Tanaka is now part of the All-Star roster. A pitcher from the Blue Jays went on the IL with a shoulder issue, so Tanaka got the call to replace him today. Tanaka was previously chosen in his rookie season (2014), but a UCL sprain kept him from the field. He is now the 5th player that will represent the Yankees on Tuesday in Cleveland, in addition to CC Sabathia who will be present to receive special recognition.

Go Yankees!

Game 86: NYY vs. TB — A little Judge, a big Gardner

The Yankees continue the drama before the All-Star Break in this second game of the 4-game weekend series. Of course, to the nearly packed Tropicana Field, it was just more of the same that fans always encounter when the Yankees come back to the Tampa area to face the Rays. Amusingly dubbed “Yankee Stadium South”, it’s one of the few times a year that the stadium is usually at capacity, and the stands are packed with Yankee fans overwhelming those in Rays’ gear.

Masahiro Tanaka threw 101 pitches to start tonight’s game, throwing into the 7th inning. He gave up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs, and struck out 5 Rays’ batters. He held off the home team for the first part of the game, giving up lead-off solo home runs in the 4th and 5th innings to get the Rays on the board.

Then in the 7th, with 1 out, he gave up a double that moved to 3rd on a wild pitch walk. That was the end of Tanaka’s night, handing the ball over to Nestor Cortes Jr, but he loaded up the bases by hitting his first batter. After another out, the next batter singled home two runners, but the next runner got caught trying to take 3rd when the Yankee defense snapped into action.

The Yankee offense actually started the game, with a 1-out solo home run by Aaron Judge in the 1st inning. After the Rays tied it up, the Yankees came back in the 5th to retake the lead. Torres singled, and one out later, Gardner and Romine’s singles loaded the bases. Mike Tauchman’s single scored both Torres and Gardner.

Again, the Rays came back, so the Yankees needed to close the gap. So it would be Aaron Hicks to lead off the 8th inning with a solo home run. Then Cortes had a much better outing in the 8th, with a perfect inning. And David Hale came out for the 9th to keep things going, so into extra innings the game went once again.

It wasn’t until the 11th that the tie was broken. Aaron Judge got things started with a 1st pitch lead-off solo home run. Two outs later, Torres singled, and Urshela doubled to move runners into scoring position. Brett Gardner then smacked a big 3-run home run to ensure the Yankees’ eventual win.

Of course, even that was not without some drama. After Hale kept the Rays scoreless through the 10th, he was back out for the 11th. With 1 out, he gave up consecutive singles. That was enough of a threat for the Yankees, and they called in Aroldis Chapman. After he got another out, he walked the next batter to load up the bases. But the next player lined out directly to 1st to give Chapman his 24th save.

Final score: 8-4 Yankees, in 11 innings

As part of next week’s All-Star Game festivities, MLB announced that they will be honoring CC Sabathia. Sabathia began his career in Cleveland, the host to this year’s Midsummer Classic, so it only makes sense to recognize how far the retiring star pitcher has come. Though not selected for the roster, Sabathia was planning on attending the game anyway, but this honor certainly makes his sort of homecoming a different level of celebration.

In a statement, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said, “We are delighted that CC and his family will join us in Cleveland, where his Major League career began. We look forward to celebrating his many accomplishments during our All-Star Game festivities.”

Go Yankees!