Game 30: NYY vs. ARI — Shortly swept in The Valley of the Sun

I would make joke about Icarus or even the Great Pyramids about the city nicknamed the “Valley of the Sun”, but the weather in Phoenix hasn’t been that warm to merit the former and the latter is a bit too dark even though the Yankees ended up on a sour note on their plane ride home. Especially as the Yankees are still on a high from last night’s Sabathia milestone. And after such a great start to the road trip, it’s hard to call it a total loss.

It just wasn’t a good game, though the Yankees never stopped fighting. Starter Masahiro Tanaka had some trouble getting the Diamondbacks under control, limiting his outing to just 4 innings and 74 pitches, giving up 5 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and still striking out 6 batters. In the 2nd, a lead-off single moved to 3rd on a double and then scored on a single. A strikeout later, a wild pitch scored their second run. And a lead-off solo home run in the 4th added the necessary insurance run for the home team.

Tanaka handed the game over to Cessa who breezed his way through the 5th and 6th, setting a strong, scoreless pattern for Kahnle and Ottavino to close out the game. It was strong enough to allow for the Yankees’ offense to find some holes in the Diamondbacks’ pitching and defense.

Luke Voit led-off the 6th with a solo home run, making this his 41st consecutive game to get on base, tying Jeter’s total in 2000 and approaching several other Yankees (42 like Williams and Teixeira and record-holder Rodriguez’s 53). In the 8th, Voit led-off with a walk, moved to 2nd on Sanchez’s single, ended up at 3rd on a double play, and then scored on Mike Tauchman’s single. Voit was the sole run scorer of today’s game for the Yankees.

It’s worth noting that Aaron Boone earned his second ejection of the season in today’s game when the umpires refused to grant and then review a hit by pitch on Tyler Wade. The Yankees didn’t have a challenge to use, but the umpires quickly dismissed the entire idea. So Boone had some quiet words, questioning the call, but the umpire just turned his back and tossed him. So Boone had some not-so-quiet words before exiting the game. You decide.

Final score: 3-2 Diamondbacks, Diamondbacks sweep 2-0

Up next: The Yankees take tomorrow off to settle back home before hosting another home stand against the Twins and Mariners. Then, they take a brief trip down to visit the Rays for the weekend before heading back home to complete the home stand to host the Orioles and the Rays.

It’s a weird bit of this season’s schedule. And hopefully, they’ll head home with the earlier momentum of this road trip to face a long string of AL competitors.

Go Yankees!

Game 20: KC vs. NYY — #TanakaTime with some controversy & another injury

Well, this Saturday was certainly filled with some mixed results and emotions. The day began with the rain that lingered from last night, clearing up just before the game and would remain rather cloudy during this third game with the visiting Royals in the Bronx. Maybe that cloudiness should have been a sign for this game.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start today and had a really great outing. He threw 94 pitches in 7 innings, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and just 1 run, and struck out an impressive 7 Kansas City batters. His lone allowed run was a lead-off solo homer in the 6th. He certainly earned today’s win.

Jonathan Holder closed out the game for Tanaka with 2 solid innings. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo home run in the 9th inning to double the Royals’ score. But he and Tanaka were strong enough to carry the game and limit the Royals’ impact.

The Yankees’ offense was certainly strong enough to support their pitchers today. Aaron Judge kicked things off with a 1-out solo home run in the 1st inning, and Clint Frazier led-off the 2nd with a solo home run to jump the Yankees in an early lead they would never surrender this afternoon.

After a tumultuous, yet scoreless 3rd inning for the Yankees, they came back in the 4th to dominate. Ford led-off with a walk and moved to 3rd on Romine’s double. Then, Mike Tauchman continued his power show with a big 3-run home run into the right field seats. And DJ LeMahieu promptly followed that with a solo home run on the 1st pitch of his at-bat for a great show back-to-back home runs.

In the 6th, Tauchman worked a walk and moved to 2nd on Judge’s 1-out single. Judge winced a little and held his side, coming out of the game and replaced by Tyler Wade. With 2 outs, Gleyber Torres hit a single to scored Tauchman, and Frazier’s single scored Wade to keep the runs coming.

And in the 7th, Urshela led-off with a double and scored on Austin Romine’s single to cap off the Yankees’ big afternoon. A rather great combination of Yankee offense and pitching today paid off in the end.

Final score: 9-2 Yankees

However… there were also some sour notes this afternoon. In addition to Judge’s injury (more below), there was that bad call that soured the 3rd inning for the Yankees. LeMahieu led-off with a walk, and Voit hit a 1-out single. Then Gleyber Torres smacked a big hit that aimed right for the 1st row of the left field stands. It appeared to bounce off the hands of a fan in that 1st row, but the immediate assumption was that it was going to be a home run anyway, so the call was a 3-run home run.

However… that fan seemed to lean too far over the fence, and the Royals’ manager rightfully asked for an umpire review to determine if there was fan interference. As we all watched slow-motion video and discussed the possibilities, the common thought was that it was fan interference, which is normally an automatic ground-rule double.

However… the umpire review declared it was an out due to fan interference, the implication being that the Royals’ left fielder would have made the out as he jumped to lead over and rob the home run away from Torres. And the world erupted. Well, the social media world did. And believe me, I was right there with them.

Now, the left fielder is a good player, but I just don’t think he was that good to be able to really disrupt the natural trajectory of the ball that was clearly heading out of the park. That fan interference was a bad move, but it wasn’t really interfering with the left fielder as much as it did with the ball leaving the park.

Of course, we weren’t alone in this thought. Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone was livid at the overturned call too, bounding over to the umpires in just a few large steps. Within seconds, Boone got his first ejection of the season, and the fans were 100% behind him. The players were too, as that just propelled them to get 7 more runs as Boone watched from the clubhouse.

Injury update: That 6th inning injury to Aaron Judge is a big blow to the team. Judge came up from the swing clutching his side, only to be diagnosed with an oblique injury. He was sent to New York Presbyterian in the City for further testing, including a potential rehab trajectory. This will make 13 players on the IL, as there’s no way Judge will avoid the IL at this point. There will be more we know tomorrow.

But for some good news, it looks like the Yankees will be getting Gary Sanchez back this next week. He is set to play a minor league game Monday, fly to Anaheim to meet the team on Tuesday, and then will play on Wednesday. Though, to be fair, Higashioka and Romine have certainly been doing a great job in his absence, proving how great the catching depth is on the Yankees.

Chag Pesach Sameach (Happy Passover) this week to those who observe.

Go Yankees!

Off-season bits: February edition

The groundhog said it would be an early Spring, something easily laughed at by the majority of the country buried under snow at the time. Of course, Spring never actually “comes early”, as according to the vernal equinox, it won’t officially be Spring until March 20. But in the baseball world, thanks in part to the climate of the Sunshine State (and Arizona), Spring always comes a bit earlier.

Major League Baseball is celebrating its sesquicentennial. In 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first salaried professional baseball team thus seen as the start of what became Major League Baseball. To honor this anniversary, all 30 teams will wear a special patch on their jerseys this entire season. It previously honored the 100th and 125th anniversaries in 1969 and 1994, respectively. Happy birthday, baseball.

And in what has to be the smallest alteration to the roster this season, Yankees’ reliever Zach Britton officially altered his name to Zack Britton. I’m not sure where the fluff up began as his legal name is actually Zackary Grant Britton, which means that Zack would make much more sense as a nickname than Zach. And as someone who’s had a few nicknames, mostly alterations of spellings, getting people to correctly address you and spell your name right is quite the ordeal. I’m still not sure why. So, welcome to the Yankees, Zack.

Speaking of new roster blood, the Yankees signed another reliever to fill David Robertson’s vacant spot after he signed with the Phillies. Adam Ottavino, previously with the Rockies for the last 7 seasons, is set to help provide a further veteran arm in the bullpen and in the clubhouse. Ottavino is joining former Rockies’ teammates like Tulowitzki and LeMahieu in pinstripes this year. Interestingly, Ottavino usually wears #0 on his jersey, so he requested to wear the final single digit available as a Yankee. It will be quite something to see a single digit on a Yankees’ jersey this year.

Yesterday, all pitchers and catchers were to report to camp, and today, they had their first workout session of the season. Manager Aaron Boone held his first press conference of the year yesterday afternoon, discussing many of the roster changes, the substitutes and competitions for spots, and surgeries and injuries this off-season. Gary Sanchez had shoulder surgery in the off-season, but he is recovering well enough to start the season and Spring with no delay.

However, Jacoby Ellsbury is one of those who will be delayed into camp this year. Though position players don’t report until Monday (Feb. 18), his recovery has been delayed by plantar fasciitis after his surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. He missed all of last season due to an injury plagued year and was hoping for a triumphant return to what could be the first of his final two years in baseball (or what’s left on his contract with the Yankees).

And Dellin Betances will be a little delayed as his wife Janisa gave birth to their first child, a son they named Dellin Betances Jr. yesterday. They are a little busy being new parents, but the new father will join the team once mother and son have been discharged from the hospital in a few days. A big congratulations to the new family.

Who’s really stealing the show in this final off-season bit is CC Sabathia. Sabathia will be announcing his retirement at a press conference Saturday, calling a close to his long career after this season, his 19th in the major leagues. And thus begins his own farewell tour, which will include a trip to the UK for the much-anticipated series against the Red Sox, but follows his health and personal struggles including knee surgeries, a stint in the heart this off-season, and dealing with his alcoholism.

Add in a storied post-season career and a legacy of community outreach through his PitCChIn Foundation, Sabathia is ready to hang up the cleats in dramatic fashion. This will probably include hitting a major milestone — 3000 career strikeouts, something he will do with just 14 more big strikeouts, which by my best guess could be as early as late April. It will be quite the celebration for the retiring legend, and what a way to go out.

And in honor of what would have been Jackie Robinson’s 100th birthday, Sabathia visited the Jackie Robinson School in Brooklyn (P.S. 375) to connect with the kids there and talk about Robinson’s legacy of service and activism. Upon reflecting Robinson’s life and legacy as he saw in the students there, Sabathia said that he just wants “[to] be strong and deal with adversity. Just sitting here and listening to the kids chanting his name — he would be 100 years old today. That legacy is what all players want. That’s something you can’t accomplish on the field. It’s something you have to do off the field, leaving your name for kids and organizations to deal with after the fact.”

But looking forward to this Spring, there are 40 men on the regular roster that are contractually required to be there. And every year, the team extends an invitation to others in the organization to attend camp and see if they can earn a spot or promotion or just recognition. This year, the Yankees invited 23 non-roster players — 12 pitchers, 4 catchers, 3 infielders, and 4 outfielders. (Note: the original article was written prior to 2 additions to the invitee list on Wednesday.)

Welcome to camp: pitchers Rex Brothers, Nestor Cortes Jr., Cale Coshow, Danny Coulombe, Phillip Diehl, Raynel Espinal, Danny Farquhar, David Hale, Drew Hutchinson, Michael King, Brady Lail, and Trevor Stephan; catchers Kellin Deglan, Francisco Diaz, Ryan Lavarnway, and Jorge Saez; infielders Mike Ford, Kyle Holder, and Giovanny Urshela; and outfielders Trey Amburgey, Billy Burns, Estevan Florial, and Matt Lipka.

So if you recognize a few of those names, you’ve been following the Yankees closely. If you are excited to see how those have progressed in the last year, you and I are in the same boat. I think Spring Training is always one of my favorite times of the year because you get a first-hand look at the future of the club, the future of baseball really.

And if that future gives you hope, then it’s all worth it.

Believe me. It’s always worth it.

Go Yankees!

Off-season bits: January edition

Happy 2019! It’s only 30 days until pitchers and catcher report to the Tampa minor league complex and officially kick off Spring Training and the 2019 baseball season. There hasn’t really be a lot of splashy signings by the Yankees this off-season, and it looks like the two biggest free agents will be signing elsewhere. But there’s still quite a bit of time before Spring Training, and even more time before the regular season to finalize that perfect 25-man roster.

Last month, CC Sabathia’s off-season took a bit of a detour. He was supposed to travel around England on a press tour for the upcoming Yankees-Red Sox series in the UK this summer, but instead found himself on the operating table getting a stent put in his heart. After experiencing some discomfort during his exercise routine, he was smart enough to listen to his body and see a doctor, who found a 90% blocked artery and scheduled an emergency angioplasty on December 11.

Just last week, he was cleared to resume baseball activities and is on track to report for camp next month with the other pitchers and catchers. Doctors have pronounced him in excellent condition, including for the long-term (much to the relief of his wife and family). Sabathia himself said he felt “like a brand new person“. This procedure is just further support for Sabathia’s recent lifestyle changes — abstaining from alcohol and altering his diet and nutrition intake, something he hopes can carry him through the rest of his life, deterring any future issues with his genetic predisposition for heart disease.

Meanwhile, the Yankees haven’t made any big name signings, but they have secured three decently recognizable names to their major league roster. To provide back-up for Didi Gregorius while he recovers from Tommy John surgery, the Yankees signed shortstop Troy Tulowitzki for a year.

Formerly with the Rockies and Blue Jays and winner of two Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers, the five-time All-Star is now 34 and has been inactive for the last 18 months due to a plague of injuries, but was released by the Blue Jays despite owing him a hefty salary for the next two seasons. Tulowitzki has worn #2 in honor of his childhood baseball hero Derek Jeter for his entire MLB career, so it will be interesting to find out what number he’ll don as Jeter’s famous number was retired nearly three year ago.

They also signed free agent infielder DJ LeMathieu to a 2-year contract. LeMathieu has spent all 8 of his MLB seasons with the Rockies at 2nd base and will join his former teammate on the Yankees roster. Both LeMathieu and Tulowitzki could serve as rather active bench players through the season as part of the now full infield.

And the Yankees made the biggest impact by re-signing reliever Zach Britton to a new 3-year contract (potentially 4 if options are exercised), solidifying his presence in the already stellar bullpen with fellow closing relievers like Betances and Chapman.

To make room for the two new faces, the Yankees designated reliever AJ Cole and minor league infielder Hanser Alberto for assignment. Both were picked up quickly by the Indians and Orioles, respectively.

At the end of last year, the Yankees offered all arbitration-eligible players a 1-year deal to close out their contract agreements before the players have the potential to become free agents. Eight players agreed to the Yankees’ terms — Betances, Bird, Gray, Gregorius, Hicks, Kahnle, Paxton and Romine. The remaining player, Luis Severino, is still in negotiations as of this weekend, which can continue until a hearing is held where an arbitrator makes a decision how much a team must pay a player.

And for those of you that pay attention to other sports, you might know that as of yesterday, there are only four teams left in the NFL playoffs. Next weekend will eliminate two more so that the winners of those two games will end up playing in the Superbowl next month. But none of those teams are the Seahawks. And despite playing in the Pro-Bowl (the NFL’s equivalent of the All-Star Game), the current most famous NFL-MLB player, Seattle’s star quarterback Russell Wilson, is preparing for his stint at Spring Training again. He made a big splash with the fans last year with his single at-bat (and strikeout) and is set for six days in camp with hopefully a better game performance.

Next month, Miguel Andujar, Didi Gregorius, and Aaron Boone will bring their star power to the annual Thurmon Munson Awards dinner. The three are being recognized for their philanthropy and active community involvement, in the spirit of the dinner’s namesake. Former Yankee Darryl Strawberry will also be on hand to present an award, and other sports stars and executives are being honored for their life of giving.

And finally, Yankees icon Mel Stottlemyre lost his battle with bone marrow cancer yesterday. The former pitching coach helped guide the 1986 Mets to their championship before being a critical part of the last Yankees dynasty, coaching legends like Pettitte and Rivera, spending a decade with each team.

Initially diagnosed in 2000, the cancer went into remission following intensive treatments before returning in 2011. The Yankees eventually honored him in a surprise presentation with a plaque in Monument Park in 2015 on Old Timers’ Day, surrounded by fellow legends. Our hearts go out to all of his loved ones, especially his wife Jean and their sons Todd and Mel.

Go Yankees!

Game 137: DET vs. NYY — Sunday split

Well, that was messy. I know I’ve said it a lot on here in the six years that I’ve been keeping this blog, but the old saying is so quite true — “if you don’t got pitching, you don’t got anything.” And it’s games like this afternoon’s game that proves that mantra’s eternal truth.

Lance Lynn just couldn’t find his momentum in today’s finale against the Tigers. He threw 82 pitches into the 4th inning, gave up 9 hits, a walk, and 6 runs, and struck out 6 Detroit batters on his way to today’s loss. In the 1st, a 1-out triple easily scored on a 2-out single to get the Tigers’ big afternoon started.

With 1 out in the 2nd, he gave up a single that moved to 2nd on another single and then scored on a double. But when a walk loaded the bases, their great defense kicked in and got a double play to end the threat. Then in the 4th, Lynn repeated the action — 2 singles and an RBI double. Then another double scored 2 more runs for the visitors.

And with that, Lynn’s outing was over. Tommy Kahnle came in to try to stem the tide but promptly gave up a 2-run home run. He then handed the ball over to Sonny Gray for the next 4 innings. Gray had a better outing than most of the other Yankee pitchers today, limiting the damage to just 4 hits, a walk, and a run over through the 8th inning. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo homer in the 6th.

Stephen Tarpley got the chance to close out the game in the 9th inning. But even he had some issues. He loaded up the bases with a double and 2 walks with 2 outs. Then he gave up a couple of singles to score 3 more runs. Yankee pitchers gave up a total of 17 hits. It was just not pretty.

But it wasn’t like the Yankees were completely shut out of the game. Aaron Hicks got things started early, with a 1-out solo home run in the 1st. Andujar then doubled and scored on Gary Sanchez’s single (good to have him back on the roster). Luke Voit added his own impact with a solid 1-out solo home run in the 4th.

Held to those runs for the bulk of the game, the Yankees found their next shot in the 8th. McCutchen led-off the inning by getting hit by a pitch, moved to 2nd on Hicks’ walk, and then scored on Miguel Andujar’s single. They later loaded up the bases with 2 outs and a new reliever, and Neil Walker’s short single just scored Andujar. But a fly out left the bases loaded.

So, with just 3 outs left, the Yankees had one last shot to chip away at the Tigers’ lead in the bottom of the 9th. But the Tigers’ closer (and former Yankee) got a quick 2 outs. The Yankees came back and loaded up the bases with Hicks’ walk, Andujar’s single, and Sanchez’s walk. Gleyber Torres hit a nice single to drive in both Hicks and Andujar. But a strikeout closed out the game without

Final score: 11-7 Tigers, and they split the series 2-2.

Next up: The Yankees hit the road and head out to the West Coast for 3 games against the Athletics starting tomorrow. Following an off-day on Thursday, they begin a weekend series in Seattle before a series against the Twins. After another off-day/travel day, they will return home for a 9-game home stand, their final home stand of the season. Then, the Yankees will end this season on the road with 7 games.

And Aaron Boone watched today’s game from a suite instead of the dugout due to his punishment from his ejection on Friday. He had some issues with the strike zone and made a much-discussed show of why he disagreed with the home plate umpire’s calls. Due to his “display”, the league opted to suspend him a game and fine him as punishment. Bench coach Josh Bard served as interim manager for today’s game.

Roster moves/injury updates: Before today’s game, the Yankees continued their September roster expansion by recalling reliever Jonathan Loaisiga from AA Trenton. It also looks like Didi Gregorius may be headed back to the line-up sometime next week, hopefully when the team plays Seattle next weekend. His bruised heel is making a recovery and Gregorius continues treatments and working out with the team as the injury will allow.

Go Yankees!

Game 135: DET vs. NYY — Late inning heroics, ejections, & MVP additions

There is always a lot of talk about the official trade deadline at the end of July, but there is another deadline just a month later that also shake up rosters in that final September push towards October baseball. And the Yankees weren’t exactly on the sidelines in this game either, but before I mix any more sports metaphors, they also had a game to play tonight.

Luis Severino got the start in this second of four games against the visiting Tigers and actually had a decent outing despite getting a no-decision tonight. He threw 102 pitches in his 6 innings, gave up 6 hits and 3 runs, and struck out an impressive 10 Detroit batters. A 2-out solo homer in the 4th got things started for the Tigers, and with runners at the corners in the 5th, a 2-out triple added a few more runs.

While the Yankee batters were held off for much of the game, they came back raring to go in the 6th. Romine led-off the inning and was allowed on base thanks to a sloppy fielding error, but he was thrown out on Torreyes’ grounder (and failed double play). Brett Gardner hit a monster 2-run home run to get the Yankees on the board, and 1 out later, Aaron Hicks hit the tying run, a solo home run deep into the right field seats. Miguel Andujar pushed the Yankees ahead with another solo home run into the left field seats.

But the Tigers took advantage of a pitching change and Jonathan Holder’s recent struggles to tie up the game, who gave up a couple of singles. Zach Britton came on to try to stem the Tigers’ attempt, but promptly gave up a single. The lead runner scored just before the other runner got tagged out trying to get to 3rd to end the inning. The game was tied again.

Britton continued on in the 8th inning and quickly loaded up the bases with 2 singles and a walk, but only allowed a sacrifice fly to score the go-ahead run for the Tigers before getting out of his own jam.

So, in the bottom of the 8th inning, the Yankees came back once again. Gardner led-off with a double, Hicks worked a 1-out walk, and Voit got a 2-out walk to load up the bases. The Tigers went back to their bullpen and that certainly helped the Yankees.

Gleyber Torres singled home both Gardner and Hicks, ending up at 2nd on the throw, and putting the Yankees back in the lead. The Tigers intentionally walked Walker to re-load up the bases before Austin Romine’s single scored that insurance run for the Yankees.

And David Robertson had a bit of issues in the 9th, but came through with 3 solid strikeouts to earn the save and close out the game.

Final score: 7-5 Yankees

Okay, so I went back and looked at the biggest contention of the game — the strike zone, which got both managers thrown out of the game at various points. Aaron Boone had enough of low balls being called strikes that he actually went out to the plate to prove his point, miming the difference between when a catcher catches a strike vs. when he catches a ball. Following some choice words, Boone was tossed in the 5th.

But then the Tigers’ manager found his way to the clubhouse in the 8th involuntarily after arguing a similar argument. To be fair, it was a little wonky tonight. It certainly was inconsistent. The first half of the game favored the Tigers, but then the second half (after Boone’s ejection) favored the Yankees. I mean, it’s frustrating enough when it’s a bad strike zone, but it’s tolerable when it’s at least consistent. That’s the issue here.

And in the much-talked-about news, the Yankees added a few new faces to the Yankees roster. Just tonight, they added infielder Adeiny Hechavarria in a trade with Pirates for a player to be named later or cash considerations. Hechavarria also played with the Marlins and Rays until joining the Pirates this season.

And last night, the Yankees really made a splash by picking up veteran outfielder Andrew McCutchen. “Cutch” was a popular player with the Pirates for years before joining the Giants this season. He had to shave his trademark goatee, but this former MVP will add the much-needed depth to the outfield with Judge still out with his wrist injury and Stanton battling lingering hamstring issues. But it doesn’t mean that they’re worried about the status of Judge, just that they now have enough power and defense regardless of who’s on the roster and who’s on the DL.

Go Yankees!

Game 94: NYY vs. CLE — Messy 6th inning, plus a “Little League Home Run”

The tight games in Cleveland continue in this third of four games this weekend. Both teams trying to pad their winning seasons before the All-Star Break. While the Indians are the only winning team in their division (and thus the leaders), the Yankees are in a constant battle with the Red Sox for the lead (though the Red Sox are on quite the winning streak recently). Tonight certainly helped, but the Red Sox won again too. So it’s rather as-is in the AL East.

CC Sabathia got the start for the Yankees tonight, throwing 92 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 4 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs and struck out just 2 batters along the way. He gave up a 2-out solo home run in the 1st, and then a lead-off single in the 3rd stole 2nd and moved to 3rd on one ground out before another ground out scored that runner.

In the 6th, with 1 out, he gave up a single and a walk and a ground out moved both runner to scoring position. They both did so on a long, messy single that was complicated by a couple of off-center and late throws attempting to get a few outs on the bases. That was the end of Sabathia’s night, and he turned over things to David Robertson.

After a walk, Robertson got the final out of the inning and then breezed through the 7th. Betances followed that up with a beautiful scoreless 8th inning, and Chapman’s 9th inning delivered a fairly efficient save, his 26th save of the season.

The Yankees actually kick-started their offense in the 1st inning. Gardner led-off the game with a walk and moved to 2nd on Judge’s single. Then Didi Gregorius hit a big 3-run home run up the middle. They defended that early lead through much of Sabathia’s outing, not adding to that until the questionable 6th (see below). With 2 outs, Greg Bird hit a big solo home run into the right field seats.

The Indians tied up the game in the bottom of that inning, of course, and it would be up to an unlikely source to break the tie and score the Yankees’ winning run in the 7th. Austin Romine technically led-off the inning with a double. But a fielding error had him jogging for 3rd, and the cut-off man threw the relay to 3rd into the dugout which allotted Romine home base. In other words, really sloppy defense gave Romine an inside-the-park homer, or more commonly dubbed a “Little League Home Run“. Not something you expect to see at this level, but still entertaining as it is with 8-year-olds instead of 28(ish)-year-olds.

Final score: 5-4 Yankees

Okay, let’s discuss that 6th inning. It all started with Giancarlo Stanton’s at-bat. A called strike and a foul got him down in the count 0-2 quickly. Then the next pitch hit his hands as he swung at the ball and missed. But the ball bounced off his hands as if it were a foul ball. It wasn’t a direct call right away. I think even Stanton thought it was a foul (and thus an extra 2nd strike), but as he was stepping back into the box, the umpire decided it was an out.

Stanton immediately questioned the call, Boone questioned the call, even the broadcasters questioned the call. After a brief umpire huddle, the home plate umpire just told them all that was the call and maintained his call. Boone let him have it, got ejected, and kept fighting. He thought it should at least be a foul. Honestly, I thought it was a hit-by-pitch. And questionable hit-by-pitches are open for review and replay. They didn’t, and Bird’s no-doubter home run just an out later felt a little like justice.

Now, I had to dig really far into the official rule book (you can download your own copy here). Rule 5.05(b)(2) states that “if the ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a strike, whether or not the batter tries to avoid the ball. If the ball is outside the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a ball if he makes no attempt to avoid being touched… When the batter is touched b a pitched ball which does not entitle him to first base, the ball is dead and no runner may advance.” And Rule 5.09(a)(6) states that “a batter is out when… he attempts to hit a third strike and the ball touches him.”

The reason I cite both these is because they are the two rules social media commentators used to justify the call in that 6th inning. And while I think one can make a case for the latter rule, the “3rd strike” was really inside and not in the strike zone. Yes, he swung at it, but it hit him. And most other times this happens, the batter is awarded 1st base as a hit-by-pitch. I just wonder how often this “rule” is enforced.

While it does seem intent on preventing the old trick of stepping into a pitch to get on base (though that does still happen on occasion, if we’re being honest), I don’t think this is the kind of call or play they had in mind. Perhaps, tonight’s call will be something they discuss at next year’s winter meetings as they continue to readjust the operating rules of the game. If the intent is to keep fair ball and player safety a priority, they can’t exactly promote a rule that intentionally punishes potentially and accidentally hurt players. Though Stanton didn’t seem to suffer from the hit, the next player might be hit worse.

Bird and Romine’s runs helped even out the bad call and slide the game into the Yankees’ favor, so it’s hard to stay “hurt” by the call. However, just because it didn’t “hurt” in the end doesn’t make it a good, fair, or just call. Because one day, that kind of call could make the difference in a crucial game, let alone seriously injure a player. And no one wants either of those scenarios.

Go Yankees!