Game 98: COL vs. NYY — Hall of Fame Weekend thankfully overshadows Sunday’s loss

Sure, the focus was on New York this afternoon. Just about 190 miles north of the Bronx. And on yet another hot summer day, one setting of Yankees clearly overshadowed another. I’m not sure anyone is disappointed by that today.

In the final game of this home stand and in the weekend series against the Rockies, the Yankees struggled their way through the scorching afternoon that just didn’t pan out like the earlier games thanks to a combination of sluggish pitching and defense and offense. Basically, the Yankees didn’t play well, and they added mental anguish to the physical oppression of the humid atmosphere.

James Paxton got the start and threw 77 pitches into just the 4th inning. He gave up 5 hits, 3 walks, and 7 runs (only 4 earned runs) and still struck out 6 Colorado batters to earn the inevitable loss. Things got off to a bad start when his first batter smacked his 2nd pitch into the right field seats. But then Paxton sailed his way through 6 outs. So things were looking up. For a moment.

In the 3rd, he loaded up the bases with a walk, a bunt and fielding error, and a single. After a strikeout, a double scored 2 runs before a fielder’s choice out kept runners on the corners. A walk loaded the bases again, and a long single scored 2 more runs. After a walk and 1-out single put runners on the bases that ended up in scoring position due to slow defense, the Yankees went to the bullpen.

Chad Green’s first batter hit a ground-rule double that scored both runners. But then Green settled into that strong pattern he’s known for and carried the game into the 6th inning. Ottavino kept things scoreless through 3 outs overlapping the 6th and 7th innings.

Stephen Tarpley closed out the 7th and pitched through the 8th. But he found a bit of trouble in the 8th. He gave up a lead-off walk that moved to 3rd on a 1-out double. After another out, he loaded up the bases with an intentional walk. But a passed ball moved all the runners up and score the lead runner. Chapman’s 9th inning wasn’t a save opportunity, but he efficiently worked through it with 18 pitches.

Like I said, things were looking up earlier in the game for the Yankees. Including tying up the game early with a 1st pitch solo home run shot to lead-off the 1st by DJ LeMahieu. Then down by quite a bit, Mike Tauchman’s 2-out solo home run in the 5th doubled the Yankees’ score.

In a last-ditch effort, the Yankees got one more chance on the scoreboard in the 8th. Tauchman led-off by working a walk. Two outs later, Aaron Hicks launched a 2-run home run deep into the 2nd deck of the right field seats to again double the home team’s score. But that was all they could piece together today — runs scored on small homers.

Final score: 8-4 Rockies, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees hit the road for a week-long road trip. They will play a midweek series at the Twins starting Monday, and then head back to the East Coast for a 4-game weekend series against the Red Sox. They will then head home for another home stand against the Diamondbacks and Red Sox.

Meanwhile, in upstate New York, Yankees fans were in full force to celebrate their Yankee alumni and legends as they were officially inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. And 58 Hall of Famers (including Joe Torre, Reggie Jackson, and Hank Aaron) packed the stage to watch the festivities as thousands of fans basked in the sunny, clear skies to witness the festivities in Cooperstown as six very special men were honored.

Bernie Williams opened the afternoon by playing the national anthem on his guitar in his smooth signature musical style. He later came back to play “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, much to the delight of the crowd. Then, Yankees’ pitcher Mike Mussina kicked off the festivities, setting a familiar pattern of sharing stories from his childhood and playing days and honoring those special people and his family that helped him along the way.

Brandy Halladay, wife of the late pitcher Roy Halladay, spoke next in honor of her husband’s honor. Halladay split his career between the Blue Jays and Phillies and settled in the Tampa Bay area (near where both teams host Spring Training), before passing away in a tragic plane crash off the Florida coast in November 2017. His teenage sons following in his footsteps in high school sports, and his eldest Braden was recently drafted by the Blue Jays though he will continue on to Penn State first.

Mariners’ legendary power-hitter Edgar Martinez finally made it into the Hall after being selected in his 10th and final year on the ballot. Fans from his fellow Puerto Rico were thrilled to see their hometown hero honored and cheered on as he specifically thanked them in Spanish.

White Sox designated hitter Harold Baines and Cubs’ closer Lee Smith were selected by the Today’s Game Era Committee in December. Often overlooked by the original ballot rounds, Baines and Smith rightfully join the rest of their inductees on the stage and in the Hall today.

Finally, after a brief video introduction by former teammate and friend Andy Pettitte, Yankees legendary closer Mariano Rivera was inducted in the Hall of Fame, taking his turn to tell his story. He began by thanking God, his wife and sons, his parents and family, and the Yankees organization and fans. Rivera was graciously intentional as he told his story of persevering — from his try out for the Yankees, to learning English in the minors, to being sent back (along with Jeter) after his initial call up, to finding his rightful home as the Yankees’ closer. He closed out his speech with a flurry of gratitude for his family and friends in Panama, spoken in Spanish for their benefit and enjoyment.

{Media note: Further video clips can be found here for future perusal. I will add more within the post as they become available for wide release.}

Next year’s ceremonies will be July 26, 2020, and could feature names like Jeter, Soriano, Abreu, Giambi, Lee, and Beckett (in addition to repeat names like Pettitte, Bonds, Vizquel, Ramirez, and Sheffield). It could be an even larger class than the fairly “large class” of 6 for each of the last 2 years.

Go Yankees!

Game 97: COL vs. NYY — The Yankees are hot, and so are their bats

I should begin by saying that while, yes, it is summer, it’s really ridiculously, unseasonably hot outside for most of the United States right now. At 1 pm in the Bronx (first pitch), it was 94° F and sunny and only got hotter as the game went on, as temperature generally peak around 3 pm.

To be fair to the visiting team, they’ve been dealing with higher than average temperatures in their home town too. Basically, this oppressive heat continues, so take care of yourselves, America. We’re in this together, sweating and hydrating and pushing through until this “heat dome” breaks and we can breathe again.

And yet, there’s still lives to be lived and baseball to be played. Masahiro Tanaka got the start in today’s game, the middle game of this weekend series against the Rockies, and pretty much sailed his way through his first 5 innings. He threw just 47 efficient pitches, giving up just 2 hits. But his 6th inning was a doozy. With 1 out, a single that scored on a RBI double. After giving up a walk, a 3-run home run planted the Rockies firmly on the board. Then a double scored on a long single. Before some good defense and a strikeout got Tanaka out of the inning.

Now, that would be really bad except for the fact that the Rockies are really not good. And that allowed the Yankees to grab an early large lead to cushion anything that might trip up Tanaka’s otherwise quality start. In the 1st, LeMahieu led-off with a single and scored on Aaron Judge’s double to kick off the Yankees’ offense today.

Didi Gregorius led-off the big 2nd inning with a double and promptly scored on Gleyber Torres’ single and a throwing error that finished with Torres sliding into 3rd base. (That messy Rockies’ defense.) Austin Romine’s single easily scored Torres, and after a strikeout (the first out of the inning), Romine stole 2nd. Then, walks to LeMahieu and Judge loaded the bases. Aaron Hicks singled and scored Romine, and Edwin Encarnacion’s double scored LeMahieu and Judge.

That was the end of the Rockies’ starter, but their bullpen didn’t have much luck against the Yankees either. In the 4th, Hicks walked, and after an out, Luke Voit was hit by an errant pitch right on the jaw. Understandably, he was a bit shaken up as he took 1st base, but he stayed in for rest of that inning. Didi Gregorius’ single scored Hicks, and Torres’ long single scored both Voit and Gregorius.

After the Rockies chipped away at the Yankees’ lead, the Yankees found another opportunity to widen that gap again. In the 7th, Gardner led-off with a walk, moved to 3rd on LeMahieu’s single, and then scored on Mike Tauchman’s fielder’s choice. After a strikeout and pitching change, Encarnacion singled home Tauchman to cap off the Yankees’ big afternoon.

The Yankees were able to close out the game with their strong bullpen once again. Kahnle breezed through a scoreless 7th, and Hale was solid once again through the final 2 innings to hand the Yankees another win.

Final score: 11-5 Yankees

It’s worth noting that the Yankees scored a whopping 11 runs, and not a single one of those runs were due to home runs. An odd statistic for the so-called “Bronx Bombers”. But it doesn’t really matter how you score runs, just that you score more than your opponent.

Luke Voit did come out of the game after scoring on Torres’ single in the 4th. He was definitely hurting, and getting hit in the face isn’t the best place to absorb a 91 mph fastball. (Honestly, it’s never fun or not going to hurt when you get hit by a speeding baseball, but there are fleshier areas that can absorb the impact better and simply bruise. The posterior is a prime example.) Voit was sent for tests and x-rays, but everything came up clean. He’s being observed as determined by concussion protocol due to the impact on his head. Stay safe out there, guys!

Also, before today’s game, the Yankees welcomed astronaut (and Yankees’ fan) Mike Massimino to honor the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. On the mound that day, exactly when they touched down in Tranquility Base, was Yankees pitcher Jack Aker. So today, Massimino threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Aker to symbolically bridge the gap between space and baseball, reminding us that together we can encompass the galaxy with our dreams.

Go Yankees!

Games 94 & 95: TB vs. NYY — A rain delay, an ejection, a doubleheader, and an anniversary

Thanks to the rain out yesterday, today’s scheduled got packed. And the Yankees still somehow managed to amp up the drama and make the final 2 games against the Rays all the more interesting. The afternoon game of the doubleheader was first delayed by lingering afternoon rain, pushing the start time back 1 hour and 26 minutes.

Game 1 (make-up game from July 17)
Domingo German got the start for the first game of today’s doubleheader and threw a pretty good game despite what became the major talking point — a terrible strike zone set by the home plate umpire. German threw 90 pitches in 6 innings, gave up 4 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and struck out 5 Rays’ batters.

The allowed runs were consecutive solo home run to kick off the game. After that, German buckled in and really set a strong pattern to pass the game off to his relievers. Kahnle, Britton, and Hale threw a strong scoreless inning of their own, keeping the visitors to those early runs.

The Yankees answered back to the Rays’ early lead by tying up the game right in the turbulent 2nd inning. Didi Gregorius led-off the inning by getting all the way to 2nd on a fielding error. He then moved to 3rd on a ground out and scored on Gio Urshela’s 2-run home run.

Now, after a questionable strikeout and some bad calls on the at-bat of the two most chill guys on the team (Gardner and LeMahieu), Aaron Boone had to step in. Leading up to this, Sanchez questioned some calls, especially lower in the strike zone, for their inconsistency. The rookie home plate umpire didn’t seem to adjust, and the continuation of the questionable calls was starting to fluster everyone.

Boone did what managers need to do — take one for their guys. Several choice words later (like “savages”), Boone watched the rest of the game from the clubhouse, and the Yankees (and their fans) applauded his efforts and ended up winning the game. And I looked at the strike zone graphics following the game, it wasn’t good. Far too many called strikes were out side the box, and too many called balls were inside it. Boone and company were right to have issues with the calls.

In the 5th, Judge led-off with a single, moved to 3rd on Hicks’ ground-rule double, and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s 1-out single. After another out, Luke Voit’s single scored Hicks, and Urshela’s double scored Sanchez. And Aaron Hicks’ 2-out solo home run in the 6th capped off the Yankees’ dominant afternoon.

Final score: 6-2 Yankees

Game 2 (regularly scheduled game)
After a brief clean-up and resetting the field, the second half of today’s doubleheader was ready to go. The Yankees opted to use an “opener”, the ever reliable Chad Green, who despite throwing 31 pitches in the 1st inning, kept the Rays from scoring.

Nestor Cortes Jr came on for the 2nd inning and kept things strong through most of his outing, into the 5th inning. But in the 3rd, a lead-off walk scored on a double. But he handed the ball over to Luis Cessa in the 5th, who carried things scoreless into the 8th. Ottavino closed out the final 4 outs with just 17 great pitches.

So, the Yankees were late to get on the board. Luke Voit hit a 1st pitch solo home run in the 5th inning to tie up the game. Then in the 6th, Austin Romine led-off with a double and moved to 3rd on a ground out. Walks to Judge and Encarnacion loaded up the bases, and a balk moved all the runners up and scored Romine.

Then Didi Gregorius’ single and a throwing error allowed both Judge and Encarnacion to score. After another out, the Yankees loaded up the bases again with Torres’ single and Urshela’s walk. The Rays made a pitching change, but he promptly walked Mike Tauchman to score Gregorius before finally getting out of the inning.

Final score: 5-1 Yankees, Yankees win series 3-1

Next up: The Yankees continue their home stand with a weekend series against the visiting Rockies. The Yankees will spend next week on the road, first against the Twins and then in Boston for a long weekend, including a make-up game as part of a Saturday doubleheader.

Before the later game tonight, the Yankees celebrated the 20th anniversary of David Cone’s perfect game. It was a perfect day in many ways, honoring the perfect game of Don Larsen and caught by Yogi Berra. And then Cone spent most of the day just playing catch with his catcher Joe Girardi. So, in addition to the now standard commemorative bobblehead of David Cone, Cone also threw out the ceremonial first pitch, a strike of course.

And also coming up this weekend is Hall of Fame weekend in Cooperstown, New York. The ceremonies will include Yankee alum like Mike Mussina and Mariano Rivera. There are many activities this weekend leading up to the main event of induction ceremony on Sunday afternoon. Rivera’s unanimous election to the Hall is really the biggest topic of the weekend, though for Yankee fans (and really any decent general baseball fans), it was inevitable. Our hero, our legend, our Hall of Famer.

Go Yankees!

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 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!

Game 85: NYY vs. TB — A little extra this Independence Day

The Yankees started their final series before the All-Star break tonight, the first game of a 4-game weekend series in St. Petersburg against the Rays. Starting a bit later due to the travel, local Yankee fans might have missed the area’s fireworks, but there was plenty of metaphoric ones at the Trop to make this holiday rather interesting.

Actually, it was a fairly normal game for most of the early evening. JA Happ got the start tonight, throwing 92 pitches into the 6th, giving up 3 hits, 3 walks, and just 1 run, and struck out 5 batters. In the 1st, a 1-out single scored on a 2-out double to get the Rays on the board first.

But Happ found his momentum and carried the rest of the game, handing it off to the bullpen to close it out. Ottavino closed out the 6th, and Kahnle and Britton each gave scoreless innings to keep things moving.

The Yankees didn’t let the Rays’ early minor lead last long. Ford led-off the 3rd with a single, moved to 2nd on a passed ball, and then scored on Mike Tauchman’s single to tie up the game. Then with 2 outs, a wild pitch moved Tauchman to 2nd before he scored on Aaron Hicks’ double. Later in the game, in the 7th inning, Edwin Encarnacion hit a 1st pitch solo home run for an insurance run.

Things were going good, and the Yankees just needed 3 outs in the 9th to get the win. But Aroldis Chapman wasn’t having a very good night. He gave up a walk to lead off the inning. With 1 out, the next batter hit a double that scored the runner, despite a Yankees’ unsuccessful challenge. After another out, Chapman’s consecutive wild pitches allowed the tying run to score. He then loaded up the bases with 2 singles and a walk before finally getting out of the inning.

So, the game went into extra innings. That certainly went in the Yankees’ favor, with another chance to make a difference. Urshela and Judge worked a walk, and Gardner’s single loaded the bases. DJ LeMahieu singled home both Urshela and Judge to break the tie. After an out, it would be Gary Sanchez to smack a big 3-run home run to ensure the large Yankee lead.

Luis Cessa came out for the 10th, but to mixed results. With 1 out, he gave up a walk and a single. After another out, the next batter singled home the lead runner, and a walk loaded the bases. A change was needed, so the Yankees called in reliever David Hale for a 5 pitch at-bat that resulted in a solid force out at 2nd to end the game.

Final score: 8-4 Yankees, in 10 innings

All-Star Game Update: Until today, it seems that the maximum number of players from each team is 3 in this new All-Star Game format. Which meant that many players were left off the starting and replacement roster, despite the fact that they are really outstanding every day. This happens every year, of course, as someone who is truly significant may be watching the game from their couch rather than on the field.

This year, the Yankees felt this in particular. While LeMahieu, Sanchez, and Chapman are well-deserved All-Stars, there are quite a few other Yankees that deserve to be on that field in Cleveland on Tuesday. But today, there was one more addition to the All-Star roster. Every year, there are players who are unable to play due to an injury and are replaced by extra reserve players. So when those injury-substitute reserve players get injured, yet another reserve player is necessary.

Well, an infielder went on the IL, and a Yankee got the call. Gleyber Torres will be making his second trip to an All-Star Game. Torres has been particularly strong in recent weeks, further proving that he was rather deserving of the call.

Go Yankees!