Spring Game 21: TOR vs. NYY — The Saturday hit parade

For the second afternoon in a row, the Yankees turned the hot, humid weather into a sort of springboard for dominating their visiting opponent in Tampa. Early on, the home team hosted a continued batting practice under the guise of a Spring Training game, with the Blue Jays even getting in on the fun and action today. And fans were just there for the show.

The Yankees kicked things off in the 1st, with Aaron Judge’s big 1-out solo home run, the first home run and hit of a 9 home run and 29 hit day, overall. Then, Bird worked a 2-out walk and scored with Gleyber Torres’ 2-run home run to give the Yankees an early lead.

JA Happ got the start for the Yankees. Despite a good 1st inning, he had a bit of trouble in the 2nd. A lead-off single scored as part of a 2-run home run to get the Blue Jays on the board. Two outs later, a solo home run helped push the Jays into a tie.

So, the Yankees came back in the bottom of the 2nd to retake their lead. With 1 out, Wade doubled, and Gio Urshela smacked a 2-run home run to break the tie. Gardner then singled, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, and scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s 2-out single. In the 4th, with 1 out and Florial on base with a single, pinch-hitter Jorge Saez hit a solid 2-run home run to keep the runs rolling in.

After Britton and Chapman sailed their way through the 4th and 5th innings, Tommy Kahnle’s 1st pitch in the 6th became a Blue Jays’ solo home run. But he got right back on track and shut them down in 3 quick outs.

The Yankees answered back in the 6th. Estevan Florial led-off with a walk, stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Matt Lipka’s single. Lipka moved to 2nd on Wagner’s single and scored on Thairo Estrada’s double. Clint Frazier fought through a good at-bat only to hit a 2-RBI triple. And in the 7th, Urshela led-off with a double, and his pinch-runner later scored on Matt Lipka’s big 2-run home run.

Minor league reliever Phillip Diehl had a great 7th inning but found trouble in the 8th. He loaded up the bases with a double, a single, and a walk, with no outs. A sacrifice fly scored the lead run, and with that out, the Yankees went to Weissert for pitching relief. After a strong strikeout, a strong 2-RBI triple edged the Blue Jays a bit closer to the Yankees’ lead.

Thairo Estrada then led-off the 8th with a ridiculously speedy triple (a double for most people) and scored on Francisco Diaz’s single. Zack Zehner hit a big 2-run home run to cap off the runs this afternoon. The Yankees sent reliever Jonathan Holder in to close out the game with a scoreless 9th.

Final score: 17-7 Yankees

One to Watch: Today, I opted for two honorees. Gio Urshela dominated the first half of the game once again with his contributions at the plate and his outstanding defense, starting at 3rd base. And in the latter half of the game, Matt Lipka’s bat was hot today, going 2-for-2, with 3 RBIs and 2 runs scored.

Next up: the Yankees have a split squad day tomorrow afternoon. But in a weird scheduling twist, both games are actually being played away. One squad will travel to visit the Orioles in Sarasota (about an hour south), and the other across the Bay to Clearwater to see the Phillies (about 25 minutes west).

Unfortunately, there is some injury news. In the top of the 8th, outfielder Estevan Florial slammed into the center field fence trying to negotiate between the sun and a fly ball. (The fence won.) He was pinch-hit on his next at-bat and sent to precautionary x-rays, which came back with non-displaced right wrist fracture. In other words, his Spring is done and will probably start back with Advanced-A Tampa as part of his rehab and recovery once he is healed.

And Luis Severino is still dealing with his inflamed shoulder, and due to his slow recovery process this Spring, it looks like he will miss regular season games through April. Aaron Hicks’ back should be healed and ready to go by Opening Day, but he will have no Spring warm-up. So he could take a few sim games or minor league games (or about a week) before rejoining the regular team.

With two key players out, even for a week in Hicks’ case, that could mean a brief promotion for some Yankee players. So as they continue to hone their roster, it will be interesting to see who winds up as part of the 25-men set to play Opening Day.

One player in Yankee Universe that won’t be part of that line-up is Seahawks star quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson is technically part of the Yankee farm system and was in camp these last two days, connecting with friends like Judge and working out with his fellow athletes. Unlike last year, Wilson didn’t get any play time in either of these last two big games, watching his teammates haul in big victories from the dugout. Maybe that’s why the scores looked more like the NFL than MLB — blame Wilson.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 10: ATL vs. NYY — A chilly afternoon victory

The day started out less than promising — cloudy skies dripping a few buckets of rain and a sweeping new cold front planting itself right over the area. But then just before game time, the rain cleared, though the clouds and the chill in the air remained the whole game.

And oddly, the game began on time, and the Yankees and Braves powered through this afternoon in just two and a half hours. Tarpley and Green sailed through the first two innings, setting a solid pace for the Yankees, something picked up by Kahnle, Betances, and Cortes for the latter part of the game.

JA Happ got the bulk of the work today with 3 innings, his only struggle was in the 4th inning. A 1-out single moved to 2nd on a hit-by-pitch and then scored on another single. On a 2-out single, the lead runner tried to score another run for the Braves, but a sharp throw from left fielder Stanton to a waiting Sanchez ended that.

The Braves also had a good outing for their pitchers, with a few hiccups that the Yankees’ offense certainly used to their advantage. In the 5th, they loaded up the bases with walks to Torres and Florial and a single by LeMahieu. Troy Tulowitzki’s sacrifice fly scored Torres to get the Yankees on the board. But it would be Aaron Judge to solidify the Yankees’ win today with a big 3-run home run up the middle.

Estevan Florial led-off the 7th with a single. Two outs later, he stole 2nd base, moved to 3rd on a passed ball, and then raced home to score on a wild pitch for the extra insurance run the Yankees never needed.

Final score: 5-1 Yankees

One to Watch: The honor goes to Yankees prospect Estevan Florial today. He started today’s game in center field and went 1-for-2 with a walk and 2 runs scored. He’s been an interesting player to watch for the last few seasons, and this season is no exception. But the impact he continues to make causes some questions to arise. He’s not ready for “the show” just yet, but there’s that crowded (or rather overcrowded) outfield. Where does Florial fit in such a field? He deserves to be considered, within the next few seasons. But will there ever be room for the young outfielder?

Next up: the Yankees will host the Cardinals tomorrow afternoon. It will at least be slightly warmer (but still cold for Florida) and significantly sunnier.

Some roster news: Aaron Hicks has been out of the lineup for the last couple of days due to a sore back. An MRI cleared him of anything serious, but he will continue to rest so as not to tweak something while it’s vulnerable. (Besides, there’s that crowded outfield with all the players in camp right now to cover for the regular center fielder.)

Luis Severino was supposed to make his Spring debut today, even worked out in preparation all the way up to warm ups just minutes before the game. But his shoulder felt sore and off. As a precaution, they opted to pull the starter, subbing in long-term relievers and extended Happ’s outing today. But they sent Severino for an MRI, which came back with a diagnosis of right shoulder inflammation.

A cortisone injection, anti-inflammatories, and at least 2 weeks off baseball activities was the immediate treatment. He’ll be reevaluated in 2 weeks to see if he’s progressed and can resume throwing. But it seems like Opening Day (March 28) is going to be out of the conversation for the ace starter, and now talk of grabbing another starter is back on the table.

In some better news, retiring starter CC Sabathia will spend 15 of his non-pitching days as a guest commentator on ESPN. Sabathia has been co-hosting a podcast with a local sports broadcaster for the last year, giving fans and listeners an inside look behind the scenes of the athletic life. So this is going to be more of Sabathia conversing with friends and personalities about the game he loves. Plus it’s going to open the conversation of what Sabathia might want to pursue in his post-baseball life come this fall.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: despite the broadcast today, there were few released video highlights. Sorry.}

Spring Game 4: NYY vs. DET — More rain shortens rough game

The same front that washed out yesterday’s game continues to bring further bands of rain through the area and ended up shortening today’s game. And part of me thinks this might have been a relief for the Yankees, who were just getting roughed up today.

The Yankees traveled about 40 minutes east to visit the Tigers’ Spring home field in Lakeland, and things started like they have for the last 3 games — with the Yankees hitting first and hard. Hicks led-off the game with a double, and Voit worked a 1-out walk. Miguel Andujar hit a baby grounder, but a throwing error only allowed the Tigers to get the out at 2nd as Hicks spend his way home to score the first run. Torres then singled, and Greg Bird hit a big 3-run home run to give the Yankees a nice early lead.

But today’s starter Chance Adams just couldn’t find his pitches and didn’t even make it out of the first inning. He gave up a walk and single that both scored on a double. A double and triple easily scored 2 more runs before Adams finally got an out, an easy ground out. Brady Lail struggled a bit to get out of the inning, when a single scored Adams’ final runner, but then a beautiful double play closed the exhausting inning.

After an easier 2nd, Domingo Acevedo found his own set of struggles in the 3rd inning. With 2 outs, he loaded up the bases with a single, walk, and hit-by-pitch before giving up a walk to easily score the lead runner. The next batter promptly smacked a big grand slam to ensure the Yankees were overwhelmed by the home team today.

Despite starting the game with blue, sunny skies, the storm front crept its way across the area and clouded up the previous beautiful vista. And then it started raining. A bit too hard. So they brought out the tarp in the 6th inning and delayed the game for 16 minutes.

The rain cleared, and play resumed amid a bit of a drizzle. But as Kyle Holder led off the 7th with a solid hit, the rain worsened. Teams headed to their dugouts, as fans scurried to the nearest coverage. It just wasn’t going to happen. The game was mercifully called.

Final score: 10-4 Tigers, in 7 innings (thanks to Holder’s lone at-bat)

Next up: the Yankees play host again, this time to the Pirates. And the weather report reads about 10% chance of rain, but a bit humid as that aforementioned front settles over the area. In other words, there’ll be a game, but it’s going to be that typical Florida weather.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: no broadcast means no media clips to include in today’s post. Not that there’s much outside the first half-inning to remember for the Yankees.}

Spring Game 3: TOR vs. NYY — Pitching strong to 1-hit Opening Day win

A rather perfect day greeted the Yankees for their Spring home opener — blue skies, sunny, a bit breezy at times to reduce the potential heat, standard Opening Day pomp and circumstance, fans to pack the stadium, and an inconsistent opponent with the visiting Toronto Blue Jays. Add in a pretty well-played game, and it was the perfect set-up for a glimpse of what could be this season.

Actually, the unsung stars of this afternoon’s game were the pitching staff, who collectively only gave up 1 hit and 2 walks and kept the game pace brisk to just 2 hours and 22 minutes. James Paxton got to show off his stuff to the Yankee audience during his 2 innings, handing things over to Domingo German, Luis Cessa, Green, Diehl, and Jonathan Holder. Cessa, in particular, was outstanding, breezing his way through 6 outs and potentially making a campaign to be back with the big boys after a really rough season last year.

The Yankee hitters certainly weren’t shy about getting themselves on base, racking up 8 total hits and 3 walks off Blue Jays’ batters. But the hits that mattered most were the lead-off hits in the first two innings. Troy Tulowitzki, the player who grew up wishing to be a Yankee, earned his pinstripes when he took the 2nd pitch of the game and hooked it just left of the right field foul pole for a great solo home run. It’s especially sweet for Tulowitzki because it was against the team that gave up on him when he was battling injuries for the last 18 months.

Then in the 2nd, Kyle Higashioka led-off with a huge solo home run deep into the left field concourse. Of course, it came just as I was having a discussion that he needed to really kick up his bat if he wanted to be more of a stronger contender for the back-up catcher’s job. This “jinx” didn’t work at his next at-bat, by the way.

Once the Yankees had cycled through all their players, it was time for the minor league guys to shine. And they did. In the 6th, Ryan McBroom led-off with a single and moved to 2nd on Zehner’s single, and both moved into scoring position on a ground out. Another grounder scored McBroom to cap off the Yankees’ scoring today.

Final score: 3-0 Yankees

Next up: the Yankees will host the Phillies tomorrow afternoon.

Okay, as is tradition these last few years, I’ll continue to highlight a “One to Watch” after every home game. This player is from the farm system, and their contributions to the game that day make them something to keep an eye on. Some of my previous selections are currently on major league rosters, some are now retired or have moved on to other career avenues, and some are still trying to make their mark on the league.

Today’s One to Watch is Ryan McBroom. McBroom’s defense at 1st combined with his base running to score the Yankees’ 3rd run today made him stand out among his peers. McBroom also originally signed with the Blue Jays 5 years ago before they traded him to the Yankees in exchange for Rob Refsnyder. He spent last year bouncing between the Yankees’ AA and AAA teams, with a .310 batting average and 60 total RBIs.

In the Yankee Universe: the Yankees have decisively said that outfielder Aaron Hicks is “their guy” by signing him to a new 7-year, $70 million contract extension, which includes an option for 2026. Hicks certainly proved himself worthy last year, finding ease in the hole left by the injured Ellsbury and becoming a reliable power hitter and defender. And with this new deal, the Yankees make it clear they are not looking for other help in the outfield nor are they willing to part with Hicks.

And for all you long-time Yankee fans, Andy Pettitte is back. Sort of. Today, they announced that Pettitte now serves as special advisor to the GM to help with player development. Pettitte confessed that he actually refused an offer to join former teammate Jorge Posada, who recently accepted a similar role with Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins. No, Pettitte has been trying to get a job with the Yankees since he retired in 2013, as he’s clearly a Yankee through and through. It’s good to have him back and see him don the pinstripes once again, as he did with fellow alum like Jackson, Merrill, Randolph, and Martinez before today’s game.

Boy, it’s good to be back. And it’s better to be winning.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 1: NYY vs. BOS — Starting with a few bangs and a whimper

After a full week of full squad reporting, press conferences, workouts, and team building exercises, the Yankees kicked off their 2019 baseball season against their long-time rivals at Fenway South in Fort Myers, about 140 miles (or about 2 hours) south of Steinbrenner Field. Yes, the Yankees are starting 2019 by taking on the 2018 Champions. Perhaps with a small hope of transferring the title back to New York this year.

It actually started pretty good for the Yankees. Gleyber Torres began his 2019 season with a bang, a 1-out solo home run in the 1st inning to take an early lead. And the Yankee batters were hitting off the Red Sox’s pitchers today, collecting 13 total hits. In the 2nd, Tyler Wade hit a 1-out double, stole 2nd, and then stole on Matt Lipka’s double. Lipka then scored on Aaron Hicks’ double.

Nestor Cortes got to start this afternoon’s game for the Yankees, throwing into the 3rd inning. He gave up one run in the 2nd after 3 consecutive singles and then repeated that in the 3rd. So, with 2 runners on base and 2 outs, the Yankees opted to go to their bullpen. But that didn’t help right away. Another single scored the tying run, and then next batter hit a big 3-run home run over the right field fence to double the Red Sox’s score and give them the lead.

But then both teams fell into a pattern of stronger baseball, keeping the score static until the 8th inning. The Yankees got the first chance to chip away at the home team’s lead. Ryan McBroom smacked a solid 1-out home run (into this stadium’s attempt to replicate the Green Monster wall) to start their rally attempt. Trey Amburgey doubled and later scored on Kyle Holder’s single. Then with 2 walks and bases loaded, the Yankees were just a run shy of tying the game. Unfortunately, the Red Sox brought in a new pitcher that shut down their rally.

The Yankees didn’t help in the bottom of the 8th, by allowing the Red Sox to retake those 2 runs. A single and double put runners in scoring position to do so on a 1-out single. And the visiting team didn’t find another rally in them in the 9th, so the Red Sox took their first game.

Final score: 8-6 Red Sox

Not exactly the best way to start this season, but oddly reminiscent of last year — big start and not enough to beat the Red Sox by the end. Okay, now that we’ve made the comparison, we can start fresh with tomorrow’s game.

Tomorrow will be at the Rays’ Spring home field about half the distance of today’s game down the Gulf Coast of Florida. Monday will be the first home game for the Yankees.

Welcome to Spring Baseball. Boy, have we missed you.

Go Yankees!

{Media note reminder: Like every year, Spring Training unfortunately involves spotty video coverage, which sometimes leads to less available media highlights. Like today’s game was solely covered by the Red Sox’s own sports broadcast, so many of the highlights Yankee fans might prefer to see aren’t available for inclusion. Sorry!}

NLDS 3: MIL vs. COL, LAD vs. ATL — One in, one to Game 4

As much as we like to pretend to know exactly how things will turn out based on patterns we’ve seen or statistics on paper, things in this life rarely turn out to be so predictable. Yes, people themselves are predictable, but collective results are often far from it. Baseball is a great example of this. It’s a team sport that celebrates the individual accomplishment. Which means as predictable as it is, it’s just not so predictable.

Now, as the Yankees travel home to continue their now even series against the Red Sox and the Astros follow the Indians back to Cleveland hoping to sew up Game 3 tomorrow, the postseason is really just beginning in many ways. And after today, only one team has a place in the next series, but that’s all going to change over the next few days.

NLDS A: Brewers at Rockies
After a tight first game, the Brewers have come out swinging strong and not slowing down. The bottom line is that the Brewers outpitched and outplayed the Rockies once again. The Brewers pitchers only gave up 4 hits, while they hit 12 of them. In the 1st, the Brewers got an early lead when a 1 out walk moved to 3rd on a single and then scored on a ground out fielder’s choice. And a 1-out solo home run in the 4th doubled that score.

But then the Rockies got sloppy in the 6th. With 1 out, the reliever gave up a single and a double to move runners in scoring position. After another strikeout, a balk moved the runners up and scored the lead one. A wild pitch then scored the other runner. Then consecutive solo home runs led off the 9th inning just for a bit more cushion to secure their Game 3 victory.

Final score: 6-0 Brewers, Brewers sweep series 3-0 and advance to the NLCS

NLDS B: Dodgers at Braves
Meanwhile, in Atlanta, the Dodgers were hoping the same momentum they had in their first 2 games and seal up their spot in the NLCS by sweeping the Braves on their own turf, much the like Brewers did to the Rockies above. But they stumbled out of the gate, as the Dodgers starter had some trouble. He loaded up the bases with a walk, a 2-out single, and an intentional walk before another walk scored their first run. Then he gave up a monster grand slam to push the Braves into a quick, early lead.

The Dodgers relievers did better at keeping the Braves from adding to their lead, and their offense finally kicked in and chipped away at the Braves’ lead. The lead-off batter worked a walk in the 3rd and ended up at 2nd on a sacrifice bunt. After a 2-out walk, the Braves pulled their starter, and the new reliever gave up a 2-run single, thanks in part to a fielding error. Then in the 5th, with 1 out and a runner on 1st with a walk, a 2-run home run put the Dodgers within 1 run. And a 2-out solo home run tied up the game.

It would be a lead-off solo home run in the 6th by the Braves that would break the tie. And the Dodgers never did have them in it to come back after that.

Final score: 6-5 Braves, Dodgers lead series 2-1

In Yankees news: it looks like Aaron Hicks‘ hamstring issue isn’t terrible or season-ending. He could even be available tomorrow off the bench. Hicks has been a valuable part of the team both defensively and offensively, and hopefully will continue to do so in this postseason. But the Yankees also have enough power on the roster to compensate for a Hicks-sized loss.

Go Yankees!

ALDS 1: CLE vs. HOU, NYY vs. BOS & NLDS 2: COL vs. MIL, ATL vs. LAD — A very busy but predictable Friday

It’s days like this, with the flurry of activity, that really amp up the drama that leads up to the final bit of this season. For those of us who follow the entire day, it’s quite overwhelming at times. But oddly, it ended up being kind of predictable.

NLDS 2a: Rockies at Brewers
The Brewers and Rockies continue to prove they are pretty evenly matched in this postseason series. But the Brewers found their opportunities and capitalized on them well. In the 4th, a 1-out double scored on a ground-rule double to get the home team on the board. But then, they were held to that lone run for most of the game.

Then in the 8th, the Brewers loaded the bases with no outs. A single scored one runner. And 2 outs later, a single scored 2 more runs. That and some really tight pitching ensured the Brewers’ shutout victory.

Final score: 4-0 Brewers, Brewers lead series 2-0

NLDS 2b: Braves at Dodgers
The Dodgers sent their ace pitcher for tonight’s game and he just breezed his way through 8 scoreless innings allowing just 2 hits. The Braves’ offense just struggled their way through the whole game.

The Dodgers’ offense, however, found an early chance to ensure their lead in the game and series. They gave up a double that moved to 3rd on a ground out. A 2-out 2-run home run gave them that early lead. And a lead-off solo home run in the 5th added that extra insurance run for them they wouldn’t need in this game. And the Braves’ bullpen actually snapped into action to keep the Dodgers to that small early lead.

Final score: 3-0 Dodgers, Dodgers lead series 2-0

ALDS 1a: Indians at Astros
The ALDS series began today and had the Indians and Astros show off their strong pitching rotations. Seriously, of all the teams in the postseason, the two teams with the strongest starting pitching are these two teams. And while they certainly showed off their stuff, there was enough early on to give both teams hope. And then the Astros pulled away and showed why they won 103 games this season.

The Astros struck first with a lead-off solo home run in the 4th. Then a walk moved to 2nd on a 2-out single and then scored on another single to double their score. Then they came back in the 5th with consecutive solo home runs to lead-off that inning to again double that score.

The Indians finally answered back in the 6th by loading up the bases and pushing out the Astros’ starter. A wild pitch by the reliever moved all the runners up and scored the Indians’ first run. Another run scored on a ground out to half the Astros’ lead.

But the home team got both of them back in the 7th with a lead-off solo home run. Then a single moved to 2nd on a grounder and scored on a single. And a 1-out double in the 8th scored on an RBI single to finish the game on a strong note for the Astros’ fans packing their hometown park.

Final score: 7-2 Astros, Astros lead series 1-0

ALDS 1b: Yankees at Red Sox
And up in Boston, the Yankees just had a series of miscues that didn’t make tonight work in the end. JA Happ, the assumed Wild Card starter, got the start and just flustered his way into the 3rd inning. A 1-out single and walk in the 1st scored as part of a 3-run home run to get the Red Sox on the board in a hurry. After giving up a double and single to put runners on the corners, the Yankees turned to Chad Green.

Green had his own issues keeping the home team’s momentum down. He gave up a single that easily scored the runner from 3rd. A fly out moved the other runner to 3rd so that he could then score on a sacrifice fly. But then Green held them off for the 4th inning. Lynn, Britton, and Robertson then finished off the final 4 innings and kept the Red Sox to those early runs.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox has a strong starting rotation, and their ace pitcher Sale started tonight’s game and held the Yankees off until the 6th inning. Judge led-off the inning with a single but then was out on Gardner’s fielder’s choice grounder. And Stanton then singled. That was the end of Sale’s night, but he was responsible for Gardner and Stanton.

Luke Voit then hit a nice single to score Gardner, and Didi Gregorius hit into a fielder’s choice grounder at 2nd that still scored Stanton. Walks to Andujar and Sanchez loaded up the bases to prove the Red Sox’s bullpen isn’t as strong as their starters. But the Yankees also started a pattern that wasn’t going to work out well for them — load up the bases and leave them stranded.

In the 7th, they loaded up the bases with singles by McCutchen and Judge and a walk to Gardner. With 1 out, Voit hit into a ground out at 2nd that still scored McCutchen. But they left runners in scoring position again. When the Red Sox needed just 3 outs in the 9th to close out their game, Aaron Judge put a slight kink in that with a lead-off solo home run to trim the Red Sox lead down to just 1 run.

But 3 strikeouts later, the game was over. It’s just going to prove this series is going to be super

Final score: 5-4 Red Sox, Red Sox lead series 1-0

Quick side note: in the Yankees-Red Sox game, Aaron Hicks came out of the game in the 4th after hitting a single and kind of lightly running to 1st base. Replaced by Gardner (who definitely impacted the game), Hicks seemed to re-injure his hamstring injury that plagued him late last month. He will go for an MRI to figure out his postseason future. If he is out for this series, like they put him on the DL, he will be ineligible for the rest of the postseason. Hopefully, that won’t happen. But the best outcome is always the healthy outcome.

Go Yankees!