Game 153: BAL vs. NYY — The Magic Number is 2

The countdown has begun for the postseason, and while the Yankees only need 2 more wins to secure their postseason appearance, they’re pushing for securing home field advantage in the Wild Card game. That means winning more games than the other potential WC opponent, the Athletics, who currently sit at just 1.5 games behind the Yankees.

CC Sabathia got the start in tonight’s opener against the Orioles for the final series at Yankee Stadium this season. He actually had a great outing, throwing 97 pitches in his 6 innings, gave up 6 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs, and struck out 5 Baltimore batters to eventually earn his 8th win of the season.

He actually held off the O’s until the 5th inning. He gave up a lead-off single, a 1-out walk, and a single to load the bases. And a 2-out single scored both runners to get the Orioles on the board.

The Yankees gave Sabathia enough room to work by striking first in the 1st. Hicks led-off with a walk, moved to 2nd on Judge’s single, ended up at 3rd on a double play, and then scored as part of Didi Gregorius’ 2-run home run.

And in the 4th, Walker hit a 1-out double and scored on Gleyber Torres’ single. Torres then stole 2nd and made it to 3rd on a passed ball, before scoring on Austin Romine’s ground out. Gardner worked a walk, and then Aaron Hicks hit a 2-run home run to push the Yankees’ lead further ahead. That ended the Orioles’ starter’s night, and they spent the rest of the game piecing together their bullpen.

Hicks led-off the 7th with a single and moved to 2nd when a new reliever gave up a walk to Judge. He then scored on Andrew McCutchen’s single. The Orioles snapped into action when Gregorius hit into a fielder’s choice and got Judge out at home. That also moved both remaining runners into scoring position, which allowed the powerhouse Luke Voit to single and score both of them. Then, in the 8th, with 2 outs, Hicks worked a walk and then scored a solid insurance run on Aaron Judge’s double.

Jonathan Loaisiga came on in relief of Sabathia in the 7th to start the Yankees’ major issues with tonight’s game. He promptly gave up a lead-off solo home run to start the O’s rally tonight. He then gave up a single that stole 2nd on a strikeout and then ended up at 3rd on a throwing error. Zach Britton came on to try to stem the tied and gave up a single to score that runner from 3rd before getting out of the inning without further damage.

In the 8th, Tarpley came in for just a strikeout and handed the game to AJ Cole. Cole then gave up a walk and a 2-run home run to add more to the O’s score. After an out, he then allowed a single and passed the ball to David Robertson. On his first pitch, he gave up a 2-run home run before finding that 3rd out. Betances’ came on for an efficient 11-pitch 9th inning to earn his 4th save thanks to those insurance runs by the Yankees in the 7th and 8th innings.

Final score: 10-8 Yankees

Aaron Hicks became the 5th Yankee with 25+ home runs this season, joining Stanton (35), Gregorius (27), Judge (26), and Andujar (25). This ties a franchise record set back in 2009 with 5 players having 25+ homers (Teixeira, Rodriguez, Swisher, Matsui, and Cano). They came close in 2010 with 4 players (Teixeira, Rodriguez, Swisher, and Cano) and the previous record was 1938 (DiMaggio, Gehrig, Dickey, and Gordon).

Now, the MLB record was set in 2003 by the Red Sox. But the Yankees are within range of tying that as Gleyber Torres has 23 home run, and there’s still 9 games left in the season. It’s worth noting the kind of company this makes the Yankees in and the fact that 2 of the Yankees in the conversation are rookies.

And the “magic number” is 2. The Yankees need 2 more game wins to secure their postseason spot. I said in a post earlier this month that the AL is pretty set, but the NL is going to go down to the wire. And it’s never more true than sitting just 9 days out from the final game of the season.

The AL division leaders have mostly clinched their spots (Red Sox and Indians), with the Astros just 3.5 games ahead of the Athletics but have clinched a spot in the postseason. And unless the A’s jump ahead of the Astros in the next few games, it’s pretty much a lock that the Yankees and Athletics will be the Wild Card opponents, with the Rays 6.5 games back and the Mariners 8.5 games back.

But the NL is still up for grabs in nearly every division. The strongest division is the NL East, with the Braves 7.5 games ahead of the Phillies. But the Central and West are just 1.5 games apart — Cubs over Brewers, Dodgers over Rockies. Plus, the Cardinals and Diamondbacks are just a few games beyond them. This league is going to go down to the wire.

Go Yankees!

Game 151: BOS vs. NYY –Andujar & Voit back up #SevySharp

I got a little nostalgic today, as I tend to do when talking about this great rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees. I was remembering the days of Rodriguez vs. Varitek, Ortiz vs. Jeter, and Clemens vs. everyone. Even before then, many could tell stories of DiMaggio vs. Williams and Mantle vs. Yastrzemski.

And who could forget the “curse of the Bambino”? Apparently, for 86 years, Boston fans believed they were cursed because a Red Sox owner in 1920 sold the contract of the 24-year-old Babe Ruth to the Yankees to finance No, No, Nanette. (By the way, the “curse” lore has been debunked, but it still doesn’t stop the Fenway Faithful from being bitter over it, despite the fact that almost none of them were alive then.)

But with the recent retirement of Ortiz, Jeter, and Rodriguez, as I’ve mentioned before, the age of the superstars in this rivalry might be over. Even the superstars already on the roster (Stanton, Judge, and Sanchez) aren’t really the players making the difference in the game. It’s the “nobodys”, the players who aren’t the popular jerseys you’d see around the stadium. And that makes this more interesting.

In a battle of the “aces” in tonight’s middle game between the northeastern rivals, Luis Severino got the start for the Yankees and came out on top with a stellar outing. He threw 109 pitches in his 7 innings, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and 1 run, and struck out 6 Boston batters to earn his 18th win. He’s the first Yankee pitcher to have 18 wins since CC Sabathia in 2011 (he had 19 that year).

In fact, Severino kept the Red Sox scoreless through 4 innings, even throwing rather efficient innings, like just 6 pitches in the 2nd. It was in the 5th that he gave up a lead-off double that scored on an RBI single to give the Red Sox their lone run of the night.

He handed the ball over to Jonathan Holder for a scoreless 8th inning, and then Justus Sheffield got to pitch his MLB debut in the 9th. He had a bit of shaky go of it, even loading up the bases. But between the Yankees’ defense and Sheffield’s pitching, they got out of the inning and the game.

Meanwhile, the Yankees usually have pretty good luck against the Red Sox’s ace, who used to play with the Rays, Blue Jays, and Tigers and the same pitcher who gave up Jeter’s 3000th hit. They continued that pattern tonight, starting with Miguel Andujar’s 1-out solo home run in the 2nd inning, his 25th home run of the season.

They then loaded up the bases with a walk to Sanchez, a single to Voit, and a 2-out walk to McCutchen. Aaron Judge stepped into the box, still looking for his first hit back from the DL. He made contact with the ball, but thanks to a fielding error, it wouldn’t count as a hit. Judge still made it all the way to 2nd as Sanchez and Voit scored.

Luke Voit added another run with his lead-off solo home run in the 4th. Then in the 6th, with 1 out and Sanchez on 1st with a walk, Voit again eked another home run, a 2-run homer that just made it to the 1st row of the right field seats (and gave a lucky fan a few minutes of TV fame). An umpire review checked to see if that fan interfered with the home run. He didn’t and the call stood, his 2nd home run of the night.

It was also the end of the Red Sox starter’s night. His first reliever didn’t have the best time either. Despite getting an initial out, he put runners on the corners with singles to McCutchen and Judge (finally his first hit off the DL). They both then scored on Aaron Hicks’ long triple. And the Red Sox changed pitchers again.

That seemed to work for them, for a time. But they got a new pitcher in the 8th inning, and the Yankees took advantage to widen their lead. Voit and Torres each singled and moved into scoring position on a ground out. Pinch-hitting Greg Bird hit into a ground out but allowed Voit to score. Hicks’ single then scored Torres to cap off the Yankees’ big night.

Final score: 10-1 Yankees

Roster moves: before the game tonight, the Yankees activated Aroldis Chapman from the DL after his lingering knee tendonitis. Had the game been closer, they might have called on the veteran closer, but instead, it allowed them some leeway to debut another important part of the Yankees organization, very nervous prospect Justus Sheffield.

And Miguel Andujar’s home run in the 2nd actually made him the fifth Yankee rookie to reach 25+ home runs in their rookie season. Judge did so last year, and the teammates join the likes of Bobby Murcer (1969), Joe Gordon (1938), and the great Joe DiMaggio (1936) for the honor of being in such a club. Not back for a player many people still are not sure could be the “Rookie of the Year”.

Go Yankees!

Game 150: BOS vs. NYY — Walker overrides 2 unearned runs

It wouldn’t be a Red Sox-Yankees game without some rivalry fun — counter cheering of which team “sucks”, enough merchandise representation of the visiting team to remind everyone who they’re playing, and some good-natured ribbing between fans. Plus, it always ends up being a dramatic game in some way.

JA Happ got the start in this opening game against the Red Sox, holding his own with 102 pitches through his 6 innings. He gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 1 unearned run, while striking out 6 Boston batters. In the 3rd, Happ gave up a lead-off single that moved to 2nd on a balk, advanced to 3rd on a passed ball (setting up the “unearned” part), and then scored on a sacrifice fly.

That got the Red Sox on their board, but Happ and the Yankees’ defense kept them to that run for most of the game. Chad Green continued the momentum with a flawless 10-pitch 7th inning, and Robertson’s 8th was an efficient 13 pitches.

In the meantime, the Yankees were held off from doing much by a former teammate for the first 6 innings. It was the 7th, with a new pitcher, that the Yankees found their opportunity. Hicks worked a lead-off walk and Sanchez got a 1-out walk to get runners on base and threaten the Red Sox’s narrow lead at that point.

So the Red Sox went to their bullpen again for a new reliever, but he faced Neil Walker who was ready to hit his 10th home run of the season, a big 3-run home run into the 2nd deck right field seats. to give the Yankees the lead and that insurance run they would end up needing.

The Yankees handed things off to Zach Britton for the 9th inning and the save, but things got dramatic. With 1 out, he gave up a walk. A missed catch error allowed runners to end up on the corners. A throwing error by Britton himself allowed that lead runner to then score, hence the Yankees’ 2nd unearned run of the night. A double play ended the Red Sox’s final push for a comeback rally and handed the Yankees the win.

Final score: 3-2 Yankees

Aaron Judge was back in tonight’s lineup, batting 2nd and playing right field. He went 0-for-4, but says that it felt like he “never left”. Part of the reason that Judge ended up in the game was that due to inclement weather (because it’s 2018) they had to push back the game from a 1:05 pm start time to 7:05 pm. That extra time allowed for Judge to take in an extra sim game this morning and prove he was ready to swing a bat in a real game. He just hasn’t made much contact yet.

A funny moment during the game was in the 8th inning. Giancarlo Stanton stepped into the batter’s box and hit a power line drive into the left field seats, but to the left of the foul pole. We all saw it go into the seats, so fans rushed the area for the ball. But literally no one could find it. They scoured the whole area, even expanding the search area after a bit, but it just disappeared. That ball must now be on vacation with my black fuzzy socks and the top of my cherry 7-up, both of which seemed to disappear before my eyes and have yet to reappear within the last 24 hours.

Go Yankees!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final score: 11-0 Yankees

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

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

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

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

Go Yankees!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Yankees!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Yankees!

Game 141: NYY vs. SEA — #TanakaTime Shutout

Clearly something happened in the Yankees’ journey to the Emerald City. They might not have met the Wizard, they might have even lost their luggage, but they found their heart.

Masahiro Tanaka was just on point in tonight’s opener in this weekend series in Seattle. He shut out the home team with 102 pitches in 8 innings, allowing just 3 hits, and getting 10 impressive strikeouts. David Robertson followed Tanaka’s start with a great 9th inning, adding a strikeout of his own to the running tally tonight.

The Yankee batters had a bit of fun in first third of the game, setting the results of the game with a couple of good hits. In the 2nd, with 2 outs, Voit singled and then scored as part of Gleyber Torres’ 2-run home run, his 23rd homer of the season. Then Gardner led-off the 3rd with a single and scored on Andrew McCutchen’s 2-run home run to secure the Yankees’ win.

The Yankees would only get a couple more hits tonight, so the game became more about maintaining that early lead, something Tanaka (and then Robertson) and the Yankee defense did rather well.

Final score: 4-0 Yankees

Roster moves/injury updates: The Yankees activated Didi Gregorius off the disabled list. Gregorius, recovering from a badly bruised heel last month, is taking it slow on the return. Thanks to new additions and the recent September call-ups, there’s no real rush to push the recently recovered player in the game just yet. But he’s there if they need him off the bench, as he did tonight for the latter half of the game.

And Aaron Judge is taking more swings and getting back into regular exercises. Still hitting off a tee, he’s also working on short-distance tosses for some light batting practice. And with no prominent pain as a result of the effort, things are looking good for his return some time soon. Still no definite return date yet, but again, the new additions to the roster are helping bridge the gap until he’s ready for some major league swings.

Finally, we wish Sonny and Jessica Gray and their family a huge congratulations. They recently welcomed their son Declan to the family. Gray missed the Oakland series on paternity leave but is back with the team now. Another Yankee, another “Baby Pickles”.

Go Yankees!