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!

Game 96: COL vs. NYY — A parrot’s Grand Slam

Apparently, it didn’t surprise former teammates that Yankee players like Ottavino and LeMahieu found a home in New York. While there was a bidding war for what was considered top players who eventually landed with the Phillies and Padres, the Yankees were making deals for these guys.

So, just maybe the front office knows what they’re doing in all this. LeMahieu has been a force all over the infield and leading the Yankee offense, and Ottavino’s role as mid-game reliever staple is quite dependable.  And with the Yankees currently sitting atop all of MLB in the standings, perhaps it was the Yankees who got the better end of these off-season deals. And they aren’t stuck in long-term ridiculous payout contracts for players that aren’t always consistent, especially as “team players”.

Anyway, the Yankees began their weekend series against the Rockies tonight with JA Happ on the mound to start the game. Happ had a pretty good outing overall, throwing 90 pitches through 5 innings. He gave up 8 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs and impressively struck out 8. His allowed runs came in the 2nd, with a lead-off solo home run and a 1-out single that scored on a double and fielding error.

But those would be the only runs the visitors would score all night. Adam Ottavino threw a scoreless 15-pitch 6th inning with 3 beautiful strikeouts. And Stephen Tarpley went for the long haul, throwing through the final third of the game, holding the Rockies to just 1 hit and adding 6 strikeouts to the overall total of 17 for the Yankee pitchers tonight.

The Yankee offense got off to a big start in the 3rd. With 1 out, they loaded the bases with a single to LeMahieu and walks to Judge and Sanchez. Then Edwin Encarnacion hit a monster grand slam into the left field seats to leap frog the Yankees into the lead. Now, Encarnacion is known for his home run trot because he kind of props his right arm up as he rounds the bases as if he’s holding a parrot (like a stereotypical pirate would, I guess). So, he’s known as “the parrot”, hence tonight’s blog title.

In the 4th, with 2 outs, Tauchman managed to eke out a double that was upheld after a Rockies’ challenge. He then scored on DJ LeMahieu’s single. Tauchman singled in the 6th, and then he stole 2nd and managed to get to 3rd on a messy throwing error. He scored when the Rockies’ defense were slow to respond LeMahieu’s at-bat and turned it into a fielder’s choice play but no out. Aaron Judge’s 2-run home run scored LeMahieu to wrap up the Yankees’ big Friday night.

Final score: 8-2 Yankees

After the kerfuffle in yesterday’s first game, Aaron Boone was officially disciplined for his ejection. This happens every time a player faces an ejection. Essentially, it’s like putting a kid in timeout, while the parent figures out what the actual punishment will be. Maybe for kids it’s the loss of a favorite toy, but in baseball, it’s usually a suspension from games. Though he admits his word choice, he doesn’t regret his actions in sticking up for his players. Boone was suspended one game, which he served during tonight’s game.

Go Yankees!

Game 93: TB vs. NYY — #CCStrong and a #DidiSlam

In tonight’s second game of this 4-game series against the visiting Rays, the drama continued as it only can in these division rivalry games. The Rays are still trying to do all they can to chip away at the Yankees’ lead in the AL East. With the Yankees currently looming over the Rays at 6 games, the Rays were hoping to use this longer series to make up the deficit. And last night’s come from behind rally certainly helped. Tonight’s, however, did not.

CC Sabathia got the start in tonight’s game, throwing a strong 79 pitches in 6 innings. He gave up 5 hits and 3 runs and struck out 6 Rays batters. In both the 2nd and 4th, the Rays hit 2 solo 2-out home runs to get them on the board early and into the lead. In the 6th, with 2 outs, a single scored on an RBI double.

The Yankees were able to tie up the game briefly with Edwin Encarnacion’s lead-off solo home run in the 2nd. But once the Rays took their small lead, they were held off until the 6th when DJ LeMahieu hit a 1-out solo home run into the right field seats.

With the Rays still in a slim lead over the Yankees, the bullpen had to step in to do a better job. Cortes, normally a stalwart in the ‘pen, struggled tonight and loaded up the bases in the 7th with just 1 out. So, they called in David Hale. Hale’s first batter was last night’s hero, and he got him to hit into a great double play to get out of that jam.

Hale continued on through the scoreless 8th and into the 9th. After giving up 2 singles and just 1 out, they called in Britton to close out the game with 2 solid strikeouts.

The Yankees needed to find any weakness to charge through and flip the script. In the 8th, Torres led-off with a walk and, 2 outs later, scored on Aaron Judge’s 2-run home run to finally give the Yankees the lead. Then Voit singled, Sanchez doubled, and Encarncaion was intentionally walked to load up the bases. And Didi Gregorius, who has been still trying to find his footing after returning from the IL, seemed to find it with a monster grand slam into the right field bleacher seats.

Final score: 8-3 Yankees

Okay, so there was a bit of a scuffle in the 6th inning. Sabathia struck out the final batter he faced, and the Rays’ batter said something. Sabathia heard it and questioned it. The Rays batter hostilely deflected. Tempers rose, Gregorius intercepted Sabathia, the benches cleared, some shoving ensued, heated words were exchanged, and then it fizzled out. No one was ejected. Just a “misunderstanding“, apparently.

Of course, the best part was the offended Rays player jogged out to right field for the bottom of the inning. He heard from the fans for his participation and then watched Judge’s 2-run home run “sail over his head” and into the stands to those same fans. Home field advantage indeed.

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 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 84: NYY vs. NYM — German’s strong return

The Yankees continue their march to being the best. While still 4 games behind 1st place Dodgers for all of MLB, the Yankees easily sit atop the AL, 6 1/2 games above the Rays in the AL East, 2 games above AL Central leader Twins, and 1 1/2 games above the AL West leader Astros. At least if my math is right tonight, but the Yankees’ average is better than every other team in the AL.

Domingo German is back with the team, and his start tonight was exactly where the Yankees need him to be in the second game of this 2-game mini-series at the Mets. He threw 80 pitches in 6 innings, gave up 5 hits and just 1 run, and struck out 6 Mets batters to earn the eventual win.

His lone allowed run (and the only run by the home team all night) was a 1st pitch solo home run in the 1st. After that first pitch, German held the game strong for the remainder of his outing, setting an easy pattern for the final third of the game. Green held the game strong through the 7th and 8th inning, and Cortes close out the game with a great 18-pitch 9th inning.

The Yankees, meanwhile, got off to a good start. DJ LeMahieu doubled to lead off the game and then immediately scored on Aaron Judge’s double. Two outs later, Judge scored on Gleyber Torres’ single. In the 6th, Didi Gregorius hit a 1-out solo home run, and after a pitching change, Gio Urshela followed that up with a solo home run of his own.

Finally, LeMahieu led-off the 7th with a double. After 2 outs and a walk to Hicks, LeMahieu scored on Torres’ single to cap off the Yankees’ extra (albeit unnecessary) insurance runs.

Final score: 5-1 Yankees, Yankees and Mets split the series 1-1

Next up: The Yankees hop a plane and head to Yankee Stadium South, sorry, Tropicana Field in the Tampa Bay area to face the Rays for a 4-game series to close out the official first half of the season. The All-Star Break begins Monday, and following the Home Run Derby on Monday and the All-Star Game on Tuesday, they have two extra days off before starting Part Two of the season. They’ll host a long homestand, with the Blue Jays, Rays, and Rockies.

Roster moves: Before tonight’s game, the Yankees activated Domingo German from the 10-day injured list after his hip injury early last month. To make room, they optioned reliever Stephen Tarpley back to AAA Scranton.

“The Machine” is making waves beyond Yankee Universe. After receiving on of the coveted All-Star starter spots, DJ LeMahieu continued showing off and earned the honor of being June’s AL Player of the Month. Certainly well-deserved, LeMahieu is one of the many cogs in this truly amazing team, and I, for one, am glad more people beyond regular fans to recognize this.

Yankee Universe Bits: So, the greatness of the Yankees apparently extends beyond the big league guys. There are 9 minor league teams that are part of the Yankees’ farm system. (Quick reference: AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders; AA Trenton Thunder; Advanced-A Tampa Tarpons; Class-A Charleston RiverDogs; Short-A Staten Island Yankees; Rookie Leagues Pulaski Yankees, Gulf Coast League Yankees East, and Gulf Coast League Yankees West; and International League Dominican Summer League Yankees)

In a game played by the DSL Yankees and the DSL Twins today, the Yankees basically blew the old minor league record of runs scored in a single game (33) by setting a new one by scoring 38 runs. And you thought the craziness in the first game in London was something!

Go Yankees!

Game 81: NYY vs. BOS — A dramatic British spin on America’s ultimate rivalry

I love London. It’s a vibrant, ecclectic city, with a perfect mix of the super historic and cutting edge all jumbled together to house its international population. Similar in many ways to New York, this European capital is certainly a perfect place to kick off the MLB’s push for a more international presence. Regular season games have been played in Asia and Latin America, host countries/regions that provide quite a few current MLB stars. An expansion of the game in a city that’s hosted games for other American professional sports seems like a natural progression for America’s pastime.

New York and Boston were rather logical choices to be the teams to play in the inaugural series in England. First, their rivalry is unmatched in sports, even in a country that boasts some of the wildest rivalries and extreme fanaticism for sports. Second, you really can’t avoid the Revolutionary War-era smack-talk between the British Empire and its former Colonial strongholds. (At least those of us who are also big history nerds.)

A quick history review: Boston was the closest city to where it all began, hosting the battles of Lexington and Concord and the site of the Boston Massacre to really kick of the War. And New York was occupied by the British for much of the War, while Washington set-up one of his most famous spy rings within the city that involved Benedict Arnold’s traitorship and uncovering Cornwallis’ plans at Yorktown that actually won the War.

Now, of course, nearly two and a half centuries later, the US-UK relationship is one of close allies. So, when American baseball comes to Great Britain, 120,000 tickets sell out their stadium. Fans all over braved the heat wave that’s sweeping Europe right now to sit through a four hour and forty-two minute game at London Stadium, the home of one of those Premier League clubs and former Olympic Stadium from summer 2012.

And for fans who’d never witnessed a rivalry game between the two legendary teams, the teams certainly delivered. We can definitely blame the fact that the field was quite different, with shorter distances in the outfield to the fence and a really big foul space that had all the outfielders covering much more ground than usual.

Based on the schedule, the Red Sox were chosen as the home team, though both teams wore their home white uniforms. (Who doesn’t want to see the Yankees in their famous pinstripes?) That meant that the Yankees were up to bat first, and they quickly became the answer to many trivia questions that start with “who is the first player in the inaugural European baseball game to…”

DJ LeMahieu led-off the game with a single (the 1st hit), and Sanchez worked a 1-out walk. Then a trio of doubles got the runs rolling — Luke Voit’s scored LeMahieu (the 1st RBI/run scored), Didi Gregorious‘ scored both Sanchez and Voit, and Edwin Encarnacion’s scored Gregorius. Then Aaron Hicks smacked a big 2-run home run (the 1st homer) to push the Yankees into a big early lead and end the Red Sox’s starter’s night too early. The new pitcher was able to close it out without further damage, with LeMahieu striking out to end the inning (1st strikeout).

But there’s no rivalry without some major drama, and the Red Sox certainly gave their best performance to match. Masahiro Tanaka got the start and seemed to mirror the struggles the Sox’s starter had, also unable to make it out of the 1st inning. He gave up a single that scored on a double and then a pair of walks to load up the bases. After an infield fly pop-up, he got a sacrifice fly that scored the lead runner. But a RBI single was followed by a big 3-run home run up the middle to suddenly tie up the game.

Tanaka trudged back to the dugout as Chad Green came out for relief. Green was assumed to start tomorrow’s game as the “opener”, but with his two-inning outing tonight, the Yankees are making other plans. Green got out of the first and kept the Red Sox scoreless into 3rd. Hale continued this momentum into the 4th before handing the ball to Nestor Cortes Jr for long-term relief in the middle innings.

In the mean time, the Yankees came back to find their opportunities to reclaim their early lead. With 2 outs in the 3rd, Torres singled and then scored as part of Brett Gardner’s 2-run home run into the right field seats. Then in the 4th, Voit led-off with a double, and Gregorius walked. Two outs later, Torres’ single loaded up the bases, and Gardner’s walk scored Voit. DJ LeMahieu then hit a bases-clearing double before scoring as part of Aaron Judge’s big 2-run home run.

Voit led-off the 5th with a double, but injured himself in the race to 2nd and was pinch-run by Urshela. Urshela took 3rd on a wild pitch and scored on Didi Gregorius’ single. After a strikeout out and pitching change, Hicks singled, and both runners moved up on a wild pitch. Torres’ walk loaded the bases, and LeMahieu (who else?) singled home Gregorius and Hicks to cap off the Yankees’ massive scoring today.

Back at the mound, Cortes was doing just fine for most of his outing, despite giving up a 1st pitch lead-off solo homer in the 6th. With 2 outs in the 7th, he gave up consecutive singles that scored on a 3-run home run. After giving up another single (rather than getting that 3rd out), the Yankees called in Tommy Kahnle, but he too had some trouble, unable to get an out. He gave up a walk, a wild pitch to move runners to scoring position, an RBI single, and a walk on a wild pitch that scored one more run.

It was Adam Ottavino’s turn. After an RBI double, he got the necessary out to close out that messy inning, but some allowed baserunners in the 8th had the Yankees calling for Britton. He loaded up the bases and still got out of the jam before Chapman needed just 8 pitches and a snazzy double play to close out the 9th inning and the game.

Cue the fireworks. Cue Frank Sinatra.

Final score: 17-13 Yankees

Injury update: Luke Voit did injure himself on that 5th inning double. He came out of the game after seeming to limp from 1st to 2nd and then back to the dugout. But the Yankees later revealed a tightness in his core muscles just below his navel. One of the broadcasters surmised it might be a cramp due to dehydration and the heat, and now I find myself hoping for this, which should heal overnight with hydration and rest. He’ll be evaluated tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

For the last two days, the American teams have enjoyed connecting with their English fans. On Thursday, the Yankees ran baseball clinics in a local park and gave away tons of free equipment to local clubs. On Friday, the teams worked out at the stadium, getting used to its weird dimensions and artificial turf, before many of them explored the city for sightseeing. In addition, a group of players met with athletes from the Invictus Games to host an adaptive baseball clinic. There was also a special welcome dinner for the teams at the historic Tower of London.

Before tonight’s game, both teams got a special visit from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (also known as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle). The Yankees presented the Duchess (who is also an American) with a special team jersey emblazoned with “Archie” and “19” on it for their infant son born earlier this year. The Sussexes (as they are called) are patrons for the Invictus Games, an organization that allows wounded servicemen and women to compete athletically, and the Games were appointed the Official Charity Sponsor of this special series in London. The royal couple escorted some of those special athletes and their families to the mound before the game to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

On a final “note” (pun intended), the Kingdom Choir sang beautiful renditions of both national anthems before unfurled flags held by each country’s service men. If you are a royal watcher or anglophile, you might remember this outstanding choir from the Sussexes’ wedding last year. They’re truly amazing.

Go Yankees!