Game 95: NYY vs. CLE — Splitting the series with loss in half finale

The Yankees were hoping to close out this first half of the season on an upswing, so to speak. But they had to settle for a split series and a loss this afternoon in Cleveland going into the All-Star break.

The Yankee bats did what usually ensures them a win — get on the board first and give enough lead to allow the starter and bullpen to keep things together. Gardner led-off the 3rd with a single, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, advanced to 3rd on Gregorius’ 1-out single, and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ 2-out single. And Neil Walker hit a big 2-out solo home run in the 4th to double their score.

This was good news to today’s starter Masahiro Tanaka, who was fairly efficient with just 77 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up 6 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and striking out 5 Cleveland batters. The game ended up tied in the bottom of the 4th, when that lone walk scored as part of a solid 2-run home run.

With a runner at 2nd and just 1 out in the 7th, the Yankees turned to the reliable Chad Green to keep things close and get out of the threat. He did. In that inning, at least. But in the 8th, things got messy. The Indians broke the tie when their lead-off batter hit a solo homer. The next batter singled, stole 2nd, and ended up at 3rd on the steal due to a bad throwing error. The next batter was hit by a pitch, a wicked shot to the back hand on an errant inside pitch. And after an out (finally), he intentionally loaded the bases.

A long sacrifice fly to right field tested the speed of the runner against Stanton’s arm and Higashioka’s reactions. It seems the runner slid just under the tag to give the Indians their insurance run. During the throw, the other runner moved to 3rd and would later score on a bad wild pitch. A quick 12-pitch 9th by the Indians’ closer ended the Yankees chances for a rally.

Final score 5-2 Indians, series split 2-2

Next up: after today, all of MLB enters the official “half-time”, the All-Star break. A select few will travel (or are traveling) to Washington, D.C. for all the festivities of the All-Star Game. As I write this the All-Star Futures Game is underway, with Yankees’ prospect pitcher Justus Sheffield set to pitch for Team USA. The Home Run Derby will be tomorrow (Monday) night as the cap to Work-Out Day. And then after the Red Carpet Parade, the big exhibition game will be Tuesday night, featuring Judge and Severino with Torres and Chapman (both resting due to injuries) cheering on from the AL dugout.

Following a couple of days off, baseball returns on Friday, with the Yankees hosting the Mets for a 3-game weekend series. They’ll take a quick trip down to Tampa Bay for a 3-game series before returning to the Bronx for 4-games against the Royals, a day-off, and 2-games against the Orioles to close out this month.

And if you’re a trivia nerd, here’s some numbers to sound smart in conversations about baseball. The Yankees finish this first half with 62 wins, 33 losses, 4.5 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East but tied for 2nd (with Houston) in all of MLB.

As a team, the Yankees are 1st in home runs (160), 2nd in walks (1st in the AL, with 363), 3rd in runs scored (491) and RBIs (474), 2nd in On-base percentage plus slugging (.796), 2nd in pitching ERA (3.46), and their pitchers rank 2nd in strikeouts given (945).

Individually, the team leaders include Luis Severino in ERA (2.31, also 5th in the AL) and wins (14, also 1st in MLB), Aroldis Chapman in saves (26, 4th in MLB), Miguel Andujar in batting average (.283), Giancarlo Stanton in hits (103), and Aaron Judge in home runs (25, also 3rd in MLB), runs scored (66), RBIs (60), and OPS (.937, also 6th in AL).

Basically, things are in a good place. Plus, they hope to have both Sanchez and Torres back right after the break, though their AAA back-ups (Higashioka and Wade) are doing quite a good job in their stead. And with that looming trade deadline at the end of the month, the Yankees aren’t just battling for a winning season, they’re contending for their 28th championship. And with teams like the Astros and Red Sox (really their biggest threats this season so far) who are battling with them in nearly every category, the Yankees have some work to do.

The second half is going to be something to watch. So stay tuned. There’s so much more baseball left to play.

Go Yankees!

Games 88 & 89: NYY vs. BAL — Splitting the doubleheader, #ASGiancarlo

The Yankees penciled in the first of today’s two games back in May, when it was still a soggy Spring and rain delays were trending hotter than the latest string of summer superhero blockbusters. So it became a single-admission doubleheader for today, meaning they play one early-ish game and then a small break later, the second about regularly scheduled game-time.

Game 1:
CC Sabathia got the start in the first game and didn’t really have a great outing. It wasn’t terrible, 99 pitches into the 6th inning, allowing 7 hits, 3 walks, and 5 runs, and striking out just 4 Baltimore batters. But it wasn’t the kind of outing that Sabathia could be happy with, even without factoring in the eventual loss.

He held them off until the 4th. Then, he gave up a 1-out double that scored as part of a 2-run home run to get the O’s on the board. Then after loading up the bases, Sabathia worked his way out of the inning. In the 6th, he gave up a walk, a double, and a 3-run homer that pushed the Orioles into the lead.

With no outs in the 6th, Sabathia handed the ball over to Holder who got into his own jam before getting out of it. Cole followed suit with 2 scoreless innings to keep the O’s from adding to their lead.

In that first game, the Yankees actually got on the board first, thanks to Giancarlo Stanton’s lead-off solo home run in the 2nd, his 22nd of the season. In the 3rd, Higashioka led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on Wade’s single before getting caught out at home on a double play that moved Wade to 2nd. Aaron Judge singled Wade home, and Didi Gregorius singled home Judge.

Under a new pitcher in the 6th, Stanton led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on a ground out, and then scored on Neil Walker’s single. But then the Orioles’ bullpen kept the Yankees from retaking their lead and handed the game to the home team.

Final score for Game 1: 5-4 Orioles

Game 2:
Forty minutes and a field reset later, the second half of the doubleheader was ready to go. And Luis Cessa was tapped to start this game. Cessa was in performance mode tonight, throwing 85 pitches in 6 scoreless innings, giving up 3 hits and 3 walks, and striking out 4 batters along the way.

After dropping the first game, the Yankees were ready to come back strong and sure for the second game, striking first and keeping control of the game. Gardner led-off the 1st inning with a solid single, moved to 2nd on a fly out, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ double. And in a pattern for the rest of the game, they loaded up the bases but didn’t capitalize on the Orioles’ weak season patterns on display in this 2nd game.

In the 4th, with 2 outs, Walker singles and then scored on Brett Gardner’s 2-run home run. Stanton led-off the 5th with a double, moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on Greg Bird’s single. That ended the Orioles’ starter’s night and for a few innings, the Yankees were held off.

Then in the 8th, with 2 outs, Frazier doubled and then scored on Austin Romine’s big 2-run home run. Walker then doubled and scored on Gardner’s double. A new pitcher loaded up the bases with walks to Judge and Gregorius. Stanton then made it to 1st safely due to a sloppy throwing error, keeping the bases loaded and scoring Gardner.

Giovanny Gallegos took over for Cessa for the final third of the game and kept the Orioles at bay until the 8th inning when a lead-off single scored as part of a 1-out 2-run home run to break the shutout. Despite their extensive lead, the Yankees opted to take back those allowed run in the top of the 9th.

Andujar led-off with a double, and Frazier worked a walk. Austin Romine’s double scored Andujar, but Frazier was caught out at home. Gardner hit a 2-out single to move Romine to 3rd before scoring on Judge’s single. A new reliever finally ended the Yankees’ threat.

Final score for Game 2: 10-2 Yankees

In a weird twist, the original series was a 4-game weekend series in Baltimore. The first game was rained out and made-up today, the Yankees won the middle 2 games, and the last game was also rained out and will be made-up August 25, as the first game of a standard double header. In other words, that series’ result is still pending, though currently stands at 2-1 Yankees.

Roster moves: before the game, the Yankees called in Gallegos to be the 26th man allowed for a doubleheader. Then between innings, the Yankees recalled Luis Cessa so he could start the second game, and had to make a hard choice. They ended up optioning Brandon Drury to AAA Scranton. It wasn’t a decision that sat well with many people as Drury has been a reliable bench player, but he’s a phone call away and I can guarantee he’ll be back soon.

And this is your reminder to “Vote #ASGiancarlo“, and vote for Giancarlo Stanton to be the Yankees’ 5th representative at the All-Star Game. There are so many deserving players on the Yankees’ current roster, and every player has their own person they’d nominate that didn’t make the cut.

But that’s the way some seasons work — some rosters are just packed with All-Stars, and some years you can barely find a veteran to honor for the required lone representative. A potential of 5 Yankees (and talks of who’s forgotten) sounds like it’s the former kind of year, as does the standings and anyone with eyes watching the Yankees play this year.

Go Yankees!

Game 87: NYY vs. TOR — Gardner leads to victory in the 10th. Who’s in the All-Star Game? #ASGiancarlo

Another lovely summer day in Toronto allowed for a great day at the ball park, the roof open, the skies clear, and the fans cheering on their teams. And for this rubber match (the game to decide who wins the series), the Yankees and Blue Jays certainly gave the fans somehting to cheer about.

Domingo German got the start in the finale against the Jays, throwing 100 pitches in 6 innings, giving up just 4 hits, 2 walks, and 1 run, and striking out 5 batters. In fact, his lone allowed run was a 6th inning lead-off solo shot. Warren gave a solid 2 innings in relief, and Green followed that up by breezing through the 9th inning in just 11 pitches.

Now, the Yankees actually got on the board first, in the 1st inning. With 1 out, Judge singled, moved to 3rd on Stanton’s double, and then scored on Miguel Andujar’s ground out. After that, the Yankees collected 5 more hits and 2 walks through the next 8 innings, but didn’t do anything to add to their runs.

So, with the game tied, into the 10th inning they went. The first batter up, Bird, was hit by a pitch, and because they needed some speed on the bases, the Yankees called on Tyler Wade as pinch-runner. Romine’s sacrifice bunt moved Wade to 2nd and into scoring position so that when Brett Gardner hit a nice single into left field, Wade raced home to break the tie.

Two outs later, the Yankees called on David Robertson to close out the game. 12 pitches and 3 outs later, the Yankees declared victory for the game and the series.

Final score: 2-1 Yankees, in 10 innings, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: the Yankees are on their way to Baltimore to face the Orioles for a 4-game series, starting with a doubleheader tomorrow. The first game is a make-up game of the rain-out from May 31. After their series at Camden Yards, the Yankees travel to face the Indians for a 4-game weekend series before the All-Star Break.

And speaking of the All-Star Game, MLB officially announced their fan selections for the starters, as well as its player-voted (and Commissioner’s Office selected) player reserves and pitching staff for the game next Tuesday (July 17). And there are 4 (possibly 5) Yankees on that list — Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Aroldis Chapman, and Gleyber Torres. Giancarlo Stanton is nominated for the Final Vote.

Judge received his 2nd selection as an outfield starter this year, joined by pitchers Chapman and Severino (all for very obvious reasons). Plus, Torres was selected as part of the reserves player. Now, despite the fact that he may be sidelined due to his recent hip injury, selection to be part of the All-Star Game is a badge of sorts players can wear with honor for the rest of their lives. (You can enjoy a rather extensive list of the players selected and their achievements this year so far.)

And that brings us to the Final Vote. You can vote unlimited times until this Wednesday (July 10) at 4pm (EST) for your favorite AL and NL player of the 10 nominated (5 in each league) — like Stanton, for example. Other nominees include outfielders Andrew Benintendi (Red Sox) and Andrelton Simmons (Angels), shortstops Eddie Rosario (Twins) and Jean Segura (Mariners) for the AL. In the NL are infielders Jesus Aguilar (Brewers), Brandon Belt (Giants), Matt Carpenter (Cardinals), Max Muncy (Dodgers), and Trea Turner (Nationals).

So vote often for your favorites! And use the social media hashtag: #ASGiancarlo.

Go Yankees!

Game 86: NYY vs. TOR — Early power wins game, with ejections & injuries

In comparison to much of the country right now, the Queen City is having some nice (and fairly standard) summer weather for this Saturday afternoon and middle game of this weekend series. The roof of Rogers Centre open to the blue skies and the Yankees ready to bounce back after last night’s game set up a great game for their fans in the Toronto area.

Luis Severino got the start and actually had a lesser outing than previous ones, despite earning his 14th win and keeping the Blue Jays from doing too much damage. He threw 97 pitches in 5 innings, gave up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, and struck out just 5 batters. In the 2nd, with 1 out and a runner on 1st with a single, a 2-run home run got the Blue Jays on the board. And a 1-out solo homer in the 4th added on another.

Jonathan Holder came on for the 6th, gave up a lead-off double that moved to 3rd on a single and then scored on a sacrifice fly. But then Robertson and Betances held the Jays scoreless through the next 2 innings. Aroldis Chapman got one strikeout in the 9th and then came out of the game (more below), handing things over to Chasen Shreve, who despite giving up a solo home run, still got out of the inning rather quickly. Shreve appears to be bouncing back, at least somewhat, thanks to less-pressured situations.

Meanwhile, the Yankees’ offense started strong and stayed strong beginning with a 1st pitch home run right up the middle by Brett Gardner. Aaron Judge followed that up with a solo home run of his own. Stanton and Hicks each worked walks before the Jays’ starter finally got a couple of outs. Then Brandon Drury hit a long double that scored both Stanton and Hicks to double the Yankees’ early score.

Then in the 3rd, Gregorius led-off with a walk. After 2 outs (and the ejection of CC Sabathia, for chirping at the umpire over the questionable strike zone), Gregorius stole 2nd, and Bird worked a walk. As the Jays’ starter exited the game, he was almost ejected, but his manager instead took his fate (for the same reason as Sabathia actually). But the new reliever gave up a quick triple to Brett Gardner (the fastest triple in 2018, by the way) that scored Gregorius and Bird. A passed ball easily allowed Gardner to later score.

But then the Blue Jays’ pitching staff was able to piece together their relievers to keep the Yankees from adding to their impressive lead. Until the 9th inning. Andujar led-off with a ground-rule double and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ single. That insurance run was eventually unnecessary, but it certainly put a cap on the Yankees’ offensive show today (9 total hits, 10 total walks).

Final score: 8-5 Yankees

Roster moves: before the game, the Yankees recalled Clint Frazier and designated reliever David Hale for assignment. After being sent to AAA in anticipation for Monday’s coming doubleheader, pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga developed inflammation in his right shoulder and is probably headed for the disabled list. That leaves Luis Cessa on tap for the second game of the doubleheader in Baltimore now.

Okay, so two potential injuries during the game: after 6 pitches in the 9th, Aroldis Chapman, who’s been battling tendinitis in his left knee, was feeling some intense pain there and Boone figured it wasn’t worth the risk as the Yankees were so far ahead. And Aaron Hicks left the game in the 5th due to some cramping in his left leg.

Stadiums with artificial turf are often the source of problems, even temporary ones, for many players. The only 2 remaining stadiums in MLB are Rogers Centre (Blue Jays) and Tropicana Field (Rays), unfortunately for all players in the AL East, as division rivals play each other more than any other team.

In general, real grass surfaces have a natural give, but artificial turf has either a stiffer base or one that is too spongy. Think of the difference of beaches like Daytona (where you can literally drive onto the sand) vs. Clearwater (more like quicksand, that sinks under every step). Neither of those really work well for anything more than sunbathing, even sand castles are difficult because it’s either too dense or too soft of a foundation. But a mix (like the Pacific Coast beaches) allows for running, volleyball, soccer games, and general beach athletics (and great sand castles!).

Go Yankees!

Game 84: ATL vs. NYY — #CCStrong + 3 homers = #HappyIndependenceDay

America is celebrating its birthday today, and the sold-out crowd at Yankee Stadium (and at stadiums all over this country) did so in the most American way — watching a great baseball game with family and friends. Another strong game by the Yankees helped conclude this series against the Braves and this final home stand before the All-Star Break.

CC Sabathia threw 103 pitches in his 6 strong innings, giving up 5 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs and striking out 5 Atlanta batters along the way to earning his 6th win. In fact, Sabathia held the Braves scoreless through most of the game. In the 5th, with 1 out and runners on the corners, a ground out scored the Braves’ first run. And a 2-out solo home run in the 6th scored the other. Green, Betances, and Holder closed out the final third of the game and kept the Braves to those 2 runs.

The Yankee batters felt at liberty (pun intended) to show off why they’re one of the most talked about teams in baseball right now (at least in the positive way). In the 2nd, Gregorius hit a 1-out double and scored on Greg Bird’s 2-out single to kick things off. Walker led-off the 3rd with a single, and Hicks worked a 2-out walk. They both then scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s big 3-run home run.

Kyle Higashioka continued to make a splash with his 3rd MLB hit becoming his 3rd home run, a 4th inning 2-out solo shot into (where else with him?) the left field seats. And in the 7th, with 1 out, Aaron Judge capped off Yankee scoring with a 1-out solo home run, his 24th on the season.

Final score: 6-2 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-1 (and the home stand 4-2)

Next up: after an off-day/travel day tomorrow, the Yankees will play a 3-game weekend series against the Blue Jays before heading down to Baltimore. There, they begin with a doubleheader, the first game a make-up from a rain out in May. After 4 games, they travel to Cleveland for a 4-game weekend series against the Indians before the All-Star Break. (Did you vote for your favorites yet? Time’s up tomorrow at midnight.)

And there has been some discussion about Gleyber Torres. Torres recently confided that his right hip flexor has bothered him for some time and just “lived with it”. He was noticeably absent from Tuesday’s game after feeling hurt following Monday’s game. Then, after being pulled from today’s game in the 4th inning and taking time for extra warm-up stretches, as a precaution (and in case it’s something worse), the Yankees will send him for an MRI. Fingers crossed it’s just a little overuse that a couple of days rest will heal.

Finally, the Yankees honor two legendary figures in their Universe born today — former owner George Steinbrenner would have been 88 today, and long-time radio broadcaster John Sterling celebrated his 80th birthday. His former partner and current YES Network broadcaster (and friend) Michael Kay honored him in a very John Sterling kind of way, with a special “home run call”. Happy birthday to them and to America today!

Go Yankees!

Game 82: ATL vs. NYY — 11th inning oopsie

The Yankees had a ridiculous amount of opportunities to make the difference of the game, pretty consistently throughout, and yet didn’t do much along the lines of the Yankees’ offense this past weekend. They ended up leaving 12 runners in scoring position in the game, mostly in the latter half.

Jonathan Loaisiga got the start in tonight’s opener against the Braves, throwing 92 pitches in just 4 innings, giving up 5 hits and 3 runs, and striking out just 3 Atlanta batters. The lead-off batter in the 3rd hit a solo shot to get the Braves on the board. Then in the 4th, with 1 out, Loaisiga gave up 3 consecutive doubles that scored 2 more runs for Atlanta.

The Yankees actually got on the board first with Aaron Judge’s 1-out solo home run in the 1st. Then Gleyber Torres led-off the 3rd with a double, advanced to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on another wild pitch. In the 5th, with 1 out, the Yankees began putting runners in scoring position by loading the bases with Torres’ single and 2 walks to Gardner and Judge. Didi Gregorius’ sacrifice fly scored Torres (and tie up the game), but a pop-up out ended that opportunity.

So, after Loaisiga’s night ended, the Yankees got 2 innings each out of both Holder and Green. And Aroldis Chapman’s 9th inning was just amazing, 10 of his 18 pitches were over 100 mph (2 were 104 mph). But with the game tied, the extra innings became inevitable. Betances allowed 2 baserunners and still got out of the 10th inning unscathed.

But then in the 11th, David Robertson got his chance and would have succeeded except for some defensive issues. The lead-off batter made it safely to 1st on a fielding error, but then he was out on a ground out that failed to convert to a double play. The next batter hit a long fly ball to right-center field and Judge didn’t jump in time to grab the ball. It bounced in his glove and then on the top of the back wall for a 2-run home run.

Final score: 5-3 Braves, in 11 innings

Scranton Shuttle (roster moves): Following the game, and the depleted bullpen, the Yankees sent Jonathan Loaisiga to AAA, and reactivated AJ Cole after a brief rehab stint. The Yankees have a doubleheader next Monday in Baltimore, which means they can carry a 26th man on their roster. Logically then, Loaisiga will be back for those games.

In fun Yankee Universe News: the Yankees just signed Luis Severino’s 19-year-old brother Rafael, as part of the international signing period. The younger Severino is part of an academy in their native Dominican Republic and has a pitching arm that regularly throws in the upper 80s. The elder brother is super excited and brags on his younger sibling’s work ethic and potential. Two Severinos with the Yankees? Yes, please!

These are the final days for the All-Star Game voting on the starters for the game. So it’s time now to get your final votes in and have your voice heard. Fans have until July 5 (Thursday) at 11:59 pm EST to vote for their favorites. The All-Star Game is Tuesday, July 17. And it looks like Aaron Judge is one of the front-runners to start in the outfield, and the chances for Severino or perhaps one of the outstanding relievers for other representation in D.C.

Go Yankees!

Game 81: BOS vs. NYY — 6 homers for the Bronx Bombers

We’re officially at the physical half-way point in the season. And after tonight’s game, the Yankees are tied with tonight’s opponents. Though, after this crazy weekend series, it’s kind of hard to believe either team is atop anything. However, tonight, it seemed to swing in favor of the Yankees. By a lot. And it followed the same pattern — stronger starting pitcher, major offense, huge win.

The Yankees sent in their ace pitcher to close out this series against the Red Sox. Luis Severino threw another great game, 99 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up just 2 hits and 3 walks, striking out 6 batters, and keeping the Red Sox completely scoreless.

Despite the score, the Yankees needed to exercise their power-relievers and thus gave Robertson, Betances, and Chapman the chance to get the final 8 outs of the game. Robertson and Betances kept things tight and scoreless, without allowing a base runner.  Aroldis Chapman came into the game in the 9th with 1 out and had a bit of trouble, giving up a double, a single, and a ground out that scored the Red Sox’s lone run of the game. Another grounder ended the game and Chapman’s struggles.

Meanwhile, the Yankees faced an old foe as the Red Sox’s starter (the same pitcher who gave up Jeter and Rodriguez’s 3000th hits, while he was with different teams) who the Yankees seem to know how to hit regardless of the opposing team. His fate was set in the 1st inning. With 1 out, Aaron Judge kicked off tonight’s big night with a solo home run up the middle. Then Stanton singled and Gregorius’ double put runners in scoring position, and they both scored as part of Gleyber Torres’ big 3-run home run.

In the 2nd, with 1 out, Gardner singled and then scored with Aaron Hicks’ 2-run home run. Kyle Higashioka led-off the 4th with his 1st major league hit, a huge solo home run into the 2nd deck of the left field seats. And yes, there was a John Sterling home run call. And yes, the Yankees gave him a temporary silent treatment in the dugout, on Sabathia’s suggestion, before hounding him with their congratulations.

Anyway, then after an out, Aaron Hicks hit his 2nd home run of the night, a nice solo shot into Monument Park. That would be the end of the Red Sox starter’s night, but the first reliever had some issues. Judge singled, and Stanton double to move both runners to scoring position. Didi Gregorius hit a long sacrifice fly to score Judge.

After that, the reliever settled into some momentum for the next 2 innings, and his replacement had a solid 7th inning. But the 8th inning reliever had trouble, starting with Aaron Hicks hitting his 3rd (!) home run of the night to lead off the inning. Judge then walked, moved to 2nd on Drury’s single, and then scored on Neil Walker’s single to cap things off for the Yankees tonight.

Final score: 11-1 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: the Yankees will host the Braves starting tomorrow night for 3 games for the final home stand before the All-Star Break. But before the break, they’ll hit the road to face the Blue Jays, Orioles, and Indians.

And a small bit of trivia regarding tonight’s game: Aaron Hicks’ 3-home run game puts him in some pretty good company. Before tonight, Lou Gehrig (in 1927) and Mark Teixeira (in 2010) are the only Yankees to have 3-home run games against the Red Sox. And further, only Hicks and Teixeira did so from both sides of the plate as switch hitters. So much for all that talk from online trolls about how the Yankees should trade Hicks earlier this year…

Go Yankees!