Game 6: DET vs. NYY — Low-energy, limping Wednesday matinee

Well, I can’t say that the Yankees are off to a great start, after dropping both series in their opening homestand. But it wasn’t like they were plowed over. You really can’t measure how much a recent bout of injuries have affected the overall outcomes, but I’m thinking a few more losses than wins certainly comes close.

Once again, the reason the Yankees fell short is that their offense is just not clicking. They’re leaving far too many people on base, and today, they’re striking out like it’s going out of style — collecting 18 total strikeouts.

And they even got to score first, in the 3rd. With 1 out (a strikeout, of course), DJ LeMahieu doubled and then scored on Aaron Judge’s single. After another strikeout, Sanchez walked, and Torres hit a single. However, the ball hit Judge en route to 3rd which meant he was out and thus ended the inning. A rather disappointing end to what was looking like a promising inning.

And what ended up being their lone promising inning.

Today’s call-up Jonathan Loaisiga got the start, throwing 70 pitches in his 4 innings, giving up just 1 hit, 3 walks, and 1 run. It was the walks that really got him in the end. In the 4th, a lead-off walk got all the way to 3rd after a strike-em-out, throw-em-out went awry with a throwing error. Two consecutive walks loaded the bases, and a sacrifice fly scored just 1 run to tie up the game before a strikeout got him out of the jam.

Holder had a better run through the 5th and 6th innings, and Chad Green sailed through the 7th. But then he gave up a lead-off solo home run in the 8th to give the Tigers the lead. And Britton efficiently shut them down in the 9th inning in just 11 pitches. The Yankees just didn’t have it in them to overcome a stellar Tigers (and former Yankee) reliever to close out the game.

Final score: 2-1 Tigers, Tigers win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees travel to Baltimore for the Orioles’ home opening series this weekend. They will follow the now popular opener pattern of a Thursday game, an off-day Friday, and then two games on the weekend. Then they will travel to visit the Astros before heading home for their next homestand, hopefully with better results than this first one.

Roster moves: Before the game, the Yankees reinstated CC Sabathia from MLB’s Suspension List and transferred him to the 10-day injured list, still keeping an eye on him after his heart surgery this off-season. They suspect he will rejoin the team during their next homestand next week. Jonathan Loaisiga was called-up to fill his spot in the rotation and started today’s game.

And during the game, Troy Tulowitzki came out of the game with some pain and possible strain in his left calf muscle. He went to the hospital to get it checked out, but his chances of joining far too many of his teammates on the IL is certainly a possibility. There are two obvious options for infielders in AAA, Estrada and Urshela, and one in AA, Holder. Expect a forthcoming announcement prior to tomorrow’s game.

Just a reminder: Before tonight’s game, the Yankees had 10 major players on the injured list — Andujar, Betances, Ellsbury, Gregorius, Heller, Hicks, Montgomery, Sabathia, Severino, and Stanton. Only 3 of them are expected to return this month. As I said above, it’s not really a surprise that things haven’t been working right with all this power nursing various injuries and unable to contribute to the Yankees’ success.

Okay, everyone, get healthy and stay healthy. Time to start working for #28.

Go Yankees!

Game 3: BAL vs. NYY — Rain-clogged delay delayed run-support

Three hours and seventeen minutes. That’s how long fans milled around Yankee Stadium in anticipation of this afternoon’s series closer against the visiting Orioles. Finally, the rain let up, the tarp came off, and the game proceeded with the remaining loyal fans still lingering about the stadium to watch an almost four hour game.

By the way, seven hours at the ball park, rain or not, sounds like a great way to pass an afternoon to me, but maybe I’m just a bit biased. After the rain passed, it was actually a rather nice afternoon for baseball, though not the desired outcome once again.

JA Happ got the start today, throwing 75 pitches in his 4 innings, giving up 5 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, and striking out just 3 Baltimore batters. Things got sticky for him right in the 1st. With 1 out, he gave up a double, a single, and a big 3-run home run to get the O’s on the board early. A 1-out solo shot in the 3rd added one more for their lead.

He then handed the ball to Luis Cessa for some long-term relief through the middle of the game. But he still had his own issues. In the 5th, a 1-out single ended up at 3rd on an attempted steal and throwing error and then scored on another single. After two clean innings, Cessa came back out for the 8th and gave up a 1-out walk.

Stephen Tarpley got the chance to close out the inning for Cessa, but he also found some trouble, giving up a 2-out 2-run home run to keep adding to the Orioles’ lead. Tommy Kahnle found his own spot of trouble loading up the bases with 3 walks before getting himself out of his own jam with a great strikeout and keeping the Orioles scoreless in that inning.

The Yankees certainly made a valiant attempt to cut into the Orioles’ lead. But they were certainly stymied along the way, leaving 14 runners stranded on the base paths during the game. They didn’t find a clear shot at scoring until the 4th, and even then, it was basically handed to them.

They loaded up the bases with Andujar’s single and walks to Bird and LeMahieu. Then with a new pitcher, Brett Gardner worked an 11-pitch walk to walk in Andujar for the Yankees’ first run of the day. Aaron Judge then singled and scored both Bird and LeMahieu.

In the 7th, Gary Sanchez blasted a 2-out solo home run into the left field seats. And with 2 outs in the 9th, the Yankees tried a small attempt at another rally. Bird worked a walk, and Torres singled (despite an upheld challenge from the Orioles). DJ LeMahieu’s single scored Bird. But feeling rightfully threatened, the Orioles called for a final pitching change, and a strikeout later, the game was over. They ran out of outs.

Final score: 7-5 Orioles, Orioles win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees will host the Tigers for their first midweek series at home. Then they head down to Baltimore to play the Orioles again next weekend, returning the favor for their home opener. They’ll finish up this road trip against the Astros before heading home again.

And thus ends March baseball on a soggy, slow, sour note. But it’s a long season, Yankee Universe, and it’s just getting started. Bring on April.

Go Yankees!

Game 1: BAL vs. NYY — Opening Day victory

Baseball is back! In contrast to last year’s snow-covered and postponed, this afternoon was a bright, sunny, cool late March day in New York for the Yankees to host their Opening Day. Festivities included team introductions, a Broadway star singing the National Anthem, a giant flag waved by West Point Cadets, and new Hall of Fame Inductee Mariano Rivera to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

It was baseball season again, the Yankees won the game, and all is right with the world. At least for now.

Masahiro Tanaka got to start today’s game against the visiting Orioles, throwing 83 pitches into the 6th inning. He gave up 6 hits and 2 runs (1 earned) and struck out 5 Baltimore batters. In fact, he didn’t give up anything until the 4th. With 2 outs, a single made it to 2nd on a throwing error and then scored on an RBI single. And in the 6th, with 1 out, a single moved to 2nd on a ground out and scored on a double.

He handed the game over to Adam Ottavino, to make his Yankee debut and commanded his way through 4 outs and through the 7th inning in just 19 pitches, with 3 stellar strikeouts. Britton and Chapman closed out the game with a scoreless inning a piece.

But the Yankees got things started early with a great 1st inning. With 1 out, Judge and Stanton each singled, setting up Luke Voit to power a big 3-run home run straight up the middle. Then in the 3rd, they loaded up the bases with Judge’s single and walks to Stanton and Voit. Miguel Andujar hit into a basic double play, but Judge still managed to score a run to keep the Yankees lead intact.

They loaded up the bases again in the 5th with 3 consecutive walks to Gardner, Judge, and Stanton. Luke Voit was hit by a pitch, which walked in Gardner. Miguel Andujar’s long sacrifice fly (just feet from a grand slam, by the way) scored Judge. And finally, Greg Bird capped off the Yankees’ scoring with a solid lead-off home run into the Yankees’ bullpen in the 8th.

Final score: 7-2 Yankees

The Yankees have an off-day tomorrow before the series against the Orioles continues with games on Saturday and Sunday. They will then host the Tigers before heading out on their first road trip to Baltimore and Houston.

For the entirety of the 2019 season, the Yankees will wear a black arm band on their jersey to honor the late Mel Stottlemyre, who passed away in January. After 11 seasons as a pitcher with the Yankees, Stottlemyre served as a pitching coach for the Mets, Astros, Yankees, and Mariners, though he always came back to the Bronx and was a frequent face around the clubhouse for years, finally losing his battle to cancer. He is greatly missed.

Roster moves: To help solidify that 40-man roster, the Yankees made a few things official for those keeping track. They placed Didi Gregorius (elbow surgery), Jacoby Ellsbury (hip surgery), Dellin Betances (shoulder impingement), Luis Severino (rotator cuff inflammation), Ben Heller (elbow surgery), and Aaron Hicks (back strain) on the 10-day injury list. This was all retroactive to March 25 (the last official day of Spring Training). Those are key names on the IL that will come off some time this year progressively and could certainly help the Yankees push to better the feats they hit last year (like setting a home run record and winning 100 games).

The Yankees also placed CC Sabathia on suspension, from last year’s discipline at the end of the year. Following this time served, he may be placed on the IL due to his off-season knee and heart surgery to continue his recovery.

It’s a long season. And there’s still 161 games left to play.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 30: NYY vs. MIN — Farewell to Florida, with a win

And we’ve reached the penultimate game of the season. The Yankees headed south about 2 hours to Fort Myers to face the Twins on this lovely Sunday afternoon to close out their Florida-based Spring Training.

James “Big Maple” Paxton got the start this afternoon, throwing into the 6th inning and earning the eventual win. In the 4th, he gave up a lead-off single that scored on a double by a former Yankee (one of several familiar faces in today’s game). Later, in the 6th, a lead-off walk (also a former Yankee) scored on a double (another one) to double the Twins’ score.

Luis Cessa closed out the 6th for Paxton cleanly, but found his own spot of trouble in the 7th when a 1-out triple scored on a sacrifice fly (surprisingly, none of which were former Yankees). JP Feyereisen got his shot at Spring for an inning with a flawless 8th inning, and Alvarez closed out the game with a scoreless 9th.

While the Twins got the lead first, the Yankees were quick to answer back. In the top of the 6th, with 1 out, they loaded up the bases. Greg Bird’s ground out still moved all the runners up and scored lead runner Castillo. Romine worked a walk to load the bases again before the Twins changed pitchers. Clint Frazier promptly hit a solid bases-clearing double to place the Yankees in a firm lead.

In the 7th, Matt Lipka led-off with a single, stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on Castillo’s double. It was the insurance run they wouldn’t need with the way they were playing in the second half of the game, a stark difference to yesterday.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees

Next up: The Yankee head north in preparation for the regular season’s start on Thursday with a quick stop in our nation’s capital. They play a final Spring exhibition game at Nationals Park tomorrow night.

This last stop in a big league park gig, something that really began as a way to open new parks (like they did with the Braves’ new home stadium in 2017) is becoming a pattern across the league. It’s kind of a nice transition between Spring Training and the Regular Season. Now, if only we can get them to play all the April games in southern cities so we don’t have to worry about snow-out games…

Roster moves: We have a final 25-man roster. The biggest surprise was earlier today when the Yankees announced they optioned Tyler Wade to AAA Scranton. This means they chose their latest Yankee Mike Tauchman and his veteran versatility in the outfield over Wade’s more natural infielding skills. Certainly a disappointment for the young player, but I can’t imagine he won’t be one of the first called up when something happens.

Here’s the 2019 Yankee roster: catchers Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine; infielders Greg Bird, Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, Troy Tulowitzki, Miguel Andujar, and DJ LeMahieu; outfielders Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Mike Tauchman; starting pitchers Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, JA Happ, Domingo German, and CC Sabathia; and relievers Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Jonathan Holder, Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino, and Stephen Tarpley.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 25: TB vs. NYY — Drizzly, dreary day can’t dampen the Yankees

For much of the morning leading up the game, the big question was whether there would be a game to play thanks to the ridiculous weather this Spring. Today’s skies began overcast and dreary and spend most of the day drizzling rain all over the area as a new front came marching across the state. Even though it really never stopped, the game played on.

The regular season home team of the Rays came to visit the Yankees Spring home for this afternoon’s game. And the Yankees decided to go with a pitching strategy the Rays tested out last season — a 1-inning opening pitcher, followed by a long-term reliever and a couple of closers. While the Rays didn’t practice their pattern, the Yankees seemed to find it work for them today.

Chad Green was the opening pitcher for the 1st inning and had a bit of trouble at first. A lead-off single raced home on another single that was aided to a sloppy fielding error in right field. But then Green quickly got 3 outs to get out of the inning. Despite getting on the board early, the Rays’ batters were stymied by the Yankees’ pitching for most of the game.

Luis Cessa threw 4 solid, scoreless innings, setting himself up for the eventual win. Britton and Coulombe kept things moving through the 6th-8th innings, before David Sosebee came out for the 9th. A lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a ground out and later scored on a 2-out single to double the visiting team’s score. It was a decent attempt at a rally that fell short.

This was, of course, due to the fact that the Yankees are really becoming quite the force this Spring. Down a run in the 1st, Judge redeemed himself for that 1st inning error at the bat. He worked a 1-out walk and then hustled home on Gary Sanchez’s double to tie up the game.

In the 3rd, with 1 out, Gardner walked and stole 2nd. He then scored on Aaron Judge’s single (the first single he’s hit all Spring, by the way). Judge scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s double, and Stanton promptly scored on Sanchez’s double. Torres led-off the 4th with a walk, stole 2nd, stole 3rd on a 2-out walk, and then scored on Billy Burns’ single. And Greg Bird smacked a big 1-out solo home run in the 5th to cap off the Yankees’ lead early.

Final score: 6-2 Yankees

One to Watch: It’s Thairo Estrada again today, mostly for his stellar defense. It’s always after he makes some outstanding play, like laying out for a catch in the infield dirt or one of those nifty jump-throws, that I’m reminded that just over a year ago, he was shot in a botched robbery in his home of Venezuela.

As a reminder, last January, Estrada and his wife were going out to eat when two teenagers approached to demand cash and his phone, but as he had neither on him, they panicked and shot the young prospect. They were never caught, a symptom of the awful situation currently ravaging the South American country.

Actually, Estrada still has the bullet lodged in his hip and spent the last season plagued by injuries to his back and hamstring in effort to come back eventually. And this Spring, he’s put much of the trauma and drama of last year behind him. He’s really showing why he still should be considered one of the Yankees’ most talented prospects. (The current rankings have him much lower than he should be, but the latest rankings will be released and updated following the finalization of current 25-man and 40-man rosters this next week.)

Next up: The Yankees will travel to West Palm Beach (about 3.5 hours southeast of Tampa) to visit the Astros tomorrow and see the Cardinals on Thursday in nearby Jupiter. Just a few games left of this Spring, and things are still going strong for the Yankees. How that translates to the regular season is still very much up for the talking heads and “barstool managers” to make their infamous sweeping declarations, and the teams to prove them all wrong.

Injury news: Unfortunately, it looks like Dellin Betances will begin 2019 on the disabled list thanks to some right shoulder inflammation and impingement. The impingement is when “you raise your arm to shoulder height, the space between the acromion [top corner shoulder bone] and rotator cuff [tendons connecting shoulder and arm] narrows. The acromion can rub against (or ‘impinge’ on) the tendon and the bursa [fluid sac that helps the shoulder rotate], causing irritation and pain.” In other words, even just working out the shoulder could further aggravate the initial injury.

This means that Betances will need to reduce the inflammation and treat with some physical therapy and steroid injections to combat all the overuse of the shoulder, one would guess to be rather common in pitchers, especially those who throw as hard as he does. But the advantage is that the Yankees have a lot of depth in their bullpen. So a little delay in Betances’ 2019 start won’t harm the Yankees that much.

Before today’s game, the Yankees called on a fellow athlete to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Wearing her medals, Olympic jacket, and a Yankees cap, Abbey Burns threw to her brother, Yankees’ minor leaguer Billy Burns. She is a noted Special Olympics equestrian and swimming athlete and holds records in several categories of Paralympic American swimming.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 24: NYY vs. ATL — “Happiest Place on Earth” hosts a Monday night victory

As we begin the final week of Spring Training, the Yankees headed to Kissimmee to visit the Braves in their final week at the sports complex at Walt Disney World. The Braves will move their Spring to their newly built complex in Sarasota next year, after playing an initial game against the Rays next week just before they both begin their 2019 regular season.

So, tonight, Masahiro Tanaka got the start for the Yankees and held strong through 5 innings, allowing just a 2-out solo home run in the 4th, and collecting 7 stellar strikeouts. Tanaka is looking every bit the eventual Opening Day starter for the Yankees, something he’s clearly earning with outing like this.

Adam Ottavino had a bit of a hiccup when he came out in the 6th. He loaded up the bases with a walk, a single, and a 1-out walk. After another strikeout, he gave up a single that scored just one run. But the bases were still loaded. So Stephen Tarpley came on, and his first batter hit a single that scored 2 more runs, both charged to Ottavino, before he finally got out of the inning.

Tarpley continued through the 7th and came up scoreless. Diehl and Alvarez followed him by closing out the game with a scoreless inning a piece. The Braves were limited to those earlier runs.

This was especially helpful as the Yankees found a couple of opportunities to hit big and dominated the game. In the 2nd, Luke Voit powered a big lead-off solo home run. Two outs later, Wade doubled, Urshela walked, and both runners stole the next base to get into scoring position. They then did so on Ryan Lavarnway’s single.

Then in the 5th, Lavarnway doubled, Gardner singled, and Judge’s triple scored both runners. Stanton and LeMahieu each worked a walk to load the bases and were pinch-run. Then Austin Romine’s single scored 2 more runs for the Yankees to cap off the night.

Final score: 7-4 Yankees

Next up: The Yankees will host the Rays tomorrow afternoon. The final week of Spring continues with the Spring home team playing the regular season home team. It’s always a packed game of locals, but it feels like a regular season Yankees-Rays game at Tropicana Field across the Bay.

There is conversation about the Yankees possibly picking up another veteran starter, but until things are settled and signed, it’s just rumors. Maybe there will be news after tomorrow’s game.

Go Yankees!

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!