Game 21: BAL vs. NYY — 2 grand slams, 8 home runs, 25 total runs… the battle for the AL East

Well, that was interesting. So, as of tonight, the Yankees and Orioles are tied for 1st place in the AL East, and tonight’s game is the reason why. These high batting numbers signal to many people the rise of the offense, but to me, it’s a sign of bad pitching. And that’s certainly true enough for both teams, giving up far too many base runners (both hits and walks) and far too many home runs, despite an average number of strikeouts.

Though no one can argue that things like monster home runs and a couple grand slams aren’t a whole lot of fun to watch.

Anyway, the Orioles came to the Bronx to kick off their weekend series against the Yankees, and tonight they faced CC Sabathia and certainly roughed him up a bit. Sabathia threw just 83 pitches into the 6th inning, but gave up 9 hits, 2 walks, and 7 runs, striking out 6 batters.

In the 3rd, with 2 outs and 2 runners on base, a double scored both to get things started for the Orioles. And a hit-by-pitch to lead off the 4th scored as part of a 2-run home run to double their score. A monster lead-off solo shot (that cleared the restaurant above Monument Park in center field) added yet another run to their O’s lead. And with 2 outs and 2 runners on base in the 6th, Sabathia turned the game over to the bullpen, responsible for those 2 runners.

Unfortunately, Bryan Mitchell continued the struggle, giving up a walk to load the bases and then a big grand slam to leap the Orioles even further ahead. Mitchell’s 7th inning was really no better, giving up another walk and a double to put runners in scoring position so that they both could on a nice single. After 2 more singles and (finally) an out, he handed the ball to Holder who sailed through the rest of the 7th and all of the 8th in just 16 pitches. Clippard continued that momentum in the 9th, with just 11 pitches to knock out those 3 outs.

 

Meanwhile, it was up to the pinstriped boys to spend the game chipping away at the Orioles early (and increasing) lead. It wasn’t until the 5th that the Yankees found their opportunity to get on the board with Aaron Judge’s lead-off solo shot into the visitor’s bullpen in left field. Holliday led-off the 6th with a double, moved to 3rd on Castro’s 1-out single, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ groundout.

Then it would be Judge again to power another home run, a 2-run shot into Monument Park, his 9th homer of the season and 2nd in the game, making this also his first multi-home run game. Apparently, it was also the hardest hit ball since they started recording such things at 119.4 mph. Judge is clearly one of the strongest power-hitters in the game, but then all you need to know that fact is to hear the sound when his bat hits a ball out of the park — it just echoes.

The Yankees found their momentum. So in the 7th, the Yankees kept advancing. Romine led-off with a single, which forced the Orioles’ starter out of the game, and then Headley double and Holliday walked to load up the bases. And it would be Jacoby Ellsbury to hit his 100th home run and 1st career grand slam to electrify Yankee Stadium tonight.

Suddenly, winning the game wasn’t so far out of anyone’s scope. So it was on to the bottom of the 9th, the Yankees down by 3 runs only to have the O’s reliever walk Headley and give up a single to Holliday. Ellsbury grounded into a force out at 2nd, but scored Headley. This meant that the clutch hitter would be Starlin Castro, who came through with a big 2-run home run into the left field bleachers to tie up the game. It was the stuff of dreams and legends, and the crowd went insane.

And it was on to extra innings. Chapman’s 10th inning had a minor blip, a single allowed, but he pulled through with 2 nasty strikeouts. So, the Orioles sent in a new pitcher to face a few pinch-hitters, and that didn’t work out so well. Hicks and Higashioka both walked, and with 1 out, things were looking hopeful. A collective breath was being held by the 36,000 some fans in the stands. And the heroics of this inning fell to Matt Holliday, with a big 3-run walk-off home run, earning his first Gatorade shower as a Yankee (it was purple tonight).

Final score: 14-11 Yankees, in 10

And yes, the Yankees came back from a huge deficit (down 9-1 in the mid-6th) to win this game, something they haven’t done since 2012 (in that now-famous game when they trailed by 9 runs and came back to win it 15-9).

I think my favorite part about the run-scoring part of this game is that it was really a little bit of everyone that contributed. Some got on base to be part of the big scoring, some hit the big homers, and some did a bit of both. As much as we count on defense to be a team effort, so does run-scoring sometimes.

And speaking of big hitters, Jacoby Ellsbury’s big one tonight was his first ever grand slam and his 100th career home run. Almost immeditately, someone put up a link to show an interesting new club Ellsbury is now apart of for hitting a grand slam on his 100th homer, some very interesting names on their including some active players you’ll probably recognize.

In roster moves: yes, you read that right, Didi Gregorius is back and sharp once again on his defense and hitting (2 hits and an RBI tonight) like he didn’t miss most of Spring Training with the WBC and an injury. But with Didi up and off the DL, someone had to say goodbye. The Yankees opted to designate Pete Kozma for assignment to make room for Gregorius.

Now, Kozma could resign with the Yankees (if they offer) for a minor league contract (the most likely option) or he could end up signing somewhere else should he clear waivers. As this develops, I’ll make sure I let you Koz fans know what’s up.

Go Yankees!

Game 19: NYY vs. BOS — #AllRise, Judge & Severino take on Fenway

Consistent northeastern Spring rain spoiled the opening game at Fenway for the rivalry series yesterday, forcing a reschedule for when the teams face off again in The Olde Towne, the first game of a doubleheader on July 16. So, the Yankees were looking to recoup some of their magic they found in the Bronx last week in this now shortened series before heading back home again.

They definitely found it again, despite the cold air and the misty rain and the fog that settled in later in the game. This was thanks in part to some stellar pitching by starter Luis Severino. Severino threw 100 pitches in his 7 strong innings, giving up just 3 hits and 2 walks, and striking out 6 Boston batters, setting himself up for the eventual win. Dellin Betances breezed through the Red Sox lineup with just 13 pitches, including 2 nasty strikeouts, for the 8th inning.

At one point in the 3rd inning, right fielder Aaron Judge went running for a long foul ball and misjudged how high the wall was, tumbling over the edge headfirst as he caught the ball. He came up with the ball, but for some really weird reason, the umpires didn’t trust that he hadn’t just picked it up off the ground. (It’s weird because Judge is one of the more honest guys in the game, so if he dropped it, he’d say he dropped it.) This, of course, sent Girardi out of the dugout to ask for a replay, which took far too long and ultimately revealed what everyone already knew — Judge had the ball the whole time, so it was an out.

It was all smooth sailing for the Yankees. Especially because they gave their pitchers a nice lead to defend. In the 2nd, Castro reached 1st safely on a sloppy throwing error and then scored as part of Aaron Judge’s big 2-run home run over the right field wall. Then in the 6th, with 2 outs, Judge worked a walk, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, and then scored on Greg Bird’s single off the Green Monster.

So, come the bottom of the 9th, all they needed was 3 solid outs for a nice win. But it’s Fenway. And when are these games ever so simple? Aroldis Chapman just struggled his way through the 9th inning. He allowed a lead-off walk and a double to put runners in scoring position, and a ground out scored a Red Sox run and got the first out of the inning. But then a wild pitch moved the lone runner to 3rd, a mere 90 feet from scoring another run. And then he walked the next batter. So, runners at the corners pushed Chapman to dig deep and get a much-needed strikeout. And then to atone for his outing, he took command again and got another one on his 33rd pitch of the inning to end the game and give him his 5th save of the season so far.

Final score: 3-1 Yankees

And in injury news: Didi Gregorius has been amazing with the Tampa Yankees during his rehab stint. He’s batting .444 with them, going 2-for-4 with a walk and RBI just tonight. His home run last night scored their only run of the game. In other words, things are looking good for him to rejoin the team for the next series, which starts Friday back in New York against the Orioles.

Okay, so what makes today’s game even more special is that the hero of tonight’s game, Aaron Judge, celebrated his 25th birthday today. (Happy Birthday!) So, his home run statistic is kind of a fun one. Apparently, despite the regularity of the rivalry series, Yankees who have homered against the Red Sox on their birthdays is a very small group of notable players — Judge today (age 25 in 2017) joins Cecil Fielder (age 33 in 1996), Roger Maris (age 32 in 1966), Yogi Berra (age 22 in 1947), Bill Dickey (age 26 in 1933), and Lou Gehrig (age 26 in 1929). Not a bad club to be part of.

Go Yankees!

Game 17: NYY vs. PIT — Finding some power in the ‘Burgh

On this day in Yankees history, in 1903, the Highlanders played their very first game as a franchise against the Washington Senators, losing 3-1. The Senators would go on to have a terrible season, and the Highlanders actually had a winning season, but came short of the Boston Americans by 17 games. (Coincidentally, the Americans ended up beating the Pirates in the World Series that year.) The Senators moved west and became the Minnesota Twins in 1961. The Americans became Red Sox in 1908. And the Highlanders eventually became the Yankees in 1913.

Just a bit of fun trivia for you to kick off your Saturday…

Anyway, the Yankees are in Pittsburgh for their weekend series, and played the middle game of their series this afternoon on this cool April afternoon in Pennsylvania. Michael Pineda got the start and actually threw a decent outing over all, throwing 73 pitches in his 5 innings, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, striking out 6 batters.

In the 1st, the Pirates started the run-scoring today with a 2-out solo home run and then got another with a 1-out solo shot in the 4th. In the 5th, with 1 out, Pineda loaded the bases with 2 singles and a walk before a sacrifice fly scored another run for the Pirates.

Now, the Yankees had yet to get on the board at this point. But they certainly made up for it, starting in the 6th, sending up 10 batters in that inning alone. Ellsbury led-off with a single, Hicks walked, and they both moved up on a ground out. Then Starlin Castro got the Yankees on the board with a big 3-run home run to tie up the game. Judge’s double ended the Pirates’ starter’s afternoon. So, after Bird was hit by a pitch and Romine singled, the bases were loaded for Ronald Torreyes (having a stellar day, including 4 solid hits), who promptly doubled and broke the tie by scoring 2 more runs for the Yankees.

So, the Yankees were up, and it was time for the Yankees’ bullpen to take over. But they kind of stumbled out of the gate in the bottom of the 6th. Jonathan Holder got 2 outs, but then gave up a double that scored on a single to edge the Pirates closer. Tyler Clippard also had trouble finding that final out of the inning. After a hit-by-pitch, a single scored one more Pirates’ run to tie up the game again before Clippard got that final out of the inning, a strikeout.

The rest of the Yankees’ bullpen had a much cleaner time of the game. Clippard got the first out of the 7th before Betances sailed through the rest of it in just 8 pitches. Mitchell had the best outing, throwing just 9 pitches in the 8th inning, and Chapman’s 9th closed out the game for the Yankees’ pitching staff today.

So, the Yankees found their opportunity to break the tied game in the 8th inning. With 2 outs, Romine started things by capitalizing on a fielding error and reaching base safely. Torreyes joined him on the base path with a single. Then pinch-hitter Chris Carter hit a big 3-run home run into the Yankees’ bullpen to break the tie. Jacoby Ellsbury then started the whole thing all over again when he hit the ball deep into center field and made it all the way to 3rd on a messy fielding error.

So the Pirates made some defensive changes and a pitching change. That didn’t stop the Yankees. A messy wild pitch scored Ellsbury, then Hicks hit a nice ground-rule double and scored on Chase Headley’s double to cap off the Yankees’ 8th inning rally. Aaron Judge wanted in on the action and led-off the 9th inning with a monster solo home run deep into the left field seats (traveling 457 feet) as a final flourish of the Yankees’ runs today.

Final score: 11-5 Yankees.

It should be noted that while the Yankees scored 11 runs on the scoreboard, only 6 of them were considered “earned”, meaning that due to the sloppy defense of the Pirates, they gave up an extra 5 runs (or all of the runs scored in the 8th inning). Every team has days they wish they didn’t make that one mistake. But the Pirates had more than one today, and it cost them the game.

Well, it’s onto the rubber match tomorrow afternoon in Pittsburgh before the Yankees leave Steel City and head back to the East Coast for a mid-week rivalry series at Fenway. It’s worth noting that the AL East is pretty tight in its rankings (except for the Blue Jays) right now, but we’ve only had 17 games and the first month’s not over yet. It’s a long season, as the saying goes…

Go Yankees!

Game 15: CHW vs. NYY — 4 homers sail Yankees to easy victory

Not a bad way to close out the Yankees’ first home stand of the season. And the Yankees were looking for a solid win to carry into their short road trip to Pittsburgh and up to Boston next week. They certainly made that work in their favor. And now, with the 4 home runs in tonight, the Yankees lead the AL with 22 home runs this season (and 3rd in all of MLB behind the Brewers and Mets, oddly).

Masahiro Tanaka had a great outing tonight in the series finale against the White Sox, throwing 96 pitches through 7 innings. He gave up 6 hits, 2 walks, and a run, and struck out 6 Chicago batters. His lone struggle fell in the 4th, when a lead-off double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on another double. It would be the only run the White Sox got tonight.

Tanaka handed the game over to the birthday boy Bryan Mitchell for a beautiful 19-pitch outing into the 9th inning. Tommy Layne took over for the final 2 outs, in just 8 pitches.

The White Sox’s starter had a much less pleasant experience in the Bronx tonight right from the start. The veterans started the fun. Brett Gardner led the game off with a double and ended up on 3rd due to a fielding error. Then Chase Headley followed him up with a big 2-run home run to start the home run rally tonight. And in the 2nd, the young guys got in on the action. Judge singled and Bird doubled to start off the inning. Austin Romine singled home Judge, and Torreyes’ fielder’s choice scored Bird to give the Yankees a solid lead.

Then in the 5th, with 2 outs and Holliday and Ellsbury on the corners with consecutive singles, Starlin Castro hit a big 3-run home run into the visitor’s bullpen. Only to have that followed up by one of the hardest hit, biggest home runs ever in Yankee Stadium by (who else?) Aaron Judge, a deep solo home run into the left field bleachers. And I’m pretty sure it bounced off those flag poles between the upper decks in left field and the scoreboard over the visitor’s bullpen and bleachers.

Then the Yankees faced a couple of good relievers of the White Sox bullpen for a couple of innings, but then they faced one that was not so much. Pinch-hitter Aaron Hicks led-off the 8th inning with a solo home run to add just one more to the Yankees’ lead tonight.

Final score: 9-1 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-1.

And here’s some random facts about tonight’s big play: Judge’s home run in the 5th tonight was his 5th home run of the season. It traveled 448 feet into the stands, coming off the bat at 115.5 mph, making it the hardest hit home run in Yankee Stadium. According to Statcast, it left the stadium in 6.2 seconds and the 3rd longest home run in Yankee Stadium (falling short of Holliday’s monster 459-foot one just 2 days ago). This and Castro’s homers are the first back-to-back homers of the season for the Yankees.

Injury news: Gary Sanchez threw a bit on the infield hours before tonight’s game. It was the first time he’s thrown a ball since injuring his arm last earlier this month. He later posted on his own Twitter account that: “Rehab is going well. Hope to be swinging soon. Thank you for the well wishes.”

And highly rated Yankees prospect Gleyber Torres, currently with AA Trenton, is currently on the 7-day DL after an MRI revealed he had inflammation in his shoulder. But common thought seems to be it will be a brief stint thanks to things like rest and treatment.

Before the game, Brett Gardner got honored with another award from his outstanding performance last season. Tonight, he was presented with his Gold Glove Award. The Gold Glove Award is given annually to the players who have “exhibited superior individual fielding performances at each fielding position in both the National League (NL) and the American League (AL), as voted by the managers and coaches in each league”. Yes, Gardner is continuing to get the recognition that we all know is well-deserved.

Go Yankees!

Game 13: CHW vs. NYY — Let’s make it 8-in-a-row

A rather light crowd in the Bronx tonight to watch the series opener against the visiting White Sox, still more than a few MLB stadium sellout crowds, but light for a big stadium like Yankee Stadium. But it was a pleasant evening for some baseball, and the Yankees decided to go for 8 straight wins.

And they did so behind the rookie starter Jordan Montgomery, making his 2nd start of his MLB career. Actually, Montgomery did a pretty stellar job for the majority of the game, pitching into the 7th inning with just 88 pitches. Overall, he allowed 7 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, and struck out 4 Chicago batters. However, he didn’t allow any runs until the 7th inning. After giving up 2 consecutive singles to kick off his final inning, he left a pitch linger too long in the strike zone that the batter decided to fire over the left field wall for a 3-run blast to get the White Sox finally on the board.

That would be it for Montgomery, so he turned the game over to Adam Warren. Going into this game, Warren had yet to allow a baserunner let alone a run, but that ended tonight. He gave up a walk in the middle of getting out of the 7th inning for Montgomery, but got the out before any further damage happened. Then after a fairly easy 8th, Warren struggled in the 9th. With 1 out, he gave up a single that promptly scored on a double to snap Warren’s scoreless streak.

So, the Yankees went to their sure thing — Aroldis Chapman. Chapman threw a grand total of 2 pitches. With just 1 out and a runner on 2nd, his 1st pitch became a single to put runners on the corners. His 2nd pitch became a ground out that the infield beautifully turned into a double play (the 4th of the night for the Yankees’ defense) and Chapman’s 4th save this season.

Meanwhile, the Yankees only needed 2 innings to make an impact tonight offensively. In the 3rd with 2 outs and Kozma and Hicks on the corners, Matt Holliday showed that his back was feeling better with a single monster swing to get the Yankees on the board with a 3-run home run straight into the left field bleachers at a projected 459 feet.

After that, the inning became a hit parade. Castro doubled and then scored on Chase Headley’s double, who ended up on 3rd thanks to a fielding error. Headley then scored on Aaron Judge’s single to cap off the Yankees for that inning as the Yankees sent up all 9 batters that inning alone. And in the 5th, with 2 outs and Castro on 1st with a single, Aaron Judge hit a big 2-run home run into the White Sox’s (the visitor’s) bullpen that forced the starter out of the game and give the Yankees a huge, solid lead.

They’d need it. The Yankees didn’t get another baserunner the rest of the game, while the White Sox chipped away at the lead, but certainly couldn’t overcome the power that is the Yankee offense right now (tonight getting 10 total hits off just the White Sox starter).

Final score: 7-4 Yankees

In case any of you were wondering: after being DFA’d last week to make room for tonight’s starter, the Yankees officially traded pitcher Johnny Barbato to the Pirates for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

Before the game tonight, Brett Gardner received a great award as the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year, Left Field. An award given to the best defensive player in each position. This used to be given out per league, but since 2014, it is the best player at each position regardless of league. The only other Yankee to win this award was former 2nd baseman Robinson Cano (now with the Mariners) in 2012 and 2013, when the awards were divided by league. A well-deserved honor for Gardner, who is consistently one of the best outfielders in the game, as we Yankee fans know very well.

Go Yankees!

Game 12: STL vs. NYY — An Easter special: rain, questionable interference calls, #BirdPower arrival, & a double sweep

First, a Happy Easter to those who celebrate. Or a pleasant Sunday evening to you.

In New York, it was certainly a mix of some rather interesting events during the course of tonight’s game, including a few minutes of downpour that sent fans for cover while the game played on, so many interference calls (most were rather questionable, to be perfectly honest), and the Yankees’ decided to go 6-0 at home by sweeping their second series this week. The Yankees haven’t been 6-0 since at home since their 1998 season, and we all know how that one turned out. Not drawing any conclusions yet, but I’ll take it.

In tonight’s finale against the Cardinals, the Yankees went in with a plan for the sweep and followed through. Thanks in part by the great pitching of Michael Pineda, despite his shaky start. In his 7 innings, Pineda threw 96 pitches, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and struck out 6 batters, setting himself up for the eventual win. A 1-out single in the 2nd, moved to 2nd on a ground out, and then scored on an RBI single to get the Cards on the board. And a lead-off solo home run in the 7th doubled their score.

Meanwhile, the Yankees answered back beginning in the 2nd. Headley led off with a single and then scored on Aaron Judge’s big hit that ended up being ruled a triple on fan interference. However, there was some major confusion as to whether the outfielder would’ve gotten the ball or (what most people who weren’t umpires tonight believe) it would’ve hit the top of the outfield fence making it an automatic home run.

A little sense of justice, however, came into the game when Greg Bird hit his first big home run of the season deep into the Bleacher Creatures (section 203 in right field) to give the Yankees a solid lead. (Also, I got to whip out #BirdPower for the first time this season.) And in the 5th inning, Aaron Hicks continued his offensive streak with a 1-out solo home run just to the left of the right field foul pole.

Dellin Betances allowed a couple of baserunners, but got out of the 8th inning unscathed to secure Pineda’s win and set up the major Yankee offensive that would be the bottom of that inning. The Yankees kicked things off with consecutive walks to Headley and Judge and a single to Bird to load up the bases. Austin Romine’s double scored Headley and Judge to widen the Yankees’ lead. And Ronald Torreyes’ big hit into the left field corner was ruled a ground-rule double on fan interference (the only legitimate such call of the game, in most everyone’s minds).

After a pitching change (as there were no outs recorded yet), the new reliever got a ground out that moved Torreyes to 3rd, so that he could then scored on Aaron Hicks’ sacrifice fly. During Castro’s at-bat, he hit a long ball into the stands in foul territory by right field. As it was descending a fan did try to make the catch right at the wall, but it was ruled an out on fan interference. Though not a single person other than that umpire thought the right fielder was going to make that play, which is the only reason to rule an out. (Had he been able to make the catch, like he was right under the ball that was somehow snatched out from his grasp, it’s an out on fan interference.) But this was going into the stands and the right fielder had slowed down knowing he wasn’t going to make the play. The umpires seemed fan-interference-happy tonight, and thus was the call. Girardi argued, but with the Yankees so far ahead it didn’t seem like he should waste a challenge here.

Sending Bryan Mitchell in is usually one of those sure things. But everyone has an off-day from time to time. Mitchell, I’m sure, is glad the game wasn’t much closer or things could’ve ended up worse. He certainly struggled his way through the 9th. His lead-off batter doubled, moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, watched as the next batter walked, and then scored on a messy force attempt and throwing error all before he recorded an out. Fortunately, that must’ve shaken him enough to buckle down and make the next 3 outs fairly quickly to end the game.

Final score: 9-3 Yankees, Yankees sweep Cards 3-0.

Injury news: Matt Holliday was still out of tonight’s lineup with some lingering back soreness. Girardi doesn’t expect he’ll be on tomorrow’s lineup either because with back injuries especially you don’t want to risk a more serious injury when it’s not yet at 100%. We’ve all done that — tried to rush a healing and ended up making it so much worse, causing even more time off for healing than was necessary if you’d just let the original injury heal properly first.

Okay, the Yankees have one more 3-game series at home before they head back out on the road, and they’re doing pretty well in the Bronx so far. Perhaps they can carry that same luck into their series with the White Sox starting tomorrow night.

Go Yankees!

Game 8: TB vs. NYY — Rookie strong debut start & a 3-inning rally

It was almost a rain delay in the Bronx today. The Rays were forced to cancel their on-field batting practice before the game so that the grounds crew could put a tarp on the field just in time for the heavens to open up and dump quite the shower on Yankee Stadium. Perhaps in part because of the weather (and perpetual overcast skies) and partly because it was a mid-week day game, the stands felt a little empty (and a bit wet in places) at about 70% capacity today, which is still more than the average Rays home game attendance.

Plus, the Yankees decided to start their recent call-up, young pitcher Jordan Montgomery, in his MLB debut, a new role he not only embraced but succeeded quite well. Paired with another recent call-up, catcher Kyle Higashioka, they teamed up to really show an outstanding battery against the Rays in today’s middle game of the homestand opening series. Montogomery threw 89 pitches into the 5th inning, giving up 5 hits, 3 runs (only 2 earned), and 2 walks, and striking out an impressive 7 batters.

In the 1st inning, Montgomery got 2 quick strikeouts before walking a batter and then giving up a 2-run home run into the left field seats to get the Rays on the board. Then he settled in and powered through the next three innings before allowing a lead-off double in the 5th, and after another 2 strikeouts, his day was done. A rather successful debut.

Bryan Mitchell came on in relief, and his first batter gave the crowd some drama. After reaching safely on a fielding error, the runner scored from 2nd, but then the batter tried to make it to 2nd and was thrown out there thanks to the sharp throw by right fielder Judge and Kozman keeping the tag on the runner who came off the bag as part of the play. However, the umpires originally ruled him safe. On a Yankees’ challenge, the call was eventually overturned and the inning was over.

Mitchell continued on and sailed through the 6th inning flawlessly. Clippard’s 7th continued that pattern, adding 2 more strikeouts to today’s total. Tommy Layne had a spot of trouble in the 8th. His lead-off single was out on a fielder’s choice at 2nd, and after a strike out, a passed ball moved the runner to scoring position. He then scored on a nice double to give the Rays just one more run today. In the next inning, Holder allowed 2 runners with just 1 out, so Chapman came on to finish the 9th, shutting down 2 batters in just 9 pitches.

Meanwhile, the Yankees actually struggled a bit against the Rays’ starter, only giving up 2 hits and 3 walks during his tenure on the mound, into the 5th inning. It would be that inning that the Yankees seemed to find their opening, Headley led-off with a single, Judge worked a walk, and Higashioka reached on a messy fielding error to load the bases with no outs. Two outs later, Aaron Hicks worked a walk to score Headley, and that was the end of the Rays’ starter’s day, with the bases loaded.

The new pitcher threw a wild pitch that moved all the runners up, scoring Judge, before walking Holliday to load up the bases again. But a pop-up ended the 5th inning rally. So the Yankees came back in the 6th to do it again. Castro and Headley led-off with consecutive singles, and Aaron Judge’s single scored Castro. After Higashioka bunted into a force out at 2nd, putting runners in the corners, the Rays went back to their bullpen.

Then, pinch-hitter Brett Gardner hit a dribbler back to the pitcher who had a bad throwing error to 1st, though it scored Headley. But in the process, Gardner collided with the 1st baseman. Both also crashed to the ground, and Gardner crawled to 1st to re-tag it. But both were injured and in pain on the ground. Both also left the game. (More on this below.) Pinch-runner Torreyes came on for Gardner.

Jacoby Ellsbury singled home Higashioka, and this put runners on the corners. After another pitching change, Torreyes then scored on Hicks’ ground out. But the Yankees weren’t done yet. Carter’s lead-off single in the 7th helped solidify the lead when Aaron Judge hit a monster 2-run home run into Monument Park. Someone commented that the scary part of that homer was that Judge didn’t even get all of it.

It’s also worth noting that the Yankee pitchers got the Rays to strike out 11 times, while Rays pitchers only had 1 strikeout today. And of the 12 runs scored, only 7 were officially earned, mostly because of the Rays’ sloppy defense in the latter half of the game, though only 3 total errors were recorded (2 for the Rays, 1 for the Yankees).

Final score: 8-4 Yankees.

Roster moves: to sign today’s starter Jordan Montgomery to the active roster, the Yankees needed to move someone on the 40-man (after moving Shreve to AAA yesterday), so they designated pitcher Johnny Barbato for assignment. Montogmery’s parents were, of course, proudly watching in the stands today for their son’s MLB debut.

Injury news: prospect pitcher James Kaprielian was sent to LA for tests due to his elbow soreness. He was given a few options. He can continue to rest and rehab or consider surgery (yes, the Tommy John kind, which would have an 18-month rehab timeline). As rehab hasn’t been successful thus far, the surgery is being strongly considered. To be fair, they aren’t as quick to rush to surgery lately. I think that’s why they are giving him the non-surgical option as well. In other words, surgery isn’t necessary, but definitely recommended. But as it’s his career and his body, he can choose how to deal with the injury and create a healing timetable based on that decision.

Now, Brett Gardner is injured, and while it won’t cause him to be put on the DL, he is considered day-to-day. He sustained a bruised jaw and strained neck due to the collision in the 6th inning (described above). His partner in this tumble (the Rays’ infielder Weeks) also will be day-to-day with neck and shoulder soreness. No concussion, and no immediate concern, but I imagine Gardner will need a few days to ice that jaw and stretch out his neck. And I’m guessing some soft foods at the Homecoming Dinner later tonight. Skip the steak, bring on the cheesecake.

Go Yankees!