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!

Game 91: NYY vs. BAL — Strong shutout finale in Baltimore

It was a great night for Sonny Gray to close out this series in Baltimore tonight. Gray threw 90 pitches in 6 scoreless innings, gave up just 3 hits and a walk, and struck out an impressive 8 batters along the way to earning a great (and much-needed) win. AJ Cole followed his lead with 2 more scoreless innings, and Chasen Shreve closed out the game with a scoreless 9th to seal the Yankees’ shutout of the home team.

The Yankee batters gave Gray a hefty lead to feel rather secure tonight. In the 3rd, with 1 out, Gardner worked a walk, moved to 3rd on Judge’s single, and then was caught out on a fielder’s choice off Gregorius’ hit. Giancarlo Stanton singled home Judge to get the Yankees on the board, and Hicks then loaded the bases with a walk. It would be Greg Bird to really make an impact with his first career grand slam, a big home run to the right field seats.

Tyler Wade led-off the 6th inning with his first solo home run. (The Red Sox fan who caught the game on a whim during a business trip happily returned the ball for Wade’s keepsake collection.) And Austin Romine hit a 2-out solo home run in the 7th to jump in on the fun of the night.

The Yankees got creative in the 8th. With 1 out, Gregorius doubled and then moved to 3rd on Stanton’s single. A new reliever allowed Aaron Hicks to make it safely to 1st on a sloppy missed catch error, as Gregorius hustled home for an unearned run. In the 9th, Frazier hit a 1-out single, moved to 2nd on Judge’s walk, ended up at 3rd on Gregorius’ grounder, and then scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s single.

Final score: 9-0 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-1 (Yes, there were 4 games this week, but technically, the first game of the doubleheader was part of a previous series and thus is wrapped into that result to be concluded next month.)

Next up: The Yankees begin a 4-game weekend series in Cleveland tomorrow night, the final series before the All-Star Break. After the Break, the Yankees will host their cross-town rivals next weekend for a short home stand before hitting the road again.

Big bummer on the All-Star Game front — Giancarlo Stanton ended up 3rd in the Final Vote. Fans selected Mariners’ shortstop Jean Segura and Brewers’ first baseman Jesus Aguilar. That leaves just Judge, Severino, Chapman, and Torres to represent the Yankees in D.C. next Tuesday at the All-Star Game.

And the participants in the Home Run Derby were announced tonight, and it’s an interesting mix of players, all but 1 are from the NL, despite the fact that most of the home run leaders are in the AL — Jesus Aguilar (Brewers), Bryce Harper (Nationals), Max Muncy (Dodgers), Alex Bregman (Astros), Kyle Schwarber (Cubs), Javier Baez (Cubs), Freddie Freeman (Braves), and Rhys Hoskins (Phillies).

What is most interesting is that the top seed of the Derby (Aguilar) is actually 6th on the home run leaders (not including potential changes from games today) behind Martinez (Red Sox), Ramirez (Indians), Judge, Trout (Angels), and Lindor (Indians), notably all AL power-hitters, by the way. The selected Derby participants have 14-23 home runs this season. Now, it’s worth noting that if 14 home runs was the base line for being in the Derby, Judge, Stanton, Hicks, Gregorius, Torres, and Sanchez all qualified. (And 14 homer put 14 players tied at 55th place on the stats.)

 

I mean, congratulations to all the selected participants, all but Harper are first-time participants. Harper was last in the Derby in 2013 and came in 2nd. I’m just a little confused as to the process of selecting the Home Run Derby participants this year. Unless of course, 47 other players turned down the opportunity, which is quite possibly like Judge’s adamant refusal to do so starting in March.

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 85: NYY vs. TOR — Northern Exposure

Truthfully, I have mixed feelings about all the Yankees’ division rivals and their respective cities. In general, I really like the cities they represent and the people who live there, and I can respect their passion for the game and their home team, even if I’m not a fan of their chosen team. Attending Spring Training annually and actually going to those cities is often what mixes up those feelings.

For example, I love the city of Boston, and nearly every Boston fan I’ve met is really a good person that just roots for my chosen team’s greatest rivals. I also happen to think Fenway Park is legendary and historic and a symbol of the great legacy of the sport. (And the Green Monster is just as ugly in person as you’d think.)

But the Yankees play in Toronto this weekend. And let’s just say that it’s not Boston.

And Sonny Gray wasn’t exactly having a great night to start in the opener at Rogers Centre, throwing 62 pitches in just 2 innings, giving up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 5 runs, and still striking out 4 batters. Most of that damage was done in that 2nd inning and it wasn’t good.

A lead-off double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a single to get the Blue Jays on the board. A wild pitch moved the runner to 2nd and then he scored on another single. After a strikeout and another allowed single, the next batter smacked a big 3-run home run to really push the Blue Jays ahead. A hit-by-pitch, stolen base, and strikeout later, and Gray’s night was over.

David Hale came on in the 3rd and pitched into the 8th inning strong. It wasn’t until the 8th inning that the Blue Jays were able to eke through again. A lead-off double later scored on a 2-out double to cap off their runs. And Chasen Shreve needed just 3 pitches to induce a ground out for the final out of the 8th.

Meanwhile, while the Yankees certainly dented the Blue Jays’ starter’s pitch count (pushing him to 101 pitches after the 1st out of the 5th inning), they only managed 4 hits and 3 walks off him. Aaron Hicks hit a 2-out solo home run, his 16th of the season, in the 3rd inning.

Then in the 5th, the Yankees finally found their opportunity (and pretty much their only one all night). They loaded up the bases with singles to Romine and Gardner and a fielding error on Judge’s sloppy hit. Then Hicks worked a 1-out walk to score Romine and keep those bases loaded. 101 pitches with bases loaded, so it was time for a reliever. Who got a well-placed strikeout and then a line drive out to end the threat.

The Blue Jays pieced together 5 relievers to finish off their game and keep the Yankees from being any kind of threat again for the rest of the night.

Final score: 6-2 Blue Jays

Roster moves/injury updates: Well, the Yankees moved Gleyber Torres to the 10-day disabled list with right hip strain. Muscle strains are always complicated, so they anticipate Torres will be out through the All-Star break.

In his stead, a normal call-up would be Ronald Torreyes, but Torreyes has been out for about a week at this point, dealing with a personal family issue. So, they recalled Tyler Wade, who was sent down in the middle of April due to the excess of excellent bench players.

And if you’re wondering, the Yankees sent Masahiro Tanaka to join AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for his rehab assignment after dealing with hamstring issues last month.

Well, the All-Star Game fan voting has closed, and the results will be announced Sunday night. Also, based on a player ballot and selections from the Commissioner’s Office, each team will fill out most of its 32 spots with reserve players and pitchers. Each team will allow for one more spot, nominate 5 potential All-Stars, and call on fans to vote once more. (There is a rather extensive explanation about how players are chosen and eligibility.)

Speaking of the All-Star Game, the Sunday before the game, representatives from across the farm systems will play in the annual Futures Game. This year, the Yankees will be represented by prospective pitcher Justus Sheffield. Sheffield will play for Team USA in a USA vs. the World kind of structure.

Go Yankees!

Game 77: NYY vs. PHI — Yankees find freedom of home runs

The Yankees are certainly loving “The Cradle of Liberty”, as they are finding a nice way to bounce back after this last weekend. Luis Severino continues his dominance and campaign for that coveted Cy Young award in the middle game of this series against the Phillies. He threw 103 pitches in 7 scoreless innings, gave up 6 hits, and struck out 9 Philadelphia batters to earn his 12th win of the season.

Adam Warren came on to continue the scoreless momentum through the 8th inning. Chasen Shreve redeemed himself a bit from recent less-than-stellar outings with his own scoreless 9th inning. Boone later admitted to wanting Shreve to try his hand at less crucial moments to see if he can rediscover what made him a reliable force in the bullpen.

Of course, in order to be a “less crucial moment”, the Yankees’ offense started early and often. Aaron Hicks led-off the game with a strong solo home run straight up the middle of the park, just 3 minutes into the game actually. Not a bad way to kick off the game.

Then in the 3rd, with 1 out, Hicks and Judge each singled, and then Gregorius made it to 1st to load up the bases thanks to a throwing error. After another out, Gleyber Torres singled home both Hicks and Judge, and Greg Bird followed that with a single to score Gregorius.

Romine led-off the 4th with a nice double, moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ sacrifice fly. Then Didi Gregorius got in on the fun with a lead-off home run in the 5th to cap off the Yankees’ offense tonight.

Final score: 6-0 Yankees

During batting practice today, Giancarlo Stanton hit such a long fly ball that it bounced off this large tower beyond the left field seats and landed on the concourse behind the seats. I mean, he’s been known to hit some dingers in the past. There’s a commemorative mark on the floor in Marlins Park so far beyond the field and seats in left-center field it’s crazy. Plus, he and Judge basically competed for who can be the most ridiculous in hitting balls so far during last year’s Home Run Derby.

And speaking of the All-Star Game, they released the latest numbers in fan voting for the AL starters. And while the leaders are kind of running away with their categories, the Yankees are putting in a strong showing. Sanchez is still 2nd among catchers (by about 160,000 votes), which might be good as he’s currently out with that strain he got on Sunday. Torres, Andujar, and Stanton are all distant seconds among 2nd base, 3rd base, and DH, respectively. Gregorius is still 3rd at short stop.

In the outfield, which is quite crowded, Judge is a solid 3rd place, but still way ahead of the next few contenders. So his chances of being a starter are the most likely. In fact, almost all of the starting positions for the AL could represent 8 teams, something that doesn’t happen often. (If you’re wondering, Gardner is 8th and Hicks is 12th.) I imagine the AL coaching team might also choose a pitcher or two to fill out their roster.

So, if you want your votes to count, you need to vote now for your favorite players. You have until July 5 at 11:59 pm EST to vote 5 times every 24 hours up to 35 total times. I’m out of votes, so it’s your turn.

Go Yankees!

Game 73: NYY vs. TB — Falling short at “Yankee Stadium South”

It never fails to make new Yankee players smile, the first time they play at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, hearing the kind of roar and cheers that they get used to hearing at Yankee Stadium. You hear it at Angels Stadium in Anaheim too. So it makes sense to dub that “Yankee Stadium West”, and “The Trop” easily becomes “Yankees Stadium South”, overriding any allusions to Steinbrenner Field for the regular season.

Anyway, for the 27,252 area fans that crowded the small stadium (its capacity just a little over 30,000), at least half of them were Yankees’ fans, though Twitter estimates put them closer to 27,000, which can be the case in many previous seasons. And that certainly had an effect on the overall game, perhaps even helping the Yankees stem the Rays’ strong showing tonight.

CC Sabathia was far from clean in tonight’s opener against the Rays, but somehow got out of most of the jams along the way. He threw 92 pitches into the 6th inning, giving up 9 hits, a walk, and 2 runs (1 earned), and striking out just 4 batters. Despite all those base runners, Sabathia didn’t allow any runs until the 4th inning.

With 1 out, he gave up a double and hit the next batter to get 2 more base runners. Then the next batter singled and the Yankees’ defense kicked in to try to get an out somewhere. They ended up trying the one at 2nd, and initially called out, the Rays challenged and it was quickly overturned. Meanwhile, a run scored and 2 runners were in scoring position. The next batter hit into a fielder’s choice that got the out at home, before a simple grounder ended their rally.

Then, in the 5th, the lead-off batter singled and ended up at 2nd on a throwing error by Sabathia’s bad defensive throw to Bird. Another single moved that runner to 3rd before he scored on a long sacrifice fly. A double play ended that threat.

With 1 out and a runner on base with a single in the 6th, Adam Warren came in and managed to load up the bases before getting out of the jam to the delight of the crowd on the 3rd base side of the stadium. Luis Cessa got his shot to test his return from rehab, keeping the Rays to those 2 runs during his 2 innings, despite allowing a couple of base runners himself.

Meanwhile, the Yankees had their moments once again, collecting 6 walks and 5 hits overall, but there was very few that made a difference in the game. In fact, the Rays’ starter only made it through the 1st inning, but his first reliever was actually really strong throwing into the 5th inning. Then they pieced together their bullpen to maintain their home field advantage.

In the 7th, with 1 out, Torres walked and Gardner singled to put runners on the corners. Aaron Judge singled home Torres easily, and a ground out put runners in scoring position. But then sensing their lead might be in trouble, the Rays changed pitchers again and it worked. The Rays stayed strong and that final out in the 9th was a huge letdown for the faithful fans hoping for a big come back they’ve been used to this season.

Final score: 2-1 Rays

Did you vote for the All-Star Game starters yet? Time is running short, so get your votes in now! This round of voting continues until July 5 at 11:59 pm EST.

Go Yankees!

Game 72: SEA vs. NYY — 1st inning Bombers help sweep

The Yankees tabbed their ace Luis Severino to start this afternoon’s finale against the Mariners (and the home stand). And Severino continued his Cy Young candidacy this year earning his 11th win and yet still throwing 107 pitches into the 6th inning, giving up 8 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and striking out just 5 batters.

In the 2nd, a lead-off walk scored on a 2-run home run to get Seattle on the board. Later, in the 6th, with 2 runners on base with singles and 2 outs, another single scored the Mariners’ final run. That would be the end of Severino’s afternoon, and Robertson closed out that inning quickly before easing his way through the 7th. Robertson was followed with solid innings by Betances and Chapman, who earned his 22nd save of the season.

Meanwhile, the Yankees actually earned their win entirely in the 1st inning and spent the rest of the game fending off the Mariners. Clint Frazier led-off the bottom of the 1st with a single and then scored quickly on Aaron Judge’s 19th homer of the season, a 2-run shot into the right field seats. Two outs later, a bit of deja vu as Torres singled and then scored on Miguel Andujar’s 2-run home run.

Final score: 4-3 Yankees, Yankees sweep series 3-0

Injury update/roster moves: the Yankees placed reliever AJ Cole on the 10-day Disabled List due to a neck strain or possible pinched nerve. In his place, the Yankees shortened the rehab of Luis Cessa, scheduled to pitch today in Trenton, but he’s been strong since his return to baseball after his oblique strain injury back in April.

Next up: the Yankees are on their way south for a weekend series in Tampa Bay against the Rays before heading up to face the Phillies. Then, they’re back in the Bronx to host the Red Sox and Braves for the final home stand before the All-Star Break, coming on the heels of a long road trip.

And speaking of the All-Star Game, consider this your regular reminder to get your votes in today for your favorite players (*hint: Yankees*). You can vote up to 5 times every 24 hours, up to 35 total times, until July 5 at 11:59 pm EST. Fans can cast votes for players they want to see start the All-Star Game next month (July 17) in Washington, D.C.

Once voting closes, league coaching teams will announce their selections for bench players, pitchers, and relievers to fill out their rosters, plus 5 nominees for the final spot that fans will get a chance to vote again. During the All-Star Game, fans can also vote for their choice for the MVP of the game. This whole fan voting process is to further engage fans in the Midsummer Classic, and to allow “something to matter” now that home field advantage isn’t something that is earned at this game but rather a result of best record.

And if you’re wondering about that Home Run Derby, you might have heard that Judge isn’t interested in defending his title as reigning Home Run Derby Champion. And honestly, Judge is a bit behind the AL leaders anyway — Trout (Angels) has 23, Martinez (Red Sox) and Ramirez (Indians) are tied with 22, Davis (Athletics) has 20, and then Judge is tied with Betts (Red Sox) with 19 runs. If you’re wondering, Stanton is tied with 3 other players with 18 homers.

But if you think that’s a tight race, the NL leader Harper (Nationals) has 19 runs, but then 4 players at tied with 16, 4 players with 15, and 6 players with 14. In other words, there’s very little settled in this special event to be held July 16 as the culmination of All-Star warm-up day.

Go Yankees!