Game 153: BAL vs. NYY — The Magic Number is 2

The countdown has begun for the postseason, and while the Yankees only need 2 more wins to secure their postseason appearance, they’re pushing for securing home field advantage in the Wild Card game. That means winning more games than the other potential WC opponent, the Athletics, who currently sit at just 1.5 games behind the Yankees.

CC Sabathia got the start in tonight’s opener against the Orioles for the final series at Yankee Stadium this season. He actually had a great outing, throwing 97 pitches in his 6 innings, gave up 6 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs, and struck out 5 Baltimore batters to eventually earn his 8th win of the season.

He actually held off the O’s until the 5th inning. He gave up a lead-off single, a 1-out walk, and a single to load the bases. And a 2-out single scored both runners to get the Orioles on the board.

The Yankees gave Sabathia enough room to work by striking first in the 1st. Hicks led-off with a walk, moved to 2nd on Judge’s single, ended up at 3rd on a double play, and then scored as part of Didi Gregorius’ 2-run home run.

And in the 4th, Walker hit a 1-out double and scored on Gleyber Torres’ single. Torres then stole 2nd and made it to 3rd on a passed ball, before scoring on Austin Romine’s ground out. Gardner worked a walk, and then Aaron Hicks hit a 2-run home run to push the Yankees’ lead further ahead. That ended the Orioles’ starter’s night, and they spent the rest of the game piecing together their bullpen.

Hicks led-off the 7th with a single and moved to 2nd when a new reliever gave up a walk to Judge. He then scored on Andrew McCutchen’s single. The Orioles snapped into action when Gregorius hit into a fielder’s choice and got Judge out at home. That also moved both remaining runners into scoring position, which allowed the powerhouse Luke Voit to single and score both of them. Then, in the 8th, with 2 outs, Hicks worked a walk and then scored a solid insurance run on Aaron Judge’s double.

Jonathan Loaisiga came on in relief of Sabathia in the 7th to start the Yankees’ major issues with tonight’s game. He promptly gave up a lead-off solo home run to start the O’s rally tonight. He then gave up a single that stole 2nd on a strikeout and then ended up at 3rd on a throwing error. Zach Britton came on to try to stem the tied and gave up a single to score that runner from 3rd before getting out of the inning without further damage.

In the 8th, Tarpley came in for just a strikeout and handed the game to AJ Cole. Cole then gave up a walk and a 2-run home run to add more to the O’s score. After an out, he then allowed a single and passed the ball to David Robertson. On his first pitch, he gave up a 2-run home run before finding that 3rd out. Betances’ came on for an efficient 11-pitch 9th inning to earn his 4th save thanks to those insurance runs by the Yankees in the 7th and 8th innings.

Final score: 10-8 Yankees

Aaron Hicks became the 5th Yankee with 25+ home runs this season, joining Stanton (35), Gregorius (27), Judge (26), and Andujar (25). This ties a franchise record set back in 2009 with 5 players having 25+ homers (Teixeira, Rodriguez, Swisher, Matsui, and Cano). They came close in 2010 with 4 players (Teixeira, Rodriguez, Swisher, and Cano) and the previous record was 1938 (DiMaggio, Gehrig, Dickey, and Gordon).

Now, the MLB record was set in 2003 by the Red Sox. But the Yankees are within range of tying that as Gleyber Torres has 23 home run, and there’s still 9 games left in the season. It’s worth noting the kind of company this makes the Yankees in and the fact that 2 of the Yankees in the conversation are rookies.

And the “magic number” is 2. The Yankees need 2 more game wins to secure their postseason spot. I said in a post earlier this month that the AL is pretty set, but the NL is going to go down to the wire. And it’s never more true than sitting just 9 days out from the final game of the season.

The AL division leaders have mostly clinched their spots (Red Sox and Indians), with the Astros just 3.5 games ahead of the Athletics but have clinched a spot in the postseason. And unless the A’s jump ahead of the Astros in the next few games, it’s pretty much a lock that the Yankees and Athletics will be the Wild Card opponents, with the Rays 6.5 games back and the Mariners 8.5 games back.

But the NL is still up for grabs in nearly every division. The strongest division is the NL East, with the Braves 7.5 games ahead of the Phillies. But the Central and West are just 1.5 games apart — Cubs over Brewers, Dodgers over Rockies. Plus, the Cardinals and Diamondbacks are just a few games beyond them. This league is going to go down to the wire.

Go Yankees!

Game 149: TOR vs. NYY — Dropped victory in the 8th inning

The Yankees needed an easy win to move forward and enter this final two weeks on an upswing. And things were looking good for most of the game, with the Yankees on the board first and defending their early lead for this final game against the visiting Blue Jays this weekend.

In the bottom of the 1st inning, Andrew McCutchen led things off with a big solo home run.  Stanton then walked, moved to 3rd on Hicks’ single, and then scored on Didi Gregroius’ sacrifice fly. It wasn’t much, but it gave the Yankees enough of a lead to kick off the game.

Lance Lynn actually had a pretty good start. He threw 80 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up just 3 hits, a walk, and 1 run, and struck out 7 Toronto batters. In the 3rd, a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a ground out and then scored on a double to get the Jays on the board. But Lynn, and then Robertson for 2 innings, kept the Jays down to that lone run, defending their slim lead.

But then Dellin Betances struggled his way through the 8th inning. A lead-off single moved to 3rd on a 1-out single and then scored on a single to tie up the game. A double scored another run to put the Blue Jays in the lead before a fielder’s choice became a great defensive show, getting their insurance run out at home in a rundown.

Britton’s 13-pitch 9th inning reset the game with hopes for a last-minute rally that would ultimately fall short.

Final score: 3-2 Blue Jays, Blue Jays win the series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees have an off-day tomorrow before a series against the Red Sox and then one against the Orioles to wrap up the final home stand. The Yankees hit the road for the final time with 4 games at the Rays and the final 3 games in Boston to end the season. Where the postseason lands is still very much up for grabs, especially as

The Yankees plan to call up pitchers Justus Sheffield and Domingo German to help with their upcoming series against the Red Sox, starting Tuesday. They might have been called up for today’s game, but they both pitched in the RailRiders’ final game yesterday, losing to the Rays’ AAA team and their bid for their league’s championship.

Go Yankees!

Game 147: TOR vs. NYY — Big home blowout + #TanakaTime

Sometimes, it’s good to be back in your own surroundings. The fans in the stands are in familiar regalia, the cheers makes sense with the plays, the smells and sounds are just right. It’s part of why people put a lot of stock in “home field advantage”. Not because there’s anything particularly “lucky” about your home turf, but because players are familiar with how things work and that surrounding familiarity knocks out distractions and helps them focus on the game. At least, that’s my theory.

Tonight’s game rather supported that. Especially when you throw in an opposing team that is really having a string of so-called “bad luck” recently. And Masahiro Tanaka was on point in tonight’s weekend opener against the Blue Jays. He threw 90 pitches in 6 scoreless innings, gave up 4 hits and 2 walks, and struck out 8 Toronto batters to earn his 12th win of the season.

Luis Cessa continued Tanaka’s great start with 3 scoreless innings of his own, adding 4 more strikeouts. And according to the rules, he earned the save for pitching those final 3 innings. (Statistics are rather complicated sometimes.)

The Yankee batters, meanwhile, had quite the field day in the Bronx. Every starting player got at least 1 hit, and every starter either scored a run or hit a run in, though most did both. The Blue Jays’ pitchers just couldn’t figure out how to pitch to the hot Yankee bats tonight.

In the 1st, McCutchen led-off with a double, and Stanton walked. Aaron Hicks’ single scored McCutchen, and a late throw allowed both runners to move into scoring position. After an out, Didi Gregorius hit an easy grounder that allowed Stanton to score, and Gleyber Torres’ single scored Hicks. After Sanchez singled to join Torres on base, Luke Voit hit both of them home with his double.

With a solid lead, the Yankee hits kept coming. In the 3rd, Gregorius was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Voit later worked a 2-out walk. Brett Gardner’s single scored Gregorius and signaled the end of Toronto’s starter’s night. The new reliever loaded up the bases with McCutchen’s walk before giving up a single to Giancarlo Stanton that scored both Voit and Gardner.

Andrew McCutchen led-off the 5th with a solo home run (his 1st homer in Yankee Stadium ever, by the way), and Didi Gregorius followed his example with a lead-off solo shot in the 8th. Then, with 1 out in the 8th, Sanchez doubled and was pinch-run by Higashioka. Voit reached on a fielding error, moving Higashioka to 3rd. Then Brett Gardner hit a long fly ball out to center that scored Higashioka, but they ended up catching Voit off 1st for a delayed double play to end the inning.

Final score: 11-0 Yankees

Roster moves: Good news, Yankee Universe! Today, they activated Aaron Judge from the Disabled List. His wrist’s chip fracture is healed to the point where he could come into tonight’s game late to run and play defense, but he’s not going to be hitting just yet. They want that 100% swing back without any residual pain from the power-hitter before they pencil him in the lineup. But take today’s activation as a good sign of progress.

And earlier today, the kids at PS 71 in the Bronx were treated to a fun surprise. The PitCCh In Foundation, founded by CC and Amber Sabathia, hosted a special event to celebrate the beginning of the school year. While CC was on “daddy duty”, Amber hosted Yankee stars Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks to have some fun with the local students (including a dance party with a live DJ) and hand out backpacks filled with school supplies to help the kids start the new year right, much like they did last week in California (where the Sabathias grew up).

Gregorius also considered today’s outreach as part of his #DidisDeeds, his random acts of kindness campaign wherever he is, including in Toronto in July. These guys are just amazing in how they represent the Yankee spirit of excellence and character on and off the field.

In that spirit, Sabathia is the Yankees’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, an annual award to honor those players who embody excellence and character on and off the field. You can vote for Sabathia and read more about all the other nominees and how they’re impacting their communities.

Go Yankees!

Game 144: NYY vs. MIN — Big win in the “Mini Apple”

The Yankees kicked off their series in dramatic fashion, bringing a little “Big Apple” power to the “Mini Apple”. Yes, as a sort of play on its name, Minneapolis is actually nicknamed the “Mini Apple”, something I didn’t know until today despite always thinking of its pronunciation as such. But it also works well when comparing another fruit-based nicknamed city, like New York.

JA Happ got the start in tonight’s final interdivisional opener. Yes, it’s the last regular season series between the Yankees and a team not in the AL East. And it’s a shame because tonight’s game is proof that they kind of rock playing around the league this season. Happ threw 91 pitches in his 6 scoreless innings to earn his 16th win of the season.

In fact, Happ and the Twins’ starter had a bit of a pitchers’ duel for the first half of the game. Happ came out on top because the Yankees broke through on the back of Gary Sanchez’ 2-out big solo home run in the 6th inning. After giving up a walk to Bird right after that on his 118th pitch, the Twins’ starter called it a night and handed the ball to his first reliever, who gave a walk up to Torres but then stranded both runners.

But the Yankees had that slight lead and came back in the 7th against the Twins’ bullpen that didn’t seem to know what to do with them. First, McCutchen and Hicks each walked and then collectively scored on Miguel Andujar’s double. Giancarlo Stanton doubled to score Andujar, and the Twins brought in a new reliever. But then he gave up a double to Didi Gregorius that scored Stanton, and the Twins went back to their bullpen.

Sanchez’s single and Bird’s walk loaded up the bases, and Gleyber Torres’ single kept them loaded, scoring Gregorius. After finally getting an out, a strikeout, the Yankees went back to the top of the batting order and McCutchen’s sacrifice fly score Sanchez. Hicks’ walk loaded up the bases again, but a line drive out left them loaded.

But the damage that inning was done, which helped as Luis Cessa came on in relief for the Yankees. After a decent bottom of the 7th, his 8th inning was a bit of a struggle. With 1 out, he gave up 2 singles. A double scored the first runner, and a ground out scored the second. After a wild pitch moved the last runner to 3rd, Cessa buckled down and got a great strikeout to end the little threat.

Jonathan Holder made quick work of the 9th inning, sailing through with just 8 pitches to close out the game.

It’s worth noting that the Yankee batters got 11 hits and 10 walks, meaning 21 base runners tonight. It’s not unusual for the team with the highest number of base runners to get the highest number of runs. It does happen from time to time, usually because of some great defensive plays or out-of-jam pitching. But comparatively for tonight, the Twins got 10 hits and no walks. Sometimes, stats do matter.

Final score: 7-2 Yankees

Gary Sanchez’s big 6th inning home run was the third longest Yankee home run this season, coming in at 460 feet. He comes behind Judge’s 471 foot homer (May 23 in Texas) and himself with a 461 foot homer (May 4 against Cleveland). And tonight’s homer was just his 16th of the season thanks to his 2 stints on the DL for injuries. It’s a good reason to remember why Sanchez is still a key part of the Yankees, despite whatever other stats follow his name.

Go Yankees!

Game 143: NYY vs. SEA — Mariners stay afloat but sink series

The Yankees say “farewell” to the West Coast with a disappointing end to their series in Seattle this afternoon, despite the team doing its best to attempt a solid sweep of the Mariners on their home turf.

CC Sabathia got the start and had a decent outing today, throwing 84 pitches in 5 innings, giving up 7 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and striking out 4 batters. In the 1st, with 2 outs, he gave up 2 singles to get runners on base, and then 2 more singles to score both runners to get the Mariners on the board.

Chad Green came on for 2 solid innings to continue Sabathia’s good start, but Dellin Betances had a minor blip in his 8th inning that made all the difference. He gave up a lead-off walk that stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt, and then scored on a fielder’s choice.

The Yankees actually got on the board first in the top of the 1st. Stanton hit a nice 1-out double and then scored on Miguel Andujar’s double. After the Mariners took the lead in the bottom of the inning, the Yankees came back in the 4th to tie up the game. First, they loaded up the bases with singles to Walker, Voit, and Torres. Then 2 outs later, Andrew McCutchen worked a walk to score Walker.

But after the Mariners re-took the lead in the 8th, the Yankees had a frustrating 9th inning, including the very rare ejection of Brett Gardner. Gardner had issue with the strike zone, something he was actually right about, by the way. But Gardner’s last ejection was back in 2014, and he’s a pretty even-keel guy.

Final score: 3-2 Mariners, Yankees win the series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees are on their way to Minnesota for a 3-game series against the Twins. After a travel day on Thursday, they will head back to the Bronx for their final home stand, 3 series against division rivals, before a final road trip against more division rivals to wrap up the season.

Injury update: Unfortunately, the lingering wrist injury of Aaron Judge has been causing some recent pain to return. His recent swings in the batting cages have caused some increased pain, something you don’t really want to deal with when you’re supposed to be coming back from an injury. That said, it means that his return time has been less assured. It also means that he may miss the rest of this season. Only time will tell over these next few weeks.

Go Yankees!

Game 142: NYY vs. SEA — Yankee homers edge out victory

It’s about the time of the season when the teams really reveal who they are, who they’ve really been the whole season. It’s the time when teams are solidly eliminated from the postseason and focus on just finishing on an upswing. It’s the time when teams still in competition for the postseason are in a final push to ensure their spot for October baseball. And many players start vying for spots both on postseason teams but also on next season’s rosters.

Lance Lynn got his shot to try to show the Yankees who he can be to them, and tonight, in the middle game of this weekend series in Seattle, he had a pretty good outing. He threw just 76 pitches through 6 innings, giving up just 3 hits and 2 runs, striking out just 2 Mariners’ batters.

A lead-off solo homer off his first pitch in the 3rd was his first allowed run. But he held the home team off for much of the game. The other one squeaked by in the 5th. With 1 out and a runner at 1st, a grounder moved that runner to 2nd before he raced home on an RBI single.

But once he handed the game off to the bullpen, Lynn was ensured the win. Britton and Robertson each took an inning and kept the Mariners at bay. (By the way, they are the only MLB team where this phrase is an actual pun.) Dellin Betances earned his save the hard way, giving up a walk and single in the 9th to threaten the Yankees’ lead, but Betances’ strikeouts stunned the Mariners and sealed the deal.

The Yankees’ batters faced off against the Mariners’ former ace who used to stun opposing teams, but he was having an off-night against the visiting Yankees tonight. Andrew McCutchen, clearly proving how much he loves SafeCo Field, hit a lead-off home run in the 1st inning off that ace starter. That was also McCutchen’s 2nd run in as many days. Perhaps, he should misplace his luggage more often?

After the M’s tied up the game, the Yankees found their next opportunity in the 5th. Brett Gardner led-off by working a walk and then stole 2nd. McCutchen followed him by also working a walk. And that would be the end of the Mariners’ starter’s night. But his reliever didn’t help things. A passed ball moved the runners up to scoring position. And Giancarlo Stanton’s sacrifice fly easily scored Gardner to give the Yankees back the lead.

Then after the M’s tied up the game again, the Yankees looked to an unexpected source to put them back on top. Austin Romine hit his 10th homer of the season, a 1-out solo home run in the 7th inning. Romine becomes the 10th Yankee to his 10 or more home runs this season. This also moves the Yankees up to 232 collective homers this season, far in 1st over all other MLB teams and just 32 short of the record (by the 1997 Mariners, coincidentally).

But for an insurance run, the Yankees pieced it together in the 9th inning. Andujar led-off the inning by being hit by a pitch and pinch-run by Wade. (He’s alright, by the way, a little shaken up and sore, but a speedy substitution to get the run was a good idea in the end.) Hechavarria’s single moved Wade to 3rd so that he could score on Gleyber Torres’ sacrifice fly, the Yankees’ 51st sac fly this season (for all you trivia nerds).

Final score: 4-2 Yankees

In an interesting and random bit of trivia, the Yankees on quite the streak. Based on the fact that there’s only 20 games left of the season, they can officially say that they have 26 straight years of winning seasons. That means this particular streak is older than Andujar, Holder, Loaisiga, Severino, Tarpley, Torres, and Wade, and as old as Bird, Cessa, Cole, Judge, Sanchez, and Torreyes. In other words, for all these current Yankees, the Yankees have always been a winning team. And that is rather impressive.

Go Yankees!

Game 141: NYY vs. SEA — #TanakaTime Shutout

Clearly something happened in the Yankees’ journey to the Emerald City. They might not have met the Wizard, they might have even lost their luggage, but they found their heart.

Masahiro Tanaka was just on point in tonight’s opener in this weekend series in Seattle. He shut out the home team with 102 pitches in 8 innings, allowing just 3 hits, and getting 10 impressive strikeouts. David Robertson followed Tanaka’s start with a great 9th inning, adding a strikeout of his own to the running tally tonight.

The Yankee batters had a bit of fun in first third of the game, setting the results of the game with a couple of good hits. In the 2nd, with 2 outs, Voit singled and then scored as part of Gleyber Torres’ 2-run home run, his 23rd homer of the season. Then Gardner led-off the 3rd with a single and scored on Andrew McCutchen’s 2-run home run to secure the Yankees’ win.

The Yankees would only get a couple more hits tonight, so the game became more about maintaining that early lead, something Tanaka (and then Robertson) and the Yankee defense did rather well.

Final score: 4-0 Yankees

Roster moves/injury updates: The Yankees activated Didi Gregorius off the disabled list. Gregorius, recovering from a badly bruised heel last month, is taking it slow on the return. Thanks to new additions and the recent September call-ups, there’s no real rush to push the recently recovered player in the game just yet. But he’s there if they need him off the bench, as he did tonight for the latter half of the game.

And Aaron Judge is taking more swings and getting back into regular exercises. Still hitting off a tee, he’s also working on short-distance tosses for some light batting practice. And with no prominent pain as a result of the effort, things are looking good for his return some time soon. Still no definite return date yet, but again, the new additions to the roster are helping bridge the gap until he’s ready for some major league swings.

Finally, we wish Sonny and Jessica Gray and their family a huge congratulations. They recently welcomed their son Declan to the family. Gray missed the Oakland series on paternity leave but is back with the team now. Another Yankee, another “Baby Pickles”.

Go Yankees!