ALDS 2: CLE vs. HOU, NYY vs. BOS — Drama in the AL

The NLDS teams travel today to their next stop, the lower seed’s home field for what may be the final game. Both higher seed teams are leading their series 2-0 and just need one more win to advance to the NLCS to play each other. But that “home field advantage” may alter some things for those series.

ALDS A: Indians at Astros
Meanwhile, the ALDS continued to shake things up with some drama. The Astros continued to come out strong mostly due to their solid starter, who got the Indians to strikeout 12 times in his 7 innings, only giving up a 2-out solo home run in the 3rd. The Indians couldn’t seem to pierce through much more of the Astros’ defense.

The Astros were held off from the board by a good start by the Indians’ starter Carrasco. It wasn’t until the 6th that they finally got a score. After Carrasco gave up a single and walk and got an out, the Indians called on their bullpen. But it collapsed. A double promptly scored both runners to jump the Astros ahead.

After loading up the bases and no additional outs, they went to the bullpen again. That new pitcher got out of the jam. And then with 2 outs in the 7th, he gave up a solo home run to add just one more run for the Astros. Despite the small lead the Astros held, the Indians just weren’t coming back with any kind of last-minute rally.

Final score: 3-1 Astros, Astros lead series 2-1

ALDS B: Yankees at Red Sox
With last night’s game being rather tight at the end of it all, the Yankees just running out of outs really, tonight’s game was going to be just as dramatic. Because the rivalry… And it’s clearly 2003 and 2004 all over again.

Masahiro Tanaka had a great night, throwing 78 pitches in 5 innings, giving up 3 hits, a walk, and 1 run, and striking out 4 batters along the way. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo home run in the 4th. Dellin Betances came on for a quick 6th inning, but he had some trouble in the 7th. A lead-off single scored on a 1-out double to double the Red Sox’s score. Britton and Chapman closed out the game without allowing the home team anything further.

In a series that could end up being really close, the Yankees kind of proved they deserved to be playing in the postseason. Fortunately, they faced a familiar face on the mound, who does not seem to pitch well against the Yankees ever. Price gave up a 1-out solo home run right in the 1st inning.

Then Gary Sanchez led-off the 2nd with a monster solo home run. Two outs later, Price walked Torres and Gardner. Torres then scored on Andrew McCutchen’s single to end Price’s night. His relievers, oddly, had a pretty good night keeping the Yankees from adding to their score for most of the game.

In the 7th, Judge led-off with a single and moved to 2nd on Voit’s walk. Then in a play that ended up being far too talked about online, Stanton hit into a fielder’s choice out at 2nd. Originally ruled safe, the Red Sox challenged it, and for some reason, HQ thought there was enough evidence to overturn it. A huge shame because the next batter, Gary Sanchez, hit his 2nd homer of the game, a monster 3-run home run (thus a base runner shy of a grand slam) to ensure the Yankee victory, thus sending the series back to the Bronx on an even playing field.

Final score: 6-2 Yankees, series split 1-1

And to commemorate the Yankees’ victory, Aaron Judge felt it was necessary to use his personal sound system to make sure the Yankees left their victory to the tune of “New York, New York“. While they play it after every game at Yankee Stadium regardless of the outcome, it’s especially sweet after a win. Which, as you know, happens a lot.

It’s worth noting the only time that song was actually played at Fenway was the first game back after 9/11. The Yankees later returned the honor by playing “Sweet Caroline” following the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing. For all the bluster of the “rivalry”, when it matters, when it’s truly baseball at its finest, the heart of the true sports fans is shown.

Like the Boston fan that got Judge’s home run ball. He even ripped his jeans and skinned his knee, but he got it. He kept it (and didn’t throw it back). He showed it off. And he’s going to give it to his friend who’s a huge Yankees fan. Because that’s baseball.

Go Yankees!

Game 160: NYY vs. BOS — Making history, taking advantage

It’s always going to be an interesting series when the Yankees face the Red Sox. And with the prospect looming that they might face each other in the postseason. Should the Yankees win the Wild Card series they will face the best AL team, which is the Red Sox, for the ALDS. And if both teams play like they did tonight, it’s going to be quite the postseason.

JA Happ got the start for the Yankees in this opening game against the Red Sox for the final series of the season. He threw 88 pitches in 6 innings, gave up 4 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs, and struck out 7 Boston batters to earn his 17th win of the season. And actually, Happ held them off for most of his outing.

It wasn’t until the 6th inning that he allowed a run. He gave up a 1-out single, a double, and a 2-out walk to load up the bases. The next batter then smacked a huge grand slam over the Green Monster to get the Red Sox on the board in a big way and electrify the sell-out home crowd.

Green came in a sailed his way through the 7th inning before handing the ball over to Dellin Betances for the 8th. But Betances had a bit of trouble. He gave up a walk that moved to 2nd on a 1-out single, and then scored on a 2-out single. He loaded the bases with a walk before getting out of the inning thanks to the Yankees’ defense.

And Zach Britton had an equally troubling 9th inning. He gave up a walk to lead-off the inning that ended up getting out on a fielder’s choice grounder. A throwing error put runners on the corners, and a 2-out walk loaded the bases. Then he gave up another walk to score the Red Sox’s final run of the night.

Now, all of that could be disheartening if the Yankees hadn’t had a monster offensive night themselves. In the 3rd, Gary Sanchez smacked a big lead-off solo home run to the Green Monster. Two outs later, Judge walked, moved to 2nd on Hicks’ single, and then scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s single.

In the 4th, with a new pitcher, Andujar hit a 1-out double (tying DiMaggio for the most doubles as a rookie with 44), and Sanchez walked. They both then scored on Gleyber Torres’ double. Though there was a bit of a question as to whether Sanchez actually touched home before the tag, but the call was upheld after the replay.

With another new pitcher, Torres scored on Andrew McCutchen’s single, thanks to a dropped ball. After Judge singled to join McCutchen on the bases, Aaron Hicks hit a nice 3-run home run to further the Yankees’ lead. Now, the best part of this was that Hicks completely thought he hit a fly ball to be caught in the outfield, so he trudged his way to 1st base before looking up and seeing that the ball went over the fence. With a sheepish grin, Hicks began his home run trot.

Luke Voit continued his power show with a 1-out solo home run in the 7th. Gregorius singled, moved to 2nd on Andujar’s walk, and then scored when Gary Sanchez hit into a fielding error. And Aaron Judge capped off the Yankees’ big night with a lead-off solo home run in the 8th.

Final score: 11-6 Yankees

And with that win tonight, the Yankees secured home field advantage in the Wild Card game next Wednesday. This means that the Athletics will travel to the Bronx for the one-off game. The winner of that game (*cough*TheYankees*cough*) will head up to Boston to face the Red Sox for the ALDS.

And with the 4 home runs in tonight’s game, the Yankees have officially tied the 1997 Mariners for the record of most home runs as a team in a single season with 264 homers. In other words, in the next 2 games, if they get at least 1 more home run, the 2018 Yankees will be the sole record holders of that statistic.

Go Yankees!

Game 156: NYY vs. TB — Bullpens’ night to shine

The Yankees begin their final week of the season with a trip down to Tampa Bay for a 4-game series. For quite a few games this season, the Rays have been using their bullpen for their every day pitching staff, splitting games between their bullpen with no real starter. This was due in part to early injuries and trades of their starting pitching stars, but it’s worked for them, as they’re finishing well above .500 and just a few game out of the second Wild Card spot.

So, the Yankees decided to follow their lead and pieced together their own bullpen pitching day for tonight’s opener. And it worked, starting with Holder and Tarpley each taking a scoreless inning.

Sonny Gray came on for a scoreless 3rd, but had a few issues in the 4th. He gave up a lead-off double that moved to 3rd on a passed ball, held on base with a single, and then scored on a double play to get the Rays their lone run. After Gray, the Yankees breezed through their bullpen allowing an inning each to Green, Robertson, Chapman, Betances, and then Britton for the save.

But the Yankees knew how to hit into the Rays’ staff and take the opportunities when they were given. Andrew McCutchen started things off with a 1-out solo home run in the 3rd into the left field seats.

And in the 5th, with 2 outs, Judge worked a walk, moved to 2nd on a passed ball, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s single. Giancarlo Stanton’s double scored Gardner before Stanton got thrown out going for 3rd to end the inning. And McCutchen hit a 1-out double in the 7th and then scored on Aaron Judge’s double.

Final score: 4-1 Yankees

Injury updates: Aaron Hicks came out of the game in the 4th due to a tight hamstring. At first, I think people were concerned this might be a lingering issue with the ankle bruise from fouling off a ball from his ankle Saturday just before he hit the walk-off single. But it was the hamstring. Fortunately, there is a plethora of outfielders on the roster, but Hicks is quite the contributor in the field and in the box.

Didi Gregorius is feeling better after sustaining a torn cartilage in his wrist on that aforementioned walk-off win on Saturday. The cortisone shot seems to be working, and Gregorius is hoping to be back before the end of the season or at least to play in the Wild Card game.

Okay, no more injuries, people. I know that at this point in the year that everyone’s a bit banged up. But take care of yourselves. We’re hoping for a full Yankees roster for a great (and full) postseason.

And in a fun pre-game adventure, the Tampa Bay area was hit with a sudden major storm, filled with lightning, thunder, and buckets of rain. Now, the Trop is a dome, so no need for a rain delay. But the lightning struck the Trop as the thunder kind of shook the building. And the lights and all the power went out.

Pre-game promos were halted for a bit as generators kicked in and kept auxiliary lights on, while the building had to be rebooted. The main lights on the field, for example, take quite a bit of time to power up, especially if they’ve been suddenly turned off. It certainly made for an interesting start to the night.

Go Yankees!

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!