Game 60: NYY vs. TOR — Inconsistency strikes again

It’s sometimes hard to shake off the weird blanket of inconsistency. Like no matter what you do or try to do, it’s just going to turn everything a little sideways in the end. The Yankees have been kind of going through a bit of a funk for their last three games, including tonight’s middle game of this series in Toronto.

James Paxton was hoping for a better outing, much like the last time he started a game in Toronto (albeit for another team) when he threw a no-hitter and dominated the Blue Jays. Tonight would not be a repeat of this. Paxton threw 8 3 pitches into the 5th, giving up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 4 runs (3 earned), and struck out 4 Toronto batters.

In the 1st, he gave up a 1-out walk that scored on a 2-out 2-run home run to get the home team started early. A lead-off double in the 2nd scored on an RBI single Then in the 5th, a 1-out walk scored on a single and messy throwing error. After one more out, the Yankees turned to a series of relievers. Ottavino closed out the 5th for Paxton but got into a jam in the 6th that Kahnle added to and then got out of it.

Now, leading up to this, the Yankees tried their best to chip away the Blue Jays’ lead. With 2 outs in the 4th, Gary Sanchez hit a nice solo home run to start the advance. In the 5th, Frazier led-off with a walk but got tagged out when Gardner hit into a fielder’s choice. Gardner moved to 2nd on Urshela’s single and then raced home on Cameron Maybin’s single.

DJ LeMahieu’s single scored Urshela to tie up the game at that point. After Voit’s walk loaded up the bases, it was a single by Gary Sanchez that pushed the Yankees into the lead by scoring Maybin. Then with a new pitcher in the 6th, Frazier hit a single, Maybin hit a 2-out single, and they both scored as part of LeMahieu’s big 3-run home run to give the Yankees a hefty lead.

That didn’t last long as the inconsistency came back full force in the bottom of the 7th. Jonathan Holder had some trouble thanks to the defense when his first batter made it safely to 2nd on a terrible throwing error. After an out, he hit the next batter to put 2 runners on base. They both scored when the next batter doubled and made it to 3rd on a fielding error.

Zach Britton quickly closed out that inning but found his own issues in the 8th. The Yankees now had a 1-run lead to defend, but those “inconsistencies” mean nothing is safe. With 1 out in the 8th, he gave up a single and a walk that scored as part of a big 3-run home run to put the Blue Jays back on top. After another out, he handed the ball over to Luis Cessa, who promptly gave up back-to-back solo home runs to ensure the home team victory.

Final score: 11-7 Blue Jays

The 2019 MLB Draft is now complete. They had a busy first day of the Draft on Monday. For their first round draft pick, the Yankees selected 18 year old New Jersey native and shortstop Anthony Volpe. In the CBA part of the first round, the pick the Yankees got from the Sonny Gray trade to the Reds, they selected left-handed pitcher TJ Sikkema (University of Missouri). And in the second round, they selected second baseman Josh Smith (Louisiana State University).

On Tuesday, they focused mainly on picking up college pitchers, something they seemed to load up on overall, adding more on Wednesday. They picked 25 pitchers of the 41 players. Further, they selected 9 infielders, 2 catchers, and 5 outfielders. Also significant is that the Yankees selected 31 college players and just 10 high schools seniors. They really seem to be targeting a very specific kind of player, so it will be interesting to see who signs, who passes to continue their education, and who passes to pursue other dreams.

One notable selection was the son of former Yankee (and current Yankee broadcaster) Al Leiter, Jack Leiter in the 20th round. As a high school senior, Jack is officially committed to Vanderbilt and will probably keep that route for now. But it was a nice gesture for a legacy player, much like the Yankees did for Andy Pettitte’s son Josh in 2013, though he chose to finish his education and later retire from the sport to pursue other avenues with his young family.

Yankee picks (in order of selection): Anthony Volpe, TJ Sikkema, Josh Smith, Jacob Sanford, Jake Agnos, Ken Waldichuk, Hayden Wesneski, Nick Paciorek, Zach Greene, Spencer Henson, Mitch Spence, Oliver Dunn, Ryan Anderson, Nelson Alvarez, Kevin Milam, Edgar Barclay, Shaine McNeely, Pat DeMarco, Evan Voliva, Chad Bell, Jack Leiter, Zach Kohn, Gerrit van Zijll, Matt Minnick, Jake Pries, Luke Brown, Ryan Brown, Kyle MacDonald, Michael Giacone, Chase Illig, Zachary Maxwell, Chad Knight, Ethan Hoopingarner, Javier Reynoso, Joey Lancellotti, Nathaniel Espelin, Montana Semmel, Bryce Jarvis, Dontae Mitchell, Jake Garrell, and Alex Garbrick.

Best of luck on all your endeavors. Hope to see some of you in pinstripes in the very near future.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 3: TOR vs. NYY — Pitching strong to 1-hit Opening Day win

A rather perfect day greeted the Yankees for their Spring home opener — blue skies, sunny, a bit breezy at times to reduce the potential heat, standard Opening Day pomp and circumstance, fans to pack the stadium, and an inconsistent opponent with the visiting Toronto Blue Jays. Add in a pretty well-played game, and it was the perfect set-up for a glimpse of what could be this season.

Actually, the unsung stars of this afternoon’s game were the pitching staff, who collectively only gave up 1 hit and 2 walks and kept the game pace brisk to just 2 hours and 22 minutes. James Paxton got to show off his stuff to the Yankee audience during his 2 innings, handing things over to Domingo German, Luis Cessa, Green, Diehl, and Jonathan Holder. Cessa, in particular, was outstanding, breezing his way through 6 outs and potentially making a campaign to be back with the big boys after a really rough season last year.

The Yankee hitters certainly weren’t shy about getting themselves on base, racking up 8 total hits and 3 walks off Blue Jays’ batters. But the hits that mattered most were the lead-off hits in the first two innings. Troy Tulowitzki, the player who grew up wishing to be a Yankee, earned his pinstripes when he took the 2nd pitch of the game and hooked it just left of the right field foul pole for a great solo home run. It’s especially sweet for Tulowitzki because it was against the team that gave up on him when he was battling injuries for the last 18 months.

Then in the 2nd, Kyle Higashioka led-off with a huge solo home run deep into the left field concourse. Of course, it came just as I was having a discussion that he needed to really kick up his bat if he wanted to be more of a stronger contender for the back-up catcher’s job. This “jinx” didn’t work at his next at-bat, by the way.

Once the Yankees had cycled through all their players, it was time for the minor league guys to shine. And they did. In the 6th, Ryan McBroom led-off with a single and moved to 2nd on Zehner’s single, and both moved into scoring position on a ground out. Another grounder scored McBroom to cap off the Yankees’ scoring today.

Final score: 3-0 Yankees

Next up: the Yankees will host the Phillies tomorrow afternoon.

Okay, as is tradition these last few years, I’ll continue to highlight a “One to Watch” after every home game. This player is from the farm system, and their contributions to the game that day make them something to keep an eye on. Some of my previous selections are currently on major league rosters, some are now retired or have moved on to other career avenues, and some are still trying to make their mark on the league.

Today’s One to Watch is Ryan McBroom. McBroom’s defense at 1st combined with his base running to score the Yankees’ 3rd run today made him stand out among his peers. McBroom also originally signed with the Blue Jays 5 years ago before they traded him to the Yankees in exchange for Rob Refsnyder. He spent last year bouncing between the Yankees’ AA and AAA teams, with a .310 batting average and 60 total RBIs.

In the Yankee Universe: the Yankees have decisively said that outfielder Aaron Hicks is “their guy” by signing him to a new 7-year, $70 million contract extension, which includes an option for 2026. Hicks certainly proved himself worthy last year, finding ease in the hole left by the injured Ellsbury and becoming a reliable power hitter and defender. And with this new deal, the Yankees make it clear they are not looking for other help in the outfield nor are they willing to part with Hicks.

And for all you long-time Yankee fans, Andy Pettitte is back. Sort of. Today, they announced that Pettitte now serves as special advisor to the GM to help with player development. Pettitte confessed that he actually refused an offer to join former teammate Jorge Posada, who recently accepted a similar role with Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins. No, Pettitte has been trying to get a job with the Yankees since he retired in 2013, as he’s clearly a Yankee through and through. It’s good to have him back and see him don the pinstripes once again, as he did with fellow alum like Jackson, Merrill, Randolph, and Martinez before today’s game.

Boy, it’s good to be back. And it’s better to be winning.

Go Yankees!

Yankee alumni continue to make history in Hall of Fame

There was a lot of talk leading up to Tuesday night’s announcement as to who would be inducted into the Hall of Fame this coming summer. The select few would join Lee Smith and Harold Baines, the two veteran players selected by the Today’s Game Era ballot late last year. And if recent years have taught us anything, no one is ever a solid shoo-in, and certainly no one is ever voted in 100% of the time.

But no one is Mariano Rivera.

For the first time in 75 years of inductions, Rivera was the first player to ever garner 100% of the votes of the members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. And he beat some of the best in the business to get there. Ken Griffey Jr. got really close in 2016 with 99.32% of the votes, breaking Tom Seaver’s previous record from 1992 with 98.84%.

But you really couldn’t find a better person or player to be inducted with the highest honor of unanimous. Mariano Rivera was one of those players who just seemed to get better as the years went on. His 19-year professional career in pinstripes was marked by that special pitch, “the cutter”, something that was just a “lights out pitch” for nearly every batter he faced. He remains the all-time saves leader with 652 saves, was a 13-time All-Star, and was the MVP of the 1999 World Series, 2003 ALCS, and 2013 All-Star Game.

In addition, he was a family man and a man of strong but quiet faith, who brought a great sense of fun, joy, and leadership to the clubhouse and to his community. His family was with him when the announcement was made and their celebrations are just a small preview of all of Yankee Universe’s. The Hall of Fame’s glass ceiling of inaccessibility via unanimous has been broken, and the record holder was not only a Yankee, but one of the best guys to ever play the game on and off the field.

Joining Rivera this year on the stage in Cooperstown will be former teammate Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez, and the family of the late Roy Halladay. Halladay enters with 85.4% of the vote. A pitcher with the Blue Jays and Phillies, he passed away in November 2017 in a plane accident near his Florida home, legacy on the field was outstanding, winning 2 Cy Young awards (2003, 2010), completed 7 games, was a 3-time 20-game winner and an 8-time All-Star. His sons continue his legacy, one currently a star pitcher for Penn State, who also got a chance to pitch in a Spring Training game last year against his dad’s former team (Blue Jays).

Edgar Martinez, a Mariners’ power-hitter for 18 seasons, boasts quite a few batting titles and 5 Silver Slugger awards. Martinez worked his way up the Hall of Fame election ladder, this being his 10th and final year eligible for the Hall, and ending up with 85.4% of the final vote.

And Yankees fans will remember Mike Mussina’s now famous moment telling manager Joe Torre to return to the dugout because he was going to finish the game in May 2006. He ended up finishing the game with 101 pitches, fending off the Tigers for the win. But that was just one of many in Mussina’s storied career, first with the Orioles and then with the Yankees for 18 seasons, including 7 Gold Gloves and being a 5-time All-Star. This was his 6th year on the ballot and finally eked over that 75% mark with 76.7% of the votes to become enshrined in the Hall.

Festivities will honor the six men this summer (July 19-22), with the formal ceremony occurring on Sunday, July 21. Seeing as Cooperstown is still in the middle of winter and about to get more snow (already over 2 inches this month alone) this weekend, summer festivities are sounding better and better. Congratulations to the whole 2019 Class on their well-deserved honor!

In quick Yankee news: the Yankees have officially traded starter Sonny Gray in a 3-team deal earlier this week. Sonny Gray and a minor league pitcher were traded to the Reds for an infield prospect and a future draft pick, but the Yankees turned around and sent that prospect to the Mariners for an outfield prospect Josh Stowers.

Gray’s deal was contingent on his acceptance of Cincinnati’s terms, which he ultimately agreed to — an additional 3-years with a club option for 2023. While Gray certainly will be missed in the clubhouse, his struggles at home led to early trade conversations. New York is a hard city to play for, so our best wishes follow Gray to the Midwest as he finds his footing in red rather than pinstripe blue.

And a small reminder: the Yankees’ first Spring Training game is exactly one month from today. Spring is just around the corner.

Go Yankees!

Missed awards, a new face, and Yankee alumni up for the Hall

Last week, the majority of the postseason awards were handed out for what some people consider the best of this year’s players and managers. Privately, I will make my selections, even if they’re not Yankees, and then I watch to see how my view of the season matches those with a vote. It was certainly a mixed bag for results once again.

Unfortunately, the Yankees walked away from 2018 with no awards. In one category, two Yankees held much of the conversation but ultimately were denied the hardware. The AL Rookie of the Year went to Shohei Ohtani, the Angels’ pitcher-DH star originally from Japan. The Yankees’ own Miguel Andujar came in a solid 2nd place, with teammate Gleyber Torres a distant 3rd. Torres held much of the ROY conversation early in the year before Andujar suddenly emerged as the highlight of the Yankees’ roster on the field and in the batter’s box. He certainly had my vote, or rather my support as I didn’t have a vote.

The Yankees also announced today a trade to help support their perpetually plagued starting rotation. In a deal with the Mariners, the Yankees acquired 30-year-old left hander James Paxton, who had a stellar 2018 but has been plagued by injuries in the past. The Yankees sent a trio of prospects to Seattle in the exchange — pitchers Justus Sheffield and Erik Swanson and outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams.

And today, the powers-that-be in Cooperstown announced 35 names that the Baseball Writers’ Association of America will vote on this off-season. Each member has a ballot that they can select up to 10 players they believe deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. Of course, some people submit empty ballots just so players don’t get 100% of the vote, some just vote for whatever team they write for, and some vote for really random people that don’t make any sense. But most of the members do use their votes wisely, and that’s why most of the people voted in deserve their Cooperstown plaque.

This year, headlining the ballot is Yankees’ legendary superstar Mariano Rivera. Almost assuredly a first-round selection, and he should be as close to 100% in the Hall as possible (though everyone expects someone to use their ballot to keep him from 100%). Another famed Yankee on the ballot this year is Andy Pettitte, and while many of us in Yankee Universe certainly believe he deserves the nod, his minor brush with PED usage following an injury may keep him out.

Other nominees this year include some recognizable names for Yankee fans, both in pinstripes and against them: Rick Ankiel, Jason Bay, Lance Berkman, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland, Travis Hafner, Roy Halladay, Todd Helton, Ted Lilly, Derek Lowe, Darren Oliver, Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte, Juan Pierre, Placido Polanco, Mariano Rivera, Miguel Tejada, Vernon Wells, Kevin Youkilis, and Michael Young. Joining this year’s first-timers are eligible former players who haven’t been completely shutout just yet: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Mike Mussina, Manny Ramirez, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa, Omar Vizquel, Billy Wagner, and Larry Walker.

I’ve made my selections (though I don’t have a vote). Who’s on your list?

Go Yankees!

Game 123: TOR vs. NYY — Remembering what was and hoping for what could be

What a beautiful day at the ball park for memories and a good ball game. Fans turned out in droves to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1998 World Series Championship team, complete with a full cadre of former Yankees (more below) before the Yankees took on the Blue Jays in the second game of this celebration weekend series.

Luis Severino got the start today and needed a strong start to reset himself after a recent rough patch. He threw 100 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and struck out 8 batters. In fact, he held the Blue Jays scoreless through most of his outing. In the 6th, he gave up a double that ended up at 3rd on a fielding error and then scored on an RBI single.

Severino handled the ball over to Tommy Kahnle, who had a less than ideal outing. After getting one out, he gave up 2 singles that scored one run and then loaded up the bases with a walk and 2 outs. To end that threat the Yankees turned to Jonathan Holder, while Kahnle was responsible for all 3 base runners. Holder gave up a long single that scored all 3 base runners before getting the runner out trying to stretch it into a triple.

Britton and Betances had clean, scoreless innings in the 7th and 8th, respectively. And the Yankees needed it after that messy 6th. So, the Yankees sent out AJ Cole for the 9th inning, but he had a bit of trouble. With 2 outs and runners on the corners, a long double scored just 1 run before he found that 3rd out.

But unlike last night’s rain-shortened game, the Yankee offense started big and stayed big. In the 1st, Gardner led-off with a walk, stole 2nd base 2 outs later, and then scored as part of Didi Gregorius’ 2-run home run. Torres hit a 1st pitch single to kick off the 2nd and ended up all the way on 3rd thanks to a wild pitch and throwing error. He would later score on Austin Romine’s sacrifice fly.

In the 3rd, Stanton singles and Hicks walked, and then they both scored on a 1-out double by Miguel Andujar. Andujar then moved to 3rd on a throwing error off Torres’ hit and then scored on Greg Bird’s ground out. Giancarlo Stanton hit a nice 2-out solo home run in the 4th, and Andujar followed suit with a 1-out solo homer into the left field seats in the 5th.

Greg Bird led-off the 8th with a solo home run into the right field seats to snap his recent offensive skid. The Yankees then loaded up the bases with a couple singles and a hit by pitch and 1 out. A new Jays’ reliever gave up a walk to Aaron Hicks to walk in the Yankees’ next run. And Gregorius’ sacrifice fly scored Gardner to cap off the Yankees’ runs today.

On a day meant to honor a team that won 114 game in a single season, it’s only fitting the Yankees would win and win big.

Final score: 11-6 Yankees

During the 5th inning, a foul tip hit catcher Austin Romine in the face mask and stunned him a bit. Initially, he stayed in the game, but was replaced by Higashioka when the Yankees took the field in the 6th. Hits like that have been known to cause concussions, so the Yankees were smart to remove him for observation and a full check-up as a precaution. And while Higashioka can absolutely serve as strong back-up for tomorrow’s finale and even into the Miami series, be prepared for Sanchez’s return to be moved up some.

Now, the big focus of today was the celebrations in honor of the 1998 Yankees. Almost all of the favorites from that team showed up for the event, including Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and Bernie Williams. Jeter and World Series MVP Brosius sent video messages due to their previous engagements and obligations to other teams (Jeter now owns the Marlins, and Brosius is a coach with the Mariners).

Joe Torre was also on hand to recall that iconic season, throw out the ceremonial first pitch, and spent time with two of his players from that season now serving as YES Network broadcasters Paul O’Neill and David Cone during the regular game. And one of the things Torre said in the broadcast stuck with me.

They were talking about how the 1998 season started out slow and how Torre held a team meeting early on to help the team focus on moving forward. Both former players O’Neill and Cone agreed that Torre never did the hype-man thing some coaches do where they scream and try to drive up that emotion, but rather focus on that he was just disappointed in how they were playing at that point. O’Neill even remarked it was like feeling like you were disappointing your father and how he always felt motivated to go out and be better after a Torre “pep talk”.

But Torre went on to say: “I always wanted to end it on a positive message. I always thought of baseball as 162 [games]. It’s a game of life. You live it every day. And if you start getting too pumped up, it’s not going to last. You can’t maintain that.” So, as we agree with Mr. Torre about this comparison of life and baseball, it’s good to remember old Aesop’s fable and remember that while it’s fun to be the hyper rabbit, it’s the consistency and persistence of the turtle that ends up successful at the mission.

Go Yankees!

Game 67: TB vs. NYY — Old Timers’ Day joy, but a series still won

For as long as I remember, summer wasn’t summer without baseball. And baseball wasn’t baseball without my dad. So, watching a ballgame on Father’s Day is a gift for me.

It reminds me of my childhood spent with dad watching games on a grainy black-and-white set while he explained the mechanics of the game and talked of legendary players. Reminds me summer days at the ballpark cheering on a favorite team, despite its dismal record, eating peanuts and telling jokes. Reminds me of the weekend Dad spent teaching us to play ball with his old bat and catcher’s mitt in the backyard. And as always, there was joy and fun building those family memories.

It is in those moments that my strong bonds between Dad and baseball are formed. Dad so enjoyed the game that we couldn’t help but learn the enjoy it too. Our family may all root for different teams now, but the common bond is still the game itself. Though he’s been gone nearly a decade now, Dad would love knowing his kids and grandkids are now building their own family memories around this same game of baseball.

And maybe that’s what he had in mind all along. Thanks, Dad!

In the final game of this weekend series against the visiting Rays, CC Sabathia had a great game overall, throwing 102 pitches into the 8th inning. He gave up 10 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and solidly struck out 10 Rays’ batters.

The only runs the Rays scored tonight came in the 2nd inning. He gave up 2 consecutive singles to put runners on the corners before a double scored the lead runner. Two outs later, the batter hit a solid single that scored both runners, but then the Yankees defense kicked in and got the runner trying to stretch his single into a double.

Leaving the game to a standing ovation, Sabathia would have had a great game and probably a win had the Yankees had any kind of offensive support. Adam Warren came on to close out the 8th for Sabathia and throw a solid 9th inning, but the Yankees’ offense limped through the game. They still managed 7 hits and 4 walks on the board, but they only run they got was a 2-out solo home run in the 5th by Aaron Hicks.

Final score: 3-1 Rays, Yankees win series 3-1

Next up: The Yankees travel to Washington, D.C. to complete their previously suspended game from May 15. That game will conclude first, picking up in the 6th inning with the game tied 3-3. About 30 minutes after that conclusion, they will play the make-up game from May 16. The Yankees will head back to the Bronx for their 3-game mid-week series against the Mariners before beginning their road trip against the Rays.

Before the current Yankees took the field, Yankee fans were treated to witness the celebration of the 72nd Annual Old Timers’ Day, featuring many favorite players, spanning generations of greats from the 1940s to the 2010s. Always a fan-favorite day, players from decades of former Yankee rosters take the field for a few innings, full of good-natured competition and fun.

Before the action on the field, the familiar voice of the late Bob Sheppard greeted the fans to Old Timers Day and the stadium roared to life, and current Yankee broadcasters John Sterling and Michael Kay began the introductions of each participant.

After introducing the widows of former players — Jill Martin (Billy), Kay Murcer (Bobby), Diana Munson (Thurman), and Helen Hunter (Catfish) — they continued with a plethora of former Yankee greats like Dr. Bobby Brown, Bucky Dent, Ron Guidry, Reggie Jackson, Willie Randolph, Bobby Richardson, and Gene Monahan, among so many others of Yankee Universe. Fans cheered with standing ovations for pitching legends Whitey Ford and Don Larsen, now in their 80s, but looking spry and all smiles today.

(Full video of today’s introductions.)

The newest members making their debut at Old Timers’ Day were Dion James, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte, Nick Swisher, and Yankees manager Aaron Boone. It’s a bit of stretch to call most this group “old timers” (Swisher being just 37), but it was good to see this group again. Their relative youth brought a zeal and enthusiasm to the game. Especially fan-favorite Nick Swisher, as they welcomed him back to the Bronx with roaring applause. He waved and thanked the crowd with his signature smile and genuine gratitude, obviously much missed.

As they do every year, the players divided into two teams, the Bombers and the Clippers. The sheer joy of being in pinstripes and taking the field seemed to energize the crowds, and the game did not disappoint. Wild pitches and missed catches brought good-natured ribbing, and Swisher showed off his still-sharp baseball skills with a 2-run double and a big 3-run homer into the second deck. With pitching by the likes of Pettitte and hitting by Swisher, it was inevitbale that the Bombers would outscore the Clippers, final score of 15-3 by the end of their abbreviated game.

Following the game, Swisher was unofficially dubbed the “MVP” of today’s game, saying that today’s festivities sum up the joy of what its like to play baseball for a living. He said, “I feel like every time you take the field, you have a lifetime pass to be a little kid for as long as you want. For me, I’m just happy to be here. I couldn’t believe that [homer]. You only dream of stuff like that!” Close friend David Robertson made sure he celebrated right with his own Gatorade shower during his post-game interview.

Until next year…

Go Yankees!

ALCS 5: HOU vs. NYY, NLCS 4: LAD vs. CHC — #TanakaTime dominates, Cubs beat the sweep

One coast is very happy tonight, one coast is not, the city by the lake is ecstatic, and the city on the gulf is not. Basically, we’ve got four parts of the country covered during this Championship Series, and there will always be a two that will go home unhappy.

Game 1: ALCS — Astros at Yankees
The Yankees were up against the Astros’ ace pitcher tonight, and fortunately, he wasn’t so ace-like tonight, despite still getting 8 strikeouts in just 5 innings. But the Yankees seemed to have his number. In the 2nd, with 2 outs, Castro doubled and then scored on Greg Bird’s single to get the Yankees on the board early. With 1 out and Gardner on 1st, Aaron Judge hit a big double that scored Gardner all the way from 1st.

And in the 5th, Headley hit a 1-out single and ended up at 2nd on a throwing error, and then Judge worked a 2-out walk. Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius hit consecutive RBI singles to score Headley and Judge. That was the end of the Astros’ ace starter’s night. And the bullpen had a bit of a better time against the Yankees. Until the 7th inning, when Gary Sanchez capped off the scoring with a 1-out solo home run into the left field seats.

Meanwhile, Masahiro Tanaka just dominated the Astros lineup today. He threw 103 pitches in his 7 innings, giving up just 3 hits and a walk and striking out 8 batters of his own. Tommy Kahnle also gave a great out, breezing through his 2 innings in just 20 pitches and keeping those Astros totally shutout of the game.

Final score: 5-0 Yankees, Yankees lead series 3-2

Game 2: NLCS — Dodgers at Cubs
The Cubs knew it was now or never if they wanted a shot at the World Series for the second year at a row. So, they sent in their ace. And unlike the earlier game, their ace actually came through for them. He threw 111 pitches into the 7th inning, only giving up 3 hits, but walking 5 batters, and striking out 9 Dodgers. But the Dodgers’ pitcher, who’s been pretty good through most of the season, certainly didn’t come through for them in this game, only pitching into the 5th inning. The Cubs relied on just 2 relievers, their final one going having a bit of struggles through his 2 innings. But the Dodgers’ bullpen was much stronger and was pieced together.

It was a bit of give and take all game. The Cubs got on the board first in the 2nd — a 1-out solo homer and a 2-out solo homer. The Dodgers answered back with a 1-out solo home run in the 3rd to get themselves on the board. The Cubs got another run in the 5th with a 1-out solo shot. And the Dodgers got a lead-off solo shot in the 8th.

And then the Dodgers just ran out of outs. Sweep denied. The Cubs are still alive and kicking.

Final score: 3-2 Cubs, Dodgers lead series 3-1

So, now the Cubs are still in that all-or-nothing mode because if the Dodgers have one good night, the Chicago team is done this year. And now, with the Yankees in the lead, the Astros are in the same position. That series is headed back to Houston (starting Friday) to battle it out in front of the Houston hometown crowd, including a former Yankee (and an Astro briefly) Andy Pettitte. Pettitte actually threw out the first pitch before today’s game and has been at several of the games this series. He and his family live outside of Houston, but based on his sonssocial media accounts, they’re pretty much still solidly Yankee fans.

Both the Yankees and Dodgers are simply one win away from facing each other in the World Series. The Astros are still at 2 wins, and the Cubs are sitting at needing all 3 remaining games for their shot. The odds are clearly in favor of the first scenario, but this is the postseason. And weird things happen in the postseason.

Go Yankees!