Game 20: KC vs. NYY — #TanakaTime with some controversy & another injury

Well, this Saturday was certainly filled with some mixed results and emotions. The day began with the rain that lingered from last night, clearing up just before the game and would remain rather cloudy during this third game with the visiting Royals in the Bronx. Maybe that cloudiness should have been a sign for this game.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start today and had a really great outing. He threw 94 pitches in 7 innings, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and just 1 run, and struck out an impressive 7 Kansas City batters. His lone allowed run was a lead-off solo homer in the 6th. He certainly earned today’s win.

Jonathan Holder closed out the game for Tanaka with 2 solid innings. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo home run in the 9th inning to double the Royals’ score. But he and Tanaka were strong enough to carry the game and limit the Royals’ impact.

The Yankees’ offense was certainly strong enough to support their pitchers today. Aaron Judge kicked things off with a 1-out solo home run in the 1st inning, and Clint Frazier led-off the 2nd with a solo home run to jump the Yankees in an early lead they would never surrender this afternoon.

After a tumultuous, yet scoreless 3rd inning for the Yankees, they came back in the 4th to dominate. Ford led-off with a walk and moved to 3rd on Romine’s double. Then, Mike Tauchman continued his power show with a big 3-run home run into the right field seats. And DJ LeMahieu promptly followed that with a solo home run on the 1st pitch of his at-bat for a great show back-to-back home runs.

In the 6th, Tauchman worked a walk and moved to 2nd on Judge’s 1-out single. Judge winced a little and held his side, coming out of the game and replaced by Tyler Wade. With 2 outs, Gleyber Torres hit a single to scored Tauchman, and Frazier’s single scored Wade to keep the runs coming.

And in the 7th, Urshela led-off with a double and scored on Austin Romine’s single to cap off the Yankees’ big afternoon. A rather great combination of Yankee offense and pitching today paid off in the end.

Final score: 9-2 Yankees

However… there were also some sour notes this afternoon. In addition to Judge’s injury (more below), there was that bad call that soured the 3rd inning for the Yankees. LeMahieu led-off with a walk, and Voit hit a 1-out single. Then Gleyber Torres smacked a big hit that aimed right for the 1st row of the left field stands. It appeared to bounce off the hands of a fan in that 1st row, but the immediate assumption was that it was going to be a home run anyway, so the call was a 3-run home run.

However… that fan seemed to lean too far over the fence, and the Royals’ manager rightfully asked for an umpire review to determine if there was fan interference. As we all watched slow-motion video and discussed the possibilities, the common thought was that it was fan interference, which is normally an automatic ground-rule double.

However… the umpire review declared it was an out due to fan interference, the implication being that the Royals’ left fielder would have made the out as he jumped to lead over and rob the home run away from Torres. And the world erupted. Well, the social media world did. And believe me, I was right there with them.

Now, the left fielder is a good player, but I just don’t think he was that good to be able to really disrupt the natural trajectory of the ball that was clearly heading out of the park. That fan interference was a bad move, but it wasn’t really interfering with the left fielder as much as it did with the ball leaving the park.

Of course, we weren’t alone in this thought. Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone was livid at the overturned call too, bounding over to the umpires in just a few large steps. Within seconds, Boone got his first ejection of the season, and the fans were 100% behind him. The players were too, as that just propelled them to get 7 more runs as Boone watched from the clubhouse.

Injury update: That 6th inning injury to Aaron Judge is a big blow to the team. Judge came up from the swing clutching his side, only to be diagnosed with an oblique injury. He was sent to New York Presbyterian in the City for further testing, including a potential rehab trajectory. This will make 13 players on the IL, as there’s no way Judge will avoid the IL at this point. There will be more we know tomorrow.

But for some good news, it looks like the Yankees will be getting Gary Sanchez back this next week. He is set to play a minor league game Monday, fly to Anaheim to meet the team on Tuesday, and then will play on Wednesday. Though, to be fair, Higashioka and Romine have certainly been doing a great job in his absence, proving how great the catching depth is on the Yankees.

Chag Pesach Sameach (Happy Passover) this week to those who observe.

Go Yankees!

Game 13: CHW vs. NYY — Drenched and shortened loss

Tonight’s home stand opener certainly didn’t go as well as they thought. And the weather itself certainly agreed. The skies threatened to storm the entire evening, even drizzling through most of the game, but it finally broke through and drenched the Bronx enough to force them to call the game early. Which, of course, meant the Yankees ran out of time to try to regain their lead against the visiting White Sox.

Starter JA Happ really struggled through his outing tonight. He threw 88 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 9 hits, 2 walks, and 6 runs, and struck out 5 Chicago batters. A lead-off double in the 1st scored on a 2-out single to get the White Sox on the board early and first. In the 4th, he gave up 2 walks that scored on a 2-out double.

While this was actually tolerable for the Yankees, it was the 5th inning that things really started falling apart. Happ gave up a single, a 2-run home run, and another single before the Yankees called in Jonathan Holder for relief. But then he promptly gave up a 2-run home run before powering his way through 3 strikeouts to end the inning and then keeping the Sox scoreless through the 6th.

Okay, backing up a little, the Yankees did actually do pretty well on the offense side tonight. Down by 1 run in the 1st, the Yankees answered back in the bottom of the inning. With 1 out, they loaded up the bases with a throwing error on Judge’s at-bat and 2 walks to Voit and Torres. After another out, DJ LeMahieu’s single scored both Judge and Voit. But then, Torres was caught out in a rundown trying to make it to 3rd. His distraction was enough to allow both runners to score before he got tagged out, so the risk was worth it.

Now in the lead, the Yankees continued to surge forward in the 2nd. Frazier led-off with a walk, moved to 3rd on Urshela’s double, and then scored on Austin Romine’s single. Later, Aaron Judge’s sacrifice fly scored Urshela. Brett Gardner hit a solid 2-out solo home run in the 4th. And in the 6th, LeMahieu walked and Frazier singled. After a pitching change, Gio Urshela’s single scored LeMahieu, and despite loading up the bases later, the Yankees’ offense stalled that inning.

And they never got another chance to restart it because it started raining. They sent Chad Green out in the 7th, and like his 2 predecessors, he had his own issues with his outing. With 1 out, he gave up back-to-back solo homers. And by then the rain was just too much.

After 41 minutes of a delay and no end in sight, the game was called as is.

Final score: 9-6 White Sox, in 7 innings

Roster moves: Before tonight’s game, the Yankees sent Gary Sanchez to the injured list with left calf strain. He originally sat out the previous game with some calf discomfort, not wanting to push himself to actually get injured. But on yesterday’s off-day, he noticed it was still problematic and got it check out, hoping to be able to play through the stiffness. Diagnosis: strain. So they called up Kyle Higashioka for back-up to Romine.

And be prepared: the Yankees are set to activate CC Sabathia from the IL for tomorrow’s game, so the corresponding roster move (probably a pitcher) is forthcoming. But it’s nice to see someone coming off the IL rather than being put on. Yeah, we need more of that please.

Go Yankees!

Game 9: NYY vs. BAL — Rather lucky in Charm City sweep

Again, after their disappointing home stand last week, the Yankees needed something to help set them on the right track. So a sweep of the Orioles this weekend seemed to do the trick.

Domingo German got the start for the Yankees and held the Orioles off for most of his outing. He pitched a no-hitter for most of the game, not giving up a single until the 6th, keeping the O’s scoreless into the 7th inning, where he gave up a single and a walk to be responsible for those runners when he handed the game off to Stephen Tarpley.

After a strikeout, Tarpley loaded the bases with a single. So a passed ball and wild pitch scored both of German’s runners. Tarpley then gave up another walk that put runners at the corners before a single scored one final run for the Orioles. Luis Cessa then came on to close out the game with 2 strong, scoreless innings.

But it was the Yankee offense that left everyone talking this weekend. In the 2nd, Gleyber Torres led-off with a solo home run, and 1-out later, Clint Frazier hit his own solo home run. Gardner led-off the 3rd with a double and then scored as part of Gary Sanchez’s 2-out 2-run home run.

After a pitching change in the 6th, with 1 out, Torres doubled, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Clint Frazier’s single (the first run not scored on a homer this weekend, by the way). With 2 outs in the 7th, Voit singled, and Gary Sanchez hit his 2nd homer of the game, a 2-run home run. Torres then worked a walk that forced another Oriole pitching change. DJ LeMahieu doubled home Torres, and Frazier’s single put runners in the corners. Gio Urshela’s single scored LeMahieu.

Gardner led-off the 8th with a walk and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s 2-out 2-run home run, his 3rd homer of the game. And the Yankees were back to home runs. (This was Sanchez’s first 3-homer game, by the way.) In the 9th, Wade walked and scored on Clint Frazier’s 2-run home run. Urshela was hit by a new reliever and then scored with Austin Romine’s 2-run home run.

Final score: 15-3 Yankees, Yankees sweep the Orioles 3-0

Next up: The Yankees travel to Houston for a 3-game series against the Astros to wrap up this first road trip. Then, after a travel day on Thursday, they head home for a long home stand against the White Sox, Red Sox, and Royals before heading out for their first West Coast road trip.

Go Yankees!

 

Spring Game 30: NYY vs. MIN — Farewell to Florida, with a win

And we’ve reached the penultimate game of the season. The Yankees headed south about 2 hours to Fort Myers to face the Twins on this lovely Sunday afternoon to close out their Florida-based Spring Training.

James “Big Maple” Paxton got the start this afternoon, throwing into the 6th inning and earning the eventual win. In the 4th, he gave up a lead-off single that scored on a double by a former Yankee (one of several familiar faces in today’s game). Later, in the 6th, a lead-off walk (also a former Yankee) scored on a double (another one) to double the Twins’ score.

Luis Cessa closed out the 6th for Paxton cleanly, but found his own spot of trouble in the 7th when a 1-out triple scored on a sacrifice fly (surprisingly, none of which were former Yankees). JP Feyereisen got his shot at Spring for an inning with a flawless 8th inning, and Alvarez closed out the game with a scoreless 9th.

While the Twins got the lead first, the Yankees were quick to answer back. In the top of the 6th, with 1 out, they loaded up the bases. Greg Bird’s ground out still moved all the runners up and scored lead runner Castillo. Romine worked a walk to load the bases again before the Twins changed pitchers. Clint Frazier promptly hit a solid bases-clearing double to place the Yankees in a firm lead.

In the 7th, Matt Lipka led-off with a single, stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on Castillo’s double. It was the insurance run they wouldn’t need with the way they were playing in the second half of the game, a stark difference to yesterday.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees

Next up: The Yankee head north in preparation for the regular season’s start on Thursday with a quick stop in our nation’s capital. They play a final Spring exhibition game at Nationals Park tomorrow night.

This last stop in a big league park gig, something that really began as a way to open new parks (like they did with the Braves’ new home stadium in 2017) is becoming a pattern across the league. It’s kind of a nice transition between Spring Training and the Regular Season. Now, if only we can get them to play all the April games in southern cities so we don’t have to worry about snow-out games…

Roster moves: We have a final 25-man roster. The biggest surprise was earlier today when the Yankees announced they optioned Tyler Wade to AAA Scranton. This means they chose their latest Yankee Mike Tauchman and his veteran versatility in the outfield over Wade’s more natural infielding skills. Certainly a disappointment for the young player, but I can’t imagine he won’t be one of the first called up when something happens.

Here’s the 2019 Yankee roster: catchers Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine; infielders Greg Bird, Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, Troy Tulowitzki, Miguel Andujar, and DJ LeMahieu; outfielders Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Mike Tauchman; starting pitchers Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, JA Happ, Domingo German, and CC Sabathia; and relievers Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Jonathan Holder, Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino, and Stephen Tarpley.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 24: NYY vs. ATL — “Happiest Place on Earth” hosts a Monday night victory

As we begin the final week of Spring Training, the Yankees headed to Kissimmee to visit the Braves in their final week at the sports complex at Walt Disney World. The Braves will move their Spring to their newly built complex in Sarasota next year, after playing an initial game against the Rays next week just before they both begin their 2019 regular season.

So, tonight, Masahiro Tanaka got the start for the Yankees and held strong through 5 innings, allowing just a 2-out solo home run in the 4th, and collecting 7 stellar strikeouts. Tanaka is looking every bit the eventual Opening Day starter for the Yankees, something he’s clearly earning with outing like this.

Adam Ottavino had a bit of a hiccup when he came out in the 6th. He loaded up the bases with a walk, a single, and a 1-out walk. After another strikeout, he gave up a single that scored just one run. But the bases were still loaded. So Stephen Tarpley came on, and his first batter hit a single that scored 2 more runs, both charged to Ottavino, before he finally got out of the inning.

Tarpley continued through the 7th and came up scoreless. Diehl and Alvarez followed him by closing out the game with a scoreless inning a piece. The Braves were limited to those earlier runs.

This was especially helpful as the Yankees found a couple of opportunities to hit big and dominated the game. In the 2nd, Luke Voit powered a big lead-off solo home run. Two outs later, Wade doubled, Urshela walked, and both runners stole the next base to get into scoring position. They then did so on Ryan Lavarnway’s single.

Then in the 5th, Lavarnway doubled, Gardner singled, and Judge’s triple scored both runners. Stanton and LeMahieu each worked a walk to load the bases and were pinch-run. Then Austin Romine’s single scored 2 more runs for the Yankees to cap off the night.

Final score: 7-4 Yankees

Next up: The Yankees will host the Rays tomorrow afternoon. The final week of Spring continues with the Spring home team playing the regular season home team. It’s always a packed game of locals, but it feels like a regular season Yankees-Rays game at Tropicana Field across the Bay.

There is conversation about the Yankees possibly picking up another veteran starter, but until things are settled and signed, it’s just rumors. Maybe there will be news after tomorrow’s game.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 13: DET vs. NYY — Friday night lights, close but kind of sloppy

There’s an old saying that a bad dress rehearsal means that you’re going to have a great performance. I’m not sure I believe this for a number of reasons that I won’t unpack right now, but I know the heart behind this message is to try to get all the bad out of the way when it doesn’t matter.

When things go poorly in Spring Training, a common sentiment is that the games don’t really matter. But of course it does. Everyone is trying to show they either deserve a shot at the roster or that they are continuing to grow as regular players and don’t deserve to lose their roster spot to a rookie in the wings. (Yes, all those theater references for you fellow theater nerds.)

As we all know, baseball is a game full of failure. The best batter will fail to hit the ball at all about 70% of the time. The best pitcher will still give up runs (for example, Mariano Rivera gave up 340 total runs in his 19 years). Even in a so-called “perfect game”, it’s never going to be 27 strikeouts, and in fact, those with the record 20 strikeouts in a game didn’t have a perfect games.

So bad games are going to happen. People have off-days. You can’t win 162 games. But that doesn’t mean you don’t try.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start in tonight’s game against the visiting Tigers and pitched his way into the 4th inning. Actually, he got off to a great start, plowing through the first 4 outs and collecting 5 total strikeouts. In the 2nd, he gave up a 1-out walk that moved to 2nd on a single before he and Torres partnered for a stellar pick-off. But a double scored that other runner to get the Tigers on the board. He also gave up a 1-out solo home run in the 3rd.

Zack Britton got the final 2 outs of the 4th, finding Tanaka’s earlier momentum and handing it off to Dellin Betances. There’s been some talk about Betances lower velocity, but he’s getting the outs, like tonight’s quick clean 5th inning, so I’m not sure there’s much to worry about just yet.

Meanwhile, the Yankees actually were the first on the board in the 1st inning. Judge worked a 1-out walk, and then Giancarlo Stanton smacked his first home run of the Spring, a no-doubter, 2-run home run deep over the left field concourse area.

So when the Tigers tied up things in the 3rd, the Yankees found their pace to defend their home turf and hold onto the tie until they could find their opportunity. But while opportunity came several times, the Yankees didn’t capitalize on them enough to shift things back into their favor for long.

Domingo German got the opportunity for some long-term relief for 3 innings, starting with a scoreless 6th. In the 7th, a lead-off double scored on an RBI single before he got 3 consecutive strikeouts.

The Yankees’ offense found one of those opportunities in the bottom of the 7th. With 1 out, LeMahieu doubled and was pinch-run by Cabrera. Austin Romine hit a solid 2-out double to score Cabrera, and Lavarnway came in to pinch-run for Romine. Kyle Holder then singled home Lavarnway to grab the lead again.

But German had struggled a bit in the 8th, not helped at all by a sloppy defense. With 2 outs and 2 runners on base with a walk and hit-by-pitch, consecutive singles scored both runners, the last one in part due to a missed catch error in an attempt to get the runner out at home.

Tommy Kahnle got the chance to calm things down in the 9th, but the defense hadn’t found itself yet. A fielding error due to the lights allowed the lead-off batter to make it to 1st. And 1-out double scored the Tigers’ insurance run before Kahnle took control and shut things down.

The Yankees made an attempt at a rally in the bottom of the 9th. With 2 outs, Kyle Holder smacked a big solo home run, the ball landing on top of the roof of the bar in the right field bleachers. A double and walk kept hopes alive before a short pop-up closed out the game, with the Yankees a run too short.

Final score: 6-5 Tigers

One to Watch: I’ve got to give it to the minor leaguer that kept the Yankees alive in those latter innings — Kyle Holder. That 9th inning home run certainly settled things for me in this category, but Holder’s been one of those to watch for some time. He’s a great defender as an infielder, and his bat is clicking in high-impact moments. He could be one of those names to keep an eye on for more than just trade bait one day.

Next up: the Yankees play their first night game away tomorrow against the Orioles in Sarasota (about an hour south of Tampa).

Before tonight’s game, the Yankees formally announced this year’s HOPE Week dates — June 17-21. HOPE Week is the week during the season that the Yankees recognize 5 local non-profit organizations for their impact in their community, gifting them with their volunteering time, a monetary donation, and public recognition. This will be their 10th year of this program.

As they do every year, to kick-off the announcement, they also recognized a local non-profit in Tampa during Spring Training that helps their local community. This year’s honoree is Gigi’s Playhouse, a great center that caters specifically to children with Down Syndrome and their families, including programs that help with therapeutic and educational skills, career development, and global acceptance, all free of cost. Gigi’s Playhouse is an international organization that has centers all over North America, but the Tampa location opened just last August.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 11: STL vs. NYY — Chilled out at home

It’s not often that the opposing team seems to outnumber the home team. At least at Yankee games. But it was a sea of red as Cardinals fans flocked to Steinbrenner Field to cheer on their chosen team this afternoon. And despite all the warnings before the season about the pace of play and the 20-second pitching clock, none of that seemed to be enforced or occurring in this long (3 hours and 35 minutes), chilly (59°) game under clear blue skies.

Jonathan Loaisiga got the start today against the Cards and really sailed his way through most of the first 2 innings but then got into some real trouble in the 3rd. A lead-off solo home run in the 2nd got the Cards on the board, but Loaisiga kept going and struck out 3 batters that inning alone (eventually collecting 5 strikeouts of his 7 total outs). In the 3rd, a 1-out double scored on another double. And after walking the next batter, Loaisiga passed the ball to Joe Harvey.

Harvey struggled his way out of the 3rd inning, giving up an RBI double, an RBI ground out, and another RBI double before finally striking the final batter out. This gave the Cardinals a rather hefty lead the Yankees never could crack this afternoon. But then Aroldis Chapman sailed his way through the 4th inning, and Danny Coulombe had a fairly easy 5th.

But his 6th found some further trouble for the Yankees. A lead-off walk stole 2nd and ended up at 3rd on a 1-out single. So Coulombe passed the ball to Phillip Diehl, who kept it mostly under control except a 2-out single that scored the lead runner. He gave up a lead-off single in the 7th before getting 2 solid outs and then handing the ball over to Cale Coshow.

Coshow, however, promptly gave up a 2-run home run to push the Cards further ahead. Then in the 8th, he gave up a lead-off ground-rule double that bounced over the center field fence after it split the outfielders, slowed by the sun in their eyes. A wild pitch moved that runner to 3rd where he then scored on a 1-out single. James Reeves came into the game to close out the 8th and then cleanly get through the 9th.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals pitching was much cleaner, and despite getting a few opportunities to make a difference, the Yankees didn’t capitalize on many of them. Torres led-off the 2nd with a double, and Frazier worked a 1-out walk. Austin Romine scored both of them with his solid 3-run home run to give the Yankees a very temporary lead.

Down quite a bit in the bottom of the 9th, the Yankees found themselves with an eleventh hour rally opportunity. With 1 out, Garcia walked, Lipka singled, and a passed ball moved them both into scoring position. They did so on Trey Amburgey’s double. And then they ran out of opportunities.

Final score: 9-5 Cardinals

One to Watch: I decided to highlight Trey Amburgey today. He’s been featured here before, and he earned the spot again today. His 2-RBI double in the 9th cut into the Cardinals lead, but he also made some crucial plays in right field today, including saving a run from scoring in the 6th.

Next up: The Yankees will travel across Tampa Bay to Clearwater tomorrow to play the Phillies. (So, more red in the crowd.)

Go Yankees!