Game 155: BAL vs. NYY — Flailing bullpen denies Yankee sweep

In this final home game of the 2018 season, the Yankees were looking to close it out on an upswing. And for a good chunk of the afternoon, it looked like it was going to go that way in this final game against the visiting Orioles.

JA Happ had a good start, throwing 107 pitches in his 5 innings, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and a run, and striking out an impressive 7 batters. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo home run in the 2nd. Happ then held off the Orioles for the rest of his time on the mound.

And the Yankee batters gave him in enough to work with. In the 1st, the starter came off the mound after 4 pitches due to a blister issues. His replacement triggered an offensive show by the home team, loading up the bases with 3 consecutive walks. Gleyber Torres’ sacrifice fly (no media clip, sorry) scored McCutchen, Miguel Andujar’s single scored Stanton, and Gary Sanchez’s 2-out single scored Voit.

But then the Yankees didn’t do much more for the rest of the game. So the Yankee defense and pitchers needed to defend their slim lead. AJ Cole came on in relief of Happ in the 6th and just fumbled out of the gate. He gave up a double, a 2-run home run, and a solo home run to put the Orioles into the lead.

So the Yankees turned to Tommy Kahnle. He gave up a double that moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a sacrifice fly to add one more run for the O’s. Luis Cessa came on in the 7th and calmed things down a bit. But after some defensive switches in the 8th, he gave up a 1-out single that scored on a 2-out double to cap off the Orioles’ scoring today.

The Yankee bats never did awaken again this afternoon, an odd exception to the Orioles’ poor show by their bullpen this weekend. But baseball isn’t predictable.

Final score: 6-3 Orioles, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees are headed down to Florida to start their final week of this season with 4 games against the Rays before heading to Boston for 3 games at Fenway to conclude the season. The Yankees need to keep ahead of the Athletics in the standings if they want to keep home field advantage for the Wild Card game.

As I write this, the A’s are losing to the Twins. They have a fairly easy schedule against the Mariners and Angels to close out their season next week. So it really could go down to the wire for home field advantage in the AL Wild Card just like the NL is still a giant question mark for the postseason. And honestly, it kind of makes this last week of baseball all the more fun. Every game counts for something. Every moment matters.

Injury news: Getting lost in the fracas during yesterday’s win, it looks like Didi Gregorius tore cartilage in his right wrist in that slide home to score the winning run in the 11th inning. He had an MRI, where they found the tear, and a cortisone shot for treatment. Right now, they’re waiting to see how he responds to the shot. But if he doesn’t, he could be out for the rest of the season. Fingers crossed for speedy healing to the Emoji King.

Go Yankees

Game 154: BAL vs. NYY — Welcome to Fall Ball!

It’s the first official day of Fall, and the Yankees are going to the Postseason. All is right with the world. With their win today and the Rays’ loss, the Yankees winnowed their magic number from 2 yesterday to 0 tonight. Though the Yankees certainly had to battle their way to that win.

Lance Lynn got the start in the middle game of this weekend series against the Orioles. Lynn threw 93 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs (1 earned), and struck out 4 Baltimore batters. He gave up 2 singles in the 3rd. A passed ball moved the lead runner to 3rd and a throwing error allowed him to score. But quick moves by the defense got the next runner out at home.

Then in the 5th, a double tried to score on a single, but again the defense worked to keep him from adding to the score. Another single put runners on the corners, and another single successfully scored that lead runner. After giving up a walk, another great defensive move got the force out at 3rd to end the inning and get out of the jam.

After that, the Yankees called on the bullpen to keep the Orioles from adding to their score. Green, Chapman, Betances, and Britton each got an inning and came out strong, keeping the O’s at bay.

The Yankees got a head start on the offense in the 2nd. Aaron Hicks led off with a solo home run. Andujar then singled but was thrown out trying to make it a double. And it would be Luke Voit to power the 1st pitch he saw into a big solo home run. But the Yankees weren’t able to capitalize on much more for most of the game.

So, with the game tied, it went into extra innings. Holder amped up the drama in the 10th by loading up the bases but, thanks to a few great defensive moves, got out of the inning unscathed. Tommy Kahnle’s 11th inning kept the ball rolling tossing it back to the offense to do something, anything.

And they did. Didi Gregorius led-off with a double. And after a strikeout, Aaron Hicks stepped into the box. At one point, he hit a foul ball off his ankle. He kind of limped around a bit, as they tried to decide what to do with him. But he got back in and then smacked a solid double into the corner of left field, which scored Gregorius for the walk-off win and postseason clinch.

Final score: 3-2 Yankees, in 11 innings

It should be noted that with the clinching of the postseason spot today, it makes the 54th postseason appearance in the Yankees MLB history, dating back to 1901. Their first postseason appearance was in 1921, their first win in 1923. Of course, they would win it all 27 times, now hoping to win #28 this year.

The biggest statistic the Yankees have been their amazing home run record. For being known as the “Bronx Bombers”, it is only this year that they crack the MLB record into the teams with the most single season home runs. They currently rank 5th with 253 home runs, tied with the 2016 Orioles. This makes them just behind the 1996 Orioles (257), the 2010 Blue Jays (257), the 2005 Rangers (260), and the 1997 Mariners (264). They are just 11 from the lead with 8 games left in the season. Sounds like a fun goal to me.

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 130: NYY vs. BAL — Players Weekend sweep

Another successful Players Weekend is over, and for the Yankees, it was successful on more than one plane. Sure, sweeping the Orioles was good for their morale and for their stats, but knowing their biggest rival was swept in their own series is the cream cheese icing on the red velvet cupcake. That makes the Yankees just 6 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East. And with 32 games left in the season, things are looking up.

So, for this finale game in Baltimore, the Yankees called on their ace Luis Severino to close out the series and earn his 17th win of the season. He threw 107 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 4 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs (2 earned), and struck out 8 batters. But he held them off for most of his outing.

In the 5th, he gave up a lead-off walk that stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on a sacrifice fly. A big solo home run led-off the 6th, and 2 outs later, it looked like Severino was going to get out of the inning. But the next batter got on base thanks to a throwing error, so that was it for Severino.

Chad Green had his own issues trying to get that final out of the 6th. He gave up a single and a wild pitch moved both runners to scoring position. So when the next batter hit a single, that lead runner scored Severino’s unearned run. But he got out of the inning with a nice strikeout.

After getting the first out of the 7th, Green handed the ball over to Zach Britton. Britton continued to show his comfort pitching at Camden Yards against his former team, sailing his way through 5 outs in just 18 pitches. David Robertson got the nod for the potential save in the 9th and kept the Orioles scoreless to close out the game.

Meanwhile, the Yankees continued to dominate the weekend with selective points of offense through the first half of the game. In the 2nd, Andujar led-off with a single but was tagged out at 2nd on Walker’s grounder. Then Luke Voit hit a solid 2-out, 2-run home run to get the Yankees on the board.

Robinson led-off the 3rd with a single, and 2 outs later, Hicks joined him on the bases with a single. They both then scored on Miguel Anudjar’s double to double their score. And with a new pitcher on the mound in the 6th, the Yankees found one more opportunity to add just one more. With 1 out, Voit hit a single, moved to 2nd on Romine’s walk, made it to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on a wild pitch.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees, Yankees sweep the weekend series.

Officially, they swept 3-0 due to the originally scheduled games, but because they won the make-up game, they also swept the now-posted games 4-0. Either way, that 4 game chipping away at the Red Sox’s lead certainly helped the Yankees have a bit more hope for not settling for the Wild Card game alone and might have a shot at the Division title.

Next up: The Yankees head back to the Bronx for a week of games — 3 games against the White Sox starting tomorrow night, and a 4-game weekend series against the Tigers. They will head out to the West Coast (and Midwest) for games against the Athletics, the Mariners, and the Twins, before heading back home once again. Like I said earlier, there’s only 32 games left of the season, and the September call-ups are just a week away. This is going to get interesting, folks.

And on a final note, I wanted to highlight some great things about Players Weekend. First, it’s fun to see the oddity of “names” on the back of the Yankee jerseys, and the Yankees certainly had fun choosing which name best represented themselves. But they also got specialized cleats and colorful batting gloves and sweat bands, many of which reflected their heritage (like Gleyber Torres) or history (like Dellin Betances).

CC Sabathia used his specialty cleats to pay tribute to a group of amazing pitchers known as the “Black Aces“, a small group of black ball players that have won at least 20 games in a single season. One of those Black Aces published a book about the history of these great pitchers, including stories of Negro League pitchers that might have done the same had they been allowed to play.

His book only listed 13 players as part of this group including names like Al Downing and Bob Gibson, the last player achieving this feat in 1971. But since then, 3 other pitchers have joined their ranks — David Price, Dontrelle Willis, and Sabathia himself. It’s also interesting to me that only 2 of those players are currently in the Hall of Fame (Gibson and Ferguson Jenkins). It’s also worth noting that tonight’s starter Severino is just 3 wins away from his 20th win in a single season.

Didi Gregorius (“The Knight”) also got in on the fun, despite being out on the DL. He changed up his Twitter victory posts (Friday, Saturday 1, Saturday 2, Sunday) from using his designated emojis for the players to using their chosen nicknames as hashtags. It threw everyone for a loop at first, but now, it was clearly a nice detour from the usual. However, I think I miss the emojis and am looking forward to their return this week.

Go Yankees!

Games 128 & 129: NYY vs. BAL — Double the wins, double the fun

It was a good day for a doubleheader in Baltimore today. And the Yankees were raring to go and chip away at the Red Sox’s lead in the AL East, while showing their strength to the good contingency of fans that showed up at Camden Yards for both games.

Game 1 (Make-up game of rain-out June 3)
JA Happ got the start for the first game of this doubleheader, the second game of this weekend series, and the make-up game from a rain out in June. And Happ continued his strong show as a starter, throwing 107 pitches in 6 innings, giving up 5 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and striking out 9 Baltimore batters. Those allowed runs came in the 2nd, easily his weakest inning. With 1 out, he gave up a walk and a double that scored on a long single.

But then he stayed strong and kept the Orioles from doing much else. His lone reliever for the game, Luis Cessa, followed suit for the final third of the game. In fact, it wasn’t until the 9th inning that he gave the Orioles another chance. A lead-off single got out on a grounder the Yankees couldn’t turn into a double play. That new runner then took 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a 2-out single. But 1 out later, that was it for the O’s.

Meanwhile, the Yankees fell into a nice momentum in the batter’s box. In the 1st, with 1 out, Stanton walked, moved to 3rd on Hicks’ double, and scored on Miguel Andujar’s ground out. Robinson led-off the 3rd with a single, moved to 2nd on Gardner’s walk, and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ 1-out single. Andujar followed that up with a big 3-run home run.

With 1 out in the 4th, Robinson doubled and ended the Orioles’ starter’s afternoon early. Of course, it didn’t help that the first reliever promptly gave up a 2-run home run to Brett Gardner. Andujar then led-off the 5th with a single, ended up at 3rd on Torres’ single, and scored on Luke Voit’s single. And solo home run by Gleyber Torres in the 8th and Aaron Hicks in the 9th capped off the Yankees’ early show.

Final score (Game 1): 10-3 Yankees

Game 2 (regularly scheduled game)
Sonny Gray got a shot at as starter again in the second game of today. And he too had a great out, really better than his teammate in the early game. Gray kept the Orioles scoreless as he threw just 79 pitches into the 7th, gave up 3 hits and a walk, and struck out 7 batters to earn his 10th win this season.

Holder followed him by closing out the 7th and throwing a scoreless 8th. But Tommy Kahnle had a bit of trouble as the Orioles got to their final inning. He gave up a 1-out double that moved to 3rd on a 2-out single before scoring on a single. With the Yankees just needing to get out of the game, they called on Betances who got the final out in just 5 pitches, leaving runners stranded at the corners.

But to back Gray’s scoreless start, the Yankees needed to not be scoreless. And today was a good day for the Yankees to prove they are still the home run kings and one of the runs scored leaders. Gardner led-off the game in the 1st with a big ground-rule double and shortly scored on Aaron Hicks’ single to start the game right for the Yankees.

In the 2nd, the Yankees loaded the bases with singles to Torres, Romine, and Torreyes. A wild pitch had all the runners moving up and barely scoring Gleyber Torres. A sloppy fielder’s choice allowed Gardner to make it to 1st and Romine to score. Then in the 4th, with 1 out, Romine singled and later scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s 2-out single. Austin Romine led-off the 9th inning with a solo home run to cap off the Yankees’ run show today.

Final score (Game 2): 5-1 Yankees

Okay, so the make-up game from earlier was a win, which means that the Yankees officially swept the Orioles 3-0 for the weekend of June 1-3. And the Yankees are just a game short of doing so again this weekend. So fingers crossed, Yankee Universe, for another strong win tomorrow night.

Roster moves: As allowed by MLB, the Yankees called up their 26th man for the doubleheader today. They chose Luis Cessa, who certainly helped the Yankees seal their victory in that first game. Cessa, of course, was sent back to “the farm” once the games were over, but he’s been a solid choice for the Yankees for this kind of long-term relief.

Go Yankees!

Game 127: NYY vs. BAL — Voit-power +10

CC Sabathia got the start in his return from a brief stint on the DL so that he could rest his problematic knee. In this weekend opener against the Orioles, he had a pretty good outing overall, throwing just 80 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and striking out an impressive 8 batters.

Actually, almost all his allowed offense was in the bottom of the 1st inning. He gave up consecutive singles that moved up on a fly out before a walk loaded up the bases. Another single scored 2 runs to get the Orioles on the board early. But then Sabathia and the Yankees’ defense held them off for the next 5 innings.

And meanwhile, the Yankees came back to tie up the game in the 4th inning when Walker worked a 1-out walk and then scored as part of Luke Voit’s 2-run home run. David Robertson came into the game in the 7th, and his first batter made it safely on a fielding error to kick off the inning. After 2 outs, a 2-run home run became an inning of unearned runs to put the Orioles back in the lead.

But the Yankees came back in the 8th, by loading up the bases with 1 out thanks to a walk to Stanton and 2 singles to Andujar and Walker. And on the 3rd pitcher of the inning, Gleyber Torres hit a solid single to score both Stanton and Andujar to once again tie up the game. But they loaded up the bases again in hopes of taking the lead, but then left them stranded.

After Betances and Green sailed their way through their innings, and the Yankees weren’t able to find another opportunity to break the tie. So the game went into an extra inning, and there the Yankees found their chance. Neil Walker broke the tie with a 1-out solo home run up the middle. Then Torres worked a walk and in an attempt to steal 2nd ended up at 3rd on a throwing error. He then scored as part of 2-run home run by Luke Voit, his 2nd homer of the game, which would be the defining factor.

So, the Orioles had one last chance in the bottom of the 10th, and the Yankees opted to send in former Oriole and temporary Yankee closer Zach Britton to earn his first save against his former team. With 2 outs, he gave up a solo home run to edge the O’s closer to the Yankees’ lead. But a ground out later, the Orioles ran out of opportunities.

Final score: 7-5 Yankees, in 10 innings

Roster moves: During the travel day yesterday, the Yankees optioned reliever Chance Adams back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make room for tonight’s starter. Sabathia was activated off the 10-day disabled list, only missing one scheduled start to rest his knee. Plus, the Yankees are making up a rain-out game from June as part of the doubleheader tomorrow. So, there will be a roster move to add a 26th man, as per the rules for doubleheaders.

And speaking of tonight’s starter, there is a nice article on the veteran pitcher and his family this season. It’s a nice insight on family sacrifice and finding the balance of blending work and home life, as well as the importance of surrounding yourself with people who will challenge you and support you through all of life’s ups and downs. A good life lesson either way you cut it.

Go Yankees!

Game 106: BAL vs. NYY — Torres’ power & rain delay not enough to reset a “Gray” start

Sonny Gray had a great 1st inning in today’s matinée against the Orioles, but with looming skies, the forecast wasn’t good for either the Yankees’ starter or the actual weather over the Bronx. Gray threw 57 pitches into only the 3rd inning, gave up 8 hits, 2 walks, and struck out just 3 batters to continue his bad record of not doing well at home, despite a good record against the Orioles previously.

In the 2nd, Gray gave up a single, a walk, an RBI single, a single to load the bases, and a 2-RBI double before recording an out. Then he gave up another single that scored 2 more runs and another single before the Yankees’ defense finally snapped into action for a great double play — a line drive to right field and then getting the runner doubling off 2nd base.

With the O’s in a huge lead, Gray got the first 2 outs fairly easily. But then he gave up a solo home run that bounced off the net over Monument Park, and then put runners on the corners with a walk and single. And as the rain started in the Bronx, the Yankees called on new Yankee, veteran starter, and today’s spot-starter Lance Lynn to make his pinstripe debut. Lynn, unfortunately, gave up an RBI single (charged to Gray) but then found his momentum with his first Yankee strikeout.

But between innings, the rain became a deluge, and the tarp came out. After a 39 minute delay, including the cleaning and drying of the field, the game resumed. Lynn returned and threw 4 more strong innings for a total of 71 pitches. Green and Holder each threw a scoreless inning of their own in hopes that the Yankees could chip away at that rather hefty Orioles’ lead.

And they did. Gleyber Torres led-off the 2nd with a solo home run, but the other Yankees in that inning loaded up the bases only to leave them stranded there, something that is more of a pattern than I’m sure the Yankees are happy about. The Orioles’ starter actually held the Yankees off for most of the game.

It wasn’t until the 8th that they got another chance to change the narrative. They loaded up the bases with a single to Hicks and walks to Torres and Bird. It would be Miguel Andujar to single home Hicks, but a strikeout, a pitching change, and a double play stranded those loaded bases again.

Then with 2 outs in the 9th, Didi Gregorius gave the waiting fans hope with a solid single, and Hicks worked a walk. The Orioles were literally 1 out away from the win and decided to change pitchers again to get that. Instead, they gave up a 3-run home run to Gleyber Torres, his 2nd homer of the day, to inch the Yankees closer. Unfortunately, they ran out of outs on a pop fly the next batter.

Final score: 7-5 Orioles, they split the series 1-1

Next up: The Yankees travel a few hours up the Coast to Boston for a 4-game weekend series starting tomorrow. They’ll head over to see the White Sox for 3 games before heading home for a long home stand to face the Rangers, Mets (in a make-up game), Rays, and Blue Jays.

It’s August. We’re at the push for the end of the season now. Just 1 month before September call-ups, so it’s kind of at that point where every game needs to matter, especially those games against teams on the wrong end of the season (like the Orioles) that should be easy wins. Despite always being a tough series, the Red Sox this weekend will be even tougher as the Sox currently sit 5 games ahead of the Yankees and would love to keep it there (or make it more).

However, the White Sox, Rangers, and Mets are scraping the bottom of their respective divisions. And the Rays and Blue Jays are hovering around .500 in the AL East. All of these teams will be playing to move up from where they are if they even want a chance in October. So all of these games are a must-win for the Yankees or that October dream will be just that — a dream, rather than an assured reality.

Go Yankees!