Game 132: NYY vs. KC — Shift in dominance leads to 13th inning win

Another long night at the K and you can’t blame the rain on this one. For the first half of this game was dominated pretty much by the Royals, while the Yankees came roaring back to take it back and carry it into extra innings. To be perfectly fair, if the Royals were the team they were late last year, this game would’ve been over a lot sooner. But they aren’t. And the Yankees certainly aren’t the kind of team that just hands over a win when it looks bleak.

Luis Cessa got the start for the finale in Kansas City tonight, and despite the Royals’ score board total, he actually did a really good job as a starter, certainly carving his spot on the roster. He threw 91 pitches in his 6 innings, gave up just 6 hits, a walk, and 4 runs (only 3 earned), and struck out just 2.

In the 1st, with 2 outs and a runner on 1st, a 2-run home run straight up the middle got things started for the Royals. A fielding error in the 2nd allowed a batter to reach all the way to 2nd before he scored on an RBI double. And a lead-off solo shot in the 3rd capped off the Royals scoring and leapt them ahead 4-0 very early.

Then Cessa stepped it up. Starting with the final 2 outs of the 3rd, he proceeded to shut down the Royals in order through the 5th inning (8 outs). A soft single broke that streak to lead-off the 6th, but then he went and quickly got the 3 outs for the 6th to shut them down. The Royals would never get another hit tonight.

It was the 6th inning that suddenly everything snapped into place for the Yankee offense. Ellsbury led-off that inning with a single, and after Sanchez walked, a fly out put them in the corners. Didi Gregorius’ sacrifice fly easily scored Ellsbury, and Starlin Castro’s 19th home run of the season, a big 2-run homer put the Yankees within 1 run of the Royals.

In the 7th, with 1 out and Hicks at 1st with a walk, the Royals pulled their starter from the game after 99 pitches. Gardner singled and moved Hicks to 3rd, where he could score and tied up the game on Jacoby Ellsbury’s sacrifice fly. Now, all someone had to do was find a moment to break the tie.

Chasen Shreve kept the Royals scoreless through the 7th and 8th innings, and Layne and Warren split the 9th inning. Still tied game, so it was on to extra innings. Blake Parker continued to show his value throwing through the 10th and 11th innings. And Ben Heller breezed through the roster in 10 pitches in the 12th.

The Yankees offense certainly put up a bit of drama in their side of the 12th. Headley led-off with a single and then stole 2nd base. Gardner singled, and an error had both runners in scoring position. Though there were enough “message board managers” that blasted the Yankees for not sending Headley all the way home on the error. The pitcher opted to intentionally walk Ellsbury to load up the bases with just 1 out. But the hopes for something highlight reel worthy ended with a quick line out and soft ground out.

And it was onto the 13th inning. Gregorius singled and then ended up at 3rd on Castro’s double. A new pitcher didn’t help the Royals as Brian McCann’s long ball became a sacrifice fly as Gregorius hustled home. With Castro now at 3rd, the Royals intentionally walked Headley and then got 2 quick outs to end the rally.

But it was enough to set Heller up for the win and send in Dellin Betances for the save. 11 pitches later, Betances wrapped up his 7th save, and it was finally over. (4 hours and 19 minutes later)

Final score: 5-4 Yankees in 13, Yankees win series 2-1.

Also, Aaron Hicks came up limping a bit after hitting into a ground out in the 9th inning. His right hamstring tightened up on him while he was running for 1st. He’ll travel with the team to Baltimore where he’ll get some extra tests to see how long he’ll be out. But with his recent upswing in offense, both he and the Yankees are hoping with just a little rest he’ll be back and ready in no time.

Roster moves: yesterday, outfielder Ben Gamel was named the International League MVP (that’s what the Yankees’ AAA team plays in) just before he was traded today to the Mariners for a couple of young pitchers (Jio Orozco and Juan De Paula). And the Yankees also acquired veteran outfielder Eric Young Jr from the Brewers for cash considerations.

Tomorrow (or rather later today), it’s September call-up time. Which means that there’s going to be an influx of those minor league players all over the league and in the clubhouse. An interesting prospect as both the AAA Scranton and AA Trenton teams made their leagues’ post season.

So who’s on your list to fill out the 40-man roster today? And who do you think we’ll see in Baltimore this weekend? (You know those aren’t the same answers most of the time!)

Go Yankees!

Game 107: NYM vs. NYY — Strange rivals, complete with a reality TV-like feud

I cannot begin to convey to you how crazy tonight’s game was. After split results across the river in Queens, the Mets came to visit the Bronx for the final 2 games of the Subway Series. The Yankees have always had a NL city rivalry — the Giants, the Dodgers, and the Mets. But the rivalry in recent years was due to the 2001 World Series, promoted specifically as the “Subway Series”, and at the time, New York couldn’t have been a more needed place to host such an event. It brought healing to a wounded city, and it cemented the crosstown rivalry in a more recent time.

Now, while the Yankees have floundered a bit in recent years, the Mets have made a pretty decent attempt to stay at the top of their division, making it to October baseball and even the Series last year. Not that either of them are doing all that well this year.

And tonight’s game was certainly proof of that. Neither starter got off to a good start tonight. Chad Green started for the Yankees, and in less than 4 full innings, Green threw 86 pitches, gave up 8 hits, 4 walks, and 3 runs, striking out just 2 batters. A former Yankee and now Met fan favorite led-off the game with a solo home run, and then 2 singles and a walk loaded the bases with no outs before a single scored one more run for the Mets. Green pitched his way out of the inning with a strikeout and a double play.

Now, the Yankees hit back in the bottom of the 1st. With 1 out, Refsnyder singled and Teixeira walked, and then they both scored on Chase Headley’s double. Then Didi Gregorius’ 2-out double scored Headley to push the Yankees ahead on the scoreboard.

But it didn’t stay that way for long at the top of the 2nd inning. Once again, with no outs — a double, an RBI single to tie the game, and a walk. All before a double play and a ground out to get out of the inning. And once again, the Yankees didn’t stay quiet in the bottom of the 2nd. With 2 outs and Ellsbury and Refsnyder on base with singles, Mark Teixeira hit a big 3-run home run to push the Yankees safely ahead of the Mets.

And then there was a whole lot of zeroes on the score board on both sides. It didn’t stop the Mets starter from (maybe) throwing at Teixeira and hitting his leg at his next time at bat in the 5th inning. Benches somewhat cleared as Teixeira (justifiably angry) made his way down to 1st. Fortunately, nothing came of it other than a warning, and Teixeira got some fun off of this later in the game (as he said in his post-game interview). But if it wasn’t intentional, it was bad timing, and if it was intentional, it was an immature move.

Anyway, with Green’s pitch count rising, he was pulled in the 4th inning for Luis Severino who just pitched extraordinarily well. Through his just over 4 innings, Severino threw just 60 pitches, gave up 1 hit, a walk, and  1 unearned run, and struck out 5 Mets batters. That lone run was in the 7th. In a weird repeat of earlier innings, he loaded up the bases with his lone allowed walk, his lone allowed single, and a bad fielding error. A strikeout gave the Yankees hope, and a ground out scored just 1 run before another strikeout got him out of the inning.

And once again, the Yankees responded at the bottom of that inning. The Mets starter now out of the game, the Yankee pressed in and hit hard. Sanchez singled and ended up on 3rd with Hicks’ double before Rob Refsnyder’s 1-out sacrifice fly scored Sanchez. Then the reliever walked both Teixeira and Headley to load the bases. Starlin Castro’s single kept the bases loaded and scored Hicks.

That was enough for the Mets, as that reliever walked off the field chirping back at Teixeira over at 3rd after spending most of Teixeira’s time at 2nd staring him down. Apparently, the reliever thought Teixeira was stealing signs. I mean, it’s not like Teixeira, the second slowest guy on the team, is going to steal a base or something. (Coverage of the whole feud here; it’s better than anything you’ll find on one of those basic cable reality TV shows.)

So the Mets turned to a new reliever who promptly walked Gregorius in 4 pitches and scored Teixeira. A new reliever got the final out of the inning. And Yankees’ reliever Tyler Clippard came on for the 9th inning, and despite a 1-out solo home run (which the Yankees’ hefty lead gave him a bit of a leeway to do so), he closed out the game in just 16 pitches.

Final score: 9-5 Yankees.

Scranton Shuttle: Before the game, the Yankees optioned Ben Gamel back to AAA Scranton and recalled Gary Sanchez. Sanchez then hit his first major league hit, scored his first run, and contributed from the DH position tonight to the Yankees. The Yankees consider Sanchez one of their best players of the minor league, and with all the trades and roster shuffling, it became easy enough to bring up Sanchez as he was ready for the chance to prove himself in pinstripes. He did just that tonight.

Go Yankees!

Game 105: NYY vs. NYM — Subway series opening drama

Yes, there is much to talk about with the last-minute extended trade deadline today, and it’s once again kind of sad for Yankee Universe for now but also kind of positive for Yankee Universe in the future. But more on that later.

Today marked the opening day for the annual “Subway Series”. This year the Yankees play 2 game at CitiField in Queens, and then the Mets come to the Bronx for 2 more games to complete the series. Tonight, for the opener, the Yankees sent up CC Sabathia who really had a bit of an okay start overall. He threw 103 pitches into the 6 inning, gave up 8 hits, 3 walks, and 5 runs, striking out just 5 Mets batters.

A lead-off solo home run in the 2nd got things started for the Mets. A 1-out single in the 5th gave them another run on a 2-out RBI double. And in the 6th with 2 runners on base with singles and 1 out, Sabathia gave up a big 3-run home run to push the Mets into the lead. After another out and a walk, the Yankees brought in Richard Bleier, who promptly loaded the bases with a single and a walk. Nick Goody got them out of the inning in 5 pitches.

In the mean time, the Yankees weren’t exactly letting the Mets have this game easily. In the 4th, Ellsbury led-off with a double and Teixeira joined him on the base paths with a walk. McCann’s fly out moved Ellsbury to 3rd which then allowed him to score on a wild pitch. And in the 5th, with 1 out, Refsnyder worked a walk, moved to 2nd on Sabathia’s sacrifice bunt, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s double. Gardner himself then scored on Jacoby Ellsbury’s single.

While the Mets had a slim lead over the Yankees, the Yankees’ pitching staff sailed through the Mets’ roster. Recently re-acquired Tyler Clippard (more below) breezed through the 7th inning in just 12 pitches. And Adam Warren continued to show the Yankees why he was needed back in pinstripes (or away greys tonight) through the scoreless 8th and 9th innings.

The Yankees tied everything up in the 8th. Gardner, on base with a walk, 2 outs, a new pitcher, and McCann singled on base only to be pinch-run by the speedy Torreyes, who proceeded to immediately take 2nd on a wild pitch. The stage was set for Didi Gregorius’ single to score both quick runners to tie up the game and make the Mets uncomfortable and heightened the drama for the over 40,000 fans in Queens.

And into extra innings, this game went. In the 10th, Ellsbury led-off with a walk and Teixeira singled. Pinch-hitter (and recently recalled) Ben Gamel then laid out a perfect bunt and beat the throw to load the bases. Something was cooking in Queens and it wasn’t coming from Shake Shack near center field. Then with 1 out, Starlin Castro hit a big sacrifice fly that scored Ellsbury to break the tie. It was just enough for the Yankees.

They sent in Dellin Betances, the new closer by default, for the 10th inning. But there was more drama to come. A lead-off double moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt; a hit-by-pitch landed runners in the corners; and a ground out put runners in scoring position. CitiField was split down the middle with the fans in orange hoping for a walk-off something and the fans in pinstripes hoping for an out. A nice strikeout it was, and Betances got his first save of the season.

Final score: 6-5 Yankees, in 10 innings.

Of course, one of the more interesting plays in the game happened at the very beginning. On the 2nd pitch of the game, Brett Gardner hit the ball right off the back wall of the park and safely had a triple. But due to his speediness and (according to Statcast) hitting 20.1 mph at one point, Gardner tried to stretch it into an inside-the-park home run. It was officially ruled as a triple with an out at home on the relay from right-center field. But we should have known this was going to be one of those games right then and there.

So trade updates… today, the Yankees said goodbye to Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova. And I don’t know which one Yankees fans are more upset about losing. The Yankees sent Beltran to the Rangers for 3 young pitchers — Dillon Tate (who went 4th overall in last year’s draft), Erik Swanson, and Nick Green. And the Yankees dealt Nova to the Pirates for 2 players to be named later.

Beltran has become a veteran presence on and off the field, in the clubhouse, and especially in the Latino arm of MLB. Plus, his recent spike in offensive contribution had people already talking about Cooperstown. Nova is considered a “homegrown Yankee”, having grown up in the farm system and making his debut with the team in 2010; this made 2016 his 7th season with the Yankees. Both join recent trades like Miller and Chapman in the growing list of now former Yankees that will be missed by the fans.

With all the empty spots on the active roster, the Yankees recalled outfielder Ben Gamel and reliever Nick Goody, and added recent trade acquisition Tyler Clippard to the active roster. Clippard was originally drafted by the Yankees in 2003 and made his debut with them in 2007 before he bounced around the league pitching for the Nationals, Athletics, Mets, and Diamondbacks. And now, full circle back to the Yankees.

It appears to many that the Yankees have “pulled the plug” on 2016 and are regrouping for the future. And to some extent, I agree with that. I think they realize that the nostalgic pull of the late 1990s dynasty is over (and as to when that actually ended is up for debate), and people are wanting a regrouping to focus on the next dynasty.

I think it can be compared to several times throughout Yankee history when the team needed to close the door on what were great stretches of great teams — Murders’ Row of the late 20’s and the 1950s with DiMaggio into Mantle, et al. greatness comes to mind. I think history is more likely to group the late-90s dynasty with those 2 eras rather than the almost fluke that was the late-70s “Bronx is Burning” team. Chalk it up to the known players or the multiple World Series wins or just a better overall team. Whatever makes you happiest, I guess.

Because for the first time in many current fans’ lives, the team isn’t dominating the AL East consistently. It’s playing… well, like a normal team. It’s nowhere near as bad as the Yankees that most of the bulk of their current fan base were born under (as I was) — most of the 1970s (save a couple of fluke years), the 1980s, and the early 1990s. We got spoiled. We got used to winning. We got used to being the “Evil Empire” and dominating all the little “rebel forces” trying to usurp our rightful throne.

So here’s the fun upshot in all this sudden cold rush of reality: the Yankees will always come back and dominate with another dynasty. It’s in their blood. It’s the DNA of the organization. It may not look like Gehrig or DiMaggio or Berra or Rivera. But it will happen again. And I’d actually bet the farm (so to speak) that it will happen again in our lifetime. Because that’s what the Yankees do. They win. They excel. They set the standard. And when they’re not doing it, they fight as hard as they can to right the ship so they’re on top once again.

Don’t give up on the boys just yet. It may be a long road, but they’re still fighting. And so should you.

Go Yankees!

Game 33: KC vs. NYY — Former friends, now royal foes

The Yankees faced some old teammates tonight from the mound. The starter and first relief pitcher for the Royals in tonight’s final game of this series both played for the Yankees about a decade ago (2005/2007-2009) at the start of their MLB careers. This means only a couple of current roster guys were around to remember this.

Tonight’s Yankee starter Nathan Eovaldi was still playing on his high school baseball team in Texas a decade ago when those pitchers were starting out with the Yankees. But perhaps youth was in favor tonight in that respect as Eovaldi certainly outpitched both former Yankee (now Royals) pitchers. Eovaldi went through 5 innings, gave up 8 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, striking out just 3 batters. But it wasn’t until the 4th inning the Royals really poked a hole through Eovaldi’s pitching. A 1-out solo home run got things started, followed up by a 2-out double that scored on a long RBI single. And another 2-out double scored on another RBI single in the 5th to give the Royals their grand total in runs tonight.

Eovaldi was followed in succession by a pretty amazing bullpen show in the form of Yates, Betances, Miller, and Shreve, each taking an inning to get right through that line up and keep the Royals putting up straight zeroes for the last half of the game.

The Yankees, on the other hand, got things started off on the right foot in the 1st inning with Starlin Castro’s 1-out solo home run to the right field seats. In the 2nd, Beltran led-off with a walk and then 2 outs later was hit in on Chase Headley’s monster 2-run home run to give the Yankees a nice healthy lead. Going into this game, Headley had been struggling all season and had yet to get an extra base hit. I think that mark is broken now as a home run most definitely counts for a few extra bases. (Actually, Headley did really well tonight, going 2-for-3, with a walk, 2 RBIs, and 2 runs scored.)

In the 4th, with 2 outs and Hicks at first, Didi Gregorius tacked on a couple more runs to the Yankees’ lead with his own 2-run home run. And the 7th certainly gave the Royals’ starter the most trouble, which was great for the Yankees. With 1 out and Headley and Romine on base, the Royals tried changing pitchers to that other former Yankee, but to no avail. Gardner’s walk loaded the bases and put the Yankees in the unenviable spot they’ve struggled with for the last month — runners in scoring position. But that’s okay. It’s not April anymore. Castro’s single scored Headley and then Brian McCann worked a 2-out walk to walk in Romine to seal the deal for the Yankees’ win tonight.

Final score: 7-3 Yankees, Yankees win series 3-1.

This is now the 2nd series the Yankees have won in a row. First, the rivalry, now the “reigning world champions”. Um, okay. Or maybe it’s just because they played better baseball than whatever uniform their opponents happen to wear that day. Now, that’s a theory I can get behind.

The Scranton Shuttle: The Yankees promoted reliever Tyler Olson today, optioning outfielder Ben Gamel back. And catcher Gary Sanchez may make his 2016 debut tomorrow, but no corresponding roster move seems to be forthcoming. Seeing as adding Sanchez makes 26 players, I expect we’ll hear something prior to tomorrow night’s game against the White Sox.

Today would’ve been Yogi Berra’s 91st birthday. The Yankees honored him tonight (in addition to their year-long celebration via the #8 patch on their sleeves) by recognizing the contributions and the last legacy Yogi left through his museum. If you’re ever in New Jersey, go check out the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center.

Happy Birthday, Yogi!

Go Yankees!

Game 30: KC vs. NYY — “Everybody gets a home run!”

At one point during tonight’s game, I was searching for the appropriate meme to post. I felt like the pitchers were doing their best to be like Oprah where everyone gets a home run in some massive surprise gift giveaway. Of course, much was made prior to tonight’s game about the visiting “reigning World Champions” (read: only Kansas City media and like Fox Sports has been touting this phrase). Sorry, Royals, but talk to Yankee Universe when your number jumps from 2 to 27 and then we can chat about championships.

Also, this current team is really not the 2015 team in so many ways. We here at Yankee Universe get that every season, with the comings and goings of the players, is a fresh start, and sometimes (especially after a big championship season) that’s not a good thing. (Most recently, take a look at the differences between the 2009 and 2010 Yankee teams.) Going back-to-back is so rare that even the Yankees have only done that 12 times in their history.

Anyway, the Royals flew out to Gotham for a 4-game series this week for this middle of this home stand. And the Yankees seemed bent on reminding the “reigning World Champions” who exactly holds the title of both “Bronx Bombers” and “all-time World Champions”. Helmed tonight by Ivan Nova, taking Sabathia’s spot in the rotation as Sabathia heals from his groin injury, the Yankees were in full force tonight after last night’s awful loss to Boston.

Nova was on a strict pitch count of 81 pitches and met it in the 5th inning. By then, he gave up 6 hits, a walk, and just 1 run, striking out 3 Kansas City batters. That lone run was a really nice 1-out solo home run in the 2nd inning straight up to Monument Park. Nova reminded everyone not to underestimate his starting potential simply because he’s been a long-term bullpen option for a month now. Nova continues to remain a vital part of the pitching staff, proving himself again tonight why they keep him around and active.

Phil Coke came on to finish the 5th for Nova (much to the glee of many fans and writers who remember the last time he pitched for the Yankees — Game 5 of the 2009 World Series). After an out and a walk, Coke handed the ball to fellow reliever Kirby Yates who sailed his way through the rest of the 6th and through the 7th innings, adding 2 more strikeouts and setting himself up as the recipient of the win for tonight’s game (yes, this is still an odd way to record wins and losses for pitchers).

Chasen Shreve got his turn in the 8th, and despite giving up a solo shot to the lead batter, shut down the rest of the order in Shreve-like fashion. To be fair to all home-run-giver-uppers, most pitches that become home run balls are beautiful strikes in the first place; the batters just also recognize this to their advantage. This is usually where a good amount of deception comes into play so that the batters don’t see a beautiful strike coming towards them and thus get their timing off.

And in the 9th inning (though not a save opportunity), coming off his 30-game suspension, Aroldis Chapman made his pinstripe debut as the flame-throwing closer we all knew he could be. Chapman was actually pretty tonight, in control and ready to jump right in to help the Yankees. Chapman threw 17 pitches, getting the first 2 batters to swing at just filthy strikes, topping out at 101mph. A pinch-hitter doubled and then scored on an RBI single before the final batter hit a comebacker that bounced back to Chapman to get the easy out at 3rd to end the game.

On the flip side of things, the Yankees put up their own numbers early and often. Brian McCann got things started with a 2-out solo home run in the 1st inning. Carlos Beltran led-off the 2nd with his own solo home run into the right field seats. But it was the 3rd inning that became the Oprah-story. Brett Gardner led-off with a solo shot only to be followed immediately by Aaron Hicks and his solo shot. Then 2 outs later, Beltran decided to hit his 2nd home run of the night to add to the home run giveaway. (It was a great night for those fans in the right field seats!)

Beltran’s 2nd homer of the evening also forced the Royals’ starter out of the game. They could read his pitches like yesterday’s mail. (I could almost hear my grandfather’s voice on that one.) And the new reliever did his best to keep the Yankees from multiplying their score exponentially. So they traded in their mega-bats for some small ball in the 7th inning. Headley and Torreyes each singled to lead off the inning and moved to scoring position on Gardner’s ground out. They continued to move up on Hicks’ sacrifice fly, as Headley scored. But a strikeout ended their small ball streak for the night.

But that’s okay. The Yankees seemed to be sitting pretty on their home runs tonight.

Final score: 6-3 Yankees.

Ben Gamel made his MLB debut tonight, coming into the game at the top of the 8th, playing right field and getting his first single in the bottom of the 8th. (Ball spared and saved for the mantle.) His debut during a win, which included his first single — not a bad way to make your break into the majors.

Also, for those who were wondering when the Yankees were going to make up that cancelled game (due to snow) from April 10, the Tigers-Yankees match-up is rescheduled for June 2 at 7:40 pm at Comerica Park in Detroit. Current ticket holders can use their tickets dated for April 10th for admission to that game next month without any exchanges necessary. More information can be found on the Tigers’ ticket information site.

Also, the corresponding roster move for Chapman’s reinstatement on the 40-man roster was a bit of a chess game. The Yankees optioned Johnny Barbato to AAA and moved Branden Pinder to their 60-day DL, effectively taking him off the 40-man roster. Pinder, as you may remember, is out for the rest of the season and into next year for Tommy John surgery due to a tear in his UCL (elbow). However, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Barbato who’s pitched rather well this last month.

Go Yankees!

Game 26: NYY vs. BAL — Wasted #TanakaTime

So it looks like Charm City remembered it had a baseball team. Well, some of them did. The Orioles were at 43% capacity for tonight’s game for the final game of this series. But numbers-wise, it’s still low turn out for baseball games.

Masahiro Tanaka threw yet another beautiful game and came up with a no-decision because the Yankees couldn’t seem to collectively put together any run support. That’s what’s the most disheartening about tonight’s loss. I mean, if he’d pitched just terribly or the defense just crumbled, then it would be disappointing but not unexpected. It just hurts to watch this be swept away after all of Tanaka’s just beautiful work. Tanaka threw 102 pitches in 8 shut out innings, giving up just 5 hits and a walk, and getting 7 of Baltimore’s batters to swing at some of the nastiest pitches.

The Orioles’ starter practically matched Tanaka in numbers, as the Yankees couldn’t seem to collectively put anything on the board for run support. Plus, Girardi got ejected in the 4th inning asking for an explanation as to why a balk wasn’t called on the pitcher. Because you should always eject someone asking for an explanation and then continue to harrass them as they try to leave the game peacefully, intentionally enticing them into further argumentation. Trivia: the very same umpire gave Girardi his first managerial ejection back in 2008.

Starting in the 9th inning, both teams went to their bullpens. Betances sailed through a 10-pitch inning for the Yankees, and when the Yankees got a man on, the Orioles switched to a new guy. To match them, the Yankees went to Johnny Barbato for the 10th inning, which may have been a misstep in hindsight as in 5 pitches to 2 batters who both singled to get on base and put them on the corners. All 12 Baltimore fans were on their feet in anticipation. (Pardon the hyperbole, but the lack of attendance is reminiscent of jokes made about the Rays or some of the smaller market teams and is rather off-putting.)

So it was “Miller Time” to try to shut down the threat. Unfortunately, a sacrifice fly scored the runner from 3rd, and the walk-off worked for the Orioles. There was just an accumulation of little things that led to this event, and at one point, it was just kind of inevitable. Which, again, is a super shame because of Tanaka’s amazingness tonight.

Oh, and let’s talk for a minute about Dustin Ackley’s spider-man skills. Playing in right field for only the 2nd time in his career, Ackley made the play of the night in the 9th inning. On a long fly ball, Ackley jumped up and arched just right to catch the ball, slamming off this ugly hotdog ad and then throwing it back into get the runner doubling off 1st. Apparently, the Orioles didn’t believe Ackley could really make the catch and asked for a replay to confirm he didn’t catch it in a rebound off the wall. Nope. On any angle, it was very obvious that Ackley channeled his inner Peter Parker and made the play of the night (which essentially sent the game into extra innings, by the way).

Final score: 1-0 Orioles in 10, Orioles win series 2-1 (Also: Yankees went 2-7 on this road trip.)

On the Scranton Shuttle today: The day after James Pazos was called up, he was sent back to AAA today without throwing a pitch. Also, it was his 25th birthday. Happy Birthday, here’s your free ticket back to Pennsylvania. With Gardner still very sore from the hit-by-pitch elbow injury from yesterday (he pinch-run tonight but didn’t hit or defend), the Yankees need an extra outfielder. So they called up Ben Gamel (the story leaked through the press train via Gamel’s best friend who was stoked for his friend to finally make it to the majors). Gamel did impress for the last couple of Springs but still needed some fine-tuning, hence the extended stay in Scranton. Perhaps, he’ll have a chance to prove himself during this long upcoming home stand.

Yes, the Yankees are headed back to New York for a 10-game home stand — a weekend series against the Red Sox, then 4 games against the Royals, and winding up next weekend against the White Sox. I feel like there’s a joke to be made in there about pink majestic laundry, but I can’t seem to find it.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 23: NYY vs. BAL — A shelf cloud, 6 home runs, an extra inning loss

Okay, so 2 of the games played in the Grapefruit League were cancelling today on account of a giant storm system that came over the area today, leaving streets flooded and filled with debris like downed tree branches. Had the game been in Tampa, it would’ve been the third game cancelled. But Sarasota (where the Orioles are), just about an hour south, didn’t get that heavy of a storm, but they certainly got a great view as the shelf cloud made its way through the area just north of them.

And the only way to relate this game is do this chronologically. The 1st inning looked promising for both teams — 6-up, 6-down rather quickly. Yankees’ starter Ivan Nova was looking good on the mound too. But then the back-and-forth started in the 2nd inning, and neither team came out all that clean (both offensively and defensively). With Ackley and Parmelee on base with walks and 2 outs, Chris Denorfia smacked a big 3-run home run up the middle to put the Yankees on the board with a splash. The Orioles answered back with a 1-out solo home run of their own off Nova in the bottom of that inning.

In the 3rd, Brett Gardner led-off with a perfect bunt single, followed up by Gregorius’ double to put them in scoring position. Starlin Castro’s sac fly then scored Gardner, and Chase Headley’s single scored Ackley to increase the Yankees lead. But the Orioles weren’t going away quietly with a 2-run home run off Nova in the bottom of that inning. And the O’s continued to play catch up with another 2-run home run in the 4th, and a 2-out RBI single in the 5th. That ended Nova’s messy outing there with some forgettable statistics that won’t help him in that contest to be the 5th starter this season — 5 allowed hits, 6 runs scored (only 5 earned), and 3 walks over his 4.2 innings.

The Yankees called on reliever Johnny Barbato to close out the 5th and carry the 6th inning, something he did with perfection — getting 4 straight outs. Actually, the 6th inning was another 6-up, 6-down inning. The only innings this game when a run did not score were the 1st and 6th innings. Yeah, it was that kind of game.

Anyway, with the score sitting at 6-5 Orioles into the 7th inning, the Yankees had their own catching up to do. So Puello led-off the inning with a double and then scored on Gardner’s nice triple (seriously, Gardner played an amazing game today). Ben Gamel came in to pinch run for Gardner as he was the last starter to be replaced at that point. Gamel then scored on Torreyes’ 1-out single to give the Yankees a 1-run lead. But the Orioles’ played their home run card once again to tie up the game off reliever Nick Goody, who was virtually flawless except that perfect home run pitch.

With runners on the corners and 1 out in the 8th, Gamel’s ground out scored a run for the Yankees to push them ahead again. A lead they held onto through reliever James Pazos’ perfect 8th inning. Nick Rumbelow came on for the 9th inning in hopes of getting those 3 outs and the win. But a beautiful solo home run (yes, another one) tied the game back again and would send the game into the 10th inning.

Okay, let me say that the worst inning by an Orioles’ pitcher was the 10th inning, and because of how statistics are awarded, he went home today with the win. The Yankees led-off the 10th with a double, an RBI single, another single, and another single to load up the bases (all with no outs, by the way). Things were looking promising as Pete Kozma stepped up to bat. Kozma unfortunately hit into a double play, but the insurance run scored. And by the mid-10th, the Yankees were ahead by 2 runs. Once again, they just needed 3 quick outs.

But it was not to be. Matt Tracy on the mound for the Yankees and 2 runners on base after a couple of errors by 3rd baseman Refsnyder. Refsnyder came out of the game at that point, after taking a grounder to the face (and needing some ice and a bandaid, but nothing more, thank goodness!). A walk loaded the bases (still no outs), and then a single scored a run keeping those bases loaded. But another single and 2 runs scored and the Orioles got their walk-off win today.

Some statistics to wrap your head around: 15 Orioles’ hits (9 by Yankees batters), 12 total walks, 15 total strikeouts, and 6 total home runs (5 by Orioles’ batters). To be fair, the Orioles won today’s games on the backs of those home runs.

Final score: 11-10 Orioles, in 10 innings.

I wish I could say there was a “one-to-watch”, but today’s game was rather messy. So I’m going to throw in relievers Johnny Barbato and James Pazos as having flawless outings and deserving some credit for keeping the score a 1-run game.

Go Yankees!

Spring Games 9 & 10: NYY vs. BAL & TOR vs. NYY — Split squad struggles

The Yankees split their afternoon between home in Tampa against the visiting Blue Jays and down in Sarasota against the Orioles. At one point about halfway through the nearly simultaneous games, it looked like the Yankees were going to pull off a double win. And then it all just unraveled in both locations.

First up, the home game (because I’d rather get the really bad news over with first) against the Blue Jays. Look, it was a lovely day for baseball — a rather warm March afternoon, blue skies, slight breeze, and sunshine everywhere. And there was hope with a couple of pitchers making their Spring debuts today — one exceeded expectations, the other did not.

Nathan Eovaldi started today’s game and was just stellar — 6 consecutive outs, 22 pitches, in 2 innings, putting up zeros across the board (no runs, no hits, no walks, no strikeouts, no Blue Jay on base). That’s how you begin your season. But then came the trio to hold down the back end of the bullpen. Andrew Miller continued to struggle some giving up 4 hits, no walks, and 2 runs, and striking out 2 players in the 3rd inning. With 1 out, he loaded the bases with consecutive singles before a 4th allowed single scored 2 runners and gave the Jays the lead.

Turning the game over to Dellin Betances in the 4th inning was like flipping the switch back on for the Yankees and their defense, including a ridiculous diving catch by center fielder prospect Ben Gamel. Betances had his own 3-up, 3-down inning and righted the course for the Yankees. Until closer Aroldis Chapman made his Spring debut in the 5th. I’ve watched this guy pitch before, and he can throw triple-digit speeds like it’s no big deal, but sometimes he’s a little rough as to where the strike zone is. And today, he showed the rustiness. With 2 outs, and bases loaded due to 2 hit-by-pitches (though I’m not entirely sure he actually hit one of those guys) and a walk, a second walk scored another run for the Blue Jays and prompted them to pull in the next pitcher for 4 outs.

Moreno got that final out, but then just crumbled in his 6th inning outing. With 1 out and 2 runners on with a single and a walk, a ground-rule double scored one and started the big inning for the Jays. A throwing error scored another, before a 3-run home run completed the 5-run inning for the Blue Jays giving them a fairly hefty lead. Cloyd’s 7th inning was almost tame in comparison, but should be noted as no one scored a run while he was on the mound (a feat hard to come by today, apparently).

Pestano’s 8th inning didn’t help matters — a lead-off single, an RBI standing triple, and an RBI double all before any outs were recorded. And Webb was going strong in the 9th inning getting 2 quick outs, before a solid triple took the wind out of that sail and a nice double scored the Jays’ final run of the afternoon.

The Yankees’ offense wasn’t exactly quiet, at least not in the first half of the game. In the bottom of the 3rd inning (down 2-0), with 1 out, Fowler double and Kozma walked, and things got interesting. Carlos Beltran’s single scored Fowler, and runners would end up at 2nd and 3rd on a throwing error. Alex Rodriguez’s ground out scored a run to tie up the game and force the Toronto starter out.

The Yankees came back in the 4th inning with 1 out and a runner on with a single for minor leaguer Jonathan Diaz to hit a beautiful 2-run home run to push the Yankees ahead. But that was it for offense. The Toronto bullpen (unlike New York’s) was able to shut the Yankees down and keep them from collecting runs while their own offense just marched all over the Yankees.

Final score in Tampa: 11-4 Blue Jays.

Now, about an hour and a half (in rush hour traffic) south of game one, the Yankees visited the Orioles and dealt with their own highs and lows. Bryan Mitchell did a decent job starting the game for the Yankees, giving up just 1 run to the Orioles, a solo shot in the 1st inning. But he got the ball rolling that the next two relievers helped keep the birds away.

And things looked pretty good for the Yankees here. Right up until the 7th inning. Reliever James Pazos joined the defense in their struggles to get out of the inning. A single, 2 strikeouts, a runner reaching on a fielding error, and a walk loaded the bases, and a single scored Baltimore a run and forced Pazos out of the game. Prospect Chad Green came on (with Pazos responsible for all 3 runners on base), and gave up a 2-run single and the defense complicated matters with a sloppy throwing error, before Green got the final batter to fly out and end the inning.

The final two relievers did an excellent job of keeping the bases clear in hope the Yankee offense would find something to help them, but it never came. The Yankees got an early start at the offense right off the start of the game. Ellsbury and Refsnyder, on base with consecutive singles, scored on Starlin Castro’s double and Aaron Hick’s ground out, respectively. And then they added to this in the 5th inning when Higashioka and Ellsbury singled on base and then scored on Castro’s second RBI double.

But there would be no last-minute rally, for either team, and being Spring Training, no extra innings to break the tie. To be fair, the game in Sarasota was much better played and pitched (for both teams really).

Final score in Sarasota: 4-4 (tie).

Okay, honestly, out of both games, the best “one to watch” happened at home: Ben Gamel. Gamel came in for Fowler in the 4th inning when Fowler took off for a pre-approved doctor’s visit. And it’s a good thing, as Gamel went all “superman” in center field to make that amazing catch.

Go Yankees!

Spring Games 31 & 32: NYY vs. DET & PIT vs. NYY — Splitting the day, it may not count but it matters

Prior to today’s split squad games, the Yankees announced that Brendan Ryan was diagnosed with a Grade 2 calf strain, which can take 6-8 weeks to heal properly. Both calves and strains are rather tricky when it comes to injuries, so an estimated date isn’t really in the works right now. No point in rushing him back and then doing further damage, rather similar to what happened to Mark Teixeira in late 2012. With that in mind, the Yankees acquired infielder Gregorio Petit from the Astros for cash considerations. Petit reported for duty, donned number 27, and played a little 3rd base late in the Tampa-based game today. So it looks like the back-up infielder (Ryan) has his back-up now (Petit).

So two games went on rather simultaneously today. Part of the team traveled to Lakeland to face the Tigers, while another part stayed at Steinbrenner Field to face the Pirates. As it happens so often on split squad days, the Yankees split their win-loss outcome as well.

In central Florida, Bryan Mitchell got the start against the Tigers, going 5 full innings, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, but also striking out 6 Detroit batters. It is not a coincidence that the only runs the Tigers scored were in Mitchell’s weakest inning (the 4th), where he gave up 1 of those walks and 3 of those hits. (Statistics-wise: looking at that game minus his 4th inning makes Mitchell’s overall outing rather good, perhaps his best all Spring.) Unfortunately, the 4th inning wasn’t as tight as the rest of his game — a lead-off walk, a flyout, a single, another single that loaded the bases, a strikeout, a 2-RBI single, and a wild pitch that scored the Tigers 3rd (and final) run. After another strikeout, going into the 5th inning, the Tigers were up 3-0.

The Yankees got one back in the 5th, though. Slade Heathcott led-off with a bunted single, stole 2nd base, ended up at 3rd on a line out, and then scored on Kyle Roller’s sacrifice fly. And then in the 7th, Murphy led-off with a double and then scored on Heathcott’s single. But that would be all for the Yankees offense, while reliever Kyle Davies finished the game, a solid 3 innings with nothing but 3 strikeouts for the Tigers.

Final score in Lakeland: 3-2 Tigers.

Then over in Tampa, the Yankees stayed strong under starter Michael Pineda, making his final start this Spring. Pineda threw 5.1 innings, gave up 6 hits, no walks, and just 1 run, and (much like his Lakeland counterpart today) struck out 6 batters. For much of the first part of the game, both the Pirates and the Yankees kept getting runners on base but not doing much to try to get them home. In the 6th inning, with 1 out, two back-to-back singles scored the first run for the Pirates. This triggered a pitching change, bringing in reliever Andrew Miller for what turned into a snazzy 1-pitch doubleplay to end the inning.

This seemed to break open the run-scoring doors for the Yankees. In the bottom of the 6th, Romine single and Jones doubled (Aaron Judge came on to pinch-run for Jones), and they both scored on Chris Young’s single, pushing the Yankees up over the Pirates 2-1. Young was pinch-run by Ben Gamel, who promptly advanced to 2nd on a groundout and then 3rd on a wild pitch before scoring on Rob Refsnyder’s single.

In the 7th, with 1 out, Bird, McCann, and Romine fill the bases with a single, a walk, and a messy (lucky) single. Bird and McCann’s pinch-runner Haddad scored on Judge’s single, and then Romine scored on Gamel’s sacrifice fly. The Pirates made a pretty good effort to get back those runs in the 8th inning loading the bases on reliever David Carpenter and then scoring just 1 on a sacrifice fly. A quick 2 outs later, and Carpenter joined the remaining Yankees fans in a sigh of relief. Ramirez got a quick 1-2-3 9th inning to close out the game and finalize the Yankees victory today.

Final score in Tampa: 6-2 Yankees.

Roster moves: as it is that time of year, Chase Whitley was optioned to AAA Scranton prior to today’s game. And Nick Noonan, Rob Refsnyder, and Eddy Rodriguez are reassigned to minor league camp (following today’s game, where they were needed to fill out the dual roster).

There is technically one more game in Spring, though many people are calling the game on Saturday in DC the final Spring game. A game that doesn’t count is still a game, so I guess we can consider them all exhibition games. Kind of puts all that excess energy people seem to have over the stats like wins and all their silly predictions in a different light. It reminds me of that improv show where the host asks the actors to do silly things and give them points, but the points don’t matter in the end as the host will just pick a random person to do the final improv act with the host himself. “That’s right, the points don’t count, just like every single Spring Training game.”

And before I go off on a philosophical tangent here, let’s remember that sometimes things that don’t count still really matter. I think about that when I watch the young minor league guys play with the veteran guys. They may never actually make it to the Bronx, but for that moment, they’re playing ball with some people they grew up watching on TV or even idolizing. It’s like a dream come true for some of these guys. So it may not count for much in the long-run, it most certainly matters more than we can possibly imagine to so many of these young guys.

And finally, (for something that also doesn’t really count but matters a whole lot), the Yankees announced that Joe Torre will be throwing out the first pitch at Opening Day. As if I needed one more reason to be excited for Monday…

Go Yankees!