Game 116: TB vs. NYY — Nice to see you, Class of ’96, but here come the Baby Bombers!

In a big promoted move, the Yankees featured a big pre-game ceremony featuring the 20th anniversary of the 1996 World Championship team that started the big dynasty. The former players jogged (insert any “old man” joke you may have here) from the center field to their respective positions on the field. Of course, Joe Girardi had the furthest to go to his former position at catcher and seemed to be the least winded. (Chalk it up to having to keep up with all the new, young guys, I guess.) And then former manager Joe Torre rode out on a cart to many cheers and excitement of the crowd. They took a big commemorative photo, waved to the fans, and then watched the young players take on the visiting Rays.

It was fun to reminisce with the team: Brian Boehringer, Wade Boggs, Jose Cardenal, Chris Chambliss, David Cone, Mariano Duncan, Cecil Fielder, Andy Fox, Joe Girardi, Doc Gooden, Charlie Hayes, Matt Howard, Derek Jeter, Pat Kelly, Jimmy Key, Jim Leyritz, Graeme Lloyd, Tino Martinez, Jim Mecir, Ramiro Mendoza, Gene Monahan, Jeff Nelson, Paul O’Neill, Dave Pavlas, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Tim Raines, Willie Randolph, Mariano Rivera, Luis Sojo, Mel Stottlemyre, Darryl Strawberry, John Wetteland, Bernie Williams, and Joe Torre.

But the truth is that it was kind of like a chapter closing. Between this anniversary gathering and Alex Rodriguez’s final night last night, the Yankees are turning a new page. And it’s awesome. Clearly.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start for the Yankees today in the middle game of this weekend series against the Rays. Tanaka threw just 79 pitches through his 7 innings, giving up 5 hits and 4 runs, and striking out 8 Rays batters. In the 4th, two singles put runners on the corners to be ready to score on a big 3-run home run to get the Rays on the board. And that same batter added a 2-out solo shot in the 6th inning to cap off the Rays’ scoring today.

Clippard breezed his way through the Rays’ roster in the 8th. And Swarzak’s single pitch put a runner on base in the 9th, but Layne shut them down in 9 pitches to close out the game for the Yankees.

The Yankees’ offense on the other hand had a bit of a help from their newest addition and the new youth movement that is the New York Yankees now. With 2 outs in the 2nd inning, recent call-up Tyler Austin stepped into the batter’s box for his first time as a major leaguer and promptly hit a solo home run to get the Yankees on the board. Right after him, Aaron Judge in his MLB debut hit a monster solo home run right up the middle. For the first time in MLB history, two rookies hit home runs in the same game for their first MLB at-bat.

In the 4th, down 3-2, the Yankees tied up the game with Starlin Castro’s solo home run up to center field. Then in the 5th, Judge singled to start the inning and ended up at 3rd on Ellsbury’s 1-out single. Then it was Aaron Hicks to hit a 3-run home run in the 2nd deck of the right field seats to push the Yankees ahead of the Rays again.The Yankees added just a bit more in the 7th. With 2 outs, Headley worked a walk and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ 2-run home run into the right field seats to ensure the Yankees’ victory.

All of the Yankee runs today were scored on home runs hit by players aged 26 and under. Broadcasters officially dubbed them the “Baby Bombers”, a term I think is indicative of the youth and strength of this new version of the Yankees.

Final score: 8-4 Yankees.

Roster moves & the Scranton Shuttle: today, before the game, the Yankees transferred pitcher Conor Mullee from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL due to his continued carpal tunnel syndrome-like symptoms; they activated infielder Chris Parmelee from the 15-day DL and outrighted him AAA Scranton; reliever Ben Heller was optioned back to AAA Scranton; and the Yankees selected the contracts of Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin, who clearly contributed to today’s game.

Had the Yankees been not in a Wild Card race (depending on the outcome of some of tonight’s game, they are looking at only being 3 games out of the Wild Card spot), the commemorative event might have had more significance. And while it was pretty cool to see everyone on the field again, it wasn’t exactly the focus of the day. No, that belongs to the rightly dubbed “Baby Bombers”. It was like a weird preview of Old Timers’ Day or something without getting to watch the old guys jog around the bases again.

I guess because I talk about the current Yankees every day, and have deep conversations about what could be, my focus is what is and what will be. It’s nice to remember what was, but if all you have is what you accomplished in the past, then you’ve lost the joy of the present and the hope for the future. And honestly, that’s what makes remembering worth it — knowing that things can get even better as you find the positive and potential in the what’s right in front of you.

Go Yankees!

{Watch the full pre-game ceremony here. And one of the best interviews today was with Joe Torre with the YES Network booth, featuring former players and YES Network broadcasters David Cone and Paul O’Neill; it was also during this interview that the Austin-Judge power duo debuted.}

Game 114: NYY vs. BOS — Late-inning rally & a souvenir bat

In the series finale rubber match at Fenway, the Yankees were looking to do what they always want to do (but most especially at Fenway) — win. So it’s rather fortunate when not even the Green Monster or a late-inning rally can stop the Yankees from achieving their goal. There’s a nice story that came out late tonight that Alex Rodriguez, in his last game ever at Fenway, promised a kid behind home plate, a Yankee fan, that if the Yankees win, the kid would get to keep Rodriguez’s bat. Kid walked out of Fenway with the promised souvenir.

Michael Pineda got the start tonight and gave the Yankees what they needed the night after depleting their bullpen: length, albeit he certainly depended on the defense who were certainly there to hold him up. Pineda went a full 6 innings in just 89 pitches, giving up 8 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, striking out 3 Boston batters.

A 2-out ground-rule double in the 1st inning scored on an RBI single to get the Red Sox on the board. But the Red Sox didn’t cobble together anything more until a blip in the 5th. A 1-out single scored on a 2-out double to double the Red Sox score to 2 runs. And that would be it for them tonight.

Recent recall Luis Cessa took over for Pineda for the 7th and 8th innings, and just took command of the game, setting the Red Sox down in 6 straight outs. It was so ridiculously impressive and the exact kind of “fresh arm” the Yankees needed. Dellin Betances got the nod for the 9th inning and kept things interesting. All 3 of his outs were strikeouts (of course), but he still gave up a double, a wild pitch and a walk just to keep fans on the edge of their seats while he earned his 3rd save of the season.

The Yankees barely dented into the Red Sox starter, only getting 3 hits off of him. Of course, one of those hits was a giant 1-out solo shot over the Green Monster by Austin Romine in the 3rd inning to get the Yankees on the board.

Things got remarkably better for the Yankees when they went to their bullpen. Sanchez led the 8th inning off with a single, and then after a strikeout, Hicks and Gardner also singled to load up the bases. Jacoby Ellsbury’s double scored both Sanchez and Hicks, and for some reason, the Red Sox opted to intentionally walk Chase Headley. I suppose it was to go after Alex Rodriguez next for his final at-bat at Fenway, as Rodriguez hasn’t exactly been on an upswing in his offense lately. He did get out, but it was a soft ground out that still scored Gardner and gave the Yankees the desired insurance run.

The Yankees were effectively shut down in the 9th by the Red Sox new reliever, but the Red Sox didn’t have enough of a rally in them to beat Betances. So the Yankees closed out this series on a high note on their way back to the Bronx for a very busy weekend (more below).

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

Scranton Shuttle: Like I mentioned yesterday, the Yankees did indeed send for some “fresh arms” for tonight’s game. But they made some interesting selections. As you know from above, they recalled Luis Cessa, whose immediate impact was exactly what they were looking for. They also selected the contract of the young reliever Ben Heller, part of the Andrew Miller trade with Cleveland, who has yet to make his MLB debut.

In exchange, the Yankees optioned Nick Goody and Rob Refsnyder back to AAA Scranton. And that had a lot of people scratching their heads. The truth is that they need “fresh arms” more than they need a utility player right now, so that is the only logic one needs to follow for this move. It’s not a “farewell” to Refsnyder for the season, but rather more of a “we’ll catch up in a few”.

So, this weekend in the Bronx is packed with events, and if you’re in the New York area, you really need to be there. Tomorrow night is Alex Rodriguez’s final game as a Yankee. Pre-game ceremonies start at 6:50 pm. (For those not in New York, tomorrow’s game is one of the national broadcasts. And I’m sorry.) Then Saturday, the Yankees will have a special ceremony to commemorate the 1996 championship team, and it looks like everyone from that team is going to be there to celebrate. And on Sunday, the Yankees are going to dedicate a plaque to Mariano Rivera in Monument Park. Oh, and there’s also 3 games against the Rays this weekend.

Go Yankees!