Game 129: BAL vs. NYY — Shutout on a Sunday

I was commenting to someone after the game that the Orioles finally showed up to play baseball this weekend. After getting just smashed and practically routed in back-to-back games, the birds from Baltimore buckled down and got serious, led by their starting pitcher and carried by the bullpen and defense. Rather unfortunate for the Yankees as far as timing and everything.

But it wasn’t like the Yankee bats were exactly silent. They still got 8 hits off the pitchers this afternoon, but they also struck out 10 times and were kept away from home plate by some well-placed defensive upswings. The Yankees just weren’t scoring any runs.

The Yankees sent CC Sabathia to the mound today, and Sabathia had a pretty great day actually right up until his final inning. Through 6 innings, Sabathia threw just 80 pitches, gave up just 4 hits, 1 run, and a walk, and struck out 6 batters. That lone run was a lead-off solo shot in the 6th inning.

Down just 1-0 with those statistics, it made sense for Sabathia to come out for the 7th inning, but he got into a bit of a pickle. Adding 2 more strikeouts, Sabathia gave up 2 singles and a walk to load the bases. Now at 99 pitches, it was time for relief, Sabathia headed back to the dugout to some pretty warm applause.

Adam Warren came on in relief, but his first batter hit a nice 2-RBI single to boost the Orioles’ lead (all runs charged to Sabathia, too). But Warren got out of the inning with a ground out.

Ben Heller had a bit of a rocky outing today in the 8th inning. Heller gave up a lead-off single and a big 2-run homer (the batter’s 40th, actually the current MLB homer run leader) to further pad Baltimore’s lead. 2 outs and 2 runners on base with a double and a walk, Heller was replaced by Blake Parker. Parker sailed his way through his 4 outs, keeping the O’s from adding to their lead and off the bases.

Like I said before, the Yankees just weren’t scoring any runs. And without any runs, you aren’t exactly going to win the game. And the hopes for a sweep for this weekend series quickly deflated.

Final score: 5-0 Orioles, Yankees take series 2-1.

Okay, so the Yankees are on their way to Kansas City to face last year’s World Series Champions for a mid-week series before heading to Baltimore to face the Orioles again. All this before heading home for big 10-game home stand, as seems to be the usual schedule for early September in recent years.

And before you start counting the Yankees out, they are just 3.5 games back from the Wild Card game. Currently, Boston and Baltimore (separated by 1.5 games) hold the Wild Card spot, and then it’s a close race for the next few teams — Detroit, Houston, Seattle, Kansas City, and New York (all within 1.5 games of each other). In other words, it’s really too close to make any predictions or solid statements about the postseason.

Now, this should give Yankee Universe hope. And when you have hope, you don’t go away quietly. No, you fight until the very last second, believing that even when all the odds are against you, you still got a chance. And that’s how we should live life in general — fight for the good things with hope, faith, and positivity all the way to the end. Because you just never know what can happen between now and then. As long as there’s a chance, there should be hope.

Go Yankees!

Game 127: BAL vs. NYY — 2nd Inning Wonder

Sometimes games are won because of a particular play or player just doing something amazing and it all seals the deal for the win for the team. Sometimes it’s a particular inning of dominance. Tonight it was mostly the latter, but boy, the Yankees in general just kind of dominated tonight.

Luis Cessa got the start for the first game of the weekend series against the Orioles. The O’s are one of the top teams in the AL East and for the Wild Card, so the Yankees are going into this weekend looking for some wins to take the Orioles down a few notches and bolster the Yankees chances for October baseball. Cessa certainly helped with that case, throwing 99 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up 5 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and striking out 5 batters. Actually, both instances of runs scored were home runs given up to the same batter — a 2-out solo shot in the 1st inning, and a 2-run homer in the 6th to bookend Cessa’s outing. To be fair, it was this batter’s 30th and 31st homers of the season.

Blake Parker sailed his way through the 7th, and Ben Heller made his MLB debut in the 8th and also put in a great outing, breezing through the Orioles in 16 pitches. Kirby Yates gave up a lead-off single that moved to 2nd on a ground out and then scored on an RBI single before closing out the 9th.

Now, let’s talk about the Yankees offense that basically was a water leak that turned into a gusher and just drowned those pesky birds from Baltimore. In the 1st, with 2 outs, Gary Sanchez singled and then scored as part of Mark Teixeira’s 2-run home run to get the Yankees on the scoreboard.

And then it was the 2nd inning. With 1 out, the Yankees loaded the bases with Headley’s single, Judge’s walk, and Torreyes reaching on a fielding error. Then they scored just a few runs. Brett Gardner’s single scored Headley and Judge, Jacoby Ellsbury’s single scored Torreyes, and Sanchez’s double scored both those runners. That was it for the starter — just 1 inning and 1 out in the 2nd inning. It was certainly not his night. Teixeira racked up another RBI with his single scoring Sanchez. Then a couple of singles loaded up the bases again, but an infield pop-up and a strikeout ended the rally that was the 6-run inning.

But the Yankees weren’t done there. In the 4th, again with 2 outs (and a huge case of deja vu) and Castro on base with a single, Chase Headley added to the Yankees’ monster lead with a 2-run home run. And then they repeated that pattern in the 5th inning — 2 outs, Ellsbury’s single, and it was Gary Sanchez to hit his 10th homer of the season to add 2 more runs to the scoreboard.

In the 7th, the Yankees changed things up. Judge led-off with a double and then scored on Ronald Torreyes’ double. Torreyes actually wound up at 3rd on a bad throwing error before scoring on Brett Gardner’s single to cap off the Yankees’ runs tonight.

Final score: 14-4 Yankees

I do want to point out that the Yankees racked up 18 total hits off Baltimore’s pitching staff tonight. I can’t say that says much for the Orioles’ pitching staff. I could give them the benefit of the doubt and say it’s an “off-night”, but I really don’t want to. Not when we’re dealing with a wild card race and one with Baltimore, I might add. So, sorry, not sorry. It feels good to win and win big tonight. It certainly starts the weekend off right.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Brian McCann and his family tonight due to the death of his grandmother. Rightly so, McCann was out of the game tonight and will probably miss the rest of this weekend to spend time with his family.

Go Yankees!

Game 125: NYY vs. SEA — A gem in the Emerald City

CC Sabathia certainly threw a gem of a game in the “Emerald City” tonight in the middle game of this series against the Mariners. (I really wanted to get that pun out of the way quickly). Sabathia threw 101 pitches through 7 full innings, giving up just 3 hits, a walk, and the Mariners’ single run of the night, while striking out 7 batters. This was like vintage Sabathia for his 8th win of the season. His lone issue came in the 3rd inning when a 1-out triple scored on an RBI single (there’s 2 of those 3 hits) before the next batter hit into an unassisted double play by Mark Teixeira who also got the runner doubling off 1st. Teixeira makes those look easy sometimes.

Sabathia handed the game off to Tommy Layne who quickly shut down the Mariners in just 8 pitches in his 8th inning. Dellin Betances added 2 more strikeouts of his own in his 9th inning, hand-delivering the Yankees the win. There haven’t been many save opportunities for Betances as the wins have been too big (more than a 3-run difference), so he’s been getting almost standard bullpen work. Not that anyone is complaining as he’s still racking up his “innings pitched” and “strikeouts” statistics.

The Yankees certainly weren’t hesitating in the batter’s box, gathering 9 hits, 3 walks, and still swinging away at 10 strikeouts. In the 2nd, with 2 outs, Aaron Judge reached on a fielding error and later scored on Ronald Torreyes’ double to get the Yankees on the board first. Then with the game tied in the 5th inning, Torreyes led-off with a double and then was there to watch Jacoby Ellsbury’s big 2-run home run sail out of the park to give the Yankees the lead they’d never give back.

In the 6th, Teixeira led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on McCann’s ground out, and then scored on Judge’s sacrifice fly. Two singles and a stolen base later, the Yankees were looking to add to their score, but the Mariners perhaps wisely pulled their exhausted starter and the threat was quickly over. But then the Yankees wanted that insurance run in the 9th inning and saw their opportunity when Ellsbury ended up all the way at 2nd on another bad fielding error. He then scored easily on Didi Gregorius’ ground-rule double.

Final score: 5-1 Yankees.

Roster news: the Yankees placed pitcher Anthony Swarzak on the 15-day DL due to rotator cuff inflammation in his throwing shoulder. That is not good. In his place, they recalled reliever Ben Heller.

So the Yankees are looking at a rubber match tomorrow afternoon before heading home for a quick weekend series against the Orioles. They hit the road for a week to Kansas City and then Baltimore. Based on where Baltimore is in the standings, facing them two weekends in a row could either be incredibly helpful or incredibly harmful. I think you can guess which way I’m hoping they lean these next 10 days.

Go Yankees!

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!