Spring Game 20: BOS vs. NYY — A rivalry rout

No joke. It was crazy hot today in Tampa. The weather just can’t make up its mind this Spring, but as all my friends elsewhere keep reminding me, at least there’s no snow. Just lots of sweaty, sunburnt people packed into the stadium to enjoy a Friday afternoon of baseball.

Of course, this was no ordinary game. The Yankees hosted their annual Spring rivalry game against the Red Sox. As we all know, there’s nothing ordinary about a rivalry game. And today was no exception. The Yankees dominated from the start thanks to a great pattern set by today’s starter Domingo German, who threw a strong, scoreless 4 innings.

Chapman got to face one batter in the 5th, a warm-up act of sort for Holder to close out the rest of the inning. Adam Ottavino got into the only jam of the afternoon in the 6th. He gave up 3 consecutive singles to load up the bases, with no outs. But then the next batter hit into a standard double play that scored just one run, and a ground out got the Yankees out of the inning, removing the only Red Sox threat of the afternoon.

Tarpley and Reeves closed out the final third of the game, returning to the strong dominance the Yankees seemed to maintain all afternoon. Because the Red Sox seemed to have a really off-day, with some just sloppy pitching and plays. In fact, of the ridiculous number of runs the Yankees scored today, only half of them were earned.

In the 2nd, the Yankees began their eventual rout of their long-time rivals by loading up the bases with singles to Andujar and Sanchez and a walk to Bird. Then with 1 out, DJ LeMahieu reached safely due to a bad fielding error, which allowed Andujar to score. Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly scored Sanchez, leaving runners on the corners. Once the Red Sox pulled their starter, Aaron Judge smacked a solid 3-run home run to give the Yankees a healthy lead.

All the switch-outs and pinch-runners began in the 4th due to the length of the game at this point and the Yankees’ big lead. So with 1 out in the 4th, Tulowitzki worked a walk and replaced by Wade, who then scored on LeMahieu’s double. He was replaced by Holder, who moved to 3rd on Gardner’s single (replaced by Burns) and scored on Trey Amburgey’s sacrifice fly.

It was Stanton’s double that moved runners into scoring position (including his pinch-runner Lipka). Luke Voit’s big double then scored both Burns and Lipka. After a pitching change, Miguel Andujar singled home Voit to officially put the Yankees in double digits.

In the 5th, Bird led-off by getting to base due to a missed catch error. Wade’s single and Holder’s walk loaded up the bases. Burns hit into a grounder that finally snapped the Red Sox into good defense, getting Bird out at home. But then Amburgey’s single scored Wade, Matt Lipka hit into a fielder’s choice to score Holder, and Chris Gittens’ single scored Amburgey.

But the Yankees wanted one more. Gittens hit a 1-out double and later scored on Ryan Lavarnway’s 2-out double to add another exclamation point to the Yankees’ score today.

Final score: 14-1 Yankees

One to Watch: Chris Gittens kept jumping out to me this afternoon. In addition to his solid defense at 1st, he certainly contributed to the Yankees’ offense today in the latter half of the game. Not that they needed it, as Gittens was one of so many hits and runs scored today. But that position is key to any team’s defense, and he did so well. Gittens was signed by the Yankees in 2014 and seen most recently in Advanced-A Tampa and AA Trenton last year in between hip injuries. But he worked well today.

Next up: The Yankees host the Blue Jays tomorrow afternoon in Tampa.

History trivia: Amateur games of the sport were played from early days in America, brought over from European settlers that evolved from a combination of the children’s game of rounders and the still popular cricket. About 15 years before the Civil War, the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club was formed to help form actual rules like the shape of the field and what constituted an out.

More clubs were formed, playing ball games against each other as rules continued to be ironed out and regulations (like barring players of color and most immigrants by 1867). But it was still just a sport played by club members for fun (or “for sport”), much like people might play racquetball at today’s athletic clubs.

So, on this day (March 15) in 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first professional baseball team, facing mostly amateur and semi-professional teams and clubs. An actual league was formed two years later and lasted four years, leading many modern scholars to question its inclusion as a legitimate league in baseball history. The National League (that grew to be the one we still have today) formed in 1876, and the American League became an official league in 1901. (In that same year, the club formed known as the Orioles, later the Highlanders, and then the Yankees.)

In other words, Happy 150th Birthday, Major League Baseball. You don’t look a day over 135.

Go Yankees!

Postscript: Our deepest sympathies to those dealing with the aftermath of the violence in New Zealand. These instances are always disturbing and far too frequent. Camaraderie through outlets like sports and entertainment is often a key to healing. May we continue to push for peace, unity, and celebration of our individuality as we process, heal, and strive for better once again.  May their memories be a blessing.

Spring Game 1: NYY vs. BOS — Starting with a few bangs and a whimper

After a full week of full squad reporting, press conferences, workouts, and team building exercises, the Yankees kicked off their 2019 baseball season against their long-time rivals at Fenway South in Fort Myers, about 140 miles (or about 2 hours) south of Steinbrenner Field. Yes, the Yankees are starting 2019 by taking on the 2018 Champions. Perhaps with a small hope of transferring the title back to New York this year.

It actually started pretty good for the Yankees. Gleyber Torres began his 2019 season with a bang, a 1-out solo home run in the 1st inning to take an early lead. And the Yankee batters were hitting off the Red Sox’s pitchers today, collecting 13 total hits. In the 2nd, Tyler Wade hit a 1-out double, stole 2nd, and then stole on Matt Lipka’s double. Lipka then scored on Aaron Hicks’ double.

Nestor Cortes got to start this afternoon’s game for the Yankees, throwing into the 3rd inning. He gave up one run in the 2nd after 3 consecutive singles and then repeated that in the 3rd. So, with 2 runners on base and 2 outs, the Yankees opted to go to their bullpen. But that didn’t help right away. Another single scored the tying run, and then next batter hit a big 3-run home run over the right field fence to double the Red Sox’s score and give them the lead.

But then both teams fell into a pattern of stronger baseball, keeping the score static until the 8th inning. The Yankees got the first chance to chip away at the home team’s lead. Ryan McBroom smacked a solid 1-out home run (into this stadium’s attempt to replicate the Green Monster wall) to start their rally attempt. Trey Amburgey doubled and later scored on Kyle Holder’s single. Then with 2 walks and bases loaded, the Yankees were just a run shy of tying the game. Unfortunately, the Red Sox brought in a new pitcher that shut down their rally.

The Yankees didn’t help in the bottom of the 8th, by allowing the Red Sox to retake those 2 runs. A single and double put runners in scoring position to do so on a 1-out single. And the visiting team didn’t find another rally in them in the 9th, so the Red Sox took their first game.

Final score: 8-6 Red Sox

Not exactly the best way to start this season, but oddly reminiscent of last year — big start and not enough to beat the Red Sox by the end. Okay, now that we’ve made the comparison, we can start fresh with tomorrow’s game.

Tomorrow will be at the Rays’ Spring home field about half the distance of today’s game down the Gulf Coast of Florida. Monday will be the first home game for the Yankees.

Welcome to Spring Baseball. Boy, have we missed you.

Go Yankees!

{Media note reminder: Like every year, Spring Training unfortunately involves spotty video coverage, which sometimes leads to less available media highlights. Like today’s game was solely covered by the Red Sox’s own sports broadcast, so many of the highlights Yankee fans might prefer to see aren’t available for inclusion. Sorry!}

Postseason wrap-up, looking to 2019, Gold Gloves 2018

Red Sox Nation spent their Halloween dressed up as Red Sox Nation as their championship team piled onto the city’s “duck boats” and paraded their way through the streets of Boston. The mayor, former champion alumni (like David Ortiz and Pedro Martinez), and fans singing along to “Sweet Caroline” (bah-bah-bah) came out to honor the World Series champions. The next day, some of the team took the championship trophy to a Celtics game in hopes of spreading their “good luck” to other Boston teams, which might have worked as the Celtics won that game.

Meanwhile, much of the talk this off-season already is about the big class of free agents. There’s a lot of conversation as to where big names like Harper and Machado will land, but the Yankees cleared the “luxury tax” (or the Competitive Balance Tax) ceiling for the first time in 14 years. The luxury tax was created in order to even out the balance between large-market teams (like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers) and small-market teams (like the Twins, Padres, and Orioles). The tax was set at $197 million in pay for the 2018 season. The Red Sox and Nationals, however, were forced to pay the tax this year.

So, without having to pay out millions of dollars to the luxury tax pool, the Yankees are free to explore a high-ticket free agent, especially to add to their starting rotation. But whether they choose to do so is still undecided. In the mean time, they have a few Yankees in the free agent pool that they could re-sign for the 2019 season, like CC Sabathia, JA Happ, Lance Lynn, Zach Britton, and David Robertson.

However, one free agent they snagged early was Brett Gardner. While the Red Sox were partying their way through Boston, the Yankees were solidifying one of the last remaining homegrown Yankees from the 2009 championship team to remain a Yankee for 2019. He had an option for the final year of his contract, but the Yankees declined it and instead offered him a 1-year $9.5 million contract.

Next season will be the veteran outfielder’s 12th year in pinstripes, though his 15th with the organization, making him the longest-tenured Yankee on the roster. He’s really the heart of the team and a leader in the clubhouse, a fixture for the Yankees on and off the field. Gardner said: “I wasn’t sure what kind of opportunities I was going to have with the Yankees beyond this year and what would have been out there for me in other places. To get this wrapped up early in the off-season, it’s great to know where I’ll be next year and obviously what to expect. I’m going back to a place where I’m comfortable and very familiar. I’m really, really excited.”

Gardner was nominated tonight for a Gold Glove, his 4th nomination (2011, 2015, 2017, 2018). The Gold Glove is an annual award given to the best defender at each position in each league. He joined Aaron Judge and Masahiro Tanaka as nominees this year. Judge was nominated last year, and Gardner won the award in 2016. None of the Yankee nominees took home the honor tonight, but all three recognitions are well-deserved.

But there’s more to come. The Silver Sluggers, the award for the top offensive contibutor at each position, will be announced Thursday. The big honors (Cy Young, MVP, Rookie of the Year, etc.) will be announced the week of November 12-15, with the Players Choice Awards announced November 27. Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar are nominated for AL Rookie category in the Players Choice Awards and are up for the AL Rookie of the Year in the other awards next week. In other words, while the Yankees didn’t pick up any mantle hardware tonight, there’s still time to collect some bragging rights.

And speaking of bragging rights, today is also the 9th anniversary of the Yankees’ 27th championship. Back in 2009, Yankee Universe watched as Mariano Rivera got the batter to hit a baby grounder to Robinson Cano, who threw to a waiting Mark Teixeira for the final out of Game 6 against the Phillies. It actually came up on my “memories” feed today before veterans from that game like Swisher and Rodriguez posted their own memories online of that fateful day.

Finally, our hearts go out to the Reds organization tonight. Yesterday, three players, all 19 years old, in their minor league system were involved in a serious car accident in the Dominican Republic. Pitcher Jairo Capellan was killed in the incident, pitcher Raul Hernandez is in critical but stable condition, and outfielder Emilio Garcia is still receiving treatment for his injuries at the hospital but conscious and alert. Capellan was laid to rest this afternoon, his funeral attended by Reds players, coaches, and staff.

We join sports fans online as we extend our sympathies to Capellan’s family and friends and their prayers for Hernandez and Garcia.

Go Yankees!

World Series 5: BOS vs. LAD — Freshly minted #WorldSeries Champions

And just like that, the 2018 season is over. With a swinging strikeout from a potential free agent trying a bit too hard against a starter masquerading as a closer.

To be fair, tonight’s game was the kind of game you’d expect at a World Series. Both starters were ace pitchers, pretty evenly matched, going deep into the game. Kershaw of the Dodgers throwing 7 strong innings, and the Red Sox’s starter Price throwing into the 8th but dominating tonight’s game.

Now, Price used to have troubles in the postseason with other teams but has seemed to find his momentum with this team and this season, giving up just 3 hits and the Dodgers’ only run in his outing tonight. That run was a 1st pitch lead-off solo home run in the bottom of the 1st, so between Price and his two stellar relievers and the defense, the Dodgers weren’t doing much of anything tonight.

Kershaw had more trouble keeping the Red Sox from advancing and maintained a decent hold on the game that in another situation might have been enough for them to bounce back. But the visiting team got thing started early in the 1st when a 1-out single scored as part of a big 2-run home run to put the Sox in an early lead they’d not surrender.

Later in the game, they added a few exclamation points to their score in the form of solo home runs, one in each of the 6th, 7th, and 8th. In fact, the home run was how both teams scored all their runs tonight, and the Red Sox player that kicked things off in the 1st was the same guy who closed it for them in the 8th, the first age 35+ player since 1959 to have a multi-home run game in the World Series (joining Yankees legend Babe Ruth and Reds/White Sox infielder Ted Kluszewski).

Final score: 5-1 Red Sox, Red Sox win series 4-1

Despite some conversation that the MVP could be Price, they chose the other player who clearly impacted this series and this game in particular. That player, Steve Pearce, blasted those two big home runs tonight and ended up being crowned the Willie Mays World Series MVP, complete with a new bright red Chevy truck and a cool trophy for his mantle. Pearce has played for the Yankees among many other teams in his career before being traded to the Red Sox mid-season this year from the Blue Jays.

And because they’re not above trolling their opponents, the Red Sox blasted both “New York, New York” and “California Love” during their champagne celebrations in the visitors’ clubhouse of Dodgers Stadium. The latter song is one of the Dodgers’ relievers walk-up songs and a classic rap song. While I certainly thought it was good they didn’t linger too long on their host team’s field, this level of trolling is a bit low. Even for the Red Sox.

But that’s why we’re Yankee fans…

Go Yankees!

World Series 4: BOS vs. LAD — Late inning heroics

Well, the Dodgers now have quite the uphill battle if they want their first championship since 1988 (30 years). But the Red Sox are just a game away from their 4th victory this century (2004, 2007, and 2013). After an 18-inning marathon, the Red Sox found their old momentum again from this postseason to right their ship and rock the Dodgers’.

Actually, both teams held each other to limited offense for most of the game. In fact, the game was scoreless though 5 full innings. It wasn’t until the bottom of the 6th that the Dodgers got through first. They loaded up the bases with 1 out. The next batter hit into a weird play. A fielder’s choice and fielding error got one runner out at home but allowed the next runner to score and leave runners on the corners. Then a big 3-run home run pushed the Dodgers into a comfortable lead.

But it wasn’t comfortable enough for the visiting Red Sox as they started chipping away at that lead. The Dodgers gave up a couple of walks before a 2-out, 3-run home run put the Red Sox within a run. But then in the 8th, a 1-out solo home run tied up the game. But the Red Sox kept charging forward. With 1 out in the 9th, a double scored on a pinch-hit single before loading the bases again. A bases-clearing double ensured a nice cushion for the Red Sox before a single later scored that runner to cap off the Red Sox late comeback rally.

So the Dodgers put in their best effort for their own comeback rally in the bottom of the 9th with a lead-off walk followed promptly by a 2-run home run. But despite a 1-out single, the home team just ran out of outs to come back.

Final score: 9-6 Red Sox, Red Sox lead series 3-1

But for those Dodgers fans (read: my good friend) who are feeling a little despondent after tonight’s game, a great trivia nerd put together an inspiring list of teams who were down 3-1 in past postseasons and still came back to win their series, including the 2016 Cubs (World Series over Indians) and (the headache of all Yankee fans) the 2004 Red Sox (ALCS over Yankees). In other words, it’s possible and it’s dramatic, both something we’ve seen a lot of this postseason.

Go Yankees!

World Series 3: BOS vs. LAD — Extra innings marathon milestones

The one advantage of tonight’s game is that it was played on the West Coast, or 3 hours behind the fans in Boston (or those of us on the East Coast in general). So an 8pm start time is just 5pm in Los Angeles. Thus a 7 hour and 20 minute game means a bit after midnight, or a fairly normal time for most Californians. Unfortunately, for most of the country and half of the fans of tonight’s game, it meant the game wrapped up at 3:40 am.

Actually, the Dodgers held a slim lead for much of the game thanks to a 2-out solo home run in the 3rd. But the Red Sox kept things close, both teams putting on a great defensive and pitching show to keep the game tight. When the Red Sox tied up the game with their own 2-out solo home in the 8th, the game going into extra innings was basically inevitable. I just don’t think they thought it would be so many innings.

Both teams were given a few opportunities for the “go-ahead run” but didn’t capitalize on base runners until the 13th inning. The Red Sox worked a lead-off walk that promptly stole 2nd and then scored on a single and throwing error. Finally, the Sox had broken the tie and put themselves in the lead for the first time tonight. With a new pitcher for the Dodgers on the mound, he jammed himself up by giving up a 2-out double and intentionally walking a batter before getting out of it with a ground out.

But the home team wasn’t out of the game. In the bottom of the 13th, a lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a pop-up and then scored on a 2-out single and throwing error. There was a brief challenge on a boundary call to see if the ball was thrown into the “stands” (or rather camera area) which is an automatic trip to 2nd for the runner. But the call was upheld and the runner went back to 1st where he ended up stranded there.

And the game played on. A 14th inning stretch ensued. Dodgers’ fans still stayed to watch the final out. Or rather they prayed for a walk-off. And they got it. In the bottom of the 18th, Dodgers’ infielder Muncy stepped into the batter’s box, worked himself up to a full count and then pummeled the fast ball just over the left field fence. And the stadium erupted in joy.

Final score: 3-2 Dodgers in 18 innings, Red Sox lead series 2-1

Being as there was 7 hours and 20 minutes of conversation during the game, there was a lot of things to talk about, compare tonight’s game to, and come up with fun trivia bits. It is both the longest (general) postseason game and longest (specifically) World Series game in MLB history. The previous record holders: the 2014 NLDS Game 2 when the Giants bested the Nationals 2-1 in 18 innings in 6 hours and 23 minutes; and the 2005 World Series Game 3 when the White Sox beat the Astros 7-5 in 14 innings, 5 hours and 41 minutes.

Tonight’s game also utilized 46 total players, including a Dodgers’ pitcher as a pinch-hitter, and both teams sent 9 pitchers each to the mound over the 18 innings. The latter stat tied previous World Series records set by the 2017 Dodgers in that Game 2 and the 2005 White Sox in that Game 3 (the aforementioned long game).

And in Yankee Universe news: The finalists for the Gold Glove awards were announced yesterday. And the Yankees have 3 names on that list. Masahiro Tanaka is nominated for his defensive skills as a pitcher, as is outfielders Brett Gardner (left field) and Aaron Judge (right field). The winners of each position in both leagues will be announced on November 4 as part of a string of postseason awards. Of those three, Gardner is the only one who’s won a Gold Glove before (in 2016), though he certainly deserves some major recognition as one of the most underrated outfielders in the MLB.

Go Yankees!

World Series 2: LAD vs. BOS — Dodgers’ 3-hit chilly stumble

The World Series is headed to the West Coast (where it’s 30+ degrees warmer, by the way) with the Red Sox in a strong lead over the Dodgers. After a chilly night in Fenway, the bats weren’t as loud as previous nights in the park, but it didn’t stop either team from trying their hardest to shift the game their way.

For 9 postseasons in his career, the Red Sox’s starter (formerly with the Rays and Tigers) hasn’t done really well. But this postseason has been quite successful for him, shutting down the Yankees and Astros to get to the point to limiting the Dodgers to just 3 hits in tonight’s game. Meanwhile, the Dodgers’ starter certainly limited the damage, but the Red Sox offense were just stronger tonight. In the 2nd, the Red Sox got a 1-out double that scored on a 2-out single to kick off their limited night.

The Dodgers finally found their opportunity in the 4th loading up the bases with 2 singles and a walk. A sacrifice fly scored a run, and a 2-out single scored one more to put the Dodgers in their first lead this series. It didn’t last long, as the Red Sox loaded up the bases themselves in the bottom of the 5th. A walk scored the run that tied up that game and a single scored 2 extra runs to ensure the Red Sox’s eventual victory.

Once both starter were out of the game, their respective bullpens kept the score as is and sent this Series to Los Angeles with the Red Sox firmly in the lead.

Final score: 4-2 Red Sox, Red Sox lead series 2-0

In an interesting note, Jackie Robinson died on this day 46 year ago. He is most remembered as being the first player of color to play MLB professionally. It’s noteworthy that both managers in this World Series are former professional MLB players of color. The Red Sox’s Alex Cora is from Puerto Rico (and later South Florida), and Dave Roberts was born to his African-American dad and his Japanese mother in Japan.

It only took 71 years from when Robinson “broke the color barrier” to having both World Series managers be people of color with careers they can credit to Robinson’s own stellar career. Both managers, by the way, were born in the mid-1970s, thus their entire baseball lives from Little League to pro-ball was an open door for people of all races. And if you just take a passing glance at both rosters, you can see they are diverse in a way most people could only dream of back in 1947.

With one major exception… they’re still all men. Don’t at me. Don’t tell me that women can’t compete with men one day. A League of Their Own and the recent short-lived Fox drama Pitch touched on this issue, as well as the rise of Mo’ne Davis and these five women. A few years ago, the Dodgers had a female athletic trainer and other women are spread around baseball as the next crop of General Managers to scouts, trainers, coaches, and other predominantly male-only jobs at the Park.

Lament about the “good old days” if you want. But I think baseball became a better game when it integrated. I think it can only get better if it continues to evolve to allow the best players to play regardless of race, sex, or any other social division. Only when the world is represented can we truly enjoy the concept of a “World Series”.

Go Yankees!