Game 96: NYY vs BOS — They don’t call it the “Green Monster” for nothing

Games at Fenway are never easy for the Yankees, which make wins ridiculously rewarding and losses ever so much more painful. Even when one team was just awful and the other team was just rocking their season, Boston-New York games are always the most stressful. Tonight was no exception. (Are we still allowed to blame the Babe Ruth trade for this? Or did that “curse” thing break off into a friendly rivalry in 2004?)

Starting pitcher Andy Pettitte had some trouble early in his game, allowing a solo homer and 2-run home run in the first two innings, respectively, to put Boston up 3-0 very quickly. By his exit during the 7th inning, Pettitte hit his 95 pitch mark giving up 6 hits and struck out 4 batters, holding the Red Sox to those 3 initial runs. But Kelley and Logan combined to close out this inning, allowing one of Pettitte’s hits to score in the process, which allowed the Red Sox a total of 4 runs scored for the game total. Claiborne kept Boston planted there for his inning, but the damage had been done, and there was not much offense to overcome Boston’s early lead.

This game was off in many ways, as it’s usually the middle of the game that’s the time that lags. But tonight, it was the middle of the game that was the most entertaining. In the 4th inning, Brett Gardner walks, and then steals 2nd base while Robinson Cano is batting. No big surprise there. But when Gardner went for 3rd, the Boston catcher totally missed the throw to 3rd, shooting the ball into left field, so Gardner easily jogged home to score the first Yankee run of the evening. Then the 5th inning, Lyle Overbay doubles and then Chris Stewart doubles and scores Overbay, the 2nd and final run the Yankees scored this evening. Final score 4-2 Red Sox.

And then, things got weirder. Gardner gets called out on strikes, but thinking it’s a low ball (it was), gets angry with himself and spikes his helmet. The umpire sees this as a personal offense and decides to eject Gardner, who looks at him and apologizes, but it’s took late. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a Brett Gardner ejection. I’m thinking this threw everyone off because Girardi came out to argue some in Gardner’s defense, and Gardner later apologized publicly for his unusual outburst. The last time Gardner was ejected was 3 years ago, almost to the day, and by the same umpire. (Personal note here: I’ve seen people not thrown out for way worse temper tantrums, and perhaps the less drastic thing would have been to let him walk it off between innings. I mean, this is Gardner here, not some regular hotheaded diva. Just saying…)

I’m telling you right now, the Green Monster does weird things to the Yankees. Does anyone else remember the series last year where Andruw Jones’ slump was non-existent and he played one of the best games since his days with the Braves? And in that same series, the Yankees were behind 9-0 and came back to win the game 15-9. Or when they have the best season of the decade and still get swept by the B-squad Red Sox? Fenway’s not called the “Green Monster” for nothing; it does weird stuff there. I’m just glad I’m not superstitious, or we’d really have some problems.

Anyway, injury news (Girardi’s personal take on the update here):

Derek Jeter was placed on the 15-day DL, forcing him to rest his Grade I quad strain at least until next Saturday (they back dated the DL to July 12, the day after he last played), but he was there in Boston with his team and worked out during BP. Cashman is fully aware that Jeter may not be ready to play next weekend, and Cashman is also fully aware that Jeter may not agree with him on that.

Alex Rodriguez is finally hitting his stride in the minor leagues during his rehab assignments, and the current assumption is that he will rejoin the team on Monday. With the rate and level that he’s playing, I don’t see why they won’t reactivate him next week, but I’ve also learned not to trust the major difference between the ideal and the reality.

Adding insult to injury (so to speak), Zoilo Almonte exited the game with a sprained ankle on a hard run down to first in the 6th inning. X-rays showed no break (they’re being very thorough any more with all these injuries), but sprained ankles are never fun to deal with and take a couple of weeks to fully heal, depending on the severity of the injury. Time on the DL for Almonte is coming and will be determined on an update before tomorrow’s game.

Well, to adjust for Jeter’s DL stint, the Yankees called up Brent Lillibridge from AAA Scranton, who has proven his versatility there, and started at 3rd base tonight. To make room, they released Brennan Boesch unconditionally, meaning he is now a free agent. Boesch has been plagued with injuries himself recently and hasn’t been able to contribute as much as the Yankees liked. But with health on his side, Boesch could see some playing time elsewhere. Unfortunately, the Yankees have a plethora of outfielders. It’s the infielders they can’t seem to keep healthy or find strong replacements.

I will say the nicest part about tonight’s game came early on when the Red Sox played “New York, New York” as a tribute for New York’s support during the dark days surrounding the Boston Marathon bombings. It was met with cheers and singing and camaraderie, something most of us aren’t used to seeing at a Yankees-Red Sox game, but something that brings back memories of kinship formed after 9/11. It’s times like that, with tributes like that, serving as reminders that rivalries are always transcended by the tenacity of the human spirit and the bond that deep down, we’re all just American baseball fans. Some of us may be wrapped in Yankee blue and others in Red Sox red, but still the American pastime is at our core and the humanity and compassion transcends any rivalry, even if for but a moment between innings.

Go Yankees!

Game 56: BOS vs. NYY — Rain drama, drama, & more drama

There are so many better ways to spend an evening — a nice dinner, a good ball game, family time, a movie, time with friends, maybe even your house of worship. A near-monsoon in the Bronx is probably not an ideal place for most, nor would a hospital ER. And that’s what happened in my world.

Tonight’s game was “dry delayed” for 50 minutes at the start of the game because of the threat of weather. And when it did finally start the game, starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda was his usual self through the first three innings. In the fourth inning, two singles made room for an easy Boston run on a ground out to put the Red Sox ahead 1-0. On the first pitch of the fifth inning, one of Boston’s weaker hitters hit his first home runs of the season to left field and the score was 2-0 Boston. As the predicted rain finally began to fall, power hitter David Ortiz slammed a long home run towards the Bleacher Creatures in Section 203 (or what was left of them due to the rain) to settle Boston in at 3-0 before the rain made it impossible to continue the inning.

The umpires halted play shortly thereafter, and the tarp was brought out for 37 minutes. When the game resumed, Boone Logan was brought in to close out the top of the inning before play was called again due to another rain delay. The Yankees, easily stymied by tonight’s Red Sox pitcher (who only allowed 2 Yankee hits all 5 1/2 innings), were never able to get their revenge, as the game was called in the middle of the 5th inning giving Boston tonight’s win — officially 3-0 in 6 innings.

In the middle of the second rain delay, I found myself in that lovely place called the Emergency Room. No broken bones but a sprained wrist has me on my own personal DL for a few weeks. By the time I walked out with a splint on my hand, the game had been called and the ugly black monstrosity on my wrist further symbolized the defeat of the day — my own and the Yankees. (But my doctor’s son is a Yankees’ fan, so if you come across this, your mom was nice, hello to you, and thanks for reading my blog!)

It’s never easy to admit defeat, or watch a loss, or watch hopes of potential late victory wash away in the deluge. And it’s especially hard to do all those things when you are up against a great rival like the Red Sox (least of all as a Yankee fan). But I suppose that’s part of the game, and I suppose that’s why there are more than a handful of games to be played in a season. I think it gives teams more than their fair share of attempts to prove that they are worth the postseason, not only to their fans but to themselves. You don’t see that a lot in other professional sports, and it’s part of the reason that I love baseball.

So if baseball continues to be a metaphor for life, it is those many chances that we get throughout a season in life to prove that we are worth those extra innings, those extra games, those extra investments. And isn’t that what we always want — to prove to the people we care about that we are worth caring about?

This season hasn’t been easy on any team with the weather, the DL, and countless other factors have plagued just about every team in the league. Even teams that should be on top (and I’m not calling anybody out in particular) clearly are victims of bad timing, or circumstance, or even bad luck (if you want to call it that). Perhaps that’s why I wait to draw my conclusions about particular teams until there is actually time to draw conclusions given proper information. Assumptions can only get you so far, and honestly they are usually wrong. Most pre-season or even early season predictions are just assumptions based on incomplete facts. We haven’t even hit the halfway point (the All-Star break), and the Yankees are still due a good portion of their team off the DL in the next few months at the latest. And really, who know what’s going to happen? And isn’t that part of the fun — the not knowing?

Go Yankees!

Game 55: BOS vs. NYY — 11-1

11-1 Boston. And because tonight’s game wasn’t really something to rejoice over (unless you’re a Red Sox fan, and if you are, why are you reading a pro-Yankees blog?), I won’t really dive into too much of the damage.

Starting pitcher Phil Hughes really struggled tonight, throwing 100 pitches over only 4.1 innings. He started out really good through the first two innings, but really let some poorly placed pitches get the better of him in the 3rd inning. A double, a single, an RBI double (1-0), a strikeout, an intentional walk to power slugger David Ortiz to load the bases, a grand slam (5-0), and 2 strikeouts to end the inning.

At the bottom of the 4th inning, Chris Stewart earned the only score for the Yankees tonight through a sacrifice fly to center field. Stewart was later pulled from the game with dehydration, perhaps more of a symbol of what the Yankees were suffering from (metaphorically) than anything else that happened on the Yankee side of things.

But the Red Sox weren’t nearly done beating up on the Yankees. Claiborne filled in some middle relief for Hughes after he hit 100 pitches and was able to keep Boston away from much damage. As did his replacement Adam Warren, coming into the game in 7th inning to give 3 full innings of work. In the 8th, a 3-run homer pushed Boston further ahead to 8-1, and in the 9th, pitching got a little sloppy allowing a solo home run, an RBI single, and a sacrifice ground out for the final score of 11-1. The Red Sox outhit the Yankees 18-6 as well.

I knew watching that grand slam in the 3rd that somehow tonight’s blog wasn’t going to be filled with much celebration. Sometimes things just work, or even you get that feeling that late in the game they’re just going to pull it all together. This, however, wasn’t one of those nights. I know lots of people have been doing it, but it made me long for the days when some of the “usual suspects” return to what we know them as and play like the championship team the world knows they are. It’s tough watching things fall apart before your eyes, but I can’t imagine how tough it would be to be on the field and know you can’t do a thing to stop it from falling apart.

I guess it still boils down to pitching. We really didn’t have any consistent pitching tonight, and the 1st place Red Sox figured that out really quick and kept their ball rolling. Not that they had stellar pitching tonight, but rather we also were missing some consistent offense. So when your pitchers have off-days and your hitters have off-days, I’m guessing you’re not going to win many games, least of all when you’re playing a team that’s playing as well as Boston.

So, let’s leave the off-day on today, and remember that tomorrow is another day, fresh with no mistakes in it… yet. It’s something we need to remember every day — every day we get a fresh start to do something amazing that we’ve never done before. A little too optimistic? Perhaps. But as they say, “I’d rather be an optimist and wrong, than a pessimist and right.” At least optimists still hope, and until October, there’s still hope.

Go Yankees!

Game 54: BOS vs. NYY — Back in business & ain’t it grand

Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis picked a great night to come back. The rivalry of the Boston-New York is alive and well, especially as the two teams are currently battling for domination over the AL East. And coming off a 5-game losing streak, the Yankees certainly needed a win tonight, and a win is what they got thanks to the dominance of CC Sabathia. Sabathia was in fine form tonight, throwing 109 pitches over 7.1 innings, allowing only 1 run (an RBI double in the 7th) off 6 hits, walking no one, and striking out 10 Red Sox batters. That last statistic alone is what makes me think Sabathia is back in true form. Most teams are lucky to get 10 strikeouts over an entire game from 3 pitchers; in fact, the Red Sox notched 8 Yankee strikeouts for all 3 of their pitchers tonight, and their starter is about as good as Sabathia with his form and consistency, including strikeouts.

But the Yankees weren’t going to let their slide continue. So the offense struck early. Teixeira earned a lead-off walk in the 2nd inning, Vernon Wells doubled, Jayson Nix singles and scored Teixeira (nice way to mark your 2013 MLB debut), a strike out, Ichiro Suzuki singles Wells home, and a double play to end the inning. The Yankees were 2-0 very quickly.

Then we had some drama in the 5th inning, with a close call on David Adams, for which Girardi went out to argue and promptly was ejected from the game. Unfortunately, the umpires got the call right, but it was nice to make a fight for his player. At the end of the inning, Kevin Youkilis singles to hit in Ichiro to make it 3-0, and right after he scored the run, Stewart makes a run for 3rd and is tagged out for the 3rd out. It’s not often that you can score a run and make the 3rd out in what is essentially the final play of the inning.

In the bottom of the 7th inning, after two Yankee singles by Ichiro and Stewart, a replacement pitcher allows a single to Brett Gardner which scored Ichiro again for the 4-1 final score. The bullpen finally kept the Yankees from doing any further damage, getting the next five batters out straight.

On the Yankees’ side of things, David Robertson is really developing very nicely in his role as set-up man for Mariano Rivera. Both threw excellent games tonight to wrap up the final 5 outs in the game. To me, a near perfect game is when Sabathia starts through 7 innings, Robertson sets-up in the 8th, and Rivera closes for the save in the 9th. And that’s what we saw tonight. And with recent bouts of inconsistency on some of these very reliable pitchers, it was rather reassuring to see these three back into their usual momentum and excellence.

To make room for Teixeira and Youkilis on the roster, Ivan Nova and Vidal Nuno were optioned to AAA Scranton, which means either of them can be pulled up again easily if they are needed, but they will be able to play more on a regular basis rather than waiting for a bullpen opening.

Also on the random news front, the postponed Blue Jays-Yankees game from May 19 will be made up August 20 in the early game of a doubleheader to start off their next series. And on July 28, the Yankees will re-sign former Yankees slugger Hideki Matsui for one day so that Matsui can retire as a Yankee. Matsui played seven seasons (2003-2009) with the Yankees, his last appearance in pinstripes was in the final game of the 2009 World Series where he hit a home run, drove in 6 runs in Game 6, and was unanimously picked as the Series MVP. Matsui will don his old number 55 and officially announce his retirement. This day also coincides with the promotional Hideki Matsui bobble head day. It will be an honor for the fans in the stadium that day as they play the Rays (the last team Matsui played for) in the Bronx to witness the retirement of yet another great Yankee legend, known affectionately as “Godzilla”.

It just goes to show you that no matter how many other teams you may play for, or how many other uniforms you may don, once a Yankee, always a Yankee. Congratulations on your impending retirement, Matsui.

Go Yankees!

Rain out #3 of the year & opinions

Well, there’s not much to say about the game today in that there wasn’t one. A lovely thick band of rain swept down across the mid-Atlantic states up through New England for much of the day and into the afternoon. Of course, it’s not raining as I write this, but as I write this the team is on their way to Baltimore for their next series. And there’s more rain on the way. So with no hope of seeing a break long enough to play even 5 innings, the higher-ups officially postponed the game that would’ve been the sweep over Toronto once again. Somebody across the border was praying for a break in the momentum. It won’t work in the long run. The Yankees are still a better team, and I’m not saying that because I’m a Yankees fan or have personal issues with Toronto’s fan base. I’m saying this because the Yankees are a better team than Toronto.

I wasn’t expecting an off day so I don’t have anything fun planned. I have been trying to plan interesting bits for off day, but they require more than just watching a game and writing about it. My next off-day is Thursday, and I’m not done with that one yet to post it. You know, being spontaneously fun, interesting, or prepared (read: researched an actual topic and formed a decisive opinion that I think people would actually want to spend their time reading) isn’t something you can just conjure up on a whim. If you haven’t written anything long-term and/or on a daily basis outside of your own personal journal, you probably don’t understand that. But it’s not the easiest thing to come up with interesting topics to talk about.

Not to say that I don’t have opinions about things. No, I have too many opinions about things, and only about a third of them are baseball-related. In fact, I was just talking with someone today about many baseball-related aspects, but none of it suits the blog today. Well, at least the blog that I’m trying to keep positive and respectful and in due honor to the pinstriped players and their legacy and tradition.

In fact, perhaps my biggest deterrent to writing just any old opinion on baseball on here is because of how much is already out there like that. I don’t want to be just one more voice in the noise; I want to be different and do justice to the team, the fans, and the sport in general. I do hope I’ve done that so far, but I also do hope to add my (shall we call it) appropriately directed opinions again.

As far as the make-up for the rain out, the next time the team meets is August 20-22 in the Bronx and both teams just happen to have the day before (August 19th) off, so I could foresee that as being the most logical day to make-up the game. Make-up games have to be made up during the regular season at the scheduled team’s home stadium, and as a consideration for both teams, they are usually scheduled on a mutual off day — like we saw this past Monday with the doubleheader in Cleveland.

In the mean time, we have to amuse ourselves with dreams of October, which continues to seem closer and closer within our reach. Yes, it’s still May, but remember where the Yankees were supposed to be? And now, we’re still in 1st place, a game ahead of Boston, 4 over Baltimore (our next hurdle) and Tampa (the one after that), and 10 over Toronto (who are doing an excellent job of holding up the bottom of the division). I’m okay with 1st place, and the Yankees have a tendency to grab onto 1st and hang on for dear life all the way to the end of the season, like they did for most of 2012.

Go Yankees!

Game 3: BOS vs. NYY — A win is a win is a win

The cold may be around for a while, but the Yankees sure showed up tonight and won the game 4-2. I must begin with starting pitcher and legend Andy Pettitte, who began his first 2013 start with his usual elegance. He went a full 8 innings, only giving up 1 run, an RBI double in the 7th inning. He seemed to have fun spraying his pitches all over the plate and getting batters to hit at nothing for those ground outs and fly outs — in other words, a return to Andy-style in the Bronx. And tonight, he had a great team backing him up and making those outs.

In the 1st inning, a pitch got away from tonight’s catcher Francisco Cervelli, who went to retrieve it and had to hustle back because the runner (who started the play at 2nd) got greedy and thought he could steal home. Cervelli wasn’t about to let that happen and promptly kept Boston at bay. The Yankees also racked up 3 double plays. The defense was alive and kicking tonight.

As far as the offense goes, the bats were present tonight (actually, both teams each got 8 hits). In the 2nd inning, a Hafner single and a Nunez ground-rule double set the stage for Lyle Overbay’s 2-RBI single to put the Yankees on the board. And then, in the 3rd inning, Brett Gardner takes a swing at the 1st pitch and hits it into the right field first row for a solo home run. It is now 3-0. Going into the bottom of the 7th inning, the score is 3-1, when Cervelli steps in to hit the ball into left center field (into the Red Sox bullpen) for another solo home run.

Mariano Rivera steps into the 9th inning to save the 69th Andy Pettitte-Mariano Rivera match-up game. He was a bit uneven tonight, allowing a walk, a hit, and a run, but ultimately he closed the game on that wonderful strike-out looking, ending the game at 4-2.

All in all, it was still nice to see a win. And more importantly, it was nice to see the Yankees again. Perhaps it was the veteran presence and command on the mound or maybe some behind-the-scenes pep talk. Perhaps, we’ll never know why it finally clicked, but it was like finally exhaling after holding one’s breath for so long, even without realizing it. And it worked. Home runs from non-home run hitters, in the frigid cold no less. But a win is a win is a win.

And now, it’s off to Detroit and more cold, but for now and tonight, the Yankees can breathe and smile. A job well done, team.

Go Yankees!

Game 2: BOS vs. NYY — It’s going to be a frigid April, isn’t it?

It was a very cold night in the Bronx, something that I think helped Boston win tonight 7-4; Boston is a town, after all, with average colder temperature for their outdoor stadium than New York. I know I may be grasping at straws here, but when your team loses its second game of the two games played this season, I think you’re entitled to grasp whatever works for soothing your denial. (And yes, I’m mixing clichés because it’s late and I’m recovering from a nasty cold, so your grace is appreciated.)

Starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda had to leave the game early in the 2nd inning due to a bruised middle finger, due to trying to catch a ball with his bare hand. He was replaced by Cody Eppley, who gave up 4 runs and 4 hits in a just over an inning. Adam Warren was able to do more in his 5 innings and keep Boston from continuing to run up the scoreboard.

Two offensive powerhouses helped pick the Yankees up a bit off the floor. In the 4th inning, Travis Hafner earned his pinstripes and put the Yankees on the board with his first solo home run of the season and as a Yankee. Hafner doesn’t have the defense to earn Yankee fan respect, so he only has his offense. And it seems like he’s off to a good start.  And in the 8th inning, trailing 7-1, Vernon Wells hit his first home run as a Yankee, earning his pinstripes tonight with a 3-run homer. For the handful of people still braving the frigid cold, this was the best it got tonight and well worth the 3 1/2 hour game time.

I should add the interesting defense of Chris Stewart in the 7th inning catching a foul ball diving into the Red Sox dugout. It was nice of Pedroia and Middlebrooks to rush to aid his flip over the barrier, further proof that there is no real ill will between the rivals, especially as you never know which Red Sox will don pinstripes next year. Right, Youkilis?

It’s going to be a long April missing half of the starters, and tonight only continued to prove that. It’s not that the rest of the players aren’t capable of playing and winning the games. No, it’s just that they’re not playing as a team. And it’s not players that win games, but teams. So when the Yankees as a team show up to play ball, we’ll see more W’s on the scoreboard and less nasty media articles. Honestly, we’ve been through worst seasons, and really, it’s only April 3rd. Give them some time, give everyone some time to be the teams that can contend for the post season. Because doesn’t the new MLB ad say that they “play for October”? And is it October? No, but it’s certainly feels like October in the Northeast.

Go Yankees!