All the latest updates, farewells, outreaches, and honors… it’s been a busy 5 weeks!

Between the Cubs’ victory parade, postseason awards, Thanksgiving, Winter Meetings, and now the approaching week filled with Christmas, Hanukkah, and the New Year, the Yankees have been everything but quiet and stagnant. Some years, Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman’s job seems to just sit back and watch other teams do the postseason dance that is somewhere between an elegant waltz and a fire-sale at times. But not this year.

Cashman has been busy, even making some pretty big moves. First, in the middle of last month, he traded catcher Brian McCann (and cash considerations) to the Astros for a pair of young pitchers Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman. Sorry, McCann fans, but McCann wasn’t exactly ready to be a once-a-week player with Gary Sanchez taking a much larger (and well-deserved role). This was a good move for everybody.

Earlier this week, as part of the Winter Meetings (hosted at the beautiful Gaylord Resort, just south of D.C.), Cashman also made a play for two big players. First, he signed Matt Holliday, a veteran outfielder who is slated to primarily fill the position previously occupied by Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran (outfielder/designated hitter). Holliday, a 7-time All-Star, began his career with the Rockies, spending 5 seasons there and making a name for himself, before finding a nice home with the Cardinals for the last 7 1/2 seasons, being a crucial part of their 2011 World Series championship. Holliday seems very excited to be playing in New York, which isn’t really surprising as he wore #7 in St. Louis for Mickey Mantle. You know, David Ortiz said once last season that there are two kinds of players — those who were born to play with the Yankees and those born to play against them (Ortiz being the latter).

Another big pick-up was the deal made when the Yankees signed Aroldis Chapman to a 5-year, $86 million deal. Yes, Chapman fans, two of the Warriors Three will be back in the Bronx for the foreseeable future. This time, with Chapman’s shiny World Series ring glaring and pushing the Yankees to give him another one. A physical exam is still pending the finality of this contract, but things look good for the closer to return to Yankee pinstripes for the next five seasons.

Cashman’s focus was clearly on building up the bullpen as most of the roster moves these last 5 weeks. So try to keep up: Branden Pinder was originally designated for assignment early in November, but then was outrighted to AAA Scranton, so we’ll be seeing Pinder again; Joe Mantiply (after being claimed off waivers from the Tigers), Nick Rumbelow, and Nathan Eovaldi were designated for assignment and then released all three of them just before Thanksgiving; James Pazos was traded to the Mariners for reliever Zack Littell; Dustin Ackley was released; Jacob Lindgren elected free agency; and the Yankees then filled a bunch of holes on their roster with minor leaguers Jorge Mateo and Yefrey Ramirez (from the Single-A Tampa Yankees), Ronald Herrera and Miguel Andujar (from AA Trenton),  and Dietrich Enns and Giovanny Gallegos (from AAA Scranton).

But it didn’t stop there. In coordination with the Rule 5 Draft, the Yankees moved some minor leaguers around and said some goodbyes. The Brewers claimed reliever Caleb Smith, the Red catcher Luis Torrens, reliever Tyler Jones went to Arizona, and the Pirates got reliever Tyler Webb. The Yankees themselves picked up a few minor leaguers, catcher Jorge Saez (Blue Jays) and reliever Colten Brewer (Pirates).

All the postseason awards have been doled out, and the Yankees got… two. And nothing went to our Rookie of the Year, Gary Sanchez. No, the big Yankee winner this postseason was Brett Gardner, who took home both the Gold Glove and Defensive Player of the Year for doing the outstanding job we’re used to seeing out there in left field.

However, there are a few alumni honors come next month. BBWAA vote for the Class of 2017, with any new inductees to be announced next month. Several former Yankees grace the ballot this year, none more so than Jorge Posada (the first of the Core Four to reach such an honor). However, the chances everyone seems to hold for Posada (and the few other Yankees alums) seem rather slim, especially as the voters seem to be rather stringent in their voting, less nostalgic as your average baseball fan and more strategic in their selection parameters.

Also selected for Hall of Fame honors this year are current Braves’ president John Schuerholz and former MLB commissioner Bud Selig, both elected by the Today’s Game Committee. Other familiar faces on this ballot, who failed to make the cut this year, include former manager and player Lou Pinella, former players Albert Belle, Orel Hershiser, and Mark McGwire, and former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. Debates as to which of these deserve to be in Cooperstown rage on.

Two other awards honored journalists for outstanding writing and broadcasting — the late Bill King, known for his coverage of San Francisco sports, distinctive facial hair, and his catchphrase “Holy Toledo!”, and veteran journalist Claire Smith, who became the first woman to receive the honor. Neither will be officially in the Hall of Fame, but will be part of a permanent exhibit to honor such journalist excellence and contribution to the game. I mean, without them, our knowledge of the game would not be what it is today, even with direct information like social media. It would certainly make my job a lot harder!

And speaking of Yankee alumni, the Yankees announced that they will be officially retiring the number 2 in honor of Derek Jeter on before the game on Sunday, May 14. Rather fitting really, with the extensive knowledge of how close Jeter is with his family, Jeter’s long-sacred number will become the 22nd one the Yankees send to Monument Park, and with that move, all the single digits (save a zero) are officially removed from jersey circulation. Single game tickets are not directly available yet (though they feature prominently on the secondary online marketplaces), though season tickets and multi-game ticket packages are available.

This week, in Tampa, the Yankees foundation hosted their holiday celebration, led by Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal with special guests Alex Rodriguez, Tino Martinez, and Nick & Joanna Swisher. Hundreds of local children were treated to the Yankees 28th Annual Holiday Concert, complete with gifts and carol singing, in preparation for the holidays. The Yankees also hosted other local community outreaches in New York for the holidays including a Thanksgiving food drive and giving back to the children and families of the Bronx with a great goodie bag full of both basic necessities and special gifts.

Looking ahead, many players have already committed to playing for various teams around the world in the World Baseball Classic this March. The Yankees only current representative is Dellin Betances, who agreed to play for the reigning champions, the Dominican Republic, alongside former teammate Cano. Other former Yankees who will play in the WBC include Martin for Canada and Beltran for Puerto Rico. Betances, who was also recently married, will be an outstanding contribution to any team. Also, a big congratulations to Dellin and Janisa Betances!

As far as everything else, there’s still 63 days until Pitchers and Catchers report for Spring Training. So there’s a lot of time left for the Yankees to do something else, despite reports that they’re pretty much done with big moves this off-season. That statement, however, doesn’t preclude any minor “tweaking”, and you must know by now they love their “tweaking”. Enjoy your holiday season!

Go Yankees!

Roster maneuvers & potential shiny hardware for the mantle… is it Spring yet?

It’s officially the off-season now. The Cubs have had their victory parade last week through the streets of Chicago, ending with a big party in downtown where the Cubs players, coaches, and executives celebrated with millions of Chicagoland faithful. And a big congratulations to them. (And no, I don’t think it’s going to take another 108 years for their next win.)

In the meantime, the Yankees have made some early off-season moves in preparation for whatever’s up Cashman’s sleeve this off-season. The Cubs claimed reliever Conor Mullee off waivers on Wednesday, and on Friday, the Yankees activated some of the injured players off the 60-day DL like infielder Dustin Ackley and pitchers Nathan Eovaldi, Chad Green, Branden Pinder, and Nick Rumbelow. They also selected the contracts of Kyle Higashioka and Domingo German to add to the roster.

Now, GM Cashman is looking to add to the roster for the 2017 season, but in one particular category — pitching. And if you look at the roster now filled with Baby Bombers like Judge, Austin, Bird, and Sanchez, the need for consistent pitching (starters and relievers) is really the biggest drought on the team. Following the 2017 season, many of the veterans’ contracts are up (including Cashman and Girardi and the entire coaching staff, I might add), which could mean a virtually brand new team in the next few years.

But all this should put you in a pretty good outlook for the next season. I was at Steinbrenner Field today and saw all the progress they’re making on the stadium. They’re building new patios and special loge seating, rebuilding the gift shop, redoing the main entrance and bridge from the parking lot, and (most importantly) installing new seats. (Yankee Stadium is also getting a bit of a face lift, but more on that in a later post.)

Today, the Yankees released their tentative Spring Training schedule, with the opening day on Friday, February 24 against the Phillies, an afternoon home game. There are 35 scheduled games, 17 home games, and an exhibition game against Team Canada (March 8). They will close out their Spring in Atlanta with an exhibition game to inaugurate the Braves’ new park (SunTrust Park) on March 31. (The Yankees will play their season opener April 2 at the Rays, and home opener April 10 against the Rays.)

Mark your calendars: Pitchers and catchers report February 13, with their first workout February 14 (Happy Valentine’s Day, Yankee Universe!). Position players report February 18, with the first full-squad work out scheduled February 19.

It should also be noted that the World Baseball Classic is also scheduled this March (March 6-22). This means that instead of Spring Training, many of the players will be spread all over the world with their home country to try to bring home the honor, like the Dominican Republic did in 2013. Host cities include Seoul, Tokyo, Miami (Marlins), Jalisco (Mexico), San Diego (Padres), and Los Angeles (Dodgers). After qualifying rounds this year, the competing countries in the WBC will be South Korea, Chinese Taipei, Netherlands, Israel, Japan, Cuba, China, Australia, USA, Dominican Republic, Canada, Columbia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Italy.

And the biggest news of the day is that Gary Sanchez is up for a pretty big award. In addition to being up for the online eSurance (voting ends November 11) Rookie of the Year award (joining Teixeira for some pretty great moments this season), Sanchez is also up for the BBWAA Rookie of the Year Award. The BBWAA are responsible for selecting, nominating, and awarding several important honors every year in addition to the Rookie of the Year including MVP, Cy Young, and Manager of the Year. They also define who’s gets into the Hall of Fame.

Sanchez is up against the Indians’ outfielder Tyler Naquin and Tigers’ reliever Michael Fulmer for the AL Rookie of the Year. In the NL, the nominees in the same category are Maeda (Dodgers), Turner (Nationals), and Seager (Dodgers). Winner in both leagues will be announced next week on November 14. And yes, I do think that Sanchez deserves the AL honor, even without my own Yankee bias in there. Seriously, Sanchez took the entire league by storm this season, and just changed the landscape for the Yankees in the latter part of the year, keeping postseason dreams alive right up until the end. (By the way, my vote would be Seager for the NL, if I actually had a vote that is.)

Other nominees: Manager of the Year (awarded November 15) — Banister (Rangers), Francona (Indians), Showalter (Orioles), Baker (Nationals), Maddon (Cubs), and Roberts (Dodgers); Cy Young (awarded November 16) — Kluber (Indians), Porcello (Red Sox), Verlander (Tigers), Hendricks (Cubs), Lester (Cubs), and Scherzer (Nationals); and MVP (awarded November 17) — Altuve (Astros), Betts (Red Sox), Trout (Angels), Bryant (Cubs), Murphy (Nationals), and Seager (Dodgers). (If you must know, these are all rather deserving men, but my choices are Francona and Maddon, Kluber and Hendricks, Betts and Bryant. But they don’t ask me.)

Anyway, we’re knee-deep in this off-season, almost shoulder-deep in awards season, and it’s a little exciting to think about what 2017 could hold. Spring Training is just over 3 months away, and it’s when the slate is wiped clean and anything is possible. And it’s the one time when everyone is on that even playing field. We didn’t know the Cubs would be world champions this time last year, and we don’t know who will be celebrating this time next year. Fingers crossed it will be certain pinstriped crew from the Bronx.

Maybe cross the toes too…

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 17: TB vs. NYY — No sweep dreams tonight

It was another beautiful day for baseball. Apparently, the Rays thought so too, and just swung away with their bats like there was no tomorrow. To be perfectly honest, the Rays and Yankees are basically fighting for “not last place” in the AL East right now. It’s just not a great month for either of them.

And it certainly wasn’t a great day for the Yankees or starter Michael Pineda. Okay, the reality is that he pitched beautiful strikes. But the Rays saw them coming and just smacked them out of the park. Repeatedly. Pineda threw 103 total pitches in just 5 innings, gave up 10 hits, a walk, and 7 runs (4 of them home runs), and still struck out 9 batters.

Being perfectly honest here, the game was clearly lost in the 1st inning. Pineda quickly got 2 outs and then just got hammered by the heart of the Rays’ lineup — a double, a 2-run home run, a single, an RBI double, and another 2-run home run to cap off the Rays’ 5-run inning. Fans were literally booing as the Yankees trudged off the field. Then things seemed to get better except for a couple of just perfect pitches — a lead-off solo home run in the 3rd and a 2-out solo home run in the 5th. (Trivia bit: the latter home run hitter, who also hit one of the 2-run homers in the 1st, is celebrating his 27th birthday today, a birthday to remember for sure.)

Again, not the greatest day for the Yankees or Pineda, but the bullpen came through fairly strong once again in the form of Kirby Yates and Nick Goody, taking 2 innings a piece. They added another 7 strikeouts to the Yankees whopping total of 16 today (a rather odd number in the light of how many runs they also gave up). Goody also gave up a 2-out solo homer in the 8th, but at that point, another run was really just redundant for the Rays.

The Yankees lone contribution to the scoreboard came at the bottom of the 4th. Brett Gardner ducked to avoid an inside pitch and still managed to get plunked right on the top of his helmet, so he took 1st base and moved to 2nd on a ground out. Then, it was Alex Rodriguez’s long double (just inches from clearing the left field wall to be a home run) that scored Gardner. And while the Yankees collected 6 hits and a walk today, there wasn’t anything more than that sole run scored by Gardner.

Final score: 8-1 Rays, no sweep but the Yankees take series 2-1.

The Yankees make their way to Texas tonight to face the Rangers for a 3 game series before heading back up to the northeast for the first true rivalry game of the season at Fenway.

The All-Star Game is July 12 in San Diego this year, and it’s that time of year to start fan-voting for your favorite players to be in the starting line-up. You can vote up to 5 times per 24 hour period and up to 35 times total (so vote for 7 days straight, 5 times a day). Voting ends June 30 at 11:59 pm EST. Each entry submits you into a contest to win 2 tickets to all the All-Star Game festivities — including the Fan Fest, the Workout Day and Home Run Derby, and the All-Star Game itself. Good luck!

Young prospect infielder Sandy Acevedo was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic last night. The Yankees honored his loss with a moment of silence before today’s game. Acevedo was just 18 years old. Our prayers are with his family as they grieve his loss.

Injury updates: Okay, so it seems that Alex Rodriguez tweaked an oblique taking swings in the cage between innings and was pulled from the game in the 6th and sent to get an MRI. Also, the saga continues with Branden Pinder as he is on his way to see Dr. James Andrews to get a 2nd opinion on his partially torn UCL before jumping into the surgical path, but I think the common thought is that Tommy John surgery may be the best option for the young pitcher.

Now, with Rodriguez and Hicks on a watch-and-see, the Yankees might make a move to replace one or both of them for their road trip. So, I guess, that means we’re all on a watch-and-see too.

And today was Carlos Beltran’s 39th birthday. A very happy birthday to him!

Go Yankees!

Game 16: TB vs. NYY — Walk-off wonderful

Not a terrible afternoon for baseball. After starting off a little cloudy and overcast, the weather cleared some and with temperatures in the very pleasant mid-60s, it was a rather nice day to play a nice game.

With the middle game of this weekend series against the Rays, the Yankees sent Masahiro Tanaka to start today’s game and push the Yankees into the win column already for this series, something they so desperately need. Tanaka did a pretty good job keeping the Rays under control and drew a no-decision today. He threw 97 pitches over his 7 innings, giving up just 5 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and struck out 7 batters as only Tanaka can.

In the top of the 4th, a 1-out double moved to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on an RBI double. And a 1-out solo home run off the foul pole to put the Rays into the lead at that point. The Yankees had started the scoring in the 1st with Carlos Beltran’s 2-out walk. Beltran moved to 3rd on Teixeira’s single and then scored on a wild pitch. But the Rays’ starter (making his MLB debut in Yankee Stadium of all places) did a pretty decent job of keeping the Yankees from doing much — just 2 hits, 1 walk, and 1 run allowed over 5 innings.

So with the Rays slightly ahead, all it took to shift things around was “God Bless America” once again. In the bottom of the 7th, the Yankees played some small ball — McCann’s walk, an out, a pitching change, Headley’s walk, another out, and then bases loaded on catcher’s interference during Ellsbury’s at-bat. So it would be Brett Gardner’s single that would tie up the game.

So with the game now tied, the Yankees went to their reliable bullpen of the Dynamic Duo — Betances and Miller, who collectively shut down the Rays in their final 2 innings with 22 pitches and 2 strikeouts, sending the game tied into the bottom of the 9th.

And with 2 quick outs in the 9th, Gardner stepped up to the plate and worked a 3-1 count before planting a fastball deep into the 2nd deck of the right field seats for a beautiful walk-off home run for the Yankees — the first such game so far this season. Overall, Gardner played a key offensive role today, going 3-for-5, with a run scored, 2 RBIs, and that amazing walk-off home run. And the celebration in the Bronx commenced, complete with the traditional dousing of Gatorade (usually Gardner’s job, but Betances and Gregorius had the honors today), a shower of “purple rain”, as it were.

Final score: 3-2 Yankees.

Injury updates: tests on Branden Pinder showed a partial tear in his UCL. Yes, that is the ligament that, when torn, usually indicates Tommy John surgery is the next step. But as it’s a partial tear, it’s really up to Pinder as to whether he want to take this step now or see if it heals naturally first (as Tanaka did). Also, Aaron Hicks is still sore after his shoulder jamming slide last night, so the Yankees sent him to get an MRI to see if the injury is anything more than just a sore shoulder. The results came back as traumatic bursitis, which was treated with a cortisone shot and no activity for 4-5 days. Should this not work, a stint on the DL is very much a possibility.

Giving Back in Yankee Universe: CC Sabathia and his PitcchIn Foundation helped raise money to renovate a local baseball field in the Bronx. Thanks to the Sabathias and their foundation, the field now has a completely new surface, irrigation, dugouts, and lighting. Claremont Park was listed just 2 years ago as one of the worst in condition in the area (torn-up turf, broken lighting, vandalized and unsafe conditions everywhere you looked). This prompted the Sabathias to consider how they could help. There are about 500 Bronx children ages 3-17 that participate in Little League at Claremont Park, now benefiting from the beautiful new conditions.

And in that vein, I’ll leave you with the words of William Shakespeare (as it is the 400th anniversary of his death): “Words pay no debts, give her deeds.” (Troilus & Cressida, III.ii.54). (For you non-Shakespeare fans, this translates simply to “actions speak louder than words” or “don’t just talk about doing good, go out and do good”.)

Go Yankees!

Game 15: TB vs. NYY — Bullpen, McCann, & Ellsbury for the win

Okay, the Yankees needed a night like tonight after the forgettable sweep earlier this week. The Rays came to the Bronx for a weekend series and put up a good fight. But the Yankees had a weird combination of McCann and Ellsbury with a dash of the Dynamic Duo and Nova in the bullpen to cobble together a win to start this weekend off right.

The Yankee looked to CC Sabathia to start tonight’s game. And Sabathia actually threw a decent game, but certainly struggled his way through a few tough spots. In the 2nd, with bases loaded and 2 outs, a nice double scored 2 runs for the Rays to kick things off. And a 2-out double scored on a long single to give the Rays their total runs for the evening. Despite just 80 pitches in just under 5 innings, the Yankees opted to open their bullpen to give Sabathia a rest from his struggles tonight, not that he was particularly happy about that.

To be fair, the Yankees’ bats weren’t exactly silent tonight (and the heavens rejoice). Teixeira led-off the 2nd inning with a single and was on base to watch Brian McCann’s solid 2-run home run sail over his head into the right field seats to get the Yankees on the board.

With the Yankees down a run and Sabathia just out at the top of the inning, the Yankees went into the 5th inning hoping for a miracle. That miracle happened to be named Jacoby Ellsbury. So with 2 outs, Ellsbury and Gregorius each singled to get on base. A balk moved both runners up during Gardner’s at-bat. And with a full count, the Rays’ starter threw a final ball to walk Gardner and while that ball was sailing towards home plate, from 3rd base came Ellsbury running down the line and sliding his right hand just under the tag of the Rays’ catcher for a highlight-worthy straight steal of home base to tie up the game.

Now, Sabathia handed over the ball to Ivan Nova who was just flawless tonight through his 31 pitches in 2.1 innings, just setting down the Rays with such ease. He handed over the lead (and eventual win) to the Dynamic Duo at the back-end of the bullpen who just continued to flame-throw their way through the 8th and 9th innings. Collectively, Betances and Miller threw just 23 pitches and got 5 strikeouts in their 2 innings. Once the bullpen was opened, not one Rays batter made it on base and thus never crossed home plate again. After the break down of yesterday’s bullpen, tonight’s proved yesterday was an anomaly. It’s good to be back in order.

In order for Nova to get that win and Miller his 4th save of the season, the Yankees had to break the tie. But like I said before, there was a little combination of McCann and Ellsbury to save the day. In the 6th, Beltran and Teixeira singled to lead off the inning, and Beltran scored on McCann’s single to break the tie. And in the 8th, Teixeira led-off with a single, stole 2nd and ended up on 3rd on a throwing error, and watched McCann work a walk to get on base. After a pitching change and a 2nd out, Ellsbury’s nice double scored both Teixeira and McCann, who scored before Ellsbury was tagged out trying to stretch it into 3 bases. But it was enough.

Final score: 6-3 Yankees.

Scranton Shuttle: Branden Pinder was placed on the 15-day DL with elbow strain, and reliever Nick Goody was called up as his replacement.

Injury alert: outfielder Aaron Hicks started the game to give Ellsbury a rest tonight, but attempting to catch a long fly ball in the 5th inning with a diving slide in left-center field. Hicks came out of the game with a sore shoulder and was replaced by none other than Ellsbury. This turned out okay as it was clearly Ellsbury’s offensive impact that made the difference in tonight’s game. No further tests were ordered for Hicks’ shoulder, but he is currently listed as day-to-day. In other words, they’re going to watch him and let him rest it some this weekend.

Really quick note on Ellsbury’s straight steal home: this is actually his 2nd successful straight steal home. The first came in 2009 when he was with the Red Sox — Pettitte was on the mound, the Yankees were in Boston at Fenway, and the young outfielder showed off his speed and panache ducking under the tag of Posada’s glove. The last Yankee to straight steal (and for some reason this surprised me) was Jeter in 2001 (against the Orioles), but the last Yankee to steal home of any kind (other than a wild pitch or passed ball) was Chris Young, on a double steal, in Baltimore, in 2014.

Milestone: CC Sabathia hit a couple of career milestones tonight with his strikeouts. He recorded his 2,584th strikeout to take sole possession of the 25th spot of all-time strikeout leaders. Next up: Braves’ Hall of Famer Glavine with 2,607. He also reached a career total of 3,000 innings pitched. Both amazing feats for the veteran starter.

Go Yankees!

Game 13: OAK vs. NYY — A new way to lose a ball game

Well, that was… interesting. The Yankees are usually easily the best team when it comes to defense, and lately, it’s been their struggling offense that’s been the major cause of their recent skid. (Or as Yogi once said, “I ain’t in no slump. I just ain’t hittin’.”) Well, they may not be hittin’, but they certainly didn’t help matters tonight with some rather messy defense. (Except for one super stellar moment, but we’ll get to that.)

So, the day started off a bit better. I saw this fun fact this morning on my Twitter feed:

The Yankees’ pitchers added another 8 tonight from the visiting Athletics, 7 alone by tonight’s starter Nathan Eovaldi. But Nasty Nate is known for his fireball performances, so that’s standard fare when he’s on the mound. What’s not standard is the 8 hits, a walk, and 3 runs he gave up during his 6 innings tonight.

Actually, to be fair, he and the rest of the defense held the fort down until the 4th inning when it just seemed to fall apart in little bits and pieces. Back-to-back doubles scored the first run for Oakland, and a single tagged on another run. Another single put runners on the corners, and a sacrifice fly scored their third run of the inning (and the first out). Then it started to crumble on the defense.

The next batter reached on what they called a force attempt and missed catch error, but really the ball was booted by one fielder and then tossed to another one who promptly dropped it; it should have been an easy double play to end the inning, but it wasn’t anything but Little League.

A single loaded the bases, but then came the sole play that saved the entire inning from becoming a nightmare. The ball popped out to Aaron Hicks out in left field (out #2), who fired it into home plate to get the runner there out (#3) for an inning-ending double play. StatCast had the speed of that throw at 105.5 mph, which is insane on lots of levels.

To be noted, the Oakland batter left the game following this play due to a hamstring strain on the run home, which caused a bit of a weird roster move. He was the 3rd baseman, and they opted to move their DH to play 2nd, their 2nd baseman to 3rd, and thus had to have their pitchers (or a special DH for the relievers) bat. First, that is the first time a starting pitcher has ever batted in this incarnation of Yankee Stadium. The last opposing pitcher to bat in any incarnation of Yankee Stadium was August 16, 1997. (Weird trivia bits that magically appear on my new feed when some oddity happens in the Bronx.) Also, it leaves me wondering where the extra utility fielders on the Oakland bench are.

Kirby Yates’ 7th inning kept the A’s from adding to their score, but Branden Pinder struggled his way through his 8th inning. He loaded up the bases rather quickly with 2 singles and a walk, which meant that a single scored 2 more A’s runs before the first out of the inning was recorded (a nice routine double play, by the way). And Pinder was the reliever that added an additional strikeout to tonight’s total for his final out.

And it was Ivan Nova to finish off tonight’s game, something he did with almost SuperNova panache — just 6 pitches to wipe out the Oakland batters in order. The Yankees needed a little more of this tonight than some of the other stuff that happened.

The Yankees scored a grand total of 2 runs — both solo home runs into the right field seats too — Didi Gregorius in the 2nd and Carlos Beltran in the 8th. But to be fair, they weren’t hitting much outside of that (so that continues to be an issue), with just 6 total hits.

To be fair, there was an odd double play call in the 7th that could have scored a Yankees’ run, but some people seem to think it wasn’t a double play, with either the tag not being made or weird base running. It was a little confusing, and I don’t think it would’ve made that much of a difference in light of the following inning. But your guess is as good as mine on this one. I can see the arguments for all the sides, and I’m not exactly sold on any of them. (Another one of those weird grey areas of baseball, I guess!)

Final score: 5-2 Athletics.

Some other bits from tonight: Jacoby Ellsbury hit his 200th career double tonight. And Brett Gardner was scratched from the lineup tonight with a stiff neck, which roots back to the game in Toronto where he flipped over into the left field stands.

Minor rant for a moment here: Will someone please explain to me why not a single person even reached out to help the man as he fell onto hard cement? Or is this a Toronto thing to be uncompassionate towards someone just because they play for the other guys? I’m not impressed with the lack of empathy from the Blue Jays fans, a carry-over from far too many Spring Training games as well, I assure you.

Things like compassion and kindness and good sportsmanship are basic human qualities regardless of what uniform is worn, and the lack of such things lead others to question the motivation and heart of those who refuse to acknowledge such basic instincts (for most people) simply because someone is wearing a different jersey or perhaps even a different skin color or specific gender or looks a certain way.

Like I’ve said several times now, baseball is a metaphor for life. Be kind to one another people. Because we’re all just people at the end of the day. And that similarity alone deserves your respect and compassion and kindness.

And mic drop…

Go Yankees!