Game 43: NYY vs. KC — An afternoon for a big win

Well, that makes 8 straight series wins for the Yankees, yet another strong show of offense against an opponent, and a close call when it comes to this crazy Spring weather. Yes, Kauffman Stadium had the tarp over the infield for most of the morning, and despite a predicted stormy afternoon, the rain stayed in the cloudy skies so the game could go on.

Plus, Sonny Gray was just amazing today. He threw 4 no-hitter innings and kept the Royals scoreless for most of the game. In fact, in his 8 innings, he threw 92 pitches, gave up just 4 hits and a walk, and struck out 5. The lone allowed run for the home team came in his final inning. A lead-off single moved to 2nd on a ground out and later scored on a 2-out single. AJ Cole closed out the game with a quick 13 pitches.

But Gray had quite a bit of leeway when it came to his strong start. The Yankees’ offense came alive in the 4th inning. Hicks led-off with a walk and then scored as part of Tyler Austin’s 2-run home run. Andujar tripled and then scored on Austin Romine’s single. All before the Royals got an out that inning. In the 5th, Stanton hit a 1-out double and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ triple. Hicks easily scored when Tyler Austin hit his 2nd 2-run home run of the afternoon.

The Royals went into their bullpen, but it didn’t stop the Yankees’ advance. In the 8th, Romine doubled, moved to 3rd on Torreyes’ single, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s single. Judge’s walk loaded the bases, before a wild pitch would score Ronald Torreyes. And then to cap it off, the Yankees revved up the power in the 9th with solo home runs by Miguel Andujar and Austin Romine.

Final score: 10-1 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: the Yankees are on their way to Arlington (the Dallas area) for their final stop on this road trip against the Rangers for 3 games. They’ll head back to the Bronx next weekend to face the Angels and the Astros.

Didi Gregorius got the day off today in the middle of this “slump”. But honestly, it just reminds me of the old saying by the great Yogi Berra: “Slump? I ain’t in no slump… I just ain’t hitting.” But he had a super hot start to the season, something the Yankees really depended on in some stickier times. In the same way that you can’t always be “hot”, you certainly can’t always be “slumping”. It will even out eventually, and those Didi cheers will be back before you know it.

Go Yankees!

Game 37: BOS vs. NYY — Late rally oddly falls short after bad start & rain delay

And they’re back to a tie in the AL East on this rain-soaked evening in the Bronx to close out their mid-week series against the Red Sox. CC Sabathia struggled his way through his outing, throwing 80 pitches into the 5th inning, giving up 9 hits, no walks, and 4 runs, and striking out 5 batters.

In the 1st, Sabathia gave up a lead-off ground-rule double who moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on another ground out (that some people immediately questioned as to why the defense opted not to get the out at home instead). Then in the 3rd, a single and double put runners in scoring position. A single score the first runner and a fielder’s choice scored the other.

It started raining earlier, but it was manageable for most of the game until the end of the 4th. As it started really raining pretty hard, fans streaming to the concourses for cover, Sabathia took the mound for the 5th inning and gave up a lead-off solo home run before the Yankees’ grounds crew pulled out the tarp and called a rain delay. For 55 minutes, they waited for the storm to pass to resume baseball activities.

It was too long of a wait to stay warm, so the Yankees opted to call on Jonathan Holder for relief of Sabathia. And it certainly helped. Holder breezed through the 5th and 6th innings in just 17 pitches. Dellin Betances’ 7th inning followed that momentum.

The Yankees’ pitching staff was just waiting for the Yankees’ offense to kick it up and do something. The Red Sox starting pitcher held them to a single hit and 3 walks under his 5 scoreless innings and his first reliever followed suit. But then the next guy struggled in the 7th to get control of the Yankees’ late-inning heroics they’ve become rather known for this month.

With 1 out, they loaded up the bases with singles to Andujar and Torres and a walk to Walker. So the Red Sox called in another pitcher to handle this situation. He promptly walked Brett Gardner in 4 pitches to walk in the Yankees’ first run of the evening. Aaron Judge hit a short single to keep those bases loaded and score Torres. Didi Gregorius hit into a short grounder to get the out at 2nd and still score Walker, moving Gardner to 3rd. Then a wild pitch allowed the speedy Gardner (who didn’t even slide) to score the tying run.

Betances came on for a second inning, the 8th, and despite the pattern he set in the 7th, he gave up a perfect 2nd pitch that became a lead-off home run to break the tie and put the Red Sox back in the lead. The Yankees got a single and walk in the bottom of the 8th, but couldn’t get them to tie up the game. Chasen Shreve threw a solid 9th inning, but the Yankees faced a similar bottom of the 9th and no late-inning heroics came through.

Final score: 5-4 Red Sox, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: the Yankees host the Athletics for the series this weekend, their last series before hitting the road again.

Go Yankees!

Game 36: BOS vs. NYY — And the winning streak puts the Yankees on top of MLB

With tonight’s win, not only are the Yankees the sole leader of the AL East, but at 25-10, they have the best record in all of MLB. Of course, it helps that they are on a super hot streak, currently running 16-1 for their last 17 games. The actual club record was 21-1 back in 1953, one of the best years for the Yankee organization (with players like Berra, Ford, Rizzuto, and Mantle). Though current fans are making more recent comparisons — like to the 1998 team.

Masahrio Tanaka had an okay start in tonight’s game against the Red Sox, throwing 91 pitches into the 6th inning. He gave up 8 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs, and struck out just 3 Boston batters. In the 2nd, a 1-out single scored as part of a 2-run home run to get the Red Sox on the board. A 1-out solo home run in the 5th added one more. And in the 6th, he gave up a double that moved to 3rd on a ground out.

But that would be it from Tanaka as the Yankees turned to Chad Green, who promptly gave up a sacrifice fly to score Tanaka’s runner from 3rd. Then in the 7th, with 2 outs, he gave up a walk that scored as part of another 2-run home run for the Red Sox. Then Shreve came on for the 8th inning and gave up a double and a walk and only getting one out, so the Yankees called on Jonathan Holder. After a well-placed strikeout, Holder intentionally loaded up the bases and still got out of the inning without a scratch.

Meanwhile, the Yankees started the offensive drive tonight in the 1st inning, when Gardner led-off with a double and then scored on Aaron Judge’s single. After the Red Sox took the lead in the 2nd, the Yankees grabbed the lead in the 3rd. Gardner led-off with a double again, Judge worked a walk, and they both moved into scoring position on a ground out. Giancarlo Stanton’s double then scored both Gardner and Judge to give the lead back to the Yankees. After Sanchez’s single moved Stanton to 3rd, Stanton scored on Aaron Hicks’ sacrifice fly.

Judge led-off the 5th with a single but ended up at 2nd on a throwing error. After Gregorius’ walk and Stanton’s hit-by-pitch, the Yankees were in a good place to do some big damage with the bases loaded and no outs. Gary Sanchez hit a nice sacrifice fly to center field that scored Judge, but then 2 outs later, that big moment had passed.

The Red Sox relievers then held off the Yankees for most of their time on the mound. And with their team ahead by a single run, they needed to depend on those relievers to maintain the status quo. And then the Yankees entered the bottom of the 8th and Neil Walker led-off with a strong double. After Torres worked a 1-out walk, the Red Sox brought in a new reliever to stem the home town offense.

But Brett Gardner promptly hit a big triple (though it would be a double for almost anyone else) and scored Walker and the speedy Torres, who also somehow avoided the tag at home. The sold-out stadium was post-season electric as the Yankees looked to continue their winning streak tonight. Aaron Judge then continued that momentum with a 2-run home run straight to Monument Park to solidify the Yankees win after Chapman worked a 9th inning save with 3 great strikeouts.

Final score: 9-6 Yankees

The Yankees will look to sweep the Red Sox tomorrow night to close out that series before hosting the Athletics. Fingers crossed for a better record than that great streak of 21-1 65 years ago.

Go Yankees!

Game 34: CLE vs. NYY — Torres’ walk-off glory in sweep

With Montgomery out with elbow strain, it fell to Domingo German for the start in this afternoon’s finale against the Indians in the Bronx. And German rose to the occasion and excelled. He threw 84 pitches in his 6 scoreless innings, gave up no hits and only 2 walks, while striking out 9 Cleveland batters.

German actually matched the Indians’ starter pretty well. He held the Yankees’ batters hitless until Aaron Hicks broke the streak to lead-off the 5th inning, though he certainly walked several batters and the defense allowed a runner on an error. But the Indians held off the Yankees from scoring any runs.

Dellin Betances took over and breezed his way through the 7th inning but then got into some trouble coming out in the 8th. He gave up 3 consecutive singles that scored the Indians’ first run of the night and broke the scoreless tie. Betances was running out of steam, so the Yankees turned to Jonathan Holder, who did what he could to keep things under control. After a bunt pop-up, Holder gave up a double that scored 1 run and then a passed ball moved the runners up and scored another run. Finally, a sacrifice fly scored their final run.

And suddenly, the Indians were up 4-0. So the Yankees answered back in the bottom of the 8th. Walker led-off with a walk and Austin worked a 1-out walk to end the Indians’ starter’s night. And (like my uncle implied yesterday), the Yankees got to take advantage of the Indians’ weak bullpen. After another out, Brett Gardner singled and scored Walker for the Yankees’ first run. Aaron Judge followed him with a double to score Austin and Gardner.

Now, with the Indians’ lead reduced to a single run, the Yankees called on Chasen Shreve to breeze through the top of the 9th in just 18 pitches to get back to the Yankee offense in the bottom of the inning. Hicks led-off with a double and then scored the tying run when Neil Walker doubled. A new reliever got a ground out and then intentionally walked pinch-hitting Stanton. So with Walker and Stanton on base and just 1 out, it would be Gleyber Torres to smack a deep 3-run home run into the Yankees’ bullpen, just missing Monument Park, for a great walk-off victory.

Final score: 7-4 Yankees, Yankees sweep series 3-0

Next up: the Yankees have an off-day tomorrow. Then they will host the Red Sox for a 3-game mid-week series on Tuesday. This series is crucial as the Yankees are just a game behind the Red Sox in the AL East. They follow up that series with a weekend series against the Athletics to close out the home stand.

Go Yankees!

Game 33: CLE vs. NYY — Sonny times defeat Cleveland defensive errors

The Yankees have won 14 of their last 15 games, something that actually has people talking all around the league, because it’s the first time they’ve done so since 1998. (And we all know what happened that year.) Plus, it was a perfect Saturday afternoon for a game, this middle game in the weekend series against the visiting Indians.

Sonny Gray had a much better outing than many of his earlier games this season, throwing 93 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up 4 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and striking out 7 batters. His 2 allowed runs were a 2-out solo home run in the 5th and a ground-rule double that later scored on a ground out.

Chad Green really was the pitcher worth watching today, going 2 full scoreless and hitless innings and throw a dominant and efficient 24 pitches in the 7th and 8th innings, getting 4 of his 6 outs with strong strikeouts. David Robertson closed out the game with 2 more strikeouts in his 9th inning.

Meanwhile, like the Indians, the Yankees’ batters really didn’t get much offenive opportunities until the 5th. With 1 out, Walker and Andujar walked, and Torres singled to load the bases. Then Austin Romine worked a walk to score Walker. Ronald Torreyes hit into a play that ended up moving everyone up 2 bases thanks to 2 errors, so Andujar and Torres both scored, leaving Romine and Torreyes in scoring position. Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly scored Romine.

A new pitcher in the 7th gave up a 1-out double to Romine, after quite the embattled at-bat. The Indians needed to switch some defenders due to an injury where the fielder trying to get Romine’s long-hit ball rammed into the back fence. Romine would go on to score on Gardner’s 2-out single.

Final score: 5-2 Yankees

Injury updates: as you know if you’ve been following this team this season, early last month seemed plagued with injuries. Fortunately, the team has been relatively healthy for a few weeks now, and those on the DL are working their way back as soon as possible. Brandon Drury found a specialist in New York that located an irritated nerve on his neck that has been causing his migraines for years. He is receiving regular treatments, and it’s paying off — his time with AAA Scranton (and now with AA Trenton) have been rather productive. The Yankees aren’t in rush with him as Andujar, Torres, and Torreyes have been outstanding for the Yankees as pinch-bench players in both their offense and defense.

Despite being out for 6-8 weeks with elbow strain, Jordan Montgomery was simply glad it wasn’t going to be the dreaded Tommy John surgery for him, which would mean 12-18 months recovery time. It’s something every pitcher dreads and sits in the back of their minds every time there’s an elbow pain of any kind. So a few weeks must sound like a decent option. It’s not great, but they can make it work on all ends. Especially as Domingo German will get his first MLB start tomorrow against the Indians in the finale of this series.

And speaking of pitchers, Tommy Kahnle and Adam Warren are back throwing after experiencing some shoulder and back issues (respectively), so the Yankees hope to have these reliable relievers back in the bullpen before the end of the month.

My uncle, the one who’s a huge “Tribe” fan (or a person who roots for Cleveland), texted me after the Yankees won today to tell me that the Yankees were “looking good” and that his team was suffering from “no-bullpen-itis”. I can understand that feeling, as both teams seem to suffer most of their injuries in the bullpen this season (as reflected in the above injury report). But to me, that says more about the difference in their farm systems to rely on those guys when injuries hit the major league level.

So kudos to the Yankees for having the smarts to build the organization deep. And this says far too much about the AL Central because even with these 2 losses, the Indians still lead the division and are the only team above .500. Meanwhile, the Yankees are now just a half-game behind the Red Sox in the AL East, something that clearly will change with the coming series next week.

Go Yankees!

Game 28: NYY vs. HOU — Streak snapped at 9

Of course most of the conversation leading up to this series would be a “rematch of the ALCS” because it is a match-up of last year’s teams from the ALCS. It’s just not 2017 any more. Thought try telling the Astros’ starter that.

Sonny Gray got the start for this first game of this series in Houston. And he actually had a pretty stellar start — throwing 97 pitches in 6 innings, giving up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs, and striking out 4 batters. In the 1st, Gray gave up a lead-off single and then balked and advanced the runner to 2nd. That runner scored 2 ground outs later.

In the 4th, a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a walk and then scored on a double. The next batter hit into a fielder’s choice that the Yankees defense quickly used to get the out at home. A walk loaded the bases, but then a well-placed strikeout and line drive ended the Astros’ threat.

In fact, other than those 2 innings, Gray kept things really clean and the Astros from doing much at all. Unfortunately, the Yankees faced a similar starter from the Astros, who held a no-hitter until Romine singled in the 6th inning. Even then, they weren’t able to do much off him, only getting 2 hits, 2 walks, and a single run.

In the 8th, with 2 outs, Torres doubled on the Astros’ starter’s 102nd pitch. The Astros went to their bullpen, and the Yankees sent in a pinch-hitter. Judge, who had a regular day-off today, came in and worked a walk, but that was it for that reliever. A new one came in and promptly gave up a single to Brett Gardner that also scored Torres. But that would be the Yankees’ best opportunity all night.

Betances and Holder each threw a great inning against the Astros, joining the long list of pretty good pitchers from both sides that took the mound tonight. Neither team was really hitting all that much, and it was always going to be a close game. It just fell towards the home town team tonight.

Final score: 2-1 Astros

Yes, that means the Yankees win streak ended at 9 games. But what a great run. The next streak is just around the corner. And they’ll have 3 more chances to pick it up again in Houston.

And thanks in part to that winning streak, MLB recognized Didi Gregorius as the Player of the Week, his first such honor. With a batting average like .357, 10 RBIs, and 7 runs scored, it’s really no wonder. Of those 10 RBIs, 4 of them were big home runs. Yankee fans have known Gregorius is a key part of this Yankee lineup (as well as in the clubhouse) for 3 years now, so it’s nice to see other people recognize his talent and impact.

And if you’re wondering about some injury updates: Brandon Drury is continuing his rehab with AAA Scranton. His migraines seem to be handled as he is clearly making his mark as part of the team. He may be ready to rejoin the team once they return to New York. Clint Frazier was promoted to AAA Scranton today after having four successful rehab games with Advanced-A Tampa. His concussion seems to be healed and he’s looking forward to a regular season with his team.

And Tyler Austin’s suspension is over after tonight’s game, so he will be reactivated for tomorrow’s game.

Go Yankees!

Game 25: NYY vs. LAA — A messy 6th but #SirDidi to the rescue in the 10th

Most Yankee players really have a wonderful experience when they visit the Angel Stadium in Anaheim. Partly because the experience is similar to what they get at the Rays’ stadium during the year — half the crowd are almost always dedicated Yankee fans. Add in lovely California weather and a nice stadium itself and Yankee Stadium West is currently hosting this weekend series.

Luis Severino got the start tonight, and a had pretty good outing overall. He threw 96 pitches in his 7 inning, giving up 5 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and striking out 8 Angels’ batters. In the 2nd, he gave up a 1-out solo home run to the Angels’ newest international superstar. A lead-off single in the 7th moved to 2nd on a 1-out single. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch and then scored on a triple.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were held off from the scoreboard until the 5th inning. Andujar led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on Torreyes’ 1-out single, and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ sacrifice fly. And then came the messy 6th inning. First, Didi Gregorius led-off with a single and the Angels took their starter out of the game. And then it went crazy. Stanton reached on a forced attempt and fielding error. A wild pitch on Sanchez’s strikeout moved both runners into scoring position. Then Neil Walker hit into a sacrifice double play, a long fly ball just inches from a home run unfortunately. But not before Gregorius actually scored the crucial run. (More on this below)

While Holder and Robertson held off the Angels from adding to their slim lead in the 8th and 9th innings, the Yankees needed one more opportunity to make a difference. They found that in their own half of the 9th inning. Sanchez led-off with a walk, Andujar hit a solid double, and then they intentionally walked Torres to load up the bases with 1 out.  Brett Gardner came on to pinch-hit and hit a sacrifice fly to score Sanchez and tie up the game.

So we go into the 10th inning. And who else is it going to be? Didi Gregorius hit a 1-out solo home run to give the Yankees the lead. Yankee Stadium West was lit, and Gregorius honored their cheers with his own curtain call. Chapman took 15 pitches and earned the save tonight as the Yankees celebrated their 7th consecutive victory.

Final score: 4-3 Yankees, in 10 innings

Going back to that 6th inning mess: there was a bit of confusion in the middle of that “double play” call. In post-game interviews, the Yankees called it a “boundary issue”. Honestly, the idea of the double play itself makes no sense because it would imply that Stanton left 2nd base before the out was made. But on replays, it looks like he was there when the out in right field was made, so when he took off for 3rd, he should be safe. It should be a sacrifice RBI for Sanchez with Stanton advancing to 3rd.

Boone later said he ran out of time to call for a replay review. Perhaps a first time manager’s mistake? Or maybe it’s something his bench coach could have caught for him? (Josh Bard was ejected earlier in the game for arguing over the questionable strike zone.) Honestly, tonight’s “double play” one of many plays the umpires have called that seems questionable or confusing. As clear as the rules try to be, having flawed humans make perfect calls is going to run into issues. And with how even replays are going this season, a review might have done nothing different.

In the end, it didn’t matter anyway. If this was an October game, I think more people would have something to say. Not that you want a lot of these plays. They do add up. Multiple bad calls can really tank a team’s overall win-loss record, which could mean no October baseball at all. You want to get it right every time, whether it’s a playoff game or Spring Training. But that pesky human factor means that you won’t. And for all my fellow perfectionists out there, you know that’s the really irritating part of this whole thing.

Go Yankees!