Game 147: TOR vs. NYY — Big home blowout + #TanakaTime

Sometimes, it’s good to be back in your own surroundings. The fans in the stands are in familiar regalia, the cheers makes sense with the plays, the smells and sounds are just right. It’s part of why people put a lot of stock in “home field advantage”. Not because there’s anything particularly “lucky” about your home turf, but because players are familiar with how things work and that surrounding familiarity knocks out distractions and helps them focus on the game. At least, that’s my theory.

Tonight’s game rather supported that. Especially when you throw in an opposing team that is really having a string of so-called “bad luck” recently. And Masahiro Tanaka was on point in tonight’s weekend opener against the Blue Jays. He threw 90 pitches in 6 scoreless innings, gave up 4 hits and 2 walks, and struck out 8 Toronto batters to earn his 12th win of the season.

Luis Cessa continued Tanaka’s great start with 3 scoreless innings of his own, adding 4 more strikeouts. And according to the rules, he earned the save for pitching those final 3 innings. (Statistics are rather complicated sometimes.)

The Yankee batters, meanwhile, had quite the field day in the Bronx. Every starting player got at least 1 hit, and every starter either scored a run or hit a run in, though most did both. The Blue Jays’ pitchers just couldn’t figure out how to pitch to the hot Yankee bats tonight.

In the 1st, McCutchen led-off with a double, and Stanton walked. Aaron Hicks’ single scored McCutchen, and a late throw allowed both runners to move into scoring position. After an out, Didi Gregorius hit an easy grounder that allowed Stanton to score, and Gleyber Torres’ single scored Hicks. After Sanchez singled to join Torres on base, Luke Voit hit both of them home with his double.

With a solid lead, the Yankee hits kept coming. In the 3rd, Gregorius was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Voit later worked a 2-out walk. Brett Gardner’s single scored Gregorius and signaled the end of Toronto’s starter’s night. The new reliever loaded up the bases with McCutchen’s walk before giving up a single to Giancarlo Stanton that scored both Voit and Gardner.

Andrew McCutchen led-off the 5th with a solo home run (his 1st homer in Yankee Stadium ever, by the way), and Didi Gregorius followed his example with a lead-off solo shot in the 8th. Then, with 1 out in the 8th, Sanchez doubled and was pinch-run by Higashioka. Voit reached on a fielding error, moving Higashioka to 3rd. Then Brett Gardner hit a long fly ball out to center that scored Higashioka, but they ended up catching Voit off 1st for a delayed double play to end the inning.

Final score: 11-0 Yankees

Roster moves: Good news, Yankee Universe! Today, they activated Aaron Judge from the Disabled List. His wrist’s chip fracture is healed to the point where he could come into tonight’s game late to run and play defense, but he’s not going to be hitting just yet. They want that 100% swing back without any residual pain from the power-hitter before they pencil him in the lineup. But take today’s activation as a good sign of progress.

And earlier today, the kids at PS 71 in the Bronx were treated to a fun surprise. The PitCCh In Foundation, founded by CC and Amber Sabathia, hosted a special event to celebrate the beginning of the school year. While CC was on “daddy duty”, Amber hosted Yankee stars Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks to have some fun with the local students (including a dance party with a live DJ) and hand out backpacks filled with school supplies to help the kids start the new year right, much like they did last week in California (where the Sabathias grew up).

Gregorius also considered today’s outreach as part of his #DidisDeeds, his random acts of kindness campaign wherever he is, including in Toronto in July. These guys are just amazing in how they represent the Yankee spirit of excellence and character on and off the field.

In that spirit, Sabathia is the Yankees’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, an annual award to honor those players who embody excellence and character on and off the field. You can vote for Sabathia and read more about all the other nominees and how they’re impacting their communities.

Go Yankees!

Game 146: NYY vs. MIN — Deny a no-hitter, have a pitchers’ duel, and still lose the game

“Baseball will punch you in the mouth now and then.” (Aaron Boone, tonight)

That sentiment feels about right as the Yankees wrap up this road trip and head back home for their final home stand. The Yankees actually played really well in their final game against the Twins, and somehow were outplayed by a team having that random better week.

Luis Severino threw 83 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up just 4 hits and 1 run, and struck out 5 batters. In fact, he held off the Twins’ batters for most of the game. Until the 6th inning, Severino only gave up a single hit in the 1st before keeping the Twins’ offense rather silent. With 1 out in the 6th, he gave up a single that scored on a double. Another single put runners on the corners, and a strikeout allowed one runner to move to scoring position.

With that threat looming, that was it for Severino. David Robertson came in and got a quick grounder to end the threat. He came back out in the 7th and got 2 quick outs before getting into a spot of trouble himself. A double scored on a single, and that runner scored on a double. But then he got a stellar strikeout to stem the Twins’ offense. And Zach Britton threw a flawless 12-pitch 8th inning to reset the earlier game momentum.

The Twins sent in a familiar face for the Yankees, a former foe from an AL East team, signed this year to the Twins after 5 seasons with the Rays. And he held the Yankees to a no-hitter for 7 innings. Though he still gave up a couple walks along the way, he hadn’t allowed a hit, frustrating the Yankee batters.

In the 8th, with 1 out, he gave up a walk to Luke Voit. And on the 120th pitch, Greg Bird knocked a solid double to score Voit, break his no-hitter bid, and end the shutout. That was it for the Twins’ starter’s night, a standing ovation from the home team fans, and the Yankees left Bird stranded at 2nd through 2 relievers and 2 strikeouts. Andujar hit a 1-out single in the 9th, but again, the Yankees stranded him there as the Twins’ reliever earned the save.

Final score: 3-1 Twins, Twins win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees head home tomorrow on their off-day/travel day. Then they will host the Blue Jays for the weekend. After a final off-day on Monday, they will host the Red Sox and Orioles to complete their home stand. A final road trip will include 4 games against the Rays and 3 games to close the season in Boston.

That means that the Yankees face all 4 of their division rivals for the last 16 games of the season. With the Athletics breathing down their necks in the Wild Card race, the Yankees need to take advantage of their position within the division to advance and get some space to ensure their October spot.

Injury news: It looks like Aroldis Chapman could be back very soon, maybe early next week. After some promising sessions in the Tampa complex, the Yankees brought Chapman back to rejoin the team for his final workouts to see his progress in person. His lingering issue with knee tendonitis finally moved him to the DL at the end of last month to focus on healing.

Aaron Judge got some legitimate batting practice in today, with one of the regular BP groups before the game. They expect he will continue to do this before Friday’s game back at Yankee Stadium. They won’t send him to a rehab assignment, as the RailRiders (AAA) are making a push for their league’s postseason, though there is some talk about giving him some simulated-type games and other workouts at the Tampa complex.

And if you’ve been wondering where Brett Gardner is, the veteran outfielder has been out for the last two games due to some right knee inflammation. On Monday, he dove for a line drive in the 2nd inning and fell awkwardly on his knee. While not an injury that requires any DL time, the Yankees are allowing him to rest and recover while keeping him available off the bench. Fortunately, the Yankees have a ton of current help thanks to the September call-ups.

Speaking of the call-ups, the Yankees recalled pitcher Chance Adams from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre today. Every little bit counts in the Yankees’ final push towards that postseason. Fingers crossed, everyone.

Go Yankees!

Game 143: NYY vs. SEA — Mariners stay afloat but sink series

The Yankees say “farewell” to the West Coast with a disappointing end to their series in Seattle this afternoon, despite the team doing its best to attempt a solid sweep of the Mariners on their home turf.

CC Sabathia got the start and had a decent outing today, throwing 84 pitches in 5 innings, giving up 7 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and striking out 4 batters. In the 1st, with 2 outs, he gave up 2 singles to get runners on base, and then 2 more singles to score both runners to get the Mariners on the board.

Chad Green came on for 2 solid innings to continue Sabathia’s good start, but Dellin Betances had a minor blip in his 8th inning that made all the difference. He gave up a lead-off walk that stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt, and then scored on a fielder’s choice.

The Yankees actually got on the board first in the top of the 1st. Stanton hit a nice 1-out double and then scored on Miguel Andujar’s double. After the Mariners took the lead in the bottom of the inning, the Yankees came back in the 4th to tie up the game. First, they loaded up the bases with singles to Walker, Voit, and Torres. Then 2 outs later, Andrew McCutchen worked a walk to score Walker.

But after the Mariners re-took the lead in the 8th, the Yankees had a frustrating 9th inning, including the very rare ejection of Brett Gardner. Gardner had issue with the strike zone, something he was actually right about, by the way. But Gardner’s last ejection was back in 2014, and he’s a pretty even-keel guy.

Final score: 3-2 Mariners, Yankees win the series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees are on their way to Minnesota for a 3-game series against the Twins. After a travel day on Thursday, they will head back to the Bronx for their final home stand, 3 series against division rivals, before a final road trip against more division rivals to wrap up the season.

Injury update: Unfortunately, the lingering wrist injury of Aaron Judge has been causing some recent pain to return. His recent swings in the batting cages have caused some increased pain, something you don’t really want to deal with when you’re supposed to be coming back from an injury. That said, it means that his return time has been less assured. It also means that he may miss the rest of this season. Only time will tell over these next few weeks.

Go Yankees!

Game 142: NYY vs. SEA — Yankee homers edge out victory

It’s about the time of the season when the teams really reveal who they are, who they’ve really been the whole season. It’s the time when teams are solidly eliminated from the postseason and focus on just finishing on an upswing. It’s the time when teams still in competition for the postseason are in a final push to ensure their spot for October baseball. And many players start vying for spots both on postseason teams but also on next season’s rosters.

Lance Lynn got his shot to try to show the Yankees who he can be to them, and tonight, in the middle game of this weekend series in Seattle, he had a pretty good outing. He threw just 76 pitches through 6 innings, giving up just 3 hits and 2 runs, striking out just 2 Mariners’ batters.

A lead-off solo homer off his first pitch in the 3rd was his first allowed run. But he held the home team off for much of the game. The other one squeaked by in the 5th. With 1 out and a runner at 1st, a grounder moved that runner to 2nd before he raced home on an RBI single.

But once he handed the game off to the bullpen, Lynn was ensured the win. Britton and Robertson each took an inning and kept the Mariners at bay. (By the way, they are the only MLB team where this phrase is an actual pun.) Dellin Betances earned his save the hard way, giving up a walk and single in the 9th to threaten the Yankees’ lead, but Betances’ strikeouts stunned the Mariners and sealed the deal.

The Yankees’ batters faced off against the Mariners’ former ace who used to stun opposing teams, but he was having an off-night against the visiting Yankees tonight. Andrew McCutchen, clearly proving how much he loves SafeCo Field, hit a lead-off home run in the 1st inning off that ace starter. That was also McCutchen’s 2nd run in as many days. Perhaps, he should misplace his luggage more often?

After the M’s tied up the game, the Yankees found their next opportunity in the 5th. Brett Gardner led-off by working a walk and then stole 2nd. McCutchen followed him by also working a walk. And that would be the end of the Mariners’ starter’s night. But his reliever didn’t help things. A passed ball moved the runners up to scoring position. And Giancarlo Stanton’s sacrifice fly easily scored Gardner to give the Yankees back the lead.

Then after the M’s tied up the game again, the Yankees looked to an unexpected source to put them back on top. Austin Romine hit his 10th homer of the season, a 1-out solo home run in the 7th inning. Romine becomes the 10th Yankee to his 10 or more home runs this season. This also moves the Yankees up to 232 collective homers this season, far in 1st over all other MLB teams and just 32 short of the record (by the 1997 Mariners, coincidentally).

But for an insurance run, the Yankees pieced it together in the 9th inning. Andujar led-off the inning by being hit by a pitch and pinch-run by Wade. (He’s alright, by the way, a little shaken up and sore, but a speedy substitution to get the run was a good idea in the end.) Hechavarria’s single moved Wade to 3rd so that he could score on Gleyber Torres’ sacrifice fly, the Yankees’ 51st sac fly this season (for all you trivia nerds).

Final score: 4-2 Yankees

In an interesting and random bit of trivia, the Yankees on quite the streak. Based on the fact that there’s only 20 games left of the season, they can officially say that they have 26 straight years of winning seasons. That means this particular streak is older than Andujar, Holder, Loaisiga, Severino, Tarpley, Torres, and Wade, and as old as Bird, Cessa, Cole, Judge, Sanchez, and Torreyes. In other words, for all these current Yankees, the Yankees have always been a winning team. And that is rather impressive.

Go Yankees!

Game 139: NYY vs. OAK — More late-inning heroics

“If you don’t have pitching, you don’t have anything.” I’ve said it far too often recently due to negative results, but tonight’s game showed the mantra can have a positive side for the Yankees too. Yankee pitchers tonight were on a roll and threw a great gave overall, only allowing 2 hits and 2 walks in this middle game against the Athletics.

JA Happ got the start tonight, threw 78 pitches in 6 innings,  gave up 2 hits, 1 walk, and the A’s only run tonight, and struck out 5 batters. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo home run in the 2nd. Happ continues to carve his niche in the starting rotation.

David Robertson took over in the 7th to throw a strong scoreless inning, complete with 3 solid strikeouts. Britton and Betances closed out the game with their own clean innings to keep the Yankee pitching momentum going.

Meanwhile, the A’s pitchers held off the Yankee batters for most of the game, even technically running a no-hitter for 5 innings, with Torres’ 2-out single breaking that streak in the 6th. But they didn’t break through until the 7th inning.

Gardner led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Stanton’s single, and advanced to 3rd on McCutchen’s walk that loaded the bases. Aaron Hicks then worked a walk to keep those bases loaded and scored Gardner as the tying run. But 2 strikeouts and a pitching change later, the Yankees left those base-runners stranded.

Luke Voit kicked off the 8th inning with yet another home run, a solo shot into the left field seats to give the Yankees the lead. Torres then worked a walk but was out on a fielder’s choice that Gardner hit into. On a strikeout, Gardner stole 2nd base and watch McCutchen work his own walk. Aaron Hicks singled to score Gardner, but then the A’s defense remembered how to defend and got McCutchen caught between bases to get out of the inning.

And in the 9th, Adeiny Hechavarria got his first Yankee home run, a lead-off solo shot. Sanchez then singled, and Walker worked a walk to get a couple of potential insurance runs on base. Two outs (and a new reliever) later, a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position, and Brett Gardner’s single scored Sanchez. But one final pitching change kept the Yankees at that score.

The A’s weren’t catching up tonight.

Final score: 5-1 Yankees

Today, the Yankees announced their nominee for the annual Roberto Clemente Award was CC Sabathia. The award was created to honor the late legendary ball player who was known for his philanthropy as well as his excellence on the field. It is to honor those who show “extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field”. Each team nominates their selection for the award, and the final winner will be announced at the World Series in October.

Sabathia and his wife Amber head the PitCChIn Foundation, an organization that works with local kids, including giving away backpacks and school supplies, renovating and equipping local ball fields, and running free baseball clinics for local Little Leagues. The Sabathias grew up in the Bay Area and will hold a special event on Thursday for kids from their nearby hometown to get them ready for this new school year.

And Miguel Andujar was announced as August’s Rookie of the Month. This really comes as no surprise to anyone who’s been following his season this year. He’s leading the Yankees in batting average, hits, and doubles, 2nd in RBIs, and has 23 home runs. He and fellow rookie Torres (who won the honor in May) have long been in the conversation for Rookie of the Year. And the biggest part of why this works for both young players is consistency, something Andujar has in spades, easily becoming one of the team’s biggest assets at the plate and at 3rd base.

Go Yankees!

Game 135: DET vs. NYY — Late inning heroics, ejections, & MVP additions

There is always a lot of talk about the official trade deadline at the end of July, but there is another deadline just a month later that also shake up rosters in that final September push towards October baseball. And the Yankees weren’t exactly on the sidelines in this game either, but before I mix any more sports metaphors, they also had a game to play tonight.

Luis Severino got the start in this second of four games against the visiting Tigers and actually had a decent outing despite getting a no-decision tonight. He threw 102 pitches in his 6 innings, gave up 6 hits and 3 runs, and struck out an impressive 10 Detroit batters. A 2-out solo homer in the 4th got things started for the Tigers, and with runners at the corners in the 5th, a 2-out triple added a few more runs.

While the Yankee batters were held off for much of the game, they came back raring to go in the 6th. Romine led-off the inning and was allowed on base thanks to a sloppy fielding error, but he was thrown out on Torreyes’ grounder (and failed double play). Brett Gardner hit a monster 2-run home run to get the Yankees on the board, and 1 out later, Aaron Hicks hit the tying run, a solo home run deep into the right field seats. Miguel Andujar pushed the Yankees ahead with another solo home run into the left field seats.

But the Tigers took advantage of a pitching change and Jonathan Holder’s recent struggles to tie up the game, who gave up a couple of singles. Zach Britton came on to try to stem the Tigers’ attempt, but promptly gave up a single. The lead runner scored just before the other runner got tagged out trying to get to 3rd to end the inning. The game was tied again.

Britton continued on in the 8th inning and quickly loaded up the bases with 2 singles and a walk, but only allowed a sacrifice fly to score the go-ahead run for the Tigers before getting out of his own jam.

So, in the bottom of the 8th inning, the Yankees came back once again. Gardner led-off with a double, Hicks worked a 1-out walk, and Voit got a 2-out walk to load up the bases. The Tigers went back to their bullpen and that certainly helped the Yankees.

Gleyber Torres singled home both Gardner and Hicks, ending up at 2nd on the throw, and putting the Yankees back in the lead. The Tigers intentionally walked Walker to re-load up the bases before Austin Romine’s single scored that insurance run for the Yankees.

And David Robertson had a bit of issues in the 9th, but came through with 3 solid strikeouts to earn the save and close out the game.

Final score: 7-5 Yankees

Okay, so I went back and looked at the biggest contention of the game — the strike zone, which got both managers thrown out of the game at various points. Aaron Boone had enough of low balls being called strikes that he actually went out to the plate to prove his point, miming the difference between when a catcher catches a strike vs. when he catches a ball. Following some choice words, Boone was tossed in the 5th.

But then the Tigers’ manager found his way to the clubhouse in the 8th involuntarily after arguing a similar argument. To be fair, it was a little wonky tonight. It certainly was inconsistent. The first half of the game favored the Tigers, but then the second half (after Boone’s ejection) favored the Yankees. I mean, it’s frustrating enough when it’s a bad strike zone, but it’s tolerable when it’s at least consistent. That’s the issue here.

And in the much-talked-about news, the Yankees added a few new faces to the Yankees roster. Just tonight, they added infielder Adeiny Hechavarria in a trade with Pirates for a player to be named later or cash considerations. Hechavarria also played with the Marlins and Rays until joining the Pirates this season.

And last night, the Yankees really made a splash by picking up veteran outfielder Andrew McCutchen. “Cutch” was a popular player with the Pirates for years before joining the Giants this season. He had to shave his trademark goatee, but this former MVP will add the much-needed depth to the outfield with Judge still out with his wrist injury and Stanton battling lingering hamstring issues. But it doesn’t mean that they’re worried about the status of Judge, just that they now have enough power and defense regardless of who’s on the roster and who’s on the DL.

Go Yankees!

Game 134: DET vs. NYY — Stanton’s 300 was the only thing worth remembering

I feel like I should make a 300 or “Sparta” joke about tonight, but the history-buff part of me won’t rely on Hollywood’s interpretation of real events to sacrifice itself for the sake of a well-placed pun. Instead, tonight’s on-field battle was a lot like the popular movie — messy, gut-wrenching at times, and rather unreal in the end.

JA Happ got the start and really had himself the off-night. He threw 92 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 10 hits and 5 runs, and struck out just 3 batters in tonight’s opener against the Tigers. And really, maybe the signs were all there as he gave up a solo home run to kick off tonight’s game.

In the 4th, with 1 out, a single stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored as part of a 2-run home run. And a 1-out single in the 5th scored as part of a 2-run home run to double the Tigers’ score. After a couple more singles, Happ handed the ball over to Green, who was able to strike his way out of the inning and strand those runners, before coming back in for a clean 6th as well. Robertson and Britton each followed with their own clean innings to help give the Yankees a chance to take the lead.

And they did, in pieces. In the 3rd, Brett Gardner singled and then tried to make it all the way to 3rd on Hicks’ single but got thrown out there in a weird sort of fielder’s choice. But Giancarlo Stanton followed that up with a big 2-run home run into the right field seats, his 300th career home run. And the crowd urged him out for his first curtain call at Yankee Stadium.

After the Tigers re-took the lead in the top of the 4th, the Yankees answered back in the bottom of that inning. Voit led-off with a single and then scored as part of Gleyber Torres’ big 2-run home run. Then with 1 out in the 5th, Hicks singled and moved to 2nd on Stanton’s walk. With a new reliever, Miguel Andujar then singled home Hicks, thanks in part to a throwing error that delayed the throw for the out.

And in the 7th, Stanton hit a 1-out double, which helped Luke Voit when he hit a 2-out 2-run home run into Monument Park to break the tie and put the Yankees on top again. Torres then singled but was thrown out making the stretch for 2nd. The second occurrence of such a play tonight, leaving some wondering if the Tigers are just that good at defense or the Yankees were having an off-night with base-running.

Anyway, the Yankees needed just 3 outs to seal their win. Dellin Betances, who’s been having a great show on the mound lately, came on to pitch the 9th inning and ended his positive streak. With 1 out, he walked one batter and then gave up consecutive home runs to first tie up the game and then give the Tigers the lead. The Yankee batters were then stymied in the bottom of the inning with a quick 3 outs.

Final score: 8-7 Tigers

Stanton & 300: Stanton’s big home run in the 3rd comes with some fun trivia. He is the 5th fastest player to hit such a milestone, taking him 1,119 games to hit 300 homers (just 2 games behind Alex Rodriguez at 1,117 games). He’s also the 9th youngest player to hit 300 homers (at 28 years and 295 days old). (And yes, I had to figure out how many “days old” I am, and it’s math I found out I don’t like.) He’s been stuck on #299 for 12 days or 10 games. Next up: 400 homers and 2000 hits (currently at 1,104).

And some Yankee prospects are headed to the Arizona Fall League to represent the Yankee farm system and improve their baseball skills — pitchers Domingo Acevedo, Jordan Foley, Hobie Harris, and Matt Wivinis; infielders Thairo Estrada and Steven Sensely; and outfielder Estevan Florial. They will join other prospects from the farm systems of the Orioles, White Sox, Indians, and Dodgers to form the Glendale Desert Dogs when the season starts October 9. It’s an honor to be selected and play on an AFL team, something many current Yankees have done on their path to pinstripes.

Go Yankees!