Game 98: NYY vs. BOS — It’s the little things that add up

I can’t really blame tonight’s 11th inning loss entirely on a blown call, but that certainly has a lot to do with the state of the game. Honestly, things started out so great, and then they got really bad, and then it was better, and then it was tied and into extra innings, and then it got bad again, and then it got awful, and then it was over. Four hours and 46 minutes after the first pitch, the Red Sox can enjoy their 1st place standing (the Rays are really threatening) and the Yankees have to catch a flight to Dallas for tomorrow night’s game. Did I mention it’s already tomorrow?

CC Sabathia celebrated his 33rd birthday today, but I’m guessing he won’t really enjoy remembering today so much. He hit his first batter, but kept the Red Sox from scoring or doing much of anything for the first two innings. And then it suddenly wasn’t so great. In the 3rd inning, a lead-off double advanced to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a single; another single put 2 men on base for a 3-run home run to put Boston up 4 runs in just that inning. At the bottom of the 4th, Sabathia hit the lead-off batter, then allowed back-to-back singles to load the bases; a single out to left field scored 2 more runs. A solo home run in the 5th inning added another run to the Boston scoreboard (now up to 7). That was it for Sabathia — 102 pitches over just 5 innings, allowing 9 hits, 7 runs (2 homers), and walking 2. It just wasn’t how Sabathia expected to spend his birthday, I’m guessing.

But the Yankees actually started out pretty well. Right in the 1st inning, Brett Gardner leads off with a single, and Ichiro Suzuki reaches on a throwing error, allowing Gardner to 3rd; then when Ichiro steals 2nd, the catcher misses the throw, advancing Ichiro to 3rd and Gardner to score the Yankees first run; Robinson Cano walks; and Ichiro scores on Vernon Wells’ single. In the 2nd inning, Chris Stewart walks, advancing to 3rd on the next two groundouts; Ichiro is plunked on the back by a pitch (he’ll wake up with a nice bruise there tomorrow); and Cano’s single scores Stewart. So in the first two innings, the Yankees are up 3-0. By the 5th inning, the Red Sox have jumped ahead 7-3.

And if we know anything about this rivalry, when one team is winning, the other doesn’t just roll over and take it; they fight it all the way.

And suddenly, it’s the 6th inning. Eduardo Nunez singles and then steals 2nd base; Stewart draws a walk; Nunez scores on Gardner’s single; Ichiro singles to load the bases; and Cano singles home Stewart. And it’s 7-5 Boston. In the 7th, Wells walks Nunez singles; then Stewart bunts the ball, which is then overthrown to 1st base, so Stewart ends up at 2nd, Nunez at 3rd, and Wells scores (7-6); and Luis Cruz hits a sacrifice groundout to score Nunez. The game is tied.

And as Claiborne, Logan, David Robertson (absolute magic getting out of a jam tonight), and Shawn Kelley (really phenomenal job tonight by Kelley) all put in their time on the mound to keep the game rolling into extra innings waiting for the Yankees bats to awake again. But no Yankee ever crossed the plate again as Sunday night became Monday morning in Boston. It was Adam Warren who gave up a really solid home run out into center field to give the Red Sox an 8-7 walk-off home run victory. (Warren also took the loss, which means Sabathia doesn’t earn the loss on his birthday, a rather half-hearted gift.)

Look, there were a lot of moments that made tonight’s game super tight, and really hard/good to watch at times. There was the 15 pitch at-bat for Gardner, which ultimately earned him a walk. There was the dance around the ball to take 2nd base for Ichiro (that throwing error in the 1st inning). There was Gardner tying Mickey Mantle for 9th most stolen bases in Yankee history with his 153rd stolen base of his career (Derek Jeter is the current all-time Yankees leader at 348). There was some really great defensive moments, catches, plays, teamwork, etc.

But the one that got under everyone’s skin was the clearly blown call when Nunez stole 2nd base in the 11th and was called out. Replays, even viewed by Yankee haters, all confirm Nunez was safe. And it ended up costing the Yankees the game. Putting Nunez in scoring position was the one shot they had in the extra innings, and a deep single would have easily scored the quick running Nunez. Unfairness aside, it just further proves the need for confirmation on such calls. This wasn’t calling balls and strikes or nitpicky stuff the anti-technology people always afraid of when talking about bringing technology into the game. This was win or lose time, and this gave Boston the edge they needed to get their victory tonight. Surely, we have advanced enough in technology to improve safety, equipment, broadcasting, even communication between the dugout and bullpen. So why haven’t we transferred that leap into 21st century technology in the confirmation of umpire calls, like football, basketball, hockey, soccer, and all major professional sports.

But baseball has always been a little behind on advancements and change until absolutely necessary. When would that line come for something like this? It’s already affected major play-off games and even World Series games. And I’m not just crying foul against the Yankees. Calls have gone for and against the Yankees, just like they have for every other team. But when is enough enough here? Maybe some accountability with technological confirmation will lessen all that “blue hate” from the cheap seats. But then again, they’ll always find something else to complain about. Complainers and haters always do.

For now, we cheer on our teams, pray for health for all those poor guys looking on from the dugout or at their TV screens just itching to get back in the game, and hope for the best and fairest calls possible. After all, it’s the only thing positive people (and blogs) can do.

Go Yankees!

Game 97: NYY vs. BOS — Teamwork wins games, but Stewart ensures them

There was a determination on every Yankee’s face today that I haven’t seen in a few games, and that determination really rocked the Red Sox’s world and earned a really great Yankee win today.

So much of today’s win was clearly set forth early in the game by a near flawless Hiroki Kuroda. Through 7 full innings, Kuroda threw 104 pitches, allowing just 5 hits and the only 2 run the Red Sox would score today; he also allowed the only walk of the game. Both Boston runs were scored in the bottom of the 7th inning, a single and a double planted runner at 2nd and 3rd with no outs, so a sacrifice fly deep to center field easily scored the first Boston run, advancing the other runner to 3rd. He then scored on a wild pitch, hustling it all the way home to beat out the tag.

Kuroda was aided in his quest for a win by David Robertson in the 8th and Mariano Rivera in the 9th (for his 31st save of 2013), who kept Boston away from threatening the Yankees lead. Also sharing in today’s win was the really great defense (with some minor exceptions). Luis Cruz played the whole game at 3rd, snagging some great foul balls and always ready to make plays in the hot corner. Boston’s usually potent offense kept Brett Gardner on his toes out in center field, often thrown back to the warning track and up against the back wall to make the plays.

Outstanding defensive day for Chris Stewart,
here in mid-double play

But really, the defensive champion is most definitely catcher Chris Stewart. In the 1st inning, a long single to left field had Vernon Wells throwing a really long throw to an awaiting Stewart at home, who easily tagged the sliding runner to keep the Red Sox from making the first dent in the scoreboard. Then in the 5th, on a wild pitch by Kuroda, he rushed to grab the ball up against the back stop and tossed it to a waiting Kuroda who was able to tag out the advancing runner. But I think everyone’s favorite play came in the 8th inning. Robertson got a batter to pop up a foul ball into the stands behind the plate, which Stewart went over the wall and got the out. But he wasn’t done. Upon returning back to his feet, he fires the ball to 2nd base to get the runner trying to steal for an inning-ending double play, leaving the Boston batter just shaking his head in disbelief. And while many analysts seemed very surprised by Stewart’s excellent defense, I don’t think one Yankee fan was surprised after all he’s contributed to the team, especially in this season.

Now, in order to win ball games, you have to score some runs and make some hits. And today, the Yankees scored some runs and made some hits off the Boston bullpen. In the 5th inning, the Yankees strike first as Gardner singles home Cruz, putting the Yankees up 1-0. Then in the 7th inning, Eduardo Nunez doubles (leaving his helmet at 1st base, as usual) and Cruz singles to score Nunez (2-0). Gardner’s single forced Boston to turn to its bullpen, which Ichiro Suzuki grounds into a force out so Cruz is at 3rd, Gardner’s out at 2nd, and Ichiro is at 1st. Then back-to-back singles by Robinson Cano and Lyle Overbay score Cruz and Ichiro, respectively. And the Yankees are up 4-0 by the 7th inning stretch.

When the Red Sox cut their lead in half in the bottom of the inning, the Yankees decided to ensure their lead in the 9th inning. Cruz is hit by a pitch, and Gardner takes advantage of a fielding error to put the runners at 1st and 2nd. Cruz then steals 3rd, though he seemed almost shocked that he did so successfully. And it’s Cano again to earn an RBI via a sacrifice fly to score Cruz.

It should be noted that the Yankees offensively did extraordinarily well overall. Gardner went 3-for-5 with an RBI, Cano earned 2 RBIs (both Cruz), Overbay and Nunez both went 3-for-4 each with an RBI, and Cruz went 1-for-3 with an RBI. It should be noted that Cruz scored 3 of the Yankees 5 total runs today. And if anyone has job security in mind in his play today, it would be him.

Before the game, the Yankees recalled Thomas Neal and Melky Mesa up from AAA Scranton, placed Zolio Almonte on the 15-day DL (with his sprained ankle from yesterday’s game), and designated Alberto Gonzalez for assignment. The next lowest man on the totem pole (so to speak) would be Cruz, who up until today hasn’t been as productive on the field as the Yankees would like. I’m guessing his display today could buy his a few more games with the Yankees.

And while the talking heads seemed surprised at how well the 4th place Yankees were playing against the 1st place Red Sox, I don’t think anyone who’s ever watched a Yankees-Red Sox game before is ever surprised by anything that goes on at the games of the greatest rivals in baseball history. It doesn’t seem to matter the location or the standings, but this rivalry never ceases to surprise and stir up emotions of its fans. Fortunately, today did not disappoint. And today, the Yankees had the game from the first pitch by Kuroda to the last pitch by Rivera. Sometimes, you just know how the game’s going to end up. But with these teams, you just never know. That’s part of what’s fun about being part of this historic rivalry. It keeps you on the edge of your seat, anxiously awaiting the next Stewart double play or Nunez helmet-losing sprint or Ichiro steal or Rivera save. You just never know…

Go Yankees!

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 93: MIN vs. NYY — Kuroda’s shutout despite the rain

Any sport that involved outdoor play will always be subject to inclement weather, but today was a little ridiculous. It was overcast and threatening for most of the evening leading up to the game, but pretty much started drizzling once the first pitch was thrown. By the 3rd inning, it was legitimately raining, to which the umpires waited another inning before the downpour seemed too much to handle and called for a rain delay. This turned into more than an hour break, during which it wasn’t raining that much at all. And once they uncovered the infield, put down the drying agent, prepped the field, and got everyone properly warmed up again, the heavens opened up once again and never stopped. Despite the puddles turning into lakes all over the field, they continued to play and somehow the Yankees squeaked out the win.

Despite the break in the 4th inning, starter Hiroki Kuroda threw his 90 pitches over 5 total innings before Girardi tapped the bullpen with Claiborne, Logan, Robertson and Mariano Rivera (earning his 30th save of the season) who together kept the Twins at successive zeros across the scoreboard. This gave Kuroda a nice shutout win to take home and dry off.

It was the 5th inning that the Yankees earned just enough runs to make the win tonight. (Well, it was the 5th inning that was the most interesting by far, aside from the torrents of rain that kept the majority of the crowd hidden under every concourse.) Cruz singled, advanced on a sacrifice bunt, and scored the first run on Brett Gardner’s single, who ended up at 2nd on the overthrow. A pitching change from the Twins advanced Gardner to 3rd on a ground out. Gardner then proceeded to score the 2nd (and final) run on Robinson Cano’s single. Cano ended up getting picked off for the final out of the inning.

Now, defensively, the better team was definitely Minnesota tonight. I guess that’s what kept the Yankees to just 2 runs scored. Honestly, I have to give credit where credit is due and the Twins were certainly showing off some very nice defensive plays.

Also, the update on Derek Jeter is that he has a grade 1 quad strain. Basically, for anyone who’s ever had an oddly sore ache on their quad, usually from overuse or an awkward pull, that’s what it is. It just needs some rest, but it shouldn’t prevent further basic rehab. In fact, he was still listed on the roster as part of the bench, meaning he could always jump in to pinch hit if they needed him. But management has said that he will sit out through the weekend series with the Twins and rest up/rehab during the break and hopefully rejoin the team in Boston next weekend in full-force. They’re not as worried, but they’re still being cautious, which is good because we don’t need any more major set-backs from trying too hard or something worse.

The Yankees, WWE’s The Big Show,
Kirk & Laura Smalley, and Stand for the Silent
work together to stop bullying
via Yankees

And my favorite week in the Yankee season has now come to a close. And like every HOPE Week, they continue to outdo themselves. Today, they invited kids from local schools to hear a presentation by Kirk and Laura Smalley and an anti-bullying student organization called Stand for the Silent. The Smalleys lost their 11-year-old son when he took his life after being a continued victim of bullying, and a local high school organized this group to speak out against bullying to further prevent bullying-related suicides. With the stage set with pictures of victims, surrounded by players (Andy Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, and Travis Hafner), pitching coach Larry Rothschild, GM Brian Cashman, Jennifer Steinbrenner-Swindal, and WWE’s The Big Show (a long-term outspoken advocate against bullying), Kirk spoke to the group about his son and others who have been bullying victims and what everyone, from the littlest kids to the most important grown-up, can do to help stop bullying in their world. The Yankees donated $10,000 to their organization, and Delta, who also helps with various aspects of HOPE Week, also gave a matching donation. Some of the students who founded and run Stand for the Silent were invited to throw out the first pitch at tonight’s game, as the Smalleys had another speaking engagement.

I don’t think there’s anyone who isn’t affected by bullying in some way. And I know it is easier to do nothing and pretend nothing is happening, but ignoring the problem doesn’t change reality. And sometimes, like SFTS says, all anyone needs to know is that are somebody and they are loved. And because you are somebody, you can be a voice. You can make a difference. And perhaps, you can save a life.

Also, all the honorees from the last 5 years of HOPE Week were invited to a reunion prior to tonight’s game, which allowed them to meet each other, get updated on progress, and connect and encourage each other to keep on their giving and generous track. Another successful HOPE Week indeed. And I hope it inspired you as much as it did me.

Go Yankees!

Game 91: KC vs. NYY — SuperNova, SuperCano, SuperOverbay

Can we call tonight’s game the “Men of Steel Game”? Seriously, the team certainly hit its stride early and often tonight against the Kansas City Royals. And having watched the recent Superman reboot (and loving it, by the way), when I talk about SuperNova, I can only reference the others in tonight’s game as super and thus the creation of the Kryptonian reference. But enough geek-speak…

Starter Ivan Nova certainly spun his web of mystery (another franchise, I know, but superhero-like nonetheless) tight enough to keep the Royals from much of anything. In fact, he threw just 105 pitches over 8 full innings, allowing only 5 hits, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts, and a single run (an RBI double in the 8th inning). Even when he got into trouble a couple of times, loading the bases, Nova was able to pitch himself out of a jam and with the help of the defense once again. Just really stellar all around and a well-earned win tonight. Chamberlain pitched the 9th and closed out the game in 19 pitches.

But it was the offensive side that earned a huge amount of praise and got Nova that solid win. In the 1st inning, a really wild pitch allowed Brett Gardner to score easily, and as Ichiro Suzuki attempted to tack on a run of his own in the same play, he was tagged out. But the Yankees were up and running. Then with 2 men on and 2 outs in the 3rd, Robinson Cano steps into the batter’s box and smacks the ball out near Monument Park in center field for a nice 3-run homer. The Yankees were now sitting pretty at 4-0, a good lead for Nova to continue his outing. But with the bases loaded and no outs in the 6th inning, it was Lyle Overbay to give Nova just the cushion he needed for the win with a solid hit deep to left field, (and if you’ve just done the math) for his 4th grand slam of his career. There’s only one thing in baseball that’s better than 3-run homer, and that’s a 4-run homer. So yes, 8-1 was the final score, as the Yankees take this one with flare.

Quick injury update: both Travis Hafner and Brett Gardner left tonight’s game early for the trainer’s room. Hafner has a left foot bruise after fouling off a ball on his foot in the batting cages between innings, and Gardner sustains a bruised right leg from being hit by a pitch. Nothing serious with either one, but a deep bruise will be sore and stiff for a few days. Gardner had some odd at-bats tonight, earning 2 walks and 2 hits by pitch, which means he doesn’t register any at-bats for tonight, even though he scored 2 runs. Other news stirs regarding other players on the DL, but like I’ve said before, when it’s fact, I’ll talk about it. I don’t deal with assumptions or presumptions on here. (I save that for spirited debates with friends.)

Also, today, HOPE Week continued at a small non-profit animal shelter in the Bronx, run by Pedro Rosario called the New Beginning Animal Rescue. Normally, it relies on many local volunteers and whatever donations to survive, so today’s visit from Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki, and Shawn Kelley (also with several from the front office and owner Jenny Steinbrenner-Swindal) was definitely seen as a blessing and a gift. The Yankees, bearing pet food and their time to play with the animals and help out around the shelter, also brought their monetary donation to the shelter and opened up an adoption center in the stadium for the animals during tonight’s game. That’s right, some lucky families walked home with new friends and family additions from tonight’s great game. What a way to remember! (The article is here, and don’t forget to like and check out the Yankees Facebook page for pictures of this week’s HOPE Week activities.)

There are many great shelter in your area that could use a donation as well, often food, toys, time, or even money is always appreciated. And when the time is right to open your heart to a new friend, adopt a shelter pet. As a life-long pet owner, I support such organizations that help rescue and rehabilitate animals to become some of the best friends you’ll ever have.

Also, today was my mom’s birthday, and our family certainly had fun celebrating with her. So I want to give another brief shout-out to her. She is my most consistent reader and the one who’s always encouraged me to do something like this. I converted her to be a Yankees fan, and now, I think she knows more about the team than I do, which certainly makes fact-checking, debates, and conversations all the more interesting. A very happy birthday to her! Next year in the Bronx, right?

Go Yankees! (Thanks for the win for my mom tonight!) #HighSocksForVotes

Game 90: KC vs. NYY — A complete CC loss

I’d love to say it was a pitching battle today, but the Yankees just weren’t hitting the ball consistently. Seriously, the Royals pitcher was nowhere near what should have been a near-flawless game for him or the team, but a few minor weaknesses in CC Sabathia’s game were just enough to push the Royals up over the Yankees and take today’s game.

Sabathia actually threw all 9 innings, something I’m sure the bullpen is feeling better for the day off, especially in light of the packed schedule up to the All-Star Break. Honestly, with some minor misplaced pitches, Sabathia actually threw a decent game, all 113 pitches over 9 innings, some innings near-flawless, allowing 7 hits, 2 walks, and striking out 6 batters. The 3 runs the Royals conjured up were due to 2 solo home runs in the 6th and 7th innings and back-to-back doubles for an RBI in the 8th inning.

The Yankees only offensive score came in the very 1st inning. Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki each singled; then Robinson Cano singled home Gardner to score the only Yankee run of the game. Much of the Yankees’ lack of offense was due to some really fantastic plays by the Royals’ outfielder Cain, who has the kind of speed and fielding range as Gardner or Granderson. Some of these plays, sliding catches, back-handed grabs, and just phenomenal speed will probably on some sports analysts’ replays this week. I know Cain isn’t an everyday guy for the Royals, and I really don’t understand why. He’s really one of the better guys on the team, especially in light of some of the more “publicized” names in Kansas City. But that’s for another blog to muse over…

In more interesting news, today was Day 2 of HOPE Week. And today, the Yankees surprised a young girl named Autumn Blinn as she visited the Ronald McDonald House in New York. The 10-year-old began sewing pillows and giving them to people who were undergoing dialysis, chemotherapy, and the like to help ease some of their pain. So in her honor, the Yankees sewed and gifted pillows with Autumn at today’s visit. (The article is here and you can find pictures on the Yankees Facebook page.) Robinson Cano, Eduardo Nunez, Vernon Wells, Jayson Nix, David Robertson, and manager Joe Girardi all came out bearing buckets of pillows and spent time playing with the children in the House. The Ronald McDonald House is a wonderful place for critically ill children and their families can receive treatment for their illnesses in a safe, comfortable, family friendly environment. (Putting your change in those red boxes in every McDonald’s is what you can do on every visit.) The local RMH is the recipient of today’s donation in Autumn’s honor.

Then, Autumn was invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch of the game. It’s kids like her that inspire people and prove that you don’t have to be a celebrity (or even a grown-up) to make a difference. And that’s what HOPE Week is all about — recognizing those who change their world for the better.

Don’t forget #HighSocksForVotes, voting for David Robertson online for the All-Star Game. You can also vote via text — text A3 to 89269.

Go Yankees!

Game 86: BAL vs. NYY — Wells-done rally & SuperNova

Starter Ivan Nova threw all 9 innings and really proved how outstanding a pitcher he really is. He’s had to fight for his job as a starter since before the season began, even through a stint in the minors, and tonight he showed that he is worth the starter’s position (and not just as a fill-in for Kuroda, who has been cleared to resume throwing activity again). Tonight, back in the Bronx and against the Baltimore Orioles, Nova threw just 102 pitches over those 9 innings, allowing just 3 hits and a walk and striking out a remarkable 11 batters (those are like CC numbers). And the only runs he allowed was a 2-run home run in the 2nd, but nothing else. That’s right, with a single exception, none of the Orioles could figure out Nova’s “supernova-ness”. Tonight was SuperNova.

And honestly, the Yankees played well both offensively and defensively. It was the team in action from the first pitch all the way through the final hit. In the top of the 4th, the Orioles hit what should have been a single but ended up as a 3-4-1 out thanks to great base coverage by Cano and Nova. And Nova’s quick reaction in the 8th inning jumped up to get a really nice out to end the inning.

Now, offensively in the 4th, Wells singled and Overbay walked, which allowed Luis Cruz to single deep into left field and score Wells for the Yankees first run of the evening. They went into the bottom of the 9th inning  down 2-1 to the Orioles, with Nova watching and praying that the offense could turn his outing from the loss it was becoming into a win by some miracle. And then it was a miracle (probably due in part to the 40,000-ish Yankees fans in the stadium).

Wells walk-off
Vernon Wells, a walk-off hero

The fifth pitcher for the Orioles took the mound and allowed David Adams a nice single. Then Brett Gardner bunts a really soft, sloppy bunt but beats out the throw because the Orioles pitcher can’t seem to hang onto the ball and chase it around the infield grass before making the very late throw to 1st base. Ichiro Suzuki bunts, but this time it’s the Baltimore catcher that is sharp and throws him out at 1st, while Adams and Gardner advance to 3rd and 2nd, respectively. They then intentionally walk Robinson Cano to load the bases. Four pitches later, they walk Travis Hafner, which walks in Adams to tie up the game (and blow whatever save the Orioles thought they had). Oh, and the bases are still loaded with one out. 40,000-ish Yankee fans are on their feet; victory is within reach.

And then it’s Vernon Wells up to bat. On a 2-2 pitch, Wells hits a solid single in the gap between short and 3rd, Gardner scores, and the entire dugout empties to rejoice. 3-2 Yankees final score in a walk-off single. (Another look at the single and celebration here.)

Victory in the Bronx, and that makes 5 games in a row. July is off to a great start.

And in other good news, Derek Jeter was cleared for his rehab assignment, which he will start on Saturday with AAA Scranton. He is currently scheduled for 5 innings at shortstop and have 20 days to complete his rehab assignment. The Yankees have made it clear that Jeter, like many of those on the current DL will need the full 20 days to prove they are fully ready for a daily assignment with the big guys. That 20 days puts him ready for a return at the earliest at the end of this month. This also has Jeter playing with guys he played with in Spring Training, those on the extended roster (some who have already seen Major League playing time), and some outstanding players in the minor league — including Addison Maruszak, Dan Johnson, Melky Mesa, Thomas Neal, Ronnier Mustelier, Corban Joseph, and Walter Ibarra. This kind of rehab certainly gets Jeter ready for the bigs on a higher level of impact and challenge because of the players on the roster. And though the RailRiders aren’t doing so well this season (right now, they are below .500 for their season), they could certainly benefit from a veteran presence, especially one who is known to bond teammates together to improve their teamwork and morale, even in a losing streak or slump.

And one of my favorite times in the Yankee season is coming up next week — HOPE Week. And I’m looking forward to writing about the players’ community outreach and the organizations they will be supporting and partnering with this coming week all around the city. I love the heart of a team that supports in both finances and man-power other people who dedicate their lives to helping people. It’s yet another reason I am proud to be a Yankee fan, and probably my personal favorite reason.

Go Yankees!