Game 76: HOU vs. NYY — Yankee power, even in singles

The Yankees’ march into the summer and towards the All-Star Break with dominance, hitting the harder part of their schedule in the perfect spot, and (now, I’m just guessing here) this could make all the difference come time for October baseball in just a few short months.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start for this third game of the weekend series against the visiting Astros. It really wasn’t his best outing, but he kept the Astros scoreless for most of his outing. He threw 88 pitches in 6 innings, gave up 8 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and struck out just 1 batter. It wasn’t until his last inning that the Astros got on board with a lead-off single that scored as part of a 1-out 2-run home run.

That actually tied up the game as the Yankees were the first to get on the board. They too were scoreless for the first half of the game. In the 5th, Hicks worked a 1-out walk and scored on Gio Urshela’s 2-out 2-run home run. After the Astros tied up the game, the Yankees came back in the bottom of the inning to reclaim those runs, loading up the bases with walks to LeMahieu and Judge and a single to Voit. Giancarlo Stanton’s single scored both LeMahieu and Judge.

Once again, this didn’t last long. Jonathan Holder had some trouble in his 7th inning. With 2 outs, he gave up consecutive singles that boosted the Astros’ score up and over the Yankees when the next batter hit a big 3-run home run. That slim lead was erased in the bottom of the 7th when Austin Romine smacked a 1-out solo home run on the first pitch of his at-bat.

The game was tied again. LeMahieu singled and took 2nd on a wild pitch before Judge got 1st on catcher’s interference. (Is that still a thing?) Both runners moved up on a ground out and then scored again on Stanton’s single.

Ottavino and Britton closed out the game with a scoreless inning a piece, though both got themselves into and out of self-inflicted jams.

Final score: 7-5 Yankees

Injury update: After an MRI, Cameron Maybin has been diagnosed with a grade 2 calf strain in his left leg. So, yes, he’s headed for a stint on the IL. For how long and who will replace him is still to be determined. But with a packed outfield already, the replacement will probably favor expanding the bullpen.

Yankees Trivia: With Gio Urshela’s 5th inning home run, the Yankees officially tied the Yankees franchise record set in June 1941 of 25 consecutive games with a home run. They’re also closing in on the MLB record of 27 set by the Rangers in August 2002. I know I’m not the only one who is hoping for both a new franchise and MLB record. This team deserves the honor and the legacy.

Go Yankees!

Game 75: HOU vs. NYY — HOPE Week sweep

The Yankees continue their dominance in HOPE Week, and with tonight’s win, the Yankees overall HOPE Week record since 2009 is 38 wins to 13 losses. It’s almost as if generosity is good for the soul and for the morale.

James Paxton got the start in tonight’s second game of this 4-game series against the visiting Astros. Paxton threw a strong game, with 100 pitches in 5 innings, giving up 5 hits, 3 walks, and 1 run, and striking out 7 batters. In the 4th, with 2 outs, consecutive doubles scored the Astros’ lone run of the game.

Ottavino, Kahnle, Britton, and Chapman closed out the final 4 innings of the game, keeping the Astros at bay from adding to their score and handing Chapman yet another save (his 21st).

The Yankees started the scoring in the 3rd. With 1 out, Maybin singled and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s monster 2-out 2-run home run. And then in the 7th, with 1 out, Gardner doubled, and Gleyber Torres edged a 2-run home run just over the right field fence for a 2-run home run to double the home team’s score.

Final score: 4-1 Yankees

Injury updates/roster moves: Aaron Hicks began today on day-to-day with some shoulder pain, but he was called in when Cameron Maybin had to come out of the game. Maybin felt a “pop” in his calf as he ran the bases during Sanchez’s 3rd inning homer, and as he struggled to even go down the dugout stairs, an MRI would be the next step to determine the severity of his strain.

And before the game, the Yankees activated Aaron Judge from the 10-day injured list and optioned reliever Nestor Cortes Jr. back to AAA Scranton. The move with Maybin going on the IL and his replacement is forthcoming.

All-Star Game Primary Results: Tonight, MLB announced the results of the voting for the All-Star Game starters. The top 3 from each position (and top 9 in the outfield) are considered finalists, and all the vote counts reset to 0 for the final starter vote. The Yankees are well-represented in the finals with the entire infield being finalists.

Gary Sanchez (catcher) and Luke Voit (1st base) topped their categories, Sanchez coming in as the most voted for Yankee with over 2 million votes. Gio Urshela (3rd base) came in 2nd, Gleyber Torres (shortstop) and DJ LeMahieu (2nd base) were 3rd, and Aaron Judge (outfield) was 7th in their respective categories.

Final voting starts Wednesday at noon and will open just 28 hours for fans to select their favorite of the finalists, closing at 4 pm on Thursday. Selected starters will be announced Thursday night at 7 pm and the rest of the roster revealed Sunday at 5:30 pm. (All times are Eastern.)

HOPE Week Day 5: For the final day of HOPE Week, the Yankees honored two amazing people. First, Sandra Alfonzo, the founder of AdaptAbility, a non-profit that builds custom-made bicycles for kids with disabilities. Alfonzo owns a bike repair shop, Behind Bars in Brooklyn, and in 2015, she noticed kids in the park unable to enjoy the freedom of riding a bike because they were limited by their disabilities. So she used her skills to found AdaptAbility to give all kids the opportunity to ride a bike. And how Sandra met Kiko, the other half of today’s honoree, is a great chain of events that is pure kismet.

Last summer, Kiko Mina attended a special bike camp as part of the iCan Shine program, an organization that provides recreational activities for kids with limited abilities. A special guest of the program met Kiko and later invited him and his parents to a special event he was participating, Tour De Farm. There, the Minas met the Epsteins who volunteer with InTandem, a nonprofit that bikes on special tandem bikes (bicycles built for two people) with children of limited mobility. After Kiko learned how to ride tandem, the Epsteins let the Minas know about AdaptAbility, and they applied for a special bicycle for Kiko.

It takes an average of 2-3 months and $4000-5000 to build a single bicycle at Adaptability, so on Friday, Kiko’s new bike was ready to go. But it wasn’t just the new bike, he also made some new friends. Aaron Boone, Aaron Hicks, DJ LeMahieu, Cameron Maybin, and Adam Ottavino showed up to surprise both Kiko and Sandra. Maybin even took Kiko out on his new tandem bicycle around the area and through the park.

Before tonight’s game, Kiko was the one to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. The fourteen year old got to show off his baseball skills as a former player with the Little League Challenger Division, an adaptive baseball for special needs children. The Yankees also donated $10,000 to help AdaptAbility continue their generosity.

A HOPE Week Final Thought: I say it every year, and it’s no less true this year, but HOPE Week is my favorite week of the year. As a baseball blogger, one might assume that my favorite week should be the World Series or even the All-Star Game. But baseball is more than just the game on the field. Professional athletes, as public figures and representatives of both MLB and their teams, have a responsibility to be not just good players but also good people.

I believe that a truly great player must have three things — ability, teamwork, and character. Ability (often boosted by natural talent) is the stuff we see on the field, teamwork is what the organization sees in the clubhouse, and character is what we see when nobody is watching. Of the three, it’s character that matters most. Your abilities will come and go, and relationships change with time and simple organizational trades. But character — that’s what will carry you through life, that makes someone more than just a good ball player. It makes you a great person.

Go Yankees!

Game 74: HOU vs. NYY — Rain-soaked and still triumphant

Dark skies threatened and dropped moments of rain on the Bronx most of yesterday. But things looked promising for the game, which actually started on time. The Yankees began their 4-game weekend series against the Astros tonight, and despite a rather messy and soggy 4th inning, they still pulled it out in the end.

The Yankees have had a lot of success with the new pitching model of the “opener”, especially on the back of Chad Green. Green did it again, with a strong 2 scoreless innings before handing the ball over to reliever Nestor Cortes Jr for 3 innings. His problem came after the game back from a rain delay.

But first, the Yankees took advantage of the thundering skies and jumped on a bit of weakness by the Astros’ pitching staff tonight in what turned into a very decisive 4th inning. Gary Sanchez led-off the inning with a solo home run. Stanton then doubled, and in the middle of Encarnacion’s at-bat, it started pouring.

The umpires briefly checked in with the grounds crew for a weather report as fans were scattering for the concourse and nearest overhang. Encarnacion ended up working a walk. As the rain continued to pelt down on the field, Gleyber Torres hit a big 3-run home run into the visitor’s bullpen.

Then after the inning’s first out, in the middle of Maybin’s at-bat, the umpires checked in again with the grounds crew, who came out to clean up the mound a bit from the muddy mess it was. After Maybin worked a walk, the Astros called in a new pitcher, and the grounds crew took the break to add more drying agent to the mound and at the plate.

The rain kind of lightened up as Maybin stole 2nd. After another out, DJ LeMahieu pelted a 2-run home run into Monument Park to keep the Yankees’ offense going. Voit then singled, and in the middle of Sanchez’s at-bat, the home plate umpire suddenly called the game as the rain just dumped on the Bronx. The tarp came on, and the game went into a 37 minute delay.

When the game resumed, Sanchez ended up grounding out to end the inning. So Cortes came out again for the 5th inning, after the long 4th inning and the rain delay. That might have been part of the problem because after 2 outs, he gave up 2 solo home runs to get the Astros on the board.

But the Yankees came back in the bottom of that inning to reclaim those runs. With 1 out, Encarnacion walked, Torres singled, and a wild pitch moved both into scoring position. After another out, Cameron Maybin hit a strong double to score both Encarnacion and Torres. Stanton led-off the 7th with a single and then scored as part of Edwin Encarnacion’s 2-run home run to cap off the Yankee’s big offense tonight.

Tommy Kahnle came out for the 6th inning and gave up a 1-out solo home run. Then the game was handed over to David Hale, who held the Astros off for the 7th, but he got into trouble in the final 2 innings that the Astros tried to rally to overcome the Yankees’ big lead. In the 8th, a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a 2-out single.

Hale gave up a 1-out solo home run to lead-off the 9th inning. He then gave up a walk. After an out, the next batter hit into a fielder’s choice, the Yankees unable to get a double play to end the inning. A double then scored the lead runner. After a single put runners in the corners, the Yankees called in Aroldis Chapman to close out the game. Seven pitches later, the game was over, and Chapman notched his 20th save of the season.

Final score: 10-6 Yankees

It’s worth noting that the Yankees have hit home runs in 23 straight games, making them tied for the 8th most in MLB baseball history. The Yankees’ record is 25 games way back in June 1941, during Joe DiMaggio’s famous hitting streak.

HOPE Week Day 4: Today, the Yankees honored a great nonprofit organization that provides furniture to local families in need. Kate Bialo started Furniture Sharehouse in 2007 to serve the Westchester community (a suburb of New York, just north of the City), and to date have helped more than 4000 families. The families are referred to the charity by social service agencies include survivors of house fires and natural disasters, working families bordering the poverty line, families escaping domestic violence, families transitioning from homeless shelters to permanent housing, and young adults aging out of foster care.

The Yankees showed up to the donation warehouse housed at Westchester County Airport to volunteer as “personal shoppers” for two surprised local families, the Collazos and Gullivers. Zack Britton, JA Happ, Jonathon Holder, Austin Romine, Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela, Luke Voit, and bullpen coach Mike Harkey drove 2 trucks full of furniture as part of their donation to the charity and hosted a pizza party lunch for the families after helping them select new furniture for their homes.

The families and Furniture Sharehouse founder Kate Bialo were the Yankees’ guests at the game tonight, and Bialo threw out the ceremonial first pitch and accepted an additional donation of $10,000 to their operating costs (overhead, delivery, repairs, etc.) on behalf of the Yankees. The estimate is that they spend about $350 to help each family, so imagine how many more families they can help with the Yankees monetary and furniture donations. Somewhere, a family is will sleep in real beds and eat dinner around a real table tonight because of their generosity.

Go Yankees!

Game 72: TB vs. NYY — Yankees surge through the mist

There was so much hope for this series as both the Rays and Yankees were battling it out for the top position of the AL East. With the Yankees disappointing road trip, the Rays were hoping to jump ahead of the Yankees. But they didn’t count on a really simple fact — the 2019 Yankees are something else and love proving it at the most random moments in the season. And it’s only June.

Not to discount the Rays’ attempt, as they certainly gave the Yankees enough of a challenge to threaten and keep things close for a bit. JA Happ got the start for the Yankees tonight in the middle game of this series against the visiting Rays. He threw 87 pitches in 5 innings, gave up 7 hits and 2 runs, and struck out 3 Rays batters. With 1 out in the 2nd, Happ gave up 3 consecutive singles to score the Rays’ first run. And a lead-off double in the 3rd scored on a 1-out single to double their score.

Ottavino took over for Happ for a scoreless 6th inning. Tommy Kahnle’s 7th got off to a problematic start, with a lead-off walk scoring on a double before he found a quick 3 outs to close out the inning. Britton and Chapman followed that up with 2 scoreless, rather quick innings.

On the flip side of the field, the Yankees got on the board first in the 1st. LeMahieu led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Voit’s walk, advanced to 3rd on Hicks’ fielder’s choice, and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s sacrifice fly. After the Rays grabbed a slim lead, the Yankees waited out the Rays’ 2 short-term openers for their next opportunity.

In the 5th, with 1 out and a new pitcher, Torres and Maybin singled. DJ LeMahieu’s single scored Torres, and Luke Voit’s single scored Maybin. After another out, Gary Sanchez’s single scored LeMahieu. With that, the Yankees were in a solid lead over the visitors.

But they kept going to ensure their lead and eventual win. Cameron Maybin kicked off the 7th with a solo home run, his 4th home run in as many games. And new Yankee Edwin Encarnacion earned his pinstripes with his first Yankee home run, a 1-out solo home run in the 8th.

Final score: 6-3 Yankees

HOPE Week Day 2: Today, the Yankees decided to “strut their stuff” a bit with the help of some very special friends. Today’s HOPE Week honoree was Rachel Goldman, founder of Runway Heroes, a special program that hosts children with pediatric cancer for a special day of dress up and modeling some fancy clothes on the runway. They sell tickets to the shows, and all the proceeds go to pediatric cancer research.

Runway Heroes paired with Kleinfeld Bridal and the Yankees to treat 30 local children to a VIP day at the famous store. The kids each received personalized dressing robes, picked out their own outfits (courtesy of Kleinfeld), were styled by a professional glam squad and photographed by professional photographers, and then rocked the runway with some decked out Yankees.

Aroldis Chapman, Domingo German, Didi Gregorius, Kendrys Morales, Luis Severino, and Masahiro Tanaka donned some great looking suits to take turns to escort these amazing children down the runway to pose before more photographers and their families. Yankee GM Brian Cashman also participated and broke out a few dance moves, bringing smiles to many faces on the runway and in the audience.

The children and their families were the Yankees’ special guests at tonight’s game. Runway Heroes founder Rachel Goldman and a few of her special models of the day helped throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game.

Go Yankees!

Game 71: TB vs. NYY — Completely #TanakaTime

The Yankees began their final home stand before the All-Star Break tonight (vote!), hosting the Rays for the first 3 games. Plus, they also kicked off the celebration of the much-anticipated annual community giving event known as HOPE Week (more after game recap).

Masahiro Tanaka got the start for tonight’s game and just commanded the entire game against the Rays. He threw a complete and scoreless game of 111 pitches, only giving up 2 hits and a walk, and struck out 10 Rays’ batters.

On a fun side note: I didn’t even realize it was the 9th inning when the game was suddenly over, and Tanaka was the one who threw the final out. It was only then that I was in awe of him throwing the complete game. I honestly thought there was still more baseball to play.

To be fair, the Rays’ pitchers were able to keep the Yankees from doing much on their end. But it was certainly enough to back Tanaka’s start. In the 3rd, with 1 out, Cameron Maybin singled and ended up at 2nd on a fielding error. He then scored as part of DJ LeMahieu’s big 2-out 2-run home run. Maybin added one more with a lead-off solo home run in the 5th.

Final score: 3-0 Yankees

Roster moves: After the big trade yesterday, the Yankees needed to make some moves to make room for the power hitter, who made his debut in pinstripes tonight (though he went 0-for-4). They transferred reliever Jake Barrett to the 60-day IL, activated Edwin Encarnacion, and optioned Clint Frazier and Mike Tauchman to AAA Scranton.

Accordingly, it looks like Stanton and Judge will be back this week, and Encarnacion would help platoon Voit at 1st and at the DH. It also means the outfield is better refined now, eventually relying on the Stanton, Hicks, Judge, and Gardner combination there. Expect further moves to just escalate leading up to the July 31 trade deadline, especially in the hunt for another starter.

HOPE Week Day 1: A decade ago, the Yankees announced a new initiative to reach out to their community and honor local heroes doing all sorts of good. Called Helping Other Persevere and Excel, or HOPE Week, at the end of this week of celebrations, the Yankees will have helped 53 unique honorees from 7 different countries.

Today, they invited all the past HOPE Week honorees for a 10 year anniversary celebration at Yankee Stadium. Over 200 honorees and their families showed up to meet with Yankee players, staff, and alumni. And then they watched a great game to kick off this week’s festivities.

As part of the pre-game ceremonies, 2011 honoree Daniel’s Music Foundation performed the national anthem, and 2015 honoree Chris Singleton threw out the first pitch. Daniel’s Music Foundation was founded by the family of Daniel Trush, who used music therapy to help recover from a near-fatal brain aneurysm. The foundation still provides free music lessons for people with disabilities in New York and now has a state-of-the-art accessible music center in Harlem.

Four years ago today, Chris Singleton lost his mother Sharonda. Sharonda was one of 9 Bible study members who were shot and killed during the hate crime shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. At the time, Singleton was playing baseball at Charleston Southern University, and the Yankees chose to recognize and reach out to him for his community outreach in the midst of such personal loss. He was later drafted by the Cubs in 2017 but released earlier this year and officially retired as a ball player.

Singleton, now married with a young son, continues his work as an inspirational speaker and owns the clothing brand, Love Your Neighbor. His life motto continues to be “love is stronger than hate”. He was also recently hired by the Yankees to serve as the director of community outreach for their local minor league affiliate, the Charleston RiverDogs.

Go Yankees!

Game 70: NYY vs. CHW — Gardy’s Father’s Day Party

In today’s finale in Chicago, the fans packed this special day for so many baseball fans. Players donned special light blue caps for the game as part of an MLB initiative to raise awareness and funds for prostate cancer research. And the sentiment everywhere had people talking about the special men in their lives — fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers, husbands, uncles, and many others who fill that “fatherly” role in our lives. And a day at the ball park certainly is a way to celebrate those father figures in our lives, especially when they too love America’s pastime.

James Paxton got the start this afternoon and had a rather commanding outing. He threw 108 pitches in 6 innings, gave up 8 hits, a walk, and just 2 runs, and struck out 7 batters. He gave up a 2-out solo home run in the 1st to get the White Sox on the board first. But then Paxton kept things under control for most of his outing. In the 5th, a 1-out single moved to 2nd on a 2-out single and then scored on another single to double their score.

Ottavino breezed his way through a scoreless 7th inning. David Hale’s strong 8th inning was briefly interrupted by a 1-out solo home run to add just one more run for the home team. Britton then got the ball for a really quick scoreless 9th to close out the game.

Meanwhile, the Yankees came on strong and just didn’t let up, mostly thanks to Yankees’ resident “dad” Brett Gardner. In the 3rd, with 1 out, the Yankees loaded the bases with a single to LeMahieu and walks to Voit and Torres. After another out, Brett Gardner singled home both LeMahieu and Voit. Gio Urshela then singled and scored Torres. After Tauchman’s walk loaded the bases again, Austin Romine singled and scored both Gardner and Urshela to really solidify the Yankees’ lead.

Gardner was hit by a pitch to lead-off the 5th and ended up at 3rd on Urshela’s double. Austin Romine’s 1-out double scored both Gardner and Urshela. In the 6th, with 1 out, Torres worked a walk, moved to 3rd on Frazier’s single, and then scored on Gardner’s fielder’s choice grounder.

Cameron Maybin got in on the fun with a 2-out solo home run in the 7th. In the 8th, Torres again walked, moved to 2nd on a grounder, and then scored on Gardner’s 2-out single to cap off the Yankees’ big night.

Final score: 10-3 Yankees, they split the series 2-2

Next up: The Yankees head home for their final home stand before the All-Star Break and kick off their annual HOPE Week. They will face the Rays first, then host the Astros for a 4-game weekend series, and close out the home stand with 3 games against the Blue Jays. Two travel days later (read: jetlag), the Yankees will face the Red Sox in London in the first ever regular season games in the UK.

And a happy Father’s Day to all those celebrating, honoring, or remembering the father figures in their lives today. The Yankees also paid tribute to their fathers or talked about becoming fathers in a series of videos. (Happ & Paxton; Judge & Stanton; Severino & Kahnle; Gardner & Gregorius; Torres & VoitGreen & Frazier; Romine & Sabathia) Enjoy!

Go Yankees!

Game 69: NYY vs. CHW — A little rain couldn’t dampen the Yankee bats

Now, this was the kind of game the Yankees were looking for all weekend. And yet, there were some moments where that felt threatened. Blame the weather again, maybe. The rain delayed the game 32 minutes at the start and occasionally revisited the Chicago Southside during the third game of this long weekend series.

Chad Green was tapped as the opener in tonight’s game against the White Sox, throwing 33 pitches in his 2 scoreless innings. But all 6 of his outs were great strikeouts. Green set the pace for the Yankees, and all the rest of them had to do was follow his lead. Nestor Cortes Jr came on for long-term relief and follow Green’s suit, throwing strong and scoreless through the 7th inning, including 7 strikeouts.

But he came back out in the 8th, gave up consecutive singles, and handed the ball to Jonathan Holder. After 2 quick outs, Holder gave up a single that scored the lead runner to put the White Sox on the board. The next batter smacked a big 3-run home run up the middle. Chapman was able to close out the game with a clean 9th inning.

That could be bad news for the visitors, but the Yankee bats were also following Green’s lead tonight. They started in the 4th. Voit and Hicks each singled and then both scored on Gary Sanchez’s double. Gleyber Torres then hit a 1-out 2-run home run to double the score and leap the Yankees ahead first.

In the 6th, with 1 out, Sanchez worked a walk, moved to 3rd on Gregorius’ single, and scored on Torres’ sacrifice fly. Cameron Maybin led-off the 7th with a 1st pitch solo home run. Brett Gardner then worked a walk, LeMahieu doubled, and Hicks walked to load up the bases. Gardner scored on Sanchez’s baby grounder.

After the White Sox came back and got on the board, the Yankees tried to take a few back in the 9th. Brett Gardner led-off with a walk and ended up at 3rd on LeMahieu’s single. After an out and a pitching change, LeMahieu moved into scoring position by stealing 2nd. But after another out, the White Sox intentionally walked Sanchez to load up the bases, only to walk Didi Gregorius to walk in the run by Gardner.

Final score: 8-4 Yankees

And in Yankee Universe news: The Yankees announced today that they traded prospect pitcher Juan Then (and cash considerations) to the Mariners for power hitter Edwin Encarnacion. Encarnacion spent most of his career with the Blue Jays (9 1/2 of his 15 professional seasons), was a 3-time All-Star, and has already hit 21 home runs  this season (of his 401 career homers).

Fun trivia in this trade: The Yankees originally acquired Then as part of the trade that sent reliever Nick Rumbelow to Seattle in 2017. And the Mariners just released Rumbelow this week to allow him a form of free agency.

Looking ahead now, what this means for the already overcrowded outfield is to be determined, as Judge and Stanton are due to come back shortly. Hicks, Gardner, Frazier, Maybin, and Tauchman are already considered outfielders. This means that some roster moves and some platooning of the positions (and the DH spot) are to come. Which could actually help with the prevention of injuries in the future. And anything that helps reduce the number on the IL is a good move in my book.

Go Yankees!