Catching up & prepping for Spring

My apologies for my delinquency in posting this off-season. Like many of us bloggers, I have another job that promoted me last fall, which meant that much of my extra time normally reserved for blogging and baseball vanished into paperwork and emails.

Tomorrow officially kicks off the 2020 Yankees baseball season. And in camp are pitchers Albert Abreu, Zack Britton, Luis Cessa, Aroldis Chapman, Gerrit Cole, Deivi Garcia, Luis Gil, Chad Green, J.A. Happ, Ben Heller, Jonathan Holder, Tommy Kahnle, Michael King, Brooks Kriske, Jonathan Loaisiga, Luis Medina, Jordan Montgomery, Nick Nelson, Adam Ottavino, James Paxton, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, and Miguel Yajure; catchers Kyle Higashioka and Gary Sanchez; infielders Miguel Andujar, Thairo Estrada, Mike Ford, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela, Luke Voit, and Tyler Wade; outfielders Estevan Florial, Clint Frazier, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Mike Tauchman.

Non-roster invitees include: pitchers Domingo Acevedo, Luis Avilan, Chad Bettis, David Hale, Tyler Lyons, Dan Otero, Clarke Schmidt, Nick Tropeano, Alexander Vizcaino, and Tony Zych; catchers Kellin Deglan, Chris Iannetta, Erik Kratz, Wynston Sawyer, and Josh Thole; infielders Chris Gittens and Kyle Holder; outfielders Trey Amburgey, Zack Granite, Rosell Herrera, and Thomas Milone.

And there’s a few new rules for the 2020 season. Among them include changes to the roster, pitching, and injured list length. First, the roster expands from 25-players to 26 during the regular season, but reduces to just 28 for the September call-ups rather than 40 from previous years. Plus, only half of the roster can be composed of pitchers for both scenarios. Pitchers must face at least 3 batters, except in the case of injury, effectively eliminating the “specialist reliever” who was brought in for a single tough batter. Being on the injured list returns to 15-days from last season’s 10-day length. This does allow for longer periods of healing and won’t push teams to force shortened recovery times just to get a player back sooner, and anything that helps increase player health is a good rule in my book.

But as we prepare for another season, there’s a bit of catching up to do in other areas. While there weren’t many major deals made this off-season, the Yankees had some minor splashes. We said farewell to a few Yankee favorites like Didi Gregorius (Phillies), Dellin Betances (Mets), and Austin Romine (Tigers) and breathed a sigh of relief when they re-signed Brett Gardner for another year. But that still left room for a new starter in Gerritt Cole, who arrived at camp earlier this month and got a standing ovation by fans during an open practice.

Cole was originally signed with the Pirates in 2011, moving up through that organization and into the big leagues in 2013. The Pirates traded him to the Astros in 2018 for a handful of prospects. Cole was part of the Astros’ championship runs in 2018 and 2019 (more later) before signing with the Yankees in December as a free agent. His best year as a pitcher was last year, which made him a hot commodity on the free agent market this off-season, and the Yankees have desperately needed starters for about as long as I’ve been blogging about them.

Now with Sabathia in retirement, some strong veteran presence on the mound is necessary, and the Yankees think Cole could be the answer, adding to the roster with Happ and Tanaka, among others. Jordan Montgomery is back in camp this year, hoping to re-earn his spot on the rotation after Tommy John surgery, and it looks like Luis Severino might be dealing with some yet-to-be diagnosed arm soreness. In addition to Montgomery, this could open a spot for Cessa and Loaisiga or potential prospects King and Garcia.

Pitcher James Paxton is going to be out of commission for a few months. Earlier this month, he underwent spinal surgery to remove a small cyst. He has been battling some lower back pain for quite some time, so doctors finally made the decision that surgery was the best option for both pain relief and long-term care. He will be out 3-4 months for recovery. So, no Spring for “Big Maple”, but he might be back in time for the Summer Classic.

Last month, at the BBWAA dinner, DJ LeMahieu was awarded as New York’s Player of the Year, an honor from the writers’ association’s local chapter to the player they believe has had the most impact on baseball in the City.

CC Sabathia was named a Special Adviser to the Yankees, a position held by his former teammates like Swisher, Rodriguez, Beltran, and Pettitte. This keeps Sabathia in the New York area, where he is currently raising his family.

Former Yankee legend (and current Marlins owner) Derek Jeter was almost unanimously elected to Cooperstown, missing that coveted honor by a single vote. He will join his former teammate Mariano Rivera in the Hall of Fame during his induction ceremony this coming summer.

However, the big story this off-season hasn’t been any particular trade or signing, but rather on the scandal of the Astros’ postseason cheating to win their championships in 2017 and 2018. Basically, after some investigation by MLB, they determined that the Astros used cameras, buzzers worn under jerseys, and banging on a trash can in the dugout (so both high and low-tech) to communicate stolen signs from opposing pitchers to their batters to win. While the only official consequences are firing their former coaches, team fine, and a stern lecture in the form of a letter from the Commissioner, the backlash from the media, the other players, and the fans has been, well, overwhelming.

It’s all most people can talk about in regards to baseball, including Yankees’ players like Judge, Torres, and Tanaka. And in all the mess, some star players were mentioned as holding key roles in the scandal, including Mets’ recent hire for their manager, former Yankee and Astro Carlos Beltran. However, people who know him best, like Yankees manager Brian Cashman, question the accusations. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe the worst of people you know and like, but sometimes, innocent people get caught up in the drama.

That’s the tough part about these kinds of things — because of how it was handled from its start to today, it’s a big mess, and that mess is going to get on people who were in the vicinity but had no part in it. But when dealing with a team issue, it’s kind of hard not to fault the entire team, much like the “Black Sox” scandal from the early days of baseball. Almost everyone on that team got dragged through that mud, and they still aren’t cleared or forgiven.

Further, those who both admitted and were accused of steroid use, even during the so-called “Steroid Era” are forever marked with an invisible asterisk by their name. Their accomplishments, once touted as greatness, are permanently marred by suspicion and tinged with the shame of “cheating”. There’s a reason many from that era have trouble getting into Cooperstown, even today.

And it’s not like other teams haven’t been doing something similar in recent years. In 2017, both the Yankees and Red Sox were accused of cheating via technology — the Yankees via their TV cameras and the review room and the Red Sox with their Apple watches. MLB investigated and warned the entire league of potential consequences for their choice to participate in such activities, as it clearly was just the tip of the iceberg as far as what they were doing. And yet, things still persisted. Call it arrogance or stupidity (or both, according to my friend) — but the Astros developed (and/or continued) a system and kept cheating even after they were warned.

Whatever happened during these last few years within the organization, people everywhere will question the players and coaches’ reputations for the rest of their careers. It will never go away. When it comes time for some of those championship Astro players to be considered for the Hall of Fame, I certainly won’t be surprised if the writers opt to exclude them. It’s hard to be considered great if there’s always going to be that asterisk by your name, whether it’s officially there or not.

Go Yankees!

NLCS & ALCS: STL vs. WAS & NYY vs. HOU — A sweep & a struggle

Predicting baseball, especially in the postseason, is like predicting life — there’s never going to be an exact science.

NLCS: High off their power through the best team in baseball (Dodgers), the Nationals just came in and dominated the favored Cardinals in this series to sweep through their way to their first World Series.

Game 1: Honestly, this was going to be a close game either way, but the Nationals eked out a win by being the only team to actually score in this game. Part of the reason this worked in the Nats’ favor was their starter, only giving up a single hit the entire game and not until a pinch-hit single in the 8th inning. 2-0 Nationals

Game 2: The Nationals continued their strong show this postseason, but the Cards certainly showed up to play today. The Cardinals certainly had the opportunity, with their starter getting 11 strikeouts to match the Nats’ starter. But the Nats’ edged over the Cards holding them to just 3 hit and a run, with the Nats managing 3 runs off 7 hits overall. 3-1 Nationals

Game 3: Now back in their home, the Nationals began a pair of games that delighted their hometown crowd. The Nats continued their strong starters, a clear sign they might have “stacked the deck”, so to speak for this postseason in particular. But this night in particular, the bats also showed up big. 8-1 Nationals

Game 4:  This game was a little more evenly matched, with the Nationals showing their weakness a bit in a missing 4th starter. However, the Cards proved their bullpen is quite the strength for them. It was a bit of a lopsided series in that respect, with the Nationals riding the backs of their starters to the World Series. 7-4 Nationals

Nationals sweep the series 4-0 and head to the World Series.

ALCS: This was going to be a battle regardless of who was going to end up on top. The top 2 teams in the AL battling for their spot in the Series, both Championship veterans with championship-worthy teams to face off against the rookie Nationals.

Game 1: Actually, this was a great game for Yankee Universe. After sweeping through the Twins, the Yankees had quite a bit of rest to gear up for the game that ended up being “Tanaka Time”, thanks to his 1-hit wonder through 6 innings. The Yankees shutout the Astros, to the dismay of the Houston crowd, with some power homers from Torres, Stanton, and Urshela.  7-0 Yankees

Game 2: This game was actually more indicative of how this series felt and ended up. Each team duking it out behind stellar pitching, the Yankees using a compilation of throwers like Paxton, Green, and eventually Sabathia out of the bullpen. The Astros’ star starter got a bit rattled with a 2-run home run by Judge in the 4th. As the game went into extra innings, this game proved it was going to be this kind of series, with the Astros hitting a walk-off homer in the 11th to give them the game. 3-2, in 11 Astros

Game 3: The series headed to the Bronx split. The Astros got to starter Severino with a pair of early home runs in the 1st and 2nd. After a wild pitch and sac fly doubled their lead, the visitors were looking to skate their way into a shutout. But the Yankees broke that with one swing from Torres, an 8th inning solo shot into right field. They just didn’t much else. 4-1 Astros

The series had a day’s rain delay due to a freak autumn storm off the coast that brought flooding and high winds to the area. And I think all of Yankee Universe was hoping the long rest would spur a bit of deja vu, with the Yankees coming out like they did in Game 1.

Game 4: But it was not to be, despite the pitching match up being the exact same starters. After a rough 1st inning, with the Yankees scoring their first run on a walk by Gardner, the Astros collected 2 big 3-run home runs in the 3rd and 6th to take charge of the game. Tanaka was hit hard and the Yankee bats just weren’t there to support him. Sanchez added a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 6th to edge the Yankees closer, but the Astros were determined to take this game. 8-3 Astros

Game 5: Part of me did not want to watch this game for fear the Astros would win the series on New York’s turf, which is really the ultimate hardship for fans in the area. And yet, I was proved wrong. Paxton commanded from the mound, out-dueling an Astros’ star for the win. A solo homer from LeMahieu to lead-off the 1st, followed by a 3-run home run by Hicks in the same inning, handed the Yankees their eventual victory thanks to great pitching and defense for the next 8 scoreless innings. 4-1 Yankees

Game 6: Once they were back in Texas, the Astros pressed in for their home field advantage. The Yankees again used an “opener”, but the usually unflappable Green gave up 3 runs that 1st inning. And yet, the Yankees came back to tie up the game, including a 4th inning solo shot by Torres and the big 2-run homer by LeMahieu to tie it all up in the 9th inning. The Yankees were looking at winning the game in extra innings right up until Chapman left a high slider up for the Astros’ batter to hit a walk-off 2-run home run. This stunned the entire Yankee team, after they battled back to tie up the game, especially Chapman, who barely moved from the mound until the batter was rounding 2nd. 6-4 Astros

Astros win in 6 to advance to the World Series.

My predictions: So, I’m not getting any better at this predicting thing this season. I knew the ALCS was going to be a struggle this season, but I can honestly say I never saw the Nationals coming. Partly because I don’t follow the NL that closely, and partly because they’ve been such a mixed bag of a team in recent seasons.

  • NLCS: Cardinals over Nationals in 6 games — Nationals in 4
  • ALCS: Yankees over Astros in 7 games — Astros in 6

Now for the World Series: (And let’s be honest, I’ve got no horse in this race any more.)

  • Nationals over Astros in 6 games

The hardest part about this postseason now is not watching the final lap of CC Sabathia. This weekend, he wrote a touching note to the fans to say “goodbye” and posted it on his social media as a final farewell to baseball. No final ride through the canyon of heroes, no extra ring for the souvenir cabinet, no last chance for a Bronx victory. No, next stop for the great pitcher will be that special weekend in Cooperstown.

Go Yankees!

Game 158: NYY vs. TB — 12 inning pitching exhibition

The Yankees traveled to Florida for a 2-game series in Tropicana Field to face the Tampa Bay Rays. While the Yankees have secured their spot in the post-season as the AL East Champs, the Rays are still working for their chance in the wild card race.

Yankee pitchers were out in force tonight as the Tampa crowd witnessed outings from 11 New York pitchers. To start the game, Jordan Montgomery took the mound for 2 innings and faced 9 batters for 3 strikeouts, giving up 3 hits, but no runs. In the 3rd, Ben Heller took the mound, also facing 3 batters, giving up a single, but no runs.

CC Sabathia replaced Heller in the 4th inning for his first regular season appearance as a reliever. Sabathia threw 13 pitches to 3 batters for 3 outs, including 2 strike outs. In the 5th inning, Tarpley took the ball and gave up a home run to right field that tied the game, followed by a single that reached base safely, but was called out trying to steal 2nd.

Another pitching change in the 6th brought Lyons to the mound to face one batter for a walk. Lyons was then replaced by Luis Cessa who allowed 2 more walks to load the bases before a ground out ended the inning with no runs. Kahnle took the mound in the 7th for quick 3 outs, followed by Britton for another 3 up 3 down. In the 9th, Ottavino replaced Britton and threw 11 pitches to 3 batters for 3 outs.

With the score still tied 1-1, Green replaced Ottavino at the helm for the 10th and 11th innings, facing 6 batters for 6 outs, 5 of which were strikeouts. In the bottom of the 12th, Green was replaced by Cory Gearrin who gave up a lead-off home run that broke the tie in favor of Tampa Bay.

Yankee batters had several chances to score tonight, but even with 7 solid hits, only 1 run scored for New York. After a scoreless first 2 innings, the 3rd inning lead-off batter Cameron Maybin sent a solo home run to center field. But then the opportunities started stalling. Like in the 4th, Judge led off with a single infield grounder, but was left stranded when the next 3 batters failed to reach base, an unfortunate pattern the Yankees would continue in nearly every inning.

Stanton earned a walk in the 6th inning, and moved to 2nd when Gio Urshela was hit by pitch and awarded 1st, but, again, all runners were left stranded. With the score tied at the end of 9 innings, the game dragged on for 3 more innings. The Yankees had a couple more opportunities to break the tie in the top of the 12th inning, but they ended up stranding the base runners. A lead-off homer by the Rays in the bottom of the 12th finally ended the game and gave the game to Tampa Bay.

Final score: 2-1 Rays

CC Sabathia’s call to the mound tonight was his first appearance as a reliever in regular season play in his long career. But it wasn’t the first time ever as a reliever. The last time Sabathia had a reliever appearance was in Game 5 of the 2011 ALDS. In tonight’s game facing the Rays, Sabathia threw his 1700th strikeout as a Yankee, for a career record of 3091.

Injury update: Gio Urshela was hit by a pitch in the 6th inning and attempted to stay in the game before being replaced to have his sore hand checked. Thankfully, x-rays on his hand were negative except for a bad bruise.

Go Yankees!

Game 157: TOR vs. NYY: Salute to Sabathia and #SevySharp for the series

Today’s series win against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, their last home stand of the regular season, shows that the Yankees continue to be quite the force to be reckoned with. Today’s win marks the fact that New York hasn’t lost any of their last 23 home series since April.

After a pre-game ceremony to honor the legacy of CC Sabathia (more below), Luis Severino took command of the mound, throwing 80 pitches to 19 batters for 9 strikeouts. Over 5 scoreless innings, Severino had a stellar outing and gave up only 3 hits. In the 6th, Tarpley replaced Severino and gave up 2 singles and a walk to load the bases, and still struck out swinging 3 batters that kept the Toronto scoreless.

Tyler Lyons took the ball for the 7th inning, giving up a lead-off double and a 2-run home run. In the 8th, Cortes replaced Lyons to give up a walk, but 3 quick outs allowed no further runs. Cortes continued to close out the 9th inning, giving up 2 hits and a run.

The Yankee bats didn’t wait long to show the power of this year’s team. In the 1st, Aaron Judge took the plate and sent a solo home run ball over the center field fence for the Yankees’ first run. Voit and Stanton each walked and then scored as part of Brett Gardner’s 3-run homer sent over the right field fence into the second deck that gave the Yankees a solid lead.

In the 2nd, Romine reached on a single infield grounder and was brought home by a 2-run home run to right center field by DJ LeMahieu sent to right center field. LeMahieu led-off the 5th with a single and moved to 2nd on Judge’s single. Toronto challenged the call at 2nd, but it was upheld on review and LeMahieu was safely on base.

A wild pitch moved the runners into scoring position. And a sacrifice fly ball to left by Giancarlo Stanton scored LeMahieu and moved Judge to 3rd. Luke Voit then hit an RBI single that allowed Judge to cross the plate. In the final innings, the Yankees were not allowed any further scoring opportunities, but they kept the solid lead through the 9th inning for New York’s 102nd win this season.

Final score: 8-3 Yankees, Yankees take the series 2-1

In a pre-game ceremony this afternoon, CC Sabathia was honored for his legacy and contribution to the Yankees. Sabathia has been in pinstripes since 2009 and is second only Brett Gardner as longest-tenured player with the team.  In front of the crowd of cheering fans, Sabathia took a lap around the warning track on a golf cart, watched two  tribute videos (one from the team and one from family).

Sabathia made a short speech thanking everyone, followed by commemorative gifts from the Yankees, including a 10-day family trip to Japan for the whole Sabathia family. One of the most significant parts of the ceremony for Sabathia was throwing out the 1st pitch to his original catcher and fan, his mom Margie.

{Note: There are quite a few videos from the day for those who missed the festivities. They are included here for your enjoyment — family and friends reading inspirational letters, players share their memories, a longer tribute from players, and career highlights.}

Go Yankees!

Game 153: LAA vs. NYY — Sabathia’s last stand, but still waiting for #100

Under a clear New York evening sky, tonight’s crowd in the Bronx had the privilege of witnessing Yankee veteran CC Sabathia pitch his final regular season start at Yankee Stadium. Sabathia tipped his hat in appreciation to the roaring crowd, who gave him a well-deserved standing ovation as the All-Star pitcher walked off the mound to be congratulated by his teammates in front of the dugout. Sabathia, who has been a Yankee longer than any current player except Brett Gardner, may well be called upon for the playoffs. So fans have reason to hope for a few more priceless chances to see “Dub” pitch before he officially retires.

Yankee starter, CC Sabathia, pitched into the 3rd inning tonight, throwing 62 pitches to 15 batters for 4 strikeouts and giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs. In the 1st inning, Sabathia gave up 2 singles, but no runs. In the 2nd, Sabathia each of his 3 batters struck out swinging. Sabathia returned in the 3rd to allow a walk and 2 singles that scored a run. Another walk and a mound visit was followed by another single that gave up a second run to the Angels, and Sabathia was done for the evening.

After a break in the action as the crowd gave Sabathia his farewell ovation, German replaced Sabathia for the 3rd out to end the inning. German got 3 quick outs in the 4th, followed by a single and a walk in the 5th, but allowed no runs. Adam Ottavino took over in the 6th, giving up a double and 2 singles to load the bases. His wild throwing error to home allowed a runner to score. Kahnle replaced Ottavino for the final 2 strikeouts of the 6th. Green was called on in the 7th, and despite a walk and hit by pitch, allowed no runs. Britton’s 8th ended up being 3 solid outs in a row, and Cessa’s 9th allowed a single but no further runs.

New York was hoping to get that 100th season win tonight, but the goal proved elusive when the Yankee batters struggled to even get in scoring position. After a scoreless 1st inning, the 2nd inning began with lead-off batter Giancarlo Stanton as he was welcomed back to the Bronx with an ovation from the stadium crowd. Returning from time on the IL for a knee injury, Stanton doubled a line drive to center that put the Yankees in scoring position, but 3 outs followed and Stanton was left on base.

The Yankees scored 2 runs in the 3rd inning when LeMahieu led off with a walk and then crossed the plate on Aaron Judge’s 24th home run to right field. But then that awful pattern emerged again: A solid double put Torres on 2nd to lead off the 3rd, but 3 outs followed that left him on base; and in the 4th, Gardner bunted for a single and moved to 2nd base on a wild pitch, but then 3 outs later, he too was stranded.

After a quick, scoreless run for the next 4 innings, the last chance for the Yankees to score was in the 9th. With 1 out, Gardner hit a ground ball to center field, and the crowd was quite hopeful to tie up the game, but 2 quick outs followed and ended the evening.

Final score: 3-2 Angels

Injury update: Dellin Betances was in the dugout for tonight’s game, sporting a walking boot to protect his partially torn Archilles tendon. No surgery is scheduled at this time. The Yankees still have 9 players on the IL, none of which will be returning for the playoffs. The 9 include Betances, Tauchman, Hale, Holder, Bird, Hicks, Ellsbury, Andujar, and Barrett.

The Yankees also activated Giancarlo Stanton from the 60-day IL to play in tonight’s game. Stanton looked strong in his outing but was unable to contribute much in tonight’s game, much like the rest of his offensive teammates. Also, the Blue Jays claimed pitcher Ryan Dull off waivers. Best of luck to him on his journey.

Go Yankees!

Game 149: NYY vs. TOR — Even a butterfly couldn’t help in extras

For this weekend’s 3-game series, the Yankees traveled across the northern border to Toronto to meet the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Tonight’s game was long and grueling, tied for most of the innings as both teams battled for the win, even going into extra innings to battle it down to a walk-off.

Masahiro Tanaka took the mound for New York through 5 innings, giving up 8 hits and 4 runs, for a not so memorable start. Tanaka started well and quickly faced 3 batters for 3 outs.  In the 2nd, Tanaka gave up a home run to left field, and later, 2 singles and a double allowed 2 more runs in the 4th. And Tanaka gave up a double and a single that scored another run for Toronto in the 5th. Tanaka was replaced in the 6th by Tommy Kahnle who gave up a single, but no runs.

Adam Ottavino took over in the 7th. He gave up a single that moved to 2nd on a wild pitch. After a walk and fielder’s choice, runners were on the corners, but a balk moved the runners up and scored a run for the home team to tie up the game at that point. Zack Britton took strong command in the 8th for 3 quick outs, including a swinging strikeout and a rather close call with a butterfly. (Yes, a real live butterfly.)

Cessa came out for the 9th and 10th, and gave up a couple of singles, but allowed no runs, keeping the game tied. Tyler Lyons replaced Cessa for the 11th, facing 3 batters for 3 outs. But when Lyons remained on the mound in the 12th, things didn’t resolve in their favor. Lyons gave up a home run to the first batter of that inning, allowing a walk-off win for the Blue Jays.

Scoreless in the first 4 innings and behind by 3 runs in the 5th inning, New York bats finally came alive in a big way. Gardner doubled and then promptly scored on a double by Clint Frazier. A single to left by Austin Romine scored Frazier.

LeMahieu’s single on moved Romine to 2nd, and Torres hit into a fielder’s choice that left runners on the corners. Luke Voit then reached base on a fielder’s choice, scoring Romine to tie-up the game. And wild pitch moved the runners into scoring position so that Gio Urshela’s single allowed both Torres and Voit to score and jump the Yankees ahead.

After the Blue Jays evened up the score again by the 7th, the Yankees tried to break that tie through the rest of their game. And while they certainly had some great opportunities, they never were able to cross home pate again.

Final score: 6-5 Blue Jays, in 12 innings

Injury update: Good news for JA Happ. Sidelined with recurring bicep tendonitis, he is showing improvement since a cortisone shot. He is expected to return to the mound next week during the Yankees’ final home stand. And he could be joined by some other teammates working their way off the IL as well.

Roster moves: In the last week, the Yankees have activated pitchers Ben Heller and CC Sabathia from the IL, and both pitched pretty well this week too. They also put Mike Tauchman on the 10-day IL due to his calf strain. Stephen Tarpley began his rehab assignment with the AA Trenton Thunder on Tuesday before being activated back to the major league roster on Thursday. And they also designated reliever Adonis Rosa for assignment before outrighting him to AAA Scranton.

Finally, MLB is currently featuring the New York Yankees for their annual honoring of Hispanic Heritage Month. The story features several current and former players. Check out the video here.

Go Yankees!

Game 147 & 148: NYY vs. DET : Striped duel as the Pinstripes sweep the Tigers

After last night’s game was postponed due to rain, the Yankees met the Tigers today for a single-admission doubleheader in Detroit. Today’s duel gave New York their 97th win of the season, putting them in 1st place in the American League.

Game 1 (regularly scheduled game)
The Yankees sent JA Happ to the mound to start the game. Happ threw 99 pitches giving up 7 hits. After giving up a home run to right center field in the bottom of the 5th that allowed 2 runs, Chad Green took over and closed the inning with a pop out in foul territory near 1st base. Green secured 3 swift outs in the 6th, but in the 7th, gave up a triple that scored the runner on a ground out.

Ben Heller took to the mound in the 8th and struck out swinging the first batter, but gave up a homer to left followed by a walk and a single before retiring the inning on a fly ball out to center. Gearrin started the 9th inning and immediately gave up a double to right field, a call that was reviewed as a possible homer before being upheld as a double. Gearrin gave up a ground out and a walk before being replaced by Lyons who finished the 9th with a strike out swinging and a fly out to secure the Yankees a win.

The Yankees were first to score today when Judge reached base in the 1st inning on a fielding error and then scored on a Luke Voit 2-run home run to center field.  In the 3rd, Judge walked and scored again on another homer, this time hit by Edwin Encarnacion deep to left field, giving the Yankees a solid lead.

After a Detroit pitching change in the 7th, Aaron Judge walked, followed by a double that Voit sent down the right field line and moved Judge to 3rd. Gregorius was intentionally walked to load the bases. Judge then scored on a wild pitch, moving the other runners up. Cameron Maybin came to the plate and doubled to both score Voit and Gregorius to give the Yankees a good lead. Romine and Judge both singled in the 8th, and a single by Voit scored Romine. And Didi Gregorius tripled to score both Judge and Voit.

Final score: 10-4 Yankees

Game 2 (make-up of Sept. 11)
The second game of tonight’s two-game match-up in Detroit welcomed CC Sabathia back to the mound for New York, throwing 56 pitches into 4 strong innings against the Tigers. Sabathia set another milestone, surpassing Hall of Famer and former Braves’ ace John Smoltz on the strikeout list with his 3085th strikeout tonight in Detroit.

But in the 4th, Sabathia gave up a walk, a single, and a double that scored 2 runs. And with just 1 out, German came on in relief. He threw 50 pitches into the 8th, giving up just 2 hits in his scoreless outing. He gave up a single and hit a batter in the 8th, German was replaced by Tommy Kahnle who secured two outs on a double play by the infield to end the 8th inning. Kahnle was back in the 9th, but after a walk, a wild pitch, and a triple that scored a run, Aroldis Chapman was called in. Chapman allowed a single, but followed that up with a swinging strikeout and force out for another New York save and win.

First up for the Yankees in this second game of the day was LeMahieu, who singled and scored on an Aaron Judge’s home run for an early lead. In the 2nd, Mike Ford grounded a single to right and scored on a double line drive to right by DJ LeMahieu. With the Yankees in a slim lead in the 5th, a ground-rule double by Wade, followed by a single to center by Didi Gregorius that allowed Wade to score.

After 3 quiet innings that kept the Yankees in the lead, Voit sent a line drive single to left field and scored on a home run to left by Gio Urshela. Yankee pitching ended the game in the 9th despite a late charge by the Tigers.

Final score: 6-4 Yankees, Yankees win the series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees travel to Toronto to face another division rival this weekend before heading home for the final homestand of the season to host the Angels and Blue Jays. They will then close out their season visiting the Rays and Rangers on their way to the postseason.

Injury update: JA Happ left this afternoon’s game after throwing an impressive 99 pitches due to bicep tendonitis that has bothered him for his last few starts. Hopefully, this is just a cautionary move to check with the doctor before deciding when or if Happ is back on the mound.

Edwin Encarnacion also left today’s game, right after a walk due to a strain to his left oblique. He will head back to New York for further tests. And in the second game of this doubleheader, Gary Sanchez left the field in the 4th inning with tightness in his left groin possibly due to his stealing base in the 3rd. Sanchez was replaced by Higashioka. If Sanchez is sidelined for awhile, Romine and Higashioka will share playing time.

Finally, congratulations go to CC Sabathia for being nominated as the Yankee candidate for the 2019 Robert Clemente Award, given for sportsmanship, community involvement, and contribution to baseball. Sabathia is an easy nomination for this award between his career-long tenacity and teamwork on the field and passion for his community through his own foundation. The award winner, voted on by both fans and the media, will be announced during the World Series in October. (You can vote here for Sabathia.)

Go Yankees!

Game 143: NYY vs. BOS — Happ-y Saturday!

Under a warm but cloudy sky at Fenway, the near-capacity stadium crowd of rival fans saw a game that started much the same as last night’s match-up, but with a decidedly happier ending for the Yankees.

JA Happ was the first on the mound today for New York and threw 92 pitches for a phenomenal 7 1/3 innings, allowing no runs that extended his scoreless inning streak to a 15 1/3. In the 1st inning, Happ gave up a single, followed by a strike out and a grounder to Gregorius who threw to LeMahieu at 3rd and then on to Voit at 1st for a great double play to shut down the inning and kick off a solid game for the Yankees.

Over the next 5 innings, Happ allowed just 1 walk and a single. This solid pitching, plus the Yankee defense, kept Boston from scoring. In the top of the 7th, Happ faced only one batter who struck out swinging. A pitching change gave the ball to Ottavino who secured the next two outs.

Kahnle took command of the mound in the 8th inning for an out. But he then allowed a line drive single to center followed by a ground ball to right field. So with runners in scoring position, a mound visit called in Britton to replace Kahnle who secured the next two outs.

Aroldis Chapman took over in the 9th, facing 4 batters, one of which became a home run that gave Boston their sole run of the afternoon.

Yankee batters initially struggled and were shutdown in the first 3 innings. But in the 4th inning, the bats came alive. LeMahieu reached base on a single line drive to left field and moved to 3rd on a solid double by Gregorius. A ground-rule double to right field by Gary Sanchez scored LeMahieu and Gregorius.

Edwin Encarnacion promptly smacked a homer to left center field, also scoring Sanchez. Brett Gardner singled and stole 2nd, followed by a walk for Voit, but a line out ended the inning with the Yankees solidly in the lead.

The 6th inning saw more opportunities to score with the bases loaded with a double by Torres and walks to Tauchman and Gardner. But with 1 out, a double play ended the inning, stranding those runners. Stranding runners is a familar song the Yankees played through the Red Sox bullpen. Finally, in the 9th, Sanchez, on base after being hit by a pitch, scored on an RBI double hit by Edwin Encarnacion for a solid win for New York.

Final score: 5-1, Yankees

Injury update: With all eyes on the playoffs and October ball, and in hopes he can pitch in a least one more game before retiring, CC Sabathia threw in the bullpen for the first time since the flareup of his knee injury that pulled him from the mound last month. Yankee management was encouraged by how well he did, but remain cautious as to when or if Sabathia will return to the mound. Jordan Montgomery may start another rehab game soon, and his progress looks so encouraging that he may well contribute to the Yankee’ path to October.

Go Yankees!

Game 140: TEX vs. NYY: Big Maple in command

After yesterday’s dreary shutout at Yankee Stadium, tonight’s team roared back with a near shutout of their own. A strong pitching outing from New York in the form of James Paxton and Jonathan Loaisiga, plus stellar defense and more record-breaking batting, showed the crowd why the Yankees are on a hopeful path to the Fall Classic this year.

James Paxton, “Big Maple”, took a firm command of the mound for the Yankees tonight. He faced the Rangers and easily breezed his way through the lineup for 7 scoreless phenomenal innings.

A pitching change in top of the 8th brought Jonathan Loaisiga to the mound allowing a walk, but the defense easily shut down the inning with a double play by the Wade-Gregorius-Voit combination to keep the Yankees firmly in the lead. Loaisiga was back in the 9th, and while allowing one home run, the New York defense shut down the inning with a final ground out maintaining the Yankee lead for a solid win for the pinstripes tonight.

The Yankee bats were alive and well throughout the game. In the 1st, Gary Sanchez sent a fly ball over the fence in center field for the first home run, scoring Didi Gregorius and the Yankees were on the board and in the lead 2-0.

In the 6th, LeMahieu and Aaron Judge singled on grounders and scored on Didi Gregorius’ homer to right center field. Gary Sanchez followed him with another homer also to right center. Encarnacion then singled and scored on a home run sent to right field by Brett Gardner to increase their lead over Texas.

The 7th inning saw Sanchez take his base after being hit by a pitch and promptly scored on a fly ball home run to left field from Edwin Encarnacion, placing the Yankees ahead by double-digit runs, and a shutout seemed probable. But then that homer in the 9th gave a run back to the Rangers that quashed the near shutout. It was quite the game. Another strong display of the the range of talent the Yankees have in abundance this year.

Final score: 10-1 Yankees

Injury update: CC Sabathia remains on the IL until at least Sept. 10. After his knee was drained and treated with a cortisone shot and lubricant, Sabathia is feeling better but has yet to test the knee. Apparently on a “wait and see” list, his day-to-day will be monitored in hopes to see Sabathia on the mound at least once more before his retires. Whether he gets to pitch again this season or not, Sabathia’s legacy is already well established.

While pitchers David Hale and Jake Barrett are definitely out for the season, others like Dellin Betances, Thairo Estrada, Aaron Hicks, Gio Urshela, Jordan Montgomery, Stephen Tarpley, Giancarlo Stanton, Jonathan Holder, and Luis Severino are expected to return in later this month. A few, like Montgomery, are already starting their rehab assignments to work their way back to the Bronx.

Go Yankees!

Game 139: TEX vs. NYY: Dreary day in the Bronx

A grey and rainy game day in New York greeted the 40,000 fans to the Bronx. Waiting out a long rain delay, fans were hopeful for another Yankee win. But the dreary day never got any brighter for the team and ended with the first Yankee shut-out in 220 games, the second longest major league scoring streak in history. Until today, the Yankees have scored at least 1 run in every game since July 1, 2018.

After a nearly 3 hour rain delay, Masahiro Tanaka finally took the mound for 6 full innings against the visiting Rangers for this Labor Day opener. Tanaka threw 103 pitches, giving up a total of 7 hits and 2 runs. In the 1st, Tanaka gave up 2 singles and a sacrifice fly to allow for that first run. And in the 5th, Tanaka allowed a home run to right center field.

Cortes took over in the 7th, and in the 8th, Cortes gave up a couple of base runners, including an RBI single, followed by a 2-run home run to left to widen the Rangers’ lead. Lyons replaced Cortes for the 9th and up another home run to right center field on his first pitch, but then he secured 3 outs quickly to close the inning.

Now, the Yankee bats had their own set of struggles with the Rangers’ pitchers. The soggy stadium crowd that had patiently waited out the rain delay was treated to several displays of strong batting for several opportunities to score but were disappointed as the Yankees remained scoreless this afternoon.

For example, in the 1st, after Torres worked a walk, Sanchez hit a solid double to move Torres to 3rd, but both were left in scoring position at the end of the inning. And finally, in the bottom of the 9th with two outs, Ford hit a line drive single to right in hopes to actually score a run today, but the final out of the game left Ford stranded, and this dreary rainy day game was over.

Final score: 7-0 Rangers

Injury updates: With all eyes on the playoffs, the players on the IL are being closely monitored. No update on when CC Sabathia will return to the mound. His knee was drained and treated but will remain on the IL with that right knee inflammation.

Jonathan Holder, on the IL for three weeks due to right shoulder inflammation, has begun a throwing program, the first since his injury. Stephen Tarpley is closer to returning with noted progress as he recovers from his left shoulder impingement. And good news for Luis Severino, who threw 33 pitches on Sunday in a rehab game with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, plus an additional 12 bullpen pitches.

And finally, our hearts and prayers go out to the family and friends of former Yankee minor leaguer, Chace Numata, who died tragically earlier today after a skateboarding accident in Erie, PA. Numata was most recently with Detroit’s AA team. According to the Tigers’ press release, the young catcher was considered a leader on and off the field, encouraging other players, and always making everyone feel welcome wherever he went. His grieving family thanks everyone for their prayers and support during this difficult time.

Go Yankees!