Game 43: TB vs. NYY — A Song of Rain Delay and Walk-offs

It was Game of Thrones night at Yankee Stadium, which meant fans got to take pictures in the Iron Throne or buy show sports themed merchandise and the media team tweeted out game updates using popular show memes. Or if you’re not a fan, it was a Friday night in the Bronx and there was a pretty good baseball game. Despite the fact that the game paused again for a brief (35 minute) rain delay in the 8th inning. Or maybe because of it.

CC Sabathia got the start for the Yankees tonight and threw a pretty strong game in this first game of the series against the visiting Rays. He threw 84 pitches in 6 innings, gave up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 1 run, and struck out 4 Rays batters. His lone allowed run was a 1st pitch solo home run in the 4th inning.

The Yankees actually struck first with Cameron Maybin’s first Yankee home run, a 1-out solo home run in the 2nd that nearly hit the 3rd deck of the right field seats. But they had trouble adding to that early lead, especially after the Rays tied it up in the 4th.

Ottavino and Kahnle split the 7th inning, keeping the Rays from adding to their score, but then Chad Green came out for the 8th inning and had some trouble. With 1 out, a double scored on a 2-out double. Then a single and throwing error allowed another run for the visitors to get their insurance run in tonight’s game.

And then it started raining. A lot. So the Yankees needed to come back and rally. Urshela stepped into the box and 2 pitches later, it was just too much. The tarp came out, the game was paused, and many fingers were crossed. (I opted not to insert a few obvious Game of Thrones jokes that a good portion of my readers wouldn’t understand.)

When the game resumed just 35 minutes later, things kind of screeched to a stand still. The Rays and Yankees (via Holder) pitched through a quick 6 outs. And the Yankees finally found that rally in the bottom of the 9th. Luke Voit led-off with a 1st pitch solo home run to inch the Yankees closer. Sanchez then singled and was pinch-run by Thairo Estrada. One out later, Torres doubled and Frazier was intentionally walked to load up the bases.

Then a wild pitch moved all the runners up and scored Estrada to tie up the game. Maybin hit into a fielder’s choice out at home and then stole 2nd to put both runners in scoring position. And leave it to Gio Urshela to be the one to single home Frazier for the walk-off win, which was his first walk-off MLB hit. (Also, it was orange Gatorade tonight.)

Final score: 4-3 Yankees

CC K-Score: 3013

Roster moves: After coming in to be the 26th man, the Yankees optioned outfielder Mike Tauchman back to AAA Scranton after the doubleheader on Wednesday.

Also, thanks to winning over the Rays, the Yankees are now in 1st place in the AL East. And that’s worth celebrating, given all the fickle fans who seemed to desert once again in the beginning or when all the major players got injured. But what do I know? “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” (Final GoT reference for the fans alone.)

Go Yankees!

Game 40: NYY vs. TB — #TanakaTime + power outage = Happy Mother’s Day

I know we’ve talked some about the (few) positives of Tropicana Field, including the rarity of delays due to weather. Unfortunately, a delay due to a local power outage is unavoidable. And a 43 minute delay while the system was redirected and restarted is just inconvenient. Especially in the 9th inning.

But it just seemed to energize the Yankees in this final game of the weekend series against the Rays. Masahiro Tanaka had a great start this afternoon, throwing just 73 pitches in his 7 innings, giving up 5 hits and 1 run, and stuck out 7 batters to earn the eventual win. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo shot in the 6th.

It was actually the lone allowed run for the home team all day. Zach Britton and Chad Green took the final 2 innings and kept the Rays from doing much of anything, adding 5 more strikeouts to what would become quite the strikeout day at the Trop (12 by the Yankees, 17 by the Rays’ pitchers).

And somehow, despite all those strikeouts, the Yankees managed to boost their own power. They were held off until the 5th. With 2 outs, Romine doubled and scored on Mike Tauchman’s double. Tauchman then scored on DJ LeMahieu’s single.

In the 8th, Voit led-off with a walk, moved to 2nd on Gardner’s 1-out single, and ended up at 3rd when Andujar hit into a force grounder at 2nd. A wild pitch then scored Voit and kicked off a pair of challenges. The Yankees challenged the records (to check the number of balls/strikes), then the Rays challenged whether the catcher tagged Voit out at home. Neither were overturned, and the play stood as called at the count on the board.

Then the 9th inning began with a bang. Of sorts. After a single foul ball, the lights went out. And 43 minutes later, Thairo Estrada kicked-off the inning with a solo home run. Then Romine and Tauchman singled and moved into scoring position on LeMahieu’s sacrifice bunt out. Voit was intentionally walked to load up the bases. And then Gio Urshela’s double scored both Romine and Tauchman, and Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly scored Voit to cap off the Yankees’ power surge.

Final score: 7-1 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees return home to continue their home stand to host the Orioles and then after a day off the Rays next weekend. Then, they’ll hit the road again to visit the Orioles and Royals.

Scranton Shuttle: Before the game, for a fresh arm, the Yankees optioned relieved Nestor Cortes Jr and recalled reliever Chad Green, who pitched in today’s game.

And a huge Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms and like-a-moms out there. Across baseball, players wore pink-tinged gear, and each team had an honorary bat girl, both to recognize breast cancer awareness and survivors. Plus, players honored the moms in their lives, like CC Sabathia, who wrote a full letter in celebration of his mom on his Twitter account. And Cameron Maybin wore a special pre-game shirt in honor of his mom who is currently fighting breast cancer.

Happy Mother’s Day to my own mother, who is my faithful baseball companion. But then she got it from the passionate baseball fans in her family like her mother and grandmothers (who actually were Indians and Pirates fans). Baseball is strong in my family, much like its women.

Go Yankees!

Game 39: NYY vs. TB — Saturday night sag

Last night’s game put the Yankees within a half-game from the Rays’ lead in the AL East. They were hoping to reverse places with a win tonight, but it wasn’t to be. The Yankees just weren’t piecing together the necessary pieces to make up the win.

CC Sabathia got the start in the middle game of this series against the Rays, working his way to a no-decision. He threw 76 pitches in 5 innings, gave up 3 hits, 4 walks, and 2 runs, and struck out just 2 Rays’ batters. His allowed runs were lead-off solo home runs in the 2nd and 3rd.

And the Yankees finally got on the board in the 5th inning. Torres led-off with a single and then beat out the tag to score on Clint Frazier’s double. And DJ LeMahieu hit a solo home run up the middle to tie up the game in the 6th.

But then normally reliable reliever Jonathan Holder had a really off-day with his 6th inning struggle. The lead-off player singled and, 2 outs later, stole 2nd and ended up on 3rd thanks to a throwing error. Holder then gave up a walk to put runners on the corners. Consecutive singles scored 2 more runs for the home team to return them to the lead.

While the Yankee batters suddenly found their offense dry up, the Rays kept going. Yankees’ reliever Nestor Cortes Jr. gave a scoreless 7th, but then things got sticky again in the 8th. He gave up a lead-off single and a 2-out single to load a few runners for a big 3-run home run to ensure the Rays the win.

Final score: 7-2 Rays

CC K-Count: 3009

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day in the United States, and across the league, players will be donning specialized gear, most notably pink-tinged gear in honor of breast cancer awareness. But some players also customize in a special or unique way.

This year, outfielder Clint Frazier designed his special cleats for the weekend to honor his mother. In addition to the pastel pink Nike swish and highlights on the white cleats, the high-top area features life-like pictures of his mother’s two cats, acknowledging her “fur babies” on this Mother’s Day.

That’s a first for me. But I’m sure his mom feels honored by the gesture.

Go Yankees!

Game 34: SEA vs. NYY — #CCStrong and big bats in opener

The Yankees started their 4-game series against the visiting Mariners tonight, with a potential battle of star pitchers set up for this first game. CC Sabathia continued his march toward retirement with another great outing, throwing 99 pitching through 5 innings, giving up 5 hits, 3 walks, and 3 runs, and striking out 5 batters.

Sabathia held them off until the 4th inning. With 1 out, a walk scored on a big 2-run home run. And then he gave up a 1-out solo home run in the 5th, and after his 5th strikeout of the game, he loaded up the bases with 2 singles and a walk. But he got out of the jam with a great defensive grounder.

Holder came out for the 6th but then got himself into his own jam. Adam Ottavino helped get out of the inning and breezed into the 7th. Britton got the final out of the 7th before himself breezing through the 8th inning. Cessa closed out the game with a flawless, quick 9th, continuing the trend.

Meanwhile, the potential of the Mariners’ starter seemed to have been left in Seattle, as the Yankees pounced and didn’t let up for most of the first half of the game. DJ LeMahieu led off the 1st with a ground-rule double and then scored on Luke Voit’s 2-run home run.

A solo home run by Brett Gardner kicked off the big 2nd. Urshela made it to 1st on a fielding error and then scored as part of a 2-run home run hit by Thairo Estrada, his first MLB home run. Tauchman then hit a ground-rule double and scored on LeMahieu’s single.

And with 2 outs in the 3rd, Gardner tripled and then scored on Gio Urshela’s single to cap off the Yankees’ early dominating lead. It clearly ended up being more than enough for the Yankees to win tonight’s game in the end.

Final score: 7-3 Yankees

CC K-Count: 3007

Roster moves: Before tonight’s game, the Yankees optioned Stephen Tarpley back to AAA Scranton to make room for the activation of Clint Frazier from the IL. He sprained his ankle, including some partially torn ligaments, during a game last month. But with treatment and rehab (and the sheer will of being bored not playing ball), Frazier ended up being ready to return to tonight’s game.

Game 29: NYY vs. ARI — A loss with a moment of #LegaCCy

The funny thing about tonight’s game was how little people seemed to care about the outcome because really Yankee Universe was just biting their nails in anticipation for a single event — CC Sabathia’s 3000th career strikeout. And, like much of the Yankees history, it happened in a rather dramatic fashion. Sabathia’s final season has been under that pressure with that milestone looming, and now that it’s over, he can really rest and relax, closing out his career by focusing on winning the season, one game at a time.

The Yankees really were held back by the Diamondbacks’ starting pitching and his 2 relievers. In fact, the only time the Yankees were able to break through was in the 4th inning. Gary Sanchez led-off with a double and then scored on Gleyber Torres’ ground-rule double. But that would be it for the visiting team tonight.

Because despite the Diamondbacks’ ace starter’s great night, the story was all about Yankees’ starter CC Sabathia. Sabathia threw 87 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up just 5 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and struck out 5 batters. (Remember, going into the game, he only needed 3 strikeouts to reach that milestone.)

In the 2nd, he got the first strikeout. And then another one. And it looked like he was going to get another one, but the batter turned it into a big solo home run. And the next batter hit into a single (despite Voit’s great attempt to beat him back to the base). And then, Sabathia faced a former teammate and finally got that milestone (more below) and a whole bunch of cheering.

The other allowed run was in the 4th. A lead-off double scored on a 2-out single to double the Diamondbacks’ score and put them back in the lead. Holder closed out the 6th for Sabathia, who exited the game to a standing ovation from the packed stadium. Holder cleanly sailed through the inning and the next before handing things off to Zack Britton.

Britton had trouble in the 8th. A lead-off double moved to 3rd on a single and then scored on a sacrifice fly. That first out got Britton to recenter and close out the inning without further damage, allowing the home team their win with a slim margin.

Final score: 3-1 Diamondbacks

CC K-Count: 3002 (Even though he’s reached the milestone, it will be fun to track where he lands by the time he hangs up his cleats. So we’re keeping this bit up for the rest of the season whenever Sabathia pitches.)

LegaCCy: So, CC Sabathia has joined the ranks of the elite with more than 3000 strikeouts, the 17th pitcher to do so and the only active player on the list. It’s worth noting, as we have before, that there are only 2 players that aren’t in the Hall of Fame. (Here are a few memorable strikeout milestones for Sabathia’s career so far.)

In a cool twist on history, the player that handed Sabathia his 3000th strikeout was his former catcher, John Ryan Murphy. Murphy was traded to the Twins in 2016 in the deal for outfielder Aaron Hicks, but then ended up with the Diamondbacks for the last 3 seasons. Murphy was on hand to be crucial part of two other milestones in Yankees’ history. He caught Sabathia’s 2500th strikeout in 2015 and Mariano Rivera’s final game in 2013. And despite this, Sabathia was kind of upset that he had to strikeout his friend to earn that milestone.

In the stadium, however, amidst thousands of Yankee fans capturing the moment on their phones and holding up their homemade signs were Sabathia’s amazing family — his mother Margie, his wife Amber, and his four kids Carsten, Carter, Jaden, and Cyia. For his final season, his family is making a point of being at every game that he starts as a final farewell to the game they’ve grown up watching dad play. So it was great that they were there to watch this milestone happen live and in person.

Injury updates: There is some positive news here. The recent injuries to DJ LeMahieu (knee) and Gio Urshela (hand) are not as serious to warrant time on the IL, so both players are day-to-day and working out most days with the team in anticipation of rejoining the lineup at any point.

And tonight, Miguel Andujar and Troy Tulowitzki played in a rehab game with the Advanced-A Tampa Tarpons. Andujar spent time at 3rd base, where he shined, though his batting was lackluster. Tulowitzki was the designated hitter, even hitting a home run in the 1st inning (for giraffes?) and helping the Tarpons win their game.

Go Yankees!

Game 26: NYY vs. SF — Voit & LeMahieu support #BigMaple

The Yankees began their weekend in San Francisco on an high note. Actually, the advantage came at the hand of the Giants star pitcher having a terrible off-night, a huge fall from the World Series MVP just 5 years ago, and in turn, the Yankees’ pitchers were a decent foil for the Giants’ offense.

“Big Maple” James Paxton had another great night, throwing 106 pitches into the 6th inning, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, and striking out 8 batters. In fact, he only had troubles in his bookended innings. In the 1st, with 1 out, he put runners in scoring position with a single and double before a sacrifice fly scored the Giants’ first run.

Then in the 6th, a lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a fly out and then scored on a double. A 2-out single scored the next runner ended Paxton’s night and turned things over to the bullpen that went scoreless the rest of the game. Kahnle closed out the 6th in 7 pitches. Zack Britton got into some trouble in the 7th loading the bases with 2 outs, but Adam Ottavino got him out of it with a strikeout and then breezed his way through the 8th. And Chapman closed out the game in the 9th.

The Yankees were able to grab an early lead and defend it consistently the entire game. DJ LeMahieu led-off the game with a double, moved to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on Gleyber Torres’ double. Urshela singled to move Torres to 3rd before Cameron Maybin’s single scored Torres.

In the 3rd, Voit singled, moved to 2nd on Torres’ sacrifice bunt, and scored on Gio Urshela’s single and a fielding error. Then LeMahieu led-off the 5th with a single and scored on Luke Voit’s double. With 1 out in the 6th, Romine singled, moved to 2nd on Tauchman’s single, and then scored on Thairo Estrada’s single. Finally, in the 9th, LeMahieu doubled and scored as part of Voit’s 2-run home run up the middle.

It was a big night for LeMahieu and Voit once again, each getting 3 hits (of the 15 total hits), scoring 5 of the 7 total runs for the Yankees. Until recently, most Yankee fans hadn’t heard of either of these players, and now they’re easily some of the biggest contributors to the Yankees’ current winning momentum.

Final score: 7-3 Yankees

CC Sabathia’s PitCChIn Foundation invited 52 kids from the local Boys & Girls Club to tonight’s game. It was through a local Boys & Girls Club in the Bay Area that Sabathia attended his first professional baseball game, making an impact on the future Hall of Famer. Catch up on the foundation’s impact via their Twitter account, including renovating ball fields, other local game invitations, sports camps and clinics, and the upcoming celebrity softball game.

Go Yankees!

Game 24: NYY vs. LAA — Come from behind victory… once again

The Yankees are making it a pattern for the dramatic fall-behind moment only to come back and find victory over their West Coast opponent. In tonight’s third of four games this series in Anaheim, the Yankees were looking at California-native CC Sabathia to write the story (more later), but once again, it ended up being the relatively unknowns that made all the difference.

Sabathia came into tonight’s game with 2994 career strikeouts, and by all accounts, there was a high possibility that he might hit that rare feat of 3000 by the end of his outing. But call it pressure or just an off-night, things really didn’t go that way. Sabathia threw 86 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 6 hits and 5 runs (4 earned), and struck out just 3 Angels’ batters.

In the 1st, he gave up a 2-out solo home run to get the home team on the board first. But it was the 4th inning that caused so much trouble. After a lead-off home run to double their score, the Angels got a single that moved to 2nd on a bunt and fielding error, ended up at 3rd on a fielder’s choice out, and then scored as part of a big 3-run home run.

Jonathan Loaisiga came on for relief and tamped down on the Angels’ offense in his 3 innings, only allowing sporadic base runners but no further runs, an outing that would surprisingly earn the win. And it would be Aroldis Chapman to close out the game with a solid 17-pitch 9th inning to earn the save.

The Angels’ pitching used the “opener” model, where their “starter” would only pitch one inning, and the bulk of their pitching would be by a long-term reliever. And tonight, it seemed to work as it held off the Yankees for most of the game and allowed their offense to collect a rather solid lead.

The Yankees didn’t find a scoring opportunity until the 6th inning. Wade singled and then scored on DJ LeMahieu’s double. Voit’s single moved LeMahieu to 3rd, and after 2 outs (and an unsuccessful challenge), LeMahieu jogged home to easily score on a passed ball to further chip away at the Angels’ lead.

Once the Angels got into their bullpen, it was the Yankees’ chance to advance. In the 7th, they loaded up the bases with a walk to Ford, single to Urshela, and walk to Tauchman. Tyler Wade then worked a walk to score Mike Ford. After another pitching chance, DJ LeMahieu’s sacrifice fly scored Urshela, and Luke Voit’s fielder’s choice scored Tauchman to tie up the game before a bad double play ended the inning.

So it would come down to the 9th inning to break the tie. With 2 outs, Wade singled and stole 2nd to put himself in scoring position. DJ LeMahieu would again be the hero, whose single drove home Wade for the winning run.

Final score: 6-5 Yankees

CC K Count: 2997

Roster moves/Scranton Shuttle: Yesterday, the Yankees optioned Joe Harvey and recalled Jonathan Loaisiga for a fresh arm to pitch in tonight’s game. And before the game, the Yankees activated Gary Sanchez and recalled Stephen Tarpley, optioning Kyle Higashioka and Chad Green.

Green’s consistent issues seem out of place, so the Yankees are hoping a stint in AAA could help him get some of the kinks out of his delivery and back to the reliable Green he can be. Higashioka is only back in AAA because there’s only room for one back-up on the roster. He’s proven more than reliable when called upon, perhaps proof that time in AAA sharpens and hones players’ skills.

Injury update: Clint Frazier’s hopes to remain off the IL seem dashed after an MRI revealed his sprained ankle includes a small tear that demands he heal first. Apparently, Frazier was reminded of his injury setting foot out of bed and then when it swelled up a bit. Being forced to stay off it will definitely aid in healing it quicker than “playing through” the injury as he intended.

Go Yankees!