Game 45: TB vs. NYY — Lucky number 6

Sometimes, the fate of a game comes down a single swing of the bat, a missed catch, a matter of inches, a play, an out, a pinch-hitter, a missed pitch, or error. And sometimes, like today, it comes down to one really big inning.

The Yankees split up the pitching duties of today’s game between a few of their relievers. Chad Green got the nod to go first, thus starting today’s finale against the visiting Rays. After a scoreless 1st, and 2 outs in the 2nd, he gave up back-to-back solo home runs to put the Rays in the lead. After hitting the next batter, he handed things off to Nestor Cortes Jr.

After a quick strikeout, Cortes came back out for the 3rd. With 1 out and runners in scoring position, a 3-run home run insured a hefty Rays’ lead. Cortes continued on into the 7th inning and kept the Rays from doing further damage. Ottavino closed out the 7th for Cortes with a single strikeout, getting out of a jam. And Chance Adams gave a long-term push to close out the final third of the game with 3 scoreless innings and the eventual save.

The Yankees got on the board first in the 1st. LeMahieu led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Voit’s 1-out walk, and Kendrys Morales’ 2-out single. But after the Rays jumped ahead in the 2nd, the Yankees answered back with Urshela’s lead-off walk and Brett Gardner’s 2-run home run.

Down again to the Rays after the 3rd, they tied up the game again in the 4th. With 2 outs, LeMahieu reached base on a fielding error and then scored as part of Aaron Hicks’ 2-run home run deep into the right field seats. This was Hicks’ first home run of the season.

But it was the 6th inning that certainly made all the difference. Gardner led-off the inning with a single and stole 2nd. Frazier then walked, and 1 out later, Hicks’ walk loaded the bases. Luke Voit’s walk scored Gardner to break the tie. After a pitching change, a messy pitch and some quick defense got Frazier out at home but moved the runners up.

Then the Rays intentionally walked Sanchez to load the bases again. Kendrys Morales then worked yet another walk this inning to score Hicks. Gleyber Torres’ single scored Voit. However, the Rays challenged whether there was a play at 1st to get the out and end the inning, but the replay went the Yankees’ way, upholding the original call.

After another pitching change, pinch-hitter Thairo Estrada hit a bases-clearing double, scoring 3 more runs. Back at the top of the batting order, Brett Gardner closed out this big inning with a double to score Estrada.

DJ LeMahieu led-off the 7th with a solo home run for a completely unnecessary insurance run. As if the Yankees were going to somehow give up their big lead after that ridiculous rally.

Final score: 13-5 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees hit the road this week with 4 games in Baltimore against the Orioles, before spending next weekend with the Royals. They then travel back home for a week of games against the visiting Padres and Red Sox to bring baseball into June.

Go Yankees!

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 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!

Game 23: NYY vs. LAA — Voit’s power & Ford’s first dinger

The streak continues for the Yankees in this middle game of their series against the Angels. Though there was a few moments where it looked like the Angels might have a rally in them, even a grand slam couldn’t stop the Yankees from dominating tonight’s game.

Starter Domingo German held control into the 7th inning, with 99 pitches, 4 hits, a walk, and an unearned run, and 5 strikeouts against the home team. German held them off until the 5th. A lead-off double, moved to 3rd on a fielding error, and then scored on a fielder’s choice out at 2nd.

In the 7th, with 2 outs and a runner on 2nd, Chad Green came into the game for relief and quickly got out of the inning. But coming back out in the 8th almost cost the Yankees the game. He loaded up the bases with 2 singles and a walk before giving up a big grand slam up the middle to leap the Angels up on the scoreboard.

Luis Cessa came in and promptly gave up a double and a walk. Things looked bleak again for the Yankees, but then Cessa settled in, getting a strikeout and a great double play to end the Angels’ hopes of trying to overcome the Yankees. And Zack Britton sailed his way through a 7-pitch 9th inning to earn his 1st save of the season.

Again, the Yankees needed to dominate tonight in order to earn the win, and it would be Luke Voit to lead the way again with a 1st inning 1-out solo home run, extending his on-base streak to 35 games. They loaded up the bases in the 2nd with a single to Ford, a walk to Tauchman, and a 1-out single to Thairo Estrada, his first MLB hit. Tyler Wade hit into a fielder’s choice that allowed Ford to score. In the 5th, Gardner hit a 1-out single and then scored on Mike Ford’s 2-out 2-run home run.

Voit led-off the 7th with a walk, moved to 3rd on Gardner’s double, and then scored on Gleyber Torres’ single. After a pitching change, pinch-hitter Urshela hit into a fielder’s choice out at home. Then a walk to Tauchman loaded the bases. Austin Romine’s simple grounder scored Torres, and despite loading up the bases again with Estrada’s walk, the Yankees couldn’t add any further runs that inning.

Voit added one more to the score, an insurance run of sorts, in the top of the 8th with another 1-out solo home run. And after the Angels tried to get a few of those runs back in the bottom of the inning, the Yankees were glad for every extra insurance run they had to ensure their win tonight.

Final score: 7-5 Yankees

Mike Ford hit his first major league home run with that 5th inning 2-run homer. The Yankees were able to retrieve that milestone ball from the lucky fan that caught it in the right field seats. Ford intends to give the ball to his parents, something I think is a great gesture.

He’ll hit lots of home runs, but that first one deserves a spot on his parents’ mantle, next to the baseball trophies he won in Little League, where they cheered him on and hoped he would one day achieve his dream. Remember, he grew up in New Jersey, a huge fan of the Yankees during their most recent dynasty years. The dream was always to wear pinstripes (or away greys).

You know, somewhere, there’s some kid sleeping with his glove under his pillow, dreaming of the night he’ll get to hit his first home run with the Yankees. And someday, we’re going to watch that kid do just that.

Go Yankees!

Game 21: KC vs. NYY — A bit of redemption on Easter

The final game between the Yankees and visiting Royals made this Sunday afternoon game on a holiday worth watching. Actually, it was a Yankee dominant game, looking like a fairly easy win, until the Royals came in to bury the Yankees in a single inning. Only for the home team to rise again with a great walk-off victory. (That’s enough Easter puns. I promise.)

James Paxton had a great outing today, throwing 104 pitches in 6 scoreless innings, giving up just 3 hits and a walk, and striking out 12 Kansas City batters. He really should have been the main story if not for the weird late-inning twists in today’s game Kahnle followed up, breezing through a great 7th inning. Things were looking good for the Yankees.

Plus, they had racked up enough run support to feel a little too safe. In the 1st, DJ LeMahieu led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on a fly out, and then raced home on a passed ball to barely beat out the tag. With 2 outs in the 2nd, Ford doubled (his first MLB hit, by the way) and then scored on Austin Romine’s single. And in the 5th, Voit and Gardner each singled and then scored on Clint Frazier’s big 3-run home run to give the Yankees their nice lead.

But then it was the 8th inning that everything went a bit pear-shaped for the Yankees. Chad Green came on in relief and just could not find an out, instead loading up the bases with 2 singles and a walk. So it was up to Adam Ottavino to try to get out of that jam, but he too had issues finding an out. He promptly gave up a 2-RBI double, a 3-run home run to tie up the game, and a solo homer to suddenly give the Royals the lead. And then he got the 3 outs he needed.

Now, that wasn’t sitting well with the Yankees. They weren’t about to give up their series win that easily. Tauchman led off the bottom of the 8th with a double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Austin Romine’s single to tie up the game again. And just like that, the Yankees were back in it.

Chapman sailed his way through the 9th, but the Yankees didn’t find the opportunity to do so in the bottom of the inning. So it was into extra innings for a special Easter game. Britton came in a matched his predecessor’s breezy streak. And this time, the Yankees found their moment in the bottom 10th.

Tauchman and Urshela worked consecutive walks, and after a pitching change, Estrada hit a sacrifice bunt and moved both runners into scoring position. It would be the hero of the day, Austin Romine, to sneak a great single up the middle all the way to the back fence to score Tauchman for the walk-off win today.

Final score: 7-6 Yankees, in 10 innings, Yankees win series 3-1

Next up: The Yankees are headed to the West Coast to face the Angels, Giants, and Diamondbacks for this road trip. This will take them into May before they’re back in the Bronx again.

Injury news/roster moves: Before today’s game, the Yankees moved Aaron Judge to the 10-day injured list with his oblique injury. But the reality is that he will probably be out for about a month. Frequent MLB contributor (and famous Yankee granddaughter) Lindsay Berra wrote an article two years ago about oblique injures in baseball and the commonality of the injury in athletes and why the average return to play is about 27 days.

With Judge’s spot on the roster vacant, the Yankees decided to call up Thairo Estrada again. Despite Estrada being an infielder, the logical move would be to have a utility player like Tyler Wade to substitute in the outfield as needed. And again, despite 13 men on the IL, the Yankees are charging into this road trip on a win streak again.

And a Happy Easter to all who celebrate, however you celebrate.

Go Yankees!

Game 18: KC vs. NYY — Slow Thursday evening slowed streak

No dance party in the Yankees’ clubhouse tonight. The Yankees couldn’t keep their rivalry momentum going with this new series, as the Royals came into town for a long weekend and somehow silenced the Yankees’ offense.

The Yankees’ lone run tonight was in the 1st inning. With 1 out, Judge singled, moved to 3rd on Voit’s single, and then scored on Gleyber Torres’ sacrifice fly. For the rest of the game, they only got 2 more hits and a few walks without scoring another run. It was rather lethargic in light of the games earlier this week.

Despite the outcome, the Yankee pitching was actually pretty decent. Domingo German got the start, throwing 88 pitches through 6 innings, giving up 6 hits and 3 runs, and striking out 9 Kansas City batters. In the 1st, with 1 out, 2 doubles scored their first run. And lead-off solo homers in the 2nd and 4th gave the Royals the lead they’d need to sail in for the win.

Jonathan Holder came on in the 7th and had a rare sloppy night. With 1 out, he gave up a single that moved to 2nd on another single and then scored on a ground-rule double. Zack Britton came on, but he gave up a sacrifice fly that scored one more run. Chad Green gave up a couple of hits in the 8th but managed to get out of the inning scoreless.

And Joe Harvey’s 9th started with a walk that stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a line drive, and then scored on another sacrifice fly. Collectively, Yankee pitchers got the Royals to strikeout 14 times, but it was the 11 hits that led to 6 runs that made all the difference (compared to the Yankees’ 4 hits and 1 run).

Final score: 6-1 Royals

Actually, the coolest play of the night was Aaron judge’s diving grabdiving grab for the ball in the 5th inning. The lead-off batter for the Royals smacked a solid hit into right field, that by any other means should have been a nice single. But Judge came in running for it, diving head first, and sliding along the grass to make the catch.

I’m almost sorry to say that’s one of the few memorable moments of the night, but baseball isn’t always dance-party-worthy. Sometimes, it’s just a game you file into the books, close the chapter, and start again the next day.

It’s worth remembering that highlight reels aren’t actually “highlights” if they’re the regular stuff. Not every moment is going to be something to capture forever. Think about how many mundane things you do at your job. But that one great sale, meeting, accomplishment, sliding catch, whatever — those are the things you talk about, post about, add to social media/your resume/your own highlight reel.

Go Yankees!