Game 114: TEX vs. NYY — Bombers return to the Bronx

In this first game of the home stand and this weekend series against the Rangers, the Yankees found their swing by scoring all their runs tonight courtesy of the home run. JA Happ is back after his stint on the DL to start tonight’s game and do a pretty good job of it.

He threw 94 pitches in 6 innings, gave up 4 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and struck out 9 Texas batters. A 2-out solo homer in the 4th got the Rangers on the board. And in the 5th, a walk and single scored on a solid double to edge them closer to the Yankees’ lead.

The Yankees offense kicked off again in the 1st, putting them in an early lead they never surrendered thanks to that signature home run ball. Gregorius worked a 2-out walk and then scored as part of Aaron Hicks’ 20th home run, a big 2-run shot into the right field seats.

In the 4th, with 1 out and a walk to Bird, Miguel Andujar hit a 2-run home run to double their score, and Neil Walker followed him up with a solo home run for a great back-to-back show for the home town crowd. Giancarlo Stanton’s 1-out solo home run in the 5th, and Walker’s 1-out solo home run (yes, his 2nd of the night) in the 6th capped off the Yankees’ night.

Happ handed the lead over to the bullpen for Robertson, Betances, and Chapman to close out the game with an inning a piece. All three doing their job well, especially Betances’ 8-pitch 8th. Yankee pitchers combined for a solid 13 strikeouts against Rangers batters.

Final score: 7-3 Yankees

Roster moves: In anticipation of tonight’s game, the Yankees sent prospect pitcher Chance Adams back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make room for JA Happ as they activated him off the DL following his stint with hand, foot, and mouth disease.

After a rather popular special event last year, MLB is hosting league-wide Player’s Weekend once again this year. Scheduled for the last weekend of this month, August 24-26), players will don personalized gear and have specially chosen nicknames on their jerseys.

Teams generally have very strict rules about what colors and designs players can wear on an ordinary day, diverging only for special events like the All-Star Game, exhibition games, and those games in honor of Mothers and Fathers Days (though only pink and blue accents allowed for those). And if a team does have a name on its jersey, it’s only the last name (and sometimes a first initial or suffix to clarify in the case of more popular names).

In addition to all these fun things, there’s a patch on every sleeve where players write who inspired them to honor those special people in their lives. Fans can purchase special jerseys and hats and later game-worn jerseys to help support the charitable cause of the weekend — to support the “evolution” of baseball players, from Little League and Youth Baseball all the way up to Major League Baseball.

Play ball… and Go Yankees!

Game 109: NYY vs. BOS — No “Chance” against MLB leaders

The Yankees are hitting this crucial series against the Red Sox at a really bad time. The Red Sox are easily the best team in baseball, by a long shot now, and their recent trades helped make them even stronger, including picking up a key former Yankee pitcher to start today’s game. In comparison, the Yankees are still one of the best teams in baseball, but when you have a tight division battle like the Red Sox vs. Yankees, it’s going to look like the worst weekend ever. Plus, there’s still one more game.

To help the Yankees’ bad start to the weekend series, the Yankees called up prospect pitcher Chance Adams to start this afternoon’s game, the third game of this 4-game weekend series. And he did a great job for his MLB debut, throwing 85 pitches in 5 innings, giving up just 3 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and striking out just 2 batters.

In the 1st, with 1 out, a single took 2nd on a passed ball and then scored as part of a 2-run home run to get the Red Sox on the board early. They added one more run with a 1-out solo Green Monster homer in the 4th. But other than that, Adams (and the Yankees’ defense) held them off quite effectively. And any other game, that might have been enough to work.

Chad Green threw a beautiful 13-pitch scoreless 6th inning. AJ Cole got a quick 2 outs in the 7th but then gave up a single that moved to 2nd on another single and then scored on a ground-rule double before getting out of the inning and then throwing a clean 8th inning.

Again, all this should be enough if the Yankee batters do their jobs. But once again, the Boston starter had a great outing, and that made all the difference in the game. The former Yankee starter threw 93 pitches through 8 scoreless innings, with the Yankees only collecting 3 hits and a walk along the way.

For some reason, the Red Sox felt their lead was enough to call in their close, despite not being a save situation, and the Yankees at last found their long-awaited opportunity for a rally. After 2 quick outs, Giancarlo Stanton hit a solid double and then gave the Yankees a modicum of hope on Didi Gregorius’ double. That hope got bigger with walks to Hicks and Torres to load the bases.

But a shortened swing ended up a short fly ball to center field to end the rally hopes and the game, once again stranding runners for any potential to take back this game.

Final score: 4-1 Red Sox

Maybe Sunday’s game will be better somehow. I’m cautiously optimistic because stranger things have happened, especially in these long-time rivalry games. You just never know.

Roster moves/Scranton Shuttle: Before the game, the Yankees selected the contract of Chance Adams, calling him up from the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. To make room, they optioned pitcher Tommy Kahnle back to AAA.

Go Yankees!

Game 108: NYY vs. BOS — Against an ace performance, just 1-run

After last night’s crazy game, the Yankees were looking to tonight’s game for at least a little normalcy. And it was, but it wasn’t in their favor.

Luis Severino struggled a bit at the beginning of his outing tonight but later found his momentum and helped keep the Red Sox from doing too much damage against the Yankees. Severino threw a season-high 115 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 7 hits, 3 walks, and 4 runs, and struck out just 2 Boston batters.

In the bottom of the 1st, with 1 out, he gave up a ground-rule double that scored as part of a 2-run home run (if you’ve been following this series, it’s the same guy as last night). A 2-out walk stole 2nd and then scored on an RBI single to give the Red Sox an early lead. With 2 outs in the 5th, he gave up a double that scored on a single to cap off Boston’s offense. Robertson and Kahnle swept through the final 7 outs, cleanly and efficiently.

That should have been enough for the Yankees to fight back and make at least a concerted attempt to match the Red Sox. But the Yankee batters were up against a pitcher having a terrific game, eventually throwing a complete 9 innings with just 86 pitches and only giving up a single hit — a lead-off solo home run into the Green Monster seats to Miguel Andujar in the 3rd.

There was seemingly nothing the Yankees could do off the Red Sox pitcher tonight. Which certainly made for a quick game, just 2 hours and 15 minutes. It was just not going to be the Yankees’ night because of his performance.

Final score 4-1 Red Sox

Roster moves: The greatest story of tonight’s roster moves was that Tommy Kahnle, tonight’s 8th inning pitcher, was in upstate New York this morning (after the RailRiders game yesterday in Rochester) when he got the call to head to Boston rather than follow the team back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He made it at some point before he threw his 13 pitches tonight in his away greys.

To make room for him, the Yankees optioned Luis Cessa back to Scranton. And with JA Happ out with hand, foot, and mouth disease for the next week or so, the Yankees will be calling up prospect pitcher Chance Adams to start tomorrow’s game in Happ’s stead. Seeing as great pitchers like Sabathia and Severino have had less than ideal outings (though honestly not terrible) against the Red Sox, perhaps a change in the rotation could help press the reset button, so to speak, for the Yankees in this weekend series.

This reminds me of my preferred version of the famed quote misattributed to Einstein: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten.” In other words, if things aren’t working, change is the best option. Change is usually the best option. It prevents boredom and complacency and predictability, instead inviting creativity and adventure and surprise. And isn’t that worth the risk?

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 20: PIT vs. NYY — #ElGary is back and it’s awesome

Apparently, the local schools are on Spring Break this week, which could explain why there was a nearly sold-out crowd for a lazy Thursday afternoon at the park against the Pirates. I mean, the Pirates only play their Spring home games about an hour south, so their fans could certainly make the trek northward for a game on a good day. Regardless of the reason, the fans certainly saw an entertaining game.

Sonny Gray got the start this afternoon, throwing 3 innings with a few mixed results. In the 1st, he gave up a lead-off walk who scored on a 2-out 2-run home run to get the Pirates on the board first. In the 3rd, a 1-out double moved to 3rd on a passed ball and then scored on a ground out to add one more run for the visitors. Adam Warren got 2 outs in the 4th before handing things over to Tommy Kahnle to complete the inning and throw through the 5th.

Dellin Betances got his chance in the 6th. He gave up a lead-off single who stole 2nd and moved to 3rd on a strikeout. A 2-out 2-run home run added a bit more for the Pirates’ score. But it is worth noting that all 3 of Betances’ outs were strong strikeouts. Chasen Shreve and Ben Heller split the final 3 innings, adding 2 more strikeouts of their own. In total, Yankee pitchers struck out 12 Pittsburgh batters.

That could certainly seem like a huge blow to the Yankees’ attempts to turn the game in their favor. But with the Yankees, you just never know. In the bottom of the 1st, down 2-0 already, Gardner led-off with a walk and then scored on Aaron Judge’s big double to get on the board. In the 3rd, with 2 outs, Judge worked a walk, and Stanton was hit by the next pitcher to get on base. So it would be Gary Sanchez’s big 3-run home run into the stands in right field to push the Yankees into the lead.

In the 4th, the Yankees loaded the bases with 1 out, 2 walks, and a fielding error. Then Aaron Judge worked another walk to walk in a run (Bird). After another new pitcher, Giancarlo Stanton hit into a little ground out that moved up all the runners and scored Tyler Wade. So it would be Gary Sanchez again, this time with a double to score both runners (Gardner and Judge) to really push the Yankees deep into the lead. Tyler Austin added an exclamation point to the scoreboard with his 8th inning lead-off solo shot.

Final score: 9-5 Yankees

One to Watch: easy today again — Tyler Wade. He’s got it all really. But he certainly shines at defense at 2nd base, perfectly in sync with his right infield partner Greg Bird in fielding those grounders and setting each other up for successful defense. Wade is something to watch on a lot of levels, but he’s certainly proving his worth to the organization in general and this team in particular.

Next up: the Yankees continue their hosting duties this week as the reigning World Series champions, the Astros, come visit tomorrow night (6:35 pm EST start time). Jordan Montgomery is to start the game, and fireworks are to end it.

Before the game, Chance Adams was optioned to AAA Scranton and sent to minor league camp. Adams, the Yankees’ #2 prospect certainly got roughed up this Spring, so it gives him something to work on this season, work out the kinks, challenge himself further, and prepare for a potential breakout in 2019.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 19: NYY vs. BAL — Not a good Chance at a W today

It was a beautiful day again in sunny Florida as the Yankees traveled about an hour south to face the Orioles at their Spring home field in Sarasota. The Yankees have been having a mixed bag as far as game results recently, which is a huge let-down after a strong start to the Spring. But today certainly wasn’t going to help turn that in the Yankees’ favor.

Chance Adams got the start today and really just struggled his way through 5 outs, giving up 7 total hits and 5 runs, striking out just 1 Orioles’ batter. In the 1st, a 1-out single moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, advanced to 3rd on a ground out and then scored as part of a big 2-run home run to get the O’s on the board early. But the 2nd inning spun out of control for the young prospect pitcher. He quickly gave up a single and double to put runners in scoring position. With 1 out, Adams threw a messy pitch that got past Romine, but they hustled and made the out at home in a great defensive show. But then a single scored a run, and another 2-run home run broadened the O’s lead.

That would be all for Adams today. He was just not having a good pitching day. Cody Carroll came on to finish off the 2nd for Adams, but then he found his own issues in the 3rd. His lead-off batter doubled, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on a single. But Carroll was able to minimize the damage and hand the ball over to David Hale to finish that inning.

Hale went on to throw through a clean 4th, 5th, and into the  inning, handing things off to Wade LeBlanc for the final out of the 6th. But then LeBlanc had a momentary blip of his own in the 7th. He gave up a lead-off double and a single, and a stolen base put 2 runners in scoring position. A sacrifice fly scored the lead runner before LeBlanc got 2 fly outs to close out the inning. JP Feyereisen threw a beautiful 8th inning, easily the best pitched inning by a Yankees’ pitcher all day. That last opinion is thanks in part to staring at the single statistic of 16 total hits allowed by Yankee pitchers today.

Meanwhile, Yankee batters collected 7 hits (and 5 walks), but only eked out a few runs in comparison to the hefty lead the Orioles racked up so early this afternoon. The Yankees’ biggest opportunity came early in the game, in the 2nd inning. They loaded up the bases quickly as Drury and McKinney worked walks and Romine singled. Ronald Torreyes hit into a little ground out that moved all the runners up and scored Drury. Shane Robinson hit a 2-out single to score the remaining runners, McKinney and Romine. Erik Kratz added one more to the Yankees’ score with a 1-out solo home run in the 4th. But outside of that, the Yankees just weren’t once again capitalizing on their opportunities.

Final score: 7-4 Orioles

Up Next: the Yankees return back to Tampa to host the Pirates tomorrow afternoon. Sonny Gray is to be the starting pitcher.

Before the game today, the Yankees released veteran infielder Adam Lind. Lind is now able to find a spot on another team seeking his skills and veteran presence, which will certainly be an asset wherever he lands. His release comes in part due to the strong Spring for Greg Bird and his assumed back-up Tyler Austin at 1st and with the rest of the infield being dominated by the recent signing of Neil Walker and other strong Springs for Drury, Wade, Andujar, and Torreyes. (And, of course, the lone assured infield spot at shortstop in Didi Gregorius.)

There’s been a lot of conversation about who would end up making the starting roster after this Spring. And while I do much of it privately and in person at games with other fans, I don’t do much on this blog because I don’t like to publish my speculations. Partly because I would have definite proof of how often I’m super wrong. And partly because I prefer to discuss actual facts and opine about tangible things. However, seeing as we have just 12 days left of Spring Training, one MLB writer came up with a pretty good prediction, adjusted for recent issues with injury and Spring performance. I do mostly agree with his opinions on this, but it still gives enough room for the final two weeks of games before Opening Day. Because stuff happens and baseball is certainly not predictable.

And for all those interested, Reggie Jackson‘s knee surgery yesterday went well and is on the mend. He was scheduled to go home from the hospital today and will have a few weeks before him to rest and heal and get back to walking again. Jackson slipped and fell on his knee during a morning walk on Tuesday. Doctors opted for surgery to repair the damage on the 72-year-old Hall of Famer. Get well soon, Mr. October!

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 9: NYY vs. BOS — Setting a good start for the rivalry this year

The Yankees traveled down the coast to “Fenway South” for the first rivalry game of the season. The Yankees won’t host the Red Sox until the end of the Spring, so this was a nice taste of the long-term AL East rivals for the season.

Prospect pitcher Chance Adams started the big game this afternoon and had a pretty great start for his 2 innings. Another prospect pitcher, Justus Sheffield, came on in relief for his 2 innings and got into a spot of trouble in the 4th inning. After 2 outs, Sheffield gave up a double that scored on a long single to get the Red Sox on the board.

Reliever Brady Lail came on for a scoreless 5th inning, but then struggled in the 6th giving up 2 singles to put runners on the corners. After an out, 2 more singles scored both runners. So Lail handed the ball to Trevor Lane to wrap up the inning. In the 7th, Cody Carroll kept Lane’s scoreless momentum going before handing things over to Jonathan Holder‘s final 2 scoreless innings.

Meanwhile, the Yankees took their time and found their offensive openings when they could. In the 3rd, Aaron Hicks smacked a solid 1-out solo home run to get the Yankees on their board. They found footing again in the 6th as Torres doubled and moved to 2nd on a balk before scoring on Austin Romine’s 2-out single.

Down by a run in the 8th, the Yankees found one more opportunity to advance. Espinosa led-off with a walk, and Holder double to move both into scoring position. Minor leaguer Jeff Hendrix smacked a 1-out double to score both runners. After a pitching change and another out, Miguel Andujar hit one more run (Hendrix) in with his single to cap off the scoring.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees

Next up: the Yankees host the Rays before a dual hometown crowd tomorrow afternoon. Chad Green is set to face off with former Yankee Eovaldi.

It is worth noting that the Yankees are currently 8-1 on the standings, top of the league just like they finished last Spring Training. However, I took a brief look back at the 2017 Spring standings, finding where the teams that faced off in the 2017 World Series ended up. The Astros finished 15-15, the Dodgers 18-17 — both clearly middle of the pack in both leagues. But both by October the Astros won 101 games, the Dodgers 104, easily the top of their divisions (the Dodgers at the top of all of MLB). In other words, Spring tells you a grand total of nothing.

But as I’ve said before, while your team is leading in the standings (even the ones that don’t really matter), you take what you can get. And as of today, the Yankees are the best team in all of MLB. So I’ll take it.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 4: PHI vs. NYY — Last minute power to continue win streak

The win streak continues on this warm late February night in Tampa. The visiting Phillies certainly played better than yesterday, which pushed the Yankees to be better in the end. And it paid off.

Sonny Gray got his first Spring start tonight and had a pretty good 2 innings. Prospect pitcher Chance Adams got roughed up in the 3rd inning, beginning with a lead-off walk that stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on a sacrifice fly. He then gave up a single that stole 2nd and a walk before Sanchez paired with Gregorius to pick off the runner at 2nd.

Jonathan Heller held the Phillies to that lone run in the 4th, despite a couple hits putting runners in scoring position. Ben Heller’s 5th was another challenge, loading up the bases with 2 walks and a single. A 2-out hit-by-pitch walked in another run for the Phillies before getting out of the inning.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were relatively halted in their offense until that 5th inning. With 2 outs, Drury worked a walk and moved to 2nd when McKinney’s hit into a messy single that was mishandled by the infielder. Tyler Wade then singled to score Drury, as both Wade and McKinney moved into scoring position. But a fly out ended hopes to tie up the game. At least then.

Yankees reliever Brian Keller held the Phillies to a scoreless 2 inning for the 6th and 7th innings. It gave the Yankees offense a chance to catch up in the 7th. With 2 outs, Drury hit a long triple and was pinch-run by minor leaguer Payton who promptly scored and tied up the game when pinch-hitter Miguel Andujar hit a solid double. Then in the 8th, with 1 out and Kratz and Austin on base with walks, pinch-hitter Jorge Saez singled to score Kratz. Austin was right on his tail on the way in, being encouraged home by the 3rd base coach, but the ball arrived home right between Kratz and Austin’s scoring and Austin was tagged out. But it was enough to give the Yankees the lead.

So all they needed was three outs and their win streak could continue. But since when do they make it easy? Yankees reliever Cody Carroll threw a great 8th inning and was looking at continuing that momentum in the 9th. And with 2 quick outs, things were looking up. But a checked swing was ruled a ball (and the entire crowd voiced their displeasure at the umpires), and it wasn’t more than a minute later that the batter hit a long fly ball that bounced off the top of the right field wall. It was called a home run, and just like that, the game was tied.

Into the bottom of the 9th, the game went, with all the hopes and expectations of the lingering crowd. With 2 quick outs, many of the fans were consoling themselves that a tie is still not a loss, comparing how in regulation leagues a draw is still awarded a point (a win is 3 points and a loss is 0 points). But then one nearby Yankee fan remarked that if anyone was going to do something it was going to be Andujar. And boy, did he ever, smacking a big home run right over the left field fence for a beautiful walk-off win.

Final score: 4-3 Yankees

One to Watch: Got to give it to Miguel Andujar tonight. He went 2-for-2, with that home run, plus another RBI, thus responsible for half of the Yankees’ score tonight. Plus, he’s always a great defender. That 3rd base job, or at least, platooning there is looking more and more likely if he can keep playing like he did tonight.

Injury news: in Saturday’s game against the Pirates, Clint Frazier ran into the left field wall (which was really just a chain link fence) rather hard and was later diagnosed with a mild concussion. He is doing better today, but he will be out a few more days and be watched carefully. With the rise of CTE in other sports and its direct link to concussions, athletes and their teams take even slight concussions seriously and proceed with caution. Take all the time you need. I think anyone would prefer a completely healthy athlete to a partially healed one. (Especially their mothers and wives!)

Next up: Yankees head back across the Bay, this time to play the Blue Jays in Dunedin.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: No broadcast tonight means no video highlights for the blog. Sorry!}