Game 46: NYY vs. TEX — Powered bat vs. bad pitching

I’ve said it before, and I know I’ll say it again. When you see a score that looks more like an NFL score, it’s pretty much a sign that the pitching staff had a terrible night. And tonight was such a night to close out the series in Texas, for both sides. And it wasn’t pretty. At one point, it was just going to be whichever team’s pitcher could just pitch better and not allow runs to score.

The Yankees got the ball rolling, so to speak, in the 1st inning. With 1 out, Judge made it to 1st on a throwing error and then scored as part of Didi Gregorius’ 2-run home run. Then they loaded up the bases with singles to Stanton, Hicks, and Andujar, and with 2 outs, Austin Romine worked a walk to score Stanton. Neil Walker later led off the 3rd with a big solo home run right into the grassy field beyond center field to give the Yankees a rather large early lead.

Unfortunately, their starter, CC Sabathia, had a pretty bad night. He threw 91 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 6 hits, 3 walks, and 7 runs, and struck out just 1 Texas batters. But he didn’t allow a run until the 4th inning. He gave up a lead-off single that scored as part of a 1-out 2-run home run. Then after walking 2 batters, another batter hit a big 3-run home run to suddenly give the Rangers the lead.

The Yankees came back in the top of the 5th to literally double their score. With 1 out, Walker singled and moved to 3rd on Andujar’s double. Romine’s single scored Walker to tie up the game. And then Gleyber Torres hit a big 3-run home run. That would be it for the Rangers’ starter, but the Yankees weren’t finished this inning. Gardner doubled and then scored on Aaron Judge’s monster 2-run home run deep into the left-center field seats to push the Yankees into double-digits.

Sabathia came out for the bottom of the 5th, and despite the now very large lead again, things still weren’t working. With 1 out, he gave up a single that scored on a triple. Another single scored that runner. Holder came on in relief of Sabathia and closed out the 5th inning without allowing the Rangers to chip away at the Yankees’ lead further.

Then Chasen Shreve came on for the 6th and had his own issues, giving up 2 singles and striking out a batter (in just 8 pitches). David Robertson tried to pull a Houdini, but I’m not sure he was able to pull him out of the bullpen tonight. He promptly loaded up the bases with a walk, and then walked another batter to score the lead runner. After a strikeout, a bases-clearing double pushed the Rangers into the lead.

Dellin Betances then came on to breeze his way through the 7th, but then had his own issues in the 8th. Despite striking out the lead batter, a wild pitch allowed him to reach 1st. Betances tried to pick off that runner, but a mess throw allowed him to steal 2nd. After an out, that runner then stole 3rd and easily scored on an RBI single for an insurance run.

The Rangers won the pitching battle as their final 4 relievers refused to allow a run to score in the final 4 innings. But like I said above, this wasn’t really a great night to watch “good pitching”, as the pitching staffs gave up 25 total hits. There were a lot of base runners, thus a lot of runs scored. And honestly, it was never going to be a good result, even if it did fall into the Yankees’ favor.

Final score: 12-10 Rangers, Rangers win series 2-1

Next up: after a travel day tomorrow (Thursday), the Yankees host the Angels for the weekend and then the Astros for the week.

Roster moves: earlier today, the Yankees selected the contract of pitcher Ryan Bollinger. Bollinger was originally drafted by the Phillies in 2009, but he bounced around the minor league system a bit, and even played in Germany and Australia before finally getting signed by the Yankees last December to a minor league contract. So today, the Yankees chose him from the AA Trenton roster to fill the open roster spot. He has yet to make his MLB debut, but could sometime this weekend.

Yesterday, Gary Sanchez came out of the game with some cramps in his calf again (like early last month). Because of that, and Romine’s recent hot streak, the Yankees opted to bench Sanchez for tonight’s game. Though he would be available off the bench, if necessary.

Go Yankees!

Game 41: NYY vs. KC — Baseball is back in the Midwest after soggy East Coast week

Okay, let’s clear things up. The Yankees did play 6 innings of a game in D.C. on Tuesday night before getting thoroughly drenched by the storms that just doused the East Coast for much of this last week. They suspended that game to be continued on Wednesday before the next game. But Mother Nature wasn’t about to let that happen. The powers-that-be decided that clearly this short series wasn’t going to happen this week, and they rescheduled for mutual off-day June 18 to complete the first game and actually play the second in a “not-quite-a-doubleheader” for the two teams.

Then because of those storms, the Yankees got stranded at Dulles airport Wednesday. Due to a minor plane issue and those lingering storms, the Yankees didn’t leave D.C. until Thursday morning. So the team spent the night at the airport. Like literally at the airport, not the hotel (there was no nearby vacancies to accommodate the 40+ people who travel as part of the team). Some guys slept on the plane itself, some found dark corners in airport lounges, some made like Tom Hanks’ character in The Terminal.

No one seemed to complain of any neck or back issues when they finally got to Kansas City, but they had a whole day off to load up on sleep and some great BBQ (“Team Jack Stack” all the way, if you’re wondering) to recover before playing tonight’s game, the opener against the Royals. The Yankees hadn’t played baseball since Tuesday night, nor a full game since Sunday afternoon. So perhaps we can blame that or Dulles for tonight’s rust.

At least, that’s what I’d prefer to believe.

Anyway, it would fall to CC Sabathia to start tonight’s game. He threw 99 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 4 hits, 4 walks, and 4 runs (only 2 earned), and struck out 5 Kansas City batters. The Royals kind of chipped away as they went along. In the 1st, a lead-off double stole 3rd and then scored on a fielder’s choice grounder to kick things off.

In the 3rd, a walk, a single, and a stolen base put runners in scoring position. Then, with 2 outs, they loaded the bases with another walk. The next batter hit a short grounder that was poorly fielded, so a run scored and kept the bases loaded. Another walk walked in another run. Neither of these runs counted towards Sabathia’s earned run count due to the fielding error. A 1-out solo home run in the 5th added one more run for the Royals.

Chasen Shreve came on in relief for Sabathia in the 6th and sailed through the roster in just 10 pitches. David Robertson got the 7th inning and got 2 quick outs, but then a walk scored on an RBI double to cap off the Royals’ runs. Holder’s 12-pitch scoreless 8th inning closed out the Yankee pitching staff tonight. But the damage was done.

And for some reason, the Yankees just weren’t manufacturing the same kind of run production tonight. They certainly got hits (8 total), about 1-2 per inning off the Royals’ starter, but they only scored runs in the 6th inning. Stanton led-off with a single, and Hicks hit a 1-out single off the Royals’ starter. A new reliever gave up a single to Neil Walker that scored Stanton and moved Hicks all the way to 3rd. Hicks then scored on Miguel Andujar’s sacrifice fly. A walk later, the Yankees’ rally was over. The Royals’ bullpen closed the door on the Yankees’ hopes for a comeback win.

Final score: 5-2 Royals

Over the no-games week these last few days, there was much discussion around Yankee Universe regarding the actual 20th anniversary of David Wells’ perfect game (20 years ago yesterday, Thursday). Due to being on the road now, the Yankees celebrated the memory earlier this month, but the actual anniversary date is always something to celebrate and honor.

Go Yankees!

Also, our hearts go out once again to victims of yet another school shooting, this time in Santa Fe, Texas, near Houston. You have our prayers, while we anticipate those in power to take some action to deal so that I never have to write this postscript again.

Game 40: OAK vs. NYY — Delay start didn’t hamper Yankees’ victory on #MothersDay

A major front moved through the area, as the Yankees, the Athletics, and their fans in the Bronx waited it out for two hours and 45 minutes. Not a terrible way to spend a rainy day — hanging out at Yankee Stadium with (I’m assuming for most people) your mother and/or family on this Mother’s Day.

When game time actually happened, Luis Severino got the start, throwing 106 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and just 1 run, while striking out 7 Oakland batters. That lone run came in the 5th when a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a 1-out single and then scored on a 2-out single (and throwing error).

The Yankees got things started on their own side in the 1st inning, quickly loaded up the bases with a single, a double, and a walk. Giancarlo Stanton’s single scored both Gardner and Judge. A double play moved Gregorius to 3rd before he then scored on Aaron Hicks’ single. In the 5th, the Yankees got that run back with Stanton’s solid 2-out solo home run into the Yankees’ bullpen.

In the 7th, with 1 out, the Yankees loaded the bases again with Judge’s walk, Stanton’s double (capping of his great offensive day of going 4-for-4), and Sanchez’s walk. Aaron Hicks hit into a fielder’s choice that scored Judge. And then Andujar led-off the 8th with a single, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, and scored on Judge’s 2-out single.

Green and Betances sailed their way through the 7th and 8th innings, keeping the A’s to that lone run. Normally fairly reliable, Chasen Shreve came on for the 9th and somehow had quite a bit of trouble as the A’s tried to make a big splashy last-minute comeback. A 1-out solo home run doubled the A’s score, and despite 2 singles, Shreve got out of the inning without further damage.

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

As part of their Mother’s Day celebrations, the Yankees honored their own moms (and many of their wives) as well as supported breast cancer research and awareness by wearing all sorts of pink-trimmed accessories — hats, gloves, socks, special cleats, undershirts, warm-ups, sweat bands, batting and fielding gloves, and more. The Yankees also honored two breast cancer survivors and invited them to participate as “honorary bat girls” — Tina Baker (for the Athletics) and Rosa Lapaix (Yankees).

Earlier this weekend, Didi Gregorius partnered with a local florist to help deliver flowers around the Yankees’ executive offices to all the moms who work there. This is just a continuation of Gregorius’ efforts to spread good will and do good all over the City (usually tagged on social media as #DidisDeeds). We’ve seen him pay for people’s subway rides, handing out umbrellas, making burritos, and surprising young fans in a children’s hospital. What a great example to follow for Yankee fans of any age — to continually look for small ways to be kind to your community.

Next up: after an off-day tomorrow (Monday), the Yankees head down the Coast a bit to D.C. to play a 2-game micro-series against the Nationals. They’ll take another off-day/travel day on Thursday to head over to Kansas City for their 3-game weekend series there. The Nationals are a pretty good team this year in fairly tough division (4 of the 5 NL East teams are above .500), but the Royals are just struggling (nearly the worst team in MLB) this year.

And finally, a Happy Mother’s Day to my own mother, my grandmothers, my great grandmothers, my aunts, and so many of my close friends and family who are celebrating today. So many of you are/were also deeply devoted baseball fans (across the league — Indians, Pirates, Phillies, Cubs, Braves, Rays, Padres, Tigers, and Yankees), and it’s an honor to cheer along side you under normal circumstances, but especially as you are cheered on today for your hard work “off-the-field”.

Go Yankees!

Game 37: BOS vs. NYY — Late rally oddly falls short after bad start & rain delay

And they’re back to a tie in the AL East on this rain-soaked evening in the Bronx to close out their mid-week series against the Red Sox. CC Sabathia struggled his way through his outing, throwing 80 pitches into the 5th inning, giving up 9 hits, no walks, and 4 runs, and striking out 5 batters.

In the 1st, Sabathia gave up a lead-off ground-rule double who moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on another ground out (that some people immediately questioned as to why the defense opted not to get the out at home instead). Then in the 3rd, a single and double put runners in scoring position. A single score the first runner and a fielder’s choice scored the other.

It started raining earlier, but it was manageable for most of the game until the end of the 4th. As it started really raining pretty hard, fans streaming to the concourses for cover, Sabathia took the mound for the 5th inning and gave up a lead-off solo home run before the Yankees’ grounds crew pulled out the tarp and called a rain delay. For 55 minutes, they waited for the storm to pass to resume baseball activities.

It was too long of a wait to stay warm, so the Yankees opted to call on Jonathan Holder for relief of Sabathia. And it certainly helped. Holder breezed through the 5th and 6th innings in just 17 pitches. Dellin Betances’ 7th inning followed that momentum.

The Yankees’ pitching staff was just waiting for the Yankees’ offense to kick it up and do something. The Red Sox starting pitcher held them to a single hit and 3 walks under his 5 scoreless innings and his first reliever followed suit. But then the next guy struggled in the 7th to get control of the Yankees’ late-inning heroics they’ve become rather known for this month.

With 1 out, they loaded up the bases with singles to Andujar and Torres and a walk to Walker. So the Red Sox called in another pitcher to handle this situation. He promptly walked Brett Gardner in 4 pitches to walk in the Yankees’ first run of the evening. Aaron Judge hit a short single to keep those bases loaded and score Torres. Didi Gregorius hit into a short grounder to get the out at 2nd and still score Walker, moving Gardner to 3rd. Then a wild pitch allowed the speedy Gardner (who didn’t even slide) to score the tying run.

Betances came on for a second inning, the 8th, and despite the pattern he set in the 7th, he gave up a perfect 2nd pitch that became a lead-off home run to break the tie and put the Red Sox back in the lead. The Yankees got a single and walk in the bottom of the 8th, but couldn’t get them to tie up the game. Chasen Shreve threw a solid 9th inning, but the Yankees faced a similar bottom of the 9th and no late-inning heroics came through.

Final score: 5-4 Red Sox, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: the Yankees host the Athletics for the series this weekend, their last series before hitting the road again.

Go Yankees!

Game 34: CLE vs. NYY — Torres’ walk-off glory in sweep

With Montgomery out with elbow strain, it fell to Domingo German for the start in this afternoon’s finale against the Indians in the Bronx. And German rose to the occasion and excelled. He threw 84 pitches in his 6 scoreless innings, gave up no hits and only 2 walks, while striking out 9 Cleveland batters.

German actually matched the Indians’ starter pretty well. He held the Yankees’ batters hitless until Aaron Hicks broke the streak to lead-off the 5th inning, though he certainly walked several batters and the defense allowed a runner on an error. But the Indians held off the Yankees from scoring any runs.

Dellin Betances took over and breezed his way through the 7th inning but then got into some trouble coming out in the 8th. He gave up 3 consecutive singles that scored the Indians’ first run of the night and broke the scoreless tie. Betances was running out of steam, so the Yankees turned to Jonathan Holder, who did what he could to keep things under control. After a bunt pop-up, Holder gave up a double that scored 1 run and then a passed ball moved the runners up and scored another run. Finally, a sacrifice fly scored their final run.

And suddenly, the Indians were up 4-0. So the Yankees answered back in the bottom of the 8th. Walker led-off with a walk and Austin worked a 1-out walk to end the Indians’ starter’s night. And (like my uncle implied yesterday), the Yankees got to take advantage of the Indians’ weak bullpen. After another out, Brett Gardner singled and scored Walker for the Yankees’ first run. Aaron Judge followed him with a double to score Austin and Gardner.

Now, with the Indians’ lead reduced to a single run, the Yankees called on Chasen Shreve to breeze through the top of the 9th in just 18 pitches to get back to the Yankee offense in the bottom of the inning. Hicks led-off with a double and then scored the tying run when Neil Walker doubled. A new reliever got a ground out and then intentionally walked pinch-hitting Stanton. So with Walker and Stanton on base and just 1 out, it would be Gleyber Torres to smack a deep 3-run home run into the Yankees’ bullpen, just missing Monument Park, for a great walk-off victory.

Final score: 7-4 Yankees, Yankees sweep series 3-0

Next up: the Yankees have an off-day tomorrow. Then they will host the Red Sox for a 3-game mid-week series on Tuesday. This series is crucial as the Yankees are just a game behind the Red Sox in the AL East. They follow up that series with a weekend series against the Athletics to close out the home stand.

Go Yankees!

Game 32: CLE vs. NYY — It was a bumpy journey, but the Force was with the Yankees

All across baseball (and the world, really) is celebrating Star Wars Day. Because it’s May the 4th… as in “May the Force be with you”, a familiar phrase from the Star Wars movies (and its extended universe). And in that spirit, the Yankees giveaway for the day was a bobble head of Aaron Judge as a Jedi. And all of this is terribly awkward for anyone who still thinks of the Yankees as the “Evil Empire”, but might be kind of fun as the Yankees play the ceremonial march music (from A New Hope) during their announcement of the starting roster at every home game.

CC Sabathia, one of the biggest Star Wars nerds on the team, got the honor of the start in the opening game of this home stand against the visiting Indians (both his former team and the Yankees’ 2017 ALDS rivals). Sabathia worked some of his own force and threw a great game — 92 pitches in 6 scoreless innings, giving up just 3 hits, and striking out 7 Cleveland batters. Dellin Betances followed suit and threw a great scoreless 7th inning.

In the mean time, the Yankees offense found its first opportunity to break through on the scoreboard in the 4th inning. Walker led-off with a single and moved to 2nd on a force attempt and fielding error that allowed Andujar to reach safely. Then Gleyber Torres smacked his first career home run, a 3-run shot to left field. (The fan who caught it later negotiated its return for her and her 8 friends to get a personalized clubhouse tour and some autographed gear.)

One out later, Aaron Judge hit a solo home run to join in on the fun. And Gary Sanchez later led-off the 5th with his own home run. (Was the Force stronger over in the left field seats?)

And then there was the 8th inning. With the Yankees up 5-0 over the Indians, the Indians took advantage of an off-night from Chasen Shreve, who just couldn’t find an out tonight to save the game. He gave up a walk, a single, a 3-run home run, and a single before they finally pulled the plug on his night. David Robertson had his own issues in relief. After the Yankees defense failed to turn two, the next batter hit a 2-run home run to tie up the game.

Determined, the Yankees came back in the bottom of the 8th to break the tie. The Yankees loaded up the bases with Andujar’s fielder’s choice, Torres’ single, and Gardner’s walk. And then Judge’s “forced” in the go-ahead run to give the Yankees some hope. (Totally stole that one from Twitter.) So Aroldis Chapman needed just 3 outs for the save. The Indians needed 1 run to stay alive. The Indians got their wish as a lead-off single, moved to 2nd on a 1-out hit-by-pitch, advanced to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on another wild pitch to tie up the game again.

But the Yankees weren’t just going down without that big final battle and “good guy heroics”. Stanton led-off the 9th inning with a double and later moved to 3rd on a ground out. After Walker walked and moved into scoring position on defensive indifference, it would be Miguel Andujar that would be “strong in the force”, knocking a bloop single into shallow right center field that easily scored Stanton for the walk-off run.

Final score: 7-6 Yankees

Further, in honor of Star Wars Day, the Yankees welcomed a parade of characters from the movie and the upcoming prequel movie Solo, about one of the main character’s origins and directed by the Yankees’ special guest tonight — Ron Howard, who also threw out the first pitch.

And finally, a big congratulations to Ichiro Suzuki who will transition to special advisor for the Mariners (his current team). Ichiro was always a fan-favorite (with the Mariners, Yankees, Marlins, and back to the Mariners) and a favorite in every clubhouse from his days playing in Japan to his time around MLB. He closes out a great career and will be in our discussions when he’s elected to the Hall of Fame in five years.

Go Yankees! (And Happy Star Wars Day, fellow nerds!)

Game 31: NYY vs. HOU — Late inning heroics

I think the Yankees can officially declare this road trip a huge success. I mean, the sweep in Anaheim was a big deal, but taking 3 of the 4 games from last year’s World Series Champions (and the team that beat them in the ALCS) really sealed that victory feeling as they fell home today.

The Yankees got ahead of the Astros once again and kept it that way for most of the game. They loaded up the bases in the 2nd with Sanchez’s walk, Walker’s hit-by-pitch, and Andujar’s short single. Ronald Torreyes hit into another short single to keep those bases loaded and score Sanchez. Then Gleyber Torres hit a long sacrifice fly that scored Walker and get the first out of the inning. Two outs later and runners were stranded on base. Then in the 3rd, Gregorius hit a 1-out double, watched Sanchez work a 2-out walk, and then scored on Neil Walker’s single.

This offensive jump-start gave their starter a bit of leeway too. Masahiro Tanaka got the start this afternoon and really had a pretty good outing over all for the first 6 innings of his outing. He was cruising along at just 73 pitches through those 6 scoreless innings and only giving up 3 hits and no walks, with 5 strike outs. But then he got into some trouble in the 7th. He gave up consecutive singles and then hit the next batter. (Or maybe he didn’t, as the Yankees’ challenge of that call was upheld and not confirmed, though honestly, it never even brushed the sleeve, but they don’t ask my perspective at MLB HQ.)

So it was on to Chad Green with the bases loaded and no outs in the 7th. He gave up 2 short singles that kept the bases loaded and scored the first 2 runners, and a messy passed ball scored one more moving the remaining runners to scoring position, the tying run at that point. He finally got an out with a stellar strikeout, and a ground out scored another run for the Astros to put them in a narrow lead. A lead-off solo home run in the 8th gave the Astros an insurance run. And an out later, the Yankees turned to Chasen Shreve for a quick 9-pitch 2 outs to close out the 8th and shut the door on any possible furthering of the Astros’ lead.

And then the Yankees had quite the 9th inning, starting (as all big innings do today) by loading up the bases on this new reliever. Walker walked, Andujar singled, and Hicks singled. The Astros called in another new reliever, but that didn’t stop the Yankees. Gleyber Torres singled and scored both Walker and Andujar (making his RBI count at 3 tonight) that also moved Hicks to 3rd. After an out that was too short to score Hicks, Aaron Judge hit into a little grounder that the Astros fielded poorly, only getting the force out at 2nd and failing to “turn two”. So Hicks was able to score the winning run.

And I say winning because Aroldis Chapman came on for the bottom of the 9th and got a pretty good save, striking out the Astros’ best hitter (and last year’s MVP, I might add).

Final score: 6-5 Yankees, Yankees win series 3-1

Not a bad way to end a road trip.

Next up: The Yankees head home to face the Indians this weekend (their 2017 ALDS foes), and then after an off day on Monday, they will host the Red Sox and Athletics for 3 games each through next weekend to complete this 9-game home stand. Momentum is everything, and the Yankees will need it to get through this home stand as both their first 2 opponents are sitting at the top of their respective divisions.

I’m not much for standings this early in the seasons, but it’s worth noting that the Yankees are 5 games ahead of the Indians and just 1.5 games behind the Red Sox in the AL. (And a game ahead of the Astros now, if you’re wondering where all the leaders land on the chart.) But I’ll warn everyone a simple thing — this means so much of nothing. We’ve watched just 31 games this season. That means there’s 131 games left to play (about 81% of the season left). A whole lot can change between now and the September call-up, and there’s always a dark horse that comes out of nowhere and surprises the world with this just outstanding performance later in the season.

So, hold on to something, we’ve got a long way to go.

Go Yankees!