Game 150: NYY vs. TB — 16 strikeouts to snap skid

Well, it took a trip down south to stop the Yankees recent skid in the standings. On the opening night against the Rays for this mid-week series, the Yankees came out strong offensively and from the mound.

Michael Pineda got the start and commanded the game once again. He threw 98 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 5 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, striking out a whopping 11 Rays’ batters. The runs came in the bottom of the 3rd, with 2 outs (strikeouts, of course) and 2 runners on base with singles, a really nice triple scored both runners to get the Rays on the board before striking out the next batter to get out of the inning. That is pretty strong pitching.

In the 6th, with 1 out, Pineda was done for the night. Tommy Layne threw a 4-pitch strike out to get the next out, and then it was on to the reliable Luis Severino. Severino entered the game for a 12-pitch 4-out outing to carry the Yankees through the 7th inning and set him up for the eventual win. Tyler Clippard actually gave up a hit, a triple, in his 8th inning, and despite a wild pitch that allowed that run to score, he powered through, adding a couple more strikeouts of his own. And for the 9th inning, the Yankees called on Dellin Betances, who needed a clean outing to reset himself. He got it and his 12th save tonight — 3-up, 3-down.

On the flip side of things, the Yankees capitalized on a few of their 10 allowed hits in just a couple innings. In the 4th, with 2 outs, Mark Teixeira hit a solid solo home run deep to the left field seats to get the Yankees on the board. And in the 7th, with the Rays’ starter now out of the game, Torreyes led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Williams’ 1-out single, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s single. Gardner stole 2nd (because he’s Gardner) to put runners in scoring position. And score they did on Gary Sanchez (because who else?) hit a big 3-run home run to give the Yankees a secure lead.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees

Roster news: Aaron Hicks was reinstated from the 15-day disabled list, in the lineup tonight, batting 2nd (and getting a nice hit) and playing right field. With all the recent injuries and moves, it’s nice to see a familiar face come back.

The Yankees announced this weekend that they will honor Mark Teixeira in a pre-game ceremony before the last game of the season, October 2, before the Yankees take on the Orioles. Teixeira, as you know, will retire at the end of this season, and his daily presence on the field, in the clubhouse, and in Yankee Universe will be missed. Though his more immediate plans aren’t public, I imagine spending time with family will be top priority. But I don’t think the Yankees (or for that matter, baseball in general) has seen the last of Mark Teixeira.

Awards season update: So, Gary Sanchez is currently up for the Esurance Best Rookie award this year, and Rob Refsnyder is a nominee for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award. For Sanchez, you can vote and vote again here to add fuel to the conversation about the young rookie who very much deserves the honors that await him.

Refsnyder’s award goes to a player shows his generosity and community by giving back to his local community in some way. Refsnyder’s chosen charity, A Kid’s Place, is an organization provides stability and care for children removed from homes due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment and is based in the Tampa Bay area. Refsnyder joins 5 other finalists, including former Yankees players Granderson (“Grand Kids“) and Robertson (“High Socks for Hope“). It’s quite the company of philanthropists, and while none of these guys do this for the accolades, it’s very cool how many people are recipients of the amazing generosity of such good guys.

For the end of the year awards, you can currently vote in 4 categories for your favorite players (Best Major Leaguer, Best Hitter, Best Pitcher, and Best Rookie) until November 11th. Other categories will be added during and following the postseason (Best Defensive Player, Manager, Executive, Social Media Personality, Postseason Performer, Offensive Play, Defensive Play, Moment, Single-Game Performance, Social Media Post, Fan Catch, Interview, Broadcast Call, Player-Fan Interaction, and Trending Topic).

And it’s official! The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders are the AAA champions. The RailRiders beat the El Paso Chihuahuas (the AAA team of the Padres) at the championship game in Memphis tonight, with a final score of 3-1, thanks to a big 1st inning 3-run home run by Chris Parmelee. For that, Parmelee was awarded the game’s MVP award. With so many current (and former) Yankees that contributed to the RailRiders’ outstanding season and just fabulous postseason of their own, Yankee Universe has much to be excited about both today and for the future.

Go Yankees!

Game 116: TB vs. NYY — Nice to see you, Class of ’96, but here come the Baby Bombers!

In a big promoted move, the Yankees featured a big pre-game ceremony featuring the 20th anniversary of the 1996 World Championship team that started the big dynasty. The former players jogged (insert any “old man” joke you may have here) from the center field to their respective positions on the field. Of course, Joe Girardi had the furthest to go to his former position at catcher and seemed to be the least winded. (Chalk it up to having to keep up with all the new, young guys, I guess.) And then former manager Joe Torre rode out on a cart to many cheers and excitement of the crowd. They took a big commemorative photo, waved to the fans, and then watched the young players take on the visiting Rays.

It was fun to reminisce with the team: Brian Boehringer, Wade Boggs, Jose Cardenal, Chris Chambliss, David Cone, Mariano Duncan, Cecil Fielder, Andy Fox, Joe Girardi, Doc Gooden, Charlie Hayes, Matt Howard, Derek Jeter, Pat Kelly, Jimmy Key, Jim Leyritz, Graeme Lloyd, Tino Martinez, Jim Mecir, Ramiro Mendoza, Gene Monahan, Jeff Nelson, Paul O’Neill, Dave Pavlas, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Tim Raines, Willie Randolph, Mariano Rivera, Luis Sojo, Mel Stottlemyre, Darryl Strawberry, John Wetteland, Bernie Williams, and Joe Torre.

But the truth is that it was kind of like a chapter closing. Between this anniversary gathering and Alex Rodriguez’s final night last night, the Yankees are turning a new page. And it’s awesome. Clearly.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start for the Yankees today in the middle game of this weekend series against the Rays. Tanaka threw just 79 pitches through his 7 innings, giving up 5 hits and 4 runs, and striking out 8 Rays batters. In the 4th, two singles put runners on the corners to be ready to score on a big 3-run home run to get the Rays on the board. And that same batter added a 2-out solo shot in the 6th inning to cap off the Rays’ scoring today.

Clippard breezed his way through the Rays’ roster in the 8th. And Swarzak’s single pitch put a runner on base in the 9th, but Layne shut them down in 9 pitches to close out the game for the Yankees.

The Yankees’ offense on the other hand had a bit of a help from their newest addition and the new youth movement that is the New York Yankees now. With 2 outs in the 2nd inning, recent call-up Tyler Austin stepped into the batter’s box for his first time as a major leaguer and promptly hit a solo home run to get the Yankees on the board. Right after him, Aaron Judge in his MLB debut hit a monster solo home run right up the middle. For the first time in MLB history, two rookies hit home runs in the same game for their first MLB at-bat.

In the 4th, down 3-2, the Yankees tied up the game with Starlin Castro’s solo home run up to center field. Then in the 5th, Judge singled to start the inning and ended up at 3rd on Ellsbury’s 1-out single. Then it was Aaron Hicks to hit a 3-run home run in the 2nd deck of the right field seats to push the Yankees ahead of the Rays again.The Yankees added just a bit more in the 7th. With 2 outs, Headley worked a walk and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ 2-run home run into the right field seats to ensure the Yankees’ victory.

All of the Yankee runs today were scored on home runs hit by players aged 26 and under. Broadcasters officially dubbed them the “Baby Bombers”, a term I think is indicative of the youth and strength of this new version of the Yankees.

Final score: 8-4 Yankees.

Roster moves & the Scranton Shuttle: today, before the game, the Yankees transferred pitcher Conor Mullee from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL due to his continued carpal tunnel syndrome-like symptoms; they activated infielder Chris Parmelee from the 15-day DL and outrighted him AAA Scranton; reliever Ben Heller was optioned back to AAA Scranton; and the Yankees selected the contracts of Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin, who clearly contributed to today’s game.

Had the Yankees been not in a Wild Card race (depending on the outcome of some of tonight’s game, they are looking at only being 3 games out of the Wild Card spot), the commemorative event might have had more significance. And while it was pretty cool to see everyone on the field again, it wasn’t exactly the focus of the day. No, that belongs to the rightly dubbed “Baby Bombers”. It was like a weird preview of Old Timers’ Day or something without getting to watch the old guys jog around the bases again.

I guess because I talk about the current Yankees every day, and have deep conversations about what could be, my focus is what is and what will be. It’s nice to remember what was, but if all you have is what you accomplished in the past, then you’ve lost the joy of the present and the hope for the future. And honestly, that’s what makes remembering worth it — knowing that things can get even better as you find the positive and potential in the what’s right in front of you.

Go Yankees!

{Watch the full pre-game ceremony here. And one of the best interviews today was with Joe Torre with the YES Network booth, featuring former players and YES Network broadcasters David Cone and Paul O’Neill; it was also during this interview that the Austin-Judge power duo debuted.}

Home Run Derby 2016: Miles of power

Petco Park is still buzzing with the results of tonight’s Home Run Derby. And rightly so, it was certainly something to be honored and remembered. Yesterday, all the selected All-Star Game players invaded San Diego, met with the press, talked to fans, and generally prepared themselves for the next few days.

Today, the players donned the ugly (sorry, but they are) special retro-style mustard, orange, and brown uniforms designed for the batting practice day — or Monday before the ASG. According to a local news source: “The jerseys worn by the Home Run Derby participants are patterned after the brown and yellow color combination worn by the Padres from 1969-84. The National League participants will wear primarily brown jerseys, with yellow lettering, highlighted by orange, and yellow sleeves. The American League participants will wear primarily yellow jerseys, with brown lettering, highlighted by orange, and brown sleeves.” Nice thought. It just wasn’t up there on my list of great ASG jerseys.

During this supposed “batting practice” is the designated time for the Home Run Derby. We return to the bracket formula introduced last year with a few familiar faces and past HR Derby winners. Of course, the biggest plus of this contest of power is that MLB partners with mobile company T-Mobile to raise money for charity. Yankee infielder Didi Gregorius spent the HR Derby in Times Square to help T-Mobile’s promotion of their VR experience of the Derby. T-Mobile promised $500,000 to the Boys & Girls Club of America and local youth baseball initiatives to be selected by the winner. Plus, all Derby participants will donate $10,000 to a charity of their choice.

Legend, Hall of Famer, and former Yankee (and Padre, to be fair) Dave Winfield threw out the ceremonial first pitch to kick things off for tonight’s festivities. And the first bracket round began. Mark Trumbo (Orioles) bested Corey Seager (Dodgers) out of the gate with 16 to 15 homers; Robinson Cano (Mariners) fell far short of Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins) at 7 to 24; Adam Duvall (Reds) narrowly beat hometown representative Wil Myers (Padres) 11-10; and last year’s HR Derby champ Todd Frazier (representing the White Sox this year) edged out Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies) 13-12.

A special honor every year is the great kids on the field who get to catch the ball that don’t make it over the walls of the stadium for the coveted home runs. This year’s boys and girls were part of the Pitch Hit Run Competition. Fun fact: PHR can boast a couple of current players as part of its alumni (Royals’ 1st baseman Eric Hosmer and one of the Yankees’ 1st basemen on the DL Chris Parmelee).

So they reset the brackets for Round 2. First up, the power-hitting duo of Trumbo vs. Stanton. And Stanton still came out stronger at 17-14. Stanton continued to prove he was not just in his element tonight, but that he literally was made to do this all night. Frazier continued his surge to defend his title edging out Duvall 16-15.

It was a power-match made in heaven for that final round. Frazier vs. Stanton. And it was just one of those things to watch these sluggers power out some of the most amazing hits ever powered out of Petco Park. And still Stanton dominated, shutting down Frazier’s final round attempt with his 20 monster homers to Frazier’s still rather impressive 13.

Some links for your viewing pleasure: participant introduction, Stanton’s 2nd round featured 6 runs hit over 480 feet, Cano’s 6th home run (452 feet) being caught by a fan, Myer’s brother Beau on pitching to him tonight, and the one that won Stanton his honor.

So because, let’s face it, the entire night was all about Giancarlo Stanton. So here’s some random facts about tonight and his power. He hit a total of 61 home runs, his average homer was hit 446ft, he hit 20 of the hardest hit home runs tonight, and he had the 10 longest hit one and 18 of the 19 longest home runs. Can we safely say that Petco Park is no longer a “pitcher’s park”? At least when Miami is in town…

Also, random nerd post…

This means Stanton literally hit over 5 miles worth of home runs. To be fair, Frazier hit over 3, and Trumbo and Duvall over 2. But still that’s a long collection of hits.

Also, as part of All-Star Week activities, the inaugural T-Mobile Jr. Home Run Derby national finals took place this past Saturday. Eight kids in each of the under-12 and under-14 age division participated in the event to showcase the future talent. Who knows? Maybe one of these kids will be in the HR Derby in a decade or so.

Checking in with the Yankees in San Diego: Carlos Beltran’s 9th ASG appearace this year further lends credence to all the Hall of Fame murmuring that seems to be surrounding his outstanding year so far this season. First, it’s well-deserved — both the ASG honor and the HoF chatter. He has the numbers for both, but sometimes 5 years between changed sympathies. Beltran began his legacy by being a good guy and a great player. I don’t see any reason it won’t be the same when the BBWAA vote with his name on the ballot.

Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller are taking their Dynamic Duo, enjoying their time in San Diego. This is Betances 3rd ASG appearance (his 3rd in 3 consecutive years, by the way) and Miller’s 1st. Both are connecting with family and friends to enjoy the experience.

The starting rosters are set for tomorrow night’s game. All three Yankees are in the reserves, which means they may or may not get playing time. To be fair, most players do make it at least a partial inning. So I would expect to see some Yankee away grays at some point tomorrow night, especially on the mound.

Go Yankees!

Game 61: DET vs. NYY — Another good deed, another good win

It was a beautiful Friday evening in New York. A crisp 75° at first pitch under clear skies. And the Yankees were riding high from their 4-game sweep of the Angels to face their weekend visitors from Detroit.

I blame HOPE Week. Can every week be HOPE Week? (More below.)

CC Sabathia got the start tonight in the opener against the Tigers and the only bad thing I can say is that his pitch count was just a tad high. Sabathia continues to show off that veteran execution that made him a pitcher of note for these last 15 years. Tonight, he threw 108 pitches in his 7 scoreless innings, gave up 5 hits and 2 walks, and striking out 4 batters. Which means the Tigers were hitting into a lot of grounders and fly balls, but not doing much beyond that.

Betances breezed through his 11-pitch 8th inning, and Swarzak finished off the game in the 9th with just 12 pitches of his own. But they kept the zeroes coming on the scoreboard for the Tigers.

The Tigers’ pitchers weren’t so lucky, as the Yankees decided this game was theirs to win early on and kept it there. In the 1st, with 1 out, the Yankees loaded the bases with a couple of singles and a walk. Brian McCann then worked a walk to walk in Gardner to start the run-scoring tonight. And then Didi Gregorius hit a solid 2-out double to score Beltran and Rodriguez, but McCann got thrown out at home trying to make it a 4-run game, ending the inning.

Not a bad way to start a game. For the Yankees, that is. In the 3rd, Gardner led-off with a walk, and then on a terrible pick-off attempt, Gardner ended up at 3rd before scoring on Carlos Beltran’s single to add an extra run for the Yankees. And pretty much from here on, the Yankees and Tigers kind of kept pace with each other, putting up zeroes.

The only difference was the numbers (other than the runs scored, of course). The Yankees gave up just 2 walks and struck out a total 7 batters, while the Tigers’ pitchers gave up 5 walks and struck out just 2 Yankee batters. Sometimes, the numbers do tell the story.

Final score: 4-0 Yankees (yes, that is 5 wins in a row, and yes, that does make the Yankees 1 game over .500)

Injury Update: Chris Parmelee was officially transferred to the 15-day DL today with a strained hamstring in his left leg on that splits maneuver he did last night. The Yankees opted to call up reliever Chad Green rather than another infielder. Refsnyder seems to be the default option, and honestly, he’s doing a pretty decent job for being the 5th guy on the depth chart at 1st base since January.

HOPE Week Day 5: The Yankees wrapped up HOPE Week today by partnering with a great organization called Blissful Bedrooms. Started in 2009 by physical therapist Martha Gold-Dvoryadkin and her husband Alex after they helped fix up one of her former therapy students’ bedroom. Blissful Bedrooms helps out young people with limited resources and severe physical disabilities by completely redoing their personal spaces.

Today, Yankees Aroldis Chapman, Nathan Eovaldi, Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, and Alex Rodriguez surprised Said Rivera, an amazing 18-year-old diagnosed with cerebral palsy as an infant. Rivera is a huge Yankees fan, so his room will be entirely Yankee-themed, to be finished this weekend. The Yankees helped Said plan out his room and began some of the renovations during their visit today including painting some of the main designs (like the NYY logo) and helped sew a specially designed Yankees blanket.

The Yankees and the volunteers from Blissful Bedrooms joined Said and his family for lunch. The Yankees presented Blissful Bedrooms with a $10,000 check to help them continue their amazing work in the community. And with the help of some amazing people from Blissful Bedrooms in a bit of a relay from the pitcher’s mound, Said even threw the first pitch ball to his new pal Alex Rodriguez before tonight’s game.

I always say that HOPE Week is my favorite week of the year, and I always mean it. For the last 8 years, the Yankees have highlighted, celebrated, partnered with, and generously donated to some of the most amazing people and organizations I’ve ever heard of. Lives have been impacted and changed because someone chose to do something with their small corner of the world, and the Yankees simply wanted the world to know that this one person or group was a world-changer.

I am reminded every year to not just acknowledge those who do this every day, but to be part of the every day action. I may not be able to start a foundation or do something broad scale (even on a community level), but the opportunities are there for things like kindness and compassion and generosity on a daily basis. It’s our responsibility as citizens of this world to make it a better place. So I challenge you starting today, this moment, to seek out opportunities for kindness, compassion, and generosity. Be a world-changer, a life-changer, a person worthy of being part of this community just because you give your time, your finances, a bit of yourself in some way.

Go Yankees!

Game 60: LAA vs. NYY — Sweeping the Angels & the Draft

Okay, so the MLB Draft is underway in New York for the next few days as the Yankees look to expand their future pinstripes from the pool of thousands of high school and college hopefuls. As of this post, they picked up their first round draft pick tonight (18th overall) and have a second draft pick (62nd overall) before tonight is over. Representing the Yankees is 1990’s 22nd round draft pick Andy Pettitte. He will continue this role through the next 2 days as the Yankees fill out their draft selections for 40 full rounds.

(I’ll post the final results as part of Saturday’s post when the draft is completed. You can follow the draft online or watch it live all weekend on MLB Network.)

In the meantime, the Yankees are back at .500 with tonight’s sweep of the Angels. Yes, the Yankees are on a bit of a hot streak. Not that anyone is complaining (except perhaps the Angels and their fans).

Ivan Nova started tonight’s game for the Yankees, back in proper form and dominating for most of the game — just 76 pitches in just over 6 innings, giving up 6 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and striking out 5 batters. The Angels got on the board first in the 4th when their lead-off double scored on a 1-out single. Then a double and 1-out 2-run home run in the 7th ended Nova’s night a bit earlier than anticipated. But better safe than sorry.

So the Yankees opened the bullpen to the Warriors Three (no, I won’t concede to name from the take off the popular 90’s hip-hop/rap group). Betances easily sailed through the rest of the 7th, Miller the 8th, and Chapman the 9th for the save.

It was actually some pretty strong pitching throughout the game from all 4 pitchers, including 9 total strikeouts. While the Angels’ staff didn’t fare so well, much to the favor of Yankee Universe as it turns out.

The Yankees hit their peak in the 5th inning. Gregorius led-off the inning by working a walk, moving to 2nd on a ground out, and then scoring on Chris Parmelee’s single. Then they loaded the bases with Ellsbury’s single and Gardner’s walk. Carlos Beltran’s ground-rule double scored Parmelee and Ellsbury, only to be followed-up by Alex Rodriguez’s sacrifice fly to score Gardner and Brian McCann’s double to score Beltran.

Gardner tagged one on in the 7th with a lead-off single, moving to 2nd on a balk, then to 3rd on a wild pitch, before scoring on Rodriguez’s double. The Yankees looked like they might do something more in the 8th, even loading the bases again, but a simple ground out dashed those extra runs. Not that they needed them tonight.

Final score: 6-3 Yankees, Yankees sweep Angels 4-0

Next up: the Tigers come to visit for a weekend series in the Bronx. The MLB Draft continues through Saturday. And Old Timers’ Day is Sunday. So we have a very busy weekend ahead.

Injury update: if I was superstitious, I’d believe that 1st base was cursed. During tonight’s game, current 1st baseman Chris Parmelee went down with a hamstring injury (trying to do the splits actually) and was pulled from tonight’s game in the 7th inning. He is scheduled for an MRI and to meet with the team doctor, but there’s already talk of a stint on the DL. Yeah, just as he’s starting to find a nice home over at 1st and in the batter’s box. So, we’re onto Refsnyder at 1st apparently. Fingers crossed for Teixeira’s speedy return to make the world right again.

HOPE Week Day 4: a few years ago, Alvin Irby of Harlem, a former kindergarten and 1st grade teacher, was visiting his local barbershop and saw a few kids hanging around bored and was suddenly inspired. These kids could be using this down time to learn to enjoy reading. Thus, Irby founded Barbershop Books, an organization that provides access to books that would specifically connect with children of color.

Irby is now partnered with 10 Harlem barbershops and one in Brooklyn and caters specifically to young children ages 4-8. One of those is Denny Moe’s Superstar Barbershop in Harlem where Irby and a great group of kids met Dellin Betances, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and Ronald Torreyes and a special guest hip-hop artist, reading some great books to their captive audience and then enjoying lunch hosted by their Yankee guests.

With the $10,000 donation from the Yankees, Irby intends to expand Barbershop Books throughout the City. The children were guests of the Yankees at tonight’s ball game, and Irby, of course, got to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game.

Go Yankees!

Game 59: LAA vs. NYY — Late offense better than none

There are these graphics you can find online that track the probability of which team is most likely to win at any point during the game. So you can literally watch a team progress or regress visually as the game is played before your eyes. I can only imagine what this one would look like because for about half the game, it certainly wasn’t in the Yankees’ favor. And yet, somehow, they managed to just blow away the Angels in tonight’s game by the end of the game.

Nathan Eovaldi got roughed up quite a bit in his start tonight. He threw 99 pitches in just over 5 innings, giving up a whopping 10 hits, 5 runs, and a walk, and struck out just 4 batters. He certainly wasn’t up to his “NastyNate” self. A 1-out ground-rule double in the 1st scored on an RBI single and a visit from pitching coach Larry Rothschild in the very 1st inning wasn’t exactly a good sign of things to come.

In the 2nd, with a lead-off double and 1 out, an Angels’ player (and Yankee bench player briefly) hit his first home run of the season, a 2-run shot into the left field seats. And a 1-out solo home run in the 3rd kept the Angels expanding their lead under Eovaldi’s watch. And consecutive doubles in the 5th scored another run for the Angels.

Eovaldi walked out of the game with 1 out and a runner on base in the 6th, and the Yankees went to recent call-up Anthony Swarzak who effectively shut the Angels down through the rest of the 6th and through the 7th inning in his pinstriped debut tonight. He also set himself up for the win, his first win since the 2014 season. Yates and Goody closed out the final two innings, Goody with the easiest inning despite a lead-off solo home run.

So the Yankee pitchers gave up a total of 14 hits to Angels’ batters, striking out 8. Not exactly the greatest numbers if one thinks of for a win. And yet…

Okay, so the Yankee offense was admittedly late to the party tonight, but they certainly made up for it. They certainly started things off right in the 1st inning. Jacoby Ellsbury doubled and then scored on Brett Gardner’s double. Gardner then scored on Alex Rodriguez’s single. And Ellsbury added to that with a lead-off solo home run into the 2nd deck of the right field seats in the 3rd.

Chris Parmelee’s 1-out double in the 4th was his first Yankee hit, and he would then score on Gardner’s 2-out single. Parmelee followed up that hit with a lead-off solo home run in the 6th to the same spot Ellsbury hit his home run just a few innings before. Then with 1 out and Ellsbury on base with a walk, the Angels’ starter was done and the Yankees really took off. Gardner singled to get on base, Beltran’s double scored Ellsbury, and another pitcher left the game. Brian McCann’s 2-run single capped this 4-run inning.

And the Yankees must have decided they liked 4-run innings as they did it again in the 7th. Gregorius singled on based and then Parmelee’s 2nd home run of the night got the Bronx on their feet. Then with 2 outs and Gardner on 1st, Beltran’s 2-run home run forced another pitcher out of the game. Which must be the pitcher the Angels’ were looking for all night as the Yankees stopped scoring runs at that point.

But at that point, they’d hit 17 hits (tying their season high from April 6 against Houston) and just 5 strikeouts tonight. Plus every starter made it on base, though Torreyes (filling in for Headley at 3rd tonight) only managed on through an error in the 7th inning. The latter part of the game was just fascinating to watch.

Final score: 12-6 Yankees.

HOPE Week Day 3: It was a Yankee special treat for a great group of kindergarteners in Harlem today. Andrew Miller, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, Rob Refsnyder, Chasen Shreve, Austin Romine, Masahiro Tanaka, Tanaka’s interpreter Shingo Horie, and Kirby Yates partnered with a hip-hop music group, the reigning Miss New York USA, and a celebrity chef to help out a great charity called Harlem Grown.

Harlem Grown was founded in 2009 by Tony Hillery, a former limo driver, who decided to volunteer at local schools with the specific purpose of teaching kids how to eat healthy and help them grow their own food in community gardens. Hillery knows that in lower income areas eating healthy is near impossible because fresh foods aren’t cheap, and in a more urban environment, space for personal gardens is a luxury. So he partners with local communities to create community spaces to teach children how to grow and then prepare their own healthy food. What he doesn’t give away to the community, he sells to local grocers and returns those profits back into the project.

Celebrity chef Bobby Flay and actor (and huge Yankee fan) Billy Crystal sent their video greetings to the Yankees and the HOPE Week recipients for their generosity to their community. The Yankees presented Hillery with a $10,000 check, and Hillery threw out the ceremonial first pitch before tonight’s game.

I never ceased to be amazed at the most incredible people the Yankees choose to honor and celebrate during HOPE Week. It is an inspiration to us all to be encouraged to do our little part in our community because all those little parts together can certainly make this world a better place.

Go Yankees!

Game 55: NYY vs. BAL — Charm City, crab cakes, close games

I can honestly say that when the game was finally called tonight I actually realized I wasn’t really breathing through much of the 9th inning. And in a game that looked like it was going to be quite a blowout for much of the time, that’s saying a lot.

The Yankees played some Saturday night baseball in Baltimore (which apparently is the “Crab Cake Capital of the World”, making me regret the egg rolls and chocolate mint ice cream I had for dinner). And it was Ivan Nova that went SuperNova for most of the game tonight. Much like yesterday with another starter, Nova was sailing through the game until his final inning.

Leading up to this, the Yankees kind of piled on the runs. In the 3rd, Headley led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on Austin Romine’s sacrifice fly.

But it was the Yankees’ 4th inning that made all the difference tonight. Beltran and Rodriguez started the inning with singles, and Starlin Castro’s double scored Beltran. Didi Gregorius missed a 3-run home run by centimeters — a foul ball above the foul pole was called a foul, reviewed by the umpires themselves, and upheld as a foul (not enough evidence to prove it was a valid home run). Gregorius then grounded out, but scored Rodriguez. Rob Refsnyder’s 2-out double scored Castro, and Romine’s single then scored Refsnyder to cap off this 4-run inning.

It was also the last inning for the poor Orioles’ starter tonight. But that didn’t stop the Yankees from adding to their score (and they ended up needing it). In the 5th, Gardner singled, moved to 3rd on Rodriguez’s 1-out single, and then scored on Castro’s single. And Ellsbury’s 2-out single in the 6th made for an interesting inning. He moved to 3rd on Gardner’s single, and then they orchestrated a bit of a double steal. Gardner started the run towards 2nd, so the O’s catcher threw too late to 2nd. Meanwhile, Ellsbury made the jog home and didn’t even slide in the steal home, beating out the tag by a half-second.

Through his first 6 innings, Nova threw 80 pitches, gave up just 3 hits, a walk, and no runs, striking out 6 batters. Yes, Nova was on fire tonight. But then there was that pesky 7th inning. Nova gave up a big solo home run (to be fair, it was to the current MLB home run leader), a single, a 2-run home run, a single, a wild pitch, and a walk — all with no outs in that 7th inning. It was time for a change as Nova threw his 103rd pitch.

And with Betances out having been with recent work, the Yankees opted for Nick Goody, which might not have been the smartest choice in hindsight. Goody’s first pitch was a passed ball, which moved the runners (to be charged to Nova) up in scoring position. His second pitch was right over the plate to one of the Orioles’ power-hitting outfielders, who promptly sent it straight into the left field seats for a 3-run home run.

Pitching changed #2 of the inning. The Yankees bring in Andrew Miller, who proceeded to set down the Orioles in order. Miller plowed right through the 8th inning as well, with a total of 6 straight outs, 2 of which were excellent strikeouts.

Going from a 7-0 lead to the slim margin of a 1-run lead in the 7th, the Yankees offense needed room to breathe slightly. And they got their insurance run in the 9th inning. With a new pitcher and 1 out, Hicks doubled and then scored on Alex Rodriguez’s single. It was just enough to make everyone hope for something positive, but not enough to remember to breathe through the 9th inning.

But it would Aroldis Chapman to add his own bit of drama. A warm-up pitch caught catcher Austin Romine‘s nail wrong and filled his glove with blood (how’s that for a nice image this evening?). X-rays all came back negative, of course, but as a precaution, McCann jumped in behind the plate to catch Chapman, despite the recent rest for his hyperextended elbow. Anyway, Chapman got 2 outs right off, but then walked a batter who moved to 2nd on defensive indifference. But then he got a pinch-hitter swinging for the final out and his 9th save of the season.

And suddenly everyone remembered to breathe again.

Final score: 8-6 Yankees

It should be noted that the Yankees offense got 16 hits off the O’s pitchers, but no walks. And every single starting player got a hit, and all but 2 scored a run. Also, every single starter now has a batting average above .200. One writer quipped something snarky about miracles. But maybe “on-paper” has finally caught up to reality.

Injury Update: Okay, so bad news on the 1st baseman front. Mark Teixeira officially has a partial cartilege tear in his right knee. (As someone who’se also had this, I can personally tell you this is not good, nor does it heal fast.) Teixeira is thus placed on the 15-day DL, but could be out for some time.

In his place, the Yankees signed and called up Chris Parmelee to rotate with Refsnyder and other infielders for the position. To make room for Parmelee, Ackley has been transferred to the 60-day DL, thus removed from the 40-man roster. Ackley won’t be back until 2017 due to surgery on his shoulder. (Seriously, though, 1st basemen, stop injuring yourselves!)

Chasen Shreve is working his way towards good news. His sprained shoulder joint has him on the 15-day DL, but lately he’s been working on simple throwing regiment. He is set for a rehab start soon, most likely with AAA Scranton before returning to the Bronx.

Tomorrow is the final game for this road trip, the rubber match (to decided who wins the weekend series). And then come Monday, the Yankees return home for a solid homestand agaisnt the Angels and Tigers. But it’s also one of my favorite weeks of the year — HOPE Week, culminating in Sunday’s Old Timers’ Day. Much to talk about next week.

Don’t forget to vote for the All-Star Game starters!

Final note: Also, our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Muhammed Ali, aptly dubbed “The Greatest”. His model for tenacity, drive, and competition and his boldness and courage in the face of a debilitating disease like Parkinson’s is to be admired and desired. Go and be the “Greatest” in your own life, at what you do, to the people who you love and love you. Be a champion for others, and live your life to its fullest, not letting the things that try to stop you and distract you get in the way.

Go Yankees!