The off-season scramble begins

It’s been 10 days since the Royals won the World Series and officially threw all of baseball into the off-season. Congratulations again to Kansas City and the Royals organization on their amazing season and championship. Nearly 800,000 blue-clad Royals fans (in an area of over 2,000,000 residents) crowded part of downtown Kansas City a little over a week ago to cheer on their new hometown heroes for the Royals’ victory parade. When teams win big, it often creates new fans, but whether they retain those recently acquired will all depend on if they can continue their recent winning streak of the last two seasons. But with the free agent market just now starting to break out, next year’s Royals may be shades of 2005 (56 wins-106 losses, last place in AL) or it could be like 2015 (95 wins-85 losses, 1st place in AL).

That’s what makes the off-season trades and acquisitions so interesting — it shakes up every team, and a shake-up can be just as very good as it can be very bad. It’s always a gamble because while the numbers may work in your favor, the team chemistry may not work. Or unpredictable unknowns like injuries and personal issues can alter a potential superstar.

While the team’s GMs are in their annual meetings in South Florida (enjoying the perpetual heat that is Florida in November, I’m guessing), they are already busy making all sorts of deals. A GM’s job is never done. Today, the Yankees announced two such trades. Infielder Jose Pirela is headed to San Diego this Spring (via their Arizona Spring Training) in exchange for pitching prospect Ronald Herrera. And (this one will break a few hearts I know) catcher John Ryan Murphy is headed to Minnesota in exchange for switch-hitting outfielder Aaron Hicks. Both of these deals do make some business sense — the Yankees need an influx of new pitchers in their farm system, and they really have a plethora of really good catchers ready for the big leagues (behind starting catcher McCann, there’s still Romine and Sanchez). What this means for some of the free agents in the Yankees’ system (like OF Young and IF Drew) is still up for conversation and the rumors of dealing current Yankee favorites are of course always circulating.

Last week, Stephen Drew, Chris Young, and pitchers Chris Capuano, Andrew Bailey, and Sergio Santos elected free agency. The Yankees could of course sign them back to the team, but a free agent means they are officially on the market for a good deal and their Spring is still undetermined. The Yankees also released pitcher Chris Martin and activated outfielder Mason Williams and pitchers Domingo German, Jacob Lindgren, and Chase Whitley from the DL. And now with today’s moves, the Yankees are proving to the MLB market that they are back in business and ready to deal.

Also last week, for their participation and activism, former Yankees Jorge Posada and Paul O’Neill along with current Yankee Alex Rodriguez were honored at the Lou Gehrig Awards Benefit which raised money for research and care programs for those suffering from ALS. Another Yankee alumni David Cone was on hand to emcee the live auction of baseball memorabilia.

And just yesterday, the Yankees hosted their annual USO care package drive at Yankee Stadium. Girardi and Cone, along with hundreds of volunteers stuffed care packages for veterans serving abroad — small tokens of “home”, as it were. This is one of several events the Yankees do each year to give back to their community and one of several big ways to honor veterans. It’s two of my favorite things about the Yankees — their generosity (like HOPE Week) and their patriotism (like “God Bless America” at every home game without fail).

In that respect, may I just say that we not only honor and remember those who served and currently serve our country, but those across the globe dedicated to preserving and fighting for peace in this world. “Thank you” never quite feels like enough, but know that we cherish you (and your families) for your commitment and sacrifice this Veterans Day and remember the great dreams of Armistice Day today and every day.

Go Yankees!

Game 158: BOS vs. NYY — “Almost doesn’t count”

Call it a speed bump or added hurdle or slight detour. Call it “it’s not what you want” a la Girardi in far too many press conferences. Call it whatever makes you feel better, but it’s just disappointment. And yet, the Yankees aren’t out of it. (Also, for tonight’s post’s title opine, a small nod to a CD I wore out in college and to accurately portray my feelings this late Wednesday evening.)

Maybe the constant chatter about all these “magic numbers” and the fact that there’s a grand total of 4 games left of the 2015 regular season, but the high hopes of securing the postseason with a win and a few added stipulations has been the topic of conversation for every game since Monday. A comment on my news feed read: “The 2015 Yankees are pulling off the rare combination of exceeding expectations and being a huge disappointment.” That about sums up these last few games for me too.

Anyway, Masahiro Tanaka was back on the mound tonight. And while he admittedly seemed a bit rusty, he still threw a pretty decent game. Most of the damage was once again in the first inning, but overall, Tanaka threw 95 pitches in his 5 innings, giving up 5 hits, 4 runs, and a walk, striking out 3 Boston batters. After 2 outs in the 1st inning, a single and a walk set-up a big 3-run home run to put the Red Sox on top early. Then in the 3rd, a ground-rule double scored on an RBI single to give the Red Sox a solid lead over the Yankees.

Fortunately, that didn’t last long. The Yankees got one back in the 2nd inning. Young and Bird on base with 2 outs, Rob Refsnyder’s ground-rule double (the very “in thing” this game apparently as there were 4 total in this game) scored Young. Then in the 5th inning, Ellsbury led off with a double and moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then after a 1-out walk to Alex Rodriguez, Ellsbury scored on Carlos Beltran’s ground-rule double (told ya).  Rodriguez then scored on Brian McCann’s ground out, and Beltran tied up the game on Chris Young’s RBI single. The Yankees loaded up the bases with 2 consecutive walks after this, but a fly out ended a potential to jump ahead and set the pattern that would be come all to familiar tonight.

Rodriguez, however, did push the Yankees ahead with a 2-out solo home run into those left field seats he favors for such things. So it was the bullpen’s job to protect that. And because it was that kind of night, they did not do so well in that area. Justin Wilson’s 6th inning was nearly perfect, and he got the first 2 outs of the 7th before the Yankees opted for Dellin Betances. This might have been a mistake as he promptly gave up a solo home run to tie up the game again, and Betances was now on the hook for a blown save. Betances bounced back to give the Yankees a quick 1-2-3 8th inning before it was on to Andrew Miller for the 9th inning and the 10th.

Miller’s stats were impressive tonight, spreading his 38 pitches over his 2 innings and striking out 3 batters. Miller is certainly returning to form and should be really impressive in this postseason. Andrew Bailey started off the 11th inning, also known in Yankee Universe tonight as the “inning of doom”. (Maybe that’s too melodramatic, but it’s late and they lost so bear with me here.) With 1 out and runners on the corners, an RBI single gave the Red Sox back the lead and kept runners on those corners. It was on to Chasen Shreve in hopes he’s found whatever timing has been off for him lately. It was not to be. A sacrifice bunt scored another run before a 2-run home run pushed Boston into solid win territory. Caleb Cotham came in to finish off the inning in 2 pitches.

And the Yankees were looking at the wrong end of the 11th inning, with no last-minute rally in their veins.

However, I do need to point out something here about the oddities that are statistics sometimes. Technically, the Yankees bullpen pitched better to the Boston batters — nearly matching on hits (13 Boston hits to 12 New York), the Red Sox pitchers gave up 11 walks (not a typo) and just 6 strikeouts, while the Yankees only allowed 2 walks and struck out 8 batters. The Yankees loaded the bases several times but constantly left players stranded on base to end an inning (15 total players left on base in the game). The offense was simply not taking the scoring opportunities when they were literally right in front of them. That’s why the game went into extra innings, and that’s why the Yankees didn’t win this game.

Final score: 9-5 in 11 innings, Red Sox (technically, the Red Sox have already won the series)

Quick note about these last four games… now, the Yankees have one more home game, tomorrow night against the Red Sox, before traveling down for the weekend in Baltimore. However, there is some potential weather hazards that could hamper said games. There’s supposed to be a storm sweeping through the tri-state area tomorrow night, and there’s this Category 3 hurricane over the Bahamas right now that should head straight up the coast this weekend, potentially making landfall sometime between Sunday and Monday. We’re running out of time for make-up games, so it’s going to be interesting to see how these next few days turn out.

Okay, here’s the final math on those “magic numbers”: basically, if the Yankees can somehow win tomorrow night’s game (and please, God, make that happen), they’re in the postseason as the Wild Card (Toronto officially claimed the AL East title with their near-blowout of the Orioles). If they don’t, then it’s a waiting game on many other potential wild card teams to lose their games tomorrow. It’s just kind of really messy, this postseason math business.

Go Yankees!

Game 146: NYY vs. NYM — The power of the 7-train

Ah, the Subway Series. I have to say I look forward to these games all year. It’s the intra-city rivalry, the “natural rivals” as the league has dubbed them. A minor weekend skirmish of Queens (plus Long Island, Staten Island, and parts of Jersey) and the Bronx (plus Manhattan, Connecticut, and a smattering of the general population of the U.S.). It’s the one time in baseball where New York roots against New York (like Giants vs. Jets or Knicks vs. Nets or Rangers vs. Islanders or… you get my drift).

And for those of you who haven’t been to New York (or have and were stereotypically terrified of the mass transit system), the average New Yorker can take a series of subway trains to get to most professional stadiums in the area (which in an area that relies on its public transportation is a very good thing). In baseball, you take the B or D or 6 trains up to Yankee Stadium, or the 7 train out to Citi Field.

Even some of the players take the trains to the local games, as I do when I go to the game (Go, 6-train! — an inside joke for anyone who’s been to Yankee Stadium). Basically, there is a reason why the subway is one of the iconic things about New York, complete with its panhandlers, buskers, rats, garbage, rush hours, garbled PA announcements, cramped cars, strange advertisements, smell, and all.

The Yankees got things started in the 1st inning with Gardner’s lead-off walk. Gardner moved to 3rd on Beltran’s 1-out single and then scored on Chris Young’s sacrifice fly. And then… nothing. For a very long time.

In the meantime, Masahiro Tanaka got the start for the Yankees in the series opener and was actually cruising along pretty well for most of his outing — just 82 pitches in 6 innings, giving up 5 hits, no walks, and 2 runs, and striking out 4 batters. A 1-out solo home run in the 2nd inning quickly tied up the game, but Tanaka kept things fairly close for most of his time on the mound tonight. But it was a 2-out solo home run that pushed the Mets ahead tonight in the 6th inning. After getting out of the inning, with his at-bat coming up, Tanaka’s night was over, now on target for the loss (as that’s how these stats work).

Though, if truth be told, it wasn’t really Tanaka’s pitching that sunk the Yankees tonight. No, that responsibility lies with the bullpen that couldn’t seem to keep the Mets from adding to their winning score. Not in an outright ridiculous way, but rather in the hard-fought way that made Yankee Universe realize why the Mets are one of the top teams in the league (in addition to being the NL East division leader).

Reliever Chasen Shreve took over for Tanaka, and after 2 solid outs, Shreve gave up a single and a pinch-hit 2-run home run to push the Mets further up the scoreboard. Branden Pinder didn’t enjoy his night either, coming on in the 8th for an out, a triple, and a walk. Then James Pazos’ wild pitch scored the runner from 3rd before he turned the ball over to Andrew Bailey who got a strikeout for the final out of the 8th.

The Yankees attempted a late rally in the 9th inning. Pinch-hitter Ackley led-off with a double, pinch-hitter Rodriguez got a 1-out walk, and Ellsbury (a previous inning’s pinch-hitter) singled to load the bases. And then they just sat there as the Yankees got a fly out and a strikeout to end any hopes at a rally. Deflated is the best word to use right here, if you’re wondering.

Final score: 5-1 Mets. (The Yankees are now 4.5 games behind Toronto in the AL East, by the way. I’ve never cheered more for teams like Boston or Detroit to beat the Blue Jays in this last month; my friends and family are starting to question my loyalty. Overall objective here, people.)

A little opinion tonight: okay, so I get that some people chatted about the missing regular starters in the line up tonight. But it was really ridiculous. First, there is no designated hitter at National League parks, like Citi Field, and the Yankees’ regular DH isn’t really up to the same level as a position player as he has been in past seasons or where other roster players are currently. Second, the Yankees just played 3 games on turf and are getting ready to play another series on the other turf surface in the league next week; thus a day off to rest the legs of a professional athlete isn’t a slam but rather a precaution so as not to exhaust said athlete.

And finally, I’m so over the “message board managers” (or “armchair coaches” or whatever you want to call them); so unless you’re getting paid to come up with the game strategy, completely understanding the human dynamics of players and contracts and general team morale, back off the angry harassment masquerading as “critique”. The best and worst part about the internet is the capability to express our own opinion about anything (as I do almost daily). But such freedom of speech often comes with strongly worded comments that are often based on partial information or pre-set biases. Which I get. Fine. That’s your right. But allowing for such freedom also comes with the responsibility to respect those who have the extreme opposite opinions, as well as have the grace and compassion to concede when proven wrong and also to combine humility when proven right.

Do I agree with everything the Yankees do? Of course not. Does that stop me from being a fan or expressing my opinions or doing my job? Of course not. It’s a long game, a long season, full of intricate strategies, involving more people than the average fan will ever know, so much bigger than 140 characters, so much more complicated than a meme or gif. And that’s what makes it worth even a terrible losing season — because it’s a game played for the pleasure of both its players and its fan base that a million different things and people have to coincide and coordinate to make possible for but a moment in time.

Go Yankees!

Game 136: BAL vs. NYY — A labor of winning

Not a bad way to spend a Labor Day… in the Bronx, a sunny Monday afternoon, battling it out, a really satisfying win. The Orioles are in town for a mid-week 3-game series to continue this big division rivals home stand this week. And after taking 2 of the 3 games from the Rays, the Yankees were raring to go and fend off those pesky black birds from Baltimore.

Michael Pineda got the start today and really got roughed up a bit, and in spite of that, he still walked off the mound in the win column. Until he was given a no-decision. Like I said, it was a battle. Pineda threw 99 pitches over 6 innings, gave up 6 hits, 4 runs, and 2 walks, and struck out 5 Baltimore batters. And most of that damage was in the 2nd inning. A lead-off walk ended up at 3rd on a single and then scored on a 3-run home run to put the Orioles in the lead. Then a hit-by-pitch moved to 2nd on a bunt single, then to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt, and scored on a single. Fortunately, the Yankees defense got the following runner out at home in a great throw, and then even after a threatening double, a line out quickly ended the threat.

But the Yankees weren’t exactly down for the count. They made the Orioles’ starter work today, pushing him to 104 pitches in just 5 innings and collecting 9 hits from him. In the 1st, Chase Headley hit a 1-out single and then scored on Chris Young’s 2-out single to get the runs started and the Yankees on the board. Down 4-1 in the 3rd, the Yankees came back with Headley leading-off by reaching 1st on a throwing error, standing at 2nd after 2 outs, and then scoring on Young’s double (these two were a great tag-team duo today).

Alex Rodriguez led-off with 5th inning with a solo home run into the left field seats. And then with 2 outs and Greg Bird on 1st with a walk, John Ryan Murphy smacked a solid 2-run home run to push the Yankees into the lead once again.

Now, with both starters out of the game, the Yankees with a slim 1-run lead, the battle really kicked it up a notch. With Justin Wilson in for relief of Pineda, he gave up a 1-out solo home run in the 7th to tie up the game and officially both blow the save and gift Pineda with a no-decision. However, Wilson would be the pitcher on record when the Yankees would find the offense again in the bottom of the inning. When Beltran led-off with a walk and Young singled, the Orioles hoped a pitching change would fight off the offensive rally; but the Yankees recent secret weapon — Greg Bird — just hit a huge 3-run home run into the Yankee bullpen to ensure the Yankee lead.

Now a save opportunity, the Yankees turned to their Dynamic Duo as the 8-9 inning punches. Dellin Betances’ 8th inning saw him struggle some, with 2 consecutive walks and 2 consecutive strikeouts, then another walk to load the bases before another strikeout shut down on the Orioles’ hopes of a viable rally. Andrew Miller’s 9th inning saw his flair for the dramatic (that Betances seemed to pick-up today) with 2 quick outs and a walked batter to start the drama. Defensive indifference allowed that runner to go to 2nd and then score on a single, but a strikeout quickly shut the door and earned him his 23rd save of the season.

Final score: 8-6 Yankees.

The Revolving Door: Chris Capuano was back on the active roster today as part of the September expanded roster. Girardi has expressed his desire to make sure that his pitchers are not overtaxed going into the push for October. This includes both the starting rotation and the bullpen. If all goes as planned (and predicted), the Yankees will be playing October baseball, at least as a Wild Card, so the necessity of being able to go the distance and not be exhausted before they hit the finish line is very important.

Pitching, bullpen, defense, base-running, and hitting are the five aspects that each team compose a team, and excellence in each category is a symptom of a championship team. Now, the Yankees have definitely had moments where one of these aspects has carried them more than the others, but overall, the Yankees this year are really seeing above average in each category.

Now, I refuse to make predictions (during the regular season, at least) on here as far too many things can happen, but I don’t hesitate to voice my opinions. And it will be interesting to see how my verbal predictions that I formed way back in Spring Training pan out next month. I’ve been right on most of them so far. And you all know how I like to be right. (Well, if you really think about it, who really likes being wrong?)

Go Yankees!

Game 132: NYY vs. BOS — No lead is ever safe in the rivalry

So basic summary of this afternoon’s finale at Fenway — the Yankees got a really big early lead and the Red Sox spent the rest of the game chipping away at it bit by bit. 12 total pitchers (and thanks to the September call-ups no position players needed), 28 total hits, 10 total walks, and 21 total runs scored. The only inning neither team scored a run in was the 4th.

But the games between the Red Sox and Yankees are anything but “normal” games. Never have been, and that’s what keeps the rivalry alive. Well, that and the passionate/rabid fan bases.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start in today’s rubber match against the Red Sox, and today he had two things going for him — decent pitching and plenty of run-support. Tanaka threw 92 pitches in 6.1 innings, giving up 6 hits, 1 walk, and 4 runs, striking out 5 Boston batters. In the 1st, the Red Sox struck first with a lead-off double that scored on a 2-out ground-rule double. Another lead-off double in the 5th scored on a sacrifice fly. And a lead-off solo home run in the 6th added to the Red Sox’s total. After giving up a 1-out walk in the 7th, the Yankees opted to start the open door of their bullpen.

Before that, the Yankees hit the Red Sox pitching hard. In the 2nd, with 1 out and Headley on base with a walk, Greg Bird hit a 2-run home run to put the Yankees in the lead. John Ryan Murphy’s solo shot into the Green Monster (and right into the hands of some Yankee fans in the 2nd row up there) began the offensive push the Yankees needed. The bases were then loaded with Gregorius’ single, Drew’s double, and Gardner’s walk. Chris Young then singled to score Didi and somehow Gardner got caught in between 2nd and 3rd which was already occupied by Young and Drew respectively, so he was tagged out because there was literally nowhere to go. Alex Rodriguez’s single scored both Drew and Young and forced the starter out of the game in the middle of the 2nd inning. Carlos Beltran promptly hit his own deep Green Monster home run, a 2-run shot to cement the Yankees 8-run 2nd inning and their strong lead in today’s game.

In the 3rd, Bird and Gregorius on base with walks and one out, Stephen Drew’s 3-run home run into the first row of the right field seats pushed the Yankees into double digits. And Didi Gregorius’ 2-out solo home run in the 5th gave the Yankees a decent cushion to fend off the slowly advancing Red Sox, giving them enough to keep and maintain that lead in the end.

Once Tanaka was out of the game and responsible for the runner on 1st in the 7th inning, Andrew Bailey was called on for relief. Bailey has been on the mend from shoulder surgery two years ago and made his return against his old team. It wasn’t really ideal as he promptly loaded the bases with two more walks. A sacrifice fly scored one run and a single scored the other before reliever Justin Wilson got the final out of the 7th in just 3 pitches.

The Yankees fought back in the 8th with Gardner’s lead-off double. And two outs later, he scored on Jose Pirela’s single. (Some of the newest and returning faces as part of the September call-up got some play time in today’s game — Pirela, Noel, Cotham, and Bailey.)

In the bottom of the 8th, the Red Sox took advantage of Bryan Mitchell’s recent struggles, after returning from the DL. Consecutive singles and a wild pitch put runners in scoring position with 1 out. Then two more consecutive singles scored 2 more Red Sox runs. After a walk to load the bases and still just that 1 out, the Yankees called on Dellin Betances to work his magic and stop the Red Sox rally attempt. 11 pitches later, a strikeout and a force ground out and the Yankees were out of a jam and headed into the final 6 outs of the game.

Caleb Cotham got his chance in the 9th but immediately struggled. Consecutive doubles scored the Red Sox’s final run of the evening, and forced Cotham out of the game. And even though there was no save opportunity, they weren’t about to risk losing this game. It was Andrew Miller time — ground out, ground out, walk, and strikeout on that 14th pitch. Game over.

Final score in Boston: 13-8 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-1.

And after tomorrow’s off-day, the Yankee will face all division rivals in a 10-game home stand — Rays, Orioles, and Blue Jays. Expect standings to change drastically after this next week. Should be the start of a very interesting September as we head into the final 30 games of the season. Yes, just 30 left of the regular season.

Go Yankees!

Game 127: NYY vs. ATL — Spark the slumping offense with bad pitching

I always liked Atlanta. I have a cousin and his family that live in Atlanta. I love driving through the city seeing the bridges and the lights. I even thought about going to school in the city. But in the summers, it earns the title “Hot-lanta” quite easily. But still, it’s a nice city. And after tonight’s game, I like the city even more.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start tonight in the weekend against the Braves at Turner Field just south of downtown Atlanta. And while it wasn’t his best outing of the season, Tanaka actually threw a pretty good game and certainly earned his 10th win of the season — 100 pitches in 7 innings, 5 hits, 1 walk, 3 runs, and 7 strikeouts. In the 1st, Tanaka had trouble instantly — a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a walk and then scored on another single. As the first out of the inning, a sacrifice fly scored another run. A 1-out solo home run in the 3rd added the 3rd run to the Braves’ score tonight. But really, Tanaka kept things under control.

Justin Wilson came on in the 8th to keep the Braves in place and threw 19 pitches through 1 walk and 2 outs. Bryan Mitchell, back just today from the DL, finished off the inning and kept the Braves from scoring. Mitchell came back in the 9th, a 1-out walk moved to 2nd on a passed ball and then scored on a single. And that would be it for the Braves.

The ironic part of tonight’s game, for me at least, was that the Braves were a threat and a Yankees’ rival in the 1990s because of their absolute nasty pitching staff. Well, this is definitely not the Braves from the 1990s. I hope their pitching was having an off-night or their being 3rd in the NL East makes no sense. But I suppose it could explain why they’re 17 games behind the Mets and 11.5 behind the Nationals, and 10 games under .500 (at .422). By all respects, they should be a better team.

But they aren’t. And for one night (and hopefully for the series), it works out in the Yankees’ favor during a time when the Yankees really need a boost. After a quick 2-outs to lead-off the game, the Yankees started hitting (or walking) and didn’t look back. Beltran singles and then the bases were loaded with McCann and Bird’s walk. Chase Headley’s ground-rule double scored Beltran and McCann. And then Didi Gregorius’ 3-run home run scored Bird and Headley as well.

Then in the 2nd, again with 2 outs, the bases were loaded as Gardner and Beltran singled and McCann walked (again). The Braves decided that was it for their starter, after 55 pitches in just 1.2 unproductive innings (for them). The new reliever walked Bird to walk in Gardner and then walked Headley to walk in Beltran. Yes, consecutive walked-in walks. Gregorius’ single scored McCann and Bird. And the Yankees had quite the healthy lead over the Braves right in the 2nd inning.

The Braves’ pitchers struggled through the 4th inning but kept the Yankees from adding to their score. In the 5th, the Yankees faced the best pitcher of the evening from the Braves’ staff. The next reliever also did a good job against the 6th and 7th innings. It would be the only time in the game when the Braves felt they were actually in control of the game. Though to be fair, the Yankees weren’t really making much headway on their end, and the Braves weren’t hitting much at that point against Tanaka.

But it was the pitcher in the 8th inning that sparked the Yankees’ offense once again. Ellsbury led-off with a single but then got out at 2nd on Gardner’s force out. Gardner moved to 3rd on Beltran’s double. And Brian McCann hit his 92nd home run at Turner Field (McCann spent his career with the Braves prior to his time with the Yankees), his 23rd of the season, a 3-run shot to push the lead above and beyond for the Yankees. Headley hit a 2-out ground-rule double and then scored on Gregorius’ single. Yes, Gregorius is responsible for 6 of the Yankees’ runs tonight, the first shortstop in Yankee history to play a game with 4 hits and 6 RBIs in a single game.

Then in the 9th, Chris Young led-off with a solo home run to left field. Then Murphy doubled, moved to 3rd on Gardner’s double, and scored on McCann’s sacrifice fly. I should clarify that the Braves sent in their first position player to pitch in 30 years for the 9th inning to save the rest of their bullpen for the weekend. To remind you, the Yankees have sent in two position players to pitch this year so far (Garrett Jones and Brendan Ryan).

The Yankees’ pitchers gave up 7 hits and 3 walks and struck out 9 Atlanta batters, while the Braves’ pitchers gave up 16 hits and 8 walks and struck out just 6 batters. This is definitely not the Braves of the 1990s.

Not that I’m complaining.

Final score: 15-4

The Revolving Door with a Limp (roster news with an injury report): Mark Teixeira is still unable to play today. That nasty bone bruise still shows swelling and inflammation around it, making it difficult to run. Doctors with the Brave saw it today, confirming that the bruise isn’t ideal but it isn’t any more than just a bone bruise and the painfulness is from the muscles surround it and not the actual injury. The Yankees activated Bryan Mitchell from the 7-day DL after taking a line drive to the face and watching for a concussion. Mitchell pitched tonight’s game, and it was good seeing him back on the mound again. After clearing waivers, Chris Capuano is a Yankee again, though taking the outright option to AAA Scranton. He is joined by his “Boy Wonder” as the Yankees optioned Nick Goody back to AAA Scranton. Dustin Ackley (remember him?) is working his way back into pinstripes with a rehab assignment with AAA Scranton for the time being.

It should be noted that come September 1st, the roster swells to include players from the 40-man roster. Expect to see names Refsnyder, Rumbelow, Goody, Capuano, Lindgren, Pirela, and Heathcott, among others. Though the Yankees do not expect to call-up the big name in their farm system, Aaron Judge, for reasons they’re not disclosing. Maybe he’s not ready? Maybe he’s nursing an injury? Maybe he’s got a big family obligation? Who knows? The focus should be on getting the Yankees through the push and into the postseason. Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway.

Go Yankees!

 

 

 

 

Game 105: BOS vs. NYY — Yankees wipe out old “rivals”

“In order for there to be a real rivalry, both teams have to be good. We can talk all we want about [the good old days]. But the fact is this is not the best vintage of Red Sox-Yankees rivalry days. Now, it doesn’t mean that the games aren’t compelling. Especially for a Yankee team that has a 5 1/2 game lead on top of the division as we speak. [And a 13 game lead over the Red Sox before the game.] But these are not the halcyon days of Red Sox-Yankees…” (Matt Vasgersian, MLB Network broadcaster)

Usually, it doesn’t matter which team is on top and which team is dragging through the sludge that is the bottom of the AL East, as the Red Sox-Yankees games are usually the most interesting games of the season. And there was one point that was consistent with that — the Red Sox’s starter was making his MLB debut (with his parents in a front row seat in from California) and really did a great job, despite ending up with the loss. (More below.)

Masahiro Tanaka got the start for the first game in this mid-week rivalry series. Tanaka was in rather fine form once again, earning his 8th win of the season. He threw 88 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up 5 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, striking out 3 Boston batters. Tanaka got a good start with a 7-pitch 1-2-3 1st inning and then gave the Red Sox quite a time. His weakest inning was his 5th — with 1 out and 2 runners on base, a single scored the first and a sacrifice fly the second to give the Red Sox a small lead. They added their final run with a solo home run to lead off the 7th inning. (By the way, the Bleacher Creatures threw the ball back, as is custom for rivals’ home run balls, unless you are that rival fan or a child or will give the ball to a child at the game.)

That was all for Tanaka, as the Yankees went to their bullpen to bring in Justin Wilson. Wilson got the first two outs of the inning and took a batter to a 1-2 count before he was pulled for Dellin Betances. Despite what you may believe, a manager can pull a pitcher at any point during the game, whether in the middle of an at-bat or between batters (as usual) or between innings (also usual). While it isn’t common here in the US, it is common elsewhere in the world, like Japan and other Asian pro-teams.

Betances unfortunately walked that batter before getting the next batter with a strikeout. Branden Pinder would take over in the 8th, throw a quick 9 pitches to keep the Red Sox hitless and scoreless for an inning before Nick Rumbelow finished them off in the 9th.

Now, the Red Sox pitching vs. the Yankees offense. First, let me acknowledge that the Red Sox starter did a really great job, even leaving the game in the lead. He just didn’t have the team to really back him up and help him out of trouble. Because this isn’t the Red Sox team we’re used to seeing.

The Yankees struck first in the 1st inning. With 1 out and Young and Rodriguez on base, Mark Teixeira’s single scored Young. The Yankees kept that lead until the Red Sox pushed ahead with their 2 runs scored in the 5th. So, going into the 6th, the Red Sox were up 2-1. Young led-off with a single and Rodriguez doubled, and that was it for the young rookie starter. He exited the game in the lead, hopeful his relievers could keep that for him, but those runners were his responsibility.

Teixeira singled, scoring Young, and Brian McCann doubled to score Rodriguez. That put the Yankees back in the lead and blew the win for the Red Sox starter, putting him on the hook for the loss. Beltran hit into a ground out, but scored Teixeira to further the Yankees’ lead. An out and a walk later, the Red Sox changed pitchers again to get the final out of the 6th.

The 7th inning would really be the game-maker. To lead off the inning, Ellsbury reached on a throwing error and Young walked. Alex Rodriguez singled and scored Ellsbury, and the Red Sox made yet another pitching change so Teixeira could strike out and get the first out of the inning. Brian McCann hit a monster 400-foot 3-run home run (his 18th of the season) into the 2nd deck over right field, and the Yankee lead was blown wide open. Beltran doubled and then scored on Chase Headley’s double. A fly out got the second out of the inning and Ryan walked. And it’s back to the top of the batting order as Jacoby Ellsbury singled and scored Headley. And the Red Sox? Another pitching change. So Chris Young answered with his 13th home run of the season, a 3-run homer to left field. (By the way, Teixeira struck out for a second time in this inning, making him and Gregorius the only Yankees to not get on base that inning.) That’s 9 runs scored in the 7th inning. That would be it for the scoring, but the damage, the devastation was done.

Every Yankee starting player made it on base at least once, and all but Gregorius scored a run in tonight’s run-a-palooza. Of the 13 runs the Yankees scored, technically only 9 were earned, which means that the defense made a lot of errors.

Two outstanding offensive leaders tonight were easily Chris Young and Alex Rodriguez. Young went 3-for-4 (including that 3-run bomb in the 7th) with a walk, 4 runs scored, and 3 RBIs; Rodriguez went 2-for-3 with 2 walks, 2 runs scores, and an RBI. Young continues to be just stellar against left-handed pitchers, as his offensive streak is getting him lots of due recognition.

Final score: 13-3 Yankees. (Fun fact: the Yankees have scored 90 runs in their last 10 games. The last team to do that? The 2007 New York Yankees.)

Roster moves and injury updates: just after the game, the Yankees sent Nick Rumbelow back to AAA to make room for Luis Severino who is scheduled to start for the Yankees tomorrow night in his MLB debut. The Yankees are expecting to make Severino a big part of their starting rotation. And don’t expect that to be the last you’ve seen of Rumbelow, as he continues to be a great help to the Yankees’ bullpen whenever called up.

Okay, so he played just 2 games with the Yankees, and now he’s on the DL list. Dustin Ackley was healthy coming over from the Mariners, but after an MRI Monday, Ackely was diagnosed with right lumbar strain, essentially he pulled his lower back muscles. But the MRI also found a herniated disk. With an epidural for pain management, the Yankees hope a stint on the 15-day DL will help him heal fairly naturally and won’t require surgery. The Yankees called up reliever Caleb Cotham to fill Ackley’s 25-man spot, and they expect Ackley to be back by September (unless surgery becomes necessary). Finger crossed.

Mason Williams injured his shoulder diving back to 1st base in a game on June 19, was placed on the 15-day DL on June 21 (retroactive to June 20), and moved from the 15-day DL to 60-day DL on July 11. Today, the Yankees announced he would need surgery to repair the damage after attempts to rest and rehab it haven’t been successful. This option will end his season, but not his career. We should see him again come Spring Training. We wish him the best of luck and health! (All corresponding roster moves have been made for Williams on his moves to the two disabled lists.)

Tomorrow should be interesting. Or at least, I hope it will. You just never know.

Go Yankees!