Game 118: NYM vs. NYY — Crosstown rivals surge in damp make-up game

Let’s be honest here. A few days ago, they came out with which team had the hardest schedule and which team had the easiest one. The Yankees were said to have the 5th easiest schedule because they’re mostly facing teams sitting on the bottom half of the standings, including tonight’s opponent. But you can’t really predict when a team will oddly surge or sputter. So there’s just no guarantee.

Tonight’s game was a good example of this. The Mets are having a really terrible year. Mets fans everywhere are complaining, and rightly so, about how poorly their team is performing and the fact that they’re competing with the Marlins for worst team in the NL East. (The Marlins are 4.5 games behind the Mets right now, if you’re wondering.) But baseball isn’t predictable or easy. And oh, by the way, it sort of rained some during the game, but the game played on.

Luis Severino is just not having a good time lately, and his struggles continued tonight. He threw 98 pitches in just 4 innings, gave up 7 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, and struck out 6 Mets batters. Things started right from the first batter of the game, giving up a lead-off solo home run.

Then a double moved to 3rd on a grounder before scoring on a 2-out RBI single. In the 4th, he gave up a single and 2-run home run to double the Mets’ score. Green came on for the 5th and kept the Mets from adding to their score with a fairly clean 14-pitch inning.

AJ Cole came on for the 6th and promptly gave up a lead-off homer. Then in the 7th, with 1 out, he gave up back-to-back solo home runs. Then after a walk, the Yankees called in recent call-up George Kontos, who despite allowing a single got out of the inning without giving up more and then cleanly going through the 8th inning.

Zach Britton had a messy 9th inning to cap off this less-than ideal night for the Yankees. With 1 out, a hit-by-pitch and single threatened. The next batter hit into a ground out and potential double play, but Torres bobbled the transfer so the run scored.

Initially, the runner going to 2nd was called out, but the Mets challenged the call as if Torres didn’t properly have the ball from Gregorius before touching 2nd before the ball was bobbled. But replay worked, the call was upheld — 1 out at 2nd, runner safe at 1st, the other runner scored. Britton then gave up 2 more singles to load up the bases before the next batter hit into an easy force out at 2nd.

Now, the Yankees weren’t exactly silent, but neither were they having a great offensive day. Part of that is because the Mets sent up their strongest starter, who held the Yankees to a minimal offense into the 7th inning, while striking out an impressive 12 Yankee batters.

In the 3rd, Romine led-off with a single and Gardner walked. Giancarlo Stanton hit into a force ground out at 2nd to eliminate Gardner, but Romine still scored. A throwing error (when the infielder tried to turn two he overthrew it at 1st) helped advance Stanton to 2nd and Romine score safely. Aaron Hicks’ single later scored Stanton to tie up the game at that point.

Gardner hit a 1-out double in the 5th and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ 2-out single to chip away at the Mets’ lead. But the Mets’ starter held the Yankees off for most of his outing. The next opportunity the Yankees got was in the 8th under a new pitcher. With 2 outs, Hicks worked a walk and then scored as part of Miguel Andujar’s big 2-run home run into the left field seats.

Final score: 8-5 Mets. Picking up from the series last month that this game was the make-up from, the loss on this game means the Mets won this series 2-1.

Next up: The Yankees host division rivals, the Rays and Blue Jays, for the next 6 games through the rest of the week before hitting the road. They’ll be down in Miami for 2 games and back to Baltimore for 4 games. The Rays are the only team of those four that have a winning season so far, but they’re only 2 games above .500 and 14 games behind the Yankees.

Injury news/roster moves: After pitching a strong game yesterday, CC Sabathia felt it in his surgically repaired knee and is now on the 10-day DL with knee inflammation. This means he will miss his next start, something that has always been on the table as they watch the veteran starter’s previous injuries closely.

Now, the Yankees needed to make some moves to compensate for this temporary move. First, they moved Jordan Montgomery from the 10-day DL to the 60-day DL, a move they’ve been needing to make since Montgomery will be out recovering from his Tommy John surgery far into next season.

They also optioned infielder Luke Voit to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. So, with 2 open spots on the 25-man roster, they selected the contracts of pitcher George Kontos (who pitched in tonight’s game) and infielder Ronald Torreyes from AAA. Yes, that’s right, the “Toe-Night Show” is back!

And for all you trivia nerds: On this day in 2016, two very particular Yankee prospects made their MLB debut — Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin. In their very first at-bats, they hit back-to-back home runs and had everyone talking about the greatness of Yankee future. Of course, Austin is now with the Twins, as part of the trade where the Yankees acquire starter Lynn, and Judge is out on the DL with that nasty chip fracture in his wrist. But what a great memory for those who still believe in the greatness of Yankee future.

I still believe… seriously, the Yankees are still one of the best teams in baseball. Don’t forget that. Like the only team that’s better than them is the Red Sox in all of MLB. The Yankees are 74 wins (and 44 losses), while most division leaders have 60-something wins. Any other year, this would be a blowout for the Yankees, but the Red Sox are just having a ridiculous year.

Go Yankees!

Game 131: NYY vs. BOS — Everyone gets a strike tonight at Fenway!

Let me just say right off the bat that the Red Sox pitcher tonight was very good. He threw into the 8th inning and got 13 strikeouts, which is easily his best outing of the season. And he still recorded the loss.

Of course, I should clarify that I don’t really know how fair that 28 total strikeouts (between both teams) on record for tonight’s game because it seems like there were a lot of strikes called in (how do I put this objectively and lightly?) very special positions. To be fair, both teams saw the frustrating side of the strange strike zone at the plate. But seeing as arguing balls and strikes gets anyone tossed from the game, it just wasn’t worth it. So a lot of people struck out tonight, including the Red Sox big veteran power-hitter, who earned the “Golden Sombrero” (four strikeouts in a single game).

So, it was Michael Pineda to start for the Yankees in this middle game of the series at Fenway. Pineda threw 92 pitches through 6 innings, giving up 4 hits, no walks, and a run, striking out 7 Boston batters. The lone Red Sox run came in the 3rd inning, with a 1-out double scoring on a 2-out single. Pineda would earn his 10th win tonight to keep him on the winning side of statistics.

Justin Wilson came on briefly in the 7th for a quick 8-pitch 2 outs before Dellin Betances came on for a 4-out outing through the 8th inning. Betances was struggled some, giving up 3 hits, but kept the Red Sox from doing anything with them. Andrew Miller’s 9th inning closed the door with 19 pitches and 3 strikeouts for his 29th save of the season.

On the other side of Fenway, the Yankees weren’t exactly hitting, getting only 5 total hits. But they were more efficient with their run-scoring. The Red Sox starter held them off until the 5th inning. Rodriguez led off with a single, and 2 (no surprise) strikeouts later, Gregorius reached on a fielding error, putting both runners in scoring position. Both then scored on Stephen Drew’s double to push the Yankees into the lead. Then Brett Gardner crushed a 2-out solo home run right by the Pesky Pole in the 8th for the insurance run the Yankees needed to breathe.

Final score: 3-1 Yankees.

The Revolving Door with a Limp: after further tests, the Yankees determined that Mark Teixeira’s bone bruise was worse that originally thought, and while there’s no fracture, it’s still bad enough to force Teixeira into rest and on crutches for at least 2 weeks. Due to the September call-up today, the Yankees had to make room for the new faces and made these moves — recalled pitcher Domingo German from Single-A Tampa and sent him to the 60-day DL on recovery from Tommy John surgery last April; designated prospects infielder Cole Figueroa and outfielder Tyler Austin for assignment. They then recalled Caleb Cotham, Rob Refsnyder, and Jose Pirela from AAA Scranton; selected the contracts of James Pazos, Rico Noel, Austin Romine, and Andrew Bailey from AAA Scranton; and activated Dustin Ackley from the 15-day DL.

I should clarify that the total currently sits at 40 on my list, but several aren’t actually listed as being part of the active roster just yet. So, I’m guessing there should be a few more transactions in the next few days to finalize the expanded roster.

The Yankees also announced today that they will be sending several of their prospects to the Arizona Fall League (or the AFL) — catcher Gary Sanchez (still technically on the 40-man roster); pitchers Chaz Hebert and Ty Webb; infielders Eric Jagielo and Tyler Wade; and outfielder Dustin Fowler. The Yankees prospects will join other prospects from the Brewers, Cardinals, Rangers, and Royals organizations to play this fall in Scottsdale and work on finding their way into the majors in the near future. The future is bright for the Baby Bombers. Can’t wait to see how they’ve progressed come Spring Training!

Go Yankees!

Game 85: OAK vs. NYY — Brett Gardner is an All-Star! And the Yankees won!

Basically, today was all good news day. Brett Gardner is an All-Star! His first ever selection, but may it be the start of many more to come. One of the starting outfielders (and one of the many Royals voted into the roster) Alex Gordon pulled a groin muscle in last night’s game (against the Rays in Kansas City) and will be out of the game for 8 weeks, thus missing the All-Star Game on Tuesday. In his place will start the next most-voted player Adam Jones (of Baltimore), but then with a spot open in the outfield to replace the starters halfway through the game, it was down to the two outfielders on the Final Fan Vote list — Cespedes (DET) and Gardner. The AL Manager chose Gardner.

About halfway through the game, Girardi was notified of the selection but kept it to himself. He then allowed Gardner to head out to left field to hear the Yankee Stadium announce to the 40,084 fans, members of the press, and all those watching/listening to game across the globe that their #VoteGardy campaign was oddly successful, though not in the prescribed way. Gardner is now headed to Cincinnati, following this weekend series at Fenway, with teammates Teixeira and Betances.

I think Gardner had the right idea all along — play the game, let his actions speak for themselves, and good things will happen. Something he continued to do today, even after the announcement that rocked Yankee Universe, because even though everyone could only talk of Gardner the All-Star after a certain point in the game, there was still a game to be played.

Today’s game was an afternoon matinee in the Bronx, the final game and rubber match against the visiting Athletics. But today was just destined to be a good day for the Yankees. And it was a great day for starter Masahiro Tanaka, who was absolutely outstanding from start to finish. Tanaka threw 114 pitches over his 7.2 innings, gave up just 2 hits, 2 runs (1 earned), and 1 walk, striking out 6 A’s batters. In the 2nd inning, the lead-off batter reached on catcher interference (McCann’s glove got in the way of his swing) and then scored on an RBI double. After a walk, the lead runner then advanced to 3rd on a double play before scoring on a RBI double. That would be the last hit Tanaka would allow for the rest of his outing.

Chasen Shreve came in to finish the 8th inning, and then threw the first 2 outs of the 9th. He gave up the only other hit the A’s would get all day, a 2-out single in 9th inning, before Girardi went back to the bullpen. Adam Warren threw a 3-pitch strikeout to end the game and give Tanaka the win, his 5th of the season.

Now, on the other side of the game, the Yankees started the game off with a bang — Brett Gardner (who else today?) got a 1-out 1st inning solo home run to kick of his day of amazingness. Then in the 3rd inning, Jacoby Ellsbury led-off with a walk, moved to 2nd on Gardner’s single, and then scored on Mark Teixeira’s single. They followed up that in the 4th inning with Drew drawing a 1-out walk, moving to 3rd on Figueroa’s double (more on him in a moment), and then both Ellsbury and Figueroa scored on Ellsbury’s big single to push the Yankees ahead of the A’s again.

To add to the heightened excitement of the day, the Yankees came back and added more in the 8th inning. Young, on base with a 1-out walk, moved to 3rd on Figueroa’s ground-rule double. Then Jacoby Ellsbury’s potential hit became a messy throwing error, allowing both runners to score and Ellsbury to reach 1st safely.

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

It’s Roster Moves Time! So before the game, Brendan Ryan was headed to AAA Scranton for his rehab assignment (still very mustachioed, by the way), joined by Jose Pirela who was optioned back to AAA Scranton. The Yankees designated Tyler Dugas for assignment and selected the contract of Cole Figueroa.

Figueroa was a great pick-up by the Yankees. I remember him from Spring Training (and his very large family all donning Figueroa jerseys from his time last year with the Single-A Tampa team), and he certainly made his MLB debut tonight in a big way — going 2-for-4 with 2 runs scored. Both of his hits were doubles, big doubles. Figueroa and Gardner were easily the best offensive contributors to the game today; Gardner going 3-for-5, with an RBI and run scored (now with a .303 batting average, by the way). Yes, Gardner and Figueroa collectively had 5 of the 8 total Yankee hits.

Not a bad way to make your Bronx debut in pinstripes for the young infielder (who started at 3rd today, as well). And not a bad way to once again prove your All-Star status for the veteran outfielder.

Again, today was a lot of good news in Yankee Universe!

Go Yankees!

{Media note: out of town again and relying on slow hotel internet, so I will try to upload when I find better internet or when I’m back with my own wifi. We never realize how much we take all these 21st century luxuries for granted until they start working like we’re still in the 20th century. We are so spoiled. Media links coming soon! Sorry!}

Spring Game 28: NYY vs. HOU — Eovaldi and some serious hitting

I was listening to the Astros radio broadcast for today’s game, and they mentioned an interesting fact about the Yankees’ starter Nathan Eovaldi today. Last year, when he was with the Marlins, he was ranked 2nd in the league as the winningest pitcher with the lowest run support. In other words, Eovaldi was always a great pitcher, but his teammates didn’t back up his outstanding outings with much in the way of scoring runs. I know they say if you don’t have pitching you don’t have anything, but anyone will tell you that you can have fabulous pitching, but without any scored runs, you lose. Every. Single. Time. Hence, Eovaldi’s 2014 statistic.

I’m guessing today’s game gave him some self-confidence that he continues to be a great pitcher, but with proper run-support, he can collect some well-deserved wins. And today, he got some serious run-support from his new pinstriped (or rather “away greys”) teammates.

Eovaldi threw 4.2 scoreless innings, only giving up 3 hits and no walks, striking out 5 Astros batters. Even the Astros’ broadcasters couldn’t help but talk about how great Eovaldi was today, and having seen him in action several times this Spring, I can’t say that I disagree. He is scheduled as the 4th starter in the rotation (following Tanaka, Pineda, and Sabathia, and before the yet-to-be-named 5th starter), and already with that rotation staying healthy, we could be looking at a pretty decent pitching staff this season. And if you don’t have pitching… well, you know…

Whitley came on to finish Eovaldi’s 5th inning with a strikeout of his own. Rogers threw the 6th and 2 outs in the 7th, gaining 2 strikeouts of his own. Still very scoreless, the Astros faced Shreve to close out the 7th and the entirety of the 8th, only gaining a walk.

But in the 9th against Ramirez, the Astros gained a moment of hope. After a quick 2 strike outs, a single and a double put runners in scoring position. But that was quickly tempered with a fly out to center field to end the inning and the game.

Now, remember what I said about run-support? It was certainly in abundance today in Kissimmee. It all started in the 3rd inning with Chase Headley’s 3rd home run of the season — this one a solid fly ball over the right field fence. Then in the 4th, Rodriguez led-off with a single, a fly out, Refsnyder walked (though they kept pronouncing his name “reeef-snidder”), another fly out, Slade Heathcott singled home Rodriguez, and then a wild pitch score Refsnyder (pronounced like it’s spelled — “ref-snyder” — it’s not that hard, people).

Despite being up 3-0 at the end of the 4th, it would be the 6th inning that would certainly seal the fate of the game. Drew (whose bat has been rather hot lately) led-off the inning with a double and then scored on Rob Refsnyder’s double. Flores and Galvez walked to load the bases, and there were 2 strikeouts. Then it’s Headley again to make an impact — this time a 2-RBI single. But it’s John Ryan Murphy to cap off the scoring with a fielding error.

And as far as pronunciations go for the Yankees, I won’t even begin to talk about how poor Eric Jagielo’s name was butchered after Jagielo came in as Headley’s pinch-runner and replacement at 3rd. For the record, it’s “jah-guy-low”, and all those pronunciations appear on every travel roster press sheet if people wanted to get it right.

Final score from Kissimmee: 7-0 Yankees.

And it was a rather pretty day in Florida, clear and warming (after yesterday’s cooler temperature, that is) and rather a great representation for Florida in late March.

Roster news: Jared Burton was back in camp today after re-signing with the Yankees to a minor league contract; Scott Baker was unconditionally released, though most talk had him hoping to re-sign like Burton within the next few days; Bryan Mitchell and Ramon Flores were optioned to AAA Scranton; Kyle Davies, Francisco Arcia, Cole Figueroa, Jonathan Galvez, Slade Heathcott, Jacob Lindgren, and Nick Rumbelow were all reassigned to minor league camp.

We’re almost down to the 40- and 25-man rosters. Which means it’s almost time for Opening Day! And I’m ready to go. But I have it pretty easy — I just have to show up and watch the game and then tell you all about it. I don’t have to perform before 50,000 people at an elite level.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 7: WAS vs. NYY — “A perfect day for baseball”

“A perfect day for baseball.” I think I heard this sentiment echoed at least a dozen times even before the first pitch, something I remarked myself a couple of times. The skies were a clear, crisp blue; the weather maintained a sunny, but not too hot temperature (even in direct sunshine); a shifting, slight breeze helped; and the attitude of both the crowd and uniformed men on the field was lively and as sunny as the weather. It was a perfect day for baseball.

Of course, it helped that the Yankees also won and played pretty decent baseball in the process.

Adam Warren got the start again today, throwing 3 full innings. His lone run was a first pitch of the game strike that seemed to find its way over the left field fence in a hurry. A solo home run pushed the visiting Nationals up 1-0 in the 1st inning. Andrew Miller’s flawless 4th inning kept the Nats at that lone run and off the bases. Dellin Betances made his spring debut to a deluge of cheers, giving up a lead-off double that never made it very far with 2 strikeouts and a groundout in his 9-pitch 5th inning. Prospect Luis Severino attempted to go 2 innings after a really nice 6th, but a walk and a single turned 2-base jog (due to a fielding error), and Girardi asked for the fresh arm of Pazos, though a groundout would quickly score the Nats’ 2nd and final run of the game. Two more pitchers for two more innings and the Yankees kept the Nationals from seeing any other potential advances with 2 quick final innings.

On the other side of the field, the Yankees struggled (again) to find their footing initially, but of course, they were facing a pretty good opposing pitcher — so credit where credit is due. How do I know this was the problem? Because the Yankees barely hit off their starter, but came to life off the relievers. In the 3rd inning, Jose Pirela (more on him later) led-off with a double and then scored rather easily on Brett Gardner’s single to tie up the game. And then in the 4th, McCann on base with a single and 2 outs on the board, Young made it safely to 1st on a lucky throwing error as McCann heads to 3rd. The Yankees pushed ahead of the Nats due to Pirela’s nice single.

When the Nats tie up the game in the 7th, it’s up to those increasingly reliable “other guys” to make up the difference. Into the 8th inning, with 2 quick outs, Roller and Judge each singled and ended up on the corners. Infielder and farm system regular Cole Figueroa singled home Roller and the Yankees were up 3-2 over Washington. A quick 9th inning then turned that score into a win.

And for the curious, Alex Rodriguez made his spring debut at 3rd, dusting off whatever assumed rust and seemed very much at home back in the old “hot corner”. He continued to have mixed results at the plate, but he’s still hitting pretty well and getting quite a bit more cheers than boos, something that only increases when he continues to play well.

Taking a moment to talk about Pirela… Pirela is one of the primary candidates for the 2nd baseman’s job this year. And while he’s been very consistent in his defense, he hasn’t really had the opportunity to show what he can do at the plate. Until today, that is. Even Yankees Special Assistant (and Spring Training Regular) Reggie Jackson doted on Pirela, calling him the “best hitter on the team”. His two major contributions pushed the Yankees to win today, and I didn’t mention several really fantastic plays in the field. If Pirela continues to shine and be consistent both on the field and in the batter’s box, I have no doubt we’ll be seeing him more frequently in the Bronx.

But I do want to pay tribute to the “other guys” once again. Sometimes, late in the game, I have to sit back and smile. I feel like we’re seeing the future of the Yankees. When guys who spent last year in Tampa at Single-A level ball strike those big league guys out or make some snazzy play on the infield, it must be a glimpse at what someone saw once decades ago. Someone believed in the greats when they made errors left-and-right or struck out far too many times because the greats were the ones giving 1000% even late into the game, pouring their heart and soul into every defensive play or pitch, praying for that perfect opportunity to at least get on base.

The fun part about Spring Training is that you never know when one of these “other guys” will become synonymous with the greats, when it’s no longer “the next [fill in the appropriate great]” but rather just that player. Every year, 750 guys play professional baseball at a major league level, but only a handful will ever be considered “great” (read: Cooperstown-bound). You just never know when it’s suddenly going to click, and you’ve become a witness to history.

Go Yankees!