Game 60: NYY vs. BAL — Mason Williams, debuting as a ray of hope in Baltimore

Sometimes, I really like my job. I get to watch over 200 baseball games every season and then blog my opinion about the game and the players and baseball in general almost every day. I try to keep a positive spin on it because I do believe that it’s a great sport and keeping a positive attitude is a way to enjoy it, even through the really tough losses (on and off the field).

But sometimes, what happens on the field makes my job (and my night) a whole lot harder. Sometimes, it’s really hard to find the glimmer of hope, the positive outlook, the good things to share with the world. And while there most definitely is some a couple of very cool things that happened on this Friday night, there’s a whole lot of not-so-great things to talk about — including very sloppy defense, an error to break a really great streak, pitchers who couldn’t pitch their way out of a brown paper bag, and (the most cringe-worthy) ball to the groin.

And now that I’ve made you uncomfortable and depressed, here’s how the evening unfolded…

The Yankees got off to a pretty good start. In the 1st inning, Gardner and Headley each singled and Rodriguez walked to quickly load the bases. But then the pitcher realized he was in trouble and got the next three batters out before a run could score. I now consider this a bad omen as it would be repeated a few time this evening for the Yankees.

In the top of the 3rd, Gardner was hit by a pitch, stole 2nd, and scored on Alex Rodriguez’s single to get the Yankees on the board. Then in the 4th, Gregorius on base with a walk, newly called-up Mason Williams got his first Major League hit — a big 2-run home run, while his proud mom watched from the stands.

Like I said, the Yankees could get guys on base tonight, but getting them home didn’t come easily (unless you were Mason Williams, apparently). For example, they loaded the bases again in the 6th and left them all stranded. It was just not a great night all around for the Yankees offense. Again, unless you were making your Major League debut, apparently.

 

Michael Pineda got the start for the Yankees tonight in Baltimore. It certainly wasn’t his best start, but it wasn’t really that terrible either. (To be fair, the Orioles’ starter lucked out because while he pitched horribly, the Orioles gave him enough run-support to cover him. More in a moment.) Overall, Pineda threw 80 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 9 hits, 2 walks, and 6 runs (5 earned), and struck out 2 batters.

In the bottom of the 1st, a lead-off walk, a single, and a fly out put runners on the corners. A run then scored on a single. In the bottom 3rd, the lead-off batter hit a grounder towards 3rd base that bounced up and hit Chase Headley in the groin before rolling into left field. Considered an error, the batter ended up at 2nd while Headley crouched over by 3rd base. Taking some time to sort out how serious the injury is, and recognizing once again the importance of protective gear in athletics, the game resumed. A single put runners on the corners, and then another single scored the lead runner. A 3-run home run pushed the Orioles a big 5 runs scored before the Yankees finally got their 3 outs of that inning. Then in the 4th, the O’s tacked on another run — a double, a single, and an RBI single pushed them up to 6 runs scored.

Despite attempts to push through, Headley wasn’t all that okay. He stayed in the game for another inning, even taking another at-bat, before he started feeling nauseous and opted out of rest of the game. We certainly wish Headley a speedy recovery.

Ryan took over at 3rd beginning in the bottom of the 5th inning. Pineda also wouldn’t make it out of the 5th inning, handing over the ball to Jacob Lindgren who got out of that inning before giving up a lead-off solo home run in the 6th. And it was on to Esmil Rogers.

Now, with Rogers’ recent struggles and the Yankees down 7-3, there must not be that much damage those pesky black birds can do. Right? Nope, here’s where it gets ugly. A single put one runner on, and then a force attempt ended up with runners on the corners due to Teixeira’s throwing error (his first error in 109 games, impressive and depressing all at the same time). A wild pitch scored the lead runner, moving the other one up to 2nd. He then moved to 3rd on a fly out before scoring on 2-out double. The next runner would score on a single before Rogers finally got a batter to strike out and end the inning.

But you know, a 10-3 lead really isn’t enough. In the 7th, the O’s come back with consecutive singles to put runners on the corners. With one out, a batter grounds into what should be double play but the Yankees can’t turn it in time, only getting one out, and allowing a runner to score.

After Rogers threw 50 pitches in his 2 innings, giving up 5 hits and 4 runs (though only 1 was earned), it was Chris Capuano for the 8th inning. Capuano threw a very efficient 8 pitches, keeping the Orioles from touching a single base under his watch. I’m growing to like Capuano in the bullpen more and more.

And one more comment about the Orioles’ pitching staff. Look, their starter didn’t really do that good of a job — 105 pitches into the 6th inning, 6 hits, 3 runs, and 2 walks. He just had the luck of the swings tonight. The Yankees struck out 6 times under him (11 times in total), while the Orioles’ batters only struck out 4 times total. The O’s bullpen did a better job keeping the Yankees from doing much, using their very nice lead as a cushion to take their time and throw some great pitches.

Final score: 11-3 Orioles.

I’ve heard it said that there’s something about Baltimore’s Camden Yards — some call it the “blackbird voodoo”. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the Yankees just fall prey to that over the last few years. Of course, I’m not really superstitious, and I’ve seen the Yankees kick the Orioles to the curb enough in Baltimore to know it’s really just a terrible night. But when things just aren’t working, and it’s really just a big old mess out there, sometimes, it’s just easier to blame some mysterious force rather than to accept the inevitable — tonight, the Yankees just sucked.

Roster moves: yesterday, the Yankees shook up their roster a bit (though there was a bit of talk about this following Wednesday’s game). Jose Pirela was optioned to AAA Scranton; David Carpenter was traded to the Nationals for minor league infielder Tony Renda; Chris Martin was recalled; Mason Williams was recalled (and saved tonight’s game from being a big wash-out); and Ivan Nova was sent to AAA Scranton for his rehab assignment (meaning his return in pinstripes is just around the corner).

Before the game, the Yankees moved Gregorio Petit (remember him?) from the DL and optioned him to AAA Scranton. And just after the game, in a move that surprised no one, the Yankees outrighted Esmil Rogers to AAA Scranton. The Yankees are hoping Rogers uses his time there to figure out what’s been missing from his pitching arsenal and work on sharpening the skills they know he has.

 

 

Go Yankees!

Game 54: NYY vs. SEA — Tanaka’s back for the Seattle Sweep

Masahiro Tanaka is back and in great form once again, starting today’s final game against the Seattle Mariners on this West Coast road trip. He was scheduled to throw about 70 pitches and ended up throwing a grand total of 78 through his 7 complete innings, giving up just 3 hits, no walks, and 1 run, and impressively striking out 9 batters.

That lone run came in the 3rd inning (because when else does this happen?) — a lead-off triple scored on a big double. And that runner tried to score on a single, but a spot-on throw from left fielder Flores to catcher Murphy got the runner out at home.

Plus, Tanaka actually retired the last 13 batters he faced in the game. Rather impressive for the comeback, I’d say.

The Yankees gave Tanaka the lead and potential win first in the 2nd with Mark Teixeira’s lead-off solo home run, just eked over the right field wall, his 16th of the season so far. And then in the 4th, Rodriguez led-off with a walk, and 2 outs later, scored on Garrett Jones’ big 2-run home run.

Chris Capuano made his debut out of the bullpen in the 8th inning, giving up 1 hit and getting a strikeout before handing the ball over to Andrew Miller for a 5-out save. Miller got himself into some trouble in the 8th, loading the bases with a hit-by-pitch and a walk before getting a strikeout and ground out. Then, despite giving up a 2-out single in the 9th, Miller finally started breathing again. Game over, 17th save. Yankees sweep.

I do want to give credit to the Mariner’s starter, who put in a decent effort — 108 pitches, giving up just 5 hits and a walk, striking out 7 Yankee batters. Fortunately, it landed in the Yankees’ favor, but I do like to applaud a decent outing when I see one.

Final score in Seattle: 3-1 Yankees, Yankees sweep Mariners 3-0.

And they’re on their way back to the Bronx for the next 5 games, after a day off tomorrow.

To make room for Tanaka, the roster move was a bullpen selection after all. David Carpenter was designated for assignment. Despite being a good fit in the clubhouse, Carpenter’s on-field outings never really developed and unfolded like was expected. I have no doubt that a change of scenery might release some of the potential of the right-handed reliever.

Also, Brian McCann seemed to have some pain in his right foot coming off his first at-bat of the game. He said it had to do with a pain on the bottom of his foot that he’s been feeling while he was catching. As a precaution, he opted to leave the game, replaced by Murphy, who did a great job calling the game. McCann will get an MRI in New York tomorrow for a diagnosis. Here’s hoping for nothing serious…

Go Yankees!

Game 53: NYY vs. SEA — Extra innings lead to a Charming Cinderella story

So it’s the last night game on this West Coast trip (and 2nd to last game before they head back to New York), and what do they do to prolong it? Why, send the game into extra innings, of course! Let me just say that I’m really glad the Yankees won tonight’s game or my lack of sleep added to a severe disappointment of a loss would not be as positive as I try to be on this blog.

But they won, so we’re all good.

And here’s what happened…

So it was CC Sabathia to the mound tonight. He would throw 94 pitches over his 5.2 innings, give up 9 hits and 2 walks, be charged with both runs, and stuck out 6 Mariners’ batters during his tenure tonight. In the 3rd, Seattle got on the board after 2 singles had runners on the corners and 2 outs on the board, another single scored the runner from 3rd.

Sabathia did struggle some again tonight, but he was able to pitch his way out of some sticky situations. But in the 6th, as his pitch count crept higher, with a near-repeat of the situation in the 3rd, the Yankees pulled Sabathia to start diving into their bullpen. David Carpenter gave up an double before getting out of the 6th inning.

In the mean time, the Yankees were held off from doing much because of the sharp outing by a rookie pitcher making his ML debut tonight. I think he’s got a decent future. I mean, his numbers were better than veteran pitcher Sabathia tonight. He gave up a lone run to the Yankees in the 3rd inning.

And because it’s the Yankees, the way that run scored had to be sprinkled with a bit of dramatics. Brett Gardner walked and stole 2nd on a wild pitch, and 2 outs were on the board before Rodriguez too earned himself a walk. Both walks were earned on a checked swing that the umpires declared did not cross the plate and thus officially not a swinging strike. In all honesty here: Gardner’s swing crossed, but Rodriguez’s did not; and both knew it. But after Rodriguez trotted his way down to 1st on the call, both the Mariners’ catcher and manager argued with the umpires and were promptly ejected; the M’s manager was rather reminiscent of Earl Weaver in his animated display en route back to the clubhouse.

Anyway, this turned out to work in the Yankees’ favor as Mark Teixeira’s double easily scored Gardner from 2nd to put the Yankees on the board. And so the game sat at a 2-1 Mariners’ lead score until that 9th inning. Relievers Shreve and Lindgren took the 7th and 8th innings, keeping the score planted there to wait for that elusive Yankee rally.

In the 9th, the Yankees faced a familiar foe, the former Rays’ closer, looking to shut down the Yankees and hand-deliver the win to the Mariners. But it was not to be. Headley led-off the inning with a walk, and with 2 outs following him, it was down to McCann (pinch-hitting for Murphy, who started to give McCann a rest before tomorrow afternoon’s game). McCann’s single kept hope alive and moved Headley to 3rd. It was all down to Stephen Drew, who proceeded to double home Headley to tie up the game.

Dellin Betances would send the game into extra innings, and you could collectively hear the groans from the East Coast (or maybe that was just me). Honestly, it was Justin Wilson’s outing in the 10th that was the most stand-out to me, on the account of his wicked defense when it comes to keeping the game under control — a diving stop and toss to get a double play. Plus he earned the well-deserved win for tonight’s game.

Wilson was thus on the mound when the Yankees finally mounted a successful rally in the 11th inning. Hope that followed a single was quashed by a double play, but Drew’s single and Gardner’s double reignited that hope. And sent the Mariners scrambling for a new pitcher, who then gave up a monster 3-run home run to Garrett Jones (in for Beltran after he took a ball off his foot, just bruised, x-rays negative).

And time to send in the closer Andrew Miller, who was ready to jump in the moment Jones hit that ball over the center field fence. Miller had his own issues — 2 outs and 2 runners on base with a single and hit-by-pitch put both teams in a precarious position. Another single scored one run, but a big strike out to one of the M’s biggest hitters closed it out and left the runners stranded.

Though you wouldn’t know it just by the post here, both Drew and Jones have struggled in the batter’s box recently, so the fact that they both played a huge role in the winning of tonight’s game is phenomenal. Yogi used to say that he wasn’t in a slump, he just “wasn’t hitting”. So forget the slump, they just started hitting again. And the Yankees really needed it.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees

Injury update (all good news): Jacoby Ellsbury is looking at a late June return; after his brace is removed and he is re-evaluated by his doctor, he’ll face 10 days working his way back up to baseball activities and then onto a Minor League rehab assignment.

Brendan Ryan just moved a step closer to his return. He’s been working on some extended Spring games in Tampa, but is now on his way to join the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre team for his official rehab assignment. His return will hopefully spark the defense that seems to be flailing a bit as of late.

Ivan Nova is finishing up his last steps of recovery from Tommy John surgery last year. He was also in Tampa in extended Spring Training games and will probably work his way through the farm system a bit before being declared fit for the big roster return. However, if all goes well, a late June return is entire possible for him as well.

And Masahiro Tanaka will be officially back tomorrow to start the game. The corresponding roster move is coming tomorrow, and a bullpen move is most likely to bring that number down to 25 on their active roster.

One more game in Seattle tomorrow before the Yankees head across the country and back to the Bronx. And tomorrow they’re looking for the sweep.

Go Yankees!

Game 51: NYY vs. OAK — Shutout at the O.co

I’ve said it before — some games are those memorable ones that have titles worthy of a 1990’s popular sitcom like “The One with the Flip Play” or “The One with the Dive in the Seats”; but some games are resolved to be just another passing afternoon and statistic on the scoreboard. Today’s final game in Oakland was easily the latter. At just 2 hours and 21 minutes, it was mercifully shorter than some of the other games that seem to drag on for an eternity. (Yes, there are those games too.)

It was Adam Warren’s day to start. Overall, he did a pretty impressive job — 99 pitches in his 7 innings, giving up 6 hits, 1 walk, and 2 runs, striking out 4 batters. After a really tight scoreless game through most of the afternoon, it wasn’t until the 6th, that the Athletics broke through. The lead-off batter singled, stole 2nd, stole 3rd, and then scored on a 2-run home run. This gave the Athletics a 2-0 lead.

The 8th inning was split between 3 relievers to each get an out. Esmil Rogers started the inning, and in his 5 pitches, he got the A’s to ground out but then gave up 2 singles to put runners on the corners. Jacob Lindgren’s 3 pitches got a sacrifice fly that scored another run for Oakland. And finally, David Carpenter’s single pitch got the batter to hit into a ground out to end the inning.

Now all this pretty decent pitching would be well and good if the Yankees somehow collaborated to get some runs. But it wasn’t to be. The A’s starter did a pretty good job through the first 8 innings, and despite giving up 7 hits to the Yankees, the Yankees couldn’t get anyone to cross the plate, giving the starter his 2nd win of the season. The 9th inning reliever even allowed 2 base runners, but successfully halted any advancement on the Yankees’ part and delivered a shutout.

Final score: 3-0 Oakland, Oakland wins the series 3-1.

Apparently, it is the also first time that the Athletics have won a series at home all season. So, congrats to them, I guess.

Ramon Flores got his first Major League single today, and like every major milestone, was gifted that ball to commemorate the event. And while the Yankees didn’t do much as far as scoring today, their defense was pretty good. Mark Teixeira continues to show his ridiculous defensive skills at 1st — a diving stop in the 1st and an unassisted double play in the 4th were just 2 of the great plays made today on the field.

Now onto Seattle…

Go Yankees!

Game 48: NYY vs. OAK — Close-ish doesn’t cut it

Well, it’s West Coast week in Yankee Universe. Which means for all of us on the East Coast, it’s some pretty late nights. And so the Yankees are in Oakland for this first game of their 4-game weekend series.

The Yankees offense struck first. In the 2nd, Brian McCann hit his 7th home run of the season, a solo shot to the right field corner to put the Yankees on the board and start the scoring for tonight’s game.

Then in the 4th inning, Alex Rodriguez led-off with a single, Teixeira walked, and McCann’s single scored Rodriguez. Well, not at first. The throw to home was actually on point, but Rodriguez avoided the tag and reached into home to score the run. Except it was called out as if he never touched home plate. The Yankees challenged and won the day with the overturn, as upon viewing replays it was obvious that Rodriguez successfully avoided the tag and touched home place. Run scored. Moving on.

And in the 5th inning, Gardner and Headley on the corners with single, Rodriguez’s sacrifice fly scored Gardner. This gave the Yankees a nice, but brief 3-run lead.

Now, that was a decent lead to give CC Sabathia, and he was going so well there for a while. His 94 pitches took him into the 7th inning, giving up 8 hits and a walk, 5 runs, and striking out 4 batters. Like I said, at first, things were really good for Sabathia. A 2-out solo home run in the 5th put the Athletics on the board, but it was the 2-run home run in the 6th to tie up the game that turned the corner for everything.

In the 7th, Sabathia put 2 runners on with a single and a walk, and it was time for the Yankees to go to the bullpen. In came David Carpenter once again. A bunt got the runner going to 3rd, but a single loaded the bases. And then Carpenter walked in the winning run, and a sacrifice fly scored Oakland’s insurance run. They would need it.

Chasen Shreve would come in to get that final out of the 7th inning and keep the Athletics from adding onto their lead, which he did quite successfully.

In the 9th inning, the Yankees made an attempt to rally. After a quick 2 outs, pinch-hitting Jones drew a walk and then scored on Brett Gardner’s double. But a lineout ended that rally and kept the Yankees just one run out of possibilities.

Final score: 5-4 Oakland.

Injury updates: Masahiro Tanaka flew into Oakland tonight to rejoin the team. Tanaka has finished two rehab starts with AAA Scranton and is looking well enough to return back in the rotation, which he should do at some point in the Seattle series next week.

Vote for the All-Star Game!

Go Yankees!

Game 47: KC vs. NYY — Sweep dreams on the way to California

The Yankees are on their way to the West Coast tonight for a week of West Coast games. And what a better way to send them off that on a winning streak — a sweep of the Kansas City Royals.

Michael Pineda on the mound for the start today, throwing 106 pitches through 6.2 innings, giving up just 1 hit (a solo home run) and 1 walk, and striking out 8 batters. That lone hit/run was a solo shot right in the 1st inning, but it kind of spurred him on to buckle down and pitch a really wicked game.

In the 7th inning, after his 2 last strikeouts, the Yankees went to their bullpen to David Carpenter. Carpenter gave up a single, and they went to the trusty Justin Wilson. 4 pitches and a fly out later, it was the 7th inning stretch.

Now, in the mean time, the Yankees were hitting once again. Brian McCann led off the 2nd inning with a solo home run into the 2nd deck right field seats just inside the foul pole over there to tie up the game. It didn’t stay tied long. In the 3rd, Gardner doubled and Headley walked before both scored on Alex Rodriguez’s 3-run home run into the left field seats. That shot pushed Rodriguez past Ruth and Gehrig for 3rd place on the list for all-time RBIs, now at 1.995.

Okay, so it was 4-1 when the Dynamic Duo were summoned to the mound. Dellin Betances’ 8th got off to a rough start — a lead-off walk, a strike out, a stolen base, and an RBI single, though scored with an error (usually those two don’t coexist in the same play). This somehow resulted in that run scored as an unearned run, keeping Betances’ ERA firmly at 0.00. But all of Betances’ outs that inning were called strikeouts.

But it was truly Andrew Miller’s 9th that was spectacular. Miller needed just 7 pitches to get 3 Kansas City batters out and close out the game, his 14th save.

Oh, and can I just brag on Chase Headley for a second? I know he’s had a nasty year when it comes to fielding/throwing errors (10 total so far), but what makes that so weird is that he’s usually really, really good defensively. Like today, he had two ridiculous plays right in the 1st inning — a first pitch grab on a short grounder to start the game and a diving stop to end the inning.

Final score in the Bronx: 4-2 Yankees, Yankees sweep the Royals 3-0.

Fun fact from this series: the Yankees firmly outscored the Royals 23-4. And this sweep resulted in the Yankees being back in 1st place in the AL East, 1.5 games over the Rays. They are still further behind on the greater standings than the other divisions (especially the red-hot central division), but division leaders nonetheless.

With that in mind, it’s time for a West Coast winning streak from the Bronx Bombers. Somehow, I think we can safely return to using that moniker once again after this series.

Go Yankees!

Game 44: TEX vs. NYY — Bernie Williams Day and a sweep

I honestly didn’t expect to hear the words “Texas sweeps” this weekend. I don’t think any Texas fans did either. But that’s the way it ended up.

Chris Capuano got the start in tonight’s game, the final game in the 3-game series against the Rangers. He struggled some, like he’s still getting back into the groove of being a starter. He threw 84 pitches over his 4.1 innings, gave up 8 hits, 3 runs (2 earned), and no walks, striking out 4 Texas batters. The 1st inning started rather dramatically. The first batter hit a little grounder and ran to 1st base as the infielders attempted a put-out, but the umpire instantly called it “out”. The Yankees challenged, they underwent a review, and it was clearly overturned. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a challenge on the first play of the game, but okay. It was that kind of game.

The next batter reached on a fielding error, a bit of a bobble of the ball delayed an actual play and set up that runner to score on the next batter’s double. Then in the 2nd inning, after 2 quick outs, a batter singled and then scored on a 2-run home run. After two more singles, Capuano finally got that elusive 3rd out of that inning without any further damage.

And then there was the scary 3rd inning, the inning that damaged the Yankees for the past 2 games. But it was over almost before it began and everyone breathed normally.

Capuano found himself in a spot of trouble again in the 5th, so the Yankees called on Shreve to shut it down. And he did — 20 pitches to close out the 5th and work into the 6th, even getting a strikeout. And then it was time for Justin Wilson. Now, recently, Wilson’s been sharp and a real asset to the Yankees bullpen, but not tonight. After successfully getting out of the 6th inning, Wilson’s struggles just imploded in the 7th — a lead-of triple, an RBI double, a wild pitch moved the runner to 3rd, and an RBI single. And there was still no outs on the board.

So it was time for Dellin Betances to shut it down. And even though there was nothing to set-up, Betances hadn’t pitched in a while. So it was time to dust off the cobwebs, throw 9 pitches, get a quick 3 outs, and send it into the 7th inning stretch. David Carpenter’s 8th inning went better than some of his recent outings, keep the Rangers to those 5 runs, and Andrew Miller’s 9th continued that pattern and gave him some time on the mound again (like Betances).

And unfortunately, the Yankees’ offense didn’t really spark. In the 1st inning, Gardner led-off by reaching 1st on a fielding error and then he got thrown out on Headley’s single as Gardner slid into 3rd. Rodriguez singled, and then he and Headley moved up on Teixeira’s ground out before both scoring on Brian McCann’s single. Beyond that, the Yankees collected only 6 total hits (to the Rangers’ 13, by the way) and couldn’t really do much in the clutch to add to their score.

Final score from the Bronx: 5-2 Rangers, Rangers sweep the Yankees 3-0.

Next up: Royals come for a 3-game mid-week series before they head to the West Coast (read: late nights for us East Coasters).

5 All-Star appearances, 4 Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, 4 World Series rings, 1996 ALCS MVP, and 16 years in pinstripes, it was Bernie Williams Day at Yankee Stadium. Before tonight’s game, Williams was honored by family, friends, former teammates, coaches, and mentors as they officially retired his #51 and placed a plaque in Monument Park where the legacy of the former center fielder will remain forever. Williams gave a small speech thanking family, friends, the Yankees, and the fans.

#51 is now the 18th number retired for the Yankees, to be joined later this summer by #20 and #46 to honor Williams’ former teammates and special guests today Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte. To fill out the Core Four at the pre-game ceremony were Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter (his first Yankee Stadium appearance since his retirement last September). Joining them were former teammates David Cone, Tino Martinez, and Paul O’Neil and former dugout staff Gene Michaels, Roy White, Willie Randolph, and (of course) Joe Torre.

(The entire pre-game ceremony can be viewed here.)

Williams was a clubhouse and fan favorite, known for his calm, steady personality and his penchant for naps just as much as he was known for his competitive tenacity. Another former teammate summed it up best:

Roster moves: The Yankees optioned pitcher Branden Pinder back to AAA Scranton, moved injured infielder Brendan Ryan from the 15-day to the 60-day DL, and selected the contract of pitcher Jacob Lindgren from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Go Yankees!

(And we miss you, Bernie!)