Game 86: NYY vs. TOR — Early power wins game, with ejections & injuries

In comparison to much of the country right now, the Queen City is having some nice (and fairly standard) summer weather for this Saturday afternoon and middle game of this weekend series. The roof of Rogers Centre open to the blue skies and the Yankees ready to bounce back after last night’s game set up a great game for their fans in the Toronto area.

Luis Severino got the start and actually had a lesser outing than previous ones, despite earning his 14th win and keeping the Blue Jays from doing too much damage. He threw 97 pitches in 5 innings, gave up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, and struck out just 5 batters. In the 2nd, with 1 out and a runner on 1st with a single, a 2-run home run got the Blue Jays on the board. And a 1-out solo homer in the 4th added on another.

Jonathan Holder came on for the 6th, gave up a lead-off double that moved to 3rd on a single and then scored on a sacrifice fly. But then Robertson and Betances held the Jays scoreless through the next 2 innings. Aroldis Chapman got one strikeout in the 9th and then came out of the game (more below), handing things over to Chasen Shreve, who despite giving up a solo home run, still got out of the inning rather quickly. Shreve appears to be bouncing back, at least somewhat, thanks to less-pressured situations.

Meanwhile, the Yankees’ offense started strong and stayed strong beginning with a 1st pitch home run right up the middle by Brett Gardner. Aaron Judge followed that up with a solo home run of his own. Stanton and Hicks each worked walks before the Jays’ starter finally got a couple of outs. Then Brandon Drury hit a long double that scored both Stanton and Hicks to double the Yankees’ early score.

Then in the 3rd, Gregorius led-off with a walk. After 2 outs (and the ejection of CC Sabathia, for chirping at the umpire over the questionable strike zone), Gregorius stole 2nd, and Bird worked a walk. As the Jays’ starter exited the game, he was almost ejected, but his manager instead took his fate (for the same reason as Sabathia actually). But the new reliever gave up a quick triple to Brett Gardner (the fastest triple in 2018, by the way) that scored Gregorius and Bird. A passed ball easily allowed Gardner to later score.

But then the Blue Jays’ pitching staff was able to piece together their relievers to keep the Yankees from adding to their impressive lead. Until the 9th inning. Andujar led-off with a ground-rule double and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ single. That insurance run was eventually unnecessary, but it certainly put a cap on the Yankees’ offensive show today (9 total hits, 10 total walks).

Final score: 8-5 Yankees

Roster moves: before the game, the Yankees recalled Clint Frazier and designated reliever David Hale for assignment. After being sent to AAA in anticipation for Monday’s coming doubleheader, pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga developed inflammation in his right shoulder and is probably headed for the disabled list. That leaves Luis Cessa on tap for the second game of the doubleheader in Baltimore now.

Okay, so two potential injuries during the game: after 6 pitches in the 9th, Aroldis Chapman, who’s been battling tendinitis in his left knee, was feeling some intense pain there and Boone figured it wasn’t worth the risk as the Yankees were so far ahead. And Aaron Hicks left the game in the 5th due to some cramping in his left leg.

Stadiums with artificial turf are often the source of problems, even temporary ones, for many players. The only 2 remaining stadiums in MLB are Rogers Centre (Blue Jays) and Tropicana Field (Rays), unfortunately for all players in the AL East, as division rivals play each other more than any other team.

In general, real grass surfaces have a natural give, but artificial turf has either a stiffer base or one that is too spongy. Think of the difference of beaches like Daytona (where you can literally drive onto the sand) vs. Clearwater (more like quicksand, that sinks under every step). Neither of those really work well for anything more than sunbathing, even sand castles are difficult because it’s either too dense or too soft of a foundation. But a mix (like the Pacific Coast beaches) allows for running, volleyball, soccer games, and general beach athletics (and great sand castles!).

Go Yankees!

Game 85: NYY vs. TOR — Northern Exposure

Truthfully, I have mixed feelings about all the Yankees’ division rivals and their respective cities. In general, I really like the cities they represent and the people who live there, and I can respect their passion for the game and their home team, even if I’m not a fan of their chosen team. Attending Spring Training annually and actually going to those cities is often what mixes up those feelings.

For example, I love the city of Boston, and nearly every Boston fan I’ve met is really a good person that just roots for my chosen team’s greatest rivals. I also happen to think Fenway Park is legendary and historic and a symbol of the great legacy of the sport. (And the Green Monster is just as ugly in person as you’d think.)

But the Yankees play in Toronto this weekend. And let’s just say that it’s not Boston.

And Sonny Gray wasn’t exactly having a great night to start in the opener at Rogers Centre, throwing 62 pitches in just 2 innings, giving up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 5 runs, and still striking out 4 batters. Most of that damage was done in that 2nd inning and it wasn’t good.

A lead-off double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a single to get the Blue Jays on the board. A wild pitch moved the runner to 2nd and then he scored on another single. After a strikeout and another allowed single, the next batter smacked a big 3-run home run to really push the Blue Jays ahead. A hit-by-pitch, stolen base, and strikeout later, and Gray’s night was over.

David Hale came on in the 3rd and pitched into the 8th inning strong. It wasn’t until the 8th inning that the Blue Jays were able to eke through again. A lead-off double later scored on a 2-out double to cap off their runs. And Chasen Shreve needed just 3 pitches to induce a ground out for the final out of the 8th.

Meanwhile, while the Yankees certainly dented the Blue Jays’ starter’s pitch count (pushing him to 101 pitches after the 1st out of the 5th inning), they only managed 4 hits and 3 walks off him. Aaron Hicks hit a 2-out solo home run, his 16th of the season, in the 3rd inning.

Then in the 5th, the Yankees finally found their opportunity (and pretty much their only one all night). They loaded up the bases with singles to Romine and Gardner and a fielding error on Judge’s sloppy hit. Then Hicks worked a 1-out walk to score Romine and keep those bases loaded. 101 pitches with bases loaded, so it was time for a reliever. Who got a well-placed strikeout and then a line drive out to end the threat.

The Blue Jays pieced together 5 relievers to finish off their game and keep the Yankees from being any kind of threat again for the rest of the night.

Final score: 6-2 Blue Jays

Roster moves/injury updates: Well, the Yankees moved Gleyber Torres to the 10-day disabled list with right hip strain. Muscle strains are always complicated, so they anticipate Torres will be out through the All-Star break.

In his stead, a normal call-up would be Ronald Torreyes, but Torreyes has been out for about a week at this point, dealing with a personal family issue. So, they recalled Tyler Wade, who was sent down in the middle of April due to the excess of excellent bench players.

And if you’re wondering, the Yankees sent Masahiro Tanaka to join AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for his rehab assignment after dealing with hamstring issues last month.

Well, the All-Star Game fan voting has closed, and the results will be announced Sunday night. Also, based on a player ballot and selections from the Commissioner’s Office, each team will fill out most of its 32 spots with reserve players and pitchers. Each team will allow for one more spot, nominate 5 potential All-Stars, and call on fans to vote once more. (There is a rather extensive explanation about how players are chosen and eligibility.)

Speaking of the All-Star Game, the Sunday before the game, representatives from across the farm systems will play in the annual Futures Game. This year, the Yankees will be represented by prospective pitcher Justus Sheffield. Sheffield will play for Team USA in a USA vs. the World kind of structure.

Go Yankees!

Game 42: NYY vs. KC — Hitting clinic in KC, led by Hicks & #ElGary

While none of the Yankees blamed their less-than-ideal last week (between soggy, halted and postponed games and sleeping in the airport) for their sluggish day yesterday, they certainly were able to bounce back and return to their standard form we’ve grown used to over this season.

The Yankees got off to a great start and kept the ball rolling, so to speak, in this middle game in Kansas City. Aaron Hicks led-off the game with a single and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s 2-out double to kick off the Yankees’ night, the only run they would score not on a home run tonight. Hicks led-off the 3rd with an inside-the-park home run, which could have been a double or triple if the right fielder hadn’t missed the grounder and slammed into the wall out there. Hicks jogged his way home.

In the 4th, Clint Frazier led-off with a walk, Torreyes singled, and they both then scored as part of Gleyber Torres’ 3-run home run. Then in the 7th, Gary Sanchez hit a 1-out solo home run. And they weren’t done yet. In the 9th, with 1 out, Giancarlo Stanton hit a big solo home run into the fountains behind the left-center field seats. Sanchez followed up that with another solo home run of his own, his 2nd of his game, making him the Yankees’ home run leader (at 12 this season).

Meanwhile, Luis Severino got the start and continued his display as the Yankees’ ace, throwing just 77 pitches in 6 innings, giving up 8 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, and striking out 6 batters. In fact, most of those allowed hits and walks were indicative of when the Royals would breakthrough and get on the scoreboard. In the 3rd, a lead-off single scored on a double. After that runner moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt, he scored on a single to tie up the game at that point.

After Torres’ big homer in the 4th, the Royals made an attempt to comeback in the 5th, with a lead-off walk and single. A routine double play still moved the lead runner to 3rd, who then scored on a single. That runner (who really isn’t that speedy of a baserunner) tried to make it all the way home on a double, but a quick relay (Stanton-Torreyes-Sanchez) got the out at home. Even after a challenge by the home team, the call was upheld.

Actually, all the challenged calls tonight went the Yankees’ way. Chad Green came on in relief for the 7th inning, and with a runner on 2nd and 1 out, the Yankees fielded a grounder at 3rd and threw it to 1st for the out. Well, actually, it was called safe, and the Yankees challenged it. But it was overturned (for obvious reasons, despite what the home crowd seemed to think).

After Betances’ clean, speedy 8th, Aroldis Chapman came on for the 9th. He gave up a lead-off walk. After a good strikeout, that runner attempted to go to 2nd. Sanchez threw to Torres for the tag, and it was called safe. But another challenge led to another overturn (as the runner comes off the bag), despite again what the crowd seems to think.

Final score: 8-3 Yankees

If you noticed, Clint Frazier is finally back in the line-up. He batted 7th as the designated hitter, going 1-for-2 with a double and 2 walks, and scoring on that Torres’ home run in the 4th. A nice welcome back for him after months of dealing with that nasty concussion in Spring Training.

To bring Frazier up to the majors, the Yankees designated pitcher David Hale for assignment last Tuesday. Hale later opted for release rather than outrighting, and the Yankees then re-signed him on Friday and immediately optioned him to AAA Scranton. So expect to see more of Hale in the Bronx soon enough.

And on a final note worth discussion, Aaron Hicks’ inside-the-park home run made him in some great company. Hicks is the first Yankee to hit multiple inside-the-park home runs in a single season (his first one was April 13 in Detroit) since Mickey Mantle hit 3 in 1958. And we’re only 42 games into the season, so Hicks has a chance to make more history.

As really, the whole team does. And with the way they’re going so far, this could be one of those teams that’s not so much compared to other great seasons but rather becomes its own great season to which others are compared.

Go Yankees!

Game 38: OAK vs. NYY — Another disappointing loss and still MLB leaders

Well, that was… disappointing. After such a long win streak, it’s just disappointing (there is no other word, really) to drop 2 games in a row, and that “come from behind” momentum they got used to during their streak wasn’t coming on as strong as it did just last week.

Sonny Gray got the start in the series opener against the visiting Athletics. And his struggles this year seem to continue as he gave the A’s an early lead that sent the Yankees into playing catch-up all game. Gray threw 93 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 9 hits, 3 walks, and 5 runs, and struck out just 2 Oakland batters.

In the 2nd, he gave up a lead-off solo shot to start the run-scoring. Then after allowing a single, a 2-run home run caused the sold-out crowd to start groaning. But then he got the 3 outs in fairly quick succession. And then it was the 3rd inning, and Gray gave up 3 consecutive singles, the last of which scored a run. Then despite later loading up the bases, he got of that jam with a great defensive fly out. And a double led-off the 4th, moved to 3rd on a single, and then scored on a ground out.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were held off by the Athletics’ starter for most of the game, so they grabbed their offensive opportunities in small doses like Gleyber Torres’ 1-out solo home run in the 3rd. And in the 5th, Andujar reached 1st on a fielding error, Gardner worked a 2-out walk, and then they both scored on Aaron Judge’s 3-run home run into the right field seats to put the Yankees within a single run of the Athletics’ lead.

David Hale came on in relief of Gray in the 6th for 3 inning and had his own struggles, giving up a 2-out solo home run in the 6th and then a 1-out solo homer in the 8th. David Robertson was called on to close out the 9th, but even he had trouble. With 1 out, he loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a failed fielder’s choice so that a double cleared all the bases and eased the A’s into a big victory.

The Yankees had a minor hope for a rally in the 7th inning. With the starter out and a new pitcher on the mound, Andujar and Romine each singled and moved into scoring position on Torres’ sacrifice bunt. After a new reliever came in, Gardner worked a walk in just 4 pitches to load the bases. Then Aaron Judge stepped in, and the Bronx came alive with hope, only to be slightly dimmed due to the reliever ending up walking Judge and thus Andujar in for an easy run. Another new reliever and 2 outs later, the bases were still loaded and the rally stranded and stalled.

Final score: 10-5 Athletics

Last year, June 29 to be exact, the Yankees called up a young prospect Dustin Fowler to make his MLB debut. In the very 1st inning in Chicago, the rookie outfielder slammed against the back wall and ruptured a tendon in his knee that would require surgery, ending his 2017 season. In the process of his recovery, the Yankees orchestrated a trade with today’s opponents, the Athletics, that sent prospects Fowler, Mateo, and Kaprielian to Oakland in exchange for tonight’s pitcher Sonny Gray (and international bonus slot money). Tonight, Fowler finally got an at-bat at Yankee Stadium, or actually 5, in which he also got a hit and a run scored.

Injury updates: Drury, Bird, and McKinney are all in the midst of their rehab assignments and doing quite well. As far as returning, there doesn’t seem to be any rush because despite tonight’s outcome (and yesterday’s), the Yankees are still in 1st place in the AL East and in all of baseball. Sure, they’re sharing the spot with the Red Sox, but 1st is 1st.

Go Yankees!

Game 30: NYY vs. HOU — #SevySharp + Stanton power = a complete shutout

If anyone doesn’t understand why Luis Severino is ace material, clearly they haven’t seen him pitch like he did tonight in Houston. Severino’s Twitter hashtag (at least for me) is #SevySharp because he throws games like this with enough frequency that it warrants attention. He threw 110 pitches in a full 9 shutout innings, giving up 5 hits and a walk, and striking out 10 Houston batters along the way.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The Astros have a really good rotation, something they used strategically through last year’s postseason for their clear advantage. Their starter tonight is easily one of the best pitchers in the AL, if not baseball entirely, but the Yankee batters really let into him tonight, forcing his pitch count high early on. Plus, the Yankees have never hit a home run off their starter.

Until tonight.

And offensively, the Yankees relied on Giancarlo Stanton for some deep power to push them over into the win column tonight. In the 1st, with 2 outs, Gregorius singled and then scored on Stanton’s big 2-run home run into the right field seats. Then Stanton added to the score with a 1-out solo shot into the left field seats in the 4th.

Stanton’s next at-bat was a strikeout in the 6th, the only time tonight he’d not get on base. Then in the 8th, the Astros decided to open their bullpen. Hicks led-off with a double, and after an out, stole 3rd. After a strikeout, it would be Stanton with an RBI double to score Hicks. After Sanchez walked, the Astros called on a new reliever who did better at keeping the Yankees from adding to their lead through the next 4 outs of the game.

Final score: 4-0 Yankees

And if you’re following with math here, that makes Stanton responsible for every single run scored tonight. He actually had the best average tonight — going 3-for-4 with 2 runs scored and those 4 RBIs. That certainly helped his batting average overall this season, which has been hovering in the low .200s, up to .240 by the end of the game. For some comparison, Gregorius (who was just awarded Player of the Month) is batting .330 and Judge is batting .312.

Okay, injury news: Jordan Montgomery will officially be out for 6-8 weeks due to a left elbow flexor strain. That leaves a bit of a hole in the rotation, especially with Cessa still on the DL with his oblique injury and no return set yet. So the Yankees are looking at last night’s long-term reliever to fill the gap, or perhaps he gets a shot at it. Domingo German could really rise to the occasion or at least provide some strong first few innings (he went 4 scoreless last night) and then relying on the bullpen for a strong finish.

To fill this gap, the Yankees re-signed reliever David Hale from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to rejoin the bullpen. I don’t expect this to be the end of this conversation or roster maneuver as they find a system that works in the meantime.

Also, they moved Jacoby Ellsbury to the 60-day DL due to his left hip soreness, which effectively removes him off the 40-man roster. They needed a spot for Clint Frazier, who was officially reinstated from the 7-day concussion DL today and options to AAA Scranton. While much longer than the “7-days”, Frazier’s rehab is complete, and more importantly, his concussions are behind him. And while the Yankees certainly have a pretty good working outfield right now in Gardner, Hicks, Judge, and Stanton. Frazier is now ready to go if needed.

And following the play at the end of the 8th inning, Tyler Austin was in a bit of pain coming off the field, wincing a bit and clutching his lower right back. But after the game, Austin revealed he jammed his hip a bit on the play, and with some rest tonight, he should be ready to play tomorrow. Those little tweaks and pinches sometimes just come with the game, being an aggressive athlete and all. It’s when they don’t go away that’s the issue.

Final game in Houston is tomorrow afternoon (1:10 pm CST), for that special Thursday matinée due to travel schedules. It works out well for both teams, as the Yankees will head back to the Bronx for their next home stand, and the Astros are headed out to Arizona. But the Yankees are also hoping for a good plane ride on a second series win this road trip. Finger crossed.

Go Yankees!

Game 29: NYY vs. HOU — #ElGary ends pitching duel

This series was never going to be “boring baseball”. At least not for those who understand the game. And tonight’s home pitcher, a veteran the Yankees have faced consistently for years (previously with the Tigers until middle of last year), was just on point for most of the game. He kept the Yankees to just 3 hits for his entire 8 innings and struck out an impressive 14 Yankees along the way. It was ridiculous, really.

But it wasn’t that the Yankees’ pitching staff wasn’t keeping up. It’s just that the Astros’ starter was on a whole other level tonight. Jordan Montgomery got the start for the Yankees and breezed his way through the Astros’ lineup in just 7 pitches in that 1st inning. But then, he didn’t come back for the 2nd. He was done as he was having some tightness in his throwing elbow. That is never a good sign. (More after the recap.)

In his place, the Yankees sent in Domingo German, who really picked up Montgomery’s momentum and powered through the next 4 innings, keeping the Astros from doing anything worth mentioning. Green needed just 9 pitches in the 6th, and Betances got 3 great strikeouts in the 7th to keep the Astros’ scoreless. David Robertson got 2 quick outs, gave up a single (to last year’s MVP), and then got out of the inning.

The Yankee batters just needed the starter out of the game to make a difference. So after 105 pitches, the Astros thought they were safe enough to turn to their bullpen. They weren’t. Judge led-off the 9th with a single and ended up at 3rd on Gregorius’ double. Then with 1 out, Gary Sanchez saw the first pitch and smacked it deep to center field for a 3-run home run to break up the scoreless scoreboard.

Aaron Hicks followed that with a single and the Astros went back to their bullpen. With a new pitcher, Hicks took advantage of their lack of defense at this point. He stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on Andujar’s ground out, and then slid into home on a wild pitch. Chapman came in for the final half of the 9th inning and just powered through with 3 consecutive strikeouts to hand the Yankees the victory.

Final score: 4-0 Yankees

So, Jordan Montgomery will be headed back to New York to be seen by the team’s doctor and hopefully get a better diagnosis before his turn to pitch comes around again (which is later this weekend in the Bronx). Worst case scenario is the beginnings of an injury that could lead to surgery, like Tommy John surgery. Best case would be a small tweak in the elbow and with some rest he’s good to go next weekend. It’s probably somewhere in between, as usual.

Because if he needs to go on the DL and thus miss his next start, the Yankees will need to look at their starters or long-term relievers to potentially fill that role. Immediately, German is clearly putting up a good case for himself after tonight’s performance. The Yankees also have AJ Cole on their 25-man roster. In AAA, they have 3 — Josh Rogers, David Hale (who is back with a new minor league contract after being DFA’d last week), and Chance Adams. (By the way, no way are they reaching down to AA Trenton to grab star prospect Justus Sheffield, despite how good he’s been this season there.)

Okay, 2 games in Houston down, 2 more to go. “Boring baseball”? Yeah, not in Houston this week.

Go Yankees!

Game 22: MIN vs. NYY — #CCStrong, #ElGary, & #SirDidi

The Yankees continue their dominant homestand with tonight’s win over the visiting Twins. It is their 4th straight win, and the Yankees are really starting to click in many ways. Fortunately, their starters (for the most part) are also hitting a good stride too, including tonight’s starter CC Sabathia.

He threw 82 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up just 2 hits, a walk, and an unearned run and struck out 4 batters. In the 1st inning, with 2 outs, he gave up a walk. The next batter technically doubled, but a fielding error allowed the lead runner to score and the other runner to make it to 3rd on the throw. But that would be the only bad inning for Sabathia, who powered through the rest of his outing like the veteran he is.

Dellin Betances’ 7th inning didn’t start off well either. He gave up a lead-off walk who ended up at 2nd on a pick-off error. One out later, that runner scored on a short single and missed catch error. After giving up another walk, the Yankees called in Robertson for a quick 7-pitch 2-out end to the inning. Chasen Shreve’s 8th hit a couple of bumps too — a 1-out double scored on a 2-out double for the Twins’ only truly earned run of the night. Holder finished up the game with a breezy 9th inning.

But those 3 “bumpy” innings were really nothing in comparison to the Yankees’ offense. The Twins’ starter at least spread out the Yankees runs through his outing. In the 2nd, Gary Sanchez hit a 1-out solo home run. With 1 out in the 3rd, Gardner worked a walk, moved to 3rd on Judge’s double, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ single.

Then in the 4th, again with 1 out, Walker technically struck out but made it safely to 1st on a messy wild pitch. Andujar followed him by making it to base safely on a fielding error. Gleyber Torres earned his first career RBI with a single that scored Walker. And Judge led-off the 5th with a single and then scored as part of Didi Gregorius’ big 2-run home run, his 8th of the season so far.

That would be the end of the Twins’ starter’s night, and the first reliever powered through the rest of the 5th inning, shutting down the Yankees with 3 consecutive strikeouts. That momentum continued through the 6th with a new reliever, but the same reliever had trouble in the 7th. Aaron Judge led-off that inning with a solo home run. Then with 1 out and Stanton on 1st, Gary Sanchez hit another home run tonight, a bit 2-run homer up the middle to cap off the Yankees’ runs tonight.

Final score: 8-3 Yankees

Roster moves: before tonight’s game, the Yankees announced a trade with the Nationals, reliever A.J. Cole to the Yankees for cash considerations. To make room for him on the roster, the Yankees also designated pitcher David Hale for assignment. And the Orioles officially claimed infielder Jace Peterson off waivers after Peterson had been DFA’d last week.

Go Yankees!