The old switch-a-roo just before the holidays…

I’ve been watching a lot of the off-season moves with some measure of amusement. Honestly, sometimes it’s made me shake my head in confusion as I see what should be high-ticket players off to small- or low-market teams as a road of rebuilding (or perhaps a bit of redemption) as they regroup for the 2015 season. Though the Giants now trying to defend their third title in 5 years, I have little doubt 2015 will not be a Giants win as they seem to have an aversion to odd number years and winning teams, and it seems all the other teams seem ready to pounce on such an opportunity. The Cubs, Marlins, and Padres are all teams that seem to be on the losing end of things and have all made recent deals which make even the biggest pundit in sports news second guess their previous biases against such teams.

I am less convinced, but perhaps it is because I am cynic by nature and prefer to reserve my hopes and positive thoughts for things (and teams) I care about and be pleasantly surprised (and sometimes disappointed) however things turn out. In fact, I have been rather grateful recently that I didn’t choose to blog for another team as I’ve been using the “shaking my head” gesture quite literally as I read teams trade away their better players and become harvesting grounds for big-spenders or regrouping teams. I try to remain positive even when I don’t agree with such moves or it’s rather bad news, and those teams certainly would stretch my desire for positivity on here with what I consider (for lack of a better term) “bonehead moves”.

But I digress…

I spent the day doing the exact opposite of what I do for this blog — I took the day off and did some personal holiday preparation with a good friend. In other words, I wasn’t checking social networks and following leads for the latest news. And it’s on days like this that decide to pull the rug out and surprise my brief holiday vacation with a sudden impact on the 2015 season.

And thus, today’s blogpost…

Okay, two big moves secured further depth on the Yankees’ pitching staff and certainly created some options on the infield. First, in a deal with the Marlins, the Yankees traded Martin Prado and David Phelps for pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, pitching prospect Domingo German, and 1st baseman/outfielder Garrett Jones. Now, the Yankees took on Prado’s $3 million year salary when they picked him up the middle of last season and will continue to owe him this for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. But the Yankees were looking for proper back-up for Teixeira and the outfield, which looks like the reason Jones was chosen, including some chatter that “his swing was made for Yankee Stadium”. Eovaldi is a starter who could flesh out the rotation with some National League level pitching. (Long-term readers will understand my affinity for the strength of NL pitchers.)

The second move picked up reliever Gonzalez Germen from the Mets in exchange for cash considerations. (Another NL pitcher; is this a trend now?) To make room for him on the 40-man roster, the Yankees have designated Preston Claiborne for assignment.

One reporter commented that it should be noted that the Yankees picked up both a German and a Germen on the same day. However, I suspect German (from the Marlins) will stay in the minors for a while as he develops as a player, though initial scouting reports rank him high on their list of prospects. Germen (from the Mets) has spent a couple of years with the Mets, and this marks the first trade with their crosstown rivals in a decade (December 3, 2004 Felix Heredia to the Mets for Mike Stanton, a pretty good trade overall).

There was some initial fan backlash over the first trade (with the Marlins), something I didn’t quite understand as it seemed to be in direct contrast with previous backlash in relation to the same players in quite the opposite manner during the actual season. But I suppose that only further serves as a reminder that no one can pick on family but family. Like I can mess with my brother (and have) as much as I want (don’t worry, he’s great at revenge), but if someone else were to try to mess with him, heaven help that person.

I learned this basic fact at my first Yankee game sitting among long-term season ticket holders (as in inherited seats and fan status from their fathers and grandfathers). They could dissect why certain players weren’t the right fit or how the Yankees need to fix all their problems, even debating each other on specific facts or team history or opinions. But if a non-Yankee fan tried to join in and tell them why the team sucked, the fans would join forces and school the “other guy” on why he was oh so wrong and couldn’t mess with their team.

Well, guys, we lost a couple of “relatives” today, but we gained a few too. And this whole crazy off-season trade madness is really just getting started.

I don’t expect to blog before Christmas or the New Year, so have a wonderful, joyful, and safe holiday season. I am certainly looking forward to a great 2015. I expect the unexpected, so I can be pleasantly surprised and seldom disappointed, and I hope to continue this into 2015. Perhaps my surprise will be a great Yankee season. Sounds like a plan to me.

Happy Holidays!

Go Yankees!

Game 162: NYY vs. BOS — Final game, final farewell

Fenway final
Final game of the year at Fenway (photo via MLB.com)

Well, it’s finally here. 162 games. End of the season. Those who wore the pinstripes today will be scattered about the country, headed homes to the families that have patiently waited for their returns all season. I suppose the advantage of baseball is that they’re home for the major holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years) and a good portion of their children’s school year. But there are those who will be hanging up their cleats for good after this season. And of course, the primary focus of this season all the way down to today’s game in Fenway is Derek Jeter.

Today, prior to the game, the Red Sox’s manual scoreboard transitioned from “SEPTEMBER 28, 2014” to “WITH RESPECT 2 DEREK JETER” to “WITH RE2PECT 2 DEREK JETER”. And then the last “not a farewell tour” ceremony began as Jeter jogged his way out to the outfield grass behind the area he played a good portion of his 153 games in Fenway (officially setting the Yankees record for the number of games played at Fenway, ahead now of Gehrig and Mantle at 152, Berra, and Ruth). Former Red Sox players and captains and several former captains of other Boston professional teams came out to join Jeter in the ceremony. A former minor league coach of Jeter’s and current Red Sox 3rd base coach Brian Butterfield gifted Jeter with customized LL Bean duck boots (to signify how many errors Jeter made in that rookie season with the Yankees in 1992 — “to boot” is to make an error, nice pun).

Then the entire Red Sox team came out, single-file to greet Jeter, led by long-time Jeter friend and competitor Ortiz; one player even to get a selfie with the Captain. And the final player 2nd baseman and long-time Red Sox Pedroia gave Jeter a customized 2nd base to signify the base they often met at during many of their games as rivals. Ortiz and current starting shortstop (and wearer of #2 on the Red Sox because of his childhood idol Jeter) Bogaerts gifted Turn 2 with a $22,222 check. And a placard from the same material of the Green Monster that said “RE2PECT” and signed by the entire 2014 Red Sox team. And because Jeter participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge earlier this year, the guy who started it all (Pete Frates), who is currently battling ALS, came onto the field to meet Jeter and honor him, though I think the Captain might have been the one who most felt honored to meet Frates.

Then a Massachusetts native and recent “The Voice” contestant sang the Aretha Franklin classic “Respect” to the Captain before the ceremony was over. After her rendition of the national anthem, it was play ball in the last game of the season for the Red Sox and Yankees.

The first time since 1993 since neither team was destined for October baseball. My brother called it almost an exhibition game, and I can’t say that I’d disagree entirely because the entire atmosphere in Fenway was unlike most Red Sox-Yankees games. There wasn’t really any rivalry or gentle animosity that has become so dear for these teams and their loyal fans since longer than most of any of them have been alive. Not when Yankee gear outnumbers Red Sox gear 2 to 1. And Jeter was cheered on with the entirety of Fenway on their feet, cameras flashing away, chanting “Der-ek Je-ter”, even some tears shed in the crowd. It was not the same Fenway Yankee fans are used to. You might even say, it was a little too New York for Boston.

But then again, it certainly was a Yankees’ dominated game, especially offensively. In the 3rd, with 1 out, Cervelli and Pirela on base with a walk and a single, Ichiro Suzuki smacked a ball deep into the oddly shaped corners of Fenway for a 2-run triple. Jeter stepped up to bat with the crowd overjoyed at what would be his final plate appearance and singled. Hit number 3,465 had Jeter standing on 1st base. But then he opted to leave it all on the field and exit the game. Stopping to greet the Red Sox pitcher first, Jeter made his way back to the visitor’s dugout, hugged by several long-time teammates, and his family watching as always with pride and a few tears. A bittersweet moment for all of baseball — one we are sad to see but happy to remember. Jeter bid farewell to the crowd one last time and faded into the din of the dugout to enjoy the rest of the game.

Brian McCann was Jeter’s pinch-runner, and Gardner’s double moved McCann to 3rd as Mark Teixeira stepped up to the plate. Now, let me preface this interesting turn of events with something that happened during pre-game warm-ups — that featured a home run derby batting practice and races to discover who is officially the slowest Yankee. The latter honor was down to Teixeira and McCann, the men who were 90 feet apart at the beginning of this paragraph. As the rest of the team cheering (jeering?) them on, McCann received the honor with pride (humility?). Now, with Teixeira’s sacrifice fly, it would be the Yankees’ slowest runner to outrun the ball and score the run. Teixeira, meanwhile, found this hysterical and wasn’t afraid to point it out.

Then in the 7th, the Yankees were up 4-0, so they added to their numbers. Cervelli and Young each singled and then scored on Jose Pirela’s double. Perez’s single put runners on the corners, and John Ryan Murphy’s single scored Pirela. As there were still no outs recorded, the Red Sox went to their bullpen. Austin Romine came in to pinch-hit and promptly doubled home Perez. one out later, Chase Headley’s single scored Murphy before the Red Sox finally got out of the inning.

At the 7th inning stretch, the Yankees were up 9-0 in Boston. So far so good.

Michael Pineda got the start for the last game of the season and really put in some great work this afternoon. In his 6.1 innings, he threw 89 pitches, gave up just 3 hits and 1 run, and struck out 10 Red Sox batters. (Yes, 10! He was on-point today.) That run started off as an allowed single in the 7th inning, just before the Yankees called on Esmil Rogers for relief. But Rogers was anything but relief as Pineda watched anxiously from the bullpen as the Red Sox attempted a rally.

Rogers quickly loaded the bases with a walk and a hit by pitch to add to Pineda’s single, before a 3-run double jumped the Red Sox up on the scoreboard, due in part to a fielding error. (Again, the oddly shaped outfield at Fenway can be rather daunting for new players out there.) Another walked batter, and the Yankees called on Adam Warren. Warren gave up a 2-run double to the first batter he faced before getting out of the inning, with the Yankees still in the lead 9-5.

Warren’s 8th inning was virtually flawless, which set up what can only be David Phelps’ best inning pitched all year. The Yankees clung to their 9-5 score and won their final game of the 2014 season.

Now, one of my favorite moments of the afternoon was the surprise rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” on the acoustic guitar by former Yankee Bernie Williams. About halfway through the song, the crowd at Fenway began to lightly sing along. It was one of the best versions I’ve ever heard, but then again Williams is a well-known musician now, and I always enjoy his music. (Seriously, if he ever plays near you, go see him live.)

A fun fact: Mickey Mantle and Jeter share two interesting trivia bits. Jeter’s final game in Yankee Stadium was last Thursday, September 25, 2014. Mantle’s last game in Yankee Stadium was September 28, 1968 (a Wednesday, by the way). Jeter’s final game at Fenway was today Sunday, September 28, 2014. Mantle’s last game at Fenway was September 28, 1968 (a Saturday). Yes, for all the comparisons to DiMaggio, it would be Mantle that shares the most with the outgoing Jeter. (More on that in an upcoming post!)

And that’s all she wrote… at least for this season… and for the Yankees. Tomorrow begins the race to the World Series that unfortunately once again doesn’t include the boys in pinstripes.

But still, forever in my heart…

Go Yankees!

Game 158: BAL vs. NYY — Eliminated from October baseball

It’s official. With today’s loss against the visiting Orioles, the AL East Division Champions, the Yankees are officially eliminated from the Wild Card race, which means there is no chance at October baseball. As if the looming clouds and progressively darkening skies over the Bronx weren’t enough of a sign of such things to come for the pinstriped players today.

Before I recap, be aware that the Yankees’ game tomorrow evening (and its national broadcast) is currently under threat of being delayed because of the storm system that is making its way into the Tri-State area as I write this post. (Hence the looming clouds and darkening skies.) So if you’ll be watching Jeter’s last game in the Bronx, just know you may have to stay up rather late. They won’t call a make-up game because we’re down to wire, and there are no extra days to make anything up. There will be a game tomorrow night, with MLB HQ itself monitoring the skies. Perhaps there is a slight advantage to those weather watchers as the HQ is just a few miles south of Yankee Stadium in Midtown Manhattan.

And of course, there was a matinée game today in the Bronx, though there was some chatter online regarding an afternoon midweek game so late in the season. The consensus seemed to be to honor the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah), which begins at sundown tonight. (A “Happy New Year” to my Jewish readers!)

Actually, the Yankees jumped out first offensively, getting successive runs in the first 3 innings. With 2 outs in the 1st, Chase Headley singled and then scored on Mark Teixeira’s double. In the 2nd, Stephen Drew led off with a solo home run. And then in the 3rd, with 2 outs, Headley got his own solo home run. The Yankees led 3-0 going into the 4th inning. And that’s where the trouble started.

Shane Greene got the start for today’s game, and despite the final line score, he actually did a really good job for the majority of his outing. He threw 73 pitches over his 3.2 innings, giving up 7 hits, 3 walks, and 6 runs, striking out 5 Baltimore batters. A good portion of those allowed stats happened in his 4th inning. It wasn’t pretty. He loaded the bases with 1 out before a double scored 2 of those runners. He got another out (a strikeout). Then Greene crumbled: a single that scored 2 runs, a triple that scored 1 more, and another single to score the 6th run of the inning for the Orioles.

David Huff was brought on in relief as Greene wasn’t coming back from this. He got the final out of the inning on the 11th batter the Orioles sent up in that inning alone. Huff stayed on through the 5th and into the 6th inning before Chase Whitley was brought on for the final out of the 6th inning.

Whitley’s 7th inning continued keeping the Orioles at just those 6 runs, but he ran into troubles of his own coming out for the 8th inning when he gave up 2 back-t0-back singles to lead off the inning. The Yankees opted for David Phelps to work his way out of this jam, but even Phelps struggled to keep the Orioles from doing damage. With 1 out, he loaded the bases with an intentional walk, allowed 1 runner to score on a sacrifice fly and then 2 more on back-to-back RBI singles. Damage done. 9-3 Orioles going into the bottom of the 8th.

So the Yankees did what they always do when they’re deep in a hole — they try their hardest to claw their way out of said hole as much as possible. Because if they’re going down, they’re going down swinging with everything they got. And since the Yankees love their history, they opted to repeat something that worked so well in the 1st inning of the game — down two outs, Headley singled and then scored on Teixeira’s hit, though this time he decided to shake things up and hit a home run (that bounced off the yellow foul pole, an automatic home run).

This made the score 9-5. And despite Claiborne’s great 11-pitch 9th inning, the Yankees were too deep in the hole due to that regrettable 4th inning mess. It wasn’t going to happen today. And their magic number of 1 to make it to postseason dwindled to zero. Eliminated for the second consecutive year from October baseball (the first time since the 1992-1993 seasons). Of course, if history is bent on repeating itself, that means we’re in for a 20 year march of a new dynasty and 5 World Series Championships. I’m okay with that.

Four games left — one in New York and three in Boston. And then it’s a long winter of staring out the window until Spring Training, to paraphrase Rogers Hornsby. People keep talking about what it will be like without Derek Jeter on the Yankees. My response? A lot like watching the Yankees without someone wearing a #2 jersey on the field and at shortstop. I like Jeter’s response to similar questions (and I’m paraphrasing here): baseball and the Yankees existed long before he started playing (or was even born) and they’ll continue long after he hangs up his cleats. It’s how it has to be, I suppose, but it’s also how it should be. Baseball is a sport of champions (and championship teams), and Jeter (and thus the Yankees) are just one of many.

And I guess that gives me hope for what is potentially around the corner. I mean, who knows what new kid will be shocking everyone with his work ethic and determination and stellar athletic ability? Maybe that kid is on a roster in one of the 30 clubs or maybe he’s not even born yet. But that’s the fun of the game… you just never know…

As always…

Go Yankees!

Game 156: BAL vs. NYY — A 1-hit shutout, the new guy, & the veterans

Sometimes in a game, there are one or two guys to talk about. Sometimes there are none (and I hate writing those posts). But sometimes, it’s a whole lot of guys. And honestly, at the end of the day, I’d always rather talk about the team than single out individuals. Because individuals are great, but people on their own don’t win ball games. Teams win ball games.

I mean, it would be unfair to talk about how great tonight’s starter was without mentioning what a great defense was behind him. And if we’re nitpicking here, he could be the best pitcher in the world, but if the team doesn’t hit, they can’t win the game. I think fans love their stars; it’s why specific jersey numbers sell and certain names are chanted and cheered with reverence, but even the guys represented by those numbers all over fans’ backs at a game will tell you that they can’t do it alone. Tonight’s game against the Orioles was proof that the Yankees are a team, and the standout players are many and function to help each other win ball games.

Michael Pineda got the start tonight and proceeded to just dominate the Orioles. He threw 106 pitches over 7.1 innings (yes, just 5 out shy of a complete game), struck out 8 Baltimore batters, and gave up just 1 hit and 1 walk. That means the Orioles were only ever on base twice when Pineda was on the mound (another walk by a reliever was allowed in the 9th to give them a 3rd base runner total). But they couldn’t do much with it. Not with Pineda pitching like… well, Pineda. And not with the Yankee defense at their best as they were tonight. (Like Stephen Drew with 2 outstanding defensive plays tonight — a diving stop in the 1st and a nice grab in the 8th.)

Shawn Kelley came on to get the last 2 outs of the 8th inning and the first batter of the 9th, striking out two of the three batters he faced. He was replaced by lefty Rich Hill for the 2nd out of the 9th, and then David Phelps for the last. Phelps threw just 1 pitch to get the last batter to fly out to right field to end the game. Really good pitching all around. I know some people were complaining about Girardi using 3 different pitchers to get the 3 outs in the 9th. But when you have a bloated roster like they do in September, why not use everyone you can? It’s not like it was a save or tight game at that point.

I should probably mention that the Yankees did a pretty good offensive job today. I mean, not as good as some teams are doing around the league. I have to give some credit to the AL East Division champions (yes, they already secured that title and a spot in October baseball); they must have something that afforded them that title. I don’t know where it was tonight, and I’m really okay with never seeing it at all this week in the Bronx. (Seriously, Baltimore, you got your title already, so any kind of half-way effort you want to put into games is okay with me and about a half-million Yankees fans.)

Anyway, it was the bottom of the 3rd inning, Ichiro on base because of a fielding error, when recent call-up Jose Pirela made his major league debut and tripled to score Ichiro for the Yankees first run. Derek Jeter would later ground out and score Pirela. So in the first inning of his at-bat, Pirela tripled, got an RBI, and scored a run; and that was just the beginning of his night.

In the 5th inning, with 2 outs, Pirela singled and moved to 2nd on Gardner’s walk, and then he and Gardner scored Jeter’s double. In total, Pirela went 2-for-3 in his debut, with an RBI and 2 runs scored; not bad for his first game. And if we’re talking individual stats, it would be worth mentioning that Jeter was responsible for knocking in 3 of the Yankees’ runs tonight, defying most critics once again. And because a 4-0 game just isn’t quite enough, leave it to Chase Headley to hit a solo home run straight into the netting above Monument Park beyond center field to make the game 5-0 Yankees.

And there they sat. 5-0. A win, well-earned by good pitching and good defense and good batting and just by being a team. It’s those kinds of games I can get behind, the kind to celebrate and use as an example. Not bad for a Monday evening in the chilly Bronx on this last day of summer. (Yes, folks, tomorrow is the autumnal equinox.) Sad as it will be to say goodbye to this season, I can’t say I’m not ready for the fall. But isn’t that the way of things anyway? Keep moving forward, anticipating adventures and legends and traditions yet to come, even yet to be born. It’s what keeps hope alive — forward. What is that old Sinatra song? “The best is yet to come…” Bring it!

Go Yankees!

Game 154: TOR vs. NYY — Troubled pitching

When the pitching stats on your pitchers reads “6-6-6”, you know it’s not going to be a good game. (6 runs, 6 walks, 6 strikeouts total) And it certainly wasn’t. And the added injury issues aren’t helping morale during this last-minute push for October.

Chris Capuano took the start for this afternoon’s game. Throwing 85 pitches over his 5.2 innings, Capuano gave up 5 (of the Blue Jays’ 10 total) hits, 4 runs, and 4 walks, and struck out just 2 batters. Other than the 1st inning RBI double, Capuano was doing just fine, sailing along smoothly and getting through innings pretty quickly and efficiently, something you can tell by the fairly low pitch count into the 6th inning. But it was that 6th inning that kind of blew all his hard work out of the water, something the Yankees couldn’t really recover from. A lead off walk, a single, and another walk loaded the bases for the Blue Jays. A ground-rule double easily scored 2 runs, and a sacrifice fly scored a 3rd run for just that inning.

Chase Whitley came on to get the Yankees out of that troubled inning, but after giving up a lead-off solo home run in the 7th, he was replaced by Esmil Rogers, who fared quite a bit better than his last outing and closed the door on the advancing Blue Jays in the 7th.

Up until the 6th inning, the Yankees actually stood a chance. In the 3rd inning, with 2 outs, Jeter singled, advanced on a wild pitch, and then scored on a Brian McCann single. And in the 4th and 2 outs (again), Headley singled, moved to 2nd on Ichiro’s single, and then scored on Francisco Cervelli’s single.

But as the Bronx were singing “God Bless America” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, the score stood at 5-2 Blue Jays.

So it was David Huff to keep the status quo in the 8th, with a quick 12 pitches, by the way. And they turned the ball over to David Phelps to close out the 9th for the Yankees, who gave up an RBI single to push the Blue Jays up 6-2 going into that 11th hour half-inning that is the bottom of the 9th.

With 1 out, Gardner singled and ended up at 2nd on defensive indifference. Then Derek Jeter doubled and scored Gardner; leave it to Jeter to keep hope alive in the Bronx. But it just wasn’t going to happen. Two outs later, the Yankees lost to Toronto 6-3.

Bummer.

Now the injury report: Jacoby Ellsbury is on day-to-day with his strained right hamstring after last night’s game. Mark Teixeira came out of this afternoon’s game in the 5th inning with right wrist soreness (the same one that’s been bugging him for awhile); he wants to just play through the pain, getting his originally scheduled cortisone shot and just making that final push for October. And the doctors are weighing their options on Carlos Beltran and the bone spur in his elbow; the doctors are leaning toward shutting him down for the season and just operating now, but Beltran (like his teammate Teixeira) wants to just push through to postseason.

Also, there has been a lot of discussion about Jeter’s milestones, especially during these last few regular season games. Yes, I’m watching them happen, but I don’t want to take the time to comment on every single one. If I did, this year would have turned my blog into a Derek Jeter blog instead of just the Yankees. However, because he is a crucial part of both this season and the Yankees, I am saving all these important stats and milestones up for a single blog post to commemorate where he ended his career. For example, he got hit numbers 3,456 and 3,457, but as there are still 8 games left to play, I’m waiting until we get a final number of hits to see how close to number 5 on the hit list he gets (Tris Speaker has 3,515 total hits).

Go Yankees!

Game 150: NYY vs. TB — Implosion, explosion, protests, and ejections

Okay, let me just say that I have absolutely no idea where to start because I have no idea what happened in Tampa tonight. At some point, everything just kind of imploded and then exploded.

First things first then… Tampa’s “not-a-farewell-tour” rolled out (literally) its ceremony prior to tonight’s game, presenting Derek Jeter with a 16-foot customized pinstriped kayak and a $16,000 donation to Turn 2 ($50 per hit Jeter has made off Rays’ pitching — that’s 320 hits, if you don’t want to do math). Then Soot Zimmer, the widow of Don Zimmer, presented Jeter with a framed Zimmer jersey.

Zim was most recently a special advisor to the Rays, but he was Torre’s bench coach when Jeter was first called up to the Yankees. Zim was a fixture at the ballpark, and I remember him smiling and trotting around even this year’s Spring Training with the vitality of his younger days, despite a stroke some years ago. Zim was a shared legend between the Yankees and Rays, but he passed away in June this year. I know he would have loved to be there tonight to see Jeter off into his retirement properly, and this was a great way to incorporate him and his legacy and impact into a ceremony celebrating the legacy and impact of one who truly appreciated him.

And then there was a game. Last year, I was convinced that certain stadiums were almost bad luck (if you believe in such things) for the Yankees. This year, I’m convinced it’s specific teams that have it out for the Yankees. And with the Rays, I’m absolutely certain… but we’ll get there in a moment.

In the 2nd inning, with 2 outs, Chris Young doubled and then scored on Ichiro Suzuki’s single, giving the Yankees a 1-0 early lead. It didn’t last long, and it would be the only run the Yankees scored all night.

It was Michael Pineda’s turn to start for the Yankees tonight. 100 pitches over his 5.1 innings wasn’t a terrible outing, but certainly not at the level the Yankees needed to win tonight’s game. He allowed just 4 hits, 2 runs (only 1 earned), and 2 walks, striking out 5 batters. In the 5th, a throwing error and a walk put runners at 1st and 2nd; a runner then scored on a missed catching error by Pineda himself to tie up the game 1-1.

Pineda allowed a double in the 6th, and that runner scored on a single (2-1 Rays). This forced Girardi to turn to Josh Outman in relief for the rest of that inning, which he did flawlessly.

But I can’t say much for the 7th inning relief of Esmil Rogers, which in my mind started the implosion. After a quick out, Rogers put runners on the corners with a walk and a single; another single scored a run, and this gave the Yankees enough cause to pass the ball to Rich Hill. But then a single loaded the bases, and another single scored yet another run, keeping the bases loaded.

And so it was onto David Phelps. His first batter hit a sacrifice fly to Ellsbury in center field, but 2 runners ended up scoring. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 2-run sac fly before. There was some confusion as to whether one runner actually tagged every bag and whether he left too early (he did, by the way); honestly, this began the ultimate confusion spiral that became this game. After some minor protestations from Girardi, which were largely ignored or quickly disregarded by the umpire staff, he officially declared the Yankees playing this game “under protest”.

From MLB.com:

Rule 4.19
PROTESTING GAMES.
Each league shall adopt rules governing procedure for protesting a game, when a manager claims that an umpire’s decision is in violation of these rules. No protest shall ever be permitted on judgment decisions by the umpire. In all protested games, the decision of the League President shall be final.
Even if it is held that the protested decision violated the rules, no replay of the game will be ordered unless in the opinion of the League President the violation adversely affected the protesting team’s chances of winning the game.
Rule 4.19 Comment: Whenever a manager protests a game because of alleged misapplication of the rules the protest will not be recognized unless the umpires are notified at the time the play under protest occurs and before the next pitch, play or attempted play. A protest arising on a game-ending play may be filed until 12 noon the following day with the league office.

Bring on the explosion…

Into the top of the 8th, the Yankees are at bat, with Jeter leading off to a standing and cheering Tampa crowd. And the pitcher hit him. This would make the fifth Yankee batter (well, fourth unless you count Jeter twice now) hit by a Rays pitcher in just 4 games. How do I know this? Because Girardi made a very big point of this when he went storming out of the dugout to argue for the Rays’ pitcher to be thrown out for trying to take out his batter. And do the Rays pitchers get any repercussions for “pitching inside” sloppily? Nope. Scott-free once again. Who gets ejected? Girardi. That’s right. The guy who doesn’t want to see another Headley sprawled out on the ground with a bloody jaw or a severely bruised-up player in the training room AGAIN, he’s the guy that it makes sense to toss from the game.

Now, do I honestly think that the pitcher meant to hit Jeter when the Rays were up 6-1 over the Yankees? No. But it seems the Rays are determined to “pitch inside” a lot. The Yankees all agree that such pitching is necessary at times, but “you’ve got to do it right” so that no one gets hurt. Apparently, according to pitchers and players and coaches alike, if you’re going to “pitch inside”, you pitch in and down and NOT in and up like the Rays have been doing all year and hitting people right and left (literally and figuratively).

Anyway, Maddon (the Rays’ manager) wisely opted to go to his bullpen so as not to risk the wrath of an already heated crowd and clubhouse for hitting the Captain. And the only thing the umpires chose to do was “warn both teams”. Why the Yankees were “warned” at this point, I’ll never understand.

Three outs later and it was the Yankees’ turn to pitch. (Hearing that ticking sound yet?)

Phelps, still on the mound, came into the 8th inning, still shaking off his rust from his recent return to the bullpen. And he did the last thing you want a pitcher to do in this situation. Yes, he apparently hit the batter (though on the replay, he clearly did not and thus everything that followed was a total crock). And because the team was already “under warning”, Phelps was ejected, and according to protocol (that I don’t agree with) bench coach and acting manager Tony Pena was also ejected. Benches were cleared, and some massive “jawing” as it happened between far too many players and coaches and umpires. (KA-BOOM!)

Sometimes, I completely understand why ejections happen; it’s a heated game, adrenaline runs high in a competitive environment, and there are those with a short temper or diva-like attitudes that don’t fare well in such environments at times. But I have to be completely honest, I don’t agree with a single ejection in this entire game. Nor have I agreed with most of these extreme calls at the Trop for the entire series.

Anyway, David Huff came on and pitched the 8th, keeping the score at 6-1 Rays, something the Yankees just were never able to overcome. If I believed in bad ju-ju or whatever, I’d say it was all over the Trop tonight.

Look, I try to stay positive and objective on this blog, but there are days that it’s rather hard to do so. Fortunately, I’m not a journalist, so I can be a little more opinionated than your average sports writer. So I’m going to try to be positive for a minute…

Nope. The only thing I can think of is that old adage, “if you can’t say something nice…” So I’m moving on, closing the chapter on tonight’s game, and hoping for something positive to talk about tomorrow.

But before we go, there’s one more bit of “not-so-positive” news: Martin Prado had an emergency appendectomy last night in Tampa and was placed on the 60-day DL, effectively out for the rest of the season. They called up Jose Pirela in his stead. I was more than a little discouraged after I specifically requested no more bad news on the injury/roster front to wake up to that news this morning. Oh well, wishing Prado rest and healing. At least this is one “injury” that we don’t have to worry about the possibility of a recurrence.

I just thought of some good news: only one more game at the Trop for the rest of the season. I hear angelic choruses warming up…

Go Yankees!

Games 145 & 146 — NYY vs. BAL — Doubleheader double-dropped

Today was the Yankees’ doubleheader against the Orioles . The first game was due to a rain out back on August 12. And the evening game was the regularly schedule game of the 3-game weekend series in Baltimore, the last time the Yankees will be in Charm City this season. Unfortunately, it didn’t end up being a very good couple of games for the Yankees.

In the matinee, it became a pitching duel between the Orioles’ starter and the Yankees’ starter Brandon McCarthy. Matching each other nearly pitch-for-pitch, they each threw 106 in 7 innings (though McCarthy threw to one batter in the 7th). McCarthy gave up just 4 hits to the Yankees’ 7 (and 2 walks), while striking out 6 Orioles’ batters (to the Yankees’ 7). But neither team could combine those base-running attempts to do more than threaten each other.

Betances and Robertson split the 8th, 9th, and 10th innings. Yes, 10th inning because the game stayed knotted at 0-0 into the 11th inning. There, and with 2 outs, Chris Young smacked a solo home run for the first run scored in the game. Then in the bottom of the 11th, the Yankees sent up Adam Warren to keep that precarious 1-0 lead, but things weren’t meant to be it seems. Warren loaded the bases with 2 outs and then allowed a 2-run double that had the Orioles’ walking-off with the victory (and just 2 hours until the next game time). It would be 2-1 Orioles.

In between games, Chase Headley made his appearance in the dugout. After yesterday’s scary event of getting a ball on your face, all x-rays and tests came back negative (concussions, fractures, etc.), which is a great things, instead needing just a few stitches and a couple of days rest. Derek Jeter’s name showed up on the 2nd game’s roster, starting at shortstop, because as well all know, “he’s fine”. And David Phelps was officially activated before the game, coming off the temporary stint on the DL with elbow issues. Phelps also pitched in tonight’s game, though during the game, he proved he is still a little rusty.

Bryan Mitchell got the start today, his chance to show off fort he Yankee bigs. And he didn’t do terribly overall — 84 pitches in 5 innings, 6 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, and just 2 strike outs. In the 4th, a walked batter scored on a nice double, and then that runner scored on the 1st of 2 Baltimore triples tonight.

Outman got the ball in the 6th inning to relieve Mitchell, doing his job quite effectively and modeling those old-fashioned stirrups, Then it was Phelps’ turn to return to the “away greys” getting 2 quick outs. But then he loaded the bases with 3 back-to-back walks so that a sharp single score 2 more runs for the Orioles. Hill got that final out of the 7th.

Then Chaz Roe gets the nod to pitch for the Yankees. Technically, he got a quick 3 outs, but a wild pitch on that 3rd batter actually allowed the runner to get to 1st safely (another strange rule I just don’t get in baseball). That batter would come around to score on that second Baltimore triple, pushing the score to 5-0 Orioles.

And there it stood. The Orioles swept their first doubleheader against the Yankees since September 24, 1984, where pitching greats Guidry and Righetti each took a loss that day. It was also the first road game doubleheader to be both swept and score 1 run or fewer wince July 31, 1966 against the White Sox. Not that any of that matters shy of the basic fact that the Yankees just lost 2 more games. Especially with the hope of something in October slowly drifting away with each passing hour.

Bummer…

Go Yankees!

{Note: media links coming this weekend for this week’s posts. Sorry.}