Game 46: NYY vs. TEX — Powered bat vs. bad pitching

I’ve said it before, and I know I’ll say it again. When you see a score that looks more like an NFL score, it’s pretty much a sign that the pitching staff had a terrible night. And tonight was such a night to close out the series in Texas, for both sides. And it wasn’t pretty. At one point, it was just going to be whichever team’s pitcher could just pitch better and not allow runs to score.

The Yankees got the ball rolling, so to speak, in the 1st inning. With 1 out, Judge made it to 1st on a throwing error and then scored as part of Didi Gregorius’ 2-run home run. Then they loaded up the bases with singles to Stanton, Hicks, and Andujar, and with 2 outs, Austin Romine worked a walk to score Stanton. Neil Walker later led off the 3rd with a big solo home run right into the grassy field beyond center field to give the Yankees a rather large early lead.

Unfortunately, their starter, CC Sabathia, had a pretty bad night. He threw 91 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 6 hits, 3 walks, and 7 runs, and struck out just 1 Texas batters. But he didn’t allow a run until the 4th inning. He gave up a lead-off single that scored as part of a 1-out 2-run home run. Then after walking 2 batters, another batter hit a big 3-run home run to suddenly give the Rangers the lead.

The Yankees came back in the top of the 5th to literally double their score. With 1 out, Walker singled and moved to 3rd on Andujar’s double. Romine’s single scored Walker to tie up the game. And then Gleyber Torres hit a big 3-run home run. That would be it for the Rangers’ starter, but the Yankees weren’t finished this inning. Gardner doubled and then scored on Aaron Judge’s monster 2-run home run deep into the left-center field seats to push the Yankees into double-digits.

Sabathia came out for the bottom of the 5th, and despite the now very large lead again, things still weren’t working. With 1 out, he gave up a single that scored on a triple. Another single scored that runner. Holder came on in relief of Sabathia and closed out the 5th inning without allowing the Rangers to chip away at the Yankees’ lead further.

Then Chasen Shreve came on for the 6th and had his own issues, giving up 2 singles and striking out a batter (in just 8 pitches). David Robertson tried to pull a Houdini, but I’m not sure he was able to pull him out of the bullpen tonight. He promptly loaded up the bases with a walk, and then walked another batter to score the lead runner. After a strikeout, a bases-clearing double pushed the Rangers into the lead.

Dellin Betances then came on to breeze his way through the 7th, but then had his own issues in the 8th. Despite striking out the lead batter, a wild pitch allowed him to reach 1st. Betances tried to pick off that runner, but a mess throw allowed him to steal 2nd. After an out, that runner then stole 3rd and easily scored on an RBI single for an insurance run.

The Rangers won the pitching battle as their final 4 relievers refused to allow a run to score in the final 4 innings. But like I said above, this wasn’t really a great night to watch “good pitching”, as the pitching staffs gave up 25 total hits. There were a lot of base runners, thus a lot of runs scored. And honestly, it was never going to be a good result, even if it did fall into the Yankees’ favor.

Final score: 12-10 Rangers, Rangers win series 2-1

Next up: after a travel day tomorrow (Thursday), the Yankees host the Angels for the weekend and then the Astros for the week.

Roster moves: earlier today, the Yankees selected the contract of pitcher Ryan Bollinger. Bollinger was originally drafted by the Phillies in 2009, but he bounced around the minor league system a bit, and even played in Germany and Australia before finally getting signed by the Yankees last December to a minor league contract. So today, the Yankees chose him from the AA Trenton roster to fill the open roster spot. He has yet to make his MLB debut, but could sometime this weekend.

Yesterday, Gary Sanchez came out of the game with some cramps in his calf again (like early last month). Because of that, and Romine’s recent hot streak, the Yankees opted to bench Sanchez for tonight’s game. Though he would be available off the bench, if necessary.

Go Yankees!

Game 41: NYY vs. KC — Baseball is back in the Midwest after soggy East Coast week

Okay, let’s clear things up. The Yankees did play 6 innings of a game in D.C. on Tuesday night before getting thoroughly drenched by the storms that just doused the East Coast for much of this last week. They suspended that game to be continued on Wednesday before the next game. But Mother Nature wasn’t about to let that happen. The powers-that-be decided that clearly this short series wasn’t going to happen this week, and they rescheduled for mutual off-day June 18 to complete the first game and actually play the second in a “not-quite-a-doubleheader” for the two teams.

Then because of those storms, the Yankees got stranded at Dulles airport Wednesday. Due to a minor plane issue and those lingering storms, the Yankees didn’t leave D.C. until Thursday morning. So the team spent the night at the airport. Like literally at the airport, not the hotel (there was no nearby vacancies to accommodate the 40+ people who travel as part of the team). Some guys slept on the plane itself, some found dark corners in airport lounges, some made like Tom Hanks’ character in The Terminal.

No one seemed to complain of any neck or back issues when they finally got to Kansas City, but they had a whole day off to load up on sleep and some great BBQ (“Team Jack Stack” all the way, if you’re wondering) to recover before playing tonight’s game, the opener against the Royals. The Yankees hadn’t played baseball since Tuesday night, nor a full game since Sunday afternoon. So perhaps we can blame that or Dulles for tonight’s rust.

At least, that’s what I’d prefer to believe.

Anyway, it would fall to CC Sabathia to start tonight’s game. He threw 99 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 4 hits, 4 walks, and 4 runs (only 2 earned), and struck out 5 Kansas City batters. The Royals kind of chipped away as they went along. In the 1st, a lead-off double stole 3rd and then scored on a fielder’s choice grounder to kick things off.

In the 3rd, a walk, a single, and a stolen base put runners in scoring position. Then, with 2 outs, they loaded the bases with another walk. The next batter hit a short grounder that was poorly fielded, so a run scored and kept the bases loaded. Another walk walked in another run. Neither of these runs counted towards Sabathia’s earned run count due to the fielding error. A 1-out solo home run in the 5th added one more run for the Royals.

Chasen Shreve came on in relief for Sabathia in the 6th and sailed through the roster in just 10 pitches. David Robertson got the 7th inning and got 2 quick outs, but then a walk scored on an RBI double to cap off the Royals’ runs. Holder’s 12-pitch scoreless 8th inning closed out the Yankee pitching staff tonight. But the damage was done.

And for some reason, the Yankees just weren’t manufacturing the same kind of run production tonight. They certainly got hits (8 total), about 1-2 per inning off the Royals’ starter, but they only scored runs in the 6th inning. Stanton led-off with a single, and Hicks hit a 1-out single off the Royals’ starter. A new reliever gave up a single to Neil Walker that scored Stanton and moved Hicks all the way to 3rd. Hicks then scored on Miguel Andujar’s sacrifice fly. A walk later, the Yankees’ rally was over. The Royals’ bullpen closed the door on the Yankees’ hopes for a comeback win.

Final score: 5-2 Royals

Over the no-games week these last few days, there was much discussion around Yankee Universe regarding the actual 20th anniversary of David Wells’ perfect game (20 years ago yesterday, Thursday). Due to being on the road now, the Yankees celebrated the memory earlier this month, but the actual anniversary date is always something to celebrate and honor.

Go Yankees!

Also, our hearts go out once again to victims of yet another school shooting, this time in Santa Fe, Texas, near Houston. You have our prayers, while we anticipate those in power to take some action to deal so that I never have to write this postscript again.

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 35: BOS vs. NYY — #SevySharp & Multi-Stanton, but late inning offense rescues again

The Yankees continue their home stand, opening this mid-week 3-game series against the Red Sox tonight. Going into this game, the Red Sox were just a game ahead of the Yankees in the AL East, and both teams know that they both need to win to advance their team’s strength in the standings. But only one team can come out on top. (It’s kind of how this thing works.)

So it was to Luis Severino that the Yankees looked to lead them in this opening game. Severino threw into the 7th inning with 109 pitches, giving up 6 runs, no walks, and 2 runs, while striking out a solid 11 Boston batters. Severino held off the Red Sox until the 5th inning, when a lead-off batter struck out but then made it safely to 1st on a wild pitch (I still hate these, by the way). Two legitimate strike outs later, a single moved that runner to 2nd before another single and long throw allowed that lead runner to score the Red Sox’s first run.

Severino gave up a lead-off single in the 7th, and that runner would be his responsibility as he headed back to the clubhouse for the night. David Robertson came on for 2 quick outs, but then he gave up a long triple that scored that runner. Green needed just 11 pitches to get out of the 8th, and Chapman threw an efficient 15-pitch 9th inning. And in total, Yankee pitchers collected 14 strikeouts (and no walks!).

Meanwhile, the Yankees rode on the wings of Giancarlo Stanton early on with his lead-off solo home runs in the 2nd to left field and in the 4th to right. So after the Red Sox tied up the game in the 7th, the Yankees answered back in the bottom of the 7th. With 1 out, Walker doubled and Torres walked before a balk moved both runners to scoring position. Gardner’s walk then loaded up the bases and had the Red Sox headed back to their bullpen again. Aaron Judge promptly singled to score Walker, but a quick, strong throw home got Torres trying to score an insurance run.

They didn’t need it in the end, thanks in part to the Yankees’ strong pitching.

Final score: 3-2 Yankees

There’s been a lot of chatter about which teams will face off in a short series during the 2019 season in London, bringing America’s pastime to Great Britain. MLB announced yesterday that the two teams that will be making the trip will be the Yankees and Red Sox, bringing the best rivalry in all of sports across the pond. The NFL and NBA have traveled to England in previous seasons, and British fans and American ex-pats enjoy these special games.

The MLB has traveled outside of the US and Canada periodically over the last 22 years — in 1996 and 1999 to Monterrey, Mexico; in 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012 to Tokyo, Japan; in 2014 to Sydney, Australia; and 51 times since 2001 to San Juan, Puerto Rico, including last month when the Indians and Twins faced off (and dealt with a local power outage and the continued local hurricane recovery). Later this year, the Dodgers and Padres will play in Monterrey, Mexico, and next season, the Mariners and Athletics will travel to Tokyo. But the Yankees-Red Sox games in England will be the first regular season MLB games in Europe ever.

That leaves me to wonder if the Brits will embrace baseball with the same kind of enthusiasm as their football (or soccer for Americans) or perhaps cricket, a more similar sport. If anything, the Brits love their sport regardless of what kind of sport it is. I imagine they’ll love it like the Americans love soccer, with the same fervency of the moment (like the US gets during the World Cup) before moving on with other sport and fan bases once the Yankees (literally and figuratively) are flying back across the pond.

Go Yankees!

Game 33: CLE vs. NYY — Sonny times defeat Cleveland defensive errors

The Yankees have won 14 of their last 15 games, something that actually has people talking all around the league, because it’s the first time they’ve done so since 1998. (And we all know what happened that year.) Plus, it was a perfect Saturday afternoon for a game, this middle game in the weekend series against the visiting Indians.

Sonny Gray had a much better outing than many of his earlier games this season, throwing 93 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up 4 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and striking out 7 batters. His 2 allowed runs were a 2-out solo home run in the 5th and a ground-rule double that later scored on a ground out.

Chad Green really was the pitcher worth watching today, going 2 full scoreless and hitless innings and throw a dominant and efficient 24 pitches in the 7th and 8th innings, getting 4 of his 6 outs with strong strikeouts. David Robertson closed out the game with 2 more strikeouts in his 9th inning.

Meanwhile, like the Indians, the Yankees’ batters really didn’t get much offenive opportunities until the 5th. With 1 out, Walker and Andujar walked, and Torres singled to load the bases. Then Austin Romine worked a walk to score Walker. Ronald Torreyes hit into a play that ended up moving everyone up 2 bases thanks to 2 errors, so Andujar and Torres both scored, leaving Romine and Torreyes in scoring position. Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly scored Romine.

A new pitcher in the 7th gave up a 1-out double to Romine, after quite the embattled at-bat. The Indians needed to switch some defenders due to an injury where the fielder trying to get Romine’s long-hit ball rammed into the back fence. Romine would go on to score on Gardner’s 2-out single.

Final score: 5-2 Yankees

Injury updates: as you know if you’ve been following this team this season, early last month seemed plagued with injuries. Fortunately, the team has been relatively healthy for a few weeks now, and those on the DL are working their way back as soon as possible. Brandon Drury found a specialist in New York that located an irritated nerve on his neck that has been causing his migraines for years. He is receiving regular treatments, and it’s paying off — his time with AAA Scranton (and now with AA Trenton) have been rather productive. The Yankees aren’t in rush with him as Andujar, Torres, and Torreyes have been outstanding for the Yankees as pinch-bench players in both their offense and defense.

Despite being out for 6-8 weeks with elbow strain, Jordan Montgomery was simply glad it wasn’t going to be the dreaded Tommy John surgery for him, which would mean 12-18 months recovery time. It’s something every pitcher dreads and sits in the back of their minds every time there’s an elbow pain of any kind. So a few weeks must sound like a decent option. It’s not great, but they can make it work on all ends. Especially as Domingo German will get his first MLB start tomorrow against the Indians in the finale of this series.

And speaking of pitchers, Tommy Kahnle and Adam Warren are back throwing after experiencing some shoulder and back issues (respectively), so the Yankees hope to have these reliable relievers back in the bullpen before the end of the month.

My uncle, the one who’s a huge “Tribe” fan (or a person who roots for Cleveland), texted me after the Yankees won today to tell me that the Yankees were “looking good” and that his team was suffering from “no-bullpen-itis”. I can understand that feeling, as both teams seem to suffer most of their injuries in the bullpen this season (as reflected in the above injury report). But to me, that says more about the difference in their farm systems to rely on those guys when injuries hit the major league level.

So kudos to the Yankees for having the smarts to build the organization deep. And this says far too much about the AL Central because even with these 2 losses, the Indians still lead the division and are the only team above .500. Meanwhile, the Yankees are now just a half-game behind the Red Sox in the AL East, something that clearly will change with the coming series next week.

Go Yankees!

Game 32: CLE vs. NYY — It was a bumpy journey, but the Force was with the Yankees

All across baseball (and the world, really) is celebrating Star Wars Day. Because it’s May the 4th… as in “May the Force be with you”, a familiar phrase from the Star Wars movies (and its extended universe). And in that spirit, the Yankees giveaway for the day was a bobble head of Aaron Judge as a Jedi. And all of this is terribly awkward for anyone who still thinks of the Yankees as the “Evil Empire”, but might be kind of fun as the Yankees play the ceremonial march music (from A New Hope) during their announcement of the starting roster at every home game.

CC Sabathia, one of the biggest Star Wars nerds on the team, got the honor of the start in the opening game of this home stand against the visiting Indians (both his former team and the Yankees’ 2017 ALDS rivals). Sabathia worked some of his own force and threw a great game — 92 pitches in 6 scoreless innings, giving up just 3 hits, and striking out 7 Cleveland batters. Dellin Betances followed suit and threw a great scoreless 7th inning.

In the mean time, the Yankees offense found its first opportunity to break through on the scoreboard in the 4th inning. Walker led-off with a single and moved to 2nd on a force attempt and fielding error that allowed Andujar to reach safely. Then Gleyber Torres smacked his first career home run, a 3-run shot to left field. (The fan who caught it later negotiated its return for her and her 8 friends to get a personalized clubhouse tour and some autographed gear.)

One out later, Aaron Judge hit a solo home run to join in on the fun. And Gary Sanchez later led-off the 5th with his own home run. (Was the Force stronger over in the left field seats?)

And then there was the 8th inning. With the Yankees up 5-0 over the Indians, the Indians took advantage of an off-night from Chasen Shreve, who just couldn’t find an out tonight to save the game. He gave up a walk, a single, a 3-run home run, and a single before they finally pulled the plug on his night. David Robertson had his own issues in relief. After the Yankees defense failed to turn two, the next batter hit a 2-run home run to tie up the game.

Determined, the Yankees came back in the bottom of the 8th to break the tie. The Yankees loaded up the bases with Andujar’s fielder’s choice, Torres’ single, and Gardner’s walk. And then Judge’s “forced” in the go-ahead run to give the Yankees some hope. (Totally stole that one from Twitter.) So Aroldis Chapman needed just 3 outs for the save. The Indians needed 1 run to stay alive. The Indians got their wish as a lead-off single, moved to 2nd on a 1-out hit-by-pitch, advanced to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on another wild pitch to tie up the game again.

But the Yankees weren’t just going down without that big final battle and “good guy heroics”. Stanton led-off the 9th inning with a double and later moved to 3rd on a ground out. After Walker walked and moved into scoring position on defensive indifference, it would be Miguel Andujar that would be “strong in the force”, knocking a bloop single into shallow right center field that easily scored Stanton for the walk-off run.

Final score: 7-6 Yankees

Further, in honor of Star Wars Day, the Yankees welcomed a parade of characters from the movie and the upcoming prequel movie Solo, about one of the main character’s origins and directed by the Yankees’ special guest tonight — Ron Howard, who also threw out the first pitch.

And finally, a big congratulations to Ichiro Suzuki who will transition to special advisor for the Mariners (his current team). Ichiro was always a fan-favorite (with the Mariners, Yankees, Marlins, and back to the Mariners) and a favorite in every clubhouse from his days playing in Japan to his time around MLB. He closes out a great career and will be in our discussions when he’s elected to the Hall of Fame in five years.

Go Yankees! (And Happy Star Wars Day, fellow nerds!)

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!