Game 94: NYY vs. CLE — Messy 6th inning, plus a “Little League Home Run”

The tight games in Cleveland continue in this third of four games this weekend. Both teams trying to pad their winning seasons before the All-Star Break. While the Indians are the only winning team in their division (and thus the leaders), the Yankees are in a constant battle with the Red Sox for the lead (though the Red Sox are on quite the winning streak recently). Tonight certainly helped, but the Red Sox won again too. So it’s rather as-is in the AL East.

CC Sabathia got the start for the Yankees tonight, throwing 92 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 4 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs and struck out just 2 batters along the way. He gave up a 2-out solo home run in the 1st, and then a lead-off single in the 3rd stole 2nd and moved to 3rd on one ground out before another ground out scored that runner.

In the 6th, with 1 out, he gave up a single and a walk and a ground out moved both runner to scoring position. They both did so on a long, messy single that was complicated by a couple of off-center and late throws attempting to get a few outs on the bases. That was the end of Sabathia’s night, and he turned over things to David Robertson.

After a walk, Robertson got the final out of the inning and then breezed through the 7th. Betances followed that up with a beautiful scoreless 8th inning, and Chapman’s 9th inning delivered a fairly efficient save, his 26th save of the season.

The Yankees actually kick-started their offense in the 1st inning. Gardner led-off the game with a walk and moved to 2nd on Judge’s single. Then Didi Gregorius hit a big 3-run home run up the middle. They defended that early lead through much of Sabathia’s outing, not adding to that until the questionable 6th (see below). With 2 outs, Greg Bird hit a big solo home run into the right field seats.

The Indians tied up the game in the bottom of that inning, of course, and it would be up to an unlikely source to break the tie and score the Yankees’ winning run in the 7th. Austin Romine technically led-off the inning with a double. But a fielding error had him jogging for 3rd, and the cut-off man threw the relay to 3rd into the dugout which allotted Romine home base. In other words, really sloppy defense gave Romine an inside-the-park homer, or more commonly dubbed a “Little League Home Run“. Not something you expect to see at this level, but still entertaining as it is with 8-year-olds instead of 28(ish)-year-olds.

Final score: 5-4 Yankees

Okay, let’s discuss that 6th inning. It all started with Giancarlo Stanton’s at-bat. A called strike and a foul got him down in the count 0-2 quickly. Then the next pitch hit his hands as he swung at the ball and missed. But the ball bounced off his hands as if it were a foul ball. It wasn’t a direct call right away. I think even Stanton thought it was a foul (and thus an extra 2nd strike), but as he was stepping back into the box, the umpire decided it was an out.

Stanton immediately questioned the call, Boone questioned the call, even the broadcasters questioned the call. After a brief umpire huddle, the home plate umpire just told them all that was the call and maintained his call. Boone let him have it, got ejected, and kept fighting. He thought it should at least be a foul. Honestly, I thought it was a hit-by-pitch. And questionable hit-by-pitches are open for review and replay. They didn’t, and Bird’s no-doubter home run just an out later felt a little like justice.

Now, I had to dig really far into the official rule book (you can download your own copy here). Rule 5.05(b)(2) states that “if the ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a strike, whether or not the batter tries to avoid the ball. If the ball is outside the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a ball if he makes no attempt to avoid being touched… When the batter is touched b a pitched ball which does not entitle him to first base, the ball is dead and no runner may advance.” And Rule 5.09(a)(6) states that “a batter is out when… he attempts to hit a third strike and the ball touches him.”

The reason I cite both these is because they are the two rules social media commentators used to justify the call in that 6th inning. And while I think one can make a case for the latter rule, the “3rd strike” was really inside and not in the strike zone. Yes, he swung at it, but it hit him. And most other times this happens, the batter is awarded 1st base as a hit-by-pitch. I just wonder how often this “rule” is enforced.

While it does seem intent on preventing the old trick of stepping into a pitch to get on base (though that does still happen on occasion, if we’re being honest), I don’t think this is the kind of call or play they had in mind. Perhaps, tonight’s call will be something they discuss at next year’s winter meetings as they continue to readjust the operating rules of the game. If the intent is to keep fair ball and player safety a priority, they can’t exactly promote a rule that intentionally punishes potentially and accidentally hurt players. Though Stanton didn’t seem to suffer from the hit, the next player might be hit worse.

Bird and Romine’s runs helped even out the bad call and slide the game into the Yankees’ favor, so it’s hard to stay “hurt” by the call. However, just because it didn’t “hurt” in the end doesn’t make it a good, fair, or just call. Because one day, that kind of call could make the difference in a crucial game, let alone seriously injure a player. And no one wants either of those scenarios.

Go Yankees!

Game 87: NYY vs. TOR — Gardner leads to victory in the 10th. Who’s in the All-Star Game? #ASGiancarlo

Another lovely summer day in Toronto allowed for a great day at the ball park, the roof open, the skies clear, and the fans cheering on their teams. And for this rubber match (the game to decide who wins the series), the Yankees and Blue Jays certainly gave the fans somehting to cheer about.

Domingo German got the start in the finale against the Jays, throwing 100 pitches in 6 innings, giving up just 4 hits, 2 walks, and 1 run, and striking out 5 batters. In fact, his lone allowed run was a 6th inning lead-off solo shot. Warren gave a solid 2 innings in relief, and Green followed that up by breezing through the 9th inning in just 11 pitches.

Now, the Yankees actually got on the board first, in the 1st inning. With 1 out, Judge singled, moved to 3rd on Stanton’s double, and then scored on Miguel Andujar’s ground out. After that, the Yankees collected 5 more hits and 2 walks through the next 8 innings, but didn’t do anything to add to their runs.

So, with the game tied, into the 10th inning they went. The first batter up, Bird, was hit by a pitch, and because they needed some speed on the bases, the Yankees called on Tyler Wade as pinch-runner. Romine’s sacrifice bunt moved Wade to 2nd and into scoring position so that when Brett Gardner hit a nice single into left field, Wade raced home to break the tie.

Two outs later, the Yankees called on David Robertson to close out the game. 12 pitches and 3 outs later, the Yankees declared victory for the game and the series.

Final score: 2-1 Yankees, in 10 innings, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: the Yankees are on their way to Baltimore to face the Orioles for a 4-game series, starting with a doubleheader tomorrow. The first game is a make-up game of the rain-out from May 31. After their series at Camden Yards, the Yankees travel to face the Indians for a 4-game weekend series before the All-Star Break.

And speaking of the All-Star Game, MLB officially announced their fan selections for the starters, as well as its player-voted (and Commissioner’s Office selected) player reserves and pitching staff for the game next Tuesday (July 17). And there are 4 (possibly 5) Yankees on that list — Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Aroldis Chapman, and Gleyber Torres. Giancarlo Stanton is nominated for the Final Vote.

Judge received his 2nd selection as an outfield starter this year, joined by pitchers Chapman and Severino (all for very obvious reasons). Plus, Torres was selected as part of the reserves player. Now, despite the fact that he may be sidelined due to his recent hip injury, selection to be part of the All-Star Game is a badge of sorts players can wear with honor for the rest of their lives. (You can enjoy a rather extensive list of the players selected and their achievements this year so far.)

And that brings us to the Final Vote. You can vote unlimited times until this Wednesday (July 10) at 4pm (EST) for your favorite AL and NL player of the 10 nominated (5 in each league) — like Stanton, for example. Other nominees include outfielders Andrew Benintendi (Red Sox) and Andrelton Simmons (Angels), shortstops Eddie Rosario (Twins) and Jean Segura (Mariners) for the AL. In the NL are infielders Jesus Aguilar (Brewers), Brandon Belt (Giants), Matt Carpenter (Cardinals), Max Muncy (Dodgers), and Trea Turner (Nationals).

So vote often for your favorites! And use the social media hashtag: #ASGiancarlo.

Go Yankees!

Game 82: ATL vs. NYY — 11th inning oopsie

The Yankees had a ridiculous amount of opportunities to make the difference of the game, pretty consistently throughout, and yet didn’t do much along the lines of the Yankees’ offense this past weekend. They ended up leaving 12 runners in scoring position in the game, mostly in the latter half.

Jonathan Loaisiga got the start in tonight’s opener against the Braves, throwing 92 pitches in just 4 innings, giving up 5 hits and 3 runs, and striking out just 3 Atlanta batters. The lead-off batter in the 3rd hit a solo shot to get the Braves on the board. Then in the 4th, with 1 out, Loaisiga gave up 3 consecutive doubles that scored 2 more runs for Atlanta.

The Yankees actually got on the board first with Aaron Judge’s 1-out solo home run in the 1st. Then Gleyber Torres led-off the 3rd with a double, advanced to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on another wild pitch. In the 5th, with 1 out, the Yankees began putting runners in scoring position by loading the bases with Torres’ single and 2 walks to Gardner and Judge. Didi Gregorius’ sacrifice fly scored Torres (and tie up the game), but a pop-up out ended that opportunity.

So, after Loaisiga’s night ended, the Yankees got 2 innings each out of both Holder and Green. And Aroldis Chapman’s 9th inning was just amazing, 10 of his 18 pitches were over 100 mph (2 were 104 mph). But with the game tied, the extra innings became inevitable. Betances allowed 2 baserunners and still got out of the 10th inning unscathed.

But then in the 11th, David Robertson got his chance and would have succeeded except for some defensive issues. The lead-off batter made it safely to 1st on a fielding error, but then he was out on a ground out that failed to convert to a double play. The next batter hit a long fly ball to right-center field and Judge didn’t jump in time to grab the ball. It bounced in his glove and then on the top of the back wall for a 2-run home run.

Final score: 5-3 Braves, in 11 innings

Scranton Shuttle (roster moves): Following the game, and the depleted bullpen, the Yankees sent Jonathan Loaisiga to AAA, and reactivated AJ Cole after a brief rehab stint. The Yankees have a doubleheader next Monday in Baltimore, which means they can carry a 26th man on their roster. Logically then, Loaisiga will be back for those games.

In fun Yankee Universe News: the Yankees just signed Luis Severino’s 19-year-old brother Rafael, as part of the international signing period. The younger Severino is part of an academy in their native Dominican Republic and has a pitching arm that regularly throws in the upper 80s. The elder brother is super excited and brags on his younger sibling’s work ethic and potential. Two Severinos with the Yankees? Yes, please!

These are the final days for the All-Star Game voting on the starters for the game. So it’s time now to get your final votes in and have your voice heard. Fans have until July 5 (Thursday) at 11:59 pm EST to vote for their favorites. The All-Star Game is Tuesday, July 17. And it looks like Aaron Judge is one of the front-runners to start in the outfield, and the chances for Severino or perhaps one of the outstanding relievers for other representation in D.C.

Go Yankees!

Game 76: NYY vs. PHI — Some “Brotherly Love” for a rookie pitcher, a fan, and a “rookie” batter

The Yankees began their series in the City of Brotherly Love and showed some love to their fans in the area in many ways. Aaron Judge played catch with a fan in the right field seats, later commenting on the good arm on the kid. Plus, their rookie pitcher threw a scoreless 5 innings.

Jonathan Loaisiga threw 86 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up just 1 hit and 2 walks, and struck out 8 Phillies batters. In other words, he had another great night from the mound and earned his 2nd win in as many starts. David Robertson took over for him in the 6th and continued into the 7th with some trouble. He gave up a lead-off walk that moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a 1-out single.

After another strikeout, the Yankees turned to Dellin Betances, who closed out the 7th with a strong strikeout, walked 2 players in the 8th, and still got his 3 outs unscathed. Aroldis Chapman got out of Betances’ 8th inning jam. And after 2 solid strikeouts in the 9th, he gave up a solo home run before getting a final strikeout to earn his 23rd save.

The Yankees got on the board early. In the 2nd, Bird led-off with a walk, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, and then scored on Gleyber Torres’ double. Later, Aaron Judge hit a great 2-out solo home run in the 5th to double the Yankees’ lead.

And in the 8th, the Yankees loaded up the bases with Gardner’s single, Judge’s walk, and Gregorius’ single. And with no outs, the Phillies changed pitchers again. But he promptly gave up a long single to Giancarlo Stanton. Both Gardner and Judge scored, and then on an off-center throw, Gregorius and Stanton ended up in scoring position. But then the Phillies found their defense and got out without further injury.

Final score: 4-2 Yankees

It’s also worth conversing about the pitchers who hit during tonight’s game because it’s an NL park and it’s always awkward to watch AL pitchers try to hit. Loaisiga, of course, got the most at-bats (2), but struck out both times. But then, because of the rotation, Dellin Betances got an at-bat in the 8th inning — he struck out in 3 pitches, 1 called strike, 2 swinging strike. I know it probably shouldn’t be, but between waving his bat like Gary Sheffield and just swinging away, it was hilarious.

If anyone wants to know how I feel about the designated hitter, just know that I was born after 1973 (when the DH was formally introduced), was raised on AL teams, and just watched a reliever swat away at perfect strikes that most teenagers would hit in batting cages.

Roster moves: Like I said yesterday, the Yankees announced today that Gary Sanchez will be placed on the 10-day disabled list with right groin strain. Technically, he will be out for 3-4 weeks, so he might miss most of next month, which would include the All-Star Game should he be voted or selected to attend.

They also opted outfielder Clint Frazier back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In those two spots, they recalled catcher Kyle Higashioka and reliever Giovanny Gallegos. Higashioka makes sense, as Romine will need some back-up as he slides into Sanchez’s starting position. But based on recent usage of the bullpen and the health of the outfield, the Frazier-Gallegos exchange makes sense.

Go Yankees!

Game 63: WAS vs. NYY — Splitting the mini-series during #HOPEWeek

The Yankees conclude their brief series with the visiting Nationals by splitting it with the visitors. Sonny Gray got the start tonight and continued his struggles at home, throwing 89 pitches in his 5 innings, giving up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs, and striking out just 1 batter.

In the 1st inning, the lead-off batter got a ground-rule double, moved to 3rd on a single, and then scored on a sacrifice fly to get the Nats on the board early. Later, in the 4th, with 2 outs, Gray gave up a walk and a single to put runners on the corners before giving up a line drive bouncing off the left field wall for a 3-run home run to put them in the lead again.

Meanwhile, the Yankee batters weren’t exactly sitting on their laurels. In the bottom of the 1st, Gardner led-off with a single and then stole 2nd, but ended up at 3rd on a throwing error. He then scored on Aaron Judge’s sacrifice fly to tie up the game at that point. Greg Bird’s 1-out 2nd inning solo home run put the Yankees in the lead.

In the 3rd, Judge hit a 1-out double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s single. Down by a run after that 4th inning homer, Gleyber Torres led-off the 5th inning with a game-tying solo home run.

After Gray’s night was over, the Yankees handed the ball to Chasen Shreve, who kept things as is in the 6th, but then gave up a big 1-out solo home run in the 7th to give the Nationals a slight lead again. Robertson and Holder each took an inning to keep them from adding to their lead and waiting for the Yankee bats to reawaken.

But it was the Yankee defense that was clicking in the latter part of the game. Romine and Torres teaming up to catch a runner stealing 2nd in the 8th, and Didi Gregorius being a defensive icon and throwing to 1st in the midst of falling to the ground to make the out in the 9th. Even when the Yankees did get on base, they just weren’t collecting enough to get any further runs.

Final score: 5-4 Nationals, series split 1-1

Next up: the Rays come to visit the Bronx tomorrow to start their 4-game weekend series. Remember, the Yankees will travel to D.C. to see the Nationals again on Monday to play 1 1/2 games to make up the rainy mess of last month before returning to the Bronx to finish up their homestand against the Mariners.

HOPE Week Day 3: HOPE Week continued today, with a strong theme of the week repeated again in today’s honoree. The Yankees joined Brian Williams, founder of “Think Kindness“, for a special assembly at a local elementary school. Since 2009, Think Kindness is an anti-bullying organization the runs special assemblies and programs in schools nationwide (and a few internationally) with the intent not to focus on bullying but rather on being a facilitator of kindness in your world.

Fourth and fifth graders at P.S. 73 in the Bronx were invited to a special assembly hosted by Williams and featuring Aaron Hicks, David Robertson, CC Sabathia (a clear favorite), Luis Severino, 3rd base coach Phil Nevin, and GM Brian Cashman. Williams, a former martial arts instructor, challenged P.S. 73 to be the school that does the most acts of kindness and then gave every student a journal to record their completed acts. Williams hopes display at least a million documented acts of kindness and has already has 2.4 million at their headquarters in Reno.

As with every HOPE Week honoree, Williams later threw out the 1st pitch before tonight’s game and accepted the $10,000 donation on behalf of his organization.

Once again, kindness matters. Those little moments of kindness add up. They make a difference. One moment, one act, one kindness at a time. Those matter to someone. And because they matter to someone, they matter, they count, they are necessary.

Kindness matters.

Go Yankees!

Game 60: NYY vs. NYM — 8th inning #AllRise go-ahead victory swing

The Subway Series continued tonight, with first pitch just minutes after New Yorkers were celebrating another New York sports victory tonight just 12 miles away. Congratulations to the newest Triple Crown winner Justify and his extensive equine entourage.

Domingo German got the start tonight against the Mets, having a pretty good overall outing. He threw 96 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up 5 hits and 3 runs and striking out 9 batters. Actually, German’s roughest inning was the 1st. With 1 out, he gave up a solo home run, a triple, and a 2-run home run to get the Mets on the board early. But after that, he pulled things together and found a momentum that the bullpen continued for the final third of the game.

Robertson, Betances, and Chapman each claimed a great scoreless inning and kept things to that lone inning of runs for the Mets. However, it’s worth noting that Yankee pitchers racked up a total of 15 strikeouts off Mets’ batters tonight. This certainly helped them stay in command of the game.

So with the Mets’ early lead, the Yankees needed to find spots to chip away at that lead. It wasn’t until the 3rd inning that the Yankee got on the board with Gleyber Torres’ 1-out solo home run. Then in the 6th, with 1 out, Sanchez worked a walk to get on base. Miguel Andujar hit a solid 2-run home run to tie up the game in that one swing.

And like last night, it would be the 8th inning that held the go-ahead run. So tonight, it would be a big 1st pitch lead-off solo home run by Aaron Judge to finally give the Yankees the lead. Yes, once again, all the runs in tonight’s game (for both teams) were scored on home runs.

Final score: 4-3 Yankees

Roster moves/injury update: Despite some initial hopes, it looks like Masahiro Tanaka will actually be out at least a month with low-grade hamstring strains in his legs. The Yankees placed him on the 10-day Disabled List. Instead of finding another starter, they will juggle some in-house pitchers, perhaps recalling Hale or pulling up a newer prospect.

But my guess is that they might split a start with 3-4 innings a piece for some long-term relievers like Warren or Holder. At least until Cessa (who will begin his rehab Monday in Tampa) is back on the roster shortly. Tanaka isn’t going to be out long — a month is about 4-5 starts — so an ironically short-term solution is possible.

Though signing a permanent solution for Montgomery’s vacancy certainly looks like the best route as soon as they can reach a deal with someone. Fingers crossed.

And if you’re wondering who filled Tanaka’s roster spot, it would be Ronald Torreyes. The clubhouse has been missing the infielder/bench player, so his smiling face in the dugout was rather satisfying. And who knows, maybe the “Toe-Night Show” is ready to make its return in this middle of the season part of the year.

Go Yankees!

Game 58: NYY vs. TOR — Lucky 13 with a Sonny kind of start

The Yankees finished up their jaunt to Toronto with an extended pitchers’ duel, extra innings, and a chilly Wednesday evening. An open roof allowed the lovely June weather in Toronto to breeze into the stadium at 57° at first pitch, as fans bundled up in sweatshirts and jackets to settle in for a good game tonight.

Sonny Gray got the start for the Yankees tonight, and after a rough season so far, Gray needed a night like tonight to boost his morale. He threw 99 pitches in his 8 scoreless innings, pitching a no-hitter through 4 innings. He gave up 2 hits and 2 walks, striking out 8 Toronto batters.

Unfortunately, the Yankees’ batters were faced with a similar situation from the Blue Jays’ starter, who also threw a strong scoreless game, and his bullpen continued that strength and was matched by their Yankees’ counterparts — Chad Green (for the 9th and 10th innings), Dellin Betances (11th), David Robertson (12th), and Aroldis Chapman (13th).

In fact, despite some meager hits throughout the game and even getting runners into scoring position periodically, the Yankees had to hit it out of the park in order to score any runs tonight. And that wouldn’t happen until the 13th inning. With 1 out, Brett Gardner hit a long single to get on base. And then Aaron Judge hit a strong 2-run home run to finally break the tie.

A certain young Judge fan holding a special sign in the right field bleachers was overjoyed, finally getting his wish. The kid got a batting practice ball hit by Judge earlier tonight.

As if they needed the insurance, Giancarlo Stanton hit a fast 2-out solo home run into the left field seats. Then in the bottom of the inning, despite allowing a 1-out double, Chapman closed out the Blue Jays and handed the short series to the Yankees.

Final score: 3-0 Yankees, in 13, Yankees sweep series 2-0

Next up: The Yankees head back to New York, but will face off against the Mets at CitiField for a 3 game weekend series starting Friday. Then, they’ll head back to the Bronx to face the Nationals for 2 games and the Rays for 4 games next weekend.

MLB Draft: The amateur player draft completed today as the teams selected the young players for rounds 11-40. Today, the Yankees picked up 18 pitchers, 4 catchers, 6 infielders, and 2 outfielders — Tanner Myatt, Matt Pita, Isaiah Pasteur, Kyle Gray, Nick Ernst, Derek Craft, Barrett Loseke, Alex Guerrero, Alex Junior, Marcus Evey, Mitchell Robinson, Keegan Curtis, Justin Wilson, Blakely Brown, Sean Boyle, Jack Thoreson, Mickey Gasper, Max Burt, Jackson Bertsch, Tyler Johnson, Patrick Winkel, Sincere Smith, Charlie Ruegger, Matt McGarry, Austin Wells, Jack Anderson, Landon Marceaux, Dan Metzdorf, Brady Allen, and Reid Anderson.

The young potential prospects are now “on the clock”, so to speak, to make their own decision as to what works best for them. It’s worth noting that the Yankees selected just 8 high school seniors overall, focusing the remaining 32 on college players (2 sophomores, 16 juniors, and 14 seniors). The Yankees’ 1st round draft pick (Anthony Seigler) has already indicated that he will sign (as 1st round picks tend to do), but like I said yesterday, you got to do what’s right for you.

Who knows which of these prospects could be the next hot jersey on sale in your nearby Yankees’ fan shop?

Go Yankees!