Postseason wrap-up, looking to 2019, Gold Gloves 2018

Red Sox Nation spent their Halloween dressed up as Red Sox Nation as their championship team piled onto the city’s “duck boats” and paraded their way through the streets of Boston. The mayor, former champion alumni (like David Ortiz and Pedro Martinez), and fans singing along to “Sweet Caroline” (bah-bah-bah) came out to honor the World Series champions. The next day, some of the team took the championship trophy to a Celtics game in hopes of spreading their “good luck” to other Boston teams, which might have worked as the Celtics won that game.

Meanwhile, much of the talk this off-season already is about the big class of free agents. There’s a lot of conversation as to where big names like Harper and Machado will land, but the Yankees cleared the “luxury tax” (or the Competitive Balance Tax) ceiling for the first time in 14 years. The luxury tax was created in order to even out the balance between large-market teams (like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers) and small-market teams (like the Twins, Padres, and Orioles). The tax was set at $197 million in pay for the 2018 season. The Red Sox and Nationals, however, were forced to pay the tax this year.

So, without having to pay out millions of dollars to the luxury tax pool, the Yankees are free to explore a high-ticket free agent, especially to add to their starting rotation. But whether they choose to do so is still undecided. In the mean time, they have a few Yankees in the free agent pool that they could re-sign for the 2019 season, like CC Sabathia, JA Happ, Lance Lynn, Zach Britton, and David Robertson.

However, one free agent they snagged early was Brett Gardner. While the Red Sox were partying their way through Boston, the Yankees were solidifying one of the last remaining homegrown Yankees from the 2009 championship team to remain a Yankee for 2019. He had an option for the final year of his contract, but the Yankees declined it and instead offered him a 1-year $9.5 million contract.

Next season will be the veteran outfielder’s 12th year in pinstripes, though his 15th with the organization, making him the longest-tenured Yankee on the roster. He’s really the heart of the team and a leader in the clubhouse, a fixture for the Yankees on and off the field. Gardner said: “I wasn’t sure what kind of opportunities I was going to have with the Yankees beyond this year and what would have been out there for me in other places. To get this wrapped up early in the off-season, it’s great to know where I’ll be next year and obviously what to expect. I’m going back to a place where I’m comfortable and very familiar. I’m really, really excited.”

Gardner was nominated tonight for a Gold Glove, his 4th nomination (2011, 2015, 2017, 2018). The Gold Glove is an annual award given to the best defender at each position in each league. He joined Aaron Judge and Masahiro Tanaka as nominees this year. Judge was nominated last year, and Gardner won the award in 2016. None of the Yankee nominees took home the honor tonight, but all three recognitions are well-deserved.

But there’s more to come. The Silver Sluggers, the award for the top offensive contibutor at each position, will be announced Thursday. The big honors (Cy Young, MVP, Rookie of the Year, etc.) will be announced the week of November 12-15, with the Players Choice Awards announced November 27. Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar are nominated for AL Rookie category in the Players Choice Awards and are up for the AL Rookie of the Year in the other awards next week. In other words, while the Yankees didn’t pick up any mantle hardware tonight, there’s still time to collect some bragging rights.

And speaking of bragging rights, today is also the 9th anniversary of the Yankees’ 27th championship. Back in 2009, Yankee Universe watched as Mariano Rivera got the batter to hit a baby grounder to Robinson Cano, who threw to a waiting Mark Teixeira for the final out of Game 6 against the Phillies. It actually came up on my “memories” feed today before veterans from that game like Swisher and Rodriguez posted their own memories online of that fateful day.

Finally, our hearts go out to the Reds organization tonight. Yesterday, three players, all 19 years old, in their minor league system were involved in a serious car accident in the Dominican Republic. Pitcher Jairo Capellan was killed in the incident, pitcher Raul Hernandez is in critical but stable condition, and outfielder Emilio Garcia is still receiving treatment for his injuries at the hospital but conscious and alert. Capellan was laid to rest this afternoon, his funeral attended by Reds players, coaches, and staff.

We join sports fans online as we extend our sympathies to Capellan’s family and friends and their prayers for Hernandez and Garcia.

Go Yankees!

ALDS 4: BOS vs. NYY — Early stumbles, failed late rally end season

Sorry, Yankee Universe. The postseason continues without you. I guess for those of you who are “Yankees Only”, you’ll be focusing now on already-in-progress football (or even futbol). But the postseason continues on and there’s still a Championship Series to determine who is the “best” in each league and a World Series to see who’s “best” in MLB this year.

I put “best” in quotes because the teams with the best records have only won the World Series in 12 of 48 postseasons, since they introduced a play-off form of a postseason. By the way, the Yankees were that actual best (no quotes needed) team in 1978, 1998, and 2009.

Prior to 1969, each league just sent their team with the best record to the World Series. But then they introduced the Championship Series in 1969, when the leagues created East and West Divisions. So, naturally, the leaders of each division would play each other in the Championship Series. The league decided it needed a Division Series playoff in 1981 due to a players strike that split the season. But it was for only that year.

Then in 1994, the league expanded into 3 divisions and thus created the role of the Wild Card to fill the 4th team for the Division play-offs. But the 1994 season ended early due to another players strike, so the first regular Division Series wasn’t until the 1995 season. And they introduced the concept of the 1-off Wild Card game in 2012 to bring us up to the current postseason design. Which means “best” is actually rather vague if the 5th best (out of 15) team in a league actually has a chance to be crowned World Series championship.

And before this sounds like a bitter rant (though it’s not, I swear), there was a game to finalize who would play in the Championship Series of each league. The Yankees and Red Sox got down to the bitter end of tonight’s game before the Yankees really just ran out of outs.

CC Sabathia actually did pretty well as tonight’s starter, staying strong through his first 2 innings. He had a bit of trouble in the 3rd, but he also didn’t seem to have much defensive support to get him out of the trouble. He hit the first batter that moved to 3rd on a single and then scored on a sacrifice fly. The runner then moved to 2nd on a ground out and then 3rd on a wild pitch (that might have been a passed ball). A double that dropped just short in the outfield scored that runner, and a single that found a hole scored the other before a grounder finally ended the inning.

Zach Britton came into the game in the 4th and promptly gave up a lead-off solo home run before he breezed his way through the rest of the inning and the 5th. David Robertson continued his pattern through a scoreless 5 outs, 4 of which were solid strikeouts.

Dellin Betances finished the 7th and then got into a bit of a jam in the 8th with a double, a fielding error, and an intentional walk loading the bases, but he too worked himself out of the threat. Aroldis Chapman was on fire tonight and needed just 10 pitches to shut down the Red Sox in the 9th inning and help bring the Yankees’ pitching total to 12 strikeouts tonight.

The Red Sox pitching staff, meanwhile, kept the Yankees to limited in their offense as well. Their starter only went 5 innings, with the Yankees finally poking through in his final inning. With 1 out, Sanchez hit a ground-rule double, moved to 3rd on Torres’ single, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly.

But the Yankees had a hard time adding more to their lone run through the next few innings of the bullpen (including a starter), so down to the last chance in the bottom of the 9th, the Yankees came on strong and took advantage of a closer having a weak night. He promptly walked Judge in 4 pitches and gave up a single to Gregorius. After a strikeout, Voit worked a walk to load up the bases and spark the still full stadium, who were waiting for this moment. Hechavarria was called in to pinch-run for Voit, a speedier option to score the tying run if possible.

So, Neil Walker stepped into the plate, who had a really good night, but then he was hit by a pitch. That still scored Judge and kept the bases loaded. Gary Sanchez was next and battled his way to a long sacrifice fly, caught on the warning track, to score Gregorius to inch the Yankees within a single run of the Red Sox’s lead. It was down to Gleyber Torres, who ended up hitting into a ground out. The challenged the call at 1st, saying Torres beat out the ball, but a brief review upheld the call.

Final score: 4-3 Red Sox, Red Sox win series 3-1

Postseason Predictions: It’s review time, to see how accurate my predictions have been so far and make new ones for the next round of playoffs.

(Key: *winner right, game count wrong; **winner and game count right; ~winner wrong, game count right; ~~both wrong.)

  • Division Series:
    • Predictions/Results:
      • NLDS 1: Brewers over Rockies in 4 games* (3 games)
      • NLDS 2: Dodgers over Braves in 4 games**
      • ALDS 1: Astros over Indians in 3 games**
      • ALDS 2: Yankees over Red Sox in 5 games~~ (Red Sox in 4)
  • Championship Series:
    • NLCS: Dodgers over Brewers in 5 games
    • ALCS: Astros over Red Sox in 5 games

Yes, I’m looking at a World Series between the Dodgers and Astros, in a fun rematch of last year’s Series.

But for Yankee fans, the “Chase for 28” continues, with the team regrouping next season to start the push all over again in Spring Training.

Go Yankees!

 

2018 Wild Cards: COL vs. CHC & OAK vs. NYY — October baseball, a little wild

If the Wild Card games are any indication of how the 2018 postseason is going to be, it’s going to be one wild ride this October. The National League Wild Card reflected how tight the NL has been and ended up going down to the wire before the postseason began. And the American League Wild Card showed off the Yankees.

NL Wild Card: Rockies vs. Cubs (Tuesday)
This game was one of those super dramatic, tight games that makes these one-off games worth the effort. Both teams sent in their ace pitchers, Freeland and Lester, who both pitched deep into the game. Both only gave up 4 hits and a walk. But the Rockies got one run early in the game.

In the 1st, a lead-off walk moved to 3rd on a ground-rule double and then scored on a sacrifice fly. But then the Cubs held off the Rockies for the rest of the regular game. The Rockies pretty much matched them in offense and defense, which resulted in this insane, edge-of-your-seat kind of game.

But then, in the bottom of the 8th, with 2 outs, a Cubs’ batter singled, stole 2nd, and then scored on a double to finally tie up the game. And the hometown crowd went wild. And the game eventually went into extra innings. 13 of them.

In the 13th, with 2 outs (again), the Rockies’ batter singled, moved to 3rd on a single, and then scored on a single to break the tie. The small contingent of Colorado fans were suddenly excited. Their wish came true when their pitcher breezed his way through 3 strikeouts in the bottom of the 13th to send the Cubs back to their clubhouse to watch the rest of the postseason from their couches.

Final score: 2-1 Rockies, in 13 innings

AL Wild Card: Athletics vs. Yankees (Wednesday)
The next night, the AL Wild Card teams were ready for their own dramatic one-off game. And while the Yankees certainly outshone the Athletics in the end, the A’s weren’t exactly sitting on their hands. They are a good team. The Yankees are just better.

The A’s decided to piece together their bullpen to see if that could stop the Yankees. Yeah, it didn’t. Andrew McCutchen led-off the 1st with a walk and then scored when Aaron Judge hit a nice 2-run home run into the left field seats. But then the A’s pitchers did a good job of keeping the Yankees to those early runs.

Then in the 6th, Judge led-off with a double and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ double. After a new reliever came into the game, a wild pitch moved Hicks to 3rd and Stanton worked a walk. Stanton then stole 2nd putting both runners in scoring position. Then they did so on Luke Voit’s big triple, just inches shy of a 3-run homer in right field.

A sacrifice fly by Didi Gregorius then found Voit hustling home, barely touching home plate before being tagged. The A’s challenged the tag, but it was upheld. It wasn’t quite clear if he was tagged just before he touched the plate, but there was no proof he wasn’t either. So, the run stood. Not that it mattered. The Yankees kept rolling. And Giancarlo Stanton led-off the 8th inning with a monster solo home run into the corner of the left field seats.

Luis Severino was tapped for the start, which based on his second half showing, had many in Yankee Universe nervous. But they made it clear that if he fell apart like last year’s Wild Card game, there was a enough power in the bullpen to cover him. He didn’t really need it much because he was off to a stellar start, mostly breezing his way through the first 4 innings, including 7 sharp strikeouts.

Then in the 5th, he gave up 2 singles, his first allowed hits of the night, and instead of waiting to see if Severino could pull it together, they the Yankees went to the bullpen and called in Dellin Betances, who worked his way out of Severino’s trouble in the 5th and then sailed his way through the 6th. David Robertson followed this momentum with a clean 12-pitch 7th inning.

Zach Britton came in for the 8th and became the first Yankees pitcher to really struggle this game. He gave up a lead-off single. The next batter hit into what was originally called a double play, but the Athletics challenged and it was clear that the runner beat out the ball at 1st. So it ended up overturned as just 1 out. But then the next batter hit a 2-run home run to finally get the Athletics on the board. But then Britton tamped down and got himself out of the inning.

And Aroldis Chapman, postseason veteran, came out for the 9th and came out clean, even fielding the final out himself, helping seal the win for the Yankees to advance.

Final score: 7-2 Yankees

This means that the Division Series are set. Thursday, the NLDS games start. The Brewers host the Rockies, and the Dodgers host the Braves. The ALDS starts Friday — the Astros host the Indians, and the Red Sox host the Yankees. The Divsion Series games run 2 games, travel day, 2 games, travel day, 1 game. The first team to 3 wins win the series and advance to the Championship Series that begin on Friday, October 12.

Postseason Predictions:

  • Wild Card
    • Predictions: Rockies over Cubs, Yankees over Athletics
    • Results: Rockies over Cubs, Yankees over Athletics
    • Success (in batting average): 1.000
  • Division Series:
    • NLDS 1: Brewers over Rockies in 4 games
    • NLDS 2: Dodgers over Braves in 4 games
    • ALDS 1: Astros over Indians in 3 games
    • ALDS 2: Yankees over Red Sox in 5 games

This means I am hoping for an NLCS between the Brewers and Dodgers, and an ALCS between the Astros and Yankees. And with my track record, chances are at least 1 or 2 of my predictions will be wrong. I’m ready for it. But fingers crossed that it won’t be the Yankees-Red Sox one.

Go Yankees!

Game 162: NYY vs. BOS — The game that didn’t matter

The postseason is set, with a few exceptions in the NL as to what some teams there will be titled and which games they’ll play first. (More after the recap.) Which means that for most of the league (save those 4 games), Game 162 meant basically nothing. It was just the final game of the regular season, and the results didn’t really matter.

Which meant that I spent a good deal of time thinking of that old comedy improv show Whose Line Is It Anyway?, where the tag line for the American version was “the show where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter.” Then Drew Carey or the host would say something funny that also didn’t matter, like “the points are just like the nutrition facts on a Happy Meal.” Or “the points are just like street signs to a cab driver.” Or even “the points are as useless as the host on Whose Line Is It Anyway?.”

For the final game of the season, the last game at Fenway this series, the Yankees pieced together their bullpen again in an interesting sort of audition for who they will keep on for the postseason roster. Luis Cessa got the start, but almost immediately got banged up in the process.

He gave up a single that scored on an RBI single and fielding error. Another single put runners on the corners, and a pop-up got Cessa’s first out of the inning. A double scored another run, and the next batter hit into a single that was poorly fielded and thus also given a missed catch error by Cessa who twisted his ankle in the process and saw the batter also tweaking his ankle. They both tumbled onto the infield and sat there trying to assess the extent of their injuries. The batter stayed, but Cessa came out.

David Robertson came in to cover Cessa’s abbreviated start. His first batter hit into a grounder that the Yankee defense failed to turn two and allowed the runner at 3rd to score. Robertson then got a strikeout to end the messy first inning of the game.

Jonathan Loaisiga then got his turn in the 2nd. After a dropped foul pop up error, the first batter singled and then scored on a 1-out double. And a big 2-out 2-run home run furthered the Red Sox’s early lead. Loaisiga’s 3rd was much cleaner.

Justus Sheffield’s 4th was back in the mess. With 1 out, he gave up consecutive walks that scored as part of a 3-run home run. Then Tarpley, Cole, and Adams split the final 4 innings and kept the Red Sox from adding to their large lead.

The Red Sox’s pitching staff today was also a bullpen match-up, with most going just an inning. It certainly worked, as the Yankees didn’t break onto the scoreboard until the 4th inning. With 1 out, Miguel Andujar hit his 47th double of the season, officially tying the AL rookie record for most doubles. Luke Voit followed him with a 2-run home run to get the Yankees on the board.

But they didn’t do much else, as the Red Sox finally played like the 1st play team they are and held off the Yankees for the first time this weekend.

Final score: 10-2 Red Sox, Yankees win series 2-1

Okay, so with the final game done, the Yankees finish the 2018 season with 100 wins and 62 losses. Some notable team leaders: batting average – Andujar (.297), hits – Andujar (171), doubles – Andujar (47), triples – Gardner (7), home runs – Stanton (38), RBIs – Stanton (100), runs scored – Stanton (102), wins – Severino (19), innings pitched – Severino (191.1), ERA – Chapman (2.45), and saves – Chapman (32 out of 34 opportunities). Plus, the team is 2nd in runs scored (851), 2nd in RBIs (821), 1st in homers (267), and 1st in the AL in walks (622).

Postseason: I will post more on this tomorrow, but over in the NL, there are 4 teams that ended this season in divisional ties and thus are now going to play their 163rd game to break the tie and decided which team is a division winner and which team will play the Wild Card game. The Dodgers host the Rockies, finished the regular season 91-71. The Cubs host the Brewers after finishing the season 95-67. That means the Cubs-Brewers are also competing for the team that will host the Wild Card game winner in the NLDS as the team with the most wins in the NL.

Like I’ve said before, this is going to be one interesting postseason. And it’s just getting started.

Go Yankees!

Game 158: NYY vs. TB — So close and yet…

I’m guessing that tonight’s game will be one that the Yankees and the Rays won’t want to remember any time soon. Neither team played exceptionally well, and neither team really came out looking like a winning season kind of team that they both are. It was just one of those games that you’re glad is over, learn from the mistakes, turn the page, and start fresh tomorrow.

The Yankees got on the board first, facing the Rays’ brief starter in their bullpen-pieced pitching staff again. McCutchen led-off the game with a single and moved to 2nd on Stanton’s 2-out walk. Neil Walker then hit a big 3-run home run right up the middle to get the Yankees started with a solid lead.

It didn’t last long. Masahiro Tanaka got the start for the Yankees and wasn’t exactly having the kind of memorable night. He threw 80 pitches in 4 innings, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and 4 runs (3 earned), and struck out 4 Rays’ batters. In the 1st, he gave up a single, a walk, and an RBI single before getting the first out of the inning, a strikeout.

But then the next batter hit a baby grounder back to the mound, but a poor throw by Tanaka allowed him to be safe and the lead runner to score. He hit the next batter to load up the bases before giving up another single to score the tying run but keep the bases loaded. He then managed to get 2 consecutive strikeouts to leave the Rays stranded there.

A 1st pitch, lead-off solo home run in the 3rd gave the Rays the slim lead, and the teams battled most of the game to maintain the close game. Holder, Green, and Chapman each took an inning to keep things tight through the 7th inning. But David Robertson had some issues in the bottom of the 8th.

A lead-off walk scored on an RBI double to add to the Rays lead. A passed ball then moved the runner to 3rd. Robertson finally got an out, a strikeout, to hold that runner just 90 feet from home. But the next batter hit into a fielder’s choice and still ended up safe at 1st as the runner also scored. Late to the defense and everyone’s safe.

Another single ended with runners on the corners. Then the next batter hit a bunt single that scored the runner from 3rd. Originally, it was called out at 2nd (which means the run still scored, by the way), but the Rays rightly challenged and the call was overturned. Again, everyone’s safe.

That Rays’ lead now expanding further. It was time to go back to the bullpen. Justus Sheffield came on to help stem the tide. He immediately got a fielder’s choice out at 2nd to put runners at the corners. But then, Sheffield tried to pick-off the runner at 1st and bounced the ball to Voit, allowing both runners to move up and thus another runner to score. After a grounder ended the inning, the Yankees were back in the batter’s box for one last shot.

They took it and loaded up the bases. Sanchez led-off the 9th with a walk, Gardner hit a 1-out single, and McCutchen singled. Aaron Judge’s single scored Sanchez, keeping the bases loaded. Luke Voit hit a really long single that scored both Gardner and McCutchen and moved Judge to 3rd. Judge kept things rolling by scoring on Giancarlo Stanton’s single to put the Yankees within just 1 run again. Voit advanced to 3rd on a flyout, but Andujar then popped out in foul territory to end the game.

Final score: 8-7 Rays

Injury update: There’s good news in Yankee Universe. I promise. Didi Gregorius has been cleared to resume baseball activities. That means he can start working out again, throwing a ball, swinging a bat, working on fielding, and get back into the game sooner than later.

And there’s a lot of talk about the upcoming Wild Card game. The Yankees need 2 more wins (of the 4 games left to play) to secure home field advantage. But does that actually matter in a one-off game like the Wild Card? According to statistics, no. In 12 Wild Card games over the last 6 years, 5 home teams have won and 7 visiting teams won. And the Yankees got home field both times they were Wild Card and are split in their success — lost to the Astros in 2015, won over the Twins in 2017.

In other words, you can’t predict baseball, and a lot of the superstitions, suppositions, and “traditions” are bunk.

Go Yankees!

Game 153: BAL vs. NYY — The Magic Number is 2

The countdown has begun for the postseason, and while the Yankees only need 2 more wins to secure their postseason appearance, they’re pushing for securing home field advantage in the Wild Card game. That means winning more games than the other potential WC opponent, the Athletics, who currently sit at just 1.5 games behind the Yankees.

CC Sabathia got the start in tonight’s opener against the Orioles for the final series at Yankee Stadium this season. He actually had a great outing, throwing 97 pitches in his 6 innings, gave up 6 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs, and struck out 5 Baltimore batters to eventually earn his 8th win of the season.

He actually held off the O’s until the 5th inning. He gave up a lead-off single, a 1-out walk, and a single to load the bases. And a 2-out single scored both runners to get the Orioles on the board.

The Yankees gave Sabathia enough room to work by striking first in the 1st. Hicks led-off with a walk, moved to 2nd on Judge’s single, ended up at 3rd on a double play, and then scored as part of Didi Gregorius’ 2-run home run.

And in the 4th, Walker hit a 1-out double and scored on Gleyber Torres’ single. Torres then stole 2nd and made it to 3rd on a passed ball, before scoring on Austin Romine’s ground out. Gardner worked a walk, and then Aaron Hicks hit a 2-run home run to push the Yankees’ lead further ahead. That ended the Orioles’ starter’s night, and they spent the rest of the game piecing together their bullpen.

Hicks led-off the 7th with a single and moved to 2nd when a new reliever gave up a walk to Judge. He then scored on Andrew McCutchen’s single. The Orioles snapped into action when Gregorius hit into a fielder’s choice and got Judge out at home. That also moved both remaining runners into scoring position, which allowed the powerhouse Luke Voit to single and score both of them. Then, in the 8th, with 2 outs, Hicks worked a walk and then scored a solid insurance run on Aaron Judge’s double.

Jonathan Loaisiga came on in relief of Sabathia in the 7th to start the Yankees’ major issues with tonight’s game. He promptly gave up a lead-off solo home run to start the O’s rally tonight. He then gave up a single that stole 2nd on a strikeout and then ended up at 3rd on a throwing error. Zach Britton came on to try to stem the tied and gave up a single to score that runner from 3rd before getting out of the inning without further damage.

In the 8th, Tarpley came in for just a strikeout and handed the game to AJ Cole. Cole then gave up a walk and a 2-run home run to add more to the O’s score. After an out, he then allowed a single and passed the ball to David Robertson. On his first pitch, he gave up a 2-run home run before finding that 3rd out. Betances’ came on for an efficient 11-pitch 9th inning to earn his 4th save thanks to those insurance runs by the Yankees in the 7th and 8th innings.

Final score: 10-8 Yankees

Aaron Hicks became the 5th Yankee with 25+ home runs this season, joining Stanton (35), Gregorius (27), Judge (26), and Andujar (25). This ties a franchise record set back in 2009 with 5 players having 25+ homers (Teixeira, Rodriguez, Swisher, Matsui, and Cano). They came close in 2010 with 4 players (Teixeira, Rodriguez, Swisher, and Cano) and the previous record was 1938 (DiMaggio, Gehrig, Dickey, and Gordon).

Now, the MLB record was set in 2003 by the Red Sox. But the Yankees are within range of tying that as Gleyber Torres has 23 home run, and there’s still 9 games left in the season. It’s worth noting the kind of company this makes the Yankees in and the fact that 2 of the Yankees in the conversation are rookies.

And the “magic number” is 2. The Yankees need 2 more game wins to secure their postseason spot. I said in a post earlier this month that the AL is pretty set, but the NL is going to go down to the wire. And it’s never more true than sitting just 9 days out from the final game of the season.

The AL division leaders have mostly clinched their spots (Red Sox and Indians), with the Astros just 3.5 games ahead of the Athletics but have clinched a spot in the postseason. And unless the A’s jump ahead of the Astros in the next few games, it’s pretty much a lock that the Yankees and Athletics will be the Wild Card opponents, with the Rays 6.5 games back and the Mariners 8.5 games back.

But the NL is still up for grabs in nearly every division. The strongest division is the NL East, with the Braves 7.5 games ahead of the Phillies. But the Central and West are just 1.5 games apart — Cubs over Brewers, Dodgers over Rockies. Plus, the Cardinals and Diamondbacks are just a few games beyond them. This league is going to go down to the wire.

Go Yankees!

Game 152: BOS vs. NYY — “A long, tough, slug-it-out game”

Usually, the standard baseball game is about 3 hours long. That makes each third, or 3 innings, to be about an hour, making each inning 20 minutes. That’s a rough estimate, but as someone who watches a lot of baseball games, it makes things easier to gauge time.

So, when the first 2 innings took nearly 90 minutes, everyone was starting to feel like this could be one of those long games between the Red Sox and Yankees that infamous umpire Joe West once complained about. And it was, to some extent, clocking in at 4 hours and 2 minutes. But it was not the predicted 6 hour game, the first 2 innings were technically on track for.

And that’s why you can’t predict baseball.

Masahiro Tanaka had a rather rough start in the final game against the Red Sox this series. He threw 83 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 8 hits and 5 runs, and struck out 3 Boston batters. In the 1st, a lead-off double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a single to get the Red Sox on the board early.

Two consecutive singles led off the 2nd and then scored on a 2-out single. And a 2-out solo home run in the 3rd kept the ball rolling for the visiting team. After giving up a double and single to put runners in the corners, Tanaka’s night was over. David Robertson came on and gave up a double play that scored Tanaka’s lead runner.

The Yankees weren’t exactly quiet along the way. In the bottom of the 2nd, Sanchez worked a 1-out walk and then scored as part of Luke Voit’s big 2-run home run. Then in the 4th, with 2 outs, the Yankees loaded up the bases with consecutive walks to McCutchen, Judge, and Hicks. The Red Sox pulled their starter at that point, but it didn’t help. Giancarlo Stanton powered an exciting grand slam to put the Yankees in a slim lead.

But in the words of the Yankees after the game, the Red Sox really couldn’t be stopped tonight. After losing to the Yankees for the last 2 games, the team leading MLB wasn’t going to be swept and came back with a vengeance.

Chad Green came on for the Yankees in the 6th and kept them at bay, but then gave up a lead-off solo home run in the 7th to tie up the game. After giving up a single, he handed the ball over to Dellin Betances. With 1 out, he loaded up the bases with a double and intentional walk. The next batter hit a sacrifice fly and, thanks to a throwing error, allowed 2 runners to score.

Aroldis Chapman got his first outing in the 8th after coming off the DL. He gave up a single, a 1-out walk, and a 2-out 3-run home run to ensure the Red Sox’s victory. Holder closed out the 8th for Chapman, and Cole and Tarpley split the 9th to keep the visitors from adding to their growing lead.

Final score: 11-6 Red Sox, Yankees win series 2-1

However, the Red Sox sealed their AL East division title with the final out of the 9th inning. The Red Sox came pouring out of their respective dugout and bullpen to celebrate clinching the AL East right there at Yankee Stadium before moving to the messy “champagne celebration” (which usually involves more beer than champagne) in the visitors’ clubhouse.

Next up: the Yankees host the Orioles this weekend for their final series in Yankee Stadium this season. They will then travel to face the Rays for 4 games before ending their season against the Red Sox at Fenway next weekend. The Yankees need as many wins as possible to widen their lead (now only 1.5 games) and maintain home field advantage against the Athletics in the Wild Card game (which, let’s be honest, is pretty much assured for both teams).

But the Yankees should celebrate on their own. In addition to hitting a new collective home run record as a team (247), the Yankees now have 12 players who have hit 10+ home runs as Yankees in a single season. This was reached when Luke Voit hit that 2-run homer in the 2nd, his 11th of the season but 10th with the Yankees. Other Yankees that have hit 10+ Yankee homers this season: Stanton, Gregorius, Judge, Andujar, Hicks, Torres, Sanchez, Gardner, Bird, Romine, and Walker. That is quite the company of power-hitters, when most of them aren’t really known as “power-hitters”.

{Note: quote in post title taken from Boone’s post-game press conference.}

Go Yankees!