Game 148: TOR vs. NYY — Falling just short of a comeback

After yesterday’s wipe-out of the Blue Jays, the Yankees certainly continued the dramatics in the middle game of the weekend series. CC Sabathia got the start tonight and after a quick 3 outs in the 1st got roughed up for the rest of his brief outing this afternoon. He threw just 50 pitches into the 3rd, gave up 7 hits and 5 runs, and struck out only 2 batters.

In the 2nd, Sabathia gave up a lead-off solo homer on the 1st pitch to get the Blue Jays started. With 1 out, the next batter singled (as it was deemed after an overturned challenge), moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, then to 3rd on a single, and scored on another single. After another out, another single scored the lead runner for another Toronto run.

Then with 1 out in the 3rd, Sabathia gave up consecutive solo home runs to call an end to his afternoon. Chad Green was called on to replace him and started keeping things in check, holding the Blue Jays scoreless into the 5th inning. And Holder closed out the 5th and threw a solid 6th inning to keep the momentum going.

The Yankees, meanwhile, were also being held off, mostly by the Blue Jays’ starter, who only gave up 2 hits in his 5 innings and struck out 10 Yankee batters. It wasn’t until the 6th that they broke the Jays’ stranglehold on the scoreboard. Didi Gregorius led-off the 6th with a solo home run into the right field seats, making this his 2nd consecutive season with 25+ home runs. Then despite loading up the bases, the Yankees left them stranded again, failing to capitalize on these easy opportunities to chip away at the Jays’ lead.

Tommy Kahnle came on for the 7th inning and struggled his way through, loading up the bases. A great play by the defense got the lead runner out at home on a ground out. After a great strikeout, Kahnle gave up a 2-RBI single to expand the Jays’ lead. He turned things over to Stephen Tarpley, who gave up a single to score one more run.

The Yankees found one more big chance to make an impact in the bottom of the 7th. Giancarlo Stanton liked the 1st pitch he saw and sent it deep into the left field seats for his 34th home run of the season.. After a pitching change and 1 out, Didi Gregorius again smacked a solo home run to edge the Yankees closer.

Another out later, Torres doubled, Walker walked, and another new reliever walked Voit to load up the bases once again. This time, Miguel Andujar made the difference — a big grand slam to put the Yankees within a single run.

Betances and Britton each gave up a 9-pitch inning to close out the game, waiting for the Yankee batters to pull a last-minute comeback rally. It was not going to happen today.

Final score: 8-7 Blue Jays

Yankee Universe encompasses much of this nation, being “America’s Team”. But recently, one of their farm teams found themselves in the path of a major disaster. Yesterday, Hurricane Florence made landfall along the Carolina coastline. The Charleston River Dogs, the Yankees’ Single-A minor league team, finished their season earlier this month. But so many people are still under the hurricane’s destruction as it lingers and creeps itself up the coast.

David Robertson’s foundation, High Socks For Hope, has a history of helping with disaster relief, like after tornadoes, Hurricane Harvey in Texas last year, and other major disasters in the southeastern U.S. Today, they announced that they will be accepting monetary and practical donations to help, if you would like to be generous.

Our prayers are with those still under the thumb of the hurricane and in its path.

Go Yankees!

Game 146: NYY vs. MIN — Deny a no-hitter, have a pitchers’ duel, and still lose the game

“Baseball will punch you in the mouth now and then.” (Aaron Boone, tonight)

That sentiment feels about right as the Yankees wrap up this road trip and head back home for their final home stand. The Yankees actually played really well in their final game against the Twins, and somehow were outplayed by a team having that random better week.

Luis Severino threw 83 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up just 4 hits and 1 run, and struck out 5 batters. In fact, he held off the Twins’ batters for most of the game. Until the 6th inning, Severino only gave up a single hit in the 1st before keeping the Twins’ offense rather silent. With 1 out in the 6th, he gave up a single that scored on a double. Another single put runners on the corners, and a strikeout allowed one runner to move to scoring position.

With that threat looming, that was it for Severino. David Robertson came in and got a quick grounder to end the threat. He came back out in the 7th and got 2 quick outs before getting into a spot of trouble himself. A double scored on a single, and that runner scored on a double. But then he got a stellar strikeout to stem the Twins’ offense. And Zach Britton threw a flawless 12-pitch 8th inning to reset the earlier game momentum.

The Twins sent in a familiar face for the Yankees, a former foe from an AL East team, signed this year to the Twins after 5 seasons with the Rays. And he held the Yankees to a no-hitter for 7 innings. Though he still gave up a couple walks along the way, he hadn’t allowed a hit, frustrating the Yankee batters.

In the 8th, with 1 out, he gave up a walk to Luke Voit. And on the 120th pitch, Greg Bird knocked a solid double to score Voit, break his no-hitter bid, and end the shutout. That was it for the Twins’ starter’s night, a standing ovation from the home team fans, and the Yankees left Bird stranded at 2nd through 2 relievers and 2 strikeouts. Andujar hit a 1-out single in the 9th, but again, the Yankees stranded him there as the Twins’ reliever earned the save.

Final score: 3-1 Twins, Twins win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees head home tomorrow on their off-day/travel day. Then they will host the Blue Jays for the weekend. After a final off-day on Monday, they will host the Red Sox and Orioles to complete their home stand. A final road trip will include 4 games against the Rays and 3 games to close the season in Boston.

That means that the Yankees face all 4 of their division rivals for the last 16 games of the season. With the Athletics breathing down their necks in the Wild Card race, the Yankees need to take advantage of their position within the division to advance and get some space to ensure their October spot.

Injury news: It looks like Aroldis Chapman could be back very soon, maybe early next week. After some promising sessions in the Tampa complex, the Yankees brought Chapman back to rejoin the team for his final workouts to see his progress in person. His lingering issue with knee tendonitis finally moved him to the DL at the end of last month to focus on healing.

Aaron Judge got some legitimate batting practice in today, with one of the regular BP groups before the game. They expect he will continue to do this before Friday’s game back at Yankee Stadium. They won’t send him to a rehab assignment, as the RailRiders (AAA) are making a push for their league’s postseason, though there is some talk about giving him some simulated-type games and other workouts at the Tampa complex.

And if you’ve been wondering where Brett Gardner is, the veteran outfielder has been out for the last two games due to some right knee inflammation. On Monday, he dove for a line drive in the 2nd inning and fell awkwardly on his knee. While not an injury that requires any DL time, the Yankees are allowing him to rest and recover while keeping him available off the bench. Fortunately, the Yankees have a ton of current help thanks to the September call-ups.

Speaking of the call-ups, the Yankees recalled pitcher Chance Adams from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre today. Every little bit counts in the Yankees’ final push towards that postseason. Fingers crossed, everyone.

Go Yankees!

Game 141: NYY vs. SEA — #TanakaTime Shutout

Clearly something happened in the Yankees’ journey to the Emerald City. They might not have met the Wizard, they might have even lost their luggage, but they found their heart.

Masahiro Tanaka was just on point in tonight’s opener in this weekend series in Seattle. He shut out the home team with 102 pitches in 8 innings, allowing just 3 hits, and getting 10 impressive strikeouts. David Robertson followed Tanaka’s start with a great 9th inning, adding a strikeout of his own to the running tally tonight.

The Yankee batters had a bit of fun in first third of the game, setting the results of the game with a couple of good hits. In the 2nd, with 2 outs, Voit singled and then scored as part of Gleyber Torres’ 2-run home run, his 23rd homer of the season. Then Gardner led-off the 3rd with a single and scored on Andrew McCutchen’s 2-run home run to secure the Yankees’ win.

The Yankees would only get a couple more hits tonight, so the game became more about maintaining that early lead, something Tanaka (and then Robertson) and the Yankee defense did rather well.

Final score: 4-0 Yankees

Roster moves/injury updates: The Yankees activated Didi Gregorius off the disabled list. Gregorius, recovering from a badly bruised heel last month, is taking it slow on the return. Thanks to new additions and the recent September call-ups, there’s no real rush to push the recently recovered player in the game just yet. But he’s there if they need him off the bench, as he did tonight for the latter half of the game.

And Aaron Judge is taking more swings and getting back into regular exercises. Still hitting off a tee, he’s also working on short-distance tosses for some light batting practice. And with no prominent pain as a result of the effort, things are looking good for his return some time soon. Still no definite return date yet, but again, the new additions to the roster are helping bridge the gap until he’s ready for some major league swings.

Finally, we wish Sonny and Jessica Gray and their family a huge congratulations. They recently welcomed their son Declan to the family. Gray missed the Oakland series on paternity leave but is back with the team now. Another Yankee, another “Baby Pickles”.

Go Yankees!

Game 139: NYY vs. OAK — More late-inning heroics

“If you don’t have pitching, you don’t have anything.” I’ve said it far too often recently due to negative results, but tonight’s game showed the mantra can have a positive side for the Yankees too. Yankee pitchers tonight were on a roll and threw a great gave overall, only allowing 2 hits and 2 walks in this middle game against the Athletics.

JA Happ got the start tonight, threw 78 pitches in 6 innings,  gave up 2 hits, 1 walk, and the A’s only run tonight, and struck out 5 batters. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo home run in the 2nd. Happ continues to carve his niche in the starting rotation.

David Robertson took over in the 7th to throw a strong scoreless inning, complete with 3 solid strikeouts. Britton and Betances closed out the game with their own clean innings to keep the Yankee pitching momentum going.

Meanwhile, the A’s pitchers held off the Yankee batters for most of the game, even technically running a no-hitter for 5 innings, with Torres’ 2-out single breaking that streak in the 6th. But they didn’t break through until the 7th inning.

Gardner led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Stanton’s single, and advanced to 3rd on McCutchen’s walk that loaded the bases. Aaron Hicks then worked a walk to keep those bases loaded and scored Gardner as the tying run. But 2 strikeouts and a pitching change later, the Yankees left those base-runners stranded.

Luke Voit kicked off the 8th inning with yet another home run, a solo shot into the left field seats to give the Yankees the lead. Torres then worked a walk but was out on a fielder’s choice that Gardner hit into. On a strikeout, Gardner stole 2nd base and watch McCutchen work his own walk. Aaron Hicks singled to score Gardner, but then the A’s defense remembered how to defend and got McCutchen caught between bases to get out of the inning.

And in the 9th, Adeiny Hechavarria got his first Yankee home run, a lead-off solo shot. Sanchez then singled, and Walker worked a walk to get a couple of potential insurance runs on base. Two outs (and a new reliever) later, a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position, and Brett Gardner’s single scored Sanchez. But one final pitching change kept the Yankees at that score.

The A’s weren’t catching up tonight.

Final score: 5-1 Yankees

Today, the Yankees announced their nominee for the annual Roberto Clemente Award was CC Sabathia. The award was created to honor the late legendary ball player who was known for his philanthropy as well as his excellence on the field. It is to honor those who show “extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field”. Each team nominates their selection for the award, and the final winner will be announced at the World Series in October.

Sabathia and his wife Amber head the PitCChIn Foundation, an organization that works with local kids, including giving away backpacks and school supplies, renovating and equipping local ball fields, and running free baseball clinics for local Little Leagues. The Sabathias grew up in the Bay Area and will hold a special event on Thursday for kids from their nearby hometown to get them ready for this new school year.

And Miguel Andujar was announced as August’s Rookie of the Month. This really comes as no surprise to anyone who’s been following his season this year. He’s leading the Yankees in batting average, hits, and doubles, 2nd in RBIs, and has 23 home runs. He and fellow rookie Torres (who won the honor in May) have long been in the conversation for Rookie of the Year. And the biggest part of why this works for both young players is consistency, something Andujar has in spades, easily becoming one of the team’s biggest assets at the plate and at 3rd base.

Go Yankees!

Game 135: DET vs. NYY — Late inning heroics, ejections, & MVP additions

There is always a lot of talk about the official trade deadline at the end of July, but there is another deadline just a month later that also shake up rosters in that final September push towards October baseball. And the Yankees weren’t exactly on the sidelines in this game either, but before I mix any more sports metaphors, they also had a game to play tonight.

Luis Severino got the start in this second of four games against the visiting Tigers and actually had a decent outing despite getting a no-decision tonight. He threw 102 pitches in his 6 innings, gave up 6 hits and 3 runs, and struck out an impressive 10 Detroit batters. A 2-out solo homer in the 4th got things started for the Tigers, and with runners at the corners in the 5th, a 2-out triple added a few more runs.

While the Yankee batters were held off for much of the game, they came back raring to go in the 6th. Romine led-off the inning and was allowed on base thanks to a sloppy fielding error, but he was thrown out on Torreyes’ grounder (and failed double play). Brett Gardner hit a monster 2-run home run to get the Yankees on the board, and 1 out later, Aaron Hicks hit the tying run, a solo home run deep into the right field seats. Miguel Andujar pushed the Yankees ahead with another solo home run into the left field seats.

But the Tigers took advantage of a pitching change and Jonathan Holder’s recent struggles to tie up the game, who gave up a couple of singles. Zach Britton came on to try to stem the Tigers’ attempt, but promptly gave up a single. The lead runner scored just before the other runner got tagged out trying to get to 3rd to end the inning. The game was tied again.

Britton continued on in the 8th inning and quickly loaded up the bases with 2 singles and a walk, but only allowed a sacrifice fly to score the go-ahead run for the Tigers before getting out of his own jam.

So, in the bottom of the 8th inning, the Yankees came back once again. Gardner led-off with a double, Hicks worked a 1-out walk, and Voit got a 2-out walk to load up the bases. The Tigers went back to their bullpen and that certainly helped the Yankees.

Gleyber Torres singled home both Gardner and Hicks, ending up at 2nd on the throw, and putting the Yankees back in the lead. The Tigers intentionally walked Walker to re-load up the bases before Austin Romine’s single scored that insurance run for the Yankees.

And David Robertson had a bit of issues in the 9th, but came through with 3 solid strikeouts to earn the save and close out the game.

Final score: 7-5 Yankees

Okay, so I went back and looked at the biggest contention of the game — the strike zone, which got both managers thrown out of the game at various points. Aaron Boone had enough of low balls being called strikes that he actually went out to the plate to prove his point, miming the difference between when a catcher catches a strike vs. when he catches a ball. Following some choice words, Boone was tossed in the 5th.

But then the Tigers’ manager found his way to the clubhouse in the 8th involuntarily after arguing a similar argument. To be fair, it was a little wonky tonight. It certainly was inconsistent. The first half of the game favored the Tigers, but then the second half (after Boone’s ejection) favored the Yankees. I mean, it’s frustrating enough when it’s a bad strike zone, but it’s tolerable when it’s at least consistent. That’s the issue here.

And in the much-talked-about news, the Yankees added a few new faces to the Yankees roster. Just tonight, they added infielder Adeiny Hechavarria in a trade with Pirates for a player to be named later or cash considerations. Hechavarria also played with the Marlins and Rays until joining the Pirates this season.

And last night, the Yankees really made a splash by picking up veteran outfielder Andrew McCutchen. “Cutch” was a popular player with the Pirates for years before joining the Giants this season. He had to shave his trademark goatee, but this former MVP will add the much-needed depth to the outfield with Judge still out with his wrist injury and Stanton battling lingering hamstring issues. But it doesn’t mean that they’re worried about the status of Judge, just that they now have enough power and defense regardless of who’s on the roster and who’s on the DL.

Go Yankees!

Game 130: NYY vs. BAL — Players Weekend sweep

Another successful Players Weekend is over, and for the Yankees, it was successful on more than one plane. Sure, sweeping the Orioles was good for their morale and for their stats, but knowing their biggest rival was swept in their own series is the cream cheese icing on the red velvet cupcake. That makes the Yankees just 6 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East. And with 32 games left in the season, things are looking up.

So, for this finale game in Baltimore, the Yankees called on their ace Luis Severino to close out the series and earn his 17th win of the season. He threw 107 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 4 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs (2 earned), and struck out 8 batters. But he held them off for most of his outing.

In the 5th, he gave up a lead-off walk that stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on a sacrifice fly. A big solo home run led-off the 6th, and 2 outs later, it looked like Severino was going to get out of the inning. But the next batter got on base thanks to a throwing error, so that was it for Severino.

Chad Green had his own issues trying to get that final out of the 6th. He gave up a single and a wild pitch moved both runners to scoring position. So when the next batter hit a single, that lead runner scored Severino’s unearned run. But he got out of the inning with a nice strikeout.

After getting the first out of the 7th, Green handed the ball over to Zach Britton. Britton continued to show his comfort pitching at Camden Yards against his former team, sailing his way through 5 outs in just 18 pitches. David Robertson got the nod for the potential save in the 9th and kept the Orioles scoreless to close out the game.

Meanwhile, the Yankees continued to dominate the weekend with selective points of offense through the first half of the game. In the 2nd, Andujar led-off with a single but was tagged out at 2nd on Walker’s grounder. Then Luke Voit hit a solid 2-out, 2-run home run to get the Yankees on the board.

Robinson led-off the 3rd with a single, and 2 outs later, Hicks joined him on the bases with a single. They both then scored on Miguel Anudjar’s double to double their score. And with a new pitcher on the mound in the 6th, the Yankees found one more opportunity to add just one more. With 1 out, Voit hit a single, moved to 2nd on Romine’s walk, made it to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on a wild pitch.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees, Yankees sweep the weekend series.

Officially, they swept 3-0 due to the originally scheduled games, but because they won the make-up game, they also swept the now-posted games 4-0. Either way, that 4 game chipping away at the Red Sox’s lead certainly helped the Yankees have a bit more hope for not settling for the Wild Card game alone and might have a shot at the Division title.

Next up: The Yankees head back to the Bronx for a week of games — 3 games against the White Sox starting tomorrow night, and a 4-game weekend series against the Tigers. They will head out to the West Coast (and Midwest) for games against the Athletics, the Mariners, and the Twins, before heading back home once again. Like I said earlier, there’s only 32 games left of the season, and the September call-ups are just a week away. This is going to get interesting, folks.

And on a final note, I wanted to highlight some great things about Players Weekend. First, it’s fun to see the oddity of “names” on the back of the Yankee jerseys, and the Yankees certainly had fun choosing which name best represented themselves. But they also got specialized cleats and colorful batting gloves and sweat bands, many of which reflected their heritage (like Gleyber Torres) or history (like Dellin Betances).

CC Sabathia used his specialty cleats to pay tribute to a group of amazing pitchers known as the “Black Aces“, a small group of black ball players that have won at least 20 games in a single season. One of those Black Aces published a book about the history of these great pitchers, including stories of Negro League pitchers that might have done the same had they been allowed to play.

His book only listed 13 players as part of this group including names like Al Downing and Bob Gibson, the last player achieving this feat in 1971. But since then, 3 other pitchers have joined their ranks — David Price, Dontrelle Willis, and Sabathia himself. It’s also interesting to me that only 2 of those players are currently in the Hall of Fame (Gibson and Ferguson Jenkins). It’s also worth noting that tonight’s starter Severino is just 3 wins away from his 20th win in a single season.

Didi Gregorius (“The Knight”) also got in on the fun, despite being out on the DL. He changed up his Twitter victory posts (Friday, Saturday 1, Saturday 2, Sunday) from using his designated emojis for the players to using their chosen nicknames as hashtags. It threw everyone for a loop at first, but now, it was clearly a nice detour from the usual. However, I think I miss the emojis and am looking forward to their return this week.

Go Yankees!

Game 127: NYY vs. BAL — Voit-power +10

CC Sabathia got the start in his return from a brief stint on the DL so that he could rest his problematic knee. In this weekend opener against the Orioles, he had a pretty good outing overall, throwing just 80 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and striking out an impressive 8 batters.

Actually, almost all his allowed offense was in the bottom of the 1st inning. He gave up consecutive singles that moved up on a fly out before a walk loaded up the bases. Another single scored 2 runs to get the Orioles on the board early. But then Sabathia and the Yankees’ defense held them off for the next 5 innings.

And meanwhile, the Yankees came back to tie up the game in the 4th inning when Walker worked a 1-out walk and then scored as part of Luke Voit’s 2-run home run. David Robertson came into the game in the 7th, and his first batter made it safely on a fielding error to kick off the inning. After 2 outs, a 2-run home run became an inning of unearned runs to put the Orioles back in the lead.

But the Yankees came back in the 8th, by loading up the bases with 1 out thanks to a walk to Stanton and 2 singles to Andujar and Walker. And on the 3rd pitcher of the inning, Gleyber Torres hit a solid single to score both Stanton and Andujar to once again tie up the game. But they loaded up the bases again in hopes of taking the lead, but then left them stranded.

After Betances and Green sailed their way through their innings, and the Yankees weren’t able to find another opportunity to break the tie. So the game went into an extra inning, and there the Yankees found their chance. Neil Walker broke the tie with a 1-out solo home run up the middle. Then Torres worked a walk and in an attempt to steal 2nd ended up at 3rd on a throwing error. He then scored as part of 2-run home run by Luke Voit, his 2nd homer of the game, which would be the defining factor.

So, the Orioles had one last chance in the bottom of the 10th, and the Yankees opted to send in former Oriole and temporary Yankee closer Zach Britton to earn his first save against his former team. With 2 outs, he gave up a solo home run to edge the O’s closer to the Yankees’ lead. But a ground out later, the Orioles ran out of opportunities.

Final score: 7-5 Yankees, in 10 innings

Roster moves: During the travel day yesterday, the Yankees optioned reliever Chance Adams back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make room for tonight’s starter. Sabathia was activated off the 10-day disabled list, only missing one scheduled start to rest his knee. Plus, the Yankees are making up a rain-out game from June as part of the doubleheader tomorrow. So, there will be a roster move to add a 26th man, as per the rules for doubleheaders.

And speaking of tonight’s starter, there is a nice article on the veteran pitcher and his family this season. It’s a nice insight on family sacrifice and finding the balance of blending work and home life, as well as the importance of surrounding yourself with people who will challenge you and support you through all of life’s ups and downs. A good life lesson either way you cut it.

Go Yankees!