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 21: MIN vs. NYY — #TanakaTime & some Bronx Bombers

The Yankees continue to dominate this home stand. Masahiro Tanaka got the start in the opening game of this week’s 4-game series against the visiting Twins. Tanaka had a stellar outing, throwing 91 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up just 3 hits, 2 walks, and a run, and striking out 5 batters. And once again, the lone run scored in Tanaka’s weakest inning. In the 5th, with 2 outs, a batter was hit by a pitch, moved to 2nd on a single, and then scored on another single.

Chad Green came on to finish Tanaka’s 7th inning. After 2 outs and a walk by Tanaka, Green walked the next batter before getting that 3rd out. David Hale got the final 2 innings of the evening, keeping the Twins to that lone allowed run.

Meanwhile, the Yankee pounced on the Twins’ pitchers early and often. In the 1st, Gardner led-off with a walk and stole 2nd. Two outs later, Stanton worked a walk, and then they both scored on Gary Sanchez’s double. Sanchez then scored on Aaron Hicks’ single to give the Yankees a big early lead. Miguel Andujar added another run to that lead with a lead-off solo home run in the 2nd inning.

The Twins’ starter got a bit roughed up in those first two innings, but got things under control until the 5th inning. With 2 outs, Giancarlo Stanton hit a solo home run deep into the left field bleachers. That would be it for the Twins’ starter (after 106 pitches). His reliever got out of that inning, and kept the Yankees away in the 6th. But after giving up a double to Judge in the 7th, he was replaced. Judge quickly scored on Stanton’s 1-out single, and after Hicks’ 2-out walk, Tyler Austin hit a long double to score both Stanton and Hicks.

But the Yankees weren’t done yet, and the 8th inning reliever was clearly having a bad day. Gleyber Torres led-off with his first major league hit, a single up the middle. The bases were quickly loaded with walks to Gardner and Judge. And Didi Gregorius smacked a huge grand slam to push the Yankees into double-digit scoring. After Stanton singled and then was forced out on Sanchez’s grounder, the Twins decided they had enough.

So they called on their center fielder to pitch. Yes, they had a position player pitch. (Are they saving their bullpen for the rest of the series?) He got his first batter (Hicks) to pop up and get a fairly easy out at 2nd (Sanchez). Tyler Austin saw the first pitch and smacked it into the visitor’s bullpen for a 2-run home run before a grounder ended the inning. (By the way, the position player pitcher only threw 5 pitches to get out of the inning, in contrast to the actual reliever who threw 29 to get a single out.)

Final score: 14-1 Yankees

This year is the 20th anniversary of the perfect game thrown by former Yankees’ starter David Wells. (The actual anniversary will be May 17.) In honor of this event, Wells threw out the 1st pitch (and it’s clearly been 20 years) and the stadium gave away commemorative David Wells bobbleheads. It’s worth noting that a certain young New Yorker was seated with the Bleacher Creatures to personally witness the game. Saving his $7 ticket stub, that young man eventually became a Yankees All-Star reliever — Dellin Betances.

Trivia bits: Jorge Posada was the catcher for David Wells perfect game, the opposing team were the Minnesota Twins, future Hall of Famer Paul Molitor was the Twins’ DH, Bernie Williams went 3-for-3 with 3 runs scored and a solo homer in the 4th (1 of 4 runs scored that day), Wells threw a total of 120 pitches (79 strikes and 41 balls) and got 11 strikeouts, and it was “Beanie Baby Day” at the stadium (because it was 1998).

Go Yankees!

Game 156: KC vs. NYY — #CCStrong, Make-up batting practice, historic afternoon

Today’s afternoon game was a minor blip in the regular schedule, a make-up game from a rain-out back on May 25. The Yankees start their final week of the season, 2 3-game series in the Bronx — the Rays and Blue Jays. The visiting Royals flew in from Chicago after the weekend and will head home to Kansas City for their own final week at home.

CC Sabathia got the start today and really had a great afternoon against the Royals. He was absolutely stellar through the first 3 innings, not giving up a hit until the 4th. But even then he really didn’t allow much until his final blip on the mound. He threw 80 pitches into the 7th inning, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and struck out 4 batters. In fact, until the 7th inning, Sabathia limited the Royals to that walk and 3 hits alone.

So, feeling strong, and with a low pitch count, Sabathia came out for the 7th, but then found some trouble in the heart of the Royals’ order with their veteran power-hitters. He gave up a lead-off single, a 2-run home run, and a solo home run. That would be it for his afternoon. All pitchers are on a short leash now, so if you can’t limit the damage, it’s time to depend on the next guy to see you through.

And today, once again, that worked out well. Chad Green came on to do what Chad Green does, but after allowing a walk to his first batter. Then he promptly set the Royals down in order, righting the ship, as it were. Robertson’s 8th inning was a flawless 3-strikeout moment, and Kahnle’s 9th closed things out for the Yankees, overall limiting the damage to that lone blip by Sabathia in the early 7th.

Meanwhile, the Yankees took advantage of the late summer warm weather and found their swings early and often. Gardner led-off the 1st with a single, moved to 3rd on Sanchez’s double, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ ground out to get the Yankees on the board early. In the 3rd, Gardner worked a 1-out walk, and then Aaron Judge followed him with a big 2-run home run, his 49th of the season. (More on this after the recap.)

In the 6th, Gregorius hit a 1-out single and then scored all the way from 1st on Matt Holliday’s double. Greg Bird smacked a big 2-run home run into the 2nd deck of the right field seats to keep the momentum going. After an out, the Royals opted to go to their bullpen and piece together the rest of the game. But they just don’t have the bullpen they did a few years ago.

In the 7th, with 2 outs, the Yankees just let loose. Aaron Judge hit a really big solo home run that bounced into the left field bleachers — his 50th home run of the season, breaking the rookie home run record (more below). Gary Sanchez immediately followed that up with his own solo home run into the left field seats, his 33rd of the season. (Remember, Sanchez had about a month out due to injury too!) Despite loading up the bases a bit later, the Yankees couldn’t add any more to their score.

Well, that inning. Because in the 8th, they came back and added just a few more. With a new reliever and 1 out, Torreyes got another hit today (he went 3-for-4 today), and because they missed the catch originally, Torreyes got all the way to 2nd, but the player fumbled the throw and that error allowed Torreyes to keep going all the way to 3rd. He then scored on Brett Gardner’s double. Judge worked a walk (pinch-run by Clint Frazier) and Sanchez singled to load up the bases. Didi Gregoirus singled home Gardner, and Matt Holliday’s sacrifice fly scored Frazier to cap off the Yankees’ monster afternoon.

The Yankees’ offense racked up 15 hits and 4 walks, while getting only 5 strikeouts. The latter part of the game was basically Yankees’ batting practice after a while.

Final score: 11-3 Yankees

Technically, the Yankees win that May series with today’s game, winning 3 of the 4 games against the Royals. Boston doesn’t play until later tonight, so where they land on the standings is still a giant question mark.

Postseason prep: tonight… go Blue Jays! (Seriously, they beat the Yankees this weekend, surely they can take out the Red Sox.)

Now, both of Aaron Judge’s home runs mattered and ended up in Judge’s memory case. In 1987, Mark McGwire hit 49 home runs in his rookie season. Coming into today’s game, Judge was sitting at 48. That first one in the 3rd inning meant that Judge tied McGwire for the record. But the one in the 7th was #50, a new record for a rookie player.

Also, Judge has now homered off every AL team (including the 4 he hit late last season). As of now, he’s hit off 4 of the 15 NL teams — Mets, Brewers, Pirates, and Dodgers. So, there’s 11 teams waiting for a Judge home run. By the way, active players who have hit off all 30 teams are former Yankee (and current Astro) Carlos Beltran and current Ranger Adrian Beltre (who also has hit a home run in the 40 stadiums of the modern era). Judge’s name is already being thrown around with names of some great players, but setting records at every turn will do that to you.

And it’s not like CC Sabathia is some slouch in the midst of these rookies building their greatness. The veteran pitcher is certainly making a case to include his name in future Hall of Fame talks. His win today tied him with Yankee great Whitey Ford, as left-handed pitchers with 236 wins. Only 2 more lefties have more wins — 240 by Frank Tanana (who played for a few teams including the Angels, Rangers, and Tigers 1973-1993) and 239 by David Wells (a name that might be familiar to Yankee fans from his brief stint during the dynasty days, but also flitted around the league with teams like the Blue Jays 1987-2007).

To be perfectly fair, Sabathia is only at 17 seasons this year, 4 less than either Tanana or Wells and just 3/4 game wins behind them. He could very well jump both early next season. That is if he plans on renewing his contract after his current one expires following this season. And in pure disclosure: Whitey Ford earned his 236 wins in just 16 seasons, however, it was during the time (1950, 1953-1967) when the Yankees and winning games was almost a foregone conclusion.

I kind of miss those days… but these days are pretty awesome too…

Go Yankees!

Game 92: BAL vs. NYY — 105? Time for a winning streak

After a bit of a stifling weekend and mixed results within the stadium (and no, I’m not talking about the craze that’s taken over as a hybrid of a particular video game, though I’m told there are several “creatures” in the Bronx that aren’t cheering loudly from the bleachers), the Bronx was blessed with a cooler evening tonight for the start of a 4-game series with the Baltimore Orioles. Yankee fans were treated to stellar pitching and a win against the first place team in the AL East that is hopefully the start of a much needed winning streak for the Yankees.

Taking strong command of the mound tonight, Yankee starter Ivan Nova pitched 6 complete innings, threw 97 pitches, gave up only 4 hits and a home run (the only run allowed for Baltimore). For the last three innings, the 31,102 fans packing the stands were once again treated to terrific pitching to close the game and shut down Baltimore. Top of the seventh, Dellin Betances threw 20 pitches for 2 strikeouts, allowing 1 walk and no runs. Andrew Miller took the helm in the eighth, giving up 1 hit but no runs with 12 pitches, inducing a fairly nifty double play. Top of the ninth with the Yankees ahead by 2, Aroldis Chapman calmly took the mound, throwing his fireballs to four batters, walking one but allowing no runs to earn the save. This powerful pitching trio for New York is a joy and a wonder for Yankee fans to witness. Hoping management has no plans for splitting up these “Warriors Three”.

The Yankees worked their defense and offense well tonight. In the top of the second, Jacoby Ellsbury snagged a fly ball for an out at the center field fence. In the fourth, Headley and Castro coordinated to get the out in a rundown. Headley and Refsnyder played their corners well, keeping potential runs off first base. That double play in the 8th under Miller was swiftly executed by Gregorius to Castro to Refsnyder that kept another potential run off base.  In fact, the entire Yankee infield tonight played strong and confident, determined to keep Baltimore from scoring. And the outfield was busy running down all those “almost home runs” from the team leading in home runs this year.

The New York offense had 7 hits, scoring twice with a home run in the 2nd by Alex Rodriguez (his 9th of the year) and a sacrifice fly in the 3rd by Brian McCann that scored Gardner. New York took the lead and never let it go. Beltran had 3 hits in 4 at bats tonight, including a double that tied him with Willie Mayes on the all-time doubles list; basically, every hit for Beltran is some milestone these days. The Yankees attempted several scoring opportunities, especially later in the game, but couldn’t seem to get anything else past the Orioles’ pitching and defense. (There is a reason they’re in 1st in the AL East.)

Of course, all most people could talk about were Chapman’s rocket balls. He hit 105 mph on the radar gun for just the second time in MLB history. And he’s the only person to do this ever, let alone do this twice. In fact, he throws so hard that MLB stats for this year have a “Chapman” filter. He throws the fastest balls in the league, but when they throw up who’s throwing the fastest, they never list him except as a caveat — as in: all these pitchers throw super hard, but as we’re all aware that Chapman literally owns all the top pitches ever this season, we’re going to feature all the guys except him to show what’s going on beyond the Yankees’ 9th inning.

Anyway, Chapman gave the Yankees their second win in a row, and I, for one, am hoping this continues a nice winning streak for the Yankees.

Final score: 2-1, Yankees.

On this day in Yankee history: On July 18, 1999, with Joe Girardi catching, David Cone threw the third perfect game in team history against the Montreal Expos at the old Yankee Stadium. Check out this vintage video of all 27 outs to relive it, or (maybe) to see it for the first time. Cone’s game occurred on “Yogi Berra Day” with Don Larsen and Yogi Berra in the stands (after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch) to witness and perhaps to relive a little of their own perfect game versus the Brooklyn Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series (the first in team history, but also the only postseason perfect game in MLB history). In May of 1998, the second Yankee perfect game (vs the Twins) was thrown by David Wells, with Jorge Posada catching.

And a big happy Birthday to Joe Torre, a man of many talents indeed — MLB’s Chief Baseball Officer, 9-time All-Star, Hall of Fame Manager, Player, Rookie of the Year, MVP, Gold Glove Winner, broadcaster, and the list goes on. Baseball as we know it would not be the same without Joe Torre. Baseball fans everywhere are grateful for his passion for the game and his many contributions to baseball from nearly every angle — player, manager, executive. (Next stop: owner?) Thank you, Joe, and may this be the happiest of birthdays and the best of years.

Go Yankees!