Game 38: NYY vs. TB — Under the dome’s Friday Night Lights

Tropicana Field is a strange place. It’s the only stadium in MLB to have a roof that isn’t retractable. And because of that, it has weird rules on how a ball hits a certain beam in the dome’s structure is an out/hit/home run.

Of course, there are positives to it. Florida is super hot most of they year, but in the Trop, it’s always 72° F. And when there’s inclement weather, like tonight, there’s never any rain delay, wet fields, or strangely sponsored tarps.

While it stormed outside, the Yankees kicked off their first game of this weekend series against the Rays. Domingo German got the start tonight, throwing 84 pitches in 5 innings, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, and struck out 5 Rays’ batters. He kept the Rays scoreless through most of his outing until his last inning, the 5th. A lead-off double scored on a 1-out 2-run home run to get them on the board. And a 2-out solo homer eased the home team into the lead.

Despite a decent showing of Rays’ fans, the majority of tonight’s packed stadium were rooting for the visitors, as usual. And the Yankees were ready to put on a show for their local fans. DJ LeMahieu led-off the game by making it to 1st on a throwing error. Voit walked and Sanchez singled to load up the bases. After a strikeout, a passed ball allowed LeMahieu to hustle home, and Gleyber Torres singled home Voit.

After the Rays tied up the game and then took the lead in the bottom of the 5th, the Yankees only needed the 6th to switch things back in their favor. Sanchez and Frazier hit consecutive singles. After a strikeout, the Rays went to their bullpen for their first reliever.

It didn’t help. Andujar’s single loaded up the bases, and Gio Urshela’s big single scored both Sanchez and Frazier to put the Yankees back in the lead. After another strikeout, the Rays brought in another reliever, whose lone pitch of the game became a grounder to end the inning.

But Urhsela’s RBIs were enough for the Yankees to defend for the rest of the game. Kahnle, Ottavino, Britton, and Chapman each put up a scoreless inning, still allowing the Rays tried a few opportunities to threaten before getting out of the jam, thanks partly to a great defense.

Final score: 4-3 Yankees

Injury updates: Didi Gregorius (elbow) has been in Tampa, trying to come back from his Tommy John surgery last off-season. So when the Yankees came to town, it was only natural for their energetic shortstop to stop in for a visit with his teammates and hang out for the game.

Aaron Hicks (back) has been spending his rehab games with the local minor league Yankees team — Advanced-A Tampa Tarpons. He has three more games scheduled with them before the Yankees will activate him onto the Yankees main roster, which looks to be next week back in the Bronx.

Dellin Betances (shoulder) and James Paxton (knee) both played catch at the Trop before tonight’s game. Betances’ recovery is slow going, progressively working his way to longer and longer tosses to see how his healing is progressing. Paxton, however, is looking good and will hopefully be back after missing just one or two starts.

And for those asking, there is no set timetable on the returns of Aaron Judge (oblique) and Giancarlo Stanton (shoulder). Stanton has resumed hitting and working out with baseball activities. But Judge is not yet ready for that, sticking solely to rehab exercises.

Get well, guys!

Go Yankees!

Game 37: SEA vs. NYY — Happ’s 1-hitter victory

The Yankees are on their way south, a brief break in their long home stand this month, and they do so on a lovely high thanks to the great game tonight. In the final game of this 4-game series against the Mariners, the Yankees relied on strong pitching to carry them into victory on this chilly Thursday evening.

Most of that fell on starter JA Happ, who threw 94 pitches in his 5 scoreless innings, gave up just 1 hit and 3 walks, and struck out 7 Seattle batters. Ottavino, Kahnle, and Britton each breezed their way through a scoreless inning of their own.

Meanwhile, the Yankees found a single opportunity early on to grab the lead. In the 2nd, Frazier and Torres each singled, and 2 outs later, Cameron Maybin’s double scored Frazier. It was this lone run, this slim lead that the Yankees spent most of the game defending against a pretty good Mariners’ starter.

When the Mariners brought in a reliever in the 8th, the Yankees found their next chance to add to their minute lead. LeMahieu led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Sanchez’s single, and ended up at 3rd on Gardner’s fielder’s choice out at 2nd. Gardner stole 2nd to put both runners in scoring position.

After a strikeout, they intentionally walked Torres to load the bases. Feeling fine after that nasty bruise yesterday, Gio Urshela smacked a long single into right field that scored both LeMahieu and Gardner.

With a nice lead now, the Yankees sent in Aroldis Chapman for 3 outs in the 9th. But after 2 quick outs, he gave up a solo shot into the right field seats to give the Mariners their lone run of the evening. And then he got that final out to earn the save tonight, his 8th of the season.

Final score: 3-1 Yankees, Yankees win series 3-1

Next up: The Yankees are on their way to see the Rays just for the weekend. A brief road trip before they continue their home stand, hosting the Orioles and Rays next week. And then they hit the road again in a week-long road trip.

Scranton Shuttle: Before today’s game, the Yankees optioned pitcher Jake Barrett back to AAA Scranton and officially signed pitcher Nestor Cortes Jr. To make room for him on the roster, they transferred Dellin Betances, still recovering from his shoulder injury, to the 60-day injured list.

Go Yankees!

 

Game 33: MIN vs. NYY — Soggy shortened Sunday game

It was wet. It was cold. It was rainy. It was just a nasty day in the City from start to finish. And for the brief break between storm fronts, they squeezed in a ball game. Or at least the better part of one, as the fans and players braved the chilly rain for the nearly 3 hours before it was eventually called a bit short.

Domingo German got the start today and had a great outing in this final game of the weekend series against the visiting Twins. He threw 108 pitches into the 7th inning, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and just 1 run, and struck out an impressive 7 Minnesota batters. With 2 outs in the 4th, he gave up a single that moved to 2nd on walk and then scored on a single for the Twins’ lone allowed run today.

The Yankees found moments to advance against a former teammate that started today’s game for the Twins. In the 2nd, they loaded the bases with Torres’ single and walks to Gardner and Maybin. DJ LeMahieu’s 2-out single scored both Torres and Gardner, thanks in part to a throwing error. And Urhsela hit a 1-out single in the 4th and then scored on Mike Tauchman’s 2-out 2-run home run into the right field seats to double the Yankees’ score.

After a soggy start to the day, we all were counting down the outs. Once they played through 5 innings, the consensus seemed to be that at least there’s a “complete game” if they called it. When the rain began in the late 6th inning, it just got progressively worse until fans were pretty much standing in a downpour to sing “God Bless America” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the 7th inning stretch.

Both pitching staff had some issues through those later innings. Kahnle was able to close out the 7th with a 7-pitch strikeout, but Ottavino had trouble with control in the 8th, getting just 2 outs, walking one batter, and hitting another with a pitch. They called on Chapman for a 7-pitch strikeout, but even he had trouble with a really wild pitch in the mix.

The Twins sent in a new reliever for the bottom of the 8th, and again, it was messy. Gleyber Torres benefited by drawing a lead-off walk and then moved all the way to 3rd on a passed ball and wild pitch during Gardner’s at-bat. An initial request was that the mound might be too wet, but that was enough to put the game into rain delay before someone could get really hurt.

After an hour and one minute, there was no abating the weather. It’s just going to rain all night. It was already pushed back from a 1:05 pm start time, which allowed for the game to actually be played at all. They called the game as is.

Final score: 4-1 in 8 innings, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: Speaking of rain, the Yankees will host a 4-game series against the Mariners, starting tomorrow (Monday) before a quick trip down to face the Rays. They head back home for 2 more series (against the Orioles and Rays) before hitting the road again.

Injury Updates: There’s actually some really good news on this front. It looks like the Yankees may be getting some familiar faces back really soon. Clint Frazier (ankle) played in a rehab game with the AA Trenton Thunder yesterday and could be activated Monday or Tuesday. Aaron Hicks (back) will join the Advanced-A Tampa Tarpons this week for his rehab game and could be finally in the Bronx this season later this week.

Further down the return list, Giancarlo Stanton (shoulder) could resume batting practice this week as part of his progress. Dellin Betances (shoulder) will be assessed and could start throwing Monday, with an aim to be back on the mound next month. And Didi Gregorius (elbow) is actually doing great in his recovery process, inciting an earlier return anticipation of possibly late June rather than later in the summer.

In other words, for all the mess that was the growing list earlier this season, the Yankees are finally stabilizing and recovering their loss earlier than anticipated in some cases. And that’s something worth celebrating.

Go Yankees!

 

Game 14: CHW vs. NYY — Sun shines on CC’s Saturday return

If one could script a return to the rotation for a retiring pitcher’s final season, I’m pretty sure Hollywood would demand more dramatics, more pitches, and more strikeouts. But for the Yankees right now (and their veteran starter), this was a pretty great way to write the comeback story for CC Sabathia’s final season with the Yankees.

Sabathia threw just 62 pitches through his 5 scoreless innings, giving up just a single hit in the 3rd and striking out 3 White Sox batters along the way. The visiting White Sox didn’t really stand much of a chance against today’s Yankee pitchers, with Sabathia leading the way once again. Domingo German powered through the 6th and 7th before Britton and Chapman each breezed through 9-pitch innings to close out the game and completely blank the White Sox.

I will give credit where credit is due. The Yankees faced a former teammate in Chicago’s starter, and he held the Yankees off the scoreboard through 6 strong innings. After giving up a single to Torres in the 7th, the White Sox went to their bullpen. Bird made it safely to 1st on a fielder’s choice fielding error.

After another pitching change, Frazier’s single loaded up the bases. The Yankees called on Luke Voit to pinch hit, and his single scored Torres to break through the scoreless tie. Kyle Higashioka’s sacrifice fly scored Bird and moved Frazier to 3rd so that he could then score on Tyler Wade’s sacrifice bunt.  Aaron Judge’s lead-off solo home run in the 8th capped off the Yankees’ runs, but it was more than enough for a victory celebration in the Bronx.

Final score: 4-0 Yankees

CC K count: 2989

{Note: We’re adding this new segment after every CC Sabathia start for the rest of the season. The 3000 strikeout club is an elite group of pitchers, nearly all are in the Hall of Fame. The last name on the list, the one right above Sabathia right now, is Braves pitcher John Smoltz with 3084, but 11 more strikeouts gets Sabathia on the list forever. Only 1 other pitcher earned the honor as a Yankee, Phil Niekro, though a few others have been Yankees at some point in their careers.}

Roster moves: Before today’s game, the Yankees reinstated CC from the IL and sent Stephen Tarpley to AAA Scranton to make room for the veteran starter. I imagine we’ll see Tarpley again before long.

Injury news: There is an update on Dellin Betances. When the Yankees originally signed him in 2006, they were aware of an asymptomatic bone spur behind his right shoulder (his throwing arm). But the most recent diagnosis is that it’s no longer the case and the cause of his most recent discomfort and shut down the All-Star reliever for at least 3 weeks from baseball activities.

They are treating him with a cortisone injection to target the bone spur, a normal part of treatment. Surgery is only necessary if the spur causes significant damage to the area, but right now, that does not seem to be the case. This is good news for Betances and the Yankees because it means that his return is weeks away, just a few more than they initially hoped.

And they certainly need all the hope they can get with the growing list of players on the IL, hopefully and progressively dropping off the IL sooner rather than later. Stay healthy, guys!

Go Yankees!

Game 13: CHW vs. NYY — Drenched and shortened loss

Tonight’s home stand opener certainly didn’t go as well as they thought. And the weather itself certainly agreed. The skies threatened to storm the entire evening, even drizzling through most of the game, but it finally broke through and drenched the Bronx enough to force them to call the game early. Which, of course, meant the Yankees ran out of time to try to regain their lead against the visiting White Sox.

Starter JA Happ really struggled through his outing tonight. He threw 88 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 9 hits, 2 walks, and 6 runs, and struck out 5 Chicago batters. A lead-off double in the 1st scored on a 2-out single to get the White Sox on the board early and first. In the 4th, he gave up 2 walks that scored on a 2-out double.

While this was actually tolerable for the Yankees, it was the 5th inning that things really started falling apart. Happ gave up a single, a 2-run home run, and another single before the Yankees called in Jonathan Holder for relief. But then he promptly gave up a 2-run home run before powering his way through 3 strikeouts to end the inning and then keeping the Sox scoreless through the 6th.

Okay, backing up a little, the Yankees did actually do pretty well on the offense side tonight. Down by 1 run in the 1st, the Yankees answered back in the bottom of the inning. With 1 out, they loaded up the bases with a throwing error on Judge’s at-bat and 2 walks to Voit and Torres. After another out, DJ LeMahieu’s single scored both Judge and Voit. But then, Torres was caught out in a rundown trying to make it to 3rd. His distraction was enough to allow both runners to score before he got tagged out, so the risk was worth it.

Now in the lead, the Yankees continued to surge forward in the 2nd. Frazier led-off with a walk, moved to 3rd on Urshela’s double, and then scored on Austin Romine’s single. Later, Aaron Judge’s sacrifice fly scored Urshela. Brett Gardner hit a solid 2-out solo home run in the 4th. And in the 6th, LeMahieu walked and Frazier singled. After a pitching change, Gio Urshela’s single scored LeMahieu, and despite loading up the bases later, the Yankees’ offense stalled that inning.

And they never got another chance to restart it because it started raining. They sent Chad Green out in the 7th, and like his 2 predecessors, he had his own issues with his outing. With 1 out, he gave up back-to-back solo homers. And by then the rain was just too much.

After 41 minutes of a delay and no end in sight, the game was called as is.

Final score: 9-6 White Sox, in 7 innings

Roster moves: Before tonight’s game, the Yankees sent Gary Sanchez to the injured list with left calf strain. He originally sat out the previous game with some calf discomfort, not wanting to push himself to actually get injured. But on yesterday’s off-day, he noticed it was still problematic and got it check out, hoping to be able to play through the stiffness. Diagnosis: strain. So they called up Kyle Higashioka for back-up to Romine.

And be prepared: the Yankees are set to activate CC Sabathia from the IL for tomorrow’s game, so the corresponding roster move (probably a pitcher) is forthcoming. But it’s nice to see someone coming off the IL rather than being put on. Yeah, we need more of that please.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 25: TB vs. NYY — Drizzly, dreary day can’t dampen the Yankees

For much of the morning leading up the game, the big question was whether there would be a game to play thanks to the ridiculous weather this Spring. Today’s skies began overcast and dreary and spend most of the day drizzling rain all over the area as a new front came marching across the state. Even though it really never stopped, the game played on.

The regular season home team of the Rays came to visit the Yankees Spring home for this afternoon’s game. And the Yankees decided to go with a pitching strategy the Rays tested out last season — a 1-inning opening pitcher, followed by a long-term reliever and a couple of closers. While the Rays didn’t practice their pattern, the Yankees seemed to find it work for them today.

Chad Green was the opening pitcher for the 1st inning and had a bit of trouble at first. A lead-off single raced home on another single that was aided to a sloppy fielding error in right field. But then Green quickly got 3 outs to get out of the inning. Despite getting on the board early, the Rays’ batters were stymied by the Yankees’ pitching for most of the game.

Luis Cessa threw 4 solid, scoreless innings, setting himself up for the eventual win. Britton and Coulombe kept things moving through the 6th-8th innings, before David Sosebee came out for the 9th. A lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a ground out and later scored on a 2-out single to double the visiting team’s score. It was a decent attempt at a rally that fell short.

This was, of course, due to the fact that the Yankees are really becoming quite the force this Spring. Down a run in the 1st, Judge redeemed himself for that 1st inning error at the bat. He worked a 1-out walk and then hustled home on Gary Sanchez’s double to tie up the game.

In the 3rd, with 1 out, Gardner walked and stole 2nd. He then scored on Aaron Judge’s single (the first single he’s hit all Spring, by the way). Judge scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s double, and Stanton promptly scored on Sanchez’s double. Torres led-off the 4th with a walk, stole 2nd, stole 3rd on a 2-out walk, and then scored on Billy Burns’ single. And Greg Bird smacked a big 1-out solo home run in the 5th to cap off the Yankees’ lead early.

Final score: 6-2 Yankees

One to Watch: It’s Thairo Estrada again today, mostly for his stellar defense. It’s always after he makes some outstanding play, like laying out for a catch in the infield dirt or one of those nifty jump-throws, that I’m reminded that just over a year ago, he was shot in a botched robbery in his home of Venezuela.

As a reminder, last January, Estrada and his wife were going out to eat when two teenagers approached to demand cash and his phone, but as he had neither on him, they panicked and shot the young prospect. They were never caught, a symptom of the awful situation currently ravaging the South American country.

Actually, Estrada still has the bullet lodged in his hip and spent the last season plagued by injuries to his back and hamstring in effort to come back eventually. And this Spring, he’s put much of the trauma and drama of last year behind him. He’s really showing why he still should be considered one of the Yankees’ most talented prospects. (The current rankings have him much lower than he should be, but the latest rankings will be released and updated following the finalization of current 25-man and 40-man rosters this next week.)

Next up: The Yankees will travel to West Palm Beach (about 3.5 hours southeast of Tampa) to visit the Astros tomorrow and see the Cardinals on Thursday in nearby Jupiter. Just a few games left of this Spring, and things are still going strong for the Yankees. How that translates to the regular season is still very much up for the talking heads and “barstool managers” to make their infamous sweeping declarations, and the teams to prove them all wrong.

Injury news: Unfortunately, it looks like Dellin Betances will begin 2019 on the disabled list thanks to some right shoulder inflammation and impingement. The impingement is when “you raise your arm to shoulder height, the space between the acromion [top corner shoulder bone] and rotator cuff [tendons connecting shoulder and arm] narrows. The acromion can rub against (or ‘impinge’ on) the tendon and the bursa [fluid sac that helps the shoulder rotate], causing irritation and pain.” In other words, even just working out the shoulder could further aggravate the initial injury.

This means that Betances will need to reduce the inflammation and treat with some physical therapy and steroid injections to combat all the overuse of the shoulder, one would guess to be rather common in pitchers, especially those who throw as hard as he does. But the advantage is that the Yankees have a lot of depth in their bullpen. So a little delay in Betances’ 2019 start won’t harm the Yankees that much.

Before today’s game, the Yankees called on a fellow athlete to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Wearing her medals, Olympic jacket, and a Yankees cap, Abbey Burns threw to her brother, Yankees’ minor leaguer Billy Burns. She is a noted Special Olympics equestrian and swimming athlete and holds records in several categories of Paralympic American swimming.

Go Yankees!

Spring Games 22 & 23: NYY vs. BAL & NYY vs. PHI — Double away victories, perhaps with some good luck

I don’t often look at the standings during Spring Training (or early in the regular season) because it never gives you an accurate picture of what the real season will look like. But I happened to see them today in passing. The Yankees are currently sitting atop the Grapefruit League standings, 1.5 games ahead of the Nationals. It’s worth noting the Yankees are also well in the lead over the Cactus League.

But as we’ve said in previous years, the standings in Spring mean nothing. It’s a very long season, and there’s far too many variables (like injuries, trades, hit streaks, and dry spells) that affect where teams land for October baseball. So, Yankee fans, feel happy about today but cautiously optimistic about 7 months from now.

The Yankees played another split squad day, but this time was unique as both squads played in away games. One group traveled about an hour south to Sarasota to visit the Orioles, and the other about 20 minutes west to Clearwater to see the Phillies. And both teams got a little “lucky” on this cloudy Sunday holiday.

Game 1: Yankees at Orioles
Jonathan Loaisiga got the start for the Yankees here and helped set a solid, strong pattern that would earn him the eventual win for the afternoon with 3 great scoreless innings. David Hale continued his momentum in his 3 innings, only allowing the Orioles on the board in his final inning.

So, in the 6th, with 1 out and a runner on 1st, a double moved the runner to 3rd to score on an easy ground out. Yankees’ reliever Hutchison sailed through the 7th but gave up a lead-off solo shot in the 8th. A 1-out single later scored on a 2-out single to give the Orioles just one more run for the afternoon. And Brothers closed out the game with a quick, scoreless 9th.

The Yankees once again got on the board early and first. In the 1st, Kyle Holder led-off the game with a single but was forced out at 2nd on Andujar’s fielder’s choice (again, another delayed, unsuccessful double play attempt). This means that Luke Voit’s big homer up the middle became a 2-run home run. Miguel Andujar led-off the 3rd with a solo home run into the left field seats, and Zack Zehner imitated him with a lead-off solo home run of his own, also to left field, in the 4th.

After the Orioles chipped some off their lead, the Yankees didn’t get another chance until the 9th to find an insurance run. Burns worked a 1-out walk, stole 2nd, and then scored on Holder’s 2-out double.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees

Game 2: Yankees at Phillies
Meanwhile, in Clearwater, the Yankees had a bit more of a battle to the finish today, with a scoreless game for most of the first half of the afternoon. The Yankees finally found their moment in the 5th inning. Lipka led-off with a bunt single, stole 2nd, and easily scored on Trey Amburgey’s big triple to get the Yankees on the board first.

James Paxton got the start, throwing into the 5th inning, but finding trouble there. He gave up a lead-off walk, and the next batter made it to 1st on a strikeout-wild pitch. With those 2 runners on, Chad Green came on to try to shut down the advancing Phillies. But he promptly gave up a single that scored the tying run. Another single put another runner on base, so both runners scored on a triple to give the home team the lead. A great fielder’s choice got the lead runner out at home on the next play.

It would be Dellin Betances to right the ship for the Yankees, kicking off the momentum with a flawless 6th inning. Kahnle, Coulombe, and Anderson Severino (no relation) each took a scoreless inning to help give the Yankees a chance to regain the lead.

So, in the 6th, Greg Bird led-off with a big solo home run, and Gleyber Torres followed suit with a 1-out solo home run to tie up the game. In the 7th, with 1 out, LeMahieu made it safely on a throwing error and then scored as part of Troy Tulowitzki’s 2-run home run to give the Yankees the lead again.

But the hits kept coming. In the 8th, Tyler Wade led-off with single, moved to 2nd on Olivares’ single, and later scored on Cabrera’s 2-out single. Castillo’s single scored Olivares, officially sealing another Yankees’ win this afternoon.

Final score: 7-3 Yankees

Next up: The Yankees will play another away game. This time, they travel to Kissimmee, about an hour east, to visit the Braves’ Spring home tomorrow night. It will be the last season the Braves have their Spring Training on Disney World property as their new home in Sarasota will officially open next year. However, they are scheduled to play an inaugural game against the Rays on March 24 before the 2019 season begins.

Finally, a happy St. Patrick’s Day to all who celebrate!

Go Yankees!