Game 6: DET vs. NYY — Low-energy, limping Wednesday matinee

Well, I can’t say that the Yankees are off to a great start, after dropping both series in their opening homestand. But it wasn’t like they were plowed over. You really can’t measure how much a recent bout of injuries have affected the overall outcomes, but I’m thinking a few more losses than wins certainly comes close.

Once again, the reason the Yankees fell short is that their offense is just not clicking. They’re leaving far too many people on base, and today, they’re striking out like it’s going out of style — collecting 18 total strikeouts.

And they even got to score first, in the 3rd. With 1 out (a strikeout, of course), DJ LeMahieu doubled and then scored on Aaron Judge’s single. After another strikeout, Sanchez walked, and Torres hit a single. However, the ball hit Judge en route to 3rd which meant he was out and thus ended the inning. A rather disappointing end to what was looking like a promising inning.

And what ended up being their lone promising inning.

Today’s call-up Jonathan Loaisiga got the start, throwing 70 pitches in his 4 innings, giving up just 1 hit, 3 walks, and 1 run. It was the walks that really got him in the end. In the 4th, a lead-off walk got all the way to 3rd after a strike-em-out, throw-em-out went awry with a throwing error. Two consecutive walks loaded the bases, and a sacrifice fly scored just 1 run to tie up the game before a strikeout got him out of the jam.

Holder had a better run through the 5th and 6th innings, and Chad Green sailed through the 7th. But then he gave up a lead-off solo home run in the 8th to give the Tigers the lead. And Britton efficiently shut them down in the 9th inning in just 11 pitches. The Yankees just didn’t have it in them to overcome a stellar Tigers (and former Yankee) reliever to close out the game.

Final score: 2-1 Tigers, Tigers win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees travel to Baltimore for the Orioles’ home opening series this weekend. They will follow the now popular opener pattern of a Thursday game, an off-day Friday, and then two games on the weekend. Then they will travel to visit the Astros before heading home for their next homestand, hopefully with better results than this first one.

Roster moves: Before the game, the Yankees reinstated CC Sabathia from MLB’s Suspension List and transferred him to the 10-day injured list, still keeping an eye on him after his heart surgery this off-season. They suspect he will rejoin the team during their next homestand next week. Jonathan Loaisiga was called-up to fill his spot in the rotation and started today’s game.

And during the game, Troy Tulowitzki came out of the game with some pain and possible strain in his left calf muscle. He went to the hospital to get it checked out, but his chances of joining far too many of his teammates on the IL is certainly a possibility. There are two obvious options for infielders in AAA, Estrada and Urshela, and one in AA, Holder. Expect a forthcoming announcement prior to tomorrow’s game.

Just a reminder: Before tonight’s game, the Yankees had 10 major players on the injured list — Andujar, Betances, Ellsbury, Gregorius, Heller, Hicks, Montgomery, Sabathia, Severino, and Stanton. Only 3 of them are expected to return this month. As I said above, it’s not really a surprise that things haven’t been working right with all this power nursing various injuries and unable to contribute to the Yankees’ success.

Okay, everyone, get healthy and stay healthy. Time to start working for #28.

Go Yankees!

Game 5: DET vs. NYY — Late inning fallout

Things were looking up in tonight’s battle against the visiting Tigers for most of the game. The Yankees scored first, and even after the Tigers tied up the game, there was hope for a walk-off victory. Until there wasn’t.

In the 2nd, DJ LeMahieu hit a 1-out single, moved to 3rd on Tauchman’s ground-rule double, and then scored on Clint Frazier’s sacrifice fly. Not a bad way to make his return to the lineup by being responsible to get the Yankees on the board. But the Yankees just weren’t doing much to combat the Tigers’ pitching staff. So it was the only run they’d score tonight.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start tonight, throwing 87 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up 8 hits but only 1 run, and striking out 7 Detroit batters. With 2 outs in the 6th, he gave up consecutive doubles that got the Tigers on the board to tie up the game. Other than that, it was a pretty good outing for the veteran starter, getting out of some jams and handing a decent game over to his relievers.

Adam Ottavino’s 13 pitches sailed through his 4 outs, including 3 stellar strikeouts. So, with the game tied, they went to closer Aroldis Chapman in the 9th for 3 quick outs to set up a great comeback in the bottom of the inning. But Chapman just found one problem after another. He gave up a 1-out walk that scored the go-ahead run on an RBI double. Then that runner scored on a 2-out single.

The Yankees were quickly shutdown in the bottom of the inning with 3 efficient outs by a former teammate.

Final score: 3-1 Tigers

On a lighter note: With the recent injuries and subsequent call-ups, there are many ways that players will get themselves to the game to join the team and be ready to jump in the game if called upon. They’ve hopped last-minute planes (the usual option), trains, subways, hailed cabs, and driven a car. But Tyler Wade’s journey to Yankee Stadium was a new one but one built for 2019.

Wade was set to play with the Yankees’ AAA team the RailRiders in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area of Pennsylvania. But upon getting that coveted call, he did the most logical thing millennials do when they need to get somewhere fast. He opened his phone and ordered an Uber. A few minutes later, he got into a minivan and told the driver to “floor it” the 128 miles to Yankee Stadium.

That’s right, it’s 128 miles from PNC Field in Moosic, Pennsylvania (a suburb of Scranton) to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York. That’s an estimated $166.49 – $267.59. Plus tip, which I’m sure was part of the promise of reciprocity for “flooring it”. And my guess is he would be able to expense that back to the Yankees.

And yes, he made it to Yankee Stadium for the game last night, though he didn’t play then. He started at 2nd base tonight, going 1-for-3. Another good start for a another call-up.

Go Yankees!

Game 4: DET vs. NYY — A bittersweet milestone

Well, the Yankees have won 500 games at the newest incarnation of Yankee Stadium. It only took a decade (as the new stadium opened in 2009), but that isn’t bad as they only play 81 games here every season. So, another great milestone for the organization to check off.

Domingo German got the start in tonight’s chilly opener against the visiting Tigers. He actually had a pretty good outing, throwing 79 pitches in 5 innings, giving up just 1 hit, 1 unearned run, and 5 walks, while striking out 7 Detroit batters (of the 15 outs he was responsible). In the 4th, he gave up a 1-out walk that moved to 2nd on a 2-out single. A wild pitch and throwing error ended up allowing that runner to score, but then he got a great strikeout to get out of the inning.

The rest of the Yankees’ pitching staff tonight was rather good too. Green, Britton, and Ottavino each kept the Tigers from adding to their score without giving up much on the base paths. And Chapman earned his first save of the season with a beautiful 7-pitch 9th inning.

The Yankees were able to give their pitchers enough run support tonight to shift things in their favor. Gary Sanchez led-off the 2nd with a solid solo home run over the center field wall. Then, with 2 outs in the 3rd, Luke Voit worked a walk and then booked it home to score on Greg Bird’s single, assisted by a sloppy fielding error.

Brett Gardner capped off the Yankees’ scoring with a lead-off solo home run into the Yankees’ bullpen in the 5th. With this small lead, the Yankees kept in control of the game, mostly thanks to the strong appearance by the bullpen.

Final score: 3-1 Yankees

Okay, now for the bad news. Before the game, the Yankees announced that they were moving Giancarlo Stanton to the 10-day Injured List with a grade 1 left biceps strain. He’s been shut down from baseball activities for at least 10 days and then reassess for the next step. Stanton joins the list of regular outfielders already on the IL — Ellsbury and Hicks.

Then tonight, Miguel Andujar was pulled from the game with right shoulder strain, only for a diagnosis to be a small tear in his labrum. This is not good news because one of the possible solutions would be season-ending surgery. And it’s just Game 4 of 162.

Roster moves: Placing Stanton and Andujar on the injured list now made room for 2 players. Unsurprisingly, the Yankees promoted Clint Frazier and Tyler Wade to help fill the vacancies. Both players were of course disappointed in not making the Opening Day roster, so to be called up so soon has to be exciting, despite the circumstances.

It’s always a bittersweet moment for roster moves. One guy gets promoted but only when one guy gets injured. Which is basically the overall feeling of finding out these injuries while recognizing these promotions and celebrating 500 home wins.

Go Yankees!

Spring Games 15 & 16: NYY vs. DET & PIT vs. NYY — A draw and a win on a sunny Sunday

Another split squad series, another sunny and hot afternoon, another set of mixed results. At least today’s results leaned positive for the Yankees.

Game 1: Yankees at Detroit
Some of the Yankees traveled about 40 minutes east to visit the Tigers again in Lakeland and honestly battled their way through the afternoon in an oddly evenly-matched game. Nestor Cortes got the started and pitched his way into the 3rd inning, only giving up a lead-off solo home run in the 2nd.

Then the Yankees and Tigers kept the game close for most of the game, thanks to the great defense and pitching on both sides. The Yankees didn’t find their breakthrough until the 7th. Voit led-off with a walk and was pinch-run by Brandon Wagner. Miguel Andujar then hit a big double, and Wagner made an effort to score the Yankees’ first run. But a great relay got him out at home, with Andujar making it to 3rd on the throw. He was then pinch-run by Cabrera, who finally scored a Yankees’ run on Ryan Lavarnway’s single.

Another out later, the Yankees loaded up the bases with 2 walks. But a pitching change and a pop-up ended their attempt to break the tie. But Brandon Wagner broke it in the 8th with a 2-out solo home run, and the Yankees had their lead for the first time all afternoon in Lakeland.

It didn’t last long. In the bottom of the 8th, Danny Farquhar came out for the Yankees to try to protect the lead. A lead-off single was quickly caught stealing 2nd for his first out, and after another out, he loaded up the bases with 3 consecutive walks. David Hale came on in relief and promptly walked in the tying and final run.

Final score: 2-2 tie

Game 2: Pirates at Yankees
Meanwhile, back home in Tampa, the Yankees battled the visiting Pirates for the afternoon. JA Happ got the start at Steinbrenner Field, pitching 4 innings and struggling a bit in the middle. In the 2nd, with 1 out and runners on the corners with singles, a sacrifice fly scored the Pirates’ first run. And back-to-back solo home runs in the 3rd gave the Pirates a solid lead.

The Yankees finally found their offense in the 4th. They loaded up the bases with walks to 3 power-hitters — Judge, Stanton, and Bird. Gleyber Torres was then walked to scored Judge for the Yankees’ first run of the day in Tampa. With a new pitcher, Troy Tulowitzki ground into a double play, but it still scored Stanton and moved Bird to 3rd. Clint Frazier’s single then scored Bird to tie up the game in a single inning. Then in the 5th, Gio Urshela led-off with a solo home run to put the Yankees in the lead.

Adam Ottavino’s 5th inning was just filthy stuff, catching the eye of both fellow Yankees and their opponents. It was very much a “blink and you miss it” kind of inning, with the new Yankees just getting 3 straight strikeouts. Chapman followed that up with a solid 6th inning of his own, and things were looking up for the Yankees as they tried to gain some further momentum.

But Dellin Betances had a bit of a struggle in his 7th inning. He gave up a lead-off triple, due in part to some sun-influenced defensive issues. A single then scored that runner to tie the game up again. After a solid strikeout, he walked 2 batters to load up the batters. Jonathan Holder came in to try to save the inning, giving up a sacrifice fly that put the Pirates back on top.

In the bottom of the 8th, the Yankees weren’t going to let this game go just yet. Jackson led-off with a single and then scored on Zack Zehner’s monster 2-run home run over the left field concourse to get the lead back to the home team. Tommy Kahnle’s final 4 outs closed out the game and protected the Yankees’ lead.

Final score: 6-5 Yankees

One to watch: I’m going to give today’s honor to Gio Urshela, who’s really been rising in recognition this Spring. And today, in addition to being the Yankees’ starting 3rd baseman, he also hit that great home run in the 5th to put the Yankees in their first lead of the afternoon. He was traded to the Yankees late last year after stints with the Indians and Blue Jays, playing in the big leagues with both previous teams. He’s not really been on anyone’s radar, but he could potentially be some great back-up for the infield should problems arise this season.

Next up: after an off-day tomorrow (Monday), the Yankees will take on the Orioles at home Tuesday night. There’s 15 scheduled games left, just a little more than halfway through the Spring, or about 2 weeks.

In Yankee Universe news: Babe Ruth’s last living daughter, Julia Ruth Stevens, died Saturday at the age of 102. Ruth adopted Julia when he married her mother in 1929, but she remained an avid fan of Ruth’s original team, the Red Sox, being a frequent fan in the stands up until a few years ago. Our thoughts and condolences are with her son, two grandchildren, and four great grandchildren at this time.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: Neither game today was broadcast, so there was minimal video highlights to share. Apologies, fans!}

Spring Game 13: DET vs. NYY — Friday night lights, close but kind of sloppy

There’s an old saying that a bad dress rehearsal means that you’re going to have a great performance. I’m not sure I believe this for a number of reasons that I won’t unpack right now, but I know the heart behind this message is to try to get all the bad out of the way when it doesn’t matter.

When things go poorly in Spring Training, a common sentiment is that the games don’t really matter. But of course it does. Everyone is trying to show they either deserve a shot at the roster or that they are continuing to grow as regular players and don’t deserve to lose their roster spot to a rookie in the wings. (Yes, all those theater references for you fellow theater nerds.)

As we all know, baseball is a game full of failure. The best batter will fail to hit the ball at all about 70% of the time. The best pitcher will still give up runs (for example, Mariano Rivera gave up 340 total runs in his 19 years). Even in a so-called “perfect game”, it’s never going to be 27 strikeouts, and in fact, those with the record 20 strikeouts in a game didn’t have a perfect games.

So bad games are going to happen. People have off-days. You can’t win 162 games. But that doesn’t mean you don’t try.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start in tonight’s game against the visiting Tigers and pitched his way into the 4th inning. Actually, he got off to a great start, plowing through the first 4 outs and collecting 5 total strikeouts. In the 2nd, he gave up a 1-out walk that moved to 2nd on a single before he and Torres partnered for a stellar pick-off. But a double scored that other runner to get the Tigers on the board. He also gave up a 1-out solo home run in the 3rd.

Zack Britton got the final 2 outs of the 4th, finding Tanaka’s earlier momentum and handing it off to Dellin Betances. There’s been some talk about Betances lower velocity, but he’s getting the outs, like tonight’s quick clean 5th inning, so I’m not sure there’s much to worry about just yet.

Meanwhile, the Yankees actually were the first on the board in the 1st inning. Judge worked a 1-out walk, and then Giancarlo Stanton smacked his first home run of the Spring, a no-doubter, 2-run home run deep over the left field concourse area.

So when the Tigers tied up things in the 3rd, the Yankees found their pace to defend their home turf and hold onto the tie until they could find their opportunity. But while opportunity came several times, the Yankees didn’t capitalize on them enough to shift things back into their favor for long.

Domingo German got the opportunity for some long-term relief for 3 innings, starting with a scoreless 6th. In the 7th, a lead-off double scored on an RBI single before he got 3 consecutive strikeouts.

The Yankees’ offense found one of those opportunities in the bottom of the 7th. With 1 out, LeMahieu doubled and was pinch-run by Cabrera. Austin Romine hit a solid 2-out double to score Cabrera, and Lavarnway came in to pinch-run for Romine. Kyle Holder then singled home Lavarnway to grab the lead again.

But German had struggled a bit in the 8th, not helped at all by a sloppy defense. With 2 outs and 2 runners on base with a walk and hit-by-pitch, consecutive singles scored both runners, the last one in part due to a missed catch error in an attempt to get the runner out at home.

Tommy Kahnle got the chance to calm things down in the 9th, but the defense hadn’t found itself yet. A fielding error due to the lights allowed the lead-off batter to make it to 1st. And 1-out double scored the Tigers’ insurance run before Kahnle took control and shut things down.

The Yankees made an attempt at a rally in the bottom of the 9th. With 2 outs, Kyle Holder smacked a big solo home run, the ball landing on top of the roof of the bar in the right field bleachers. A double and walk kept hopes alive before a short pop-up closed out the game, with the Yankees a run too short.

Final score: 6-5 Tigers

One to Watch: I’ve got to give it to the minor leaguer that kept the Yankees alive in those latter innings — Kyle Holder. That 9th inning home run certainly settled things for me in this category, but Holder’s been one of those to watch for some time. He’s a great defender as an infielder, and his bat is clicking in high-impact moments. He could be one of those names to keep an eye on for more than just trade bait one day.

Next up: the Yankees play their first night game away tomorrow against the Orioles in Sarasota (about an hour south of Tampa).

Before tonight’s game, the Yankees formally announced this year’s HOPE Week dates — June 17-21. HOPE Week is the week during the season that the Yankees recognize 5 local non-profit organizations for their impact in their community, gifting them with their volunteering time, a monetary donation, and public recognition. This will be their 10th year of this program.

As they do every year, to kick-off the announcement, they also recognized a local non-profit in Tampa during Spring Training that helps their local community. This year’s honoree is Gigi’s Playhouse, a great center that caters specifically to children with Down Syndrome and their families, including programs that help with therapeutic and educational skills, career development, and global acceptance, all free of cost. Gigi’s Playhouse is an international organization that has centers all over North America, but the Tampa location opened just last August.

Go Yankees!

Spring Games 8 & 9: DET vs. NYY & NYY vs. TOR — A Sunny Sunday Split

The Yankees played their first split squad day of the season, a portion of the team staying in Tampa to host the Tigers and a portion traveling across the Bay to Dunedin to play the Blue Jays. Under hot, sunny, clear blue skies, both squads actually played rather well against each of their AL opponents, striking first, hitting monster home runs, and showing off before fans on both sides of Tampa Bay. But there were some minor differences. Like one win and one loss.

Game 1: Tigers at Yankees (Tampa)
Masahiro Tanaka got the start for the Yankees at home today, and other than a lead-off triple, Tanaka’s stuff was just nasty today. I think we can safely say that “Tanaka Time” is back for the season. And the rest of the pitching staff continued Tanaka’s dominance — Holder, Chapman, Britton, Ottavino, and Abreu.

The only time the Tigers got the better of Yankee pitchers was in the 5th. Aroldis Chapman made his Spring debut and saw his first pitch of 2019 find its way over the left field fence. But then he found that momentum and fell right back into line.

Meanwhile, Brett Gardner led-off the 1st inning with a big solo home run into the right field seats. And Aaron Judge promptly followed him with a solo home run of his own for the first back-to-back homers of the season. Then in the 2nd, with 2 outs, Brett Gardner continued his “Gardy Party” with another big solo home run into those same right field seats. For whatever struggles he battled earlier this week, he’s clearly turned the page.

Gary Sanchez got in the fun with a 1-out solo home run in the 3rd, this one just over the left field corner. In the 5th, Gardner led-off the inning by getting hit with a pitch and was pinch-run by Amburgey. He then scored on Aaron Judge’s second home run of the afternoon, a 2-run homer that bounced off the right fielder’s glove and into that sweet spot in the right field seats. And once all the starters were traded out, despite a hefty lead, minor leaguer Isiah Gilliam smacked a big 2-out solo home run, deep into the right field porch, in the 7th.

Final score: 7-1 Yankees

Game 2: Yankees at Blue Jays (Dunedin)
Meanwhile, the Yankees jumped ahead of the home team early again. Luke Voit got things started with a lead-off solo home run in the 2nd. In the 3rd, Lipka technically struck out but made it to 1st on a wild pitch and then stole 2nd. Burns worked a walk, and then both runners moved into scoring position on a ground out. However, DJ LeMahieu only scored one runner with his single. And that would be it for the Yankee hitters.

Domingo German got the start in Dunedin today and threw into the 3rd inning, with scoreless results. But Danny Coulombe had issues closing out that 3rd inning, giving up a solo home run. But then Hutchison got things back on track for the next two innings.

Trevor Stephan came on in the 6th and gave up a single and a 2-run home run to give the Blue Jays the lead. He later loaded up the bases in the 7th with a double, a 1-out walk, and hit-by-pitch before handing the ball to Cale Coshow, responsible for all 3 runners on base. A sacrifice fly scored the lead runner, and then 2 sloppy errors allowed for one more run. Sosebee closed out the game with a flawless 8th inning, including 3 strikeouts.

Final score: 5-2 Blue Jays

One to Watch: The Yankees are making it difficult to select just one player every home game for this category. The minor league guys are just really good this year. So today, I’m selecting infielder LJ Mazzilli. He caught my eye earlier this week just working out before a game, with his zeal and energy, something he did from 2nd base during the game in Tampa today. His fielding was on display, making several key plays and doing so with such gusto. All of this helped today’s infield in the latter part of the game work like a rather well-oiled machine.

Next up: The Yankees have an off-day tomorrow (Monday). They will be back home on Tuesday afternoon to host the Braves.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 4: NYY vs. DET — More rain shortens rough game

The same front that washed out yesterday’s game continues to bring further bands of rain through the area and ended up shortening today’s game. And part of me thinks this might have been a relief for the Yankees, who were just getting roughed up today.

The Yankees traveled about 40 minutes east to visit the Tigers’ Spring home field in Lakeland, and things started like they have for the last 3 games — with the Yankees hitting first and hard. Hicks led-off the game with a double, and Voit worked a 1-out walk. Miguel Andujar hit a baby grounder, but a throwing error only allowed the Tigers to get the out at 2nd as Hicks spend his way home to score the first run. Torres then singled, and Greg Bird hit a big 3-run home run to give the Yankees a nice early lead.

But today’s starter Chance Adams just couldn’t find his pitches and didn’t even make it out of the first inning. He gave up a walk and single that both scored on a double. A double and triple easily scored 2 more runs before Adams finally got an out, an easy ground out. Brady Lail struggled a bit to get out of the inning, when a single scored Adams’ final runner, but then a beautiful double play closed the exhausting inning.

After an easier 2nd, Domingo Acevedo found his own set of struggles in the 3rd inning. With 2 outs, he loaded up the bases with a single, walk, and hit-by-pitch before giving up a walk to easily score the lead runner. The next batter promptly smacked a big grand slam to ensure the Yankees were overwhelmed by the home team today.

Despite starting the game with blue, sunny skies, the storm front crept its way across the area and clouded up the previous beautiful vista. And then it started raining. A bit too hard. So they brought out the tarp in the 6th inning and delayed the game for 16 minutes.

The rain cleared, and play resumed amid a bit of a drizzle. But as Kyle Holder led off the 7th with a solid hit, the rain worsened. Teams headed to their dugouts, as fans scurried to the nearest coverage. It just wasn’t going to happen. The game was mercifully called.

Final score: 10-4 Tigers, in 7 innings (thanks to Holder’s lone at-bat)

Next up: the Yankees play host again, this time to the Pirates. And the weather report reads about 10% chance of rain, but a bit humid as that aforementioned front settles over the area. In other words, there’ll be a game, but it’s going to be that typical Florida weather.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: no broadcast means no media clips to include in today’s post. Not that there’s much outside the first half-inning to remember for the Yankees.}