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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Yankees!

 

ALDS 2: CLE vs. HOU, NYY vs. BOS — Drama in the AL

The NLDS teams travel today to their next stop, the lower seed’s home field for what may be the final game. Both higher seed teams are leading their series 2-0 and just need one more win to advance to the NLCS to play each other. But that “home field advantage” may alter some things for those series.

ALDS A: Indians at Astros
Meanwhile, the ALDS continued to shake things up with some drama. The Astros continued to come out strong mostly due to their solid starter, who got the Indians to strikeout 12 times in his 7 innings, only giving up a 2-out solo home run in the 3rd. The Indians couldn’t seem to pierce through much more of the Astros’ defense.

The Astros were held off from the board by a good start by the Indians’ starter Carrasco. It wasn’t until the 6th that they finally got a score. After Carrasco gave up a single and walk and got an out, the Indians called on their bullpen. But it collapsed. A double promptly scored both runners to jump the Astros ahead.

After loading up the bases and no additional outs, they went to the bullpen again. That new pitcher got out of the jam. And then with 2 outs in the 7th, he gave up a solo home run to add just one more run for the Astros. Despite the small lead the Astros held, the Indians just weren’t coming back with any kind of last-minute rally.

Final score: 3-1 Astros, Astros lead series 2-1

ALDS B: Yankees at Red Sox
With last night’s game being rather tight at the end of it all, the Yankees just running out of outs really, tonight’s game was going to be just as dramatic. Because the rivalry… And it’s clearly 2003 and 2004 all over again.

Masahiro Tanaka had a great night, throwing 78 pitches in 5 innings, giving up 3 hits, a walk, and 1 run, and striking out 4 batters along the way. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo home run in the 4th. Dellin Betances came on for a quick 6th inning, but he had some trouble in the 7th. A lead-off single scored on a 1-out double to double the Red Sox’s score. Britton and Chapman closed out the game without allowing the home team anything further.

In a series that could end up being really close, the Yankees kind of proved they deserved to be playing in the postseason. Fortunately, they faced a familiar face on the mound, who does not seem to pitch well against the Yankees ever. Price gave up a 1-out solo home run right in the 1st inning.

Then Gary Sanchez led-off the 2nd with a monster solo home run. Two outs later, Price walked Torres and Gardner. Torres then scored on Andrew McCutchen’s single to end Price’s night. His relievers, oddly, had a pretty good night keeping the Yankees from adding to their score for most of the game.

In the 7th, Judge led-off with a single and moved to 2nd on Voit’s walk. Then in a play that ended up being far too talked about online, Stanton hit into a fielder’s choice out at 2nd. Originally ruled safe, the Red Sox challenged it, and for some reason, HQ thought there was enough evidence to overturn it. A huge shame because the next batter, Gary Sanchez, hit his 2nd homer of the game, a monster 3-run home run (thus a base runner shy of a grand slam) to ensure the Yankee victory, thus sending the series back to the Bronx on an even playing field.

Final score: 6-2 Yankees, series split 1-1

And to commemorate the Yankees’ victory, Aaron Judge felt it was necessary to use his personal sound system to make sure the Yankees left their victory to the tune of “New York, New York“. While they play it after every game at Yankee Stadium regardless of the outcome, it’s especially sweet after a win. Which, as you know, happens a lot.

It’s worth noting the only time that song was actually played at Fenway was the first game back after 9/11. The Yankees later returned the honor by playing “Sweet Caroline” following the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing. For all the bluster of the “rivalry”, when it matters, when it’s truly baseball at its finest, the heart of the true sports fans is shown.

Like the Boston fan that got Judge’s home run ball. He even ripped his jeans and skinned his knee, but he got it. He kept it (and didn’t throw it back). He showed it off. And he’s going to give it to his friend who’s a huge Yankees fan. Because that’s baseball.

Go Yankees!

Game 160: NYY vs. BOS — Making history, taking advantage

It’s always going to be an interesting series when the Yankees face the Red Sox. And with the prospect looming that they might face each other in the postseason. Should the Yankees win the Wild Card series they will face the best AL team, which is the Red Sox, for the ALDS. And if both teams play like they did tonight, it’s going to be quite the postseason.

JA Happ got the start for the Yankees in this opening game against the Red Sox for the final series of the season. He threw 88 pitches in 6 innings, gave up 4 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs, and struck out 7 Boston batters to earn his 17th win of the season. And actually, Happ held them off for most of his outing.

It wasn’t until the 6th inning that he allowed a run. He gave up a 1-out single, a double, and a 2-out walk to load up the bases. The next batter then smacked a huge grand slam over the Green Monster to get the Red Sox on the board in a big way and electrify the sell-out home crowd.

Green came in a sailed his way through the 7th inning before handing the ball over to Dellin Betances for the 8th. But Betances had a bit of trouble. He gave up a walk that moved to 2nd on a 1-out single, and then scored on a 2-out single. He loaded the bases with a walk before getting out of the inning thanks to the Yankees’ defense.

And Zach Britton had an equally troubling 9th inning. He gave up a walk to lead-off the inning that ended up getting out on a fielder’s choice grounder. A throwing error put runners on the corners, and a 2-out walk loaded the bases. Then he gave up another walk to score the Red Sox’s final run of the night.

Now, all of that could be disheartening if the Yankees hadn’t had a monster offensive night themselves. In the 3rd, Gary Sanchez smacked a big lead-off solo home run to the Green Monster. Two outs later, Judge walked, moved to 2nd on Hicks’ single, and then scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s single.

In the 4th, with a new pitcher, Andujar hit a 1-out double (tying DiMaggio for the most doubles as a rookie with 44), and Sanchez walked. They both then scored on Gleyber Torres’ double. Though there was a bit of a question as to whether Sanchez actually touched home before the tag, but the call was upheld after the replay.

With another new pitcher, Torres scored on Andrew McCutchen’s single, thanks to a dropped ball. After Judge singled to join McCutchen on the bases, Aaron Hicks hit a nice 3-run home run to further the Yankees’ lead. Now, the best part of this was that Hicks completely thought he hit a fly ball to be caught in the outfield, so he trudged his way to 1st base before looking up and seeing that the ball went over the fence. With a sheepish grin, Hicks began his home run trot.

Luke Voit continued his power show with a 1-out solo home run in the 7th. Gregorius singled, moved to 2nd on Andujar’s walk, and then scored when Gary Sanchez hit into a fielding error. And Aaron Judge capped off the Yankees’ big night with a lead-off solo home run in the 8th.

Final score: 11-6 Yankees

And with that win tonight, the Yankees secured home field advantage in the Wild Card game next Wednesday. This means that the Athletics will travel to the Bronx for the one-off game. The winner of that game (*cough*TheYankees*cough*) will head up to Boston to face the Red Sox for the ALDS.

And with the 4 home runs in tonight’s game, the Yankees have officially tied the 1997 Mariners for the record of most home runs as a team in a single season with 264 homers. In other words, in the next 2 games, if they get at least 1 more home run, the 2018 Yankees will be the sole record holders of that statistic.

Go Yankees!

Game 157: NYY vs. TB — 3rd inning power show

Luis Severino got the start in the second of four games against the Rays in St. Petersburg tonight. He had a really strong outing, throwing 97 pitches in 5 innings, giving up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs, and striking out 7 batters to earns his 19th win of the season.

The Rays only allowed runs tonight came in a messy 3rd inning. Severino quickly loaded up the bases with a double, hit-by-pitch, and walk. Then a double scored the 2 lead runners before the Yankees relayed to get the third runner out at home. But that would be it for the Rays’ offense tonight. Kahnle, Tarpley, and German came on in relief of Severino to split the final 4 innings and keep the Rays rather silent.

But the Yankees used that same 3rd inning to make the difference in the game with a huge power show. Adeiny Hechavarria led off the inning by hitting his first Yankee home run (and earning his own unique John Sterling home run call). Then Gardner hit his 60th career triple, and McCutchen walked before the Rays’ starter finally got an out in the inning and then was escorted to the dugout.

Going to the bullpen didn’t help the Rays, but it certainly allowed for more Yankee power to show off. Luke Voit doubled to easily score Gardner, and then the Rays intentionally walked Stanton to load up the bases. And they changed pitchers again. Neil Walker worked a walk in 4 pitches which scored McCutchen, and Miguel Andujar’s sacrifice fly scored Voit. And to cap off this inning, Gary Sanchez smacked a big 3-run home run.

Stanton led-off the 5th with a double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Sanchez’s single. And Andujar finished off the Yankees’ big night with a 2-out solo home run in the 9th inning, his 26th homer of the year. Is anyone else hoping for “Rookie of the Year” for him too?

Final score: 9-2 Yankees

Injury news: Aaron Hicks had an MRI to check on his hamstring injury, and the good news is that there are no strains (or tears). That means the injury isn’t as serious as it could be, nor is it season-ending. It just means that they are going to watch him and his recovery progress, calling him “day-to-day”.

And Gleyber Torres was scratched from tonight’s lineup due to some tightness in his left hip and groin area. However, it’s just “tightness”, so he said he was available off the bench. But the Yankees didn’t need him tonight and will probably keep him rested until he can actually be fully available to the Yankees. Besides, his absence allowed Hechavarria the chance to earn his John Sterling home run call.

Go Yankees!

Game 155: BAL vs. NYY — Flailing bullpen denies Yankee sweep

In this final home game of the 2018 season, the Yankees were looking to close it out on an upswing. And for a good chunk of the afternoon, it looked like it was going to go that way in this final game against the visiting Orioles.

JA Happ had a good start, throwing 107 pitches in his 5 innings, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and a run, and striking out an impressive 7 batters. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo home run in the 2nd. Happ then held off the Orioles for the rest of his time on the mound.

And the Yankee batters gave him in enough to work with. In the 1st, the starter came off the mound after 4 pitches due to a blister issues. His replacement triggered an offensive show by the home team, loading up the bases with 3 consecutive walks. Gleyber Torres’ sacrifice fly (no media clip, sorry) scored McCutchen, Miguel Andujar’s single scored Stanton, and Gary Sanchez’s 2-out single scored Voit.

But then the Yankees didn’t do much more for the rest of the game. So the Yankee defense and pitchers needed to defend their slim lead. AJ Cole came on in relief of Happ in the 6th and just fumbled out of the gate. He gave up a double, a 2-run home run, and a solo home run to put the Orioles into the lead.

So the Yankees turned to Tommy Kahnle. He gave up a double that moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a sacrifice fly to add one more run for the O’s. Luis Cessa came on in the 7th and calmed things down a bit. But after some defensive switches in the 8th, he gave up a 1-out single that scored on a 2-out double to cap off the Orioles’ scoring today.

The Yankee bats never did awaken again this afternoon, an odd exception to the Orioles’ poor show by their bullpen this weekend. But baseball isn’t predictable.

Final score: 6-3 Orioles, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees are headed down to Florida to start their final week of this season with 4 games against the Rays before heading to Boston for 3 games at Fenway to conclude the season. The Yankees need to keep ahead of the Athletics in the standings if they want to keep home field advantage for the Wild Card game.

As I write this, the A’s are losing to the Twins. They have a fairly easy schedule against the Mariners and Angels to close out their season next week. So it really could go down to the wire for home field advantage in the AL Wild Card just like the NL is still a giant question mark for the postseason. And honestly, it kind of makes this last week of baseball all the more fun. Every game counts for something. Every moment matters.

Injury news: Getting lost in the fracas during yesterday’s win, it looks like Didi Gregorius tore cartilage in his right wrist in that slide home to score the winning run in the 11th inning. He had an MRI, where they found the tear, and a cortisone shot for treatment. Right now, they’re waiting to see how he responds to the shot. But if he doesn’t, he could be out for the rest of the season. Fingers crossed for speedy healing to the Emoji King.

Go Yankees

Game 145: NYY vs. MIN — Big offense falls short against big offense

In a game where a team can make great defense plays and hit some major offense, it’s unfortunate when the other team can do the same, despite being below .500 and officially eliminated from the postseason. But the reality is that most teams under .500 aren’t there because they’re terrible (well, a few of them are). They’re having a losing season because they’ve been inconsistent.

Inconsistency will sink a team every time. They go through really terrible streaks at the worst possible times in the schedule, and hit those random highs in the weirdest times, usually against teams they should lose easily to. Let me also clarify that the Yankees have moments of inconsistency, but they have not been consistently inconsistent. It’s why they’re still very much in the postseason picture, though the A’s are just 2 games behind them now in the Wild Card race.

Sonny Gray was called on for a spot-start in this middle game against the Twins and had a tough go of it. He threw 63 pitches in his 3 innings, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 3 runs (2 earned), and struck out just 2 Minnesota batters. He did hold off the home team until the 3rd inning. He loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a single. A passed ball scored the lead runner and moved the other runners into scoring position, something they did on a 2-RBI single, before he got out of the inning.

Jonathan Loaisiga took over in the 4th, but even he had issues against the Twins. In the 4th, a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a ground out and then scored on a 2-out double. But it would be the 5th inning that combined for the real blow to the Yankees tonight. Loaisiga loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a single before giving up another walk to score the lead runner and a 1-out single scored another.

So with bases loaded, Loaisiga responsible for all the base runners, it would be Tommy Kahnle to the mound in the relief. But a missed pitch became a monster home run grand slam over the center field wall to ensure the Twins’ eventual win. After a single, the Yankees’ defense kicked into gear and got a great double play to end this terrible inning.

Stephen Tarpley had the best outing of the Yankee pitchers tonight, throwing 2 solid, scoreless innings. All the while, Yankee Universe was hoping for a bit of a late-inning comeback rally.

The Twins also pieced together their pitching staff tonight, matching the bullpen-heavy names on the Yankee pitching roster. But the Yankees made every effort to not just hand the victory to the Twins (despite what happened above). They got on the board first in the 2nd when Didi Gregorius hit a 1-out triple and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s sacrifice fly.

After the Twins’ big 5th inning, the Yankees had their own big inning in the top of the 6th. With 1 out, they loaded up the bases with Hicks, Andujar, and Stanton. The Twins went to their bullpen again, and the new pitcher promptly gave up a home run grand slam to Didi Gregorius, his 2nd career grand slam.

Riding high on that, the Yankee offense were looking to continue that momentum in a late-inning rally. It just never came. The Twins’ final 2 pitchers in the last third of the game kept the Yankees off the bases, thus away from their large lead.

Final score: 10-5 Twins

I would post about the status of the postseason. However, while the AL is a bit more clear-cut, with the biggest competition happening in the AL West, the NL picture is really competitive with 8 teams still competing for a wildcard spot, and 6 of those with a legitimate chance. The AL may be set soon as the final 2 weeks of games within the division approaches. But the NL is going to go down to the wire.

Finally, I want to once again recognize the lives and legacy of the men and women we lost 17 years ago on this day in New York, D.C. and Pennsylvania. We honor your memories again today and pray for your families as they continue to find their “new normal” with your daily absence. We will never forget.

Go Yankees!

Game 144: NYY vs. MIN — Big win in the “Mini Apple”

The Yankees kicked off their series in dramatic fashion, bringing a little “Big Apple” power to the “Mini Apple”. Yes, as a sort of play on its name, Minneapolis is actually nicknamed the “Mini Apple”, something I didn’t know until today despite always thinking of its pronunciation as such. But it also works well when comparing another fruit-based nicknamed city, like New York.

JA Happ got the start in tonight’s final interdivisional opener. Yes, it’s the last regular season series between the Yankees and a team not in the AL East. And it’s a shame because tonight’s game is proof that they kind of rock playing around the league this season. Happ threw 91 pitches in his 6 scoreless innings to earn his 16th win of the season.

In fact, Happ and the Twins’ starter had a bit of a pitchers’ duel for the first half of the game. Happ came out on top because the Yankees broke through on the back of Gary Sanchez’ 2-out big solo home run in the 6th inning. After giving up a walk to Bird right after that on his 118th pitch, the Twins’ starter called it a night and handed the ball to his first reliever, who gave a walk up to Torres but then stranded both runners.

But the Yankees had that slight lead and came back in the 7th against the Twins’ bullpen that didn’t seem to know what to do with them. First, McCutchen and Hicks each walked and then collectively scored on Miguel Andujar’s double. Giancarlo Stanton doubled to score Andujar, and the Twins brought in a new reliever. But then he gave up a double to Didi Gregorius that scored Stanton, and the Twins went back to their bullpen.

Sanchez’s single and Bird’s walk loaded up the bases, and Gleyber Torres’ single kept them loaded, scoring Gregorius. After finally getting an out, a strikeout, the Yankees went back to the top of the batting order and McCutchen’s sacrifice fly score Sanchez. Hicks’ walk loaded up the bases again, but a line drive out left them loaded.

But the damage that inning was done, which helped as Luis Cessa came on in relief for the Yankees. After a decent bottom of the 7th, his 8th inning was a bit of a struggle. With 1 out, he gave up 2 singles. A double scored the first runner, and a ground out scored the second. After a wild pitch moved the last runner to 3rd, Cessa buckled down and got a great strikeout to end the little threat.

Jonathan Holder made quick work of the 9th inning, sailing through with just 8 pitches to close out the game.

It’s worth noting that the Yankee batters got 11 hits and 10 walks, meaning 21 base runners tonight. It’s not unusual for the team with the highest number of base runners to get the highest number of runs. It does happen from time to time, usually because of some great defensive plays or out-of-jam pitching. But comparatively for tonight, the Twins got 10 hits and no walks. Sometimes, stats do matter.

Final score: 7-2 Yankees

Gary Sanchez’s big 6th inning home run was the third longest Yankee home run this season, coming in at 460 feet. He comes behind Judge’s 471 foot homer (May 23 in Texas) and himself with a 461 foot homer (May 4 against Cleveland). And tonight’s homer was just his 16th of the season thanks to his 2 stints on the DL for injuries. It’s a good reason to remember why Sanchez is still a key part of the Yankees, despite whatever other stats follow his name.

Go Yankees!