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!

Game 140: NYY vs. OAK — Sevy Not So Sharp

Okay, while they deny the excuse, it’s certainly something to consider. The Yankees opted to change up their signs between pitcher and catcher. Yes, professional athletes should be able to rise above something like mixed signs, but it can’t help basic levels of frustration or high emotions in the heat of the moment. All of which certainly exacerbate even a slight error. In other words, it doesn’t matter why. It just happened, and it stinks.

In this final game against the Athletics, Luis Severino got the start and just got roughed up from the start. He threw 59 pitches into just the 3rd inning, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and 6 runs (5 earned), and struck out 3 Oakland batters. His first inning was just a mess and did enough damage that the Yankees couldn’t recover.

In that 1st inning, Severino allowed a lead-off double that moved to 3rd on the first passed ball and then scored on an RBI single to start the A’s night. After giving up another double, that runner moved to 3rd on the first wild pitch. Another double allowed that runner to score. Then a passed ball and a wild pitch moved that runner to 3rd and then score another run.

After a super quick 7-pitch 2nd inning, Severino came back for the 3rd and had some trouble again. He gave up a lead-off walk and a single before a ground out moved them into scoring position. After a strikeout, he gave up a single that scored both runners. That was it for Severino tonight.

He handed the ball over to Jonathan Holder. His first pitch became a quick line drive out to end the inning. But he had his own issues in the 4th inning. He gave up a lead-off single that moved to 2nd on a walk, ended up a 3rd on a fielder’s choice, and then scored on a grounder.

Luis Cessa then got his turn at some long-term relief for 3 innings. And for the most part, it was a decent outing. With 2 outs in the 6th, 2 doubles scored a final run for the A’s. Then, Tarpley and Kahnle split the 8th inning to close out this messy game for the Yankees.

The Yankees weren’t exactly playing the kind of game or getting the kind of hits they needed to do much of anything in tonight’s game. In fact, they were on their way to getting shut out of the game for the first 6 innings. In the 7th, Hicks led-off with a walk, and then scored as part of Gary Sanchez’s big 2-run home run. And that would be it for the Yankee offense that mattered.

Final score: 8-2 Athletics, the A’s win the series 2-1.

Next up: after an off-day/travel day tomorrow, the Yankees face the Mariners for the weekend before heading to face the Twins. Another off-day/travel day and the Yankees then begin their final home stand, a week of games to close out Bronx games this season. Then a final week on the road will close out this season and month against division rivals.

Well, this West Coast trip is not turning out how the Yankees wanted so far, but there is still two more sets of games to right the ship, as it were. Yes, that was a sea-faring metaphor in anticipation of the next opponent, the Mariners. I’m gearing up for the Yankees’ journey to Emerald City. Yes, The Wizard of Oz is set to make a few appearances too. Seattle is filled with great opportunities for metaphors.

Take a moment to vote for the Yankees’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, CC Sabathia, or whomever you deem is worth your vote. Sabathia will spend his off-day tomorrow working with the local arm of his PitCCh In Foundation to give backpacks filled with school supplies to Bay area school children. Sabathia and his wife Amber grew up in nearby Vallejo and still have family in the area that help facilitate their generosity to help local kids.

Injury update: despite some recent progress, Clint Frazier is still dealing with lingering and recurring concussion symptoms. This really comes down to Frazier probably missing the rest of this season. Honestly, this might be for the best. He really needs to fully recover. Head injuries are not something to be taken lightly, as a certain other sport is just starting to realize. We continue to wish him a full recovery in whatever time it takes that best works for his body and for his safety and health.

Go Yankees!

Game 137: DET vs. NYY — Sunday split

Well, that was messy. I know I’ve said it a lot on here in the six years that I’ve been keeping this blog, but the old saying is so quite true — “if you don’t got pitching, you don’t got anything.” And it’s games like this afternoon’s game that proves that mantra’s eternal truth.

Lance Lynn just couldn’t find his momentum in today’s finale against the Tigers. He threw 82 pitches into the 4th inning, gave up 9 hits, a walk, and 6 runs, and struck out 6 Detroit batters on his way to today’s loss. In the 1st, a 1-out triple easily scored on a 2-out single to get the Tigers’ big afternoon started.

With 1 out in the 2nd, he gave up a single that moved to 2nd on another single and then scored on a double. But when a walk loaded the bases, their great defense kicked in and got a double play to end the threat. Then in the 4th, Lynn repeated the action — 2 singles and an RBI double. Then another double scored 2 more runs for the visitors.

And with that, Lynn’s outing was over. Tommy Kahnle came in to try to stem the tide but promptly gave up a 2-run home run. He then handed the ball over to Sonny Gray for the next 4 innings. Gray had a better outing than most of the other Yankee pitchers today, limiting the damage to just 4 hits, a walk, and a run over through the 8th inning. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo homer in the 6th.

Stephen Tarpley got the chance to close out the game in the 9th inning. But even he had some issues. He loaded up the bases with a double and 2 walks with 2 outs. Then he gave up a couple of singles to score 3 more runs. Yankee pitchers gave up a total of 17 hits. It was just not pretty.

But it wasn’t like the Yankees were completely shut out of the game. Aaron Hicks got things started early, with a 1-out solo home run in the 1st. Andujar then doubled and scored on Gary Sanchez’s single (good to have him back on the roster). Luke Voit added his own impact with a solid 1-out solo home run in the 4th.

Held to those runs for the bulk of the game, the Yankees found their next shot in the 8th. McCutchen led-off the inning by getting hit by a pitch, moved to 2nd on Hicks’ walk, and then scored on Miguel Andujar’s single. They later loaded up the bases with 2 outs and a new reliever, and Neil Walker’s short single just scored Andujar. But a fly out left the bases loaded.

So, with just 3 outs left, the Yankees had one last shot to chip away at the Tigers’ lead in the bottom of the 9th. But the Tigers’ closer (and former Yankee) got a quick 2 outs. The Yankees came back and loaded up the bases with Hicks’ walk, Andujar’s single, and Sanchez’s walk. Gleyber Torres hit a nice single to drive in both Hicks and Andujar. But a strikeout closed out the game without

Final score: 11-7 Tigers, and they split the series 2-2.

Next up: The Yankees hit the road and head out to the West Coast for 3 games against the Athletics starting tomorrow. Following an off-day on Thursday, they begin a weekend series in Seattle before a series against the Twins. After another off-day/travel day, they will return home for a 9-game home stand, their final home stand of the season. Then, the Yankees will end this season on the road with 7 games.

And Aaron Boone watched today’s game from a suite instead of the dugout due to his punishment from his ejection on Friday. He had some issues with the strike zone and made a much-discussed show of why he disagreed with the home plate umpire’s calls. Due to his “display”, the league opted to suspend him a game and fine him as punishment. Bench coach Josh Bard served as interim manager for today’s game.

Roster moves/injury updates: Before today’s game, the Yankees continued their September roster expansion by recalling reliever Jonathan Loaisiga from AA Trenton. It also looks like Didi Gregorius may be headed back to the line-up sometime next week, hopefully when the team plays Seattle next weekend. His bruised heel is making a recovery and Gregorius continues treatments and working out with the team as the injury will allow.

Go Yankees!

Game 136: DET vs. NYY — A 2-hit wonder

The funny thing about baseball is that for all its statistics and numbers, it really just boils down to a lone stat — runs scored. Everything else ultimately is either for individual glory (or detriment). And this afternoon’s game in the Bronx was a great example of that. The Yankees, who ultimately won the game, only got 2 hits and 5 walks, while the Tigers worked 9 hits and just 1 walk off Yankee pitchers. The difference was simple — the Yankees scored just one more run and thus won the game.

Still, Masahiro Tanaka got the start this afternoon, throwing 96 pitches in 7 innings, giving up 7 hits, a walk, and just 1 run, striking out 6 Detroit batters to earn his 10th win this season. In fact, his terrible inning was in the top of the game. He gave up 3 consecutive singles to load up the bases before allowing a sacrifice fly to score just 1 run. Tanaka held the Tigers to that lone run for the rest of his outing.

Jonathan Holder had a better outing today, throwing just 8 pitches in the 8th inning, before Dellin Betances’ clean 9th inning closed out the game and helped deliver the victory to the home team.

As good as the Yankee pitchers were today, the Tigers’ starter and his relievers actually held the home team to those 2 hits. In fact, their starter held the Yankees hitless and scoreless through the first 4 innings, having a bit of a perfect game, with 7 big strikeouts. However, in the 5th, Miguel Andujar broke his streak with a walk to lead-off the inning. One out later, Gleyber Torres hit his 22nd homer, a 2-run home run into the left field seats to get the Yankees on the board and in the lead.

Despite such a great start, the Tigers opted to go to their bullpen right there in the middle of the 5th. That first reliever promptly loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a hit-by-pitch (welcome to the Bronx, Andrew McCutchen!), but then a pop-up left them stranded. And that would be the last good opportunity the Yankees would get all afternoon.

Final score: 2-1 Yankees

Speaking of the new guy, Andrew McCutchen, clean-shaven and wearing #26, led-off the game and played right field in his Yankees’ debut today. He also got his first foray as part of the famed Roll Call from the Bleacher Creatures, something that made his smile linger for most of the 1st inning. The veteran outfielder should be an easy fan favorite for the fans in the outfield bleachers, much like he was with his former team in Pittsburgh.

It’s September. And with the turn of the calendar page comes the September call-ups, where each team is allowed to expand its daily 25 player roster up to 40 active players. This nicely coincided with both recent trades of McCutchen and Adeiny Hechavarria. They also activated Gary Sanchez off the 10-day disabled list, fully recovered from his recent groin injury.

The Yankees also recalled infielder Tyler Wade and reliever Luis Cessa and selected the contract of reliever Stephen Tarpley from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. And to make room on the 40-man roster for Tarpley, the Yankees opted to designate outfielder Shane Robinson for assignment.

Of course, that still leaves three big names on the Disabled List — Didi Gregorius (bruised heel), Aaron Judge (fractured wrist), and Aroldis Chapman (knee tendinitis). All three are actively receiving treatments, something the Yankees are hoping will bring them back sooner rather than later. But clearly the recent acquisitions are the Yankees’ way of shoring up their staff in case those lingering issues decide to linger a bit longer.

Go Yankees!

Game 126: NYY vs. MIA — Just disappointed

There’s a lot of adjectives people throw around at the end of a game like tonight’s. I mean, I get it. The Marlins are one of the worst teams in baseball this season (5th worst, as of this posting), and the Yankees are still the 2nd best team in baseball. So when the script is flipped and the winning Yankees get trounced by the losing Marlins, people get frustrated or angry or disenchanted or just disappointed.

But I’m just reminded of what was said over the weekend when the 1998 team got undesired results — that disappointment from the manager (Joe Torre) and the fans was enough to motivate the team to do better, to be better. You’re not going to be disappointed if there’s no comparison for potential, that you actually have the capabilities to be better than whatever just happened. Paul O’Neill compared the feeling to disappointing your dad, and mostly, parents are disappointed in their children because they know they can be and should be better than whatever just happened. It doesn’t mean they love them any less, but they certainly want better things for them.

And I think Yankee Universe wants better things for this team. Lance Lynn got the start in tonight’s finale of this quick 2-game series in Miami. He threw 110 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 9 hits, a walk, and 5 runs, and struck out 6 batters. But he didn’t allow a single run until that 6th run and gave up 5 of his 9 hits in that inning alone.

So, in the 6th, he allowed consecutive singles that moved up on a ground out. The lead runner scored on another single, before a 3-run home run cleared the bases and put the Marlins in the lead. After giving up another single, Lynn’s night was done and he handed things over to Tommy Kahnle. Kahnle gave up a double to score Lynn’s final runner, before he got 2 solid strikeouts.

Actually, the Yankees got on the board first in the 4th. Hicks worked a 1-out walk and then scored on Neil Walker’s 2-out double. Then in the 6th, Gardner led-off with a single, stole 2nd on a strikeout, and moved to 3rd on Hicks’ single. After the Marlins’ starter intentionally walked Andujar to load the bases, the Marlins went to their bullpen. That reliever gave up a sacrifice fly to Neil Walker to score Gardner.

After the Yankees gave up the lead in the bottom of the 6th, they came back in the 7th to try to chip away at the Marlins’ lead. After 2 quick outs, pinch-hitter Voit singled and moved to 2nd on Gardner’s walk. A new reliever’s wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position, and Voit then scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s single.

But then the Marlins’ bullpen stopped giving the Yankees opportunities to advance, something the Yankees’ bullpen clearly didn’t do. Chance Adams came into the game for the 7th inning and just struggled through his outing. He gave up consecutive walks, one of which was complicated by a throwing error that moved the lead runner to 3rd. A fielder’s choice scored that lead runner. Another batter reached safely on another error, but the next guy hit into a double play to get out of the inning.

However, Adams’ troubles continued on in the 8th. A lead-off single scored as part of a 1st pitch pinch-hitter’s 2-run homer. Then with 1 out, a walk moved to 2nd on a single and then scored on another single. Adams’ night was just done at that point, AJ Cole took 5 pitches to get a fly out to end the inning and the Yankees’ pitchers’ disappointing night.

Final score: 9-3 Marlins, split series 1-1

Next up: Tomorrow is an off-day/travel day for the Yankees as they prepare for this weekend’s 4-game series in Baltimore. Technically, it’s a 3-game series, but a make-up game made Saturday a doubleheader. Then, they’re back in the Bronx for a week to face the White Sox and Tigers before heading out to the West Coast.

Injury news/roster moves: The Yankees officially moved Aroldis Chapman to the 10-day disabled list with his recurring left knee tendinitis. To fill his roster spot, they recalled reliever Chance Adams from AAA Scranton, who pitched in tonight’s game. And Gary Sanchez’s return from his groin injury is nearing. He will play in a Gulf Coast League (Rookie) game this week before joining the RailRiders (AAA) next week for his rehab. He should then rejoin the Yankees if all goes well.

Go Yankees!