Game 148: TOR vs. NYY — Falling just short of a comeback

After yesterday’s wipe-out of the Blue Jays, the Yankees certainly continued the dramatics in the middle game of the weekend series. CC Sabathia got the start tonight and after a quick 3 outs in the 1st got roughed up for the rest of his brief outing this afternoon. He threw just 50 pitches into the 3rd, gave up 7 hits and 5 runs, and struck out only 2 batters.

In the 2nd, Sabathia gave up a lead-off solo homer on the 1st pitch to get the Blue Jays started. With 1 out, the next batter singled (as it was deemed after an overturned challenge), moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, then to 3rd on a single, and scored on another single. After another out, another single scored the lead runner for another Toronto run.

Then with 1 out in the 3rd, Sabathia gave up consecutive solo home runs to call an end to his afternoon. Chad Green was called on to replace him and started keeping things in check, holding the Blue Jays scoreless into the 5th inning. And Holder closed out the 5th and threw a solid 6th inning to keep the momentum going.

The Yankees, meanwhile, were also being held off, mostly by the Blue Jays’ starter, who only gave up 2 hits in his 5 innings and struck out 10 Yankee batters. It wasn’t until the 6th that they broke the Jays’ stranglehold on the scoreboard. Didi Gregorius led-off the 6th with a solo home run into the right field seats, making this his 2nd consecutive season with 25+ home runs. Then despite loading up the bases, the Yankees left them stranded again, failing to capitalize on these easy opportunities to chip away at the Jays’ lead.

Tommy Kahnle came on for the 7th inning and struggled his way through, loading up the bases. A great play by the defense got the lead runner out at home on a ground out. After a great strikeout, Kahnle gave up a 2-RBI single to expand the Jays’ lead. He turned things over to Stephen Tarpley, who gave up a single to score one more run.

The Yankees found one more big chance to make an impact in the bottom of the 7th. Giancarlo Stanton liked the 1st pitch he saw and sent it deep into the left field seats for his 34th home run of the season.. After a pitching change and 1 out, Didi Gregorius again smacked a solo home run to edge the Yankees closer.

Another out later, Torres doubled, Walker walked, and another new reliever walked Voit to load up the bases once again. This time, Miguel Andujar made the difference — a big grand slam to put the Yankees within a single run.

Betances and Britton each gave up a 9-pitch inning to close out the game, waiting for the Yankee batters to pull a last-minute comeback rally. It was not going to happen today.

Final score: 8-7 Blue Jays

Yankee Universe encompasses much of this nation, being “America’s Team”. But recently, one of their farm teams found themselves in the path of a major disaster. Yesterday, Hurricane Florence made landfall along the Carolina coastline. The Charleston River Dogs, the Yankees’ Single-A minor league team, finished their season earlier this month. But so many people are still under the hurricane’s destruction as it lingers and creeps itself up the coast.

David Robertson’s foundation, High Socks For Hope, has a history of helping with disaster relief, like after tornadoes, Hurricane Harvey in Texas last year, and other major disasters in the southeastern U.S. Today, they announced that they will be accepting monetary and practical donations to help, if you would like to be generous.

Our prayers are with those still under the thumb of the hurricane and in its path.

Go Yankees!

Game 147: TOR vs. NYY — Big home blowout + #TanakaTime

Sometimes, it’s good to be back in your own surroundings. The fans in the stands are in familiar regalia, the cheers makes sense with the plays, the smells and sounds are just right. It’s part of why people put a lot of stock in “home field advantage”. Not because there’s anything particularly “lucky” about your home turf, but because players are familiar with how things work and that surrounding familiarity knocks out distractions and helps them focus on the game. At least, that’s my theory.

Tonight’s game rather supported that. Especially when you throw in an opposing team that is really having a string of so-called “bad luck” recently. And Masahiro Tanaka was on point in tonight’s weekend opener against the Blue Jays. He threw 90 pitches in 6 scoreless innings, gave up 4 hits and 2 walks, and struck out 8 Toronto batters to earn his 12th win of the season.

Luis Cessa continued Tanaka’s great start with 3 scoreless innings of his own, adding 4 more strikeouts. And according to the rules, he earned the save for pitching those final 3 innings. (Statistics are rather complicated sometimes.)

The Yankee batters, meanwhile, had quite the field day in the Bronx. Every starting player got at least 1 hit, and every starter either scored a run or hit a run in, though most did both. The Blue Jays’ pitchers just couldn’t figure out how to pitch to the hot Yankee bats tonight.

In the 1st, McCutchen led-off with a double, and Stanton walked. Aaron Hicks’ single scored McCutchen, and a late throw allowed both runners to move into scoring position. After an out, Didi Gregorius hit an easy grounder that allowed Stanton to score, and Gleyber Torres’ single scored Hicks. After Sanchez singled to join Torres on base, Luke Voit hit both of them home with his double.

With a solid lead, the Yankee hits kept coming. In the 3rd, Gregorius was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Voit later worked a 2-out walk. Brett Gardner’s single scored Gregorius and signaled the end of Toronto’s starter’s night. The new reliever loaded up the bases with McCutchen’s walk before giving up a single to Giancarlo Stanton that scored both Voit and Gardner.

Andrew McCutchen led-off the 5th with a solo home run (his 1st homer in Yankee Stadium ever, by the way), and Didi Gregorius followed his example with a lead-off solo shot in the 8th. Then, with 1 out in the 8th, Sanchez doubled and was pinch-run by Higashioka. Voit reached on a fielding error, moving Higashioka to 3rd. Then Brett Gardner hit a long fly ball out to center that scored Higashioka, but they ended up catching Voit off 1st for a delayed double play to end the inning.

Final score: 11-0 Yankees

Roster moves: Good news, Yankee Universe! Today, they activated Aaron Judge from the Disabled List. His wrist’s chip fracture is healed to the point where he could come into tonight’s game late to run and play defense, but he’s not going to be hitting just yet. They want that 100% swing back without any residual pain from the power-hitter before they pencil him in the lineup. But take today’s activation as a good sign of progress.

And earlier today, the kids at PS 71 in the Bronx were treated to a fun surprise. The PitCCh In Foundation, founded by CC and Amber Sabathia, hosted a special event to celebrate the beginning of the school year. While CC was on “daddy duty”, Amber hosted Yankee stars Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks to have some fun with the local students (including a dance party with a live DJ) and hand out backpacks filled with school supplies to help the kids start the new year right, much like they did last week in California (where the Sabathias grew up).

Gregorius also considered today’s outreach as part of his #DidisDeeds, his random acts of kindness campaign wherever he is, including in Toronto in July. These guys are just amazing in how they represent the Yankee spirit of excellence and character on and off the field.

In that spirit, Sabathia is the Yankees’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, an annual award to honor those players who embody excellence and character on and off the field. You can vote for Sabathia and read more about all the other nominees and how they’re impacting their communities.

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 142: NYY vs. SEA — Yankee homers edge out victory

It’s about the time of the season when the teams really reveal who they are, who they’ve really been the whole season. It’s the time when teams are solidly eliminated from the postseason and focus on just finishing on an upswing. It’s the time when teams still in competition for the postseason are in a final push to ensure their spot for October baseball. And many players start vying for spots both on postseason teams but also on next season’s rosters.

Lance Lynn got his shot to try to show the Yankees who he can be to them, and tonight, in the middle game of this weekend series in Seattle, he had a pretty good outing. He threw just 76 pitches through 6 innings, giving up just 3 hits and 2 runs, striking out just 2 Mariners’ batters.

A lead-off solo homer off his first pitch in the 3rd was his first allowed run. But he held the home team off for much of the game. The other one squeaked by in the 5th. With 1 out and a runner at 1st, a grounder moved that runner to 2nd before he raced home on an RBI single.

But once he handed the game off to the bullpen, Lynn was ensured the win. Britton and Robertson each took an inning and kept the Mariners at bay. (By the way, they are the only MLB team where this phrase is an actual pun.) Dellin Betances earned his save the hard way, giving up a walk and single in the 9th to threaten the Yankees’ lead, but Betances’ strikeouts stunned the Mariners and sealed the deal.

The Yankees’ batters faced off against the Mariners’ former ace who used to stun opposing teams, but he was having an off-night against the visiting Yankees tonight. Andrew McCutchen, clearly proving how much he loves SafeCo Field, hit a lead-off home run in the 1st inning off that ace starter. That was also McCutchen’s 2nd run in as many days. Perhaps, he should misplace his luggage more often?

After the M’s tied up the game, the Yankees found their next opportunity in the 5th. Brett Gardner led-off by working a walk and then stole 2nd. McCutchen followed him by also working a walk. And that would be the end of the Mariners’ starter’s night. But his reliever didn’t help things. A passed ball moved the runners up to scoring position. And Giancarlo Stanton’s sacrifice fly easily scored Gardner to give the Yankees back the lead.

Then after the M’s tied up the game again, the Yankees looked to an unexpected source to put them back on top. Austin Romine hit his 10th homer of the season, a 1-out solo home run in the 7th inning. Romine becomes the 10th Yankee to his 10 or more home runs this season. This also moves the Yankees up to 232 collective homers this season, far in 1st over all other MLB teams and just 32 short of the record (by the 1997 Mariners, coincidentally).

But for an insurance run, the Yankees pieced it together in the 9th inning. Andujar led-off the inning by being hit by a pitch and pinch-run by Wade. (He’s alright, by the way, a little shaken up and sore, but a speedy substitution to get the run was a good idea in the end.) Hechavarria’s single moved Wade to 3rd so that he could score on Gleyber Torres’ sacrifice fly, the Yankees’ 51st sac fly this season (for all you trivia nerds).

Final score: 4-2 Yankees

In an interesting and random bit of trivia, the Yankees on quite the streak. Based on the fact that there’s only 20 games left of the season, they can officially say that they have 26 straight years of winning seasons. That means this particular streak is older than Andujar, Holder, Loaisiga, Severino, Tarpley, Torres, and Wade, and as old as Bird, Cessa, Cole, Judge, Sanchez, and Torreyes. In other words, for all these current Yankees, the Yankees have always been a winning team. And that is rather impressive.

Go Yankees!

Game 134: DET vs. NYY — Stanton’s 300 was the only thing worth remembering

I feel like I should make a 300 or “Sparta” joke about tonight, but the history-buff part of me won’t rely on Hollywood’s interpretation of real events to sacrifice itself for the sake of a well-placed pun. Instead, tonight’s on-field battle was a lot like the popular movie — messy, gut-wrenching at times, and rather unreal in the end.

JA Happ got the start and really had himself the off-night. He threw 92 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 10 hits and 5 runs, and struck out just 3 batters in tonight’s opener against the Tigers. And really, maybe the signs were all there as he gave up a solo home run to kick off tonight’s game.

In the 4th, with 1 out, a single stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored as part of a 2-run home run. And a 1-out single in the 5th scored as part of a 2-run home run to double the Tigers’ score. After a couple more singles, Happ handed the ball over to Green, who was able to strike his way out of the inning and strand those runners, before coming back in for a clean 6th as well. Robertson and Britton each followed with their own clean innings to help give the Yankees a chance to take the lead.

And they did, in pieces. In the 3rd, Brett Gardner singled and then tried to make it all the way to 3rd on Hicks’ single but got thrown out there in a weird sort of fielder’s choice. But Giancarlo Stanton followed that up with a big 2-run home run into the right field seats, his 300th career home run. And the crowd urged him out for his first curtain call at Yankee Stadium.

After the Tigers re-took the lead in the top of the 4th, the Yankees answered back in the bottom of that inning. Voit led-off with a single and then scored as part of Gleyber Torres’ big 2-run home run. Then with 1 out in the 5th, Hicks singled and moved to 2nd on Stanton’s walk. With a new reliever, Miguel Andujar then singled home Hicks, thanks in part to a throwing error that delayed the throw for the out.

And in the 7th, Stanton hit a 1-out double, which helped Luke Voit when he hit a 2-out 2-run home run into Monument Park to break the tie and put the Yankees on top again. Torres then singled but was thrown out making the stretch for 2nd. The second occurrence of such a play tonight, leaving some wondering if the Tigers are just that good at defense or the Yankees were having an off-night with base-running.

Anyway, the Yankees needed just 3 outs to seal their win. Dellin Betances, who’s been having a great show on the mound lately, came on to pitch the 9th inning and ended his positive streak. With 1 out, he walked one batter and then gave up consecutive home runs to first tie up the game and then give the Tigers the lead. The Yankee batters were then stymied in the bottom of the inning with a quick 3 outs.

Final score: 8-7 Tigers

Stanton & 300: Stanton’s big home run in the 3rd comes with some fun trivia. He is the 5th fastest player to hit such a milestone, taking him 1,119 games to hit 300 homers (just 2 games behind Alex Rodriguez at 1,117 games). He’s also the 9th youngest player to hit 300 homers (at 28 years and 295 days old). (And yes, I had to figure out how many “days old” I am, and it’s math I found out I don’t like.) He’s been stuck on #299 for 12 days or 10 games. Next up: 400 homers and 2000 hits (currently at 1,104).

And some Yankee prospects are headed to the Arizona Fall League to represent the Yankee farm system and improve their baseball skills — pitchers Domingo Acevedo, Jordan Foley, Hobie Harris, and Matt Wivinis; infielders Thairo Estrada and Steven Sensely; and outfielder Estevan Florial. They will join other prospects from the farm systems of the Orioles, White Sox, Indians, and Dodgers to form the Glendale Desert Dogs when the season starts October 9. It’s an honor to be selected and play on an AFL team, something many current Yankees have done on their path to pinstripes.

Go Yankees!

Game 133: CHW vs. NYY — Victory denied

The Yankees set up Giancarlo Stanton for a memorable milestone, but for some reason, the White Sox’s defense decided to kick in and show that they can be pretty decent at random (really unfavorable) times. So that 300th career home run is still out there for Stanton.

CC Sabathia got the start in tonight’s closer against the visiting White Sox and actually had a decent game, despite the outcome. He threw 91 pitches in 6 innings, gave up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, and struck out 6 batters. In the 2nd, with 2 outs and runners on the corners, both runners scored on an RBI double. And a 1-out walk scored on a 2-out double to add on one more run.

Chad Green came on for the 7th and gave up a lead-off home run, but then got his way through the inning with some great defense. AJ Cole and Tommy Kahnle each had a beautiful, clean, scoreless inning to close out the game. That means, it was up to the Yankee batters to do something significant.

They had about as much opportunity to do that as the White Sox (each team with 6 hits and 2-3 walks), but the closest the Yankees got to doing something significant was in the 5th inning. Walker and Torres hit consecutive singles and then Romine worked a 1-out walk to load up the bases. Ronald Torreyes hit a short single that scored Walker to get the Yankees on the board.

Then after another out, Stanton stepped up to the plate. The first pitch was a high strike that had Stanton swinging. But the catcher missed the catch, and it sailed back to the backstop. On reaction, Gleyber Torres made a mad dash for home. But because the ball bounced back quicker than expected, the catcher was able to grab it and toss it to the waiting pitcher to make the tag out at home.

Now, would Stanton have actually hit that 300th career homer? Who knows? But that wasn’t the point. The bases were loaded, and that milestone 300th homer that could’ve been a grand slam, but the White Sox took advantage of an easy play to halt the possibility. The Yankees didn’t get another good opportunity to explore the possibilities again.

Final score: 4-1 White Sox, and the White Sox win the series 2-1

Next up: The Tigers are in town for a 4-game weekend series and help usher in the September push. Then the Yankees head out the West Coast for a few important series against the Athletics and the Mariners, and then head inland to face the Twins before heading back home for their final home stand of the regular season.

Before the game, a couple of power-hitters finally met each other. “Big Al” Delia from Middletown, New Jersey, played in the Little League World Series with his hometown team earlier this summer. They were knocked out in the regional round, but “Big Al” was a huge fan favorite, even quoted at one point as the kind of player that “hits big dingers”. And today, the young Yankees fan got to meet another hitter of “big dingers” — Giancarlo Stanton and watch batting practice. And it was awesome.

After they released the regular 2019 schedule last week, it was only a matter of time before they released the Spring Training schedule. So there’s some important dates to remember to kick off the 2019 season. Players and catchers report on February 13, and the rest of the squad on February 18. The first Spring game is against the Red Sox on February 23, and the first home game is on February 25 (vs. Blue Jays).

The last Spring home game (also vs. Blue Jays) is March 23, and the last Spring game is the next day (vs. Twins). They will also play the Nationals at Nationals Park in a final Spring game on March 25 before the Season (and home) Opener March 28 against the Orioles. That’s 32 Spring games (including the one at Nationals Park) before the regular season starts.

Go Yankees!

Game 131: CHW vs. NYY — 9th inning derailment

It ended up being one of those games that started off so good and just spiraled out of control at the end. It’s never a fun feeling when it starts feeling helpless. And this on a game where an interesting milestone was reached and one still lingers for the Yankees newcomers.

The Yankees got on the board first in the 4th inning. Andujar led-off with a walk and then Gleyber Torres hit a giant 1-out 2-run home run into Monument Park. But they didn’t do much more than that tonight. They only got 3 hits and 4 walks all night, despite only getting 3 strikeouts. That means they spent the night hitting grounders and fly balls.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start in this opening game against the visiting White Sox. It wasn’t really a great outing, but it wasn’t that bad for most of it. He threw 98 pitches in 7 innings, gave up 10 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, and struck out 7 batters, and got himself out of several really bad jams.

But Tanaka held them off through the first half of the game. It wasn’t until the 6th that he got into some trouble. With 1 out, he loaded up the bases (again), gave up a double that scored the Sox’s first 2 runs and a sacrifice fly that scored the 3rd. And in the 7th, a lead-off single ended up at 2nd on a fielding error and then scored on a double. But then he left the runner stranded as he got 3 good fly outs.

Tommy Kahnle threw a really great clean 8th inning before handing the ball over to AJ Cole for a really messy 9th inning. He gave up a lead-off single and tried to pick him off but a bad throw allowed that runner to move to 2nd. A ground out moved that runner to 3rd and then scored when the next batter hit into a fielding error, which allowed the new runner to make it to 2nd. He then stole 3rd. And the next batter technically struck out, but it was on a wild pitch that allowed him to safely make it to 1st as the runner at 3rd slid into home for yet another run scored.

The Yankees just didn’t show up to play tonight. And if they did, they didn’t bring their A-game. It wasn’t good and it didn’t get better. Which is tough to say because of like Torreyes’ triple and a solid double play.

Final score: 6-2 White Sox

Okay, the milestones: Giancarlo Stanton is currently sitting at 299 career home runs, so each at-bat could potentially be his 300th. So Stanton going 0-for-4 tonight didn’t get him near that milestone. But there’s always tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the next…

And Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres are now part of an elite group of rookies. With Torres’ big 444 foot homer in the 4th (his longest home run in his career, so far), they became the 8th rookie duo in MLB history to have 2 rookies on the same team have at least 20 home runs. (Andujar currently has 21 home runs.) Add in that both players should easily be in the mix for Rookie of the Year, and this is going to be something to watch develop over time.

On a final note: in light of tonight’s loss, I wanted to include a Tweet I read last week that I’ve been saving to share on another day of disappointment. It still very much applies and it puts things into perspective. Remember that the Yankees are still the 2nd best team in all of baseball. So just take a moment, Yankee Universe.

 

(Note: as of today, they are actually 35 games over .500 and on track to 102 season wins, currently 83 wins and 48 losses.)

Go Yankees!