Game 80: TOR vs. NYY — Walk-off and glory by All-Star Finalists

Well, that was… eventful. Leave it to this year’s Yankees to close out their final home stand before the All-Star Break with quite the dramatic flair. The Blue Jays, for their part, certainly made it one worth fighting for all the way to the end.

James Paxton got a rocky start in this afternoon’s finale, throwing 91 pitches into the 5th inning. He gave up 8 hits, 4 walks, and 6 runs, and struck out 3 Toronto batters. At the top of the game, he gave up consecutive walks that then scored on a 3-run home run to the glee of the smattering of Blue Jay fans in the stadium. Then in the 2nd, a 1-out single scored on a 2-run home run to add more to the Jays’ early lead.

After settling into a good pattern for the next few innings, Paxton gave up a lead-off solo home run in the 5th. After a walk and out, he handed the ball over to Hale to close out the inning. Hale quickly picked the runner off 1st and got a grounder to do so. He continued that momentum through a scoreless 6th inning. Then, Ottavino and Tarpley each took an inning to run with that pattern.

In the mean time, the Yankees chipped away at the visitors’ lead. With 1 out in the 2nd, Didi Gregorius continued the Yankees’ homer magic with a solo home run, making it the 29th consecutive game with a home run. The Yankees loaded up the bases with a walk to Hicks, a single by Torres, and a 2-out walk to LeMahieu. Aaron Judge’s single scored both Hicks and Torres.

DJ LeMahieu came back in the 4th to hit a 1-out 2-run home run. In the 5th, Encarnacion hit a 1-out double, moved to 3rd on Gregorius’ single, and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ sacrifice fly to finally tie up the game. With 2 outs in the 6th, the Yankees finally took the lead. Judge singled, moved to 2nd on Sanchez’s single, and then scored the go-ahead run on Luke Voit’s single.

Things were finally looking up for the home team. Zack Britton came on to close out the game, but he immediately struggled his way through those pesky 3 outs. The lead-off batter singled, his pinch-runner took 2nd on a passed ball, and then scored on a single to tie the game up again.

So, the game went to the bottom of the 9th. With 1 out, Gregorius singled. Hicks worked a walk to moved Gregorius to scoring position. And then he did on Gleyber Torres’ walk-off single.

Final score: 8-7 Yankees, Yankees sweep the series 3-0

Next up: The Yankees travel across the pond for their much-anticipated series against the Red Sox in London. They have the next two days off for travel/jet lag and will start the mini-series agains their famed rivals on Saturday. They will come back to America with an off-day the first day of July before doing a quick 2-game series in Queens against the Mets. They will spend the final weekend before the All-Star Break in Tampa for a 4-game series there.

Injury update/roster moves: Despite some home for a simple injury, Giancarlo Stanton is headed back to the Injured List. An MRI revealed a strain (or partial tear) in the posterior cruciate ligament in the knee, the connective tissue between the leg bones close to the back of the knee, behind the patella (knee cap).

The Yankees have recalled Mike Tauchman to replace Stanton on the roster. In preparation for the big London series, the teams are allowed to carry a 26th man on their roster. They will select Thairo Estrada. However, Kyle Higashioka and Chance Adams will be held in standby in case they are needed due to injury.

Yankee Trivia: I was not aware of this until today, but this is a great fact. As of today, the Yankees have played 162 regular games straight without being shutout. They have scored in every game for an entire season. That is quite the feat, though it is short of the record held by the Yankees way back from 1931-1933. Those Yankees got runs in 308 straight games, and even won the World Series in the middle of that (1932), their fourth championship.

Finally, VOTE NOW for your favorite finalists in the Final Vote for the All-Star Game. You get one vote on MLB and one vote on Google, so choose wisely. For your consideration, there are six Yankees on the ballot in their respective positions — Luke Voit (1st base), DJ LeMahieu (2nd base), Gio Urshela (3rd base), Gleyber Torres (shortstop), Gary Sanchez (catcher), and Aaron Judge (outfield). This round of voting ends Thursday at 4 pm ET.

Go Yankees!

Game 79: TOR vs. NYY — It’s “28” for the Yankees, a sign for October?

The Yankees made history tonight. Right in the 1st inning, a lead-off home run by DJ LeMahieu moved the Yankees into the history books as the MLB team with the most consecutive games with a home run with the fated number of 28. But they may not be done yet with this kind of momentum, continuing their moniker of “Bronx Bombers”. And in passing, Yankee Universe is hoping that the number “28” is catching as the team is hoping to move forward from its 27 championships. (Hint, hint.)

Chad Green got the start as the “opener” again in tonight’s game, the middle game of this 3-game mid-week series against the visiting Blue Jays. Green needed 13 pitches to breeze his way through the 1st inning before handing the game over to Nestor Cortes Jr for long-term relief. Cortes pitched strong through the 5th inning, but he had trouble when he came out for the 6th.

Cortes gave up a single and double to put runners in scoring position, which they proceeded to do on a sacrifice fly and a single. Kahnle came in as the rescue reliever again to clamp down and close out the 6th. Yankee pitchers went back to the strong scoreless kind with Tarpley and Britton sailing through their respective innings.

In the 9th, Aroldis Chapman gave up a single on his 1st pitch, who moved to 2nd on a wild pitch. The next batter got to 1st on a catcher’s interference before getting consecutive strikeouts. But to amp up the drama, the next batter singled home the lead runner before a simple ground out got them out of the inning.

That didn’t help as the Yankee offense was oddly limited as far as the scoreboard to just solo home runs. After LeMahieu led-off the Yankees with a record-setting solo home run into the 2nd deck of the left field, Aaron Judge followed him up with one of his own, a solo home run just shy of the Bleacher Creatures.

Then, with 2 outs in the 2nd, Gleyber Torres got in on the fun with a solo home run of his own. But it was Edwin Encarnacion’s 2-out solo home run in the 8th, just past the special frequent stadium avian visitor, that would end up being the insurance run the home team needed to pull out the win.

Final score: 4-3 Yankees

Before the game, the Yankees continued to honor Pride Month by asking City Council speaker Corey Johnson to throw out the ceremonial first pitch and invited the first ever recipients of the Stonewall Scholars Initiative to unveil a plaque in Monument Park to honor the 50th anniversary of the world-changing events at the Stonewall Inn just a few miles south of the Stadium.

Last month, the Yankees announced the Stonewall Scholars Initiative. The Initiative is a personal donation by the Steinbrenner Family of $50,000 in college scholarship to five local graduating seniors from each of the boroughs as “recognition of their academic achievement, commitment to equality, and impactful support for the LGBTQ community”.

Injury update: After all the hubbub in the 1st, Giancarlo Stanton hit a single but was later tagged out at 3rd on the double play to end the inning. He dove back to the bag and banged up his knee on the infield at bit. He continued in the game for the next 2 innings, but he knew it was stiffening up and asked to be replaced by Gardner for the 4th. It doesn’t look series, and an MRI will hopefully confirm it was just a contusion (bruise), which a few days rest and ice will help heal rather quickly.

Roster moves: Before tonight’s game, the Yankees officially optioned Jonathan Holder to AAA Scranton (as we discussed yesterday) and recalled reliever Stephen Tarpley, who ended up pitching well tonight. They also activated Kendrys Morales from the 10-day IL and designated him for assignment, a predictable progression as regular players heal up and come off the IL.

And finally, tomorrow is the 75th anniversary of a game played by the 3 New York-based teams at the same time, as in all 3 teams (Yankees, Giants, and Dodgers) somehow played a ball game against each other about 3 weeks after D-Day to help boost stateside morale and raise money for the war effort.

There were about 500 local wounded veterans as special guests of the teams and nearly 50,000 fans packed the stands to play this oddball “Tri-Cornered Game”. All the ticket proceeds went to a larger donation of $56 million to the war effort, which included a little $50 million boost from the city itself.

Admittedly, for all the history I know, I had never heard of this event until today. But it’s history, execution, and legacy is absolutely fascinating. It took about 2 hours and 5 minutes to play to a final score of Dodgers 5, Yankees 1, and Giants 0, with absolutely no home runs hit during the game. Though, to be fair, many of the stars and power-hitters from that era (and future Hall of Famers) were busy fighting on both fronts and not playing baseball.

Go Yankees!

Game 78: TOR vs. NYY — Middle innings’ splash

The Yankees hosted the Blue Jays tonight to start their final home series before London and the All-Star Break. And again, the Yankees were still on an offensive roll. The kind of streak the Yankees really need to boost their standings leading to the next two weeks.

CC Sabathia got the start tonight, throwing 104 pitches in 6 innings, giving up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and struck out an impressive 9 Toronto batters to set himself up for the eventual win. Most of the Blue Jays’ offense came in that 1st inning. A lead-off walk scored on a double, and 2 outs later, a single scored on another double to give the visitors an early lead.

The Yankees weren’t able to crack into the Jays’ starter until the 5th inning. With 1 out, LeMahieu and Voit singled, and then Aaron Hicks smacked a 3-run home run to both put the Yankees in the lead and to continue the record-making season (see below). But it was the 6th inning that made all the difference in the game.

Gregorius led-off with a single, moved to 3rd on Torres’ double, and then scored on Gio Urshela’s single. Brett Gardner hit into a fielder’s choice that scored Torres. LeMahieu then singled, and after a pitching change, Luke Voit’s double scored both Gardner and LeMahieu. Hicks then worked a walk. Then Giancarlo Stanton smacked a huge 3-run home run (445 feet to left center field) to push the home team into a dominating lead.

Now, Sabathia and the defense held them to that early lead for most of the game until the Yankees finally took a commanding lead in those middle innings. Kahnle came in and sailed his way through the 7th inning with just 8 pitches. But it would be the 8th inning that the visitors would mount their attempt at a comeback rally.

Jonathan Holder’s struggles continued tonight, coming out to face batters in the 8th. He gave up a lead-off solo home run and then loaded the bases with consecutive singles. This set up the next batter to hit a grand slam to edge the Jays way closer to the Yankees’ lead.

That was the end of Holder’s outing, and the Yankees called in Green to finish the inning. But after 2 outs, even Green had issues and gave up 2 singles. Ottavino to the rescue — 3 pitches for a perfect strikeout to get out of that messy inning for the home team. Aroldis Chapman came in for the 9th. After 1 out, the next batter doubled and ended up at 3rd on a fielding error to then score on a sacrifice fly.

Final score: 10-8 Yankees

Yes, that 5th inning 3-run home run by Aaron Hicks made it 27 consecutive games the Yankees have hit at least one home run. That officially ties the MLB record that the Rangers set in 2002. A home run in tomorrow’s game will anoint the Yankees as the new record holders, and if any team can do it, it’s this one.

Roster moves: After the game, the Yankees made the decision to send Jonathan Holder back down to AAA Scranton to work out his issues. This has worked out well for many players in the past, even crediting such a demotion with saving their careers. I have no doubt Holder will be back soon in the kind of form we’re used to seeing him, leaving the bad mojo (or whatever it is) in Scranton. The corresponding roster move is to be determined.

Go Yankees!

Game 76: HOU vs. NYY — Yankee power, even in singles

The Yankees’ march into the summer and towards the All-Star Break with dominance, hitting the harder part of their schedule in the perfect spot, and (now, I’m just guessing here) this could make all the difference come time for October baseball in just a few short months.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start for this third game of the weekend series against the visiting Astros. It really wasn’t his best outing, but he kept the Astros scoreless for most of his outing. He threw 88 pitches in 6 innings, gave up 8 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and struck out just 1 batter. It wasn’t until his last inning that the Astros got on board with a lead-off single that scored as part of a 1-out 2-run home run.

That actually tied up the game as the Yankees were the first to get on the board. They too were scoreless for the first half of the game. In the 5th, Hicks worked a 1-out walk and scored on Gio Urshela’s 2-out 2-run home run. After the Astros tied up the game, the Yankees came back in the bottom of the inning to reclaim those runs, loading up the bases with walks to LeMahieu and Judge and a single to Voit. Giancarlo Stanton’s single scored both LeMahieu and Judge.

Once again, this didn’t last long. Jonathan Holder had some trouble in his 7th inning. With 2 outs, he gave up consecutive singles that boosted the Astros’ score up and over the Yankees when the next batter hit a big 3-run home run. That slim lead was erased in the bottom of the 7th when Austin Romine smacked a 1-out solo home run on the first pitch of his at-bat.

The game was tied again. LeMahieu singled and took 2nd on a wild pitch before Judge got 1st on catcher’s interference. (Is that still a thing?) Both runners moved up on a ground out and then scored again on Stanton’s single.

Ottavino and Britton closed out the game with a scoreless inning a piece, though both got themselves into and out of self-inflicted jams.

Final score: 7-5 Yankees

Injury update: After an MRI, Cameron Maybin has been diagnosed with a grade 2 calf strain in his left leg. So, yes, he’s headed for a stint on the IL. For how long and who will replace him is still to be determined. But with a packed outfield already, the replacement will probably favor expanding the bullpen.

Yankees Trivia: With Gio Urshela’s 5th inning home run, the Yankees officially tied the Yankees franchise record set in June 1941 of 25 consecutive games with a home run. They’re also closing in on the MLB record of 27 set by the Rangers in August 2002. I know I’m not the only one who is hoping for both a new franchise and MLB record. This team deserves the honor and the legacy.

Go Yankees!

Game 68: NYY vs. CHW — The Friday night blues

The advantage to having a very long season, playing 162 regular games over half a year, is that one game (at least during the regular season) doesn’t define the entire season. Unlike some other American sports, the Yankees can close the chapter on a bad game and start fresh the next day with another game and another chance at playing a good game and maybe even winning that one.

CC Sabathia is still on the hunt for that 250th win of his career, and tonight’s game just wasn’t going be it. Sabathia got the start in the second of this four game series against the White Sox. He threw 77 pitches into the 5th inning, allowed 10 hits, 3 walks, and 6 runs (5 earned), and struck out just 3 Chicago batters.

In the 1st, the lead-off batter doubled thanks in part of fan interference. A 1-out single put runners on the corners, and they both scored on a big 3-run home run to push the White Sox into the lead. The next batter walked, moved to 2nd on another walk, and then scored on a single. Actually, the last play was originally called out on a tag, but after the White Sox’s successfully (and honestly, rightfully) challenged the call, the run scored.

With 1 out in the 2nd, the next batter ended up at 2nd on a messy fielding error and then scored on a double. Then in the 5th, a 1-out single moved to 3rd on a 2-out single. And with runners again threatening to widen the home team’s lead, the Yankees called an end to Sabathia’s night.

Luis Cessa came in to close out the 5th, but first gave up a single to score the lead runner. In the 6th, Cessa continued the struggles that Sabathia began. A lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a single and then scored on a fielder’s choice and throwing error (a messy attempt at a double play). After giving up a double, Cessa gave up a big 3-run home run to ensure the White Sox win.

After giving up another single, the Yankees were forced to go back to the bullpen. David Hale closed out the rest of the game, keeping the White Sox from furthering their rather large lead. Hale breezed his way through 7 outs with just 24 pitches.

On the other side of the field, the Yankees struggled their way to find an offense. While the White Sox got 16 total hits, the Yankees only eked out 6. Luke Voit got the first one of the game, a big 1-out solo home run in the 1st inning to actually get the Yankees on the board first.

But with the implosion of the Yankee pitching and defense tonight, the Yankees were pressed to find another chance to actually do something offensively as they watched the White Sox continue to grow their lead into double digits. It wasn’t until the 9th that some snazzy base running finally broke the stalemate for the Yankees.

Gleyber Torres led-off with a walk, moved to 2nd on a ground out, got to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on a rather funny little fielding error on Mike Tauchman’s at-bat. And that would be it for the Yankees on the final scoreboard, bookending the game with a blast and a blip.

Final score: 10-2 White Sox

CC K-Count: 3036

On the bright side, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton began their rehab assignments with AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders tonight. Judge is having a slow start to his rehab, going 0-for-4 at the plate as tonight’s designated hitter. But Stanton helped the offense with a big 3-run home run in the 3rd. Actually, they ended up being the only runs the RailRiders scored all night, losing to the Rays’ AAA affiliate 16-3.

In random trivia that I stumbled across researching for this post, apparently, tonight’s losses spanned the entire Yankees organization. All of the Yankee affiliates lost their Friday games to their respective opponents from rookie ball on up to the big boys in Chicago.

So, all across Yankee Universe, we now close tonight’s chapter, turn the page, wake up fresh tomorrow, and start all over again. Oh, and vote for your favorite All-Stars.

Go Yankees!

Game 47: NYY vs. BAL — Yankee dominance continues in Charm City

The Yankee dominance, especially against the Orioles, continues. Domingo German, the unexpected rising star starter this season, got the start in the second game of this 4-game series against the Orioles. he threw 93 pitches in 5 innings, allowed 5 hits, a walk, and 3 runs (2 earned), and struck out 5 batters.

In fact, he kept the home team scoreless through most of his outing, getting himself out of an earlier jam, and not finding true troubles until his final inning. The lead-off batter was hit by a pitch. The next batter hit a short grounder that German fielded himself to turn into a double play, but a bad throw allowed both runners to be safe and set up the next batter’s big 3-run home run to get the O’s on the board.

David Hale came on in relief for the final 4 innings of the game and also had a fairly strong outing. He only allowed one run. In the 6th, his lead-off batter doubled, moved to 3rd on one ground out, and scored on the next one. But Hale commanded his way through the rest of the game, earning the rare 4-out save (despite the disparity of runs scored).

But it was the Yankees’ offense to dominate the game and give quite the hefty cushion for German and Hale. In the 1st, LeMahieu and Voit kicked the game off with consecutive singles and then scored as part of Gary Sanchez’s big 3-run home run to start the big show today.

Hicks worked a 1-out walk in the 3rd and then scored on Gio Urshela’s 2-out double. Urshela then scored on Clint Frazier’s big 2-run home run. Then in the 5th, with 1 out, Hicks and Torres walked and scored on Frazier’s second big home run, a 3-run power shot up the middle.

This went unanswered by the Orioles in most of the game, but even when they got on the board, the Yankees’ lead was still too large for the O’s to really chip away too much. Plus, the Yankees still had a few more runs to add in the 6th. With 1 out, LeMahieu singled, moved to 3rd on Voit’s single, and then scored when Gary Sanchez hit into a fielder’s choice. Hicks’ single moved Sanchez to 3rd, and Gleyber Torres singled him home to cap off the Yankees runs tonight.

Final score: 11-4 Yankees

Injury updates: Giancarlo Stanton (biceps strain) was to be in Tampa this week working on his rehab assignment. He play in Monday night’s game, even smacking a big home run for the Tampa Yankee fans at Steinbrenner Field. But he ended up feeling a tightness in his left knee and didn’t play in last night’s game. This will be a small delay in his rehab, not joining the team when they visit the Royals this weekend, and may force him to have extended games with another Yankees’ minor league team.

Other Yankees are on the mend. After Masahiro Tanaka took a foul ball off his shin on his last start (Saturday vs. Rays), there was some caution about his next move. But he threw a bullpen session against Aaron Judge today, and Tanaka seemed good to go for his next start, flipping with Sabathia for upcoming starts to give Tanaka one extra day. Sabathia will start Thursday at Baltimore, Tanaka on Friday in Kansas City.

Meanwhile, the at-bats Aaron Judge (oblique strain) took against Tanaka were also a good clue for his recovery. Things are looking good for the injured power-hitter, just slower than I think everyone (including Judge) would hope for. He’s continuing to ramp up his baseball activities and progressing as much as his body will allow on his road to health.

Scranton Shuttle: The Yankees made a move for a fresh arm again before today’s game. They sent reliever Nestor Cortes Jr. back to AAA Scranton in exchange for signing David Hale to the big league roster. Being now out for the rest of 2019 after shoulder surgery, Miguel Andujar was the logical choice to move to the 60-day IL to make room for Hale on the roster.

Go Yankees!

Game 44: TB vs. NYY — 11th inning let-down

Masahiro Tanaka had a great outing this afternoon in the second game of this weekend series against the visiting Rays. He threw 88 pitches through 6 scoreless innings, giving up just 3 hits and striking out 6 batters. He took a nasty grounder off his shin in the 5th, managed to finish the inning, but then came out of the game. Later x-rays came back negative, but he’ll have a nasty bruise on his shin.

The Yankees struck first in the 3rd inning. With 1 out, they loaded up the bases with singles by Brett Gardner and LeMahieu and a walk to Voit. After another strikeout, a messy wild pitch moved up the runners, and Gardner raced home to score the Yankees’ lone run this afternoon.

In the 7th, Tommy Kahnle came on in relief for Tanaka. He promptly gave up a lead-off solo home run to tie up the game but held off the Rays from doing further damage. Britton and Chapman each followed suit, breezing through with a scoreless inning of their own.

And so the game went on into extra innings. Holder continued the pattern through the 10th with a quick 11-pitch scoreless inning. But Luis Cessa had some trouble in the 11th. With 1 out, a solo home run put the Rays in the lead. And the Yankees couldn’t put together the rally for the bottom of the inning, thus falling to the visitors today.

Final score: 2-1 Rays, in 11 innings

Injury updates: James Paxton threw a bullpen session before Friday’s game and will throw again on Sunday. He still felt some pain due to his knee injury (from May 4), but it’s improved and hoping to diminish as he continues his rehab.

Didi Gregorius will start his extended Spring Training on Monday. After his Tommy John surgery last October, the shortstop will spend time working on simulated games and exercises similar real Spring Training, but compacted down from the standard 7 weeks. This is a really good sign that Gregorius could be back on the team well before the All-Star Break.

And Giancarlo Stanton took live at-bats this week. It looks like his biceps and shoulder strain injuries from early April are healed, and he will begin his rehab assignment with the Advanced-A Tampa Tarpons on Monday.

(A quick note to Tampa-based Yankees fans: most of the rehabbing players seem to spend their recovery time with this team. So you could see your favorite stars for cheaper than Spring Training prices and way closer seats throughout these next few weeks and months, and you don’t have to travel to the Bronx to see them in action.)

Go Yankees!