Games 94 & 95: TB vs. NYY — A rain delay, an ejection, a doubleheader, and an anniversary

Thanks to the rain out yesterday, today’s scheduled got packed. And the Yankees still somehow managed to amp up the drama and make the final 2 games against the Rays all the more interesting. The afternoon game of the doubleheader was first delayed by lingering afternoon rain, pushing the start time back 1 hour and 26 minutes.

Game 1 (make-up game from July 17)
Domingo German got the start for the first game of today’s doubleheader and threw a pretty good game despite what became the major talking point — a terrible strike zone set by the home plate umpire. German threw 90 pitches in 6 innings, gave up 4 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and struck out 5 Rays’ batters.

The allowed runs were consecutive solo home run to kick off the game. After that, German buckled in and really set a strong pattern to pass the game off to his relievers. Kahnle, Britton, and Hale threw a strong scoreless inning of their own, keeping the visitors to those early runs.

The Yankees answered back to the Rays’ early lead by tying up the game right in the turbulent 2nd inning. Didi Gregorius led-off the inning by getting all the way to 2nd on a fielding error. He then moved to 3rd on a ground out and scored on Gio Urshela’s 2-run home run.

Now, after a questionable strikeout and some bad calls on the at-bat of the two most chill guys on the team (Gardner and LeMahieu), Aaron Boone had to step in. Leading up to this, Sanchez questioned some calls, especially lower in the strike zone, for their inconsistency. The rookie home plate umpire didn’t seem to adjust, and the continuation of the questionable calls was starting to fluster everyone.

Boone did what managers need to do — take one for their guys. Several choice words later (like “savages”), Boone watched the rest of the game from the clubhouse, and the Yankees (and their fans) applauded his efforts and ended up winning the game. And I looked at the strike zone graphics following the game, it wasn’t good. Far too many called strikes were out side the box, and too many called balls were inside it. Boone and company were right to have issues with the calls.

In the 5th, Judge led-off with a single, moved to 3rd on Hicks’ ground-rule double, and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s 1-out single. After another out, Luke Voit’s single scored Hicks, and Urshela’s double scored Sanchez. And Aaron Hicks’ 2-out solo home run in the 6th capped off the Yankees’ dominant afternoon.

Final score: 6-2 Yankees

Game 2 (regularly scheduled game)
After a brief clean-up and resetting the field, the second half of today’s doubleheader was ready to go. The Yankees opted to use an “opener”, the ever reliable Chad Green, who despite throwing 31 pitches in the 1st inning, kept the Rays from scoring.

Nestor Cortes Jr came on for the 2nd inning and kept things strong through most of his outing, into the 5th inning. But in the 3rd, a lead-off walk scored on a double. But he handed the ball over to Luis Cessa in the 5th, who carried things scoreless into the 8th. Ottavino closed out the final 4 outs with just 17 great pitches.

So, the Yankees were late to get on the board. Luke Voit hit a 1st pitch solo home run in the 5th inning to tie up the game. Then in the 6th, Austin Romine led-off with a double and moved to 3rd on a ground out. Walks to Judge and Encarnacion loaded up the bases, and a balk moved all the runners up and scored Romine.

Then Didi Gregorius’ single and a throwing error allowed both Judge and Encarnacion to score. After another out, the Yankees loaded up the bases again with Torres’ single and Urshela’s walk. The Rays made a pitching change, but he promptly walked Mike Tauchman to score Gregorius before finally getting out of the inning.

Final score: 5-1 Yankees, Yankees win series 3-1

Next up: The Yankees continue their home stand with a weekend series against the visiting Rockies. The Yankees will spend next week on the road, first against the Twins and then in Boston for a long weekend, including a make-up game as part of a Saturday doubleheader.

Before the later game tonight, the Yankees celebrated the 20th anniversary of David Cone’s perfect game. It was a perfect day in many ways, honoring the perfect game of Don Larsen and caught by Yogi Berra. And then Cone spent most of the day just playing catch with his catcher Joe Girardi. So, in addition to the now standard commemorative bobblehead of David Cone, Cone also threw out the ceremonial first pitch, a strike of course.

And also coming up this weekend is Hall of Fame weekend in Cooperstown, New York. The ceremonies will include Yankee alum like Mike Mussina and Mariano Rivera. There are many activities this weekend leading up to the main event of induction ceremony on Sunday afternoon. Rivera’s unanimous election to the Hall is really the biggest topic of the weekend, though for Yankee fans (and really any decent general baseball fans), it was inevitable. Our hero, our legend, our Hall of Famer.

Go Yankees!

Game 92: TB vs. NYY — The Rays’ 1-man offense

As can often be expected in divisional rivalry games, tonight’s opener against the visiting Rays was anything but predictable. The emotional sway of the fans in the Bronx was eventful, to say the least. Most of this was due to the 1-man offense on the Rays.

James Paxton got the start tonight, throwing 107 pitches through 6 solid innings. He gave up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs and struck out 7 Rays’ batters. The Rays’ lead-off batter smacked a solo home run to kick off the game. And then that same hitter came back in the 3rd to double the Rays’ lead with a 1-out solo home run.

The Yankees were held off by the Rays’ ace for the first part of the game until Edwin Encarncion hit a 2-out solo home run in the 4th to get the Yankees on the board. Then with 2 outs in the 7th, a new reliever promptly gave up a solo home run to Gio Urshela to tie up the game. In the 8th, with 2 outs, Hicks singled and then scored as part of a monster 2-run home run by Edwin Encarnacion to put the Yankees into the lead.

Now, after Paxton handed the ball over to Chad Green, Green kept things rolling as the Yankees grabbed the lead. All they needed were Aroldis Chapman to make 3 outs in the 9th to close out the game. And based on a pattern of 49-0, the Yankees should win the game when they’re leading the game going into the 9th.

But again, as in life, nothing is predictable in baseball. Chapman’s slider, which has really be a great go-to pitch for him this season, wasn’t where it needed to be tonight, and it cost them the game. The first two batters hit consecutive singles to set up the tying runs on base. Then after 2 really sharp strikeouts, that same power hitter from earlier smacked a big 3-run home run to thrust the Rays back into the lead.

The Yankees couldn’t manage a comeback in the bottom of the 9th, and thus with a called strikeout, the game was over.

Final score: 5-4 Rays

Injury updates: Luis Severino and Dellin Betances have yet to appear in a game for the Yankees this season after sustaining injuries during Spring Training. Both retroactive to March 25, Severino suffered a right shoulder rotator cuff strain and grade 2 lat strain, and Betances had a right shoulder impignment. Betances further had a setback in mid-June with his own lat strain.

Today, both pitchers threw 25 tosses from 60-feet as they resume activities in their recovery. While Betances is based in the bullpen, Severino may cut his longer return back to being a starter by doing some innings out of the bullpen. Both pitchers are understandingly frustrated that they haven’t been able to help the Yankees in their strong 2019, anxiously watching from the sidelines to get back in the game in way they can.

Also, the Yankees announced that this year’s Heart & Hustle Award nominee is DJ LeMahieu. The award is given to players who “demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and traditions of the game”. Former players vote for active players before the All-Star break, and each team gets a nominee. The final winner is revealed after the season, this year at the Legends for Youth dinner on November 7 in New York. Congratulations!

Go Yankees!

Game 91: TOR vs. NYY — Urshela shines on Sundays

The Yankees came into this rubber series hoping to continue their win streak of the last 13 home stands (12 wins and 1 tie) since mid-April. They seemed to find all the right moments to orchestrate another win as they continue their march toward October on top of the American League.

The Yankees started the minor offense today in the 2nd. Voit led-off with a single and moved to 3rd on Torres’ double to put them in scoring position. One out later, Gio Urhsela stepped up with a long single to score both runners to get the ball rolling, so to speak.

Masahiro Tanaka had a strong start in this afternoon’s closing game against the Rays this weekend. He threw 79 pitches in 6 innings, giving up 4 hits and 2 runs and striking out 5 batters to earn the eventual win. In the 5th, the Rays got a big lead-off solo home run and a 2-out solo home run to tie up the game.

The Yankees answered back in the bottom of the 5th. Gio Urshela led-off with a single and moved to 2nd on Romine’s walk. After an unsuccessful bunt pop out, LeMahieu hit into a fielder’s choice out at 2nd to get runners on the corners. A wild pitch had Urshela making a mad dash for home.

Now, he was originally called out, which would end the inning, but the Yankees wisely opted to challenge the call. Urhsela’s foot touched home just before the Rays’ catcher tagged Urshela’s chest. The call was overturned, and the Yankees were back in the lead.

In the 7th, with a new pitcher and 1 out, Mike Tauchman added an insurance run with a big solo home run into the right field bleachers. But the Yankees were halted there from adding further runs on their score.

The Yankee bullpen were also strong today, helping prevent the Rays from their own offensive impact in the latter third of the game. Ottavino and Kahnle split the scoreless 7th, and Britton kept things moving through the 8th. Chapman needed just 8 pitches to close out the 9th and earn his 25th save of the season.

Final score: 4-2 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees continue their home stand by hosting the Rays for 4 games this week and the Rockies next weekend. They will then hit the road for their first road trip of the second half with 3 games against the Twins and a 4-game weekend series in Boston.

Gio Urshela was undoubtedly the key player in today’s game bother offensively with 2 RBIs and defensively (and also here). Though to be fair, Tanaka and Tauchman and Torres and pretty much most of the guys who took the field today all pulled through in their own way, much like they do nearly every game. If any team deserves to be atop the standings, it’s certainly this year’s Yankees.

Go Yankees!

Game 84: NYY vs. NYM — German’s strong return

The Yankees continue their march to being the best. While still 4 games behind 1st place Dodgers for all of MLB, the Yankees easily sit atop the AL, 6 1/2 games above the Rays in the AL East, 2 games above AL Central leader Twins, and 1 1/2 games above the AL West leader Astros. At least if my math is right tonight, but the Yankees’ average is better than every other team in the AL.

Domingo German is back with the team, and his start tonight was exactly where the Yankees need him to be in the second game of this 2-game mini-series at the Mets. He threw 80 pitches in 6 innings, gave up 5 hits and just 1 run, and struck out 6 Mets batters to earn the eventual win.

His lone allowed run (and the only run by the home team all night) was a 1st pitch solo home run in the 1st. After that first pitch, German held the game strong for the remainder of his outing, setting an easy pattern for the final third of the game. Green held the game strong through the 7th and 8th inning, and Cortes close out the game with a great 18-pitch 9th inning.

The Yankees, meanwhile, got off to a good start. DJ LeMahieu doubled to lead off the game and then immediately scored on Aaron Judge’s double. Two outs later, Judge scored on Gleyber Torres’ single. In the 6th, Didi Gregorius hit a 1-out solo home run, and after a pitching change, Gio Urshela followed that up with a solo home run of his own.

Finally, LeMahieu led-off the 7th with a double. After 2 outs and a walk to Hicks, LeMahieu scored on Torres’ single to cap off the Yankees’ extra (albeit unnecessary) insurance runs.

Final score: 5-1 Yankees, Yankees and Mets split the series 1-1

Next up: The Yankees hop a plane and head to Yankee Stadium South, sorry, Tropicana Field in the Tampa Bay area to face the Rays for a 4-game series to close out the official first half of the season. The All-Star Break begins Monday, and following the Home Run Derby on Monday and the All-Star Game on Tuesday, they have two extra days off before starting Part Two of the season. They’ll host a long homestand, with the Blue Jays, Rays, and Rockies.

Roster moves: Before tonight’s game, the Yankees activated Domingo German from the 10-day injured list after his hip injury early last month. To make room, they optioned reliever Stephen Tarpley back to AAA Scranton.

“The Machine” is making waves beyond Yankee Universe. After receiving on of the coveted All-Star starter spots, DJ LeMahieu continued showing off and earned the honor of being June’s AL Player of the Month. Certainly well-deserved, LeMahieu is one of the many cogs in this truly amazing team, and I, for one, am glad more people beyond regular fans to recognize this.

Yankee Universe Bits: So, the greatness of the Yankees apparently extends beyond the big league guys. There are 9 minor league teams that are part of the Yankees’ farm system. (Quick reference: AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders; AA Trenton Thunder; Advanced-A Tampa Tarpons; Class-A Charleston RiverDogs; Short-A Staten Island Yankees; Rookie Leagues Pulaski Yankees, Gulf Coast League Yankees East, and Gulf Coast League Yankees West; and International League Dominican Summer League Yankees)

In a game played by the DSL Yankees and the DSL Twins today, the Yankees basically blew the old minor league record of runs scored in a single game (33) by setting a new one by scoring 38 runs. And you thought the craziness in the first game in London was something!

Go Yankees!

Game 82: NYY vs. BOS — London sweep to kick off second half

The Yankees technically split their season in half in London, ending their first 81 games with a win last night and starting their next 81 games with a win this afternoon. There’s rarely anything “normal” about rivalry games between the Yankees and Red Sox, but add in the weird stadium, 5 hours ahead in time zones, and 60,000 British fans, and there’s a whole new level of “not normal”.

London Stadium was originally built for the 2012 Summer Olympics to host the track and field competition before it was converted to be the home of the West Ham Football (Soccer) Club. The pitch (the field) was covered by imported turf from France, the padding to create the outfield space and boundaries of the diamond came from Canada, and the infield dirt was hauled in from Pennsylvania — a truly international experience.

For all the talk of the short outfield walls (just 385 feet to dead center field), the most complicated part for fielders were the way the sun came into the condensed oval, partially blocked by scaffolding to eliminate wind. This also, however, created very strange shadows and the glare of the sun off the dead white of the roofing. Both teams seemed to struggle both days with finding the ball when it was hit in the air. This certainly made the difference today when less of the balls were leaving the playing field and instead being popped up short.

The Yankees opted to go with an “opener” today, calling on reliever Stephen Tarpley to make his first MLB start. Between nerves and the unfamiliar setting, Tarpley struggled his way through that 1st inning. With 1 out, he gave up a single that scored on a 2-run home run. The next batter smacked a big solo home run, and one out later, the Red Sox got yet another solo home run to give them a nice early lead.

After a scoreless 1st for the Yankees (which seemed odd compared to the show yesterday) and the Red Sox coming in strong, the Yankees found their first opportunity to strike in the 2nd. They loaded up the bases with Encarnacion’s lead-off walk, Gregorius’ single, and Torres’ walk. Gio Urshela hit into a force out at 2nd that scored Encarnacion, and Brett Gardner’s single scored Gregorius to get the Yankees on the board, with half the Sox’s score.

Meanwhile, the game suddenly became fairly “normal”. The Red Sox’s starter was fairly dominant, throwing strong into the 6th inning and limiting the Yankees to their 2nd inning score. The Yankee relievers found a good momentum too. Cessa threw 4 strong scoreless innings before handing the ball to Adam Ottavino for a quick 11-pitch 6th, and Kahnle followed that will an 11-pitch 7th.

The Yankees finally found their next chance to advance in the 7th. LeMahieu led-off with a double, and after Judge’s walk, LeMahieu scored on Aaron Hicks’ double. Gary Sanchez’s long single scored both Judge and Hicks to put the Yankees in the lead. With no outs, the Sox went to their bullpen. The new reliever promptly walked Encarnacion and gave up a 1-out single to Torres to load up the bases. And Gio Urshela singled home both Sanchez and Encarnacion.

But that’s not all. With another new reliever on the mound, Brett Gardner worked a walk to load the bases, and DJ LeMahieu smacked a ground-rule double into the right field seats to score Torres and Urshela. Judge was intentionally walked to load the bases yet again. Aaron Hicks’ sacrifice fly scored Gardner, and a fielding error on Gary Sanchez’s at-bat scored LeMahieu. The Yankees sent up 14 batters that frame alone and scored a season-high 9 runs.

Finally, Didi Gregorius led-off the 8th with a solo home run. This kept the Yankees’ streak alive with 31 consecutive games with a home run. Now, with an 8-run lead, the Yankees needed to just keep the status quo and sail to the end of the game. But no way were the Red Sox going to go quietly into the night.

Yankees’ reliever Chance Adams came in for the 8th, but he really had some trouble keeping those Red Sox’s bats quiet. With 1 out, he gave up consecutive singles. After another out, a wild pitch moved runners into scoring position which they did on another single. After yet another single, a double into the corner scored the lead runner. That would be it for Adams.

Zack Britton came in to try to stop the Sox’s advance, but he gave up a single that scored one more run. Still looking for that final out of the inning, he ended up walking the next batter and loading up the bases. The tying run coming to the plate, Britton dug deep and got a grounder to end the inning and get out of the jam, owing much of his success, like many of today’s pitchers, to the stellar defense today. (See the snazzy Gregorius-led defense here and here.) Despite a lead-off single, Chapman got 3 great strikeouts to close out the 9th and the game.

Final score: 12-8 Yankees, Yankees sweep series 2-0

London Trivia: Today’s game was much shorter than the marathon of last night’s nutsy show, and yet there was still 9 hours and 6 minutes of total game time. Together, both teams scored 50 runs, 9 of them home runs, and collected 65 total hits. And they will be thankful for tomorrow’s off-day as they collectively went through 30 pitchers in just 2 games.

Next up: The Yankees will need that off-day tomorrow after traveling home from the UK. On Tuesday, they begin a quick 2-game series in Queens at the Mets. Then, they’ll be back in the Tampa area to face the Rays for a 4-game weekend series before the All-Star Break. Following the break, the Yankees will begin their official second half of the 2019 season with a long homestand.

Roster moves: The Yankees played a little with the loophole in the roster for this travel series, optioning Nestor Cortes Jr and recalling Chance Adams, who came to London as part of the “taxi squad” just in case he was needed. And clearly, he was, though I doubt he’ll look back fondly at his outing. Even with the off-day tomorrow, with the depletion of the bullpen, I imagine there will be further moves once the Yankees are back stateside.

Injury update: The Yankees also sent reliever Ben Heller to AAA Scranton to begin his rehab assignment. Heller had surgery on his right elbow earlier this year. And Luke Voit was missing from today’s game roster though he was present and ready off the bench if needed. He said he felt much better after feeling some core tightness during yesterday’s game.

All-Star Roster Update: As you know, the Yankees have two starters on the All-Star Game roster this year. Gary Sanchez will be the starting catcher, and DJ LeMahieu will be the starting 2nd baseman for the AL team. Joining them in Cleveland this year is Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman. This will be Chapman’s 6th All-Star Game, LeMahieu’s 3rd, and Sanchez’s 2nd.

Chapman himself noted, “To me, I thought we were going to have six or seven All-Stars from this team. It’s a little surprising.” Yes, it is. I think a lot of us in Yankee Universe were expecting that maybe those who fell short in the final vote last week might get a second chance as part of the reserves, like Voit, Urshela, Torres, and Judge.

While all 3 All-Stars this year will represent the Yankees well, it is hard not to wish the team currently sitting atop the AL in the standings isn’t better represented in this year’s Midsummer Classic. I guess, they will just have to show everyone what they missed in July by an outstanding performance in October. Besides, that’s the stat that really matters in the end.

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!