Game 45: NYY vs. TEX — A strong Texas starter vs. a messy Yankees starter

Sometimes, the deficit is too large to overcome. Or there just are not enough outs for the offense to kick in. Or the opposing starter is just really good. Or the Yankees’ starter had a messy start. Or all of the above.

Domingo German got the start for the Yankees, and coming off his last, strong showing, this was less than ideal. He threw 85 pitches into the 4th inning, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 6 runs, while still striking out 6 Texas batters. In the 1st with 1 out, German gave up a single and a walk that scored as part of a bit 3-run home run to get the Rangers on the board early and big.

In the 2nd, he hit the lead-off batter that moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then advanced to 3rd on a ground out. German then threw another wild pitch to strike out the next batter, but due to the wild pitch, the batter to made it to 1st safely while the other runner raced home to score another run. Yet another wild pitch moved the runners up, and a walk loaded the bases. A grounder scored one more run before German finally got out of this messy inning.

German found his pace and struck out the side in the 3rd, but then came back to give up a lead-off home run in the 4th. Two outs and a single later, the Yankees had enough and went to their bullpen. AJ Cole came on in relief to throw 5 scoreless outs and keep the Rangers from adding to their lead. Shreve finished off the 6th inning and kept that momentum, before handing the game over toe Gallegos for the next 2 scoreless innings.

Deep in the hole already in the first 2 innings, the Yankees faced a pretty good veteran starter, who threw a solid 7 innings, only giving up 4 hits, 2 walks, and just 2 runs during his tenure. Those 2 runs were a 2-out solo home run by Gleyber Torres in the 3rd and a 7th inning 1-out solo shot by Miguel Andujar.

But once the Rangers went to their bullpen, anything was possible, and the Yankees made every effort to chip away at the Rangers’ lead in the final 2 innings. With 1 out in the 8th, Stanton singled, and then Austin Romine hit a nice 2-run home run to put the Yankees within striking distance. After Gregorius singled, the rest of the roster left him hanging out there. And a solid 9th inning showing by their closer sealed the deal.

Final score: 6-4 Rangers

So, Aaron Boone was ejected 5 times as a player, but earned his first one as a manager tonight in the 6th inning. Apparently, Boone had been having issues all night, “chirping” from the dugout until the home plate umpire whipped around in the middle of Sanchez’s at-bat and tossed the Yankees’ rookie manager. To be fair, a lot of conversation online has been about the questionable strike zones recently, especially with larger players like Judge and Stanton. I’m not sure I agree he needed to be ejected (sometimes they do, believe me), but we all know you can’t argue balls and strikes. No matter how terrible the calls really are.

Some roster moves: on Monday, the Yankees moved some of the guys from the DL to their rehab assignments at AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in preparation for their eventual return to the big leagues — Greg Bird, Billy McKinney, and Tommy Kahnle. Now, this made

Scranton Shuttle: in the same shuffle that sent a bunch of players to Scranton on the rehab, the Yankees recalled reliever Giovanny Gallegos to fill out the spot that Clint Frazier left the previous day (Sunday). And despite a strong 2 innings tonight, Gallegos is heading back to Scranton for a player that yet to be announced. Someone’s coming to Texas on that return trip, but I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.

Meanwhile, with the prospect of Greg Bird coming back soon, people are wondering what will happen to Tyler Austin, who has certainly been a huge part of the Yankees’ winning streak this last month. However, Boone later said in an interview that he doesn’t expect Austin to be going anywhere anytime soon, noting the same things we’ve all been seeing in him. You don’t want to lose a good player that could easily step into the game in an emergency. Though, that certainly sounds like quite a few players on the current roster.

Go Yankees!

Game 44: NYY vs. TEX — Yanks go big in Texas

The Yankees are back on track as they continue this road trip now in Texas against the Rangers. Masahiro Tanaka actually kind of had a rough night, and because the Yankees work as a team, he still wound up with the win. He threw just 76 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 3 hits, 4 walks, and 4 runs, and struck out just 3 Texas batters.

The first allowed run was a lead-off solo shot in the 2nd inning. Then in the 4th, with 1 out, Tanaka gave up 2 consecutive walks that scored as part of a bit 3-run home run, making all of Tanaka’s allowed runs come off home runs.

Chad Green followed up Tanaka’s outing with a scoreless 6th, but then gave up a lead-off solo shot in the 7th before breezing through the next 3 batters. Robertson and Holder kept the Rangers scoreless through the final 2 innings.

Meanwhile, the Yankees actually paced out their runs through the game. In the 2nd, Sanchez led-off with a single moved to 2nd on a ground out and then scored on Neil Walker’s 2-out double. Walker then scored when Gleyber Torres hit a big 2-run home run. Walker later hit a big 2-out solo home run in the 4th, which was actually his 1st homer of the season, despite having a pretty decent season with consistent offensive contributions. (Here’s Sterling’s call, and there’s mixed feelings again.)

After the Rangers tied up the game in the bottom of the 4th, Aaron Judge led off the 5th with a solo home run to give the Yankees back the lead. And in the 6th, Torres hit his 2nd home run of the game, a solo shot straight up the middle. Even after the Rangers went to their bullpen, the Yankees kept advancing. Gardner walked, moved to 3rd on Judge’s double, and scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s sacrifice fly. Judge then scored on Didi Gregorius’ double.

The Rangers were able to hold off the Yankees for the 7th and 8th innings, but then found one more opportunity in the 9th. (Because a 3-run lead just wasn’t enough.) With 1 out, Sanchez doubled, and then Aaron Hicks smacked a 2-run home run to push the Yankees into double digits.

Final score: 10-5 Yankees

The Rangers’ starter tonight is the oldest active player in MLB, at the age of 45 (on Thursday) (yes, I can hear the groans from everyone no longer 20-something). He’s been in the major leagues since 1997, making this his 21st season. (For the record, he’s played with 11 different teams, including the Yankees back in 2011.)

But the conversation about Colon starting a game against the rather youthful-leaning Yankees (which is its own conversation) was an interesting topic, as they discovered that youngest Yankee (Torres) was just 3 months old when Colon made his MLB debut with the Indians in 1997, and tonight, Torres went and hit 2 amazing home runs off him. Despite tonight’s game, Colon has actually played pretty well for the Rangers this year so far, so let’s hear it 40-somethings! (As long as they don’t do well against the Yankees.)

Go Yankees!

 

Game 42: NYY vs. KC — Hitting clinic in KC, led by Hicks & #ElGary

While none of the Yankees blamed their less-than-ideal last week (between soggy, halted and postponed games and sleeping in the airport) for their sluggish day yesterday, they certainly were able to bounce back and return to their standard form we’ve grown used to over this season.

The Yankees got off to a great start and kept the ball rolling, so to speak, in this middle game in Kansas City. Aaron Hicks led-off the game with a single and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s 2-out double to kick off the Yankees’ night, the only run they would score not on a home run tonight. Hicks led-off the 3rd with an inside-the-park home run, which could have been a double or triple if the right fielder hadn’t missed the grounder and slammed into the wall out there. Hicks jogged his way home.

In the 4th, Clint Frazier led-off with a walk, Torreyes singled, and they both then scored as part of Gleyber Torres’ 3-run home run. Then in the 7th, Gary Sanchez hit a 1-out solo home run. And they weren’t done yet. In the 9th, with 1 out, Giancarlo Stanton hit a big solo home run into the fountains behind the left-center field seats. Sanchez followed up that with another solo home run of his own, his 2nd of his game, making him the Yankees’ home run leader (at 12 this season).

Meanwhile, Luis Severino got the start and continued his display as the Yankees’ ace, throwing just 77 pitches in 6 innings, giving up 8 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, and striking out 6 batters. In fact, most of those allowed hits and walks were indicative of when the Royals would breakthrough and get on the scoreboard. In the 3rd, a lead-off single scored on a double. After that runner moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt, he scored on a single to tie up the game at that point.

After Torres’ big homer in the 4th, the Royals made an attempt to comeback in the 5th, with a lead-off walk and single. A routine double play still moved the lead runner to 3rd, who then scored on a single. That runner (who really isn’t that speedy of a baserunner) tried to make it all the way home on a double, but a quick relay (Stanton-Torreyes-Sanchez) got the out at home. Even after a challenge by the home team, the call was upheld.

Actually, all the challenged calls tonight went the Yankees’ way. Chad Green came on in relief for the 7th inning, and with a runner on 2nd and 1 out, the Yankees fielded a grounder at 3rd and threw it to 1st for the out. Well, actually, it was called safe, and the Yankees challenged it. But it was overturned (for obvious reasons, despite what the home crowd seemed to think).

After Betances’ clean, speedy 8th, Aroldis Chapman came on for the 9th. He gave up a lead-off walk. After a good strikeout, that runner attempted to go to 2nd. Sanchez threw to Torres for the tag, and it was called safe. But another challenge led to another overturn (as the runner comes off the bag), despite again what the crowd seems to think.

Final score: 8-3 Yankees

If you noticed, Clint Frazier is finally back in the line-up. He batted 7th as the designated hitter, going 1-for-2 with a double and 2 walks, and scoring on that Torres’ home run in the 4th. A nice welcome back for him after months of dealing with that nasty concussion in Spring Training.

To bring Frazier up to the majors, the Yankees designated pitcher David Hale for assignment last Tuesday. Hale later opted for release rather than outrighting, and the Yankees then re-signed him on Friday and immediately optioned him to AAA Scranton. So expect to see more of Hale in the Bronx soon enough.

And on a final note worth discussion, Aaron Hicks’ inside-the-park home run made him in some great company. Hicks is the first Yankee to hit multiple inside-the-park home runs in a single season (his first one was April 13 in Detroit) since Mickey Mantle hit 3 in 1958. And we’re only 42 games into the season, so Hicks has a chance to make more history.

As really, the whole team does. And with the way they’re going so far, this could be one of those teams that’s not so much compared to other great seasons but rather becomes its own great season to which others are compared.

Go Yankees!

Game 38: OAK vs. NYY — Another disappointing loss and still MLB leaders

Well, that was… disappointing. After such a long win streak, it’s just disappointing (there is no other word, really) to drop 2 games in a row, and that “come from behind” momentum they got used to during their streak wasn’t coming on as strong as it did just last week.

Sonny Gray got the start in the series opener against the visiting Athletics. And his struggles this year seem to continue as he gave the A’s an early lead that sent the Yankees into playing catch-up all game. Gray threw 93 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 9 hits, 3 walks, and 5 runs, and struck out just 2 Oakland batters.

In the 2nd, he gave up a lead-off solo shot to start the run-scoring. Then after allowing a single, a 2-run home run caused the sold-out crowd to start groaning. But then he got the 3 outs in fairly quick succession. And then it was the 3rd inning, and Gray gave up 3 consecutive singles, the last of which scored a run. Then despite later loading up the bases, he got of that jam with a great defensive fly out. And a double led-off the 4th, moved to 3rd on a single, and then scored on a ground out.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were held off by the Athletics’ starter for most of the game, so they grabbed their offensive opportunities in small doses like Gleyber Torres’ 1-out solo home run in the 3rd. And in the 5th, Andujar reached 1st on a fielding error, Gardner worked a 2-out walk, and then they both scored on Aaron Judge’s 3-run home run into the right field seats to put the Yankees within a single run of the Athletics’ lead.

David Hale came on in relief of Gray in the 6th for 3 inning and had his own struggles, giving up a 2-out solo home run in the 6th and then a 1-out solo homer in the 8th. David Robertson was called on to close out the 9th, but even he had trouble. With 1 out, he loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a failed fielder’s choice so that a double cleared all the bases and eased the A’s into a big victory.

The Yankees had a minor hope for a rally in the 7th inning. With the starter out and a new pitcher on the mound, Andujar and Romine each singled and moved into scoring position on Torres’ sacrifice bunt. After a new reliever came in, Gardner worked a walk in just 4 pitches to load the bases. Then Aaron Judge stepped in, and the Bronx came alive with hope, only to be slightly dimmed due to the reliever ending up walking Judge and thus Andujar in for an easy run. Another new reliever and 2 outs later, the bases were still loaded and the rally stranded and stalled.

Final score: 10-5 Athletics

Last year, June 29 to be exact, the Yankees called up a young prospect Dustin Fowler to make his MLB debut. In the very 1st inning in Chicago, the rookie outfielder slammed against the back wall and ruptured a tendon in his knee that would require surgery, ending his 2017 season. In the process of his recovery, the Yankees orchestrated a trade with today’s opponents, the Athletics, that sent prospects Fowler, Mateo, and Kaprielian to Oakland in exchange for tonight’s pitcher Sonny Gray (and international bonus slot money). Tonight, Fowler finally got an at-bat at Yankee Stadium, or actually 5, in which he also got a hit and a run scored.

Injury updates: Drury, Bird, and McKinney are all in the midst of their rehab assignments and doing quite well. As far as returning, there doesn’t seem to be any rush because despite tonight’s outcome (and yesterday’s), the Yankees are still in 1st place in the AL East and in all of baseball. Sure, they’re sharing the spot with the Red Sox, but 1st is 1st.

Go Yankees!

Game 34: CLE vs. NYY — Torres’ walk-off glory in sweep

With Montgomery out with elbow strain, it fell to Domingo German for the start in this afternoon’s finale against the Indians in the Bronx. And German rose to the occasion and excelled. He threw 84 pitches in his 6 scoreless innings, gave up no hits and only 2 walks, while striking out 9 Cleveland batters.

German actually matched the Indians’ starter pretty well. He held the Yankees’ batters hitless until Aaron Hicks broke the streak to lead-off the 5th inning, though he certainly walked several batters and the defense allowed a runner on an error. But the Indians held off the Yankees from scoring any runs.

Dellin Betances took over and breezed his way through the 7th inning but then got into some trouble coming out in the 8th. He gave up 3 consecutive singles that scored the Indians’ first run of the night and broke the scoreless tie. Betances was running out of steam, so the Yankees turned to Jonathan Holder, who did what he could to keep things under control. After a bunt pop-up, Holder gave up a double that scored 1 run and then a passed ball moved the runners up and scored another run. Finally, a sacrifice fly scored their final run.

And suddenly, the Indians were up 4-0. So the Yankees answered back in the bottom of the 8th. Walker led-off with a walk and Austin worked a 1-out walk to end the Indians’ starter’s night. And (like my uncle implied yesterday), the Yankees got to take advantage of the Indians’ weak bullpen. After another out, Brett Gardner singled and scored Walker for the Yankees’ first run. Aaron Judge followed him with a double to score Austin and Gardner.

Now, with the Indians’ lead reduced to a single run, the Yankees called on Chasen Shreve to breeze through the top of the 9th in just 18 pitches to get back to the Yankee offense in the bottom of the inning. Hicks led-off with a double and then scored the tying run when Neil Walker doubled. A new reliever got a ground out and then intentionally walked pinch-hitting Stanton. So with Walker and Stanton on base and just 1 out, it would be Gleyber Torres to smack a deep 3-run home run into the Yankees’ bullpen, just missing Monument Park, for a great walk-off victory.

Final score: 7-4 Yankees, Yankees sweep series 3-0

Next up: the Yankees have an off-day tomorrow. Then they will host the Red Sox for a 3-game mid-week series on Tuesday. This series is crucial as the Yankees are just a game behind the Red Sox in the AL East. They follow up that series with a weekend series against the Athletics to close out the home stand.

Go Yankees!

Game 32: CLE vs. NYY — It was a bumpy journey, but the Force was with the Yankees

All across baseball (and the world, really) is celebrating Star Wars Day. Because it’s May the 4th… as in “May the Force be with you”, a familiar phrase from the Star Wars movies (and its extended universe). And in that spirit, the Yankees giveaway for the day was a bobble head of Aaron Judge as a Jedi. And all of this is terribly awkward for anyone who still thinks of the Yankees as the “Evil Empire”, but might be kind of fun as the Yankees play the ceremonial march music (from A New Hope) during their announcement of the starting roster at every home game.

CC Sabathia, one of the biggest Star Wars nerds on the team, got the honor of the start in the opening game of this home stand against the visiting Indians (both his former team and the Yankees’ 2017 ALDS rivals). Sabathia worked some of his own force and threw a great game — 92 pitches in 6 scoreless innings, giving up just 3 hits, and striking out 7 Cleveland batters. Dellin Betances followed suit and threw a great scoreless 7th inning.

In the mean time, the Yankees offense found its first opportunity to break through on the scoreboard in the 4th inning. Walker led-off with a single and moved to 2nd on a force attempt and fielding error that allowed Andujar to reach safely. Then Gleyber Torres smacked his first career home run, a 3-run shot to left field. (The fan who caught it later negotiated its return for her and her 8 friends to get a personalized clubhouse tour and some autographed gear.)

One out later, Aaron Judge hit a solo home run to join in on the fun. And Gary Sanchez later led-off the 5th with his own home run. (Was the Force stronger over in the left field seats?)

And then there was the 8th inning. With the Yankees up 5-0 over the Indians, the Indians took advantage of an off-night from Chasen Shreve, who just couldn’t find an out tonight to save the game. He gave up a walk, a single, a 3-run home run, and a single before they finally pulled the plug on his night. David Robertson had his own issues in relief. After the Yankees defense failed to turn two, the next batter hit a 2-run home run to tie up the game.

Determined, the Yankees came back in the bottom of the 8th to break the tie. The Yankees loaded up the bases with Andujar’s fielder’s choice, Torres’ single, and Gardner’s walk. And then Judge’s “forced” in the go-ahead run to give the Yankees some hope. (Totally stole that one from Twitter.) So Aroldis Chapman needed just 3 outs for the save. The Indians needed 1 run to stay alive. The Indians got their wish as a lead-off single, moved to 2nd on a 1-out hit-by-pitch, advanced to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on another wild pitch to tie up the game again.

But the Yankees weren’t just going down without that big final battle and “good guy heroics”. Stanton led-off the 9th inning with a double and later moved to 3rd on a ground out. After Walker walked and moved into scoring position on defensive indifference, it would be Miguel Andujar that would be “strong in the force”, knocking a bloop single into shallow right center field that easily scored Stanton for the walk-off run.

Final score: 7-6 Yankees

Further, in honor of Star Wars Day, the Yankees welcomed a parade of characters from the movie and the upcoming prequel movie Solo, about one of the main character’s origins and directed by the Yankees’ special guest tonight — Ron Howard, who also threw out the first pitch.

And finally, a big congratulations to Ichiro Suzuki who will transition to special advisor for the Mariners (his current team). Ichiro was always a fan-favorite (with the Mariners, Yankees, Marlins, and back to the Mariners) and a favorite in every clubhouse from his days playing in Japan to his time around MLB. He closes out a great career and will be in our discussions when he’s elected to the Hall of Fame in five years.

Go Yankees! (And Happy Star Wars Day, fellow nerds!)

Game 31: NYY vs. HOU — Late inning heroics

I think the Yankees can officially declare this road trip a huge success. I mean, the sweep in Anaheim was a big deal, but taking 3 of the 4 games from last year’s World Series Champions (and the team that beat them in the ALCS) really sealed that victory feeling as they fell home today.

The Yankees got ahead of the Astros once again and kept it that way for most of the game. They loaded up the bases in the 2nd with Sanchez’s walk, Walker’s hit-by-pitch, and Andujar’s short single. Ronald Torreyes hit into another short single to keep those bases loaded and score Sanchez. Then Gleyber Torres hit a long sacrifice fly that scored Walker and get the first out of the inning. Two outs later and runners were stranded on base. Then in the 3rd, Gregorius hit a 1-out double, watched Sanchez work a 2-out walk, and then scored on Neil Walker’s single.

This offensive jump-start gave their starter a bit of leeway too. Masahiro Tanaka got the start this afternoon and really had a pretty good outing over all for the first 6 innings of his outing. He was cruising along at just 73 pitches through those 6 scoreless innings and only giving up 3 hits and no walks, with 5 strike outs. But then he got into some trouble in the 7th. He gave up consecutive singles and then hit the next batter. (Or maybe he didn’t, as the Yankees’ challenge of that call was upheld and not confirmed, though honestly, it never even brushed the sleeve, but they don’t ask my perspective at MLB HQ.)

So it was on to Chad Green with the bases loaded and no outs in the 7th. He gave up 2 short singles that kept the bases loaded and scored the first 2 runners, and a messy passed ball scored one more moving the remaining runners to scoring position, the tying run at that point. He finally got an out with a stellar strikeout, and a ground out scored another run for the Astros to put them in a narrow lead. A lead-off solo home run in the 8th gave the Astros an insurance run. And an out later, the Yankees turned to Chasen Shreve for a quick 9-pitch 2 outs to close out the 8th and shut the door on any possible furthering of the Astros’ lead.

And then the Yankees had quite the 9th inning, starting (as all big innings do today) by loading up the bases on this new reliever. Walker walked, Andujar singled, and Hicks singled. The Astros called in another new reliever, but that didn’t stop the Yankees. Gleyber Torres singled and scored both Walker and Andujar (making his RBI count at 3 tonight) that also moved Hicks to 3rd. After an out that was too short to score Hicks, Aaron Judge hit into a little grounder that the Astros fielded poorly, only getting the force out at 2nd and failing to “turn two”. So Hicks was able to score the winning run.

And I say winning because Aroldis Chapman came on for the bottom of the 9th and got a pretty good save, striking out the Astros’ best hitter (and last year’s MVP, I might add).

Final score: 6-5 Yankees, Yankees win series 3-1

Not a bad way to end a road trip.

Next up: The Yankees head home to face the Indians this weekend (their 2017 ALDS foes), and then after an off day on Monday, they will host the Red Sox and Athletics for 3 games each through next weekend to complete this 9-game home stand. Momentum is everything, and the Yankees will need it to get through this home stand as both their first 2 opponents are sitting at the top of their respective divisions.

I’m not much for standings this early in the seasons, but it’s worth noting that the Yankees are 5 games ahead of the Indians and just 1.5 games behind the Red Sox in the AL. (And a game ahead of the Astros now, if you’re wondering where all the leaders land on the chart.) But I’ll warn everyone a simple thing — this means so much of nothing. We’ve watched just 31 games this season. That means there’s 131 games left to play (about 81% of the season left). A whole lot can change between now and the September call-up, and there’s always a dark horse that comes out of nowhere and surprises the world with this just outstanding performance later in the season.

So, hold on to something, we’ve got a long way to go.

Go Yankees!