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 141: NYY vs. SEA — #TanakaTime Shutout

Clearly something happened in the Yankees’ journey to the Emerald City. They might not have met the Wizard, they might have even lost their luggage, but they found their heart.

Masahiro Tanaka was just on point in tonight’s opener in this weekend series in Seattle. He shut out the home team with 102 pitches in 8 innings, allowing just 3 hits, and getting 10 impressive strikeouts. David Robertson followed Tanaka’s start with a great 9th inning, adding a strikeout of his own to the running tally tonight.

The Yankee batters had a bit of fun in first third of the game, setting the results of the game with a couple of good hits. In the 2nd, with 2 outs, Voit singled and then scored as part of Gleyber Torres’ 2-run home run, his 23rd homer of the season. Then Gardner led-off the 3rd with a single and scored on Andrew McCutchen’s 2-run home run to secure the Yankees’ win.

The Yankees would only get a couple more hits tonight, so the game became more about maintaining that early lead, something Tanaka (and then Robertson) and the Yankee defense did rather well.

Final score: 4-0 Yankees

Roster moves/injury updates: The Yankees activated Didi Gregorius off the disabled list. Gregorius, recovering from a badly bruised heel last month, is taking it slow on the return. Thanks to new additions and the recent September call-ups, there’s no real rush to push the recently recovered player in the game just yet. But he’s there if they need him off the bench, as he did tonight for the latter half of the game.

And Aaron Judge is taking more swings and getting back into regular exercises. Still hitting off a tee, he’s also working on short-distance tosses for some light batting practice. And with no prominent pain as a result of the effort, things are looking good for his return some time soon. Still no definite return date yet, but again, the new additions to the roster are helping bridge the gap until he’s ready for some major league swings.

Finally, we wish Sonny and Jessica Gray and their family a huge congratulations. They recently welcomed their son Declan to the family. Gray missed the Oakland series on paternity leave but is back with the team now. Another Yankee, another “Baby Pickles”.

Go Yankees!

Game 137: DET vs. NYY — Sunday split

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Yankees!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final score: 2-1 Yankees

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

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

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

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

Go Yankees!

Game 135: DET vs. NYY — Late inning heroics, ejections, & MVP additions

There is always a lot of talk about the official trade deadline at the end of July, but there is another deadline just a month later that also shake up rosters in that final September push towards October baseball. And the Yankees weren’t exactly on the sidelines in this game either, but before I mix any more sports metaphors, they also had a game to play tonight.

Luis Severino got the start in this second of four games against the visiting Tigers and actually had a decent outing despite getting a no-decision tonight. He threw 102 pitches in his 6 innings, gave up 6 hits and 3 runs, and struck out an impressive 10 Detroit batters. A 2-out solo homer in the 4th got things started for the Tigers, and with runners at the corners in the 5th, a 2-out triple added a few more runs.

While the Yankee batters were held off for much of the game, they came back raring to go in the 6th. Romine led-off the inning and was allowed on base thanks to a sloppy fielding error, but he was thrown out on Torreyes’ grounder (and failed double play). Brett Gardner hit a monster 2-run home run to get the Yankees on the board, and 1 out later, Aaron Hicks hit the tying run, a solo home run deep into the right field seats. Miguel Andujar pushed the Yankees ahead with another solo home run into the left field seats.

But the Tigers took advantage of a pitching change and Jonathan Holder’s recent struggles to tie up the game, who gave up a couple of singles. Zach Britton came on to try to stem the Tigers’ attempt, but promptly gave up a single. The lead runner scored just before the other runner got tagged out trying to get to 3rd to end the inning. The game was tied again.

Britton continued on in the 8th inning and quickly loaded up the bases with 2 singles and a walk, but only allowed a sacrifice fly to score the go-ahead run for the Tigers before getting out of his own jam.

So, in the bottom of the 8th inning, the Yankees came back once again. Gardner led-off with a double, Hicks worked a 1-out walk, and Voit got a 2-out walk to load up the bases. The Tigers went back to their bullpen and that certainly helped the Yankees.

Gleyber Torres singled home both Gardner and Hicks, ending up at 2nd on the throw, and putting the Yankees back in the lead. The Tigers intentionally walked Walker to re-load up the bases before Austin Romine’s single scored that insurance run for the Yankees.

And David Robertson had a bit of issues in the 9th, but came through with 3 solid strikeouts to earn the save and close out the game.

Final score: 7-5 Yankees

Okay, so I went back and looked at the biggest contention of the game — the strike zone, which got both managers thrown out of the game at various points. Aaron Boone had enough of low balls being called strikes that he actually went out to the plate to prove his point, miming the difference between when a catcher catches a strike vs. when he catches a ball. Following some choice words, Boone was tossed in the 5th.

But then the Tigers’ manager found his way to the clubhouse in the 8th involuntarily after arguing a similar argument. To be fair, it was a little wonky tonight. It certainly was inconsistent. The first half of the game favored the Tigers, but then the second half (after Boone’s ejection) favored the Yankees. I mean, it’s frustrating enough when it’s a bad strike zone, but it’s tolerable when it’s at least consistent. That’s the issue here.

And in the much-talked-about news, the Yankees added a few new faces to the Yankees roster. Just tonight, they added infielder Adeiny Hechavarria in a trade with Pirates for a player to be named later or cash considerations. Hechavarria also played with the Marlins and Rays until joining the Pirates this season.

And last night, the Yankees really made a splash by picking up veteran outfielder Andrew McCutchen. “Cutch” was a popular player with the Pirates for years before joining the Giants this season. He had to shave his trademark goatee, but this former MVP will add the much-needed depth to the outfield with Judge still out with his wrist injury and Stanton battling lingering hamstring issues. But it doesn’t mean that they’re worried about the status of Judge, just that they now have enough power and defense regardless of who’s on the roster and who’s on the DL.

Go Yankees!