Games 128 & 129: NYY vs. BAL — Double the wins, double the fun

It was a good day for a doubleheader in Baltimore today. And the Yankees were raring to go and chip away at the Red Sox’s lead in the AL East, while showing their strength to the good contingency of fans that showed up at Camden Yards for both games.

Game 1 (Make-up game of rain-out June 3)
JA Happ got the start for the first game of this doubleheader, the second game of this weekend series, and the make-up game from a rain out in June. And Happ continued his strong show as a starter, throwing 107 pitches in 6 innings, giving up 5 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and striking out 9 Baltimore batters. Those allowed runs came in the 2nd, easily his weakest inning. With 1 out, he gave up a walk and a double that scored on a long single.

But then he stayed strong and kept the Orioles from doing much else. His lone reliever for the game, Luis Cessa, followed suit for the final third of the game. In fact, it wasn’t until the 9th inning that he gave the Orioles another chance. A lead-off single got out on a grounder the Yankees couldn’t turn into a double play. That new runner then took 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a 2-out single. But 1 out later, that was it for the O’s.

Meanwhile, the Yankees fell into a nice momentum in the batter’s box. In the 1st, with 1 out, Stanton walked, moved to 3rd on Hicks’ double, and scored on Miguel Andujar’s ground out. Robinson led-off the 3rd with a single, moved to 2nd on Gardner’s walk, and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ 1-out single. Andujar followed that up with a big 3-run home run.

With 1 out in the 4th, Robinson doubled and ended the Orioles’ starter’s afternoon early. Of course, it didn’t help that the first reliever promptly gave up a 2-run home run to Brett Gardner. Andujar then led-off the 5th with a single, ended up at 3rd on Torres’ single, and scored on Luke Voit’s single. And solo home run by Gleyber Torres in the 8th and Aaron Hicks in the 9th capped off the Yankees’ early show.

Final score (Game 1): 10-3 Yankees

Game 2 (regularly scheduled game)
Sonny Gray got a shot at as starter again in the second game of today. And he too had a great out, really better than his teammate in the early game. Gray kept the Orioles scoreless as he threw just 79 pitches into the 7th, gave up 3 hits and a walk, and struck out 7 batters to earn his 10th win this season.

Holder followed him by closing out the 7th and throwing a scoreless 8th. But Tommy Kahnle had a bit of trouble as the Orioles got to their final inning. He gave up a 1-out double that moved to 3rd on a 2-out single before scoring on a single. With the Yankees just needing to get out of the game, they called on Betances who got the final out in just 5 pitches, leaving runners stranded at the corners.

But to back Gray’s scoreless start, the Yankees needed to not be scoreless. And today was a good day for the Yankees to prove they are still the home run kings and one of the runs scored leaders. Gardner led-off the game in the 1st with a big ground-rule double and shortly scored on Aaron Hicks’ single to start the game right for the Yankees.

In the 2nd, the Yankees loaded the bases with singles to Torres, Romine, and Torreyes. A wild pitch had all the runners moving up and barely scoring Gleyber Torres. A sloppy fielder’s choice allowed Gardner to make it to 1st and Romine to score. Then in the 4th, with 1 out, Romine singled and later scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s 2-out single. Austin Romine led-off the 9th inning with a solo home run to cap off the Yankees’ run show today.

Final score (Game 2): 5-1 Yankees

Okay, so the make-up game from earlier was a win, which means that the Yankees officially swept the Orioles 3-0 for the weekend of June 1-3. And the Yankees are just a game short of doing so again this weekend. So fingers crossed, Yankee Universe, for another strong win tomorrow night.

Roster moves: As allowed by MLB, the Yankees called up their 26th man for the doubleheader today. They chose Luis Cessa, who certainly helped the Yankees seal their victory in that first game. Cessa, of course, was sent back to “the farm” once the games were over, but he’s been a solid choice for the Yankees for this kind of long-term relief.

Go Yankees!

Game 127: NYY vs. BAL — Voit-power +10

CC Sabathia got the start in his return from a brief stint on the DL so that he could rest his problematic knee. In this weekend opener against the Orioles, he had a pretty good outing overall, throwing just 80 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and striking out an impressive 8 batters.

Actually, almost all his allowed offense was in the bottom of the 1st inning. He gave up consecutive singles that moved up on a fly out before a walk loaded up the bases. Another single scored 2 runs to get the Orioles on the board early. But then Sabathia and the Yankees’ defense held them off for the next 5 innings.

And meanwhile, the Yankees came back to tie up the game in the 4th inning when Walker worked a 1-out walk and then scored as part of Luke Voit’s 2-run home run. David Robertson came into the game in the 7th, and his first batter made it safely on a fielding error to kick off the inning. After 2 outs, a 2-run home run became an inning of unearned runs to put the Orioles back in the lead.

But the Yankees came back in the 8th, by loading up the bases with 1 out thanks to a walk to Stanton and 2 singles to Andujar and Walker. And on the 3rd pitcher of the inning, Gleyber Torres hit a solid single to score both Stanton and Andujar to once again tie up the game. But they loaded up the bases again in hopes of taking the lead, but then left them stranded.

After Betances and Green sailed their way through their innings, and the Yankees weren’t able to find another opportunity to break the tie. So the game went into an extra inning, and there the Yankees found their chance. Neil Walker broke the tie with a 1-out solo home run up the middle. Then Torres worked a walk and in an attempt to steal 2nd ended up at 3rd on a throwing error. He then scored as part of 2-run home run by Luke Voit, his 2nd homer of the game, which would be the defining factor.

So, the Orioles had one last chance in the bottom of the 10th, and the Yankees opted to send in former Oriole and temporary Yankee closer Zach Britton to earn his first save against his former team. With 2 outs, he gave up a solo home run to edge the O’s closer to the Yankees’ lead. But a ground out later, the Orioles ran out of opportunities.

Final score: 7-5 Yankees, in 10 innings

Roster moves: During the travel day yesterday, the Yankees optioned reliever Chance Adams back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make room for tonight’s starter. Sabathia was activated off the 10-day disabled list, only missing one scheduled start to rest his knee. Plus, the Yankees are making up a rain-out game from June as part of the doubleheader tomorrow. So, there will be a roster move to add a 26th man, as per the rules for doubleheaders.

And speaking of tonight’s starter, there is a nice article on the veteran pitcher and his family this season. It’s a nice insight on family sacrifice and finding the balance of blending work and home life, as well as the importance of surrounding yourself with people who will challenge you and support you through all of life’s ups and downs. A good life lesson either way you cut it.

Go Yankees!

Game 122: TOR vs. NYY — Abbreviated victory

I have mixed feelings about a shortened game, even more so by a game like this. In this opener against the Blue Jays, they were on a race against the oncoming storm. Yet another instance where the weather decided to stomp all over another game.

Lance Lynn got the start in today’s game, and while it wasn’t the strongest start, it certainly matched the Blue Jays’ starter. So they both pitched to a no-decision. Lynn threw 99 pitchers into the 5th, gave up 6 hits, 3 walks, and 5 runs, and struck out 5 batters.

Most of that damage came in the 1st inning. The lead-off batter walked and was out on a force out grounder at 2nd. A wild pitch moved the runner to 2nd, and a walk allowed another runner on base. A single scored the lead runner, and after a nice strikeout, another single scored another run. After a walk loaded the bases, another single scored 2 more runs before Lynn got out of the inning.

After holding strong through the next 3 innings, Lynn came out for the 5th. He gave up a double that promptly scored on an RBI single to cap off the Blue Jays’ runs tonight. And it would also be end of the Lynn’s night. Chad Green came on for a strong outing of his own, 2 solid innings in just 18 pitches to set himself up for the win. David Robertson’s 7th was a perfect scoreless one amid the drizzle.

Meanwhile, the Yankees paced out their offense through the game, taking opportunities when they came. In the 1st, with 2 outs, Hicks worked a walk and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ great triple. Then Gregorius scored on Miguel Andujar’s double. And in the 4th, with 1 out and Torres and Bird on base with a double and walk, Neil Walker smacked a big 3-run home run.

Hicks led-off the 5th with a walk, ended up at 3rd on Andujar’s 1-out single, and then scored on a fielder’s choice that Gleyber Torres hit into. And leave it to Giancarlo Stanton to lead-off the 7th inning with a solo home run as the skies rumbled along and the drizzle picked up. And after Hicks struck out, the rain was just too much to continue.

So they went into rain delay. For an hour and twenty-five minutes before they made the decision to just call the game. Which ended up being a good thing because there is going to be no letting up in the rain for most of the night. And they have an afternoon game tomorrow.

Final score: 7-5 Yankees, in 7(ish) innings

Today was the first day of this declared anniversary weekend, the 20th anniversary of the 1998 Championship Yankees. There’s a ton of fun events planned for the fans, including a display of a replica of the 1998 World Series trophy, alumni meeting fans, a special ceremony tomorrow before the game, fan favors like replica rings, and more surprises for the fans throughout the weekend.

Okay, so, I do have mixed feelings about an abbreviated game. I see the reasoning behind why they called it. There is no way they could reasonably resume play at any point tonight and get enough sleep before tomorrow’s game. And the game is not a tie, so there is a definite winner already, and it’s beyond the 5th inning, so it’s considered a complete game.

But it wasn’t exactly an easy win. The Blue Jays kept things close enough to strike back at any point. And if the Yankees were on the flip side of the score, I’d be upset they didn’t have a chance to come back and at least attempt a win. Yes, I might be a little more willing to accept the result if the Yankees were stomping on the Jays like 7-0 because when they dominate, such a result would feel more like mercy. Because a win is a win regardless of by how much.

However, that win matters a whole lot to the Yankees, but due to the Blue Jays’ losing season, a loss doesn’t make a difference. There’s no way they’re going to the postseason, but the Yankees need every win possible to ensure their October spot. It worked out for Yankee Universe in the end, but I don’t think I’m ever going to feel entirely comfortable with this kind of abbreviated game.

Go Yankees!

Game 119: TB vs. NYY — Happ in charge & Romine’s power drive

Rain seems to be the biggest foe of baseball this season. But tonight’s game was only held off by a 21 minute delay at the beginning of the game to dry out the field a bit before the Yankees and Rays began their opening game of this mid-week series.

JA Happ got the start tonight and threw a pretty good game to earn his 3rd win as a Yankee and 13th win overall this season. Happ threw 106 pitches in his 7 scoreless innings, gave up just 1 hits and 4 walks, and struck out 4 Rays batters. Happ is certainly finding his stride as a Yankee and fitting in very nicely to the Yankees rotation.

The Yankees batters faced the odd Rays pitching pattern again. The “starter” only threw just 1 inning before his primary reliever threw 5 innings. Normally, the longest pitcher starts the game and then relievers piece together an inning or two to finish out the game. Now, the Rays were the one of the first teams to use the extreme fielding shifts and now doing this strange pitching pattern, so maybe it will catch on too.

Anyway, it’s not like it worked out well. The Yankees dinged into the Rays’ “starter” in the 1st inning. With 1 out, Stanton doubled and then advanced to 3rd on a pick-off throwing error and then scored easily on Aaron Hicks’ single. The Yankees then loaded up the bases with Gregorius’ single and Bird’s walk, but a ground out ended the early threat.

The long-term reliever (I guess) actually held off the Yankees for much of his 5 innings, pitching into the 6th. However, in the 5th, the Yankees found a small hole to capitalize on from an unlikely suspect. Walker led-off with a walk, and then Austin Romine liked the first pitch and plopped it into the right field seats for a 2-run home run to give the Yankees’ lead some cushion.

Under the Rays’ final reliever, the Yankees found one more chance to add a run in the 8th. With 2 outs, Andujar doubled and was pinch-run by Robinson. Robinson then scored on Greg Bird’s double to cap off the Yankees’ night.

Dellin Betances came out for the 8th inning, and the Rays’ lead-off batter took his first pitch into the visitors’ dugout for a solo home run to get the Rays on the board. But then Betances breezed through a quick 3 outs. And Aroldis Chapman only needed 9 pitches to earn his 31st save to close out the game.

Final score: 4-1 Yankees

There is quite a bit of conversation in regards to this year’s Rookie of the Year candidate. And it should both please and not really surprise any in Yankee Universe that both Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. While Torres has pretty much always been in the conversation due to the pre-set expectations as a prospect, the biggest standout and surprise is the rise of Andujar.

Andujar has been a consistent force for the Yankees, virtually taking up the starter’s role at 3rd and being quite the power hitter at the plate, with the team’s highest batting average and doubles. Torres, of course, made the All-Star team as the back-up 2nd baseman (finishing 2nd in voting behind a veteran superstar infielder), a huge honor for his rookie year, but Andujar was in the mix for his position, finishing 3rd behind 2 big star players for other teams. That’s how valuable these players are.

Both are great candidates for Rookie of the Year, but voting and awards season is still so far off and there’s still quite a bit of baseball yet to play. Though it would be something to have another Yankee rank so high in this category. Sanchez was 2nd in 2016, Judge won the honor last year, and both Torres and Andujar are up for it in 2018.

I’ve said it for a few years now. The Yankee farm system is really good, and it’s given me hope for the future of the franchise. And if they keep churning out these kinds of players, Yankee Universe shouldn’t be worried either.

Go Yankees!

Game 111: NYY vs. CHW — A shutout gem from Lynn to reset the Yankees

Perhaps it was a mix of things — Lynn’s sharp pitching, the sloppy defense by the White Sox, or sheer desperation of the Yankees to pull themselves out of this skid — but things worked in the Yankees’ favor tonight (finally) after having some recent issues where they just weren’t looking like the 2018 Yankees we’ve seen most of this season.

Still rather new to the Yankees, veteran starter Lance Lynn proved his trade was worth it with a really great outing in tonight’s opener in Chicago. Lynn threw 108 pitches into the 8th inning, giving up just 2 hits and a walk, and striking out 9 White Sox batters. After a single allowed in the 1st, he got 19 consecutive outs before giving up a single in the 8th. He and the Yankee defense refused to let the White Sox do much of anything tonight.

After a standing ovation from a healthy contingency of Yankee fans in the stands on the Chicago’s south side, Lynn would cede the game to AJ Cole. Cole held the White Sox to their scoreless game through his 5 outs to close out the game.

The Yankee bats, meanwhile, took a bit to wake up. But then they were back to form. In the 4th, with 1 out, Stanton doubled and moved to 3rd on Gregorius’ double. He scored on Aaron Hicks’ single, and Gregorius then scored on Gleyber Torres’ single.

Later in the 5th, with 1 out, Higashioka and Gardner each singled to put them on the corners. A wild pitch had Kyle Higashioka scoring the next run, and Didi Gregorius’ single saw the speedy Brett Gardner rushing all the way home from 2nd to just beat the tag at home.

And to cap off the night, Gleyber Torres hit a 1-out solo home run in the 8th, and after Andujar worked a 2-out walk, he would score as part of Neil Walker’s big 2-run home run to solidify the Yankees’ big night.

Final score: 7-0 Yankees

It looks like starter JA Happ will be able to return for his scheduled start on Thursday when the Yankees return to the Bronx to face the Rangers. Happ has been dealing with the effects of hand, foot, and mouth disease, which is initially highly contagious and consists mostly of a bad rash and feeling feverish and generally terrible for about 7-10 days. Not exactly ideal for the kind of exertion one needs to pitch in a professional baseball game.

And Aaron Judge is doing some basic baseball activities with the team during the pre-game warm-ups in Chicago. He is traveling with the team while resting his chip-fractured wrist. He has yet to swing a bat because it’s still a broken bone that causes some pain and discomfort.

Initially, he was given a rough estimate of 3 weeks when he got his diagnosis (July 26), which would be August 16. But I think most people agree that we’d rather he be at 100% than risk a recurrence or be only at half his potential. Fortunately, with a break, it’s easier to tell when it’s healed, in that there’s no more break. It’s why sprains and strains are harder to gauge — there’s not definitive sign for healing that’s consistent with every person. Injuries still stink either way.

Go Yankees!

Game 110: NYY vs. BOS — Swept away thanks to a blown save

Things were looking really good for the Yankees tonight in their final game at Fenway, hoping to stop the Red Sox from sweeping the series and pushing them further down the rankings of the AL East. The Yankees were playing well and things were clicking, but late night stumbles weren’t soft enough to allow for recovery

Masahiro Tanaka had a pretty decent outing, throwing 97 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and a run, and struck out an impressive 9 batters. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo Green Monster home run in the 5th. Robertson took over to close out the 5th and throw a scoreless 6th. Britton and Betances followed suit with scoreless innings of their own.

After being held off by a familiar foe for much of the game, the Yankee batters came alive in the 7th inning. Gardner led-off with a single and Romine worked a walk to end Boston’s starter’s night. But the offense kept coming. Robinson’s walk loaded the bases, and Aaron Hicks hit into a force attempt that was bobbled for a fielding error to score both Gardner and Romine.

Giancarlo Stanton’s single scored Robinson, and a wild pitch moved the runners up before an out was finally recorded in the inning. A new reliever got Gleyber Torres to hit into a sacrifice fly that scored Hicks before another out ended the Yankees’ big inning. Unfortunately, the Yankees continued their pattern of getting runners in scoring position and leaving them stranded. And in a series where runs were crucial, every little bit was needed and just wasn’t happening.

Anyway, the Yankees were cruising along just fine after their big 7th inning. All they needed was just to close out the 9th inning. But Aroldis Chapman was having a rough time finding consistency with the strike zone. With 2 outs, he founded the bases loaded thanks to 3 walks. A single scored 2 runs and a throwing error allowed the tying run to score and the Fenway Faithful to come alive as midnight approached in “The Olde Towne”.

And into the 10th inning they went. The Yankees batters were quickly silenced in just 9 pitches, so Jonathan Holder came on the mound with hopes to push the game into the 11th. He quickly got 2 outs, but then gave up a single, a wild pitch to put the winning run in scoring position, and then intentionally walked a batter. It was basically inevitable at that point — a single then easily scored the pinch-runner to give the Red Sox the victory.

Final score: 5-4 Red Sox, in the 10th, Red Sox sweep the Yankees 4-0

Next up: the Yankees will head to Chicago’s Southside to face the White Sox for 3 games starting tomorrow. This could help right the Yankees a bit because the White Sox are not having a good season at all. Of course, this could continue as the Yankees head back home for a long home stand to face mostly losing teams (Rangers, Mets, Rays, and Blue Jays). Of those, only the Rays have a winning season, sitting just at .500 after losing to the White Sox this weekend.

Now, it’s worth noting that the Yankees are now 9.5 games behind the Red Sox thanks to this series. However, the Yankees are still the 3rd best team in all of MLB, well behind the Red Sox and barely behind the Astros, and nicely ahead of every other division leader. Before you panic, Yankee Universe, it’s worth noting that there is still 52 games left to play this season.

And to be perfectly fair, the Red Sox are a great this year, very similar to the recent 2007 (and somewhat the 2013) championship team. Remember: competition in a competitive game is a good thing. You want to be challenged and pushed to be better than expectations. That challenge exposes where you’re weak so that you can fix those areas and truly see what you’re made of. Potential is just hypothetical until challenge exposes its depth and breadth.

Go Yankees!

Game 106: BAL vs. NYY — Torres’ power & rain delay not enough to reset a “Gray” start

Sonny Gray had a great 1st inning in today’s matinée against the Orioles, but with looming skies, the forecast wasn’t good for either the Yankees’ starter or the actual weather over the Bronx. Gray threw 57 pitches into only the 3rd inning, gave up 8 hits, 2 walks, and struck out just 3 batters to continue his bad record of not doing well at home, despite a good record against the Orioles previously.

In the 2nd, Gray gave up a single, a walk, an RBI single, a single to load the bases, and a 2-RBI double before recording an out. Then he gave up another single that scored 2 more runs and another single before the Yankees’ defense finally snapped into action for a great double play — a line drive to right field and then getting the runner doubling off 2nd base.

With the O’s in a huge lead, Gray got the first 2 outs fairly easily. But then he gave up a solo home run that bounced off the net over Monument Park, and then put runners on the corners with a walk and single. And as the rain started in the Bronx, the Yankees called on new Yankee, veteran starter, and today’s spot-starter Lance Lynn to make his pinstripe debut. Lynn, unfortunately, gave up an RBI single (charged to Gray) but then found his momentum with his first Yankee strikeout.

But between innings, the rain became a deluge, and the tarp came out. After a 39 minute delay, including the cleaning and drying of the field, the game resumed. Lynn returned and threw 4 more strong innings for a total of 71 pitches. Green and Holder each threw a scoreless inning of their own in hopes that the Yankees could chip away at that rather hefty Orioles’ lead.

And they did. Gleyber Torres led-off the 2nd with a solo home run, but the other Yankees in that inning loaded up the bases only to leave them stranded there, something that is more of a pattern than I’m sure the Yankees are happy about. The Orioles’ starter actually held the Yankees off for most of the game.

It wasn’t until the 8th that they got another chance to change the narrative. They loaded up the bases with a single to Hicks and walks to Torres and Bird. It would be Miguel Andujar to single home Hicks, but a strikeout, a pitching change, and a double play stranded those loaded bases again.

Then with 2 outs in the 9th, Didi Gregorius gave the waiting fans hope with a solid single, and Hicks worked a walk. The Orioles were literally 1 out away from the win and decided to change pitchers again to get that. Instead, they gave up a 3-run home run to Gleyber Torres, his 2nd homer of the day, to inch the Yankees closer. Unfortunately, they ran out of outs on a pop fly the next batter.

Final score: 7-5 Orioles, they split the series 1-1

Next up: The Yankees travel a few hours up the Coast to Boston for a 4-game weekend series starting tomorrow. They’ll head over to see the White Sox for 3 games before heading home for a long home stand to face the Rangers, Mets (in a make-up game), Rays, and Blue Jays.

It’s August. We’re at the push for the end of the season now. Just 1 month before September call-ups, so it’s kind of at that point where every game needs to matter, especially those games against teams on the wrong end of the season (like the Orioles) that should be easy wins. Despite always being a tough series, the Red Sox this weekend will be even tougher as the Sox currently sit 5 games ahead of the Yankees and would love to keep it there (or make it more).

However, the White Sox, Rangers, and Mets are scraping the bottom of their respective divisions. And the Rays and Blue Jays are hovering around .500 in the AL East. All of these teams will be playing to move up from where they are if they even want a chance in October. So all of these games are a must-win for the Yankees or that October dream will be just that — a dream, rather than an assured reality.

Go Yankees!