Game 16: BOS vs. NYY — #BigMaple’s big rivalry shutout

James Paxton, tonight’s starter, certainly put it in words all in Yankee Universe can understand: “We want to beat Boston every time.” And maybe it was that mindset that helped surge him and the rest of the Yankee team to just dominate the visiting Red Sox in the first of their 2-game mini-series in the Bronx.

Paxton threw a stellar 110 pitches through 8 scoreless innings, giving up just 2 hits and a walk and striking out 12 Boston batters to earn tonight’s win. Joe Harvey came in to close out the game with 14 pitches in the 9th inning to complete the shutout.

The Red Sox’s ace got the start for them and was only able to throw 5 innings tonight against the power-hitting of the Yankees. He held them off until the 3rd, when Gardner led-off with a double and later scored on DJ LeMahieu’s 2-out single. LeMahieu moved to 2nd on Judge’s walk and then scored on Luke Voit’s single. Clint Frazier led-off the 4th with a solo home run. Two outs later, Romine singled and then scored on Mike Tauchman’s double.

After the Red Sox went to their bullpen in the 6th, the Yankees didn’t seem to know how to slow down. Urshella doubled, Gardner walked, and both moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt. Then it would be Mike Tauchman to smack a big 3-run home run into the second deck of the right field seats. And Gleyber Torres capped off the Yankees’ big night with a 1st pitch lead-off home run in the 7th.

Final score: 8-0 Yankees

Injury news and roster moves: The Yankees announced that Greg Bird has once again been plagued by the injury bug and placed on the Injured List. This time he has torn his plantar fascia, which is the connective tissue between the ball of the foot and the heel that is under the instep/arch. It is the step beyond the common injury of plantar fasciitis, or a strain in the same area, usually due to a sudden trauma or injury and is accompanied by a pop and bruising in the area. It can take up to 12 weeks to completely heal, and surgery is rarely needed.

Anyway, so Bird will actually be wearing a boot on his foot for 10-14 days during the initial pain and injury period. He won’t be back in baseball activities for at least a month, but this can’t be the kind of year Bird has been wanting.

To fill that void, the Yankees moved Jacoby Ellsbury to the 60-day IL to make room for  Spring Training stand-out Mike Ford, called up from AAA Scranton. New Jersey native Ford grew up loving recent Yankee legends like Tino Martinez and Derek Jeter, so to don the pinstripes and play in the same dirt is truly a dream come true.

Go Yankees!

Game 4: DET vs. NYY — A bittersweet milestone

Well, the Yankees have won 500 games at the newest incarnation of Yankee Stadium. It only took a decade (as the new stadium opened in 2009), but that isn’t bad as they only play 81 games here every season. So, another great milestone for the organization to check off.

Domingo German got the start in tonight’s chilly opener against the visiting Tigers. He actually had a pretty good outing, throwing 79 pitches in 5 innings, giving up just 1 hit, 1 unearned run, and 5 walks, while striking out 7 Detroit batters (of the 15 outs he was responsible). In the 4th, he gave up a 1-out walk that moved to 2nd on a 2-out single. A wild pitch and throwing error ended up allowing that runner to score, but then he got a great strikeout to get out of the inning.

The rest of the Yankees’ pitching staff tonight was rather good too. Green, Britton, and Ottavino each kept the Tigers from adding to their score without giving up much on the base paths. And Chapman earned his first save of the season with a beautiful 7-pitch 9th inning.

The Yankees were able to give their pitchers enough run support tonight to shift things in their favor. Gary Sanchez led-off the 2nd with a solid solo home run over the center field wall. Then, with 2 outs in the 3rd, Luke Voit worked a walk and then booked it home to score on Greg Bird’s single, assisted by a sloppy fielding error.

Brett Gardner capped off the Yankees’ scoring with a lead-off solo home run into the Yankees’ bullpen in the 5th. With this small lead, the Yankees kept in control of the game, mostly thanks to the strong appearance by the bullpen.

Final score: 3-1 Yankees

Okay, now for the bad news. Before the game, the Yankees announced that they were moving Giancarlo Stanton to the 10-day Injured List with a grade 1 left biceps strain. He’s been shut down from baseball activities for at least 10 days and then reassess for the next step. Stanton joins the list of regular outfielders already on the IL — Ellsbury and Hicks.

Then tonight, Miguel Andujar was pulled from the game with right shoulder strain, only for a diagnosis to be a small tear in his labrum. This is not good news because one of the possible solutions would be season-ending surgery. And it’s just Game 4 of 162.

Roster moves: Placing Stanton and Andujar on the injured list now made room for 2 players. Unsurprisingly, the Yankees promoted Clint Frazier and Tyler Wade to help fill the vacancies. Both players were of course disappointed in not making the Opening Day roster, so to be called up so soon has to be exciting, despite the circumstances.

It’s always a bittersweet moment for roster moves. One guy gets promoted but only when one guy gets injured. Which is basically the overall feeling of finding out these injuries while recognizing these promotions and celebrating 500 home wins.

Go Yankees!

Game 1: BAL vs. NYY — Opening Day victory

Baseball is back! In contrast to last year’s snow-covered and postponed, this afternoon was a bright, sunny, cool late March day in New York for the Yankees to host their Opening Day. Festivities included team introductions, a Broadway star singing the National Anthem, a giant flag waved by West Point Cadets, and new Hall of Fame Inductee Mariano Rivera to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

It was baseball season again, the Yankees won the game, and all is right with the world. At least for now.

Masahiro Tanaka got to start today’s game against the visiting Orioles, throwing 83 pitches into the 6th inning. He gave up 6 hits and 2 runs (1 earned) and struck out 5 Baltimore batters. In fact, he didn’t give up anything until the 4th. With 2 outs, a single made it to 2nd on a throwing error and then scored on an RBI single. And in the 6th, with 1 out, a single moved to 2nd on a ground out and scored on a double.

He handed the game over to Adam Ottavino, to make his Yankee debut and commanded his way through 4 outs and through the 7th inning in just 19 pitches, with 3 stellar strikeouts. Britton and Chapman closed out the game with a scoreless inning a piece.

But the Yankees got things started early with a great 1st inning. With 1 out, Judge and Stanton each singled, setting up Luke Voit to power a big 3-run home run straight up the middle. Then in the 3rd, they loaded up the bases with Judge’s single and walks to Stanton and Voit. Miguel Andujar hit into a basic double play, but Judge still managed to score a run to keep the Yankees lead intact.

They loaded up the bases again in the 5th with 3 consecutive walks to Gardner, Judge, and Stanton. Luke Voit was hit by a pitch, which walked in Gardner. Miguel Andujar’s long sacrifice fly (just feet from a grand slam, by the way) scored Judge. And finally, Greg Bird capped off the Yankees’ scoring with a solid lead-off home run into the Yankees’ bullpen in the 8th.

Final score: 7-2 Yankees

The Yankees have an off-day tomorrow before the series against the Orioles continues with games on Saturday and Sunday. They will then host the Tigers before heading out on their first road trip to Baltimore and Houston.

For the entirety of the 2019 season, the Yankees will wear a black arm band on their jersey to honor the late Mel Stottlemyre, who passed away in January. After 11 seasons as a pitcher with the Yankees, Stottlemyre served as a pitching coach for the Mets, Astros, Yankees, and Mariners, though he always came back to the Bronx and was a frequent face around the clubhouse for years, finally losing his battle to cancer. He is greatly missed.

Roster moves: To help solidify that 40-man roster, the Yankees made a few things official for those keeping track. They placed Didi Gregorius (elbow surgery), Jacoby Ellsbury (hip surgery), Dellin Betances (shoulder impingement), Luis Severino (rotator cuff inflammation), Ben Heller (elbow surgery), and Aaron Hicks (back strain) on the 10-day injury list. This was all retroactive to March 25 (the last official day of Spring Training). Those are key names on the IL that will come off some time this year progressively and could certainly help the Yankees push to better the feats they hit last year (like setting a home run record and winning 100 games).

The Yankees also placed CC Sabathia on suspension, from last year’s discipline at the end of the year. Following this time served, he may be placed on the IL due to his off-season knee and heart surgery to continue his recovery.

It’s a long season. And there’s still 161 games left to play.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 31: NYY vs. WAS — Closing out Spring with a couple of losses

And just like that, Spring is over. It’s time for the “Boys of Summer”.

The Yankees made a brief stop in Washington, D.C. to visit the Nationals for their final exhibition game of the Spring. Stephen Tarpley got the start for the Yankees and had a spot of trouble in the 1st inning. A 1-out single scored as part of a 2-out 2-run home run to get the home team on the board early. Tarpley only pitched 4 outs before handing the last 2 of the 2nd over to Zack Britton.

Adam Ottavino had another impressive outing with a clean 3rd inning, but Tommy Kahnle had some trouble in the 4th. He loaded up the bases with a double, a walk, and a single. With 1 out, a sacrifice fly scored 1 run, and a single scored the next. Not able to get out of the inning, he handed the ball over to Cortes for long-term relief through the 8th, only giving up a 1-out solo homer in the 6th.

The Yankees were a little slower on the bat than the Nats. Troy Tulowitzki led-off the 3rd with a solo home run up the middle. But they were relatively quiet though most of the game. In the 6th, Zack Zehner worked a walk, and after a strikeout, the Nationals finally went to their bullpen. But then Greg Bird doubled and scored Zehner to double the Yankees’ score.

Their final opportunity came in the 8th. Zehner again led-off the inning, this time with a solid double. With 1 out, he moved to 3rd on a wild pitch. Bird then worked a walk to put runners on the corners. After another pitching change, Francisco Diaz hit a long sacrifice fly to score Zehner. But the Yankees fell short in the end.

Final score: 5-3 Nationals

Next up: The Yankee head up to the Bronx to prepare for their Opening Day and series against the Orioles. Opening Day is Thursday afternoon, followed by an off-day Friday before picking up again for the weekend, followed by a series against the visiting Tigers and then hitting the road for their first road trip. It’s baseball season again, folks.

The Yankees finish their Spring with 17 wins, 10 losses, 4 ties, and 1 canceled game. In the standings, the Yankees finish a 1/2 game ahead of the Astros. And in averages alone, they are first in the entire league. I guess you could chalk it up to all those ties this year.

Spring Overall One to Watch: Finally, as I think back on this Spring Training season, there are a few names that leap out as standout among the crowds. So, I take out players like Tarpley who ended up making the main roster and those like Wade who are likely to make the team shortly. That leaves me with a handful of outstanding players like Urshela, Amburgey, and Estrada.

But this year, I’ve got to select Kyle Holder. The 25-year-old infielder played in 20 games this Spring, mostly at shortstop, and it’s there that his quick defense has caught my eye. Last year, he bounced around the farm system a bit, including the Advanced-A Tampa, Single-A Charleston, and AA Trenton. It will be good to see how he performs this year as he works his way up the system and fine tunes those skills. See you next Spring!

Finally, our condolences go out to the family of legendary New York sports writer Marty Noble. Retired in 2016 after nearly 50 years covering Yankees and Mets baseball, Noble recently focused on his participation with the BBWAA, including special articles for their annual awards program. His friends all over the industry shared their memories and condolences. He passed away yesterday at age 70, survived by his wife and two daughters. He and his great insights of the game will be sorely missed.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 30: NYY vs. MIN — Farewell to Florida, with a win

And we’ve reached the penultimate game of the season. The Yankees headed south about 2 hours to Fort Myers to face the Twins on this lovely Sunday afternoon to close out their Florida-based Spring Training.

James “Big Maple” Paxton got the start this afternoon, throwing into the 6th inning and earning the eventual win. In the 4th, he gave up a lead-off single that scored on a double by a former Yankee (one of several familiar faces in today’s game). Later, in the 6th, a lead-off walk (also a former Yankee) scored on a double (another one) to double the Twins’ score.

Luis Cessa closed out the 6th for Paxton cleanly, but found his own spot of trouble in the 7th when a 1-out triple scored on a sacrifice fly (surprisingly, none of which were former Yankees). JP Feyereisen got his shot at Spring for an inning with a flawless 8th inning, and Alvarez closed out the game with a scoreless 9th.

While the Twins got the lead first, the Yankees were quick to answer back. In the top of the 6th, with 1 out, they loaded up the bases. Greg Bird’s ground out still moved all the runners up and scored lead runner Castillo. Romine worked a walk to load the bases again before the Twins changed pitchers. Clint Frazier promptly hit a solid bases-clearing double to place the Yankees in a firm lead.

In the 7th, Matt Lipka led-off with a single, stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on Castillo’s double. It was the insurance run they wouldn’t need with the way they were playing in the second half of the game, a stark difference to yesterday.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees

Next up: The Yankee head north in preparation for the regular season’s start on Thursday with a quick stop in our nation’s capital. They play a final Spring exhibition game at Nationals Park tomorrow night.

This last stop in a big league park gig, something that really began as a way to open new parks (like they did with the Braves’ new home stadium in 2017) is becoming a pattern across the league. It’s kind of a nice transition between Spring Training and the Regular Season. Now, if only we can get them to play all the April games in southern cities so we don’t have to worry about snow-out games…

Roster moves: We have a final 25-man roster. The biggest surprise was earlier today when the Yankees announced they optioned Tyler Wade to AAA Scranton. This means they chose their latest Yankee Mike Tauchman and his veteran versatility in the outfield over Wade’s more natural infielding skills. Certainly a disappointment for the young player, but I can’t imagine he won’t be one of the first called up when something happens.

Here’s the 2019 Yankee roster: catchers Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine; infielders Greg Bird, Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, Troy Tulowitzki, Miguel Andujar, and DJ LeMahieu; outfielders Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Mike Tauchman; starting pitchers Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, JA Happ, Domingo German, and CC Sabathia; and relievers Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Jonathan Holder, Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino, and Stephen Tarpley.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 25: TB vs. NYY — Drizzly, dreary day can’t dampen the Yankees

For much of the morning leading up the game, the big question was whether there would be a game to play thanks to the ridiculous weather this Spring. Today’s skies began overcast and dreary and spend most of the day drizzling rain all over the area as a new front came marching across the state. Even though it really never stopped, the game played on.

The regular season home team of the Rays came to visit the Yankees Spring home for this afternoon’s game. And the Yankees decided to go with a pitching strategy the Rays tested out last season — a 1-inning opening pitcher, followed by a long-term reliever and a couple of closers. While the Rays didn’t practice their pattern, the Yankees seemed to find it work for them today.

Chad Green was the opening pitcher for the 1st inning and had a bit of trouble at first. A lead-off single raced home on another single that was aided to a sloppy fielding error in right field. But then Green quickly got 3 outs to get out of the inning. Despite getting on the board early, the Rays’ batters were stymied by the Yankees’ pitching for most of the game.

Luis Cessa threw 4 solid, scoreless innings, setting himself up for the eventual win. Britton and Coulombe kept things moving through the 6th-8th innings, before David Sosebee came out for the 9th. A lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a ground out and later scored on a 2-out single to double the visiting team’s score. It was a decent attempt at a rally that fell short.

This was, of course, due to the fact that the Yankees are really becoming quite the force this Spring. Down a run in the 1st, Judge redeemed himself for that 1st inning error at the bat. He worked a 1-out walk and then hustled home on Gary Sanchez’s double to tie up the game.

In the 3rd, with 1 out, Gardner walked and stole 2nd. He then scored on Aaron Judge’s single (the first single he’s hit all Spring, by the way). Judge scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s double, and Stanton promptly scored on Sanchez’s double. Torres led-off the 4th with a walk, stole 2nd, stole 3rd on a 2-out walk, and then scored on Billy Burns’ single. And Greg Bird smacked a big 1-out solo home run in the 5th to cap off the Yankees’ lead early.

Final score: 6-2 Yankees

One to Watch: It’s Thairo Estrada again today, mostly for his stellar defense. It’s always after he makes some outstanding play, like laying out for a catch in the infield dirt or one of those nifty jump-throws, that I’m reminded that just over a year ago, he was shot in a botched robbery in his home of Venezuela.

As a reminder, last January, Estrada and his wife were going out to eat when two teenagers approached to demand cash and his phone, but as he had neither on him, they panicked and shot the young prospect. They were never caught, a symptom of the awful situation currently ravaging the South American country.

Actually, Estrada still has the bullet lodged in his hip and spent the last season plagued by injuries to his back and hamstring in effort to come back eventually. And this Spring, he’s put much of the trauma and drama of last year behind him. He’s really showing why he still should be considered one of the Yankees’ most talented prospects. (The current rankings have him much lower than he should be, but the latest rankings will be released and updated following the finalization of current 25-man and 40-man rosters this next week.)

Next up: The Yankees will travel to West Palm Beach (about 3.5 hours southeast of Tampa) to visit the Astros tomorrow and see the Cardinals on Thursday in nearby Jupiter. Just a few games left of this Spring, and things are still going strong for the Yankees. How that translates to the regular season is still very much up for the talking heads and “barstool managers” to make their infamous sweeping declarations, and the teams to prove them all wrong.

Injury news: Unfortunately, it looks like Dellin Betances will begin 2019 on the disabled list thanks to some right shoulder inflammation and impingement. The impingement is when “you raise your arm to shoulder height, the space between the acromion [top corner shoulder bone] and rotator cuff [tendons connecting shoulder and arm] narrows. The acromion can rub against (or ‘impinge’ on) the tendon and the bursa [fluid sac that helps the shoulder rotate], causing irritation and pain.” In other words, even just working out the shoulder could further aggravate the initial injury.

This means that Betances will need to reduce the inflammation and treat with some physical therapy and steroid injections to combat all the overuse of the shoulder, one would guess to be rather common in pitchers, especially those who throw as hard as he does. But the advantage is that the Yankees have a lot of depth in their bullpen. So a little delay in Betances’ 2019 start won’t harm the Yankees that much.

Before today’s game, the Yankees called on a fellow athlete to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Wearing her medals, Olympic jacket, and a Yankees cap, Abbey Burns threw to her brother, Yankees’ minor leaguer Billy Burns. She is a noted Special Olympics equestrian and swimming athlete and holds records in several categories of Paralympic American swimming.

Go Yankees!

Spring Games 22 & 23: NYY vs. BAL & NYY vs. PHI — Double away victories, perhaps with some good luck

I don’t often look at the standings during Spring Training (or early in the regular season) because it never gives you an accurate picture of what the real season will look like. But I happened to see them today in passing. The Yankees are currently sitting atop the Grapefruit League standings, 1.5 games ahead of the Nationals. It’s worth noting the Yankees are also well in the lead over the Cactus League.

But as we’ve said in previous years, the standings in Spring mean nothing. It’s a very long season, and there’s far too many variables (like injuries, trades, hit streaks, and dry spells) that affect where teams land for October baseball. So, Yankee fans, feel happy about today but cautiously optimistic about 7 months from now.

The Yankees played another split squad day, but this time was unique as both squads played in away games. One group traveled about an hour south to Sarasota to visit the Orioles, and the other about 20 minutes west to Clearwater to see the Phillies. And both teams got a little “lucky” on this cloudy Sunday holiday.

Game 1: Yankees at Orioles
Jonathan Loaisiga got the start for the Yankees here and helped set a solid, strong pattern that would earn him the eventual win for the afternoon with 3 great scoreless innings. David Hale continued his momentum in his 3 innings, only allowing the Orioles on the board in his final inning.

So, in the 6th, with 1 out and a runner on 1st, a double moved the runner to 3rd to score on an easy ground out. Yankees’ reliever Hutchison sailed through the 7th but gave up a lead-off solo shot in the 8th. A 1-out single later scored on a 2-out single to give the Orioles just one more run for the afternoon. And Brothers closed out the game with a quick, scoreless 9th.

The Yankees once again got on the board early and first. In the 1st, Kyle Holder led-off the game with a single but was forced out at 2nd on Andujar’s fielder’s choice (again, another delayed, unsuccessful double play attempt). This means that Luke Voit’s big homer up the middle became a 2-run home run. Miguel Andujar led-off the 3rd with a solo home run into the left field seats, and Zack Zehner imitated him with a lead-off solo home run of his own, also to left field, in the 4th.

After the Orioles chipped some off their lead, the Yankees didn’t get another chance until the 9th to find an insurance run. Burns worked a 1-out walk, stole 2nd, and then scored on Holder’s 2-out double.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees

Game 2: Yankees at Phillies
Meanwhile, in Clearwater, the Yankees had a bit more of a battle to the finish today, with a scoreless game for most of the first half of the afternoon. The Yankees finally found their moment in the 5th inning. Lipka led-off with a bunt single, stole 2nd, and easily scored on Trey Amburgey’s big triple to get the Yankees on the board first.

James Paxton got the start, throwing into the 5th inning, but finding trouble there. He gave up a lead-off walk, and the next batter made it to 1st on a strikeout-wild pitch. With those 2 runners on, Chad Green came on to try to shut down the advancing Phillies. But he promptly gave up a single that scored the tying run. Another single put another runner on base, so both runners scored on a triple to give the home team the lead. A great fielder’s choice got the lead runner out at home on the next play.

It would be Dellin Betances to right the ship for the Yankees, kicking off the momentum with a flawless 6th inning. Kahnle, Coulombe, and Anderson Severino (no relation) each took a scoreless inning to help give the Yankees a chance to regain the lead.

So, in the 6th, Greg Bird led-off with a big solo home run, and Gleyber Torres followed suit with a 1-out solo home run to tie up the game. In the 7th, with 1 out, LeMahieu made it safely on a throwing error and then scored as part of Troy Tulowitzki’s 2-run home run to give the Yankees the lead again.

But the hits kept coming. In the 8th, Tyler Wade led-off with single, moved to 2nd on Olivares’ single, and later scored on Cabrera’s 2-out single. Castillo’s single scored Olivares, officially sealing another Yankees’ win this afternoon.

Final score: 7-3 Yankees

Next up: The Yankees will play another away game. This time, they travel to Kissimmee, about an hour east, to visit the Braves’ Spring home tomorrow night. It will be the last season the Braves have their Spring Training on Disney World property as their new home in Sarasota will officially open next year. However, they are scheduled to play an inaugural game against the Rays on March 24 before the 2019 season begins.

Finally, a happy St. Patrick’s Day to all who celebrate!

Go Yankees!