2019 World Series: What “home-field advantage”?

The most interesting part of this year’s World Series was the fact that neither home team won in their own ball park. In other words, the myth of “home-field advantage” was clearly busted during this championship series. Both teams really only did well before the opposite team’s fans. The reigning theory among my circle is that both team thrived on the displeasure of the home crowd.

Game 1: For the first game, the Nationals started slow but came to play with the steady surety that seemed to sum up their postseason. The Astros were on the board first in the 1st, but the Nats starter held the game strong to allow his teammates to catch up and take the lead, with the Nationals edging out a victory over the Astros. 5-4 Nationals

Game 2: But this game was all about the visiting team. Once again, the Astros got on the board in the 1st, tying up the game, and the game looked to be a bit of pitching duel. Right up until a big 7th inning, when the Nats collected 6 big runs. 12-3 Nationals

Game 3: The series moved to the nation’s capital, and the play just shifted again. In this first game, both teams kind of eked out their runs scored throughout the game, despite both teams having a lot of hits and base runners. The defense was really pushed to the test for both teams, and the visitors came out on top. 4-1 Astros

Game 4: The Astros went into this game with some powerful determination and played a game that certainly demonstrated that. A strong show by their pitching staff also helped, but it was quickly clear it was the Astros’ night from the start.  8-1 Astros

Game 5: In a raucous Sunday evening in D.C., the Nationals just couldn’t piece together much of a game. And they allowed the visiting Astros to take the lead for the first time this series. 7-1 Astros

Game 6: Now back in Houston, the lack of “home field advantage” just continued, unfortunately for the home team. The Nationals grabbed this game and flipped the script, tying up the series once again. Of course, this was also filled with all sorts of drama, strange calls, and even the very rare World Series ejection. 7-2 Nationals

Game 7: So for a winner-take-all game, this game was all that it should have been. The Astros got the lead early, and it looked like they might take home their second title in 3 years. But then the Nationals found a wide open 7th inning to jump ahead. And then they kept cushioning their lead until that final out and celebration. 6-2 Nationals

Nationals win World Series in 7 games, 4-3.

A key to many of the crucial games in the series, Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg took home the coveted honor of World Series MVP, at the potential end of his decade-long tenure with the team.

At least my predictions for this ended up on the right side, but my postseason guesses have truly been stabs in the dark this year. But a congratulations to the Nationals on their first World Series win in their franchise history.

Finally, some Yankees news: The Yankees officially dismissed pitching coach Larry Rothschild last week, despite a year remaining on his contract. The comes as the Yankees are looking to expand their starters, with Sabathia retired and a few pitchers slowly coming back off injuries. The starting pitching has been an issue for the Yankees for a few years now, so this move may be in their continued efforts to fix something that hasn’t worked. A figure in the dugout for some time now, he will be missed.

Yankee prospects have spent the last 6 weeks in Arizona playing other prospects as part of the Arizona Fall League to help hone their craft. The Yankees sent pitchers Daniel Bies, Derek Craft, Aaron McGarity and Glenn Otto; a catcher Donny Sands; outfielder Josh Stowers; and infielder Brandon Wagner. It’s been mixed results, but the point of the league is to work on their skills in the minor league off-season.

Aroldis Chapman received the AL’s highest honor for relievers — the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award. On Saturday, before Game 4, Rivera was on-hand to present a fellow Yankee with the award. Chapman converted 37 of his 42 save opportunities and held an ERA of 2.21 in his 60 game appearances, and despite how he went out in the ALCS, he was dominant for most of this season. The Brewer’s Josh Hader was selected for the NL version of the award.

More awards are coming next week, so stay posted.

Go Yankees!

NLCS & ALCS: STL vs. WAS & NYY vs. HOU — A sweep & a struggle

Predicting baseball, especially in the postseason, is like predicting life — there’s never going to be an exact science.

NLCS: High off their power through the best team in baseball (Dodgers), the Nationals just came in and dominated the favored Cardinals in this series to sweep through their way to their first World Series.

Game 1: Honestly, this was going to be a close game either way, but the Nationals eked out a win by being the only team to actually score in this game. Part of the reason this worked in the Nats’ favor was their starter, only giving up a single hit the entire game and not until a pinch-hit single in the 8th inning. 2-0 Nationals

Game 2: The Nationals continued their strong show this postseason, but the Cards certainly showed up to play today. The Cardinals certainly had the opportunity, with their starter getting 11 strikeouts to match the Nats’ starter. But the Nats’ edged over the Cards holding them to just 3 hit and a run, with the Nats managing 3 runs off 7 hits overall. 3-1 Nationals

Game 3: Now back in their home, the Nationals began a pair of games that delighted their hometown crowd. The Nats continued their strong starters, a clear sign they might have “stacked the deck”, so to speak for this postseason in particular. But this night in particular, the bats also showed up big. 8-1 Nationals

Game 4:  This game was a little more evenly matched, with the Nationals showing their weakness a bit in a missing 4th starter. However, the Cards proved their bullpen is quite the strength for them. It was a bit of a lopsided series in that respect, with the Nationals riding the backs of their starters to the World Series. 7-4 Nationals

Nationals sweep the series 4-0 and head to the World Series.

ALCS: This was going to be a battle regardless of who was going to end up on top. The top 2 teams in the AL battling for their spot in the Series, both Championship veterans with championship-worthy teams to face off against the rookie Nationals.

Game 1: Actually, this was a great game for Yankee Universe. After sweeping through the Twins, the Yankees had quite a bit of rest to gear up for the game that ended up being “Tanaka Time”, thanks to his 1-hit wonder through 6 innings. The Yankees shutout the Astros, to the dismay of the Houston crowd, with some power homers from Torres, Stanton, and Urshela.  7-0 Yankees

Game 2: This game was actually more indicative of how this series felt and ended up. Each team duking it out behind stellar pitching, the Yankees using a compilation of throwers like Paxton, Green, and eventually Sabathia out of the bullpen. The Astros’ star starter got a bit rattled with a 2-run home run by Judge in the 4th. As the game went into extra innings, this game proved it was going to be this kind of series, with the Astros hitting a walk-off homer in the 11th to give them the game. 3-2, in 11 Astros

Game 3: The series headed to the Bronx split. The Astros got to starter Severino with a pair of early home runs in the 1st and 2nd. After a wild pitch and sac fly doubled their lead, the visitors were looking to skate their way into a shutout. But the Yankees broke that with one swing from Torres, an 8th inning solo shot into right field. They just didn’t much else. 4-1 Astros

The series had a day’s rain delay due to a freak autumn storm off the coast that brought flooding and high winds to the area. And I think all of Yankee Universe was hoping the long rest would spur a bit of deja vu, with the Yankees coming out like they did in Game 1.

Game 4: But it was not to be, despite the pitching match up being the exact same starters. After a rough 1st inning, with the Yankees scoring their first run on a walk by Gardner, the Astros collected 2 big 3-run home runs in the 3rd and 6th to take charge of the game. Tanaka was hit hard and the Yankee bats just weren’t there to support him. Sanchez added a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 6th to edge the Yankees closer, but the Astros were determined to take this game. 8-3 Astros

Game 5: Part of me did not want to watch this game for fear the Astros would win the series on New York’s turf, which is really the ultimate hardship for fans in the area. And yet, I was proved wrong. Paxton commanded from the mound, out-dueling an Astros’ star for the win. A solo homer from LeMahieu to lead-off the 1st, followed by a 3-run home run by Hicks in the same inning, handed the Yankees their eventual victory thanks to great pitching and defense for the next 8 scoreless innings. 4-1 Yankees

Game 6: Once they were back in Texas, the Astros pressed in for their home field advantage. The Yankees again used an “opener”, but the usually unflappable Green gave up 3 runs that 1st inning. And yet, the Yankees came back to tie up the game, including a 4th inning solo shot by Torres and the big 2-run homer by LeMahieu to tie it all up in the 9th inning. The Yankees were looking at winning the game in extra innings right up until Chapman left a high slider up for the Astros’ batter to hit a walk-off 2-run home run. This stunned the entire Yankee team, after they battled back to tie up the game, especially Chapman, who barely moved from the mound until the batter was rounding 2nd. 6-4 Astros

Astros win in 6 to advance to the World Series.

My predictions: So, I’m not getting any better at this predicting thing this season. I knew the ALCS was going to be a struggle this season, but I can honestly say I never saw the Nationals coming. Partly because I don’t follow the NL that closely, and partly because they’ve been such a mixed bag of a team in recent seasons.

  • NLCS: Cardinals over Nationals in 6 games — Nationals in 4
  • ALCS: Yankees over Astros in 7 games — Astros in 6

Now for the World Series: (And let’s be honest, I’ve got no horse in this race any more.)

  • Nationals over Astros in 6 games

The hardest part about this postseason now is not watching the final lap of CC Sabathia. This weekend, he wrote a touching note to the fans to say “goodbye” and posted it on his social media as a final farewell to baseball. No final ride through the canyon of heroes, no extra ring for the souvenir cabinet, no last chance for a Bronx victory. No, next stop for the great pitcher will be that special weekend in Cooperstown.

Go Yankees!

NLDS & ALDS: ATL vs. STL, WAS vs. LAD & TB vs. HOU, MIN vs. NYY — 3 Game 5s & a 3-game sweep

There is nothing normal about the postseason most years, and this year continues to prove this once again. Three of the series went to a Game 5, and only one series was a sweep. And none of those is what you might expect.

NLDS A: The Cardinals and Braves duked it out through 5 games, and it wasn’t until the 5th that the Cardinals came on strong and just made the decision to win this series.

NLDS
Game 1: Actually, the Braves had this game right up until the final inning, when the Cards came out swinging. The Braves just could not catch up in the end. 7-6 Cardinals

Game 2:
The Braves decided they weren’t going to let the series head to St. Louis without a hometown win, using this game to prove why they came out on top of the NL East by blanking the visiting Cardinals. 3-0 Braves

Game 3: This was one of those super tight games, with the Cards eking a single run by the Braves until the 9th. The visitors scored 3 big runs in that inning and ended up taking the lead in the series. 3-1 Braves

Game 4: Another nail biter in the series, as the game was tied and went into the 10th inning before the Cardinals got a walk-off home run to tie up the series. 5-4, in 10 Cardinals

Game 5: Back in Atlanta, the Braves lost their home field advantage in that 1st inning, giving up 10 runs to the visitors, who ended up dominating this game. 13-1 Cardinals

Cardinals win the series in 5 games

NLDS B: Almost everyone “knew” who was going to win this series. Almost everyone “knew” they were going to sweep this series. Almost everyone was very wrong.

Game 1: However, after this first game, “they” were rather confident they “knew” how this was going to work as the Dodgers quickly shut out the Nationals. 6-0 Dodgers

Game 2: But then the Nationals came back and just edged out the home team. 4-2 Nationals

Game 3: In DC, the Dodgers came back just crushing the home team with a big 6th inning. 10-4 Dodgers

Game 4: And somehow, the Nats weren’t about to go away quietly, relying on some solid pitching to tie up the series again and force a Game 5. 6-1 Nationals

Game 5: Another nail-biter in the NL. The game was tied right into the 10th, right up until the Dodgers’ reliever gave up a huge grand slam. The deficit too big to overcome by the home team, costing them the rest of the postseason. 7-3, in 10 Nationals

Nationals win the series in 5 games

ALDS A: As with the other league’s version of this series, games between the league leader and the wild card winner aren’t anything normal or predictable. Especially as the Rays were on quite the tear this last month in their quest for a postseason. But in this series alone, it was all about the “home field advantage”.

Game 1: The Astros started the series strong, only giving up runs to the Rays in the 8th. 6-2 Astros

Game 2: The Astros’ starter the game was just amazing, streaming through the Rays’ lineup and collecting 15 strikeouts. Not that the Rays were slacking. The Astros just played better. 3-1 Astros

Game 3: Once the game was at the Trop, the Rays came out swinging and just didn’t stop. They certainly weren’t about to let the Astros just run away with this series. 10-3 Rays

Game 4: While this wasn’t as poweful in the end, the Rays still collected 13 total hits, giving them more opportunities to score and eventually tie up the series. 4-1 Rays

Game 5: Again, this series was all about home field advantage. Once they were back in Houston, the Astros took command again and showed their fans why they deserve to go to the ALCS once again. 6-1 Astros

Astros win series in 5 games

ALDS B: The one series nobody was really talking about. Outside Yankee Universe, that is. But this one was something to really watch, as the Yankees were about to show off a bit.

Game 1: The Yankees had some really big innings, including home runs by LeMahieu and Gardner. Though Paxton started, it was Kahnle who ended up with the win for his 5th & 6th inning stint to essentially save the game early on until the Yankees powered their way through with those big runs in the 6th. 10-4 Yankees

Game 2: It was Tanaka Time in the Bronx for this game. Aand once again, the Yankee bats came through to support their starter, including a big 3rd inning offense. And while most of their runs were off RBI singles, but i was Didi Gregorius’ grand slam to ensure the Yankees’ eventual win. 8-2 Yankees

Game 3: Home field advantage didn’t seem to matter to the Yankees this series, as they took their momentum on the road. They used an opener in Green, who showed his reliability with a strong start and set the pattern for the rest of the game, backed by a good offense with homers by Torres and Maybin. 5-1 Yankees

Yankees sweep series in 3 games.

An interesting article I found was the idea that no one gives an MVP award for the Division Series. This is one writer’s idea of who should get this hypothetical award. I agreed (or at least understood) his picks in most of these games. But what do you think?

Championship Series begins tomorrow night with NLCS and Saturday with the ALCS. It is a best-of-7 series, so the first team with 4 wins will move onto the World Series next week.

My predictions: So, this first round was a mixed bag. I completely blew the NLDS. First is my prediction, second is the outcome.

  • NLDS A: Braves over Cardinals in 5 games — Cardinals in 5
  • NLDS B: Dodgers over Nationals in 3 games — Nationals in 5
  • ALDS A: Astros over Rays in 4 games — Astros in 5
  • ALDS B: Yankees over Twins in 5 games — Yankees in 3

Now for the Championship Series: (Perhaps, I’ll be better this round.)

  • NLCS: Cardinals over Nationals in 6 games
  • ALCS: Yankees over Astros in 7 games

It’s clearly going to be one of those postseasons. And let’s be honest, it’s really just beginning. But isn’t that what makes October Baseball more intriguing — that you don’t know what’s going to happen?

Go Yankees!

Game 77: HOU vs. NYY — Record setting loss on Old Timers’ Day

The Yankees know how to snap their streak in a big way. After winning 8 straight games, and the Astros losing 7 straight, the tables flipped as the Astros got tired of losing and the Yankees had pitching issues.

JA Happ had another shaky start in this afternoon’s finale against the Astros. He threw 68 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 11 hits and 8 runs, and struck out just 2 batters. The lead-off batter of the game struck a big solo home run to start the Astros off early. In the 3rd, a 1-out double scored on a 2-out single to double their score.

Then in the 4th, Happ loaded the bases with consecutive singles to set up a big grand slam to keep the visitors’ small fan base in the stands rather happy. Happ came back out for the 5th and gave up a single and 2-run home run to keep the ball rolling for the Astros before the Yankees finally opted to end the mess.

Luis Cessa gave up a solo home run before settling in and getting 12 outs (or 4 innings) and keeping the Astros to their large lead. David Hale closed out the game with a scoreless 9th. But the Yankees needed their pitching to calm down to chip away at the visitors’ lead.

In the bottom of the 5th, with 2 outs, Hicks and Gardner each singled. DJ LeMahieu smacked a big 3-run home run to finally get the Yankees on the board. But their chances to score beyond that were few. After the starter left the game, the Yankees found one more in the 8th. With 1 out, LeMahieu tripled and then scored on Aaron Judge’s baby ground out.

Final score: 9-4 Astros, Yankees win series 3-1

Next up: The Yankees host the Blue Jays for 3 games starting tomorrow before taking two days to travel across the pond. In London, the Yankees and Red Sox will meet to play the first ever regular season baseball series on English soil. When they come back to the states next month, they hop the train to Queens for a 2-game miniseries against the Mets before heading down to Tampa Bay for a 4-game weekend series just before the All-Star Break.

With DJ LeMahieu’s 3-run home run in the 5th inning, the Yankees set a new record for 26 consecutive games with a home run. The MLB record is 27, something the Yankees could easily tie and then break with the Toronto series this coming week.

Older Timers’ Day: The Yankees hosted their 73rd Annual Old Timers’ Day at Yankee Stadium, featuring fan favorites and Yankee alumni like Aaron Boone, David Cone, Johnny Damon, Bucky Dent, Reggie Jackson, Tino Martinez, Jeff Nelson, Paul O’Neill, Lou Piniella, Willie Randolph, David Wells, and Bernie Williams.

But the man on everyone’s mind today was Old Timers’ Day rookie and this year’s Hall of Fame inductee Mariano Rivera. Rivera soaked up the greatness and fun that is this day, even going back to the mound to pitch a bit and later playing center field. But the great achievement was his first ever hit in pinstripes — an inside-the-park home run, thanks in part to some really sluggish outfielders.

Go Yankees!

Game 76: HOU vs. NYY — Yankee power, even in singles

The Yankees’ march into the summer and towards the All-Star Break with dominance, hitting the harder part of their schedule in the perfect spot, and (now, I’m just guessing here) this could make all the difference come time for October baseball in just a few short months.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start for this third game of the weekend series against the visiting Astros. It really wasn’t his best outing, but he kept the Astros scoreless for most of his outing. He threw 88 pitches in 6 innings, gave up 8 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and struck out just 1 batter. It wasn’t until his last inning that the Astros got on board with a lead-off single that scored as part of a 1-out 2-run home run.

That actually tied up the game as the Yankees were the first to get on the board. They too were scoreless for the first half of the game. In the 5th, Hicks worked a 1-out walk and scored on Gio Urshela’s 2-out 2-run home run. After the Astros tied up the game, the Yankees came back in the bottom of the inning to reclaim those runs, loading up the bases with walks to LeMahieu and Judge and a single to Voit. Giancarlo Stanton’s single scored both LeMahieu and Judge.

Once again, this didn’t last long. Jonathan Holder had some trouble in his 7th inning. With 2 outs, he gave up consecutive singles that boosted the Astros’ score up and over the Yankees when the next batter hit a big 3-run home run. That slim lead was erased in the bottom of the 7th when Austin Romine smacked a 1-out solo home run on the first pitch of his at-bat.

The game was tied again. LeMahieu singled and took 2nd on a wild pitch before Judge got 1st on catcher’s interference. (Is that still a thing?) Both runners moved up on a ground out and then scored again on Stanton’s single.

Ottavino and Britton closed out the game with a scoreless inning a piece, though both got themselves into and out of self-inflicted jams.

Final score: 7-5 Yankees

Injury update: After an MRI, Cameron Maybin has been diagnosed with a grade 2 calf strain in his left leg. So, yes, he’s headed for a stint on the IL. For how long and who will replace him is still to be determined. But with a packed outfield already, the replacement will probably favor expanding the bullpen.

Yankees Trivia: With Gio Urshela’s 5th inning home run, the Yankees officially tied the Yankees franchise record set in June 1941 of 25 consecutive games with a home run. They’re also closing in on the MLB record of 27 set by the Rangers in August 2002. I know I’m not the only one who is hoping for both a new franchise and MLB record. This team deserves the honor and the legacy.

Go Yankees!

Game 75: HOU vs. NYY — HOPE Week sweep

The Yankees continue their dominance in HOPE Week, and with tonight’s win, the Yankees overall HOPE Week record since 2009 is 38 wins to 13 losses. It’s almost as if generosity is good for the soul and for the morale.

James Paxton got the start in tonight’s second game of this 4-game series against the visiting Astros. Paxton threw a strong game, with 100 pitches in 5 innings, giving up 5 hits, 3 walks, and 1 run, and striking out 7 batters. In the 4th, with 2 outs, consecutive doubles scored the Astros’ lone run of the game.

Ottavino, Kahnle, Britton, and Chapman closed out the final 4 innings of the game, keeping the Astros at bay from adding to their score and handing Chapman yet another save (his 21st).

The Yankees started the scoring in the 3rd. With 1 out, Maybin singled and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s monster 2-out 2-run home run. And then in the 7th, with 1 out, Gardner doubled, and Gleyber Torres edged a 2-run home run just over the right field fence for a 2-run home run to double the home team’s score.

Final score: 4-1 Yankees

Injury updates/roster moves: Aaron Hicks began today on day-to-day with some shoulder pain, but he was called in when Cameron Maybin had to come out of the game. Maybin felt a “pop” in his calf as he ran the bases during Sanchez’s 3rd inning homer, and as he struggled to even go down the dugout stairs, an MRI would be the next step to determine the severity of his strain.

And before the game, the Yankees activated Aaron Judge from the 10-day injured list and optioned reliever Nestor Cortes Jr. back to AAA Scranton. The move with Maybin going on the IL and his replacement is forthcoming.

All-Star Game Primary Results: Tonight, MLB announced the results of the voting for the All-Star Game starters. The top 3 from each position (and top 9 in the outfield) are considered finalists, and all the vote counts reset to 0 for the final starter vote. The Yankees are well-represented in the finals with the entire infield being finalists.

Gary Sanchez (catcher) and Luke Voit (1st base) topped their categories, Sanchez coming in as the most voted for Yankee with over 2 million votes. Gio Urshela (3rd base) came in 2nd, Gleyber Torres (shortstop) and DJ LeMahieu (2nd base) were 3rd, and Aaron Judge (outfield) was 7th in their respective categories.

Final voting starts Wednesday at noon and will open just 28 hours for fans to select their favorite of the finalists, closing at 4 pm on Thursday. Selected starters will be announced Thursday night at 7 pm and the rest of the roster revealed Sunday at 5:30 pm. (All times are Eastern.)

HOPE Week Day 5: For the final day of HOPE Week, the Yankees honored two amazing people. First, Sandra Alfonzo, the founder of AdaptAbility, a non-profit that builds custom-made bicycles for kids with disabilities. Alfonzo owns a bike repair shop, Behind Bars in Brooklyn, and in 2015, she noticed kids in the park unable to enjoy the freedom of riding a bike because they were limited by their disabilities. So she used her skills to found AdaptAbility to give all kids the opportunity to ride a bike. And how Sandra met Kiko, the other half of today’s honoree, is a great chain of events that is pure kismet.

Last summer, Kiko Mina attended a special bike camp as part of the iCan Shine program, an organization that provides recreational activities for kids with limited abilities. A special guest of the program met Kiko and later invited him and his parents to a special event he was participating, Tour De Farm. There, the Minas met the Epsteins who volunteer with InTandem, a nonprofit that bikes on special tandem bikes (bicycles built for two people) with children of limited mobility. After Kiko learned how to ride tandem, the Epsteins let the Minas know about AdaptAbility, and they applied for a special bicycle for Kiko.

It takes an average of 2-3 months and $4000-5000 to build a single bicycle at Adaptability, so on Friday, Kiko’s new bike was ready to go. But it wasn’t just the new bike, he also made some new friends. Aaron Boone, Aaron Hicks, DJ LeMahieu, Cameron Maybin, and Adam Ottavino showed up to surprise both Kiko and Sandra. Maybin even took Kiko out on his new tandem bicycle around the area and through the park.

Before tonight’s game, Kiko was the one to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. The fourteen year old got to show off his baseball skills as a former player with the Little League Challenger Division, an adaptive baseball for special needs children. The Yankees also donated $10,000 to help AdaptAbility continue their generosity.

A HOPE Week Final Thought: I say it every year, and it’s no less true this year, but HOPE Week is my favorite week of the year. As a baseball blogger, one might assume that my favorite week should be the World Series or even the All-Star Game. But baseball is more than just the game on the field. Professional athletes, as public figures and representatives of both MLB and their teams, have a responsibility to be not just good players but also good people.

I believe that a truly great player must have three things — ability, teamwork, and character. Ability (often boosted by natural talent) is the stuff we see on the field, teamwork is what the organization sees in the clubhouse, and character is what we see when nobody is watching. Of the three, it’s character that matters most. Your abilities will come and go, and relationships change with time and simple organizational trades. But character — that’s what will carry you through life, that makes someone more than just a good ball player. It makes you a great person.

Go Yankees!

Game 74: HOU vs. NYY — Rain-soaked and still triumphant

Dark skies threatened and dropped moments of rain on the Bronx most of yesterday. But things looked promising for the game, which actually started on time. The Yankees began their 4-game weekend series against the Astros tonight, and despite a rather messy and soggy 4th inning, they still pulled it out in the end.

The Yankees have had a lot of success with the new pitching model of the “opener”, especially on the back of Chad Green. Green did it again, with a strong 2 scoreless innings before handing the ball over to reliever Nestor Cortes Jr for 3 innings. His problem came after the game back from a rain delay.

But first, the Yankees took advantage of the thundering skies and jumped on a bit of weakness by the Astros’ pitching staff tonight in what turned into a very decisive 4th inning. Gary Sanchez led-off the inning with a solo home run. Stanton then doubled, and in the middle of Encarnacion’s at-bat, it started pouring.

The umpires briefly checked in with the grounds crew for a weather report as fans were scattering for the concourse and nearest overhang. Encarnacion ended up working a walk. As the rain continued to pelt down on the field, Gleyber Torres hit a big 3-run home run into the visitor’s bullpen.

Then after the inning’s first out, in the middle of Maybin’s at-bat, the umpires checked in again with the grounds crew, who came out to clean up the mound a bit from the muddy mess it was. After Maybin worked a walk, the Astros called in a new pitcher, and the grounds crew took the break to add more drying agent to the mound and at the plate.

The rain kind of lightened up as Maybin stole 2nd. After another out, DJ LeMahieu pelted a 2-run home run into Monument Park to keep the Yankees’ offense going. Voit then singled, and in the middle of Sanchez’s at-bat, the home plate umpire suddenly called the game as the rain just dumped on the Bronx. The tarp came on, and the game went into a 37 minute delay.

When the game resumed, Sanchez ended up grounding out to end the inning. So Cortes came out again for the 5th inning, after the long 4th inning and the rain delay. That might have been part of the problem because after 2 outs, he gave up 2 solo home runs to get the Astros on the board.

But the Yankees came back in the bottom of that inning to reclaim those runs. With 1 out, Encarnacion walked, Torres singled, and a wild pitch moved both into scoring position. After another out, Cameron Maybin hit a strong double to score both Encarnacion and Torres. Stanton led-off the 7th with a single and then scored as part of Edwin Encarnacion’s 2-run home run to cap off the Yankee’s big offense tonight.

Tommy Kahnle came out for the 6th inning and gave up a 1-out solo home run. Then the game was handed over to David Hale, who held the Astros off for the 7th, but he got into trouble in the final 2 innings that the Astros tried to rally to overcome the Yankees’ big lead. In the 8th, a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a 2-out single.

Hale gave up a 1-out solo home run to lead-off the 9th inning. He then gave up a walk. After an out, the next batter hit into a fielder’s choice, the Yankees unable to get a double play to end the inning. A double then scored the lead runner. After a single put runners in the corners, the Yankees called in Aroldis Chapman to close out the game. Seven pitches later, the game was over, and Chapman notched his 20th save of the season.

Final score: 10-6 Yankees

It’s worth noting that the Yankees have hit home runs in 23 straight games, making them tied for the 8th most in MLB baseball history. The Yankees’ record is 25 games way back in June 1941, during Joe DiMaggio’s famous hitting streak.

HOPE Week Day 4: Today, the Yankees honored a great nonprofit organization that provides furniture to local families in need. Kate Bialo started Furniture Sharehouse in 2007 to serve the Westchester community (a suburb of New York, just north of the City), and to date have helped more than 4000 families. The families are referred to the charity by social service agencies include survivors of house fires and natural disasters, working families bordering the poverty line, families escaping domestic violence, families transitioning from homeless shelters to permanent housing, and young adults aging out of foster care.

The Yankees showed up to the donation warehouse housed at Westchester County Airport to volunteer as “personal shoppers” for two surprised local families, the Collazos and Gullivers. Zack Britton, JA Happ, Jonathon Holder, Austin Romine, Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela, Luke Voit, and bullpen coach Mike Harkey drove 2 trucks full of furniture as part of their donation to the charity and hosted a pizza party lunch for the families after helping them select new furniture for their homes.

The families and Furniture Sharehouse founder Kate Bialo were the Yankees’ guests at the game tonight, and Bialo threw out the ceremonial first pitch and accepted an additional donation of $10,000 to their operating costs (overhead, delivery, repairs, etc.) on behalf of the Yankees. The estimate is that they spend about $350 to help each family, so imagine how many more families they can help with the Yankees monetary and furniture donations. Somewhere, a family is will sleep in real beds and eat dinner around a real table tonight because of their generosity.

Go Yankees!