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!

MLB All-Star Game 2018 — Home Run Derby, Day 2

Another All-Star Game has come to a close, but this one became one for the history books with a grand total of 10 home runs (5 for each team) in an All-Star Game. That beats previous records of 6 total homers in an ASG in 1951, 1954, and 1971. It’s also worth noting that the American League officially moved into the lead with 44 wins over the National League’s 43 wins.

Random trivia: there have also been 2 ties in All-Star Game history — in 1961, the game was tied 1-1 and called after 9 innings due to rain; in 2002, the game was tied 7-7 and ended after 11 innings after running out of pitchers (which was actually a violation of the rules). The fans in 2002 were so outraged, they were throwing things on the field and booed and demanded refunds. And if you have ever looked up how much ASG tickets are, you can see why that might have been an issue.

The next year, they instituted the “home field advantage” for the ASG winner, something that they got rid of for the 2017 ASG. NL losing teams for the last 14 years of World Series felt at a disadvantage, thanks to 11 of those 14 years the AL winning the home field advantage and 8 times the AL teams won. It could just be that the AL teams were better that year. But what do I know? Also, the ASG winners just win more money than the ASG losers.

Anyway, there was another All-Star Game tonight, and the AL edged out the NL in extra innings again. The AL has beaten the NL the last 3 times in extra innings — 2008 (15 innings), 2017 (10), and 2018 (10). Until then, the NL came out over the AL the previous 9 times games went into extras (1950-1994).

After a swift 1st inning, the AL got on top first with the Yankees own Aaron Judge in the 2nd inning. Facing off the Nationals’ ace Scherzer, Judge liked the 2nd pitch and hit it deep into the visitor’s dugout in left field. (That would be the first Yankees’ hit in an All-Star Game since Jeter’s 2 hits in his final ASG in 2014.) The NL called on the Mets’ deGrom for the 3rd inning, but he gave up a 2-out solo home run to the Angels’ Trout to double the AL’s early lead. But then, the Rays’ Snell gave up a lead-off solo homer to the Cubs’ Contreras to get the NL on the board in the 3rd.

The AL pitchers spent the next 3 innings fending off any potential NL offensive advances, until the 7th inning. Morton (Astros) came on for the bottom of the 7th and had a less than idea outing. He gave up a 1-out solo homer to Story (Rockies) to tie up the game. The NL continued to advance with a walk and hit-by-pitch that moved into scoring position with a wild pitch. But a pop-out ended the threat then.

And the AL batters answered back in the top of the 8th against the Brewers’ pitcher Hader. Choo (Rangers) led-off with a single, and Springer (Astros) then hit a 1-out single. After an error for a dropped foul (a very strange call for leaning slamming into the dugout wall while missing the catch), the next batter was a pinch-hitter Segura (Mariners) who slammed a 3-run home run into the left field seats to push the AL back into a nice lead.

A new reliever Hand (Padres) closed out the inning, and the Brewers’ Yelich got back a run for the NL with a 1-out solo homer off Morton (Astros) in the 8th. They came back again in the 9th off Diaz (Mariners) who gave up a 1-out walk to Realmuto (Marlins) and then a 2-run game-tying home run to pinch-hitting Gennett (Reds), the first home run of the game to go into the right field seats, by the way.

So, into the 10th inning, the game went. As tradition, the coaching staffs for each team were from last year’s World Series teams (Dodgers and Astros), so it makes sense that both managers heavily relied on their own players even in messy or tight situations, even when another player might have been a better option (see Morton’s 2 sloppy innings above).

As such, the NL sent in their pitcher Stripling for the 10th inning and he promptly gave up consecutive solo home runs to Astros’ batters Bregman and Springer to put the AL back on top. After 2 singles (Mariners’ Segura and Red Sox’s Moreland) put runners on the corners, Stripling finally got a strikeout, and the Indians’ Brantley hit a long sacrifice fly to score Segura.

The AL responded with Happ (Blue Jays) to earn the save. But he gave up a 1st pitch solo homer to Votto (Red) to give the predominantly NL crowd hope. It was not to be as he needed just 11 pitches to get out of the inning, earn the save and give the AL the final victory of the night.

Final score: 8-6 American League, in 10 innings

{Media recaps: AL homers, NL homers, all home runs}

Usually, the MVP is awarded to the difference maker in the game, which I initially thought would be Segura (Mariners), but they opted for the Astros’ Alex Bregman because of his 10th inning homer to break the extra innings tie. (Perhaps, the deciding factor/favor might be his home coaching staff for that decision. But what do I know?) However, he did choose the beautiful bright blue Camaro SS, which he gifted to his mother, and I can’t hold that against him.

So, how did the Yankees do in this year’s All-Star Game? Aaron Judge, as you already know, went 1-for-2 thanks to that 2nd inning solo home run, and also worked a 4th inning walk. Gleyber Torres was on video duty (sorry, it’s sideways), filming Judge’s heroics for his Twitter followers. Aroldis Chapman cheered on his fellow pitcher Luis Severino, who despite giving up a lead-off double in the 2nd, had 3 quick outs to keep the NL scoreless. Severino also became the youngest pitcher to get a strikeout in an All-Star Game. Plus, he was the one who actually caught Judge’s home run in the dugout.

Next year, the All-Star Game will return to an AL park (after 3 consecutive years in NL parks). Cleveland’s Progressive Field will host the 90th All-Star Game on July 9, 2019. They last hosted the game in 1997. The Dodgers are then slated to host in 2020.

See you all Friday! The Yankees will be back in the Bronx to host their crosstown rivals, the Mets for the weekend.

Go Yankees!

Home Run Derby 2018 — Hometown Heroics at Workout Day

At the end of the first half of the season, the leading players in home runs were dominantly in the American League, but many opted out of the special event tonight either in favor of the rest that comes with the All-Star Break or to focus on the big exhibition game tomorrow night.

Instead, 43,698 fans crowded into Nationals Park in anticipation of seeing the star slugger they see at every home game hit his way into victory. Nationals’ outfielder Harper was the only veteran of the Home Run Derby, having lost in the final round in 2013 to Cespedes. The seven other batters in tonight’s event were news and all but one from National League teams.

The All-Star players had their Workout Day earlier in the day, running drills, seeing where they land on the roster, connecting with former teammates and friends, meeting the media and fans, and then congregating for the Home Run Derby. The Derby is set-up like in a bracket system, where the player with the highest number of home runs (Seed #1) faces off against the player with the fewest homers (Seed #8) and other similar pairings for the first round for four pairings, a sort of “homer-off”, in just 4 minutes.

The player with the most homers of the pair advance to the next round. So, the winners of that first round meet up with another winner for two more pairings for another round of “homer-off”. And the 2 winners of those pairings meet in the final round to see who hits the most homers in just 4 minutes. An extra 30 seconds is awarded if the batter hits 2+ homers at least 440 feet.

The first round kept close for the most part, with a strong start by the first pairing. The Phillies’ Hoskins kicked off the evening with 17 home runs that beat his opponent, Aguilar (Brewers), who hit just 12 despite being the furthest apart in regular season homers. Then it was close — Schwarber (Cubs) beat Bregman (Astros) 16-15, Muncy (Dodgers) over Baez (Cubs) 17-16, and Harper (Nationals) over Freeman (Braves) 13-12.

The next round continued the trend, with Schwarber powering 21 runs, edging out Hoskins (20). Muncy had a good start but faltered in the end to be surpassed by Harper (13-12). For the final round, Schwarber again kicked things off with a big show at 18 runs, and despite some momentum loss, Harper came back and tied it up at 18 in the final second. But he had those 30 extra seconds due to some pretty monster homers. He just needed 1, and he got it. And the hometown crowd went crazy, waving giant Harper faces and making the stadium nearly shake.

{Media note: Still waiting on a recap video of the Derby, will add shortly.}

And if you’re wondering, at the All-Star Futures Game, Team USA out-powered Team World 10-6 yesterday, though each team got 4 solid home runs in the process. Yankees prospect pitcher Justus Sheffield got time on the mound and really had a less-than-ideal outing. Pitching for Team USA, Sheffield came out in the 2nd and promptly gave up a solo home run to allow Team World on the board. After allowing a 1-out single in the 3rd, they went to another pitcher, but that runner scored on a 2-run home run that gave Sheffield a second earned run. But in the end, it was Team USA to power through and come out victorious.

Tomorrow, the All-Stars(often with their families) will walk down the eed carpet to meet their fans, chat with media, and take pictures just outside Nationals Park for the annual Red Carpet Parade before they take batting practice inside the park before the big game. Torres and Chapman will not be playing due to injuries. Severino is slotted as a reserves pitcher, which means he’ll pitch an inning somewhere in the middle of the game. And upon revealing the starting rosters, the AL coaching team has Judge batting 6th and playing left field. Because clearly they’ve never seen the right fielder and the Yankees’ #2 hitter play baseball.

Can’t wait to see Judge and Severino in the game tomorrow night!

Go Yankees!

Game 52: HOU vs. NYY — Ace proves once again he is #SevySharp

Honestly, as much as it was rather satisfying to watch the Yankees’ offense make another impact on another good team, the star of the night was easily the Yankees’ starter Luis Severino, who is emerging again as the clear ace of the rotation. Tonight, he threw 103 pitches in his 7 innings, gave up 4 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and struck out 11 batters in the finale against the Astros tonight.

Even further than this, Severino sailed through his early innings, not giving up a hit until the 4th inning. In the 5th, with 1 out, Severino gave up a walk, who moved to 2nd on a ground out and then scored as part of a 2-run home run. After those strong innings, David Robertson kept that momentum going and threw a scoreless 8th inning before handing the ball over to the Yankees’ closer.

But before that, the Yankees gave Severino a bit of a cushion to secure his 8th win of the season. Aaron Hicks worked a walk to lead-off the 1st inning, made it to 3rd on Judge’s single, and then scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s sacrifice fly to get the Yankees on the board early.

Later, down 2-1, the Yankee found their next opportunity to reverse the scoreboard in the 5th. With 2 outs, the Yankees loaded the bases with singles to Romine and Judge and a walk to Stanton. Gary Sanchez then smacked a long single to score both Romine and Judge to give the lead again.

In the 6th, Torres led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ single. A new pitcher got a strikeout, then his defense caught Gregorius trying to take 2nd, and gave up a walk to Romine. Aaron Hicks then hit a double to scored Romine from 1st. (I guess we can say that Hicks’ recent offensive slump is pretty much over.)

Anyway, the Yankees were far enough ahead by the time Aroldis Chapman entered the game. He gave up a lead-off single, but then he was able to get the next 2 outs quickly. When the runner scored on a double, Chapman needed just 3 pitches (of the 10 he threw in the inning) to strikeout the final batter and earn his 12th save.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-1

One weird play during the game happened in the 7th inning. So, the lead-off batter reached 1st on a fielding error by 3rd baseman Miguel Andujar. That runner advanced to 2nd on a 1-out single, and then the next batter hit a grounder to a waiting Andujar. Now, as he was fielding this, the Astros’ lead runner ran smack into Andujar. Andujar went crumbling on the infield dirt as the fielder somehow untangled his legs and twisted around towards 3rd. It was so sloppy that shortstop Gregorius going in for back-up tumbled over Andujar into the grassy infield, so even he couldn’t field the ball.

After the Yankees checked out Andujar for possible complications (Gregorius helped by asking him “1+1” and making him laugh), the umpires upheld the simple call that the runner was out for interference. The runner simply can’t interfere with a fielder in the process of doing his job — fielding the ball. It’s really a good rule in general — don’t interfere with people doing their job.

Next up: the Yankees head down to Baltimore for a 4-game weekend series there. After that, they head to Detroit for their doubleheader make-up game from April and then up to Toronto for a short 2-game series.

And for those of you who were wondering (or was that just me?), MLB released the nominees for the upcoming All-Star Game (held July 17 in Nationals Park in D.C.). Fan voting will begin on Friday, so you can vote for your favorite All-Star (or, you know, Yankee) to appear in this year’s exhibition game.

It’s worth noting that it’s all rookies on the bases (Tyler Austin, Gleyber Torres, and Miguel Andujar) due to early injuries and veterans on the DL, but let’s be honest, they are certainly worth the consideration with the way they’ve played so far. More on this once voting begins.

Go Yankees!

Game 51: HOU vs. NYY — Gardy Party brings win in 10th, despite 5 errors

No one can say tonight’s game was anything close to cleanly played. Not with 5 errors on the scoreboard. The defense certainly needs some work, some basic throwing and catching and fielding routine grounders.

And yet, despite that mess, the Yankees kept the game tight enough to find a win in extra innings. CC Sabathia started this middle game of the mid-week series against the visiting Astros, threw 99 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 8 hits, 2 walks, and 5 runs (3 earned, thanks to a few of those errors), and struck out 4 Houston batters.

A lead-off solo homer in the 2nd got the Astros on the board. In the 4th, with 1 out, Sabathia gave up a walk and single that both scored on a big double. And in the sloppy 5th, the lead-off batter made it safely on a messy throwing error, advanced all the way to 3rd on a single that was further complicated by another throwing error, and then scored on a single. A sacrifice fly scored on more run for the Astros.

Then Jonathan Holder came on in relief of Sabathia for 2 innings, and set a pattern the rest of the bullpen would keep for the rest of the game, keeping the Astros from adding to their score and lead. Robertson and Betances continued that momentum through their innings in the 8th and 9th, respectively.

And because this was that kind of game, the Astros’ pitching staff pretty much matched the Yankees’ in many ways. The Astros’ starter gave up 8 hits, a walk, and 3 runs in his time on the mound (6 innings). And most of their bullpen helped keep the Yankees from any potential hope, despite the close game and all their defensive errors.

I once heard someone say that the way Brett Gardner goes, so goes the Yankees. So we should have known something was up when Gardner led off the 1st inning with a big 2nd pitch solo home run. In the 2nd, with 2 outs, Miguel Andujar doubled, moved to 3rd on a passed ball, and then scored on Gleyber Torres’ single. Then the Yankees loaded up the bases with Gardner’s single and Judge’s walk, but left them stranded. Aaron Judge later kept the game tight with a 1st pitch solo home run to the right field seats to lead-off the 5th inning.

Again, a rather tight game ensued, which is really what surprised me with all the sloppy fielding. So into the bottom of the 9th, the Yankees found their next opportunity. Andujar led-off by working a walk, and then 1 out later, Brett Gardner hit 2-run home run just over the right field wall to tie up the game. And the remaining fans of the sold-out game went crazy. (This is the reason you stay until the last out, people!) Judge followed that with a solid double and moved to 3rd on Stanton’s 2-out single, but Sanchez’s big swinging strikeout sent them into the 10th inning.

Aroldis Chapman came on for the top of the 10th and held the Astros scoreless. With 2 outs, he gave up a walk that moved to 2nd on a wild pitch. But then on another wild pitch, catcher Gary Sanchez played the ball off the back wall and fired it down to a waiting Andujar at 3rd to tag out the runner there.

So the Yankees got their 2nd chance (or rather 10th, I guess) to find the winning run in the bottom of the inning. But with 2 fairly quick outs, things were looking grim. And then Miguel Andujar hit a solid double into the left field corner. It would be down to Gleyber Torres. He worked through the at-bat and somehow found a solid enough single to score the speedy Andujar with time to spare for a great walk-off win.

Final score: 6-5 Yankees, in 10 innings

If tonight is any indication, you can understand why the young rookie Gleyber Torres was named the AL Player of the Week. Last week, Torres hit 5 home runs and 9 RBIs and maintained an average of .368 in those 6 games. And he’s certainly making a case for being considered such on a regular basis.

And the annual amateur draft is coming up June 4-6. It’s where we first heard first-round names like Thurman Munson (1968), Derek Jeter (1992), and Aaron Judge (2013). Who knows who the Yankees will choose this year. And every year, the Yankees send representatives to make the announcements of their choices. This year, the Yankees will be represented by former Yankees outfielder and current special assistant to the GM Nick Swisher and Yankees Manager of International Operations Victor Roldan.

Go Yankees!

Game 50: HOU vs. NYY — A few stumbles isn’t going to win these kinds of games

To be perfectly fair, the Yankees faced one of the Astros’ ace starters. He was brutal for the Yankees in the playoffs last year, and he was dominant when the Yankees faced him earlier this season (though fortunately, that ended in the Yankees’ favor due to some ironic dominant pitching of their own by today’s starter). And because of how the games landed, the Yankees weren’t able to send in their ace. And with the slight stagnancy the Yankees’ bats are hitting recently, it might not have mattered so much.

And despite that, the Yankees were able to hold off the Astros in comparison to what could be. Domingo German got the start, throwing 104 pitches into the 6th inning, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs (3 earned), and still struck out 7 Houston batters. In the 2nd, with 1 out and 2 runners on base, a big 3-run home run got the Astros on the board early. And a throwing error in the 4th allowed the lead-off runner to make it to 1st safely. He advanced to 2nd on a single and then scored on another single.

AJ Cole closed out the 6th for German and had a pretty good outing overall for his 7 outs. Except for that pesky 1st pitch, lead-off solo home run in the 8th inning to add to the Astros’ lead. Tommy Kahnle came on strong in the 9th and needed just 11 pitches to close out the inning.

Meanwhile, that Astros’ starter just dominated the Yankees’ offense into the 7th inning, giving up just 5 hits. One of those was also a lead-off solo home run to Greg Bird, his first home run of the season due to his recent return from the disabled list. The Astros’ bullpen closed out the 7th and sailed their way through the final 2 innings and kept the Yankees to that lone allowed run.

Final score: 5-1 Astros

In honor of Memorial Day, the Yankees have donned uniforms and gear with camouflage accents, both today and yesterday. And at a certain point in the game, (3pm local time, or during the 6th inning), the Yankees participated in the National Moment of Remembrance, a moment of silence.

During the 7th inning at home games, they always take time to “honor America”, a staple in the Yankees’ home program since 9/11 to recognize and honor active, veteran, and fallen military and first responders. But today was a special moment across all of baseball and various parts of America, a special memorandum President Clinton signed in 2000. It is just the 2nd year that all of MLB has participated, but it quickly has become a favorite on this day.

And on that note, we wish everyone a safe and meaningful Memorial Day, as we remember those lost in service to their country and the families they left behind. Fallen, but not forgotten.

Go Yankees!

Game 31: NYY vs. HOU — Late inning heroics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not a bad way to end a road trip.

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

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

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

Go Yankees!