Game 12: NYY vs. HOU — Swept away in Space City, but don’t get swept away

Consider it an interesting turnabout for the Yankees. They swept the Orioles; the Astros swept them. And the road trip finishes with 2 sweeps, but only 1 in the Yankees’ favor. And of course, social media exploded by giving up on the Yankees after only 12 games, as if they are now destined to lose the next 150. Talk about your fickle “fans”.

The honest truth is that the Yankees just didn’t play well tonight. (And no, it had nothing to do with the fact that the Astros opened the roof of their field for all 3 games. Silly superstitions.) James Paxton got the start for the Yankees tonight and struggled his way through 95 pitches into the 5th inning.

In the 1st, Paxton gave up a 1-out solo home run to get the home team on the board. Then a 2-out walk scored on a long triple. With 1 out in the 3rd, a single scored on a double. After another solo home run (by the same Astros’ star) and a single, the Yankees went to their bullpen, but they too found their own issues.

Tommy Kahnle promptly gave up a 2-run home run. After an out, 2 singles put runners on the corners. After another single scored the lead runner, the Yankees called on newly called-up Joe Harvey. Harvey was just stellar in his MLB debut, closing out the 5th with a strong strikeout and then sailing his way into the 7th inning with 2 more strikeouts. Tarpley closed out the 7th with just 3 pitches.

Things were looking better for the Yankees, miles away from the problems that have plagued their bullpen all series (and most of the season so far). Zack Britton came out for the 8th, in hopes of maintaining that momentum. It was not to be. A lead-off single ended up at 2nd due to a throwing error before scoring on another single. Britton later loaded up the bases with just 1 out, but the Yankees’ defense made it up for him with a snazzy double play to get out of trouble.

Meanwhile, the Yankees once again got on the board first with Brett Gardner’s big lead-off home run into the right field seats in the 1st. But then things got relatively quiet for the Yankees’ offense. In the 4th, Torres led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on Bird’s single, and then scored on DJ LeMahieu’s sacrifice fly.

With quite the deficit on the scoreboard, the Yankees found one last chance for a rally in the 8th in what proved to be the Astros’ lone weak inning. With a new reliever, Judge led-off with a walk and scored as part of Luke Voit’s big 2-run home run. Then Torres singled, and Bird worked a walk. After a pitching change, LeMahieu, who is definitely on quite the hitting streak, got another RBI with a great double to score Torres.

Clint Frazier’s deep sacrifice fly then scored Bird, but a pitching change and 2 outs later, the rally fizzled. The deficit proved to large to overcome as the Yankees just ran out of outs.

Final score: 8-6 Astros, Astros sweep 3-0

Next up: After an off-day/travel day tomorrow (Thursday), the Yankees return home to host a 9-game home stand. They host the White Sox this weekend. After an off-day on Monday, the Yankees host their first rivalry games — a 2-game mini-series against the Red Sox. They will finish the week with a 4-game weekend series against the visiting Royals before they head out for their first West Coast road trip of the season.

Roster moves/”Scranton Shuttle”: Before the game, the Yankees sent Jonathan Loaisiga back to AAA Scranton and recalled Joe Harvey. This was due mainly to get a fresh pitching arm. With so many injuries and Severino’s recent setback, I imagine we’ll see lots of these kinds of moves. I think we can officially say the “Scranton Shuttle” has returned for this season.

Again, I just want to reiterate that it’s a long season. I know it gets spoken so often it really could be a cliché, but it doesn’t make it any less true. I don’t worry about the standings or the statistics until much later. Check back about the All-Star Break for a better idea of where things stand.

Look, there’s not a sports team or fan in the world that doesn’t want to win every game and isn’t upset when they lose. No one goes into this dreaming of losing 100+ games every season. And as Yankee fans, we’re used to winning more than we’re used to losing. But don’t just drop your team because you don’t like the outcome of a few games.

Think about all the Cubs or Red Sox fans that stood by their team through “curses” and major losing streaks, still showing up to every single game to hope “maybe this year”. Because that’s what it’s all about — the hope that you might be there to witness some crucial moment in time that leads to the championship, the one where they win it all. And we, of all fan bases, know that it’s not so much an “if” but “when” for the Yankees.

Go Yankees!

Game 11: NYY vs. HOU — No good news on a Tuesday

The hardest part about watching some of these early season games is just how the Yankees don’t seem to be clicking in all the right places just yet. Of course, with all their injuries and players on the injured list, it’s no wonder the Yankees seem more like a patchwork of talent than a well-oiled machine.

Sure, there’s always some rough patches early in the season as they try to recover the smoothness from the previous fall, but usually, that gets worked out mostly in Spring Training. That’s a good part of what Spring is for — to work out the off-season kinks.

But tonight was a good example of what happens when the Spring wasn’t successful in doing that because of the increasing list of injured veteran players. The Yankees played their middle game in Houston tonight, hoping to recapture whatever magic they had in Baltimore, and ended up falling short again.

Jonathan Loaisiga threw 71 pitches in his 3 innings, and after a quick 1st inning with 3 amazing strikeouts, he had some trouble through the rest of his outing. In the 2nd, a lead-off double moved to 3rd on a wild pitch and then scored on a sacrifice fly. A 1-out solo home run in the 3rd doubled the Astros’ score. In both innings, there were allowed base runners, but Loaisiga got himself out of both innings without too much damage.

Once again, the Yankees got on the board first with Luke Voit’s monster 2-out solo home run in the 1st. After the Astros tied up the game, the Yankees came back in the 6th. Gardner and Judge each worked a walk, and Voit hit into a force out at 2nd to put runners on the corners. Gary Sanchez then doubled home both Gardner and Voit to give the Yankees the lead again.

Tarpley basically breezed his way through a 9-pitch 4th inning, and Cessa’s 5 outs kept the Astros from adding to their score. Jonathan Holder closed out the 6th cleanly but had some trouble in the 7th. With 2 quick outs, he gave up back-to-back doubles that scored the tying run for the home team, before handing the ball over to Chad Green.

While Green got out of the 7th without further damage, it was his 8th, combined with some messy defense that soured the Yankees’ chances for the win. With 1 out, Green loaded up the bases with a single and 2 walks. A nice double scored 2 runners to put the Astros in the lead. Still with 2 runners on base and only 1 out, the Yankees turned to Tommy Kahnle. He gave up a sacrifice fly to score 1 run but was able to get out of the inning.

The Yankees’ offense was virtually silent after the 6th, with no late-inning rally even in the works tonight. Not even an attempt.

Final score: 6-3 Astros

Injury update: And in not good news, Luis Severino went in for a new MRI to see how his shoulder injury was progressing. While his original injury of rotator cuff inflammation seems to be healing, there is a new injury — a grade 2 lat strain. A lat strain, or micro tears in the large back muscle that connects the hip to the shoulder, is incredibly common in pitchers, especially near the shoulder joint like with Severino. A grade 2 strain is typically a month of recovery, so Severino has been shut down from all baseball activities for 6 weeks.

Again, this team is basically limping around this early season, yet still finding its way not to be the worst team in baseball. This isn’t exactly the kind of positive message I like to post on here, so I’ll leave you with some positive imagery. Even if you’re a cynic like me, a little bit of hope for better isn’t that far out of reach.

So, while the Yankees currently aren’t doing so hot and yet still hanging on just a game under .500, imagine what the team could be like as veteran players come off the IL, rejoin the team, and make an impact. It’s coming. Just hang on to that thought and pray for a healthy team.

Go Yankees!

Game 10: NYY vs. HOU — Late inning pitching disturbs “Tanaka Time”

Tonight, the Yankees began their series against the Astros in Houston with a strong start thanks to Masahiro Tanaka’s great outing. He threw just 78 pitches through 6 innings, gave up 3 hits, 2 walks, and just 1 run, and struck out 3 Houston batters. His lone allowed run was a lead-off solo home run in the 4th.

Couple that with a strong offensive start for the Yankees, and things were looking up to continue their win streak from Baltimore this weekend. In the 3rd, with 1 out, they loaded up the bases with Urshela’s walk, Gardner’s single and stolen base, and Judge’s walk. Luke Voit hit a short single that only scored Urshela but still got the Yankees on the board first.

With the game tied in the 4th, the Yankees came back in the 5th with Aaron Judge’s 1-out solo home run into the right field seats. And with 2 outs in the 6th, LeMahieu doubled and then scored on Clint Frazier’s long single.

Yes, things were looking up as the Yankees looked to their bullpen to close out the game in the final third of the game. But it didn’t really work out that way for either of their relievers. Zack Britton just struggled his way to find outs in the 7th. A lead-off single was out on a force grounder and failed double play attempt. A ground out moved that new runner to 2nd and a walk put the tying runs on base where they would both score on a long double and tie up the game.

That was it for Britton, and Adam Ottavino came in to close out the inning with a strikeout. But after another strikeout to kick off the 8th inning, he found his own problems. A walk and single put runners in the corners before a dribbling single unfortunately scored the lead runner to put the Astros in the lead.

While the Yankees had a strong starter and weak relievers, the Astros seemed to have the reverse issue, closing out the game with a 6-pitch 9th inning to win the game.

Final score: 4-3 Astros

And today, the Yankees and PitCCh In Foundation announced the 2nd annual celebrity softball game to be held at Yankee Stadium on May 16. Last year, CC Sabathia, his foundation, and the Yankees gathered their noteworthy friends like athletes Carlos Beltran, Johnny Damon, Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez, Giancarlo Stanton, and Mo’Ne Davis and celebrities like DJ Envy, Leslie Jones, and Jennifer Lopez. They raised over $1 million for their foundations.

This year will start with a red carpet VIP event before they play the game and award the winning team a trophy. Celebrities will include Tiki Barber, Action Bronson, Andruw Jones, Tracy McGrady, and CC and Amber Sabathia among others to be announced. Tickets are available for sale for fans to enjoy all the festivities that Thursday night. Plus, it’s a great way to enjoy a game at the stadium and give back to a very worthy cause.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 26: NYY vs. HOU — Rainy start slows the Yankees’ win streak

The Yankees are an extended tour of south Florida for a few games this last week of Spring Training. First, they visited the Astros in West Palm Beach, and despite another rather rainy day that delayed today’s game 16 minutes, the game played on.

Gleyber Torres kicked off the game with a double and moved to 3rd on a fly out. Bird was hit by a pitch to put runners on the corners, and Gary Sanchez hit a 2-out double to score just Torres. But with runners in scoring position, a strikeout ended the Yankees early shot to get a good lead.

Jonathan Holder got the start and threw a rather strong 2 innings before handing things over to Nestor Cortes for the next 3 innings. The Astros didn’t find their opportunity until the 5th inning. With 1 out, consecutive singles put runners on the corners. A line drive out to 3rd and throwing error allowed 1 run to tie up the game.

Reliever Joe Harvey got 2 quick outs but then gave up a solo home run to give the Astros the lead. But then he sailed through the 7th inning, and Brothers closed out the 8th, getting out cleanly despite giving up 3 walks to load up the bases.

The Yankees had a few opportunities in the game but never got enough to regain their lead.

Final score: 2-1 Astros

Next up: The Yankees travel about 30 minutes north from today’s field to visit the Cardinals in Jupiter.

The Yankees announced today that they have signed veteran left-handed pitcher Gio Gonzalez to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training. He is a 2-time All-Star, formerly with the Athletics, Nationals, and Brewers over the last 11 years. And his signing with the Yankees after declaring his intent at free agency this last off-season was a “no-brainer” for him.

He will need some extended Spring Training due to his late start, having just worked out with students around his hometown in South Florida. But his presence on the team could come into play with injuries to starters Sabathia and Severino and even to reliever Betances. His contract includes an opt-out clause if he is not promoted to the major leagues by April 20. But I’m guessing we’ll see the new Yankee in pinstripes before then.

Go Yankees!

ALCS 5: BOS vs. HOU — Priced out of the Series

One series down, one series to be decided before we have a World Series match-up. The Dodgers are one game away from the World Series for their second year in a row, but the Brewers are one game away from elimination. However, should the Brewers persevere, it will not only be their first NL pennant but also their first trip to the World Series since 1982. (They won the AL pennant that year when they were still an AL team, switching to the NL in 1998.)

ALCS: Red Sox at Astros
In a match-up of former teammates, the pitcher I thought would win, the one who’s done better in postseason history, didn’t. And that’s why the postseason isn’t so predictable. The Red Sox starter Price held the Astros scoreless for 6 innings, sailing through 93 pitches, just 3 hits and 9 strikeouts. He really just dominated the game, similar to how he did for the Rays a decade ago, but really not since.

While the Astros starter Verlander also went 6 innings, but he gave up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs, and struck out just 4 batters along the way. The Red Sox batters still only eked out those runs off 2 home runs. The first was a 1-out solo home run in the 3rd. Then in the 6th, a lead-off double and single scored on a 1st pitch 3-run home run.

The Astros finally found their lone opportunity to impact the score in the 7th with a new reliever on the mound for the Red Sox. With 2 outs, a solo home run finally got the Astros on the board. But then both teams battled it out to the final out, and the Red Sox celebrated on the Astros’ turf.

Final score: 4-1 Red Sox, Red Sox win series 4-1 and advance to the World Series as the AL champions

The Red Sox have had a pretty dominant season, so it’s really not surprising they ended up dominating in the postseason. Not to say that the Astros didn’t have a strong season, with their 103 wins, but they really weren’t the aggressive team they were last year. So the Red Sox move onto the World Series (last seen there in 2013), and the Astros miss their chance to have successive years in the Series.

Also, the Red Sox manager celebrated his birthday tonight and was serenaded to by his team as part of the clubhouse champagne celebrations. Not a bad way to celebrate your birthday.

Go Yankees!

NLCS 5: MIL vs. LAD, ALCS 4: BOS vs. HOU — “The show must go on”, an apt motto for this dramatic postseason

“Emotion, excitement, farce, melodrama, scene, spectacle, tension, tragedy, crisis, histrionics, theatrics, turmoil in life” — all synonyms for “drama” that would still fit whatever is going on this postseason, especially in the ALCS. It also kind of feels like the beginnings of a new rivalry between the Red Sox and Astros. But the NLCS is certainly seeing its share of the dramatics too.

NLCS: Brewers at Dodgers
The Brewers’ starter only threw to one batter this afternoon (just 5 pitches) before being pulled from the game. They later announced he will actually start the next game (Game 6), so they didn’t want to exhaust him today. So their first reliever ended up throwing into the 6th inning, more of a starter than the starter, with 70 pitches and 8 strikeouts. But none of that or the supporting relievers seemed to stop the Dodgers offense today.

Actually, they were held off until the 5th inning when the lead-off batter singled and ended up at 2nd on a throwing error. He then stole 3rd and scored on a 1-out single. And a lead-off single in the 6th moved to 2nd on a hit-by-pitch and then scored on a 1-out single. That was the end of the pseudo-starter’s outing, and his new reliever gave up a 2-out single that scored one more run but also got the other runner out trying to go to 3rd in a great defensive play. In the 7th, with 1 out, a walk and double put runners in scoring position. The first runner scored on a single, the next on a ground out.

And the Dodgers sent in one of their best starters, who went a full 7 innings and only gave up 3 hits and 2 walks, striking out 9 Milwaukee batters. He only gave up 1 run to the Brewers under his tenure. In the 3rd, a 1-out single moved to 2nd on a walk and then scored on a double. A 2-out walk loaded up the bases but Kershaw got out of that jam. It wasn’t until the 9th that the Brewers got another offensive shot. With 2 outs and the 2nd reliever of the inning, a batter doubled, moved to 3rd on defensive indifference, and then scored on a pinch-hit double. It wasn’t enough.

Final score: 5-2 Dodgers, Dodgers lead series 3-2

ALCS: Red Sox at Astros
Meanwhile, in Houston, things are getting ugly. Fast. The teams went back-and-forth in offensive strength, no thanks to some pretty heated debates over some questionable calls — like a probable home run call that was ruled (and later somehow “upheld” but notably not “confirmed”) as “fan interference”. It immediately drew comparisons to the whole Jeffrey Maier incident from the 1996 ALCS, though it was much closer to other potential fan incidents.

Beyond that, each team pretty much let in to each team’s pitchers to advance their cause. In the 1st, the Red Sox’s lead-off batter was hit by a pitch, then he and a 1-out walk moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. They both scored on a single. The Astros got one of those runs back in the 2nd when a lead-off double scored on an RBI single.

The Red Sox’s lead-off double ended up scoring on a double to take back their run in the 3rd. But the Astros came back in the bottom of that inning with a lead-off solo home run and a double that later scored on a 2-out single to tie up the game. A 1-out solo home run put the Astros in the lead for the first time tonight. But the Red Sox tied it up again in the 5th with a 1-out double scoring on a 2-out single.

The Astros pushed on ahead in the bottom of the 5th when their 1-out single moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a 2-out single. The visitors flipped the story again in the 6th. With 2 outs, they got a double that scored as part of a big 2-run home run. Then the Red Sox kept going. In the 7th, they loaded up the bases with 2 outs before the Astros’ reliever walked in a run. And in a similar story of the night, a 1-out single in the 8th moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a 2-out single.

The home team got one more chance to make an impact in the bottom of the 8th. A lead-off single was tagged out trying to make it a double. Then a hit-by-pitch and double moved runners to scoring position. A ground out scored the lead runner, but a strikeout ended the Astros chance at a comeback.

Final score: 8-6 Red Sox, Red Sox lead series 3-1

In Yankee Universe news: Didi Gregorius had his surgery on his partially torn UCL, also known as Tommy John surgery. It went “as expected”, and if his recovery progresses “as expected”, Gregorius should be back in pinstripes around the All-Star Break, as early as June, as late as August.

Of course, this has fueled rumors about potential replacements. However, I’m guessing that because Gregorius is scheduled to comeback next season that they might see how in-house talent progresses in Spring Training before going fishing for a replacement. I mean, they already have Walker, Wade, Torreyes, Hechavarria, Torres, and Andujar (as well as Voit and Bird at 1st) on the roster. It’s not like they’re hurting for talented infielders.

And as Yankee baseball season is over, it seems the Yankees themselves have turned to being fans of other sports. Aaron Judge (and friends) were court side for Knicks’ home opener (and eventual victory) at Madison Square Garden. A crowd scan found his face on the big screen, much to the glee of other fellow New Yorkers. Judge was also the answer to a clue on Jeopardy! two nights ago. In other words, the season may be over, but the Yankees aren’t exactly “out of sight, out of mind”.

Go Yankees!

ALCS 3: BOS vs. HOU, NLCS 4: MIL vs. LAD — One blowout, one walk-off

And the drama continues. This postseason is proving that there is going to be nothing boring about October baseball this year. Neither series is showing they are short on flair for dramatic victories, but clearly each series will do so in their own way.

ALCS: Red Sox at Astros
The ALCS is in Houston for this next part of their series, though the hometown crowd is clearly less thrilled with the outcome. The Red Sox and Astros actually started off the game fairly evenly, both starters giving up just 2 runs each. The Red Sox beat up the Astros’ starter in that first inning, getting consecutive singles, an RBI double, and an RBI grounder to start the game. But the Astros answered back in the bottom of the inning, with 3 singles, one of which scored a run to keep the game close.

An Astros’ 2-out walk scored on an RBI double in the 5th to tie up the game, which means they kept the game close while the starters were in command of the game. Once they stepped into the bullpen, the game drastically shifted in the visiting team’s favor, thanks to the shutout nature of their bullpen.

Their offense broke the tie right in the 6th with a 1-out solo home run. But it was the 8th that really quieted the home crowd. With 2 outs, the Red Sox loaded up the bases thanks to a challenged hit-by-pitch. Another hit-by-pitch scored an insurance run for the Sox, but it would be the next batter’s grand slam that left everyone talking and ensured the Red Sox’s victory in this afternoon’s game.

Final score: 8-2 Red Sox, Red Sox lead series 2-1

NLCS: Brewers at Dodgers
Over on the West Coast, it was much more edge of your seat kind of action. The Brewers’ starter only went 1 inning, leaving the game with a high ankle sprain that could be the end of his season. That left them with the only option of piecing together their bullpen for the rest of the game. The Dodgers had a more traditional pitching night, but their own bullpen got quite the workout.

In total, both pitching staffs worked 32 strikeouts, an insane statistic, especially for a postseason game. But then, this also ended up being a 13 inning, 5 hour and 15 minute game, early into the morning for those of us here on the East Coast.

In the 1st, the Dodgers got on the board first. A lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a grounder and later scored on a 2-out RBI single. But the Brewers tied things up in the 5th when a 1-out single scored on a pinch-hit double. And on they fought into extra innings.

There was a bit of a scuffle in the 10th when a batter tried to beat out a simple ground out at 1st and ended up almost spiking the first baseman. Understandably, the infielder had some heated words for the runner, and the benches cleared to stick up for their respective teammates. It wasn’t terrible, but it certainly proved this series is far too tense with all the notable “dirty plays” lately. Though to be fair, it only seems to be one player at the center of these plays. So perhaps, the Dodgers need to dump and run for next season?

Then in the 13th, the Dodgers hit a 1-out single that moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, survived a pick-off attempt, and then scored on a 2-out single to score the walk-off run.

Final score: 2-1 Dodgers, in 13 innings, series tied 2-2

And the Yankees announced that they are donating $100,000 to support relief efforts helping those affected by Hurricane Michael earlier this month. Divided evenly, funds will go to the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army. While currently known more as a New York team, the Spring home of the Yankees and permanent residence for most of the Steinbrenner family is in Florida, so their hearts are with their fellow Floridians as they rebuild and recover from the devastation.

Most of the damage from the major hurricane winds of 155 mph and severe flooding is along the northern Gulf Coast and Panhandle region of the state, about 350 miles (or 5 hours) northwest of the Tampa Bay area (where Steinbrenner Field hosts the Yankees Spring Training). Our hearts continue to be with those who are focusing on rebuilding their homes and lives after the storm.

Go Yankees!