Game 17: BOS vs. NYY — Milestone slam for Gardy Party Sweep

Now, that is the way to win a game and sweep the opposing team. The Yankees sent the Red Sox on their way after sweeping their rivals in this quick 2-game mini-series. Of course, a nice come-from-behind win thanks to a bang by a veteran’s milestone.

JA Happ got the start in tonight’s game, throwing 84 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up 6 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and struck out 4 Boston batters, and most of that was in the first two innings. He gave up a 2-out solo homer in the 1st, and in the 2nd, a lead-off single scored as part of a 2-out, 2-run home run to get the Red Sox on the board and in the lead early.

The Yankees were held off until the 4th inning. Voit led-off by working a walk, moved to 2nd on a fielder’s choice and error, and then scored on Clint Frazier’s 1-out double. But it would be the 7th inning that would leave everyone talking. They loaded up the bases with Frazier’s single and walks to Tauchman and Romine. So, with 1 out and a new pitcher, it would be Brett Gardner for tonight’s heroics. Gardner smacked a grand slam into the right field seats, instantly giving the Yankees the lead.

After Happ’s exit in the 7th, Tommy Kahnle closed out the inning with just 6 pitches to get 2 outs. Adam Ottavino got into a jam in the 8th but worked his way out without the Red Sox chipping away at the Yankees’ lead. And Aroldis Chapman earned his 3rd save of the season with 12 pitches in the 9th.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees, Yankees sweep 2-0

Next up: The Royals come into town for a 4-game weekend series before the Yankees hit the road for their first West Coast trip of the season. They will visit the Angels, Giants, and Diamondbacks before heading back home for their May home stand.

That grand slam was actually a major milestone for the veteran outfielder. It was his 3rd career grand slam (two more than Jeter, by the way), but it was also his 100th career home run. Gardner is more known for his snazzy defense and his speedy base running, so when he clubs these monster hits, it’s always something to celebrate. But tonight’s was just a little extra sweet — a career milestone… to take the win… against Boston… by a homegrown Yankee… and veteran.. and fan and clubhouse favorite.

By the way, the kid who got the grand slam ball ended up meeting Gardner outside the clubhouse, exchaning the ball for autographs and selfies. Bet he wasn’t planning on that fun twist to his night when he got tickets for tonight’s game.

Speaking of the clubhouse… the Yankees have been determined to celebrate a home series victory since Day 1 but have fallen short every time until tonight. Someone (no one’s naming names) brought in a smoke machine and flashing lights and boosted the music so that the players could celebrate their sweeping victory with a dance party in the clubhouse. None of which would have been noticed except for the smoky haze that still lingering when they allowed the media in for interviews.

Well, celebrate away and take that momentum and feeling into the next series.

Go Yankees!

Game 13: CHW vs. NYY — Drenched and shortened loss

Tonight’s home stand opener certainly didn’t go as well as they thought. And the weather itself certainly agreed. The skies threatened to storm the entire evening, even drizzling through most of the game, but it finally broke through and drenched the Bronx enough to force them to call the game early. Which, of course, meant the Yankees ran out of time to try to regain their lead against the visiting White Sox.

Starter JA Happ really struggled through his outing tonight. He threw 88 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 9 hits, 2 walks, and 6 runs, and struck out 5 Chicago batters. A lead-off double in the 1st scored on a 2-out single to get the White Sox on the board early and first. In the 4th, he gave up 2 walks that scored on a 2-out double.

While this was actually tolerable for the Yankees, it was the 5th inning that things really started falling apart. Happ gave up a single, a 2-run home run, and another single before the Yankees called in Jonathan Holder for relief. But then he promptly gave up a 2-run home run before powering his way through 3 strikeouts to end the inning and then keeping the Sox scoreless through the 6th.

Okay, backing up a little, the Yankees did actually do pretty well on the offense side tonight. Down by 1 run in the 1st, the Yankees answered back in the bottom of the inning. With 1 out, they loaded up the bases with a throwing error on Judge’s at-bat and 2 walks to Voit and Torres. After another out, DJ LeMahieu’s single scored both Judge and Voit. But then, Torres was caught out in a rundown trying to make it to 3rd. His distraction was enough to allow both runners to score before he got tagged out, so the risk was worth it.

Now in the lead, the Yankees continued to surge forward in the 2nd. Frazier led-off with a walk, moved to 3rd on Urshela’s double, and then scored on Austin Romine’s single. Later, Aaron Judge’s sacrifice fly scored Urshela. Brett Gardner hit a solid 2-out solo home run in the 4th. And in the 6th, LeMahieu walked and Frazier singled. After a pitching change, Gio Urshela’s single scored LeMahieu, and despite loading up the bases later, the Yankees’ offense stalled that inning.

And they never got another chance to restart it because it started raining. They sent Chad Green out in the 7th, and like his 2 predecessors, he had his own issues with his outing. With 1 out, he gave up back-to-back solo homers. And by then the rain was just too much.

After 41 minutes of a delay and no end in sight, the game was called as is.

Final score: 9-6 White Sox, in 7 innings

Roster moves: Before tonight’s game, the Yankees sent Gary Sanchez to the injured list with left calf strain. He originally sat out the previous game with some calf discomfort, not wanting to push himself to actually get injured. But on yesterday’s off-day, he noticed it was still problematic and got it check out, hoping to be able to play through the stiffness. Diagnosis: strain. So they called up Kyle Higashioka for back-up to Romine.

And be prepared: the Yankees are set to activate CC Sabathia from the IL for tomorrow’s game, so the corresponding roster move (probably a pitcher) is forthcoming. But it’s nice to see someone coming off the IL rather than being put on. Yeah, we need more of that please.

Go Yankees!

Game 8: NYY vs. BAL — A double Judgement Day with some late Red Thunder

Unlike in previous seasons, the Yankees seem to find their swing at Camden Yards. Usually, there’s something about the Baltimore home field that reeks of home field advantage, and for a time during these last two games, that seemed to still linger. But the Yankees somehow pulled it together in the end and found their momentum to swing things in their favor.

JA Happ got the start for the Yankees in the middle game of this opening weekend series, throwing into the 5th inning and mostly keeping the Orioles from doing much tonight. With 2 outs in the 1st, a solo home run got them on the board. But then Happ worked his way through the next 3 innings without another big threat. In the 5th, he gave up a single and a 1-out walk before handing the ball over to Holder for relief.

After an infield fly pop-up out, a single scored Happ’s lead runner, but Holder kept the Orioles from adding any further to their score through the next 4 outs. But then he found trouble in the 7th. The first batter was hit by a pitch then moved to 3rd on a single. So it was on to Adam Ottavino.

A pinch-hitter hit into an unsuccessful fielder’s choice that scored one run. After an out (the first of the inning), a base runner stole 3rd which he used to his advantage when he scored on a sacrifice fly. With no more base runners, Ottavino needed just 1 more out to close out the inning without further damage. After allowing a lead-off walk, he got 2 outs in the 8th before it was Green’s turn.

Green had a bit of a sloppy way to find that final out of the 8th. His first batter was hit by a pitch, and the next batter hit into a fielder’s choice fielding error to load up the bases. The call was originally ruled out at 2nd, but Torres just tagged the base and not the runner. So when the runner came off the bag, Torres was still holding the ball in his glove away from the runner and not on the runner. The Orioles rightly challenged the call, which was overturned quickly, and play proceeded.

A ground ball later, and Green was out of the jam. Chapman earned his second save with an 18-pitch scoreless 9th inning.

The Yankees actually got on the board first with a solid 1-out solo home run up the middle by Aaron Judge. Then with 1 out in the 3rd, Gardner doubled, and Judge again smacked a big homer, a 2-run home run again up the middle. That’s home runs #1 and #2 of 2019 for Judge, by the way.

But after the Orioles tied up the game (twice) and then took the lead, the Yankees started running out of time to shift things back to their favor. They even got several opportunities once again, but they couldn’t seem find a way to score. Then in the 8th, with 2 outs and a new reliever, Torres walked and moved to 3rd on LeMahieu’s single. But it was Clint “Red Thunder” Frazier for the win, with a 3-run home run, putting the Yankees back in the lead.

Final score: 6-4 Yankees

Roster moves: Before tonight’s game, the Yankees optioned Thairo Estrada back to AAA Scranton and signed infielder Gio Urshela to a major league contract. To make room for him on the roster, they moved Didi Gregorius to the 60-day injured list. Urshela, as you might remember, was a stand-out in Spring Training both defensively and at the bat. Add in his veteran experience, he is the logical choice for long-term coverage while the Yankees tread lightly with the injured Andujar.

Go Yankees!

Game 3: BAL vs. NYY — Rain-clogged delay delayed run-support

Three hours and seventeen minutes. That’s how long fans milled around Yankee Stadium in anticipation of this afternoon’s series closer against the visiting Orioles. Finally, the rain let up, the tarp came off, and the game proceeded with the remaining loyal fans still lingering about the stadium to watch an almost four hour game.

By the way, seven hours at the ball park, rain or not, sounds like a great way to pass an afternoon to me, but maybe I’m just a bit biased. After the rain passed, it was actually a rather nice afternoon for baseball, though not the desired outcome once again.

JA Happ got the start today, throwing 75 pitches in his 4 innings, giving up 5 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, and striking out just 3 Baltimore batters. Things got sticky for him right in the 1st. With 1 out, he gave up a double, a single, and a big 3-run home run to get the O’s on the board early. A 1-out solo shot in the 3rd added one more for their lead.

He then handed the ball to Luis Cessa for some long-term relief through the middle of the game. But he still had his own issues. In the 5th, a 1-out single ended up at 3rd on an attempted steal and throwing error and then scored on another single. After two clean innings, Cessa came back out for the 8th and gave up a 1-out walk.

Stephen Tarpley got the chance to close out the inning for Cessa, but he also found some trouble, giving up a 2-out 2-run home run to keep adding to the Orioles’ lead. Tommy Kahnle found his own spot of trouble loading up the bases with 3 walks before getting himself out of his own jam with a great strikeout and keeping the Orioles scoreless in that inning.

The Yankees certainly made a valiant attempt to cut into the Orioles’ lead. But they were certainly stymied along the way, leaving 14 runners stranded on the base paths during the game. They didn’t find a clear shot at scoring until the 4th, and even then, it was basically handed to them.

They loaded up the bases with Andujar’s single and walks to Bird and LeMahieu. Then with a new pitcher, Brett Gardner worked an 11-pitch walk to walk in Andujar for the Yankees’ first run of the day. Aaron Judge then singled and scored both Bird and LeMahieu.

In the 7th, Gary Sanchez blasted a 2-out solo home run into the left field seats. And with 2 outs in the 9th, the Yankees tried a small attempt at another rally. Bird worked a walk, and Torres singled (despite an upheld challenge from the Orioles). DJ LeMahieu’s single scored Bird. But feeling rightfully threatened, the Orioles called for a final pitching change, and a strikeout later, the game was over. They ran out of outs.

Final score: 7-5 Orioles, Orioles win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees will host the Tigers for their first midweek series at home. Then they head down to Baltimore to play the Orioles again next weekend, returning the favor for their home opener. They’ll finish up this road trip against the Astros before heading home again.

And thus ends March baseball on a soggy, slow, sour note. But it’s a long season, Yankee Universe, and it’s just getting started. Bring on April.

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 21: TOR vs. NYY — The Saturday hit parade

For the second afternoon in a row, the Yankees turned the hot, humid weather into a sort of springboard for dominating their visiting opponent in Tampa. Early on, the home team hosted a continued batting practice under the guise of a Spring Training game, with the Blue Jays even getting in on the fun and action today. And fans were just there for the show.

The Yankees kicked things off in the 1st, with Aaron Judge’s big 1-out solo home run, the first home run and hit of a 9 home run and 29 hit day, overall. Then, Bird worked a 2-out walk and scored with Gleyber Torres’ 2-run home run to give the Yankees an early lead.

JA Happ got the start for the Yankees. Despite a good 1st inning, he had a bit of trouble in the 2nd. A lead-off single scored as part of a 2-run home run to get the Blue Jays on the board. Two outs later, a solo home run helped push the Jays into a tie.

So, the Yankees came back in the bottom of the 2nd to retake their lead. With 1 out, Wade doubled, and Gio Urshela smacked a 2-run home run to break the tie. Gardner then singled, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, and scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s 2-out single. In the 4th, with 1 out and Florial on base with a single, pinch-hitter Jorge Saez hit a solid 2-run home run to keep the runs rolling in.

After Britton and Chapman sailed their way through the 4th and 5th innings, Tommy Kahnle’s 1st pitch in the 6th became a Blue Jays’ solo home run. But he got right back on track and shut them down in 3 quick outs.

The Yankees answered back in the 6th. Estevan Florial led-off with a walk, stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Matt Lipka’s single. Lipka moved to 2nd on Wagner’s single and scored on Thairo Estrada’s double. Clint Frazier fought through a good at-bat only to hit a 2-RBI triple. And in the 7th, Urshela led-off with a double, and his pinch-runner later scored on Matt Lipka’s big 2-run home run.

Minor league reliever Phillip Diehl had a great 7th inning but found trouble in the 8th. He loaded up the bases with a double, a single, and a walk, with no outs. A sacrifice fly scored the lead run, and with that out, the Yankees went to Weissert for pitching relief. After a strong strikeout, a strong 2-RBI triple edged the Blue Jays a bit closer to the Yankees’ lead.

Thairo Estrada then led-off the 8th with a ridiculously speedy triple (a double for most people) and scored on Francisco Diaz’s single. Zack Zehner hit a big 2-run home run to cap off the runs this afternoon. The Yankees sent reliever Jonathan Holder in to close out the game with a scoreless 9th.

Final score: 17-7 Yankees

One to Watch: Today, I opted for two honorees. Gio Urshela dominated the first half of the game once again with his contributions at the plate and his outstanding defense, starting at 3rd base. And in the latter half of the game, Matt Lipka’s bat was hot today, going 2-for-2, with 3 RBIs and 2 runs scored.

Next up: the Yankees have a split squad day tomorrow afternoon. But in a weird scheduling twist, both games are actually being played away. One squad will travel to visit the Orioles in Sarasota (about an hour south), and the other across the Bay to Clearwater to see the Phillies (about 25 minutes west).

Unfortunately, there is some injury news. In the top of the 8th, outfielder Estevan Florial slammed into the center field fence trying to negotiate between the sun and a fly ball. (The fence won.) He was pinch-hit on his next at-bat and sent to precautionary x-rays, which came back with non-displaced right wrist fracture. In other words, his Spring is done and will probably start back with Advanced-A Tampa as part of his rehab and recovery once he is healed.

And Luis Severino is still dealing with his inflamed shoulder, and due to his slow recovery process this Spring, it looks like he will miss regular season games through April. Aaron Hicks’ back should be healed and ready to go by Opening Day, but he will have no Spring warm-up. So he could take a few sim games or minor league games (or about a week) before rejoining the regular team.

With two key players out, even for a week in Hicks’ case, that could mean a brief promotion for some Yankee players. So as they continue to hone their roster, it will be interesting to see who winds up as part of the 25-men set to play Opening Day.

One player in Yankee Universe that won’t be part of that line-up is Seahawks star quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson is technically part of the Yankee farm system and was in camp these last two days, connecting with friends like Judge and working out with his fellow athletes. Unlike last year, Wilson didn’t get any play time in either of these last two big games, watching his teammates haul in big victories from the dugout. Maybe that’s why the scores looked more like the NFL than MLB — blame Wilson.

Go Yankees!

Spring Games 15 & 16: NYY vs. DET & PIT vs. NYY — A draw and a win on a sunny Sunday

Another split squad series, another sunny and hot afternoon, another set of mixed results. At least today’s results leaned positive for the Yankees.

Game 1: Yankees at Detroit
Some of the Yankees traveled about 40 minutes east to visit the Tigers again in Lakeland and honestly battled their way through the afternoon in an oddly evenly-matched game. Nestor Cortes got the started and pitched his way into the 3rd inning, only giving up a lead-off solo home run in the 2nd.

Then the Yankees and Tigers kept the game close for most of the game, thanks to the great defense and pitching on both sides. The Yankees didn’t find their breakthrough until the 7th. Voit led-off with a walk and was pinch-run by Brandon Wagner. Miguel Andujar then hit a big double, and Wagner made an effort to score the Yankees’ first run. But a great relay got him out at home, with Andujar making it to 3rd on the throw. He was then pinch-run by Cabrera, who finally scored a Yankees’ run on Ryan Lavarnway’s single.

Another out later, the Yankees loaded up the bases with 2 walks. But a pitching change and a pop-up ended their attempt to break the tie. But Brandon Wagner broke it in the 8th with a 2-out solo home run, and the Yankees had their lead for the first time all afternoon in Lakeland.

It didn’t last long. In the bottom of the 8th, Danny Farquhar came out for the Yankees to try to protect the lead. A lead-off single was quickly caught stealing 2nd for his first out, and after another out, he loaded up the bases with 3 consecutive walks. David Hale came on in relief and promptly walked in the tying and final run.

Final score: 2-2 tie

Game 2: Pirates at Yankees
Meanwhile, back home in Tampa, the Yankees battled the visiting Pirates for the afternoon. JA Happ got the start at Steinbrenner Field, pitching 4 innings and struggling a bit in the middle. In the 2nd, with 1 out and runners on the corners with singles, a sacrifice fly scored the Pirates’ first run. And back-to-back solo home runs in the 3rd gave the Pirates a solid lead.

The Yankees finally found their offense in the 4th. They loaded up the bases with walks to 3 power-hitters — Judge, Stanton, and Bird. Gleyber Torres was then walked to scored Judge for the Yankees’ first run of the day in Tampa. With a new pitcher, Troy Tulowitzki ground into a double play, but it still scored Stanton and moved Bird to 3rd. Clint Frazier’s single then scored Bird to tie up the game in a single inning. Then in the 5th, Gio Urshela led-off with a solo home run to put the Yankees in the lead.

Adam Ottavino’s 5th inning was just filthy stuff, catching the eye of both fellow Yankees and their opponents. It was very much a “blink and you miss it” kind of inning, with the new Yankees just getting 3 straight strikeouts. Chapman followed that up with a solid 6th inning of his own, and things were looking up for the Yankees as they tried to gain some further momentum.

But Dellin Betances had a bit of a struggle in his 7th inning. He gave up a lead-off triple, due in part to some sun-influenced defensive issues. A single then scored that runner to tie the game up again. After a solid strikeout, he walked 2 batters to load up the batters. Jonathan Holder came in to try to save the inning, giving up a sacrifice fly that put the Pirates back on top.

In the bottom of the 8th, the Yankees weren’t going to let this game go just yet. Jackson led-off with a single and then scored on Zack Zehner’s monster 2-run home run over the left field concourse to get the lead back to the home team. Tommy Kahnle’s final 4 outs closed out the game and protected the Yankees’ lead.

Final score: 6-5 Yankees

One to watch: I’m going to give today’s honor to Gio Urshela, who’s really been rising in recognition this Spring. And today, in addition to being the Yankees’ starting 3rd baseman, he also hit that great home run in the 5th to put the Yankees in their first lead of the afternoon. He was traded to the Yankees late last year after stints with the Indians and Blue Jays, playing in the big leagues with both previous teams. He’s not really been on anyone’s radar, but he could potentially be some great back-up for the infield should problems arise this season.

Next up: after an off-day tomorrow (Monday), the Yankees will take on the Orioles at home Tuesday night. There’s 15 scheduled games left, just a little more than halfway through the Spring, or about 2 weeks.

In Yankee Universe news: Babe Ruth’s last living daughter, Julia Ruth Stevens, died Saturday at the age of 102. Ruth adopted Julia when he married her mother in 1929, but she remained an avid fan of Ruth’s original team, the Red Sox, being a frequent fan in the stands up until a few years ago. Our thoughts and condolences are with her son, two grandchildren, and four great grandchildren at this time.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: Neither game today was broadcast, so there was minimal video highlights to share. Apologies, fans!}