ALDS 1: CLE vs. HOU, NYY vs. BOS & NLDS 2: COL vs. MIL, ATL vs. LAD — A very busy but predictable Friday

It’s days like this, with the flurry of activity, that really amp up the drama that leads up to the final bit of this season. For those of us who follow the entire day, it’s quite overwhelming at times. But oddly, it ended up being kind of predictable.

NLDS 2a: Rockies at Brewers
The Brewers and Rockies continue to prove they are pretty evenly matched in this postseason series. But the Brewers found their opportunities and capitalized on them well. In the 4th, a 1-out double scored on a ground-rule double to get the home team on the board. But then, they were held to that lone run for most of the game.

Then in the 8th, the Brewers loaded the bases with no outs. A single scored one runner. And 2 outs later, a single scored 2 more runs. That and some really tight pitching ensured the Brewers’ shutout victory.

Final score: 4-0 Brewers, Brewers lead series 2-0

NLDS 2b: Braves at Dodgers
The Dodgers sent their ace pitcher for tonight’s game and he just breezed his way through 8 scoreless innings allowing just 2 hits. The Braves’ offense just struggled their way through the whole game.

The Dodgers’ offense, however, found an early chance to ensure their lead in the game and series. They gave up a double that moved to 3rd on a ground out. A 2-out 2-run home run gave them that early lead. And a lead-off solo home run in the 5th added that extra insurance run for them they wouldn’t need in this game. And the Braves’ bullpen actually snapped into action to keep the Dodgers to that small early lead.

Final score: 3-0 Dodgers, Dodgers lead series 2-0

ALDS 1a: Indians at Astros
The ALDS series began today and had the Indians and Astros show off their strong pitching rotations. Seriously, of all the teams in the postseason, the two teams with the strongest starting pitching are these two teams. And while they certainly showed off their stuff, there was enough early on to give both teams hope. And then the Astros pulled away and showed why they won 103 games this season.

The Astros struck first with a lead-off solo home run in the 4th. Then a walk moved to 2nd on a 2-out single and then scored on another single to double their score. Then they came back in the 5th with consecutive solo home runs to lead-off that inning to again double that score.

The Indians finally answered back in the 6th by loading up the bases and pushing out the Astros’ starter. A wild pitch by the reliever moved all the runners up and scored the Indians’ first run. Another run scored on a ground out to half the Astros’ lead.

But the home team got both of them back in the 7th with a lead-off solo home run. Then a single moved to 2nd on a grounder and scored on a single. And a 1-out double in the 8th scored on an RBI single to finish the game on a strong note for the Astros’ fans packing their hometown park.

Final score: 7-2 Astros, Astros lead series 1-0

ALDS 1b: Yankees at Red Sox
And up in Boston, the Yankees just had a series of miscues that didn’t make tonight work in the end. JA Happ, the assumed Wild Card starter, got the start and just flustered his way into the 3rd inning. A 1-out single and walk in the 1st scored as part of a 3-run home run to get the Red Sox on the board in a hurry. After giving up a double and single to put runners on the corners, the Yankees turned to Chad Green.

Green had his own issues keeping the home team’s momentum down. He gave up a single that easily scored the runner from 3rd. A fly out moved the other runner to 3rd so that he could then score on a sacrifice fly. But then Green held them off for the 4th inning. Lynn, Britton, and Robertson then finished off the final 4 innings and kept the Red Sox to those early runs.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox has a strong starting rotation, and their ace pitcher Sale started tonight’s game and held the Yankees off until the 6th inning. Judge led-off the inning with a single but then was out on Gardner’s fielder’s choice grounder. And Stanton then singled. That was the end of Sale’s night, but he was responsible for Gardner and Stanton.

Luke Voit then hit a nice single to score Gardner, and Didi Gregorius hit into a fielder’s choice grounder at 2nd that still scored Stanton. Walks to Andujar and Sanchez loaded up the bases to prove the Red Sox’s bullpen isn’t as strong as their starters. But the Yankees also started a pattern that wasn’t going to work out well for them — load up the bases and leave them stranded.

In the 7th, they loaded up the bases with singles by McCutchen and Judge and a walk to Gardner. With 1 out, Voit hit into a ground out at 2nd that still scored McCutchen. But they left runners in scoring position again. When the Red Sox needed just 3 outs in the 9th to close out their game, Aaron Judge put a slight kink in that with a lead-off solo home run to trim the Red Sox lead down to just 1 run.

But 3 strikeouts later, the game was over. It’s just going to prove this series is going to be super

Final score: 5-4 Red Sox, Red Sox lead series 1-0

Quick side note: in the Yankees-Red Sox game, Aaron Hicks came out of the game in the 4th after hitting a single and kind of lightly running to 1st base. Replaced by Gardner (who definitely impacted the game), Hicks seemed to re-injure his hamstring injury that plagued him late last month. He will go for an MRI to figure out his postseason future. If he is out for this series, like they put him on the DL, he will be ineligible for the rest of the postseason. Hopefully, that won’t happen. But the best outcome is always the healthy outcome.

Go Yankees!

Game 160: NYY vs. BOS — Making history, taking advantage

It’s always going to be an interesting series when the Yankees face the Red Sox. And with the prospect looming that they might face each other in the postseason. Should the Yankees win the Wild Card series they will face the best AL team, which is the Red Sox, for the ALDS. And if both teams play like they did tonight, it’s going to be quite the postseason.

JA Happ got the start for the Yankees in this opening game against the Red Sox for the final series of the season. He threw 88 pitches in 6 innings, gave up 4 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs, and struck out 7 Boston batters to earn his 17th win of the season. And actually, Happ held them off for most of his outing.

It wasn’t until the 6th inning that he allowed a run. He gave up a 1-out single, a double, and a 2-out walk to load up the bases. The next batter then smacked a huge grand slam over the Green Monster to get the Red Sox on the board in a big way and electrify the sell-out home crowd.

Green came in a sailed his way through the 7th inning before handing the ball over to Dellin Betances for the 8th. But Betances had a bit of trouble. He gave up a walk that moved to 2nd on a 1-out single, and then scored on a 2-out single. He loaded the bases with a walk before getting out of the inning thanks to the Yankees’ defense.

And Zach Britton had an equally troubling 9th inning. He gave up a walk to lead-off the inning that ended up getting out on a fielder’s choice grounder. A throwing error put runners on the corners, and a 2-out walk loaded the bases. Then he gave up another walk to score the Red Sox’s final run of the night.

Now, all of that could be disheartening if the Yankees hadn’t had a monster offensive night themselves. In the 3rd, Gary Sanchez smacked a big lead-off solo home run to the Green Monster. Two outs later, Judge walked, moved to 2nd on Hicks’ single, and then scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s single.

In the 4th, with a new pitcher, Andujar hit a 1-out double (tying DiMaggio for the most doubles as a rookie with 44), and Sanchez walked. They both then scored on Gleyber Torres’ double. Though there was a bit of a question as to whether Sanchez actually touched home before the tag, but the call was upheld after the replay.

With another new pitcher, Torres scored on Andrew McCutchen’s single, thanks to a dropped ball. After Judge singled to join McCutchen on the bases, Aaron Hicks hit a nice 3-run home run to further the Yankees’ lead. Now, the best part of this was that Hicks completely thought he hit a fly ball to be caught in the outfield, so he trudged his way to 1st base before looking up and seeing that the ball went over the fence. With a sheepish grin, Hicks began his home run trot.

Luke Voit continued his power show with a 1-out solo home run in the 7th. Gregorius singled, moved to 2nd on Andujar’s walk, and then scored when Gary Sanchez hit into a fielding error. And Aaron Judge capped off the Yankees’ big night with a lead-off solo home run in the 8th.

Final score: 11-6 Yankees

And with that win tonight, the Yankees secured home field advantage in the Wild Card game next Wednesday. This means that the Athletics will travel to the Bronx for the one-off game. The winner of that game (*cough*TheYankees*cough*) will head up to Boston to face the Red Sox for the ALDS.

And with the 4 home runs in tonight’s game, the Yankees have officially tied the 1997 Mariners for the record of most home runs as a team in a single season with 264 homers. In other words, in the next 2 games, if they get at least 1 more home run, the 2018 Yankees will be the sole record holders of that statistic.

Go Yankees!

Game 155: BAL vs. NYY — Flailing bullpen denies Yankee sweep

In this final home game of the 2018 season, the Yankees were looking to close it out on an upswing. And for a good chunk of the afternoon, it looked like it was going to go that way in this final game against the visiting Orioles.

JA Happ had a good start, throwing 107 pitches in his 5 innings, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and a run, and striking out an impressive 7 batters. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo home run in the 2nd. Happ then held off the Orioles for the rest of his time on the mound.

And the Yankee batters gave him in enough to work with. In the 1st, the starter came off the mound after 4 pitches due to a blister issues. His replacement triggered an offensive show by the home team, loading up the bases with 3 consecutive walks. Gleyber Torres’ sacrifice fly (no media clip, sorry) scored McCutchen, Miguel Andujar’s single scored Stanton, and Gary Sanchez’s 2-out single scored Voit.

But then the Yankees didn’t do much more for the rest of the game. So the Yankee defense and pitchers needed to defend their slim lead. AJ Cole came on in relief of Happ in the 6th and just fumbled out of the gate. He gave up a double, a 2-run home run, and a solo home run to put the Orioles into the lead.

So the Yankees turned to Tommy Kahnle. He gave up a double that moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a sacrifice fly to add one more run for the O’s. Luis Cessa came on in the 7th and calmed things down a bit. But after some defensive switches in the 8th, he gave up a 1-out single that scored on a 2-out double to cap off the Orioles’ scoring today.

The Yankee bats never did awaken again this afternoon, an odd exception to the Orioles’ poor show by their bullpen this weekend. But baseball isn’t predictable.

Final score: 6-3 Orioles, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees are headed down to Florida to start their final week of this season with 4 games against the Rays before heading to Boston for 3 games at Fenway to conclude the season. The Yankees need to keep ahead of the Athletics in the standings if they want to keep home field advantage for the Wild Card game.

As I write this, the A’s are losing to the Twins. They have a fairly easy schedule against the Mariners and Angels to close out their season next week. So it really could go down to the wire for home field advantage in the AL Wild Card just like the NL is still a giant question mark for the postseason. And honestly, it kind of makes this last week of baseball all the more fun. Every game counts for something. Every moment matters.

Injury news: Getting lost in the fracas during yesterday’s win, it looks like Didi Gregorius tore cartilage in his right wrist in that slide home to score the winning run in the 11th inning. He had an MRI, where they found the tear, and a cortisone shot for treatment. Right now, they’re waiting to see how he responds to the shot. But if he doesn’t, he could be out for the rest of the season. Fingers crossed for speedy healing to the Emoji King.

Go Yankees

Game 150: BOS vs. NYY — Walker overrides 2 unearned runs

It wouldn’t be a Red Sox-Yankees game without some rivalry fun — counter cheering of which team “sucks”, enough merchandise representation of the visiting team to remind everyone who they’re playing, and some good-natured ribbing between fans. Plus, it always ends up being a dramatic game in some way.

JA Happ got the start in this opening game against the Red Sox, holding his own with 102 pitches through his 6 innings. He gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 1 unearned run, while striking out 6 Boston batters. In the 3rd, Happ gave up a lead-off single that moved to 2nd on a balk, advanced to 3rd on a passed ball (setting up the “unearned” part), and then scored on a sacrifice fly.

That got the Red Sox on their board, but Happ and the Yankees’ defense kept them to that run for most of the game. Chad Green continued the momentum with a flawless 10-pitch 7th inning, and Robertson’s 8th was an efficient 13 pitches.

In the meantime, the Yankees were held off from doing much by a former teammate for the first 6 innings. It was the 7th, with a new pitcher, that the Yankees found their opportunity. Hicks worked a lead-off walk and Sanchez got a 1-out walk to get runners on base and threaten the Red Sox’s narrow lead at that point.

So the Red Sox went to their bullpen again for a new reliever, but he faced Neil Walker who was ready to hit his 10th home run of the season, a big 3-run home run into the 2nd deck right field seats. to give the Yankees the lead and that insurance run they would end up needing.

The Yankees handed things off to Zach Britton for the 9th inning and the save, but things got dramatic. With 1 out, he gave up a walk. A missed catch error allowed runners to end up on the corners. A throwing error by Britton himself allowed that lead runner to then score, hence the Yankees’ 2nd unearned run of the night. A double play ended the Red Sox’s final push for a comeback rally and handed the Yankees the win.

Final score: 3-2 Yankees

Aaron Judge was back in tonight’s lineup, batting 2nd and playing right field. He went 0-for-4, but says that it felt like he “never left”. Part of the reason that Judge ended up in the game was that due to inclement weather (because it’s 2018) they had to push back the game from a 1:05 pm start time to 7:05 pm. That extra time allowed for Judge to take in an extra sim game this morning and prove he was ready to swing a bat in a real game. He just hasn’t made much contact yet.

A funny moment during the game was in the 8th inning. Giancarlo Stanton stepped into the batter’s box and hit a power line drive into the left field seats, but to the left of the foul pole. We all saw it go into the seats, so fans rushed the area for the ball. But literally no one could find it. They scoured the whole area, even expanding the search area after a bit, but it just disappeared. That ball must now be on vacation with my black fuzzy socks and the top of my cherry 7-up, both of which seemed to disappear before my eyes and have yet to reappear within the last 24 hours.

Go Yankees!

Game 144: NYY vs. MIN — Big win in the “Mini Apple”

The Yankees kicked off their series in dramatic fashion, bringing a little “Big Apple” power to the “Mini Apple”. Yes, as a sort of play on its name, Minneapolis is actually nicknamed the “Mini Apple”, something I didn’t know until today despite always thinking of its pronunciation as such. But it also works well when comparing another fruit-based nicknamed city, like New York.

JA Happ got the start in tonight’s final interdivisional opener. Yes, it’s the last regular season series between the Yankees and a team not in the AL East. And it’s a shame because tonight’s game is proof that they kind of rock playing around the league this season. Happ threw 91 pitches in his 6 scoreless innings to earn his 16th win of the season.

In fact, Happ and the Twins’ starter had a bit of a pitchers’ duel for the first half of the game. Happ came out on top because the Yankees broke through on the back of Gary Sanchez’ 2-out big solo home run in the 6th inning. After giving up a walk to Bird right after that on his 118th pitch, the Twins’ starter called it a night and handed the ball to his first reliever, who gave a walk up to Torres but then stranded both runners.

But the Yankees had that slight lead and came back in the 7th against the Twins’ bullpen that didn’t seem to know what to do with them. First, McCutchen and Hicks each walked and then collectively scored on Miguel Andujar’s double. Giancarlo Stanton doubled to score Andujar, and the Twins brought in a new reliever. But then he gave up a double to Didi Gregorius that scored Stanton, and the Twins went back to their bullpen.

Sanchez’s single and Bird’s walk loaded up the bases, and Gleyber Torres’ single kept them loaded, scoring Gregorius. After finally getting an out, a strikeout, the Yankees went back to the top of the batting order and McCutchen’s sacrifice fly score Sanchez. Hicks’ walk loaded up the bases again, but a line drive out left them loaded.

But the damage that inning was done, which helped as Luis Cessa came on in relief for the Yankees. After a decent bottom of the 7th, his 8th inning was a bit of a struggle. With 1 out, he gave up 2 singles. A double scored the first runner, and a ground out scored the second. After a wild pitch moved the last runner to 3rd, Cessa buckled down and got a great strikeout to end the little threat.

Jonathan Holder made quick work of the 9th inning, sailing through with just 8 pitches to close out the game.

It’s worth noting that the Yankee batters got 11 hits and 10 walks, meaning 21 base runners tonight. It’s not unusual for the team with the highest number of base runners to get the highest number of runs. It does happen from time to time, usually because of some great defensive plays or out-of-jam pitching. But comparatively for tonight, the Twins got 10 hits and no walks. Sometimes, stats do matter.

Final score: 7-2 Yankees

Gary Sanchez’s big 6th inning home run was the third longest Yankee home run this season, coming in at 460 feet. He comes behind Judge’s 471 foot homer (May 23 in Texas) and himself with a 461 foot homer (May 4 against Cleveland). And tonight’s homer was just his 16th of the season thanks to his 2 stints on the DL for injuries. It’s a good reason to remember why Sanchez is still a key part of the Yankees, despite whatever other stats follow his name.

Go Yankees!

Game 139: NYY vs. OAK — More late-inning heroics

“If you don’t have pitching, you don’t have anything.” I’ve said it far too often recently due to negative results, but tonight’s game showed the mantra can have a positive side for the Yankees too. Yankee pitchers tonight were on a roll and threw a great gave overall, only allowing 2 hits and 2 walks in this middle game against the Athletics.

JA Happ got the start tonight, threw 78 pitches in 6 innings,  gave up 2 hits, 1 walk, and the A’s only run tonight, and struck out 5 batters. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo home run in the 2nd. Happ continues to carve his niche in the starting rotation.

David Robertson took over in the 7th to throw a strong scoreless inning, complete with 3 solid strikeouts. Britton and Betances closed out the game with their own clean innings to keep the Yankee pitching momentum going.

Meanwhile, the A’s pitchers held off the Yankee batters for most of the game, even technically running a no-hitter for 5 innings, with Torres’ 2-out single breaking that streak in the 6th. But they didn’t break through until the 7th inning.

Gardner led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Stanton’s single, and advanced to 3rd on McCutchen’s walk that loaded the bases. Aaron Hicks then worked a walk to keep those bases loaded and scored Gardner as the tying run. But 2 strikeouts and a pitching change later, the Yankees left those base-runners stranded.

Luke Voit kicked off the 8th inning with yet another home run, a solo shot into the left field seats to give the Yankees the lead. Torres then worked a walk but was out on a fielder’s choice that Gardner hit into. On a strikeout, Gardner stole 2nd base and watch McCutchen work his own walk. Aaron Hicks singled to score Gardner, but then the A’s defense remembered how to defend and got McCutchen caught between bases to get out of the inning.

And in the 9th, Adeiny Hechavarria got his first Yankee home run, a lead-off solo shot. Sanchez then singled, and Walker worked a walk to get a couple of potential insurance runs on base. Two outs (and a new reliever) later, a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position, and Brett Gardner’s single scored Sanchez. But one final pitching change kept the Yankees at that score.

The A’s weren’t catching up tonight.

Final score: 5-1 Yankees

Today, the Yankees announced their nominee for the annual Roberto Clemente Award was CC Sabathia. The award was created to honor the late legendary ball player who was known for his philanthropy as well as his excellence on the field. It is to honor those who show “extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field”. Each team nominates their selection for the award, and the final winner will be announced at the World Series in October.

Sabathia and his wife Amber head the PitCChIn Foundation, an organization that works with local kids, including giving away backpacks and school supplies, renovating and equipping local ball fields, and running free baseball clinics for local Little Leagues. The Sabathias grew up in the Bay Area and will hold a special event on Thursday for kids from their nearby hometown to get them ready for this new school year.

And Miguel Andujar was announced as August’s Rookie of the Month. This really comes as no surprise to anyone who’s been following his season this year. He’s leading the Yankees in batting average, hits, and doubles, 2nd in RBIs, and has 23 home runs. He and fellow rookie Torres (who won the honor in May) have long been in the conversation for Rookie of the Year. And the biggest part of why this works for both young players is consistency, something Andujar has in spades, easily becoming one of the team’s biggest assets at the plate and at 3rd base.

Go Yankees!

Game 134: DET vs. NYY — Stanton’s 300 was the only thing worth remembering

I feel like I should make a 300 or “Sparta” joke about tonight, but the history-buff part of me won’t rely on Hollywood’s interpretation of real events to sacrifice itself for the sake of a well-placed pun. Instead, tonight’s on-field battle was a lot like the popular movie — messy, gut-wrenching at times, and rather unreal in the end.

JA Happ got the start and really had himself the off-night. He threw 92 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 10 hits and 5 runs, and struck out just 3 batters in tonight’s opener against the Tigers. And really, maybe the signs were all there as he gave up a solo home run to kick off tonight’s game.

In the 4th, with 1 out, a single stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored as part of a 2-run home run. And a 1-out single in the 5th scored as part of a 2-run home run to double the Tigers’ score. After a couple more singles, Happ handed the ball over to Green, who was able to strike his way out of the inning and strand those runners, before coming back in for a clean 6th as well. Robertson and Britton each followed with their own clean innings to help give the Yankees a chance to take the lead.

And they did, in pieces. In the 3rd, Brett Gardner singled and then tried to make it all the way to 3rd on Hicks’ single but got thrown out there in a weird sort of fielder’s choice. But Giancarlo Stanton followed that up with a big 2-run home run into the right field seats, his 300th career home run. And the crowd urged him out for his first curtain call at Yankee Stadium.

After the Tigers re-took the lead in the top of the 4th, the Yankees answered back in the bottom of that inning. Voit led-off with a single and then scored as part of Gleyber Torres’ big 2-run home run. Then with 1 out in the 5th, Hicks singled and moved to 2nd on Stanton’s walk. With a new reliever, Miguel Andujar then singled home Hicks, thanks in part to a throwing error that delayed the throw for the out.

And in the 7th, Stanton hit a 1-out double, which helped Luke Voit when he hit a 2-out 2-run home run into Monument Park to break the tie and put the Yankees on top again. Torres then singled but was thrown out making the stretch for 2nd. The second occurrence of such a play tonight, leaving some wondering if the Tigers are just that good at defense or the Yankees were having an off-night with base-running.

Anyway, the Yankees needed just 3 outs to seal their win. Dellin Betances, who’s been having a great show on the mound lately, came on to pitch the 9th inning and ended his positive streak. With 1 out, he walked one batter and then gave up consecutive home runs to first tie up the game and then give the Tigers the lead. The Yankee batters were then stymied in the bottom of the inning with a quick 3 outs.

Final score: 8-7 Tigers

Stanton & 300: Stanton’s big home run in the 3rd comes with some fun trivia. He is the 5th fastest player to hit such a milestone, taking him 1,119 games to hit 300 homers (just 2 games behind Alex Rodriguez at 1,117 games). He’s also the 9th youngest player to hit 300 homers (at 28 years and 295 days old). (And yes, I had to figure out how many “days old” I am, and it’s math I found out I don’t like.) He’s been stuck on #299 for 12 days or 10 games. Next up: 400 homers and 2000 hits (currently at 1,104).

And some Yankee prospects are headed to the Arizona Fall League to represent the Yankee farm system and improve their baseball skills — pitchers Domingo Acevedo, Jordan Foley, Hobie Harris, and Matt Wivinis; infielders Thairo Estrada and Steven Sensely; and outfielder Estevan Florial. They will join other prospects from the farm systems of the Orioles, White Sox, Indians, and Dodgers to form the Glendale Desert Dogs when the season starts October 9. It’s an honor to be selected and play on an AFL team, something many current Yankees have done on their path to pinstripes.

Go Yankees!