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!

Games 128 & 129: NYY vs. BAL — Double the wins, double the fun

It was a good day for a doubleheader in Baltimore today. And the Yankees were raring to go and chip away at the Red Sox’s lead in the AL East, while showing their strength to the good contingency of fans that showed up at Camden Yards for both games.

Game 1 (Make-up game of rain-out June 3)
JA Happ got the start for the first game of this doubleheader, the second game of this weekend series, and the make-up game from a rain out in June. And Happ continued his strong show as a starter, throwing 107 pitches in 6 innings, giving up 5 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and striking out 9 Baltimore batters. Those allowed runs came in the 2nd, easily his weakest inning. With 1 out, he gave up a walk and a double that scored on a long single.

But then he stayed strong and kept the Orioles from doing much else. His lone reliever for the game, Luis Cessa, followed suit for the final third of the game. In fact, it wasn’t until the 9th inning that he gave the Orioles another chance. A lead-off single got out on a grounder the Yankees couldn’t turn into a double play. That new runner then took 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a 2-out single. But 1 out later, that was it for the O’s.

Meanwhile, the Yankees fell into a nice momentum in the batter’s box. In the 1st, with 1 out, Stanton walked, moved to 3rd on Hicks’ double, and scored on Miguel Andujar’s ground out. Robinson led-off the 3rd with a single, moved to 2nd on Gardner’s walk, and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ 1-out single. Andujar followed that up with a big 3-run home run.

With 1 out in the 4th, Robinson doubled and ended the Orioles’ starter’s afternoon early. Of course, it didn’t help that the first reliever promptly gave up a 2-run home run to Brett Gardner. Andujar then led-off the 5th with a single, ended up at 3rd on Torres’ single, and scored on Luke Voit’s single. And solo home run by Gleyber Torres in the 8th and Aaron Hicks in the 9th capped off the Yankees’ early show.

Final score (Game 1): 10-3 Yankees

Game 2 (regularly scheduled game)
Sonny Gray got a shot at as starter again in the second game of today. And he too had a great out, really better than his teammate in the early game. Gray kept the Orioles scoreless as he threw just 79 pitches into the 7th, gave up 3 hits and a walk, and struck out 7 batters to earn his 10th win this season.

Holder followed him by closing out the 7th and throwing a scoreless 8th. But Tommy Kahnle had a bit of trouble as the Orioles got to their final inning. He gave up a 1-out double that moved to 3rd on a 2-out single before scoring on a single. With the Yankees just needing to get out of the game, they called on Betances who got the final out in just 5 pitches, leaving runners stranded at the corners.

But to back Gray’s scoreless start, the Yankees needed to not be scoreless. And today was a good day for the Yankees to prove they are still the home run kings and one of the runs scored leaders. Gardner led-off the game in the 1st with a big ground-rule double and shortly scored on Aaron Hicks’ single to start the game right for the Yankees.

In the 2nd, the Yankees loaded the bases with singles to Torres, Romine, and Torreyes. A wild pitch had all the runners moving up and barely scoring Gleyber Torres. A sloppy fielder’s choice allowed Gardner to make it to 1st and Romine to score. Then in the 4th, with 1 out, Romine singled and later scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s 2-out single. Austin Romine led-off the 9th inning with a solo home run to cap off the Yankees’ run show today.

Final score (Game 2): 5-1 Yankees

Okay, so the make-up game from earlier was a win, which means that the Yankees officially swept the Orioles 3-0 for the weekend of June 1-3. And the Yankees are just a game short of doing so again this weekend. So fingers crossed, Yankee Universe, for another strong win tomorrow night.

Roster moves: As allowed by MLB, the Yankees called up their 26th man for the doubleheader today. They chose Luis Cessa, who certainly helped the Yankees seal their victory in that first game. Cessa, of course, was sent back to “the farm” once the games were over, but he’s been a solid choice for the Yankees for this kind of long-term relief.

Go Yankees!

Game 124: TOR vs. NYY — A clean sweep in this celebratory weekend

After all the fuss about the past this weekend, including a fun giveaway of replicas of the 1998 Championship ring to fans today, the Yankees were looking at closing the door to this series and homestand on a positive note and go into their road trip strong. JA Happ was just the man for the job as he got his first start against his old team and proved that he fits in rather nicely in pinstripes.

In this final game of the weekend series and the homestand, Happ threw 103 pitches into the 6th, gave up 7 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and struck out an impressive 8 Toronto batters to earn the win this afternoon. In the 1st, after 2 quick outs, he gave up a big solo home run to get the Jays on the board early. But despite giving up a couple singles, he got out of the inning without further damage. He held his former team scoreless through the next 4 innings, before giving up a lead-off solo shot in the 6th.

After giving up a double and then getting his 8th strikeout, the Yankees opted to go to Jonathan Holder. Holder got his first batter out and then watched as Higashioka caught the runner stealing 3rd. And the question on everyone’s mind: Why was he stealing 3rd with 2 outs? Holder continued on through the 7th with a clean outing before handing the ball over to Sonny Gray for 2 strong innings to close out the game. Gray is certainly finding his place in the bullpen and becoming quite the reliable fixture there.

Now, Blue Jays’ starter had a less than ideal afternoon. The Yankees dinged into his start right in the 1st and didn’t let up. Hicks and Stanton worked walks and moved up in a double steal. Hicks then scored on Miguel Andujar’s single, and Stanton scored on Didi Gregorius’ troubled single (more below). Torres’ wimpy single loaded the bases for Greg Bird to hit a powerful grand slam into the 2nd deck of the right field seats.

Finally getting a couple of outs, the Blue Jays called his outing over and turned it over to their bullpen, who did a much better job of keeping the Yankees from adding to their lead. After a few relievers kept the Yankees scoreless, Gardner led-off the 6th with a single, moved to 2nd on Hicks’ walk, and then scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s single.

But they weren’t done yet. Andujar hit into an attempt at a double play, but the Jays’ defense only got the out at 2nd and Andujar beat the ball to 1st. Hicks scored either way, but the Blue Jays wasted their challenged on that call that was rightly upheld. Torreyes doubled and moved Andujar to 3rd, and Torres was intentionally walked to load up the bases.

Bird then hit into a baby grounder that the defense snapped into action to get Andujar trying to come home. The defense also tried to get Bird headed for 1st but a high throw pulled the 1st baseman off the bag as Bird touched the base. It was close, but with no challenges left, there wasn’t much the Blue Jays could do. That didn’t sit well with their manager, who was already fairly heated up from some earlier bad plays, and got himself thrown out of the game.

Anyway, after the drama died down, Kyle Higashioka hit a solid single that scored both Torreyes and Torres to cap off the Yankees’ scoring. A new reliever once again helped settle the Yankee bats, something the final reliever (and former Yankee reliever) kept going to closer out the game.

Final score: 10-2 Yankees, Yankees sweep the series 3-0

Next up: The Yankees have a scheduled off-day that will also be a bit of a travel day. They will then face the Marlins for a quick 2-game series in Miami, before they enjoy another off/travel day. Then they face the Orioles in Baltimore for a 4-game series, or rather 3 regular games and a make-up game (from a rain-out last month) early on Saturday. And then it’s back home to the Bronx for 7 games (White Sox and Tigers) before they head out to the West Coast.

Injury alert: Didi Gregorius hit that single in the 1st and kind of stumbled over the 1st baseman in the process. And somewhere between hitting the base, smacking into the other player, and landing on the ground on the other side of the base, he incurred a bruised heel. After he scored on Bird’s grand slam, they ended up pulling him from the game in the 3rd, allowing utility fielder Torreyes a chance to play today. He will undergo further testing before a timeline for recovery is announced, but I imagine a small stint on the DL is to be expected.

Go Yankees!

Game 119: TB vs. NYY — Happ in charge & Romine’s power drive

Rain seems to be the biggest foe of baseball this season. But tonight’s game was only held off by a 21 minute delay at the beginning of the game to dry out the field a bit before the Yankees and Rays began their opening game of this mid-week series.

JA Happ got the start tonight and threw a pretty good game to earn his 3rd win as a Yankee and 13th win overall this season. Happ threw 106 pitches in his 7 scoreless innings, gave up just 1 hits and 4 walks, and struck out 4 Rays batters. Happ is certainly finding his stride as a Yankee and fitting in very nicely to the Yankees rotation.

The Yankees batters faced the odd Rays pitching pattern again. The “starter” only threw just 1 inning before his primary reliever threw 5 innings. Normally, the longest pitcher starts the game and then relievers piece together an inning or two to finish out the game. Now, the Rays were the one of the first teams to use the extreme fielding shifts and now doing this strange pitching pattern, so maybe it will catch on too.

Anyway, it’s not like it worked out well. The Yankees dinged into the Rays’ “starter” in the 1st inning. With 1 out, Stanton doubled and then advanced to 3rd on a pick-off throwing error and then scored easily on Aaron Hicks’ single. The Yankees then loaded up the bases with Gregorius’ single and Bird’s walk, but a ground out ended the early threat.

The long-term reliever (I guess) actually held off the Yankees for much of his 5 innings, pitching into the 6th. However, in the 5th, the Yankees found a small hole to capitalize on from an unlikely suspect. Walker led-off with a walk, and then Austin Romine liked the first pitch and plopped it into the right field seats for a 2-run home run to give the Yankees’ lead some cushion.

Under the Rays’ final reliever, the Yankees found one more chance to add a run in the 8th. With 2 outs, Andujar doubled and was pinch-run by Robinson. Robinson then scored on Greg Bird’s double to cap off the Yankees’ night.

Dellin Betances came out for the 8th inning, and the Rays’ lead-off batter took his first pitch into the visitors’ dugout for a solo home run to get the Rays on the board. But then Betances breezed through a quick 3 outs. And Aroldis Chapman only needed 9 pitches to earn his 31st save to close out the game.

Final score: 4-1 Yankees

There is quite a bit of conversation in regards to this year’s Rookie of the Year candidate. And it should both please and not really surprise any in Yankee Universe that both Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. While Torres has pretty much always been in the conversation due to the pre-set expectations as a prospect, the biggest standout and surprise is the rise of Andujar.

Andujar has been a consistent force for the Yankees, virtually taking up the starter’s role at 3rd and being quite the power hitter at the plate, with the team’s highest batting average and doubles. Torres, of course, made the All-Star team as the back-up 2nd baseman (finishing 2nd in voting behind a veteran superstar infielder), a huge honor for his rookie year, but Andujar was in the mix for his position, finishing 3rd behind 2 big star players for other teams. That’s how valuable these players are.

Both are great candidates for Rookie of the Year, but voting and awards season is still so far off and there’s still quite a bit of baseball yet to play. Though it would be something to have another Yankee rank so high in this category. Sanchez was 2nd in 2016, Judge won the honor last year, and both Torres and Andujar are up for it in 2018.

I’ve said it for a few years now. The Yankee farm system is really good, and it’s given me hope for the future of the franchise. And if they keep churning out these kinds of players, Yankee Universe shouldn’t be worried either.

Go Yankees!

Game 115: TEX vs. NYY — Less than ideal pitching halt late power surge

Masahiro Tanaka’s streak was broken in tonight’s game by a strange power surge by the Rangers. Before Tanaka’s outing tonight, he was floating on a 14-game win streak of games he started since April 17, some were ultimate “no-decisions” as they were won later in the game, but he still had 9 W’s in his statistics.

Tanaka threw 96 pitches through 5 innings, gave up 6 hits, 3 walks, and 6 runs, and struck out just 2 batters. Actually, he held off the Rangers for the first third of the game. Things began to crumble in the 4th with a lead-off single that scored on a 2-run home run and a 1-out solo homer to give the Rangers the lead. And in the 5th, with 1 out and runners on the corners, a long double scored both runners to pad their lead.

AJ Cole didn’t have a great outing either. With 2 outs in the 6th, a walk and a double both scored on a single and throwing error. Another single scored that runner. And a 1-out solo shot in the 7th added another run for the Rangers.

Chad Green’s 8th also faced troubles. With 1 out and runners on the corners again, a double scored both runs to cap off the Rangers’ night. Zach Britton easily had the best outing from the Yankees’ pitching staff tonight, throwing a scoreless 9th, the first scoreless inning for the Rangers since the 3rd inning.

The Yankees spent half the game being held off by the Rangers’ starter. It wasn’t until the 5th that Brett Gardner broke through with a nice 1-out solo home run into the Yankees’ bullpen to finally get the Yankees on the board. In the 6th, Stanton worked a 1-out walk, and Gregorius hit a 2-out single. Miguel Andujar hit a ground-rule double to score Stanton, and Luke Voit got his first Yankee RBI with a single that scored Gregorius and Andujar.

A new pitcher got the Rangers out of the inning, but then gave up a lead-off home run to Austin Romine. And in the 8th (with another new pitcher), Gregorius and Andujar singled and later moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. They both scored on Romine’s single to inch the Yankees closer. But a new reliever closed out the rally and the final reliever closed out the game with 2 strikeouts and a pop-up, and the Yankees ran out of outs to stage another one.

Final score: 12-7 Rangers

And in amusing news (because we really need it after tonight’s game): a eagle-eyed Yankee fan caught last night’s winning pitcher JA Happ taking the subway home after the game. Fellow New Yorkers were certainly appreciative of the little things that matter to daily train riders — his bag was down and out of the way of people, he kept to himself (no man-spreading), and he blended into the crowd seamlessly. The picture the fan caught was probably Happ looking up at the map to affirm how many more stops until the one he takes.

So, welcome to New York, JA! It looks like you’re right at home both on the field and on the subway.

And to be fair, lots of Yankee players do take the train to work if they live in the City. Many of those with families live outside the City and thus drive into work like nearly everyone else does every day. And as someone who takes the subway a lot whenever I’m in the City, I’m a little confused as to why this is news. But after thinking about it I figured out two things I think help players feel comfortable taking public transportation in the City.

First, in this day and age, when baseball stars are less about personalities and more about their performance (as we talked about in previous posts), your average person is more concerned if they’re going to make it to work on time than whether the guy next to them is a celebrity pro-athlete.

And second, there are a lot of celebrities who live in the City and it’s basically a live set, so seeing celebrities (or people who sort of look like someone who could be famous) is a frequent occasion, and again, people are more concerned about their own daily lives than bugging someone who might be famous on the train.

So, perhaps, it’s big news outside of the City for people who don’t always take the train. Who don’t know what a commonality this is for New Yorkers (to both use the subway and see celebs frequently). Or non-Yankee or baseball fans who won’t know or care who last night’s starting pitcher was. I think there’s more news to be had about the MTA’s archaic signal system and the occassional rodent carrying pizza around the tracks.

Go Yankees!

Game 114: TEX vs. NYY — Bombers return to the Bronx

In this first game of the home stand and this weekend series against the Rangers, the Yankees found their swing by scoring all their runs tonight courtesy of the home run. JA Happ is back after his stint on the DL to start tonight’s game and do a pretty good job of it.

He threw 94 pitches in 6 innings, gave up 4 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and struck out 9 Texas batters. A 2-out solo homer in the 4th got the Rangers on the board. And in the 5th, a walk and single scored on a solid double to edge them closer to the Yankees’ lead.

The Yankees offense kicked off again in the 1st, putting them in an early lead they never surrendered thanks to that signature home run ball. Gregorius worked a 2-out walk and then scored as part of Aaron Hicks’ 20th home run, a big 2-run shot into the right field seats.

In the 4th, with 1 out and a walk to Bird, Miguel Andujar hit a 2-run home run to double their score, and Neil Walker followed him up with a solo home run for a great back-to-back show for the home town crowd. Giancarlo Stanton’s 1-out solo home run in the 5th, and Walker’s 1-out solo home run (yes, his 2nd of the night) in the 6th capped off the Yankees’ night.

Happ handed the lead over to the bullpen for Robertson, Betances, and Chapman to close out the game with an inning a piece. All three doing their job well, especially Betances’ 8-pitch 8th. Yankee pitchers combined for a solid 13 strikeouts against Rangers batters.

Final score: 7-3 Yankees

Roster moves: In anticipation of tonight’s game, the Yankees sent prospect pitcher Chance Adams back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make room for JA Happ as they activated him off the DL following his stint with hand, foot, and mouth disease.

After a rather popular special event last year, MLB is hosting league-wide Player’s Weekend once again this year. Scheduled for the last weekend of this month, August 24-26), players will don personalized gear and have specially chosen nicknames on their jerseys.

Teams generally have very strict rules about what colors and designs players can wear on an ordinary day, diverging only for special events like the All-Star Game, exhibition games, and those games in honor of Mothers and Fathers Days (though only pink and blue accents allowed for those). And if a team does have a name on its jersey, it’s only the last name (and sometimes a first initial or suffix to clarify in the case of more popular names).

In addition to all these fun things, there’s a patch on every sleeve where players write who inspired them to honor those special people in their lives. Fans can purchase special jerseys and hats and later game-worn jerseys to help support the charitable cause of the weekend — to support the “evolution” of baseball players, from Little League and Youth Baseball all the way up to Major League Baseball.

Play ball… and Go Yankees!