Game 21: KC vs. NYY — A bit of redemption on Easter

The final game between the Yankees and visiting Royals made this Sunday afternoon game on a holiday worth watching. Actually, it was a Yankee dominant game, looking like a fairly easy win, until the Royals came in to bury the Yankees in a single inning. Only for the home team to rise again with a great walk-off victory. (That’s enough Easter puns. I promise.)

James Paxton had a great outing today, throwing 104 pitches in 6 scoreless innings, giving up just 3 hits and a walk, and striking out 12 Kansas City batters. He really should have been the main story if not for the weird late-inning twists in today’s game Kahnle followed up, breezing through a great 7th inning. Things were looking good for the Yankees.

Plus, they had racked up enough run support to feel a little too safe. In the 1st, DJ LeMahieu led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on a fly out, and then raced home on a passed ball to barely beat out the tag. With 2 outs in the 2nd, Ford doubled (his first MLB hit, by the way) and then scored on Austin Romine’s single. And in the 5th, Voit and Gardner each singled and then scored on Clint Frazier’s big 3-run home run to give the Yankees their nice lead.

But then it was the 8th inning that everything went a bit pear-shaped for the Yankees. Chad Green came on in relief and just could not find an out, instead loading up the bases with 2 singles and a walk. So it was up to Adam Ottavino to try to get out of that jam, but he too had issues finding an out. He promptly gave up a 2-RBI double, a 3-run home run to tie up the game, and a solo homer to suddenly give the Royals the lead. And then he got the 3 outs he needed.

Now, that wasn’t sitting well with the Yankees. They weren’t about to give up their series win that easily. Tauchman led off the bottom of the 8th with a double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Austin Romine’s single to tie up the game again. And just like that, the Yankees were back in it.

Chapman sailed his way through the 9th, but the Yankees didn’t find the opportunity to do so in the bottom of the inning. So it was into extra innings for a special Easter game. Britton came in a matched his predecessor’s breezy streak. And this time, the Yankees found their moment in the bottom 10th.

Tauchman and Urshela worked consecutive walks, and after a pitching change, Estrada hit a sacrifice bunt and moved both runners into scoring position. It would be the hero of the day, Austin Romine, to sneak a great single up the middle all the way to the back fence to score Tauchman for the walk-off win today.

Final score: 7-6 Yankees, in 10 innings, Yankees win series 3-1

Next up: The Yankees are headed to the West Coast to face the Angels, Giants, and Diamondbacks for this road trip. This will take them into May before they’re back in the Bronx again.

Injury news/roster moves: Before today’s game, the Yankees moved Aaron Judge to the 10-day injured list with his oblique injury. But the reality is that he will probably be out for about a month. Frequent MLB contributor (and famous Yankee granddaughter) Lindsay Berra wrote an article two years ago about oblique injures in baseball and the commonality of the injury in athletes and why the average return to play is about 27 days.

With Judge’s spot on the roster vacant, the Yankees decided to call up Thairo Estrada again. Despite Estrada being an infielder, the logical move would be to have a utility player like Tyler Wade to substitute in the outfield as needed. And again, despite 13 men on the IL, the Yankees are charging into this road trip on a win streak again.

And a Happy Easter to all who celebrate, however you celebrate.

Go Yankees!

Game 16: BOS vs. NYY — #BigMaple’s big rivalry shutout

James Paxton, tonight’s starter, certainly put it in words all in Yankee Universe can understand: “We want to beat Boston every time.” And maybe it was that mindset that helped surge him and the rest of the Yankee team to just dominate the visiting Red Sox in the first of their 2-game mini-series in the Bronx.

Paxton threw a stellar 110 pitches through 8 scoreless innings, giving up just 2 hits and a walk and striking out 12 Boston batters to earn tonight’s win. Joe Harvey came in to close out the game with 14 pitches in the 9th inning to complete the shutout.

The Red Sox’s ace got the start for them and was only able to throw 5 innings tonight against the power-hitting of the Yankees. He held them off until the 3rd, when Gardner led-off with a double and later scored on DJ LeMahieu’s 2-out single. LeMahieu moved to 2nd on Judge’s walk and then scored on Luke Voit’s single. Clint Frazier led-off the 4th with a solo home run. Two outs later, Romine singled and then scored on Mike Tauchman’s double.

After the Red Sox went to their bullpen in the 6th, the Yankees didn’t seem to know how to slow down. Urshella doubled, Gardner walked, and both moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt. Then it would be Mike Tauchman to smack a big 3-run home run into the second deck of the right field seats. And Gleyber Torres capped off the Yankees’ big night with a 1st pitch lead-off home run in the 7th.

Final score: 8-0 Yankees

Injury news and roster moves: The Yankees announced that Greg Bird has once again been plagued by the injury bug and placed on the Injured List. This time he has torn his plantar fascia, which is the connective tissue between the ball of the foot and the heel that is under the instep/arch. It is the step beyond the common injury of plantar fasciitis, or a strain in the same area, usually due to a sudden trauma or injury and is accompanied by a pop and bruising in the area. It can take up to 12 weeks to completely heal, and surgery is rarely needed.

Anyway, so Bird will actually be wearing a boot on his foot for 10-14 days during the initial pain and injury period. He won’t be back in baseball activities for at least a month, but this can’t be the kind of year Bird has been wanting.

To fill that void, the Yankees moved Jacoby Ellsbury to the 60-day IL to make room for  Spring Training stand-out Mike Ford, called up from AAA Scranton. New Jersey native Ford grew up loving recent Yankee legends like Tino Martinez and Derek Jeter, so to don the pinstripes and play in the same dirt is truly a dream come true.

Go Yankees!

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 7: NYY vs. BAL — Big come from behind victory

After a disappointing homestand, today’s game was exactly what the Yankees needed to start this road trip right. Not that it was favorable for the Orioles in their home opener.

James Paxton got the start for the Yankees today and, despite a really rough 1st inning, had a pretty good outing. He threw 99 total pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 8 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs, and struck out an impressive 9 Baltimore batters. He gave up a lead-off solo homer to give the Baltimore fans quite the thrill. Then with 1 out, he loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a single before a balk and a wild pitch scored 2 more runs to put the Orioles in a nice early lead.

But then he got things under control and pretty much sailed through the next 3 innings. In the 5th, a 1-out double scored on a 2-out single to add 1 more run to the O’s score. After 1 out in the 6th, he handed the ball over to Kahnle for the next 5 outs. Britton and Chapman each took an inning to close out the game and hold the Orioles to their earlier runs.

The Yankees couldn’t find a way to crack into the Orioles’ starter (actually a familiar foe from a different team). Gleyber Torres led-off the 3rd with a solo home run to finally get on the scoreboard.

But down by a few runs, the Yankees didn’t find another opportunity until the 6th. With 2 outs, Gary Sanchez hit a monster solo home run. After the Orioles went to their bullpen, Bird and LeMahieu each singled. Then Gleyber Torres smacked a 3-run home run to finally give the Yankees a slim lead.

In the 9th, Wade singled, and Gardner walked. After another pitching change, Luke Voit came in to power in a 3-run home run to ensure the Yankees’ victory today. And that also means all of Yankees’ runs were scored on home runs.

Final score: 8-4 Yankees

Roster moves: With Troy Tulowitzki now on the injured list with that strained calf, the Yankees decided to call up infielder Thairo Estrada. Estrada took the team bus from the Scranton area up to Buffalo for their game, but as he got off the bus, he was met by the RailRiders’ manager who informed him that he’d been promoted. So he hustled to the airport to hop a flight to Baltimore.

Honestly, the heart of this story is that 14 months ago, Estrada was the victim of a botched robbery and ended up in the hospital with a gunshot wound. The fact that he’s alive and walking around, let alone able to compete at an elite level, is a miracle. This is more than a dream come true really. But Estrada made it really clear how ready he was for this chance this Spring Training, certainly standing out in the packed crowd of really good minor leaguers.

Welcome to the Show, Estrada!

Go Yankees!

Game 2: BAL vs. NYY — Late rally falls short

The Yankees hosted their first Saturday afternoon ball game of the season, and it was a beautiful Spring day in the Bronx. It just fell a little short on favor for the home team today.

James Paxton got his first start as a Yankee and had a decent outing, but there wasn’t enough of an offensive show to overcome his moments of weakness. Paxton threw 83 pitches into the 6th inning, giving up 4 hits, a walk, and 2 runs (1 earned), and struck out 5 Oriole batters.

In fact, the visiting team didn’t crack the scoreboard until the 6th inning. With 1 out and runners on the corners with singles, another single scored the lead runner. Then they tried a double steal, but thanks to a bad throwing error, the Orioles doubled their double steal by scoring another run, the unearned run. Then on a fielder’s choice, the defense snapped into action to get the runner out at home.

Paxton handed the ball over to Adam Ottavino to close out the 6th in just 4 pitches. Chad Green had some trouble getting through the 7th cleanly, giving up a 1-out double that scored on a 2-out single. Jonathan Holder came on for the final 2 innings, finding his own issues in the 9th. A throwing error allowed the lead-off batter to make it to 2nd, a 1-out single moved him to 3rd, and a double scored both runners to ease the Orioles into a solid victory.

Meanwhile, despite getting 10 total hits and 6 walks, the Yankees’ runs were in short supply today. They had moments of opportunity (like loading the bases with walks in the 1st) but often failed to capitalize on them. Until the 4th. With 2 outs, Torres singled, moved to 2nd on Tulowitzki’s walk, and then scored on DJ LeMahieu’s solid single up the middle to get the Yankees on the board first. But they really had a hard time finding moments to make much of an impact for most of the game.

It wasn’t until the last-ditch rally effort in the 9th that the Yankees found an opportunity. Troy Tulowitzki led-off with a solid solo home run into those right field seats, his first in pinstripes. LeMahieu then doubled, moved to 3rd on Judge’s 1-out single, and later scored on Luke Voit’s 2-out single. But with runners on the corners, the Yankees were down to their final out, a strikeout, that would see the attempted rally fall short.

Final score: 5-3 Orioles

Finally, there was a great article in New York Newsday about the Yankees’ radio announcer Suzyn Waldman and her struggles of being a woman in a very dominant man’s world. To close out this month’s Women’s History Month, I thought I’d recognize one of the women in sports that led the way for other female broadcasters, like Meredith Marakovits and Sarah Kustok of YES Network and Jessica Mendoza of ESPN.

It’s 2019, and as a woman, it’s still often a problem to “know things” about sports. I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve been dismissed or yelled at by someone who clearly knows nothing but that I’m not a man and thus shouldn’t know more than men about “man things” like sports. And yet, I’ve got great stories of conversations with men at ball games, arguing over who’s a better first baseman or which guy on the injured list will come off first, or even sharing fun sports trivia knowledge. There’s two regulars at Spring Training that will seek me out nearly every game just to talk about the current state of the Yankees.

That’s really all we want. Just to be seen as having valid opinions and can share in a conversation. Yes, some people know nothing about baseball. Those people are both men and women. And some people know everything. Those people are also both men and women. How do you know the difference? Have a conversation.

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 Games 22 & 23: NYY vs. BAL & NYY vs. PHI — Double away victories, perhaps with some good luck

I don’t often look at the standings during Spring Training (or early in the regular season) because it never gives you an accurate picture of what the real season will look like. But I happened to see them today in passing. The Yankees are currently sitting atop the Grapefruit League standings, 1.5 games ahead of the Nationals. It’s worth noting the Yankees are also well in the lead over the Cactus League.

But as we’ve said in previous years, the standings in Spring mean nothing. It’s a very long season, and there’s far too many variables (like injuries, trades, hit streaks, and dry spells) that affect where teams land for October baseball. So, Yankee fans, feel happy about today but cautiously optimistic about 7 months from now.

The Yankees played another split squad day, but this time was unique as both squads played in away games. One group traveled about an hour south to Sarasota to visit the Orioles, and the other about 20 minutes west to Clearwater to see the Phillies. And both teams got a little “lucky” on this cloudy Sunday holiday.

Game 1: Yankees at Orioles
Jonathan Loaisiga got the start for the Yankees here and helped set a solid, strong pattern that would earn him the eventual win for the afternoon with 3 great scoreless innings. David Hale continued his momentum in his 3 innings, only allowing the Orioles on the board in his final inning.

So, in the 6th, with 1 out and a runner on 1st, a double moved the runner to 3rd to score on an easy ground out. Yankees’ reliever Hutchison sailed through the 7th but gave up a lead-off solo shot in the 8th. A 1-out single later scored on a 2-out single to give the Orioles just one more run for the afternoon. And Brothers closed out the game with a quick, scoreless 9th.

The Yankees once again got on the board early and first. In the 1st, Kyle Holder led-off the game with a single but was forced out at 2nd on Andujar’s fielder’s choice (again, another delayed, unsuccessful double play attempt). This means that Luke Voit’s big homer up the middle became a 2-run home run. Miguel Andujar led-off the 3rd with a solo home run into the left field seats, and Zack Zehner imitated him with a lead-off solo home run of his own, also to left field, in the 4th.

After the Orioles chipped some off their lead, the Yankees didn’t get another chance until the 9th to find an insurance run. Burns worked a 1-out walk, stole 2nd, and then scored on Holder’s 2-out double.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees

Game 2: Yankees at Phillies
Meanwhile, in Clearwater, the Yankees had a bit more of a battle to the finish today, with a scoreless game for most of the first half of the afternoon. The Yankees finally found their moment in the 5th inning. Lipka led-off with a bunt single, stole 2nd, and easily scored on Trey Amburgey’s big triple to get the Yankees on the board first.

James Paxton got the start, throwing into the 5th inning, but finding trouble there. He gave up a lead-off walk, and the next batter made it to 1st on a strikeout-wild pitch. With those 2 runners on, Chad Green came on to try to shut down the advancing Phillies. But he promptly gave up a single that scored the tying run. Another single put another runner on base, so both runners scored on a triple to give the home team the lead. A great fielder’s choice got the lead runner out at home on the next play.

It would be Dellin Betances to right the ship for the Yankees, kicking off the momentum with a flawless 6th inning. Kahnle, Coulombe, and Anderson Severino (no relation) each took a scoreless inning to help give the Yankees a chance to regain the lead.

So, in the 6th, Greg Bird led-off with a big solo home run, and Gleyber Torres followed suit with a 1-out solo home run to tie up the game. In the 7th, with 1 out, LeMahieu made it safely on a throwing error and then scored as part of Troy Tulowitzki’s 2-run home run to give the Yankees the lead again.

But the hits kept coming. In the 8th, Tyler Wade led-off with single, moved to 2nd on Olivares’ single, and later scored on Cabrera’s 2-out single. Castillo’s single scored Olivares, officially sealing another Yankees’ win this afternoon.

Final score: 7-3 Yankees

Next up: The Yankees will play another away game. This time, they travel to Kissimmee, about an hour east, to visit the Braves’ Spring home tomorrow night. It will be the last season the Braves have their Spring Training on Disney World property as their new home in Sarasota will officially open next year. However, they are scheduled to play an inaugural game against the Rays on March 24 before the 2019 season begins.

Finally, a happy St. Patrick’s Day to all who celebrate!

Go Yankees!