All the latest updates, farewells, outreaches, and honors… it’s been a busy 5 weeks!

Between the Cubs’ victory parade, postseason awards, Thanksgiving, Winter Meetings, and now the approaching week filled with Christmas, Hanukkah, and the New Year, the Yankees have been everything but quiet and stagnant. Some years, Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman’s job seems to just sit back and watch other teams do the postseason dance that is somewhere between an elegant waltz and a fire-sale at times. But not this year.

Cashman has been busy, even making some pretty big moves. First, in the middle of last month, he traded catcher Brian McCann (and cash considerations) to the Astros for a pair of young pitchers Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman. Sorry, McCann fans, but McCann wasn’t exactly ready to be a once-a-week player with Gary Sanchez taking a much larger (and well-deserved role). This was a good move for everybody.

Earlier this week, as part of the Winter Meetings (hosted at the beautiful Gaylord Resort, just south of D.C.), Cashman also made a play for two big players. First, he signed Matt Holliday, a veteran outfielder who is slated to primarily fill the position previously occupied by Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran (outfielder/designated hitter). Holliday, a 7-time All-Star, began his career with the Rockies, spending 5 seasons there and making a name for himself, before finding a nice home with the Cardinals for the last 7 1/2 seasons, being a crucial part of their 2011 World Series championship. Holliday seems very excited to be playing in New York, which isn’t really surprising as he wore #7 in St. Louis for Mickey Mantle. You know, David Ortiz said once last season that there are two kinds of players — those who were born to play with the Yankees and those born to play against them (Ortiz being the latter).

Another big pick-up was the deal made when the Yankees signed Aroldis Chapman to a 5-year, $86 million deal. Yes, Chapman fans, two of the Warriors Three will be back in the Bronx for the foreseeable future. This time, with Chapman’s shiny World Series ring glaring and pushing the Yankees to give him another one. A physical exam is still pending the finality of this contract, but things look good for the closer to return to Yankee pinstripes for the next five seasons.

Cashman’s focus was clearly on building up the bullpen as most of the roster moves these last 5 weeks. So try to keep up: Branden Pinder was originally designated for assignment early in November, but then was outrighted to AAA Scranton, so we’ll be seeing Pinder again; Joe Mantiply (after being claimed off waivers from the Tigers), Nick Rumbelow, and Nathan Eovaldi were designated for assignment and then released all three of them just before Thanksgiving; James Pazos was traded to the Mariners for reliever Zack Littell; Dustin Ackley was released; Jacob Lindgren elected free agency; and the Yankees then filled a bunch of holes on their roster with minor leaguers Jorge Mateo and Yefrey Ramirez (from the Single-A Tampa Yankees), Ronald Herrera and Miguel Andujar (from AA Trenton),  and Dietrich Enns and Giovanny Gallegos (from AAA Scranton).

But it didn’t stop there. In coordination with the Rule 5 Draft, the Yankees moved some minor leaguers around and said some goodbyes. The Brewers claimed reliever Caleb Smith, the Red catcher Luis Torrens, reliever Tyler Jones went to Arizona, and the Pirates got reliever Tyler Webb. The Yankees themselves picked up a few minor leaguers, catcher Jorge Saez (Blue Jays) and reliever Colten Brewer (Pirates).

All the postseason awards have been doled out, and the Yankees got… two. And nothing went to our Rookie of the Year, Gary Sanchez. No, the big Yankee winner this postseason was Brett Gardner, who took home both the Gold Glove and Defensive Player of the Year for doing the outstanding job we’re used to seeing out there in left field.

However, there are a few alumni honors come next month. BBWAA vote for the Class of 2017, with any new inductees to be announced next month. Several former Yankees grace the ballot this year, none more so than Jorge Posada (the first of the Core Four to reach such an honor). However, the chances everyone seems to hold for Posada (and the few other Yankees alums) seem rather slim, especially as the voters seem to be rather stringent in their voting, less nostalgic as your average baseball fan and more strategic in their selection parameters.

Also selected for Hall of Fame honors this year are current Braves’ president John Schuerholz and former MLB commissioner Bud Selig, both elected by the Today’s Game Committee. Other familiar faces on this ballot, who failed to make the cut this year, include former manager and player Lou Pinella, former players Albert Belle, Orel Hershiser, and Mark McGwire, and former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. Debates as to which of these deserve to be in Cooperstown rage on.

Two other awards honored journalists for outstanding writing and broadcasting — the late Bill King, known for his coverage of San Francisco sports, distinctive facial hair, and his catchphrase “Holy Toledo!”, and veteran journalist Claire Smith, who became the first woman to receive the honor. Neither will be officially in the Hall of Fame, but will be part of a permanent exhibit to honor such journalist excellence and contribution to the game. I mean, without them, our knowledge of the game would not be what it is today, even with direct information like social media. It would certainly make my job a lot harder!

And speaking of Yankee alumni, the Yankees announced that they will be officially retiring the number 2 in honor of Derek Jeter on before the game on Sunday, May 14. Rather fitting really, with the extensive knowledge of how close Jeter is with his family, Jeter’s long-sacred number will become the 22nd one the Yankees send to Monument Park, and with that move, all the single digits (save a zero) are officially removed from jersey circulation. Single game tickets are not directly available yet (though they feature prominently on the secondary online marketplaces), though season tickets and multi-game ticket packages are available.

This week, in Tampa, the Yankees foundation hosted their holiday celebration, led by Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal with special guests Alex Rodriguez, Tino Martinez, and Nick & Joanna Swisher. Hundreds of local children were treated to the Yankees 28th Annual Holiday Concert, complete with gifts and carol singing, in preparation for the holidays. The Yankees also hosted other local community outreaches in New York for the holidays including a Thanksgiving food drive and giving back to the children and families of the Bronx with a great goodie bag full of both basic necessities and special gifts.

Looking ahead, many players have already committed to playing for various teams around the world in the World Baseball Classic this March. The Yankees only current representative is Dellin Betances, who agreed to play for the reigning champions, the Dominican Republic, alongside former teammate Cano. Other former Yankees who will play in the WBC include Martin for Canada and Beltran for Puerto Rico. Betances, who was also recently married, will be an outstanding contribution to any team. Also, a big congratulations to Dellin and Janisa Betances!

As far as everything else, there’s still 63 days until Pitchers and Catchers report for Spring Training. So there’s a lot of time left for the Yankees to do something else, despite reports that they’re pretty much done with big moves this off-season. That statement, however, doesn’t preclude any minor “tweaking”, and you must know by now they love their “tweaking”. Enjoy your holiday season!

Go Yankees!

Game 160: BAL vs. NYY — “Well, it’s not what you want”

The day after the Yankees got the news that they were eliminated from the postseason, the Yankees turn to host their final series in the Bronx, against the Orioles. And it rained. One reporter commented that those who were at the game tonight, in the rain, without any hope for the postseason could legitimately called themselves “true Yankee fans”. Especially those who stuck it out to the very end of this game.

Michael Pineda got the start tonight and struggled his way into the 5th inning, throwing 85 pitches, giving up 6 hits, 3 walks, and 5 runs, striking out 5 Baltimore batters. He actually held them off for the first third of the game, but things started falling off for him in the 4th inning. With 2 outs, Pineda gave up 2 singles and then a 2-RBI double to get the Orioles on the board.

In the 5th, the Orioles added to their lead with a lead-off solo home run. A single and an out later, Pineda then gave up a 2-run home run to push them further into the lead. The Yankees went to their bullpen for relief, but it wasn’t immediately found in James Pazos. Pazos got a strikeout, but then gave up a double and a walk who easily scored on yet another home run this inning.

But then going to the bullpen again, the Yankees found the relief they needed. Anthony Swarzak threw a nice 2 clean innings, Chasen Shreve got himself into a bases-loaded, no-outs jam only to work his way out of it. And Ben Heller closed things out with a similar situation but kept the Orioles from adding to their huge lead.

The Yankees had limited opportunities to add to their offense tonight — just 3 allowed hits and 6 walks. Only the 4th inning did they cobble together a run. With 1 out and Sanchez on 1st, McCann singled moving Sanchez all the way to 3rd. This was helpful as he then scored on Mark Teixeira’s sacrifice fly. It would be the only time the Yankees could do anything all night.

Final score: 8-1 Orioles.

Girardi mentioned that while the Yankees aren’t in the postseason anymore, they are really embracing the idea of being a spoiler for the Orioles, who are fighting to keep their spot as a Wild Card candidate. And certainly, tonight’s game didn’t help. There’s a line Girardi uses a lot when the outcome is, well, less than ideal: “It’s not what you want.” And that seems to be how everyone kind of felt about tonight’s game, and really the overall outcome of the season. Disappointing, but once it’s done, there’s not much you can do about it except get up, dust yourself off, and try not to do it again.

Before the game tonight, Mark Teixeira was presented a specialized electric guitar by 1980s rock band Twisted Sister. Teixeira is a huge 80’s music fan, even guest appearing on the 80’s rock musical Rock of Ages a few years ago. This year, Teixeira’s walk-up music has been the band’s big hit “I Want to Rock”, but tonight’s gift was a complete surprise for the retiring infielder. The Yankees will do their own special ceremony before the final game on Sunday afternoon.

And if you’re wondering what’s been going on with recently retired Alex Rodriguez, well, he’s certainly been enjoying his retirement — speaking at business and college conferences and reporting for “daddy duty”, including driving his daughters to their first day of school earlier this month. But now, he’s reporting for a different duty — minor league instructor. He suited up to work at the Yankees minor league complex in Tampa to work with some of their young prospects, several who will participate in the instructional league this fall. Rodriguez has also agreed to be part of the FOX broadcast team for the postseason, so Yankee fans (and Rodriguez fans) will get to see him once again, suited up and talking baseball.

Go Yankees!

Game 158: BOS vs. NYY — A walk-off Grand Slam

Actually, for most of the game tonight, it was quite the pitchers’ duel. Bryan Mitchell got the start for the Yankees against the visiting Red Sox and ended up throwing a 2-hitter. Yes, the Yankees’ starter kept the AL East Division Champions (more later) to just 2 hits through the first 7 innings of this game. Well, he did give up 5 walks and just struck out 2 batters. But the lack of score is what made things rather interesting.

Not that the Yankees were hitting much off the Red Sox’s starter. In total, they got one hit and 2 walks off him in his 6 innings. The Yankees’ offense was also kept silent through the 7th and 8th innings under the Boston bullpen.

The Boston batters poked a hole in the pitchers’ duel in the 8th inning though. Adam Warren had a bit of trouble coming on in relief thanks in part to the lead-off batter reaching on a fielding error. A ground-rule double put runners in scoring position. Then with 1 out, Warren opted to intentionally walk a Boston favorite (and the fairly strong showing of Red Sox fans shared their displeasure). A double scored 2 runs to break the scoreless game before Warren again intentionally walked another power-hitter in the line-up. And that was it for Warren tonight.

Tommy Layne came on to close out the inning. A passed ball scored the runner from 3rd, who, though usually a slow runner, booked it home at the quickest he’d run all year. With another out recorded, Layne intentionally walked the next batter (the 3rd intentional walk of the inning) before getting that final out to get out of the inning.

In the 9th, the Yankees turned to Jonathan Holder for the first 2 outs and James Pazos to get the 3rd out before they turned things over to the Yankee offense for a last-minute rally. And boy, did they get one.

The Yankees certainly took advantage of the new reliever. Gardner led-off with a single and ended up at 2nd on defensive indifference. Ellsbury worked the first walk of the inning, and a wild pitch moved both outfielders into scoring position. Sanchez then worked a walk and was then pinch-run by Torreyes. Still with no outs this inning, Brian McCann earned the 3rd walk of the inning that walked in Gardner to get the Yankees on the board.

So the Red Sox, feeling the Yankees knocking on their lead, decided to pull their reliever who couldn’t seem to get an out tonight. The new reliever quickly got 2 outs, and Yankee fans were hoping against all hope as Mark Teixeira stepped into the batter’s box. A first pitch curveball on the outside edge of the strike zone. Then, the retiring veteran saw a pitch he liked — a 99 mph fastball — which he hit deep into the Yankees’ bullpen. That’s right, a walk-off grand slam home run!

Final score: 5-3 Yankees.

Okay, time for some Mark Teixeira and grand slam trivia… This was Teixeira’s 12th career grand slam, 205th career home run, and his 15th home run this season. Until tonight, Mark Teixeira held the record for most home run in his career without a walk-off home run, making tonight’s walk-off a major milestone for him.

Now, I did some research on walk-off grand slams, and apparently, they’re not as rare as you’d think. Between 1950 and 2015, they were more than 180 walk-off grand slams. Now, there are only 28 “super walk-off grand slams” or “ultimate walk-off grand slams”, where a team was losing by 3 runs and the grand slam’s 4 runs were the only thing needed. Unfortunately, the Yankees weren’t in that position thanks to McCann’s RBI walk.

This is the 4th Yankees walk-off grand slam with the team trailing, and it’s illustrious company — Alex Rodriguez (April 7, 2007), Jason Giambi (May 17, 2002), and Babe Ruth (September 24, 1925). Plus, Teixeira is the 1st Yankee to hit a walk-off grand slam against the Red Sox since Charlie Keller in 1942.

Now, that we’ve geeked out a bit on tonight’s Yankee good news. The Red Sox were also served their own good news tonight. Despite the loss, the Red Sox clinched the AL East division due to the Orioles beating the Blue Jays in their game. The Blue Jays were the last threat to the Red Sox lead, and thanks in part to the Yankees beating them in 3 games this weekend, the Red Sox eased into the lead and took the division title. Of course, the best comment of the night is wouldn’t it be weird to see both teams celebrating on the field — the Yankees for their grand slam win, the Red Sox for their division championship. But I’m glad they saved it for the visitor’s clubhouse.

Go Yankees!

Game 153: NYY vs. TOR — Forgotten offense & a Queen City shutout

I’m almost positive the Yankees left their offense somewhere before they showed up at customs on the Canadian border. Also, their pitching. And some early game defense. Yeah, tonight’s game was one of those I’d rather forget. And I’m guessing a good portion of the Yankees join me in that sentiment.

Okay, so the nicest way to put this is that the Yankee pitchers weren’t exactly having a great day in tonight’s weekend opener against the Blue Jays. Bryan Mitchell got the start and actually didn’t do that terrible in the scheme of things. It just wasn’t great. In his 6 innings, Mitchell threw 93 pitches, gave up 6 hits, 4 walks, and 3 runs (only 1 earned run), and struck out just 2 Toronto batters.

All of Mitchell’s trouble was in the beginning of the game. In the 1st, with 1 out, a runner reached on a defensive fielding error. But then with a single and walk (and the first of his 2 strikeouts), a single scored the first two runs for the Blue Jays. Then with 2 runners on base with singles in the 2nd, a sacrifice bunt moved the runners to scoring position. They didn’t need it because a walk loaded the bases. And then the most anticlimactic way to score a run — a walk scored a run. Then the defense remembered they were playing a game and got a double play to end the inning and the run-scoring under Mitchell tonight.

Another great defensive play made tonight was in the 4th inning. Mitchell found the runner at 1st lingering too far off the base and decided to catch him stealing. And they instituted a good old-fashioned rundown to get him out. I think these are my favorite random plays in baseball.

But that wasn’t the end of the game. In the 7th, Blake Parker came on and just could not get control of his outing from the start. He quickly put runners on the corners with singles. On a fly out and attempt to keep it from being a sacrifice fly, a missed catch error at home still managed to keep the runners on base, in scoring position now but on the bases. Parker intentionally walked the next batter to load the bases. But then the next batter doubled and scored 2 more runs for the Blue Jays. Another walk loaded the bases again, and a single scored 2 more runs.

Yeah, that spelled the end for Parker tonight. So it was on to James Pazos. A single loaded the bases again, but then the defense snapped back into action rapidly getting the next out, a grounder to the out at home. Pazos struck out the final batter in the messy 7th inning to end the Blue Jays advance. For the moment.

Ben Heller was called in for the 8th inning, giving up a lead-off double and then a 2-run home run to pad the Blue Jays gigantic lead, but refused to allow any further additional runs.

The Yankees offense was severely limited to the very first inning. With 2 outs, Sanchez hit a bouncing ground-rule double, and the Toronto starter loaded the bases with a couple of walks. But then a strikeout ended all that hope. And it would never get anywhere closer to that again. All 3 hours of the game.

Comparatively, the Yankee pitchers gave up 13 total hits and 6 walks to the Blue Jays’ allowed 3 hits and 3 walks. Those numbers add up to and explain the final score. It’s the kind of math I don’t like.

Final score: 9-0 Toronto.

Anyway, as I close the door on this game, I am reminded of this quote from Jane Austen: “Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure.” Which means, my thoughts on this day will have very little to do with the actual game. I might remember other things about the game — the fact that they played, that rundown in the 4th, that the roof was closed, that Toronto is actually pretty nice in late September, that anytime the Yankees make the trip north of the border it makes me want to travel more, that I wonder if I can convince someone to fund a trip to see the World Baseball Classic this Spring at one of the many locations like Tokyo or Seoul or Los Angeles…

Yeah, so there was a game, and it wasn’t good for the Yankees. And my mind still wandered to baseball, so positive spin on the day, even when it didn’t seem possible. Because that’s life. Stuff happens out of your control every day, and some of it isn’t good. But it doesn’t give you leave to wallow in the miry circumstances. Find something to keep you going and then just keep going.

Go Yankees!

Game 147: NYY vs. BOS — The future is really good, but clearly not yet

Honestly, the Yankees and Red Sox actually did a pretty good job going head-to-head for the first half of the game, thanks to an oddly paired match of starting pitchers. A longtime Red Sox veteran nearly matched rookie Luis Cessa to start for their respective teams. Cessa threw 64 pitches through 5 innings, gave up 6 hits, no walks, and 3 runs, and struck out just 1 batter.

The Red Sox and Yankee made things interesting right from the top of the game. In the 1st, the lead-off batter singled but then got thrown out trying to stretch it to a double. Cessa hit the next batter with a pitch, who then advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a single. Oddly, that batter also got thrown out trying to go to 2nd on that play. The first one made sense, as he was a speedy base runner, but the second guy is definitely not a runner in any sense of the word.

The next batter singled and then took off for 2nd. Initially, he was called out, but Boston challenged and the replay showed he was safe. He then scored on another single to give the Red Sox a nice lead. They added to this with a 1-out solo home run in the 4th inning.

The Yankees didn’t dent into the Boston starter until the 5th inning. Mark Teixeira led-off with a single and moved to 2nd on Mason Williams’ single. Two outs later, Gary Sanchez doubled and scored both Teixeira and Williams to get the Yankees on the board.

The Yankees went to their bullpen in the 6th inning, opting for James Pazos, who in 2 pitches gave up a double. It was Jonathan Holder’s turn on the mound, and he loaded up the bases with a single and a walk. A sacrifice fly scored a run before Holder got a nice strikeout. A ground-rule double scored one more run, and it was onto the next reliever.

During the next at-bat, Chasen Shreve threw a ball into the dirt, though it was not ruled as a passed ball or wild pitch as he and Sanchez worked together to get the guy trying to steal home. A rather beautiful out to end the inning. But when the Red Sox came up to bat again, Shreve’s first batter in the 7th (the same guy who he faced at the end of the last inning) hit a solo home run into the right field seats.

So it was onto Kirby Yates who loaded the bases with a single, a double, and an intentional walk. The next batter ground into a double play, but the guy from 3rd still scored a run. Ben Heller closed out the 8th, breezing through the Red Sox in 14 pitches.

The Yankees were stalled a bit offensively in the mean time, thanks in part to the good bullpen the Red Sox continue to show once again. But they managed to eke a bit through in the 9th inning. With 1 out, Teixeira worked a walk. Billy Butler came in to pinch-hit and hit a 2-run home run to the last row of the Green Monster. When the pitcher hit Gardner with a pitch, he was pulled for the Red Sox regular closer who then breezed through the next 2 Yankee batters in 9 pitches and 2 strikeouts.

Final score: 7-4 Red Sox.

Okay, I have to give a brief shout out to Mason Williams who was basically in the game to make some pretty amazing outfield plays. Like a running grab in the 5th, and nearly a run-saving leaping catch at the right field wall in the 8th. Williams has always been a rather reliable outfielder when he’s made the routine detours through the replacement roster for the past few years, so it’s nice to see him back once again.

In minor league news: the RailRiders won their International League championship. Next up they will travel to Memphis the winners of the Pacific Coast League on September 20. Many of the players on the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre team have made the Scranton Shuttle trip quite often this year, and many currently on the Yankee roster have contributed to the RailRiders success this year. They are, by the way, the best team in their league, with a record of 91 wins and 52 losses (a .636 average) during the regular season. Spring Training veteran Jake Cave was awarded the MVP award for his outstanding contributions offensively.

Go Yankees!

Game 143: LAD vs. NYY — Trounced by long ago rivals

There are some games that are easy to write about, and some games that aren’t so much. I know I’ve shared that sentiment before. The ones that are difficult are either those with limited excitement or those that are just painful to watch as Yankee fans. Okay, so to be fair, the Dodgers are at the top of their division, and they are a pretty good team this year (as a friend of mine likes to remind me at least once a week these days, and he’s actually right this season).

Of course, it didn’t help that Bryan Mitchell got pounced on by the Dodgers’ offense early and often in this first game of the mid-week series. Mitchell threw 47 pitches in just over 2 innings, gave up 8 hits, no walks, and 6 runs (though only 2 were earned), and struck out just 2 batters. In the 1st, Mitchell gave up consecutive singles, and a fly out put runners on the corners. A fielder’s choice (a delayed attempt at a double play really) allowed one run to score to get the Dodgers on the board.

In the 2nd, with 2 outs and runners on the corners with singles, the next batter reached on a messy fielding error that ended up allowing both runners to score. A single then scored one more run for the Dodgers in that inning to give the Dodgers a rather hefty lead in just the 2nd inning. Mitchell came back in the 3rd for a quick out and then just couldn’t get another one. A single and double put runners in scoring position so that a single scored the first runner.

It was time to go to the bullpen, with Mitchell just unable to find control of his pitching tonight. Chasen Shreve came on in relief and promptly got a strike out. During the next at-bat, the runner at 1st stole 2nd, thanks in part to a bad throwing error by catcher Sanchez (a rare thing for the rookie catcher). Of course, the fact that it scored another run didn’t help matters.

Richard Bleier then gave some beautiful long-term relief, throwing 61 pitches through the next 4 innings, striking out 3 LA batters and giving the Yankees a bit of a breather. James Pazos came on for the 8th and breezed his way through the first 2 outs, but a nicely thrown strike found its way into the right field seats to give the Dodgers one more run. Ben Heller’s 9th inning looked eerily similar when a 2-out solo shot also found the right field seats.

The Yankees had only two real chances to do something big offensively. Starlin Castro’s big lead-off home run in the 2nd, and Aaron Judge’s monster lead-off homer into the left field bleachers in the 5th. Overall, the Yankees only created 5 hits (2 of them those home runs) and 3 walks and struck out 11 times tonight. It just wasn’t their night in any capacity really.

Final score: 8-2 Dodgers.

Going into tonight’s game, the weird tidbit everyone seemed to talk about was this “former rivalry”. Long before interleague games were an everyday thing, long before color tv was normal, long before there was baseball on the Left Coast, the Brooklyn Dodgers only faced the New York Yankees when both were champions of their respective leagues (1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955, and 1956). It should be noted that the only year the Yankees didn’t win a “Subway Series” between any NL New York team is 1955, made famous for that disastrously wrong call of safe when Jackie Robinson collided with catcher Yogi Berra at the plate as Robinson stole home.

Today’s fans don’t think about the Dodgers being a rival for the Yankees unless they’re aware of baseball history or may have seen a game at Ebbets Field or the really old incarnation of Yankee Stadium prior to the Dodgers move westward in 1957. It should also be noted that they wouldn’t have moved to Los Angeles if the Brooklyn city council agreed to a new stadium proposal that would’ve put the Dodgers exactly where Barclays Center is today. A stadium was destined to be there, and while it’s a pretty cool stadium that’s there now, it’s still a shame they couldn’t have made it work 60 years ago for a great team like the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Go Yankees!

Game 137: TOR vs. NYY — Baby Bomber Birthday Bash & a Bit of Drama

Well, that was a roller coaster ride I’d rather not have been on. Tonight’s match against the visiting Blue Jays certainly gave both teams a chance to prove why every game matters for both of them for rather different reasons. The Jays are still trying to hold onto their lead in the AL East, and the Yankees are trying to keep their Wild Card dreams alive. They both needed a win, but as that isn’t possible, they certainly both made quite the effort to do so.

Luis Cessa got the start tonight for the Yankees, throwing 85 pitches into the 6th innings, giving up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and striking out 3 Toronto batters. In the 1st inning, after 2 sharp strikeouts, a solo home run into left field got the Blue Jays on the board for an early lead. In the 5th, with 2 runners on base with singles and 1 out, another single scored one runner, but Cessa got out of that inning shortly thereafter, thanks in part to Chase Headley’s diving defense.

In the 6th, after 1 out and walking a batter, the Yankees went to James Pazos for relief, but he gave up a single. Then it was on to Adam Warren, who loaded the bases with his lone allowed walk before getting the next batter to ground out into a double play to end the Blue Jays’ attempt to add to their score. Warren sailed through the 7th inning, and after 2 out sin the 8th, added a runner via a single.

The Yankees opted for Tommy Layne, but after a walk, they went back again for Ben Heller. Heller gave up a 2-RBI double and a walk before the Yankees brought in Chasen Shreve for a 4-pitch strikeout to end the Blue Jays’ rally.

Now, the Yankees weren’t exactly silent on the offensive side of things. They got on the board in the 4th inning with Brian McCann’s big 2-out solo home run into the 2nd deck right field seats. And in the 7th (I’m telling you… “God Bless America”… every time!), with 2 outs, Aaron Judge singled and then Tyler Austin smacked a very big 2-run home run into the bleachers to give the Yankees back the lead in the game.

Today is also Tyler Austin’s 25th birthday. The last Yankee to hit a home run on his birthday was Alex Rodriguez last year (July 27, 2015). Not a bad way to celebrate your birthday.

After the Blue Jays took back the lead in the top of the 8th, the Yankees came back in the bottom of the inning. Ellsbury led-off the inning with a walk and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ nice 1-out RBI triple. Gregorius then scored on Starlin Castro’s sacrifice fly. Then McCann walked and was pinch-run by Young. And it was Chase Headley to hit a nice 2-run home run to cap off the Yankees’ scoring for the evening.

So it was onto the 9th inning to close out the Yankees’ lead. But things got complicated really fast. Now, in the last couple of games, Dellin Betances has breezed through his innings in 10 and 12 pitches. But Betances got into quite a bit of trouble, walking consecutive batters to start the inning.

The next batter faced quite a bit of drama himself. First, a wild pitch moved the runners up to scoring position. Then there was a bit of a dispute over whether a particular play was a foul or catcher’s interference. (For the record, it was catcher’s interference, but because the umpire didn’t see it, it was ruled a strike instead, even after the Jay’s manager had a brief conversation about it.) That batter then got his own revenge with an RBI single that put runners in the corners (and then was pinch-run for speed).

Finally, Betances got an out — a strikeout against a former teammate actually. But then he loaded the bases with yet another walk, before a single scored one more run, putting the Blue Jays within a single run. So it was time to call it a night after throwing 40 pitches (yikes!), just 1 out, and the bases loaded.

Blake Parker to the rescue, getting a 6-pitch strikeout to give the Yankees hope and put the Blue Jays on edge. Everyone in the stadium was standing. Parker then threw a final pitch to his last batter, who sent it deep to left field where Brett Gardner ran and leapt for an amazing catch right at the wall for the final out to preserve the game for the Yankees.

Final score: 7-6 Yankees.

Now, that amazing Brett Gardner is also the Yankees’ nominee for the annual Roberto Clemente Award, awarded to the player who “best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field”. In other words, a well-deserved honor and recognition for the outfielder and Yankee veteran.

Every team nominates their candidate, and the final winner selected by the fans and a special committee will be awarded in November. Beginning Wednesday (tomorrow), which is also the 15th annual Roberto Clemente Day, fans can express their support for Gardner via social media (#VoteGardy) through October 2. Previous Yankee winners include Derek Jeter in 2009, Don Baylor in 1985, and Ron Guidry in 1984.

Roster news: Chad Green got some good news today — no surgery, but will definitely need some time to rehab the flexor tendon (the elbow). I would expect a trip to the DL for the rest of the season, as he won’t be ready to throw again for some time. We’ll see him again at Spring Training. In the mean time, the Yankees recalled both James Pazos (who pitched tonight) and Bryan Mitchell from AAA Scranton.

Current standings: Boston and Toronto sit atop the AL East tied. Baltimore is just a game behind them. Then it’s Detroit a game back, then Houston another game back, and then the Yankees another game and a half back. So the Yankees are just 3.5 games out of the Wild Card. But it’s the three pesky teams at the top of the AL East in their way — Boston, Toronto, and Baltimore that are both battling it out for the AL East title and for the 2 Wild Card spots.

(And if you’re interested in weird, random facts like me, if the season ended today and the World Series was played based on the best teams in both leagues, it would be the Rangers against the Cubs. That would be a weird a series, but that could actually happen this year. Welcome to 2016 baseball.)

Go Yankees!

Game 41: NYY vs. OAK — CC’s back & it is good

Call it a hometown celebration if you must. But being in the Bay Area tonight certainly did wonders for tonight’s starter CC Sabathia, who grew up in the area (and is still a big fan of non-baseball area sports teams). With about 100 of his personal guests cheering him on at the Coliseum, Sabathia went on to resemble shades of the ace pitcher that we all know and love and earn his 100th career win.

Sabathia threw 98 pitches through his 6 innings, giving up just 3 hits, a walk, and a run, and very nicely struck out 8 A’s batters. His only allowed run came in the bottom of the 2nd inning. With 2 outs and runners on base with his only allowed walk and a hit by pitch, a single scored the lead runner and put runners in scoring position. However, a simple bunt that Sabathia fielded successfully himself ended the A’s only inning under his command where they had a shot at something.

Kirby Yates came on for the 7th and 8th innings. In the 7th, with 2 outs, a single scored on an RBI double before Yates sailed through his next 4 outs rather efficiently. Chasen Shreve finished things off in the 9th inning. A really nice lead-off triple scored on a ground out before Shreve breezed through the final 2 outs to close out the game.

The Yankees, on the other hand, gave Sabathia enough run support to hand deliver him the win to match his excellent start. And that was thanks in part to Oakland’s less-than-crisp defense. Things started to get messy for Oakland (and good for the Yankees) in the 4th inning.

With 1 out, Hicks worked a walk and then moved all the way to 3rd don Gregorius’ single. They both scored on Ronald Torreyes’ triple to give the Yankees the lead. After Ellsbury reached 1st on his 5th catcher’s interference of the season, a wild pitch scored Torreyes and moved Ellsbury to 2nd. Then with Gardner on base with a walk, another wild pitch moved runners to scoring position so that Carlos Beltran’s double scored both of them and forced the A’s starter out of the game.

The new reliever got through the final 2 outs without allowing another run. Until the 6th inning, that is. He gave up a lead-off single to Gardner who then scored on Beltran’s RBI double. It’s not like the final pitcher for Oakland had an easier time against the Yankees’ batters. In the 9th inning, with 2 outs, Gregorius and Torreyes hit back-to-back singles and then scored on Jacoby Ellsbury’s triple to cap off the Yankees’ scoring.

Final score: 8-3 Yankees

It should be noted that the Yankees racked up 13 total hits and 6 walks off Oakland pitchers. But the key to their offense tonight was Carlos Beltran — his 3 doubles and 3 RBIs just tonight certainly show how Beltran is enjoying his temporary stint as the DH in Rodriguez’s absence. So many people are already connecting Beltran and Cooperstown, including Hall-of-Famer Reggie Jackson himself.

Scranton Shuttle: Activating Sabathia from 15-day DL tonight, the Yankees made the corresponding roster move by optioning pitcher James Pazos back to AAA Scranton. And just a few days after being DFA’d, Phil Coke was outrighted to AAA Scranton. Coke was hoping to stay with the Yankees, even willing to head back to Scranton, so it looks like he got his wish. And who knows… he might be back in the Bronx before you know it. It’s shaping up to be that kind of year.

Go Yankees!

Game 38: NYY vs. ARI — Not enough even against a struggling ace

Well, I suppose I can happy it wasn’t a total blow out again, but I don’t think that anyone can ever realistically be happy with a loss. Especially one that was fraught with more of those disappointing moments when nothing came when most needed.

Still in beautiful but very hot Arizona visiting the Diamondbacks, the Yankees sent up Michael Pineda to start the game, and he certainly had mixed results in his 5 innings — 81 pitches, 9 allowed hits, 1 walk, and 5 runs, and (here’s the upside) 9 very nice strikeouts. In the 2nd with 2 outs, a really nice triple scored on an RBI single to get the D’backs on the board.

In 3 consecutive singles to lead-off with 3rd inning, 1 more run scored. Then 1 out later, another single scored another run. But then with runners in scoring position, Pineda (and his defense) got the requisite 2 outs to get out of the inning. Then with 1 out and a runner on base with a walk, a 2-run home run scored the final 2 runs for Arizona.

Chasen Shreve took the next 2 innings, adding his own very Shreve-like 2 strikeouts. Kirby Yates took the 8th and added his own 2 strikeouts to the total. (These two, when on point, are some of the strongest middle relievers the Yankees have had in their bullpen in a long time. When they reach that consistency point, they’re going to be unstoppable forces.)

The reality is that the Yankees were up against one of the best pitchers (in my mind too) in the National League. This year, he’s with a new team and his ERA is nowhere near where it should be (it’s too high for a pitcher of his caliber). Which means, he’s gotten off to a rather rough start. Which is evident in some of his statistics tonight against the Yankees — like the 5 hits and 3 runs he gave up to them.

The Yankees actually struck first in tonight’s game with Starlin Castro’s 1-out solo home run in the 2nd inning. Then the Diamondbacks’ starter started to falter as he neared 100 pitches in the 8th inning. He gave up singles to Gregorius and Hicks, putting them on the corners. That would be it for the starter, but he was now responsible for those runners on base. Pinch-hitting Carlos Beltran hit into a ground out, scoring Gregorius and moving Hicks into scoring position. Then Jacoby Ellsbury’s single scored Hicks to put the Yankees within reach of the win.

Except they didn’t reach. And they didn’t win. Between the 2 relievers that closed out the final 2 innings, they were effectively shut down and sent further into the loss column.

And once again, the best thing the Yankee pitching staff had going for it was the fact that in total they struck out 13 Arizona batters. But still the Arizona line up seemed to find ways between those strikeouts to do enough to give them the edge.

 

Final score: 5-3 Diamondbacks

Scranton Shuttle: before the game tonight, the Yankees flew out a few names everyone’s been wondering about — infielder Rob Refsnyder and pitchers Luis Cessa and James Pazos for some fresh arms and a chance at a good back-up bench. In response, they optioned new guys Chad Green and Conor Mullee back to Scranton (a rather short MLB debut stint). And Phil Coke was designated for assignment.

Ah, the endless cycle of DFAs, options, call-ups, assignments, and contracts. A GM’s job is never done. And the chances of a team ending up with the exact same roster as the one from Opening Day is just not reality. Injuries happen, bodies breakdown, slumps hit rock bottom, players peak too early or too late. The fact is that part of the long season is that it means that there are too many variables.

It’s why I don’t put much stock in what the talking heads say at the beginning of Spring Training. You just can’t predict baseball. You can’t predict life. And it’s that kind of part of the fun — the mystery of what could be meets what will be in a big ball of the unexpected. It certainly keeps me on my toes.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: video link issues… I’ll try to get them up by the next post. Sorry!}

Game 26: NYY vs. BAL — Wasted #TanakaTime

So it looks like Charm City remembered it had a baseball team. Well, some of them did. The Orioles were at 43% capacity for tonight’s game for the final game of this series. But numbers-wise, it’s still low turn out for baseball games.

Masahiro Tanaka threw yet another beautiful game and came up with a no-decision because the Yankees couldn’t seem to collectively put together any run support. That’s what’s the most disheartening about tonight’s loss. I mean, if he’d pitched just terribly or the defense just crumbled, then it would be disappointing but not unexpected. It just hurts to watch this be swept away after all of Tanaka’s just beautiful work. Tanaka threw 102 pitches in 8 shut out innings, giving up just 5 hits and a walk, and getting 7 of Baltimore’s batters to swing at some of the nastiest pitches.

The Orioles’ starter practically matched Tanaka in numbers, as the Yankees couldn’t seem to collectively put anything on the board for run support. Plus, Girardi got ejected in the 4th inning asking for an explanation as to why a balk wasn’t called on the pitcher. Because you should always eject someone asking for an explanation and then continue to harrass them as they try to leave the game peacefully, intentionally enticing them into further argumentation. Trivia: the very same umpire gave Girardi his first managerial ejection back in 2008.

Starting in the 9th inning, both teams went to their bullpens. Betances sailed through a 10-pitch inning for the Yankees, and when the Yankees got a man on, the Orioles switched to a new guy. To match them, the Yankees went to Johnny Barbato for the 10th inning, which may have been a misstep in hindsight as in 5 pitches to 2 batters who both singled to get on base and put them on the corners. All 12 Baltimore fans were on their feet in anticipation. (Pardon the hyperbole, but the lack of attendance is reminiscent of jokes made about the Rays or some of the smaller market teams and is rather off-putting.)

So it was “Miller Time” to try to shut down the threat. Unfortunately, a sacrifice fly scored the runner from 3rd, and the walk-off worked for the Orioles. There was just an accumulation of little things that led to this event, and at one point, it was just kind of inevitable. Which, again, is a super shame because of Tanaka’s amazingness tonight.

Oh, and let’s talk for a minute about Dustin Ackley’s spider-man skills. Playing in right field for only the 2nd time in his career, Ackley made the play of the night in the 9th inning. On a long fly ball, Ackley jumped up and arched just right to catch the ball, slamming off this ugly hotdog ad and then throwing it back into get the runner doubling off 1st. Apparently, the Orioles didn’t believe Ackley could really make the catch and asked for a replay to confirm he didn’t catch it in a rebound off the wall. Nope. On any angle, it was very obvious that Ackley channeled his inner Peter Parker and made the play of the night (which essentially sent the game into extra innings, by the way).

Final score: 1-0 Orioles in 10, Orioles win series 2-1 (Also: Yankees went 2-7 on this road trip.)

On the Scranton Shuttle today: The day after James Pazos was called up, he was sent back to AAA today without throwing a pitch. Also, it was his 25th birthday. Happy Birthday, here’s your free ticket back to Pennsylvania. With Gardner still very sore from the hit-by-pitch elbow injury from yesterday (he pinch-run tonight but didn’t hit or defend), the Yankees need an extra outfielder. So they called up Ben Gamel (the story leaked through the press train via Gamel’s best friend who was stoked for his friend to finally make it to the majors). Gamel did impress for the last couple of Springs but still needed some fine-tuning, hence the extended stay in Scranton. Perhaps, he’ll have a chance to prove himself during this long upcoming home stand.

Yes, the Yankees are headed back to New York for a 10-game home stand — a weekend series against the Red Sox, then 4 games against the Royals, and winding up next weekend against the White Sox. I feel like there’s a joke to be made in there about pink majestic laundry, but I can’t seem to find it.

Go Yankees!