Game 13: CHW vs. NYY — Let’s make it 8-in-a-row

A rather light crowd in the Bronx tonight to watch the series opener against the visiting White Sox, still more than a few MLB stadium sellout crowds, but light for a big stadium like Yankee Stadium. But it was a pleasant evening for some baseball, and the Yankees decided to go for 8 straight wins.

And they did so behind the rookie starter Jordan Montgomery, making his 2nd start of his MLB career. Actually, Montgomery did a pretty stellar job for the majority of the game, pitching into the 7th inning with just 88 pitches. Overall, he allowed 7 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, and struck out 4 Chicago batters. However, he didn’t allow any runs until the 7th inning. After giving up 2 consecutive singles to kick off his final inning, he left a pitch linger too long in the strike zone that the batter decided to fire over the left field wall for a 3-run blast to get the White Sox finally on the board.

That would be it for Montgomery, so he turned the game over to Adam Warren. Going into this game, Warren had yet to allow a baserunner let alone a run, but that ended tonight. He gave up a walk in the middle of getting out of the 7th inning for Montgomery, but got the out before any further damage happened. Then after a fairly easy 8th, Warren struggled in the 9th. With 1 out, he gave up a single that promptly scored on a double to snap Warren’s scoreless streak.

So, the Yankees went to their sure thing — Aroldis Chapman. Chapman threw a grand total of 2 pitches. With just 1 out and a runner on 2nd, his 1st pitch became a single to put runners on the corners. His 2nd pitch became a ground out that the infield beautifully turned into a double play (the 4th of the night for the Yankees’ defense) and Chapman’s 4th save this season.

Meanwhile, the Yankees only needed 2 innings to make an impact tonight offensively. In the 3rd with 2 outs and Kozma and Hicks on the corners, Matt Holliday showed that his back was feeling better with a single monster swing to get the Yankees on the board with a 3-run home run straight into the left field bleachers at a projected 459 feet.

After that, the inning became a hit parade. Castro doubled and then scored on Chase Headley’s double, who ended up on 3rd thanks to a fielding error. Headley then scored on Aaron Judge’s single to cap off the Yankees for that inning as the Yankees sent up all 9 batters that inning alone. And in the 5th, with 2 outs and Castro on 1st with a single, Aaron Judge hit a big 2-run home run into the White Sox’s (the visitor’s) bullpen that forced the starter out of the game and give the Yankees a huge, solid lead.

They’d need it. The Yankees didn’t get another baserunner the rest of the game, while the White Sox chipped away at the lead, but certainly couldn’t overcome the power that is the Yankee offense right now (tonight getting 10 total hits off just the White Sox starter).

Final score: 7-4 Yankees

In case any of you were wondering: after being DFA’d last week to make room for tonight’s starter, the Yankees officially traded pitcher Johnny Barbato to the Pirates for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

Before the game tonight, Brett Gardner received a great award as the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year, Left Field. An award given to the best defensive player in each position. This used to be given out per league, but since 2014, it is the best player at each position regardless of league. The only other Yankee to win this award was former 2nd baseman Robinson Cano (now with the Mariners) in 2012 and 2013, when the awards were divided by league. A well-deserved honor for Gardner, who is consistently one of the best outfielders in the game, as we Yankee fans know very well.

Go Yankees!

Game 8: TB vs. NYY — Rookie strong debut start & a 3-inning rally

It was almost a rain delay in the Bronx today. The Rays were forced to cancel their on-field batting practice before the game so that the grounds crew could put a tarp on the field just in time for the heavens to open up and dump quite the shower on Yankee Stadium. Perhaps in part because of the weather (and perpetual overcast skies) and partly because it was a mid-week day game, the stands felt a little empty (and a bit wet in places) at about 70% capacity today, which is still more than the average Rays home game attendance.

Plus, the Yankees decided to start their recent call-up, young pitcher Jordan Montgomery, in his MLB debut, a new role he not only embraced but succeeded quite well. Paired with another recent call-up, catcher Kyle Higashioka, they teamed up to really show an outstanding battery against the Rays in today’s middle game of the homestand opening series. Montogomery threw 89 pitches into the 5th inning, giving up 5 hits, 3 runs (only 2 earned), and 2 walks, and striking out an impressive 7 batters.

In the 1st inning, Montgomery got 2 quick strikeouts before walking a batter and then giving up a 2-run home run into the left field seats to get the Rays on the board. Then he settled in and powered through the next three innings before allowing a lead-off double in the 5th, and after another 2 strikeouts, his day was done. A rather successful debut.

Bryan Mitchell came on in relief, and his first batter gave the crowd some drama. After reaching safely on a fielding error, the runner scored from 2nd, but then the batter tried to make it to 2nd and was thrown out there thanks to the sharp throw by right fielder Judge and Kozman keeping the tag on the runner who came off the bag as part of the play. However, the umpires originally ruled him safe. On a Yankees’ challenge, the call was eventually overturned and the inning was over.

Mitchell continued on and sailed through the 6th inning flawlessly. Clippard’s 7th continued that pattern, adding 2 more strikeouts to today’s total. Tommy Layne had a spot of trouble in the 8th. His lead-off single was out on a fielder’s choice at 2nd, and after a strike out, a passed ball moved the runner to scoring position. He then scored on a nice double to give the Rays just one more run today. In the next inning, Holder allowed 2 runners with just 1 out, so Chapman came on to finish the 9th, shutting down 2 batters in just 9 pitches.

Meanwhile, the Yankees actually struggled a bit against the Rays’ starter, only giving up 2 hits and 3 walks during his tenure on the mound, into the 5th inning. It would be that inning that the Yankees seemed to find their opening, Headley led-off with a single, Judge worked a walk, and Higashioka reached on a messy fielding error to load the bases with no outs. Two outs later, Aaron Hicks worked a walk to score Headley, and that was the end of the Rays’ starter’s day, with the bases loaded.

The new pitcher threw a wild pitch that moved all the runners up, scoring Judge, before walking Holliday to load up the bases again. But a pop-up ended the 5th inning rally. So the Yankees came back in the 6th to do it again. Castro and Headley led-off with consecutive singles, and Aaron Judge’s single scored Castro. After Higashioka bunted into a force out at 2nd, putting runners in the corners, the Rays went back to their bullpen.

Then, pinch-hitter Brett Gardner hit a dribbler back to the pitcher who had a bad throwing error to 1st, though it scored Headley. But in the process, Gardner collided with the 1st baseman. Both also crashed to the ground, and Gardner crawled to 1st to re-tag it. But both were injured and in pain on the ground. Both also left the game. (More on this below.) Pinch-runner Torreyes came on for Gardner.

Jacoby Ellsbury singled home Higashioka, and this put runners on the corners. After another pitching change, Torreyes then scored on Hicks’ ground out. But the Yankees weren’t done yet. Carter’s lead-off single in the 7th helped solidify the lead when Aaron Judge hit a monster 2-run home run into Monument Park. Someone commented that the scary part of that homer was that Judge didn’t even get all of it.

It’s also worth noting that the Yankee pitchers got the Rays to strike out 11 times, while Rays pitchers only had 1 strikeout today. And of the 12 runs scored, only 7 were officially earned, mostly because of the Rays’ sloppy defense in the latter half of the game, though only 3 total errors were recorded (2 for the Rays, 1 for the Yankees).

Final score: 8-4 Yankees.

Roster moves: to sign today’s starter Jordan Montgomery to the active roster, the Yankees needed to move someone on the 40-man (after moving Shreve to AAA yesterday), so they designated pitcher Johnny Barbato for assignment. Montogmery’s parents were, of course, proudly watching in the stands today for their son’s MLB debut.

Injury news: prospect pitcher James Kaprielian was sent to LA for tests due to his elbow soreness. He was given a few options. He can continue to rest and rehab or consider surgery (yes, the Tommy John kind, which would have an 18-month rehab timeline). As rehab hasn’t been successful thus far, the surgery is being strongly considered. To be fair, they aren’t as quick to rush to surgery lately. I think that’s why they are giving him the non-surgical option as well. In other words, surgery isn’t necessary, but definitely recommended. But as it’s his career and his body, he can choose how to deal with the injury and create a healing timetable based on that decision.

Now, Brett Gardner is injured, and while it won’t cause him to be put on the DL, he is considered day-to-day. He sustained a bruised jaw and strained neck due to the collision in the 6th inning (described above). His partner in this tumble (the Rays’ infielder Weeks) also will be day-to-day with neck and shoulder soreness. No concussion, and no immediate concern, but I imagine Gardner will need a few days to ice that jaw and stretch out his neck. And I’m guessing some soft foods at the Homecoming Dinner later tonight. Skip the steak, bring on the cheesecake.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 29: PHI vs. NYY — Pulling it all together in the end

Players don’t win games, teams do. It’s why the concept of teamwork is vital to team sports like baseball. So every player must do their part, the best to be part of that team in order to do something good — like win games.

CC Sabathia got the start today against the visiting Phillies, pitching into the 6th inning. Sabathia had a lone sticky inning, but really came up strong for most of the game. Part of this was due to the support of his teammates behind him. Sabathia gave up 9 hits and a walk over his tenure on the mound, and struck out just 1 Phillies batter.

In the 2nd inning, Sabathia faced 8 batters and had trouble putting together those 3 outs. After getting 3 strong outs in the 1st inning, he followed that up with another one to kick off the inning, but then he gave up 2 singles, a wild pitch, and a walk to load up the bases. Another single scored the 2 runs for the Phillies, and one more single loaded up the bases again. The next batter hit a dribbler to 3rd base and Headley made the play at home to stop the scoring before Sanchez fired it to 1st just a hair late to keep the bases loaded. The final batter hit into a short grounder to get the runner at 2nd for the force and get the Yankees out of trouble.

Thankfully, those 2 runs would be the only runs the Phillies scored this afternoon. Mostly because of the stellar pitching from Dellin Betances, who closed out the 6th inning, and Luis Severino, who cemented his spot in the rotation with 3 flawless innings and 5 nasty strikeouts to freeze the Phillies’ offense.

The Yankees’ offense was up against a pretty good pitcher today, who certainly held the Yankees off for most of the game during his strong time on the mound, into the 7th inning. His immediate reliever continued the strong pitching. Both of these pitchers could rely on their infield especially to make the sharp plays to turn the Yankees’ hits into routine ground outs. The Yankees had a single opportunity in the 3rd inning after Hicks worked the Yankees’ lone walk of the game to lead-off the inning. Judge followed him up with a single and then ended up at 2nd when the next batter hit into a double play (getting Hicks at 3rd and the out at 1st). But Judge would go on to score from 2nd on Brett Gardner’s nice single to get the Yankees on the board.

And on into the bottom of the 9th, they went. With a new pitcher on the mound for the Phillies, the Yankees pulled it all together to make a difference. Avelino led-off with a single and then scored on Castillo’s big double to tie up the game. Then down 2 outs, Amburgey stepped up and hit a solid single to score Castillo (thanks to a really bad throw to the plate too) for a wonderful walk-off win.

Final score: 3-2 Yankees

Player of the Game: I really can’t make this call today for a few reasons. First, we’re in the final week of games, so a lot of the young guys that qualify for this category are now reassigned to minor league camp (more below). And second, today’s game was the perfect example of many of the players contributing to make it work. And I guess today’s POTG would go to the team. With Severino on the mound for the final third of the game, the players had the opportunity to show what it meant to work together in the field. And in the final inning, they collaborated to tie up the game and then win it in a walk-off. Everyone worked together, so everyone won.

Honoring the 2016 AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders for their Championship Season, Steinbrenner Field, March 24, 2017 [photo courtesy of author]
And it’s no surprise really because before today’s game, the Yankees honored the 2016 AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre team, who won the International League championship, the Governor’s Cup, and the AAA National Championship last year, with a special video recap of their season and then presented last year’s roster with their championship rings and had the championship trophy on display at Steinbrenner Field. Last year’s roster included Tyler Austin, Johnny Barbato, Luis Cessa, Aaron Judge, Brady Lail, Pete Kozma, Rob Refsnyder, Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams, and Nick Swisher. (No wonder they won!)

The Champion 2016 RailRiders & their new hardware [photo courtesy of author]
And in some roster moves today: prior to today’s game, the Yankees optioned reliever Luis Cessa to AAA Scranton and reassigned him to minor league camp. Joining him there were infielder Ji-Man Choi, outfielders Dustin Fowler, Clint Frazier, and Billy McKinney, and pitcher Jason Gurka. They also received reliever Tyler Jones as a Rule 5 Draft return from the Diamondbacks, who was assigned to AAA Scranton and minor league camp. (A Rule 5 Draft return is when a player is selected by another team as part of a deal, but then because he isn’t signed formally by that team, he is returned back to his original team.)

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 20: PHI vs. NYY — Chilly night of strong pitching

After two consecutive and very disheartening losses, the Yankees needed a win tonight, especially a well-fought, well-executed one. Tonight’s game was played under clear skies and freezing cold (for Florida in March) temperatures. Which was still better than where either team’s regular season home was dealing with tonight — 6 inches deep in snow in Philadelphia, and 7.3 inches recorded at New York’s Central Park. (Of course, some parts of New York State saw 42 inches of snow, so a night of 54° chill isn’t that bad in that perspective.)

Michael Pineda was just amazing tonight for the Yankees against the visiting Phillies. He threw 5 perfect innings, putting a ton of zeroes up on the scoreboard and keeping those Phillies scoreless and hitless. Meanwhile, he showed off his command and power with 8 stellar strikeouts, setting himself up for the win, rightly so.

Aroldis Chapman came on for an inning of relief in the 6th and continued the scoreless momentum, despite giving up a walk (and the Phillies’ first base runner of the evening) during his time on the mound.

In the 7th, the Yankees went to reliever Chad Green. Green got into a spot of trouble with his lead-off single. A wild pitch clipped catcher Austin Romine on the hand; he was in too much pain to continue (more below), so he was replaced by Higashioka. Green powered through a couple of ground outs that ended up scoring the runner before getting out of the inning. Green continued that streak by throwing clean 8th and 9th innings.

Now, with strong pitching by Pineda, Chapman, and Green, the Yankees needed just a handful of well-played offensive moments to win the day. Greg Bird started things off with a lead-off solo home run in the 2nd inning, continuing his amazing offensive Spring. Brett Gardner hit a 1-out single, moved to 2nd on a pick-off error, and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s single. And in the 7th, Torres hit a solid 1-out double, moved to 3rd on another pick-off error, and then scored on Dustin Fowler’s sacrifice fly.

The basic reality is that the Yankees clearly out-pitched the Phillies tonight. Yankee pitchers allowed just 1 hit and 1 walk, while the Yankee batters got 7 hits and 3 walks. And the biggest tell is the 2 strikeouts by Phillies’ pitchers compared to the 13 strikeouts by Yankee pitchers.

Final score: 3-1 Yankees

Okay, as I said above, Austin Romine took a bad bounce on a wild pitch off his throwing hand, specifically his thumb. They pulled him from the game when he was still in some pain for further tests, mainly x-rays. Those came back negative, but I’m guessing he will need a few days of rest and some treatment before he’s ready to play again.

And the Players of the Game go to the boys in the corners tonight. In the second half of the game, many of the key plays were made from, by, and between the 3rd and 1st basemen, tonight being Pete Kozma (at 3rd) and Ji-Man Choi (at 1st). Kozma’s strong, quick throws across the diamond were on-target and precise enough for Choi’s fast reflexes (and flexibility) to get the outs needed to continue the dominant pitching momentum. They were quite the team to watch tonight.

Some roster moves today: pitchers Johnny Barbato, Dietrich Enns, and Giovanny Gallegos were optioned AAA Scranton, infielder Miguel Andujar was optioned to AA Trenton, and pitcher Chance Adams was reassigned to minor league camp.

In World Baseball Classic news: last night, Puerto Rico won a rather heated, exciting game over the team from the Dominican Republic 3-1, and the Netherlands continued their dominance, trouncing Cuba 14-1. Early this morning, Israel lost to Japan 8-3 and ended its fairy tale journey in this tournament. (And messed up my bracket in the process.) Tonight, the teams representing Venezuela and the USA will face off in what should be a pretty tight race.

Before tonight’s game in Tampa, the Yankees honored a local organization, Blanket Tampa Bay as a promo for this season’s HOPE Week. Providing blankets and other basic needs to homeless and poor in the area, Blanket Tampa Bay serves over a thousand people year-round. The Yankees honored founders Beth and Ray Ross (Beth also threw out the ceremonial first pitch) and donated $10,000 to Blanket Tampa Bay. The Yankees will celebrate HOPE Week in New York May 22-26.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 19: NYY vs. TB — Like sands in an hour glass…

Sometimes, it’s just an inning that makes all the difference. In this afternoon’s game, the Yankees drove south to visit the Rays at their Spring home in Port Charlotte (south of Sarasota on the Gulf Coast of Florida), and after a pretty good start, it took a single messy inning to completely shifts the game away from the Yankees’ favor. And then it’s just gone.

Luis Severino got the start and continued what is a pretty solid Spring for him so far. In his 3 innings, he gave up just 2 hits, a walk, and a run, and struck out 4 Rays’ batters. It was his 2nd inning that was a bit messy for the starter, a solo shot to right field got the Rays on the board, and he later loaded the bases with a double, a walk, and a fielding error before getting out of the jam.

Actually, the Yankees’ offense gave Severino a pretty nice lead to work under. In the 1st inning, Gary Sanchez hit a big 1-out solo home run, his 4th homer of the Spring so far to kick things off. Bird followed that up with a hit just inches shy of his own homer, settling for a nice triple, but he was later left stranded there. In the 2nd, Clint Frazier led-off with a single, stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Gleyber Torres’ great double. Torres then scored on Ronald Torreyes’ solid single.

Severino handed the mound over to Niese, who held things together through the 4th inning, but then gave up a lead-off walk in the 5th (his only allowed base runner). So, it was on to Johnny Barbato, who clearly was having quite the off-day. His first batter hit a 2-run home run to tie up the game for the Rays. Then with 2 outs and 2 runners in the corners with a walk and single, a double scored both runners to give the Rays the lead, and a fielding error allowed the batter to end up at 3rd. Then a passed ball on a walk allowed that runner to score. After another allowed single, the Yankees called Barbato’s day done.

Enns continued the struggle himself, giving up a walk to load the bases and then walking in another run for the Rays before getting the much-needed strikeout to end the 5th inning. But he just couldn’t pull it together for the 6th inning either. With 1 out, he loaded the bases with 2 singles and a walk before walking in another run to cap off the Rays’ scoring.

Despite a 2-RBI single right off, Holder then found the momentum and closed out the 6th and threw a great 7th inning. And Gurka’s 8th inning was nearly flawless, a much-needed relief for Yankee Universe.

The Yankees did try to chip away at the Rays’ lead, but certainly fell short. Frazier ended up at 2nd on a bad fielding error to kick off the 6th inning before scoring as part of Torres’ 2-run homer. And in the 9th, with 1 out and 2 runners on base, Miguel Andujar singled home the lead runner before a double play ended any hopes for a Yankees’ rally.

Truthfully, as bad as the 5th and 6th innings were for the Yankees, it wasn’t like the Rays were all that better. They just spread out their error and mess and sloppy pitching through 9 innings, which made it all the worse.

Final score: 10-6 Rays

World Baseball Classic updates: last night, Venezuela beat Italy 4-3 to advance to the next round in San Diego, thanks to some pretty amazing 9th inning theatrics by both teams. And overnight, Cuba fell to Japan 5-8, which means that Japan is one game away from advancing to the next round. Tonight, the teams from Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico kick off that division at 9 pm EST in San Diego, and Netherlands faces Cuba in Tokyo at 11 pm EST.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: limited video links today, not that you really want to remember a good portion of the game for the Yankees. Sorry!}

Spring Game 14: CAN vs. NYY — A stop on their flight south for the Spring

It was a hot day today, under the sun in the aptly named “Sunshine State”. And for some odd reason, Steinbrenner Field was only about half-filled. The logic behind missing it is ridiculous — people seem to think it’s not a “real game” because Team Canada made a brief stop in Tampa before heading to Miami for the World Baseball Classic tomorrow. Well, hate to burst that bubble, but none of the games this month (none all over Florida or Arizona or part of the WBC) are actually “real games”. They’re all technically exhibition games.

Plus, those silly people missed out on a great game.

Luis Severino got the nod to start today’s game, with much of what could be the Opening Day line-up behind him. He got into a bit of trouble, still shaking off the rust of the off-season in the 1st inning. A lead-off walk scored as part of a 1-out 2-run home run. And with 2 outs, a double moved to 3rd on a fielding error to put another threat on base before Severino got out with a nice strikeout. His 2nd inning was much cleaner and kept the Canadians to those 2 runs.

Graham came on in the 3rd to breeze through the boys in bright red, and Chapman threw an amazing 4th inning — 12 pitches, 10 strikes, all 3 outs were strikeouts. Reliever Johnny Barbato also had a pretty stellar outing in the 5th and 6th innings, save a lingering pitch that found its way to bounce off the big black screen in center field. Barbato racked up his own 3 strikeouts in his 2 innings.

Enns followed Barbato’s suit and kept things going in his 2 innings, save his own allowed solo home run in the 8th inning. And Jonathan Holder’s 9th inning was a quick finish of Team Canada, adding one more strikeout to what would end up at 14 total strikeouts by the Yankees’ pitching staff today.

On the flip side of things, the Yankees matched that number with as many total hits in their offense against the Canadian pitching staff. After being down 2-0 going into the bottom of the 1st, the Yankees came back to tie things up. Ellsbury hit a 1-out double, and then Matt Holliday hit a 2-out, 2-run home run into the right field seats.

In the 3rd, Gary Sanchez led off the inning by breaking the tie with a big solo shot over the camera tower of the center field fence. Two outs later and Castro on 1st with a walk, Chase Headley smacked a deep triple to score Castro. Then Aaron Hick hit a pop-up ball that eked over the left field fence for a 2-run home run to give the Yankees a healthy lead.

In the bottom of the 6th, Hicks singled, stole 2nd, and moved to 3rd on Mateo’s single. After Mateo stole 2nd for himself, Kozma worked a walk to load the bases. Dustin Fowler singled to score Hicks, but kept the bases loaded. Two outs and a pitching change later, Saez reached base on a bad fielding error, which allowed both Mateo and Kozma to score and moved the 2 remaining runners up to scoring position, but a strikeout ended that hope. Kyle Higashioka capped off the Yankees’ scoring today in the 8th with a big solo home run over the upper deck out in left field.

Final: 10-4 Yankees.

Player of the Game: honestly, I’ve got to give that today to Rob Refsnyder. He entered the game with all the other replacement players in the 6th and just commanded the infield, making nearly every play that even remotely came near him with the finesse we haven’t seen from him in a long time. Plus, he got a really great single, going 1-for-2 in his offense today. Running a close second would be relievers Johnny Barbato and Jonathan Holder for their really good outings from the mound this afternoon.

And in World Baseball Classic News: late last night, Cuba blanked China 6-0; early this morning, Japan beat Australia 4-1, and the Netherlands eked out a victory against Chinese Taipei with a walk-off in the 9th, ending in a 6-5 score. The Yankees’ own Didi Gregorius played a huge part in the Netherlands’ victory, serving as the team’s designated hitter, going 3-for-4, with 3 RBIs and 2 runs scored. Honestly, Gregorius’ contributions are the reason why the Netherlands won the game.

Late tonight, the Netherlands take on the team representing Israel (10 pm EST), and early tomorrow morning, South Korea takes on Chinese Taipei (4:30 am EST) and Australia faces China (5 am EST). Closer to home, the two pools in our hemisphere begin tomorrow night. In Miami, Team Canada (fresh off their loss today) facing off reigning WBC champs from the Domincan Republic (broadcast begins at 6 pm EST), and in Jalisco, host team Mexico faces Italy (9 pm EST).

Go Yankees!

{Media note: apparently, the powers-that-be agree with the other half of the stadium that opted out of today’s game, so the cameras were off, allowing you to imagine the great events of the game. Sorry!}

Spring Game 9: NYY vs. TOR — Prospective hopes, walk-off loss #2

Okay, so apparently, when the Yankees lose games this Spring, they do it at away games by allowing the home team to do so in a walk-off. I’d say it’s gracious, but really, it’s just frustrating.

Luis Severino started for the Yankees this cool afternoon at the Blue Jays spring home, just across Tampa Bay. Severino’s lone problem inning was his first, allowing his lone walk to score as part of a big 2-run home run to get the Blue Jays on the board. But following that, no one would do much of anything for most of the game. Johnny Barbato took over for Severino in the middle of the 3rd, got out of a jam, and breezed his way through 6 outs, setting the pace for the rest of the game.

The rest of the pitching roster maintained that momentum, just waiting for the Yankees offense to do something. Anything really. Actually, in total, the Yankees and Blue Jays were pretty much paired off evenly. Both teams racked up 7 total hits, worked 2 walks, and nearly matched the same number of strikeouts (9 by Yankee pitchers, 7 by Toronto pitchers).

But the problem is always the runs. The Yankees didn’t cross the plate until the very last opportunity, the 9th inning. With 1 out, Castillo singled and Diaz doubled, getting runners in scoring position (and pinch-runner Wade in for Diaz). So infield rookie Ji-Man Choi singled home both runners to tie up the game and force a bottom of the 9th inning.

All those Canadian tourists must have been praying a little hard, especially as the Blue Jays were looking for only their second win this Spring, because the second batter smacked a really big solo home run for a celebratory walk-off win for the Blue Jays.

Final score: 3-2 Blue Jays

Some good news for the Yankees organization. named the Yankees farm system the 2nd best farm system in MLB (just behind the Braves), and anyone who’s been watching the kids in the minor leagues for any length of time (even just this Spring) can vouch for that fact.

The system is packed with talent — Frazier, Kaprielian, Mateo, McKinney, Andujar, and Torres. And we’ve seen the results of the system make their debuts last year and impact the direction of the Yankees in incredible ways in the likes of Judge, Austin, and Sanchez, all three of whom are expected to be on the 25-man roster come Opening Day. (That list includes Austin, who is currently out nursing his broken foot, with hopes of returning in April.)

I remember talking to a friend a couple of years ago, towards the end of Spring Training that year. She was questioning if I thought the Yankees were going to do much that year. I admitted that they would compete hard like they always do, but I just didn’t see them as the championship team they needed to be champions come October (and they weren’t). But I told her to hang on a few seasons because the kids I was watching in Spring were just phenomenal. I’m not sure she really believed me then, but based on some recent online posts, I know she believes me now.

Sometimes, it’s hard to see any good when all you’re shown is the bad. But that’s why paying attention to Spring is so vital. You can see the future on display in all its glory. And I gotta tell you, the future is looks really good. And the future is happening sooner rather than later, folks. Hang on to your hats; this is going to be something to watch.

Go Yankees!

Game 110: CLE vs. NYY — Steamy Saturday and former teams

Okay, this afternoon, the Indians finally played like I expected them to play — division leaders. And honestly, if not for a few lucky pitches, it would have been quite a struggle for them on this steamy Saturday afternoon in the Bronx. Somewhere, I can hear the crying sobs of my Cleveland relatives as they come to the realization that October baseball may be slipping from them once again.

Yes, it was not as pleasant a day today in New York for many reasons. The sky was overcast with peeking sunlight that kind of sat heavy and muggy around the bowl of Yankee Stadium as it so often does on such days in the summer. Fans dream that someday someone will invent a giant ceiling fan of sorts to get the air kind of circulating rather than just sitting there on the nearly 40,000 guests in the Bronx.

Digressions aside, there was also a game played this afternoon. CC Sabathia got the start. I find it funny that people still associate Sabathia with the Indians as if he just got traded or something and not signed with the Yankees say 8 years ago. By the end of this season, he will have been a Yankee longer than he ever was an Indian as he was traded to the Brewers mid-season in 2008 before signing with New York just before the 2009 championship season. Just needed to clear that up. (This isn’t like a LeBron thing, despite the similarities.)

Anyway, Sabathia kind of had a rough outing. When asked in his post-game press conference, Girardi summed it up, “He was in bad counts today and figured out how to get out of a lot of situations… eventually it caught up to him.” In his 100 pitches just shy of 6 innings, Sabathia gave up 6 hits, 4 walks, and 3 runs, striking out 5 batters. Sabathia kept things under control for the first part of the game, and the Indians only broke through in the 4th with a lead-off solo home run.

But then in the 5th, a batter hit by a pitch was caught going to 2nd by the sharp eye of catcher Gary Sanchez. Then a walked batter ended up at 2nd on a ground out before scoring on an RBI single. A 1-out solo home run in the 6th started spelling the end for Sabathia tonight, and with 2 runners on base and 2 outs on the board, the bullpen call went to Anthony Swarzak to get the strikeout to end the inning.

Swarzak had his own trouble with a 1-out solo shot in the 7th and was replaced by Chasen Shreve who promptly shut things down through the 7th and 2 outs in the 8th to be replaced by Nick Goody. Goody came back out in the 9th where a 1-out walk scored on an RBI single to give the Indians a hefty lead and end Goody’s night. Dellin Betances closed things out with 2 of his nasty strikeouts, but not before the Indians threatened with a single and 2 stolen bases putting runners in scoring position.

The Yankees’ offense was virtually silent in comparison to last night. Facing the Indians’ starter’s just 100 pitches, the Yankees only got 5 hits and a walk in his 8 innings, and struck out 8 times. The only time they scored runs all night was far too early in the game. In the 2nd inning, Castro hit a 1-out single and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s double. Hicks moved runners to the corners, and a wild pitch scored Sanchez for the Yankees second and final run of the game.

In the bottom of the 9th, the Yankees faced their recently traded former teammate, who basically threw what is a standard inning for him and got his first save for the Indians. Someone called me during the 9th inning to comment that the pitcher was wearing the wrong uniform, and they didn’t like to watch him pitch for any other team. I reminded the caller that it’s part of baseball, he wasn’t always a Yankee, and it wouldn’t have been my choice either.

Final score: 5-2 Cleveland.

Scranton Shuttle: Before the game, the Yankees recalled Chasen Shreve, who pitched in today’s game. They optioned Johnny Barbato back to AAA Scranton to free up the roster spot.

Go Yankees!

Game 109: CLE vs. NYY — The Force is strong in the midst of the grand slam of “Texit”

What an emotional day! And I have to say that Star Wars night was almost completely overshadowed. Which is a feat in and of itself means that “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

First things first, Mark Teixeira announced in his pre-game press conference that as his contract is up with the Yankees at the end of the 2016 season, he will officially be hanging up his cleats for good. Yes, as of March 2017, Mark Teixeira’s duties will include driving his kids’ carpool, playing bad rounds of golf, complaining about Georgia Tech’s next terrible season, and figuring out who to back in March Madness. Folks, we are in the middle of “Texit”. (And if you don’t get international political jokes, expand your reading from sports blogs.)

But there was also the weekend opener against Cleveland, “one of the best teams in baseball”, as certain family members keep reminding me. And I will say that tonight probably both explained why they were on top of the AL Central and why my relatives may not have many bragging rights at Thanksgiving. Basically, they did hit a lot (11 total hits) and get on base and score plenty of runs (which doesn’t say a lot for the Yankee pitching staff, I know), but they just didn’t count on the Force that drives the Yankees sometimes.

We’ll get to the Yankee offense in a minute, but it was certainly enough to give Michael Pineda a little breathing room. Not that he needed it much as he certainly fended off the Indians’ offense for the most part until the 5th inning. With 2 outs and a runner on 1st, a double moved runners to scoring position where a 3-run home run got the Indians on the board finally. A lead-off double in the 7th ended Pineda’s rather stellar night — throwing 97 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up just 6 hits and a walk, responsible for 4 runs, and struck out 6 Cleveland batters.

With Bleier now in for Pineda, that runner moved to 3rd on the first out and then scored on the next (hence, the 4 earned runs). Clippard came on to get 2 runners on base with a single and a hit-by-pitch but got out with a quick pop up to close the 7th inning.

Johnny Barbato had much less luck in the 8th inning. Though “in my experience, there is no such thing as luck.” Barbato gave up a walk and 2 singles to score the next Indians’ run, before loading up the bases and passed the ball off to Adam Warren to clean up the no-outs mess of the 8th inning. A single scored another run but kept the bases loaded. A strikeout gave the Yankees a new hope, and despite a sacrifice fly that scored yet another run, the “Evil Empire” struck back with a nice strike out to end the threat of the 8th inning, which Goody carried through in the 9th to keep the Indians from adding to their hefty score.

And a giving up 7 runs to their opponent on a normal night would seem rather detrimental, but this is Star Wars night and the beginning of “Texit”. And on a night that featured an R2-D2 and other characters and the opponents pictures as stormtroopers, tonight was bound to be a bit different.

In the 1st inning, with 1 out, Jacoby Ellsbury singled, moved to 3rd on Teixeira’s double (in the midst of a big cheer and standing ovation from the crowd), and then scored on Brian McCann’s ground out to get the Yankees on the board early. And in the 3rd, again with 1 out, Ellsbury doubled and ended up at 3rd on Teixeira’s single before scoring on McCann’s double. The Indians’ starter intentionally walked Headley, and in hindsight might have been his worst move all night. Because the player with the word “star” in his name had to do something awesome on Star Wars night. In this case, it would be Starlin Castro’s 1st career grand slam right into section 103 over the right field fence.

Then into the 5th inning, with 2 outs and Castro on base with a walk, he scored on Gary Sanchez’s double and forced the starter out of the game early. But it was time to go, having the Yankees dent into his rather nice statistics. But the Yankees didn’t seem to notice the change, and in the 6th, with 2 outs and Teixeira and McCann on base with walks, Chase Headley’s singles scored Teixeira, and Castro’s walk loaded the bases. Another walk to Sanchez walked in McCann before the Indians got out of that inning.

Aaron Hicks led-off the 7th inning with a solo shot to left field, and after Brett Gardner tripled, the Indians went again to their bullpen. Ellsbury’s single then scored Gardner due to some sloppy fielding. In the 8th, with 2 outs and Castro at 2nd after a single and wild pitch, the reliever intentionally walked Refsnyder and then balked to moved both runners to scoring position. He then unintenionally walked Hicks to load the bases. Then Gardner’s single scored them both to cap off the Yankees’ scoring tonight, which read: 1-0-5-0-1-2-2-2-x. (I was told later that 10501 is a Westchester zip code, part of the tri-state area of New York City.)

27 total hits, 12 walks, and 20 runs. Not exactly a good reflection of either pitching staff if you think about it. But the true phantom menace was the Yankee staff that got 10 strikeouts to the Indians’ mere 4. Every single Yankee starter tonight contributed to the Yankee offense, all but 1 scored at least 1 run, and only 2 didn’t earn RBIs. Bascially, for all the “best” the Indians are this season, the Yankees showed they were still rather fierce competitors. Never underestimate them. I mean, if a beat-up old ship like the Millennium Falcon can make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs, anything is possible.

Final score: 13-7 Yankees.

Yes, Teixeira is retiring, and when I heard the news today, I was really sad. And with all the recent retirements over my tenure doing this blog, the only one I can compare it to is Andy Pettitte (who was on hand today to throw batting practice again, and can someone give this man a job as a coach with the Yankees already?). As the broadcasters seem to all agree, Teixeira is one of those good guys in baseball, both on and off the field, and he and his family will be greatly missed as fixtures in Yankee Universe.

{Media links: Teixeira’s full press conference here.}

On Monday, a guest blogger will do a special post on Teixeira and his contributions to baseball as a Yankee. Check back on the off-day for more on “Texit”.

(Also, kudos if you caught all the Star Wars references; there would’ve been way more, but Texit kind of consumed most of the day, which is ironic as there’s no way the 1980’s fanatic Teixeira would ever want to do anything to take away from the iconic franchise.)

Go Yankees!

Game 108: NYM vs. NYY — Split rivalry & (neon) shades of 1995

And the final game of the 20th incarnation (during the regular season) of the Subway Series is in the books, and it ended in a split. And a split at both parks. Yes, the Yankees won and lost in both New York parks, as did the Mets. It’s a rather anti-climatic actually. It’s kind of how soccer (or football to my non-American readers) can end in a tie. Except in most soccer/football leagues a tie still gets you a point on the running scale.

Okay, for my American readers: a win gets you 3 points and a loss is scored at 0 points, and the team with the most points scored overall on the scale is considered the winner of that league. (It’s kind of how they used to do the American college football rankings.)

Anyway, my point is splitting a series doesn’t mean anything, so it’s less thrilling in the scheme of things.

So the Yankees sent up Nathan Eovaldi to the mound, and honestly, he kept things strong through most of his 7 innings until the Mets broke through in the 5th. Other than that inning, Eovaldi gave up just 2 hits and 2 walks and struck out 4 batters in his other 6 innings. But it would be that lone inning that made all the difference for the Mets and for the game. A solo home run started things off, but then a 1-out double and a failed double play attempt (officially a “fielder’s choice”) on both bags got 2 runners on base so that a 2-out 3-run home run solidified the Mets’ lead.

The Mets never scored again. Adam Warren’s 8th and Anthony Swarzak’s 9th were rather clean and kept the Mets from adding to their lead, waiting for the Yankee bats to pick up. And it’s not like they were exactly silent. The Yankees collected 9 hits and just 3 strikeouts in this game, but they didn’t cross the plate until the 7th inning. Gary Sanchez hit a 1-out double (his first MLB extra base hit), and then after a pitching change, Aaron Hicks’ 2-out single scored Sanchez for the Yankees’ lone run of the evening.

The Yankees fought to do a last-minute rally in the 9th, even getting 2 runners on base with singles, but a double play ended their attempts at adding to their score.

Final score: 4-1 Mets, Yankees and Mets split the series 2-2.

Scranton Shuttle: before the game, the Yankees recalled Johnny Barbato and optioned Chad Green back to AAA Scranton. Now, this makes a hole in the rotation which logically will be filled by Luis Severino, especially after his dynamic performance last night.

Well, the Yankees host the Indians this weekend in the Bronx, beginning with Star Wars night tomorrow. Now, the Indians are in 1st place in the AL Central, 2nd in the AL, and 4th overall. And no, it’s not 1995, but there are definitely members of my family that are very happy. In the mean time, the Yankees are holding strong at .500, 4th place in the AL East but middle of the pack in the AL and overall.

Yep, so it sounds like it could be 1995 to me. That wasn’t a good year for me the first time around. (Though to be fair, the Yankees did get the Wild Card that year because unlike this season, the rest of the division except Boston was terrible.) So if we get a do-over, can we have another year? Like say 1998? I liked 1998. That was a good year.

Now, any Yankee fan worth their salt will understand that sentiment. Okay, so I’m feeling nostalgic tonight… it’s my way of remaining positive, so stay with me, and we’ll get back to a 1998-ish season one of these days.

Go Yankees!