Game 86: NYY vs. TOR — Early power wins game, with ejections & injuries

In comparison to much of the country right now, the Queen City is having some nice (and fairly standard) summer weather for this Saturday afternoon and middle game of this weekend series. The roof of Rogers Centre open to the blue skies and the Yankees ready to bounce back after last night’s game set up a great game for their fans in the Toronto area.

Luis Severino got the start and actually had a lesser outing than previous ones, despite earning his 14th win and keeping the Blue Jays from doing too much damage. He threw 97 pitches in 5 innings, gave up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, and struck out just 5 batters. In the 2nd, with 1 out and a runner on 1st with a single, a 2-run home run got the Blue Jays on the board. And a 1-out solo homer in the 4th added on another.

Jonathan Holder came on for the 6th, gave up a lead-off double that moved to 3rd on a single and then scored on a sacrifice fly. But then Robertson and Betances held the Jays scoreless through the next 2 innings. Aroldis Chapman got one strikeout in the 9th and then came out of the game (more below), handing things over to Chasen Shreve, who despite giving up a solo home run, still got out of the inning rather quickly. Shreve appears to be bouncing back, at least somewhat, thanks to less-pressured situations.

Meanwhile, the Yankees’ offense started strong and stayed strong beginning with a 1st pitch home run right up the middle by Brett Gardner. Aaron Judge followed that up with a solo home run of his own. Stanton and Hicks each worked walks before the Jays’ starter finally got a couple of outs. Then Brandon Drury hit a long double that scored both Stanton and Hicks to double the Yankees’ early score.

Then in the 3rd, Gregorius led-off with a walk. After 2 outs (and the ejection of CC Sabathia, for chirping at the umpire over the questionable strike zone), Gregorius stole 2nd, and Bird worked a walk. As the Jays’ starter exited the game, he was almost ejected, but his manager instead took his fate (for the same reason as Sabathia actually). But the new reliever gave up a quick triple to Brett Gardner (the fastest triple in 2018, by the way) that scored Gregorius and Bird. A passed ball easily allowed Gardner to later score.

But then the Blue Jays’ pitching staff was able to piece together their relievers to keep the Yankees from adding to their impressive lead. Until the 9th inning. Andujar led-off with a ground-rule double and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ single. That insurance run was eventually unnecessary, but it certainly put a cap on the Yankees’ offensive show today (9 total hits, 10 total walks).

Final score: 8-5 Yankees

Roster moves: before the game, the Yankees recalled Clint Frazier and designated reliever David Hale for assignment. After being sent to AAA in anticipation for Monday’s coming doubleheader, pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga developed inflammation in his right shoulder and is probably headed for the disabled list. That leaves Luis Cessa on tap for the second game of the doubleheader in Baltimore now.

Okay, so two potential injuries during the game: after 6 pitches in the 9th, Aroldis Chapman, who’s been battling tendinitis in his left knee, was feeling some intense pain there and Boone figured it wasn’t worth the risk as the Yankees were so far ahead. And Aaron Hicks left the game in the 5th due to some cramping in his left leg.

Stadiums with artificial turf are often the source of problems, even temporary ones, for many players. The only 2 remaining stadiums in MLB are Rogers Centre (Blue Jays) and Tropicana Field (Rays), unfortunately for all players in the AL East, as division rivals play each other more than any other team.

In general, real grass surfaces have a natural give, but artificial turf has either a stiffer base or one that is too spongy. Think of the difference of beaches like Daytona (where you can literally drive onto the sand) vs. Clearwater (more like quicksand, that sinks under every step). Neither of those really work well for anything more than sunbathing, even sand castles are difficult because it’s either too dense or too soft of a foundation. But a mix (like the Pacific Coast beaches) allows for running, volleyball, soccer games, and general beach athletics (and great sand castles!).

Go Yankees!

Game 82: ATL vs. NYY — 11th inning oopsie

The Yankees had a ridiculous amount of opportunities to make the difference of the game, pretty consistently throughout, and yet didn’t do much along the lines of the Yankees’ offense this past weekend. They ended up leaving 12 runners in scoring position in the game, mostly in the latter half.

Jonathan Loaisiga got the start in tonight’s opener against the Braves, throwing 92 pitches in just 4 innings, giving up 5 hits and 3 runs, and striking out just 3 Atlanta batters. The lead-off batter in the 3rd hit a solo shot to get the Braves on the board. Then in the 4th, with 1 out, Loaisiga gave up 3 consecutive doubles that scored 2 more runs for Atlanta.

The Yankees actually got on the board first with Aaron Judge’s 1-out solo home run in the 1st. Then Gleyber Torres led-off the 3rd with a double, advanced to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on another wild pitch. In the 5th, with 1 out, the Yankees began putting runners in scoring position by loading the bases with Torres’ single and 2 walks to Gardner and Judge. Didi Gregorius’ sacrifice fly scored Torres (and tie up the game), but a pop-up out ended that opportunity.

So, after Loaisiga’s night ended, the Yankees got 2 innings each out of both Holder and Green. And Aroldis Chapman’s 9th inning was just amazing, 10 of his 18 pitches were over 100 mph (2 were 104 mph). But with the game tied, the extra innings became inevitable. Betances allowed 2 baserunners and still got out of the 10th inning unscathed.

But then in the 11th, David Robertson got his chance and would have succeeded except for some defensive issues. The lead-off batter made it safely to 1st on a fielding error, but then he was out on a ground out that failed to convert to a double play. The next batter hit a long fly ball to right-center field and Judge didn’t jump in time to grab the ball. It bounced in his glove and then on the top of the back wall for a 2-run home run.

Final score: 5-3 Braves, in 11 innings

Scranton Shuttle (roster moves): Following the game, and the depleted bullpen, the Yankees sent Jonathan Loaisiga to AAA, and reactivated AJ Cole after a brief rehab stint. The Yankees have a doubleheader next Monday in Baltimore, which means they can carry a 26th man on their roster. Logically then, Loaisiga will be back for those games.

In fun Yankee Universe News: the Yankees just signed Luis Severino’s 19-year-old brother Rafael, as part of the international signing period. The younger Severino is part of an academy in their native Dominican Republic and has a pitching arm that regularly throws in the upper 80s. The elder brother is super excited and brags on his younger sibling’s work ethic and potential. Two Severinos with the Yankees? Yes, please!

These are the final days for the All-Star Game voting on the starters for the game. So it’s time now to get your final votes in and have your voice heard. Fans have until July 5 (Thursday) at 11:59 pm EST to vote for their favorites. The All-Star Game is Tuesday, July 17. And it looks like Aaron Judge is one of the front-runners to start in the outfield, and the chances for Severino or perhaps one of the outstanding relievers for other representation in D.C.

Go Yankees!

Game 76: NYY vs. PHI — Some “Brotherly Love” for a rookie pitcher, a fan, and a “rookie” batter

The Yankees began their series in the City of Brotherly Love and showed some love to their fans in the area in many ways. Aaron Judge played catch with a fan in the right field seats, later commenting on the good arm on the kid. Plus, their rookie pitcher threw a scoreless 5 innings.

Jonathan Loaisiga threw 86 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up just 1 hit and 2 walks, and struck out 8 Phillies batters. In other words, he had another great night from the mound and earned his 2nd win in as many starts. David Robertson took over for him in the 6th and continued into the 7th with some trouble. He gave up a lead-off walk that moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a 1-out single.

After another strikeout, the Yankees turned to Dellin Betances, who closed out the 7th with a strong strikeout, walked 2 players in the 8th, and still got his 3 outs unscathed. Aroldis Chapman got out of Betances’ 8th inning jam. And after 2 solid strikeouts in the 9th, he gave up a solo home run before getting a final strikeout to earn his 23rd save.

The Yankees got on the board early. In the 2nd, Bird led-off with a walk, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, and then scored on Gleyber Torres’ double. Later, Aaron Judge hit a great 2-out solo home run in the 5th to double the Yankees’ lead.

And in the 8th, the Yankees loaded up the bases with Gardner’s single, Judge’s walk, and Gregorius’ single. And with no outs, the Phillies changed pitchers again. But he promptly gave up a long single to Giancarlo Stanton. Both Gardner and Judge scored, and then on an off-center throw, Gregorius and Stanton ended up in scoring position. But then the Phillies found their defense and got out without further injury.

Final score: 4-2 Yankees

It’s also worth conversing about the pitchers who hit during tonight’s game because it’s an NL park and it’s always awkward to watch AL pitchers try to hit. Loaisiga, of course, got the most at-bats (2), but struck out both times. But then, because of the rotation, Dellin Betances got an at-bat in the 8th inning — he struck out in 3 pitches, 1 called strike, 2 swinging strike. I know it probably shouldn’t be, but between waving his bat like Gary Sheffield and just swinging away, it was hilarious.

If anyone wants to know how I feel about the designated hitter, just know that I was born after 1973 (when the DH was formally introduced), was raised on AL teams, and just watched a reliever swat away at perfect strikes that most teenagers would hit in batting cages.

Roster moves: Like I said yesterday, the Yankees announced today that Gary Sanchez will be placed on the 10-day disabled list with right groin strain. Technically, he will be out for 3-4 weeks, so he might miss most of next month, which would include the All-Star Game should he be voted or selected to attend.

They also opted outfielder Clint Frazier back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In those two spots, they recalled catcher Kyle Higashioka and reliever Giovanny Gallegos. Higashioka makes sense, as Romine will need some back-up as he slides into Sanchez’s starting position. But based on recent usage of the bullpen and the health of the outfield, the Frazier-Gallegos exchange makes sense.

Go Yankees!

Game 71: SEA vs. NYY — Comeback and walk-off, because… Yankees.

After his stellar MLB debut, the Yankees were hoping for a repeat performance from rookie Jonathan Loaisiga. But he had a hard time controlling the Mariners’ offense in tonight’s middle game of this series against the visiting team from Seattle. Loaisiga spent the first 3 innings getting himself into and out of jams.

But in the 4th, he gave up a lead-off walk that scored thanks to a single and a really bad throwing error. After a fielder’s choice, he then gave up a double that moved the runners to scoring position. A strikeout later, Loaisiga’s pitch count was already at 84 in the middle of the 4th inning, giving up 6 hits, 2 walks, and a run (and responsible for those 2 runners on base).

Chasen Shreve came on in relief of the rookie and promptly gave up a single to score both of those runners (charged to Loaisiga’s record). But Shreve continued the struggle in the 5th inning. With 1 out, he put runners in scoring position too with a single and double, that then scored on a sacrifice fly and a single.

After finding his pace again in the 6th, Holder closed out that inning before sailing his way through the 7th and 8th innings to limit the Mariners’ runs. Chapman continued Holder’s momentum with a solid 10-pitch 9th inning, all while waiting for the Yankees to catch up and surpass their visitors.

For the first 5 innings, the strong Yankee batters faced the Mariners’ star ace pitcher, and he limited the Yankees from doing much in their own house. In fact, he held them off until the 5th inning, when the Yankees were already down by 5 runs. Andujar hit a 1-out double, Hicks worked a 2-out walk, and Aaron Judge’s single and a missed catch error scored both runners to get the Yankees on the board.

The Mariners’ initial reliever shut the Yankees down in the 6th before they continued to chip away at the Mariners’ lead. In the 7th, Frazier led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on Judge’s 1-out single, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ sacrifice fly. Gleyber Torres led-off the 8th with a walk, and then Gary Sanchez hit a great 2-run home run to tie up the game and electrify the Bronx.

After Chapman’s fantastic top of the 9th with the game now tied, the fans were buzzing with anticipation. But a quick 2 outs had extra innings looming. Then Gregorius singled and hope came alive again. Giancarlo Stanton stepped into the batter’s box, and with his mixed offense this season, fans were feeling mixed about whether to hold out enough hope. Stanton hit a 2-run walk-off home run anyway, his 1st walk-off as a Yankee, and the 23rd comeback win for the team.

Final score: 7-5 Yankees

Minor injury news: Brett Gardner has been dealing with a minor injury since this weekend. During the game against the Rays on Saturday, he found that his right knee was sore and inflamed. Because the MRI came back clean, the Yankees have been keeping him on the bench in hopes to avoid putting him on the DL.

Technically, the veteran outfielder could play in any of these games, because Gardner’s leg would have to be practically falling off to stop him from playing, but before it gets that far, they are hoping some rest and care avoids such a necessity. Especially with solid players on the roster (like Frazier, Judge, Hicks, and Stanton, among others).

Finally, the Yankees are mourning the loss of former pitching coach Billy Connors. After a minor career with the Cubs and Mets in the mid-1960s, Connors was hired as pitching coach with the Yankees for 5 seasons (1989-1990, 1994-1995, and 2000), making him a crucial cog in the careers of Dwight Gooden, Orlando Hernandez, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera. He also served as VP of player personnel at the minor league complex in Tampa (1996-2012), specifically with young pitchers.

Before the game, the Yankees held a moment of silence in his honor. Their released statement states our collective feelings in Yankee Universe: “The Yankees organization mourns the passing of Billy Connors, who was a close and trusted friend of my family for many years. Since joining the Yankees at the conclusion of the 1988 season, Billy contributed to the organization in countless ways over his long career as a pitching coach, executive and advisor. On behalf of the Yankees and the Steinbrenner family, I extend our deepest condolences to Billy’s family, friends and loved ones.”

Go Yankees!

Game 65: TB vs. NYY — Rookie start, rookie win

Jonathan Loaisiga had a great start in tonight’s game against the visiting Rays, the second game in their 4-game weekend series. He threw 91 pitches in his 5 scoreless innings, gave up just 3 hits and 4 walks, and struck out 6 Rays’ batters. Holder, Robertson, Betances, and Warren each took an inning to keep the Rays scoreless.

Meanwhile, the Yankee batters faced a former teammate and really did hold them off most of the game. In the 3rd, Didi Gregorius hit a 2-out solo home run to get the Yankees on the board, breaking the scoreless tie at that point. Then in the 6th, Judge led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on Gregorius’ single (thanks to a messy defense), and then scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s sacrifice fly to double the Yankees’ lead.

The Rays’ starter continued on into the 8th inning, but with 1 out, he loaded up the bases with singles to Judge and Gregorius and intentionally walking Stanton. That was it for his night, so the Rays went to their bullpen for the final 2 outs of the inning. However, in between those outs, Gary Sanchez smacked a deep double scoring all 3 runners to ensure the Yankees’ victory.

Final score: 5-0 Yankees

HOPE Week Day 5: The Yankees concluded their 10th Annual HOPE Week partnering with Mark Bustos, the founder of “Be Awesome to Somebody“. A successful, high-end hairdresser, Bustos was visiting family in the Philippines 6 years ago when he got a random idea to set-up a sort of “pop-up salon” to give free haircuts to the homeless kids he saw roaming the streets. A fresh haircut can give someone a sense of dignity and self-care that might be missing in someone who cannot afford something so simple as a haircut.

Bustos travels the world for work, and wherever he visits, he connects with the local homeless to give them free haircuts. So, in a rare day-off, he connected with the YMCA in Harlem and the New York Yankees to give haircuts to New York’s homeless community. Miguel Andujar, Aroldis Chapman, Domingo German, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, Ronald Torreyes, and catching coach Jason Brown represented the Yankees at the event, later inviting Bustos to throw out the first pitch before tonight’s game.

Again, this whole week has been about thinking beyond one’s self and extending kindness into the world in some pretty cool and creative ways. It once again serves as a reminder to continue the Yankees’ example and find outlets to show kindness in your own community and sphere. They’re out there, and they’re waiting for you. So go and be kind, spread kindness, because kindness matters.

Go Yankees!

Game 64: TB vs. NYY — 5th inning solutions

The Yankees began their long weekend series against the Rays tonight. And Domingo German finally rediscovered his momentum, thanks in part to a few precise hits from Yankee batters, and earned his first career win. German threw 91 pitches in 6 innings, gave up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, and struck out an impressive 10 Rays’ batters.

It didn’t start out so well for German. His first pitch of the game became a solo home run to get the Rays on the board early. But then he followed that up with 3 straight strikeouts to end the inning.

Actually, he would get 7 straight outs into the 3rd inning, and then he gave up a walk and a single. After another out, a batter singled and scored the lead runner. But the second runner tried to score too and was thrown out by Stanton’s strong arm from left field directly to Sanchez for the tag. Then in the 6th, a lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a single.

The Yankees answered back in the 5th inning. With 1 out, Aaron Hicks loved the first pitch he saw and fired it deep for a solid home run. Judge singled, and Sanchez worked a 2-out walk. They would both then score on Gleyber Torres’ big 3-run home run, his 13th career (and this season) homer, his 5th 3-run homer. That put the Yankees on top to stay.

After German’s 6 innings, the Yankees looked to their bullpen to close out the game. Green, Betances, and Chapman each took an inning and kept the Rays from adding to their score and tying up the game.

Final score: 4-3 Yankees

Roster moves: the Yankees signed pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga from AA Trenton to fill Tanaka’s spot on the rotation. There has been a lot of talk about Loaisiga, who is a top prospect (#12 overall) in the Yankees’ organization. He will make his MLB debut tomorrow night against the Rays. To make room on the roster, the Yankees optioned Tyler Austin to AAA Scranton.

It’s worth remembering that it’s Austin’s name on the All-Star Game ballot because Bird was out for a good portion of the early season due to his ankle surgery. However, Bird is doing well once again at 1st, reverting Austin into a bench player. But he’ll play every day in Scranton.

HOPE Week Day 4: Today, the Yankees partnered with a great organization called “Wish of a Lifetime“. The non-profit, founded by a former US Olympic skier Jeremy Bloom, provides opportunities for senior citizens to cross off something amazing on their Bucket List. During his international skiing career, Bloom, always close with his own grandparents, witnessed how other nations treated their elders and wanted to figure out a way to build a culture of respect back in the U.S.

Using the similar model of  “Make A Wish”, “Wish of a Lifetime” is a welcome memory-creator for the most senior of our society. So, for today’s event, Bloom chose 87-year-old Sal Reale, who is a Korean War veteran, New York firefighter for 20 years, and life-long Yankees fan. Reale retired to the Tampa Bay area in 1977 and has wanted to revisit his old firehouse for over 40 years.

Reale, his son, and grandson were treated to a special welcome at FDNY Ladder 136 and then surprised by Tyler Austin, Greg Bird, Chad Green, Jonathan Holder, Chasen Shreve, and Adam Warren. They all had lunch, tried on fire gear, and listened to Reale’s stories about seeing Gehrig and DiMaggio play. The Yankees later took Reale and his family on a pregame Stadium tour which included the pregame press conference with manager Aaron Boone.

The Yankees also donated $10,000 to Wish of a Lifetime to continue their great work of making wishes come true for our amazing American seniors.

Go Yankees!