Spring Game 28: PHI vs. NYY — Friday night fireworks

A final game under the Friday night lights this Spring started with a slight chill in the air and ended with fireworks. Literally. The Yankees set off fireworks over the right field seats for the remaining fans in the cool night to ooh and aah over the short light show.

Of course, this was made extra special because the Yankees notched another win in the Spring tally tonight. After losing both road games, there’s something about that home field advantage that certainly seemed to help the pinstriped players in tonight’s game against the Phillies.

Jonathan Loaisiga made a fairly strong case for consideration for one of the open starting spots on the rotation, throwing into the 4th inning with 7 solid strikeouts. His lone issues were a 1-out solo shot in the 1st and a 2-out solo homer in the 3rd. Zack Britton threw 5 outs to follow him and kept the strong pitching from the Yankees’ side of things. Stephen Tarpley came on for just the final out of the 6th inning.

Adam Ottavino’s 7th inning continued that scoreless momentum, but David Hale had a bit of trouble in his 8th inning, giving up a lead-off single and walk. Two great strikeouts later, the next batter hit a deep single. But thanks to Trey Amburgey’s great arm in the left field and the relay back to the infield, the bases were only loaded, and the defense prevented at least one run from scoring. It was only a questionably called walk that scored the Phillies’ final run before Hale got yet another strikeout to get out of his jam. Then, his 9th was quick and flawless.

Meanwhile, the Yankees took some time to find their moments. Giancarlo Stanton got things started with a 2-out solo home run in the 3rd that just barely made it fair, just right of the left field foul pole. In the 5th, with 2 outs, Judge worked a walk and then scored on Stanton’s 2-run home run (back to that left field corner) to put the Yankees into the lead.

In the 6th, DJ LeMahieu hit a solid 1-out single, moved to 3rd on Urshela’s big double, and then scored the insurance run on a wild pitch. Then in the 7th, with 1 out, Zack Zehner walked and ended up at 3rd on Trey Amburgey’s big double. Luke Voit’s sacrifice fly scored Zehner and moved Amburgey to 3rd, partly because of an off-center throw from the outfield. A wild pitch then scored Amburgey to cap off the Yankees’ win.

Cue the fireworks!

Final score: 6-3 Yankees

One to Watch: We are getting to the point in the season where the minor league players play less, which makes this category difficult as there’s only so many plays and at-bats that can show off their stuff. But one name sticks out tonight — Trey Amburgey. In addition to scoring the Yankees’ final run of the night by rushing home on a wild pitch, he also showed off some great defense in left field by saving a run in the 8th.

Next up: The Yankees have their final home game of the Spring, hosting the Blue Jays for what should be a lovely Saturday afternoon of baseball.

Roster moves: Before today’s game, the Yankees made some roster moves of note. They reassigned pitchers Rex Brothers, Danny Coulombe, Phillip Diehl, and Drew Hutchison back to minor league camp. And they officially optioned Clint Frazier to AAA Scranton. This means that he is not making the 25-man roster. It’s a crowded outfield, even with Hicks still nursing his sore back. But you can imagine he’ll be the first call when something happens to one of those guys. He’ll be back in the Bronx shortly.

Injury news: On Wednesday, Special Advisor and Guest Instructor Lee Mazzilli was struck in the head with a baseball. He was helping with batting practice back in Tampa, while a large part of the team traveled to South Florida. He was immediately admitted to the hospital for tests and observations and was released today, said to be “in good spirits”. We’re all certainly glad he’s doing okay and hope he continues to recover and rest up.

Go Yankees!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final score: 5-3 Yankees

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

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

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

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

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

Final score: 7-3 Yankees

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

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

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 17: BAL vs. NYY — Definitely not a rout, a come-from-behind victory

Another cool night at Steinbrenner Field under the light watching the Yankees take on a divisional rival and battle it all the way to the end. It certainly didn’t lean in favor of the home team for much of the game, but it certainly wasn’t terrible. A hostile fan nearby even commented that he was upset over the Yankees’ “rout”. Which was a complete misnomer. The Yankees were behind, but only by 3 runs, still in “save” territory. It was never a rout. A rout is when one team beats the other by ridiculous scoring — like the 2007 Rangers defeating the Orioles 30-3.

Jonathan Loaisiga got the start for the Yankees tonight against the visiting Orioles and got roughed up a bit in his 2 innings. A lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt and then stole 3rd. A bad throwing error on that steal allowed the runner to score easily. But then he got 3 strikeouts in a row into the 2nd inning. Three consecutive singles scored one run, and a 2-out walk loaded up the bases. All three runners scored on a big double, and that runner scored on an RBI single.

Zack Britton came in to settle things down for the Yankees, nearly sailing through his 2 innings. Chapman and Green followed suit, each with a strong inning of their own. Jonathan Holder’s 7th would have been perfect except for a 2-out solo home run that allowed the Orioles to get one more run in tonight. Tarpley’s stint in the final 2 innings kept the O’s from adding any more.

The Yankees were definitely hitting far more than the Orioles, collecting 14 total hits tonight and spreading them out over the game. In the 1st, Gardner led-off with a walk and scored as part of Aaron Judge’s solid 2-run home run to get the Yankees on the board, and at that point, narrowly ahead of the Orioles.

In the 4th, down by those aforementioned 3 runs, with 1 out, Tulowitzki made it safely to 1st thanks to a bad throwing error. After another out, Brett Gardner smacked a 2-run home run to edge the Yankees closer to the leading Orioles. With 2 outs in the 5th, Andujar singled, was pinch-run by Wade, moved to 3rd on Sanchez’s single, and then scored on Greg Bird’s single.

As a sort of final ditch effort, the Yankees used a veteran pitcher’s off-day to their advantage in the 8th. Kyle Higashioka led-off with a big solo home run over the left field concourse. Then Saez’s single, Kyle Holder’s hit-by-pitch, and Florial’s 1-out single loaded the bases. The remaining fans were electrified, and all those organic chants and cheering were almost deafening at time.

Trey Amburgey works his way through a walk for Saez to score the tying run and keep the bases loaded. After a pitching change, Clint Frazier smacked a long sacrifice fly that scored the winning run — Kyle Holder.

Final score: 8-7 Yankees

One to Watch: I’m giving it again to Kyle Holder. Tonight, his defense at short stop was just outstanding. He was always where he needed to be to keep the Orioles from adding to their score in the latter part of the game. Plus, he got the honor of scoring the winning run. He’s just something to watch all Spring so far.

Next up: The Yankees will host the Phillies tomorrow night, with back-to-back home night games.

Roster moves: Every Spring, the Yankees always invite all 40 players on their regular roster. Plus, the ask members of the Yankees organization from around the minor leagues to come to camp and work out with the 40-man roster. In the process, those extra players get re-assigned to various minor league teams for the season, and some of the slots on the 40-man might shake up a bit.

So, last week, the cuts, options, and reassignments began. Lockers were emptied and players sent to minor league camp (that happens privately and simultaneously to the public Spring Training). Last Wednesday, the Yankees optioned pitcher Domingo Acevedo to AA Trenton and reassigned pitchers Brady Lail and Trevor Stephan to minor league camp.

Sunday, they optioned pitcher Albert Abreu to AA Trenton. And before today’s game, they optioned pitchers Chance Adams and Joe Harvey to AAA Scranton and reassigned pitchers Cale Coshow and Danny Farquhar and catcher Kellin Deglan to minor league camp. Then after tonight’s game, they optioned Thairo Estrado to AAA Scranton and reassigned Trey Amburgey and Mike Ford to minor league camp.

Many of these faces I expect we’ll see again, maybe even this Spring in the case of split squad games.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: Again, the later great plays are missing again in the available video highlights for you. My apologies.}

Spring Game 11: STL vs. NYY — Chilled out at home

It’s not often that the opposing team seems to outnumber the home team. At least at Yankee games. But it was a sea of red as Cardinals fans flocked to Steinbrenner Field to cheer on their chosen team this afternoon. And despite all the warnings before the season about the pace of play and the 20-second pitching clock, none of that seemed to be enforced or occurring in this long (3 hours and 35 minutes), chilly (59°) game under clear blue skies.

Jonathan Loaisiga got the start today against the Cards and really sailed his way through most of the first 2 innings but then got into some real trouble in the 3rd. A lead-off solo home run in the 2nd got the Cards on the board, but Loaisiga kept going and struck out 3 batters that inning alone (eventually collecting 5 strikeouts of his 7 total outs). In the 3rd, a 1-out double scored on another double. And after walking the next batter, Loaisiga passed the ball to Joe Harvey.

Harvey struggled his way out of the 3rd inning, giving up an RBI double, an RBI ground out, and another RBI double before finally striking the final batter out. This gave the Cardinals a rather hefty lead the Yankees never could crack this afternoon. But then Aroldis Chapman sailed his way through the 4th inning, and Danny Coulombe had a fairly easy 5th.

But his 6th found some further trouble for the Yankees. A lead-off walk stole 2nd and ended up at 3rd on a 1-out single. So Coulombe passed the ball to Phillip Diehl, who kept it mostly under control except a 2-out single that scored the lead runner. He gave up a lead-off single in the 7th before getting 2 solid outs and then handing the ball over to Cale Coshow.

Coshow, however, promptly gave up a 2-run home run to push the Cards further ahead. Then in the 8th, he gave up a lead-off ground-rule double that bounced over the center field fence after it split the outfielders, slowed by the sun in their eyes. A wild pitch moved that runner to 3rd where he then scored on a 1-out single. James Reeves came into the game to close out the 8th and then cleanly get through the 9th.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals pitching was much cleaner, and despite getting a few opportunities to make a difference, the Yankees didn’t capitalize on many of them. Torres led-off the 2nd with a double, and Frazier worked a 1-out walk. Austin Romine scored both of them with his solid 3-run home run to give the Yankees a very temporary lead.

Down quite a bit in the bottom of the 9th, the Yankees found themselves with an eleventh hour rally opportunity. With 1 out, Garcia walked, Lipka singled, and a passed ball moved them both into scoring position. They did so on Trey Amburgey’s double. And then they ran out of opportunities.

Final score: 9-5 Cardinals

One to Watch: I decided to highlight Trey Amburgey today. He’s been featured here before, and he earned the spot again today. His 2-RBI double in the 9th cut into the Cardinals lead, but he also made some crucial plays in right field today, including saving a run from scoring in the 6th.

Next up: The Yankees will travel across Tampa Bay to Clearwater tomorrow to play the Phillies. (So, more red in the crowd.)

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 6: BAL vs. NYY — Finding a Spring tie under the lights

In the Yankees’ first night Spring game, they battled their way against both the Orioles’ pitching strength and sloppy defense under the lovely Spring night in Tampa. It’s been a bit of every kind of weather just this week, so a pleasant evening of baseball was due to entertain.

The Yankees sent up a string of excellent pitchers who had a few shaky moments, but overall kept the game strong. James Paxton pitched strong into the 3rd inning, but after giving up a lead-off solo home run in the 3rd, the Yankees called on Chad Green, who sailed his way through 4 outs. Jonathan Loaisiga was nearly flawless save his own lead-off solo home run in the 6th. Coulombe, Kahnle, and Coshow closed out the final third of the game cleanly, with no base runners and 5 strikeouts between them.

In fact, this was the first game all Spring that the Yankees didn’t get a run in the 1st and before their opponent. The Yankees instead fell behind and spent the game trying to find their opportunity. They could get base runners on all night, but they couldn’t get anyone in to score a run.

Until the 9th inning. Clint Frazier led-off the inning with a series of fouled-off hits before working a walk. One out later, Matt Lipka also worked a walk to put the two runners on base needed to break onto the scoreboard. The Orioles went to their bullpen to try to get out of the inning. A wild pitch moved runners into scoring position. And Rashad Crawford smacked a deep single that scored both Frazier and Lipka to tie up the game.

Two outs later, Crawford was left stranded at 1st. And because it’s Spring Training, the game remained tied.

Final score: 2-2 tie between Yankees and Orioles

One to Watch: I got to give it to Rashad Crawford tonight, the player who made the Yankees “not lose”. After being part of the Chapman-Cubs trade in 2016, Crawford may be familiar to former Spring Training fans, as he’s spent the last two seasons making his way up the ladder in the farm system and showing up in camp to make an impact. And he continues to do so this year, as he did in tonight’s game.

Next up: the Yankees travel south to Bradenton to visit the Pirates tomorrow afternoon.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: no broadcast tonight, so no highlights. Not that there were many, but that’s just part of Spring sometimes.}

Spring Game 2: NYY vs. TB — First Spring win with some big swings

Shifting a little closer to home certainly seemed to help the Yankees shake off yesterday’s loss. Of course, that has nothing to do with the fact that they played a team that clearly isn’t used to working together, a clear contrast to yesterday’s opponents.

Jonathan Loaisiga had a great start against the Rays this afternoon at their Spring home field in Port Charlotte (about 90 minutes south of where the Rays spend the season and the Yankees spend Spring in Tampa). Loaisiga continues to show the Yankees why he was worth the call-ups last year and why he could be a contender for this year’s team. He threw a near flawless 2 innings, eventually setting himself up for the win.

Other names (perhaps familiar to frequent readers) that took the mound today included David Hale, Brady Lail, and Stephen Tarpley. Together with two other minor league relievers, the Yankees pitching staff helped navigate today’s team to their first Spring win.

Sure, there were some stumbles along the way, as we should expect in Spring Training. But they were able to fend off the Rays until the middle of the game. In the 5th, back-to-back solo home runs over the short left field fence got them on the board, and 2 outs later, another solo shot off the center field netting added one more. But a great moment (not on the highlight reel thanks to the away broadcast) was the final play of the inning — when catcher Lavernway threw to shortstop Cabrera in a blink-and-you-miss-it play to catch the runner stealing 2nd.

In the 6th, a 1-out single scored as part of a 2-run home run to give the fans a bit of something to cling to in what became the Rays’ 3rd loss of the Spring. It’s worth noting that much like at the Rays’ regular home in St. Petersburg, the majority of fans in the stands today were clearly Yankees fans. As if the echoing cheers during positive Yankee moments weren’t making that obvious.

And those cheers began early today, with the Yankees once again jumping out in front right in the 1st inning. Tyler Wade hit a ground-rule double and then scored on Luke Voit’s single. Estevan Florial kicked off the 2nd inning with a single, stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then easily scored on another wild pitch. Two outs and a new pitcher later, Holder and LeMahieu singled to get on base, and Wade’s double scored Holder for a rather easy early Yankees’ lead.

Then in the 4th, with 1 out, LeMahieu walked, Wade singled, and they both scored with Luke Voit’s powerful 3-run home run over that left field fence to double the Yankees’ score. After the Rays got a few runs on the board, the Yankees got a few back in the 6th when Mazilli singled and then scored as part of Matt Lipka’s 2-run home run (yes, to left field).

It was enough to claim their first win this Spring.

Final score: 8-5 Yankees

Next up: for Opening Day, the Yankees will host the Blue Jays at Steinbrenner Field tomorrow afternoon. And because it’s both Opening Day and their home, you can expect to see some appearances by the “big guys”. There’s nothing like Opening Day. I can’t wait.

Go Yankees!

Game 162: NYY vs. BOS — The game that didn’t matter

The postseason is set, with a few exceptions in the NL as to what some teams there will be titled and which games they’ll play first. (More after the recap.) Which means that for most of the league (save those 4 games), Game 162 meant basically nothing. It was just the final game of the regular season, and the results didn’t really matter.

Which meant that I spent a good deal of time thinking of that old comedy improv show Whose Line Is It Anyway?, where the tag line for the American version was “the show where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter.” Then Drew Carey or the host would say something funny that also didn’t matter, like “the points are just like the nutrition facts on a Happy Meal.” Or “the points are just like street signs to a cab driver.” Or even “the points are as useless as the host on Whose Line Is It Anyway?.”

For the final game of the season, the last game at Fenway this series, the Yankees pieced together their bullpen again in an interesting sort of audition for who they will keep on for the postseason roster. Luis Cessa got the start, but almost immediately got banged up in the process.

He gave up a single that scored on an RBI single and fielding error. Another single put runners on the corners, and a pop-up got Cessa’s first out of the inning. A double scored another run, and the next batter hit into a single that was poorly fielded and thus also given a missed catch error by Cessa who twisted his ankle in the process and saw the batter also tweaking his ankle. They both tumbled onto the infield and sat there trying to assess the extent of their injuries. The batter stayed, but Cessa came out.

David Robertson came in to cover Cessa’s abbreviated start. His first batter hit into a grounder that the Yankee defense failed to turn two and allowed the runner at 3rd to score. Robertson then got a strikeout to end the messy first inning of the game.

Jonathan Loaisiga then got his turn in the 2nd. After a dropped foul pop up error, the first batter singled and then scored on a 1-out double. And a big 2-out 2-run home run furthered the Red Sox’s early lead. Loaisiga’s 3rd was much cleaner.

Justus Sheffield’s 4th was back in the mess. With 1 out, he gave up consecutive walks that scored as part of a 3-run home run. Then Tarpley, Cole, and Adams split the final 4 innings and kept the Red Sox from adding to their large lead.

The Red Sox’s pitching staff today was also a bullpen match-up, with most going just an inning. It certainly worked, as the Yankees didn’t break onto the scoreboard until the 4th inning. With 1 out, Miguel Andujar hit his 47th double of the season, officially tying the AL rookie record for most doubles. Luke Voit followed him with a 2-run home run to get the Yankees on the board.

But they didn’t do much else, as the Red Sox finally played like the 1st play team they are and held off the Yankees for the first time this weekend.

Final score: 10-2 Red Sox, Yankees win series 2-1

Okay, so with the final game done, the Yankees finish the 2018 season with 100 wins and 62 losses. Some notable team leaders: batting average – Andujar (.297), hits – Andujar (171), doubles – Andujar (47), triples – Gardner (7), home runs – Stanton (38), RBIs – Stanton (100), runs scored – Stanton (102), wins – Severino (19), innings pitched – Severino (191.1), ERA – Chapman (2.45), and saves – Chapman (32 out of 34 opportunities). Plus, the team is 2nd in runs scored (851), 2nd in RBIs (821), 1st in homers (267), and 1st in the AL in walks (622).

Postseason: I will post more on this tomorrow, but over in the NL, there are 4 teams that ended this season in divisional ties and thus are now going to play their 163rd game to break the tie and decided which team is a division winner and which team will play the Wild Card game. The Dodgers host the Rockies, finished the regular season 91-71. The Cubs host the Brewers after finishing the season 95-67. That means the Cubs-Brewers are also competing for the team that will host the Wild Card game winner in the NLDS as the team with the most wins in the NL.

Like I’ve said before, this is going to be one interesting postseason. And it’s just getting started.

Go Yankees!