Game 57: NYY vs. TOR — #CCStrong & Grand Slam Andujar

The Yankees are now “North of the Border” for a brief series in Toronto for another foray into the AL East rivalry. CC Sabathia got the start tonight, and once again, Sabathia just dominated. He threw 89 pitches in his 7th innings, gave up just 3 hits, 1 walk, and 2 runs, and struck out 6 batters.

Actually, both of his allowed runs were 1-out solo homers in the 6th and 7th innings. That means, the only other allowed base runners were a lone single in the 1st and a walk in the 4th. David Robertson and Chasen Shreve each sailed through their separate innings and continued Sabathia’s strong start.

The Yankees were held off from the scoreboard for most of the game by the Blue Jays’ starter, despite collecting a hit in most of the innings leading up to the 7th. Their starter gave up a single to Sanchez in the 7th before handing the ball off to the bullpen. It might have been a mistake. The reliever hit the first batter and then gave up a walk to Hicks to load up the bases.

And then with no outs yet, it was up to Miguel Andujar to step into the batter’s box. He liked the first pitch he saw and smacked it into the 2nd deck of the left field seats, Andujar’s first career grand slam and 7th home run of the season, to put the Yankees in the lead with that 1 swing.

Then in the 8th, with a new Blue Jays’ reliever on the mound, Stanton led-off with a single, advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch, and got to 3rd on a ground out. After another out, they changed relievers again, and the new guy walked Gregorius, who promptly stole 2nd to put both runners in scoring position. Aaron Hicks made that possible with a solid 3-run home run to ensure the Yankees’ victory.

Also, all the runs scored for both teams tonight were scored on home runs. It’s a weird, random fact, but I know people like those. I know I do.

Final score: 7-2 Yankees

Injury update: the Yankees announced today that pitcher Jordan Montgomery is scheduled for Tommy John surgery on Thursday. The procedure will be performed by the Yankees’ team doctor Dr. Christopher Ahmad at New York-Presbyterian. Standard recovery time is 12-18 months, so Montgomery will be out of baseball activities for the rest of this year and most of next season.

That makes the search for a permanent starter inevitable. There is some room in the Yankees’ salary to sign someone significant without hitting the dreaded luxury tax. In other words, we should expect the Yankees to be making a deal for a 5th starter sometime soon.

MLB Draft Day 2: The Draft continued today with rounds 3-10 and the Yankees picked up 8 more potential prospects, every 30 selections (numbers 97-307 overall). They selected 2 outfielders and 6 pitchers — Ryder Green, Frank German, Brandon Lockridge, Rodney Hutchison, Daniel Bies, Connor Van Hoose, Mick Vorhof, and Josh Maciejewski.

Rounds 11-40 continue tomorrow, and the prospective players have some time to decided whether to sign or not with the organization. Many selected on a later round opt for their other commitments (usually attending or continuing college), which often allows them to re-enter the draft after getting some more playing time and refine their skills with their local and college teams.

You’ve got to do what’s right for you. You might not be drafted right out of high school in the 1st round (like Aaron Judge or Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez), but you may need to do a few years of college before being drafted in the 1st round (like Yankees’ Draft Rep Nick Swisher) or 3rd round (like Brett Gardner) or the 17th round (like David Robertson). Again, you do what works best for you.

Go Yankees!

Game 33: CLE vs. NYY — Sonny times defeat Cleveland defensive errors

The Yankees have won 14 of their last 15 games, something that actually has people talking all around the league, because it’s the first time they’ve done so since 1998. (And we all know what happened that year.) Plus, it was a perfect Saturday afternoon for a game, this middle game in the weekend series against the visiting Indians.

Sonny Gray had a much better outing than many of his earlier games this season, throwing 93 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up 4 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and striking out 7 batters. His 2 allowed runs were a 2-out solo home run in the 5th and a ground-rule double that later scored on a ground out.

Chad Green really was the pitcher worth watching today, going 2 full scoreless and hitless innings and throw a dominant and efficient 24 pitches in the 7th and 8th innings, getting 4 of his 6 outs with strong strikeouts. David Robertson closed out the game with 2 more strikeouts in his 9th inning.

Meanwhile, like the Indians, the Yankees’ batters really didn’t get much offenive opportunities until the 5th. With 1 out, Walker and Andujar walked, and Torres singled to load the bases. Then Austin Romine worked a walk to score Walker. Ronald Torreyes hit into a play that ended up moving everyone up 2 bases thanks to 2 errors, so Andujar and Torres both scored, leaving Romine and Torreyes in scoring position. Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly scored Romine.

A new pitcher in the 7th gave up a 1-out double to Romine, after quite the embattled at-bat. The Indians needed to switch some defenders due to an injury where the fielder trying to get Romine’s long-hit ball rammed into the back fence. Romine would go on to score on Gardner’s 2-out single.

Final score: 5-2 Yankees

Injury updates: as you know if you’ve been following this team this season, early last month seemed plagued with injuries. Fortunately, the team has been relatively healthy for a few weeks now, and those on the DL are working their way back as soon as possible. Brandon Drury found a specialist in New York that located an irritated nerve on his neck that has been causing his migraines for years. He is receiving regular treatments, and it’s paying off — his time with AAA Scranton (and now with AA Trenton) have been rather productive. The Yankees aren’t in rush with him as Andujar, Torres, and Torreyes have been outstanding for the Yankees as pinch-bench players in both their offense and defense.

Despite being out for 6-8 weeks with elbow strain, Jordan Montgomery was simply glad it wasn’t going to be the dreaded Tommy John surgery for him, which would mean 12-18 months recovery time. It’s something every pitcher dreads and sits in the back of their minds every time there’s an elbow pain of any kind. So a few weeks must sound like a decent option. It’s not great, but they can make it work on all ends. Especially as Domingo German will get his first MLB start tomorrow against the Indians in the finale of this series.

And speaking of pitchers, Tommy Kahnle and Adam Warren are back throwing after experiencing some shoulder and back issues (respectively), so the Yankees hope to have these reliable relievers back in the bullpen before the end of the month.

My uncle, the one who’s a huge “Tribe” fan (or a person who roots for Cleveland), texted me after the Yankees won today to tell me that the Yankees were “looking good” and that his team was suffering from “no-bullpen-itis”. I can understand that feeling, as both teams seem to suffer most of their injuries in the bullpen this season (as reflected in the above injury report). But to me, that says more about the difference in their farm systems to rely on those guys when injuries hit the major league level.

So kudos to the Yankees for having the smarts to build the organization deep. And this says far too much about the AL Central because even with these 2 losses, the Indians still lead the division and are the only team above .500. Meanwhile, the Yankees are now just a half-game behind the Red Sox in the AL East, something that clearly will change with the coming series next week.

Go Yankees!

Game 30: NYY vs. HOU — #SevySharp + Stanton power = a complete shutout

If anyone doesn’t understand why Luis Severino is ace material, clearly they haven’t seen him pitch like he did tonight in Houston. Severino’s Twitter hashtag (at least for me) is #SevySharp because he throws games like this with enough frequency that it warrants attention. He threw 110 pitches in a full 9 shutout innings, giving up 5 hits and a walk, and striking out 10 Houston batters along the way.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The Astros have a really good rotation, something they used strategically through last year’s postseason for their clear advantage. Their starter tonight is easily one of the best pitchers in the AL, if not baseball entirely, but the Yankee batters really let into him tonight, forcing his pitch count high early on. Plus, the Yankees have never hit a home run off their starter.

Until tonight.

And offensively, the Yankees relied on Giancarlo Stanton for some deep power to push them over into the win column tonight. In the 1st, with 2 outs, Gregorius singled and then scored on Stanton’s big 2-run home run into the right field seats. Then Stanton added to the score with a 1-out solo shot into the left field seats in the 4th.

Stanton’s next at-bat was a strikeout in the 6th, the only time tonight he’d not get on base. Then in the 8th, the Astros decided to open their bullpen. Hicks led-off with a double, and after an out, stole 3rd. After a strikeout, it would be Stanton with an RBI double to score Hicks. After Sanchez walked, the Astros called on a new reliever who did better at keeping the Yankees from adding to their lead through the next 4 outs of the game.

Final score: 4-0 Yankees

And if you’re following with math here, that makes Stanton responsible for every single run scored tonight. He actually had the best average tonight — going 3-for-4 with 2 runs scored and those 4 RBIs. That certainly helped his batting average overall this season, which has been hovering in the low .200s, up to .240 by the end of the game. For some comparison, Gregorius (who was just awarded Player of the Month) is batting .330 and Judge is batting .312.

Okay, injury news: Jordan Montgomery will officially be out for 6-8 weeks due to a left elbow flexor strain. That leaves a bit of a hole in the rotation, especially with Cessa still on the DL with his oblique injury and no return set yet. So the Yankees are looking at last night’s long-term reliever to fill the gap, or perhaps he gets a shot at it. Domingo German could really rise to the occasion or at least provide some strong first few innings (he went 4 scoreless last night) and then relying on the bullpen for a strong finish.

To fill this gap, the Yankees re-signed reliever David Hale from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to rejoin the bullpen. I don’t expect this to be the end of this conversation or roster maneuver as they find a system that works in the meantime.

Also, they moved Jacoby Ellsbury to the 60-day DL due to his left hip soreness, which effectively removes him off the 40-man roster. They needed a spot for Clint Frazier, who was officially reinstated from the 7-day concussion DL today and options to AAA Scranton. While much longer than the “7-days”, Frazier’s rehab is complete, and more importantly, his concussions are behind him. And while the Yankees certainly have a pretty good working outfield right now in Gardner, Hicks, Judge, and Stanton. Frazier is now ready to go if needed.

And following the play at the end of the 8th inning, Tyler Austin was in a bit of pain coming off the field, wincing a bit and clutching his lower right back. But after the game, Austin revealed he jammed his hip a bit on the play, and with some rest tonight, he should be ready to play tomorrow. Those little tweaks and pinches sometimes just come with the game, being an aggressive athlete and all. It’s when they don’t go away that’s the issue.

Final game in Houston is tomorrow afternoon (1:10 pm CST), for that special Thursday matinée due to travel schedules. It works out well for both teams, as the Yankees will head back to the Bronx for their next home stand, and the Astros are headed out to Arizona. But the Yankees are also hoping for a good plane ride on a second series win this road trip. Finger crossed.

Go Yankees!

Game 29: NYY vs. HOU — #ElGary ends pitching duel

This series was never going to be “boring baseball”. At least not for those who understand the game. And tonight’s home pitcher, a veteran the Yankees have faced consistently for years (previously with the Tigers until middle of last year), was just on point for most of the game. He kept the Yankees to just 3 hits for his entire 8 innings and struck out an impressive 14 Yankees along the way. It was ridiculous, really.

But it wasn’t that the Yankees’ pitching staff wasn’t keeping up. It’s just that the Astros’ starter was on a whole other level tonight. Jordan Montgomery got the start for the Yankees and breezed his way through the Astros’ lineup in just 7 pitches in that 1st inning. But then, he didn’t come back for the 2nd. He was done as he was having some tightness in his throwing elbow. That is never a good sign. (More after the recap.)

In his place, the Yankees sent in Domingo German, who really picked up Montgomery’s momentum and powered through the next 4 innings, keeping the Astros from doing anything worth mentioning. Green needed just 9 pitches in the 6th, and Betances got 3 great strikeouts in the 7th to keep the Astros’ scoreless. David Robertson got 2 quick outs, gave up a single (to last year’s MVP), and then got out of the inning.

The Yankee batters just needed the starter out of the game to make a difference. So after 105 pitches, the Astros thought they were safe enough to turn to their bullpen. They weren’t. Judge led-off the 9th with a single and ended up at 3rd on Gregorius’ double. Then with 1 out, Gary Sanchez saw the first pitch and smacked it deep to center field for a 3-run home run to break up the scoreless scoreboard.

Aaron Hicks followed that with a single and the Astros went back to their bullpen. With a new pitcher, Hicks took advantage of their lack of defense at this point. He stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on Andujar’s ground out, and then slid into home on a wild pitch. Chapman came in for the final half of the 9th inning and just powered through with 3 consecutive strikeouts to hand the Yankees the victory.

Final score: 4-0 Yankees

So, Jordan Montgomery will be headed back to New York to be seen by the team’s doctor and hopefully get a better diagnosis before his turn to pitch comes around again (which is later this weekend in the Bronx). Worst case scenario is the beginnings of an injury that could lead to surgery, like Tommy John surgery. Best case would be a small tweak in the elbow and with some rest he’s good to go next weekend. It’s probably somewhere in between, as usual.

Because if he needs to go on the DL and thus miss his next start, the Yankees will need to look at their starters or long-term relievers to potentially fill that role. Immediately, German is clearly putting up a good case for himself after tonight’s performance. The Yankees also have AJ Cole on their 25-man roster. In AAA, they have 3 — Josh Rogers, David Hale (who is back with a new minor league contract after being DFA’d last week), and Chance Adams. (By the way, no way are they reaching down to AA Trenton to grab star prospect Justus Sheffield, despite how good he’s been this season there.)

Okay, 2 games in Houston down, 2 more to go. “Boring baseball”? Yeah, not in Houston this week.

Go Yankees!

Game 24: MIN vs. NYY — Walk-off by #ElGary = Sweep Dreams

With this first long home stand of the season now in the books, the Yankees can look back with some fond memories. Plus, they won 8 of their 10 games and are now 3.5 games behind the AL East leading Red Sox.

Jordan Montgomery got the start in this afternoon’s finale against the Twins. He threw 98 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs, and struck out 6 batters. Those runs scored in the 3rd inning. With 2 outs, Montgomery gave up a walk and then a 2-run home run to get the Twins on the board.

Domingo German came on in relief in the 6th and pitched through the 8th to keep the Twins fairly under control. His one allowed run came early, in his 6th inning — a 2-out solo home run to add one more to the Twins’ lead. Dellin Betances had a truly stellar 9th inning — 13 pitches, 3 consecutive batters, 3 consecutive strike outs.

The Twins’ pitching staff was pretty good at keeping the Yankees scoreless for most of the game. The starter held the Yankees to a single hit and 3 walks (and 10 strikeouts) in his 6 innings. With a reliever on in the 7th, Stanton led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ sacrifice fly to finally get the Yankees on the board.

After being shut out again in the 8th, the Yankees faced an old foe and veteran closer in the 9th inning. Maybe that helped. Maybe it was that the Yankees weren’t ready to go down and finish this series like that, down by 2 runs. Gregorius led-off the inning and made it safely on base all the way to 2nd due to a fielding error. Stanton hit a short single, so Gregorius stayed at 2nd.

So with no outs, Gary Sanchez hit the 2nd pitch deep into the left field seats for a walk-off 3-run home run. That would be Sanchez’s first career walk-off hit at all. And the Yankees first walk-off homer of 2018 and since Gardner’s in July 2017.

Final score: 4-3 Yankees, Yankees sweep series 4-0

Next up: the Yankees are on their way to Los Angeles to face the Angels for a weekend series. The Yankees will travel next to Houston to face the Astros for a 4-game mid-week series before heading back for another home stand.

The ruling came back on the appeal of the suspension for the actions of Tyler Austin in regards to the ejection earlier this month. Initially, he received a 5-game suspension for charging the mound. Upon appeal, the sentence was reduced to 4 games, which will begin tomorrow and thus the Yankees will play with just 24 men on the roster in LA and the first game in Houston. (And if you’re wondering, the pitcher who intentionally threw at Austin in that game was suspended 6 games, lost his appeal, and will serve his sentence this weekend and into next week too as the Red Sox host the Rays and Royals.)

Finally, a big Happy Birthday to Aaron Judge, who turned 26 today.

Go Yankees!

Game 19: TOR vs. NYY — Unnecessary but big inning #6

Sometimes, all it takes in one big inning to make all the difference. But to be totally fair, the Yankees could have completely skipped their big 6th inning and still would have won the game. The Blue Jays just weren’t doing much off the Yankee pitchers today.

Not that I’m complaining…

Jordan Montgomery got the start this afternoon in the third of 4 games this weekend against the visiting Blue Jays, and he had a pretty decent outing. He threw 91 pitches in his 6 innings, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and a run, and struck out 5 Toronto batters. That lone run came in his weakest inning — the 5th. A lead-off walk moved to 3rd on a single and then scored on another single. But then Montgomery and the defense kicked it up a notch and got the necessary 3 outs to get out of the lone troublesome inning.

Montgomery actually set a pretty good pattern for his 2 relievers to follow. Chasen Shreve’s 7th inning was flawless, and recently recalled Jonathan Holder threw rather efficiently in the scoreless 8th and 9th innings.

Like I said, there was one big inning that actually didn’t matter for the Yankees’ offense. And that’s because of Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge in the 3rd. With 2 outs, Gardner worked a walk, and then on a 3-0 count, Judge hit a big 2-run home run into the 2nd deck of the left field seats to give the Yankees an early lead. So with that lone run by the Blue Jays in the 5th, the Yankees were sitting pretty.

But why not have a big 6th inning along the way? The Yankees sent 12 batters up in the inning because the Blue Jays’ starter his initial reliever were just not able to find those 3 outs. Gardner led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, watched Judge work a walk, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ single. With Stanton’s walk (and still no outs), the bases were loaded. Aaron Hicks hit into a failed force attempt, where the pitcher fielded a short grounder poorly in an attempt to get the out at home. But a missed catch error scored Judge and kept the bases loaded.

After a strikeout (the first out of this half-inning), Miguel Andujar’s double cleared the bases, scoring 3 more runs. (So, have we talked about how amazing this guy is yet? I’m pretty sure he’s this year’s Torreyes.) That would be the end of the Jays’ starter, but his reliever had issues too, promptly giving up a walk to Romine and a short single to Torreyes loaded up the bases again. Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly scored Andujar, and Aaron Judge’s single scored Romine to cap off the Yankees’ monster inning.

It’s worth noting the Yankees actually loaded up the bases again in the 7th, but a former teammate was able to pitch out of his jam and the Yankees left them loaded. Again, not that they needed more runs.

Final score: 9-1 Yankees

Roster/injuries: before today’s game, Adam Warren was sent to the 10-day disabled list with back strain. In his place, the Yankees called up Jonathan Holder, who was able to pitch and dominate in today’s game.

And before this afternoon’s game, the Yankees hosted a Little League Parade, something do every year before select games. Local teams come, dressed in their team jerseys and hats, and parade around the field on the warning track. And then they and their parents get to watch a great game.

Here are some pictures from today’s parade. And what a great game they got to see! (With some pretty great weather!)

Go Yankees!

Game 14: NYY vs. DET — Lucky Friday the 13th (not that I believe in any of that)

After the shake-up the Yankees got in Fenway, they needed a bit of a game like tonight in Detroit to sort them out. Jordan Montgomery got the start in the opening game in this weekend series against the Tigers. He threw 91 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up 5 hits and 3 runs, striking out just 4 batters. To be perfectly fair, he was actually really good at fending off the Tigers until a lead-off solo shot in the 5th broke the Tigers onto the scoreboard.

In the 7th, a lead-off single scored on a double and a rare throwing error. That was the end of Montgomery’s outing, and David Robertson came on in relief. But he had a night of rare trouble (for him). He gave up a sacrifice fly that scored the other runner Montgomery was responsible for. Then with 2 outs, Robertson gave up a double and single to put runners at the corners but getting that Houdini strike out to end the inning.

Dellin Betances got the 8th inning and then he had his own struggles. He gave up a lead-off home run to kick things off. A single moved to 2nd on a 1-out double and then scored on another single. A 2-out single then scored another run. So, the Yankees went back to their bullpen to get out of this inning with Chad Green, who took 5 pitches to get a solid strikeout to end the Tigers’ rally. Aroldis Chapman’s 3-strikeout 9th inning helped close out the game with some power.

Meanwhile, the Yankees collected their runs through the game, starting in the 2nd. Sanchez hit a 1-out double and then scored as part of Aaron Hicks’ inside-the-park home run, finishing with the best smile ever as he slid into home plate, by the way. (The first Yankee to do so since 2011.) In the 5th, Andujar led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and scored easily on Brett Gardner’s double. Gardner then scored on Aaron Judge’s single. Judge stole 2nd as part of a strikeout and then benefited from a sloppy throwing error on Didi Gregorius’ at-bat to score another run for the Yankees.

Aaron Hicks led-off the 6th with an into-the-stands home run, a real no-doubter into the right field seats. Fresh off the DL, and Hicks is hitting multi-homer games. And in the 8th, Andujar led-off with a triple and then scored on Ronald Torreyes’ single. After Gardner was hit by a pitch and Judge walked, the bases were loaded. Stanton hit into a little grounder that the lagging Tigers seemed to snap into action and get the out at home. After a pitching change, Gregorius hit into a sacrifice fly to scored Gardner to finish off the Yankee scoring tonight.

Final score: 8-6 Yankees

It’s worth noting that Aaron Judge, who went 1-for-4 tonight with a walk and RBI, is currently batting a whopping .340. Now, it’s hard to accurately judge averages this early in the season. But part of Judge’s average comes from the fact that he is currently on a hitting streak of 11 games after tonight’s RBI single in the 5th. Of course, he’s got a long way to go to catch Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak, set back in 1941. But if anyone could do it, it very well could be Judge.

Go Yankees!