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!

Game 158: NYY vs. TB — So close and yet…

I’m guessing that tonight’s game will be one that the Yankees and the Rays won’t want to remember any time soon. Neither team played exceptionally well, and neither team really came out looking like a winning season kind of team that they both are. It was just one of those games that you’re glad is over, learn from the mistakes, turn the page, and start fresh tomorrow.

The Yankees got on the board first, facing the Rays’ brief starter in their bullpen-pieced pitching staff again. McCutchen led-off the game with a single and moved to 2nd on Stanton’s 2-out walk. Neil Walker then hit a big 3-run home run right up the middle to get the Yankees started with a solid lead.

It didn’t last long. Masahiro Tanaka got the start for the Yankees and wasn’t exactly having the kind of memorable night. He threw 80 pitches in 4 innings, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and 4 runs (3 earned), and struck out 4 Rays’ batters. In the 1st, he gave up a single, a walk, and an RBI single before getting the first out of the inning, a strikeout.

But then the next batter hit a baby grounder back to the mound, but a poor throw by Tanaka allowed him to be safe and the lead runner to score. He hit the next batter to load up the bases before giving up another single to score the tying run but keep the bases loaded. He then managed to get 2 consecutive strikeouts to leave the Rays stranded there.

A 1st pitch, lead-off solo home run in the 3rd gave the Rays the slim lead, and the teams battled most of the game to maintain the close game. Holder, Green, and Chapman each took an inning to keep things tight through the 7th inning. But David Robertson had some issues in the bottom of the 8th.

A lead-off walk scored on an RBI double to add to the Rays lead. A passed ball then moved the runner to 3rd. Robertson finally got an out, a strikeout, to hold that runner just 90 feet from home. But the next batter hit into a fielder’s choice and still ended up safe at 1st as the runner also scored. Late to the defense and everyone’s safe.

Another single ended with runners on the corners. Then the next batter hit a bunt single that scored the runner from 3rd. Originally, it was called out at 2nd (which means the run still scored, by the way), but the Rays rightly challenged and the call was overturned. Again, everyone’s safe.

That Rays’ lead now expanding further. It was time to go back to the bullpen. Justus Sheffield came on to help stem the tide. He immediately got a fielder’s choice out at 2nd to put runners at the corners. But then, Sheffield tried to pick-off the runner at 1st and bounced the ball to Voit, allowing both runners to move up and thus another runner to score. After a grounder ended the inning, the Yankees were back in the batter’s box for one last shot.

They took it and loaded up the bases. Sanchez led-off the 9th with a walk, Gardner hit a 1-out single, and McCutchen singled. Aaron Judge’s single scored Sanchez, keeping the bases loaded. Luke Voit hit a really long single that scored both Gardner and McCutchen and moved Judge to 3rd. Judge kept things rolling by scoring on Giancarlo Stanton’s single to put the Yankees within just 1 run again. Voit advanced to 3rd on a flyout, but Andujar then popped out in foul territory to end the game.

Final score: 8-7 Rays

Injury update: There’s good news in Yankee Universe. I promise. Didi Gregorius has been cleared to resume baseball activities. That means he can start working out again, throwing a ball, swinging a bat, working on fielding, and get back into the game sooner than later.

And there’s a lot of talk about the upcoming Wild Card game. The Yankees need 2 more wins (of the 4 games left to play) to secure home field advantage. But does that actually matter in a one-off game like the Wild Card? According to statistics, no. In 12 Wild Card games over the last 6 years, 5 home teams have won and 7 visiting teams won. And the Yankees got home field both times they were Wild Card and are split in their success — lost to the Astros in 2015, won over the Twins in 2017.

In other words, you can’t predict baseball, and a lot of the superstitions, suppositions, and “traditions” are bunk.

Go Yankees!

Game 151: BOS vs. NYY –Andujar & Voit back up #SevySharp

I got a little nostalgic today, as I tend to do when talking about this great rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees. I was remembering the days of Rodriguez vs. Varitek, Ortiz vs. Jeter, and Clemens vs. everyone. Even before then, many could tell stories of DiMaggio vs. Williams and Mantle vs. Yastrzemski.

And who could forget the “curse of the Bambino”? Apparently, for 86 years, Boston fans believed they were cursed because a Red Sox owner in 1920 sold the contract of the 24-year-old Babe Ruth to the Yankees to finance No, No, Nanette. (By the way, the “curse” lore has been debunked, but it still doesn’t stop the Fenway Faithful from being bitter over it, despite the fact that almost none of them were alive then.)

But with the recent retirement of Ortiz, Jeter, and Rodriguez, as I’ve mentioned before, the age of the superstars in this rivalry might be over. Even the superstars already on the roster (Stanton, Judge, and Sanchez) aren’t really the players making the difference in the game. It’s the “nobodys”, the players who aren’t the popular jerseys you’d see around the stadium. And that makes this more interesting.

In a battle of the “aces” in tonight’s middle game between the northeastern rivals, Luis Severino got the start for the Yankees and came out on top with a stellar outing. He threw 109 pitches in his 7 innings, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and 1 run, and struck out 6 Boston batters to earn his 18th win. He’s the first Yankee pitcher to have 18 wins since CC Sabathia in 2011 (he had 19 that year).

In fact, Severino kept the Red Sox scoreless through 4 innings, even throwing rather efficient innings, like just 6 pitches in the 2nd. It was in the 5th that he gave up a lead-off double that scored on an RBI single to give the Red Sox their lone run of the night.

He handed the ball over to Jonathan Holder for a scoreless 8th inning, and then Justus Sheffield got to pitch his MLB debut in the 9th. He had a bit of shaky go of it, even loading up the bases. But between the Yankees’ defense and Sheffield’s pitching, they got out of the inning and the game.

Meanwhile, the Yankees usually have pretty good luck against the Red Sox’s ace, who used to play with the Rays, Blue Jays, and Tigers and the same pitcher who gave up Jeter’s 3000th hit. They continued that pattern tonight, starting with Miguel Andujar’s 1-out solo home run in the 2nd inning, his 25th home run of the season.

They then loaded up the bases with a walk to Sanchez, a single to Voit, and a 2-out walk to McCutchen. Aaron Judge stepped into the box, still looking for his first hit back from the DL. He made contact with the ball, but thanks to a fielding error, it wouldn’t count as a hit. Judge still made it all the way to 2nd as Sanchez and Voit scored.

Luke Voit added another run with his lead-off solo home run in the 4th. Then in the 6th, with 1 out and Sanchez on 1st with a walk, Voit again eked another home run, a 2-run homer that just made it to the 1st row of the right field seats (and gave a lucky fan a few minutes of TV fame). An umpire review checked to see if that fan interfered with the home run. He didn’t and the call stood, his 2nd home run of the night.

It was also the end of the Red Sox starter’s night. His first reliever didn’t have the best time either. Despite getting an initial out, he put runners on the corners with singles to McCutchen and Judge (finally his first hit off the DL). They both then scored on Aaron Hicks’ long triple. And the Red Sox changed pitchers again.

That seemed to work for them, for a time. But they got a new pitcher in the 8th inning, and the Yankees took advantage to widen their lead. Voit and Torres each singled and moved into scoring position on a ground out. Pinch-hitting Greg Bird hit into a ground out but allowed Voit to score. Hicks’ single then scored Torres to cap off the Yankees’ big night.

Final score: 10-1 Yankees

Roster moves: before the game tonight, the Yankees activated Aroldis Chapman from the DL after his lingering knee tendonitis. Had the game been closer, they might have called on the veteran closer, but instead, it allowed them some leeway to debut another important part of the Yankees organization, very nervous prospect Justus Sheffield.

And Miguel Andujar’s home run in the 2nd actually made him the fifth Yankee rookie to reach 25+ home runs in their rookie season. Judge did so last year, and the teammates join the likes of Bobby Murcer (1969), Joe Gordon (1938), and the great Joe DiMaggio (1936) for the honor of being in such a club. Not back for a player many people still are not sure could be the “Rookie of the Year”.

Go Yankees!

Game 149: TOR vs. NYY — Dropped victory in the 8th inning

The Yankees needed an easy win to move forward and enter this final two weeks on an upswing. And things were looking good for most of the game, with the Yankees on the board first and defending their early lead for this final game against the visiting Blue Jays this weekend.

In the bottom of the 1st inning, Andrew McCutchen led things off with a big solo home run.  Stanton then walked, moved to 3rd on Hicks’ single, and then scored on Didi Gregroius’ sacrifice fly. It wasn’t much, but it gave the Yankees enough of a lead to kick off the game.

Lance Lynn actually had a pretty good start. He threw 80 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up just 3 hits, a walk, and 1 run, and struck out 7 Toronto batters. In the 3rd, a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a ground out and then scored on a double to get the Jays on the board. But Lynn, and then Robertson for 2 innings, kept the Jays down to that lone run, defending their slim lead.

But then Dellin Betances struggled his way through the 8th inning. A lead-off single moved to 3rd on a 1-out single and then scored on a single to tie up the game. A double scored another run to put the Blue Jays in the lead before a fielder’s choice became a great defensive show, getting their insurance run out at home in a rundown.

Britton’s 13-pitch 9th inning reset the game with hopes for a last-minute rally that would ultimately fall short.

Final score: 3-2 Blue Jays, Blue Jays win the series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees have an off-day tomorrow before a series against the Red Sox and then one against the Orioles to wrap up the final home stand. The Yankees hit the road for the final time with 4 games at the Rays and the final 3 games in Boston to end the season. Where the postseason lands is still very much up for grabs, especially as

The Yankees plan to call up pitchers Justus Sheffield and Domingo German to help with their upcoming series against the Red Sox, starting Tuesday. They might have been called up for today’s game, but they both pitched in the RailRiders’ final game yesterday, losing to the Rays’ AAA team and their bid for their league’s championship.

Go Yankees!

Home Run Derby 2018 — Hometown Heroics at Workout Day

At the end of the first half of the season, the leading players in home runs were dominantly in the American League, but many opted out of the special event tonight either in favor of the rest that comes with the All-Star Break or to focus on the big exhibition game tomorrow night.

Instead, 43,698 fans crowded into Nationals Park in anticipation of seeing the star slugger they see at every home game hit his way into victory. Nationals’ outfielder Harper was the only veteran of the Home Run Derby, having lost in the final round in 2013 to Cespedes. The seven other batters in tonight’s event were news and all but one from National League teams.

The All-Star players had their Workout Day earlier in the day, running drills, seeing where they land on the roster, connecting with former teammates and friends, meeting the media and fans, and then congregating for the Home Run Derby. The Derby is set-up like in a bracket system, where the player with the highest number of home runs (Seed #1) faces off against the player with the fewest homers (Seed #8) and other similar pairings for the first round for four pairings, a sort of “homer-off”, in just 4 minutes.

The player with the most homers of the pair advance to the next round. So, the winners of that first round meet up with another winner for two more pairings for another round of “homer-off”. And the 2 winners of those pairings meet in the final round to see who hits the most homers in just 4 minutes. An extra 30 seconds is awarded if the batter hits 2+ homers at least 440 feet.

The first round kept close for the most part, with a strong start by the first pairing. The Phillies’ Hoskins kicked off the evening with 17 home runs that beat his opponent, Aguilar (Brewers), who hit just 12 despite being the furthest apart in regular season homers. Then it was close — Schwarber (Cubs) beat Bregman (Astros) 16-15, Muncy (Dodgers) over Baez (Cubs) 17-16, and Harper (Nationals) over Freeman (Braves) 13-12.

The next round continued the trend, with Schwarber powering 21 runs, edging out Hoskins (20). Muncy had a good start but faltered in the end to be surpassed by Harper (13-12). For the final round, Schwarber again kicked things off with a big show at 18 runs, and despite some momentum loss, Harper came back and tied it up at 18 in the final second. But he had those 30 extra seconds due to some pretty monster homers. He just needed 1, and he got it. And the hometown crowd went crazy, waving giant Harper faces and making the stadium nearly shake.

{Media note: Still waiting on a recap video of the Derby, will add shortly.}

And if you’re wondering, at the All-Star Futures Game, Team USA out-powered Team World 10-6 yesterday, though each team got 4 solid home runs in the process. Yankees prospect pitcher Justus Sheffield got time on the mound and really had a less-than-ideal outing. Pitching for Team USA, Sheffield came out in the 2nd and promptly gave up a solo home run to allow Team World on the board. After allowing a 1-out single in the 3rd, they went to another pitcher, but that runner scored on a 2-run home run that gave Sheffield a second earned run. But in the end, it was Team USA to power through and come out victorious.

Tomorrow, the All-Stars(often with their families) will walk down the eed carpet to meet their fans, chat with media, and take pictures just outside Nationals Park for the annual Red Carpet Parade before they take batting practice inside the park before the big game. Torres and Chapman will not be playing due to injuries. Severino is slotted as a reserves pitcher, which means he’ll pitch an inning somewhere in the middle of the game. And upon revealing the starting rosters, the AL coaching team has Judge batting 6th and playing left field. Because clearly they’ve never seen the right fielder and the Yankees’ #2 hitter play baseball.

Can’t wait to see Judge and Severino in the game tomorrow night!

Go Yankees!

Game 95: NYY vs. CLE — Splitting the series with loss in half finale

The Yankees were hoping to close out this first half of the season on an upswing, so to speak. But they had to settle for a split series and a loss this afternoon in Cleveland going into the All-Star break.

The Yankee bats did what usually ensures them a win — get on the board first and give enough lead to allow the starter and bullpen to keep things together. Gardner led-off the 3rd with a single, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, advanced to 3rd on Gregorius’ 1-out single, and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ 2-out single. And Neil Walker hit a big 2-out solo home run in the 4th to double their score.

This was good news to today’s starter Masahiro Tanaka, who was fairly efficient with just 77 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up 6 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and striking out 5 Cleveland batters. The game ended up tied in the bottom of the 4th, when that lone walk scored as part of a solid 2-run home run.

With a runner at 2nd and just 1 out in the 7th, the Yankees turned to the reliable Chad Green to keep things close and get out of the threat. He did. In that inning, at least. But in the 8th, things got messy. The Indians broke the tie when their lead-off batter hit a solo homer. The next batter singled, stole 2nd, and ended up at 3rd on the steal due to a bad throwing error. The next batter was hit by a pitch, a wicked shot to the back hand on an errant inside pitch. And after an out (finally), he intentionally loaded the bases.

A long sacrifice fly to right field tested the speed of the runner against Stanton’s arm and Higashioka’s reactions. It seems the runner slid just under the tag to give the Indians their insurance run. During the throw, the other runner moved to 3rd and would later score on a bad wild pitch. A quick 12-pitch 9th by the Indians’ closer ended the Yankees chances for a rally.

Final score 5-2 Indians, series split 2-2

Next up: after today, all of MLB enters the official “half-time”, the All-Star break. A select few will travel (or are traveling) to Washington, D.C. for all the festivities of the All-Star Game. As I write this the All-Star Futures Game is underway, with Yankees’ prospect pitcher Justus Sheffield set to pitch for Team USA. The Home Run Derby will be tomorrow (Monday) night as the cap to Work-Out Day. And then after the Red Carpet Parade, the big exhibition game will be Tuesday night, featuring Judge and Severino with Torres and Chapman (both resting due to injuries) cheering on from the AL dugout.

Following a couple of days off, baseball returns on Friday, with the Yankees hosting the Mets for a 3-game weekend series. They’ll take a quick trip down to Tampa Bay for a 3-game series before returning to the Bronx for 4-games against the Royals, a day-off, and 2-games against the Orioles to close out this month.

And if you’re a trivia nerd, here’s some numbers to sound smart in conversations about baseball. The Yankees finish this first half with 62 wins, 33 losses, 4.5 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East but tied for 2nd (with Houston) in all of MLB.

As a team, the Yankees are 1st in home runs (160), 2nd in walks (1st in the AL, with 363), 3rd in runs scored (491) and RBIs (474), 2nd in On-base percentage plus slugging (.796), 2nd in pitching ERA (3.46), and their pitchers rank 2nd in strikeouts given (945).

Individually, the team leaders include Luis Severino in ERA (2.31, also 5th in the AL) and wins (14, also 1st in MLB), Aroldis Chapman in saves (26, 4th in MLB), Miguel Andujar in batting average (.283), Giancarlo Stanton in hits (103), and Aaron Judge in home runs (25, also 3rd in MLB), runs scored (66), RBIs (60), and OPS (.937, also 6th in AL).

Basically, things are in a good place. Plus, they hope to have both Sanchez and Torres back right after the break, though their AAA back-ups (Higashioka and Wade) are doing quite a good job in their stead. And with that looming trade deadline at the end of the month, the Yankees aren’t just battling for a winning season, they’re contending for their 28th championship. And with teams like the Astros and Red Sox (really their biggest threats this season so far) who are battling with them in nearly every category, the Yankees have some work to do.

The second half is going to be something to watch. So stay tuned. There’s so much more baseball left to play.

Go Yankees!

Game 85: NYY vs. TOR — Northern Exposure

Truthfully, I have mixed feelings about all the Yankees’ division rivals and their respective cities. In general, I really like the cities they represent and the people who live there, and I can respect their passion for the game and their home team, even if I’m not a fan of their chosen team. Attending Spring Training annually and actually going to those cities is often what mixes up those feelings.

For example, I love the city of Boston, and nearly every Boston fan I’ve met is really a good person that just roots for my chosen team’s greatest rivals. I also happen to think Fenway Park is legendary and historic and a symbol of the great legacy of the sport. (And the Green Monster is just as ugly in person as you’d think.)

But the Yankees play in Toronto this weekend. And let’s just say that it’s not Boston.

And Sonny Gray wasn’t exactly having a great night to start in the opener at Rogers Centre, throwing 62 pitches in just 2 innings, giving up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 5 runs, and still striking out 4 batters. Most of that damage was done in that 2nd inning and it wasn’t good.

A lead-off double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a single to get the Blue Jays on the board. A wild pitch moved the runner to 2nd and then he scored on another single. After a strikeout and another allowed single, the next batter smacked a big 3-run home run to really push the Blue Jays ahead. A hit-by-pitch, stolen base, and strikeout later, and Gray’s night was over.

David Hale came on in the 3rd and pitched into the 8th inning strong. It wasn’t until the 8th inning that the Blue Jays were able to eke through again. A lead-off double later scored on a 2-out double to cap off their runs. And Chasen Shreve needed just 3 pitches to induce a ground out for the final out of the 8th.

Meanwhile, while the Yankees certainly dented the Blue Jays’ starter’s pitch count (pushing him to 101 pitches after the 1st out of the 5th inning), they only managed 4 hits and 3 walks off him. Aaron Hicks hit a 2-out solo home run, his 16th of the season, in the 3rd inning.

Then in the 5th, the Yankees finally found their opportunity (and pretty much their only one all night). They loaded up the bases with singles to Romine and Gardner and a fielding error on Judge’s sloppy hit. Then Hicks worked a 1-out walk to score Romine and keep those bases loaded. 101 pitches with bases loaded, so it was time for a reliever. Who got a well-placed strikeout and then a line drive out to end the threat.

The Blue Jays pieced together 5 relievers to finish off their game and keep the Yankees from being any kind of threat again for the rest of the night.

Final score: 6-2 Blue Jays

Roster moves/injury updates: Well, the Yankees moved Gleyber Torres to the 10-day disabled list with right hip strain. Muscle strains are always complicated, so they anticipate Torres will be out through the All-Star break.

In his stead, a normal call-up would be Ronald Torreyes, but Torreyes has been out for about a week at this point, dealing with a personal family issue. So, they recalled Tyler Wade, who was sent down in the middle of April due to the excess of excellent bench players.

And if you’re wondering, the Yankees sent Masahiro Tanaka to join AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for his rehab assignment after dealing with hamstring issues last month.

Well, the All-Star Game fan voting has closed, and the results will be announced Sunday night. Also, based on a player ballot and selections from the Commissioner’s Office, each team will fill out most of its 32 spots with reserve players and pitchers. Each team will allow for one more spot, nominate 5 potential All-Stars, and call on fans to vote once more. (There is a rather extensive explanation about how players are chosen and eligibility.)

Speaking of the All-Star Game, the Sunday before the game, representatives from across the farm systems will play in the annual Futures Game. This year, the Yankees will be represented by prospective pitcher Justus Sheffield. Sheffield will play for Team USA in a USA vs. the World kind of structure.

Go Yankees!