Game 52: NYY vs. KC — Fighting into extras, win streak snapped

The Yankees were on a win streak this last week, winning 7 straight games, including 6 road games. But the Royals certainly battled through this weekend to try to keep the visiting Yankees from sweeping the weekend series. The Yankees certainly pushed them to the edge this afternoon, even coming back from near defeat to push extra innings.

Domingo German got the start today and had a rare rough outing for the young starter. He threw 84 pitches in 5 innings, gave up 9 hits and 7 runs, and struck out 6 Royals’ batters. In the 2nd, with 1 out, German gave up 2 singles that scored as part of a big 2-out, 3-run home run to get the Royals on the board.

Then, the Royals added to their score with a 2-out solo home run in the 4th. With 1 out in the 5th, a double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored as part of another 2-run home run. Only to follow that with a solo home run to ease the Royals into a big lead over the Yankees.

The Yankees, meanwhile, slowly worked to chip away at the Royals’ lead today. In the 2nd, with 1 out, Torres singled, moved to 2nd on Morales’ walk, and scored on Clint Frazier’s single. Then, with 2 outs in the 6th, Hicks made it to 1st on a throwing error and then all the way to 3rd on Sanchez’s single. Gleyber Torres’ solid 3-run home run scored both Hicks and Sanchez.

Still short a few runs, the Yankees found their next opportunity in the 9th. While the Royals were looking for 3 outs, the Yankees needed 3 runs. Both got what they wanted, eventually. With 1 out, Frazier and Urshela each singled. After a strikeout, DJ LeMahieu hit a nice single to score Frazier. Then Voit worked a walk to load up the bases and was pinch-run by Estrada. Aaron Hicks hit a great single, long enough to score both Urshela and LeMahieu to tie up the game.

Now, Nestor Cortes Jr. came on in long-term relief of German with 4 clean innings through the 9th. Even when he got himself into a bases-loaded jam in the 9th, where the Royals were threatening a walk-off, Cortes found the right combination to get out of the inning unscathed.
And the game went on into an extra inning. The Royals came back in the bottom of the 10th to find that energy to overtake the Yankees. Jonathan Holder was just an out away from pushing the game into extra innings. With 1 out, he gave up a walk that stole 2nd and then scored on a 2-out single for the walk-off win for the home team.

Final score: 8-7 Royals, in 10 innings, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees travel back home for a week of games for their next home stand. The Padres are up first with a 3-game mid-week series before the Yankees host the Red Sox for the anticipated 4-game rivalry series next weekend. They they hit the road again to face the Blue Jays and Indians.

Injury updates: While Didi Gregorius is making a splash on his rehab assignment in Tampa, even hitting the Tarpons’ lone run in today’s game in Florida, another injured Yankee is making his way back as quick as his body will allow. Still nursing his oblique injury, Aaron Judge is making progress and will probably start swinging a bat and hitting off a tee during this next home stand.

It’s been a tough injury for the star outfielder as it’s limited basic baseball activities like throwing, catching, fielding, and swinging a bat. You know, things baseball players do every minute of every game. He and the long list of other injured Yankees are looking on from the sidelines, semi-jealously chomping at the bit to get in on the action that currently ranks the Yankees at the top of their division and on a really great streak.

And I don’t blame them.

Go Yankees!

Games 50 & 51: NYY vs. KC — Doubleheader, double win

Yesterday’s opener for this weekend series against the Royals was rained out thanks to the nasty Spring storms that have been plaguing the middle of the country yesterday. Somehow, they managed to stay dry today to help make up the game in what ended up being a fun doubleheader for the Yankees through this Saturday.

Game 1 (regularly scheduled game)
JA Happ got the start for the afternoon game and had strong outing, throwing 82 pitches through 6 innings, giving up 4 hits and 3 runs, and striking out 10 Royals batters. Happ actually held off the Royals until his final inning. With 1 out, he gave up 2 singles that scored on a 3-run home run.

The Yankees’ offense had the lead up until then. In the 1st, Hicks walk and Voit singled, and 2 outs later, they both scored on Clint Frazier’s double. In the top of the 6th, with 1 out, Gardner tripled and then scored on Gio Urshela’s sacrifice fly.

After the home team tied up the game at the end of the 6th, the Yankees found the next chance to advance right in the next inning. Hicks hit a 1-out single and scored as part of the monster 2-run home run by Luke Voit (to the delight of his huge contingency of his family and friends in the stands). In the 8th, Frazier walked and Gardner singled, and they both scored on Thairo Estrada’s 1-out double to cap off the Yankees’ offense this afternoon.

Meanwhile, Ottavino sailed through a scoreless 7th, and Cessa closed out the game with 2 solid final innings to help deliver the eventual win for the Yankees.

Final score: 7-3 Yankees

Game 2 (the make-up game from yesterday)
After they reset the field, cleaned the stands, and reopened the gates, the second game kicked off, both teams heavily dependent on their long-term arms in the bullpens. The Yankees used that 1-inning opener style, tabbing Chad Green for the 1st inning. After 2 quick outs, he gave up consecutive singles. The first one then scored on a double, but in the same play, the second runner was thrown out to end the inning.

Then the game was handed off to Chance Adams for long-term relief, four decent innings for the reliever. The middle two being the hardest for Adams. With 2 outs in the 3rd, there was a similar situation after a batter worked a walk and then scored on an RBI double. But in that same play, the batter was tagged out trying to stretch it into a triple just after the runner scored. In the 4th, with 1 out, Adams gave up a pair of doubles to scored 1 run, and a 2-out single scored 1 more.

Holder, Kahnle, and Britton each carried a scoreless inning. And Aroldis Chapman was looking for his 14th save in the 9th, and almost lost it with his own error. With 1 out, he gave up a walk and a pick-off error allowed the runner to make it all the way to 3rd and then scored on a sacrifice fly. He also earned his 250th career save.

The Yankees loaded up on the offense early and spent the game defending their lead. The Royals’ starter continued on in the 2nd, after a fairly easy 1st, but found the Yankees were ready to charge forward. They loaded up the bases with Morales’ singles, Frazier’s walk, and Urshela’s single. Austin Romine’s long single and a fielding error allowed both Morales and Frazier scored and put runners on the corners.

Then Cameron Maybin hit a nice double to score Urshela and Romine, and DJ LeMahieu’s single scored Maybin. It was at this point, with no outs, the Royals realized their starter wasn’t getting out of this inning and called in a reliever to mirror the Yankees’ pitching model tonight.

In the 3rd, Frazier worked a 1-out walk, moved to 3rd on Romine’s 2-out single, and then scored on Maybin’s single. But then the Yankees’ offense kind of faltered, and the Royals’ pitching finally snapped into action and held the visitors off.

Final score: 6-5 Yankees

Injury update: The Yankees officially assigned Didi Gregorius to the Advanced-A Tampa Tarpons for his rehab assignment. Gregorius had Tommy John surgery in October. The usual return for non-pitchers is less than a year, and Gregorius is looking at a few weeks of rehab before making his return to the team. Should all go well, he could be returning prior to the All-Star Break.

Roster move: Before today’s doubleheader, the Yankees recalled reliever Chance Adams as the 26th man. Adams played a key role in the second of today’s games, even earning the win tonight.

Go Yankees!

Game 21: KC vs. NYY — A bit of redemption on Easter

The final game between the Yankees and visiting Royals made this Sunday afternoon game on a holiday worth watching. Actually, it was a Yankee dominant game, looking like a fairly easy win, until the Royals came in to bury the Yankees in a single inning. Only for the home team to rise again with a great walk-off victory. (That’s enough Easter puns. I promise.)

James Paxton had a great outing today, throwing 104 pitches in 6 scoreless innings, giving up just 3 hits and a walk, and striking out 12 Kansas City batters. He really should have been the main story if not for the weird late-inning twists in today’s game Kahnle followed up, breezing through a great 7th inning. Things were looking good for the Yankees.

Plus, they had racked up enough run support to feel a little too safe. In the 1st, DJ LeMahieu led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on a fly out, and then raced home on a passed ball to barely beat out the tag. With 2 outs in the 2nd, Ford doubled (his first MLB hit, by the way) and then scored on Austin Romine’s single. And in the 5th, Voit and Gardner each singled and then scored on Clint Frazier’s big 3-run home run to give the Yankees their nice lead.

But then it was the 8th inning that everything went a bit pear-shaped for the Yankees. Chad Green came on in relief and just could not find an out, instead loading up the bases with 2 singles and a walk. So it was up to Adam Ottavino to try to get out of that jam, but he too had issues finding an out. He promptly gave up a 2-RBI double, a 3-run home run to tie up the game, and a solo homer to suddenly give the Royals the lead. And then he got the 3 outs he needed.

Now, that wasn’t sitting well with the Yankees. They weren’t about to give up their series win that easily. Tauchman led off the bottom of the 8th with a double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Austin Romine’s single to tie up the game again. And just like that, the Yankees were back in it.

Chapman sailed his way through the 9th, but the Yankees didn’t find the opportunity to do so in the bottom of the inning. So it was into extra innings for a special Easter game. Britton came in a matched his predecessor’s breezy streak. And this time, the Yankees found their moment in the bottom 10th.

Tauchman and Urshela worked consecutive walks, and after a pitching change, Estrada hit a sacrifice bunt and moved both runners into scoring position. It would be the hero of the day, Austin Romine, to sneak a great single up the middle all the way to the back fence to score Tauchman for the walk-off win today.

Final score: 7-6 Yankees, in 10 innings, Yankees win series 3-1

Next up: The Yankees are headed to the West Coast to face the Angels, Giants, and Diamondbacks for this road trip. This will take them into May before they’re back in the Bronx again.

Injury news/roster moves: Before today’s game, the Yankees moved Aaron Judge to the 10-day injured list with his oblique injury. But the reality is that he will probably be out for about a month. Frequent MLB contributor (and famous Yankee granddaughter) Lindsay Berra wrote an article two years ago about oblique injures in baseball and the commonality of the injury in athletes and why the average return to play is about 27 days.

With Judge’s spot on the roster vacant, the Yankees decided to call up Thairo Estrada again. Despite Estrada being an infielder, the logical move would be to have a utility player like Tyler Wade to substitute in the outfield as needed. And again, despite 13 men on the IL, the Yankees are charging into this road trip on a win streak again.

And a Happy Easter to all who celebrate, however you celebrate.

Go Yankees!

Game 20: KC vs. NYY — #TanakaTime with some controversy & another injury

Well, this Saturday was certainly filled with some mixed results and emotions. The day began with the rain that lingered from last night, clearing up just before the game and would remain rather cloudy during this third game with the visiting Royals in the Bronx. Maybe that cloudiness should have been a sign for this game.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start today and had a really great outing. He threw 94 pitches in 7 innings, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and just 1 run, and struck out an impressive 7 Kansas City batters. His lone allowed run was a lead-off solo homer in the 6th. He certainly earned today’s win.

Jonathan Holder closed out the game for Tanaka with 2 solid innings. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo home run in the 9th inning to double the Royals’ score. But he and Tanaka were strong enough to carry the game and limit the Royals’ impact.

The Yankees’ offense was certainly strong enough to support their pitchers today. Aaron Judge kicked things off with a 1-out solo home run in the 1st inning, and Clint Frazier led-off the 2nd with a solo home run to jump the Yankees in an early lead they would never surrender this afternoon.

After a tumultuous, yet scoreless 3rd inning for the Yankees, they came back in the 4th to dominate. Ford led-off with a walk and moved to 3rd on Romine’s double. Then, Mike Tauchman continued his power show with a big 3-run home run into the right field seats. And DJ LeMahieu promptly followed that with a solo home run on the 1st pitch of his at-bat for a great show back-to-back home runs.

In the 6th, Tauchman worked a walk and moved to 2nd on Judge’s 1-out single. Judge winced a little and held his side, coming out of the game and replaced by Tyler Wade. With 2 outs, Gleyber Torres hit a single to scored Tauchman, and Frazier’s single scored Wade to keep the runs coming.

And in the 7th, Urshela led-off with a double and scored on Austin Romine’s single to cap off the Yankees’ big afternoon. A rather great combination of Yankee offense and pitching today paid off in the end.

Final score: 9-2 Yankees

However… there were also some sour notes this afternoon. In addition to Judge’s injury (more below), there was that bad call that soured the 3rd inning for the Yankees. LeMahieu led-off with a walk, and Voit hit a 1-out single. Then Gleyber Torres smacked a big hit that aimed right for the 1st row of the left field stands. It appeared to bounce off the hands of a fan in that 1st row, but the immediate assumption was that it was going to be a home run anyway, so the call was a 3-run home run.

However… that fan seemed to lean too far over the fence, and the Royals’ manager rightfully asked for an umpire review to determine if there was fan interference. As we all watched slow-motion video and discussed the possibilities, the common thought was that it was fan interference, which is normally an automatic ground-rule double.

However… the umpire review declared it was an out due to fan interference, the implication being that the Royals’ left fielder would have made the out as he jumped to lead over and rob the home run away from Torres. And the world erupted. Well, the social media world did. And believe me, I was right there with them.

Now, the left fielder is a good player, but I just don’t think he was that good to be able to really disrupt the natural trajectory of the ball that was clearly heading out of the park. That fan interference was a bad move, but it wasn’t really interfering with the left fielder as much as it did with the ball leaving the park.

Of course, we weren’t alone in this thought. Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone was livid at the overturned call too, bounding over to the umpires in just a few large steps. Within seconds, Boone got his first ejection of the season, and the fans were 100% behind him. The players were too, as that just propelled them to get 7 more runs as Boone watched from the clubhouse.

Injury update: That 6th inning injury to Aaron Judge is a big blow to the team. Judge came up from the swing clutching his side, only to be diagnosed with an oblique injury. He was sent to New York Presbyterian in the City for further testing, including a potential rehab trajectory. This will make 13 players on the IL, as there’s no way Judge will avoid the IL at this point. There will be more we know tomorrow.

But for some good news, it looks like the Yankees will be getting Gary Sanchez back this next week. He is set to play a minor league game Monday, fly to Anaheim to meet the team on Tuesday, and then will play on Wednesday. Though, to be fair, Higashioka and Romine have certainly been doing a great job in his absence, proving how great the catching depth is on the Yankees.

Chag Pesach Sameach (Happy Passover) this week to those who observe.

Go Yankees!

Game 19: KC vs. NYY — #CCStrong in rainy Friday game

The countdown to 3000 continues for retiring pitcher CC Sabathia. Tonight’s game got him quite a bit closer to that milestone in his 247th career win. In this second game of the weekend series, he threw 86 pitches in his 5 innings, giving up 3 hits, 4 walks, and an unearned run, and striking out 5 Royals batters.

Sabathia’s lone problematic inning was the 3rd, starting with a lead-off walk. A single and throwing error moved runners into scoring position. The next batter hit into a double play when Frazier caught the fly ball in right field and then powered the ball in to get the runner out at home. A fielding error put runners on the corners so that a single scored the Royals’ first run. After another walk loaded up the bases, the Yankees defense snapped into action to get the force ground out at home.

Luis Cessa came on in relief in the 6th and had a bit of trouble, giving up consecutive doubles to scored the Royals’ second run, but then he got under control. Something he handed off to the final 3 pitchers. Ottavino, Kahnle, and Britton sailed their way through an inning a piece to close out the game and keep the Royals from adding to their score.

Meanwhile, the Yankees weren’t exactly all that quiet like they were yesterday, despite the fact that it rained through most of the second half of the game. In the 3rd, down by a run, with 1 out, Wade singled and then scored on Brett Gardner’s solid 2-run home run. And Mike Tauchman led-off the 5th with a solo home run.

They loaded up the bases in the 6th with Judge’s double, Voit’s walk, and Torres’ single. DJ LeMahieu’s sacrifice fly scored Judge and moved Voit to 3rd. Luke Voit then scored on Frazier’s walk and a passed ball.

Higashioka led-off the 7th with a double and then scored on Tyler Wade’s bunt single and a throwing error. Wade, however, ended up being tagged out trying to make it to 2nd. The Yankees loaded up the bases again with walks to Gardner, Judge, and Voit, but 2 pop-up outs halted any further additions to their score.

But then, it’s not like they needed it.

And it was raining.

Final score: 6-2 Yankees

CC K Count: 2994

And in a weird twist of the jersey numbers, for the first time in MLB history, a player wearing #0 faced off against another player wearing #0. It’s not hard to imagine it’s taken this long to happen. It would require that one pitcher and one position player to each wear the number, and until Ottavino most of the players donning #0 were position players. Also, there aren’t really a lot of players that want to wear #0.

So in the 7th inning, Yankees pitcher Adam Ottavino faced off the Royals’ right fielder Terrence Gore to make some history that will make all the sports trivia geeks geek out. By the way, Ottavino won the battle in 5 pitches with a nice strikeout.

Go Yankees!

Game 18: KC vs. NYY — Slow Thursday evening slowed streak

No dance party in the Yankees’ clubhouse tonight. The Yankees couldn’t keep their rivalry momentum going with this new series, as the Royals came into town for a long weekend and somehow silenced the Yankees’ offense.

The Yankees’ lone run tonight was in the 1st inning. With 1 out, Judge singled, moved to 3rd on Voit’s single, and then scored on Gleyber Torres’ sacrifice fly. For the rest of the game, they only got 2 more hits and a few walks without scoring another run. It was rather lethargic in light of the games earlier this week.

Despite the outcome, the Yankee pitching was actually pretty decent. Domingo German got the start, throwing 88 pitches through 6 innings, giving up 6 hits and 3 runs, and striking out 9 Kansas City batters. In the 1st, with 1 out, 2 doubles scored their first run. And lead-off solo homers in the 2nd and 4th gave the Royals the lead they’d need to sail in for the win.

Jonathan Holder came on in the 7th and had a rare sloppy night. With 1 out, he gave up a single that moved to 2nd on another single and then scored on a ground-rule double. Zack Britton came on, but he gave up a sacrifice fly that scored one more run. Chad Green gave up a couple of hits in the 8th but managed to get out of the inning scoreless.

And Joe Harvey’s 9th started with a walk that stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a line drive, and then scored on another sacrifice fly. Collectively, Yankee pitchers got the Royals to strikeout 14 times, but it was the 11 hits that led to 6 runs that made all the difference (compared to the Yankees’ 4 hits and 1 run).

Final score: 6-1 Royals

Actually, the coolest play of the night was Aaron judge’s diving grabdiving grab for the ball in the 5th inning. The lead-off batter for the Royals smacked a solid hit into right field, that by any other means should have been a nice single. But Judge came in running for it, diving head first, and sliding along the grass to make the catch.

I’m almost sorry to say that’s one of the few memorable moments of the night, but baseball isn’t always dance-party-worthy. Sometimes, it’s just a game you file into the books, close the chapter, and start again the next day.

It’s worth remembering that highlight reels aren’t actually “highlights” if they’re the regular stuff. Not every moment is going to be something to capture forever. Think about how many mundane things you do at your job. But that one great sale, meeting, accomplishment, sliding catch, whatever — those are the things you talk about, post about, add to social media/your resume/your own highlight reel.

Go Yankees!

Game 104: KC vs. NYY — Oh, Happ-y Day!

The Yankees sold out their 20th home game this season, despite being against a non-division rival and one of the worst teams in MLB right now. But it was a lovely Sunday mid-summer afternoon, a perfect day for America’s pastime, for the finale game of this long weekend series between the Yankees and the visiting Royals.

JA Happ got his first start as a Yankee, becoming the first pitcher to pitch for both the Blue Jays and the Yankees in a single season since David Cone in 1995, and we all know how that trade worked out. Happ had a great outing in his Yankee debut, throwing 96 pitches in his 6 innings, gave up just 3 hits, a walk, and 1 run, and struck out just 2 Kansas City batters. His lone allowed run was a 2-out solo home run in the 6th.

But the Yankee offense gave Happ a good cushion for his start today too. In the 1st, with 2 outs, Gregorius worked a walk and ended up at 2nd on a pick-off error. He then scored as part of Aaron Hicks 2-run home run to put the Yankees in the lead early. Hicks later led-off the 4th with a double and scored on Miguel Andujar’s 2-out single.

Then in the 5th, Gardner and Stanton hit consecutive singles, ending the Royals’ starter’s afternoon. With a new reliever, a ground out moved them both to scoring position, and Hicks’ walk loaded the bases. Gleyber Torres hit into a strange play, hitting the ball to the 2nd baseman who looked like he tagged Hicks on the way to 2nd before throwing out Torres at 1st for a double play.

However, the Yankees challenged the tag on Hicks, and rightly so, the play was overturned from a double play to a standard grounder to 1st. So, with 2 outs, Gardner scored and runners (Stanton and Hicks) were in scoring position. Only Stanton would then score on Greg Bird’s single. Then in the 6th, Walker was hit by a pitch, ended up at 3rd on Romine’s double, and then scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s sacrifice fly.

With the Yankees’ solid lead, and Happ’s great start (only 1 allowed run), the Yankees bullpen needed to keep the Royals from advancing. But it wasn’t that easy. Chad Green gave up a lead-off solo homer in the 7th, and David Robertson did the same in the 8th. But Chapman’s clean 9th inning gave him his 28th save of the season.

Final score: 6-3 Yankees, Yankees win series 3-1

Next up: The Yankees have that rare off-day tomorrow (Monday) before hosting a micro-series, 2 games against the Orioles. They then hit the road for a Sox road trip — 4 games at Fenway with the Red Sox and 3 games in Chicago at the White Sox. The Yankees then host a long 11-game home stand.

And it’s official. The Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018 is part of the legends represented in Cooperstown after today’s induction ceremony. This year’s class featured Jack Morris and Alan Trammel, both of the Tigers and voted by the Modern Era Baseball Committee; plus regular inductees Chipper Jones (Braves), Jim Thome (Indians), Trevor Hoffman (Padres), and Vladimir Guerrero (Expos/Angels). Guerrero chose to wear the Angels’ cap in his plaque, becoming the first player to wear an Angels’ cap in the Hall.

Congrats to this year’s inductees! And for your information, notable former Yankees up for voting in the next few years include Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte (2019), Derek Jeter and Jason Giambi (2020), Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira (2022), and Carlos Beltran and Ichiro Suzuki (2023). I would think quite a few of those names will be voted into the Hall within these next few years.

Go Yankees!