Game 24: NYY vs. LAA — Come from behind victory… once again

The Yankees are making it a pattern for the dramatic fall-behind moment only to come back and find victory over their West Coast opponent. In tonight’s third of four games this series in Anaheim, the Yankees were looking at California-native CC Sabathia to write the story (more later), but once again, it ended up being the relatively unknowns that made all the difference.

Sabathia came into tonight’s game with 2994 career strikeouts, and by all accounts, there was a high possibility that he might hit that rare feat of 3000 by the end of his outing. But call it pressure or just an off-night, things really didn’t go that way. Sabathia threw 86 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 6 hits and 5 runs (4 earned), and struck out just 3 Angels’ batters.

In the 1st, he gave up a 2-out solo home run to get the home team on the board first. But it was the 4th inning that caused so much trouble. After a lead-off home run to double their score, the Angels got a single that moved to 2nd on a bunt and fielding error, ended up at 3rd on a fielder’s choice out, and then scored as part of a big 3-run home run.

Jonathan Loaisiga came on for relief and tamped down on the Angels’ offense in his 3 innings, only allowing sporadic base runners but no further runs, an outing that would surprisingly earn the win. And it would be Aroldis Chapman to close out the game with a solid 17-pitch 9th inning to earn the save.

The Angels’ pitching used the “opener” model, where their “starter” would only pitch one inning, and the bulk of their pitching would be by a long-term reliever. And tonight, it seemed to work as it held off the Yankees for most of the game and allowed their offense to collect a rather solid lead.

The Yankees didn’t find a scoring opportunity until the 6th inning. Wade singled and then scored on DJ LeMahieu’s double. Voit’s single moved LeMahieu to 3rd, and after 2 outs (and an unsuccessful challenge), LeMahieu jogged home to easily score on a passed ball to further chip away at the Angels’ lead.

Once the Angels got into their bullpen, it was the Yankees’ chance to advance. In the 7th, they loaded up the bases with a walk to Ford, single to Urshela, and walk to Tauchman. Tyler Wade then worked a walk to score Mike Ford. After another pitching chance, DJ LeMahieu’s sacrifice fly scored Urshela, and Luke Voit’s fielder’s choice scored Tauchman to tie up the game before a bad double play ended the inning.

So it would come down to the 9th inning to break the tie. With 2 outs, Wade singled and stole 2nd to put himself in scoring position. DJ LeMahieu would again be the hero, whose single drove home Wade for the winning run.

Final score: 6-5 Yankees

CC K Count: 2997

Roster moves/Scranton Shuttle: Yesterday, the Yankees optioned Joe Harvey and recalled Jonathan Loaisiga for a fresh arm to pitch in tonight’s game. And before the game, the Yankees activated Gary Sanchez and recalled Stephen Tarpley, optioning Kyle Higashioka and Chad Green.

Green’s consistent issues seem out of place, so the Yankees are hoping a stint in AAA could help him get some of the kinks out of his delivery and back to the reliable Green he can be. Higashioka is only back in AAA because there’s only room for one back-up on the roster. He’s proven more than reliable when called upon, perhaps proof that time in AAA sharpens and hones players’ skills.

Injury update: Clint Frazier’s hopes to remain off the IL seem dashed after an MRI revealed his sprained ankle includes a small tear that demands he heal first. Apparently, Frazier was reminded of his injury setting foot out of bed and then when it swelled up a bit. Being forced to stay off it will definitely aid in healing it quicker than “playing through” the injury as he intended.

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 14: CHW vs. NYY — Sun shines on CC’s Saturday return

If one could script a return to the rotation for a retiring pitcher’s final season, I’m pretty sure Hollywood would demand more dramatics, more pitches, and more strikeouts. But for the Yankees right now (and their veteran starter), this was a pretty great way to write the comeback story for CC Sabathia’s final season with the Yankees.

Sabathia threw just 62 pitches through his 5 scoreless innings, giving up just a single hit in the 3rd and striking out 3 White Sox batters along the way. The visiting White Sox didn’t really stand much of a chance against today’s Yankee pitchers, with Sabathia leading the way once again. Domingo German powered through the 6th and 7th before Britton and Chapman each breezed through 9-pitch innings to close out the game and completely blank the White Sox.

I will give credit where credit is due. The Yankees faced a former teammate in Chicago’s starter, and he held the Yankees off the scoreboard through 6 strong innings. After giving up a single to Torres in the 7th, the White Sox went to their bullpen. Bird made it safely to 1st on a fielder’s choice fielding error.

After another pitching change, Frazier’s single loaded up the bases. The Yankees called on Luke Voit to pinch hit, and his single scored Torres to break through the scoreless tie. Kyle Higashioka’s sacrifice fly scored Bird and moved Frazier to 3rd so that he could then score on Tyler Wade’s sacrifice bunt.  Aaron Judge’s lead-off solo home run in the 8th capped off the Yankees’ runs, but it was more than enough for a victory celebration in the Bronx.

Final score: 4-0 Yankees

CC K count: 2989

{Note: We’re adding this new segment after every CC Sabathia start for the rest of the season. The 3000 strikeout club is an elite group of pitchers, nearly all are in the Hall of Fame. The last name on the list, the one right above Sabathia right now, is Braves pitcher John Smoltz with 3084, but 11 more strikeouts gets Sabathia on the list forever. Only 1 other pitcher earned the honor as a Yankee, Phil Niekro, though a few others have been Yankees at some point in their careers.}

Roster moves: Before today’s game, the Yankees reinstated CC from the IL and sent Stephen Tarpley to AAA Scranton to make room for the veteran starter. I imagine we’ll see Tarpley again before long.

Injury news: There is an update on Dellin Betances. When the Yankees originally signed him in 2006, they were aware of an asymptomatic bone spur behind his right shoulder (his throwing arm). But the most recent diagnosis is that it’s no longer the case and the cause of his most recent discomfort and shut down the All-Star reliever for at least 3 weeks from baseball activities.

They are treating him with a cortisone injection to target the bone spur, a normal part of treatment. Surgery is only necessary if the spur causes significant damage to the area, but right now, that does not seem to be the case. This is good news for Betances and the Yankees because it means that his return is weeks away, just a few more than they initially hoped.

And they certainly need all the hope they can get with the growing list of players on the IL, hopefully and progressively dropping off the IL sooner rather than later. Stay healthy, guys!

Go Yankees!

Game 13: CHW vs. NYY — Drenched and shortened loss

Tonight’s home stand opener certainly didn’t go as well as they thought. And the weather itself certainly agreed. The skies threatened to storm the entire evening, even drizzling through most of the game, but it finally broke through and drenched the Bronx enough to force them to call the game early. Which, of course, meant the Yankees ran out of time to try to regain their lead against the visiting White Sox.

Starter JA Happ really struggled through his outing tonight. He threw 88 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 9 hits, 2 walks, and 6 runs, and struck out 5 Chicago batters. A lead-off double in the 1st scored on a 2-out single to get the White Sox on the board early and first. In the 4th, he gave up 2 walks that scored on a 2-out double.

While this was actually tolerable for the Yankees, it was the 5th inning that things really started falling apart. Happ gave up a single, a 2-run home run, and another single before the Yankees called in Jonathan Holder for relief. But then he promptly gave up a 2-run home run before powering his way through 3 strikeouts to end the inning and then keeping the Sox scoreless through the 6th.

Okay, backing up a little, the Yankees did actually do pretty well on the offense side tonight. Down by 1 run in the 1st, the Yankees answered back in the bottom of the inning. With 1 out, they loaded up the bases with a throwing error on Judge’s at-bat and 2 walks to Voit and Torres. After another out, DJ LeMahieu’s single scored both Judge and Voit. But then, Torres was caught out in a rundown trying to make it to 3rd. His distraction was enough to allow both runners to score before he got tagged out, so the risk was worth it.

Now in the lead, the Yankees continued to surge forward in the 2nd. Frazier led-off with a walk, moved to 3rd on Urshela’s double, and then scored on Austin Romine’s single. Later, Aaron Judge’s sacrifice fly scored Urshela. Brett Gardner hit a solid 2-out solo home run in the 4th. And in the 6th, LeMahieu walked and Frazier singled. After a pitching change, Gio Urshela’s single scored LeMahieu, and despite loading up the bases later, the Yankees’ offense stalled that inning.

And they never got another chance to restart it because it started raining. They sent Chad Green out in the 7th, and like his 2 predecessors, he had his own issues with his outing. With 1 out, he gave up back-to-back solo homers. And by then the rain was just too much.

After 41 minutes of a delay and no end in sight, the game was called as is.

Final score: 9-6 White Sox, in 7 innings

Roster moves: Before tonight’s game, the Yankees sent Gary Sanchez to the injured list with left calf strain. He originally sat out the previous game with some calf discomfort, not wanting to push himself to actually get injured. But on yesterday’s off-day, he noticed it was still problematic and got it check out, hoping to be able to play through the stiffness. Diagnosis: strain. So they called up Kyle Higashioka for back-up to Romine.

And be prepared: the Yankees are set to activate CC Sabathia from the IL for tomorrow’s game, so the corresponding roster move (probably a pitcher) is forthcoming. But it’s nice to see someone coming off the IL rather than being put on. Yeah, we need more of that please.

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 3: TOR vs. NYY — Pitching strong to 1-hit Opening Day win

A rather perfect day greeted the Yankees for their Spring home opener — blue skies, sunny, a bit breezy at times to reduce the potential heat, standard Opening Day pomp and circumstance, fans to pack the stadium, and an inconsistent opponent with the visiting Toronto Blue Jays. Add in a pretty well-played game, and it was the perfect set-up for a glimpse of what could be this season.

Actually, the unsung stars of this afternoon’s game were the pitching staff, who collectively only gave up 1 hit and 2 walks and kept the game pace brisk to just 2 hours and 22 minutes. James Paxton got to show off his stuff to the Yankee audience during his 2 innings, handing things over to Domingo German, Luis Cessa, Green, Diehl, and Jonathan Holder. Cessa, in particular, was outstanding, breezing his way through 6 outs and potentially making a campaign to be back with the big boys after a really rough season last year.

The Yankee hitters certainly weren’t shy about getting themselves on base, racking up 8 total hits and 3 walks off Blue Jays’ batters. But the hits that mattered most were the lead-off hits in the first two innings. Troy Tulowitzki, the player who grew up wishing to be a Yankee, earned his pinstripes when he took the 2nd pitch of the game and hooked it just left of the right field foul pole for a great solo home run. It’s especially sweet for Tulowitzki because it was against the team that gave up on him when he was battling injuries for the last 18 months.

Then in the 2nd, Kyle Higashioka led-off with a huge solo home run deep into the left field concourse. Of course, it came just as I was having a discussion that he needed to really kick up his bat if he wanted to be more of a stronger contender for the back-up catcher’s job. This “jinx” didn’t work at his next at-bat, by the way.

Once the Yankees had cycled through all their players, it was time for the minor league guys to shine. And they did. In the 6th, Ryan McBroom led-off with a single and moved to 2nd on Zehner’s single, and both moved into scoring position on a ground out. Another grounder scored McBroom to cap off the Yankees’ scoring today.

Final score: 3-0 Yankees

Next up: the Yankees will host the Phillies tomorrow afternoon.

Okay, as is tradition these last few years, I’ll continue to highlight a “One to Watch” after every home game. This player is from the farm system, and their contributions to the game that day make them something to keep an eye on. Some of my previous selections are currently on major league rosters, some are now retired or have moved on to other career avenues, and some are still trying to make their mark on the league.

Today’s One to Watch is Ryan McBroom. McBroom’s defense at 1st combined with his base running to score the Yankees’ 3rd run today made him stand out among his peers. McBroom also originally signed with the Blue Jays 5 years ago before they traded him to the Yankees in exchange for Rob Refsnyder. He spent last year bouncing between the Yankees’ AA and AAA teams, with a .310 batting average and 60 total RBIs.

In the Yankee Universe: the Yankees have decisively said that outfielder Aaron Hicks is “their guy” by signing him to a new 7-year, $70 million contract extension, which includes an option for 2026. Hicks certainly proved himself worthy last year, finding ease in the hole left by the injured Ellsbury and becoming a reliable power hitter and defender. And with this new deal, the Yankees make it clear they are not looking for other help in the outfield nor are they willing to part with Hicks.

And for all you long-time Yankee fans, Andy Pettitte is back. Sort of. Today, they announced that Pettitte now serves as special advisor to the GM to help with player development. Pettitte confessed that he actually refused an offer to join former teammate Jorge Posada, who recently accepted a similar role with Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins. No, Pettitte has been trying to get a job with the Yankees since he retired in 2013, as he’s clearly a Yankee through and through. It’s good to have him back and see him don the pinstripes once again, as he did with fellow alum like Jackson, Merrill, Randolph, and Martinez before today’s game.

Boy, it’s good to be back. And it’s better to be winning.

Go Yankees!

Game 124: TOR vs. NYY — A clean sweep in this celebratory weekend

After all the fuss about the past this weekend, including a fun giveaway of replicas of the 1998 Championship ring to fans today, the Yankees were looking at closing the door to this series and homestand on a positive note and go into their road trip strong. JA Happ was just the man for the job as he got his first start against his old team and proved that he fits in rather nicely in pinstripes.

In this final game of the weekend series and the homestand, Happ threw 103 pitches into the 6th, gave up 7 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and struck out an impressive 8 Toronto batters to earn the win this afternoon. In the 1st, after 2 quick outs, he gave up a big solo home run to get the Jays on the board early. But despite giving up a couple singles, he got out of the inning without further damage. He held his former team scoreless through the next 4 innings, before giving up a lead-off solo shot in the 6th.

After giving up a double and then getting his 8th strikeout, the Yankees opted to go to Jonathan Holder. Holder got his first batter out and then watched as Higashioka caught the runner stealing 3rd. And the question on everyone’s mind: Why was he stealing 3rd with 2 outs? Holder continued on through the 7th with a clean outing before handing the ball over to Sonny Gray for 2 strong innings to close out the game. Gray is certainly finding his place in the bullpen and becoming quite the reliable fixture there.

Now, Blue Jays’ starter had a less than ideal afternoon. The Yankees dinged into his start right in the 1st and didn’t let up. Hicks and Stanton worked walks and moved up in a double steal. Hicks then scored on Miguel Andujar’s single, and Stanton scored on Didi Gregorius’ troubled single (more below). Torres’ wimpy single loaded the bases for Greg Bird to hit a powerful grand slam into the 2nd deck of the right field seats.

Finally getting a couple of outs, the Blue Jays called his outing over and turned it over to their bullpen, who did a much better job of keeping the Yankees from adding to their lead. After a few relievers kept the Yankees scoreless, Gardner led-off the 6th with a single, moved to 2nd on Hicks’ walk, and then scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s single.

But they weren’t done yet. Andujar hit into an attempt at a double play, but the Jays’ defense only got the out at 2nd and Andujar beat the ball to 1st. Hicks scored either way, but the Blue Jays wasted their challenged on that call that was rightly upheld. Torreyes doubled and moved Andujar to 3rd, and Torres was intentionally walked to load up the bases.

Bird then hit into a baby grounder that the defense snapped into action to get Andujar trying to come home. The defense also tried to get Bird headed for 1st but a high throw pulled the 1st baseman off the bag as Bird touched the base. It was close, but with no challenges left, there wasn’t much the Blue Jays could do. That didn’t sit well with their manager, who was already fairly heated up from some earlier bad plays, and got himself thrown out of the game.

Anyway, after the drama died down, Kyle Higashioka hit a solid single that scored both Torreyes and Torres to cap off the Yankees’ scoring. A new reliever once again helped settle the Yankee bats, something the final reliever (and former Yankee reliever) kept going to closer out the game.

Final score: 10-2 Yankees, Yankees sweep the series 3-0

Next up: The Yankees have a scheduled off-day that will also be a bit of a travel day. They will then face the Marlins for a quick 2-game series in Miami, before they enjoy another off/travel day. Then they face the Orioles in Baltimore for a 4-game series, or rather 3 regular games and a make-up game (from a rain-out last month) early on Saturday. And then it’s back home to the Bronx for 7 games (White Sox and Tigers) before they head out to the West Coast.

Injury alert: Didi Gregorius hit that single in the 1st and kind of stumbled over the 1st baseman in the process. And somewhere between hitting the base, smacking into the other player, and landing on the ground on the other side of the base, he incurred a bruised heel. After he scored on Bird’s grand slam, they ended up pulling him from the game in the 3rd, allowing utility fielder Torreyes a chance to play today. He will undergo further testing before a timeline for recovery is announced, but I imagine a small stint on the DL is to be expected.

Go Yankees!