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 159: NYY vs. TB — Late September Drama at the Trop

The Yankees “magic number” is down to 1. They are solidly 2 games ahead of the Athletics, so just 1 win in this weekend’s series against the Red Sox means that they have secured home field advantage for the Wild Card game, a much easier trip for Wednesday’s game from Boston. This would technically be the biggest “advantage” for the Yankees, as the A’s will have to fly in from California after their weekend series in Anaheim.

But that particular drama is a series away. And there was plenty of drama this afternoon under the dome of Tropicana Field in the Yankees final game of this series against the Rays, mainly thanks to the strong scoreless, 1-hit start by CC Sabathia and a power show by the Yankees’ offense.

In the 1st, Brett Gardner led-off the game with a double. With 1 out, Voit and Stanton each walked to load the bases. All the runners moved up on a wild pitch, scoring Gardner. Then Miguel Andujar smacked a 2-out 3-run home run to give the Yankees a solid early lead. The Rays changed their pitchers and that helped keep the Yankees in line for a bit.

Torres led-off the 4th with a single, moved to 2nd on a passed ball, and then scored on Austin Romine’s single. Hechavarria singled but then was tagged out on Gardner’s fielder’s choice grounder that left runners on the corners. Aaron Judge’s sacrifice fly scored Romine. Gardner then stole 2nd and scored on Luke Voit’s big double.

So the Yankees had this hefty lead. And CC Sabathia was having his own strong show from the mound. He threw just 55 pitches today into the 6th inning, allowing just 1 hit, and striking out 5 Rays batters. Sabathia was having one of those good outings that made him a legend in his long career, and he just needed 2 more full innings to get a special bonus as part of his contract. Literally, he just had to pitch through 7 innings today to get a $500,000 contract bonus.

But in his 5th inning, one particular pitch hit a Rays’ batter and started much of the bitter drama today. It was an accident, just an errant pitch. Why would a veteran starter with a huge offensive lead behind him intentionally hurt a batter?

As a result of this hit by pitch, the Rays pitcher felt it was his job to throw at Austin Romine, narrowly missing the Yankees catcher in the face. It was clearly intentional, clearly in “retribution” for Sabathia’s sloppy pitch in the previous inning. So, the dugouts got their requisite “warnings”. And the inning continued. Romine struck out 3 pitches later.

After the drama with Romine, Hechavarria singled and then scored on Brett Gardner’s big triple. Gardner then scored on Aaron Judge’s sacrifice fly. And then Luke Voit and Giancarlo Stanton hit back-to-back home runs to keep the ball rolling for the Yankees’ offense today.

And then we went back into that drama. Now, when Romine got “buzzed”, he fell onto the ground and was visibly shaken. Boone had to hold back Sabathia from charging out in defense. Had Romine been actually hit (or worse, hurt), there would have been some serious scrums on the Trop’s infield. It was that kind of tense. Sabathia wasn’t having any of this nonsense. It’s this old-school tradition that shouldn’t be tolerated. It’s really a ridiculous response, especially as the pitch at Romine was aimed at his head. You don’t do that. That’s bad baseball.

And again, Sabathia wasn’t having any of it. He threw away that all that bonus money with a single pitch to kick off the bottom of the 6th inning when he plunked the Rays’ catcher on the back of the leg (calf area). It was a lazy pitch, and Sabathia didn’t even seem to see that he’d been ejected as he was already on his way to the dugout. Boone was also ejected in the fracas.

Luis Cessa came on to finish out the 6th inning with 3 quick outs. He gave up a lead-off solo home run in the 7th but otherwise sailed his way through 3 solid innings, including 5 (of the 9 outs) strikeouts. Loaisiga closed out the game with a strong 9th inning to keep the Rays to that lone allowed run.

But the Yankees wanted that run back. Giancarlo Stanton helped them do so with his lead-off solo home run in the 9th, his 2nd homer of the game and 37th for the season.

Final score: 12-1 Yankees, Yankees win the series 3-1

Next up: The Yankees are traveling to Boston tonight to begin their weekend series there tomorrow night at Fenway. Their final 3 games will be played against the 1st place Red Sox, a potential ALDS match-up should the Yankees win the Wild Card Game. The Red Sox are set to play the winner of the Wild Card Game as the AL team with the most wins.

And a quick reminder going into the weekend, that the AL is set (division leaders Red Sox, Indians, and Astros, and Wild Card opponents Athletics and Yankees), but the NL is going down to the wire. The Braves have the NL East, but the Central and West divisions are a half-game apart (Cubs-Brewers and Rockies-Dodgers) as I post (the Cubs and Rockies play today, so this will change). Plus the Cardinals are just a game out of Wild Card contention. This means that the NL is where the drama is right now.

Go Yankees!

Game 155: BAL vs. NYY — Flailing bullpen denies Yankee sweep

In this final home game of the 2018 season, the Yankees were looking to close it out on an upswing. And for a good chunk of the afternoon, it looked like it was going to go that way in this final game against the visiting Orioles.

JA Happ had a good start, throwing 107 pitches in his 5 innings, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and a run, and striking out an impressive 7 batters. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo home run in the 2nd. Happ then held off the Orioles for the rest of his time on the mound.

And the Yankee batters gave him in enough to work with. In the 1st, the starter came off the mound after 4 pitches due to a blister issues. His replacement triggered an offensive show by the home team, loading up the bases with 3 consecutive walks. Gleyber Torres’ sacrifice fly (no media clip, sorry) scored McCutchen, Miguel Andujar’s single scored Stanton, and Gary Sanchez’s 2-out single scored Voit.

But then the Yankees didn’t do much more for the rest of the game. So the Yankee defense and pitchers needed to defend their slim lead. AJ Cole came on in relief of Happ in the 6th and just fumbled out of the gate. He gave up a double, a 2-run home run, and a solo home run to put the Orioles into the lead.

So the Yankees turned to Tommy Kahnle. He gave up a double that moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a sacrifice fly to add one more run for the O’s. Luis Cessa came on in the 7th and calmed things down a bit. But after some defensive switches in the 8th, he gave up a 1-out single that scored on a 2-out double to cap off the Orioles’ scoring today.

The Yankee bats never did awaken again this afternoon, an odd exception to the Orioles’ poor show by their bullpen this weekend. But baseball isn’t predictable.

Final score: 6-3 Orioles, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees are headed down to Florida to start their final week of this season with 4 games against the Rays before heading to Boston for 3 games at Fenway to conclude the season. The Yankees need to keep ahead of the Athletics in the standings if they want to keep home field advantage for the Wild Card game.

As I write this, the A’s are losing to the Twins. They have a fairly easy schedule against the Mariners and Angels to close out their season next week. So it really could go down to the wire for home field advantage in the AL Wild Card just like the NL is still a giant question mark for the postseason. And honestly, it kind of makes this last week of baseball all the more fun. Every game counts for something. Every moment matters.

Injury news: Getting lost in the fracas during yesterday’s win, it looks like Didi Gregorius tore cartilage in his right wrist in that slide home to score the winning run in the 11th inning. He had an MRI, where they found the tear, and a cortisone shot for treatment. Right now, they’re waiting to see how he responds to the shot. But if he doesn’t, he could be out for the rest of the season. Fingers crossed for speedy healing to the Emoji King.

Go Yankees

Game 147: TOR vs. NYY — Big home blowout + #TanakaTime

Sometimes, it’s good to be back in your own surroundings. The fans in the stands are in familiar regalia, the cheers makes sense with the plays, the smells and sounds are just right. It’s part of why people put a lot of stock in “home field advantage”. Not because there’s anything particularly “lucky” about your home turf, but because players are familiar with how things work and that surrounding familiarity knocks out distractions and helps them focus on the game. At least, that’s my theory.

Tonight’s game rather supported that. Especially when you throw in an opposing team that is really having a string of so-called “bad luck” recently. And Masahiro Tanaka was on point in tonight’s weekend opener against the Blue Jays. He threw 90 pitches in 6 scoreless innings, gave up 4 hits and 2 walks, and struck out 8 Toronto batters to earn his 12th win of the season.

Luis Cessa continued Tanaka’s great start with 3 scoreless innings of his own, adding 4 more strikeouts. And according to the rules, he earned the save for pitching those final 3 innings. (Statistics are rather complicated sometimes.)

The Yankee batters, meanwhile, had quite the field day in the Bronx. Every starting player got at least 1 hit, and every starter either scored a run or hit a run in, though most did both. The Blue Jays’ pitchers just couldn’t figure out how to pitch to the hot Yankee bats tonight.

In the 1st, McCutchen led-off with a double, and Stanton walked. Aaron Hicks’ single scored McCutchen, and a late throw allowed both runners to move into scoring position. After an out, Didi Gregorius hit an easy grounder that allowed Stanton to score, and Gleyber Torres’ single scored Hicks. After Sanchez singled to join Torres on base, Luke Voit hit both of them home with his double.

With a solid lead, the Yankee hits kept coming. In the 3rd, Gregorius was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Voit later worked a 2-out walk. Brett Gardner’s single scored Gregorius and signaled the end of Toronto’s starter’s night. The new reliever loaded up the bases with McCutchen’s walk before giving up a single to Giancarlo Stanton that scored both Voit and Gardner.

Andrew McCutchen led-off the 5th with a solo home run (his 1st homer in Yankee Stadium ever, by the way), and Didi Gregorius followed his example with a lead-off solo shot in the 8th. Then, with 1 out in the 8th, Sanchez doubled and was pinch-run by Higashioka. Voit reached on a fielding error, moving Higashioka to 3rd. Then Brett Gardner hit a long fly ball out to center that scored Higashioka, but they ended up catching Voit off 1st for a delayed double play to end the inning.

Final score: 11-0 Yankees

Roster moves: Good news, Yankee Universe! Today, they activated Aaron Judge from the Disabled List. His wrist’s chip fracture is healed to the point where he could come into tonight’s game late to run and play defense, but he’s not going to be hitting just yet. They want that 100% swing back without any residual pain from the power-hitter before they pencil him in the lineup. But take today’s activation as a good sign of progress.

And earlier today, the kids at PS 71 in the Bronx were treated to a fun surprise. The PitCCh In Foundation, founded by CC and Amber Sabathia, hosted a special event to celebrate the beginning of the school year. While CC was on “daddy duty”, Amber hosted Yankee stars Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks to have some fun with the local students (including a dance party with a live DJ) and hand out backpacks filled with school supplies to help the kids start the new year right, much like they did last week in California (where the Sabathias grew up).

Gregorius also considered today’s outreach as part of his #DidisDeeds, his random acts of kindness campaign wherever he is, including in Toronto in July. These guys are just amazing in how they represent the Yankee spirit of excellence and character on and off the field.

In that spirit, Sabathia is the Yankees’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, an annual award to honor those players who embody excellence and character on and off the field. You can vote for Sabathia and read more about all the other nominees and how they’re impacting their communities.

Go Yankees!

Game 144: NYY vs. MIN — Big win in the “Mini Apple”

The Yankees kicked off their series in dramatic fashion, bringing a little “Big Apple” power to the “Mini Apple”. Yes, as a sort of play on its name, Minneapolis is actually nicknamed the “Mini Apple”, something I didn’t know until today despite always thinking of its pronunciation as such. But it also works well when comparing another fruit-based nicknamed city, like New York.

JA Happ got the start in tonight’s final interdivisional opener. Yes, it’s the last regular season series between the Yankees and a team not in the AL East. And it’s a shame because tonight’s game is proof that they kind of rock playing around the league this season. Happ threw 91 pitches in his 6 scoreless innings to earn his 16th win of the season.

In fact, Happ and the Twins’ starter had a bit of a pitchers’ duel for the first half of the game. Happ came out on top because the Yankees broke through on the back of Gary Sanchez’ 2-out big solo home run in the 6th inning. After giving up a walk to Bird right after that on his 118th pitch, the Twins’ starter called it a night and handed the ball to his first reliever, who gave a walk up to Torres but then stranded both runners.

But the Yankees had that slight lead and came back in the 7th against the Twins’ bullpen that didn’t seem to know what to do with them. First, McCutchen and Hicks each walked and then collectively scored on Miguel Andujar’s double. Giancarlo Stanton doubled to score Andujar, and the Twins brought in a new reliever. But then he gave up a double to Didi Gregorius that scored Stanton, and the Twins went back to their bullpen.

Sanchez’s single and Bird’s walk loaded up the bases, and Gleyber Torres’ single kept them loaded, scoring Gregorius. After finally getting an out, a strikeout, the Yankees went back to the top of the batting order and McCutchen’s sacrifice fly score Sanchez. Hicks’ walk loaded up the bases again, but a line drive out left them loaded.

But the damage that inning was done, which helped as Luis Cessa came on in relief for the Yankees. After a decent bottom of the 7th, his 8th inning was a bit of a struggle. With 1 out, he gave up 2 singles. A double scored the first runner, and a ground out scored the second. After a wild pitch moved the last runner to 3rd, Cessa buckled down and got a great strikeout to end the little threat.

Jonathan Holder made quick work of the 9th inning, sailing through with just 8 pitches to close out the game.

It’s worth noting that the Yankee batters got 11 hits and 10 walks, meaning 21 base runners tonight. It’s not unusual for the team with the highest number of base runners to get the highest number of runs. It does happen from time to time, usually because of some great defensive plays or out-of-jam pitching. But comparatively for tonight, the Twins got 10 hits and no walks. Sometimes, stats do matter.

Final score: 7-2 Yankees

Gary Sanchez’s big 6th inning home run was the third longest Yankee home run this season, coming in at 460 feet. He comes behind Judge’s 471 foot homer (May 23 in Texas) and himself with a 461 foot homer (May 4 against Cleveland). And tonight’s homer was just his 16th of the season thanks to his 2 stints on the DL for injuries. It’s a good reason to remember why Sanchez is still a key part of the Yankees, despite whatever other stats follow his name.

Go Yankees!

Game 140: NYY vs. OAK — Sevy Not So Sharp

Okay, while they deny the excuse, it’s certainly something to consider. The Yankees opted to change up their signs between pitcher and catcher. Yes, professional athletes should be able to rise above something like mixed signs, but it can’t help basic levels of frustration or high emotions in the heat of the moment. All of which certainly exacerbate even a slight error. In other words, it doesn’t matter why. It just happened, and it stinks.

In this final game against the Athletics, Luis Severino got the start and just got roughed up from the start. He threw 59 pitches into just the 3rd inning, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and 6 runs (5 earned), and struck out 3 Oakland batters. His first inning was just a mess and did enough damage that the Yankees couldn’t recover.

In that 1st inning, Severino allowed a lead-off double that moved to 3rd on the first passed ball and then scored on an RBI single to start the A’s night. After giving up another double, that runner moved to 3rd on the first wild pitch. Another double allowed that runner to score. Then a passed ball and a wild pitch moved that runner to 3rd and then score another run.

After a super quick 7-pitch 2nd inning, Severino came back for the 3rd and had some trouble again. He gave up a lead-off walk and a single before a ground out moved them into scoring position. After a strikeout, he gave up a single that scored both runners. That was it for Severino tonight.

He handed the ball over to Jonathan Holder. His first pitch became a quick line drive out to end the inning. But he had his own issues in the 4th inning. He gave up a lead-off single that moved to 2nd on a walk, ended up a 3rd on a fielder’s choice, and then scored on a grounder.

Luis Cessa then got his turn at some long-term relief for 3 innings. And for the most part, it was a decent outing. With 2 outs in the 6th, 2 doubles scored a final run for the A’s. Then, Tarpley and Kahnle split the 8th inning to close out this messy game for the Yankees.

The Yankees weren’t exactly playing the kind of game or getting the kind of hits they needed to do much of anything in tonight’s game. In fact, they were on their way to getting shut out of the game for the first 6 innings. In the 7th, Hicks led-off with a walk, and then scored as part of Gary Sanchez’s big 2-run home run. And that would be it for the Yankee offense that mattered.

Final score: 8-2 Athletics, the A’s win the series 2-1.

Next up: after an off-day/travel day tomorrow, the Yankees face the Mariners for the weekend before heading to face the Twins. Another off-day/travel day and the Yankees then begin their final home stand, a week of games to close out Bronx games this season. Then a final week on the road will close out this season and month against division rivals.

Well, this West Coast trip is not turning out how the Yankees wanted so far, but there is still two more sets of games to right the ship, as it were. Yes, that was a sea-faring metaphor in anticipation of the next opponent, the Mariners. I’m gearing up for the Yankees’ journey to Emerald City. Yes, The Wizard of Oz is set to make a few appearances too. Seattle is filled with great opportunities for metaphors.

Take a moment to vote for the Yankees’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, CC Sabathia, or whomever you deem is worth your vote. Sabathia will spend his off-day tomorrow working with the local arm of his PitCCh In Foundation to give backpacks filled with school supplies to Bay area school children. Sabathia and his wife Amber grew up in nearby Vallejo and still have family in the area that help facilitate their generosity to help local kids.

Injury update: despite some recent progress, Clint Frazier is still dealing with lingering and recurring concussion symptoms. This really comes down to Frazier probably missing the rest of this season. Honestly, this might be for the best. He really needs to fully recover. Head injuries are not something to be taken lightly, as a certain other sport is just starting to realize. We continue to wish him a full recovery in whatever time it takes that best works for his body and for his safety and health.

Go Yankees!

Game 136: DET vs. NYY — A 2-hit wonder

The funny thing about baseball is that for all its statistics and numbers, it really just boils down to a lone stat — runs scored. Everything else ultimately is either for individual glory (or detriment). And this afternoon’s game in the Bronx was a great example of that. The Yankees, who ultimately won the game, only got 2 hits and 5 walks, while the Tigers worked 9 hits and just 1 walk off Yankee pitchers. The difference was simple — the Yankees scored just one more run and thus won the game.

Still, Masahiro Tanaka got the start this afternoon, throwing 96 pitches in 7 innings, giving up 7 hits, a walk, and just 1 run, striking out 6 Detroit batters to earn his 10th win this season. In fact, his terrible inning was in the top of the game. He gave up 3 consecutive singles to load up the bases before allowing a sacrifice fly to score just 1 run. Tanaka held the Tigers to that lone run for the rest of his outing.

Jonathan Holder had a better outing today, throwing just 8 pitches in the 8th inning, before Dellin Betances’ clean 9th inning closed out the game and helped deliver the victory to the home team.

As good as the Yankee pitchers were today, the Tigers’ starter and his relievers actually held the home team to those 2 hits. In fact, their starter held the Yankees hitless and scoreless through the first 4 innings, having a bit of a perfect game, with 7 big strikeouts. However, in the 5th, Miguel Andujar broke his streak with a walk to lead-off the inning. One out later, Gleyber Torres hit his 22nd homer, a 2-run home run into the left field seats to get the Yankees on the board and in the lead.

Despite such a great start, the Tigers opted to go to their bullpen right there in the middle of the 5th. That first reliever promptly loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a hit-by-pitch (welcome to the Bronx, Andrew McCutchen!), but then a pop-up left them stranded. And that would be the last good opportunity the Yankees would get all afternoon.

Final score: 2-1 Yankees

Speaking of the new guy, Andrew McCutchen, clean-shaven and wearing #26, led-off the game and played right field in his Yankees’ debut today. He also got his first foray as part of the famed Roll Call from the Bleacher Creatures, something that made his smile linger for most of the 1st inning. The veteran outfielder should be an easy fan favorite for the fans in the outfield bleachers, much like he was with his former team in Pittsburgh.

It’s September. And with the turn of the calendar page comes the September call-ups, where each team is allowed to expand its daily 25 player roster up to 40 active players. This nicely coincided with both recent trades of McCutchen and Adeiny Hechavarria. They also activated Gary Sanchez off the 10-day disabled list, fully recovered from his recent groin injury.

The Yankees also recalled infielder Tyler Wade and reliever Luis Cessa and selected the contract of reliever Stephen Tarpley from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. And to make room on the 40-man roster for Tarpley, the Yankees opted to designate outfielder Shane Robinson for assignment.

Of course, that still leaves three big names on the Disabled List — Didi Gregorius (bruised heel), Aaron Judge (fractured wrist), and Aroldis Chapman (knee tendinitis). All three are actively receiving treatments, something the Yankees are hoping will bring them back sooner rather than later. But clearly the recent acquisitions are the Yankees’ way of shoring up their staff in case those lingering issues decide to linger a bit longer.

Go Yankees!