Games 128 & 129: NYY vs. BAL — Double the wins, double the fun

It was a good day for a doubleheader in Baltimore today. And the Yankees were raring to go and chip away at the Red Sox’s lead in the AL East, while showing their strength to the good contingency of fans that showed up at Camden Yards for both games.

Game 1 (Make-up game of rain-out June 3)
JA Happ got the start for the first game of this doubleheader, the second game of this weekend series, and the make-up game from a rain out in June. And Happ continued his strong show as a starter, throwing 107 pitches in 6 innings, giving up 5 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and striking out 9 Baltimore batters. Those allowed runs came in the 2nd, easily his weakest inning. With 1 out, he gave up a walk and a double that scored on a long single.

But then he stayed strong and kept the Orioles from doing much else. His lone reliever for the game, Luis Cessa, followed suit for the final third of the game. In fact, it wasn’t until the 9th inning that he gave the Orioles another chance. A lead-off single got out on a grounder the Yankees couldn’t turn into a double play. That new runner then took 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a 2-out single. But 1 out later, that was it for the O’s.

Meanwhile, the Yankees fell into a nice momentum in the batter’s box. In the 1st, with 1 out, Stanton walked, moved to 3rd on Hicks’ double, and scored on Miguel Andujar’s ground out. Robinson led-off the 3rd with a single, moved to 2nd on Gardner’s walk, and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ 1-out single. Andujar followed that up with a big 3-run home run.

With 1 out in the 4th, Robinson doubled and ended the Orioles’ starter’s afternoon early. Of course, it didn’t help that the first reliever promptly gave up a 2-run home run to Brett Gardner. Andujar then led-off the 5th with a single, ended up at 3rd on Torres’ single, and scored on Luke Voit’s single. And solo home run by Gleyber Torres in the 8th and Aaron Hicks in the 9th capped off the Yankees’ early show.

Final score (Game 1): 10-3 Yankees

Game 2 (regularly scheduled game)
Sonny Gray got a shot at as starter again in the second game of today. And he too had a great out, really better than his teammate in the early game. Gray kept the Orioles scoreless as he threw just 79 pitches into the 7th, gave up 3 hits and a walk, and struck out 7 batters to earn his 10th win this season.

Holder followed him by closing out the 7th and throwing a scoreless 8th. But Tommy Kahnle had a bit of trouble as the Orioles got to their final inning. He gave up a 1-out double that moved to 3rd on a 2-out single before scoring on a single. With the Yankees just needing to get out of the game, they called on Betances who got the final out in just 5 pitches, leaving runners stranded at the corners.

But to back Gray’s scoreless start, the Yankees needed to not be scoreless. And today was a good day for the Yankees to prove they are still the home run kings and one of the runs scored leaders. Gardner led-off the game in the 1st with a big ground-rule double and shortly scored on Aaron Hicks’ single to start the game right for the Yankees.

In the 2nd, the Yankees loaded the bases with singles to Torres, Romine, and Torreyes. A wild pitch had all the runners moving up and barely scoring Gleyber Torres. A sloppy fielder’s choice allowed Gardner to make it to 1st and Romine to score. Then in the 4th, with 1 out, Romine singled and later scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s 2-out single. Austin Romine led-off the 9th inning with a solo home run to cap off the Yankees’ run show today.

Final score (Game 2): 5-1 Yankees

Okay, so the make-up game from earlier was a win, which means that the Yankees officially swept the Orioles 3-0 for the weekend of June 1-3. And the Yankees are just a game short of doing so again this weekend. So fingers crossed, Yankee Universe, for another strong win tomorrow night.

Roster moves: As allowed by MLB, the Yankees called up their 26th man for the doubleheader today. They chose Luis Cessa, who certainly helped the Yankees seal their victory in that first game. Cessa, of course, was sent back to “the farm” once the games were over, but he’s been a solid choice for the Yankees for this kind of long-term relief.

Go Yankees!

Game 121: TB vs. NYY — Good start wasted on quiet bats

Well, that was not how the Yankees wanted to end today or this series. Masahiro Tanaka had a pretty good outing tonight, keeping the Rays to just 2 runs, but the Yankee bats just didn’t capitalize when they could to flip the narrative today. So the Yankees ended up on the wrong end of the series.

Other than the 1st inning, Tanaka breezed his way through the next 5 innings and still earned the loss. In the 1st, he gave up a single, a stolen base, an RBI double, another single, and an RBI double. The other runner got a little greedy on that last double, and the defense snapped into action to get the second runner out at home. Then Tanaka got out of the inning with 2 of his 6 strikeouts.

Britton threw a beautiful 11-pitch 7th inning before handing things over to David Robertson. Robertson had his own issues as the Rays continued to try to add to their minuscule lead. He gave up a single that moved to 3rd on a throwing error and then scored on a sacrifice bunt. But he was able to get out of the jam without allowing further damage. Kahnle closed out the game with a clean 9th inning.

But the Yankees just weren’t doing much to hit off the Rays’ pitchers, despite them using a more normal pitching pattern of a regular starter and then a collection of relievers to fill out the rest of the game. The Rays’ starter held the Yankees’ batters to just 2 hits and a walk and kept them scoreless through 5 innings. And his relievers, for the most part, continued that pattern.

But in the 8th, with 1 out, pinch-hitter Romine singled, and Hicks hit into a failed double play only getting Romine out at 2nd but a messy throwing error allowed Hicks to make it all the way to 2nd. Then Giancarlo Stanton hit a double off the right field wall, and for some reason, the umpires called it a home run, and the Rays’ outfielder didn’t bother to chase the ball down because he thought it was a foul.

Yeah, that left everyone kind of confused. So they did an umpire review and it was easily overturned as a home run, but the question remained as to what the call should be. The logical choice ended up being essentially the equivalent of a ground-rule double for a compromise, mainly because the Rays’ outfielder didn’t hustle to get what was a live ball rolling around in the outfield after it bounced off the wall.

Okay, after finally getting on the board, the Yankee had one more opportunity in the bottom of the 9th and it looked like it was going to work. Gregorius and Torres singled and Walker worked a walk to load up the bases. There was no outs, and the Rays decided to shut it down with a new reliever. Just 9 pitches later, the game was over.

Final score: 3-1 Rays, Rays win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees host the Blue Jays for the weekend to close out this home stand. After a travel day on Monday, they will play a short series in Miami before another travel day has them arriving in Baltimore for a weekend series there. And then it’s back to the Bronx again to close out the month.

Roster moves/Scranton Shuttle alert: After yesterday’s game, the Yankees optioned Luis Cessa back to AAA Scranton. They also recalled reliever Tommy Kahnle. Kahnle, as stated above, ended up pitching well in tonight’s game.

Go Yankees!

Game 120: TB vs. NYY — When you don’t have pitching, you don’t have anything

They always say that when you don’t have pitching, you don’t have anything (Sometimes it’s “you don’t have nothing”, but I was an English major and can’t allow myself to use a double negative unless I’m using a direct quote to make a point). But the point of that statement is proof that as much as you need those runs, you need a strong pitcher that won’t give up those runs for the other guys.

And Luis Cessa was just not having a great game tonight, in this middle game against the Rays. He threw 65 pitches into the 4th inning, gave up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 5 runs, and struck out 4 batters. In the 2nd, a 1-out double scored on a 2-out single to get the Rays started.

Then in the 3rd, he loaded up the bases with 2 singles and a walk and no outs. But then he got a good strikeout, so there was hope. The next batter hit into a grounder that the Yankees failed to turn into a double play, so the lead runner scored. Another run scored on an RBI single to give the Rays a hefty lead.

They added two more when a 1-out single scored as part of a 2-run homer in the 4th. And that was the end of Cessa’s night, handing things over to Holder. Holder had a better night, getting two solid strikeouts to close out the inning. Another good outing for the reliever who’s had some issues recently.

Sonny Gray really had a chance to show off his long-term reliever skills again, starting in the 5th and pitching into the 8th. Gray had some issues, but was able to space most of them out through his outing after a bit of a snag in the 5th. A 1-out double later scored on a 2-out single to cap off the Rays’ runs tonight. Green breezed his way through the final 5 outs in just 12 pitches and kept the Rays from adding to their lead.

The Yankees’ offense was really kept to a minimum and also spread throughout the game. They collected 5 hits and 4 walks (and 2 hit-by-pitches), but only managed one run — Miguel Andujar’s lead-off home run in the 2nd. They just weren’t finding the right holes to make a difference, several times getting enough runners in scoring position but getting halted from scoring runs, and Cessa’s troubled start laid the groundwork for the eventual loss.

Final score: 6-1 Rays

Roster moves: Before tonight’s game, the Yankees designated last night’s reliever George Kontos for assignment in order to recall Luis Cessa.

And as we’ve said (or rather presumed) in previous posts, Cashman confirmed the obvious — Aaron Judge‘s return will not be just 3 weeks from his initial injury (July 26). He recently received a cortisone shot to help with the healing, but he’s still not resuming baseball activities like swinging a bat or playing catch.

The reality is that he broke a bone (that’s why the word “fracture” is in “chip fracture”) and bones take time to heal. And it’s not until they heal that one can even start the recovery process. It’s going to hurt. The muscles and surrounding area have been irritated by the injury and will also require time to adjust to the healing process.

Look, injuries are both simple and complicated. They’re complicated in that there is no exact formula on healing and the process because each person and each injury is going to be different. And they’re simple for the same reason — they’re going to heal when they heal and there’s not much you can do until they do. It’s frustrating, but it’s just part of life, especially when one is an elite athlete.

It certainly makes me feel like I write about injuries almost as much as I write about roster moves. So, to me, it seems that injuries are as much a part of the business of baseball as figuring out the best combination for the bullpen. It’s certainly lends itself to part of the reason why baseball is so unpredictable.

Go Yankees!

Game 108: NYY vs. BOS — Against an ace performance, just 1-run

After last night’s crazy game, the Yankees were looking to tonight’s game for at least a little normalcy. And it was, but it wasn’t in their favor.

Luis Severino struggled a bit at the beginning of his outing tonight but later found his momentum and helped keep the Red Sox from doing too much damage against the Yankees. Severino threw a season-high 115 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 7 hits, 3 walks, and 4 runs, and struck out just 2 Boston batters.

In the bottom of the 1st, with 1 out, he gave up a ground-rule double that scored as part of a 2-run home run (if you’ve been following this series, it’s the same guy as last night). A 2-out walk stole 2nd and then scored on an RBI single to give the Red Sox an early lead. With 2 outs in the 5th, he gave up a double that scored on a single to cap off Boston’s offense. Robertson and Kahnle swept through the final 7 outs, cleanly and efficiently.

That should have been enough for the Yankees to fight back and make at least a concerted attempt to match the Red Sox. But the Yankee batters were up against a pitcher having a terrific game, eventually throwing a complete 9 innings with just 86 pitches and only giving up a single hit — a lead-off solo home run into the Green Monster seats to Miguel Andujar in the 3rd.

There was seemingly nothing the Yankees could do off the Red Sox pitcher tonight. Which certainly made for a quick game, just 2 hours and 15 minutes. It was just not going to be the Yankees’ night because of his performance.

Final score 4-1 Red Sox

Roster moves: The greatest story of tonight’s roster moves was that Tommy Kahnle, tonight’s 8th inning pitcher, was in upstate New York this morning (after the RailRiders game yesterday in Rochester) when he got the call to head to Boston rather than follow the team back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He made it at some point before he threw his 13 pitches tonight in his away greys.

To make room for him, the Yankees optioned Luis Cessa back to Scranton. And with JA Happ out with hand, foot, and mouth disease for the next week or so, the Yankees will be calling up prospect pitcher Chance Adams to start tomorrow’s game in Happ’s stead. Seeing as great pitchers like Sabathia and Severino have had less than ideal outings (though honestly not terrible) against the Red Sox, perhaps a change in the rotation could help press the reset button, so to speak, for the Yankees in this weekend series.

This reminds me of my preferred version of the famed quote misattributed to Einstein: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten.” In other words, if things aren’t working, change is the best option. Change is usually the best option. It prevents boredom and complacency and predictability, instead inviting creativity and adventure and surprise. And isn’t that worth the risk?

Go Yankees!

Game 107: NYY vs. BOS — 4th inning slaughter

When I started this blog six seasons ago, I made a commitment to being positive no matter what happened. I was coming off reading far too many blog posts that were highly negative or gossipy, and I wanted to something different. You know, focus on the fact that baseball is a great game and the Yankees have had winning seasons (meaning, they have finish with more wins than losses) since 1993, and 2018 is shaping up to continue that pattern.

However, sometimes, it’s very difficult to keep a positive tone when there are games like tonight’s opener at Fenway. And yet, here we go…

The Yankees actually opened the scoring. Hicks led-off the game by hitting into a fielding error and moved to 2nd on Stanton’s single. Didi Gregorius hit a nice 3-run home run to kick things off. Aaron Hicks later hit a 2-out solo home run in the 2nd to give the Yankees an early lead.

And CC Sabathia didn’t have that terrible of a start. After a decent 1st inning, he got into some trouble in the 2nd by loading the bases with 2 singles and a walk. With 2 outs, he ended up walking the next batter to score the Red Sox’s first run. But then got a lucky fly out to Gardner at the foot of the Green Monster to get out of the inning. A lead-off home run in the 3rd doubled their score. With 2 outs, he fielded and then threw terribly to 1st to put runners in scoring position, but another good fly out ended that threat.

But that would be the end of Sabathia’s night. And all the message board managers will forever question the decision to pull the veteran starter at that point, perhaps preferring to allow him to go just 1 more inning. Instead, the Yankees called on one of their most reliable relievers, who has recently been decidedly less reliable, Jonathan Holder.

Holder could not find an out for anything tonight — a walk, a double, a bad fielder’s choice that scored a run, a stolen base, a 3-run homer (by the same guy as before, by the way), a double, an RBI single, and an RBI double. 7 batters, 6 runs (and responsible for the runner at 2nd), and no outs.

Chad Green immediately got 2 outs, but then had his own struggles to find that elusive 3rd out of the inning. A double scored Holder’s remaining runner, a single put runners on the corners, and another single scored the lead runner. Luis Cessa got the final batter of the inning to hit into a simple grounder at 2nd.

Cessa actually kept the Red Sox fairly under control, getting 11 outs in the middle of the game into the 8th inning. But even his outing wasn’t exactly clean. A lead-off double in the 5th scored on an RBI double. Then in the 6th, a single scored on a double, and another home run (yes, by the same guy as before). In the 8th, with 1 out, he loaded up the bases with 2 singles and a walk before handing the ball over to reliever Britton, who promptly gave up a single to score one run. But a great double play got him out of the inning.

Now, the Yankees weren’t limited to their early runs. They certainly did their best to try to chip away at the Red Sox’s power tonight. Didi Gregorius led-off the 5th with a solo home run, his 2nd homer of the night, and Giancarlo Stanton hit a 1-out solo home run in the 7th. And in the 9th, with 2 outs, Gardner hit a great triple. Hicks walked and advanced to 2nd on defensive indifference. Then Stanton hit a nice sacrifice fly to score Gardner before a grounder ended the game and the Yankees minuscule hopes for a last-minute rally.

Yankee pitchers gave up 19 hits, 6 walks, and 15 runs, and comparatively, the Yankee batters struck out 13 times, despite getting 8 hits. In fact, had it not been for the Red Sox’s mega 4th inning, it would have been a close game and still far too many runs allowed for either team to be considered a “good game”. Good games are when it’s a close and low score for both teams. It means everyone did their job.

This was not a good game. Fortunately, it’s only one game. And in the immortal words of a certain Southern icon (and yes, I realize this is ironic for a game played in New England with a team literally called “The Yankees”), “tomorrow is another day.”

Final score: 15-7 Red Sox

Go Yankees!

Game 101: KC vs. NYY — A fractured win & another big trade, there was also a game

Much of tonight’s game was bookended by a big trade announcement and a rather disappointing injury. It actually kind of overshadowed the fact that there was actually a pretty good game tonight as the Yankees returned to the Bronx to host the first of this 4-game weekend series against the Royals.

Despite this season having consistent bad outings at home, Sonny Gray flipped the switch and had a good one. He threw 75 pitches in 5 scoreless innings, gave up just 3 hits and 2 walks, and struck out 5 batters to earn the much-needed win. And the Yankee batters actually gave him quite the cushion to work the win.

In the 1st, with 1 out, Aaron Judge was hit by a pitch on the right wrist. But he initially stayed in the game (more below), ended up on 3rd on Gregorius’ doubles, and then scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s sacrifice fly. After Hicks walked, Gleyber Torres made it to 1st on a fielding error, which allowed Gregorius to score.

Then in the 4th, Walker hit a 1-out single and then scored on Austin Romine’s double. After another out, they opted to pinch-hit Judge with Miguel Andujar who benefited from a throwing error. Didi Gregorius promptly followed that up by hitting the 1st pitch of that at-bat into the right field seats for a 3-run home run.

To cap off their scoring tonight, the Yankees ended the Royals’ disappointing start with the 5th inning. Hicks singled, ended up at 3rd on Torres’ single, and then scored on Greg Bird’s sacrifice fly. The Royals’ starter came out after another single and a strikeout, and their relievers certainly had a better night of holding off the Yankees’ offense.

Comparatively, Adam Warren came on for the 6th and promptly gave up a ground-rule double and a 2-run home run to get the Royals on the board before fending them off for a quick 3 outs. Robertson’s 7th inning continued that momentum with his 3 strikeouts. And Zach Britton made his Yankees debut tonight and needed just 10 pitches to sail his way through the 8th inning.

And in the 9th, Chasen Shreve came on and had an eventful outing to close out the game. With 2 outs and 2 runners on 1st and 2nd, the next batter hit a single into center field to a waiting Hicks. Then Hicks fired that ball into Romine at home (at 98.7 mph) to get the lead runner trying to score a run and keep the game going. Instead, the tag was made and the game was over.

Final score: 7-2 Yankees

Okay, trade news: The Yankees made yet another big trade. This time, they added to the rotation, as they’ve been trying to do for the last two seasons. The Yankees sent infielder Brandon Drury and outfielding prospect Billy McKinney to the Blue Jays in exchange for veteran starter JA Happ.

Also, before the game, the Yankees activated Zach Britton to help in the 8th inning. To make room, the Yankees optioned Luis Cessa back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

And injury news: In the 5th, Sonny Gray got hit with a comebacker on his hand which primarily hurt his thumb. He was sent to get precautionary x-rays, but they were negative and the Yankees expect him to make his start next week against the Orioles.

Now, Aaron judge sustained a hit by a pitch in the 1st. He, of course, stayed in the game initially and scored the Yankees’ first run of the night. But by the bottom of the 4th, that wrist wasn’t getting any better. First MRIs were “unclear”, so they sent him to the hospital where he ended up being diagnosed with a chip fracture of his right wrist (officially know as the ulnar styloid bone). It doesn’t require surgery, but he won’t be able to resume baseball activities for at least 3 weeks.

Yes, that Judge injury can seem like a big hit for the Yankees, but they do already have quite the depth in the outfield (starters like Gardner, Hicks, and Stanton), as well as depth in the farm system (like Frazier and Shane Robinson). Even without his bat, the Yankees are still stepping up to do their best. The Yankees are leading in home runs with 163, 21 more than 2nd place Angels and Athletics, and just 26 of those are Judge’s (only 16%). Get well soon!

Go Yankees!

Game 100: NYY vs. TB — Trade talks louder than muted finale loss

This afternoon’s finale in St. Petersburg was certainly a disappointing way to end their brief road trip and cap off their first 100 games this season. With all the conversation about the Yankees big splashy trade (more below), the daily grind sometimes gets swept under the rug. But it’s those daily moments that add up to whether the Yankees will spend October playing baseball or watching baseball from their living room.

Luis Cessa got the start today and actually had a pretty good outing overall. He threw just 74 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 4 hits and 2 runs, and struck out 3 Rays batters. In fact, he held them off until that 6th inning. He gave up a lead-off single that scored as part of a 2-run home run to get the Rays on the board, and after an out, he handed the ball over to the bullpen.

Jonathan Holder is usually pretty reliable and he actually was except for a really beautiful 2-out solo home run straight up the middle. Cole and Betances, however, kept the Rays to those runs by 2 solid innings to close out the game.

Comparatively, the Yankees pretty much matched the Rays in their offense and pitching today, falling just short of the Rays’ power. The Rays again pieced together their bullpen for an overall show of force which, based on both games this series, might actually be something that works for them.

In the 2nd (with a new reliever, of course), Torres led-off with a walk, moved to 2nd on Bird’s single, took 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on Neil Walker’s sacrifice fly. Not a bad way to make his return to the roster. Then, after the Rays got the lead, the Yankees didn’t find their opening until the 8th inning. Gardner worked a walk to lead-off the inning, ended up at 3rd on Gregorius’ 1-out single, and then scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s sacrifice fly.

Basically, the game boiled down to 2 homers vs. 2 sac flies. And power wins the day.

Final score: 3-2 Rays, Rays win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees are currently heading back home for another home stand. They will host the Royals for a 4-game weekend series, and enjoy an off-day before a brief micro-series against the Orioles. Then they head out on the road again.

Roster moves: The last 24 hours have been something for the Yankees roster. First, Gary Sanchez‘s injury is back with a force and will sideline him until at least late August. Fortunately, Romine and Higashioka are more than capable of filling the void, even within the batter’s box.

Before the game, the Yankees activated Gleyber Torres from the DL due to his hip strain, and he ended up scoring that first run of today’s game. They also recalled Luis Cessa to start today’s game. To make room for these two, the Yankees optioned Giovanny Gallegos and Tyler Wade back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

And now, the big news of the day. The Yankees were working on the deal when I posted yesterday, and as I’ve made it a habit not to talk about things until they are settled, the news is out now. The Yankees worked a trade with the Baltimore Orioles to continue to shore up their already pretty powerful bullpen. They picked up veteran closer Zach Britton in exchange for prospect pitchers Cody Carroll, Josh Rogers, and Dillon Tate.

In case you’re wondering, Britton has been with the Orioles for the last 8 seasons, moving from a starter to a closer and becoming quite the force, his best season (2016) earning the O’s 47 saves thanks to his 0.54 ERA. In other words, he’s a good pick for the Yankees already packed bullpen.

Go Yankees!