Game 101: NYY vs. TEX — Lackluster Wednesday

Game recap first, then drama recap. And there is so much drama for a Wednesday.

Starter Andy Pettitte went into the 7th inning with his 94 pitches. Only one Texas player seemed to have Pettitte’s number to put any dent in the scoreboard. In the 1st inning, the batter hit an RBI single to put the Rangers on top 1-0 until the 6th inning, when the same batter’s solo home run kept the Texas in the lead. Shawn Kelley came on in the 7th with 2 runners on base and no outs and managed to get out of that inning scott-free. But then he allowed a solo home run in the 8th inning, furthering the Rangers’ lead.

Offensively, the Yankees had some rather lackluster moments. Their lone score came in the fateful 6th inning. Brett Gardner singled and advanced to 3rd on a really bad throwing error and complete mess chasing Gardner around the diamond. This put him in the perfect place to score easily on Robinson Cano’s single. They did hit off the newly acquired Rangers’ pitcher, and there were 2 errors made by the less-than-impressive Texas defense (including the one previously mentioned). But the Yankees just weren’t consistent in their offensive attack. Needless to say, the Rangers take their second game in this four game series with a final score of 3-1.

However, the coolest part about tonight’s game was Andy Pettitte passing the great Sandy Koufax on the all-time strikeout list with 2397 strikeouts, making him securely in 39th place, leading the current active players on the list. Teammate CC Sabathia isn’t that far behind him. But the major difference between the two is that Sabathia is a dominant strikeout pitcher, where as Pettitte tends to get batters to ground/fly out. Both still have plenty of time to cement their permanent numbers in the all-time list. But a big congratulations to Andy tonight, and I know we all look forward to watching those numbers continue to climb.

Luis Cruz was moved to the 15-day DL after spraining his right knee after Monday’s game. In his place, they recalled David Adams for that ever-needed infield support. Both Jayson Nix (hamstring) and Curtis Granderson (hand) report to the Tampa Yankees for their rehab assignments. David Phelps (forearm) is rehabbing with AA Trenton. And the Yankees decided to outright Alberto Gonzalez to AAA Scranton, meaning they released him but wanted to keep him nearby in case they need more infield support in the future.

Alex Rodriguez spent time today at the Tampa minor league complex working on his rehab. And because of his injury, his name was circulating all over the internet, Twitter, and sports shows; but not in a good way. Apparently, Rodriguez sought a second opinion on his recent quad strain, but without the consent of the Yankees organization. This is a violation of the standard agreement all players sign. To make matters worse, the doctor not only said there didn’t seem to be a strain, but he was also involved in recent reprimands due to his prescriptions of steroid-like substances. And with the rumors surrounding Rodriguez with the South Florida clinic, the last thing his name needs to be tied with is another questionable medical instance.

Like I said many times before, I won’t fall into assumptions or presumptions. And I won’t comment until solid facts and sentences have been pronounced or names have been exonerated. But when my Twitter is filled up with more of this medical story than the new royal baby, I have to at least mention the story. It’s days like this that I’m glad I changed my major in college from Journalism to English. So I’m not one of those people stalking stories, but rather reflecting on the application and life lessons you can get from the stories.

So what can we learn from today’s story? When you sign a contract, read it and make sure you’re following it. And make sure you steer clear of people who aren’t 100% above-board, especially when you’re currently mired in your own murky circumstances. Maybe you can learn by example, even if you don’t necessarily agree with how the person got to the point from where you’re drawing the conclusion and life application. Seeing as we are all only ever responsible for our own decisions, learning from another’s bad example is a great way to move forward and not repeat their mistakes. But it’s up to them to also learn from their mistakes and move forward, daring to never repeat their own mistakes.

And perhaps that’s the greatest lesson of all — it’s not if you make mistakes (because you will), but how you move forward from them. History is full of great men who failed spectacularly but figured out how to learn from and excel past those failures. That’s why history isn’t written until that person has lived their life and passed into legend, leaving behind legacy and success in the face of failure. If they wrote history in the middle of someone’s life, you can’t imagine the impact, the good that can come from one person, or to use an old phrase, you “can’t see the forest through the trees”. Biographies are better when there’s an end to the story so you can look back and see how all the pieces fit together.

So we’re still in the middle of the story. There’s still so much that can happen and will happen. So I look forward on reflecting on what did happen and how even the worst parts impacted the world for the better.

Go Yankees!

Game 98: NYY vs. BOS — It’s the little things that add up

I can’t really blame tonight’s 11th inning loss entirely on a blown call, but that certainly has a lot to do with the state of the game. Honestly, things started out so great, and then they got really bad, and then it was better, and then it was tied and into extra innings, and then it got bad again, and then it got awful, and then it was over. Four hours and 46 minutes after the first pitch, the Red Sox can enjoy their 1st place standing (the Rays are really threatening) and the Yankees have to catch a flight to Dallas for tomorrow night’s game. Did I mention it’s already tomorrow?

CC Sabathia celebrated his 33rd birthday today, but I’m guessing he won’t really enjoy remembering today so much. He hit his first batter, but kept the Red Sox from scoring or doing much of anything for the first two innings. And then it suddenly wasn’t so great. In the 3rd inning, a lead-off double advanced to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a single; another single put 2 men on base for a 3-run home run to put Boston up 4 runs in just that inning. At the bottom of the 4th, Sabathia hit the lead-off batter, then allowed back-to-back singles to load the bases; a single out to left field scored 2 more runs. A solo home run in the 5th inning added another run to the Boston scoreboard (now up to 7). That was it for Sabathia — 102 pitches over just 5 innings, allowing 9 hits, 7 runs (2 homers), and walking 2. It just wasn’t how Sabathia expected to spend his birthday, I’m guessing.

But the Yankees actually started out pretty well. Right in the 1st inning, Brett Gardner leads off with a single, and Ichiro Suzuki reaches on a throwing error, allowing Gardner to 3rd; then when Ichiro steals 2nd, the catcher misses the throw, advancing Ichiro to 3rd and Gardner to score the Yankees first run; Robinson Cano walks; and Ichiro scores on Vernon Wells’ single. In the 2nd inning, Chris Stewart walks, advancing to 3rd on the next two groundouts; Ichiro is plunked on the back by a pitch (he’ll wake up with a nice bruise there tomorrow); and Cano’s single scores Stewart. So in the first two innings, the Yankees are up 3-0. By the 5th inning, the Red Sox have jumped ahead 7-3.

And if we know anything about this rivalry, when one team is winning, the other doesn’t just roll over and take it; they fight it all the way.

And suddenly, it’s the 6th inning. Eduardo Nunez singles and then steals 2nd base; Stewart draws a walk; Nunez scores on Gardner’s single; Ichiro singles to load the bases; and Cano singles home Stewart. And it’s 7-5 Boston. In the 7th, Wells walks Nunez singles; then Stewart bunts the ball, which is then overthrown to 1st base, so Stewart ends up at 2nd, Nunez at 3rd, and Wells scores (7-6); and Luis Cruz hits a sacrifice groundout to score Nunez. The game is tied.

And as Claiborne, Logan, David Robertson (absolute magic getting out of a jam tonight), and Shawn Kelley (really phenomenal job tonight by Kelley) all put in their time on the mound to keep the game rolling into extra innings waiting for the Yankees bats to awake again. But no Yankee ever crossed the plate again as Sunday night became Monday morning in Boston. It was Adam Warren who gave up a really solid home run out into center field to give the Red Sox an 8-7 walk-off home run victory. (Warren also took the loss, which means Sabathia doesn’t earn the loss on his birthday, a rather half-hearted gift.)

Look, there were a lot of moments that made tonight’s game super tight, and really hard/good to watch at times. There was the 15 pitch at-bat for Gardner, which ultimately earned him a walk. There was the dance around the ball to take 2nd base for Ichiro (that throwing error in the 1st inning). There was Gardner tying Mickey Mantle for 9th most stolen bases in Yankee history with his 153rd stolen base of his career (Derek Jeter is the current all-time Yankees leader at 348). There was some really great defensive moments, catches, plays, teamwork, etc.

But the one that got under everyone’s skin was the clearly blown call when Nunez stole 2nd base in the 11th and was called out. Replays, even viewed by Yankee haters, all confirm Nunez was safe. And it ended up costing the Yankees the game. Putting Nunez in scoring position was the one shot they had in the extra innings, and a deep single would have easily scored the quick running Nunez. Unfairness aside, it just further proves the need for confirmation on such calls. This wasn’t calling balls and strikes or nitpicky stuff the anti-technology people always afraid of when talking about bringing technology into the game. This was win or lose time, and this gave Boston the edge they needed to get their victory tonight. Surely, we have advanced enough in technology to improve safety, equipment, broadcasting, even communication between the dugout and bullpen. So why haven’t we transferred that leap into 21st century technology in the confirmation of umpire calls, like football, basketball, hockey, soccer, and all major professional sports.

But baseball has always been a little behind on advancements and change until absolutely necessary. When would that line come for something like this? It’s already affected major play-off games and even World Series games. And I’m not just crying foul against the Yankees. Calls have gone for and against the Yankees, just like they have for every other team. But when is enough enough here? Maybe some accountability with technological confirmation will lessen all that “blue hate” from the cheap seats. But then again, they’ll always find something else to complain about. Complainers and haters always do.

For now, we cheer on our teams, pray for health for all those poor guys looking on from the dugout or at their TV screens just itching to get back in the game, and hope for the best and fairest calls possible. After all, it’s the only thing positive people (and blogs) can do.

Go Yankees!

Game 97: NYY vs. BOS — Teamwork wins games, but Stewart ensures them

There was a determination on every Yankee’s face today that I haven’t seen in a few games, and that determination really rocked the Red Sox’s world and earned a really great Yankee win today.

So much of today’s win was clearly set forth early in the game by a near flawless Hiroki Kuroda. Through 7 full innings, Kuroda threw 104 pitches, allowing just 5 hits and the only 2 run the Red Sox would score today; he also allowed the only walk of the game. Both Boston runs were scored in the bottom of the 7th inning, a single and a double planted runner at 2nd and 3rd with no outs, so a sacrifice fly deep to center field easily scored the first Boston run, advancing the other runner to 3rd. He then scored on a wild pitch, hustling it all the way home to beat out the tag.

Kuroda was aided in his quest for a win by David Robertson in the 8th and Mariano Rivera in the 9th (for his 31st save of 2013), who kept Boston away from threatening the Yankees lead. Also sharing in today’s win was the really great defense (with some minor exceptions). Luis Cruz played the whole game at 3rd, snagging some great foul balls and always ready to make plays in the hot corner. Boston’s usually potent offense kept Brett Gardner on his toes out in center field, often thrown back to the warning track and up against the back wall to make the plays.

Outstanding defensive day for Chris Stewart,
here in mid-double play

But really, the defensive champion is most definitely catcher Chris Stewart. In the 1st inning, a long single to left field had Vernon Wells throwing a really long throw to an awaiting Stewart at home, who easily tagged the sliding runner to keep the Red Sox from making the first dent in the scoreboard. Then in the 5th, on a wild pitch by Kuroda, he rushed to grab the ball up against the back stop and tossed it to a waiting Kuroda who was able to tag out the advancing runner. But I think everyone’s favorite play came in the 8th inning. Robertson got a batter to pop up a foul ball into the stands behind the plate, which Stewart went over the wall and got the out. But he wasn’t done. Upon returning back to his feet, he fires the ball to 2nd base to get the runner trying to steal for an inning-ending double play, leaving the Boston batter just shaking his head in disbelief. And while many analysts seemed very surprised by Stewart’s excellent defense, I don’t think one Yankee fan was surprised after all he’s contributed to the team, especially in this season.

Now, in order to win ball games, you have to score some runs and make some hits. And today, the Yankees scored some runs and made some hits off the Boston bullpen. In the 5th inning, the Yankees strike first as Gardner singles home Cruz, putting the Yankees up 1-0. Then in the 7th inning, Eduardo Nunez doubles (leaving his helmet at 1st base, as usual) and Cruz singles to score Nunez (2-0). Gardner’s single forced Boston to turn to its bullpen, which Ichiro Suzuki grounds into a force out so Cruz is at 3rd, Gardner’s out at 2nd, and Ichiro is at 1st. Then back-to-back singles by Robinson Cano and Lyle Overbay score Cruz and Ichiro, respectively. And the Yankees are up 4-0 by the 7th inning stretch.

When the Red Sox cut their lead in half in the bottom of the inning, the Yankees decided to ensure their lead in the 9th inning. Cruz is hit by a pitch, and Gardner takes advantage of a fielding error to put the runners at 1st and 2nd. Cruz then steals 3rd, though he seemed almost shocked that he did so successfully. And it’s Cano again to earn an RBI via a sacrifice fly to score Cruz.

It should be noted that the Yankees offensively did extraordinarily well overall. Gardner went 3-for-5 with an RBI, Cano earned 2 RBIs (both Cruz), Overbay and Nunez both went 3-for-4 each with an RBI, and Cruz went 1-for-3 with an RBI. It should be noted that Cruz scored 3 of the Yankees 5 total runs today. And if anyone has job security in mind in his play today, it would be him.

Before the game, the Yankees recalled Thomas Neal and Melky Mesa up from AAA Scranton, placed Zolio Almonte on the 15-day DL (with his sprained ankle from yesterday’s game), and designated Alberto Gonzalez for assignment. The next lowest man on the totem pole (so to speak) would be Cruz, who up until today hasn’t been as productive on the field as the Yankees would like. I’m guessing his display today could buy his a few more games with the Yankees.

And while the talking heads seemed surprised at how well the 4th place Yankees were playing against the 1st place Red Sox, I don’t think anyone who’s ever watched a Yankees-Red Sox game before is ever surprised by anything that goes on at the games of the greatest rivals in baseball history. It doesn’t seem to matter the location or the standings, but this rivalry never ceases to surprise and stir up emotions of its fans. Fortunately, today did not disappoint. And today, the Yankees had the game from the first pitch by Kuroda to the last pitch by Rivera. Sometimes, you just know how the game’s going to end up. But with these teams, you just never know. That’s part of what’s fun about being part of this historic rivalry. It keeps you on the edge of your seat, anxiously awaiting the next Stewart double play or Nunez helmet-losing sprint or Ichiro steal or Rivera save. You just never know…

Go Yankees!

Game 95: MIN vs. NYY — Messy loss

I can’t even begin to describe what happened in the Bronx in today’s loss against the Minnesota Twins to close out the first half of the season. Maybe this could give you some idea:

(If you don’t know, this is Yakety Sax; I know you’ve heard it.)

I don’t know if it was just exhaustion that crept in, after playing 20 games in a row, which is certainly the case for Brett Gardner, who sat out today’s game. Gardner was said to be sore from head to toe, as he and Cano are the only Yankees who have played in almost every game so far this year. Or it could just be that same feeling when you know you have a vacation coming up and that old apathy creeps into your work or school. I realize this would be highly unprofessional, but it is also purely human. And lest we forget that the players are first and foremost human. (Sorry to burst any bubbles.)

Well, I guess I should start at the beginning. Starter CC Sabathia had probably one of the roughest outings of his career today. In only 4 innings, Sabathia threw 93 pitches, allowed 8 hits, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts, and 8 runs (only 3 earned and 1 home run). In the 2nd inning, 2 singles set the stage for another 2 back-to-back RBI singles to put the Twins up 2-0 quickly. A double and a throwing error by Eduardo Nunez (he sent a grounder sailing above Lyle Overbay’s head) set up a 2-out 3-run homer and the score was then 5-0 in the 3rd.

A single by Ichiro Suzuki and benefitting off a Twins’ fielding error, Zoilo Almonte reaches base. So a Robinson Cano single scored Ichiro for a 5-1 score in the 3rd. Then the 4th inning was a bit of back and forth. A double and 2 walks loaded the bases so a soft single scored another run for Minnesota (6-1), and a batter grounds into a force out, scoring 2 runs and advancing on another messy error, this time by Overbay (8-1). So the Yankees answered: Overbay singles, Nunez walks, and Luis Cruz is hit by pitch to load the bases with no outs. Chris Stewart grounds into a force out — Cruz out at 2nd, all others advance, and Overbay scores (8-2). Then Ichiro grounds into a force out, scoring Nunez (8-3).

Sabathia was then replaced by Claiborne for the 5th, and Adam Warren who went 2.1 innings before getting into his own kind of trouble. Logan came on in the 8th to get the 2 final outs. And Joba Chamberlain in the 9th loaded up the bases, and sure enough on a really bad wild pitch, easily allowed yet another run to score.

Ichiro would also add his own flair to what was a great offensive game for him with a solo home run in the 7th inning to put up the final Yankee score, which would eventually become 10-4 Twins. Ichiro went 3-for-5 with 2 RBIs and 2 runs scored. Overbay also made a dent in the offense, going 2-for-2 with 2 walks and a run scored.

Honestly, there was so much wrong with this game, I’m guessing most of the players wish they had a Groundhog Day moment and could redo everything tomorrow. It’s just one of those you wish you could brush under the rug, and unfortunately, it just happens to be the last game before the All-Star Break. And I think it would have been great to go out with a great, tight game (even if they still lost in the end), but it was not to be. Honestly, this weekend has been rather messy on a lot of fronts. Maybe it’s because of Bastille Day (Happy French Independence Day to those of you celebrating for some reason). Maybe it’s just gross and hot today. Maybe it’s just a bad weekend overall. Or maybe there are no excuses and we just need to accept that life stinks sometimes. Yeah, I’m going with that one.

Anyway, today one of the Yankee prospects played in the Futures Game at Citi Field, the kick-off event to start the All-Star events. Pitcher Rafael De Paula, who currently plays in Tampa, signed with the Yankees in 2010 and has had to deal with documentation issues lately. He played for the World team against the USA team in today’s exhibition game. The Futures Game is a great way for current farm system players to get better exposure and show off what each of their teams have been investing in their progress.

Also on the agenda for All-Star week: tomorrow is the official workout day, press conferences, and Home Run Derby, which will feature Cano leading the AL team against fellow New York player (for the Mets) David Wright leading the NL team; Tuesday is the red carpet parade (this year through the streets of NYC) and the actual All-Star Game at Citi Field; and currently is the ongoing Fan Fest at a local convention center (through Tuesday’s game), something which was started because most families cannot afford the special events at the stadium but can enjoy the festive atmosphere and food, memorabilia from the MLB Hall of Fame, meet-and-greets with ASG alumni and HOF-ers, the individual teams’ decorative apples (that are all over the city), auctions, and fan forums.

This, of course, just makes me miss New York today. And while most of the Yankees (save Cano and Rivera) are off for the week, I’m still working. (It’s a daily blog after all.) And I have to say that after a game like today, I’m going to be very happy to be shifting gears a bit and not have to write about the regular season’s progress.

C’est la vie!

Go Yankees!

Game 87: BAL vs. NYY — That’s 6 in a row!

Hello, 2nd place in the AL East! Boy, does that feel better than 4th…

Starter Andy Pettitte certainly didn’t start off so great, but thanks to the Yankees bats and some great defensive teamwork once again, he earned his 6th win of the season. Throwing exactly 100 pitches through 6.2 innings, Pettitte got off to a rough start — a 2-run home run in the 1st, an RBI double in the 2nd, and an RBI single in the 4th. But once he found his stride, the Orioles weren’t able to get past Pettitte or the excellent defense behind him. The bullpen provided excellent reinforcements due to Kelley, Robertson, and (who else) Rivera to keep the Birds away from tacking on any further runs. Rivera also earned his 29th save of the season.

Now, offensively, the Yankees found some holes in Baltimore’s defense once again. In the 2nd inning, a walk and 3 back-to-back singles (Hafner, Almonte, Overbay, Cruz) naturally scored a run (Hafner) thanks to new Yankee Luis Cruz, all with no outs. And that brought up a recently reactivated Eduardo Nunez (more in the injury update below) who proceeded to fly out into a sacrifice double play — ball out in left field, thrown to 3rd to get Overbay out there, but a run scores (Almonte) in the process. (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sacrifice double play, so it’s rather interesting to see something you don’t see very often, if ever.)

Then in the 5th, Nunez and Stewart each single, Gardner sacrifice bunts them forward, so Ichiro Suzuki’s single easily scores Nunez. Next up, Robinson Cano singles home Stewart (thanks to a messy catch attempt from the Orioles’ left fielder) to tie up the game at 4-4. This allowed either team to step up and make their play for the win, but it was the Yankees in the next inning. Overbay singles, Cruz sacrifice bunts him to 2nd, and Nunez’s single had Overbay diving over the Orioles’ catcher to tag home and score (what would end up being) the winning run, pinning the score at 5-4 Yankees in the 6th inning.

Really, the heft of today’s offense came from the bottom half of the roster, with Lyle Overbay going 3-for-4, Nunez 2-for-3 with a walk and sacrifice fly, and Stewart with 1-for-2 with 2 walks. But really, with a rare exception from Gardner today, everyone on the starting roster got at least one hit, scored one run, and/or got an RBI.

And while there were quite a few fun defensive maneuvers by the Yankees today, my favorite one came from Ichiro Suzuki in the 5th inning. A short fly ball had him running and sliding in for the catch, which he always does and did today with such grace and dexterity. But when he got up, he realized his cleat pulled up a grass divot from the outfield, he walks to the divot, replaces it in its spot, and uses his cleat to push it back into the grass. That’s what I call taking care of your area. Something about this whole things just made me laugh.

Okay, (part of me really hates that this has become part of my daily blog) injury updates: David Phelps has been put on the 15-day DL with slight forearm strain; he won’t be throwing anything for 10 days (so until the All-Star Break). And they finally placed Mark Teixeira on the 60-day DL; Teixeira will be out for the rest of the season with a surgically repaired arm injury (tendon sheath tear). In that spot, they were able to activate Eduardo Nunez, who has been stalled in his return due to extended “stiffness in his rib cage”. Today, I’m guessing everyone is celebrating his return because he was on fire in his at-bats and really fluid at short stop.

In AAA Scranton, Derek Jeter will play his first rehab game tonight, something which helped sell-out the minor league stadium; he will play 5 innings at short stop and lead off the batting order, and he seems rather positive about tonight’s game. Personally, I think he’s just really glad to actually playing baseball again and will do anything to get back with the team as soon as humanly possible. Also, Michael Pineda is also scheduled to start tonight’s Scranton game as pitcher; he is still trying to find his way to his debut as a Yankee after surgery and a very long rehab since being acquired by the Yankees in January 2012. If you are interested in watching/following tonight’s game, you can find the link here. (Scroll down to the 7:05 Lehigh- Scranton game. The game starts and will available to watch online at 7:05 pm EST.)

Go Yankees!

Game 86: BAL vs. NYY — Wells-done rally & SuperNova

Starter Ivan Nova threw all 9 innings and really proved how outstanding a pitcher he really is. He’s had to fight for his job as a starter since before the season began, even through a stint in the minors, and tonight he showed that he is worth the starter’s position (and not just as a fill-in for Kuroda, who has been cleared to resume throwing activity again). Tonight, back in the Bronx and against the Baltimore Orioles, Nova threw just 102 pitches over those 9 innings, allowing just 3 hits and a walk and striking out a remarkable 11 batters (those are like CC numbers). And the only runs he allowed was a 2-run home run in the 2nd, but nothing else. That’s right, with a single exception, none of the Orioles could figure out Nova’s “supernova-ness”. Tonight was SuperNova.

And honestly, the Yankees played well both offensively and defensively. It was the team in action from the first pitch all the way through the final hit. In the top of the 4th, the Orioles hit what should have been a single but ended up as a 3-4-1 out thanks to great base coverage by Cano and Nova. And Nova’s quick reaction in the 8th inning jumped up to get a really nice out to end the inning.

Now, offensively in the 4th, Wells singled and Overbay walked, which allowed Luis Cruz to single deep into left field and score Wells for the Yankees first run of the evening. They went into the bottom of the 9th inning  down 2-1 to the Orioles, with Nova watching and praying that the offense could turn his outing from the loss it was becoming into a win by some miracle. And then it was a miracle (probably due in part to the 40,000-ish Yankees fans in the stadium).

Wells walk-off
Vernon Wells, a walk-off hero

The fifth pitcher for the Orioles took the mound and allowed David Adams a nice single. Then Brett Gardner bunts a really soft, sloppy bunt but beats out the throw because the Orioles pitcher can’t seem to hang onto the ball and chase it around the infield grass before making the very late throw to 1st base. Ichiro Suzuki bunts, but this time it’s the Baltimore catcher that is sharp and throws him out at 1st, while Adams and Gardner advance to 3rd and 2nd, respectively. They then intentionally walk Robinson Cano to load the bases. Four pitches later, they walk Travis Hafner, which walks in Adams to tie up the game (and blow whatever save the Orioles thought they had). Oh, and the bases are still loaded with one out. 40,000-ish Yankee fans are on their feet; victory is within reach.

And then it’s Vernon Wells up to bat. On a 2-2 pitch, Wells hits a solid single in the gap between short and 3rd, Gardner scores, and the entire dugout empties to rejoice. 3-2 Yankees final score in a walk-off single. (Another look at the single and celebration here.)

Victory in the Bronx, and that makes 5 games in a row. July is off to a great start.

And in other good news, Derek Jeter was cleared for his rehab assignment, which he will start on Saturday with AAA Scranton. He is currently scheduled for 5 innings at shortstop and have 20 days to complete his rehab assignment. The Yankees have made it clear that Jeter, like many of those on the current DL will need the full 20 days to prove they are fully ready for a daily assignment with the big guys. That 20 days puts him ready for a return at the earliest at the end of this month. This also has Jeter playing with guys he played with in Spring Training, those on the extended roster (some who have already seen Major League playing time), and some outstanding players in the minor league — including Addison Maruszak, Dan Johnson, Melky Mesa, Thomas Neal, Ronnier Mustelier, Corban Joseph, and Walter Ibarra. This kind of rehab certainly gets Jeter ready for the bigs on a higher level of impact and challenge because of the players on the roster. And though the RailRiders aren’t doing so well this season (right now, they are below .500 for their season), they could certainly benefit from a veteran presence, especially one who is known to bond teammates together to improve their teamwork and morale, even in a losing streak or slump.

And one of my favorite times in the Yankee season is coming up next week — HOPE Week. And I’m looking forward to writing about the players’ community outreach and the organizations they will be supporting and partnering with this coming week all around the city. I love the heart of a team that supports in both finances and man-power other people who dedicate their lives to helping people. It’s yet another reason I am proud to be a Yankee fan, and probably my personal favorite reason.

Go Yankees!

Game 85: NYY vs. MIN — Independence Day Sweep

The Bleacher Creatures proudly honoring America every 7th inning; “Never Forget”

A very happy 237th birthday to the United States! I do hope everyone enjoys a safe and wonderful holiday with their family and friends and remembers what cost the Founding Fathers made by signing the Declaration. They fought for the freedoms, not just for themselves and for their families, but for the generations that have yet to be born. Today, we honor their memory and sacrifice, and all those who pledged their lives for the freedoms we enjoy, as much as we celebrate with fireworks and grill-outs.

And on that note, we Yankee fans get to celebrate a victorious sweep of the Minnesota Twins as the Yankees themselves make their way back to New York for a 10 game home stand leading up to the All-Star Break. And no one could be more glad of today’s win than starter David Phelps, who needed a win so desperately after his disastrous last outing. Phelps went 6.1 innings, allowed a solo home run in the 4th inning and then got into some trouble in the 7th inning. Two singles and a fly out, set up an RBI single, and forced Girardi to bring in Chamberlain. He allowed an RBI single and was replaced by Logan. Logan allowed a sacrifice fly and got the final out to end the messy inning. Logan came back into the 8th and allowed a solo home run, a single, and a walk before Kelley came in to get three straight outs to end any potential Twins’ rally. Robertson closed the game in three batters in the 9th, as it was not a save situation to bring in Rivera, but nevertheless was his usual reliable self.

Now, on the Yankees’ batting side, it was very interesting in 3 different innings. In the 1st alone, Ichiro Suzuki hits a lead-off double; Zoilo Almonte singles; then Ichiro scores on Robinson Cano’s sacrifice fly; Travis Hafner doubles; and Vernon Wells singles home Almonte and Hafner (3-0). In the 3rd, Hafner is hit by a pitch and advances to 2nd on a wild pitch; Wells doubles home Hafner; and newly acquired Luis Cruz hits his first Yankee hit and singles and Wells scores. (5-0). Then in the 6th inning, Lyle Overbay walks; Cruz doubles; Alberto Gonzalez singles and scores Overbay; Romine reaches on a fielder’s choice as they get Cruz trying to come home; Ichiro triples as Gonzalez and Romine score; and Almonte grounds out and Ichiro tags home. And the Yankees are up 9-1 at that point.

With some Minnesota batters taking advantage of a tiring Phelps and weak spots in the bullpen, the final score ended up 9-5 Yankees. And Ichiro was a home run short to hit for the cycle today. [A “cycle” means that a batter hits a single, a double, a triple, and a home run in a single game, but not necessarily in that order.] Actually, a lot of the Yankee batters really had a remarkable day today. Ichiro went 3-for-5 with 2 RBIs, Almonte 2-for-5 and an RBI, Hafner 3-for-4, Wells 2-for-4 with 3 RBIs,and Cruz 2-for-4 with an RBI. In fact, the only batter who seemed to have an off day was Cano, and he still had a nice sacrifice fly, thus an RBI credited to his stats. And the defense just seemed to work today, like in a nifty double play in the 3rd that had Cano bare-handing the flip for the transfer.

I take this all as a good omen, if you will, of things to come. Sending the Yankees back to the Bronx on a high note where they will face the Orioles, the Royals, and the Twins again is probably the best way to do so. I think sending the team into the break on another high note would be really great for their morale, so it should be interesting to see how the next 10 games turn out.

Also, news from Tampa, Francisco Cervelli has been shut down for 2 weeks in his rehab work due to a “stress reaction” in his elbow. Cervelli fractured his hand early in the season and has been making progress in recent weeks toward his return. A stress reaction indicated by the MRI basically implies that a stress fracture is on its way short of rest and healing time. This is usually a result of overuse, which doesn’t surprise me in the least as most of the injured athletes in Florida are pushing to get their way back to the Bronx ASAP. And I don’t think the team’s taking any more chances with “stress” anythings after what happened last fall with Jeter. I think a lot of the approach to overuse and borderline injuries has changed because of the recent spike in more serious injuries. Prevention and then rest at an early stage of injury is definitely a better option than something like a shattered ankle or fused spine or torn tendon sheath. A continued get well to Cervelli and all those spending today on the DL.

The Captain with The Boss, early 2000’s

Have a great 4th of July, baseball fans! Oh, and this would have been George Steinbrenner’s 83rd birthday, so I think a win in his memory is very much in line with today’s game.

And as always… Go Yankees!