Game 92: TB vs. NYY — The Rays’ 1-man offense

As can often be expected in divisional rivalry games, tonight’s opener against the visiting Rays was anything but predictable. The emotional sway of the fans in the Bronx was eventful, to say the least. Most of this was due to the 1-man offense on the Rays.

James Paxton got the start tonight, throwing 107 pitches through 6 solid innings. He gave up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs and struck out 7 Rays’ batters. The Rays’ lead-off batter smacked a solo home run to kick off the game. And then that same hitter came back in the 3rd to double the Rays’ lead with a 1-out solo home run.

The Yankees were held off by the Rays’ ace for the first part of the game until Edwin Encarncion hit a 2-out solo home run in the 4th to get the Yankees on the board. Then with 2 outs in the 7th, a new reliever promptly gave up a solo home run to Gio Urshela to tie up the game. In the 8th, with 2 outs, Hicks singled and then scored as part of a monster 2-run home run by Edwin Encarnacion to put the Yankees into the lead.

Now, after Paxton handed the ball over to Chad Green, Green kept things rolling as the Yankees grabbed the lead. All they needed were Aroldis Chapman to make 3 outs in the 9th to close out the game. And based on a pattern of 49-0, the Yankees should win the game when they’re leading the game going into the 9th.

But again, as in life, nothing is predictable in baseball. Chapman’s slider, which has really be a great go-to pitch for him this season, wasn’t where it needed to be tonight, and it cost them the game. The first two batters hit consecutive singles to set up the tying runs on base. Then after 2 really sharp strikeouts, that same power hitter from earlier smacked a big 3-run home run to thrust the Rays back into the lead.

The Yankees couldn’t manage a comeback in the bottom of the 9th, and thus with a called strikeout, the game was over.

Final score: 5-4 Rays

Injury updates: Luis Severino and Dellin Betances have yet to appear in a game for the Yankees this season after sustaining injuries during Spring Training. Both retroactive to March 25, Severino suffered a right shoulder rotator cuff strain and grade 2 lat strain, and Betances had a right shoulder impignment. Betances further had a setback in mid-June with his own lat strain.

Today, both pitchers threw 25 tosses from 60-feet as they resume activities in their recovery. While Betances is based in the bullpen, Severino may cut his longer return back to being a starter by doing some innings out of the bullpen. Both pitchers are understandingly frustrated that they haven’t been able to help the Yankees in their strong 2019, anxiously watching from the sidelines to get back in the game in way they can.

Also, the Yankees announced that this year’s Heart & Hustle Award nominee is DJ LeMahieu. The award is given to players who “demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and traditions of the game”. Former players vote for active players before the All-Star break, and each team gets a nominee. The final winner is revealed after the season, this year at the Legends for Youth dinner on November 7 in New York. Congratulations!

Go Yankees!

Game 72: TB vs. NYY — Yankees surge through the mist

There was so much hope for this series as both the Rays and Yankees were battling it out for the top position of the AL East. With the Yankees disappointing road trip, the Rays were hoping to jump ahead of the Yankees. But they didn’t count on a really simple fact — the 2019 Yankees are something else and love proving it at the most random moments in the season. And it’s only June.

Not to discount the Rays’ attempt, as they certainly gave the Yankees enough of a challenge to threaten and keep things close for a bit. JA Happ got the start for the Yankees tonight in the middle game of this series against the visiting Rays. He threw 87 pitches in 5 innings, gave up 7 hits and 2 runs, and struck out 3 Rays batters. With 1 out in the 2nd, Happ gave up 3 consecutive singles to score the Rays’ first run. And a lead-off double in the 3rd scored on a 1-out single to double their score.

Ottavino took over for Happ for a scoreless 6th inning. Tommy Kahnle’s 7th got off to a problematic start, with a lead-off walk scoring on a double before he found a quick 3 outs to close out the inning. Britton and Chapman followed that up with 2 scoreless, rather quick innings.

On the flip side of the field, the Yankees got on the board first in the 1st. LeMahieu led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Voit’s walk, advanced to 3rd on Hicks’ fielder’s choice, and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s sacrifice fly. After the Rays grabbed a slim lead, the Yankees waited out the Rays’ 2 short-term openers for their next opportunity.

In the 5th, with 1 out and a new pitcher, Torres and Maybin singled. DJ LeMahieu’s single scored Torres, and Luke Voit’s single scored Maybin. After another out, Gary Sanchez’s single scored LeMahieu. With that, the Yankees were in a solid lead over the visitors.

But they kept going to ensure their lead and eventual win. Cameron Maybin kicked off the 7th with a solo home run, his 4th home run in as many games. And new Yankee Edwin Encarnacion earned his pinstripes with his first Yankee home run, a 1-out solo home run in the 8th.

Final score: 6-3 Yankees

HOPE Week Day 2: Today, the Yankees decided to “strut their stuff” a bit with the help of some very special friends. Today’s HOPE Week honoree was Rachel Goldman, founder of Runway Heroes, a special program that hosts children with pediatric cancer for a special day of dress up and modeling some fancy clothes on the runway. They sell tickets to the shows, and all the proceeds go to pediatric cancer research.

Runway Heroes paired with Kleinfeld Bridal and the Yankees to treat 30 local children to a VIP day at the famous store. The kids each received personalized dressing robes, picked out their own outfits (courtesy of Kleinfeld), were styled by a professional glam squad and photographed by professional photographers, and then rocked the runway with some decked out Yankees.

Aroldis Chapman, Domingo German, Didi Gregorius, Kendrys Morales, Luis Severino, and Masahiro Tanaka donned some great looking suits to take turns to escort these amazing children down the runway to pose before more photographers and their families. Yankee GM Brian Cashman also participated and broke out a few dance moves, bringing smiles to many faces on the runway and in the audience.

The children and their families were the Yankees’ special guests at tonight’s game. Runway Heroes founder Rachel Goldman and a few of her special models of the day helped throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game.

Go Yankees!

Game 25: NYY vs. LAA — Denied a sweep

The Yankees were going for the sweep tonight in this final game of the 4-game series against the Angels. But despite a good lead built up, the Yankees were unable to hold onto it in the end as the tables tonight tipped in favor of the home team instead.

In the 3rd, Tyler Wade led-off with a single, then stole both 2nd and 3rd before scoring on DJ LeMahieu’s single to get the Yankees on the board first. Gio Urshela hit a solid 2-out solo home run in the 4th, his first as a Yankee.

And in the 5th, they loaded the bases with singles to Voit and Gardner and a walk to Sanchez. With 1 out and a new pitcher, a wild pitch scored Luke Voit, moving the other two into scoring position. And Gleyber Torres’ single scored Gardner to give the Yankees a healthy lead.

Masahiro Tanaka actually threw a great game for most of his outing, right up until the end of it. Overall, he threw 89 pitches into the 6th, gave up 6 hits, 3 walks, and 6 runs (5 earned), and just 2 strikeouts. In the 5th, Tanaka gave up a single and a 2-run home run. Twice. To tie up the game in a single inning.

In the 6th, he gave up a 1-out walk and a 2-out walk before he was replaced by Jonathan Holder. Holder’s passed ball moved runners into scoring position that allowed both runners to score on a single that gave the Angels the lead.

Stephen Tarpley came on for the 7th, an inning I’m sure the Yankees would rather forget. A lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, and another walk and passed ball put runner on the corners. After the first out of the inning, the Yankees called in Joe Harvey.

A stolen base put runners in scoring position, and a single and fielding error scored both runners. Two walks loaded up the bases, before the Yankees’ defense snapped into action getting a force out at home. The bases still loaded, so that a big triple cleared the bases to give the Angels a distinctive lead. Kahnle returned the Yankee pitching back to the earlier model, with a quick, clean 10-pitch 8th inning.

The Yankees found one more opportunity to try to chip away at the Angels’ big lead in the 8th. Ford and Urshela worked walks, and LeMahieu’s short 1-out single loaded the bases. Opportunity for a late rally was in play. After another out, Brett Gardner worked a 4-pitch walk to score Ford. But a pitching change quickly ended the rally opportunity.

Final score: 11-5 Angels, Yankees win series 3-1

Next up: The Yankees travel a up the California coast to face the Giants this weekend. After a travel day, they’ll play the Diamondbacks for a quick 2-game series, before heading home to host the Twins and Mariners.

Roster moves: The Yankees continue to shift the roster around in effort to combat the growing injured list. They officially moved Clint Frazier to the 10-day Injured List and sent Jonathan Loaisiga back to AAA for a fresh arm in Joe Harvey. They also moved Luis Severino to the 60-day IL to remove him from the 40-man roster and make room for their newest trade — outfielder Cameron Maybin.

Maybin is a 12-year veteran outfielder, spending the early part of his career with the Marlins and Padres, but also 9 other teams as part of trades and signings. He also was a key part of the 2017 Astros’ World Series team. He was signed this off-season with the Giants, spending most of Spring Training with them before being released and signed by the Indians. They then traded Maybin to the Yankees for cash.

And for you numbers/trivia nerds, Maybin showed up at tonight’s game wearing jersey #38.

Go Yankees!

Game 11: NYY vs. HOU — No good news on a Tuesday

The hardest part about watching some of these early season games is just how the Yankees don’t seem to be clicking in all the right places just yet. Of course, with all their injuries and players on the injured list, it’s no wonder the Yankees seem more like a patchwork of talent than a well-oiled machine.

Sure, there’s always some rough patches early in the season as they try to recover the smoothness from the previous fall, but usually, that gets worked out mostly in Spring Training. That’s a good part of what Spring is for — to work out the off-season kinks.

But tonight was a good example of what happens when the Spring wasn’t successful in doing that because of the increasing list of injured veteran players. The Yankees played their middle game in Houston tonight, hoping to recapture whatever magic they had in Baltimore, and ended up falling short again.

Jonathan Loaisiga threw 71 pitches in his 3 innings, and after a quick 1st inning with 3 amazing strikeouts, he had some trouble through the rest of his outing. In the 2nd, a lead-off double moved to 3rd on a wild pitch and then scored on a sacrifice fly. A 1-out solo home run in the 3rd doubled the Astros’ score. In both innings, there were allowed base runners, but Loaisiga got himself out of both innings without too much damage.

Once again, the Yankees got on the board first with Luke Voit’s monster 2-out solo home run in the 1st. After the Astros tied up the game, the Yankees came back in the 6th. Gardner and Judge each worked a walk, and Voit hit into a force out at 2nd to put runners on the corners. Gary Sanchez then doubled home both Gardner and Voit to give the Yankees the lead again.

Tarpley basically breezed his way through a 9-pitch 4th inning, and Cessa’s 5 outs kept the Astros from adding to their score. Jonathan Holder closed out the 6th cleanly but had some trouble in the 7th. With 2 quick outs, he gave up back-to-back doubles that scored the tying run for the home team, before handing the ball over to Chad Green.

While Green got out of the 7th without further damage, it was his 8th, combined with some messy defense that soured the Yankees’ chances for the win. With 1 out, Green loaded up the bases with a single and 2 walks. A nice double scored 2 runners to put the Astros in the lead. Still with 2 runners on base and only 1 out, the Yankees turned to Tommy Kahnle. He gave up a sacrifice fly to score 1 run but was able to get out of the inning.

The Yankees’ offense was virtually silent after the 6th, with no late-inning rally even in the works tonight. Not even an attempt.

Final score: 6-3 Astros

Injury update: And in not good news, Luis Severino went in for a new MRI to see how his shoulder injury was progressing. While his original injury of rotator cuff inflammation seems to be healing, there is a new injury — a grade 2 lat strain. A lat strain, or micro tears in the large back muscle that connects the hip to the shoulder, is incredibly common in pitchers, especially near the shoulder joint like with Severino. A grade 2 strain is typically a month of recovery, so Severino has been shut down from all baseball activities for 6 weeks.

Again, this team is basically limping around this early season, yet still finding its way not to be the worst team in baseball. This isn’t exactly the kind of positive message I like to post on here, so I’ll leave you with some positive imagery. Even if you’re a cynic like me, a little bit of hope for better isn’t that far out of reach.

So, while the Yankees currently aren’t doing so hot and yet still hanging on just a game under .500, imagine what the team could be like as veteran players come off the IL, rejoin the team, and make an impact. It’s coming. Just hang on to that thought and pray for a healthy team.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 21: TOR vs. NYY — The Saturday hit parade

For the second afternoon in a row, the Yankees turned the hot, humid weather into a sort of springboard for dominating their visiting opponent in Tampa. Early on, the home team hosted a continued batting practice under the guise of a Spring Training game, with the Blue Jays even getting in on the fun and action today. And fans were just there for the show.

The Yankees kicked things off in the 1st, with Aaron Judge’s big 1-out solo home run, the first home run and hit of a 9 home run and 29 hit day, overall. Then, Bird worked a 2-out walk and scored with Gleyber Torres’ 2-run home run to give the Yankees an early lead.

JA Happ got the start for the Yankees. Despite a good 1st inning, he had a bit of trouble in the 2nd. A lead-off single scored as part of a 2-run home run to get the Blue Jays on the board. Two outs later, a solo home run helped push the Jays into a tie.

So, the Yankees came back in the bottom of the 2nd to retake their lead. With 1 out, Wade doubled, and Gio Urshela smacked a 2-run home run to break the tie. Gardner then singled, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, and scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s 2-out single. In the 4th, with 1 out and Florial on base with a single, pinch-hitter Jorge Saez hit a solid 2-run home run to keep the runs rolling in.

After Britton and Chapman sailed their way through the 4th and 5th innings, Tommy Kahnle’s 1st pitch in the 6th became a Blue Jays’ solo home run. But he got right back on track and shut them down in 3 quick outs.

The Yankees answered back in the 6th. Estevan Florial led-off with a walk, stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Matt Lipka’s single. Lipka moved to 2nd on Wagner’s single and scored on Thairo Estrada’s double. Clint Frazier fought through a good at-bat only to hit a 2-RBI triple. And in the 7th, Urshela led-off with a double, and his pinch-runner later scored on Matt Lipka’s big 2-run home run.

Minor league reliever Phillip Diehl had a great 7th inning but found trouble in the 8th. He loaded up the bases with a double, a single, and a walk, with no outs. A sacrifice fly scored the lead run, and with that out, the Yankees went to Weissert for pitching relief. After a strong strikeout, a strong 2-RBI triple edged the Blue Jays a bit closer to the Yankees’ lead.

Thairo Estrada then led-off the 8th with a ridiculously speedy triple (a double for most people) and scored on Francisco Diaz’s single. Zack Zehner hit a big 2-run home run to cap off the runs this afternoon. The Yankees sent reliever Jonathan Holder in to close out the game with a scoreless 9th.

Final score: 17-7 Yankees

One to Watch: Today, I opted for two honorees. Gio Urshela dominated the first half of the game once again with his contributions at the plate and his outstanding defense, starting at 3rd base. And in the latter half of the game, Matt Lipka’s bat was hot today, going 2-for-2, with 3 RBIs and 2 runs scored.

Next up: the Yankees have a split squad day tomorrow afternoon. But in a weird scheduling twist, both games are actually being played away. One squad will travel to visit the Orioles in Sarasota (about an hour south), and the other across the Bay to Clearwater to see the Phillies (about 25 minutes west).

Unfortunately, there is some injury news. In the top of the 8th, outfielder Estevan Florial slammed into the center field fence trying to negotiate between the sun and a fly ball. (The fence won.) He was pinch-hit on his next at-bat and sent to precautionary x-rays, which came back with non-displaced right wrist fracture. In other words, his Spring is done and will probably start back with Advanced-A Tampa as part of his rehab and recovery once he is healed.

And Luis Severino is still dealing with his inflamed shoulder, and due to his slow recovery process this Spring, it looks like he will miss regular season games through April. Aaron Hicks’ back should be healed and ready to go by Opening Day, but he will have no Spring warm-up. So he could take a few sim games or minor league games (or about a week) before rejoining the regular team.

With two key players out, even for a week in Hicks’ case, that could mean a brief promotion for some Yankee players. So as they continue to hone their roster, it will be interesting to see who winds up as part of the 25-men set to play Opening Day.

One player in Yankee Universe that won’t be part of that line-up is Seahawks star quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson is technically part of the Yankee farm system and was in camp these last two days, connecting with friends like Judge and working out with his fellow athletes. Unlike last year, Wilson didn’t get any play time in either of these last two big games, watching his teammates haul in big victories from the dugout. Maybe that’s why the scores looked more like the NFL than MLB — blame Wilson.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 10: ATL vs. NYY — A chilly afternoon victory

The day started out less than promising — cloudy skies dripping a few buckets of rain and a sweeping new cold front planting itself right over the area. But then just before game time, the rain cleared, though the clouds and the chill in the air remained the whole game.

And oddly, the game began on time, and the Yankees and Braves powered through this afternoon in just two and a half hours. Tarpley and Green sailed through the first two innings, setting a solid pace for the Yankees, something picked up by Kahnle, Betances, and Cortes for the latter part of the game.

JA Happ got the bulk of the work today with 3 innings, his only struggle was in the 4th inning. A 1-out single moved to 2nd on a hit-by-pitch and then scored on another single. On a 2-out single, the lead runner tried to score another run for the Braves, but a sharp throw from left fielder Stanton to a waiting Sanchez ended that.

The Braves also had a good outing for their pitchers, with a few hiccups that the Yankees’ offense certainly used to their advantage. In the 5th, they loaded up the bases with walks to Torres and Florial and a single by LeMahieu. Troy Tulowitzki’s sacrifice fly scored Torres to get the Yankees on the board. But it would be Aaron Judge to solidify the Yankees’ win today with a big 3-run home run up the middle.

Estevan Florial led-off the 7th with a single. Two outs later, he stole 2nd base, moved to 3rd on a passed ball, and then raced home to score on a wild pitch for the extra insurance run the Yankees never needed.

Final score: 5-1 Yankees

One to Watch: The honor goes to Yankees prospect Estevan Florial today. He started today’s game in center field and went 1-for-2 with a walk and 2 runs scored. He’s been an interesting player to watch for the last few seasons, and this season is no exception. But the impact he continues to make causes some questions to arise. He’s not ready for “the show” just yet, but there’s that crowded (or rather overcrowded) outfield. Where does Florial fit in such a field? He deserves to be considered, within the next few seasons. But will there ever be room for the young outfielder?

Next up: the Yankees will host the Cardinals tomorrow afternoon. It will at least be slightly warmer (but still cold for Florida) and significantly sunnier.

Some roster news: Aaron Hicks has been out of the lineup for the last couple of days due to a sore back. An MRI cleared him of anything serious, but he will continue to rest so as not to tweak something while it’s vulnerable. (Besides, there’s that crowded outfield with all the players in camp right now to cover for the regular center fielder.)

Luis Severino was supposed to make his Spring debut today, even worked out in preparation all the way up to warm ups just minutes before the game. But his shoulder felt sore and off. As a precaution, they opted to pull the starter, subbing in long-term relievers and extended Happ’s outing today. But they sent Severino for an MRI, which came back with a diagnosis of right shoulder inflammation.

A cortisone injection, anti-inflammatories, and at least 2 weeks off baseball activities was the immediate treatment. He’ll be reevaluated in 2 weeks to see if he’s progressed and can resume throwing. But it seems like Opening Day (March 28) is going to be out of the conversation for the ace starter, and now talk of grabbing another starter is back on the table.

In some better news, retiring starter CC Sabathia will spend 15 of his non-pitching days as a guest commentator on ESPN. Sabathia has been co-hosting a podcast with a local sports broadcaster for the last year, giving fans and listeners an inside look behind the scenes of the athletic life. So this is going to be more of Sabathia conversing with friends and personalities about the game he loves. Plus it’s going to open the conversation of what Sabathia might want to pursue in his post-baseball life come this fall.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: despite the broadcast today, there were few released video highlights. Sorry.}

Off-season bits: February edition, part 2

In a quick follow-up to this week’s news, the Yankees announced one return and one retirement, each hosting their own press conference yesterday (Saturday). At least four more seasons with one player, and a final one with another.

Luis Severino was set to sit down for arbitration to argue out a number for his salary and years with the Yankees, but just before doing so, he (via his agent) and the Yankees agrees to terms. So Severino re-signed back to the team for 4 more years, through 2022, for $40 million, with an option for 2023. Before talking with the press with his wife and agent, he called his mom, who asked if he won. “No,” he said, “but I got $40 million.” Her response? “Oh, that’s more than $5 million.”

Severino is the presumptive Opening Day starter, after being in the conversation for the Cy Young Award last year, and really proving to the team his ace status. Severino has carved his niche with the starting rotation, taking the lead away from veterans like Sabathia and stars like Tanaka. But deservedly so. Now, he’ll be continuing to carve his Yankee legacy for the next four (or five) years, becoming the anchor to the starting rotation.

Of course, that position formerly was held by Yankees star pitcher CC Sabathia. But in recent years, his physical injuries (like his knees) and recovery from alcoholism removed him from the ace to the support, though he certainly hasn’t slowed in his production, having some of the best outings in the most recent seasons.

Sabathia, joined by his wife Amber and three of his four kids, formally announced his retirement, making 2019 his final major league season. He’s just 14 strikeouts away from the career milestone of 3000 strikeouts (something only 16 other pitchers have done). And conversations have already started about a certain voting process in 5 years, wondering if Cooperstown will make that call for the veteran pitcher. (It should, by the way, but that’s a conversation for another post.)

Missing from the Sabathia entourage was his oldest son, who was busy with his own athletics at his high school, and his mother Margie, who years ago famously donned all the catcher’s gear to help him practice his pitching. Sabathia is looking forward to playing Mr. Mom and enjoying things like summer vacations and holidays in between keeping up with his foundation that continues to impact inner city kids in his hometown of Oakland and current residence of the New York area.

Sabathia is a fan favorite, even of those who aren’t Yankee fans because of his love of the game, and a favorite among players, alumni, and other athletes all over. People’s good wishes came pouring in and will continue to follow Sabathia as he begins his “farewell tour”, also known as the 2019 season. He will also host kids from every local Boys & Girls Club at every American League city (plus San Francisco) the Yankees visit this season to honor the impact of the organization on his own life, something he credits with saving him and helping him become a professional ball player.

Both Severino and Sabathia talked a lot about the person who’d been their top supporter, their mothers. YES Network reporter Jack Curry noted this and posted a short video about how important mothers are in baseball.

It struck a chord with me too. I know my own mother is the reason I’m such a fan, and the person who usually sits next to me at baseball games. She’ll be at every Spring Training game with me in just a few days, and she’ll have a thousand things to say, opinions, questions, and comments that lead to really intense discussions. But there’s something about baseball and moms. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Go Yankees!