Game 95: NYY vs. CLE — Splitting the series with loss in half finale

The Yankees were hoping to close out this first half of the season on an upswing, so to speak. But they had to settle for a split series and a loss this afternoon in Cleveland going into the All-Star break.

The Yankee bats did what usually ensures them a win — get on the board first and give enough lead to allow the starter and bullpen to keep things together. Gardner led-off the 3rd with a single, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, advanced to 3rd on Gregorius’ 1-out single, and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ 2-out single. And Neil Walker hit a big 2-out solo home run in the 4th to double their score.

This was good news to today’s starter Masahiro Tanaka, who was fairly efficient with just 77 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up 6 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and striking out 5 Cleveland batters. The game ended up tied in the bottom of the 4th, when that lone walk scored as part of a solid 2-run home run.

With a runner at 2nd and just 1 out in the 7th, the Yankees turned to the reliable Chad Green to keep things close and get out of the threat. He did. In that inning, at least. But in the 8th, things got messy. The Indians broke the tie when their lead-off batter hit a solo homer. The next batter singled, stole 2nd, and ended up at 3rd on the steal due to a bad throwing error. The next batter was hit by a pitch, a wicked shot to the back hand on an errant inside pitch. And after an out (finally), he intentionally loaded the bases.

A long sacrifice fly to right field tested the speed of the runner against Stanton’s arm and Higashioka’s reactions. It seems the runner slid just under the tag to give the Indians their insurance run. During the throw, the other runner moved to 3rd and would later score on a bad wild pitch. A quick 12-pitch 9th by the Indians’ closer ended the Yankees chances for a rally.

Final score 5-2 Indians, series split 2-2

Next up: after today, all of MLB enters the official “half-time”, the All-Star break. A select few will travel (or are traveling) to Washington, D.C. for all the festivities of the All-Star Game. As I write this the All-Star Futures Game is underway, with Yankees’ prospect pitcher Justus Sheffield set to pitch for Team USA. The Home Run Derby will be tomorrow (Monday) night as the cap to Work-Out Day. And then after the Red Carpet Parade, the big exhibition game will be Tuesday night, featuring Judge and Severino with Torres and Chapman (both resting due to injuries) cheering on from the AL dugout.

Following a couple of days off, baseball returns on Friday, with the Yankees hosting the Mets for a 3-game weekend series. They’ll take a quick trip down to Tampa Bay for a 3-game series before returning to the Bronx for 4-games against the Royals, a day-off, and 2-games against the Orioles to close out this month.

And if you’re a trivia nerd, here’s some numbers to sound smart in conversations about baseball. The Yankees finish this first half with 62 wins, 33 losses, 4.5 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East but tied for 2nd (with Houston) in all of MLB.

As a team, the Yankees are 1st in home runs (160), 2nd in walks (1st in the AL, with 363), 3rd in runs scored (491) and RBIs (474), 2nd in On-base percentage plus slugging (.796), 2nd in pitching ERA (3.46), and their pitchers rank 2nd in strikeouts given (945).

Individually, the team leaders include Luis Severino in ERA (2.31, also 5th in the AL) and wins (14, also 1st in MLB), Aroldis Chapman in saves (26, 4th in MLB), Miguel Andujar in batting average (.283), Giancarlo Stanton in hits (103), and Aaron Judge in home runs (25, also 3rd in MLB), runs scored (66), RBIs (60), and OPS (.937, also 6th in AL).

Basically, things are in a good place. Plus, they hope to have both Sanchez and Torres back right after the break, though their AAA back-ups (Higashioka and Wade) are doing quite a good job in their stead. And with that looming trade deadline at the end of the month, the Yankees aren’t just battling for a winning season, they’re contending for their 28th championship. And with teams like the Astros and Red Sox (really their biggest threats this season so far) who are battling with them in nearly every category, the Yankees have some work to do.

The second half is going to be something to watch. So stay tuned. There’s so much more baseball left to play.

Go Yankees!

Game 92: NYY vs. CLE — Not a pitchers’ duel despite 2 Aces, just a Gardy Party

I’m still guilty of pre-judging how a game will turnout when they release the daily line-ups. And far too often, I’m very wrong. Tonight was one of those nights. I saw the pitching match-up for the opening game of this weekend series in Cleveland, and immediately thought this was going to be quite the pitching duel. The Indians sent in their ace starter, and the Yankees matched him with theirs — Luis Severino.

Severino threw 94 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 9 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, and struck out just 1 batter. (Comparatively, the Indians’ starter threw 114 pitches into the 8th inning, still gave up 9 hits, 2 walks, and 6 runs, and struck out 9 Yankee batters.) Severino’s allowed runs came in the odd innings — 1, 3, and 5.

In the 1st, a 2nd pitch lead-off double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a single. After Romine caught a runner stealing 2nd to clear the bases, a solo home run doubled the Indians’ early lead. A lead-off single in the 3rd stole 2nd and later scored on a single. And a 2-out solo home run in the 5th capped off the Indians’ runs for the night. Warren, Robertson, Betances, and Chapman each took an inning to close out the game for Severino, throwing beautiful, efficient innings and keeping the home team to their runs total.

Much like the Indians did to the Yankees’ ace, the Yankees offense pieced together their runs to take the Indians’ ace down a peg or two. Andujar led-off the 3rd with a double, and 2 outs later, scored on Brett Gardner’s 2-run home run to get the Yankees on the board. Didi Gregorius then led-off the 4th with a solo home run up the middle. Then Stanton singled, moved to 3rd on Hicks’ bunt and a throwing error, and then easily scored on Greg Bird’s double.

With the game tied, Gregorius worked a walk to lead-off the 8th inning and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ 1-out double. That would be the end of the Indians’ starter’s night, and they spent the final 5 outs of the game piecing together their bullpen. With a new pitcher, Hicks stole 3rd, a call upheld (rightly so) despite a challenge on the tag, and then scored on Bird’s long sacrifice fly. Two pitchers later, in the 9th, Brett Gardner hit his 2nd home run of the game, a 2-out solo homer off the foul pole in right field.

Final score: 7-4 Yankees

The Indians-Yankees annual series is always a special series for my family because of the close ties my mom’s side has to the Northeast Ohio area. Of course, this was heightened in the 1990s when the Indians were about as good as they have been in recent years, making it to the postseason with several strong seasons, much like the Yankees did in those years. Not quite a recognized rivalry anywhere except in my family for the last 20-odd years, but something I always look forward to.

And for my Ohio family, it’s worth noting that four teams in the AL right now are actually statistically higher than the Indians — Red Sox, Astros, Yankees, and Mariners. In other words, Cleveland is enjoying success this season because the AL Central is the weakest division. It’s easy to be on top when you’re the only team in that division with a winnings season (above a .500 season average).

Go Yankees!

Game 87: NYY vs. TOR — Gardner leads to victory in the 10th. Who’s in the All-Star Game? #ASGiancarlo

Another lovely summer day in Toronto allowed for a great day at the ball park, the roof open, the skies clear, and the fans cheering on their teams. And for this rubber match (the game to decide who wins the series), the Yankees and Blue Jays certainly gave the fans somehting to cheer about.

Domingo German got the start in the finale against the Jays, throwing 100 pitches in 6 innings, giving up just 4 hits, 2 walks, and 1 run, and striking out 5 batters. In fact, his lone allowed run was a 6th inning lead-off solo shot. Warren gave a solid 2 innings in relief, and Green followed that up by breezing through the 9th inning in just 11 pitches.

Now, the Yankees actually got on the board first, in the 1st inning. With 1 out, Judge singled, moved to 3rd on Stanton’s double, and then scored on Miguel Andujar’s ground out. After that, the Yankees collected 5 more hits and 2 walks through the next 8 innings, but didn’t do anything to add to their runs.

So, with the game tied, into the 10th inning they went. The first batter up, Bird, was hit by a pitch, and because they needed some speed on the bases, the Yankees called on Tyler Wade as pinch-runner. Romine’s sacrifice bunt moved Wade to 2nd and into scoring position so that when Brett Gardner hit a nice single into left field, Wade raced home to break the tie.

Two outs later, the Yankees called on David Robertson to close out the game. 12 pitches and 3 outs later, the Yankees declared victory for the game and the series.

Final score: 2-1 Yankees, in 10 innings, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: the Yankees are on their way to Baltimore to face the Orioles for a 4-game series, starting with a doubleheader tomorrow. The first game is a make-up game of the rain-out from May 31. After their series at Camden Yards, the Yankees travel to face the Indians for a 4-game weekend series before the All-Star Break.

And speaking of the All-Star Game, MLB officially announced their fan selections for the starters, as well as its player-voted (and Commissioner’s Office selected) player reserves and pitching staff for the game next Tuesday (July 17). And there are 4 (possibly 5) Yankees on that list — Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Aroldis Chapman, and Gleyber Torres. Giancarlo Stanton is nominated for the Final Vote.

Judge received his 2nd selection as an outfield starter this year, joined by pitchers Chapman and Severino (all for very obvious reasons). Plus, Torres was selected as part of the reserves player. Now, despite the fact that he may be sidelined due to his recent hip injury, selection to be part of the All-Star Game is a badge of sorts players can wear with honor for the rest of their lives. (You can enjoy a rather extensive list of the players selected and their achievements this year so far.)

And that brings us to the Final Vote. You can vote unlimited times until this Wednesday (July 10) at 4pm (EST) for your favorite AL and NL player of the 10 nominated (5 in each league) — like Stanton, for example. Other nominees include outfielders Andrew Benintendi (Red Sox) and Andrelton Simmons (Angels), shortstops Eddie Rosario (Twins) and Jean Segura (Mariners) for the AL. In the NL are infielders Jesus Aguilar (Brewers), Brandon Belt (Giants), Matt Carpenter (Cardinals), Max Muncy (Dodgers), and Trea Turner (Nationals).

So vote often for your favorites! And use the social media hashtag: #ASGiancarlo.

Go Yankees!

Game 86: NYY vs. TOR — Early power wins game, with ejections & injuries

In comparison to much of the country right now, the Queen City is having some nice (and fairly standard) summer weather for this Saturday afternoon and middle game of this weekend series. The roof of Rogers Centre open to the blue skies and the Yankees ready to bounce back after last night’s game set up a great game for their fans in the Toronto area.

Luis Severino got the start and actually had a lesser outing than previous ones, despite earning his 14th win and keeping the Blue Jays from doing too much damage. He threw 97 pitches in 5 innings, gave up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, and struck out just 5 batters. In the 2nd, with 1 out and a runner on 1st with a single, a 2-run home run got the Blue Jays on the board. And a 1-out solo homer in the 4th added on another.

Jonathan Holder came on for the 6th, gave up a lead-off double that moved to 3rd on a single and then scored on a sacrifice fly. But then Robertson and Betances held the Jays scoreless through the next 2 innings. Aroldis Chapman got one strikeout in the 9th and then came out of the game (more below), handing things over to Chasen Shreve, who despite giving up a solo home run, still got out of the inning rather quickly. Shreve appears to be bouncing back, at least somewhat, thanks to less-pressured situations.

Meanwhile, the Yankees’ offense started strong and stayed strong beginning with a 1st pitch home run right up the middle by Brett Gardner. Aaron Judge followed that up with a solo home run of his own. Stanton and Hicks each worked walks before the Jays’ starter finally got a couple of outs. Then Brandon Drury hit a long double that scored both Stanton and Hicks to double the Yankees’ early score.

Then in the 3rd, Gregorius led-off with a walk. After 2 outs (and the ejection of CC Sabathia, for chirping at the umpire over the questionable strike zone), Gregorius stole 2nd, and Bird worked a walk. As the Jays’ starter exited the game, he was almost ejected, but his manager instead took his fate (for the same reason as Sabathia actually). But the new reliever gave up a quick triple to Brett Gardner (the fastest triple in 2018, by the way) that scored Gregorius and Bird. A passed ball easily allowed Gardner to later score.

But then the Blue Jays’ pitching staff was able to piece together their relievers to keep the Yankees from adding to their impressive lead. Until the 9th inning. Andujar led-off with a ground-rule double and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ single. That insurance run was eventually unnecessary, but it certainly put a cap on the Yankees’ offensive show today (9 total hits, 10 total walks).

Final score: 8-5 Yankees

Roster moves: before the game, the Yankees recalled Clint Frazier and designated reliever David Hale for assignment. After being sent to AAA in anticipation for Monday’s coming doubleheader, pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga developed inflammation in his right shoulder and is probably headed for the disabled list. That leaves Luis Cessa on tap for the second game of the doubleheader in Baltimore now.

Okay, so two potential injuries during the game: after 6 pitches in the 9th, Aroldis Chapman, who’s been battling tendinitis in his left knee, was feeling some intense pain there and Boone figured it wasn’t worth the risk as the Yankees were so far ahead. And Aaron Hicks left the game in the 5th due to some cramping in his left leg.

Stadiums with artificial turf are often the source of problems, even temporary ones, for many players. The only 2 remaining stadiums in MLB are Rogers Centre (Blue Jays) and Tropicana Field (Rays), unfortunately for all players in the AL East, as division rivals play each other more than any other team.

In general, real grass surfaces have a natural give, but artificial turf has either a stiffer base or one that is too spongy. Think of the difference of beaches like Daytona (where you can literally drive onto the sand) vs. Clearwater (more like quicksand, that sinks under every step). Neither of those really work well for anything more than sunbathing, even sand castles are difficult because it’s either too dense or too soft of a foundation. But a mix (like the Pacific Coast beaches) allows for running, volleyball, soccer games, and general beach athletics (and great sand castles!).

Go Yankees!

Game 82: ATL vs. NYY — 11th inning oopsie

The Yankees had a ridiculous amount of opportunities to make the difference of the game, pretty consistently throughout, and yet didn’t do much along the lines of the Yankees’ offense this past weekend. They ended up leaving 12 runners in scoring position in the game, mostly in the latter half.

Jonathan Loaisiga got the start in tonight’s opener against the Braves, throwing 92 pitches in just 4 innings, giving up 5 hits and 3 runs, and striking out just 3 Atlanta batters. The lead-off batter in the 3rd hit a solo shot to get the Braves on the board. Then in the 4th, with 1 out, Loaisiga gave up 3 consecutive doubles that scored 2 more runs for Atlanta.

The Yankees actually got on the board first with Aaron Judge’s 1-out solo home run in the 1st. Then Gleyber Torres led-off the 3rd with a double, advanced to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on another wild pitch. In the 5th, with 1 out, the Yankees began putting runners in scoring position by loading the bases with Torres’ single and 2 walks to Gardner and Judge. Didi Gregorius’ sacrifice fly scored Torres (and tie up the game), but a pop-up out ended that opportunity.

So, after Loaisiga’s night ended, the Yankees got 2 innings each out of both Holder and Green. And Aroldis Chapman’s 9th inning was just amazing, 10 of his 18 pitches were over 100 mph (2 were 104 mph). But with the game tied, the extra innings became inevitable. Betances allowed 2 baserunners and still got out of the 10th inning unscathed.

But then in the 11th, David Robertson got his chance and would have succeeded except for some defensive issues. The lead-off batter made it safely to 1st on a fielding error, but then he was out on a ground out that failed to convert to a double play. The next batter hit a long fly ball to right-center field and Judge didn’t jump in time to grab the ball. It bounced in his glove and then on the top of the back wall for a 2-run home run.

Final score: 5-3 Braves, in 11 innings

Scranton Shuttle (roster moves): Following the game, and the depleted bullpen, the Yankees sent Jonathan Loaisiga to AAA, and reactivated AJ Cole after a brief rehab stint. The Yankees have a doubleheader next Monday in Baltimore, which means they can carry a 26th man on their roster. Logically then, Loaisiga will be back for those games.

In fun Yankee Universe News: the Yankees just signed Luis Severino’s 19-year-old brother Rafael, as part of the international signing period. The younger Severino is part of an academy in their native Dominican Republic and has a pitching arm that regularly throws in the upper 80s. The elder brother is super excited and brags on his younger sibling’s work ethic and potential. Two Severinos with the Yankees? Yes, please!

These are the final days for the All-Star Game voting on the starters for the game. So it’s time now to get your final votes in and have your voice heard. Fans have until July 5 (Thursday) at 11:59 pm EST to vote for their favorites. The All-Star Game is Tuesday, July 17. And it looks like Aaron Judge is one of the front-runners to start in the outfield, and the chances for Severino or perhaps one of the outstanding relievers for other representation in D.C.

Go Yankees!

Game 81: BOS vs. NYY — 6 homers for the Bronx Bombers

We’re officially at the physical half-way point in the season. And after tonight’s game, the Yankees are tied with tonight’s opponents. Though, after this crazy weekend series, it’s kind of hard to believe either team is atop anything. However, tonight, it seemed to swing in favor of the Yankees. By a lot. And it followed the same pattern — stronger starting pitcher, major offense, huge win.

The Yankees sent in their ace pitcher to close out this series against the Red Sox. Luis Severino threw another great game, 99 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up just 2 hits and 3 walks, striking out 6 batters, and keeping the Red Sox completely scoreless.

Despite the score, the Yankees needed to exercise their power-relievers and thus gave Robertson, Betances, and Chapman the chance to get the final 8 outs of the game. Robertson and Betances kept things tight and scoreless, without allowing a base runner.  Aroldis Chapman came into the game in the 9th with 1 out and had a bit of trouble, giving up a double, a single, and a ground out that scored the Red Sox’s lone run of the game. Another grounder ended the game and Chapman’s struggles.

Meanwhile, the Yankees faced an old foe as the Red Sox’s starter (the same pitcher who gave up Jeter and Rodriguez’s 3000th hits, while he was with different teams) who the Yankees seem to know how to hit regardless of the opposing team. His fate was set in the 1st inning. With 1 out, Aaron Judge kicked off tonight’s big night with a solo home run up the middle. Then Stanton singled and Gregorius’ double put runners in scoring position, and they both scored as part of Gleyber Torres’ big 3-run home run.

In the 2nd, with 1 out, Gardner singled and then scored with Aaron Hicks’ 2-run home run. Kyle Higashioka led-off the 4th with his 1st major league hit, a huge solo home run into the 2nd deck of the left field seats. And yes, there was a John Sterling home run call. And yes, the Yankees gave him a temporary silent treatment in the dugout, on Sabathia’s suggestion, before hounding him with their congratulations.

Anyway, then after an out, Aaron Hicks hit his 2nd home run of the night, a nice solo shot into Monument Park. That would be the end of the Red Sox starter’s night, but the first reliever had some issues. Judge singled, and Stanton double to move both runners to scoring position. Didi Gregorius hit a long sacrifice fly to score Judge.

After that, the reliever settled into some momentum for the next 2 innings, and his replacement had a solid 7th inning. But the 8th inning reliever had trouble, starting with Aaron Hicks hitting his 3rd (!) home run of the night to lead off the inning. Judge then walked, moved to 2nd on Drury’s single, and then scored on Neil Walker’s single to cap things off for the Yankees tonight.

Final score: 11-1 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: the Yankees will host the Braves starting tomorrow night for 3 games for the final home stand before the All-Star Break. But before the break, they’ll hit the road to face the Blue Jays, Orioles, and Indians.

And a small bit of trivia regarding tonight’s game: Aaron Hicks’ 3-home run game puts him in some pretty good company. Before tonight, Lou Gehrig (in 1927) and Mark Teixeira (in 2010) are the only Yankees to have 3-home run games against the Red Sox. And further, only Hicks and Teixeira did so from both sides of the plate as switch hitters. So much for all that talk from online trolls about how the Yankees should trade Hicks earlier this year…

Go Yankees!

 

Game 77: NYY vs. PHI — Yankees find freedom of home runs

The Yankees are certainly loving “The Cradle of Liberty”, as they are finding a nice way to bounce back after this last weekend. Luis Severino continues his dominance and campaign for that coveted Cy Young award in the middle game of this series against the Phillies. He threw 103 pitches in 7 scoreless innings, gave up 6 hits, and struck out 9 Philadelphia batters to earn his 12th win of the season.

Adam Warren came on to continue the scoreless momentum through the 8th inning. Chasen Shreve redeemed himself a bit from recent less-than-stellar outings with his own scoreless 9th inning. Boone later admitted to wanting Shreve to try his hand at less crucial moments to see if he can rediscover what made him a reliable force in the bullpen.

Of course, in order to be a “less crucial moment”, the Yankees’ offense started early and often. Aaron Hicks led-off the game with a strong solo home run straight up the middle of the park, just 3 minutes into the game actually. Not a bad way to kick off the game.

Then in the 3rd, with 1 out, Hicks and Judge each singled, and then Gregorius made it to 1st to load up the bases thanks to a throwing error. After another out, Gleyber Torres singled home both Hicks and Judge, and Greg Bird followed that with a single to score Gregorius.

Romine led-off the 4th with a nice double, moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ sacrifice fly. Then Didi Gregorius got in on the fun with a lead-off home run in the 5th to cap off the Yankees’ offense tonight.

Final score: 6-0 Yankees

During batting practice today, Giancarlo Stanton hit such a long fly ball that it bounced off this large tower beyond the left field seats and landed on the concourse behind the seats. I mean, he’s been known to hit some dingers in the past. There’s a commemorative mark on the floor in Marlins Park so far beyond the field and seats in left-center field it’s crazy. Plus, he and Judge basically competed for who can be the most ridiculous in hitting balls so far during last year’s Home Run Derby.

And speaking of the All-Star Game, they released the latest numbers in fan voting for the AL starters. And while the leaders are kind of running away with their categories, the Yankees are putting in a strong showing. Sanchez is still 2nd among catchers (by about 160,000 votes), which might be good as he’s currently out with that strain he got on Sunday. Torres, Andujar, and Stanton are all distant seconds among 2nd base, 3rd base, and DH, respectively. Gregorius is still 3rd at short stop.

In the outfield, which is quite crowded, Judge is a solid 3rd place, but still way ahead of the next few contenders. So his chances of being a starter are the most likely. In fact, almost all of the starting positions for the AL could represent 8 teams, something that doesn’t happen often. (If you’re wondering, Gardner is 8th and Hicks is 12th.) I imagine the AL coaching team might also choose a pitcher or two to fill out their roster.

So, if you want your votes to count, you need to vote now for your favorite players. You have until July 5 at 11:59 pm EST to vote 5 times every 24 hours up to 35 total times. I’m out of votes, so it’s your turn.

Go Yankees!