Game 145: NYY vs. TB — “Yankee Stadium South”

Okay, I know that technically Yankee Stadium South should be Steinbrenner Field. And it is, as during Spring Training, it’s basically a miniaturized version of the Bronx landmark, complete with the arches and flags. But during the regular season, it’s Tropicana Field. Part of me feels like it’s a weird hybrid of Yankee Stadium and Steinbrenner Field because many of the same vendors and employees just move across the bay to the small St. Petersburg dome after their March spent at Steinbrenner, and most of the time I’m at the Trop is for a Yankees game (so my bias could be slightly skewed here). But when the Yankees come to town, the seats are dominated by a large contingency of Yankee fans, more than most other visiting stadiums (at least in my experience).

No need for the animated scoreboard to encourage cheering. Yankees fans were on top of things, leading the standard chant of “Let’s Go, Yankees! (clap-clap-clapclapclap)” And standing for 2-strike inning-enders. And wildly cheering when Yankee runs were scored. The smaller crowd of Rays fans (mostly crowded behind the 1st base Rays dugout) couldn’t really compete with the large 3rd base side of  the stadium. So for a crowd of just over 13,000 people, it was Yankee strong once again for tonight’s finale against the Rays at the Trop, aka “Yankee Stadium South”.

(To be fair, it’s always been rather “Yankee-heavy”, but even with Jeter’s retirement last year, it wasn’t as loud or “Yankee-strong” as it was this series. I don’t know if it’s because the Yankees are still in the play-off race or if local Yankee fans are just coming out to support their team more this year. Either way, the low attendance at the Trop has to be grateful for Yankees games for at least filling about 50% of their stadium during these series. But that’s another post for another time.)

The Yankees faced the Rays’ best starter (at least in my opinion), a player I have on that list I mentioned before of non-Yankee starters I think are really amazing pitchers. But the Rays’ defense isn’t exactly top-notch (though nowhere near as terrible as their offense this year), so the Yankees were able to poke holes in their game, grab the lead early, and keep it tonight. In the 2nd, Beltran led-off with a walk and then scored on Greg Bird’s double. And in the 6th, with 2 outs and McCann and Bird on base with walks (the Rays’ starter wasn’t as sharp with his control as he should have been), Chase Headley’s single scored McCann for an extra run.

The lady next to me, a long-time Yankees fan (she and her late husband went to ball games and followed the Yankees since the 1960s), was saying at the end of the 8th inning that she wanted an insurance run just in case. Greg Bird answered her request with a lead-off solo home run off the catwalk over right field in the 9th inning.

Luis Severino got the start and the much-needed win. With Toronto basically drenching the Braves tonight about 8 hours north of the game, the Yankees needed to win tonight to keep within reach, and behind a sharp Severino tonight, they did. Severino threw 94 pitches into the 6th inning, giving up 6 hits, 1 walk, and just 1 run, and struck out 7 Rays batters. Severino refused to allow a run until his final inning. With 1 out, a single scored on a big RBI double to get the Rays on the board. (An umpire review on a misread catch by Ellsbury upheld the call, overruling the question as to whether the misread was due to the ball potentially hitting one of the beams in the domed ceiling — part of the mess that is playing at the Trop sometimes.) After his 7th strikeout, Severino’s night was over, leaving to a rather enthusiastic crowd applause for a job well-done.

Justin Wilson completed the 6th inning and through into the 7th, keeping the Rays to that lone run. With 2 outs, he handed the ball over to Dellin Betances for a potential 4-out outing. But leave it to Betances to spike up the drama in this already tight game — he promptly walked 3 consecutive batters to load the bases before striking out the next batter in just 3 pitches. Betances came back for the 8th inning, gave up a single, got the next guy to bunt and pop into a double play (great play started by Headley’s catch of the pop-up and then throw to 1st to get the runner doubling off the base), and then a ground out to end Betances’ night. Drama, drama, drama! (There is no ordinary with him sometimes. Is there?)

Andrew Miller came on in the 9th for his 14-pitch outing — 3 consecutive strikeouts to earn his 34th save of the season. It should be noted that all three batters he faced were pinch-hitters, the Rays’ attempt at getting someone (anyone) on base to do a last-minute rally. But when Miller is at his best, it’s just not going to work. And he was pretty good tonight.

Final score from “Yankee Stadium South”: 3-1 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-1. (In case you were wondering, and I know you weren’t, the Yankees outscored the Rays 10-8 this series.)

Not really part of the Revolving Door (as it’s just a lateral move, really): Ivan Nova was moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen. He’s been struggling since his return from Tommy John surgery with finding the pace and rhythm of being a starter once again, so the move is rather similar to one they made with him a few years ago. He was moved to the bullpen to find his strength at pitching and then came back stronger than ever (and became “SuperNova”). The Yankees need SuperNova again, but if he has to find it in the bullpen first, then so be it.

Sometimes, you need a bit of a change of scenery to remember what made them notice you in the first place. Though sometimes, you find a new home or a new something in the process. When things aren’t working with the status quo, change is a very good thing. It doesn’t have to be drastic or dramatic, but even the slightest change can shake off the rust and get stagnant things moving again. Change can be a very good thing.

Go Yankees!

Game 139: TOR vs. NYY — 1st inning blues, “USA” vs. “Canada”

Somewhere in the spirit of the day and the current rush of the race for the division title, the lines were drawn between Team USA and Team Canada. Of course, unlike their Olympic counterparts, tonight’s teams were really more of a compilation of domestic and international players to play for the organization with loyalty to their own home countries far outweighing any organizational patriotism. But that didn’t stop the fans.

Over in the right field bleachers, the passionate and very loyal Yankee fans of Section 203 (affectionately known as the “Bleacher Creatures” to Yankee Universe) composed of the heart of Team USA, while a contingency of Toronto fans in their bright blue and brandishing the Maple Leaf flag found solace in their small (but very loud) group in Section 237 above the Blue Jays’ bullpen.

Recent years have increased the hostilities between these two teams and their fan bases, a stark contrast to the actual global politics and long-standing peace and friendliness between the United States and Canada. But if there’s one thing I know about both countries in general, it’s that they are both very passionate and very vocal when it comes to their chosen professional sports. Of course, that’s really hockey (for Canada) and football (for the US), but on a day like today and in a late season like this, that intensity and devotion can spill over and lead 40,000 people in the Bronx to lend their voices to their chosen loyalties.

Oh, and there was a game too. And if not for a messy 1st inning, it would have been one worthy of this burgeoning international rivalry.

Luis Severino got the start tonight and just really didn’t ever find his footing. Like I said, it was the 1st inning that really doomed the game. A lead-off double quickly scored on a 2-run home run. Then 1 out later, a double scored on an RBI single, who would then score on another 2-run home run. Finally, Severino got those final 2 outs of the inning, but they were hard-fought and left the Blue Jays up 5-0 in the middle of the 1st inning. Not exactly how you want to start the game.

In the 3rd, with 2 walks on base and an out, an RBI single scored another Toronto run and that would be it for Severino’s night — 71 pitches in just over 2 innings, giving up 6 hits, 3 walks, and 6 runs, striking out just 4 batters. And in came today’s call-up Chris Martin for relief, and it paid off right away with 2 quick outs to end the inning.

And then the game turned into a pattern. In the bottom of the 3rd, the Yankees got a run back. Ryan doubled, moved to 3rd on Ellsbury’s single, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly. But then the Blue Jays came back in the 4th to add to their score — a 2-out single and a 2-run home run to push them further over the Yankees. And in the bottom of that inning, Beltran and Headley on the corners with singles and 2 outs, Didi Gregorius’ single scored Beltran for a 2nd Yankee run of the night (no, I won’t tell you how bad the Yankees were losing at this point, but a 2nd grader with basic math skills could). And of course, the Blue Jays led-off the 5th with a solo home run for that extra cushion.

The Yankee offense finally pushed the Blue Jays’ starter out of the game in the 6th inning, and that was at least a little helpful for the their offense. I should note that I wasn’t really as impressed with their starter as I have been in the past, having seen him frequently due to his stints with the Rays and then the Tigers up until this year. I wasn’t impressed to the extent I was wondering why the Yankees weren’t doing better off of him. But it seemed their timing was just way off in the batter’s box no matter who was pitching. Case in point: Alex Rodriguez earned the “Golden Sombrero” tonight — 4 strikeouts in his 4 at-bats. He seems to be slowing down a bit after a really amazing power-summer, but all it really was tonight was his timing. He seemed to be late swinging at pitches, not that they were good pitches at all. I’ll give the Blue Jays credit for throwing off the Yankees’ timing at least.

Anyway, new pitcher for the Blue Jays in the 6th inning… with 1 out, Headley reached 1st safely when the 1st baseman bobbled the ball, and Bird singled to put 2 runners on base for Didi Gregorius, who smacked a nice 3-run home run into the right field seats. A pitching change signaled the end of the Yankees’ offense for the night. A vast improvement over most of tonight’s pitching (on both sides really).

In the top of the 7th (again, that lovely pattern continues), Chasen Shreve came on for Andrew Bailey. A lead-off single scored on a 2-run home run into the visitors’ dugout (right below the Canadian contingency in the bleachers, by the way). Caleb Cotham came on for relief of Shreve after 2 outs to finish the inning and throw a really great 8th inning. And Branden Pinder’s 9th inning was one of the best from any pitcher tonight.

Here are the bad numbers on the pitching — overall, the Yankees got 9 hits and a walk to the Blue Jays’ 16 hits and 3 walks. And the better numbers on pitching — the Yankees got the Blue Jays to strike out 9 times, while the Yankees’ batters struck out 12 times.

Final score: 11-5 (without that 1st inning, the score would’ve been 6-5, still a loss but more tolerable)

The Revolving Door with a Limp: Here’s the really bad news of the day — Mark Teixeira is out for the rest of the season. Recent MRI results found that the bone bruise is now compounded with a fracture, forcing the tenacious 1st baseman to sit and rest and heal rather than contribute to the team’s final push to October. He won’t be traveling with the team on any of their road trips and may not be in the dugout for many of the home games. I’m guessing he’s on pretty big orders to sit and rest and heal. After what has to be one of his best seasons ever, this has to be rather disappointing to now be forced to watch it from the sidelines. Heal up, Tex, we’re going to need you next year too!

Today, I would also like to remember those events of that day, that bright sunny Tuesday morning 14 years ago. We remember and honor the lives of the 2,977 people who lost their lives as a result of the attacks of September 11, 2001, here in New York and at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, PA. Our hearts and prayers are with their families as they continue to heal from their loss. (New York native Dellin Betances shared his memories of that day with MLB after he and Girardi placed a wreath by the 9/11 memorial plaque in Monument Park this afternoon.)

I am especially grateful to the first responders and military service men and women who willingly put their lives on the line for the sake of ordinary citizens like me every day, just as so many did on that day 14 years ago. Thank you for your continued sacrifice.

Go Yankees! (And yes, I’m forever apart of “Team USA”.)

Game 133: TB vs. NYY — They are called the “Bronx Bombers”

Not a bad way to start a 10-game home stand — a win, a short game, and some pretty great home runs.

Luis Severino took the mound for the Yankees to kick off the weekend series against the visiting Rays and gave a pretty good outing. He threw 91 pitches over 6.1 innings, giving up 7 hits, 3 walks, and just 1 run, striking out 5 batters. The run was a lead-off solo shot in the 6th inning. It was quite enough to earn Severino his 3rd win of his short career.

Justin Wilson took over to finish the 7th and kept the Rays from adding to their lone run. Adam Warren took the 8th, keeping the Rays scoreless. But when he came on in the 9th, he found a stick of trouble — a 1-out single scored on a double. It was time for Andrew Miller, who threw easily one of the best outings of this season — just 4 pitches for a strikeout and a fly out to earn his 30th save this year.

I should point out that the Rays starter threw a pretty decent game himself, striking out 8 Yankee batters and only giving up 3 hits and 2 walks. It should be noted, however, that all 5 of those base runners would go on to score because the Rays’ starter’s weakness is apparently to give up home runs. Every Yankee run was scored on a home run.

In the 2nd, Brian McCann led off with a walk and then scored on Alex Rodriguez’s 27th home run of the season, a 2-run home run to the left field seats. In the 4th, McCann hit a 1-out solo shot into the right field bleachers. And then in the 7th, McCann led-off with a walk again, but this time it would be the Greg Bird to hit a 2-run home run to the 2nd deck in right field to push the Yankees solidly in the lead over the Rays.

Final score: 5-2 Yankees (in just 2 hours and 36 minutes, and it felt like a really short game for some reason).

Jacoby Ellsbury came out of tonight’s game with “flu-like symptoms”, including an “upset stomach”. Tomorrow is questionable, as is the majority of the responses I read online to that news. People forget that elite athletes are basically humans too and susceptible to things like sickness and injury and the occasional upset stomach that interrupts work from time to time. Fortunately, the Yankees are in the kind of shape that a few days on the sidelines isn’t going to hurt the overall outcome of the game.

The Revolving Door: Mark Teixeira has been officially moved to the 15-day DL, retroactive to August 27, due to his persistent bone bruise on his shin. Bird, with back-up like Headley and Ackley, will continue to fill the 1st base role, something he’s doing fairly well both defensively and sparking alive at the plate. And CC Sabathia threw a simulated game at Yankee Stadium today, giving some bench players and recent call-ups some extra batting practice. Sabathia is eyeing at a possible start on Wednesday for his return.

Go Yankees!

Game 128: NYY vs. ATL — Good pitching on the field, tragic loss off the field

Well, I can say that the Braves’ pitching tonight was infinitely better than last night’s staff. And while the young rookie starter did a pretty good job, the Yankees’ rookie starter was just better. And isn’t that just what the Yankees needed tonight?

Luis Severino threw 88 pitches in his 6 innings tonight, giving up just 4 hits, 3 walks, and no runs, and striking out 5 batters. Severino earned his 2nd win due mostly to the outstanding defense behind him and the slim lead the Yankees gave him early. But I cannot fault the Braves’ starter for much as he certainly gave his all and did a pretty good, and if he had the team that would give him an offensive lead, this could have been a very different kind of game.

The Yankees started things off right with Ellsbury’s double to lead-off the game. He moved to 3rd on a groundout, and then with 2 outs on the board and bases loaded with consecutive walks to McCann and Bird, Ellsbury would score a run on a wild pitch before the inning ended on a strikeout. That was the slim lead the Yankees rode through most of the game.

In the 7th inning, Headley led-off with a double and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ nice double. This forced the Braves’ starter out of the game and into the Braves’ bullpen. After 1 out, the Braves intentionally walked pinch-hitting Rodriguez, much to the chagrin of the Atlanta crowd, before getting the other 2 outs to get out of the inning without any further Yankee runs.

Remember in National League parks, the pitcher has to hit, so later in the game when they hit up the bullpen, they rotate in bench players for a single at-bat, which is why Rodriguez (who isn’t getting much play-time this weekend for this very reason) saw an intentional walk in his lone at-bat tonight. Reliever Justin Wilson would be Rodriguez’s replacement on the roster before another bench player would come in to bat or a reliever would take the mound. Playing the rotating game in the NL is rather exhausting to follow for those of us used to AL DH rules. Maybe I’m not entirely a “baseball purist” because I’m all for things that can improve the game. (I’m still not a big fan of the between-inning clock though.)

So, in the bottom of the 7th inning, Justin Wilson came on in relief and promptly gave up 2 singles. The next batter ground into what should have been a double play but ended up being a force ground out. The lead runner scored, the runner going to 2nd was easily put out, but Wilson didn’t catch the ball properly at 1st for the second have of the double play so that runner was safe. After another out, it was Dellin Betances to the mound to walk one batter and then close out the inning.

The Yankees got back that run they allowed in the 7th in the top of the 8th inning. Beltran led-off with a walk and was replaced by pinch-runner Chris Young. Young then scored on Brian McCann’s big double. And that would be it for the offense. Betances finished out the 8th inning without allowing the Braves to score anything more. Then it was Andrew Miller for the 9th inning with a very Miller-esque kind of 9th inning — just 8 pitches, including 2 strikeouts for his 28th save this season. It was a really pretty outing for Miller.

Final score: 3-1 Yankees.

There was a rather tragic incident at Turner Field tonight. As Alex Rodriguez walked up to his at-bat in the 7th inning, a fan in the top section of the stadium (section 401), right above the Press Box and directly behind home plate, got caught up the excitement and fell over the edge, landing head-first onto the concrete steps below (between sections 201 and 202), about 30 rows behind home plate. Paramedics, EMTs, and security immediately flooded the area. Medical crew rushed to care for the man, including administering CPR, strapping him to a board, and carrying him out of the stadium to the hospital. Security cleared the sections, cordoning off the area for investigators. The majority of the stadium, including the on-field players, coaches, and umpires, were unaware of the incident until after the game.

About an hour after the conclusion of the game, the Atlanta Police and the Braves organization confirmed that the man, said to be in his 60s, has died of his injuries upon arrival at the hospital. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of this man.

This is the third similar incident at Turner Field in recent years. So please let this serve as a reminder to be safe at games. We hear all the time about people injured by flying balls and bats (and the occasional player) into the stands, but a seemingly preventable loss like this is just tragic. If you sit in one of the tiers in the stadium, please be careful of yourself and of others. I realize that alcohol also plays a role sometimes in the carelessness of people when they get caught up in the energy and passion of the game, so please drink responsibly. And here’s a general rule: if you start to feel unsafe, tell somebody like an usher or security person; that’s their job — to keep you safe so you can enjoy the game you came to watch and get home alive.

Let’s take care of ourselves and each other people. Hug your family tonight (or at least text them if they don’t live with you). Because there are people in the Atlanta area that can’t do that tonight and wish they could just one last time.

Go Yankees!

Game 122: CLE vs. NYY — Big win to honor Posada, #HipHipJorge

After another wonderful HOPE Week, the Yankees end their week of generosity honoring two of their great Yankees. Today, it was Jorge Posada Day in the Bronx. The Yankees hosted a pre-game ceremony retiring #20, putting a plaque in Monument Park, and surrounded him with former teammates and mentors, friends and family. (More following the game recap.)

Then the Yankees were looking to stop the advance of the Cleveland Indians, who have already taken the first two of their 4-game weekend series in the Bronx. And it was Luis Severino to start, looking for his first win of his career, who after 2 hours and 52 minutes got that coveted first win in his MLB career. Severino threw 107 pitches in 6 innings, giving up just 3 hits, 1 run, and 4 walks, and striking out 6 Cleveland batters. The sole run he allowed was a 1-out solo home run in the 1st inning. And after that, Severino showed off why everyone has been talking about him as a really amazing prospect all year.

The Yankees struck back in the bottom of the 1st and never looked back. Ellsbury led-off with a single and then scored on Brett Gardner’s 2-run home run. Immediately, the Yankees were in the lead, and that just fired them up. One out later, Brian McCann hit a solo home run, his 22nd of the season. Then in the 2nd, the Yankees went from long-ball to small-ball to score their runs. Drew and Murphy were on the corners with singles. Ellsbury reaches on a combination fielder’s choice and error, which scored Drew. A fly out allowed Murphy to move to 3rd, where he could then score easily on Carlos Beltran’s sacrifice fly.

And then the runs seemed to dry up for a while. Adam Warren’s 7th was nearly flawless with 2 strikeouts and 12 pitches; Warren is certainly finding a really nice home in the bullpen in this half of the season. Dellin Betances’ 8th was a little shaky, with a lead-off double that scored on a 2-out RBI single, but relying on his defense primarily pulled the Yankees through the inning.

The Yankees pushed the Indians’ starter out of the game in the 5th inning by driving up his pitch count early. His relievers were a bit better, but they still managed to rack up a total of 13 hits in the game. That included some offensive additions in the 8th inning. Gregorius hit a 1-out double, moved to 3rd on Drew’s single, and scored on a sacrifice fly by John Ryan Murphy. The Indians finally pulled their defense together and threw out Drew trying to score on Ellsbury’s single to end the inning.

And Andrew Miller’s 9th was just a beautiful 8-pitch inning to close out the game and seal the win for the Yankees on this beautiful Saturday afternoon.

Final score: 6-2 Yankees.

Yes, today was Jorge Posada Day. Following a video tribute that featured Posada’s amazing 17-year career with the Yankees, including his 275 home runs, 1065 RBIs, 5-times as an All-Star, and 5 World Series championships, Posada and his family (his parents, sister, wife, and two teenage children) unveiled his newly retired number in Monument Park before they were taken by golf cart from the area beyond center field to the area in front of the pitcher’s mound for the ceremony.

Special guests for the ceremony today included former GM and Yankees executive Gene Michael; former trainer Gene Monahan; former teammates Scott Brosius, David Cone, Hideki Matsui, and Paul O’Neill; former manager Joe Torre; and former teammates Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter.

After Posada and his wife Laura unveiled his Monument Park plaque (which incited his “Core Four” brethren to make some teasing remarks), the Yankees presented some further gifts to the great catcher from other legendary Yankees catchers — Yogi Berra sent a video message, and the late Thurman Munson’s wife Diana presented Posada with a replica of his plaque with Girardi (remember, he was also a Yankees catcher). Managing partner Hal Steinbrenner gave him a replica of his retired number, and vice chairperson Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal gave him an engraved ring with diamonds forming the number 20.

Posada took the microphone for his moment to reflect, remember, and show his gratitude for the honor in front of the packed house at Yankee Stadium. He admitted to never having a “plan B” and just being passionate about baseball and the Yankees, borrowing DiMaggio’s famous line, “I thank the good Lord for making me a Yankee.”

(You can watch the full pre-game ceremony here. It’s about 35 minutes.)

Posada later threw out the ceremonial first pitch to his son, Jorge Jr. (who from birth dealt with a severe medical issue called craniosynostosis, which is an abnormal brain-skull growth pattern that required many corrective surgeries). Posada, never being a pitcher, threw wide, for which he caught a lot of guff from his son for his bad throw. In hindsight, maybe the roles should’ve been reversed, but I think we all liked seeing the strong father-son bond between them.

Well, we’re all pretty glad He made Posada a Yankee. Posada will be eligible for Cooperstown in 2017, and critics aren’t sure of his chances. Yankee fans though know why Posada deserves such a recognition. Posada certainly fits my set requirements for what makes a great ball player — ability (in spades), teamwork (just take a look at the “Flip Play” or Cone’s perfect game), and character (absolutely undisputed). And great players deserve to be honored and remembered for the icons they are so that future generations can aspire to such greatness — dream big like this kid who started his career playing the wrong position and ended his career a legend and an inspiration.

Because dreams really do come true.

Go Yankees!

Game 116: NYY vs. TOR — Taking 2 out of 3, still in 1st

Someone scrawled on the whiteboard in the visitor’s clubhouse: “Cheer up everybody. We won the series. Still in first place.”

Someone should have added that when the rookie Luis Severino is pitching the Yankees need to back him up with some runs. Because while Severino is a really good pitcher, the Yankees just aren’t scoring runs in games he’s starting to give him his first win. In the weekend series finale against the Blue Jays, Severino threw another great game, but with no real run support. Severino threw 104 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up just 5 hits, 3 walks, and 3 runs, and striking out a whopping 9 Toronto batters. This biggest struggle for Severino was in the 3rd. With two outs, he struggled to get the third out of the inning. First, a double was initially ruled an error when Beltran lost the fly ball in the bright summer sun (later amended to be a hit, as is the case with most “lost in the sun” balls). Then that runner scored on a single. A home run scored two more for the Blue Jays before Severino finally got his third out — a strikeout.

In the 7th, Chasen Shreve put two on base with a walk and a single and an out before Adam Warren was called on to finish the inning. Warren had an excellent outing himself, finishing the 7th and through the 8th inning, including 3 great strikeouts. Actually, the Yankee pitching staff was quite the strikeout champions today — a grand total of 12 to Toronto pitchers.

The lone Yankee offense was a 2-out solo home run in the 6th inning by Jacoby Ellsbury, a 2nd deck smash into the right field seats. The Yankees only racked up 4 hits and 1 walk, so including a hit-by-pitch to McCann (he’s fine) the Yankees only put 6 runners on base.

I can brag about the Yankees’ defense once again, as displayed very nicely by Chase Headley’s diving grab in the 4th and a sliding stop by Stephen Drew in the 5th. There are two reasons why the Yankees are still in first place in the AL East despite their slowed run production this month — their bullpen and their defense.

Final score from Toronto: 3-1 Toronto, Yankees win series 2-1.

And don’t worry, the Yankees are still in first place by a half-game over Toronto. Now, they head back to New York to face the Twins, the Indians, and the Astros for a 10-game home stand. Plus, starting Monday is HOPE Week.

It’s going to be a good week. I can feel it. Besides, “I’d rather be an optimist and a fool than a pessimist and right.” (A.E.)

Go Yankees!

 

 

Game 111: NYY vs. CLE — Sometimes, it takes 16 innings to lose

It says a lot for the Indians, a last place team in their division, to fend off a division leader for five hours and four minutes and earn the win. It may be the first time all year that Cleveland showed what it is really capable of if they just put a little effort into their games from time to time. It is unfortunate that it was against the Yankees, who are just a half-game ahead of the Blue Jays now.

Luis Severino got his second start tonight and actually did a better job than last time, but still showed off why the Yankees seem to have quite a bit of hopes in him. He’s a pretty good starter, and despite getting a little roughed up at the beginning and allowing his pitch count to creep up in the first half of his outing, he settled into a nice pattern and kept the Indians from running away with the game. He threw 97 pitches over his 6 innings, gave up 7 hits, 1 walk, and 2 runs, striking out 2 batters. (The Yankees defense behind him was really great tonight, but more on that below.)

In the 1st, a 1-out single scored on an RBI single to start the scoring. Then in the 2nd, with 2 runners on with singles, a beautiful double play (that great defense) moved the lead runner to 3rd where he would then score on an RBI single. And that would be it for the Indians’ scoring for the rest of the regularly allotted game time. Severino settled into that pitching pattern that made him noticeable in the minors, and the Indians just weren’t making much of their offense after that.

In the meantime, while the Yankees were certainly stymied a bit by the Indians starter, including striking out a total of 8 times in 8 innings, the Yankees did find a few well-placed pitches to make enough of a difference. They tied up the game with two lead-off solo home runs to right field by Stephen Drew in the 6th and Carlos Beltran in the 8th. This removed the possible loss from Severino and started the spiral that would become the rest of the game.

Chasen Shreve was near-flawless in the 7th, keeping them off the bases and swinging at his nasty pitches. Dellin Betances gave much the same in the 8th. And Justin Wilson’s 9th was just becoming a beautiful pattern, with an amazing catch by Teixeira, and sent it into extra innings. Then it was the Yankees’ turn to shine again.

It would be the 10th inning that would make the ultimate difference in the game and essentially flip a switch somewhere in both teams’ dugouts that was both thrilling and disheartening. With 1 out, McCann drew a walk and moved to 2nd on Beltran’s single, before Young would come in to pinch-run. With Gregorius’ single, the bases were loaded. Drew hit into a force out at home and kept the bases loaded. Chase Headley came on to pinch-hit for Ryan (Headley was sitting this game out originally) and promptly singled to score Beltran and Gregorius. That forced a pitching change that ended the inning with a strikeout, but the damage was done. The Yankees just needed to hang onto their 4-2 lead to win in 3 outs.

Who do you send on for the save? The great Andrew Miller, anointed 2015 closer. Except it wasn’t so smooth this time around — a lead-off single, a double, and a sacrifice fly to put the Indians within 1 run. Another single scored the tying run. Blown save. Two strikeouts, almost in revenge, the inning was over, and for the first time all season, Miller had a new statistic to his outstanding season — a blown save. (Though to be fair, even the great Mariano Rivera blew a save from time to time; anyone else automatically recall the 2004 postseason and shudder?)

So for the next few innings, it became a rotating door from both bullpens. Adam Warren’s 11th was just pristine and reminded everyone why Warren is still one of the best assets the Yankees have on their pitching staff. Bryan Mitchell gave the longest effort, going 3 innings with 60 pitches and striking out 5 Cleveland batters, including escaping a bases-loaded jam in the 14th. For the 11th through the 16th innings, the Indians gave their all with what turned out to be a pretty good bullpen, the most outstanding was Mitchell’s counterpart, a 3-inning outing (the 13-15th innings) for their reliever was virtually flawless (just 22 pitches). And their 16th inning guy threw just 9 pitches to shut down the Yankees in order.

Branden Pinder, the last available Yankee to pitch from the bullpen, threw a great 15th inning, but struggled in the 16th. It was the downward spiral no one wanted. With 1 out, two singles put runners on base, and yet another single scored that winning run in a walk-off. Game over.

Final score: 5-4 Indians.

All is not lost… there’s still quite a bit of baseball left to play this season. It’s just rather discouraging to watch the team that you know is better than this not play quite at that level. Is this what it’s like to be a Cleveland fan in their better years, Uncle Rick? (Had to… family rivalry and all… sorry, not sorry…)

Go Yankees!