Game 105: BOS vs. NYY — Yankees wipe out old “rivals”

“In order for there to be a real rivalry, both teams have to be good. We can talk all we want about [the good old days]. But the fact is this is not the best vintage of Red Sox-Yankees rivalry days. Now, it doesn’t mean that the games aren’t compelling. Especially for a Yankee team that has a 5 1/2 game lead on top of the division as we speak. [And a 13 game lead over the Red Sox before the game.] But these are not the halcyon days of Red Sox-Yankees…” (Matt Vasgersian, MLB Network broadcaster)

Usually, it doesn’t matter which team is on top and which team is dragging through the sludge that is the bottom of the AL East, as the Red Sox-Yankees games are usually the most interesting games of the season. And there was one point that was consistent with that — the Red Sox’s starter was making his MLB debut (with his parents in a front row seat in from California) and really did a great job, despite ending up with the loss. (More below.)

Masahiro Tanaka got the start for the first game in this mid-week rivalry series. Tanaka was in rather fine form once again, earning his 8th win of the season. He threw 88 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up 5 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, striking out 3 Boston batters. Tanaka got a good start with a 7-pitch 1-2-3 1st inning and then gave the Red Sox quite a time. His weakest inning was his 5th — with 1 out and 2 runners on base, a single scored the first and a sacrifice fly the second to give the Red Sox a small lead. They added their final run with a solo home run to lead off the 7th inning. (By the way, the Bleacher Creatures threw the ball back, as is custom for rivals’ home run balls, unless you are that rival fan or a child or will give the ball to a child at the game.)

That was all for Tanaka, as the Yankees went to their bullpen to bring in Justin Wilson. Wilson got the first two outs of the inning and took a batter to a 1-2 count before he was pulled for Dellin Betances. Despite what you may believe, a manager can pull a pitcher at any point during the game, whether in the middle of an at-bat or between batters (as usual) or between innings (also usual). While it isn’t common here in the US, it is common elsewhere in the world, like Japan and other Asian pro-teams.

Betances unfortunately walked that batter before getting the next batter with a strikeout. Branden Pinder would take over in the 8th, throw a quick 9 pitches to keep the Red Sox hitless and scoreless for an inning before Nick Rumbelow finished them off in the 9th.

Now, the Red Sox pitching vs. the Yankees offense. First, let me acknowledge that the Red Sox starter did a really great job, even leaving the game in the lead. He just didn’t have the team to really back him up and help him out of trouble. Because this isn’t the Red Sox team we’re used to seeing.

The Yankees struck first in the 1st inning. With 1 out and Young and Rodriguez on base, Mark Teixeira’s single scored Young. The Yankees kept that lead until the Red Sox pushed ahead with their 2 runs scored in the 5th. So, going into the 6th, the Red Sox were up 2-1. Young led-off with a single and Rodriguez doubled, and that was it for the young rookie starter. He exited the game in the lead, hopeful his relievers could keep that for him, but those runners were his responsibility.

Teixeira singled, scoring Young, and Brian McCann doubled to score Rodriguez. That put the Yankees back in the lead and blew the win for the Red Sox starter, putting him on the hook for the loss. Beltran hit into a ground out, but scored Teixeira to further the Yankees’ lead. An out and a walk later, the Red Sox changed pitchers again to get the final out of the 6th.

The 7th inning would really be the game-maker. To lead off the inning, Ellsbury reached on a throwing error and Young walked. Alex Rodriguez singled and scored Ellsbury, and the Red Sox made yet another pitching change so Teixeira could strike out and get the first out of the inning. Brian McCann hit a monster 400-foot 3-run home run (his 18th of the season) into the 2nd deck over right field, and the Yankee lead was blown wide open. Beltran doubled and then scored on Chase Headley’s double. A fly out got the second out of the inning and Ryan walked. And it’s back to the top of the batting order as Jacoby Ellsbury singled and scored Headley. And the Red Sox? Another pitching change. So Chris Young answered with his 13th home run of the season, a 3-run homer to left field. (By the way, Teixeira struck out for a second time in this inning, making him and Gregorius the only Yankees to not get on base that inning.) That’s 9 runs scored in the 7th inning. That would be it for the scoring, but the damage, the devastation was done.

Every Yankee starting player made it on base at least once, and all but Gregorius scored a run in tonight’s run-a-palooza. Of the 13 runs the Yankees scored, technically only 9 were earned, which means that the defense made a lot of errors.

Two outstanding offensive leaders tonight were easily Chris Young and Alex Rodriguez. Young went 3-for-4 (including that 3-run bomb in the 7th) with a walk, 4 runs scored, and 3 RBIs; Rodriguez went 2-for-3 with 2 walks, 2 runs scores, and an RBI. Young continues to be just stellar against left-handed pitchers, as his offensive streak is getting him lots of due recognition.

Final score: 13-3 Yankees. (Fun fact: the Yankees have scored 90 runs in their last 10 games. The last team to do that? The 2007 New York Yankees.)

Roster moves and injury updates: just after the game, the Yankees sent Nick Rumbelow back to AAA to make room for Luis Severino who is scheduled to start for the Yankees tomorrow night in his MLB debut. The Yankees are expecting to make Severino a big part of their starting rotation. And don’t expect that to be the last you’ve seen of Rumbelow, as he continues to be a great help to the Yankees’ bullpen whenever called up.

Okay, so he played just 2 games with the Yankees, and now he’s on the DL list. Dustin Ackley was healthy coming over from the Mariners, but after an MRI Monday, Ackely was diagnosed with right lumbar strain, essentially he pulled his lower back muscles. But the MRI also found a herniated disk. With an epidural for pain management, the Yankees hope a stint on the 15-day DL will help him heal fairly naturally and won’t require surgery. The Yankees called up reliever Caleb Cotham to fill Ackley’s 25-man spot, and they expect Ackley to be back by September (unless surgery becomes necessary). Finger crossed.

Mason Williams injured his shoulder diving back to 1st base in a game on June 19, was placed on the 15-day DL on June 21 (retroactive to June 20), and moved from the 15-day DL to 60-day DL on July 11. Today, the Yankees announced he would need surgery to repair the damage after attempts to rest and rehab it haven’t been successful. This option will end his season, but not his career. We should see him again come Spring Training. We wish him the best of luck and health! (All corresponding roster moves have been made for Williams on his moves to the two disabled lists.)

Tomorrow should be interesting. Or at least, I hope it will. You just never know.

Go Yankees!

Game 103: NYY vs. CHW — White Sox white-out the Yankees

Tonight just wasn’t going to be the Yankees’ night, no matter how much effort and heart they put into the game. And in a 162 game regular season, you’re destined to have a few of those games. But never fear, Yankees fans, there are still 59 games left to play.

Bryan Mitchell got the start tonight against the White Sox. Mitchell threw 78 pitches into the 5th inning, giving up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs, and striking out 5 batters. In the 1st, a lead-off single scored on a 1-out double to start the White Sox scoring for the night. In the 2nd, a solo home run gave them a 2-0 lead. A lead-off single in the 5th, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, and then scored on an RBI single. At that point, they opted to rest the recently called-up pitcher and go to the bullpen.

Diego Moreno came in to relieve Mitchell. He promptly hit his first batter and then gave up a 3-run home run before finally getting three outs for the 5th inning. Moreno escaped damage in the 6th, but found trouble again in the 7th — a 1-out single, a 2-out walk, an RBI double, and a wild pitch that scored another run. And that would be it for Moreno. Chicago firmly in the lead, the Yankees went to today’s recalled reliever Nick Rumbelow. Rumbelow actually had the absolute best inning of the Yankees’ pitching staff tonight — 8 pitches in the 1-2-3 8th inning.

The Yankees offense was just as weak as their pitching tonight. They got through the Chicago pitching in two instances. In the 3rd, Murphy led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on Ryan’s single, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ sacrifice fly. It should be noted that Gregorius was rather robbed of a 3-run home run here as the Chicago outfielder literally reached over the fence to grab the ball back for the out. The Yankees sat on that lone run until the top of the 9th when Brian McCann hit his 17th home run, a 1-out solo shot to the right field seats.

Just wasn’t going to be the Yankees’ night with the White Sox getting 11 total hits (to the Yankees’ 5) and the Yankees striking out 11 total times (to the White Sox’s 5, coincidentally).

Final score: 8-2 White Sox.

 

In Roster Moves News, the Yankees did another switching around with the relievers and AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Rumbelow was recalled (and well-used tonight), while Nick Goody was optioned back. With Goody’s recent outings, he’d be unavailable until next week anyway.

Also, Carlos Beltran had a large bruise on his foot from fouling off a couple balls off his foot the last couple of days. He said he’ll be available to play tomorrow, however. And prospect starter Luis Severino is currently on the schedule to start on Wednesday against the Red Sox.

One more game tomorrow afternoon to conclude this crazy road trip. And it’s just August 1st. There’s 59 games left of the season and just over 2 months left. And now that the trade deadline has passed, it’s basically the final turn before the backstretch (and if you get that reference, you’re pretty awesome). So in other words, the Yankees have a lead in the AL East to protect and hopefully expand and a championship postseason to prepare for.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 27: BAL vs. NYY — Home runs good, pitching bad

I think we can officially call today a really beautiful Spring day in Florida. The sun was shining in a bright blue cloudless sky, and a recent cold front (that pushed that heavy rain through the areas yesterday) dropped temperatures to a nice 69-degree day. It was like a perfect day for a baseball game.

The visiting Orioles apparently thought so too.

Okay, let’s get the tough news out of the way first — and it’s the pitching. It reminds me of this online acronym that people use (well, by “people” I mean people who are under 25 and don’t use full words let alone complete sentences to say what they want to say) — SMH. It means “Shaking My Head”, or I have no words and am forced just to shake my head at the situation because it’s so disappointing. That was the Yankees pitching today.

But it didn’t start that way. The 1st inning was a quick 1-2-3 inning for starting pitcher Scott Baker. But digging into the heart of the Orioles order opened the door for some trouble for Baker in the 2nd inning. A single, a force out, a single, and a single — suddenly bases loaded with 1 out. A sacrifice fly scored the first run and opened the flood gates. An RBI single and a 3-run home run, and suddenly, the Orioles were up 5-0 going into the 3rd inning.

3rd inning reliever Jacob Lindgren got into his own sticky situation — 2 singles and a walk loaded the bases, but only 1 run scored that inning on a sacrifice fly. The next two pitchers Bailey and Shreve kept the 4th and 5th inning run-free from the Orioles. But Dellin Betances continued his struggles this Spring in his 6th inning outing, quickly getting runners on the corners which allowed another run to score on a sacrifice fly (honestly, the Orioles fed off these today).

Then it was Justin Wilson’s turn to take the mound and dealt the Orioles a quick 1-2-3 7th inning before finding his own sticky situation in the 8th — a lead-off walk and a single put 2 runners on base that would easily score on a long double. And it would be Nick Rumbelow’s turn in the 9th inning to allow a lead-off home run to cap off the Orioles massive scoring day. A total of 10 runs scored off 12 Baltimore hits.

Ouch. SMH. Use whatever you want to react to the situation. I know I did.

There were a couple of bright spots on today’s offense. The Yankees got a total of 3 hits. Yes, 3 total hits. A Beltran single in the 1st, and then 2 solo home runs. In the bottom of the 5th, Stephen Drew smacked his 2nd home run of the Spring right over the right field wall to put the Yankees on the board. And then in the 7th, Alex Rodriguez saw a 1st pitch he liked and swung for the fences for the Yankees 2nd and final run of the game.

And that was it. Final score: 10-2 Orioles.

Injury news (hope this doesn’t become a regular part of my blog like last year): Didi Gregorius suffered a sprained left wrist on a play in the 2nd inning. He dove for a ball and landed awkwardly on his wrist. After some conversation and an initial exam, he decided to stay in, but after his next at-bat, they pulled him so as not to risk further injury. X-rays and other more serious tests all came up negative, and the diagnosis of a sprained wrist remains, giving him a few days rest. He is still on schedule for Opening Day.

Before the game today, the Yankees honored two minor leaguers for their performance during last season. Rob Refsnyder was awarded “Player of the Year” and Luis Severino “Pitcher of the Year”. Refsnyder began his 2014 season in AA Trenton, ending it with AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; basic stats for just last year: .318 batting average, 82 runs scored, 164 hits, 38 doubles, 6 triples, 14 home runs, and 63 RBIs. Severino began last year with Charleston (Short-A), then Tampa (Single-A), and ended up with AA Trenton; his stats: 24 starts, 113.1 innings, 6 wins, 5 losses, 2.46 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 127 strikeouts.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 15: PHI vs. NYY — Eovaldi & Headley lead the way to a win

The transition from Spring to Regular Season always begins when Spring rosters begin to shrink, as players that will start the year (and probably stay there all season) in the minor leagues are sent to become familiar with the minor league teams in minor league camp. Before the game, they reassigned Garrison, Goody, Graterol, Pazos, Moreno, Severino, and Webb. Following the game, they were joined by Jake Cave, Cito Culver, and Aaron Judge.

Starter Nathan Eovaldi threw 4 seriously great innings for the Yankees in today’s game against the visiting Phillies, giving up just 2 hits and striking out 3 batters. I wasn’t as familiar with Eovaldi before he was signed this offseason, so I was a little curious to see how he fared in pinstripes. But with his fastball sitting regularly around 96-98 mph (you could hear the snap of catcher McCann’s glove echo through the stadium each time) and a deceptively slow slider. He threw a total of 45 pitches, 38 were strikes.

Chase Whitley came on in relief in the 5th inning for his 2 inning outing today and put up a pretty good case for that 5th starter’s job, if not long-term relief in the bullpen. No Phillies ever made it on base and 2 of them struck out.

David Carpenter’s 7th inning was rather rocky, starting with a lead-off walk who advanced to 2nd on a steal and then to 3rd on a wild pitch, before scoring on a single. Carpenter came back for one batter in the 8th, but after giving up another single (he would be responsible for this batter), the ball was turned over to Justin Wilson.

Wilson promptly hit the batter (on the foot in a low inside ball) and gave up a wild pitch that advanced the runners. I should note that the Yankees catcher Murphy was up and ready to throw, but the young infielders were out of position and unprepared to cover their bases to get an out — a rarity, though not out of the realm for the more inexperienced fielders, a disappointment nonetheless. A groundout scored the runner from 3rd. It would be the last run the Phillies would score as Wilking Rodriguez’s 9th inning was rather flawless with a quick 3 outs to end the game.

On the offense side, the Yankees struck early. Jacoby Ellsbury’s lead-off standing triple easily put him in line to score on Brian McCann’s sacrifice fly. The Yankees maintained that 1-0 lead until the 7th inning, when the Phillies tied them up.

That didn’t last long as the Yankees came back in the bottom of the 7th with Chase Headley’s lead-off solo home run over the right-center field wall. 2 walks and 2 fly outs later, Slade Heathcott’s single caused some rather interesting chaos — while the 3 Yankee runners round the bases and the Phillies scramble for the ball deep in center field, Bird (the lead runner) scored just before Culver (the next runner) was tagged out on his way to 3rd. So the run counted, and the inning was over.

That extra run proved necessary when the Phillies scored that extra run in the 8th, but the Yankees shut them down and came out on top at the end of the 2 hour, 22 minute game. Final score: 3-2 Yankees

Also, on Friday, former Yankees President Al Rosen passed away at the age of 91. The Hall of Famer played for the Cleveland Indians in the ’50s, and considered one of the greatest hitters in that era, he earned the MVP in 1953. Post-baseball, he took a brief break from the game to be a stockbroker until coming back to baseball to work under fellow Ohioan George Steinbrenner as President and CEO of the Yankees through some of their more volatile years (1978-79, “The Bronx Zoo”). He moved on to work with the Astros in the same position and then as FM of the Giants, winning NL Executive of the Year in 1987. He is the only MVP in history to win the top executive award. A part of Yankees’ storied history, gone but not forgotten.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 7: WAS vs. NYY — “A perfect day for baseball”

“A perfect day for baseball.” I think I heard this sentiment echoed at least a dozen times even before the first pitch, something I remarked myself a couple of times. The skies were a clear, crisp blue; the weather maintained a sunny, but not too hot temperature (even in direct sunshine); a shifting, slight breeze helped; and the attitude of both the crowd and uniformed men on the field was lively and as sunny as the weather. It was a perfect day for baseball.

Of course, it helped that the Yankees also won and played pretty decent baseball in the process.

Adam Warren got the start again today, throwing 3 full innings. His lone run was a first pitch of the game strike that seemed to find its way over the left field fence in a hurry. A solo home run pushed the visiting Nationals up 1-0 in the 1st inning. Andrew Miller’s flawless 4th inning kept the Nats at that lone run and off the bases. Dellin Betances made his spring debut to a deluge of cheers, giving up a lead-off double that never made it very far with 2 strikeouts and a groundout in his 9-pitch 5th inning. Prospect Luis Severino attempted to go 2 innings after a really nice 6th, but a walk and a single turned 2-base jog (due to a fielding error), and Girardi asked for the fresh arm of Pazos, though a groundout would quickly score the Nats’ 2nd and final run of the game. Two more pitchers for two more innings and the Yankees kept the Nationals from seeing any other potential advances with 2 quick final innings.

On the other side of the field, the Yankees struggled (again) to find their footing initially, but of course, they were facing a pretty good opposing pitcher — so credit where credit is due. How do I know this was the problem? Because the Yankees barely hit off their starter, but came to life off the relievers. In the 3rd inning, Jose Pirela (more on him later) led-off with a double and then scored rather easily on Brett Gardner’s single to tie up the game. And then in the 4th, McCann on base with a single and 2 outs on the board, Young made it safely to 1st on a lucky throwing error as McCann heads to 3rd. The Yankees pushed ahead of the Nats due to Pirela’s nice single.

When the Nats tie up the game in the 7th, it’s up to those increasingly reliable “other guys” to make up the difference. Into the 8th inning, with 2 quick outs, Roller and Judge each singled and ended up on the corners. Infielder and farm system regular Cole Figueroa singled home Roller and the Yankees were up 3-2 over Washington. A quick 9th inning then turned that score into a win.

And for the curious, Alex Rodriguez made his spring debut at 3rd, dusting off whatever assumed rust and seemed very much at home back in the old “hot corner”. He continued to have mixed results at the plate, but he’s still hitting pretty well and getting quite a bit more cheers than boos, something that only increases when he continues to play well.

Taking a moment to talk about Pirela… Pirela is one of the primary candidates for the 2nd baseman’s job this year. And while he’s been very consistent in his defense, he hasn’t really had the opportunity to show what he can do at the plate. Until today, that is. Even Yankees Special Assistant (and Spring Training Regular) Reggie Jackson doted on Pirela, calling him the “best hitter on the team”. His two major contributions pushed the Yankees to win today, and I didn’t mention several really fantastic plays in the field. If Pirela continues to shine and be consistent both on the field and in the batter’s box, I have no doubt we’ll be seeing him more frequently in the Bronx.

But I do want to pay tribute to the “other guys” once again. Sometimes, late in the game, I have to sit back and smile. I feel like we’re seeing the future of the Yankees. When guys who spent last year in Tampa at Single-A level ball strike those big league guys out or make some snazzy play on the infield, it must be a glimpse at what someone saw once decades ago. Someone believed in the greats when they made errors left-and-right or struck out far too many times because the greats were the ones giving 1000% even late into the game, pouring their heart and soul into every defensive play or pitch, praying for that perfect opportunity to at least get on base.

The fun part about Spring Training is that you never know when one of these “other guys” will become synonymous with the greats, when it’s no longer “the next [fill in the appropriate great]” but rather just that player. Every year, 750 guys play professional baseball at a major league level, but only a handful will ever be considered “great” (read: Cooperstown-bound). You just never know when it’s suddenly going to click, and you’ve become a witness to history.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 1: NYY vs. PHI — It ain’t over ’til it ends in a tie, apparently

Well, the Yankees are certainly back in action… as the Yankees. A Yogi-ism is often seen as clichéd, especially when in use on a Yankees’ game, but today, it most definitely cannot be helped. Today’s game in Clearwater proved his “it ain’t over ’til it’s over” adage with a single swing. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

It may be March but the weather in sunny Florida seemed to be more in line with June, with the temperature hitting 82 about halfway through the game, though the temperature at the Bright House Stadium (the Phillies’ Spring Home in Clearwater) read nearly 10 degrees hotter. Today’s traveling squad for their first game this pre-season was a mix of Yankee veterans and non-roster invitees (and everything in between). And like so many games last season, this game seemed to be defined for the Yankees by the bookends.

Adam Warren threw the first two innings for the Yankees and looked just as sharp as he has in the past, giving up just 1 hit (a single in the 2nd inning) and no runs. Warren specializes in getting batters to hit the ball poorly to his defense, and a good defense will keep those runs off the board. And in spite of a bad throwing error by an infielder in the 2nd, no runner made it past 2nd base under Warren’s watch.

Prospect Luis Severino made his debut in the 3rd, and after a rather flawless 3rd inning with 2 strikeouts, struggled quite a bit in the 4th, giving up 4 hits and 2 runs with just 1 out in that inning. Moreno finished out his 4th inning, giving up a sacrifice fly (Severino’s runner), but a walk in the 5th ended up advancing around the bases and scored on a balk before Moreno got out of the inning. Goody’s 6th kept the Phillies from adding to their ever-increasing score, but Lindgren’s 7th got 2 outs, 2 hits, 2 runs, and a strikeout before Girardi opted for Pinder. Pinder closed out the 7th and threw a great 8th. Shreve, a recent signee, got the nod for the 9th, giving up just 1 hit and striking out 2 batters, just what the Yankees needed.

On the offensive side of things, the Yankees really out-hit the Phillies overall, and a good portion of that was in the first half of the game — 6 hits in the first 4 innings (with 5 in the first 2). With 2 outs in the 1st, Young singles, advances to 3rd on Jones’ single, and scored on Pirela’s single. The Yankees’ 1-0 lead was shortlived as the Phillies’ took advantage of some of the rookies’ nerves to tally up 5 runs over the next few innings. But even going into the 9th inning, the Yankees weren’t going to give up so easily.

I often associate Spring Training with a month-long “audition” for all those non-roster invitees and the minor leaguers on the extended roster to prove they’re worth a shot at the bigs this year. And boy, did some of those “auditioning” players make an impact in the 9th inning. Mason Williams led off the 9th inning with a double, advancing to 3rd on Figueroa’s ground out, (stayed put during a strikeout), and scored on Cave’s single.

Two outs on the scoreboard, with a runner on 1st, Slade Heathcott singled to put 2 runners on for prospect Aaron Judge. Two strikes to Judge and he finds a pitch he likes enough to send it over the left-center field wall for a 3-run home run to tie up the game 5-5. After the Phillies failed to get a run in the bottom of the 9th, the game ended in a tie. I know in the past, tied games have gone into the 10th to see if they can break the tie, but I guess it’s an option to end after 9, which is what they did.

Not a bad way to start the Spring — it’s not a loss; of course, it’s not a win either. But that 9th inning was something to watch. Judge has been one of the stories of Spring and the off-season, doing a great job in the Arizona Fall League. He is definitely one to watch, and I look forward to watching the young prospect in person.

The rest of the team was at Steinbrenner Field today with extended workouts. The team played an intrasquad game as practice yesterday, mixing up the Spring roster and giving the guys a chance to hit what was technically live batting practice against the Yankees’ pitching staff and essentially a “simulated game” for everyone.

It’s good to be back in the swing of things (bad pun intended), but it will certainly be better when it’s a win. But again, it’s Spring, and outside of the “audition” process, it really is just a month-long warm-up for the guys to get ready for the season.

Happy Spring Training!

Go Yankees!