Missed awards, a new face, and Yankee alumni up for the Hall

Last week, the majority of the postseason awards were handed out for what some people consider the best of this year’s players and managers. Privately, I will make my selections, even if they’re not Yankees, and then I watch to see how my view of the season matches those with a vote. It was certainly a mixed bag for results once again.

Unfortunately, the Yankees walked away from 2018 with no awards. In one category, two Yankees held much of the conversation but ultimately were denied the hardware. The AL Rookie of the Year went to Shohei Ohtani, the Angels’ pitcher-DH star originally from Japan. The Yankees’ own Miguel Andujar came in a solid 2nd place, with teammate Gleyber Torres a distant 3rd. Torres held much of the ROY conversation early in the year before Andujar suddenly emerged as the highlight of the Yankees’ roster on the field and in the batter’s box. He certainly had my vote, or rather my support as I didn’t have a vote.

The Yankees also announced today a trade to help support their perpetually plagued starting rotation. In a deal with the Mariners, the Yankees acquired 30-year-old left hander James Paxton, who had a stellar 2018 but has been plagued by injuries in the past. The Yankees sent a trio of prospects to Seattle in the exchange — pitchers Justus Sheffield and Erik Swanson and outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams.

And today, the powers-that-be in Cooperstown announced 35 names that the Baseball Writers’ Association of America will vote on this off-season. Each member has a ballot that they can select up to 10 players they believe deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. Of course, some people submit empty ballots just so players don’t get 100% of the vote, some just vote for whatever team they write for, and some vote for really random people that don’t make any sense. But most of the members do use their votes wisely, and that’s why most of the people voted in deserve their Cooperstown plaque.

This year, headlining the ballot is Yankees’ legendary superstar Mariano Rivera. Almost assuredly a first-round selection, and he should be as close to 100% in the Hall as possible (though everyone expects someone to use their ballot to keep him from 100%). Another famed Yankee on the ballot this year is Andy Pettitte, and while many of us in Yankee Universe certainly believe he deserves the nod, his minor brush with PED usage following an injury may keep him out.

Other nominees this year include some recognizable names for Yankee fans, both in pinstripes and against them: Rick Ankiel, Jason Bay, Lance Berkman, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland, Travis Hafner, Roy Halladay, Todd Helton, Ted Lilly, Derek Lowe, Darren Oliver, Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte, Juan Pierre, Placido Polanco, Mariano Rivera, Miguel Tejada, Vernon Wells, Kevin Youkilis, and Michael Young. Joining this year’s first-timers are eligible former players who haven’t been completely shutout just yet: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Mike Mussina, Manny Ramirez, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa, Omar Vizquel, Billy Wagner, and Larry Walker.

I’ve made my selections (though I don’t have a vote). Who’s on your list?

Go Yankees!

Game 123: TOR vs. NYY — Remembering what was and hoping for what could be

What a beautiful day at the ball park for memories and a good ball game. Fans turned out in droves to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1998 World Series Championship team, complete with a full cadre of former Yankees (more below) before the Yankees took on the Blue Jays in the second game of this celebration weekend series.

Luis Severino got the start today and needed a strong start to reset himself after a recent rough patch. He threw 100 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and struck out 8 batters. In fact, he held the Blue Jays scoreless through most of his outing. In the 6th, he gave up a double that ended up at 3rd on a fielding error and then scored on an RBI single.

Severino handled the ball over to Tommy Kahnle, who had a less than ideal outing. After getting one out, he gave up 2 singles that scored one run and then loaded up the bases with a walk and 2 outs. To end that threat the Yankees turned to Jonathan Holder, while Kahnle was responsible for all 3 base runners. Holder gave up a long single that scored all 3 base runners before getting the runner out trying to stretch it into a triple.

Britton and Betances had clean, scoreless innings in the 7th and 8th, respectively. And the Yankees needed it after that messy 6th. So, the Yankees sent out AJ Cole for the 9th inning, but he had a bit of trouble. With 2 outs and runners on the corners, a long double scored just 1 run before he found that 3rd out.

But unlike last night’s rain-shortened game, the Yankee offense started big and stayed big. In the 1st, Gardner led-off with a walk, stole 2nd base 2 outs later, and then scored as part of Didi Gregorius’ 2-run home run. Torres hit a 1st pitch single to kick off the 2nd and ended up all the way on 3rd thanks to a wild pitch and throwing error. He would later score on Austin Romine’s sacrifice fly.

In the 3rd, Stanton singles and Hicks walked, and then they both scored on a 1-out double by Miguel Andujar. Andujar then moved to 3rd on a throwing error off Torres’ hit and then scored on Greg Bird’s ground out. Giancarlo Stanton hit a nice 2-out solo home run in the 4th, and Andujar followed suit with a 1-out solo homer into the left field seats in the 5th.

Greg Bird led-off the 8th with a solo home run into the right field seats to snap his recent offensive skid. The Yankees then loaded up the bases with a couple singles and a hit by pitch and 1 out. A new Jays’ reliever gave up a walk to Aaron Hicks to walk in the Yankees’ next run. And Gregorius’ sacrifice fly scored Gardner to cap off the Yankees’ runs today.

On a day meant to honor a team that won 114 game in a single season, it’s only fitting the Yankees would win and win big.

Final score: 11-6 Yankees

During the 5th inning, a foul tip hit catcher Austin Romine in the face mask and stunned him a bit. Initially, he stayed in the game, but was replaced by Higashioka when the Yankees took the field in the 6th. Hits like that have been known to cause concussions, so the Yankees were smart to remove him for observation and a full check-up as a precaution. And while Higashioka can absolutely serve as strong back-up for tomorrow’s finale and even into the Miami series, be prepared for Sanchez’s return to be moved up some.

Now, the big focus of today was the celebrations in honor of the 1998 Yankees. Almost all of the favorites from that team showed up for the event, including Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and Bernie Williams. Jeter and World Series MVP Brosius sent video messages due to their previous engagements and obligations to other teams (Jeter now owns the Marlins, and Brosius is a coach with the Mariners).

Joe Torre was also on hand to recall that iconic season, throw out the ceremonial first pitch, and spent time with two of his players from that season now serving as YES Network broadcasters Paul O’Neill and David Cone during the regular game. And one of the things Torre said in the broadcast stuck with me.

They were talking about how the 1998 season started out slow and how Torre held a team meeting early on to help the team focus on moving forward. Both former players O’Neill and Cone agreed that Torre never did the hype-man thing some coaches do where they scream and try to drive up that emotion, but rather focus on that he was just disappointed in how they were playing at that point. O’Neill even remarked it was like feeling like you were disappointing your father and how he always felt motivated to go out and be better after a Torre “pep talk”.

But Torre went on to say: “I always wanted to end it on a positive message. I always thought of baseball as 162 [games]. It’s a game of life. You live it every day. And if you start getting too pumped up, it’s not going to last. You can’t maintain that.” So, as we agree with Mr. Torre about this comparison of life and baseball, it’s good to remember old Aesop’s fable and remember that while it’s fun to be the hyper rabbit, it’s the consistency and persistence of the turtle that ends up successful at the mission.

Go Yankees!

World Series 4: LAD vs. HOU — 2 hit wonder falls short of Dodger dominance after a pitchers’ duel

Now that was a game. Having a pitchers’ duel in the World Series is quite the treat, and it certainly shows both teams at their best. The Astros’ starter Morton commanded a great game in his own right, throwing 76 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up just 3 hits and a run without allowing a walk and still striking out 7 LA batters. Meanwhile, the Dodgers’ starter Wood had a no-hitter running for most of his outing. Wood threw 84 pitches into the 6th inning, allowing 2 walks and striking out just 2 Houston batters. His lone allowed hit was a 2-out solo home run into the left field seats.

So the Dodgers turned to their bullpen, which closed out the 6th and had a strong outing in the 7th and 8th innings, setting themselves up for a strong and unexpected close of the game. Their closer, who was just recognized for his outstanding season (more below), kept the momentum going, until he too gave up a 2-out home run into the left field seats. That would be the 2nd hit of the night for the home team, the 2nd run allowed. But also the last hit and run.

Okay, so after the Astros got on the board in the 6th, the Dodgers were quick to answer back right in the top of the next inning. A 1-out double spelled the end for Morton’s outing, but the Dodgers kept things moving under the Astros’ weaker bullpen. A 2-out single fairly easily scored the runner to tie up the game right in the 7th inning.

The Dodgers came back in the top of the 9th with a new reliever and some easy opportunities to advance. The lead-off batter single, moved to 2nd on a walk, and then scored on and RBI double to give the Dodgers the lead for the first time all night. That left runners in scoring position. And no outs. After another new reliever came on and got a strikeout, he intentionally walked the next batter to load up the bases. A long sacrifice fly allowed a run to score and runners to end up on the corners. And a 3-run home run just solidified the Dodgers for their eventual win.

But the Astros aren’t easily bowled over. In the bottom of the 9th, facing the reliever who just received some extra hardware for his mantle, the Astros got another small ray of hope, that 2-out solo homer in the bottom of the 9th. But then it was over, and the series is split. That march to 4 wins just got one game further away for both teams.

Final score: 6-2 Dodgers, series tied 2-2

As I said before, before tonight’s game, MLB presented the Relievers of the Year awards to this year’s recipient, called the Trevor Hoffman for the NL winner, and the AL winner is awards the Mariano Rivera Award. Tonight, the Trevor Hoffman Award was given to the Dodgers’ closer Kenley Jansen. The Mariano Rivera Award will be sent to Craig Kimbrel for his outstanding work with the Red Sox this year, as he could not be on hand to accept the award in person. Jansen, however, was beyond thrilled to be part of the ceremony, especially as his childhood hero Rivera was going to be on-hand for the pre-game ceremony.

On a quick side note: I am aware that there are several other things happening around the league. But unless they directly affect the outcome of the World Series or the Yankees, it doesn’t make sense to discuss it here. Though I do admit to forming quite a few private (yet aloud) thoughts.

And a quick happy birthday to my friend and the biggest Dodger fan I know. I already texted him that the Dodgers clearly won because it was his birthday.

Go Yankees!

ALCS 3: HOU vs. NYY — #CCStrong, Judge-power, Home Sweet Home

If any of the games this postseason can be credited with a home field advantage, it would easily be tonight’s game. Yankee Universe knows there’s nothing like Yankee Stadium.

I took my diehard Indians’ fan uncle (and yes, he’s a little bitter after the ALDS) to see a Yankees game this year, his first in Yankee Stadium ever (it was also Old Timers’ Day, by the way). We entered the stadium from the main gate (Gate 6) and into the Grand Concourse, and I took him to view the field from the main level’s concourse. He got chills, literal goosebumps. I thought taking him to Old Timers Day would make up for not seeing the Indians play, which was true as he loved the legends and silliness of the pre-game game.

There is nothing like Yankee Stadium. We all have those stories about our first visits or a memorable visit or special moment in the stadium. The stadium basically is a collection of stories, both for the guys on the field and the fans in the stands.

Anyway, one of those veteran players got the start in this crucial game against the Astros. CC Sabathia came out strong and just powered his way through the game, boosted by a great defense (like Judge slamming into the right field wall or diving in the outfield to make a stellar catch) and some just powerful run-scoring. Sabathia threw 99 pitches through his 6 scoreless innings, gave up 3 hits and 4 walks, and struck out 5 Houston batters. Adam Warren followed him up with 2 more scoreless innings.

Okay, in the mean time, the Yankees racked up that run-support for their pitchers off the Astros’ starter. In the 2nd, with 2 outs, Castro and Hicks worked back-to-back singles. Next batter Todd Frazier had a kind of sloppy swing and promptly sent the ball into the right field seats for a 3-run home run to get the Yankees on the board.

The Yankees came back in the 4th to add to their lead, starting with Bird’s lead-off ground-rule double. After Frazier worked a walk, Bird then scored on Chase Headley’s single, and Sanchez was hit by a pitch to load up the bases. That was also it for the Houston starter’s night. The Astros had enough and dipped into their bullpen to stem the tide, though it certainly didn’t help at first. A wild pitch promptly scored Frazier from 3rd, moving all the runners up. The rest of them scored when Aaron Judge fired a long line drive into the left field seats for a 3-run home run to seal the Yankees’ victory.

So with that huge lead, the Yankees kept the Astros totally scoreless until the 9th inning. Dellin Betances had a bit of an off-night, walking his first 2 batters. So it was on to Tommy Kahnle to clean things up, but he promptly gave up a single to load up the bases before finally getting a much-needed strikeout. So a walk scored the Astros’ lone run before a double play ended the inning and the game.

Final score: 8-1 Yankees, Astros lead series 2-1

Now, that’s exactly what the Yankees needed to restart their momentum. The Yankees need 3 more wins this series and are hoping to continue the win streak with Sonny Gray’s start tomorrow afternoon. First pitch for the ALCS is 5:08 EST, with the NLCS first pitch in Chicago at 7:08 CST (8:08 EST).

And in other news (and I guess we’re starting news relating to “End of the Season”): MLB announced its nominees for the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award. (History of the award here including past 3-time winner Rivera.) Winner will be awarded at Game 4 of the World Series (October 28). Fans can add their voice via Twitter until October 26, but finalists are also voted on by a panel of former relievers including both Rivera and Hoffman, who will be on hand to present the winners of their namesake awards.

AL finalists are the Astros’ Ken Giles, the Red Sox’s Craig Kimbrel (who has won the NL award when he was with the Braves in 2014), and the Yankees own David Robertson. NL finalists are the Cubs’ Wade Davis, the Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen, and the Brewers’ Corey Knebel. It is worth noting that all but Knebel are making postseason appearances this season as well. The Yankees’ former closer (now with the Indians) Andrew Miller won the award in 2015; Miller was also nominated last year.

Go Yankees!

Game 159: BOS vs. NYY — A farewell, a sweep, an elimination

Before tonight’s game, the Yankees said farewell to a long-time rival who played his final game at Yankee Stadium tonight. For the first time in his 20 year career, Yankee Stadium gave David Ortiz a standing ovation as he, and his wife and children, were part of a special pre-game ceremony. The Yankees, represented by former Yankees pitcher David Cone and former Red Sox teammater Jacoby Ellsbury, presented Ortiz with a specially crafted leatherbound book that had memories retold by current and former Yankees. And to present a special painting of Ortiz at the stadium, Mariano Rivera surprised the power-hitter and helped unveil the gift.

Ortiz retires following this current season, but his memories and contributions to the recent rise of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry are part of history. Not that he contributed much to this particular series, with his 4 strikeouts, 2 walks, and no hits. But his season batting average can afford to take a hit, leaving the game with .316 average.

And they also had a game to play tonight. Only fitting, CC Sabathia got the start, his final start this season, and he did spectacular job. Into the 8th inning, Sabathia threw 105 pitches, gave up just 4 hits, 2 walks, and the lone Red Sox run, and struck out an impressive 8 batters. All this set him up for the inevitable win tonight.

His lone run came in the 4th inning as a 1-out solo home run. The next batter was Ortiz, who walked and when he was replaced with a pinch-runner, and Yankees Stadium gave him his final farewell, a really nice standing ovation.

Anyway, when Sabathia too exited to his own standing ovation, Tyler Clippard came on to close out the 8th inning for Sabathia, using just 7 pitches to breeze through the next 2 outs. And Richard Bleier closed things out quickly in his 12-pitch 9th inning.

Now, for being the AL division champions, the Red Sox certainly haven’t showed such a strength in their final series against the Yankees, especially in regards to their pitching staff. The Yankees paced their way through the game, poking holes in their pitching staff wherever and whenever they could. In the 1st, with 1 out, Ellsbury walked, stole 2nd on a strikeout, and then scored on Starlin Castro’s double to get the Yankees on the board.

With the game tied, the Yankees came back in the 5th with Hicks’ lead-off bunt single. Hicks later scored on Ellsbury’s 2-out double that also saw the end of the Red Sox’s starter’s evening. In the 6th, with 2 outs and the bases loaded, Tyler Austin worked a walk to score the lead runner, and a wild pitch scored the next runner for the extra insurance run.

In the 8th, with 1 out, Brian McCann worked a walk and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ double. Now why that is significant is because McCann, who is arguably one of the slowest guys on the active roster scored from 1st base on a double, like he was one of the faster runners on the team. Then, with another out and a wild pitch, 2 more walks loaded the bases, but the Red Sox wisely pulled that pitcher for another one and closed out the Yankees run-scoring machine this week.

Overall, the Yankees got 8 hits and 7 walks off Red Sox pitchers tonight. Comparatively, the Yankees pitchers only gave up 4 hits and 2 walks. Clearly, the Red Sox weren’t going to win this series. Not with the way they played these last 3 games.

Final score: 5-1 Yankees, Yankees sweep Red Sox 3-0.

However, while it’s great to celebrate their victory, the clubhouse was still rather quiet. The Yankees were officially eliminated from the postseason, despite their win and sweep tonight. It’s still a close race for both wild card races, but the Yankees aren’t in it anymore. The goal every single season is to win a World Series, so that not even making the postseason is heartbreaking.

Now, before you also take out your pitchforks to Girardi, please note that Girardi has actually led his team to a winning season every single season he’s been the Yankees manager. By winning, I mean that they are on the plus side of .500, or they have more wins than losses during the season. But you can’t blame him for how the game has shifted in the last few years. The legends of the 1990s and early 2000s are gone, or retiring this season, and it’s a very different playing field with younger, untested athletes as well as the changing culture of the game.

Remember, the Yankees were supposed to be holding up the bottom of the league or, at best, muddling through the middle by the beginning of September. And yet, it took them until 4 games before the end of the season to end their race for the postseason. While it’s just crushing not be in it, you can’t say it wasn’t a good run, nor can you say the Yankees just gave up.

My mom always loves to say that these guys “just don’t give up”. And she’s right. I don’t expect the next 3 games to be an easy series for the Orioles. Because that’s not who the Yankees are.

Go Yankees!

Game 117: TB vs. NYY — Mo remembers, but Baby Bombers falter

Before the final game in the weekend series against the Rays, to cap off a rather eventful weekend in the Bronx, the Yankees honored legend Mariano Rivera with a special plaque to be placed in Monument Park. In addition to his wife and sons, present for his ceremony were the many of the lingering teammates from yesterday’s 1996 Championship reunion like Cone, Girardi, Jeter, Martinez, O’Neill, Pettitte, Posada, Wetteland, Williams, and former manager Joe Torre. The Yankees also presented Rivera with a framed replica of his plaque and a special ring to commemorate today’s honor. Rivera also threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game. (Still ridiculously on point there!)

{Watch the full pre-game ceremony here, including his brief speech to thank to his family, friends, fans, and especially God.}

After two pretty amazing games against the Rays, the Yankees were looking to ride the sweep led by the newly dubbed “Baby Bombers”. But it was not to be. Luis Severino certainly struggled his way through his shortened outing. In less than 4 innings, Severino threw 67 pitches, gave up 8 hits, a walk, and 7 runs, but also struck out 7 batters. His trouble started right off the top of the game when a lead-off double scored on a 1-out double to get the Rays’ runs started this afternoon.

In the 3rd, a solo shot added another run to the Rays’ score. And in the messy 4th, with 1 out and runners in scoring position with a single and double, a 3-run homer just multiplied the Rays’ total. Then with 2 more singles and a strike out, Severino was just done. So he handed the game to the other Luis — Luis Cessa, who promptly loaded the bases with a walk and then gave up a bases-clearing double.

Cessa didn’t exactly have the cleanest outing himself, getting 9 total outs, but struggling in his beginning (the 4th inning) and his end (the 7th). With 1 out in the 7th and runners on the corners with consecutive singles, another single scored yet another Rays’ run before a big 3-run homer pushed the Rays into double-digits on the scoreboard. With 1 more out, the Yankees opted for new guy Blake Parker to finish the inning with a strikeout.

Parker then worked his way through the 8th inning, before Chasen Shreve breezed through the Rays in the 9th in just 11 pitches. In total, the Yankees gave up 15 hits to the Rays’ batters, but still struck out 12 of them.

Once again, the Baby Bombers did some damage to the Rays, but it really wasn’t enough to combat the troubles the Yankee pitching staff had early on in the game. Aaron Judge hit another big home run to lead off the 3rd inning and get the Yankees on the board. And in the 4th with 2 outs and McCann on base with a single, Gary Sanchez’s 2-run home run to the left field seats gave the Yankees hope for just a bit before the Rays came back and crushed it.

Despite some really great defense, like the double play started by Didi Gregorius in the 2nd or when Tyler Austin snagged a sharp line drive in the 4th, the Yankees were pretty helpless against the early lead the Rays piled on and never surrendered.

Final score: 12-3 Rays, but the Yankees win series 2-1.

Scranton Shuttle: after the game, the Yankees optioned today’s starter Luis Severino back to AAA Scranton. The corresponding move hasn’t yet been announced as of this post, but the Yankees do have some options including Cessa, who pitched in relief today.

And because I’m always looking for a bit of fun, even on a rough loss day like today, I found two great promo clips the Yankees made to market their new “Baby Bomber” status. One is called “Lost in Translation” and the other simply “Baby Bombers“. Enjoy!

Go Yankees!

Game 115: TB vs. NYY — Alex says “farewell”… for now

On a Friday evening at the stadium, you can expect to find a band playing in the concourse, people milling about after work in everything from suits to full-on Yankees gear, that constant hum and chatter from the thousands in anticipation of a new series and the weekend in the city. Of course, it wasn’t an ordinary game, and the crowd was littered with #13 jerseys. The air was hot and sticky, as the sky above darkened as if Nature itself knew that it was going to be one of those days.

Of the 46,459 people packed into the stadium, just 5 (and those closely related to them, hanging out in the special suite to watch the whole event) mattered the most to the one man everyone was there to see. Before the game, the tarp on the field, the smell of rain in the air, the announcer called for one of the last times: “Alex Rodriguez!” Rodriguez came jogging onto the field in front of the infield tarp to the roar of the crowd, pointing to specific people and sections (including a special nod to the “A-Rod! A-Rod!” cheering Bleacher Creatures) for his pre-game ceremony.

The Yankees escorted out Rodriguez’s mother (Reggie Jackson did the honors), his sister and brother (by Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro), and his daughters (escorted by surprise guest Mariano Rivera). A few special messages, like from his first pro manager with the Mariners Lou Pinella (who is now part of the Yankee organization too). The Steinbrenners also presented Rodriguez with an encased 3rd base signed by the whole team and a framed #13 jersey to commemorate his final game and season in pinstripes.

Just as he was being presented these gifts, the nearby lightning and thunder turned into a bit of rain. Which turned into quite a bit of rain. The Florida residents (the Rodriguez and Steinbrenner families) meandered their way off the field, while the poor New Yorkers were jogging up the steps heading for cover. (We Floridians don’t flinch much when it comes to inclement weather, as it usually has to be like “ark level” weather for us to really care.)

So for 30 minutes, the Yankees and their fans waited for what would be a rather interesting final game for #13. See, in the scope that would be tonight and will be the events of this weekend, the Yankees are still in a bit of a Wild Card race, just 3.5 games out of the Wild Card. And tonight, they start their weekend series against the Rays.

And CC Sabathia got the start tonight, and despite a bit of a disappointing 1st inning, he certainly pulled it together for the most part for the rest of the game. He threw 100 pitches over his 6 innings, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 3 runs, and a nice 7 strikeouts. A lead-off 4-pitch walk was quickly erased with a snazzy double play, but then a solo home run (by the Rays’ leading run-producer) got the Rays on the board first.

But it wasn’t like the Yankees were going to let them get away with it for long. In the bottom of the 1st, Gardner took an errant pitch of his foot/ankle and kind of hobbled his way down to 1st. He stayed in the game (with what will probably be a nasty bruise for the next few days), which is a good thing because when Alex Rodriguez stepped into the batter’s box (amid a standing ovation of fans), his 1-out double to shallow right field easily scored Gardner to tie up the game.

In the 3rd, the Rays worked a 1-out walk and a 2-out single to put runners on the corners. Another single scored the lead runner before Sabathia got a strikeout to end the inning (a fairly common theme for both starters tonight actually). The Yankees answered back in the bottom of the 4th, after Rodriguez’s 2nd at-bat turned into a little ground out, Teixeira got on base with a single and moved to 3rd on Gregorius’ nice 2-out double. Starlin Castro’s big single then scored both Teixeira and Gregorius to put the Yankees in the lead.

But in the 5th, a Rays’ lead-off double moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt and then scored on a sacrifice fly to tie up the game again. (Rodriguez’s 3rd at-bat in the bottom of the 5th was a simple 3-pitch strike out.) In the bottom of the 6th, the Yankees finally dented into the Rays’ starter. Teixeira led-off with a single and a stolen base (his 2nd of the year), and 2 outs later, Castro’s 2-run home run gave the Yankees a lead they’d never surrender tonight.

With both starters out of the game, the Yankees secured their lead and continued the excitement of the night, while the Rays seem to do what they do most of the year as they kind of gave into the inevitable. For the Yankees, relievers Clippard and Warren breezed through the Rays’ line up in the 7th and 8th innings, keeping the Yankees firmly in the lead.

Aaron Hicks led-off the 7th inning with a great solo home run to the left field seats to give the Yankees that total security they were looking for in the game. Three batters later, Rodriguez’s final at-bat ended in another little ground out, but fans (perhaps knowing it was the last) almost refused to stop cheering him on. A brief conversation with Girardi and Rodriguez was headed to the clubhouse with a big smile on his face.

In the 9th, Chase Headley stood at the top of the steps that lead to the clubhouse from the dugout, waiting. Alex Rodriguez jogged his way up those steps, nodding and smiling at the regular 3rd baseman. In his hand, a black fielder’s glove. Yes, Alex Rodriguez was going to play 3rd base for the final time. And the crowd exploded in cheers and support. For a few moments, the only person on the field was Rodriguez with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen, eyes shining, and a glimpse of that kid who just wanted to play ball nearly skipping his way to the hot corner.

Dellin Betances took the mound for this final inning and got his first strikeout. And suddenly, Rodriguez made his way back across the field, hugging his way off as Ronald Torreyes came out to replace him. Apparently, Rodriguez specially agreed to Girardi’s allowance but only for 1 batter; Girardi was willing to have him out there longer, but I think Rodriguez knew he was out of practice and didn’t want to screw anything up for the team. Because that’s the kind of player he is.

A strike out (and overturned challenge) later, the count 1-2, the entire stadium on their feet, the batter sort of half-swung at the final pitch and was ruled out, and Betances gets the save.

Final score: 6-3 Yankees.

Alex Rodriguez was allowed one more chance to be on the field to greet his teammates in that “good game” winning line they always do, getting the game ball from Betances himself. But then he kind of hung out on the field for a bit, asking silently for a moment to himself. He wandered over to where he used to plant himself on the infield, defending 3rd base, crouched down, and gathered a handful of dirt, shoving it into his back pocket for safe keeping. Before he was finally ready to face the media. Between interviews, he signaled for his daughters to join him on the field, and they were handed on over the barrier and ran across the field to their dad to envelop him with the biggest hugs.

{Media links: articles covering the final game on MLB.com — by reporters Hoch, BloomSuss, Kaneko, and Needelman; statements from former teammates, Rodriguez’s pre-game press conference, Rodriguez’s interview with FOX, Headley on being “replaced”, Girardi’s post-game press conference, and Rodriguez’s post-game press conference.}

And there were some roster moves: the Yankees placed Nathan Eovaldi on the 15-day DL (retroactive to August 11) with his right elbow tendon injury. This is not good news in the long run, but it doesn’t seem to be a tear or something to be surgically repaired but rather a rest-and-see kind of thing. They also recalled Luis Severino from AAA Scranton.

And as promised, following tonight’s game, the Yankees officially released Alex Rodriguez as a player. He adamantly reminded interviewers from the field to the post-game press conference that he is still part of the organization. And he is. They will continue his contract as a special adviser and instructor, especially in relation to all the young prospects in the organization. Rodriguez may not be playing in a Yankee uniform any more, but he’s still very much part of the team.

After all, once a Yankee, always a Yankee.

Go Yankees!