The old switch-a-roo just before the holidays…

I’ve been watching a lot of the off-season moves with some measure of amusement. Honestly, sometimes it’s made me shake my head in confusion as I see what should be high-ticket players off to small- or low-market teams as a road of rebuilding (or perhaps a bit of redemption) as they regroup for the 2015 season. Though the Giants now trying to defend their third title in 5 years, I have little doubt 2015 will not be a Giants win as they seem to have an aversion to odd number years and winning teams, and it seems all the other teams seem ready to pounce on such an opportunity. The Cubs, Marlins, and Padres are all teams that seem to be on the losing end of things and have all made recent deals which make even the biggest pundit in sports news second guess their previous biases against such teams.

I am less convinced, but perhaps it is because I am cynic by nature and prefer to reserve my hopes and positive thoughts for things (and teams) I care about and be pleasantly surprised (and sometimes disappointed) however things turn out. In fact, I have been rather grateful recently that I didn’t choose to blog for another team as I’ve been using the “shaking my head” gesture quite literally as I read teams trade away their better players and become harvesting grounds for big-spenders or regrouping teams. I try to remain positive even when I don’t agree with such moves or it’s rather bad news, and those teams certainly would stretch my desire for positivity on here with what I consider (for lack of a better term) “bonehead moves”.

But I digress…

I spent the day doing the exact opposite of what I do for this blog — I took the day off and did some personal holiday preparation with a good friend. In other words, I wasn’t checking social networks and following leads for the latest news. And it’s on days like this that decide to pull the rug out and surprise my brief holiday vacation with a sudden impact on the 2015 season.

And thus, today’s blogpost…

Okay, two big moves secured further depth on the Yankees’ pitching staff and certainly created some options on the infield. First, in a deal with the Marlins, the Yankees traded Martin Prado and David Phelps for pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, pitching prospect Domingo German, and 1st baseman/outfielder Garrett Jones. Now, the Yankees took on Prado’s $3 million year salary when they picked him up the middle of last season and will continue to owe him this for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. But the Yankees were looking for proper back-up for Teixeira and the outfield, which looks like the reason Jones was chosen, including some chatter that “his swing was made for Yankee Stadium”. Eovaldi is a starter who could flesh out the rotation with some National League level pitching. (Long-term readers will understand my affinity for the strength of NL pitchers.)

The second move picked up reliever Gonzalez Germen from the Mets in exchange for cash considerations. (Another NL pitcher; is this a trend now?) To make room for him on the 40-man roster, the Yankees have designated Preston Claiborne for assignment.

One reporter commented that it should be noted that the Yankees picked up both a German and a Germen on the same day. However, I suspect German (from the Marlins) will stay in the minors for a while as he develops as a player, though initial scouting reports rank him high on their list of prospects. Germen (from the Mets) has spent a couple of years with the Mets, and this marks the first trade with their crosstown rivals in a decade (December 3, 2004 Felix Heredia to the Mets for Mike Stanton, a pretty good trade overall).

There was some initial fan backlash over the first trade (with the Marlins), something I didn’t quite understand as it seemed to be in direct contrast with previous backlash in relation to the same players in quite the opposite manner during the actual season. But I suppose that only further serves as a reminder that no one can pick on family but family. Like I can mess with my brother (and have) as much as I want (don’t worry, he’s great at revenge), but if someone else were to try to mess with him, heaven help that person.

I learned this basic fact at my first Yankee game sitting among long-term season ticket holders (as in inherited seats and fan status from their fathers and grandfathers). They could dissect why certain players weren’t the right fit or how the Yankees need to fix all their problems, even debating each other on specific facts or team history or opinions. But if a non-Yankee fan tried to join in and tell them why the team sucked, the fans would join forces and school the “other guy” on why he was oh so wrong and couldn’t mess with their team.

Well, guys, we lost a couple of “relatives” today, but we gained a few too. And this whole crazy off-season trade madness is really just getting started.

I don’t expect to blog before Christmas or the New Year, so have a wonderful, joyful, and safe holiday season. I am certainly looking forward to a great 2015. I expect the unexpected, so I can be pleasantly surprised and seldom disappointed, and I hope to continue this into 2015. Perhaps my surprise will be a great Yankee season. Sounds like a plan to me.

Happy Holidays!

Go Yankees!

Game 150: NYY vs. TB — Implosion, explosion, protests, and ejections

Okay, let me just say that I have absolutely no idea where to start because I have no idea what happened in Tampa tonight. At some point, everything just kind of imploded and then exploded.

First things first then… Tampa’s “not-a-farewell-tour” rolled out (literally) its ceremony prior to tonight’s game, presenting Derek Jeter with a 16-foot customized pinstriped kayak and a $16,000 donation to Turn 2 ($50 per hit Jeter has made off Rays’ pitching — that’s 320 hits, if you don’t want to do math). Then Soot Zimmer, the widow of Don Zimmer, presented Jeter with a framed Zimmer jersey.

Zim was most recently a special advisor to the Rays, but he was Torre’s bench coach when Jeter was first called up to the Yankees. Zim was a fixture at the ballpark, and I remember him smiling and trotting around even this year’s Spring Training with the vitality of his younger days, despite a stroke some years ago. Zim was a shared legend between the Yankees and Rays, but he passed away in June this year. I know he would have loved to be there tonight to see Jeter off into his retirement properly, and this was a great way to incorporate him and his legacy and impact into a ceremony celebrating the legacy and impact of one who truly appreciated him.

And then there was a game. Last year, I was convinced that certain stadiums were almost bad luck (if you believe in such things) for the Yankees. This year, I’m convinced it’s specific teams that have it out for the Yankees. And with the Rays, I’m absolutely certain… but we’ll get there in a moment.

In the 2nd inning, with 2 outs, Chris Young doubled and then scored on Ichiro Suzuki’s single, giving the Yankees a 1-0 early lead. It didn’t last long, and it would be the only run the Yankees scored all night.

It was Michael Pineda’s turn to start for the Yankees tonight. 100 pitches over his 5.1 innings wasn’t a terrible outing, but certainly not at the level the Yankees needed to win tonight’s game. He allowed just 4 hits, 2 runs (only 1 earned), and 2 walks, striking out 5 batters. In the 5th, a throwing error and a walk put runners at 1st and 2nd; a runner then scored on a missed catching error by Pineda himself to tie up the game 1-1.

Pineda allowed a double in the 6th, and that runner scored on a single (2-1 Rays). This forced Girardi to turn to Josh Outman in relief for the rest of that inning, which he did flawlessly.

But I can’t say much for the 7th inning relief of Esmil Rogers, which in my mind started the implosion. After a quick out, Rogers put runners on the corners with a walk and a single; another single scored a run, and this gave the Yankees enough cause to pass the ball to Rich Hill. But then a single loaded the bases, and another single scored yet another run, keeping the bases loaded.

And so it was onto David Phelps. His first batter hit a sacrifice fly to Ellsbury in center field, but 2 runners ended up scoring. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 2-run sac fly before. There was some confusion as to whether one runner actually tagged every bag and whether he left too early (he did, by the way); honestly, this began the ultimate confusion spiral that became this game. After some minor protestations from Girardi, which were largely ignored or quickly disregarded by the umpire staff, he officially declared the Yankees playing this game “under protest”.

From MLB.com:

Rule 4.19
PROTESTING GAMES.
Each league shall adopt rules governing procedure for protesting a game, when a manager claims that an umpire’s decision is in violation of these rules. No protest shall ever be permitted on judgment decisions by the umpire. In all protested games, the decision of the League President shall be final.
Even if it is held that the protested decision violated the rules, no replay of the game will be ordered unless in the opinion of the League President the violation adversely affected the protesting team’s chances of winning the game.
Rule 4.19 Comment: Whenever a manager protests a game because of alleged misapplication of the rules the protest will not be recognized unless the umpires are notified at the time the play under protest occurs and before the next pitch, play or attempted play. A protest arising on a game-ending play may be filed until 12 noon the following day with the league office.

Bring on the explosion…

Into the top of the 8th, the Yankees are at bat, with Jeter leading off to a standing and cheering Tampa crowd. And the pitcher hit him. This would make the fifth Yankee batter (well, fourth unless you count Jeter twice now) hit by a Rays pitcher in just 4 games. How do I know this? Because Girardi made a very big point of this when he went storming out of the dugout to argue for the Rays’ pitcher to be thrown out for trying to take out his batter. And do the Rays pitchers get any repercussions for “pitching inside” sloppily? Nope. Scott-free once again. Who gets ejected? Girardi. That’s right. The guy who doesn’t want to see another Headley sprawled out on the ground with a bloody jaw or a severely bruised-up player in the training room AGAIN, he’s the guy that it makes sense to toss from the game.

Now, do I honestly think that the pitcher meant to hit Jeter when the Rays were up 6-1 over the Yankees? No. But it seems the Rays are determined to “pitch inside” a lot. The Yankees all agree that such pitching is necessary at times, but “you’ve got to do it right” so that no one gets hurt. Apparently, according to pitchers and players and coaches alike, if you’re going to “pitch inside”, you pitch in and down and NOT in and up like the Rays have been doing all year and hitting people right and left (literally and figuratively).

Anyway, Maddon (the Rays’ manager) wisely opted to go to his bullpen so as not to risk the wrath of an already heated crowd and clubhouse for hitting the Captain. And the only thing the umpires chose to do was “warn both teams”. Why the Yankees were “warned” at this point, I’ll never understand.

Three outs later and it was the Yankees’ turn to pitch. (Hearing that ticking sound yet?)

Phelps, still on the mound, came into the 8th inning, still shaking off his rust from his recent return to the bullpen. And he did the last thing you want a pitcher to do in this situation. Yes, he apparently hit the batter (though on the replay, he clearly did not and thus everything that followed was a total crock). And because the team was already “under warning”, Phelps was ejected, and according to protocol (that I don’t agree with) bench coach and acting manager Tony Pena was also ejected. Benches were cleared, and some massive “jawing” as it happened between far too many players and coaches and umpires. (KA-BOOM!)

Sometimes, I completely understand why ejections happen; it’s a heated game, adrenaline runs high in a competitive environment, and there are those with a short temper or diva-like attitudes that don’t fare well in such environments at times. But I have to be completely honest, I don’t agree with a single ejection in this entire game. Nor have I agreed with most of these extreme calls at the Trop for the entire series.

Anyway, David Huff came on and pitched the 8th, keeping the score at 6-1 Rays, something the Yankees just were never able to overcome. If I believed in bad ju-ju or whatever, I’d say it was all over the Trop tonight.

Look, I try to stay positive and objective on this blog, but there are days that it’s rather hard to do so. Fortunately, I’m not a journalist, so I can be a little more opinionated than your average sports writer. So I’m going to try to be positive for a minute…

Nope. The only thing I can think of is that old adage, “if you can’t say something nice…” So I’m moving on, closing the chapter on tonight’s game, and hoping for something positive to talk about tomorrow.

But before we go, there’s one more bit of “not-so-positive” news: Martin Prado had an emergency appendectomy last night in Tampa and was placed on the 60-day DL, effectively out for the rest of the season. They called up Jose Pirela in his stead. I was more than a little discouraged after I specifically requested no more bad news on the injury/roster front to wake up to that news this morning. Oh well, wishing Prado rest and healing. At least this is one “injury” that we don’t have to worry about the possibility of a recurrence.

I just thought of some good news: only one more game at the Trop for the rest of the season. I hear angelic choruses warming up…

Go Yankees!

Game 148: NYY vs. BAL — Former Yankees sometimes do the most damage

Prior to tonight’s game, the last game in Baltimore this season, the Orioles had their own “not-a-farewell-tour” ceremony for Derek Jeter. With Annapolis Naval Academy just a few miles away from Camden Yards, the Orioles invited a representative of the US Navy to gift the Yankees captain with a naval captain’s hat. The Orioles also made a large donation in Jeter’s name to a non-profit group near the Orioles’ spring training home in Sarasota (about an hour south of Jeter’s off-season home). And then there were the food-related gifts — a cake shaped and decorated as Jeter’s jersey, a bucket of steamed Maryland crabs, and an oversize, customized crab mallet (made of the same wood from the Louisville Slugger bats).

And then there was the game…

Hiroki Kuroda did a rather outstanding job as tonight’s starter — 94 pitches, 7 innings, 6 hits, 1 run, no walks, and 5 strikeouts. It was rather flawless, and Kuroda was on track for the win until he gave up his lone run — an RBI double in the 6th to tie up the game. It’s always a shame when a great outing gets tossed aside into a no-decision. But it was fun watching Kuroda pitch like Kuroda again. He’s really been the most consistent of the starters, being the sole remaining, season-long starter since the beginning of the season.

Martin Prado gave the Yankees hope early in the game, the 2nd inning, with a solo home run to put the Yankees up 1-0. Even when the Orioles tied up the game in the 6th, it was still a really tight game, with both sides pitching and defending like equals, rather than one team that’s 11 games ahead in the standings.

Dellin Betances got a chance in the 8th inning to keep the tied game rolling, which also meant he was on the hook for the win when Brian McCann smacked his 20th home run of the season in the top of the 9th inning. All the Yankees had to do was hang onto that 2-1 lead and they’d leave Baltimore one step closer to hope for October.

It was not meant to be… David Robertson struggled his way through the 9th inning in just 14 pitches. Back-to-back doubles tied up the game again; that RBI came off the bat of a former Yankee (Steve Pearce, briefly a Yankee in 2012). Then recent Yankee Kelly Johnson (who ended up on the Orioles recently after a small stint with the Red Sox) helped his new team defeat the old team with his own double and a walk-off win. 3-2 Orioles

Today was also the 200th anniversary of the “Star-Spangled Banner”, and the Orioles honored the anniversary tonight by wearing red-based uniforms with touches of stars and stripes. The inspiration for the lyrics being very nearby at the famed War of 1812 Fort McHenry. As the story goes, Francis Scott Key, seeing the stars-and-stripes flying in the midst of flame and destruction, felt an overwhelming rush of patriotism and penned those famous words as a poem (later converted to lyrics over a popular drinking song of the day) on this day exactly 200 years ago.

The National Anthem and baseball have been linked almost since baseball’s inception, though it wasn’t until April 1941 that it became a daily occurrence before every baseball game in (where else?) the Bronx at the first Yankee Stadium. Now the anthem is a staple before every major sporting event at stadiums, sandlots, and sports arenas across America every day.

And after 9/11, that small display of patriotism became so much more dear in the hearts of Americans than just another obligation to get to “play ball”. It meant that together as a people, we were united for something greater than individual accomplishments, something that is represented in the battleground of the playing fields across the country, that unity and strength and courage to strive for victory and camaraderie and resolution.

It’s so easy to become rote over something we hear on a daily (or near-daily) basis, but let us never forget the why we have such an anthem — the freedoms we enjoy and celebrate daily, and the people we have to thank for them. We have a long history in this country (well over 200 years) of people who willingly gave their lives for such freedoms. Without them, Key’s words and the material on the flag wouldn’t mean any more than any other words or materials; there would be nothing to substantiate their meanings and representation.

So the next time you stand, remove your cap, place your hand over your heart, sing those centuries’ old words, and cheer its end into a game, pause for a moment and give thanks for the who and the why behind the what. And then go thank someone in uniform or someone who wore a uniform. Because you can… because they did.

Go Yankees!

Game 144: TB vs. NYY — This one was for Jeter & Headley & America’s City

The Yankees, by all rights, should not have won tonight’s game. In fact, they may be the only team I know of who could have won tonight’s game. Because (and this may be my bias talking here) there is no other team in baseball history with that much tenacity, strength, and passion that could come back a second night to win the game.

I should have known something was brewing in the air. Before the game, the Yankees played a recap of the 2001 World Series, where the three game at home were all come-from-behind games that were just the spectacular show the City needed that year. And honestly, tonight’s win was sorely needed, if not just for the anniversary, but also because of what transpired during the game. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Michael Pineda was tapped with the start tonight, and despite what the scoreboard said, he threw a very good game. Over his 7.1 innings, he threw 96 pitches, allowed 10 hits and 4 runs, and struck 2 Rays’ batters. Actually, Pineda was able to pitch his way out of most of his sticky situations. The only reason there were 4 runs scored was due to a 3-run home run in the 4th and a solo home run in the 7th; it should be noted that it was the exact same Rays’ batter that hit both home runs.

But that would be all the Rays could do tonight. At least offensively, because they sure did their hardest to stop the Yankees. Sometimes at all costs, some of which we’re still waiting on.

The Yankees were actually pretty much shut-out for a good portion of the game, with the Rays’ starter throwing a no-hitter until the 8th inning. He did, however, give up 2 walks in the 7th inning, but the Yankees couldn’t cobble anything together to do make a run. No need, as it wasn’t that 8th inning just yet.

In the meantime, the Yankees pulled Pineda in the 8th after giving up a ground-rule double and getting a groundout. Hill was brought on in relief and got those last 2 outs. Roe walked the lead-off batter in the 9th, but then Outman and Kelley got the 3 out to keep the Rays at just that 4 runs scored. It was exactly the kind of pitching the Yankees needed to make an impact on the other end of things.

So that 8th inning… Girardi later said that Jeter told him going into the 8th inning that they would get 2 runs in the 8th and then 3 in the 9th to win this game. And when the Captain orders a win, the Yankees must rise to the occasion.

With 1 out, Chris Young doubled, forcing the Rays’ starter from the game. Then pinch-hitter Martin Prado (looking pretty good after resting his injured hamstring) smacked long 2-run home run into the left field seats. (Those first 2 runs the Captain requested — done.) After another out, Derek Jeter walked up to the plate, and on the second pitch of the at-bat got plunked on his left elbow guard pretty hard. He stayed in the game, but that Rays pitcher certainly made a stadium-full of enemies by hitting the Captain. Jeter spent the top of the 9th at shortstop, but continued to shake off that left arm, still stinging from the impact. (X-rays would later return negative, but I imagine a nasty bruise and sore arm might be the lingering result of that at-bat.)

And into the bottom of the 9th inning, the last chance for the Yankees to win this game, the score stood at 4-2 Rays, the crowd still buzzing from the Jeter injury (who at this point was on his way to the trainer’s room for x-rays and whatever treatment they can conjure up to preserve him for the next few weeks). And then the new pitcher proceeds to plunk Chase Headley on the face. That’s right, two reliable batters taken out by sloppy pitchers. Headley was clearly in pain, flat on his back, being looked after by the trainers and eventually the team doctor right there at home plate. The trainers were able to stop the bleeding on his chin and help him up and off the field. The crowd’s level of anger against the Rays skyrocketed.

Romine came in to pinch-run for Headley and ended up at 3rd on Ichiro’s double. One out later, it was Chris Young’s at-bat. Two pitches in, he saw one he liked and shot it deep into the left field seats. Captain’s Orders fulfilled, Young with a walk-off 3-run home run to win the game. 5-4 Yankees. One Gatorade shower later, Young was the hero of what had been both a dangerous and heroic comeback of a game.

The Yankees needed this one, if nothing but for Headley and Jeter. But I always believe that New York needs a win on this day, any year they play in the City. Before the game, the Yankees placed a wreath by the memorial plaque in Monument Park dedicated to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks 13 years ago. They also asked a former ticket supervisor who lost both his sons that day to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Then the Marine Corps Band played the most beautiful rendition of the National Anthem, while the joint Color Guard of NYPD and FDNY officers stood strongly in centerfield. (Here is a link of the broadcasters remembering 9/11 and baseball in 2001.)

You know, I’ve never been to Yankee Stadium on the anniversary, but it’s one of the most patriotic displays I’ve ever seen. You can’t help but feel proud to be part of this country, this city on such a day. I know that today there’s nowhere else I’d rather be — in New York, in Yankee Stadium to watch the Yankees win, thanking police officers, applauding service men and women, and cheering for America and America’s team.

Yep, no better place to be today. But if I’m honest with myself, when isn’t it?

Go Yankees!

Game 143: TB vs. NYY — “It’s not how it starts, it’s how it ends”

The Yankees are a study in perseverance this year, using this game as a very explicit demonstration of such a motto. I saw this on my Twitter feed right after the Yankees took the win today against the visiting Rays thought it completely summed up tonight’s game (and hopefully a nice predictor of the future).

Chris Capuano got the start tonight and really just seemed to be having what has to be the worst off-night of his career. He faced 7 batters, gave up 4 hits and 2 walks, got 4 earned runs (an RBI double, 2 RBI singles, and a sacrifice fly), struck out 1 batter (the only out he got), and threw 36 pitches. I should mention this was all in the 1st inning.

Chase Whitley was brought on in relief to stop the bleeding, something he did quite successfully. Whitely finished the 1st quickly and plowed right through the 2nd and 3rd innings, throwing just 41 pitches overall. Preston Claiborne got the nod for the 4th and 5th innings, keeping that steamroller going to keep those pesky Rays in check and holding at just 4 runs. This also meant that he would be on the hook when the Yankees caught up and took the lead.

Aside from Brian McCann’s 2-out solo home run in the 1st, it would be the 3rd inning for the Yankees to start making their offensive move. Chris Young led-off the inning with a single and ended up at 3rd when Ellsbury walked and the catcher for some reason tried to throw Young out stealing first (remember Ellsbury just walked and that meant that Young would automatically advance to 2nd, no stealing necessary); so while the ball rolled into center field, Young just dashed his way to 3rd. So the stage was set for McCann again to contribute to the offense, this time with a 2-run single. It was now 4-3 Rays. And despite loading up the bases, the Yankees couldn’t push it to a tie.

Yet…

It would be Young, who stated the 3rd inning rally, to tie up the game with a solo home run to the left field seats in the 4th inning. And in the 5th inning, the Yankees pushed for the win. McCann, on base with a hit-by-pitch, scored easily on Mark Teixeira’s triple. Teixeira would then score on Chase Headley’s single. So it was 6-4 Yankees to defend all the way to the finish line.

In the meantime, Warren and Betances split the 6th, 7th, and 8th innings, continuing that steamrolling over the Rays, who were kept to those 4 runs. Except it wasn’t enough for the Yankees because sometimes to win, you need a little insurance of that cushion of victory. Something they decided to earn in the 8th inning. Headley led-off with a single and then scored on Ichiro Suzuki’s double. Ichiro would then score on Young’s double. So it would be 8-4 Yankees going into the final half-inning.

Esmil Rogers took over in relief for the 9th, and he quickly got 2 outs , pushing an already energetic crowd in the Bronx to their feet with anticipation of a much-needed victory in the air. But a solo home run from a Rays power-hitter,  had the Bronx booing in eagerness to see a win. But an out later, the Rays’ hopes of a last-minute comeback were dashed, and the Yankees claimed the win 8-5.

Carlos Beltran is out of the lineup for a couple of days with elbow soreness again. This is the same elbow that has a bone spur that will need to be operated on following the season and has been receiving treatments of cortisone shots to keep him in the game before having to resort to the inevitable surgery. But now with the new flare-up, they will forego the next round of treatment to see if the elbow “calms down” on its own. However, if it doesn’t, they will probably shut him down for the season, send him in for surgery, and begin his recovery for the 2015 season.

Beltran joins the list of “wait-and-sees” like Prado who’s out with a hamstring issue and Gardner who’s nursing an abdominal injury. As always, we wish these guys (and those still on the DL) a quick, and speedy recovery, but mostly we wish whole healthy for the long-term. Take care of yourselves, people!

Go Yankees!

Game 136: BOS vs. NYY — Welcome to September baseball, not so Greene anymore

Well, it’s September baseball. Consider this the long stretch into the postseason. And yesterday, the Yankees had the day off, which I guess was nice for those who wanted to celebrate Labor Day properly. But it also means that the 25-man roster can increase to the 40-man for the playoff race. That being said, the Yankees recalled catcher John Ryan Murphy and pitchers Preston Claiborne, Bryan Mitchell, and Chase Whitley (from AAA Scranton); selected pitcher Rich Hill and outfielder Chris Young (also from AAA); and signed outfielder Antoan Richardson and pitcher Chaz Roe to ML contracts and the active roster (again from AAA). And in less pleasant news, AA Trenton outfielder Slade Heathcott was recalled and moved to the 60-day DL due to right knee surgery; moved Masahiro Tanaka to the 60-day DL (more in a moment); released pitcher Matt Daley; and designated Zoilo Almonte for assignment.

Okay, so Tanaka’s soreness was diagnosed as just that — soreness. That means, he will return to his throwing rehab this week, attempting to work back into the regular season as soon as humanly possible. It feels odd that I must include the term “human”, but I think sometimes some people become so used to the idea of near immortality of the athletes (or even seeing them as simply commodities) that one might forget they are also human, with weaknesses and limitations. We continue to wish Tanaka a speedy recovery, but mostly we want good, whole health.

And then there was a game with the visiting Boston Red Sox. Shane Greene took the start tonight, and while Greene has been pretty consistent this year in his fill-in status, tonight certainly wasn’t consistent with the Greene I think we’ve been spoiled to watch. In just 2.2 innings, Greene threw 67 pitches, gave up 6 hits, 6 runs, and 3 walks, striking out just 3 Boston batters. To say it was a terrible outing for Greene might be an understatement, and I think everyone wishes this was an April game and not a September one.

In the 1st inning, a single and a walk put runners on base to score on a double and a sacrifice fly. (2-0 Boston) In the 3rd, runners again on base with a single and a walk score when a batter smacked a 3-run home run into the right field seats, only to be followed up 2 batters (and 1 out) later by another home run (a solo shot). (6-0 Boston)

Now, the Yankees answered back in the bottom of the 3rd as Martin Prado hit his own solo home run into the left field seats, but with Esmil Rogers on the mound now (in relief of Greene to get out of the 3rd and pitching into the 4th), Rogers gave up his own solo home run, effectively erasing the Yankees’ attempt. (7-1 Boston). Rogers came back for 1 out in the 5th before handing the ball over to Hill to end that inning.

The bottom of the 5th was, by far, the most productive offensive inning for the Yankees, albeit awfully strange. Beltran and McCann each singled. Then Prado hit a ball that sailed over the left fielder’s head, which should have been a double, but Beltran and McCann were waiting to see if the player could catch it. He didn’t, so Prado headed for 2nd thinking it was a double, but McCann was held up there as Beltran was still on 3rd. Desperately trying to find his way back to 1st as it was deemed a single, Prado ended up getting tagged out. Some people blamed Beltran for not running, some people blamed Prado for running too much, but really it was just a huge miscommunication for everyone. Anyway, Headley walked to load the bases, and then Francisco Cervelli’s walk finally scored Beltran.

Another out brought up Derek Jeter to the plate. Jeter hit a soft grounder to the shortstop who charged the ball and fired it to 1st where the 1st base umpire called Jeter out. This brought Girardi out of the dugout for a challenge. Upon review (and a very boisterous reception from the heated crowd in the steamy Bronx tonight upon seeing the replay on the big screen), it was over turned — Jeter safe at 1st, bases still loaded, but McCann scored. (7-3 Boston) The next batter was Brett Gardner, who struck out on a rather outside pitch; a bit frustrated, Gardner discarded his helmet and bat a little to forcefully, according to the home plate umpire who immediately ejected him. Well, with nothing to lose, Gardner went off on his about his “floating strike zone”.

Like I said, that 5th inning was something else…

Well, this whole game was really something else…

Warren came on to pitch the 6th and 7th for the Yankees, and Huff got his chance in the 8th. Both did an excellent job keeping Boston from adding to this lead that was easily handed to them by sloppy pitching and missed offensive opportunities and whatever happened in the bottom of the 5th to the Yankees.

Chaz Roe made his Yankee debut in the 9th, and I’m guessing it wasn’t quite the impression he had in mind. He gave up a lead-off triple that scored on a sacrifice fly and a walk that scored on a single. The Yankees tried to earn back one of those runs in the bottom of the 9th with Brian McCann’s lead-off solo home run. But it wasn’t enough.

And Prado was pulled from the game in the 9th inning (replaced by Chris Young, the former Met making his pinstriped debut) with hamstring soreness. The initial diagnosis was hamstring tightness in his left leg, but they will have an official diagnosis after he sees the team doctor and an MRI. Fingers crossed for just a couple of days warming the bench and not something more serious (though, this year, nothing surprises me anymore on the injury front).

Like I said, this game was something else… there are literally no words to describe it. Well, there are words, but I’m trying to maintain a positive, clean blog here. And on that note, what would the upside of tonight’s game? They still have 2 more games to win against Boston this week, and there are two rookie pitchers scheduled for the next two days to face the Yankees. Here’s to hoping the stereotypes are true about rookie (and recent call-up) pitchers facing veteran batters…

Go Yankees!

Game 129: NYY vs. KC — Making-up a big win

Two months ago, the Yankees visited Kansas City for a 4-game wraparound series, but their final game was rained out because some monsoon decided to dump a Noah-sized flood upon the Heartland. That evening, the Royals were also going to honor the retiring Derek Jeter, so fans were forced to wait until the Royals and Yankees could coincide schedules to make it up. Tonight was such a night. But instead of the torrential rain, it was sweltering, oppressive heat. Seriously, the heat index today in Kansas City was 105, with an occasional (read: none) breeze.

And yet, fans packed into Kauffman Stadium to cheer on their hometown team, jeer the visiting Yankees (still bitter over the George Brett pine tar incident of 1983), and snapping infinite cell phone (and iPad) pictures of Jeter in his final visit to the stadium. Before tonight’s game, the Royals presented Jeter with a $10,000 check to Turn 2 to help continue the work he began nearly 2 decades ago, helping kids pursue healthy lifestyles, learn leadership skills, and even providing college scholarships.

At 6:10 pm CST, it’s 95 degrees (again, heat index or the “feels like temperature” is well over 100), and it’s time to play ball. Michael Pineda started for the Yankees and pitched one solid, quality game. Pineda went 6.1 innings, threw 96 pitches, gave up 5 hits and 1 run, and struck out 5 batters. That lone run was the result of a solo home run in the 3rd inning. It would be the only run the Royals would score all night.

David Huff took over for Pineda in the 7th, getting those last 2 outs, before finishing the rest of the game in what was a solid, quality outing for him as well. Honestly, I think it’s the best outing I’ve seen from Huff all year, and it couldn’t have come at a better time or on a better night.

Now, while the Royals seemed to have some offensive struggles, the Yankees didn’t seem to share in their troubles, a reversal of fortunes, you might say (one I’m glad the Yankees are finally on the other side of). And I went into this game a little shy of making such an assumption because the Royals sent up one of their best pitchers, someone I know can shut down the Yankees pretty well on most days. I’m just glad it wasn’t “most days”.

In the 3rd inning, Ichiro got thing started with a single and ended up on 2nd in the same play due to a throwing error. He ended up at 3rd on Ellsbury’s ground out, and then scored on Jeter’s ground out. The game was tied going into the 4th inning, but Stephen Drew added to the score with a solo shot into the right field corner seats. And they sat there at 2-1 Yankees for the middle part of the game.

The Royals’ starter began to tire in the 7th, his fatigue was something the Yankees batters just pounced on with such energy. Martin Prado shot a solo home run in the seats in left center field to lead off that inning. Headley and Ichiro both singled, but Wheeler’s ground out left just him and Ichiro on 1st and 2nd respectively. However, Jacoby Ellsbury’s single drove in Ichiro easily, and Wheeler ended up at 3rd. It should be noted there is still just 1 out as the 6th batter (Jeter) comes up to the plate. Jeter singled home Wheeler; Jeter and Ellsbury on the corners. Then Brian McCann hit a sacrifice fly, and the outfielder threw the ball in to make the play at home; it was initially ruled an out against Ellsbury, challenged rightfully so by Girardi, and then overturned to award the Yankees the run scored.

And if you’re playing along at home, the score at the 7th inning stretch was 6-1 Yankees.

But that really wasn’t enough for the Yankees. I mean, if you’re going to take down the guys in first place in their division, you’ve going to make a point while doing it. In the 9th inning, Wheeler singled, and then Ellsbury’s line drive home run into the right field seats (nearly the same place as Drew’s homer earlier in the game) scored both runners. It was 8-1 Yankees, and there it stayed.

The Yankees win their 5th game in a row — consider it a streak. And they’re off to Detroit, back on the regular schedule. And we’re coming down to the wire. I look at the calendar, and September is literally a week away. The teams will swell to 40 players, the tension will rise to an intensity of passion and persistence (and panic in some cases), and the talking heads will start predicting the outcomes of the regular season (as if they ever stopped).  I guess, what I mean to say is that it’s crunch time for all the teams, and there’s still too much time to make any definite conclusions. It’s baseball, so really anything is possible. (At least at this moment.)

And that’s what I’m clinging to in this last week of August (this oh so very hot, cannot wait until Fall, last week of August) — the concept of possibilities that feeds my hope. I haven’t given up on October baseball for the Yankees. There’s still far too many pieces in play, too many what-ifs, too many possibilities to make any conclusions other than hope. And if you’re conclusion is hope, why not cling to it for as long as you can? I’m still believing for Yankees’ October baseball because… why not?

Go Yankees!