Game 152: BOS vs. NYY — “A long, tough, slug-it-out game”

Usually, the standard baseball game is about 3 hours long. That makes each third, or 3 innings, to be about an hour, making each inning 20 minutes. That’s a rough estimate, but as someone who watches a lot of baseball games, it makes things easier to gauge time.

So, when the first 2 innings took nearly 90 minutes, everyone was starting to feel like this could be one of those long games between the Red Sox and Yankees that infamous umpire Joe West once complained about. And it was, to some extent, clocking in at 4 hours and 2 minutes. But it was not the predicted 6 hour game, the first 2 innings were technically on track for.

And that’s why you can’t predict baseball.

Masahiro Tanaka had a rather rough start in the final game against the Red Sox this series. He threw 83 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 8 hits and 5 runs, and struck out 3 Boston batters. In the 1st, a lead-off double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a single to get the Red Sox on the board early.

Two consecutive singles led off the 2nd and then scored on a 2-out single. And a 2-out solo home run in the 3rd kept the ball rolling for the visiting team. After giving up a double and single to put runners in the corners, Tanaka’s night was over. David Robertson came on and gave up a double play that scored Tanaka’s lead runner.

The Yankees weren’t exactly quiet along the way. In the bottom of the 2nd, Sanchez worked a 1-out walk and then scored as part of Luke Voit’s big 2-run home run. Then in the 4th, with 2 outs, the Yankees loaded up the bases with consecutive walks to McCutchen, Judge, and Hicks. The Red Sox pulled their starter at that point, but it didn’t help. Giancarlo Stanton powered an exciting grand slam to put the Yankees in a slim lead.

But in the words of the Yankees after the game, the Red Sox really couldn’t be stopped tonight. After losing to the Yankees for the last 2 games, the team leading MLB wasn’t going to be swept and came back with a vengeance.

Chad Green came on for the Yankees in the 6th and kept them at bay, but then gave up a lead-off solo home run in the 7th to tie up the game. After giving up a single, he handed the ball over to Dellin Betances. With 1 out, he loaded up the bases with a double and intentional walk. The next batter hit a sacrifice fly and, thanks to a throwing error, allowed 2 runners to score.

Aroldis Chapman got his first outing in the 8th after coming off the DL. He gave up a single, a 1-out walk, and a 2-out 3-run home run to ensure the Red Sox’s victory. Holder closed out the 8th for Chapman, and Cole and Tarpley split the 9th to keep the visitors from adding to their growing lead.

Final score: 11-6 Red Sox, Yankees win series 2-1

However, the Red Sox sealed their AL East division title with the final out of the 9th inning. The Red Sox came pouring out of their respective dugout and bullpen to celebrate clinching the AL East right there at Yankee Stadium before moving to the messy “champagne celebration” (which usually involves more beer than champagne) in the visitors’ clubhouse.

Next up: the Yankees host the Orioles this weekend for their final series in Yankee Stadium this season. They will then travel to face the Rays for 4 games before ending their season against the Red Sox at Fenway next weekend. The Yankees need as many wins as possible to widen their lead (now only 1.5 games) and maintain home field advantage against the Athletics in the Wild Card game (which, let’s be honest, is pretty much assured for both teams).

But the Yankees should celebrate on their own. In addition to hitting a new collective home run record as a team (247), the Yankees now have 12 players who have hit 10+ home runs as Yankees in a single season. This was reached when Luke Voit hit that 2-run homer in the 2nd, his 11th of the season but 10th with the Yankees. Other Yankees that have hit 10+ Yankee homers this season: Stanton, Gregorius, Judge, Andujar, Hicks, Torres, Sanchez, Gardner, Bird, Romine, and Walker. That is quite the company of power-hitters, when most of them aren’t really known as “power-hitters”.

{Note: quote in post title taken from Boone’s post-game press conference.}

Go Yankees!

Game 147: TOR vs. NYY — Big home blowout + #TanakaTime

Sometimes, it’s good to be back in your own surroundings. The fans in the stands are in familiar regalia, the cheers makes sense with the plays, the smells and sounds are just right. It’s part of why people put a lot of stock in “home field advantage”. Not because there’s anything particularly “lucky” about your home turf, but because players are familiar with how things work and that surrounding familiarity knocks out distractions and helps them focus on the game. At least, that’s my theory.

Tonight’s game rather supported that. Especially when you throw in an opposing team that is really having a string of so-called “bad luck” recently. And Masahiro Tanaka was on point in tonight’s weekend opener against the Blue Jays. He threw 90 pitches in 6 scoreless innings, gave up 4 hits and 2 walks, and struck out 8 Toronto batters to earn his 12th win of the season.

Luis Cessa continued Tanaka’s great start with 3 scoreless innings of his own, adding 4 more strikeouts. And according to the rules, he earned the save for pitching those final 3 innings. (Statistics are rather complicated sometimes.)

The Yankee batters, meanwhile, had quite the field day in the Bronx. Every starting player got at least 1 hit, and every starter either scored a run or hit a run in, though most did both. The Blue Jays’ pitchers just couldn’t figure out how to pitch to the hot Yankee bats tonight.

In the 1st, McCutchen led-off with a double, and Stanton walked. Aaron Hicks’ single scored McCutchen, and a late throw allowed both runners to move into scoring position. After an out, Didi Gregorius hit an easy grounder that allowed Stanton to score, and Gleyber Torres’ single scored Hicks. After Sanchez singled to join Torres on base, Luke Voit hit both of them home with his double.

With a solid lead, the Yankee hits kept coming. In the 3rd, Gregorius was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Voit later worked a 2-out walk. Brett Gardner’s single scored Gregorius and signaled the end of Toronto’s starter’s night. The new reliever loaded up the bases with McCutchen’s walk before giving up a single to Giancarlo Stanton that scored both Voit and Gardner.

Andrew McCutchen led-off the 5th with a solo home run (his 1st homer in Yankee Stadium ever, by the way), and Didi Gregorius followed his example with a lead-off solo shot in the 8th. Then, with 1 out in the 8th, Sanchez doubled and was pinch-run by Higashioka. Voit reached on a fielding error, moving Higashioka to 3rd. Then Brett Gardner hit a long fly ball out to center that scored Higashioka, but they ended up catching Voit off 1st for a delayed double play to end the inning.

Final score: 11-0 Yankees

Roster moves: Good news, Yankee Universe! Today, they activated Aaron Judge from the Disabled List. His wrist’s chip fracture is healed to the point where he could come into tonight’s game late to run and play defense, but he’s not going to be hitting just yet. They want that 100% swing back without any residual pain from the power-hitter before they pencil him in the lineup. But take today’s activation as a good sign of progress.

And earlier today, the kids at PS 71 in the Bronx were treated to a fun surprise. The PitCCh In Foundation, founded by CC and Amber Sabathia, hosted a special event to celebrate the beginning of the school year. While CC was on “daddy duty”, Amber hosted Yankee stars Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks to have some fun with the local students (including a dance party with a live DJ) and hand out backpacks filled with school supplies to help the kids start the new year right, much like they did last week in California (where the Sabathias grew up).

Gregorius also considered today’s outreach as part of his #DidisDeeds, his random acts of kindness campaign wherever he is, including in Toronto in July. These guys are just amazing in how they represent the Yankee spirit of excellence and character on and off the field.

In that spirit, Sabathia is the Yankees’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, an annual award to honor those players who embody excellence and character on and off the field. You can vote for Sabathia and read more about all the other nominees and how they’re impacting their communities.

Go Yankees!

Game 141: NYY vs. SEA — #TanakaTime Shutout

Clearly something happened in the Yankees’ journey to the Emerald City. They might not have met the Wizard, they might have even lost their luggage, but they found their heart.

Masahiro Tanaka was just on point in tonight’s opener in this weekend series in Seattle. He shut out the home team with 102 pitches in 8 innings, allowing just 3 hits, and getting 10 impressive strikeouts. David Robertson followed Tanaka’s start with a great 9th inning, adding a strikeout of his own to the running tally tonight.

The Yankee batters had a bit of fun in first third of the game, setting the results of the game with a couple of good hits. In the 2nd, with 2 outs, Voit singled and then scored as part of Gleyber Torres’ 2-run home run, his 23rd homer of the season. Then Gardner led-off the 3rd with a single and scored on Andrew McCutchen’s 2-run home run to secure the Yankees’ win.

The Yankees would only get a couple more hits tonight, so the game became more about maintaining that early lead, something Tanaka (and then Robertson) and the Yankee defense did rather well.

Final score: 4-0 Yankees

Roster moves/injury updates: The Yankees activated Didi Gregorius off the disabled list. Gregorius, recovering from a badly bruised heel last month, is taking it slow on the return. Thanks to new additions and the recent September call-ups, there’s no real rush to push the recently recovered player in the game just yet. But he’s there if they need him off the bench, as he did tonight for the latter half of the game.

And Aaron Judge is taking more swings and getting back into regular exercises. Still hitting off a tee, he’s also working on short-distance tosses for some light batting practice. And with no prominent pain as a result of the effort, things are looking good for his return some time soon. Still no definite return date yet, but again, the new additions to the roster are helping bridge the gap until he’s ready for some major league swings.

Finally, we wish Sonny and Jessica Gray and their family a huge congratulations. They recently welcomed their son Declan to the family. Gray missed the Oakland series on paternity leave but is back with the team now. Another Yankee, another “Baby Pickles”.

Go Yankees!

Game 136: DET vs. NYY — A 2-hit wonder

The funny thing about baseball is that for all its statistics and numbers, it really just boils down to a lone stat — runs scored. Everything else ultimately is either for individual glory (or detriment). And this afternoon’s game in the Bronx was a great example of that. The Yankees, who ultimately won the game, only got 2 hits and 5 walks, while the Tigers worked 9 hits and just 1 walk off Yankee pitchers. The difference was simple — the Yankees scored just one more run and thus won the game.

Still, Masahiro Tanaka got the start this afternoon, throwing 96 pitches in 7 innings, giving up 7 hits, a walk, and just 1 run, striking out 6 Detroit batters to earn his 10th win this season. In fact, his terrible inning was in the top of the game. He gave up 3 consecutive singles to load up the bases before allowing a sacrifice fly to score just 1 run. Tanaka held the Tigers to that lone run for the rest of his outing.

Jonathan Holder had a better outing today, throwing just 8 pitches in the 8th inning, before Dellin Betances’ clean 9th inning closed out the game and helped deliver the victory to the home team.

As good as the Yankee pitchers were today, the Tigers’ starter and his relievers actually held the home team to those 2 hits. In fact, their starter held the Yankees hitless and scoreless through the first 4 innings, having a bit of a perfect game, with 7 big strikeouts. However, in the 5th, Miguel Andujar broke his streak with a walk to lead-off the inning. One out later, Gleyber Torres hit his 22nd homer, a 2-run home run into the left field seats to get the Yankees on the board and in the lead.

Despite such a great start, the Tigers opted to go to their bullpen right there in the middle of the 5th. That first reliever promptly loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a hit-by-pitch (welcome to the Bronx, Andrew McCutchen!), but then a pop-up left them stranded. And that would be the last good opportunity the Yankees would get all afternoon.

Final score: 2-1 Yankees

Speaking of the new guy, Andrew McCutchen, clean-shaven and wearing #26, led-off the game and played right field in his Yankees’ debut today. He also got his first foray as part of the famed Roll Call from the Bleacher Creatures, something that made his smile linger for most of the 1st inning. The veteran outfielder should be an easy fan favorite for the fans in the outfield bleachers, much like he was with his former team in Pittsburgh.

It’s September. And with the turn of the calendar page comes the September call-ups, where each team is allowed to expand its daily 25 player roster up to 40 active players. This nicely coincided with both recent trades of McCutchen and Adeiny Hechavarria. They also activated Gary Sanchez off the 10-day disabled list, fully recovered from his recent groin injury.

The Yankees also recalled infielder Tyler Wade and reliever Luis Cessa and selected the contract of reliever Stephen Tarpley from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. And to make room on the 40-man roster for Tarpley, the Yankees opted to designate outfielder Shane Robinson for assignment.

Of course, that still leaves three big names on the Disabled List — Didi Gregorius (bruised heel), Aaron Judge (fractured wrist), and Aroldis Chapman (knee tendinitis). All three are actively receiving treatments, something the Yankees are hoping will bring them back sooner rather than later. But clearly the recent acquisitions are the Yankees’ way of shoring up their staff in case those lingering issues decide to linger a bit longer.

Go Yankees!

Game 131: CHW vs. NYY — 9th inning derailment

It ended up being one of those games that started off so good and just spiraled out of control at the end. It’s never a fun feeling when it starts feeling helpless. And this on a game where an interesting milestone was reached and one still lingers for the Yankees newcomers.

The Yankees got on the board first in the 4th inning. Andujar led-off with a walk and then Gleyber Torres hit a giant 1-out 2-run home run into Monument Park. But they didn’t do much more than that tonight. They only got 3 hits and 4 walks all night, despite only getting 3 strikeouts. That means they spent the night hitting grounders and fly balls.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start in this opening game against the visiting White Sox. It wasn’t really a great outing, but it wasn’t that bad for most of it. He threw 98 pitches in 7 innings, gave up 10 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, and struck out 7 batters, and got himself out of several really bad jams.

But Tanaka held them off through the first half of the game. It wasn’t until the 6th that he got into some trouble. With 1 out, he loaded up the bases (again), gave up a double that scored the Sox’s first 2 runs and a sacrifice fly that scored the 3rd. And in the 7th, a lead-off single ended up at 2nd on a fielding error and then scored on a double. But then he left the runner stranded as he got 3 good fly outs.

Tommy Kahnle threw a really great clean 8th inning before handing the ball over to AJ Cole for a really messy 9th inning. He gave up a lead-off single and tried to pick him off but a bad throw allowed that runner to move to 2nd. A ground out moved that runner to 3rd and then scored when the next batter hit into a fielding error, which allowed the new runner to make it to 2nd. He then stole 3rd. And the next batter technically struck out, but it was on a wild pitch that allowed him to safely make it to 1st as the runner at 3rd slid into home for yet another run scored.

The Yankees just didn’t show up to play tonight. And if they did, they didn’t bring their A-game. It wasn’t good and it didn’t get better. Which is tough to say because of like Torreyes’ triple and a solid double play.

Final score: 6-2 White Sox

Okay, the milestones: Giancarlo Stanton is currently sitting at 299 career home runs, so each at-bat could potentially be his 300th. So Stanton going 0-for-4 tonight didn’t get him near that milestone. But there’s always tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the next…

And Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres are now part of an elite group of rookies. With Torres’ big 444 foot homer in the 4th (his longest home run in his career, so far), they became the 8th rookie duo in MLB history to have 2 rookies on the same team have at least 20 home runs. (Andujar currently has 21 home runs.) Add in that both players should easily be in the mix for Rookie of the Year, and this is going to be something to watch develop over time.

On a final note: in light of tonight’s loss, I wanted to include a Tweet I read last week that I’ve been saving to share on another day of disappointment. It still very much applies and it puts things into perspective. Remember that the Yankees are still the 2nd best team in all of baseball. So just take a moment, Yankee Universe.

 

(Note: as of today, they are actually 35 games over .500 and on track to 102 season wins, currently 83 wins and 48 losses.)

Go Yankees!

Game 125: NYY vs. MIA — Overtime in “Vice City”

The big story of the day coming into this series was how Miami would feel about the return of former super star Giancarlo Stanton and how Stanton might feel about his return to Miami. And the truth is that Miami still love Stanton as much as Stanton loves Miami. There’s no reason to believe any different. Stanton didn’t intend to leave, still lives there in the off-season, and didn’t do something stupid like bash Miami to the New York press or claim any kind of personal loyalty despite what uniform he’s wearing or what organization he works for.

Moving on…

Masahiro Tanaka got the start in tonight’s opener of this micro-series in Miami. He actually had a strong outing — 82 pitches in 6 innings, 4 hits, a walk, and 1 run, and 4 strikeouts. That lone allowed run was a 1st pitch lead-off solo home run in the 5th. And he was matched fairly evenly with the Marlins’ starter tonight, who also only allowed a single run. In the 4th, Andujar led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Torres’ 1-out single, and then scored on Neil Walker’s single.

Britton and Betances followed up Tanaka for an inning, sailing through fairly easily. Now, throughout the game, both teams got into scoring position and even loaded the bases several times but didn’t capitalize on it to break the tie. Chad Green got into such a jam in the bottom of the 9th, giving up a walk, a single, (a strikeout), and intentionally walking the bases. But Yankee Universe need not be worried for a walk-off — Green got a great strikeout and then a force ground out at 2nd to end the threat.

Holder came out for a clean, 3-strikeout 10th inning before handing things over to AJ Cole, who also got himself into a jam in the 11th. He quickly loaded up the bases with no outs. But then the next batter hit into a great grounder the defense snapped into get the out at home. After a strikeout, the final batter hit into a foul pop-up to end this threat.

So the game went into the 12th inning. Higashioka singled to lead off the inning, moved to 2nd on Gardner’s walk, and then advanced to 3rd on Hicks’ 1-out hit-by-pitch (on the hand). Higashioka then scored on Miguel Andujar’s long sacrifice fly to finally break the tie.

Aroldis Chapman came on for the 12th, but after walking his first batter, he signaled to the trainer that something was wrong with his troubled knee. So he came out of the game, and Tommy Kahnle took over. After 2 quick outs, the runner at 1st decided to make a dash for 2nd, but Higashioka fired the ball to a waiting Walker at 2nd who made the tag. The umpire called it out to end the game, but the Marlins challenged it. The call was upheld, and the game was over.

Final score: 2-1 Yankees, in 12 innings

Injury alert/roster moves: Yesterday, the Yankees sent Didi Gregorius to the 10-day disabled list due to his bruised heel injury incurred in the 1st inning of Sunday’s game. In his place, the Yankees selected infielder Luke Voit from AAA, due to his history as a NL player. Sometimes, former NL players are more comfortable hitting in NL parks (and AL players in AL parks) because they spend most of their games playing other teams in that league.

Aroldis Chapman has been doing a good job of maintaining his knee injury, but it popped up tonight in his attempt in the 12th. Enough to signal trainer Stevie Donahue (as well as manager Boone and pitching coach Rothschild). When a pro-athlete is willingly seen by a trainer, something is really wrong. The Yankees will send him to get an MRI to see how bad the injury is. However, I wouldn’t be worried. The Yankees’ bullpen, on full display tonight, is really good, so any absence of one arm won’t be as missed while he gets healthy.

Go Yankees!

Game 121: TB vs. NYY — Good start wasted on quiet bats

Well, that was not how the Yankees wanted to end today or this series. Masahiro Tanaka had a pretty good outing tonight, keeping the Rays to just 2 runs, but the Yankee bats just didn’t capitalize when they could to flip the narrative today. So the Yankees ended up on the wrong end of the series.

Other than the 1st inning, Tanaka breezed his way through the next 5 innings and still earned the loss. In the 1st, he gave up a single, a stolen base, an RBI double, another single, and an RBI double. The other runner got a little greedy on that last double, and the defense snapped into action to get the second runner out at home. Then Tanaka got out of the inning with 2 of his 6 strikeouts.

Britton threw a beautiful 11-pitch 7th inning before handing things over to David Robertson. Robertson had his own issues as the Rays continued to try to add to their minuscule lead. He gave up a single that moved to 3rd on a throwing error and then scored on a sacrifice bunt. But he was able to get out of the jam without allowing further damage. Kahnle closed out the game with a clean 9th inning.

But the Yankees just weren’t doing much to hit off the Rays’ pitchers, despite them using a more normal pitching pattern of a regular starter and then a collection of relievers to fill out the rest of the game. The Rays’ starter held the Yankees’ batters to just 2 hits and a walk and kept them scoreless through 5 innings. And his relievers, for the most part, continued that pattern.

But in the 8th, with 1 out, pinch-hitter Romine singled, and Hicks hit into a failed double play only getting Romine out at 2nd but a messy throwing error allowed Hicks to make it all the way to 2nd. Then Giancarlo Stanton hit a double off the right field wall, and for some reason, the umpires called it a home run, and the Rays’ outfielder didn’t bother to chase the ball down because he thought it was a foul.

Yeah, that left everyone kind of confused. So they did an umpire review and it was easily overturned as a home run, but the question remained as to what the call should be. The logical choice ended up being essentially the equivalent of a ground-rule double for a compromise, mainly because the Rays’ outfielder didn’t hustle to get what was a live ball rolling around in the outfield after it bounced off the wall.

Okay, after finally getting on the board, the Yankee had one more opportunity in the bottom of the 9th and it looked like it was going to work. Gregorius and Torres singled and Walker worked a walk to load up the bases. There was no outs, and the Rays decided to shut it down with a new reliever. Just 9 pitches later, the game was over.

Final score: 3-1 Rays, Rays win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees host the Blue Jays for the weekend to close out this home stand. After a travel day on Monday, they will play a short series in Miami before another travel day has them arriving in Baltimore for a weekend series there. And then it’s back to the Bronx again to close out the month.

Roster moves/Scranton Shuttle alert: After yesterday’s game, the Yankees optioned Luis Cessa back to AAA Scranton. They also recalled reliever Tommy Kahnle. Kahnle, as stated above, ended up pitching well in tonight’s game.

Go Yankees!