Game 95: NYY vs. CLE — Splitting the series with loss in half finale

The Yankees were hoping to close out this first half of the season on an upswing, so to speak. But they had to settle for a split series and a loss this afternoon in Cleveland going into the All-Star break.

The Yankee bats did what usually ensures them a win — get on the board first and give enough lead to allow the starter and bullpen to keep things together. Gardner led-off the 3rd with a single, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, advanced to 3rd on Gregorius’ 1-out single, and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ 2-out single. And Neil Walker hit a big 2-out solo home run in the 4th to double their score.

This was good news to today’s starter Masahiro Tanaka, who was fairly efficient with just 77 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up 6 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and striking out 5 Cleveland batters. The game ended up tied in the bottom of the 4th, when that lone walk scored as part of a solid 2-run home run.

With a runner at 2nd and just 1 out in the 7th, the Yankees turned to the reliable Chad Green to keep things close and get out of the threat. He did. In that inning, at least. But in the 8th, things got messy. The Indians broke the tie when their lead-off batter hit a solo homer. The next batter singled, stole 2nd, and ended up at 3rd on the steal due to a bad throwing error. The next batter was hit by a pitch, a wicked shot to the back hand on an errant inside pitch. And after an out (finally), he intentionally loaded the bases.

A long sacrifice fly to right field tested the speed of the runner against Stanton’s arm and Higashioka’s reactions. It seems the runner slid just under the tag to give the Indians their insurance run. During the throw, the other runner moved to 3rd and would later score on a bad wild pitch. A quick 12-pitch 9th by the Indians’ closer ended the Yankees chances for a rally.

Final score 5-2 Indians, series split 2-2

Next up: after today, all of MLB enters the official “half-time”, the All-Star break. A select few will travel (or are traveling) to Washington, D.C. for all the festivities of the All-Star Game. As I write this the All-Star Futures Game is underway, with Yankees’ prospect pitcher Justus Sheffield set to pitch for Team USA. The Home Run Derby will be tomorrow (Monday) night as the cap to Work-Out Day. And then after the Red Carpet Parade, the big exhibition game will be Tuesday night, featuring Judge and Severino with Torres and Chapman (both resting due to injuries) cheering on from the AL dugout.

Following a couple of days off, baseball returns on Friday, with the Yankees hosting the Mets for a 3-game weekend series. They’ll take a quick trip down to Tampa Bay for a 3-game series before returning to the Bronx for 4-games against the Royals, a day-off, and 2-games against the Orioles to close out this month.

And if you’re a trivia nerd, here’s some numbers to sound smart in conversations about baseball. The Yankees finish this first half with 62 wins, 33 losses, 4.5 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East but tied for 2nd (with Houston) in all of MLB.

As a team, the Yankees are 1st in home runs (160), 2nd in walks (1st in the AL, with 363), 3rd in runs scored (491) and RBIs (474), 2nd in On-base percentage plus slugging (.796), 2nd in pitching ERA (3.46), and their pitchers rank 2nd in strikeouts given (945).

Individually, the team leaders include Luis Severino in ERA (2.31, also 5th in the AL) and wins (14, also 1st in MLB), Aroldis Chapman in saves (26, 4th in MLB), Miguel Andujar in batting average (.283), Giancarlo Stanton in hits (103), and Aaron Judge in home runs (25, also 3rd in MLB), runs scored (66), RBIs (60), and OPS (.937, also 6th in AL).

Basically, things are in a good place. Plus, they hope to have both Sanchez and Torres back right after the break, though their AAA back-ups (Higashioka and Wade) are doing quite a good job in their stead. And with that looming trade deadline at the end of the month, the Yankees aren’t just battling for a winning season, they’re contending for their 28th championship. And with teams like the Astros and Red Sox (really their biggest threats this season so far) who are battling with them in nearly every category, the Yankees have some work to do.

The second half is going to be something to watch. So stay tuned. There’s so much more baseball left to play.

Go Yankees!

Game 90: NYY vs. BAL — #BirdPower not enough against a walk-off, also #ASGiancarlo

Even after all that work by the Yankees, there’s nothing like a walk-off to both energize the home team and deplete all the energy out of the visiting team that is hoping to gain in the standings behind the division leader from New England.

Fresh off his return from rehabbing his injured hamstrings, Masahiro Tanaka got the start in tonight’s game and actually had a really decent outing for the most part, throwing 80 pitches into the 5th inning, giving up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, and striking out 5 Baltimore batters. In fact, Tanaka didn’t give up a run until the 4th inning, only giving up 3 hits in the scoreless first third of the game.

But then, in the 4th, with 2 outs, he gave up a single and a walk that both scored on a long double. After a throwing error and walk loaded up the bases, Tanaka got out the jam with a great strikeout. However, a lead-off solo home run in the 5th (and an out) ended Tanaka’s outing. Holder closed out the 5th with just 5 pitches.

Chad Green breezed his way through the 6th, but then got into a bit of trouble in the 7th. With 1 out, he gave up a single and a 2-run home run. Originally, however, it was ruled a single that took a wicked bounce off the back wall just out of Judge’s reach. But upon review, the ball bounced off the top of the wall, thus a home run to tie up the game at that point.

Now, to get to that tie, the Yankees put in some big work behind a particular player. In the 5th, Gregorius hit a 1-out single and Andujar worked a walk, and then both of them scored as part of a big 3-run home run by Greg Bird. And in the 7th, with 1 out, Gregorius doubled and moved to 3rd on Andujar’s single. Then after a new pitcher, Greg Bird hit a nice sacrifice fly to score Gregorius. After a walk to Romine, Neil Walker’s single scored Andujar.

So the game was tied, and Robertson cleanly got through the 8th inning with just 15 pitches to keep the Yankees alive. But with no offense breakthrough in the top of the 9th, the Yankees called on Dellin Betances to push the tie into extra innings. But there was some trouble. He hit the first batter, got an out, gave up a double, and then intentionally walked the next batter. Not a great position to be in, but then Betances came through with a great strikeout. Just one more out to go. Instead, he gave up a walk-off single.

Final score: 6-5 Orioles

Roster moves: As previously mentioned, the Yankees activated Masahiro Tanaka off the 10-day disabled list. And after the doubleheader yesterday, they also optioned Luis Cessa, Brandon Drury, and Giovanny Gallegos back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. I actually called the “Scranton Shuttle” the “Scranton Shuffle”, and lately, the latter moniker kind of feels rather accurate these days.

Also, this is your final reminder to Vote #ASGiancarlo, to vote Giancarlo Stanton into the All-Star Game next week. He’s currently sitting at 3rd in the rankings, so it’s your turn, Yankee Universe, to vote consistently until 4pm (EST) tomorrow.

Go Yankees!

Game 85: NYY vs. TOR — Northern Exposure

Truthfully, I have mixed feelings about all the Yankees’ division rivals and their respective cities. In general, I really like the cities they represent and the people who live there, and I can respect their passion for the game and their home team, even if I’m not a fan of their chosen team. Attending Spring Training annually and actually going to those cities is often what mixes up those feelings.

For example, I love the city of Boston, and nearly every Boston fan I’ve met is really a good person that just roots for my chosen team’s greatest rivals. I also happen to think Fenway Park is legendary and historic and a symbol of the great legacy of the sport. (And the Green Monster is just as ugly in person as you’d think.)

But the Yankees play in Toronto this weekend. And let’s just say that it’s not Boston.

And Sonny Gray wasn’t exactly having a great night to start in the opener at Rogers Centre, throwing 62 pitches in just 2 innings, giving up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 5 runs, and still striking out 4 batters. Most of that damage was done in that 2nd inning and it wasn’t good.

A lead-off double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a single to get the Blue Jays on the board. A wild pitch moved the runner to 2nd and then he scored on another single. After a strikeout and another allowed single, the next batter smacked a big 3-run home run to really push the Blue Jays ahead. A hit-by-pitch, stolen base, and strikeout later, and Gray’s night was over.

David Hale came on in the 3rd and pitched into the 8th inning strong. It wasn’t until the 8th inning that the Blue Jays were able to eke through again. A lead-off double later scored on a 2-out double to cap off their runs. And Chasen Shreve needed just 3 pitches to induce a ground out for the final out of the 8th.

Meanwhile, while the Yankees certainly dented the Blue Jays’ starter’s pitch count (pushing him to 101 pitches after the 1st out of the 5th inning), they only managed 4 hits and 3 walks off him. Aaron Hicks hit a 2-out solo home run, his 16th of the season, in the 3rd inning.

Then in the 5th, the Yankees finally found their opportunity (and pretty much their only one all night). They loaded up the bases with singles to Romine and Gardner and a fielding error on Judge’s sloppy hit. Then Hicks worked a 1-out walk to score Romine and keep those bases loaded. 101 pitches with bases loaded, so it was time for a reliever. Who got a well-placed strikeout and then a line drive out to end the threat.

The Blue Jays pieced together 5 relievers to finish off their game and keep the Yankees from being any kind of threat again for the rest of the night.

Final score: 6-2 Blue Jays

Roster moves/injury updates: Well, the Yankees moved Gleyber Torres to the 10-day disabled list with right hip strain. Muscle strains are always complicated, so they anticipate Torres will be out through the All-Star break.

In his stead, a normal call-up would be Ronald Torreyes, but Torreyes has been out for about a week at this point, dealing with a personal family issue. So, they recalled Tyler Wade, who was sent down in the middle of April due to the excess of excellent bench players.

And if you’re wondering, the Yankees sent Masahiro Tanaka to join AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for his rehab assignment after dealing with hamstring issues last month.

Well, the All-Star Game fan voting has closed, and the results will be announced Sunday night. Also, based on a player ballot and selections from the Commissioner’s Office, each team will fill out most of its 32 spots with reserve players and pitchers. Each team will allow for one more spot, nominate 5 potential All-Stars, and call on fans to vote once more. (There is a rather extensive explanation about how players are chosen and eligibility.)

Speaking of the All-Star Game, the Sunday before the game, representatives from across the farm systems will play in the annual Futures Game. This year, the Yankees will be represented by prospective pitcher Justus Sheffield. Sheffield will play for Team USA in a USA vs. the World kind of structure.

Go Yankees!

Games 68 & 69: NYY vs. WAS — “Let’s play one and a half”?

Last month, the Yankees traveled to the nation’s capital to play a short series, the now popular 2-game series of this year’s schedule. But lingering showers and storms that plagued much of the country made playing in some games almost like chasing or avoiding the weather its own sport. Such delays seem to have trickled out (pun intended), so that means that we’re now in the making all those missed games up part of the schedule.

Anyway, despite over an hour delay last month, the Yankees and Nationals played 5 1/2 innings of their first game of the series before seemingly unending showers forced the powers that be to suspend the game as it was. They were supposed to pick up that game before the next game on the following day, but those same storms continued on into the next day. And it forced them to do a sort of doubleheader make-up game tonight. Or rather about a game and a half.

Game 1: The Suspended Game
The two players that made the most impact on this first game are no longer on the active roster. Now on the DL due to some hamstring strains, Masahiro Tanaka started the game for the Yankees, and all the Yankees’ runs were due to Tyler Austin’s bat. Austin is back in AAA due to some overcrowding on the Yankees’ bench.

Tanaka threw 72 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up just 4 hits, no walks, and 3 runs, and struck out just 2 batters. He gave up a 2-out solo home run in the 1st to get the Nats on the board early. And in the 2nd, a lead-off double scored on a 1-out single, who then scored on an RBI double.

The Yankees chipped away at that lead, as I said before, thanks to Tyler Austin. In the 4th, Gregorius made it all the way to 2nd on a Little League-style fielding error before scoring on Austin’s big 2-run home run. Then in the 5th, the Yankees loaded the bases — Judge walked, Stanton singled, and Sanchez walked. Gregorius hit into a fielder’s choice, getting Judge out at home, and then Austin’s sacrifice fly scored Stanton to tie up the game.

As the rain came down in the top of the 6th, the Yankees left a man stranded as the middle of the inning came and they suspended the game. So, coming back tonight to resume the game (and keep up with roster moves of pinch-hitters and replacements), Chad Green came out for the Yankees and got into a bit of trouble. With 1 out, he gave up a single and 2-run home run to give the lead back to the Nationals.

Shreve and Warren each took an inning, while waiting for the Yankees to face the Nationals’ bullpen and find the strength possibly lingering from Austin’s power last month. It wasn’t going to happen.

Final score: 5-3 Nationals

Game 2: The Rain Delay
About 30 minutes after the conclusion of game one, enough time for the grounds crew to make the field all pretty again (and the guys to change uniforms for a clean one), the game that was delayed due to rain started. There’s been a lot of talk about how bad Sonny Gray does at home in stark contrast to how well he does on the road. Tonight, he proved the formula true again. Gray threw 86 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and struck out 7 batters.

In the 2nd, he gave up consecutive singles that moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. A ground out scored the lead runner and moved the other one to 3rd. The next batter hit into a fielder’s choice that had the runner caught in a brief rundown for the out. A lead-off double in the 4th moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a sacrifice fly.

Holder, Robertson, Betance, and Chapman closed out the final 4 innings for the Yankees, collectively (with Gray) getting an impressive 15 total strikeouts and keeping the Nats to those 2 runs. Though they threatened at bit in the 9th inning, a long fly ball run down and captured on the warning track by Judge handed Chapman his 21st save.

Meanwhile, the Yankees actually struck first. Hicks led-off the game with a double, and 2 outs later, scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s single. In the 5th, down by just a run, the Yankees came back. Romine led-off with a single but was out when Gray bunted into a bad grounder. Gray then scored as part of Aaron Hicks’ big 2-run home run to give the Yankees back the lead.

Clint Frazier led-off the 7th by being hit by a pitch and then moved to 2nd on a sloppy pick-off error. Two outs, a walk to Judge, and a pitching change later, Stanton doubled and scored Frazier. Torres was intentionally walked to load the bases, but they ended their rally this inning with just one insurance run. It would be all they needed.

Final score: 4-2 Yankees, the short make-up series was split 1-1

Roster moves: Before the game, Clint Frazier was recalled, Ronald Torreyes sent to AAA Scranton, and Giovanny Gallegos was recalled as the Yankees’ 26th man for the doubleheader. Gallegos will be on his way back to Scranton now.

Next up: the Yankees head back to the Bronx where the Mariners await their 3-game series with them there tomorrow. After they close out this home stand, they hop a flight down to St. Petersburg to face the Rays this weekend and then up to Philadelphia for 3-games next Monday. Then home again for the final home stand before the All-Star Break.

It’s worth noting that what most people talked about for the first game was the player who hit the winning home run was not yet with the team when the game was suspended. He wasn’t called up to the main team until May 20 (5 days after the originally scheduled game). Now, because of how they have to score this, as being played on May 15, they marked this as his 1st home run. But it’s actually his 6th home run since his call-up. So, everyone is making bad jokes about time travel and pointing out the obvious problems and loopholes of how records are kept in the league.

Go Yankees!

Game 60: NYY vs. NYM — 8th inning #AllRise go-ahead victory swing

The Subway Series continued tonight, with first pitch just minutes after New Yorkers were celebrating another New York sports victory tonight just 12 miles away. Congratulations to the newest Triple Crown winner Justify and his extensive equine entourage.

Domingo German got the start tonight against the Mets, having a pretty good overall outing. He threw 96 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up 5 hits and 3 runs and striking out 9 batters. Actually, German’s roughest inning was the 1st. With 1 out, he gave up a solo home run, a triple, and a 2-run home run to get the Mets on the board early. But after that, he pulled things together and found a momentum that the bullpen continued for the final third of the game.

Robertson, Betances, and Chapman each claimed a great scoreless inning and kept things to that lone inning of runs for the Mets. However, it’s worth noting that Yankee pitchers racked up a total of 15 strikeouts off Mets’ batters tonight. This certainly helped them stay in command of the game.

So with the Mets’ early lead, the Yankees needed to find spots to chip away at that lead. It wasn’t until the 3rd inning that the Yankee got on the board with Gleyber Torres’ 1-out solo home run. Then in the 6th, with 1 out, Sanchez worked a walk to get on base. Miguel Andujar hit a solid 2-run home run to tie up the game in that one swing.

And like last night, it would be the 8th inning that held the go-ahead run. So tonight, it would be a big 1st pitch lead-off solo home run by Aaron Judge to finally give the Yankees the lead. Yes, once again, all the runs in tonight’s game (for both teams) were scored on home runs.

Final score: 4-3 Yankees

Roster moves/injury update: Despite some initial hopes, it looks like Masahiro Tanaka will actually be out at least a month with low-grade hamstring strains in his legs. The Yankees placed him on the 10-day Disabled List. Instead of finding another starter, they will juggle some in-house pitchers, perhaps recalling Hale or pulling up a newer prospect.

But my guess is that they might split a start with 3-4 innings a piece for some long-term relievers like Warren or Holder. At least until Cessa (who will begin his rehab Monday in Tampa) is back on the roster shortly. Tanaka isn’t going to be out long — a month is about 4-5 starts — so an ironically short-term solution is possible.

Though signing a permanent solution for Montgomery’s vacancy certainly looks like the best route as soon as they can reach a deal with someone. Fingers crossed.

And if you’re wondering who filled Tanaka’s roster spot, it would be Ronald Torreyes. The clubhouse has been missing the infielder/bench player, so his smiling face in the dugout was rather satisfying. And who knows, maybe the “Toe-Night Show” is ready to make its return in this middle of the season part of the year.

Go Yankees!

Game 59: NYY vs. NYM — New York baseball, as iconic as the City itself

The Subway Series is always special. I’ve been reading memories periodically today, reminiscing about much of the great moments between the two teams of the City. New York vs. New York is nearly as old as baseball itself, the city once filled with random teams like the Knickerbockers, Atlantics, and Bushwicks to the foundational team of the Highlanders, Gothams, and Bridegrooms (which would become the Yankees, Giants, and Dodgers, respectively).

Once the game was organized and the precursor to MLB formed, the teams remaining in New York were the New York Giants, New York Yankees, and Brooklyn Dodgers. While the Giants and Dodgers faced off frequently, they only met the Yankees during the World Series if the two were the best in their leagues. Which happened a lot (12 times, 1921-1956). After the Dodger and Giants moved to the West Coast in 1957, the need for baseball was filled in New York by the newly formed Mets (in 1962). But the current New York teams didn’t meet in the Series until the legendary one in 2000.

And if you’re a bit of a trivia nerd, in their total history, the Yankees have won 40 AL Pennants, the Giants 23, the Dodgers 22, and the Mets 5. The Dodgers and Yankees have met up for 11 World Series (the Dodgers won 3 times); the Giants met the Yankees 7 times (the Giants won twice); the Yankees won their only Series against the Mets in 2000.

Not that the Mets are having a 2000 kind of year. So while the Yankees are battling to stay atop the AL East, the Mets are struggling to stay afloat in their division. And tonight’s game just reflected both teams’ seasons so far, despite the Mets sending in their best starter.

So for tonight’s opener in Queens, Masahiro Tanaka got the start for the Yankees, threw 75 pitches in his solid 5 innings, gave up just 1 hit, 1 walk, and 1 run, and struck out an impressive 8 batters. The Mets’ lone allowed run tonight was a lead-off solo homer in the 1st inning.

Now, the Yankees were held at bay for most of the game, thanks to the Mets’ ace. In fact, they were limited to a walk and a single through 5 innings. In the 6th, with 1 out, Tanaka actually made it to 1st safely on a fielding error. He moved to 2nd on Torres’ single and then to 3rd on Gardner’s walk. So with the bases loaded, Aaron Judge hit a long sacrifice fly and Tanaka sped home to tie up the game.

However, on the run home, Tanaka felt a tightness in both his hamstrings and was pulled from the game. (More below) Holder sailed his way through the 6th inning in 12 pitches. Chad Green gave up 2 singles and still got of the 7th unscathed before Betances’ speedy 9-pitch 8th and Chapman’s scoreless 9th closed out the game.

The Yankees’ batters found another opportunity in the 8th inning, the final inning of the Mets’ ace starter. With 2 outs, Torres singled and then scored with Brett Gardner’s big 2-run home run. Giancarlo Stanton’s 1-out solo home run off the left field wall (above the home run line) in the 9th inning capped off their runs tonight.

Final score: 4-1 Yankees

Injury update: Tanaka’s injury tonight was diagnosed as pulled hamstrings in his legs. This isn’t entirely unexpected, in a way. AL pitchers never have to bat or run bases except in NL-hosted games. So they aren’t used to using those muscles in the same way, so an injury from the activity isn’t ideal but not unexpected.

Now, fortunately, Tanaka’s next start isn’t scheduled until next Thursday against the Rays (in the Bronx). However, with Jordan Montgomery out for the rest of the year due to his Tommy John surgery yesterday, the Yankees will be looking for a new starter for the season. The trade deadline is July 31 (about 7 weeks away), but I expect a deal before then thanks to this recent issue.

Go Yankees!

 

Game 54: NYY vs. BAL — Delayed victory despite looming skies

Weather has certainly been something this season. Delays elongating game days, postponed games creating a slew of doubleheaders, and just some lousy weather for this lovely outdoors-based sport. No exceptions, no one’s exempt. So when this afternoon’s game was delayed due to inclement weather in the area (as evidenced by the looming dark skies at just 4:00 pm), it was really just “more of the same” this year.

And after a one hour and 44 minute delay, the Yankees sent in Masahiro Tanaka to start this middle game in Baltimore. Tanaka threw 97 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 8 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, and struck out 7 batters along the way. The Orioles got on the board first with a 1-out solo homer in the 1st inning, which they doubled in the 3rd with another 1-out solo homer.

A lead-off solo homer in the 6th got the inning going for the O’s. With 1 out, Tanaka gave up a single and a walk before the opted to end his night and call on Jonathan Holder. After another out, Holder gave up a double to scored the lead runner before closing the inning.

Green threw a scoreless 7th, which Betances followed suit with a flawless 8th inning. But then David Robertson then struggled his way through the 9th inning. And much like he’s been all season, when he’s on, he’s great. When he’s not, things happen. A lead-off double watch Robertson fire 6 pitches for 2 perfect strikeouts before scoring on a long single to cap off the Orioles’ runs today (or rather tonight at this point).

Meanwhile, the Yankees found their spots and advanced in small doses. With 2 outs in the 2nd, Hicks singled and then scored as part of Miguel Andujar’s 2-run home run. Gardner led-off the 3rd with a double, and 2 outs later, Giancarlo Stanton smacked a big 2-out 2-run home run into the right field bleachers, right in the middle of a Bachelorette Party there (great idea, by the way, and congrats to the Bride!).

The 6th inning was really key for both teams’ offenses, both teams having big contributions. For the Yankees, Stanton led-off with a single. Sanchez hit into a grounder that got Stanton out at 2nd but a messy throwing error on the relay to 1st (for the failed double play) allowed Sanchez to make it to 2nd safely. Didi Gregorius’ single scored Sanchez, but then a fielding error allow Gregorius to make it to 2nd. And the O’s defensive sloppiness continued when Aaron Hicks singled to score Gregorius and Hicks ended up at 2nd on a throwing error.

After that, the Orioles opted for a new reliever who was certainly better at fending off the Yankees’ bats and through the 7th inning. But in the 8th, the Yankees poked another hole. Gregorius led-off with a single, stole 2nd, and then scored on Hicks’ single. Miguel Andujar’s double then scored Hicks to finish the Yankees’ offense tonight.

It’s worth noting that both pitching staffs each earned 12 strikeouts. And really, tonight, the Orioles lost because of their sloppy defense.

Final score: 8-5 Yankees

While you’re contemplating your votes for the All-Star Game, it’s worth noting that Gleyber Torres was just honored with AL Rookie of the Month for May. He has certainly been a distinctive contributor for the Yankees’ offense, including hitting all 9 of his home runs this season in that month. After winning Player of the Week just last week, the awards and recognition is stacking up already for the young infielder.

It’s worth noting that Gary Sanchez won AL Rookie of the Month in August 2016 (easily his breakout month) and Aaron Judge dominated last season, winning it 4 times (April, May, June, and September). Sanchez came in 2nd in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2016, and we all know Judge earned the honor in 2017. Torres is in some lofty company. Deservedly so.

He’s on my All-Star ballot. Is he on yours?

Go Yankees!