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!

Game 115: TEX vs. NYY — Less than ideal pitching halt late power surge

Masahiro Tanaka’s streak was broken in tonight’s game by a strange power surge by the Rangers. Before Tanaka’s outing tonight, he was floating on a 14-game win streak of games he started since April 17, some were ultimate “no-decisions” as they were won later in the game, but he still had 9 W’s in his statistics.

Tanaka threw 96 pitches through 5 innings, gave up 6 hits, 3 walks, and 6 runs, and struck out just 2 batters. Actually, he held off the Rangers for the first third of the game. Things began to crumble in the 4th with a lead-off single that scored on a 2-run home run and a 1-out solo homer to give the Rangers the lead. And in the 5th, with 1 out and runners on the corners, a long double scored both runners to pad their lead.

AJ Cole didn’t have a great outing either. With 2 outs in the 6th, a walk and a double both scored on a single and throwing error. Another single scored that runner. And a 1-out solo shot in the 7th added another run for the Rangers.

Chad Green’s 8th also faced troubles. With 1 out and runners on the corners again, a double scored both runs to cap off the Rangers’ night. Zach Britton easily had the best outing from the Yankees’ pitching staff tonight, throwing a scoreless 9th, the first scoreless inning for the Rangers since the 3rd inning.

The Yankees spent half the game being held off by the Rangers’ starter. It wasn’t until the 5th that Brett Gardner broke through with a nice 1-out solo home run into the Yankees’ bullpen to finally get the Yankees on the board. In the 6th, Stanton worked a 1-out walk, and Gregorius hit a 2-out single. Miguel Andujar hit a ground-rule double to score Stanton, and Luke Voit got his first Yankee RBI with a single that scored Gregorius and Andujar.

A new pitcher got the Rangers out of the inning, but then gave up a lead-off home run to Austin Romine. And in the 8th (with another new pitcher), Gregorius and Andujar singled and later moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. They both scored on Romine’s single to inch the Yankees closer. But a new reliever closed out the rally and the final reliever closed out the game with 2 strikeouts and a pop-up, and the Yankees ran out of outs to stage another one.

Final score: 12-7 Rangers

And in amusing news (because we really need it after tonight’s game): a eagle-eyed Yankee fan caught last night’s winning pitcher JA Happ taking the subway home after the game. Fellow New Yorkers were certainly appreciative of the little things that matter to daily train riders — his bag was down and out of the way of people, he kept to himself (no man-spreading), and he blended into the crowd seamlessly. The picture the fan caught was probably Happ looking up at the map to affirm how many more stops until the one he takes.

So, welcome to New York, JA! It looks like you’re right at home both on the field and on the subway.

And to be fair, lots of Yankee players do take the train to work if they live in the City. Many of those with families live outside the City and thus drive into work like nearly everyone else does every day. And as someone who takes the subway a lot whenever I’m in the City, I’m a little confused as to why this is news. But after thinking about it I figured out two things I think help players feel comfortable taking public transportation in the City.

First, in this day and age, when baseball stars are less about personalities and more about their performance (as we talked about in previous posts), your average person is more concerned if they’re going to make it to work on time than whether the guy next to them is a celebrity pro-athlete.

And second, there are a lot of celebrities who live in the City and it’s basically a live set, so seeing celebrities (or people who sort of look like someone who could be famous) is a frequent occasion, and again, people are more concerned about their own daily lives than bugging someone who might be famous on the train.

So, perhaps, it’s big news outside of the City for people who don’t always take the train. Who don’t know what a commonality this is for New Yorkers (to both use the subway and see celebs frequently). Or non-Yankee or baseball fans who won’t know or care who last night’s starting pitcher was. I think there’s more news to be had about the MTA’s archaic signal system and the occassional rodent carrying pizza around the tracks.

Go Yankees!

Game 110: NYY vs. BOS — Swept away thanks to a blown save

Things were looking really good for the Yankees tonight in their final game at Fenway, hoping to stop the Red Sox from sweeping the series and pushing them further down the rankings of the AL East. The Yankees were playing well and things were clicking, but late night stumbles weren’t soft enough to allow for recovery

Masahiro Tanaka had a pretty decent outing, throwing 97 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and a run, and struck out an impressive 9 batters. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo Green Monster home run in the 5th. Robertson took over to close out the 5th and throw a scoreless 6th. Britton and Betances followed suit with scoreless innings of their own.

After being held off by a familiar foe for much of the game, the Yankee batters came alive in the 7th inning. Gardner led-off with a single and Romine worked a walk to end Boston’s starter’s night. But the offense kept coming. Robinson’s walk loaded the bases, and Aaron Hicks hit into a force attempt that was bobbled for a fielding error to score both Gardner and Romine.

Giancarlo Stanton’s single scored Robinson, and a wild pitch moved the runners up before an out was finally recorded in the inning. A new reliever got Gleyber Torres to hit into a sacrifice fly that scored Hicks before another out ended the Yankees’ big inning. Unfortunately, the Yankees continued their pattern of getting runners in scoring position and leaving them stranded. And in a series where runs were crucial, every little bit was needed and just wasn’t happening.

Anyway, the Yankees were cruising along just fine after their big 7th inning. All they needed was just to close out the 9th inning. But Aroldis Chapman was having a rough time finding consistency with the strike zone. With 2 outs, he founded the bases loaded thanks to 3 walks. A single scored 2 runs and a throwing error allowed the tying run to score and the Fenway Faithful to come alive as midnight approached in “The Olde Towne”.

And into the 10th inning they went. The Yankees batters were quickly silenced in just 9 pitches, so Jonathan Holder came on the mound with hopes to push the game into the 11th. He quickly got 2 outs, but then gave up a single, a wild pitch to put the winning run in scoring position, and then intentionally walked a batter. It was basically inevitable at that point — a single then easily scored the pinch-runner to give the Red Sox the victory.

Final score: 5-4 Red Sox, in the 10th, Red Sox sweep the Yankees 4-0

Next up: the Yankees will head to Chicago’s Southside to face the White Sox for 3 games starting tomorrow. This could help right the Yankees a bit because the White Sox are not having a good season at all. Of course, this could continue as the Yankees head back home for a long home stand to face mostly losing teams (Rangers, Mets, Rays, and Blue Jays). Of those, only the Rays have a winning season, sitting just at .500 after losing to the White Sox this weekend.

Now, it’s worth noting that the Yankees are now 9.5 games behind the Red Sox thanks to this series. However, the Yankees are still the 3rd best team in all of MLB, well behind the Red Sox and barely behind the Astros, and nicely ahead of every other division leader. Before you panic, Yankee Universe, it’s worth noting that there is still 52 games left to play this season.

And to be perfectly fair, the Red Sox are a great this year, very similar to the recent 2007 (and somewhat the 2013) championship team. Remember: competition in a competitive game is a good thing. You want to be challenged and pushed to be better than expectations. That challenge exposes where you’re weak so that you can fix those areas and truly see what you’re made of. Potential is just hypothetical until challenge exposes its depth and breadth.

Go Yankees!

Game 105: BAL vs. NYY — Andujar’s power backs #TanakaTime

With all the flurry about the trade deadline (and some very busy social media feeds), it’s almost hard to remember that there’s still games to be played and won. Like this micro-series against Baltimore. Masahiro Tanaka threw 105 pitches in his 6 scoreless innings, giving up 3 hits and 2 walks, and striking out 8 batters to set him up to earn the win tonight.

The Yankees backed his great outing with some well-placed moments of offense. Gardner led-off the 1st inning with a walk, moved to 2nd on Gregorius’ walk, and then scored the Yankees’ first run of the night on Gleyber Torres’ single. In the 3rd, Gardner led-off once again, this time with a single, stole 2nd, ended up at 3rd when Stanton hit into a fielding error, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ single.

Then in the 5th, the Orioles’ starter quickly loaded the bases by hitting Stanton with a pitch and giving up a single to Gregorius and a walk to Hicks. With 1 out, Greg Bird’s sacrifice fly scored Stanton, and then Miguel Andujar smacked a big 3-run home run into the left field seats, the difference maker in tonight’s game.

Following Tanaka’s outing, the Yankees turned to their bullpen to close out the game. AJ Cole had a clean 7th but then had trouble in the 8th inning, giving up a single, a walk, and a 2-run double before finally getting an out. So the Yankees turned to Dellin Betances. Unfortunately, a passed ball made things more complicated as the runner went to 3rd as Higashioka recovered and threw it down to 3rd but then a missed catch error allowed that runner to score another run for the O’s. Chapman wrapped things up with a quick 13-pitch 9th inning, his 29th save.

Final score: 6-3 Yankees

JA Happ has a mild case of “foot, hand and mouth disease“, which is basically a highly contagious rash accompanied by fever, sore throat, and feeling gross. The Yankees are still counting on Happ to make his start on Saturday due to the “mild” part of that diagnosis, as a standard case usually takes about 10 days to clear up. However, Cessa is prepared to be recalled as his replacement, if necessary.

The Yankees have made some key trades already leading up to the deadline (5pm earlier today, July 31). But over the last couple of days, including yesterday’s off-day, there was just a few more. Late Sunday night, the Yankees traded minor league pitcher Caleb Frare to the White Sox for Future Considerations and signed 16-year-old international free agent and Cuban pitcher Osiel Rodriguez, currently the #10 prospect on the international market.

Two other big trades moved some things for the Yankees. They got veteran pitcher Lance Lynn (who was previously with the Cardinals) from the Twins in exchange for infielder Tyler Austin and minor league pitcher Luis Rijo. And Adam Warren is on his way to Seattle in a trade for Future Considerations.

Essentially, the Yankees acquired about $3.75 million for “Future Considerations”, or money to sign free agents off the international market. This is clearly a sign the Yankees are investing in their future player development program more than some high-priced one-off players. It’s also a sign that they’re pretty happy with the way most of the roster looks like right now, despite having starting players like Sanchez, Judge, and even Montgomery on the DL currently.

This idea is similar to a conversation that I had recently about the look of baseball. With the retirement of the most recent crop of super stars (like Jeter, Rodriguez, Ortiz, Beltran, and Ichiro), there doesn’t seem to be a focus so much on the individual stars. Sure, everyone knows Trout, Harper and Judge, but they don’t have the kind of celebrity and clout that their recent predecessors have. This is, of course, a hugely complex issue involving the rise of social media, the increase of trades, and the lack of some organizations’ player development programs.

But I’m okay with that. It gets people back to the game itself. Sure, the Trout-Harper-Judge trifecta sell shirts and specialized merchandise, but people are going to games because they love the sport. It may make name-recognition harder for fans outside a home town, but it has a refreshing side-effect.

Rarely now do I hear that so-called fans are just at a game for a particular player, something you’d hear frequently during the height of the previous celebrity era. (Though they might still go donning that jersey and get rather upset when you tell them he wasn’t a particularly good player in comparison to his current replacement.) Now, people just love a team or even the game in general. That will create true baseball fans and not just people who “stan” a certain ball player.

Go ahead and ask a fan in the stands (especially a kid) next game who their favorite current player is. I bet they’ll name a few local guys, maybe even a couple on another team. But ask them who their favorite team is. It’s a no-doubter.

Go Yankees!