2019 All-Star Game

Today, the American and National Leagues met for the 90th All-Star Game, hosted this year in Cleveland at Progressive Field. The players arrived at the field with their families on the red carpet, looking stylish, greeting cheering fans, and posing for pictures. After a weekend of fan festivities and a rather eventful workout day and Home Run Derby, everything was leading up to this one exhibition game.

And for the seventh year in a row, the American League came out on top. This year, that was mostly due to their stellar pitching, AL pitchers collecting 16 total strikeouts on their road to victory. And the Yankees were represented on the field and on the mound, earning significant recognition for their efforts.

The AL hitters also got on the board first. In the 2nd, Bregman (Astros) hit a 1-out single and then scored on a double by Brantley (Astros). And the Yankees’ own Gary Sanchez led-off the 5th with a double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and scored on a single by Polanco (Twins).

The NL finally broke through the AL’s pitching in the 6th with a big 2-out solo home run up the middle by Blackmon (Rockies). But the AL came back in the 7th. Chapman (Athletics) worked a walk, got to 3rd on McCann’s (White Sox) single, and then scored on a double play incurred by Bogaerts (Red Sox). After the only mid-inning pitching change of the game, Gallo (Rangers) smacked a 1st pitch solo home run into the right field seats.

But the NL made their best effort at a rally in the 8th, loading up the bases with a walk to Grandal (Brewers), a single to Dahl (Rockies), and a 1-out walk to DeJong (Cardinals). After a strikeout, last night’s Home Run Derby champion Alonso (Mets) singled home the 2 lead runners to put the NL within a run. The remaining runners staged a double steal to move into scoring position, but a pop-up foul and great catch by McCann (White Sox) ended the NL’s hopes.

That, and an absolute stellar outing by Aroldis Chapman to close out the game and earn the save. Chapman needed just 12 pitches to breeze through his 3 batters for 3 great strikeouts to shut down the NL’s hopes of a comeback.

Final score: 4-3 American League (further bits from the game here)

The powers that be decided that the All-Star Game’s MVP would be Cleveland’s own Shane Bieber. Bieber threw a 19-pitch scoreless 5th inning to strikeout the side, meaning he struck out all 3 batters he faced. The remaining crowd in Cleveland cheered on their hometown reliever, becoming the 3rd All-Star Game MVP to win in their own park (Pedro Martinez won in 1999 in Boston, and Sandy Alomar won in 1998 in Cleveland.) While Bieber did have a great outing, he wasn’t on my list (which was led by Chapman and Gallo), but then I don’t have a vote.

The Yankees were quite the contributors to the AL victory in the Midsummer Classic tonight. Offensively, it was a mixed bag. DJ LeMahieu went 0-for-2, Gleyber Torres got a single to lead off the 8th in one of his 2 at-bats, and Gary Sanchez went 1-for-2 with that lead-off double in the 5th and scored a run in that inning.

Defensively, Sanchez held his own behind the plate for the first half of the game, catching his battery mate Masahiro Tanaka through a scoreless 2nd inning and earned the eventual win. And I’ve already mentioned Aroldis Chapman’s great 9th outing and earned the save. They become the first Yankee teammates to earn the win and the save in an All-Star Game in over 70 years.

In a fun moment in the game, after his first two quick outs, Chapman was visited at the mound by CC Sabathia, who enjoyed stealing a moment of the game just to say hello to his teammate. It made Chapman laugh, and he sailed his way to victory on a swinging strikeout.

So, we can all blame Sabathia, who also threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Indians’ legend Sandy Alomar before the game. Maybe he was the true MVP all along…

Go Yankees!

Game 87: NYY vs. TB — #CCStrong, despite offense falling short

The Rays are certainly doing their best to try to claw their way up from 2nd place in the AL East, giving the 1st place Yankees quite a challenge this weekend. In this 3rd game of the 4-game series, things were looking rather similar to the first 2 games before the Yankees were edged out by the home team.

Actually, the Rays seemed to answer back for every Yankee offensive game. After the Yankees scored at the top of the 2nd, 7th, and 9th, the Rays scored in the bottom of each of those innings to shift things in their favor. It was quite the roller coaster for the fans in the packed stadium in St. Petersburg this afternoon.

CC Sabathia was rather good today, throwing just 89 pitches in his 7 innings. He gave up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs and struck out 5 Rays’ batters. In the 2nd, Brett Gardner hit a nice 2-out solo home run to get the Yankees on board first. So, the Rays took advantage in the bottom of the 2nd. A 1-out walk moved to 3rd on a single and then scored on a 2-out single to tie up the game.

The teams held each other to that tie for most of the game. Urshela led-off the 7th with a single, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, advanced to 3rd on a double play, and then later scored on Aaron Hicks’ single. With 2 outs in the bottom of the 7th, the Rays got a single that scored on a solid 2-run home run to flip the score into their favor.

Adam Ottavino breezed through a scoreless 8th inning, and Aaron Hicks smacked a 2-out solo home run in the 9th to tie up the game again. So, Chad Green got the chance to send the game into extra innings again, but with 2 outs, the next batter hit a big walk-off solo homer to give the Rays their first win of the weekend.

Final score: 4-3 Rays

Roster moves/Scranton Shuttle: The Yankees selected the contract of reliever Daniel Camarena to add a fresh arm to the roster this weekend. They optioned infielder Mike Ford to AAA Scranton to make room.

Masahiro Tanaka is now part of the All-Star roster. A pitcher from the Blue Jays went on the IL with a shoulder issue, so Tanaka got the call to replace him today. Tanaka was previously chosen in his rookie season (2014), but a UCL sprain kept him from the field. He is now the 5th player that will represent the Yankees on Tuesday in Cleveland, in addition to CC Sabathia who will be present to receive special recognition.

Go Yankees!

Game 86: NYY vs. TB — A little Judge, a big Gardner

The Yankees continue the drama before the All-Star Break in this second game of the 4-game weekend series. Of course, to the nearly packed Tropicana Field, it was just more of the same that fans always encounter when the Yankees come back to the Tampa area to face the Rays. Amusingly dubbed “Yankee Stadium South”, it’s one of the few times a year that the stadium is usually at capacity, and the stands are packed with Yankee fans overwhelming those in Rays’ gear.

Masahiro Tanaka threw 101 pitches to start tonight’s game, throwing into the 7th inning. He gave up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs, and struck out 5 Rays’ batters. He held off the home team for the first part of the game, giving up lead-off solo home runs in the 4th and 5th innings to get the Rays on the board.

Then in the 7th, with 1 out, he gave up a double that moved to 3rd on a wild pitch walk. That was the end of Tanaka’s night, handing the ball over to Nestor Cortes Jr, but he loaded up the bases by hitting his first batter. After another out, the next batter singled home two runners, but the next runner got caught trying to take 3rd when the Yankee defense snapped into action.

The Yankee offense actually started the game, with a 1-out solo home run by Aaron Judge in the 1st inning. After the Rays tied it up, the Yankees came back in the 5th to retake the lead. Torres singled, and one out later, Gardner and Romine’s singles loaded the bases. Mike Tauchman’s single scored both Torres and Gardner.

Again, the Rays came back, so the Yankees needed to close the gap. So it would be Aaron Hicks to lead off the 8th inning with a solo home run. Then Cortes had a much better outing in the 8th, with a perfect inning. And David Hale came out for the 9th to keep things going, so into extra innings the game went once again.

It wasn’t until the 11th that the tie was broken. Aaron Judge got things started with a 1st pitch lead-off solo home run. Two outs later, Torres singled, and Urshela doubled to move runners into scoring position. Brett Gardner then smacked a big 3-run home run to ensure the Yankees’ eventual win.

Of course, even that was not without some drama. After Hale kept the Rays scoreless through the 10th, he was back out for the 11th. With 1 out, he gave up consecutive singles. That was enough of a threat for the Yankees, and they called in Aroldis Chapman. After he got another out, he walked the next batter to load up the bases. But the next player lined out directly to 1st to give Chapman his 24th save.

Final score: 8-4 Yankees, in 11 innings

As part of next week’s All-Star Game festivities, MLB announced that they will be honoring CC Sabathia. Sabathia began his career in Cleveland, the host to this year’s Midsummer Classic, so it only makes sense to recognize how far the retiring star pitcher has come. Though not selected for the roster, Sabathia was planning on attending the game anyway, but this honor certainly makes his sort of homecoming a different level of celebration.

In a statement, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said, “We are delighted that CC and his family will join us in Cleveland, where his Major League career began. We look forward to celebrating his many accomplishments during our All-Star Game festivities.”

Go Yankees!

Game 81: NYY vs. BOS — A dramatic British spin on America’s ultimate rivalry

I love London. It’s a vibrant, ecclectic city, with a perfect mix of the super historic and cutting edge all jumbled together to house its international population. Similar in many ways to New York, this European capital is certainly a perfect place to kick off the MLB’s push for a more international presence. Regular season games have been played in Asia and Latin America, host countries/regions that provide quite a few current MLB stars. An expansion of the game in a city that’s hosted games for other American professional sports seems like a natural progression for America’s pastime.

New York and Boston were rather logical choices to be the teams to play in the inaugural series in England. First, their rivalry is unmatched in sports, even in a country that boasts some of the wildest rivalries and extreme fanaticism for sports. Second, you really can’t avoid the Revolutionary War-era smack-talk between the British Empire and its former Colonial strongholds. (At least those of us who are also big history nerds.)

A quick history review: Boston was the closest city to where it all began, hosting the battles of Lexington and Concord and the site of the Boston Massacre to really kick of the War. And New York was occupied by the British for much of the War, while Washington set-up one of his most famous spy rings within the city that involved Benedict Arnold’s traitorship and uncovering Cornwallis’ plans at Yorktown that actually won the War.

Now, of course, nearly two and a half centuries later, the US-UK relationship is one of close allies. So, when American baseball comes to Great Britain, 120,000 tickets sell out their stadium. Fans all over braved the heat wave that’s sweeping Europe right now to sit through a four hour and forty-two minute game at London Stadium, the home of one of those Premier League clubs and former Olympic Stadium from summer 2012.

And for fans who’d never witnessed a rivalry game between the two legendary teams, the teams certainly delivered. We can definitely blame the fact that the field was quite different, with shorter distances in the outfield to the fence and a really big foul space that had all the outfielders covering much more ground than usual.

Based on the schedule, the Red Sox were chosen as the home team, though both teams wore their home white uniforms. (Who doesn’t want to see the Yankees in their famous pinstripes?) That meant that the Yankees were up to bat first, and they quickly became the answer to many trivia questions that start with “who is the first player in the inaugural European baseball game to…”

DJ LeMahieu led-off the game with a single (the 1st hit), and Sanchez worked a 1-out walk. Then a trio of doubles got the runs rolling — Luke Voit’s scored LeMahieu (the 1st RBI/run scored), Didi Gregorious‘ scored both Sanchez and Voit, and Edwin Encarnacion’s scored Gregorius. Then Aaron Hicks smacked a big 2-run home run (the 1st homer) to push the Yankees into a big early lead and end the Red Sox’s starter’s night too early. The new pitcher was able to close it out without further damage, with LeMahieu striking out to end the inning (1st strikeout).

But there’s no rivalry without some major drama, and the Red Sox certainly gave their best performance to match. Masahiro Tanaka got the start and seemed to mirror the struggles the Sox’s starter had, also unable to make it out of the 1st inning. He gave up a single that scored on a double and then a pair of walks to load up the bases. After an infield fly pop-up, he got a sacrifice fly that scored the lead runner. But a RBI single was followed by a big 3-run home run up the middle to suddenly tie up the game.

Tanaka trudged back to the dugout as Chad Green came out for relief. Green was assumed to start tomorrow’s game as the “opener”, but with his two-inning outing tonight, the Yankees are making other plans. Green got out of the first and kept the Red Sox scoreless into 3rd. Hale continued this momentum into the 4th before handing the ball to Nestor Cortes Jr for long-term relief in the middle innings.

In the mean time, the Yankees came back to find their opportunities to reclaim their early lead. With 2 outs in the 3rd, Torres singled and then scored as part of Brett Gardner’s 2-run home run into the right field seats. Then in the 4th, Voit led-off with a double, and Gregorius walked. Two outs later, Torres’ single loaded up the bases, and Gardner’s walk scored Voit. DJ LeMahieu then hit a bases-clearing double before scoring as part of Aaron Judge’s big 2-run home run.

Voit led-off the 5th with a double, but injured himself in the race to 2nd and was pinch-run by Urshela. Urshela took 3rd on a wild pitch and scored on Didi Gregorius’ single. After a strikeout out and pitching change, Hicks singled, and both runners moved up on a wild pitch. Torres’ walk loaded the bases, and LeMahieu (who else?) singled home Gregorius and Hicks to cap off the Yankees’ massive scoring today.

Back at the mound, Cortes was doing just fine for most of his outing, despite giving up a 1st pitch lead-off solo homer in the 6th. With 2 outs in the 7th, he gave up consecutive singles that scored on a 3-run home run. After giving up another single (rather than getting that 3rd out), the Yankees called in Tommy Kahnle, but he too had some trouble, unable to get an out. He gave up a walk, a wild pitch to move runners to scoring position, an RBI single, and a walk on a wild pitch that scored one more run.

It was Adam Ottavino’s turn. After an RBI double, he got the necessary out to close out that messy inning, but some allowed baserunners in the 8th had the Yankees calling for Britton. He loaded up the bases and still got out of the jam before Chapman needed just 8 pitches and a snazzy double play to close out the 9th inning and the game.

Cue the fireworks. Cue Frank Sinatra.

Final score: 17-13 Yankees

Injury update: Luke Voit did injure himself on that 5th inning double. He came out of the game after seeming to limp from 1st to 2nd and then back to the dugout. But the Yankees later revealed a tightness in his core muscles just below his navel. One of the broadcasters surmised it might be a cramp due to dehydration and the heat, and now I find myself hoping for this, which should heal overnight with hydration and rest. He’ll be evaluated tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

For the last two days, the American teams have enjoyed connecting with their English fans. On Thursday, the Yankees ran baseball clinics in a local park and gave away tons of free equipment to local clubs. On Friday, the teams worked out at the stadium, getting used to its weird dimensions and artificial turf, before many of them explored the city for sightseeing. In addition, a group of players met with athletes from the Invictus Games to host an adaptive baseball clinic. There was also a special welcome dinner for the teams at the historic Tower of London.

Before tonight’s game, both teams got a special visit from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (also known as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle). The Yankees presented the Duchess (who is also an American) with a special team jersey emblazoned with “Archie” and “19” on it for their infant son born earlier this year. The Sussexes (as they are called) are patrons for the Invictus Games, an organization that allows wounded servicemen and women to compete athletically, and the Games were appointed the Official Charity Sponsor of this special series in London. The royal couple escorted some of those special athletes and their families to the mound before the game to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

On a final “note” (pun intended), the Kingdom Choir sang beautiful renditions of both national anthems before unfurled flags held by each country’s service men. If you are a royal watcher or anglophile, you might remember this outstanding choir from the Sussexes’ wedding last year. They’re truly amazing.

Go Yankees!

Game 76: HOU vs. NYY — Yankee power, even in singles

The Yankees’ march into the summer and towards the All-Star Break with dominance, hitting the harder part of their schedule in the perfect spot, and (now, I’m just guessing here) this could make all the difference come time for October baseball in just a few short months.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start for this third game of the weekend series against the visiting Astros. It really wasn’t his best outing, but he kept the Astros scoreless for most of his outing. He threw 88 pitches in 6 innings, gave up 8 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and struck out just 1 batter. It wasn’t until his last inning that the Astros got on board with a lead-off single that scored as part of a 1-out 2-run home run.

That actually tied up the game as the Yankees were the first to get on the board. They too were scoreless for the first half of the game. In the 5th, Hicks worked a 1-out walk and scored on Gio Urshela’s 2-out 2-run home run. After the Astros tied up the game, the Yankees came back in the bottom of the inning to reclaim those runs, loading up the bases with walks to LeMahieu and Judge and a single to Voit. Giancarlo Stanton’s single scored both LeMahieu and Judge.

Once again, this didn’t last long. Jonathan Holder had some trouble in his 7th inning. With 2 outs, he gave up consecutive singles that boosted the Astros’ score up and over the Yankees when the next batter hit a big 3-run home run. That slim lead was erased in the bottom of the 7th when Austin Romine smacked a 1-out solo home run on the first pitch of his at-bat.

The game was tied again. LeMahieu singled and took 2nd on a wild pitch before Judge got 1st on catcher’s interference. (Is that still a thing?) Both runners moved up on a ground out and then scored again on Stanton’s single.

Ottavino and Britton closed out the game with a scoreless inning a piece, though both got themselves into and out of self-inflicted jams.

Final score: 7-5 Yankees

Injury update: After an MRI, Cameron Maybin has been diagnosed with a grade 2 calf strain in his left leg. So, yes, he’s headed for a stint on the IL. For how long and who will replace him is still to be determined. But with a packed outfield already, the replacement will probably favor expanding the bullpen.

Yankees Trivia: With Gio Urshela’s 5th inning home run, the Yankees officially tied the Yankees franchise record set in June 1941 of 25 consecutive games with a home run. They’re also closing in on the MLB record of 27 set by the Rangers in August 2002. I know I’m not the only one who is hoping for both a new franchise and MLB record. This team deserves the honor and the legacy.

Go Yankees!

Game 72: TB vs. NYY — Yankees surge through the mist

There was so much hope for this series as both the Rays and Yankees were battling it out for the top position of the AL East. With the Yankees disappointing road trip, the Rays were hoping to jump ahead of the Yankees. But they didn’t count on a really simple fact — the 2019 Yankees are something else and love proving it at the most random moments in the season. And it’s only June.

Not to discount the Rays’ attempt, as they certainly gave the Yankees enough of a challenge to threaten and keep things close for a bit. JA Happ got the start for the Yankees tonight in the middle game of this series against the visiting Rays. He threw 87 pitches in 5 innings, gave up 7 hits and 2 runs, and struck out 3 Rays batters. With 1 out in the 2nd, Happ gave up 3 consecutive singles to score the Rays’ first run. And a lead-off double in the 3rd scored on a 1-out single to double their score.

Ottavino took over for Happ for a scoreless 6th inning. Tommy Kahnle’s 7th got off to a problematic start, with a lead-off walk scoring on a double before he found a quick 3 outs to close out the inning. Britton and Chapman followed that up with 2 scoreless, rather quick innings.

On the flip side of the field, the Yankees got on the board first in the 1st. LeMahieu led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Voit’s walk, advanced to 3rd on Hicks’ fielder’s choice, and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s sacrifice fly. After the Rays grabbed a slim lead, the Yankees waited out the Rays’ 2 short-term openers for their next opportunity.

In the 5th, with 1 out and a new pitcher, Torres and Maybin singled. DJ LeMahieu’s single scored Torres, and Luke Voit’s single scored Maybin. After another out, Gary Sanchez’s single scored LeMahieu. With that, the Yankees were in a solid lead over the visitors.

But they kept going to ensure their lead and eventual win. Cameron Maybin kicked off the 7th with a solo home run, his 4th home run in as many games. And new Yankee Edwin Encarnacion earned his pinstripes with his first Yankee home run, a 1-out solo home run in the 8th.

Final score: 6-3 Yankees

HOPE Week Day 2: Today, the Yankees decided to “strut their stuff” a bit with the help of some very special friends. Today’s HOPE Week honoree was Rachel Goldman, founder of Runway Heroes, a special program that hosts children with pediatric cancer for a special day of dress up and modeling some fancy clothes on the runway. They sell tickets to the shows, and all the proceeds go to pediatric cancer research.

Runway Heroes paired with Kleinfeld Bridal and the Yankees to treat 30 local children to a VIP day at the famous store. The kids each received personalized dressing robes, picked out their own outfits (courtesy of Kleinfeld), were styled by a professional glam squad and photographed by professional photographers, and then rocked the runway with some decked out Yankees.

Aroldis Chapman, Domingo German, Didi Gregorius, Kendrys Morales, Luis Severino, and Masahiro Tanaka donned some great looking suits to take turns to escort these amazing children down the runway to pose before more photographers and their families. Yankee GM Brian Cashman also participated and broke out a few dance moves, bringing smiles to many faces on the runway and in the audience.

The children and their families were the Yankees’ special guests at tonight’s game. Runway Heroes founder Rachel Goldman and a few of her special models of the day helped throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game.

Go Yankees!

Game 71: TB vs. NYY — Completely #TanakaTime

The Yankees began their final home stand before the All-Star Break tonight (vote!), hosting the Rays for the first 3 games. Plus, they also kicked off the celebration of the much-anticipated annual community giving event known as HOPE Week (more after game recap).

Masahiro Tanaka got the start for tonight’s game and just commanded the entire game against the Rays. He threw a complete and scoreless game of 111 pitches, only giving up 2 hits and a walk, and struck out 10 Rays’ batters.

On a fun side note: I didn’t even realize it was the 9th inning when the game was suddenly over, and Tanaka was the one who threw the final out. It was only then that I was in awe of him throwing the complete game. I honestly thought there was still more baseball to play.

To be fair, the Rays’ pitchers were able to keep the Yankees from doing much on their end. But it was certainly enough to back Tanaka’s start. In the 3rd, with 1 out, Cameron Maybin singled and ended up at 2nd on a fielding error. He then scored as part of DJ LeMahieu’s big 2-out 2-run home run. Maybin added one more with a lead-off solo home run in the 5th.

Final score: 3-0 Yankees

Roster moves: After the big trade yesterday, the Yankees needed to make some moves to make room for the power hitter, who made his debut in pinstripes tonight (though he went 0-for-4). They transferred reliever Jake Barrett to the 60-day IL, activated Edwin Encarnacion, and optioned Clint Frazier and Mike Tauchman to AAA Scranton.

Accordingly, it looks like Stanton and Judge will be back this week, and Encarnacion would help platoon Voit at 1st and at the DH. It also means the outfield is better refined now, eventually relying on the Stanton, Hicks, Judge, and Gardner combination there. Expect further moves to just escalate leading up to the July 31 trade deadline, especially in the hunt for another starter.

HOPE Week Day 1: A decade ago, the Yankees announced a new initiative to reach out to their community and honor local heroes doing all sorts of good. Called Helping Other Persevere and Excel, or HOPE Week, at the end of this week of celebrations, the Yankees will have helped 53 unique honorees from 7 different countries.

Today, they invited all the past HOPE Week honorees for a 10 year anniversary celebration at Yankee Stadium. Over 200 honorees and their families showed up to meet with Yankee players, staff, and alumni. And then they watched a great game to kick off this week’s festivities.

As part of the pre-game ceremonies, 2011 honoree Daniel’s Music Foundation performed the national anthem, and 2015 honoree Chris Singleton threw out the first pitch. Daniel’s Music Foundation was founded by the family of Daniel Trush, who used music therapy to help recover from a near-fatal brain aneurysm. The foundation still provides free music lessons for people with disabilities in New York and now has a state-of-the-art accessible music center in Harlem.

Four years ago today, Chris Singleton lost his mother Sharonda. Sharonda was one of 9 Bible study members who were shot and killed during the hate crime shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. At the time, Singleton was playing baseball at Charleston Southern University, and the Yankees chose to recognize and reach out to him for his community outreach in the midst of such personal loss. He was later drafted by the Cubs in 2017 but released earlier this year and officially retired as a ball player.

Singleton, now married with a young son, continues his work as an inspirational speaker and owns the clothing brand, Love Your Neighbor. His life motto continues to be “love is stronger than hate”. He was also recently hired by the Yankees to serve as the director of community outreach for their local minor league affiliate, the Charleston RiverDogs.

Go Yankees!