Game 65: MIA vs. NYY — 12 Ks can stop the Marlins

130 years ago today, France gifted the city of New York with a beautiful copper statue as a symbol of our alliance forged less than a half-century prior in both countries’ struggles to break free of a monarchy. After New Yorkers raised the money (after a delay due to a recession and then loss of interest) and plunked that beautiful copper statue in the middle of New York Harbor about a year later where it slowly turned green due to the salt water and extreme weather and became a symbol of freedom for the millions of immigrants sailing to the “New World” for a new life. (Actually, the entire story is really fascinating, so look it up if you’re interested.)

Not that any of that has to do with the game, but it’s a fun random trivia fact. And it does have to do with New York, and I’m always looking for a good opening.

After a rather disappointing trip to Miami, the Yankees were back home to face Miami in the second half of this oddly split series. And they needed this win.

Michael Pineda was sent in to start tonight’s game. And he really showed his stuff off for the over 40,000 fans under the beautiful crisp early summer evening sky. 100 pitches thrown over his 6.2 innings, Pineda didn’t allow a single runner until a walk in the 4th and then another in the 5th. But then the lead-off batter in the 7th hit a big solo home run for the Marlins’ lone run this game. But what was rather impressive about Pineda’s outing tonight was the 9 strike outs. And they were really good.

Once Pineda hit that triple-digit mark, Chasen Shreve was called on to finished the 7th for Pineda, getting the final out. Then, in was onto Justin Wilson for the first out of the 8th before calling on Dellin Betances for a 5-out save. In total, the Yankees’ pitchers struck out the Marlins’ batters 12 times tonight.

Now, the Yankees did some hitting, not a lot but some — 7 total hits. In the 1st inning, with 1 out, Headley was hit by a pitch, went to 2nd on a ground out, and then scored on Alex Rodriguez’s single. Then in the 5th, with 1 out (sound familiar?), Headley singled and moved to 2nd on Rodriguez’s 2-out single. Jones walked, which loaded the bases, and then Carlos Beltran singled home Headley just before Rodriguez was tagged out trying to score the 3rd run.

Yes, Chase Headley scored both Yankee runs.

Of course, the most interesting moment of the game came in the 8th inning. With 2 runners on base, a batter hit the ball to the shallow infield and Jones (at 1st) threw the ball home to catch the runner trying to tie up the game for the Marlins. McCann tagged the sliding runner, which was initially called safe. The Yankees challenged it, they reviewed the play just a few blocks away at MLB HQ in Manhattan, and the play was overturned. Out! No run scored. Everyone in Yankees Universe breathed a bit easier.

Final score: 2-1 Yankees.

Roster Moves: Before the game, the Yankees called up LHP Jose DePaula for a fresh arm in the bullpen and optioned Jose Ramirez to AAA in his place.

One more game against the Marlins tomorrow night before a big weekend in the Bronx facing the Tigers, hosting Willie Randolph Day, and the annual Old Timers’ Day. Oh, and honor dad across the league and America on Sunday.

Go Yankees!


Game 64: NYY vs. MIA — Um, ouch… can we get a redo?

So basically, if you came into the game late, you missed it. And if you watched the 1st inning, chances are that you missed the rest of the game because you found something else more encouraging on TV — like the news about the tropical storm hitting Texas or who else threw their hat in the 2016 Presidential race or the latest update on the hacking scandal in the MLB world (more on that one at a later date).

The biggest news story (other than the aforementioned scandal) leading into tonight’s game was that the two pitchers that were keys to the off-season trade between the Yankees and the Marlins. The Yankees gave the Marlins reliever/starter David Phelps for Nathan Eovaldi. Phelps has been really good for the Marlins, as Nasty Nate has been for the Yankees. In other words, it’s been a good trade for both teams.

Until tonight. Phelps continued to prove why the Marlins are thankful for the trade, but Eovaldi faltered early and big. Nasty Nate couldn’t pitch his way out of anything tonight, not even making it out of the 1st inning. He threw 36 pitches, got just 2 outs, and gave up 9 hits and 8 runs. (Not a typo.) After a great groundout to lead-off the inning, Eovaldi’s missteps began — 3 singles loaded the bases, a 2-RBI single, then 3 consecutive RBI singles, a 2-RBI triple, a groundout (to his opposing pitcher), an RBI single, and an RBI double.

That was it for Eovaldi. And it was on to Chris Capuano for the long-haul tonight. Capuano got that elusive final out of that terrible 1st inning. Capuano would throw 77 total pitches into the 5th inning, keeping the Marlins from really doing much of anything under his watch.

In the 5th, with 2 (of his 5 total) strikeouts and 2 runners on base, Capuano turned the ball over to Chris Martin to finish the inning. And had Martin not thrown a perfect ball to Miami’s best hitter, things would’ve been just a bit nicer. Instead, that beautiful strike found the bat, that sent the ball over the center field wall for a big 3-run home run (2 of those runs charged to Capuano, unfortunately). A ground out closed out the 5th.

Martin didn’t give up anything else to the Marlins in the 6th and was able to hand over the game to Jose Ramirez for the final 2 innings. His 8th inning had some bumpy patches — a lead-off single and walk put runners on base, a 1-out wild pitch advanced them into scoring position, and then a 2-out single scored the lead runner.

And while the Marlins racked up a whopping 16 hits and 12 runs, the Yankees’ offense fell a bit short — 7 hits and 2 runs. In fact, the Yankees were chasing that big zero around the scoreboard well into the game.

It was the 6th inning that finally there was a breakthrough — with 2 outs, Gregorius singled, Teixeira walked, and then Brian McCann’s single scored Gregorius. “Finally, a run!” (Basically, what Yankees’ fans were saying everywhere, well those who were actually still watching the game.)  And, in the 7th, the Yankees found a hole again. Two strikeouts and Drew and Jones on the corners with a walk and a single, Mason Williams hit a big double and scored Drew.

Phelps was given a bit of a gift of some big hits in that 1st inning and finding his stride (a familiar sight to Yankee fans who remember the young pitcher from recent seasons), throwing 108 pitches over his 7 full innings against his former teammates. Look, I’ve always been big on giving credit where credit is due, and Phelps was really good tonight.

And while he lucked out with the run support, he certainly didn’t get it from his defense. Something, I’ve learned over the last couple of days — the Marlins have decent hitting, great pitching, and terrible defense.

Final score in Miami: 12-2 Marlins. (Series shifts to the Bronx for the split.)

Now before you feel too bad about that score, let me reassure you that this wasn’t the worst loss tonight. The Rays lost to the Nationals (at home) 16-4 — a 12-run loss. A 10-run loss doesn’t feel that bad now.

Nope, still stings. Losing always bites. Nevermind.

I sat for a long time trying to find some way to spin this positively on here. Um… it’s time to go home, Yankees. Reclaim your turf and your wins.

Go Yankees!


Game 63: NYY vs. MIA — Miami hotter than Tanaka, just barely

The Yankees flew south for the summer… well, for two days, at least. For an odd 4-game split with the Marlins, the Yankees are in Miami for a couple of days before they turn around and host them in the Bronx. Because the MLB schedule said so, I guess. I’ve said this before, but the schedule is rather strange this year for the Yankees, and this 4-game split is just one example to prove my point.

It would have been a much better game for the Yankees if their offense hadn’t dried up — 3 hits and 3 walks, striking out 10 times over the game. The lone run the Yankees scored was a big solo home run in the 2nd by (who else?) Mark Teixeira, his 18th homer of the season. And that was it. The Yankees just weren’t hitting or scoring runs beyond that.

Now, due to some pretty decent planning (nice job, Girardi!), the Yankees will send up their two starters that have pretty decent hitting records (or at least hitting records in the fairly recent history) — Tanaka tonight and Eovaldi (the former Marlin) tomorrow. And why is this important? Because the Marlins play in the NL, which means no DH.

So it was Masahiro Tanaka who got the start today against the Marlins, and he really did a decent job once again — 94 pitches over 7 innings, giving up 9 hits, 2 runs, and no walks, and striking out 6 batters. In the 2nd, a double scored on a deep single to tie up the game. Then in the 7th, a lead-off home run pushed the Marlins into the lead.

Now, then things got interesting. A single was sitting on 1st, and Tanaka threw over for a pick-off attempt. The runner was called safe, the Yankees challenge, and it was rightly overturned. And the game finally got interesting.

In the 8th, both starters were out of the game. And the Marlins called on what has to be their equivalent to Betances. He faced 3 of the Yankees good hitters and struck them all out — his fastballs ranging from 97-100mph and interspersed with curves and sliders in the low-80s. It was really nasty to watch. They have quite the gem in that pitcher.

And then it was Jose Ramirez’s turn on the mound for the Yankees, though he probably wishes he could get tonight back. A single, a hit-by-pitch (to Miami’s version of Jeter), and a walk loaded the bases without a single out. That was it. It’s one thing to lose a game when the opposing team earned their win, but it’s quite another to just give it away and let them run with it. So it was on to Sergio Santos, who desperately needed to redeem himself after his Yankee debut last week. Santos threw 10 pitches to get Miami batters to strike out twice and then line out directly to right field to a waiting Garrett Jones.

Final score: 2-1 Marlins.

For most of the game, it felt like it was just dragging right up until things started getting interesting — that 7th inning challenge and then that really rollercoaster 8th inning. But despite the feeling, it was still just a 2 hour, 41 minute game. And there were 33,961 fans (an almost sold-out crowd) to watch the show, decently split down the middle on loyalties. There were plenty of Yankees fans, often split family loyalties all over the stadium to enjoy the game.

Okay, tonight’s weird discovery (because I don’t really follow any of the other teams for obvious reasons): the Marlins are one of the many teams that have their players’ last names on the back of their jersey. But on the back of #51 isn’t “Suzuki” but rather “Ichiro”. Now, in case you were thinking that because the Japanese reverse the order of their names (surname then first name) that this actually works, you are wrong. His family name (surname, last name, whatever you call it) is Suzuki, and his first name is Ichiro. But I don’t think most people would know who of him would ever think “Suzuki”. I think he’s just “Ichiro” to everyone — like many other one-named phenomenons (Shaq, Jordan, Magic, Tiger, LeBron, Babe).


Injury update: Ivan Nova will complete one more rehab start before his return in pinstripes. He’s still with the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre team to do so, but the reports are coming back great. It’s going to be good to get Nova back in the rotation and shake up the pitching a bit. It will be interesting to see how everything falls into place around that move.

Go Yankees!

(And congrats to the Chicago Blackhawks on their Stanley Cup win. I know a ton of Lightning fans who aren’t very happy tonight, but there’s always next year. Or the year after that…)

Spring Game 33: MIA vs. NYY — Almost hitless in tonight’s win

Tonight’s game against the Marlins was split between starters Hiroki Kuroda and Masahiro Tanaka, saving the now finalized bullpen roster from any work tonight. Each gave up 3 hits and had 14 strikeouts between them. Kuroda’s first 3 innings and 4 strikeouts kept those scattered hits (one per inning) from doing much damage. Tanaka flourished in his 6 innings and 10 strikeouts. Neither pitcher allowed the Marlins any breathing room to attempt anything close to a scoring attempt, with one Marlins batter (and former Red Sox catcher) getting all the way to 3rd before the Yankees shut them down.

On the Yankees offense side, it was actually kind of quiet. The Yankees remained hitless until Kelly Johnson’s double in the bottom of the 8th. Oddly enough, the Yankees were already up 1-0 at that point. Yes, you heard that right. The Yankees were looking at a hitless win up until the 8th inning.

Here’s what happened: at first, the Yankees were held to a perfect game by the Marlins starter for 3 innings. And their next four pitchers continued a hitless streak. But in the 4th, Brett Gardner reached on a fielding error, Derek Jeter walked, and Gardner scored on Brian McCann’s ground out. And there the Yankees sat on a 1-0 lead.

And then suddenly, in the 8th inning, they broke through. Johnson doubled, his pinch-runner Eduardo Nunez moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on Brian Roberts’ single. Roberts’ pinch-runner Antoan Richardson eventually scored on Yangervis Solarte’s single. And the Yankees walked away with their 3-0 win as fireworks boomed over Steinbrenner Field.

Prior to tonight’s game, the Yankees honored the Quantum Leap Farm, a local non-profit organization that provide equine rehabilitation and events to those with mental and physical disabilities of all ages. As a preview of things to come in this year’s HOPE Week (the time when the Yankees donate their time and money to special organizations serving in their communities), the Yankees gave $10,000 to the farm to help with expenses so they can continue their great work. The farm brought a large group of their staff and special young people who benefit from their work in the Tampa area. One of their special participants even got to throw out the first pitch, which seemed to just make her day (and indirectly mine because of her joy and confidence).

I was talking with some of the staff at the field about how HOPE Week is everyone’s favorite week in the Yankees organization. Everyone seemed to have a story about some organization or something about a HOPE Week in the past that inspired them to do something to give back to their own community. One security guy shared about spending time volunteering in the children’s wing of a New York area hospital (where he lives), bringing them coloring books and gifts because he heard the Yankees doing something similar and wanted to give back however he could. And I think that’s the point of HOPE Week — to inspire people to give back in their own way and make this world a better place, recognizing people and groups that dedicate their lives to helping others.

And there are some finalized roster moves, but there’s still a few moves to be made. That’s a post to come, I guess.

Go Yankees!

Spring Games 21 & 22: ATL vs. NYY & NYY vs. MIA — Winning internationally is also an art

Well, today essentially erased yesterday’s losses in one fell swoop. 7 would be the Yankees “lucky number” on this St. Patrick’s Day weekend, as both in Tampa and in Panama, the Yankees split-squad each scored 7 total runs. And while the players are busy crossing international waters to head back to regular Spring Training, we take a moment to pause and consider the offensive victories of this Sunday.

In Tampa, on this very sunny, very hot, sometimes breezy afternoon, it was Masahiro Tanaka’s start today. And though he still managed to be fairly good, he still had some struggles and was not his usual “Tanaka-ness”. Over 4.1 innings, he allowed 3 hits, 1 run, and 2 walks, while striking out 6 Braves batters. But it still wasn’t until the 4th inning that the Braves managed to find a hole in Tanaka’s pitching, when a walk scored on a double to tie up the game. Backing up to the 2nd inning, Ramon Flores singled to lead-off the inning and scores later in the inning on Ichiro Suzuki’s single.

Going into the 5th inning, after Tanaka struck out a batter, he was replaced by Matt Thornton who struggled a bit, allowing a double, and an RBI single before getting those last two outs. Thornton, despite allowing the Braves to jump ahead, was technically the pitcher on record when the Yankees jumped ahead in what ended up being a gift-wrapped inning from the Braves.

Ichiro and Eduardo Nunez each walked and scored on Brian McCann’s double. Kelly Johnson singles, then Flores scores McCann’s pinch-runner. O’Brien walks to load the bases. A wild pitch scores Johnson and advances Flores and O’Brien. Mason Williams’ sacrifice fly easily scores Flores, as O’Brien lands on 3rd on a throwing error. Castillo reaches on another error, which allowed O’Brien to score. Suddenly, the Yankees are up 7-2 by the end of a very long half-inning.

Shawn Kelley dazzled in the 6th, complete with 2 strikeouts and no hits allowed. Shane Greene took the 7th and 8th, and only gave up a single hit, a solo home run; Greene struck out 4 batters. It was Dellin Betances’ turn for the 9th, and he wasn’t as sharp as he usually is, allowing a walk, a hit by pitch, and a single to load the bases with one out, so a ground out could score a fourth and final run for the Braves. Betances got that final out with a signature strikeout, and the Yankees were gifted with a 7-4 win in Tampa today.

Meanwhile, only an hour behind their Tampa crew, the rest of the Yankees played their second game against the Marlins in the exhibition series in Panama. Last night, they were hitless, and today, they more than made up for that off-night. CC Sabathia took the mound and proved once again why he’s the cornerstone of their starting rotation, with 5 hitless, scoreless innings and 5 strikeouts. Robertson took the 6th, Claiborne the 7th (allowing the only hit the Marlins would get all day), before Cabral and Leroux polished off the 8th and 9th, handing the Yankees their second victory of the day.

Well, of course, in order for their to be a victory, there has to be some hits and runs on the other side of the field. And there certainly was, beginning in the 2nd inning. Francisco Cervelli and Yangervis Solarte each singled, before Cervelli scored on Zelous Wheeler’s ground-rule double. In the 5th, Corban Joseph doubled, Jeter walked, Carlos Beltran singled home Joseph, Cervelli singled Jeter home, and Solarte’s single brought Beltran and Cervelli to punch the score up to 5-0 Yankees.

So in the 9th, the Yankees wanted to secure their win, so they added 2 more runs. Antoan Richardson singled and then scored as Gary Sanchez homered out to right field. And the Yankees flew away from Panama with a one-hitter shut-out win against the Marlins, winning 7-0. So in total, the Yankees had 15 total hits in Panama and 7 total runs, all in today’s game (plus 12 hits and 7 runs in the game in Tampa). Today was the Yankees being the Yankees, hitting, scoring, and finding the holes in their opponents’ game.

Ones to watch (having only watched the Tampa game, I’m limited to those I saw): Ramon Flores and Shane Greene. Flores may be my personal favorite player to watch this Spring, and he continues to prove he’s worth watching with his Granderson-like defense in the outfield and his consistency in the batter’s box. Greene has had his ups and downs, but he was pretty great to watch today, and except for the random solo home run, he threw 4 strikeouts in just 2 innings.

I have to point out two regular players that have been outstanding, especially in today’s game — Mark Teixeira and Francisco Cervelli. Teixeira had an absolutely amazing outing on defense at 1st base today, something that reminds me of pre-injured Teixeira days. Cervelli clearly has one of the highest batting averages of the Spring and continues to prove his mettle as an ardent defender at the plate. The Yankees are coming off strong this Spring, and that’s a really good sign.

Go Yankees!

Spring Games 19 & 20: NYY vs. BAL & NYY vs. MIA — Losing internationally is almost an art

The Yankees didn’t see much success anywhere in the world today. On American soil, the Yankees played a standard game of baseball, with the Orioles barely eked out a victory at their Spring home in Sarasota. And in Panama, the Yankees fell to the Marlins’ strong pitching, giving them a no-hitter. One loss counts for Spring stats, one loss counts only for morale, and really neither one matters in the long-run. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

In sunny Florida, Vidal Nuno took the mound for the Yankees, giving the Orioles 4 pretty tight innings, allowing just one hit and one walk and striking out 3 batters. Nuno was pretty flawless today, but the Yankee bats just weren’t backing him up. So Danny Burawa took the mound in the 5th, coming back for the 6th. Burawa was under the gun, as it were, as the Yankees struck first with Francisco Arcia’s lead-off solo home run in the 6th.

But when the Orioles tied it up with their own solo home run, Mark Montgomery came on for that last out of the inning. Montgomery then came back for the 7th and promptly gave up a double and a sacrifice fly that scored the second Orioles’ run. Brian Gordon came onto the 8th, keeping the Orioles from adding to their total. But it wasn’t enough. The Yankees were hitting, but they weren’t crossing the plate, and the Yankees lost 2-1. And somehow, the game in Sarasota still felt like your standard ball game.

Down in Panama, the Yankees spent last night at a fundraising dinner for host Mariano Rivera’s charity of choice, a local children’s hospital a handful of players visited yesterday, giving out toys and spending time with the sick children. Today, some of the team ran a baseball clinic for the local kids. At several brief press conferences, everyone expressed their excitement and honor to be participating in the Legends Series against the Marlins. And the only broadcast was a spotty online live stream from a local Panama City station that put my minimal Spanish vocabulary to the test. Fortunately, baseball is multi-lingual.

Rivera donning his old jersey (worn over normal clothes) came to the pitcher’s mound from the center field bullpen to his old walk-out music “Enter Sandman”. He greeted the fans and his teammates and the Marlins, welcoming everyone to tonight’s game and his home country, before throwing out the first pitch to his assumed successor David Robertson. The act was not lost on Rivera, as he even called it a “passing of the torch” of sorts.

And then it was “play ball”.

Adam Warren took the start of tonight’s exhibition, And through the first 3 innings, he proved why he’s still a contender for that 5th starting position. But he got into a bit of trouble in the 4th inning, giving up a single that progressed and scored on a wild pitch. Warren grabbed the first out and a single in the 5th before being replaced. Overall, Warren pitched 4.1 innings, giving up 2 hits and a run, and striking out 6 Marlins batters.

Chase Whitley grabbed the last 2 outs of the 5th with a lucky double play (that great infield in action, once again) and came out for the 6th, only to get into his own set of problems. He walked his lead-off batter and allowed back-to-back singles to drive in a run. He was then pulled for Daley who also lucked out with another great double play to end that inning. Daley continued into the 7th, setting down the Marlins in order.

It was Robert Coello’s job to pitch the 8th, but that didn’t work out so well either. He promptly gave up a single and 2 walks to load the bases. Girardi pulled him for Tateyama, but Coello would be responsible for all of those runners. A sacrifice fly scores a runner. A single scores another, though it was credited to a fielding error (and thus let Coello off the hook for the run). Another single scored the 3rd run for the Marlins that inning and their 5th overall. Miller took the 9th, keeping the Marlins from adding to their total, but the Yankees still lost 5-0.

And the Yankees must have left their offense stateside. Not one got a hit at all, and only two got on base with a walk. A Marlins pitcher did win Rookie of the Year last year, and believe me, it was well-deserved. But he didn’t pitch tonight, and perhaps he was only the tip of the iceberg for the Marlins’ pitching staff. Or perhaps (and more likely), the Yankees were having an off-night. Fortunately, there’s another game tomorrow. And like I said before, none of it really counts. Maybe that’s simply a pacifier on a particularly rough day, but there’s a reason babies love their pacifiers — they soothe a wounded spirit and tide you over until the next task. I’ll stick with my pacifier; you can have your “reality”.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 21: MIA vs. NYY — Turning potential into excellence

CC Sabathia started for the first time this Spring and the first time since his elbow surgery last fall in today’s 7-3 win against Miami. Sabathia went five innings, allowing 2 runs in the 1st inning before finding his stride. Another few starts and we’ll be seeing the strike-out king in full force ready for that April 1st start.

Francisco Cervelli cleared a nice solo home run in the 2nd to put the Yankees on the board, plus added some fantastic backstop defense today. Travis Hafner earned his pinstripes today with a beautiful 2-run homer in the 3rd inning, after struggling most of the Spring to find his swing. I cannot wait to see him aim for the 4 train in the Bronx.

However, for me, the game belongs to the prospects. It’s kind of amazing what playing on the field with the veterans can do to boost their confidence, ability, standards, and fancy footwork. Corban Joseph started at 2nd base today and saw some nice defensive opportunities fall right into his hands, which he handled with excellence and encouragement from Jeter (who started at Shortstop again today). Filling in for Jeter in the 6th, Addison Maruszak once again began his march toward the big leagues with his hustle and defense; Maruszak really goes for every opportunity and rarely disappoints. Jose Pirela, entering the game for injured Ronnier Mustelier, proceeded to triple twice and earned an RBI, scoring two of the runs himself; his defense at the corners is pretty good too.

Ronnier Mustelier was rushing for a popped up foul ball when he ran smack into the press pen and its metal barriers at full speed. Shaken a little, bruised on both legs, he trudged his way to the clubhouse, replace by Jose Pirela. Girardi said later he’ll be back by Tuesday. Thank God for nothing serious, but we wish him quick healing and rest to see him back on the field. This is another one with such potential.

Potential seems to be the word of the day, and the advantage of the veterans like Jeter playing on the field with them that potential became excellence. And that’s what should happen in the farm system. Any known player will tell you that’s where they learned their best stuff, where they went from a possibility to a reality. And that’s what I saw today, what I think Girardi and the coaches and scouts see in those higher numbered guys. Like I said yesterday, there’s a thin line between what makes a player ready for the Bronx and what keeps him in Scranton, and today, we saw the next generation of Yankees step up their game and prove why they might be ready for the Show in the very near future. If I had one on, my hat would be off to you guys!

Go Yankees!