Game 92: NYY vs. MIN — Even a plague of moths can’t stop a Yankee win tonight

On this day in Yankee history in 1999, David Cone became the 3rd Yankee pitcher and 16th MLB player to throw a perfect game. Cone threw just 88 pitches to the visiting Montreal Expos’ lineup, striking out 10 of them. There was a 33-minute rain delay in the middle of the 3rd inning, but it didn’t seem to affect Cone’s momentum in the slightest. The Yankees went on to win the game 6-0. Cone’s catcher that day was current manager Joe Girardi. And the manager of the Yankees then, Joe Torre, was also celebrating his birthday. So, happy anniversary on the game and happy birthday, Mr. Torre!

For tonight’s game against the Twins, the Yankees called on Luis Cessa to start, but Cessa had a bit of trouble tonight. He threw 76 pitches into the 4th inning, gave up 4 hits, 4 walks, and 3 runs, striking out just 2 batters. Right in the 1st, he loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a hit-by-pitch and 2 outs, he walked another batter to get the Twins on the board early, but then got out of the jam with the first of his 2 strikeouts.

A 1-out solo home run in the 3rd doubled their score. And in the 4th, a 1-out double scored on a big triple. After 1 more out, the Yankees opted to go to their bullpen and call on Chasen Shreve. And once they opened that bullpen door, it was one of the best things they did for the team. Shreve closed out the 4th and got through the 5th scoreless, albeit a bit of a jam.

Warren’s beautiful 6th and 7th innings continued the momentum and set up the final two relievers — Betances who found some 8th inning drama but got out unscathed, and Chapman’s 16-pitch 9th inning for his 10th save of the season.

Now, that could be bad, but the Yankees were hitting quite a bit tonight — 13 total hits off the Twins’ pitching staff, 8 of those alone off the starter. The Yankees did all of their big damage in the middle of the game. In the 4th, Judge led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Gregorius’ single, then to 3rd on a fielder’s choice, and scored on Chase Headley’s single to get the Yankees on the board. (Judge’s productive offense tonight clearly negates whatever silly “home run derby jinx” the online trolls seem bent on believing.)

Still down in the 5th, the Yankees decided to grab the lead and not let go. Torreyes led-off with a single and ended up on 3rd after Gardner’s ground-rule double. Then Gary Sanchez (another victim of those online “derby jinx” trolls) hit a big double that scored both Torreyes and Gardner. That ended the Twins’ starter’s night. Aaron Judge’s single scored Sanchez, and then he scored as part of Didi Gregorius’ solid 1-out 2-run home run to ensure the Yankees’ lead and eventual victory tonight.

Final score: 6-3 Yankees.

Also, about the 6th inning of tonight’s game, Target Field was seemingly invaded by thousands of moths. It was almost like a Biblical plague, but with floating white, non-biting things, almost like big, thick snow flakes in appearance, in the air. I thought they were paper or debris on the field and in the air at first, but was later corrected when I could see their buzzing wings in close-up shots. Fortunately, it was nowhere near as bad as the infamous “midges game” back in 2007.

Roster moves: before the game, the Yankees optioned Bryan Mitchell back to AAA Scranton, recalling tonight’s starter Luis Cessa.

Injury updates: Greg Bird and Michael Pineda had their scheduled surgeries today to repair their injuries. Bird released a post-op statement, stating his intention to get back in the game as soon as he possibly can. Here’s hoping for their quick return to full health.

Go Yankees!

Game 91: NYY vs. MIN — A case of the Mondays

I did the math. We’re looking at a team that’s on track for 85 wins this season, quite a few less than the last time I did that math on my mirror. But looking at the standings and how the Yankees are playing right now, none of that really surprises me in the slightest.

Bryan Mitchell got the start tonight in the opening game against the Twins. He threw 90 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs (only 1 earned), striking out just 2 batters. In the 2nd, a 1-out walk scored on an RBI double to get the Twins on the board.

And after loading up the bases in the 3rd, the Yankees’ defense jumped into action getting the first 2 outs in a solid double play, first by a line drive to Judge in right field and then firing it home to get the runner trying to score there. But then a missed catch error by Mitchell led to the next batter scoring.

The Yankees’ offense caught up in the middle of the game, in the 5th. With 2 outs, Garrett Cooper doubled and then scored on Austin Romine’s double. And in the 7th, Headley hit a 1-out double and then scored on Cooper’s double to tie up the game.

So, the Yankees looked at rookie Caleb Smith (the 12th Yankees making his debut this season) to give some long-term relief and ultimately close out the game. He was fine until the 8th inning. He gave up consecutive singles to lead-off the inning. A pinch-hit single scored the winning run, and a double scored the insurance run. But then Smith got things under control, intentionally walking one batter and loading up the bases before getting his 5th strikeout of his outing.

The Yankees’ offense got a few chances to do something, like in the 8th inning, but they didn’t do anything except leave base runners stranded (yeah, that old song!).

Final score: 4-2 Twins

Injury updates: tomorrow, both Greg Bird and Michael Pineda will undergo surgery to repair their respective injuries. Bird chose surgery to deal with his lingering ankle issue, now diagnosed as an excess bone growth on his right ankle. His surgery will occur in New York and about 6 weeks of rehab is scheduled to follow. This means Bird could potentially resume baseball activities in early September.

Pineda opted for Tommy John surgery to repair his partially torn UCL in his right elbow. After his initial diagnosis and recommendation, he sought a second opinion with the Reds’ medical director in Cincinnati. That physician will perform the surgery tomorrow, and then Pineda is looking about about 15-ish months before he’s back on the mound.

With the looming trade deadline (July 31), these two surgeries, and the current slump of the team, I expect the Yankees might be in the market for a few new faces in pinstripes. No one saw the likes of Ichiro Suzuki or Chase Headley in such instances, but both veteran players were (and are) key to the team’s upswing for the rest of the season they jumped into.

In other words, new faces do work, even at the loss of some familiar ones, because the ultimate goal is #28. Every single season until it happens. And then it’s on to #29… #30… #31…

Go Yankees!

Games 89 & 90: NYY vs. BOS — Let’s split 2, #CCStrong, & finally shut out

The first game of today’s doubleheader was a make-up game from the rain out on April 25. But after last night’s marathon 16 innings, it was bound to be a long finish to this weekend’s rivalry series at Fenway.

Game 1:
For the afternoon game, the Yankees turned almost at the last-minute to veteran starter CC Sabathia who had a truly great outing this afternoon, coming off his recent stint on the DL. He threw 97 pitches in his 6 innings, gave up just 2 hits, 5 walks, and no runs, striking out 3 batters along the way. Plus, he set himself up for the win, his 8th of the season actually.

The Yankees needed the likes of veteran reliable starters like this vintage Sabathia to give the exhausted bullpen a chance to recoup some of its strength. And he did. Clippard and Green kept the scoreless streak alive through the 7th and 8th innings, and Chapman’s 9th was strong enough to earn him the save and continue the momentum of the game.

The Yankees’ hitters managed to hit quite a bit off the Red Sox’s pitchers in the first game today, a total of 12 hits. However, they only managed to break through the defense in two innings. In the 4th, with 1 out, the Yankees loaded the bases with a single, an error, and another single. Ji-Man Choi’s sacrifice fly scored Gregorious to get a run on the board, and then Ronald Torreyes’ single scored Frazier to double the score. Despite the bases being loaded with a hit-by-pitch, they ended up grounding out to end the rally. Didi Gregorius added an insurance run in the 5th, a 2-out solo home run into the right field seats.

Final score: 3-0 Yankees

Game 2:
About 4 hours later, it was time for the regularly scheduled game, the rare late Sunday night game. And the Yankees called on another veteran starter to try to extend the life of the bullpen. Masahiro Tanaka definitely helped with the bullpen, and his outing was actually pretty good overall. He threw 112 pitches into the 8th inning, gave up 8 hits, no walks, and 3 runs, striking out 9 Boston batters.

In the 3rd, a 1-out single scored as part of a 2-out 2-run home run to give the Red Sox the lead. And then in the 6th, a lead-off single ended up at 2nd on a throwing error, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on an RBI single. But that would be it for the Red Sox. Even as Chasen Shreve closed out the 8th with a 5-pitch strikeout to make it an even 10 for the Yankee pitchers this game.

All that was needed was for the Yankee batters to do something. And normally, off this particular starter, they can and do. But while they got 8 total hits, they didn’t do much else with that. They also racked up 10 strikeouts, but they were unable to find a hole in the defense large enough to walk home.

And thus, the Yankees became the final team this season to be shut out of a game. It took 90 games, but someone had to do it. Somehow, it’s only fitting that it’s the Red Sox.

Final score: 3-0 Red Sox

Final series outcome: Red Sox and Yankees split the series 2-2.

In roster moves: before the doubleheader, the Yankees transferred Michael Pineda from the 10-day to the 60-day disabled list due to the partial tear in his right UCL (elbow). The Yankees selected the contract of reliever Caleb Smith and recalled Domingo German and Bryan Mitchell (who was scheduled to be their 26th man) from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In their place, they optioned Jonathan Holder and Ben Heller back, due to their extensive work in last night’s game.

But I wouldn’t put down roots there just yet. Keep the “Scranton Shuttle” fired up and ready. They’ll be more roster moves before the Yankees start their series in Minnesota.

Also, our hearts go out to the family of legendary Hall-of-Fame broadcaster Bob Wolff. Wolff passed away Saturday at his home in New York at the age of 96. He is the voice that called the Don Larsen perfect game in 1956 and is still the current World Record holder for the longest broadcasting career, awarded in 2014. The passing of another iconic voice in the sports world is always a sad day, closing another chapter of the great past and legacy of this team.

Go Yankees!

Game 87: NYY vs. BOS — We’re back and giving wins away…

The Yankees had quite the All-Star Break. The five representatives from the team were part of the winning American League team, and two Yankees had a pretty good Home Run Derby with one just dominating (can anyone say 513 feet?) and taking home the crossed bats trophy. Plus, there was a few roster shake-ups (see below).

So going into the weekend series at Fenway, the Yankees were hoping for a continued rise to their positive spin of the week. But fielding errors and some sloppy pitching didn’t help some of the better parts of tonight’s game.

Jordan Montgomery got the start and got a bit roughed up, throwing 96 pitches in his 4 innings, giving up 6 hits, 3 walks, and 3 runs, striking out just 3 Boston batters. In the 3rd, with 1 out and a runner on 1st with a single, a big 2-run home run into the center field corner of the Green Monster scored the Red Sox’s first runs. And then Montgomery loaded up the bases in the 4th with a walk, a single, and a missed catch error. A 1-out single scored another run, but Montgomery got out of the inning without further damage thanks to a beautiful double play.

Chad Green had a beautiful outing, throwing 30 pitches in his 2 innings, striking out 5 of his 6 batters. Adam Warren kept the momentum going, but still gave up a couple of hits before getting out of the 7th scoreless. And then Dellin Betances‘ 8th inning was near flawless (save a hit-by-pitch) thanks to his 3 strikeouts.

Meanwhile, the Yankees actually got on the board first in the 3rd inning. Headley and Torreyes were on the corners with singles and an out when Gary Sanchez’s single scored Headley. After Judge’s walk loaded the bases, the Red Sox’s defense kicked it into gear for a double play to end the Yankees’ threat. Headley led-off the 5th with a double and then scored on Brett Gardner’s 1-out single. Then he scored as part of Sanchez’s huge 2-run home run (hit over the Green Monster) to put the Yankees back in the lead.

So, going into the bottom of the 9th inning, the Yankees just needed 3 outs to finish the game in the win column. Of course, they turned to their flame-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman, who just couldn’t find the strike zone to save tonight’s game for anything. He gave up consecutive singles to kick things off, who promptly pulled off a double steal to put them in scoring position. A fielding error then allowed the lead runner to score and tie up the game before the next batter was intentionally walk to load the bases. With no outs. And then Chapman walked the next batter, which walked in the winning run. Again, with no outs.

Final score: 5-4 Red Sox

Roster news: Matt Holliday was reinstated from the DL stint for his viral infection, Starlin Castro was sent to join AA Trenton for his rehab assignment, and they optioned Rob Refsnyder to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

In announcing the starting rotation for the weekend’s pitchers, two names were noticeably absent (Sabathia, who will miss Fenway just out of rotation order, and Pineda). It was then that the Yankees announced that Michael Pineda was out of the rotation because he was diagnosed with a partial tear in his UCL (elbow). The initial recommendation is Tommy John surgery to repair it, but he wants a second opinion. Surgery is likely at this point, which is a shame because Pineda was having a pretty good season so far. More news will come as Pineda decides his next step.

And in fresh faces news, the Yankees orchestrated a trade with the Brewers — sending reliever Tyler Webb for infielder Garrett Cooper. Cooper then made his MLB debut at 1st base in Fenway tonight. His defense was on-point, but his offense was lacking (thanks mostly to the usual first-day jitters). Cooper just played in the AAA All-Star Game (which also featured Yankees outfielder Dustin Fowler and pitcher Caleb Smith) two days ago in Tacoma for the Brewers’ AAA team from Colorado Springs. Cooper is the 8th person to start at 1st this season. We’ll see how this works out.

Go Yankees!

Game 83: TOR vs. NYY — No last minute rally, but still go & vote #SirDidi4Sure

They say that if you don’t have pitching, you’d don’t have anything. And today’s afternoon closer against the visiting Blue Jays certainly proved that true.

Michael Pineda got the start today and really just got roughed up, an oddity in what’s been a fairly strong season for him. He threw 65 pitches into just the 4th inning, gave up 9 hits, a walk, and 5 runs, and struck out just a single Toronto batter. The Blue Jays dinged into him right in the 1st inning when a lead-off single scored on a 1-out RBI single to get the Jays on the board early.

The 3rd inning was the hardest hit for him. With 1 out and a runner on 1st, a big 2-run home run pushed them further in the lead, only to be followed up by a solo home run. Add on a lead-off solo shot in the 4th, Pineda just didn’t have the game today. With a runner on 1st with a single, his outing ended as he handed the game over to Chasen Shreve. Shreve walked his first runner but then breezed through the next 6 outs to shut down the Jays and give the Yankees a chance to catch up.

So they did just that. In the bottom of the 4th, Gardner led-off with a walk and then scored as part of Aaron Judge’s big home run. His 29th of the season landed right in the Yankees’ bullpen. Then in the 5th, Ellsbury led-off with a single and then scored as part of Ji-Man Choi’s 2-run home run, his first ever as a Yankee.

With the Yankees within a run of the lead, they loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a single, sitting there hoping for a miracle. Two outs later, Didi Gregorius (#SirDidi4Sure, go vote!) hit a solid double into right field scoring the tying run and the go-ahead run in Romine and Gardner. That would be it for the Blue Jays starter, who is a fairly good starter and had a great outing against the Yankees until this final inning.

His bullpen did a much better job of fending off the Yankees’ offense. Which was incredibly unfortunate, as the Yankees’ bullpen wasn’t as lucky today. Chad Green came on in the 6th and did a stellar job of getting through that inning. But then a lead-off solo home run in the 7th to tie up the game. But that’s okay, the Yankees have played many games where they pulled out a last-minute rally. They just needed to stay tied to make it work.

And then Dellin Betances had some real trouble finding the strike zone in the 8th inning. He walked his first 3 batters, then found a strikeout. But then after he walked another batter, walking in the Blue Jays’ winning run, his afternoon was done. It was on to Adam Warren, who shut them down with the bases loaded and then sailed through the 3 outs in the 9th — 5 outs in just 16 pitches.

That last-minute rally of the Yankees? Yeah, stalled in both the 8th and 9th innings. It wasn’t going to happen.

Final score: 7-6 Blue Jays, Blue Jays win series 2-1.

Doctors figured out what’s wrong with Matt Holliday. After testing, they discovered that Holliday was battling the Epstein-barr virus, a common illness that most people get at some point in their lives but also one that comes with some heavy symptoms (extreme fatigue, fever, sore throat, swollen glands, rash, and more). While it does knock its victims out for a bit, it is recoverable, as evident by Holliday now getting back to some easy work outs this week. And with the All-Star Break coming up, he will have some time to recuperate further.

Today in Aaron Judge breaks/sets another record/defies logic… Aaron Judge has tied Joe DiMaggio for most home runs hit by a Yankee rookie at 29. DiMaggio set this Yankee this record in 1936, and Judge is getting ready to break it (and very well could have if not for the intentional walk late in the game). It should be noted that the statistic is during the full 1936 season. Yes, Judge is only just over halfway through the season and has tied the Yankee Clipper’s 81 year old record. (I have a feeling we’ll be saying things like that a lot with this certain rookie.)

I won’t get into the minor blip, a clear case of “sour grapes” regarding Gary Sanchez and his invitation to be part of the home run derby next week in Miami. It’s rather reminiscent of the 2012 HRD issue with the Royals (the ridiculous reason they still boo Cano). Does Sanchez have less home runs than the complainant? Yes, but he’s also played far fewer games this season thanks to a stint on the DL earlier this year. But here’s the facts: in 104 games (back to August 3, 2016), Sanchez has 33 homers, while the other guy has just 28 in 100 games over the exact same time span. So the invite goes to Sanchez… obviously.

And there’s less than a day left to get Didi Gregorius to the All-Star Game, so vote and vote often (through Twitter, text, and online). Gregorius is still running 3rd, but come on, Yankee Universe, we’re bigger than the Royals and Red Sox! Let’s make it happen! Seriously, stop what you’re doing and go vote!

Go Yankees!

Game 78: NYY vs. HOU — A “Gardy Party”

I think my favorite tweet about tonight’s game was the Yankees’ “Everyone’s invited to a Gardy party!” It’s a terrible attempt at a pun, of course, thanks in part to Yankees’ radio announcer John Sterling and his infamous old-school radio calls. But it was certainly a nice wrap up for the offense that was Brett Gardner tonight in the opening game against the Astros.

Of course, Gardner’s push had huge support thanks to starter Michael Pineda, who threw 91 pitches in 6 innings, giving up 7 hits, no walks, and 3 runs (only 2 earned), and striking out 3 Houston batters. In the 1st, a lead-off double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a sacrifice fly to give the Astros an early lead. With 1 out and 2 runners in scoring position in the 4th, a ground out scored the first and a single scored the second to give the Astros a nice lead over the Yankees.

Recently called-up Bryan Mitchell came on for the final third of the game for the Yankees, giving them the kind of solid, consistent long-term relief they’ve been needing for a few weeks. He threw just 30 pitches in 3 innings and still managed to give up a run, in his middle inning, the 8th. A lead-off double ended up at 3rd on a fielding error and then scored on a ground out.

And that wouldn’t be good enough if the Astros were playing like one of the best teams in baseball (as they are), but the Yankees seemed to remember that they’re also one of the best teams in baseball. And it would be Brett Gardner (of course) to start the whole thing for the Yankees with a lead-off double in the 3rd and then scoring on Didi Gregorius’ 2-out double to tie up the game, at that point.

Down 3-1, the Yankees began their rally and eventual rout in the 6th inning. Gregorius led-off with a single and moved to 2nd on Romine’s 1-out walk. The Astros’ starter was done, but the bullpen wasn’t any better. Ronald Torreyes’ single scored Gregorius and then after another strikeout, the rally began. Chris Carter single scored Romine, Gardner’s single scored Torreyes (to finally put the Yankees in the lead), and Jacoby Ellsbury’s single scored Carter as an error moved runners into scoring position. Aaron Judge’s walk was on a wild pitch that scored Gardner. That ended the 6th inning run rally as a new reliever found the final out of the inning.

But it would be the 7th inning that would leave everyone talking. The Yankees loaded up the bases with singles to Headley and Romine and a walk to Torreyes. Wade hit into a ground out that the Astros kicked into defensive gear and got the best out at home. A new reliever got a strikeout but then got Gardner to work up a full count before he sent a 82 mph slider into the right field seats for a home run, his 3rd career grand slam to ensure a Yankees victory tonight.

To add just a pinch more, the Yankees took advantage of the Astros sending in a position player to close out the game in the 9th. Torreyes and Wade each worked a walk. Carter’s double scored Torreyes, Gardner’s sacrifice fly score Wade, and Ellsbury’s ground out scored Carter before the position player reliever got home run leader Aaron Judge to fly out to end the inning and set up the Yankees for the big win.

Final score: 13-4 Yankees.

Roster moves: Before tonight’s game, the Yankees put Dustin Fowler on the 10-day disabled list with his ruptured right patellar tendon injury (more below) and optioned reliever Ronald Herrera back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In their place, the Yankees recalled tonight’s long closer Bryan Mitchell and the hero rookie from two days ago Miguel Andujar from AAA Scranton.

A few hours before tonight’s game, the Yankees all crowded into Girardi’s office to Facetime with their injured teammate Dustin Fowler in a Chicago hospital. Fowler will be discharged from the hospital and sent to New York to begin his roughly 6 months of recovery. It’s a bit shorter than a torn ACL, but a knee injury, regardless of how intense, is never an easy road to recovery. Fowler deserves a chance to show what a great player he can be in the big leagues, and at this point, it looks like maybe next year he gets that chance.

Go Yankees!

Game 73: TEX vs. NYY — Falling just short on Old Timers’ Day

Well, it was clear which game today Nature preferred. One was played under warm, sunny skies, the other with the looming threat of nearby storms that never really materialized. And it certainly was a sign of how both games turned out.

After a really fun Old Timers’ Day (more after the recap), the Yankees closed out this homestand and the weekend series against the Rangers, though this homestand has been anything less than stellar. Michael Pineda got the start this afternoon, and just struggled right out of the gate, taking his time to settle in and find that groove that he normally sails through in most of his outings. Pineda lasted just 4 innings, throwing 71 pitches, giving up 6 hits, a walk, and 7 runs, striking out just 4 batters.

In the 1st, a lead-off double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on an RBI single. A 2-run home run gave the Rangers a strong early lead. Then with 2 outs and 2 runners on base with a single and walk, a big home run scored 3 more runs for the Rangers. And to cap off their scoring, the Rangers sent one more homer into the stands, a 2-out solo home run in the 4th.

After Pineda, the bullpen certainly had a better job of keeping the Rangers in line. Webb’s 5th set things back on the right course, despite getting into a bit of trouble himself, though he came out of it without giving up more runs to the Rangers. Green’s 2 innings were nearly flawless. And closing out the final bit of the game was the tag team duo of Betances and Chapman, the latter wowing the lingering crowd with his 3 consecutive strikeouts.

Meanwhile, the Yankees’ offense had a hard time breaking through the Rangers’ starter, only managing a few hits until the 5th inning (the starter’s final inning of the game). Williams led-off with a single. Then 2 outs later, Romine technically struck out on a wild pitch, but made it safely to base, moving Williams to 2nd. Aaron Judge broke the zeroes on the scoreboard as his single scored the Yankees’ first run of the afternoon — Williams. Then it was Gary Sanchez’s 3 run home run that got the Yankees back into this game and fighting.

Under a new reliever in the 7th, the Yankees struck again. Ronald Torreyes led-off with a solid home run into the 1st row of the left field seats. Two outs later, Judge and Sanchez both worked walks before the Rangers called on a new reliever. Didi Gregorius promptly singled home Judge, but Sanchez was thrown out trying to get to 3rd on the throw.

Despite their best efforts, especially getting runners in scoring position, the Yankees fell just short in their last-minute attempts at a rally.

Final score: 7-6 Yankees, Rangers win series 2-1.

Unfortunately, there is also an extensive injury list: Aaron Hicks came out of the game after the 4th inning (moving Williams from right to center field, 1st baseman Tyler Austin to right field, and adding Austin Romine in the game at 1st base). Hicks started feeling a tightness in his right oblique, and after an MRI during the game, Hicks said he’s headed for the Disabled List, which could see him out for 3-4 weeks.

Now, Starlin Castro was out of today’s game due to injury to right wrist (a lingering injury he sustained about six weeks ago). Other than rest, Castro has undergone a cortisone shot as part of his recovery. And Matt Holliday had allergic reaction to something he ate in Oakland last weekend and is still suffering from fatigue that can linger after a bad allergic reaction

So with Jacoby Ellsbury still working with AAA Scranton until he is cleared and recalled, local Ellsbury fans might be sooner now due to Hicks’ injury. Especially if the hot offense he’s been showing in Scranton can translate well here.

Okay, so it was basically one of the coolest (ironically) days at Yankee Stadium. Today, the Yankees hosted their 71st annual Old Timers’ Day. The Yankees spent time introducing each honored guest, mostly former players and a few former coaches. Plus, the wives of some legends who are no longer with us represented their famed spouses well. It was a delightful ceremony only capped off by a highly amusing and enjoyable exhibition game between former legends on the “Bombers” or the “Clippers”. The Clippers won 2-1, thanks to younger “Old Timers” like Tino Martinez, first-timer Jorge Posada, and Bernie Williams and a bit of a boost from Reggie Jackson.

Other former teammates of Jackson from the 1977 team were entertaining (I’m looking at you, Sparky Lyle) , and pondered their 40 years since that iconic championship run, something they’ll be celebrating and remembering later this year. Plus, they honored Tim Raines, who briefly played with the Yankees (during their championship years, 1996-1998) and will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this July, gifting him with 2 seats from the old stadium Raines actually played ball in years ago.

{Media links: highlights of the Old Timers’ Game — Mickey Rivers’ catch (he’s still got it!), starter Sparky Lyle’s amusing tumble trying to field a soft grounder, Tino Martinez’s single scoring Bernie Williams’ dramatic slide, Lee Mazzilli’s RBI double and his own score on an error.}

Basically, despite the actual game falling short and the looming potential storm that never quite came into existence, the fun of the morning wasn’t really lost. If anything, it gave loyal, long-term Yankee fans the chance to compare the stars of yesterday with the stars of tomorrow. And while everyone certainly seemed to have an opinion, the reality is that of the legends of yesterday are actually a mixed bag of success stories. Some of them you know (like the ones I mentioned), but others are in the “yeah, I sorta remember that guy” (but you really don’t). And some of both of those categories certainly had their mixed reactions in their own playing days.

You just never know who’s going to be a “somebody everyone knows” and “somebody I think I used to know” at one of these games in the (not-so-very-distant) future. Some of those great players today were on teams when the Yankees were just terrible, despite being really great players. Which unfortunately, often makes them rather forgettable sometimes. And then today there was still Don Larsen or Whitey Ford or Joe Torre — legends today who were part of what made the Yankees’ one of the most successful franchises, the dynasty moments in Yankee history. (All 3 got pretty extensive standing ovations, by the way.)

Go Yankees!

Game 68: LAA vs. NYY — Skidding out of 1st place

Well, coming home didn’t help the Yankees’ West Coast skid, now on a 7-game losing streak. Maybe it’s because they technically brought the West Coast with them starting this mid-week series against the Angels. This also means that the Yankees have slipped out of 1st place in the AL East to the (ugh!) Red Sox.

And here’s how that happened tonight…

Michael Pineda actually had a pretty decent outing tonight, after a bit of a messy start. He threw 105 pitches into the 6th inning, giving up 7 hits, a walk, and 3 runs (only 1 earned), and striking out 7 Angels’ batters. In the 1st, a lead-off double scored on an RBI single to get the Angels on the board (the only earned run allowed by Pineda). The lead-off batter in the 2nd reached on a fielding error, ending up at 2nd as a result, and then scored on a 1-out double. That batter then scored on a 2-out single to give the Angels an easy early (and mostly unearned) lead.

Meanwhile, the Yankees took advantage of the Angels starter, who only gave up 2 hits, but also 5 walks in his 5 innings. In the 4th, Castro led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Sanchez’s walk, to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on Chase Headley’s sacrifice fly. Aaron Judge hit a 2-out solo home run, his 24th homer of the season, in the 5th. Then facing a new pitcher, Gary Sanchez hit a 1-out solo home run into the right field seats to tie up the game.

And things were looking good for the Yankees. Pineda finished his outing strong, handing the final out of the 6th to Chasen Shreve who used just 5 pitches to get that final strikeout. But Tyler Clippard just struggled out of the gate in the 7th inning, giving up a lead-off solo home run, a double, a fly out (yay!), and an RBI triple. And that was it for Clippard.

Jonathan Holder came on to stem the tide, but still had his own issues. An RBI single scored one more run, charged to Clippard. In the 8th, a lead-off ground-rule double moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt, and then scored on a single. And to cap off the game for the Angels, a player hit a 2-out solo homer up the middle.

And the Yankees’ offense against the Angels’ bullpen? Holliday’s double in the 8th. And that’s it. The Angels’ bullpen was showing their strength tonight in the Bronx, and the Yankees, well, weren’t.

Final scores: 8-3 Angels

Prospect watch: Yankees’ #2 prospect Gleyber Torres was pulled from a game on Saturday due to some soreness in his left elbow after an awkward slide. After some tests, it was revealed that Torres hyper-extended his elbow on that slide, tearing his ulnar collateral ligament (or UCL), which requires the surgery named for famed pitcher Tommy John to repair it. Because Torres is not a pitcher, nor is the injury in his actual throwing arm, the return to baseball activities is less than standard for the injury and surgery option. Torres will miss the rest of this year, and there is no set date for the surgery as of yet. Speedy recovery, kid.

And just a quick heads up: 20 of the 40 players drafted last week in the MLB draft have signed with the Yankees, but a few more (including the top 2 picks) are expected to exercise their option and sign on as well. Players can opt out of the selection and choose a different path for this next year, putting themselves up for the draft next year or doing something else entirely. But over 50% signed to be Yankees? And in the middle of this losing streak? Yeah, I’ll take it as a sign for good things to come for the organization.

Now, if only that can make that happen on the field… like this week… like tomorrow…

Go Yankees!

Game 63: NYY vs. LAA — Not quite a good night in the City of Angels

Angels Stadium is often called “Yankee Stadium West” because there is a rather large contingent of Yankee fans in the LA area who come out in droves for Angels-Yankees games every year. And that’s apparent by how much blue and white fill the cherry red seats and that the games are sold out in the middle of the week.

But I’m thinking it felt a little less like a second (or third?) home for the Yankees after this series. Despite the strength the Yankees showed this week, even coming from behind, it seemed to fall short in the end in these last two games. Pretty much faulting the less-than-ideal pitching show from both teams in the last 48 hours.

It’s really no surprise that the Yankees broke through right in the top of the game. Gardner led-off with a single and moved to 3rd on Judge’s 1-out single. After Judge stole 2nd (and has just 1 less stolen base than Gardner this year), Matt Holliday’s sacrifice fly scored Gardner to get the Yankees on the board. Castro was then hit by a pitch to set-up a big breakthrough by Gary Sanchez, who hit a great 3-run home run into the left field seats.

Michael Pineda certainly had an off-night tonight. He threw 102 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up 10 hits, a walk, and 5 runs overall, and striking out just 2 Angels batters. After the Yankees gave him a nice lead, Pineda struggled right from the start, giving up 3 singles to load the bases with 1 out. A sacrifice fly got the Angels on the board. It was only a sacrifice fly because of the amazing defensive skills of Aaron Hicks actually reached over the center field wall and caught it, robbing that batter of a grand slam that would’ve quickly tied up the game. But Pineda got out of the inning without further damage.

It didn’t last long. After a lead-off single in the 2nd, a 2-run home run edged the Angels closer to the Yankees’ lead. And in the 3rd, the lead-off single moved to 2nd and then 3rd on 2 ground outs. After a walk, Pineda threw a really messy wild pitch, which easily scored the runner from 3rd (the runner who is not fast at all, a veteran with a persistent injury and better known for some towering home runs) to tie up the game. Another single scored another run and put the Angels in the lead.

The Yankees came back to tie it all up again in the 6th. Sanchez led-off with a single and ended up at 2nd on a throwing error. After 1 out, Chase Headley hit a single which scored Sanchez, and then Headley got caught in a rundown between 1st and 2nd. The game was tied again, but it was only the 6th inning.

Pineda was able to fend off the Angels for the second half of his outing, but he handed over the game to recent call-up (see below) Ronald Herrera. Despite getting ahead in the 7th with 2 quick outs, Herrera gave up a walk and then a big 2-run home run to give the Angels back the lead. Herrera had trouble getting that 3rd out of the inning. The next batter was hit by a pitch and then stole 2nd, ending up at 3rd due to a throwing error (Sanchez having a bad defense day, but a great offense day). But then Herrera got the strikeout he needed to stop the Angels’ advance.

Like I said, neither pitching staff was really at their best tonight. The Angels’ starter only made it into the 4th inning due to a potential injury, and both teams gave up 26 collective hits and got just 9 total strikeouts.

Final score: 7-5 Angels, Angels win series 2-1

Injury news: after last night’s unexpected injury and exit, CC Sabathia was tested and examined for what caused the tightening of his hamstring. An MRI revealed a grade 2 hamstring strain, which makes a stint on the disabled list unavoidable. As of yet, the Yankees haven’t set a timetable or announced a rotation replacement (for Sunday’s start) or a corresponding roster move.

Roster moves: The Yankees have been busy moving people around. Chapman is working with the Tampa Yankees on his rehab assignment. After designating Tommy Layne for assignment, they ended up outrighting him to AAA Scranton (like I said, they still want him around). Before the game today, they optioned Ben Heller to AAA Scranton, recalling tonight’s newest addition to the bullpen Ronald Herrera from AA Trenton. And in completion of a trade made earlier (Johnny Barbato) with the Pirates, the Yankees picked up pitching prospect Matt Frawley.

And the final day of the MLB Draft was earlier today, and the Yankees filled out their draft choices with 19 pitchers, 4 outfielders, 5 infielders, and 2 catchers.

Pitchers: Shawn Semple, Harold Cortijo, Aaron McGarity, Garrett Whitlock, Ron Marinaccio, Bryan Blanton, Janson Junk, Colby Davis, Riley Thompson, Austin Crowson (L), Alex Mauricio, Shane Roberts, Tristan Beck, Jacob Stevens, Jordan Butler (L), Andrew Abbott (L), Tanner Burns, Brent Burgess, and Andrew Nardi (L)
Outfielders: Steven Sensley, Pat DeMarco, Jake Mangum, and Jimmy Herron
Infielders: Eric Wagaman (1B), Ricky Surum (SS), Chris Hess (2B), Alika Williams (SS), and Hayden Cantrelle (SS)
Catchers: Ryan Lidge and Steven Williams

Overall in the draft, the Yankees clearly sent a message as they sought 28 total pitchers, 5 outfielders, 5 infielders, and 2 catchers. In thinking back to these last few seasons, the biggest weakness is the pitching and the Yankees are clearly setting themselves up for a future of stronger pitching options. And prospective pitchers made good trade bait if the Yankees need to fill an offensive hole along the way. It was a good move for the organization.

Go Yankees!

Game 57: BOS vs. NYY — “El Gary” & Gardy rule the Bronx

Finishing a series on a win is always a good thing. Winning a series is always a good thing. Doing both of those in the Bronx against the Red Sox is a great thing. On another chilly day in the City, the Yankees faced off against their division and long-time rival Boston Red Sox to close out their mid-week series. And they did so with a rather large show of power.

This gave starter Michael Pineda a nice cushion to work from, which he did need from time to time. Pineda threw 110 pitches through his 7 innings, giving up just 4 hits, 2 walks, and 1 unearned run, striking out 8 Boston batters along the way. In the 4th, the lead-off batter reached 1st on a throwing error, moved to 2nd on a single, ended up at 3rd on a double play, and then scored on a passed ball.

The Red Sox did threaten at times, putting runners in scoring position four times. But Adam Warren threw a flawless 8th inning, breezing through the Red Sox in just 18 pitches, and Giovanni Gallegos got the first 2 outs of the 9th, including one great sliding catch by Ronald Torreyes. It would be closer Dellin Betances to create a dramatic flourish to the 9th inning — a walk, a strikeout wild pitch that allowed the batter to reach safely, and a walk to load up the bases — only to have Betances get a great strikeout on a wicked slider to end the game.

Meanwhile, the Yankees continued to give the Red Sox starter a really hard time. This same starter used to play with the Rays and the Tigers, so he’s faced the Yankees quite often. And consistently, the Yankees love hitting off him, as they did tonight — racking up 8 hits, 4 walks, and 6 runs in just 5 innings (and a whopping 107 pitches).

In the 2nd, Sanchez led-off with a walk and moved to 2nd on Gregorius’ single. Two outs later, Sanchez scored on Brett Gardner’s single. In the 3rd, with 1 out and runners on the corners, Gary Sanchez hit a big 3-run home run into the left field seats. And after Castro’s lead-off single in the 5th, Sanchez did it again and hit a big 2-run home run, this time to the right field seats.

As the Red Sox dipped into their bullpen, the Yankees continued their offensive march towards victory tonight. In the 6th, with 2 outs, Aaron Judge’s single became the hardest hit ball of the season, at 119.8 mph in exit velocity (though it should be noted that Judge has hit three 119+mph hits, and the rest of MLB has none). After moving to 2nd on Holliday’s walk, Judge then scored on Starlin Castro’s single.

And in the 8th, Brett Gardner led things off with his 13th home run of the season. Hicks and Judge singled, and Holliday was hit by a pitch to load the bases. All with no outs this inning. Castro hit into a fielder’s choice out at 2nd, which still scored Hicks to cap off the Yankees’ scoring tonight.

Final score: 9-1 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-1.

And the Yankees announced the lineup for their 70th Annual Old Timers’ Day in just over two weeks. Yankees Hall-of Famers and alumni scheduled to appear include: Jesse Barfield, Scott Bradley, Dr. Bobby Brown, Homer Bush, Rick Cerone, David Cone, Bucky Dent, Al Downing, Brian Doyle, Mariano Duncan, John Flaherty, Whitey Ford, Joe Girardi, Goose Gossage, Ron Guidry, Charlie Hayes, Rickey Henderson, Reggie Jackson, Scott Kamieniecki, Pat Kelly, Don Larsen, Graeme Lloyd, Hector Lopez, Sparkly Lyle, Kevin Maas, Tino Martinez, Lee Mazzilli, Ramiro Mendoza, Stump Merrill, Gene “Stick”
Michael, Gene Monahan, Jeff Nelson, Paul O’Neill, Jorge Posada (making his OTD debut!), Willie Randolph, Tim Raines, Mickey Rivers, Tanyon Sturtze, Ralph Terry, Marcus Thames, Joe Torre, Mike Torrez, Roy White, and Bernie Williams.

The widows of five Yankee legend will also make an appearance: Arlene Howard, widow of Elston Howard; Helen Hunter, widow of Jim “Catfish” Hunter; Jill Martin, widow of Billy Martin; Diana Munson, widow of Thurman Munson; and Kay Murcer, widow of Bobby Murcer.

Old Timer’s Day is coming up on Sunday, June 25. Gates will open at 10am that day. The “Old Timers” will play a short exhibition game before the regularly scheduled afternoon game the Yankees will play against the visiting Rangers at 2:05 pm. At the afternoon game the day before (Saturday, June 24), many of the above legends will be there to hang out with the fans, signing autographs and taking pictures. Basically, it’s going to be a weekend of legends. Have you got your tickets? I can’t wait!

Go Yankees!