Game 32: MIN vs. NYY — An un-Happ-y Star Wars Day

It’s Star Wars Day, and Yankee Stadium celebrated in style. Today’s giveaway was a bobblehead of CC Sabathia dressed as a Jedi knight. Sabathia dressed in full costume as the popular Jedi master Yoda to help hand out his figurines to waiting fans, joined around the stadium by other franchise characters dressed as storm troopers, rebel warriors, and even the stars like Darth Vader and Rey.

However, the Force was not with the Yankees this afternoon as they stumbled through this middle game of the series against the visiting Twins. JA Happ got roughed up a bit in today’s start, throwing 81 pitches into the 6th inning, giving up 7 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, and striking out 3 Minnesota batters.

In the 3rd, the lead-off batter was hit by a pitch and then scored on a 1-out 2-run home run to get the Twins on the board first. A lead-off double in the 5th moved to 3rd on a single and scored on a double play. And with 2 outs in the 6th, a solo home run added yet another run for the visitors.

Joe Harvey closed out of the 6th for Happ and came out for the 7th. A lead-off single moved to 3rd on a fielder’s choice and throwing error. With runners on the corners, the Yankees called in Stephen Tarpley. The first batter hit into force out at 2nd, an unsuccessful double play, thus scoring that runner from 3rd. Tarpley came back out for the 8th. He gave up a lead-off walk. A balk moved that runner to scoring position to score on a long single.

After another single, the Yankees called in recent call-up Jake Barrett to close out the inning with 2 quick outs. A 1st pitch solo homer in the 9th was the only flaw in Barrett’s Yankee debut.

The Yankees faced a former division rival pitcher as the Twins’ starter today, and it certainly felt like he had the upper hand for most of his 6 scoreless innings. Once they went to the bullpen in the 7th, the Yankees pounced. Brett Gardner led-off with a strong double, moved to 3rd on Maybin’s single, and then scored on a wild pitch. Maybin ended up at 2nd on that play and later moved to 3rd on a ground out. He then scored on DJ LeMahieu’s single to chip away at the Twins’ lead.

Gary Sanchez led-off the 8th with a big solo home run, continuing his hot streak. But that was it for the Yankees’ offense. They just couldn’t seem to find another moment to wheedle away at the Twins’ big lead today.

Final score: 7-3 Twins

Tomorrow’s game, the final game of this weekend series, has been moved from 1:05 pm to 4:05 pm due to forecasted rain that will sweep through the area early tomorrow.

Injured List update: Unfortunately, James Paxton’s knee will require a trip to the Injured List. After an official diagnosis of knee inflammation, Paxton is shut down to focus on treatment. They recalled pitcher Jake Barrett, formerly with the Diamondbacks, who closed out today’s game.

And Miguel Andujar was officially activated off the IL for today’s game, starting at 3rd base today. To make room, the Yankees optioned infielder Mike Ford back to AAA Scranton.

And Luke Voit’s on-base streak has come to an end. Going 0-for-4 today, Voit’s streak ends at 42 consecutive games, tying him with Yankee greats like Teixeira (in 2010), Williams (2001), O’Neill (1996), and Mattingly (1993-94). It fell short of franchise records of 57 by Jeter (1998-99) and 53 by Rodriguez (2004). Someone else commented with measurable optimism that his next streak begins tomorrow. I’ll take that.

Go Yankees!

Game 24: NYY vs. LAA — Come from behind victory… once again

The Yankees are making it a pattern for the dramatic fall-behind moment only to come back and find victory over their West Coast opponent. In tonight’s third of four games this series in Anaheim, the Yankees were looking at California-native CC Sabathia to write the story (more later), but once again, it ended up being the relatively unknowns that made all the difference.

Sabathia came into tonight’s game with 2994 career strikeouts, and by all accounts, there was a high possibility that he might hit that rare feat of 3000 by the end of his outing. But call it pressure or just an off-night, things really didn’t go that way. Sabathia threw 86 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 6 hits and 5 runs (4 earned), and struck out just 3 Angels’ batters.

In the 1st, he gave up a 2-out solo home run to get the home team on the board first. But it was the 4th inning that caused so much trouble. After a lead-off home run to double their score, the Angels got a single that moved to 2nd on a bunt and fielding error, ended up at 3rd on a fielder’s choice out, and then scored as part of a big 3-run home run.

Jonathan Loaisiga came on for relief and tamped down on the Angels’ offense in his 3 innings, only allowing sporadic base runners but no further runs, an outing that would surprisingly earn the win. And it would be Aroldis Chapman to close out the game with a solid 17-pitch 9th inning to earn the save.

The Angels’ pitching used the “opener” model, where their “starter” would only pitch one inning, and the bulk of their pitching would be by a long-term reliever. And tonight, it seemed to work as it held off the Yankees for most of the game and allowed their offense to collect a rather solid lead.

The Yankees didn’t find a scoring opportunity until the 6th inning. Wade singled and then scored on DJ LeMahieu’s double. Voit’s single moved LeMahieu to 3rd, and after 2 outs (and an unsuccessful challenge), LeMahieu jogged home to easily score on a passed ball to further chip away at the Angels’ lead.

Once the Angels got into their bullpen, it was the Yankees’ chance to advance. In the 7th, they loaded up the bases with a walk to Ford, single to Urshela, and walk to Tauchman. Tyler Wade then worked a walk to score Mike Ford. After another pitching chance, DJ LeMahieu’s sacrifice fly scored Urshela, and Luke Voit’s fielder’s choice scored Tauchman to tie up the game before a bad double play ended the inning.

So it would come down to the 9th inning to break the tie. With 2 outs, Wade singled and stole 2nd to put himself in scoring position. DJ LeMahieu would again be the hero, whose single drove home Wade for the winning run.

Final score: 6-5 Yankees

CC K Count: 2997

Roster moves/Scranton Shuttle: Yesterday, the Yankees optioned Joe Harvey and recalled Jonathan Loaisiga for a fresh arm to pitch in tonight’s game. And before the game, the Yankees activated Gary Sanchez and recalled Stephen Tarpley, optioning Kyle Higashioka and Chad Green.

Green’s consistent issues seem out of place, so the Yankees are hoping a stint in AAA could help him get some of the kinks out of his delivery and back to the reliable Green he can be. Higashioka is only back in AAA because there’s only room for one back-up on the roster. He’s proven more than reliable when called upon, perhaps proof that time in AAA sharpens and hones players’ skills.

Injury update: Clint Frazier’s hopes to remain off the IL seem dashed after an MRI revealed his sprained ankle includes a small tear that demands he heal first. Apparently, Frazier was reminded of his injury setting foot out of bed and then when it swelled up a bit. Being forced to stay off it will definitely aid in healing it quicker than “playing through” the injury as he intended.

Go Yankees!

Game 23: NYY vs. LAA — Voit’s power & Ford’s first dinger

The streak continues for the Yankees in this middle game of their series against the Angels. Though there was a few moments where it looked like the Angels might have a rally in them, even a grand slam couldn’t stop the Yankees from dominating tonight’s game.

Starter Domingo German held control into the 7th inning, with 99 pitches, 4 hits, a walk, and an unearned run, and 5 strikeouts against the home team. German held them off until the 5th. A lead-off double, moved to 3rd on a fielding error, and then scored on a fielder’s choice out at 2nd.

In the 7th, with 2 outs and a runner on 2nd, Chad Green came into the game for relief and quickly got out of the inning. But coming back out in the 8th almost cost the Yankees the game. He loaded up the bases with 2 singles and a walk before giving up a big grand slam up the middle to leap the Angels up on the scoreboard.

Luis Cessa came in and promptly gave up a double and a walk. Things looked bleak again for the Yankees, but then Cessa settled in, getting a strikeout and a great double play to end the Angels’ hopes of trying to overcome the Yankees. And Zack Britton sailed his way through a 7-pitch 9th inning to earn his 1st save of the season.

Again, the Yankees needed to dominate tonight in order to earn the win, and it would be Luke Voit to lead the way again with a 1st inning 1-out solo home run, extending his on-base streak to 35 games. They loaded up the bases in the 2nd with a single to Ford, a walk to Tauchman, and a 1-out single to Thairo Estrada, his first MLB hit. Tyler Wade hit into a fielder’s choice that allowed Ford to score. In the 5th, Gardner hit a 1-out single and then scored on Mike Ford’s 2-out 2-run home run.

Voit led-off the 7th with a walk, moved to 3rd on Gardner’s double, and then scored on Gleyber Torres’ single. After a pitching change, pinch-hitter Urshela hit into a fielder’s choice out at home. Then a walk to Tauchman loaded the bases. Austin Romine’s simple grounder scored Torres, and despite loading up the bases again with Estrada’s walk, the Yankees couldn’t add any further runs that inning.

Voit added one more to the score, an insurance run of sorts, in the top of the 8th with another 1-out solo home run. And after the Angels tried to get a few of those runs back in the bottom of the inning, the Yankees were glad for every extra insurance run they had to ensure their win tonight.

Final score: 7-5 Yankees

Mike Ford hit his first major league home run with that 5th inning 2-run homer. The Yankees were able to retrieve that milestone ball from the lucky fan that caught it in the right field seats. Ford intends to give the ball to his parents, something I think is a great gesture.

He’ll hit lots of home runs, but that first one deserves a spot on his parents’ mantle, next to the baseball trophies he won in Little League, where they cheered him on and hoped he would one day achieve his dream. Remember, he grew up in New Jersey, a huge fan of the Yankees during their most recent dynasty years. The dream was always to wear pinstripes (or away greys).

You know, somewhere, there’s some kid sleeping with his glove under his pillow, dreaming of the night he’ll get to hit his first home run with the Yankees. And someday, we’re going to watch that kid do just that.

Go Yankees!

Game 22: NYY vs. LAA — Urshela’s extra inning heroics

The Yankees played their second extra inning game in as many days on opposite coasts. And with so many really good players still on the IL, it’s more surprising that they’re consistently winning and on the plus side of their average than the fact that they’re battling their way to get there. It actually says a lot about the depth of the organization that stars like Judge, Stanton, Sanchez, and Gregorius and still be charging ahead into successive wins.

In tonight’s opener at the Angels, Yankees starter JA Happ found a momentum that carried him through his 7 innings with just 89 pitches and minimal damage — 3 hits, 2 walks, and 2 allowed runs and 5 strikeouts. In the 2nd, with 1 out, a single scored as part of a 2-run home run for the Angels’ only regular game runs.

The Yankees kicked off the game with Luke Voit’s 1-out solo home run in the 1st, making this his 33rd straight game to get on base in some way, the current leader in all of MLB. In the 3rd, Higashioka led-off with a double, and 1-out walks to Gardner and Voit loaded the bases. Gleyber Torres’ sacrifice fly (and a bad throw from right field) scored Higashioka to tie up the game so early.

Both teams then defended their part of that tied score mostly through some stellar pitching. The Angels and Yankee starters going deep into the game, but their relievers followed up with scoreless innings of their own on into extra innings. For the Yankees, Ottavino closed out the regular game, and Kahnle and Cessa pitched in the earlier extra innings.

In the 12th, the Yankees got the chance to break the tie first. Clint Frazier led-off with a double. He then moved to 3rd on a ground out and watched them give Mike Ford his first (of 2) intentional walk. It was Gio Urshela’s sacrifice fly to allow Frazier to score the go-ahead run. But Aroldis Chapman had a hard time finding his way out of the bottom of the inning to preserve the Yankees’ lead. He gave up a lead-off single, a 2-out hit-by-pitch, and an RBI single to tie up the game again.

Both teams sailing through the 13th, it would be the 14th inning to conclude the game, over 4 hours since the 10:00 pm EST start. Torres struck out but made it safely to 1st on a late throwing error (it’s why you always run it out). He advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch and then stole 3rd after Ford’s second intentional walk. And it would be Gio Urshela again for the heroics — an RBI single to score Torres, the eventual winning run.

Jonathan Holder was strong through the 13th for the Yankees and sealed the game for them in the bottom of the 14th. His strong outing combined with Urshela’s hot bat was enough to deliver the victory to the Yankees late tonight.

Final score: 4-3 Yankees, in 14 innings

Injury update: It looks like the Yankees are going to get Gary Sanchez back really soon. He play his rehab game today with Short-A Charleston and will fly out to the West Coast tomorrow (Tuesday) to hopefully rejoin the team in their final game in Anaheim on Wednesday.

In that 12th inning double, Clint Frazier jammed his ankle diving back to 2nd on a pick-off attempt. It was enough to merit a visit from the trainer but not enough to pull him from the game. In between innings, he did get it taped up to stay in the rest of the game.

He later half-joked that the IL was “too full” for him to not consider playing through his minor sprain. And really, the truth is that his time on the regular roster will be cut short as soon as one of the regular outfielders comes off the IL. After a disappointing 2018 due to injuries, the young outfielder doesn’t want to waste a moment with the team while he can.

Go Yankees!

Game 16: BOS vs. NYY — #BigMaple’s big rivalry shutout

James Paxton, tonight’s starter, certainly put it in words all in Yankee Universe can understand: “We want to beat Boston every time.” And maybe it was that mindset that helped surge him and the rest of the Yankee team to just dominate the visiting Red Sox in the first of their 2-game mini-series in the Bronx.

Paxton threw a stellar 110 pitches through 8 scoreless innings, giving up just 2 hits and a walk and striking out 12 Boston batters to earn tonight’s win. Joe Harvey came in to close out the game with 14 pitches in the 9th inning to complete the shutout.

The Red Sox’s ace got the start for them and was only able to throw 5 innings tonight against the power-hitting of the Yankees. He held them off until the 3rd, when Gardner led-off with a double and later scored on DJ LeMahieu’s 2-out single. LeMahieu moved to 2nd on Judge’s walk and then scored on Luke Voit’s single. Clint Frazier led-off the 4th with a solo home run. Two outs later, Romine singled and then scored on Mike Tauchman’s double.

After the Red Sox went to their bullpen in the 6th, the Yankees didn’t seem to know how to slow down. Urshella doubled, Gardner walked, and both moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt. Then it would be Mike Tauchman to smack a big 3-run home run into the second deck of the right field seats. And Gleyber Torres capped off the Yankees’ big night with a 1st pitch lead-off home run in the 7th.

Final score: 8-0 Yankees

Injury news and roster moves: The Yankees announced that Greg Bird has once again been plagued by the injury bug and placed on the Injured List. This time he has torn his plantar fascia, which is the connective tissue between the ball of the foot and the heel that is under the instep/arch. It is the step beyond the common injury of plantar fasciitis, or a strain in the same area, usually due to a sudden trauma or injury and is accompanied by a pop and bruising in the area. It can take up to 12 weeks to completely heal, and surgery is rarely needed.

Anyway, so Bird will actually be wearing a boot on his foot for 10-14 days during the initial pain and injury period. He won’t be back in baseball activities for at least a month, but this can’t be the kind of year Bird has been wanting.

To fill that void, the Yankees moved Jacoby Ellsbury to the 60-day IL to make room for  Spring Training stand-out Mike Ford, called up from AAA Scranton. New Jersey native Ford grew up loving recent Yankee legends like Tino Martinez and Derek Jeter, so to don the pinstripes and play in the same dirt is truly a dream come true.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 17: BAL vs. NYY — Definitely not a rout, a come-from-behind victory

Another cool night at Steinbrenner Field under the light watching the Yankees take on a divisional rival and battle it all the way to the end. It certainly didn’t lean in favor of the home team for much of the game, but it certainly wasn’t terrible. A hostile fan nearby even commented that he was upset over the Yankees’ “rout”. Which was a complete misnomer. The Yankees were behind, but only by 3 runs, still in “save” territory. It was never a rout. A rout is when one team beats the other by ridiculous scoring — like the 2007 Rangers defeating the Orioles 30-3.

Jonathan Loaisiga got the start for the Yankees tonight against the visiting Orioles and got roughed up a bit in his 2 innings. A lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt and then stole 3rd. A bad throwing error on that steal allowed the runner to score easily. But then he got 3 strikeouts in a row into the 2nd inning. Three consecutive singles scored one run, and a 2-out walk loaded up the bases. All three runners scored on a big double, and that runner scored on an RBI single.

Zack Britton came in to settle things down for the Yankees, nearly sailing through his 2 innings. Chapman and Green followed suit, each with a strong inning of their own. Jonathan Holder’s 7th would have been perfect except for a 2-out solo home run that allowed the Orioles to get one more run in tonight. Tarpley’s stint in the final 2 innings kept the O’s from adding any more.

The Yankees were definitely hitting far more than the Orioles, collecting 14 total hits tonight and spreading them out over the game. In the 1st, Gardner led-off with a walk and scored as part of Aaron Judge’s solid 2-run home run to get the Yankees on the board, and at that point, narrowly ahead of the Orioles.

In the 4th, down by those aforementioned 3 runs, with 1 out, Tulowitzki made it safely to 1st thanks to a bad throwing error. After another out, Brett Gardner smacked a 2-run home run to edge the Yankees closer to the leading Orioles. With 2 outs in the 5th, Andujar singled, was pinch-run by Wade, moved to 3rd on Sanchez’s single, and then scored on Greg Bird’s single.

As a sort of final ditch effort, the Yankees used a veteran pitcher’s off-day to their advantage in the 8th. Kyle Higashioka led-off with a big solo home run over the left field concourse. Then Saez’s single, Kyle Holder’s hit-by-pitch, and Florial’s 1-out single loaded the bases. The remaining fans were electrified, and all those organic chants and cheering were almost deafening at time.

Trey Amburgey works his way through a walk for Saez to score the tying run and keep the bases loaded. After a pitching change, Clint Frazier smacked a long sacrifice fly that scored the winning run — Kyle Holder.

Final score: 8-7 Yankees

One to Watch: I’m giving it again to Kyle Holder. Tonight, his defense at short stop was just outstanding. He was always where he needed to be to keep the Orioles from adding to their score in the latter part of the game. Plus, he got the honor of scoring the winning run. He’s just something to watch all Spring so far.

Next up: The Yankees will host the Phillies tomorrow night, with back-to-back home night games.

Roster moves: Every Spring, the Yankees always invite all 40 players on their regular roster. Plus, the ask members of the Yankees organization from around the minor leagues to come to camp and work out with the 40-man roster. In the process, those extra players get re-assigned to various minor league teams for the season, and some of the slots on the 40-man might shake up a bit.

So, last week, the cuts, options, and reassignments began. Lockers were emptied and players sent to minor league camp (that happens privately and simultaneously to the public Spring Training). Last Wednesday, the Yankees optioned pitcher Domingo Acevedo to AA Trenton and reassigned pitchers Brady Lail and Trevor Stephan to minor league camp.

Sunday, they optioned pitcher Albert Abreu to AA Trenton. And before today’s game, they optioned pitchers Chance Adams and Joe Harvey to AAA Scranton and reassigned pitchers Cale Coshow and Danny Farquhar and catcher Kellin Deglan to minor league camp. Then after tonight’s game, they optioned Thairo Estrado to AAA Scranton and reassigned Trey Amburgey and Mike Ford to minor league camp.

Many of these faces I expect we’ll see again, maybe even this Spring in the case of split squad games.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: Again, the later great plays are missing again in the available video highlights for you. My apologies.}

Spring Game 12: NYY vs. PHI — Good pitching makes all the difference

In contrast to yesterday’s game, the Yankees certainly found their pitching dominance to shut out the Phillies at their home field this afternoon. Led by two off-season veteran acquisitions, the Yankees proved that being good on paper can translate to being good in reality. Add in some decent offense, and it was a beautiful day for Yankees baseball. Even if they were in Clearwater (rather than at home across the Bay in Tampa).

James Paxton (also known as “Big Maple” thanks to his Canadian roots and giant maple leaf arm tattoo) got the start today and powered his way into the 4th inning, setting the scoreless and strikeout momentum for the rest of the pitching staff today. He handed the ball over to reliever Adam Ottavino who plowed through 5 outs with 3 amazing strikeouts.

With recent and lingering injuries, especially with the pitching staff, it’s rather reassuring to have some of the new guys come out and stay strong. A sigh of relief, perhaps, as they sort out how to deal with those pesky injuries and cope with the hole they leave in the roster and state of play.

Relievers Holder, Farquhar, and Hale split the final half of the game and kept the Phillies scoreless through the end of the afternoon. In total, Yankee pitchers got 12 strikeouts off Phillies’ batters.

Of course, Phillies’ pitchers weren’t exactly going easy on the visiting Yankees (including 13 strikeouts). But the Yankee batters found their moments. In the 4th, Miguel Andujar led-off with a single and moved to 2nd on Voit’s walk. Two outs and a new pitcher later, a wild pitch moved the runners to scoring position, and another one scored Andujar to give the Yankees their first run.

The Yankees loaded up the bases as Andujar led-off the 6th with another single, Voit walked again, and Bird worked a 1-out walk. Clint Frazier’s sacrifice fly scored Andujar. But it was Estevan Florial’s solid 3-run home run that had everyone talking this afternoon. One comparison was made in the moment to the likes of Reggie Jackson, who happened to be sitting in the dugout today.

Mike Ford led-off the 8th with a solo home run for just one more run for the Yankees today. Unnecessary for the win, but a solid continuation of the great day and win for the Yankees.

Final score: 6-0 Yankees

Next up: The Yankees will host the Tigers tomorrow night back in Tampa.

Go Yankees!