NLDS & ALDS: ATL vs. STL, WAS vs. LAD & TB vs. HOU, MIN vs. NYY — 3 Game 5s & a 3-game sweep

There is nothing normal about the postseason most years, and this year continues to prove this once again. Three of the series went to a Game 5, and only one series was a sweep. And none of those is what you might expect.

NLDS A: The Cardinals and Braves duked it out through 5 games, and it wasn’t until the 5th that the Cardinals came on strong and just made the decision to win this series.

NLDS
Game 1: Actually, the Braves had this game right up until the final inning, when the Cards came out swinging. The Braves just could not catch up in the end. 7-6 Cardinals

Game 2:
The Braves decided they weren’t going to let the series head to St. Louis without a hometown win, using this game to prove why they came out on top of the NL East by blanking the visiting Cardinals. 3-0 Braves

Game 3: This was one of those super tight games, with the Cards eking a single run by the Braves until the 9th. The visitors scored 3 big runs in that inning and ended up taking the lead in the series. 3-1 Braves

Game 4: Another nail biter in the series, as the game was tied and went into the 10th inning before the Cardinals got a walk-off home run to tie up the series. 5-4, in 10 Cardinals

Game 5: Back in Atlanta, the Braves lost their home field advantage in that 1st inning, giving up 10 runs to the visitors, who ended up dominating this game. 13-1 Cardinals

Cardinals win the series in 5 games

NLDS B: Almost everyone “knew” who was going to win this series. Almost everyone “knew” they were going to sweep this series. Almost everyone was very wrong.

Game 1: However, after this first game, “they” were rather confident they “knew” how this was going to work as the Dodgers quickly shut out the Nationals. 6-0 Dodgers

Game 2: But then the Nationals came back and just edged out the home team. 4-2 Nationals

Game 3: In DC, the Dodgers came back just crushing the home team with a big 6th inning. 10-4 Dodgers

Game 4: And somehow, the Nats weren’t about to go away quietly, relying on some solid pitching to tie up the series again and force a Game 5. 6-1 Nationals

Game 5: Another nail-biter in the NL. The game was tied right into the 10th, right up until the Dodgers’ reliever gave up a huge grand slam. The deficit too big to overcome by the home team, costing them the rest of the postseason. 7-3, in 10 Nationals

Nationals win the series in 5 games

ALDS A: As with the other league’s version of this series, games between the league leader and the wild card winner aren’t anything normal or predictable. Especially as the Rays were on quite the tear this last month in their quest for a postseason. But in this series alone, it was all about the “home field advantage”.

Game 1: The Astros started the series strong, only giving up runs to the Rays in the 8th. 6-2 Astros

Game 2: The Astros’ starter the game was just amazing, streaming through the Rays’ lineup and collecting 15 strikeouts. Not that the Rays were slacking. The Astros just played better. 3-1 Astros

Game 3: Once the game was at the Trop, the Rays came out swinging and just didn’t stop. They certainly weren’t about to let the Astros just run away with this series. 10-3 Rays

Game 4: While this wasn’t as poweful in the end, the Rays still collected 13 total hits, giving them more opportunities to score and eventually tie up the series. 4-1 Rays

Game 5: Again, this series was all about home field advantage. Once they were back in Houston, the Astros took command again and showed their fans why they deserve to go to the ALCS once again. 6-1 Astros

Astros win series in 5 games

ALDS B: The one series nobody was really talking about. Outside Yankee Universe, that is. But this one was something to really watch, as the Yankees were about to show off a bit.

Game 1: The Yankees had some really big innings, including home runs by LeMahieu and Gardner. Though Paxton started, it was Kahnle who ended up with the win for his 5th & 6th inning stint to essentially save the game early on until the Yankees powered their way through with those big runs in the 6th. 10-4 Yankees

Game 2: It was Tanaka Time in the Bronx for this game. Aand once again, the Yankee bats came through to support their starter, including a big 3rd inning offense. And while most of their runs were off RBI singles, but i was Didi Gregorius’ grand slam to ensure the Yankees’ eventual win. 8-2 Yankees

Game 3: Home field advantage didn’t seem to matter to the Yankees this series, as they took their momentum on the road. They used an opener in Green, who showed his reliability with a strong start and set the pattern for the rest of the game, backed by a good offense with homers by Torres and Maybin. 5-1 Yankees

Yankees sweep series in 3 games.

An interesting article I found was the idea that no one gives an MVP award for the Division Series. This is one writer’s idea of who should get this hypothetical award. I agreed (or at least understood) his picks in most of these games. But what do you think?

Championship Series begins tomorrow night with NLCS and Saturday with the ALCS. It is a best-of-7 series, so the first team with 4 wins will move onto the World Series next week.

My predictions: So, this first round was a mixed bag. I completely blew the NLDS. First is my prediction, second is the outcome.

  • NLDS A: Braves over Cardinals in 5 games — Cardinals in 5
  • NLDS B: Dodgers over Nationals in 3 games — Nationals in 5
  • ALDS A: Astros over Rays in 4 games — Astros in 5
  • ALDS B: Yankees over Twins in 5 games — Yankees in 3

Now for the Championship Series: (Perhaps, I’ll be better this round.)

  • NLCS: Cardinals over Nationals in 6 games
  • ALCS: Yankees over Astros in 7 games

It’s clearly going to be one of those postseasons. And let’s be honest, it’s really just beginning. But isn’t that what makes October Baseball more intriguing — that you don’t know what’s going to happen?

Go Yankees!

Game 101: NYY vs. MIN — 6 homers, 2 triples, 17 runs, 3 double plays, 2 league leaders

The team from the “Mini Apple” certainly gave the team from the “Big Apple” a much-needed challenge in preparation for the final two months of the season. And while I can’t say much about the pitching for either team this series, the offense certainly had quite the time.

JA Happ got the start for the Yankees in the final game against the Twins tonight and had some struggles keeping the Twins’ offense under control. He threw 74 pitches into the 4th inning, gave up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 6 runs, and struck out just 3 batters. With 2 outs in the 1st, he gave up a single that scored on a 2-run home run to get the Twins on the board first.

In the 2nd, with 1 out, a walk moved to 3rd on a single and then scored on a sacrifice fly. A lead-off walk in the 4th promptly scored with a 2-run home run. Then Happ gave up consecutive singles that moved into scoring position on a ground out.

That was it for the starter tonight, handing the ball over to Nestor Cortes Jr. Cortes gave up a sacrifice fly to score just 1 runner before closing out the inning with a strong strikeout. Cortes had a decent outing, despite giving up a lead-off solo home run in the 5th to add just 1 more run for the home team. Cortes then stayed strong into the 7th inning. Kahnle came in for 4 outs before Chapman’s 26th save sealed the series for the Yankees.

Leading up to that, the Yankees also took advantage of some weaker starting pitching. Encarnacion led-off the 2nd with a double and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ double. Torres then walked, and a long fly out moved the runners into scoring position, which they did on Mike Tauchman’s triple. Austin Romine’s sacrifice fly then scored Tauchman.

In the 3rd, Aaron Hicks led-off with a towering solo home run, and 2 strike outs later, Gleyber Torres smacked a solo home run to keep the batting practice rolling for the visiting team. In the 4th, with 1 out and runners LeMahieu and Judge on the corners, Hicks’ single scored LeMahieu, and Gregorius’ 2-out triple scored Judge and Hicks.

Now, with a healthy lead and because you just never know with this series, Edwin Encarnacion still added just one more insurance run with a lead-off solo home run in the 9th. This was both after he fouled one pitch off the back of his leg and then it became his 30th home run of the season.

Final score: 10-7 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees are on their way to Boston for a 4-game weekend series against the Red Sox. After an off day, they will start their next home stand, first with a mini-series against the Diamondbacks and then a 4-game weekend series against the Red Sox. Then, they’ll hit the road again to face Orioles and Blue Jays.

Injury update/roster moves: As expected, Gary Sanchez was sent to the injured list with a Grade 1 left groin strain. In his stead, they recalled catcher Kyle Higashioka for back up to Romine. For the now requisite “fresh arm” portion of the Scranton Shuttle, the Yankees recalled Nestor Cortes Jr to pitch in tonight’s game and optioned Jonathan Holder back to AAA Scranton.

Go Yankees!

Game 100: NYY vs. MIN — The 10-inning roller coaster

Five hours of eventful baseball isn’t a bad way to spend a Tuesday baseball. The Twins are currently sitting atop the AL Central, just a few games behind the Yankees in the overall AL. So these two teams are positioned for some really good baseball during this mid-week series. After yesterday’s “Triple Play Game”, tonight’s game became quite the battle for the Yankees to come from way behind and then challenge the home team for extra inning glory.

Being the visiting team gave the Yankees the opportunity to strike first, so they did. Hicks led-off with a walk and moved to 3rd on Encarnacion’s 1-out double. They both scored on Didi Gregorius’ 2-out double. But the Yankees’ offense tapered off a bit.

Meanwhile, Domingo German had a night he’d prefer to forget, with a less than stellar start. He threw 82 pitches into just the 4th inning, gave up 9 hits, 2 walks, and 8 runs, and struck out just 3 Twins’ batters. In the 2nd, a lead-off double later scored on a 1-out single to get the home team on the board. A lead-off solo home run in the 3rd tied up the game, but the Twins followed it up immediately with another solo home run to grab the lead.

And then came the 4th inning. The lead-off double moved to 3rd on a wild pitch and scored on a single. After an out, German loaded up the bases with a single and hit-by-pitch. An easy ground out moved all the runners up and scored a run. Then a 3-run home run leaped the Twins into a big lead, and the Yankees ended German’s night by going to their bullpen.

David Hale came in to close out the 4th without adding further runs, despite giving up consecutive singles to threaten. His 5th inning was a bit of a struggle too. A lead-off single moved to 2nd on a grounder and then scored on a double. But then Hale and the Yankees’ defense kicked in and carried them through the next inning without further damage.

The Yankees did find a moment in the top of the 5th to chip away at the Twins’ lead. With 1 out, Judge and Encarnacion each singled. After another out, Didi Gregorius smacked a 3-run home run to score the runners and continue Gregorius’ big offensive night. That was also Gregorius’ 100th career home run, and honestly, this swing alone can be credited with the the turning point in the game because it motivated the Yankees to keep the game close.

They came back in the 8th to charge forward with some of that motivation. Torres led-off with a walk, moved to 3rd on Urshela’s double, and then scored on Mike Tauchman’s double. After a strikeout, Aaron Judge’s double scored both Urshela and Tauchman. The Twins brought in a new reliever. After another strikeout, Voit worked a walk and was pinch-run by LeMahieu. After another pitching change, Didi Gregorius (once again) doubled home Judge and LeMahieu to take the lead in the game.

Kahnle had a scoreless 7th inning, handing the game over to Zack Britton for the 8th. But the Twins were chomping at the bit to not let the Yankees take this game from them. With 1 out, Britton gave up a single that then scored on a big 2-run home run that swung the game back into the Twins’ favor.

Well, that wasn’t going to last long in this game. With 2 outs in the 9th, just an out away from victory for the Twins, Tauchman worked a walk, and then Aaron Hicks smacked a big 2-run home run to give the lead back to the Yankees. It was now handed over to Aroldis Chapman for a 3-out save. But again, not in this game. Chapman gave up 3 consecutive walks to load up the bases, and a sacrifice fly tied up the game.

And into the 10th inning. With 1 out, Gregorius and Romine singled. Gleyber Torres’ single scored Gregorius to give the Yankees back the lead. After another out, Torres made a dash for 2nd as the Twins’ pitcher threw a wild pitch. So in this roller coaster of a game, Romine does his own dash for home to score the insurance run for the Yankees.

So once again, the Yankees needed just 3 outs. Adam Ottavino came in and quickly got a strikeout. He then gave up 2 walks. A fielder’s choice out at 2nd put runners on the corners, and another walk loaded up the bases. Now just an out away and in a jam, the Yankees called on the ever reliable Chad Green. Green came in for just 5 pitches. The batter lined the ball out to center field where Aaron Hicks went running and then sliding into the warning track dirt for a beautiful catch to end the game.

Final score: 14-12 Yankees, in 10 innings

Injury alert: Gary Sanchez came out of the game after the 8th inning. He closed out the big offensive inning by hitting into an easy ground out, but on his jog to first, he seemed to pull up a bit limping. After heading down to the clubhouse, he was initially diagnosed with a groin injury and sent for further testings and an MRI. He will probably be headed to the injured list.

Go Yankees!

Game 99: NYY vs. MIN — Twins’ opening triple play leads to trouncing

The Yankees were hoping to continue their strong home stand with a strong road trip. But the Twins are having quite the season and were in the position to put a stop to the Yankees’ confidence. It didn’t stop the Yankees from pulling out all the stops to try to chip away at the Twins’ early jump into the lead.

CC Sabathia got the start for the Yankees in the first game against the Twins, throwing 77 pitches in just 4 innings, giving up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 7 runs (6 earned), and striking out just 2 Minnesota batters. In the 1st, with 1 out, he gave up consecutive solo home runs to give the Twins the lead early.

In the 3rd, a walk and 2 singles loaded up the bases. The next batter was awarded 1st base due to catcher’s interference, which moved all the runners up and scored the lead runner. Then a pair of near identical plays, a hit into a fielder’s choice, scored the next 2 runners to ease the Twins into a comfortable lead. In the 4th, a lead-off home run and a 2-out solo homer kept the Twins in control of the board.

Luis Cessa came on for some long-term relief, 3 innings through the 7th. Despite 6 strong strikeouts, he gave up a 1-out solo home run in the 6th to cap off the home team’s night. Jonathan Holder closed out the game with a scoreless and hitless 13-pitch 8th inning, including some snazzy defense.

The Yankees did try their best to challenge the Twins, and they did so rather effectively. In the 3rd, with 1 out, Gio Urshela hit the 1st pitch of his at-bat for his 10th home run of the season. Then Tauchman singled, moved to 3rd on LeMahieu’s double, and watched Judge work a walk to load up the bases. Edwin Encarnacion’s single scored Tauchman to tie up the game briefly.

Luke Voit hit a big 1-out solo home run in the 4th. Then in the 5th, Tauchman’s single led-off the inning, and DJ LeMahieu’s 2-run home run inched the Yankees closer to the Twins’ lead. Torres led-off the 6th with a double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Mike Tauchman’s single. Close, but not quite enough.

Final score: 8-6 Twins

And the biggest thing everyone talked about tonight was the Triple Play from the 1st inning. Unfortunately, it was the Twins’ defense that showed off the play. LeMahieu and Judge kicked off the 1st with consecutive walks, but then Encarnacion hit into the standard triple play, or the 5-4-3. (Five is the scoring number for 3rd baseman, four is the 2nd baseman, and three is the 1st baseman.) It is the first triple play inside Target Field, but the ninth triple play by the Twins in their organizational history.

Roster moves/Scranton Shuttle: Before tonight’s game, the Yankees played the old “fresh arm switcheroo” again. They called Jonathan Holder back up from AAA Scranton, sending Stephen Tarpley back down. Holder, of course, threw a great inning in tonight’s game.

Go Yankees!

Game 33: MIN vs. NYY — Soggy shortened Sunday game

It was wet. It was cold. It was rainy. It was just a nasty day in the City from start to finish. And for the brief break between storm fronts, they squeezed in a ball game. Or at least the better part of one, as the fans and players braved the chilly rain for the nearly 3 hours before it was eventually called a bit short.

Domingo German got the start today and had a great outing in this final game of the weekend series against the visiting Twins. He threw 108 pitches into the 7th inning, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and just 1 run, and struck out an impressive 7 Minnesota batters. With 2 outs in the 4th, he gave up a single that moved to 2nd on walk and then scored on a single for the Twins’ lone allowed run today.

The Yankees found moments to advance against a former teammate that started today’s game for the Twins. In the 2nd, they loaded the bases with Torres’ single and walks to Gardner and Maybin. DJ LeMahieu’s 2-out single scored both Torres and Gardner, thanks in part to a throwing error. And Urhsela hit a 1-out single in the 4th and then scored on Mike Tauchman’s 2-out 2-run home run into the right field seats to double the Yankees’ score.

After a soggy start to the day, we all were counting down the outs. Once they played through 5 innings, the consensus seemed to be that at least there’s a “complete game” if they called it. When the rain began in the late 6th inning, it just got progressively worse until fans were pretty much standing in a downpour to sing “God Bless America” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the 7th inning stretch.

Both pitching staff had some issues through those later innings. Kahnle was able to close out the 7th with a 7-pitch strikeout, but Ottavino had trouble with control in the 8th, getting just 2 outs, walking one batter, and hitting another with a pitch. They called on Chapman for a 7-pitch strikeout, but even he had trouble with a really wild pitch in the mix.

The Twins sent in a new reliever for the bottom of the 8th, and again, it was messy. Gleyber Torres benefited by drawing a lead-off walk and then moved all the way to 3rd on a passed ball and wild pitch during Gardner’s at-bat. An initial request was that the mound might be too wet, but that was enough to put the game into rain delay before someone could get really hurt.

After an hour and one minute, there was no abating the weather. It’s just going to rain all night. It was already pushed back from a 1:05 pm start time, which allowed for the game to actually be played at all. They called the game as is.

Final score: 4-1 in 8 innings, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: Speaking of rain, the Yankees will host a 4-game series against the Mariners, starting tomorrow (Monday) before a quick trip down to face the Rays. They head back home for 2 more series (against the Orioles and Rays) before hitting the road again.

Injury Updates: There’s actually some really good news on this front. It looks like the Yankees may be getting some familiar faces back really soon. Clint Frazier (ankle) played in a rehab game with the AA Trenton Thunder yesterday and could be activated Monday or Tuesday. Aaron Hicks (back) will join the Advanced-A Tampa Tarpons this week for his rehab game and could be finally in the Bronx this season later this week.

Further down the return list, Giancarlo Stanton (shoulder) could resume batting practice this week as part of his progress. Dellin Betances (shoulder) will be assessed and could start throwing Monday, with an aim to be back on the mound next month. And Didi Gregorius (elbow) is actually doing great in his recovery process, inciting an earlier return anticipation of possibly late June rather than later in the summer.

In other words, for all the mess that was the growing list earlier this season, the Yankees are finally stabilizing and recovering their loss earlier than anticipated in some cases. And that’s something worth celebrating.

Go Yankees!

 

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 31: MIN vs. NYY — Strong bullpen and bats support early exit

The Yankees began their new home stand with this series against the visiting Twins. It was a mixed bag for the Yankees, with another possible addition to the IL but a strong win in the end.

James Paxton got the start tonight, throwing 64 pitches in just 3 innings. He gave up 2 hits, 3 walks, and an unearned run and struck out just 1 Twins batter. After holding them off for the first two innings, in the 3rd, he loaded up the bases with a walk, an out, a fielding error, and a walk. A sacrifice fly scored the Twins’ first run, and a passed ball moved runners to scoring position. But a line drive ended the inning as Paxton exited the game entirely. (More later.)

Jonathan Holder came on to sail his way scorelessly through the 4th and 5th innings, before Ottavino and Kahnle followed up with scoreless 6th and 7th innings, respectively. Collectively, the three of them powered through 12 straight batters. It was awesome.

Zack Britton got into a spot of trouble in the 8th. With 2 outs, he gave up a walk that scored as part of a bit 2-run home run to add to the Twins’ score. However, Chapman closed out the game with a solid 9th inning and earned his 6th save.

With an early exit from their starter, the Yankees needed to match their strong bullpen with a strong offense. And they did. In the 1st, Brett Gardner hit a long ball into centerfield and thanks to a bad fielding error, he powered it all the way to 3rd base. Voit worked a walk, and then Gleyber Torres’ 1-out single easily scored Gardner. After another out, Urshela hit a solid single, but the left fielder was too quick and got Voit out trying to score a run.

In the 2nd, with 1 out, Maybin walked and Wade was hit by a pitch. Then with 2 outs, Luke Voit’s single scored Maybin, but then Voit was thrown out trying to go to 2nd on the throw. Voit just couldn’t catch a base running break early on tonight.

Mike Tauchman led-off the 4th by making it to 1st thanks to a missed catch error. Maybin singled, and Wade’s sacrifice bunt moved runners to scoring position. A wild pitch scored Tauchman, and Brett Gardner’s ground out scored Maybin.

Then Gary Sanchez hit a couple of solo home runs to march his way into the Yankee history books — a lead-off one in the 5th and a 2-out one in the 7th. This is his 10th multi-home run game of his career, which he did in just 231 games. For some perspective among previous catchers, Posada hit 16 (in 1574 total games), Berra hit 15 (in 1694), and Dickey hit 15 (in 1708).

Final score: 6-3 Yankees

Okay, James Paxton has been nursing a sore right knee for most of the season. He’s been getting treatments on off-days and just powering through, but during tonight’s game, it became too much to “just deal with”. So he trusted the bullpen (rightly so) and came out of the game. He will get an MRI tomorrow and hopefully avoid the injured list.

Injury updates: Miguel Andujar and Troy Tulowitzki played in Advanced-A Tampa Tarpons games earlier this week as part of their rehab assignments. But Tulowitzki had a setback with his hamstring injury, pulled from a game, and then shut down from further baseabll activities. Andujar was actually at the game tonight and will probably be activated from the IL for tomorrow’s game.

Go Yankees!