Game 24: MIN vs. NYY — Walk-off by #ElGary = Sweep Dreams

With this first long home stand of the season now in the books, the Yankees can look back with some fond memories. Plus, they won 8 of their 10 games and are now 3.5 games behind the AL East leading Red Sox.

Jordan Montgomery got the start in this afternoon’s finale against the Twins. He threw 98 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs, and struck out 6 batters. Those runs scored in the 3rd inning. With 2 outs, Montgomery gave up a walk and then a 2-run home run to get the Twins on the board.

Domingo German came on in relief in the 6th and pitched through the 8th to keep the Twins fairly under control. His one allowed run came early, in his 6th inning — a 2-out solo home run to add one more to the Twins’ lead. Dellin Betances had a truly stellar 9th inning — 13 pitches, 3 consecutive batters, 3 consecutive strike outs.

The Twins’ pitching staff was pretty good at keeping the Yankees scoreless for most of the game. The starter held the Yankees to a single hit and 3 walks (and 10 strikeouts) in his 6 innings. With a reliever on in the 7th, Stanton led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ sacrifice fly to finally get the Yankees on the board.

After being shut out again in the 8th, the Yankees faced an old foe and veteran closer in the 9th inning. Maybe that helped. Maybe it was that the Yankees weren’t ready to go down and finish this series like that, down by 2 runs. Gregorius led-off the inning and made it safely on base all the way to 2nd due to a fielding error. Stanton hit a short single, so Gregorius stayed at 2nd.

So with no outs, Gary Sanchez hit the 2nd pitch deep into the left field seats for a walk-off 3-run home run. That would be Sanchez’s first career walk-off hit at all. And the Yankees first walk-off homer of 2018 and since Gardner’s in July 2017.

Final score: 4-3 Yankees, Yankees sweep series 4-0

Next up: the Yankees are on their way to Los Angeles to face the Angels for a weekend series. The Yankees will travel next to Houston to face the Astros for a 4-game mid-week series before heading back for another home stand.

The ruling came back on the appeal of the suspension for the actions of Tyler Austin in regards to the ejection earlier this month. Initially, he received a 5-game suspension for charging the mound. Upon appeal, the sentence was reduced to 4 games, which will begin tomorrow and thus the Yankees will play with just 24 men on the roster in LA and the first game in Houston. (And if you’re wondering, the pitcher who intentionally threw at Austin in that game was suspended 6 games, lost his appeal, and will serve his sentence this weekend and into next week too as the Red Sox host the Rays and Royals.)

Finally, a big Happy Birthday to Aaron Judge, who turned 26 today.

Go Yankees!

Game 23: MIN vs. NYY — Following #SirDidi to another W

In a line-up that features known 3 major power hitters, 2 of them Home Run Derby champions and the other a semi-finalist, who would have thought the biggest hitter (by average), MLB RBI leader, and team home run leader (2nd in all MLB) so far this season would be Didi Gregorius? In fact, while Stanton, Judge, and Sanchez are finally all hitting and playing well again, it’s Gregorius to lead the rest of the team and they all seem to be following suit in their own way (like we’ve seen from the likes of Andujar, Torreyes, and Austin — not bad for “bench players”).

Anyway, in Game 3 of this 4-game series against the Twins, the Yankees followed red-hot Gregorius as they dominated the visitors again tonight. Even though starter Sonny Gray continued his struggled, the Yankee defense and bats were there to help lift him up. (Something he may not get away with against a better team.) Gray threw a whopping 104 pitches into the 5th inning, giving up 6 hits, 5 walks, and 3 runs, and striking out 4 batters.

In the 1st, a batter worked a 1-out walk and then scored as part of a 2-run homer to get the Twins on the board early. Gray faltered a little, but kept things tight until he loaded up the bases with consecutive singles in the 4th. The next batter hit into a short grounder and the Yankees’ defense was only able to get the out at 2nd, so a run scored. Chad Green completed the 5th inning for Gray and sailed through the 6th before running into a spot of trouble in the 7th — a lead-off double, a walk, a strikeout, an RBI single, and a single to load the bases.

That would be it for Green, and Shreve came on for strength getting 2 quick outs to close out the inning in just 6 pitches and unscathed. Robertson powered his way through the 8th inning in just 14 pitches before handing the game to Chapman who closed out a scoreless 9th. Well, after a short review of the final play that is.

After the Twins got on the board early, the Yankees found their chances to advance when they could. In the 1st, Gardner singled, moved to 3rd on Judge’s single, and then scored the Yankees’ first run of the night on Didi Gregorius’ single. Gregorius came back in the 3rd to hit his 9th homer of the season, a solid solo shot into the right field seats to tie up the game at that point. Stanton followed that up with a single and Sanchez worked a walk, and then they both scored on Tyler Austin’s nice left-field 3-run home run to give the Yankees a solid lead.

In the 4th, Romine led-off with a walk and moved to 3rd on Torres’ double before getting thrown out on a fielder’s choice at home. Aaron Judge’s sacrifice fly then scored Torres. It’s worth noting the Twins’ starter intentionally walked Gregorius for his final batter, a good choice as the next batter hit into a fly ball out after a bit of a battle in the at-bat.

Following this, the Twins’ bullpen kept the Yankees from doing much to add to their lead, keeping them scoreless for the next few innings. It wasn’t until the 8th inning that the Yankees found another chance. Torres led-off with a single and advanced to 2nd on Gardner’s sacrifice bunt out. The reliever intentionally walked Judge and then (unintentionally?) walked Gregorius to load up the bases. Giancarlo Stanton hit a long sacrifice fly that scored Torres, and Sanchez’s walk loaded the bases again. And once again, a fly out ended hopes for a further lead. But it would be enough.

Final score: 7-4 Yankees

The final game of this series and home stand will be tomorrow afternoon, that rare Thursday matinée. It’s scheduled as such because the Yankees have to catch a flight to California to face the Angels this weekend. You ready for the first West Coast Week of the season? (aka 10pm EST game starts)

It’s also worth noting that the weather progressively got grayer over the game, with a sort of low fog settling into the stadium (as you can see on the included video clips). It was kind of damp and hazy towards the end. An interesting way to play a ball game, as I’m sure it was progressively more difficult to see those fly balls to make the necessary outs and plays. But those professional athletes just power on and power through.

Go Yankees!

Game 22: MIN vs. NYY — #CCStrong, #ElGary, & #SirDidi

The Yankees continue their dominant homestand with tonight’s win over the visiting Twins. It is their 4th straight win, and the Yankees are really starting to click in many ways. Fortunately, their starters (for the most part) are also hitting a good stride too, including tonight’s starter CC Sabathia.

He threw 82 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up just 2 hits, a walk, and an unearned run and struck out 4 batters. In the 1st inning, with 2 outs, he gave up a walk. The next batter technically doubled, but a fielding error allowed the lead runner to score and the other runner to make it to 3rd on the throw. But that would be the only bad inning for Sabathia, who powered through the rest of his outing like the veteran he is.

Dellin Betances’ 7th inning didn’t start off well either. He gave up a lead-off walk who ended up at 2nd on a pick-off error. One out later, that runner scored on a short single and missed catch error. After giving up another walk, the Yankees called in Robertson for a quick 7-pitch 2-out end to the inning. Chasen Shreve’s 8th hit a couple of bumps too — a 1-out double scored on a 2-out double for the Twins’ only truly earned run of the night. Holder finished up the game with a breezy 9th inning.

But those 3 “bumpy” innings were really nothing in comparison to the Yankees’ offense. The Twins’ starter at least spread out the Yankees runs through his outing. In the 2nd, Gary Sanchez hit a 1-out solo home run. With 1 out in the 3rd, Gardner worked a walk, moved to 3rd on Judge’s double, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ single.

Then in the 4th, again with 1 out, Walker technically struck out but made it safely to 1st on a messy wild pitch. Andujar followed him by making it to base safely on a fielding error. Gleyber Torres earned his first career RBI with a single that scored Walker. And Judge led-off the 5th with a single and then scored as part of Didi Gregorius’ big 2-run home run, his 8th of the season so far.

That would be the end of the Twins’ starter’s night, and the first reliever powered through the rest of the 5th inning, shutting down the Yankees with 3 consecutive strikeouts. That momentum continued through the 6th with a new reliever, but the same reliever had trouble in the 7th. Aaron Judge led-off that inning with a solo home run. Then with 1 out and Stanton on 1st, Gary Sanchez hit another home run tonight, a bit 2-run homer up the middle to cap off the Yankees’ runs tonight.

Final score: 8-3 Yankees

Roster moves: before tonight’s game, the Yankees announced a trade with the Nationals, reliever A.J. Cole to the Yankees for cash considerations. To make room for him on the roster, the Yankees also designated pitcher David Hale for assignment. And the Orioles officially claimed infielder Jace Peterson off waivers after Peterson had been DFA’d last week.

Go Yankees!

Game 21: MIN vs. NYY — #TanakaTime & some Bronx Bombers

The Yankees continue to dominate this home stand. Masahiro Tanaka got the start in the opening game of this week’s 4-game series against the visiting Twins. Tanaka had a stellar outing, throwing 91 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up just 3 hits, 2 walks, and a run, and striking out 5 batters. And once again, the lone run scored in Tanaka’s weakest inning. In the 5th, with 2 outs, a batter was hit by a pitch, moved to 2nd on a single, and then scored on another single.

Chad Green came on to finish Tanaka’s 7th inning. After 2 outs and a walk by Tanaka, Green walked the next batter before getting that 3rd out. David Hale got the final 2 innings of the evening, keeping the Twins to that lone allowed run.

Meanwhile, the Yankee pounced on the Twins’ pitchers early and often. In the 1st, Gardner led-off with a walk and stole 2nd. Two outs later, Stanton worked a walk, and then they both scored on Gary Sanchez’s double. Sanchez then scored on Aaron Hicks’ single to give the Yankees a big early lead. Miguel Andujar added another run to that lead with a lead-off solo home run in the 2nd inning.

The Twins’ starter got a bit roughed up in those first two innings, but got things under control until the 5th inning. With 2 outs, Giancarlo Stanton hit a solo home run deep into the left field bleachers. That would be it for the Twins’ starter (after 106 pitches). His reliever got out of that inning, and kept the Yankees away in the 6th. But after giving up a double to Judge in the 7th, he was replaced. Judge quickly scored on Stanton’s 1-out single, and after Hicks’ 2-out walk, Tyler Austin hit a long double to score both Stanton and Hicks.

But the Yankees weren’t done yet, and the 8th inning reliever was clearly having a bad day. Gleyber Torres led-off with his first major league hit, a single up the middle. The bases were quickly loaded with walks to Gardner and Judge. And Didi Gregorius smacked a huge grand slam to push the Yankees into double-digit scoring. After Stanton singled and then was forced out on Sanchez’s grounder, the Twins decided they had enough.

So they called on their center fielder to pitch. Yes, they had a position player pitch. (Are they saving their bullpen for the rest of the series?) He got his first batter (Hicks) to pop up and get a fairly easy out at 2nd (Sanchez). Tyler Austin saw the first pitch and smacked it into the visitor’s bullpen for a 2-run home run before a grounder ended the inning. (By the way, the position player pitcher only threw 5 pitches to get out of the inning, in contrast to the actual reliever who threw 29 to get a single out.)

Final score: 14-1 Yankees

This year is the 20th anniversary of the perfect game thrown by former Yankees’ starter David Wells. (The actual anniversary will be May 17.) In honor of this event, Wells threw out the 1st pitch (and it’s clearly been 20 years) and the stadium gave away commemorative David Wells bobbleheads. It’s worth noting that a certain young New Yorker was seated with the Bleacher Creatures to personally witness the game. Saving his $7 ticket stub, that young man eventually became a Yankees All-Star reliever — Dellin Betances.

Trivia bits: Jorge Posada was the catcher for David Wells perfect game, the opposing team were the Minnesota Twins, future Hall of Famer Paul Molitor was the Twins’ DH, Bernie Williams went 3-for-3 with 3 runs scored and a solo homer in the 4th (1 of 4 runs scored that day), Wells threw a total of 120 pitches (79 strikes and 41 balls) and got 11 strikeouts, and it was “Beanie Baby Day” at the stadium (because it was 1998).

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 27: NYY vs. MIN — Cool and sunny Spring win

Well, today was another nice day in Florida, a cool, clear afternoon to play some baseball in the last few bits of Spring Training. Of course, back in New York, the city and stadium are digging themselves out from underneath the latest snow storm. The Yankees took themselves about 2.5 hours (or 143 miles) down the Gulf Coast to visit the Twins in Fort Myers.

Jordan Montgomery got the start in today’s game, throwing an impressive 6 strong innings. He kept the Twins from doing much damage all afternoon, with a single exception. In the 5th, he gave up 3 consecutive singles to load up the bases before getting the first out of the inning, a fly out. A sacrifice fly scored one run and moved the other runners into scoring position, but a fly out ended that threat. Those 3 allowed hits were half of Montgomery’s allowed hit all 6 innings. This certainly sets him up to be a rather interesting cog in this season’s rotation.

Domingo German also put up his case as to why they should pick him (over Holder) for the final bullpen spot. In his 3 innings today, he kept the Twins scoreless and hitless. In other words, he was dominant and a completely valid contender for what could be long-term relief in 2018.

Meanwhile, the Twins pitching staff became a rotating door as it certainly kept the Yankees from doing much of anything today as well. Billy McKinney kicked off the minimal scoring today with a 2-out solo home run into the right field seating area in the 2nd inning. After the Twins tied things up in the 5th, the Yankees came back in the top of the 6th. With 2 outs, Tyler Austin doubled and then scored on Austin Romine’s long single to give the Yankees the slim lead.

Final score: 2-1 Yankees

Next up: the Yankees will host their annual big rivalry game as the Red Sox come north to Tampa to face off for an afternoon game. Masahiro Tanaka currently listed as the starting pitcher for the game.

Yet another lighter side: Another commercial was released today for the Yankees. This time, it stars Dellin Betances, Masahiro Tanaka, and David Robertson (with a cameo from a familiar face to regular Spring Training fans). It’s all in the release, guys.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 17: MIN vs. NYY — Opportunities chilled out just short of success

It was 61° at first pitch and windy, and as the sun set, it just got colder. In other words, while the Northeast may be bracing for its 3rd major storm of the winter, Florida was in the middle of its continued winter. I know that must sound like heaven for some of my readers, but when it was just 80-something a few weeks ago, this week is going to be frigid in the busiest home week at Spring Training this year.

The Yankees hosted the Twins for tonight’s game, calling on Masahiro Tanaka to have a better outing than his last one. And overall, he did. Tanaka threw a pretty solid 4 innings, getting a strong 6 strikeouts. His weakest inning was the 2nd, allowing 3 of his 4 allowed hits and his lone walk. Unfortunately, one of those was a 1-out double and the next one was a 2-run home run to get the Twins on the board early. But outside of that Tanaka set a nice pace for the Yankees’ pitchers tonight.

Dellin Betances came out for 2 quick strikeouts in the 5th, and Chasen Shreve finished off the inning quickly to keep the Twins from adding to their lead. Domingo German came on for a solid 3 innings, adding 3 more strikeouts to the Yankees’ pitching total tonight. German kept the ball rolling and handed things over to Tommy Kahnle for a scoreless 9th. All these pitchers just waiting for the Yankees to do something. Anything really.

Despite some, shall we say “questionable calls”, the Yankees did get many opportunities to change the game in their favor, thanks in part to the strong pitching. The lone successful one was Tyler Austin’s big 2-out solo home run over the center field fence in the 4th to get the Yankees on the board.

There was a really close shot in the 3rd with Torreyes’ big lead-off double but he was tagged out coming home on Wade’s double. (Yes, Wade is back after his wrist injury and looking good again.) Two outs later left Wade stranded on base. And in the 8th, Florial and Robinson worked walks and ended up in scoring position before a dribbling ground out ended the threat. A final hope came in the 9th, putting more runners in scoring position, but the final out was a solid catch in left field to hand the win to the Twins.

In other words, the Yankees were pitching well, but not putting together much hitting-wise.

Final score: 2-1 Twins

Next up: the Yankees host the Tigers tomorrow afternoon. The Yankees host 5 games at home this week, their busiest week at home this Spring. CC Sabathia is scheduled for the start.

One to Watch: I’ve got to give this to Tyler Austin today. Of course, he helped this cause by hitting that 4th inning home run. But Austin has been a constant on the roster this Spring and proved his defensive skills are worth being considered Bird’s first replacement at 1st base. Barring some injury, Austin will probably spend this year with AAA Scranton so he can play every day and sharpen those skills, laying in wait for his next shot at the big leagues. It’s hard not to forget how he made his rookie at-bat in 2016.

Roster moves: before the game, the Yankees designated outfielder Jake Cave for assignment, released infielder Danny Espinosa, and reassigned infielder Kyle Holder to minor league camp. All of this is because the Yankees officially signed veteran infielder Neil Walker. Walker began his career with the Pirates for 7 years, playing with the Mets and Brewers for the last 2 seasons before becoming a free agent.

Walker was just playing in the “Free Agency Camp” that many unsigned players are using to keep their skills sharp and be a running preview for potential scouts. Hey, it worked for Walker. The Yankees are still playing with who will be their starting second and third basemen, so throwing a veteran presence like Walker (who they have been interested in for a while) in the mix creates more options for the team.

Injury updates: Spring Training fixture, guest instructor, Yankees special advisor, and (oh yeah) Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson tripped while out walking today and seriously injured his knee, forcing surgery tomorrow. Jacoby Ellsbury’s oblique injury continues to plague his Spring, and it’s looking like he may not be fully ready for Opening Day. And Clint Frazier is still dealing with lingering concussion effects. He’s following his doctor’s lead, the progress is slow, but he’s now working on some minimal exercises and hoping to ramp them up sooner rather than later. Get healthy, guys!

And finally a happy birthday to pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who might look like a quiet strength during a game but serves as a lion in the organization.

Go Yankees!

AL Wild Card: MIN vs. NYY — Rough start, solid finish thanks to big bats

The last time the Yankees won a postseason game was the 2012 ALDS, game 5, against the Orioles, Raul Ibanez was dubbed “King of New York” for his postseason heroics, and Derek Jeter would break his ankle diving for a ball in the 12th inning in the next game, game 1 of the ALCS against the Tigers. In other words, things were very different five years ago.

Tonight, the Yankees moved onto the ALDS after defeating the Twins in the winner-take-all Wild Card Game. It took nearly four hours in front of a sold-out crowd in the Bronx, and it took all of the energy and emotions to electrify the fans during the game.

We are all human and thus have off-nights. But for Luis Severino, tonight was one of the worst possible times to experience an off-night. And Girardi continued his recent short-leash for the pitching staff. Severino threw just 29 pitches in the 1st inning, giving up 4 hits, a walk, and 3 runs. He didn’t make it out of that 1st inning.

Severino gave up a lead-off home run, a 1-out walk, a 2-run home run, a single, and a double before Girardi had enough. With runners firmly in scoring position and just 1 out, Severino’s outing was over. So Chad Green was called in early to do Chad Green things. He quickly got out of the 1st inning with 2 solid strikeouts to strand the Twins runners. He breezed his way through the 2nd inning, but found some trouble in the 3rd inning loading up the bases with a single and 2 walks (and just 1 out).

While Green was responsible for all the runners as he passed the torch to David Robertson. The first batter hit into a fielder’s choice (a late double play) that scored the lead runner, but then Robertson got the first of his 5 strikeouts (of his 10 total outs) in his outing tonight. And Robertson’s outing was easily the best thing from the mound today, throwing 52 pitches over 3.1 pitches. It was stellar and ended up being the perfect recipient for the eventual win.

Tommy Kahnle was called on to close out the 6th for Robertson and then breeze his way through the 7th and 8th innings in just 29 pitches. Aroldis Chapman’s 9th inning was pretty good too, hitting 103 mph pitches as if they were nothing, and getting all 3 outs as strikeouts. The final out came as a beautiful swing, the whole stadium on its feet, the place alive with energy and hope.

Now, beyond the great job of the bullpen, which had to start so very early tonight, the Yankees’ offense actually worked tonight too. The Twins’ starter had his own rough night, only lasting 2 innings and throwing a whopping 64 pitches over that short time span. In the 1st, Gardner led-off with a walk, and Judge singled to put runners in the corners. With 1 out, it would fall to Didi Gregorius to his a big 3-run home run to tie up the game at that point, so very early on in the night.

Brett Gardner added a run in the 2nd with a 2-out solo home run that bounced off the front row barrier of the 2nd deck of the right field seats. With the starter out, the Yankees faced the Twins bullpen, which clearly isn’t nearly as good as the Yankees’, so the Yankees kept adding to their score.

In the 3rd, Sanchez led-off with a double and then scored on Greg Bird’s 2-out single. And Gardner hit a 1-out single in the 4th and then scored on Aaron Judge’s first postseason homer, a 2-run home run bouncing off the top of the left-field wall for a couple more insurance runs.

The Twins bullpen was able to focus in and keep the Yankees from adding more to their score. Until the 7th inning, that is. Judge led-off with a walk and then ended up at 3rd on Sanchez’s single and a throwing error. Gregorius was intentionally walked to load up the bases, and the Twins got their first out of the inning. A new reliever got a strikeout, and another new reliever promptly walked Aaron Hicks to walk in Judge to add just one more run to the score.

Look, both teams started off really messy and shaky, but both teams pulled it together to show how matched they really were. And it ended Yankees-side up.

Final score: 8-4 Yankees

So, now the Yankees advance to the ALDS against Indians in Cleveland on Thursday, for the best-of-5 game series. Just a reminder, the format goes 2 games in Cleveland, 2 games in the Bronx, and 1 game back in Cleveland, if necessary. The first team to win 3 games advances to the ALCS. But first, tomorrow night, we shift to the National League to watch their Wild Card game between the Rockies and Diamondbacks.

Before tonight’s game, the Yankees held a moment of silence for the victims of the Las Vegas tragedy. They asked reliever and Las Vegas native Chasen Shreve to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in their honor.

Go Yankees!