Game 146: NYY vs. MIN — Deny a no-hitter, have a pitchers’ duel, and still lose the game

“Baseball will punch you in the mouth now and then.” (Aaron Boone, tonight)

That sentiment feels about right as the Yankees wrap up this road trip and head back home for their final home stand. The Yankees actually played really well in their final game against the Twins, and somehow were outplayed by a team having that random better week.

Luis Severino threw 83 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up just 4 hits and 1 run, and struck out 5 batters. In fact, he held off the Twins’ batters for most of the game. Until the 6th inning, Severino only gave up a single hit in the 1st before keeping the Twins’ offense rather silent. With 1 out in the 6th, he gave up a single that scored on a double. Another single put runners on the corners, and a strikeout allowed one runner to move to scoring position.

With that threat looming, that was it for Severino. David Robertson came in and got a quick grounder to end the threat. He came back out in the 7th and got 2 quick outs before getting into a spot of trouble himself. A double scored on a single, and that runner scored on a double. But then he got a stellar strikeout to stem the Twins’ offense. And Zach Britton threw a flawless 12-pitch 8th inning to reset the earlier game momentum.

The Twins sent in a familiar face for the Yankees, a former foe from an AL East team, signed this year to the Twins after 5 seasons with the Rays. And he held the Yankees to a no-hitter for 7 innings. Though he still gave up a couple walks along the way, he hadn’t allowed a hit, frustrating the Yankee batters.

In the 8th, with 1 out, he gave up a walk to Luke Voit. And on the 120th pitch, Greg Bird knocked a solid double to score Voit, break his no-hitter bid, and end the shutout. That was it for the Twins’ starter’s night, a standing ovation from the home team fans, and the Yankees left Bird stranded at 2nd through 2 relievers and 2 strikeouts. Andujar hit a 1-out single in the 9th, but again, the Yankees stranded him there as the Twins’ reliever earned the save.

Final score: 3-1 Twins, Twins win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees head home tomorrow on their off-day/travel day. Then they will host the Blue Jays for the weekend. After a final off-day on Monday, they will host the Red Sox and Orioles to complete their home stand. A final road trip will include 4 games against the Rays and 3 games to close the season in Boston.

That means that the Yankees face all 4 of their division rivals for the last 16 games of the season. With the Athletics breathing down their necks in the Wild Card race, the Yankees need to take advantage of their position within the division to advance and get some space to ensure their October spot.

Injury news: It looks like Aroldis Chapman could be back very soon, maybe early next week. After some promising sessions in the Tampa complex, the Yankees brought Chapman back to rejoin the team for his final workouts to see his progress in person. His lingering issue with knee tendonitis finally moved him to the DL at the end of last month to focus on healing.

Aaron Judge got some legitimate batting practice in today, with one of the regular BP groups before the game. They expect he will continue to do this before Friday’s game back at Yankee Stadium. They won’t send him to a rehab assignment, as the RailRiders (AAA) are making a push for their league’s postseason, though there is some talk about giving him some simulated-type games and other workouts at the Tampa complex.

And if you’ve been wondering where Brett Gardner is, the veteran outfielder has been out for the last two games due to some right knee inflammation. On Monday, he dove for a line drive in the 2nd inning and fell awkwardly on his knee. While not an injury that requires any DL time, the Yankees are allowing him to rest and recover while keeping him available off the bench. Fortunately, the Yankees have a ton of current help thanks to the September call-ups.

Speaking of the call-ups, the Yankees recalled pitcher Chance Adams from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre today. Every little bit counts in the Yankees’ final push towards that postseason. Fingers crossed, everyone.

Go Yankees!

Game 145: NYY vs. MIN — Big offense falls short against big offense

In a game where a team can make great defense plays and hit some major offense, it’s unfortunate when the other team can do the same, despite being below .500 and officially eliminated from the postseason. But the reality is that most teams under .500 aren’t there because they’re terrible (well, a few of them are). They’re having a losing season because they’ve been inconsistent.

Inconsistency will sink a team every time. They go through really terrible streaks at the worst possible times in the schedule, and hit those random highs in the weirdest times, usually against teams they should lose easily to. Let me also clarify that the Yankees have moments of inconsistency, but they have not been consistently inconsistent. It’s why they’re still very much in the postseason picture, though the A’s are just 2 games behind them now in the Wild Card race.

Sonny Gray was called on for a spot-start in this middle game against the Twins and had a tough go of it. He threw 63 pitches in his 3 innings, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 3 runs (2 earned), and struck out just 2 Minnesota batters. He did hold off the home team until the 3rd inning. He loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a single. A passed ball scored the lead runner and moved the other runners into scoring position, something they did on a 2-RBI single, before he got out of the inning.

Jonathan Loaisiga took over in the 4th, but even he had issues against the Twins. In the 4th, a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a ground out and then scored on a 2-out double. But it would be the 5th inning that combined for the real blow to the Yankees tonight. Loaisiga loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a single before giving up another walk to score the lead runner and a 1-out single scored another.

So with bases loaded, Loaisiga responsible for all the base runners, it would be Tommy Kahnle to the mound in the relief. But a missed pitch became a monster home run grand slam over the center field wall to ensure the Twins’ eventual win. After a single, the Yankees’ defense kicked into gear and got a great double play to end this terrible inning.

Stephen Tarpley had the best outing of the Yankee pitchers tonight, throwing 2 solid, scoreless innings. All the while, Yankee Universe was hoping for a bit of a late-inning comeback rally.

The Twins also pieced together their pitching staff tonight, matching the bullpen-heavy names on the Yankee pitching roster. But the Yankees made every effort to not just hand the victory to the Twins (despite what happened above). They got on the board first in the 2nd when Didi Gregorius hit a 1-out triple and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s sacrifice fly.

After the Twins’ big 5th inning, the Yankees had their own big inning in the top of the 6th. With 1 out, they loaded up the bases with Hicks, Andujar, and Stanton. The Twins went to their bullpen again, and the new pitcher promptly gave up a home run grand slam to Didi Gregorius, his 2nd career grand slam.

Riding high on that, the Yankee offense were looking to continue that momentum in a late-inning rally. It just never came. The Twins’ final 2 pitchers in the last third of the game kept the Yankees off the bases, thus away from their large lead.

Final score: 10-5 Twins

I would post about the status of the postseason. However, while the AL is a bit more clear-cut, with the biggest competition happening in the AL West, the NL picture is really competitive with 8 teams still competing for a wildcard spot, and 6 of those with a legitimate chance. The AL may be set soon as the final 2 weeks of games within the division approaches. But the NL is going to go down to the wire.

Finally, I want to once again recognize the lives and legacy of the men and women we lost 17 years ago on this day in New York, D.C. and Pennsylvania. We honor your memories again today and pray for your families as they continue to find their “new normal” with your daily absence. We will never forget.

Go Yankees!

Game 144: NYY vs. MIN — Big win in the “Mini Apple”

The Yankees kicked off their series in dramatic fashion, bringing a little “Big Apple” power to the “Mini Apple”. Yes, as a sort of play on its name, Minneapolis is actually nicknamed the “Mini Apple”, something I didn’t know until today despite always thinking of its pronunciation as such. But it also works well when comparing another fruit-based nicknamed city, like New York.

JA Happ got the start in tonight’s final interdivisional opener. Yes, it’s the last regular season series between the Yankees and a team not in the AL East. And it’s a shame because tonight’s game is proof that they kind of rock playing around the league this season. Happ threw 91 pitches in his 6 scoreless innings to earn his 16th win of the season.

In fact, Happ and the Twins’ starter had a bit of a pitchers’ duel for the first half of the game. Happ came out on top because the Yankees broke through on the back of Gary Sanchez’ 2-out big solo home run in the 6th inning. After giving up a walk to Bird right after that on his 118th pitch, the Twins’ starter called it a night and handed the ball to his first reliever, who gave a walk up to Torres but then stranded both runners.

But the Yankees had that slight lead and came back in the 7th against the Twins’ bullpen that didn’t seem to know what to do with them. First, McCutchen and Hicks each walked and then collectively scored on Miguel Andujar’s double. Giancarlo Stanton doubled to score Andujar, and the Twins brought in a new reliever. But then he gave up a double to Didi Gregorius that scored Stanton, and the Twins went back to their bullpen.

Sanchez’s single and Bird’s walk loaded up the bases, and Gleyber Torres’ single kept them loaded, scoring Gregorius. After finally getting an out, a strikeout, the Yankees went back to the top of the batting order and McCutchen’s sacrifice fly score Sanchez. Hicks’ walk loaded up the bases again, but a line drive out left them loaded.

But the damage that inning was done, which helped as Luis Cessa came on in relief for the Yankees. After a decent bottom of the 7th, his 8th inning was a bit of a struggle. With 1 out, he gave up 2 singles. A double scored the first runner, and a ground out scored the second. After a wild pitch moved the last runner to 3rd, Cessa buckled down and got a great strikeout to end the little threat.

Jonathan Holder made quick work of the 9th inning, sailing through with just 8 pitches to close out the game.

It’s worth noting that the Yankee batters got 11 hits and 10 walks, meaning 21 base runners tonight. It’s not unusual for the team with the highest number of base runners to get the highest number of runs. It does happen from time to time, usually because of some great defensive plays or out-of-jam pitching. But comparatively for tonight, the Twins got 10 hits and no walks. Sometimes, stats do matter.

Final score: 7-2 Yankees

Gary Sanchez’s big 6th inning home run was the third longest Yankee home run this season, coming in at 460 feet. He comes behind Judge’s 471 foot homer (May 23 in Texas) and himself with a 461 foot homer (May 4 against Cleveland). And tonight’s homer was just his 16th of the season thanks to his 2 stints on the DL for injuries. It’s a good reason to remember why Sanchez is still a key part of the Yankees, despite whatever other stats follow his name.

Go Yankees!

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!