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!

Spring Game 30: NYY vs. MIN — Farewell to Florida, with a win

And we’ve reached the penultimate game of the season. The Yankees headed south about 2 hours to Fort Myers to face the Twins on this lovely Sunday afternoon to close out their Florida-based Spring Training.

James “Big Maple” Paxton got the start this afternoon, throwing into the 6th inning and earning the eventual win. In the 4th, he gave up a lead-off single that scored on a double by a former Yankee (one of several familiar faces in today’s game). Later, in the 6th, a lead-off walk (also a former Yankee) scored on a double (another one) to double the Twins’ score.

Luis Cessa closed out the 6th for Paxton cleanly, but found his own spot of trouble in the 7th when a 1-out triple scored on a sacrifice fly (surprisingly, none of which were former Yankees). JP Feyereisen got his shot at Spring for an inning with a flawless 8th inning, and Alvarez closed out the game with a scoreless 9th.

While the Twins got the lead first, the Yankees were quick to answer back. In the top of the 6th, with 1 out, they loaded up the bases. Greg Bird’s ground out still moved all the runners up and scored lead runner Castillo. Romine worked a walk to load the bases again before the Twins changed pitchers. Clint Frazier promptly hit a solid bases-clearing double to place the Yankees in a firm lead.

In the 7th, Matt Lipka led-off with a single, stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on Castillo’s double. It was the insurance run they wouldn’t need with the way they were playing in the second half of the game, a stark difference to yesterday.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees

Next up: The Yankee head north in preparation for the regular season’s start on Thursday with a quick stop in our nation’s capital. They play a final Spring exhibition game at Nationals Park tomorrow night.

This last stop in a big league park gig, something that really began as a way to open new parks (like they did with the Braves’ new home stadium in 2017) is becoming a pattern across the league. It’s kind of a nice transition between Spring Training and the Regular Season. Now, if only we can get them to play all the April games in southern cities so we don’t have to worry about snow-out games…

Roster moves: We have a final 25-man roster. The biggest surprise was earlier today when the Yankees announced they optioned Tyler Wade to AAA Scranton. This means they chose their latest Yankee Mike Tauchman and his veteran versatility in the outfield over Wade’s more natural infielding skills. Certainly a disappointment for the young player, but I can’t imagine he won’t be one of the first called up when something happens.

Here’s the 2019 Yankee roster: catchers Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine; infielders Greg Bird, Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, Troy Tulowitzki, Miguel Andujar, and DJ LeMahieu; outfielders Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Mike Tauchman; starting pitchers Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, JA Happ, Domingo German, and CC Sabathia; and relievers Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Jonathan Holder, Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino, and Stephen Tarpley.

Go Yankees!

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!