ALDS 4: BOS vs. NYY — Early stumbles, failed late rally end season

Sorry, Yankee Universe. The postseason continues without you. I guess for those of you who are “Yankees Only”, you’ll be focusing now on already-in-progress football (or even futbol). But the postseason continues on and there’s still a Championship Series to determine who is the “best” in each league and a World Series to see who’s “best” in MLB this year.

I put “best” in quotes because the teams with the best records have only won the World Series in 12 of 48 postseasons, since they introduced a play-off form of a postseason. By the way, the Yankees were that actual best (no quotes needed) team in 1978, 1998, and 2009.

Prior to 1969, each league just sent their team with the best record to the World Series. But then they introduced the Championship Series in 1969, when the leagues created East and West Divisions. So, naturally, the leaders of each division would play each other in the Championship Series. The league decided it needed a Division Series playoff in 1981 due to a players strike that split the season. But it was for only that year.

Then in 1994, the league expanded into 3 divisions and thus created the role of the Wild Card to fill the 4th team for the Division play-offs. But the 1994 season ended early due to another players strike, so the first regular Division Series wasn’t until the 1995 season. And they introduced the concept of the 1-off Wild Card game in 2012 to bring us up to the current postseason design. Which means “best” is actually rather vague if the 5th best (out of 15) team in a league actually has a chance to be crowned World Series championship.

And before this sounds like a bitter rant (though it’s not, I swear), there was a game to finalize who would play in the Championship Series of each league. The Yankees and Red Sox got down to the bitter end of tonight’s game before the Yankees really just ran out of outs.

CC Sabathia actually did pretty well as tonight’s starter, staying strong through his first 2 innings. He had a bit of trouble in the 3rd, but he also didn’t seem to have much defensive support to get him out of the trouble. He hit the first batter that moved to 3rd on a single and then scored on a sacrifice fly. The runner then moved to 2nd on a ground out and then 3rd on a wild pitch (that might have been a passed ball). A double that dropped just short in the outfield scored that runner, and a single that found a hole scored the other before a grounder finally ended the inning.

Zach Britton came into the game in the 4th and promptly gave up a lead-off solo home run before he breezed his way through the rest of the inning and the 5th. David Robertson continued his pattern through a scoreless 5 outs, 4 of which were solid strikeouts.

Dellin Betances finished the 7th and then got into a bit of a jam in the 8th with a double, a fielding error, and an intentional walk loading the bases, but he too worked himself out of the threat. Aroldis Chapman was on fire tonight and needed just 10 pitches to shut down the Red Sox in the 9th inning and help bring the Yankees’ pitching total to 12 strikeouts tonight.

The Red Sox pitching staff, meanwhile, kept the Yankees to limited in their offense as well. Their starter only went 5 innings, with the Yankees finally poking through in his final inning. With 1 out, Sanchez hit a ground-rule double, moved to 3rd on Torres’ single, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly.

But the Yankees had a hard time adding more to their lone run through the next few innings of the bullpen (including a starter), so down to the last chance in the bottom of the 9th, the Yankees came on strong and took advantage of a closer having a weak night. He promptly walked Judge in 4 pitches and gave up a single to Gregorius. After a strikeout, Voit worked a walk to load up the bases and spark the still full stadium, who were waiting for this moment. Hechavarria was called in to pinch-run for Voit, a speedier option to score the tying run if possible.

So, Neil Walker stepped into the plate, who had a really good night, but then he was hit by a pitch. That still scored Judge and kept the bases loaded. Gary Sanchez was next and battled his way to a long sacrifice fly, caught on the warning track, to score Gregorius to inch the Yankees within a single run of the Red Sox’s lead. It was down to Gleyber Torres, who ended up hitting into a ground out. The challenged the call at 1st, saying Torres beat out the ball, but a brief review upheld the call.

Final score: 4-3 Red Sox, Red Sox win series 3-1

Postseason Predictions: It’s review time, to see how accurate my predictions have been so far and make new ones for the next round of playoffs.

(Key: *winner right, game count wrong; **winner and game count right; ~winner wrong, game count right; ~~both wrong.)

  • Division Series:
    • Predictions/Results:
      • NLDS 1: Brewers over Rockies in 4 games* (3 games)
      • NLDS 2: Dodgers over Braves in 4 games**
      • ALDS 1: Astros over Indians in 3 games**
      • ALDS 2: Yankees over Red Sox in 5 games~~ (Red Sox in 4)
  • Championship Series:
    • NLCS: Dodgers over Brewers in 5 games
    • ALCS: Astros over Red Sox in 5 games

Yes, I’m looking at a World Series between the Dodgers and Astros, in a fun rematch of last year’s Series.

But for Yankee fans, the “Chase for 28” continues, with the team regrouping next season to start the push all over again in Spring Training.

Go Yankees!

 

Game 158: NYY vs. TB — So close and yet…

I’m guessing that tonight’s game will be one that the Yankees and the Rays won’t want to remember any time soon. Neither team played exceptionally well, and neither team really came out looking like a winning season kind of team that they both are. It was just one of those games that you’re glad is over, learn from the mistakes, turn the page, and start fresh tomorrow.

The Yankees got on the board first, facing the Rays’ brief starter in their bullpen-pieced pitching staff again. McCutchen led-off the game with a single and moved to 2nd on Stanton’s 2-out walk. Neil Walker then hit a big 3-run home run right up the middle to get the Yankees started with a solid lead.

It didn’t last long. Masahiro Tanaka got the start for the Yankees and wasn’t exactly having the kind of memorable night. He threw 80 pitches in 4 innings, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and 4 runs (3 earned), and struck out 4 Rays’ batters. In the 1st, he gave up a single, a walk, and an RBI single before getting the first out of the inning, a strikeout.

But then the next batter hit a baby grounder back to the mound, but a poor throw by Tanaka allowed him to be safe and the lead runner to score. He hit the next batter to load up the bases before giving up another single to score the tying run but keep the bases loaded. He then managed to get 2 consecutive strikeouts to leave the Rays stranded there.

A 1st pitch, lead-off solo home run in the 3rd gave the Rays the slim lead, and the teams battled most of the game to maintain the close game. Holder, Green, and Chapman each took an inning to keep things tight through the 7th inning. But David Robertson had some issues in the bottom of the 8th.

A lead-off walk scored on an RBI double to add to the Rays lead. A passed ball then moved the runner to 3rd. Robertson finally got an out, a strikeout, to hold that runner just 90 feet from home. But the next batter hit into a fielder’s choice and still ended up safe at 1st as the runner also scored. Late to the defense and everyone’s safe.

Another single ended with runners on the corners. Then the next batter hit a bunt single that scored the runner from 3rd. Originally, it was called out at 2nd (which means the run still scored, by the way), but the Rays rightly challenged and the call was overturned. Again, everyone’s safe.

That Rays’ lead now expanding further. It was time to go back to the bullpen. Justus Sheffield came on to help stem the tide. He immediately got a fielder’s choice out at 2nd to put runners at the corners. But then, Sheffield tried to pick-off the runner at 1st and bounced the ball to Voit, allowing both runners to move up and thus another runner to score. After a grounder ended the inning, the Yankees were back in the batter’s box for one last shot.

They took it and loaded up the bases. Sanchez led-off the 9th with a walk, Gardner hit a 1-out single, and McCutchen singled. Aaron Judge’s single scored Sanchez, keeping the bases loaded. Luke Voit hit a really long single that scored both Gardner and McCutchen and moved Judge to 3rd. Judge kept things rolling by scoring on Giancarlo Stanton’s single to put the Yankees within just 1 run again. Voit advanced to 3rd on a flyout, but Andujar then popped out in foul territory to end the game.

Final score: 8-7 Rays

Injury update: There’s good news in Yankee Universe. I promise. Didi Gregorius has been cleared to resume baseball activities. That means he can start working out again, throwing a ball, swinging a bat, working on fielding, and get back into the game sooner than later.

And there’s a lot of talk about the upcoming Wild Card game. The Yankees need 2 more wins (of the 4 games left to play) to secure home field advantage. But does that actually matter in a one-off game like the Wild Card? According to statistics, no. In 12 Wild Card games over the last 6 years, 5 home teams have won and 7 visiting teams won. And the Yankees got home field both times they were Wild Card and are split in their success — lost to the Astros in 2015, won over the Twins in 2017.

In other words, you can’t predict baseball, and a lot of the superstitions, suppositions, and “traditions” are bunk.

Go Yankees!

Game 157: NYY vs. TB — 3rd inning power show

Luis Severino got the start in the second of four games against the Rays in St. Petersburg tonight. He had a really strong outing, throwing 97 pitches in 5 innings, giving up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs, and striking out 7 batters to earns his 19th win of the season.

The Rays only allowed runs tonight came in a messy 3rd inning. Severino quickly loaded up the bases with a double, hit-by-pitch, and walk. Then a double scored the 2 lead runners before the Yankees relayed to get the third runner out at home. But that would be it for the Rays’ offense tonight. Kahnle, Tarpley, and German came on in relief of Severino to split the final 4 innings and keep the Rays rather silent.

But the Yankees used that same 3rd inning to make the difference in the game with a huge power show. Adeiny Hechavarria led off the inning by hitting his first Yankee home run (and earning his own unique John Sterling home run call). Then Gardner hit his 60th career triple, and McCutchen walked before the Rays’ starter finally got an out in the inning and then was escorted to the dugout.

Going to the bullpen didn’t help the Rays, but it certainly allowed for more Yankee power to show off. Luke Voit doubled to easily score Gardner, and then the Rays intentionally walked Stanton to load up the bases. And they changed pitchers again. Neil Walker worked a walk in 4 pitches which scored McCutchen, and Miguel Andujar’s sacrifice fly scored Voit. And to cap off this inning, Gary Sanchez smacked a big 3-run home run.

Stanton led-off the 5th with a double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Sanchez’s single. And Andujar finished off the Yankees’ big night with a 2-out solo home run in the 9th inning, his 26th homer of the year. Is anyone else hoping for “Rookie of the Year” for him too?

Final score: 9-2 Yankees

Injury news: Aaron Hicks had an MRI to check on his hamstring injury, and the good news is that there are no strains (or tears). That means the injury isn’t as serious as it could be, nor is it season-ending. It just means that they are going to watch him and his recovery progress, calling him “day-to-day”.

And Gleyber Torres was scratched from tonight’s lineup due to some tightness in his left hip and groin area. However, it’s just “tightness”, so he said he was available off the bench. But the Yankees didn’t need him tonight and will probably keep him rested until he can actually be fully available to the Yankees. Besides, his absence allowed Hechavarria the chance to earn his John Sterling home run call.

Go Yankees!

Game 150: BOS vs. NYY — Walker overrides 2 unearned runs

It wouldn’t be a Red Sox-Yankees game without some rivalry fun — counter cheering of which team “sucks”, enough merchandise representation of the visiting team to remind everyone who they’re playing, and some good-natured ribbing between fans. Plus, it always ends up being a dramatic game in some way.

JA Happ got the start in this opening game against the Red Sox, holding his own with 102 pitches through his 6 innings. He gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 1 unearned run, while striking out 6 Boston batters. In the 3rd, Happ gave up a lead-off single that moved to 2nd on a balk, advanced to 3rd on a passed ball (setting up the “unearned” part), and then scored on a sacrifice fly.

That got the Red Sox on their board, but Happ and the Yankees’ defense kept them to that run for most of the game. Chad Green continued the momentum with a flawless 10-pitch 7th inning, and Robertson’s 8th was an efficient 13 pitches.

In the meantime, the Yankees were held off from doing much by a former teammate for the first 6 innings. It was the 7th, with a new pitcher, that the Yankees found their opportunity. Hicks worked a lead-off walk and Sanchez got a 1-out walk to get runners on base and threaten the Red Sox’s narrow lead at that point.

So the Red Sox went to their bullpen again for a new reliever, but he faced Neil Walker who was ready to hit his 10th home run of the season, a big 3-run home run into the 2nd deck right field seats. to give the Yankees the lead and that insurance run they would end up needing.

The Yankees handed things off to Zach Britton for the 9th inning and the save, but things got dramatic. With 1 out, he gave up a walk. A missed catch error allowed runners to end up on the corners. A throwing error by Britton himself allowed that lead runner to then score, hence the Yankees’ 2nd unearned run of the night. A double play ended the Red Sox’s final push for a comeback rally and handed the Yankees the win.

Final score: 3-2 Yankees

Aaron Judge was back in tonight’s lineup, batting 2nd and playing right field. He went 0-for-4, but says that it felt like he “never left”. Part of the reason that Judge ended up in the game was that due to inclement weather (because it’s 2018) they had to push back the game from a 1:05 pm start time to 7:05 pm. That extra time allowed for Judge to take in an extra sim game this morning and prove he was ready to swing a bat in a real game. He just hasn’t made much contact yet.

A funny moment during the game was in the 8th inning. Giancarlo Stanton stepped into the batter’s box and hit a power line drive into the left field seats, but to the left of the foul pole. We all saw it go into the seats, so fans rushed the area for the ball. But literally no one could find it. They scoured the whole area, even expanding the search area after a bit, but it just disappeared. That ball must now be on vacation with my black fuzzy socks and the top of my cherry 7-up, both of which seemed to disappear before my eyes and have yet to reappear within the last 24 hours.

Go Yankees!

Game 137: DET vs. NYY — Sunday split

Well, that was messy. I know I’ve said it a lot on here in the six years that I’ve been keeping this blog, but the old saying is so quite true — “if you don’t got pitching, you don’t got anything.” And it’s games like this afternoon’s game that proves that mantra’s eternal truth.

Lance Lynn just couldn’t find his momentum in today’s finale against the Tigers. He threw 82 pitches into the 4th inning, gave up 9 hits, a walk, and 6 runs, and struck out 6 Detroit batters on his way to today’s loss. In the 1st, a 1-out triple easily scored on a 2-out single to get the Tigers’ big afternoon started.

With 1 out in the 2nd, he gave up a single that moved to 2nd on another single and then scored on a double. But when a walk loaded the bases, their great defense kicked in and got a double play to end the threat. Then in the 4th, Lynn repeated the action — 2 singles and an RBI double. Then another double scored 2 more runs for the visitors.

And with that, Lynn’s outing was over. Tommy Kahnle came in to try to stem the tide but promptly gave up a 2-run home run. He then handed the ball over to Sonny Gray for the next 4 innings. Gray had a better outing than most of the other Yankee pitchers today, limiting the damage to just 4 hits, a walk, and a run over through the 8th inning. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo homer in the 6th.

Stephen Tarpley got the chance to close out the game in the 9th inning. But even he had some issues. He loaded up the bases with a double and 2 walks with 2 outs. Then he gave up a couple of singles to score 3 more runs. Yankee pitchers gave up a total of 17 hits. It was just not pretty.

But it wasn’t like the Yankees were completely shut out of the game. Aaron Hicks got things started early, with a 1-out solo home run in the 1st. Andujar then doubled and scored on Gary Sanchez’s single (good to have him back on the roster). Luke Voit added his own impact with a solid 1-out solo home run in the 4th.

Held to those runs for the bulk of the game, the Yankees found their next shot in the 8th. McCutchen led-off the inning by getting hit by a pitch, moved to 2nd on Hicks’ walk, and then scored on Miguel Andujar’s single. They later loaded up the bases with 2 outs and a new reliever, and Neil Walker’s short single just scored Andujar. But a fly out left the bases loaded.

So, with just 3 outs left, the Yankees had one last shot to chip away at the Tigers’ lead in the bottom of the 9th. But the Tigers’ closer (and former Yankee) got a quick 2 outs. The Yankees came back and loaded up the bases with Hicks’ walk, Andujar’s single, and Sanchez’s walk. Gleyber Torres hit a nice single to drive in both Hicks and Andujar. But a strikeout closed out the game without

Final score: 11-7 Tigers, and they split the series 2-2.

Next up: The Yankees hit the road and head out to the West Coast for 3 games against the Athletics starting tomorrow. Following an off-day on Thursday, they begin a weekend series in Seattle before a series against the Twins. After another off-day/travel day, they will return home for a 9-game home stand, their final home stand of the season. Then, the Yankees will end this season on the road with 7 games.

And Aaron Boone watched today’s game from a suite instead of the dugout due to his punishment from his ejection on Friday. He had some issues with the strike zone and made a much-discussed show of why he disagreed with the home plate umpire’s calls. Due to his “display”, the league opted to suspend him a game and fine him as punishment. Bench coach Josh Bard served as interim manager for today’s game.

Roster moves/injury updates: Before today’s game, the Yankees continued their September roster expansion by recalling reliever Jonathan Loaisiga from AA Trenton. It also looks like Didi Gregorius may be headed back to the line-up sometime next week, hopefully when the team plays Seattle next weekend. His bruised heel is making a recovery and Gregorius continues treatments and working out with the team as the injury will allow.

Go Yankees!

Game 132: CHW vs. NYY — A Walker walk-off

After a disappointing start to the home stand and series yesterday, the Yankees needed a good kind of comeback win to put things right. And both starters gave it their best to keep the other team from doing much for most of the game.

Lance Lynn got the start for the Yankees, throwing 103 pitches into the 6th inning, giving up 7 hits, a walk and 3 runs, and struck out 5 White Sox batters. It wasn’t until the 5th inning that he gave up the White Sox’s first run — a 1-out single that then scored on an RBI double. And after 2 outs in the 6th, he gave up 2 singles to end his night.

Jonathan Holder came on in relief and had a bit of trouble finding that 3rd out of the inning. He promptly gave up consecutive singles that scored both of Lynn’s runs and one of his own, before he finally got that out to get out of the inning. But then Holder breezed his way through the next 2 innings cleanly, handing the 9th over to Dellin Betances for a quick 9-pitch inning.

The Yankees didn’t respond back to the White Sox’s lead until the bottom of the 6th when Gardner led-off with a speedy triple, as only Gardner can do. Two outs later, Miguel Andujar hit a nice 2-run home run to get the Yankees on the board and slice the White Sox’s leave in half. Then in the 8th, Stanton led-off with a single and scored as part of Aaron Hicks’ 2-run home run to tie up the game.

So with the game tied and Betances’ flawless 9th inning, the Yankees got their final shot at a comeback in the bottom of the inning. With 1 out, Neil Walker came in to pinch-hit and loved the first pitch he saw and sent it sailing into the right field seats for a walk-off home run.

And because it’s that kind of game and fans in the Bronx, the 40,000+ fans still lingering in the Bronx were rewarded with some intense cheering and celebrating on a well-earned victory.

Final score: 5-4 Yankees

And with hope for the future, MLB released its preliminary schedule for 2019 last week. The Yankees also have their work cut out for them next year including that special series against the Red Sox in London, the first official MLB games in the UK.

Go Yankees!

Game 127: NYY vs. BAL — Voit-power +10

CC Sabathia got the start in his return from a brief stint on the DL so that he could rest his problematic knee. In this weekend opener against the Orioles, he had a pretty good outing overall, throwing just 80 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and striking out an impressive 8 batters.

Actually, almost all his allowed offense was in the bottom of the 1st inning. He gave up consecutive singles that moved up on a fly out before a walk loaded up the bases. Another single scored 2 runs to get the Orioles on the board early. But then Sabathia and the Yankees’ defense held them off for the next 5 innings.

And meanwhile, the Yankees came back to tie up the game in the 4th inning when Walker worked a 1-out walk and then scored as part of Luke Voit’s 2-run home run. David Robertson came into the game in the 7th, and his first batter made it safely on a fielding error to kick off the inning. After 2 outs, a 2-run home run became an inning of unearned runs to put the Orioles back in the lead.

But the Yankees came back in the 8th, by loading up the bases with 1 out thanks to a walk to Stanton and 2 singles to Andujar and Walker. And on the 3rd pitcher of the inning, Gleyber Torres hit a solid single to score both Stanton and Andujar to once again tie up the game. But they loaded up the bases again in hopes of taking the lead, but then left them stranded.

After Betances and Green sailed their way through their innings, and the Yankees weren’t able to find another opportunity to break the tie. So the game went into an extra inning, and there the Yankees found their chance. Neil Walker broke the tie with a 1-out solo home run up the middle. Then Torres worked a walk and in an attempt to steal 2nd ended up at 3rd on a throwing error. He then scored as part of 2-run home run by Luke Voit, his 2nd homer of the game, which would be the defining factor.

So, the Orioles had one last chance in the bottom of the 10th, and the Yankees opted to send in former Oriole and temporary Yankee closer Zach Britton to earn his first save against his former team. With 2 outs, he gave up a solo home run to edge the O’s closer to the Yankees’ lead. But a ground out later, the Orioles ran out of opportunities.

Final score: 7-5 Yankees, in 10 innings

Roster moves: During the travel day yesterday, the Yankees optioned reliever Chance Adams back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make room for tonight’s starter. Sabathia was activated off the 10-day disabled list, only missing one scheduled start to rest his knee. Plus, the Yankees are making up a rain-out game from June as part of the doubleheader tomorrow. So, there will be a roster move to add a 26th man, as per the rules for doubleheaders.

And speaking of tonight’s starter, there is a nice article on the veteran pitcher and his family this season. It’s a nice insight on family sacrifice and finding the balance of blending work and home life, as well as the importance of surrounding yourself with people who will challenge you and support you through all of life’s ups and downs. A good life lesson either way you cut it.

Go Yankees!