NLWC & ALWC: MIL vs. WAS & TB vs. OAK — 2019 Postseason Begins

It’s officially October Baseball. The regular season came to a close last Sunday, some teams headed into the postseason, some to their family vacations and couches for the duration of 2019. But either way, things are heating up if your team is one of the few who grace this month with its presence.

Tuesday: NL Wild Card (Brewers at Nationals)
The National League postseason began on Tuesday night as the Brewers challenged the Nationals for the final wild card spot. And at first, the Brewers looked to have a decided victory. They out-pitched the home team, with a strong showing, giving up a solo home run in the 3rd, sailing through most of the game in command.

The Nats’ ace had a bit of trouble keeping the Brewers’ bats under control. A lead-off walk in the 1st scored as part of a 2-run home run, getting the visitors on the board even before an out was recorded in the game. The Brewers tagged another run on with a lead-off solo shot up the middle in the 2nd. Things were looking great for the Brewers to advance to the NLDS.

Until that 8th inning. The Nationals figured out they weren’t going to let another October pass them by and took back the game. With 1 out, a challenged hit-by-pitch made it to base. After another out, the Nats gave up a single and a walk to load up the bases. Then a single and really sloppy fielding error cleared the bases, with the Nats scoring the go-ahead run. The Brewers’ defense snapped into action and got that runner trying to stretch into 3rd to end this messy inning, but the damage was done.

Final score: 4-3 Nationals, Nationals advance to NLDS to face the Dodgers

Wednesday: AL Wild Card (Rays at Athletics)
There was a lot of talk about which team might have the advantage in this game tonight. The A’s have had some pretty strong pitching, but the Rays are quite tenacious this season. It was going to be quite the toss-up, but the Rays really proved their mettle in the end, commanding the mound and the game.

The Rays’ pitchers walked away from tonight’s game with no earned runs, only one unearned run. In the 3rd, the lead-off batter hit into what looked like an easy grounder, but a throwing error allowed him to make it all the way to 3rd. A sacrifice fly then scored that runner for the A’s only run of the night.

Their pitching was uncharacteristically lacking in their starter tonight. He gave up a lead-off solo home run to the Rays right in the 1st. And then a single and 2-run homer in the 2nd. After another lead-off home run in the 3rd, they realized it wasn’t working and sent in their bullpen. They were markedly better, except a 2-out solo home run in the 5th to add just one more run for the visitors.

Final score: 5-1 Rays, Rays advance to the ALDS to play the Astros

Postseason Schedule: The Division Series starts tomorrow with the NLDS. The Braves will host the Cardinals, and the Dodgers host the Nationals to begin each of their series. The ALDS starts on Friday with the Astros hosting the Rays and the Yankees hosting the Twins. This series a “best of 5”, with the higher seed hosting for 2 games before the lower seed hosts 2, with an off-day between. A 5th game, if necessary, will be held back in the original stadium for a 2-2-1 possibility of the series.

The NLCS will begin next Friday, October 11, and the ALCS will start Saturday, October 12. That will be a “best of 7”, 2-3-2 hosting pattern.

My Division Series Predictions: I always hesitate to make my predictions known every year because it’s always with mixed results. Honestly, neither of my selected teams won their respective Wild Card games, but maybe I’ll have better luck in this next series.

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

It’s anybody’s guess how this season will turn out. It rarely goes as predicted. But such is life. At this point, truly anything is possible. Except for the fact that only one of these 8 teams will be crowned champions before the end of this month. Fingers crossed for your favorite team. I’ve got mine crossed for… well, you know…

Go Yankees!

Game 138: OAK vs. NYY — September call-ups as playoffs await

Happy September, Yankee fans! It’s that time of year when baseball fans everywhere dare to dream that their favorite team might just have that wild chance to make it to Fall Classic. Much like a movie where the underdog team from nowhere takes home the title, fans everywhere are hoping for a miracle and a chance to win it all.  Whereas most fans will be simply hoping, Yankees fans have a solid reason to be confident that their first place AL East team will be standing on that World Series field on October 22.

As the September call-ups begin today, MLB teams across the league are scrambling to put together a team of the best players who are at their peak of performance and health for that shot at the playoffs. We saw that kind of team today as over 40,000 fans packed Yankee Stadium  to watch the New York Yankees best the Oakland Athletics on that path to October baseball.

JA Happ had a remarkable scoreless outing on the mound for the Yankees through 6 full innings, throwing 98 pitches but allowing no runs. Happ was replaced by recent call-up Ryan Dull in the 7th, who struggled his way through his outing. After loading up the bases with 1 out, a double scored 2 runs, and a grounder scored a third.

Chance Adams took the mound in the 8th and gave up a 1-out solo homer to right field to keep pushing the visitors into a strong lead. Ottavino took command of the ball in the 9th and kept the A’s from gaining any further runs.

Kept scoreless in the first 7 innings, behind by 4 runs, and at the risk of being shut out for the first time since last season, the Yankees found their first real chance to do something in the bottom of the 8th inning. They loaded the bases with a walk to Tauchman, a single to LeMahieu, and a walk to Judge. A sacrifice fly by Gleyber Torres scored Mike Tauchman to get the Yankees on the board. Then after a pitching change and another out, Didi Gregorius’ single scored 2 more runs to edge the Yankees closer to the lead.

Down by just one run in the 9th, Brett Gardner hit a lead-off home run to deep right field to tie the game. Mike Ford quickly came in to pinch-hit for Frazier, and Ford promptly smacked a walk-off home run over the right center field fence into the Yankees’ bullpen to win the game for the Yankees.

This was Mike Ford’s 10th home run as a Yankee and his first walk-off home run, celebrated with a smile, a perfect bat flip, and the celebratory Gatorade shower thanks to fellow home run hitter Gardner.

Final score: 5-4 Yankees, Yankees win the series 2-1

Roster moves/injury updates: Prior to today’s game, the Yankees moved David Hale, a right-handed reliever, to the 60-day IL for his continuing back strain. They also sent Edwin Encarnacion and Luis Severino to start their rehab assignments with AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

As part of the September call-ups, Yankees called-up three relief pitchers including Chance Adams, Ryan Dull, and Tyler Lyons. With the spot open with the move by Hale, the Yankees selected the contract of Lyons and recalled Dulle, Adams, and Frazier. Both Dull and Adams played in today’s game, and these pitcher-heavy call-ups certainly signal that the Yankees seem to be looking for a particular skill set of pitches to fill spots in the bullpen.

Mike Mussina Day:  Before today’s game, the Yankees honored former pitcher Mike Mussina, or “Moose”, to celebrate his induction into the Hall Fame this summer with an official “Mike Mussina Hall of Fame Celebration“. The first 18,000 fans through the gates today received a Mike Mussina t-shirt, and fans were treated to pre-game festivities including the unveiling of his Cooperstown replica plaque to be displayed alongside other Hall of Famers like fellow teammate Mariano Rivera.

The Yankees also handed him a $35,000 donation to benefit of Montoursville Area Athletice Department (PA). Moose is active in his hometown community athletics programs, serving on the Little League Board of Directors, operating a training camp for local student athletes, and serving as head basketball coach at the high school. In fact, when he got the call regarding his Hall of Fame election, he was busy with a team practice. Mussina also had the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch today to his son, Peyton.

Go Yankees!

 

 

Game 137: OAK vs. NYY — Bronx Bombers for the win

The Bronx Bombers gave the hometown New York crowd quite a show today. Despite facing a strong pitching team in this often frustrating extra inning match-up, New York never gave up and earned this well-deserved win.

Domingo German started the game and pitched a solid 5 innings, throwing 90 pitches for 5 strikeouts, allowing two runs. Loaisiga replaced German at the top of the 6th and managed to get out of the inning with no further runs allowed.

A pitching change at the top of the 7th brought Adam Ottavino to the helm, but he struggled with a couple wild pitches, beaning one batter. After 2 outs, he was replaced by Kahnle who faced one batter for the third out to close the inning. The 8th inning brought up Zack Britton who faced only two batters for two outs before leaving the game with a sudden injury to his leg. (More below.)

Green replaced Britton, who walked three batters and loaded the bases before securing the third out. In the top of the 9th, with the game tied up, Chapman faced 5 batters for two walks and finished with a solid swinging strike as the game headed into extra innings. Cory Gearrin came in to close out the game for 2 strong innings, facing 6 batters for 6 quick outs.

The Yankees faced some strong arms today from only 4 pitchers that tallied up 15 total strikeouts and only gave up 6 hits to the home team. And yet, even with several scoreless innings, the Bronx Bombers showed why their nickname suits them. All 4 runs today were homers sent to the outfield stands amid the cheering hometown crowd.

After a scoreless 1st, Gary Sanchez sent a home run to left field in the 2nd to put the Yankees on the board first, and then did it again with a lead-off solo home run over the fence to right center to tie the game at that point. Aaron Judge homered in the bottom of the 8th to again even up the game’s score and send it into eventual extra innings.

So, as the game went into the 11th inning, DJ LeMaheiu smashed a walk-off homer to right center to take the game for the Yankees. That’s four batters. Four homers. For the win.

Final score: 4-3 Yankees

Injury update: As mentioned above, Zack Britton left the game in the 5th with a severe right calf cramp. Since the pain seemed to ease up, there are no scheduled tests but the Yankees will just wait and see how quickly Britton recovers from appears to be a kind of “charley horse” injury.

CC Sabathia, who left Friday’s game with intense pain and inflammation in his right knee, has been placed on the 10-day IL. Sabathia is confident he will return to the mound soon for his last season before retiring at the end of the season. To fill his spot on the roster, the Yankees recalled Jonathan Loaisiga, who came in to pitch in today’s game.

Go Yankees!

Game 136 — OAK vs. NYY: Pinstripes plagued by pitching problems

The Yankees returned to the Bronx today after a successful West Coast run, winning 5 of their last 6 games, scoring 35 runs, including 18 homers. Despite being hounded by injuries this season, the team has focused on staying the path to the playoffs and the World Series.

CC Sabathia started strongly today, pitching well for three full innings, despite giving up one home run in the 3rd. This was Sabathia’s third start since returning from the IL, yet unexpectedly left the game and was replaced at the top of the 4th by Luis Cessa. (More below.)

Cessa threw 37 pitches through two solid, scoreless innings. A pitching change in the 6th gave the ball to Tommy Kahnle, who just struggled and gave up 3 runs on 3 hits, a rarity for the reliever. Both Gearrin (7th) and Cortes (8th and 9th) also had difficulty with command of the mound, collectively giving up 4 more runs, including another home run, for the eventual disappointing loss for New York.

The Yankees were scoreless in the first two innings, finally getting on the board in the 3rd. Didi Gregorius grounded into a force out that scored DJ LeMahieu to tie the game at that point.

The 4th inning began well with singles by Voit and Gardner. Romine then reached 1st on a fielder’s choice. And after an overturned call, the bases were loaded. Mike Tauchman grounded into a double play, scoring just Voit, giving New York a brief lead. The last four innings were scoreless for the Yankees, who were never able to get on base again the rest of the game against the strong A’s bullpen.

Final score: 8-2 Oakland

Injury update: After just 3 innings today, CC Sabathia left the game due to some discomfort in his right knee. Though no tests are scheduled at this time as this is a lingering issue for the star pitcher. He’s hoping that resting the knee will solve the issue, and he can return to the mound soon as the race for pennant draws near.

Roster updates: Before the game, the Yankees placed Gio Urshela on the IL with a left groin strain and activated Luke Voit back to the roster, to score one of the Yankees’ two runs tonight. The Yankees also officially sent pitcher Jordan Montgomery to his rehab assignment at AAA Scranton as his recovery from Tommy John surgery is complete.

Looking ahead, it seems likely that outfielder Clint Frazier will get a call up for the September roster. According to Aaron Boone, they are impressed to see how Frazier has been working successfully on his defensive skill set at AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Finally, our hearts continue to be with the family of Rays’ minor league pitcher Blake Bivens, who lost his wife, 10-month old son, and mother-in-law in an absolute tragedy earlier this week. Our prayers are with you and your family and friends.

Go Yankees!

Game 129: NYY vs. OAK — Swept away by the Bay

Well, that didn’t end well. But on the bright side, it’s only the second time this season the Yankees have been swept (the other time was back in April in Houston), and they’ve never been swept at home. And that remains solid.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start in this final game in Oakland this week. He threw 109 pitches through 6 innings, gave up 8 hits, 2 walks, and 5 runs, and struck out 5 batters in tonight’s loss. In fact, all of the damage by the home team happened in the first third of the game under Tanaka’s watch.

He loaded up the bases in the 1st with a double and 2 walks. A fielder’s choice allowed the first runner to score, and a wild pitch moved the runners to scoring position. They did so on a 2-RBI single. And a lead-off triple in the 3rd easily scored on a single. After another single and a fielder’s choice put runners on the corners, another fielder’s choice allowed one more run for the home team.

And that was it for the A’s. So after Tanaka finished his outing strong, he handed the game over to Luis Cessa. He followed Tanaka’s later example and kept the Athletics from adding to their lead. The Yankees were hoping for the chance to play catch-up.

They got some chances, but not enough in the end. Torres hit a 1-out double in the 5th and then scored on Mike Tauchman’s single to finally get the Yankees on the board. Then in the 7th, with 1 out, Gleyber Torres smacked a solid solo home run to double the Yankees’ score. A final chip into the lead came with Torres’ 2-out solo home run in the 9th, a last-minute unsuccessful attempt to shift things into the Yankees’ favor.

And yes, that means that Gleyber Torres scored all 3 of the Yankees’ runs tonight.

Final score: 5-3 Athletics, A’s sweep Yankees 3-0

Next up: The Yankees travel down the Coast a bit to visit the Dodgers for the weekend. Starting Monday, they begin their series in Seattle before heading back home for a home stand against the Athletics and Rangers. Then they’ll hit the road again for a long road trip against the Red Sox, Tigers, and Blue Jays.

And this weekend is also Players Weekend. Yankee uniforms get their chosen nicknames along their back. Players wear specially designed cleats, gloves, and accessories. And many of the game-used special items are later auctioned off to raise money for things like community projects. Also, look for strong social media presence as players are encouraged to use their social media to help promote the weekend by posting pictures right from the dugout as the game happens, a great way to engage with all their fans in real time.

Go Yankees!

Game 128: NYY vs. OAK — Tauchman’s RBIs fall short of Happ’s allowed homers

The Yankees are having trouble finding traction in the Bay area in this midweek series. The Athletics are certainly attempting to close that gap in the AL West between them and the Astros and/or solidify their Wild Card status, and unfortunately, they’re using this series with the Yankees to do so.

JA Happ got the start for the Yankees and had some trouble tamping down the home team’s bats. He threw 80 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 4 hits, 2 walks, and 5 runs, and struck out just 4 batters. With 2 outs in the 2nd, he gave up a single that scored on a 2-run home run to put the A’s in the lead.

To lead off the 3rd, Happ gave up a walk and a 2-run home run to double the home team’s score. Then in the 5th, he loaded up the bases with a double, a hit-by-pitch, and a walk. So with that threat, the Yankees turned to Chad Green. Green quickly got consecutive pop-outs, but then a single scored one more run for the A’s before an easy grounder got him out of the jam.

Green continued on through the next two innings, giving up a lead-off solo home run in the 6th. But he was able to control the rest of his outing and hand the game over to Ottavino who breezed through the 9th in just 9 pitches.

The Yankees were first on the board again. In the top of the 2nd, Gregorius led-off with a double and scored on Mike Tauchman’s 1-out single. After the Athletics took a nice lead, the Yankees find meager opportunities to chip away at it.

In the 6th, with 1 out, they loaded up the bases with Urshela’s single, Gregorius’ walk, and Torres’ single. After the A’s went to the bullpen for a new pitcher, Tauchman hit a sacrifice fly deep in foul territory that scored a speedy Urshela. Mike Ford led-off the 7th with a strong solo home run. After 2 outs, Sanchez singled, moved to 3rd on Urshela’s single, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ double.

After that, the Yankees were kind of stifled by the A’s bullpen, falling just short tonight.

Final score: 6-4 Athletics

CC Sabathia is enjoying his final trip to his hometown area during the regular season. Originally from Vallejo, an area northeast of San Francisco and Oakland, Sabathia and his organization PitCChIn have partnered with the local Boys & Girls Club to help kids, much like a young Sabathia many year ago.

Relieved of the pressure of starting this series (on the basis of a scheduling fluke), Sabathia has been connecting with all his old haunts and encouraging kids (like him) that they can reach for their dreams. He visited a local elementary school, invited a large group of kids to the game, and received a donation from the Boys & Girls Club to help continue his foundation’s philanthropic work in the area and back in his now-home of New York.

Go Yankees!

 

Game 127: NYY vs. OAK — Not so bright side of the bay

The Yankees kicked off their West Cost trip with a 3-game series in Oakland. But while in the “Bright Side of the Bay“, they fell a bit short of the positive experience the nickname might imply for its visitors. Though I’m sure the green and yellow-donning fans were thrilled.

Domingo German got the start, throwing 99 pitches into the 6th inning. He gave up 8 hits, 2 walks, and 6 runs (5 earned) and struck out 7 Athletics’ batters along the way. In the 1st, he gave up a 1-out walk that scored on a 2-out 2-run home run. The next batter smacked a solo home run to add another run to the home team early.

With 2 outs in the 2nd, German gave up a single. A double then scored that runner, but the batter was thrown out trying to take 3rd in a great defensive play. After tamping down, German had some issues in the 6th at the end of his outing, giving up a single and double to put runners in scoring position. After an out, a single and fielding error allowed both runners to score to solidify the A’s eventual win.

That also ended German’s night. So, in came Jonathan Loaisiga for the rest of the game. He helped shut down the Athletics from further additions to their score. For the final bit of the game, he allowed a chance for the Yankees to catch up.

They didn’t.

Actually, the Yankees got on the board first. With 2 outs in the 1st, Gary Sanchez hit his 99th career home run, a big solo shot up the middle. And Aaron Judge led-off the 8th with a monster home run, lauching 467 feet. And that was it. They certainly had plenty of chances and base-runners in the game, but in a bit of a return of previous trends, they didn’t capitalize on many of those chances.

Final score: 6-2 Athletics

There’s a running article on the Yankees website that keeps fans updated on when every player on the current Injured List is scheduled to return to the team. The hardest part is seeing those who aren’t going to be back until next season. Here’s the good news: a huge chunk of players could potentially be back with the September call-ups. Players on that list include pitchers Betances, Heller, Holder, and Severino and position players like Encarnacion, Estrada, Hicks, and Stanton.

But the most solidly scheduled return is Luke Voit. Voit is recovering from a sports hernia. He will do his rehab this next week before rejoining the Yankees when they return to the Bronx next weekend (about August 30).

Go Yankees!