Game 94: NYY vs. SEA — New number, new position, new series, new win

Luis Severino was on point tonight, which the Yankees certainly needed in a game where they faced one of the Mariners’ star pitchers, their former ace who still has his own fan club in the left field corner of Safeco Field. Severino threw 100 pitches in his 7 scoreless innings, gave up 8 hits and a walk, and struck out 6 batters.

Now, he’s always been a starter with quick a bit of power, but he actually threw the fastest pitch by a starter this season — a 101.2 mph fastball. With the bases loaded and 2 outs in the bottom of the 4th, and a 1-2 count, Severino cranked it up a notch trying to get an out and threw that speedy pitch, but the batter fouled it off to stay in the game. He eventually grounded into a fielder’s choice on the 8th pitch of the at-bat.

Anyway, the Yankees’ offense had some trouble hitting off the Mariners’ starter for most of the game. That is until Brett Gardner hit a solid 1-out solo home run in the 6th inning to get the Yankees on the board and in the lead.

Once the Mariners turned to their bullpen, the Yankees found more opportunities. Headley hit a 1-out single in the 8th and moved to 2nd when Gardner made it safely on base thanks to a fielding error. A new pitcher then walked Sanchez to load the bases. Aaron Judge then singled to score Headley before a double play ended the threat that inning.

And in the 9th, the Mariners sent in a new reliever, and the Yankees still put 2 runners on base with singles and 2 outs. And then Chase Headley hit a short grounder into shallow right field, but then the Mariners’ 2nd baseman totally missed the throw to the 1st baseman. Headley moved on to 2nd as the players scurried to get the ball, and that allowed both runners to double the Yankees’ score. This means that the only run the Yankees actually earned tonight was Gardner’s homer.

Meanwhile, the Yankees called on Dellin Betances for the 8th inning, who was able to escape his own self-inflicted jam with a great strikeout, before turning things over to Aroldis Chapman for the 9th. Chapman, unfortunately, had a bit of trouble, giving up a lead-off walk. That runner moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then to 3rd on a second strikeout. He then scored on an RBI double to get the Mariners on the board. But a fly out ended the inning, the threat, and the game.

Final score: 4-1 Yankees

Okay, it looks like there’s an answer to the giant question about having 2 veteran 3rd basemen on the roster. Shortly after news broke about the recent trade, Chase Headley spoke to Girardi and told him that he would be willing to do whatever necessary for the good of the team. So Girardi came back and asked Headley to play 1st, so that Todd Frazier could play 3rd. This means that the rookie Cooper would platoon Headley at 1st, and utility wunderkind Torreyes can fill in at 3rd.

Also, it certainly says a lot to me about Headley. Now, he could have pulled rank and insisted on not moving from the spot he’s played for most of his career, the position he’s known for, insisting the “new guy” play the other spot. But no, Headley put the good of the team above whatever sentiments he may have for the position. And honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to flip that around to see if that could work. However, the most important part was the character of the players willing to put the name on the front of their jersey first over the number on their back.

And speaking of which, while Todd Frazier grew up a Yankees fan, idolizing #21 Paul O’Neill, Frazier was assigned #29, despite having worn #21 with his former teams. While there was some chatter initially about petitioning O’Neill for permission for Frazier to wear his beloved #21, Frazier said earlier today that he’s totally fine with #29 and wouldn’t be asking for a change. O’Neill hasn’t commented on the issue and #21 isn’t actually retired, but it isn’t in circulation due to O’Neill popularity with the fans. If anyone could have brought back the #21 with justice, it would be Frazier, but I rather admire the fact that he’s sticking with something new.

A new chapter, a new number, a new position… sounds like a new turn of events for the Yankees this season. And if that breaks up whatever slump they’ve been in recently, I’m really okay with that too.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 32: NYY vs. MIA — No foolin’… Is it April 4th yet?

The Yankees are in Miami for a weekend of final games before the season officially begins on Monday. They played a game tonight and then will face the Marlins again tomorrow afternoon.

Nathan Eovaldi got his last start of the Spring tonight against Miami, and despite getting fairly roughed up by the Marlins’ batters, he managed to keep them to a single run scored. Not exactly “Nasty Nate” stuff, but depending on that trusty defense certainly worked in his favor tonight. He gave up 7 hits and 4 walks, striking out just 3 batters into the 6th inning. A bit of a rough adieu to this Spring for him.

Actually, Eovaldi kept the Marlins scoreless until his last inning, the 6th. A lead-off single moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt, then to 3rd on a single, and then scored on yet another single. A 4th allowed walk in his outing called an end to Eovaldi’s night, with the bases loaded and just 1 out on the board. So who do you call? Dellin Betances, of course. Betances promptly got the next batter to fly out to left field to a waiting Hicks who fired the ball home to a waiting Romine who got the guy trying to score. See, there’s that trusty defense.

Ever reliable Chasen Shreve threw his worst inning of the Spring (a hit and a walk allowed) in the 7th and still got out of the inning without a Marlin scoring or doing any further damage. Then Luis Cessa likewise threw his worst inning this Spring and wound up (by luck of statistics) earning the win for tonight’s game. Cessa’s 8th inning  started by him loading the bases with a walk and 2 singles. A sacrifice fly scored the lead runner, but then Shreve buckled down and got a strikeout and ground out to end the inning. Nick Goody’s 9th was a quick 3 outs, keeping the Marlins to those 2 pesky runs scored.

The ironic part about the Yankees’ win tonight is how terrible their offense really was in light of the statistics end of things. It was just 2 well-capitalized pitches that made all the difference in this game. Brett Gardner led-off the 4th inning with a solo home run to right field to get a run on the board; it was only the 2nd hit allowed by the Marlin’s ace starter (who also single-handedly struck out 7 Yankee batters in his 4 short innings).

In fact, the Yankees were down 2-1 heading into the 9th inning, with the Marlins looking for another of their super quick 3-out innings (which honestly was most of them for their pitching staff tonight). But then Hicks led-off with a walk, and Lane Adams was called in to pinch-hit for DH Rodriguez. Adams sent that ball flying over the center field fence and pushed the Yankees up and over the Marlins in a single swing. Of course, the same pitcher promptly got his 3 necessary outs in rather quick succession after that (2 were nasty strikeouts).

Let me explain tonight’s odd statistics: the Yankee pitchers gave up 10 total hits and a whopping 6 walks to Marlins’ batters, striking out just 4 of them. But on the other side of things, the Marlins’ pitching staff only gave up 3 hits and 3 walks to Yankee batters and struck out 11 of them. The Marlins clearly pitched better than the Yankees, and yet because that’s not how this game works, the Yankees still take game one of this weekend series.

Not that I’m complaining about that…

Final score: 3-2 Yankees.

Roster & injury updates: Okay, so apparently, Andrew Miller‘s insistence of playing through the fracture of his non-throwing hand now has the backing of the medical powers-that-be and thus will be on call for any closing duties come the first week of the season. (Still wishing a quick healing regardless!)

CC Sabathia was announced as the official 5th starter, with Nova to be throwing long-term relief out of the bullpen. Not really a surprise here, but Nova certainly put up a very convincing case. I have no doubt that he will be in the starting rotation at some point this year because that’s just how things work during the very long regular season.

And Kirby Yates (as almost everyone predicted) got the final bullpen spot on the 25-man roster, to fill in for Mitchell recovering with that unfortunate broken toe injury. This means there is a set 25 for Opening Day this Monday barring any other unforeseen issues. Fingers crossed, folks.

Today’s game invited a bit of a reunion of sorts for a few former Yankee players, posing for a quick picture for memory’s sake. Don Mattingly now manages the Marlins, Joe Girardi of course manages the Yankees, and Paul O’Neill covers the Yankees with YES Network. Below is O’Neill’s tweet about the mini-reunion.

One more Spring Game until the season starts… you ready for it?

Go Yankees!

{Media update: the game wasn’t broadcast, so no highlights. And while I probably should’ve done something for April Fools, I’m not really that kind of person… so hope you guys had a fun day anyway.}

The off-season scramble begins

It’s been 10 days since the Royals won the World Series and officially threw all of baseball into the off-season. Congratulations again to Kansas City and the Royals organization on their amazing season and championship. Nearly 800,000 blue-clad Royals fans (in an area of over 2,000,000 residents) crowded part of downtown Kansas City a little over a week ago to cheer on their new hometown heroes for the Royals’ victory parade. When teams win big, it often creates new fans, but whether they retain those recently acquired will all depend on if they can continue their recent winning streak of the last two seasons. But with the free agent market just now starting to break out, next year’s Royals may be shades of 2005 (56 wins-106 losses, last place in AL) or it could be like 2015 (95 wins-85 losses, 1st place in AL).

That’s what makes the off-season trades and acquisitions so interesting — it shakes up every team, and a shake-up can be just as very good as it can be very bad. It’s always a gamble because while the numbers may work in your favor, the team chemistry may not work. Or unpredictable unknowns like injuries and personal issues can alter a potential superstar.

While the team’s GMs are in their annual meetings in South Florida (enjoying the perpetual heat that is Florida in November, I’m guessing), they are already busy making all sorts of deals. A GM’s job is never done. Today, the Yankees announced two such trades. Infielder Jose Pirela is headed to San Diego this Spring (via their Arizona Spring Training) in exchange for pitching prospect Ronald Herrera. And (this one will break a few hearts I know) catcher John Ryan Murphy is headed to Minnesota in exchange for switch-hitting outfielder Aaron Hicks. Both of these deals do make some business sense — the Yankees need an influx of new pitchers in their farm system, and they really have a plethora of really good catchers ready for the big leagues (behind starting catcher McCann, there’s still Romine and Sanchez). What this means for some of the free agents in the Yankees’ system (like OF Young and IF Drew) is still up for conversation and the rumors of dealing current Yankee favorites are of course always circulating.

Last week, Stephen Drew, Chris Young, and pitchers Chris Capuano, Andrew Bailey, and Sergio Santos elected free agency. The Yankees could of course sign them back to the team, but a free agent means they are officially on the market for a good deal and their Spring is still undetermined. The Yankees also released pitcher Chris Martin and activated outfielder Mason Williams and pitchers Domingo German, Jacob Lindgren, and Chase Whitley from the DL. And now with today’s moves, the Yankees are proving to the MLB market that they are back in business and ready to deal.

Also last week, for their participation and activism, former Yankees Jorge Posada and Paul O’Neill along with current Yankee Alex Rodriguez were honored at the Lou Gehrig Awards Benefit which raised money for research and care programs for those suffering from ALS. Another Yankee alumni David Cone was on hand to emcee the live auction of baseball memorabilia.

And just yesterday, the Yankees hosted their annual USO care package drive at Yankee Stadium. Girardi and Cone, along with hundreds of volunteers stuffed care packages for veterans serving abroad — small tokens of “home”, as it were. This is one of several events the Yankees do each year to give back to their community and one of several big ways to honor veterans. It’s two of my favorite things about the Yankees — their generosity (like HOPE Week) and their patriotism (like “God Bless America” at every home game without fail).

In that respect, may I just say that we not only honor and remember those who served and currently serve our country, but those across the globe dedicated to preserving and fighting for peace in this world. “Thank you” never quite feels like enough, but know that we cherish you (and your families) for your commitment and sacrifice this Veterans Day and remember the great dreams of Armistice Day today and every day.

Go Yankees!

Game 44: TEX vs. NYY — Bernie Williams Day and a sweep

I honestly didn’t expect to hear the words “Texas sweeps” this weekend. I don’t think any Texas fans did either. But that’s the way it ended up.

Chris Capuano got the start in tonight’s game, the final game in the 3-game series against the Rangers. He struggled some, like he’s still getting back into the groove of being a starter. He threw 84 pitches over his 4.1 innings, gave up 8 hits, 3 runs (2 earned), and no walks, striking out 4 Texas batters. The 1st inning started rather dramatically. The first batter hit a little grounder and ran to 1st base as the infielders attempted a put-out, but the umpire instantly called it “out”. The Yankees challenged, they underwent a review, and it was clearly overturned. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a challenge on the first play of the game, but okay. It was that kind of game.

The next batter reached on a fielding error, a bit of a bobble of the ball delayed an actual play and set up that runner to score on the next batter’s double. Then in the 2nd inning, after 2 quick outs, a batter singled and then scored on a 2-run home run. After two more singles, Capuano finally got that elusive 3rd out of that inning without any further damage.

And then there was the scary 3rd inning, the inning that damaged the Yankees for the past 2 games. But it was over almost before it began and everyone breathed normally.

Capuano found himself in a spot of trouble again in the 5th, so the Yankees called on Shreve to shut it down. And he did — 20 pitches to close out the 5th and work into the 6th, even getting a strikeout. And then it was time for Justin Wilson. Now, recently, Wilson’s been sharp and a real asset to the Yankees bullpen, but not tonight. After successfully getting out of the 6th inning, Wilson’s struggles just imploded in the 7th — a lead-of triple, an RBI double, a wild pitch moved the runner to 3rd, and an RBI single. And there was still no outs on the board.

So it was time for Dellin Betances to shut it down. And even though there was nothing to set-up, Betances hadn’t pitched in a while. So it was time to dust off the cobwebs, throw 9 pitches, get a quick 3 outs, and send it into the 7th inning stretch. David Carpenter’s 8th inning went better than some of his recent outings, keep the Rangers to those 5 runs, and Andrew Miller’s 9th continued that pattern and gave him some time on the mound again (like Betances).

And unfortunately, the Yankees’ offense didn’t really spark. In the 1st inning, Gardner led-off by reaching 1st on a fielding error and then he got thrown out on Headley’s single as Gardner slid into 3rd. Rodriguez singled, and then he and Headley moved up on Teixeira’s ground out before both scoring on Brian McCann’s single. Beyond that, the Yankees collected only 6 total hits (to the Rangers’ 13, by the way) and couldn’t really do much in the clutch to add to their score.

Final score from the Bronx: 5-2 Rangers, Rangers sweep the Yankees 3-0.

Next up: Royals come for a 3-game mid-week series before they head to the West Coast (read: late nights for us East Coasters).

5 All-Star appearances, 4 Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, 4 World Series rings, 1996 ALCS MVP, and 16 years in pinstripes, it was Bernie Williams Day at Yankee Stadium. Before tonight’s game, Williams was honored by family, friends, former teammates, coaches, and mentors as they officially retired his #51 and placed a plaque in Monument Park where the legacy of the former center fielder will remain forever. Williams gave a small speech thanking family, friends, the Yankees, and the fans.

#51 is now the 18th number retired for the Yankees, to be joined later this summer by #20 and #46 to honor Williams’ former teammates and special guests today Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte. To fill out the Core Four at the pre-game ceremony were Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter (his first Yankee Stadium appearance since his retirement last September). Joining them were former teammates David Cone, Tino Martinez, and Paul O’Neil and former dugout staff Gene Michaels, Roy White, Willie Randolph, and (of course) Joe Torre.

(The entire pre-game ceremony can be viewed here.)

Williams was a clubhouse and fan favorite, known for his calm, steady personality and his penchant for naps just as much as he was known for his competitive tenacity. Another former teammate summed it up best:

Roster moves: The Yankees optioned pitcher Branden Pinder back to AAA Scranton, moved injured infielder Brendan Ryan from the 15-day to the 60-day DL, and selected the contract of pitcher Jacob Lindgren from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Go Yankees!

(And we miss you, Bernie!)

Game 141: KC vs. NYY — It’s Derek Jeter Day in the Bronx

I guess you could say that the best part of this picture perfect day was the pre-game festivities because the game itself wasn’t much to talk about. Everyone went into today knowing it was going to be “Derek Jeter Day” at Yankee Stadium, but a proclamation from New York City mayor Bill de Blasio made it “Derek Jeter Day” all over the five boroughs — certainly an honor deserved from someone who has contributed much to the city for the better part of the last two decades.

The ceremony began with long-time Yankee broadcasters John Sterling (radio) and Michael Kay (TV) taking turns announcing the special guests and introducing the gifts, emceeing the entire “not-a-farewell-tour” stop in the Bronx. Representing the very large family of the retiring shortstop were his maternal grandmother (escorted by Girardi); his parents; and (escorted by Sabathia) his sister (and Turn 2’s president) and his adorable nephew (who once again stole the show with his own tip of the cap). Then came the familiar faces — Rob Manfred (baseball’s newly elected commissioner), Harold Reynolds, Reggie Jackson, former trainer Gene Monahan, Hideki Matsui, Joe Torre, David Cone, Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Tim Raines, and Gerald Williams. (And for those wondering, Andy Pettitte was away on a trip with his sons and regrettably couldn’t be in New York for the event.)

(Also, many of these guests were part of a pre-game press conference where they paid their tributes to Jeter. Here is some of what they said.)

Following all those introductions, the Yankees invited alumni and current Jeter’s Leaders onto the field, streaming in from center field to the infield to stand with the other guests. One person commented that this is truly where Jeter’s legacy is felt because of the active involvement of the Turn 2 Foundation in the lives of kids (and former kids) and their communities in Kalamazoo, New York, and Tampa. A video of Turn 2 was shown on the big board, showing that impact and how its Leaders are effectively changing their world.

After a “highlights” reel was shown, the man of the day himself jogged his way out to the infield to greet every one of the special guest and wave to the cheering crowd and to the opposing dugout where the Royals clambered over the barrier to give Jeter his due with their own standing ovation (complete with cell phone cameras).

Once the cheering died down (something that really never happened fully until the middle of the game a few hours later), it ramped back up again as Jeter was “surprised” by a handful of very special guests. First were Cal Ripken and Dave Winfield. Then as a tie in with the campaign from the All-Star Game (#RE2PECT), astronauts Steve Swanson, Reid Wiseman, and Alex Gerst tipped their caps from the International Space Station about 200 miles above Earth. This could only be topped by the founder of the #RE2PECT campaign himself — Michael Jordan.

Then came the gifts. Joan Steinbrenner (George’s widow) presented the proclamation from the mayor. Current trainer Steve Donohue rolled out a new version of the massage therapy machine Jeter always joked about “stealing” when he retired; no “stealing” necessary now. Yankees’ CIO Felix Lopez walked out a framed art that had all 14 patches Jeter has won in his All-Star Games, with the patch of his retiring logo the Yankees are wearing this month in the center. Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal presented Jeter with the Yankees’ donation to Turn 2 in the amount of $222,222.22. And Hal Steinbrenner, his wife Christina, and a handful of Steinbrenner grandchildren gave Jeter a custom-made Waterford Crystal, etched with the retiring logo and an engraved message from the Yankees.

And then Jeter addressed the crowd, speaking mainly to the fans. It was rather reminiscent of the speech he gave on Closing Day of the Old Yankee Stadium just a few years ago. He has been a fan-favorite (even outside of New York) because he does remember that the fans are an integral part of baseball. In this era where it seems so easy for professional athletes to be so involved in their sport or their endorsements or their personal lives, it’s nice that someone remembers that without the fans, they don’t have a job. It’s the fans that buy the tickets, the concessions, the jerseys, the things they endorse; and it’s the fans that cheer or jeer from the seats.

(You can view the entire speech here or the transcript here. Also, this is a link to the entire 42 minutes of the pre-game ceremony.)

And then it was “play ball”…

I’m going to be as diplomatic and positive about this as I possibly can. It wasn’t a good game. And it’s not just on the Yankees’ side of thing. No, the Royals weren’t good either. And it’s only by some really sloppy defensive errors that anyone actually won today. The Royals just landed on the less fuzzy side of today’s lollipop. But let’s face it, the entire lollipop was awfully fuzzy.

Shane Greene got the start today and barely eked out 5 innings. For being so good in so many of his starts this year, it’s been rather disappointing to see his struggles have been more consistent than his success as of late. 90 pitches took him those 5 innings, but it was really the first few innings that tried and tired the young pitcher. He allowed 5 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs (though none were technically earned), and struck out 4 Kansas City batters.

In the 2nd, back-to-back singles put runners on base, but 2 outs later, it was looking better for Greene. But a little dribbler back to the mound had Greene really miss the easy out at 1st and scored a runner. Then in the 3rd, the lead-off batter reached on a fielding error (Beltran couldn’t hold onto the ball), stole 2nd base, and scored on a single. That was 2 unearned runs. But runs, be it earned or unearned, always count toward a win, like they did for the Royals today.

Adam Warren took the 6th and 7th innings in relief of Greene, keeping the Royals planted there, while waiting for the offense to wake up. Shawn Kelley’s 8th followed Warren’s pattern, even getting himself out of a bit of a jam in anticipation of a rally sometime soon. Then Outman and Rogers split the 9th, but that offensive rally never came. The Yankees ended up with 9 baserunners via 4 hits, 4 walks, and an error, but nothing to show for it. The Royals took yet another “unearned win” today with their score of 2-0, taking the series 2-1 and the overall match-up between the teams this year 4-3 (the first time they’ve won a season series against the Yankees since 1999, or so I was told).

Yes, it was a shame that on “Derek Jeter Day” the Yankees couldn’t come up with a win. But it’s the way it is.

I mean, there’s still a nice chunk of the season left to play and a postseason race to catch-up in… so it’s still a lot of “play ball” without completely saying goodbye to the Captain just yet.

Go Yankees!

Game 127: CHW vs. NYY — Happy Joe Torre Day

To me, one of the iconic Yankee greats will always be Joe Torre. It is under his leadership that I fell in love with the Yankees and learned to appreciate their history and legacy and amazingness. I cannot think back to my later growing up years, watching the Yankees win championship after championship after championship after championship, without thinking of Mr. Torre. They are forever intertwined in my memories.

So, it was no surprise on the year Torre is elected to the Hall of Fame that the Yankees continue to honor the legacy of the man who was the most successful team manager in recent history (at least in my lifetime) by selecting today to memorialize him in Monument Park and retire his #6 alongside other legends like Rivera, Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, Maris, and Berra. Showing up today to honor him included an All-Star lineup of both Yankee fame and Yankee rivals — players David Cone, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, Hideki Matsui, and Bernie Williams; coaches Willie Randolph, Ron Guidry, Lee Mazzilli, and Jose Cardenal; and rival managers Jim Leyland and (recent Cooperstown inductee himself) Tony La Russa. Current manager Joe Girardi presented Torre’s plaque to him, and Derek Jeter (the only guy in full pinstripes on the field prior to the game) made sure to give his first MLB manager a big hug. Torre returned the sentiment and noted that with his retired number there was only one more single digit left from Monument Park… for now.

(Torre talking about his experiences today with the YES Network broadcasters during the game is very worth the link.)

And then the Yankees played the White Sox, led by Hiroki Kuroda. Kuroda threw 101 pitches over his 6 innings, giving Chicago 5 hits, 2 runs, and 2 walks, and striking out 6. The White Sox struck first in the 2nd inning, with back-to-back doubles that led to an easy run scored. Chicago’s second run scored was an RBI single in the 5th inning.

On the other side of things, that pesky run the White Sox got in the 2nd was quickly regained in the bottom of that inning by the Yankees. With no outs and the bases loaded, a ground out scored a run to tie up the game. And in the 4th inning, the Yankees just pounced. McCann led off with a double; he and a walked Beltran scored on Martin Prado’s double. As Kuroda left the mound in the middle of the 6th inning, the score was 3-2 Yankees.

But that really wasn’t enough cushion for a win for them (and can we call the bottom of the 6th inning the “challenged inning”?). Carlos Beltran led off with a solo home run (that was rightly upheld after a review). And then Prado hit a double — originally ruled an out, challenged by the Yankees, overturned at MLB HQ, and ended up a double. Prado moved to 3rd on Headley’s ground out and then scored on Stephen Drew’s sacrifice fly.

It was now 5-2 Yankees.

Shawn Kelley took the 7th inning and struggled some only getting 2 outs, allowing an RBI groundout to push the score to 5-3 Yankees. Failing to get that 3rd out of the inning, it was Betances to the rescue; 4 pitches and they’re out of the inning. (Can we all just agree that a 6’8″ pitcher would make a great new superhero? I claim rights Marvel/DC/other comics I don’t know because I’m not a 14-year-old boy.) Warren’s quick 8th inning set up Robertson’s 34th save with a quick 15-pitch 9th inning.

The Yankees handed in a win on Joe Torre Day. And as happy as I am that coincides, I never need a reason to be happy for a win. I mean, who doesn’t like winning?

I guess it was reminiscent of Yankee days under Torre’s leadership. In that case, how about the next 36 games are played for him so they can head into October with the zeal and confidence of that late 1990s dynasty team. I miss those days sometimes, and today might be just what I needed to remember all those good things. Sometimes you just need to “remember when” so you can “hope for whatever”… a little faith, a little hope, but a whole lot of love. Because if you know me at all, that’s about right for me and that’s about right for my boys. And the memories of Joe’s Boys.

Go Yankees!

Game 116: CLE vs. NYY — The Warrior and the Number Six

I realize the title of today’s blog post must sound like a very weird day on Sesame Street, but when I was thinking through the day’s events, this is the one that stuck. And made me smile because it sounded like a bad episode of a long-time New York-based children’s TV program.

Today’s festivities began when the Yankees honored former pinstriped outfielder and current YES Network broadcaster Paul O’Neill with a plaque in Monument Park. A whole slew of former teammates like Posada, Rivera, Martinez, Cone, and Jeter and former manager Joe Torre and trainer Gene Monahan showed up to help honor O’Neill. O’Neill was dubbed “The Warrior” by George Steinbrenner himself because of O’Neill’s drive and passion for the game. O’Neill is such a fan favorite that even though his #21 hasn’t been retired, no players is technically allowed to wear it for fear of facing the wrath of fans like one newer player did a few year ago. (He ended up selecting another number after the fan-hate got a little much. Hey, don’t mess with your fan base!)

And it’s only fitting that honoring an Ohio-native meant the Yankees must play the Ohio team, though O’Neill actually played for the other Ohio team prior to his 9 years with the Yankees. It’s just unfortunate for the Yankees that the visitors from Cleveland seemed to pick today to play like the team my uncle keeps telling me they are. (For the record, I don’t believe him, and the Indians’ stats this year certainly don’t support his opinion, but again, you can’t shake a fan of their loyalty over a little thing like facts.)

Anyway, it was Brandon McCarthy’s turn to start today, and apparently earn his first loss as a Yankee. Over his 6.1 innings, he threw 90 pitches, allowed 7 hits and 2 runs, and struck out 8 Cleveland batters. Those runs came early in the game, in the 2nd inning with a 2-out 2-run home run to give the Indians an early lead.

Now, the Indians today had one thing in their favor today — their pitcher who threw a really great game, including striking out 10 Yankee batters in just 6 innings. His pitch count was a little high (109 pitches), but that’s only because the Yankees don’t like giving up anything easily. Even a shut-out game.

Oh yeah, the Yankees got shut out of today’s game. Hill and Whitley split the last 2 outs of the 7th inning in relief of McCarthy, and Whitley threw the rest of the game, giving up a lead-off home run in the 8th inning to push the Indians to a 3-0 score. The Yankees just weren’t hitting much today, only racking up 5 total hits and getting 15 total strikeouts.

Of course, the most talked about hit was Derek Jeter’s lone hit of the day — a 6th inning single. Now, why was this significant? Because Derek Jeter now holds the #6 spot on the All-Time Hits Leaders’ board by himself at 3,431 hits. And he can now add to it (up to 84 more hits where he would tie for #5, an unlikely feat with just 46 games left to play) and keep that amazing spot for a good while. At least until some young, aspiring ball player (probably not even born yet) decides to be the next great hits leader — hopefully in pinstripes like the great Derek Jeter.

Two players were also hit by some nasty balls today — pitcher Brandon McCarthy took a line drive off his foot in the 3rd, and then in his at-bat, Francisco Cervelli took a pitch right off the side of his abdomen (warning: it looks more painful than it sounds). Both stayed in the game, but I imagine both will be pretty bruised up later tonight and into tomorrow.

Also, Brian McCann was placed on the 7-day DL, and Austin Romine was recalled from AAA Scranton to fill in as back-up catcher while McCann recovers from his concussion.

And Mark Teixeira is still nursing his stitched-up hand, finding that things like gripping a bat is excruciatingly painful when the skin on your hand has been sliced through by metal cleats. (Sorry for the graphic image, visual people, but sometimes we need to remember that these guys are just as fragile and need time to recover from things like painful injuries too. Okay, so maybe it’s the players that need the reminder more than anyone because they tend to be anxious to jump back into the fray without waiting for total healing.)

Other roster moves: Brian Roberts has been unconditionally released, and Scott Sizemore has been re-signed to a Yankees minor league contract. So bad news for you Roberts fans, but some good news for you Sizemore fans (oddly often the same people).

And one more tidbit: There was a really nice article posted today in the Wall Street Journal, by Yankees’ beat reporter Daniel Barbarisi on Brett Gardner and his father Jerry. This is one of those “insider” stories that proves to be quite inspirational. It’s worth the read, and it explains the inherited determination and passion that Gardner displays as well as his good-natured character. And it’s one of the reasons I’m glad he’s going to be a Yankee for a long time.

Go Yankees!