Game 152: NYY vs. TB — A lazy Thursday game falls short of the sweep

Usually, we assign the adjective “lazy” to weekend days like Saturday or Sunday. But throw in a sports game like baseball, and I think you can have a “lazy Thursday” night. Well, that’s at least what this game felt like. Not that the Yankees or Rays were trying hard to fight it out for this game, the Rays not wanting to be swept and the Yankees needing as many wins as possible to stay alive in the Wild Card race. It just wasn’t nearly as interesting (read: dramatic and filled with massive power-hitting home runs) as the last two games.

Luis Cessa got the start for this series finale against the Rays at the Trop. And he actually threw a pretty good game — 94 pitches in 6 innings, giving up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and struck out 6 Rays batters. In the 1st, Cessa gave up a couple of singles to start off the inning before one scored on a 1-out single. He got out of the inning without further damage. And in the 6th, Cessa gave up a 2-out solo home run. And that would be it for him (and the Rays).

The other Luis — Luis Severino came in for long-term relief again, throwing just 24 pitches in his 2 innings, adding 3 more strikeouts to the grand total of 9 strikeouts from Yankee pitchers to the Rays’ batters.

The Yankees were less successful against the Rays’ pitchers, though they certainly gave their best effort. They knocked 8 hits and worked 3 walks over the course of 9 innings, striking out 9 times in the process, and didn’t manage to cobble together any runs.

Yes, the Yankees were shut out in this final game in St. Petersburg this season.

Final score: 2-0 Rays, Yankees take series 2-1.

While Gary Sanchez managed to be 2 of the Yankees 3 walks today at the plate, he still maintained that defense behind the plate that makes him an all-around great player. In the 3rd inning, a runner at 1st decided to steal 2nd. And don’t they know better by now. You don’t steal on Gary Sanchez. Anyway, the runner was initially ruled safe, but the Yankees took that special opportunity to challenge, review, and eventually (or is it inevitably?) overturn the call. Because you don’t steal on Gary Sanchez.

Roster news: The Yankees traded veteran reliever Phil Coke (on the AAA Championship team) to Pirates in trade for cash considerations. I expect we’ll see a few more moves after this team. It looks like the Yankees are done adding people to the big league, so it could be a sign they’re looking to move some people around or rest them up for the fall league or prep them for Spring Training.

Injury news: Also, Masahiro Tanaka will miss his next start as he is resting his arm due to a “slight forearm strain“. No worries on the big injury front here as the strain isn’t near the ligament, but rather a muscle issue from overexertion. And while the Yankees are still in the Wild Card race, they need their ace in top shape for the potential push and postseason.

Go Yankees!

Game 41: NYY vs. OAK — CC’s back & it is good

Call it a hometown celebration if you must. But being in the Bay Area tonight certainly did wonders for tonight’s starter CC Sabathia, who grew up in the area (and is still a big fan of non-baseball area sports teams). With about 100 of his personal guests cheering him on at the Coliseum, Sabathia went on to resemble shades of the ace pitcher that we all know and love and earn his 100th career win.

Sabathia threw 98 pitches through his 6 innings, giving up just 3 hits, a walk, and a run, and very nicely struck out 8 A’s batters. His only allowed run came in the bottom of the 2nd inning. With 2 outs and runners on base with his only allowed walk and a hit by pitch, a single scored the lead runner and put runners in scoring position. However, a simple bunt that Sabathia fielded successfully himself ended the A’s only inning under his command where they had a shot at something.

Kirby Yates came on for the 7th and 8th innings. In the 7th, with 2 outs, a single scored on an RBI double before Yates sailed through his next 4 outs rather efficiently. Chasen Shreve finished things off in the 9th inning. A really nice lead-off triple scored on a ground out before Shreve breezed through the final 2 outs to close out the game.

The Yankees, on the other hand, gave Sabathia enough run support to hand deliver him the win to match his excellent start. And that was thanks in part to Oakland’s less-than-crisp defense. Things started to get messy for Oakland (and good for the Yankees) in the 4th inning.

With 1 out, Hicks worked a walk and then moved all the way to 3rd don Gregorius’ single. They both scored on Ronald Torreyes’ triple to give the Yankees the lead. After Ellsbury reached 1st on his 5th catcher’s interference of the season, a wild pitch scored Torreyes and moved Ellsbury to 2nd. Then with Gardner on base with a walk, another wild pitch moved runners to scoring position so that Carlos Beltran’s double scored both of them and forced the A’s starter out of the game.

The new reliever got through the final 2 outs without allowing another run. Until the 6th inning, that is. He gave up a lead-off single to Gardner who then scored on Beltran’s RBI double. It’s not like the final pitcher for Oakland had an easier time against the Yankees’ batters. In the 9th inning, with 2 outs, Gregorius and Torreyes hit back-to-back singles and then scored on Jacoby Ellsbury’s triple to cap off the Yankees’ scoring.

Final score: 8-3 Yankees

It should be noted that the Yankees racked up 13 total hits and 6 walks off Oakland pitchers. But the key to their offense tonight was Carlos Beltran — his 3 doubles and 3 RBIs just tonight certainly show how Beltran is enjoying his temporary stint as the DH in Rodriguez’s absence. So many people are already connecting Beltran and Cooperstown, including Hall-of-Famer Reggie Jackson himself.

Scranton Shuttle: Activating Sabathia from 15-day DL tonight, the Yankees made the corresponding roster move by optioning pitcher James Pazos back to AAA Scranton. And just a few days after being DFA’d, Phil Coke was outrighted to AAA Scranton. Coke was hoping to stay with the Yankees, even willing to head back to Scranton, so it looks like he got his wish. And who knows… he might be back in the Bronx before you know it. It’s shaping up to be that kind of year.

Go Yankees!

Game 38: NYY vs. ARI — Not enough even against a struggling ace

Well, I suppose I can happy it wasn’t a total blow out again, but I don’t think that anyone can ever realistically be happy with a loss. Especially one that was fraught with more of those disappointing moments when nothing came when most needed.

Still in beautiful but very hot Arizona visiting the Diamondbacks, the Yankees sent up Michael Pineda to start the game, and he certainly had mixed results in his 5 innings — 81 pitches, 9 allowed hits, 1 walk, and 5 runs, and (here’s the upside) 9 very nice strikeouts. In the 2nd with 2 outs, a really nice triple scored on an RBI single to get the D’backs on the board.

In 3 consecutive singles to lead-off with 3rd inning, 1 more run scored. Then 1 out later, another single scored another run. But then with runners in scoring position, Pineda (and his defense) got the requisite 2 outs to get out of the inning. Then with 1 out and a runner on base with a walk, a 2-run home run scored the final 2 runs for Arizona.

Chasen Shreve took the next 2 innings, adding his own very Shreve-like 2 strikeouts. Kirby Yates took the 8th and added his own 2 strikeouts to the total. (These two, when on point, are some of the strongest middle relievers the Yankees have had in their bullpen in a long time. When they reach that consistency point, they’re going to be unstoppable forces.)

The reality is that the Yankees were up against one of the best pitchers (in my mind too) in the National League. This year, he’s with a new team and his ERA is nowhere near where it should be (it’s too high for a pitcher of his caliber). Which means, he’s gotten off to a rather rough start. Which is evident in some of his statistics tonight against the Yankees — like the 5 hits and 3 runs he gave up to them.

The Yankees actually struck first in tonight’s game with Starlin Castro’s 1-out solo home run in the 2nd inning. Then the Diamondbacks’ starter started to falter as he neared 100 pitches in the 8th inning. He gave up singles to Gregorius and Hicks, putting them on the corners. That would be it for the starter, but he was now responsible for those runners on base. Pinch-hitting Carlos Beltran hit into a ground out, scoring Gregorius and moving Hicks into scoring position. Then Jacoby Ellsbury’s single scored Hicks to put the Yankees within reach of the win.

Except they didn’t reach. And they didn’t win. Between the 2 relievers that closed out the final 2 innings, they were effectively shut down and sent further into the loss column.

And once again, the best thing the Yankee pitching staff had going for it was the fact that in total they struck out 13 Arizona batters. But still the Arizona line up seemed to find ways between those strikeouts to do enough to give them the edge.


Final score: 5-3 Diamondbacks

Scranton Shuttle: before the game tonight, the Yankees flew out a few names everyone’s been wondering about — infielder Rob Refsnyder and pitchers Luis Cessa and James Pazos for some fresh arms and a chance at a good back-up bench. In response, they optioned new guys Chad Green and Conor Mullee back to Scranton (a rather short MLB debut stint). And Phil Coke was designated for assignment.

Ah, the endless cycle of DFAs, options, call-ups, assignments, and contracts. A GM’s job is never done. And the chances of a team ending up with the exact same roster as the one from Opening Day is just not reality. Injuries happen, bodies breakdown, slumps hit rock bottom, players peak too early or too late. The fact is that part of the long season is that it means that there are too many variables.

It’s why I don’t put much stock in what the talking heads say at the beginning of Spring Training. You just can’t predict baseball. You can’t predict life. And it’s that kind of part of the fun — the mystery of what could be meets what will be in a big ball of the unexpected. It certainly keeps me on my toes.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: video link issues… I’ll try to get them up by the next post. Sorry!}

Game 37: NYY vs. ARI — Is it 2001?

I remember very vividly Game 6 of the 2001 World Series. The Yankees, coming off their stellar (very important) season, were up 3-2 over the Diamondbacks and looking for one more win to win their fourth consecutive World Championship. But standing in their way were the Diamondbacks, led by future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson. Johnson pitched that night for Arizona against the usually reliable Andy Pettitte (who only made it through 2 innings that night). It was a blowout game. For the Diamondbacks. Final score of Game 6: 15-2 Arizona (including 22 hits by Diamondback batters). It was not a pretty game in the slightest. (Even Joe Torre talked about his memories from that night with perhaps a tinge of regret, but time, as it often does, softened the harsher memories and focused instead on the more important impactful moments from that season and life-altering year.)

And while tonight’s game was nowhere near that bad, or even crucial in the long run, it certainly brought back memories of that very specific game for me.

Tonight recent call-ups Chad Green and Conor Mullee made their debut with the Yankees. In fact, all 4 pitchers for the Yankees tonight weren’t on the roster a few weeks ago. And honestly, it’s kind of obvious. Green started tonight’s game and got knocked around quite a bit by the Diamondbacks’ roster.

In just over 4 innings, Green threw 79 pitches, gave up 8 hits, a walk, and 6 runs (just 4 earned), and struck out 5 batters. Once again, the strikeouts were the best thing for the pitching staff tonight. Not that it did much in the long run. In the 1st, with 2 outs, a solo home run got things started for Arizona. And a lead-off single, and subsequent stolen base in the 2nd, scored on a 2-out double.

The Yankees weren’t easy to run over just yet (unlike the 2001 game, by the way). In the 4th, Teixeira led off with a double and moved to 3rd on Beltran’s single before scoring on Chase Headley’s single. But despite a bases loaded situation 2 outs later, the Yankees fell back into that RISP (runners in scoring position) chasm and left all 3 stranded. Leading off the 5th inning, Jacoby Ellsbury smacked a beautiful triple and then scored on a rather hilarious throwing error. It was described as a “Little League Home Run” online a few times, and it was honestly the best play of the night.

(By the way, with all of this talk about “making baseball fun again”, this play reminded me of the more questionable displays of so-called “fun” some other players seem to be advocating for. But if that play wasn’t fun, I don’t know what was. Anything that is reminiscent of the game these guys played as kids should be the definition of “fun” for this game, not some convoluted display of prominence.)

Okay, so the game was tied going into the 5th inning, and things were looking up for Green. But not for long. A missed catch error allowed one runner and a walk put a second on base so that the third batter hit a very large 3-run home run to push the D’backs into the lead. After an allowed double (and still no outs of the inning), Green’s night was done.

Nick Goody promptly got 2 outs, one a sacrifice fly that scored the lone runner, before giving a double and RBI single to increase Arizona’s lead even more. Conor Mullee made his major league debut tonight and had some struggles of his own to contend with — a walk, a strikeout, a stolen base, a walk, a force out, a hit-by-pitch to load the bases, and a walk that gave up another run before getting another force out to end the inning. I was informed that Mullee is the first Yankee pitcher with at least 3 walks and a hit-by-pitch in his debut since Betances’ debut in 2011.

It was time to hand over the ball to a more veteran pitcher, not that it would make that much of a difference. Phil Coke’s 7th and 8th innings were plagued with their own troubles. A fielding error, a hit-by-pitch, and a single loaded the bases before a ball ground into a double play scored the lead runner and a strikeout ended the D’backs attempt at running away with tonight’s game (well, even more than they did).

In the 8th, with 1 out, a batter doubles, but trying to stretch it into a triple gets tagged out between the bases (thanks to veteran teamwork there). A single, an RBI double, a walk, and a 2-RBI triple pushed the D’backs into double-digits.

Look, the best thing about the pitching staff consisted of 2 statistics — only 1 allowed walk and 8 total strikeouts, which nearly matched what the Arizona pitching staff came up with (1 walk and 10 strikeouts). But I’m guessing the 15 allowed hits and 12 runs (though only 8 were earned) and 2 errors were a giant part of the final score tonight.

Final score: 12-2 Diamondbacks

Before the game tonight, the Diamondbacks paid tribute to the late Joe Garagiola with a special pre-game ceremony, including a nice video tribute (this is the shortened link) to the former player, broadcaster, and long-time lover of baseball. (Link for full ceremony.) Garagiola’s children, his best friend Yogi Berra’s granddaughter (and MLB reporter), and friend and baseball executive Joe Torre were all on-hand for the celebration and honoring of a legend. Torre, Berra, and a former Diamondbacks co-broadcaster with Garagiola caught the ceremonial first pitches by 3 students from a local school where Garagiola spent his time giving back to his community. (Link for Lindsay Berra’s special report on her Grampa’s best friend and tonight’s tribute.)

Go Yankees!

Game 32: KC vs. NYY — Not one for the history books

Well, that was less than pleasant to watch. While about 241 miles southwest of Yankee Stadium as new baseball history was almost made (see link), the Yankees were caught in a bit of a Royal mess, as it were.

Michael Pineda had a bit of trouble from start to finish of his outing tonight, making it just shy of 6 innings with a whopping 114 pitches, giving up 6 hits, 4 walks, and 6 runs, and striking out 7 batters. It was not a pretty picture. In the 1st, with 1 out (a single nicely caught stealing by a quick McCann), a batter (the first of 3 tonight) was hit by a pitch and moved to 3rd on a single. A walk loaded the bases, which allowed the lead runner to score on a sacrifice fly and the bases to clear with a rather beautiful 3-run home run. This put the Royals up 4-0 by the mid-1st inning. Not exactly the best way to start tonight’s game.

Pineda seemed to get things under control and keep the Royals from adding to their score up until the end of his night. In the 6th, with 2 outs on the board and 2 runners on base with a walk and a single, the 114 pitches were winking at the pitcher seemingly unable to get that 3rd out. So in came reliever Nick Goody, who clearly wasn’t going to have a good night himself. His first batter was hit by a pitch, which loaded the bases, and a single scored 2 speedy runners to add more to the Royals’ lead.

That would be it for Goody. It was Phil Coke time. (I feel like there should be a Coca-Cola joke here. I’ll work on it and see how I can work it in next time he pitches. Any ideas can go in the comment section below.) Coke settled things down for the Yankees, and save a lead-off solo home run in the 7th, Coke virtually sailed his way through the next 3 innings.

The Yankees did their best to chip away at the Royals early lead. In the 2nd, Carlos Beltran continued to climb the All-Time Home Run leaders chart hitting #399 with a solo home run into the right field seats. Hicks then hit a 1-out single, moved to 2nd on a ground out, and then scored on Chase Headley’s single. But with the bases loaded 2 walks later, the Yankees fell into their April pattern of not hitting well with runners in scoring position (that’s the RISP stat everyone is talking about).

In the 5th, Gardner led-off with a walk, moved to 3rd on Castro’s double, and scored on Brian McCann’s ground out. But that would be it for the Yankees’ offense tonight. Not that the Royals’ pitching was all that stellar tonight, just once again, the Yankees weren’t adding much up around the base paths.

Final score: 7-3 Royals.

I heard a statistic during the game tonight that last year’s team practically lived off the home runs, while this year’s team is only scoring half their runs off their home runs. I’m not sure why this matters. A run is a run is a run. And while they are the “Bronx Bombers” for a reason, I think everyone would just rather them win on however they get runs scored in that game. I don’t think any less (or for that matter any more) of the team when they get home runs versus when they score via small ball (like RBI hits, sac flies, etc.).

Someone suggested it’s a male pride thing (or just a pride thing, in general). I don’t know if that’s the case. Home runs are a big deal in the moment. They get on the highlight reels, and they excite fans in the stands. But a win is a win regardless of how the runs are scored. So if I have to choose between a win and a home run, I don’t know one professional ball player that would choose a home run.

Because your team can score the most home runs all season long, but if they don’t have the most wins, they’re joining you with watching October baseball rather than playing it.

To be fair, I could use a little more run scored, and I do like it when they smack one out of the park. But that’s only important if that adds up to wins. Otherwise, you’re just building personal statistics. And baseball is a team sport for a reason.

Go Yankees!

Game 30: KC vs. NYY — “Everybody gets a home run!”

At one point during tonight’s game, I was searching for the appropriate meme to post. I felt like the pitchers were doing their best to be like Oprah where everyone gets a home run in some massive surprise gift giveaway. Of course, much was made prior to tonight’s game about the visiting “reigning World Champions” (read: only Kansas City media and like Fox Sports has been touting this phrase). Sorry, Royals, but talk to Yankee Universe when your number jumps from 2 to 27 and then we can chat about championships.

Also, this current team is really not the 2015 team in so many ways. We here at Yankee Universe get that every season, with the comings and goings of the players, is a fresh start, and sometimes (especially after a big championship season) that’s not a good thing. (Most recently, take a look at the differences between the 2009 and 2010 Yankee teams.) Going back-to-back is so rare that even the Yankees have only done that 12 times in their history.

Anyway, the Royals flew out to Gotham for a 4-game series this week for this middle of this home stand. And the Yankees seemed bent on reminding the “reigning World Champions” who exactly holds the title of both “Bronx Bombers” and “all-time World Champions”. Helmed tonight by Ivan Nova, taking Sabathia’s spot in the rotation as Sabathia heals from his groin injury, the Yankees were in full force tonight after last night’s awful loss to Boston.

Nova was on a strict pitch count of 81 pitches and met it in the 5th inning. By then, he gave up 6 hits, a walk, and just 1 run, striking out 3 Kansas City batters. That lone run was a really nice 1-out solo home run in the 2nd inning straight up to Monument Park. Nova reminded everyone not to underestimate his starting potential simply because he’s been a long-term bullpen option for a month now. Nova continues to remain a vital part of the pitching staff, proving himself again tonight why they keep him around and active.

Phil Coke came on to finish the 5th for Nova (much to the glee of many fans and writers who remember the last time he pitched for the Yankees — Game 5 of the 2009 World Series). After an out and a walk, Coke handed the ball to fellow reliever Kirby Yates who sailed his way through the rest of the 6th and through the 7th innings, adding 2 more strikeouts and setting himself up as the recipient of the win for tonight’s game (yes, this is still an odd way to record wins and losses for pitchers).

Chasen Shreve got his turn in the 8th, and despite giving up a solo shot to the lead batter, shut down the rest of the order in Shreve-like fashion. To be fair to all home-run-giver-uppers, most pitches that become home run balls are beautiful strikes in the first place; the batters just also recognize this to their advantage. This is usually where a good amount of deception comes into play so that the batters don’t see a beautiful strike coming towards them and thus get their timing off.

And in the 9th inning (though not a save opportunity), coming off his 30-game suspension, Aroldis Chapman made his pinstripe debut as the flame-throwing closer we all knew he could be. Chapman was actually pretty tonight, in control and ready to jump right in to help the Yankees. Chapman threw 17 pitches, getting the first 2 batters to swing at just filthy strikes, topping out at 101mph. A pinch-hitter doubled and then scored on an RBI single before the final batter hit a comebacker that bounced back to Chapman to get the easy out at 3rd to end the game.

On the flip side of things, the Yankees put up their own numbers early and often. Brian McCann got things started with a 2-out solo home run in the 1st inning. Carlos Beltran led-off the 2nd with his own solo home run into the right field seats. But it was the 3rd inning that became the Oprah-story. Brett Gardner led-off with a solo shot only to be followed immediately by Aaron Hicks and his solo shot. Then 2 outs later, Beltran decided to hit his 2nd home run of the night to add to the home run giveaway. (It was a great night for those fans in the right field seats!)

Beltran’s 2nd homer of the evening also forced the Royals’ starter out of the game. They could read his pitches like yesterday’s mail. (I could almost hear my grandfather’s voice on that one.) And the new reliever did his best to keep the Yankees from multiplying their score exponentially. So they traded in their mega-bats for some small ball in the 7th inning. Headley and Torreyes each singled to lead off the inning and moved to scoring position on Gardner’s ground out. They continued to move up on Hicks’ sacrifice fly, as Headley scored. But a strikeout ended their small ball streak for the night.

But that’s okay. The Yankees seemed to be sitting pretty on their home runs tonight.

Final score: 6-3 Yankees.

Ben Gamel made his MLB debut tonight, coming into the game at the top of the 8th, playing right field and getting his first single in the bottom of the 8th. (Ball spared and saved for the mantle.) His debut during a win, which included his first single — not a bad way to make your break into the majors.

Also, for those who were wondering when the Yankees were going to make up that cancelled game (due to snow) from April 10, the Tigers-Yankees match-up is rescheduled for June 2 at 7:40 pm at Comerica Park in Detroit. Current ticket holders can use their tickets dated for April 10th for admission to that game next month without any exchanges necessary. More information can be found on the Tigers’ ticket information site.

Also, the corresponding roster move for Chapman’s reinstatement on the 40-man roster was a bit of a chess game. The Yankees optioned Johnny Barbato to AAA and moved Branden Pinder to their 60-day DL, effectively taking him off the 40-man roster. Pinder, as you may remember, is out for the rest of the season and into next year for Tommy John surgery due to a tear in his UCL (elbow). However, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Barbato who’s pitched rather well this last month.

Go Yankees!

Game 27: BOS vs. NYY –Hick-up & win

Okay, I have to be honest, it’s really nice to write about a win. I mean, it’s always nice to write about a win against the Red Sox. Jeter recently described the Red Sox fans as soft now after winning the Series (I’m assuming he meant the 2004 “Break the Curse” one). But I can’t say that I agree. Maybe they warmed up to him enough to (as he said) “not yell at him in restaurants” anymore, but this is still the best rivalry in baseball. Maybe they have evolved into more palatable outside of the actual ball park setting, and the ribbing of each other is almost more entertainment and part of the mantle of being a Red Sox or Yankee fan.

Anyway, the Red Sox are in town for the weekend. And it was Michael Pineda’s turn to start tonight’s game. Pineda actually didn’t do a bad job, giving up 8 hits, a walk, 2 runs, and striking out 4 in his 6 innings. His weakest inning was the 1st. After 2 outs, a batter doubled and stole 3rd, which set him up to score, something he did fairly easily as the next batter smacked a big 2-run home run to jump the Red Sox into the lead early in the game.

However, it would be the only runs the Red Sox would score all night. After Pineda kept the Red Sox from adding to their score during his tenure, the Yankees began to piece together the final 3 innings with their bullpen. Shreve struggled his way through a couple of batters, giving up a hit and getting an out before handing things over to Yates to finish off the 7th.

Then in came the Dynamic Duo. Betances got the first 2 outs of the 8th, and then Miller had a rough time of it for the final 4 outs — 36 pitches, 3 hits, and a walk, but still making sure all 4 outs were strikeouts. Of course, the Red Sox added their own bits of drama even at the end of the game with some ejections caused by arguing balls and strikes. (Seriously, why do they still do this? It’s like become an automatic ejection now. And the Yankees have been known to do the same thing, so it’s not just “everyone else”.)

Now, in order for the Yankees to actually win (and in some games already this season, they would not have done so), they needed to score a few runs. So they did. Already down 2-0 coming to bat in the bottom of the 1st, Jacoby Ellsbury worked a walk to lead off the inning, stole 2nd base, then stole 3rd (more on that below), and then scored on Brian McCann’s 2-out double.

The Yankees are not without their bits of drama either tonight; they just got it out of the way early and no one was ejected. In the 2nd, Castro led-off with a single and moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt. After another out and Torreyes’ walk, Dustin Ackley (Ellsbury’s replacement) singled, which easily scored Castro. But throwing the ball in for the out, the ball got diverted back to get Torreyes going to 3rd on a pretty heads-up play for the Red Sox to end the inning after the Yankees tied up the game.

And there they sat. And then “God Bless America”. I think I figured out why other teams don’t honor America at the 7th inning stretch. It isn’t because they don’t want to, but rather that they know it does stuff for the Yankees. Like it did tonight. Aaron Hicks hit his first home run of the season and as a Yankee to lead-off the bottom of the 7th inning and give the Yankees the lead.

It was enough.

Final score: 3-2 Yankees.

Injury updates: So, on that 2nd stolen base (the one to 3rd), Ellsbury came up limping from a sore hip and was unable to continue the game (hence both Ackley and Hicks in the outfield, Beltran was DH tonight). Ellsbury is on his way to an MRI and more tests. Ellsbury has had hip issues as recently as early last year. Hopefully, this isn’t the case. You know, he was just sparking offensively too. (Isn’t that always the case?)

Also, CC Sabathia is out with a groin injury and now on the 15-day DL (though realistically his recovery time is closer to 3 weeks). Ivan Nova will move from the bullpen into his starting spot fairly seamlessly. And in the meantime, filling the 25-man roster is veteran reliever and former Yankee Phil Coke, who was recently re-signed to the team with a minor league deal. Coke made his MLB debut with the Yankees in 2008 and was with the team through the 2009 season (yes, part of that team) before spending time with the Tigers, Cubs, and Blue Jays until last year.

Sabathia’s injury comes after his stellar performance last night too. Okay, so I’m not loving this pattern — just when a player gets good, an injury just crushes their playing time (and inevitably, their spirit). Um, let’s stop this pattern.

But this winning thing… now, that’s something I can get behind.

Go Yankees!