Home Run Derby 2018 — Hometown Heroics at Workout Day

At the end of the first half of the season, the leading players in home runs were dominantly in the American League, but many opted out of the special event tonight either in favor of the rest that comes with the All-Star Break or to focus on the big exhibition game tomorrow night.

Instead, 43,698 fans crowded into Nationals Park in anticipation of seeing the star slugger they see at every home game hit his way into victory. Nationals’ outfielder Harper was the only veteran of the Home Run Derby, having lost in the final round in 2013 to Cespedes. The seven other batters in tonight’s event were news and all but one from National League teams.

The All-Star players had their Workout Day earlier in the day, running drills, seeing where they land on the roster, connecting with former teammates and friends, meeting the media and fans, and then congregating for the Home Run Derby. The Derby is set-up like in a bracket system, where the player with the highest number of home runs (Seed #1) faces off against the player with the fewest homers (Seed #8) and other similar pairings for the first round for four pairings, a sort of “homer-off”, in just 4 minutes.

The player with the most homers of the pair advance to the next round. So, the winners of that first round meet up with another winner for two more pairings for another round of “homer-off”. And the 2 winners of those pairings meet in the final round to see who hits the most homers in just 4 minutes. An extra 30 seconds is awarded if the batter hits 2+ homers at least 440 feet.

The first round kept close for the most part, with a strong start by the first pairing. The Phillies’ Hoskins kicked off the evening with 17 home runs that beat his opponent, Aguilar (Brewers), who hit just 12 despite being the furthest apart in regular season homers. Then it was close — Schwarber (Cubs) beat Bregman (Astros) 16-15, Muncy (Dodgers) over Baez (Cubs) 17-16, and Harper (Nationals) over Freeman (Braves) 13-12.

The next round continued the trend, with Schwarber powering 21 runs, edging out Hoskins (20). Muncy had a good start but faltered in the end to be surpassed by Harper (13-12). For the final round, Schwarber again kicked things off with a big show at 18 runs, and despite some momentum loss, Harper came back and tied it up at 18 in the final second. But he had those 30 extra seconds due to some pretty monster homers. He just needed 1, and he got it. And the hometown crowd went crazy, waving giant Harper faces and making the stadium nearly shake.

{Media note: Still waiting on a recap video of the Derby, will add shortly.}

And if you’re wondering, at the All-Star Futures Game, Team USA out-powered Team World 10-6 yesterday, though each team got 4 solid home runs in the process. Yankees prospect pitcher Justus Sheffield got time on the mound and really had a less-than-ideal outing. Pitching for Team USA, Sheffield came out in the 2nd and promptly gave up a solo home run to allow Team World on the board. After allowing a 1-out single in the 3rd, they went to another pitcher, but that runner scored on a 2-run home run that gave Sheffield a second earned run. But in the end, it was Team USA to power through and come out victorious.

Tomorrow, the All-Stars(often with their families) will walk down the eed carpet to meet their fans, chat with media, and take pictures just outside Nationals Park for the annual Red Carpet Parade before they take batting practice inside the park before the big game. Torres and Chapman will not be playing due to injuries. Severino is slotted as a reserves pitcher, which means he’ll pitch an inning somewhere in the middle of the game. And upon revealing the starting rosters, the AL coaching team has Judge batting 6th and playing left field. Because clearly they’ve never seen the right fielder and the Yankees’ #2 hitter play baseball.

Can’t wait to see Judge and Severino in the game tomorrow night!

Go Yankees!

Game 78: NYY vs. PHI — Shut out of a sweep

The Yankees conclude their tour of the “City that Loves You Back” by not feeling so much of that love. In a quirky turn of events, about 20 years ago, the City of Philadelphia launched a campaign in a sort of response to New York’s “I Love New York” campaign with one that might encourage tourists to receive the “brotherly love” rather than be compelled to give it. So, they launched ads that relied on “Philadelphia’s heritage as the ‘City of Brotherly Love,’ infused with the Quaker values of universal love, nonviolence, tolerance, and equality.”

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of love for the Yankees tonight. Luis Cessa got the start tonight, throwing 74 pitches in his 3 innings, gave up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, and striking out just 2 Phillies batters. In the 2nd, with 1 out, Cessa gave up a single who moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt. After another batter worked a walk, the next player hit a long 3-run home run for the only runs to score all night.

Giovanny Gallegos came on in relief of Cessa in the 4th and continued on for the next 3 innings, keeping the Phillies to those runs. But his strength was actually getting a strong 6 strikeouts. Holder and German continued Gallegos’ momentum, breezing their ways through the 8th and 9th scoreless innings.

But the Yankees’ offense was limited to 4 hits and 2 walks off the Phillies’ starter, but he and his lone reliever kept the Yankees completely and disappointingly scoreless for the whole game. The Yankees’ biggest show tonight was defensively, with both Brett Gardner and Giancarlo Stanton slamming up against the back wall to make some great plays.

Final score: 3-0 Phillies, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: After a travel day and day-off tomorrow, the Yankees head back to the Bronx to face the Red Sox for a weekend series starting Friday, before 3 games against the Braves. And then, they’re on the road visiting the Blue Jays, Orioles, and Indians right up to the All-Star Game Break.

And speaking of which, have you voted for your favorite All-Star candidates yet? Time is running short (you have until July 5 at 11:59 pm EST). Vote today!

Go Yankees!

Game 77: NYY vs. PHI — Yankees find freedom of home runs

The Yankees are certainly loving “The Cradle of Liberty”, as they are finding a nice way to bounce back after this last weekend. Luis Severino continues his dominance and campaign for that coveted Cy Young award in the middle game of this series against the Phillies. He threw 103 pitches in 7 scoreless innings, gave up 6 hits, and struck out 9 Philadelphia batters to earn his 12th win of the season.

Adam Warren came on to continue the scoreless momentum through the 8th inning. Chasen Shreve redeemed himself a bit from recent less-than-stellar outings with his own scoreless 9th inning. Boone later admitted to wanting Shreve to try his hand at less crucial moments to see if he can rediscover what made him a reliable force in the bullpen.

Of course, in order to be a “less crucial moment”, the Yankees’ offense started early and often. Aaron Hicks led-off the game with a strong solo home run straight up the middle of the park, just 3 minutes into the game actually. Not a bad way to kick off the game.

Then in the 3rd, with 1 out, Hicks and Judge each singled, and then Gregorius made it to 1st to load up the bases thanks to a throwing error. After another out, Gleyber Torres singled home both Hicks and Judge, and Greg Bird followed that with a single to score Gregorius.

Romine led-off the 4th with a nice double, moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ sacrifice fly. Then Didi Gregorius got in on the fun with a lead-off home run in the 5th to cap off the Yankees’ offense tonight.

Final score: 6-0 Yankees

During batting practice today, Giancarlo Stanton hit such a long fly ball that it bounced off this large tower beyond the left field seats and landed on the concourse behind the seats. I mean, he’s been known to hit some dingers in the past. There’s a commemorative mark on the floor in Marlins Park so far beyond the field and seats in left-center field it’s crazy. Plus, he and Judge basically competed for who can be the most ridiculous in hitting balls so far during last year’s Home Run Derby.

And speaking of the All-Star Game, they released the latest numbers in fan voting for the AL starters. And while the leaders are kind of running away with their categories, the Yankees are putting in a strong showing. Sanchez is still 2nd among catchers (by about 160,000 votes), which might be good as he’s currently out with that strain he got on Sunday. Torres, Andujar, and Stanton are all distant seconds among 2nd base, 3rd base, and DH, respectively. Gregorius is still 3rd at short stop.

In the outfield, which is quite crowded, Judge is a solid 3rd place, but still way ahead of the next few contenders. So his chances of being a starter are the most likely. In fact, almost all of the starting positions for the AL could represent 8 teams, something that doesn’t happen often. (If you’re wondering, Gardner is 8th and Hicks is 12th.) I imagine the AL coaching team might also choose a pitcher or two to fill out their roster.

So, if you want your votes to count, you need to vote now for your favorite players. You have until July 5 at 11:59 pm EST to vote 5 times every 24 hours up to 35 total times. I’m out of votes, so it’s your turn.

Go Yankees!

Game 76: NYY vs. PHI — Some “Brotherly Love” for a rookie pitcher, a fan, and a “rookie” batter

The Yankees began their series in the City of Brotherly Love and showed some love to their fans in the area in many ways. Aaron Judge played catch with a fan in the right field seats, later commenting on the good arm on the kid. Plus, their rookie pitcher threw a scoreless 5 innings.

Jonathan Loaisiga threw 86 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up just 1 hit and 2 walks, and struck out 8 Phillies batters. In other words, he had another great night from the mound and earned his 2nd win in as many starts. David Robertson took over for him in the 6th and continued into the 7th with some trouble. He gave up a lead-off walk that moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a 1-out single.

After another strikeout, the Yankees turned to Dellin Betances, who closed out the 7th with a strong strikeout, walked 2 players in the 8th, and still got his 3 outs unscathed. Aroldis Chapman got out of Betances’ 8th inning jam. And after 2 solid strikeouts in the 9th, he gave up a solo home run before getting a final strikeout to earn his 23rd save.

The Yankees got on the board early. In the 2nd, Bird led-off with a walk, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, and then scored on Gleyber Torres’ double. Later, Aaron Judge hit a great 2-out solo home run in the 5th to double the Yankees’ lead.

And in the 8th, the Yankees loaded up the bases with Gardner’s single, Judge’s walk, and Gregorius’ single. And with no outs, the Phillies changed pitchers again. But he promptly gave up a long single to Giancarlo Stanton. Both Gardner and Judge scored, and then on an off-center throw, Gregorius and Stanton ended up in scoring position. But then the Phillies found their defense and got out without further injury.

Final score: 4-2 Yankees

It’s also worth conversing about the pitchers who hit during tonight’s game because it’s an NL park and it’s always awkward to watch AL pitchers try to hit. Loaisiga, of course, got the most at-bats (2), but struck out both times. But then, because of the rotation, Dellin Betances got an at-bat in the 8th inning — he struck out in 3 pitches, 1 called strike, 2 swinging strike. I know it probably shouldn’t be, but between waving his bat like Gary Sheffield and just swinging away, it was hilarious.

If anyone wants to know how I feel about the designated hitter, just know that I was born after 1973 (when the DH was formally introduced), was raised on AL teams, and just watched a reliever swat away at perfect strikes that most teenagers would hit in batting cages.

Roster moves: Like I said yesterday, the Yankees announced today that Gary Sanchez will be placed on the 10-day disabled list with right groin strain. Technically, he will be out for 3-4 weeks, so he might miss most of next month, which would include the All-Star Game should he be voted or selected to attend.

They also opted outfielder Clint Frazier back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In those two spots, they recalled catcher Kyle Higashioka and reliever Giovanny Gallegos. Higashioka makes sense, as Romine will need some back-up as he slides into Sanchez’s starting position. But based on recent usage of the bullpen and the health of the outfield, the Frazier-Gallegos exchange makes sense.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 13: PHI vs. NYY — Severino’s strong start, but a messy bullpen

It was actually another beautiful day in Tampa, and as we are inundated with friends and family’s pictures from the snow-covered Northeast (including NYC), it’s yet another reminder as to why baseball chose Florida and Arizona to host Spring Training. Compared to Bangor, Maine and Fort Collins, Colorado. So even when it dips into the 50’s (as it was by sunset), it’s still a much better option than shoveling feet of snow and dealing with cars sliding on the ice.

Luis Severino got his Spring start this afternoon against the visiting Phillies and actually had a really strong outing over all. He threw into the 4th inning, only giving up 3 hits, a walk, and an unearned run in addition to his 3 strong strikeouts. In fact, Severino’s only trouble came in the 4th inning. With 1 out, the second batter hit a bouncing ground-rule double. That would be it for Severino, and the Yankees wanted to work out Aroldis Chapman for the rest of the inning. After a nice strikeout, the next batter made it to 1st on a fielding error, and a single scored the Phillies’ first run.

Justus Sheffield got through the 5th fairly unscathed but struggled in the 6th. With 1 out, Sheffield gave up consecutive doubles to add another run, a single put runners on the corners, and a long sacrifice fly score yet another run. Struggling to get that final out, the Yankees turned to middle reliever Wade LeBlanc who also fought to find that final out in the 6th. He gave up a double to put 2 runners in scoring position and then another double scored both runners before a fly out mercifully ended the inning.

In the mean time, the Yankees actually grabbed the lead on the backs of the veterans early in the game. In the 4th, with 2 outs, Sanchez worked a walk and then scored as part of Didi Gregorius’ strong 2-run home run. Drury followed that up with a double and then scored on Eric Kratz’s long single to put the Yankees in the lead. Hicks led-off the 5th with a walk, made it to 2nd on a passed ball, and ended up at 3rd on a throwing error on a poorly hit ball by Aaron Judge. After a pitching change, Bird worked his own walk to load up the bases. And with no outs, Giancarlo Stanton stepped into the batter’s box and hit a long single into right field to score both Hicks and Judge. And Sanchez added to the fun with a nice single to score Bird. This gave the Yankees a rather big lead.

Now, reliever LeBlanc had a much better 7th inning, keeping the Phillies from adding to that score. But his 8th was less than ideal, starting with hitting the lead-off batter. Two outs later, LeBlanc once again had trouble finding that 3rd out, instead giving up a ground-rule double that scored an advancing runner to tie up the game. The Yankees turned to Giovanny Gallegos to find that elusive 3rd out. Again, it was rather elusive. Gallegos gave up a walk and a single that scored the go-ahead run for the Phillies.

Gallegos had a better 9th inning, keeping the score close, but the Yankees’ offense was non-existent by the bottom of the 9th. So the game was decided in that 8th inning.

Final score: 7-6 Phillies

One to Watch: today, there wasn’t a specific standout young player with some big flashy play. Instead, I wanted to recognize infielder Tyler Wade. Wade has been starting games this Spring. Now only 23 with a handful of MLB at-bats, he is in the short running for the job at 2nd base, a position he played today and plays with some level of consistency. Currently batting .318 this Spring overall, Wade got a solid single in the 3rd and played 8 full innings today, only substituted defensively in the 9th. He’s somebody to watch because that 2nd base job may be his to earn this season, and honestly, I think he could really shine there this year.

Next up: the Yankees head over to Wide World of Sports at Disney World (about an hour east of Tampa) to face the Braves tomorrow night. First pitch at 6:05 pm EST. Sonny Gray is set to start that game.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 7: NYY vs. PHI — #CCStrong, Baby Bombers alert!

Under more clear blue, sunny skies, fans scattered themselves across Spectrum Field in Clearwater, filling about three-quarters of the Phillies’ Spring home stadium, to watch the Yankees come for another visit. CC Sabathia got his Spring start this year, looking to duplicate (or even exceed) his 2017 success. And boy was today a good day for Sabathia. In his 2 innings, he dominated Phillies’ batters, getting 3 solid strikeouts and set himself up for the eventual win.

Domingo German came on in relief for Sabathia and breezed his way through the 3rd. He threw 3 solid innings with a single issue — a 1-out solo home run in the 4th to get the Phillies on the board. Wade LeBlanc had a bit of an issue in the 6th, giving up a double, a walk, a sacrifice bunt, and an RBI ground out before breezing his way through the 7th unscathed.

Actually, the best inning for Phillies’ batters was the 8th. It was also the worst for reliever Giovanny Gallegos. He gave up a lead-off single and 2 walks to load up the bases, with no outs. A big double scored 2 runs for the Phillies, again with no outs. So the Yankees went to their bullpen and called on the final pitcher of the afternoon Ben Heller for the final 6 outs, which he breezed through.

Meanwhile, the thing that really marked this game (and sent many Phillies fans home early) were the unending home runs by Yankee batters today — well, 5 in total. Miguel Andujar set the pace with a big lead-off 1st pitch solo home run in the 2nd. With 2 outs, Tyler Austin, Romine, and Cave then loaded up the bases, but an early pitching change ended Yankee hopes to add to their lead. That’s okay. Andujar came back in the 3rd and hit a 2-out home run to double the Yankees’ score, and that was his 4th just this Spring.

Then the rest of the team got in on the action. Brandon Drury led-off the 5th with his own solo home run, and Tyler Austin followed suit with a lead-off home run in the 6th. They changed things up a bit in the 7th as Estevan Florial narrowly missed a home run, smacking a long triple before scoring the first non-homer run on Ronald Torreyes’ sacrifice fly. But then it was back to business as usual when Billy McKinney hit a solo home run to cap off the Yankees’ scoring today.

Final score: 6-4 Yankees

Next up: the Yankees host the Braves tomorrow afternoon back at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. Masahiro Tanaka is schedule to make his Spring debut, looking to repeat his 2017 Spring excellence and redeem his less-than-stellar 2017 regular season. (And in personal news, it’s supposed to be about 12° cooler for local fans, or back to a more tolerable normal temperature for Spring Training around here.)

Also, if you’re watching the farm system, it’s worth noting that the powers-that-be recently ranked the Yankees farm system and prospects at #6 overall. They were #2 last year but found themselves demoted due to how many prospects found themselves playing in the Bronx last year and no longer considered “prospects” (Frazier, Green, and Montgomery), as well as many who’ve been shipped off to other teams (Fowler, Kaprielian, and Mateo). But there are plenty of really good guys left — Andujar, Florial, and Gleyber Torres jump to mind. In other words, the farm system is so loaded that the future looks really good, regardless of how many players come and go.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 4: PHI vs. NYY — Last minute power to continue win streak

The win streak continues on this warm late February night in Tampa. The visiting Phillies certainly played better than yesterday, which pushed the Yankees to be better in the end. And it paid off.

Sonny Gray got his first Spring start tonight and had a pretty good 2 innings. Prospect pitcher Chance Adams got roughed up in the 3rd inning, beginning with a lead-off walk that stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on a sacrifice fly. He then gave up a single that stole 2nd and a walk before Sanchez paired with Gregorius to pick off the runner at 2nd.

Jonathan Heller held the Phillies to that lone run in the 4th, despite a couple hits putting runners in scoring position. Ben Heller’s 5th was another challenge, loading up the bases with 2 walks and a single. A 2-out hit-by-pitch walked in another run for the Phillies before getting out of the inning.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were relatively halted in their offense until that 5th inning. With 2 outs, Drury worked a walk and moved to 2nd when McKinney’s hit into a messy single that was mishandled by the infielder. Tyler Wade then singled to score Drury, as both Wade and McKinney moved into scoring position. But a fly out ended hopes to tie up the game. At least then.

Yankees reliever Brian Keller held the Phillies to a scoreless 2 inning for the 6th and 7th innings. It gave the Yankees offense a chance to catch up in the 7th. With 2 outs, Drury hit a long triple and was pinch-run by minor leaguer Payton who promptly scored and tied up the game when pinch-hitter Miguel Andujar hit a solid double. Then in the 8th, with 1 out and Kratz and Austin on base with walks, pinch-hitter Jorge Saez singled to score Kratz. Austin was right on his tail on the way in, being encouraged home by the 3rd base coach, but the ball arrived home right between Kratz and Austin’s scoring and Austin was tagged out. But it was enough to give the Yankees the lead.

So all they needed was three outs and their win streak could continue. But since when do they make it easy? Yankees reliever Cody Carroll threw a great 8th inning and was looking at continuing that momentum in the 9th. And with 2 quick outs, things were looking up. But a checked swing was ruled a ball (and the entire crowd voiced their displeasure at the umpires), and it wasn’t more than a minute later that the batter hit a long fly ball that bounced off the top of the right field wall. It was called a home run, and just like that, the game was tied.

Into the bottom of the 9th, the game went, with all the hopes and expectations of the lingering crowd. With 2 quick outs, many of the fans were consoling themselves that a tie is still not a loss, comparing how in regulation leagues a draw is still awarded a point (a win is 3 points and a loss is 0 points). But then one nearby Yankee fan remarked that if anyone was going to do something it was going to be Andujar. And boy, did he ever, smacking a big home run right over the left field fence for a beautiful walk-off win.

Final score: 4-3 Yankees

One to Watch: Got to give it to Miguel Andujar tonight. He went 2-for-2, with that home run, plus another RBI, thus responsible for half of the Yankees’ score tonight. Plus, he’s always a great defender. That 3rd base job, or at least, platooning there is looking more and more likely if he can keep playing like he did tonight.

Injury news: in Saturday’s game against the Pirates, Clint Frazier ran into the left field wall (which was really just a chain link fence) rather hard and was later diagnosed with a mild concussion. He is doing better today, but he will be out a few more days and be watched carefully. With the rise of CTE in other sports and its direct link to concussions, athletes and their teams take even slight concussions seriously and proceed with caution. Take all the time you need. I think anyone would prefer a completely healthy athlete to a partially healed one. (Especially their mothers and wives!)

Next up: Yankees head back across the Bay, this time to play the Blue Jays in Dunedin.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: No broadcast tonight means no video highlights for the blog. Sorry!}