Spring Game 6: BAL vs. NYY — Finding a Spring tie under the lights

In the Yankees’ first night Spring game, they battled their way against both the Orioles’ pitching strength and sloppy defense under the lovely Spring night in Tampa. It’s been a bit of every kind of weather just this week, so a pleasant evening of baseball was due to entertain.

The Yankees sent up a string of excellent pitchers who had a few shaky moments, but overall kept the game strong. James Paxton pitched strong into the 3rd inning, but after giving up a lead-off solo home run in the 3rd, the Yankees called on Chad Green, who sailed his way through 4 outs. Jonathan Loaisiga was nearly flawless save his own lead-off solo home run in the 6th. Coulombe, Kahnle, and Coshow closed out the final third of the game cleanly, with no base runners and 5 strikeouts between them.

In fact, this was the first game all Spring that the Yankees didn’t get a run in the 1st and before their opponent. The Yankees instead fell behind and spent the game trying to find their opportunity. They could get base runners on all night, but they couldn’t get anyone in to score a run.

Until the 9th inning. Clint Frazier led-off the inning with a series of fouled-off hits before working a walk. One out later, Matt Lipka also worked a walk to put the two runners on base needed to break onto the scoreboard. The Orioles went to their bullpen to try to get out of the inning. A wild pitch moved runners into scoring position. And Rashad Crawford smacked a deep single that scored both Frazier and Lipka to tie up the game.

Two outs later, Crawford was left stranded at 1st. And because it’s Spring Training, the game remained tied.

Final score: 2-2 tie between Yankees and Orioles

One to Watch: I got to give it to Rashad Crawford tonight, the player who made the Yankees “not lose”. After being part of the Chapman-Cubs trade in 2016, Crawford may be familiar to former Spring Training fans, as he’s spent the last two seasons making his way up the ladder in the farm system and showing up in camp to make an impact. And he continues to do so this year, as he did in tonight’s game.

Next up: the Yankees travel south to Bradenton to visit the Pirates tomorrow afternoon.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: no broadcast tonight, so no highlights. Not that there were many, but that’s just part of Spring sometimes.}

Spring Games 29 & 30: NYY vs. ATL & TOR vs. NYY — Double the win, double the fun

Okay, it was a busy day for the Yankees playing split squad games and dealing with a mix of changes and potential alterations to the lineup. A portion of the Yankees traveled over to face the Braves in Kissimmee (on Disney World property), and another portion stayed in Tampa to face off against the visiting the Blue Jays. They will play both teams later next week — the Braves in a final exhibition game in Atlanta on Monday night and the opening series in Toronto next weekend.

Game 1: Yankees at Braves
This game was oddly routine for most of the game this afternoon. Luis Severino got the start and gave up 2 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs in his 5 innings, striking out 7 batters along the way. Oddly, all of his allowed hits, walks, and runs came in just the 4th inning. He gave up a single that scored on a big 2-run home run to get the Braves on the board. He then gave up 2 walks but then buckled down and got 2 strikeouts and a ground out to get out of the inning.

Chad Green had a great 6th inning, but then gave up a single in the 7th before the Yankees handed the ball to Adam Warren. A sacrifice bunt moved that runner to 2nd and later a 2-out single scored that runner, charged to Green. Warren came out for the first out of the 8th before handing things over to Ben Heller for a flawless 2 strikeouts. Cody Carroll then flew through the 9th inning. Overall, the Yankee pitchers collected an impressive 14 total strikeouts.

The Braves actually kept the score pretty tight and in their favor for most of the game. The Yankees got on the board first in the 4th, with Aaron Hicks’ lead-off solo home run and Ryan McBroom’s 1-out solo shot. After the Braves tied up the game and then took the lead by the top of the 7th, the Yankees didn’t get their next option until the 9th inning. And boy did they pounce. McBroom led-off with a walk, moved to 2nd on Aguilar’s single, and then scored on Gleyber Torres’ 2-out single to tie up the game.

Then Billy McKinney’s single then scored Aguilar to put the Yankee ahead, and a wild pitch moved runners to scoring position. Shane Robinson’s single scored Torres, and the Braves called for a new reliever to find that elusive 3rd out. But then Hendrix worked a walk to load the bases, and Francisco Diaz followed that up with a walk of his own to scored yet another run. Back to the top of the inning’s order, McBroom then hit a long single and 2 runners scored thanks in part to a throwing error.

Final score: 8-3 Yankees

Game 2: Blue Jays at Yankees
Meanwhile, back in Tampa, the game was anything but usual, with both teams going back and forth for much of the game. David Hale got the start with mixed results in his 3 innings. He gave up a 1-out single and a 2-out 2-run homer right in the 1st inning. In the 3rd, a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a ground out and then scored on a 2-out single.

The Yankee batters kept the score close though. In the 1st, with 2 outs, Stanton worked a walk and then scored as part of Didi Gregorius’ 2-run home run to tie up the game. In the 4th, Miguel Andujar worked a walk, stole 2nd, and then scored on Austin Romine’s long 2-out double that bounced off the center field wall (just inches from the top off the wall to be a home run).

Judge hit a 1-out single in the 5th and then scored with Giancarlo Stanton’s monster 2-run home run that dented the Pepsi sign on the top left of the big scoreboard in left field. In the 6th, they loaded up the bases with singles by Andujar and Florial and a walk to Romine. With 1 out, Brett Gardner hit a long sacrifice fly and scored Andujar. Then Rashad Crawford hit a solid double to scored Florial. That gave the Yankees a nice lead.

Giovanny Gallegos threw a strong 2 innings, before handing the ball to JP Feyereisen in the 6th. Feyereisen had a fairly strong 6th, despite giving up a 1-out solo shot. But the lead-off batter in the 7th hit a sharp comebacker that smacked Feyereisen’s hand. He was flexing it, and they let him continue. But he struggled with control (an oddity for the young prospect) for the rest of the inning — giving up a ground-rule double, a 2-RBI single, a double play, and a walk.

Young reliever Josh Rogers came on to finish off the 7th for Feyereisen and closed out that inning scoreless before plowing through the next 2 innings and keeping the Blue Jays from adding to their score and chipping away at the Yankees’ lead.

Oddly paralleling the other game, the Yankees had a rather big offensive inning at home. This one in the bottom of the 7th. They loaded up the bases with a single, an error, and a walk. Estevan Florial worked a walk to score a run before Erik Kratz powered a big bases-clearing, 3-run double. One out later, Zack Zehner hit a big 2-run home run off the black screen above center field. Despite loading up the bases and a pitching change, the Yankees weren’t able to add more to their score.

But they really didn’t need it.

Final score: 13-6 Yankees

Ones to Watch: for the final Spring Training nominees, we’ve got outfielder Rashad Crawford and pitcher Josh Rogers. Crawford is consistent in his defense, for a second Spring in a row, and his outstanding offense today (2 hits in 2 at-bats, 1 RBI) helped the Yankees power through toward victory. And the dominance of Rogers’ pitching helped keep the Blue Jays away, throwing 7 solid outs and earning the save in today’s game. Both young players (ages 24 and 23, respectively) are certainly worth keeping an eye on, with a call to the Bronx sometime in the near future.

Next up: the Yankees play their final Florida-based Spring Training game tomorrow afternoon in Port Charlotte against the Rays. It’s almost over, everyone. Opening Day is right around the corner.

Injury: Brandon Drury is nursing a bruised elbow, buying an elbow pad to be worn for all future at-bats, and being grateful there wasn’t something more serious that would deter him from playing in the opening series next week. And Greg Bird was scheduled to start the game against the Braves, but during batting practice, Bird felt a soreness in his foot. And what complicates things is that it’s the same area that troubled him for most of last season that hampered his play time. They are sending him to further testing, while crossing fingers and hoping for the best. The small advantage is the ridiculous depth the Yankees do have now — Tyler Austin, Neil Walker, and even Austin Romine can all play 1st if necessary.

Roster: before today’s games, the Yankees sent Domingo German down to AAA Scranton, effectively making Jonathan Holder the extra reliever the Yankees hope to carry into the season. More roster moves are expected this weekend before the Yankees leave for Atlanta, but most of the spots are now pretty set. And that alone should give everyone some really big hope for this season. They’re really good. Their back-ups are really good. This whole team could be something to watch this season.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: limited media available for the home game against the Blue Jays. It was amazing, so I’m sorry you won’t get to see it.}

Spring Game 23: MIA vs. NYY — #SevySharp, #ElGary, #FloridaIsHot

Okay, two things made this game a little weird. First, it was easily the warmest game so far this Spring. (Finger crossed for “ever this Spring”.) So when the sun finally found shade behind some clouds, the miserably sweaty sea of people all collectively sighed in appreciation along with some cheers. And second, unlike most games, there was only a handful of opposing fans. Usually, there’s a decent contingency of fans present to cheer on the visiting teams, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of local love for Miami today.

Luis Severino got the start against the visiting Marlins and mostly had a pretty good day. Despite allowing 7 hits, he still got 7 strikeouts in his 5 innings. But he really breezed through his first 3 innings (only giving up 2 hits), a lead-off solo shot in the 4th broke his scoreless streak. And in the 5th, with 1 out, he gave up consecutive singles to put runners on the corners. A sacrifice fly scored one run, and a double the other.

Jonathan Holder came on for a flawless 6th inning and found a spot of trouble in the 7th. A lead-off double in the 7th moved to 3rd on a wild pitch and then scored 2 outs later on a single. Chasen Shreve came on to finish off the inning, keeping the Marlins from adding to their score. Wade LeBlanc came on for a near-perfect 2 innings to close out the game, save a 2-out solo home run in the 8th (to Alex Rodriguez’s young nephew, by the way).

It’s worth noting that the Yankee pitching staff earned a whopping 15 strikeouts today, despite giving up 11 total hits. On the other side of things, the Yankee batters only got 5 strikeouts (and 11 hits and 4 walks), which may have been the difference of the game. The Yankee batters started out big in the 1st inning with Gardner’s lead-off single, complete with a “superman slide” into the base to beat the tag. He then stole 2nd and scored as part of Greg Bird’s monster 1-out 2-run home run. Stanton worked a walk but was out at 2nd as Sanchez hit into a fielder’s choice (or failed double play). Gregorius singled, and the Neil Walker got his first hit in pinstripes — a nice double to split the outfielders and scored both Sanchez and Gregorius to add to the Yankees’ early lead.

Gary Sanchez hit a 2-out solo home run in the 3rd to add another run, his 4th of the season. In the 6th, Stanton worked another walk, Gregorius hit a double, and Peterson worked a walk to load up the bases. Brandon Drury then hit a long single and scored Stanton and Gregorius. Gardner led-off the 7th with a single and was pinch-run by Crawford. Crawford moved to 2nd on Gittens’ 1-out walk and then scored on Stanton’s long single to cap off the Yankees’ scoring.

Final score: 8-5 Yankees

One to Watch: again, we’re at the stage of Spring Training when it’s difficult to isolate a single farm system guy to notice because they don’t really get much playing time. So I’m going to notice Rashad Crawford. Now, Crawford did hustle it around the bases, pinch-running for Gardner in the 7th. Crawford was something to watch last year, but he hasn’t had much playing time this year to show off his skills. His season batting average dipped a little last year after his promotion to AA Trenton, but that can be great for a competitive athlete, to push himself to do better than last season until you can take it to the next level. A good lesson for all of us, really.

Next up: The Yankees host the Rays again. CC Sabathia will start tomorrow night’s game, as the Yankees continue to hone their final roster and prepare for the opening series in Toronto in about 10 days.

Roster moves: before the game, the Yankees sent a couple of the players we’ve been talking about this Spring to minor league camp. Estevan Florial was reassigned to the camp, and Miguel Andujar was optioned to AAA Scranton. That means that Andujar will not be making the starting roster, but will likely be the first one they call up when something happens. Andujar will get to play daily and continue his skills to be ready for the day they tell him to hop a plane to the Bronx.

About 24 minutes after they sent Andujar down, the Yankees were presenting him with a special award. Every year, the Yankees award the Kevin Lawn Award for the minor league players in their farm system that were truly outstanding the previous year. For 2017, they named Andujar as “Player of the Year” and Domingo Acevedo as “Pitcher of the Year”.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 3: NYY vs. PHI — Powering to a 3rd straight win

Well, how’s that for a nice winning streak for the start of the 2018 season? We’re at three straight wins for Opening Weekend in Spring Training. I mean, I’m a firm believer that Spring Training standings tell you absolutely nothing about how October baseball will turn out. But a nice jump-start to the season, heavy already in the win column has to be good for morale — both for the team and its fans.

The Yankees traveled the short distance across Tampa Bay to visit the spring home of the Phillies in Clearwater. Another warm (believe me, too warm for February), sunny day in the area, and the Yankees started strong and stayed strong, despite some hiccups. Jordan Montgomery, the young rookie starter from last season, got his Spring start today and showed why he is meant to be a starter once again for the Yankees — a strong 2 innings to kick off the game and set himself up for the win.

Prospect pitcher Justus Sheffield had a good 3rd inning, but really got roughed up in the 4th. A lead-off walk, hit-by-a-pitch, and a ground out to 2nd left runners lingering in the corners. A sacrifice fly scored one run before a big 2-run home run cleared the bases and ended Sheffield’s day just shy of 2 full innings. Reliever Wade LeBlanc came in and kept the Phillies from doing more damage over his 7 outs. Coshow, Espinal, and Gallegos closed out the final third of the game with a scoreless inning each. Overall, the Yankee pitchers were outstanding with 12 strikeouts and just 4 hits by Phillies’ batters.

Comparatively, the Phillies’ pitchers were certainly having less of a stellar day, giving up 12 total hits to Yankee batters today, starting with Ellsbury’s lead-off single in the 1st. Torres followed that up with a nice double to put them in scoring position. After an out, Hicks popped up a fly ball, but the 3rd baseman lost it in the sun, dropping it and loading up the bases. With 2 outs, Danny Espinosa (an infielder, newly traded from most recently the Rays) smacked a long double into the right field corner. After all three runners scored, Espinosa tried to stretch it to a triple and was easily tagged out at 3rd to end the inning.

In the 4th, Hicks led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Ronald Torreyes’ sacrifice fly. The Yankees ended up needing that extra run to stay in the lead in the bottom of that inning. But they came back in the 6th with Higashioaka’s lead-off single. Torreyes then hits a double to move both into scoring position and is pinch-run by Avelino. Then young minor leaguer Jeff Hendrix hits what should be an easy out, but it mishandled by the 1st baseman enough for both Higashioka and Avelino to add 2 more runs to the score.

In the 8th, Higashioka again leads off, this time with a double. After Peterson’s walk and Avelino’s single, the bases are loaded. Hendrix’s single scored one run, and Rashad Crawford’s long sacrifice fly scored one more to cap off the big afternoon.

Final score: 8-3 Yankees

Next up: The Yankees will face the Phillies again tomorrow. But this time, they host in Tampa for that rare evening game during Spring Training.

And in alumni news: The Yankees announced today that Alex Rodriguez will be back with the Yankees, this year to serve as a Special Advisor to GM Brian Cashman. Rodriguez joins other Yankee alums like Reggie Jackson, Hideki Matsui, and Nick Swisher as they help the staff develop the next generation of Yankee greats.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: Like every Spring, there is always a minimal amount of available clips to include, even when they are televised on a major cable network. My apologies!}

Spring Game 34: NYY vs. PHI — Farewell to Spring! Bomber Alert!

So, the Yankees are closing out their Spring season on a distinctive upswing. After today’s game, they end the season with a record of 24-8-1, tying their best record in the modern era (post-expansion era, or 1962-present), which happened to be the Spring of 2009. And for trivia’s sake, let me take a moment to remind everyone that 2009 also happened to be the last time the Yankees won the World Series, after an amazing season of 103 regular season wins. Not that a good Spring is ever a clear indication of how a regular season will unfold, but allow us all to savor the loose connection and hope for a moment.

{Note: technically, the Yankees did win 25 games this Spring. But the game against Team Canada wasn’t an official Spring Training game and thus doesn’t count towards the official statistics. So, read into that what you want.}

This afternoon, the Yankees traveled back across Tampa Bay to close out their Spring with the Phillies, effectively bookending their Spring in Clearwater this year. And it was Luis Severino to show off why he will be an asset to this team this year, something he did quite successfully too.

Severino’s 1st inning was a bit of a struggle. The lead-off batter walked, moved to 2nd on a 1-out single, and then scored on another single. Despite loading up the bases a bit later, Severino got out of the inning without further harm, before proceeding to shut down the next 9 batters (or 10 outs in a row). Even with runners in scoring position allowed in the 5th, Severino still worked his way out of trouble to keep the Phillies from adding to their score.

And then all 4 relievers followed suit. Warren, Clippard, Marsh, and Frare all took an inning to breeze through the Phillies’ lineup and shut them down rather effectively. In total, the Yankees’ pitching staff turned out an impressive 10 strike outs for a nice statistic this afternoon.

The Phillies’ pitching staff had a less-than-stellar afternoon, much to the favor of the Yankees’ offense. And like they’ve been doing all Spring, the Yankees saw their opportunity and pounced. So, they racked up 13 hits and 5 walks in total off Phillies’ pitchers today. And most of that was in the 1st inning. A very messy, 49 minute 1st inning. (Yes, it beat Tuesday night’s messy 1st inning by 2 minutes longer in length.)

Here’s how the Yankees won in the 1st inning: Ellsbury led-off with a single and then ended up at 3rd on Bird’s 1-out walk and a throwing error. Ellsbury then scored on Aaron Judge’s 2-out single. After Hicks’ walk loaded the bases, Ronald Torreyes’ single scored 2 runs. A passed ball moved runners to scoring position so that they could both score on Rob Refsnyder’s single. The Phillies decided their starter had enough and couldn’t get that 3rd out, so they went to their bullpen. It didn’t help them. After Kozma’s single, back at the top of the roster, Ellsbury singled and scored Refsnyder and Kozma ended up at 3rd after a rundown went awry thanks to fielder’s interference. And then it would be Gary Sanchez to hit his 5th home run of the Spring, a sharp 3-run home run to push the score into double digits. Bird walked again, but a ground out mercifully ended the inning after 13 Yankee batters.

Oh, but the Yankees weren’t done yet. With 1 out and Hicks on base with a single in the 2nd, Ronald Torreyes hit a big 2-run home run to continue the Yankee dominance this afternoon. In the 6th, with 1 out and another reliever on the mound, young prospect Ford doubled and then scored on Chris Carter’s ground-rule double. McKinney came on to pinch-run for Carter only to end up scoring as part of Rashad Crawford’s 2-run home run to cap off the Yankees’ offensive show this afternoon.

Final score: 14-1 Yankees

And we have a final roster. Before the game, the Yankees optioned Rob Refsnyder to AAA Scranton, which leaves Ronald Torreyes and Pete Kozma for infield utility on the 25-man roster. This works because Kozma and Torreyes can play 2nd, 3rd, and shortstop all fairly well to help platoon the infield. And it will be Aaron Judge in right field on Opening Day, and Luis Severino as the Yankees’ 4th starter. This also works because Aaron Hicks can platoon at any position in the outfield, and Severino clearly outperformed all the other possible pitchers for the 4th and 5th starting spot this Spring. (Here’s a depth chart to help give you some idea of who’s playing what base and who’s their back-up as of today.)

It looks like it could be a pretty good season. The Yankees travel to Atlanta to play in an exhibition game tomorrow night. The game will help inaugurate the Braves’ new stadium on the north end of the Atlanta area. All you Turner Field devotees, no worries, Atlanta isn’t getting rid of the Olympic landmark just yet. They plan on using it for college games, concerts, and special local events. Much like Yankee Stadium when the Yankees aren’t in town, so a good use of an existing stadium.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 13: TB vs. NYY — Never, never, never give up

There’s a reason why Yogi Berra’s quote “it ain’t over ’til it’s over” rings true to people. Because no matter how deep you’re in the losing category, you haven’t really lost the game until that final out is called. And it says a lot for both teams today as they fought to the bitter end for the win. At one point, it was clear that whichever team won it, the other was not going to be that far behind and certainly wasn’t going to let the other team off easy.

CC Sabathia got his first Spring start today against the visiting Rays. He certainly had a rough 1st inning, loading the bases with 2 singles and a walk, but then went “vintage-CC” and got out of the inning scot-free. He then plowed right through the batters in his 2nd inning to start his season off right. But following him, only 2 pitchers had the same kind of luck today in what became a rather back-and-forth kind of game.

To back up Sabathia, the Yankees started their offensive attack in the 1st inning. Sanchez hit a 1-out double, moved to 3rd on Holliday’s single, and then scored on Chris Carter’s single. And in the 4th, Andujar and Fowler each singled, and then Ronald Torreyes singled home Andujar to give the Yankees a nice lead.

It didn’t last long. Adam Warren was keeping things under control until his third inning, the 5th, where he got a bit rattled giving up consecutive solo home runs to allow the Rays to tie up the game. Ben Heller’s 6th inning didn’t see much of a better outcome, as he loaded up the bases with 2 singles and a walk that allowed the Rays to jump ahead on a sacrifice fly that scored a run.

But then the Yankees came back in the 7th. With 1 out and Refsnyder on base with a single, Kyle Higashioka smacked a big 2-run home run to put the Yankees back on top. Reliever Chasen Shreve, however, found that the Rays weren’t about to give up that easily and saw a batter smack a 2-out solo home run to tie the game up again. By the way, other than that lone pitch, Shreve threw a pretty good inning, including 2 stellar strikeouts.

Neither team was willing to give way or took the opportunity to advance in the 9th, so the game went into the requisite 10th inning. Now, in Spring Training, games only play into the 10th in the event of a tie. At the end of that inning, if it’s still tied, the game ends in a tie. Yes, it’s the only time these days that baseball games can end in a tie. So, either the teams needed to push through and end it in a tie or someone needed to break it up with a run or two. Or three.

But baseball isn’t really that easy. The Rays found reliever Brady Lail on a bit of a bad day. With 2 runners on base with singles and 1 out, the next play was just a mess. First, the runner made it on a fielding error, and then all the runners moved up and the tie-breaking run was scored on a throwing error. Yes, that’s 2 errors in a single play. A sacrifice fly scored another Rays’ run to give them a bit of breathing room.

However, this game was not about breathing room or giving each other a break at all. The Yankees came raring back as Bird led things off with a single, and then was pinch-run by the young, speedy Zehner. With 1 out, McKinney singled, and then both runners moved into scoring position as the 3rd baseman dropped the ball on the catch. Pinch-runner Mateo came in for McKinney to put more speed on the base path. Ruben Tejada’s sacrifice fly scored Zehner to put the Yankees within one run.

Then, with Pete Kozma on base with a walk, Rashad Crawford’s ground-rule double (just inches from a home run, by the way) scored the tying run (Mateo). So it would be down to Tyler Wade for the final out or the final run. It would be the latter on a nice walk-off single.

Truthfully, it was both a power show for the offense and the pitching for both sides as they each racked up pretty high in key stats categories — 12 total Rays’ hits, 15 total Yankees’ hits, 8 Rays’ strikeouts, and 12 Yankees’ strikeouts. So everyone was hitting, but everyone was also not hitting too.

Final score: 7-6 Yankees, in 10

Player of the Game: This was a hard one because the young guys all came together at the end to fight and then win. So, I went through the game again, and I found the lone contribution for the Yankees that made an overall difference would come from young catcher Kyle Higashioka. Not only did he keep the offense alive with that big 2-run home run in the 7th, but his consistency behind the plate kept the young relievers, who struggled against the advancing Rays, from falling completely apart. People always underestimate a catcher’s impact and effect on a game.

World Baseball Classic news: last night’s late game ended up with Team Israel just trouncing the Chinese Taipei team 15-7. Early this morning, the team from the Netherlands blanked South Korea 5-0, and the Yankees’ (and Netherlands) Didi Gregorius hit a nice 8th inning single to contribute to their victory. Team Japan beat the Cuban team 11-6. Later tonight, China will take on Cuba, and early tomorrow the Netherlands take on Chinese Taipei and Australia faces home team Japan. It’s just getting started, folks.

I should point out that today’s quote is taken from a popular misquote by Winston Churchill. Churchill made a speech just 10 months into World War II (October 29, 1941), after London had been just pummeled in the Blitz, he implored British citizens to hang on and persevere and to recap the unexpected (and often doubted) progress. The speech was actually about 2 pages in length and this particular quote was buried in the middle: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

And that works entirely for the show on the field today. No matter what, you just can’t ever give up.

Go Yankees!

Game 99: NYY vs. HOU — Goodbye, new friend… Hello, old friends

Okay, the trade rumors proved true to an extent. One pitcher is on his way to the Cubs, and another is on his way to join the Yankees in Houston for their series there this week. Plus, the Yankees clearly got the better end of the deal picking up 3 prospects, including one rather promising 19 year old infielder. But that’s covered below after the game.

Because despite all the chatter being about the trade, it was still a game day, and the Yankees began their 3-game mid-week series in Houston facing the Astros, who are doing a pretty good job this year themselves. Plus, the Yankees faced off against their ace tonight, and like they did with the Giants, the Yankees proved they’re a better team than their current stats say they are.

Michael Pineda got the start tonight for the Yankees, and his command from start to finish was one of a mature starter who is now settled into his role on this team. He threw 103 pitches in his full 7 innings, giving up just 5 hits, 2 walks, and a single run, and striking out 8 Houston batters. That lone run was a lead-off solo home run right in the 1st inning, but the Astros couldn’t do much after that. In fact, they didn’t add any further runs to their score. This meant that Pineda, his relievers, and the defense spent the rest of the game defending and waiting for their offense to pick up.

Of course, it helped that Pineda’s relievers were the “Dynamic Duo” (formerly combined in with the “Warriors Three”, but that’s further explained below). Dellin Betances breezed his way through the 8th with 3 seemingly easy strikeouts, and Andrew Miller’s 9th inning and game-ending double play (after a messy attempt at one just a batter earlier) gave him his 8th save of the season.

And this save came into play because the Yankees did respond offensively against the Astros’ ace starter, albeit a few small contributions. But sometimes, the route to a win is via that “small ball”. In the 5th, with 2 outs, Didi Gregorius doubled and then scored on Chase Headley’s single. And with the game tied, the Yankees went into the 8th inning with a great opportunity in Headley’s lead-off single. He then came in to score the winning run on Austin Romine’s double. Two outs and Romine on 3rd, the starter was out of the game, and they brought in a fairly efficient reliever to close out the Yankees attempt at an insurance run. That reliever shut down the Yankees in order in the 8th.

But that 1-run difference was enough in the end. That, and the Yankee pitchers combining for 12 total strikeouts.

Final score: 2-1 Yankees.

Before the game, former Yankee and long-time Houston resident Andy Pettitte stopped by to visit his former team and help out by throwing batting practice. Pettitte, still enjoying retirement, loves visiting with his former team when they’re in town, chatting up the newer guys, checking in with the veterans, and giving some great advice to the rookies.

Roster moves: Okay, the Yankees sent their flame-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs in exchange for 4 players, including Adam Warren. Seen as getting the better end of the deal for many reasons, the Yankees acquired outfielding prospects Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford and infielding prospect Gleyber Torres in addition to former Yankee reliever Adam Warren. (Warren was traded to the Cubs this offseason. Torres, however, is the one everyone is talking about as he’s considered one of the best prospects in the game (ranked #24).

And in case you were wondering, Torres and Crawford have been assigned to High-A Tampa, McKinney to AA Trenton, and Warren joins the Yankees in Houston.

For all you Chapman fans out there, know that Chapman is a free agent after this season. This means he could get his wish (“God willing,” as he said in an interview) and head back to New York for next season. Chapman reassured the press (and himself) that this was a good thing because the Cubs do stand a pretty good chance to be in the World Series this year. He’s right, of course, but he did express a bit of regret not being able to finish the season with his new “family” as he dubbed the Yankees. So, who knows?

Also, Luis Severino is back, being recalled to the Yankees after spending some time with their AAA Scranton team after his rehab stint back in May. The corresponding roster move hasn’t been announced yet, but I imagine before next game and all the pieces have been moved around the board, we’ll know something and things will be settled into place.

Go Yankees!