Game 97: NYY vs. SEA — Losing streak broken

I find it interesting that it was a West Coast trip that the Yankees’ recent losing streak. So it’s only fitting that a West Coast trip could end it. And with the final West Coast game of the season, the Yankees needed a win to move forward with the rest of the season.

So they called on rookie Caleb Smith to start today’s final game in Seattle. After a pretty clean first third of the game, Smith a bit of a struggle towards the end of his outing. Overall, he threw 56 pitches into the 4th inning, gave up 5 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, most of that was in the 4th inning actually. He loaded up the bases with 2 singles and a walk. Two outs later, he gave up a 2-RBI single and then a 2-RBI double to push the Mariners into a nice lead. And Smith’s outing was over, handing things off to Chad Green who ended the rally with a nice strikeout.

Green went on to throw through the 5th and 6th innings, keeping the Mariners from adding to their score and setting the momentum for the rest of the bullpen — Dellin Betances’ clean 7th and David Robertson’s 10-pitch 8th. Aroldis Chapman made things a little interesting but still managed to keep things together for the 9th and the eventual save.

Meanwhile, the Yankees kicked off the game with a solo home run by Brett Gardner, his 17th of the season. And Didi Gregorius added one more run in the 2nd with a solid solo shot into the right field seats only to do it again in the 4th with another one, a great 2-homer game for Gregorius.

And in the 6th, with a new pitcher, the Yankees loaded up the bases with a couple walks and a single. Brett Gardner’s single scored Headley to tie up the game. With a new pitcher, the Yankees kept their momentum going as Clint Frazier’s double scored 2 more runs. Despite loading up the bases with Judge’s intentional walk, the Mariners finally remembered their defense and got 2 quick outs.

After that, neither team managed to do much more offensively, and with Chapman’s save, the Yankees were set up for a game win and a series win.

Final score: 6-4 Yankees, Yankees win series 3-1

Roster moves: Well, the Yankees orchestrated a trade with the Blue Jays, where they sent infielder Rob Refsnyder in exchange for 1st baseman Ryan McBroom, a prospect from the AA affiliate. They also outrighted Ji-Man Choi to AAA Scranton and traded reliever Dillon McNamara (formerly with AA Trenton) to the Giants.

And with that, the Yankees are headed back to the East Coast to start a long 9-game home stand on Tuesday (facing the Reds, Rays, and Tigers). Hopefully, carrying this winning thing with them and setting the momentum to carry them into October baseball.

Go Yankees!

Game 93: NYY vs. MIN — Another series loss despite new additions

The Yankees haven’t won a series since the sweep on June 9-11. And now, as the Yankees board a plane for their second West Coast trip to start an early weekend, that fact is still true after dropping today’s game and the mid-week series to the Twins.

Jordan Montgomery got the nod to close out the series this afternoon, throwing 104 pitches in his 6 innings. He gave up 7 hits, a walk, and 6 runs, striking out just 3 Minnesota batters. Actually, outside of a single inning, Montgomery had a stellar outing. In just the 2nd inning, Montgomery threw 38 pitches, gave up 5 hits and a walk, and allowed all 6 of the Twins’ runs this game.

In that inning, with 2 outs and runners in scoring position, a single scored 2 runs. After a walk, another single scored another run, and a big 3-run home run doubled the Twins’ score and lead. It created a rather big mountain for the Yankees to scale during the game. Perhaps they left their hiking boots back in the Bronx.

The Yankees were able to get on base during the game, but they didn’t do anything to collect runs. In fact, they were held off from doing so until the 7th inning, the end of the Twins’ starter’s day. Clint Frazier led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Romine’s hit-by-pitch, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s single. An error on that same play moved Gardner and Romine to scoring position, but a new pitcher shut down any hopes for a comeback rally that inning.

Well, the bullpen in both cases continued their pretty strong showing this series. The Yankees’ offense was unable to break through again for the final two innings, and the Yankees’ relievers also fended off the Twins’ bats from adding to their solid lead. Chad Green and new Yankee Tommy Kahnle each gave a scoreless inning, but the Yankees would fall short in the end thanks to that monster early lead.

Final score: 6-1 Twins, Twins win series 2-1

Big roster news: the Yankees and White Sox orchestrated a big trade. In preparation, the Yankees optioned Chasen Shreve back to AAA Scranton and designated Rob Refsnyder and Ji-Man Choi for assignment.

The Yankees sent prospect pitcher Ian Clarkin and prospect outfielders Blake Rutherford and Tito Polo along with Yankees’ bullpen staple Tyler Clippard (who was decidedly sad to go but understood the reasoning) to the southside of Chicago. In exchange, the White Sox sent reliever Tommy Kahnle (who pitched in today’s game), infielder Todd Frazier (also the 2015 HR Derby winner), and former Yankee closer David Robertson. (Yes, Yankee Universe, D-Rob and his “high socks” are back in the Bronx.) All three new Yankees arrived during the game, suited up, and a Kahnle and Frazier even got to play later in the game.

Now, how this will pan out will be interesting. Todd Frazier is usually a regular 3rd baseman, but he does have experience at 1st; so while Headley is still on the team and playing, I can’t see Girardi using Frazier for anything but 1st. Kahnle will naturally fall right into the bullpen, which shouldn’t be much of an issue, except whether he is a 1-inning guy or long-term may yet be determined.

The biggest question mark really is Robertson, who is a great closer and was great as one for the Yankees, though he fell into the 8th inning slot next due to the Yankees’ legend Mariano Rivera being the everyday closer. With the likes of Chapman and Betances still in play on the team, the most common thought will be having Robertson slide back into his 8th inning role and move Betances to sticky situations or closing out non-save games.

And if you’re wondering, Todd Frazier donned #29, Kahlne #48, and Robertson is back in his old #30. Clint Frazier willingly gave up his #30 for Robertson, asking instead for #77, a quirky nod to hero Mantle (#7) and good friend Judge (#99).

Go Yankees!

Game 87: NYY vs. BOS — We’re back and giving wins away…

The Yankees had quite the All-Star Break. The five representatives from the team were part of the winning American League team, and two Yankees had a pretty good Home Run Derby with one just dominating (can anyone say 513 feet?) and taking home the crossed bats trophy. Plus, there was a few roster shake-ups (see below).

So going into the weekend series at Fenway, the Yankees were hoping for a continued rise to their positive spin of the week. But fielding errors and some sloppy pitching didn’t help some of the better parts of tonight’s game.

Jordan Montgomery got the start and got a bit roughed up, throwing 96 pitches in his 4 innings, giving up 6 hits, 3 walks, and 3 runs, striking out just 3 Boston batters. In the 3rd, with 1 out and a runner on 1st with a single, a big 2-run home run into the center field corner of the Green Monster scored the Red Sox’s first runs. And then Montgomery loaded up the bases in the 4th with a walk, a single, and a missed catch error. A 1-out single scored another run, but Montgomery got out of the inning without further damage thanks to a beautiful double play.

Chad Green had a beautiful outing, throwing 30 pitches in his 2 innings, striking out 5 of his 6 batters. Adam Warren kept the momentum going, but still gave up a couple of hits before getting out of the 7th scoreless. And then Dellin Betances‘ 8th inning was near flawless (save a hit-by-pitch) thanks to his 3 strikeouts.

Meanwhile, the Yankees actually got on the board first in the 3rd inning. Headley and Torreyes were on the corners with singles and an out when Gary Sanchez’s single scored Headley. After Judge’s walk loaded the bases, the Red Sox’s defense kicked it into gear for a double play to end the Yankees’ threat. Headley led-off the 5th with a double and then scored on Brett Gardner’s 1-out single. Then he scored as part of Sanchez’s huge 2-run home run (hit over the Green Monster) to put the Yankees back in the lead.

So, going into the bottom of the 9th inning, the Yankees just needed 3 outs to finish the game in the win column. Of course, they turned to their flame-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman, who just couldn’t find the strike zone to save tonight’s game for anything. He gave up consecutive singles to kick things off, who promptly pulled off a double steal to put them in scoring position. A fielding error then allowed the lead runner to score and tie up the game before the next batter was intentionally walk to load the bases. With no outs. And then Chapman walked the next batter, which walked in the winning run. Again, with no outs.

Final score: 5-4 Red Sox

Roster news: Matt Holliday was reinstated from the DL stint for his viral infection, Starlin Castro was sent to join AA Trenton for his rehab assignment, and they optioned Rob Refsnyder to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

In announcing the starting rotation for the weekend’s pitchers, two names were noticeably absent (Sabathia, who will miss Fenway just out of rotation order, and Pineda). It was then that the Yankees announced that Michael Pineda was out of the rotation because he was diagnosed with a partial tear in his UCL (elbow). The initial recommendation is Tommy John surgery to repair it, but he wants a second opinion. Surgery is likely at this point, which is a shame because Pineda was having a pretty good season so far. More news will come as Pineda decides his next step.

And in fresh faces news, the Yankees orchestrated a trade with the Brewers — sending reliever Tyler Webb for infielder Garrett Cooper. Cooper then made his MLB debut at 1st base in Fenway tonight. His defense was on-point, but his offense was lacking (thanks mostly to the usual first-day jitters). Cooper just played in the AAA All-Star Game (which also featured Yankees outfielder Dustin Fowler and pitcher Caleb Smith) two days ago in Tacoma for the Brewers’ AAA team from Colorado Springs. Cooper is the 8th person to start at 1st this season. We’ll see how this works out.

Go Yankees!

Game 74: NYY vs. CHW — Not always a guaranteed win at Guaranteed Rate Field

I’ve been calling the White Sox home field, on the south side of Chicago, US Cellular Field pretty much since they changed the name in 2003, including since last August, when they apparently changed their name to “Guaranteed Rate Field“. Despite “the Cell” having naming rights until 2023, the mortgage company bought a 13-year naming deal that overrode the old one, and it went into effect late August 2016.

I should make the caveat that I haven’t been to Chicago since the name change, and I don’t live in the Chicago area where apparently it was such a big deal that they started a hashtag on social media: #BetterSoxStadiumNames. And believe me that is a hashtag, I can get behind, as I have issues with a Spring Training stadium the Yankees visit every year named after a local used car lot — the Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.

I do get teams selling the naming rights to make up for a sluggish ad budget, but I suppose I’m a little old school and prefer my stadiums (and fields) named after the teams or a person (like, I don’t know, Yankee Stadium and Steinbrenner Field). Though I suppose the Yankees make up for the lack of naming rights because they make more money than almost any other team in the MLB from other ad buys, being one of the largest markets and a team people actually want to watch play regularly.

Anyway, all that to say that I’m with the majority of Chicagoans, who now have to suffer Guaranteed Rate Field through the next 13 years (or however long until the next company buys out the naming rights). Except I only have to endure such a sentiment for a short series each year and then I’ll forget it until a brief thought will flit through my head during Spring Training when the Yankees will play the Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.

Anyway, there was a game at this newly dubbed stadium, and the rookie pitcher threw a great outing. Jordan Montgomery threw 100 pitches through his 7 innings, giving up just 5 hits, a walk, and a run (a lead-off solo home run in the 2nd), and striking out 8 White Sox batters. He set the Yankees up for a strong start to this 4-game series in Chicago they desperately need after the disappointing home stand.

The Yankees didn’t break through the White Sox starter in any real way until the 4th inning. Judge led-off with a walk and moved to 3rd when Sanchez hit into a force attempt fielding error. Tyler Austin’s sacrifice fly scored Judge to tie up the game. After Ellsbury singled, Chase Headley’s single scored Sanchez, and Romine’s walk loaded up the bases. Then Ronald Torreyes hit into a weird play — he hit a long ball out to center field for a sacrifice fly to score Ellsbury, but then the White Sox played a little defense to get Headley out in a bit of a rundown to become a sacrifice double play.

In the 6th, Tyler Austin hit his 1st home run of the season, a 1-out solo shot to the White Sox bullpen in left field. Ellsbury reached safely on a fielding error moving to 3rd on Headley’s double. That ended the White Sox’s starter night. Ellsbury then scored on Austin Romine’s sacrifice fly, and a passed ball moved Headley to 3rd before he then scored on a bad missed catch error on Torreyes’ at-bat.

This gave the Yankees a healthy lead to take them all the way through the game. And they’d need it because their bullpen made things interesting. Jonathan Holder came on in the 8th for a couple of outs, a walk, and a single. With runners in the corners, Dellin Betances came on to loaded up the bases with a walk and then get out of the jam with a great strikeout to end the White Sox rally.

But that certainly wasn’t it for the White Sox who took advantage of Chasen Shreve’s bad night in the 9th inning. In just 12 pitches, Shreve got an out, 2 singles, and a 3-run home run to put the White Sox within viable striking distance of the Yankees. At this point, this became a save opportunity, so they brought in Aroldis Chapman. Chapman continued the struggle, giving up a single that scored on an RBI double to put the Sox within a run of the Yankees lead. Fortunately, a ground out held the runner at 2nd and put the Yankees in need of a lone out, which would be a fly out to left field to preserve the Yankees’ lead and get another save.

Final score: 6-5 Yankees

Starlin Castro was pulled from tonight’s game due to a hamstring injury he got running out a ground ball in the 3rd inning. This after he missed Sunday’s game due to a sore wrist and now this. It’s got to be frustrating. Nothing definite yet about a DL stint or possible replacement or anything else.

So many roster moves before the game: Aaron Hicks was officially sent to the disabled list with his oblique strain, and the Yankees activated Jacoby Ellsbury from the DL after his concussion finally healed. And for some relief in the outfield and in the bullpen, they sent Mason Williams and Tyler Webb back to AAA Scranton and recalled Rob Refsnyder and Ronald Herrera.

And Aaron Judge still leads the American League in All-Star Game fan votes. He has been asked to do the Home Run Derby during the festivities, but he’s not made his decision on that front yet, despite his batting practice home runs making a splash all over social media for hitting televisions, almost hitting vendors and stadium crew, and delighting young fans all over the country by shooting these balls in far off places they shouldn’t really be traveling around the stadium (very Mantle-esque, if you ask me). (Also, please say “yes!” to the HRD!)

But other Yankees are hoping for a last-minute surge in fan voting to get to the game next month in Miami. (You can vote until Thursday, June 29 at 11:59 pm EST.) At least one representative from each team will be at the game in Miami, and the Yankees almost always get a representative in the AL bullpen (selected by the AL coaching staff leading up to the game).

Go Yankees!

Lots of rain means tonight’s game postponed, but that doesn’t dampen the fun in the Bronx

Early this morning, the powers-that-be checked the weather radar (or simply opened their curtains) and figured out that it’s going to rain all day, with a possible minor break around game time before thunderstorms roll back in again. Basically, not exactly ideal weather for the Yankees and Royals to play their final game of this week’s series.

So, they called it postponed and rescheduled the finale for Monday, September 25 to squeeze in a game on a mutual off-day. The Yankees will be coming in from a short series in Toronto before their final homestand, and the Royals will make a brief trip eastward after a weekend series in Chicago before heading home for their final homestand.

Game information, start time, and rainout policy details are found here.

Last night, the first pitch of the game had Jacoby Ellsbury ran hard tracking down a long fly ball, slamming into the back wall with his head and right arm. He made the out, of course, probably saving a double or even a triple from the speedy Royals lead-off runner. But it also landed him on the 7-day disabled list with a concussion and sprained neck. There is no timetable for his projected recovery.

Aaron Hicks, who came on at the top of the 2nd inning to replace Ellsbury, will likely see more time on the playing field. So to fill his spot as the utility outfielder, the Yankees recalled Rob Refsnyder from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Day 4 of HOPE Week continued on as planned. Today, the Yankees recognized A Moment of Magic Foundation, a non-profit organization that began as “The Princess Project” in which college-age students dress up as popular fairy tale princess to visit children’s hospitals and schools. Now nationwide, A Moment of Magic sends out “The Fairytale Force” (the princesses) or “Mission Super Hero” (popular comic book superheroes), college students from around the US, dressed as princesses and heroes to visit children at local hospitals and schools.

In a fun twist, A Magic Moment’s local Fairytale Force paired with certain Yankees dressed as superheroes to surprise participants from another great organization called Friends of Jaclyn, an organization the Yankees honored in 2014. Friends of Jaclyn is a foundation in honor of Jaclyn Murphy, who, after being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, was paired with a local college lacrosse team. Her lasting legacy is now to pair sick children with local high school and college athletic teams “to show them love, support, and friendship”.

It would be the starting rotation that showed up to surprise lucky Friends of Jaclyn at a party held at Yankee Stadium — Superman (CC Sabathia), Supergirl (CC’s wife, Amber Sabathia), Iron Man (Luis Severino), Wolverine (Michael Pineda), the coolest ninja turtle Michelangelo (Masahiro Tanaka), Captain America (Jordan Montgomery) and Spider-man (GM Brian Cashman).

What a great way to put a smile on children’s faces, giving them the amazing gift of joy and wonder! Genuine love, support, compassion, and encouragement can go a long way in recovery and healing for both the kids and their parents. It’s good to see foundations like A Moment of Magic and Friends of Jaclyn continue this legacy of compassion and joy.

One more day of HOPE Week tomorrow before the Yankees take on the Athletics as they begin their weekend series. With hopefully, a bit less precipitation.

Go Yankees!


Games 34 & 35: HOU vs. NYY — Let’s Play 2! Mother’s Day in the Bronx, pink caps and all

I come from a long line of baseball fans. Amazingly, not everyone is a Yankees fan! Some root for the Braves or the Dodgers or the Cubs or even (brace yourself…) for the Red Sox. My dad just loved the game, no matter what team was playing, but the women in my family chose their teams and fiercely stuck by them for decades, no matter the standings. My mother was an ardent Indians fan, collecting the newest hats and t-shirts and sending them to her family. Both my grandmothers were lifelong Pirates fans who loved listening to games on the radio, discussing stats and batting averages with me, even when I was a little girl.

Growing up with brothers, I was told sports were not for girls, but my mom and my grandmothers taught me that was nonsense. I owe a great deal to the women in my family who loved this great game of baseball and passed that on to me and to my daughter.

On this Mother’s Day, as I prepared to watch a Yankees-Astros doubleheader, I was reminded that much of the joy and zeal I have for baseball is because of these amazing women who I am so grateful to call my family and to honor them on Mother’s Day. Much of what they loved about the game (integrity, persistence, teamwork, hope, and character) applies to so much in life. And for that lesson, I am also grateful.

Mother’s Day in the Bronx this year was packed with events, some planned, some not so much. After yesterday’s rainout, fans today were pleasantly surprised to attend a single-admission doubleheader, complete with a much publicized ceremony honoring a former Yankee. Oh, and there was pink (the color, not the singer). Lots and lots of pink, but all for a good cause! The fans may have been decked out in their NYY blue and white fan gear, but the players on the field sported pink shoes or pink uniforms or pink caps. In fact, stadiums across Major League Baseball today were awash in pink this Mother’s Day to encourage awareness for women’s health issues for the annual fundraiser for the Susan G. Komen Foundation and Stand Up 2 Cancer.

Game 1
The first game in the Bronx this afternoon (the 3rd game in this weekend series) did not disappoint the (officially) sold-out crowd despite the bleak start. Facing the Houston Astros, Luis Severino started for the first game but struggled throughout his short time on the mound today, throwing 76 pitches into just the 3rd inning, giving up 6 hits and 3 runs and striking out just 2 batters. In the 3rd inning, the lead-off batter was hit by a pitch, moved to 2nd on a single, then to 3rd on a ground out, and scored on a single. Two more singles scored 2 more runs. Then with the bases loaded, Chad Green stepped in for the bulk of the game only to keep the Astros from adding to their lead.

In the 7th inning, new pitcher Adam Warren take his turn for a couple of innings, but had his own issues. With 1 out and runners on the corners, Warren had trouble getting out of the inning. A single scored one run, a failed force attempt and throwing error scored another, and a sacrifice fly scored the final run for the Astros in Game 1. Warren had a cleaner 8th inning, but Jonathan Holder pitched a strong ninth inning, keeping the Astros scoreless and hitless that inning.

The Yankees were the first to score in the 1st inning. Brett Gardner led off with a double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Matt Holliday’s ground out. Then down by 2 runs going into the bottom of the 4th, Holliday led-off with a walk. Starlin Castro then hit a nice 2-run home run, only to be followed by a big home run to center by Aaron Judge. And the Yankees were back in the lead.

But after losing the lead at the top of the 7th, the Bombers battled back in the bottom of the inning. With 2 men on base and just 1 out, Holliday’s single scored Gardner and moved Ellsbury to third base. Facing a new pitcher, Castro doubled, scoring Ellsbury and moving Holliday to third, and Judge was intentionally walked to load the bases. Chase Headley promptly tripled on a line drive to right field, clearing the bases and scoring Holliday, Castro, and Judge. Chris Carter took the batter’s box and doubled to left field, as Headley scored the 6th run of the inning. The Yankees had a strong lead. Brett Gardner added his own home run to right center field to lead-off the bottom of the 8th in what would be the final run for the Yankees.

Game 1 final score: 11-6 Yankees

After a ceremony to retire his jersey number (more on that later), Derek Jeter, the former Yankee shortstop, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Standing in front of the mound, he lobbed the ball over the plate (no one ever hired him as a pitcher) as fans cheered for him one last final time.

Game 2:
Despite the earlier win and some strong bats, the New York pitchers had a surprisingly weak outing for this second game of the doubleheader. Masahiro Tanaka struggled from the start, giving up 7 total hits, 8 runs, including 4 home runs, only pitching into the 2nd inning. His first two batter hit consecutive solo home runs, within the first 9 pitches of the game. Then, with 2 outs and the bases loaded, the next batter his a grand slam to give the Astros a fairly hefty lead in the 1st inning. Another lead-off solo home run began the 2nd inning. Then with 2 outs, a former Yankee hit a RBI double to score yet another Astros run that would spell the end of the Tanaka’s brief outing tonight.

Giovanni Gallegos took over on the mound from Tanaka and had a decent outing, save a few problems in the 4th. A lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a catcher’s interference and to 3rd on a fly out before scoring on a sacrifice fly. Relievers Shreve and Layne combined to allow no further runs. Dellin Betances’ came on in the 9th inning for the final out, but he had a momentary blip. With 2 outs, Betances gave up 2 singles to put runners on the corners before a passed ball scored the final Astros run.

The Yankees offense were held scoreless for the first 4 innings. So, in the bottom of the 5th and down by 9 run, the pinstriped bats woke up to get on the board. With 1 out, Chris Carter worked a walk, moved to 2nd on a ground out, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s single. Sanchez’s line drive single into center field added another baserunner before Matt Holliday smacked a big 3-run home run to right center field.

Still down in the 9th, New York showed their Bronx persistence in their attempt to win. Torreyes singled and then moved to 3rd on a double by Sanchez. With Castro at bat, a wild pitch at the plate allowed Torreyes to score and moved Sanchez to 3rd. Fans in the stands were cheering wildly with hope for this late game rally. Starlin Castro singled to center and scored Sanchez, and then Aaron Judge hit a line drive to left field and scored Castro. With Judge on third thanks to a bad fielding error, Gregorius worked a walk. But despite all the persistence, even with two men on base, a ground out then ended the rally and the game.

Game 2 final score: 10-7 Astros, Astros win series 3-1.

Roster updates: Aroldis Chapman was placed on a 10-day DL, retroactive to yesterday, May 13, due an inflamed rotator cuff. The Yankees recalled Chad Green and Rob Refsnyder from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Refsnyder was then sent back to after the second game of the doubleheader today, as he was considered the “26th man” for the day.

Records are made to broken! Aaron Judge continues to amaze his fans and coaches. As of today, he has 14 league-leading home runs. Gotta feel like he’s just getting started! Yet, on this Mother’s Day, he give a lot of credit to his mom for where he is today. And the Yankees also recorded a special video thanking their moms (and a few wives) for the special roles they played in their lives to this day.

In between the two games of this doubleheader, the New York Yankees held a ceremony to officially retire Derek Jeter’s jersey number, #2. Accompanied by his family, including his grandmother who first introduced him to Yankees baseball, Jeter accepted a plaque to be displayed in Monument Park in Yankee Stadium. Several former teammates, coaches, and friends, including the Steinbrenner family, were present for the honors. Fans held homemade signs and cheered as the former shortstop once again waved goodbye to the crowd, reminiscent of the Captain’s final game at Yankee Stadium in 2014.

{Media note: watch the full 40 minute pre-game ceremony here.}

This is the end of a chapter in Yankee baseball. It’s a fresh, new era. This 2017 team has potential to far surpass anything we have seen in pinstripes in a very long time.  It’s time for the new players to show what they can do as part of their team. To live their dream of playing baseball for New York Yankees. And may they all be able to join Joltin’ Joe and say, “I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee.”

And on that note of being thankful, on this Mother’s Day,  I would also like to honor all the moms of baseball represented by many of the players we see on the ball field. The moms who faithfully watched countless games of T-Ball and Little League and college baseball. The moms who racked up miles on their car driving to games. The moms who sat in rickety stands in little towns everywhere, faithfully cheering their young one at every at-bat, no matter the outcome. The moms who were there for both the discouraging times and for the victorious times. The moms who encouraged their children to be people of integrity and courage. The moms who taught the importance of being part of a team, to be there for each other, to work hard, to dream, to hope, to be persistent, and to never give up. And for the moms that taught that character really does count. That character counts on and off the field, win or lose. We, the fans of baseball, thank you, Baseball Moms, for all you did so we can have for the joy of watching such fine young men (and women) as they play the game they love.

Go Yankees!

Game 31: NYY vs. CIN — Queen City split

Despite some early power, the Yankees fell to the old bad single inning to end up splitting this short series. Unfortunately, sometimes that’s all it takes to swing a game.

CC Sabathia got the start in tonight’s game against the Reds in Cincinnati. He threw 91 pitches in 6 innings, gave up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 5 runs, and struck out just 2 Reds’ batters. To be perfectly fair, with a lone inning exception, Sabathia had a rather great outing. But it would be the 6-hit 2nd inning that would make all the difference in tonight’s game.

In the 2nd, Sabathia loaded up the bases quickly with 2 singles and a walk before getting his first out of the inning (a strikeout). A single then scored 2 runners. Another loaded up the bases again. Another scored 2 more. And yet another scored one more for the Reds. Then Sabathia got his 2nd strikeout (of the night) and a groundout to end the inning. But the damage was done.

Dellin Betances walked his first 2 batters of his 7th inning, but then focused in and got 3 straight nasty strikeouts. Chad Green, recently called up (see below), threw a nearly flawless 8th inning, adding 2 more strikeouts to the total, but keeping the Reds scoreless during his tenure.

Meanwhile, the Yankees got on the board first in a very Yankee way. In the 1st, Gary Sanchez hit a big 1-out solo home run, and then Didi Gregorius jumped in on the fun in the 2nd inning with his own 1-out solo home run, his first of the 2017 season actually. Starlin Castro led-off the 4th inning with a double and ended up at 3rd after 2 outs before scoring on Gregorius’ single.

But then there was a whole lot of nothing. Both teams had their opportunities to advance, but neither did as both pitching staffs fairly breezed their way through the rest of the game.

Final score: 5-3 Reds, split series 1-1.

I did mention that after the marathon game on Sunday there would be some roster moves. Well, there was one yesterday. The Yankees optioned infielder Rob Refsnyder back to AAA Scranton in exchange for recalling reliever Chad Green, who ended up pitching in tonight’s game. Fortunately, these last 2 games in Cincy have been relatively normal, with starters going deep into the game without exhausting a bullpen with extra innings of sloppy mistakes.

Now, with an off-day, the Yankee head back to New York for a 4-game series against the Astros, who are having a pretty great season themselves. Plus, there’s some big pre-game ceremony on Sunday that everyone’s making a pretty big deal out of (seriously, it’s Jeter). Also, it’s Mother’s Day, so consider this your warning to make sure your mom/wife/sister/etc. have a gift on their way to them.

And for your viewing pleasure, the Yankees continue to make those hilarious videos for Yankees OnDemand. This one features the hype around Gary Sanchez and his hashtag #IAmGary. It also has a surprising guest appearance by reliever Adam Warren. (Warning: you will laugh!)

Go Yankees!

Game 25: TOR vs. NYY — Home runs x7

Baseball is a funny sport because most games have quite a bit of downtime between them. In American football, it’s about a week. In other football, it’s at least 4 days (though usually about a week). In hockey, it’s every other day. In basketball, it’s a couple of days on, a couple of days off. But no, in baseball, it’s every day. That means, you can have one terrible game and wake up the next day with a redo shot and come out swinging for the fences.

And they certainly found those fences tonight. In the middle game in the series against the Blue Jays, the Yankees were looking to regain their winning momentum. Fortunately, they had plenty of opportunities tonight to do something about that. Masahiro Tanaka had a decent outing as tonight’s starter, throwing 91 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up 8 hits and 4 runs, and striking out just 4 Toronto batters.

Actually, Tanaka refused to give up a run until the 5th inning. He gave up a 1-out solo home run to get the Blue Jays on the board (albeit trailing by quite a bit at this point), and then a 2-out double scored on an RBI single to double their score. In the 7th, a lead-off solo home run (by the same player who hit the first one, by the way) kicked things off for the Jays. Then with 1 out and a runner at 1st with a single, Tanaka’s night was done.

But the bullpen kind of struggled out of the gate tonight. Tyler Clippard, usually in fine form, had some issues getting his outs. First, giving up a pop-out, but then loading up the bases with a single and a walk. Dellin Betances would have been fine except a balk moved all the runners up and scored another run, before a walk loaded the bases all over again. Betances got things in order and got a strikeout to end the threat and the 7th inning.

Tommy Layne had his own issues in the 8th. A lead-off single and double moved runners to scoring position, so that a ground out scored one more run for the Blue Jays. But then Layne got things under control and got the final 2 outs of the inning with his usual efficiency. Jonathan Holder easily had the cleanest inning, an 18-pitch, hitless, scoreless 9th inning.

Meanwhile, the Yankees got an early lead and kept building on it, thanks in part to some well-placed (or poorly-placed if you’re a Jays’ fan) pitches by their starter, who gave up a total of 10 hits in his 4 innings. Gardner led-off the 1st inning with a double, ended up at 3rd on Headley’s single, and then scored on Matt Holliday’s double.

In the 2nd, Judge led-off with a walk and then scored as part of Aaron Hicks’ 2-run home run. Carter then singled and scored as part of Brett Gardner’s 1-out 2-run home run. And outfielder Aaron Judge wanted in on the fun, adding his own flair — a 1-out solo home run in the 3rd (his shortest home run to date, by the way). And Gardner hit his 2nd homer of the game, a 1-out solo home run in the 4th inning.

And then the Yankees faced the Toronto bullpen. Though to be perfectly fair, collectively, the bullpen did a better job on the mound tonight than the Jays’ starter. In the 6th, with 1 out and 2 runners in scoring position (thanks to a wild pitch), Chase Headley’s single scored the lead runner, Carter, adding to the Yankees’ increasing lead. Castro led-off the 7th with a double and Gregorius worked a walk. And it would be (who else?) Aaron Judge to hit his 12th home run of the season, a 3-run shot into the left field seats. Despite getting 3 more base runners on in the 7th, the Yankees’ run-scoring was over.

Final score: 11-5 Yankees

A bit of weird trivia came up on my timeline during the game. Apparently, the last time the Yankees’ starting outfield all hit home runs and hit a combined 5 homers in a single game was May 30, 1961 — Mantle (2), Maris (2), and Berra (1). Tonight, it was Judge (2), Gardner (2), and Hicks (1). Not bad company to be part of.

Okay, so there’s a ton of injury updates and roster moves to talk about. First up, Greg Bird‘s ankle from that Spring Training injury in March hasn’t healed, as MRI tests reveal that his bone bruise is the same as the last time they checked. The Yankees put him on the 10-day DL, calling up Rob Refsnyder as an extra bench player while Bird rests and gets treatment. Also, for fresh arms in the bullpen (not that they needed it tonight), the Yankees sent Luis Cessa back to Scranton, recalling Chasen Shreve.

Now, during last night’s game, Jacoby Ellsbury ran right into the center field fence during a key play, and while he finished the game, today’s tests revealed some soreness and a bruised nerve in his left elbow. So he’s shut down for a couple of days, hopefully rejoining the team fully for the weekend series in Chicago. Though clearly, the outfield is covered for the time being.

And during the game tonight, Austin Romine suffered some discomfort and was ultimately pulled from the game in the 6th inning, as he advanced to 3rd on an offensive play. At the change in the inning, Romine was done with the game, Higashioka in behind the plate and Romine diagnosed with what was dubbed “cramping in the right groin”, later attributed to dehydration. If you’re wondering about catcher options, know that Sanchez did really well with the Scranton team tonight for his rehab game. They are hoping he will rejoin the team by this weekend, unless they need him before then.

On a slightly different note, I do want to address a general issue. Normally, I wouldn’t be mentioning an incident where a Baltimore outfielder was harassed by fans at Fenway last night. But this was no ordinary incident. Boston fans used racial slurs at the center fielder, one even hurled a bag of peanuts at him. As Yankee fans, we’re used to hostility from the opposing team’s crowd, but this was too far. I don’t care who you are or which team you root for, but you don’t resort to racial slurs and assault to antagonize a player. Much of the comparison is being drawn due to the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s MLB debut and the vitriol he took from the racist crowds.

Folks, you cannot cheer on a team filled with players of color only to slur obscenities at players of color on the other team. Now, having spent time in Boston (and yes, Fenway), I know this is not representative of your city or your true fans. And yet, I wasn’t really that shocked to find out that this seems fairly common there (and in a few other rather known hostile stadiums). It’s always a few loud-mouth bad apples that lead the charge and spoil the game for the rest of the fans. Part of the fun of the game is rooting for your guys to do well, but resorting to violence and obscenity and stooping to racial slurs is downright degrading and doesn’t represent my sport.

So, all you who love this sport and love keeping it clean and family friendly, do your part. Teach your kids how to be good fans, and then you go be the example of what a good fan is. You can respect players on opposing teams as human beings (who might one day wear your team’s uniform) and still cheer on your guys. You can break the cycle. You can be the difference. You can prove that we’re better than we were 70 years ago.

Go Yankees!

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 33: NYY vs. TOR — The “youth movement” continues

So, apparently, today is the day when everyone submits their prediction for the 2017 season. Like making lists as to where everyone will end up in the standing all the way up to picking the postseason awards (like Rookie of the Year and MVP) to a postseason bracket prediction. I’ve read seven today alone, and they couldn’t be any further apart. The only thing everyone seemed to agree on was that the Yankees weren’t going to do much this year. While I am cautiously optimistic about the Yankees chances in the postseason, I just got to wonder if these people have seen the Yankees play at all this Spring.

I mean, the Yankees are closing out the Spring on the very top of the standings, and I am aware that sometimes that’s not a great foundation for how the season will turn out. But to completely write them off seems rather dismal and unrealistic. Not that I expect much from the talking heads. With some very few exceptions, the Yankees tend to be the team every non-Yankee fan seems to love to beat up on or spew negative thoughts upon. They didn’t call Yankee Universe the “Evil Empire” for nothing, right?

Anyway, today, the Yankees traveled to Dunedin to play the Blue Jays, and it was Jordan Montgomery’s last chance to show off his stuff this Spring. And show off, he did. The young pitcher went 5 innings, giving up 6 hits and a walk, and striking out 4 Toronto batters. And his lone allowed run came in the 4th inning. A lead-off ground-rule double moved to 3rd on a single, and then scored on a 1-out single. But between his defense and some good pitching, he got out another threat, something he did nearly every inning.

Ben Heller sailed through the 6th and 7th with minimal threats, and Chasen Shreve’s 8th inning allowed only a single baserunner. After Shreve gave up a single in the 9th, Graham quickly shut things down in 2 batters, thanks to a snazzy double play to end the game.

The Yankees’ offense was limited by the Blue Jays’ pitching staff, but they got in enough to make a difference. In the 2nd, Starlin Castro hit a beautiful 1-out triple and then scored on Aaron Judge’s big single to start the scoring and give the Yankees the early lead.

And in the 5th, Hicks and Judge worked a walk and a single and then pulled off a double steal to put themselves in scoring position just to make things interesting for the new reliever. Romine’s single scored Hicks and put runners in the corners. After a pop-out, Brett Gardner singled and scored Judge, but then Gardner and Romine ended up in scoring position thanks to a throwing error. After Headley’s walk, the bases were loaded, but this opportunity to further their lead ended after a quick infield pop-up and strike out.

Honestly, the pitching staffs today were fairly even matched, getting nearly the same statistics for their overall day. So the difference was the minute opportunities taken at the most opportune times. And you know, scoring runs.

Final score: 3-1 Yankees

Roster moves and news: It looks like some decisions have been made as to who’s going to make the team this year. Infield hopeful Tyler Wade and catcher Kyle Higashioka were sent back to minor league camp before today’s game. Which means that the battle for infielder seems set on Ronald Torreyes making the team as Gregorius’ replacement, and the extra infielder is down to Pete Kozma and Rob Refsnyder.

And in an unexpected turn of events, the Battle of the Aarons might go to Aaron Hicks, who’s had a fantastic Spring. Girardi mentioned that he’s considering sending Aaron Judge to start the season in Scranton just so the young outfielder could play every day.

Finally, the Yankees still haven’t named a 4th or 5th starter. But they won’t do the latter until they need one on April 16 (thanks to a scheduled filled with off-days). This means they’ll be carrying 8 relievers until then. And recent conversations have indicated that Luis Severino would be a starter, but he might be doing so in Scranton to start the season. In other words, they like his stuff, but they want him to get more starts than he might get as part of the major league team.

All of this stuff makes me glad it’s not my job to make those decisions. All those people I hear chattering away in the stands about how they think Cashman (or usually Girardi) should play this guy or get rid of this other guy make me just shake my head. It’s easy to be an armchair coach or message board manager when no one’s job or career is really on the line. There’s also all sorts of contract details and specific reasons as to why every decision is made. Do I always agree with it? No. Do they always agree with it? No. But you learn from your bad decisions and your good, and you grow and make better decisions in the future.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: limited video availability today. Hope you enjoy the 2 I included. Just hold on until the season, and they’ll be many more to view.}