Game 147 & 148: NYY vs. DET : Striped duel as the Pinstripes sweep the Tigers

After last night’s game was postponed due to rain, the Yankees met the Tigers today for a single-admission doubleheader in Detroit. Today’s duel gave New York their 97th win of the season, putting them in 1st place in the American League.

Game 1 (regularly scheduled game)
The Yankees sent JA Happ to the mound to start the game. Happ threw 99 pitches giving up 7 hits. After giving up a home run to right center field in the bottom of the 5th that allowed 2 runs, Chad Green took over and closed the inning with a pop out in foul territory near 1st base. Green secured 3 swift outs in the 6th, but in the 7th, gave up a triple that scored the runner on a ground out.

Ben Heller took to the mound in the 8th and struck out swinging the first batter, but gave up a homer to left followed by a walk and a single before retiring the inning on a fly ball out to center. Gearrin started the 9th inning and immediately gave up a double to right field, a call that was reviewed as a possible homer before being upheld as a double. Gearrin gave up a ground out and a walk before being replaced by Lyons who finished the 9th with a strike out swinging and a fly out to secure the Yankees a win.

The Yankees were first to score today when Judge reached base in the 1st inning on a fielding error and then scored on a Luke Voit 2-run home run to center field.  In the 3rd, Judge walked and scored again on another homer, this time hit by Edwin Encarnacion deep to left field, giving the Yankees a solid lead.

After a Detroit pitching change in the 7th, Aaron Judge walked, followed by a double that Voit sent down the right field line and moved Judge to 3rd. Gregorius was intentionally walked to load the bases. Judge then scored on a wild pitch, moving the other runners up. Cameron Maybin came to the plate and doubled to both score Voit and Gregorius to give the Yankees a good lead. Romine and Judge both singled in the 8th, and a single by Voit scored Romine. And Didi Gregorius tripled to score both Judge and Voit.

Final score: 10-4 Yankees

Game 2 (make-up of Sept. 11)
The second game of tonight’s two-game match-up in Detroit welcomed CC Sabathia back to the mound for New York, throwing 56 pitches into 4 strong innings against the Tigers. Sabathia set another milestone, surpassing Hall of Famer and former Braves’ ace John Smoltz on the strikeout list with his 3085th strikeout tonight in Detroit.

But in the 4th, Sabathia gave up a walk, a single, and a double that scored 2 runs. And with just 1 out, German came on in relief. He threw 50 pitches into the 8th, giving up just 2 hits in his scoreless outing. He gave up a single and hit a batter in the 8th, German was replaced by Tommy Kahnle who secured two outs on a double play by the infield to end the 8th inning. Kahnle was back in the 9th, but after a walk, a wild pitch, and a triple that scored a run, Aroldis Chapman was called in. Chapman allowed a single, but followed that up with a swinging strikeout and force out for another New York save and win.

First up for the Yankees in this second game of the day was LeMahieu, who singled and scored on an Aaron Judge’s home run for an early lead. In the 2nd, Mike Ford grounded a single to right and scored on a double line drive to right by DJ LeMahieu. With the Yankees in a slim lead in the 5th, a ground-rule double by Wade, followed by a single to center by Didi Gregorius that allowed Wade to score.

After 3 quiet innings that kept the Yankees in the lead, Voit sent a line drive single to left field and scored on a home run to left by Gio Urshela. Yankee pitching ended the game in the 9th despite a late charge by the Tigers.

Final score: 6-4 Yankees, Yankees win the series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees travel to Toronto to face another division rival this weekend before heading home for the final homestand of the season to host the Angels and Blue Jays. They will then close out their season visiting the Rays and Rangers on their way to the postseason.

Injury update: JA Happ left this afternoon’s game after throwing an impressive 99 pitches due to bicep tendonitis that has bothered him for his last few starts. Hopefully, this is just a cautionary move to check with the doctor before deciding when or if Happ is back on the mound.

Edwin Encarnacion also left today’s game, right after a walk due to a strain to his left oblique. He will head back to New York for further tests. And in the second game of this doubleheader, Gary Sanchez left the field in the 4th inning with tightness in his left groin possibly due to his stealing base in the 3rd. Sanchez was replaced by Higashioka. If Sanchez is sidelined for awhile, Romine and Higashioka will share playing time.

Finally, congratulations go to CC Sabathia for being nominated as the Yankee candidate for the 2019 Robert Clemente Award, given for sportsmanship, community involvement, and contribution to baseball. Sabathia is an easy nomination for this award between his career-long tenacity and teamwork on the field and passion for his community through his own foundation. The award winner, voted on by both fans and the media, will be announced during the World Series in October. (You can vote here for Sabathia.)

Go Yankees!

NL Wild Card: COL vs. ARI — Another messy start, “wild” cards indeed, and postseason is just beginning

So, if one thing watching these last 2 wild card games has taught me, it’s that starters really don’t have it for the 4th and 5th place teams in either league. Tonight in Phoenix, the Diamondbacks faced off against their geographic rivals, the Rockies, for the one-off NL Wild Card title. Despite rather disappointing starts once again, neither team was willing to give up so easy. Neither team had really great bullpens either.

That would explain the 30 total allowed hits and 19 total allowed runs scored tonight. For the playoffs, you want and usually see low scores more like international football) and not like American football type scores. Tonight was definitely not usual.

The Rockies starter was pushed out of the game in the 2nd inning (and 41 pitches), after giving up 7 hits and 4 runs, and striking out just 2 batters; comparatively, the Diamondbacks starter threw 58 pitches into the 4th inning, gave up 6 hits, 4 runs, and struck out a single batter. And then, like last night’s game, both teams had to rely on their bullpens to pick up the game. But neither bullpen was really built for such an event, and both bullpen certainly dropped the ball. One team would rack up the points, and then the other team would catch up, and they basically did this all night long.

The Diamondbacks really commanded the game from the start offensively. In the 1st, with consecutive singles, a big 3-run home run got them on the board before an out was recorded against them. A 1-out single in the 2nd scored on a big triple, that kicked the Rockies’ starter out of the game right there. A new reliever in the 3rd gave up a single that scored as part of a 2-run home run to give the D-Backs a really big lead for the first third of the game.

Down 6-0, the Rockies had quite a bit to catch up. But they did, starting in the 4th inning. With 1 out, and 2 runners on base with singles, another single scored the lead run. A ground out moved both runners to scoring position which they promptly did on an RBI double and RBI single. That would be it for the D-backs starter at that point.

Things settled down somewhat for the middle section of the game until the Rockies found another opportunity in the 7th. A lead-off double moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then later scored on a sacrifice bunt. But that reduced gap didn’t last long. In the bottom of the inning, a lead-off Arizona batter singled and another batter worked a 1-out walk. They opted to send up their reliever, despite 2 outs on the board, to save their bench guys for bigger options. Which worked out well, as the reliever hit a big triple that scored both runners. It was his first professional extra-base hit ever.

He then struggled once he got back out on the mound (talk about a rollercoaster of emotion). He gave up consecutive home runs to put the Rockies back within striking distance again. But then the D-backs answered back, almost as if in revenge, in the bottom of the 8th. With 2 outs, 2 runners on base, and the 2nd reliever of the inning on the mound, a wild pitch moved both runners to scoring position before they did just that on yet another solid triple. That batter then later scored on an RBI single.

The D-backs called on their closer, who had his own issues but was able to rein them in just in time. A lead-off single advanced 2 bases on defensive indifference and then scored on a 2-out single. A little dribbler up the middle allowed for an easy force out at 2nd and to hand the Diamondbacks the win after a big battle back-and-forth.

Final score: 11-8 Diamondbacks, they advance to NLDS and will face the Dodgers in LA on Friday.

Okay, so I did well in my predictions for the Wild Card games. So far batting 1.000, but this will definitely change. Now that we know which teams are facing each other in the next stage of the postseason, I have my next phase of predictions:

  • ALDS 1 — Yankees over Indians, in 5 games
  • ALDS 2 — Astros over Red Sox in 4 games
  • NLDS 1 — Dodgers over Diamondbacks in 3 games
  • NLDS 2 — Nationals over Cubs in 5 games

Disclaimer: This doesn’t mean this is who I’m “rooting for” in each game, just which team I think will win each series. In fact, in one series, I’m hoping for the result to be reversed. Full disclosure: it’s not the Yankees-Indians series.

During their warm-up day at Progressive Field in Cleveland, the Yankees took some time to meet with the media, and they announced their starters for the ALDS. Game 1 will be Sonny Gray, followed by Sabathia, Tanaka, and Severino. Tanaka is being saved for when the series moves back to the Bronx as his home record is way better than his road record. And if they hit Game 5, the Yankees will announce their starter then. It could be Montgomery or Garcia, or they could call on Gray on short rest or one of the long-relief guys in the bullpen like Cessa. It really depends on how big of competition the Indians will be in the first few games.

Also, you can now “Vote Gardy” for Brett Gardner to win the Roberto Clemente Award, an honor given to a single player from all across the league who exemplifies excellence on the field and integrity and philanthropy off the field. Gardner is the Yankees nominee this season and deserves the recognition for being an excellent outfielder but also for his generous spirit and compassion in giving back to his home community in South Carolina and his work with the Yankees in the local New York area.

Go Yankees!


Game 138: NYY vs. BAL — Almost win ends with a walk-off disappointment

The game started off on the wrong foot anyway, as rain poured into the Baltimore area for most of the evening and ended up causing a rain delay over 2 hours. Of course, the weather put a damper on the attendance, with only 14,377 fans braving the rain to hang out at the ballpark on a Tuesday night, the middle game of this mid-week series at Camden Yards.

CC Sabathia got the start tonight against the Orioles, throwing 94 pitches into the 6th inning, giving up 8 hits, a walk, and 5 runs, and striking out just 3 Baltimore batters. In the 1st, with 2 outs, Sabathia gave up a walk that moved to 2nd on a single, then to 3rd on a wild pitch, before scoring on another single to get the O’s on the board.

Solo home runs in the 3rd and 5th added a few more runs for the Orioles. Then in the 6th, a lead-off single scored as part of a 2-run home run in the 6th. After getting an out in the 6th, Tommy Kahnle came on for the Yankees to close out the inning without giving up any further runs. Robertson and Chapman kept the momentum strong with 11 pitches in each of their 7th and 8th scoreless innings.

The Yankees just pummeled the Orioles in a single inning, unable to do much more in the other 8. In the 3rd inning, with 1 out, the Yankees loaded the bases with Romine’s single, Judge’s walk, and Castro’s hit-by-pitch. Didi Gregorius’ single scored both Romine and Judge before Holliday worked a walk to load up the bases again. That would be all the O’s starter had for tonight’s game.

With a new pitcher, the Yankees continued their tallying of the runs in the 3rd. Greg Bird hit into what should have been a very easy sacrifice fly, but the center fielder missed the catch (closing his glove before actually catching the ball), Bird made it to 1st safely, keeping the bases loaded and scoring Castro. After another out, Todd Frazier hit into a soft grounder that still scored Gregorius {Media note: no media link, sorry} and moved all the runners into scoring position. Then Jacoby Ellsbury’s nice single scored both Holliday and Bird before the O’s finally got out of the inning.

And despite the Orioles chipping away at the Yankees’ lead periodically, the Yankees held strong, thanks to the strength of their bullpen. That is, until Dellin Betances’ 9th inning. After 2 outs, Betances had a hard time finding that third out to get the save and deliver the win to the Yankees. He gave up a walk and then a solid 2-run home run so that the O’s scored a walk-off home run to win the game, now early this Wednesday morning.

Final score: 7-6 Orioles

Roster moves: in case you missed some recent player shifts around the organization, on Sunday, Aaron Hicks was placed on the 10-day DL for his left oblique strain, and the Yankees recalled reliever Caleb Smith from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Then on Monday, Gary Sanchez’ status was changed so that he could serve his 3-game suspension, and the Yankees also recalled infielders Tyler Wade and Tyler Austin from Scranton to fill out their roster.

And today, the Yankees announced that their Roberto Clemente Award nominee this year — Brett Gardner, a well-deserved honor. Every year, each team nominates the player on their team that is both professional on the field and philanthropic off the field, in the spirit of the late Pirates Clemente’s character and achievements. Tomorrow is the 16th annual Roberto Clemente Day, and a special logo will appear on the bases and other parts of the park.

All 30 teams nominate their candidate, from which a winner will be selected by a panel that includes Clemente’s widow Vera and a special fan vote (coming October 2-6). Past final winners of the award from the Yankees include Derek Jeter (2009), Don Baylor (1985), and Ron Guidry (1984). Closer to voting, I’ll include links so that you can help me vote for Gardner this year.

Go Yankees!

2017 All-Star Game: Millennial take-over

For a city so synonymous with aging Boomers and the height of a young Gen-X, it seems like it got a bit of a makeover, filled with Millennial who weren’t even born while iconic Miami-based shows like Miami Vice (1984-1990) were still on the air. Well, maybe a few during the run of Golden Girls (1985-1992), but that would be generally less than ideal comparison for a group of competitive 20-something young ball players. They would probably prefer shows like the more recent action spy show Burn Notice (2007-2013) which was sometimes referred to by fans as the 21st century version of Miami Vice (but without Don Johnson’s floppy hair and those hideous pastel suits on the lead heroes).

So it was the National League (and their reserves) against the American League (and their reserves) to face off for the 88th All-Star Game. And despite the ridiculous show of power 8 key players put on last night, tonight’s game was a pitcher’s game from the start to finish. Each team put up 9 pitchers who each threw about 15 pitches per inning and struck out a total of 22 batters overall.

But it wasn’t like the batters weren’t hitting, as they racked up 17 total hits (and 6 walks) over the game, but they just weren’t exactly given much chance to do much with those hits thanks to the defense. Again, it was an All-Star Game, and for the first time in a really long time, it felt like both teams were fairly evenly matched in every aspect of the game — pitching, batting, base-running, and defense. And tonight’s game proved that.

No one got close to scoring until the 5th inning with the AL up at bat. With 2 outs, Schoop (Orioles) doubled and then scored on Sano’s (Twins) single. A nice bit of redemption for the power-hitter after falling short to Judge last night, responsible for the first run scored of the night. The National League answered back in the 6th when their veteran catcher Molina (Cardinals) hit a long home run into the corner of the AL bullpen to tie up the game.

And the game ended up being played into extra innings thanks to all those aptly named all-star players. So when NL manager Joe Maddon sent in his lone Cubs pitcher and closer Davis, he unfortunately didn’t count on Cano (Mariners) liking the third pitch, sending it into the AL bullpen for the winning home run.

Only fittingly so, AL interim manager Brad Mills (filling in for a recovering Terry Francona, who made an “appearance” in the AL clubhouse) sent in his own closer Miller (Indians) who got out of the 10th inning and saved the game for the AL with a final strikeout.

Final score: 2-1 in 10 innings, American League over National League

Robinson Cano, of course, got the All-Star Game MVP award thanks to that 10th inning, game-winning homer. And after accepting the glass bat trophy, he was asked to choose between a red Chevy Colorado pickup truck and a special Transformers edition blue Chevy Corvette. Cano wisely chose the Corvette.

Okay, Yankee Universe, you’re wondering how our 5 All-Stars did. Aaron Judge started the game in right field and batted third in the lineup, but he went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Judge later admitted he was a bit tired after last night’s Derby and nervous and excited about the game tonight. Gary Sanchez came on for the second half of the game as the back-up catcher and ended up batting 8th, and he went 0-for-2 with a strikeout. Starlin Castro was present but unable to play due to his lingering wrist injury, so he spent time in the dugout cheering on his teammates and the American League.

In pitching, Dellin Betances showed the world what it felt like when he wanted to throw in some drama in the 3rd. He gave up a lead-off single, then struck out 2 batters, a wild pitch moved the runner to 2nd before he walked the batter, another wild pitch moved runners to scoring position, another walk loaded up the bases (and had everyone but Yankee Universe biting their nails), and a dribbling ground out ended the threat and the inning, getting Betances out of the jam… as usual.

Luis Severino would have pitched in the 11th inning had the NL tied up the game, and while he was disappointed not to see any play time in Miami, he really just wanted to see the AL win the game. Wish granted.

It is worth noting that the All-Star Game no longer counts for much of anything in the long-run more than bragging rights. As of this year, with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the players and the league, the home field advantage goes to the team that has the best record between the AL and NL champions (which was always a much better idea). Full disclosure: the players of the winning ASG team do get a $20,000 bonus check; so I guess it’s a bit more personal than bragging rights.

Okay, the millennial invasion of Miami was never more apparent than at what became one of the most talked about moments in the game. Mariner’s designated hitter (and one of the oldest guys, on either roster) Nelson Cruz came up to bat in the 6th innings and walked over to the home plate umpire Joe West and asked for a picture with him as he pulled out his phone from his back pocket. NL (and Cardinals) catcher Yadier Molina (also one of the older players) took the picture for Cruz as West seemed both confused and amused at the concept. While not technically a selfie, it went around the internet quickly that Cruz wanted a selfie with West (who is just called his 5000th game last week and is often one of the least liked umpires in the business, which may explain Cruz calling him a “legend”).

In a touching tribute before the game tonight, the league honored Latin-American baseball legends and Hall of Famers in an on-field ceremony — Roberto Alomar, Luis Aparicio, Rod Carew, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, Pedro Martinez, Tony Perez, Ivan Rodriguez (who was part of the 2003 Marlins’ championship team), and the late Roberto Clemente (who was represented by his wife Vera). Then, they all threw out the ceremonial first pitch to current All-Star players of Latin-American birth. It was a great way to “pass the torch”, as it were.

We’re back after a couple of days rest in Fenway to restart the season with the rivalry series in Boston on Friday. Enjoy the rest of your week!

Go Yankees!

Tired of politics? #VoteGardy instead!

New Year’s Eve is generally a day of celebration and hope. People gather with family and friends to remember the year with all its ups and downs, reflecting on what was and what might have been, and look forward to a new year filled hopes for what could be. But on December 31, 1972, the baseball world was rocked with the tragic news that one of their own, a man of great talent and even greater character, lost his life in a plane crash while on a mission to bring much needed supplies to earthquake survivors in Nicaragua.

Roberto Enrique Clemente Walker, known to the baseball world as Roberto Clemente, was born in Puerto Rico and drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates. While not the first Hispanic to play major league ball, Clemente was the first to rack up so many achievements that eventually secured him a spot in the Hall of Fame. Over his 18 years with the Steel City’s Bucs, the outfielder excelled on the ball field, but even more importantly, he excelled at quietly helping others in need, including charity work at home in Puerto Rico.

After Clemente’s death, the MLB Commissioner’s Award was renamed The Roberto Clemente Award and is given to the player who  “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement, and the individual’s contribution to his team”. Each year, every MLB team nominates a player they feel best represents these values. In honor of the winner, a vehicle and cash are donated to the winner’s chosen charity, with additional donations to the Roberto Clemente Sports City in Puerto Rico that provides local children sports opportunities to pursue their dreams.

This year, the New York Yankees have nominated Brett Gardner for the Roberto Clemente Award. Like Clemente, Gardner is a quiet man from humble roots, with strong character, and good values both on and off the field. Like Clemente, Gardner was raised on a farm, the son of a father who taught the value of character, respect, hard work, and persistence. Like Clemente, Gardner was taught to use the gifts God gave him to the best of his ability. Like Clemente, Gardner has stayed loyal to one team and is a positive influence on his teammates. Like Clemente, Gardner is an outfielder with a strong arm and an upbeat and “never quit” attitude, playing hard every game while supporting his teammates. Like Clemente, Gardner’s work ethic has helped him as he struggled to overcome injuries that might have kept less resilient players off the field. And like Clemente, Gardner is a family man with a generous heart and a compassion to reach out to his community and help those in need.

Brett Gardner and his family are actively involved in several community outreach organizations, including visiting children in hospitals and at the Ronald McDonald House (South Carolina and NYC), which is also home to a therapy dog, “Gardy”, donated by the Gardners for the children receiving hospital care. The Gardner family is also involved with the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program providing Christmas gifts to children in need and also assist in helping the Taylor Hooton Foundation’s Advisory Board to educate youth about performance-enhancing drugs. This compassionate and generous spirit exemplifies Roberto Clemente’s mission to help others wherever and whenever possible.

We are proud of the Yankees for choosing Brett Gardner and believe his life choices honor the example and memory of Roberto Clemente.

Vote for Gardy! #VoteGardy

To cast your vote for Brett Gardner, simply post #VoteGardy on  Twitter (@MLB) and Deadline for fan voting is coming up soon — October 2 — so cast your vote early and often!

Go Yankees!

Game 94: BAL vs. NYY — Night to shine & shutout

A short train ride from the glittering night lights of New York City, the Bronx had its own night-light shining over Yankee Stadium tonight. The full moon, aglow in deep orange, hung low in the sky over the ballpark. Perhaps as a reminder that 47 years ago today, man first walked on the moon. A milestone for the space program that was determined to reach a goal despite the odds. Tonight, fans at Yankee Stadium tonight saw their pinstriped team defy the odds against the AL East leader, taking charge of the mound and the field and never backing down. This was a night for New York to shine and Baltimore really never had a chance.

Yankee starting pitcher Michael Pineda threw 113 pitches over 6 full innings, giving up 5 hits and 2 walks, with 8 strikeouts. Faltering a bit in the fourth, Pineda loaded the bases on two hits and a walk, but managed to get out of the inning allowing no runs. Despite some threats by the Orioles batters, Pineda deftly commanded the mound and shut down any scoring opportunities for Baltimore.

Pineda was replaced by Dellin Betances in the seventh who faced three batters for a quick three outs in just 11 pitches. Nick Goody replaced Betances in the eighth, throwing just 10 pitches for another three up and three down. To close the game at the top of the ninth,  Chasen Shreve calmly shut down another three batters in a row with two strikeouts and a ground out to secure another Yankee win. The Yankees seem to be experimenting with a few different pitchers to close the last few innings. Clearly, it seems to be working.

The Yankee bats had a few shining moments tonight. Gardner started it all off in the first inning with a triple to center after the ball bounced off the fielder’s glove. With Gardner on 3rd, Beltran hit a RBI sacrifice fly to center that plated Gardner, and the Yankees were the first on the board. The hopeful crowd of 35,681 was roaring in support.

A couple of quiet innings followed, and then in the fourth inning, Teixeira, just back from a few days off to rest a sore foot, slammed a homer to right to score the Yankees second run. In the sixth, Ellsbury smacked a lead off single to left followed by a bunt to 3rd by Beltran and a walk by McCann. With bases loaded and no outs, Teixeira came to the plate and RBI walks, scoring Ellsbury.

The Yankees continued to dominate the game in the seventh inning when Torreyes (in for Headley tonight) smacked a triple on a line drive to right field. Gardner then hit an RBI sacrifice fly to score Torreyes, and the Yankees are up by 4 over the scoreless Orioles.

In the eighth, a pitching change proved beneficial to New York as Beltran hit a solo homer to right field and into the second deck and the waiting glove of a fan in a Beltran jersey. This dinger marks Beltran’s 412th career home run and 20th homer for this season. With three quick outs in the top of the ninth by Shreve, the Yankees shut out the Orioles and won their fourth game in a row.

Final score: 5-0, Yankees

Welcome Back, Tex: Despite his recent hitting slump, Teixeira is back in the lineup and breaking said slump apparently. Refsnyder, who took Tex’s spot at first in the last couple games, is to be applauded for his utility work in both the infield and the outfield, plus several good at-bats. Teixeira has emphasized he just wants to stay healthy til the end of the season, and he knows part of that is improving his at-bats, which showed in his time at the plate tonight.

Doing the lineup shuffle: Headley was not in the lineup tonight, being excused for personal reasons and replaced at third base by Ronald Torreyes. Headley’s absence had the team scrambling some to readjust the lineup. Hicks was put in Headley’s batting slot (#8) and Torreyes batted ninth. Hope to see Headley back in his corner on the field soon.

Welcome to the neighborhood: In 2017, Yankee Stadium will have a new neighbor when the Roberto Clemente Urban Youth Academy will be built in the Bronx. The facility will feature new baseball and softball fields, complete with all instructors, fees, and equipment for free to the kids of the local community. Harlem RBI, the MLB Players Association, and the State of New York, with support from Commissioner Rob Manfred and Yankees veteran Alex Rodriguez, are joining forces to create a safe and encouraging environment for young athletes. Rodriguez, in particular, got his start playing ball at a Boys and Girls Club in Miami and emphasized the importance of community programs that allows kids the chance to dream big and to develop positive life skills.

Go Yankees!

World Series Game 3: KC vs. SF — Quality, quantity, pitching, remembering

I think one of the things I’m kind of fascinated with in the postseason (as compared to the regular season) is how the teams use their pitching staff. I guess I’m used to watching teams push their starters to go as long as possible, preferably at least 7 innings to set up the 8th inning guy before calling on their closer. (Using the early 2014 Yankees as an example: Tanaka pitches innings 1-7, Betances comes in for the 8th, and then Robertson to close for the save and win.) But in the postseason, if a pitcher makes it to the 7th inning (and I’m not even talking about finishing that inning), it’s seems to be rather a rarity anymore.

I was talking with my brother before and during the game comparing both teams’ strengths and weaknesses. And he made mention about the rotating bullpen that seems to be rather popular in October. So, I guess does this break down to a sign of weakness or strength to the current status of the pitching staff? Does this frequent pitching change signify that the pitching staff isn’t strong enough to meet the intensity of the postseason pressure? Or is it simply a sign that the bullpens are so strong that teams can cycle through their pitchers to meet whatever strategy the manager is playing during the game? I suppose it’s somewhere in between those two, but I’m thinking it’s also just because the managers’ strategies to win is so much more desperate than the 162-game season-long effort to make it to this point. If I had time, I think I would try to research whether the quantity of pitchers affects the outcome of the game.

But perhaps that’s the problem all along — quantity over quality. I think anyone would rather have good quality pitching that a whole bunch of mediocre stuff. So can quantity also add up to quality sometimes? Maybe. Maybe not. This postseason’s been rather a mixed bag of results in that respect.

To put things into perspective, tonight’s starters each pitched into the 6th inning but didn’t complete it, getting into trouble quickly. Both threw 76-77 pitches total, allowing 4 hits a piece. But what made the difference was their relievers. Tonight, that landed in the Royals’ favor, but just barely.

Offensively, it was rather quiet for both teams after two games where the winner would score 7 runs. The Giants starter allowed a lead-off double, who advanced to 3rd on a ground out before scoring on another ground out. The Royals spent the rest of their game defending their lead. However, both pitchers kept the opposing teams pretty tight. Until that 6th inning, that is.

The Royals got first crack at denting the Giants’ defense — an RBI double and an RBI single pushed the Royals up to a 3-0 score over the Giants. But then when the Giants were up to bat, the chipped away at the Royals’ lead — an RBI double and an RBI ground out put the score at 3-2 Royals. Both teams were into their bullpens before the end of the inning, and like I said above, it just went the Royals’ way tonight. And that 6th inning score would become permanent 3 innings later.

World Series Game 3: Royals over Giants 3-2, Royals lead series 2-1

Before tonight’s game, retiring MLB Commissioner Bud Selig was on hand to present this year’s Roberto Clemente Award to two deserving (and non-World Series playing) players — Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins and recently retired White Sox legend Paul Konerko. It is usually given to just one player per year, but apparently, voting tied Rollins and Konerko, so they decided to split the award. The Roberto Clemente Award is an annual award given to the players who embody both the spirit and professionalism of MLB as well as make an active impact in their communities. After each team nominates their candidate, a mixture of fan votes and a panel established by the wife of the late Pirates’ legend select the final award winners every year. Rollins’ philanthropy includes programs to assist inner-city students as well as various fundraisers for noble causes and foundations. Konerko and his family co-established foundation that helps foster families connect, develop, and thrive. (Past Yankee winners include Ron Guidry, Don Baylor, and Derek Jeter.)

And for “This Day in Yankee History”, we travel back to 1996. The Yankees are facing off against the Braves in the World Series. The Series is tied 2-2, and 24-year-old Andy Pettitte started Game 5 and prepared to throw what will be one of the best games of his career. It would be easily the tightest game in the 1996 Series. Pettitte threw 96 pitches, struck out 4, allowed 5 hits and 3 walks, but no runs over his 8.1 innings. Yes, Pettitte threw a World Series shutout. But the Yankees only cobbled together one run of their own — an RBI double in the 4th inning. It would be enough with the way the young southpaw was throwing that night in Georgia. And one more win later, back in the Bronx, and the Yankees would win their first Series since 1978 and start the beginning of the Third Dynasty (often referred to as the “Torre Days”) and their first of 4 Championships in 5 years.

Go Yankees!

What does a non-Yankee from Puerto Rico have to do with a pinstriped kid from Alabama?

Roberto Clemente died in an aviation accident 41 years ago this December — a tragic end to a great ball player. Clemente played 18 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, hitting his stride through the 1960s and 70s, helping the team win the NL Pennant and World Series in both 1960 and 1971. He also was a NL MVP (1960), World Series MVP (1971), 12-time All-Star in 15 games, 4-time batting champion, and 12-time Golden Glover. And he earned his 3000th career hit on the last day of the season in 1972. It would be his last game he ever played. But that’s not what people remember about Roberto Clemente.

Clemente was born in Puerto Rico in 1943 to a poor family and after he “made it big” in baseball. He was one of the first Hispanic players in major league baseball and never forgot that gave him an opportunity and platform to give back to his community at large and give voice to future Hispanic players that we seem to take for granted now. But in the mid-20th century, this was as shocking as Jackie Robinson was just a decade before. More so, due to the language barrier this introduced. While announcers, baseball cards, and fans called him “Bob Clemente” because it was “less ethnic”, the guys in the clubhouse began what would open the door to a multi-lingual standard — a diverse fraternity of sorts in color, age, origin, and language.

And yet, Clemente is still not remembered for that. No, he dedicated his off-seasons to giving back to the poor communities of Central and South America. On December 23, 1972, a large earthquake rocked Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, where Clemente had visited earlier that month. He was in the process of arranging relief when word came that the packages had been diverted by the corrupt government and never made it to the people in need, displaced by the quake. So, he decided to go and deliver the relief packages himself, organizing a flight for December 31. The plane, unfortunately, had a history of mechanical problems, an inexperienced flight crew, and was overloaded by 2 tons of supplies. It crashed almost immediately after takeoff, all crew and Clemente himself perished. Though the crew’s bodies were later found, Clemente’s body never was recovered.

A Pirates’ teammate Tom Walker, a strong supporter of Clemente’s missions, helped Clemente load the plane that day and wanted to join him in his efforts. But Walker at the time was single, so Clemente encouraged the young man to enjoy his New Year’s Eve. Because he missed the flight, his son Neil now plays 2nd base for the Pirates.

Clemente was posthumously elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973, something he no doubt would have earned in time because he was a great baseball player. No, he never played in pinstripes. In fact, he helped the Pirates beat the Yankees in the 1960 World Series, but I won’t hold that against him. Because his legacy isn’t limited to baseball.

An award had been established by the commissioner of baseball in 1971, given every year to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team”. The award named the “Commissioner’s Award”, was voted on by fans and members of the media. In 1973, to honor his outstanding contributions to his community and to baseball, MLB renamed it the “Roberto Clemente Award”. Each year, team’s nominate a single player from their team who fits the qualifications of the award, and the winner is announced at the World Series. Beginning in 2007, the award is now presented by Chevrolet, who donates money and a vehicle to the winner’s charity, money to the Roberto Clemente Sports City (a non-profit children’s rec center-like organization in Puerto Rico), and additional funds to each of the nominee’s charities. Past award winners include Yankees like Ron Guidry, Don Baylor, and Derek Jeter.

This year, the Yankees nominated David Robertson. Robertson and his wife Erin founded High Socks for Hope in 2011 following the devastating tornadoes that wrecked their home state of Alabama. What they discovered that homes were being rebuilt, but people couldn’t afford to buy furniture for their homes. So High Socks for Hope was raising funds to purchase things like mattresses, couches, tables and chairs, basic household furniture so that four walls became a home once again for people. Last fall, after Hurricane Sandy ripped through their new residence of New York, it was High Socks for Hope once again to help with the relief efforts. In June, they delivered $20,000 of new furniture to families in Far Rockaway, one of the areas hit the hardest by Sandy. When a tornado destroyed Moore, Oklahoma this May, Robertson pledged his charity and his own money with $100 for every strikeout to go directly to Moore recovery efforts. As of today, he has 73 strikeouts, thus raised $7300.

In a post before the season started, I discussed how I’ve always admired that part of being a Yankee, let alone a professional ball player, was the almost compulsion to give something back. This spills into a corporate sense of community outreach with the Yankees through HOPE Week and into the individual players through their own foundations and charitable organizations. I like that they recognize community outreach on a broader scale within MLB because it brings recognition to people who are doing something truly amazing, and I think it encourages the rest of the players to step it up if they need to or perhaps continue their own participation in such endeavors.

And I would hope it encourages everyone to give a little something back to their own community. You can do so much on your own or choose to partner with an organization you believe in to reach people you may never meet. I have my own such endeavors, and I hope you do too. It’s that spirit of giving that shouldn’t be limited to the holiday season, but transcend time and create a sense of responsibility and participation in our community. So get involved with something, change your world, and make a difference. There is no such thing as too small a gift because that gift may just be the world to that one person.

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” — Gandhi {Note: This is often misquoted as “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Now because I’m not a big fan of misquotes, I thought I’d find the actual quote as it applies here.}

Go Yankees!