Game 118: NYM vs. NYY — Crosstown rivals surge in damp make-up game

Let’s be honest here. A few days ago, they came out with which team had the hardest schedule and which team had the easiest one. The Yankees were said to have the 5th easiest schedule because they’re mostly facing teams sitting on the bottom half of the standings, including tonight’s opponent. But you can’t really predict when a team will oddly surge or sputter. So there’s just no guarantee.

Tonight’s game was a good example of this. The Mets are having a really terrible year. Mets fans everywhere are complaining, and rightly so, about how poorly their team is performing and the fact that they’re competing with the Marlins for worst team in the NL East. (The Marlins are 4.5 games behind the Mets right now, if you’re wondering.) But baseball isn’t predictable or easy. And oh, by the way, it sort of rained some during the game, but the game played on.

Luis Severino is just not having a good time lately, and his struggles continued tonight. He threw 98 pitches in just 4 innings, gave up 7 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, and struck out 6 Mets batters. Things started right from the first batter of the game, giving up a lead-off solo home run.

Then a double moved to 3rd on a grounder before scoring on a 2-out RBI single. In the 4th, he gave up a single and 2-run home run to double the Mets’ score. Green came on for the 5th and kept the Mets from adding to their score with a fairly clean 14-pitch inning.

AJ Cole came on for the 6th and promptly gave up a lead-off homer. Then in the 7th, with 1 out, he gave up back-to-back solo home runs. Then after a walk, the Yankees called in recent call-up George Kontos, who despite allowing a single got out of the inning without giving up more and then cleanly going through the 8th inning.

Zach Britton had a messy 9th inning to cap off this less-than ideal night for the Yankees. With 1 out, a hit-by-pitch and single threatened. The next batter hit into a ground out and potential double play, but Torres bobbled the transfer so the run scored.

Initially, the runner going to 2nd was called out, but the Mets challenged the call as if Torres didn’t properly have the ball from Gregorius before touching 2nd before the ball was bobbled. But replay worked, the call was upheld — 1 out at 2nd, runner safe at 1st, the other runner scored. Britton then gave up 2 more singles to load up the bases before the next batter hit into an easy force out at 2nd.

Now, the Yankees weren’t exactly silent, but neither were they having a great offensive day. Part of that is because the Mets sent up their strongest starter, who held the Yankees to a minimal offense into the 7th inning, while striking out an impressive 12 Yankee batters.

In the 3rd, Romine led-off with a single and Gardner walked. Giancarlo Stanton hit into a force ground out at 2nd to eliminate Gardner, but Romine still scored. A throwing error (when the infielder tried to turn two he overthrew it at 1st) helped advance Stanton to 2nd and Romine score safely. Aaron Hicks’ single later scored Stanton to tie up the game at that point.

Gardner hit a 1-out double in the 5th and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ 2-out single to chip away at the Mets’ lead. But the Mets’ starter held the Yankees off for most of his outing. The next opportunity the Yankees got was in the 8th under a new pitcher. With 2 outs, Hicks worked a walk and then scored as part of Miguel Andujar’s big 2-run home run into the left field seats.

Final score: 8-5 Mets. Picking up from the series last month that this game was the make-up from, the loss on this game means the Mets won this series 2-1.

Next up: The Yankees host division rivals, the Rays and Blue Jays, for the next 6 games through the rest of the week before hitting the road. They’ll be down in Miami for 2 games and back to Baltimore for 4 games. The Rays are the only team of those four that have a winning season so far, but they’re only 2 games above .500 and 14 games behind the Yankees.

Injury news/roster moves: After pitching a strong game yesterday, CC Sabathia felt it in his surgically repaired knee and is now on the 10-day DL with knee inflammation. This means he will miss his next start, something that has always been on the table as they watch the veteran starter’s previous injuries closely.

Now, the Yankees needed to make some moves to compensate for this temporary move. First, they moved Jordan Montgomery from the 10-day DL to the 60-day DL, a move they’ve been needing to make since Montgomery will be out recovering from his Tommy John surgery far into next season.

They also optioned infielder Luke Voit to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. So, with 2 open spots on the 25-man roster, they selected the contracts of pitcher George Kontos (who pitched in tonight’s game) and infielder Ronald Torreyes from AAA. Yes, that’s right, the “Toe-Night Show” is back!

And for all you trivia nerds: On this day in 2016, two very particular Yankee prospects made their MLB debut — Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin. In their very first at-bats, they hit back-to-back home runs and had everyone talking about the greatness of Yankee future. Of course, Austin is now with the Twins, as part of the trade where the Yankees acquire starter Lynn, and Judge is out on the DL with that nasty chip fracture in his wrist. But what a great memory for those who still believe in the greatness of Yankee future.

I still believe… seriously, the Yankees are still one of the best teams in baseball. Don’t forget that. Like the only team that’s better than them is the Red Sox in all of MLB. The Yankees are 74 wins (and 44 losses), while most division leaders have 60-something wins. Any other year, this would be a blowout for the Yankees, but the Red Sox are just having a ridiculous year.

Go Yankees!

Game 85: NYY vs. TOR — Northern Exposure

Truthfully, I have mixed feelings about all the Yankees’ division rivals and their respective cities. In general, I really like the cities they represent and the people who live there, and I can respect their passion for the game and their home team, even if I’m not a fan of their chosen team. Attending Spring Training annually and actually going to those cities is often what mixes up those feelings.

For example, I love the city of Boston, and nearly every Boston fan I’ve met is really a good person that just roots for my chosen team’s greatest rivals. I also happen to think Fenway Park is legendary and historic and a symbol of the great legacy of the sport. (And the Green Monster is just as ugly in person as you’d think.)

But the Yankees play in Toronto this weekend. And let’s just say that it’s not Boston.

And Sonny Gray wasn’t exactly having a great night to start in the opener at Rogers Centre, throwing 62 pitches in just 2 innings, giving up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 5 runs, and still striking out 4 batters. Most of that damage was done in that 2nd inning and it wasn’t good.

A lead-off double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a single to get the Blue Jays on the board. A wild pitch moved the runner to 2nd and then he scored on another single. After a strikeout and another allowed single, the next batter smacked a big 3-run home run to really push the Blue Jays ahead. A hit-by-pitch, stolen base, and strikeout later, and Gray’s night was over.

David Hale came on in the 3rd and pitched into the 8th inning strong. It wasn’t until the 8th inning that the Blue Jays were able to eke through again. A lead-off double later scored on a 2-out double to cap off their runs. And Chasen Shreve needed just 3 pitches to induce a ground out for the final out of the 8th.

Meanwhile, while the Yankees certainly dented the Blue Jays’ starter’s pitch count (pushing him to 101 pitches after the 1st out of the 5th inning), they only managed 4 hits and 3 walks off him. Aaron Hicks hit a 2-out solo home run, his 16th of the season, in the 3rd inning.

Then in the 5th, the Yankees finally found their opportunity (and pretty much their only one all night). They loaded up the bases with singles to Romine and Gardner and a fielding error on Judge’s sloppy hit. Then Hicks worked a 1-out walk to score Romine and keep those bases loaded. 101 pitches with bases loaded, so it was time for a reliever. Who got a well-placed strikeout and then a line drive out to end the threat.

The Blue Jays pieced together 5 relievers to finish off their game and keep the Yankees from being any kind of threat again for the rest of the night.

Final score: 6-2 Blue Jays

Roster moves/injury updates: Well, the Yankees moved Gleyber Torres to the 10-day disabled list with right hip strain. Muscle strains are always complicated, so they anticipate Torres will be out through the All-Star break.

In his stead, a normal call-up would be Ronald Torreyes, but Torreyes has been out for about a week at this point, dealing with a personal family issue. So, they recalled Tyler Wade, who was sent down in the middle of April due to the excess of excellent bench players.

And if you’re wondering, the Yankees sent Masahiro Tanaka to join AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for his rehab assignment after dealing with hamstring issues last month.

Well, the All-Star Game fan voting has closed, and the results will be announced Sunday night. Also, based on a player ballot and selections from the Commissioner’s Office, each team will fill out most of its 32 spots with reserve players and pitchers. Each team will allow for one more spot, nominate 5 potential All-Stars, and call on fans to vote once more. (There is a rather extensive explanation about how players are chosen and eligibility.)

Speaking of the All-Star Game, the Sunday before the game, representatives from across the farm systems will play in the annual Futures Game. This year, the Yankees will be represented by prospective pitcher Justus Sheffield. Sheffield will play for Team USA in a USA vs. the World kind of structure.

Go Yankees!

Games 68 & 69: NYY vs. WAS — “Let’s play one and a half”?

Last month, the Yankees traveled to the nation’s capital to play a short series, the now popular 2-game series of this year’s schedule. But lingering showers and storms that plagued much of the country made playing in some games almost like chasing or avoiding the weather its own sport. Such delays seem to have trickled out (pun intended), so that means that we’re now in the making all those missed games up part of the schedule.

Anyway, despite over an hour delay last month, the Yankees and Nationals played 5 1/2 innings of their first game of the series before seemingly unending showers forced the powers that be to suspend the game as it was. They were supposed to pick up that game before the next game on the following day, but those same storms continued on into the next day. And it forced them to do a sort of doubleheader make-up game tonight. Or rather about a game and a half.

Game 1: The Suspended Game
The two players that made the most impact on this first game are no longer on the active roster. Now on the DL due to some hamstring strains, Masahiro Tanaka started the game for the Yankees, and all the Yankees’ runs were due to Tyler Austin’s bat. Austin is back in AAA due to some overcrowding on the Yankees’ bench.

Tanaka threw 72 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up just 4 hits, no walks, and 3 runs, and struck out just 2 batters. He gave up a 2-out solo home run in the 1st to get the Nats on the board early. And in the 2nd, a lead-off double scored on a 1-out single, who then scored on an RBI double.

The Yankees chipped away at that lead, as I said before, thanks to Tyler Austin. In the 4th, Gregorius made it all the way to 2nd on a Little League-style fielding error before scoring on Austin’s big 2-run home run. Then in the 5th, the Yankees loaded the bases — Judge walked, Stanton singled, and Sanchez walked. Gregorius hit into a fielder’s choice, getting Judge out at home, and then Austin’s sacrifice fly scored Stanton to tie up the game.

As the rain came down in the top of the 6th, the Yankees left a man stranded as the middle of the inning came and they suspended the game. So, coming back tonight to resume the game (and keep up with roster moves of pinch-hitters and replacements), Chad Green came out for the Yankees and got into a bit of trouble. With 1 out, he gave up a single and 2-run home run to give the lead back to the Nationals.

Shreve and Warren each took an inning, while waiting for the Yankees to face the Nationals’ bullpen and find the strength possibly lingering from Austin’s power last month. It wasn’t going to happen.

Final score: 5-3 Nationals

Game 2: The Rain Delay
About 30 minutes after the conclusion of game one, enough time for the grounds crew to make the field all pretty again (and the guys to change uniforms for a clean one), the game that was delayed due to rain started. There’s been a lot of talk about how bad Sonny Gray does at home in stark contrast to how well he does on the road. Tonight, he proved the formula true again. Gray threw 86 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and struck out 7 batters.

In the 2nd, he gave up consecutive singles that moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. A ground out scored the lead runner and moved the other one to 3rd. The next batter hit into a fielder’s choice that had the runner caught in a brief rundown for the out. A lead-off double in the 4th moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a sacrifice fly.

Holder, Robertson, Betance, and Chapman closed out the final 4 innings for the Yankees, collectively (with Gray) getting an impressive 15 total strikeouts and keeping the Nats to those 2 runs. Though they threatened at bit in the 9th inning, a long fly ball run down and captured on the warning track by Judge handed Chapman his 21st save.

Meanwhile, the Yankees actually struck first. Hicks led-off the game with a double, and 2 outs later, scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s single. In the 5th, down by just a run, the Yankees came back. Romine led-off with a single but was out when Gray bunted into a bad grounder. Gray then scored as part of Aaron Hicks’ big 2-run home run to give the Yankees back the lead.

Clint Frazier led-off the 7th by being hit by a pitch and then moved to 2nd on a sloppy pick-off error. Two outs, a walk to Judge, and a pitching change later, Stanton doubled and scored Frazier. Torres was intentionally walked to load the bases, but they ended their rally this inning with just one insurance run. It would be all they needed.

Final score: 4-2 Yankees, the short make-up series was split 1-1

Roster moves: Before the game, Clint Frazier was recalled, Ronald Torreyes sent to AAA Scranton, and Giovanny Gallegos was recalled as the Yankees’ 26th man for the doubleheader. Gallegos will be on his way back to Scranton now.

Next up: the Yankees head back to the Bronx where the Mariners await their 3-game series with them there tomorrow. After they close out this home stand, they hop a flight down to St. Petersburg to face the Rays this weekend and then up to Philadelphia for 3-games next Monday. Then home again for the final home stand before the All-Star Break.

It’s worth noting that what most people talked about for the first game was the player who hit the winning home run was not yet with the team when the game was suspended. He wasn’t called up to the main team until May 20 (5 days after the originally scheduled game). Now, because of how they have to score this, as being played on May 15, they marked this as his 1st home run. But it’s actually his 6th home run since his call-up. So, everyone is making bad jokes about time travel and pointing out the obvious problems and loopholes of how records are kept in the league.

Go Yankees!

Game 65: TB vs. NYY — Rookie start, rookie win

Jonathan Loaisiga had a great start in tonight’s game against the visiting Rays, the second game in their 4-game weekend series. He threw 91 pitches in his 5 scoreless innings, gave up just 3 hits and 4 walks, and struck out 6 Rays’ batters. Holder, Robertson, Betances, and Warren each took an inning to keep the Rays scoreless.

Meanwhile, the Yankee batters faced a former teammate and really did hold them off most of the game. In the 3rd, Didi Gregorius hit a 2-out solo home run to get the Yankees on the board, breaking the scoreless tie at that point. Then in the 6th, Judge led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on Gregorius’ single (thanks to a messy defense), and then scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s sacrifice fly to double the Yankees’ lead.

The Rays’ starter continued on into the 8th inning, but with 1 out, he loaded up the bases with singles to Judge and Gregorius and intentionally walking Stanton. That was it for his night, so the Rays went to their bullpen for the final 2 outs of the inning. However, in between those outs, Gary Sanchez smacked a deep double scoring all 3 runners to ensure the Yankees’ victory.

Final score: 5-0 Yankees

HOPE Week Day 5: The Yankees concluded their 10th Annual HOPE Week partnering with Mark Bustos, the founder of “Be Awesome to Somebody“. A successful, high-end hairdresser, Bustos was visiting family in the Philippines 6 years ago when he got a random idea to set-up a sort of “pop-up salon” to give free haircuts to the homeless kids he saw roaming the streets. A fresh haircut can give someone a sense of dignity and self-care that might be missing in someone who cannot afford something so simple as a haircut.

Bustos travels the world for work, and wherever he visits, he connects with the local homeless to give them free haircuts. So, in a rare day-off, he connected with the YMCA in Harlem and the New York Yankees to give haircuts to New York’s homeless community. Miguel Andujar, Aroldis Chapman, Domingo German, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, Ronald Torreyes, and catching coach Jason Brown represented the Yankees at the event, later inviting Bustos to throw out the first pitch before tonight’s game.

Again, this whole week has been about thinking beyond one’s self and extending kindness into the world in some pretty cool and creative ways. It once again serves as a reminder to continue the Yankees’ example and find outlets to show kindness in your own community and sphere. They’re out there, and they’re waiting for you. So go and be kind, spread kindness, because kindness matters.

Go Yankees!

Game 60: NYY vs. NYM — 8th inning #AllRise go-ahead victory swing

The Subway Series continued tonight, with first pitch just minutes after New Yorkers were celebrating another New York sports victory tonight just 12 miles away. Congratulations to the newest Triple Crown winner Justify and his extensive equine entourage.

Domingo German got the start tonight against the Mets, having a pretty good overall outing. He threw 96 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up 5 hits and 3 runs and striking out 9 batters. Actually, German’s roughest inning was the 1st. With 1 out, he gave up a solo home run, a triple, and a 2-run home run to get the Mets on the board early. But after that, he pulled things together and found a momentum that the bullpen continued for the final third of the game.

Robertson, Betances, and Chapman each claimed a great scoreless inning and kept things to that lone inning of runs for the Mets. However, it’s worth noting that Yankee pitchers racked up a total of 15 strikeouts off Mets’ batters tonight. This certainly helped them stay in command of the game.

So with the Mets’ early lead, the Yankees needed to find spots to chip away at that lead. It wasn’t until the 3rd inning that the Yankee got on the board with Gleyber Torres’ 1-out solo home run. Then in the 6th, with 1 out, Sanchez worked a walk to get on base. Miguel Andujar hit a solid 2-run home run to tie up the game in that one swing.

And like last night, it would be the 8th inning that held the go-ahead run. So tonight, it would be a big 1st pitch lead-off solo home run by Aaron Judge to finally give the Yankees the lead. Yes, once again, all the runs in tonight’s game (for both teams) were scored on home runs.

Final score: 4-3 Yankees

Roster moves/injury update: Despite some initial hopes, it looks like Masahiro Tanaka will actually be out at least a month with low-grade hamstring strains in his legs. The Yankees placed him on the 10-day Disabled List. Instead of finding another starter, they will juggle some in-house pitchers, perhaps recalling Hale or pulling up a newer prospect.

But my guess is that they might split a start with 3-4 innings a piece for some long-term relievers like Warren or Holder. At least until Cessa (who will begin his rehab Monday in Tampa) is back on the roster shortly. Tanaka isn’t going to be out long — a month is about 4-5 starts — so an ironically short-term solution is possible.

Though signing a permanent solution for Montgomery’s vacancy certainly looks like the best route as soon as they can reach a deal with someone. Fingers crossed.

And if you’re wondering who filled Tanaka’s roster spot, it would be Ronald Torreyes. The clubhouse has been missing the infielder/bench player, so his smiling face in the dugout was rather satisfying. And who knows, maybe the “Toe-Night Show” is ready to make its return in this middle of the season part of the year.

Go Yankees!

Game 48: LAA vs. NYY — Pitching falters in Saturday night loss

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again, and it’s worth saying tonight: “If you don’t having pitching, you don’t have anything.” And tonight, in this middle game with the visiting Angels this weekend series, certainly proved that true.

Sonny Gray just had a terrible, rough start tonight. He threw 86 pitches into just the 4th inning, gave up 7 hits, 3 walks, and 5 runs, and still struck out 7 batters. His lead-off batter in the 1st singled and then scored on an RBI double to get the Angels on the board early.

Now, following that up, the Yankees’ power continued from yesterday, rolling over as Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge hit consecutive monster solo home runs in the bottom of the 1st to put the Yankees on top. In the 2nd, Andujar singled and then scored on Austin Romine’s 2-run home run off the foul pole to double the Yankees’ scored and give them a nice lead.

That didn’t last long. In the 3rd, Gray continued his bad night, loading up the bases with a single, a double, and a walk. With 1 out, he then walked the next batter to score another Angels’ run. A sacrifice fly scored one more run, putting the Angels within a run of the Yankees’ lead. Then in the 4th, he gave up a lead-off walk. The next batter hit a single, advancing the lead runner to 3rd, but then got tagged out trying to make it to 2nd. After another out, their star power-hitter smacked a 2-run home run to give the Angels back the lead.

After hitting the next batter, Gray’s night was over. Jonathan Holder came on to close out the 4th inning for Gray. Holder then kept the Angels scoreless in the 5th inning. Tommy Kahnle came on for the 6th and continued the struggles Gray had in controlling the Angels’ offense tonight. A lead-off walk moved to 2nd when the next batter hit into force attempt and a missed catch error. The lead runner scored on an RBI double, and a walk loaded the bases. A single then scored 2 more runs, and a double play allowed yet another run.

Chasen Shreve came on to quickly get out of the 6th. But then he had his own issues in the 7th, though they seem relatively minor in comparison. With 1 out, he gave up a walk that then scored on a 2-run home run to cap off the Angels’ runs tonight. AJ Cole closed out the game in the final 2 innings, sailing through his scoreless outing in a solid 25 total pitches. The Yankee pitchers racked up 12 strikeouts despite a rather sloppy game overall.

Final score: 11-4 Angels

Roster moves: before tonight’s game, the Yankees activated Greg Bird from the Disabled List, after ankle surgery earlier this year. To make room for him, the Yankees turned to the guys on their bench and tried to figure out who would get the least starts now, but could benefit from getting high quality starts in AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. They settled on Ronald Torreyes. And that set off an online firestorm. I don’t think most people even realized what a huge fan base Torreyes had until they optioned him to Scranton.

This, of course, prompted a lot of discussion looking forward to the trade deadline at the end of July that is fast approaching. Any player who is faltering or having a bad night is automatically assumed for the chopping block, but the truth is that the trade market is for those with long-term potential. The ones at the highest danger of being traded are those that are actually pretty good, not those who are having issues. The ones struggling have their own issues — and getting cut or demoted should be their primary concern.

But then sometimes, change in circumstances is the best thing for a player, especially a struggling one. A pitcher may need a confidence booster by pitching in a smaller market and finding his momentum that he somehow lost along the way. An infielder may need a different combination of defensive players that blend better to increase his defensive numbers. A batter may need the kind of support and mechanics found on a new team. It’s worked before. It will work again. And while it’s disappointing to lose friends and teammates and favorite players, the best for them and the best for the team is always worth the change.

Go Yankees!

Game 43: NYY vs. KC — An afternoon for a big win

Well, that makes 8 straight series wins for the Yankees, yet another strong show of offense against an opponent, and a close call when it comes to this crazy Spring weather. Yes, Kauffman Stadium had the tarp over the infield for most of the morning, and despite a predicted stormy afternoon, the rain stayed in the cloudy skies so the game could go on.

Plus, Sonny Gray was just amazing today. He threw 4 no-hitter innings and kept the Royals scoreless for most of the game. In fact, in his 8 innings, he threw 92 pitches, gave up just 4 hits and a walk, and struck out 5. The lone allowed run for the home team came in his final inning. A lead-off single moved to 2nd on a ground out and later scored on a 2-out single. AJ Cole closed out the game with a quick 13 pitches.

But Gray had quite a bit of leeway when it came to his strong start. The Yankees’ offense came alive in the 4th inning. Hicks led-off with a walk and then scored as part of Tyler Austin’s 2-run home run. Andujar tripled and then scored on Austin Romine’s single. All before the Royals got an out that inning. In the 5th, Stanton hit a 1-out double and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ triple. Hicks easily scored when Tyler Austin hit his 2nd 2-run home run of the afternoon.

The Royals went into their bullpen, but it didn’t stop the Yankees’ advance. In the 8th, Romine doubled, moved to 3rd on Torreyes’ single, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s single. Judge’s walk loaded the bases, before a wild pitch would score Ronald Torreyes. And then to cap it off, the Yankees revved up the power in the 9th with solo home runs by Miguel Andujar and Austin Romine.

Final score: 10-1 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: the Yankees are on their way to Arlington (the Dallas area) for their final stop on this road trip against the Rangers for 3 games. They’ll head back to the Bronx next weekend to face the Angels and the Astros.

Didi Gregorius got the day off today in the middle of this “slump”. But honestly, it just reminds me of the old saying by the great Yogi Berra: “Slump? I ain’t in no slump… I just ain’t hitting.” But he had a super hot start to the season, something the Yankees really depended on in some stickier times. In the same way that you can’t always be “hot”, you certainly can’t always be “slumping”. It will even out eventually, and those Didi cheers will be back before you know it.

Go Yankees!