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!

Game 33: CLE vs. NYY — Sonny times defeat Cleveland defensive errors

The Yankees have won 14 of their last 15 games, something that actually has people talking all around the league, because it’s the first time they’ve done so since 1998. (And we all know what happened that year.) Plus, it was a perfect Saturday afternoon for a game, this middle game in the weekend series against the visiting Indians.

Sonny Gray had a much better outing than many of his earlier games this season, throwing 93 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up 4 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and striking out 7 batters. His 2 allowed runs were a 2-out solo home run in the 5th and a ground-rule double that later scored on a ground out.

Chad Green really was the pitcher worth watching today, going 2 full scoreless and hitless innings and throw a dominant and efficient 24 pitches in the 7th and 8th innings, getting 4 of his 6 outs with strong strikeouts. David Robertson closed out the game with 2 more strikeouts in his 9th inning.

Meanwhile, like the Indians, the Yankees’ batters really didn’t get much offenive opportunities until the 5th. With 1 out, Walker and Andujar walked, and Torres singled to load the bases. Then Austin Romine worked a walk to score Walker. Ronald Torreyes hit into a play that ended up moving everyone up 2 bases thanks to 2 errors, so Andujar and Torres both scored, leaving Romine and Torreyes in scoring position. Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly scored Romine.

A new pitcher in the 7th gave up a 1-out double to Romine, after quite the embattled at-bat. The Indians needed to switch some defenders due to an injury where the fielder trying to get Romine’s long-hit ball rammed into the back fence. Romine would go on to score on Gardner’s 2-out single.

Final score: 5-2 Yankees

Injury updates: as you know if you’ve been following this team this season, early last month seemed plagued with injuries. Fortunately, the team has been relatively healthy for a few weeks now, and those on the DL are working their way back as soon as possible. Brandon Drury found a specialist in New York that located an irritated nerve on his neck that has been causing his migraines for years. He is receiving regular treatments, and it’s paying off — his time with AAA Scranton (and now with AA Trenton) have been rather productive. The Yankees aren’t in rush with him as Andujar, Torres, and Torreyes have been outstanding for the Yankees as pinch-bench players in both their offense and defense.

Despite being out for 6-8 weeks with elbow strain, Jordan Montgomery was simply glad it wasn’t going to be the dreaded Tommy John surgery for him, which would mean 12-18 months recovery time. It’s something every pitcher dreads and sits in the back of their minds every time there’s an elbow pain of any kind. So a few weeks must sound like a decent option. It’s not great, but they can make it work on all ends. Especially as Domingo German will get his first MLB start tomorrow against the Indians in the finale of this series.

And speaking of pitchers, Tommy Kahnle and Adam Warren are back throwing after experiencing some shoulder and back issues (respectively), so the Yankees hope to have these reliable relievers back in the bullpen before the end of the month.

My uncle, the one who’s a huge “Tribe” fan (or a person who roots for Cleveland), texted me after the Yankees won today to tell me that the Yankees were “looking good” and that his team was suffering from “no-bullpen-itis”. I can understand that feeling, as both teams seem to suffer most of their injuries in the bullpen this season (as reflected in the above injury report). But to me, that says more about the difference in their farm systems to rely on those guys when injuries hit the major league level.

So kudos to the Yankees for having the smarts to build the organization deep. And this says far too much about the AL Central because even with these 2 losses, the Indians still lead the division and are the only team above .500. Meanwhile, the Yankees are now just a half-game behind the Red Sox in the AL East, something that clearly will change with the coming series next week.

Go Yankees!

Game 31: NYY vs. HOU — Late inning heroics

I think the Yankees can officially declare this road trip a huge success. I mean, the sweep in Anaheim was a big deal, but taking 3 of the 4 games from last year’s World Series Champions (and the team that beat them in the ALCS) really sealed that victory feeling as they fell home today.

The Yankees got ahead of the Astros once again and kept it that way for most of the game. They loaded up the bases in the 2nd with Sanchez’s walk, Walker’s hit-by-pitch, and Andujar’s short single. Ronald Torreyes hit into another short single to keep those bases loaded and score Sanchez. Then Gleyber Torres hit a long sacrifice fly that scored Walker and get the first out of the inning. Two outs later and runners were stranded on base. Then in the 3rd, Gregorius hit a 1-out double, watched Sanchez work a 2-out walk, and then scored on Neil Walker’s single.

This offensive jump-start gave their starter a bit of leeway too. Masahiro Tanaka got the start this afternoon and really had a pretty good outing over all for the first 6 innings of his outing. He was cruising along at just 73 pitches through those 6 scoreless innings and only giving up 3 hits and no walks, with 5 strike outs. But then he got into some trouble in the 7th. He gave up consecutive singles and then hit the next batter. (Or maybe he didn’t, as the Yankees’ challenge of that call was upheld and not confirmed, though honestly, it never even brushed the sleeve, but they don’t ask my perspective at MLB HQ.)

So it was on to Chad Green with the bases loaded and no outs in the 7th. He gave up 2 short singles that kept the bases loaded and scored the first 2 runners, and a messy passed ball scored one more moving the remaining runners to scoring position, the tying run at that point. He finally got an out with a stellar strikeout, and a ground out scored another run for the Astros to put them in a narrow lead. A lead-off solo home run in the 8th gave the Astros an insurance run. And an out later, the Yankees turned to Chasen Shreve for a quick 9-pitch 2 outs to close out the 8th and shut the door on any possible furthering of the Astros’ lead.

And then the Yankees had quite the 9th inning, starting (as all big innings do today) by loading up the bases on this new reliever. Walker walked, Andujar singled, and Hicks singled. The Astros called in another new reliever, but that didn’t stop the Yankees. Gleyber Torres singled and scored both Walker and Andujar (making his RBI count at 3 tonight) that also moved Hicks to 3rd. After an out that was too short to score Hicks, Aaron Judge hit into a little grounder that the Astros fielded poorly, only getting the force out at 2nd and failing to “turn two”. So Hicks was able to score the winning run.

And I say winning because Aroldis Chapman came on for the bottom of the 9th and got a pretty good save, striking out the Astros’ best hitter (and last year’s MVP, I might add).

Final score: 6-5 Yankees, Yankees win series 3-1

Not a bad way to end a road trip.

Next up: The Yankees head home to face the Indians this weekend (their 2017 ALDS foes), and then after an off day on Monday, they will host the Red Sox and Athletics for 3 games each through next weekend to complete this 9-game home stand. Momentum is everything, and the Yankees will need it to get through this home stand as both their first 2 opponents are sitting at the top of their respective divisions.

I’m not much for standings this early in the seasons, but it’s worth noting that the Yankees are 5 games ahead of the Indians and just 1.5 games behind the Red Sox in the AL. (And a game ahead of the Astros now, if you’re wondering where all the leaders land on the chart.) But I’ll warn everyone a simple thing — this means so much of nothing. We’ve watched just 31 games this season. That means there’s 131 games left to play (about 81% of the season left). A whole lot can change between now and the September call-up, and there’s always a dark horse that comes out of nowhere and surprises the world with this just outstanding performance later in the season.

So, hold on to something, we’ve got a long way to go.

Go Yankees!