NLCS 1: LAD vs. MIL — Early stumbles make a hard come back

After a few non-baseball days, the next series of games began tonight to determine which final two teams would advance to the coming World Series. In the National League, the Dodgers faced off against the Brewers and certainly stumbled their way through the game.

The Dodgers sent their best pitcher Kershaw to the mound to kick off this series, and it wasn’t a great outcome because his defense wasn’t playing at the level they were at the previous series. The Brewers pieced together their bullpen for a pitching staff tonight and had much better luck until the end when their holes started showing.

The Dodgers got on the board first, with a lead-off solo home run in the 2nd by the recently acquired star Machado. But the Brewers tied up the game with their own lead-off homer in the 3rd. Then they loaded the bases with a single, a walk, and a catcher’s interference before a sacrifice fly and missed catch error scored a run.

In the 4th, the Dodgers gave up a walk and single that put runners on the corners due in part to another missed catch error. A single scored both those runners to double the Brewers’ score. That runner then stole 2nd, which was marked as safe after an overturned challenge, and then scored on a 2-out single. And a lead-off solo home run in the 7th added the insurance run the Brewers ended up needing.

So, down by 5 runs, the Dodgers needed some power to even attempt a comeback in the 8th. A lead-off single was forced out on a grounder, then a new reliever gave up a single and a 2-out walk to load the bases. With another new reliever, a single scored the first two runners and another single scored the next one to edge the Dodgers closer. Down to their last out in the 9th, the Dodgers worked a walk that scored on an RBI triple before a strikeout ended the Dodgers rally just short of a win or possible tie.

Final score: 6-5 Brewers, Brewers lead series 1-0

And in Yankee Universe news: now that their season is over, the Yankee news is filled with conversations about potential off-season trades, free agent signings and re-signings, and injuries and surgeries. A few popular veterans are technically up for free agency or a contract buy-out option this off-season like Gardner, Happ, Britton, McCutchen, Robertson, and Sabathia, all of whom had a major impact in the Yankees’ drive to the postseason. So it will be interesting to see which players will be in pinstripes and which will be in opposing uniforms next season.

Meanwhile, the Yankees announced that CC Sabathia had surgery today to clean-up his problematic knee. It’s the same surgery he had last year before the season, and it seemed to work for him, having quite the successful season. Sabathia has made it clear he wants one more season, specifically with the Yankees as he wants to go to London with the team, and (more importantly) he wants another victory parade.

And in rather surprising news, it seems that Didi Gregorius partially torn his UCL in one of the first 2 ALDS games at Fenway and then played the rest of the series with that injury without telling anyone. It certainly explains some lackluster (and very un-Didi-like) defense in a few of the games. He will undergo Tommy John surgery to repair the injured elbow ligament.

Now, because he’s not a pitcher, the recovery time is shorter, which means Spring and early games of 2019 are out. But once he has the surgery, they can set a more definite timeline. Realistically, he will rejoin the team sometime before the All-Star Break. But I think everyone would rather have a fully recovered, healthy Gregorius than a hurting one.

Go Yankees!

Game 156: NYY vs. TB — Bullpens’ night to shine

The Yankees begin their final week of the season with a trip down to Tampa Bay for a 4-game series. For quite a few games this season, the Rays have been using their bullpen for their every day pitching staff, splitting games between their bullpen with no real starter. This was due in part to early injuries and trades of their starting pitching stars, but it’s worked for them, as they’re finishing well above .500 and just a few game out of the second Wild Card spot.

So, the Yankees decided to follow their lead and pieced together their own bullpen pitching day for tonight’s opener. And it worked, starting with Holder and Tarpley each taking a scoreless inning.

Sonny Gray came on for a scoreless 3rd, but had a few issues in the 4th. He gave up a lead-off double that moved to 3rd on a passed ball, held on base with a single, and then scored on a double play to get the Rays their lone run. After Gray, the Yankees breezed through their bullpen allowing an inning each to Green, Robertson, Chapman, Betances, and then Britton for the save.

But the Yankees knew how to hit into the Rays’ staff and take the opportunities when they were given. Andrew McCutchen started things off with a 1-out solo home run in the 3rd into the left field seats.

And in the 5th, with 2 outs, Judge worked a walk, moved to 2nd on a passed ball, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s single. Giancarlo Stanton’s double scored Gardner before Stanton got thrown out going for 3rd to end the inning. And McCutchen hit a 1-out double in the 7th and then scored on Aaron Judge’s double.

Final score: 4-1 Yankees

Injury updates: Aaron Hicks came out of the game in the 4th due to a tight hamstring. At first, I think people were concerned this might be a lingering issue with the ankle bruise from fouling off a ball from his ankle Saturday just before he hit the walk-off single. But it was the hamstring. Fortunately, there is a plethora of outfielders on the roster, but Hicks is quite the contributor in the field and in the box.

Didi Gregorius is feeling better after sustaining a torn cartilage in his wrist on that aforementioned walk-off win on Saturday. The cortisone shot seems to be working, and Gregorius is hoping to be back before the end of the season or at least to play in the Wild Card game.

Okay, no more injuries, people. I know that at this point in the year that everyone’s a bit banged up. But take care of yourselves. We’re hoping for a full Yankees roster for a great (and full) postseason.

And in a fun pre-game adventure, the Tampa Bay area was hit with a sudden major storm, filled with lightning, thunder, and buckets of rain. Now, the Trop is a dome, so no need for a rain delay. But the lightning struck the Trop as the thunder kind of shook the building. And the lights and all the power went out.

Pre-game promos were halted for a bit as generators kicked in and kept auxiliary lights on, while the building had to be rebooted. The main lights on the field, for example, take quite a bit of time to power up, especially if they’ve been suddenly turned off. It certainly made for an interesting start to the night.

Go Yankees!

Game 145: NYY vs. MIN — Big offense falls short against big offense

In a game where a team can make great defense plays and hit some major offense, it’s unfortunate when the other team can do the same, despite being below .500 and officially eliminated from the postseason. But the reality is that most teams under .500 aren’t there because they’re terrible (well, a few of them are). They’re having a losing season because they’ve been inconsistent.

Inconsistency will sink a team every time. They go through really terrible streaks at the worst possible times in the schedule, and hit those random highs in the weirdest times, usually against teams they should lose easily to. Let me also clarify that the Yankees have moments of inconsistency, but they have not been consistently inconsistent. It’s why they’re still very much in the postseason picture, though the A’s are just 2 games behind them now in the Wild Card race.

Sonny Gray was called on for a spot-start in this middle game against the Twins and had a tough go of it. He threw 63 pitches in his 3 innings, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 3 runs (2 earned), and struck out just 2 Minnesota batters. He did hold off the home team until the 3rd inning. He loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a single. A passed ball scored the lead runner and moved the other runners into scoring position, something they did on a 2-RBI single, before he got out of the inning.

Jonathan Loaisiga took over in the 4th, but even he had issues against the Twins. In the 4th, a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a ground out and then scored on a 2-out double. But it would be the 5th inning that combined for the real blow to the Yankees tonight. Loaisiga loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a single before giving up another walk to score the lead runner and a 1-out single scored another.

So with bases loaded, Loaisiga responsible for all the base runners, it would be Tommy Kahnle to the mound in the relief. But a missed pitch became a monster home run grand slam over the center field wall to ensure the Twins’ eventual win. After a single, the Yankees’ defense kicked into gear and got a great double play to end this terrible inning.

Stephen Tarpley had the best outing of the Yankee pitchers tonight, throwing 2 solid, scoreless innings. All the while, Yankee Universe was hoping for a bit of a late-inning comeback rally.

The Twins also pieced together their pitching staff tonight, matching the bullpen-heavy names on the Yankee pitching roster. But the Yankees made every effort to not just hand the victory to the Twins (despite what happened above). They got on the board first in the 2nd when Didi Gregorius hit a 1-out triple and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s sacrifice fly.

After the Twins’ big 5th inning, the Yankees had their own big inning in the top of the 6th. With 1 out, they loaded up the bases with Hicks, Andujar, and Stanton. The Twins went to their bullpen again, and the new pitcher promptly gave up a home run grand slam to Didi Gregorius, his 2nd career grand slam.

Riding high on that, the Yankee offense were looking to continue that momentum in a late-inning rally. It just never came. The Twins’ final 2 pitchers in the last third of the game kept the Yankees off the bases, thus away from their large lead.

Final score: 10-5 Twins

I would post about the status of the postseason. However, while the AL is a bit more clear-cut, with the biggest competition happening in the AL West, the NL picture is really competitive with 8 teams still competing for a wildcard spot, and 6 of those with a legitimate chance. The AL may be set soon as the final 2 weeks of games within the division approaches. But the NL is going to go down to the wire.

Finally, I want to once again recognize the lives and legacy of the men and women we lost 17 years ago on this day in New York, D.C. and Pennsylvania. We honor your memories again today and pray for your families as they continue to find their “new normal” with your daily absence. We will never forget.

Go Yankees!

Game 141: NYY vs. SEA — #TanakaTime Shutout

Clearly something happened in the Yankees’ journey to the Emerald City. They might not have met the Wizard, they might have even lost their luggage, but they found their heart.

Masahiro Tanaka was just on point in tonight’s opener in this weekend series in Seattle. He shut out the home team with 102 pitches in 8 innings, allowing just 3 hits, and getting 10 impressive strikeouts. David Robertson followed Tanaka’s start with a great 9th inning, adding a strikeout of his own to the running tally tonight.

The Yankee batters had a bit of fun in first third of the game, setting the results of the game with a couple of good hits. In the 2nd, with 2 outs, Voit singled and then scored as part of Gleyber Torres’ 2-run home run, his 23rd homer of the season. Then Gardner led-off the 3rd with a single and scored on Andrew McCutchen’s 2-run home run to secure the Yankees’ win.

The Yankees would only get a couple more hits tonight, so the game became more about maintaining that early lead, something Tanaka (and then Robertson) and the Yankee defense did rather well.

Final score: 4-0 Yankees

Roster moves/injury updates: The Yankees activated Didi Gregorius off the disabled list. Gregorius, recovering from a badly bruised heel last month, is taking it slow on the return. Thanks to new additions and the recent September call-ups, there’s no real rush to push the recently recovered player in the game just yet. But he’s there if they need him off the bench, as he did tonight for the latter half of the game.

And Aaron Judge is taking more swings and getting back into regular exercises. Still hitting off a tee, he’s also working on short-distance tosses for some light batting practice. And with no prominent pain as a result of the effort, things are looking good for his return some time soon. Still no definite return date yet, but again, the new additions to the roster are helping bridge the gap until he’s ready for some major league swings.

Finally, we wish Sonny and Jessica Gray and their family a huge congratulations. They recently welcomed their son Declan to the family. Gray missed the Oakland series on paternity leave but is back with the team now. Another Yankee, another “Baby Pickles”.

Go Yankees!

Game 137: DET vs. NYY — Sunday split

Well, that was messy. I know I’ve said it a lot on here in the six years that I’ve been keeping this blog, but the old saying is so quite true — “if you don’t got pitching, you don’t got anything.” And it’s games like this afternoon’s game that proves that mantra’s eternal truth.

Lance Lynn just couldn’t find his momentum in today’s finale against the Tigers. He threw 82 pitches into the 4th inning, gave up 9 hits, a walk, and 6 runs, and struck out 6 Detroit batters on his way to today’s loss. In the 1st, a 1-out triple easily scored on a 2-out single to get the Tigers’ big afternoon started.

With 1 out in the 2nd, he gave up a single that moved to 2nd on another single and then scored on a double. But when a walk loaded the bases, their great defense kicked in and got a double play to end the threat. Then in the 4th, Lynn repeated the action — 2 singles and an RBI double. Then another double scored 2 more runs for the visitors.

And with that, Lynn’s outing was over. Tommy Kahnle came in to try to stem the tide but promptly gave up a 2-run home run. He then handed the ball over to Sonny Gray for the next 4 innings. Gray had a better outing than most of the other Yankee pitchers today, limiting the damage to just 4 hits, a walk, and a run over through the 8th inning. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo homer in the 6th.

Stephen Tarpley got the chance to close out the game in the 9th inning. But even he had some issues. He loaded up the bases with a double and 2 walks with 2 outs. Then he gave up a couple of singles to score 3 more runs. Yankee pitchers gave up a total of 17 hits. It was just not pretty.

But it wasn’t like the Yankees were completely shut out of the game. Aaron Hicks got things started early, with a 1-out solo home run in the 1st. Andujar then doubled and scored on Gary Sanchez’s single (good to have him back on the roster). Luke Voit added his own impact with a solid 1-out solo home run in the 4th.

Held to those runs for the bulk of the game, the Yankees found their next shot in the 8th. McCutchen led-off the inning by getting hit by a pitch, moved to 2nd on Hicks’ walk, and then scored on Miguel Andujar’s single. They later loaded up the bases with 2 outs and a new reliever, and Neil Walker’s short single just scored Andujar. But a fly out left the bases loaded.

So, with just 3 outs left, the Yankees had one last shot to chip away at the Tigers’ lead in the bottom of the 9th. But the Tigers’ closer (and former Yankee) got a quick 2 outs. The Yankees came back and loaded up the bases with Hicks’ walk, Andujar’s single, and Sanchez’s walk. Gleyber Torres hit a nice single to drive in both Hicks and Andujar. But a strikeout closed out the game without

Final score: 11-7 Tigers, and they split the series 2-2.

Next up: The Yankees hit the road and head out to the West Coast for 3 games against the Athletics starting tomorrow. Following an off-day on Thursday, they begin a weekend series in Seattle before a series against the Twins. After another off-day/travel day, they will return home for a 9-game home stand, their final home stand of the season. Then, the Yankees will end this season on the road with 7 games.

And Aaron Boone watched today’s game from a suite instead of the dugout due to his punishment from his ejection on Friday. He had some issues with the strike zone and made a much-discussed show of why he disagreed with the home plate umpire’s calls. Due to his “display”, the league opted to suspend him a game and fine him as punishment. Bench coach Josh Bard served as interim manager for today’s game.

Roster moves/injury updates: Before today’s game, the Yankees continued their September roster expansion by recalling reliever Jonathan Loaisiga from AA Trenton. It also looks like Didi Gregorius may be headed back to the line-up sometime next week, hopefully when the team plays Seattle next weekend. His bruised heel is making a recovery and Gregorius continues treatments and working out with the team as the injury will allow.

Go Yankees!

Games 128 & 129: NYY vs. BAL — Double the wins, double the fun

It was a good day for a doubleheader in Baltimore today. And the Yankees were raring to go and chip away at the Red Sox’s lead in the AL East, while showing their strength to the good contingency of fans that showed up at Camden Yards for both games.

Game 1 (Make-up game of rain-out June 3)
JA Happ got the start for the first game of this doubleheader, the second game of this weekend series, and the make-up game from a rain out in June. And Happ continued his strong show as a starter, throwing 107 pitches in 6 innings, giving up 5 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and striking out 9 Baltimore batters. Those allowed runs came in the 2nd, easily his weakest inning. With 1 out, he gave up a walk and a double that scored on a long single.

But then he stayed strong and kept the Orioles from doing much else. His lone reliever for the game, Luis Cessa, followed suit for the final third of the game. In fact, it wasn’t until the 9th inning that he gave the Orioles another chance. A lead-off single got out on a grounder the Yankees couldn’t turn into a double play. That new runner then took 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a 2-out single. But 1 out later, that was it for the O’s.

Meanwhile, the Yankees fell into a nice momentum in the batter’s box. In the 1st, with 1 out, Stanton walked, moved to 3rd on Hicks’ double, and scored on Miguel Andujar’s ground out. Robinson led-off the 3rd with a single, moved to 2nd on Gardner’s walk, and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ 1-out single. Andujar followed that up with a big 3-run home run.

With 1 out in the 4th, Robinson doubled and ended the Orioles’ starter’s afternoon early. Of course, it didn’t help that the first reliever promptly gave up a 2-run home run to Brett Gardner. Andujar then led-off the 5th with a single, ended up at 3rd on Torres’ single, and scored on Luke Voit’s single. And solo home run by Gleyber Torres in the 8th and Aaron Hicks in the 9th capped off the Yankees’ early show.

Final score (Game 1): 10-3 Yankees

Game 2 (regularly scheduled game)
Sonny Gray got a shot at as starter again in the second game of today. And he too had a great out, really better than his teammate in the early game. Gray kept the Orioles scoreless as he threw just 79 pitches into the 7th, gave up 3 hits and a walk, and struck out 7 batters to earn his 10th win this season.

Holder followed him by closing out the 7th and throwing a scoreless 8th. But Tommy Kahnle had a bit of trouble as the Orioles got to their final inning. He gave up a 1-out double that moved to 3rd on a 2-out single before scoring on a single. With the Yankees just needing to get out of the game, they called on Betances who got the final out in just 5 pitches, leaving runners stranded at the corners.

But to back Gray’s scoreless start, the Yankees needed to not be scoreless. And today was a good day for the Yankees to prove they are still the home run kings and one of the runs scored leaders. Gardner led-off the game in the 1st with a big ground-rule double and shortly scored on Aaron Hicks’ single to start the game right for the Yankees.

In the 2nd, the Yankees loaded the bases with singles to Torres, Romine, and Torreyes. A wild pitch had all the runners moving up and barely scoring Gleyber Torres. A sloppy fielder’s choice allowed Gardner to make it to 1st and Romine to score. Then in the 4th, with 1 out, Romine singled and later scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s 2-out single. Austin Romine led-off the 9th inning with a solo home run to cap off the Yankees’ run show today.

Final score (Game 2): 5-1 Yankees

Okay, so the make-up game from earlier was a win, which means that the Yankees officially swept the Orioles 3-0 for the weekend of June 1-3. And the Yankees are just a game short of doing so again this weekend. So fingers crossed, Yankee Universe, for another strong win tomorrow night.

Roster moves: As allowed by MLB, the Yankees called up their 26th man for the doubleheader today. They chose Luis Cessa, who certainly helped the Yankees seal their victory in that first game. Cessa, of course, was sent back to “the farm” once the games were over, but he’s been a solid choice for the Yankees for this kind of long-term relief.

Go Yankees!

Game 124: TOR vs. NYY — A clean sweep in this celebratory weekend

After all the fuss about the past this weekend, including a fun giveaway of replicas of the 1998 Championship ring to fans today, the Yankees were looking at closing the door to this series and homestand on a positive note and go into their road trip strong. JA Happ was just the man for the job as he got his first start against his old team and proved that he fits in rather nicely in pinstripes.

In this final game of the weekend series and the homestand, Happ threw 103 pitches into the 6th, gave up 7 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and struck out an impressive 8 Toronto batters to earn the win this afternoon. In the 1st, after 2 quick outs, he gave up a big solo home run to get the Jays on the board early. But despite giving up a couple singles, he got out of the inning without further damage. He held his former team scoreless through the next 4 innings, before giving up a lead-off solo shot in the 6th.

After giving up a double and then getting his 8th strikeout, the Yankees opted to go to Jonathan Holder. Holder got his first batter out and then watched as Higashioka caught the runner stealing 3rd. And the question on everyone’s mind: Why was he stealing 3rd with 2 outs? Holder continued on through the 7th with a clean outing before handing the ball over to Sonny Gray for 2 strong innings to close out the game. Gray is certainly finding his place in the bullpen and becoming quite the reliable fixture there.

Now, Blue Jays’ starter had a less than ideal afternoon. The Yankees dinged into his start right in the 1st and didn’t let up. Hicks and Stanton worked walks and moved up in a double steal. Hicks then scored on Miguel Andujar’s single, and Stanton scored on Didi Gregorius’ troubled single (more below). Torres’ wimpy single loaded the bases for Greg Bird to hit a powerful grand slam into the 2nd deck of the right field seats.

Finally getting a couple of outs, the Blue Jays called his outing over and turned it over to their bullpen, who did a much better job of keeping the Yankees from adding to their lead. After a few relievers kept the Yankees scoreless, Gardner led-off the 6th with a single, moved to 2nd on Hicks’ walk, and then scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s single.

But they weren’t done yet. Andujar hit into an attempt at a double play, but the Jays’ defense only got the out at 2nd and Andujar beat the ball to 1st. Hicks scored either way, but the Blue Jays wasted their challenged on that call that was rightly upheld. Torreyes doubled and moved Andujar to 3rd, and Torres was intentionally walked to load up the bases.

Bird then hit into a baby grounder that the defense snapped into action to get Andujar trying to come home. The defense also tried to get Bird headed for 1st but a high throw pulled the 1st baseman off the bag as Bird touched the base. It was close, but with no challenges left, there wasn’t much the Blue Jays could do. That didn’t sit well with their manager, who was already fairly heated up from some earlier bad plays, and got himself thrown out of the game.

Anyway, after the drama died down, Kyle Higashioka hit a solid single that scored both Torreyes and Torres to cap off the Yankees’ scoring. A new reliever once again helped settle the Yankee bats, something the final reliever (and former Yankee reliever) kept going to closer out the game.

Final score: 10-2 Yankees, Yankees sweep the series 3-0

Next up: The Yankees have a scheduled off-day that will also be a bit of a travel day. They will then face the Marlins for a quick 2-game series in Miami, before they enjoy another off/travel day. Then they face the Orioles in Baltimore for a 4-game series, or rather 3 regular games and a make-up game (from a rain-out last month) early on Saturday. And then it’s back home to the Bronx for 7 games (White Sox and Tigers) before they head out to the West Coast.

Injury alert: Didi Gregorius hit that single in the 1st and kind of stumbled over the 1st baseman in the process. And somewhere between hitting the base, smacking into the other player, and landing on the ground on the other side of the base, he incurred a bruised heel. After he scored on Bird’s grand slam, they ended up pulling him from the game in the 3rd, allowing utility fielder Torreyes a chance to play today. He will undergo further testing before a timeline for recovery is announced, but I imagine a small stint on the DL is to be expected.

Go Yankees!