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 38: OAK vs. NYY — Another disappointing loss and still MLB leaders

Well, that was… disappointing. After such a long win streak, it’s just disappointing (there is no other word, really) to drop 2 games in a row, and that “come from behind” momentum they got used to during their streak wasn’t coming on as strong as it did just last week.

Sonny Gray got the start in the series opener against the visiting Athletics. And his struggles this year seem to continue as he gave the A’s an early lead that sent the Yankees into playing catch-up all game. Gray threw 93 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 9 hits, 3 walks, and 5 runs, and struck out just 2 Oakland batters.

In the 2nd, he gave up a lead-off solo shot to start the run-scoring. Then after allowing a single, a 2-run home run caused the sold-out crowd to start groaning. But then he got the 3 outs in fairly quick succession. And then it was the 3rd inning, and Gray gave up 3 consecutive singles, the last of which scored a run. Then despite later loading up the bases, he got of that jam with a great defensive fly out. And a double led-off the 4th, moved to 3rd on a single, and then scored on a ground out.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were held off by the Athletics’ starter for most of the game, so they grabbed their offensive opportunities in small doses like Gleyber Torres’ 1-out solo home run in the 3rd. And in the 5th, Andujar reached 1st on a fielding error, Gardner worked a 2-out walk, and then they both scored on Aaron Judge’s 3-run home run into the right field seats to put the Yankees within a single run of the Athletics’ lead.

David Hale came on in relief of Gray in the 6th for 3 inning and had his own struggles, giving up a 2-out solo home run in the 6th and then a 1-out solo homer in the 8th. David Robertson was called on to close out the 9th, but even he had trouble. With 1 out, he loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a failed fielder’s choice so that a double cleared all the bases and eased the A’s into a big victory.

The Yankees had a minor hope for a rally in the 7th inning. With the starter out and a new pitcher on the mound, Andujar and Romine each singled and moved into scoring position on Torres’ sacrifice bunt. After a new reliever came in, Gardner worked a walk in just 4 pitches to load the bases. Then Aaron Judge stepped in, and the Bronx came alive with hope, only to be slightly dimmed due to the reliever ending up walking Judge and thus Andujar in for an easy run. Another new reliever and 2 outs later, the bases were still loaded and the rally stranded and stalled.

Final score: 10-5 Athletics

Last year, June 29 to be exact, the Yankees called up a young prospect Dustin Fowler to make his MLB debut. In the very 1st inning in Chicago, the rookie outfielder slammed against the back wall and ruptured a tendon in his knee that would require surgery, ending his 2017 season. In the process of his recovery, the Yankees orchestrated a trade with today’s opponents, the Athletics, that sent prospects Fowler, Mateo, and Kaprielian to Oakland in exchange for tonight’s pitcher Sonny Gray (and international bonus slot money). Tonight, Fowler finally got an at-bat at Yankee Stadium, or actually 5, in which he also got a hit and a run scored.

Injury updates: Drury, Bird, and McKinney are all in the midst of their rehab assignments and doing quite well. As far as returning, there doesn’t seem to be any rush because despite tonight’s outcome (and yesterday’s), the Yankees are still in 1st place in the AL East and in all of baseball. Sure, they’re sharing the spot with the Red Sox, but 1st is 1st.

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 28: NYY vs. HOU — Streak snapped at 9

Of course most of the conversation leading up to this series would be a “rematch of the ALCS” because it is a match-up of last year’s teams from the ALCS. It’s just not 2017 any more. Thought try telling the Astros’ starter that.

Sonny Gray got the start for this first game of this series in Houston. And he actually had a pretty stellar start — throwing 97 pitches in 6 innings, giving up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs, and striking out 4 batters. In the 1st, Gray gave up a lead-off single and then balked and advanced the runner to 2nd. That runner scored 2 ground outs later.

In the 4th, a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a walk and then scored on a double. The next batter hit into a fielder’s choice that the Yankees defense quickly used to get the out at home. A walk loaded the bases, but then a well-placed strikeout and line drive ended the Astros’ threat.

In fact, other than those 2 innings, Gray kept things really clean and the Astros from doing much at all. Unfortunately, the Yankees faced a similar starter from the Astros, who held a no-hitter until Romine singled in the 6th inning. Even then, they weren’t able to do much off him, only getting 2 hits, 2 walks, and a single run.

In the 8th, with 2 outs, Torres doubled on the Astros’ starter’s 102nd pitch. The Astros went to their bullpen, and the Yankees sent in a pinch-hitter. Judge, who had a regular day-off today, came in and worked a walk, but that was it for that reliever. A new one came in and promptly gave up a single to Brett Gardner that also scored Torres. But that would be the Yankees’ best opportunity all night.

Betances and Holder each threw a great inning against the Astros, joining the long list of pretty good pitchers from both sides that took the mound tonight. Neither team was really hitting all that much, and it was always going to be a close game. It just fell towards the home town team tonight.

Final score: 2-1 Astros

Yes, that means the Yankees win streak ended at 9 games. But what a great run. The next streak is just around the corner. And they’ll have 3 more chances to pick it up again in Houston.

And thanks in part to that winning streak, MLB recognized Didi Gregorius as the Player of the Week, his first such honor. With a batting average like .357, 10 RBIs, and 7 runs scored, it’s really no wonder. Of those 10 RBIs, 4 of them were big home runs. Yankee fans have known Gregorius is a key part of this Yankee lineup (as well as in the clubhouse) for 3 years now, so it’s nice to see other people recognize his talent and impact.

And if you’re wondering about some injury updates: Brandon Drury is continuing his rehab with AAA Scranton. His migraines seem to be handled as he is clearly making his mark as part of the team. He may be ready to rejoin the team once they return to New York. Clint Frazier was promoted to AAA Scranton today after having four successful rehab games with Advanced-A Tampa. His concussion seems to be healed and he’s looking forward to a regular season with his team.

And Tyler Austin’s suspension is over after tonight’s game, so he will be reactivated for tomorrow’s game.

Go Yankees!

Game 23: MIN vs. NYY — Following #SirDidi to another W

In a line-up that features known 3 major power hitters, 2 of them Home Run Derby champions and the other a semi-finalist, who would have thought the biggest hitter (by average), MLB RBI leader, and team home run leader (2nd in all MLB) so far this season would be Didi Gregorius? In fact, while Stanton, Judge, and Sanchez are finally all hitting and playing well again, it’s Gregorius to lead the rest of the team and they all seem to be following suit in their own way (like we’ve seen from the likes of Andujar, Torreyes, and Austin — not bad for “bench players”).

Anyway, in Game 3 of this 4-game series against the Twins, the Yankees followed red-hot Gregorius as they dominated the visitors again tonight. Even though starter Sonny Gray continued his struggled, the Yankee defense and bats were there to help lift him up. (Something he may not get away with against a better team.) Gray threw a whopping 104 pitches into the 5th inning, giving up 6 hits, 5 walks, and 3 runs, and striking out 4 batters.

In the 1st, a batter worked a 1-out walk and then scored as part of a 2-run homer to get the Twins on the board early. Gray faltered a little, but kept things tight until he loaded up the bases with consecutive singles in the 4th. The next batter hit into a short grounder and the Yankees’ defense was only able to get the out at 2nd, so a run scored. Chad Green completed the 5th inning for Gray and sailed through the 6th before running into a spot of trouble in the 7th — a lead-off double, a walk, a strikeout, an RBI single, and a single to load the bases.

That would be it for Green, and Shreve came on for strength getting 2 quick outs to close out the inning in just 6 pitches and unscathed. Robertson powered his way through the 8th inning in just 14 pitches before handing the game to Chapman who closed out a scoreless 9th. Well, after a short review of the final play that is.

After the Twins got on the board early, the Yankees found their chances to advance when they could. In the 1st, Gardner singled, moved to 3rd on Judge’s single, and then scored the Yankees’ first run of the night on Didi Gregorius’ single. Gregorius came back in the 3rd to hit his 9th homer of the season, a solid solo shot into the right field seats to tie up the game at that point. Stanton followed that up with a single and Sanchez worked a walk, and then they both scored on Tyler Austin’s nice left-field 3-run home run to give the Yankees a solid lead.

In the 4th, Romine led-off with a walk and moved to 3rd on Torres’ double before getting thrown out on a fielder’s choice at home. Aaron Judge’s sacrifice fly then scored Torres. It’s worth noting the Twins’ starter intentionally walked Gregorius for his final batter, a good choice as the next batter hit into a fly ball out after a bit of a battle in the at-bat.

Following this, the Twins’ bullpen kept the Yankees from doing much to add to their lead, keeping them scoreless for the next few innings. It wasn’t until the 8th inning that the Yankees found another chance. Torres led-off with a single and advanced to 2nd on Gardner’s sacrifice bunt out. The reliever intentionally walked Judge and then (unintentionally?) walked Gregorius to load up the bases. Giancarlo Stanton hit a long sacrifice fly that scored Torres, and Sanchez’s walk loaded the bases again. And once again, a fly out ended hopes for a further lead. But it would be enough.

Final score: 7-4 Yankees

The final game of this series and home stand will be tomorrow afternoon, that rare Thursday matinée. It’s scheduled as such because the Yankees have to catch a flight to California to face the Angels this weekend. You ready for the first West Coast Week of the season? (aka 10pm EST game starts)

It’s also worth noting that the weather progressively got grayer over the game, with a sort of low fog settling into the stadium (as you can see on the included video clips). It was kind of damp and hazy towards the end. An interesting way to play a ball game, as I’m sure it was progressively more difficult to see those fly balls to make the necessary outs and plays. But those professional athletes just power on and power through.

Go Yankees!

Game 18: TOR vs. NYY — Not so “Sonny” & still a chilly April in the Bronx

I’m so tired of talking about the weather. But when the first pitch comes with a temperature of 46° and a wind chill of 37°, it’s hard not to factor in the lingering winter-like chill, despite the calendar clearly indicating late April. I’d blame that as to why the Blue Jays, who play in Toronto, but my argument falls short as they have a retractable roof, and most of their players are not from the frigid north. I mean, perhaps, the initial idea was to form teams from players in the area, but 149 years later, rarely do you truly get a “hometown hero”. (For reference: the Yankees have one — Dellin Betances, who was born and raised in New York and grew up a big Yankees fan.)

So I guess it’s just down to the basics — the team that scored the most runs won. And the team that pitched less clean lost. Sonny Gray just had a really tough time in tonight’s start. He threw 73 pitches into the 4th inning, giving up 5 hits, 4 walks, and 5 runs, and couldn’t strike out a Blue Jay batter at all. With 1 out in the 3rd, he gave up a walk and a 2-run home run. In the 4th, a lead-off double scored on a ground-rule double. A single put runners on the corners before both scored on a 1-out single. After giving up a walk, the Yankees opted to end Gray’s troubled night.

They brought in Domingo German in relief, and despite promptly loading up the bases with a walk, he got out of the inning with 2 short fly outs to keep the Jays from adding to their score. But German had his own troubles in the 5th. A lead-off walk, a single, and a 1-out walk loaded the bases. A short single scored one run, and a 2-out walk scored one more, before German got out of a bases-loaded jam.

Adam Warren came on in relief and promptly gave up a solo home run to lead off the 6th inning. But then quickly got 3 outs before dominating the 7th and most of the 8th and keeping the Jays from doing any further damage. Chasen Shreve closed out the 8th and sailed through the 9th — throwing just 10 pitches for his 4 outs.

It is worth noting that the Yankee pitchers gave up 9 hits and 9 walks, and their bullpen collected 7 strikeouts (as Gray got none in his start). That’s 18 allowed base runners tonight.

The Yankees actually got on the board first in the 2nd inning. Hicks worked a 1-out walk and then scored as part of Tyler Austin’s 2-run home run. In the 3rd, Gregorius hit a 2-out single and then was part of Giancarlo Stanton’s 2-run home run. And in the 4th, Miguel Andujar hit a bit 2-out solo home run.

All the Yankee runs today were scored off home runs. That says a lot about the Blue Jays’ defense tonight, as the Yankees actually racked up 11 total hits and a walk.

Final score: 8-5 Blue Jays

On the plus side: for those local Yankee fans heading out to the game this weekend, the temperatures are going to be around 60°, sunny and clear skies. In other words, Spring may peak its head out this weekend and prove some great days for baseball. Hopefully, the on-field performance will be as positive and hopeful as the Yankees finish this series against the Blue Jays.

Also, after some rather tepid (often nearing ranting level) responses to his home run call for Stanton, Yankees radio broadcaster John Sterling found a new one, which he showed off during Stanton’s 3rd inning blast. Oh, and Sterling sings. Thoughts?

Go Yankees!

Game 13: NYY vs. BOS — A rainy night in Fenway

The first half of tonight’s game was played in the middle of a constant rain storm, progressively getting worse until they had to stop the game entirely to wait out until the passing front was finished with its downpour over the Boston area. The Yankees were looking to take this series onto their next one, but the Red Sox wanted last night’s game back and get them back on their winning momentum.

Sonny Gray got the start for tonight’s finale in Fenway, throwing 68 pitches in just over 3 rainy innings, giving up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 6 runs, striking out just 3 batters. In the 2nd, he pitched his way through the line-up, all 9 batters as the Red Sox began their advance. A lead-off single moved to 2nd on a walk, to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on a single. Another walk loaded the bases, and all runners moved up on a sacrifice fly, scoring another run. A messy fielder’s choice attempt and throwing error scored another run, and left 2 runners in scoring position. Another single scored yet another run before Gray found those final 2 outs of the inning to mercifully end the Red Sox’s dominance.

The Red Sox continued their roll in the 3rd. A lead-off double scored on a ground-rule double. A wild pitch on a strikeout allowed the batter to reach safely and the other runner to move to 3rd. After another out, the next batter hit into a little grounder at 2nd to score one more run for the home team.

German came on in relief of Gray and threw a very efficient 39 pitches in his 3 innings, with Kahnle and Warren breezing through their own innings (the 7th and 8th, respectively). All three relievers found the momentum that Gray seemed to lack tonight.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox starter effectively shut down the Yankees, running a no-hitter until Judge hit a lead-off double in the 7th inning. They Yankees just weren’t hitting off him at all. They would, however, hit off his reliever. After a pretty good 8th inning, the Yankees kept him from finding an out in the 9th inning.

Judge worked a walk, and then he and Stanton benefited on 2 errors — a fielding error allowed Stanton to reach safely, a throwing error allowed Judge to land at 3rd. After Gregorius worked a walk, it would be Gary Sanchez for the big hit of the night — a 3-run bases-clearing double to finally get the Yankees on the board. A new reliever for Boston quickly got the 3 outs they needed to close out the game.

Final score: 6-3 Red Sox, Boston wins series 2-1

The rain delay during tonight’s game halted play for 45 minutes, between the 5th and 6th innings, as they waited out the weather. Not too terrible of a delay in light of things. But I cannot imagine the earlier part of the game was all that pleasant for either team. Of course, a better score might have helped the Yankees.

Next up: the Yankees travel to Detroit to face off against the Tigers.

Following up from yesterday’s melee, the league handed down its disciplines for those involved in the fracas. The pitcher who drilled Tyler Austin (Joe Kelly) received a 6-game suspension and a fine, and Tyler Austin received a 5-game suspension and a fine. They are both appealing their punishments. (They do often get reduced or overturned upon appeal, so it’s always worth the effort.)

Boston’s manager (Alex Cora) and Yankees’ 3rd base coach Phil Nevin got into it a bit themselves last night and were also fined as part of the decision today. And 4 players on the Disabled List were fined due to a violation in the rule book about not entering the playing field while on the DL. Those players are 3 Red Sox players and CC Sabathia. I don’t expect any of these players or Cora or Nevin to appeal their fines. (It’s usually upheld, so it’s not usually worth the effort.)

Roster updates: Aaron Hicks is back, finally off the disabled list where he’s been since he injured his right intercostal muscle on Opening Day in Toronto. In his place, the Yankees designated Shane Robinson for assignment. The outfield may be back sooner than expected, so take these small signs as moments of hope.

Go Yankees!