NLCS & ALCS: STL vs. WAS & NYY vs. HOU — A sweep & a struggle

Predicting baseball, especially in the postseason, is like predicting life — there’s never going to be an exact science.

NLCS: High off their power through the best team in baseball (Dodgers), the Nationals just came in and dominated the favored Cardinals in this series to sweep through their way to their first World Series.

Game 1: Honestly, this was going to be a close game either way, but the Nationals eked out a win by being the only team to actually score in this game. Part of the reason this worked in the Nats’ favor was their starter, only giving up a single hit the entire game and not until a pinch-hit single in the 8th inning. 2-0 Nationals

Game 2: The Nationals continued their strong show this postseason, but the Cards certainly showed up to play today. The Cardinals certainly had the opportunity, with their starter getting 11 strikeouts to match the Nats’ starter. But the Nats’ edged over the Cards holding them to just 3 hit and a run, with the Nats managing 3 runs off 7 hits overall. 3-1 Nationals

Game 3: Now back in their home, the Nationals began a pair of games that delighted their hometown crowd. The Nats continued their strong starters, a clear sign they might have “stacked the deck”, so to speak for this postseason in particular. But this night in particular, the bats also showed up big. 8-1 Nationals

Game 4:  This game was a little more evenly matched, with the Nationals showing their weakness a bit in a missing 4th starter. However, the Cards proved their bullpen is quite the strength for them. It was a bit of a lopsided series in that respect, with the Nationals riding the backs of their starters to the World Series. 7-4 Nationals

Nationals sweep the series 4-0 and head to the World Series.

ALCS: This was going to be a battle regardless of who was going to end up on top. The top 2 teams in the AL battling for their spot in the Series, both Championship veterans with championship-worthy teams to face off against the rookie Nationals.

Game 1: Actually, this was a great game for Yankee Universe. After sweeping through the Twins, the Yankees had quite a bit of rest to gear up for the game that ended up being “Tanaka Time”, thanks to his 1-hit wonder through 6 innings. The Yankees shutout the Astros, to the dismay of the Houston crowd, with some power homers from Torres, Stanton, and Urshela.  7-0 Yankees

Game 2: This game was actually more indicative of how this series felt and ended up. Each team duking it out behind stellar pitching, the Yankees using a compilation of throwers like Paxton, Green, and eventually Sabathia out of the bullpen. The Astros’ star starter got a bit rattled with a 2-run home run by Judge in the 4th. As the game went into extra innings, this game proved it was going to be this kind of series, with the Astros hitting a walk-off homer in the 11th to give them the game. 3-2, in 11 Astros

Game 3: The series headed to the Bronx split. The Astros got to starter Severino with a pair of early home runs in the 1st and 2nd. After a wild pitch and sac fly doubled their lead, the visitors were looking to skate their way into a shutout. But the Yankees broke that with one swing from Torres, an 8th inning solo shot into right field. They just didn’t much else. 4-1 Astros

The series had a day’s rain delay due to a freak autumn storm off the coast that brought flooding and high winds to the area. And I think all of Yankee Universe was hoping the long rest would spur a bit of deja vu, with the Yankees coming out like they did in Game 1.

Game 4: But it was not to be, despite the pitching match up being the exact same starters. After a rough 1st inning, with the Yankees scoring their first run on a walk by Gardner, the Astros collected 2 big 3-run home runs in the 3rd and 6th to take charge of the game. Tanaka was hit hard and the Yankee bats just weren’t there to support him. Sanchez added a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 6th to edge the Yankees closer, but the Astros were determined to take this game. 8-3 Astros

Game 5: Part of me did not want to watch this game for fear the Astros would win the series on New York’s turf, which is really the ultimate hardship for fans in the area. And yet, I was proved wrong. Paxton commanded from the mound, out-dueling an Astros’ star for the win. A solo homer from LeMahieu to lead-off the 1st, followed by a 3-run home run by Hicks in the same inning, handed the Yankees their eventual victory thanks to great pitching and defense for the next 8 scoreless innings. 4-1 Yankees

Game 6: Once they were back in Texas, the Astros pressed in for their home field advantage. The Yankees again used an “opener”, but the usually unflappable Green gave up 3 runs that 1st inning. And yet, the Yankees came back to tie up the game, including a 4th inning solo shot by Torres and the big 2-run homer by LeMahieu to tie it all up in the 9th inning. The Yankees were looking at winning the game in extra innings right up until Chapman left a high slider up for the Astros’ batter to hit a walk-off 2-run home run. This stunned the entire Yankee team, after they battled back to tie up the game, especially Chapman, who barely moved from the mound until the batter was rounding 2nd. 6-4 Astros

Astros win in 6 to advance to the World Series.

My predictions: So, I’m not getting any better at this predicting thing this season. I knew the ALCS was going to be a struggle this season, but I can honestly say I never saw the Nationals coming. Partly because I don’t follow the NL that closely, and partly because they’ve been such a mixed bag of a team in recent seasons.

  • NLCS: Cardinals over Nationals in 6 games — Nationals in 4
  • ALCS: Yankees over Astros in 7 games — Astros in 6

Now for the World Series: (And let’s be honest, I’ve got no horse in this race any more.)

  • Nationals over Astros in 6 games

The hardest part about this postseason now is not watching the final lap of CC Sabathia. This weekend, he wrote a touching note to the fans to say “goodbye” and posted it on his social media as a final farewell to baseball. No final ride through the canyon of heroes, no extra ring for the souvenir cabinet, no last chance for a Bronx victory. No, next stop for the great pitcher will be that special weekend in Cooperstown.

Go Yankees!

NLDS & ALDS: ATL vs. STL, WAS vs. LAD & TB vs. HOU, MIN vs. NYY — 3 Game 5s & a 3-game sweep

There is nothing normal about the postseason most years, and this year continues to prove this once again. Three of the series went to a Game 5, and only one series was a sweep. And none of those is what you might expect.

NLDS A: The Cardinals and Braves duked it out through 5 games, and it wasn’t until the 5th that the Cardinals came on strong and just made the decision to win this series.

Game 1: Actually, the Braves had this game right up until the final inning, when the Cards came out swinging. The Braves just could not catch up in the end. 7-6 Cardinals

Game 2:
The Braves decided they weren’t going to let the series head to St. Louis without a hometown win, using this game to prove why they came out on top of the NL East by blanking the visiting Cardinals. 3-0 Braves

Game 3: This was one of those super tight games, with the Cards eking a single run by the Braves until the 9th. The visitors scored 3 big runs in that inning and ended up taking the lead in the series. 3-1 Braves

Game 4: Another nail biter in the series, as the game was tied and went into the 10th inning before the Cardinals got a walk-off home run to tie up the series. 5-4, in 10 Cardinals

Game 5: Back in Atlanta, the Braves lost their home field advantage in that 1st inning, giving up 10 runs to the visitors, who ended up dominating this game. 13-1 Cardinals

Cardinals win the series in 5 games

NLDS B: Almost everyone “knew” who was going to win this series. Almost everyone “knew” they were going to sweep this series. Almost everyone was very wrong.

Game 1: However, after this first game, “they” were rather confident they “knew” how this was going to work as the Dodgers quickly shut out the Nationals. 6-0 Dodgers

Game 2: But then the Nationals came back and just edged out the home team. 4-2 Nationals

Game 3: In DC, the Dodgers came back just crushing the home team with a big 6th inning. 10-4 Dodgers

Game 4: And somehow, the Nats weren’t about to go away quietly, relying on some solid pitching to tie up the series again and force a Game 5. 6-1 Nationals

Game 5: Another nail-biter in the NL. The game was tied right into the 10th, right up until the Dodgers’ reliever gave up a huge grand slam. The deficit too big to overcome by the home team, costing them the rest of the postseason. 7-3, in 10 Nationals

Nationals win the series in 5 games

ALDS A: As with the other league’s version of this series, games between the league leader and the wild card winner aren’t anything normal or predictable. Especially as the Rays were on quite the tear this last month in their quest for a postseason. But in this series alone, it was all about the “home field advantage”.

Game 1: The Astros started the series strong, only giving up runs to the Rays in the 8th. 6-2 Astros

Game 2: The Astros’ starter the game was just amazing, streaming through the Rays’ lineup and collecting 15 strikeouts. Not that the Rays were slacking. The Astros just played better. 3-1 Astros

Game 3: Once the game was at the Trop, the Rays came out swinging and just didn’t stop. They certainly weren’t about to let the Astros just run away with this series. 10-3 Rays

Game 4: While this wasn’t as poweful in the end, the Rays still collected 13 total hits, giving them more opportunities to score and eventually tie up the series. 4-1 Rays

Game 5: Again, this series was all about home field advantage. Once they were back in Houston, the Astros took command again and showed their fans why they deserve to go to the ALCS once again. 6-1 Astros

Astros win series in 5 games

ALDS B: The one series nobody was really talking about. Outside Yankee Universe, that is. But this one was something to really watch, as the Yankees were about to show off a bit.

Game 1: The Yankees had some really big innings, including home runs by LeMahieu and Gardner. Though Paxton started, it was Kahnle who ended up with the win for his 5th & 6th inning stint to essentially save the game early on until the Yankees powered their way through with those big runs in the 6th. 10-4 Yankees

Game 2: It was Tanaka Time in the Bronx for this game. Aand once again, the Yankee bats came through to support their starter, including a big 3rd inning offense. And while most of their runs were off RBI singles, but i was Didi Gregorius’ grand slam to ensure the Yankees’ eventual win. 8-2 Yankees

Game 3: Home field advantage didn’t seem to matter to the Yankees this series, as they took their momentum on the road. They used an opener in Green, who showed his reliability with a strong start and set the pattern for the rest of the game, backed by a good offense with homers by Torres and Maybin. 5-1 Yankees

Yankees sweep series in 3 games.

An interesting article I found was the idea that no one gives an MVP award for the Division Series. This is one writer’s idea of who should get this hypothetical award. I agreed (or at least understood) his picks in most of these games. But what do you think?

Championship Series begins tomorrow night with NLCS and Saturday with the ALCS. It is a best-of-7 series, so the first team with 4 wins will move onto the World Series next week.

My predictions: So, this first round was a mixed bag. I completely blew the NLDS. First is my prediction, second is the outcome.

  • NLDS A: Braves over Cardinals in 5 games — Cardinals in 5
  • NLDS B: Dodgers over Nationals in 3 games — Nationals in 5
  • ALDS A: Astros over Rays in 4 games — Astros in 5
  • ALDS B: Yankees over Twins in 5 games — Yankees in 3

Now for the Championship Series: (Perhaps, I’ll be better this round.)

  • NLCS: Cardinals over Nationals in 6 games
  • ALCS: Yankees over Astros in 7 games

It’s clearly going to be one of those postseasons. And let’s be honest, it’s really just beginning. But isn’t that what makes October Baseball more intriguing — that you don’t know what’s going to happen?

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 27: NYY vs. STL — A week left of Spring, saying farewell to a friend

The Yankees finish their South Florida road trip on a sour note. Neither games ended in the Yankees’ favor. But as they head back to Tampa, there are just a handful of games left before the regular season that could right the Yankees’ rather impressive Spring this year.

Domingo German got the start against the Cardinals this afternoon and just stumbled his way into the 4th inning, starting with a lead-off solo homer in the 1st inning. A single in the 2nd, stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a grounder, and then scored on an RBI single. Then with 2 outs, a 2-run home run secured the Cards early lead. And a 1-out solo shot in the 3rd sealed their eventual win.

Yankees’ reliever Brothers came in to close out the 4th for German, getting him out of trouble. And Stephen Tarpley’s 5th was flawless. But James Reeves had a sticky time in the 6th inning. He gave up a lead-off walk, pick-off error, and a 1-out hit-by-pitch. Then consecutive singles scored both runners, and a walk loaded up the bases.

Cale Coshow came on and just set things right with 2 strong strikeouts to close out the 6th. But he then had a bad 7th inning. Back-to-back doubles scored another run, and a single put runners on the corners. A sacrifice fly scored yet another run, and a double moved runners to scoring position so they both could score on another double. Reliever Diehl closed out the inning strong and carried that momentum through the 8th.

The Yankees struggled on the offense side too, having some trouble against the Cardinals’ pitchers. In the 3rd, Lavarnway and Lipka worked consecutive walks and then scored on Gleyber Torres’ 1-out double. Urshela led-off the 4th, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Ryan Lavarnway’s single. And despite getting some opportunities, like in the 7th, the Yankees didn’t ever do much more to add to their score today.

Final score: 11-3 Cardinals

Next up: The Yankees head home for a Friday night game against the Phillies. There’s only 2 more home games (and 2 away games) left in the Spring season before next Thursday’s home opener in the Bronx. Yes, that’s right, only 1 week until the regular season begins.

Roster moves: after today’s game, the Yankees reassigned outfielder Billy Burns and Matt Lipka and catcher Ryan Lavarnway to minor league camp. Earlier this week, the Yankees optioned Kyle Higashioka to AAA Scranton. Higashioka will still appear in Spring games, but he will not be on the 25-man roster, though completely ready to jump up should something happen to Sanchez or Romine.

And in bittersweet news: Ichiro Suzuki is officially hanging up his cleats today. He signed with the Mariners this off-season, and in a fun twist, the Mariners and Athletics opened their regular season in a special series in Tokyo. Ichiro played in today’s game, a 12-inning marathon ending in a 5-4 Mariners’ win, and exited in the 8th to thunderous applause to his hometown crowd. It was emotional for everyone, especially the iconic 45-year-old legend. Everyone has a story about their friend and teammate, and everyone wishes him well.

While he’s worn a few different uniforms over the years, to Yankee fans, he’ll always be a Yankee. Next stop: Cooperstown.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 11: STL vs. NYY — Chilled out at home

It’s not often that the opposing team seems to outnumber the home team. At least at Yankee games. But it was a sea of red as Cardinals fans flocked to Steinbrenner Field to cheer on their chosen team this afternoon. And despite all the warnings before the season about the pace of play and the 20-second pitching clock, none of that seemed to be enforced or occurring in this long (3 hours and 35 minutes), chilly (59°) game under clear blue skies.

Jonathan Loaisiga got the start today against the Cards and really sailed his way through most of the first 2 innings but then got into some real trouble in the 3rd. A lead-off solo home run in the 2nd got the Cards on the board, but Loaisiga kept going and struck out 3 batters that inning alone (eventually collecting 5 strikeouts of his 7 total outs). In the 3rd, a 1-out double scored on another double. And after walking the next batter, Loaisiga passed the ball to Joe Harvey.

Harvey struggled his way out of the 3rd inning, giving up an RBI double, an RBI ground out, and another RBI double before finally striking the final batter out. This gave the Cardinals a rather hefty lead the Yankees never could crack this afternoon. But then Aroldis Chapman sailed his way through the 4th inning, and Danny Coulombe had a fairly easy 5th.

But his 6th found some further trouble for the Yankees. A lead-off walk stole 2nd and ended up at 3rd on a 1-out single. So Coulombe passed the ball to Phillip Diehl, who kept it mostly under control except a 2-out single that scored the lead runner. He gave up a lead-off single in the 7th before getting 2 solid outs and then handing the ball over to Cale Coshow.

Coshow, however, promptly gave up a 2-run home run to push the Cards further ahead. Then in the 8th, he gave up a lead-off ground-rule double that bounced over the center field fence after it split the outfielders, slowed by the sun in their eyes. A wild pitch moved that runner to 3rd where he then scored on a 1-out single. James Reeves came into the game to close out the 8th and then cleanly get through the 9th.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals pitching was much cleaner, and despite getting a few opportunities to make a difference, the Yankees didn’t capitalize on many of them. Torres led-off the 2nd with a double, and Frazier worked a 1-out walk. Austin Romine scored both of them with his solid 3-run home run to give the Yankees a very temporary lead.

Down quite a bit in the bottom of the 9th, the Yankees found themselves with an eleventh hour rally opportunity. With 1 out, Garcia walked, Lipka singled, and a passed ball moved them both into scoring position. They did so on Trey Amburgey’s double. And then they ran out of opportunities.

Final score: 9-5 Cardinals

One to Watch: I decided to highlight Trey Amburgey today. He’s been featured here before, and he earned the spot again today. His 2-RBI double in the 9th cut into the Cardinals lead, but he also made some crucial plays in right field today, including saving a run from scoring in the 6th.

Next up: The Yankees will travel across Tampa Bay to Clearwater tomorrow to play the Phillies. (So, more red in the crowd.)

Go Yankees!

2017 All-Star Game: Millennial take-over

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Yankees!

Game 12: STL vs. NYY — An Easter special: rain, questionable interference calls, #BirdPower arrival, & a double sweep

First, a Happy Easter to those who celebrate. Or a pleasant Sunday evening to you.

In New York, it was certainly a mix of some rather interesting events during the course of tonight’s game, including a few minutes of downpour that sent fans for cover while the game played on, so many interference calls (most were rather questionable, to be perfectly honest), and the Yankees’ decided to go 6-0 at home by sweeping their second series this week. The Yankees haven’t been 6-0 since at home since their 1998 season, and we all know how that one turned out. Not drawing any conclusions yet, but I’ll take it.

In tonight’s finale against the Cardinals, the Yankees went in with a plan for the sweep and followed through. Thanks in part by the great pitching of Michael Pineda, despite his shaky start. In his 7 innings, Pineda threw 96 pitches, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and struck out 6 batters, setting himself up for the eventual win. A 1-out single in the 2nd, moved to 2nd on a ground out, and then scored on an RBI single to get the Cards on the board. And a lead-off solo home run in the 7th doubled their score.

Meanwhile, the Yankees answered back beginning in the 2nd. Headley led off with a single and then scored on Aaron Judge’s big hit that ended up being ruled a triple on fan interference. However, there was some major confusion as to whether the outfielder would’ve gotten the ball or (what most people who weren’t umpires tonight believe) it would’ve hit the top of the outfield fence making it an automatic home run.

A little sense of justice, however, came into the game when Greg Bird hit his first big home run of the season deep into the Bleacher Creatures (section 203 in right field) to give the Yankees a solid lead. (Also, I got to whip out #BirdPower for the first time this season.) And in the 5th inning, Aaron Hicks continued his offensive streak with a 1-out solo home run just to the left of the right field foul pole.

Dellin Betances allowed a couple of baserunners, but got out of the 8th inning unscathed to secure Pineda’s win and set up the major Yankee offensive that would be the bottom of that inning. The Yankees kicked things off with consecutive walks to Headley and Judge and a single to Bird to load up the bases. Austin Romine’s double scored Headley and Judge to widen the Yankees’ lead. And Ronald Torreyes’ big hit into the left field corner was ruled a ground-rule double on fan interference (the only legitimate such call of the game, in most everyone’s minds).

After a pitching change (as there were no outs recorded yet), the new reliever got a ground out that moved Torreyes to 3rd, so that he could then scored on Aaron Hicks’ sacrifice fly. During Castro’s at-bat, he hit a long ball into the stands in foul territory by right field. As it was descending a fan did try to make the catch right at the wall, but it was ruled an out on fan interference. Though not a single person other than that umpire thought the right fielder was going to make that play, which is the only reason to rule an out. (Had he been able to make the catch, like he was right under the ball that was somehow snatched out from his grasp, it’s an out on fan interference.) But this was going into the stands and the right fielder had slowed down knowing he wasn’t going to make the play. The umpires seemed fan-interference-happy tonight, and thus was the call. Girardi argued, but with the Yankees so far ahead it didn’t seem like he should waste a challenge here.

Sending Bryan Mitchell in is usually one of those sure things. But everyone has an off-day from time to time. Mitchell, I’m sure, is glad the game wasn’t much closer or things could’ve ended up worse. He certainly struggled his way through the 9th. His lead-off batter doubled, moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, watched as the next batter walked, and then scored on a messy force attempt and throwing error all before he recorded an out. Fortunately, that must’ve shaken him enough to buckle down and make the next 3 outs fairly quickly to end the game.

Final score: 9-3 Yankees, Yankees sweep Cards 3-0.

Injury news: Matt Holliday was still out of tonight’s lineup with some lingering back soreness. Girardi doesn’t expect he’ll be on tomorrow’s lineup either because with back injuries especially you don’t want to risk a more serious injury when it’s not yet at 100%. We’ve all done that — tried to rush a healing and ended up making it so much worse, causing even more time off for healing than was necessary if you’d just let the original injury heal properly first.

Okay, the Yankees have one more 3-game series at home before they head back out on the road, and they’re doing pretty well in the Bronx so far. Perhaps they can carry that same luck into their series with the White Sox starting tomorrow night.

Go Yankees!

Game 11: STL vs. NYY — Sometimes, 42 is the answer to everything

It’s all over baseball. That lone reminder that the game we love at one point needed to a game open to everyone or it wasn’t really a game for everyone. It reminds us of the great player who wore it and made that difference, and it reminds Yankee fans of another great player who wore it with the same pride and integrity. Today alone, over 1000 uniformed players, coaches, and managers as well as the usual show of fans wore that great number 42 to honor the late Jackie Robinson and remember his legacy on the sport we love. (And Wikipedia dedicates an entire page to the paradox of the number 42, if you’re interested.)

And on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in the Bronx, CC Sabathia had #42 on his back and specialized Brooklyn Dodger blue and designed cleats on his feet to face the visiting St. Louis Cardinals. And boy, did Sabathia have a great outing today. He threw 97 pitches into the 8th inning, giving up just 3 hits, a walk, and a run, and striking out 6 Cardinals’ batters. His lone run was a 1-out solo home run in the 8th inning on that 97th pitch to his final batter of the afternoon.

But Sabathia was set-up for the win today thanks in part to the help of Adam Warren who sailed through the rest of the 8th with just 11 pitches for those last 2 outs. Tyler Clippard made things interesting in the 9th, however. He gave up a 1-out home run, then after his 2nd strikeout, gave up a single and a walk (much to the dismay of the standing crowd) before getting his 3rd strikeout, a big swinging K to end the game, inning, and threat and earn his 1st save of the season.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were faced with a mixed bag with the Cardinals’ starter. He threw a whopping 118 pitches into the 6th inning against the Yankees, and while they only got 4 hits off him, they also got a weird mix of 8 total walks and 11 total strikeouts.

In the 1st inning, the starter gave up consecutive walks to Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks, a passed ball moved the runners up, and with 2 outs, a wild pitch allowed the speedy Gardner to high-tail it home to score the Yankees first run. Despite loading up the bases with 2 more walks, the Yankees couldn’t add to it then as a strikeout (the 3rd of the inning) ended their threat.

Then in the 6th, the Yankees made their move. Torreyes led-off with a double, though it wasn’t looking like it as a trio of players converged in the short outfield to watch the ball drop between them. Torreyes kicked it up and slid around the tag at 2nd and made it safely (though the Cardinals’ questioned the play initially). Gardner then moved him to 3rd before Torreyes then scored on a really messy play — Hicks hit into a little grounder back to the pitcher, but then he overthrew it to home so Torreyes easily scored. Hicks ended up at 2nd thanks to a late (and off-center) throw to try to get him out there. Hicks would go on to then score on Chris Carter’s single.

Final score: 3-2 Yankees (yes, the Yankees are on a 6-game win streak right now; no, I don’t believe in jinxes today)

Injury news: Matt Holliday was originally scheduled to be the DH today, but due to some “lower back stiffness”, the Yankees opted for Chris Carter as today’s DH.

And while I never feel like I can do justice to the legacy of Jackie Robinson, everyone definitely makes their best effort to say what it means to them every year. Girardi used his pre-game press conference, Sabathia used the Player’s Tribune twitter account, and players used their own social media to honor the man. MLB also found some clips from Robinson’s first MLB game 70 years ago today about 15 miles away from where the Yankees played today. (Ebbets Field, the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, was just east of Prospect Park for those familiar with Brooklyn or want to google it.)

Either way, the game looks like it does today because of amazing men like Jackie Robinson and those who paved the way for his MLB career to be possible. I think of Negro League greats like Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, and more; I think of the executives like Branch Rickey, coaches like Leo Durocher, and players like Pee Wee Reese who stood by their decision to integrate in the face of literal death threats and boycotts; I think of fans who truly wanted the best players for their teams, without caring if they were (in Durocher’s sanitized words) “yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a…zebra.” And I think of the countless kids who grew up believing that they too could finally play professional baseball regardless of their skin color.

Every team is now filled with former kids with a simple dream — to play ball. And because of #42, that dream became true for them. How many kids are going to sleep tonight with the same dream that might be realized in just a few short years?

Thank you, Jackie, for your courage to make the impossible possible and showing the world what excellence and integrity looks like.

Go Yankees!

Game 10: STL vs. NYY — #TanakaTime ekes out an interleague win

Time for some interleague play in the Bronx this weekend, as the Cardinals come to town. Interleague play isn’t as big of a deal as it used to be, with the rule changes that insist on regularly scheduled interleague play, something now a requirement due to the odd number of teams in each league. For those of you too young to remember, interleague play was introduced in 1997 (yes, that was just 20 years ago) and eventually became a normal part of every season. But for those of who remember, like many things that have evolved in baseball, it’s still lingers as part of the nostalgia of the game.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start for tonight’s opener against the Cards, throwing 103 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, and striking out just 5 batters. The Cardinals wasted no time getting on board with a 1-out single who scored as part of a 2-run home run to the right field seats in the 1st inning.

Then after shutting down the Cards for most of the game, Tanaka struggled some in the 7th inning. The lead-off batter singled, and the next batter hit into a little grounder that could’ve been a double play, but the Yankees’ infield only got the out at 2nd. (And why the Cardinals decided to challenge that out, I’ll never know.) A walk put 2 runners on the base, and a double scored the third run for the red birds, spelling the end for Tanaka’s night.

He watched closely as Tyler Clippard came on in relief to close out the 7th inning. In 8 pitches, Clippard shut them down with 2 fly outs, including one just shy of a home run thanks to the effective fielding of right fielder Aaron Judge. Dellin Betances gave up a walk in the middle of his 3 solid strikeouts in his scoreless 8th inning. And Aroldis Chapman continued that with a 2-out walk and double that certainly threatened a rally before a standard ground out finished the game and gave Chapman his 3rd save of the season.

The Yankees meanwhile grabbed the lead and kept it by the skin of their teeth at times. Gardner led-off the bottom of the 1st with a walk and scored on Starlin Castro’s big 2-run home run to kick things off for the Yankees and quickly tie up the game. In the 2nd, Austin Romine got his 1st home run of the season, a big solo shot into the right field seats to give the Yankees the slim lead.

In the 5th, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a 1-out single and then scored on a really messy play as part of Chase Headley’s double. The ball went into the right field corner, and Ellsbury rightly held up at 3rd, but the right fielder threw the ball into home off the mark, sending it meandering through the grassy area behind home plate. So Ellsbury quickly sped home and scored because the fielder throwing it to a waiting catcher threw another off-the-mark throw and the ball dribbled its way around the dirt around home plate as Headley made his way to 3rd.

It would be the messy insurance run the Yankees needed to hand Tanaka his first win of the season.

Final score: 4-3 Yankees

Tomorrow’s matinee will also recognize Jackie Robinson, with the annual Jackie Robinson Day. You know what that means — Sabathia (who gets the start tomorrow) will be donning #42, rather than his usual #52. Oh, and so will Bird and Headley and Gardner and every other player on both teams. It’s the only day I’ve heard people complain about the Yankees not having names on their backs so that you can tell who’s who from a distance.

And without getting into it yet, it was pointed out to me recently because of Robinson’s excellence and integrity, acceptance and integration of baseball evolved into the sport we know today, where players of all colors and ethnicity populate every team. For example, 4 of the 5 starting pitchers on the Yankees are playing today because they are excellent players and were signed to major league contracts regardless of their skin color or ethnicity. By removing factors that have no real significance on someone’s playing ability (things like race, ethnicity, relationship status, religion, etc.), teams and fans can truly embrace players of excellence and integrity, just solidly good players to build a solidly good team to cheer onto a championship.

Go Yankees!

Spring Games 30 & 31: STL vs. NYY & NYY vs. DET — Lots of home runs, by the other guys

Closing Day at Steinbrenner Field; split squad games; temperatures “feeling like” mid-90s under the blazing sunshine; and major moves, decisions, and injury updates. These are just a few of the things happening in Yankee Universe this Thursday afternoon.

For Game 1, the Cardinals made the trip up to visit the Yankees in Tampa in the last Spring Training home game. They faced Michael Pineda on the mound for a rather rough start for him today. Pineda went 5 innings, gave up 7 hits, no walks, and 6 runs, striking out 4 Cardinal batters. And this made the sea of red crammed into Steinbrenner Field super happy.

In the 2nd, the lead-off batter popped up a ball that McCann lost in the sun and missed the catch as it dropped behind him on the infield. When the batter realized McCann was going to drop it, he took off running to 1st, pushing McCann out of the way as Pineda grabbed the ball and threw down to get the out at 1st. But the runner was awarded the base due to “catcher’s inference“, which doesn’t really make sense as it wasn’t like McCann forced the ball to drop in the middle of the base path. And despite some arguing by Girardi, the sea of red was victorious. For all of two minutes as McCann promptly got the runner stealing second. A 1-out solo home run got the Cards on the board that inning.

They kept adding to their lead, starting in the 4th inning with back-to-back solo home runs, hit right up the middle. Then with 2 outs and 2 runners on base with singles, a long ball eked over the corner of the right field fence for a 3-run home run. And after a final strikeout, Pineda’s afternoon was done. An afternoon I’m sure he has mixed feelings about — as every run was off a home run from a ball perfectly placed in the strike zone.

Chapman’s 6th inning kept the Cards from adding to their ever-expanding lead with a quick 3-up, 3-down inning, with 2 just stellar strikeouts. The final one ended with the batter swinging at a fastball that hit 100 mph (or 99 mph on other radar guns).

But then things got messy again. Swarzak took the mound for the 7th inning, giving up 4 hits, a walk, and 3 runs for just 2 outs of the inning. A lead-off walk scored on a 1-out 2-run home run off the scoreboard. Then Swarzak allowed 2 singles and got another out. Another single scored another run and moved everyone up on a wide throw home from left field. Pinder came in to close out the inning quickly and gave an impressive 8th inning scoreless outing. Tracy, as well, showed off his reliever skills with a scoreless 9th inning.

The Yankees’ offense was stymied for most of the game, until the 8th inning. A lead-off double moved to 3rd on a strikeout-wild pitch-reached 1st safely kind of play by Headley. A 1-out walk loaded the bases before the lead runner scored on Lane Adams’ sacrifice fly. But the Yankees left 2 runners stranded and choked their rally attempt with a strikeout.

In total, the Yankees only got 4 hits and a walk all game, while they gave up 11 hits and 2 walks. Not exactly the best offensive day for the Yankees.

Final score in Game 1: 9-1 Cardinals

For split squad, the Yankees traveling team headed about 45 minutes eastward to Lakeland to the Tigers’ Spring Training facility. Chad Green got the start, and he also got roughed up by the Yankees’ opponents today giving up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 6 runs (5 earned), and striking out just 4 in just over 4 innings. A 2-out double in the 1st scored on a 2-run home run, and then the Tigers followed up with a solo home run to give the Tigers an early lead.

In the bottom of the 3rd, a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a ground out and then scored on a fly out and a throwing error. And a lead-off solo home run in the 4th added yet another run to the Tigers’ score. They repeated that in the 5th, so that a walk and a strikeout later saw the end of Green’s less-than-stellar afternoon.

Tyler Webb came on in relief for Green and quickly got 2 outs to end the inning. He threw a near flawless 6th inning and went into the 7th inning with high hopes. Unfortunately, a lead-off triple scored on a sacrifice fly to mess up Webb’s outing. A double then scored on an RBI single, and a pop up gave Webb the out he needed before turning over the reins to Mullee. Mullee had less luck as he promptly gave up a 2-run home run to pad the Tigers’ lead further. But his 8th inning was scoreless, so there’s that.

Unlike the other game, the Yankees had a bit better luck against the Tigers’ pitching staff, garnering 12 total hits and 3 walks. In the 4th, Castro led-off with a single and scored on Austin Romine’s 2-run home run to get the Yankees on the board. Then in the 6th, the Yankees loaded the bases with singles and 2 outs. A wild pitch scored one run, and Chris Parmelee’s single scored Mateo. Then with the bases loaded again on a walk, the Yankees couldn’t capitalize on it and ground out to end their attempted rally.

In a last-ditch effort in the 9th inning, they loaded the bases up again with 1 out. Jorge Mateo’s single scored 2 runs. But once again, they couldn’t put things together to do more than that.

Final score in Game 2: 10-6 Tigers.

Fun random fact: in total there were 35 strikeouts between the 2 games (and 10 in each game to the Yankees).

And we have roster updates: the Yankees optioned Tyler Olson, Branden Pinder, and Nick Goody to AAA Scranton yesterday. And today, the Yankees reassigned Swarzak and Puello to minor league camp. Both Johnny Barbato and Luis Cessa got final bullpen spots, and Austin Romine was named the official back-up catcher.

Johnny Barbato was also named the Yankees’ outstanding rookie this year. Elected by the beat writers, the James P. Dawson Award was presented to Barbato before the game today, complete with a trophy and a nice watch. Barbato earned 2 saves, a 1.74 ERA, and 12 strikeouts in his 10 relief appearances (in 10.1 innings) this Spring.

Injury updates: okay, here’s the scoop on the 2 injured pitchers from yesterday’s game — Bryan Mitchell and Andrew Miller. Miller chipped a bone in his right hand (his non-throwing hand), and he will be seeing a specialist for further treatment. But he seems determined to pitch come Opening Day (should a closer be needed, that is) despite what common logic (and basic medical advice) might dictate.

Mitchell’s “sprained” toe was actually diagnosed with Grade 3 turf toe on his left big toe and a fracture of the sesamoid bone. Currently on crutches, Mitchell will see an orthopedic specialist in North Carolina (the same doctor who performed surgery on Jeter’s broken ankle in 2012) to see if surgery is necessary. But best estimates will have Mitchell on the DL for 3 months with recovery and rehab.

Now, with Mitchell off the roster with this DL stint, other relievers passed over for the job will now be in contention, but the most popular contender seems to be Kirby Yates. And that 5th starter’s job is still yet to be named, especially after Nova’s beautiful outing yesterday.

Plus, there’s still 2 more Spring games to play against the Marlins in Miami. So there’s still so much left to figure out before Monday. It’s going to be an interesting weekend to wrap up this pre-season.

Go Yankees!

Division Series NL4a: STL vs. CHC, NL4b: LAD vs. NYM — One down, three to go

Okay, so 3 of the 4 LDS are going to a Game 5. Just to keep things interesting, you know. Of the 8 teams in the LDS, we now know that the Cardinals will definitely not be World Series Champions this year. As to who might be? It’s really still anyone’s title to earn. And I have a feeling it’s going to be one of those really well-earned titles this year.

Game 1: NLDS 4a — Cardinals at Cubs

The last time the Cubs were in the World Series was 1945 (but their last championship was 1908), though the Cubs have been in the postseason as recently as 2008 (also 1984, 1989, 1998, 2003, and 2007). And now they have another shot at the National League title, which would be their first in 70 years. That’s a big drought, and the Northside of Chicago is ridiculously optimistic and they might have a reason to be. Tonight, they took out their division rivals and the best team in the entire MLB this season to seal their fate and advance to the NLCS.

But that’s not to say the Cardinals just gave up easily. In fact, there’s no way the Cubs were advancing without a thorough challenge. But it wasn’t like either starter was exactly on his A-game, both throwing just 49 pitches in the 3 innings.

In the 1st inning, the Cardinals led-off with a single and a 2-run home run to get things started this afternoon. The Cubs answered back in the 2nd with 2 out and 2 runners on base; a single scored the first run, and a 3-run home run doubled the Cardinals’ score giving the Cubs a lead to defend for the rest of the game.

So it boiled down to the bullpen versus the offense, which came to a head in the 6th inning. The Cardinals had 2 runners on base with 2 outs, and then a double scored one run and a single scored the other to tie up the game (and virtually silence the sea of blue-wearing fans). But the Cubs took the lead back at the bottom of that inning with a 2-out solo home run. And then they got that coveted insurance run to lead-off the 7th inning, an absolute monster solo home run over the big score board that takes up a good portion of the right field sight line.

The Cardinals just couldn’t poke through the bullpen after that. But then neither could the Cubs of the Cardinals’ bullpen. And that’s where it would land, with the Cubs taking the next few days off to gear up for the NLCS.

Final score in Chicago: 6-4 Cubs, Cubs win series 3-1 and advance to the NLCS.

Game 2: NLDS 4b — Dodgers at Mets

And while the Second City was in the throes of celebration, the “First City” (because what other city would Chicago feel “second” to?) was at the wrong end of what ended up feeling like a regular season game in the long run. No, seriously, out of all of the games in the postseason so far, this game was about a “regular” as you can get, especially for teams like the Dodgers and Mets.

Dodgers’ starter Kershaw was out to prove he wasn’t a postseason dud and did so with the kind of pitching that made him a Cy Young Award winner 3 times — 94 pitches through 7 innings, giving up just 3 hits, 1 run, and 1 walk, striking out 8 Mets batters. His lone run was a 1-out solo home run in the 4th inning for the Mets. And no other Mets got anywhere closer to adding to that.

The Mets’ starter had a more postseason run with just 5 innings, but his sole problem inning was the 3rd. With 2 outs and runners on the corners, a single scored a run, and then a double scored the other 2. But that would be it for the Dodgers’ offense really.

A low-scoring game in the postseason? It doesn’t really fit the pattern of this year, does it?

Final score in New York: 3-1 Dodgers, series split 2-2.

Okay, I promised my Cubs’ postseason opinion as it relates to Back to the Future. And since tonight is fairly short and in honor the Cubs’ NLDS win, I will expound my opinion. Okay, October 21, 2015. That is the day that Doc Brown and Marty McFly (and Marty’s girlfriend Jennifer) went into the future and messed up everything in their 1985 present in the 1989 sequel. On that day, Marty gets a glimpse of what the future will look like in 30 years, and for the last 26 years people have dreamed, discussed, and dissected the future predictions as made in the movie — from hoverboards and flying cars to flatscreen tvs and increased robotics.

But in the baseball world, everyone remembers the scene when the electronic billboard (we have those) announces that the Cubs win the World Series against Miami (with a logo that looks like a batting Gator). Now, what made Marty stop and stare wasn’t that the Cubs had won, but rather that they played against a pro-team from Miami as at the time of filming (and Marty’s present) there was no baseball team in Miami. The Marlins would not have their inaugural season until 1993. Plus they would be part of the National League, not the American to even have a chance of making this prediction come true. (Also, trivia nerds: the USA Today paper further reports that the Cubs won in 5 games over Miami in the Series.) And seeing as we have an official postseason schedule, we know now that we’ll be only about halfway through the LCS on October 21 this year.

So, I have thought this would be really cool to have a sort of prediction come true, especially in the baseball world. And I think I’d be more excited if Miami were actually in the LCS against them. And while it wouldn’t be a 5-game win (as they’d play the 4th game of the LCS that night, so too early for such a win), it would have been almost too close to the original prediction to not be excited about it. However, my basic fact is this — no Miami in the postseason and the schedule’s too off to line up. So, I’d put this future prediction more in line with flying cars and the overuse of fax machines than electronic billboards and the extreme 80s nostalgia (and the abundance of “active wear”).

Sorry, Cubs’ fans and BTTF nerds, I just can’t get behind the Cubs for the sole reason of hoping a 26 year old prediction could come true. I’m still holding out for cooler things like power laces and self-drying clothes. Though to be fair, I guess one could say that because Marty messed up the past and had to fix everything, causing a chain of events that led to many differences in the future (like not breaking his hand in the accident with the Rolls Royce at the end of the 3rd movie), that many of the things he experienced in the 2015 from the 2nd movie could be altered entirely — like a really weird case of the butterfly effect. But I think that’s stretching it a bit…

Go Yankees!