Game 75: NYY vs. TB — Sunday swept in extras

Traditionally, a starting pitcher throws a lot of pitches (upwards of 100) and then a reliever or two come in to finish off the game. But somehow, today’s finale against the Rays ended up being a collection of relievers for both teams, a total of 14 pitchers stood on the mound today (7 per team).

For the Yankees, Domingo German kicked things off and had a rather upsetting 3 innings, giving up 9 hits and 6 runs. A lead-off triple in the 1st scored on a double, and then that runner scored on a 2-out double to give the Rays an early lead. And a lead-off solo home run in the 2nd added one more to the scoreboard. Then in the 3rd, another lead-off triple scored on a 1-out single. After another single gave the Rays another base runner, a 2-out double scored both runners.

The Yankees had quite a bit of work to do to catch up. Fortunately, they started early too. In the 2nd, Stanton led-off with a double and moved to 3rd on a ground out. After Hicks worked a walk, Miguel Andujar’s big 3-run home run into the left field seats got the Yankees on the board. Then in the 5th, Gardner worked a 1-out walk, and the Rays went to their next reliever. After another out, Didi Gregorius doubled to score Gardner, and Giancarlo Stanton followed that with his own double to score Gregorius.

So, down by just a run, the Yankees kept looking for their opportunity. It wasn’t until the 8th inning, with Giancarlo Stanton’s lead-off solo home run to tie up the game. Actually, Stanton had a great day overall, going 5-for-5, with a walk, 2 runs scored, and 2 RBIs, including this 8th inning run — his 19th homer of the season.

The game went into extra innings, and both teams continued sending in their plethora of strong relievers to face off against each other into the 12th inning. Chasen Shreve came on for the Yankees in the bottom of the 12th. He threw 1 pitch, a 92 mph fastball right down the middle of the plate, and the batter sent it the other direction, straight up center field for the walk-off home run.

Final score: 7-6 Rays, in 12 innings, Rays sweep series 3-0

Next up: The Yankees are on their way to Philadelphia for a 3-game series there starting tomorrow night, before heading back home for a 6-game home stand against the Red Sox (on Friday) and Braves (next Monday). Hopefully, they will have a much better series than this weekend.

Injury news: Gary Sanchez is probably headed to the Disabled List after today’s game. In the 10th inning, Sanchez hit into a double play but on his way to running out to 1st, he started staggering his way down the line, clutching his upper thigh area and clearly in pain. Romine came on for the bottom of the inning, but it looks like Sanchez might have strained a muscle. They will send him to get an MRI tomorrow to determine a timeline, so there’s nothing to update right now.

It’s worth noting there is another catcher on the 40-man roster — Kyle Higashioka. Most likely, they will move Romine to be the regular catcher and call up Higashioka for back-up. But there’s nothing predictable about baseball.

Go Yankees!

Game 74: NYY vs. TB — Shutout on Throwback Saturday

Well, that was disappointing.

The Rays began as a franchise 20 years ago, making this their 21st season as a major league team. Originally, they were dubbed the “Devil Rays”, their mascot a sort of large sting ray. In the last 2 decades, that has evolved into a sun ray, which looks more like a starburst or sparkle on the word “Rays”, now the official name of the team.

Now, technically, there is no real thing as a “devil ray”. There is a “devil fish“, which is an endangered species of ray due to its low reproduction rate and sensitivity to environmental alterations (like pollution and overfishing) in its native Mediterranean. In other words, this creature the team decided to honor originally isn’t part of the Florida ecosystem and is misnamed. So, transitioning to a nod to the “Sunshine State” makes a nice way to justify the name without terribly changing the name.

However, because of last season being its 20th anniversary season, the Rays rediscovered their own nostalgia for their original colors, theme, and name. So for this season, they announced that they would don a new/old “throwback” jersey and hat for 4 Saturday home games this year. Today was the third, and many Rays players are really getting into the theme by adding socks and other accessories (sweatbands, gloves, warm-ups, etc.) on those days.

It might be considered good luck as they’ve now won 2 of the 3 games they’ve played on these throwback days, the loss being a slim 1-run margin. Or maybe it’s because they’ve been playing a weird game of relying strongly on their bullpen due to a lack of healthy starters.

Sonny Gray had a sort of mixed outing. When he was hot, he was really good and set the Rays down with relative ease. When he wasn’t, they scored runs. He threw 101 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up 6 hits, a walk, and 4 runs and striking out 7 batters along the way.

In the 1st, a lead-off single scored on a 1-out double complicated by a throwing error. A lead-off double in the 2nd scored on a double. A bunt moved that runner to 3rd and a single scored him. After fending off the Rays for 15 consecutive batters, Gray gave up a 2-out solo home run just barely left of the right field foul pole.

It was time to shift to Chasen Shreve, who has been struggling lately and continued his struggles in the 7th inning. All he needed was 1 out to get out of the inning. Instead, he loaded up the bases with a walk, a single, and another walk before getting a beautiful strikeout to finally get out of the inning and his self-induced jam. Chad Green had his own issues in the 8th, giving up a couple of hits to put runners in scoring position before getting a great strikeout to end that threat.

Meanwhile, the Yankees bats were virtually silent against the Rays pitchers. Their starter threw into the 6th inning, only giving up 3 hits and a walk. Later in that inning, last night’s starter (who only threw an inning) came in for 4 outs. They just kept shifting relievers to balance the rest of the game and keep the Yankees scoreless this afternoon.

Final score: 4-0 Rays

With today’s loss, the Yankees are guaranteed a loss of this series. They haven’t lost a series since the May 21-23 against the Rangers in Texas. They have split several series along the way, but mostly, they’re riding high on generally winning most series this season so far.

Many of the talking heads are making the easy comparison to the 1998 championship team. And that makes sense to me too. At this point in the 1998 season (Game 74), the Yankees were 55-19. Currently, the 2018 Yankees are 50-24. Things evened out a bit for the 1998 Yankees after the All-Star Break, ending the season with 114 wins. If the 2018 Yankees stay on their path, they could potentially win 109 games this season. This would make them a shoo-in for the postseason, and this team deserves the same attention and chance.

But there is still so much of the season left. The season is so very long, and we’re not even at the half-way point. Just shy of it, actually, at 46.25% of the season done. And really, with the combination of crazy weather this year, potential injuries, and just your run-of-the-mill bad luck and streaks, there is really nothing predictable about baseball. It’s still anyone’s game.

Except maybe the Orioles and Royals, who’ve only won 23 games this year. But never say never. Right, Cubs fans?

Go Yankees!

Game 73: NYY vs. TB — Falling short at “Yankee Stadium South”

It never fails to make new Yankee players smile, the first time they play at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, hearing the kind of roar and cheers that they get used to hearing at Yankee Stadium. You hear it at Angels Stadium in Anaheim too. So it makes sense to dub that “Yankee Stadium West”, and “The Trop” easily becomes “Yankees Stadium South”, overriding any allusions to Steinbrenner Field for the regular season.

Anyway, for the 27,252 area fans that crowded the small stadium (its capacity just a little over 30,000), at least half of them were Yankees’ fans, though Twitter estimates put them closer to 27,000, which can be the case in many previous seasons. And that certainly had an effect on the overall game, perhaps even helping the Yankees stem the Rays’ strong showing tonight.

CC Sabathia was far from clean in tonight’s opener against the Rays, but somehow got out of most of the jams along the way. He threw 92 pitches into the 6th inning, giving up 9 hits, a walk, and 2 runs (1 earned), and striking out just 4 batters. Despite all those base runners, Sabathia didn’t allow any runs until the 4th inning.

With 1 out, he gave up a double and hit the next batter to get 2 more base runners. Then the next batter singled and the Yankees’ defense kicked in to try to get an out somewhere. They ended up trying the one at 2nd, and initially called out, the Rays challenged and it was quickly overturned. Meanwhile, a run scored and 2 runners were in scoring position. The next batter hit into a fielder’s choice that got the out at home, before a simple grounder ended their rally.

Then, in the 5th, the lead-off batter singled and ended up at 2nd on a throwing error by Sabathia’s bad defensive throw to Bird. Another single moved that runner to 3rd before he scored on a long sacrifice fly. A double play ended that threat.

With 1 out and a runner on base with a single in the 6th, Adam Warren came in and managed to load up the bases before getting out of the jam to the delight of the crowd on the 3rd base side of the stadium. Luis Cessa got his shot to test his return from rehab, keeping the Rays to those 2 runs during his 2 innings, despite allowing a couple of base runners himself.

Meanwhile, the Yankees had their moments once again, collecting 6 walks and 5 hits overall, but there was very few that made a difference in the game. In fact, the Rays’ starter only made it through the 1st inning, but his first reliever was actually really strong throwing into the 5th inning. Then they pieced together their bullpen to maintain their home field advantage.

In the 7th, with 1 out, Torres walked and Gardner singled to put runners on the corners. Aaron Judge singled home Torres easily, and a ground out put runners in scoring position. But then sensing their lead might be in trouble, the Rays changed pitchers again and it worked. The Rays stayed strong and that final out in the 9th was a huge letdown for the faithful fans hoping for a big come back they’ve been used to this season.

Final score: 2-1 Rays

Did you vote for the All-Star Game starters yet? Time is running short, so get your votes in now! This round of voting continues until July 5 at 11:59 pm EST.

Go Yankees!

Game 67: TB vs. NYY — Old Timers’ Day joy, but a series still won

For as long as I remember, summer wasn’t summer without baseball. And baseball wasn’t baseball without my dad. So, watching a ballgame on Father’s Day is a gift for me.

It reminds me of my childhood spent with dad watching games on a grainy black-and-white set while he explained the mechanics of the game and talked of legendary players. Reminds me summer days at the ballpark cheering on a favorite team, despite its dismal record, eating peanuts and telling jokes. Reminds me of the weekend Dad spent teaching us to play ball with his old bat and catcher’s mitt in the backyard. And as always, there was joy and fun building those family memories.

It is in those moments that my strong bonds between Dad and baseball are formed. Dad so enjoyed the game that we couldn’t help but learn the enjoy it too. Our family may all root for different teams now, but the common bond is still the game itself. Though he’s been gone nearly a decade now, Dad would love knowing his kids and grandkids are now building their own family memories around this same game of baseball.

And maybe that’s what he had in mind all along. Thanks, Dad!

In the final game of this weekend series against the visiting Rays, CC Sabathia had a great game overall, throwing 102 pitches into the 8th inning. He gave up 10 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and solidly struck out 10 Rays’ batters.

The only runs the Rays scored tonight came in the 2nd inning. He gave up 2 consecutive singles to put runners on the corners before a double scored the lead runner. Two outs later, the batter hit a solid single that scored both runners, but then the Yankees defense kicked in and got the runner trying to stretch his single into a double.

Leaving the game to a standing ovation, Sabathia would have had a great game and probably a win had the Yankees had any kind of offensive support. Adam Warren came on to close out the 8th for Sabathia and throw a solid 9th inning, but the Yankees’ offense limped through the game. They still managed 7 hits and 4 walks on the board, but they only run they got was a 2-out solo home run in the 5th by Aaron Hicks.

Final score: 3-1 Rays, Yankees win series 3-1

Next up: The Yankees travel to Washington, D.C. to complete their previously suspended game from May 15. That game will conclude first, picking up in the 6th inning with the game tied 3-3. About 30 minutes after that conclusion, they will play the make-up game from May 16. The Yankees will head back to the Bronx for their 3-game mid-week series against the Mariners before beginning their road trip against the Rays.

Before the current Yankees took the field, Yankee fans were treated to witness the celebration of the 72nd Annual Old Timers’ Day, featuring many favorite players, spanning generations of greats from the 1940s to the 2010s. Always a fan-favorite day, players from decades of former Yankee rosters take the field for a few innings, full of good-natured competition and fun.

Before the action on the field, the familiar voice of the late Bob Sheppard greeted the fans to Old Timers Day and the stadium roared to life, and current Yankee broadcasters John Sterling and Michael Kay began the introductions of each participant.

After introducing the widows of former players — Jill Martin (Billy), Kay Murcer (Bobby), Diana Munson (Thurman), and Helen Hunter (Catfish) — they continued with a plethora of former Yankee greats like Dr. Bobby Brown, Bucky Dent, Ron Guidry, Reggie Jackson, Willie Randolph, Bobby Richardson, and Gene Monahan, among so many others of Yankee Universe. Fans cheered with standing ovations for pitching legends Whitey Ford and Don Larsen, now in their 80s, but looking spry and all smiles today.

(Full video of today’s introductions.)

The newest members making their debut at Old Timers’ Day were Dion James, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte, Nick Swisher, and Yankees manager Aaron Boone. It’s a bit of stretch to call most this group “old timers” (Swisher being just 37), but it was good to see this group again. Their relative youth brought a zeal and enthusiasm to the game. Especially fan-favorite Nick Swisher, as they welcomed him back to the Bronx with roaring applause. He waved and thanked the crowd with his signature smile and genuine gratitude, obviously much missed.

As they do every year, the players divided into two teams, the Bombers and the Clippers. The sheer joy of being in pinstripes and taking the field seemed to energize the crowds, and the game did not disappoint. Wild pitches and missed catches brought good-natured ribbing, and Swisher showed off his still-sharp baseball skills with a 2-run double and a big 3-run homer into the second deck. With pitching by the likes of Pettitte and hitting by Swisher, it was inevitbale that the Bombers would outscore the Clippers, final score of 15-3 by the end of their abbreviated game.

Following the game, Swisher was unofficially dubbed the “MVP” of today’s game, saying that today’s festivities sum up the joy of what its like to play baseball for a living. He said, “I feel like every time you take the field, you have a lifetime pass to be a little kid for as long as you want. For me, I’m just happy to be here. I couldn’t believe that [homer]. You only dream of stuff like that!” Close friend David Robertson made sure he celebrated right with his own Gatorade shower during his post-game interview.

Until next year…

Go Yankees!

Game 66: TB vs. NYY — #SevySharp shines on sunny Saturday

There is a reason that baseball has a lot of warm weather references — “boys of summer”, “park”, “yard”, “sandlot”, “Summer Classic”, “hot corner”, “warm-up”, even “bleachers” (from the shortened term for “sun-bleached seats” or the “cheap seats” that don’t get tended). Six of the 30 MLB stadiums have retractable roofs of some sort (Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Mariners, Brewers, Astros, and Marlins) and the Rays have a permanent roof on their home stadium.

Despite earlier games often facing snow from lingering winter season or the rainy days of spring, baseball is clearly a summer game. So while other fans get indoor sports (I’m looking at you, NBA and NHL) and NFL fans brave snowy days for their wintertime outdoor games, MLB fans get to enjoy their games on more great summer afternoons and evenings.

Today in New York was a perfect example of a great summer afternoon — sunny, clear blue skies, 81°, and a lazy Saturday afternoon to enjoy the “boys of summer” play “America’s pastime”.

Luis Severino got the start for this afternoon game against the Rays, the third of this 4-game weekend series. He had another stellar outing, throwing 102 pitches in 8 scoreless innings, giving up just 3 hits and 2 walks, and striking out 9 batters for his 10th win of the season.

The Yankee batters continued their pattern in this series, of chipping away at the scoreboard periodically throughout the game. In the 2nd, with 1 out and a new pitcher (already!), Bird worked a walk, moved to 2nd on Hicks’ single, and then scored on Gleyber Torres’ double.

The Rays’ pitcher really had trouble in the 3rd, the Yankees pushing him to 41 pitches alone in this inning. Judge led-off with a double, and Didi Gregorius singled home Judge, ending up at 2nd on a bad throw. Then with 2 outs, Bird worked a walk as Gregorius stole 3rd to put runners on the corners, and Hicks loaded up the bases with a walk. But their attempt to add to their lead ended with a strikeout. Later, in the 5th, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez hit back-to-back solo home runs to double the Yankees’ lead.

The Rays finally got things together and held off the Yankee batters from adding to their score further. After Severino was done for the day, the Yankees turned to Chasen Shreve for the 9th inning, but he had a rough time, giving up a lead-off solo home run and a deep triple. With the Rays now threatening, the Yankees wanted a sure thing and turned to closer Aroldis Chapman. Chapman breezed through 3 outs in 10 pitches to earn his 20th save of the season.

Final score: 4-1 Yankees

And this is your semi-regular reminder to vote for this year’s All-Star Game. You can choose a player for each starting position for both the AL and the NL. Fan favorites will be the starters at this year’s All-Star Game, representing their teams and leagues in Washington, D.C. next month. Most of the Yankees are currently in the top running for their position, so hopefully, they’ll have a strong representation in the Capital.

Fan voting continues until July 5 at 11:59 pm EST. Fans can vote 5 times every 24 hours, up to 35 times overall, so vote today and until you get the message that says you’ve reached the limit. Once you’ve completed your 35 votes, MLB will send you a special offer as a thanks for voting. So keep voting!

And if you need voting ideas: Austin, Torres, Gregorius, Andujar, Sanchez, Stanton, Gardner, Hicks, and Judge (in that order).

Go Yankees!

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

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

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

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

Final score: 5-0 Yankees

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

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

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

Go Yankees!

Game 64: TB vs. NYY — 5th inning solutions

The Yankees began their long weekend series against the Rays tonight. And Domingo German finally rediscovered his momentum, thanks in part to a few precise hits from Yankee batters, and earned his first career win. German threw 91 pitches in 6 innings, gave up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, and struck out an impressive 10 Rays’ batters.

It didn’t start out so well for German. His first pitch of the game became a solo home run to get the Rays on the board early. But then he followed that up with 3 straight strikeouts to end the inning.

Actually, he would get 7 straight outs into the 3rd inning, and then he gave up a walk and a single. After another out, a batter singled and scored the lead runner. But the second runner tried to score too and was thrown out by Stanton’s strong arm from left field directly to Sanchez for the tag. Then in the 6th, a lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a single.

The Yankees answered back in the 5th inning. With 1 out, Aaron Hicks loved the first pitch he saw and fired it deep for a solid home run. Judge singled, and Sanchez worked a 2-out walk. They would both then score on Gleyber Torres’ big 3-run home run, his 13th career (and this season) homer, his 5th 3-run homer. That put the Yankees on top to stay.

After German’s 6 innings, the Yankees looked to their bullpen to close out the game. Green, Betances, and Chapman each took an inning and kept the Rays from adding to their score and tying up the game.

Final score: 4-3 Yankees

Roster moves: the Yankees signed pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga from AA Trenton to fill Tanaka’s spot on the rotation. There has been a lot of talk about Loaisiga, who is a top prospect (#12 overall) in the Yankees’ organization. He will make his MLB debut tomorrow night against the Rays. To make room on the roster, the Yankees optioned Tyler Austin to AAA Scranton.

It’s worth remembering that it’s Austin’s name on the All-Star Game ballot because Bird was out for a good portion of the early season due to his ankle surgery. However, Bird is doing well once again at 1st, reverting Austin into a bench player. But he’ll play every day in Scranton.

HOPE Week Day 4: Today, the Yankees partnered with a great organization called “Wish of a Lifetime“. The non-profit, founded by a former US Olympic skier Jeremy Bloom, provides opportunities for senior citizens to cross off something amazing on their Bucket List. During his international skiing career, Bloom, always close with his own grandparents, witnessed how other nations treated their elders and wanted to figure out a way to build a culture of respect back in the U.S.

Using the similar model of  “Make A Wish”, “Wish of a Lifetime” is a welcome memory-creator for the most senior of our society. So, for today’s event, Bloom chose 87-year-old Sal Reale, who is a Korean War veteran, New York firefighter for 20 years, and life-long Yankees fan. Reale retired to the Tampa Bay area in 1977 and has wanted to revisit his old firehouse for over 40 years.

Reale, his son, and grandson were treated to a special welcome at FDNY Ladder 136 and then surprised by Tyler Austin, Greg Bird, Chad Green, Jonathan Holder, Chasen Shreve, and Adam Warren. They all had lunch, tried on fire gear, and listened to Reale’s stories about seeing Gehrig and DiMaggio play. The Yankees later took Reale and his family on a pregame Stadium tour which included the pregame press conference with manager Aaron Boone.

The Yankees also donated $10,000 to Wish of a Lifetime to continue their great work of making wishes come true for our amazing American seniors.

Go Yankees!