Game 44: TB vs. NYY — 11th inning let-down

Masahiro Tanaka had a great outing this afternoon in the second game of this weekend series against the visiting Rays. He threw 88 pitches through 6 scoreless innings, giving up just 3 hits and striking out 6 batters. He took a nasty grounder off his shin in the 5th, managed to finish the inning, but then came out of the game. Later x-rays came back negative, but he’ll have a nasty bruise on his shin.

The Yankees struck first in the 3rd inning. With 1 out, they loaded up the bases with singles by Brett Gardner and LeMahieu and a walk to Voit. After another strikeout, a messy wild pitch moved up the runners, and Gardner raced home to score the Yankees’ lone run this afternoon.

In the 7th, Tommy Kahnle came on in relief for Tanaka. He promptly gave up a lead-off solo home run to tie up the game but held off the Rays from doing further damage. Britton and Chapman each followed suit, breezing through with a scoreless inning of their own.

And so the game went on into extra innings. Holder continued the pattern through the 10th with a quick 11-pitch scoreless inning. But Luis Cessa had some trouble in the 11th. With 1 out, a solo home run put the Rays in the lead. And the Yankees couldn’t put together the rally for the bottom of the inning, thus falling to the visitors today.

Final score: 2-1 Rays, in 11 innings

Injury updates: James Paxton threw a bullpen session before Friday’s game and will throw again on Sunday. He still felt some pain due to his knee injury (from May 4), but it’s improved and hoping to diminish as he continues his rehab.

Didi Gregorius will start his extended Spring Training on Monday. After his Tommy John surgery last October, the shortstop will spend time working on simulated games and exercises similar real Spring Training, but compacted down from the standard 7 weeks. This is a really good sign that Gregorius could be back on the team well before the All-Star Break.

And Giancarlo Stanton took live at-bats this week. It looks like his biceps and shoulder strain injuries from early April are healed, and he will begin his rehab assignment with the Advanced-A Tampa Tarpons on Monday.

(A quick note to Tampa-based Yankees fans: most of the rehabbing players seem to spend their recovery time with this team. So you could see your favorite stars for cheaper than Spring Training prices and way closer seats throughout these next few weeks and months, and you don’t have to travel to the Bronx to see them in action.)

Go Yankees!

Game 43: TB vs. NYY — A Song of Rain Delay and Walk-offs

It was Game of Thrones night at Yankee Stadium, which meant fans got to take pictures in the Iron Throne or buy show sports themed merchandise and the media team tweeted out game updates using popular show memes. Or if you’re not a fan, it was a Friday night in the Bronx and there was a pretty good baseball game. Despite the fact that the game paused again for a brief (35 minute) rain delay in the 8th inning. Or maybe because of it.

CC Sabathia got the start for the Yankees tonight and threw a pretty strong game in this first game of the series against the visiting Rays. He threw 84 pitches in 6 innings, gave up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 1 run, and struck out 4 Rays batters. His lone allowed run was a 1st pitch solo home run in the 4th inning.

The Yankees actually struck first with Cameron Maybin’s first Yankee home run, a 1-out solo home run in the 2nd that nearly hit the 3rd deck of the right field seats. But they had trouble adding to that early lead, especially after the Rays tied it up in the 4th.

Ottavino and Kahnle split the 7th inning, keeping the Rays from adding to their score, but then Chad Green came out for the 8th inning and had some trouble. With 1 out, a double scored on a 2-out double. Then a single and throwing error allowed another run for the visitors to get their insurance run in tonight’s game.

And then it started raining. A lot. So the Yankees needed to come back and rally. Urshela stepped into the box and 2 pitches later, it was just too much. The tarp came out, the game was paused, and many fingers were crossed. (I opted not to insert a few obvious Game of Thrones jokes that a good portion of my readers wouldn’t understand.)

When the game resumed just 35 minutes later, things kind of screeched to a stand still. The Rays and Yankees (via Holder) pitched through a quick 6 outs. And the Yankees finally found that rally in the bottom of the 9th. Luke Voit led-off with a 1st pitch solo home run to inch the Yankees closer. Sanchez then singled and was pinch-run by Thairo Estrada. One out later, Torres doubled and Frazier was intentionally walked to load up the bases.

Then a wild pitch moved all the runners up and scored Estrada to tie up the game. Maybin hit into a fielder’s choice out at home and then stole 2nd to put both runners in scoring position. And leave it to Gio Urshela to be the one to single home Frazier for the walk-off win, which was his first walk-off MLB hit. (Also, it was orange Gatorade tonight.)

Final score: 4-3 Yankees

CC K-Score: 3013

Roster moves: After coming in to be the 26th man, the Yankees optioned outfielder Mike Tauchman back to AAA Scranton after the doubleheader on Wednesday.

Also, thanks to winning over the Rays, the Yankees are now in 1st place in the AL East. And that’s worth celebrating, given all the fickle fans who seemed to desert once again in the beginning or when all the major players got injured. But what do I know? “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” (Final GoT reference for the fans alone.)

Go Yankees!

Game 40: NYY vs. TB — #TanakaTime + power outage = Happy Mother’s Day

I know we’ve talked some about the (few) positives of Tropicana Field, including the rarity of delays due to weather. Unfortunately, a delay due to a local power outage is unavoidable. And a 43 minute delay while the system was redirected and restarted is just inconvenient. Especially in the 9th inning.

But it just seemed to energize the Yankees in this final game of the weekend series against the Rays. Masahiro Tanaka had a great start this afternoon, throwing just 73 pitches in his 7 innings, giving up 5 hits and 1 run, and stuck out 7 batters to earn the eventual win. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo shot in the 6th.

It was actually the lone allowed run for the home team all day. Zach Britton and Chad Green took the final 2 innings and kept the Rays from doing much of anything, adding 5 more strikeouts to what would become quite the strikeout day at the Trop (12 by the Yankees, 17 by the Rays’ pitchers).

And somehow, despite all those strikeouts, the Yankees managed to boost their own power. They were held off until the 5th. With 2 outs, Romine doubled and scored on Mike Tauchman’s double. Tauchman then scored on DJ LeMahieu’s single.

In the 8th, Voit led-off with a walk, moved to 2nd on Gardner’s 1-out single, and ended up at 3rd when Andujar hit into a force grounder at 2nd. A wild pitch then scored Voit and kicked off a pair of challenges. The Yankees challenged the records (to check the number of balls/strikes), then the Rays challenged whether the catcher tagged Voit out at home. Neither were overturned, and the play stood as called at the count on the board.

Then the 9th inning began with a bang. Of sorts. After a single foul ball, the lights went out. And 43 minutes later, Thairo Estrada kicked-off the inning with a solo home run. Then Romine and Tauchman singled and moved into scoring position on LeMahieu’s sacrifice bunt out. Voit was intentionally walked to load up the bases. And then Gio Urshela’s double scored both Romine and Tauchman, and Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly scored Voit to cap off the Yankees’ power surge.

Final score: 7-1 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees return home to continue their home stand to host the Orioles and then after a day off the Rays next weekend. Then, they’ll hit the road again to visit the Orioles and Royals.

Scranton Shuttle: Before the game, for a fresh arm, the Yankees optioned relieved Nestor Cortes Jr and recalled reliever Chad Green, who pitched in today’s game.

And a huge Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms and like-a-moms out there. Across baseball, players wore pink-tinged gear, and each team had an honorary bat girl, both to recognize breast cancer awareness and survivors. Plus, players honored the moms in their lives, like CC Sabathia, who wrote a full letter in celebration of his mom on his Twitter account. And Cameron Maybin wore a special pre-game shirt in honor of his mom who is currently fighting breast cancer.

Happy Mother’s Day to my own mother, who is my faithful baseball companion. But then she got it from the passionate baseball fans in her family like her mother and grandmothers (who actually were Indians and Pirates fans). Baseball is strong in my family, much like its women.

Go Yankees!

Game 39: NYY vs. TB — Saturday night sag

Last night’s game put the Yankees within a half-game from the Rays’ lead in the AL East. They were hoping to reverse places with a win tonight, but it wasn’t to be. The Yankees just weren’t piecing together the necessary pieces to make up the win.

CC Sabathia got the start in the middle game of this series against the Rays, working his way to a no-decision. He threw 76 pitches in 5 innings, gave up 3 hits, 4 walks, and 2 runs, and struck out just 2 Rays’ batters. His allowed runs were lead-off solo home runs in the 2nd and 3rd.

And the Yankees finally got on the board in the 5th inning. Torres led-off with a single and then beat out the tag to score on Clint Frazier’s double. And DJ LeMahieu hit a solo home run up the middle to tie up the game in the 6th.

But then normally reliable reliever Jonathan Holder had a really off-day with his 6th inning struggle. The lead-off player singled and, 2 outs later, stole 2nd and ended up on 3rd thanks to a throwing error. Holder then gave up a walk to put runners on the corners. Consecutive singles scored 2 more runs for the home team to return them to the lead.

While the Yankee batters suddenly found their offense dry up, the Rays kept going. Yankees’ reliever Nestor Cortes Jr. gave a scoreless 7th, but then things got sticky again in the 8th. He gave up a lead-off single and a 2-out single to load a few runners for a big 3-run home run to ensure the Rays the win.

Final score: 7-2 Rays

CC K-Count: 3009

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day in the United States, and across the league, players will be donning specialized gear, most notably pink-tinged gear in honor of breast cancer awareness. But some players also customize in a special or unique way.

This year, outfielder Clint Frazier designed his special cleats for the weekend to honor his mother. In addition to the pastel pink Nike swish and highlights on the white cleats, the high-top area features life-like pictures of his mother’s two cats, acknowledging her “fur babies” on this Mother’s Day.

That’s a first for me. But I’m sure his mom feels honored by the gesture.

Go Yankees!

Game 38: NYY vs. TB — Under the dome’s Friday Night Lights

Tropicana Field is a strange place. It’s the only stadium in MLB to have a roof that isn’t retractable. And because of that, it has weird rules on how a ball hits a certain beam in the dome’s structure is an out/hit/home run.

Of course, there are positives to it. Florida is super hot most of they year, but in the Trop, it’s always 72° F. And when there’s inclement weather, like tonight, there’s never any rain delay, wet fields, or strangely sponsored tarps.

While it stormed outside, the Yankees kicked off their first game of this weekend series against the Rays. Domingo German got the start tonight, throwing 84 pitches in 5 innings, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, and struck out 5 Rays’ batters. He kept the Rays scoreless through most of his outing until his last inning, the 5th. A lead-off double scored on a 1-out 2-run home run to get them on the board. And a 2-out solo homer eased the home team into the lead.

Despite a decent showing of Rays’ fans, the majority of tonight’s packed stadium were rooting for the visitors, as usual. And the Yankees were ready to put on a show for their local fans. DJ LeMahieu led-off the game by making it to 1st on a throwing error. Voit walked and Sanchez singled to load up the bases. After a strikeout, a passed ball allowed LeMahieu to hustle home, and Gleyber Torres singled home Voit.

After the Rays tied up the game and then took the lead in the bottom of the 5th, the Yankees only needed the 6th to switch things back in their favor. Sanchez and Frazier hit consecutive singles. After a strikeout, the Rays went to their bullpen for their first reliever.

It didn’t help. Andujar’s single loaded up the bases, and Gio Urshela’s big single scored both Sanchez and Frazier to put the Yankees back in the lead. After another strikeout, the Rays brought in another reliever, whose lone pitch of the game became a grounder to end the inning.

But Urhsela’s RBIs were enough for the Yankees to defend for the rest of the game. Kahnle, Ottavino, Britton, and Chapman each put up a scoreless inning, still allowing the Rays tried a few opportunities to threaten before getting out of the jam, thanks partly to a great defense.

Final score: 4-3 Yankees

Injury updates: Didi Gregorius (elbow) has been in Tampa, trying to come back from his Tommy John surgery last off-season. So when the Yankees came to town, it was only natural for their energetic shortstop to stop in for a visit with his teammates and hang out for the game.

Aaron Hicks (back) has been spending his rehab games with the local minor league Yankees team — Advanced-A Tampa Tarpons. He has three more games scheduled with them before the Yankees will activate him onto the Yankees main roster, which looks to be next week back in the Bronx.

Dellin Betances (shoulder) and James Paxton (knee) both played catch at the Trop before tonight’s game. Betances’ recovery is slow going, progressively working his way to longer and longer tosses to see how his healing is progressing. Paxton, however, is looking good and will hopefully be back after missing just one or two starts.

And for those asking, there is no set timetable on the returns of Aaron Judge (oblique) and Giancarlo Stanton (shoulder). Stanton has resumed hitting and working out with baseball activities. But Judge is not yet ready for that, sticking solely to rehab exercises.

Get well, guys!

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 25: TB vs. NYY — Drizzly, dreary day can’t dampen the Yankees

For much of the morning leading up the game, the big question was whether there would be a game to play thanks to the ridiculous weather this Spring. Today’s skies began overcast and dreary and spend most of the day drizzling rain all over the area as a new front came marching across the state. Even though it really never stopped, the game played on.

The regular season home team of the Rays came to visit the Yankees Spring home for this afternoon’s game. And the Yankees decided to go with a pitching strategy the Rays tested out last season — a 1-inning opening pitcher, followed by a long-term reliever and a couple of closers. While the Rays didn’t practice their pattern, the Yankees seemed to find it work for them today.

Chad Green was the opening pitcher for the 1st inning and had a bit of trouble at first. A lead-off single raced home on another single that was aided to a sloppy fielding error in right field. But then Green quickly got 3 outs to get out of the inning. Despite getting on the board early, the Rays’ batters were stymied by the Yankees’ pitching for most of the game.

Luis Cessa threw 4 solid, scoreless innings, setting himself up for the eventual win. Britton and Coulombe kept things moving through the 6th-8th innings, before David Sosebee came out for the 9th. A lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a ground out and later scored on a 2-out single to double the visiting team’s score. It was a decent attempt at a rally that fell short.

This was, of course, due to the fact that the Yankees are really becoming quite the force this Spring. Down a run in the 1st, Judge redeemed himself for that 1st inning error at the bat. He worked a 1-out walk and then hustled home on Gary Sanchez’s double to tie up the game.

In the 3rd, with 1 out, Gardner walked and stole 2nd. He then scored on Aaron Judge’s single (the first single he’s hit all Spring, by the way). Judge scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s double, and Stanton promptly scored on Sanchez’s double. Torres led-off the 4th with a walk, stole 2nd, stole 3rd on a 2-out walk, and then scored on Billy Burns’ single. And Greg Bird smacked a big 1-out solo home run in the 5th to cap off the Yankees’ lead early.

Final score: 6-2 Yankees

One to Watch: It’s Thairo Estrada again today, mostly for his stellar defense. It’s always after he makes some outstanding play, like laying out for a catch in the infield dirt or one of those nifty jump-throws, that I’m reminded that just over a year ago, he was shot in a botched robbery in his home of Venezuela.

As a reminder, last January, Estrada and his wife were going out to eat when two teenagers approached to demand cash and his phone, but as he had neither on him, they panicked and shot the young prospect. They were never caught, a symptom of the awful situation currently ravaging the South American country.

Actually, Estrada still has the bullet lodged in his hip and spent the last season plagued by injuries to his back and hamstring in effort to come back eventually. And this Spring, he’s put much of the trauma and drama of last year behind him. He’s really showing why he still should be considered one of the Yankees’ most talented prospects. (The current rankings have him much lower than he should be, but the latest rankings will be released and updated following the finalization of current 25-man and 40-man rosters this next week.)

Next up: The Yankees will travel to West Palm Beach (about 3.5 hours southeast of Tampa) to visit the Astros tomorrow and see the Cardinals on Thursday in nearby Jupiter. Just a few games left of this Spring, and things are still going strong for the Yankees. How that translates to the regular season is still very much up for the talking heads and “barstool managers” to make their infamous sweeping declarations, and the teams to prove them all wrong.

Injury news: Unfortunately, it looks like Dellin Betances will begin 2019 on the disabled list thanks to some right shoulder inflammation and impingement. The impingement is when “you raise your arm to shoulder height, the space between the acromion [top corner shoulder bone] and rotator cuff [tendons connecting shoulder and arm] narrows. The acromion can rub against (or ‘impinge’ on) the tendon and the bursa [fluid sac that helps the shoulder rotate], causing irritation and pain.” In other words, even just working out the shoulder could further aggravate the initial injury.

This means that Betances will need to reduce the inflammation and treat with some physical therapy and steroid injections to combat all the overuse of the shoulder, one would guess to be rather common in pitchers, especially those who throw as hard as he does. But the advantage is that the Yankees have a lot of depth in their bullpen. So a little delay in Betances’ 2019 start won’t harm the Yankees that much.

Before today’s game, the Yankees called on a fellow athlete to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Wearing her medals, Olympic jacket, and a Yankees cap, Abbey Burns threw to her brother, Yankees’ minor leaguer Billy Burns. She is a noted Special Olympics equestrian and swimming athlete and holds records in several categories of Paralympic American swimming.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 2: NYY vs. TB — First Spring win with some big swings

Shifting a little closer to home certainly seemed to help the Yankees shake off yesterday’s loss. Of course, that has nothing to do with the fact that they played a team that clearly isn’t used to working together, a clear contrast to yesterday’s opponents.

Jonathan Loaisiga had a great start against the Rays this afternoon at their Spring home field in Port Charlotte (about 90 minutes south of where the Rays spend the season and the Yankees spend Spring in Tampa). Loaisiga continues to show the Yankees why he was worth the call-ups last year and why he could be a contender for this year’s team. He threw a near flawless 2 innings, eventually setting himself up for the win.

Other names (perhaps familiar to frequent readers) that took the mound today included David Hale, Brady Lail, and Stephen Tarpley. Together with two other minor league relievers, the Yankees pitching staff helped navigate today’s team to their first Spring win.

Sure, there were some stumbles along the way, as we should expect in Spring Training. But they were able to fend off the Rays until the middle of the game. In the 5th, back-to-back solo home runs over the short left field fence got them on the board, and 2 outs later, another solo shot off the center field netting added one more. But a great moment (not on the highlight reel thanks to the away broadcast) was the final play of the inning — when catcher Lavernway threw to shortstop Cabrera in a blink-and-you-miss-it play to catch the runner stealing 2nd.

In the 6th, a 1-out single scored as part of a 2-run home run to give the fans a bit of something to cling to in what became the Rays’ 3rd loss of the Spring. It’s worth noting that much like at the Rays’ regular home in St. Petersburg, the majority of fans in the stands today were clearly Yankees fans. As if the echoing cheers during positive Yankee moments weren’t making that obvious.

And those cheers began early today, with the Yankees once again jumping out in front right in the 1st inning. Tyler Wade hit a ground-rule double and then scored on Luke Voit’s single. Estevan Florial kicked off the 2nd inning with a single, stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then easily scored on another wild pitch. Two outs and a new pitcher later, Holder and LeMahieu singled to get on base, and Wade’s double scored Holder for a rather easy early Yankees’ lead.

Then in the 4th, with 1 out, LeMahieu walked, Wade singled, and they both scored with Luke Voit’s powerful 3-run home run over that left field fence to double the Yankees’ score. After the Rays got a few runs on the board, the Yankees got a few back in the 6th when Mazilli singled and then scored as part of Matt Lipka’s 2-run home run (yes, to left field).

It was enough to claim their first win this Spring.

Final score: 8-5 Yankees

Next up: for Opening Day, the Yankees will host the Blue Jays at Steinbrenner Field tomorrow afternoon. And because it’s both Opening Day and their home, you can expect to see some appearances by the “big guys”. There’s nothing like Opening Day. I can’t wait.

Go Yankees!