Game 121: TB vs. NYY — Good start wasted on quiet bats

Well, that was not how the Yankees wanted to end today or this series. Masahiro Tanaka had a pretty good outing tonight, keeping the Rays to just 2 runs, but the Yankee bats just didn’t capitalize when they could to flip the narrative today. So the Yankees ended up on the wrong end of the series.

Other than the 1st inning, Tanaka breezed his way through the next 5 innings and still earned the loss. In the 1st, he gave up a single, a stolen base, an RBI double, another single, and an RBI double. The other runner got a little greedy on that last double, and the defense snapped into action to get the second runner out at home. Then Tanaka got out of the inning with 2 of his 6 strikeouts.

Britton threw a beautiful 11-pitch 7th inning before handing things over to David Robertson. Robertson had his own issues as the Rays continued to try to add to their minuscule lead. He gave up a single that moved to 3rd on a throwing error and then scored on a sacrifice bunt. But he was able to get out of the jam without allowing further damage. Kahnle closed out the game with a clean 9th inning.

But the Yankees just weren’t doing much to hit off the Rays’ pitchers, despite them using a more normal pitching pattern of a regular starter and then a collection of relievers to fill out the rest of the game. The Rays’ starter held the Yankees’ batters to just 2 hits and a walk and kept them scoreless through 5 innings. And his relievers, for the most part, continued that pattern.

But in the 8th, with 1 out, pinch-hitter Romine singled, and Hicks hit into a failed double play only getting Romine out at 2nd but a messy throwing error allowed Hicks to make it all the way to 2nd. Then Giancarlo Stanton hit a double off the right field wall, and for some reason, the umpires called it a home run, and the Rays’ outfielder didn’t bother to chase the ball down because he thought it was a foul.

Yeah, that left everyone kind of confused. So they did an umpire review and it was easily overturned as a home run, but the question remained as to what the call should be. The logical choice ended up being essentially the equivalent of a ground-rule double for a compromise, mainly because the Rays’ outfielder didn’t hustle to get what was a live ball rolling around in the outfield after it bounced off the wall.

Okay, after finally getting on the board, the Yankee had one more opportunity in the bottom of the 9th and it looked like it was going to work. Gregorius and Torres singled and Walker worked a walk to load up the bases. There was no outs, and the Rays decided to shut it down with a new reliever. Just 9 pitches later, the game was over.

Final score: 3-1 Rays, Rays win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees host the Blue Jays for the weekend to close out this home stand. After a travel day on Monday, they will play a short series in Miami before another travel day has them arriving in Baltimore for a weekend series there. And then it’s back to the Bronx again to close out the month.

Roster moves/Scranton Shuttle alert: After yesterday’s game, the Yankees optioned Luis Cessa back to AAA Scranton. They also recalled reliever Tommy Kahnle. Kahnle, as stated above, ended up pitching well in tonight’s game.

Go Yankees!

Game 120: TB vs. NYY — When you don’t have pitching, you don’t have anything

They always say that when you don’t have pitching, you don’t have anything (Sometimes it’s “you don’t have nothing”, but I was an English major and can’t allow myself to use a double negative unless I’m using a direct quote to make a point). But the point of that statement is proof that as much as you need those runs, you need a strong pitcher that won’t give up those runs for the other guys.

And Luis Cessa was just not having a great game tonight, in this middle game against the Rays. He threw 65 pitches into the 4th inning, gave up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 5 runs, and struck out 4 batters. In the 2nd, a 1-out double scored on a 2-out single to get the Rays started.

Then in the 3rd, he loaded up the bases with 2 singles and a walk and no outs. But then he got a good strikeout, so there was hope. The next batter hit into a grounder that the Yankees failed to turn into a double play, so the lead runner scored. Another run scored on an RBI single to give the Rays a hefty lead.

They added two more when a 1-out single scored as part of a 2-run homer in the 4th. And that was the end of Cessa’s night, handing things over to Holder. Holder had a better night, getting two solid strikeouts to close out the inning. Another good outing for the reliever who’s had some issues recently.

Sonny Gray really had a chance to show off his long-term reliever skills again, starting in the 5th and pitching into the 8th. Gray had some issues, but was able to space most of them out through his outing after a bit of a snag in the 5th. A 1-out double later scored on a 2-out single to cap off the Rays’ runs tonight. Green breezed his way through the final 5 outs in just 12 pitches and kept the Rays from adding to their lead.

The Yankees’ offense was really kept to a minimum and also spread throughout the game. They collected 5 hits and 4 walks (and 2 hit-by-pitches), but only managed one run — Miguel Andujar’s lead-off home run in the 2nd. They just weren’t finding the right holes to make a difference, several times getting enough runners in scoring position but getting halted from scoring runs, and Cessa’s troubled start laid the groundwork for the eventual loss.

Final score: 6-1 Rays

Roster moves: Before tonight’s game, the Yankees designated last night’s reliever George Kontos for assignment in order to recall Luis Cessa.

And as we’ve said (or rather presumed) in previous posts, Cashman confirmed the obvious — Aaron Judge‘s return will not be just 3 weeks from his initial injury (July 26). He recently received a cortisone shot to help with the healing, but he’s still not resuming baseball activities like swinging a bat or playing catch.

The reality is that he broke a bone (that’s why the word “fracture” is in “chip fracture”) and bones take time to heal. And it’s not until they heal that one can even start the recovery process. It’s going to hurt. The muscles and surrounding area have been irritated by the injury and will also require time to adjust to the healing process.

Look, injuries are both simple and complicated. They’re complicated in that there is no exact formula on healing and the process because each person and each injury is going to be different. And they’re simple for the same reason — they’re going to heal when they heal and there’s not much you can do until they do. It’s frustrating, but it’s just part of life, especially when one is an elite athlete.

It certainly makes me feel like I write about injuries almost as much as I write about roster moves. So, to me, it seems that injuries are as much a part of the business of baseball as figuring out the best combination for the bullpen. It’s certainly lends itself to part of the reason why baseball is so unpredictable.

Go Yankees!

Game 119: TB vs. NYY — Happ in charge & Romine’s power drive

Rain seems to be the biggest foe of baseball this season. But tonight’s game was only held off by a 21 minute delay at the beginning of the game to dry out the field a bit before the Yankees and Rays began their opening game of this mid-week series.

JA Happ got the start tonight and threw a pretty good game to earn his 3rd win as a Yankee and 13th win overall this season. Happ threw 106 pitches in his 7 scoreless innings, gave up just 1 hits and 4 walks, and struck out 4 Rays batters. Happ is certainly finding his stride as a Yankee and fitting in very nicely to the Yankees rotation.

The Yankees batters faced the odd Rays pitching pattern again. The “starter” only threw just 1 inning before his primary reliever threw 5 innings. Normally, the longest pitcher starts the game and then relievers piece together an inning or two to finish out the game. Now, the Rays were the one of the first teams to use the extreme fielding shifts and now doing this strange pitching pattern, so maybe it will catch on too.

Anyway, it’s not like it worked out well. The Yankees dinged into the Rays’ “starter” in the 1st inning. With 1 out, Stanton doubled and then advanced to 3rd on a pick-off throwing error and then scored easily on Aaron Hicks’ single. The Yankees then loaded up the bases with Gregorius’ single and Bird’s walk, but a ground out ended the early threat.

The long-term reliever (I guess) actually held off the Yankees for much of his 5 innings, pitching into the 6th. However, in the 5th, the Yankees found a small hole to capitalize on from an unlikely suspect. Walker led-off with a walk, and then Austin Romine liked the first pitch and plopped it into the right field seats for a 2-run home run to give the Yankees’ lead some cushion.

Under the Rays’ final reliever, the Yankees found one more chance to add a run in the 8th. With 2 outs, Andujar doubled and was pinch-run by Robinson. Robinson then scored on Greg Bird’s double to cap off the Yankees’ night.

Dellin Betances came out for the 8th inning, and the Rays’ lead-off batter took his first pitch into the visitors’ dugout for a solo home run to get the Rays on the board. But then Betances breezed through a quick 3 outs. And Aroldis Chapman only needed 9 pitches to earn his 31st save to close out the game.

Final score: 4-1 Yankees

There is quite a bit of conversation in regards to this year’s Rookie of the Year candidate. And it should both please and not really surprise any in Yankee Universe that both Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. While Torres has pretty much always been in the conversation due to the pre-set expectations as a prospect, the biggest standout and surprise is the rise of Andujar.

Andujar has been a consistent force for the Yankees, virtually taking up the starter’s role at 3rd and being quite the power hitter at the plate, with the team’s highest batting average and doubles. Torres, of course, made the All-Star team as the back-up 2nd baseman (finishing 2nd in voting behind a veteran superstar infielder), a huge honor for his rookie year, but Andujar was in the mix for his position, finishing 3rd behind 2 big star players for other teams. That’s how valuable these players are.

Both are great candidates for Rookie of the Year, but voting and awards season is still so far off and there’s still quite a bit of baseball yet to play. Though it would be something to have another Yankee rank so high in this category. Sanchez was 2nd in 2016, Judge won the honor last year, and both Torres and Andujar are up for it in 2018.

I’ve said it for a few years now. The Yankee farm system is really good, and it’s given me hope for the future of the franchise. And if they keep churning out these kinds of players, Yankee Universe shouldn’t be worried either.

Go Yankees!

Game 100: NYY vs. TB — Trade talks louder than muted finale loss

This afternoon’s finale in St. Petersburg was certainly a disappointing way to end their brief road trip and cap off their first 100 games this season. With all the conversation about the Yankees big splashy trade (more below), the daily grind sometimes gets swept under the rug. But it’s those daily moments that add up to whether the Yankees will spend October playing baseball or watching baseball from their living room.

Luis Cessa got the start today and actually had a pretty good outing overall. He threw just 74 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 4 hits and 2 runs, and struck out 3 Rays batters. In fact, he held them off until that 6th inning. He gave up a lead-off single that scored as part of a 2-run home run to get the Rays on the board, and after an out, he handed the ball over to the bullpen.

Jonathan Holder is usually pretty reliable and he actually was except for a really beautiful 2-out solo home run straight up the middle. Cole and Betances, however, kept the Rays to those runs by 2 solid innings to close out the game.

Comparatively, the Yankees pretty much matched the Rays in their offense and pitching today, falling just short of the Rays’ power. The Rays again pieced together their bullpen for an overall show of force which, based on both games this series, might actually be something that works for them.

In the 2nd (with a new reliever, of course), Torres led-off with a walk, moved to 2nd on Bird’s single, took 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on Neil Walker’s sacrifice fly. Not a bad way to make his return to the roster. Then, after the Rays got the lead, the Yankees didn’t find their opening until the 8th inning. Gardner worked a walk to lead-off the inning, ended up at 3rd on Gregorius’ 1-out single, and then scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s sacrifice fly.

Basically, the game boiled down to 2 homers vs. 2 sac flies. And power wins the day.

Final score: 3-2 Rays, Rays win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees are currently heading back home for another home stand. They will host the Royals for a 4-game weekend series, and enjoy an off-day before a brief micro-series against the Orioles. Then they head out on the road again.

Roster moves: The last 24 hours have been something for the Yankees roster. First, Gary Sanchez‘s injury is back with a force and will sideline him until at least late August. Fortunately, Romine and Higashioka are more than capable of filling the void, even within the batter’s box.

Before the game, the Yankees activated Gleyber Torres from the DL due to his hip strain, and he ended up scoring that first run of today’s game. They also recalled Luis Cessa to start today’s game. To make room for these two, the Yankees optioned Giovanny Gallegos and Tyler Wade back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

And now, the big news of the day. The Yankees were working on the deal when I posted yesterday, and as I’ve made it a habit not to talk about things until they are settled, the news is out now. The Yankees worked a trade with the Baltimore Orioles to continue to shore up their already pretty powerful bullpen. They picked up veteran closer Zach Britton in exchange for prospect pitchers Cody Carroll, Josh Rogers, and Dillon Tate.

In case you’re wondering, Britton has been with the Orioles for the last 8 seasons, moving from a starter to a closer and becoming quite the force, his best season (2016) earning the O’s 47 saves thanks to his 0.54 ERA. In other words, he’s a good pick for the Yankees already packed bullpen.

Go Yankees!

Game 99: NYY vs. TB — Complete shutout with #TanakaTime

After last night’s disappointing outing, the Yankees needed a game like tonight’s middle game against the Rays to set them back on track. And Masahiro Tanaka had a great outing, something he certainly needed, to earn his 8th win of this season. He threw 105 pitches in 9 scoreless innings, a complete game, giving up just 3 hits and a walk, and striking out 9 Rays batters in just 2 hours and 37 minutes of this game.

The Yankee batters gave Tanaka enough to work with off the Rays pitching tonight too. In the 1st, Gardner and Judge each singled and ended up in scoring position on a wild pitch strikeout. Gardner then scored on Didi Gregorius’ ground out. The in the 5th, with 1 out, Brandon Drury is hit by a pitch, moved to 3rd on Walker’s single, and unable to shake off the pain (more below), is pinch-run by Tyler Wade. Wade ended up scoring on his behalf on Austin Romine’s ground out.

The Yankees loaded up the bases in the 7th with Andujar’s single, Bird’s double, and an intentional walk to Walker. Romine then hit a sacrifice fly to score Andujar. Andujar came back again to hit a lead-off ground-rule double in the 9th and later scored on Neil Walker’s single to cap off the Yankees’ evening.

Final score: 4-0 Yankees

But in injury news: Brandon Drury‘s hit-by-pitch was a little concerning for the Yankees. But x-rays came back negative, so the Yankee are taking his bruised left hand on a day-to-day basis. And there was a lot of conversation about Gary Sanchez after the sluggish jog to 1st to end the game last night, but it turns out that his previous injury (groin strain) has returned. It’s enough to put him back on the DL again. The Yankees recalled Kyle Higashioka as back-up catcher, of course.

And in lighter news, as you know, the teams usually take batting practice prior to every game. So for the fans, watching the two big Yankee power hitters and former Home Run Derby Champions, Aaron Judge (2017) and Giancarlo Stanton (2016), is often a treat for anyone who comes early. Before today’s game, Judge and Stanton went back-and-forth hitting those monster home runs that made them champions to see which of them would hit the ball furthest. Consensus says it was Stanton.

Go Yankees!

Game 98: NYY vs. TB — Not so sharp Severino or Rays’ bullpen strategy

Yesterday’s finale against the Mets was rained out due to the stream of thunderstorms once again plaguing the East Coast. So they postponed the game for next month to conclude that series and headed down to their next series, a brief road trip against the Rays. And though it’s been quite stormy in the Tampa area too, the Rays are the only completely domed stadium in MLB (a roof with no retraction capabilities), so the game carried on.

Like the Yankees (and other teams at this point in the year), the Rays are down a starter. But instead of calling up a young pitcher from their farm system or finding one on the free agent market or as a result of a trade, they are playing a bit of puzzle pieces by loading up their everyday roster with bullpen pitchers and then splitting a few games a week between the bullpen.

The obvious disadvantage to this is when a starter has a bad day and they need the bullpen to back him up only to see its depletion firsthand. Or you know, finding out yet another starter is headed for the DL (as they did this week). And I’m glad I’m not writing for them or we’d have way more than a paragraph for the season.

Anyway, for the opener at the Trop, it would be Luis Severino vs. the Rays’ bullpen. And in a weird twist of fate, Severino had a rather bad night. He threw 96 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up a whopping 11 hits and 7 runs (6 earned), and still struck out 8 Rays’ batters to earn just his 3rd loss of the season.

In the 1st, he gave up a 2-out double that ended up scoring from 2nd base on a passed ball that kicked off Sanchez’s cleat almost to 3rd base. Then, he held them off until the 5th — with 1 out, 2 singles ended up scoring on a big 3-run home run. A solo shot led-off his 6th inning before a double and single put runners on the corners and Severino was forced to hand the game over to the Yankees’ bullpen.

Chad Green had some trouble keeping the Rays from adding to their lead. He gave up a single that scored the first runner, and then after an out, a failed double play (just a ground out at 2nd) allowed the other runner from Severino to score, ultimately the game-changers. But then Warren and Cole threw scoreless innings to close out the game.

Meanwhile, the rotating door on the bullpen didn’t keep the Yankees from doing their job. In the 2nd, Stanton led-off with a double and later scored on Miguel Andujar’s 2-out single. The game stayed tied for a bit, but after the Rays regained their lead, the Yankees chipped away at it.

In the 6th, with 2 outs, Giancarlo Stanton singled and ended up at 3rd when the Rays made a sloppy fielding error on Hicks’ hit. After a pitching change, the new reliever threw a passed ball that allowed Stanton to score, and Gary Sanchez’s long single scored Hicks.

The 7th inning ended up being the Yankees’ biggest offensive opportunity. With 1 out, they loaded the bases with walks to Walker, Gardner, and Judge. Another new reliever got Didi Gregorius to ground out, while the runners all moved up to scoring position and Walker scored. Stanton then singled home Gardner and Judge.

Down just a run, the Yankees’ final opportunity was basically handed to them, but they didn’t come through. Gardner led-off the 9th with a single, Judge walked, and they both moved to scoring position on Gregorius’ sacrifice bunt. The Rays opted to intentionally walk Stanton (a good decision on their part as Stanton was on fire tonight, going 4-for-4 with a walk, 2 RBIs and 2 runs scored).

So the bases were loaded. Hicks hit into a little grounder and the Rays snapped into defense getting Gardner out at home. Then Sanchez hit a little grounder the Rays mishandled for the out at 2nd, but Sanchez did not run full-out to 1st and the ball beat him there for the final out. The game should’ve been tied at that point. I’m not really sure there are any words for that play other than Girardi’s old go-to phrase “it’s not what you want”.

Final score: 7-6 Rays

Roster moves: following the game on Saturday, after his great call-up story, the Yankees optioned Domingo Acevedo back to AA Trenton. They recalled Giovanny Gallegos from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Go Yankees!

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!