Games 94 & 95: TB vs. NYY — A rain delay, an ejection, a doubleheader, and an anniversary

Thanks to the rain out yesterday, today’s scheduled got packed. And the Yankees still somehow managed to amp up the drama and make the final 2 games against the Rays all the more interesting. The afternoon game of the doubleheader was first delayed by lingering afternoon rain, pushing the start time back 1 hour and 26 minutes.

Game 1 (make-up game from July 17)
Domingo German got the start for the first game of today’s doubleheader and threw a pretty good game despite what became the major talking point — a terrible strike zone set by the home plate umpire. German threw 90 pitches in 6 innings, gave up 4 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and struck out 5 Rays’ batters.

The allowed runs were consecutive solo home run to kick off the game. After that, German buckled in and really set a strong pattern to pass the game off to his relievers. Kahnle, Britton, and Hale threw a strong scoreless inning of their own, keeping the visitors to those early runs.

The Yankees answered back to the Rays’ early lead by tying up the game right in the turbulent 2nd inning. Didi Gregorius led-off the inning by getting all the way to 2nd on a fielding error. He then moved to 3rd on a ground out and scored on Gio Urshela’s 2-run home run.

Now, after a questionable strikeout and some bad calls on the at-bat of the two most chill guys on the team (Gardner and LeMahieu), Aaron Boone had to step in. Leading up to this, Sanchez questioned some calls, especially lower in the strike zone, for their inconsistency. The rookie home plate umpire didn’t seem to adjust, and the continuation of the questionable calls was starting to fluster everyone.

Boone did what managers need to do — take one for their guys. Several choice words later (like “savages”), Boone watched the rest of the game from the clubhouse, and the Yankees (and their fans) applauded his efforts and ended up winning the game. And I looked at the strike zone graphics following the game, it wasn’t good. Far too many called strikes were out side the box, and too many called balls were inside it. Boone and company were right to have issues with the calls.

In the 5th, Judge led-off with a single, moved to 3rd on Hicks’ ground-rule double, and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s 1-out single. After another out, Luke Voit’s single scored Hicks, and Urshela’s double scored Sanchez. And Aaron Hicks’ 2-out solo home run in the 6th capped off the Yankees’ dominant afternoon.

Final score: 6-2 Yankees

Game 2 (regularly scheduled game)
After a brief clean-up and resetting the field, the second half of today’s doubleheader was ready to go. The Yankees opted to use an “opener”, the ever reliable Chad Green, who despite throwing 31 pitches in the 1st inning, kept the Rays from scoring.

Nestor Cortes Jr came on for the 2nd inning and kept things strong through most of his outing, into the 5th inning. But in the 3rd, a lead-off walk scored on a double. But he handed the ball over to Luis Cessa in the 5th, who carried things scoreless into the 8th. Ottavino closed out the final 4 outs with just 17 great pitches.

So, the Yankees were late to get on the board. Luke Voit hit a 1st pitch solo home run in the 5th inning to tie up the game. Then in the 6th, Austin Romine led-off with a double and moved to 3rd on a ground out. Walks to Judge and Encarnacion loaded up the bases, and a balk moved all the runners up and scored Romine.

Then Didi Gregorius’ single and a throwing error allowed both Judge and Encarnacion to score. After another out, the Yankees loaded up the bases again with Torres’ single and Urshela’s walk. The Rays made a pitching change, but he promptly walked Mike Tauchman to score Gregorius before finally getting out of the inning.

Final score: 5-1 Yankees, Yankees win series 3-1

Next up: The Yankees continue their home stand with a weekend series against the visiting Rockies. The Yankees will spend next week on the road, first against the Twins and then in Boston for a long weekend, including a make-up game as part of a Saturday doubleheader.

Before the later game tonight, the Yankees celebrated the 20th anniversary of David Cone’s perfect game. It was a perfect day in many ways, honoring the perfect game of Don Larsen and caught by Yogi Berra. And then Cone spent most of the day just playing catch with his catcher Joe Girardi. So, in addition to the now standard commemorative bobblehead of David Cone, Cone also threw out the ceremonial first pitch, a strike of course.

And also coming up this weekend is Hall of Fame weekend in Cooperstown, New York. The ceremonies will include Yankee alum like Mike Mussina and Mariano Rivera. There are many activities this weekend leading up to the main event of induction ceremony on Sunday afternoon. Rivera’s unanimous election to the Hall is really the biggest topic of the weekend, though for Yankee fans (and really any decent general baseball fans), it was inevitable. Our hero, our legend, our Hall of Famer.

Go Yankees!

Game 93: TB vs. NYY — #CCStrong and a #DidiSlam

In tonight’s second game of this 4-game series against the visiting Rays, the drama continued as it only can in these division rivalry games. The Rays are still trying to do all they can to chip away at the Yankees’ lead in the AL East. With the Yankees currently looming over the Rays at 6 games, the Rays were hoping to use this longer series to make up the deficit. And last night’s come from behind rally certainly helped. Tonight’s, however, did not.

CC Sabathia got the start in tonight’s game, throwing a strong 79 pitches in 6 innings. He gave up 5 hits and 3 runs and struck out 6 Rays batters. In both the 2nd and 4th, the Rays hit 2 solo 2-out home runs to get them on the board early and into the lead. In the 6th, with 2 outs, a single scored on an RBI double.

The Yankees were able to tie up the game briefly with Edwin Encarnacion’s lead-off solo home run in the 2nd. But once the Rays took their small lead, they were held off until the 6th when DJ LeMahieu hit a 1-out solo home run into the right field seats.

With the Rays still in a slim lead over the Yankees, the bullpen had to step in to do a better job. Cortes, normally a stalwart in the ‘pen, struggled tonight and loaded up the bases in the 7th with just 1 out. So, they called in David Hale. Hale’s first batter was last night’s hero, and he got him to hit into a great double play to get out of that jam.

Hale continued on through the scoreless 8th and into the 9th. After giving up 2 singles and just 1 out, they called in Britton to close out the game with 2 solid strikeouts.

The Yankees needed to find any weakness to charge through and flip the script. In the 8th, Torres led-off with a walk and, 2 outs later, scored on Aaron Judge’s 2-run home run to finally give the Yankees the lead. Then Voit singled, Sanchez doubled, and Encarncaion was intentionally walked to load up the bases. And Didi Gregorius, who has been still trying to find his footing after returning from the IL, seemed to find it with a monster grand slam into the right field bleacher seats.

Final score: 8-3 Yankees

Okay, so there was a bit of a scuffle in the 6th inning. Sabathia struck out the final batter he faced, and the Rays’ batter said something. Sabathia heard it and questioned it. The Rays batter hostilely deflected. Tempers rose, Gregorius intercepted Sabathia, the benches cleared, some shoving ensued, heated words were exchanged, and then it fizzled out. No one was ejected. Just a “misunderstanding“, apparently.

Of course, the best part was the offended Rays player jogged out to right field for the bottom of the inning. He heard from the fans for his participation and then watched Judge’s 2-run home run “sail over his head” and into the stands to those same fans. Home field advantage indeed.

Go Yankees!

Game 92: TB vs. NYY — The Rays’ 1-man offense

As can often be expected in divisional rivalry games, tonight’s opener against the visiting Rays was anything but predictable. The emotional sway of the fans in the Bronx was eventful, to say the least. Most of this was due to the 1-man offense on the Rays.

James Paxton got the start tonight, throwing 107 pitches through 6 solid innings. He gave up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs and struck out 7 Rays’ batters. The Rays’ lead-off batter smacked a solo home run to kick off the game. And then that same hitter came back in the 3rd to double the Rays’ lead with a 1-out solo home run.

The Yankees were held off by the Rays’ ace for the first part of the game until Edwin Encarncion hit a 2-out solo home run in the 4th to get the Yankees on the board. Then with 2 outs in the 7th, a new reliever promptly gave up a solo home run to Gio Urshela to tie up the game. In the 8th, with 2 outs, Hicks singled and then scored as part of a monster 2-run home run by Edwin Encarnacion to put the Yankees into the lead.

Now, after Paxton handed the ball over to Chad Green, Green kept things rolling as the Yankees grabbed the lead. All they needed were Aroldis Chapman to make 3 outs in the 9th to close out the game. And based on a pattern of 49-0, the Yankees should win the game when they’re leading the game going into the 9th.

But again, as in life, nothing is predictable in baseball. Chapman’s slider, which has really be a great go-to pitch for him this season, wasn’t where it needed to be tonight, and it cost them the game. The first two batters hit consecutive singles to set up the tying runs on base. Then after 2 really sharp strikeouts, that same power hitter from earlier smacked a big 3-run home run to thrust the Rays back into the lead.

The Yankees couldn’t manage a comeback in the bottom of the 9th, and thus with a called strikeout, the game was over.

Final score: 5-4 Rays

Injury updates: Luis Severino and Dellin Betances have yet to appear in a game for the Yankees this season after sustaining injuries during Spring Training. Both retroactive to March 25, Severino suffered a right shoulder rotator cuff strain and grade 2 lat strain, and Betances had a right shoulder impignment. Betances further had a setback in mid-June with his own lat strain.

Today, both pitchers threw 25 tosses from 60-feet as they resume activities in their recovery. While Betances is based in the bullpen, Severino may cut his longer return back to being a starter by doing some innings out of the bullpen. Both pitchers are understandingly frustrated that they haven’t been able to help the Yankees in their strong 2019, anxiously watching from the sidelines to get back in the game in way they can.

Also, the Yankees announced that this year’s Heart & Hustle Award nominee is DJ LeMahieu. The award is given to players who “demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and traditions of the game”. Former players vote for active players before the All-Star break, and each team gets a nominee. The final winner is revealed after the season, this year at the Legends for Youth dinner on November 7 in New York. Congratulations!

Go Yankees!

Game 88: NYY vs. TB — Sleepy Sunday to close out the first half

For all the drama from the first three games of this series, this afternoon’s finale was quite mundane in comparison. James Paxton got the start for the Yankees today, throwing 99 pitches through 6 innings. He gave up 7 hits and 2 runs and struck out an impressive 11 Rays’ batters.

In the 1st, a lead-off double scored on another double. A single moved that runner to 3rd before a fielder’s choice scored the Rays’ second run. After that, the Yankees held off the Rays for the rest of the game. Kahnle, Ottavino, and Green each took 2 outs to close out the final 2 innings of the game and keep the Rays’ from adding to their early lead.

Unfortunately, the only shot the Yankees’ offense got was a 2-out solo home run in the 2nd by Brett Gardner. Collectively, both pitching staffs got 27 strike outs today, and that seemed to make quite a bit of difference by the end of the game.

Final score: 2-1 Rays, the series is split 2-2

Next up: The All-Star Break is officially underway for those not traveling to Cleveland. On Friday, the Yankees will begin the second half of the season with a long home stand against the Blue Jays, Rays, and Rockies. They’ll hit the road again to face the Twins and Red Sox.

Today, in Cleveland, as part of the All-Star Game festivities, there are two exhibition games scheduled for fans — the Celebrity Softball Game and the Futures Game. The Futures game features some of the best prospects within the minor league system. The Yankees are represented by a single player, pitcher Deivi Garcia of AA Trenton Thunder. The players used to be divided into American and World teams, but more reflective of the game on Tuesday, they now simply represent the American and National Leagues.

On Monday, the players will meet the media, workout at Progressive Field, and then have fun watching the Home Run Derby. Then Tuesday is the main event — the 90th Annual All-Star Game. In addition to Sabathia’s honoring, the Yankees are represented by Chapman, LeMahieu, Sanchez, Tanaka, and Torres. So, there’s a lot for Yankee fans to see this next week.

Go Yankees!

Game 87: NYY vs. TB — #CCStrong, despite offense falling short

The Rays are certainly doing their best to try to claw their way up from 2nd place in the AL East, giving the 1st place Yankees quite a challenge this weekend. In this 3rd game of the 4-game series, things were looking rather similar to the first 2 games before the Yankees were edged out by the home team.

Actually, the Rays seemed to answer back for every Yankee offensive game. After the Yankees scored at the top of the 2nd, 7th, and 9th, the Rays scored in the bottom of each of those innings to shift things in their favor. It was quite the roller coaster for the fans in the packed stadium in St. Petersburg this afternoon.

CC Sabathia was rather good today, throwing just 89 pitches in his 7 innings. He gave up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs and struck out 5 Rays’ batters. In the 2nd, Brett Gardner hit a nice 2-out solo home run to get the Yankees on board first. So, the Rays took advantage in the bottom of the 2nd. A 1-out walk moved to 3rd on a single and then scored on a 2-out single to tie up the game.

The teams held each other to that tie for most of the game. Urshela led-off the 7th with a single, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, advanced to 3rd on a double play, and then later scored on Aaron Hicks’ single. With 2 outs in the bottom of the 7th, the Rays got a single that scored on a solid 2-run home run to flip the score into their favor.

Adam Ottavino breezed through a scoreless 8th inning, and Aaron Hicks smacked a 2-out solo home run in the 9th to tie up the game again. So, Chad Green got the chance to send the game into extra innings again, but with 2 outs, the next batter hit a big walk-off solo homer to give the Rays their first win of the weekend.

Final score: 4-3 Rays

Roster moves/Scranton Shuttle: The Yankees selected the contract of reliever Daniel Camarena to add a fresh arm to the roster this weekend. They optioned infielder Mike Ford to AAA Scranton to make room.

Masahiro Tanaka is now part of the All-Star roster. A pitcher from the Blue Jays went on the IL with a shoulder issue, so Tanaka got the call to replace him today. Tanaka was previously chosen in his rookie season (2014), but a UCL sprain kept him from the field. He is now the 5th player that will represent the Yankees on Tuesday in Cleveland, in addition to CC Sabathia who will be present to receive special recognition.

Go Yankees!

Game 86: NYY vs. TB — A little Judge, a big Gardner

The Yankees continue the drama before the All-Star Break in this second game of the 4-game weekend series. Of course, to the nearly packed Tropicana Field, it was just more of the same that fans always encounter when the Yankees come back to the Tampa area to face the Rays. Amusingly dubbed “Yankee Stadium South”, it’s one of the few times a year that the stadium is usually at capacity, and the stands are packed with Yankee fans overwhelming those in Rays’ gear.

Masahiro Tanaka threw 101 pitches to start tonight’s game, throwing into the 7th inning. He gave up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs, and struck out 5 Rays’ batters. He held off the home team for the first part of the game, giving up lead-off solo home runs in the 4th and 5th innings to get the Rays on the board.

Then in the 7th, with 1 out, he gave up a double that moved to 3rd on a wild pitch walk. That was the end of Tanaka’s night, handing the ball over to Nestor Cortes Jr, but he loaded up the bases by hitting his first batter. After another out, the next batter singled home two runners, but the next runner got caught trying to take 3rd when the Yankee defense snapped into action.

The Yankee offense actually started the game, with a 1-out solo home run by Aaron Judge in the 1st inning. After the Rays tied it up, the Yankees came back in the 5th to retake the lead. Torres singled, and one out later, Gardner and Romine’s singles loaded the bases. Mike Tauchman’s single scored both Torres and Gardner.

Again, the Rays came back, so the Yankees needed to close the gap. So it would be Aaron Hicks to lead off the 8th inning with a solo home run. Then Cortes had a much better outing in the 8th, with a perfect inning. And David Hale came out for the 9th to keep things going, so into extra innings the game went once again.

It wasn’t until the 11th that the tie was broken. Aaron Judge got things started with a 1st pitch lead-off solo home run. Two outs later, Torres singled, and Urshela doubled to move runners into scoring position. Brett Gardner then smacked a big 3-run home run to ensure the Yankees’ eventual win.

Of course, even that was not without some drama. After Hale kept the Rays scoreless through the 10th, he was back out for the 11th. With 1 out, he gave up consecutive singles. That was enough of a threat for the Yankees, and they called in Aroldis Chapman. After he got another out, he walked the next batter to load up the bases. But the next player lined out directly to 1st to give Chapman his 24th save.

Final score: 8-4 Yankees, in 11 innings

As part of next week’s All-Star Game festivities, MLB announced that they will be honoring CC Sabathia. Sabathia began his career in Cleveland, the host to this year’s Midsummer Classic, so it only makes sense to recognize how far the retiring star pitcher has come. Though not selected for the roster, Sabathia was planning on attending the game anyway, but this honor certainly makes his sort of homecoming a different level of celebration.

In a statement, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said, “We are delighted that CC and his family will join us in Cleveland, where his Major League career began. We look forward to celebrating his many accomplishments during our All-Star Game festivities.”

Go Yankees!

Game 85: NYY vs. TB — A little extra this Independence Day

The Yankees started their final series before the All-Star break tonight, the first game of a 4-game weekend series in St. Petersburg against the Rays. Starting a bit later due to the travel, local Yankee fans might have missed the area’s fireworks, but there was plenty of metaphoric ones at the Trop to make this holiday rather interesting.

Actually, it was a fairly normal game for most of the early evening. JA Happ got the start tonight, throwing 92 pitches into the 6th, giving up 3 hits, 3 walks, and just 1 run, and struck out 5 batters. In the 1st, a 1-out single scored on a 2-out double to get the Rays on the board first.

But Happ found his momentum and carried the rest of the game, handing it off to the bullpen to close it out. Ottavino closed out the 6th, and Kahnle and Britton each gave scoreless innings to keep things moving.

The Yankees didn’t let the Rays’ early minor lead last long. Ford led-off the 3rd with a single, moved to 2nd on a passed ball, and then scored on Mike Tauchman’s single to tie up the game. Then with 2 outs, a wild pitch moved Tauchman to 2nd before he scored on Aaron Hicks’ double. Later in the game, in the 7th inning, Edwin Encarnacion hit a 1st pitch solo home run for an insurance run.

Things were going good, and the Yankees just needed 3 outs in the 9th to get the win. But Aroldis Chapman wasn’t having a very good night. He gave up a walk to lead off the inning. With 1 out, the next batter hit a double that scored the runner, despite a Yankees’ unsuccessful challenge. After another out, Chapman’s consecutive wild pitches allowed the tying run to score. He then loaded up the bases with 2 singles and a walk before finally getting out of the inning.

So, the game went into extra innings. That certainly went in the Yankees’ favor, with another chance to make a difference. Urshela and Judge worked a walk, and Gardner’s single loaded the bases. DJ LeMahieu singled home both Urshela and Judge to break the tie. After an out, it would be Gary Sanchez to smack a big 3-run home run to ensure the large Yankee lead.

Luis Cessa came out for the 10th, but to mixed results. With 1 out, he gave up a walk and a single. After another out, the next batter singled home the lead runner, and a walk loaded the bases. A change was needed, so the Yankees called in reliever David Hale for a 5 pitch at-bat that resulted in a solid force out at 2nd to end the game.

Final score: 8-4 Yankees, in 10 innings

All-Star Game Update: Until today, it seems that the maximum number of players from each team is 3 in this new All-Star Game format. Which meant that many players were left off the starting and replacement roster, despite the fact that they are really outstanding every day. This happens every year, of course, as someone who is truly significant may be watching the game from their couch rather than on the field.

This year, the Yankees felt this in particular. While LeMahieu, Sanchez, and Chapman are well-deserved All-Stars, there are quite a few other Yankees that deserve to be on that field in Cleveland on Tuesday. But today, there was one more addition to the All-Star roster. Every year, there are players who are unable to play due to an injury and are replaced by extra reserve players. So when those injury-substitute reserve players get injured, yet another reserve player is necessary.

Well, an infielder went on the IL, and a Yankee got the call. Gleyber Torres will be making his second trip to an All-Star Game. Torres has been particularly strong in recent weeks, further proving that he was rather deserving of the call.

Go Yankees!