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 35: SEA vs. NYY — A little rain delay for the Yankees’ last-minute walk-off rally

The Yankees continue to find a way to make each moment count as they march on through May and in this 4-game series with the Mariners. In the second game tonight, the Yankees found that way in rather dramatic fashion with a walk-off and a challenge to find a last-minute victory, despite a one hour and 12 minute rain delay in the latter half of the game.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start tonight, throwing 95 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and striking out 4 Seattle batters. In the 2nd, he gave up a walk and a double, but a fielder’s choice got the lead runner out at home. But a sacrifice fly scored the other runner. And a 1-out solo home run in the 6th added one more for the visitors.

Tanaka came out for the 7th, but the rain that held off most of the night just started pouring down. Enough to stop the game after an error and an out. Enough to call for a one hour and twelve minute delay. When the game returned, it would be Holder to close out the 7th for Tanaka with just 5 pitches to induce a double play, continuing his strong showing this season.

Tommy Kahnle came out for the 8th but found the Mariners ready to pounce again. With 1 out, he gave up a single that moved to 2nd on a fielding error and scored on a 2-out single. A double then scored one more run for the Mariners, continuing their lead. Joe Harvey closed out the 9th, with some drama, pushing the defense to be on their toes a bit, but eventually finishing strong.

The Yankees got a late start to the scoreboard. Already down, Gio Urshela led-off the 3rd with a double, moved to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s grounder to get them on the board. But they spent most of the game (besides dodging rain) keeping the Mariners’ from gaining too big a lead.

In the 8th, Gardner and LeMahieu each worked a walk. Voit hit into a force out at 2nd to put runners on the corners. And a wild pitch allowed Gardner to score the Yankees’ second run. So in a last-ditch opportunity, the Yankees looked to the 9th inning for a rally. And found one.

With 1 out, Torres singled and then scored as part of Gio Urshela’s game-tying 2-run home run, hit neatly into Monument Park beyond center field. After Maybin singled, the Mariners changed relievers in hopes of pushing the game to extra innings, but Maybin promptly stole 2nd. After a strikeout, DJ LeMahieu singled and Maybin came around to score. It was a walk-off.

But wait, not without a challenge, just in case. The Mariners’ challenged the call to see whether their catcher actually tagged Maybin sliding home in time for the out. It was fairly quick to see the original call was correct, and the game won in a great come-from-behind and rally to victory by the home team.

A very much worth the wait through the delay for the victory celebration tonight.

Final score: 5-4 Yankees

Go Yankees!

Game 17: BOS vs. NYY — Milestone slam for Gardy Party Sweep

Now, that is the way to win a game and sweep the opposing team. The Yankees sent the Red Sox on their way after sweeping their rivals in this quick 2-game mini-series. Of course, a nice come-from-behind win thanks to a bang by a veteran’s milestone.

JA Happ got the start in tonight’s game, throwing 84 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up 6 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and struck out 4 Boston batters, and most of that was in the first two innings. He gave up a 2-out solo homer in the 1st, and in the 2nd, a lead-off single scored as part of a 2-out, 2-run home run to get the Red Sox on the board and in the lead early.

The Yankees were held off until the 4th inning. Voit led-off by working a walk, moved to 2nd on a fielder’s choice and error, and then scored on Clint Frazier’s 1-out double. But it would be the 7th inning that would leave everyone talking. They loaded up the bases with Frazier’s single and walks to Tauchman and Romine. So, with 1 out and a new pitcher, it would be Brett Gardner for tonight’s heroics. Gardner smacked a grand slam into the right field seats, instantly giving the Yankees the lead.

After Happ’s exit in the 7th, Tommy Kahnle closed out the inning with just 6 pitches to get 2 outs. Adam Ottavino got into a jam in the 8th but worked his way out without the Red Sox chipping away at the Yankees’ lead. And Aroldis Chapman earned his 3rd save of the season with 12 pitches in the 9th.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees, Yankees sweep 2-0

Next up: The Royals come into town for a 4-game weekend series before the Yankees hit the road for their first West Coast trip of the season. They will visit the Angels, Giants, and Diamondbacks before heading back home for their May home stand.

That grand slam was actually a major milestone for the veteran outfielder. It was his 3rd career grand slam (two more than Jeter, by the way), but it was also his 100th career home run. Gardner is more known for his snazzy defense and his speedy base running, so when he clubs these monster hits, it’s always something to celebrate. But tonight’s was just a little extra sweet — a career milestone… to take the win… against Boston… by a homegrown Yankee… and veteran.. and fan and clubhouse favorite.

By the way, the kid who got the grand slam ball ended up meeting Gardner outside the clubhouse, exchaning the ball for autographs and selfies. Bet he wasn’t planning on that fun twist to his night when he got tickets for tonight’s game.

Speaking of the clubhouse… the Yankees have been determined to celebrate a home series victory since Day 1 but have fallen short every time until tonight. Someone (no one’s naming names) brought in a smoke machine and flashing lights and boosted the music so that the players could celebrate their sweeping victory with a dance party in the clubhouse. None of which would have been noticed except for the smoky haze that still lingering when they allowed the media in for interviews.

Well, celebrate away and take that momentum and feeling into the next series.

Go Yankees!

Game 12: NYY vs. HOU — Swept away in Space City, but don’t get swept away

Consider it an interesting turnabout for the Yankees. They swept the Orioles; the Astros swept them. And the road trip finishes with 2 sweeps, but only 1 in the Yankees’ favor. And of course, social media exploded by giving up on the Yankees after only 12 games, as if they are now destined to lose the next 150. Talk about your fickle “fans”.

The honest truth is that the Yankees just didn’t play well tonight. (And no, it had nothing to do with the fact that the Astros opened the roof of their field for all 3 games. Silly superstitions.) James Paxton got the start for the Yankees tonight and struggled his way through 95 pitches into the 5th inning.

In the 1st, Paxton gave up a 1-out solo home run to get the home team on the board. Then a 2-out walk scored on a long triple. With 1 out in the 3rd, a single scored on a double. After another solo home run (by the same Astros’ star) and a single, the Yankees went to their bullpen, but they too found their own issues.

Tommy Kahnle promptly gave up a 2-run home run. After an out, 2 singles put runners on the corners. After another single scored the lead runner, the Yankees called on newly called-up Joe Harvey. Harvey was just stellar in his MLB debut, closing out the 5th with a strong strikeout and then sailing his way into the 7th inning with 2 more strikeouts. Tarpley closed out the 7th with just 3 pitches.

Things were looking better for the Yankees, miles away from the problems that have plagued their bullpen all series (and most of the season so far). Zack Britton came out for the 8th, in hopes of maintaining that momentum. It was not to be. A lead-off single ended up at 2nd due to a throwing error before scoring on another single. Britton later loaded up the bases with just 1 out, but the Yankees’ defense made it up for him with a snazzy double play to get out of trouble.

Meanwhile, the Yankees once again got on the board first with Brett Gardner’s big lead-off home run into the right field seats in the 1st. But then things got relatively quiet for the Yankees’ offense. In the 4th, Torres led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on Bird’s single, and then scored on DJ LeMahieu’s sacrifice fly.

With quite the deficit on the scoreboard, the Yankees found one last chance for a rally in the 8th in what proved to be the Astros’ lone weak inning. With a new reliever, Judge led-off with a walk and scored as part of Luke Voit’s big 2-run home run. Then Torres singled, and Bird worked a walk. After a pitching change, LeMahieu, who is definitely on quite the hitting streak, got another RBI with a great double to score Torres.

Clint Frazier’s deep sacrifice fly then scored Bird, but a pitching change and 2 outs later, the rally fizzled. The deficit proved to large to overcome as the Yankees just ran out of outs.

Final score: 8-6 Astros, Astros sweep 3-0

Next up: After an off-day/travel day tomorrow (Thursday), the Yankees return home to host a 9-game home stand. They host the White Sox this weekend. After an off-day on Monday, the Yankees host their first rivalry games — a 2-game mini-series against the Red Sox. They will finish the week with a 4-game weekend series against the visiting Royals before they head out for their first West Coast road trip of the season.

Roster moves/”Scranton Shuttle”: Before the game, the Yankees sent Jonathan Loaisiga back to AAA Scranton and recalled Joe Harvey. This was due mainly to get a fresh pitching arm. With so many injuries and Severino’s recent setback, I imagine we’ll see lots of these kinds of moves. I think we can officially say the “Scranton Shuttle” has returned for this season.

Again, I just want to reiterate that it’s a long season. I know it gets spoken so often it really could be a cliché, but it doesn’t make it any less true. I don’t worry about the standings or the statistics until much later. Check back about the All-Star Break for a better idea of where things stand.

Look, there’s not a sports team or fan in the world that doesn’t want to win every game and isn’t upset when they lose. No one goes into this dreaming of losing 100+ games every season. And as Yankee fans, we’re used to winning more than we’re used to losing. But don’t just drop your team because you don’t like the outcome of a few games.

Think about all the Cubs or Red Sox fans that stood by their team through “curses” and major losing streaks, still showing up to every single game to hope “maybe this year”. Because that’s what it’s all about — the hope that you might be there to witness some crucial moment in time that leads to the championship, the one where they win it all. And we, of all fan bases, know that it’s not so much an “if” but “when” for the Yankees.

Go Yankees!

Game 11: NYY vs. HOU — No good news on a Tuesday

The hardest part about watching some of these early season games is just how the Yankees don’t seem to be clicking in all the right places just yet. Of course, with all their injuries and players on the injured list, it’s no wonder the Yankees seem more like a patchwork of talent than a well-oiled machine.

Sure, there’s always some rough patches early in the season as they try to recover the smoothness from the previous fall, but usually, that gets worked out mostly in Spring Training. That’s a good part of what Spring is for — to work out the off-season kinks.

But tonight was a good example of what happens when the Spring wasn’t successful in doing that because of the increasing list of injured veteran players. The Yankees played their middle game in Houston tonight, hoping to recapture whatever magic they had in Baltimore, and ended up falling short again.

Jonathan Loaisiga threw 71 pitches in his 3 innings, and after a quick 1st inning with 3 amazing strikeouts, he had some trouble through the rest of his outing. In the 2nd, a lead-off double moved to 3rd on a wild pitch and then scored on a sacrifice fly. A 1-out solo home run in the 3rd doubled the Astros’ score. In both innings, there were allowed base runners, but Loaisiga got himself out of both innings without too much damage.

Once again, the Yankees got on the board first with Luke Voit’s monster 2-out solo home run in the 1st. After the Astros tied up the game, the Yankees came back in the 6th. Gardner and Judge each worked a walk, and Voit hit into a force out at 2nd to put runners on the corners. Gary Sanchez then doubled home both Gardner and Voit to give the Yankees the lead again.

Tarpley basically breezed his way through a 9-pitch 4th inning, and Cessa’s 5 outs kept the Astros from adding to their score. Jonathan Holder closed out the 6th cleanly but had some trouble in the 7th. With 2 quick outs, he gave up back-to-back doubles that scored the tying run for the home team, before handing the ball over to Chad Green.

While Green got out of the 7th without further damage, it was his 8th, combined with some messy defense that soured the Yankees’ chances for the win. With 1 out, Green loaded up the bases with a single and 2 walks. A nice double scored 2 runners to put the Astros in the lead. Still with 2 runners on base and only 1 out, the Yankees turned to Tommy Kahnle. He gave up a sacrifice fly to score 1 run but was able to get out of the inning.

The Yankees’ offense was virtually silent after the 6th, with no late-inning rally even in the works tonight. Not even an attempt.

Final score: 6-3 Astros

Injury update: And in not good news, Luis Severino went in for a new MRI to see how his shoulder injury was progressing. While his original injury of rotator cuff inflammation seems to be healing, there is a new injury — a grade 2 lat strain. A lat strain, or micro tears in the large back muscle that connects the hip to the shoulder, is incredibly common in pitchers, especially near the shoulder joint like with Severino. A grade 2 strain is typically a month of recovery, so Severino has been shut down from all baseball activities for 6 weeks.

Again, this team is basically limping around this early season, yet still finding its way not to be the worst team in baseball. This isn’t exactly the kind of positive message I like to post on here, so I’ll leave you with some positive imagery. Even if you’re a cynic like me, a little bit of hope for better isn’t that far out of reach.

So, while the Yankees currently aren’t doing so hot and yet still hanging on just a game under .500, imagine what the team could be like as veteran players come off the IL, rejoin the team, and make an impact. It’s coming. Just hang on to that thought and pray for a healthy team.

Go Yankees!

Game 3: BAL vs. NYY — Rain-clogged delay delayed run-support

Three hours and seventeen minutes. That’s how long fans milled around Yankee Stadium in anticipation of this afternoon’s series closer against the visiting Orioles. Finally, the rain let up, the tarp came off, and the game proceeded with the remaining loyal fans still lingering about the stadium to watch an almost four hour game.

By the way, seven hours at the ball park, rain or not, sounds like a great way to pass an afternoon to me, but maybe I’m just a bit biased. After the rain passed, it was actually a rather nice afternoon for baseball, though not the desired outcome once again.

JA Happ got the start today, throwing 75 pitches in his 4 innings, giving up 5 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, and striking out just 3 Baltimore batters. Things got sticky for him right in the 1st. With 1 out, he gave up a double, a single, and a big 3-run home run to get the O’s on the board early. A 1-out solo shot in the 3rd added one more for their lead.

He then handed the ball to Luis Cessa for some long-term relief through the middle of the game. But he still had his own issues. In the 5th, a 1-out single ended up at 3rd on an attempted steal and throwing error and then scored on another single. After two clean innings, Cessa came back out for the 8th and gave up a 1-out walk.

Stephen Tarpley got the chance to close out the inning for Cessa, but he also found some trouble, giving up a 2-out 2-run home run to keep adding to the Orioles’ lead. Tommy Kahnle found his own spot of trouble loading up the bases with 3 walks before getting himself out of his own jam with a great strikeout and keeping the Orioles scoreless in that inning.

The Yankees certainly made a valiant attempt to cut into the Orioles’ lead. But they were certainly stymied along the way, leaving 14 runners stranded on the base paths during the game. They didn’t find a clear shot at scoring until the 4th, and even then, it was basically handed to them.

They loaded up the bases with Andujar’s single and walks to Bird and LeMahieu. Then with a new pitcher, Brett Gardner worked an 11-pitch walk to walk in Andujar for the Yankees’ first run of the day. Aaron Judge then singled and scored both Bird and LeMahieu.

In the 7th, Gary Sanchez blasted a 2-out solo home run into the left field seats. And with 2 outs in the 9th, the Yankees tried a small attempt at another rally. Bird worked a walk, and Torres singled (despite an upheld challenge from the Orioles). DJ LeMahieu’s single scored Bird. But feeling rightfully threatened, the Orioles called for a final pitching change, and a strikeout later, the game was over. They ran out of outs.

Final score: 7-5 Orioles, Orioles win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees will host the Tigers for their first midweek series at home. Then they head down to Baltimore to play the Orioles again next weekend, returning the favor for their home opener. They’ll finish up this road trip against the Astros before heading home again.

And thus ends March baseball on a soggy, slow, sour note. But it’s a long season, Yankee Universe, and it’s just getting started. Bring on April.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 31: NYY vs. WAS — Closing out Spring with a couple of losses

And just like that, Spring is over. It’s time for the “Boys of Summer”.

The Yankees made a brief stop in Washington, D.C. to visit the Nationals for their final exhibition game of the Spring. Stephen Tarpley got the start for the Yankees and had a spot of trouble in the 1st inning. A 1-out single scored as part of a 2-out 2-run home run to get the home team on the board early. Tarpley only pitched 4 outs before handing the last 2 of the 2nd over to Zack Britton.

Adam Ottavino had another impressive outing with a clean 3rd inning, but Tommy Kahnle had some trouble in the 4th. He loaded up the bases with a double, a walk, and a single. With 1 out, a sacrifice fly scored 1 run, and a single scored the next. Not able to get out of the inning, he handed the ball over to Cortes for long-term relief through the 8th, only giving up a 1-out solo homer in the 6th.

The Yankees were a little slower on the bat than the Nats. Troy Tulowitzki led-off the 3rd with a solo home run up the middle. But they were relatively quiet though most of the game. In the 6th, Zack Zehner worked a walk, and after a strikeout, the Nationals finally went to their bullpen. But then Greg Bird doubled and scored Zehner to double the Yankees’ score.

Their final opportunity came in the 8th. Zehner again led-off the inning, this time with a solid double. With 1 out, he moved to 3rd on a wild pitch. Bird then worked a walk to put runners on the corners. After another pitching change, Francisco Diaz hit a long sacrifice fly to score Zehner. But the Yankees fell short in the end.

Final score: 5-3 Nationals

Next up: The Yankee head up to the Bronx to prepare for their Opening Day and series against the Orioles. Opening Day is Thursday afternoon, followed by an off-day Friday before picking up again for the weekend, followed by a series against the visiting Tigers and then hitting the road for their first road trip. It’s baseball season again, folks.

The Yankees finish their Spring with 17 wins, 10 losses, 4 ties, and 1 canceled game. In the standings, the Yankees finish a 1/2 game ahead of the Astros. And in averages alone, they are first in the entire league. I guess you could chalk it up to all those ties this year.

Spring Overall One to Watch: Finally, as I think back on this Spring Training season, there are a few names that leap out as standout among the crowds. So, I take out players like Tarpley who ended up making the main roster and those like Wade who are likely to make the team shortly. That leaves me with a handful of outstanding players like Urshela, Amburgey, and Estrada.

But this year, I’ve got to select Kyle Holder. The 25-year-old infielder played in 20 games this Spring, mostly at shortstop, and it’s there that his quick defense has caught my eye. Last year, he bounced around the farm system a bit, including the Advanced-A Tampa, Single-A Charleston, and AA Trenton. It will be good to see how he performs this year as he works his way up the system and fine tunes those skills. See you next Spring!

Finally, our condolences go out to the family of legendary New York sports writer Marty Noble. Retired in 2016 after nearly 50 years covering Yankees and Mets baseball, Noble recently focused on his participation with the BBWAA, including special articles for their annual awards program. His friends all over the industry shared their memories and condolences. He passed away yesterday at age 70, survived by his wife and two daughters. He and his great insights of the game will be sorely missed.

Go Yankees!