Game 20: TOR vs. NYY — A strong series win, #SevySharp, & a big call-up

Today was a beautiful Spring day in the Bronx, a great day for Sunday afternoon baseball as the Yankees were looking at winning their first regular series (read: not those 2-game micro-series) this season. And the Blue Jays were hoping for a split to boost their big start this April. It could only fall one way, and the Yankees were just in command from the start.

That was mostly due to the outstanding outing by Luis Severino. He threw 112 pitches in his 7 innings, but gave up just 3 hits, 2 walks, and a run, and struck out 6 Blue Jay batters. In fact, that lone run didn’t happen until the 6th inning, a 1-out solo shot to get the Jays on the board. Robertson continued the dominance through the 8th, and Chapman got into a spot of trouble with a couple walks in the 9th, but he got out of it like he does, keeping the Blue Jays to that lone run.

Meanwhile, the Yankees gave Severino a bit of leeway that he wouldn’t need. Didi Gregorius hit a 2-out solo home run in the 1st inning to start their offense. In the 2nd, Sanchez led-off with a walk and moved to 3rd on Andujar’s 1-out double. They both then scored on Austin Romine’s double. And after the Blue Jays got on the board, the Yankees answered back in the bottom of the 6th. With 1 out, Sanchez doubled and moved to 3rd on Tyler Austin’s single.

After the Jays went to their bullpen for a reliever, Miguel Andujar’s double scored Sanchez. (By the way, Andujar went 4-for-4 with an RBI and run scored today, and is currently batting .308. So much for your average bench player.) And in the 7th, Hicks led-off with a single, stole 2nd and ended up at 3rd on a throwing error, and then scored on Gregorius’ sacrifice fly.

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

Next up: the Yankees host the Twins for a 4-game midweek series, starting Monday. This will end with that rare Thursday matinée, as the Yankees will be hopping a plane for Los Angeles to face the Angels. (Yes, West Coast Week starts early this year, so prepare now.)

Roster moves (Scranton Shuttle Alert!): before today’s game, the Yankees designated Jace Peterson for assignment and optioned Tyler Wade to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In the process, they signed reliever David Hale from AAA Scranton and recalled infield prospect Gleyber Torres from AAA Scranton.

There were two things that Yankee Universe talked about for this game today. First, the Yankees called up prospect Gleyber Torres for his first major league game. Despite playing mostly shortstop (and a little 3rd base) in Scranton, he actually started at 2nd base and batted 8th in the lineup. However, today, he went 0-for-4 at the plate, so he’s still waiting for that 1st big hit.

Torres is only 21 years old, and this prompted a brief conversation about how old the Yankees are this season. In today’s starting roster, there was no one over 30. In fact, catcher Austin Romine was the oldest starter at 29 years and 151 days. A huge shift from recent years where the Yankees were often the oldest team in the MLB, due to its plethora of veterans including Jeter, Rodriguez, Ichiro, Kuroda, Soriano, Teixeira, and Sabathia (who is currently the oldest active Yankee at age 37).

But the thing most people will talk about regarding this game is the replay in the 8th. So here’s what happened — with 1 out, Tyler Austin hit a short grounder to the short stop who fired it to the 1st baseman for the out. But it seemed that the 1st baseman was pulled off by a slightly off throw, so the Yankees challenged the call. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, thought this would be overturned quickly because he clearly caught the ball off the base and never got back for the tag.

Unfortunately, MLB HQ upheld the call. And everyone, and I do mean everyone, disagreed with that call. Yankees’ Twitter-verse was not happy about that. And I don’t blame them. That human factor ekes into the smallest crevices sometimes and just messes up “foolproof” technology. Talk to any NFL fan about their replay experiences to commiserate. Today’s was about as bad.

To be fair, the Yankees (thanks to Special Assistant Brett Weber) have been extremely successful in their replay challenged, constantly rating among the highest in MLB. So, let’s just consider today a fluke. Hopefully.

Go Yankees!

Game 19: TOR vs. NYY — Unnecessary but big inning #6

Sometimes, all it takes in one big inning to make all the difference. But to be totally fair, the Yankees could have completely skipped their big 6th inning and still would have won the game. The Blue Jays just weren’t doing much off the Yankee pitchers today.

Not that I’m complaining…

Jordan Montgomery got the start this afternoon in the third of 4 games this weekend against the visiting Blue Jays, and he had a pretty decent outing. He threw 91 pitches in his 6 innings, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and a run, and struck out 5 Toronto batters. That lone run came in his weakest inning — the 5th. A lead-off walk moved to 3rd on a single and then scored on another single. But then Montgomery and the defense kicked it up a notch and got the necessary 3 outs to get out of the lone troublesome inning.

Montgomery actually set a pretty good pattern for his 2 relievers to follow. Chasen Shreve’s 7th inning was flawless, and recently recalled Jonathan Holder threw rather efficiently in the scoreless 8th and 9th innings.

Like I said, there was one big inning that actually didn’t matter for the Yankees’ offense. And that’s because of Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge in the 3rd. With 2 outs, Gardner worked a walk, and then on a 3-0 count, Judge hit a big 2-run home run into the 2nd deck of the left field seats to give the Yankees an early lead. So with that lone run by the Blue Jays in the 5th, the Yankees were sitting pretty.

But why not have a big 6th inning along the way? The Yankees sent 12 batters up in the inning because the Blue Jays’ starter his initial reliever were just not able to find those 3 outs. Gardner led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, watched Judge work a walk, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ single. With Stanton’s walk (and still no outs), the bases were loaded. Aaron Hicks hit into a failed force attempt, where the pitcher fielded a short grounder poorly in an attempt to get the out at home. But a missed catch error scored Judge and kept the bases loaded.

After a strikeout (the first out of this half-inning), Miguel Andujar’s double cleared the bases, scoring 3 more runs. (So, have we talked about how amazing this guy is yet? I’m pretty sure he’s this year’s Torreyes.) That would be the end of the Jays’ starter, but his reliever had issues too, promptly giving up a walk to Romine and a short single to Torreyes loaded up the bases again. Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly scored Andujar, and Aaron Judge’s single scored Romine to cap off the Yankees’ monster inning.

It’s worth noting the Yankees actually loaded up the bases again in the 7th, but a former teammate was able to pitch out of his jam and the Yankees left them loaded. Again, not that they needed more runs.

Final score: 9-1 Yankees

Roster/injuries: before today’s game, Adam Warren was sent to the 10-day disabled list with back strain. In his place, the Yankees called up Jonathan Holder, who was able to pitch and dominate in today’s game.

And before this afternoon’s game, the Yankees hosted a Little League Parade, something do every year before select games. Local teams come, dressed in their team jerseys and hats, and parade around the field on the warning track. And then they and their parents get to watch a great game.

Here are some pictures from today’s parade. And what a great game they got to see! (With some pretty great weather!)

Go Yankees!

Game 18: TOR vs. NYY — Not so “Sonny” & still a chilly April in the Bronx

I’m so tired of talking about the weather. But when the first pitch comes with a temperature of 46° and a wind chill of 37°, it’s hard not to factor in the lingering winter-like chill, despite the calendar clearly indicating late April. I’d blame that as to why the Blue Jays, who play in Toronto, but my argument falls short as they have a retractable roof, and most of their players are not from the frigid north. I mean, perhaps, the initial idea was to form teams from players in the area, but 149 years later, rarely do you truly get a “hometown hero”. (For reference: the Yankees have one — Dellin Betances, who was born and raised in New York and grew up a big Yankees fan.)

So I guess it’s just down to the basics — the team that scored the most runs won. And the team that pitched less clean lost. Sonny Gray just had a really tough time in tonight’s start. He threw 73 pitches into the 4th inning, giving up 5 hits, 4 walks, and 5 runs, and couldn’t strike out a Blue Jay batter at all. With 1 out in the 3rd, he gave up a walk and a 2-run home run. In the 4th, a lead-off double scored on a ground-rule double. A single put runners on the corners before both scored on a 1-out single. After giving up a walk, the Yankees opted to end Gray’s troubled night.

They brought in Domingo German in relief, and despite promptly loading up the bases with a walk, he got out of the inning with 2 short fly outs to keep the Jays from adding to their score. But German had his own troubles in the 5th. A lead-off walk, a single, and a 1-out walk loaded the bases. A short single scored one run, and a 2-out walk scored one more, before German got out of a bases-loaded jam.

Adam Warren came on in relief and promptly gave up a solo home run to lead off the 6th inning. But then quickly got 3 outs before dominating the 7th and most of the 8th and keeping the Jays from doing any further damage. Chasen Shreve closed out the 8th and sailed through the 9th — throwing just 10 pitches for his 4 outs.

It is worth noting that the Yankee pitchers gave up 9 hits and 9 walks, and their bullpen collected 7 strikeouts (as Gray got none in his start). That’s 18 allowed base runners tonight.

The Yankees actually got on the board first in the 2nd inning. Hicks worked a 1-out walk and then scored as part of Tyler Austin’s 2-run home run. In the 3rd, Gregorius hit a 2-out single and then was part of Giancarlo Stanton’s 2-run home run. And in the 4th, Miguel Andujar hit a bit 2-out solo home run.

All the Yankee runs today were scored off home runs. That says a lot about the Blue Jays’ defense tonight, as the Yankees actually racked up 11 total hits and a walk.

Final score: 8-5 Blue Jays

On the plus side: for those local Yankee fans heading out to the game this weekend, the temperatures are going to be around 60°, sunny and clear skies. In other words, Spring may peak its head out this weekend and prove some great days for baseball. Hopefully, the on-field performance will be as positive and hopeful as the Yankees finish this series against the Blue Jays.

Also, after some rather tepid (often nearing ranting level) responses to his home run call for Stanton, Yankees radio broadcaster John Sterling found a new one, which he showed off during Stanton’s 3rd inning blast. Oh, and Sterling sings. Thoughts?

Go Yankees!

Game 17: TOR vs. NYY — Secret to success: Just play better than the other team

The Yankees are back on the plus side after tonight’s game, their opening game against the Blue Jays in this 4-game weekend series to continue their homestand. And CC Sabathia is back on the mound (more below). He was rather strong through most of his outing, throwing 71 pitches into the 5th inning, giving up 4 hits, a walk, and 2 unearned runs, and getting just 1 strikeout.

In the 3rd, Sabathia gave up consecutive singles that moved into scoring position on a ground out. After another ground out, a passed ball allowed the lead runner to score the Jays’ first run. A throwing error allowed the lead-off batter in the 4th to reach safely before he moved to 2nd on a hit-by-pitch and later scored on a 2-out single.

Chad Green came on to get out of a jam in the 5th and then pitched through the 6th flawlessly. He handed the game over to Betances for a dominant 15-pitch 7th inning. David Robertson, however, had some struggles in the 8th, loading up the bases with a single and 2 walks and no outs. A pinch-hitter hit a 1-out single to score one more run for the Jays before Robertson pulled it together and got another good strikeout and a fly out to left field to get out of the bases-loaded jam. Chapman then threw a perfect 12-pitch, 3-strike out 9th inning to close out the game and earn the save.

Meanwhile, the Yankees took their moments when they came up and used them well. In the 2nd, with 1 out and Hicks and Walker in scoring position, they each scored on Tyler Wade’s ground out and Ronald Torreyes’ single. Then in the 5th, with 2 outs and Torreyes and Judge on the corners, Didi Gregorius’ single scored Torreyes. Stanton’s single loaded up the bases, but the Yankees failed to utilize that moment and grounded out to end the inning. Aaron Judge’s solo home run in the 7th would be the key to winning the game.

Put simply: the Yankees just played a better game than the Blue Jays tonight.

Final score: 4-3 Yankees

Roster moves/injury updates: before the game today, the Yankees activated CC Sabathia from the 10-day DL to start tonight’s game and placed pitcher Luis Cessa on the 10-day DL, retroactive to April 18, due to his left oblique strain injury. And they announced that pitcher Tommy Kahnle has been diagnosed with tendonitis in his biceps and shoulder, which means no throwing for 10 days; Kahnle is estimated to be out about three weeks.

And in community news: the Yankees responded to a recent viral video. Cassidy, a 10-year-old girl from Scranton posted an online video (through her mom’s Facebook account) about her experiences being bullied at her school, feeling extremely alone, but ending her message with one of encouragement to anyone else in her position. In response, the Yankees made their own video, standing up for Cassidy and anyone else facing bullying. It made me proud once again to be a Yankee fan.

Don’t be afraid to speak up for anyone ever. Be part of the solution. Change your world one kindness and moment of strength and courage at a time.

Go Yankees!

Game 4: NYY vs. TOR — An Easter Split

There are graphs you can find on the internet that track a team’s odds of winning live during the game. It starts out even because both teams could potentially win the game, and then as the game progresses and runs are scored, it spikes one way or another. And things were looking really great for the Yankees, the graphs spiking in their favor. But then, a single swing caused a nosedive on the charts until the graph ran out of room, or rather they ran out of outs.

For the final game in “The Big Smoke“, the Yankees actually had a pretty good start, dominating the Blue Jays with some pretty good pitching once again. Sonny Gray got the start, while his pitch count was high (89 pitches in just 4 innings), he was able to limit the Blue Jays to a single allowed run and 8 strikeouts, despite 7 hits and 3 walks. With 1 out in the 2nd, Gray gave up a walk and a single. The next batter hit into a deep single, but Aaron Judge’s power arm from right threw to Romine for the out at home. Another single then scored the Jays’ first run.

Meanwhile, the Yankees gave Gray a bit of leeway. With 2 outs in the 3rd, Stanton worked a walk and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ double. Neil Walker’s single then scored Gregorius, and Brandon Drury’s first homer as a Yankee was a solid 2-run shot over the left field wall. (Here’s John Sterling’s call — thoughts?)

It’s worth noting that in that inning alone were 3 of the Yankees’ 5 total hits today, but they were getting on base with walks (6 total). But they weren’t doing much beyond getting on base. And while that’s half the battle, it isn’t everything. Hits don’t win games, runs do. But the Yankees had that nice lead for most of the game.

Reliever Chad Green came on for the 5th and 6th innings and powered through the Blue Jays’ lineup, getting 4 of his 6 outs with strikeouts. Green is certainly proving how valuable he is to the bullpen. Tommy Kahnle started the 7th inning but got into some trouble off the top, giving up a walk and a big 2-run home run up the middle to put the Blue Jays within a run of the Yankees’ lead. Two outs later, David Robertson was called in to get the final out of that inning.

Robertson’s 8th inning, however, was just so less than ideal for the veteran reliever — a single, an out, a double, an out, an intentional walk to load the bases, a giant grand slam to give the Blue Jays the lead, and finally the 3rd out of the inning. The damage was done, and the Blue Jays just needed 3 outs, which they got thanks to the excellence of their new closer.

Final score: 7-4 Blue Jays, they split the series 2-2

Next up: the Yankees head home to the Bronx for their Home Opener against the Rays tomorrow afternoon. The Yankees will play tomorrow, then take an off-day, and then play the second of the 2-game series on Wednesday afternoon. (Brace yourself, it’s a really weird schedule this year.)

Roster moves: And the Yankees made the move we discussed after yesterday’s game official today. They sent Billy McKinney to the DL with his shoulder injury, recalling Miguel Andujar for the roster.

As disappointing as today’s result was, the best news was that there were no injuries. And that’s kind of sad not even week into the regular season.

Anyway, a very Happy Easter to those who celebrate!

Go Yankees!

Game 3: NYY vs. TOR — Injury plagued loss, despite young power

Well, it was bound to happen sometime. The loss that is, not the injuries. But those injuries need to stop (more later). But the loss is a guarantee in this kind of game. There is no such thing as an undefeated season in MLB, and honestly, the entire game is really about losses.

I mean, when you think about it, even the best batters fail 7 out of 10 at-bats to get an average of .300. And in a season of 162 games, the best teams may win 90-100 in a season. That still means 60-70 losses. In fact, every day, one team will lose and one will win. This afternoon happened to fall in favor of the Blue Jays, proving perhaps that they really are “Toronto the Good“.

CC Sabathia got the start for the Yankees today and threw a decent outing — 84 pitches in 5 innings, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs (only 1 earned), and struck out 4 Toronto batters. In the 1st, with 1 out, a batter doubled and then scored on a long single. And the lead-off batter in the 3rd made it safely on a throwing error before scoring on a double.

Sabathia would actually get a no-decision in the scorebook. The Yankees were certainly held off for much of the game, only getting 4 total hits, thanks mostly to the Blue Jays’ starter. But in the 5th inning, Drury worked a lead-off walk and then scored as part of Tyler Austin’s big 1-out 2-run home run to tie up the game.

Adam Warren came out for the 6th inning. He quickly got one out before giving up a walk. The next batter hit a sharp grounder right into Warren’s ankle. The defense got the out at 1st, but the other runner made it to 2nd and Warren came out of the game. Jonathan Holder came in to close out the inning for Warren, but gave up a single that scored the runner, giving the Blue Jays the lead.

But then it would be Tyler Austin to come back in the 7th to hit a 2-out solo home run to tie up the game once again. In fact, all of the Yankee runs were Austin’s fault, his first multi-homer game. Reliever Dellin Betances came in for a clean 7th inning, but then got into some trouble in the 8th. He gave up a lead-off solo homer (to a former Yankee, by the way) to shift things back to the Blue Jays’ favor.

Then things got messy. With 2 outs and a runner on 1st with a single, that runner stole 2nd, watched the next runner work a walk, the first runner stole 3rd, and then the other runner stole 2nd, putting both runners in scoring position. (Yes, a scorer’s nightmare!) And in a terrible play, thanks to a throwing error by Betances, both runners then stole the next base, which means someone stole home.

Final score: 5-3 Blue Jays

Injuries incurred today: outfielder Billy McKinney slammed against the wall in left field, which is actually a scoreboard. He seriously injured his left shoulder, coming out of the game then. X-rays were negative, but he’s still going on the DL. Adam Warren‘s injury, the grounder to his ankle in the 6th, was also enough to take him out of the game. With x-rays coming back negative, it looks like he’ll be nursing a deep bruise there, and some time on the DL.

To solve the immediate issue of McKinney’s absence and now hole in the roster, and with all the other outfielders on the 40-man roster also on the DL (Ellsbury, Frazier, and Hicks), the Yankees are calling up Miguel Andujar. Andujar can play 3rd, 1st, and DH, leaving the two other primary bench players (Wade and Torreyes) to sub in the outfield (to break Stanton, Judge, and Gardner). Ellsbury will probably be the first off the DL, but not until April 5, so it could be a very long week for the outfield. Still no word on who might take over for Warren, but fortunately, there’s a plethora of relievers waiting for that call with the RailRiders.

Okay, that’s enough injuries this week. Let’s stay healthy, guys!

Also, we are in the first full day of Passover week, so Chag Sameach! to those celebrating this week. We hope you all had a great Pesach dinner with your friends and family.

Go Yankees!

Game 2: NYY vs. TOR — It’s #TanakaTime again

Thanks to the frigid lingering cold weather (about 38° at first pitch tonight), it was another roof closed game up in “Hogtown” (sorry, Toronto, but that one’s funny…). But that just made things comfortable for the Yankees to come in for Game 2 of this 4-game weekend series. Certainly Masahiro Tanaka had a great night to start for the Yankees, pitching just 79 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up just 3 hits and a run, and striking out 8 Blue Jays batters. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo home run in the 2nd.

But once again, the Yankee batters found those crucial moments to come in and take command of the game. Didi Gregorius (who had a truly stellar offensive night) kicked off the 2nd with a beautiful triple but then was thrown out when Sanchez hit into a fielder’s choice. With 2 outs, Billy McKinney (more later) hit a solid single on his 1st major league at-bat, moving Sanchez to 2nd to score on a double by Brandon Drury (who also had a great night).

In the 4th, Gregorius led-off with a double. With 1 out, Walker walked (pun ignored), but then was the force out when McKinney hit into a short grounder or failed double play. Drury then singled home Gregorius to double the Yankee score. Didi again led-off the 6th and walked. He then moved to 2nd on Walker’s 1-out single. After Drury’s walk loaded up the bases, it would fall to Tyler Wade to make the difference in the game with a big double to score Gregorius and Walker. It would knock the Blue Jays’ starter out of the game.

That helped the Blue Jays as their bullpen kept the Yankees from adding to their lead. But they were up against the Yankee bullpen for the final third of the game, and some big guys weren’t about to give up their win easily. Tommy Kahnle powered through his 4 outs, and David Robertson only needed 5 pitches for his 2 to close out the 8th. Aroldis Chapman had a few struggles in the 9th. With 2 outs, he gave up consecutive doubles to score a final run for the home team, but all 3 of his outs were those wicked strikeouts.

Final score: 4-2 Yankees

Injury news: before the game today, the Yankees announced that they were putting Aaron Hicks on the 10-day disabled list due to a strained right intercostal muscle. (Had to look that one up! It’s the muscle collection right around rib cage.) Hicks said he needed just a few days, feeling something kind of tweaking during his at-bats yesterday. But the Yankees aren’t risking anything, even this early, and placed him on the DL as a precaution. Besides, they are stacked so deep in the depth chart that it’s ridiculous.

So, early this morning, Billy McKinney gets called into the Minor League complex’s Player Development offices. Instead of going home for Easter, McKinney is told to pack his passport and hop a plane to Toronto because he’s scheduled to start in left field (Gardner shift to center) and bat 7th. His first MLB at-bat was a solid single to right, and they saved that ball for him.

With Hicks now out, Ellsbury’s return (potentially April 6) could come into play with a modified Extended Spring after his oblique injury. Frazier is still easing back into baseball activities after his concussion. And again, it’s still early in the season.

Until then, let’s stay healthy, guys!

Go Yankees!