Game 149: TOR vs. NYY — Dropped victory in the 8th inning

The Yankees needed an easy win to move forward and enter this final two weeks on an upswing. And things were looking good for most of the game, with the Yankees on the board first and defending their early lead for this final game against the visiting Blue Jays this weekend.

In the bottom of the 1st inning, Andrew McCutchen led things off with a big solo home run.  Stanton then walked, moved to 3rd on Hicks’ single, and then scored on Didi Gregroius’ sacrifice fly. It wasn’t much, but it gave the Yankees enough of a lead to kick off the game.

Lance Lynn actually had a pretty good start. He threw 80 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up just 3 hits, a walk, and 1 run, and struck out 7 Toronto batters. In the 3rd, a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a ground out and then scored on a double to get the Jays on the board. But Lynn, and then Robertson for 2 innings, kept the Jays down to that lone run, defending their slim lead.

But then Dellin Betances struggled his way through the 8th inning. A lead-off single moved to 3rd on a 1-out single and then scored on a single to tie up the game. A double scored another run to put the Blue Jays in the lead before a fielder’s choice became a great defensive show, getting their insurance run out at home in a rundown.

Britton’s 13-pitch 9th inning reset the game with hopes for a last-minute rally that would ultimately fall short.

Final score: 3-2 Blue Jays, Blue Jays win the series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees have an off-day tomorrow before a series against the Red Sox and then one against the Orioles to wrap up the final home stand. The Yankees hit the road for the final time with 4 games at the Rays and the final 3 games in Boston to end the season. Where the postseason lands is still very much up for grabs, especially as

The Yankees plan to call up pitchers Justus Sheffield and Domingo German to help with their upcoming series against the Red Sox, starting Tuesday. They might have been called up for today’s game, but they both pitched in the RailRiders’ final game yesterday, losing to the Rays’ AAA team and their bid for their league’s championship.

Go Yankees!

Game 148: TOR vs. NYY — Falling just short of a comeback

After yesterday’s wipe-out of the Blue Jays, the Yankees certainly continued the dramatics in the middle game of the weekend series. CC Sabathia got the start tonight and after a quick 3 outs in the 1st got roughed up for the rest of his brief outing this afternoon. He threw just 50 pitches into the 3rd, gave up 7 hits and 5 runs, and struck out only 2 batters.

In the 2nd, Sabathia gave up a lead-off solo homer on the 1st pitch to get the Blue Jays started. With 1 out, the next batter singled (as it was deemed after an overturned challenge), moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, then to 3rd on a single, and scored on another single. After another out, another single scored the lead runner for another Toronto run.

Then with 1 out in the 3rd, Sabathia gave up consecutive solo home runs to call an end to his afternoon. Chad Green was called on to replace him and started keeping things in check, holding the Blue Jays scoreless into the 5th inning. And Holder closed out the 5th and threw a solid 6th inning to keep the momentum going.

The Yankees, meanwhile, were also being held off, mostly by the Blue Jays’ starter, who only gave up 2 hits in his 5 innings and struck out 10 Yankee batters. It wasn’t until the 6th that they broke the Jays’ stranglehold on the scoreboard. Didi Gregorius led-off the 6th with a solo home run into the right field seats, making this his 2nd consecutive season with 25+ home runs. Then despite loading up the bases, the Yankees left them stranded again, failing to capitalize on these easy opportunities to chip away at the Jays’ lead.

Tommy Kahnle came on for the 7th inning and struggled his way through, loading up the bases. A great play by the defense got the lead runner out at home on a ground out. After a great strikeout, Kahnle gave up a 2-RBI single to expand the Jays’ lead. He turned things over to Stephen Tarpley, who gave up a single to score one more run.

The Yankees found one more big chance to make an impact in the bottom of the 7th. Giancarlo Stanton liked the 1st pitch he saw and sent it deep into the left field seats for his 34th home run of the season.. After a pitching change and 1 out, Didi Gregorius again smacked a solo home run to edge the Yankees closer.

Another out later, Torres doubled, Walker walked, and another new reliever walked Voit to load up the bases once again. This time, Miguel Andujar made the difference — a big grand slam to put the Yankees within a single run.

Betances and Britton each gave up a 9-pitch inning to close out the game, waiting for the Yankee batters to pull a last-minute comeback rally. It was not going to happen today.

Final score: 8-7 Blue Jays

Yankee Universe encompasses much of this nation, being “America’s Team”. But recently, one of their farm teams found themselves in the path of a major disaster. Yesterday, Hurricane Florence made landfall along the Carolina coastline. The Charleston River Dogs, the Yankees’ Single-A minor league team, finished their season earlier this month. But so many people are still under the hurricane’s destruction as it lingers and creeps itself up the coast.

David Robertson’s foundation, High Socks For Hope, has a history of helping with disaster relief, like after tornadoes, Hurricane Harvey in Texas last year, and other major disasters in the southeastern U.S. Today, they announced that they will be accepting monetary and practical donations to help, if you would like to be generous.

Our prayers are with those still under the thumb of the hurricane and in its path.

Go Yankees!

Game 147: TOR vs. NYY — Big home blowout + #TanakaTime

Sometimes, it’s good to be back in your own surroundings. The fans in the stands are in familiar regalia, the cheers makes sense with the plays, the smells and sounds are just right. It’s part of why people put a lot of stock in “home field advantage”. Not because there’s anything particularly “lucky” about your home turf, but because players are familiar with how things work and that surrounding familiarity knocks out distractions and helps them focus on the game. At least, that’s my theory.

Tonight’s game rather supported that. Especially when you throw in an opposing team that is really having a string of so-called “bad luck” recently. And Masahiro Tanaka was on point in tonight’s weekend opener against the Blue Jays. He threw 90 pitches in 6 scoreless innings, gave up 4 hits and 2 walks, and struck out 8 Toronto batters to earn his 12th win of the season.

Luis Cessa continued Tanaka’s great start with 3 scoreless innings of his own, adding 4 more strikeouts. And according to the rules, he earned the save for pitching those final 3 innings. (Statistics are rather complicated sometimes.)

The Yankee batters, meanwhile, had quite the field day in the Bronx. Every starting player got at least 1 hit, and every starter either scored a run or hit a run in, though most did both. The Blue Jays’ pitchers just couldn’t figure out how to pitch to the hot Yankee bats tonight.

In the 1st, McCutchen led-off with a double, and Stanton walked. Aaron Hicks’ single scored McCutchen, and a late throw allowed both runners to move into scoring position. After an out, Didi Gregorius hit an easy grounder that allowed Stanton to score, and Gleyber Torres’ single scored Hicks. After Sanchez singled to join Torres on base, Luke Voit hit both of them home with his double.

With a solid lead, the Yankee hits kept coming. In the 3rd, Gregorius was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Voit later worked a 2-out walk. Brett Gardner’s single scored Gregorius and signaled the end of Toronto’s starter’s night. The new reliever loaded up the bases with McCutchen’s walk before giving up a single to Giancarlo Stanton that scored both Voit and Gardner.

Andrew McCutchen led-off the 5th with a solo home run (his 1st homer in Yankee Stadium ever, by the way), and Didi Gregorius followed his example with a lead-off solo shot in the 8th. Then, with 1 out in the 8th, Sanchez doubled and was pinch-run by Higashioka. Voit reached on a fielding error, moving Higashioka to 3rd. Then Brett Gardner hit a long fly ball out to center that scored Higashioka, but they ended up catching Voit off 1st for a delayed double play to end the inning.

Final score: 11-0 Yankees

Roster moves: Good news, Yankee Universe! Today, they activated Aaron Judge from the Disabled List. His wrist’s chip fracture is healed to the point where he could come into tonight’s game late to run and play defense, but he’s not going to be hitting just yet. They want that 100% swing back without any residual pain from the power-hitter before they pencil him in the lineup. But take today’s activation as a good sign of progress.

And earlier today, the kids at PS 71 in the Bronx were treated to a fun surprise. The PitCCh In Foundation, founded by CC and Amber Sabathia, hosted a special event to celebrate the beginning of the school year. While CC was on “daddy duty”, Amber hosted Yankee stars Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks to have some fun with the local students (including a dance party with a live DJ) and hand out backpacks filled with school supplies to help the kids start the new year right, much like they did last week in California (where the Sabathias grew up).

Gregorius also considered today’s outreach as part of his #DidisDeeds, his random acts of kindness campaign wherever he is, including in Toronto in July. These guys are just amazing in how they represent the Yankee spirit of excellence and character on and off the field.

In that spirit, Sabathia is the Yankees’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, an annual award to honor those players who embody excellence and character on and off the field. You can vote for Sabathia and read more about all the other nominees and how they’re impacting their communities.

Go Yankees!

Game 124: TOR vs. NYY — A clean sweep in this celebratory weekend

After all the fuss about the past this weekend, including a fun giveaway of replicas of the 1998 Championship ring to fans today, the Yankees were looking at closing the door to this series and homestand on a positive note and go into their road trip strong. JA Happ was just the man for the job as he got his first start against his old team and proved that he fits in rather nicely in pinstripes.

In this final game of the weekend series and the homestand, Happ threw 103 pitches into the 6th, gave up 7 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and struck out an impressive 8 Toronto batters to earn the win this afternoon. In the 1st, after 2 quick outs, he gave up a big solo home run to get the Jays on the board early. But despite giving up a couple singles, he got out of the inning without further damage. He held his former team scoreless through the next 4 innings, before giving up a lead-off solo shot in the 6th.

After giving up a double and then getting his 8th strikeout, the Yankees opted to go to Jonathan Holder. Holder got his first batter out and then watched as Higashioka caught the runner stealing 3rd. And the question on everyone’s mind: Why was he stealing 3rd with 2 outs? Holder continued on through the 7th with a clean outing before handing the ball over to Sonny Gray for 2 strong innings to close out the game. Gray is certainly finding his place in the bullpen and becoming quite the reliable fixture there.

Now, Blue Jays’ starter had a less than ideal afternoon. The Yankees dinged into his start right in the 1st and didn’t let up. Hicks and Stanton worked walks and moved up in a double steal. Hicks then scored on Miguel Andujar’s single, and Stanton scored on Didi Gregorius’ troubled single (more below). Torres’ wimpy single loaded the bases for Greg Bird to hit a powerful grand slam into the 2nd deck of the right field seats.

Finally getting a couple of outs, the Blue Jays called his outing over and turned it over to their bullpen, who did a much better job of keeping the Yankees from adding to their lead. After a few relievers kept the Yankees scoreless, Gardner led-off the 6th with a single, moved to 2nd on Hicks’ walk, and then scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s single.

But they weren’t done yet. Andujar hit into an attempt at a double play, but the Jays’ defense only got the out at 2nd and Andujar beat the ball to 1st. Hicks scored either way, but the Blue Jays wasted their challenged on that call that was rightly upheld. Torreyes doubled and moved Andujar to 3rd, and Torres was intentionally walked to load up the bases.

Bird then hit into a baby grounder that the defense snapped into action to get Andujar trying to come home. The defense also tried to get Bird headed for 1st but a high throw pulled the 1st baseman off the bag as Bird touched the base. It was close, but with no challenges left, there wasn’t much the Blue Jays could do. That didn’t sit well with their manager, who was already fairly heated up from some earlier bad plays, and got himself thrown out of the game.

Anyway, after the drama died down, Kyle Higashioka hit a solid single that scored both Torreyes and Torres to cap off the Yankees’ scoring. A new reliever once again helped settle the Yankee bats, something the final reliever (and former Yankee reliever) kept going to closer out the game.

Final score: 10-2 Yankees, Yankees sweep the series 3-0

Next up: The Yankees have a scheduled off-day that will also be a bit of a travel day. They will then face the Marlins for a quick 2-game series in Miami, before they enjoy another off/travel day. Then they face the Orioles in Baltimore for a 4-game series, or rather 3 regular games and a make-up game (from a rain-out last month) early on Saturday. And then it’s back home to the Bronx for 7 games (White Sox and Tigers) before they head out to the West Coast.

Injury alert: Didi Gregorius hit that single in the 1st and kind of stumbled over the 1st baseman in the process. And somewhere between hitting the base, smacking into the other player, and landing on the ground on the other side of the base, he incurred a bruised heel. After he scored on Bird’s grand slam, they ended up pulling him from the game in the 3rd, allowing utility fielder Torreyes a chance to play today. He will undergo further testing before a timeline for recovery is announced, but I imagine a small stint on the DL is to be expected.

Go Yankees!

Game 123: TOR vs. NYY — Remembering what was and hoping for what could be

What a beautiful day at the ball park for memories and a good ball game. Fans turned out in droves to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1998 World Series Championship team, complete with a full cadre of former Yankees (more below) before the Yankees took on the Blue Jays in the second game of this celebration weekend series.

Luis Severino got the start today and needed a strong start to reset himself after a recent rough patch. He threw 100 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and struck out 8 batters. In fact, he held the Blue Jays scoreless through most of his outing. In the 6th, he gave up a double that ended up at 3rd on a fielding error and then scored on an RBI single.

Severino handled the ball over to Tommy Kahnle, who had a less than ideal outing. After getting one out, he gave up 2 singles that scored one run and then loaded up the bases with a walk and 2 outs. To end that threat the Yankees turned to Jonathan Holder, while Kahnle was responsible for all 3 base runners. Holder gave up a long single that scored all 3 base runners before getting the runner out trying to stretch it into a triple.

Britton and Betances had clean, scoreless innings in the 7th and 8th, respectively. And the Yankees needed it after that messy 6th. So, the Yankees sent out AJ Cole for the 9th inning, but he had a bit of trouble. With 2 outs and runners on the corners, a long double scored just 1 run before he found that 3rd out.

But unlike last night’s rain-shortened game, the Yankee offense started big and stayed big. In the 1st, Gardner led-off with a walk, stole 2nd base 2 outs later, and then scored as part of Didi Gregorius’ 2-run home run. Torres hit a 1st pitch single to kick off the 2nd and ended up all the way on 3rd thanks to a wild pitch and throwing error. He would later score on Austin Romine’s sacrifice fly.

In the 3rd, Stanton singles and Hicks walked, and then they both scored on a 1-out double by Miguel Andujar. Andujar then moved to 3rd on a throwing error off Torres’ hit and then scored on Greg Bird’s ground out. Giancarlo Stanton hit a nice 2-out solo home run in the 4th, and Andujar followed suit with a 1-out solo homer into the left field seats in the 5th.

Greg Bird led-off the 8th with a solo home run into the right field seats to snap his recent offensive skid. The Yankees then loaded up the bases with a couple singles and a hit by pitch and 1 out. A new Jays’ reliever gave up a walk to Aaron Hicks to walk in the Yankees’ next run. And Gregorius’ sacrifice fly scored Gardner to cap off the Yankees’ runs today.

On a day meant to honor a team that won 114 game in a single season, it’s only fitting the Yankees would win and win big.

Final score: 11-6 Yankees

During the 5th inning, a foul tip hit catcher Austin Romine in the face mask and stunned him a bit. Initially, he stayed in the game, but was replaced by Higashioka when the Yankees took the field in the 6th. Hits like that have been known to cause concussions, so the Yankees were smart to remove him for observation and a full check-up as a precaution. And while Higashioka can absolutely serve as strong back-up for tomorrow’s finale and even into the Miami series, be prepared for Sanchez’s return to be moved up some.

Now, the big focus of today was the celebrations in honor of the 1998 Yankees. Almost all of the favorites from that team showed up for the event, including Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and Bernie Williams. Jeter and World Series MVP Brosius sent video messages due to their previous engagements and obligations to other teams (Jeter now owns the Marlins, and Brosius is a coach with the Mariners).

Joe Torre was also on hand to recall that iconic season, throw out the ceremonial first pitch, and spent time with two of his players from that season now serving as YES Network broadcasters Paul O’Neill and David Cone during the regular game. And one of the things Torre said in the broadcast stuck with me.

They were talking about how the 1998 season started out slow and how Torre held a team meeting early on to help the team focus on moving forward. Both former players O’Neill and Cone agreed that Torre never did the hype-man thing some coaches do where they scream and try to drive up that emotion, but rather focus on that he was just disappointed in how they were playing at that point. O’Neill even remarked it was like feeling like you were disappointing your father and how he always felt motivated to go out and be better after a Torre “pep talk”.

But Torre went on to say: “I always wanted to end it on a positive message. I always thought of baseball as 162 [games]. It’s a game of life. You live it every day. And if you start getting too pumped up, it’s not going to last. You can’t maintain that.” So, as we agree with Mr. Torre about this comparison of life and baseball, it’s good to remember old Aesop’s fable and remember that while it’s fun to be the hyper rabbit, it’s the consistency and persistence of the turtle that ends up successful at the mission.

Go Yankees!

Game 122: TOR vs. NYY — Abbreviated victory

I have mixed feelings about a shortened game, even more so by a game like this. In this opener against the Blue Jays, they were on a race against the oncoming storm. Yet another instance where the weather decided to stomp all over another game.

Lance Lynn got the start in today’s game, and while it wasn’t the strongest start, it certainly matched the Blue Jays’ starter. So they both pitched to a no-decision. Lynn threw 99 pitchers into the 5th, gave up 6 hits, 3 walks, and 5 runs, and struck out 5 batters.

Most of that damage came in the 1st inning. The lead-off batter walked and was out on a force out grounder at 2nd. A wild pitch moved the runner to 2nd, and a walk allowed another runner on base. A single scored the lead runner, and after a nice strikeout, another single scored another run. After a walk loaded the bases, another single scored 2 more runs before Lynn got out of the inning.

After holding strong through the next 3 innings, Lynn came out for the 5th. He gave up a double that promptly scored on an RBI single to cap off the Blue Jays’ runs tonight. And it would also be end of the Lynn’s night. Chad Green came on for a strong outing of his own, 2 solid innings in just 18 pitches to set himself up for the win. David Robertson’s 7th was a perfect scoreless one amid the drizzle.

Meanwhile, the Yankees paced out their offense through the game, taking opportunities when they came. In the 1st, with 2 outs, Hicks worked a walk and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ great triple. Then Gregorius scored on Miguel Andujar’s double. And in the 4th, with 1 out and Torres and Bird on base with a double and walk, Neil Walker smacked a big 3-run home run.

Hicks led-off the 5th with a walk, ended up at 3rd on Andujar’s 1-out single, and then scored on a fielder’s choice that Gleyber Torres hit into. And leave it to Giancarlo Stanton to lead-off the 7th inning with a solo home run as the skies rumbled along and the drizzle picked up. And after Hicks struck out, the rain was just too much to continue.

So they went into rain delay. For an hour and twenty-five minutes before they made the decision to just call the game. Which ended up being a good thing because there is going to be no letting up in the rain for most of the night. And they have an afternoon game tomorrow.

Final score: 7-5 Yankees, in 7(ish) innings

Today was the first day of this declared anniversary weekend, the 20th anniversary of the 1998 Championship Yankees. There’s a ton of fun events planned for the fans, including a display of a replica of the 1998 World Series trophy, alumni meeting fans, a special ceremony tomorrow before the game, fan favors like replica rings, and more surprises for the fans throughout the weekend.

Okay, so, I do have mixed feelings about an abbreviated game. I see the reasoning behind why they called it. There is no way they could reasonably resume play at any point tonight and get enough sleep before tomorrow’s game. And the game is not a tie, so there is a definite winner already, and it’s beyond the 5th inning, so it’s considered a complete game.

But it wasn’t exactly an easy win. The Blue Jays kept things close enough to strike back at any point. And if the Yankees were on the flip side of the score, I’d be upset they didn’t have a chance to come back and at least attempt a win. Yes, I might be a little more willing to accept the result if the Yankees were stomping on the Jays like 7-0 because when they dominate, such a result would feel more like mercy. Because a win is a win regardless of by how much.

However, that win matters a whole lot to the Yankees, but due to the Blue Jays’ losing season, a loss doesn’t make a difference. There’s no way they’re going to the postseason, but the Yankees need every win possible to ensure their October spot. It worked out for Yankee Universe in the end, but I don’t think I’m ever going to feel entirely comfortable with this kind of abbreviated game.

Go Yankees!

Game 87: NYY vs. TOR — Gardner leads to victory in the 10th. Who’s in the All-Star Game? #ASGiancarlo

Another lovely summer day in Toronto allowed for a great day at the ball park, the roof open, the skies clear, and the fans cheering on their teams. And for this rubber match (the game to decide who wins the series), the Yankees and Blue Jays certainly gave the fans somehting to cheer about.

Domingo German got the start in the finale against the Jays, throwing 100 pitches in 6 innings, giving up just 4 hits, 2 walks, and 1 run, and striking out 5 batters. In fact, his lone allowed run was a 6th inning lead-off solo shot. Warren gave a solid 2 innings in relief, and Green followed that up by breezing through the 9th inning in just 11 pitches.

Now, the Yankees actually got on the board first, in the 1st inning. With 1 out, Judge singled, moved to 3rd on Stanton’s double, and then scored on Miguel Andujar’s ground out. After that, the Yankees collected 5 more hits and 2 walks through the next 8 innings, but didn’t do anything to add to their runs.

So, with the game tied, into the 10th inning they went. The first batter up, Bird, was hit by a pitch, and because they needed some speed on the bases, the Yankees called on Tyler Wade as pinch-runner. Romine’s sacrifice bunt moved Wade to 2nd and into scoring position so that when Brett Gardner hit a nice single into left field, Wade raced home to break the tie.

Two outs later, the Yankees called on David Robertson to close out the game. 12 pitches and 3 outs later, the Yankees declared victory for the game and the series.

Final score: 2-1 Yankees, in 10 innings, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: the Yankees are on their way to Baltimore to face the Orioles for a 4-game series, starting with a doubleheader tomorrow. The first game is a make-up game of the rain-out from May 31. After their series at Camden Yards, the Yankees travel to face the Indians for a 4-game weekend series before the All-Star Break.

And speaking of the All-Star Game, MLB officially announced their fan selections for the starters, as well as its player-voted (and Commissioner’s Office selected) player reserves and pitching staff for the game next Tuesday (July 17). And there are 4 (possibly 5) Yankees on that list — Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Aroldis Chapman, and Gleyber Torres. Giancarlo Stanton is nominated for the Final Vote.

Judge received his 2nd selection as an outfield starter this year, joined by pitchers Chapman and Severino (all for very obvious reasons). Plus, Torres was selected as part of the reserves player. Now, despite the fact that he may be sidelined due to his recent hip injury, selection to be part of the All-Star Game is a badge of sorts players can wear with honor for the rest of their lives. (You can enjoy a rather extensive list of the players selected and their achievements this year so far.)

And that brings us to the Final Vote. You can vote unlimited times until this Wednesday (July 10) at 4pm (EST) for your favorite AL and NL player of the 10 nominated (5 in each league) — like Stanton, for example. Other nominees include outfielders Andrew Benintendi (Red Sox) and Andrelton Simmons (Angels), shortstops Eddie Rosario (Twins) and Jean Segura (Mariners) for the AL. In the NL are infielders Jesus Aguilar (Brewers), Brandon Belt (Giants), Matt Carpenter (Cardinals), Max Muncy (Dodgers), and Trea Turner (Nationals).

So vote often for your favorites! And use the social media hashtag: #ASGiancarlo.

Go Yankees!