Game 91: TOR vs. NYY — Urshela shines on Sundays

The Yankees came into this rubber series hoping to continue their win streak of the last 13 home stands (12 wins and 1 tie) since mid-April. They seemed to find all the right moments to orchestrate another win as they continue their march toward October on top of the American League.

The Yankees started the minor offense today in the 2nd. Voit led-off with a single and moved to 3rd on Torres’ double to put them in scoring position. One out later, Gio Urhsela stepped up with a long single to score both runners to get the ball rolling, so to speak.

Masahiro Tanaka had a strong start in this afternoon’s closing game against the Rays this weekend. He threw 79 pitches in 6 innings, giving up 4 hits and 2 runs and striking out 5 batters to earn the eventual win. In the 5th, the Rays got a big lead-off solo home run and a 2-out solo home run to tie up the game.

The Yankees answered back in the bottom of the 5th. Gio Urshela led-off with a single and moved to 2nd on Romine’s walk. After an unsuccessful bunt pop out, LeMahieu hit into a fielder’s choice out at 2nd to get runners on the corners. A wild pitch had Urshela making a mad dash for home.

Now, he was originally called out, which would end the inning, but the Yankees wisely opted to challenge the call. Urhsela’s foot touched home just before the Rays’ catcher tagged Urshela’s chest. The call was overturned, and the Yankees were back in the lead.

In the 7th, with a new pitcher and 1 out, Mike Tauchman added an insurance run with a big solo home run into the right field bleachers. But the Yankees were halted there from adding further runs on their score.

The Yankee bullpen were also strong today, helping prevent the Rays from their own offensive impact in the latter third of the game. Ottavino and Kahnle split the scoreless 7th, and Britton kept things moving through the 8th. Chapman needed just 8 pitches to close out the 9th and earn his 25th save of the season.

Final score: 4-2 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees continue their home stand by hosting the Rays for 4 games this week and the Rockies next weekend. They will then hit the road for their first road trip of the second half with 3 games against the Twins and a 4-game weekend series in Boston.

Gio Urshela was undoubtedly the key player in today’s game bother offensively with 2 RBIs and defensively (and also here). Though to be fair, Tanaka and Tauchman and Torres and pretty much most of the guys who took the field today all pulled through in their own way, much like they do nearly every game. If any team deserves to be atop the standings, it’s certainly this year’s Yankees.

Go Yankees!

Game 90: TOR vs. NYY — Slow Saturday falls short

As the Southeastern US gets a battering by Hurricane Barry (stay safe!), it’s a beautiful sunny, warm day in the Bronx as the Yankees hosted their second game of this weekend series against the visiting Blue Jays. It was actually kind of a lazy Saturday afternoon for baseball, with somewhat strong pitching, but super strong defense.

JA Happ got the start for the Yankees, throwing 89 pitches into the 6th inning. He gave up 5 hits and a walk, was responsible for the Blue Jays’ 2 runs, and struck out 5 batters. He actually held them off until that final inning. With 1 out, he gave up 2 singles to end his outing this afternoon.

Adam Ottavino took over for Happ and got a great strikeout. Both runners then stole their next base to put themselves into scoring position. The next batter singled both of them home for the only runs the Blue Jays would score today.

Cortes sailed his way through the 7th and into the 8th, with Britton closing out the 8th in just 4 pitches. Hale’s scoreless 9th kept the door open for a Yankees’ last-minute rally.

The Yankees still racked up 8 hits and 3 walks off Blue Jays’ pitchers. Their starter only lasted 2 innings due to an injury, but the rest of the bullpen stepped up to guard against the Yankees’ offense for most of the game. Their biggest opportunity came in the 5th when the Yankees loaded up the bases, but a final out to the center fielder ended that chance.

Aaron Hicks led-off the bottom of the 9th with a walk. Two outs later, DJ LeMahieu singled to put the tying run on base. Beyond just wanting to win today’s game, the Yankees were also facing the end of their streak of not being shutout. But then Aaron Judge singled Hicks home to get the Yankees on the board. An inside strikeout later, the game was a loss, but the no-shutout streak is still alive.

Final score: 2-1 Blue Jays

Roster moves: Before today’s game, the Yankees activated Luke Voit from the 10-day injured list. Voit had been dealing with lower abdominal strain, using the All-Star Break to work out at the minor league complex in Tampa. To make room, they optioned infielder Breyvic Valera back to AAA Scranton.

Finally, a Happy Birthday to DJ LeMahieu! The 31-year-old All-Star infielder is having quite the banner year, leading the Yankees in batting average (.330), hits (114), doubles (21), runs scored (65), and RBIs (64). Plus, he’s a stellar infielder, with outstanding defensive plays like today.

Go Yankees!

Game 80: TOR vs. NYY — Walk-off and glory by All-Star Finalists

Well, that was… eventful. Leave it to this year’s Yankees to close out their final home stand before the All-Star Break with quite the dramatic flair. The Blue Jays, for their part, certainly made it one worth fighting for all the way to the end.

James Paxton got a rocky start in this afternoon’s finale, throwing 91 pitches into the 5th inning. He gave up 8 hits, 4 walks, and 6 runs, and struck out 3 Toronto batters. At the top of the game, he gave up consecutive walks that then scored on a 3-run home run to the glee of the smattering of Blue Jay fans in the stadium. Then in the 2nd, a 1-out single scored on a 2-run home run to add more to the Jays’ early lead.

After settling into a good pattern for the next few innings, Paxton gave up a lead-off solo home run in the 5th. After a walk and out, he handed the ball over to Hale to close out the inning. Hale quickly picked the runner off 1st and got a grounder to do so. He continued that momentum through a scoreless 6th inning. Then, Ottavino and Tarpley each took an inning to run with that pattern.

In the mean time, the Yankees chipped away at the visitors’ lead. With 1 out in the 2nd, Didi Gregorius continued the Yankees’ homer magic with a solo home run, making it the 29th consecutive game with a home run. The Yankees loaded up the bases with a walk to Hicks, a single by Torres, and a 2-out walk to LeMahieu. Aaron Judge’s single scored both Hicks and Torres.

DJ LeMahieu came back in the 4th to hit a 1-out 2-run home run. In the 5th, Encarnacion hit a 1-out double, moved to 3rd on Gregorius’ single, and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ sacrifice fly to finally tie up the game. With 2 outs in the 6th, the Yankees finally took the lead. Judge singled, moved to 2nd on Sanchez’s single, and then scored the go-ahead run on Luke Voit’s single.

Things were finally looking up for the home team. Zack Britton came on to close out the game, but he immediately struggled his way through those pesky 3 outs. The lead-off batter singled, his pinch-runner took 2nd on a passed ball, and then scored on a single to tie the game up again.

So, the game went to the bottom of the 9th. With 1 out, Gregorius singled. Hicks worked a walk to moved Gregorius to scoring position. And then he did on Gleyber Torres’ walk-off single.

Final score: 8-7 Yankees, Yankees sweep the series 3-0

Next up: The Yankees travel across the pond for their much-anticipated series against the Red Sox in London. They have the next two days off for travel/jet lag and will start the mini-series agains their famed rivals on Saturday. They will come back to America with an off-day the first day of July before doing a quick 2-game series in Queens against the Mets. They will spend the final weekend before the All-Star Break in Tampa for a 4-game series there.

Injury update/roster moves: Despite some home for a simple injury, Giancarlo Stanton is headed back to the Injured List. An MRI revealed a strain (or partial tear) in the posterior cruciate ligament in the knee, the connective tissue between the leg bones close to the back of the knee, behind the patella (knee cap).

The Yankees have recalled Mike Tauchman to replace Stanton on the roster. In preparation for the big London series, the teams are allowed to carry a 26th man on their roster. They will select Thairo Estrada. However, Kyle Higashioka and Chance Adams will be held in standby in case they are needed due to injury.

Yankee Trivia: I was not aware of this until today, but this is a great fact. As of today, the Yankees have played 162 regular games straight without being shutout. They have scored in every game for an entire season. That is quite the feat, though it is short of the record held by the Yankees way back from 1931-1933. Those Yankees got runs in 308 straight games, and even won the World Series in the middle of that (1932), their fourth championship.

Finally, VOTE NOW for your favorite finalists in the Final Vote for the All-Star Game. You get one vote on MLB and one vote on Google, so choose wisely. For your consideration, there are six Yankees on the ballot in their respective positions — Luke Voit (1st base), DJ LeMahieu (2nd base), Gio Urshela (3rd base), Gleyber Torres (shortstop), Gary Sanchez (catcher), and Aaron Judge (outfield). This round of voting ends Thursday at 4 pm ET.

Go Yankees!

Game 79: TOR vs. NYY — It’s “28” for the Yankees, a sign for October?

The Yankees made history tonight. Right in the 1st inning, a lead-off home run by DJ LeMahieu moved the Yankees into the history books as the MLB team with the most consecutive games with a home run with the fated number of 28. But they may not be done yet with this kind of momentum, continuing their moniker of “Bronx Bombers”. And in passing, Yankee Universe is hoping that the number “28” is catching as the team is hoping to move forward from its 27 championships. (Hint, hint.)

Chad Green got the start as the “opener” again in tonight’s game, the middle game of this 3-game mid-week series against the visiting Blue Jays. Green needed 13 pitches to breeze his way through the 1st inning before handing the game over to Nestor Cortes Jr for long-term relief. Cortes pitched strong through the 5th inning, but he had trouble when he came out for the 6th.

Cortes gave up a single and double to put runners in scoring position, which they proceeded to do on a sacrifice fly and a single. Kahnle came in as the rescue reliever again to clamp down and close out the 6th. Yankee pitchers went back to the strong scoreless kind with Tarpley and Britton sailing through their respective innings.

In the 9th, Aroldis Chapman gave up a single on his 1st pitch, who moved to 2nd on a wild pitch. The next batter got to 1st on a catcher’s interference before getting consecutive strikeouts. But to amp up the drama, the next batter singled home the lead runner before a simple ground out got them out of the inning.

That didn’t help as the Yankee offense was oddly limited as far as the scoreboard to just solo home runs. After LeMahieu led-off the Yankees with a record-setting solo home run into the 2nd deck of the left field, Aaron Judge followed him up with one of his own, a solo home run just shy of the Bleacher Creatures.

Then, with 2 outs in the 2nd, Gleyber Torres got in on the fun with a solo home run of his own. But it was Edwin Encarnacion’s 2-out solo home run in the 8th, just past the special frequent stadium avian visitor, that would end up being the insurance run the home team needed to pull out the win.

Final score: 4-3 Yankees

Before the game, the Yankees continued to honor Pride Month by asking City Council speaker Corey Johnson to throw out the ceremonial first pitch and invited the first ever recipients of the Stonewall Scholars Initiative to unveil a plaque in Monument Park to honor the 50th anniversary of the world-changing events at the Stonewall Inn just a few miles south of the Stadium.

Last month, the Yankees announced the Stonewall Scholars Initiative. The Initiative is a personal donation by the Steinbrenner Family of $50,000 in college scholarship to five local graduating seniors from each of the boroughs as “recognition of their academic achievement, commitment to equality, and impactful support for the LGBTQ community”.

Injury update: After all the hubbub in the 1st, Giancarlo Stanton hit a single but was later tagged out at 3rd on the double play to end the inning. He dove back to the bag and banged up his knee on the infield at bit. He continued in the game for the next 2 innings, but he knew it was stiffening up and asked to be replaced by Gardner for the 4th. It doesn’t look series, and an MRI will hopefully confirm it was just a contusion (bruise), which a few days rest and ice will help heal rather quickly.

Roster moves: Before tonight’s game, the Yankees officially optioned Jonathan Holder to AAA Scranton (as we discussed yesterday) and recalled reliever Stephen Tarpley, who ended up pitching well tonight. They also activated Kendrys Morales from the 10-day IL and designated him for assignment, a predictable progression as regular players heal up and come off the IL.

And finally, tomorrow is the 75th anniversary of a game played by the 3 New York-based teams at the same time, as in all 3 teams (Yankees, Giants, and Dodgers) somehow played a ball game against each other about 3 weeks after D-Day to help boost stateside morale and raise money for the war effort.

There were about 500 local wounded veterans as special guests of the teams and nearly 50,000 fans packed the stands to play this oddball “Tri-Cornered Game”. All the ticket proceeds went to a larger donation of $56 million to the war effort, which included a little $50 million boost from the city itself.

Admittedly, for all the history I know, I had never heard of this event until today. But it’s history, execution, and legacy is absolutely fascinating. It took about 2 hours and 5 minutes to play to a final score of Dodgers 5, Yankees 1, and Giants 0, with absolutely no home runs hit during the game. Though, to be fair, many of the stars and power-hitters from that era (and future Hall of Famers) were busy fighting on both fronts and not playing baseball.

Go Yankees!

Game 78: TOR vs. NYY — Middle innings’ splash

The Yankees hosted the Blue Jays tonight to start their final home series before London and the All-Star Break. And again, the Yankees were still on an offensive roll. The kind of streak the Yankees really need to boost their standings leading to the next two weeks.

CC Sabathia got the start tonight, throwing 104 pitches in 6 innings, giving up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and struck out an impressive 9 Toronto batters to set himself up for the eventual win. Most of the Blue Jays’ offense came in that 1st inning. A lead-off walk scored on a double, and 2 outs later, a single scored on another double to give the visitors an early lead.

The Yankees weren’t able to crack into the Jays’ starter until the 5th inning. With 1 out, LeMahieu and Voit singled, and then Aaron Hicks smacked a 3-run home run to both put the Yankees in the lead and to continue the record-making season (see below). But it was the 6th inning that made all the difference in the game.

Gregorius led-off with a single, moved to 3rd on Torres’ double, and then scored on Gio Urshela’s single. Brett Gardner hit into a fielder’s choice that scored Torres. LeMahieu then singled, and after a pitching change, Luke Voit’s double scored both Gardner and LeMahieu. Hicks then worked a walk. Then Giancarlo Stanton smacked a huge 3-run home run (445 feet to left center field) to push the home team into a dominating lead.

Now, Sabathia and the defense held them to that early lead for most of the game until the Yankees finally took a commanding lead in those middle innings. Kahnle came in and sailed his way through the 7th inning with just 8 pitches. But it would be the 8th inning that the visitors would mount their attempt at a comeback rally.

Jonathan Holder’s struggles continued tonight, coming out to face batters in the 8th. He gave up a lead-off solo home run and then loaded the bases with consecutive singles. This set up the next batter to hit a grand slam to edge the Jays way closer to the Yankees’ lead.

That was the end of Holder’s outing, and the Yankees called in Green to finish the inning. But after 2 outs, even Green had issues and gave up 2 singles. Ottavino to the rescue — 3 pitches for a perfect strikeout to get out of that messy inning for the home team. Aroldis Chapman came in for the 9th. After 1 out, the next batter doubled and ended up at 3rd on a fielding error to then score on a sacrifice fly.

Final score: 10-8 Yankees

Yes, that 5th inning 3-run home run by Aaron Hicks made it 27 consecutive games the Yankees have hit at least one home run. That officially ties the MLB record that the Rangers set in 2002. A home run in tomorrow’s game will anoint the Yankees as the new record holders, and if any team can do it, it’s this one.

Roster moves: After the game, the Yankees made the decision to send Jonathan Holder back down to AAA Scranton to work out his issues. This has worked out well for many players in the past, even crediting such a demotion with saving their careers. I have no doubt Holder will be back soon in the kind of form we’re used to seeing him, leaving the bad mojo (or whatever it is) in Scranton. The corresponding roster move is to be determined.

Go Yankees!

Game 61: NYY vs. TOR — “The Machine” supports strong Happ outing

JA Happ faced his former team, and perhaps the familiar setting helped him with his dominant outing in the finale against the Blue Jays. Happ threw 102 pitches in his 7 innings, gave up 4 hits and 1 run, and struck out 4 Toronto batters to earn the eventual win. Actually, he held off the Blue Jays for most of the game, only giving up a lead-off solo home run in the 6th to let the home team on the board.

Chad Green continued that momentum through the 8th inning and came out for the 9th. But that’s where he got into trouble, loading up the bases with 3 consecutive singles. Aroldis Chapman was called out to get the Yankees out of the jam. Chapman got the first batter to hit into a double play that scored one run. Chapman only needed 7 total pitches to earn his 18th save of the season.

Meanwhile, the Yankees came out strong and stayed strong. In the 2nd with 2 outs, Estrada made it to 1st on a throwing error, making all successive runs that inning completely unearned. Estrada moved to 3rd on Maybin’s single and then scored on DJ LeMahieu’s big double. Aaron Hicks then smacked a big 3-run home run to ease the Yankees into a strong lead.

Gio Urshela led-off the 4th with a solo home run. Maybin hit a 1-out double and then scored on DJ LeMahieu’s single. With that offense and strong pitching (and minimal messes on the defensive side), the Yankees were able to keep their lead and sail into the win to close out this series.

Final score: 6-2 Yankees, Blue Jays win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees travel across Lake Erie to visit the Indians for a weekend series. They’ll head home for a quick 2-game mini-series against the Mets before heading back on the road to face the White Sox. Then their final long home stand before the All-Star break, including their annual HOPE Week celebration.

Speaking of the All-Star Game, consider this your reminder to vote for your favorite players every day — up to 5 times a day on MLB and once a day on Google Search. The All-Star Game is July 9.

It’s worth noting that Gary Sanchez has revealed a team nickname for a teammate. And if you’ve been following this season, you’ll know that there are quite a few players on this team that are making quite the splash (and perhaps deserve your vote for the ASG).

But tonight’s newest moniker “The Machine” has been bestowed on infielder DJ LeMahieu. Tonight, LeMahieu led-off the roster, went 3-for-4 with a walk, hit 2 RBIs, and scored a run. Currently batting .323 (leading the Yankees roster) for the season, he’s already hit 72 hits, 7 home runs, 40 RBIs (also 1st on Yankees roster), and scored 39 runs. In other words, LeMahieu is as reliable as a “Machine”. He’s an integral cog in the Machine that is the 2019 Yankees.

Go Yankees!

Game 60: NYY vs. TOR — Inconsistency strikes again

It’s sometimes hard to shake off the weird blanket of inconsistency. Like no matter what you do or try to do, it’s just going to turn everything a little sideways in the end. The Yankees have been kind of going through a bit of a funk for their last three games, including tonight’s middle game of this series in Toronto.

James Paxton was hoping for a better outing, much like the last time he started a game in Toronto (albeit for another team) when he threw a no-hitter and dominated the Blue Jays. Tonight would not be a repeat of this. Paxton threw 8 3 pitches into the 5th, giving up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 4 runs (3 earned), and struck out 4 Toronto batters.

In the 1st, he gave up a 1-out walk that scored on a 2-out 2-run home run to get the home team started early. A lead-off double in the 2nd scored on an RBI single Then in the 5th, a 1-out walk scored on a single and messy throwing error. After one more out, the Yankees turned to a series of relievers. Ottavino closed out the 5th for Paxton but got into a jam in the 6th that Kahnle added to and then got out of it.

Now, leading up to this, the Yankees tried their best to chip away the Blue Jays’ lead. With 2 outs in the 4th, Gary Sanchez hit a nice solo home run to start the advance. In the 5th, Frazier led-off with a walk but got tagged out when Gardner hit into a fielder’s choice. Gardner moved to 2nd on Urshela’s single and then raced home on Cameron Maybin’s single.

DJ LeMahieu’s single scored Urshela to tie up the game at that point. After Voit’s walk loaded up the bases, it was a single by Gary Sanchez that pushed the Yankees into the lead by scoring Maybin. Then with a new pitcher in the 6th, Frazier hit a single, Maybin hit a 2-out single, and they both scored as part of LeMahieu’s big 3-run home run to give the Yankees a hefty lead.

That didn’t last long as the inconsistency came back full force in the bottom of the 7th. Jonathan Holder had some trouble thanks to the defense when his first batter made it safely to 2nd on a terrible throwing error. After an out, he hit the next batter to put 2 runners on base. They both scored when the next batter doubled and made it to 3rd on a fielding error.

Zach Britton quickly closed out that inning but found his own issues in the 8th. The Yankees now had a 1-run lead to defend, but those “inconsistencies” mean nothing is safe. With 1 out in the 8th, he gave up a single and a walk that scored as part of a big 3-run home run to put the Blue Jays back on top. After another out, he handed the ball over to Luis Cessa, who promptly gave up back-to-back solo home runs to ensure the home team victory.

Final score: 11-7 Blue Jays

The 2019 MLB Draft is now complete. They had a busy first day of the Draft on Monday. For their first round draft pick, the Yankees selected 18 year old New Jersey native and shortstop Anthony Volpe. In the CBA part of the first round, the pick the Yankees got from the Sonny Gray trade to the Reds, they selected left-handed pitcher TJ Sikkema (University of Missouri). And in the second round, they selected second baseman Josh Smith (Louisiana State University).

On Tuesday, they focused mainly on picking up college pitchers, something they seemed to load up on overall, adding more on Wednesday. They picked 25 pitchers of the 41 players. Further, they selected 9 infielders, 2 catchers, and 5 outfielders. Also significant is that the Yankees selected 31 college players and just 10 high schools seniors. They really seem to be targeting a very specific kind of player, so it will be interesting to see who signs, who passes to continue their education, and who passes to pursue other dreams.

One notable selection was the son of former Yankee (and current Yankee broadcaster) Al Leiter, Jack Leiter in the 20th round. As a high school senior, Jack is officially committed to Vanderbilt and will probably keep that route for now. But it was a nice gesture for a legacy player, much like the Yankees did for Andy Pettitte’s son Josh in 2013, though he chose to finish his education and later retire from the sport to pursue other avenues with his young family.

Yankee picks (in order of selection): Anthony Volpe, TJ Sikkema, Josh Smith, Jacob Sanford, Jake Agnos, Ken Waldichuk, Hayden Wesneski, Nick Paciorek, Zach Greene, Spencer Henson, Mitch Spence, Oliver Dunn, Ryan Anderson, Nelson Alvarez, Kevin Milam, Edgar Barclay, Shaine McNeely, Pat DeMarco, Evan Voliva, Chad Bell, Jack Leiter, Zach Kohn, Gerrit van Zijll, Matt Minnick, Jake Pries, Luke Brown, Ryan Brown, Kyle MacDonald, Michael Giacone, Chase Illig, Zachary Maxwell, Chad Knight, Ethan Hoopingarner, Javier Reynoso, Joey Lancellotti, Nathaniel Espelin, Montana Semmel, Bryce Jarvis, Dontae Mitchell, Jake Garrell, and Alex Garbrick.

Best of luck on all your endeavors. Hope to see some of you in pinstripes in the very near future.

Go Yankees!