Game 31: MIN vs. NYY — Strong bullpen and bats support early exit

The Yankees began their new home stand with this series against the visiting Twins. It was a mixed bag for the Yankees, with another possible addition to the IL but a strong win in the end.

James Paxton got the start tonight, throwing 64 pitches in just 3 innings. He gave up 2 hits, 3 walks, and an unearned run and struck out just 1 Twins batter. After holding them off for the first two innings, in the 3rd, he loaded up the bases with a walk, an out, a fielding error, and a walk. A sacrifice fly scored the Twins’ first run, and a passed ball moved runners to scoring position. But a line drive ended the inning as Paxton exited the game entirely. (More later.)

Jonathan Holder came on to sail his way scorelessly through the 4th and 5th innings, before Ottavino and Kahnle followed up with scoreless 6th and 7th innings, respectively. Collectively, the three of them powered through 12 straight batters. It was awesome.

Zack Britton got into a spot of trouble in the 8th. With 2 outs, he gave up a walk that scored as part of a bit 2-run home run to add to the Twins’ score. However, Chapman closed out the game with a solid 9th inning and earned his 6th save.

With an early exit from their starter, the Yankees needed to match their strong bullpen with a strong offense. And they did. In the 1st, Brett Gardner hit a long ball into centerfield and thanks to a bad fielding error, he powered it all the way to 3rd base. Voit worked a walk, and then Gleyber Torres’ 1-out single easily scored Gardner. After another out, Urshela hit a solid single, but the left fielder was too quick and got Voit out trying to score a run.

In the 2nd, with 1 out, Maybin walked and Wade was hit by a pitch. Then with 2 outs, Luke Voit’s single scored Maybin, but then Voit was thrown out trying to go to 2nd on the throw. Voit just couldn’t catch a base running break early on tonight.

Mike Tauchman led-off the 4th by making it to 1st thanks to a missed catch error. Maybin singled, and Wade’s sacrifice bunt moved runners to scoring position. A wild pitch scored Tauchman, and Brett Gardner’s ground out scored Maybin.

Then Gary Sanchez hit a couple of solo home runs to march his way into the Yankee history books — a lead-off one in the 5th and a 2-out one in the 7th. This is his 10th multi-home run game of his career, which he did in just 231 games. For some perspective among previous catchers, Posada hit 16 (in 1574 total games), Berra hit 15 (in 1694), and Dickey hit 15 (in 1708).

Final score: 6-3 Yankees

Okay, James Paxton has been nursing a sore right knee for most of the season. He’s been getting treatments on off-days and just powering through, but during tonight’s game, it became too much to “just deal with”. So he trusted the bullpen (rightly so) and came out of the game. He will get an MRI tomorrow and hopefully avoid the injured list.

Injury updates: Miguel Andujar and Troy Tulowitzki played in Advanced-A Tampa Tarpons games earlier this week as part of their rehab assignments. But Tulowitzki had a setback with his hamstring injury, pulled from a game, and then shut down from further baseabll activities. Andujar was actually at the game tonight and will probably be activated from the IL for tomorrow’s game.

Go Yankees!

Game 29: NYY vs. ARI — A loss with a moment of #LegaCCy

The funny thing about tonight’s game was how little people seemed to care about the outcome because really Yankee Universe was just biting their nails in anticipation for a single event — CC Sabathia’s 3000th career strikeout. And, like much of the Yankees history, it happened in a rather dramatic fashion. Sabathia’s final season has been under that pressure with that milestone looming, and now that it’s over, he can really rest and relax, closing out his career by focusing on winning the season, one game at a time.

The Yankees really were held back by the Diamondbacks’ starting pitching and his 2 relievers. In fact, the only time the Yankees were able to break through was in the 4th inning. Gary Sanchez led-off with a double and then scored on Gleyber Torres’ ground-rule double. But that would be it for the visiting team tonight.

Because despite the Diamondbacks’ ace starter’s great night, the story was all about Yankees’ starter CC Sabathia. Sabathia threw 87 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up just 5 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and struck out 5 batters. (Remember, going into the game, he only needed 3 strikeouts to reach that milestone.)

In the 2nd, he got the first strikeout. And then another one. And it looked like he was going to get another one, but the batter turned it into a big solo home run. And the next batter hit into a single (despite Voit’s great attempt to beat him back to the base). And then, Sabathia faced a former teammate and finally got that milestone (more below) and a whole bunch of cheering.

The other allowed run was in the 4th. A lead-off double scored on a 2-out single to double the Diamondbacks’ score and put them back in the lead. Holder closed out the 6th for Sabathia, who exited the game to a standing ovation from the packed stadium. Holder cleanly sailed through the inning and the next before handing things off to Zack Britton.

Britton had trouble in the 8th. A lead-off double moved to 3rd on a single and then scored on a sacrifice fly. That first out got Britton to recenter and close out the inning without further damage, allowing the home team their win with a slim margin.

Final score: 3-1 Diamondbacks

CC K-Count: 3002 (Even though he’s reached the milestone, it will be fun to track where he lands by the time he hangs up his cleats. So we’re keeping this bit up for the rest of the season whenever Sabathia pitches.)

LegaCCy: So, CC Sabathia has joined the ranks of the elite with more than 3000 strikeouts, the 17th pitcher to do so and the only active player on the list. It’s worth noting, as we have before, that there are only 2 players that aren’t in the Hall of Fame. (Here are a few memorable strikeout milestones for Sabathia’s career so far.)

In a cool twist on history, the player that handed Sabathia his 3000th strikeout was his former catcher, John Ryan Murphy. Murphy was traded to the Twins in 2016 in the deal for outfielder Aaron Hicks, but then ended up with the Diamondbacks for the last 3 seasons. Murphy was on hand to be crucial part of two other milestones in Yankees’ history. He caught Sabathia’s 2500th strikeout in 2015 and Mariano Rivera’s final game in 2013. And despite this, Sabathia was kind of upset that he had to strikeout his friend to earn that milestone.

In the stadium, however, amidst thousands of Yankee fans capturing the moment on their phones and holding up their homemade signs were Sabathia’s amazing family — his mother Margie, his wife Amber, and his four kids Carsten, Carter, Jaden, and Cyia. For his final season, his family is making a point of being at every game that he starts as a final farewell to the game they’ve grown up watching dad play. So it was great that they were there to watch this milestone happen live and in person.

Injury updates: There is some positive news here. The recent injuries to DJ LeMahieu (knee) and Gio Urshela (hand) are not as serious to warrant time on the IL, so both players are day-to-day and working out most days with the team in anticipation of rejoining the lineup at any point.

And tonight, Miguel Andujar and Troy Tulowitzki played in a rehab game with the Advanced-A Tampa Tarpons. Andujar spent time at 3rd base, where he shined, though his batting was lackluster. Tulowitzki was the designated hitter, even hitting a home run in the 1st inning (for giraffes?) and helping the Tarpons win their game.

Go Yankees!

Game 7: NYY vs. BAL — Big come from behind victory

After a disappointing homestand, today’s game was exactly what the Yankees needed to start this road trip right. Not that it was favorable for the Orioles in their home opener.

James Paxton got the start for the Yankees today and, despite a really rough 1st inning, had a pretty good outing. He threw 99 total pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 8 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs, and struck out an impressive 9 Baltimore batters. He gave up a lead-off solo homer to give the Baltimore fans quite the thrill. Then with 1 out, he loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a single before a balk and a wild pitch scored 2 more runs to put the Orioles in a nice early lead.

But then he got things under control and pretty much sailed through the next 3 innings. In the 5th, a 1-out double scored on a 2-out single to add 1 more run to the O’s score. After 1 out in the 6th, he handed the ball over to Kahnle for the next 5 outs. Britton and Chapman each took an inning to close out the game and hold the Orioles to their earlier runs.

The Yankees couldn’t find a way to crack into the Orioles’ starter (actually a familiar foe from a different team). Gleyber Torres led-off the 3rd with a solo home run to finally get on the scoreboard.

But down by a few runs, the Yankees didn’t find another opportunity until the 6th. With 2 outs, Gary Sanchez hit a monster solo home run. After the Orioles went to their bullpen, Bird and LeMahieu each singled. Then Gleyber Torres smacked a 3-run home run to finally give the Yankees a slim lead.

In the 9th, Wade singled, and Gardner walked. After another pitching change, Luke Voit came in to power in a 3-run home run to ensure the Yankees’ victory today. And that also means all of Yankees’ runs were scored on home runs.

Final score: 8-4 Yankees

Roster moves: With Troy Tulowitzki now on the injured list with that strained calf, the Yankees decided to call up infielder Thairo Estrada. Estrada took the team bus from the Scranton area up to Buffalo for their game, but as he got off the bus, he was met by the RailRiders’ manager who informed him that he’d been promoted. So he hustled to the airport to hop a flight to Baltimore.

Honestly, the heart of this story is that 14 months ago, Estrada was the victim of a botched robbery and ended up in the hospital with a gunshot wound. The fact that he’s alive and walking around, let alone able to compete at an elite level, is a miracle. This is more than a dream come true really. But Estrada made it really clear how ready he was for this chance this Spring Training, certainly standing out in the packed crowd of really good minor leaguers.

Welcome to the Show, Estrada!

Go Yankees!

Game 6: DET vs. NYY — Low-energy, limping Wednesday matinee

Well, I can’t say that the Yankees are off to a great start, after dropping both series in their opening homestand. But it wasn’t like they were plowed over. You really can’t measure how much a recent bout of injuries have affected the overall outcomes, but I’m thinking a few more losses than wins certainly comes close.

Once again, the reason the Yankees fell short is that their offense is just not clicking. They’re leaving far too many people on base, and today, they’re striking out like it’s going out of style — collecting 18 total strikeouts.

And they even got to score first, in the 3rd. With 1 out (a strikeout, of course), DJ LeMahieu doubled and then scored on Aaron Judge’s single. After another strikeout, Sanchez walked, and Torres hit a single. However, the ball hit Judge en route to 3rd which meant he was out and thus ended the inning. A rather disappointing end to what was looking like a promising inning.

And what ended up being their lone promising inning.

Today’s call-up Jonathan Loaisiga got the start, throwing 70 pitches in his 4 innings, giving up just 1 hit, 3 walks, and 1 run. It was the walks that really got him in the end. In the 4th, a lead-off walk got all the way to 3rd after a strike-em-out, throw-em-out went awry with a throwing error. Two consecutive walks loaded the bases, and a sacrifice fly scored just 1 run to tie up the game before a strikeout got him out of the jam.

Holder had a better run through the 5th and 6th innings, and Chad Green sailed through the 7th. But then he gave up a lead-off solo home run in the 8th to give the Tigers the lead. And Britton efficiently shut them down in the 9th inning in just 11 pitches. The Yankees just didn’t have it in them to overcome a stellar Tigers (and former Yankee) reliever to close out the game.

Final score: 2-1 Tigers, Tigers win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees travel to Baltimore for the Orioles’ home opening series this weekend. They will follow the now popular opener pattern of a Thursday game, an off-day Friday, and then two games on the weekend. Then they will travel to visit the Astros before heading home for their next homestand, hopefully with better results than this first one.

Roster moves: Before the game, the Yankees reinstated CC Sabathia from MLB’s Suspension List and transferred him to the 10-day injured list, still keeping an eye on him after his heart surgery this off-season. They suspect he will rejoin the team during their next homestand next week. Jonathan Loaisiga was called-up to fill his spot in the rotation and started today’s game.

And during the game, Troy Tulowitzki came out of the game with some pain and possible strain in his left calf muscle. He went to the hospital to get it checked out, but his chances of joining far too many of his teammates on the IL is certainly a possibility. There are two obvious options for infielders in AAA, Estrada and Urshela, and one in AA, Holder. Expect a forthcoming announcement prior to tomorrow’s game.

Just a reminder: Before tonight’s game, the Yankees had 10 major players on the injured list — Andujar, Betances, Ellsbury, Gregorius, Heller, Hicks, Montgomery, Sabathia, Severino, and Stanton. Only 3 of them are expected to return this month. As I said above, it’s not really a surprise that things haven’t been working right with all this power nursing various injuries and unable to contribute to the Yankees’ success.

Okay, everyone, get healthy and stay healthy. Time to start working for #28.

Go Yankees!

Game 2: BAL vs. NYY — Late rally falls short

The Yankees hosted their first Saturday afternoon ball game of the season, and it was a beautiful Spring day in the Bronx. It just fell a little short on favor for the home team today.

James Paxton got his first start as a Yankee and had a decent outing, but there wasn’t enough of an offensive show to overcome his moments of weakness. Paxton threw 83 pitches into the 6th inning, giving up 4 hits, a walk, and 2 runs (1 earned), and struck out 5 Oriole batters.

In fact, the visiting team didn’t crack the scoreboard until the 6th inning. With 1 out and runners on the corners with singles, another single scored the lead runner. Then they tried a double steal, but thanks to a bad throwing error, the Orioles doubled their double steal by scoring another run, the unearned run. Then on a fielder’s choice, the defense snapped into action to get the runner out at home.

Paxton handed the ball over to Adam Ottavino to close out the 6th in just 4 pitches. Chad Green had some trouble getting through the 7th cleanly, giving up a 1-out double that scored on a 2-out single. Jonathan Holder came on for the final 2 innings, finding his own issues in the 9th. A throwing error allowed the lead-off batter to make it to 2nd, a 1-out single moved him to 3rd, and a double scored both runners to ease the Orioles into a solid victory.

Meanwhile, despite getting 10 total hits and 6 walks, the Yankees’ runs were in short supply today. They had moments of opportunity (like loading the bases with walks in the 1st) but often failed to capitalize on them. Until the 4th. With 2 outs, Torres singled, moved to 2nd on Tulowitzki’s walk, and then scored on DJ LeMahieu’s solid single up the middle to get the Yankees on the board first. But they really had a hard time finding moments to make much of an impact for most of the game.

It wasn’t until the last-ditch rally effort in the 9th that the Yankees found an opportunity. Troy Tulowitzki led-off with a solid solo home run into those right field seats, his first in pinstripes. LeMahieu then doubled, moved to 3rd on Judge’s 1-out single, and later scored on Luke Voit’s 2-out single. But with runners on the corners, the Yankees were down to their final out, a strikeout, that would see the attempted rally fall short.

Final score: 5-3 Orioles

Finally, there was a great article in New York Newsday about the Yankees’ radio announcer Suzyn Waldman and her struggles of being a woman in a very dominant man’s world. To close out this month’s Women’s History Month, I thought I’d recognize one of the women in sports that led the way for other female broadcasters, like Meredith Marakovits and Sarah Kustok of YES Network and Jessica Mendoza of ESPN.

It’s 2019, and as a woman, it’s still often a problem to “know things” about sports. I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve been dismissed or yelled at by someone who clearly knows nothing but that I’m not a man and thus shouldn’t know more than men about “man things” like sports. And yet, I’ve got great stories of conversations with men at ball games, arguing over who’s a better first baseman or which guy on the injured list will come off first, or even sharing fun sports trivia knowledge. There’s two regulars at Spring Training that will seek me out nearly every game just to talk about the current state of the Yankees.

That’s really all we want. Just to be seen as having valid opinions and can share in a conversation. Yes, some people know nothing about baseball. Those people are both men and women. And some people know everything. Those people are also both men and women. How do you know the difference? Have a conversation.

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!

Spring Game 30: NYY vs. MIN — Farewell to Florida, with a win

And we’ve reached the penultimate game of the season. The Yankees headed south about 2 hours to Fort Myers to face the Twins on this lovely Sunday afternoon to close out their Florida-based Spring Training.

James “Big Maple” Paxton got the start this afternoon, throwing into the 6th inning and earning the eventual win. In the 4th, he gave up a lead-off single that scored on a double by a former Yankee (one of several familiar faces in today’s game). Later, in the 6th, a lead-off walk (also a former Yankee) scored on a double (another one) to double the Twins’ score.

Luis Cessa closed out the 6th for Paxton cleanly, but found his own spot of trouble in the 7th when a 1-out triple scored on a sacrifice fly (surprisingly, none of which were former Yankees). JP Feyereisen got his shot at Spring for an inning with a flawless 8th inning, and Alvarez closed out the game with a scoreless 9th.

While the Twins got the lead first, the Yankees were quick to answer back. In the top of the 6th, with 1 out, they loaded up the bases. Greg Bird’s ground out still moved all the runners up and scored lead runner Castillo. Romine worked a walk to load the bases again before the Twins changed pitchers. Clint Frazier promptly hit a solid bases-clearing double to place the Yankees in a firm lead.

In the 7th, Matt Lipka led-off with a single, stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on Castillo’s double. It was the insurance run they wouldn’t need with the way they were playing in the second half of the game, a stark difference to yesterday.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees

Next up: The Yankee head north in preparation for the regular season’s start on Thursday with a quick stop in our nation’s capital. They play a final Spring exhibition game at Nationals Park tomorrow night.

This last stop in a big league park gig, something that really began as a way to open new parks (like they did with the Braves’ new home stadium in 2017) is becoming a pattern across the league. It’s kind of a nice transition between Spring Training and the Regular Season. Now, if only we can get them to play all the April games in southern cities so we don’t have to worry about snow-out games…

Roster moves: We have a final 25-man roster. The biggest surprise was earlier today when the Yankees announced they optioned Tyler Wade to AAA Scranton. This means they chose their latest Yankee Mike Tauchman and his veteran versatility in the outfield over Wade’s more natural infielding skills. Certainly a disappointment for the young player, but I can’t imagine he won’t be one of the first called up when something happens.

Here’s the 2019 Yankee roster: catchers Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine; infielders Greg Bird, Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, Troy Tulowitzki, Miguel Andujar, and DJ LeMahieu; outfielders Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Mike Tauchman; starting pitchers Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, JA Happ, Domingo German, and CC Sabathia; and relievers Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Jonathan Holder, Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino, and Stephen Tarpley.

Go Yankees!