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!

Spring Games 22 & 23: NYY vs. BAL & NYY vs. PHI — Double away victories, perhaps with some good luck

I don’t often look at the standings during Spring Training (or early in the regular season) because it never gives you an accurate picture of what the real season will look like. But I happened to see them today in passing. The Yankees are currently sitting atop the Grapefruit League standings, 1.5 games ahead of the Nationals. It’s worth noting the Yankees are also well in the lead over the Cactus League.

But as we’ve said in previous years, the standings in Spring mean nothing. It’s a very long season, and there’s far too many variables (like injuries, trades, hit streaks, and dry spells) that affect where teams land for October baseball. So, Yankee fans, feel happy about today but cautiously optimistic about 7 months from now.

The Yankees played another split squad day, but this time was unique as both squads played in away games. One group traveled about an hour south to Sarasota to visit the Orioles, and the other about 20 minutes west to Clearwater to see the Phillies. And both teams got a little “lucky” on this cloudy Sunday holiday.

Game 1: Yankees at Orioles
Jonathan Loaisiga got the start for the Yankees here and helped set a solid, strong pattern that would earn him the eventual win for the afternoon with 3 great scoreless innings. David Hale continued his momentum in his 3 innings, only allowing the Orioles on the board in his final inning.

So, in the 6th, with 1 out and a runner on 1st, a double moved the runner to 3rd to score on an easy ground out. Yankees’ reliever Hutchison sailed through the 7th but gave up a lead-off solo shot in the 8th. A 1-out single later scored on a 2-out single to give the Orioles just one more run for the afternoon. And Brothers closed out the game with a quick, scoreless 9th.

The Yankees once again got on the board early and first. In the 1st, Kyle Holder led-off the game with a single but was forced out at 2nd on Andujar’s fielder’s choice (again, another delayed, unsuccessful double play attempt). This means that Luke Voit’s big homer up the middle became a 2-run home run. Miguel Andujar led-off the 3rd with a solo home run into the left field seats, and Zack Zehner imitated him with a lead-off solo home run of his own, also to left field, in the 4th.

After the Orioles chipped some off their lead, the Yankees didn’t get another chance until the 9th to find an insurance run. Burns worked a 1-out walk, stole 2nd, and then scored on Holder’s 2-out double.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees

Game 2: Yankees at Phillies
Meanwhile, in Clearwater, the Yankees had a bit more of a battle to the finish today, with a scoreless game for most of the first half of the afternoon. The Yankees finally found their moment in the 5th inning. Lipka led-off with a bunt single, stole 2nd, and easily scored on Trey Amburgey’s big triple to get the Yankees on the board first.

James Paxton got the start, throwing into the 5th inning, but finding trouble there. He gave up a lead-off walk, and the next batter made it to 1st on a strikeout-wild pitch. With those 2 runners on, Chad Green came on to try to shut down the advancing Phillies. But he promptly gave up a single that scored the tying run. Another single put another runner on base, so both runners scored on a triple to give the home team the lead. A great fielder’s choice got the lead runner out at home on the next play.

It would be Dellin Betances to right the ship for the Yankees, kicking off the momentum with a flawless 6th inning. Kahnle, Coulombe, and Anderson Severino (no relation) each took a scoreless inning to help give the Yankees a chance to regain the lead.

So, in the 6th, Greg Bird led-off with a big solo home run, and Gleyber Torres followed suit with a 1-out solo home run to tie up the game. In the 7th, with 1 out, LeMahieu made it safely on a throwing error and then scored as part of Troy Tulowitzki’s 2-run home run to give the Yankees the lead again.

But the hits kept coming. In the 8th, Tyler Wade led-off with single, moved to 2nd on Olivares’ single, and later scored on Cabrera’s 2-out single. Castillo’s single scored Olivares, officially sealing another Yankees’ win this afternoon.

Final score: 7-3 Yankees

Next up: The Yankees will play another away game. This time, they travel to Kissimmee, about an hour east, to visit the Braves’ Spring home tomorrow night. It will be the last season the Braves have their Spring Training on Disney World property as their new home in Sarasota will officially open next year. However, they are scheduled to play an inaugural game against the Rays on March 24 before the 2019 season begins.

Finally, a happy St. Patrick’s Day to all who celebrate!

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 19: NYY vs. TOR — Once again… another day, another draw

In addition to missing the ready available video highlights (and even being able to watch games I don’t attend in person), I’m starting to miss games where there’s a legitimate winner. And this is saying a lot as someone who also follows professional soccer (where most regular season games can end in a draw) and as someone who repeatedly reminds readers that these Spring games “don’t count” for anything but a big warm-up for the big guys and a month-long audition for the younger ones.

But it’s another beautiful Florida day as the Yankees trekked across Tampa Bay to visit the Blue Jays’ Spring home in Dunedin (about 20 miles or 40 minutes west of Tampa). Luis Cessa was dominant in his 4 innings this afternoon, setting a good pace that was matched mostly by the rest of the Yankee pitchers, but also by the Blue Jays. In fact, Yankee pitchers held off the home team until the 7th inning. Coulombe gave up a 1-out double that moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a single.

So, the Yankees’ offense actually held the lead for most of the game, getting on the board in the 4th. Gleyber Torres led-off with a single and ended up on 3rd on Troy Tulowitzki’s single. Miguel Andujar hit into a ground out, but Torres was able to score the Yankees’ lone run of the day. After the Blue Jays tied things up, neither team was able to crack their opponents’ strong pitching today.

Final score: 1-1 tie

Next up: The Big Game of the Spring — the Yankees will host the Red Sox. Of course, they’ve already played each other to open the Spring, but this time, they’re in Tampa. It’s sure to be a good game as usual and hopefully not another tie.

Some interesting news came out from MLB headquarters. They released some new rules to that will be implemented in 2019 and 2020. Coming this year will include changes to the fan voting for the All-Star Game (a graduated process), how much money the winner of the Home Run Derby makes (from $525,000 to $1,000,000), tightening the pace of play with shorter inning breaks, reduction of mound visits during a game, and trade deadline and waivers.

Next season will see the biggest changes. Rosters will increase to 26 regular players, which will “expand” to 28 in September, effectively eliminating the big “September Call-ups”. Other changes include further clarification of the roster, an increase of minimum days on the Disabled List, and a minimum number of batters a single pitcher must face (save injury or end of inning).

Yes, I have some opinions, but I’ll reserve them until we see them in play on a regular basis to see if they legitimately help improve the game or just hamper with unnecessary regulations. The changes to the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby won’t hit until the summer, but the more immediate changes to increase the pace of play (inning breaks and mound visits) seem more likely to aid the game than hinder it.

We’ll see it all in action shortly. So I’ll save my judgments until then.

And while it’s a beautiful day in Florida, our hearts are with those facing the messy snow storm in the middle of the country. Summer is coming. I promise. Take evidence in the fact that baseball season is already underway, and the “boys of summer” are itching to play in all those outdoor stadiums currently buried under feet of snow and battered by high winds. Stay safe.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: No broadcast, no video to include. It was a slow day for highlights anyway.}