Game 87: NYY vs. MIN — Roster changes, chipping away at leads, All-Star preparations

Before today’s final game in their weekend series against Minnesota, the Yankees made some rather surprising roster moves. They traded Vidal Nuno to Arizona in exchange for starter Brandon McCarthy. They also selected pitcher Bruce Billings for the 25-man roster from AAA. And to make room for him, they opted to designated Alfonso Soriano for assignment. Soriano said that while he understands the mentality behind the decision, he will be taking a week off with his family to explore his options, some must include recent chatter with other teams and the possibility of retirement. Soriano is well-liked by the guys in the clubhouse and the fans in the stadium. He will be missed once again.

And then the Yankees played their fourth and final game in this series at Target Field, the last time most of them would be in the Twin Cities (unless they score a trip to the All-Star Game). So it was Hiroki Kuroda to start the game and throw 105 pitches over his 5.2 innings, allowing 7 hits, 4 runs, and 2 walks, and striking out 3 Twins’ batters. Actually, Kuroda was cruising along quite well for a few innings, but that 4th inning of his really chipped away at all that. With 1 out, Kuroda allowed a walk to a runner that advanced on a wild pitch, before scoring on a single and throwing error by Kuroda. That runner would end up being tagged out trying to get to 2nd. Back-to-back doubles scored another run, and a 2-run home run scored a couple more before Kuroda finally got himself out of the inning.

But before this messy inning, the Yankees decided to stack the deck in their favor, taking advantage of Minnesota’s weak starters. In the 1st inning, Gardner led off with a walk, Jeter singled, and Mark Teixeira’s single scored Gardner. Brian McCann then doubled and scored Jeter. In the 2nd inning, the Yankees quickly loaded the bases with singles by Roberts, Ichiro, and Johnson. Derek Jeter’s sacrifice fly scored Roberts, but it was Jacoby Ellsbury’s monster home run that scored 3 more runs.

And in the top of the 4th, Ichiro and Johnson on base with singles again, Jeter’s single scored Ichiro, and Ellsbury’s ground into a force out scored Johnson. Ellsbury would later score on a balk, putting the Yankees up 9-0 in the middle of the 4th. So when the Twins came roaring back in the bottom of that inning, it wasn’t enough to do much more than chip away at their lead, with a score of 9-4 Yankees.

Adam Warren came on in relief of Kuroda to get the last out of the 6th and came back in the 7th. He allowed a couple of singles, one of which would score on a ground out. (9-5 Yankees) Jim Miller took the 8th inning for the Yankees, whose only weak spot of the whole inning was in giving up a solo home run to the Twins. (9-6 Yankees)

David Robertson gave Yankee fans another minor panic attack, allowing two singles. Two outs later, a single scored one more Twins’ run before he got his last batter to ground into a force out and keep the Twins to a 9-7 loss. Seriously, sometimes Robertson’s saves are the most nail-biting part of the entire games.

But the good news is that it’s another win, and the Yankees also took 3 of the 4 games of the series, thus winning the series too.

And in All-Star Game news: MLB has announced its starting line-up for the All-Star Game coming up at Target Field on July 15. Starters were voted on by fans, and it’s no surprise that Derek Jeter was selected for his 14th and final ASG to start at shortstop. Joining him this year to represent the American League are: Orioles Matt Wieters (catcher), Adam Jones (outfielder), and Nelson Cruz (DH); Tigers Miguel Cabrera (1st base); Mariners’ Robinson Cano (2nd base); Athletics Josh Donaldson (3rd base); Blue Jays Jose Bautista (outfielder); and Angels Mike Trout (outfielder). National League, pitchers, and bench players will be announced (and posted on here) within the next week. It will be interesting to see if any other Yankees will be joining the Captain on what will be a return trip to the Twin Cities in just a little over a week.

Go Yankees!

Game 83: TB vs. NYY — Haphazardly swept by the Rays

Sinatra’s voice over celebrating fans seems to have a more upbeat tone to it, while a loss makes it sound almost melancholic. I want to wake up, in a city that never sleeps… Perhaps it is the gentle hum of the disappointed fans as they exit the stadium after a loss versus the whoops and cheers of a victorious fan base. I’ll make a brand new start of it… Today, Old Blue Eyes was tinged with melancholy over yet another loss in the Bronx. And find I’m king of the hill, top of the heap… I know that they don’t alter the audio or switch out the tracks anymore, but maybe somehow my own bias is altering what my ears are processing. If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere… Singing with Frank after a win is a sign of determination and triumph, while after a loss it reminds us to hope and regroup. It’s up to you, New York, New York…

And with that in mind, the Yankees played the rare mid-week matinée, their third of a 3-game series against the Rays. And the Rays brought their brooms (I cannot tell you how much I hate that pun or most puns in general, but forgive me, it’s Wednesday after all). The Yankees gave Vidal Nuno the start, and for Nuno’s outings this year, this was pretty good overall for him — 89 pitches, 5 innings (and 1 batter in the 6th), 8 hits, 4 runs (3 earned), 2 walks, and 5 strikeouts. Nuno and the rest of the bullpen did a pretty good job of spreading those runs and hits out over the course of the game.

Actually, it was a very high-hitting game. Together they tallied 22 total hits (10 for the Yankees and 12 for the Rays), which is usually a sign of one of two things — weak pitching or weak infield defense.  I have to say it might be a combination of both today. But more on this later.

It was quite a yo-yo kind of game. In the 1st inning, Brett Gardner started the run scoring with his 8th home run of the season, a solo shot into the 2nd deck of the right field seats. Then the Rays came back in the 3rd to tie up the game on a passed ball. But the Yankees answered back in the bottom of that inning with 2 outs when Brian McCann hit his 10th home run of the season, his own solo shot into those right field seats.

The Rays didn’t wait long to strike back to tie up the game again with an RBI single in the 4th. But again, the Yankees pounced back in the bottom of that inning with their own RBI single from Gardner (who was really doing amazing today both offensively and defensively). And the Rays would then come back to tie up the game in the 5th with another RBI single before putting themselves on top in the 6th with a 2-run home run deep over the center field wall. And the Rays were up 5-3.

Now, that 2-run home run was split in who got charged for those runs because Nuno allowed the runner on base prior to the homer with a single before Girardi called in Shawn Kelley who promptly gave up that home run and then got a quick 3 outs to end the 6th inning.

Adam Warren would take the 7th and 1 out in the 8th, allowing 2 hits, but no runs in his 29 pitches. David Huff finished the rest of the 8th inning and pitched the 9th with his own 29 pitches. After a rather messy couple of plays in the 9th and loading the bases with a force out, single, and intentional walk, Huff finally managed a ground out, but it scored another run for the Rays. And when the dust settled after the end of the 9th inning, the Rays swept the series with today’s victory 6-3 over the Yankees.

Another bummer. And it got me thinking. I watch a lot of baseball. Yes, mostly Yankees games because otherwise I wouldn’t have much to talk about on here. But I still keep up with what’s going on around the other 29 clubs. Well, mostly, if I’m going to be honest. And it seems to me that the All-Star Break couldn’t come quick enough. A lot of the teams are really lagging. Even the ones who are technically “winning” certainly aren’t winning well. And I think everyone is in desperate need of a rest to regroup.

You see, that’s the thing when you have a high standard of excellence. You’re going to notice when excellence isn’t there. Again, statistics only care about wins and losses, but I have to admit that I care more about the quality of the win than the bottom line statistic. I like quality over quantity any day.

Would I love 162 quality wins? Absolutely, that is my dream for every season. But the reality is that of those 162 games, you’re going to watch some really stinker games, some total lucky games, and some really mundane games. But what you wait for are the memorable moments of excellence, the plays crafted for highlight reels, the shining lights of glory for the players and their team. And yes, every once in a while, there’s going to be that high quality win.

It just wasn’t today. But I know it’s coming. It always does.

Also, this Friday is the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s farewell to baseball speech. So they gave away Gehrig bobbleheads, honored families affected by ALS before the game, and remembered his impact and legacy in small ways — like customizing the bases on the field, spraying a large #4 in front of the dugouts, and both the Rays and Yankees broadcasters spoke about his impact on baseball and his legacy in ALS research for a cure. (Also, MLB put together a great video of current players reciting Gehrig’s famous speech.)

Go Yankees!

Game 78: BOS vs. NYY — Nuno’s shutout backed by home runs

Girardi spent his pre-game press conference defending his decision to start Vidal Nuno tonight. Honestly, I agreed with him prior to the game that he can basically play whomever he wants, giving the media requested Tanaka another day to wait for his start (Saturday). And I have to say his decision paid off. So maybe all those critics will stop their own message board managing and focus on their own jobs instead.

Nuno was practically flawless in tonight’s series opener against the Red Sox. 91 pitches over 5.2 innings, allowing just 2 hits, no runs, and 2 walks, striking out 5. Starting to run a little low on steam, Nuno gave up a 2-out walk in the 6th inning, so they opted for Dellin Betances for that last out of the 6th and push through the 7th. Warren and Thornton each took an inning to finish off the game, but the damage was done and tone was set. It was always going to be Nuno’s game to win and the Yankees came through for him.

On the flip side, the Yankees certainly racked up the runs in tonight’s game. In the 1st inning, Jeter and Ellsbury on base with a single and double, respectively, Mark Teixeira’s sacrifice fly easily scored Jeter for the Yankees’ first run. Then in the 4th, McCann on base and 2 outs, Kelly Johnson hits a 2-run home run just before Brett Gardner backs that up with his own addition — a solo home run. The Yankees are suddenly up 4-0. So just to be sure they have the game, Teixeira is on base with a single in the 8th when Brian McCann hits his own 2-run home run into the 2nd deck in right field to push the Yankees up to a 6-0 lead and eventual victory.

And that was it, folks. Short and sweet. And for a Red Sox-Yankees game, it was also rather short and sweet. Usually this rivalry can push what’s an average of just under 3 hours a game to at least 3 1/2 hours per game. But no, thanks to Nuno’s quick pace set early on, the game sat at 2 hours, 42 minutes, actually less than the average MLB game of 2 hours, 58 minutes. Actually, it’s usually the pace of the starters that affect the pace and overall time of the game. It has much less to do with how the offense is or whether there was any challenges or arguing (though all of that certainly contributes). The majority of the length of the game depends almost entirely on the pacing of the pitchers — how long they take to set-up, communicate and signal with their catcher, play the pick-off-the-runner game, actually deliver the pitch, receive it back, fiddle around in the dirt, and then settle back in again.

It’s something I noticed especially this year in Spring Training. Some games would just seem to linger on forever, while others (or at least part of others) would seem to fly right by. It’s really all about the pitching. People have been complaining for years and there’s been talk that MLB wants to cut down on the game times (I won’t start my opinion and response today), it’s really a simple solution — teach pitchers not to linger between actual pitches. Some pitchers need a breather to refocus between pitches, while others should probably just keep on throwing. And really either way it’s understandable, if not altering per the season or even every game. But it’s really all about the pacing overall.

Every pitcher will develop his own sense of pattern and timing. For which I truly appreciate and understand the desire to personalize one’s career. But for all of our sake, can we stop the lingering/loitering in between pitches? It frustrates a batter wanting to just hit the ball. It frustrates your defense trying to anticipate where a ball could be hit. And it certainly frustrates the fans who want the edge-of-your-seat kind of action or they’ll start heading for their third beers and fourth pretzels or (God forbid) start the wave.

Go Yankees!

Game 73: BAL vs. NYY — Homerun bad luck on Tino’s Day

Today was Tino Martinez Day at Yankee Stadium, complete with a pre-game ceremony. The former 1st baseman played with the Yankees through their latest championship dynasty era in the late 1990s as a crucial part of what made the team something to be feared in those days. He had the difficult job of replacing fan favorite Don Mattingly at 1st base after Mattingly retired (and went into coaching, now managing the Dodgers), but fans came to love #24 for his tenacity and drive and teamwork, all things that the Yankees and their fans highly value. Martinez was also a favorite in the clubhouse, as former teammates Posada, Cone, Rivera, Girardi, and Jeter and former manager Torre and former trainer Monahan pointed out in press conferences, today’s ceremony, and other interviews today.

The Yankees chose to honor Martinez with a plaque to be hung in Monument Park alongside those Yankees whose impact and legacy deserve to be remembered. The honor was certainly unexpected by Martinez, but certainly well-deserved. Truth be told, Martinez was part of the “new additions” made in the mid-90s that redefined the Yankees and made them into the most decorated champions of that decade, and he was always a huge fixture in my memories of that era, with the likes of Posada, Jeter, Pettitte, Rivera, and Williams. {Media links: first pitch, Torre on Tino, Girardi on Tino, long-verson of ceremony, and Tino on his day.}

After honoring Martinez, the Yankees had to play their regularly scheduled baseball game against the Orioles. Vidal Nuno took the start, throwing 107 pitches over his 6.1 innings, allowing 6 hits, 5 runs (4 earned), and 2 walks, striking out just 4 Baltimore batters. Spoiler alert: every single run scored tonight was due to a home run; Yankee Stadium was just home run central tonight. The first Oriole home run came as a 2-out solo home run in the 1st. The Orioles followed that one up in the 4th with a 2-run home run (a runner on base with a walk) and another 2-run home run (after a batter reached on a throwing error) in the 5th.

Jose Ramirez came on in relief in the 7th inning to finish the game for Nuno, and still gave up an additional solo home run in the 8th. A total of 6 runs scored by the Orioles off 4 home runs.

And how did the Yankees respond? With a home run of their own by Mark Teixeira in the 4th, a solo home run. And that’s it. So the score was 6-1 Orioles.

I was talking with a younger cousin of mine tonight about the Yankees. He loves the Yankees, knows everything about them, and we were discussing in detail recent game results. He’s 11, he lives and breathes baseball, and he’s awesome. His little sister loves the Yankees because “they’re only the best team ever” (a direct quote from her 9-year-old mouth). They are smart kids, of course. But it was rather fun to chat with children so knowledgeable about the team I spend most of my year thinking about and following in detail (thanks to this blog).

The conversation reminded me of the reason I don’t just like the Yankees but baseball in general. Beyond the normal bonds of familial ties, it’s the conversations about something as rather innocuous as professional sports that creates a common bond with each other, not caring about age or geography or any other opinions or experiences.

I’ve said before that I come from a strong baseball family, with about as many loyalties as there are professional teams. And currently, I’m at a family event for the weekend in a baseball town (to be revealed in a future post). They know what I do with my days (this blog), so many of them have taken to asking my opinions on their teams; the Pirates, Indians, Red Sox, Giants, and Tigers have all been topics this weekend. As you can imagine, I’m quite opinionated but also realistic. I also clarify that I want to wait until after the All-Star Break to make more accurate judgments. But even when there’s nothing else in common but that we’re related by some distant relative, baseball unites, even if we’re on opposing sides of the argument.

Baseball unites. It’s what makes it a family sport from the time kids are really little with their really little gloves trying desperately to get one foul ball. It’s the family sport for all ages, all incomes, all demographics.

Baseball unites. I love my family, but it makes me super proud we’re a baseball-loving family. Yes, even the sole Red Sox fan in our family. Because my family gets what’s important and baseball unites.

Go Yankees!

Game 68: NYY vs. OAK — Not a pretty picture in the Bay Area

If you had told me in the 5th inning that the game wasn’t going to be a runaway win for the Athletics, I don’t think I would have believed you. I’ll admit it: my faith in my Yankees faltered, and for good reason. But they did what they do best, winning back my confidence and faith and hope. And they didn’t do it by winning; no, today was a definite loss. But they redeemed themselves by working hard and doing something that exudes excellence — they never gave up, despite what looked like insurmountable odds (and perhaps they were).

Vidal Nuno’s start today certainly didn’t help matters. He couldn’t seem to maintain control on his pitches, putting far too many strikes in easily hitable range. He threw 72 pitches into the 4th inning, giving up 8 hits, 8 runs, 1 walk, and striking out just 2 Oakland batters. Right off in the 1st inning, Nuno allowed back-to-back singles to set the stage for a massive 3-run home run. And then he repeated that exact same scenario in the 2nd inning. Yes, that’s two 3-run home runs for Oakland in two consecutive innings. His 3rd inning was back on track with a quick 1-2-3, 15-pitch inning. But then putting 2 runners on base in the 4th, the Yankees thought the merciful thing to do was to pull Nuno out of his struggles today.

They sent in Jose Ramirez who promptly loaded the bases with a walk to his first batter and then allowed a runner (one of Nuno’s) to score because of a hit-by-pitch. Then a single scored 2 more runs for Oakland (one for Nuno, one for Ramirez). Another single loaded the bases again before a double play (the first outs of the 4th inning) put a brief stop to the bleeding. But another single scored one more run.

And if you’re doing the math, that made Oakland up 10-0 at the end of the 4th inning. And you wonder why I might have lost a little faith in my Away Greys today?

Kelley’s 5th, Warren’s 6th and 7th, and Thornton’s 8th were certainly more Yankee-like, holding off any further advances by the A’s to add to their double-digit score.

But suddenly, in the 6th inning, something snapped in the Yankees line-up. It was like watching a completely different team play the second half of the game. It was Derek Jeter to start the ball rolling with a double and then scored on Mark Teixeira’s double. (10-1) In the 7th, Carlos Beltran led off the inning with a solo home run. (10-2) Then they loaded the bases with a single and 2 walks, so it was Jeter’s turn to add to the score with a sacrifice fly. (10-3) And in the 9th, with 2 outs and Solarte on base, Brett Gardner sliced a nice 2-run home run to push the score to 10-5 Oakland, successfully slicing Oakland’s lead in half.

They just never gave up. A win would have been the best case scenario, but you can’t say they handed this one to the Athletics after their performance in the last half of the game.

In today’s “We’re Not Supposed to Call It a Farewell Tour” pre-game ceremony, the A’s chose two of Jeter’s former teammates and current coach and manager of the Athletics to present Jeter with his parting gifts — a customized bottle of wine with his #2 pinstriped logo emblazoned on the label, a private tour of that winery and vineyard, a stay at a resort in nearby Napa Valley, and a $10,002 donation to Turn 2.

I can’t get away from today’s post without mentioning Father’s Day. First, there are two great articles that feature how fathers shaped the lives and careers of two current Yankees — Gardner and Jeter. Two very different approaches for two very different men, but two very similar players in their tenacity, their excellence, and their passion for family and baseball.

And on this day, while thinking about baseball, I think of the two men that certainly introduced me to different aspects of baseball. I think of times as a kid keeping score at every game from Little League to minor league to professional games with my dad. He was meticulous in his score-keeping, but didn’t mind me developing my own system. He was always fascinated by the statistical approach and knew so much about whatever team he was currently following.

And there was my grandfather who probably would’ve gone pro if life had made different turns along the way. He loved the aspects of the game that make me smile in a nostalgic way — the tradition and history, the smells and sounds, the feel and passion of the game. If you ever wonder why I love baseball, you can blame these two men who had two very different approaches to the sport, but together, they made me love America’s pastime for what it is, every aspect from the nostalgic to the technical, from Cooperstown to a stickball game in the streets.

Happy Father’s Day!

Go Yankees!

Game 63: NYY vs. SEA — To remembering like it was yesterday & grinding out a win

May 30, 1995, a Tuesday. The Yankees were in Seattle at the old Kingdome to play the Mariners. A young recent call-up got his first major league hit, batted 9th in the line-up, and went 2-for-3 with a walk. His father looking on from the crowd, cheering with gusto for every play, every moment.

June 10, 2014, a Tuesday. The Yankees are in Seattle at the newish Safeco Stadium to play the Mariners. A well-known veteran infielder playing his last season gets his 3,372nd hit, bats 2nd in the line-up, and goes 2-for-3 with a walk. His parents looking on from the crowd, cheering with gusto for every play, every moment.

It’s been just over 19 years since his first hit, and it still reads like the same old story. And tonight, before the game, the Mariners paid tribute to their piece of the Derek Jeter storied career. Current Mariners Felix Hernandez and (recent Yankee) Robinson Cano as well as Mariner Alumni Edgar Martinez and Jay Buhner were on hand to present Jeter with a chair from the Mariners’ old stadium (the Kingdome), a customized base, a watch (on which Cano personally engraved a message), and a $5,000 donation to Turn 2.

After a little reminiscing, it was play ball. The Yankees, being the away team of course, batted first. And it was Jeter to strike first with a single, advancing to 2nd on Teixeira’s single. Carlos Beltran’s double scored Jeter, and Brian McCann’s single scored Teixeira. So the Yankees were up 2-0 after just the 1st half of the 1st inning.

Vidal Nuno took the mound for the Yankees. And honestly, tonight’s outing for Nuno was one of the best I’ve seen from him in a long time. His 92 pitches took him 5.2 innings, allowing just 4 hits, a walk, and a run, striking out 2 Seattle batters. Seattle halved the Yankees’ lead right in the 1st inning as Cano doubled and then scored on a single.

Nuno was actually on point for the win until “Old Reliable” faltered a bit but then recovered because of the Yankee bats (a sentence I certainly don’t say often enough right now). It’s always amazed me that a pitcher can blow a save and then go on for the win. To me, it shows the oddity that are current score keeping and statistical methods that don’t seem to accurate reflect what happened in the game or in the player’s performance.

Old Reliable, if you’ve been following this blog for the last couple of months, is Dellin Betances, who came on in Nuno’s relief in the 6th, and then faltered slightly in the 7th inning. Betances hit a batter who advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a single to tie up the game.

But the Yankees answered back in the top of the 8th. It was Jeter again to start the ball rolling (so to speak) with a ground-rule double. He would then score the winning run on Jacoby Ellsbury’s single. Adam Warren’s 8th and David Robertson’s 9th kept that 3-2 Yankee win intact and delivered a memorable, hard-earned, and much-needed win for the Yankees. This was thanks in part to a truly stellar defense. Whatever seemed to be lacking in Kansas City, certainly was rediscovered sometime over the rainout and landing in Seattle.

Seattle’s really an unexpected place for a legendary career to begin, but perhaps that’s part of what makes Jeter’s career legendary. Legends are never expected. They don’t craft a perfect story or embrace their immortality from the start. No, they are birthed through unpredictability and grit and hidden until they suddenly cannot be hidden any longer. Perhaps, like the emerald that lends itself to a popular Seattle nickname (“the Emerald City”), legends have to be mined and cut and polished before even being recognizable. But once they are, they sparkle with a brightness that cannot be overlooked, holding all who behold its greatness in awe. They say legends aren’t born but made. I think legends always have an undeniable quality and potential for greatness, but they didn’t just sit in potential. They became the greatness because they just couldn’t be anything less.

Go Yankees!

Game 58: OAK vs. NYY — Keeping the memories in spite of a tough loss

Today, baseball lost one of its great legends Don Zimmer. Zimmer had been hospitalized in the Tampa area (his hometown) since mid-April following heart surgery and passed away peacefully at the age of 83, surrounded by his family. “Zim”, as he was known, spent his baseball career as a player, manager, and coach on some of the best teams ever, including the 1955 and 1959 Brooklyn Dodgers and the 1996, 1998-2000 Yankees. For the last 11 seasons, he served as bench coach for the Tampa Bay Rays, as he chose to make the Tampa area his home for the last 60 years after marrying his high school sweetheart. So many clubs can make claims to Zim — Dodgers, Cubs, Mets, Reds, Padres, Red Sox, Rangers, Giants, Rockies, Yankees, and Rays and the former Expos and Senators and a Japanese team in the 60’s.

Zim’s impact went beyond his abilities on the field and in the dugout, as he was well-liked and admired by players and peers alike. He was everyone’s mentor, everyone’s father, everyone’s grandfather, everyone’s friend. He will be greatly missed. (The YES Network team talk about Zim, remembering him fondly in this video clip.)

The Yankees lost more than a friend tonight. They also lost the game, but it certainly didn’t start that way. In the 3rd inning, the Yankees decided to poke holes in the Athletics’ pitching in a big way. Runners on the corners with a walk and single, Derek Jeter’s single scored a run, and then Jacoby Ellsbury hit a long 3-run home run into the Yankees’ bullpen and put the Yankees up 4-0. This should have been enough to make up for some early pitching struggles. It wasn’t.

Vidal Nuno struggled through his 92 pitches in just 4.2 innings, allowing 6 hits and 2 runs, striking out 5 Oakland batters. The runs came as a solo home run in the 4th and a sacrifice fly scoring a run in the 5th. Matt Daley’s appearance in the 5th quickly shut down Oakland, but a solo home run in the 6th put the Athletics closer to the Yankees’ lead. A throwing error put a runner on base who would go on to score under his relief, Matt Thornton on a sacrifice fly in the 6th. And the game was tied.

In the 7th, the Yankees sent in recalled Jose Ramirez who gave up what would become the winning run, a solo home run to push the A’s in the lead. Recent call-up Wade LeBlanc’s 9th inning was less than desired for his first impact with the Yankees — adding two more runs to the score when one run scored on a hit-by-pitch and one on a sacrifice fly. So the Yankees ended up with a 7-4 loss to Oakland. The A’s took a 4-0 deficit and turned it into a 7-4 win for them by taking advantage of the weak bullpen.

Quick update on roster moves: Ramirez was recalled from Scranton; LeBlanc picked up from the Angels off waivers; Alfredo Aceves was designated for assignment; and Preston Claiborne was optioned back to Scranton.

Now, nothing against Oakland, they are currently on a huge upswing, leading the entire American League standings. (If you’re wondering, the Yankees are 3rd in the AL East, 29-29 or .500 average.) Things are just clicking for them right now. But it does make me think twice about how they win against the Yankees — late in the game, against a weaker bullpen relief. That itself is an interesting thought, one that could use extra dissecting if this were August or September. But I’ve learned my lesson over the years. It’s barely June. I don’t start analyzing game momentum or patterns until after the All-Star Game. The season’s still finding its feet, and surprising as it may seem, it’s still anyone’s game.

And that’s what makes the summer for me — knowing anything is still possible. That positive outlook reminds me of Zim, and that’s what I cling to tonight. His love for the game, his love for the people who make the game possible, and the joy he found in the little things that make baseball a great game.

Go Yankees! (We’ll miss ya, Zim!)