2019 World Series: What “home-field advantage”?

The most interesting part of this year’s World Series was the fact that neither home team won in their own ball park. In other words, the myth of “home-field advantage” was clearly busted during this championship series. Both teams really only did well before the opposite team’s fans. The reigning theory among my circle is that both team thrived on the displeasure of the home crowd.

Game 1: For the first game, the Nationals started slow but came to play with the steady surety that seemed to sum up their postseason. The Astros were on the board first in the 1st, but the Nats starter held the game strong to allow his teammates to catch up and take the lead, with the Nationals edging out a victory over the Astros. 5-4 Nationals

Game 2: But this game was all about the visiting team. Once again, the Astros got on the board in the 1st, tying up the game, and the game looked to be a bit of pitching duel. Right up until a big 7th inning, when the Nats collected 6 big runs. 12-3 Nationals

Game 3: The series moved to the nation’s capital, and the play just shifted again. In this first game, both teams kind of eked out their runs scored throughout the game, despite both teams having a lot of hits and base runners. The defense was really pushed to the test for both teams, and the visitors came out on top. 4-1 Astros

Game 4: The Astros went into this game with some powerful determination and played a game that certainly demonstrated that. A strong show by their pitching staff also helped, but it was quickly clear it was the Astros’ night from the start.  8-1 Astros

Game 5: In a raucous Sunday evening in D.C., the Nationals just couldn’t piece together much of a game. And they allowed the visiting Astros to take the lead for the first time this series. 7-1 Astros

Game 6: Now back in Houston, the lack of “home field advantage” just continued, unfortunately for the home team. The Nationals grabbed this game and flipped the script, tying up the series once again. Of course, this was also filled with all sorts of drama, strange calls, and even the very rare World Series ejection. 7-2 Nationals

Game 7: So for a winner-take-all game, this game was all that it should have been. The Astros got the lead early, and it looked like they might take home their second title in 3 years. But then the Nationals found a wide open 7th inning to jump ahead. And then they kept cushioning their lead until that final out and celebration. 6-2 Nationals

Nationals win World Series in 7 games, 4-3.

A key to many of the crucial games in the series, Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg took home the coveted honor of World Series MVP, at the potential end of his decade-long tenure with the team.

At least my predictions for this ended up on the right side, but my postseason guesses have truly been stabs in the dark this year. But a congratulations to the Nationals on their first World Series win in their franchise history.

Finally, some Yankees news: The Yankees officially dismissed pitching coach Larry Rothschild last week, despite a year remaining on his contract. The comes as the Yankees are looking to expand their starters, with Sabathia retired and a few pitchers slowly coming back off injuries. The starting pitching has been an issue for the Yankees for a few years now, so this move may be in their continued efforts to fix something that hasn’t worked. A figure in the dugout for some time now, he will be missed.

Yankee prospects have spent the last 6 weeks in Arizona playing other prospects as part of the Arizona Fall League to help hone their craft. The Yankees sent pitchers Daniel Bies, Derek Craft, Aaron McGarity and Glenn Otto; a catcher Donny Sands; outfielder Josh Stowers; and infielder Brandon Wagner. It’s been mixed results, but the point of the league is to work on their skills in the minor league off-season.

Aroldis Chapman received the AL’s highest honor for relievers — the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award. On Saturday, before Game 4, Rivera was on-hand to present a fellow Yankee with the award. Chapman converted 37 of his 42 save opportunities and held an ERA of 2.21 in his 60 game appearances, and despite how he went out in the ALCS, he was dominant for most of this season. The Brewer’s Josh Hader was selected for the NL version of the award.

More awards are coming next week, so stay posted.

Go Yankees!

NLCS & ALCS: STL vs. WAS & NYY vs. HOU — A sweep & a struggle

Predicting baseball, especially in the postseason, is like predicting life — there’s never going to be an exact science.

NLCS: High off their power through the best team in baseball (Dodgers), the Nationals just came in and dominated the favored Cardinals in this series to sweep through their way to their first World Series.

Game 1: Honestly, this was going to be a close game either way, but the Nationals eked out a win by being the only team to actually score in this game. Part of the reason this worked in the Nats’ favor was their starter, only giving up a single hit the entire game and not until a pinch-hit single in the 8th inning. 2-0 Nationals

Game 2: The Nationals continued their strong show this postseason, but the Cards certainly showed up to play today. The Cardinals certainly had the opportunity, with their starter getting 11 strikeouts to match the Nats’ starter. But the Nats’ edged over the Cards holding them to just 3 hit and a run, with the Nats managing 3 runs off 7 hits overall. 3-1 Nationals

Game 3: Now back in their home, the Nationals began a pair of games that delighted their hometown crowd. The Nats continued their strong starters, a clear sign they might have “stacked the deck”, so to speak for this postseason in particular. But this night in particular, the bats also showed up big. 8-1 Nationals

Game 4:  This game was a little more evenly matched, with the Nationals showing their weakness a bit in a missing 4th starter. However, the Cards proved their bullpen is quite the strength for them. It was a bit of a lopsided series in that respect, with the Nationals riding the backs of their starters to the World Series. 7-4 Nationals

Nationals sweep the series 4-0 and head to the World Series.

ALCS: This was going to be a battle regardless of who was going to end up on top. The top 2 teams in the AL battling for their spot in the Series, both Championship veterans with championship-worthy teams to face off against the rookie Nationals.

Game 1: Actually, this was a great game for Yankee Universe. After sweeping through the Twins, the Yankees had quite a bit of rest to gear up for the game that ended up being “Tanaka Time”, thanks to his 1-hit wonder through 6 innings. The Yankees shutout the Astros, to the dismay of the Houston crowd, with some power homers from Torres, Stanton, and Urshela.  7-0 Yankees

Game 2: This game was actually more indicative of how this series felt and ended up. Each team duking it out behind stellar pitching, the Yankees using a compilation of throwers like Paxton, Green, and eventually Sabathia out of the bullpen. The Astros’ star starter got a bit rattled with a 2-run home run by Judge in the 4th. As the game went into extra innings, this game proved it was going to be this kind of series, with the Astros hitting a walk-off homer in the 11th to give them the game. 3-2, in 11 Astros

Game 3: The series headed to the Bronx split. The Astros got to starter Severino with a pair of early home runs in the 1st and 2nd. After a wild pitch and sac fly doubled their lead, the visitors were looking to skate their way into a shutout. But the Yankees broke that with one swing from Torres, an 8th inning solo shot into right field. They just didn’t much else. 4-1 Astros

The series had a day’s rain delay due to a freak autumn storm off the coast that brought flooding and high winds to the area. And I think all of Yankee Universe was hoping the long rest would spur a bit of deja vu, with the Yankees coming out like they did in Game 1.

Game 4: But it was not to be, despite the pitching match up being the exact same starters. After a rough 1st inning, with the Yankees scoring their first run on a walk by Gardner, the Astros collected 2 big 3-run home runs in the 3rd and 6th to take charge of the game. Tanaka was hit hard and the Yankee bats just weren’t there to support him. Sanchez added a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 6th to edge the Yankees closer, but the Astros were determined to take this game. 8-3 Astros

Game 5: Part of me did not want to watch this game for fear the Astros would win the series on New York’s turf, which is really the ultimate hardship for fans in the area. And yet, I was proved wrong. Paxton commanded from the mound, out-dueling an Astros’ star for the win. A solo homer from LeMahieu to lead-off the 1st, followed by a 3-run home run by Hicks in the same inning, handed the Yankees their eventual victory thanks to great pitching and defense for the next 8 scoreless innings. 4-1 Yankees

Game 6: Once they were back in Texas, the Astros pressed in for their home field advantage. The Yankees again used an “opener”, but the usually unflappable Green gave up 3 runs that 1st inning. And yet, the Yankees came back to tie up the game, including a 4th inning solo shot by Torres and the big 2-run homer by LeMahieu to tie it all up in the 9th inning. The Yankees were looking at winning the game in extra innings right up until Chapman left a high slider up for the Astros’ batter to hit a walk-off 2-run home run. This stunned the entire Yankee team, after they battled back to tie up the game, especially Chapman, who barely moved from the mound until the batter was rounding 2nd. 6-4 Astros

Astros win in 6 to advance to the World Series.

My predictions: So, I’m not getting any better at this predicting thing this season. I knew the ALCS was going to be a struggle this season, but I can honestly say I never saw the Nationals coming. Partly because I don’t follow the NL that closely, and partly because they’ve been such a mixed bag of a team in recent seasons.

  • NLCS: Cardinals over Nationals in 6 games — Nationals in 4
  • ALCS: Yankees over Astros in 7 games — Astros in 6

Now for the World Series: (And let’s be honest, I’ve got no horse in this race any more.)

  • Nationals over Astros in 6 games

The hardest part about this postseason now is not watching the final lap of CC Sabathia. This weekend, he wrote a touching note to the fans to say “goodbye” and posted it on his social media as a final farewell to baseball. No final ride through the canyon of heroes, no extra ring for the souvenir cabinet, no last chance for a Bronx victory. No, next stop for the great pitcher will be that special weekend in Cooperstown.

Go Yankees!

NLDS & ALDS: ATL vs. STL, WAS vs. LAD & TB vs. HOU, MIN vs. NYY — 3 Game 5s & a 3-game sweep

There is nothing normal about the postseason most years, and this year continues to prove this once again. Three of the series went to a Game 5, and only one series was a sweep. And none of those is what you might expect.

NLDS A: The Cardinals and Braves duked it out through 5 games, and it wasn’t until the 5th that the Cardinals came on strong and just made the decision to win this series.

NLDS
Game 1: Actually, the Braves had this game right up until the final inning, when the Cards came out swinging. The Braves just could not catch up in the end. 7-6 Cardinals

Game 2:
The Braves decided they weren’t going to let the series head to St. Louis without a hometown win, using this game to prove why they came out on top of the NL East by blanking the visiting Cardinals. 3-0 Braves

Game 3: This was one of those super tight games, with the Cards eking a single run by the Braves until the 9th. The visitors scored 3 big runs in that inning and ended up taking the lead in the series. 3-1 Braves

Game 4: Another nail biter in the series, as the game was tied and went into the 10th inning before the Cardinals got a walk-off home run to tie up the series. 5-4, in 10 Cardinals

Game 5: Back in Atlanta, the Braves lost their home field advantage in that 1st inning, giving up 10 runs to the visitors, who ended up dominating this game. 13-1 Cardinals

Cardinals win the series in 5 games

NLDS B: Almost everyone “knew” who was going to win this series. Almost everyone “knew” they were going to sweep this series. Almost everyone was very wrong.

Game 1: However, after this first game, “they” were rather confident they “knew” how this was going to work as the Dodgers quickly shut out the Nationals. 6-0 Dodgers

Game 2: But then the Nationals came back and just edged out the home team. 4-2 Nationals

Game 3: In DC, the Dodgers came back just crushing the home team with a big 6th inning. 10-4 Dodgers

Game 4: And somehow, the Nats weren’t about to go away quietly, relying on some solid pitching to tie up the series again and force a Game 5. 6-1 Nationals

Game 5: Another nail-biter in the NL. The game was tied right into the 10th, right up until the Dodgers’ reliever gave up a huge grand slam. The deficit too big to overcome by the home team, costing them the rest of the postseason. 7-3, in 10 Nationals

Nationals win the series in 5 games

ALDS A: As with the other league’s version of this series, games between the league leader and the wild card winner aren’t anything normal or predictable. Especially as the Rays were on quite the tear this last month in their quest for a postseason. But in this series alone, it was all about the “home field advantage”.

Game 1: The Astros started the series strong, only giving up runs to the Rays in the 8th. 6-2 Astros

Game 2: The Astros’ starter the game was just amazing, streaming through the Rays’ lineup and collecting 15 strikeouts. Not that the Rays were slacking. The Astros just played better. 3-1 Astros

Game 3: Once the game was at the Trop, the Rays came out swinging and just didn’t stop. They certainly weren’t about to let the Astros just run away with this series. 10-3 Rays

Game 4: While this wasn’t as poweful in the end, the Rays still collected 13 total hits, giving them more opportunities to score and eventually tie up the series. 4-1 Rays

Game 5: Again, this series was all about home field advantage. Once they were back in Houston, the Astros took command again and showed their fans why they deserve to go to the ALCS once again. 6-1 Astros

Astros win series in 5 games

ALDS B: The one series nobody was really talking about. Outside Yankee Universe, that is. But this one was something to really watch, as the Yankees were about to show off a bit.

Game 1: The Yankees had some really big innings, including home runs by LeMahieu and Gardner. Though Paxton started, it was Kahnle who ended up with the win for his 5th & 6th inning stint to essentially save the game early on until the Yankees powered their way through with those big runs in the 6th. 10-4 Yankees

Game 2: It was Tanaka Time in the Bronx for this game. Aand once again, the Yankee bats came through to support their starter, including a big 3rd inning offense. And while most of their runs were off RBI singles, but i was Didi Gregorius’ grand slam to ensure the Yankees’ eventual win. 8-2 Yankees

Game 3: Home field advantage didn’t seem to matter to the Yankees this series, as they took their momentum on the road. They used an opener in Green, who showed his reliability with a strong start and set the pattern for the rest of the game, backed by a good offense with homers by Torres and Maybin. 5-1 Yankees

Yankees sweep series in 3 games.

An interesting article I found was the idea that no one gives an MVP award for the Division Series. This is one writer’s idea of who should get this hypothetical award. I agreed (or at least understood) his picks in most of these games. But what do you think?

Championship Series begins tomorrow night with NLCS and Saturday with the ALCS. It is a best-of-7 series, so the first team with 4 wins will move onto the World Series next week.

My predictions: So, this first round was a mixed bag. I completely blew the NLDS. First is my prediction, second is the outcome.

  • NLDS A: Braves over Cardinals in 5 games — Cardinals in 5
  • NLDS B: Dodgers over Nationals in 3 games — Nationals in 5
  • ALDS A: Astros over Rays in 4 games — Astros in 5
  • ALDS B: Yankees over Twins in 5 games — Yankees in 3

Now for the Championship Series: (Perhaps, I’ll be better this round.)

  • NLCS: Cardinals over Nationals in 6 games
  • ALCS: Yankees over Astros in 7 games

It’s clearly going to be one of those postseasons. And let’s be honest, it’s really just beginning. But isn’t that what makes October Baseball more intriguing — that you don’t know what’s going to happen?

Go Yankees!

NLWC & ALWC: MIL vs. WAS & TB vs. OAK — 2019 Postseason Begins

It’s officially October Baseball. The regular season came to a close last Sunday, some teams headed into the postseason, some to their family vacations and couches for the duration of 2019. But either way, things are heating up if your team is one of the few who grace this month with its presence.

Tuesday: NL Wild Card (Brewers at Nationals)
The National League postseason began on Tuesday night as the Brewers challenged the Nationals for the final wild card spot. And at first, the Brewers looked to have a decided victory. They out-pitched the home team, with a strong showing, giving up a solo home run in the 3rd, sailing through most of the game in command.

The Nats’ ace had a bit of trouble keeping the Brewers’ bats under control. A lead-off walk in the 1st scored as part of a 2-run home run, getting the visitors on the board even before an out was recorded in the game. The Brewers tagged another run on with a lead-off solo shot up the middle in the 2nd. Things were looking great for the Brewers to advance to the NLDS.

Until that 8th inning. The Nationals figured out they weren’t going to let another October pass them by and took back the game. With 1 out, a challenged hit-by-pitch made it to base. After another out, the Nats gave up a single and a walk to load up the bases. Then a single and really sloppy fielding error cleared the bases, with the Nats scoring the go-ahead run. The Brewers’ defense snapped into action and got that runner trying to stretch into 3rd to end this messy inning, but the damage was done.

Final score: 4-3 Nationals, Nationals advance to NLDS to face the Dodgers

Wednesday: AL Wild Card (Rays at Athletics)
There was a lot of talk about which team might have the advantage in this game tonight. The A’s have had some pretty strong pitching, but the Rays are quite tenacious this season. It was going to be quite the toss-up, but the Rays really proved their mettle in the end, commanding the mound and the game.

The Rays’ pitchers walked away from tonight’s game with no earned runs, only one unearned run. In the 3rd, the lead-off batter hit into what looked like an easy grounder, but a throwing error allowed him to make it all the way to 3rd. A sacrifice fly then scored that runner for the A’s only run of the night.

Their pitching was uncharacteristically lacking in their starter tonight. He gave up a lead-off solo home run to the Rays right in the 1st. And then a single and 2-run homer in the 2nd. After another lead-off home run in the 3rd, they realized it wasn’t working and sent in their bullpen. They were markedly better, except a 2-out solo home run in the 5th to add just one more run for the visitors.

Final score: 5-1 Rays, Rays advance to the ALDS to play the Astros

Postseason Schedule: The Division Series starts tomorrow with the NLDS. The Braves will host the Cardinals, and the Dodgers host the Nationals to begin each of their series. The ALDS starts on Friday with the Astros hosting the Rays and the Yankees hosting the Twins. This series a “best of 5”, with the higher seed hosting for 2 games before the lower seed hosts 2, with an off-day between. A 5th game, if necessary, will be held back in the original stadium for a 2-2-1 possibility of the series.

The NLCS will begin next Friday, October 11, and the ALCS will start Saturday, October 12. That will be a “best of 7”, 2-3-2 hosting pattern.

My Division Series Predictions: I always hesitate to make my predictions known every year because it’s always with mixed results. Honestly, neither of my selected teams won their respective Wild Card games, but maybe I’ll have better luck in this next series.

  • NLDS A — Braves over Cardinals in 5 games
  • NLDS B — Dodgers over Nationals in 3 games
  • ALDS A — Astros over Rays in 4 games
  • ALDS B — Yankees over Twins in 5 games

It’s anybody’s guess how this season will turn out. It rarely goes as predicted. But such is life. At this point, truly anything is possible. Except for the fact that only one of these 8 teams will be crowned champions before the end of this month. Fingers crossed for your favorite team. I’ve got mine crossed for… well, you know…

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!

Home Run Derby 2018 — Hometown Heroics at Workout Day

At the end of the first half of the season, the leading players in home runs were dominantly in the American League, but many opted out of the special event tonight either in favor of the rest that comes with the All-Star Break or to focus on the big exhibition game tomorrow night.

Instead, 43,698 fans crowded into Nationals Park in anticipation of seeing the star slugger they see at every home game hit his way into victory. Nationals’ outfielder Harper was the only veteran of the Home Run Derby, having lost in the final round in 2013 to Cespedes. The seven other batters in tonight’s event were news and all but one from National League teams.

The All-Star players had their Workout Day earlier in the day, running drills, seeing where they land on the roster, connecting with former teammates and friends, meeting the media and fans, and then congregating for the Home Run Derby. The Derby is set-up like in a bracket system, where the player with the highest number of home runs (Seed #1) faces off against the player with the fewest homers (Seed #8) and other similar pairings for the first round for four pairings, a sort of “homer-off”, in just 4 minutes.

The player with the most homers of the pair advance to the next round. So, the winners of that first round meet up with another winner for two more pairings for another round of “homer-off”. And the 2 winners of those pairings meet in the final round to see who hits the most homers in just 4 minutes. An extra 30 seconds is awarded if the batter hits 2+ homers at least 440 feet.

The first round kept close for the most part, with a strong start by the first pairing. The Phillies’ Hoskins kicked off the evening with 17 home runs that beat his opponent, Aguilar (Brewers), who hit just 12 despite being the furthest apart in regular season homers. Then it was close — Schwarber (Cubs) beat Bregman (Astros) 16-15, Muncy (Dodgers) over Baez (Cubs) 17-16, and Harper (Nationals) over Freeman (Braves) 13-12.

The next round continued the trend, with Schwarber powering 21 runs, edging out Hoskins (20). Muncy had a good start but faltered in the end to be surpassed by Harper (13-12). For the final round, Schwarber again kicked things off with a big show at 18 runs, and despite some momentum loss, Harper came back and tied it up at 18 in the final second. But he had those 30 extra seconds due to some pretty monster homers. He just needed 1, and he got it. And the hometown crowd went crazy, waving giant Harper faces and making the stadium nearly shake.

{Media note: Still waiting on a recap video of the Derby, will add shortly.}

And if you’re wondering, at the All-Star Futures Game, Team USA out-powered Team World 10-6 yesterday, though each team got 4 solid home runs in the process. Yankees prospect pitcher Justus Sheffield got time on the mound and really had a less-than-ideal outing. Pitching for Team USA, Sheffield came out in the 2nd and promptly gave up a solo home run to allow Team World on the board. After allowing a 1-out single in the 3rd, they went to another pitcher, but that runner scored on a 2-run home run that gave Sheffield a second earned run. But in the end, it was Team USA to power through and come out victorious.

Tomorrow, the All-Stars(often with their families) will walk down the eed carpet to meet their fans, chat with media, and take pictures just outside Nationals Park for the annual Red Carpet Parade before they take batting practice inside the park before the big game. Torres and Chapman will not be playing due to injuries. Severino is slotted as a reserves pitcher, which means he’ll pitch an inning somewhere in the middle of the game. And upon revealing the starting rosters, the AL coaching team has Judge batting 6th and playing left field. Because clearly they’ve never seen the right fielder and the Yankees’ #2 hitter play baseball.

Can’t wait to see Judge and Severino in the game tomorrow night!

Go Yankees!

Games 68 & 69: NYY vs. WAS — “Let’s play one and a half”?

Last month, the Yankees traveled to the nation’s capital to play a short series, the now popular 2-game series of this year’s schedule. But lingering showers and storms that plagued much of the country made playing in some games almost like chasing or avoiding the weather its own sport. Such delays seem to have trickled out (pun intended), so that means that we’re now in the making all those missed games up part of the schedule.

Anyway, despite over an hour delay last month, the Yankees and Nationals played 5 1/2 innings of their first game of the series before seemingly unending showers forced the powers that be to suspend the game as it was. They were supposed to pick up that game before the next game on the following day, but those same storms continued on into the next day. And it forced them to do a sort of doubleheader make-up game tonight. Or rather about a game and a half.

Game 1: The Suspended Game
The two players that made the most impact on this first game are no longer on the active roster. Now on the DL due to some hamstring strains, Masahiro Tanaka started the game for the Yankees, and all the Yankees’ runs were due to Tyler Austin’s bat. Austin is back in AAA due to some overcrowding on the Yankees’ bench.

Tanaka threw 72 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up just 4 hits, no walks, and 3 runs, and struck out just 2 batters. He gave up a 2-out solo home run in the 1st to get the Nats on the board early. And in the 2nd, a lead-off double scored on a 1-out single, who then scored on an RBI double.

The Yankees chipped away at that lead, as I said before, thanks to Tyler Austin. In the 4th, Gregorius made it all the way to 2nd on a Little League-style fielding error before scoring on Austin’s big 2-run home run. Then in the 5th, the Yankees loaded the bases — Judge walked, Stanton singled, and Sanchez walked. Gregorius hit into a fielder’s choice, getting Judge out at home, and then Austin’s sacrifice fly scored Stanton to tie up the game.

As the rain came down in the top of the 6th, the Yankees left a man stranded as the middle of the inning came and they suspended the game. So, coming back tonight to resume the game (and keep up with roster moves of pinch-hitters and replacements), Chad Green came out for the Yankees and got into a bit of trouble. With 1 out, he gave up a single and 2-run home run to give the lead back to the Nationals.

Shreve and Warren each took an inning, while waiting for the Yankees to face the Nationals’ bullpen and find the strength possibly lingering from Austin’s power last month. It wasn’t going to happen.

Final score: 5-3 Nationals

Game 2: The Rain Delay
About 30 minutes after the conclusion of game one, enough time for the grounds crew to make the field all pretty again (and the guys to change uniforms for a clean one), the game that was delayed due to rain started. There’s been a lot of talk about how bad Sonny Gray does at home in stark contrast to how well he does on the road. Tonight, he proved the formula true again. Gray threw 86 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and struck out 7 batters.

In the 2nd, he gave up consecutive singles that moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. A ground out scored the lead runner and moved the other one to 3rd. The next batter hit into a fielder’s choice that had the runner caught in a brief rundown for the out. A lead-off double in the 4th moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a sacrifice fly.

Holder, Robertson, Betance, and Chapman closed out the final 4 innings for the Yankees, collectively (with Gray) getting an impressive 15 total strikeouts and keeping the Nats to those 2 runs. Though they threatened at bit in the 9th inning, a long fly ball run down and captured on the warning track by Judge handed Chapman his 21st save.

Meanwhile, the Yankees actually struck first. Hicks led-off the game with a double, and 2 outs later, scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s single. In the 5th, down by just a run, the Yankees came back. Romine led-off with a single but was out when Gray bunted into a bad grounder. Gray then scored as part of Aaron Hicks’ big 2-run home run to give the Yankees back the lead.

Clint Frazier led-off the 7th by being hit by a pitch and then moved to 2nd on a sloppy pick-off error. Two outs, a walk to Judge, and a pitching change later, Stanton doubled and scored Frazier. Torres was intentionally walked to load the bases, but they ended their rally this inning with just one insurance run. It would be all they needed.

Final score: 4-2 Yankees, the short make-up series was split 1-1

Roster moves: Before the game, Clint Frazier was recalled, Ronald Torreyes sent to AAA Scranton, and Giovanny Gallegos was recalled as the Yankees’ 26th man for the doubleheader. Gallegos will be on his way back to Scranton now.

Next up: the Yankees head back to the Bronx where the Mariners await their 3-game series with them there tomorrow. After they close out this home stand, they hop a flight down to St. Petersburg to face the Rays this weekend and then up to Philadelphia for 3-games next Monday. Then home again for the final home stand before the All-Star Break.

It’s worth noting that what most people talked about for the first game was the player who hit the winning home run was not yet with the team when the game was suspended. He wasn’t called up to the main team until May 20 (5 days after the originally scheduled game). Now, because of how they have to score this, as being played on May 15, they marked this as his 1st home run. But it’s actually his 6th home run since his call-up. So, everyone is making bad jokes about time travel and pointing out the obvious problems and loopholes of how records are kept in the league.

Go Yankees!

Game 63: WAS vs. NYY — Splitting the mini-series during #HOPEWeek

The Yankees conclude their brief series with the visiting Nationals by splitting it with the visitors. Sonny Gray got the start tonight and continued his struggles at home, throwing 89 pitches in his 5 innings, giving up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs, and striking out just 1 batter.

In the 1st inning, the lead-off batter got a ground-rule double, moved to 3rd on a single, and then scored on a sacrifice fly to get the Nats on the board early. Later, in the 4th, with 2 outs, Gray gave up a walk and a single to put runners on the corners before giving up a line drive bouncing off the left field wall for a 3-run home run to put them in the lead again.

Meanwhile, the Yankee batters weren’t exactly sitting on their laurels. In the bottom of the 1st, Gardner led-off with a single and then stole 2nd, but ended up at 3rd on a throwing error. He then scored on Aaron Judge’s sacrifice fly to tie up the game at that point. Greg Bird’s 1-out 2nd inning solo home run put the Yankees in the lead.

In the 3rd, Judge hit a 1-out double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s single. Down by a run after that 4th inning homer, Gleyber Torres led-off the 5th inning with a game-tying solo home run.

After Gray’s night was over, the Yankees handed the ball to Chasen Shreve, who kept things as is in the 6th, but then gave up a big 1-out solo home run in the 7th to give the Nationals a slight lead again. Robertson and Holder each took an inning to keep them from adding to their lead and waiting for the Yankee bats to reawaken.

But it was the Yankee defense that was clicking in the latter part of the game. Romine and Torres teaming up to catch a runner stealing 2nd in the 8th, and Didi Gregorius being a defensive icon and throwing to 1st in the midst of falling to the ground to make the out in the 9th. Even when the Yankees did get on base, they just weren’t collecting enough to get any further runs.

Final score: 5-4 Nationals, series split 1-1

Next up: the Rays come to visit the Bronx tomorrow to start their 4-game weekend series. Remember, the Yankees will travel to D.C. to see the Nationals again on Monday to play 1 1/2 games to make up the rainy mess of last month before returning to the Bronx to finish up their homestand against the Mariners.

HOPE Week Day 3: HOPE Week continued today, with a strong theme of the week repeated again in today’s honoree. The Yankees joined Brian Williams, founder of “Think Kindness“, for a special assembly at a local elementary school. Since 2009, Think Kindness is an anti-bullying organization the runs special assemblies and programs in schools nationwide (and a few internationally) with the intent not to focus on bullying but rather on being a facilitator of kindness in your world.

Fourth and fifth graders at P.S. 73 in the Bronx were invited to a special assembly hosted by Williams and featuring Aaron Hicks, David Robertson, CC Sabathia (a clear favorite), Luis Severino, 3rd base coach Phil Nevin, and GM Brian Cashman. Williams, a former martial arts instructor, challenged P.S. 73 to be the school that does the most acts of kindness and then gave every student a journal to record their completed acts. Williams hopes display at least a million documented acts of kindness and has already has 2.4 million at their headquarters in Reno.

As with every HOPE Week honoree, Williams later threw out the 1st pitch before tonight’s game and accepted the $10,000 donation on behalf of his organization.

Once again, kindness matters. Those little moments of kindness add up. They make a difference. One moment, one act, one kindness at a time. Those matter to someone. And because they matter to someone, they matter, they count, they are necessary.

Kindness matters.

Go Yankees!

Game 62: WAS vs. NYY — #HOPEWeek Starts, #CCStrong & #SirDidi shut out Nationals

The Yankees are back in the Bronx, and it’s HOPE Week. While the Yankees face the Nationals tonight and tomorrow before starting their series against the Rays, they are also using their days to give back to their community in their 10th Annual HOPE Week. (More on that after the game recap.)

CC Sabathia got the start in tonight’s game and zoned into a strong momentum to keep the visiting Nationals scoreless. He threw 101 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 4 hits and 3 walks, and struck out 3 batters. Also, he hit an amazing milestone in the 4th inning — his 1,500th strikeout with the Yankees. They stopped the game for a moment to allow the 44,000 fans at the stadium to give him a nice audience.

Sabathia has 2,893 in his career, making him 17th in the overall list of pitchers and the leader among active pitchers. And it’s worth noting that all but 2 listed above Sabathia on that list are in the Hall of Fame.

With 2 outs and a runner on 1st with a single, Sabathia handed the ball to Chad Green. While he was dealing with the next batter, the runner took off for 2nd, and Romine fired the ball to a waiting Torres at 2nd to make the tag. Originally ruled safe, the Yankees challenged the call and after review, the play was overturned. Then Green’s 7th inning followed Sabathia’s clean sheet, before Betances and Chapman’s 8th and 9th innings just got cleaner and cleaner.

While the Yankees’ pitching was strong, the Yankees’ batting needed to step it up and take advantage of the opportunities they could. In the 2nd, Didi Gregorius hit a solid 1-out solo home run to get things started fairly early. Aaron Hicks then worked a walk, and Walker’s single and a bad throw moved both runners into scoring position. Hicks then scored on Austin Romine’s sacrifice fly. Didi Gregorius later led-off the 6th with another solo home run to cap off the Yankees’ scoring.

Final score: 3-0 Yankees

Today, MLB released the first results of fan voting for the AL nominees of All-Star Game, and there were a lot of Yankeesa lot of Yankees that could make the roster this year if fans continue to pull through. Gary Sanchez leads all Catchers by about 13,000 votes; Gleyber Torres is a distant 2nd at 2nd; Miguel Andujar is a distant 2nd at 3rd; Didi Gregorius is 3rd in a tight field at Shortstop; and Giancarlo Stanton is a distant 2nd at Designated Hitter. Plus, all Yankee Outfielders are found in the top 15 — Aaron Judge is 3rd, Brett Gardner is 7th, and Aaron Hicks is 11th.

Based on current patterns and numbers, Sanchez and Judge are almost locks for the starting roster, so Yankee fans, do your stuff and vote!

HOPE Week is back for its 10th year. Helping Other Persevere and Excel is the motto of the Yankees annual community outreach for the last 10 seasons. It’s easily my favorite week of the year, and it’s something Yankees Director of Media Relations Jason Zillo calls “The greatest thing we do all year.”

Yesterday, during the Yankees off-day, the Yankees sent 3 of their biggest stars to the TODAY Show to preview HOPE Week and meet with the fans that pack Rockefeller Center every morning. Brett Gardner (a HOPE Week veteran since Day 1), Aaron Judge (in his 2nd HOPE Week), and Giancarlo Stanton (a HOPE Week rookie) went on the show to promote HOPE Week and talk about “bringing light to some special situations and meeting some really cool people”.

HOPE Week, Day 1: Monday, the Yankees visited Cindy and Louis Campbell who founded the “Muddy Puddles Project“, hosting the annual Mess Fest at Mohawk Day Camp (about an hour north of the City). The Campbell’s lost their 5 year old son Ty to brain cancer 6 years ago and his greatest wish before he died was just to jump in the mud puddles. So in his honor, they founded this messy, fun opportunity for children with cancer and their families to enjoy a day, raise money for pediatric cancer research (over $800,000 in five years).

Manager Aaron Boone, Bench Coach Josh Bard, Brett Gardner, Sonny Gray, Didi Gregorius, and Yankees General Partner Jenny Steinbrenner brought a $10,000 donation and Ty Campbell’s favorite cartoon Peppa Pig to join in today’s festivities. They got messy in the mud and then clean thanks to a big soapy washing station and a water balloon fight. Children from all over the area being treated for various forms of cancer got to hang out with the Yankees (and Peppa Pig), including one kid celebrating his 8th birthday. It was definitely a day to remember. (And now, I want to go jump in a bunch of mud puddles!)

HOPE Week Day 2: Today, the Yankees invited a special girl named Cassidy Warner to hang out with them. Many of you may remember Cassidy as the young girl who posted a video earlier this year about being bullied in her school and then asking people to just be nice to each other. The Yankees responded to her video with one of their own, inviting her to come and have lunch with them some time. That came true today.

Cassidy joined Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, AJ Cole, Neil Walker, a handful of coaches, and a group of local 6th graders from a national anti-bullying organization called “No Bully” to play kick ball at the field across from Yankee Stadium (where the old stadium used to stand). Cassidy then joined the Yankees for lunch at the Stadium and later joined Cindy Campbell to jointly throw out the 1st pitch before the game.

No Bully’s Vice President Erik Stangvik personally encouraged Cassidy for sharing her story and challenged the whole group to be an “upstander” instead of just being a “bystander” and stand up for people. He said, “Ultimately, it’s just being kind. It’s a pretty simple way to walk through the world.”

 

And that, I think, is the ultimate message of HOPE Week — that kindness matters. And that being kind is a lifestyle choice, something we all can choose every day. Kindness impacts our own little corner of the world and ultimately lands like ripples on the pond to affect further than we can possibly imagine.

Kindness matters.

Go Yankees!

NLDS 5: CHC vs. WAS — And we have a Championship Series, just 4 wins to the World Series…

I really should stop saying things like “yet” in posts. Yesterday, I posted that the Cubs-Nationals game was the longest one yet, and then they go and make it even longer tonight. Four hours and 37 minutes for Game 5 of the NLDS. And it was definitely a battle to the very end.

Well, mainly it was a battle because neither team could rely on the thing that was carrying them through most of the series — pitching. Pitching was just terrible on both sides tonight — 23 allowed hits, 15 walks, and 17 allowed runs. Both starters left early in the game (the 3rd and 4th innings), giving up 3-4 runs each and still most of the runs were scored by both bullpens. And the only innings in which anyone didn’t score runs were the 4th and 9th. It was messy.

In the 1st, the Cubs’ lead-off batter doubled (though it was challenged by the Nationals but rightly upheld as safe), moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on a ground out. The Cubs then loaded up the bases but couldn’t get anyone else home. In the bottom of the 2nd, the Nationals came back strong starting with a lead-off home run to get them on the board. After consecutive singles, another batter hit another homer, a 3-run shot into the left field seats to push the Nats into the lead.

But to set a pattern, the Cubs came charging back, loading the bases in the 3rd and then scoring 2 runs on a ground out and a wild pitch. Then in the 5th, with 2 outs, the Cubs got 2 singles that promptly scored on a double and put the Cubs back in the lead. After the Nationals intentionally walked the next batter, they got a strikeout but it was a passed ball so the batter took off for 1st. The catcher over threw the ball, so the batter made it to 2nd while the other runner scored another run (also another example of sloppy game play tonight). And the inning continued on. The next batter reached on catcher’s interference (and it wasn’t Ellsbury, Yankee Universe!) to load up the bases, so the next batter being hit by a pitch scored yet another run for the Cubs.

And then into the 6th, the Cubs worked a 2-out walk that scored on a double. And the Nationals answered back in the bottom of that inning with their own 2-out walk. A double moved runners to scoring position, and a walk on a wild pitch moved the runners up and scored a run. A double scored one more to chip off the Cubs’ lead. But the Cubs held on tight in the top of the 7th with 2 1-out singles putting runners on the corners. A fielder’s choice out at 2nd scored one run, despite the Nationals’ challenge of a possible slide interference with the runner at 2nd (they ruled it wasn’t, but I think it really was because of how he swung his feet in the slide).

So the Nationals pieced together some offense in the final third of the game to chip away at the Cubs’ lead. In the bottom of the 7th, they loaded the bases, but only one run scored on a long sacrifice fly. And then in the 8th, they got 2 walks and one of them ended up at 3rd on a double play. He then scored on a single. Another single had 2 runners on bases and threatening. So the Cubs fired over to 1st base at one point to pick off the runner there. It was ruled safe, but challenged by the Cubs and then overturned (though I’m not sure how).

And with that, the Nationals just ran out of outs. Much to the Cubs’ sheer glee.

Final score: 9-8 Cubs, Cubs win NLDS 3-2, advance to NLCS

Okay, so a wrap up of the ALDS… my predictions (last week) were actually pretty good this year (bold is the actual result):

  • ALDS 1 — Yankees over Indians in 5 games (Yankees over Indians in 5 games)
  • ALDS 2 — Astros over Red Sox in 4 games (Astros over Red Sox in 4 games)
  • NLDS 1 — Dodgers over Diamondbacks in 3 games (Dodgers over Diamondbacks in 3 games)
  • NLDS 2 — Nationals over Cubs in 5 games (Cubs over Nationals in 5 games)

The final one, of course, I obviously got wrong as of tonight. But for the first time since I’ve been doing this, even the game numbers were right! Not to pat myself on the back, but pat-pat. Actually, after being so very wrong for five years, it’s nice to have a moment of right before I get to be so very wrong all over again. (Believe me, it always happens this way, so it’s why we cherish the momentary times of right.)

Okay, so now that we have a Championship Series, here’s where I’m predicting:

  • ALCS — Yankees over Astros, in 6 games*
  • NLCS — Dodgers over Cubs, in 4 games

*Disclaimer: This doesn’t mean this is who I’m “rooting for” in each game, just which team I think will win each series. I mean, of course, I’m always “rooting for” the Yankees. But for me, the Yankees-Astros series all comes down to pitching. If the Yankees’ starters have strong outings, this will be the result. If they don’t, the Astros will win in 6 games. And I’m aware that I’ll probably be very wrong now as I’m now overdue for wrong.

The ALCS starts tomorrow (Friday) night in Houston for 2 games there before it heads for possibly 3 games in the Bronx. It would then head back to Houston for the final 2 games if necessary. The NLDS begins Saturday night in the same pattern (LA-Chicago-LA, 2-3-2). First team to win 4 games goes onto the World Series, so Yankee fans, the Yankees are 4 wins from being back in the World Series (last appearance was when they won the 2009 one). Fingers crossed.

Go Yankees!