Game 98: COL vs. NYY — Hall of Fame Weekend thankfully overshadows Sunday’s loss

Sure, the focus was on New York this afternoon. Just about 190 miles north of the Bronx. And on yet another hot summer day, one setting of Yankees clearly overshadowed another. I’m not sure anyone is disappointed by that today.

In the final game of this home stand and in the weekend series against the Rockies, the Yankees struggled their way through the scorching afternoon that just didn’t pan out like the earlier games thanks to a combination of sluggish pitching and defense and offense. Basically, the Yankees didn’t play well, and they added mental anguish to the physical oppression of the humid atmosphere.

James Paxton got the start and threw 77 pitches into just the 4th inning. He gave up 5 hits, 3 walks, and 7 runs (only 4 earned runs) and still struck out 6 Colorado batters to earn the inevitable loss. Things got off to a bad start when his first batter smacked his 2nd pitch into the right field seats. But then Paxton sailed his way through 6 outs. So things were looking up. For a moment.

In the 3rd, he loaded up the bases with a walk, a bunt and fielding error, and a single. After a strikeout, a double scored 2 runs before a fielder’s choice out kept runners on the corners. A walk loaded the bases again, and a long single scored 2 more runs. After a walk and 1-out single put runners on the bases that ended up in scoring position due to slow defense, the Yankees went to the bullpen.

Chad Green’s first batter hit a ground-rule double that scored both runners. But then Green settled into that strong pattern he’s known for and carried the game into the 6th inning. Ottavino kept things scoreless through 3 outs overlapping the 6th and 7th innings.

Stephen Tarpley closed out the 7th and pitched through the 8th. But he found a bit of trouble in the 8th. He gave up a lead-off walk that moved to 3rd on a 1-out double. After another out, he loaded up the bases with an intentional walk. But a passed ball moved all the runners up and score the lead runner. Chapman’s 9th inning wasn’t a save opportunity, but he efficiently worked through it with 18 pitches.

Like I said, things were looking up earlier in the game for the Yankees. Including tying up the game early with a 1st pitch solo home run shot to lead-off the 1st by DJ LeMahieu. Then down by quite a bit, Mike Tauchman’s 2-out solo home run in the 5th doubled the Yankees’ score.

In a last-ditch effort, the Yankees got one more chance on the scoreboard in the 8th. Tauchman led-off by working a walk. Two outs later, Aaron Hicks launched a 2-run home run deep into the 2nd deck of the right field seats to again double the home team’s score. But that was all they could piece together today — runs scored on small homers.

Final score: 8-4 Rockies, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees hit the road for a week-long road trip. They will play a midweek series at the Twins starting Monday, and then head back to the East Coast for a 4-game weekend series against the Red Sox. They will then head home for another home stand against the Diamondbacks and Red Sox.

Meanwhile, in upstate New York, Yankees fans were in full force to celebrate their Yankee alumni and legends as they were officially inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. And 58 Hall of Famers (including Joe Torre, Reggie Jackson, and Hank Aaron) packed the stage to watch the festivities as thousands of fans basked in the sunny, clear skies to witness the festivities in Cooperstown as six very special men were honored.

Bernie Williams opened the afternoon by playing the national anthem on his guitar in his smooth signature musical style. He later came back to play “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, much to the delight of the crowd. Then, Yankees’ pitcher Mike Mussina kicked off the festivities, setting a familiar pattern of sharing stories from his childhood and playing days and honoring those special people and his family that helped him along the way.

Brandy Halladay, wife of the late pitcher Roy Halladay, spoke next in honor of her husband’s honor. Halladay split his career between the Blue Jays and Phillies and settled in the Tampa Bay area (near where both teams host Spring Training), before passing away in a tragic plane crash off the Florida coast in November 2017. His teenage sons following in his footsteps in high school sports, and his eldest Braden was recently drafted by the Blue Jays though he will continue on to Penn State first.

Mariners’ legendary power-hitter Edgar Martinez finally made it into the Hall after being selected in his 10th and final year on the ballot. Fans from his fellow Puerto Rico were thrilled to see their hometown hero honored and cheered on as he specifically thanked them in Spanish.

White Sox designated hitter Harold Baines and Cubs’ closer Lee Smith were selected by the Today’s Game Era Committee in December. Often overlooked by the original ballot rounds, Baines and Smith rightfully join the rest of their inductees on the stage and in the Hall today.

Finally, after a brief video introduction by former teammate and friend Andy Pettitte, Yankees legendary closer Mariano Rivera was inducted in the Hall of Fame, taking his turn to tell his story. He began by thanking God, his wife and sons, his parents and family, and the Yankees organization and fans. Rivera was graciously intentional as he told his story of persevering — from his try out for the Yankees, to learning English in the minors, to being sent back (along with Jeter) after his initial call up, to finding his rightful home as the Yankees’ closer. He closed out his speech with a flurry of gratitude for his family and friends in Panama, spoken in Spanish for their benefit and enjoyment.

{Media note: Further video clips can be found here for future perusal. I will add more within the post as they become available for wide release.}

Next year’s ceremonies will be July 26, 2020, and could feature names like Jeter, Soriano, Abreu, Giambi, Lee, and Beckett (in addition to repeat names like Pettitte, Bonds, Vizquel, Ramirez, and Sheffield). It could be an even larger class than the fairly “large class” of 6 for each of the last 2 years.

Go Yankees!

Game 97: COL vs. NYY — The Yankees are hot, and so are their bats

I should begin by saying that while, yes, it is summer, it’s really ridiculously, unseasonably hot outside for most of the United States right now. At 1 pm in the Bronx (first pitch), it was 94° F and sunny and only got hotter as the game went on, as temperature generally peak around 3 pm.

To be fair to the visiting team, they’ve been dealing with higher than average temperatures in their home town too. Basically, this oppressive heat continues, so take care of yourselves, America. We’re in this together, sweating and hydrating and pushing through until this “heat dome” breaks and we can breathe again.

And yet, there’s still lives to be lived and baseball to be played. Masahiro Tanaka got the start in today’s game, the middle game of this weekend series against the Rockies, and pretty much sailed his way through his first 5 innings. He threw just 47 efficient pitches, giving up just 2 hits. But his 6th inning was a doozy. With 1 out, a single that scored on a RBI double. After giving up a walk, a 3-run home run planted the Rockies firmly on the board. Then a double scored on a long single. Before some good defense and a strikeout got Tanaka out of the inning.

Now, that would be really bad except for the fact that the Rockies are really not good. And that allowed the Yankees to grab an early large lead to cushion anything that might trip up Tanaka’s otherwise quality start. In the 1st, LeMahieu led-off with a single and scored on Aaron Judge’s double to kick off the Yankees’ offense today.

Didi Gregorius led-off the big 2nd inning with a double and promptly scored on Gleyber Torres’ single and a throwing error that finished with Torres sliding into 3rd base. (That messy Rockies’ defense.) Austin Romine’s single easily scored Torres, and after a strikeout (the first out of the inning), Romine stole 2nd. Then, walks to LeMahieu and Judge loaded the bases. Aaron Hicks singled and scored Romine, and Edwin Encarnacion’s double scored LeMahieu and Judge.

That was the end of the Rockies’ starter, but their bullpen didn’t have much luck against the Yankees either. In the 4th, Hicks walked, and after an out, Luke Voit was hit by an errant pitch right on the jaw. Understandably, he was a bit shaken up as he took 1st base, but he stayed in for rest of that inning. Didi Gregorius’ single scored Hicks, and Torres’ long single scored both Voit and Gregorius.

After the Rockies chipped away at the Yankees’ lead, the Yankees found another opportunity to widen that gap again. In the 7th, Gardner led-off with a walk, moved to 3rd on LeMahieu’s single, and then scored on Mike Tauchman’s fielder’s choice. After a strikeout and pitching change, Encarnacion singled home Tauchman to cap off the Yankees’ big afternoon.

The Yankees were able to close out the game with their strong bullpen once again. Kahnle breezed through a scoreless 7th, and Hale was solid once again through the final 2 innings to hand the Yankees another win.

Final score: 11-5 Yankees

It’s worth noting that the Yankees scored a whopping 11 runs, and not a single one of those runs were due to home runs. An odd statistic for the so-called “Bronx Bombers”. But it doesn’t really matter how you score runs, just that you score more than your opponent.

Luke Voit did come out of the game after scoring on Torres’ single in the 4th. He was definitely hurting, and getting hit in the face isn’t the best place to absorb a 91 mph fastball. (Honestly, it’s never fun or not going to hurt when you get hit by a speeding baseball, but there are fleshier areas that can absorb the impact better and simply bruise. The posterior is a prime example.) Voit was sent for tests and x-rays, but everything came up clean. He’s being observed as determined by concussion protocol due to the impact on his head. Stay safe out there, guys!

Also, before today’s game, the Yankees welcomed astronaut (and Yankees’ fan) Mike Massimino to honor the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. On the mound that day, exactly when they touched down in Tranquility Base, was Yankees pitcher Jack Aker. So today, Massimino threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Aker to symbolically bridge the gap between space and baseball, reminding us that together we can encompass the galaxy with our dreams.

Go Yankees!

Game 96: COL vs. NYY — A parrot’s Grand Slam

Apparently, it didn’t surprise former teammates that Yankee players like Ottavino and LeMahieu found a home in New York. While there was a bidding war for what was considered top players who eventually landed with the Phillies and Padres, the Yankees were making deals for these guys.

So, just maybe the front office knows what they’re doing in all this. LeMahieu has been a force all over the infield and leading the Yankee offense, and Ottavino’s role as mid-game reliever staple is quite dependable.  And with the Yankees currently sitting atop all of MLB in the standings, perhaps it was the Yankees who got the better end of these off-season deals. And they aren’t stuck in long-term ridiculous payout contracts for players that aren’t always consistent, especially as “team players”.

Anyway, the Yankees began their weekend series against the Rockies tonight with JA Happ on the mound to start the game. Happ had a pretty good outing overall, throwing 90 pitches through 5 innings. He gave up 8 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs and impressively struck out 8. His allowed runs came in the 2nd, with a lead-off solo home run and a 1-out single that scored on a double and fielding error.

But those would be the only runs the visitors would score all night. Adam Ottavino threw a scoreless 15-pitch 6th inning with 3 beautiful strikeouts. And Stephen Tarpley went for the long haul, throwing through the final third of the game, holding the Rockies to just 1 hit and adding 6 strikeouts to the overall total of 17 for the Yankee pitchers tonight.

The Yankee offense got off to a big start in the 3rd. With 1 out, they loaded the bases with a single to LeMahieu and walks to Judge and Sanchez. Then Edwin Encarnacion hit a monster grand slam into the left field seats to leap frog the Yankees into the lead. Now, Encarnacion is known for his home run trot because he kind of props his right arm up as he rounds the bases as if he’s holding a parrot (like a stereotypical pirate would, I guess). So, he’s known as “the parrot”, hence tonight’s blog title.

In the 4th, with 2 outs, Tauchman managed to eke out a double that was upheld after a Rockies’ challenge. He then scored on DJ LeMahieu’s single. Tauchman singled in the 6th, and then he stole 2nd and managed to get to 3rd on a messy throwing error. He scored when the Rockies’ defense were slow to respond LeMahieu’s at-bat and turned it into a fielder’s choice play but no out. Aaron Judge’s 2-run home run scored LeMahieu to wrap up the Yankees’ big Friday night.

Final score: 8-2 Yankees

After the kerfuffle in yesterday’s first game, Aaron Boone was officially disciplined for his ejection. This happens every time a player faces an ejection. Essentially, it’s like putting a kid in timeout, while the parent figures out what the actual punishment will be. Maybe for kids it’s the loss of a favorite toy, but in baseball, it’s usually a suspension from games. Though he admits his word choice, he doesn’t regret his actions in sticking up for his players. Boone was suspended one game, which he served during tonight’s game.

Go Yankees!

Games 94 & 95: TB vs. NYY — A rain delay, an ejection, a doubleheader, and an anniversary

Thanks to the rain out yesterday, today’s scheduled got packed. And the Yankees still somehow managed to amp up the drama and make the final 2 games against the Rays all the more interesting. The afternoon game of the doubleheader was first delayed by lingering afternoon rain, pushing the start time back 1 hour and 26 minutes.

Game 1 (make-up game from July 17)
Domingo German got the start for the first game of today’s doubleheader and threw a pretty good game despite what became the major talking point — a terrible strike zone set by the home plate umpire. German threw 90 pitches in 6 innings, gave up 4 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and struck out 5 Rays’ batters.

The allowed runs were consecutive solo home run to kick off the game. After that, German buckled in and really set a strong pattern to pass the game off to his relievers. Kahnle, Britton, and Hale threw a strong scoreless inning of their own, keeping the visitors to those early runs.

The Yankees answered back to the Rays’ early lead by tying up the game right in the turbulent 2nd inning. Didi Gregorius led-off the inning by getting all the way to 2nd on a fielding error. He then moved to 3rd on a ground out and scored on Gio Urshela’s 2-run home run.

Now, after a questionable strikeout and some bad calls on the at-bat of the two most chill guys on the team (Gardner and LeMahieu), Aaron Boone had to step in. Leading up to this, Sanchez questioned some calls, especially lower in the strike zone, for their inconsistency. The rookie home plate umpire didn’t seem to adjust, and the continuation of the questionable calls was starting to fluster everyone.

Boone did what managers need to do — take one for their guys. Several choice words later (like “savages”), Boone watched the rest of the game from the clubhouse, and the Yankees (and their fans) applauded his efforts and ended up winning the game. And I looked at the strike zone graphics following the game, it wasn’t good. Far too many called strikes were out side the box, and too many called balls were inside it. Boone and company were right to have issues with the calls.

In the 5th, Judge led-off with a single, moved to 3rd on Hicks’ ground-rule double, and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s 1-out single. After another out, Luke Voit’s single scored Hicks, and Urshela’s double scored Sanchez. And Aaron Hicks’ 2-out solo home run in the 6th capped off the Yankees’ dominant afternoon.

Final score: 6-2 Yankees

Game 2 (regularly scheduled game)
After a brief clean-up and resetting the field, the second half of today’s doubleheader was ready to go. The Yankees opted to use an “opener”, the ever reliable Chad Green, who despite throwing 31 pitches in the 1st inning, kept the Rays from scoring.

Nestor Cortes Jr came on for the 2nd inning and kept things strong through most of his outing, into the 5th inning. But in the 3rd, a lead-off walk scored on a double. But he handed the ball over to Luis Cessa in the 5th, who carried things scoreless into the 8th. Ottavino closed out the final 4 outs with just 17 great pitches.

So, the Yankees were late to get on the board. Luke Voit hit a 1st pitch solo home run in the 5th inning to tie up the game. Then in the 6th, Austin Romine led-off with a double and moved to 3rd on a ground out. Walks to Judge and Encarnacion loaded up the bases, and a balk moved all the runners up and scored Romine.

Then Didi Gregorius’ single and a throwing error allowed both Judge and Encarnacion to score. After another out, the Yankees loaded up the bases again with Torres’ single and Urshela’s walk. The Rays made a pitching change, but he promptly walked Mike Tauchman to score Gregorius before finally getting out of the inning.

Final score: 5-1 Yankees, Yankees win series 3-1

Next up: The Yankees continue their home stand with a weekend series against the visiting Rockies. The Yankees will spend next week on the road, first against the Twins and then in Boston for a long weekend, including a make-up game as part of a Saturday doubleheader.

Before the later game tonight, the Yankees celebrated the 20th anniversary of David Cone’s perfect game. It was a perfect day in many ways, honoring the perfect game of Don Larsen and caught by Yogi Berra. And then Cone spent most of the day just playing catch with his catcher Joe Girardi. So, in addition to the now standard commemorative bobblehead of David Cone, Cone also threw out the ceremonial first pitch, a strike of course.

And also coming up this weekend is Hall of Fame weekend in Cooperstown, New York. The ceremonies will include Yankee alum like Mike Mussina and Mariano Rivera. There are many activities this weekend leading up to the main event of induction ceremony on Sunday afternoon. Rivera’s unanimous election to the Hall is really the biggest topic of the weekend, though for Yankee fans (and really any decent general baseball fans), it was inevitable. Our hero, our legend, our Hall of Famer.

Go Yankees!

Game 93: TB vs. NYY — #CCStrong and a #DidiSlam

In tonight’s second game of this 4-game series against the visiting Rays, the drama continued as it only can in these division rivalry games. The Rays are still trying to do all they can to chip away at the Yankees’ lead in the AL East. With the Yankees currently looming over the Rays at 6 games, the Rays were hoping to use this longer series to make up the deficit. And last night’s come from behind rally certainly helped. Tonight’s, however, did not.

CC Sabathia got the start in tonight’s game, throwing a strong 79 pitches in 6 innings. He gave up 5 hits and 3 runs and struck out 6 Rays batters. In both the 2nd and 4th, the Rays hit 2 solo 2-out home runs to get them on the board early and into the lead. In the 6th, with 2 outs, a single scored on an RBI double.

The Yankees were able to tie up the game briefly with Edwin Encarnacion’s lead-off solo home run in the 2nd. But once the Rays took their small lead, they were held off until the 6th when DJ LeMahieu hit a 1-out solo home run into the right field seats.

With the Rays still in a slim lead over the Yankees, the bullpen had to step in to do a better job. Cortes, normally a stalwart in the ‘pen, struggled tonight and loaded up the bases in the 7th with just 1 out. So, they called in David Hale. Hale’s first batter was last night’s hero, and he got him to hit into a great double play to get out of that jam.

Hale continued on through the scoreless 8th and into the 9th. After giving up 2 singles and just 1 out, they called in Britton to close out the game with 2 solid strikeouts.

The Yankees needed to find any weakness to charge through and flip the script. In the 8th, Torres led-off with a walk and, 2 outs later, scored on Aaron Judge’s 2-run home run to finally give the Yankees the lead. Then Voit singled, Sanchez doubled, and Encarncaion was intentionally walked to load up the bases. And Didi Gregorius, who has been still trying to find his footing after returning from the IL, seemed to find it with a monster grand slam into the right field bleacher seats.

Final score: 8-3 Yankees

Okay, so there was a bit of a scuffle in the 6th inning. Sabathia struck out the final batter he faced, and the Rays’ batter said something. Sabathia heard it and questioned it. The Rays batter hostilely deflected. Tempers rose, Gregorius intercepted Sabathia, the benches cleared, some shoving ensued, heated words were exchanged, and then it fizzled out. No one was ejected. Just a “misunderstanding“, apparently.

Of course, the best part was the offended Rays player jogged out to right field for the bottom of the inning. He heard from the fans for his participation and then watched Judge’s 2-run home run “sail over his head” and into the stands to those same fans. Home field advantage indeed.

Go Yankees!

Game 92: TB vs. NYY — The Rays’ 1-man offense

As can often be expected in divisional rivalry games, tonight’s opener against the visiting Rays was anything but predictable. The emotional sway of the fans in the Bronx was eventful, to say the least. Most of this was due to the 1-man offense on the Rays.

James Paxton got the start tonight, throwing 107 pitches through 6 solid innings. He gave up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs and struck out 7 Rays’ batters. The Rays’ lead-off batter smacked a solo home run to kick off the game. And then that same hitter came back in the 3rd to double the Rays’ lead with a 1-out solo home run.

The Yankees were held off by the Rays’ ace for the first part of the game until Edwin Encarncion hit a 2-out solo home run in the 4th to get the Yankees on the board. Then with 2 outs in the 7th, a new reliever promptly gave up a solo home run to Gio Urshela to tie up the game. In the 8th, with 2 outs, Hicks singled and then scored as part of a monster 2-run home run by Edwin Encarnacion to put the Yankees into the lead.

Now, after Paxton handed the ball over to Chad Green, Green kept things rolling as the Yankees grabbed the lead. All they needed were Aroldis Chapman to make 3 outs in the 9th to close out the game. And based on a pattern of 49-0, the Yankees should win the game when they’re leading the game going into the 9th.

But again, as in life, nothing is predictable in baseball. Chapman’s slider, which has really be a great go-to pitch for him this season, wasn’t where it needed to be tonight, and it cost them the game. The first two batters hit consecutive singles to set up the tying runs on base. Then after 2 really sharp strikeouts, that same power hitter from earlier smacked a big 3-run home run to thrust the Rays back into the lead.

The Yankees couldn’t manage a comeback in the bottom of the 9th, and thus with a called strikeout, the game was over.

Final score: 5-4 Rays

Injury updates: Luis Severino and Dellin Betances have yet to appear in a game for the Yankees this season after sustaining injuries during Spring Training. Both retroactive to March 25, Severino suffered a right shoulder rotator cuff strain and grade 2 lat strain, and Betances had a right shoulder impignment. Betances further had a setback in mid-June with his own lat strain.

Today, both pitchers threw 25 tosses from 60-feet as they resume activities in their recovery. While Betances is based in the bullpen, Severino may cut his longer return back to being a starter by doing some innings out of the bullpen. Both pitchers are understandingly frustrated that they haven’t been able to help the Yankees in their strong 2019, anxiously watching from the sidelines to get back in the game in way they can.

Also, the Yankees announced that this year’s Heart & Hustle Award nominee is DJ LeMahieu. The award is given to players who “demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and traditions of the game”. Former players vote for active players before the All-Star break, and each team gets a nominee. The final winner is revealed after the season, this year at the Legends for Youth dinner on November 7 in New York. Congratulations!

Go Yankees!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Yankees!