Game 40: NYY vs. TB — #TanakaTime + power outage = Happy Mother’s Day

I know we’ve talked some about the (few) positives of Tropicana Field, including the rarity of delays due to weather. Unfortunately, a delay due to a local power outage is unavoidable. And a 43 minute delay while the system was redirected and restarted is just inconvenient. Especially in the 9th inning.

But it just seemed to energize the Yankees in this final game of the weekend series against the Rays. Masahiro Tanaka had a great start this afternoon, throwing just 73 pitches in his 7 innings, giving up 5 hits and 1 run, and stuck out 7 batters to earn the eventual win. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo shot in the 6th.

It was actually the lone allowed run for the home team all day. Zach Britton and Chad Green took the final 2 innings and kept the Rays from doing much of anything, adding 5 more strikeouts to what would become quite the strikeout day at the Trop (12 by the Yankees, 17 by the Rays’ pitchers).

And somehow, despite all those strikeouts, the Yankees managed to boost their own power. They were held off until the 5th. With 2 outs, Romine doubled and scored on Mike Tauchman’s double. Tauchman then scored on DJ LeMahieu’s single.

In the 8th, Voit led-off with a walk, moved to 2nd on Gardner’s 1-out single, and ended up at 3rd when Andujar hit into a force grounder at 2nd. A wild pitch then scored Voit and kicked off a pair of challenges. The Yankees challenged the records (to check the number of balls/strikes), then the Rays challenged whether the catcher tagged Voit out at home. Neither were overturned, and the play stood as called at the count on the board.

Then the 9th inning began with a bang. Of sorts. After a single foul ball, the lights went out. And 43 minutes later, Thairo Estrada kicked-off the inning with a solo home run. Then Romine and Tauchman singled and moved into scoring position on LeMahieu’s sacrifice bunt out. Voit was intentionally walked to load up the bases. And then Gio Urshela’s double scored both Romine and Tauchman, and Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly scored Voit to cap off the Yankees’ power surge.

Final score: 7-1 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees return home to continue their home stand to host the Orioles and then after a day off the Rays next weekend. Then, they’ll hit the road again to visit the Orioles and Royals.

Scranton Shuttle: Before the game, for a fresh arm, the Yankees optioned relieved Nestor Cortes Jr and recalled reliever Chad Green, who pitched in today’s game.

And a huge Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms and like-a-moms out there. Across baseball, players wore pink-tinged gear, and each team had an honorary bat girl, both to recognize breast cancer awareness and survivors. Plus, players honored the moms in their lives, like CC Sabathia, who wrote a full letter in celebration of his mom on his Twitter account. And Cameron Maybin wore a special pre-game shirt in honor of his mom who is currently fighting breast cancer.

Happy Mother’s Day to my own mother, who is my faithful baseball companion. But then she got it from the passionate baseball fans in her family like her mother and grandmothers (who actually were Indians and Pirates fans). Baseball is strong in my family, much like its women.

Go Yankees!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final score: 6-3 Yankees

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

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

Go Yankees!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final score: 3-1 Diamondbacks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Yankees!

Game 26: NYY vs. SF — Voit & LeMahieu support #BigMaple

The Yankees began their weekend in San Francisco on an high note. Actually, the advantage came at the hand of the Giants star pitcher having a terrible off-night, a huge fall from the World Series MVP just 5 years ago, and in turn, the Yankees’ pitchers were a decent foil for the Giants’ offense.

“Big Maple” James Paxton had another great night, throwing 106 pitches into the 6th inning, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, and striking out 8 batters. In fact, he only had troubles in his bookended innings. In the 1st, with 1 out, he put runners in scoring position with a single and double before a sacrifice fly scored the Giants’ first run.

Then in the 6th, a lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a fly out and then scored on a double. A 2-out single scored the next runner ended Paxton’s night and turned things over to the bullpen that went scoreless the rest of the game. Kahnle closed out the 6th in 7 pitches. Zack Britton got into some trouble in the 7th loading the bases with 2 outs, but Adam Ottavino got him out of it with a strikeout and then breezed his way through the 8th. And Chapman closed out the game in the 9th.

The Yankees were able to grab an early lead and defend it consistently the entire game. DJ LeMahieu led-off the game with a double, moved to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on Gleyber Torres’ double. Urshela singled to move Torres to 3rd before Cameron Maybin’s single scored Torres.

In the 3rd, Voit singled, moved to 2nd on Torres’ sacrifice bunt, and scored on Gio Urshela’s single and a fielding error. Then LeMahieu led-off the 5th with a single and scored on Luke Voit’s double. With 1 out in the 6th, Romine singled, moved to 2nd on Tauchman’s single, and then scored on Thairo Estrada’s single. Finally, in the 9th, LeMahieu doubled and scored as part of Voit’s 2-run home run up the middle.

It was a big night for LeMahieu and Voit once again, each getting 3 hits (of the 15 total hits), scoring 5 of the 7 total runs for the Yankees. Until recently, most Yankee fans hadn’t heard of either of these players, and now they’re easily some of the biggest contributors to the Yankees’ current winning momentum.

Final score: 7-3 Yankees

CC Sabathia’s PitCChIn Foundation invited 52 kids from the local Boys & Girls Club to tonight’s game. It was through a local Boys & Girls Club in the Bay Area that Sabathia attended his first professional baseball game, making an impact on the future Hall of Famer. Catch up on the foundation’s impact via their Twitter account, including renovating ball fields, other local game invitations, sports camps and clinics, and the upcoming celebrity softball game.

Go Yankees!

Game 23: NYY vs. LAA — Voit’s power & Ford’s first dinger

The streak continues for the Yankees in this middle game of their series against the Angels. Though there was a few moments where it looked like the Angels might have a rally in them, even a grand slam couldn’t stop the Yankees from dominating tonight’s game.

Starter Domingo German held control into the 7th inning, with 99 pitches, 4 hits, a walk, and an unearned run, and 5 strikeouts against the home team. German held them off until the 5th. A lead-off double, moved to 3rd on a fielding error, and then scored on a fielder’s choice out at 2nd.

In the 7th, with 2 outs and a runner on 2nd, Chad Green came into the game for relief and quickly got out of the inning. But coming back out in the 8th almost cost the Yankees the game. He loaded up the bases with 2 singles and a walk before giving up a big grand slam up the middle to leap the Angels up on the scoreboard.

Luis Cessa came in and promptly gave up a double and a walk. Things looked bleak again for the Yankees, but then Cessa settled in, getting a strikeout and a great double play to end the Angels’ hopes of trying to overcome the Yankees. And Zack Britton sailed his way through a 7-pitch 9th inning to earn his 1st save of the season.

Again, the Yankees needed to dominate tonight in order to earn the win, and it would be Luke Voit to lead the way again with a 1st inning 1-out solo home run, extending his on-base streak to 35 games. They loaded up the bases in the 2nd with a single to Ford, a walk to Tauchman, and a 1-out single to Thairo Estrada, his first MLB hit. Tyler Wade hit into a fielder’s choice that allowed Ford to score. In the 5th, Gardner hit a 1-out single and then scored on Mike Ford’s 2-out 2-run home run.

Voit led-off the 7th with a walk, moved to 3rd on Gardner’s double, and then scored on Gleyber Torres’ single. After a pitching change, pinch-hitter Urshela hit into a fielder’s choice out at home. Then a walk to Tauchman loaded the bases. Austin Romine’s simple grounder scored Torres, and despite loading up the bases again with Estrada’s walk, the Yankees couldn’t add any further runs that inning.

Voit added one more to the score, an insurance run of sorts, in the top of the 8th with another 1-out solo home run. And after the Angels tried to get a few of those runs back in the bottom of the inning, the Yankees were glad for every extra insurance run they had to ensure their win tonight.

Final score: 7-5 Yankees

Mike Ford hit his first major league home run with that 5th inning 2-run homer. The Yankees were able to retrieve that milestone ball from the lucky fan that caught it in the right field seats. Ford intends to give the ball to his parents, something I think is a great gesture.

He’ll hit lots of home runs, but that first one deserves a spot on his parents’ mantle, next to the baseball trophies he won in Little League, where they cheered him on and hoped he would one day achieve his dream. Remember, he grew up in New Jersey, a huge fan of the Yankees during their most recent dynasty years. The dream was always to wear pinstripes (or away greys).

You know, somewhere, there’s some kid sleeping with his glove under his pillow, dreaming of the night he’ll get to hit his first home run with the Yankees. And someday, we’re going to watch that kid do just that.

Go Yankees!

Game 18: KC vs. NYY — Slow Thursday evening slowed streak

No dance party in the Yankees’ clubhouse tonight. The Yankees couldn’t keep their rivalry momentum going with this new series, as the Royals came into town for a long weekend and somehow silenced the Yankees’ offense.

The Yankees’ lone run tonight was in the 1st inning. With 1 out, Judge singled, moved to 3rd on Voit’s single, and then scored on Gleyber Torres’ sacrifice fly. For the rest of the game, they only got 2 more hits and a few walks without scoring another run. It was rather lethargic in light of the games earlier this week.

Despite the outcome, the Yankee pitching was actually pretty decent. Domingo German got the start, throwing 88 pitches through 6 innings, giving up 6 hits and 3 runs, and striking out 9 Kansas City batters. In the 1st, with 1 out, 2 doubles scored their first run. And lead-off solo homers in the 2nd and 4th gave the Royals the lead they’d need to sail in for the win.

Jonathan Holder came on in the 7th and had a rare sloppy night. With 1 out, he gave up a single that moved to 2nd on another single and then scored on a ground-rule double. Zack Britton came on, but he gave up a sacrifice fly that scored one more run. Chad Green gave up a couple of hits in the 8th but managed to get out of the inning scoreless.

And Joe Harvey’s 9th started with a walk that stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a line drive, and then scored on another sacrifice fly. Collectively, Yankee pitchers got the Royals to strikeout 14 times, but it was the 11 hits that led to 6 runs that made all the difference (compared to the Yankees’ 4 hits and 1 run).

Final score: 6-1 Royals

Actually, the coolest play of the night was Aaron judge’s diving grabdiving grab for the ball in the 5th inning. The lead-off batter for the Royals smacked a solid hit into right field, that by any other means should have been a nice single. But Judge came in running for it, diving head first, and sliding along the grass to make the catch.

I’m almost sorry to say that’s one of the few memorable moments of the night, but baseball isn’t always dance-party-worthy. Sometimes, it’s just a game you file into the books, close the chapter, and start again the next day.

It’s worth remembering that highlight reels aren’t actually “highlights” if they’re the regular stuff. Not every moment is going to be something to capture forever. Think about how many mundane things you do at your job. But that one great sale, meeting, accomplishment, sliding catch, whatever — those are the things you talk about, post about, add to social media/your resume/your own highlight reel.

Go Yankees!

Game 12: NYY vs. HOU — Swept away in Space City, but don’t get swept away

Consider it an interesting turnabout for the Yankees. They swept the Orioles; the Astros swept them. And the road trip finishes with 2 sweeps, but only 1 in the Yankees’ favor. And of course, social media exploded by giving up on the Yankees after only 12 games, as if they are now destined to lose the next 150. Talk about your fickle “fans”.

The honest truth is that the Yankees just didn’t play well tonight. (And no, it had nothing to do with the fact that the Astros opened the roof of their field for all 3 games. Silly superstitions.) James Paxton got the start for the Yankees tonight and struggled his way through 95 pitches into the 5th inning.

In the 1st, Paxton gave up a 1-out solo home run to get the home team on the board. Then a 2-out walk scored on a long triple. With 1 out in the 3rd, a single scored on a double. After another solo home run (by the same Astros’ star) and a single, the Yankees went to their bullpen, but they too found their own issues.

Tommy Kahnle promptly gave up a 2-run home run. After an out, 2 singles put runners on the corners. After another single scored the lead runner, the Yankees called on newly called-up Joe Harvey. Harvey was just stellar in his MLB debut, closing out the 5th with a strong strikeout and then sailing his way into the 7th inning with 2 more strikeouts. Tarpley closed out the 7th with just 3 pitches.

Things were looking better for the Yankees, miles away from the problems that have plagued their bullpen all series (and most of the season so far). Zack Britton came out for the 8th, in hopes of maintaining that momentum. It was not to be. A lead-off single ended up at 2nd due to a throwing error before scoring on another single. Britton later loaded up the bases with just 1 out, but the Yankees’ defense made it up for him with a snazzy double play to get out of trouble.

Meanwhile, the Yankees once again got on the board first with Brett Gardner’s big lead-off home run into the right field seats in the 1st. But then things got relatively quiet for the Yankees’ offense. In the 4th, Torres led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on Bird’s single, and then scored on DJ LeMahieu’s sacrifice fly.

With quite the deficit on the scoreboard, the Yankees found one last chance for a rally in the 8th in what proved to be the Astros’ lone weak inning. With a new reliever, Judge led-off with a walk and scored as part of Luke Voit’s big 2-run home run. Then Torres singled, and Bird worked a walk. After a pitching change, LeMahieu, who is definitely on quite the hitting streak, got another RBI with a great double to score Torres.

Clint Frazier’s deep sacrifice fly then scored Bird, but a pitching change and 2 outs later, the rally fizzled. The deficit proved to large to overcome as the Yankees just ran out of outs.

Final score: 8-6 Astros, Astros sweep 3-0

Next up: After an off-day/travel day tomorrow (Thursday), the Yankees return home to host a 9-game home stand. They host the White Sox this weekend. After an off-day on Monday, the Yankees host their first rivalry games — a 2-game mini-series against the Red Sox. They will finish the week with a 4-game weekend series against the visiting Royals before they head out for their first West Coast road trip of the season.

Roster moves/”Scranton Shuttle”: Before the game, the Yankees sent Jonathan Loaisiga back to AAA Scranton and recalled Joe Harvey. This was due mainly to get a fresh pitching arm. With so many injuries and Severino’s recent setback, I imagine we’ll see lots of these kinds of moves. I think we can officially say the “Scranton Shuttle” has returned for this season.

Again, I just want to reiterate that it’s a long season. I know it gets spoken so often it really could be a cliché, but it doesn’t make it any less true. I don’t worry about the standings or the statistics until much later. Check back about the All-Star Break for a better idea of where things stand.

Look, there’s not a sports team or fan in the world that doesn’t want to win every game and isn’t upset when they lose. No one goes into this dreaming of losing 100+ games every season. And as Yankee fans, we’re used to winning more than we’re used to losing. But don’t just drop your team because you don’t like the outcome of a few games.

Think about all the Cubs or Red Sox fans that stood by their team through “curses” and major losing streaks, still showing up to every single game to hope “maybe this year”. Because that’s what it’s all about — the hope that you might be there to witness some crucial moment in time that leads to the championship, the one where they win it all. And we, of all fan bases, know that it’s not so much an “if” but “when” for the Yankees.

Go Yankees!