Spring Game 28: PHI vs. NYY — Friday night fireworks

A final game under the Friday night lights this Spring started with a slight chill in the air and ended with fireworks. Literally. The Yankees set off fireworks over the right field seats for the remaining fans in the cool night to ooh and aah over the short light show.

Of course, this was made extra special because the Yankees notched another win in the Spring tally tonight. After losing both road games, there’s something about that home field advantage that certainly seemed to help the pinstriped players in tonight’s game against the Phillies.

Jonathan Loaisiga made a fairly strong case for consideration for one of the open starting spots on the rotation, throwing into the 4th inning with 7 solid strikeouts. His lone issues were a 1-out solo shot in the 1st and a 2-out solo homer in the 3rd. Zack Britton threw 5 outs to follow him and kept the strong pitching from the Yankees’ side of things. Stephen Tarpley came on for just the final out of the 6th inning.

Adam Ottavino’s 7th inning continued that scoreless momentum, but David Hale had a bit of trouble in his 8th inning, giving up a lead-off single and walk. Two great strikeouts later, the next batter hit a deep single. But thanks to Trey Amburgey’s great arm in the left field and the relay back to the infield, the bases were only loaded, and the defense prevented at least one run from scoring. It was only a questionably called walk that scored the Phillies’ final run before Hale got yet another strikeout to get out of his jam. Then, his 9th was quick and flawless.

Meanwhile, the Yankees took some time to find their moments. Giancarlo Stanton got things started with a 2-out solo home run in the 3rd that just barely made it fair, just right of the left field foul pole. In the 5th, with 2 outs, Judge worked a walk and then scored on Stanton’s 2-run home run (back to that left field corner) to put the Yankees into the lead.

In the 6th, DJ LeMahieu hit a solid 1-out single, moved to 3rd on Urshela’s big double, and then scored the insurance run on a wild pitch. Then in the 7th, with 1 out, Zack Zehner walked and ended up at 3rd on Trey Amburgey’s big double. Luke Voit’s sacrifice fly scored Zehner and moved Amburgey to 3rd, partly because of an off-center throw from the outfield. A wild pitch then scored Amburgey to cap off the Yankees’ win.

Cue the fireworks!

Final score: 6-3 Yankees

One to Watch: We are getting to the point in the season where the minor league players play less, which makes this category difficult as there’s only so many plays and at-bats that can show off their stuff. But one name sticks out tonight — Trey Amburgey. In addition to scoring the Yankees’ final run of the night by rushing home on a wild pitch, he also showed off some great defense in left field by saving a run in the 8th.

Next up: The Yankees have their final home game of the Spring, hosting the Blue Jays for what should be a lovely Saturday afternoon of baseball.

Roster moves: Before today’s game, the Yankees made some roster moves of note. They reassigned pitchers Rex Brothers, Danny Coulombe, Phillip Diehl, and Drew Hutchison back to minor league camp. And they officially optioned Clint Frazier to AAA Scranton. This means that he is not making the 25-man roster. It’s a crowded outfield, even with Hicks still nursing his sore back. But you can imagine he’ll be the first call when something happens to one of those guys. He’ll be back in the Bronx shortly.

Injury news: On Wednesday, Special Advisor and Guest Instructor Lee Mazzilli was struck in the head with a baseball. He was helping with batting practice back in Tampa, while a large part of the team traveled to South Florida. He was immediately admitted to the hospital for tests and observations and was released today, said to be “in good spirits”. We’re all certainly glad he’s doing okay and hope he continues to recover and rest up.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 13: DET vs. NYY — Friday night lights, close but kind of sloppy

There’s an old saying that a bad dress rehearsal means that you’re going to have a great performance. I’m not sure I believe this for a number of reasons that I won’t unpack right now, but I know the heart behind this message is to try to get all the bad out of the way when it doesn’t matter.

When things go poorly in Spring Training, a common sentiment is that the games don’t really matter. But of course it does. Everyone is trying to show they either deserve a shot at the roster or that they are continuing to grow as regular players and don’t deserve to lose their roster spot to a rookie in the wings. (Yes, all those theater references for you fellow theater nerds.)

As we all know, baseball is a game full of failure. The best batter will fail to hit the ball at all about 70% of the time. The best pitcher will still give up runs (for example, Mariano Rivera gave up 340 total runs in his 19 years). Even in a so-called “perfect game”, it’s never going to be 27 strikeouts, and in fact, those with the record 20 strikeouts in a game didn’t have a perfect games.

So bad games are going to happen. People have off-days. You can’t win 162 games. But that doesn’t mean you don’t try.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start in tonight’s game against the visiting Tigers and pitched his way into the 4th inning. Actually, he got off to a great start, plowing through the first 4 outs and collecting 5 total strikeouts. In the 2nd, he gave up a 1-out walk that moved to 2nd on a single before he and Torres partnered for a stellar pick-off. But a double scored that other runner to get the Tigers on the board. He also gave up a 1-out solo home run in the 3rd.

Zack Britton got the final 2 outs of the 4th, finding Tanaka’s earlier momentum and handing it off to Dellin Betances. There’s been some talk about Betances lower velocity, but he’s getting the outs, like tonight’s quick clean 5th inning, so I’m not sure there’s much to worry about just yet.

Meanwhile, the Yankees actually were the first on the board in the 1st inning. Judge worked a 1-out walk, and then Giancarlo Stanton smacked his first home run of the Spring, a no-doubter, 2-run home run deep over the left field concourse area.

So when the Tigers tied up things in the 3rd, the Yankees found their pace to defend their home turf and hold onto the tie until they could find their opportunity. But while opportunity came several times, the Yankees didn’t capitalize on them enough to shift things back into their favor for long.

Domingo German got the opportunity for some long-term relief for 3 innings, starting with a scoreless 6th. In the 7th, a lead-off double scored on an RBI single before he got 3 consecutive strikeouts.

The Yankees’ offense found one of those opportunities in the bottom of the 7th. With 1 out, LeMahieu doubled and was pinch-run by Cabrera. Austin Romine hit a solid 2-out double to score Cabrera, and Lavarnway came in to pinch-run for Romine. Kyle Holder then singled home Lavarnway to grab the lead again.

But German had struggled a bit in the 8th, not helped at all by a sloppy defense. With 2 outs and 2 runners on base with a walk and hit-by-pitch, consecutive singles scored both runners, the last one in part due to a missed catch error in an attempt to get the runner out at home.

Tommy Kahnle got the chance to calm things down in the 9th, but the defense hadn’t found itself yet. A fielding error due to the lights allowed the lead-off batter to make it to 1st. And 1-out double scored the Tigers’ insurance run before Kahnle took control and shut things down.

The Yankees made an attempt at a rally in the bottom of the 9th. With 2 outs, Kyle Holder smacked a big solo home run, the ball landing on top of the roof of the bar in the right field bleachers. A double and walk kept hopes alive before a short pop-up closed out the game, with the Yankees a run too short.

Final score: 6-5 Tigers

One to Watch: I’ve got to give it to the minor leaguer that kept the Yankees alive in those latter innings — Kyle Holder. That 9th inning home run certainly settled things for me in this category, but Holder’s been one of those to watch for some time. He’s a great defender as an infielder, and his bat is clicking in high-impact moments. He could be one of those names to keep an eye on for more than just trade bait one day.

Next up: the Yankees play their first night game away tomorrow against the Orioles in Sarasota (about an hour south of Tampa).

Before tonight’s game, the Yankees formally announced this year’s HOPE Week dates — June 17-21. HOPE Week is the week during the season that the Yankees recognize 5 local non-profit organizations for their impact in their community, gifting them with their volunteering time, a monetary donation, and public recognition. This will be their 10th year of this program.

As they do every year, to kick-off the announcement, they also recognized a local non-profit in Tampa during Spring Training that helps their local community. This year’s honoree is Gigi’s Playhouse, a great center that caters specifically to children with Down Syndrome and their families, including programs that help with therapeutic and educational skills, career development, and global acceptance, all free of cost. Gigi’s Playhouse is an international organization that has centers all over North America, but the Tampa location opened just last August.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 5: PIT vs. NYY — Battle to a win under sunny skies

To counter the last two days of games, today’s weather decided to remind fans why Florida is called the “Sunshine State”, clearing the skies of clouds and bringing the sun out in full force. And I’ll admit more than a few people went home with a little too much sun.

For the first time this Spring, the Yankees weren’t the ones to score first in a game. Instead, JA Happ stumbled a bit in his Spring debut, giving up 3 runs in his outing and not making it out of the 2nd inning. In the 1st, a 1-out solo home run got the Pirates on the board. Then with 1 out in the 2nd, a single scored as part of a 2-run home run. That was it for Happ, handing the ball over to Stephen Tarpley who got out of the inning without further damage.

Adam Ottavino continues to have struggles this Spring with today’s 3rd inning. With 2 outs and runners in scoring position, a big double scored both runners. Zack Britton’s 4th inning righted the ship with a near perfect outing for the veteran closer. Cortes had a decent 5 outs, but it was Jonathan Holder’s 4-out outing that earned him the eventual win, despite a 1-out solo homer given up by Rosa in the 9th.

Despite being down early, the Yankees were never out of this one and eventually overpowered the Pirates to the win. In the bottom of the 1st, with 1 out, Judge doubled and Stanton walked, and they both scored on Troy Tulowitzski’s big 3-run home run. Three consecutive walks loaded the bases in the 2nd, and after a pitching change, Aaron Judge hit into a double play that still scored lead runner Wade.

It would be Tyler Wade who tied up the game in the 4th with a lead-off solo home run. And once the game was tied up again, the Yankees found momentum in the 7th. With 2 outs and 2 runners on base, LJ Mazzilli’s double scored both runners to edge the Yankees into the lead.

Then in the 8th, Trey Amburgey hit a big ground-rule double that bounced into the Yankees’ bullpen in right field foul territory. He later scored on Thairo Estrada’s single as the Yankees’ insurance run.

Final score: 8-6 Yankees

One to Watch: Trey Amburgey. In a game filled with stellar plays by the younger players, it would be that final at-bat that sealed the deal for me. Add in a ridiculous sliding catch in right field in the top half of the 8th to save a hit (and add a highlight to his player reel) and Amburgey’s fourth Spring Training continues to impress, showing growth worth watching in the young outfielder who spent all of last year with AAA Scranton.

Next up: the Yankees host their first night game of 2019 when the Orioles come to visit Steinbrenner Field tomorrow night. For those of us who sweated through the sunshine today, a night game could not come at a better time in this schedule.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: minimal video available unfortunately. There was no broadcast of the game, so only one highlight from stadium cameras used for replay was released for use.}

Off-season bits: February edition

The groundhog said it would be an early Spring, something easily laughed at by the majority of the country buried under snow at the time. Of course, Spring never actually “comes early”, as according to the vernal equinox, it won’t officially be Spring until March 20. But in the baseball world, thanks in part to the climate of the Sunshine State (and Arizona), Spring always comes a bit earlier.

Major League Baseball is celebrating its sesquicentennial. In 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first salaried professional baseball team thus seen as the start of what became Major League Baseball. To honor this anniversary, all 30 teams will wear a special patch on their jerseys this entire season. It previously honored the 100th and 125th anniversaries in 1969 and 1994, respectively. Happy birthday, baseball.

And in what has to be the smallest alteration to the roster this season, Yankees’ reliever Zach Britton officially altered his name to Zack Britton. I’m not sure where the fluff up began as his legal name is actually Zackary Grant Britton, which means that Zack would make much more sense as a nickname than Zach. And as someone who’s had a few nicknames, mostly alterations of spellings, getting people to correctly address you and spell your name right is quite the ordeal. I’m still not sure why. So, welcome to the Yankees, Zack.

Speaking of new roster blood, the Yankees signed another reliever to fill David Robertson’s vacant spot after he signed with the Phillies. Adam Ottavino, previously with the Rockies for the last 7 seasons, is set to help provide a further veteran arm in the bullpen and in the clubhouse. Ottavino is joining former Rockies’ teammates like Tulowitzki and LeMahieu in pinstripes this year. Interestingly, Ottavino usually wears #0 on his jersey, so he requested to wear the final single digit available as a Yankee. It will be quite something to see a single digit on a Yankees’ jersey this year.

Yesterday, all pitchers and catchers were to report to camp, and today, they had their first workout session of the season. Manager Aaron Boone held his first press conference of the year yesterday afternoon, discussing many of the roster changes, the substitutes and competitions for spots, and surgeries and injuries this off-season. Gary Sanchez had shoulder surgery in the off-season, but he is recovering well enough to start the season and Spring with no delay.

However, Jacoby Ellsbury is one of those who will be delayed into camp this year. Though position players don’t report until Monday (Feb. 18), his recovery has been delayed by plantar fasciitis after his surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. He missed all of last season due to an injury plagued year and was hoping for a triumphant return to what could be the first of his final two years in baseball (or what’s left on his contract with the Yankees).

And Dellin Betances will be a little delayed as his wife Janisa gave birth to their first child, a son they named Dellin Betances Jr. yesterday. They are a little busy being new parents, but the new father will join the team once mother and son have been discharged from the hospital in a few days. A big congratulations to the new family.

Who’s really stealing the show in this final off-season bit is CC Sabathia. Sabathia will be announcing his retirement at a press conference Saturday, calling a close to his long career after this season, his 19th in the major leagues. And thus begins his own farewell tour, which will include a trip to the UK for the much-anticipated series against the Red Sox, but follows his health and personal struggles including knee surgeries, a stint in the heart this off-season, and dealing with his alcoholism.

Add in a storied post-season career and a legacy of community outreach through his PitCChIn Foundation, Sabathia is ready to hang up the cleats in dramatic fashion. This will probably include hitting a major milestone — 3000 career strikeouts, something he will do with just 14 more big strikeouts, which by my best guess could be as early as late April. It will be quite the celebration for the retiring legend, and what a way to go out.

And in honor of what would have been Jackie Robinson’s 100th birthday, Sabathia visited the Jackie Robinson School in Brooklyn (P.S. 375) to connect with the kids there and talk about Robinson’s legacy of service and activism. Upon reflecting Robinson’s life and legacy as he saw in the students there, Sabathia said that he just wants “[to] be strong and deal with adversity. Just sitting here and listening to the kids chanting his name — he would be 100 years old today. That legacy is what all players want. That’s something you can’t accomplish on the field. It’s something you have to do off the field, leaving your name for kids and organizations to deal with after the fact.”

But looking forward to this Spring, there are 40 men on the regular roster that are contractually required to be there. And every year, the team extends an invitation to others in the organization to attend camp and see if they can earn a spot or promotion or just recognition. This year, the Yankees invited 23 non-roster players — 12 pitchers, 4 catchers, 3 infielders, and 4 outfielders. (Note: the original article was written prior to 2 additions to the invitee list on Wednesday.)

Welcome to camp: pitchers Rex Brothers, Nestor Cortes Jr., Cale Coshow, Danny Coulombe, Phillip Diehl, Raynel Espinal, Danny Farquhar, David Hale, Drew Hutchinson, Michael King, Brady Lail, and Trevor Stephan; catchers Kellin Deglan, Francisco Diaz, Ryan Lavarnway, and Jorge Saez; infielders Mike Ford, Kyle Holder, and Giovanny Urshela; and outfielders Trey Amburgey, Billy Burns, Estevan Florial, and Matt Lipka.

So if you recognize a few of those names, you’ve been following the Yankees closely. If you are excited to see how those have progressed in the last year, you and I are in the same boat. I think Spring Training is always one of my favorite times of the year because you get a first-hand look at the future of the club, the future of baseball really.

And if that future gives you hope, then it’s all worth it.

Believe me. It’s always worth it.

Go Yankees!

Off-season bits: January edition

Happy 2019! It’s only 30 days until pitchers and catcher report to the Tampa minor league complex and officially kick off Spring Training and the 2019 baseball season. There hasn’t really be a lot of splashy signings by the Yankees this off-season, and it looks like the two biggest free agents will be signing elsewhere. But there’s still quite a bit of time before Spring Training, and even more time before the regular season to finalize that perfect 25-man roster.

Last month, CC Sabathia’s off-season took a bit of a detour. He was supposed to travel around England on a press tour for the upcoming Yankees-Red Sox series in the UK this summer, but instead found himself on the operating table getting a stent put in his heart. After experiencing some discomfort during his exercise routine, he was smart enough to listen to his body and see a doctor, who found a 90% blocked artery and scheduled an emergency angioplasty on December 11.

Just last week, he was cleared to resume baseball activities and is on track to report for camp next month with the other pitchers and catchers. Doctors have pronounced him in excellent condition, including for the long-term (much to the relief of his wife and family). Sabathia himself said he felt “like a brand new person“. This procedure is just further support for Sabathia’s recent lifestyle changes — abstaining from alcohol and altering his diet and nutrition intake, something he hopes can carry him through the rest of his life, deterring any future issues with his genetic predisposition for heart disease.

Meanwhile, the Yankees haven’t made any big name signings, but they have secured three decently recognizable names to their major league roster. To provide back-up for Didi Gregorius while he recovers from Tommy John surgery, the Yankees signed shortstop Troy Tulowitzki for a year.

Formerly with the Rockies and Blue Jays and winner of two Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers, the five-time All-Star is now 34 and has been inactive for the last 18 months due to a plague of injuries, but was released by the Blue Jays despite owing him a hefty salary for the next two seasons. Tulowitzki has worn #2 in honor of his childhood baseball hero Derek Jeter for his entire MLB career, so it will be interesting to find out what number he’ll don as Jeter’s famous number was retired nearly three year ago.

They also signed free agent infielder DJ LeMathieu to a 2-year contract. LeMathieu has spent all 8 of his MLB seasons with the Rockies at 2nd base and will join his former teammate on the Yankees roster. Both LeMathieu and Tulowitzki could serve as rather active bench players through the season as part of the now full infield.

And the Yankees made the biggest impact by re-signing reliever Zach Britton to a new 3-year contract (potentially 4 if options are exercised), solidifying his presence in the already stellar bullpen with fellow closing relievers like Betances and Chapman.

To make room for the two new faces, the Yankees designated reliever AJ Cole and minor league infielder Hanser Alberto for assignment. Both were picked up quickly by the Indians and Orioles, respectively.

At the end of last year, the Yankees offered all arbitration-eligible players a 1-year deal to close out their contract agreements before the players have the potential to become free agents. Eight players agreed to the Yankees’ terms — Betances, Bird, Gray, Gregorius, Hicks, Kahnle, Paxton and Romine. The remaining player, Luis Severino, is still in negotiations as of this weekend, which can continue until a hearing is held where an arbitrator makes a decision how much a team must pay a player.

And for those of you that pay attention to other sports, you might know that as of yesterday, there are only four teams left in the NFL playoffs. Next weekend will eliminate two more so that the winners of those two games will end up playing in the Superbowl next month. But none of those teams are the Seahawks. And despite playing in the Pro-Bowl (the NFL’s equivalent of the All-Star Game), the current most famous NFL-MLB player, Seattle’s star quarterback Russell Wilson, is preparing for his stint at Spring Training again. He made a big splash with the fans last year with his single at-bat (and strikeout) and is set for six days in camp with hopefully a better game performance.

Next month, Miguel Andujar, Didi Gregorius, and Aaron Boone will bring their star power to the annual Thurmon Munson Awards dinner. The three are being recognized for their philanthropy and active community involvement, in the spirit of the dinner’s namesake. Former Yankee Darryl Strawberry will also be on hand to present an award, and other sports stars and executives are being honored for their life of giving.

And finally, Yankees icon Mel Stottlemyre lost his battle with bone marrow cancer yesterday. The former pitching coach helped guide the 1986 Mets to their championship before being a critical part of the last Yankees dynasty, coaching legends like Pettitte and Rivera, spending a decade with each team.

Initially diagnosed in 2000, the cancer went into remission following intensive treatments before returning in 2011. The Yankees eventually honored him in a surprise presentation with a plaque in Monument Park in 2015 on Old Timers’ Day, surrounded by fellow legends. Our hearts go out to all of his loved ones, especially his wife Jean and their sons Todd and Mel.

Go Yankees!

Postseason wrap-up, looking to 2019, Gold Gloves 2018

Red Sox Nation spent their Halloween dressed up as Red Sox Nation as their championship team piled onto the city’s “duck boats” and paraded their way through the streets of Boston. The mayor, former champion alumni (like David Ortiz and Pedro Martinez), and fans singing along to “Sweet Caroline” (bah-bah-bah) came out to honor the World Series champions. The next day, some of the team took the championship trophy to a Celtics game in hopes of spreading their “good luck” to other Boston teams, which might have worked as the Celtics won that game.

Meanwhile, much of the talk this off-season already is about the big class of free agents. There’s a lot of conversation as to where big names like Harper and Machado will land, but the Yankees cleared the “luxury tax” (or the Competitive Balance Tax) ceiling for the first time in 14 years. The luxury tax was created in order to even out the balance between large-market teams (like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers) and small-market teams (like the Twins, Padres, and Orioles). The tax was set at $197 million in pay for the 2018 season. The Red Sox and Nationals, however, were forced to pay the tax this year.

So, without having to pay out millions of dollars to the luxury tax pool, the Yankees are free to explore a high-ticket free agent, especially to add to their starting rotation. But whether they choose to do so is still undecided. In the mean time, they have a few Yankees in the free agent pool that they could re-sign for the 2019 season, like CC Sabathia, JA Happ, Lance Lynn, Zach Britton, and David Robertson.

However, one free agent they snagged early was Brett Gardner. While the Red Sox were partying their way through Boston, the Yankees were solidifying one of the last remaining homegrown Yankees from the 2009 championship team to remain a Yankee for 2019. He had an option for the final year of his contract, but the Yankees declined it and instead offered him a 1-year $9.5 million contract.

Next season will be the veteran outfielder’s 12th year in pinstripes, though his 15th with the organization, making him the longest-tenured Yankee on the roster. He’s really the heart of the team and a leader in the clubhouse, a fixture for the Yankees on and off the field. Gardner said: “I wasn’t sure what kind of opportunities I was going to have with the Yankees beyond this year and what would have been out there for me in other places. To get this wrapped up early in the off-season, it’s great to know where I’ll be next year and obviously what to expect. I’m going back to a place where I’m comfortable and very familiar. I’m really, really excited.”

Gardner was nominated tonight for a Gold Glove, his 4th nomination (2011, 2015, 2017, 2018). The Gold Glove is an annual award given to the best defender at each position in each league. He joined Aaron Judge and Masahiro Tanaka as nominees this year. Judge was nominated last year, and Gardner won the award in 2016. None of the Yankee nominees took home the honor tonight, but all three recognitions are well-deserved.

But there’s more to come. The Silver Sluggers, the award for the top offensive contibutor at each position, will be announced Thursday. The big honors (Cy Young, MVP, Rookie of the Year, etc.) will be announced the week of November 12-15, with the Players Choice Awards announced November 27. Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar are nominated for AL Rookie category in the Players Choice Awards and are up for the AL Rookie of the Year in the other awards next week. In other words, while the Yankees didn’t pick up any mantle hardware tonight, there’s still time to collect some bragging rights.

And speaking of bragging rights, today is also the 9th anniversary of the Yankees’ 27th championship. Back in 2009, Yankee Universe watched as Mariano Rivera got the batter to hit a baby grounder to Robinson Cano, who threw to a waiting Mark Teixeira for the final out of Game 6 against the Phillies. It actually came up on my “memories” feed today before veterans from that game like Swisher and Rodriguez posted their own memories online of that fateful day.

Finally, our hearts go out to the Reds organization tonight. Yesterday, three players, all 19 years old, in their minor league system were involved in a serious car accident in the Dominican Republic. Pitcher Jairo Capellan was killed in the incident, pitcher Raul Hernandez is in critical but stable condition, and outfielder Emilio Garcia is still receiving treatment for his injuries at the hospital but conscious and alert. Capellan was laid to rest this afternoon, his funeral attended by Reds players, coaches, and staff.

We join sports fans online as we extend our sympathies to Capellan’s family and friends and their prayers for Hernandez and Garcia.

Go Yankees!

ALDS 4: BOS vs. NYY — Early stumbles, failed late rally end season

Sorry, Yankee Universe. The postseason continues without you. I guess for those of you who are “Yankees Only”, you’ll be focusing now on already-in-progress football (or even futbol). But the postseason continues on and there’s still a Championship Series to determine who is the “best” in each league and a World Series to see who’s “best” in MLB this year.

I put “best” in quotes because the teams with the best records have only won the World Series in 12 of 48 postseasons, since they introduced a play-off form of a postseason. By the way, the Yankees were that actual best (no quotes needed) team in 1978, 1998, and 2009.

Prior to 1969, each league just sent their team with the best record to the World Series. But then they introduced the Championship Series in 1969, when the leagues created East and West Divisions. So, naturally, the leaders of each division would play each other in the Championship Series. The league decided it needed a Division Series playoff in 1981 due to a players strike that split the season. But it was for only that year.

Then in 1994, the league expanded into 3 divisions and thus created the role of the Wild Card to fill the 4th team for the Division play-offs. But the 1994 season ended early due to another players strike, so the first regular Division Series wasn’t until the 1995 season. And they introduced the concept of the 1-off Wild Card game in 2012 to bring us up to the current postseason design. Which means “best” is actually rather vague if the 5th best (out of 15) team in a league actually has a chance to be crowned World Series championship.

And before this sounds like a bitter rant (though it’s not, I swear), there was a game to finalize who would play in the Championship Series of each league. The Yankees and Red Sox got down to the bitter end of tonight’s game before the Yankees really just ran out of outs.

CC Sabathia actually did pretty well as tonight’s starter, staying strong through his first 2 innings. He had a bit of trouble in the 3rd, but he also didn’t seem to have much defensive support to get him out of the trouble. He hit the first batter that moved to 3rd on a single and then scored on a sacrifice fly. The runner then moved to 2nd on a ground out and then 3rd on a wild pitch (that might have been a passed ball). A double that dropped just short in the outfield scored that runner, and a single that found a hole scored the other before a grounder finally ended the inning.

Zach Britton came into the game in the 4th and promptly gave up a lead-off solo home run before he breezed his way through the rest of the inning and the 5th. David Robertson continued his pattern through a scoreless 5 outs, 4 of which were solid strikeouts.

Dellin Betances finished the 7th and then got into a bit of a jam in the 8th with a double, a fielding error, and an intentional walk loading the bases, but he too worked himself out of the threat. Aroldis Chapman was on fire tonight and needed just 10 pitches to shut down the Red Sox in the 9th inning and help bring the Yankees’ pitching total to 12 strikeouts tonight.

The Red Sox pitching staff, meanwhile, kept the Yankees to limited in their offense as well. Their starter only went 5 innings, with the Yankees finally poking through in his final inning. With 1 out, Sanchez hit a ground-rule double, moved to 3rd on Torres’ single, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly.

But the Yankees had a hard time adding more to their lone run through the next few innings of the bullpen (including a starter), so down to the last chance in the bottom of the 9th, the Yankees came on strong and took advantage of a closer having a weak night. He promptly walked Judge in 4 pitches and gave up a single to Gregorius. After a strikeout, Voit worked a walk to load up the bases and spark the still full stadium, who were waiting for this moment. Hechavarria was called in to pinch-run for Voit, a speedier option to score the tying run if possible.

So, Neil Walker stepped into the plate, who had a really good night, but then he was hit by a pitch. That still scored Judge and kept the bases loaded. Gary Sanchez was next and battled his way to a long sacrifice fly, caught on the warning track, to score Gregorius to inch the Yankees within a single run of the Red Sox’s lead. It was down to Gleyber Torres, who ended up hitting into a ground out. The challenged the call at 1st, saying Torres beat out the ball, but a brief review upheld the call.

Final score: 4-3 Red Sox, Red Sox win series 3-1

Postseason Predictions: It’s review time, to see how accurate my predictions have been so far and make new ones for the next round of playoffs.

(Key: *winner right, game count wrong; **winner and game count right; ~winner wrong, game count right; ~~both wrong.)

  • Division Series:
    • Predictions/Results:
      • NLDS 1: Brewers over Rockies in 4 games* (3 games)
      • NLDS 2: Dodgers over Braves in 4 games**
      • ALDS 1: Astros over Indians in 3 games**
      • ALDS 2: Yankees over Red Sox in 5 games~~ (Red Sox in 4)
  • Championship Series:
    • NLCS: Dodgers over Brewers in 5 games
    • ALCS: Astros over Red Sox in 5 games

Yes, I’m looking at a World Series between the Dodgers and Astros, in a fun rematch of last year’s Series.

But for Yankee fans, the “Chase for 28” continues, with the team regrouping next season to start the push all over again in Spring Training.

Go Yankees!