Boonie & The Bullpen Blunders…

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Yanks hang on for narrow win over O’s…

Maybe I am just a realist but I am struggling to find great positives with the 2018 New York Yankees and their ability to go deep into the playoffs. Time and again, manager Aaron Boone shows an inability to make the right bullpen decisions.  Sure, I could have blind love and just take the approach that the team is going to plow through October opponents until proven otherwise, but that’s not me.

John O’Connell, @jacko2323 on Twitter, posted this comment last night:

Every Yankees postgame interview is “Look out for us!  We’re about to break loose!  Our offense will explode in the playoffs.”  It’s September 21st.  The Red Sox have already clinched the AL East and your struggling to beat the Orioles.

I agree with this statement.  Jack-O went on to tweet:

The A’s are going to beat the Yankees like a drum in the Wildcard game and Boone and every Yankee will give a postgame interview talking about how close they are to breaking out.

Again, I agree.  I know that Jack-O is a disillusioned Yankees fan.  He is a friend of Bill Simmons, a noted Red Sox fan, and frequently appears on his podcasts, but I find truth in Jack-O’s words even if many Yankees fans take offense.  Just because the Yankees made it to the seventh game of the ALCS last year and seemingly have a better team this year does not mean they are going to the World Series.  Other teams got better too including the Boston Red Sox despite their leaky bullpen.  The players have talked about how great this team will be when it gets on a roll but, after the early season run, we have yet to see it.  And it is now September 22nd.

The Yankees should have easily beat the Baltimore Orioles last night.  Unfortunately, they had to hold on for the 10-8 victory after more foolish bullpen decisions by Aaron Boone.  I am not sure why A.J. Cole is still on the Yankees roster, other than the September roster expansion.  When the Yankees need to make off-season roster decisions, making room for the guys on the 60-day DL and the Rule 5 eligible prospects worth keeping, Cole has to go. There’s no doubt Cole should be left off the playoff roster.

The Yankees have yet to show me they are cranking on all cylinders.  Sure, there’s still time but the days are going by fast.  The end of the regular season is a week from Sunday.  It seems like every time the Yankees take two steps forward, they take a step back.  Meanwhile, The Red Sox and Astros are cruising to the finish line.  Honestly, the Yankees are lucky that the Tampa Bay Rays didn’t start heating up earlier in the season.  The Yankees’ magic number to secure a Wild Card spot is only two games but right now the Rays are playing better than the Yankees.  The upcoming series in Tampa will be difficult.  The Rays probably will have no chance of catching the Yankees by then and might be out of it altogether, but I am sure those are going to be tough games.  If the Rays do not make the playoffs, beating the Yankees in their final regular season series between the two teams will be their “playoff” even if the prize is only bragging rights for Rays players and fans.

I guess it could be worse.  The Los Angeles Dodgers recaptured first place in the NL West with their sweep of the Colorado Rockies earlier this week only to lose last night to the 92-loss San Diego Padres.  The Dodgers still hold a slim 1 1/2 game lead (same as the Yankees’ lead over the Oakland A’s for the top WC slot) so both teams need to win the majority of these final games.  I guess the stakes may be higher for the Dodgers.  If they lose the division, they most likely lose out on making the playoffs.  Their record presently matches the St Louis Cardinals for the second WC in the National League behind the Milwaukee Brewers so they cannot afford to lose.

If the Yankees win the AL Wild Card game, it will be a new season. But until then, I will have my doubts about this team’s ability to rise to the challenge.  I am tired of seeing poor decisions made every game.  Could I do better than Boone?  Hell no, but I don’t get paid to make the right decisions nor do I have the experience in the game like he does.  Aaron Boone and Company are the ones depositing the Steinbrenner family’s money into their bank accounts.  I like Aaron Boone but he has to do better.  The 2018 season depends upon it.

The best thing the Yankees can do is make me eat my words.  I am okay with that.

I’ve felt that Orioles manager Buck Showalter would be dismissed at the end of the season for a couple of months but the words I read yesterday seem to indicate it is nearly guaranteed he will be fired.  For as much as I have disliked Buck at times during his post-Yankees career, I am feeling so saddened this may be the end of the line for the former Yankees manager.  I can’t really explain why I feel that way.  It’s unfortunate that Buck was unable to guide a team to a championship during his managerial career.  Other managers benefited from his path in both New York and Arizona.  In this day and age of young, amiable (press-friendly), inexperienced, and analytics-driven managers, it seems improbable that Buck will get another opportunity.  It really does not seem that long ago that Buck was playing first base and the outfield for the Yankees’ then Double A farm team in Nashville. I can still remember a few of his games so vividly.

Whatever happens with Buck, I wish him the best as life moves forward.  Now, if he wants to lose the next two games, that’s fine by me.

I know it’s a little early to make free agent predictions, but Bleacher Report ran a column on Thursday to take an early look at one realistic free agent for each team.  The reason it bothered me is the writer (Jacob Shafer) has the Yankees signing Dallas Keuchel, with Patrick Corbin going to the Milwaukee Brewers.  Ugh!  I do not want Keuchel on the Yankees.  I am hopeful the Yankees make an all-out attempt to bring Corbin to the Bronx.  The writer also has the Boston Red Sox signing David Robertson which is also something I’d really hate to see.  I love David Cone but there’s a part of me that is still bothered by the fact he wore a Red Sox uniform at the end of his career.  Same with David Wells.  I hope D-Rob does not go down that path.  The writer predicts J.A. Happ will sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks as a replacement for Corbin.  I think Happ has done enough to warrant a new contract in Pinstripes.  Sorry CC, but for a few million more, Happ makes so much more sense for the 2019 Yankees.  Sabathia is predicted by B/R to sign with the Oakland A’s.  That’s a move I would not be opposed to since Sabathia grew up in nearby Vallejo, CA and he’d be able to exit the game in front of his hometown friends and family.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Stobe)

Speaking of Happ, the Yankees seem to be lining him up to pitch the Wild Card game on October 3rd.  He’ll make the start against the O’s tomorrow.  I had thought I wanted Masahiro Tanaka to pitch the Wild Card game but his start against the Red Sox eroded some of my confidence.  Luis Severino is pitching better but I am still not convinced he is the man to face the bruising A’s lineup.  Happ makes as much sense as any of them.  In a do-or-die one game playoff, everybody needs to be ready to contribute.  The only question is whether Aaron Boone will make the right bullpen choices.  I guess we’ll find out on October 3rd.

Hopefully we’ll have a less stressful game and a Yankees win later today.  The opposing pitcher is 3-10 with 5.22 ERA (David Hess).  We should not lose this game.  Hopefully, the gritty Lance Lynn (9-10, 4.90 ERA) ensures that it does not happen.

Go Yankees!

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Red Sox Celebrate on Sacred Ground…

Red Sox Yankees Baseball
Photo Credit: AP (Julio Cortez)

Boston wins third consecutive AL East Championship in the Bronx…

I am not going to lie…I am pissed.  We allowed the Boston Red Sox to celebrate on Yankee Stadium soil and that should have never happened.  The Yankees won two of three games from the 2018 AL East Champions, and I can’t find any joy because they mailed in the third game after winning the first two to give the Red Sox the win they needed to claim the division championship.  I was happy they pinned the 49th loss of the season on Boston after Wednesday’s win (to prevent any chance of the Sox matching the win total of the 1998 Yankees), but they really could have swept this series and forced Boston to ship the champagne to their next destination.

Everybody is so quick to talk about how awful the Red Sox bullpen is but in last night’s bullpen matchup, Boston had the difference-maker in Steven Wright with three innings of scoreless relief.  The Yankees helped eject Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez out of the game in the fourth inning after he had thrown 100 pitches.  Red Sox reliever Heath Hembree relieved Rodriguez and was greeted by Giancarlo Stanton’s grand slam which temporarily gave the Yankees a 6-4 lead, but from there, the Yankees could only get two more hits and were unable to put any further runs on the board against Wright, Ryan Brasier, and Craig Kimbrel.  Meanwhile, the Sox teed off on Chad Green, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman.  I can’t really blame Green or Betances.  They are the guys I probably would have brought in during those situations, but I think it was very foolish to bring in a rusty Aroldis Chapman with the Yankees trailing by only two runs.  The three-run homer by Mookie Betts off Chapman in the eighth inning pretty much iced the game for the Red Sox and prepared the champagne bottles for uncorking.

I disagreed with manager Aaron Boone’s decision to bring in Justus Sheffield during Wednesday night’s game too.  Sure, Top Sheff evaded a self-created bases-loaded jam to end the game, but the Yankees were playing MLB’s winningest baseball team and the psychology of the game and beating Boston is important.  If you bring anybody in when you are leading by nine runs, it should have been Chapman and not Sheffield.  I would have eased Chapman back into the fold before placing him into a high leverage situation.  I was not surprised that Betts clubbed the homer off Chappy. Just like Aaron Judge is currently only producing hard outs and missing the mistake pitches, it takes time to get back up to speed.  Baseball is not a forgiving sport.

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Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media (Andrew Mills)

I am still supportive of Aaron Boone despite my frustrations with his decisions over the last few days so I know I am just venting.  I would have played last night’s game to win which means that Chapman would not have made an appearance, nor would have any of the rookies currently on the staff.  After Betances, I would have lived or died with Zach Britton to the end.

What really made yesterday so disappointing was the other primary Wild Card contender, the Oakland A’s, crushed their opponent.  GM Billy Eppler’s Los Angeles Angels must have felt they were playing the Los Angeles Rams after the A’s decisive 21-3 thrashing.  The Yankees hold a slim 1 ½ game lead on the A’s after yesterday’s results, but the scary part is the Yankees now face a losing team that they seemingly cannot beat (the Baltimore Orioles), the high-flying Tampa Bay Rays, and a rematch with the Red Sox at Fenway Park for the final ten games of the regular season.  I am not saying they have it easy, but the A’s play weaker opponents.  Three games in Oakland against the disappointing Minnesota Twins, three games in Seattle against the fading Mariners, and three games in Anaheim against the team they just drubbed by 18 runs in yesterday’s game.  In my opinion, it is Advantage A’s.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Thearon W Henderson)

A ‘one and done’ Wild Card game in Oakland. From my perspective, that’s where the Yankees stand right now with the way things are unfolding in the American League.  Well, at least CC Sabathia can catch up with friends and family in the area before he heads home to clean out his locker at Yankee Stadium for perhaps the final time.

As always, I hope the team proves me wrong.  But as I’ve said before, that’s on them, not me.  I want the Yankees to win but I am just not feeling it right now.  I am not convinced the Yankees can beat the A’s and I am certainly not convinced the team can beat the Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians or Boston Red Sox should they advance.  They certainly have the talent, but for a team that has been average at best for an extended period, they can’t just flip a switch to turn it on.  The Yankees need to make the next ten games count and carry momentum into the Wild Card game.  Otherwise, we’ll be watching the final season of Game of Thrones before the Yankees have another chance for the crown.

Hopefully the team can return to its winning ways tonight against Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles.  This series represents perhaps the final time that we’ll see the former Yankees manager in the O’s dugout.  For as much as I’ve disliked Buck at times during his post-Yankees career, I am a little saddened about the way the 2018 season has treated him.  To reach 50 wins, Buck’s team needs to win six of its final ten games.  That’s a tall order for the 108-loss team, but then again, they have three games against a team they’ve fared well against.  You know that Buck would like nothing better than to beat the Yankees for his farewell song.

As the saying goes, sometimes the best trade is the one that you don’t make.  Last off-season, everybody was clamoring for the Yankees to acquire Michael Fulmer of the Detroit Tigers.  Fulmer had a disastrous 2018 season.  He was 3-12 with 4.69 ERA in 132 1/3 innings.  He gave up 128 hits and career-high 19 home runs.  Done for the season, Fulmer was diagnosed with meniscus damage in his right knee on Monday and underwent surgery yesterday.  He is still a young, controllable pitcher but unless the Yankees can get him at a severe discount, it would not be worth the investment.  If the Yankees had paid Detroit’s asking price last winter, we’d have nothing to show for it today.  Fulmer is expected to be ready for Spring Training but Detroit’s best move would be to wait for Fulmer to rebuild his trade value before considering any offers.

It’s up to CC Sabathia (7-7, 3.80 ERA) to get the Baltimore series off to the right start tonight.  He’ll be opposed by former Yankees prospect Yefry Ramirez (1-6, 5.50 ERA).  This is a winnable game.  Boone, make the right decisions.  Gary Sanchez, hold the door…hold the door!  Luke Voit, just keep on doing what you are doing, chest hair and all.  Let’s do this.

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Go Yankees!

Sweet Home Yankee Stadium…

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports, via Reuters (Adam Hunger)

Yanks kick off final regular season home stand with an easy win…

For all of the struggles by the Yankees this month, last night was fun.  The Yankees were in charge from the start and never looked back en route to the 11-0 thrashing of the Toronto Blue Jays behind the stellar pitching of restored staff ace Masahiro Tanaka.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)

After a disappointing nine-game road trip that saw the Yankees drop series in Oakland and Minneapolis to finish 4-5, allowing the A’s to close the gap in the AL Wild Card standings, the Yankees needed a strong game with contributions across the roster.  I suppose it was a good sign when it was announced Aaron Judge had been activated off the disabled list prior to the game, even if his bat wasn’t activated with him.  Judge will serve as a pinch runner and defensive specialist until it is time to take a few swings in simulated games in Tampa before he gets an opportunity to seek his 27th home run for the Bombers.  Given that Judge is the obvious heart and soul of this team (and its future Captain if the Yankees do what’s right), I am glad to see him on the active roster even with his limitations.

I am resigned to the fact that this has been a special season for the Boston Red Sox.  I hope they fail in the post-season (like the 2001 Seattle Mariners) but there’s been no doubt they’ve owned the regular season.  Unlike the Yankees, they’ve been able to limit the slumps and no opposing lead seems safe against J.D. Martinez and Company.  I remain hopeful that they’ll fail in the post-season with their questionable bullpen but at the moment they are the best Red Sox team of my lifetime (well, anybody’s lifetime for that matter).  I hate the Houston Astros but if the AL Championship comes down to the Astros and the Red Sox, I’d have to pull for a repeat World Series appearance for the defending champs.

There’s been so much talk about which pitcher should get the call in the inevitable Wild Card game against the Oakland A’s.  Right now, it would seem that Tanaka is the man of the hour.  Many have mentioned J.A. Happ as a possibility but as good as he has been as a Yankee, I really think the choice should be limited to Tanaka or Luis Severino.  I guess I can still remember the times when the Yankees had their way with Happ when he was wearing a Blue Jays uniform.  In his last game against the Yankees in July, he was pounded for six runs in 2 2/3 innings in Toronto’s 10-5 loss to the Yanks.  Although Severino has been struggling for awhile, he pitched much better in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins when the Yankees didn’t get their first hit until the eighth inning.  He held the Twins to only one run on four hits in 5 2/3 innings and didn’t walk anybody in the tough luck loss.  He struck out five.  It’s a start, both literally and figuratively.

As the Yankees begin their final home stand, it is a little sad that it could be the last regular season games at Yankee Stadium for a few of the guys.  Brett Gardner, CC Sabathia, and David Robertson are the names that stick out the most to me.  Several guys, like Sonny Gray and maybe even Greg Bird, may have played themselves off the roster after the season.  It’s doubtful the Yankees will re-sign Andrew McCutchen or Zach Britton so their brief Pinstriped careers could soon be coming to an end and there is no certainty the Yankees will re-sign J.A. Happ. MLB Trade Rumors speculated this morning that Happ could earn more than a guaranteed $40 million for three years on his next deal when he becomes a free agent after the season.  That’s a lot of money for a guy who turns 36 next month. Hopefully the Yankees hang on to their Wild Card lead so that there is at least one more game at Yankee Stadium  for the impending departees after the current home stand ends.

I am not sure how I feel about the Yankees’ chances for October.  If they play like the team we’ve seen in recent weeks, it will be ‘one and done’ in the Wild Card game.  If they can capitalize on the momentum of last night’s game and propel themselves into the playoffs on a roll, anything can happen.  We know this team is capable of beating anybody including the Red Sox.  But we also know that the bats can go into silent mode with runners in scoring position at times (more often than I would like).  I guess I could say that while I am hopeful for the best, I am braced for the worst.  I do know the Yankees need a healthy Aaron Judge and Aroldis Chapman before we play the final regular season series in Boston at the end of the month.  We need both guys firing on all cylinders for the team’s hopes to advance deep into October.

Like many Yankee fans, I am very pleased with the production and energy that we’ve seen from first baseman Luke Voit.  I certainly never dreamed that GM Brian Cashman would be able to flip relievers Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos for a guy who has become such a big part of the Yankees offense.  I don’t know what the future holds for Voit but I am enjoying the current ride.  I think the Yankees will look to upgrade the position in the off-season but Voit has certainly earned the right to battle Greg Bird for the starting position next Spring.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)

I’ve seen so many people call for the head of Aaron Boone.  Sure, he’s made his share of rookie mistakes in his first year as Yankees manager but I think he’ll be stronger for it in 2019.  There’s not anybody out there I would prefer to see as the team’s manager at this point and I am certainly not pining for the return of Joe Girardi.  When Boone was announced as the Yankees manager last off-season, I had been hopeful that he’d select a veteran manager as his bench coach.  So I was a little disappointed when he went with Josh Bard who has not managed at any level.  Bard may be smart and confident, but I really preferred a battle tested veteran manager in the role as lead consultant for Boone.  Boone does have managerial experience on his staff with Larry Rothschild who was the original manager for the Tampa Bay Rays (then Devil Rays) when they entered the American League.  Third base coach Phil Nevin has minor league managerial experience. But that’s not the same as your right hand guy. The best case scenario would have been for the Yankees to have retained former bench coach Rob Thomson who now serves in the same role for the Philadelphia Phillies and their infant manager, Gabe Kapler.  Another veteran manager who left the organization last off-season will most likely be coaching first base for the Yankees’ Wild Card opponent.  Al Pedrique, the former manager of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, is presently first base coach for the Oakland A’s.  In my opinion, Thomson or Pedrique would have been much better options to sit (or rather stand) beside Boone in the Yankees dugout than Bard.

Speaking of Joe Girardi, I am not sure where he’ll get his next opportunity.  I had thought St Louis was an obvious destination but the Cardinals have committed to their interim manager, Mike Shildt, by dropping the interim tag. Shildt has made the Cardinals relevant again after their disappointing performance under former manager Mike Matheny. I thought Washington might be another possibility but it sounds like first-year manager Dave Martinez will get another shot in 2019 even if the team will be Bryce Harper-less.  The Toronto Blue Jays have been mentioned as a possibility given the speculation that their manager, John Gibbons, is managing his final games in a Blue Jays uniform.  It would be weird to see Girardi in the AL East with another team. But when you look at teams with great young prospects on the horizon, the Blue Jays would be near the top of the list with the highly rated sons of former Major Leaguers Vladimir Guerrero, Dante Bichette, and Craig Biggio among others. All things considered, I am hopeful Girardi likes his job with MLB Network well enough to wait for a Chicago job to open at some point in the future.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders beat the heavily favored Durham Bulls last night to send the International League’s Governors’ Cup Finals to the winner-take-all Game Five to be played in Moosic, PA later today.  Domingo German will start for the RailRiders against Durham’s Kyle Bird (part of the Bulls planned bullpen day). The Bulls are the defending IL champs, while the RailRiders were the Wild Card entrant and last year’s championship series loser.  Win or lose, this has been a great season for the Yankees’ top farm team.  The Bulls have been at a disadvantage for the series since all of the games have been played at PNC Field in Moosic due to the weather conditions in the Carolinas.

Entering play today, the magic number for the Boston Red Sox to win the AL East championship is six games.  The Yankees (91-56) currently trail the Red Sox by 9 1/2 games so at this point it is only a matter of time until the Red Sox are sipping champagne.  My hope is that they do not do it next week on Yankee Stadium soil.  The Yankees lead the AL Wild Card by a game and a half over the Oakland A’s but hold the tie-breaker.  The Seattle Mariners trail the A’s by 8 1/2 games so barring any miracle comebacks, the AL Wild Card will be Yankees-A’s with location being the only question.

For today’s game, the Yankees send CC Sabathia (7-6, 3.54 ERA) to the mound.  He’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Sean Reid-Foley (1-3, 6.86 ERA).  Sabathia has not looked good in his recent outings and he really needs to step his game soon.  Hopefully today is the start.  We want a win, we need a win, let’s get a win.  Go Yankees!

Getting the Most Out of Two Hits…

Photo Credit: The New York Post (Paul J Bereswill)

Yanks Beat Tigers, 2-1…

Normally, I’d be very bummed the Yankees were only able to get two hits off Tigers pitching on Saturday but thanks to Masahiro Tanaka, that’s all the offense he needed en route to the one-run victory.

The way the game started, it looked like Tanaka was going to need significantly more offense than he eventually required. The Tigers scored first with a run in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Victor Martinez. It looked like they might get more with only one out, but Tanaka worked himself out of trouble by striking out Niko Goodrum and getting Ronny Rodriguez to fly out to left.

Andrew McCutchen led off the bottom of the first for his first appearance as a New York Yankee. It is so weird seeing Cutch in Pinstripes. It’s great, don’t get me wrong, but is still a strange sight. When I think of Cutch, I think of the long dreadlocks and the beard but now both are nothing but a distant memory. I do have to say that the beardless look makes him look younger. It wasn’t the best of times for the former NL MVP as he struck out looking in his Yankees debut at-bat. He finished the game without a hit, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. However, McCutchen was not the only Yankee hitter to struggle against Tigers starter Daniel Norris. Through four innings, Norris held the Yankees hitless and had faced the minimum of twelve batters.

Photo Credit: AP (Bill  Kostroun)

Miguel Andujar finally became the first Yankee baserunner when he walked to lead off the fifth inning. Gary Sanchez had first shot to move Andujar but he flied out to left. Next up, Gleyber Torres. The Rookie of the Year candidate made the most of his opportunity with the first Yankees hit of the game, a homer to left, which gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead. After walking the next batter, Luke Voit, Norris left the game with an apparent injury (later diagnosed as a leg cramp) but the Yankees didn’t fare any  better against the Tigers bullpen.

Photo Credit: AP (Bill Kostroun)

The only other hit by the Yankees was an infield single by Aaron Hicks in the sixth inning but he was erased on an inning-ending double play.

Tanaka navigated his way through the biggest challenge in the seventh inning. Tigers catcher Grayson Greiner led off with a double to right field. JaCoby Jones followed with a single, moving Greiner to third. Jones subsequently stole second to give the Tigers two runners in scoring position with no outs. I would have pulled Tanaka at that point but manager Aaron Boone stayed with his right-hander and was rewarded. A ground out and two strikeouts left the two Detroit runners stranded and the Yankees still holding the slim one-run advantage.

Tanaka didn’t return but it was a great start. He evaded potential big innings for the Tigers in the first and seventh, finishing with seven hits scattered over seven innings. He limited the Tigers to the isolated first inning run, walking one and striking out six on 96 pitches. With the continued struggles of Luis Severino, Tanaka is pitching like a guy who wants the ball for the inevitable single-game elimination Wild Card playoff.

From there, it was up to the Yankees bullpen. Jonathan Holder took the eighth, and to my surprise, Dellin Betances got the call in the ninth. Personally, I would not be comfortable with Betances as my closer (he proved to me long ago that he is better in setup) but Boone showed confidence in Betances, who was only two games removed from the disaster on Thursday night when he gave up two ninth inning home runs to blow the first game of the series to the Tigers. This time, there were no late game heroics for the Tigers. Betances struck out the first batter, Jeimer Candelario, for his 100th strikeout of the season (the fifth consecutive season he has hit the milestone, a record for a reliever). The Tigers did get a runner on base but he didn’t go anywhere. A couple of ground outs and it was game over. A save for Betances, his second of the season, and a win for Tanaka (10-5) and the Yankees.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rich Schultz)

The Boston Red Sox won (6-1 over the Chicago White Sox) so the Yankees (86-50) remain 7 1/2 games behind the AL East leaders. The Yankees did pick up a game in the Wild Card standings over the Oakland A’s. The Athletics lost to the Seattle Mariners and slid 5 1/2 games behind the Yankees. The M’s, ten games behind the Yankees, trail the A’s by 4 1/2 games.

Like Andrew McCutchen, Gary Sanchez took an ‘O-fer’ this game. He was 0-for-4. He almost beat out an infield hit in the second inning but instant replay sent him to the bench. His season batting average dropped to .185 but then again, he wasn’t alone in his search for a hit in this game.

The Yankees conclude their four-game series with Detroit today at 1:05 pm ET. Lance Lynn (8-9, 4.84 ERA) gets the call against Detroit’s talented lefty, Matthew Boyd (8-12, 4.22 ERA). The Yankees will be managed by Bench Coach Josh Bard since Manager Aaron Boone gets the day off, thanks to a one-game suspension for the catching instruction he gave to the home plate umpire on Friday night. Giancarlo Stanton also gets a much-needed day off. Gary Sanchez will slide into the DH role. Sanchy, please feel free to mix in a hit or two…or three.

Saturday, with the expansion of rosters, was a busy day for the home team. Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, acquired Friday night, was added to the active roster and assigned #29, in addition to the activation of Gary Sanchez off the 10-day DL. Shortstop Tyler Wade and RHP Luis Cessa were recalled from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and the Yankees purchased the contract of LHP Stephen Tarpley from SWB. Tarpley was assigned #71 and will be making his Major League debut whenever he gets the call from Aaron Boone (or if today, Bard). To make room for Tarpley, the Yankees designated outfielder Shane Robinson for assignment. It remains to be seen if LHP Justus Sheffield will get the call or pinch-runner extraordinaire Quintin Berry for that matter. For either of those guys to be added, someone will have to be voted off the island.  A.J. Cole, you might want to start packing your bags, Dude.

This morning, the Yankees recalled RHP Jonathan Loaisiga from Double-A Trenton.

When the Yankees acquired Andrew McCutchen, I knew immediately that it would be a reunion with a long-time teammate (Neil Walker) but I had forgotten that Adeiny Hechavarria was the starting shortstop for the Miami Marlins for a few years before his subsequent stops in Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. So, he had his own little reunion with Giancarlo Stanton.

Despite the Thursday night disaster, the Yankees have a chance to take the series today with the Tigers. With a cross-country flight to the Bay Area awaiting them, it would be great for the team to take a winning feeling with them.

Go Yankees!

Now Batting, Number 24, Gary Sanchez…

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Adam Hunger)

Starting the New Month with Reinforcements…

It’s September 1st and it is truly a new day, a new month for the New York Yankees today. I am very excited to see the addition of one player today. Yes, Andrew McCutchen is a Yankee and so is, very unexpectedly, Adeiny Hechavarria, but the player I am talking about is Gary Sanchez. I know this has not been the best of seasons for the Yankees catcher and he’s missed significant time with several DL stints but by all indications, he’s in his best shape of the year and is ready to help the Yankees in the push for October.  

Photo Credit: AP (Noah K Murray)

For all of the Yankees problems, they still have the second best record in Major League Baseball. It’s unfortunate that the team with the best record resides in the AL East but it is what it is. While the pesky Oakland A’s are only 4 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the Wild Card standings, the Seattle Mariners, armed with the addition of Robinson Cano from his 80-game suspension a few weeks ago, have fallen off the pace and sit ten games behind the Yanks. Barring a total collapse (unlikely), the Yankees are headed for the Wild Card game.  

While the Yankees picked up a game on the Boston Red Sox last night and are just 7 1/2 games out, the realistic view is that we are headed for a one-game Wild Card playoff game at Yankee Stadium against the A’s. We need Gary Sanchez to play like we know he can. Forget his stats from earlier this year. This is a new season, and based on the effort he put into his rehab, I think El Gary “gets it” and is ready to contribute. This is certainly not an indictment of Austin Romine who has done a fine job. But Romine is simply not the player Sanchez is and never will be. So, welcome back, Gary, we’re glad to have you.  

I thought Bryan Van Dusen wrote a great piece the other day about the Yankees’ acquisition of outfielder Andrew McCutchen. It’s hard for me to write anything about the arrival of Cutch that hasn’t already been said. Suffice it to say, I was surprised about the trade. I had gone to bed Thursday night immediately after the game so I didn’t hear the news of the trade until the next morning. Bryan said his reaction to the trade was “oh no” and I have to admit that I had a similar reaction. My biggest fear was the luxury tax threshold, but it was a non-issue as the Giants included cash and the Yankees had the room under the threshold to fit the one-time NL MVP. The biggest frustration about the deal is that the Yankees waited more than a month to get outfield help after the injury to Aaron Judge. Sure, they originally expected Judge back in three weeks but it was tough to live a month with Shane Robinson’s name frequently written into the lineup card in right during the month of August.  

McCutchen’s here now and will start his first game for the Yankees later today. Like Sanchez, I am glad he is here and the Yankees lineup will certainly have a much different look today.  

I think McCutchen will be revitalized by the insertion into a pennant chase. His old team, the San Francisco Giants, weren’t out of it. In fact, they were closer to first place in their division than the Yankees are, but the truth was the .500 Giants were not going to be playing October baseball. Cutch will also benefit from the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium. But as his spray chart for 2018 shows, Cutch has the ability to use the entire field and will enjoy using the dimensions of Yankee Stadium to his full advantage. 

Credit: FanGraphs.com

I was on record saying I wanted Curtis Granderson. Nevertheless, I admit that McCutchen is a much better option. The Grandy Man did get moved yesterday, joining the Milwaukee Brewers, but his ineffectiveness last year with the Los Angeles Dodgers in their failed quest to win the World Series did stick with me. Therefore, I am glad McCutchen is a Yankee and Granderson is not.  

I know this is just my dislike for Jacoby Ellsbury kicking in, but I think the Yankees should have ripped #22 off his back to give the number to McCutchen. Instead, Cutch will inherit Tyler Austin’s old #26. I wonder if Chris Austin, Tyler’s dad, will have anything to say, considering he probably feels his son’s number should be hanging in Monument Park. Granted, McCutchen’s Yankee career will probably not extend beyond this year but he is far more deserving of 22 than Ellsbury is. I know that Ellsbury is a Yankee as long as insurance is covering his salary, but I can’t wait for the day when he is Yankee no more.

I had wondered if the Yankees would make any more acquisitions prior to the waiver trading deadline last night but I was still surprised to hear the Yankees had acquired former Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from the Pittsburgh Pirates. I guess you can never have too many former Pirates on the roster. I thought if any move was made, it would have been for another reliever. Hechavarria is mostly known for his glove so I get the reasons to bring him to the Bronx, but the loser, to me, appears to be Tyler Wade. Hechavarria is not much of a hitter, but he used to drive me nuts with the occasional base knocks against the Yankees at the worst possible times while he was a Ray. 

I thought Wade would get the call up today as rosters expand and provide support at short behind Gleyber Torres while Didi Gregorius is on the mend. Maybe it still happens, but there’s nothing wrong with bringing a strong defensive option into the mix. To make room for Hechavarria, the Yankees designated minor league reliever Ryan Bollinger for assignment. The surprise here is that Bollinger’s spot was not used for Justus Sheffield. But if the Yankees do subsequently decide to bring up Top Sheff sometime this month, I have no problem waving goodbye to A.J. Cole. At this point, my guess is that we won’t see Sheffield at all this month and he’ll arrive in Spring Training next year for his first real opportunity to pull on the famed Pinstripes.  

There was a part of me that wanted the Yankees to acquire Josh Donaldson from the Toronto Blue Jays for the stretch run.  He ended up in Cleveland but that’s okay. The guy hasn’t played since May and his remaining salary, without any help from the Blue Jays, would have been problematic. If he can prove he is finally healthy, the Indians made a great move. But the risk, a high one, is that he is not able to make it back to full strength.  Better the Indians play the odds than the Yankees. I’d just hate to be playing the seventh game of a playoff series in Cleveland with the game tied and Donaldson at bat in the bottom of the ninth. I guess we’ll just worry about that if/when the time comes.

The Yankees did play a game yesterday and they won. After being no-hit for the majority of the game by the Detroit Tigers and Jordan Zimmerman, the Yankees used the long ball to overcome the Tigers. With goose eggs still showing on the scoreboard for the Yankees in the bottom of the sixth and three runs in for the Tigers, Austin Romine led off and reached base on an error. After Ronald Torreyes took Romine’s place at first on a fielder’s choice that erased the lead runner, Brett Gardner, whose slump was one reason the Yankees acquired McCutchen, homered to right for the Yankees’ first hit. Giancarlo Stanton flied out for the second out (even Stanton’s fly balls draw ‘oohs and ahs’ from the Yankee Stadium crowd), but Aaron Hicks and Miguel Andujar followed with back-to-back, or as John Sterling says, belly-to-belly home runs. The Yankees had a 4-3 lead. 

It was a little unsettling when the Tigers came back to tie the game at four on Mikie Mahtook’s RBI single in the seventh inning. Worse yet when the Tigers took a one-run lead in the eighth on a sacrifice fly. It was starting to feel like the Yankees were going to lose another close one to the lowly Tigers.  

In the bottom of the eighth, with the bases loaded and two outs, Gleyber Torres lined a sharp single to left that bounced up and off the left fielder to score two runs. 6-5, Yankees. Luke Voit advanced to third and Gleyber took second on the late throw in to the plate. Neil Walker was intentionally walked which re-loaded the bases. Austin Romine reached base on an infield hit which scored Voit and the Yankees had the same lead, 7-5, heading into the ninth that they held the night before when the Tigers belted two home runs off Dellin Betances to win 8-7. This time, it was David Robertson in for the ninth and not Betances. I was starting to sweat bullets when the Tigers had two men on base and only one out but D-Rob rose to the challenge and struck out the last two hitters to end the game. Yankees win! The Yankees win!

Prior to the game, the YES Network analysts talked about how Luis Severino struggles in the mid-innings and this game was no exception. The fifth inning has been his bugaboo and he yielded two runs on three hits in the inning last night. Sevy needs to get this figured out sooner rather than later. It was a no-decision for Sevy, who had ten strikeouts in six innings, so he’ll have to wait for his eighteenth win. The victory went to Zach Britton (2-0) who hardly looked invincible during his outing, giving up three hits and the Tigers’ final run in an inning and a third.  

But setting aside the dramatic comeback homers or the go-ahead Gleyber Day Weekend hit, the play of the game was a non-play. It was the eruption of manager Aaron Boone onto the field after the Tigers had scored their third run in the top of the fifth to argue balls and strikes with the home plate umpire. His characterization of the Tigers catcher at the plate was an all-time classic (up there with the best of Billy Martin). 

Photo Credit: AP (Bill Kostroun)

The Yankee hitters certainly came alive after Boone’s performance, which resulted in his ejection, so say what you will, it served as motivation for the home team. I loved seeing that fire from Boonie. Josh Bard managed the remainder of the game in Boone’s absence.

August is over, September has begun. Let’s start this day with a win for the new guy in right and the returnee behind the plate. Go Yankees!

The Puzzling Case of Pickles…

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Yanks Get Double Treat on Saturday…

The Yankees swept the day/night doubleheader in Baltimore on Saturday, and find themselves only seven games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East (just six games back in the loss column). The Yankees took the day game by a score of 10-3 behind the pitching of J.A. “Happer” Happ, his fifth consecutive Yankees victory, and then swept the doubleheader by defeating the O’s 5-1 in the nightcap, a win delivered courtesy of Sonny “Pickles” Gray.

Granted, Gray was facing the worst team in Major League Baseball and they weren’t playing at Yankee Stadium so he had the right conditions for a stellar game. The last time “Pickles” had faced Baltimore, he was pounded for seven runs in only 2 2/3 innings (a 5-7 loss to the O’s on August 1st but that game was in the Bronx. He pitched six scoreless innings of three-hit ball against the Orioles at Camden Yards on July 11th and has only given up one run to Baltimore in three Camden Yards starts this year. He clearly likes pitching in Baltimore even if he can’t pitch anywhere else so I temper Saturday night’s performance. Still, it was a win and that’s what matters most. Gray threw 79 pitches in 6 1/3 innings, limiting Baltimore to three hits and no runs.  He struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter until the final guy he faced in the bottom of the 7th inning.

After the game, Gray proclaimed himself as “one of the best starting pitchers in this league” which I thought was a bit much. Maybe he was saying it for the benefit of O’s GM Dan Duquette (future trade possibilities), given his propensity for ‘elite-like’ games in Baltimore. His statement could not have been meant for Yankee fans because we know better. Good for Gray to have confidence, but he shouldn’t rush out to buy shelf space for a Cy Young Award.

Perhaps the disappointment of the night game was the inability of reliever Tommy Kahnle to preserve the shutout for “Pickles”. It was a messy bottom of the ninth as Kahnle gave up three hits, the last one a single by Yankees castoff Jace Peterson which scored Trey Mancini with Baltimore’s only run. Manager Aaron Boone was forced to bring in Dellin “El Acido” Betances to get the final out with two runners on base. Fortunately, he struck out Caleb Joseph on five pitches to prevent an Orioles rally and gained his first save of the season. There’s no way that should have ever been a save situation and it reinforces why Tommy Kahnle has a long way to go before he can be a trusted member of the bullpen again.

In the day game, I was a little worried when J.A. Happ gave up two runs in the bottom of the 2nd inning which gave the O’s a one-run lead. He has pitched so well for the Yankees since his acquisition in July and it is inevitable that the wheels will fall off. Happ is exactly the type of trading deadline deal you want to make. Acquire a guy who outperforms his time with his previous club and just wins down the stretch.  The Yankees other lefty July trade target, Cole Hamels, is doing a tremendous job for the Chicago Cubs, but I agree that Happ was the right choice given his AL East experience. Happ ended up with yet another quality start, holding the O’s to just those two runs on five hits over six innings for his 15th win of he year. Happ (15-6) walked a batter and struck out nine and is only a win behind Luis Severino. Luis Cessa, the 26th man, finished up the final three innings for his first save despite the blowout.

Miguel “Papá ” Andujar, who has become everybody’s favorite choice for AL Rookie of the Year, hit his 21st home run in the first game with 4 RBI’s to pace the Yankees. Aaron “Hicksie” Hicks had three hits and 2 RBI’s. Luke “Louis” Voit got the start in the first game over Greg Bird, and delivered a run-scoring single. Brett “Gardner” Gardner also chipped in a couple of RBI’s and Gleyber “GT” Torres, with two hits, had an RBI as well.

In the night game, Gardy, Hicks, and Giancarlo “G” Stanton all contributed an RBI, and Austin “Ro” Romine smacked an insurance-providing solo homer in the top of the ninth. Greg “Bird” Bird finally got the start after two successive starts by Luke Voit. He responded to the challenge for his position by going 0-for-3 with a strikeout.

The Yankees (82-47) play the Boston Red Sox six more times with three games in New York and three in Boston. The New York series is Tuesday, September 18th through Thursday, September 20th, while the Boston series finishes the regular season on Friday, September 28th to Sunday, September 30th. It’s still an uphill battle but the division title remains within reach if the cards fall right for the Yankees. Getting everybody healthy is the first course of business.

Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe had some interesting comments about the Yankees in his weekly Sunday Baseball Notes.  He stated the Indians and the Yankees “were exploring the possibility of (Andrew) McCutchen, who has cleared waivers and can be traded anywhere”. I find it hard to believe the Yankees would add McCutchen due to the luxury tax threshold limitations but I guess you can never underestimate GM Brian Cashman. I wouldn’t mind seeing McCutchen in pinstripes but then again, he’s a redundant luxury once Aaron Judge returns to good health. Cutch does have that “it” factor and could be capable of delivering huge hits when it matters the most even if he is no longer the player he once was for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cafardo also said the Yankees were in the hunt for Giants lefthander Madison Bumgarner at the July trading deadline but found the price too high. Bummer, I would have loved Mad-Bum on the Yankees. Of course, I have no idea what the Giants asked for. Handing over our ten best prospects probably would not have been a good idea. LOL! I doubt that was the cost but it probably wasn’t too far off.

Congrats to former Yankee Matt Holliday for his return to the Majors with his original team, the Colorado Rockies. Holliday was unable to wear his original number (5) since it now belongs to long-time Rockie Carlos Gonzalez and the number he wore with the Yankees (17) is retired in honor of Rockies great Todd Helton. So Holliday opted for number 7 which of course is a hallowed number around here. Holliday went hitless in his Rockies debut on Friday after an absence of ten years in a Colorado uniform but he delivered a pinch hit homer yesterday against another one of his former teams, the St Louis Cardinals.

The Yankees conclude their series at Camden Yards today. Luis Severino (16-6, 3.28 ERA) will face Dylan Bundy (7-12, 5.31 ERA) tonight at 8 pm ET before the team heads home (sleep?  who needs stinkin’ sleep!). It would be great if Sevy could pitch like he did in the first half. We need THAT guy hitting all cylinders for the sprint to the finish. Baltimore is going to lose 100 games this season with or without our help. We might as well move them one game closer. With the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers on tap for the seven-game homestand starting Monday, the Yankees must continue to put the pressure on the Beantown Bunch.  These are the games that we can and should win before we face the Wild Card contending Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners on the the last West Coast trip of the regular season starting on Labor Day.

Go Yankees!

On a Wing (Voit) and a Prayer (Britton)…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Patrick McDermott)

Yanks Use Unlikely Heroes to Thwart the O’s…

When the lineup was posted prior to the game, Luke Voit’s name at first base was about as exciting as getting teeth pulled despite Greg Bird’s struggles with the bat. After the game was over, Voit had ensured he could be the beneficiary of more playing time at Bird’s expense.  His two home runs were huge. The first tied the game in the early stages and the latter provided the necessary insurance for the win. The muscled kid from St Louis came up big for the Pinstripes with 4 RBI’s in the 7-5 win over the Baltimore Orioles.

Zach Britton picked up his first save for the Yankees, his fifth of the year. He was treated rudely by former teammate Chris Davis who blasted a solo home run in the bottom of the tenth, but thanks to Voit’s two-run shot after the Yankees had taken a one-run lead in the top of the tenth, Britton withstood the Davis home run trot to preserve the win. Things might have looked differently had Britton not gotten Trey Mancini, the batter before Davis, to hit into a double play. Whatever it takes, it was a win and the Yankees finally have a winning season record against the O’s at 7-6.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

The Orioles got on the board first. After the Yankees had threatened in the top of the first inning (but failed), the O’s grabbed the early lead with a two-run single by Chris Davis in the bottom of the inning off Yankees starter CC Sabathia. Davis entered the game batting .163 on the season but apparently Yankees pitching didn’t get the memo.

Orioles starter Alex Cobb, who has enjoyed a resurgent second half following a 2-12 record leading up to the All-Star Game, was tough on the Yankees lineup. After escaping the first inning scoring opportunity, he blanked the Yankees over the  next two innings, allowing just a couple of meaningless walks. It looked like he was going to have his way in the top of the fourth inning when he struck out Miguel Andujar to start the frame. Neil Walker singled to center, but Gleyber Torres flied out to right for the second out. Up to the plate strolled Luke Voit who had hit into a double play in the second inning for his first at-bat. Voit crushed the Cobb offering over the wall in left center to tie the game at two. It looked weird to see Chasen Shreve’s #45 circling the bases.

CC Sabathia got the Yankees through six innings with the game knotted at two. The ball was turned over to David Robertson for the seventh but unfortunately he ran into a bit of bad luck. The first hitter, John Andreoli (a recent cast-off from the Seattle Mariners), reached base on a fielding error by interim shortstop Gleyber Torres (the ball rolled up his arm off his wrist and dropped into shallow left field). Torres was in pain but stayed in the game. D-Rob was able to retire the next two hitters but then Jonathan Villar, the former Milwaukee Brewer, took Robertson deep to left center, giving the O’s a 4-2 lead. I hate to say it, but I don’t really see the Yankees re-signing D-Rob, one of my favorite Yankees over the years, after the season.

The Yankees answered in the top of the eighth. With only one out, they loaded the bases against two Orioles relievers. The third O’s pitcher of the inning, Mychal Givens, came in to face Gleyber Torres and was greeted with a two-run single to right. The O’s had a play at the plate for the second runner, Miguel Andujar, on a strong throw by Adam Jones, but the ball came loose on the collision at home. Papa was safe and the game was tied again. The Yanks re-loaded the bases after Luke Voit had struck out for the second out, but Ronald Torreyes left the runners stranded with a pop out to first.

Dellin Betances, sporting yellow shoes, pitched the bottom of the eighth. He got into a little trouble with a couple of singles but was able to get out of the inning with a couple of swinging strikeouts.

The Yankees had a chance in the ninth when Brett Gardner opened the inning with a single, but after Giancarlo Stanton flied out, Aaron Hicks hit the ball directly into Chris Davis’ glove, standing on first base, for an inning-ending double play. Three up and three down for Chad Green in the bottom of the ninth, and it was off to extra innings we went.

With former Yankees prospect Cody Carroll pitching, Neil Walker homered to right center with one out to give the Yankees their first lead of the game. Neil, please accept my apology for any disparaging words I may have used about you earlier in the season. Gleyber Torres followed with a walk. He stole second and then advanced to third on a throwing error by the O’s catcher. Luke Voit, who obviously enjoyed the fourth inning home run, decided to re-live the experience with another two-run blast, this time to right center.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Patrick Semansky)

The Yankees took the three-run lead into the bottom of the tenth, bringing in former Orioles closer Zach Britton to finish off his ex-teammates. Adam Jones singled to right to open the inning for the Orioles, but Trey Mancini, in the midst of a down year for him, grounded into a double play. So Chris Davis came to the plate with the bases empty and two outs. His homer to center, traveling 430 feet, cut the Yanks’ lead to two. Fortunately, Tim Beckham grounded out to first to end the game. It was a struggle but the Yankees persevered to pull out the victory. Britton walked off the Orioles mound with another save in his illustrious Camden Yards career, but the first in opposing gear.

The win, the Yankees’ 80th of the year, helped them to cut the gap to 8 1/2 games behind the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox dropped a 10-3 game to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees are just the second team in MLB to reach 80 wins, but of course the Red Sox became the first to 90 earlier this week. The Yankees hold a four-game lead on the Oakland A’s in the Wild Card standings and eight games over Adam Warren and the Seattle Mariners.

Nice job by CC Sabathia, fresh off the 10-day DL, to give the Yankees some length after the first inning difficulties. He mixed in a couple of eight-pitch innings. He may not have gotten the decision but he put his team in position for the win. As they say, wins are a worthless statistic to prove a pitcher’s worth. The Yankees would not have won this game without CC’s strong performance.

Gary Sanchez began a rehab assignment in Florida (Gulf Coast League) today so it sounds like we’ll be getting one of the wounded soldiers back soon. Sanchez will move up to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after today’s game before rejoins the team, hopefully next week. I really hope that El Gary brings some of the hustle I’ve seen with the rehab workout videos. We could really use the pre-2018 version of Sanchez for the regular season’s final month.

The Yankees and the Orioles play two today. RHP Luis Cessa has been called up as the 26th man for the day/night double-header. The first game, at 1:00 pm ET, features J.A. Happ (14-6, 3.84 ERA) against Jimmy Yacabonis (0-1, 6.75 ERA). Luke Voit hit his last Triple A homer, prior to his call-up, against Yacabonis. Sure enough, on the lineup just posted for today’s game, Voit is playing first base. The second game, 7:05 pm ET, will pit the beleaguered Sonny Gray (9-8, 5.34 ERA) against Andrew Cashner (4-11, 4.84 ERA). Despite his record, Cashner always seems to pitch well against the Yankees. If Gray wants to pitch any meaningful games for the Yankees down the stretch, he needs to show up tonight. No pressure. Somehow I suspect he’ll fail miserably to maintain his grip on the Sonny Gray Sucks! tag line. Sonny, dammit, prove me wrong.

Hopefully last night’s win provides some momentum for the Yankees against the pesky O’s. Why win just one game, when you can take two?  Let’s do this. Go Yankees!