In life we do not always get what we want. I wanted to take the three game series in Pittsburgh but it was not meant to be. Former Yankees starter Ivan Nova set the tone from the start of Sunday’s game when he struck out the side in the first inning en route to Pittsburgh’s 2-1 victory over the Yankees. The loss gave the series to the Pirates, 2 games to 1.
Give Nova credit, he pitched very well against his former club. He went seven strong innings, surrendering only four hits and one run. The one run came courtesy of a Jacoby Ellsbury home run in the seventh inning. For the season coming into the game, Nova had walked just three batters. He only walked one on Sunday but the batter was a guy who hadn’t picked up a bat since his high school days (Yankees pitcher Jordan Montgomery). For the game, Nova struck out seven, picking up his second win of the year.
The Yankees had their chances to win the game. They had a runner at third in the eighth with two outs, but Starlin Castro struck out. In the ninth, they loaded the bases but the game came down to light-hitting shortstop Pete Kozma, who had pinch run for Chris Carter the prior inning. After Aaron Hicks had struck out, Kozma came to bat with two outs, but grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the game. It’s unfortunate that Hicks was not able to come through as it placed the game in the hands of a career .221 hitter.
Kudos to Jordan Montgomery. After the game, he admitted that he didn’t have his best stuff. Loading the bases in the first inning with no outs, he escaped with only one run across home plate. He would go on to pitch six innings, allowing only two runs. Pirates were able to get seven hits off him. He walked two batters while striking out five. The two walks proved costly as both batters eventually scored (the only runs the Pirates would score in the game). Montgomery’s ability to throw a “quality game” despite not having his pitches speaks volumes about the heart of this pitcher. I am anxious and excited for his next start.
Even though the Yankees lost the series to the Pirates, they were in all three games and could have won either of the losses. As the younger guys gain more Major League experience and assuming the veterans continue to hit, the Yankees will begin to win these types of games with greater frequency. The bench is going to look much stronger soon when Didi Gregorius returns and Ronald Torreyes retakes his utility role from Kozma.
Sadly, Greg Bird was not able to get untracked in Pittsburgh. His 0-for-3 day dropped his batting average to .104. I still think he is very close so hopefully Fenway Park will ignite his bat. If not, we’ll probably start to see a few more Chris Carter starts at sprinkled in at first in the coming days.
I am glad that we’re headed back to American League parks so that Matt Holliday can knock the rust off and resume his role as the team’s designated hitter. His offensive capability is too great to be limited to pinch-hitting in National League cities.
The Yankees have today off and will begin a three game series in Boston tomorrow against the Red Sox. The Red Sox are coming off a 6-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday that kept the Yankees 1 1/2 games behind the O’s in the AL East. The Red Sox (11-8) are just a 1/2 game behind the Yankees (11-7). The Orioles play this evening (at home against the Tampa Bay Rays) so they could extend their AL East lead to two games. Or going the ‘glass is half full’ route, drop back to only a one game lead.
The Yankees have a chance to make a statement in Boston. While they may or may not win the series, they need to prove that they can hang with the Red Sox. Boston won the head-to-head battle in 2016, 11 games to 8. The Red Sox swept the first season series last year (April 29th to May 1st). It would be great if the Yankees could return the favor. My primary goal for the series is three competitive games with the Yankee hitters attacking the strong Boston rotation. If they can get to the Boston bullpen early, I really like their chances. The last run through the Yankees starting rotation was mostly a collection of off-nights so hopefully this run through the rotation will yield superior results. So begins the Battle of the AL East…
Have a great Monday! Rest up and be ready to take charge on Tuesday!