The Lasagna was Fantastic!…

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Photo Credit: For NJ.com (Lori M Nichols)

Jonathan Loaisiga assumes the role of “Stopper”…

The Yankees win!  My three favorite words.

The three-game losing streak is over, and the Yankees are back in the win column. Even though they may not have the most wins in MLB, they hold the best overall winning percentage.

While I was optimistic the Yankees would take the series opener in Philadelphia, I certainly did not expect young Jonathan Loaisiga to take a no-hitter into the sixth inning. It was a marvelous pitching performance for the 23-year-old who bypassed Triple A to put on the famed Pinstripes a couple of weeks ago.

Jorge Alfaro broke up the ‘no-no’ with a leadoff single to right in the bottom of the sixth inning. After a walk of Aaron Altherr, a groundout by Cesar Hernandez advanced the runners to second and third. It was the end of the night for Johnny Lasagna. Job well done. David Robertson came in (a nice NL double switch by Aaron Boone, who also inserted Neil Walker at first in place of Greg Bird to take the pitcher’s spot in the batting order) and struck out young Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins for the second out. Robertson induced Odubel Herrera to hit a grounder to second for the final out, leaving the two Phillies baserunners stranded. Hoskins and Herrera are such a huge part of the Phillies offense so it was a great moment for D-Rob to preserve Loaisiga’s scoreless outing.

Loaisiga (2-0) finished with 5 1/3 innings, 86 pitches, surrendering only the lone hit by Alfaro, a couple of walks, and eight strikeouts.  It was quite simply a magnificent performance for a team that needed the win. I know, for me, Loaisiga has certainly exceeded all expectations. To his credit, he has very strong believers in the Yankees organization. Otherwise, he’d still be pitching in Double-A.

It was good to see the Yankees score first.  It seemed like they were always playing from behind in the Tampa Bay series. In the top of the second inning, Greg Bird walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch by Phillies starter Vince Velasquez. Leading AL Rookie of the Year contender Gleyber Torres doubled to right to bring Bird home with the game’s first run.

With two outs in the top of the fifth, Aaron Judge scorched a liner into the left field stands to give the Yankees a two-run cushion. The home run was Judge’s 20th of the year.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

After David Robertson emerged unscathed in the sixth inning, he was not so lucky the next frame. Former Cleveland Indian Carlos Santana led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk. A wild pitch by D-Rob moved Santana to second. Scott Kingery, who hit the Yankees well in Spring Training, laced a run-scoring single to left to make it a one-run game.

The Yankees picked up a couple of insurance runs in the top of the eighth inning when Giancarlo Stanton delivered a two-run single off Phillies reliever Yacksel Rios. The eighth inning also saw one of the ugliest at-bats we’ll ever see when Dellin Betances, bat wiggle and all, struck out for the second out with two runners in scoring position. I guess it was his argument that the NL needs to adopt the DH rule. I know that I’d prefer to see him stick to his day job of throwing the baseball.

Capture

Betances got into trouble in the bottom of the eighth. He walked the first batter which is never a good sign.  I guess he was still thinking about that awful at-bat. He picked up a couple of outs but then walked Odubel Herrera to bring the tying run to the plate in the form of Carlos Santana. Manager Aaron Boone pulled the plug on Betances and brought in closer Aroldis Chapman. Santana jumped on the first pitch with a laser shot to left that looked like it might drop in for extra bases but fortunately Giancarlo Stanton tracked the ball down and caught it on the warning track. For as much as we ripped Stanton’s defense during Spring Training, the Yankees could have lost the game right there if Stanton had not made that tremendous catch.

Chapman shut the door on the Phillies with three strikeouts in the bottom of the ninth, despite a meaningless two-out solo home run by Maikel Franco. Yankees win, 4-2.

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Photo Credit: For NJ.com (Lori M Nichols)

The Yankees (51-25) moved a half-game up on the Boston Red Sox in the AL East standings. The Red Sox had the night off. The Sox have one more win than the Yankees but two more losses. Every team in the division won yesterday except for the, well, pathetic Baltimore Orioles who never seem to win any games.

I am not quite sure why the Yankees continue to stand behind Chasen Shreve. I assume he’ll eventually figure this out and return to a role of prominence but, personally, I have lost patience with him. Sunday started with the false news reports that Shreve had been DFA’d and ended with Shreve served up the gopher ball to Jake Bauers which allowed the Rays to take the walk-off win after 12 innings, sweeping the series with the Yankees. It really made me wish those DFA news reports had been true. There are many who feel Triple A lefty Josh Rogers is fully capable of stepping into Shreve’s spot in the Yankees bullpen. Admittedly, it is tough to see guys like Shreve and Neil Walker on the MLB roster, blocking legitimate big leaguers like Tommy Kahnle and Brandon Drury…and others. Maybe the Yankees patience pays off and Shreve becomes a big part of the pen before the season is over. I just know that if I owned the team, his Yankees career would have already ended.

Given the Yankees are in Philly, it is only fitting the two starting pitchers most closely connected to the Yankees are former Phillies. While I like Cole Hamels, the pitcher that intrigues me the most is J.A. Happ. I remember back in the days when he pitched for Philadelphia and I thought his name was pronounced “Jay-Aye” Happ rather than the correct pronunciation of “Jay” Happ. I always liked the guy but he couldn’t really put it together in Philly or a few other stops until he became a 20-game winner for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2016. Last year was a bit of a disappointment (10-11, 3.53 ERA) but wins aren’t a good barometer for pitchers, particularly when their team is not so good. This year, Happ is 10-3 (3.62 ERA) but yesterday I was impressed how he beat Justin Verlander and the Houston Astros. Sure, he only pitched six innings and gave up three runs but he picked up the win when former Yankee Curtis Granderson hit his second home run of the night in the seventh inning. The Astros have been hot lately but Happ cooled their jets. The Blue Jays needed a brilliant defensive play by Randal Grichuk (took away a potential home run from George Springer) to preserve the win for Happ  but beating one of the best teams in baseball is a noteworthy achievement. I also like the fact that Happ wouldn’t cost top prospects and would slot very nicely into the Yankees rotation. He’s a free agent at the end of the year so he’d be a true rental unlike Hamels whose 2019 $20 million contract option carries a $6 million buyout. While Happ is a late bloomer, Hamels enjoyed his greatest success earlier in his career with the Phillies. Hamels may be the more accomplished pitcher but I’d rather go with Happ for the reduced financial and prospect commitments. The difference in their present day abilities is not that great.

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Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Brett Coomer)

Nice quote of Manager Aaron Boone (courtesy of Bryan Hoch) about Giancarlo Stanton: “He’s getting synced up. He’s getting started a little bit earlier. It’s very subtle but it’s allowing him to get into a strong position.  We’re starting to see the results a little more consistently now.” The best team winning percentage in Major League Baseball and Giancarlo is starting to crank it up. Nice. I should feel badly that Gary Sanchez will spend the next month on the disabled list but I have confidence in Austin Romine to hold the ship while the other bats get hot. No offense to El Gary, but it will be nice to see a few less passed balls in the coming days and weeks. Hopefully the time away will help Gary bring his A-game back when he resumes play next month.

Prior to yesterday’s game when the Yankees placed Sanchez on the disabled list, they also optioned Clint Frazier to Triple A (bummer!) and recalled catcher Kyle Higashioka to back up Romine and added an additional arm with righthander Giovanny Gallegos. I hope Higgy enjoys greater success than last year when he was hitless in 18 at-bats. His bat has gotten off to a slow start in Pennsylvania this year.

Today’s game at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia should be a fantastic one. The Yankees will send their ace (Luis Severino, 11-2, 2.24 ERA) to the mound against former Chicago Cubs ace Jake Arrieta (5-5, 3.42 ERA). Arrieta, a late free agent signing, has started off slowly like so many of the other late signees, but he’s still an ace and a champion. I expect him to raise the level of his game against the mighty Yankees. Top shelf competition which we know Sevy loves dearly. It should be a fun day.

Go Yankees!

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