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!

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