It was a Cole, Hard Night for the Braves…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Stobe)

Yanks prevail, thanks to Bullpen, a couple of homers, and a few walks…

Happy 4th of July!

The Yankees used the long ball and some very lucky breaks on Tuesday night to win the second game of their series with the Atlanta Braves, 8-5.  After losing Monday night’s contest in extra innings on a Ronald Acuna, Jr fly ball that glanced off the top of Aaron Judge’s outstretched glove into the right field stands, it was nice to get one back in the win column.

This game looked like it would be a Yankees rout, but then the Braves charged back before Giancarlo Stanton, with unlikely assists from A.J. Cole and Chasen Shreve, said “oh no, you don’t” with his two-run homer (20th of the year) in the eighth.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac (via Newsday)

Aaron Hicks followed up his three-homer performance on Sunday with a first inning two-run dinger to give the Yankees an early 2-0 off Braves starter (and childhood Red Sox fan) Sean Newcomb.  Hicks quietly has 15 home runs, matching his career high set last season.

In the bottom of the second, Kyle Higashioka added a run with his second Major League hit and second MLB homer with a shot to left. “All he does is hit damn home runs” to borrow and slightly tweak the famous line uttered by the late Buddy Ryan about Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter and his propensity for catching touchdowns. Higgy has certainly allayed any concerns about Austin Romine’s sore hammy.

The third inning was a very unusual one for the Yankees. Newcomb loaded the bases for the Yankees with three walks around two outs before issuing a free pass to Brandon Drury to force in a run. The Braves made a pitching change to bring in reliever Luke Jackson but he couldn’t find the strike zone with Kyle Higashioka (I think every Yankees fan was hoping for another home run by Higgy to match the three-homer start to his career by former Yankee Alfonso Soriano) and walked in another run. Neil Walker lined out to first on a very sharply hit ball to end the inning but the Yankees had scored two more runs despite no hits to lead 5-0.

Brett Gardner led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a double to left center past a diving Ronald Acuna,Jr. He advanced to third on a single to left by Aaron Judge. Luke Jackson, after striking out the next two batters, threw a wild pitch that allowed Gardy to race home, sliding headfirst across the plate, for the Yankees’ sixth run. It looked like the game was going to be a blowout like Sunday’s game against the Boston Red Sox.

Domingo German had looked good for the first four innings but it all unraveled for him in the fifth inning. After Johan Comargo walked to lead off, German was able to strike out Dansby Swanson but then the Braves homer parade started. Ender Inciarte took German deep to right for a two-run shot, and Ozzie Albies followed with a blast to right to make it a three-run game. German gave up singles to the next two batters to end his night, removing his ability to earn the win since he was unable to complete five full innings. A.J. Cole, who had been activated off the disabled list on Monday, came in relief for German.  Cole struck out the first batter, Kurt Suzuki, but then Ronald Acuna, Jr reached on an infield single to load the bases.  In perhaps his biggest moment as a Yankee, Cole struck out Tyler Flowers on a 3-2 count to end the inning, leaving the three Braves runners stranded. I continue to be amazed how effective Cole has been in his limited appearances for the Yankees after his miserable start to the year with the Washington Nationals.

The Braves made it a one-run game in the top of the seventh inning when Nick Markakis, no stranger to Yankee Stadium with his years in Baltimore, took advantage of the right field porch, like his teammates, with a two-run dinger off Adam Warren. There was a bit of a scare when Giancarlo Stanton crashed into the wall while attempting to make the catch on the ball hit by Markakis.

It was looking very precarious for the Yankees in the top of the eighth when the Braves had the go-ahead run on base with only one out following a couple of singles off Warren.  Aaron Boone made the call to the pen for Chasen Shreve (Yikes!) but despite my fears and absolute pessimism, Shreve recorded outs with both men he faced. I can’t say Shreve would have been my choice in that spot but credit to Boonie for keeping the faith.

Giancarlo Stanton gave the Yankees some breathing room in the bottom of the inning. Brett Gardner took a one-out walk, but was erased at second when Aaron Judge hit into a fielder’s choice at short. So, with Judge at first, Stanton came to the plate and hit what Sweeny Murti called “the Yankee Stadium-iest home run” with a short fly ball (331 feet) just over the right field wall. No matter, it gave the Yankees a 8-5 advantage.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Stobe)

Three up and three down in the top of the ninth for the great Aroldis Chapman and he had his 24th save of the season and another win for the Yankees.

Photo Credit: AP (Frank Franklin II)

Gleyber Torres didn’t start the game with what was described as a stiff hip flexor but he came into the game as a defensive replacement for Neil Walker in the eighth inning. Gleyber is expected to man second base in the series finale with the Braves today.

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun

Brandon Drury got the start at first base over Greg Bird. He was 0-for-3 but had the RBI on the bases-loaded walk.

A.J. Cole picked up the vulture win with a very solid 1 2/3 innings of relief after German received the early hook in the fifth. Cole yielded only one hit in the scoreless appearance while striking out four Braves. He was certainly one of the keys to the game for a guy who has seemed to straddle the DFA line for weeks.

I have to admit that it was very strange to see Aaron Boone wearing his Yankees jersey. I almost expected him to pick up a bat to hit for Miguel Andujar. It was probably the first regular season game that I’ve seen Boonie wear the famed Pinstriped jersey since his time with the Yankees in 2003 (this year’s Old Timer’s Day excluded).

Unfortunately, the Yankees (55-28) were unable to make up any ground on the Boston Red Sox in the AL East and continue to trail the Sox by a game. Boston thrashed the Washington Nationals, 11-4, for their second win in as many days against the Nats. I am really hoping that Bryce Harper has a banner day today for the 4th of July. Sadly, the pitching matchup seems to favor the Red Sox (Eduardo Rodriguez, 9-3, 4.11 ERA against Erick Fedde, 1-3, 6.00 ERA). Hopefully E-Rod will look more like the version that faced the Yankees last weekend.

For the Yankees, they’ll send crafty vet CC Sabathia (5-3, 3.02 ERA) to the hill against Julio Teheran (6-5, 4.21 ERA) for the series finale. This day always make me think of Dave Righetti when he no hit the Boston Red Sox on July 4, 1983.

Have a safe and enjoyable 4th of July!

Go Yankees!

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Returning the Favor…

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (John Munson)

Yanks Take Series Against Red Sox…

A day after a lop-sided loss to the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees got revenge with a similar 11-1 beating of the Sox. I really wanted an identical 11-0 beating to match the Red Sox winning score on Saturday but Aroldis Chapman lost the shutout in the ninth. Oh well, all is good with the ten-run victory and a woefully quiet Red Sox Nation.

It was disheartening to watch the Yankees fall behind behind by six runs in the first two innings during Saturday’s loss so I am sure the Red Sox fans felt the same way yesterday. I had felt so much more confidence with Luis Severino pitching for the Yankees and perennial Yankees punching bag David Price going for Boston. Six home runs from the home team, including three from the other Aaron (Hicks), certainly did not hurt. On an evening when so many balls were leaving the yard, it was odd that Giancarlo Stanton didn’t join the party.  But he had a couple of hits and scored a run so not all was lost.  

First, Severino. Sevy has been one of the best pitchers in the American League this year and after this game, he might be the best. He’s 13-2 with 1.98 ERA, both marks are the best in the league.  Justin Verlander had been the ERA leader for most of the season but he currently stands at 2.12.  If Sevy is not named the starter for this year’s All-Star Game, it will be a travesty by Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch. For this game, Severino shut out the Red Sox for 6 2/3 innings, yielding only two hits and three walks. He struck out six to increase his season total to 138. I might have been a little worried going into the game that Sevy might not have his best stuff coming off his masterful performance against the Philadelphia Phillies last week, but Sevy showed why he is the ace of the staff. I am very happy Luis Severino is a Yankee.

As for the other guys, Aaron Judge got the homer party started early with a one-out homer over the center field wall into Monument Park.  After a single by Giancarlo Stanton and a double from Didi Gregorius, Gleyber Torres continued his magical season with a blast to right to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead.  David Price could only look up at the scorecard and think “there goes my ERA”.  Gleyber’s smile in the Yankees dugout after the homer was, you could say, priceless.

In the bottom of the second, the speedy Brett Gardner reached on an infield single to second when a bobble and momentum took Brock Holt away from getting the ball to first in time. The eldest Yankees position player didn’t have to stand on first base very long. Aaron Hicks took David Price deep to right for the first of his three home runs on the night.  

Photo Credit: NY Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

The Red Sox had something going in the top of the third inning and could have climbed back into the game. Mookie Betts worked a two-out walk and advanced to third on a single to left center by Andrew Benintendi, the first hit off Severino. It brought J.D. Martinez to the plate and the Red Sox Nation was probably thinking it would soon be a three-run game.  Martinez worked the count full and seemed to be in position for a big hit but a swinging strikeout ended the threat. A very nice job by Sevy in that spot.  No doubt it would have been a three-run homer if Sonny Gray had been on the mound.

The moment Kyle Higashioka had been waiting for happened in the fourth inning.  Higgy had struck out in the second inning to extend his Major League hitless streak to 0-for-22. But leading off the bottom of the fourth, Higgy made his first Major League hit a big one with a home run into the second deck in left field. Congrats, Higgy!  I hope it is the first of many.

 

An out later, Aaron Hicks had his second homer of the night, a shot to center. 8-0 Yankees, but they weren’t done. The Hicks homer ended David Price’s night and Aaron Judge greeted Red Sox reliever and fellow Fresno State alum Justin Haley with a single to left. Giancarlo Stanton followed with a double to left center, advancing Judge to third.  Didi Gregorius lofted a fly to left which was deep enough to score Judge with the third run of the inning.  

Manager Aaron Boone lifted Severino with two outs in the seventh inning after throwing 99 pitches and brought in David Robertson to record the final out, a fly out by Christian Vasquez.

With such a huge lead, I didn’t really expect to see Robertson, Dellin Betances and later Aroldis Chapman in the game. After D-Rob struck out the first two batters of the eighth inning, Betances came in to get the final out via a groundout to first by Andrew Benintendi.

With Hector Velasquez pitching for the Sox in the bottom of the eighth, Aaron Hicks blasted his third home run of the night with a shot to right from the left-side. The switch-hitting Hicks had recorded the first two homers from the right side. Hicks is only the third Yankee to hit three home runs in a game against Boston, joining Lou Gehrig and Mark Teixeira. Aaron Judge followed with a walk and took second on a single by Brandon Drury, pinch-hitting for Giancarlo Stanton. Neil Walker, who had entered the game at second in the seventh inning with Gleyber Torres sliding to short in place of Didi Gregorius, lifted a ball over the head of Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers into left to score Judge.  

Dellin Betances got the first out of the ninth inning (strikeout of J.D. Martinez) but Boone made the curious decision at that point to bring in Aroldis Chapman. Sandy Leon, pinch-hitting for Mitch Moreland, doubled into the left-field corner. Blake Swihart reached first on an infield single that advanced Leon to third. Rafael Devers hit a grounder to third and while the Yankees forced Swihart at second, Leon ruined the shutout when he scored on the play. Brock Holt hit a grounder to Gleyber Torres who, after looking toward first, tapped second base with his glove ahead of Devers for the final out. The Yankees win!  

The Yankees (54-27) put themselves back into a first place tie with the Red Sox (56-29) in the AL East and technically lead by percentage points (.667 to .659). My goal going into this series was to take two of three so I was very satisfied with the results. A sweep would have been great but as Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com often says, Sonny was not grayt.  Between Gray and David Price, the two Vanderbilt guys gave up fourteen runs in 5 2/3 innings. Not a great couple of days for former Commodores.

The last Yankee to hit three home runs in a game was a then-39 year old Alex Rodriguez who smacked three against the Minnesota Twins on July 25, 2015. A-Rod’s last homer of the game sailed over the head of Twins center fielder, you guessed it, Aaron Hicks. Hicks also had a homer in that game, a two-run shot off CC Sabathia. But the Yankees prevailed, 8-5.  

Poor Aaron Hicks. If Yankees Twitter had their way, Hicksie would have been DFA’d long ago. I have not felt the desire to bash Hicks (I’ll stick with Sonny Gray, Chasen Shreve and Neil Walker). I’d gladly take Hicks over DL-King Jacoby Ellsbury whom, honestly, I hope never wears the Pinstripes again regardless of the cost. If Estevan Florial was knocking at the door or if  Clint Frazier was a legitimate option for center, I’d feel differently but for now, I’m fine with Hicks in the outfield even if he hadn’t hit three dingers last night.  

The Yankees now host the NL East leading Atlanta Braves (48-34) for a three-game set at Yankee Stadium starting this evening. Jonathan Loaisiga (2-0, 1.93 ERA) gets the start. He’ll face former Detroit Tiger Anibal Sanchez who has pitched well for the Braves this year (3-2, 2.68 ERA) after being released by the Minnesota Twins during training camp.

It’s July which means it will be a big month for new Yankees. The 2018-19 International Signing Period opens today meaning some very talented international youths will soon begin their journeys for Major League dreams with Baseball’s most storied franchise. The non-waiver Trading Deadline is July 31st so the rumor mill, which was already cranked up, will be hitting on all cylinders for the next few weeks. Who will be the next players to pull on the famed Pinstripes? We will find out by month-end. Good times.

Go Yankees!

A Gray-fully Pathetic Start…

Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)

Can I get the Men in Black Neuralyzer, please?…

Aargh! That’s one game that I’d just as soon forget. It looked like a mismatch on paper with Chris Sale versus Sonny Gray and sadly it was. The Yankees were hammered 11-0 and could only muster two hits against Sale and the Red Sox bullpen. No game highlights for this one. Maybe the mercy killing when Aaron Boone finally pulled Gray with one out in the third inning after 68 miserable pitches.

Of course this game was not all on Gray. Despite the seven hits and six runs he allowed, the bullpen was not up to the task  as they would let five more Red Sox runners cross home plate and the Yankees hitters could not buy a hit on Sale. When Giancarlo Stanton singled in the first inning, it was the first and only hit that Sale would give up. By the time he departed after seven innings, he had racked up eleven strikeouts. Gleyber Torres registered the second hit for the Yankees with a meaningless two-out single in the ninth against Sox reliever Hector Velasquez but the Yankees were unable to get any extra base hits on this night. By the time it was done, the Sox had accumulated 17 hits (or 15 more than the Yankees) and Chris Sale had the easy victory over the Yankees.

I hate games that are over before they really start and that’s what happened yesterday. A grand slam in the first inning by Rafael Devers gave the Red Sox a 4-0 lead before the Yankees had taken an at-bat.

Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)

The Red Sox picked up a couple more runs in the second inning and the most positive of Yankees fans (which wouldn’t include me) were screaming that it was still early and lots of time to make up ground. Unfortunately, the Yankees were never in this one.  It’s best to forget the loss and look forward to today when a much more reliable starting pitcher takes the mound for the Yankees. Of course that could be any other pitcher in the Yankees starting rotation not named Sonny Gray but thankfully for us it will be Luis Severino as the Yankees attempt to take the series despite the pitiful loss on Saturday. My goal for this series was to take two of three and it’s still very possible.

I really think we need to come to the realization that Sonny Gray is not cut out for New York.  It happens. Not every pitcher is meant to play on Baseball’s biggest stage. I am sure that he can be a very good pitcher for a team in a more forgiving and less pressurized environment. He has all the makings of a future Pittsburgh Pirates starter, following in the footsteps of former Yankees A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova. Or send him back to Oakland. The A’s are third in the Wild Card standings and have three months to make up seven games on the Seattle Mariners. Maybe they’d like to get their former ace back for the stretch run. I keep waiting for Gray to have his Yankees moment but it never happens.

After the game, he was quoted as saying “I feel like we’re the best team in baseball four out of five days, and then I go out and do that.  It just sucks.” I guess even he acknowledges that Sonny Gray sucks.

I have seen a few suggestions that the Yankees should trade Gray-for-Gray. Jon Gray of the Colorado Rockies is another pitcher who might benefit from a change in scenery. The Rockies optioned Gray to Triple A yesterday.  He is 7-7 with a 5.77 ERA for the season, but has ace-like stuff. In 108 innings this season, he has struck out 119 batters (fourth in the NL) and has only allowed 11 homers which is noteworthy considering he pitches in the hitter-friendly high altitude of Coors Field. The Yankees drafted Gray in the tenth round of the 2011 MLB Draft but he did not sign. Nonetheless, he’s a pitcher they’ve scouted and potentially one they could turn around. I’d gladly send Sonny Gray and a prospect to Colorado for Jon Gray.

I’ve been talking up Brandon Drury for weeks and in his return to the lineup, he goes 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. But it wasn’t just him. Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres also struck out three times. An O-fer night was prevalent among most of the hitters.

As if it wasn’t bad enough, the Yankees lost catcher Austin Romine after six innings when he tweaked his left hammy. MRI results came back negative, but it most likely means that Romine will be lost for a few games even if a trip to the disabled list is not in the cards. Kyle Higashioka, 0-for-21 in his MLB career, becomes the starter if Romine misses any time. If the Yankees have to bring up a catcher from the minor leagues, they’ll have to make room on the 40-man roster (with several guys on the 60-day DL, I believe the 40-man currently stands at 39). The most likely and the most expendable option appears to be 34-year-old Wilkin Castillo. Castillo hasn’t appeared in the Major Leagues since 2009 with the Cincinnati Reds. I liked some of the work that 27-year-old Jorge Saez did during Spring Training but he has missed time this year with injury and has only appeared in 15 games for Double-A Trenton, batting .224/.296/.245 (no homers, 3 RBI’s). Currently healthy, his last ribbie happened on April 21st so Saez does not appear to be ready for a promotion. The injuries at catcher certainly reveal the lack of depth at the position, at least in the upper levels of the farm system and why the Yankees went so heavy for catchers in the recent draft. I kind of wish the Yankees had held onto Erik Kratz, who was traded to Milwaukee in May.  Ronald Torreyes has been listed as an emergency catcher in the past. Okay, I wouldn’t trust Toe catching but his bat would certainly be more reliable than others. However, I believe that he is currently on a personal leave of absence at Triple A. Another catching option, Francisco Diaz, delivered a game-winning walk-off RBI single yesterday as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders took down the Pawtucket Red Sox in extra innings. Diaz, 28, is hitting .302/.417/.373, with a homer and 20 RBI’s in 41 games (mostly at the Single and Double A levels). Whichever catching option gets promoted will lose his 40-man roster spot when the need is over which makes it seem like Castillo is the best option.

Photo Credit: Newsday (J Conrad Williams, Jr)

The loss dropped the Yankees (53-27) a game behind the Red Sox (56-28) in the AL East, and two games ahead of the Mariners in the Wild Card standings.  The Yankees still have the second best winning percentage in MLB.  The third-place Tampa Bay Rays beat the Houston Astros, the team many call the best team in Baseball, and Justin Verlander to reach .500.

After the game, the Yankees optioned Giovanny Gallegos to Triple A. So, they have an open spot on the active roster. You’d think they would fill the position with a pitcher since they previously sacrificed a pitcher to promote Brandon Drury. So, if the Yankees do promote a catcher, it would seem that a position player (Drury?) will have to go the other way. Using a catcher to fill the spot vacated by Gallegos would leave the Yankees with only eleven pitchers which seems very unlikely. Sorry, Brandon, you look like the odd man out even if I’d rather see Neil Walker get DFA’d.

It’s a new day. Today is a good day. A great day for a Yankees win. We got this. Go Yankees!

Keep Rolling With It…

Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)

Yankees Roll Past Red Sox, 8-1…

The title of the post is courtesy of Greg Bird’s words after the game as he finally contributed  to the Yankees offense in a big way. His two home runs helped power the Yankees past Boston in the first game of the three-game set at Yankee Stadium.

Gleyber Torres set the tone early when he stretched a double into a triple leading off the second inning. Thanks to a drawn-in infield, Miguel Andujar’s bloop fly fell in between four Red Sox defenders in shallow center, scoring Torres with the game’s first run. It may not have been pretty but whatever it takes. Advantage, Yanks.

The fourth inning proved to be fruitful for the Yankees against Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez.  Rodriguez entered the game with a 9-2 record, tied for the team lead for wins with Rick Porcello and David Price. Down 0-2, Giancarlo Stanton worked a walk off Rodriguez to open the fourth. Didi Gregorius followed with a deep fly to right center which one-hopped off the warning track up against the wall for a double to put runners at second and third with no outs. Gleyber Torres hit a fly to Andrew Benintendi in left which allowed Stanton to tag and score. Next, the Yankees got back-to-back home runs from Miguel Andujar and Greg Bird to increase their lead to 5-0. I thought it was funny how Paul O’Neill of the YES Network was describing how Bird’s swing was slow to come around as Bird’s ball flew over the left field wall. A quick correction in words made by O’Neill. Nice audible, Paulie!

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Red Sox finally got their first (and only) run off CC Sabathia in the fifth inning. The dangerous Mookie Betts hit a two-out double to left center and scored when Andrew Benintendi followed with a double to the right field wall. Benintendi stole third but was stranded on the second inning-ending fly out of the night with runners in scoring position by J.D. Martinez. It was a really nice job by Sabathia and later Chad Green to contain the red hot Martinez who finished 0-for-4. If Martinez had gotten a couple of huge hits, the game would have looked very differently.

It was a great start for CC Sabathia who took the team into the seventh inning rather than his usual five. Sabathia enters his 38th month of July tomorrow but he didn’t show any signs of age on this night. After recording the first two outs of the seventh, Jackie Bradley Jr was hit by a pitch to bring the always lethal Mookie Betts to the plate. It probably would have been a good spot for Aaron Boone to make a pitching change, but he stayed with the crafty veteran.  CC, showing some athleticism, took a grounder from Betts on his 97th pitch to flip it to Greg Bird for the final out. Time for the showers for Sabathia but it was a job well done. Seven solid innings, six hits, the lone fifth inning run, a walk and five strikeouts. You could not have asked for a better performance.

In the bottom of the seventh, with Red Sox reliever Justin Haley in for Rodriguez, the Yankees picked up a couple more runs on Aaron Judge’s home run to right after Aaron Hicks had singled. It had been a battle of Fresno State alumnus but Judge was the better Bulldog this time around (as expected of course).

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (Andrew Mills)

The Yankees scored their final run in the bottom of the eighth inning with Haley still on the mound for the Sox. It might have been more but Miguel Andujar was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double before Greg Bird came to the plate. With the bases empty, Bird blasted a homer to right for his second dinger of the game. 8-1, Yankees.

Photo Credit: NY Post (Paul J Bereswill)

Chad Green had pitched a clean eighth inning for the Yankees, but I am always sweating bullets when the unreliable Chasen Shreve enters a game. Despite a seven-run lead, it was not easy watching Shreve take the mound for the ninth. He retired the three batters he faced, including the last two by strikeout to end the game so there was no cause for alarm. I guess that’s why they pay Aaron Boone to make these decisions and not me.

With the win, the Yankees (53-26) are back in a first-place tie with the Red Sox. It is amazing how the two teams have battled neck-and-neck for the past month with no more than a two-game separation. No MLB teams have better winning percentages than the Yankees (.671) and Red Sox (.663). The Tampa Bay Rays, fourteen games out in the AL East, would only be 4 1/2 games out if they played in the AL Central.

It was nice to see Brandon Drury in the Yankees dugout even if he didn’t get to play on Friday night.There’s no doubt we’ll see him sometime this weekend. It’s funny how Greg Bird answered Drury’s arrival with two home runs. Felt kind of like the effect Clint Frazier has on Aaron Hicks when Red Thunder pulls on the pinstripes. Still, I expect Drury to play a big role in the march to October and hope he’s up with the big league club for the long haul.

Great credit goes to the rookies (Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar) for this game. Neither player is intimidated by playing in Baseball’s biggest rivalry on its largest stage. I can’t imagine playing with that type of pressure at such a young age. But time and again, they come up with the plays to ignite the Yankees offense. I was one who wanted the Yankees to re-sign Todd Frazier in the off-season and if that had happened, the Yankees might be trailing the Red Sox in the standings. Frazier is only batting .219/.305/.373 with 8 homers and 29 RBI’s, while Andujar is delivering .283/.309/.521 with 12 home runs and 38 RBI’s. The Toddfather has 15 extra base hits, Andujar has 39. Wow. A big disparity in numbers…and age.

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (Andrew Mills)

Friday night was a very good night for all things-Yankees as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders took down the top Red Sox affiliate, Pawtucket, 7-4, behind the arm of Chance Adams who yielded only one run over five innings for the win.

The Yankees send Sonny Gray to the mound today to face Chris Sale. Of the three games this weekend, this is the one that I have the least confidence for despite the Yankees history of success against Sale. I’d probably feel better if it was anyone other than Gray on the mound.  Well, not anyone, I’d hate to see Luis Cessa in this spot. Maybe Gray can surprise me like Shreve did last night. I hope so.

Go Yankees!

The Rivalry Resumes Tonight in the Bronx…

BostonRedSox-NewYorkYankees

Baseball’s Greatest Rivalry, sorry Dodgers-Giants, is back…

Yankees-Red Sox.  It doesn’t get any better than this. The two teams open tonight for a three-game set at Yankee Stadium in the continuing battles for the AL East. The season series is currently tied at three games apiece. The Sox took two of three at Fenway Park in April, and the Yanks countered with two of three in the Bronx during May. After this series, the teams will meet ten more times with the next series a four-game set in Boston which starts on the 39th anniversary of the death of legendary Yankees catcher Thurman Munson (August 2nd). I still miss Munson’s intensity in these Yankees-Red Sox games.

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I am disappointed in former Yankees Assistant General Manager Billy Eppler. The Los Angeles Angels GM has arguably the best baseball player in the World on his team and he can’t put other guys talented enough around Mike Trout to beat the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox enter tonight’s series in the Bronx with a one-game advantage on the Yankees in the AL East. Boston swept their six-game season series with the Halos, thanks to a 4-2 win at Fenway Park yesterday. If the Angels could have taken just one of those games, the Yankees and Red Sox would be tied atop the AL East. I know, it’s still June. Don’t get worked up about the Standings. But, hey Billy, thanks for nothing. That’s literally what you gave us.

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I don’t know what I was more disappointed about. The lack of effort by the Angels against the Red Sox or the “throwaway game” that Aaron Boone served up on Wednesday when he started the underwhelming Luis Cessa against the Philadelphia and inserted the legendary hitless bat of Kyle Higashioka in place of the much better Austin Romine and also sat Aaron Judge even though the Yankees had Thursday off with a very short commute from Philly back to New York. I know that Cessa only let one hitter beat him but the three-run homer by Rhys Hoskins was all the Phillies needed to take down the Yankees on a night the offense was a no-show. In my opinion, Cessa is better used in limited relief appearances. I really wish the Yankees would quit giving him spot start assignments. He is no Domingo German or Jonathan Loaisiga and never will be.

I get wanting to push CC Sabathia back so that he could open the Boston series tonight but with Cessa’s loss, it didn’t really seem worth it. Sabathia draws a tough opposing pitcher this evening in the form of Eduardo Rodriguez who brings a 9-2 record into the game with a 3.86 ERA. It doesn’t get any easier for the Yankees tomorrow when they’ll throw out Sonny Gray (Sucks!) against Boston ace Chris Sale. The only pitching match-up that favors the Yankees this weekend is Sunday when Luis Severino (12-2, 2.10 ERA) takes on David Price (9-5, 3.66 ERA).

After Wednesday’s game, the Yankees optioned Cessa to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and will be recalling Brandon Drury today. Yay! I am very excited to see the Triple-A All-Star back in the Bronx. I like the options to use both Drury and Miguel Andujar at third and move Drury around the infield bags. I hope Drury is here to stay but I think he has at least one more trip to Scranton before he finishes his minor league career. If it was up to me, I’d pat Neil Walker on the back, thank him for his efforts, and send him on his way with bags in hand. Drury has greater long-term value for the Yankees and can easily meet or exceed current production.

The Boston Red Sox have baseball’s highest payroll and a decimated farm system thanks to Dave Dombrowski trades but it didn’t stop the Sox from trying to get better yesterday. They made a deal to acquire 35-year-old infielder/outfielder Steve Pearce from the Toronto Blue Jays for an infield prospect (Santiago Espinal) and cash considerations.  Toronto is apparently contributing $1.66 million toward Pearce’s contract to keep the Red Sox from entering the top tier of tax penalties. Pearce is effective when healthy, but health has been the issue. He has only played 26 games for the Blue Jays this season.  He had a memorable 2017 season when he blasted two walk-off grand slams within a week. He also provided the Jays with a walk-off homer against the Angels earlier this season. When Pearce puts on the Red Sox uniform, he will have worn the uniform for every AL East team  (he appeared in a dozen games for the Yankees early in the 2012 season). Everyone keeps saying the Yankees have the advantage over the Red Sox with a much deeper farm system to deal from, but it doesn’t seem to be holding back the Red Sox. Brian Cashman, your move.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Bill Kostroun)

There’s talk that the Texas Rangers could move Cole Hamels before the All-Star Game which will be held on Tuesday, July 17th, at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. The Yankees continue to be mentioned as a possible destination, along with Hamels’ old team, the Philadelphia Phillies. I think I still prefer J.A. Happ but I certainly would not complain if Cashman drops Hamels into the Yankees rotation. I know the Yankees have long been connected to Michael Fulmer of the Detroit Tigers but despite the youth and controllable years for the former Rookie of the Year, Fulmer just does not excite me. The Yankees had a scout present for his last start yesterday in Detroit against the Oakland A’s. Fulmer took the loss, pitching eight innings, giving up nine hits and four runs, in the A’s 4-2 victory. For the season, Fulmer is 3-7 with a 4.20 ERA for the 36-46 Tigers. Detroit is apparently asking for the moon and the stars in any trade for Fulmer. I do not feel that he is worth the price of Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Albert Abreu and others. I am okay with short-term options to buy time for the young arms in the system to mature. I’d make an exception for Jacob deGrom but despite the noise that the Yankees and Mets are talking, I don’t think they’ll make a deal. It would be very hard for the Mets to watch their ace excel in the Bronx without getting top flight, Major League-ready talent in return.

Okay, Yankees. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to win at least two of the next three games this weekend, and start next week in a dead heat with the Red Sox. If you want to sweep the Sox, please, by all means, go ahead. Good pitching and good hitting (plus some solid D). Let’s bring it. All I want to hear this weekend is Michael Kay yelling, “There it goes…see ya!” and to watch Aroldis Chapman shake hands with Austin Romine at the end of the games.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

Go Yankees!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The AL Starter in the MLB All-Star Game Should Be…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Hunter Martin)

An Easy Decision for Astros Manager A.J. Hinch…

I am starting to think that Luis Severino simply plays at a higher level than anyone else. If there was a league higher than Major League Baseball, he would have already graduated. I remember being so frustrated in 2016 when Sevy couldn’t buy a win as a starter. I was among many who felt that his future might be better served in the bullpen. Thank God I am not a baseball scout. Severino plays with confidence but that does not begin to equate to the level of confidence he gives us as fans when he takes the mound.

I remember the Summer of ’78 when Ron Guidry dominated the opposition (25-3, 1.74 ERA) and represented almost a guaranteed win every time he pitched. There have been some good pitching seasons by other pitchers since then but I don’t think I’ve had the confidence in any pitchers like I did Gator that summer until now. The fact that Severino is homegrown and not a product of free agency or trade makes it even better. I am very proud of the pitcher Severino has become and look forward to his exciting years ahead.

A day after Jonathan Loaisiga took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, Severino completely shut down the Phillies offense. Sevy (12-2) owned the strike zone and toyed with the Phillies hitters. He may have started to tire late but he gave the Yankees seven strong scoreless innings, scattering six hits and did not walk a batter. He had nine strikeouts to increase his season total to 132 (seventh best in MLB). If Severino is not chosen as the AL Starter for the All-Star Game, it will be a travesty.  He has clearly outpitched the two usual suspects (Chris Sale and Corey Kluber) and has three more wins than A.J. Hinch’s own stud, Justin Verlander.

The day started right when Aaron Hicks led off Tuesday’s game with a homer over the center field wall against Phillies starter Jake Arrieta.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

The Yankees extended their lead to 4-0 in the third inning, thanks to a two-run single by Gleyber Torres which was immediately followed by Greg Bird’s RBI single.

Austin Romine, promoted to full-time starter for the next three or four weeks, opened the fourth inning with a double to deep left center. Sevy was the next batter and although it was anticipated that he’d be the first out, he did take a couple of good hacks before striking out. Rather than being an easy out, he battled and it paid off when Arrieta thew a wild pitch to advance Romine to third. Even though Sevy struck out, I felt his at-bat was productive. Aaron Hicks took advantage of Romine’s presence on third with a deep fly to right to score the runner. 5-0, Yankees.

The Yankees closed out their scoring in the top of the fifth inning when Didi Gregorius led off with a solo homer to right center, his 15th of the year. From there, it was Sevy and the bullpen to the finish. Adam Warren pitched a clean eighth inning, but I have to admit I got sick to my stomach when Aaron Boone brought Chasen Shreve in for the ninth despite the six-run lead. It got worse when Shreve walked Carlos Santana after the first out and was down 3-1 on the next hitter (Nick Williams). A two or three-run homer and the Phillies were back in this game. Fortunately, Williams grounded out and Scott Kingery hit a liner right at Gleyber Torres to end the game. Shreve did his job, but I am sorry, he still sucks.

Regardless of what happens today, the Yankees have won their series with the Phillies which helps overcome the weekend sweep by the Tampa Bay Rays. After the game, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said that Severino was “as dirty as you possibly could be”. Agreed and it’s quite alright by me. I am really hopeful Sevy is throwing like this when he makes his next start against the Boston Red Sox.

The Yankees (52-25) maintained their half-game lead on the Red Sox (53-27). The Sox had an easy time with Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels, winning 9-1 at Fenway Park behind David Price. Don’t look now but the Rays are hot. Fresh off their sweep of the Yankees, they’ve taken the first two games of their series with the Washington Nationals. Yesterday, Nathan Eovaldi and the Rays beat Max Scherzer and the Nats, 1-0. Nasty Nate is looking good. The Rays have won five in a row and have closed the gap with the Yankees to fourteen games. Ha! They’re not going anywhere but if the Rays win today, they’ll be back to .500. Not bad for a team that looked like a mess in the preseason.

Brandon Drury has cooled off at Triple A with only two hits in his last seven games but I remain hopeful that he’ll be back in the Bronx soon. He played first base again yesterday for the second time in five days. Aaron Boone was quoted yesterday as saying Drury at first was not on the front burner, but from my perspective, the versatility certainly helps. I remain a fan of Drury and I’d prefer to see him play for the Yankees as opposed to being part of a July trade for pitching.

Why do so many non-Yankees fans try to sell the idea of a Gleyber Torres-for-Jacob deGrom trade? Look, I’d love to have deGrom on the Yankees, but there’s no way that I would trade Torres for him. With Torres, we have second base locked up for the next decade (or more) with a player that should make a few All-Star teams. Pitchers are too fragile. deGrom is great but not at the cost of Torres. Down the road in about five years when deGrom is trying to reinvent himself as an older pitcher, Torres will still be a superstar in his mid-20’s.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Another former Yankee was thrown on the scrap heap this week when the San Diego Padres designated reliever Tyler Webb for assignment. He’s one of those guys I always wanted to succeed but for whatever reason it has never happened for him. Hopefully he’ll find better luck with his next organization. If not, maybe he can play cards with Chase Headley, Rob Refsnyder and Jesus Montero.

Although I was very confident yesterday thanks to Luis Severino, today is “not-so-much”. The Phillies stand a very good chance of taking the series finale since the Yankees will be throwing out Luis Cessa to make the spot start in order to push CC Sabathia to the Red Sox series. The Phillies will start Zach Eflin (5-2, 3.44 ERA). Advantage Phillies. I really wish that I could bring myself to like Cessa as a starter but I just can’t do it. Oh well, with the Yankees offense, it’s always possible that Cessa could win despite himself.

Go Yankees!

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!