Tagged: Aaron Hicks

The Yanks are a Wild Card…

Photo Credit: NY Post (Paul J Bereswill)

New York secures one-game ‘do-or-die’ playoff…

As expected, the Yankees secured a post-season berth on Saturday when the Tampa Bay Rays lost followed by the extra-innings win by the Yankees over the Baltimore Orioles.

The only thing that seems weird to me is breaking champagne as if you had just won the division. I think I read that 120 bottles of Moet & Chandon met their fate. I guess I should appreciate the Yankees have extended their season by one game and if they can win that one, they’ll move on to join the division winners for the divisional playoffs. Once they are in the divisional playoffs, anything can happen. We know the Yankees can beat any team if they are playing to their abilities. I know that it was not officially a Wild Card game (which didn’t exist back then), but I am sure the 1978 Yankees and Red Sox did not pop bubbly at the end of the regular season when they finished in a tie for the AL East and had to play the memorable Bucky “F——ing” Dent tie-breaker at Fenway Park. I know, there are ten other teams in the American League that wish their season wasn’t ending a week from today and would be very excited to play one game for the right to advance. So, congratulations to the Yankees for giving themselves a chance.

I have a more business-like approach. Let’s secure the home position for the Wild Card and focus on winning the single game elimination. When it is over and if the Yankees emerge victorious, that’s truly cause for celebration.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Stobe)

Right now, my primary concern for the Yankees is to hold off the Oakland A’s for the top spot in the Wild Card standings. After the Yankees game had ended, I watched the end of the A’s matchup against the Minnesota Twins. The A’s loaded the bases against the Twins in the bottom of the ninth with the game deadlocked at two. Mark Canha battled Twins closer Trevor Hildenberger in an 11-pitch at-bat before striking out for the second out. It looked like the Twins might get out of the jam with one more out, but on the very next pitch to Matt Chapman, Hildenberger threw a wild pitch past catcher Willians Astudillo to basically gift wrap the victory for the A’s as Stephen Piscotty easily raced home for the winning run. That moment was very disheartening. So, the Yankees maintained their 1 1/2 game lead over Oakland (two in the loss column and the Yankees hold the tie breaker).

The A’s can clinch the second Wild Card spot today with a Rays loss or an A’s win. If the Rays are eliminated, I think they’ll still be very motivated to beat the Yankees in the upcoming series because it will be their “playoff” even if they aren’t going anywhere. Hats off to Kevin Cash and his Rays. I know I certainly did not expect them to have 86 wins on September 23rd.

For those of you who follow Twitter (some very begrudgingly like Bryan Van Dusen), you probably saw this tweet. Courtesy of the twitter account of Brendan Kuty, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (@BrendanKutyNJ):

Judge said he pulled aside Luke Voit during the celebration. “We wouldn’t be in this position right now if it wasn’t for you. You coming over here, I know it was a slow start, but you picked it up and you picked us up and when we needed the big hit, you came through for us.”

Big words from a big man, and words very well deserved for Luke Voit. Voit launched his 11th home run for the Yankees yesterday with a solo blast in the second inning. It eventually ensured the game would go into extra innings for the Yankees to win it. For those counting at home, Voit has 11 homers and 25 RBIs for the Yankees and his batting line is .314/.385/.648 with 1.032 OPS. The guy’s been incredible and he has made Greg Bird irrelevant.

Photo Credit: Getty Imaes (Mike Stobe)

As for Aaron Judge, his return to the active roster has been huge. I know he was a presence in the dugout during his lengthy stay on the disabled list, cheering on his teammates, but this is a different team when he is in the lineup. I’ve felt all season that he is the heartbeat of the team and this month has proven it to be so true. I really think Judge should be the next Captain for the Yankees. He is the team’s MVP and clearly its leader, a role that will continue to grow for him. The “fun” is returning to the team and it is no doubt directly tied to Aaron Judge. He is a worthy successor for future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter.

Hopefully Aaron Hicks was not hurt too badly when he fouled the pitch off his ankle in the bottom of the eleventh yesterday before he hit the game-winning double. Tests after the game were negative but that foul looked so painful. There’s no doubt we’ll see Hicks in shin guards moving forward.  I heard he had the ankle heavily taped after yesterday’s game. My hope is that he is feeling much better today without too much swelling. Hicks is the unsung hero for this team and they cannot afford to lose him for any extended time.

Yesterday, it was reported CC Sabathia intends to play another season. Sadly, I do not feel it should be with the Yankees despite how much Sabathia has done and meant for the organization over the years. He has been a great Yankee and I’ll always be appreciative of his time in Pinstripes. But the Yankees can do better for the fifth spot in the rotation even if that just means re-signing J.A. Happ in the off-season. I expect the Yankees to upgrade the starting rotation (Patrick Corbin, please) and at this point in his career, Sabathia is not going to get better and will only regress. Age sucks but it is a terminal affliction for all of us.

The Yankees should also not pick up the $12.5 million club option for Brett Gardner and should go with the $2 million buyout. Another great Yankee but it is time to move on.  Regardless of what happens for the rest of 2018, I have very high expectations for the 2019 New York Yankees. It is time to end the AL East reign of the Boston Red Sox and I think the ’19 Yankees will be the team to do it.  It will be weird to see Sabathia in a different uniform but even stranger to see Gardy in other colors after a career isolated to Pinstripes. There are tough decisions ahead for the Yankees. I suppose it’s possible the Yankees could re-sign Gardy to a lower salary, but I am hopeful for the future of Clint Frazier and would like to see Red Thunder given every opportunity to break camp with the big league club next year. Or sign Bryce Harper, that works too.

Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reports the Yankees would like to have Andrew McCutchen back next year if they “can cut a reasonable deal”. I would support his return, but of course Cafardo also threatens “And yes, Jacoby Ellsbury could return in 2019”. Now, that’s one guy I do not want to see in a Yankees uniform next year. I am done with DL’s-bury. Time to cut bait with Ellsbury if he is healthy. If Cafardo is to be believed, the Yankees will rekindle talks with the San Francisco Giants in the off-season about Madison Bumgarner so that’s one to keep an eye on.

With heavy speculation J.A. Happ will be the starter for the Yankees on October 3rd against the Oakland A’s (sorry Rays fans, you’re not catching them), today is a big day. Happ  (16-6, 3.62 ERA) takes the mound against Alex Cobb (5-15, 4.90 ERA) and the Orioles. If Happ dominates Baltimore, he’ll solidify his chances to be “the man” in the Wild Card game. If not, Yankees Twitter will be announcing the end of the World by late afternoon.

A win today would be a beautiful thing. Let’s get this sweep. Go Yankees!

Advertisements

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!

Using Bats and Rain to Beat the Blue Jays…

Photo Credit: NY Post (Paul J Bereswill)

Yanks overcome pesky Jays in rain-shortened game…

As nice as it would be, I don’t want the Yankees to coast to victory every game. I like to see resiliency in the face of adversity and that’s what we were treated to Friday night in the rain-shortened 7-5 victory over the, pardon the pun, “Happ-less” Toronto Blue Jays.

Sure, I was worried along with everyone else when the Blue Jays opened the game with four runs against starter Lance Lynn. There were some fluke hits and I have no doubt that had Aaron Judge been playing right field, the inning would have been over before the Jays had pushed four across the plate. Nevertheless, it is what it was. A four-run deficit is not a monstrous gap, well, so long as your opponent is not the Tampa Bay Rays (or Baltimore Orioles) when it comes to the Yankees.

Nice jobs by Didi Gregorius and Miguel Andujar to cut the deficit to two runs in the bottom of the first inning. After Aaron Hicks took a two-out walk against Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman, Gregorius laced a triple to left center past defensive whiz Kevin Pillar to score  Hicks with the Yankees’ first run. Miguel Andujar followed with a double to deep right over Curtis Granderson’s head to score Sir Didi.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

Much easier moving into the later innings trailing by only two.  Andujar has taken some heat for his defensive play at third, but his bat has been  a source of consistency. He leads the team with doubles, ensuring his name will rank high among Yankee rookies in the history of the franchise. The first inning hit was his 35th of the year, six more than Giancarlo Stanton. Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio holds the Yankees rookie record with 44 doubles in 1936. Don Mattingly holds the team record for doubles with 53 in 1986.

Despite giving up those four runs in the first inning, I thought Lance Lynn bounced back nicely. He retired three batters in order in the top of the second inning and although he gave up an infield hit in the third, a double play allowed him to face the minimum number of batters for the second consecutive inning. After an easy three-up, three down top of the fourth for Lynn, the Yankees struck hard in the bottom of the frame. Gleyber Torres doubled to left, banging a hanging slider to the wall, with one out, and Greg Bird followed with a walk. It brought Neil Walker to the plate, and his three-run blast to right, high over the head of Curtis Granderson, gave the Yankees their first lead of the game, 5-4. Glad to see runners in scoring position was not an issue for this game.

Photo Credit: AP (Frank Franklin II)

Unfortunately, the fifth inning was not so kind for Lynn. Curtis Granderson, a player who has been the target of much trade speculation for the Yankees, opened the inning with a double to left center off Lynn. Devon Travis singled to right, scoring the Grandy Man and the game was tied. Lynn’s day was over but I liked the way he battled despite not having his best stuff. The three walks were a bugaboo and so were 99 pitches without an ability to record an out in the fifth inning, but for guys like Double-L, my request is always to just give the team a chance and he did. The dude could have melted down after the ugly first inning and he didn’t. Sure, he allowed the hit that tied the game, but he didn’t yield any home runs and for the most part, he did his job after the first inning had gotten away from him.

The Yankees quickly retook the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Aaron Hicks opened with a walk off Jays reliever Joe Biagini. After Didi Gregorius flied out, Miguel Andujar singled to right to place runners at the corners. Gleyber Torres grounded into a fielder’s choice at shortstop, with the Jays recording the out at second on Andujar but Hicks scored on the play.  Nice hustle by Torres to beat the throw to first. If it had been Gary Sanchez, he would have been thrown out by a mile.

The Yanks took the 6-5 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning. With Blue Jays reliever Luis Santos on the mound, Giancarlo Stanton gave the Yankees a two-run lead with his 31st home run of the season, a shot that traveled 431 feet. It’s funny how easily the balls come off Stanton’s bat (seemingly looking like fly outs that just keep on going and going and going…). After Aaron Hicks struck out, the threat of heavy rain forced the grounds crew to roll out the tarp. From there, the team waited until the game was eventually called. Yankees win, 7-5. Chad Green picked up the win in relief of Lance Lynn.

Despite the win, the Yankees (76-46) remain 10 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox. The Sox, unlike the Yankees, had no trouble with the Tampa Bay Rays, winning 7-3 at Fenway Park. The Yankees maintained their three-game lead over the Oakland A’s, but, man, look out for the high flying Athletics. With their 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros in ten innings, they trail the World Champions by only a game in the AL West. It’s certainly within the realm of possibility the Astros are the team fighting for a Wild Card berth. The other Wild Card contender, the Seattle Mariners, lost, 11-1 to the LA Dodgers, so they trail the A’s by 3 1/2 games.

With word pain still lingers in Aaron Judge’s right wrist, I remain hopeful the Yankees do something about upgrading right field in his absence. I like Neil Walker’s bat in the lineup but let’s face it, he is an infielder and not an outfielder. We need a better option in right than Walker or Shane Robinson. I don’t know who that is and I know the Yankees have to be cautious with the luxury tax threshold but hopefully GM Brian Cashman can reinforce the outfield for the stretch run.

Although he didn’t make it into the game, congratulations to former Yankees outfielder Billy McKinney for his promotion to the Blue Jays roster. No doubt we’ll see McKinney sometime this weekend. Who knows, maybe he gets a chance to hit against the man he was traded for, J.A. Happ. Speaking of Happ, I was listening to a pre-game interview on MLB Network Radio yesterday and they ended the interview calling him “J-A” Happ. C’mon guys, it’s “Jay” Happ.

I figured the Yankees would lose reliever George Kontos when he was designated for assignment. It was not the case as Kontos cleared waivers and was sent outright to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Kontos could elect free agency but I’d stay with the Yankees if I were him. He may get another chance in September when rosters expand.

Nice to see that Jonathan Loaisiga has been activated off the disabled list. He made the start yesterday for the Double-A Trenton Thunder with pitches hitting the mid-90’s. He only threw an inning and a third, giving up a run but it was a start, literally and figuratively. Hopefully he can shake off the rust and help the Yankees in September.

Photo Credit: The Trentonian (Kyle Franko)

The Yankees apparently will be playing the Los Angeles Dodgers next year at Dodger Stadium. I was excited to hear the news and hope to be at Chavez Ravine for the series. If I don’t make it to Los Angeles, I’ll try to catch up with the Yankees in San Francisco if they play there. I look forward to seeing the actual 2019 schedule to determine the whens and wheres with the NL West teams against the Pinstripers. I would love to see the damage Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge could do at Coors Field. Of course the Yankees will also travel to London, England to face the “home team” Boston Red Sox but I doubt I make that trip (as much as I would like to go).

Luis Severino (15-6, 3.27 ERA) will face Toronto’s Sean Reid-Foley (0-1, 5.40 ERA) in today’s game.  I honestly do not know what we’ll get with Sevy. Also, I don’t have the stats to back it but it seems like we never fare well against pitchers with hyphenated names or rookie pitchers for that matter. This is a very good day for Sevy to get back on track. We need him in prime form as the calendar page gets ready to flip to September. According to my knowledgeable cell phone, there’s rain forecasted for this afternoon. Hopefully they get a full nine innings in today before the rain makes its appearance at Yankee Stadium.

Go Yankees!

Well, That Was Disappointing…

Photo Credit: AP (Fred Thornhill)

Sonny Gray leads Yanks to another loss…

I was worried when I saw that Sonny Gray would be starting for the Yankees on Friday night to open the three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Gray can’t bat so I can’t speak for the offense but Sonny Gray Sucked!

I am tiring of his presence on the Yankees roster. Some guys just are not cut out for the Pinstripes and I am starting to think that Gray and the Yankees are not a good fit. He has the stuff to attack hitters but his approach to each game always seems a little off. Gray, single-handedly, could be the reason the Yankees are fighting for a Wild Card spot in September versus walking away with the division. Bryan Van Dusen mentioned it yesterday but the Yankees could win over 100 games only to see their season ended on a one-and-done playoff game.

It has gotten to the point that I trust Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga more than I do Gray. Nothing against those guys, but they are not who I want on the mound when the calendar page turns to October. In the years ahead, I am sure German and Loaisiga will be trusted playoff arms but they’re not ready for that type of pressure quite yet.  The Yankees need a legitimate #2 starter to slot in behind Luis Severino. I thought Sonny Gray would be that guy but clearly he is not. CC Sabathia is a great guy and someone who has reinvented himself but, seriously, the guy is going to be 38 in a couple of weeks. He’s not exactly in Tom Brady-like condition. Masahiro Tanaka, scheduled to be activated off the disabled list in a couple of days, has to prove that he is the Masahiro of old and not the guy who likes to play Homer Ball. That remains to be seen. I am concerned, very concerned, about the current state of the pitching staff for any guy not named Luis Severino.

Sorry, this is my therapy. I have to get out my anger and frustration with Gray.

The Yankees looked like they were in good shape when the game started. Brett Gardner’s single and a steal plus a walk by Giancarlo Stanton had runners at the corners with two outs in the first inning. Unfortunately, Didi Gregorius struck out against Blue Jays start Sam Gaviglio to leave Gardy and Giancarlo stranded, taking a called third strike after changing out his bats.

The first warning sign for Gray came in the bottom of the first when he loaded the bases with a couple of walks and a hit. He escaped any damage when he struck out Russell Martin, but it was a signal of things to come.

Gray lost the game with his pathetic second inning when nine Jays batters came to the plate.  Randal Grichuk opened the inning with a double to left. He advanced to third on a ground out, and scored when Devon Travis singled up the middle. A wild pitch by Gray allowed Travis to take second, putting him in position to score when Curtis Granderson singled to right. After Teoscar Hernandez struck out for the second out, Yangervis Solarte singled to center to put two men on base for Justin Smoak. After taking a called strike, Smoak smoked a Gray pitch into the right field stands to give the Blue Jays a 5-0 lead.  Gray proceeded to hit Kevin Pillar to put another runner on base, but he was able to strike out Martin again to end the inning.

Mercifully, Gray was finished for the game.  His final pitching line was awful. Two innings, six hits, five runs, and two walks. He threw 62 pitches in those fateful two innings. I’d mention the four strikeouts but there were no positive takeaways from Gray’s performance. More and more, Gray looks like a perfect fit for the Pittsburgh Pirates to me.

Photo Credit: The Canadian Press via AP (Fred Thornhill)

David Hale entered the game for Gray in the bottom of the third inning. Although he did allow an 8th inning RBI double, he was much more effective than Gray. He gave the team length with 5 2/3 innings, and limited the Jays to only one run on five hits and a walk. In other words, he did his job…unlike Gray.

The Yankees had their opportunities. The Yankees offense could have gotten the team back into this game despite Gray. Aaron Hicks got the Yankees on the board with a solo shot in the top of the third inning.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Four runs down, the Yankees had the bases loaded in the fifth inning with only one out. Aaron Hicks took a walk to force in the Yankees’ second run of the game, setting up a perfect opportunity for Giancarlo Stanton. One swing of the bat and the Yankees could have taken the lead. Sadly, he struck out with the bat on his shoulder and Didi Gregorius lined out to left for the final out leaving the bases juiced. A huge missed opportunity.

The Yankees had the tying run at the plate in the top of the eighth inning for Austin Romine but he struck out looking to waste what would prove to be the last real chance the Yankees had to get back into the game.

Tyler Clippard, Tyler Friggin’ Clippard who couldn’t prevent a run to save his life last year for the Yankees, shut his old team down in the ninth with three up and three down.

The Yankees loss, combined with a Red Sox win, puts Boston two games up in the AL East. The teams are tied in the loss column but the Red Sox have four more wins. It’s too early to look at the Standings (I know) but the Yankees hold a two-game advantage on the Seattle Mariners for the top Wild Card spot. Everyone talks about how great this Yankees team is, but right now, the Red Sox are better.  They are not showing any signs of losing anytime soon. They, unlike the Yankees, are getting the big hits to win games. Throwing Chris Sale at the Kansas City Royals is a mismatch any day of the week, but a win is a win and the Sox keep winning.

Neil Walker got the first start at second base in place of the injured Gleyber Torres. He was 0-for-3 with a walk. His season batting line is .185/.268/.254. Like Gray, I’ve seen enough of Walker. I’d really prefer to see Brandon Drury or even Tyler Wade starting at second.

Many news reports yesterday linked the Yankees to Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas as a potential first base option over Greg Bird. I haven’t really warmed up to the possibility although I recognize that Bird needs to start hitting and soon. Moose Tacos has had a cold bat of late, but he did blast a two-run bomb against the Red Sox last night in a losing effort.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Denny Medley)

The Yankees get a look at another potential trade candidate today when they face J.A. Happ (10-4, 4.03 ERA). Happ was shelled his last time out when he gave up seven runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Detroit Tigers. It was the second time this season that Happ has given up seven runs in a game. The Yankees will counter with Luis Severino (13-2, 1.98 ERA). It’s easy to say that I feel more confident heading into today’s game than I did last night.

Let’s get a win today. Go Yankees!

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!

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!

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!