Tagged: Aaron Hicks

No Love for Dallas in Houston…

Credit:  Tony Gutierrez-AP

American League Championship Series

Astros 2, Yankees 1…

Astros lead Series, 1-0

The Yankees had the answer this season for Chris Sale and they finally figured out likely AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber in the post-season but Dallas Keuchel remains a mystery. Unable to generate any runs against Keuchel, the Yankees fell to the Astros in the first game of the ALCS despite a solid outing from Masahiro Tanaka.

Credit:  Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees didn’t pick up their first hit against Keuchel until Brett Gardner lined a single to left with two outs in the 3rd inning. Unfortunately, he didn’t go anywhere when Aaron Judge followed with his only strikeout of the game.

Starlin Castro picked up a single to left, just past the outstretched glove of running shortstop Carlos Correa, in the top of 4th inning, also with two outs, but like Gardy, he did not do anything except have a brief conversation with first baseman Yuli Gurriel. Aaron Hicks flied out to center, on huge fly that nearly took center fielder George Springer to the wall, to send Castro looking for his hat and glove to take the field. A couple more feet and the Yankees might have taken the early lead.

The Astros, meanwhile, didn’t miss the only opportunity that Masahiro Tanaka gave them. With one out in the bottom of the 4th, Jose Altuve singled on a grounder to second, beating the throw to first.  He subsequently stole second to put himself in scoring position. Carlos Correa’s single to left brought the probable AL MVP around to score the game’s first run.  Marwin Gonzalez hit a  slow grounder to second and was thrown out at first for the second out, but Correa advanced to second base. Yuli Gurriel’s single to center, a grounder up the middle between Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius, scored Correa and the Astros had a 2-0 lead.

Credit:  Elsa-Getty Images

The Yankees had their chance in the top of the 5th but were unable to convert.  Greg Bird led off with a single to right, a sharply hit ball just past first baseman Yuli Gurriel. Matt Holliday reached on a fielding error by Jose Altuve (bobbled the ball after stopping the grounder) so the Yankees had runners at first and second with no outs. Todd Frazier lined out to center and Brett Gardner struck out but Aaron Judge followed them with a single to left. Bird hesitated a moment and then raced around third and headed home. Unfortunately, left fielder Marwin Gonzalez threw a perfect strike in to catcher Brian McCann to nail Bird at the plate for the final out of the inning.  The Yankees challenged the play but replay showed Bird was less than a second too late. Sadly, Bird’s run around third seemed like slow motion compared Jose Altuve’s run in the prior inning. Credit Gonzalez and McCann for the stellar play.

Credit:  Elsa-Getty Images

Dallas Keuchel finally left the game after seven scoreless innings (and ten strikeouts). Houston fans may love Dallas (the pitcher, not the city) but I was very glad to see him leave. But the Astros bullpen is strong and set up artist Chris Devenski has been a better version of Dellin Betances this year. Still, the Yankees had their chance in the 8th against Devenski. Brett Gardner worked a one-out walk, which brought Astros manager A.J. Hinch out of the dugout to replace Devenski with closer Ken Giles. Giles promptly threw a wild pitch with Aaron Judge at the plate, allowing Gardy to move to second.  Judge grounded out to third for the second out, but Gary Sanchez walked to put two runners on for Didi Gregorius. The Yankees replaced Sanchez at first with pinch-runner Ronald Torreyes. Didi has come up so big for the Yankees in key spots this year but on this night, Giles won the battle when Didi swung and missed on an 0-2 count after three successive foul balls.  

In the top of the 9th, Giles struck out both Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks to start the inning. Greg Bird finally put the Yankees on the board when he homered to right, a high fly inside of the foul pole, to make it a one-run game.

Credit:  Anthony J Causi-NY Post

DH Matt Holliday was due up next, but Manager Joe Girardi opted to send Jacoby Ellsbury to the plate. Ellsbury went down swinging to end the game and hand the series advantage to the Astros.

In retrospect, the huge missed opportunity was Greg Bird’s out at the plate in the 5th inning. If he had gotten a good jump when Aaron Judge hit that drive to left, he might have beaten the throw. But hats off to the Astros for making their plays. The Yankees pitched a good game but the Astros pitched a little better. Fortunately, the bullpen will be rested for Game 2 as the Yankees only had to burn Chad Green in relief of Tanaka. Green pitched two frames of scoreless relief with 31 pitches thrown.  

Credit:  Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

On the bright side, Dallas Keuchel won’t take the mound again until a potential Game 5. The Yankees offense should fare much better against crafty veteran Justin Verlander (15-8, 3.38 ERA) and the rest of the Astros starters. For Game 2, Verlander will be tough, no doubt, but the Yankees can win this game and send the series to New York with a split. We’ll have staff ace Luis Severino (14-6, 2.98 ERA) to lead the way. I like those odds.

Have a great Saturday! A perfect day would feature a Yankees win! Let’s make it happen. Go Yankees!

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To the ALCS? YES, in Didi!…

Credit:  Phil Long-AP

American League Division Series, Game 5

Yankees Win Series, 3-2

Yankees 5, Indians 2…

CC Sabathia pitched tremendously before handing it over to the bullpen and the bats of Didi Gregorius and Brett Gardner provided the offense as the Yankees surprised the Cleveland Indians and the Baseball World to advance to the American League Championship Series.

Going into the final game of the ALDS, none of the experts were giving the Yankees a chance going against likely AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber in his home ballpark. But thanks in very large part to Gregorius, Kluber didn’t stay around too long.  His two home runs ensured that Kluber was watching the game from the dugout by the end of the 4th inning. I am sure that’s not the game plan that Tribe manager Terry Francona had envisioned. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Greg Bird were a combined 0-for-13 with ten strikeouts, but with Didi Gregorius playing one of the greatest games in Yankee shortstop history, it did not matter.

The game started with Corey Kluber in control. Brett Gardner opened with a failed bunt attempt on the first pitch to record an out. Aaron Judge struck out for the first of four strikeouts on the night for the second out. But then Didi Gregorius, who entered the game with just one hit in the series, blasted a drive into the right field seats for the game’s first run. Kluber came right back and struck out Gary Sanchez and was seemingly in control despite the misplaced pitch to Didi.

The Yankees had a runner in scoring position in the 2nd inning when Aaron Hicks took a two-out walk and Jacoby Ellsbury reached first on, surprise, catcher’s interference (bat hit the top of the catcher’s glove). Todd Frazier flied out to end the inning and leave the runners stranded, but the Yankees were showing activity against Kluber. Meanwhile, CC Sabathia was facing the minimum number of batters with four strikeouts through the first two innings.

Brett Gardner led off the top of the 3rd inning with a sharp single to right. After Judge whiffed again, Didi Gregorius jumped on another Kluber pitch and ensured it was a fan souvenir in the right field seats again. The Yankees were up, 3-0. 

Credit:  Jason Miller-Getty Images

The bottom of the inning was another three-up, three-down performance for Sabathia, with two more strikeouts.

In the top of the 4th inning, Kluber retired the first two hitters but had reached three balls with both before getting a strikeout and a line out. When he walked Jacoby Ellsbury on five pitches, it was Miller Time in Cleveland. Terry Francona pulled Kluber, who left with a 12.79 ERA in this series, in favor of Andrew Miller. Miller struck out Todd Frazier to get the Tribe out of the inning but it was very surprising to see Kluber’s exit before the conclusion of four full innings. I certainly was not complaining.

CC Sabathia finally gave up his first hit in the bottom of the 4th when Francisco Lindor led off with a single through the hole into left field. Sabathia came back strong, retiring the next three batters, two by strikeout, and remained in control. He looked good starting the bottom of the 5th when he struck out Carlos Santana, but then four successive singles brought home two runs to make it a one-run game. Manager Joe Girardi wasn’t taking any chances at that point and went to the pen to bring in David Robertson to face Francisco Lindor with runners at first and second. 

Credit:  Getty Images

On his second pitch, Lindor hit a grounder to Didi who stepped on second and threw to first to complete the inning-ending double play. A huge defensive play by Didi to ensure that his glove was as loud as his bat. CC Sabathia may not have survived the 5th inning, but still, giving up only two runs and striking out nine batters was a tremendous effort despite the slim lead.  

Credit:  David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

It became a dueling battle of the bullpens as both teams put up scoreless frames through the eighth inning. The Tribe brought in their closer, Cody Allen, with two outs in the 8th (who proceeded to strike out Greg Bird), but I was very surprised…and a little uneasy…when the Yankees brought in Aroldis Chapman to start the bottom of the 8th. With so many other options available in the bullpen, I was fearful that Girardi had gone to Chapman too prematurely. Fortunately, Girardi proved why he is the Yankees manager and I am just a blogger on this site, when Chapman recorded three quick outs on thirteen pitches.

Credit:  Getty Images

In the top of the 9th, with Cody Allen still on the mound, Starlin Castro struck out for the first out. Next up, Aaron Hicks singled to left. A fielding error by Austin Jackson, the ball rolled under his glove, allowed Hicks to move to second. Allen got Chase Headley to pop out, but then he walked Todd Frazier. Brett Gardner’s single to right, just past the glove of second baseman Jose Ramirez, cleared the bases to give the Yankees two very huge insurance runs. Frazier was able to score the second run when the throw from right fielder Jay Bruce into second got past Francisco Lindor and the Toddfather was able to slide into home ahead of the throw to the plate. Gardy advanced to second on a throwing error. It was a legendary at-bat for Gardy, who battled Allen through 12 pitches before getting the key hit (the longest at-bat of the post-season). Francona made another pitching move and pulled his closer in favor of Joe Smith. Smith got Aaron Judge to ground out to third, but no matter, the Yankees had increased their lead to 5-2. A little breathing room.

Going into the bottom of the 9th with a three-run lead made me feel so much better about the return of Aroldis Chapman for a second inning of work. But I did feel some tension when Chapman walked the first batter (Jose Ramirez). Chapman allowed me to exhale slightly when he struck out Edwin Encarnacion.  Carlos Santana hit a ball to second for the force out of Ramirez. Two outs. The only man standing between the Yankees and a date in the ALCS with the Houston Astros was one-time Yankees prospect Austin Jackson. Carlos Santana took second on defensive indifference, but Gardy’s insurance runs ensured that Santana was inconsequential. Chapman’s job was simple…leave the potential tying run standing on deck without a chance to come to the plate. You could feel the excitement emerging when Chapman blew a fastball past Jackson for the called third strike to end the game. The Yankees win!

Credit:  Gregory Shamus-Getty Images

I blamed Joe Girardi for the second game loss, but this game completed his redemption. It’s amazing how many people wrote off the Yankees when they lost the first two games of the ALDS in Cleveland. Even after they tied the series in New York, I didn’t hear many voices giving the Yankees any chance for Game 5 in Cleveland except for maybe Alex Rodriguez. The Indians were arguably the best team in the American League, with 104 wins on the season including the two wins in the ALDS. Their season included the historic 22-game winning streak and they were nearly everyone’s favorite, excluding Yankees fans, to win the World Series after their loss last year to the Chicago Cubs. But in the end, they will not have the opportunity to make a repeat appearance in the Fall Classic.  

If Corey Kluber could have figured out an answer for Didi Gregorius, the results may have been very different and the Yankees might have been left wondering what could have been. Instead, the magic and the ‘never-say-die’ resiliency of the 2017 Yankees continues. The Yankees will get a rematch of their 2015 Wild Card Game loss to Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the ALCS. This time, we get seven games to show the World that heart, determination and desire, combined with a little talent, can make a difference.  

Congratulations to the New York Yankees! Goodbye, Cleveland…hello, Houston!

Credit:  David Dermer-AP

Have a great Thursday!  Friday the 13th, here we come!  Go Yankees!

Befuddled in Cleveland…

Credit:  Jason Miller-Getty Images

American League Division Series, Game 1

Indians 4, Yankees 0…

Aaron Judge, four strikeouts. That pretty much sums up how it went in Cleveland on Thursday night as the Yankees dropped the first game of the ALDS to the Indians. Their inability to figure out Trevor Bauer does not bode well for tonight when they face likely AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber.

While Bauer was making mincemeat out of the Yankee bats, the Indians got to Sonny Gray early. In the bottom of the 2nd inning, Jay Bruce got the party started for the Indians with a double off the left field wall against Yankees starter Sonny Gray. Carlos Santana followed with a single to center to put runners at the corners. Lonnie Chisenhall was hit by a pitch on his upper arm to load the bases. Gray was able to limit the damage when Roberto Perez hit into a double play at short, but Bruce came home on the play for Cleveland’s first run.  Giovanny Urshela flied out to right so Gray escaped a huge jam with minimal damage. Unfortunately, the way Bauer was pitching, the one run deficit felt like the Grand Canyon.

The Indians struck again in the bottom of the 4th. Edwin Encarnacion started the inning with a walk. Jay Bruce, a rumored trade target for the Yankees prior to the trading deadline, came back to haunt his near-employer when he blasted a shot into the right field stands. The Indians had increased their lead to 3-0.

Credit:  Phil Masturzo-Akron Beacon Journal/TNS

Gray walked two of the next three batters to end his night. Adam Warren entered the game and gave up a single to center to load the bases with only one out, but he then struck out the dangerous Francisco Lindor and got Jason Kipnis to fly out to center to escape without any further damage.

Credit:  Jason Miller-Getty Images

Meanwhile, with Trevor Bauer still pitching a no-hitter against the Yankees, the Indians got another run in the next inning. Jose Ramirez started it for the Tribe with a single up the middle on a ball that just got by a diving Didi Gregorius. While Edwin Encarnacion was at bat, a wild pitch, a ball in the dirt that Gary Sanchez dropped in front of him, advanced Ramirez to second. Encarnacion flied out to left in foul territory for the first out, and Manager Joe Girardi made the call to the bullpen, bringing in Jaime Garcia to replace Warren. With Jay Bruce batting, another wild pitch, another ball in the dirt that hit Sanchez in the chest and bounced away, allowed Ramirez to take third. Bruce took advantage of the wild pitches to loft a fly to center, scoring Ramirez on the sacrifice. 4-0, Indians.

In the top of the 6th inning, Chase Headley struck out and the Yankees were still searching for their first hit. Aaron Hicks ended the potential no-no when he doubled to left off the wall. Bauer received a very nice ovation from the crowd. The Yankees couldn’t do anything with Hicks at second but at least they had finally gotten their first hit on the board.

The Yankees added another hit in the 7th. After Bauer had retired the first two batters, Starlin Castro singled on a grounder to right field. The Indians dipped into their bullpen, bringing former Yankees reliever Andrew Miller into the game to face Greg Bird. The fear when you trade great players is that they’ll one day come back to bite you. Miller was no different with his strikeout of Bird to end the inning.

Despite two strikeouts by Miller in the top of the 8th, the Yankees had two baserunners, courtesy of walks. With Aaron Judge coming to the plate representing an ability to make it a one-run game, Cleveland called on its closer, Cody Allen. Allen proceeded to strike out Judge in the huge spot to end the inning.

In perhaps the lone bright spot for the Yankees, Dellin Betances pitched the bottom of the 8th inning and struck out the side on eleven pitches. It’s a good sign to see Dellin pitching so well even if the odds are against the Yankees in this series.

Credit:  Charles Wenzelberg-NY Post

The Yankees had no answer for Allen in the top of the 9th despite Starlin Castro’s second hit of the night (and only the third Yankee hit of the game), a single to right with two outs. Allen struck out Greg Bird on three pitches to end the game and hand the overwhelming advantage in the series to the Tribe.

Credit:  Getty Images
It’s hard to find positives in a loss but this could have been a blow out and the Yankees kept the Tribe from any big innings. I’ve been down on Jaime Garcia but he did a nice job with 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. A few timely hits and the Yankees could have gotten back into this one. The team needs to regroup and hopefully find a way to get their hits tonight against Corey Kluber in Game 2. They have not fared well against Kluber but clearly the team has the potential to take advantage of mistakes. Everyone can have an off night (see Sonny Gray) and the Yankees need to exploit any opportunities they are given. I am sure that the Houston Astros didn’t expect to get seven runs off Chris Sale yesterday, including two home runs (three overall) by Jose Altuve. CC Sabathia, pitching this evening in his original MLB city, has been the Yankees’ stopper all season. He’ll be asked to step into that role once again. It would be huge if the Yankees could earn a split at Progressive Field before heading back to the Bronx.
Odds & Ends…

The Houston Astros defeated the Boston Red Sox, 8-2, to take the first game of their series. As noted above, it was a night to forget for Chris Sale. When the Astros acquired Justin Verlander in August, it was clearly a move designed for October. He didn’t disappoint, holding the Red Sox to two runs over six innings. No disrespect for Sonny Gray (or Yu Darvish of the Dodgers), but I thought Verlander was the most significant pitching acquisition of the summer.

Credit:  Karen Warren-Houston Chronicle

All of the playoff teams will be in action today with the first game (Red Sox-Astros) starting at 2:05 pm ET. I hate to go against the Yankees but I think today’s winners will be the home teams (Indians, Astros, Dodgers and Nationals). I would love for the Yankees to prove me wrong.

Have a great Friday! Let’s steal a win from Kluber. Go Yankees!

How to Lose the AL East with One Pitching Move…

Credit:  Frank Franklin II-AP

Rays 9, Yankees 6…

Despite four home runs, the Yankees fell to the Tampa Bay Rays in the series finale and their AL East title hopes are clinging on life support.  I thought Manager Joe Girardi mismanaged the fateful 5th inning after Sonny Gray had relinquished the lead, bringing in the woefully inconsistent arm of Jonathan Holder when there were many superior options available.  

The first sign that Sonny Gray might not have it on Thursday night was Corey Dickerson’s first inning home run to the second deck in right which gave the Rays an early 1-0 lead.  

The Yankees wasted no time in coming back when Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge led off the bottom of the 1st inning with back-to-back home runs.  Both players took Rays starter Jacob Faria deep to right into the second deck.  It was Judge’s 51st home run of the year.  The Yankees had taken the lead, 2-1.

Credit:  Noah K Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Rays had a potential scoring opportunity in the top of the 2nd when Gray walked two batters, Daniel Robertson and Cesar Puello with only one out. There was a brief delay when a Gray pitch hit the dirt and bounced up to hit Gary Sanchez on the collarbone during Robertson’s at-bat.  Sanchez was able to shake it off and stay in the game.  After Peter Bourjos lined out to right for the second out, Mallex Smith singled to left.  The Rays third base coach Charlie Montoyo unwisely sent Daniel Robertson home rather than holding him up at third.  Brett Gardner’s arm was smarter than the coach as Robertson was easily thrown out at home for the final out.

The Yankees picked up another run in the bottom of the inning.  Jacoby Ellsbury singled to right past a diving Lucas Duda with one out.  While Todd Frazier was batting, a passed ball off the glove of Rays catcher Wilson Ramos allowed Ellsbury to take second.  Frazier then singled to left, scoring Ellsbury.  A  pitch got away from Ramos with Brett Gardner batting and Todd Frazier tried to advance to second but was thrown out.  Gardy subsequently walked but Aaron Judge flied out to end the inning. As Michael Kay put it, “A sky high fly”.  Nevertheless, the Yankees were up 3-1.

Chih-Wei Hu took over for Jacob Faria on the mound in the bottom of the 4th (Who is on the mound? I don’t know, Hu?).  He was quickly introduced to the game when Greg Bird led off with a home run to the first row of the right field seats.  Hu retired the next three batters, but the Yankees had increased their lead to 4-1. 

Credit:  Paul J Bereswill-NY Post

The dreadful 5th inning arrived with Sonny Gray still on the mound for the Yankees. The previous inning had gone so well for Gray.  Three outs on six pitches.  It was hard to foresee the disaster that awaited him in the 5th.  Gray was able to get the first batter, Peter Bourjos, out on a grounder to short.  Then the Rays rally began.   Mallex Smith singled to right on a fly that dropped in.  Corey Dickerson hit a line drive to center for a single with Smith moving to third.  A wild pitch from Gray allowed Smith to come home to score.  Gary Sanchez tried to throw to Gray covering home but his throw was too far right for Gray to catch as Smith slid safely into home plate.  Sanchez was charged a throwing error on the play as it allowed Dickerson to advance two bases to third.  

Credit:  Abbie Parr-Getty Images

Evan Longoria struck out for the second out, but Dickerson subsequently scored when a passed ball went through El Gary’s legs.  Lucas Duda walked, and it brought Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild out to the mound.  It always seems like Larry’s talks fail and this was no exception. The next batter, Wilson Ramos, homered to center just over the wall into Monument Park and the Rays had taken a 5-4 lead.  

Credit:  Frank Franklin II-AP

Adeiny Hechavarria followed with a single to center and it was the end for Sonny Gray.  Gray made a couple of throws to first during Daniel Robertson’s at bat to buy time for the bullpen, but I have to admit that I was bewildered by Joe Girardi’s decision to bring in Jonathan Holder even though I’d seen Holder warming up.  Holder is a fine prospect and did a decent job for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders but he hasn’t really pitched in many big spots for the Yankees this year.  He may eventually become a leading arm in the pen but I would have gone with one of the tried and true in an effort to keep the game close.  Holder hit the first batter he faced, Daniel Robertson, with a pitch.  Runners at first and second.  Cesar Puello singled to center on a ball that dropped in front of Jacoby Ellsbury with Hechavarria coming around to score.  Robertson moved to second.  Peter Bourjos tripled to left on fly that hit the warning track and bounced off the wall, clearing the bases, and it was 8-4 Rays.  Girardi finally pulled Holder and brought in Chasen Shreve who struck out Mallex Smith to end the inning.  But the Rays had scored seven runs.

In the bottom of the 5th, with Tommy Hunter taking over for Chih-Wei Hu, Brett Gardner led off with a walk.  After Aaron Judge struck out, Gary Sanchez was hit by a pitch on the back of his left shoulder.  Runners at first and second.

Credit:  Abbie Parr-Getty Images

Didi Gregorius hit a grounder to second and the Rays were able to force Sanchez for the second out, with Gardy moving to third.  Starlin Castro hit an infield single to short, beating the throw to first which brought Gardner home to score.  Greg Bird, representing the potential tying run, struck out to end the inning but the Yankees had gotten a run back, 8-5.  

With Chasen Shreve still on the mound, the Yankees retired the first two Rays in the top of the 6th.  But Trevor Plouffe, pinch-hitting for Lucas Duda, homered to left into the second deck, to restore the Rays’ four run lead.  Shreve walked Wilson Ramos next and was pulled in favor of Ben Heller.  Heller struck out Adeiny Hechavarria to end the inning without any further damage.

The Rays bullpen kept the Yankees offense quiet from there.  Aaron Hicks, pinch-hitting for Todd Frazier, did manage to hit a solo home run to right into the bullpen in the bottom of the 9th against Chaz Roe but it was too little, too late.  The other Yankees went down quietly, with Aaron Judge flying out to right to end the game.

This was a disappointing loss and I am bewildered why Girardi trusted Holder with the game on the line when the pitcher has done nothing this year at the MLB level to warrant consideration at that point.  The Boston Red Sox lost 12-2 to the Houston Astros so the Yankees (89-70) could have picked up a game.  Instead, they remain three games out with three to play.  The best they can do is tie the Red Sox if they sweep the Blue Jays and the Astros sweep the Red Sox.  More than likely, the Red Sox sew up the AL East title either tonight or tomorrow.  

I hate losing winnable games.  If the 5th inning hadn’t gotten away from the Yankees, they would have/could have won this game.  If the Yankees play like this next Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins, it’s going to be a very short post-season experience.  

Next Up:  Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY…

And so, we’ve reached the final series of the regular season.  It seems like we were just playing exhibition games at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.  The Blue Jays completed a successful three-game road trip in Boston on Wednesday, winning two of three games.  They are also the only team to win a series against the Yankees this month.  Hopefully, the wins come our way in the latest and final series before the post-season begins.

Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:

TODAY

Blue Jays:  Joe Biagini (3-12, 5.34 ERA)

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (12-12, 4.94 ERA)

SATURDAY

Blue Jays:  Marcus Stroman (13-8, 3.06 ERA)

Yankees:  Jaime Garcia (1-3, 4.70 ERA)

SUNDAY

Blue Jays:  Brett Anderson (2-2, 6.04 ERA)

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (9-7, 3.96 ERA)

This is most likely Jaime Garcia’s final start for the Yankees.  I hope that it’s not the final regular season start for Masahiro Tanaka’s Yankees career.  We all know that this is just the conclusion of the great start of Jordan Montgomery’s career in Pinstripes.  Looking forward to many successful wins going forward, including the 2017 post-season.

Odds & Ends…

The Yankees are planning to activate RHP Adam Warren off the disabled list today.  Hopefully, he’ll be able to get in some work this weekend in preparation for the post-season (which, we hope and pray, is much longer than a one-game stay).  

Have a great weekend!  Let’s get the momentum rolling for October!  Go Yankees!

Sevy & The Case of Homers & K’s…

Credit:  Bill Kostroun

Yankees 6, Rays 1…

Pitching like I hope he does next week against the Minnesota Twins, Luis Severino dominated the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday behind home runs from Starlin Castro, Greg Bird and Aaron Hicks.  He amassed nine strikeouts to put place his name among the greatest statistical leaders in franchise history.

On paper, the matchup looked like a mismatch in favor of the Yankees.  However, Rays starter Matt Andriese kept the game scoreless for the first four innings.  Then, Tampa’s Adeiny Hechiavarria led off the top of the 5th with a home run, a high fly into the left field seats, to give the Rays an early 1-0 lead.  

Fortunately, the Yankee bats finally woke up in the bottom of the inning.  Jacoby Ellsbury got it started by working a walk off Andriese.  Aaron Hicks hit a grounder into right field, on a ball that got past a diving Brad Miller at second, for a single.  Ellsbury raced around to third base.  After Brett Gardner hit a line drive right at the shortstop for the first out, Aaron Judge doubled to the left field corner to score both Ellsbury and Hicks.  The Yankees had taken the lead, 2-1.

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

After Severino breezed through the Rays in the top of the 6th, retiring two batters by strikeout, Starlin Castro led off the bottom of the inning with a home run to left center into the Rays bullpen.  The Rays pulled Andriese and brought in reliever Xavier Cedeno.  Greg Bird, with his beautiful swing, greeted Cedeno with a homer to right.  Chase Headley kept it going with a single to left that squeezed through 3B Evan Longoria and SS Adeiny Hecchavarria.  Jacoby Ellsbury grounded back to the pitcher for the out at first, while Headley moved to second.  Aaron Hicks ended Cedeno’s short stint when he homered on a high fly into the left field seats.  The Rays pulled Cedeno and replaced him with Jose Alvarado.  It looked like the Yankees’ big inning, with four runs already across, might continue.  Brett Gardner doubled to left, and Aaron Judge walked. However, Alvarado struck out Gary Sanchez on three pitches and got Didi Gregorius to hit into a ground out at short.  However, the Yankees had increased their lead to 6-1.

In the top of the 7th, Chasen Shreve replaced Severino.  As the team’s primary lefty in the bullpen, Shreve has been consistently inconsistent for weeks.  He walked the first batter he faced, Stephen Souza, Jr.  Corey Dickerson hit a grounder to first and the Yankees were able to force Souza out at second.  But Adeiny Hechavarria followed with a single to right.  Shreve was able to strike out Brad Miller, who has been struggling this year.  But that would all as Joe Girardi opted to go with Chad Green to face Jesus Sucre.  Green retired Sucre on a grounder to short that forced Hechavarria out at second with a flip from Didi Gregorius to Starlin Castro to end the inning.  

Dellin Betances pitched the 8th inning and looked strong.  He retired the three men he faced with a total of 13 pitches.  No walks, no hits, his 100th strikeout of the season…this is the Dellin that we need for October.

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

Aroldis Chapman pitched a clean 9th inning, ending the game on a swinging strikeout of Corey Dickerson.  The Yankees win!

The Yankees (89-69) moved to twenty games above .500 for the first time this season.  Unfortunately, the Boston Red Sox took a step closer to sewing up the AL East Championship with a come-from-behind 10-5 thrashing of the Toronto Blue Jays.  The Yankees remain three games behind the Red Sox with four to play.  The Minnesota Twins lost 4-2 to the Cleveland Indians but they clinched the second Wild Card spot when the Los Angeles Angels fell to the Chicago White Sox in extra innings, 6-4.  The Twins become the first team to reach the playoffs after losing 100 games in the preceding season.  

Credit:  Ron Schwane-AP

Luis Severino (14-6) now awaits the probable Wild Card game start next week against the Twins in the Bronx.  He lowered his season ERA to 2.98.  His six innings of work yielded only four hits, a walk and a single run for the Rays. His nine strikeouts allowed him to reach 230 for the season, putting him in a third place tie with CC Sabathia for the most strikeouts in club history.  Sabathia reached the mark in 2011.  The strikeout leader is Ron Guidry who struck out 248 batters in his magical 1978 season, while Jack Chesbro had 239 K’s in a mind-blowing 454 2/3 innings in 1904.  

This was another great team win with multiple hitting stars.  The Yankees can become a 90-win team with their next victory.  Honestly, that seemed impossible at the start of the season.  Without so many key injuries, I have no doubt the Yankees would be leading the AL East right now.  But the Yankees are now nearly healthy as they approach the season’s biggest game next week against the Twins.  I am not giving up on the AL East until the numbers say it’s over, but at this point, it does seem improbable.  This is a much better team than the one that lost the 2015 Wild Card game to Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros. 

Odds & Ends…

MLB Owners officially approved the sale of the Miami Marlins to the investment group headed by Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter.  The sale is expected to close within the next few days.  I was never a big Jeter fan so I guess I am a little indifferent to the end of his direct association with the Yankees.  I am sure that the true Jeter lovers are having a more difficult time but realistically, the Yankees won’t see the Marlins very often.  If they meet in the World Series, great!  Otherwise, it’ll just be a few games every few years in interleague play.  I am not going to lose any sleep about Jeter.  He was a great Yankee and he is immortalized in Monument Park.  But he’s a Marlin now.  I don’t wish him any more luck than I’d wish Brian Sabean in San Francisco or Billy Eppler in Anaheim.  They are simply other teams and…they are not the Yankees.  

Credit:  Getty Images

My favorite Core Four player was Mariano Rivera.  No disrespect for Jeter and what he did for the Yankees.  But now, he’s just another guy trying to beat the Yankees.

I hate the one-game ‘do or die’ Wild Card format.  I prefer at least a three game series that MLB could squeeze in without pushing the World Series to November.  I still think the best team may or may not win a three-game series but it’s a thousand times better than the single game elimination.  I take this position regardless of whether or not the Yankees win the Wild Card game.  

Have a great Thursday!  Let’s say goodbye to the Rays in good fashion…with a win!  Go Yankees!

I Get My Hicks Above The Fenceline, Sunshine…

Credit:  Jim McIsaac-Getty Images

Yankees 6, Rays 1…

Tuesday night, Aaron Hicks found himself back in the starting lineup after his latest stint on the disabled list. Not a moment too soon as A-A-Ron sparked the Yankees to victory with his superior catch in the first inning.

The game didn’t start so well for young Mr Jordan Montgomery. Kevin Kiermaier got the game started with a single up the middle to center field. Stephen Souza, Jr singled through the hole at short into shallow left field. Montgomery had Evan Longoria on a full count but lost him with Ball Four. The bases were loaded full of Rays with no outs. Monty finally struck out Logan Morrison to secure the first out. Wilson Ramos was up next and he blasted a shot over the center field wall for a grand slam…no, wait…Aaron Hicks with the spectacular over the fence catch for the second out!  Kiermaier tagged and scored on the play. I am not a math major but I’ll take a 1-0 deficit over 4-0 any day. Montgomery struck out Adeiny Hechavarria, who has seemed to feast on Yankees pitching this year, to end the inning. Whew! Monty and the Yankees dodged a major bullet.

The Yankees had two runners on base in the bottom of the 1st inning, courtesy of walks by Rays starter Blake Snell, but they were unable to score.  

The top of the 2nd went more smoothly for Montgomery as he set down the Rays in order…three up, three down.  No drama…just the way I like it.

In the bottom of the inning, Starlin Castro led off with a home run into the  left field bleachers to tie the game.  Star-light, Star-bright!

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The inning continued as consecutive singles by Todd Frazier, Clint Frazier and Ronald Torreyes loaded the bases. Aaron Hicks picked up the go-ahead RBI when he took a walk to bring the Toddfather home. Next up, Aaron Judge walked on four pitches to bring Red Thunder home. The Yankees were up, 3-1. The Rays pulled Snell, who hadn’t lost a game since late July, and replaced him with Chaz Roe. Gary Sanchez lined out to first, with Judge staying put, but the Rays caught Hicks off second (he couldn’t get back in time) to complete the double play. With Matt Holliday batting, Judge stole second so the Yankees had runners at second and third. Roe uncorked a wild pitch that got by Wilson Ramos all the way to the backstop, and Torreyes ran home with the fourth run of the inning. Judge moved to third but he was left stranded when Holliday flied out to center.

Jordan Montgomery kept the Rays off the board through the 6th inning and turned the game over to the bullpen in the 7th. Tommy Kahnle was up first and he retired the Rays in order, including the last two by strikeout. David Robertson took over in the 8th. He walked the first batter, Stephen Souza, Jr, but the runner did not advance past first base as D-Rob retired the next three Rays.

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

In the bottom of the 8th, with Rays reliever Austin Pruitt on the mound, Ronald Torreyes drew a one-out walk. While Brett Gardner was at bat, a wild pitch allowed Toe to move to second. Gardy grounded out to second, advancing Toe  to third. Aaron Judge walked to put runners at the corners. After a brief delay that saw Home Plate Umpire Dan Bellino toss a fan for tipping pitches, Gary Sanchez singled on a fly that dropped in front of center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (to my surprise) which brought Toe home to score. Matt Holliday reached on an infield single to short that Adeiny Hechavarria wasn’t able to field cleanly (made a running stop on the grounder in shallow left but the ball dropped out of his glove) allowing Sanchez to slide safely into second just ahead of the throw. Judge scored on the play and the Yankees had increased their lead to 6-1. Chase Headley grounded out, back to the pitcher, but the Yankees took the five run lead to the 9th.

Dellin Betances, who I thought should have pitched in Monday’s win over the Royals, entered the game in the non-save situation. A ground out and two fly outs on seven pitches, Game over. I was very glad to see a clean (and short) outing by Betances. The Yankees win!

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees (88-69) picked up another game on the Boston Red Sox with the win. The Sox lost to the Toronto Blue Jays for the second consecutive day. The Blue Jays won the game, 9-4, behind J.A. Happ. The loser for the Sox was Chris Sale, a loss that might tilt the AL Cy Young Award toward Cleveland’s Corey Kluber. The Yankees trail the Sox by three games with five to play. The Yankees secured home-field advantage for the Wild Card game with the win although they have not given up on the AL East championship. The Minnesota Twins won yesterday, 8-6 over the Cleveland Indians, and lead the second Wild Card spot by five games over the Los Angeles Angels.  

It was a great rebound by Jordan Montgomery (9-7). Lately, it has seemed like most of his struggles happen early. The Rays could have changed the complexion of the game with a first inning grand slam but Monty persevered after the incredible catch by Aaron Hicks. In six innings of work, he scattered six hits to hold the Rays to the single first inning run. He walked only one batter (the first inning walk of Evan Longoria), and struck out five.  The dude looks to be a strong piece for the rotation in 2018.
Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Hats off, again, to the Bullpen with three hitless innings of relief.
Starlin Castro was 3-for-3, including the second inning home run. It’s great to see him hitting again and just in time! No home runs for Aaron Judge after two consecutive multi-homer days, but he was in the mix with a run batted in, his 109th, thanks to the bases loaded walk and a run scored.
Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Odds & Ends…
I attended a few games at Target Field in Minneapolis, MN several years ago so, apparently, I am still on the Minnesota Twins mailing list. I received the notice that the Twins’ American League Division Series tickets go on sale on Thursday beginning at 10 a.m. CT. A bit of wishful thinking of their part. Hopefully, the Yankees can ensure those tickets are never used.
The Rays have made a pitching change for the series finale on Thursday. Alex Cobb had been the scheduled starter. With their season nearing its end, Rays manager Kevin Cash decided that Cobb had reached his season innings limit (179 innings in 2017 after only 22 in 2016). Jacob Faria (5-4, 3.33 ERA) will get the start versus Sonny Gray.
Have a great Wednesday! I’d like a win and maybe a couple of Aaron Judge home runs today, please. Go Yankees!

On Second Thought, He’s Safe!…

Credit:  Corey Sipkin-NY Post

Yankees 9, Red Sox 2…

The most critical play of the game might have been when the Yankees challenged the call in the bottom of the 6th.  The bases were loaded and two outs for Gary Sanchez.  He hit a hard smash to third.  Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers dove to stop the ball and got up, throwing the ball to first.  The ref signaled out and it appeared the inning was over.  But hold on, the Yankees challenged the play and replay showed that Sanchez had reached first just ahead of the ball.  The call was overturned and the inning continued.  Six runs later and the Yankees had placed a dagger in Boston’s heart.

The Yankees had runners at third in the first two innings but nothing to show for it.  Luis Severino was dominating the Red Sox but the Yankees were getting their chances against Boston starter Chris Sale.  Finally, to open the bottom of the 3rd, Chase Headley sent a Sale pitch into the left field stands (just over the wall).  

In the bottom of the 4th, the long ball continued to be the only weapon.  Matt Holliday, after battling off a few pitches, blasted a solo shot to the deepest part of the park in center and was followed by Todd Frazier’s homer to left (a few rows back).  The Yankees had taken a 3-0 lead.  

When Chris Sale was pulled with one out and runner at first in the top of the 5th inning, he was laboring and had thrown 109 pitches.  It’s amazing that as dominant as Sale has been this year against the Yankees, he failed to win a game in four tries.  

Credit:  Rich Schultz-Getty Images

The Sox finally got on the board in the top of the 6th.  Eduardo Nunez made it to first with one out when Todd Frazier failed to handle a grounder to third and the ball rolled into left field.  Following the second out by Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts hit a grounder to third but Frazier’s low throw bounced past first baseman Chase Headley.  Frazier’s second error of the inning. The runners moved up to second and third.  Nunez came home to score when a low Sevy pitch got past Gary Sanchez to the backstop.  3-1, Yankees.  Boston was unable to bring Betts home from third when Mitch Moreland struck out swinging.  It would be Luis Severino’s final pitch but what a game for the young right-hander!  Two hits, one run (but none earned), no walks and nine strikeouts.  Chris Sale may very well win the AL Cy Young Award (I know, Corey Kluber will have something to say about that) but on this day, Luis Severino was better.

Credit:  Corey Sipkin-NY Post

With Boston’s Joe Kelly on the mound, Matt Holliday opened the bottom of the 6th by working a walk.  Kelly struck out Todd Frazier and was replaced by Robby Scott.  Jacoby Ellsbury greeted Scott with a single lined to right.  Brett Gardner walked and the bases were full of Yanks.  The Sox made another pitching move and brought in former New York Met Addison Reed.  Reed struck out Chase Headley for the second out.  Gary Sanchez was next.  During the at-bat, Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis was barking about balls and strikes from the Boston dugout when he felt several calls were missed.  He got an early departure from the game for his troubles.  Sanchez hit the ball to third and it appeared that he was out at first for the final out.  The play was incredibly close but I was uncertain.  While Yankee players were signaling safe in the dugout, the Yankees challenged the play and the call was overturned when it showed El Gary’s foot touching first base just ahead of the throw.  The safe call validated Holliday’s run.  It was 4-1 Yankees.

Starlin Castro kept the inning going with a hard liner to right.  The ball went to the wall for a double and all three baserunners scored.  Minutes earlier, the game had been a tight pitching duel and now the Yankees had a six-run lead.  It brought Aaron Judge to the plate.  Boom!  No doubt about it as the ball sailed 469 feet into the left field seats at an exit velocity of 115.1 mph.  

Credit:  Bill Kostroun-Associated Press

 

From there, it was about riding the bullpen to victory.  Despite the eight-run lead, it was a slightly bumpy ride.  Tommy Kahnle was first.  He pitched the top of the 7th in relief of Severino after Manager Joe Girardi decided against bringing Sevy back out after the long bottom of the 6th.  Kahnle looked rusty as he walked the first batter, Dustin Pedroia.  Deven Marrero was brought in to pinch-run for Pedroia.  Rafael Devers singled to left which moved Marrero to second and no outs.  Fortunately, Kahnle struck out the next two batters and got the final out when Jackie Bradley, Jr popped out to third in foul territory.  

Chasen Shreve took over in the 8th.  Given his recent struggles, I felt far from secure.  But he proved me wrong by retiring the three batters he faced (two by strikeout).  For the 9th, Girardi brought in Giovanny Gallegos.  I know that the Yankees had a big lead, but I probably would have gone with Aroldis Chapman for no other reason than to get him some work.  Oh well, they pay Girardi to make the decisions.  Sam Travis was up first and he singled to left, just past Todd Frazier at third. A wild pitch (high throw from Gallegos) moved Travis to second.  Gallegos was looking a bit like a rookie but then he struck out Deven Marrero.  A groundout by Rafael Devers moved Travis to third. Blake Swihart came in, pinch-hitting for Hanley Ramirez, and drew a walk.  Sandy Leon’s single to left scored Travis.  Swihart moved to second.  Gallegos, with Aroldis Chapman warming up, finally got Jackie Bradley, Jr to swing at the third strike to end the game.  The Yankees win!

Credit:  Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees (73-63) moved to within 3 1/2 games of the Red Sox with the win in the final head-to-head match-up between the two teams.  The Yankees took the season series, 11 games to 8.  This was a huge series.  If the results had been in reverse, the Yankees could have potentially been looking up in the Wild Card Standings and holding a distant view of the top of the AL East.  Instead, they are still within striking distance for the division crown and continue to hold the edge in the Wild Card.  The Yankees maintained their 3 1/2 game advantage over the Baltimore Orioles.  The O’s fought back against the Toronto Blue Jays to win 5-4 in 12 innings.  The Minnesota Twins lost (5-4 to the Kansas City Royals) so the Yankees increased their Wild Card lead to two games.

Luis Severino (12-6) was outstanding.  The guy welcomes the challenge of continually facing the top aces in the game.  Sevy became the youngest Yankees pitcher to record 200 strikeouts in a season by age 23 since Al Downing did it back in 1964 with 217 strikeouts.  

Credit:  Rich Schultz-Getty Images

It was good to see Aaron Judge hit his 38th home run.  Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers had hit his 36th earlier in the day.  The rookies might not reach Mark McGwire’s rookie record of 49 (set in 1987) but they’re certainly giving it a try.  

Credit to Gary Sanchez for his effort to get to first base in the 6th inning.  I was listening to sports announcers earlier in the day who were complaining about Robinson Cano’s “60% effort”, at times, when running to first base.  Sanchez showed that hustle can make a difference.

Next Up:  Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland…

After playing a Sunday night game in New York, the Yankees turn right around and play an afternoon game in Baltimore.  It probably feels like a night-day double-header.  No rest for the wicked…or in this case, no rest for the good guys.  

Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:

MONDAY

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (7-7, 4.15 ERA)

Orioles:  Dylan Bundy (13-8, 3.94 ERA)

TUESDAY

Yankees:  CC Sabathia (11-5, 3.71 ERA)

Orioles:  Ubaldo Jimenez (5-9, 6.85 ERA)

WEDNESDAY

Yankees:  Sonny Gray (8-9, 3.36 ERA)

Orioles:  Jeremy Hellickson (2-3, 6.55 ERA)

I was glad to see the Yankees replace Jaime Garcia with Jordan Montgomery.  Not that Monty pitched much better than Garcia last time out (the actual line was worse) but I trust Monty more with the chips on the line. Hopefully the Yankees can take this series to hold off the recent charge by the Orioles.

Odds & Ends…

The Yankees have placed OF Aaron Hicks on the 10-day DL with a left oblique strain.  After missing time earlier this summer with a right oblique strain, maybe Hicks should invest in a new personal trainer.  Hopefully this is not the end for Hicks’ 2017 season. LHP Caleb Smith was recalled from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to take A-A-Ron’s roster spot.

Have a great Monday!  It’s Labor Day but let’s hope it is not too much labor to carve out the O’s.  Go Yankees!