Tagged: AL East

Boston’s Loss is Our Gain…

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Photo Credit: Boston Herald (Christopher Evans)

Yankees Take Sole Possession of First Place…

The Yankees had the day off on Monday and captured sole possession of first place in the American League East while they are resting. Sweet. Credit to Oakland’s Sean Manaea, sporting Sonny Gray’s old number, for keeping the Red Sox offense in check.

 Oakland Athletics v Boston Red Sox
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Maddie Meyer)

Rafael Devers got a seventh inning home run off Manaea and J.D. Martinez took the A’s bullpen deep, but after nine innings of play, Boston had one less run than Oakland. Too bad, so sad. Sucks to be Boston. Greatest start in Red Sox history and all they have to show for it is second place. Get used to it, RSN.

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Now, the Yankees have to hold their thin ½ game AL East lead while playing one of the best teams in the National League. I know, the Washington Nationals currently trail both the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies, but there’s no doubt the Nats (24-18) will be firmly entrenched on top of the NL East by the time October rolls around. Atlanta is a nice story and of course no one is going to root against former Yankees bench coach (now Phillies bench coach) Rob Thomson but it is inevitable the Braves and Phillies will fall hard at some point.

With the Yankees in the Nation’s Capital to face the Nationals, it brings the topic of Bryce Harper to the forefront. I like Giancarlo Stanton, don’t get me wrong, but realistically, given a choice, I’d prefer Harper. At the moment, there’s not a great difference in their stats.

Harper:  .236/.400/.543, .943 OPS, 13 HR, 30 RBI

Stanton:  .252/.339/.516, .855 OPS, 10 HR, 26 RBI

I feel that the best AL pitchers in October will expose the flaws in Stanton’s swing, whereas Harper seems to have the “it” quality for playoff superstardom. There are no stats to back up those assumptions on my part (total gut feelings) and honestly I am fine moving forward with Stanton for the long-term.  I am just saying that if I had my chance, I’d take the 25 year old Harper over the 28 year old Stanton and age has nothing to do with it.

I am not really trying to rip Stanton and I have not been dissatisfied with his short time in Pinstripes despite some struggles. I suppose it’s not outside of the realm of possibility the Yankees could feature an outfield of Aaron Judge, Harper and Stanton, but that would have been more likely under George Steinbrenner than Hal Steinbrenner.
The way the season is going for the Los Angeles Dodgers (16-24), they’ll be looking to make some impactful moves in the off-season. I am sure they’ll be big game hunting for Harper themselves, but if I was GM Brian Cashman, I’d find a way to move LA-native Stanton to Chavez Ravine and bring Harper to New York.

While I would want Harper on my team, the realist in me knows the off-season money will be better spent on the pitching staff. I think Patrick Corbin would make for a very nice lefty replacement for CC Sabathia. CC’s been a great Yankee, but the end of the line is near. The downside to spending big on pitching is the fragile overall health of top pitchers (case in point, Clayton Kershaw, who seems to enjoy the DL as much as Jacoby Ellsbury). The Yankees will face an ace that could have been theirs tomorrow evening when Max Scherzer takes the hill for the Nats against Sabathia. When Scherzer signed his free agent deal with the Nationals in January 2015, the Yankees had been one of the early favorites to sign the former Tiger ace. If George Steinbrenner was still alive, I am convinced Scherzer would have been a Yankee today.

Perhaps the Yankees make a big pitching move in July. After a couple of promising starts, Sonny Gray Sucks! returned after his dismal performance against his former team last Friday night. I keep hoping that Gray can recapture the elite pitcher status he held while wearing green and gold but so far, he has seemed like just another guy that couldn’t handle New York. My feelings about Gray are starting to turn Javier Vazquez-like. I loved what Vazquez did as a member of the Montreal Expos, but his time in Pinstripes (both times) was very pedestrian.  Every start, I keep hoping Gray will prove me wrong. But we’re just a couple months shy of a year since his acquisition and I’ve not been impressed. During the recent A’s series, it was weird listening to veteran A’s beat reporter Susan Slusser talk about how great Gray pitched for Oakland.  We haven’t seen that guy.

I am not really trying to bash the Yankees today but it seems kind of like I have. Please accept my apology. They hold the best record in Major League Baseball and have a cohesive team that simply refuses to lose. Things haven’t gone perfectly but the same can be said for all other MLB teams. Some teams with playoff aspirations (like the Dodgers) probably wish they could take a mulligan and start the season over. The Yankees have no such thoughts.  28-12, .700 winning percentage, first place in the AL East, and of course the best record in MLB. They overcame the blistering 17-2 start by the Boston Red Sox. I think Yankees fans will gladly take the current state of MLB’s greatest franchise.  So, don’t mind me while I dream of what Bryce Harper might look like in Pinstripes.  It’s just a dream that will never come to fruition.

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That’s fine.  Let’s go win a World Series.

Go Yankees!

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Waking Up in First Place…

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

Yankees win latest series with Boston…

We have often heard it in recent days. On April 20th, the Yankees were 7 ½ games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East after Boston’s blazing 17-2 start at the beginning of the year. The Yankees, then 9-9, were getting ready to embark on the most brutal stretch of their schedule, struggling to stay above .500, with multiple series ahead against division leaders and winning teams.

Yet, here we are on May 10th, and the Yankees lead the AL East by one game with the best record in Major League Baseball. I guess I was worried for nothing, thanks to the twenty-five men on the Yankees roster who have contributed to the legendary winning run the team is currently on. Well, make that twenty-four, reliever A.J. Cole has just been along for the ride.

First place, how sweet it is…

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It is amazing the last Yankees team to win 17 of 18 games were the 1953 Yankees which included a young Baby Bomber named Mickey Mantle. That’s pretty good company for the 2018 Yankees. I wasn’t alive then but I hear the 1950’s Yankees were pretty good.

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The Yankees are spoiling second baseman Gleyber Torres. He’s quickly learning losing is unacceptable in the Bronx, having experienced only one loss in his first seventeen games. The Yankees are supposed to win every day, right?

Last year, it seemed like the Yankees were consistently losing the close games. Yet, this year, no deficit (it seems) has been too much unless we’re playing the lowly Baltimore Orioles. When Red Sox manager Alex Cora brought his closer, Craig Kimbrel, into last night’s game with five outs to go, it did not feel as intimidating as it had in years past. When Brett Gardner laced the triple to recapture the lead for the Yankees, it wasn’t a surprise to me. It felt like this team was going to find a way to victory. The two run homer by Aaron Judge off Kimbrel was icing on the cake. Loved seeing Astros closer Ken Giles blow the recent game against the Yankees, but watching Kimbrel lose was better even if he didn’t slug himself coming off the mound.

This run won’t last forever (will it?) but I am certainly enjoying it while it lasts. Back in early April, I felt we’d have a good litmus test on the Yankees by May 10th. Well, I’d say they aced the exam and have proven they are among the very best in Major League Baseball. Win or lose today, the team’s accomplishments have far exceeded my expectations.

Going into the Boston series, I had hoped the Yankees would win at least two of three so that they’d have at least a share of the AL East when the Red Sox headed for the airport. However, with two wins in the bag, let’s “Get Greedy” and go for the sweep!

I am not going to get too high. It is only mid-May and there’s so much baseball yet to be played before anything is decided. Gleyber Torres, sadly, will one day learn it is indeed possible to lose two or three games (or…yikes!…more) in a row at the MLB level. I am not going to dismiss the Red Sox. They are a very good team that’s not going away. But then again, neither are we. It should be a great summer of baseball ahead.

I did have to check out Boston newspapers today. The Boston Globe featured the Boston Celtics on their Sports page. The Celtics won their Eastern Conference semi-finals matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers and will advance to the Conference Finals against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. I suppose that’s big news in Boston but it is funny how the Red Sox became a secondary thought in the Globe.

Credit to Giancarlo Stanton who had two homers in the first game of the Red Sox series and a two-run double yesterday. The best way to stop boos at Yankee Stadium is to show up in a big way against the dreaded Red Sox. Nice job, Giancarlo. This is what you were hired to do.

And for all of you who wanted to cut Neil Walker, ala Chris Carter style, I think he’s given his answer to you. On a team that has featured a different hero almost every night, Walker has been a key ingredient in many of the rallies. I think there’s a much better chance of Tyler Austin finding his way to Scranton, PA than Walker hitting the unemployment line. Sorry Tyler, it’s not you. Walker has simply appeared so graceful at first base even though he is out of position and now his bat is showing why he was an offensive force for the Pirates and Mets.  His veteran leadership meshes well with the team, and I am glad he’s here.

Hopefully CC Sabathia can close out the Red Sox this evening and send them out of town on a three-game losing streak. Since Rick Porcello had to move up his start by a day when Wednesday’s scheduled starter, David Price, returned to Boston for medical tests, Eduardo Rodriguez (3-0, 5.29 ERA) will take the mound later today for Boston.

The Yankees open a three-game set against the Oakland A’s on Friday night for their last home series before a road trip to Washington, Kansas City, and Dallas/Fort Worth. While it is cool Sonny Gray gets the start in the series opener against his former team, the player I will be watching most is former Yankee Dustin Fowler. The A’s called up Fowler yesterday.  I had wondered if he’d make his season debut and first official MLB at-bat against the Yankees, but a pinch-hit appearance yesterday against the Houston Astros gave Fowler the first Major League at-bat that eluded him last year in Chicago when he suffered the devastating knee injury. Pinch-hitting for Mark Canha in the 7th inning (with Houston’s Will Harris on the mound), Fowler lined out to second. So, he’ll come to Yankee Stadium seeking his first Major League hit. While I don’t want the A’s to win (obviously), I hope Fowler gets that hit and draws a standing ovation from the Yankee Stadium crowd. He deserves it. A good man who deserves the very best life has to offer. He will always be one of my favorite ex-Yankees.

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Photo Credit:  Getty Images

Gotta admit that it is really fun to be a Yankees fan right now. I know, it’s always fun, but the World seems like a better place when the Greedy Pinstripes are winning.

Go Yankees!

The Showdown in Boston…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Adam Glanzman)

Yankees invade Fenway Park…

Without delving too much into last weekend, I’ve had better days. Losing three of four to a team that you are supposed to beat (the Baltimore Orioles) is difficult to accept, especially when the Yankee could have easily won the last loss when they had the bases loaded, no outs, in extra innings with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton coming to bat.

Am I disappointed in Stanton so far? Absolutely. Am I going to fret over him in Pinstripes as a result? Absolutely NOT! Death, taxes, and Giancarlo Stanton going on a home run tear are certainties of life. Things will get better and so will Stanton and Company. When Stanton is on one of his monster tears like last summer, his slow start (the two Opening Day home runs in Toronto excluded) will be long forgotten.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)

While the Yankees have struggled out of the gate (winning only five of ten games), the Boston Red Sox have been on a roll. The last time Boston lost was the season opener in St Petersburg, FL on March 29th. They have yet to lose another game, and lead the AL East by two games over the Toronto Blue Jays. The Yankees trail the Sox by three and a half games.  As many have already said, no division championships were ever won in April. Well, except for maybe a few NBA and NHL teams. For MLB teams, this is far from over. Once the Yankee bats heat up like we know they can, it’s going to be a fun and exciting chase in the American League East. The Red Sox can run but they can’t hide. The target is on their back; not ours.

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I am sure that Red Sox fans are ecstatic over their team’s 8-1 record but you have to keep in mind they did it against the lowly Florida teams. Sorry Jetes, but your team does suck right now (poor Starlin). So does Rob Refsnyder’s team. The Yankees represent the first real test Boston has faced this year. I know, it would be better if the Yankees weren’t scuffling coming into this series, but the intensity of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry always seems to bring out the best in everyone. The Red Sox will throw Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello at the Yankees on successive nights.  The Yankees counter with their best…Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, and most likely Sonny Gray. Win or lose, this is going to be a great series.  If the Yankees can take at least two of three, they’ll be in great shape. A sweep would be perfect but that might be asking for too much. So, for now, I’d settle for at least two of the games.

Tuesday, April 10th at 7:10 pm ET

Yankees:  Luis Severino (2-0, 1.38 ERA)

Red Sox:  Chris Sale (0-0, 0.82 ERA)

Wednesday, April 11th at 7:10 ET

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (1-1, 2.92 ERA)

Red Sox:  David Price (1-0, 0.00 ERA)

Thursday, April 12th at 7:10 ET

Yankees:  TBA (expected to be Sonny Gray, 1-0, 3.60 ERA)

Red Sox:  Rick Porcello (2-0, 2.84 ERA)

The Red Sox did suffer a setback prior to the start of the series. It was announced yesterday they have placed shortstop Xander Bogaerts on the 10-day DL with a small fracture in his left ankle. He is expected to be out 10-14 days. To take his place on the roster, the Red Sox recalled infielder Tzu-Wei Lin from Triple A Pawtucket. Lin and Brock Holt are expected to share time at short while Bogaerts is out.

MLB.com finally resolved the 40-man roster dilemma by removing Cody Asche. I never did see any explanations so I honestly do not know if Asche was reported on the 40-man roster in error or if he cleared waivers. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders site was also corrected to show that he is not on the 40-man roster. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why forty-one names were showing on the 40-man roster last weekend. I knew that Asche had to be the key but it was odd no explanations could be found. On the transactions page of MLB.com, the 4/04/18 entry shows that Asche was “optioned” to Triple A which implies that he was on the MLB roster. There are no subsequent transactions involving Asche, who started at third base last night for the RailRiders. I guess whatever the situation is/was, they got it resolved as I knew they would. I just hate it when something does not make sense to me.
The Yankees are expected to get Aaron Hicks back for the getaway game on Thursday before the Yankees leave Boston for Detroit. He will be a welcome addition. Hopefully A-A-Ron can hit the ground running when he returns. We need his bat and defense ASAP.

Today is a new day.  It is time for the Giancarlo Stanton Era to begin in earnest. The Yankees are deep in the heart of enemy territory. All hands on deck. Let’s beat the Red Sox.

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!

Thank You, We’ll Just Take The Wild Card…

Credit:  Frank Gunn-The Canadian Press via AP

Blue Jays 8, Yankees 1…

The title is sarcastic (if you didn’t notice). I am very disappointed with Masahiro Tanaka and the blow out loss to the AL East Cellar Dwellers. Trailing the Red Sox by four games with only nine games to play makes it a near impossibility to catch Boston unless they go into a tailspin like the Los Angeles Dodgers recently did. I seriously doubt that will happen for the Red Sox as they keep winning.

The Yankees had been playing so well, winning 15 of 20 games since August 31st. For a year that the Yankees have exceeded all expectations, Tanaka’s overall performance is the reason the Yankees are talking Wild Card and not AL East title. If he had pitched like his previous three years, we’d be talking about how many games the Red Sox are behind. It bothers me that we can hold a 5 1/2 game lead over the Minnesota Twins, we can sweep the most recent series with the Twins, and yet, the Twins have a chance for one game to send the Yankees packing for the winter. If the Yankees play like they did yesterday, there will be no expanded playoffs for the Pinstripes.  

Aaron Judge is the only player that came ready to play. His solo home run in the first inning, a monster 469 foot blast to left center off the facing of the second deck, gave the Yankees an early lead but it was the last run the Yankees would score. It was Judge’s 46th home run of the season, matching Joe DiMaggio’s career high. 

Credit:  Frank Gunn-The Canadian Press via AP

The Blue Jays quickly tied the game in the bottom of the 1st against Tanaka.  Teoscar Hernandez led off with a single to left center. Josh Donaldson hit into a fielder’s choice at third but Todd Frazier’s throw to Starlin Castro, which should have been an easy force out at second, got past Castro for an error as Hernandez raced around to third. Runners at the corners. Jose Bautista hit a soft grounder to third and was thrown out at first but Hernandez scored. Game tied, 1-1.

In the top of the 3rd, Todd Frazier doubled to right on a ball that went to the wall, sliding into second just under the throw from Jose Bautista. Clint Frazier popped out to the shortstop for the first out.  Jacoby Ellsbury lined out to right on a great running catch by Bautista, who then threw the ball in to second baseman Ryan Goins.  With the Toddfather standing on second, Goins used the old hidden ball trick with a fake throw.  Frazier momentarily lifted his foot off second to turn around and Goins nabbed him for the out to complete the double play. It was that type of game…

Credit:  Frank Gunn-The Canadian Press via AP

In the bottom of the 3rd, Teoscar Hernandez got to Tanaka again, this time a solo shot to left to give the Blue Jays the 2-1 lead. Bottom of the 4th, it was Russell Martin’s turn. His two-run shot, a liner just over the left field wall off Tanaka after Joey Bats had walked to start the inning, put the Blue Jays, 4-1.  

The Yankees’ third and final hit came in the top of the 6th when Aaron Judge led off with a double to deep left center that hit the warning track and bounced off the wall.  But the silent Yankee bats left him stranded behind the pitching of Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada, the recipient of a $13 million contract extension a few days earlier.

In the bottom of the 6th, the Blue Jays put the game away against Tanaka.  Jose Bautista walked to start the inning.  Kevin Pillar singled to center as Joey Bats moved to second.  Tanaka struck out Russell Martin and Miguel Montero so it looked like he might be able to get out of the inning, but then he walked Kendrys Morales, pinch-hitting for Darwin Barney, on four consecutive balls out of the strike zone to load the bases.  Tanaka had two strikes on the ‘Hidden Ball’ Master, Ryan Goins, but the third pitch, a slider, left the park in right for a grand slam. 8-1 Blue Jays, and, finally, the end of the night for Tanaka.  

Credit:  Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The only remaining runner that the Yankees could muster was when Aaron Judge walked in the 8th. The Blue Jays easily coasted to victory and most likely handed the Boston Red Sox the AL East Championship.

I apologize to those of you who are Tanaka fans but he sucked. His win-loss record now stands at 12-12 and his season ERA has increased to 4.94.  He gave up eight runs (seven earned) and three home runs in 5 2/3 innings.  He disappeared at a time when the Yankees needed him the most.  Dude, please opt out at the end of the year if this is truly the pitcher you are now.

Credit:  Tom Szczerbowski-Getty Images

The Yankees (85-68), as mentioned, fell four games behind the Red Sox.  Boston beat Sal Romano, who grew up as a Yankees fan, and the Cincinnati Reds, 5-4.  The Minnesota Twins have won two straight since they were swept by the Yankees so they have reduced their Wild Card deficit from 7 games to 5 1/2 in two days.  The Los Angeles Angels are in a downward spiral, losers of five in a row, so they trail the Twins by 3 1/2 games, along with the Texas Rangers.  

I don’t mind when the Yankees battle hard and lose, but Friday night was not one of those games.  Outside of Aaron Judge, it was a complete team letdown. If I didn’t know better, it looked like the Toronto Blue Jays were the playoff team, not the Yankees.  We expect and demand better play today.

Odds & Ends…

Today’s pitching matchup will feature Sonny Gray (9-11) versus Joe Biagini (3-11). A change was announced for Sunday. Jaime Garcia (5-9) now gets the start. He’ll oppose New York native Marcus Stroman (12-8).  

Todd Frazier was able to talk to the father of the little girl struck by the foul ball during Wednesday’s game. The little girl is still in the hospital and as one relative indicated, it will be a long process. Frazier was told by the girl’s father that “she’s doing okay”. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the little girl as she continues to recover.  

After last night’s game, an unauthorized man apparently gained access to the Yankees clubhouse in an attempt to steal some towels and a batting helmet. He was chased away by Todd Frazier, Tyler Wade, and others. The man was subsequently detained by stadium security but it’s scary that someone could have penetrated the crowded clubhouse that easily.  

Have a great Saturday!  Hopefully this a much better baseball day for all of us.  Go Yankees!

90 Feet: So Close Yet So Far Away…

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP
Tigers 4, Yankees 3…
On a night when the Boston Red Sox refused to lose, the Yankees meekly fell to the Detroit Tigers and a collection of underwhelming pitchers.  It was a very disappointing loss as the Yankees fell out of first place.  The Yankees had the tying run at third and the winning run at second in the bottom of the 9th but Clint Frazier failed to deliver in the clutch against former Yankee Shane Greene.

For CC Sabathia, it really came down to one bad pitch.  With runners at first and second with two outs in the top of the 2nd inning, CC got into an extended battle with Tigers first baseman John Hicks, throwing everything but the kitchen sink at him.  On the 10th pitch of the at-bat, Hicks deposited a poorly thrown backdoor slider into the right field stands (just beyond the glove of a leaping Aaron Judge), giving the Tigers a lead they would not relinquish.  

Credit:  Paul J Bereswill-New York Post

Justin Upton homered off Sabathia in the 3rd inning, also with two outs, to give the Tigers the necessary insurance run they would need to win.  The Yankees wasted an opportunity to chip away in the bottom of the 3rd when Tyler Wade led off with a double to center.  A wild pitch by Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez moved Wade to third with no outs.  But Brett Gardner, Clint Frazier and Aaron Judge all failed to bring Wade home.

In the bottom of the 4th, the Yankees finally got on the board when Gary Sanchez opened with a double to left.  Didi Gregorius homered to right to bring the Yankees within two runs, 4-2.  But those were the only runs the Yankees would be able to get off Anibal Sanchez.

The Yankees picked up their final run in the bottom of the 8th against the Tigers bullpen.  With Alex Wilson pitching, Gary Sanchez singled to left and advanced to second on a throwing error by left fielder Justin Upton.  The Tigers replaced Wilson with Daniel Stumpf and he was greeted by a run-scoring single from Didi Gregorius to make it a one-run game. Matt Holliday grounded into a double play to end the inning.  

The Tigers almost added to their lead in the top of the 9th.  David Robertson had been brought in to start the inning, in relief of Adam Warren.  Thanks to two singles, the Tigers had runners at first and second with two outs.  Austin Romine’s brother Andrew singled to center but Brett Gardner gunned down the lead runner (James McCann) at the plate.  

Credit:  Jim McIsaac-Getty Images

In the bottom of the 9th, Jacoby Ellsbury walked with two outs.  A throwing error by Tigers reliever Shane Greene on a pick-off attempt allowed Ellsbury to race to third.  The Tigers chose to intentionally walk Brett Gardner to face Clint Frazier.  Gardner stole second to put the winning run in scoring position.  The stage was set for Frazier to be the hero.  Unfortunately, he took two called strikes without moving his bat and then popped out on the third pitch from Greene to end the game.  It was a disappointing loss and another game of missed opportunities.  

The Yankees (57-48) dropped a half game behind the Boston Red Sox with the loss.  Boston battled the Cleveland Indians all night long, with the lead constantly changing hands.  The Indians scored 7 runs off Red Sox ace Chris Sale in the game.  They also scored two runs in the top of the 9th against Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, including a solo homer by Francisco Lindor which tied the game.  The Indians took a 10-9 lead into the bottom of the 9th with closer Cody Allen on the mound, but Boston’s Christian Vasquez hit a three-run homer for the 12-10 walk-off win.  The Tampa Bay Rays also won.  They beat the Houston Astros, 6-4, behind Chris Archer.  They are 3 1/2 games behind the Yankees.  The Baltimore Orioles won their fourth consecutive game (7-2 over the Kansas City Royals) so they moved within 5 1/2 games of the Yankees.  

Credit:  John Wilcox-Boston Herald
Matt Holliday was 2-for-4 with a double so there’s hope he is finally coming around, but he continues to be a disappointment in clutch situations.  Getting his bat right is a key for the Yankees as long as Manager Joe Girardi keeps penciling his name into the lineup.  Clint Frazier and Aaron Judge were a combined 0-for-9.  CC Sabathia (9-4) took the loss. He did rebound to give the Yankees six innings.  He allowed 6 hits, 4 runs, and 1 walk while striking out 3.  The Yankees could have taken him off the hook but offense from Didi Gregorius alone was not enough.
Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP
Brett Gardner stole two bases during the game and moved into fifth place tie with Roy White on the Yankees all-time list with 233 steals.  Next on the list is Hal Chase with 248 steals and Willie Randolph at 251.  The top leaders are Derek Jeter (358) and Rickey Henderson (326).
The Yankees can take the series this afternoon with a win on getaway day. Hopefully, the cold bats from yesterday have thawed overnight.
The Great Thurman Munson…
I always think of Thurman Munson on this day.  I can still remember where I was when I heard the news that my favorite player had died in a plane crash in Akron, Ohio on August 2, 1979.  It ripped the heart and soul out of the 1979 team.  The late Bobby Murcer, who had been reacquired by the Yankees a little more than a month before the plane crash, was the spiritual leader through this very difficult time.  “The life of a soul on earth lasts longer than his departure. He lives on in your life and the life of all others who knew him.” 

Odds & Ends…
The newcomers have chosen their new numbers.  Sonny Gray will take #55, most recently occupied by Bryan Mitchell, and Jaime Garcia will don #34, worn the last few years by Houston Astros catcher Brian McCann.  When it was obvious that neither player would be able to get their same preferred number (54), I thought the selections of 34 and 55 were the most obvious.
Credit:  Robert Sabo-New York Post
The history of 55, in recent years, has resided with Hideki Matsui and Ramiro Mendoza, but lately it’s been available for Mitchell whenever he’s been called up.  I guess he’ll finally have to choose a new number when he gets his next Bronx phone call.  I think 55 is a great number for Gray.  I’ve long associated the number, pitching-wise, to the “Bulldog”…former Los Angeles Dodgers hurler Orel Hershiser.  I am sure there are plenty of other prominent players that have worn the number, but for some reason, I’ve always just thought of the Bulldog.

Credit:  Getty Images

Jaime Garcia, in a pre-game interview, told the story how his late grandfather had told him as a boy he would play for the Yankees.  The Yankees are his family’s favorite team, and they were Jaime’s favorite team as a kid.  Great story.  I am looking forward to watching Jaime pitch in pinstripes.  Based on Joe Girardi’s comments, it appears that Sonny Gray will start in Cleveland on Thursday and Garcia will take the mound the next day.  I hate to be guilty of looking ahead, but I can’t wait for Thursday and Friday.  They should be fun and exciting games.

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

It has been said that the Gray trade has the potential to be a steal for the Yankees.  While I am glad Gray is a Yankee, the potential also exists for the trade to be a steal for the A’s.  I still believe that James Kaprielian can be a top of the rotation starter.  Jorge Mateo and Dustin Fowler can be very dangerous players for a future A’s squad.  Best case, the trade is a win/win for both organizations.  

It was another win for Chance Adams (7-3, 2.32 ERA).  The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders defeated the Buffalo Bisons, 5-1, on Tuesday behind Adams but the usual problem surfaced with too many walks (four).  He went 6 innings (101 pitches), giving up 8 hits and 3 runs to the Bisons.  He struck out 3.  Billy McKinney, one of the players that will need to be placed on the 40-man roster before December’s Rule 5 Draft, hit a three-run homer to back Adams.

Have a great Wednesday!  Let’s grab a win before the guys hop a plane to Cleveland.  Go Yankees!

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…

To Buy or Not to Buy…

The MLB Trading Deadline is just a mere 24 days away.  At 4 pm ET on Tuesday, July 31st, we’ll know the answer if the Yankees will be buyers or sellers.  If the freefall continues, the odds are stronger toward the latter.  However, none of the current Yankee veterans potentially available fall into the ‘sell high’ category like Aroldis Chapman, Carlos Beltran, and Andrew Miller did last summer.  If the Yankees indeed become sellers, I would look at Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Austin Romine, Chase Headley, Rob Refsnyder, Jacoby Ellsbury (yeah, right…we’re stuck with this one), and Brett Gardner.  Depending upon the return, I could be coerced into others.  There are really no untouchables outside of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez.  I don’t think Aroldis Chapman is going anywhere, but otherwise, I think everyone else could be had for the right price.  

The Los Angeles Dodgers are currently 58-29 and are on pace to win 108 games with their current winning percentage (.667).  They have the best pitcher in baseball (Clayton Kershaw) but he might not even the best pitcher on their staff if you look purely at stats.  Alex Wood is 10-0 with a very low 1.67 ERA in 13 starts.  Kershaw has 3 more wins but with 5 more starts.  Wood has given the Dodgers the second starter they’ve been missing since Zack Greinke left.  As the Dodgers march toward a potential historic season, they have the inconsistent Kenta Maeda (6-4, 4.56 ERA) and the injury-plagued Brandon McCarthy (6-3, 3.25 ERA) to go with Kershaw, Wood and Rich Hill.  The rotation would look so much better with Masahiro Tanaka, based on his last three starts, than either Maeda or McCarthy.

Brett Gardner to the San Francisco Giants has long made sense to me.  He’d easily fit into Bruce Bochy’s lineup and give them the left-fielder that they’ve literally been waiting years for.  

I honestly hope the Yankees regain their magical step from earlier in the season.  My clear preference is to buy at the trading deadline.  But the realist in me recognizes there is the strong possibility we’ll be sellers if the team continues on its current path so we must be prepared.  It hurt to lose Andrew Miller last summer and it still does.  Regardless of how Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield perform as Yankees, our fondness for Miller will never be replaced.  But moves have to be made to better the team for the long run.  The Boston Red Sox are showing signs of potentially running away with the AL East.  The Yankees soon will have to make the decision to go all in for a Wild Card spot or chalk this year up to development.

Since June 13th, when the Los Angeles Angels ended the Yankees’ six-game winning streak with a 3-2 victory in Anaheim, the Yankees are a meager 6-16.  The top three guys in the bullpen, excluding Adam Warren at this point, are unreliable at best.  Aroldis Chapman has struggled with control issues that would be magnified if not for the horrific performances by Tyler Clippard and more recently Dellin Betances.  Clearly, this group has the potential…and the history…to be dominant but continued struggles only help push the Yankees further into the downward spiral.  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

The July schedule, simply put, is tough.  After the All-Star Game break, the team heads to Boston for a four-game series with the Red Sox.  It concludes with a day/night double-header on Sunday, July 16th.  Following the second game, the Yankees have to jump on a plane to fly to Minneapolis, MN to play the Minnesota Twins the next night.  The Twins are no slouch, holding a 44-41 record and just a game and a half out in the AL Central, entering games today.  After three days in the Twin Cities, the Yanks hop a westbound plane for Seattle to face Robinson Cano and the Mariners with no break.  The Mariners currently have a losing record but the Yankees always seem to bring out the best in Cano.  This year he’ll be joined by another player with incentive to beat the Yankees in young outfielder Ben Gamel, a former Yankees farmhand.  Flying home to NYC following the three-game series with the M’s, the Yanks get one day off before a two-game set against the Cincinnati Reds which rolls over into a four-game stand with the Tampa Bay Rays, the team currently nipping at the Yanks’ heels.  July 31st, while we sit and wait for the trading deadline dust to settle in the afternoon, the Yankees will begin a three-game with the Detroit Tigers.  August doesn’t get any easier with the Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, New York Mets, Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners on tap.  In other words, the schedule is a bitch.  

The Yankees have to find a way to win the one-run games now, not later.  They need to resolve the bullpen failures and they need to significantly upgrade at least one of the infield corners.  Otherwise, even making it to .500 by year’s end will be a challenge.

I hate to say it but it is my current opinion (which could easily be changed by a winning streak) that the Yankees will be sellers at the deadline as we await bigger and better things in 2018 and 2019.  

Will Today be a Holliday?…

All signs are pointing to the return of DH Matt Holliday today.  Diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), the most common viral infection in humans, Holliday is feeling better and getting ready to return.  Many people afflicted by EBV don’t even know they have it since they do not feel sick.  I am glad to hear that they finally have a handle on what has ailed Holliday.  The Yankees have missed his stick in the lineup.  Plus, his occasional starts at first base have helped get production out of the team’s biggest black hole.  I hope he is able to make a successful return today or if not, this weekend.

Odds & Ends…

The Yankees created some organizational depth when they acquired infielder Jonathan Diaz this week from the Toronto Blue Jays.  Diaz, 32, was having a subpar year in the Blue Jays farm system, but he was with the RailRiders last season and will provide them with infield depth again this year.  Billy Fleming was sent from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to Double-A Trenton to make room.  We’ll never see Diaz at the MLB level but he helps the RailRiders who have suffered multiple recent losses due to Baby Bomber promotions.  In his first game with the RailRiders, Diaz hit a single that started their winning rally, a 4-3 victory in extra innings over Diaz’s former club, the Buffalo Bisons.  Meanwhile, at Trenton, Fleming hit a two-run homer off MLB pitcher (on rehab assignment) Vince Velasquez to power the Thunder to a 6-3 victory over the Reading Fightin Phils.


Speaking of organizational depth, Mason Williams has cleared waivers and was outrighted to SWB.  It is a chance for Williams to make a case for redemption.  The one dude who I hope isn’t outrighted to SWB is Chris Carter.  I am ready for him to collect a paycheck elsewhere although the Yankees will be paying him good money for the rest of the year to do whatever he desires.  Maybe some time at a batting cage, mixed in with some fielding lessons might be a good idea.

Justus Sheffield has been placed on the DL by the Double-A Trenton Thunder.  Sheffield is dealing with a strained oblique and adds to the number of medically-impaired Yankees.  Mike Ford, the next first baseman on the food chain (Triple A), is dealing with a hamstring injury and hoping to avoid the DL.


Of the trade possibilities, I am very intrigued at the prospect Marcus Stroman may be available if the Blue Jays become sellers at the trading deadline.  Trading within the division is always very difficult (although the Yankees do not seem to have a problem giving relievers to the Baltimore Orioles).  But if GM Brian Cashman could pull it off, Stroman would be a very popular guy in the Bronx.  The 26-year-old righty is not too much bigger than Ronald Torreyes at 5’8″ but he is one of the best arms in the AL East.  This year, he is 8-5 with 3.42 ERA.  He has averaged slightly more than 6 innings per start, and has struck out 87 batters in 105 1/3 innings.  The Long Island native would easily become a fan favorite if he added pinstripes to his wardrobe. 

Credit:  Tom Szczerbowski-Getty Images

No All-Star Game for Didi Gregorius.  Despite his awesome campaign for the AL Final Vote, the winner was Mike Moustakas of the Kansas City Royals.  Justin Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers was the NL Final Vote winner.  I tried.  I submitted multiple text and internet votes for Sir Didi.  There’s no doubt he’s an All-Star.  On the bright side for him, he now gets a few days off to prepare for the Red Sox on the other side.  

Didi with his Mom

Have a great Friday!  Let’s kick this weekend off right with a win!  Let’s Go Yankees!