Tagged: AL East

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! 

The Bullpen Implosion…

Credit:  Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Astros 7, Yankees 6…

It was very disappointing to lose a game because of Dellin Betances, who looked like the new Tyler Clippard, and Aroldis Chapman.  I defended Betances during his arbitration loss last off-season but he pretty much looked like a $3 million (if that) pitcher on Saturday.  Of course, the Yankees didn’t exactly intend to pay $86 million for their ace closer to give up the game-winning hit either.  The two combined to allow four runs in the eighth as the Astros erased a 6-3 deficit.  It was the 15th blown save by the bullpen in 79 games.

After the game, Betances said “The reason we lost is because I had bad command.  I walked three guys.  That’s not going to help.  I have to be able to challenge guys.  For whatever reason, my stuff just hasn’t been as sharp.  I just have to continue to work and I know I’ll find it.”  Hopefully sooner rather than later.  It’s been tough this season when one pitcher followed by another continues to go through periods of complete and total ineffectiveness.  

This game should have been about the positive debut of Clint Frazier.  Frazier became the first Yankee in 100 years to debut with a double and a home run.  

Credit:  Bob Levey-Getty Images

Jordan Montgomery started the game, pitching very strongly.  He got into trouble in the fifth when Marwin Gonzalez opened with a walk and Yuli Gurriel homered to give the Astros a 2-0 lead.  

The Yankees came right back in the top of the sixth (reminiscent of the day before).  Clint Frazier opened the inning with his first Major League hit, a double to left.  It was touching to watch his mom, Kim, wiping her eyes.  Brett Gardner singled to move Frazier to third.  It ended the day for Astros starter Francis Marte who had really held the Yankees in check to that point.  Facing reliever Will Harris, Jacoby Ellsbury walked and the bases were loaded.  Gary Sanchez singled to right, scoring Frazier (his first run scored…blah, blah, blah).  While Sanchez missed the opportunity for a grand slam, Didi Gregorius did not.  On an 0-1 count, he lifted the Harris pitch just over the right center field wall.  Very rapidly, the 0-2 deficit had turned into a 5-2 lead.  The Yankees subsequently had Ronald Torreyes at third following a single, steal and ground out that advanced him to just 90 feet away.  But in one of the great surprises of the game (not really), Chris Carter struck out to end the inning.  Carter was 0-for-3, with the one strikeout.  

The Astros scored another run in the bottom of the 6th when Carlos Correa homered off Montgomery with one out.  Evan Gattis followed with a double, and Montgomery headed for the showers.  Chad Green, the lone bullpen star, retired the next two batters by strikeout.  I have to compliment Green.  He was done a very fine job in his current role as he has transitioned from being a starter to a long reliever.  

Clint Frazier led off the top of the 7th with his home run, off reliever Tony Sipp, to increase the Yankees’ lead to 6-3.  It was funny how he was met with silence in the Yankees dugout before they erupted with the congratulatory high five’s.  From there, it was up to the Yankees bullpen to finish the job.  Green effectively finished the bottom of the 7th with a double play grounder and strikeout, but then we moved to the forgettable 8th inning.  Dellin Betances, channeling the bad versions of Masahiro Tanaka and Tyler Clippard, entered the game in relief of Green.  It started well enough with a strike out of the talented George Springer, but then Betances walked All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve. With Carlos Correa at bat, Altuve stole second, then third, and scored when Correa ground out to second.   Okay, the Yankees still had a 6-4 lead so there was still hope.  Evan Gattis stepped up and made it 6-5 with a shot to left.  By this point, I was screaming for Manager Joe Girardi to pull Betances but he wasn’t listening.  Betances walked Carlos Beltran on four pitches (Aargh!).  Josh Reddick entered the game as a pinch runner for Beltran and advanced to second when first baseman Chris Carter failed to handle a pick-off attempt.  Reddick stole third.  After walking Marwin Gonzalez, Girardi finally signaled for Aroldis Chapman.  Yuli Gurriel came to the plate for a showdown between Cuban countrymen.  Despite throwing 100 mph pitches, Gurriel won the battle when he doubled on a 3-2 count, scoring Reddick and Gonzalez with the go-ahead runs.  

The Yankees went down weakly in the 9th against Ken Giles when pinch-hitter Aaron Judge and Clint Frazier both pooped…err, popped…out.  Brett Gardner hit a single but rounded for second before changing his mind and was erased as the game’s final out when he tried to get back to first.  The Yankees lose another one-run game, 7-6.  

Credit:  David J Phillip-AP

The Yankees (43-36) fell two games behind the Boston Red Sox with the loss.  The Red Sox easily defeated the Toronto Blue Jays, 7-1.  The Tampa Bay Rays beat the Baltimore Orioles, 10-3, so they are just two games behind the Yanks.  

If the Yankees can’t fix Betances, this free-fall is going to continue.  He is perhaps the most vital man in the pen.  The Blue Jays, getting their asses handed to them in Boston, will be playing like a wounded dog when they come to the Bronx tomorrow.  

Odds & Ends…

With the July 2nd international signing period now open, the Yankees can be players on the international market once again.  Limited for two years following their huge splash from the 2014 -15 signing period spending spree, the Yankees can now spend up to the hard cap of $4.75 for the current signing period.  As expected, the Yankees signed notable international prospects OF Everson Pereira (the fourth ranked prospect on MLB’s list of Top International Prospects), SS Ronny Rojas, and SS Roberto Chirinos. Rojas and Chirinos are ranked 11th and 16th, respectively, by MLB. River Ave Blues reported these anticipated signings in early May.  It’s weird to see players born in this century joining the Yankees.  Welcome to Pinstripes, Everson, Ronny and Roberto! Note:  Rojas technically cannot sign until August 23rd when he turns 16.

To make room on the MLB roster for Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar was sent to Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  He didn’t make any appearances during this short call-up, but it was simply a procedural move as Andujar was still with the team in Chicago before it departed for Houston.  He was activated for a game until the Yankees could make the move to call up Frazier.  Andujar will now return to Scranton to play third every day.  As Arnold Schwarzenegger would say, he’ll be back.

Happy Sunday!  Flush the Saturday debacle and let’s take the series with a win today before the flight to NYC!  Let’s Go Yankees!

The Land of the Lost…

Angels 8, Yankees 3…

It is difficult to remember when the Yankees last walked off a field with a victory.  It seems so very long ago.  The losing streak continues as the Yankees dropped their seventh consecutive game to the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night.

A little more than a week ago, we were very excited about the team and its surprising performance so far this season.  But over the last week, the wheels have come off and the team is looking more and more like the .500 team it was projected to be at the beginning of the year.  They’ll turn this around and start playing better but it doesn’t make the current losing funk feel any better.  

I thought the return of Aroldis Chapman to push Tyler Clippard back to the 7th inning would help the latter to restore some of his effectiveness.  I was wrong.  After the Yankees had clawed their way back to a 3-3 tie, Clippard came into the game in the 7th and proceeded to hand the Angels the win.  Retiring only one batter, he allowed a solo home run by Cameron Maybin (who is not exactly known for his ability to hit balls out of the park), a double and a run-scoring triple.  He was just a single shy of a cycle, but Manager Joe Girardi ended the agony by pulling Clippard and replacing him with Jonathan Holder.  Holder gave up the missing single to score the runner on third, charging a total of 3 runs to Clippard (1-4) for one out of work.

Credit:  Frank Franklin II-Associated Press

Michael Pineda, who had normally pitched much better at home than on the road, was missing his primary pitch.  The Angels grabbed the early lead with a run-scoring single by Albert Pujols in the first inning and they scored two runs in the second when Danny Espinosa drove in a run with a double and Kole Calhoun singled to score Espinosa.

Angels pitcher Parker Bridwell (who?) and their bullpen kept the Yankee bats silent for the most part.  The Yankees were finally able to push across their first run in the fourth when Chase Headley hit a sacrifice fly to score Starlin Castro.  

The Yankees then used solo home runs to tie the game.  Aaron Judge blasted his 24th home run of the year in the fifth and Gary Sanchez went yard in the sixth with his 12th.

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

There was excitement in the Bronx once again.  Enter Tyler Clippard.  The optimistic feelings were quickly extinguished as the Angels had taken the 6-3 lead by the time the seventh inning was over.  The Angels tacked on a couple of insurance runs in the eighth and ninth innings as the Yankees just couldn’t get untracked offensively despite the earlier homers by Judge and Sanchez.  

I knew we were in trouble when first baseman Chris Carter blew a routine fielding play that allowed Eric Young Jr to reach second base at the top of the second inning.  It felt like it was going to be one of those games.  It also reinforced that we are stuck with Carter for better or worse (my money is on the latter).  Carter finished 0-for-3 with a strikeout.  Just a typical day at the office for him.

Credit:  Getty Images

It’s tough to win when you can only scratch out four hits against hittable pitchers.  

The Yankees (38-30) were overtaken by the Boston Red Sox in the AL East Standings.  The Red Sox beat the Kansas City Royals 8-3 and now lead the division by a half game.  I guess this was inevitable. It’s kind of hard to maintain a lead when you can’t put W’s on the board.

Odds & Ends…

The Tommy John surgery for Gleyber Torres is scheduled for today.  Dr David W Altchek will be performing the procedure.  Dr Altchek is an Attending Orthopedic Surgeon and Co-Chief Emeritus in the Sports Medicine & Shoulder Service at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.  He is also medical director for the New York Mets and a medical consultant for the NBA.  All the best to Gleyber for his surgery and post-op recovery.
The Sauer Project has begun.  The Yankees have signed second round draft pick RHP Matt Sauer, pending a physical, to an undisclosed deal.  The allocation for the 54th pick is $1,236,000 but it’s speculated the Yankees went over allocation to convince Sauer to forego  his commitment to the University of Arizona.  The 18-year-old has signs of significant upside for his fastball and slider.  The Yankees’ minor league pitching instructors will be tasked with helping Sauer develop a third pitch to help his eventual ascension to the top of a Major League rotation.  Welcome to the Yankees, Matt!  Here’s wishing you much better health and success than current top pitching prospect James Kaprielian!
Credit:  Santa Maria Times
With the July 7th signing deadline for MLB draft picks just a couple of weeks away, the Yankees are making progress with their signings.  Of the players chosen through the 22nd round, only RHP Clarke Schmidt (1st) and RHP Garrett Whitlock (18th) are unsigned.  But with the deal in place for Sauer (and potentially for double the allocation), you have to believe the framework of a deal is in place for Schmidt which will free the dollars needed for Sauer.  I was the happiest when I saw that 22nd pick RHP Janson Junk had signed.  Damn, I love that name.  The Yankees have also signed their 27th pick, RHP Alex Mauricio and they inked undrafted free agent 2B Cody Brown.  I keep hoping the Yankees find a way to sign 29th pick Tristan Beck but I knew going in that was an incredible longshot.  Beck won’t sign for allocation and the other signings diminish the available dollars so it’s a virtual certainty that Beck goes back to Stanford.  Bummer…
Have a great Wednesday!  Yankees, feel free to mix in a win!  Go Yankees!

The Power of a Good Third Baseman…

Credit:  Associated Press

Blue Jays 3, Yankees 2…

Two great offensive games and two not-so-great, so the Yankees go home with a split in Toronto.  Not the best case scenario with the Boston Red Sox on tap in the Bronx starting Tuesday night.  The Blue Jays used two late home runs to over take the Yankees in the series finale.

It was another good start by Luis Severino.  He was pitching a shutout until Justin Smoak connected for a two-run homer with two outs in the sixth inning to tie the game at 2.  Severino bent but he did not break.  Sadly, that was Tyler Clippard who served up the eventual game-winning home run by Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson in eighth.  For his effort in the no-decision, Sevvy went 7 innings, giving up 6 hits and the aforementioned 2 runs.  He only allowed one walk and struck out 7 while lowering his season ERA to a team-best 2.90 for starters.

Credit:  Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

As for Clippard (0-3), it is hard to blame anyone who gives up homers to Donaldson.  He has a knack for doing that against the best.  Still, the game might have looked different had Aroldis Chapman been healthy and active as it would have ensured the placement of Dellin Betances in the critical 8th inning.  

The Yankees only offense on this day was provided courtesy of Matt Holliday.  He had a run-scoring double in the fourth, and picked up another RBI in the sixth inning when he hit into a force play at second base that allowed Brett Gardner to score from third.

Credit:  Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

Sevvy pitched well enough to win.  Through the last run through the rotation, the only weak links were Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda.  Unfortunately, the former is on the mound for the opening game of the Boston series.  It’s sad when the rotation’s ace is the one you trust the least (at the moment).  Severino is starting to pitch like a guy who intends to supplant Tanaka atop the rotation one day.

The Jays have a very good third baseman.  I wish we had one of those…

Credit:  Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

With Boston’s 7-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday, the Red Sox are just two games behind the Yankees (32-22) in the AL East.  The Orioles remain 3 1/2 games back.  

Odds & Ends…

The series finale on Sunday between the AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and the Toledo Mud Hens was rained out.  The RailRiders resume play tonight in Rochester, New York against the Red Wings, the top farm affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.  The game will feature the next start for Yankees pitching prospect Chance Adams (3-1).  He will be opposed by Yohan Pino (0-1).  

The RailRiders officially released reliever Ernesto Frieri yesterday after he had exercised a June 1st opt-out of his AAA contract.

The Yankees traded infielder Ruben Tejada, who was on the RailRiders roster, to the Baltimore Orioles for cash considerations.  Tejada was batting .269/.345/.462 with 6 homers and 21 RBI’s in 37 games.  Tejada had lost playing time with the arrival of Gleyber Torres and the recent activation of Donovan Solano off the DL.  Granted, Tejada is not the second coming of Cal Ripken, Jr, but I am not sure why the Yankees would want to help the Orioles in any way.  Tejada was assigned to Triple-A Norfolk.

Greg Bird had a run-scoring single (driving in Jorge Mateo) in the High-A Tampa Yankees 9-1 win over the Jupiter Hammerheads.  Prior to the 7th inning hit, Bird’s other three at-bats ended with fly outs.  

Have a great Monday!  Hopefully it’s a restful one for the Yankees as they prepare for the Red Sox tomorrow night.

Tanaka and His Extended BP for Rays Hitters…

Credit:  Brian Blanco/Getty Images

No hole is too deep to climb out of…except when Masahiro Tanaka is on the mound.  I am seriously concerned about Tanaka after his latest disaster.  In Fantasy Baseball, I’ve seen many owners dumping Tanaka from their rosters for no return.  I am not suggesting that the Yankees cut him and I am hopeful that he rediscovers his touch. But as the New York papers are screaming, Tanaka is in full-blown crisis mode.  You have to admit that this is very disconcerting.  For a rotation that had many questions coming into the season, none of the questions were directed at the team’s ace who is, right now, the rotation’s weakest link.

I am not sure what has to be done.  They’ve tried different arm angles and placement on the the pitching rubber, but Tanaka’s pitches are still getting hammered.  Kevin Kernan of The New York Post had the best line, “that just meant he had a different view of baseballs zooming out of the ballpark”.  

 

In Saturday’s 9-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, Tanaka lasted only three innings.  Rays hitters got nine hits and six runs off Tanaka, including three home runs.  Tanaka (5-3) also walked three batters in the loss, which elevated his season ERA to 6.56.  In his last two games combined, Tanaka has given up seven home runs in 4 2/3 innings…and fourteen friggin’ runs.

At the beginning of the year, the fear was that Tanaka would opt out of his contract at the end of year.  Now, the fear is that he won’t.  My first thought at the latest stinker was the partially torn UCL in his elbow, but the Yankees insist he is healthy. Of course, their recent “surprise” about Aroldis Chapman either tells you that the players are not always being honest with the team or the team is withholding information.  If Tanaka is healthy, then this scares the h**l out of me.

At this point, I am probably in favor of skipping Tanaka in the next run through the rotation to give him extra time to right the ship.  There’s no doubt he lost his splitter and slider on one of these  recent road trips and can’t remember where he left them.   

As for the game, the Yankees did get home runs from Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez.  Nevertheless, this was a game we’d just as soon forget.  Both pitching coach Larry Rothschild and manager Joe Girardi were tossed in the fifth inning for arguing balls and strikes.  Girardi even covered home plate with sand and the ump (Scott Barry) refused to clean it.  Gary Sanchez  finally took it upon himself to wipe home plate.  Speaking of Sanchez, he didn’t play on Friday night due to a stiff neck so I’ll take Rob Thomson off the hook for not using Sanchez as a pinch hitter in the loss.  I just hope the foul tip Sanchez took off the mask yesterday doesn’t worsen his health concerns. 

Credit:  Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Times

Rays starter Matt Andriese was tossed in the sixth inning for plunking Aaron Judge with a pitch.  Tommy Layne had hit the Rays’ Corey Dickerson in the back with a pitch the prior inning.  Dickerson had hit two home runs in the game.  The tired lines of ‘the ball got away’ were used but I still don’t appreciate the potential harm to our young slugger.  

Credit:  Getty Images

The Yankees (24-16) fell a half-game behind the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East standings with the loss.  The Orioles beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 7-5.  As losers of three in a row and seven of their last ten, the Yankees are on a faster track to be the 80-win team they were forecasted to be at the start of the season rather than a division contender.  Good hitting beats poor pitching every time.  Hopefully, the Yankees re-discover the Cinderella slipper sooner rather than later.

Tyler Austin made his 2017 debut with the AA-Trenton Thunder (rather than High-A Tampa) on Saturday.  He went 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored.  He was also hit by pitch in the Thunder’s 5-2 loss to the Portland Sea Dogs.  

The Yankees conclude their three-game set in Florida with the Rays today.  CC Sabathia will be on the mound versus the Rays’ Chris Archer.  I am really hopeful that we get the most recent version of Sabathia (6 2/3 innings of scoreless pitching) and not the Masahiro Tanaka-version that we saw in the preceding weeks.

Have a wonderful Sunday!  Let’s have some fun today…finally!

Forget Yesterday, Fight for Today…

It’s tough to follow a game that you should have won with a dull, listless performance.  So it was for the Yankees as they fell 7-1 to the AL cellar rats, the Toronto Blue Jays.  To the Blue Jays credit, they are now on a three-game winning streak and have held their opponents to a single run in each of those victories.  It was just a matter of time before the Blue Jays started playing like the team many predicted to contend for the AL East and unfortunately the Yankees may have run into them at the wrong time. 

Luis Severino, after his brilliant performance in Boston, let the bottom of Toronto’s batting order do the damage.  In the second inning, he allowed a two-run homer to the number seven hitter, shortstop Ryan Goins, who is subbing for the injured Troy Tulowitzki.  It would be the only runs Toronto would need on a quiet night for Yankee bats.  Severino allowed another home run in the sixth inning to the number nine hitter, third baseman Chris Coghlan, a fill-in for the injured Josh Donaldson.  Severino (2-2) lasted 5 2/3 innings, giving up 8 hits and 5 runs.  He walked two and struck out 3.  

Credit:  Kathy Willens/AP

Reliever Luis Cessa took one for the team and finished the remaining 3 1/3 innings to provide rest for the weary Yankees bullpen.  He did give up a two-run shot to Jose Bautista in the seventh inning but was otherwise effective.  

Jacoby Ellsbury made a great play in the sixth inning with a leaping catch of a potential double.  His momentum carried him into the centerfield wall.  A runner on third scored on the sac fly, but then Ellsbury overthrew Aaron Judge on an attempt to get the ball back into the infield which allowed a runner on second to also score.  

Greg Bird is lost at the plate.  His latest 0-for-4 performance dropped his batting average to an even .100.  He left 5 men on base.  The Yankees continue to give him chances to turn it around, but when is enough?  I’ve been in Bird’s corner but at some point, he needs to figure this out at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, not New York, in order to restore his confidence.  I had thought he was getting better swings in recent days but the results are not there.  I am not ready to say ‘send him down today’ but it is probably not going to take too many more games of hitless results.  

It was just one of those games.  The Yankees have struggled against the Blue Jays in recent years as they are just 13-26 against Toronto since the start of the 2015 season.  The loss dropped the Yankees (15-9) one game behind the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East.  The O’s beat the Boston Red Sox 5-2 on Monday night to recapture sole possession of first place.  But today, yesterday means nothing.  The Yankees can still take this series and it starts today with timely hitting and precision pitching.   

Prior to the game, the Yankees recalled Cessa to provide long relief insurance and optioned reliever Bryan Mitchell to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  Brendan Kuty of NJ.com had the best Twitter line:  “Mitchell will likely share 1B duties with Refsnyder and Choi” in reference to Mitchell’s one inning of work at first base on Sunday.  Too funny!

With no offense to Jorge Mateo, my personal favorite for the future of center field at Yankee Stadium had quite a game on Sunday.  Dustin Fowler, a strong candidate to eventually unseat Jacoby Ellsbury, hit for the cycle as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders defeated the Indianapolis Indians (the Pittsburgh Pirates’ top farm club), 7-6. 

In the bottom of the 11th inning, Fowler capped his memorable day with a walk-off home run, completing the cycle.   For the game, the 22-year-old went 5-for-6 with 2 runs scored and 2 RBI’s.  For the season, Fowler is batting .293 (24-for-82), 4 home runs, and 12 RBI’s.  He is second on the team with a .914 OPS.  He has also stolen two bases.

Fowler’s day:

1st Inning:  Tripled to right.

3rd Inning:  Grounded out to third.

5th Inning:  Doubled to right, scoring Tyler Wade.

7th Inning:  Singled to center.

9th Inning:  Doubled to right.

11th Inning:  Homered to right, no one on…RailRiders win!

It may have taken two extra innings, but what a way to cap hitting for the cycle!  Congrats to Fowler for the terrific game.  I look forward to the day when he is doing this in the Bronx.

Credit:  Times Leader

I am a Yankees Homer but I can’t predict an AL championship for the Yankees yet.  Granted, the team finished the month of April in a first-place tie with the Baltimore Orioles, but it’s still a very long season.  The Yankees had a chance to bury the Orioles on Sunday and couldn’t do it.  The ebbs and flows the season will ultimately predict the final standings.  Let’s see how the team handles its first real stretch of difficulty.  With the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros looming on the horizon, adversity is on its way.  The last time catcher Gary Sanchez started a game, the Yankees were 1-4.  So let’s not start printing World Series tickets just yet.  Through May 1st last year, the Yankees were 8-15.  This season, they are 15-9 through the same date.  If they finish the season, from this point forward, with the same number of wins and losses as last year, they are a 90-win team.  I think this team can contend for a Wild Card spot but I am not ready to anoint them as potential division champions. I still expect Boston to play much better as the season progresses, particularly if they get David Price back.  And I’ve learned to never underestimate Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles.  The charging Blue Jays also have the Yankees’ number.  If the Yankees are still slugging it out for first place at the All-Star Break, then I’ll reconsider my forecast.  But for now, I still feel the best case scenario is a Wild Card slot with the division championship a season or two away.

Have a great Tuesday!  Today is a new day…time to beat these pesky Jays!

The Trials and Tribulations of a Young Club…

In life we do not always get what we want.  I wanted to take the three game series in Pittsburgh but it was not meant to be.  Former Yankees starter Ivan Nova set the tone from the start of Sunday’s game when he struck out the side in the first inning en route to Pittsburgh’s 2-1 victory over the Yankees.  The loss gave the series to the Pirates, 2 games to 1.  

Give Nova credit, he pitched very well against his former club.  He went seven strong innings, surrendering only four hits and one run.  The one run came courtesy of a Jacoby Ellsbury home run in the seventh inning.  For the season coming into the game, Nova had walked just three batters.  He only walked one on Sunday but the batter was a guy who hadn’t picked up a bat since his high school days (Yankees pitcher Jordan Montgomery). For the game, Nova struck out seven, picking up his second win of the year.

The Yankees had their chances to win the game.  They had a runner at third in the eighth with two outs, but Starlin Castro struck out.  In the ninth, they loaded the bases but the game came down to light-hitting shortstop Pete Kozma, who had pinch run for Chris Carter the prior inning.  After Aaron Hicks had struck out, Kozma came to bat with two outs, but grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the game.  It’s unfortunate that Hicks was not able to come through as it placed the game in the hands of a career .221 hitter.  

Kudos to Jordan Montgomery.  After the game, he admitted that he didn’t have his best stuff.  Loading the bases in the first inning with no outs, he escaped with only one run across home plate.  He would go on to pitch six innings, allowing only two runs.   Pirates were able to get seven hits off him.  He walked two batters while striking out five.  The two walks proved costly as both batters eventually scored (the only runs the Pirates would score in the game).  Montgomery’s ability to throw a “quality game” despite not having his pitches speaks volumes about the heart of this pitcher.  I am anxious and excited for his next start. 

 Credit:  AP

Even though the Yankees lost the series to the Pirates, they were in all three games and could have won either of the losses.  As the younger guys gain more Major League experience and assuming the veterans continue to hit, the Yankees will begin to win these types of games with greater frequency.  The bench is going to look much stronger soon when Didi Gregorius returns and Ronald Torreyes retakes his utility role from Kozma.  

Sadly, Greg Bird was not able to get untracked in Pittsburgh.  His 0-for-3 day dropped his batting average to .104.  I still think he is very close so hopefully Fenway Park will ignite his bat.  If not, we’ll probably start to see a few more Chris Carter starts at sprinkled in at first in the coming days.  

I am glad that we’re headed back to American League parks so that Matt Holliday can knock the rust off and resume his role as the team’s designated hitter.  His offensive capability is too great to be limited to pinch-hitting in National League cities.  

The Yankees have today off and will begin a three game series in Boston tomorrow against the Red Sox.  The Red Sox are coming off a 6-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles  on Sunday that kept the Yankees 1 1/2 games behind the O’s in the AL East.   The Red Sox (11-8) are just a 1/2 game behind the Yankees (11-7).  The Orioles play this evening (at home against the Tampa Bay Rays) so they could extend their AL East lead to two games.  Or going the ‘glass is half full’ route, drop back to only a one game lead.  

The Yankees have a chance to make a statement in Boston.  While they may or may not win the series, they need to prove that they can hang with the Red Sox.  Boston won the head-to-head battle in 2016, 11 games to 8.  The Red Sox swept the first season series last year (April 29th to May 1st).  It would be great if the Yankees could return the favor.  My primary goal for the series is three competitive games with the Yankee hitters attacking the strong Boston rotation.  If they can get to the Boston bullpen early, I really like their chances.    The last run through the Yankees starting rotation was mostly a collection of off-nights so hopefully this run through the rotation will yield superior results. So begins the Battle of the AL East…

Have a great Monday!  Rest up and be ready to take charge on Tuesday!