Tagged: ALCS

The End of the Road…

Photo Credit: Matt Slocum, AP

Yankees lose another ALCS to Astros…

The end of a baseball season, unless you are the last team standing, always ends in disappointment. Not to take away from so many positives during the season but it’s no fun to suddenly and harshly see the season end on a walk-off two run homer. There’s no doubt the Yankees could have won this series and many will continue to dissect what went wrong in the coming days and weeks, but at this point, the only option is to look ahead.

I really hope the Yankees can find the elusive ace in the upcoming off-season. It remains to be seen if the Yankees will pay for a top free agent pitcher like Gerrit Cole or acquire one through trade. If Cole has a successful World Series, I am sure it will boost his already sky-rocketing value as the best available pitcher. Regardless of whether the Yankees sign Cole or if they go in another direction to save some pain on Hal Steinbrenner’s wallet, they need “the guy” who puts fear in the opposition. Maybe Luis Severino can be that guy next year. This season was lost for him due to injury, and his October version was just a fraction of what he is and can be. James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka had some fantastic October moments, but neither pitcher is going to strike fear in the hearts of the opposition. I had my hopes up for Patrick Corbin last season, only to see the disappointment of watching him sign with the Washington Nationals. For Corbin, it was the perfect scenario. He got the most money and a trip to the World Series.  I am not sure he would have been a difference maker for the Yankees, but it only underscores the need for a better starting rotation. It’s amazing the Yankees were once considered the frontrunners for the services of multiple 2019 World Series pitchers (Cole, Corbin, and Max Scherzer). We’ll never know but just one of those pitchers in Pinstripes could have ensured the continuance of the Yankees’ 2019 season.  

It’s not a coincidence that the two teams in the World Series have the game’s best pitching staffs.  I’ll give the edge to the Astros, but it would not surprise me if the Nationals shut down the high-flying ‘Stros. The Nationals are riding great momentum right now and they can give Houston a fight. I am sure their pitchers were watching how the Yankee pitchers, for the most part, kept Astros hitters off-balance. If they can avoid the Yankees’ mistakes, the Nats could be soon sipping champagne.  

So, the primary goal for Brian Cashman should be to get an ace (finally) and make Luis Severino and James Paxton the second and third starters.  

I was a little disappointed with the lack of support of certain players by the Yankees fan base over the last few weeks. You certainly cannot blame Giancarlo Stanton for the injuries that derailed his season and left him largely ineffective and often sitting out games in the playoffs. I think he’ll be back stronger than ever in 2020. Why criticize the man? He’s here for the long haul and we need to support the man and help him become the best he can be, not tear him down. Love him or hate him, the man wants to win for the Yankees. Other players often criticized were Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, Luke Voit, and lately, Adam Ottavino. For me, I want all of these guys on the 2020 roster when the Yankees attempt to make a deeper October run.  

Admittedly, I shut off Twitter for much of the last week. I was tired of the negativity and I wanted to focus on the Yankees, keeping an open and positive mind about the players.  

It’s sad that CC Sabathia had to say goodbye by walking off the mound in ALCS Game 5 after a shoulder injury brought his Hall of Fame career to an end. There was no Mariano Rivera or Derek Jeter moment for him, but I know that I appreciate his efforts just as much. He may not be the first ballot Hall of Famer like Mo or Jeter, but he’ll join them soon enough. There’s no doubt in my mind CC deserves a spot in Cooperstown.

Photo Credit: AP

I really hope the Yankees find a way to keep Sabathia in the organization in a non-playing position. Not a token consultant role, but a more meaningful capacity to keep his presence, attitude and leadership around the Yankees. Maybe not a coach, but I am sure there’s a beneficial spot for Sabathia that would be mutually rewarding for all of us. A great baseball pitcher, and an even better man. Thanks, CC, for everything you’ve done for the Yankees.

Aroldis Chapman will take a lot of heat for giving up the fateful walk-off homer to Jose Altuve last night, but I am not going to criticize him. Even the great Mariano Rivera had a couple of October moments like that. Yet, if Chapman does decide to opt out of his contract this off-season, I am prepared for the Yankees to walk away. I do not feel they should attempt to re-sign him to a new deal. Closers have a short shelf life. Rivera was an aberration. I think the Yankees would be better served using Chapman’s money to make a starting rotation upgrade. The Astros proved you don’t have to spend top dollar to have a very successful bullpen. Last night didn’t factor into my feeling that the Yankees should let Chappy walk if he opts out. I felt that way before the game and have for the last couple of months. I think Zack Britton is more than capable of being a championship caliber closer.   

When I look at the 40-man roster, I think these guys are gone or should be gone.

Chance Adams

Enough is enough…time for a change of scenery.

Jake Barrett

Presently on the 60-day IL, there’s no way the Yankees open a spot on the 40-man roster for Barrett with the need to protect certain prospects in advance of December’s Rule 5 Draft. 

Cody Gearrin

I thought Gearrin did a decent job overall, but he gets squeezed out in the 40-man roster crunch.

J.A. Happ

This probably falls more into the ‘should be gone’ category as I don’t believe he’s going anywhere with another year on his contract (and an option for 2021). I really hope Brian Cashman is able to make a move to send Happ elsewhere. It’s his spot in the rotation that direly needs to be upgraded. You could say Jordan Montgomery is that man, but I think of Montgomery as Sabathia’s replacement. Monty, as a fifth starter, should be as effective as Sabathia was in recent years, if not potentially better. He’ll never be a frontline pitcher like Sabathia, and that’s okay. Happ’s spot is the one that HAS TO BE better. Michael King and Deivi Garcia represent hope but the Yankees need a true ace and Happ, at this point in his career, is a liability.  

Jonathan Holder

I always liked Holder but no doubt 2019 was a major disappointment with performance and injuries. If Holder goes, it is purely the roster crunch that forces the move. I’d like to have Holder back but I am not certain it will happen.  

Tyler Lyons

Tyler did fine in limited appearances but ultimately his 40-man spot is too valuable to hold him. I don’t see him as a long term option and never did. He is just a journeyman pitcher that will be searching for his next team in the off-season.

Austin Romine

I don’t think that Romine should go, but I think as a free agent, he’ll get offers that potentially include the ability to compete for a starting job. He’s done everything anyone could ask of a backup catcher and he’ll help a team in 2020. I just don’t think it will be with the Yankees. I do think Kyle Higashioka is ready to step in as the backup for Gary Sanchez which helps ease the loss of Romine.

Greg Bird

Presently on the 60-day IL, the Yankees will have to open a spot on the 40-man for him. In light of years of injuries and unfulfilled promise, I think it’s time to cut bait.  If there’s a guy I would love to prove me wrong, it’s Bird. But he’s had so many chances and here we are…the proverbial fork in the road. Instead of more chances, I think the Yankees simply move on.

Edwin Encarnacion

The Parrott Ride was fun while it lasted and it’s too bad that Edwin didn’t make much noise in the ALCS, but there was never a chance the Yankees are going to pick up his $20 million option for 2020. The Yankees need that money to make other upgrades. Regardless of what just happened, the Steinbrenner Family is not suddenly going to go on a spending spree. Assuming that 2019 was not fluke for Gio Urshela’s hitting ability, I think he’ll be the starting third baseman heading into next season. The Yankees have to make room for Miguel Andujar and I think he takes Edwin’s roster spot, and competes for time at first base, third base, DH, and potentially, if he works on it during Spring Training, some corner outfield play.  

Didi Gregorius 

I want to be clear that I love Didi as a Yankee. I love his attitude and his play, both offensively and defensively. I know that 2019 was not a stellar offensive campaign for him but c’mon, the dude just came off Tommy John surgery last off-season. If the Yankees sign the impending free agent to a new contract, I think he’ll be more like the Didi of old in 2020. But that’s the question. Do the Yankees sign him to a new contract with Gleyber Torres able to man shortstop at an All-Star level, making DJ LeMahieu the starting second baseman instead of an infield rover. No doubt Hal Steinbrenner watches the bottom line very closely and unfortunately I think Didi could be an off-season casualty. If so, I will miss him greatly. He’s been an excellent Yankee.  

Jacoby Ellsbury

If ‘enough is enough’ is the case for Chance Adams, Ellsbury has proven that time and again. Everyone knows the only reason that Ellsbury is still technically a Yankee is his contract and the financial assistance offered by insurance to help mitigate the cost for the years he has been unable to play. Currently on the 60-man IL, I wouldn’t give Ellsbury a spot on the 40-man roster. Ellsbury has one year left on his contract ($21,142,857) and a team option for 2021 that will no doubt be bought out for $5 million. I think this is the end for Ellsbury. Time for the Yankees to move on, and take the financial hit. The 40-man roster spot is too valuable to waste it on Ellsbury.

Clint Frazier

The guy is just not a Yankee. I think he can be a good player, but not for the Yankees. If the Yankees re-sign Brett Gardner to another one year deal, there’s no way Frazier sticks around with the more versatile Mike Tauchman on the roster. It’s almost laughable the Yankees probably could have had Gerrit Cole a couple of years ago for Frazier, Adams and another top prospect or two. What a difference that would have made (with the benefit of hindsight, of course)!  

Brett Gardner

Despite Brett’s highly successful 2019 season, there’s still question whether the Yankees re-sign the longtime Yankee. Nothing against Brett, but age is a factor. At some point, the younger guys have to play. Gardy will be forced out at some point in the future, and it could very well be this off-season. I am all for bringing him back to be the fourth or fifth outfielder (active rosters expand from 25 to 26 next season), but I think there is reasonable doubt about whether or not the Yankees bring him back so it is very possible we’ve seen the last of Gardy in Pinstripes. He’s wore the Pinstripes very proudly and I’ll cherish his time as a Yankee. 

Cameron Maybin

I like Cameron but he was just a 2019 ‘fill-in’ due to the massive number of injuries. He wasn’t brought in to be part of the future. Purely a “now” in-season acquisition, I don’t think he’ll be back.

Larry Rothschild

I hate to be critical of pitching coach Larry Rothschild because we do not see him “behind the scenes” and how truly valuable he has been for the Yankees, but if the Yankees could get someone like David Cone as pitching coach, you have to do it. I also like Andy Pettitte. I think both Cone and Pettitte would be better pitching coaches from the outside, looking in. I think Cone is the more likely option as Pettitte seems to be enjoying the low-stress life in Texas with family and high school coaching. Like Don Mattingly before him, he’ll eventually get the itch to get back into the game but I don’t think we’re quite there yet with him. So, David Cone would be my choice for pitching coach. I think he’d be tremendous in the role and would help the pitching staff to over-achieve.  

Strength & Conditioning Team

You’re all fired!  

This season has been so much fun for the Yankees and their fans (well, up until this past week and last night in particular). We’ll forever remember it as the Year of the Savages and the entire #NextManUp attitude. I was really hoping for CC Sabathia to leave with “book end” championships for his Yankees career, but it wasn’t meant to be. Hard to believe that we’ve completed the first decade of no Yankees appearances in the World Series for the past century. Hopefully the streak starts again when the new decade rolls in. I think the younger players on the team will take the current disappointment to fuel greater heights next year. Get ready for the constant “he’s only 23” for Gleyber Torres. This is not the closure of a window but rather the upward pressure on raising the window. We have every reason to believe the Yankees will win in 2020. The pressure is on Brian Cashman to make the right moves this off-season to enhance the team’s chances as we move forward. No doubt he saw what we saw and he’ll make the right moves. We just have to be patient for the next 3-4 months. Let’s see how this plays out. I have faith and confidence in the Yankees pursuit of a championship.  

As for baseball, I am done. I am not interested in a Nationals-Astros World Series. At this point, I just want the World Series to be over so that we can begin the latest off-season, with the usual excitement and anticipation for possible enhancements to the roster. I hope the Yankees can sign DJ LeMahieu to an extension with just one year left on his contract. I am sure the Yankees will be looking for another addition that can have the type of impact on the team like LeMahieu did this year. A great under-the-radar signing that yields tremendous fruit. I don’t know who or what position, but the quest every year is to ensure the best possible player or pitcher at every position. Team chemistry plays very strongly into the equation so it’s up to Cashman and his analytics team to show why they are considered among the best in the game. Attitude and talent, the formula is simple. Finding the ingredients is difficult but the Yankees have a great, still young core. The recipe doesn’t need to be changed, just the garnishments. Just like I was disappointed after the 1995 season, the future is bright. There is hope for 2020 and I am very excited about the future. We’ve not heard the last from this team. They’ll be back and stronger than ever.

Photo Credit: EPA  

As always, Go Yankees!   

Hey Red Sox Fans, But the Game’s Not Over…

‘Stros Send the RSN Home Early in Game 1…

I wasn’t going to watch Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, but I got sucked into it when the Houston Astros took a one-run lead off on the Boston Red Sox, with everybody’s favorite…Joe Kelly…on the mound, in the top of the sixth inning. It was awesome in the top of the ninth when one-time Red Sock Josh Reddick blasted a solo shot against his former team to make it a two-run game. When Yuli Gurriel parked a three-run homer into the right field stands, the Red Sox fans were exiting Fenway Park in droves and their team had yet to take their final swings in the bottom of the ninth. It was such a beautiful sight!

Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)

The Astros won the game, 7-2, to ensure they’ll head to Houston with no less than a split pending the outcome of today’s game. They could sweep the games at Fenway Park before jumping on a Texas-bound plane and they do have the good fortune of facing Yankees punching bag David Price later today. Hopefully the Astro bats will enjoy hitting off Price as much as the Yankees do.

Photo Credit: Boston Globe

Gerrit Cole draws the Game 2 pitching assignment for Houston. It is easy to look back to last winter and say the Yankees should have been more aggressive in their pursuit of Cole. Ken Davidoff wrote a great piece in The New York Post today regarding the Yankees and Cole. The Yankees were willing to package a deal centered on outfielder Clint Frazier, but the Pittsburgh Pirates wanted the inclusion of Miguel Andujar as a centerpiece too. In retrospect, despite the lost season for Frazier, it’s hard to find fault with the Yankees’ decision to hold onto Andujar even if the Yankees desperately need pitching. Also, there was no guarantee Cole would have pitched as well in New York as he did in Houston. Maybe Andujar eventually gets moved for another frontline starter. Oh well, I am not going to look back and criticize the Yankees for their failure to acquire Cole. The Pirates chose to accept an inferior package from the Astros. It was their decision; not ours. There’s nothing we can do about it. Cole is a good pitcher, but he’s not worth handing over the farm system for. Now if we are talking about Jacob deGrom, that’s a different story.

Many Yankee fans were offended when Alex Rodriguez lost a bet to David “Big Papi” Ortiz and had to wear Red Sox gear on Fox TV, thanks to Boston’s win over the Yankees in the ALDS.  Honestly, I could care less. It would have hurt if the player had been one of the core Yankees, but A-Rod’s not in that category. I know he’s done much to rehabilitate his image, but I truly wish the Yankees would have never acquired him. I would have been fine with him wearing a Red Sox uniform for real in 2004. I think A-Rod has done a fine job on the broadcasting side and I know he continues to preach the Yankees are his favorite team, but it doesn’t mean that I have to like him. The fact remains he tarnished the game and he lied to the fans. But aside from that, I’ve lost bets and had to wear Red Sox jerseys or hats before so to me it was no big deal.

Photo Credit: FS1

I saw a funny Twitter post yesterday that said Milwaukee Brewers reliever Brandon Woodruff has more postseason homers than Boston’s Mookie Betts. Woodruff hit what would prove to be the eventual difference-maker in Milwaukee’s NLCS Game 1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night off the great Clayton Kershaw. So far in the 2018 post-season, Betts only has 4 hits in 20 at-bats, with no homers and a couple of RBI’s. Betts is a great player but he is not immune to the post-season blues.

Everyone is making their predictions for which pending free agents the Yankees should re-sign or let walk. I hate to say it, but I don’t see the Yankees bringing Brett Gardner back. They’d be foolish to exercise the $12 million option and while declining the option and re-signing him to a lower one-year deal is possible, I am convinced the presence of a healthy Clint Frazier and, ugh!, Jacoby Ellsbury will force the Yankees to move on.

If the Yankees sign free agent Patrick Corbin of the Arizona Diamondbacks (as many expect) and re-sign J.A. Happ, I also do not see the Yankees bringing back CC Sabathia. So, the Yankees could be on the verge of losing their top two veteran leaders. I have no doubt other guys will pick up the void but I am appreciative of the Yankee careers for both Gardner and Sabathia. They’ve worn the Pinstripes proudly and will be missed.

Photo Credit: MLB.com

The Yankees face big decisions in the bullpen. With both David Robertson and Zach Britton ready to hit the free market, the Yankees have to decide whether to try and bring both back, just one, or let them both go elsewhere to the highest bidder. I’d love to see both return and I feel that having a super bullpen is so critical. Unless Luis Severino can make major adjustments this winter, the Yankees lack a true ace and signing Corbin does not change that fact. A super bullpen compensates for the deficiencies in the starting rotation. I love D-Rob’s heart, but if I had to make a choice for only one, I’d go with Britton. Unfortunately, I think Britton will get an insane offer from some other bullpen deficient team to be their closer, so it’s probably more likely the Yankees bring back Robertson. I’d really hate to see both leave.

While I think it is possible the Yankees go over the luxury tax threshold next year, the realist in me knows that Managing General Partner will give GM Brian Cashman a defined budget that may not include paying luxury tax penalties. I think some fans are expecting a 2009-like splurge with great young free agent superstars like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, but there’s a very good chance the Yankees pass on any extended nearly half a billion dollar contracts. I see many fans predicting both Machado and Harper in the 2019 Yankees lineup and that’s simply not happening.

It’s amazing to think former Yankees third base coach Joe Espada might get a managing job before his former boss, Joe Girardi. Espada, currently bench coach for the Houston Astros, is emerging as one of the favorites for the job in Anaheim which was vacated when long-time Angels manager Mike Scioscia stepped down. Angels GM Billy Eppler knows Espada well from their time together in New York. Espada may be living the ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ dream, but his run of consecutive championship series will end if he becomes skipper of the Halos.

I wonder if there are any Yankee fans that are actually pulling for the Red Sox over the Astros? None that I am aware of, but I am sure there are a few fair weather fans out there.

Let’s hurry up and fast-forward through the World Series so that we can get the Hot Stove League started. I am ready for the off-season planning to begin.  Nothing better than getting Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman and other key executives together in one room to map out strategy for 2019. We can speculate. They can decide. But one thing’s for sure, we are united in our desire for a World Series championship next year.

As always, Go Yankees!

It’s Not Over, It’s Only The Beginning…

Credit:  NY Post: Anthony J Causi

American League Championship Series

Astros 4, Yankees 0…

Astros win series, 4-3

“The darkest night is often the bridge to the brightest tomorrow.”

–Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Sure, it was very disappointing to see the Yankees come so close to making the Fall Classic but the future is so bright for this young Yankees team. This is only the beginning of the wonderful ride they are embarking upon and we’d better hold on tight because it’s going to be one helluva ride. I am very proud of the accomplishments of the 2017 New York Yankees.  They achieved far more than anyone expected and are only setting themselves up for loftier heights as we advance forward.  Congratulations, Yankees!  Thumbs down, you are an incredible group of ultra-talented players and you are champions to us.

You have to give credit to the Houston Astros. They earned home-field advantage by winning 101 games over the regular season and it positioned them for success in a series dominated by the home teams. On Saturday night, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers, Jr held the Yankees to three hits and no runs to send the Astros to their first World Series since 2005 and only their second overall.  

I was afraid that it would be asking a lot for CC Sabathia to be the savior for Game 7. I know that he had been undefeated in his role as a stopper following Yankee losses this year but this game obviously had heightened magnitude. With no offense to Sonny Gray, the Yankees paid a very high price to get him and this should have been his spot to be the team’s post-season savior. He may ultimately have a fantastic Yankees career but he was a non-factor this post-season.  

After trading scoreless frames to open the game, Houston’s Yuli Gurriel lined a shot to right that looked like it had a chance to clear the wall. Aaron Judge, on the run, leaped up to make a terrific catch to deny Gurriel.  

Credit:  Elsa-Getty Images

I was hopeful that it was a sign for great things to come. Unfortunately, it was not.  

The Astros, getting at least a single each inning against Sabathia, finally broke through in the 4th inning. Evan Gattis led off the bottom of the inning with a powerful home run to left center. Sabathia walked Brian McCann on a full count.  Marwin Gonzalez hit a grounder to short which Didi Gregorius zipped to Starlin Castro to force McCann, but they were unable to turn the double play. Josh Reddick singled to left and Manager Joe Girardi had seen enough. He went to the mound to take the ball from Sabathia, perhaps for the last time in either individual’s Yankees career. Enter Tommy Kahnle who quickly induced George Springer, on one pitch, to ground into an inning-ending double play, short to second to first.

The top of the 5th brought a great chance for the Yankees. Greg Bird led off with a double to the right field corner. Starlin Castro was next but he struck out. With Aaron Hicks at the plate, a wild pitch on ball four allowed Bird to fly to third and Hicks to take first. Runners at the corners and one out for Todd Frazier. Frazier hit a chopper to third baseman Alex Bregman and Yankees third base coach Joe Espada made the decision to send Bird home. It would take a perfect throw to nail Bird at the plate. Sadly for us, that’s exactly what happened. Bregman’s throw to Brian McCann could not have been any better and McCann easily applied the tag on Bird’s foot. 

Credit:  Ronald Martinez-Getty Images

Chase Headley grounded out to second and it was an inning of missed opportunity for the Yankees.  

The Yankees lack of scoring hurt as the Astros padded their lead in the bottom of the 5th. With Tommy Kahnle still on the mound for the Yankees, Jose Altuve blasted a one-out home run to right (too high for Judge to make another leaping catch). Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel followed with singles to put runners at the corners. Kahnle struck out Evan Gattis for the second out, but then Brian McCann doubled to the corner in right, scoring both Correa and Gurriel. Girardi pulled the plug on Kahnle and brought in Adam Warren to get the final out.  The Astros had increased their lead to 4-0.

The Astros made a pitching change for the top of the 6th. Lance McCullers, Jr was brought in to replace Charlie Morton who had held the Yanks to two hits.  Brett Gardner greeted McCullers with a single to left down the line and there was optimism that the Yankees could get back into the game. The optimism started to dissipate as McCullers retired the next three batters end the inning. Gardy’s hit was the last one that McCullers, who finished the game, would allow.  

The Yankees went down quietly in the 9th and when Greg Bird’s fly to center was caught by George Springer, their season was over. As the Astros celebrated on the field and later in the clubhouse, the Yankees could only gather their things and begin preparations for the flight home to New York City.  

Credit:  Ronald Martinez-Getty Images

Last year, the Los Angeles Dodgers watched the Chicago Cubs celebrate on Wrigley Field turf when the Cubs won the NLCS to advance to the World Series. They remembered that feeling and it helped fuel them to the NL Championship this year and a role as the host for Game 1 of the 2017 World Series. I am hopeful that the Yankees take the same sense of disappointment to fuel their hopes and aspirations for the 2018 season.  

Hopefully, the Steinbrenner Family moves quickly to re-sign both GM Brian Cashman and Manager Joe Girardi so that the team can begin its off-season planning to bring the 2018 championship back to the Bronx.  

Credit:  Elsa-Getty Images

As always, Go Yankees!

Odds & Ends…

Friday, I was surprised when the Washington Nationals fired manager Dusty Baker. Yesterday, I was equally surprised when the San Francisco Giants dismissed Dave Righetti as the team’s pitching coach. Righetti, the former Yankees closer, was the longest tenured pitching coach in the Major Leagues, having served under three managers since 2000. During that time, Rags was part of three World Championships.  Righetti, a Bay Area native, will remain in the Giants organization as a special assistant to GM Bobby Evans. Righetti is one of the most respected pitching coaches in the game but I guess the age-old question ‘what have you done for me lately?’ gets the best of us. Rags is too good not to get another opportunity elsewhere if he wants it.

Credit:  Brian Rothmuller-Icon Sportswire

The Chicago Cubs fired their pitching coach (Chris Bosio) too. Bosio had held the position since 2012 and he’s fresh off a World Series Championship from last season. I guess those three home runs by Kiké Hernandez last week to send the Los Angeles Dodgers to the World Series and the Cubs home for the holidays were Bosio’s fault.  

It sounds as though the Boston Red Sox will be offering a three-year deal to Astros bench coach Alex Cora to be their new manager. Cora will most likely accept once the World Series is over. The initial reaction from my Red Sox friends is lukewarm but I think Cora is a sound option for the Sox. For Cora, it will be about the right coaching hires to help him succeed. He will already have a strong team in place and he’ll be gaining front row World Series experience this year.  

I will watch the World Series with interest. As a former resident of Los Angeles, it’s hard not to cheer for the Dodgers. They’ve been my favorite NL team, despite my love for the Yankees. So, I’ll be rooting for Blue and hoping they send the Astros home with saddened faces.

Have a great Sunday! Remember the magic of the 2017 Yankees and dream of the potential for the 2018 club. Go Yankees!

No Answer for Justin Verlander…

Credit:  Eric Christian Smith-AP

American League Championship Series

Astros 7, Yankees 1…

Series tied, 3-3

If the Yankees are going to win the ALCS, they’ll need to figure out how to score more than a single run in a game at Minute Maid Park.  Three runs in three games is not going to get ‘er done.  The Yankees were getting hard hits against Justin Verlander on Friday night, but they had nothing to show for it.  Meanwhile, the Astros bats came alive and they seized the win in Game 6.

On the bright side, the Yankees have responded to adversity the entire post-season, winning ‘do or die’ games against the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians.  It’s that time once again so hopefully the Yankees can find a way to score runs and take the victory tonight.

Brett Gardner led off the game with a single to center over the outstretched glove of shortstop Carlos Correa.  Unfortunately, Aaron Judge followed with a grounder to Correa that the Astros quickly turned for a double play.  

After Luis Severino easily set down the Astros in the bottom of the 1st, Gary Sanchez reached first  base on a soft grounder to third to open the 2nd inning.  But El Gary wasn’t able to do more than have a brief conversation with first base coach Tony Pena when Verlander struck out two of the next three hitters (Greg Bird and Aaron Hicks) and got the middle batter (Starlin Castro) to fly out to center.

The Yankees got another hit in the 3rd inning, a one-out single up the middle into left center field by Chase Headley, but again the runner had no place to go as he was left stranded.

Meanwhile, through the first three innings, Luis Severino had yet to give up a hit.  Carlos Correa finally got the first hit for the Astros with a two-out single to right center in the bottom of the 4th.  Correa was left stranded but the tide was turning.  Instead of the hits against Verlander and none against Severino, the reverse pattern developed.  Verlander set the Yankees down in order in the 4th and 5th innings.  

Credit:  Eric Christian Smith-AP

The Astros led off the bottom of the 5th with a walk by Alex Bregman.  A groundout to Starlin Castro by Marwin Gonzalez moved the runner to second.  Sevy was unable to throw strikes to Evan Gattis and walked him on four pitches.  Brian McCann took advantage of the runner in scoring position with a drive to right that bounced over the wall on one hop for a ground-rule double, scoring Bregman and moving Gattis to third.  Like Gattis, Sevy was unable to throw strikes to George Springer, also walking him on four straight pitches.  The bases were loaded, with only one out.  Josh Reddick lofted a fly to center for the second out but it wasn’t deep enough to score the runner.  It brought Jose Altuve to the plate with the bases still jammed with Astros.  To borrow a line from Manager Joe Girardi, it’s not what you want.  Altuve rapped a hard drive to left to score Gattis and McCann.  The Astros were up 3-0.  It was end of the line for Severino.  Chad Green came in and got the final out when Carlos Correa popped out to Starlin Castro.  It was a very disappointing inning for the young 23-year-old starter and quite possibly his final inning of the year if the Yankees cannot find ways to score runs in Houston.

Credit:  NY Post: Charles Wenzelberg

The Yankees finally got a couple of hits in an inning against Verlander when they got two singles in the top of the 6th.  Chase Headley led off with a single to center.  Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge recorded outs (pop out to short and strikeout, respectively) but then Didi Gregorius lined a single to right, the ball dropping in front of right fielder Josh Reddick.  Runners at first and second with two outs for Gary Sanchez.  With one swing of the bat, El Gary had the potential to tie the game.  Sadly, all he could do was hit a grounder to short for the final out.  

More promise but ultimately disappointment continued in the top of the 7th when Greg Bird walked and Starlin Castro was hit by a pitch.  The HBP was not initially called by the home plate umpire but Girardi, learning from prior lessons, challenged the call and it showed that Castro had, in fact, been hit on the wristband.  Aaron Hicks had the first crack at Verlander but he struck out.  Todd Frazier was next and he hit a high fly to center, to the wall, and a leaping catch by George Springer.  Oh man, just another foot or so and the game would have been tied.  

Credit:  NY Post: Anthony J Causi & Getty Images

Chase Headley grounded out to the right side to end the threat, missing a huge opportunity for the road team.

In the top of the 8th, Verlander was finally out of the game, replaced by Brad Peacock.  After Peacock got Brett Gardner to fly out in left field foul territory (credit left fielder Marwin Gonzales for the running catch with very limited room), Aaron Judge blasted a pitch, nearly to the roof, over the wall in left center to make it a 3-1 game.  

Credit:  Houston Chronicle: Karen Warren

Signs of life…not.  Didi Gregorius flied out to left and Gary Sanchez struck out to end the inning.

For the bottom of the 8th, the Yankees replaced Chad Green with David Robertson.  Great job by Green.  After replacing Severino in the bottom of the 5th, Green did not allow a hit or run over 2 1/3 innings pitched.  He only walked a batter and struck out three ‘Stros.  For David Robertson, the results were not the same.  He was greeted with a homer to left over the scoreboard by Jose Altuve. After the game, D-Rob said that he threw the 2-2 pitch where he wanted but Altuve still went yard.  Carlos Correa was next and he doubled to left into the corner.  Yuli Gurriel singled to right and the Astros had runners at the corners and still nobody out.  Alex Bregman lined a double to left center on a ball that dropped between Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks to bring both runners around to score.  A throwing error by Didi Gregorius to home plate that got away from Gary Sanchez allowed Bregman to move to third.  Four batters, four hits, three runs (with a fourth to eventually score), no outs.  An ugly line for D-Rob and the end of his latest outing.  

Credit: NY Post: Charles Wenzelberg

Dellin Betances entered the game.  It started well when he struck out Marwin Gonzalez for the first out.  But then Evan Gattis lofted a fly ball deep enough to right center to score Bregman on the sacrifice as the throw from Aaron Hicks to Gary Sanchez was off the line.  The Astros had increased their lead to 7-1 over the offensively-challenged Yankees.  Brian McCann followed with a single to right that Starlin Castro couldn’t quite reach, but Betances got George Springer to ground out to third with a broken bat for the final out.  Two very ugly innings for the Pinstripers…the 5th and the 8th.  

The Astros brought their closer, Ken Giles, out for the top of the 9th despite the six-run lead.  It seemed odd to bring in your best reliever in that situation but Astros manager A.J. Hinch gets paid a lot more money than I do to make those decisions.  Greg Bird flied out to right for the first out, but then Starlin Castro singled to left center.  Aaron Hicks walked and the Yankees had two runners on base with only one out.  After a coaching visit to the mound, Giles settled down and retired Todd Frazier on a fly out to left.  He struck out Chase Headley swinging for the game-ending out.

I don’t know what you say after a game like this.  The Yankees were whipped in all facets of the game.  It was a game that you quickly forget and move on.  

The Yankees will pull out their stopper, CC Sabathia, for the seventh and final game of the series.  No doubt this is an ‘all hands on deck’ situation.  Dallas Keuchel has already said on record that he’ll be ready to thwart any rallies out of the bullpen, and even Justin Verlander was saying that he might be ready depending upon how his arm feels today.  Charlie Morton will make the Game 7 start for the Astros.  The childhood Yankees fan will get the opportunity to disappoint the many of us who are still Yankees fans.  Sabathia has not been defeated following a Yankees loss this year.  Let’s hope that streak continues one more time.  

Odds & Ends…

Yesterday, I wrote about the managerial openings but I could not have envisioned that the Washington Nationals would emerge as a team with an opening.  Their firing of Dusty Baker caught me by surprise.  Both John Farrell and Baker have proved that simply winning your division to make the play-offs is not enough. There’s no doubt that Baker mishandled the Stephen Strasburg injury situation earlier in the post-season and that may have been the ultimate cause for his dismissal.  The Nationals have one more shot next year before star Bryce Harper becomes a free agent so whomever gets the job will carry high expectations.  It’s a tough job to walk into and I thought they would have been stronger with the continuity of Baker, a very good manager, at the top.  The Nationals reportedly want to talk to Astros bench coach Alex Cora which could throw a monkey wrench into Boston’s plans to hire Cora.  There will be no honeymoon period for the guys who get the jobs with the Nationals and the Red Sox.  Win now or walk.

Of course, there’s still a chance that the Yankees could be looking for a new manager soon.  Never a dull moment in Major League Baseball.

Credit:  NY Daily News: Andrew Savulich / TNS

Have a great Saturday!  Bring home the AL Championship, Guys!  Thumbs down, you got this!  Go Yankees!

The Dawn of Something Great?…

October Baseball On Our Minds…

Everyone is talking like the New York Yankees are already in the World Series but I do not view (potentially) two games in Houston against the Astros to be a cakewalk.  Tonight, the Yankees send their best (Luis Severino) against crafty veteran Justin Verlander who is very clearly a big game pitcher.  If the Astros win tonight, they have to be viewed as the favorite for Game 7 in Minute Maid Park.  We’re not in the Bronx anymore. But the Yankees have already defeated the best team in the American League in a best-of-five series and they are a single game away from reaching the Fall Classic.  This Yankees team has incredible heart and a ‘no-quit’ drive like none other.

Regardless of what happens, I am very proud of the 2017 Yankees.  Going into the season, it seemed like the experts were forecasting a .500 season at best.  It was unclear if Aaron Judge or Aaron Hicks would win the right field job.  Questions were abound about whether Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia had seen their better days.  Or if Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius could continue their development in the middle infield.  I was one of many uncertain if Luis Severino’s stronger future was in the starting rotation or the bullpen. The Yankees answered those questions (and more) and now stand one game away from the World Series.  There is nothing that the Houston Astros can do to take away from the huge accomplishments achieved by the Yankees.  This is a young team that is only going to get better.  As the saying goes, ‘the future is so bright, I’ve got to wear shades!’

If the Yankees do make it to the World Series, they’ll be heading to Los Angeles next week.  The Los Angeles Dodgers dethroned the Chicago Cubs last night to win the NLCS, 4 games to 1.  The Dodgers throttled the Cubs, 11-1, behind the power of their utility outfielder.  Enrique “Kiké” Hernandez put his name into the history books with three home runs and seven RBI’s as the Dodgers coasted to the victory behind the three-hit, one-run pitching of the great Clayton Kershaw over seven innings and three innings of scoreless relief from the bullpen.  Kenley Jansen, the closer, is a stud, but where did Brandon Morrow come from?  The one-time former closer of the Seattle Mariners and ex-Blue Jay has been ‘lights out’ for the Dodgers.  He was 6-0 with a 2.06 ERA in 45 games this year, and in 4 games against the Cubs in the NLCS, he allowed only one hit, a walk, and no runs over 4 2/3 innings while striking out seven.  There won’t be too many late inning rallies against the Dodgers.

For the Dodgers, their ten consecutive appearances in the post-season without a championship is the longest streak in MLB history. During that time, the Dodgers have been defeated in the NLCS four times, including last year on the very field they spilled champagne last night.  This makes their eleventh appearance in post-season play since they defeated the Oakland A’s in the 1988 World Series.

The Managerial Musical Chairs…

Growing up watching the Yankees-Dodgers World Series (three times over five years from 1977 to 1981), it is very exciting and intriguing to think the Yankees might finally have the chance to avenge their loss in the 1981 World Series.  Ironically, the 1981 Dodgers also had to get past the Houston Astros (in the NLDS) to reach the World Series.  They defeated the Montreal Expos in the NLCS that year.  The 1981 World Series was also the time when Owner George Steinbrenner allegedly got into an altercation with two Dodgers fans in the elevator of a Los Angeles hotel.  Steinbrenner told reporters, “I clocked them.  There are two guys in this town looking for their teeth and two guys who will probably sue me”.  Steinbrenner was not sued and the two guys were never identified.  Who knows if Steinbrenner really faced anyone in that elevator but the Yankees finally have the chance for redemption in the City of Angels if they can win one more game against the Astros (just one, let’s do it!).  I am sure that the Boss would be very pleased.

The MLB Post-Season has certainly not stopped other teams from taking action, or at the very least, talking action.

The Detroit Tigers are expected to announce former Twins manager and current Arizona Diamondbacks bench coach Ron Gardenhire as their manager later today (replacing the fired Brad Ausmus).

Ausmus remains a candidate for the job to replace John Farrell in Boston as the Red Sox manager, however, all reports indicate that current Astros bench coach Alex Cora is the likely choice.  Cora is certainly getting a firsthand view of what he may be facing next year.

I personally think that it is a shame for current Chicago Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez hasn’t gotten stronger consideration for managerial openings.No word on the open jobs with the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets, but former Yankees and current Mets hitting coach Kevin Long has emerged as a favorite for the post in Queens.

It remains to be seen if Yankees manager Joe Girardi returns next year.  While one would think that it is a foregone conclusion that Girardi will be back with a new agreement in hand, it is also possible that family considerations could cause Girardi to walk away.  I think the latter is a greater possibility if the Yankees lose the ALCS to the Astros.  I continue to hope that Girardi and the Steinbrenner family come together on a new deal.  I honestly do not see a better alternative currently available.

Have a great Friday!  Like last night, let’s hope the road team is pouring champagne in the visitor’s clubhouse after the game.  Go Yankees!

Masa and a Few Runs = Formula for Success…

Credit:  Al Bello-Getty Images

American League Championship Series

Yankees 5, Astros 0…

Yankees lead the Series, 3-2


The Yankees rode stellar pitching and a few clutch hits to take the advantage in the ALCS as the series now shifts to Houston for Game 6 on Friday night.

It was great to see Andy Pettitte throw out the ceremonial first pitch and it certainly brought a championship pedigree to the mound.  Nothing like starting a game exactly right!  As a Houstonian and a former Astro, it would be easy for Andy to root for the road team but I am so glad (and proud) that he has always been entrenched in his love for the Yankees. 

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

The Yankees proved that they are not afraid of Chris Sale and Corey Kluber, the AL’s best, and while they may not be afraid of Dallas Keuchel, the latter has proven to be an enigma in recent years and, in particular, this season. So, there was some reservation, at least on my part, with the thought of Keuchel picking up the ball for the pivotal Game 5.  

First up, though, was Masahiro Tanaka to face the potent Astros line up. It was not that long ago that Jose Altuve blasted three home runs in an ALDS game against the Boston Red Sox. The man short on stature and long on talent will most likely beat out Aaron Judge for AL MVP. Throw in the countless other stars in the Astros lineup, and it is easy to see why the team won 101 games in the regular season. Tanaka easily retired the first two hitters, but then a fielding error by third baseman Todd Frazier allowed the dangerous Altuve to reach first base. Time and again, Altuve has worked his way through the bases, through speed and superior baseball instincts, to find home plate, but not this time. Carlos Correa hit a soft grounder to third to end the inning and send the Astros to the field for the first time.


Of course, Dallas Keuchel treated the top third of the Yankees order like kindergartners trying to connect with Major League heat. He retired the Yankees in order to complete the first inning, including strikeouts of young sluggers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. It looked like it might be one of those days.


Yuli Gurriel led off the top of the 2nd with a double to the wall in left to put the Astros in business. However, Tanaka wasn’t having any of it. Although Gurriel would find his way to third, there would be no homecoming as Masa retired the next three hitters on ground outs.  


In the bottom of the 2nd, it looked like it was going to be more of the same with Keuchel. He struck out Didi Gregorius on a foul tip and got Aaron Hicks to ground out to short for the first two outs. Hits were starting to look like they would be hard to come by when Starlin Castro hit a sharp line drive to the warning track in left and off the wall for a double. Greg Bird followed with a single to right and the Yankees had their first run off Keuchel in the post-season. Todd Frazier struck out to end the inning but the Yankees were able to walk back onto the field with a 1-0 lead.

Credit:  Michael Ciaglo-Houston Chronicle

After the Astros were unable to do anything with a one-out single by George Springer in the top of the 3rd, Chase Headley led off the bottom of the inning with a single to center. Brett Gardner grounded into a force out at second but all things considered, I was okay with substituting the speedier Gardner for Headley. It paid off when Aaron Judge ripped a double to the left field corner, bringing Gardner around to score. The Yankees were up, 2-0. A couple of strikeouts ended the inning, but at least the Yankees were getting their hits against the very difficult Keuchel.  

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

After the teams traded ‘3-up, 3-down’ innings in the 4th, the Astros looked like they might put together a little rally in the top of the 5th. Tanaka struck out the first batter, Carlos Beltran, but Marwin Gonzalez followed with a single to right. A wild pitch during Brian McCann’s at-bat moved Gonzalez to second. McCann subsequently took a walk to put two runners on with only one out. Tanaka rose to the occasion and struck out both George Springer and Josh Reddick. A huge performance by Tanaka in a tough spot.

Credit:  Andrew Maclean-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Chase Headley hit a soft grounder to third to lead off the bottom of the 5th. A throwing error by third baseman Alex Bregman (ball was low and skipped past first baseman Yuli Gurriel) allowed Headley to take second. After a ground out by Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge drew a walk. I think the FOX TV Crew described it as the ‘intentional unintentional walk’. That’s fine. Bring Gary Sanchez to the plate. El Gary did not disappoint when he singled to left into the corner, bringing Headley home to score. Judge moved to third. Didi Gregorius lined a single up the middle that deflected off the glove of diving second baseman Jose Altuve in center field. Judge scored to make it 4-0. End of the day for Yankee killer Keuchel. 

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

The Astros made the call to the pen to bring in Will Harris. Win or lose, the Yankees were finally able to find the solution for Keuchel like they had Sale and Kluber. Harris got the Astros out of the inning when Aaron Hicks flied out to left, but it had been a very productive inning for the Pinstripers. However, last night showed that a 4-0 lead is not safe, so onward we go. Or rather I should say onward Tanaka went.  


Tanaka breezed through the 6th and 7th innings although the final out of the latter inning saw the third strike get away from Gary Sanchez. Fortunately, El Gary was able to retrieve the ball in foul territory and throw a zinger to Greg Bird ahead of Marwin Gonzalez to complete the final out. 

Credit:  Karen Warren-Houston Chronicle

Regardless of the final outcome of the game, it was a masterpiece by Tanaka. Seven innings, three hits, no runs, one walk, and eight strikeouts. Okay, I think I am back in “Masa, please do not opt out” mode.


While David Robertson was warming up in the Yankees bullpen, Gary Sanchez unloaded on a pitch from Astros reliever Brad Peacock in the bottom of the 7th to send it flying into the left center seats. 

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

Didi Gregorius followed El Gary with a sharply hit ball to left and he slid into second just ahead of the throw for a double. David Robertson took a seat after the Sanchez home run and Tommy Kahnle began warming up. The Yankees weren’t able to do anything with Didi when Aaron Hicks struck out and Starlin Castro grounded out to third, but at least they had padded their lead by one and now led the Astros, 5-0.


Kahnle, as expected, got the call for the 8th. He did his job…make it an uneventful inning and he did. A couple of fly outs and a punch out of Josh Reddick and it was time to get the Yankees back up for hopefully their final at-bats of the night.


With Francisco Liriano taking over for Brad Peacock in the bottom of the 8th, Greg Bird led off with a walk. While Todd Frazier was batting, a wild pitch freed Bird to take second. Frazier subsequently grounded out to third. Chase Headley was next and his short squibbler that died in front of home plate was scooped up by catcher Brian McCann who threw Headley out at first. Bird made his way to third. Unfortunately, Bird was left stranded when Brett Gardner struck out.  Off to the 9th inning…


Holding a five-run lead, Tommy Kahnle returned for the top of the 9th. Jose Altuve jumped on Kahnle’s first pitch to fly out to center. One out. Carlos Correa lined a hard hit ball to right for a double, causing some movement in the Yankees bullpen. Nevertheless, Yuli Gurriel hit a grounder to short which Didi Gregorius threw to first for the out. Two outs. Correa advanced to third on the play. Obviously, Correa was inconsequential at this point, but everyone wanted the shutout (well, except for maybe the Astros, their fans and the Red Sox Nation). Kahnle made it happen when he got Alex Bregman to fly out to Aaron Hicks in center. Three outs…game over. Yankees win!  

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

Best case scenario played out as the Yankees now head back to Houston needing one win in the next two games to advance to their World Series since 2009. The Astros are now the team with their backs to the wall. The road ahead remains difficult but the young Baby Bombers have heart and ‘no quit’ desire like none other.  


This was a great team victory, led…obviously…by the great Masahiro Tanaka. I am sure that Sonny Gray is asking, “What is this run support you speak of?”. Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius…too many heroes to name. Great job by Tommy Kahnle to finish off the win for Tanaka! 


Let’s keep this winning streak alive. Great job, Bronx Bombers! Thumbs down, Guys!  

Credit:  Michael Ciaglo-Houston Chronicle

Odds & Ends…

There was a funny Twitter exchange between the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees prior to Tuesday’s game. The Red Sox tweeted “Today’s basically a holiday…” showing a clip of Game 4 of the ALCS on October 17, 2004 when the Red Sox tied the series on a walk-off home run by David Ortiz in 12 innings after falling behind 2 games to none. The Yankees had the perfect response, “Ah, work day for us. Game time is 5:08pm, if you’re not busy”. The Red Sox could only respond with a rolling eyes emoji.  

Have a great Thursday! It’s a day off as the Yankees head back to the deep of the heart of Texas. Bring home the AL Championship, Boys! Go Yankees!

How to Judge a Four-Run Deficit…

Credit:  Andrew Savulich-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

American League Championship Series

Yankees 6, Astros 4…

Series tied, 2-2

The 2017 Yankees seem to thrive in the face of adversity. Down by four runs and facing a potential 3-1 disadvantage in the ALCS, the young Baby Bombers rose up and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.  

The game was expected to be a pitching duel between Sonny Gray and Lance McCullers, Jr but then again, with the exception of Monday night’s game, every game has featured stellar starting pitching. Former Yankee Carlos Beltran picked up the game’s first hit when he doubled to the right field wall off Yankees starter Sonny Gray with two outs in the second inning. Fortunately, he didn’t get to experience third base but the early goings of the game saw a few runners left stranded. All dressed up and nowhere to go.

I knew that Lance McCullers, Jr was going to be tough on the Yankees. Despite his inconsistent year, he has generally been very strong when facing his dad’s old club.  

The bottom of the 4th brought an interesting play albeit with no runs for the Yankees. Aaron Judge walked to start the inning for the Yanks. With one out, Gary Sanchez flied out to right. On El Gary’s fly, Judge was running with the pitch. He turned after running past second and ran back to first after realizing the ball had been caught but was called out as he slid back into the bag. The Yankees challenged the play which confirmed Judge’s foot had reached the base before the ball, however, when Judge was at second and passed the bag, he did not re-step on the bag on his way back to first. As the Astros prepared to throw to second as a follow-up to the challenge play at first, Judge made the break for second. The Astros threw Judge out on the play but, technically, he was out for that “misstep”, ending the inning. A lesson learned for the big guy.

Credit:  Michael Ciaglo-Houston Chronicle

Poor Sonny Gray. The guy never gets any run support and Tuesday was no exception. The game entered the sixth inning still scoreless for both teams.  After Gray walked George Springer, Gray’s former Oakland teammate Josh Reddick reached base on catcher’s interference by Austin Romine (much to Romine’s chagrin). Despite allowing only one hit up to that point, Manager Joe Girardi made the decision to pull Gray one pitch into the next at-bat (Jose Altuve), a ball in the dirt, and replaced him with David Robertson.  

Credit:  Michael Ciaglo-Houston Chronicle

D-Rob walked Altuve which loaded the bases with no outs. After striking out Carlos Correa for the first out, Yuli Gurriel cleared the bases with a double down the line, just inches past the glove of the diving Todd Frazier at third, to the left field corner. Brett Gardner threw the ball in to Didi Gregorius and the Yankees were able to catch Gurriel between second and third for an out. Alex Bregman subsequently grounded out to third to end the inning for the Astros, but they had taken a 3-0 lead.

Chad Green replaced Robertson in the top of the 7th inning. He struck out former Yankee Carlos Beltran for the first out, but then gave up a double to right center by Marwin Gonzalez. Brian McCann hit a grounder to second baseman Starlin Castro in shallow right but the ball ate up Castro for an error, allowing McCann to safely reach base. Gonzalez scored on the play to increase Houston’s lead to 4-0. George Springer hit a grounder to third that Todd Frazier turned for a double play, second to first, to avoid further damage and send the game to the bottom of the 7th.

Trailing by four runs with Lance McCullers, Jr pitching a shutout, Aaron Judge stepped to the plate. Judge hammered McCullers’ first pitch over the wall in center field into Monument Park for a home run.  The Yankees were on the board.

Credit:  Howard Simmons-New York Daily News

The Astros still held a 4-1 lead, but McCullers was finished. The Astros brought in Chris Devenski to face Didi Gregorius.  Didi tripled to the left-center field wall. Gary Sanchez was next and he hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Didi. The Yankees had closed the deficit to two runs.  Greg Bird walked to finish Devenski’s stay and Joe Musgrove came in to retire Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks. Still, the Yankees had chipped away and their bats were starting to show signs of life.

After three up-three down for Chad Green in the top of the 8th, the Yankees got to business in the bottom of the inning. Todd Frazier singled to left to get things started. Chase Headley, pinch-hitting for Austin Romine, singled to left in the gap, moving Frazier to third.  Headley took second on the throw in from the outfield, after stumbling between first and second. He was able to make it to second ahead of the throw after cut-off man Carlos Correa had thrown the ball to first. 

Credit:  Andrew Savulich-New York Daily News

The Astros pulled Musgrove to bring in their closer, Ken Giles. Brett Gardner hit a grounder to second baseman Jose Altuve who threw to first for the out but Frazier scored to make it a one-run game. Headley moved to third, and was replaced by pinch-runner Jacoby Ellsbury. Aaron Judge doubled to left off the wall to score Ellsbury and the game was tied at 4. Didi Gregorius singled to left, a roller under the glove of shortsop Carlos Correa, with Judge advancing to third. It set up Gary Sanchez’s double to the wall in right center to score both Judge and Gregorius. The Yankees had captured the lead, 6-4. 

Credit:  Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

After Ken Giles intentionally walked Greg Bird, he was pulled and replaced by Luke Gregerson. Starlin Castro worked a walk to load the bases but the Yankees were unable to capitalize when Aaron Hicks hit a slow grounder toward first allowing the Astros to get the force out of Sanchez at home and Todd Frazier grounded out to third.

On to the 9th inning and the awaiting arm of Aroldis Chapman. Chapman struck out fellow Cuban Yuli Gurriel and Alex Bregman for the first two outs. With Carlos Beltran due up, the Astros sent in pinch-hitter Evan Gattis to hit. I personally would have stayed with Beltran but Astros manager A.J. Hinch had different ideas. It didn’t pay off for him as Gattis lofted a fly to left for the final out. The Yankees had overcome a four-run deficit to win the game and tie the ALCS at two games apiece. The Yankees win! Woohoo!

Chad Green (1-0) was the winner, while Aroldis Chapman earned the save.  Ken Giles (0-1) took the loss for the Astros.

The ceremonial first pitch was thrown out by former Yankee great Paul O’Neill with Ronald Torreyes catching. O’Neill looks like he could still take a few hacks at home plate or at the very least, overturn a water cooler or two.

Credit:  Elsa-Getty Images

Credit Aaron Judge. His home run changed the offensive temperature from very cold to very hot. It was the tandem of Judge and Didi Gregorius that set the pace for the Yankees to score six unanswered runs. Very nice to see Gary Sanchez join the action after an 0-for-13 skid in the ALCS. 

Credit:  Karen Warren-Houston Chronicle

The two errors by Starlin Castro on what appeared to be two fairly simple grounders was not fun to watch.  

There were complaints prior to the game about Joe Girardi’s decision to have Austin Romine catch Sonny Gray with Gary Sanchez sliding to DH. I had no issue with the move. In the limited sample size since Gray joined the Yankees at the trading deadline, his ERA with Romine has been significantly better (3 starts, 1.45 ERA) than when El Gary is behind the plate (8 starts, 4.63 ERA). Among Matt Holliday, Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley, there’s no doubt that Headley deserves the next start at DH. I am disappointed see Holliday’s Yankee career end on the bench but the simple truth is that he has not hit since returning from the DL after his bout with the Epstein-Barr Virus. I know that to get hits, you need at-bats, but the Baseball Gods have not smiled upon Holliday in the second half. It would still be cool if he could get a crucial pinch-hit at some point before the Pinstripes become a distant memory for him.

It was a very solid performance by Sonny Gray and is certainly a tremendous preview of coming attractions for the 2018 season (if not the remainder of the 2017 post-season).  

Credit:  Andrew Mills-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

By winning, the Yankees have guaranteed that the series will head back to Houston for Game 6. Hopefully, they can win today to make it a much sweeter plane flight to Texas. The challenge is difficult with Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander slated for the mound over the next two games.  However, the 2017 Yankees have beaten Chris Sale and Corey Kluber and they tend to excel when their backs are to the wall.  Win or lose, you can be assured that the Yankees will never, ever quit.  

Have a great Wednesday! Let’s just get a win today. Only one win. Thumbs down, let’s do this! Go Yankees!