(Photo: John G Zimmerman/Sports Illustrated)
Season Opener is a week away…
Finally, we can see real baseball on the horizon. Well, if you are an early bird, I suppose you’ve been up to watch the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s play the last two days in Tokyo for an early preview of the regular season. But, c’mon, we all know that real baseball doesn’t start until the New York Yankees take the field.
The Yankees officially announced the signing of LHP Gio Gonzalez yesterday. Initially, it was reported to be a $3 million contract if Gio makes the Major League roster, but subsequently we learned it also includes an incentive of $300,000 per start up to 30 starts so the deal could be worth as much as $12 million. I’ve seen more than one Yankee fan say the team should use an opener before bringing Gio in so that he technically does not get credit for a “start” but seriously that’s not the way the Yankees operate. You may feel that Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is a tight-wad but I firmly believe even if the Yankees used an opener like Jonathan Holder for an inning before bringing in Gio to cover the next five or six innings, the team would honor the performance as a start. They wouldn’t use an opener solely for avoidance of paying the incentive. Say what you will about the Yankees’ Front Office but the Yankees have proven, time and again, they take care of their own.
It was a little weird seeing the pics of Gio without his beard. Like James Paxton, going beardless makes him look so much younger.
Hey, maybe it will make his arm look younger too. Oh well, wishful thinking on my part. I do hope that Gio gets an opportunity to join the Yankees with this 30-day trial. If not Opening Day (which seems unrealistic from a timing standpoint), a few weeks into the season. I really hope it doesn’t come down to April 20th with us wondering whether Gio will be added to the MLB roster or if he’ll exercise his opt-out if he doesn’t. If the Yankees were truly the only team offering him a contract this month, it’s not like teams will be lined up for his services on April 20th unless there is an epidemic of arm injuries around both leagues.
Wednesday also saw Yankees RHP Luis Severino toss twenty-five pitches from 60 feet on flat ground with his resumption of baseball activity after two weeks of rest. Sevy reported a little rust from the time off, but overall felt good about the workout. There were no reports of pain or discomfort in the right shoulder/rotator cuff. Sevy plans to toss twenty-five pitches at 60 feet again today on his path to hopefully return in early May. I don’t want to say the season is lost without Severino but he is such a huge part of the mission to dethrone the Boston Red Sox and bring the World Series championship back to New York. Hopefully there are no setbacks on his road to recovery. We need this man and his right arm.
I didn’t realistically think Ichiro Suzuki would be a Mariner after the two-game series in Japan but he made it official when he announced that he would retire at the conclusion of this morning’s game. What a career! The future Hall of Famer will leave the game with 3,089 hits (or 4,367 hits counting his time in Nippon Professional Baseball). I had really hoped he would pick up one final hit in the games in Japan but it was not meant to be. In his final at-bat in the 8th inning this morning, the crowd yelled “Ich-Eee-Ro” as he prepared for the first pitch. After a lengthy at-bat, he hit an infield roller to short and the throw just beat Ichiro to first base. Bummer, I was so hopeful for a safe sign from the first base umpire. Ichiro took the field in the top of the 9th but once all of the players were in position, Mariners manager Scott Servais pulled everyone off the field. Ichiro, the last man on the field, slowly walked off where he was greeted with hugs from his teammates and coaches. The scene was especially emotional for Mariners starter Yusei Kikuchi who made his Major League debut in the game. He bowed his head as he hugged Ichiro and it was evident tears were flowing down his cheeks. One Japanese career begins, another ends. A very touching moment. Congratulations with your retirement, Ichiro! It was our privilege and pleasure to watch you perform for so many years. We wish you the very best with your post-playing career. No doubt Ichiro will forever be a Seattle Mariner but I am grateful for his 360 games as a Yankee after his acquisition from the Mariners on July 23, 2012 for Danny Farquhar and D.J. Mitchell. I really wish that Ichiro could have had a farewell game like Derek Jeter did, but there’s no doubt this one was every bit as emotional. I am sad we bring closure to such a fantastic career. It’s time but it doesn’t make it any easier. Thank you, Ichiro. We’ll see you in Cooperstown, New York in five years.
(Photo: Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)
Since I am dishing out congratulations, I should throw some towards Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the best player in the game today. His contract extension, 12-years at $426.5 million including the money he was already owed in 2019 and 2020, is official. I think it’s only right he stays in an Angels uniform for the duration of his career. Many thought he’d join Bryce Harper in Philadelphia, including Bryce, and I am sure there are more than a few Yankee fans that had hoped he would find a way to the Bronx. As much as I would have loved Trout as a Yankee, he belongs in an Angels uniform and should stay there. He is such an amazing, selfless player who is head and shoulders above everyone else in MLB. Unlike Bryce Harper, Trout deserved to be paid like the best player in Baseball because he is.
I know the Yankees had been hoping Trout would fall to them in the 2009 MLB Draft but the Angels thwarted those plans when they chose Trout with the 25th pick of the draft (ironically, a compensation pick for losing free agent first baseman Mark Teixeira to the Yankees). With Trout off the board, the Yankees regrettably selected outfielder Slade Heathcott, no longer in the game, with the 29th pick. Dang, so close, yet so far away. Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, there were 24 foolish picks before Trout in that draft. With no offense to top pick Stephen Strasburg, there is nobody on that list who comes close to Trout. Now if the Angels could just settle their stadium situation. I know they’ve talked with the city of Long Beach but I really hope the team stays in Orange County. I love Long Beach (one of my favorite cities) but it feels like Dodgers country to me. Maybe that’s just because the Dodgers are my NL team. Long Beach is located in Los Angeles County and is just a short 45-minute train ride south of downtown LA. Mike Trout belongs to the Angels like the Angels belong in Orange County. I hope they can get this figured out now that they no longer have to worry about Trout.
I don’t know about you but I am ready for Yankees baseball. One week, just one week. I can smell those hot dogs and beers outside of Yankee Stadium already.
As always, Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: Instagram (masahiro_tanaka.official)|
Strong pitching carries Yanks past Angels…
The Yankees needed a strong effort by Masahiro Tanaka on Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and they got it. He gave up his obligatory home run but it didn’t matter as the Yankees used a three-run third inning to cruise past the Halos, 3-1.
The highlight of the game, not for its meaning to the final outcome but rather the drama of the moment, was Tanaka’s strikeout of fellow Japanese countryman Shohei Ohtani to end the first inning. Tanaka fell behind Ohtani on a 3-1 count but two swinging strikes sent Ohtani to the bench, much to the delight of the Yankee Stadium crowd. For the game, Ohtani was 0-for-2 against Tanaka, with a walk and two strikeouts. Mike Trout, who had a career day on Saturday, was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against Tanaka. Simple formula: Hold Ohtani and Trout in check and good things happen.
Tanaka’s terrific day was done after the sixth inning and 104 pitches. He held the Angels to only three hits and the isolated run on Andrelton Simmons’ solo homer in the sixth. Tanaka (6-2) walked three and struck out eight. THIS is the Masa we need for the summer’s pennant chase.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Bill Kostroun)|
With six strong from Tanaka, Manager Aaron Boone was able to effectively lay out David Robertson, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman for three innings of scoreless relief. Very nice play by Didi Gregorius to stop a hard hit grounder by Martin Maldonado, throwing the Angels catcher out at first to end the game and hand Chapman his eleventh save.
The Yankees (33-16) ended up taking two of three from the Angels after Saturday night’s debacle when Sonny Gray (Sucks!) and the Yankees bullpen were hammered by Mike Trout and the Angels in an 11-4 loss. Fortunately, the Boston Red Sox finally lost yesterday against the NL East leading Atlanta Braves, 7-1. The Braves victory was especially sweet as they gave Chris Sale an early exit (4 1/3 innings) by scoring six runs off Boston’s prized left-hander. The Red Sox lead over the Yankees in the AL East is back to one game.
The schedule, which has been Boston’s friend so far this season, continues to benefit the Red Sox. The Atlanta Braves were one of the rare winning teams the Red Sox has faced so far this year. They return to playing sub .500 teams today with the arrival of the Toronto Blue Jays (25-28) at Fenway Park. Meanwhile, the Yankees draw the defending World Champions, the Houston Astros, for a three-game set at Yankee Stadium. Yes, the Yankees did sweep the Astros in Houston at the beginning of the month, but the team was on a roll at the time. I can’t say I am too confident with today’s matchup (Domingo German, 0-2, 5.59 ERA vs Justin Verlander, 6-2, 1.08 ERA). But if the Yankees can keep it close, I like the Yankees’ chances against the Houston bullpen. Yesterday, with closer Ken Giles on the mound, the Astros blew an 8-3 ninth inning lead in their fourteen-inning loss to the Cleveland Indians.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jason Miller)|
The Yankees need pitching help but it doesn’t look like Chance Adams wants to play. The RailRiders game had barely started yesterday when Adams was pulled. With an inability to find the strike zone, Adams departed in the first inning after recording only two outs. He had given up only one hit, but three walks and a hit batter gave the Syracuse Chiefs an early 3-0 lead. The RailRiders came back to win the game, 7-4, so Adams wasn’t saddled with the loss but it was a pathetic performance. His season ERA is an unsightly 5.93 and he leads the team with 22 walks. It doesn’t sound like Adams wants to join his former RailRiders teammates in the Bronx, at least if he continues to pitch like the second coming of Sonny Gray. Hopefully he figures this thing out and restores the bloom of his potential. I still think his future lies in the bullpen but regardless, he is a guy I hope reaches Pinstriped glory.
I was surprised as anyone when the Yankees optioned popular utility man Ronald Torreyes to Triple A to make room for the activation of first baseman Greg Bird. I had fully expected either Tyler Austin or a pitcher to go down. Neil Walker has proven his worth to the organization so the team wasn’t go to eliminate his roster spot. I also think the Yankees are intrigued with A.J. Cole and haven’t seen enough to make a decision about him yet. The YES Network’s Michael Kay noted yesterday that Toe’s locker has not been cleaned out. It is expected he’ll be back when his ten days are up or shortly thereafter. An injury to someone (I hope not) will accelerate the timetable. In the grand scheme of things, I fully expect Torreyes to have a longer Yankees career than Tyler Austin. I could see Austin as part of a trade in the days leading up to this year’s trading deadline when the Yankees attempt to seek upgrades for their pitching staff.
He was only a Yankee for 33 games in 2008 but it is enough to qualify Hall of Famer Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez as a member of the Yankees family. I am sure that Pudge is very excited today as the San Francisco Giants have selected the contract of his son, Dereck, from their Triple A affiliate. Dereck started his professional career in 2011 as an outfielder in the Minnesota Twins farm system but was converted to pitching in 2013. He signed with the Giants organization as a minor league free agent during the off-season. A starter in the minor leagues, Rodriguez is expected to provide long relief for the Giants. I hope Rodriguez pitches so well the Giants decide to trade Madison Bumgarner to the Yankees. C’mon, a guy can dream, can’t he? Seriously, congratulations to Dereck for the realization of his own dream.
|Photo Credit: Instagram (drod_31)|
Speaking of former Yankees, Phil Hughes has found a new home. The Minnesota Twins had designated the pitcher for assignment earlier in the week. On Sunday, the Twins sent Hughes and a compensatory draft pick (74th overall) to the San Diego Padres for a minor league catcher. The incentive for the Padres is the competitive balance draft pick. The Twins will send money to pay down the contract owed to Hughes to lessen the financial commitment for the Padres. For now, Hughes will be inserted into the Padres bullpen, joining former Yankees Bryan Mitchell and Tyler Webb. I am not sure if this is the eventual end of the line for Hughes, who has undergone multiple surgeries for thoracic outlet syndrome, or if he will be able to resurrect his career in sunny Southern CA, but I wish the veteran 31-year-old righty the very best in his latest comeback attempt.
It’s Memorial Day so we pay tribute to those who have fallen in defense of our Country. Of course, we think about those individuals every day of the year, not just this day, and are grateful for their service and sacrifice to defend our liberty and freedom. We can never repay them or their families. We carry the memory of the slain men and women who have served this great Nation today and always.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Frank Franklin II)|
Gleybering their way to Victory…
Last night’s game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim can be summed up in two words:
|Photo Credit: Twitter (sirdidig18)|
Okay, credit to Luis Severino for bending but not breaking and to the bullpen for getting the game into the capable hands of closer Aroldis Chapman for the 2-1 win. But seriously, the Man of the Hour continues to be the 21-year-old rookie.
Shohei Ohtani may be the odds-on favorite for AL Rookie of the Year but on this night, Torres was the man among boys. His run-scoring single and solo home run provided all the offense the Yankees would need to take the first game of the three-game series with the Angels. Mike Trout was able to rip one off Severino but at least there was no one on base at the time and the rest of the Angels were unable to find their way home. Homeless Angels…so sad. Um, not really.
With no offense to Giancarlo Stanton, Torres has been the most significant addition for the 2018 Yankees. I am sure that Stanton will eventually go on one of his monster tears but clearly Torres is more valuable to his position (second base) than Stanton is to the outfield or DH. If Didi Gregorius was the Player of the Month for April, Torres, for now, can take Dave Winfield’s famed title of Mr May. I don’t mean that as a slight since as the canvas has yet to be painted for the months of June through October in the historic young career of the latest Yankees superstar. He is the youngest player to hit home runs in four consecutive games and he’s just getting started. Remember back when we were projecting Tyler Wade as our second baseman? Me neither.
Okay, honorable mention for the game goes to Aaron Judge. His throw from right field, at 100.5 mph, to nail Kole Calhoun at the plate in the top of the 3rd inning which stifled an Angels threat was the stuff of legends.
|Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)|
Congratulations to the Yankees for the win and to Aaron Boone for one of his best managerial jobs to date.
Unfortunately, the Boston Red Sox used the long ball to maintain their one game lead over the Yankees (32-15) in the AL East. The Sox (35-16) hit four home runs to turn back the NL East leading Atlanta Braves, 6-2, including homers by league leaders Mookie Betts (17) and J.D. Martinez (16). The homer Trout hit off Sevy was also his 16th so the trio sit atop the leaderboard in AL homers.
You can’t mention Boston without bringing up the topic of Hanley Ramirez. When it was announced yesterday that Boston had designated Hanley for assignment, it caught the Baseball World by surprise. My Red Sox friends were shocked. Granted, there was no way the Red Sox were going to exercise the 2019 option on Han-Ram’s contract ($22 million). The contract option would have vested if Ramirez had reached 1,050 plate appearances between last year and the current season (he stood at 748, which included 195 PAs this season). The Sox needed to open a spot for the activation of 2B Dustin Pedroia off the DL but it had been speculated that the under-utilized Blake Swihart would be traded to make room. Regardless of the reasons for his dismissal, I won’t miss Ramirez in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. Even when he wasn’t hitting, he always managed, it seemed, to blast a massive home run against the Yankees in clutch moments. I can’t really see another team willing to pick up Hanley’s contract in full so it’s probable that he’ll be released. I guess he can get together with the unemployed Chase Headley to talk about the good old days. I am sure that we have not heard the last of Ramirez but at least it won’t be part of Baseball’s Greatest Rivalry.
|Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire (Kevin Sousa)|
Yesterday was also an active day for transactions with the Yankees. After reliever Ryan Bollinger was returned to Double A-Trenton, RHP Tommy Kahnle was activated off the DL. Catcher Erik Kratz, who spent the season at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers designated their backup catcher (Jeff Bandy) to make room for Kratz. I am glad to see the 37-year-old get the Major League opportunity that eluded him with the Yankees. To take his place at Triple A, the Yankees signed 33-year-old Wilkin Castillo (he turns 34 next week) out of the independent leagues. Castillo had spent time with the RailRiders (and Thunder) last year.
RailRiders first baseman Adam Lind was given his walking papers for the second time by the Yankees. There was no chance Lind was going to see the light of day at Yankee Stadium so he’ll presumably get a chance to find an organization with a clearer path to a Major League job. His departure also clears the way for the potential demotion of Tyler Austin to Triple A. The Yankees need to make room for Greg Bird who will be activated today and while no word has been made about the corresponding roster move, I continue to believe it will be Austin over one of the arms in the bullpen. Could be wrong but unfortunately Austin makes the most sense since he still has options available.
Former Yankees starter Nathan Eovaldi is expected to make his regular season debut for the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday. It’s been a long, difficult road for the hard-throwing Eovaldi since undergoing his second Tommy John surgery. I wish him the best of luck with the Rays, except for when he faces his old teammates again. But if he wants to beat Boston, Toronto, and Baltimore, that’s fine with me.
Today is Sonny Gray Day. His last start was one of the best in his short Pinstriped career. Can he keep it going or will he revert to Sonny Gray Sucks! status? I truly hope he’s turned the corner and can re-establish himself as one of the best young arms in the American League. Gray will be facing Angels starter Jaime Barria (3-1, 2.13 ERA) who, frankly, I have never heard of. Unknown rookie starters always concern me with the Yankees as they seem to struggle against those guys. But then again, we have Gleyber Torres. Life is good.
The 2018 Old Timer’s Day Rosters are loaded…
Yankees Old Timer’s Day is always an exciting event each year. I love the introductions and watching former Yankees greats take the field to the massive cheers of the home crowd. I cannot think of another team that honors its alumni as well as the Yankees. While I am grateful for each year that allows legendary Hall of Famer Whitey Ford to return to Yankee Stadium, the name which excited me the most this year was Andy Pettitte. It’s always fun when Andy makes a brief appearance during Spring Training or shows up while the team is on the road in Houston, but nothing is going to match his presence in the Bronx wearing the famed Pinstripes and the interlocking N-Y baseball cap. It will be Andy’s first appearance at Old Timer’s Day. The two greatest lefties in Yankees history will share the same field at the same time. Sweet…
I am also excited to see fellow first-timer Jason Giambi who will gleefully be sporting a Gleyber Torres jersey for the day.
While I am not a fan of Yankees President Randy Levine, I do not appreciate the bitterness expressed by former Yankee Jim Leyritz who did not receive an invitation. Leyritz directed his anger at Levine. He took to Twitter yesterday with “Yes it’s a joke already. Randy Levine and Debbie Tymon (Yankees SVP, Marketing) have said I didn’t do enough in Yankee history to be invited. How many sliders did they hit. Lol” I am appreciative of Leyritz’s contributions to the Yankees but he was never a star nor considered a key performer. Maybe the results of the 1996 World Series would have been different if Leyritz didn’t hit the eighth-inning three-run homer in Game 4 to tie the game which the Yankees eventually won in extra innings on their way to the championship in six games. I have no problem with the Yankees’ decision to pass on an invitation to Leyritz. Professionalism and character are part of the package for the invitees.
Here is the complete list of this year’s Old Timer’s Day participants:
Jesse Barfield (RF, 1989-92 Yankees)
Ron Blomberg (DH…MLB’s first, 1B, RF, 1969-76 Yankees)
Brian Boehringer (RHP, 1995-97, 2001 Yankees)
Aaron Boone (3B, 2003 Yankees; Manager, 2018-Present)
Jim Bouton (RHP, 1962-68 Yankees)
Scott Bradley (C, 1984-85 Yankees)
Dr Bobby Brown (3B, SS, 1946-54 Yankees)
Homer Bush (2B, SS, 1997-98, 2004 Yankees)
David “Coney” Cone (RHP, 1995-2000 Yankees)
Johnny Damon (OF, 2006-09 Yankees)
Ron Davis (RHP, 1978-81 Yankees)
Russell Earl “Bucky” Dent (SS, 1977-82 Yankees)
Al Downing (LHP, 1961-69 Yankees)
Brian Doyle (2B, SS, 3B, 1978-80 Yankees)
Mariano Duncan (2B, SS, LF, 1996-97 Yankees)
John Flaherty (C, 2003-05 Yankees)
Edward Charles “Whitey” Ford, “The Chairman of the Board” (LHP, 1950-67 Yankees)
Jason Giambi (1B, DH, 2002-08 Yankees)
Ron “Gator” Guidry (LHP, 1975-88 Yankees)
Charlie Hayes (3B, 1992, 1996-97 Yankees)
Reginald Martinez “Reggie” Jackson (RF, 1977-81 Yankees)
Dion James (OF, 1992-96 Yankees)
Jay Johnstone (OF, 1978-79 Yankees)
Scott Kamieniecki (RHP, 1991-96 Yankees)
Don Larsen (RHP, 1955-59 Yankees)
Graeme Lloyd (LHP, 1996-98 Yankees)
Hector Lopez (LF, 3B, 2B, 1959-66 Yankees)
Lee Mazzilli (1B, OF, 1982 Yankees)
Ramiro Mendoza (RHP, 1996-2002, 2005 Yankees)
Gene Monahan (Trainer, 1973-2011 Yankees)
Jeff “Nellie” Nelson (RHP, 1996-2000, 2003 Yankees)
Paul “The Warrior” O’Neill (RF, 1993-2001 Yankees)
Andy Pettitte (LHP, 1995-2003, 2007-13 Yankees)
Lou “Sweet Lou” Piniella (LF, 1974-84 Yankees; Manager, 1986-87, 1988)
Willie Randolph (2B, 1976-88 Yankees; Coach, 1994-2004)
Bobby Richardson (2B, 1955-66 Yankees)
Mickey “Mick the Quick” Rivers (CF, 1976-79 Yankees)
Nick Swisher (RF, 1B, 2009-12 Yankees)
Frank Tepedino (LHP, 1967-1971, 1972 Yankees)
Marcus Thames (OF, 2002 Yankees; Coach, 2016 to Present, Yankees)
Roy White (LF, 1965-79 Yankees)
Elston Howard widow Arlene Howard (C, LF, 1B, 1955-66 Yankees)
Jim “Catfish” Hunter widow Helen Hunter (RHP, 1975-79 Yankees)
Alfred Manual “Billy” Martin widow Jill Martin (2B, 3B, SS, 1950-57 Yankees; Manager, 1975-78, 1979, 1983, 1985, 1988)
Thurman Munson widow Diana Munson (C, 1969-79 Yankees)
Bobby Murcer widow Kay Murcer (OF, 1965-74, 1979-83 Yankees)
The 72nd Annual Old Timer’s Day will be on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 17th prior to the Yankees scheduled game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Heck, Rays Manager Kevin Cash (C, 2009 Yankees) might want to join the festivities.
As badly as it hurt to watch the Texas Rangers make mince meat out of the Yankees pitching staff on Wednesday night, it was probably salt in the wound to watch Danny Duffy and the Kansas City Royals bullpen hold the same Rangers to five hits and two runs last night. Duffy (2-6, 6.14 ERA) took a shutout into the eighth inning. Seriously? I hope CC Sabathia was watching and taking notes.
Hats off to the Tampa Bay Rays for turning back a furious Red Sox rally to beat Boston, 6-3, yesterday. The loss reduced the Red Sox lead over the Yankees in the AL East to only one game. The Red Sox entertain the Atlanta Braves (29-19, 1st in the NL East) at Fenway Park for a three-game weekend series starting tonight. Glad to see them finally play some winning teams.
The Major League career of reliever Ryan Bollinger lasted one game without an appearance. He was returned to Double A-Trenton after sitting in the bullpen for Wednesday night’s loss in Texas. His spot will presumably be filled by Tommy Kahnle who is expected to be activated off the disabled list today. Greg Bird is also expected to return this weekend. I still think Tyler Austin will be the odd man out with a free bus ticket to Scranton, PA.
Hopefully Luis Severino gets the Yankees back on the winning track tonight against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Given that we will not see Shohei Ohtani pitch this weekend, there’s no doubt he’ll be penciled in at DH to take his shots at Yankees pitching. I am sure if he watched the Yankees-Rangers highlights, he is drooling at the prospect. I trust Sevy will set the right tone for the series.
Photo Credit: Associated Press
Yanks win on two-run homer by El Gary…
A deep drive by Gary Sanchez and some stellar pitching were the right ingredients for the Yankees on Sunday night as the winning streak continues. The Yankees won their ninth consecutive game with the 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
With a runner in scoring position (former Yankee Chris Young at second) in the bottom of the ninth and two outs, the showdown between Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman and Angels second baseman Ian Kinsler was electrifying. As we are continually reminded, “Baseball’s greatest player” (Mike Trout…why do I always want to call him Steve?) was standing in the on-deck circle, putting increased pressure on Chapman to end the game with Kinsler. The seven pitch at-bat concluded with a swinging strike for the final out. Mike Trout could only stand and watch as the Yankees congratulated each other on the field for the series sweep, his bat resting to await the arrival of the Baltimore Orioles.
CC Sabathia pitched much better than I expected him to and the Yankees were, no doubt, the beneficiaries. The Yankees lose this game without CC’s exemplary start. Sabathia shirked the notion that he has become a five-inning pitcher (well, not really) by delivering seven strong. He held the Halos to five hits and one run, while walking one and striking out four. The run came courtesy of a wild pitch in the sixth inning after Justin Upton had reached base on an infield single and Albert Pujols singled, his 2,996th career hit, to advance Upton to third. It was vintage Sabathia and the Yankees needed every bit of it on this night.
Photo Credit: Associated Press (Mark J Terrill)
Credit to Angels starter Tyler Skaggs for holding the Yankees offense in check. When Giancarlo Stanton doubled in the top of the fourth inning, it was the first hit for the Yankees. Gary Sanchez followed with a home run to left, a shot that traveled 447 feet to give the Yankees a two-run advantage. Skaggs departed in the sixth inning due to a high pitch count, but those two hits in the fourth and an infield single by Gleyber Torres in the fifth were the only hits Skaggs allowed. He struck out eight Yankees over 5 1/3 innings and only walked two. He pitched well enough to win but, thanks to Gary Sanchez and CC Sabathia, he did not.
The Yankees (18-9) kept pace with the AL East division-leading Boston Red Sox. The Sox ended the Tampa Bay Rays’ eight-game winning streak on Sunday in a battle of bullpens which saw Rays closer Alex Colome cough up the winning run in the bottom of the eighth. Craig Kimbrel closed out the win for Boston. Bummer, I was really enjoying Boston’s losing streak and was pulling for the Rays to sweep. Sadly, all good things must end. The Yankees remain two games behind the Red Sox as we enter play on the final day of April.
Today the Yankees are in Houston, Texas to face the defending World Series champions and the site of last year’s heart-breaking Game 7 of the AL Championship Series that ended the Yankees’ season. I am sure that all Yankees fans on the East Coast are delighted the Yankees are in the Central Time Zone and no longer three hours away in the Pacific Time Zone.
I suspect the Yankees winning streak will end while the team is in Houston, but it would be nice for them to get at least ten in a row before it is over. I love ten-game winning streaks and we are so very close.
ESPN staff writer Coley Harvey posted this Giancarlo Stanton quote. “We can all click even more. So we’re getting the timely hitting, the things we need to win ballgames, and if it stays hot like that where it’s a different guy every night contributing, then we’ll be tough, tough to beat.” I agree but it is going to take solid pitching too. Sonny Gray takes the mound tonight and admittedly that scares me. Right now, I have the least amount of confidence in Gray among the Yankees starters. I never thought I’d say this but I want Gray to pitch like former Yankee Caleb Smith did yesterday. Smith picked up his first win of the season, going seven innings against the Colorado Rockies. He held the Rockies to two hits and no runs, walking only one batter while striking out nine. I’d love for Gray to deliver that type of performance for the Yankees. I seem to be losing faith in Gray with each start so selfishly speaking, I’d like to see him reverse the trend. I’d really like to see Gray pitch like he did in Oakland one of these days.
The Yankees will miss Gerrit Cole this series but they’ll face every other Astros starter since we are playing four games this week.
Here are the scheduled starters:
Monday, April 30th
Yankees: Sonny Gray (1-1, 7.71 ERA)
Astros: Charlie Morton (3-0, 1.86 ERA)
Tuesday, May 1st
Yankees: Jordan Montgomery (2-0, 3.76 ERA)
Astros: Justin Verlander (4-0, 1.36 ERA)
Wednesday, May 2nd
Yankees: Luis Severino (4-1, 2.61 ERA)
Astros: Dallas Keuchel (1-4, 4.00 ERA)
Thursday, May 3rd
Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka (4-2, 4.37 ERA)
Astros: Lance McCullers, Jr (4-1, 3.71 ERA)
This will be a tough series. Although the Yankees currently have a better winning percentage (.667 to .655), the Astros have the second highest win total in the American League with 19 wins (one behind Boston). The Astros have shown no World Series hangover and it is clear they’ll be a force to be reckoned with come October. The first test begins tonight. I just wish we were leading with our best foot forward (in other words, not Sonny Gray).
I am ready to win a game (or better yet, games) in Houston. Tonight does seem like a good time to start. C’mon, Sonny, don’t let me down.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Mark J Terrill)|
Yanks Score Early, Win Big…
The Yankees put up ten runs in the first two innings in Anaheim, CA and coasted to an 11-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday night.
I guess the Yankees were telling their East Coast fan base it was okay to go to bed early. Very considerate of these young and very talented Yankees. Always looking out for Yankees fans.
The FOX announcers were quick to point out that no team had ever scored five runs in consecutive innings to start a game against the Angels in the history of the franchise. Considering the Yankees have not matched up well against the Angels in recent years, it was even sweeter for the Yankees to win the first two games of the series. What’s amazing to me is the Yankees did it without any home runs or Didi Gregorius (0-for-3, although he did score a run after walking in the first inning, thanks to a couple of errors by the Angels’ Zack Cozart and a huge double to the left field corner by Gary Sanchez). If the Yankees are doing this well with minimal contributions from Giancarlo Stanton, what happen when the big guy goes on one of his home run tears? It’s scary to think what this offense is capable of when they are hitting on all cylinders.
When the Yankees scored those early runs, I felt this would be the game we’d see the Yankees debut of former Washington National A.J. Cole. Sure enough, Cole was assigned mop-up duty for the game’s final two innings. He extended the game a little further than I would have liked, leaving two baserunners in each frame, but at least he didn’t allow any runs. I’d love for pitching coach Larry Rothschild and the Yankees to figure out a way to unleash the potential talent in Cole but the first outing only reinforced that he is an eventual DFA candidate.
As for Masahiro Tanaka (4-2), it was a great start. Yes, he gave up another home run (as he, unfortunately, often does), but solo shots when you are leading by ten runs are not consequential. Masa’s final line was excellent…6 innings, two hits, one run, two walks, and nine K’s. He only threw 88 pitches but there was no need to extend him deeper into the game although he certainly could have. This is the Masahiro Tanaka we need for the long summer ahead.
|Photo Credit: Orange County Register (Bill Alkofer)|
The win was the eighth consecutive for the Yankees (17-9) but surprisingly they are not the hottest team in baseball. They share honors with the Tampa Bay Rays who also won their eighth straight with a big 12-6 win over their former ace, David Price, and the Boston Red Sox. The Rays were expected to reign supreme in the AL East Cellar this year but they’ve hurt their cause with a six-game lead on the pathetic Baltimore Orioles. Meanwhile, the Yankees have quietly slipped to within two games of the front-running Boston Red Sox and the calendar has not yet flipped to May. I guess they were right when they said that the AL East would not be decided in the month of April. Seriously, I didn’t grip when the Red Sox took off running to start the season but there were many Yankees fans who did. It’s still a very long season and it will be awhile before anything is decided…except that these Yankees are very good.
The Yankees conclude their three-game series with the Angels this evening and will be featured on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. Alex Rodriguez has been in town getting ready to provide color on his favorite team for the ESPN broadcast crew. The game features CC Sabathia (1-0, 1.86 ERA) against Tyler Skaggs (3-1, 2.96 ERA). The Yankees have a flight to Houston, Texas so they’ll have to work quickly tonight if they have any plans for sleep. The most brutal stretch of the schedule continues but at least the Yankees are winning. I know that helps me sleep better at night.
The Yankees lost RHP David Hale last week when he was claimed by the Minnesota Twins on waivers. However, his stay with the Twins did not last long. He gave up four runs in three innings during his Twins debut on Friday night and was subsequently designated for assignment. I suspect he’ll clear waivers this time around and will head to the minor leagues for the Twins. I wish the 30-year-old the very best as he tries to recapture the pitches necessary to sustain MLB success.
There has been much talk and debate about the impending return of third baseman Brandon Drury. It’s tough. Miguel Andujar has shown that he is ready and capable of being the regular at third. I was and remain a big fan of Drury and I still feel the Yankees will unlock greater magic from the bat of the former Arizona Diamondback. But admittedly, I agree you cannot sit Andujar. Perhaps Andujar goes into a slump and is inevitably sent down to Triple A. I hope not and doubt it but as the FOX crew frequently reminded us, “these things have a way of working themselves out”.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|
Although I think it will be a pitcher that does down to make room for Drury’s return from the 10-day DL, Neil Walker’s position the roster is becoming tenuous. Sure, he did have 2 RBI’s during yesterday’s win over the Angels but he is only 11-for-67 (.164/.219/.194, .413 OPS) and has yet to rediscover his power stroke. Drury’s ability to play first and second make Walker a redundant luxury since we know Ronald Torreyes is not going anywhere and Gleyber Torres is firmly planted as the team’s starting second baseman.
Walker is going to hit and he is capable of helping someone so armed with a team friendly contract, the Yankees should get some level of return for him in a trade rather than simply cutting him. I like the guy but there are only so many roster spots.
It blows my mind the guys the Yankees are connected to on the international market this summer were born four to five years after the great 1998 World Series championship. It seems like it was only yesterday the Yankees were on their magical run en route to 125 victories including the post-season.
Like many people, I thoroughly enjoyed Avengers: Infinity War this weekend and encourage everyone to see it. With lengthy trailers that carry the overall theater time to more than three hours (as with any Marvel movie, you have to stay through the end of the closing credits), I was caught up in every sequence of the movie and it certainly did not feel like I had been planted in my seat for three hours. It is highly recommended to visit the bathroom ahead of the movie and avoid any drinks. This is not a movie to step away for a few minutes for a trip down the hall.
Enjoy your Sunday and make it a wonderful day before you settle in to watch ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. Let’s keep this winning streak alive. Only two games from my goal of ten in a row.
Angels 10, Yankees 5…
The win on Wednesday was just a tease. Losing teams find ways to lose and unfortunately the Yankees gave another game away last night. Unless they can turn this around, the Yankees are showing that the early season was just a mirage. You can’t blame Aaron Judge. He’s trying. He hit his 25th home run of the season and has hit safely in 24 consecutive games (the longest Yankee streak of the year). But pitching, which has alternated between very good and very bad, is sitting in the latter category at the moment albeit with an occasional solid performance like Jordan Montgomery the other night.
Bronx Pinstripes had a great tweet last night. “What a disaster. At least we have Tanaka tomorrow. …Oh wait.” My line of thinking exactly…
The game started well enough. Despite Cameron Maybin’s lead-off home run to give the Angels an early 1-0 lead, the Yankees quickly answered in the bottom of the first when Angels starter Jesse Chavez walked Aaron Judge and Matt Holliday with two outs. Starlin Castro followed with a run-scoring single to tie the game.
In the bottom of the 2nd inning, it looked like this was going to be our night. Chris Carter doubled and Ronald Torreyes reached base on an infield hit, pushing Carter to third. Brett Gardner grounded into a force-out at second but Carter scored on the play. Aaron Hicks singled, putting runners at the corner, bringing up Aaron Judge. With a three-run shot to center, the Yankees were up, 5-1. I didn’t really expect those to be the final runs scored by the Yankees.
Credit: Kathy Willens-AP
The Angels started chipping away in the third when both Albert Pujols and Yunel Escobar had run-scoring singles with two outs. 5-3, Yankees. Luis Severino settled down after that for a few innings of solid work, but gave up another run in the 6th when Escobar opened the inning with a double and scored on a single by Luis Valbuena. Valbuena, a third baseman, is a guy I thought the Yankees should have pursued in the off-season when he was a free agent.
Still, I had hope that the Yankees could lock down the Angels, score a couple of insurance runs and win the game. Then, the 7th inning happened. Cliff Pennington opened the inning with a single. From there, the game unraveled. Cameron Maybin hit a ground ball to Starlin Castro that should have been turned for a double play but Castro’s fielding error allowed Maybin to reach base, with Pennington moving to third. So, instead of two outs and no one on, the Angels had runners at the corners with no outs. End of game for Luis Severino. Chasen Shreve entered the game and was greeted by a sac fly from Kole Calhoun which tied the score at 5. Exit Shreve, enter Dellin Betances. Maybin stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by Gary Sanchez. Albert Pujols said ‘I’ll take your gifts…thank you very much’ and lined a single to right, scoring Maybin for the lead. Betances walked Escobar, followed by a wild pitch moving the runners to second and third. With two outs, Andrelton Simmons doubled to give the Angels two more runs, 8-5.
Credit: Kathy Willens-AP
I was not ready to admit defeat and was pulling for an amazing comeback like the Yankees did earlier in the season against the Baltimore Orioles. Yeah, right. The Yankees went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 7th and the Angels were ready for more in the 8th. Domingo German took the mound, replacing Betances, and retired the first batter on a strikeout. Unfortunately, this was followed by Cliff Pennington’s double and a wild pitch that moved him to third. Cameron Maybin walked. A failed pick-off attempt at first by German, the third Yankees error of the game, allowed Pennington to score with Maybin moving to third. Kole Calhoun graciously accepted the latest gift, and hit a sac fly to push the score to 10-5.
The Yankees could only muster a single from Chris Carter in the 9th, and he was left stranded at second when Ronald Torreyes grounded out.
This was a very disappointing loss. I am not sure how you can lose two of three in your home park against the Mike Trout-less Angels. Giving away free runs on multiple errors and wild pitches are not the signs of a successful team. With the loss, the Yankees (39-31) fell back into a first-place tie with the idle Boston Red Sox. The Tampa Bay Rays, who also had the night off, moved to within 2 1/2 games of the leaders.
Yes, I am mad about this loss. And it scares the hell out of me that we’ll be throwing Tanaka out tonight against Yu Darvish. It doesn’t get any easier…
Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium…
The Texas Rangers make their first trip to NYC for a three-game series starting tonight. Pete Kozma, who started the year with the Yankees when Didi Gregorius was on the DL, is currently a back-up infielder for the Rangers. Ernesto Frieri, who previously opted out of his Yankees minor league contract, is in the Texas bullpen.
Rangers: Yu Darvish (6-5, 3.35 ERA)
Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka (5-7, 6.34 ERA)
Rangers: Austin Bibens-Dirkx (2-0, 4.25 ERA)
Yankees: Luis Cessa (0-1, 7.36 ERA)
Rangers: Nick Martinez (2-3, 4.33 ERA)
Yankees: Michael Pineda (7-3, 3.56 ERA)
Y’all enjoy the games now, y’hear!
Hopefully, we’ll see the team that throttled the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles a couple of weeks ago. I miss that team…
Odds & Ends…
Prior to yesterday’s game, the Yankees purchased the contract of left-handed reliever Tyler Webb from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. I am very excited to see Tyler finally make it to the Show. I’ve been following his career for a few years and I’ve liked the pitcher. I was worried in the off-season when he was selected in the Rule 5 Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. As a mature lefty reliever (he’ll turn 27 in less than a month), I thought he had the potential to stick with the Pirates. Despite a solid Spring performance, he was returned to the Yankees in a numbers game (fortunately for us). In 21 games for SWB, Webb is 3-1 with 3.24 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. He has struck out 47 batters in 33 1/3 innings while allowing 33 hits and 12 runs. He has only given up 3 walks and home runs. They may not be elite numbers but I feel Webb has earned his shot. I am glad that he is here even if it’s only temporary. Rob Refsnyder was sent to SWB to make room for Webb.
Credit: Chris O’Meara-AP
Greg Bird has been given a cortisone shot in his ankle and the hope is that he’ll soon be able to resume his rehab. I find it highly unlikely that this will be the solution that gets Bird back on the field. It seems to me that the problem with the ankle is more serious than we’ve been led to believe. The cortisone shot just masks the pain, it doesn’t fix the problem. There is daily speculation who the Yankees should look at on the trade market. Lately, Yonder Alonso has been receiving the most attention. I like Alonso and do feel that he’d be an upgrade over Chris Carter or Tyler Austin. I have no problems with Matt Holliday at first other than I want to keep the guy healthy. DH is the better avenue to accomplish that goal. The Atlanta Braves did a wonderful job in trading for the under-utilized Matt Adams, previously of the St Louis Cardinals. Adams has done nothing but hit since he became a Brave and has sparked speculation that injured first baseman Freddie Freeman may be moved to third when he returns. I want GM Brian Cashman to make one of those under-the-radar but highly productive moves. I know, easier said than done.
I think Aaron Judge should accept the invitation to participate in this year’s Home Run Derby. I know that some players mess up their swings but like Manager Joe Girardi, I don’t think it would adversely impact Judge’s swing. I like the idea of his exposure to the other great sluggers of the game. It’s all part of his maturation as a Major League superstar. The Yankees have renewed popularity this year because of guys like Judge and Gary Sanchez. The All-Star Game is a great format to represent the pride and tradition of the Yankees.
This is not baseball related but as an owner of a black cat, I found this one quite humorous…and true!
Have a great Friday! Let’s not start a new losing streak today, please.