Tagged: Aroldis Chapman

Time to Improve is Now…

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Julie Jacobson)

Please End the Battle of .500…

We are two-thirds the way through April and the Yankees are only one game above .500. Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox are winning at an amazing .889 clip.

Remember back in January and early February when we were so excited about the dynamic Yankees offense featuring the NL MVP and everyone said that the Yankees pitching staff was better than any potential replacements? Or how the Red Sox had no offense to go with their solid pitching rotation? Yeah, I miss those days.

Three weeks into the season and things are not quite as rosy. Yes, it’s a long season and much can happen between now and the end of September. I keep waiting for the silver lining to appear but sadly, so far anyway, the Boston Red Sox continue to devastate their opposition. Absolute annihilation might be more descriptive. It feels like HBO’s Game of Thrones and Red Sox manager Alex Cora is the Night King with an ice dragon and an army of the undead at his disposal.

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Hitting

.292/.362/.496, .859 OPS, 24 Home Runs, 109 RBIs, 323 Total Bases

.249/.343/.438, .781 OPS, 23 Home Runs, 92 RBIs, 260 Total Bases

Pitching

2.63 ERA, 127 Hits, 10 home runs, 1.09 WHIP

4.47 ERA, 145 Hits, 18 home runs, 1.27 WHIP

Fielding

.992 Fielding Percentage, 5 Team Errors

.971 Fielding Percentage, 18 Team Errors

It’s easy to look at the above numbers and recognize that the team with the top line is superior to the lower line team. I guess it’s little wonder why the Yankees trail the Boston Red Sox by six and a half games and it’s still only April (allegedly, according to my calendar).

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The team fielding is the most horrific stat since the Yankees are the worst team in Major League Baseball and the Red Sox are the second best, trailing only the Arizona Diamondbacks. It’s starting to feel like the Yankees are going to give away runs every game with their defense.

The law of averages say that the Yankees will improve their numbers while the Red Sox should cool off, but for the first three weeks of the season, Boston has been in a sprint. The Los Angeles Angels got off to a great start this year. When their series against Boston (at home) started on Tuesday, the Angels were 13-3. Three games later, when the Red Sox finally left Anaheim, the Angels had fallen to 13-6. They were decimated by a combined score of 27-3 over the course of the three games series sweep by the Red Sox. The Red Sox Nation is gloating and it sucks.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press

The Yankees have won three of four after last night’s 4-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, although the sting of the drubbing by the Miami Marlins on Wednesday night still hurts. Even though the Yankees did hang on Thursday evening for the one-run win, they gave two runs away and David Robertson walked a precarious tightrope in the 8th inning when the Jays loaded the bases with a couple of hits and walks and only one out. It was incredible that he emerged from the inning allowing only one run on a single by his former Yankees teammate Curtis Granderson. No offense to Dellin Betances (who pitched decently in the seventh inning), but it seems like if it had been Dellin in the eighth with the bases juiced, the Jays would have scored a plethora of runs. D-Rob’s performance (cleaning up his own mess in the face of great adversity) is one reason I hope the Yankees re-sign him in the off-season. I have far greater trust in Robertson as the setup man for Aroldis Chapman than I do Betances. By the way, it was very nice to see Chapman strike out the side in the ninth inning to preserve the win. It was a win but one that could have very easily gotten away from us.

Something’s got to give. At some point, Giancarlo Stanton is going to hit and he’ll carry the team on his back. I have no doubts about it but how deep is the hole going to be before it happens. That’s my biggest concern.  If the Red Sox play .550 baseball the rest of the way, they are a 95-win team. The Yankees need to improve their hitting, pitching and defense now, not later. The Yankees can’t let the Red Sox run away and hide with the AL East championship. Otherwise, we’re back into the one-game ‘do or die’ situation, assuming that the Yankees can grab one of the Wild Card slots.

There are 145 games left to play. Let’s make the most of them.

The Yankees re-signed first baseman Adam Lind this week to a minor league contract, most likely as a hedge against the health of Greg Bird and the sustained play of Tyler Austin. I don’t see how Lind will be ready to play when Austin begins serving his five-game suspension (or three or four games, whatever it turns out to be after the appeal is heard). I kind of wish Austin had started serving his suspension immediately. Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies received his five-game suspension after Austin and he has already finished serving his time.  With the Yankees only one game into a brutal 18-day consecutive game stretch against some of the best teams in baseball, it sucks that we’ll have to feature Neil Walker as the starting first baseman for a chunk of the games.

At this point, I can only say Thank God for Aaron Judge and Didi Gregorius. I am not sure where the Yankees would be without those two guys. The rest of the team should feel free to raise the level of their game to match the two young Yankees superstars. It starts tonight.  Sonny Gray, this is your wake up call. Pitch like we know you can. That’s all we ask.

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Photo Credit: MLB.com

I hate to keep using Daniel Burch’s line, but it’s never been more appropriate. Need a win…get a win.

Maybe one of these days I can wake up happy and cheerful like Daniel.

Go Yankees!

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Better With D-Rob Than Without…

Please do not D-ROB Peter to pay Paul…

More and more people are clamoring for David Robertson to be traded to free up salary room to make a big splash to reel in Yu Darvish or Mike Moustakas (on top of the huge acquisition to add slugger Giancarlo Stanton). For the record, I am not in favor of trading D-Rob.

I get it. Robertson will cost $11.5 million for luxury tax purposes but the guy is such a huge part of the Yankees bullpen. I was so glad when the Yankees reacquired Robertson last summer. I haven’t felt that type of excitement since Andy Pettitte came back from three years in Houston. One of my favorite Yankees coming home. D-Rob carries the Andrew Miller attitude…whatever it takes. Both men value the team ahead of the individual and are willing to pitch whenever, wherever. I trust Robertson more than any other member of the bullpen to close on the days that Aroldis Chapman is not available.

Dellin Betances can be the most devastating reliever in the game, but as we’ve seen, his 6’8” frame can also get out of whack, making him very hittable. The last couple of years, he has faded down the stretch. D-Rob may not always win, but he’s a strong competitor every time he takes the mound.

I am bummed that we are in the last year of D-Rob’s contract. I am hopeful the Yankees either re-sign Robertson after the season or make a huge play to bring back Andrew Miller, who will also be a free agent after the 2018 season.

But for the 2018 season, I cannot imagine the Yankees bullpen without David Robertson.

 

To me, it makes more sense to trade Brett Gardner. But every pro-trade Robertson article I’ve read, talks about how invaluable Gardy is to the clubhouse. I understand those intangibles, but time and again, the Yankees have had to replace strong clubhouse leaders. Team leadership did not dry up when Derek Jeter walked out of the Stadium for the final time. If Gardy leaves, another guy (or guys) will step up to fill the void. From purely a player aspect, D-Rob is more valuable to the bullpen than Gardy is to the outfield given the plethora of other younger outfield options.

The enigma on the current roster construction is Jacoby Ellsbury and his suffocating contract. The New York Post speculates that the Yankees might have to include as much as $50 million on the contract to move Ellsbury once the current market depletes itself of better outfield options. It’s not like Ellsbury suddenly became Pablo Sandoval. He is still a good player, but he doesn’t fit on the 2018 Yankees. Hopefully GM Brian Cashman will astound us all by finding a way to move Ellsbury’s contract sooner rather than later.

This situation bears watching over the next few weeks but hopefully when the team takes the field for the 2018 season, #30 is on the Yankees roster.

Photo Credit:  MLB.com

A familiar Foe…

The Toronto Blue Jays grabbed a potential infield option for the Yankees yesterday when they acquired former Yankee Yangervis Solarte from the San Diego Padres. Solarte lost his job at third base when the Padres reacquired Chase Headley. With an ability to play both second and third, Solarte would have been a good option for the Yankees to back the Gleyber Torres/Miguel Andujar youth movement.

Photo Credit:  Lenny Ignelzi-AP

Mayans MC, Opening Soon at a TV near you…

In a bit of non-baseball news, I have to plug an upcoming TV series. FX announced this past week that they’ve given a 10-episode series order for Mayans MC. Mayans MC, a spin-off of the highly successful Sons of Anarchy, is “set in a post-Jax Teller world, where EZ Reyes (JD Pardo), fresh out of prison, is a prospect in the Mayan MC charter on the Cali/Mexi border.  Now EZ must carve out his new outlaw identity in a town where he once was the golden boy who had the American Dream within his grasp.” The new series, which is set to premiere either this summer or late fall, is co-created by Kurt Sutter and Elgin James. The show will feature an almost all-Latino cast. Sons of Anarchy star Emilio Rivera (reprising the role of Mayans MC President Marcus Alvarez) headlines the strong cast that also features Pardo and Edward James Olmos.

I am very excited about the potential of the new TV series, and look forward to Sutter’s latest vision. Also, hats off to Glendale Harley-Davidson of Glendale, CA. They have been instrumental in helping the cast members of the new show. I bought my own Harley at Glendale H-D a few years ago and I very proud of this dealership.

Let’s Ride!

Steinbrenner Field, Opening Sooner…

In theory, the upcoming week should bring more baseball news to the table. The holidays are over, and training camps open in a little more than a month. I expect to see in increase in free agents signings which should loosen up the trade market. It’s been 20 years since the Yankees won 125 games enroute to the 1998 World Series championship. I am not saying that the 2018 team will be as great, but this team has the potential to be something special if Brian Cashman continues to make the right moves. It’s time to bring the championship back to the Bronx!

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!

To the ALCS? YES, in Didi!…

Credit:  Phil Long-AP

American League Division Series, Game 5

Yankees Win Series, 3-2

Yankees 5, Indians 2…

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

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

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

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

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

Credit:  Jason Miller-Getty Images

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

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

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

Credit:  Getty Images

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

Credit:  David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

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

Credit:  Getty Images

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

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

Credit:  Gregory Shamus-Getty Images

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

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

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

Credit:  David Dermer-AP

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

Yankees Fly to Victory Behind Tanaka and Company…

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

American League Division Series, Game 3

Yankees 1, Indians 0…

The Yankees rode the arms of Masahiro Tanaka and Aroldis Chapman, the glove of Aaron Judge and the bat of Greg Bird to to their first win in the ALDS. It was a very exciting game and one that cannot underestimate the value of Gary Sanchez’s defense behind the plate. 

After a postseason that was seen a bevy of starting pitching blowups in both leagues, this was a classic pitcher’s duel. Going against Cleveland Indians starter Carlos Carrasco, a “quiet” 18-game winner during the season, I figured that getting runs would be difficult.  

The Indians threatened first. With one out in the top of the 4th, the Indians got their second hit of the game when Jason Kipnis lined a shot into right field for a triple. Aaron Judge, running hard, tried to reach the ball but it bounced off the palm of his glove. It looked like the Indians might score the game’s first run but Tanaka struck out both Jose Ramirez and Jay Bruce, very dangerous sluggers, to retire the Indians (much to the delight of the very loud Yankee Stadium crowd).  

As great as Tanaka was pitching, the Yankees were unable to register their first hit against Carrasco until the bottom of the 4th when Didi Gregorius singled to center. He didn’t go anywhere but at least the Yankees had eliminated the goose egg under the hits column.  

Roberto Perez opened the top of the 6th inning for the Tribe with a single to left.  Giovanny Urshela lined out to right for the first out to bring superstar Francisco Lindor to the plate. Lindor smoked a Tanaka splitter high to right field and it looked like the Indians might have the first runs of the game. Hold your horses! Aaron Judge perfectly timed his leap and with his glove stretched high from his 6’7″ frame, he caught Lindor’s ball from landing in the first rows of the right field seats. It was a brilliant game-saving catch. If you can’t beat them with your bat, beat them with your glove.  

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

The Yankees mounted their first genuine scoring opportunity in the bottom of the 6th. The inning started when Aaron Hicks reached first base on a slow grounder to third off the end of his bat. Unfortunately, Brett Gardner hit a grounder to short which the Indians turned for a double play. Aaron Judge was next and he walked on five pitches. Gary Sanchez followed with a single to center. Didi Gregorius, like Judge, also walked on five pitches from Carrasco.  Bases loaded for Starlin Castro. Tribe manager Terry Francona made the call to the bullpen and brought in the great Andrew Miller. Miller retired Castro on a pop up to shallow left, leaving the bases full of Yanks. Ugh…

While Tanaka was continuing to breeze through the Indians’ lineup, Greg Bird led off the bottom of the 7th against Miller with a massive home run into the second deck (almost into the third deck) of right field. Remind me again why we (which includes me) wanted Yonder Alonso, Justin Bour, Lucas Duda or Jay Bruce for first base before the trading deadline. Bird is showing that he was the best first base “acquisition” of the second half. The Yankees were up, 1-0.

Credit:  Paul J Bereswill-NY Post

Todd Frazier followed Bird, however, he flied out to left. Francona made another call to the pen, this time for one-time Yankee Tyler Olson.  Olson struck out both Chase Headley and Aaron Hicks to end the inning, making me wonder why the Yankees cut Olson in 2016. Olson had come to the Yankees in the January 2016 trade that also brought Ronald Torreyes from the Los Angeles Dodgers for third baseman Rob Segedin. The Yankees ended up cutting both players, although we know that Torreyes eventually found his way back home. Nice job by Olson although I was hoping for a much worse result for him.

David Robertson took over for Tanaka in the top of the 8th. He got Austin Jackson to fly out to right for the first out, but then he walked Michael Brantley on a full count. Manager Joe Girardi wasn’t going to take any chances so he pulled D-Rob and replaced him with Aroldis Chapman. Chapman did his job, racking up two strikeouts on eight pitches.  

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

In the bottom of the 8th, with Olson still pitching for the Indians, Brett Gardner led off with a fly to center that dropped barely in front of the glove of center fielder Jason Kipnis for a double. The Indians brought in former Los Angeles Angels reliever Joe Smith who struck out Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. After Didi Gregorius was intentionally walked, Starlin Castro hit into a fielder’s choice at third to retire Gardy on the force out. I would have preferred an insurance run or two in that spot but it was not to be.

Onto the top of the 9th, and time for a showdown between Chapman and the Indians, facing the top of the order. Chapman struck out Francisco Lindor for the first out. Then things got very tense. Jason Kipnis singled up the middle to center field, followed by a very sharp grounder to third by Jose Ramirez. Todd Frazier made a great stop but the ball came out of his glove on the transfer from his knees.  Runners at first and second with only one out. Chapman, firing at 100 mph+, dug deep and struck out Jay Bruce for the critical second out. One man stood between Chapman and victory and it was Carlos Santana, more than capable of sending one out for the tying run. Chapman won the battle when Santana got under a 102 mph Chapman fastball and lifted a fly to left center into the glove of Aaron Hicks for the final out. The Yankees win!

Credit:  Getty Images

It was a nail-biter at the end but the Yankees persevered to live another day. I honestly didn’t think that Greg Bird’s solo home run would hold up as the margin of victory but to my pleasant surprise, it did. Clearly, if Aaron Judge hadn’t made that great catch in the 6th inning, there would be champagne stains on the floor in the visitor’s clubhouse.  

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was booed heavily by the home crowd during the pre-game introductions. I blamed Girardi for the Game 2 loss as much as anyone, but I thought it was unfair to treat Girardi so poorly. Regardless of his faults, he is the current manager of the Yankees and his job is win games for us.  The last thing he needed was our non-support. Not one of the better moments at Yankee Stadium.  

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

Gary Sanchez, who has taken much heat for his defense and league-leading passed balls, did an excellent job catching this game.  

For today’s game, the Cleveland Indians have announced that Game 1 starter Trevor Bauer, pitching on short rest, will get the nod. He’ll be opposed by Luis Severino who made the less-than-stellar extremely short start in the Wild Card game. Hopefully, Sevy will have the answer for his nerves tonight when he steps out on the main stage. His job is to get this series back to Cleveland and into the hands of Sonny Gray.

Odds & Ends…

I enjoy reading Nick Cafardo’s Sunday Baseball Notes in the Boston Globe even if it does have a slight Red Sox taint to it. Cafardo is a very good baseball writer. But one entry this weekend was disturbing. I know that there’s a strong possibility and very likely that new Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter will draw upon past relationships as he builds his new organization in Miami. Already, names like Gary Denbo and even GM Brian Cashman have been mentioned. Cafardo threw out a few more names of potential possibilities…Andy Pettitte, Tino Martinez, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera. Ugh, I really hope that this does not happen. While I may never have been a great fan of Jeter, he’s hitting on some names that I hold very dear within the Yankees history. I didn’t dislike Jeter when he was a Yankee (I appreciated his time in Pinstripes), but he wasn’t one of my favorites. The other names would be a little harder to accept (for me). It is tough enough watching Don Mattingly in a Marlins cap…

Credit:  Getty Images

Have a great Monday! Let’s even this series! Go Yankees!

The Road from the Bronx to Cleveland…

Credit:  Frank Franklin II-AP

American League Wild Card Game

Yankees 8, Twins 4…

Eventually, the Minnesota Twins will find the answer for their struggles in the Bronx but this will not be one of those years.  Admittedly, I was not feeling too good after Luis Severino had given up three runs on two homers in the opening inning and the Twins were threatening for more with only one out.  But exit Severino and enter the stellar Yankees bullpen, plus a few timely home runs, and the Yankees found themselves with a date with the Indians in Cleveland for the American League Division Series.  

For Luis Severino, it was a game to forget.  Whether it was his youth and/or his lack of post-season experience, he was overwhelmed and unable to find any of his pitches.  He needs to have another talk with Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, this time about life in October.  It was a learning experience for the youngster and I am sure that he’ll be stronger for it as we move forward.  

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

The Twins quickly took the lead when Brian Dozier led off the game with a home run that landed in the first row of the left field stands, bouncing off a fan’s hands and back onto the field.  Still, I thought that it was something that Sevy could overcome.  He got the next batter, Joe Mauer, to pop up which Todd Frazier caught in foul territory for the first out.  But then Sevy was unable to put away Jorge Polanco and walked him.  Eddie Rosario hit a line drive to right that carried out, and it was 3-0 Twins.  Manager Joe Girardi picked up the phone to get the bullpen ready.  Eduardo Escobar singled to left center, and Max Kepler followed with a double to right, moving Escobar to third. Unfortunately, it was evident, by then, that Severino was not going to overcome the jitters. Girardi made the call to the bullpen and brought in Chad Green.  Using Girardi’s words, it’s not what you want.  But the decision to go to Green paid off with two huge strikeouts of Byron Buxton and Jason Castro to hold the game to a three-run deficit.  There’s no question that the Twins could have easily escalated it to five runs or more.  Holding the Twins to only three runs was tremendous, and the set the stage for the events to follow.

The game was billed as a battle of Dominican Republic pitchers.  Ervin Santana, the Twins ace, was born about 70 miles away from Severino’s hometown.  Santana, carrying an 0-5 record in six starts at Yankee Stadium, had been asked how many wins he had at Yankee Stadium earlier this week and he responded that Tuesday would be one.  Tuesday has passed and he’s still looking for that first win.  

Handed a three-run lead, Santana walked Brett Gardner to start the bottom of the first inning.  Aaron Judge  battled Santana before finally hitting a single to center to put runners at the corners.  Gary Sanchez popped up to the catcher for the first out.  It brought Didi Gregorius to the plate.  Didi has been nothing short of spectacular this season and he came through in a big way.  On a full count, he got a hold of a Santana pitch to deposit it into the right field seats.  Suddenly, with a swing of the bat, the game was tied.  

After Chad Green easily retired the Twins in the top of the 2nd including two by strikeout, Brett Gardner hit a two-out solo homer into the second deck of the right field stands in the bottom of the inning to give the Yankees their first lead, 4-3.  

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

However, with Green still pitching, the Twins charged right back in the top of the 3rd.  Perhaps overstaying his welcome, the Twins loaded the bases when Jorge Polanco led off with a single to right and Green walked two of the next three hitters to load the bases with only one out.  Despite two starters in the bullpen, Girardi pulled Green and brought in David Robertson.  Byron Buxton grounded into a force out at second but Polanco scored on the play when the Yankees were unable to turn the double play to re-tie the game.  D-Rob struck out Jason Castro to end the inning and prevent any further damage. That was a huge spot for D-Rob and he came up big holding the Twins to only one run when they could have easily scored more.

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

In the bottom of the 3rd, Ervin Santana was gone, replaced by young Twins starter Jose Berrios.  Gary Sanchez led off the inning with a double to the left field wall.  When Berrios struck out the next two batters, it looked like he might be able to get out of the inning without Sanchez coming home to score.  Greg Bird had other ideas as he lined a single to right bringing Sanchez around for the go-ahead run.  5-4, Yankees.  Aaron Hicks singled on a soft grounder to third to put runners at the corners, but the Yankees couldn’t capitalize when Jacoby Ellsbury, starting at DH over Chase Headley and Matt Holliday, popped out to third to end the inning.

The Twins made a defensive substitution in the bottom of the 4th inning.  Byron Buxton, who had hit the wall to catch a Todd Frazier fly in the 2nd inning, was removed due to lingering effects of back tightness and replaced by New York native Zack Granite.  With the Twins’ best player, Miguel Sano, off the playoff roster dealing with his prior shin injury, losing Buxton, their next best great player was tough for the Twins.  Nothing against Granite, but he’s not the player Buxton is.  I hope that Buxton is okay and you never want to see a player leave through injury.  But that one hurt the Twins (no pun intended).  Todd Frazier struck out for the first out but Brett Gardner followed with a single to left on a fly dropped in front of the left fielder. Aaron Judge stepped up (literally and figuratively) and hit one of his shorter home runs to left.  I was unsure for a moment if it was a home run but the ball had indeed hit above the fence line before bouncing back on the field.  Judge, showing the most emotion I’ve seen from him as he rounded first base, circled the bases to give the Yankees a 7-4 lead.  

David Robertson was still pitching in the 6th inning, making one of his longest appearances.  Zack Granite led off with a single to right on a ball that got under Starlin Castro’s glove.  D-Rob struck out Jason Castro and Robbie Grossman for two outs, but that final out would prove elusive.  With Brian Dozier at the plate, a wild pitch allowed Granite to easily move to second.  Dozier subsequently walked to bring the tying run to the plate.   Girardi signaled for the bullpen and brought in Tommy Kahnle to replace D-Rob. Joe Mauer hit a long fly to left and for a moment I couldn’t tell if it was in or out when the TV crew switched cameras as the ball was falling.  Fortunately, Brett Gardner made the catch on the warning track for the final out.   Another huge spot with success for the Yankees.

Kahnle easily retired the Twins in the 7th inning.  In the bottom of the inning with Twins reliever Trevor Hildenberger on the mound, Aaron Judge got things started by taking a walk.  I thought it was an excellent at-bat for Judge as he avoided chasing any pitches.  Gary Sanchez hit a ball through the hole on the left side into the outfield.  Judge advanced to third.  The throw from the outfield sailed over the third baseman’s head (they probably could have nailed Judge at third had the throw been accurate) so Sanchez was able to move to second.  With no outs and two runners in scoring position, the Twins elected to intentionally walk Didi Gregorius.  Great strategy to open up the potential for the double play or a force out at home, but it left no margin for error.  Starlin Castro had the first crack at the potential scoring opportunity but he flied out to right.  With Greg Bird up next, the Twins brought in reliever Taylor Rogers, a lefty, for an all-Denver, Colorado battle (Bird is from Aurora, CO while Rogers hails from Littleton, CO).  Rogers won the battle when he struck out Bird for the second out.  The Twins made another call to the bullpen and brought in Alan Busenitz to face former Twin Aaron Hicks.  Busenitz couldn’t throw strikes and walked A-A-Ron on four pitches to bring Judge home.  The Yankees had increased their lead to 8-4.  Jacoby Ellsbury flied out to leave the bases full, but the Yankees added an important insurance run.

Tommy Kahnle came back out for the 8th inning and retired the Twins in order. The Twins nearly had a base runner with one out but Zack Granite ran over first base without touching the bag on a grounder to first.  Bird tossed the ball to Kahnle who dropped the ball but Starlin Castro alertly picked up the ball to tag Granite out before he could get back. I didn’t expect to see Dellin Betances given his struggles in September so I was very glad to see Kahnle continuing to pitch very strongly to get the game into the 9th inning and into the hands of Aroldis Chapman.  Chapman gave up a two-out single to Joe Mauer but the inning was never in doubt as Chapman easily shut down the Twins, striking out Jorge Polanco to end the game.  The Yankees win!  

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

I am still not a fan of the single-game elimination but the Yankees persevered and head for Cleveland to face the Indians for Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Thursday.  Now I can say that I am very joyous about the Yankees being in the post-season. It is so hard to be excited about a potential ‘one and done’ situation and I was very uneasy coming into the game.  It didn’t help when Luis Severino had nothing and gave the Twins the strong early lead.  You’d think that the Law of Averages would eventually tilt in Minnesota’s favor given the Yankees long-standing history of dominance over the Twins.  I was very pleased that Tuesday was not their night.  They’ll eventually get a key victory in the Bronx but it won’t be this year.  

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

Congratulations to the New York Yankees for moving to the next round!  I have very proud of this team and their accomplishments this year.  They may not win the next round but the Yankees have shown the world their future is bright.  This team has the potential to surprise but if not, there’s no doubt this will be a stronger team when they take the field next season.  

Game Notes…

Chasen Shreve threw out the first pitch.  The Las Vegas native symbolized representation for his home city after this week’s senseless tragedy that claimed 58 lives and injured more than 500 people. There was a moment of silence observed for the victims.   

Credit:  Paul J Bereswill-NY Post

Earlier this season, Chase Headley took one near the family jewels.  The same fate was bestowed upon Gary Sanchez when a foul ball hit the catcher where the sun doesn’t shine causing Sanchez to roll on the ground in pain while David Robertson was still on the mound.  Ouch!  Fortunately, he was able to continue. That was a painful experience to watch.  It would not have been fun to be the recipient.  

Have a great Wednesday!  We have a day to enjoy and then the work begins on Thursday.  Go Yankees!

Dancing Among The Legends…

Credit:  Getty Images

Yankees 2, Blue Jays 1…

It may not have resulted in the AL East championship, but CC Sabathia gave the Yankees what they needed to propel the team to the narrow victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon. Give credit to the Yankees for making the Boston Red Sox earn the division title and not handing it to them. This was a game for the ages, raising the names of Whitey Ford and Babe Ruth…

Sabathia locked into a pitching battle with Toronto’s Marcus Stroman for the first few innings. The game was scoreless until the bottom of the 4th when Aaron Judge belted a monster blast over the left field seats (484 feet) for his 52nd home run of the year.  All Rise!

Credit:  Jim McIsaac-Getty Images

But the Yankees weren’t finished. Didi Gregorius hit a one-out single to left, a ball that nearly grazed the top of the glove of Blue Jays shortstop Ryan Goins. While Starlin Castro was taking his hacks at Stroman, a wild pitch got away from catcher Russell Martin (a bouncer through his legs) allowing Didi to advance to second. With the count full, Castro singled to center, past a diving Ryan Goins who barely got a piece of his glove on the ball, to score Gregorius. The Yankees were up, 2-0.

The Blue Jays changed pitchers for the bottom of the 5th with reliever Aaron Loup replacing Stroman. Loup walked two of the first three batters he faced (the two Aarons) to put Hicks in scoring position, but the Blue Jays pulled Loup and inserted Carlos Ramirez who shut down Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius on a strikeout and fly out, respectively.  

The top of the 6th brought a little drama and memories of the Jeffrey Maier incident years ago the then 12-year-old reached out to catch Derek Jeter’s fly in Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS and Jeter was awarded a home run. With one out, Ryan Goins got a hold of a Sabathia pitch and sent it high to right. Momentarily, it appeared to be a home run but replayed showed a young fan reaching out to catch the ball. The play was reviewed but the call on the field (ground-rule double due to fan interference) was upheld. Goins took second and the fan was shown the exit. Sabathia struck out Teoscar Hernandez for the second out but with Josh Donaldson on deck, CC’s day was done. Chad Green came into the game and got Donaldson to hit a fly to left for the final out. The shutout remained intact much to the delight of Sabathia. Sabathia finished with 5 2/3 innings pitched, and giving up only four hits with no runs or walks. He struck out six in what may have been his final Yankees regular season start.    

Credit:  Bill Kostroun-AP

Tommy Kahnle took over for Green in the top of the 8th and unfortunately gave his best impersonation of Dellin Betances (the bad version). The first batter he faced, Ezequiel Carrera, hit a soft dribbler on the third base side and beat the throw from Kahnle to first. Miguel Montero, pinch-hitting for Rob Refsnyder, drew a walk so the Blue Jays had the tying run on base. Kahnle was pulled and replaced with David Robertson. Ryan Goins struck out but D-Rob missed with a full count fastball to walk Teoscar Hernandez. The bases were loaded with only one out. Josh Donaldson hit a fly to left for the second out, with Carrera coming home to score on the sacrifice. Brett Gardner had to run to make the catch as the wind pulled it back, and his throw to the plate almost nailed Carrera but Gary Sanchez couldn’t hold on to the ball. 

Credit:  Bill Kostroun-AP

Robertson came through big when he struck out Justin Smoak swinging to preserve the Yankee lead by the slim one-run margin.

Aroldis Chapman on the for the 9th inning and it was 1-2-3 game over with Starlin Castro running to his left to catch Darwin Barney’s line drive for the final out. The Yankees win!

Credit:  Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees (91-70) saw their hopes for the AL East title dashed in the clubhouse when the Boston Red Sox completed their 6-3 victory over the Houston Astros. David Price got the Sox out of a bases-loaded jam in the 7th inning. Former Yankee Brian McCann did his part with a homer in the 9th inning but it wasn’t enough. The Yankees will host the AL Wild Card Game against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night. The winner will advance to play the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS. The Red Sox will continue their current series with the Houston Astros in their ALDS matchup, moving from Boston to Houston for Game 1.

Congratulations to CC Sabathia (14-5) for his successful season. I know that I had given up hope for the aging pitcher, like many fans, but he showed that he is capable of reinventing himself ala Andy Pettitte. The win was Sabathia’s 237th of his career, passing the legendary Whitey Ford. 

Credit:  Reuters

The troublesome knee is still a concern but CC Sabathia earned his right to be part of the 2018 Yankees. Hopefully, the team and the player can come together for a mutually rewarding contract in the off-season.  

Credit:  Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Judge will most likely not play today so if that’s the case, he finishes with a .284 batting average, 52 home runs and 114 RBI’s. His homer was the 33rd of the year at home, breaking the franchise record set by none other than the immortal George Herman “Babe” Ruth in 1921. It’s been an incredible season for the highly talented young slugger. First full season and he’s rubbing shoulders with the greatest  of the greats in franchise history.

 

Odds & Ends…

Andrew Romine of the Detroit Tigers became the fifth player to play all nine positions in a Major League game. To play catcher, he used a ‘hand me down’ glove courtesy of his brother Austin. Romine pitched in the bottom of the 8th inning with the Tigers nursing a 3-2 lead over the Minnesota Twins. He retired the only batter he faced, Miguel Sano, on a ground out to third. He handled all of his defensive chances cleanly. A very nice accomplishment for Austin’s older brother.  

Credit:  Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

There was a nice Twitter exchange between Aaron Judge and Marcus Stroman after yesterday’s game.  

Stroman:  @TheJudge44 is creating history. He hits baseballs extremely far too. Lol looking forward to competing against him the rest of my career!

Judge:  Much respect @MStrooo6!! Love your fire and passion for this game!! Keep that chip on your shoulder!! 👊👊

Stroman:  Always my man. The future battles will be legendary. Good luck in the playoffs young king!

Personally, I would rather see these two become Yankee teammates…

Have a great Sunday! The final game of the regular season. Let’s bring home a victory in preparation for Tuesday. Go Yankees!