Tagged: Austin Romine

Weird Win is a Win, I’ll Take It…

Photo Credit: AP (Ron Schwane)

Yankees survive Tribe on odd play and stellar bullpen…

If it takes a little league homer to beat the Cleveland Indians, so be it. A day after a Yankees rally fell short by one run against the Tribe, I had no issue with the deciding run in yesterday’s tilt being decided on Austin Romine’s lead-off double in the seventh inning that resulted in a run thanks to a couple of errors. Romine’s hit to the gap in the right center was bobbled by Brandon Guyer for the first error as Romine slid safely into third. The relay throw ended up bouncing past Jose Ramirez at third and Mike Clevinger back up the play into the dugout and the umpiring crew awarded Romine home plate for the go-ahead and eventual winning run.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (David Maxwell)

 

For two teams with great hitters and defenders, it was an odd way for a game to be decided. The win allowed the Yankees to go up two games to one in the current series, putting them in position to take the series today before most of the players head for their homes and families for a few days of rest and relaxation.

It wasn’t the greatest outing for CC Sabathia, giving up four runs on four hits over 5 2/3 innings against his original team but credit him for keeping it close. Didi Gregorius had staked CC to an early lead with his three-run homer in the first inning. It was Didi’s 17th home run of the year.

The Indians chipped away at the Yankees’ lead, tying the game at four in the bottom of the sixth when Brandon Guyer, who entered the game with a .162 batting average, hit a two-out infield single to third to score runners at second and third. Miguel Andujar’s wide throw pulled Greg Bird off the bag at first to allow Guyer to reach base safely and Bird’s subsequent throw home glanced off the glove of Austin Romine, allowing the second and tying run to score. The hit chased Sabathia, but David Robertson came in to restore order. He walked the first batter he faced but then struck out Yan Gomes to end the inning.

D-Rob pitched a clean seventh inning and Dellin Betances did the same in the eighth.

The ninth inning was filled with a bit of drama. It started when Brandon Guyer led off the bottom of the inning with a pop up in foul territory. Austin Romine went back for the ball and Miguel Andujar came charging in and neither player came up with the ball, with an error charged on Andujar. It looked like it should have been Romine’s ball but the ball drifted toward Andjuar who couldn’t get out of the way.

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

It didn’t matter when Guyer grounded out to short, but then Aroldis Chapman walked Cleveland’s top prospect Francisco Mejia, who represented the tying run. Mejia had just been recalled earlier in the day to make his 2018 MLB season debut.  After striking out Yan Gomes, it set up a rematch of the 2016 World Series with Chapman facing Rajai Davis. As the announcing crew reminded us again and again, Davis had homered off Chapman to tie that game, the seventh and deciding game, although the Chicago Cubs eventually won it and the series with Chappy picking up the win. There would be no Davis home run this time around. His fly out to right field ended the game, giving the save to Chapman, his 26th of the season, and the win to David Robertson (7-3). With seven wins, D-Rob has as many wins as Masahiro Tanaka and more than any other Yankees pitcher not named Luis Severino.

Greg Bird continued his recent hot hitting with a sixth inning solo blast off Indians starter Mike Clevinger that had briefly given the Yankees and Sabathia a two-run cushion. It was Bird’s eighth home run of the year.

The game also featured the ejection of Manager Aaron Boone who showed some fire in the top of the sixth inning. After Giancarlo took a called third strike on a ball that hit his hands as he swung, Boone argued that the ball should have been ruled foul but to no avail. The umps were right but it was fun to see Boone fired up. It was Boonie’s second ejection of the season.

Photo Credit: AP (Ron Schwane)

There was some good defensive play by second baseman Tyler Wade in the game (can we DFA Neil Walker already?) although he was unable to make a difficult play in the bottom of the sixth that led to the first baserunner who would eventually score on Brandon Guyer’s two-run single.

The Yankees (62-32) remained 3 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East. The Toronto Blue Jays took the Red Sox into extra innings before losing the game in the 10th on a walk-off grand slam home run by Xander Bogaerts.

With the Manny Machado rumors subsiding, it appears most likely that he’ll be traded to a National League team which, all things considered, is probably for the best. The rumors involving the Philadelphia Phillies seem the most fervent at the moment, but the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers remain in the chase. It does seem odd to me that some teams would be willing to part with top prospects for a player they may have no chance to re-sign in the off-season. But then again, if you think you have a chance for the World Series, it might be worth it if you feel that Machado is the difference-maker. I am sure the Dodgers would hate to see Machado end up in Philly. My biggest fear is Machado being traded to the Red Sox so I am anxious for the O’s to send their star shortstop to the NL as soon as possible. Given how much Orioles owner Peter Angelos hates the Yankees, I could see him sending Machado to Boston just to spite the Yankees even if the return for their team was less.

We may soon see Joe Girardi back in a dugout. The St Louis Cardinals surprisingly fired their manager, Mike Matheny, yesterday. Matheny was expected to be dismissed in the off-season but apparently the Cardinals organization became impatient (an uncharacteristic trait for them) as Matheny seemingly lost control of his clubhouse. Joe Girardi has emerged as a favorite to replace Matheny. The Cardinals are currently 47-46 and 7 1/2 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central and six games behind the second-place Milwaukee Brewers. they are just four games out in the Wild Card hunt. The last time the Cardinals fired a manager during the season was Joe Torre in 1995. I’ve seen the names of Jose Oquendo, Carlos Beltran, and even Jason Giambi mentioned, but Girardi would seem to make the most sense for a team trying to rebound from first half turbulence. Mike Shildt, the Cardinals bench coach, has been named interim manager. Girardi has some connection to the team as he finished his playing career in 2003 with the Cards.

While I realize the sexy names like Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Madison Bumgarner, and Blake Snell are beyond reach for the Yankees, the most likely names that are available just plain scare me (not in a good way). Michael Fulmer, a name that has been connected to the Yankees for months, has been awful this year. I’ve tried to rationalize his performance by the fact that he plays for a bad team, but he was hit hard by the Houston Astros yesterday.  He failed to complete five innings, giving up ten hits and seven runs, as his season record fell to 3-9. There’s no way that I’d want to see the Yankees give up Clint Frazier and/or other top prospects for Fulmer despite his youth, potential and cost-controlled status. Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ have been awful. TGP’s Daniel Burch cites Zack Wheeler as a possibility but that one doesn’t excite me. Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney of the Los Angeles Angels are the most recent names mentioned. There is a very real possibility that the Yankees are unable to find a match for a top starter or two. Other teams are willing to overpay but the Yankees are not. I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I want to see Frazier, Justus Sheffield and Estevan Florial thrive as Yankees, but on the other hand, something needs to give if the Yankees intend to catch the Red Sox in the second half. Boston shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Hopefully the Yankees can win today to send us into the All-Star Break on a positive note. Masahiro Tanaka (7-2, 4.68 ERA) makes the start against Trevor Bauer (8-6, 2.23 ERA). It should be a good game and a great day for a victory.

Go Yankees!

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A Gray-fully Pathetic Start…

Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)

Can I get the Men in Black Neuralyzer, please?…

Aargh! That’s one game that I’d just as soon forget. It looked like a mismatch on paper with Chris Sale versus Sonny Gray and sadly it was. The Yankees were hammered 11-0 and could only muster two hits against Sale and the Red Sox bullpen. No game highlights for this one. Maybe the mercy killing when Aaron Boone finally pulled Gray with one out in the third inning after 68 miserable pitches.

Of course this game was not all on Gray. Despite the seven hits and six runs he allowed, the bullpen was not up to the task  as they would let five more Red Sox runners cross home plate and the Yankees hitters could not buy a hit on Sale. When Giancarlo Stanton singled in the first inning, it was the first and only hit that Sale would give up. By the time he departed after seven innings, he had racked up eleven strikeouts. Gleyber Torres registered the second hit for the Yankees with a meaningless two-out single in the ninth against Sox reliever Hector Velasquez but the Yankees were unable to get any extra base hits on this night. By the time it was done, the Sox had accumulated 17 hits (or 15 more than the Yankees) and Chris Sale had the easy victory over the Yankees.

I hate games that are over before they really start and that’s what happened yesterday. A grand slam in the first inning by Rafael Devers gave the Red Sox a 4-0 lead before the Yankees had taken an at-bat.

Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)

The Red Sox picked up a couple more runs in the second inning and the most positive of Yankees fans (which wouldn’t include me) were screaming that it was still early and lots of time to make up ground. Unfortunately, the Yankees were never in this one.  It’s best to forget the loss and look forward to today when a much more reliable starting pitcher takes the mound for the Yankees. Of course that could be any other pitcher in the Yankees starting rotation not named Sonny Gray but thankfully for us it will be Luis Severino as the Yankees attempt to take the series despite the pitiful loss on Saturday. My goal for this series was to take two of three and it’s still very possible.

I really think we need to come to the realization that Sonny Gray is not cut out for New York.  It happens. Not every pitcher is meant to play on Baseball’s biggest stage. I am sure that he can be a very good pitcher for a team in a more forgiving and less pressurized environment. He has all the makings of a future Pittsburgh Pirates starter, following in the footsteps of former Yankees A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova. Or send him back to Oakland. The A’s are third in the Wild Card standings and have three months to make up seven games on the Seattle Mariners. Maybe they’d like to get their former ace back for the stretch run. I keep waiting for Gray to have his Yankees moment but it never happens.

After the game, he was quoted as saying “I feel like we’re the best team in baseball four out of five days, and then I go out and do that.  It just sucks.” I guess even he acknowledges that Sonny Gray sucks.

I have seen a few suggestions that the Yankees should trade Gray-for-Gray. Jon Gray of the Colorado Rockies is another pitcher who might benefit from a change in scenery. The Rockies optioned Gray to Triple A yesterday.  He is 7-7 with a 5.77 ERA for the season, but has ace-like stuff. In 108 innings this season, he has struck out 119 batters (fourth in the NL) and has only allowed 11 homers which is noteworthy considering he pitches in the hitter-friendly high altitude of Coors Field. The Yankees drafted Gray in the tenth round of the 2011 MLB Draft but he did not sign. Nonetheless, he’s a pitcher they’ve scouted and potentially one they could turn around. I’d gladly send Sonny Gray and a prospect to Colorado for Jon Gray.

I’ve been talking up Brandon Drury for weeks and in his return to the lineup, he goes 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. But it wasn’t just him. Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres also struck out three times. An O-fer night was prevalent among most of the hitters.

As if it wasn’t bad enough, the Yankees lost catcher Austin Romine after six innings when he tweaked his left hammy. MRI results came back negative, but it most likely means that Romine will be lost for a few games even if a trip to the disabled list is not in the cards. Kyle Higashioka, 0-for-21 in his MLB career, becomes the starter if Romine misses any time. If the Yankees have to bring up a catcher from the minor leagues, they’ll have to make room on the 40-man roster (with several guys on the 60-day DL, I believe the 40-man currently stands at 39). The most likely and the most expendable option appears to be 34-year-old Wilkin Castillo. Castillo hasn’t appeared in the Major Leagues since 2009 with the Cincinnati Reds. I liked some of the work that 27-year-old Jorge Saez did during Spring Training but he has missed time this year with injury and has only appeared in 15 games for Double-A Trenton, batting .224/.296/.245 (no homers, 3 RBI’s). Currently healthy, his last ribbie happened on April 21st so Saez does not appear to be ready for a promotion. The injuries at catcher certainly reveal the lack of depth at the position, at least in the upper levels of the farm system and why the Yankees went so heavy for catchers in the recent draft. I kind of wish the Yankees had held onto Erik Kratz, who was traded to Milwaukee in May.  Ronald Torreyes has been listed as an emergency catcher in the past. Okay, I wouldn’t trust Toe catching but his bat would certainly be more reliable than others. However, I believe that he is currently on a personal leave of absence at Triple A. Another catching option, Francisco Diaz, delivered a game-winning walk-off RBI single yesterday as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders took down the Pawtucket Red Sox in extra innings. Diaz, 28, is hitting .302/.417/.373, with a homer and 20 RBI’s in 41 games (mostly at the Single and Double A levels). Whichever catching option gets promoted will lose his 40-man roster spot when the need is over which makes it seem like Castillo is the best option.

Photo Credit: Newsday (J Conrad Williams, Jr)

The loss dropped the Yankees (53-27) a game behind the Red Sox (56-28) in the AL East, and two games ahead of the Mariners in the Wild Card standings.  The Yankees still have the second best winning percentage in MLB.  The third-place Tampa Bay Rays beat the Houston Astros, the team many call the best team in Baseball, and Justin Verlander to reach .500.

After the game, the Yankees optioned Giovanny Gallegos to Triple A. So, they have an open spot on the active roster. You’d think they would fill the position with a pitcher since they previously sacrificed a pitcher to promote Brandon Drury. So, if the Yankees do promote a catcher, it would seem that a position player (Drury?) will have to go the other way. Using a catcher to fill the spot vacated by Gallegos would leave the Yankees with only eleven pitchers which seems very unlikely. Sorry, Brandon, you look like the odd man out even if I’d rather see Neil Walker get DFA’d.

It’s a new day. Today is a good day. A great day for a Yankees win. We got this. Go Yankees!

The AL Starter in the MLB All-Star Game Should Be…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Hunter Martin)

An Easy Decision for Astros Manager A.J. Hinch…

I am starting to think that Luis Severino simply plays at a higher level than anyone else. If there was a league higher than Major League Baseball, he would have already graduated. I remember being so frustrated in 2016 when Sevy couldn’t buy a win as a starter. I was among many who felt that his future might be better served in the bullpen. Thank God I am not a baseball scout. Severino plays with confidence but that does not begin to equate to the level of confidence he gives us as fans when he takes the mound.

I remember the Summer of ’78 when Ron Guidry dominated the opposition (25-3, 1.74 ERA) and represented almost a guaranteed win every time he pitched. There have been some good pitching seasons by other pitchers since then but I don’t think I’ve had the confidence in any pitchers like I did Gator that summer until now. The fact that Severino is homegrown and not a product of free agency or trade makes it even better. I am very proud of the pitcher Severino has become and look forward to his exciting years ahead.

A day after Jonathan Loaisiga took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, Severino completely shut down the Phillies offense. Sevy (12-2) owned the strike zone and toyed with the Phillies hitters. He may have started to tire late but he gave the Yankees seven strong scoreless innings, scattering six hits and did not walk a batter. He had nine strikeouts to increase his season total to 132 (seventh best in MLB). If Severino is not chosen as the AL Starter for the All-Star Game, it will be a travesty.  He has clearly outpitched the two usual suspects (Chris Sale and Corey Kluber) and has three more wins than A.J. Hinch’s own stud, Justin Verlander.

The day started right when Aaron Hicks led off Tuesday’s game with a homer over the center field wall against Phillies starter Jake Arrieta.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

The Yankees extended their lead to 4-0 in the third inning, thanks to a two-run single by Gleyber Torres which was immediately followed by Greg Bird’s RBI single.

Austin Romine, promoted to full-time starter for the next three or four weeks, opened the fourth inning with a double to deep left center. Sevy was the next batter and although it was anticipated that he’d be the first out, he did take a couple of good hacks before striking out. Rather than being an easy out, he battled and it paid off when Arrieta thew a wild pitch to advance Romine to third. Even though Sevy struck out, I felt his at-bat was productive. Aaron Hicks took advantage of Romine’s presence on third with a deep fly to right to score the runner. 5-0, Yankees.

The Yankees closed out their scoring in the top of the fifth inning when Didi Gregorius led off with a solo homer to right center, his 15th of the year. From there, it was Sevy and the bullpen to the finish. Adam Warren pitched a clean eighth inning, but I have to admit I got sick to my stomach when Aaron Boone brought Chasen Shreve in for the ninth despite the six-run lead. It got worse when Shreve walked Carlos Santana after the first out and was down 3-1 on the next hitter (Nick Williams). A two or three-run homer and the Phillies were back in this game. Fortunately, Williams grounded out and Scott Kingery hit a liner right at Gleyber Torres to end the game. Shreve did his job, but I am sorry, he still sucks.

Regardless of what happens today, the Yankees have won their series with the Phillies which helps overcome the weekend sweep by the Tampa Bay Rays. After the game, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said that Severino was “as dirty as you possibly could be”. Agreed and it’s quite alright by me. I am really hopeful Sevy is throwing like this when he makes his next start against the Boston Red Sox.

The Yankees (52-25) maintained their half-game lead on the Red Sox (53-27). The Sox had an easy time with Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels, winning 9-1 at Fenway Park behind David Price. Don’t look now but the Rays are hot. Fresh off their sweep of the Yankees, they’ve taken the first two games of their series with the Washington Nationals. Yesterday, Nathan Eovaldi and the Rays beat Max Scherzer and the Nats, 1-0. Nasty Nate is looking good. The Rays have won five in a row and have closed the gap with the Yankees to fourteen games. Ha! They’re not going anywhere but if the Rays win today, they’ll be back to .500. Not bad for a team that looked like a mess in the preseason.

Brandon Drury has cooled off at Triple A with only two hits in his last seven games but I remain hopeful that he’ll be back in the Bronx soon. He played first base again yesterday for the second time in five days. Aaron Boone was quoted yesterday as saying Drury at first was not on the front burner, but from my perspective, the versatility certainly helps. I remain a fan of Drury and I’d prefer to see him play for the Yankees as opposed to being part of a July trade for pitching.

Why do so many non-Yankees fans try to sell the idea of a Gleyber Torres-for-Jacob deGrom trade? Look, I’d love to have deGrom on the Yankees, but there’s no way that I would trade Torres for him. With Torres, we have second base locked up for the next decade (or more) with a player that should make a few All-Star teams. Pitchers are too fragile. deGrom is great but not at the cost of Torres. Down the road in about five years when deGrom is trying to reinvent himself as an older pitcher, Torres will still be a superstar in his mid-20’s.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Another former Yankee was thrown on the scrap heap this week when the San Diego Padres designated reliever Tyler Webb for assignment. He’s one of those guys I always wanted to succeed but for whatever reason it has never happened for him. Hopefully he’ll find better luck with his next organization. If not, maybe he can play cards with Chase Headley, Rob Refsnyder and Jesus Montero.

Although I was very confident yesterday thanks to Luis Severino, today is “not-so-much”. The Phillies stand a very good chance of taking the series finale since the Yankees will be throwing out Luis Cessa to make the spot start in order to push CC Sabathia to the Red Sox series. The Phillies will start Zach Eflin (5-2, 3.44 ERA). Advantage Phillies. I really wish that I could bring myself to like Cessa as a starter but I just can’t do it. Oh well, with the Yankees offense, it’s always possible that Cessa could win despite himself.

Go Yankees!

The Lasagna was Fantastic!…

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Photo Credit: For NJ.com (Lori M Nichols)

Jonathan Loaisiga assumes the role of “Stopper”…

The Yankees win!  My three favorite words.

The three-game losing streak is over, and the Yankees are back in the win column. Even though they may not have the most wins in MLB, they hold the best overall winning percentage.

While I was optimistic the Yankees would take the series opener in Philadelphia, I certainly did not expect young Jonathan Loaisiga to take a no-hitter into the sixth inning. It was a marvelous pitching performance for the 23-year-old who bypassed Triple A to put on the famed Pinstripes a couple of weeks ago.

Jorge Alfaro broke up the ‘no-no’ with a leadoff single to right in the bottom of the sixth inning. After a walk of Aaron Altherr, a groundout by Cesar Hernandez advanced the runners to second and third. It was the end of the night for Johnny Lasagna. Job well done. David Robertson came in (a nice NL double switch by Aaron Boone, who also inserted Neil Walker at first in place of Greg Bird to take the pitcher’s spot in the batting order) and struck out young Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins for the second out. Robertson induced Odubel Herrera to hit a grounder to second for the final out, leaving the two Phillies baserunners stranded. Hoskins and Herrera are such a huge part of the Phillies offense so it was a great moment for D-Rob to preserve Loaisiga’s scoreless outing.

Loaisiga (2-0) finished with 5 1/3 innings, 86 pitches, surrendering only the lone hit by Alfaro, a couple of walks, and eight strikeouts.  It was quite simply a magnificent performance for a team that needed the win. I know, for me, Loaisiga has certainly exceeded all expectations. To his credit, he has very strong believers in the Yankees organization. Otherwise, he’d still be pitching in Double-A.

It was good to see the Yankees score first.  It seemed like they were always playing from behind in the Tampa Bay series. In the top of the second inning, Greg Bird walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch by Phillies starter Vince Velasquez. Leading AL Rookie of the Year contender Gleyber Torres doubled to right to bring Bird home with the game’s first run.

With two outs in the top of the fifth, Aaron Judge scorched a liner into the left field stands to give the Yankees a two-run cushion. The home run was Judge’s 20th of the year.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

After David Robertson emerged unscathed in the sixth inning, he was not so lucky the next frame. Former Cleveland Indian Carlos Santana led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk. A wild pitch by D-Rob moved Santana to second. Scott Kingery, who hit the Yankees well in Spring Training, laced a run-scoring single to left to make it a one-run game.

The Yankees picked up a couple of insurance runs in the top of the eighth inning when Giancarlo Stanton delivered a two-run single off Phillies reliever Yacksel Rios. The eighth inning also saw one of the ugliest at-bats we’ll ever see when Dellin Betances, bat wiggle and all, struck out for the second out with two runners in scoring position. I guess it was his argument that the NL needs to adopt the DH rule. I know that I’d prefer to see him stick to his day job of throwing the baseball.

Capture

Betances got into trouble in the bottom of the eighth. He walked the first batter which is never a good sign.  I guess he was still thinking about that awful at-bat. He picked up a couple of outs but then walked Odubel Herrera to bring the tying run to the plate in the form of Carlos Santana. Manager Aaron Boone pulled the plug on Betances and brought in closer Aroldis Chapman. Santana jumped on the first pitch with a laser shot to left that looked like it might drop in for extra bases but fortunately Giancarlo Stanton tracked the ball down and caught it on the warning track. For as much as we ripped Stanton’s defense during Spring Training, the Yankees could have lost the game right there if Stanton had not made that tremendous catch.

Chapman shut the door on the Phillies with three strikeouts in the bottom of the ninth, despite a meaningless two-out solo home run by Maikel Franco. Yankees win, 4-2.

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Photo Credit: For NJ.com (Lori M Nichols)

The Yankees (51-25) moved a half-game up on the Boston Red Sox in the AL East standings. The Red Sox had the night off. The Sox have one more win than the Yankees but two more losses. Every team in the division won yesterday except for the, well, pathetic Baltimore Orioles who never seem to win any games.

I am not quite sure why the Yankees continue to stand behind Chasen Shreve. I assume he’ll eventually figure this out and return to a role of prominence but, personally, I have lost patience with him. Sunday started with the false news reports that Shreve had been DFA’d and ended with Shreve served up the gopher ball to Jake Bauers which allowed the Rays to take the walk-off win after 12 innings, sweeping the series with the Yankees. It really made me wish those DFA news reports had been true. There are many who feel Triple A lefty Josh Rogers is fully capable of stepping into Shreve’s spot in the Yankees bullpen. Admittedly, it is tough to see guys like Shreve and Neil Walker on the MLB roster, blocking legitimate big leaguers like Tommy Kahnle and Brandon Drury…and others. Maybe the Yankees patience pays off and Shreve becomes a big part of the pen before the season is over. I just know that if I owned the team, his Yankees career would have already ended.

Given the Yankees are in Philly, it is only fitting the two starting pitchers most closely connected to the Yankees are former Phillies. While I like Cole Hamels, the pitcher that intrigues me the most is J.A. Happ. I remember back in the days when he pitched for Philadelphia and I thought his name was pronounced “Jay-Aye” Happ rather than the correct pronunciation of “Jay” Happ. I always liked the guy but he couldn’t really put it together in Philly or a few other stops until he became a 20-game winner for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2016. Last year was a bit of a disappointment (10-11, 3.53 ERA) but wins aren’t a good barometer for pitchers, particularly when their team is not so good. This year, Happ is 10-3 (3.62 ERA) but yesterday I was impressed how he beat Justin Verlander and the Houston Astros. Sure, he only pitched six innings and gave up three runs but he picked up the win when former Yankee Curtis Granderson hit his second home run of the night in the seventh inning. The Astros have been hot lately but Happ cooled their jets. The Blue Jays needed a brilliant defensive play by Randal Grichuk (took away a potential home run from George Springer) to preserve the win for Happ  but beating one of the best teams in baseball is a noteworthy achievement. I also like the fact that Happ wouldn’t cost top prospects and would slot very nicely into the Yankees rotation. He’s a free agent at the end of the year so he’d be a true rental unlike Hamels whose 2019 $20 million contract option carries a $6 million buyout. While Happ is a late bloomer, Hamels enjoyed his greatest success earlier in his career with the Phillies. Hamels may be the more accomplished pitcher but I’d rather go with Happ for the reduced financial and prospect commitments. The difference in their present day abilities is not that great.

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Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Brett Coomer)

Nice quote of Manager Aaron Boone (courtesy of Bryan Hoch) about Giancarlo Stanton: “He’s getting synced up. He’s getting started a little bit earlier. It’s very subtle but it’s allowing him to get into a strong position.  We’re starting to see the results a little more consistently now.” The best team winning percentage in Major League Baseball and Giancarlo is starting to crank it up. Nice. I should feel badly that Gary Sanchez will spend the next month on the disabled list but I have confidence in Austin Romine to hold the ship while the other bats get hot. No offense to El Gary, but it will be nice to see a few less passed balls in the coming days and weeks. Hopefully the time away will help Gary bring his A-game back when he resumes play next month.

Prior to yesterday’s game when the Yankees placed Sanchez on the disabled list, they also optioned Clint Frazier to Triple A (bummer!) and recalled catcher Kyle Higashioka to back up Romine and added an additional arm with righthander Giovanny Gallegos. I hope Higgy enjoys greater success than last year when he was hitless in 18 at-bats. His bat has gotten off to a slow start in Pennsylvania this year.

Today’s game at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia should be a fantastic one. The Yankees will send their ace (Luis Severino, 11-2, 2.24 ERA) to the mound against former Chicago Cubs ace Jake Arrieta (5-5, 3.42 ERA). Arrieta, a late free agent signing, has started off slowly like so many of the other late signees, but he’s still an ace and a champion. I expect him to raise the level of his game against the mighty Yankees. Top shelf competition which we know Sevy loves dearly. It should be a fun day.

Go Yankees!

High-Flying Yankees Invade Florida…

Photo Credit: AP (Bill Kostroun)

Another Series Win, check…

What a week! After splitting Monday’s quasi-double-header with the Nationals in Washington, D.C., the Yankees swept the resurgent Seattle Mariners in the Bronx.

The games against the Mariners couldn’t have been more exciting. After a fairly easy win on Tuesday night, Wednesday featured the Yankees’ rally from a 0-5 deficit with a game tying two-run homer in the 8th inning by Gary Sanchez followed by Giancarlo Stanton’s dramatic two-out, two-strike walk-off home run in the bottom of the 9th. Yesterday, the Yankees used two first inning two-run dingers by Aaron Judge and Miguel Andujar to hold off the M’s for the series sweep.  

Photo Credit: AP (Bill Kostroun)

Honestly, I did not expect the Yankees to sweep the Seattle series. The Mariners entered the game 20 games above .500, and were hanging with the Houston Astros atop the AL  West. The M’s left NYC yesterday with a four-game losing streak and 3 1/2 games behind the Astros.  Not a fun week for them. Still, the Mariners are playing much better than people expected when their star player, former Yankee Robinson Cano, was injured and then subsequently suspended for 80 games due to suspected PED use. There’s no doubt with a play or two here and there, the M’s could have easily taken two of the three games.  

I didn’t really get Aaron Boone’s decision to bring in Chasen Shreve to relieve Jonathan Loaisiga during Wednesday’s game. Sure, Loaisiga created the fourth inning mess that had given the Mariners an early 1-0 lead and he departed the game with two outs and runners at first and second, but Shreve did him no favors by allowing a two-run single to Dee Gordon, with both runs charged to Loaisiga. When Shreve entered the game, it felt like it was a great opportunity for the M’s, not the Yankees, and it was. I do not trust the lefty and if there’s a spot in the bullpen that desperately needs an upgrade, it is Shreve. In a bullpen of stars, he is the weakest link.    

Fortunately, after Shreve allowed a couple more runs, Boone made the decision to bring in Jonathan Holder who has been the best reliever not named Dellin Betances in recent weeks. Holder held the M’s scoreless over 2 1/3 innings to set the stage for the late inning heroics by Sanchez and Stanton. For me, Holder’s performance was the key to winning the game. 

I don’t know if it (the dramatic 9th inning game-winning home run) was Giancarlo Stanton’s “signature moment” but it was certainly a huge one for the Yankees and their fans. Stanton benefited from a misplaced pitch but to his credit, he didn’t miss it. Seattle reliever Ryan Cook knew he had made a mistake almost as quickly as the ball had left his hand. Hopefully, for Stanton’s sake, it is a sign of great things to come at Yankee Stadium for the slugger who has been much better on the road than at home ala Sonny Gray.  

On a day when the Yankees used a walk-off home run by #27 to win a game, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders did the same when Zack Zehner, wearing #27, hit a 9th-inning two-run homer to beat the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, 5-3. Very ironic and coincidental.

Yesterday, the Yankees scored four runs on two homers in the first inning against Seattle’s James Paxton, and then had to hold on when Luis Severino did not have his best stuff. Sevy allowed a two-run homer in the second to Kyle Seager and was touched again for a run-scoring single in the sixth inning by former Yankee Ben Gamel to make it a one-run game. The bullpen trio of David Robertson, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman kept Seattle off the board from there to deliver Sevy his 11th victory of the season and it almost certainly ensures the young right-hander will be part of the AL All-Star team next month.  

Photo Credit: AP (Bill Kostroun)

Thursday’s game also featured the first time that both Seattle’s Andrew Romine and his brother, Austin, started the same game.  It seems like that would have happened while Andrew was playing for the Detroit Tigers but it never did. Andrew started at shortstop for the Mariners and was 1-for-4 (seventh inning single; stranded at second) while Austin was 0-for-4, starting at catcher in place of Gary Sanchez. I loved the punch that Andrew threw at Austin while at the plate.  

Photo Credit: NY Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

With the Yankees  (50-22) in St Petersburg, Florida to face the Tampa Bay Rays for a weekend series, they enter play today with a two-game lead over the Boston Red Sox (50-26) in the AL East. The Red Sox averted a series sweep by the home team at Target Field in Minneapolis, MN yesterday when they beat the Twins, 9-2, but the two-game lead for the Yankees is the largest they’ve held this month. It’s incredible that both the Yankees and Red Sox are on a path for more than 100 wins and the Yankees have yet to play their best baseball. Yesterday was the first day of summer but it should be a very fun summer for the Yankees and their fans. Somewhere in other Major League cities, there are several talented players and/or pitchers that will soon find themselves on the roster of the greatest team in baseball. No offense to the All-Star Game, but the MLB trading deadline is THE event of July. We’re buyers this year, boys…

The Brandon Drury Watch continues to yield fruit. On Thursday, Drury’s two-run single keyed a series win by the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders over the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. Drury played first base (second time this season) in the 3-1 win and made some good defensive plays.

A.J. Cole finally got to pitch Tuesday after 22 days as a spectator with a good seat for Yankees games, holding Seattle scoreless over the final two innings in the Yankees’ 7-2 win and now he’s on the 10-day DL. Bummer. Cole apparently suffered a neck strain prior to Wednesday’s game while playing catch. I guess that’s better than landing on the DL after injuring yourself while pulling on your pants like Chicago Cubs closer Brandon Morrow. Luis Cessa, on a rehab assignment with the Double-A Trenton Thunder, was recalled to take Cole’s place. Pardon me if I am feeling a little underwhelmed.

Given the Yankees are back in Florida to play the Rays, it means more starts against “openers”. Ryne Stanek opens tonight. He opened for the Rays last Saturday in New York when the Rays lost to the Yankees, 4-1. Stanek pitched an inning and a third before making way for a more extended stint by Ryan Yarbrough. I expect the same 1-2 formula tonight. Yarbrough hasn’t pitched since Saturday’s game, while Stanek pitched an inning of relief for Blake Snell on Tuesday night when the Rays snapped Houston’s 12-game consecutive win streak. CC Sabathia will open, okay start, for the Yankees. The Rays (34-40) are currently tied for third place in the AL East with the Toronto Blue Jays, 17 games behind your favorite Pinstripers.

The Rays go with another opener on Saturday (Wilmer Font) against Sonny Gray. As a road game, I am looking for much better things from Gray. Sunday will feature the first legitimate starter for Tampa when the talented Blake Snell takes the hill. He’ll face the ever-improving Domingo German in what should be a great pitcher’s duel.  

A great time to be a Yankees fan. A great day for a Yankees win.

Go Yankees!

Oh, I See Ya, Jonathan Loaisiga…

Photo Credit: La Prensa/Oscar Navarrete/Archivo

Rookie to Make MLB Debut on Friday…

As expected by many, Jonathan Loaisiga (Loh-AYE-see-gah) will make his Major League debut against the division rival Tampa Bay Rays on Friday at Yankee Stadium. No pressure. He’ll be pitching for baseball’s best team in America’s greatest ballpark in front of thousands and thousands of rabid Yankees fans.  

I do not doubt the potential of Loaisiga’s arm but the concern is that he’s never pitched higher than Double A. In essence, he leap-frogged over higher rated pitching talents like Justus Sheffield and Chance Adams, but the 23-year-old is viewed as having a Major League-ready arm and has the notable advantage of holding a 40-man roster spot which means the Yankees do not have to remove someone from their seat at the table like they would if they called up Sheffield or Adams, or Josh Rogers.  

I suppose it’s better to give the young right-hander a shot over an underwhelming name like David Hale or the rehabbing Luis Cessa but I probably would have gone with Sheffield. The Yankees need to place Sheffield on the 40-man roster before December’s Rule 5 Draft so it’s inevitable they’ll soon need to make room. I am not sure why A.J. Cole is still on the Yankees roster. He was routinely in the mix for the back-end of the Washington Nationals rotation the last few years but has never gotten the opportunity to start for the Yankees since his acquisition on April 24th. For basically a month and a half, Cole has primarily been paid to watch the Yankees play, only with a better seat than you or I. Manager Aaron Boone has called upon Cole for a grand total of eleven innings. It’s not his fault that his first name is not Gerrit. Cole (1-0) has been effective in his limited volume of work. In six games, he has only given up one run on six hits for 0.82 ERA. He has walked six batters but has struck out twelve. He started two games for the Nationals to begin the season, and opened with one of the worst pitching lines you’ll ever see (3 2/3 innings, 10 hits, 10 runs) in a 13-6 loss to the Atlanta Braves on April 3rd. In fact, he gave up runs in all four appearances he made for the Nats in April before he was sold to New York for cash. Still, I would give Cole an opportunity based on his MLB experience. There is talent in his arm even if the results have been fleeting. The Yankees either need to use him or lose him to open a 40-man roster spot for a guy like Sheffield. Keeping him around for late inning blowouts seems like a waste of resources.  

Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Loaisiga was born in Managua, Nicarauga in November 1994.  He originally signed with the San Francisco Giants, but missed the 2014 and 2015 seasons due to injury and had Tommy John surgery in 2016.  He is only 5’11” and 165 pounds but according to MLB.com, “While Loaisiga is small and skinny, he has surprising power to this three-pitch repertoire. His quick arm repeatedly generates 93-96 mph fastballs that top out at 98 with life down the strike zone. His low-80s curveball features a high spin rate and his upper-80s changeup has a nice fade, albeit with a bit too much velocity.”

Personally, I would have preferred to have seen Loaisiga, nicknamed Johnny Lasagna, pitch a few games at Triple A. I didn’t really like the Yankees decision to re-sign David Hale who doesn’t have much upside (in my opinion) other than being a below-average, replacement level starter. Loaisiga should have been the starter at Triple A over Hale.  

Yesterday’s 3-0 win over the Washington Nationals marked the start of a 16-day, 16 1/2 game schedule before the next day off so the Yankees need to get results from Loaisiga plus continued improvement from Domingo German to hold up the rotation until the Yankees can make trades for more experienced help next month and Masahiro Tanaka returns from the disabled list.   

As for the win, it was great to see the return of Sir Didi’s bat. After dominating MLB in April, Gregorius spent May as an imitation of Brendan Ryan. Okay, that’s not fair. The slick-fielding, no-hit Ryan had a mustache. Didi’s two home runs last night helped power the offense, but enough cannot be said about the great job Austin Romine has done as backup catcher this year. Romine was 1-for-2 and his sac fly accounted for a run. During the off-season, it seemed like most people (yeah, me too) wanted the Yankees to sign someone like Alex Avila to backup Gary Sanchez but Romine answered the bell and has been one of the game’s best backup backstops.  

The game featured a good performance from the elderly CC Sabathia (4-1). The soon-to-be 38 year old held the Nationals to 4 hits and no runs over 5 2/3 innings. He both walked and struck out three batters on 101 pitches. The bullpen chipped in 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, holding the Nats to only one hit while striking out six batters. Another fine performance by the reinvigorated Dellin Betances and another save for the Cuban Missile (his 18th).  

The game was probably one that Bryce Harper would like to forget. I am sure that he’s still getting over the loss by his beloved Las Vegas Golden Knights to his baseball hometown’s Capitals in the Stanley Cup Finals but two unintentional plunking’s by Yankees pitchers last night before he pulled himself from the game did not help.

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

If Yankees fans, well, some of us, get their way in the off-season, Bryce will have the potential for much better days at Yankee Stadium minus the road grays he wore last night. Realistically, do I think the Yankees will sign Harper?  No.  Honestly, would I prefer Harper over Giancarlo Stanton?  As much as it pains me, yes.

X-rays were negative and Bryce is expected back today for the series finale but let’s hope that memorable days in the Bronx are delayed by at least one game.

The Yankees (43-19) could not gain any ground on the Boston Red Sox (46-22). The Yankees and the Sox are tied atop the AL East although the Yanks lead by 0.018 percentage points. Boston beat the Baltimore Orioles, a team that seems permanently stuck on 19 wins, 6-4. The O’s had their chances and did score two runs in the bottom of the 9th against Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, but Pedro Alvarez, representing the tying run, struck out to end the game. Seriously, I do not see how Buck Showalter can survive this season. It is a sad ending for the former Yankee.

In the category of ‘I don’t know why it took so long’, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders started Brandon Drury at first base in the second game of a double-header against the Rochester Red Wings yesterday. The first game saw Drury’s 32 game on-base streak end. He was 0-for-3 with a run scored (reached base on a fielding error by former Seattle Mariners infielder Taylor Motter, the Ben Gamel look-alike). Drury was 1-for-3 with a triple and 2 RBI’s in the second game to start a new streak. The RailRiders won both games.

The way Drury has played, he deserves a promotion back to the big league club. In 34 games and 112 at-bats for the RailRiders, Drury is hitting .313/.442/.455 with .897 OPS. He has 2 homers and 14 RBI’s. As dismal as Greg Bird has looked at the plate since his return, I’d pull a ‘Torreyes’ on him (unexpected demotion to Triple A) in order to call up Drury. I’d take Drury over either Bird or Tyler Austin right now. We already know that Neil Walker can play decently at first and Drury is capable of learning the nuances of the position. I think it is more important for the Yankees to get Greg Bird going so that’s why he would be my choice for the temporary sabbatical in Pennsylvania over Tyler Austin. For now, Austin and Walker can man first base effectively.

Over the weekend, there was a story about how Drury was unhappy in the Minor Leagues. What is he supposed to say? ‘Ya know, I really like it here in Scranton. The people are nice, the food is good, I don’t have 50,000 fans screaming in my ear’. I want Drury to be unhappy where he is. He has earned the right to be a Major League player and he is one. I have been a fan of the player and I will continue to be regardless of the accomplishments garnered by Miguel Andujar. There’s room for both Andujar and Drury on the Yankees roster.

Photo Credit: The Scranton Times-Tribune (Butch Comegys)

It’s a home game today for Sonny Gray so I am a bit concerned. Too bad he can’t wear the road uniform on the mound. Anyway, I hope Gray’s recent resurgence continues and he finally shows that he can be dominant at Yankee Stadium. Let’s sweep the Nats.

Go Yankees!

Sonny Gray, We Found You!…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Ed Zurga)

Yanks win eighth consecutive Series…

Backed by uncharacteristic run support (at least for him), Sonny Gray finally pitched on Sunday like the guy who was an ace in Oakland. We’ve seen few glimpses of that guy since he became a Yankee last July. I know, it was against one of the worst teams in the American League but it was a great Sonny Gray start. For a game anyway, this warrants a ‘Sonny Gray DOES NOT suck’ from me.  

As you know, I am quick to criticize Gray so I owe it to him to recognize a wonderful performance. Gray (3-3) pitched eight innings, holding the Kansas City Royals to four hits and a single run. He didn’t allow the run until the eighth inning when he was starting to tire. He walked a batter and struck out five in the 10-1 victory. The four homers, including two by Tyler Austin, were fantastic but there was no doubt Gray was the star of this game.

A.J. Cole, in a rare appearance, pitched a clean ninth inning. Sure, he had a big lead but ask the Miami Marlins about holding a big lead in the ninth inning. They had a 9-4 advantage Sunday against the Atlanta Braves (a team many are starting to liken to the 2017 Yankees) and had Brad Ziegler on the mound to close it out. Six runs later, the Braves walked off the field a winner. So, I try to never underestimate a mop up role like the one Cole faced. 

Now for the home runs. Tyler Austin is making a very convincing case to stay with the Major League club despite the impending return of Greg Bird. I’ve felt all along Austin is the most susceptible for a demotion to Triple A to make room for Bird. Even with his two home runs on Sunday, I still think he’ll be the odd man out since he has options remaining. The Yankees aren’t getting rid of Ronald Torreyes and I don’t see them cutting bait with Neil Walker. Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media speculated this morning that the Yankees will DFA Walker and trade him for a minor leaguer to use the remaining balance of his $4 million contract at the trading deadline (in addition to the space they already have) to open a spot for Bird. I suppose he may be right but I have liked the versatility Walker brings and he has hit better of late. But I have to admit that a tandem of Bird-Austin at first base is a bit scary (in a good way).    

Photo Credit: The Kansas City Star (John Sleezer)

Miguel Andujar and Austin Romine tacked on solo homers in the ninth which did more to help their personal statistics than the team’s result.

Yankees Twitter was aghast before the game when the lineup was posted. Many had expected to see Gary Sanchez at DH, Didi Gregorius at short, and Clint Frazier in left. Instead, Giancarlo Stanton was the DH, Brett Gardner in left, and Ronald Torreyes was the shortstop for the second day in a row. I understood the move with Sir Didi who is mired in a 1-for-45 slump. Nothing against the great Brett Gardner, but I would have preferred to see Red Thunder in left. But at the end of the day, it didn’t matter. The Yankees cranked out fourteen hits with Aaron Boone’s lineup to power the offense.  

Nice job by Austin Romine. During the off-season, so many Yankees fans (maybe even me) wanted the Yankees to sign Alex Avila to replace Romine as the backup catcher. Yesterday, Romine had perhaps his greatest game as a Yankee. He was 3-for-5 with two RBI’s. He had a run-scoring single in the fourth inning in addition to the ninth inning dinger. It’s worth noting that Romine is batting .326 in 48 plate appearances with the homer and nine RBI’s, while Avila is only batting .132 with two homers and four RBI’s in nearly twice as many plate appearances and has opened the door for more playing time for former Yankee John Ryan Murphy with the Snakes.   

It was great to see the Yankees dominate two consecutive games against the lowly Royals after Friday night’s disappointing loss. It had been a very tough week for the Yankees with the rainouts in Washington, D.C. It was not surprising they played sluggishly in their only loss in the Royals series, but I was glad to see that it lasted only one game before they were back in expected form.  

The lone disappointment yesterday was the option of outfielder Clint Frazier to Triple A after the game. I know, it was inevitable. It was a numbers game and Frazier is better served by playing every day for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He’ll head to Pennsylvania and await the next call to Yankee Stadium. It’s not what you want (to borrow Joe Girardi’s line), but Frazier is only an injury away from returning. 

The Yankees now head to Dallas/Fort Worth to face the Texas Rangers. The Rangers have under-performed this year (18-30) but they are generally a handful for the Yankees. The first two games of the series feature Yankees Past and what could be Yankees Future. Today, the Yankees will face a former Yankee in the ancient Bartolo Colon while Tuesday features 2009 World Series foe Cole Hamels, whose name has been mentioned as a possible trading deadline candidate for the Yankees. There are other trade candidates I’d like to see over Hamels, but he is a proven veteran arm. After the Yankees finish the three game series in Texas, they’ll head back to the Bronx to meet up with Shohei Ohtani and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in a series that starts Friday night.

David Hale just keeps coming back like a bad penny. I really thought we’d seen the last of Hale when he was designated for assignment for the second time this year by the Yankees. When he elected free agency after his most recent DFA, I felt sure he’d go elsewhere. It was not to be as Hale signed another minor league deal with the Yankees and will head to Scranton, PA to join the starting rotation for the RailRiders. His addition led to the release of former Yankees prospect Daniel Camarena. I had hoped for better results from Camarena who had been re-acquired from the Chicago Cubs earlier this year after signing a minor league free agent contract with the Cubs in the off-season. But a 2-3 record and 5.08 ERA (44 hits and 20 walks in 39 innings) led to Camarena’s second exit from the organization. I wish him the best with his next opportunity.  It’s unfortunate he was unable to realize his dream in Pinstripes.

Speaking of the RailRiders starting rotation, their latest addition (besides Hale) is prospect Erik Swanson. Swanson’s name hasn’t really been mentioned much since he was acquired in the trade that sent Carlos Beltran to the Texas Rangers a couple of seasons ago. Dillon Tate was the more highly regarded name in the trade, but Swanson is the minor league pitcher of the moment. The guy has been sensational in Double A this year. The 24-year-old righty started six games for the Trenton Thunder, winning five with no defeats. He has given up a paltry two earned runs in 40 2/3 innings (0.44 ERA) while striking out 52. He has only allowed 12 walks. The superb performance led to his recent promotion to Triple A. In an organization with so many talented young prospects, Swanson has illuminated his name.

Photo Credit: Martin Griff, via Pinstriped Prospects

The Yankees did so well with the 2016 trades of Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, they are generally recognized as the trades that highlight the genius of GM Brian Cashman. Nevertheless, the returns for Beltran (namely Swanson and Tate) and Brian McCann (Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman, who helped bring Giancarlo Stanton to New York) were spectacular.  Cashman and Company were certainly well prepared when they made those “under-the-radar” trades that opened roster space for younger, more talented players.

Unfortunately, the Boston Red Sox keep winning so the Yankees and Sox remain tied atop the AL East although the Yankees (30-13) continue to hold a slight advantage in winning percentage.  New York is at .698 while the Red Sox (32-15) are .681.  Boston is off today so the Yankees could pick up a half-game to take sole possession of first place or they could lose to fall into second place.  With 119 games to play, I suppose it does not really matter either way in the grand scheme of things but I always prefer to see the Red Sox in the rear view mirror.

Credit: Frank Galasso Illustration

Go Yankees!