Tagged: Baltimore

Doubleheader with Sweeping Success…

Photo Credit: Al Bello, Getty Images

Yankees take 2 from the lowly O’s…

After a couple of rainy days and no Yankees baseball, everybody’s favorite team returned yesterday with a sweep of the doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles to salvage two of the three scheduled games of the series. The third game, Tuesday’s rainout, will be played as part of another doubleheader on August 12th.

The two wins, by scores of 5-3 and 3-1, put the Yankees a half-game behind the division-leading Tampa Bay Rays, who won a 1-0 pitching duel with the Miami Marlins, entering this weekend’s AL East Showdown between the Yankees and Rays. I really wish that Donnie Baseball’s team could have put up a couple of runs against Tampa. A Rays blowout would have been easier to take than a one-run victory.

A common phrase during this injury-challenged year is ‘where would we be without (insert player name)?’  Yesterday, the man was Gleyber Torres. His three home runs (two in the first game and one in the second) represented the first time a Yankee at age 22 or younger, had homered three times in one day since Joe DiMaggio homered three times during a game in 1937. Joltin’ Joe actually did it twice with three homers during a 1936 doubleheader, but still, anytime you can put your name with DiMaggio, you’re doing something right.

Domingo German (8-1, 2.41 ERA) continues to amaze. Entering the season, it was a question if he’d even make the MLB roster and if so, a swing role probably represented his best opportunity. Asked to step in for the injured Luis Severino, German has never looked back. His eight wins, one more than Houston’s Justin Verlander, lead Major League Baseball. If he continues to pitch like this, there’s no doubt he’ll be at Progressive Field in Cleveland on July 9th for the All-Star Game. Yesterday, he pitched seven innings in the second game, yielding only a single run although he did have to escape a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the seventh inning. He struck out eight. His emotion in getting the final out on a groundout to third by Joey Rickard told the story. He was great this game. Despite the struggles in his final inning, he pitched very efficiently with only 85 pitches, walking just one (the next to last batter he faced).

When James Paxton and Luis Severino return, the Yankees will have an interesting decision to make. Of course, this is one of those situations where you worry about it when it happens, but there’s no way the Yankees can pull German from the starting rotation if he continues to pitch like this. I can easily see J.A. Happ as the odd man out, but then the question is what do you do with Happ. Signed to a two year deal, with vesting option for a third year, in the off-season, Happ seems to be coming around despite the two homers he allowed yesterday.  His vesting option is not impacted by innings or starts in 2019 so he seemingly is a candidate to move into the bullpen as the long man if necessary.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, NY Post

Seems a bit of a waste of a proven Major League starter but honestly who else are you going to pull from the starting rotation? Tanaka is not going anywhere and CC Sabathia, in his final season, has earned the right to start to season’s end. These things usually work themselves out and while I don’t want to see any more injuries, it is inevitable somebody will go down beyond the present list of injured players. If Happ gets on a summer-time roll or pitches like he did down the stretch last year for the Yankees, it will be hard to remove him from the rotation but I honestly see no other alternatives and do not feel the Yankees would move to a six-man rotation. Oh well, that’s a problem to think about if/when it happens. I’d much prefer having guys Domingo German and Gio Urshela take strangleholds on their positions and forcing the hard decisions by Brian Cashman and his team.

Speaking of Urshela, his long-term future with the Yankees for the season was solidified with the somber news that Miguel Andujar has opted for season-ending surgery to repair the torn labrum in his right shoulder. While Miggy was contemplating whether or not to have the surgery, I felt it was the right move from the start. He tried rest and rehab and it didn’t work. Rather than gamble with continued rest and potential setbacks, get the problem fixed and come back healthy and strong. It may mean 9-12 months lost, but that’s better than trying to play deeper into the 2019 season  with unsuccessful results and potentially losing all of next year. Hopefully Andujar comes back as good as new and enjoys a Didi Gregorius-like road to recovery.

Someone mentioned the Yankees should make a trade for Toronto’s Brandon Drury for third base. No question he is a good player, the Yankees liked him and he only lost out with the team because of Andujar’s stellar play. However, I think the Yankees are in good hands with Urshela and DJ LeMahieu. I really liked Drury during his brief Yankees career but once Didi comes back, Torres will take back second base. You have to keep LeMahieu in the lineup so I think you’ll see him spend the majority of his time at third when Didi and Gleyber are on the field. Regardless of whether it is Gio or DJ at third, you know great glove work will be in play. No offense to Andujar but I love above-average defense at third base.

I am not sure what I think about the Yankees’ acquisition of Kendrys Morales. I don’t necessarily look at him as a feared hitter but he always seemed to have the annoying knack of clobbering home runs at the worst times against the Yankees. At least he can’t do that anymore since his dingers will only help the team. I guess i’s a good, cheap move. The Yankees have no long-term commitments to Morales and he can help now. I think his body of work in 2019 with the Oakland A’s was too limited to draw any conclusions, and feel he’ll be closer to the guy he was last year in Toronto. He is what he is. He’s a .250 hitter that will potentially give you 20 bombs.  Nothing special but he can help until the Yankees get the big bats back in the lineup. When Morales was at first base three times during yesterday’s second game (two walks and a single), I couldn’t help but think it was a reunion of sorts for Morales and first base coach Reggie Willits. Willits is only two years older than Morales and they were teammates on the Los Angeles Angels for a few years, as recently as 2011 (Willits’ final year as an active player). If Morales helps, great. If not, GM Brian Cashman will be on to his next “discovery”. I have confidence this will work out. But no doubt I’ll sleep better once Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are back in the everyday lineup. I doubt Morales is on the team by season’s end but if he is, it means his bat made the difference.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

I am proud of the 2019 New York Yankees. They’ve faced more adversity than most teams, yet they are 26-16. If you had told me during Spring Training the Yankees would be ten games above .500 by mid-May without Severino, Betances, Judge, Stanton, Gregorius and others, I would have laughed at you. I would have been thinking about division battles for positioning with the Baltimore Orioles, not the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox. I am not sure how this season will play out if we don’t start getting some of the big guns back but I am sure the ‘never quit’ mentality will persevere. It’s a little early to say the team has the “it” quality to it this year, but they are on their way of proving the point.

After no Yankees baseball in two of the last three days, it’s another off-day today. At least we have yesterday’s wins to carry us into the AL East Showdown that starts tomorrow night in the Bronx. Thank God we don’t have to play at the horrific Tropicana Field this series. Not that I mind road games, but man, I hate that empty warehouse posing as a Major League park.

As always, Go Yankees!

Opportunity Calls, Clint Frazier Answers…

Photo Credit: Gail Burton/AP

Yankees Overcome O’s, thanks to the long ball…

We knew it was only a matter of time until Aaron Judge began his monstrous assault on MLB baseballs, but it was Clint Frazier’s lightning quick three-run homer in the top of the eighth inning that allowed the Yankees to overtake the Baltimore Orioles in the 6-4 win at Camden Yards.

Frazier needed this moment. Frankly, the Yankees should have never put themselves in the position of needing Frazier’s big hit but they did. They had a golden opportunity to break the game open in the sixth inning when they loaded the bases with no outs against arguably MLB’s worst team. Frazier entered the game, pinching hitting for left fielder Mike Tauchman, but the inning unraveled from there. Gary Sanchez, on third, was picked off by O’s catcher Pedro Severino. Frazier struck out swinging for the second out, and Giovanny Urshela, in his first at-bat as a Yankee and pinch-hitting for Tyler Wade, grounded out to second to end the scoreless threat.

I didn’t really get Aaron Boone’s decision to keep Jonathan Holder in the game for the bottom of the seventh inning. He had entered the game in the fifth, in relief of starter J.A. Happ with only one out. He gave up a single to the second man he faced, Renato Nunez, in the bottom of the fifth, which scored a run for Baltimore (charged to Happ) to make it a one-run game at 3-2. I know Holder had an easy three-up, three-down inning in the sixth, but that’s as far as I would have pushed him. Instead, Boone left him in to start the seventh (why?). He hit the lead-off hitter, Cedric Mullins, and then gave up a single to right off the bat of Jonathan Villar which put runners at the corners.  Boone finally made a move, bringing Adam Ottavino into the game. Unfortunately, Greg Bird misplayed a grounder to first by Chris Davis. He bobbled the ball, didn’t step on first and then threw high to home. Mullins scored and Davis was safe at first. After Villar stole third, pinch-hitter Rio Ruiz, batting for Nunez, lofted a fly to center to score Villar with the go-ahead run.

It looked like the Yankees were going to go down quietly in the eighth. Greg Bird led off the inning against Orioles reliever Paul Fry with a fly-out to left. A pitching change brought reliever Miguel Castro into the game to face Gary Sanchez who flied out to right. But in the face of defeat for the Yankees, Castro struggled with his control and lost Gleyber Torres on balls to put a runner at first. Then, D.J. LeMahieu did what he does best. He singled to right, his third hit of the game, and the Yankees had runners at the corners. Enter Clint Frazier. With the count at 2-2, Castro threw a slider that was meant for the low outside corner. Fortunately for The Wildling and much to the dismay of Orioles catcher Pedro Severino, the ball came in over the juicy part of the plate and Frazier didn’t miss his opportunity. With the rapid fire of his bat, the ball went screaming out of the park. The Yankees were up, 6-4.

Adam Ottavino walked Hanser Alberto, briefly a Yankee this past Winter, to lead off the eighth but got the next two outs with his insane pitches. With Alberto on second, Aaron Boone took the ball from Ottavino and brought in Chad Green. Greeny hit the shirt of Cedric Mullins to put a runner at first. The next batter, Jonathan Villar, hit an infield grounder to D.J. LeMahieu, who had slid over to second base from third when Giovanny Urshela entered the game. LeMahieu had an uncharacteristic bobble of the ball and Villar beat D.J.’s throw to Gleyber Torres standing on second base. The bases were loaded, giving the Orioles a golden opportunity to recapture the lead. Thankfully, it was only Chris Davis at the plate. He rapped a hard single to first base which Greg Bird easily handled, stepping on first ahead of Davis running down the line. Inning over, with the two-run lead intact.

Aroldis Chapman finished off the Orioles in the bottom of the ninth. Despite giving up a one-out single to pinch-hitter Jesus Sucre, he easily recorded the next two outs to gain his second save of the season even if his fastball couldn’t find triple digits.

The win went to Adam Ottavino (1-0) despite giving up the lead in the bottom of the seventh on runs charged to Jonathan Holder. Ha, they should have charged those runs to Aaron Boone!

And, oh, did I mention that Aaron Judge had two massive home runs earlier in the game. I knew it was time for a Judgian blast and had even commented on my post yesterday that it was a good day for an Aaron Judge home run. I was wrong, I should have said home runs. Judge’s first homer (and first of the season) came in the top of the first after Brett Gardner had struck out to lead off the game. The ball carried 412 feet over the center field wall. Trey Mancini had answered Judge’s solo homer with one of his own in the bottom of the first to tie the game. After Brett Gardner doubled with one out in the top of the third, Judge hit another ‘no doubt about it’ homer to center, giving him total yardage of 830 feet, with the two bombs. That was it for Judge in this game, he recorded outs in his next three at-bats which included two by strikeout. But the Yankees wouldn’t have been in position to win this game without Judge. Every day is a good day for Aaron Judge home runs.

Photo Credit: Gail Burton/AP

I know it’s too early to watch or care about the AL East Standings, but the Yankees (4-4) did move into a tie for second place with the Orioles. The Tampa Bay Rays lost 6-4 to the San Francisco Giants so the Yankees are 1 1/2 games back. The Boston Red Sox dropped another game, 5-4 to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix, to fall to 2-8. I know it’s only a matter of time until the Red Sox find their groove, but it is fun to watch them in the AL East Cellar while it lasts. It couldn’t possibly happen to a better team than the Red Sux.

The Yankees can sweep the series at Camden Yards today before they hop on a plane bound for Houston, Texas. Domingo German (1-0, 0.00 ERA) faces David Hess (1-0, 0.00 ERA). In his last start against the Toronto Blue Jays, Hess no-hit the Blue Jays until he was lifted with one out in the seventh (the bullpen blew his no-no). German, on the same day, held the Detroit Tigers to only one hit and unearned run, in five innings. It would be great for the Yankees to sweep after losing their first two series of the season. And it would provide a joyful mood for the long flight down to South Texas.

I was a little surprised to see the call-up of Giovanny “Gio” Urshela before yesterday’s game. It was funny how it unfolded. Urshela posted an airplane pic on Social Media and clever fans deduced it was the same type of plane departing from Buffalo’s airport (where the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders are playing) and headed to Baltimore’s BWI Marshall Airport. While I enjoyed the brief one game call-up of Thairo Estrada who didn’t get to see any playing time, Urshela is in better position to help right now. No doubt Estrada will be the better utility player in the long run, but Urshela, who has a superior third base glove, provides better support for interim third baseman D.J. LeMahieu. Urshela doesn’t have much of a bat but that’s not why he is on the 25-man roster now even if he had a couple of strong offensive performances for the RailRiders to start the season. I can still easily remember some of the spectacular defensive plays Urshela made against the Yankees when he was playing for the Cleveland Indians. Not that LeMahieu needs any glove help but the occasional breather is welcomed. To make room for Urshela on the 40-man roster, the Yankees moved Didi Gregorius to the 60-day Injured List. Speaking of Sir Didi, damn, I miss those after-game emoji’s.

I know the season is early and stats, either good or bad, don’t really mean much given the small sample sizes. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge how good D.J. LeMahieu has been for the Yankees. Expected to be a “floating” starter with time at first, second and third, LeMahieu was forced into full-time duty at third base when Miguel Andujar, with a small labrum tear, was placed on the IL.  LeMahieu is 11-for-24, batting .458/.536/.542 with 1.077 OPS. His eighth inning single last night set the stage for Clint Frazier’s heroics but it almost provided a game-tying opportunity by getting Gleyber Torres to third. A ball got away from Orioles catcher Pedro Severino and Torres most likely could have scored if he had immediately broke for home but hesitation kept the budding superstar at third. LeMahieu is not a flashy player and is not known for dingers but he does the little things right. Living in Denver, I’d routinely hear Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon talk about how much LeMahieu meant to their team. It’s easy to see why they held such high praise. The guy can hit, field and win. I am glad he is a Yankee.

CC Sabathia makes a rehabilitation start for the High-A Tampa Tarpons today. The Tarpons are hosting the Lakeland Flying Tigers in Tampa. Hopefully all goes well for CC who should soon be back in Pinstripes for his final go-around. Hope everything goes well today, CC. We miss you and look forward to your return.

As always, Go Yankees!

Missing the Yankees…

Photo Credit: Greg Fiume/Getty Images

A Rare and Odd Day-Off for the Pinstripers…

I can’t really say that I like Fridays with no Yankees baseball. I guess, ultimately, it’s no different than if heavy rain had hit Inner Harbor, forcing the postponement of a game but regardless, yesterday felt a little empty when everybody else was playing. I’ve grown accustomed to Mondays and/or Thursdays as days off over the years, but weekend games, starting Friday night, are the best for the working stiffs of the World like me. Nothing quite like watching the Yankees after a long, hard week at work. I am glad they are back in action today even if we have to wait until this evening.

Putting the Yankees aside for a moment, Friday was made much sadder with the announcement by Mike Axisa that he is shutting down the famed River Ave Blues blog. 

Photo Credit: CBSSports.com

With no offense to our blog site, River Ave Blues has been the standard every blog site hopes to achieve. It was the best Yankees Blog in my opinion, and Mike Axisa has been tireless in his quest to provide quality content every day. Ultimately, it was probably his relentless, unyielding drive that led to his decision to shutter the Blog (it would be tough to keep up his pace for a season, let alone twelve years) and while I fully understand his reasons, it is a huge loss for Yankee fans. In his announcement, Axisa said April 29th will be the final day for his nationally recognized Blog. Mike mentioned the possibility of a weekly newsletter/mailing list with his “thoughts”. I really hope he follows through with this brilliant idea. Mike, I’ll pay a few dollars a month to get your continued thoughts about MLB’s best team. I have appreciated Mike’s honest assessments of the Yankees over the years, along with those of the other great RAB writers. There are many good writers but Axisa is one of the very few with a brilliant writing style and an amazing and very objective perspective. I can probably count on one hand the baseball writers I hold in such high regard as Axisa. You can include the late Red Sox writer Nick Cafardo in that group, but clearly, it is not a crowded room. Thanks to Mike Axisa and the entire RAB staff for making our lives a little better each and every day. We appreciate you, @RiverAveBlues. Thank you for the incredible twelve years you have given us. To say you will be missed is an understatement.

Credit: YESNetwork.com

I could feel many Yankee fans starting to grip about the team’s slow start and the buildup of so many injuries, but it’s funny how Thursday’s win in Baltimore calmed down so many fears. I wish I had a dime for every time a Yankee fan replayed video of Gleyber’s homers. I was a little worried when the Yankees fell into an early hole, but I know those Yankees-Mariners games last year when James Paxton gave up early runs to the Yankees, he held strong and pitched effectively for five or six more innings. I didn’t doubt his perseverance on Thursday and he rewarded us with a much-needed win, thanks in large part to the two home runs by Gleyber Torres and the insurance provided by the three-run bomb from Luke Voit in the ninth inning. Unlike pitchers like Sonny Gray, where a few early runs meant the opening of the floodgates, Paxton battled and was ultimately reward with his first Pinstriped (Road Gray?) victory. I am glad he is a Yankee.

Photo Credit: Nick Wass/AP

The Yankees resume their series at Camden Yards in Baltimore today at 7:05 pm ET. J.A. Happ, looking to overcome his horrendous first start of the season, takes the mound for the Yankees.  He’ll be opposed by Baltimore’s Dylan Bundy. With a win, the Yankees can tie the Orioles for second place in the AL East with matching 4-4 records. The Yankees trail the Tampa Bay Rays by two and a half games. Granted, the Orioles will soon be in the rearview mirror but the Rays aren’t going away. I think the Boston Red Sox will right the ship even if Yankee fans are loving their 2-7 start. Soon it will be the Yankees-Rays-Red Sox battling for the top. With a trip to Houston around the corner, the Yankees need to continue building momentum in Maryland before catching a Texas-bound flight.   

The Yankees made several minor moves this week, primarily for depth purposes. First, they claimed right-handed reliever Jake Barrett off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates and assigned him to Triple A. Then, they signed 34-year-old infielder Cliff Pennington, who was recently released by the Oakland A’s after signing a minor league deal in February. At least Pennington was able to see Japan with the A’s in late March but I doubt he sees any time with the Yankees unless things go horribly wrong (worse than they already have). The defensive-minded Pennington was assigned to Triple A. Both the Trenton Thunder and the Scranton-Wilkes Barre RailRiders have been depleted by the promotions of Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada and Clint Frazier, and the resulting chain reaction it caused to fill the holes.  Welcome to the Yankees Family, Jake and Cliff, but honestly, I hope we do not see you in the Bronx. Sorry, but we have higher expectations and hope the recently promoted guys prosper with the opportunities they’ve been given.   

Living in Denver, I probably should have gone to the Colorado Rockies home opener yesterday. I had thought about it but the weather in Colorado is so unpredictable. Last year’s Rockies home opener saw temps dip into the 20’s. Unfortunately for me, the weather was beautiful yesterday with sunny skies and temps reaching the 70’s and the Rockies were playing my favorite NL team, the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers won, 10-6, so that would have made it even better for me. I settled for watching the game on TV. In watching the opening roll call, there was a part of me that didn’t like Daniel Murphy wearing D.J. LeMahieu’s former number (9).  Not that the Rockies have reason to retire D.J.’s number or set it aside but after watching LeMahieu wear the number for so many years, it just seemed wrong to see Murphy wearing it. Don’t get me wrong, I am so glad LeMahieu wears #26 for the Yankees these days. He’s been invaluable with this rash of injuries.  But it’s hard to deny that LeMahieu was a great Rockie during his time in the Mile High City. I couldn’t help but wonder if both LeMahieu and Adam Ottavino were watching the Rockies-Dodgers game since they had the day off. It would be hard to play so many years in one city and not have continued emotional ties to their former team.  

I am not a New York Jets fan but I don’t get the hate the new uniforms have gotten from their fan base. I personally never cared for the Jets’ old uniform and feel the new colors are very stylish. I like the new helmet and the overall look.  If I had grown up in New York City, I’d probably be a Jets fan over the Giants (sorry to those of you who are Giants fans). I grew up in Iowa so I’ve been a lifelong (and long-suffering) Minnesota Vikings fan. I am a little bitter the Jets stole the Vikings’ backup QB (Trevor Siemian) and almost signed away linebacker Anthony Barr until he had a change of heart but I still prefer the Jets over the Giants. As for Siemian, I do have high confidence in third-string QB Kyle Sloter for the Vikings and feel that he is ready to ascend to the backup spot behind starter Kirk Cousins. But while Siemian may never been a great quarterback in the NFL, he is tried and true vet that can help in pinch. He’ll provide good support and mentorship for Sam Darnold.  Siemian and the Jets will look very good when they take the field this Fall, in my opinion. Hopefully for Jets fans, the play matches the look. It’s really time for somebody to do something about the reign of the New England Patriots. I’ve grown so tired of Tom Brady, Bill Belechick and Boston area fans.

Today seems like a very good day for an Aaron Judge home run.  

As always, Go Yankees!

Doom & Gloom in The Bronx…

(Photo Credit: Julie Jacobson/AP)

OK, it wasn’t quite that bad…

The Yankees got a great pitching performance from new Yankee James Paxton…and lose. It wasn’t exactly how it was planned to go down. I guess Sonny Gray left behind his lack of run support and they assigned to the Big Maple. The Yankees tried to make a comeback but those two insurance runs the Baltimore Orioles tacked on in the top of the ninth were too much to overcome as the Yankees dropped their first game of the season, 5-3.

The range of emotions from Yankee fans were from ‘big deal, it’s the second game of the season’ to ‘OMG, the season is lost!’. I guess you could put me somewhere in the middle. I simply hate to lose winnable games. When the season is done, the Baltimore will most likely have the most losses of any team in either league. Yet, if they win today, they win their first series of the season against a team expected to make noise in October. The Yankees need to win these games. Yes, it is only one game but these types of games can accumulate to a significant amount over the course of a 162-game schedule. I don’t like to lose. I know, I had better learn to deal with 60 losses, give or take, over the course of the summer but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. But after all these years, losing doesn’t get any easier when you are a Yankee fan.

Credit to the Orioles for using an Opener to keep the Yankee bats at bay. Nate Karns started his first game since 2017 and pitched the first two innings. The Yankees had him on the ropes with the bases loaded in the bottom of the first inning with only one out, but Miguel Andujar hit into an inning-ending double play.

(Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun/NY Post)

New Jersey’s own Jimmy Yacabonis pitched the next three innings, giving up only a run, to earn the win for the O’s.

Meanwhile, Chad Green and Jonathan Holder failed to keep the Orioles off the scoreboard in the later innings and despite the two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees walked off the field wondering what could have been. So much for the shutdown bullpen that’s going to end games early.

Troy Tulowitzki hit the only Yankee homer, a solo shot in the ninth off former Yank Richard Bleier.

I thought it was a great game for D.J. LeMahieu, who started at third base with Miguel Andujar taking over DH duties. LeMahieu was 2-for-4 with one RBI and a run scored. He flashed his superior leather more than a few times at third, and looked like a veteran at the position. I was in a Denver, Colorado retail shop late yesterday afternoon wearing my Yankee cap, and the clerk commented to me he couldn’t believe the Yankees paid LeMahieu all that money to be a utility player. I agree.  With no offense to Troy Tulowitzki, the greater commitment should be for LeMahieu, even if it pushes Gleyber Torres to shortstop until Didi Gregorius returns. A home run by Tulo is not going to change my opinion. I do like LeMahieu at third and Andujar at DH so I hope that’s a frequent option although Giancarlo Stanton needs his time at DH as well. Although LeMahieu has not played much third in the Majors, it was his most frequent position in the Minors so it’s not like he has rarely played there. It’s just been a few years. He’ll shake off the rust.

The Yankees committed three costly errors in the game. Gary Sanchez bounced a throw past Gleyber Torres covering second base in the sixth inning which allowed a run to score. D.J. LeMahieu bounced a throw to Luke Voit at first base which Voit couldn’t handle, for a throwing error, in the top of the ninth inning, allowing Joey Rickard, leading off the inning, to reach second base. He would eventually score an unearned run. Voit had a throwing error earlier in the game (top of the 2nd) which didn’t cause any damage. After tagging first base on a grounder by Rio Ruiz, Voit tried to make an off-balance throw to second to complete the double play but the ball sailed widely to the left, allowing the baserunner, Joey Rickard, to race to third.  Fortunately, that was as far as Rickard would get.

James Paxton (0-1) took the tough luck loss. His final line was 5 2/3 innings, four hits, two runs (one earned), a walk and five strikeouts. He threw 82 pitches, one less than Masahiro Tanaka on Thursday and worked at a very quick and efficient pace. He certainly deserved to win and on most days he would have. He’ll get that first Yankee win soon with pitching performances like this.

(Photo Credit: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Okay, I’ll let the game go. It was just one game. I get it. The Yankees (1-1) complete the series today with the Orioles. J.A. Happ takes the ball for the Pinstripers while he’ll be opposed by Baltimore’s Dylan Bundy. Hopefully, Happ continues his win streak as a Yankee for at least one more game.

I followed the score of the Red Sox-Mariners game last night and was pleased when Seattle extended their lead to 6-2 on a three-run homer by Jay Bruce in the fifth inning. Then, in the 9th, it all fall apart for the M’s with three errors by third baseman Dylan Moore, filling in for the injured Kyle Seager. The Sox rallied for three runs and had the tying run at third base and go-ahead run at first with two outs, but former Yankee prospect Nick Rumbelow struck out Xander Bogaerts to end the game and preserve Seattle’s victory. Whew! Boston was almost gifted another win. Seattle’s defense looked like the Keystone Cops in that final inning.

(Photo Credit: Dean Rutz/Seattle Times)

Today is a good day for a Pinstriped victory.

As always, Go Yankees!

Opening Day Success for Tanaka & Company…

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Yankees Roll behind Tanaka and Voit…

I know, I am late to the party with writing about Opening Day but it was a very exciting day. Great weather, the wonderful presence of unanimous Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera throwing out the first pitch (I loved watching #42 fire one from the Yankee Stadium pitching mound), solid pitching by Masahiro Tanaka despite not having his best stuff, a villainous bullpen and a couple of home runs from people not named Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton. It was an awesome day in the Bronx.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/The New York Post

The 7-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles felt like it could not have been better scripted. It was a great start to the highly anticipated 2019 season by the Yankees. There’s obviously a long ways to go, with 161 more games on the schedule, but it’s better to start with a win than not.

I was around some non-Yankee fans watching the game who took delight when Tanaka gave up a couple of hits in the first inning even if the second infield single hit the lead runner for the final out. They were predicting doom and gloom for Tanaka and the Pinstripers. I know the Yankees were playing MLB’s worst team but I knew Tanaka would persevere. Despite a lackluster Opening Day history, Tanaka seems locked in this year. I certainly wasn’t going to give up hope after a couple of meaningless hits. Tanaka shook off the first inning and never looked back. I think this will be a big season for him.

The Yankees didn’t have to wait long for their first home run of the season. The easy picks would have been Judge or Stanton, but it was Luke Voit who kicked off the 2019 chase to beat the Yankees’ 2018 record of 267 home runs. Granted, the Yankees would end the day six home runs behind the Los Angeles Dodgers but there’s no doubt many balls are going to leave Yankee Stadium this year for the home team. When Luke hit that ball in the bottom of the first inning with Judge and Stanton on base, I wasn’t sure if it was hit hard enough to go out but with his classic hop at the plate, I felt a sense of assurance it did have the necessary distance. Thankfully it easily carried over the center field wall into Monument Park for a 3-0 lead. Miguel Andujar almost made it a four-run game when his fly ball took left fielder Dwight Smith, Jr to the wall but it fell short of clearing the fence.  As many said, that ball would have easily carried out in the heat of August. In cool, crisp March, the ball decided to find Smith’s glove instead.

Aaron Judge may not have hit the first Yankee home run of the season but he did score the first run thanks to Voit’s homer. It was a great game for Judge, who went 2-for-3 with a couple of walks and three runs scored. He only struck out once, showing a very patient eye. Despite the presence of so many great offensive forces in the Yankees’ lineup, Judge is clearly the conductor and the heart and soul of the team’s engine.

Photo Credit: Chris Pedota/NorthJersey.com-USA TODAY Sports

Great game for Luke Voit who also picked up another RBI in the bottom of the fifth when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Voit finished with one official at-bat, the three-run homer, with the HBP and two walks. While I didn’t think last year was a fluke for Luke, he still has a long way to go to prove it was not but this was a very good way to start. I have no desire to underestimate the Yankees’ very talented baseball analytics team. The Chasen Shreve/Giovanny Gallegos trade for the former Cardinals minor leaguer, with minimal Big League opportunities, was/is a steal.

Photo Credit: Chris Pedota/NorthJersey.com-USA TODAY Sports

In a game Luis Severino had been slated to start until rotator cuff inflammation forced a change in plans, Tanaka pitched very well. He lasted until the sixth inning when a two-out run scoring double by Trey Mancini (one of the few recognizable names in Baltimore’s lineup) ended his day. 5 2/3 innings pitched, scattering six hits, yielding a couple of runs with only one earned and striking out five was a good day. From there, the Yankees used a bullpen formula we’ll see frequently this year. Adam Ottavino, who ended the sixth inning threat with a seven-pitch strikeout, to Zack Britton to Aroldis Chapman. I know there was concern with Chapman’s velocity (he was off his usual velocity by 3 to 5 mph) but it’s early. Not time to sound the alarms yet. I’ll go with those who attribute the reduced velocity to the cooler weather and Chapman’s age-induced work to transition from a hard thrower to more of a pitcher. I remain convinced we’ll see triple digits when the warmer weather returns.

Credit to Greg Bird for answering Voit’s home run with a solo dinger in the eighth after three strikeouts.  Bird got the start at first base over Voit, forcing the latter to DH. I really like Voit as the team’s first baseman but I am certainly not going to complain if Bird finally has the year we’ve long waited for. I love Bird’s swing when his bat is happy and healthy.

Although I would have really enjoyed to see David Robertson return to the Yankees for this season, I’ve been excited about the addition of Adam Ottavino since the day he was signed. He had a great Yankees debut with 1 1/3 innings pitched and three strikeouts.  His pitches are wicked. When he’s on, the batters have no chance. If D-Rob has re-signed, the Yankees most likely would not have signed AO. So I am pleased the way things turned out despite how much I liked Robertson.

I think my only disappointment with Opening Day was D.J. LeMahieu sitting on the bench through game’s end. It’s tough being a starter without a position. He is capable of so much more. Hopefully Aaron Boone figures out a good way to keep LeMahieu on the field, with his incredible glove, this season and his productive bat  in the order to help keep runners moving around the bases. LeMahieu is potentially a huge answer to the team’s RISP problem from last season.

Opening Day was a great success particularly considering every AL East team, except for the Yankees, lost. Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox were bludgeoned in Seattle, although they did claw back and win last night’s game after trailing Seattle by two runs in the ninth inning, thanks to a three-run homer by Mitch Moreland off the M’s new closer, Hunter Strickland. Bummer that the Mariners traded their great young closer, Edwin Diaz, to the New York Mets in the off-season. If Diaz had been pitching, the Red Sox most likely would have lost their second consecutive game.

It stunk there was no Bronx baseball yesterday but the Yankees and O’s resume their series today. Woohoo! James Paxton will take the ball for his Yankees debut wearing the Pinstripes in Yankee Stadium for the first time. He’ll be opposed by Baltimore’s Nate Karns, the one-time Tampa Bay Ray. I am looking forward to watching Paxton on our side. Hopefully this will be a much better outing than his last Yankee stadium appearance. Last season, on June 21st, he surrendered two first-inning home runs to Aaron Judge and Miguel Andujar and lost a 4-3 decision to Luis Severino and the Yankees. On the bright side, the Big Maple won’t have to pitch to Judge and Andujar today since those guys will be playing behind him.

Poor Chasen Shreve. After being designated for assignment by the St Louis Cardinals, he cleared waivers and was sent outright to Memphis. Shreve may get another chance with the Cardinals if the injury bug hits their bullpen (very possible with the presence of injury-beleaguered Andrew Miller) but I am sure this is not how Shreve had planned for this season to play out. I was a little surprised that no team took a chance on Shreve but his stock has certainly fallen. He’s a good guy so I am hopeful he gets another chance but the game is clearly evolving away from lefty specialists. So if he can’t prove he is capable of more, his future is not bright.

Ronald Torreyes also failed to make the cut with the Twins. With an option left, Toe was assigned to Minnesota’s Triple A team in Rochester. The few times I saw him in Spring Training, I thought he looked good and had a chance to make the MLB roster. Hopefully he’ll get his chance to call Target Field home at some point this season. Former Yankees Tyler Austin, Jake Cave and Michael Pineda were all part of Minnesota’s Opening Day roster. Austin’s spot seems to be the most tenuous as he’ll be the odd man out when Miguel Sano is activated off the Injured List. With no options left, Austin’s future looks murky. The Twins have C.J. Cron at first and Nelson Cruz at DH. Both spots can be backed by Marwin Gonzalez so Austin represents a luxury with no real spot once Sano is back at third. These things have a way of working themselves out so hopefully Austin carves out a significant role with the Twins. If not, he’ll be packing his bags and moving on to the next city.

Bryan Mitchell was another ex-Yank to get the guillotine. Sent to the San Diego Padres in the salary-dump trade involving Chase Headley, Mitchell had been expected to be part of San Diego’s starting rotation this year. He was designated for assignment a couple of days ago and now awaits his fate. Ex-Yank Jose Pirela, a part of the Padres’ MLB roster the last few years, was optioned to El Paso. Nobody ever watches Padres games so I’m not sure anybody will notice. Hopefully Mitchell gets an opportunity with another organization to fulfill the promise he once held as a Yankees prospect. If not, he’ll be catching up with Pirela in West Texas for some Margaritas.

Keeping on track with the ex-Yankees theme, I was glad to see Melky Cabrera get another chance. In camp as a non-roster invitee with the Pirates, he was added to Pittsburgh’s Opening Day roster when outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall was placed on the injured list. I can still remember those great victory celebrations when Melky was a Yankee but Cabrera has traveled through many cities since that time. Hopefully he’ll get to spend some meaningful time in the Steel City. Former Yankees seem to do well in Pittsburgh.

One-time Yankees’ top prospect Mason Williams also gets another chance. After playing with the Cincinnati Reds organization the last couple of seasons, he was signed by the Baltimore Orioles yesterday after being cut by the Reds a couple of weeks ago. He’ll report to Baltimore’s top farm team in Norfolk, VA. It doesn’t seem like that long ago we were hoping for great things in Pinstripes for Williams. I guess if you want an opportunity to play, signing with a talent-devoid organization is the way to go. No doubt he’ll find his way to Camden Yards at some point this year if he proves himself in Triple A.

I continue to be amazed no team has signed either Craig Kimbrel or Dallas Keuchel. I really thought they’d be signed before the start of the season. I had fully expected the Milwaukee Brewers to grab Kimbrel after it was announced closer Corey Knebel would need Tommy John surgery but I guess the presence of premier bullpen shutdown artist Josh Hader lessens the need.  Keuchel can help almost any team win more games. I kept expecting him to be a late training camp sign by his former team, the Houston Astros, but it never happened. The Astros still seem like his best option but for now, he has to throw every five days on his own dime. If I was the GM of the Atlanta Braves, I’d be all over Keuchel to help with the highly competitive NL East. Maybe the baseball analytics are right about the regression of Keuchel, but I have to believe he can still help somebody.

I am very glad the baseball season is back. It’s been a long off-season. Spring training is nice but it gets old after awhile. It’s awesome to see games that count once again. I am hopeful these games lead to an AL East championship and a highly successful October for the Yankees. We’ve waited a very long time for this year. As they say, time will tell but I like our chances.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Yanks are a Wild Card…

Photo Credit: NY Post (Paul J Bereswill)

New York secures one-game ‘do-or-die’ playoff…

As expected, the Yankees secured a post-season berth on Saturday when the Tampa Bay Rays lost followed by the extra-innings win by the Yankees over the Baltimore Orioles.

The only thing that seems weird to me is breaking champagne as if you had just won the division. I think I read that 120 bottles of Moet & Chandon met their fate. I guess I should appreciate the Yankees have extended their season by one game and if they can win that one, they’ll move on to join the division winners for the divisional playoffs. Once they are in the divisional playoffs, anything can happen. We know the Yankees can beat any team if they are playing to their abilities. I know that it was not officially a Wild Card game (which didn’t exist back then), but I am sure the 1978 Yankees and Red Sox did not pop bubbly at the end of the regular season when they finished in a tie for the AL East and had to play the memorable Bucky “F——ing” Dent tie-breaker at Fenway Park. I know, there are ten other teams in the American League that wish their season wasn’t ending a week from today and would be very excited to play one game for the right to advance. So, congratulations to the Yankees for giving themselves a chance.

I have a more business-like approach. Let’s secure the home position for the Wild Card and focus on winning the single game elimination. When it is over and if the Yankees emerge victorious, that’s truly cause for celebration.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Stobe)

Right now, my primary concern for the Yankees is to hold off the Oakland A’s for the top spot in the Wild Card standings. After the Yankees game had ended, I watched the end of the A’s matchup against the Minnesota Twins. The A’s loaded the bases against the Twins in the bottom of the ninth with the game deadlocked at two. Mark Canha battled Twins closer Trevor Hildenberger in an 11-pitch at-bat before striking out for the second out. It looked like the Twins might get out of the jam with one more out, but on the very next pitch to Matt Chapman, Hildenberger threw a wild pitch past catcher Willians Astudillo to basically gift wrap the victory for the A’s as Stephen Piscotty easily raced home for the winning run. That moment was very disheartening. So, the Yankees maintained their 1 1/2 game lead over Oakland (two in the loss column and the Yankees hold the tie breaker).

The A’s can clinch the second Wild Card spot today with a Rays loss or an A’s win. If the Rays are eliminated, I think they’ll still be very motivated to beat the Yankees in the upcoming series because it will be their “playoff” even if they aren’t going anywhere. Hats off to Kevin Cash and his Rays. I know I certainly did not expect them to have 86 wins on September 23rd.

For those of you who follow Twitter (some very begrudgingly like Bryan Van Dusen), you probably saw this tweet. Courtesy of the twitter account of Brendan Kuty, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (@BrendanKutyNJ):

Judge said he pulled aside Luke Voit during the celebration. “We wouldn’t be in this position right now if it wasn’t for you. You coming over here, I know it was a slow start, but you picked it up and you picked us up and when we needed the big hit, you came through for us.”

Big words from a big man, and words very well deserved for Luke Voit. Voit launched his 11th home run for the Yankees yesterday with a solo blast in the second inning. It eventually ensured the game would go into extra innings for the Yankees to win it. For those counting at home, Voit has 11 homers and 25 RBIs for the Yankees and his batting line is .314/.385/.648 with 1.032 OPS. The guy’s been incredible and he has made Greg Bird irrelevant.

Photo Credit: Getty Imaes (Mike Stobe)

As for Aaron Judge, his return to the active roster has been huge. I know he was a presence in the dugout during his lengthy stay on the disabled list, cheering on his teammates, but this is a different team when he is in the lineup. I’ve felt all season that he is the heartbeat of the team and this month has proven it to be so true. I really think Judge should be the next Captain for the Yankees. He is the team’s MVP and clearly its leader, a role that will continue to grow for him. The “fun” is returning to the team and it is no doubt directly tied to Aaron Judge. He is a worthy successor for future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter.

Hopefully Aaron Hicks was not hurt too badly when he fouled the pitch off his ankle in the bottom of the eleventh yesterday before he hit the game-winning double. Tests after the game were negative but that foul looked so painful. There’s no doubt we’ll see Hicks in shin guards moving forward.  I heard he had the ankle heavily taped after yesterday’s game. My hope is that he is feeling much better today without too much swelling. Hicks is the unsung hero for this team and they cannot afford to lose him for any extended time.

Yesterday, it was reported CC Sabathia intends to play another season. Sadly, I do not feel it should be with the Yankees despite how much Sabathia has done and meant for the organization over the years. He has been a great Yankee and I’ll always be appreciative of his time in Pinstripes. But the Yankees can do better for the fifth spot in the rotation even if that just means re-signing J.A. Happ in the off-season. I expect the Yankees to upgrade the starting rotation (Patrick Corbin, please) and at this point in his career, Sabathia is not going to get better and will only regress. Age sucks but it is a terminal affliction for all of us.

The Yankees should also not pick up the $12.5 million club option for Brett Gardner and should go with the $2 million buyout. Another great Yankee but it is time to move on.  Regardless of what happens for the rest of 2018, I have very high expectations for the 2019 New York Yankees. It is time to end the AL East reign of the Boston Red Sox and I think the ’19 Yankees will be the team to do it.  It will be weird to see Sabathia in a different uniform but even stranger to see Gardy in other colors after a career isolated to Pinstripes. There are tough decisions ahead for the Yankees. I suppose it’s possible the Yankees could re-sign Gardy to a lower salary, but I am hopeful for the future of Clint Frazier and would like to see Red Thunder given every opportunity to break camp with the big league club next year. Or sign Bryce Harper, that works too.

Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reports the Yankees would like to have Andrew McCutchen back next year if they “can cut a reasonable deal”. I would support his return, but of course Cafardo also threatens “And yes, Jacoby Ellsbury could return in 2019”. Now, that’s one guy I do not want to see in a Yankees uniform next year. I am done with DL’s-bury. Time to cut bait with Ellsbury if he is healthy. If Cafardo is to be believed, the Yankees will rekindle talks with the San Francisco Giants in the off-season about Madison Bumgarner so that’s one to keep an eye on.

With heavy speculation J.A. Happ will be the starter for the Yankees on October 3rd against the Oakland A’s (sorry Rays fans, you’re not catching them), today is a big day. Happ  (16-6, 3.62 ERA) takes the mound against Alex Cobb (5-15, 4.90 ERA) and the Orioles. If Happ dominates Baltimore, he’ll solidify his chances to be “the man” in the Wild Card game. If not, Yankees Twitter will be announcing the end of the World by late afternoon.

A win today would be a beautiful thing. Let’s get this sweep. Go Yankees!

Boonie & The Bullpen Blunders…

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Yanks hang on for narrow win over O’s…

Maybe I am just a realist but I am struggling to find great positives with the 2018 New York Yankees and their ability to go deep into the playoffs. Time and again, manager Aaron Boone shows an inability to make the right bullpen decisions.  Sure, I could have blind love and just take the approach that the team is going to plow through October opponents until proven otherwise, but that’s not me.

John O’Connell, @jacko2323 on Twitter, posted this comment last night:

Every Yankees postgame interview is “Look out for us!  We’re about to break loose!  Our offense will explode in the playoffs.”  It’s September 21st.  The Red Sox have already clinched the AL East and your struggling to beat the Orioles.

I agree with this statement.  Jack-O went on to tweet:

The A’s are going to beat the Yankees like a drum in the Wildcard game and Boone and every Yankee will give a postgame interview talking about how close they are to breaking out.

Again, I agree.  I know that Jack-O is a disillusioned Yankees fan.  He is a friend of Bill Simmons, a noted Red Sox fan, and frequently appears on his podcasts, but I find truth in Jack-O’s words even if many Yankees fans take offense.  Just because the Yankees made it to the seventh game of the ALCS last year and seemingly have a better team this year does not mean they are going to the World Series.  Other teams got better too including the Boston Red Sox despite their leaky bullpen.  The players have talked about how great this team will be when it gets on a roll but, after the early season run, we have yet to see it.  And it is now September 22nd.

The Yankees should have easily beat the Baltimore Orioles last night.  Unfortunately, they had to hold on for the 10-8 victory after more foolish bullpen decisions by Aaron Boone.  I am not sure why A.J. Cole is still on the Yankees roster, other than the September roster expansion.  When the Yankees need to make off-season roster decisions, making room for the guys on the 60-day DL and the Rule 5 eligible prospects worth keeping, Cole has to go. There’s no doubt Cole should be left off the playoff roster.

The Yankees have yet to show me they are cranking on all cylinders.  Sure, there’s still time but the days are going by fast.  The end of the regular season is a week from Sunday.  It seems like every time the Yankees take two steps forward, they take a step back.  Meanwhile, The Red Sox and Astros are cruising to the finish line.  Honestly, the Yankees are lucky that the Tampa Bay Rays didn’t start heating up earlier in the season.  The Yankees’ magic number to secure a Wild Card spot is only two games but right now the Rays are playing better than the Yankees.  The upcoming series in Tampa will be difficult.  The Rays probably will have no chance of catching the Yankees by then and might be out of it altogether, but I am sure those are going to be tough games.  If the Rays do not make the playoffs, beating the Yankees in their final regular season series between the two teams will be their “playoff” even if the prize is only bragging rights for Rays players and fans.

I guess it could be worse.  The Los Angeles Dodgers recaptured first place in the NL West with their sweep of the Colorado Rockies earlier this week only to lose last night to the 92-loss San Diego Padres.  The Dodgers still hold a slim 1 1/2 game lead (same as the Yankees’ lead over the Oakland A’s for the top WC slot) so both teams need to win the majority of these final games.  I guess the stakes may be higher for the Dodgers.  If they lose the division, they most likely lose out on making the playoffs.  Their record presently matches the St Louis Cardinals for the second WC in the National League behind the Milwaukee Brewers so they cannot afford to lose.

If the Yankees win the AL Wild Card game, it will be a new season. But until then, I will have my doubts about this team’s ability to rise to the challenge.  I am tired of seeing poor decisions made every game.  Could I do better than Boone?  Hell no, but I don’t get paid to make the right decisions nor do I have the experience in the game like he does.  Aaron Boone and Company are the ones depositing the Steinbrenner family’s money into their bank accounts.  I like Aaron Boone but he has to do better.  The 2018 season depends upon it.

The best thing the Yankees can do is make me eat my words.  I am okay with that.

I’ve felt that Orioles manager Buck Showalter would be dismissed at the end of the season for a couple of months but the words I read yesterday seem to indicate it is nearly guaranteed he will be fired.  For as much as I have disliked Buck at times during his post-Yankees career, I am feeling so saddened this may be the end of the line for the former Yankees manager.  I can’t really explain why I feel that way.  It’s unfortunate that Buck was unable to guide a team to a championship during his managerial career.  Other managers benefited from his path in both New York and Arizona.  In this day and age of young, amiable (press-friendly), inexperienced, and analytics-driven managers, it seems improbable that Buck will get another opportunity.  It really does not seem that long ago that Buck was playing first base and the outfield for the Yankees’ then Double A farm team in Nashville. I can still remember a few of his games so vividly.

Whatever happens with Buck, I wish him the best as life moves forward.  Now, if he wants to lose the next two games, that’s fine by me.

I know it’s a little early to make free agent predictions, but Bleacher Report ran a column on Thursday to take an early look at one realistic free agent for each team.  The reason it bothered me is the writer (Jacob Shafer) has the Yankees signing Dallas Keuchel, with Patrick Corbin going to the Milwaukee Brewers.  Ugh!  I do not want Keuchel on the Yankees.  I am hopeful the Yankees make an all-out attempt to bring Corbin to the Bronx.  The writer also has the Boston Red Sox signing David Robertson which is also something I’d really hate to see.  I love David Cone but there’s a part of me that is still bothered by the fact he wore a Red Sox uniform at the end of his career.  Same with David Wells.  I hope D-Rob does not go down that path.  The writer predicts J.A. Happ will sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks as a replacement for Corbin.  I think Happ has done enough to warrant a new contract in Pinstripes.  Sorry CC, but for a few million more, Happ makes so much more sense for the 2019 Yankees.  Sabathia is predicted by B/R to sign with the Oakland A’s.  That’s a move I would not be opposed to since Sabathia grew up in nearby Vallejo, CA and he’d be able to exit the game in front of his hometown friends and family.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Stobe)

Speaking of Happ, the Yankees seem to be lining him up to pitch the Wild Card game on October 3rd.  He’ll make the start against the O’s tomorrow.  I had thought I wanted Masahiro Tanaka to pitch the Wild Card game but his start against the Red Sox eroded some of my confidence.  Luis Severino is pitching better but I am still not convinced he is the man to face the bruising A’s lineup.  Happ makes as much sense as any of them.  In a do-or-die one game playoff, everybody needs to be ready to contribute.  The only question is whether Aaron Boone will make the right bullpen choices.  I guess we’ll find out on October 3rd.

Hopefully we’ll have a less stressful game and a Yankees win later today.  The opposing pitcher is 3-10 with 5.22 ERA (David Hess).  We should not lose this game.  Hopefully, the gritty Lance Lynn (9-10, 4.90 ERA) ensures that it does not happen.

Go Yankees!

The Puzzling Case of Pickles…

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Yanks Get Double Treat on Saturday…

The Yankees swept the day/night doubleheader in Baltimore on Saturday, and find themselves only seven games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East (just six games back in the loss column). The Yankees took the day game by a score of 10-3 behind the pitching of J.A. “Happer” Happ, his fifth consecutive Yankees victory, and then swept the doubleheader by defeating the O’s 5-1 in the nightcap, a win delivered courtesy of Sonny “Pickles” Gray.

Granted, Gray was facing the worst team in Major League Baseball and they weren’t playing at Yankee Stadium so he had the right conditions for a stellar game. The last time “Pickles” had faced Baltimore, he was pounded for seven runs in only 2 2/3 innings (a 5-7 loss to the O’s on August 1st but that game was in the Bronx. He pitched six scoreless innings of three-hit ball against the Orioles at Camden Yards on July 11th and has only given up one run to Baltimore in three Camden Yards starts this year. He clearly likes pitching in Baltimore even if he can’t pitch anywhere else so I temper Saturday night’s performance. Still, it was a win and that’s what matters most. Gray threw 79 pitches in 6 1/3 innings, limiting Baltimore to three hits and no runs.  He struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter until the final guy he faced in the bottom of the 7th inning.

After the game, Gray proclaimed himself as “one of the best starting pitchers in this league” which I thought was a bit much. Maybe he was saying it for the benefit of O’s GM Dan Duquette (future trade possibilities), given his propensity for ‘elite-like’ games in Baltimore. His statement could not have been meant for Yankee fans because we know better. Good for Gray to have confidence, but he shouldn’t rush out to buy shelf space for a Cy Young Award.

Perhaps the disappointment of the night game was the inability of reliever Tommy Kahnle to preserve the shutout for “Pickles”. It was a messy bottom of the ninth as Kahnle gave up three hits, the last one a single by Yankees castoff Jace Peterson which scored Trey Mancini with Baltimore’s only run. Manager Aaron Boone was forced to bring in Dellin “El Acido” Betances to get the final out with two runners on base. Fortunately, he struck out Caleb Joseph on five pitches to prevent an Orioles rally and gained his first save of the season. There’s no way that should have ever been a save situation and it reinforces why Tommy Kahnle has a long way to go before he can be a trusted member of the bullpen again.

In the day game, I was a little worried when J.A. Happ gave up two runs in the bottom of the 2nd inning which gave the O’s a one-run lead. He has pitched so well for the Yankees since his acquisition in July and it is inevitable that the wheels will fall off. Happ is exactly the type of trading deadline deal you want to make. Acquire a guy who outperforms his time with his previous club and just wins down the stretch.  The Yankees other lefty July trade target, Cole Hamels, is doing a tremendous job for the Chicago Cubs, but I agree that Happ was the right choice given his AL East experience. Happ ended up with yet another quality start, holding the O’s to just those two runs on five hits over six innings for his 15th win of he year. Happ (15-6) walked a batter and struck out nine and is only a win behind Luis Severino. Luis Cessa, the 26th man, finished up the final three innings for his first save despite the blowout.

Miguel “Papá ” Andujar, who has become everybody’s favorite choice for AL Rookie of the Year, hit his 21st home run in the first game with 4 RBI’s to pace the Yankees. Aaron “Hicksie” Hicks had three hits and 2 RBI’s. Luke “Louis” Voit got the start in the first game over Greg Bird, and delivered a run-scoring single. Brett “Gardner” Gardner also chipped in a couple of RBI’s and Gleyber “GT” Torres, with two hits, had an RBI as well.

In the night game, Gardy, Hicks, and Giancarlo “G” Stanton all contributed an RBI, and Austin “Ro” Romine smacked an insurance-providing solo homer in the top of the ninth. Greg “Bird” Bird finally got the start after two successive starts by Luke Voit. He responded to the challenge for his position by going 0-for-3 with a strikeout.

The Yankees (82-47) play the Boston Red Sox six more times with three games in New York and three in Boston. The New York series is Tuesday, September 18th through Thursday, September 20th, while the Boston series finishes the regular season on Friday, September 28th to Sunday, September 30th. It’s still an uphill battle but the division title remains within reach if the cards fall right for the Yankees. Getting everybody healthy is the first course of business.

Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe had some interesting comments about the Yankees in his weekly Sunday Baseball Notes.  He stated the Indians and the Yankees “were exploring the possibility of (Andrew) McCutchen, who has cleared waivers and can be traded anywhere”. I find it hard to believe the Yankees would add McCutchen due to the luxury tax threshold limitations but I guess you can never underestimate GM Brian Cashman. I wouldn’t mind seeing McCutchen in pinstripes but then again, he’s a redundant luxury once Aaron Judge returns to good health. Cutch does have that “it” factor and could be capable of delivering huge hits when it matters the most even if he is no longer the player he once was for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cafardo also said the Yankees were in the hunt for Giants lefthander Madison Bumgarner at the July trading deadline but found the price too high. Bummer, I would have loved Mad-Bum on the Yankees. Of course, I have no idea what the Giants asked for. Handing over our ten best prospects probably would not have been a good idea. LOL! I doubt that was the cost but it probably wasn’t too far off.

Congrats to former Yankee Matt Holliday for his return to the Majors with his original team, the Colorado Rockies. Holliday was unable to wear his original number (5) since it now belongs to long-time Rockie Carlos Gonzalez and the number he wore with the Yankees (17) is retired in honor of Rockies great Todd Helton. So Holliday opted for number 7 which of course is a hallowed number around here. Holliday went hitless in his Rockies debut on Friday after an absence of ten years in a Colorado uniform but he delivered a pinch hit homer yesterday against another one of his former teams, the St Louis Cardinals.

The Yankees conclude their series at Camden Yards today. Luis Severino (16-6, 3.28 ERA) will face Dylan Bundy (7-12, 5.31 ERA) tonight at 8 pm ET before the team heads home (sleep?  who needs stinkin’ sleep!). It would be great if Sevy could pitch like he did in the first half. We need THAT guy hitting all cylinders for the sprint to the finish. Baltimore is going to lose 100 games this season with or without our help. We might as well move them one game closer. With the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers on tap for the seven-game homestand starting Monday, the Yankees must continue to put the pressure on the Beantown Bunch.  These are the games that we can and should win before we face the Wild Card contending Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners on the the last West Coast trip of the regular season starting on Labor Day.

Go Yankees!

On a Wing (Voit) and a Prayer (Britton)…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Patrick McDermott)

Yanks Use Unlikely Heroes to Thwart the O’s…

When the lineup was posted prior to the game, Luke Voit’s name at first base was about as exciting as getting teeth pulled despite Greg Bird’s struggles with the bat. After the game was over, Voit had ensured he could be the beneficiary of more playing time at Bird’s expense.  His two home runs were huge. The first tied the game in the early stages and the latter provided the necessary insurance for the win. The muscled kid from St Louis came up big for the Pinstripes with 4 RBI’s in the 7-5 win over the Baltimore Orioles.

Zach Britton picked up his first save for the Yankees, his fifth of the year. He was treated rudely by former teammate Chris Davis who blasted a solo home run in the bottom of the tenth, but thanks to Voit’s two-run shot after the Yankees had taken a one-run lead in the top of the tenth, Britton withstood the Davis home run trot to preserve the win. Things might have looked differently had Britton not gotten Trey Mancini, the batter before Davis, to hit into a double play. Whatever it takes, it was a win and the Yankees finally have a winning season record against the O’s at 7-6.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

The Orioles got on the board first. After the Yankees had threatened in the top of the first inning (but failed), the O’s grabbed the early lead with a two-run single by Chris Davis in the bottom of the inning off Yankees starter CC Sabathia. Davis entered the game batting .163 on the season but apparently Yankees pitching didn’t get the memo.

Orioles starter Alex Cobb, who has enjoyed a resurgent second half following a 2-12 record leading up to the All-Star Game, was tough on the Yankees lineup. After escaping the first inning scoring opportunity, he blanked the Yankees over the  next two innings, allowing just a couple of meaningless walks. It looked like he was going to have his way in the top of the fourth inning when he struck out Miguel Andujar to start the frame. Neil Walker singled to center, but Gleyber Torres flied out to right for the second out. Up to the plate strolled Luke Voit who had hit into a double play in the second inning for his first at-bat. Voit crushed the Cobb offering over the wall in left center to tie the game at two. It looked weird to see Chasen Shreve’s #45 circling the bases.

CC Sabathia got the Yankees through six innings with the game knotted at two. The ball was turned over to David Robertson for the seventh but unfortunately he ran into a bit of bad luck. The first hitter, John Andreoli (a recent cast-off from the Seattle Mariners), reached base on a fielding error by interim shortstop Gleyber Torres (the ball rolled up his arm off his wrist and dropped into shallow left field). Torres was in pain but stayed in the game. D-Rob was able to retire the next two hitters but then Jonathan Villar, the former Milwaukee Brewer, took Robertson deep to left center, giving the O’s a 4-2 lead. I hate to say it, but I don’t really see the Yankees re-signing D-Rob, one of my favorite Yankees over the years, after the season.

The Yankees answered in the top of the eighth. With only one out, they loaded the bases against two Orioles relievers. The third O’s pitcher of the inning, Mychal Givens, came in to face Gleyber Torres and was greeted with a two-run single to right. The O’s had a play at the plate for the second runner, Miguel Andujar, on a strong throw by Adam Jones, but the ball came loose on the collision at home. Papa was safe and the game was tied again. The Yanks re-loaded the bases after Luke Voit had struck out for the second out, but Ronald Torreyes left the runners stranded with a pop out to first.

Dellin Betances, sporting yellow shoes, pitched the bottom of the eighth. He got into a little trouble with a couple of singles but was able to get out of the inning with a couple of swinging strikeouts.

The Yankees had a chance in the ninth when Brett Gardner opened the inning with a single, but after Giancarlo Stanton flied out, Aaron Hicks hit the ball directly into Chris Davis’ glove, standing on first base, for an inning-ending double play. Three up and three down for Chad Green in the bottom of the ninth, and it was off to extra innings we went.

With former Yankees prospect Cody Carroll pitching, Neil Walker homered to right center with one out to give the Yankees their first lead of the game. Neil, please accept my apology for any disparaging words I may have used about you earlier in the season. Gleyber Torres followed with a walk. He stole second and then advanced to third on a throwing error by the O’s catcher. Luke Voit, who obviously enjoyed the fourth inning home run, decided to re-live the experience with another two-run blast, this time to right center.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Patrick Semansky)

The Yankees took the three-run lead into the bottom of the tenth, bringing in former Orioles closer Zach Britton to finish off his ex-teammates. Adam Jones singled to right to open the inning for the Orioles, but Trey Mancini, in the midst of a down year for him, grounded into a double play. So Chris Davis came to the plate with the bases empty and two outs. His homer to center, traveling 430 feet, cut the Yanks’ lead to two. Fortunately, Tim Beckham grounded out to first to end the game. It was a struggle but the Yankees persevered to pull out the victory. Britton walked off the Orioles mound with another save in his illustrious Camden Yards career, but the first in opposing gear.

The win, the Yankees’ 80th of the year, helped them to cut the gap to 8 1/2 games behind the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox dropped a 10-3 game to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees are just the second team in MLB to reach 80 wins, but of course the Red Sox became the first to 90 earlier this week. The Yankees hold a four-game lead on the Oakland A’s in the Wild Card standings and eight games over Adam Warren and the Seattle Mariners.

Nice job by CC Sabathia, fresh off the 10-day DL, to give the Yankees some length after the first inning difficulties. He mixed in a couple of eight-pitch innings. He may not have gotten the decision but he put his team in position for the win. As they say, wins are a worthless statistic to prove a pitcher’s worth. The Yankees would not have won this game without CC’s strong performance.

Gary Sanchez began a rehab assignment in Florida (Gulf Coast League) today so it sounds like we’ll be getting one of the wounded soldiers back soon. Sanchez will move up to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after today’s game before rejoins the team, hopefully next week. I really hope that El Gary brings some of the hustle I’ve seen with the rehab workout videos. We could really use the pre-2018 version of Sanchez for the regular season’s final month.

The Yankees and the Orioles play two today. RHP Luis Cessa has been called up as the 26th man for the day/night double-header. The first game, at 1:00 pm ET, features J.A. Happ (14-6, 3.84 ERA) against Jimmy Yacabonis (0-1, 6.75 ERA). Luke Voit hit his last Triple A homer, prior to his call-up, against Yacabonis. Sure enough, on the lineup just posted for today’s game, Voit is playing first base. The second game, 7:05 pm ET, will pit the beleaguered Sonny Gray (9-8, 5.34 ERA) against Andrew Cashner (4-11, 4.84 ERA). Despite his record, Cashner always seems to pitch well against the Yankees. If Gray wants to pitch any meaningful games for the Yankees down the stretch, he needs to show up tonight. No pressure. Somehow I suspect he’ll fail miserably to maintain his grip on the Sonny Gray Sucks! tag line. Sonny, dammit, prove me wrong.

Hopefully last night’s win provides some momentum for the Yankees against the pesky O’s. Why win just one game, when you can take two?  Let’s do this. Go Yankees!

Great Britton Has Joined the War…

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Yanks acquire elite Reliever for Stretch Run…

I am not sure how I felt when I first heard that trade negotiations were heating up between the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles.  In 2016, there was not a more dominant reliever in baseball than Zach Britton. He was 2-1 with 47 saves and was virtually unhittable with 0.54 ERA (giving up only four earned runs in 67 innings pitched). He struck out 74 batters and was only touched for one home run. He thrust his name in the arena of elite closers, but then the last couple of years have been injury-filled. After accumulating 120 saves between 2014 and 2016, he has only 19 this year and last. By comparison, the interim closer for the O’s, Brad Brach, has 29 saves for 2017 and YTD 2018.

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When healthy, there are not too many pitchers better than Britton. Plus, he’s a lefty so that’s huge plus for Yankee Stadium. Hopefully this means that Chasen Shreve’s days are numbered. When Britton returned from the DL, he was generally effective although his ERA was torched by a bad outing in Atlanta on June 22nd when he gave up 4 runs on 5 hits while recording only a single out. But in July, he’s been his dominant self, allowing no runs over 7 innings and striking out 13. He shut down the Yankees for an inning on July 10th (the two-homer game by former Oriole Manny Machado), picking up the win on the walk-off single by Jonathan Schoop. He struck out the last two Yankees he faced (Miguel Andujar and Greg Bird).

I am in favor of the Britton trade, but I think I was as grateful he wasn’t traded to the Houston Astros or the Boston Red Sox as I was with the thought of him restoring the three-headed beast in the bullpen that has been missing since the Yankees traded away Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman in 2016 (with no offense to David Robertson, who remains one of my favorite Yankees).

Yesterday must have been weird for Britton.  His team was playing the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards in Baltimore. When the game started, Britton and the Orioles were 42 ½ games behind the Red Sox in the AL East Standings. By the time the rain-delayed game ended, Britton had gained 37 ½ games on the Red Sox, thanks to his new Pinstripes. Britton first became aware of the potential Yankees trade during the rain delay when he was met with countless messages and texts on his cell phone so it must have been bittersweet for him to watch his teammates defeat the Red Sox when play resumed. Part of me wished that the O’s had brought Britton out one last time (nothing better than to see him defeat the Red Sox), but the Orioles were not going to risk potential injury to jeopardize the trade. So Brad Brach came in to close it out and nearly blew the game in the rain-marred 9th inning. But in the end, he left the game-tying and -winning runs stranded on base by inducing the great Mookie Betts to hit into a game-ending double play. The win allowed Britton to walk away from Camden Yards on a positive note.

So, welcome to the New York Yankees, Zach Britton! Whether your stay is only for a few months or long-term should you decide to sign with the Yankees in the off-season, we are glad to have you. With Chapman’s knee issues, I am sure that there will be save opportunities for you. Looking forward to watching you send AL hitters home frustrated with that deadly sinker.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rich Schultz)

As for the guys the Yankees gave up, the one I probably hated to see leave the most was Cody Carroll. I’ve liked the reliever for the last few years but the loaded Yankees pen has kept him at Triple A. Although he has been assigned to the O’s Triple A club in Norfolk, there’s no doubt he’ll soon be making his Major League debut for his new club. Former Yanks like Richard Bleier and Yefry Ramirez (the winner pitcher in Baltimore’s win over the Red Sox yesterday) have done very well for the Orioles and I expect no less from Carroll. The headliner was Dillon Tate who has restored his stock as a quality prospect this year after once being selected fourth overall in the 2015 MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers. Tate, acquired in the trading deadline deal that sent Carlos Beltran to the Texas Rangers two years ago, may turn out to be a fine middle-of-the-rotation starter or a good setup reliever but he was never going to get that opportunity in New York. There are too many better guys in front of him. Josh Rogers has been a nice left-handed starter for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders but I agree with one Yankees beat writer that labeled him as a “poor man’s Jordan Montgomery”. With so many players needing protection from the Rule 5 Draft in December, I have no problem clearing the board of some of the fringe prospects. The fact the Yankees got an elite reliever without giving up a player from the cream of their prospects is incredible. The Yankees paid more for Britton than the A’s paid for Mets closer Jeurys Familia but it was worth it. Casey Stern’s famous quote (“Prospects are cool…Parades are cooler”) is very appropriate in this situation. If the Yankees win the World Series, I am not going to worry about future damage that Tate, Carroll and Rogers may do to the Yankees just like Cubs fans do not regret the trade that sent the very talented young Gleyber Torres to the Yankees.

There’s now less than a week to go to the non-waivers trading deadline next Tuesday. I still fully anticipate a trade for a proven starter although I do not feel the Yankees will be making any surprise stealth moves to acquire premium starters like Jacob deGrom or Madison Bumgarner. At this point, I probably feel more strongly than ever that J.A. Happ of the Toronto Blue Jays has a future in the Bronx. Given the Yankees are responsible for the full pro-rated balance of Britton’s one-year deal, I think they’ll tread lightly for luxury tax avoidance purposes. So, Happ makes more sense to me than Cole Hamels even though the latter has the better post-season resume. Although Happ has generally been awful for his last few starts, he held the Orioles to 1 run on 4 hits over 5 innings in his most recent start, striking out 9. He has shown the ability to beat the Astros and Red Sox so I’d have no qualms about adding him to the rotation. Zach Britton represents huge insurance and protection for Happ’s addition.

Lost in the Britton trade was the dominating performance of Masahiro Tanaka last night as the Yankees took down the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-0. Tanaka pitched a complete game shut-out, giving up only three hits and avoiding his usual obligatory home runs. He walked a batter and struck out 9 while throwing 105 pitches and lowering his season ERA to 4.09. After watching Luis Severino fall down against the Rays the night before, the Yankees needed a solid effort from Tanaka and they got it.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Ehrmann)

The win allowed the Yankees (64-35) to pick up a game on the Red Sox (71-32). The Yankees are 5 games behind the Red Sox entering play today and they are 5 games up on the Seattle Mariners in the AL Wild Card Standings.

I haven’t heard yet when Britton will join his new team but I think it would be foolish to make him travel to Tampa, Florida for today’s game, particularly given its early start time. The Yankees bullpen is rested and they can afford to wait a day for Britton’s arrival. Therefore, I’d send Britton to New York in anticipation of Thursday’s game against the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium. It would give Britton a breather to adjust to the change and to make temporary living accommodations. I’ve wondered if third base coach Phil Nevin will give up #53 for Britton. It’s not like he is married to the number. I guess we’ll soon find out.

Luis Cessa (1-1, 3.00 ERA) makes his return to the Yankees today for the start in the series finale with the Rays. He’ll be opposed by former (and maybe future?) Yank Nathan Eovaldi (3-4, 4.26 ERA). The Yankees are expected to activate Gleyber Torres before today’s game. It will be interesting to see the roster move made to open a spot for Torres. Cessa’s spot was opened by last night’s demotion of Giovanny Gallegos to Triple A. The most likely guy to join him with the RailRiders is Tyler Wade although Brandon Drury could certainly be an option if he needs a stint on the DL following his hand injury yesterday. Test results on the hand were negative but Drury’s hand is bruised and he could miss a few days.  A short stint on the DL might be good for him. Inevitably, I see the road coming to an end for Neil Walker but I don’t expect to see his name on the transactions wire today. Getting Torres back might be the single greatest “acquisition” the Yankees make this month. The Yankees have done a much better job winning with Gleyber’s name in the lineup than not so his presence is tremendous for the team.

Today is a great day for a Yankees victory. Cessa, please make it happen. Go Yankees!