Tagged: Baltimore

Losing the Battle of Baltimore…

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Photo Credit: The Baltimore Sun/TNS (Karl Merton Ferron)

Splitting the Series is better than losing it but…

Why is it that the Yankees waited until the final game of the series in Baltimore to play like they are supposed to against Baseball’s worst professional team? Okay, I’ll give you the Luis Cessa game but realistically, the Yankees should have taken three of four or all four of the games in B-more.

Sonny Gray was great last night, but honestly, I still do not trust the pitcher. He has a long way to go before I’ll have confidence in his starts. One game does not a season make.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Scott Taetsch)

If the Yankees lose the AL East, the deciding factor will be the Battle of Baltimore. The Boston Red Sox have beaten the O’s nine times out of ten, while the Yanks and Orioles have split ten games. If the Yankees had matched Boston’s record against the woeful O’s, the Yankees would have had a better winning percentage than the Red Sox even though the Sox have currently won nine games in a row.

The Yankees face a tough challenge starting tonight with a four-game set against the Cleveland Indians.  The pitching matchup for the opener doesn’t get any better than the marquee event pitting Luis Severino (14-2, 2.12 ERA) against Corey Kluber (12-4, 2.49 ERA). The Yankees swept the Indians in a three-game series at Yankee Stadium in early May but it took two walk-off performances. In the latest series, the Indians will have last at-bat. The Indians (50-41) currently hold an 8 ½ game lead over the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central. Cleveland’s had some bullpen issues but they remain a very dangerous team. I learned long ago to never underestimate Cleveland manager Terry Francona.

The Yankees (60-31) have fallen 3 ½ games behind the Red Sox in the AL East after no more than a two-game separation in June.  Boston is on a historic run for their organization. There’s still plenty of time for the Yankees to catch Boston but hats off to them for their refusal to lose. Earlier in the season, I was a bit frustrated by Boston’s cream puff schedule (seemed like they were mostly playing losing teams) but the truth is they know how to beat those teams better than the Yankees. For the Yankees to have a better record against winning teams than the losers, it makes no sense to me. They really need to stop playing down to the level of their opponents and start playing more like last night’s game.

I am not sure what to think about the Manny Machado rumors which have been running rampant the last couple of days. I’d love to have Manny in Pinstripes. But acquiring Manny only seems to make sense if the Yankees already have a plan in place to acquire an upper echelon starting pitcher, they are fearful the Red Sox might swoop in and grab him, or if they see the pitching market as a collection of Sonny Grays and feel that making further enhancements to the team’s potent offense is the way to go.

I am intrigued by the idea of having Manny on my team. He is one of the best players in the game today.  Probably the only deal-killer for me is if he continues to insist on playing shortstop. I have no desire to replace Didi Gregorius. But if Miguel Andujar is included in a deal for a top starting pitcher or if the Yankees decide to move Andujar to first base to make room for Manny at third, I am on board. I know Greg Bird has hit home runs in the last couple of games including a grand slam yesterday, but health-wise and production-wise, I have more faith in Andujar than I do Bird. I could be very wrong on this given Bird’s history as a clutch performer in the Minor Leagues, but conversely, I am all about doing whatever is necessary to make the Yankees a better team. There’s no guarantee the Yankees re-sign Machado after the season so that’s certainly the risk of trading top prospects to Baltimore who could potentially become Yankee killers. Growing up, it bothered me to see Scott McGregor, Tippy Martinez and Rick Dempsey thrive in Baltimore after starting their careers with the Yankees. Not that they were great players (although McGregor did win 20 games for the O’s in 1980) but it’s hard to see your team’s prospects thrive elsewhere, particularly for teams in the AL East. I’d like to think that Manny would enjoy his time in the Bronx and would aggressively work to stay. I don’t think the Yankees would make the move to acquire Machado unless they felt they had a strong chance to sign him to a new contract after the season. Not that I think he’d give the Yankees any type of discount (in fact, it might the opposite given the high cost of living in America’s largest city), but it would be better than him going to Los Angeles and developing a love for Dodger Blue or becoming a Beer King in Milwaukee.

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So, my vote is to acquire Machado now. Realistically, I don’t think he ends up in New York, at least not yet but it’s fun to think about.

I enjoyed hearing that Justus Sheffield would not be part of any trade for Machado but I would absolutely include Top Sheff in a deal for an ace like Jacob deGrom, Blake Snell or Madison Bumgarner. I wouldn’t do it for one of the lesser caliber pitchers including Michael Fulmer. The Yankees have a wealth of talented young arms in the system. There’s simply no way every one of them will reach the Majors with the Yankees. If Sheffield leaves, other young, talented pitchers will ascend to the top of the prospect lists.  Luis Medina was drawn much praise this season, and Luis Gil, acquired from the Minnesota Twins, is drawing accolades in the lower level of the farm system.  I still have very high hopes for Albert Abreu and Domingo Acevedo but you keep hearing great things about guys like Trevor Stephan, Nick Nelson, Garrett Whitlock and others. The top pitching prospects tend to be mostly right-handers (unlike Sheffield) but I would trade a potential ace for a proven ace any day of the week, especially considering the team is prepared to win now.

I want the Yankees to capture the World Series THIS year, not next year or the year after (well, actually I want all of the above but for now, let’s take the 2018 World Series). I don’t want to see the team play a one-game Wild Card ‘do-or-die’ playoff to determine their fate. Even a five-game series is not a true test of the best team, but that’s better than ending the season because of one off-night. So I am in favor of whatever GM Brian Cashman wants to do to improve the Yankees and their chances for October. There will be painful losses. As they say, you have to give up quality to get quality. The Chicago Cubs felt it was the right thing to do to give up their top prospect a couple of years ago for a chance to win the 2016 World Series. The Yankees were the beneficiary of that decision but now they are the team with the great opportunity to win it all.  We’ve had trust in Cashman’s decisions up to this point so there’s no reason to believe that he’s going to go ‘George Steinbrenner-style’ and start trading away premier prospects for aging veterans who have seen their better days. I always trust Cash with the vision to simultaneously look at today and tomorrow. He has not led us astray yet.

I am kind of glad that Giancarlo Stanton is not going to this year’s All-Star Game. He’s heating up and I’d prefer to see him take some rest days next week. I am really glad that he opted to pass on the Home Run Derby even though it means no Yankees will be represented. We need Giancarlo humming through October and I don’t want to take any unnecessary risks with him. Hopefully AL Manager A.J. Hinch opts to replace Aaron Judge sooner rather than later in right field and Luis Severino doesn’t pitch more than an inning. We need a rested and ready team for the second half.

I don’t envy Brian Cashman. He has some very tough decisions to make in the coming days and weeks leading up to the non-waiver trading deadline at the end of the month. Even if he does nothing, the Yankees still have a very good team. We need starting pitching but that’s been a known fact for a very long time. When opportunity presents itself, guys step up. Either Cashman believes in the guys we have or he sees opportunity with players currently wearing other uniforms. Regardless, he has my faith and confidence. He’ll do the right thing, and we’ll be enjoying some great baseball in October.  Life is good.

Go Yankees!

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Yankees Hold Off Rain & Orioles…

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Gail Burton)

Yanks Win Series with second win in a row over the Birds…

I was going to lead off this post with Miguel Andujar but I had to start off by saying I am very happy that Gleyber Torres was not hurt when he was hit by a pitch on his right wrist during the sixth inning of yesterday’s 8-5 win over the Baltimore Orioles. It hurt to watch so I can only imagine what it felt like to be the recipient. It could have been much, much worse. Fortunately, there was no serious damage and Torres was able to continue playing. I half expect to see Neil Walker playing second base today to give Torres a breather.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Sorry Miguel. Yes, Giancarlo Stanton homered but it was Andujar who gave the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish with his two-run shot in the second inning. He finished the game 2-for-4 with 3 RBI’s. His other hit was a run-scoring double in the eighth inning. All he does is hit damn extra base hits. He leads the team with 18 doubles (5 more than Aaron Judge) and is the co-leader with two triples. Love it. I am still a fan of Brandon Drury but there’s no question Andujar has been a big part of the Yankees’ 2018 success.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)

Stanton’s dinger was huge given Masahiro Tanaka’s propensity for giving up homers. Tanaka ended up getting taken yard three times but fortunately they were all of the solo variety. Still, even empty base home runs are very annoying. Thankfully the Yankees offense performed well enough to repel those runs. Tanaka (7-2) picked up the win despite the less than ideal pitching line. 5 1/3 innings, 97 pitches, 8 hits, 4 runs, and a walk. He did strike out 7 batters. One of the runs charged to Tanaka was a run-scoring double given up by reliever Jonathan Holder in the bottom of the sixth. For as uneven as Tanaka has pitched this year, he has the same record as Houston’s Justin Verlander despite the ‘slightly’ worse ERA (4.79 to 1.24).

After the game, Tanaka said, “I feel like I need to do a better job on the home runs.” Ya think? Is a homer-less game by Tanaka too much to ask for? I prefer to only see guys with an interlocking N-Y on their helmets belt ones out of the park, thank you very much.

I expected Greg Bird to do some damage against his high school teammate Kevin Gausman but for whatever reason, Gausman always seems to win those battles. Bird did get a hit yesterday but Gausman was already in the showers by then. One of these days. I want to see Bird take his buddy deep for bragging rights.  It’s only right and something I am sure that Bird’s hairless cat would want.

Overall it was a nice job by the Yankees bullpen. Yes, Holder gave up the hit that made it a two-run game and David Robertson was nicked for a run in the ninth, but they sandwiched great performances by Chad Green and Dellin Betances. No harm, no foul.

It was a sloppy game for the Orioles with three errors in the sixth inning. It’s unfortunate the Yankees were only able to score two runs in that frame. Not that they really needed any more in this game but the O’s did close the gap in the bottom of the inning before the Yankees pulled away in the eighth. It seems like it is only a matter of time until Orioles manager Buck Showalter gets his walking papers. It is shaping up to be a poor finish for the career of the former Yankees manager.

The other game stars for the Yankees were Brett Gardner (two doubles and a run scored), Didi Gregorius (a pair of singles, an RBI and two runs scored), and Aaron Hicks (3-for-4 day, 2 RBI’s and a couple of runs scored). Hopefully this is the start of a better month for Sir Didi. After his All-World performance in April, May was a month to forget. Once Gary Sanchez and Didi starting hitting, this offense is going to be unstoppable.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)

The game was delayed for an hour and forty-four minutes due to the threat of rain. Seemed odd that they’d pull out the tarp when it was not actually raining. But whatever. They got the game in, and the Yankees won their fourth consecutive game. There’s a high chance of rain this afternoon so there will probably be more delays before the Yankees can head for Detroit, Michigan. Hopefully it doesn’t mean spending the night at BWI, particularly considering they have to play two games tomorrow in the Motor City. The Yankees will miss long-rumored trade target Michael Fulmer. Fulmer, off to a disappointing start (2-4, 4.60 ERA, 1.368 WHIP), pitches today against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Sadly, the Boston Red Sox won their 40th game of the season yesterday against Justin Verlander and the Houston Astros. It wasn’t Verlander’s fault. The Red Sox just worked the simple formula. Keep it close and get into the Astros bullpen. Once there, good things happen for opposing teams. The Red Sox (40-19) continue to lead the Yankees (37-17) by a half-game in the AL East.

Justus Sheffield was hammered for six runs in five innings yesterday during Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s 8-0 loss to the Indianapolis Indians. I guess he was “Bottom” Sheff for the day. Four hits, including a homer, and three walks did in the young left-hander. Brandon Drury, to his credit, singled to increase his on-base streak to 25 games. The sorely missed Ronald Torreyes was 2-for-4 on an otherwise forgettable offensive (literally and figuratively) day for the RailRiders.

By the way, congratulations to Gleyber Torres for his recognition as May American League Rookie of the Month. His slash line for the month was .317/.374/.659 with nine home runs and 24 RBI’s.  He delivered 26 hits, 13 runs scored and drew six walks.  The month included Gleyber’s four-game homer streak as the 21 year old continues to draw out the names of Yankees legends like Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle with his hitting prowess. Not saying he is those guys but his accomplishments echo reminders of those names. That’s pretty damn good company.

Photo Credit: The Sporting News

Weather-permitting, let’s get a win today. I’ll be at Coors Field watching the Los Angeles Dodgers go for the sweep against the Colorado Rockies. Hopefully the Pinstripers can do the same.

Go Yankees!

Gleyber Torres is a Yankee…

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Mitch Stringer)

Shoes or no shoes, Rookie continues to excel…

The Yankees didn’t beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-1 on Friday night solely behind the bat, feet, and arm of young Gleyber Torres but as usual, the youngster was in the thick of things as the Yankees won the opener of their now three-game series with the O’s behind solid pitching by Sonny Gray.

Admittedly, I moved to pessimistic mode when Sonny Gray allowed the first inning solo shot by the great Manny Machado, but Torres changed my mood considerably when he singled in the third to score Neil Walker with the tying run.

Torres led off the fifth inning with a double that he tried to stretch to triple but an uncooperative shoe that went flying off his foot altered his momentum with a slight stumble that allowed the outfield throw to reach third ahead of the sliding Torres. Although the Orioles announcer for the TV broadcast I was watching called the Yankees second baseman by the name of Gleyber Torreyes during the at-bat, Torres continues to be a very exciting player regardless of the outcome or how you pronounce his name.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Nick Wass)

Greg Bird, showing why he is so highly thought of by the Yankees organization, tripled to the center field wall, when O’s outfielder Adam Jones misjudged his leap, scoring Brett Gardner with the go-ahead run. Gardy had singled after the shoeless Torres had been thrown out at third. Bird, please just stay healthy. We need you.

I was very pleased with the overall performance by Sonny Gray. I can get so infuriated with his pitching but he delivered the way he was expected to when GM Brian Cashman summoned the former Oakland Athletic to the Bronx last summer. After giving up the Machado homer, he held the O’s to three meaningless hits and no runs before his departure after six innings.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

For as much as I have focused on Torres in recent days, there’s no question Aaron Judge is this team’s MVP. His seventh inning homer (his 16th dinger of the season and 41st RBI) gave the Yankees a three-run cushion they would not relinquish. Psychologically, this was huge, especially when Dellin Betances loaded the bases in the eighth with a couple of walks and a plunking of Orioles slugger Mark Trumbo. Fortunately, Betances was able to exit the inning unscathed when he got the unspectacular Jace Peterson out on a grounder back to the pitching mound.

Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth to secure the win for Gray and the Yankees. It was his 13th save of the season. I am grateful we continue to see 2016 Chapman and not last year’s version.

The Boston Red Sox (39-19) lost again, their second loss in a row to the Houston Astros, so the Yankees (36-17) have narrowed the gap in the AL East to just a half game. The Astros, behind the pitching of Gerrit Cole, beat Chris Sale for the 7-3 victory. The Orioles are 21 games behind the Yankees. Wow, it’s only June 2nd.  I do feel badly for O’s manager Buck Showalter. I am not sure that he’s going to survive this season.  I used to love beating him but now he just looks so pathetic in the O’s dugout, loss after loss. I can still remember watching Showalter as a Double A player in the Yankees farm system as if it was yesterday. The team that was surprised me the most in the division is the 28-28 Tampa Bay Rays, currently in third.  They’ve lost a couple games but for them to be playing .500 ball is impressive given the current talent struggles on their roster. They are playing more like how I expected the O’s to play instead of vice versa.

The legendary Yankees career of Oliver Perez has come to an end. After signing a minor league contract earlier this year, Perez wasn’t awful for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders but there was no chance he was going to find his way to the Bronx. He exercised a June 1st opt-out and will have a chance to find a team with a clearer path of the Major Leagues. Good luck to him. Frankly, I am glad the Yankees never needed his services.

Bryan Van Dusen wrote an excellent piece the other day about the value of the roster spots for the Yankees (too many good players to fit within the confines of a 25-man roster). I am always too quick to dump on Aaron Hicks but leave it to Van Dusen to provide the reminder for why Hicks is a valuable role player for the Yankees: “Aaron Hicks – I’m not sold on him being a starter, at least not for the Yankees, but if you look beyond a pedestrian batting average this season (.232) he’s a solid player. He’ll get on base at a decent clip, doesn’t strike out much, makes contact often, and is a top ten defensive centerfielder in all of MLB.”  As usual, I agree with Bryan. I’d love to see Clint Frazier at the Major Leagues, but for as much as I might like him over Hicks, Red Thunder is not going to experience MLB success in center field. He’ll make his mark with a corner outfield position and last time I checked, those spots are filled. Van Dusen suggested moving Gardy to center to open left for Clint Frazier but goes on to say letting Frazier crush it in Triple A to help his trade value might be the best path.  Again, I have to agree. I love Red Thunder and it would be awesome to see him on the Yankee Stadium field.  But this team needs pitching and Frazier might be the best trade chip. Nice job on your analysis, Bryan.

It seems like I’ve been ripping on Chance Adams as much as I have Sonny Gray this year, but I have to congratulate Adams for his terrific outing last night.  Adams, with 93 pitches, threw a shutout, scattering four hits, over 5 2/3 innings en route to a 4-0 win over the Indianapolis Indians. Adams struck out seven batters, but more importantly, did not walk anyone. If Adams wants to re-establish himself in the call-up pecking order, this is the way to do it.

Photo Credit: MiLB.com

On a side note, every time I check a RailRiders box score, it seems like Cody Carroll is dominating hitters in relief. It’s almost unfair when the RailRiders take the field against Triple A opponents. A “MLB-ready” team that could effectively compete against many of the MLB teams facing minor league squads. The men among boys. It’s a nice problem to have.

Lastly, Aaron Judge’s air high five for the missing Ronald Torreyes was a nice, but sad, moment in yesterday’s game. I am hopeful the Yankees can find a way to bring back Torreyes sooner rather than later but sadly it will probably take a trade to clear space. Too many good players, not enough roster spots.

Today is a new day. The Yankees can capture first place in the AL East with a win and a Red Sox loss.  Time to put Boston in the rear-view mirror. Of course, rain might have a say in the matter with the thunderstorms expected in Baltimore this afternoon/evening. Rain Gods, please delay your visit and allow America’s favorite team to win today.

Go Yankees!

Always Sonny in Yankee Stadium…

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Adam Hunger)

Yesterday was a much better day… 

If the Yankees can win again today, it will be even better. After losing the first two games of the four-game set with the Baltimore Orioles, the Yankees have a chance to even up the series this afternoon before the Orioles hop on a plane to head home.

In one of the most overused phrases in the Yankees Universe, Saturday was a Sonny Day.  Sonny Gray gave the Yankees what they needed en route to the 8-3 victory. He held the O’s to four hits over six innings. He did give up a tying two-run double to Manny Machado in top of the third and a go-ahead run-scoring double to Pedro Alvarez the next inning, but from there, he held the Orioles in check. By the time he had exited after the sixth inning, Gray had only thrown 86 pitches (55 for strikes) and felt he could have kept going.

For a few minutes, it looked like the move to pull Gray and insert RHP Adam Warren for the top of the seventh might backfire on Manager Aaron Boone. Warren got the first batter out but proceeded to give up a single and a double to put runners at the corners. Enter David Robertson into the dangerous situation with the Yankees nursing a two-run lead. D-Rob did what he does best. He struck out Manny Machado (admittedly on a questionable call) and Jonathan Schoop to leave the runners stranded and get the Yankees out of the jam. Robertson shutting down the Orioles at that point and keeping the momentum with the Yankees was a very powerful moment in the game. In the bottom half of the seventh, Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin padded the lead with three more runs…a run-scoring double by Judge and a two-run single by Austin (thrown out trying to stretch the single into a double but not before both runs had scored).

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Adam Hunger)

I was a little nervous when Luis Cessa entered the game in the top of the ninth despite the five-run lead, but he did his job. This is why I prefer Cessa in relief so that hitters do not get multiple looks at him. He retired all three batters he faced, two by strikeout. I remain hopeful that Domingo German will be the designated spot starter in place of the injured CC Sabathia.

Congrats to Miguel Andujar for his first 2018 hit…a single to center to lead off the bottom of the second inning. Andujar was 1-for-3 and knocked in the run that gave the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth. It would be great for the Yankees if Andujar can start hitting like we know he can.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Paul J Bereswill)

Also, nice job by Jace Peterson. He played Friday night in the season opener for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, got a call at 2 am Saturday morning telling him that he needed to be in New York for the 1:05 pm ET game on Saturday, and was game ready in the Bronx, starting in left field. The infielder with limited outfield experience made some good plays and was 1-for-3. Peterson’s time in the Bronx should be short with the expected return of Aaron Hicks by mid-week, but I am glad to see him take advantage of the opportunity.

The World always feels better, despite its many problems, when the Yankees win.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

They kept pace with the Boston Red Sox and remain 2 1/2 games behind the Beantown Bunch in the AL East standings. The Toronto Blue Jays lost so the Yankees (5-4) were able to move into a tie for second place. Hopefully the Yankees can make it two in a row this afternoon before the team departs for Boston. Monday is an off-day, then they’ll play the Red Sox at Fenway Park for a three-game series beginning Tuesday evening. The Red Sox have Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello lined up and waiting for the Yankees.

I still haven’t figured out the 40-man roster following Saturday’s flurry of transactions.  Excluding Ben Heller who is on the 60-day DL (more on Heller later), I count a total of 41 players on the 40-man roster reflected on MLB.com’s website. I am sure there’s a reasonable explanation but so far I have not seen one addressed.

The Ben Heller story took an unexpected turn yesterday. Before the season started, the Yankees had optioned Heller to Triple A. Then it was announced that the option had been voided and Heller was placed on the 10-day DL due to bone spurs in his pitching elbow. He was subsequently moved to the 60-day DL. Yesterday morning, Ben posted a pic on social media, talking about how his old elbow had served him well but it was time for a new one.

Later in the day, it was announced that Heller had undergone Tommy John surgery in addition to the removal of the bone spurs. I didn’t see this one coming. Heller had been my expected bullpen breakout this year, but now, the Yankees won’t see him until mid-2019 at the earliest assuming that they hold him a spot on the 40-man roster over the off-season. That’s not a given as the Yankees have cut the last couple of arms which required TJ surgery (Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob Lindgren). Perhaps the goal was to re-sign them to minor league contracts outside of the 40-man roster but both times the moves failed as the pitchers signed with other organizations. Good moves with both of those pitchers due to subsequent surgeries which keep them sidelined but who knows what awaits Heller. I wish him the very best in his recovery and rehab and I truly hope he achieves the Major League success he seems destined for. I’d prefer to see it in Pinstripes but I will cheer for him regardless of what uniform he wears next time he takes the mound.

I am disappointed with the developments regarding third baseman Brandon Drury. I was such a fan of the trade that brought the former Arizona Diamondback to New York. It was one thing for Drury to be placed on the 10-day DL with migraine headaches yesterday but to subsequently find out that this is an on-going problem that has afflicted Drury for years was a shock.  Not that I want to be critical of GM Brian Cashman, but how did the Yankees not know about this?  Drury has exams scheduled for tomorrow so hopefully we’ll know more soon. I am hopeful that this is not a long-term problem or in Drury’s case, a life-threatening one. I am concerned but hopefully we’ll have better news tomorrow or later in the week.

I know many fans would love to see the Yankees sign pending free agent Bryce Harper in the off-season but with each loss, the pressure is on the Los Angeles Dodgers to make impact moves. They’ll need to do whatever it takes to keep Clayton Kershaw, but I fully expect the Dodgers to be in play for Harper. The Dodgers lost a heart-breaking fourteen-inning game to the San Francisco Giants last night after they had taken a one-run lead on a walk-off three-run homer by Andrew McCutcheon. The loss dropped the Dodgers, an expected World Series contender, to 2-6. It is their worst start since 1976. The Dodgers were Giancarlo Stanton’s preferred destination last off-season since he is a Los Angeles native. I am glad the Dodgers weren’t aggressive in pursuit of Stanton, leading the big man to New York, but underachievement this season will make the Dodgers desperate to make a big splash next year. Like the Yankees, the Dodgers are trying to reset the luxury tax penalties this season so if successful they’ll have the cash to spend big. LA is close to Harper’s Las Vegas home so all signs are pointing to the Dodgers as the slugger’s eventual new home.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rob Carr)

Well, it will be Gumby-Time in a couple of hours. Here’s hoping for another win by the home team. Austin Romine makes his second consecutive start in place of Gary Sanchez who was pulled for a leg cramp during Friday night’s loss.  I am optimistic the rest will help El Gary recapture his health and ignite his bat.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

Go Yankees!

Turbulent World Series Dreams…

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Julie Jacobson)

The Sky is Falling…

Unlike TGP’s fearless leader, Daniel Burch, I did not wake up in a happy, cheerful and loving mood. Sorry. I know, all things considered, things could be worse. But the last couple of days have not been enjoyable. We’re Yankees fans. We want and expect nothing less than complete dominance and success. The 2018 Yankees have a roster capable of playing, hit-for-hit and pitch-for-pitch, with the best teams in Major League Baseball. But while other teams revel in early success, the Yankees are getting off to a sluggish start.

I get it…we’re only eight games into the season and there are still 154 games to play (or the length of the regular season games when Babe Ruth and his friends played). It’s not the end of the World and there are many, many games before the AL East is decided.

The Yankees lost a heart-breaker last night in extra innings. The Baltimore Orioles took the second game of the series, thanks to a grand slam by catcher Caleb Joseph in the top of fourteenth inning, winning 7-3. Despite fighting back to tie the game multiple times, the home team could never take the lead and were inches from victory in the bottom of the eleventh when Orioles reliever Mychal Givens threw a wild pitch and Didi tried to score from third. Givens came sliding across the plate to block Didi and take the throw from catcher Caleb Joseph to tag the out.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Julie Jacobson)

For those of you who feel Aaron Judge owns the Orioles, I’d have to counter Buck Showalter owns the Yankees…at least for the first two games of the season series. George Steinbrenner is probably rolling over in his grave.

The Yankees fell to 4-4 and trail the Boston Red Sox by 2 1/2 games in the AL East. The Red Sox are on a roll, winners of six straight while they ride their cream puff schedule. The Toronto Blue Jays are a game ahead of the Yankees. It’s early but so far the Red Sox and the Houston Astros appear to be the early class of the AL. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have also started the season strong (Shohei Otani homered for the third consecutive game) and the  improved Minnesota Twins, as expected, lead their division.

Last night’s loss was more costly than just the score. Four Yankees were pulled from the game for various ailments. CC Sabathia exited after four innings with a right hip strain, Brandon Drury was replaced by pinch-hitter Ronald Torreyes in the bottom of the sixth (Toe stayed in the game at third; we later learned Drury is suffering from migraine headaches and blurred vision), Neil Walker slid over to second base from first in the top of the ninth to replace Tyler Wade (suffering from the flu), and Gary Sanchez left the game during the fateful fourteenth inning with a leg cramp.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

The Yankees also checked on the health of closer Aroldis Chapman during a ninth inning visit by when it was observed that the Cuban Missile’s velocity was down. Chapman blamed it on a cold night.

An MRI after the game revealed no issues for Sabathia, however, the Yankees placed him on the 10-day DL earlier today. Drury was also placed on the disabled list. Jonathan Holder, the reliever on the mound when Caleb Joseph hit the game-winning grand slam for the Orioles last night, was optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. RHPs Domingo German and Luis Cessa (ugh!) were promoted to the big league club.  Also, the Yankees signed IF/OF Jace Peterson to a Major League contract. Peterson was 1-for-4 with a strikeout in the RailRiders’ season-opening win last night. Peterson’s time with the Yankees appears to be over when Drury comes back since he’ll most likely be placed on waivers (rather than kept on the 40-man roster). It could end sooner given the expected return of OF Aaron Hicks in a few days.

Sabathia is only expected to miss one start. As for Drury, we won’t really know anything until Monday when he undergoes testing to determine the cause of the migraine headaches. An avowed Minnesota Vikings fan, it was frustrating for years when former Viking Percy Harvin struggled with migraines. I hope Drury’s problem is not as severe as the one that afflicted the very talented Harvin.

I haven’t figured out how this impacts the 40-man roster yet. The Yankees recently moved reliever Ben Heller to the 60-day DL which freed up a spot but the Yankees acquired third baseman Cody Asche. Even though Asche was optioned to Triple A, MLB.com is showing Asche on the 40-man roster. It would seem that something’s got to give to make room on the active roster for Peterson. I could be looking at this wrong. I’ve seen comments that the 40th spot was opened when the Yankees waived Trayce Thompson, who briefly took Heller’s spot, but that does not account for why MLB.com and the RailRiders website are showing Asche on the 40-man roster.  Maybe Asche was never truly on the 40-man and the sites are in error. Who knows? The Yankees and MLB have this figured out so I don’t need to.

I am not happy about Cessa on the big league roster.  He’s been my ideal DFA candidate for some time. I truly hope the Yankees use German over Cessa to make CC’s next start (which should be next Saturday). I’ve seen enough of Cessa to know that he is not a reliable starting pitcher. Let’s see how his stuff plays in limited spots in the bullpen. I’d rather take that chance over giving opposing teams multiple looks at the pedestrian pitcher when he is on the mound. German won me over with a very strong Spring so I’d like to see him get his first audition in the rotation.

Peterson, playing left field today, is not going to scare anybody with his bat.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

In the off-season, everybody (except maybe me) wanted Miguel Andujar as the starting third baseman for the Pinstripers. I wanted the Yankees to re-sign Todd Frazier and was subsequently supportive of the Drury acquisition. Well, here we are. Andujar is now your starting third baseman. This season, Andujar is 0-for-12 with no walks and four strikeouts. He is on the fast track to reach Kyle Higashioka’s 0-for-18 performance from last year. At least Higashioka managed to mix in a couple of walks and runs. I know, Andujar WILL hit. But obviously I’d prefer sooner than later. Never a better time to start than today.

Hopefully the Yankees can get into a groove and starting winning games. There are still two games to salvage at least a tie in the series with the O’s. Things will look much better if the Yankees can emerge from the weekend with a 6-4 record.

Here’s to hoping that today is a better day. Go Yankees!

How Do You Spell Relief?…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)

For one night, the answer is not G-R-E-E-N…

Well, so much for the thought (my thought anyway) that Chad Green is the lone bright spot in the Yankees bullpen. I know, that’s not fair to Aroldis Chapman, who has had very limited opportunities, or Dellin Betances, who actually was the best reliever last night. The Yankees held the lead in the game until the seventh inning when Masahiro Tanaka started to tire and gave up a two-run blast to Adam Jones. Tanaka stayed in the game, retiring Chris Davis on a grounder to third, but Tim Beckham ended his night with a single to right. If the Yankees bullpen could have held it from there, the Yankees might have been able to dig out of the one-run hole.

Alas, it was not meant to be. I guess you can chalk it up to ‘one of those nights’. Manager Aaron Boone brought in the usually reliable Chad Green. He did strike out two batters to get out of the inning but not before the Orioles hit a single, run-scoring double and two-run single to push three more runs across the plate.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Julie Jacobson)

The Yankees had their chances but could not erase the large deficit. They picked up a run in the bottom of the seventh on a run-scoring single by Neil Walker after Didi Gregorius had doubled, but Miguel Andujar popped out with two men on and two outs to end the threat. The next inning, the Yankees had the bases juiced with two outs for Neil Walker, thanks to a walk and two batters hit by pitches. Unfortunately, Walker grounded out to the pitcher to eliminate the last serious threat.  Sadly, the Yankees dropped the contest, 5-2, to fall to 4-3 and two games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East standings.

I was pleased to see the strong work by Dellin Betances in the top of the ninth inning when he struck out three batters despite allowing a meaningless walk.

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Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

Love or hate Buck Showalter, but he schooled Aaron Boone on the fine art of managing. I know, you can’t blame Boone for this loss but Showalter is the wise grandmaster in terms of the depth of managerial experience. You’ll never beat Showalter by out-managing him.

I always enjoy the work of Mike Axisa over at River Ave Blues. He had great perspective this morning. He said “Every team is going to win 50 games and lose 50 games each year. It’s what they do in the other 62 games that determines their fate. This is one of those 50 losses.”  I agree with his assessment (as usual) but it is tough to take a loss on a night when the Boston Red Sox win.

Boston kills me. They have such a ‘cream puff’ schedule to start the year. They won their home opener yesterday against the Tampa Bay Rays, tying the game in the bottom of the ninth inning with two runs and then scoring the game winner in the bottom of the 12th. The Rays featured a starting pitcher that I’ve never heard of, Yonny Chirinos. He did a decent job, along with the subsequent relievers until closer Alex Colome took the bump. The Rays almost lost the game in regulation when second baseman Daniel Robertson took a grounder with a runner on first, bypassing the obvious and easy force out at second, to barely beat the runner to first. The play was challenged but the throw beat the runner by a split-second, sending the game into extra innings before the Rays ultimately lost. The takeaway for me is that other teams like to hand gifts to the Red Sox.

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Photo Credit: Boston Herald (Christopher Evans)

Right now, Boston wins the games when they do not play well and the Yankees do not. I fully expect the Yankees to gel as a team but seven games into the season, we’re not there yet. I am not going to panic. There are still 155 games to play. Nobody is handing the Red Sox the AL East championship in April.

The Yankees look to rebound tonight when CC Sabathia takes the mound. He’ll face Greg Bird’s Colorado high school buddy, Kevin Gausman. Last year, CC was the man following a Yankees loss so hopefully the trend continues.

I was sad to see Trayce Thompson’s time with the Yankees was so short. I really like the guy even if he hasn’t put up the numbers to earn such support. Thompson was out of options when the Yankees claimed him on waivers earlier this week but they tipped their hand when Aaron Boone said that he’d start out in the minors. Thompson couldn’t go to the minors without clearing waivers and the Oakland A’s jumped at the chance to bring the brother of Klay Thompson, a star with Oakland’s Golden State Warriors to the Bay Area. Nice attempt by the Yankees to try to slide him through waivers but it failed like it did for the Dodgers. It’s nice for Klay who picks up a roommate to help pay bills (like he really needs the help). I wish Trayce the very best for success in Oakland, however, I think we’ll see him again soon on the waiver wire. For his sake, I hope not. I’d like to see him succeed.

The Yankees also made a depth move this week to acquire third baseman Cody Asche from the Kansas City Royals for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jennifer Stewart)

Asche will take over third base for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders while Miguel Andujar toils in the Bronx. I really wanted the Yankees to acquire Asche several years ago. I am always on the lookout for the next Paul O’Neill (I guess I can modify it to say the next Didi Gregorius). I thought Asche had potential when he was with the Philadelphia Phillies as a young third baseman. Asche, 27, is a career .234 hitter in 390 MLB games so he clearly has not become the player I thought he would be. There’s no chance he’ll ever leap-frog over Andujar or Brandon Drury so for now he becomes a Triple A performer waiting to help in the event of injuries at the position for the big league club. No offense, Cody, but I hope we never see you in the Bronx. It’s not because we don’t like you…we simply prefer good health for Andujar and Drury.

Lastly, I am going to borrow the words of TGP’s Bryan Van Dusen: In summary, the 2018 New York Yankees are still a World Series contender. If you want to jump off the Yankees’ bandwagon, be my guest. There are still plenty more on board.

Go Yankees!

Trading Places: Gray Pitches Like Jimenez and Vice Versa…

Credit:  Bill Kostroun

Orioles 6, Yankees 4…

The Yankees apparently forgot that it was Ubaldo Jimenez on the mound yesterday. Jimenez entered the game with a 5-10 record and 6.75 ERA. It’s pretty much representative of who the pitcher has been the last few years. On Sunday, he may as well have been Chris Sale…5 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 1 walk and 10 strikeouts. He was certainly a better version of Sonny Gray on this day.

For as much as Sonny Gray has given the Yankees so far, they could have picked up an average starter for much less (somebody better than Jaime Garcia) to give them three wins since the July trading deadline and kept Jorge Mateo, Dustin Fowler and James Kaprielian in pinstripes. I know, that’s a bit harsh, and Gray is an upper echelon rotation starter but in the small sampling size with the Yankees, the results have been underwhelming. Granted, he doesn’t get run support with his losses but I was hoping for better results. The Red Sox, meanwhile, will ride the arm of a pitcher (Doug Fister) they picked up off the scrap heap to go with Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz. Fister has four wins for the Red Sox since the end of July. I’d take Gray over Fister any day of the week (obviously), but it is disappointing that more wins have not materialized.

Credit:  Jim McIsaac-Getty Images

Baltimore got on the board first in the top of the 2nd inning. Chris Davis hit a one-out fly to left for a double. Clint Frazier misjudged his leap and was unable to make the catch. Seth Smith hit a grounder to third and was thrown out at first, but Davis moved to third on the play. Todd Frazier almost tagged Davis out but opted to go for the sure out at first. After Mark Trumbo walked, Austin Hays singled up in the middle, past a diving Didi Gregorius, into center field, scoring Davis. 

The Yankees got the run back in the bottom of the inning when Didi Gregorius led off with a homer just over the wall in right center to tie the game at one. It was Didi’s 24th home run, which tied the Yankees mark for most home runs by a shortstop set by Derek Jeter in 1999.  

Credit:  Jim McIsaac-Getty Images

The Orioles quickly took the lead again in the top of the 3rd. Manny Machado hit a one-out single to right, breaking an 0-for-19 slump. With two outs, Trey Mancini doubled down the left field line to the corner to score Machado.  Baltimore had taken a 2-1 lead.

The 4th inning was the one that got away from Sonny Gray. He walked Seth Smith to start the inning.  He retired the next two hitters and was a strike away from getting out of the inning with Caleb Joseph at the plate. Unfortunately, Joseph singled to left, between Todd Frazier and Didi Gregorius, to keep the inning alive. Tim Beckham, proving to be one of the best trading deadline pickups, homered into the bleachers in left to give the O’s all the runs they would need. 5-1, Baltimore.  

Credit:  Anthony Grupposo-USA TODAY Sports

Gray got Manny Machado to hit a liner to right for the final out (great diving play by Aaron Judge) but he would not return.  

Bryan Mitchell took over for Gray in the top of the 5th inning. Jonathan Schoop led off with a single to left and Trey Mancini singled to center past a diving Didi Gregorius. The O’s had runners at the corners and no outs. After Chris Davis struck out, Seth Smith hit a grounder between first and second. With a throw from Starlin Castro to Didi Gregorius, they forced Mancini out at second but Schoop scored on the play. The O’s had increased their lead to 6-1.

In the bottom of the 6th, Mychal Givens took over for Jimenez who had thrown 100 pitches through five innings. Gary Sanchez drew a one-out walk and with two outs, Starlin Castro hit a soft grounder toward third and beat the throw from Givens which pulled Chris Davis off the base.  Runners at first and second.  Matt Holliday drilled a line drive to left for a double which scored both Sanchez and Castro. 6-3, O’s. Buck Showalter pulled Givens and brought in former Yankee Richard Bleier to face Greg Bird. Bird had homered off Bleier in Friday night’s win and he had a chance to make it a game once again. Sadly, Bleier won the battle this time when Bird grounded out to first to end the inning.  

Baltimore reliever Brad Brach took over in relief of Darren O’Day to start the bottom of the 8th inning. Aaron Judge doubled to left with a fly ball off the base of the wall to lead things off. Gary Sanchez struck out on three pitches for the first out. Didi Gregorius hit a grounder to short, but Tim Beckham’s throwing error (pulled Chris Davis off the bag) allowed Didi to reach first safely. Judge moved to third on the play. Starlin Castro hit a fly to right field and it was deep enough to score Judge on the sacrifice. The Yankees had cut the Orioles lead to 6-4. Matt Holliday walked to bring the potential go-ahead run to the plate. Showalter pulled Brach and brought in closer Zach Britton. The Yankees replaced Holliday at first with Tyler Wade and sent Chase Headley in to pinch hit for Greg Bird. Unfortunately, Headley grounded out to short to end the rally.  

The Yankees made one last valiant effort in the bottom of the 9th. Todd Frazier struck out for the first out, but Jacoby Ellsbury looped a double down the left field line to give the Yankees a runner in scoring position. Brett Gardner grounded out to first for the second out but Ellsbury advanced to third. Aaron Judge was intentionally walked to pit Britton against Gary Sanchez.  Sanchez, representing the potential tying run, failed to deliver when he went down swinging for the final out. Bummer, the Yankees had clearly proven they were the better team in this series and they had their chances. If Sonny Gray could have avoided the disastrous 4th inning…I know, if “ifs” and “buts” were candy and nuts…

The Yankees (82-67) did not lose any ground to the Red Sox despite the loss. Boston dropped a 3-2 decision to the Tampa Bay Rays. So, the Yankees remain three games behind the Red Sox. The Minnesota Twins clobbered the Toronto Blue Jays, 13-7, so they moved back to four games behind the Yankees in the Wild Card standings.  

Next Up:  Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York…

The Twins come into this series very motivated. Since they only trail the Yankees by four games for the top Wild Card slot (home-field advantage), they can make up serious ground on the Yankees with a sweep. If the Twins beat Jaime Garcia, they’ll be able to sit back and laugh “our plan worked to perfection!”. Steal a couple of prospects from the Yankees and give them a starter who is unable to produce in the clutch.  

TODAY

Twins:  Ervin Santana (15-7, 3.35 ERA)

Yankees:  Jaime Garcia (1-2, 4.50 ERA)

TUESDAY

Twins:  Jose Berrios (12-7, 3.84 ERA)

Yankees:  CC Sabathia (11-5, 3.85 ERA)

WEDNESDAY

Twins:  Bartolo Colon (4-5, 4.80 ERA)

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (12-11, 4.73 ERA)

The Yankees are not exactly leading with their best foot, but I understand the need to keep CC Sabathia’s knee off the artificial turf for the next series in Toronto.  

Odds & Ends…

The Yankees have recalled another RailRider. The latest to get the invitation to join the big league club is RHP Domingo German.

Have a great Monday! Time for the Pinstripers to make a statement about their October chances. Let’s Go Yankees!