Tagged: Baltimore

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!

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!

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!