Tagged: Blue Jays

Sweet Home Yankee Stadium…

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports, via Reuters (Adam Hunger)

Yanks kick off final regular season home stand with an easy win…

For all of the struggles by the Yankees this month, last night was fun.  The Yankees were in charge from the start and never looked back en route to the 11-0 thrashing of the Toronto Blue Jays behind the stellar pitching of restored staff ace Masahiro Tanaka.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)

After a disappointing nine-game road trip that saw the Yankees drop series in Oakland and Minneapolis to finish 4-5, allowing the A’s to close the gap in the AL Wild Card standings, the Yankees needed a strong game with contributions across the roster.  I suppose it was a good sign when it was announced Aaron Judge had been activated off the disabled list prior to the game, even if his bat wasn’t activated with him.  Judge will serve as a pinch runner and defensive specialist until it is time to take a few swings in simulated games in Tampa before he gets an opportunity to seek his 27th home run for the Bombers.  Given that Judge is the obvious heart and soul of this team (and its future Captain if the Yankees do what’s right), I am glad to see him on the active roster even with his limitations.

I am resigned to the fact that this has been a special season for the Boston Red Sox.  I hope they fail in the post-season (like the 2001 Seattle Mariners) but there’s been no doubt they’ve owned the regular season.  Unlike the Yankees, they’ve been able to limit the slumps and no opposing lead seems safe against J.D. Martinez and Company.  I remain hopeful that they’ll fail in the post-season with their questionable bullpen but at the moment they are the best Red Sox team of my lifetime (well, anybody’s lifetime for that matter).  I hate the Houston Astros but if the AL Championship comes down to the Astros and the Red Sox, I’d have to pull for a repeat World Series appearance for the defending champs.

There’s been so much talk about which pitcher should get the call in the inevitable Wild Card game against the Oakland A’s.  Right now, it would seem that Tanaka is the man of the hour.  Many have mentioned J.A. Happ as a possibility but as good as he has been as a Yankee, I really think the choice should be limited to Tanaka or Luis Severino.  I guess I can still remember the times when the Yankees had their way with Happ when he was wearing a Blue Jays uniform.  In his last game against the Yankees in July, he was pounded for six runs in 2 2/3 innings in Toronto’s 10-5 loss to the Yanks.  Although Severino has been struggling for awhile, he pitched much better in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins when the Yankees didn’t get their first hit until the eighth inning.  He held the Twins to only one run on four hits in 5 2/3 innings and didn’t walk anybody in the tough luck loss.  He struck out five.  It’s a start, both literally and figuratively.

As the Yankees begin their final home stand, it is a little sad that it could be the last regular season games at Yankee Stadium for a few of the guys.  Brett Gardner, CC Sabathia, and David Robertson are the names that stick out the most to me.  Several guys, like Sonny Gray and maybe even Greg Bird, may have played themselves off the roster after the season.  It’s doubtful the Yankees will re-sign Andrew McCutchen or Zach Britton so their brief Pinstriped careers could soon be coming to an end and there is no certainty the Yankees will re-sign J.A. Happ. MLB Trade Rumors speculated this morning that Happ could earn more than a guaranteed $40 million for three years on his next deal when he becomes a free agent after the season.  That’s a lot of money for a guy who turns 36 next month. Hopefully the Yankees hang on to their Wild Card lead so that there is at least one more game at Yankee Stadium  for the impending departees after the current home stand ends.

I am not sure how I feel about the Yankees’ chances for October.  If they play like the team we’ve seen in recent weeks, it will be ‘one and done’ in the Wild Card game.  If they can capitalize on the momentum of last night’s game and propel themselves into the playoffs on a roll, anything can happen.  We know this team is capable of beating anybody including the Red Sox.  But we also know that the bats can go into silent mode with runners in scoring position at times (more often than I would like).  I guess I could say that while I am hopeful for the best, I am braced for the worst.  I do know the Yankees need a healthy Aaron Judge and Aroldis Chapman before we play the final regular season series in Boston at the end of the month.  We need both guys firing on all cylinders for the team’s hopes to advance deep into October.

Like many Yankee fans, I am very pleased with the production and energy that we’ve seen from first baseman Luke Voit.  I certainly never dreamed that GM Brian Cashman would be able to flip relievers Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos for a guy who has become such a big part of the Yankees offense.  I don’t know what the future holds for Voit but I am enjoying the current ride.  I think the Yankees will look to upgrade the position in the off-season but Voit has certainly earned the right to battle Greg Bird for the starting position next Spring.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)

I’ve seen so many people call for the head of Aaron Boone.  Sure, he’s made his share of rookie mistakes in his first year as Yankees manager but I think he’ll be stronger for it in 2019.  There’s not anybody out there I would prefer to see as the team’s manager at this point and I am certainly not pining for the return of Joe Girardi.  When Boone was announced as the Yankees manager last off-season, I had been hopeful that he’d select a veteran manager as his bench coach.  So I was a little disappointed when he went with Josh Bard who has not managed at any level.  Bard may be smart and confident, but I really preferred a battle tested veteran manager in the role as lead consultant for Boone.  Boone does have managerial experience on his staff with Larry Rothschild who was the original manager for the Tampa Bay Rays (then Devil Rays) when they entered the American League.  Third base coach Phil Nevin has minor league managerial experience. But that’s not the same as your right hand guy. The best case scenario would have been for the Yankees to have retained former bench coach Rob Thomson who now serves in the same role for the Philadelphia Phillies and their infant manager, Gabe Kapler.  Another veteran manager who left the organization last off-season will most likely be coaching first base for the Yankees’ Wild Card opponent.  Al Pedrique, the former manager of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, is presently first base coach for the Oakland A’s.  In my opinion, Thomson or Pedrique would have been much better options to sit (or rather stand) beside Boone in the Yankees dugout than Bard.

Speaking of Joe Girardi, I am not sure where he’ll get his next opportunity.  I had thought St Louis was an obvious destination but the Cardinals have committed to their interim manager, Mike Shildt, by dropping the interim tag. Shildt has made the Cardinals relevant again after their disappointing performance under former manager Mike Matheny. I thought Washington might be another possibility but it sounds like first-year manager Dave Martinez will get another shot in 2019 even if the team will be Bryce Harper-less.  The Toronto Blue Jays have been mentioned as a possibility given the speculation that their manager, John Gibbons, is managing his final games in a Blue Jays uniform.  It would be weird to see Girardi in the AL East with another team. But when you look at teams with great young prospects on the horizon, the Blue Jays would be near the top of the list with the highly rated sons of former Major Leaguers Vladimir Guerrero, Dante Bichette, and Craig Biggio among others. All things considered, I am hopeful Girardi likes his job with MLB Network well enough to wait for a Chicago job to open at some point in the future.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders beat the heavily favored Durham Bulls last night to send the International League’s Governors’ Cup Finals to the winner-take-all Game Five to be played in Moosic, PA later today.  Domingo German will start for the RailRiders against Durham’s Kyle Bird (part of the Bulls planned bullpen day). The Bulls are the defending IL champs, while the RailRiders were the Wild Card entrant and last year’s championship series loser.  Win or lose, this has been a great season for the Yankees’ top farm team.  The Bulls have been at a disadvantage for the series since all of the games have been played at PNC Field in Moosic due to the weather conditions in the Carolinas.

Entering play today, the magic number for the Boston Red Sox to win the AL East championship is six games.  The Yankees (91-56) currently trail the Red Sox by 9 1/2 games so at this point it is only a matter of time until the Red Sox are sipping champagne.  My hope is that they do not do it next week on Yankee Stadium soil.  The Yankees lead the AL Wild Card by a game and a half over the Oakland A’s but hold the tie-breaker.  The Seattle Mariners trail the A’s by 8 1/2 games so barring any miracle comebacks, the AL Wild Card will be Yankees-A’s with location being the only question.

For today’s game, the Yankees send CC Sabathia (7-6, 3.54 ERA) to the mound.  He’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Sean Reid-Foley (1-3, 6.86 ERA).  Sabathia has not looked good in his recent outings and he really needs to step his game soon.  Hopefully today is the start.  We want a win, we need a win, let’s get a win.  Go Yankees!

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Using Bats and Rain to Beat the Blue Jays…

Photo Credit: NY Post (Paul J Bereswill)

Yanks overcome pesky Jays in rain-shortened game…

As nice as it would be, I don’t want the Yankees to coast to victory every game. I like to see resiliency in the face of adversity and that’s what we were treated to Friday night in the rain-shortened 7-5 victory over the, pardon the pun, “Happ-less” Toronto Blue Jays.

Sure, I was worried along with everyone else when the Blue Jays opened the game with four runs against starter Lance Lynn. There were some fluke hits and I have no doubt that had Aaron Judge been playing right field, the inning would have been over before the Jays had pushed four across the plate. Nevertheless, it is what it was. A four-run deficit is not a monstrous gap, well, so long as your opponent is not the Tampa Bay Rays (or Baltimore Orioles) when it comes to the Yankees.

Nice jobs by Didi Gregorius and Miguel Andujar to cut the deficit to two runs in the bottom of the first inning. After Aaron Hicks took a two-out walk against Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman, Gregorius laced a triple to left center past defensive whiz Kevin Pillar to score  Hicks with the Yankees’ first run. Miguel Andujar followed with a double to deep right over Curtis Granderson’s head to score Sir Didi.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

Much easier moving into the later innings trailing by only two.  Andujar has taken some heat for his defensive play at third, but his bat has been  a source of consistency. He leads the team with doubles, ensuring his name will rank high among Yankee rookies in the history of the franchise. The first inning hit was his 35th of the year, six more than Giancarlo Stanton. Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio holds the Yankees rookie record with 44 doubles in 1936. Don Mattingly holds the team record for doubles with 53 in 1986.

Despite giving up those four runs in the first inning, I thought Lance Lynn bounced back nicely. He retired three batters in order in the top of the second inning and although he gave up an infield hit in the third, a double play allowed him to face the minimum number of batters for the second consecutive inning. After an easy three-up, three down top of the fourth for Lynn, the Yankees struck hard in the bottom of the frame. Gleyber Torres doubled to left, banging a hanging slider to the wall, with one out, and Greg Bird followed with a walk. It brought Neil Walker to the plate, and his three-run blast to right, high over the head of Curtis Granderson, gave the Yankees their first lead of the game, 5-4. Glad to see runners in scoring position was not an issue for this game.

Photo Credit: AP (Frank Franklin II)

Unfortunately, the fifth inning was not so kind for Lynn. Curtis Granderson, a player who has been the target of much trade speculation for the Yankees, opened the inning with a double to left center off Lynn. Devon Travis singled to right, scoring the Grandy Man and the game was tied. Lynn’s day was over but I liked the way he battled despite not having his best stuff. The three walks were a bugaboo and so were 99 pitches without an ability to record an out in the fifth inning, but for guys like Double-L, my request is always to just give the team a chance and he did. The dude could have melted down after the ugly first inning and he didn’t. Sure, he allowed the hit that tied the game, but he didn’t yield any home runs and for the most part, he did his job after the first inning had gotten away from him.

The Yankees quickly retook the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Aaron Hicks opened with a walk off Jays reliever Joe Biagini. After Didi Gregorius flied out, Miguel Andujar singled to right to place runners at the corners. Gleyber Torres grounded into a fielder’s choice at shortstop, with the Jays recording the out at second on Andujar but Hicks scored on the play.  Nice hustle by Torres to beat the throw to first. If it had been Gary Sanchez, he would have been thrown out by a mile.

The Yanks took the 6-5 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning. With Blue Jays reliever Luis Santos on the mound, Giancarlo Stanton gave the Yankees a two-run lead with his 31st home run of the season, a shot that traveled 431 feet. It’s funny how easily the balls come off Stanton’s bat (seemingly looking like fly outs that just keep on going and going and going…). After Aaron Hicks struck out, the threat of heavy rain forced the grounds crew to roll out the tarp. From there, the team waited until the game was eventually called. Yankees win, 7-5. Chad Green picked up the win in relief of Lance Lynn.

Despite the win, the Yankees (76-46) remain 10 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox. The Sox, unlike the Yankees, had no trouble with the Tampa Bay Rays, winning 7-3 at Fenway Park. The Yankees maintained their three-game lead over the Oakland A’s, but, man, look out for the high flying Athletics. With their 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros in ten innings, they trail the World Champions by only a game in the AL West. It’s certainly within the realm of possibility the Astros are the team fighting for a Wild Card berth. The other Wild Card contender, the Seattle Mariners, lost, 11-1 to the LA Dodgers, so they trail the A’s by 3 1/2 games.

With word pain still lingers in Aaron Judge’s right wrist, I remain hopeful the Yankees do something about upgrading right field in his absence. I like Neil Walker’s bat in the lineup but let’s face it, he is an infielder and not an outfielder. We need a better option in right than Walker or Shane Robinson. I don’t know who that is and I know the Yankees have to be cautious with the luxury tax threshold but hopefully GM Brian Cashman can reinforce the outfield for the stretch run.

Although he didn’t make it into the game, congratulations to former Yankees outfielder Billy McKinney for his promotion to the Blue Jays roster. No doubt we’ll see McKinney sometime this weekend. Who knows, maybe he gets a chance to hit against the man he was traded for, J.A. Happ. Speaking of Happ, I was listening to a pre-game interview on MLB Network Radio yesterday and they ended the interview calling him “J-A” Happ. C’mon guys, it’s “Jay” Happ.

I figured the Yankees would lose reliever George Kontos when he was designated for assignment. It was not the case as Kontos cleared waivers and was sent outright to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Kontos could elect free agency but I’d stay with the Yankees if I were him. He may get another chance in September when rosters expand.

Nice to see that Jonathan Loaisiga has been activated off the disabled list. He made the start yesterday for the Double-A Trenton Thunder with pitches hitting the mid-90’s. He only threw an inning and a third, giving up a run but it was a start, literally and figuratively. Hopefully he can shake off the rust and help the Yankees in September.

Photo Credit: The Trentonian (Kyle Franko)

The Yankees apparently will be playing the Los Angeles Dodgers next year at Dodger Stadium. I was excited to hear the news and hope to be at Chavez Ravine for the series. If I don’t make it to Los Angeles, I’ll try to catch up with the Yankees in San Francisco if they play there. I look forward to seeing the actual 2019 schedule to determine the whens and wheres with the NL West teams against the Pinstripers. I would love to see the damage Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge could do at Coors Field. Of course the Yankees will also travel to London, England to face the “home team” Boston Red Sox but I doubt I make that trip (as much as I would like to go).

Luis Severino (15-6, 3.27 ERA) will face Toronto’s Sean Reid-Foley (0-1, 5.40 ERA) in today’s game.  I honestly do not know what we’ll get with Sevy. Also, I don’t have the stats to back it but it seems like we never fare well against pitchers with hyphenated names or rookie pitchers for that matter. This is a very good day for Sevy to get back on track. We need him in prime form as the calendar page gets ready to flip to September. According to my knowledgeable cell phone, there’s rain forecasted for this afternoon. Hopefully they get a full nine innings in today before the rain makes its appearance at Yankee Stadium.

Go Yankees!

Life’s a Gardy Party…

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Yanks Vet lead Bombers past Blue Jays….

Brett Gardner may be the oldest position player on the Yankees roster, but age didn’t slow him down on Saturday. He took the first offering from Toronto Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ and deposited it into the right center field stands, much to the chagrin of the Blue Jays crowd. Not to be outdone, Aaron Judge followed Gardy with a homer to right. Back-to-back jacks are a very nice way to start the day (unless the guys play for the other team, of course).

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Tom Szczerbowski)

The first inning continued with walks of both Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks. Happ was able to strike out both Miguel Andujar and Didi Gregorius, and might have been able to get out of the inning without further damage if not for Brandon Drury. Drury laced a double to center which bounced in front of Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar and up off his glove to score both Stanton and Hicks. The Yankees had a 4-0 lead and Luis Severino had yet to throw a pitch. It looked like Kyle Higashioka was going to get a hit for extra bases but a great diving catch to end the inning was made by former Yankee Curtis Granderson. Grandy’s way of keeping Higgy’s homer streak intact although Higgy would later blow it with an eighth inning single.

It looked like the second inning might be another big one for the Yankees. A couple of walks and an infield single had the bases loaded against Happ and only one out. Happ was able to escape the jam when he struck out both Aaron Hicks and Miguel Andujar.

Kevin Pillar made an atonement for his inability to get to Drury’s hit in the first inning when he blasted a two-run homer in the bottom of the second inning to bring the Jays within two of the Yankees.

Didi Gregorius led off the third inning against Happ with a walk.  He advanced to second on a two-out steal, although Greg Bird took a walk that would have pushed Didi to second anyway. The Bird walk ended Happ’s not-so-pretty audition for the Yankees. The Jays brought in reliever Jake Petricka to face Brett Gardner. With the two men on base, Gardy tripled to deep center to add two more runs.  He scored when a Petricka pitch got by Jays catcher Luke Maile for a passed ball. The Yankees led the Blue Jays, 7-2.

The Jays got to Luis Severino again in the fourth inning when Randal Grichuk homered to left, a solo shot.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Yankees made some defensive changes with Clint Frazier, called up earlier in the day after David Hale had been DFA’d, entering the game in left and Brett Gardner sliding over to center to replace Aaron Hicks. The Hicks exit was later described as cramping and not considered serious.

Severino exited the game after completing the fifth inning. It was not one of his better performances but he was in position for the win. For five innings  of work and 97 pitches, he gave up five hits and three runs. He walked a couple of batters and struck out five. The two uncharacteristic homers increased his season ERA to 2.12 which is still very, very good.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Tom Szczerbowski)

Jonathan Holder replaced Sevy in the sixth and was greeted by a double from Justin Smoak when Brett Gardner was unable to make the backhanded catch in center. Kendrys Morales singled to put runners at the corners for Kevin Pillar. Pillar lofted a fly to center that was deep enough to score Smoak and it was 7-4. Holder was able to retire the next two to get out of the inning. All things considered, it could have been worse.

The Yankees had the bases loaded again in the top of the eighth inning with two outs but Clint Frazier grounded into a fielder’s choice at short to strand the runners. I had really been hoping that Red Thunder could come up big in that spot but it was not meant to be.

In the top of the ninth, Miguel Andujar led off with a ground rule double to left that bounced off the chalk line into the stands against Jays reliever Rhiner Cruz. It was Andujar’s 25th double of the season. A single to left field by Sir Didi brought Andujar home with the Yankees’ eighth run. With two outs and two men on, Cruz left the game with an apparent injury but John Axford came into retire Brett Gardner on three consecutive strikes to prevent the Yankees from adding any further insurance runs.

For the Jays’ last swings, Manager Aaron Boone made the curious decision to bring in Aroldis Chapman in the non-save situation. Chapman had been warming up in the bullpen along with Chasen Shreve. Not that I wanted to see Shreve enter a game, but with a double-header against Baltimore coming up on Monday, I wanted to make sure that Chapman was rested and ready. Boone had other thoughts, but after Chapman struck out Randal Grichuck, he appeared to land poorly on his left knee (has been dealing with tendonitis in the knee). Boone opted not to take any chances (was observed mouthing it was “not worth it”) and pulled Chappy.  Chasen Shreve came in and was able to retire Luke Maile with a come-backer to the mound for the second out. But then Aledmys Diaz blasted a ‘no doubt about it’ shot to left center to make it a three-run game again. Thoughts of “Chasen Shreve, you suck!” started seeping into my mind but fortunately he was able to strike out Teoscar Hernandez to end the game.  Yankees win, 8-5.

My frustration with this game was the continued problem with men in scoring position. The Yankees ended up leaving eleven men on base and were unable to score two separate times with the bases loaded. Fortunately, the offense was strong enough to withstand the comeback by the Blue Jays.

Even if it was not one of Luis Severino’s better performances, he picked up his league-leading 14th victory of the season. At 14-2, this is reminiscent of the great season posted by Ron Guidry in 1978 when he finished 25-3 with 1.74 ERA. I liked Aaron Boone’s quote that he didn’t mind if Sevy started the All-Star Game…but was pulled after an inning. I hear ya, Skip.  We need this dude for the second half.

Nice job by Dellin Betances yet again. I love it. I am so glad to see the big guy back on track and pitching like the perennial All-Star he is.  An inning of work.  No hits, no runs, two strikeouts.  Just another day at the office.  He has owned the eighth inning for months and it does not bode well for American League hitters.

The Yankees (57-29) remained two games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East. The Red Sox spotted the Kansas City Royals an early 3-0 lead and then pounded them into submission with a 15-4 drubbing. It was a costly victory for the Sox as they lost their starting catcher, Christian Vasquez, with a broken pinky. It is unclear how much time Vasquez will miss, but he’s headed for the 10-day DL so he’ll be out for at least ten days dependent upon the severity of the injury. I hate to see anyone get hurt and I always believe in playing the best team possible so it is my hope that Vasquez is able to rebound from the injury very quickly.

Looking at the pitching lines for the most rumored Yankees targets yesterday were mostly forgettable, but one stands out. I think I know which pitcher I want. Blake Snell is a guy that I’d gladly trade a boatload of top prospects for.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Listening to the Blue Jays TV announcers yesterday (which included former Yankee Pat Tabler), they were speculating that the pitcher (or pitchers) GM Brian Cashman will acquire by the trading deadline are most likely name(s) we are not currently hearing associated with the Yankees. It makes sense. After all, Cash did legitimately earn his Ninja nickname. I remain hopeful that he’ll bring in a top arm or two, leaving all of us flabbergasted at how he did it…once again.

The best Tweet on Twitter yesterday was the one by the fake Ken Rosenthal reporting the Yankees had traded Sonny Gray to the Oakland A’s for a glazed doughnut. One commenter said the most disappointing part was realizing the tweet was fake and the Yankees weren’t really getting glazed doughnut back. Nice…

It’s Domingo German Day. A great day to end the latest Canadian visit with a win. Go Yankees!

Well, That Was Disappointing…

Photo Credit: AP (Fred Thornhill)

Sonny Gray leads Yanks to another loss…

I was worried when I saw that Sonny Gray would be starting for the Yankees on Friday night to open the three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Gray can’t bat so I can’t speak for the offense but Sonny Gray Sucked!

I am tiring of his presence on the Yankees roster. Some guys just are not cut out for the Pinstripes and I am starting to think that Gray and the Yankees are not a good fit. He has the stuff to attack hitters but his approach to each game always seems a little off. Gray, single-handedly, could be the reason the Yankees are fighting for a Wild Card spot in September versus walking away with the division. Bryan Van Dusen mentioned it yesterday but the Yankees could win over 100 games only to see their season ended on a one-and-done playoff game.

It has gotten to the point that I trust Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga more than I do Gray. Nothing against those guys, but they are not who I want on the mound when the calendar page turns to October. In the years ahead, I am sure German and Loaisiga will be trusted playoff arms but they’re not ready for that type of pressure quite yet.  The Yankees need a legitimate #2 starter to slot in behind Luis Severino. I thought Sonny Gray would be that guy but clearly he is not. CC Sabathia is a great guy and someone who has reinvented himself but, seriously, the guy is going to be 38 in a couple of weeks. He’s not exactly in Tom Brady-like condition. Masahiro Tanaka, scheduled to be activated off the disabled list in a couple of days, has to prove that he is the Masahiro of old and not the guy who likes to play Homer Ball. That remains to be seen. I am concerned, very concerned, about the current state of the pitching staff for any guy not named Luis Severino.

Sorry, this is my therapy. I have to get out my anger and frustration with Gray.

The Yankees looked like they were in good shape when the game started. Brett Gardner’s single and a steal plus a walk by Giancarlo Stanton had runners at the corners with two outs in the first inning. Unfortunately, Didi Gregorius struck out against Blue Jays start Sam Gaviglio to leave Gardy and Giancarlo stranded, taking a called third strike after changing out his bats.

The first warning sign for Gray came in the bottom of the first when he loaded the bases with a couple of walks and a hit. He escaped any damage when he struck out Russell Martin, but it was a signal of things to come.

Gray lost the game with his pathetic second inning when nine Jays batters came to the plate.  Randal Grichuk opened the inning with a double to left. He advanced to third on a ground out, and scored when Devon Travis singled up the middle. A wild pitch by Gray allowed Travis to take second, putting him in position to score when Curtis Granderson singled to right. After Teoscar Hernandez struck out for the second out, Yangervis Solarte singled to center to put two men on base for Justin Smoak. After taking a called strike, Smoak smoked a Gray pitch into the right field stands to give the Blue Jays a 5-0 lead.  Gray proceeded to hit Kevin Pillar to put another runner on base, but he was able to strike out Martin again to end the inning.

Mercifully, Gray was finished for the game.  His final pitching line was awful. Two innings, six hits, five runs, and two walks. He threw 62 pitches in those fateful two innings. I’d mention the four strikeouts but there were no positive takeaways from Gray’s performance. More and more, Gray looks like a perfect fit for the Pittsburgh Pirates to me.

Photo Credit: The Canadian Press via AP (Fred Thornhill)

David Hale entered the game for Gray in the bottom of the third inning. Although he did allow an 8th inning RBI double, he was much more effective than Gray. He gave the team length with 5 2/3 innings, and limited the Jays to only one run on five hits and a walk. In other words, he did his job…unlike Gray.

The Yankees had their opportunities. The Yankees offense could have gotten the team back into this game despite Gray. Aaron Hicks got the Yankees on the board with a solo shot in the top of the third inning.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Four runs down, the Yankees had the bases loaded in the fifth inning with only one out. Aaron Hicks took a walk to force in the Yankees’ second run of the game, setting up a perfect opportunity for Giancarlo Stanton. One swing of the bat and the Yankees could have taken the lead. Sadly, he struck out with the bat on his shoulder and Didi Gregorius lined out to left for the final out leaving the bases juiced. A huge missed opportunity.

The Yankees had the tying run at the plate in the top of the eighth inning for Austin Romine but he struck out looking to waste what would prove to be the last real chance the Yankees had to get back into the game.

Tyler Clippard, Tyler Friggin’ Clippard who couldn’t prevent a run to save his life last year for the Yankees, shut his old team down in the ninth with three up and three down.

The Yankees loss, combined with a Red Sox win, puts Boston two games up in the AL East. The teams are tied in the loss column but the Red Sox have four more wins. It’s too early to look at the Standings (I know) but the Yankees hold a two-game advantage on the Seattle Mariners for the top Wild Card spot. Everyone talks about how great this Yankees team is, but right now, the Red Sox are better.  They are not showing any signs of losing anytime soon. They, unlike the Yankees, are getting the big hits to win games. Throwing Chris Sale at the Kansas City Royals is a mismatch any day of the week, but a win is a win and the Sox keep winning.

Neil Walker got the first start at second base in place of the injured Gleyber Torres. He was 0-for-3 with a walk. His season batting line is .185/.268/.254. Like Gray, I’ve seen enough of Walker. I’d really prefer to see Brandon Drury or even Tyler Wade starting at second.

Many news reports yesterday linked the Yankees to Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas as a potential first base option over Greg Bird. I haven’t really warmed up to the possibility although I recognize that Bird needs to start hitting and soon. Moose Tacos has had a cold bat of late, but he did blast a two-run bomb against the Red Sox last night in a losing effort.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Denny Medley)

The Yankees get a look at another potential trade candidate today when they face J.A. Happ (10-4, 4.03 ERA). Happ was shelled his last time out when he gave up seven runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Detroit Tigers. It was the second time this season that Happ has given up seven runs in a game. The Yankees will counter with Luis Severino (13-2, 1.98 ERA). It’s easy to say that I feel more confident heading into today’s game than I did last night.

Let’s get a win today. Go Yankees!

Judge & Stanton Gladly Pay the Power Bill…

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Photo Credit: The Canadian Press via AP (Frank Gunn)

Yanks use the Big Bats to finish Road Trip on winning note…

It’s been a very eventful week in the Yankees Universe.  The Yankees completed a two-game sweep of the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario and finished the latest road trip with a 5-1 record. Tommy Kahnle now plays for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Jordan Montgomery undergoes the knife today for his Tommy John surgery, and a number of young, talented prospects potentially begin their journeys to Pinstripes.

Seriously, MLB should option the Baltimore Orioles (19-41) to the International League and call up the RailRiders to replace them in the AL East. The RailRiders are loaded with Major League talent.

It’s been a great road trip (outside of the loss in the second game of Monday’s double-header in Detroit) and last night’s game was incredible. Sonny Gray, wow!  THIS is clearly the guy we’ve been looking for and NEED for an extended October run.  Sonny may not have gotten the win but he was as critical to the win as he has ever been while representing the Yankees. If he had given up just one run last night, the Yankees lose. I am so glad that Masahiro Tanaka was not on the mound as he would have given up at least his obligatory home run to send the Yankees home with a loss. Sonny’s final line was better than any starting pitcher who picked up a win on Wednesday. Eight innings, 99 pitches, two hits, no runs, a couple of walks, and eight strikeouts. The closest winning pitcher was Baltimore’s Dylan Bundy who blanked the New York Mets on three hits over seven innings, but c’mon, he was pitching to the Mets. Nice job, Sonny. Now if you can repeat this performance in Yankee Stadium, life will be good.

I am grateful for Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton for their game-winning home runs in the 13th inning, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that the Sucks! Award goes to Gary Sanchez. He looked pitiful at the plate.  I was so mad when he swung at a pitch well below the strike zone to end the 11th inning with Giancarlo Stanton stranded at third. All we needed was a measly single and Gary chases a stupid pitch.  For the game, El Gary was 1-for-6 with two strikeouts. The ground rule double he hit in the top of the 4th inning allowed him to barely keep his batting average above .200. Aaron Boone keeps saying that Sanchez is close. I hope so because I sure didn’t see that guy last night.

As for Judge, his two-run homer in the 13th inning off Blue Jays reliever Joe Biagini made me about as happy as the kid prominently featured in the TV telecast, dancing in the upper deck of Rogers Centre while holding a handwritten “All Rise” sign.

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There was no doubt Judge’s shot was gone, but Stanton’s homer surprised me. He walloped the ball like only Aaron Judge can do and it looked like a line drive to left that might drop in for a single except the ball never dropped. It was a laser shot into the left field stands. It goes to show you that when Stanton does get hot, American League pitchers will be running for cover.

Unfortunately, despite the win, the Yankees were unable to make up any ground on the Boston Red Sox. The Sox, winners of four-in-a-row, cruised past the Detroit Tigers, 7-1. Boston (43-19) maintained their one game advantage on the Yankees (40-18). It’s amazing the Red Sox and Yankees are the only teams in Major League Baseball with at least 40 wins. As many have said, the Yankees are on a path to 111 wins but if Boston continues its current winning percentage, the Yankees would have to settle for a one-game Wild Card play-off. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Indians hold a relatively comfortable 4.5 game lead in the AL Central and project out to 86 wins and would enter as a division champ.  That’s sick.

The Yankees have the day off today in preparation for their weekend series with the crosstown Mets. It will be good to see old friend Todd Frazier but I am glad Yankees pitchers have to throw to the Toddfather and not some guy like Miguel Andujar in this series. Friday night’s game will be tough with Masahiro Tanaka scheduled to face Jacob deGrom. Hopefully the Yanks can hold it close to get into the Mets bullpen. I fully expect deGrom to bring his “A” game as there is nothing better than to beat NYC’s best team in New York.  Hopefully Masa was watching Sonny Gray and taking notes.

I haven’t had a chance to gather my thoughts about the Yankees picks in this year’s MLB Draft. I am anxious to read the Meet A Prospect segments by TGP’s Daniel Burch. The Yankees took six catchers including two for their first picks in the first and second rounds (Anthony Seigler and Josh Breaux). Within their first 16 picks, the Yankees took two 6’8” right-handed pitchers (Daniel Bies, 8th Round, and Derek Craft, 16th Round). The 11th round pick, Tanner Myatt, also RHP, is no slouch at 6’7”. The shortest guy in the draft was LHP Dan Metzdorf (5’9”) who was taken in the 38th round.  Go short people!

I was kind of hoping the Yankees would have selected 3B Triston Casas of American Heritage School in Florida. He had shown up as an option for the Yankees on a few mock draft boards. The Red Sox ended up taking him with the 26th pick in the first round. I probably would have liked to have seen him go anywhere except Boston. I was also disappointed when the Atlanta Braves chose Stanford’s Tristan Beck, RHP, in the fourth round. Beck had been a late, back-end of the draft selection for the Yankees last year but did not sign. For as much as I’ve been down on former Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens, I was also disappointed when the Detroit Tigers got Roger’s son, Kody, a second baseman, in the third round.

Lastly, I have to pay my respects to the late St Louis Cardinals great Red Schoendienst who passed away yesterday at age 95. While I am a Yankees fan, I grew up with St Louis as the nearest Major League city and it is where I experienced my first Major League game. While I liked baseball up to that point, I think my first game developed the love I have for the game.

Wednesday, May 29, 1974…

The Los Angeles Dodgers, with future Yankee Tommy John on the mound, were facing the St Louis Cardinals at the old Busch Stadium in St Louis. Bob Gibson was on the hill for the Cards, but more importantly (at least for this post), the manager of the Cardinals was Red Schoendienst. I should have recognized the greatness of the manager in the other dugout (the legendary Walter Alston of the Dodgers) but it was Schoendienst that captured my attention on that day. I can’t even tell you why he was so memorable to me that day. Maybe it was his name. Maybe it was the aura of the Cardinals, a very proud franchise that is second only to the Yankees in history, tradition and World Series wins.

The Dodgers won that game, 5-2, and John was the winning pitcher but I went away from the game with a great appreciation and respect for the Schoendienst-led Cardinals. It probably helped that I got to meet and shake hands with Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan “The Man” Musial but I clearly associated the Cardinals with their manager.

Schoendienst, a second baseman, played in the Majors for 19 years.  While he spent most of his time with the Cardinals, he also played for the New York Giants and Milwaukee Braves. Red was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989. During the course his career in baseball as a player, coach or manager, he wore a Cardinals uniform for 67 out of 74 consecutive years in the game. To this day, I still can’t think of the Cardinals without thinking of Red.

Farewell to a great St Louis Cardinal and to one of the game’s greatest guys.

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Photo Credit: St Louis Post-Dispatch (Robert Cohen)

The Red Sox have played four more games than the Yankees, thanks to the rainouts, and the Sox play again today. Here’s hoping for a Red Sox loss (finally) against the Tigers. I’d love to end this day with the Yankees only trailing the Sox by a half-game. The Tigers have a decent pitcher on the mound (Matthew Boyd, 3-4, 3.23 ERA) while the Red Sox counter with Jar-Jar Binks, excuse me, I mean Jalen Beeks.

So, Go Tigers, and as always, Go Yankees!

P.S.  A special wish for a safe and successful surgery for Jordan Montgomery, and the all best for his post-surgery recovery and rehabilitation!

Now, That’s More Like It!…

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Julie Jacobson)

Yankees Win and Red Sox Lose…

For only the second time this season, the Yankees won on the same day the Red Sox lost. But, wow, yesterday the Yankees won big and the Red Sox lost in the worst way imaginable. I love it when that happens.

Jordan Montgomery had me worried in the top of the third inning when he loaded the bases with only one out and the score 0-0. With Teoscar Hernandez and Yangervis Solarte due up next (two hitters that have been feasting on Yankees pitching), I was fearful of a big early lead for the Toronto Blue Jays. Monty struck out Hernandez and got Solarte to pop up to short to end the inning unscathed. For me, that was the huge point of the game.

In the bottom of the inning, a two-run homer by Aaron Judge (his sixth of the year) and the Yankees were off to the races. The Blue Jays finally scored a run in the fifth, but the Yankees answered in a big way when they pushed seven runs across the plate in the bottom of the sixth to break the game open. The lengthy sixth inning ensured that Montgomery (2-0) did not return, but hats off to him for his valiant, gritty effort to put the Yankees in the win column. His final pitching line was 6 innings, 4 hits, 1 run, 3 walks, and 5 strikeouts on 91 pitches.  Not bad for the team’s number five starter (who’s arguably been much better than certain other pitchers in the starting rotation).

The final score was 9-1 and improved the Yankees season record to 10-9.

While the day’s offense was primarily driven by the top of the order trio of Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, and Didi Gregorius (total of five runs and five RBI’s), Miguel Andujar made a statement in the sixth inning when he came to bat with the bases full of Yanks. His double cleared the bases and chased Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Paul J Bereswill)

After Friday’s dismal performance and loss by Sonny Gray, it felt great to take such a convincing win. It was a game that showed how devastating the Yankees offense can be, even if Giancarlo Stanton was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. He did walk and score a run on Andujar’s three-run double during the big sixth inning but the wait for his huge Yankee Stadium breakout continues to be delayed.

If you had told me before the game that the pitchers in relief of Montgomery would be Chasen Shreve and Jonathan Holder, I would have cringed, with an image of pouring gasoline on a fire in my mind. But those two combined for three innings of perfect relief (no walks, hits or runs), while striking out four. Holder was able to reduce his ghastly season ERA to 11.57 with two innings of clean work.

Out in Oakland, California, the Boston Red Sox had Chris Sale on the mound to face the A’s Sean Manaea. The Red Sox, sporting MLB’s best record at 17-2, looked like they had the right ingredients for their 18th win but Manaea had other ideas. After walking the leadoff batter, Manaea settled down and did not allow a hit to the potent Red Sox offense. He was helped along the way when Marcus Semien was charged with an error on a dropped popup in shallow left during the fifth inning that allowed Sandy Leon to reach base. Manaea issued his second walk in the top of the ninth inning with two outs, which brought the dangerous Hanley Ramirez to the plate and the Sox trailing 3-0. Ramirez hit a sharp grounder to short and the A’s were able to end the game with a force out at second. It’s always fun to see Ramirez fail in big spots.  The end result was the first no-hitter of the 2018 season and the third loss of the year for Boston.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (John Hefti)

Manaea, unlike a former teammate that now resides in the Bronx, has raised his game this year. The no-hitter was great, but he had ten strikeouts in the 108-pitch effort. For the season, Manaea is sporting a 1.23 ERA and has only given up more than one run once (when he gave up two runs in five innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 10th).

A great win by the Yankees and a wonderful loss by the Red Sox. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Today is Gleyber Torres Day.

Photo Credit: Newsday (Thomas A Ferrara)

The long-awaited arrival of the Yankees best prospect and the fifth-best prospect in baseball happens today. Through fourteen games for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Torres is batting .347/.393/.510 with .903 OPS. He has a homer to go with eleven RBI’s. Concerns about the back stiffness early last week are long forgotten. Gleyber seems ready to go and more importantly ready to take his spot among Pinstripes.

Time will tell if Gleyber is up for good or if his stay will be temporary until Brandon Drury is ready to return. But like Miguel Andujar is starting to show, you can make the decision very difficult for the Yankees by proving you belong. The Yankees production at second base this year has been rather underwhelming so the stars are aligned for Gleyber to grab the position. The odd man out, assuming that Tyler Wade isn’t sent down to Triple A to rediscover his Spring Training magic, appears to be Jace Peterson. I wasn’t really sure why the Yankees re-signed Peterson, a player who doesn’t really fit the team for the long run.

At some point soon, the Yankees will be a man short when Tyler Austin begins serving his suspension. Peterson’s a nice luxury since he can play both infield and outfield but he is the least valuable man on the roster. I am hopeful Gleyber, like Andujar, proves he is here to stay.

My guess is Torres goes back to Triple A when Drury is ready but who knows. Things can change quickly and Gleyber has a chance to alter any decisions.

Gleyber will be the starting second baseman for today’s series finale with the Blue Jays and he’ll bat eighth.

I am a little surprised by his choice of numbers (25) given that it is normally reserved for slugging first basemen in recent years. But what the heck, the only Yankees pinstriped jersey I own is Number 25 (thankful for no names) so I am armed and ready to support young Gleyber.

The Yankees are also expected to promote RHP David Hale today which is something of a surprise. It also leads me to believe that Jace Peterson will, in fact, be cut today since the Yankees will need to open up a spot on the 40-man roster for Hale in addition to making room for Torres on the active roster. Hale has given up nine runs in 14 2/3 innings this year for the RailRiders but hopefully he’ll have better success in the coming days. Hale’s worst day as a RailRider was his most recent when he gave up 12 hits and 6 runs in a start that lasted only four innings on April 18th. Fail your way to success? I hope so.

Update: As expected, the Yankees did option Tyler Wade to Triple A and designated Jace Peterson for assignment to make room for Torres and Hale.

It’s going to be a fun and exciting day. Welcome, Gleyber! We’ve been waiting for you.

Go Yankees!

Time to Improve is Now…

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Julie Jacobson)

Please End the Battle of .500…

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

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

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

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Hitting

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

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

Pitching

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

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

Fielding

.992 Fielding Percentage, 5 Team Errors

.971 Fielding Percentage, 18 Team Errors

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

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

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

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Photo Credit: Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo Credit: MLB.com

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

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

Go Yankees!