Tagged: CC Sabathia

Disliking Off-Season Inactivity…

Baseball is such a rush. It starts in February when pitchers and catchers report, and then slowly builds over the course of the next eight months, reaching the adrenaline rush of the post-season, capped by the exhilarating World Series. Then, nothing. We can only wait and watch as the Yankees beat writers jump from one potential story to another without yielding much fruit.

Things will pick up in a few weeks as we approach the Winter Meetings, but for now, we just have to sit around wondering when the Yankees will give us an indication who they might be considering for the job to lead the 2018 Yankees.

Without much to really think about, here are some of my random thoughts…

Alex Rodriguez, Just Say No…

I can honestly say that I have no desire to see Alex Rodriguez named as Yankees manager. I do not dispute A-Rod’s baseball knowledge and I know that he’s been a positive influence on the younger players during Spring Training but neither of those attributes qualify him as a Major League manager. This is a man who was suspended an entire year for PED use after he had already been implicated with earlier use of performance-enhancing drugs. I was glad to see A-Rod’s time as an active member of the Yankees end and I have no interest in watching him don the pinstripes again (outside of brief Spring Training appearances).  As it is, I am tired of the daily “J-Rod” updates.  If Alex became the Yankees manager, those daily sightings of Jennifer Lopez and A-Rod would only worsen.  I lived through the Bronx Zoo of the 1970’s.  I am not willing to entertain the thought of The Bronx Zoo, Part II. So count me among those with no interest in seeing A-Rod become manager of the Yankees.

Jake Cave, Member of the 40-Man Roster…

It took awhile and included a detour through Cincinnati, but Jake Cave finally earned a spot on the Yankees 40-Man Roster when he was added on Monday.

Cave was drafted by the Yankees in the 6th Round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of Kecoughtan High School in Hampton, VA.  He was left unprotected when he became Rule 5 eligible after the 2015 season and was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds.  He started 2016 Spring Training very hot for the Reds but by the end of camp had cooled considerably.  In the end, the Reds opted to keep a 30-year old outfielder (Jordan Pacheco), who was released by the Reds in June 2016, over the then-23 year old Cave. At the time of his return to the Yankees, Reds manager Bryan Price offered the following comments:  “He was and is a terrific young player, and we all saw him as a big-leaguer. There was just some limitations on how much playing time I thought I could get him over the course of this year. My big concern was the history with Donald Lutz and Neftali Soto, guys that have come up and really not played much at a very young age and how they were able to deal with that and when they returned to the minor leagues how they performed afterwards, and I would hate to see that happen to Jake as a guy who really got limited playing time early in the season and how that would have affected his long-term development.”

Cave returned to the Yankees but rather than sulk, he continued to work on his craft.  He was left unprotected again in 2016 but was not selected in that year’s Rule 5 Draft.  His performance in 2017 exceeded expectations as he finished with 20 home runs and 56 RBI’s at AA/AAA combined.  His batting line was .305/.351/.542 with .893 OPS in 103 total games.  His hard work has been acknowledged by the Yankees and he’ll get an opportunity to go to the Major League Camp with the Yankees in February for the first time.

Cave profiles as a fourth outfielder but he is clearly a success story among Yankees prospects.  With guys like Cave and Billy McKinney chomping at the bit, the Yankees need to clear out Jacoby Ellsbury and/or Brett Gardner to make way for the younger guys. I’d hate to see Gardner go but it is Clint Frazier’s time for left field.  Aaron Hicks is a better center fielder than Ellsbury.  So, I’d prefer to see Hicks and Frazier in the starting outfield with Aaron Judge, and guys like Cave and/or McKinney backing them up.

The Yankees also added reliever Nick Rumbelow to the 40-man roster. Rumbelow had Tommy John surgery in 2016 and missed part of the 2017 season with his recovery. After pitching briefly for the Double-A Trenton Thunder, he was lights out for the Triple A-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. In 17 games (covering 29 innings) for the RailRiders, Rumbelow was 5-1 and had a sterling 1.12 ERA with 5 saves. He struck out 30 batters, while walking only 8.  Rumbelow, like Cave, is a success story.  He was released by the Yankees in November 2016 (free to go anywhere like Nathan Eovaldi did when he signed with the Tampa Bay Rays).  Rumbelow opted to re-sign with the Yankees on December 15, 2016 and we’re glad he did.

The Yankees still have a number of Rule 5 decisions to make but these were a couple of easy ones.  I have no doubt the Yankees will be forced to leave quality talent unprotected for this year’s Rule 5 Draft.  GM Brian Cashman, between his managerial interviews and negotiation of a new contract, has his work cut out for him.

Free Agency is Upon Us…

Free Agents became available to talk to other teams on Monday afternoon. Most forecasts show the Yankees to be very limited players in the FA arena as they attempt to avoid MLB’s competitive balance tax and reset future penalties for going above the payroll threshold.  Sadly, the Boston Red Sox were able to do that this year, so they’ll be more aggressive this off-season. During the press conference yesterday to announce new Red Sox manager Alex Cora, Dave Dombrowski, President of Baseball Operations, was asked if the luxury tax would be limitation. He responded, “No, I do not”. The same question was posed to Red Sox owner John Henry and he replied with, “Well, (Dombrowski) answered the question. He said he could go over.”  I would not be surprised to see the Red Sox go hard and heavy after Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer.

Most forecasts that I have seen only show the Yankees signing Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani and CC Sabathia. Without too many moves necessary, I’d be very happy to see the Yankees acquire Otani. There is uncertainty with the current dispute in negotiations between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball for a new posting agreement. However, Otani took a step in the positive direction by hiring Creative Artists Agency (CAA) to represent him if he is posted and made available to MLB teams this off-season.

I am not overly excited about the anticipated return of Chase Headley to third base for the 2018 season. The question will be whether Gleyber Torres or Miguel Andujar will be ready. I doubt either one breaks camp as the starter but it could happen sooner rather than later.  Headley runs too hot and cold for me. I’d prefer to see greater consistency out of the position to protect the big bats in the lineup. I’d love to see the return of Todd Frazier, but the timing is not right and the Yankees are not in a position to offer a free agent multiple years at third base. For the short-term, we’ll have to deal with Headley.

Dueling Airwaves…

It was funny yesterday that both Yankees GM Brian Cashman and former Yankees manager Joe Girardi were giving interviews at the same time. It’s tough listening to Girardi as he really sounds like a guy who wanted to be a part of the next great Yankees dynasty. I am surprised that the Washington Nationals didn’t make a run at Girardi with their World Series-caliber roster. But then again, the Nats aren’t known for spending cash on the managerial position and perhaps they were too far down the road with new manager Dave Martinez.

At this point, it appears that Girardi will sit out a year (perhaps taking a broadcasting position) and will emerge as a viable managerial candidate in the 2018 off-season.

The more Cashman talks about communication as a primary reason that Girardi was not re-hired and in particular his relationship with the younger players, it leads me to believe that there are reasons at play that we will never know. Maybe one day when Cashman retires and writes his memoirs.

I don’t know about you, but I am ready for some genuine Yankees news. These quiet days leading up to the Baseball Winter Meetings next month are tough. I am getting a little tired of watching Houston Astros show up on Saturday Night Live or Carlos Correa discussing how he decided to propose to his girlfriend immediately after the World Series had ended on the Jimmy Kimmel show. Justin Verlander’s wedding pics in Italy are nice, but I want to know about our guys.  It is time to get the Yankees back in the news.

As always, Go Yankees!

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It’s Not Over, It’s Only The Beginning…

Credit:  NY Post: Anthony J Causi

American League Championship Series

Astros 4, Yankees 0…

Astros win series, 4-3

“The darkest night is often the bridge to the brightest tomorrow.”

–Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Sure, it was very disappointing to see the Yankees come so close to making the Fall Classic but the future is so bright for this young Yankees team. This is only the beginning of the wonderful ride they are embarking upon and we’d better hold on tight because it’s going to be one helluva ride. I am very proud of the accomplishments of the 2017 New York Yankees.  They achieved far more than anyone expected and are only setting themselves up for loftier heights as we advance forward.  Congratulations, Yankees!  Thumbs down, you are an incredible group of ultra-talented players and you are champions to us.

You have to give credit to the Houston Astros. They earned home-field advantage by winning 101 games over the regular season and it positioned them for success in a series dominated by the home teams. On Saturday night, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers, Jr held the Yankees to three hits and no runs to send the Astros to their first World Series since 2005 and only their second overall.  

I was afraid that it would be asking a lot for CC Sabathia to be the savior for Game 7. I know that he had been undefeated in his role as a stopper following Yankee losses this year but this game obviously had heightened magnitude. With no offense to Sonny Gray, the Yankees paid a very high price to get him and this should have been his spot to be the team’s post-season savior. He may ultimately have a fantastic Yankees career but he was a non-factor this post-season.  

After trading scoreless frames to open the game, Houston’s Yuli Gurriel lined a shot to right that looked like it had a chance to clear the wall. Aaron Judge, on the run, leaped up to make a terrific catch to deny Gurriel.  

Credit:  Elsa-Getty Images

I was hopeful that it was a sign for great things to come. Unfortunately, it was not.  

The Astros, getting at least a single each inning against Sabathia, finally broke through in the 4th inning. Evan Gattis led off the bottom of the inning with a powerful home run to left center. Sabathia walked Brian McCann on a full count.  Marwin Gonzalez hit a grounder to short which Didi Gregorius zipped to Starlin Castro to force McCann, but they were unable to turn the double play. Josh Reddick singled to left and Manager Joe Girardi had seen enough. He went to the mound to take the ball from Sabathia, perhaps for the last time in either individual’s Yankees career. Enter Tommy Kahnle who quickly induced George Springer, on one pitch, to ground into an inning-ending double play, short to second to first.

The top of the 5th brought a great chance for the Yankees. Greg Bird led off with a double to the right field corner. Starlin Castro was next but he struck out. With Aaron Hicks at the plate, a wild pitch on ball four allowed Bird to fly to third and Hicks to take first. Runners at the corners and one out for Todd Frazier. Frazier hit a chopper to third baseman Alex Bregman and Yankees third base coach Joe Espada made the decision to send Bird home. It would take a perfect throw to nail Bird at the plate. Sadly for us, that’s exactly what happened. Bregman’s throw to Brian McCann could not have been any better and McCann easily applied the tag on Bird’s foot. 

Credit:  Ronald Martinez-Getty Images

Chase Headley grounded out to second and it was an inning of missed opportunity for the Yankees.  

The Yankees lack of scoring hurt as the Astros padded their lead in the bottom of the 5th. With Tommy Kahnle still on the mound for the Yankees, Jose Altuve blasted a one-out home run to right (too high for Judge to make another leaping catch). Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel followed with singles to put runners at the corners. Kahnle struck out Evan Gattis for the second out, but then Brian McCann doubled to the corner in right, scoring both Correa and Gurriel. Girardi pulled the plug on Kahnle and brought in Adam Warren to get the final out.  The Astros had increased their lead to 4-0.

The Astros made a pitching change for the top of the 6th. Lance McCullers, Jr was brought in to replace Charlie Morton who had held the Yanks to two hits.  Brett Gardner greeted McCullers with a single to left down the line and there was optimism that the Yankees could get back into the game. The optimism started to dissipate as McCullers retired the next three batters end the inning. Gardy’s hit was the last one that McCullers, who finished the game, would allow.  

The Yankees went down quietly in the 9th and when Greg Bird’s fly to center was caught by George Springer, their season was over. As the Astros celebrated on the field and later in the clubhouse, the Yankees could only gather their things and begin preparations for the flight home to New York City.  

Credit:  Ronald Martinez-Getty Images

Last year, the Los Angeles Dodgers watched the Chicago Cubs celebrate on Wrigley Field turf when the Cubs won the NLCS to advance to the World Series. They remembered that feeling and it helped fuel them to the NL Championship this year and a role as the host for Game 1 of the 2017 World Series. I am hopeful that the Yankees take the same sense of disappointment to fuel their hopes and aspirations for the 2018 season.  

Hopefully, the Steinbrenner Family moves quickly to re-sign both GM Brian Cashman and Manager Joe Girardi so that the team can begin its off-season planning to bring the 2018 championship back to the Bronx.  

Credit:  Elsa-Getty Images

As always, Go Yankees!

Odds & Ends…

Friday, I was surprised when the Washington Nationals fired manager Dusty Baker. Yesterday, I was equally surprised when the San Francisco Giants dismissed Dave Righetti as the team’s pitching coach. Righetti, the former Yankees closer, was the longest tenured pitching coach in the Major Leagues, having served under three managers since 2000. During that time, Rags was part of three World Championships.  Righetti, a Bay Area native, will remain in the Giants organization as a special assistant to GM Bobby Evans. Righetti is one of the most respected pitching coaches in the game but I guess the age-old question ‘what have you done for me lately?’ gets the best of us. Rags is too good not to get another opportunity elsewhere if he wants it.

Credit:  Brian Rothmuller-Icon Sportswire

The Chicago Cubs fired their pitching coach (Chris Bosio) too. Bosio had held the position since 2012 and he’s fresh off a World Series Championship from last season. I guess those three home runs by Kiké Hernandez last week to send the Los Angeles Dodgers to the World Series and the Cubs home for the holidays were Bosio’s fault.  

It sounds as though the Boston Red Sox will be offering a three-year deal to Astros bench coach Alex Cora to be their new manager. Cora will most likely accept once the World Series is over. The initial reaction from my Red Sox friends is lukewarm but I think Cora is a sound option for the Sox. For Cora, it will be about the right coaching hires to help him succeed. He will already have a strong team in place and he’ll be gaining front row World Series experience this year.  

I will watch the World Series with interest. As a former resident of Los Angeles, it’s hard not to cheer for the Dodgers. They’ve been my favorite NL team, despite my love for the Yankees. So, I’ll be rooting for Blue and hoping they send the Astros home with saddened faces.

Have a great Sunday! Remember the magic of the 2017 Yankees and dream of the potential for the 2018 club. Go Yankees!

All Rise for Home Sweet Home…

Credit:  Abbie Parr-Getty Images

American League Championship Series

Yankees 8, Astros 1

Astros lead Series, 2-1

CC Sabathia is proving, again and again, that he is the team’s prime stopper in 2017. I almost feel bad since I was among those who left CC for dead. I started to buy into Sabathia early in the season, but when he ran into his bump in the road and time on the DL, I was burying the guy again. Yet, here he is on the main stage, being trusted with the ball in the most dire situations and he has not disappointed. Monday, backed by home runs from Todd Frazier and Aaron Judge, Sabathia reeled off his 10th win (against no losses) following a Yankees loss with an elite 1.69 ERA in those situations as the Yankees put the brakes on Houston’s march to the World Series.  

Aaron Judge draws the most attention when going yard, but the biggest hit was provided courtesy of Todd Frazier. At the trading deadline when the Yankees acquired Frazier, it felt like he was going to be a two month rental before moving on. However, Frazier is showing how much he enjoys playing in the Bronx and seems to be tailor made for Yankee Stadium. I recognize that Miguel Andujar (or perhaps a free agent signing of Manny Machado after the 2018 season) represents the future at third, but Frazier deserves an encore performance in the Bronx next season.  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

While the final line for Astros starter Charlie Morton was not pretty, he was pitching great early. After two strikeouts by Morton to start the game, Didi Gregorius got the first hit for the Yankees with an infield grounder to third, but he was quickly erased for the final out when Morton’s pickoff throw to first was a little faster than Didi’s sliding hand. 

It looked like Morton, who grew up as a Yankees fan in Connecticut, was going to have a very good game in this pitching-strong series. Like the first inning, Morton got two quick outs to start the second inning…a line out to center by Gary Sanchez, who jumped on the first pitch, and a strike out of Greg Bird. Then, Starlin Castro hit a weak squibbler toward third that third baseman Alex Bregman tried unsuccessfully to barehand. Carlos Correa retrieved the ball and threw to first, but Castro had already crossed the bag. Aaron Hicks followed with a high fly to left that dropped in for a single. The Yankees had runners at first and second, but those were two hard earned hits so you couldn’t really fault Morton. On Morton’s third pitch to Todd Frazier, he threw a good outside fastball but Frazier reached out and got enough of the bat on the ball with a one-handed swing to power it over the right field wall. The Yankees were up, 3-0.

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Staked to a three-run lead, CC Sabathia appeared to wobble in the top of the 3rd inning. After getting two outs, he walked George Springer. Alex Bregman singled to deep left, but a great throw by Brett Gardner to second base held the runners at the corners. The very dangerous Jose Altuve was up next and Sabathia pitched very cautiously to him before losing him on four balls. The bases were loaded for the Astros, the best hitting team in baseball with runners in scoring position. However, Sabathia got Carlos Correa to pop out to short for the final out. Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down. Excellent job by Sabathia to get out of the inning unscathed.

Greg Bird led off the bottom of the 4th with a fly to left that bounced over the wall for a ground rule double. Left fielder Cameron Maybin came running up to catch the ball but then pulled up at the last moment before the ball hit the ground and became a souvenir in the seats. After Starlin Castro grounded out to third, Aaron Hicks hit a fly to right which Josh Reddick caught on the warning track but Bird was able to tag and move to third. Todd Frazier walked to bring up Chase Headley. Headley hit a grounder to second baseman Jose Altuve in shallow right and reached when Altuve bobbled the ball. Frazier was safe at second and Bird scored on the play. Brett Gardner was hit by a pitch on the left knee to load the bases, which brought Astros manager A.J. Hinch out of the dugout with a call to the bullpen. He brought in Will Harris to replace Morton. With Aaron Judge batting, Harris threw a wild pitch and the runners advanced, pushing Frazier across home plate to score the Yankees’ fifth run. Judge finally broke out of his ALCS slump when he blasted a line drive into the left field seats for three more runs. The Yankees had increased their lead to 8-0.

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

The Astros threatened again in the top of the 6th inning. Carlos Correa started the inning with a hard grounder that deflected off the glove of Didi Gregorius to safely reach first base. After Sabathia recorded two outs, Marwin Gonzalez hit a grounder to Gregorius and reached base when Didi lost his footing and overthrew Greg Bird at first. Correa moved to third. After a visit to the mound by Larry Rothschild, Sabathia got Josh Reddick to hit a soft grounder back to the pitching mound that CC was able to field and throw to first for the final out. The shutout remained intact for the great 37-year-old Yankees lefty.

For Sabathia, his day was finished. Adam Warren took over in the top of the 7th.  It didn’t start well when he walked his first batter, but he settled in and retired the next three batters to push the game to the 8th inning. Warren was back out for the 8th and retired the Astros in order.

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

It was inevitable that we’d see Dellin Betances at some point and Joe Girardi decided his time was the top of the 9th inning to seal the deal for the Yankees. It was a great opportunity for Betances to earn redemption and show that he can be a trusted arm for the duration of the playoffs. Unfortunately, it was a missed opportunity for Betances who walked the first two batters he faced and was pulled.  

Credit:  Getty Images

Tommy Kahnle was brought in. Cameron Maybin greeted Kahnle with a single to left to load the bases.  Kahnle struck out George Springer for the first out but then he walked Alex Bregman which pushed Marwin Gonzalez across the plate for the Astros’ first run (a run charged to Betances). Bases still loaded for likely AL MVP Jose Altuve and only one out. Kahnle came up big when Altuve hit a grounder to second baseman Starlin Castro who stepped on second and threw to Greg Bird at first to complete the double play. Game over. Yankees win!

Granted, Judge’s home run was huge. While I still feel that Frazier’s bomb was the difference-maker (offensively), the play of the game occurred in the top of the 4th inning when Marwin Gonzalez led off with a fly to right that took Aaron Judge to the wall. Judge reached up to catch the ball as he crashed into the wall and fall to the ground. It was an incredible catch to rob Gonzalez of a potential home run. Of course, it brought the obligatory questions of who was hurt the most…Judge or the wall…but it was the play of the game in my opinion. The Yankees were holding the three-run lead at that point courtesy of the Frazier home run, and a rally by the Astros in that spot would have made it a much different game.  

Credit:  Elsa-Getty Images

Judge, proving his glove is as powerful as his bat, also made a diving catch of a line drive hit by Cameron Maybin in the fifth inning.

Credit:  Robert Sabo

I can’t say enough great things about CC Sabathia. Time and again, he has proven to be a crafty veteran who simply knows how to win.  He’s faced his share of adversity but continues to overcome. Like Frazier, I think that CC Sabathia was earned a spot on the 2018 Yankees.  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

The Yankees now turn Game 4 over to the forgotten Sonny Gray. Like Betances (who failed his ALCS audition), this is a chance for redemption for Gray. We know that he will be a huge part of future Yankee teams but this is his time to grab the moment and make his mark in New York. Gray (10-12, 3.55 ERA) will be opposed by Lance McCullers, Jr (7-4, 4.25 ERA). Don’t let the ERA fool you, McCullers, the son of a former Yankee, has been very tough on the Pinstripers. This game should be a classic. Hopefully, Sonny Gray rises to the challenge to craft an exciting first chapter of his Yankees post-season career.  

Odds & Ends…

I missed the weekend game (Game 2) due to a preplanned trip. The Yankees failed to tell me that they were going to make it to the American League Championship series earlier in the year when I made plans. A heartbreaking loss is not fun to write about, but I really appreciated the way that Astros catcher stood up for Gary Sanchez after the game. McCann could easily join the throngs who love to bash the Yankees but he’s been nothing but the professional that we came to love during his days in the Bronx.  

I keep reading so many articles that speculate whether or not Manager Joe Girardi will return and how he seems to be edgier around friends and family. Personally, I think he’d be foolish to leave at the dawn of a new era in Yankees baseball. I think he’ll come to an agreement with the Yankees after the season is over to help the Baby Bombers strive for greater heights over the next few years. Honestly, I do not see any viable alternatives and nothing against Yankee coaches like Tony Pena or Rob Thomsen but I think, despite his faults, Joe Girardi is the best man for the job.


Have a great Tuesday! Like Joe Girardi and Joe Torre before him have said, let’s just win one game today. We believe. Go Yankees!

To the ALCS? YES, in Didi!…

Credit:  Phil Long-AP

American League Division Series, Game 5

Yankees Win Series, 3-2

Yankees 5, Indians 2…

CC Sabathia pitched tremendously before handing it over to the bullpen and the bats of Didi Gregorius and Brett Gardner provided the offense as the Yankees surprised the Cleveland Indians and the Baseball World to advance to the American League Championship Series.

Going into the final game of the ALDS, none of the experts were giving the Yankees a chance going against likely AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber in his home ballpark. But thanks in very large part to Gregorius, Kluber didn’t stay around too long.  His two home runs ensured that Kluber was watching the game from the dugout by the end of the 4th inning. I am sure that’s not the game plan that Tribe manager Terry Francona had envisioned. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Greg Bird were a combined 0-for-13 with ten strikeouts, but with Didi Gregorius playing one of the greatest games in Yankee shortstop history, it did not matter.

The game started with Corey Kluber in control. Brett Gardner opened with a failed bunt attempt on the first pitch to record an out. Aaron Judge struck out for the first of four strikeouts on the night for the second out. But then Didi Gregorius, who entered the game with just one hit in the series, blasted a drive into the right field seats for the game’s first run. Kluber came right back and struck out Gary Sanchez and was seemingly in control despite the misplaced pitch to Didi.

The Yankees had a runner in scoring position in the 2nd inning when Aaron Hicks took a two-out walk and Jacoby Ellsbury reached first on, surprise, catcher’s interference (bat hit the top of the catcher’s glove). Todd Frazier flied out to end the inning and leave the runners stranded, but the Yankees were showing activity against Kluber. Meanwhile, CC Sabathia was facing the minimum number of batters with four strikeouts through the first two innings.

Brett Gardner led off the top of the 3rd inning with a sharp single to right. After Judge whiffed again, Didi Gregorius jumped on another Kluber pitch and ensured it was a fan souvenir in the right field seats again. The Yankees were up, 3-0. 

Credit:  Jason Miller-Getty Images

The bottom of the inning was another three-up, three-down performance for Sabathia, with two more strikeouts.

In the top of the 4th inning, Kluber retired the first two hitters but had reached three balls with both before getting a strikeout and a line out. When he walked Jacoby Ellsbury on five pitches, it was Miller Time in Cleveland. Terry Francona pulled Kluber, who left with a 12.79 ERA in this series, in favor of Andrew Miller. Miller struck out Todd Frazier to get the Tribe out of the inning but it was very surprising to see Kluber’s exit before the conclusion of four full innings. I certainly was not complaining.

CC Sabathia finally gave up his first hit in the bottom of the 4th when Francisco Lindor led off with a single through the hole into left field. Sabathia came back strong, retiring the next three batters, two by strikeout, and remained in control. He looked good starting the bottom of the 5th when he struck out Carlos Santana, but then four successive singles brought home two runs to make it a one-run game. Manager Joe Girardi wasn’t taking any chances at that point and went to the pen to bring in David Robertson to face Francisco Lindor with runners at first and second. 

Credit:  Getty Images

On his second pitch, Lindor hit a grounder to Didi who stepped on second and threw to first to complete the inning-ending double play. A huge defensive play by Didi to ensure that his glove was as loud as his bat. CC Sabathia may not have survived the 5th inning, but still, giving up only two runs and striking out nine batters was a tremendous effort despite the slim lead.  

Credit:  David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

It became a dueling battle of the bullpens as both teams put up scoreless frames through the eighth inning. The Tribe brought in their closer, Cody Allen, with two outs in the 8th (who proceeded to strike out Greg Bird), but I was very surprised…and a little uneasy…when the Yankees brought in Aroldis Chapman to start the bottom of the 8th. With so many other options available in the bullpen, I was fearful that Girardi had gone to Chapman too prematurely. Fortunately, Girardi proved why he is the Yankees manager and I am just a blogger on this site, when Chapman recorded three quick outs on thirteen pitches.

Credit:  Getty Images

In the top of the 9th, with Cody Allen still on the mound, Starlin Castro struck out for the first out. Next up, Aaron Hicks singled to left. A fielding error by Austin Jackson, the ball rolled under his glove, allowed Hicks to move to second. Allen got Chase Headley to pop out, but then he walked Todd Frazier. Brett Gardner’s single to right, just past the glove of second baseman Jose Ramirez, cleared the bases to give the Yankees two very huge insurance runs. Frazier was able to score the second run when the throw from right fielder Jay Bruce into second got past Francisco Lindor and the Toddfather was able to slide into home ahead of the throw to the plate. Gardy advanced to second on a throwing error. It was a legendary at-bat for Gardy, who battled Allen through 12 pitches before getting the key hit (the longest at-bat of the post-season). Francona made another pitching move and pulled his closer in favor of Joe Smith. Smith got Aaron Judge to ground out to third, but no matter, the Yankees had increased their lead to 5-2. A little breathing room.

Going into the bottom of the 9th with a three-run lead made me feel so much better about the return of Aroldis Chapman for a second inning of work. But I did feel some tension when Chapman walked the first batter (Jose Ramirez). Chapman allowed me to exhale slightly when he struck out Edwin Encarnacion.  Carlos Santana hit a ball to second for the force out of Ramirez. Two outs. The only man standing between the Yankees and a date in the ALCS with the Houston Astros was one-time Yankees prospect Austin Jackson. Carlos Santana took second on defensive indifference, but Gardy’s insurance runs ensured that Santana was inconsequential. Chapman’s job was simple…leave the potential tying run standing on deck without a chance to come to the plate. You could feel the excitement emerging when Chapman blew a fastball past Jackson for the called third strike to end the game. The Yankees win!

Credit:  Gregory Shamus-Getty Images

I blamed Joe Girardi for the second game loss, but this game completed his redemption. It’s amazing how many people wrote off the Yankees when they lost the first two games of the ALDS in Cleveland. Even after they tied the series in New York, I didn’t hear many voices giving the Yankees any chance for Game 5 in Cleveland except for maybe Alex Rodriguez. The Indians were arguably the best team in the American League, with 104 wins on the season including the two wins in the ALDS. Their season included the historic 22-game winning streak and they were nearly everyone’s favorite, excluding Yankees fans, to win the World Series after their loss last year to the Chicago Cubs. But in the end, they will not have the opportunity to make a repeat appearance in the Fall Classic.  

If Corey Kluber could have figured out an answer for Didi Gregorius, the results may have been very different and the Yankees might have been left wondering what could have been. Instead, the magic and the ‘never-say-die’ resiliency of the 2017 Yankees continues. The Yankees will get a rematch of their 2015 Wild Card Game loss to Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the ALCS. This time, we get seven games to show the World that heart, determination and desire, combined with a little talent, can make a difference.  

Congratulations to the New York Yankees! Goodbye, Cleveland…hello, Houston!

Credit:  David Dermer-AP

Have a great Thursday!  Friday the 13th, here we come!  Go Yankees!

The Curious Case of the Girardi Gaffes…

Credit:  David Dermer-AP

American League Division Series, Game 1

Indians 9, Yankees 8…

Yankees manager Joe Girardi received accolades for his managing job in the Wild Card Game. He rightfully deserves the blame for the loss in this one.  Pulling CC Sabathia in the 6th inning at only 77 pitches and still going strong was a highly questionable move but the decision to not challenge the hit by pitch call later in the inning directly led to Cleveland stealing a game from the Yankees that the Yankees had appeared to have stolen from the Indians.

I’ve never been a great fan of Girardi but his minor league play in a critical major league game will most likely haunt us through the winter. The Yankees had a chance to send the series back to New York tied at one. Two games in New York with the series tied would have been a huge advantage for the Yankees. Instead, they now trail two games to none and every game they play going forward in the series is a ‘do or die’ elimination game for the Pinstripers.  It’s hard not to be upset about this game.

The game started so beautifully for the Yankees against likely AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber. Kluber has owned the Yankees this year but not Saturday. The team finally broke through against Kluber at the most opportune time. Aaron Judge took a one-out walk from Kluber in the 1st inning and was followed by Gary Sanchez who blasted a shot over the wall in center to give the Yankees an early 2-0 lead.  

Credit:  Chuck Crow-The Plain Dealer

They had a chance for more when Starlin Castro doubled to the wall in left and Greg Bird reached on a fielding error when second baseman Jose Ramirez couldn’t cleanly field the grounder to put runners at the corners with two outs but Aaron Hicks struck out to end the inning. Still, picking up two runs against Kluber was huge.

Credit:  Jason Miller-Getty Images

In the bottom of the 1st, the Indians got those runs back. Francisco Lindor led off with a  hard-hit grounder to third that Todd Frazier couldn’t handle (the ball rolled under his glove into left field) so he was safe at first. After Jason Kipnis flied out to center for the first out, Jose Ramirez walked on four straight pitches.  Edwin Encarnacion was hit by a pitch (a very painful shot to his leg), which loaded the bases. Carlos Santana singled to left, scoring Lindor and Ramirez to tie the game at two. Brett Gardner’s throw to Gary Sanchez was off line which allowed Ramirez to slide in with the second run. CC Sabathia was able to get out of the inning on a very unfortunate event. Jay Bruce hit a hard liner that Didi Gregorius jumped to catch and then Didi dove for second in an attempt to get Edwin Encarnacion who was attempting to get back. Encarnacion rolled his ankle as his foot hit the bag. The Yankees challenged the play, saying Encarnacion’s foot came off the base as he fell, drawing chants of “Yankees suck!” from the Cleveland crowd. The call on the field was overturned and Encarnacion was ruled out for the inning-ending double play. Encarnacion had to be helped off the field. Hopefully it is not the end of the season for Encarnacion.  

Credit:  Gregory Shamus-Getty Images

The Indians took the lead in the bottom of the 2nd. Austin Jackson led off with a single looped into center field. Yan Gomes hit a grounder to third but Todd Frazier’s throwing error to second (a  ball in the dirt) which Starlin Castro couldn’t dig out for the force attempt put runners at first and second with no outs. Giovanny Urshela successfully laid down a sacrifice bunt back to the pitcher to push the runners to second and third. Francisco Lindor was intentionally walked and the bases were loaded. Jason Kipnis singled to left past a diving Todd Frazier, scoring Jackson with the go-ahead run. Sabathia was able to get out of the inning without allowing any further runs when he got Jose Ramirez to pop out in foul territory and struck out Michael Brantley (who took over as Cleveland’s DH after Edwin Encarnacion had injured his ankle).

In the top of the 3rd, the Yankees chased Kluber with big two-out hits. Gary Sanchez started the rally with a one-out single off the end of his bat into right field. Didi Gregorius grounded out to first for the second out, moving Sanchez to second. Starlin Castro singled to left just past a diving Francisco Lindor, scoring Sanchez and the game was tied at three. Greg Bird followed with a solid single to right. Runners at first and second for Aaron Hicks who got a hold of a Kluber pitch to send it into the right field seats as right fielder Jay Bruce could only watch. Yankees were up, 6-3.  

Credit:  Gregory Shamus-Getty Images

Exit Kluber, enter Tyler Olson. The brief one-time Yankee retired Jacoby Ellsbury on a ground out to first but at that point, things were looking good for the Bombers.

CC Sabathia was pitching great after the earlier runs by Cleveland. Meanwhile, the Yankees added two more runs in the top of the 5th. Against Cleveland reliever Mike Cleavinger, Didi Gregorius led off with a walk. Starlin Castro struck out, but Greg Bird blasted a shot inside of the foul pole in right for a two-run homer to increase the lead to 8-3. A five-run lead with Sabathia still pitching great and the Yankees bullpen ready and waiting. Victory was in sight.

Credit:  Gregory Shamus-Getty Images

Then, the unfortunate 6th inning happened. After the Yankees had failed to score in the top of the inning, the Indians got a runner on first when Carlos Santana led off with a walk. Sabathia retired the dangerous Jay Bruce on a line out to short and appeared to be in control, but then Joe Girardi inexplicably pulled him and brought in Chad Green. Green got Austin Jackson to fly out to right for the second out. Yan Gomes doubled to left off the wall, with A-Jax advancing to third. It brought Lonnie Chisenhall to the plate, pinch-hitting for Giovanny Urshela. Green got two quick strikes on Chisenhall and then Chisenhall battled Green by fouling off the next four pitches. The fifth pitch came in and appeared, at quick glance, to hit Chisenhall in the hand. He was awarded first base. Replay showed that the ball had actually hit the bottom of the bat (no flesh). Despite objections from Gary Sanchez, Girardi made the quick decision not to challenge (later saying that he didn’t want to disrupt the pitcher’s rhythm). As Julia Roberts once said in Pretty Woman, “Big mistake. Big. Huge.”  

Credit:  Thomas Ondrey-The Plain Dealer

Chad Green then tried to get a slider past Francisco Lindor who jumped all over the pitch to send it into the right field seats off the foul pole for a grand slam. The once large five run lead was now a slim one run margin.  

Credit:  Thomas Ondrey-The Plain Dealer

David Robertson took over for Green and got the Yankees out of the heart-breaking inning.

Robertson pitched a clean 7th inning but he fell behind Jay Bruce leading off the bottom of the 8th on a 3-1 count and Bruce hammered a D-Rob cutter over the wall in left center to tie the game at eight.

The Yankees had Todd Frazier in scoring position in the top of the 9th (90 feet away) but couldn’t find a way to bring him home. The game went into extra innings but the Tribe bullpen continued to shut down the Yankees. They appeared to have a chance in the top of the 11th when Todd Frazier hit a grounder to third to lead off the inning and a throwing error by the third baseman (ball over the head of the first baseman) allowed Frazier to reach second. Ronald Torreyes was brought in to pinch-run for Frazier. A pick off attempt of Torreyes at second on a throw from the catcher initially appeared unsuccessful but the Tribe challenged the play and replay showed the tag applied before Toe could get his hand back on the base. It was a tremendous defensive play by Francisco Lindor with his lightning quick tag but a very forgettable pinch-running experience for Toe.

Credit:  UPI

Joe Girardi brought Dellin Betances back out for the 13th inning after he had already thrown the prior two innings. It was too much to ask of the short-inning reliever. Austin Jackson led off the inning with a walk and stole second. Yan Gomes ended the game with a single to left, bringing Jackson around with the winning run.  

Credit:  Jason Miller-Getty Images

This loss had the smell of Girardi all over it. Terry Francona who has proven time and again that he is a better manager than Girardi and proved it once again.  Cleveland never loses because of its manager. He’s the wild card that leads to wins.  Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for Girardi. I am not happy with Girardi and we’ll soon have a long winter to think about this missed opportunity.  

The series resumes on Sunday at Yankee Stadium with Masahiro Tanaka facing 18-game winner Carlos Carrasco. I am sure that Cleveland fans like their chances. I only wish that I could say the same.

Credit:  Joshua Gunter-Cleveland.com

Have a great Saturday! Let’s hope for a magical regroup and a Pinstriped charge to three consecutive wins in the ALDS. Thumbs down! Go Yankees!

Befuddled in Cleveland…

Credit:  Jason Miller-Getty Images

American League Division Series, Game 1

Indians 4, Yankees 0…

Aaron Judge, four strikeouts. That pretty much sums up how it went in Cleveland on Thursday night as the Yankees dropped the first game of the ALDS to the Indians. Their inability to figure out Trevor Bauer does not bode well for tonight when they face likely AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber.

While Bauer was making mincemeat out of the Yankee bats, the Indians got to Sonny Gray early. In the bottom of the 2nd inning, Jay Bruce got the party started for the Indians with a double off the left field wall against Yankees starter Sonny Gray. Carlos Santana followed with a single to center to put runners at the corners. Lonnie Chisenhall was hit by a pitch on his upper arm to load the bases. Gray was able to limit the damage when Roberto Perez hit into a double play at short, but Bruce came home on the play for Cleveland’s first run.  Giovanny Urshela flied out to right so Gray escaped a huge jam with minimal damage. Unfortunately, the way Bauer was pitching, the one run deficit felt like the Grand Canyon.

The Indians struck again in the bottom of the 4th. Edwin Encarnacion started the inning with a walk. Jay Bruce, a rumored trade target for the Yankees prior to the trading deadline, came back to haunt his near-employer when he blasted a shot into the right field stands. The Indians had increased their lead to 3-0.

Credit:  Phil Masturzo-Akron Beacon Journal/TNS

Gray walked two of the next three batters to end his night. Adam Warren entered the game and gave up a single to center to load the bases with only one out, but he then struck out the dangerous Francisco Lindor and got Jason Kipnis to fly out to center to escape without any further damage.

Credit:  Jason Miller-Getty Images

Meanwhile, with Trevor Bauer still pitching a no-hitter against the Yankees, the Indians got another run in the next inning. Jose Ramirez started it for the Tribe with a single up the middle on a ball that just got by a diving Didi Gregorius. While Edwin Encarnacion was at bat, a wild pitch, a ball in the dirt that Gary Sanchez dropped in front of him, advanced Ramirez to second. Encarnacion flied out to left in foul territory for the first out, and Manager Joe Girardi made the call to the bullpen, bringing in Jaime Garcia to replace Warren. With Jay Bruce batting, another wild pitch, another ball in the dirt that hit Sanchez in the chest and bounced away, allowed Ramirez to take third. Bruce took advantage of the wild pitches to loft a fly to center, scoring Ramirez on the sacrifice. 4-0, Indians.

In the top of the 6th inning, Chase Headley struck out and the Yankees were still searching for their first hit. Aaron Hicks ended the potential no-no when he doubled to left off the wall. Bauer received a very nice ovation from the crowd. The Yankees couldn’t do anything with Hicks at second but at least they had finally gotten their first hit on the board.

The Yankees added another hit in the 7th. After Bauer had retired the first two batters, Starlin Castro singled on a grounder to right field. The Indians dipped into their bullpen, bringing former Yankees reliever Andrew Miller into the game to face Greg Bird. The fear when you trade great players is that they’ll one day come back to bite you. Miller was no different with his strikeout of Bird to end the inning.

Despite two strikeouts by Miller in the top of the 8th, the Yankees had two baserunners, courtesy of walks. With Aaron Judge coming to the plate representing an ability to make it a one-run game, Cleveland called on its closer, Cody Allen. Allen proceeded to strike out Judge in the huge spot to end the inning.

In perhaps the lone bright spot for the Yankees, Dellin Betances pitched the bottom of the 8th inning and struck out the side on eleven pitches. It’s a good sign to see Dellin pitching so well even if the odds are against the Yankees in this series.

Credit:  Charles Wenzelberg-NY Post

The Yankees had no answer for Allen in the top of the 9th despite Starlin Castro’s second hit of the night (and only the third Yankee hit of the game), a single to right with two outs. Allen struck out Greg Bird on three pitches to end the game and hand the overwhelming advantage in the series to the Tribe.

Credit:  Getty Images
It’s hard to find positives in a loss but this could have been a blow out and the Yankees kept the Tribe from any big innings. I’ve been down on Jaime Garcia but he did a nice job with 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. A few timely hits and the Yankees could have gotten back into this one. The team needs to regroup and hopefully find a way to get their hits tonight against Corey Kluber in Game 2. They have not fared well against Kluber but clearly the team has the potential to take advantage of mistakes. Everyone can have an off night (see Sonny Gray) and the Yankees need to exploit any opportunities they are given. I am sure that the Houston Astros didn’t expect to get seven runs off Chris Sale yesterday, including two home runs (three overall) by Jose Altuve. CC Sabathia, pitching this evening in his original MLB city, has been the Yankees’ stopper all season. He’ll be asked to step into that role once again. It would be huge if the Yankees could earn a split at Progressive Field before heading back to the Bronx.
Odds & Ends…

The Houston Astros defeated the Boston Red Sox, 8-2, to take the first game of their series. As noted above, it was a night to forget for Chris Sale. When the Astros acquired Justin Verlander in August, it was clearly a move designed for October. He didn’t disappoint, holding the Red Sox to two runs over six innings. No disrespect for Sonny Gray (or Yu Darvish of the Dodgers), but I thought Verlander was the most significant pitching acquisition of the summer.

Credit:  Karen Warren-Houston Chronicle

All of the playoff teams will be in action today with the first game (Red Sox-Astros) starting at 2:05 pm ET. I hate to go against the Yankees but I think today’s winners will be the home teams (Indians, Astros, Dodgers and Nationals). I would love for the Yankees to prove me wrong.

Have a great Friday! Let’s steal a win from Kluber. Go Yankees!

Dancing Among The Legends…

Credit:  Getty Images

Yankees 2, Blue Jays 1…

It may not have resulted in the AL East championship, but CC Sabathia gave the Yankees what they needed to propel the team to the narrow victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon. Give credit to the Yankees for making the Boston Red Sox earn the division title and not handing it to them. This was a game for the ages, raising the names of Whitey Ford and Babe Ruth…

Sabathia locked into a pitching battle with Toronto’s Marcus Stroman for the first few innings. The game was scoreless until the bottom of the 4th when Aaron Judge belted a monster blast over the left field seats (484 feet) for his 52nd home run of the year.  All Rise!

Credit:  Jim McIsaac-Getty Images

But the Yankees weren’t finished. Didi Gregorius hit a one-out single to left, a ball that nearly grazed the top of the glove of Blue Jays shortstop Ryan Goins. While Starlin Castro was taking his hacks at Stroman, a wild pitch got away from catcher Russell Martin (a bouncer through his legs) allowing Didi to advance to second. With the count full, Castro singled to center, past a diving Ryan Goins who barely got a piece of his glove on the ball, to score Gregorius. The Yankees were up, 2-0.

The Blue Jays changed pitchers for the bottom of the 5th with reliever Aaron Loup replacing Stroman. Loup walked two of the first three batters he faced (the two Aarons) to put Hicks in scoring position, but the Blue Jays pulled Loup and inserted Carlos Ramirez who shut down Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius on a strikeout and fly out, respectively.  

The top of the 6th brought a little drama and memories of the Jeffrey Maier incident years ago the then 12-year-old reached out to catch Derek Jeter’s fly in Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS and Jeter was awarded a home run. With one out, Ryan Goins got a hold of a Sabathia pitch and sent it high to right. Momentarily, it appeared to be a home run but replayed showed a young fan reaching out to catch the ball. The play was reviewed but the call on the field (ground-rule double due to fan interference) was upheld. Goins took second and the fan was shown the exit. Sabathia struck out Teoscar Hernandez for the second out but with Josh Donaldson on deck, CC’s day was done. Chad Green came into the game and got Donaldson to hit a fly to left for the final out. The shutout remained intact much to the delight of Sabathia. Sabathia finished with 5 2/3 innings pitched, and giving up only four hits with no runs or walks. He struck out six in what may have been his final Yankees regular season start.    

Credit:  Bill Kostroun-AP

Tommy Kahnle took over for Green in the top of the 8th and unfortunately gave his best impersonation of Dellin Betances (the bad version). The first batter he faced, Ezequiel Carrera, hit a soft dribbler on the third base side and beat the throw from Kahnle to first. Miguel Montero, pinch-hitting for Rob Refsnyder, drew a walk so the Blue Jays had the tying run on base. Kahnle was pulled and replaced with David Robertson. Ryan Goins struck out but D-Rob missed with a full count fastball to walk Teoscar Hernandez. The bases were loaded with only one out. Josh Donaldson hit a fly to left for the second out, with Carrera coming home to score on the sacrifice. Brett Gardner had to run to make the catch as the wind pulled it back, and his throw to the plate almost nailed Carrera but Gary Sanchez couldn’t hold on to the ball. 

Credit:  Bill Kostroun-AP

Robertson came through big when he struck out Justin Smoak swinging to preserve the Yankee lead by the slim one-run margin.

Aroldis Chapman on the for the 9th inning and it was 1-2-3 game over with Starlin Castro running to his left to catch Darwin Barney’s line drive for the final out. The Yankees win!

Credit:  Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees (91-70) saw their hopes for the AL East title dashed in the clubhouse when the Boston Red Sox completed their 6-3 victory over the Houston Astros. David Price got the Sox out of a bases-loaded jam in the 7th inning. Former Yankee Brian McCann did his part with a homer in the 9th inning but it wasn’t enough. The Yankees will host the AL Wild Card Game against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night. The winner will advance to play the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS. The Red Sox will continue their current series with the Houston Astros in their ALDS matchup, moving from Boston to Houston for Game 1.

Congratulations to CC Sabathia (14-5) for his successful season. I know that I had given up hope for the aging pitcher, like many fans, but he showed that he is capable of reinventing himself ala Andy Pettitte. The win was Sabathia’s 237th of his career, passing the legendary Whitey Ford. 

Credit:  Reuters

The troublesome knee is still a concern but CC Sabathia earned his right to be part of the 2018 Yankees. Hopefully, the team and the player can come together for a mutually rewarding contract in the off-season.  

Credit:  Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Judge will most likely not play today so if that’s the case, he finishes with a .284 batting average, 52 home runs and 114 RBI’s. His homer was the 33rd of the year at home, breaking the franchise record set by none other than the immortal George Herman “Babe” Ruth in 1921. It’s been an incredible season for the highly talented young slugger. First full season and he’s rubbing shoulders with the greatest  of the greats in franchise history.

 

Odds & Ends…

Andrew Romine of the Detroit Tigers became the fifth player to play all nine positions in a Major League game. To play catcher, he used a ‘hand me down’ glove courtesy of his brother Austin. Romine pitched in the bottom of the 8th inning with the Tigers nursing a 3-2 lead over the Minnesota Twins. He retired the only batter he faced, Miguel Sano, on a ground out to third. He handled all of his defensive chances cleanly. A very nice accomplishment for Austin’s older brother.  

Credit:  Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

There was a nice Twitter exchange between Aaron Judge and Marcus Stroman after yesterday’s game.  

Stroman:  @TheJudge44 is creating history. He hits baseballs extremely far too. Lol looking forward to competing against him the rest of my career!

Judge:  Much respect @MStrooo6!! Love your fire and passion for this game!! Keep that chip on your shoulder!! 👊👊

Stroman:  Always my man. The future battles will be legendary. Good luck in the playoffs young king!

Personally, I would rather see these two become Yankee teammates…

Have a great Sunday! The final game of the regular season. Let’s bring home a victory in preparation for Tuesday. Go Yankees!