Tagged: CC Sabathia

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. 

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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.

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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!

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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…

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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.

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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…

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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!

Sevy & The Case of Homers & K’s…

Credit:  Bill Kostroun

Yankees 6, Rays 1…

Pitching like I hope he does next week against the Minnesota Twins, Luis Severino dominated the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday behind home runs from Starlin Castro, Greg Bird and Aaron Hicks.  He amassed nine strikeouts to put place his name among the greatest statistical leaders in franchise history.

On paper, the matchup looked like a mismatch in favor of the Yankees.  However, Rays starter Matt Andriese kept the game scoreless for the first four innings.  Then, Tampa’s Adeiny Hechiavarria led off the top of the 5th with a home run, a high fly into the left field seats, to give the Rays an early 1-0 lead.  

Fortunately, the Yankee bats finally woke up in the bottom of the inning.  Jacoby Ellsbury got it started by working a walk off Andriese.  Aaron Hicks hit a grounder into right field, on a ball that got past a diving Brad Miller at second, for a single.  Ellsbury raced around to third base.  After Brett Gardner hit a line drive right at the shortstop for the first out, Aaron Judge doubled to the left field corner to score both Ellsbury and Hicks.  The Yankees had taken the lead, 2-1.

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

After Severino breezed through the Rays in the top of the 6th, retiring two batters by strikeout, Starlin Castro led off the bottom of the inning with a home run to left center into the Rays bullpen.  The Rays pulled Andriese and brought in reliever Xavier Cedeno.  Greg Bird, with his beautiful swing, greeted Cedeno with a homer to right.  Chase Headley kept it going with a single to left that squeezed through 3B Evan Longoria and SS Adeiny Hecchavarria.  Jacoby Ellsbury grounded back to the pitcher for the out at first, while Headley moved to second.  Aaron Hicks ended Cedeno’s short stint when he homered on a high fly into the left field seats.  The Rays pulled Cedeno and replaced him with Jose Alvarado.  It looked like the Yankees’ big inning, with four runs already across, might continue.  Brett Gardner doubled to left, and Aaron Judge walked. However, Alvarado struck out Gary Sanchez on three pitches and got Didi Gregorius to hit into a ground out at short.  However, the Yankees had increased their lead to 6-1.

In the top of the 7th, Chasen Shreve replaced Severino.  As the team’s primary lefty in the bullpen, Shreve has been consistently inconsistent for weeks.  He walked the first batter he faced, Stephen Souza, Jr.  Corey Dickerson hit a grounder to first and the Yankees were able to force Souza out at second.  But Adeiny Hechavarria followed with a single to right.  Shreve was able to strike out Brad Miller, who has been struggling this year.  But that would all as Joe Girardi opted to go with Chad Green to face Jesus Sucre.  Green retired Sucre on a grounder to short that forced Hechavarria out at second with a flip from Didi Gregorius to Starlin Castro to end the inning.  

Dellin Betances pitched the 8th inning and looked strong.  He retired the three men he faced with a total of 13 pitches.  No walks, no hits, his 100th strikeout of the season…this is the Dellin that we need for October.

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

Aroldis Chapman pitched a clean 9th inning, ending the game on a swinging strikeout of Corey Dickerson.  The Yankees win!

The Yankees (89-69) moved to twenty games above .500 for the first time this season.  Unfortunately, the Boston Red Sox took a step closer to sewing up the AL East Championship with a come-from-behind 10-5 thrashing of the Toronto Blue Jays.  The Yankees remain three games behind the Red Sox with four to play.  The Minnesota Twins lost 4-2 to the Cleveland Indians but they clinched the second Wild Card spot when the Los Angeles Angels fell to the Chicago White Sox in extra innings, 6-4.  The Twins become the first team to reach the playoffs after losing 100 games in the preceding season.  

Credit:  Ron Schwane-AP

Luis Severino (14-6) now awaits the probable Wild Card game start next week against the Twins in the Bronx.  He lowered his season ERA to 2.98.  His six innings of work yielded only four hits, a walk and a single run for the Rays. His nine strikeouts allowed him to reach 230 for the season, putting him in a third place tie with CC Sabathia for the most strikeouts in club history.  Sabathia reached the mark in 2011.  The strikeout leader is Ron Guidry who struck out 248 batters in his magical 1978 season, while Jack Chesbro had 239 K’s in a mind-blowing 454 2/3 innings in 1904.  

This was another great team win with multiple hitting stars.  The Yankees can become a 90-win team with their next victory.  Honestly, that seemed impossible at the start of the season.  Without so many key injuries, I have no doubt the Yankees would be leading the AL East right now.  But the Yankees are now nearly healthy as they approach the season’s biggest game next week against the Twins.  I am not giving up on the AL East until the numbers say it’s over, but at this point, it does seem improbable.  This is a much better team than the one that lost the 2015 Wild Card game to Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros. 

Odds & Ends…

MLB Owners officially approved the sale of the Miami Marlins to the investment group headed by Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter.  The sale is expected to close within the next few days.  I was never a big Jeter fan so I guess I am a little indifferent to the end of his direct association with the Yankees.  I am sure that the true Jeter lovers are having a more difficult time but realistically, the Yankees won’t see the Marlins very often.  If they meet in the World Series, great!  Otherwise, it’ll just be a few games every few years in interleague play.  I am not going to lose any sleep about Jeter.  He was a great Yankee and he is immortalized in Monument Park.  But he’s a Marlin now.  I don’t wish him any more luck than I’d wish Brian Sabean in San Francisco or Billy Eppler in Anaheim.  They are simply other teams and…they are not the Yankees.  

Credit:  Getty Images

My favorite Core Four player was Mariano Rivera.  No disrespect for Jeter and what he did for the Yankees.  But now, he’s just another guy trying to beat the Yankees.

I hate the one-game ‘do or die’ Wild Card format.  I prefer at least a three game series that MLB could squeeze in without pushing the World Series to November.  I still think the best team may or may not win a three-game series but it’s a thousand times better than the single game elimination.  I take this position regardless of whether or not the Yankees win the Wild Card game.  

Have a great Thursday!  Let’s say goodbye to the Rays in good fashion…with a win!  Go Yankees!

Mr McGwire, I Believe You Have My Seat…

Credit:  Adam Hunger-Getty Images

Yankees 11, Royals 3…

Welcome to the Aaron Judge Show!  Number 99 entered the game trailing Mark McGwire’s MLB Rookie Home Run Record of 49 by one homer. He departed the game, two homers later, as the new record holder. All Rise for the Judge!

Oh yeah, they played a game too…

The Yankees got on the board first. After CC Sabathia retired the Royals in order in the top of the 1st inning, Brett Gardner led off the Yankees’ half with a single that dropped in right center field. After Aaron Judge flied out to center (a warning track fly that drew awes from the crowd), Gary Sanchez doubled to deep right into the corner with Gardner holding up at third. Didi Gregorius hit a grounder to first for the second out, but Gardy scored on the play. Sanchez moved to third. Unfortunately, he was left stranded when Matt Holliday struck out. Yankees were up, 1-0.

As Sabathia made his way through the Royals lineup in vintage 2009 fashion, the Yankees struck again in a big way in the bottom of the 3rd. Royals starter Jake Junis gave Brett Gardner a free pass on five pitches with one out. Aaron Judge came to the plate and demolished a Junis pitch into the right field stands to increase the Yankees’ lead to 3-0. The home run was Judge’s 49th of the year, tying the MLB Rookie Record held by Mark McGwire (set in 1987).  

While Sabathia was holding the Royals scoreless, the Yankees got on the board again in the bottom of the 6th. Didi Gregorius hit a one-out single to left on a short hop to left fielder Melky Cabrera. He came around to score on a double to the left field wall by Matt Holliday. Didi didn’t have to stand on second base very long as Greg Bird followed with a home run to the second deck in right. The Yankees had increased their lead to 6-0.  

As great as Sabathia was pitching (three hits over six scoreless innings), I thought bringing him out for the 7th inning might be pushing our luck. Eric Hosmer led off with a single to left just over the glove of Didi Gregorius. Salvador Perez made it a 6-2 game with a home run to left. I thought surely Joe Girardi would make a move at that point but he didn’t. With CC’s 80th pitch, the bat of Mike Moustakas said “big mistake”, homering to right to cut the deficit to three runs. 

Credit:  Seth Wenig-AP

Finally, Girardi made the move and ended Sabathia’s day. As great as CC can be at times, he is no longer more than a 5-6 inning guy. I know, it’s easy to second guess but I just don’t trust Sabathia past the 6th inning anymore. Plus, with the plethora of arms in the pen, it’s not really necessary.  Chad Green entered the game. He walked the first batter he faced, Jorge Bonifacio. Alcides Escobar hit a fielder’s choice to short, forcing Bonifacio out at second. Escobar was too quick for the Yankees to turn the double play. Green struck out Paulo Orlando for the second out and was finally able to end the inning when he got Whit Merrifield to ground out to second in an 8-pitch at-bat. It was a tough inning for Yankees pitching but fortunately the Yankees were able to hold the Royals after the back-to-back homers.

With Trevor Cahill on the mound, Ronald Torreyes led off the bottom of the 7th with a single that dropped into center field. Brett Gardner momentarily dampened spirits when he hit into a double play at second. Very close play at first as it looked like Gardy may have beat the throw, but the Yankees did not challenge. But no fear, Aaron Judge stepped up and broke the tie with McGwire for the MLB Rookie HR Record when he blasted Cahill’s offering into the left field seats for his 50th home run. Gary Sanchez wasted no time, jumping all over Cahill’s first pitch, to deposit another ball, a bullet, into the left field seats for consecutive home runs. The Yankees subsequently loaded the bases on a single and two walks, but Todd Frazier grounded into a force out at third to end the inning. Still, the Yankees had increased their lead to 8-3.

Credit:  Seth Wenig-AP

With no offense to Dellin Betances, I love having David Robertson in the 8th inning to set up Aroldis Chapman. He came in and struck out the side to push the game to the bottom of the 8th. I get fired up watching D-Rob pitch and the way he runs off the field when the inning is over. I enjoyed him replacing Mariano Rivera as the team’s closer a few years back and I enjoy him now in whatever role he can be afforded as long as he’s on the field pitching.  

In the bottom of the 8th, Ronald Torreyes hit a one-out double to right, a ball that dropped in between a crowd of Royals. A throwing error by the right fielder, Jorge Bonifacio (ball got past Alcides Escobar at second), allowed Toe to advance to third. Last time, Brett Gardner hit into a double play to erase Toe. This time, Gardy doubled down the right field line to make it a 9-3 game. Aaron Judge walked (I wouldn’t have thrown him anything to hit either) and he left the game to an ovation when he was replaced at first base by pinch-runner Clint Frazier. Gary Sanchez singled to left on a line drive to load the bases and there was still only one out. Didi Gregorius singled to right, scoring Gardy, to keep the bases full of Yanks. Matt Holliday lofted a fly ball to right, deep enough to score Clint Frazier on the sacrifice. Greg Bird finally brought the inning to a close when he popped out to third, but the Yankees had increased their lead to 11-3.

Actually, this probably would have been a great spot to bring in Dellin Betances but Girardi opted to go with Tommy Kahnle. A good choice but I’d really like to see Betances continuing work out of his funk and an 8-run lead would have been good placement for him. Kahnle walked a batter but it was otherwise a quiet inning as the Royals went down without advancing the runner. The Yankees win!

The Royals can probably have t-shirts made up that say “I went to NYC for one day and all I got was a butt-kicking”. I am sure that all things considered, they wish they had ended this series back in May. The loss most likely ended any aspirations the Royals held for the second Wild Card slot.  

The Yankees (87-69) picked up a game on the Boston Red Sox although it is probably too little, too.  The Toronto Blue Jays, fresh off a series win over the Yankees last weekend, defeated Boston, 6-4 yesterday.  The Yankees trail the Sox by four games with six to play.  The Yankees lead the Wild Card standings by five games.  

It was a great start by CC Sabathia despite the Perez-Moustakas freight train he ran into by overstaying his welcome. With the win (his 236th career victory), Sabathia improved his season record to 13-5. 

Credit:  Robert Sabo

The bullpen trio of Green, Robertson and Kahnle held the Royals hitless (and scoreless) for nine outs while compiling six strikeouts. A job well done! 

I don’t know about you, but I am kinda thinking this Judge guy has a chance to be something special. Seriously, this has to be one of the greatest Rookie seasons that I’ve ever experienced. Obviously, my view is a little Pinstriped tainted but Judge has put his name among the All-Time Greats. With an organization as deep in tradition and history as the Yankees, that’s very, very hard to do.

Thumbs down, Guys! This was a wonderful win!

Next Up:  Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY…

The march toward the conclusion of the regular season and the Wild Card game that awaits the Yankees will continue tonight with the division foe Rays coming to town. There was a time when the Rays were battling the Yankees for the Wild Card but at this point, the Rays are just playing out the string to get a jump start on their October vacation plans. They can certainly play the role of spoiler as the Yankees attempt to drive to home field advantage for next week’s Wild Card game.  

Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:

TODAY

Rays:  Blake Snell (4-6, 4.01 ERA)

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (8-7, 4.06 ERA)

WEDNESDAY

Rays:  Matt Andriese (5-4, 4.44 ERA)

Yankees:  Luis Severino (13-6, 3.03 ERA)

THURSDAY

Rays:  Alex Cobb (12-10, 3.66 ERA)

Yankees:  Sonny Gray (10-11, 3.31 ERA)

This should be Severino’s final tune-up before the Wild Card game.  Hopefully he’s more effective than he was last time out. 

Is Alex Cobb a preview of coming attractions? He’s a free agent this off-season and his name has been linked to the Yankees as a possibility.  

Odds & Ends…

Given the surprising success of the Yankees this year, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the Yankees do not re-sign both Manager Joe Girardi and General Manager Brian Cashman. 

Cashman has done a tremendous job in rebuilding the Yankees and setting them up for success for years to come. But with no offense to Cashman, he isn’t the sole reason for the success.  Other people, including Damon Oppenheimer, Jean Afterman, Gary Denbo and others have played significant roles. Is it time for a new GM? Alex Anthopoulos has been my personal favorite for the job, but I wish I had realized how great Mike Hazen was. The former Red Sox GM has transformed the Arizona Diamondbacks into a team that could catapult themselves over the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers into the World Series. Who’s the next Mike Hazen-in-waiting? I have mixed feelings about Cashman. I have long respected the guy but I wonder if it is time for new blood. With the loss of the late Gene Michael’s voice in the organization, Cashman is one of the last links to the old regime led by George Steinbrenner. I don’t know the answer to this question and I certainly won’t be disappointed if Hal Steinbrenner signs Cashman to a new long-term deal. Inevitably, I trust young Steinbrenner to do the right thing…whatever that may be.  

Girardi is not as easy for me. I’ve never been a big Girardi guy but it’s not like I feel he is the wrong man for the job. There’s no doubt that I’d prefer someone like Terry Francona and my personal homer pick, Don Mattingly. But Francona won’t be leaving Cleveland anytime soon and Mattingly is currently unavailable (as he awaits the arrival of his new boss in Miami, Derek Jeter). Nothing against Al Pedrique or Tony Pena, but I don’t really think either guy would be an improvement over Girardi. For the lack of better available candidates, I am probably for re-signing Girardi to a new 3 to 5 year contract.  

Have a great Tuesday! Let’s have our way with the Rays. Go Yankees!

Step Aside Babies, The Aging Bombers Got This…

Credit:  Adam Hunger-Getty Images

Yankees 5, Twins 2…

The way the game started, it looked like it was going to be the Twins’ day.  But in the end, it was the grizzled old veterans (CC Sabathia and Brett Gardner) that keyed the victory for the Yankees.

In a game delayed by rain (one hour and five minutes), the Twins got an early jump on Sabathia. Brian Dozier led off with a single to center on the first pitch.  Joe Mauer reached on a bunt to third (a roller on the line that Todd Frazier waited to see if it would roll out), Dozier advanced to second. Jorge Polanco followed with a bunt single back to the pitcher. CC must have been thrilled with all those bunts (memories of Boston). Polanco was called out on the field but the Twins challenged and replay showed that he had beaten Sabathia’s throw to first. The bases were loaded with no outs.  Even though it resulted in a run, the play of the game occurred when Jorge Polanco hit a grounder to short and the Yankees completed a double play (second to first) with Dozier running home to score the game’s first run. Byron Buxton grounded out back to Sabathia to end the threat. The Twins could have scored multiple runs in that situation, which would have changed the complexion of the game, but CC was able to limit the damage.

The top of the 2nd saw a completely different Sabathia. He set down the Twins on a ground out and two strikeouts. Thanks to walks by Starlin Castro and Greg Bird, the Yankees had two runners on base in the bottom of the 2nd, with two outs, for Brett Gardner. Gardy delivered with a line drive to left to score Castro.

Credit:  Kathy Willens-Associated Press

Bird moved to third, but Aaron Judge was unable to bring him home when he flied out to center to end the inning.  Game tied.

Max Kepler led off the top of the 3rd inning with a home run to right center as the Twins recaptured the lead.  

Jacoby Ellsbury led off the bottom of the 4th with a double down the left field line. After Todd Frazier struck out, Greg Bird took his second walk of the game.  Runners at first and second. Brett Gardner came up big again with a single to right, past a diving Joe Mauer, to score Ellsbury. The Twins pulled starter Jose Berrios and replaced him with Alan Busenitz. With Aaron Judge batting, Busenitz uncorked a wild pitch which moved the runners to second and third. Aaron Judge took advantage with a sacrifice fly to the right field warning track that scored Bird. The Yankees had their first lead of the game, 3-2.

Credit:  Adam Hunger-Getty Images

The Yankees added a run in the bottom of the 5th. With former Met Dillon Gee on the mound and one out, Chase Headley was hit by a pitch near the family jewels. Yikes! Headley was okay, but as Michael Kay of the YES Network said, I hope he was wearing a cup even though he was not playing in the field (DH) for this game. Starlin Castro followed with a single to left through the hole and Headley moved to second.  Jacoby Ellsbury grounded out to first for the second out, but the runners advanced to second and third.  Todd Frazier walked to load the bases. The Twins made another pitching change, replacing Gee with Buddy Boshers. Greg Bird hit a grounder to first that looked like it would be a routine play for Joe Mauer but the ball bounced off the side of his glove and all runners were safe, with Headley scoring. If there was ever a guy that deserved to score, it was Headley as he had truly taken one for the team. The Yankees had increased their lead to 4-2.  

Sabathia found himself back in another jam in the 6th inning. Two singles, a stolen base, and an intentional walk loaded the bases with two outs, but CC was able to get Eddie Rosario to fly out to left to leave the runners stranded.  Rosario’s hit took Brett Gardner to the warning track and back into the wall  but it was still the third out even if it did cause me to lose my breath momentarily.  Sabathia’s day was done.

In the bottom of the 6th, Twins reliever Ryan Pressly took over for Buddy Boshers. The first batter, Aaron Judge, singled to left through the hole.  Gary Sanchez followed with a single to left and the Yankees had runners at the corners. After outs by Didi Gregorius and Chase Headley, Starlin Castro singled to right, inches past a diving Brian Dozier, to score Judge. Sanchez moved to second. A wild pitch had advanced the runners to second and third. From there, Pressly intentionally walked Jacoby Ellsbury to load the bases. Unfortunately, Todd Frazier grounded out to short to end the inning but the Yankees had added to their lead, 5-2.  

Chad Green took over for Sabathia in the 7th. It wasn’t the usual Terminator-like appearance for Green, but he did hold the Twins scoreless despite allowing a single and a walk in the inning.

The Yanks missed another scoring opportunity in the bottom of the 7th. Brett Gardner had reached on a one-out grounder to short (a ball that squirted out of the shortstop’s glove). With Aaron Judge batting, Gardy stole second. He then moved to third on a wild pitch by reliever John Curtiss. Judge hit a grounder to third and Gardy made an unsuccessful break for home. Eduardo Escobar’s throw to catcher Chris Gimenez nailed Gardy at the plate.  

Credit:  Kathy Willens-Associated Press

In the top of the 8th, David Robertson got the call. Joe Girardi had said prior to the game that Dellin Betances would be unavailable after pitching in the two previous games but obviously there was much discussion among the Yankees Universe yesterday about whether the Yankees should drop Betances to less pressurized situations until he can find himself again. D-Rob added fuel to the argument when he struck out the side.  

Aroldis Chapman came into the game in the 9th. Although he did allow a two-out double to Chris Gimenez, he got Max Kepler to hit a liner to left for the final out to earn his 20th save. The Yankees win!

The Yankees (84-67) kept pace with the Boston Red Sox, staying three games back. The Baltimore Orioles have done the Yankees no favors as they fell to the Sox again, this time by a score of 1-0 in extra innings. Manny Machado, please feel free to mix in a few timely hits. The Yankees have built a commanding six game lead in the Wild Card standings over the Twins. The third place WC-contending team, the Los Angeles Angels, also lost so they failed to make up any ground on their 1 1/2 game deficit to the Twins.  

CC Sabathia (12-5) was clearly the crafty vet in this game. He escaped huge jams and overall held the Twins in check. ‘Get the game to the bullpen’ and he did.  

Both Brett Gardner and Starlin Castro had three hits, and Aaron Judge had two. Another good win by the home team!

Odds & Ends…

The Yankees have made a pitching change for today’s game. Earlier, Joe Girardi had announced that Masahiro Tanaka would be the scheduled starter. However, upon reconsideration (based primarily on the fact that the Yankees have not yet clinched a post-season berth), they have decided to pitch Luis Severino (13-6, 2.93 ERA). He’ll be opposed by the ageless Bartolo Colon (4-5, 4.80 ERA). Tanaka will pitch Friday night in Toronto. The move gives Severino the potential for three starts if the Yankees are still challenging the Sox for the division championship. If not, he’ll make two more starts, including today, and will take the mound for the Wild Card game.  

It is amazing to think that if/when Aaron Judge hits his 45th home run of the season, he’ll join very select company as the only Yankees with 45 or more home runs in a season…Roger Maris (61); Babe Ruth (60, 59, 54, 54, 49, 47, 46, 46, 46); Mickey Mantle (54, 52); Alex Rodriguez (54, 48); Lou Gehrig (49, 49, 47, 46); and Joe DiMaggio (46). Standing pat at 44 HR’s is impressive as it would also include Tino Martinez but clearly we want Judge to continue to send balls into orbit.   

Have a great Wednesday! It’s a wonderful day for a win!  Go Yankees!