|Photo Credit: New York Post (Corey Sipkin)|
Yankees Able to Overcome Betances…
The Yankees won their game on Friday night but it was not without unnecessary drama. The Yankees thoroughly dominated the Detroit Tigers in all phases of the game, yet the Tigers had the go-ahead run at the plate in the bottom of the eighth, thanks to a mess created by Dellin Betances. Although he was able to get two outs in the inning, it was not before the Tigers had gotten five hits and three runs off him. Mercifully, Chad Green came in to get the final out against his former team, leaving two runners stranded, to help propel the Yankees to the 8-6 victory.
After the game, Manager Aaron Boone was very supportive of Betances. Betances felt he was throwing good pitches but the Tigers were hitting everything. Betances made the comment that if he picked up the rosin bag and threw it, it was going to be hit. If the delivery is correct and both the fastball and breaking pitches are working, we can only hope good results are right around the corner. We’ll see. It’s troublesome to watch the All-Star reliever struggle in key spots. Fortunately, it didn’t cost the Yankees a game last night, but Boone had to burn Chad Green on a night he didn’t want to.
Nice job by Aroldis Chapman who struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth to earn his second save of the season.
The game was a much stronger outing for starter Jordan Montgomery. He pitched better than his final line, 6 innings, 5 hits, 3 runs, no walks and 4 strikeouts, in picking up his first victory of the season.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Raj Mehta)|
The star of the game was Aaron Hicks. It was so fun to watch his inside-the-park home run in the second inning off Tigers starter and former Astro Mike Fiers. The ball hit by Hicks to right-center looked like it had the distance to go yard, but it careened off the wall and away from the Tigers outfielders. Gary Sanchez, who had doubled in the preceding at-bat, scored on the play, while Hicks came around and slid headfirst into home plate ahead of the throw with a huge grin on his face.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Gregory Shamus)|
Hicks added a traditional home run in the sixth inning to become the fifth Yankee hitter with a multi-home run game this year. This is an incredible accomplishment considering only fourteen games have been played. Plus, Aaron Judge has yet to join the multi-HR parade and you know it is only a matter of time. The way this season is going, Ronald Torreyes will probably be the next hitter to have a two home run game.
This weekend’s games against the Tigers are looking very questionable right now. The weather forecast calls for rain on both Saturday and Sunday. The Yankees do not make any further trips to Detroit this season so if either one of the next two games are postponed, it will create a schedule challenge for the makeup. Hopefully it doesn’t lead to a double-header tomorrow before the Yankees head for home.
I am not excited about the anticipated start today (weather-permitting) by Luis Cessa. I really prefer to see Cessa in limited relief appearances. But I guess the hand-writing was on the wall that he’d be the spot starter in place of the injured CC Sabathia when Domingo German pitched three innings in relief of Sonny Gray (very effectively, I might add) on Thursday. Hopefully, if they get the game in, Cessa will pitch much better than I expect. I’d love to see him prove me wrong. Sadly, he never seems to but today is a new day.
I hate to dwell on what could have been, but reading this morning’s sports page shows that Todd Frazier hit two home runs last night to help the New York Mets improve their record to 11-1 and Gerrit Cole of the Houston Astros struck out 14 batters for his third consecutive game with 10+ strikeouts. Cole would look really good in the Yankees rotation right now but it was not meant to be. I remain hopeful that GM Brian Cashman will deliver us something better by the trading deadline but the early results do not look good.
|Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)|
If the Yankees decide to promote top prospect Gleyber Torres next Thursday, they have very difficult roster decisions to make. The obvious move is to option Tyler Wade to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. At the start of the season, I thought that Ronald Torreyes was the most vulnerable potential roster casualty but the guy simply performs every time he is called upon. His versatility and ability to come into games with effective results after sitting on the bench for days makes him too valuable to lose. The only way I can see Torres and Wade on the active roster together would be through a trade of an active roster member (but who?). As I’ve said before, I’ll gladly take Torres over Wade any day of the week. It’s not that I don’t think Wade will be a good player, I just feel Gleyber will be a star. Not right away, but I am ready for the maturation process in the Majors for the young superstar-in-waiting.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (John Raoux)|
It’s not my money but I’d cut bait with Jacoby Ellsbury. I know, that’s a lot of money down the drain but Ellsbury’s presence, when he comes back from the DL, is a hindrance. I know that he’s still a good player but I’d prefer to see him play elsewhere. Let him go back to Boston, even if we are paying the freight. I don’t really care at this point. I am done with Ellsbury.
Jace Peterson cleared waivers yesterday and was sent outright to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders so we may not have seen the last of the former Padre/Brave second baseman.
Another former Yankee made his return to the Yankees organization when Rule 5 draftee Nestor Cortes, Jr was offered back to the Yankees by the Baltimore Orioles. The return of Cortes means that none of the players drafted from the Yankees in the Major League phase of last December’s Rule 5 Draft stuck with their new teams. I saw a story a few days ago that blamed misuse of Cortes by Orioles manager Buck Showalter for putting the young left-hander in a no-win situation. Cortes had yielded two grand slams within a week. Showalter said “If we could have gotten a little deeper into our games with starting pitching, I think I could have protected him more. But, we were forced into some things. I still think he’s got a chance to be a good pitcher.” When Baltimore had selected Cortes, they had high hopes that he’d make the starting rotation and felt that they had “stolen one” from the Yankees. It didn’t work out but we’re glad to see Cortes back in the Yankees family. Cortes will be assigned to Double-A Trenton where he’ll join the other Orioles Rule 5 returnee Jose Mesa, Jr.
Tyler Austin has appealed his five-game suspension. The appeal will most likely be heard early next week but the downside is that once Austin begins serving his suspension, he can’t be replaced on the roster so the Yankees will be a man down. Neil Walker would be the full-time starter at first, backed by Austin Romine. That’s dangerously thin for the Yankees, particuarly considering the team will soon embark on a very difficult stretch on the schedule.
Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter will not be coming to Yankee Stadium for the two game series between the Yankees and the Miami Marlins which starts on Monday. Jeter will make the trip to New York, but won’t travel to the Bronx to see the games in person at Yankee Stadium. Jeter told ESPN, “I went to a spring training game when we played New York, but it would be an awkward situation for me to actually go to Yankee Stadium. I’m just being honest with you guys, so that’s why I’m not going.” I saw a great twitter line yesterday that said Jeter decided to send Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees as his representative. Works for me.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Michael Reaves)|
Well, let’s hope the Rain Gods allow us to get in today’s game. Never a better time for a win than today.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)|
For one night, the answer is not G-R-E-E-N…
Well, so much for the thought (my thought anyway) that Chad Green is the lone bright spot in the Yankees bullpen. I know, that’s not fair to Aroldis Chapman, who has had very limited opportunities, or Dellin Betances, who actually was the best reliever last night. The Yankees held the lead in the game until the seventh inning when Masahiro Tanaka started to tire and gave up a two-run blast to Adam Jones. Tanaka stayed in the game, retiring Chris Davis on a grounder to third, but Tim Beckham ended his night with a single to right. If the Yankees bullpen could have held it from there, the Yankees might have been able to dig out of the one-run hole.
Alas, it was not meant to be. I guess you can chalk it up to ‘one of those nights’. Manager Aaron Boone brought in the usually reliable Chad Green. He did strike out two batters to get out of the inning but not before the Orioles hit a single, run-scoring double and two-run single to push three more runs across the plate.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Julie Jacobson)|
The Yankees had their chances but could not erase the large deficit. They picked up a run in the bottom of the seventh on a run-scoring single by Neil Walker after Didi Gregorius had doubled, but Miguel Andujar popped out with two men on and two outs to end the threat. The next inning, the Yankees had the bases juiced with two outs for Neil Walker, thanks to a walk and two batters hit by pitches. Unfortunately, Walker grounded out to the pitcher to eliminate the last serious threat. Sadly, the Yankees dropped the contest, 5-2, to fall to 4-3 and two games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East standings.
I was pleased to see the strong work by Dellin Betances in the top of the ninth inning when he struck out three batters despite allowing a meaningless walk.
|Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)|
Love or hate Buck Showalter, but he schooled Aaron Boone on the fine art of managing. I know, you can’t blame Boone for this loss but Showalter is the wise grandmaster in terms of the depth of managerial experience. You’ll never beat Showalter by out-managing him.
I always enjoy the work of Mike Axisa over at River Ave Blues. He had great perspective this morning. He said “Every team is going to win 50 games and lose 50 games each year. It’s what they do in the other 62 games that determines their fate. This is one of those 50 losses.” I agree with his assessment (as usual) but it is tough to take a loss on a night when the Boston Red Sox win.
Boston kills me. They have such a ‘cream puff’ schedule to start the year. They won their home opener yesterday against the Tampa Bay Rays, tying the game in the bottom of the ninth inning with two runs and then scoring the game winner in the bottom of the 12th. The Rays featured a starting pitcher that I’ve never heard of, Yonny Chirinos. He did a decent job, along with the subsequent relievers until closer Alex Colome took the bump. The Rays almost lost the game in regulation when second baseman Daniel Robertson took a grounder with a runner on first, bypassing the obvious and easy force out at second, to barely beat the runner to first. The play was challenged but the throw beat the runner by a split-second, sending the game into extra innings before the Rays ultimately lost. The takeaway for me is that other teams like to hand gifts to the Red Sox.
|Photo Credit: Boston Herald (Christopher Evans)|
Right now, Boston wins the games when they do not play well and the Yankees do not. I fully expect the Yankees to gel as a team but seven games into the season, we’re not there yet. I am not going to panic. There are still 155 games to play. Nobody is handing the Red Sox the AL East championship in April.
The Yankees look to rebound tonight when CC Sabathia takes the mound. He’ll face Greg Bird’s Colorado high school buddy, Kevin Gausman. Last year, CC was the man following a Yankees loss so hopefully the trend continues.
I was sad to see Trayce Thompson’s time with the Yankees was so short. I really like the guy even if he hasn’t put up the numbers to earn such support. Thompson was out of options when the Yankees claimed him on waivers earlier this week but they tipped their hand when Aaron Boone said that he’d start out in the minors. Thompson couldn’t go to the minors without clearing waivers and the Oakland A’s jumped at the chance to bring the brother of Klay Thompson, a star with Oakland’s Golden State Warriors to the Bay Area. Nice attempt by the Yankees to try to slide him through waivers but it failed like it did for the Dodgers. It’s nice for Klay who picks up a roommate to help pay bills (like he really needs the help). I wish Trayce the very best for success in Oakland, however, I think we’ll see him again soon on the waiver wire. For his sake, I hope not. I’d like to see him succeed.
The Yankees also made a depth move this week to acquire third baseman Cody Asche from the Kansas City Royals for a player to be named later or cash considerations.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jennifer Stewart)|
Asche will take over third base for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders while Miguel Andujar toils in the Bronx. I really wanted the Yankees to acquire Asche several years ago. I am always on the lookout for the next Paul O’Neill (I guess I can modify it to say the next Didi Gregorius). I thought Asche had potential when he was with the Philadelphia Phillies as a young third baseman. Asche, 27, is a career .234 hitter in 390 MLB games so he clearly has not become the player I thought he would be. There’s no chance he’ll ever leap-frog over Andujar or Brandon Drury so for now he becomes a Triple A performer waiting to help in the event of injuries at the position for the big league club. No offense, Cody, but I hope we never see you in the Bronx. It’s not because we don’t like you…we simply prefer good health for Andujar and Drury.
Lastly, I am going to borrow the words of TGP’s Bryan Van Dusen: In summary, the 2018 New York Yankees are still a World Series contender. If you want to jump off the Yankees’ bandwagon, be my guest. There are still plenty more on board.
|Photo Credit: New York Post (Greg Joyce)|
Frosty the Snowman punches out the Yankees…
As I type this post, it is in the low 30’s and snowing in New York for today’s now-postponed Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. Snow and baseball do not mix. I love baseball at Yankee Stadium but admittedly it would be more enjoyable facing the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, Florida right now. The game has been re-scheduled for Tuesday. Tomorrow will be a little warmer…temps in the 40’s…but rain is expected in the afternoon (there is a 95% chance at the expected 4 pm Eastern game time, according to Weather.com). April in New York, you gotta love it…
I was really hoping the Yankees could have won three of four heading back to the Bronx, but it was not meant to be. I am not ready to crucify Manager Aaron Boone but the same could not be said about the Yankees Universe on Twitter. You would have thought Boone burned Derek Jeter’s famed #2 jersey after yesterday’s loss. Give Boonie a break. He’s going to make mistakes. Outside of Giancarlo Stanton’s two home runs last Thursday, the Blue Jays did a great job shutting down our best hitters. Credit to them for a job well done. When we are forced to rely upon the bats at the bottom of the lineup, we put ourselves into situations where the bullpen has no safety net.
Four games into the season, I know two facts. The bullpen is going to perform better than this and the big sluggers are going to hit. Aaron Boone is a smart man and I think he grows stronger by the day. I don’t want the return of Joe Girardi even if it was possible. That ship has sailed and Girardi awaits his next managerial gig in Chicago or St Louis. For better or worse, I am behind Boone as the manager of this team. The last two losses were agonizing, to say the least, but there are better days ahead. In the coming weeks and months, Boone will prove himself to be a master strategist and will be a worthy foe to the game’s best.
The next seven games will be at home against the Rays and the Baltimore Orioles.These are the games to win. The Yankees need to take both series before heading to Boston a week from tomorrow. The O’s series will be a big test for Boone as he’ll be going against one of the greater managerial minds in the game. Buck Showalter may not have the talent on the field to match the Yankees but one must never underestimate the power of the former Yankees manager. This will be a series of the student against the master. One game at a time. I am confident that Boone will use these games as building blocks for his managerial greatness.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mark Brown)|
Until further notice, I’d like to avoid hearing the Yankees have the best bullpen in baseball. At the moment, the only trustworthy guy appears to be Chad Green. Regardless, I am convinced the bullpen will be dominant but it gets old to continually hear they are the best, followed by another implosion. The most disappointing aspect of yesterday’s game for me was the inability of Sonny Gray to get out of the fifth inning. It put too much pressure on the pen, after several days of early starter departures. The bullpen will get better and Boone will make stronger choices. The current mood of disappointment can easily be swept away by a nice seven-game winning streak.
I know that many of you were glad GM Brian Cashman didn’t blink during the failed off-season trade talks with the Pittsburgh Pirates and RHP Gerrit Cole ended up moving to Houston to play for the World champions. I was in favor of the trade even if it meant losing Clint Frazier and a top pitching prospect so it was kind of tough to see Cole’s strong debut for the Astros yesterday. He was the winning pitcher in Houston’s 8-2 win over the Texas Rangers. He pitched seven strong innings, allowing only two hits and a run. He walked three and struck out eleven. His only mistake pitch was a slider to the second batter he faced to start the game, Joey Gallo. Gallo homered to left on Cole’s second pitch to give the Rangers an early lead, but former Pirate and childhood Yankees fan was dominant from there. I suspect that there will be more than a few AL pitchers who watch their offerings deposited into the outfield seats by Gallo, including a few Yankee pitchers, before this season is done. Now let’s see if Cole can continue to pitch at this level, particularly as AL hitters gain familiarity. The verdict is still out on that one, but for one day, Cole pitched like an ace and would have looked awfully nice in Pinstripes.
|Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)|
Let’s hope that the Weather Gods decide to smile upon New York tomorrow so that we can get Opening Day at the Stadium underway. Rain, rain, go away, come again when we’re on the road. I know, that doesn’t rhyme but I never said I was a poet. I just want to watch some Pinstriped Baseball.
Enjoy the snowy day. Go Yankees!
It’s beginning to look a lot like Spring…
It’s the Monday morning of the week that pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in Tampa, Florida. Woohoo! I am so ready for Baseball! Tomorrow, Steinbrenner Field will be buzzing with activity as the voluntary players in camp will be met by the rest of the group. New Manager Aaron Boone has been at Training Camp since Friday. He and his new staff will be among the first to greet the new arrivals.
Photo Credit: NorthJersey.com via USA TODAY Network (Kevin R Wexler)
Position players report must report by Sunday, February 18th although a number of players are already in town. Others, such as Giancarlo Stanton, should soon be en route.
Stanton caused a bit of a stir yesterday when he posted an Instagram pic featuring the newest Yankee slugger with mercurial New York Giants star wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. Stanton labeled the pic “Dem City boys”. Stanton is going to find out that he’s not in Miami anymore and his every move will draw attention and will be open for lots and lots of criticism. Stanton has said that he’s looking forward to the ‘big city, bright lights’. If I have a fear about Stanton in New York City, it’s that he’ll be distracted by the ‘big city, bright lights’. Stanton and Aaron Judge may be similarly sized sluggers but their personas are night and day. Stanton, based on what I’ve seen, enjoys the nightlife. Nevertheless, I am confident that Stanton will arrive in Tampa very focused and determined. This is his first opportunity to play for a winner and he’ll do so pulling on the pinstripes of the most storied franchise in baseball history. I am not trying to criticize him but I do hope that he avoids unnecessary criticism and controversy when the team heads north to the Bronx.
Now that Yu Darvish is officially off the board, thanks to the Chicago Cubs, it ends any further speculation that the Yankees are trying to find a way to clear salary space for the talented right-hander. I did like the thought of Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka pitching together, but I am glad the Yankees weren’t the team handing him the six-year, $126 million contract. However, it is unlikely the Yankees search for a starting pitcher is over. Many of you feel that the Yankees would be fine with Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield providing the primary rotation support. As much as I would like for both guys to succeed, Sheffield has yet to pitch at Triple A and many speculate that Adams might be better suited for the bullpen. I really do not want to rely upon Luis Cessa or potentially pull Chad Green from the pen for the inevitable replacement starts in the rotation.
I would not want to see the Yankees pay (“overpay” based on the dollars Agent Scott Boras is seeking) for free agent Jake Arrieta. I feel that Arrieta’s numbers are trending in the wrong direction and the last time he competed in the AL East, he failed miserably while a member of the Baltimore Orioles. However, I do feel that either Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb would represent upgrades. The question is cost and if the Yankees would still be forced to move salary to make it happen (which is most likely the case). Somehow, it feels like this road to pitching will eventually lead us back to the Detroit Tigers and Michael Fulmer. If, by July, the Tigers are in the midst of another lost season (likely), they may be more motivated to move Fulmer for a talented collection of high-end prospects.
Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire (Scott W Grau)
Personally, I am very excited about the potential of Gleyber Torres as the Yankees starting second baseman, but David Cone took to Twitter this weekend to remind people not to sleep on Tyler Wade. I have been convinced that we’ll see a much better Wade this year and it will not surprise me if Wade is the Opening Day second baseman. Inevitably, I feel that Torres will be the starter but Wade will have a few weeks to show that he belongs in the Major Leagues (for good). The activity and competition at second base this year is very exciting.
As for third, it appears Miguel Andujar will be given first crack at the position. However, I remain of the opinion that we’ll see the signing of a veteran third baseman. I continue to believe Mike Moustakas will not accept a one-year pillow contract (no Moose Tacos in the Bronx), regardless of how sluggish free agency has been this year, so we’re more likely to see Eduardo Nunez (not excited about his defensive skills…or lack thereof) or Neil Walker to compete at third with Andujar. I’d really be sick if the Yankees gave a minor league contract with training camp invite to a guy like Trevor Plouffe.
Back to Chad Green, while the Yankees have asked him to come to camp as a starter, there’s no doubt he’ll be back in the bullpen. He’s too valuable there. The MLB Network featured its Top Ten Relievers this weekend and Green was the highest rated Yankees reliever at #4. The only relievers ahead of Green were Kenley Jansen of the Los Angeles Dodgers; Andrew Miller of the Cleveland Indians; and Craig Kimbrel of the Boston Red Sox. Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman was #8. I see Green moving toward the back end of the bullpen in the next couple of years. As much as I enjoy David Robertson, he’ll be a free agent at the end of the year. Given the sizable contracts that quality relievers continue to attract, it’s very possible that the Yankees will let D-Rob walk (if he isn’t traded sooner to add additional room for salary space under the $197 million threshold). I see Green as one of the guys capable of stepping into the late innings with Tommy Kahnle and Dellin Betances to form the bridge to Chapman. Ben Heller is my pick for bullpen breakout this year and the flame-throwing Domingo Acevedo is on his way so even if D-Rob walks or is traded, the Yankees bullpen should continue to be a strength.
Photo Credit: MLB Network
Lastly, the MLB Network has been running a documentary the last couple of weeks about the late, legendary Tony Gwynn entitled “Mr Padre”. Gwynn was such an incredible personality and force of the game. It is nice to be reminded of his smile and his love and passion for Baseball. He may be gone but he has certainly not been forgotten. If you haven’t seen the documentary, you should check it out. Thanks for the memories, Tony.
Photo Credit: SI.com (John W McDonough)
|Credit: Eric Christian Smith-AP|
American League Championship Series
Astros 7, Yankees 1…
Series tied, 3-3
If the Yankees are going to win the ALCS, they’ll need to figure out how to score more than a single run in a game at Minute Maid Park. Three runs in three games is not going to get ‘er done. The Yankees were getting hard hits against Justin Verlander on Friday night, but they had nothing to show for it. Meanwhile, the Astros bats came alive and they seized the win in Game 6.
On the bright side, the Yankees have responded to adversity the entire post-season, winning ‘do or die’ games against the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians. It’s that time once again so hopefully the Yankees can find a way to score runs and take the victory tonight.
Brett Gardner led off the game with a single to center over the outstretched glove of shortstop Carlos Correa. Unfortunately, Aaron Judge followed with a grounder to Correa that the Astros quickly turned for a double play.
After Luis Severino easily set down the Astros in the bottom of the 1st, Gary Sanchez reached first base on a soft grounder to third to open the 2nd inning. But El Gary wasn’t able to do more than have a brief conversation with first base coach Tony Pena when Verlander struck out two of the next three hitters (Greg Bird and Aaron Hicks) and got the middle batter (Starlin Castro) to fly out to center.
The Yankees got another hit in the 3rd inning, a one-out single up the middle into left center field by Chase Headley, but again the runner had no place to go as he was left stranded.
Meanwhile, through the first three innings, Luis Severino had yet to give up a hit. Carlos Correa finally got the first hit for the Astros with a two-out single to right center in the bottom of the 4th. Correa was left stranded but the tide was turning. Instead of the hits against Verlander and none against Severino, the reverse pattern developed. Verlander set the Yankees down in order in the 4th and 5th innings.
|Credit: Eric Christian Smith-AP|
The Astros led off the bottom of the 5th with a walk by Alex Bregman. A groundout to Starlin Castro by Marwin Gonzalez moved the runner to second. Sevy was unable to throw strikes to Evan Gattis and walked him on four pitches. Brian McCann took advantage of the runner in scoring position with a drive to right that bounced over the wall on one hop for a ground-rule double, scoring Bregman and moving Gattis to third. Like Gattis, Sevy was unable to throw strikes to George Springer, also walking him on four straight pitches. The bases were loaded, with only one out. Josh Reddick lofted a fly to center for the second out but it wasn’t deep enough to score the runner. It brought Jose Altuve to the plate with the bases still jammed with Astros. To borrow a line from Manager Joe Girardi, it’s not what you want. Altuve rapped a hard drive to left to score Gattis and McCann. The Astros were up 3-0. It was end of the line for Severino. Chad Green came in and got the final out when Carlos Correa popped out to Starlin Castro. It was a very disappointing inning for the young 23-year-old starter and quite possibly his final inning of the year if the Yankees cannot find ways to score runs in Houston.
|Credit: NY Post: Charles Wenzelberg|
The Yankees finally got a couple of hits in an inning against Verlander when they got two singles in the top of the 6th. Chase Headley led off with a single to center. Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge recorded outs (pop out to short and strikeout, respectively) but then Didi Gregorius lined a single to right, the ball dropping in front of right fielder Josh Reddick. Runners at first and second with two outs for Gary Sanchez. With one swing of the bat, El Gary had the potential to tie the game. Sadly, all he could do was hit a grounder to short for the final out.
More promise but ultimately disappointment continued in the top of the 7th when Greg Bird walked and Starlin Castro was hit by a pitch. The HBP was not initially called by the home plate umpire but Girardi, learning from prior lessons, challenged the call and it showed that Castro had, in fact, been hit on the wristband. Aaron Hicks had the first crack at Verlander but he struck out. Todd Frazier was next and he hit a high fly to center, to the wall, and a leaping catch by George Springer. Oh man, just another foot or so and the game would have been tied.
|Credit: NY Post: Anthony J Causi & Getty Images|
Chase Headley grounded out to the right side to end the threat, missing a huge opportunity for the road team.
In the top of the 8th, Verlander was finally out of the game, replaced by Brad Peacock. After Peacock got Brett Gardner to fly out in left field foul territory (credit left fielder Marwin Gonzales for the running catch with very limited room), Aaron Judge blasted a pitch, nearly to the roof, over the wall in left center to make it a 3-1 game.
|Credit: Houston Chronicle: Karen Warren|
Signs of life…not. Didi Gregorius flied out to left and Gary Sanchez struck out to end the inning.
For the bottom of the 8th, the Yankees replaced Chad Green with David Robertson. Great job by Green. After replacing Severino in the bottom of the 5th, Green did not allow a hit or run over 2 1/3 innings pitched. He only walked a batter and struck out three ‘Stros. For David Robertson, the results were not the same. He was greeted with a homer to left over the scoreboard by Jose Altuve. After the game, D-Rob said that he threw the 2-2 pitch where he wanted but Altuve still went yard. Carlos Correa was next and he doubled to left into the corner. Yuli Gurriel singled to right and the Astros had runners at the corners and still nobody out. Alex Bregman lined a double to left center on a ball that dropped between Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks to bring both runners around to score. A throwing error by Didi Gregorius to home plate that got away from Gary Sanchez allowed Bregman to move to third. Four batters, four hits, three runs (with a fourth to eventually score), no outs. An ugly line for D-Rob and the end of his latest outing.
|Credit: NY Post: Charles Wenzelberg|
Dellin Betances entered the game. It started well when he struck out Marwin Gonzalez for the first out. But then Evan Gattis lofted a fly ball deep enough to right center to score Bregman on the sacrifice as the throw from Aaron Hicks to Gary Sanchez was off the line. The Astros had increased their lead to 7-1 over the offensively-challenged Yankees. Brian McCann followed with a single to right that Starlin Castro couldn’t quite reach, but Betances got George Springer to ground out to third with a broken bat for the final out. Two very ugly innings for the Pinstripers…the 5th and the 8th.
The Astros brought their closer, Ken Giles, out for the top of the 9th despite the six-run lead. It seemed odd to bring in your best reliever in that situation but Astros manager A.J. Hinch gets paid a lot more money than I do to make those decisions. Greg Bird flied out to right for the first out, but then Starlin Castro singled to left center. Aaron Hicks walked and the Yankees had two runners on base with only one out. After a coaching visit to the mound, Giles settled down and retired Todd Frazier on a fly out to left. He struck out Chase Headley swinging for the game-ending out.
I don’t know what you say after a game like this. The Yankees were whipped in all facets of the game. It was a game that you quickly forget and move on.
The Yankees will pull out their stopper, CC Sabathia, for the seventh and final game of the series. No doubt this is an ‘all hands on deck’ situation. Dallas Keuchel has already said on record that he’ll be ready to thwart any rallies out of the bullpen, and even Justin Verlander was saying that he might be ready depending upon how his arm feels today. Charlie Morton will make the Game 7 start for the Astros. The childhood Yankees fan will get the opportunity to disappoint the many of us who are still Yankees fans. Sabathia has not been defeated following a Yankees loss this year. Let’s hope that streak continues one more time.
Odds & Ends…
Yesterday, I wrote about the managerial openings but I could not have envisioned that the Washington Nationals would emerge as a team with an opening. Their firing of Dusty Baker caught me by surprise. Both John Farrell and Baker have proved that simply winning your division to make the play-offs is not enough. There’s no doubt that Baker mishandled the Stephen Strasburg injury situation earlier in the post-season and that may have been the ultimate cause for his dismissal. The Nationals have one more shot next year before star Bryce Harper becomes a free agent so whomever gets the job will carry high expectations. It’s a tough job to walk into and I thought they would have been stronger with the continuity of Baker, a very good manager, at the top. The Nationals reportedly want to talk to Astros bench coach Alex Cora which could throw a monkey wrench into Boston’s plans to hire Cora. There will be no honeymoon period for the guys who get the jobs with the Nationals and the Red Sox. Win now or walk.
Of course, there’s still a chance that the Yankees could be looking for a new manager soon. Never a dull moment in Major League Baseball.
|Credit: NY Daily News: Andrew Savulich / TNS|
Have a great Saturday! Bring home the AL Championship, Guys! Thumbs down, you got this! Go Yankees!
American League Championship Series
Yankees 6, Astros 4…
Series tied, 2-2
The 2017 Yankees seem to thrive in the face of adversity. Down by four runs and facing a potential 3-1 disadvantage in the ALCS, the young Baby Bombers rose up and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
The game was expected to be a pitching duel between Sonny Gray and Lance McCullers, Jr but then again, with the exception of Monday night’s game, every game has featured stellar starting pitching. Former Yankee Carlos Beltran picked up the game’s first hit when he doubled to the right field wall off Yankees starter Sonny Gray with two outs in the second inning. Fortunately, he didn’t get to experience third base but the early goings of the game saw a few runners left stranded. All dressed up and nowhere to go.
I knew that Lance McCullers, Jr was going to be tough on the Yankees. Despite his inconsistent year, he has generally been very strong when facing his dad’s old club.
The bottom of the 4th brought an interesting play albeit with no runs for the Yankees. Aaron Judge walked to start the inning for the Yanks. With one out, Gary Sanchez flied out to right. On El Gary’s fly, Judge was running with the pitch. He turned after running past second and ran back to first after realizing the ball had been caught but was called out as he slid back into the bag. The Yankees challenged the play which confirmed Judge’s foot had reached the base before the ball, however, when Judge was at second and passed the bag, he did not re-step on the bag on his way back to first. As the Astros prepared to throw to second as a follow-up to the challenge play at first, Judge made the break for second. The Astros threw Judge out on the play but, technically, he was out for that “misstep”, ending the inning. A lesson learned for the big guy.
|Credit: Michael Ciaglo-Houston Chronicle|
Poor Sonny Gray. The guy never gets any run support and Tuesday was no exception. The game entered the sixth inning still scoreless for both teams. After Gray walked George Springer, Gray’s former Oakland teammate Josh Reddick reached base on catcher’s interference by Austin Romine (much to Romine’s chagrin). Despite allowing only one hit up to that point, Manager Joe Girardi made the decision to pull Gray one pitch into the next at-bat (Jose Altuve), a ball in the dirt, and replaced him with David Robertson.
|Credit: Michael Ciaglo-Houston Chronicle|
D-Rob walked Altuve which loaded the bases with no outs. After striking out Carlos Correa for the first out, Yuli Gurriel cleared the bases with a double down the line, just inches past the glove of the diving Todd Frazier at third, to the left field corner. Brett Gardner threw the ball in to Didi Gregorius and the Yankees were able to catch Gurriel between second and third for an out. Alex Bregman subsequently grounded out to third to end the inning for the Astros, but they had taken a 3-0 lead.
Chad Green replaced Robertson in the top of the 7th inning. He struck out former Yankee Carlos Beltran for the first out, but then gave up a double to right center by Marwin Gonzalez. Brian McCann hit a grounder to second baseman Starlin Castro in shallow right but the ball ate up Castro for an error, allowing McCann to safely reach base. Gonzalez scored on the play to increase Houston’s lead to 4-0. George Springer hit a grounder to third that Todd Frazier turned for a double play, second to first, to avoid further damage and send the game to the bottom of the 7th.
Trailing by four runs with Lance McCullers, Jr pitching a shutout, Aaron Judge stepped to the plate. Judge hammered McCullers’ first pitch over the wall in center field into Monument Park for a home run. The Yankees were on the board.
|Credit: Howard Simmons-New York Daily News|
The Astros still held a 4-1 lead, but McCullers was finished. The Astros brought in Chris Devenski to face Didi Gregorius. Didi tripled to the left-center field wall. Gary Sanchez was next and he hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Didi. The Yankees had closed the deficit to two runs. Greg Bird walked to finish Devenski’s stay and Joe Musgrove came in to retire Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks. Still, the Yankees had chipped away and their bats were starting to show signs of life.
After three up-three down for Chad Green in the top of the 8th, the Yankees got to business in the bottom of the inning. Todd Frazier singled to left to get things started. Chase Headley, pinch-hitting for Austin Romine, singled to left in the gap, moving Frazier to third. Headley took second on the throw in from the outfield, after stumbling between first and second. He was able to make it to second ahead of the throw after cut-off man Carlos Correa had thrown the ball to first.
|Credit: Andrew Savulich-New York Daily News|
The Astros pulled Musgrove to bring in their closer, Ken Giles. Brett Gardner hit a grounder to second baseman Jose Altuve who threw to first for the out but Frazier scored to make it a one-run game. Headley moved to third, and was replaced by pinch-runner Jacoby Ellsbury. Aaron Judge doubled to left off the wall to score Ellsbury and the game was tied at 4. Didi Gregorius singled to left, a roller under the glove of shortsop Carlos Correa, with Judge advancing to third. It set up Gary Sanchez’s double to the wall in right center to score both Judge and Gregorius. The Yankees had captured the lead, 6-4.
|Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports|
After Ken Giles intentionally walked Greg Bird, he was pulled and replaced by Luke Gregerson. Starlin Castro worked a walk to load the bases but the Yankees were unable to capitalize when Aaron Hicks hit a slow grounder toward first allowing the Astros to get the force out of Sanchez at home and Todd Frazier grounded out to third.
On to the 9th inning and the awaiting arm of Aroldis Chapman. Chapman struck out fellow Cuban Yuli Gurriel and Alex Bregman for the first two outs. With Carlos Beltran due up, the Astros sent in pinch-hitter Evan Gattis to hit. I personally would have stayed with Beltran but Astros manager A.J. Hinch had different ideas. It didn’t pay off for him as Gattis lofted a fly to left for the final out. The Yankees had overcome a four-run deficit to win the game and tie the ALCS at two games apiece. The Yankees win! Woohoo!
Chad Green (1-0) was the winner, while Aroldis Chapman earned the save. Ken Giles (0-1) took the loss for the Astros.
The ceremonial first pitch was thrown out by former Yankee great Paul O’Neill with Ronald Torreyes catching. O’Neill looks like he could still take a few hacks at home plate or at the very least, overturn a water cooler or two.
Credit Aaron Judge. His home run changed the offensive temperature from very cold to very hot. It was the tandem of Judge and Didi Gregorius that set the pace for the Yankees to score six unanswered runs. Very nice to see Gary Sanchez join the action after an 0-for-13 skid in the ALCS.
|Credit: Karen Warren-Houston Chronicle|
The two errors by Starlin Castro on what appeared to be two fairly simple grounders was not fun to watch.
There were complaints prior to the game about Joe Girardi’s decision to have Austin Romine catch Sonny Gray with Gary Sanchez sliding to DH. I had no issue with the move. In the limited sample size since Gray joined the Yankees at the trading deadline, his ERA with Romine has been significantly better (3 starts, 1.45 ERA) than when El Gary is behind the plate (8 starts, 4.63 ERA). Among Matt Holliday, Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley, there’s no doubt that Headley deserves the next start at DH. I am disappointed see Holliday’s Yankee career end on the bench but the simple truth is that he has not hit since returning from the DL after his bout with the Epstein-Barr Virus. I know that to get hits, you need at-bats, but the Baseball Gods have not smiled upon Holliday in the second half. It would still be cool if he could get a crucial pinch-hit at some point before the Pinstripes become a distant memory for him.
It was a very solid performance by Sonny Gray and is certainly a tremendous preview of coming attractions for the 2018 season (if not the remainder of the 2017 post-season).
|Credit: Andrew Mills-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com|
By winning, the Yankees have guaranteed that the series will head back to Houston for Game 6. Hopefully, they can win today to make it a much sweeter plane flight to Texas. The challenge is difficult with Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander slated for the mound over the next two games. However, the 2017 Yankees have beaten Chris Sale and Corey Kluber and they tend to excel when their backs are to the wall. Win or lose, you can be assured that the Yankees will never, ever quit.
Have a great Wednesday! Let’s just get a win today. Only one win. Thumbs down, let’s do this! Go Yankees!
|Credit: Tony Gutierrez-AP|
American League Championship Series
Astros 2, Yankees 1…
Astros lead Series, 1-0
The Yankees had the answer this season for Chris Sale and they finally figured out likely AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber in the post-season but Dallas Keuchel remains a mystery. Unable to generate any runs against Keuchel, the Yankees fell to the Astros in the first game of the ALCS despite a solid outing from Masahiro Tanaka.
|Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports|
The Yankees didn’t pick up their first hit against Keuchel until Brett Gardner lined a single to left with two outs in the 3rd inning. Unfortunately, he didn’t go anywhere when Aaron Judge followed with his only strikeout of the game.
Starlin Castro picked up a single to left, just past the outstretched glove of running shortstop Carlos Correa, in the top of 4th inning, also with two outs, but like Gardy, he did not do anything except have a brief conversation with first baseman Yuli Gurriel. Aaron Hicks flied out to center, on huge fly that nearly took center fielder George Springer to the wall, to send Castro looking for his hat and glove to take the field. A couple more feet and the Yankees might have taken the early lead.
The Astros, meanwhile, didn’t miss the only opportunity that Masahiro Tanaka gave them. With one out in the bottom of the 4th, Jose Altuve singled on a grounder to second, beating the throw to first. He subsequently stole second to put himself in scoring position. Carlos Correa’s single to left brought the probable AL MVP around to score the game’s first run. Marwin Gonzalez hit a slow grounder to second and was thrown out at first for the second out, but Correa advanced to second base. Yuli Gurriel’s single to center, a grounder up the middle between Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius, scored Correa and the Astros had a 2-0 lead.
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The Yankees had their chance in the top of the 5th but were unable to convert. Greg Bird led off with a single to right, a sharply hit ball just past first baseman Yuli Gurriel. Matt Holliday reached on a fielding error by Jose Altuve (bobbled the ball after stopping the grounder) so the Yankees had runners at first and second with no outs. Todd Frazier lined out to center and Brett Gardner struck out but Aaron Judge followed them with a single to left. Bird hesitated a moment and then raced around third and headed home. Unfortunately, left fielder Marwin Gonzalez threw a perfect strike in to catcher Brian McCann to nail Bird at the plate for the final out of the inning. The Yankees challenged the play but replay showed Bird was less than a second too late. Sadly, Bird’s run around third seemed like slow motion compared Jose Altuve’s run in the prior inning. Credit Gonzalez and McCann for the stellar play.
|Credit: Elsa-Getty Images|
Dallas Keuchel finally left the game after seven scoreless innings (and ten strikeouts). Houston fans may love Dallas (the pitcher, not the city) but I was very glad to see him leave. But the Astros bullpen is strong and set up artist Chris Devenski has been a better version of Dellin Betances this year. Still, the Yankees had their chance in the 8th against Devenski. Brett Gardner worked a one-out walk, which brought Astros manager A.J. Hinch out of the dugout to replace Devenski with closer Ken Giles. Giles promptly threw a wild pitch with Aaron Judge at the plate, allowing Gardy to move to second. Judge grounded out to third for the second out, but Gary Sanchez walked to put two runners on for Didi Gregorius. The Yankees replaced Sanchez at first with pinch-runner Ronald Torreyes. Didi has come up so big for the Yankees in key spots this year but on this night, Giles won the battle when Didi swung and missed on an 0-2 count after three successive foul balls.
In the top of the 9th, Giles struck out both Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks to start the inning. Greg Bird finally put the Yankees on the board when he homered to right, a high fly inside of the foul pole, to make it a one-run game.
|Credit: Anthony J Causi-NY Post|
DH Matt Holliday was due up next, but Manager Joe Girardi opted to send Jacoby Ellsbury to the plate. Ellsbury went down swinging to end the game and hand the series advantage to the Astros.
In retrospect, the huge missed opportunity was Greg Bird’s out at the plate in the 5th inning. If he had gotten a good jump when Aaron Judge hit that drive to left, he might have beaten the throw. But hats off to the Astros for making their plays. The Yankees pitched a good game but the Astros pitched a little better. Fortunately, the bullpen will be rested for Game 2 as the Yankees only had to burn Chad Green in relief of Tanaka. Green pitched two frames of scoreless relief with 31 pitches thrown.
|Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports|
On the bright side, Dallas Keuchel won’t take the mound again until a potential Game 5. The Yankees offense should fare much better against crafty veteran Justin Verlander (15-8, 3.38 ERA) and the rest of the Astros starters. For Game 2, Verlander will be tough, no doubt, but the Yankees can win this game and send the series to New York with a split. We’ll have staff ace Luis Severino (14-6, 2.98 ERA) to lead the way. I like those odds.
Have a great Saturday! A perfect day would feature a Yankees win! Let’s make it happen. Go Yankees!