Tagged: Chase Headley

The End of the Winter Meetings…

Lots of Sun in Florida for the Yankees…

The Baseball Winter Meetings are always my favorite time of the off-season and this year did not disappoint.

I just returned from a trip (hence, my silence on the site for the past few days). As I was departing on Saturday morning, I first read some tweets that the Yankees had been talking aggressively overnight with the Miami Marlins. By the time, I reached the airport, Twitter was exploding with tweets that the Yankees had pulled off the trade that brought the great Giancarlo Stanton to the Bronx.

Credit:  Willie J Allen, Jr, Associated Press

I hadn’t really thought about Stanton in pinstripes until recently when Bryan Van Dusen had  raised the possibility on The Greedy Pinstripes website. At first, I dismissed the idea, thinking there was no way to fit Giancarlo into Hal Steinbrenner’s budget for 2018. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Still, I thought either the San Francisco Giants or the St Louis Cardinals, with negotiated trades in place with the Marlins, would be successful in their talks with the slugger to get him to waive his no-trade clause. I also kept thinking the Los Angeles Dodgers were waiting in the weeds to make their strike.  Much to my surprise, Stanton’s representatives announced on Friday that the Cardinals were out, followed later that he would not be going to San Francisco. We didn’t know it at the time, but the Yankees had already been making headway in their talks with Miami and Stanton had rejected St Louis and San Francisco because he had knowledge that he would be headed to one of his original four desired destinations.

I had a strong feeling that the Yankees were going to trade Starlin Castro this winter based on some reports that I had heard. Perhaps he would have stayed in Pinstripes if Stanton hadn’t fallen into GM Brian Cashman’s lap. But regardless of his faults, I am sorry to see Castro go. There were a lot of jokes about how the Yankees fleeced the Marlins and got Stanton for nothing, but I disagree. The Marlins landed an All-Star second baseman and an all-around good guy in All-Starlin. The two prospects acquired by the Marlins were lower level but we’ve all heard about the 100 mph arm of Jorge Guzman (one half of the return, along with Albert Abreu, for former Yankees catcher Brian McCann from the Houston Astros last winter).  Guzman has a chance to be a quality Major League arm. The other, infielder Jose Devers, is only 18, and is a cousin of Rafael Devers, the young Boston Red Sox third baseman. Granted, the Yankees didn’t relinquish any of their top prospects but they still paid a good price to take Stanton’s contract. If Stanton doesn’t exercise his opt-out in three years (his agent has already said that he will not), the Marlins will send $30 million to the Yankees to help pay down the contract. There’s no doubt this was a trade the Yankees had to make and any of us would have pulled the trigger on it, but it does carry a sense of loss for those players the Yankees sent to South Beach. So, I am tired of hearing that the Yankees acquired Stanton for nothing.

Credit:  Joseph D Sullivan

From a roster standpoint, I really like that it opened second base for super prospect Gleyber Torres. I’ve felt that second or short would be a much better fit for Torres than the previously projected third base. Shortstop Didi Gregorius is not going anywhere anytime soon so second is the next best spot. There’s no doubt that Torres could have been special at third base but I like him better as the team’s second baseman. I doubt we see Torres at the start of the season as the Yankees will delay his service time for a few weeks to gain an extra year of control. This means we’ll have patchwork at second until Torres arrives…most likely some combination of Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade.

It’s probably too early to speculate how the Yankees will use Stanton and Aaron Judge. At first, I thought Judge would probably be moved to left to make room for Stanton in right, but Judge’s defense is too valuable. There’s the speculation that the outfield will be a rotation with the DH spot which makes sense, but I think we’ll have better clarity in the coming days and weeks.  Both Stanton and Judge are too young to be used exclusively at DH. It would be huge if the Yankees could somehow find a way to move Jacoby Ellsbury’s contract along with oodles of the cash it will take.

Tuesday’s trade that sent Chase Headley and Bryan Mitchell to the San Diego Padres surprised me. The biggest surprise was San Diego’s willingness to take Headley’s contract. The Yankees paid half the assignment bonus (or $500,000 in this case) but did not have to ship cash to accompany the monies still owed to Headley. I figured that Mitchell’s time was coming to an end. I really like the pitcher but he’s been very inconsistent in his limited opportunities in the Bronx. If he hadn’t been traded, he was probably a candidate to be designated for assignment at some point in the upcoming season to free up room on the 40-man roster. I think Mitchell will thrive in San Diego and will achieve the potential we had projected for him (which is obviously the reason that the Padres were willing to take Headley’s contract). Last night, there were strong reports that the Padres could possibly trade Headley to the Los Angeles Angels. The Angels had acquired second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Detroit Tigers earlier in the evening as they attempt to rebuild the talent around Mike Trout and newly signed two-way Japanese star Shohei Otani. Angels GM Billy Eppler was behind the Yankees’ acquisition of Headley from San Diego a few years ago so he’s a Headley fan.

Coming to the Yankees organization from San Diego is outfielder Jabari Blash.  Blash hit .213 with 5 HR and 16 RBI in 164 at-bats for the Padres last year.  His numbers at Triple A were much better (.285, 20 HR, 62 RBI in 235 at-bats).  Outfield is a position of redundancy in the Yankees organization so this leads me to believe that some of the congestion will be relieved in a future trade.

 

The Yankees now have openings on both sides of Didi Gregorius. I find it unlikely they’d go with rookies at both second and third, but stranger things have happened. Ideally, it would be great if the Yankees and Todd Frazier could come together on a short time deal. However, the Toddfather has earned a multi-year deal opportunity which probably removes the Yankees from the equation.

The Yankees are expected to make a play for a starting pitcher but I hope that it doesn’t result in the loss of free agent CC Sabathia. There’s room to add a starting pitcher and bring back CC, the team’s leader.  Sabathia’s camp has talked with the Angels and the Toronto Blue Jays. It would be difficult to watch Sabathia go to either of those teams. The longer the Yankees put off Sabathia, the greater the chance he goes elsewhere. If one of the Bay Area teams came calling, it would probably be hard for Sabathia to pass up the chance to go home to play for his final season(s).

Regardless of Josh Bard’s qualifications, I was disappointed with his selection as the Yankees new bench coach. Last year, the Yankees had a wealth of experience with Rob Thomson sitting next to Joe Girardi. When Thomson left after not getting the manager’s job, I was hoping that the Yankees would find someone with commensurate experience. The toughest part for new Yankees manager Aaron Boone to master will be in-game action and I was hopeful that he’d have someone who has served time on the battle lines to help his learning curve.  Granted, Boone has managerial experience with pitching coach Larry Rothschild and new third base coach Phil Nevin but Bard will be the chief lieutenant on the bench. I hope that ‘smart’ and ‘confident’ help yield the right in-game decisions. As expected, the Yankees promoted minor league coaches Reggie Willets and Carlos Mendoza.  Willets will take first base (replacing long-time Yankees coach Tony Pena), while Mendoza will serve as infield coach/quality control and will be in uniform during games. Marcus Thames (hitting coach) and Mike Harkey (bullpen coach) are expected to return.

I knew the Rule 5 Draft was going to be difficult in terms of potential losses and it was.  In the first round of the Major League Phase, the Yankees lost RHP Anyelo Gomez (Atlanta Braves), LHP Nestor Cortes (Baltimore Orioles) and 1B Mike Ford (Seattle Mariners). In the third round, the Orioles grabbed RHP Jose Mesa, Jr. I don’t think any of the names are a surprise as  all of them had been cited as potential losses. Of course, they have to stick on their new team’s MLB roster for the entire year or they must be offered back to the Yankees. Last year, the Yankees lost C Luis Torrens to the San Diego Padres when he stuck the entire year on their active MLB roster. I am expecting at least one of this year’s draftees to stick. Nestor Cortes is probably the one that I wanted to keep the most as quality left-handers are hard to find. I thought RHP J.P. Feyereisen would be taken but he was not. In the Minor League Phase, the Yankees lost RHP Yancarlos Baez (Minnesota Twins) and C Sharif Othman (Miami Marlins). These are permanent losses. The Yankees grabbed a Single-A outfielder, Junior Soto, from the Cleveland Indians. In 2017 for Single A-Lake County Captains, Soto hit 9 home runs and 17 RBI’s in 52 games while batting .172.  He struck out 61 times in 174 at-bats, while taking only 6 walks.

 

The Winter Meetings have come to an end but the Yankees still have much work to do. There are rumors that the Orioles have Manny Machado in play but I seriously doubt the O’s would trade him intra-division. To me, it would make sense. The O’s will lose Machado at some point and why not grab top prospects from a key division rival. But O’s owner Peter Angelos is 88 and I am sure that he does not want to spend his final years watching Machado star for the Yankees. All things considered, I’d rather use the prospects to grab another frontline starter and then potentially sign Machado after next season when he is a free agent. But of course, the “greedy” side of me would love to march both Machado and Stanton out onto the field at Yankee Stadium next year for simultaneous debuts along with another quality starter to join the rotation.

I wonder what Joe Girardi thinks about all this?…

Go Yankees!

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The Boone of Acceptance…

Credit:  Mario Tama, Getty Images

Like it or not, Aaron Boone will be the new Yankees manager…

The reaction to the impending announcement that Aaron Boone will be named the next manager of the New York Yankees has met with a broad range of emotions. I don’t think he was the first choice for any of us, but he is NOT a bad choice. I am getting a little tired of the ‘we should have kept Joe Girardi…’ comments. That ship has sailed. For whatever reasons, GM Brian Cashman and Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner determined that a new voice is needed for the next era of Yankees Baseball. Girardi had a good run but times change.

Yesterday, I was perusing YouTube for Aaron Boone video clips (for personal research). This morning, I woke to find that NJ Advance Media for NJ.com’s Randy Miller had been doing the same thing and he posted a few clips on their website. I love the imitations of Joe Torre’s walk and Alex Rodriguez at bat. There’s no question that Boone is going to bring a humorous, relaxed vibe to the Yankees clubhouse. Tough when necessary, but supportive and collaborative at other times. Former Yankees manager Joe Torre brought such warmth to the position, which was lacking under Girardi’s leadership. I see more shades of Torre in Boone. I think he brings the right leadership to a young team at the right time. I am onboard with Boone’s selection and feel strongly that he deserves to be given a chance by the Yankees Universe.

I realize that Boone has never managed or coached at any level, but he deserves our support. He successfully sold Cashman (and ultimately the Steinbrenner family) on the reasons why he should be the next manager of the New York Yankees. They know the Yankees better than any of us and we should trust their decision.

Credit:  Kathy Willens, AP

Boonie will have to choose a new number since his old number (19) is currently occupied by Masahiro Tanaka. His dad’s number and the number Aaron wore at the end of his playing career with the Houston Astros is also out due to the retirement of the number for Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra (8).

I look forward to the formal announcement of Boone as the new manager. Hopefully it will happen this week. I also look forward to the composition of the new coaching staff to join holdover pitching coach Larry Rothschild.

Go Boonie! Bring us World Championship #28! We have faith and confidence in you…well, most of us anyway…

Credit:  Allen Kee, Getty Images

Making the Cut…

It’s nice to know that the Shohei Otani talk will be finished by December 22nd…except for whatever city lands the two-way superstar. All 30 teams were given an opportunity to make their presentation plus answering a questionnaire for the highly talented 23-year-old. Apparently, Otani will be working with his agents to make a cut by weekend’s end to determine which teams will have an opportunity to talk with Otani’s agents this week.

Credit:  Shingo Ito/AFLO/Zuma Press/TNS

It’s a certainty the Yankees will make the cut, but where Otani ultimately lands is really anybody’s guess despite reports the Yankees are the favorites. There are too many variables at play. While I am sure the Yankees have full resources in Los Angeles, I hope they do not lose sight of re-signing free agent pitcher CC Sabathia.

One Week and Counting…

The annual Baseball Winter Meetings always represent the height of excitement for the baseball off-season and we are a week away from the drama. All eyes will be on Orlando, Florida this time next week. The Yankees are not expected to be big players in free agency (aside from the Shohei Otani sweepstakes) but there’s always the potential for a significant trade or two.

One of the early decisions for new manager Aaron Boone next year will be where to play top prospect Gleyber Torres when he is ready.

There’s no doubt we’ll see him make his Major League debut at some point in the 2018 season…the only question is when. No one really expects him to break camp with the big league club but it won’t be too deep into the season.  The easy answer is to play him at third base in place of Chase Headley but there is speculation that he might be better suited for second base (particularly given how close third base prospect Miguel Andujar is to being Major League-ready). Therefore, it would not surprise me if the Yankees moved Starlin Castro. I don’t think they will, but the possibility is certainly there.

The Winter Meetings would be a tremendous success if the Yankees could somehow find a taker for Jacoby Ellsbury and boatloads of cash. I would not be disappointed to see Chase Headley go either. I’ve heard David Robertson’s name mentioned but I’d really hate to see D-Rob go. It was so great having him back in the Bronx last year. He was a Yankee that I missed when he left and I don’t want to see his departure any time soon.

Credit:  Rich Schultz, Getty Images

I know the Yankees have no plans to re-sign Matt Holliday but I really liked the veteran leadership that he brought to the team last year. I really wish that we could have seen a full healthy season for Holliday. He’d be great for a coaching staff one day.

The Giancarlo Stanton talk has centered on the San Francisco Giants and the St Louis Cardinals, but the latest rumors indicate that Stanton has no desire to go to the Midwest. So far, his preferred destination, the Los Angeles Dodgers, have not entered the conversations. With the Giants appearing to be the frontrunner, I am a little surprised the Dodgers would let the big slugger go to their chief division rival especially since the motivation for the Miami Marlins is more on salary relief than it is prospect/talent return. I keep expecting Andrew Friedman and company to rise up late in negotiations to snag Giancarlo. I’d love to see Stanton in the Bronx but I just don’t see the Yankees taking on that contract this year.

Given their luck with Yankees catchers, maybe the Pittsburgh Pirates should make a run for Austin Romine…

Credit:  MLB.com

It is nice to see that things are picking up for the Hot Stove League. Every year, I am excited about the Baseball Winter Meetings. As a Yankees fan, they are not always fruitful (not like they were under the reign of George Steinbrenner) but it is a very fun and exciting time for baseball in general.

For now, let’s see what this week brings. Go Yankees!

Masa and a Few Runs = Formula for Success…

Credit:  Al Bello-Getty Images

American League Championship Series

Yankees 5, Astros 0…

Yankees lead the Series, 3-2


The Yankees rode stellar pitching and a few clutch hits to take the advantage in the ALCS as the series now shifts to Houston for Game 6 on Friday night.

It was great to see Andy Pettitte throw out the ceremonial first pitch and it certainly brought a championship pedigree to the mound.  Nothing like starting a game exactly right!  As a Houstonian and a former Astro, it would be easy for Andy to root for the road team but I am so glad (and proud) that he has always been entrenched in his love for the Yankees. 

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

The Yankees proved that they are not afraid of Chris Sale and Corey Kluber, the AL’s best, and while they may not be afraid of Dallas Keuchel, the latter has proven to be an enigma in recent years and, in particular, this season. So, there was some reservation, at least on my part, with the thought of Keuchel picking up the ball for the pivotal Game 5.  

First up, though, was Masahiro Tanaka to face the potent Astros line up. It was not that long ago that Jose Altuve blasted three home runs in an ALDS game against the Boston Red Sox. The man short on stature and long on talent will most likely beat out Aaron Judge for AL MVP. Throw in the countless other stars in the Astros lineup, and it is easy to see why the team won 101 games in the regular season. Tanaka easily retired the first two hitters, but then a fielding error by third baseman Todd Frazier allowed the dangerous Altuve to reach first base. Time and again, Altuve has worked his way through the bases, through speed and superior baseball instincts, to find home plate, but not this time. Carlos Correa hit a soft grounder to third to end the inning and send the Astros to the field for the first time.


Of course, Dallas Keuchel treated the top third of the Yankees order like kindergartners trying to connect with Major League heat. He retired the Yankees in order to complete the first inning, including strikeouts of young sluggers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. It looked like it might be one of those days.


Yuli Gurriel led off the top of the 2nd with a double to the wall in left to put the Astros in business. However, Tanaka wasn’t having any of it. Although Gurriel would find his way to third, there would be no homecoming as Masa retired the next three hitters on ground outs.  


In the bottom of the 2nd, it looked like it was going to be more of the same with Keuchel. He struck out Didi Gregorius on a foul tip and got Aaron Hicks to ground out to short for the first two outs. Hits were starting to look like they would be hard to come by when Starlin Castro hit a sharp line drive to the warning track in left and off the wall for a double. Greg Bird followed with a single to right and the Yankees had their first run off Keuchel in the post-season. Todd Frazier struck out to end the inning but the Yankees were able to walk back onto the field with a 1-0 lead.

Credit:  Michael Ciaglo-Houston Chronicle

After the Astros were unable to do anything with a one-out single by George Springer in the top of the 3rd, Chase Headley led off the bottom of the inning with a single to center. Brett Gardner grounded into a force out at second but all things considered, I was okay with substituting the speedier Gardner for Headley. It paid off when Aaron Judge ripped a double to the left field corner, bringing Gardner around to score. The Yankees were up, 2-0. A couple of strikeouts ended the inning, but at least the Yankees were getting their hits against the very difficult Keuchel.  

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

After the teams traded ‘3-up, 3-down’ innings in the 4th, the Astros looked like they might put together a little rally in the top of the 5th. Tanaka struck out the first batter, Carlos Beltran, but Marwin Gonzalez followed with a single to right. A wild pitch during Brian McCann’s at-bat moved Gonzalez to second. McCann subsequently took a walk to put two runners on with only one out. Tanaka rose to the occasion and struck out both George Springer and Josh Reddick. A huge performance by Tanaka in a tough spot.

Credit:  Andrew Maclean-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Chase Headley hit a soft grounder to third to lead off the bottom of the 5th. A throwing error by third baseman Alex Bregman (ball was low and skipped past first baseman Yuli Gurriel) allowed Headley to take second. After a ground out by Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge drew a walk. I think the FOX TV Crew described it as the ‘intentional unintentional walk’. That’s fine. Bring Gary Sanchez to the plate. El Gary did not disappoint when he singled to left into the corner, bringing Headley home to score. Judge moved to third. Didi Gregorius lined a single up the middle that deflected off the glove of diving second baseman Jose Altuve in center field. Judge scored to make it 4-0. End of the day for Yankee killer Keuchel. 

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

The Astros made the call to the pen to bring in Will Harris. Win or lose, the Yankees were finally able to find the solution for Keuchel like they had Sale and Kluber. Harris got the Astros out of the inning when Aaron Hicks flied out to left, but it had been a very productive inning for the Pinstripers. However, last night showed that a 4-0 lead is not safe, so onward we go. Or rather I should say onward Tanaka went.  


Tanaka breezed through the 6th and 7th innings although the final out of the latter inning saw the third strike get away from Gary Sanchez. Fortunately, El Gary was able to retrieve the ball in foul territory and throw a zinger to Greg Bird ahead of Marwin Gonzalez to complete the final out. 

Credit:  Karen Warren-Houston Chronicle

Regardless of the final outcome of the game, it was a masterpiece by Tanaka. Seven innings, three hits, no runs, one walk, and eight strikeouts. Okay, I think I am back in “Masa, please do not opt out” mode.


While David Robertson was warming up in the Yankees bullpen, Gary Sanchez unloaded on a pitch from Astros reliever Brad Peacock in the bottom of the 7th to send it flying into the left center seats. 

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

Didi Gregorius followed El Gary with a sharply hit ball to left and he slid into second just ahead of the throw for a double. David Robertson took a seat after the Sanchez home run and Tommy Kahnle began warming up. The Yankees weren’t able to do anything with Didi when Aaron Hicks struck out and Starlin Castro grounded out to third, but at least they had padded their lead by one and now led the Astros, 5-0.


Kahnle, as expected, got the call for the 8th. He did his job…make it an uneventful inning and he did. A couple of fly outs and a punch out of Josh Reddick and it was time to get the Yankees back up for hopefully their final at-bats of the night.


With Francisco Liriano taking over for Brad Peacock in the bottom of the 8th, Greg Bird led off with a walk. While Todd Frazier was batting, a wild pitch freed Bird to take second. Frazier subsequently grounded out to third. Chase Headley was next and his short squibbler that died in front of home plate was scooped up by catcher Brian McCann who threw Headley out at first. Bird made his way to third. Unfortunately, Bird was left stranded when Brett Gardner struck out.  Off to the 9th inning…


Holding a five-run lead, Tommy Kahnle returned for the top of the 9th. Jose Altuve jumped on Kahnle’s first pitch to fly out to center. One out. Carlos Correa lined a hard hit ball to right for a double, causing some movement in the Yankees bullpen. Nevertheless, Yuli Gurriel hit a grounder to short which Didi Gregorius threw to first for the out. Two outs. Correa advanced to third on the play. Obviously, Correa was inconsequential at this point, but everyone wanted the shutout (well, except for maybe the Astros, their fans and the Red Sox Nation). Kahnle made it happen when he got Alex Bregman to fly out to Aaron Hicks in center. Three outs…game over. Yankees win!  

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

Best case scenario played out as the Yankees now head back to Houston needing one win in the next two games to advance to their World Series since 2009. The Astros are now the team with their backs to the wall. The road ahead remains difficult but the young Baby Bombers have heart and ‘no quit’ desire like none other.  


This was a great team victory, led…obviously…by the great Masahiro Tanaka. I am sure that Sonny Gray is asking, “What is this run support you speak of?”. Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius…too many heroes to name. Great job by Tommy Kahnle to finish off the win for Tanaka! 


Let’s keep this winning streak alive. Great job, Bronx Bombers! Thumbs down, Guys!  

Credit:  Michael Ciaglo-Houston Chronicle

Odds & Ends…

There was a funny Twitter exchange between the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees prior to Tuesday’s game. The Red Sox tweeted “Today’s basically a holiday…” showing a clip of Game 4 of the ALCS on October 17, 2004 when the Red Sox tied the series on a walk-off home run by David Ortiz in 12 innings after falling behind 2 games to none. The Yankees had the perfect response, “Ah, work day for us. Game time is 5:08pm, if you’re not busy”. The Red Sox could only respond with a rolling eyes emoji.  

Have a great Thursday! It’s a day off as the Yankees head back to the deep of the heart of Texas. Bring home the AL Championship, Boys! Go Yankees!

How to Judge a Four-Run Deficit…

Credit:  Andrew Savulich-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

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:  Elsa-Getty Images

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!

All Rise for Home Sweet Home…

Credit:  Abbie Parr-Getty Images

American League Championship Series

Yankees 8, Astros 1

Astros lead Series, 2-1

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

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

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

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

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

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit:  Getty Images

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

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

Credit:  Elsa-Getty Images

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

Credit:  Robert Sabo

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

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

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

Odds & Ends…

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

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


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

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!  

Trading Places: Gray Pitches Like Jimenez and Vice Versa…

Credit:  Bill Kostroun

Orioles 6, Yankees 4…

The Yankees apparently forgot that it was Ubaldo Jimenez on the mound yesterday. Jimenez entered the game with a 5-10 record and 6.75 ERA. It’s pretty much representative of who the pitcher has been the last few years. On Sunday, he may as well have been Chris Sale…5 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 1 walk and 10 strikeouts. He was certainly a better version of Sonny Gray on this day.

For as much as Sonny Gray has given the Yankees so far, they could have picked up an average starter for much less (somebody better than Jaime Garcia) to give them three wins since the July trading deadline and kept Jorge Mateo, Dustin Fowler and James Kaprielian in pinstripes. I know, that’s a bit harsh, and Gray is an upper echelon rotation starter but in the small sampling size with the Yankees, the results have been underwhelming. Granted, he doesn’t get run support with his losses but I was hoping for better results. The Red Sox, meanwhile, will ride the arm of a pitcher (Doug Fister) they picked up off the scrap heap to go with Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz. Fister has four wins for the Red Sox since the end of July. I’d take Gray over Fister any day of the week (obviously), but it is disappointing that more wins have not materialized.

Credit:  Jim McIsaac-Getty Images

Baltimore got on the board first in the top of the 2nd inning. Chris Davis hit a one-out fly to left for a double. Clint Frazier misjudged his leap and was unable to make the catch. Seth Smith hit a grounder to third and was thrown out at first, but Davis moved to third on the play. Todd Frazier almost tagged Davis out but opted to go for the sure out at first. After Mark Trumbo walked, Austin Hays singled up in the middle, past a diving Didi Gregorius, into center field, scoring Davis. 

The Yankees got the run back in the bottom of the inning when Didi Gregorius led off with a homer just over the wall in right center to tie the game at one. It was Didi’s 24th home run, which tied the Yankees mark for most home runs by a shortstop set by Derek Jeter in 1999.  

Credit:  Jim McIsaac-Getty Images

The Orioles quickly took the lead again in the top of the 3rd. Manny Machado hit a one-out single to right, breaking an 0-for-19 slump. With two outs, Trey Mancini doubled down the left field line to the corner to score Machado.  Baltimore had taken a 2-1 lead.

The 4th inning was the one that got away from Sonny Gray. He walked Seth Smith to start the inning.  He retired the next two hitters and was a strike away from getting out of the inning with Caleb Joseph at the plate. Unfortunately, Joseph singled to left, between Todd Frazier and Didi Gregorius, to keep the inning alive. Tim Beckham, proving to be one of the best trading deadline pickups, homered into the bleachers in left to give the O’s all the runs they would need. 5-1, Baltimore.  

Credit:  Anthony Grupposo-USA TODAY Sports

Gray got Manny Machado to hit a liner to right for the final out (great diving play by Aaron Judge) but he would not return.  

Bryan Mitchell took over for Gray in the top of the 5th inning. Jonathan Schoop led off with a single to left and Trey Mancini singled to center past a diving Didi Gregorius. The O’s had runners at the corners and no outs. After Chris Davis struck out, Seth Smith hit a grounder between first and second. With a throw from Starlin Castro to Didi Gregorius, they forced Mancini out at second but Schoop scored on the play. The O’s had increased their lead to 6-1.

In the bottom of the 6th, Mychal Givens took over for Jimenez who had thrown 100 pitches through five innings. Gary Sanchez drew a one-out walk and with two outs, Starlin Castro hit a soft grounder toward third and beat the throw from Givens which pulled Chris Davis off the base.  Runners at first and second.  Matt Holliday drilled a line drive to left for a double which scored both Sanchez and Castro. 6-3, O’s. Buck Showalter pulled Givens and brought in former Yankee Richard Bleier to face Greg Bird. Bird had homered off Bleier in Friday night’s win and he had a chance to make it a game once again. Sadly, Bleier won the battle this time when Bird grounded out to first to end the inning.  

Baltimore reliever Brad Brach took over in relief of Darren O’Day to start the bottom of the 8th inning. Aaron Judge doubled to left with a fly ball off the base of the wall to lead things off. Gary Sanchez struck out on three pitches for the first out. Didi Gregorius hit a grounder to short, but Tim Beckham’s throwing error (pulled Chris Davis off the bag) allowed Didi to reach first safely. Judge moved to third on the play. Starlin Castro hit a fly to right field and it was deep enough to score Judge on the sacrifice. The Yankees had cut the Orioles lead to 6-4. Matt Holliday walked to bring the potential go-ahead run to the plate. Showalter pulled Brach and brought in closer Zach Britton. The Yankees replaced Holliday at first with Tyler Wade and sent Chase Headley in to pinch hit for Greg Bird. Unfortunately, Headley grounded out to short to end the rally.  

The Yankees made one last valiant effort in the bottom of the 9th. Todd Frazier struck out for the first out, but Jacoby Ellsbury looped a double down the left field line to give the Yankees a runner in scoring position. Brett Gardner grounded out to first for the second out but Ellsbury advanced to third. Aaron Judge was intentionally walked to pit Britton against Gary Sanchez.  Sanchez, representing the potential tying run, failed to deliver when he went down swinging for the final out. Bummer, the Yankees had clearly proven they were the better team in this series and they had their chances. If Sonny Gray could have avoided the disastrous 4th inning…I know, if “ifs” and “buts” were candy and nuts…

The Yankees (82-67) did not lose any ground to the Red Sox despite the loss. Boston dropped a 3-2 decision to the Tampa Bay Rays. So, the Yankees remain three games behind the Red Sox. The Minnesota Twins clobbered the Toronto Blue Jays, 13-7, so they moved back to four games behind the Yankees in the Wild Card standings.  

Next Up:  Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York…

The Twins come into this series very motivated. Since they only trail the Yankees by four games for the top Wild Card slot (home-field advantage), they can make up serious ground on the Yankees with a sweep. If the Twins beat Jaime Garcia, they’ll be able to sit back and laugh “our plan worked to perfection!”. Steal a couple of prospects from the Yankees and give them a starter who is unable to produce in the clutch.  

TODAY

Twins:  Ervin Santana (15-7, 3.35 ERA)

Yankees:  Jaime Garcia (1-2, 4.50 ERA)

TUESDAY

Twins:  Jose Berrios (12-7, 3.84 ERA)

Yankees:  CC Sabathia (11-5, 3.85 ERA)

WEDNESDAY

Twins:  Bartolo Colon (4-5, 4.80 ERA)

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (12-11, 4.73 ERA)

The Yankees are not exactly leading with their best foot, but I understand the need to keep CC Sabathia’s knee off the artificial turf for the next series in Toronto.  

Odds & Ends…

The Yankees have recalled another RailRider. The latest to get the invitation to join the big league club is RHP Domingo German.

Have a great Monday! Time for the Pinstripers to make a statement about their October chances. Let’s Go Yankees!