Tagged: Cody Bellinger

Houston Astros, 2017 World Series Champions…

Credit:  Wally Skalij — LA Times

2017 World Series

Astros 5, Dodgers 1…

Astros Win Series, 4-3

In the words of the former Yankees manager Joe Girardi, it’s not what you want. Sadly for me and those who were pulling for the Los Angeles Dodgers, it was a very long night. From the second consecutive horrific start by Yu Darvish to Cody Bellinger shattering Aaron Judge’s post-season strikeout record, it was a forgettable night for the Dodger Blue as the Houston Astros claimed their first ever World Series Championship.

Credit:  Robert Gauthier – LA Times

This should have been a special and magical season for the Dodgers. Their start to the season created much talk about surpassing the tremendous accomplishments of the 1998 Yankees, then came the extended losing streak. They rebounded but in the end, they were just another World Series loser. It was a good Dodgers club, but not quite good enough.

As for me, I am kind of tired of the Houston Astros after losing two seven-game series in a row to them…first the Yankees in the ALCS and now the Dodgers in the World Series. Plus, word started popping last night that Yankees third base coach Joe Espada has decided to join the Astros as their new bench coach (replacing Alex Cora who will become the new manager for the Boston Red Sox). I guess it was just adding salt in the wound.

Nevertheless, congratulations to the Astros for the championship! It was a hard-fought win for them and the city of Houston.

The Astros controlled the game from the start. It took three pitches for Houston’s George Springer, leading off the game, to double into the left field corner off Dodgers starter Yu Darvish. Alex Bregman reached base on an error, making it to second on first baseman Cody Bellinger’s throwing error. Bellinger had moved toward second in front of the second baseman in shallow right to scoop up the grounder, but his throw back to first sailed past Darvish. It probably would have been easier for second baseman Logan Forsythe to make that play. 

Credit:  David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

While Bregman advanced to second, Springer scored the game’s first run. Bregman stole third to put himself in prime scoring position.  It played to perfection when Jose Altuve grounded out to first, with Bregman racing home to score the second run for the Astros. Darvish settled down and retired the next two hitters to get out of the inning and finally bring the Dodgers to bat.

The Dodgers looked like they were going to answer the bell in the bottom of the 1st. Chris Taylor led off for the Dodgers with a double to deep right center. Corey Seager struck out swinging, but there was still hope with the heart of the Dodgers batting order coming up. Justin Turner was hit by a pitch when he took a ball off his forearm, the first of four batters that Astros starter Lance McCullers, Jr would plunk. Cody Bellinger struck out for the second out. Yasiel Puig was next and he, like Turner, was hit by a pitch, on the arm, to load the bases. The reinvigorated Joc Pederson came to the plate, flashing a smile, with the chance to bring momentum back to the Dodgers. Unfortunately, he grounded out to second baseman Jose Altuve for the final out.  No runs for the Dodgers. A missed opportunity for them.  In retrospect, one of the game’s key moments.

Yu Darvish was back out on the mound for the 2nd inning but he would not survive.  He started the inning by walking Brian McCann. Marwin Gonzalez doubled to the right field wall, with the slow-footed McCann moving to third. Josh Reddick grounded out to second for the first out. Then, in one of the game’s critical moments, McCullers, who should have been an easy out, hit a slow grounder between first and second. The only play for the Dodgers was to throw out McCullers at first. McCann was able to easily jog (sorry, it is hard to use the word “run” when it comes to the former Yankees catcher) home to pick up an RBI for McCullers. George Springer was next and he put an exclamation point on the Astros’ early performance with a two-run homer high over the center field wall. The Astros led, 5-0. 

Credit:  Wally Skalij – LA Times

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts came out and pulled Darvish in favor of Brandon Morrow. It may have been the final Dodger appearance for Darvish, a free agent to be. Morrow struck out Alex Bregman to end the inning but using one of your best relievers in the second inning is not exactly a blue print for success.

The Dodgers looked like they had another opportunity in the bottom of the 2nd. Logan Forsythe started things with a single to left. Austin Barnes grounded out to third (great defensive play and throw by third baseman Alex Bregman), but Forsythe was able to advance to second to put himself in scoring position. Kike Hernandez pinch hit for Morrow and was hit by a pitch (ball grazed his shirt but it would have been Ball 4 anyway). Runners at first and second. But it was not the Dodgers’ night. Chris Taylor lined a shot directly to shortstop Carlos Correa and the Astros were able to double Forsythe off second to complete the double play. Again, no runs for the Dodgers and yet another missed opportunity.

Clayton Kershaw took over for the Dodgers in the top of the 3rd inning. Kind of makes you wonder why the Dodgers didn’t go to Kershaw sooner but he did his job, retiring the Astros in order. There was still time for the Dodgers to claw their way back into the game. In the bottom of the inning, Corey Seager led off with a single to center over Jose Altuve’s head. I tried to think of a humorous line about that but I came up short. Justin Turner was hit by a pitch for the second time, this time under his left shoulder blade, and the fourth hit batter by McCullers. 

Credit:  Wally Skalij – LA Times

After McCullers struck out Cody Bellinger, Astros manager A.J. Hinch removed him and brought in Brad Peacock. Yasiel Puig flied out to center but Seager was able to tag and move to third. Two outs for Joc Pederson with a runner just 90 feet away. Pederson went down swinging.  Still no runs for the Dodgers.

Meanwhile, with Kershaw pitching strongly, the Dodgers had their next chance in the 5th. Corey Seager took a one-out walk and moved to second when Justin Turner singled to left. Alex Bregman dove for the ball and knocked it away from Carlos Correa, allowing the ball to roll into left field. The Astros pulled Brad Peacock and brought in Francisco Liriano. Cody Bellinger hit a fielder’s choice to Jose Altuve and the Astros were able to force Turner out at second with Seager moving to third. 

Credit:  Wally Skalij – LA Times

Another pitching change which brought Chris Devenski in to face Yasiel Puig. Devenski won the battle when Puig lined out to first for the final out.

The Astros were able to load the bases in the top of the 6th against Kershaw on only one hit but Kershaw was able to get out of the jam unscathed.

In the bottom of the 6th with Charlie Morton taking over the mound for the Astros, Joc Pederson singled to center…a hit that would have been more useful in his earlier at-bats. Logan Forsythe walked and the Dodgers looked like they might be in business. After Austin Barnes popped out to Carlos Correa in shallow left for the first out, Andre Ethier, pinch-hitting for Kershaw, singled to right on a roller past Jose Altuve, scoring Pederson. Forsythe moved to second.  A home run now, and it would have been a one-run game. Unfortunately, like the earlier innings, the Dodgers couldn’t move the runners. Chris Taylor struck out and Corey Seager grounded out to short. It had seemed like it might be a big inning for the Dodgers but all they had to show for it was a single run. 5-1, Astros.

From there, Morton shut down the Dodgers, retiring the next nine batters in order. When Corey Seager hit a grounder to second baseman Jose Altuve who, in turn, threw the ball to first baseman Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the 9th, the Houston Astros were World Series Champions.  

Credit:  Luis Sinco – LA Times

I am happy for Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann. For them, it was good to see the elusive World Series championship come their way.  It might be the final hour for Beltran’s career so if it is the end, he gets to go out the right way.

Credit:  Jason O Watson, Getty Images North America

George Springer was rightfully named the Series MVP.  His five home runs tied a World Series record and he was seemingly at the heart of every big Astros rally in this series.

Credit:  Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG

For as much as I ripped Yuli Gurriel for his offensive gestures directed at Yu Darvish and his subsequent 2018 suspension for same, it was a very nice touch by Gurriel to tip his cap to Darvish when he came to the plate in the bottom of the 1st inning.

Credit:  John McCoy, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

The first pitches for the game were thrown by Dodgers legends Sandy Koufax and Don Newcombe, with Steve Garvey and Rick Monday on the receiving ends, respectively. It was a very nice moment for the Dodgers and their fans.

Credit:  David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

Now, the MLB season is over and the Hot Stove League begins. Time for the Yankees to find a new manager and begin preparations for the path that hopefully leads to the 2018 World Series championship.

Odds & Ends…

Now that the World Series has ended, Masahiro Tanaka has three days to decide if he’ll opt out of his contract. So, we’ll know by Saturday where we stand with the right-hander. I am hopeful that either he decides not to opt out or that he and the Yankees are able to come together for an extension. I would prefer to see Tanaka stay.

Credit:  Anthony Causi, New York Post

It looks like the Yankees have found their replacement for former VP of Player Development, Gary Denbo, who recently departed to join Derek Jeter in Miami. Kevin Reese, most recently Director of Professional Scouting for the Yankees, will apparently take Denbo’s former role. There has not been an official announcement yet by the Yankees but it is expected shortly.

The New York Mets did not retain hitting coach Kevin Long when Long’s contract expired so there are rumors that Long could return to his former role as hitting coach for the Yankees. Nothing against Alan Cockrell or Marcus Thames, but I’d like to see Long back in Pinstripes. He is one of the many rumored names for potential Yankees manager. I do not really want to see him as the manager, but as part of the coaching staff, he’d be a great fit.

The coming days should be interesting for the Yankees and the managerial search. I find it very hard to believe that they did not have a specific choice or choices in mind when they made the decision not to retain Joe Girardi. So I don’t buy they are in the process of gathering names. I think they’ll go with an outsider rather than someone with immediate Yankee connections but we’ll see. Things should become more transparent as we move forward.  I would not be at all surprised if the new manager is Jerry Hairston, Jr.  

Credit:  USA TODAY Sports

Have a great Thursday! It was a wonderful season and a successful one for the Pinstripers.  They are only going to get better.  Go Yankees!

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The Empire Strikes Back, Dodgers-Style…

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

2017 World Series

Dodgers 6, Astros 2…

Series Tied, 2-2

The Dodgers ensured that the World Series will begin and end in Los Angeles with their victory over the Houston Astros on Saturday night. They may not win but Dodger Stadium will be the site of the next World Series Champions.  

This has been a very good World Series and Saturday’s game certainly added to the collection of classics. Dodgers starter Alex Wood carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning. When he gave up a hit, albeit a home run, he was gone and it was time for the Dodgers bullpen. Similarly, Houston’s Charlie Morton picked up where he left off against the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS. The former Pirates starter, whom I always viewed…maybe unfairly…as very average, was magnificent with a three-hitter of his own. Neither starter figured in the outcome of the game which was decided in the ninth inning battle of Closers.  

The Dodgers started the game right when Chris Taylor led off with a single to center. Corey Seager struck out and Justin Turner got under a pitch to pop out to short. Then, with Cody Bellinger at bat, Taylor tried to do a delayed steal against catcher Brian McCann. Wrong move. McCann to shortstop Carlos Correa at second easily erased Taylor and ended the inning.  

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

Wood and Morton battled through the early part of the game in a very good pitching duel. While Wood was still pitching his no-hitter, the Dodgers had their first real chance for runs in the top of the 6th. Austin Barnes, leading off, was hit by a pitch on the right forearm. After Joc Pederson flied out to left, Enrique “Kiké” Hernandez singled into right center field to put runners at the corners. Chris Taylor hit a grounder to third and Barnes broke for home. Third baseman Alex Bregman took the grounder and threw it to Brian McCann to nail Barnes before he could reach safely reach the plate. 

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

Hernandez moved to second but he would stay there when Corey Seager flied out to left to end the threat with no runs for Blue.  

In the bottom of the 6th, Wood kept his no-no intact for the first two hitters. Marwin Gonzalez grounded out to third (nice recovery by third baseman Justin Turner after knocking down the ball) and Brian McCann struck out. It brought George Springer to the plate. Three successive balls and a strike put Springer in a very favorable hitter’s count. On the fifth pitch of the at-bat, Wood tried to place an 82 mph curveball over the plate. Springer got all of the ball to send it airmail high over the left field wall.  

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

End of Wood’s no-hitter, end of Wood’s scoreless outing, and end of Wood. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, taking no chances, went to the pen and brought in Brandon Morrow. Morrow finished off Alex Bregman by getting him to ground out to third, but the Astros led, 1-0.

The Dodgers tied the game in the top of the 7th inning. With Charlie Morton still on the mound, Cody Bellinger’s bat woke up (0-for-13 with eight strikeouts) when he rapped a one-out double to deep left into one of those weird angles in Minute Maid Park.  

Credit:  AP – David J Phillip

Astros manager A.J. Hinch came out, removing Morton after a brief talk, and brought in reliever Will Harris. Yasiel Puig flied out to right for the second out to bring former Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe to the plate. Forsythe came up with perhaps the biggest hit of his career when he singled to left center, with Bellinger racing around third to easily score. Austin Barnes hit into a fielder’s choice that erased Forsythe at second, ending the inning, but at least the Dodgers had made it a tie game.

After a quiet 8th inning for both teams, the game moved into the 9th. The Astros brought closer Ken Giles into the game, replacing Chris Devenski. Corey Seager singled to right center, past a diving Jose Altuve, and the Dodgers were in business. Justin Turner worked a walk to put runners at first and second.  Cody Bellinger, with renewed confidence after his hit in the 7th, doubled to  left center to score Seager. Turner held up at third.  Hinch pulled his closer at that point and brought in Joe Musgrove. The Dodgers also replaced Turner at third with Charlie Culberson. After Musgrove struck out Yasiel Puig, Logan Forsythe was intentionally walked to load the bases and create the potential double play opportunity. Austin Barnes lofted a sacrifice fly to right, deep enough to easily score Culberson. The Dodgers were up, 3-1. Next up was Joc Pederson, who struggled during the 2017 regular season including time in the minors. Redemption was delivered in the form of a 408 feet shot to right for a three-run homer.  

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

The Dodgers had taken a commanding 6-1 lead. Meanwhile, closer Kenley Jansen was continuing to warm in the Dodgers bullpen. Kiké Hernandez flied out to left to send the game to the bottom of the 9th with the Dodgers holding the five-run lead.

Time for Kenley Jansen. Brian McCann had the first shot.  He laid down a bunt on the left side but Carlos Correa reacted quickly and his throw to first beat the slow-footed McCann. George Springer struck out and the Dodgers were just one out away from victory. Alex Bregman had other ideas and his shot to the short wall in left gave the Astros their second run of the game. The last lick (term courtesy of Michael Kay) was made by Jose Altuve who flied out to center to end the game. Dodgers win, 6-2!

It was great to see Cody Bellinger finally erupt. No home runs from the young slugger but his doubles were instrumental in the victory. As the Aaron Judge of the Dodgers, Bellinger is the key for Blue. After the win, Bellinger said, “It’s a beautiful game”. Yes, it is.

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

There were plenty of comments after the game that referred to Astros closer Ken Giles as Houston’s version of Dellin Betances. Ouch. Dellin has some image rehabilitation to do. There’s one way to do that…performance.

After team congratulations on the field, I liked the way Clayton Kershaw, by himself, walked to the pitcher’s mound and looked down toward home plate for a preview of Sunday night. The tall Texan has a chance to put the Dodgers ahead in the World Series tonight on his native Lone Star turf. Whichever team grabs the win today will hold a tremendous advantage when the series resumes on Tuesday in Chavez Ravine.mLike the games before it, it should be an outstanding game and another classic.  

Editor’s Note:  This writer is pro-Dodgers.

Odds & Ends…

I think it was Ken Rosenthal who mentioned it first, but the hottest name bubbling on the rumor mill yesterday for Yankees manager was Jerry Hairston, Jr. J-Hair has been a Dodgers broadcaster since he retired in 2013. I like Hairston but the lack of managerial experience, or more importantly coaching experience, is troublesome. I’d love to have a guy like Hairston on the coaching staff but I think manager is a bit of a reach at this point.  

It was awesome to see Yankees Legend Mariano Rivera, the greatest Closer of All-Time, at the World Series, along with Trevor Hoffman, as they participated in the Reliever of the Year Awards for Kenley Jansen (NL) and Craig Kimbrel (AL).  

Credit:  AP – David J Phillip

I really didn’t expect Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel to lose time in the World Series for his offensive gestures directed at Dodgers starter Yu Darvish, but I thought the five game suspension with no pay to start the 2018 season was weak. His racial insensitivity was not acceptable and MLB should have made a bigger statement.  

Have a great Sunday! Missing the Pinstripes. Go Yankees!

Sunday’s Recurring Theme: If Only…

Credit:  Seth Wenig-AP

Brewers 5, Yankees 3…

I guess three positive starts by Masahiro Tanaka was not enough to prove that the right-hander was back.  He followed up those three starts with another disappointing performance on a beautiful day in the Bronx as the Yankees fell to the Brew Crew.  Tanaka (7-8) lasted just 4 1/3 innings and 83 pitches, giving up 6 hits, 5 runs (including two home runs), and a walk.  He struck out 5 in the loss.  He didn’t have his best stuff on Sunday but he also didn’t receive much help.  If only…

Saturday’s hero, Clint Frazier, tried.  He had another homer but the big bats of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez were a combined 2-for-9 with no homers or RBI’s and 5 strikeouts.  

The Brewers jumped on Tanaka right away with three runs in the first.  Jonathan Villar opened the game with a single.   Eric Thames singled to right to put runners at the corners.  After Domingo Santana struck out, former Red Sox third baseman Travis Shaw pummeled a Tanaka pitch over the bullpen in right to give the Brewers a 3-0 lead.  I wonder how much Boston wishes they still had Shaw (19 HR and 65 RBI) instead of Pablo Sandoval and fill-ins at third base.  The guy they traded for (former Brewers closer Tyler Thornburg) underwent season-ending surgery last month.  

The Brewers added another run in the top of the 2nd inning when Stephen Vogt, formerly of the Oakland A’s, opened with a solo shot to center which dropped into the bullpen.  4-0, Brewers.

The Yankees offense finally got something going in the 4th.  With two outs, Jacoby Ellsbury singled to left and subsequently stole second.  Headley singled to left, which scored Ellsbury with the Yankees’ first run.  Clint Frazier followed with his third homer as a Yankee, to right center, which brought the Yankees within one run, 4-3.  

Credit:  Seth Wenig-AP

After Tanaka gave up two one-out singles in the top of the 5th, his day was done.  Chasen Shreve was brought in and he lost the battle to the only batter he faced when Travis Shaw collected his 4th RBI of the day with a run-scoring single.  Adam Warren should be called The Cleaner because he’s always the one that has to clean up the mess.  He struck out both batters to get out of the inning without any further damage.  

The Yankees had a runner in scoring position in every inning from the 5th inning through the 9th but all were left stranded.  For a moment, it seemed as though the Yankees had taken a 6-5 lead on an apparent 3-run home run by Chase Headley in the 6th inning, but appeal and further review clearly showed the ball sailed just to the right of the right field foul pole so the homer was erased…yes, if only.  Headley subsequently went down swinging. It was another lost opportunity in a day of lost opportunities.  Brett Gardner was on second in the bottom of the 9th after he walked and stole a base, but Gary Sanchez took a called third strike to end the game.  Gary, Dude…if only.  The Brewers escaped with the 5-3 win.  

Credit:  UPI

I got my pre-game wish.  More Red Thunder and no Tyler Clippard.  But it was not enough.  If only we had won…

With the loss, the Yankees (45-41) dropped into a second place tie with the Tampa Bay Rays.  Both teams are 3 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox, who fell to the Rays, 5-3, on Sunday.  It was a very disappointing finish to the first half for the Yankees who had started the season so strongly.  I have no clue if the Yankees will be buyers or sellers at the end of the month, but I am in agreement with those who believe the Yankees are not yet a World Series contender.  I know that GM Brian Cashman feels a return to good health and a few enhancements could be the difference-maker but I’d hate to see the team make moves this year that might steal from 2018 or 2019 when the Yankees really will be World Series contenders.  But I admit, we do need a  new first baseman.

Odds & Ends…

Matt Holliday played DH for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders on Sunday in their 5-2 loss to the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.  His lone hit in four at-bats was a run-scoring single.

The Home Run Derby is tonight.  I have already completed my bracket and have Aaron Judge emerging as the victor over Giancarlo Stanton but I do think that Gary Sanchez could get on a roll to steal this one.  It’s unfortunate that he drew Stanton as his first round opponent.  Former Yankee Clay Bellinger will serve as the Derby pitcher for his son, Cody.  I am sure Yankee fans will be paying close attention to Aaron Judge’s first round opponent given the trade rumors swirling about the potential trade of Justin Bour to the Yankees.

Have a great Monday!  Let’s Go Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge!  Enjoy the HR Derby!

A Win is a Win…

Credit:  Nuccio DiNuzzo-Chicago Tribune

Yankees 6, White Sox 5…

Moral of the story…never take anything for granted.  The Yankees took a comfortable five run lead into the bottom of the 9th inning but it was an edge of your seat, nail-biter at the end.  A three-run homer and a run-scoring double made it interesting but the Yankees were able to hold on for the win over the Chicago White Sox.

There were a few stars in this game, but credit first has to go to starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery who has proven to be the stopper in the absence of CC Sabathia.  Montgomery  (6-4) held the White Sox to one run on five hits over seven innings while striking out eight.  He issued just one free pass.  Montgomery gave up his only run in the second inning when speculated trade target Todd Frazier opened with a solo shot to left center.  From there, Monty kept the White Sox off the board while the Yankees built what appeared to be a comfortable lead.

Credit:  AP

A fielding error by Frazier in the fourth allowed Gary Sanchez to reach base.  Aaron Judge, who had opened the inning with a walk, moved to third.  Tyler Austin lofted a sacrifice fly to right which scored Judge, tying the game.  Jacoby Ellsbury, fresh off the DL, singled to move Sanchez into scoring position.  Chase Headley singled, scoring Sanchez.  Following a walk by Austin Romine to load the bases, Ronald Torreyes hit into a double-play but Ellsbury was able to score before the White Sox completed the final out, catching Headley between second and third, to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead.  

With one out in the sixth, Tyler Austin gave the Yankees what they were missing from first base with a line drive homer to left or as Michael Kay called it, “a bullet”.  Ellsbury reached base on a fielding error by White Sox starting pitcher David Holmberg and Headley followed with a double to move Ells to third.  The White Sox made a pitching change and Austin Romine greeted reliever Juan Minaya with a sac fly to center, scoring Ellsbury.  A passed ball moved Headley to third.  Ronald Torreyes hit a grounder that should have been the final out, but an error by first baseman Matt Davidson, the third White Sox error of the game, allowed Torreyes to reach first while Headley scored, making it 6-1 Yankees.

The Yankees got into some trouble in the 8th when Jonathan Holder replaced Montgomery to start the inning.  He struck out the first batter but a single by former Yankee Melky Cabrera and a walk to Jose Abreu put Cabrera in scoring position.  Avisail Garcia hit into a force out that erased Abreu at second, moving Cabrera to third.  Holder was pulled and replaced by Dellin Betances who subsequently walked Frazier to load the bases.  In what would prove to be one of the plays of the game, Betances struck out Davidson to end the threat.  

Unable to tack on any further insurance runs, the Yankees took the 6-1 lead into the bottom of the 9th.  Chasen Shreve was brought in to pitch in relief of Betances and secured the first out on  a grounder by Yolmer Sanchez. But Kevan Smith and Adam Engel followed with singles to put runners at first and second.  Tim Anderson punched a fly ball over the center field wall to pull the White Sox within two runs, 6-4.  A frustrated Shreve was pulled for Aroldis Chapman but the White Sox kept the rally going with a single by Melky Cabrera.  Fellow Cuban Jose Abreu doubled off Chapman, scoring Cabrera, and it was 6-5 Yankees.  Fortunately, Chapman got Avisail Garcia on a ground out and Todd Frazier flied out to left to secure the save.  

A little too close for comfort but the final result was a much-needed win.  The Yankees (41-33) kept pace with the Boston Red Sox in the AL East standings.  The Red Sox beat the Minnesota Twins, 4-1, earlier in the evening.  The Tampa Bay Rays were idle and slipped to 3 games back.

The game wasn’t without its bad news.  Second baseman Starlin Castro left the game in the third inning after straining his right hamstring while trying to run out a grounder.  He was replaced by Rob Refsnyder.  Castro will have a MRI today while the Yankees decide whether or not to place him on the DL.  The initial word is the Yankees will call up infield prospect Tyler Wade.  Wade has 5 HR’s and 25 RBI’s for Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  His slash line is .313/.390/.444.  In 71 games, he led the RailRiders with 13 errors but has stolen 24 bags.  Wade, expected to be the utility-man of the future, will now get his first taste of the Bigs.  He’ll back up Ronald Torreyes at second until Castro is able to resume play.  

Credit:  Jon Durr-Getty Images

Odds & Ends…

The Yankees were busy Monday on the transactions wire.  They placed Aaron Hicks, as expected, on the 10-Day DL with a right oblique strain.  Jacoby Ellsbury, who had been expected to continue his rehab with Double A Trenton was instead activated to replace Hicks.  Healthy, there’s no question I prefer Hicks over Ellsbury, but since that’s not an option, I am hopeful the Yankees can get something…anything…out of first base for production.  If so, it will help offset the loss of Hicks.  The Yankees also sent LHP Tyler Webb and OF Mason Williams to Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  I was sorry to see Webb go after just two Major League appearances, but hopefully, he’ll be back.  RHP Ronald Herrera and IB/OF Rob Refsnyder were recalled to replace Webb and Williams.  Refsnyder will provide corner outfield relief and help at first base if necessary.  Herrera had been scheduled to start last night’s game for the RailRiders so he represents a rotation insurance arm.

Matt Holliday was unavailable for the second straight day with his condition as a result of the allergic reaction suffered in Oakland.  He had some medical tests ran yesterday but hopefully everything comes back good.  The Yankees can ill afford to lose his productive bat for any extended period of time.

I do not want to detract from the great rookie season Aaron Judge is having, but Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman/outfielder Cody Bellinger is amazing.  He had his sixth multi-homer game on Sunday and now has 24 homers on the year.  With a delayed start (he wasn’t promoted to the Dodgers until April 25th), he has the most home runs of any NL rookie in the first half since the All-Star Game debuted in 1933.  The Dodgers have been steamrolling their opponents since he arrived.  At his current pace, the son of a former Yankees utility player may catch and surpass Judge for most home runs in MLB.  Bellinger and the Dodgers certainly have the mojo working right now.

Credit:  Chris Carlson-AP

Have a great Tuesday!  Hopefully it’s a two-for Tuesday as the Yankees attempt to secure their second win against the White Sox.  Let’s Go Yankees!

Wanted: Good News For A Change…

Credit:  MLB.com

A Collective Groan in the Yankees Universe…

On the tail of a six-game losing streak, how can things go from bad to worse?  Losing top prospect Gleyber Torres to Tommy John surgery certainly qualifies.  Thought to have only a hyperextended elbow, consultation with Yankees team physician Christopher Ahmad revealed that Torres has a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow.  Many were expecting the July call-up of Torres to the Major Leagues as a potential replacement for third baseman Chase Headley.  Now, Torres will undergo surgery, with eyes for Spring Training 2018.  Ouch, this one hurts. Well, him more than me but still, losing both the top pitching and the top hitting prospects to Tommy John surgery in the same year is difficult.  I suppose the news would have been much worse if Torres had injured his throwing arm (longer recuperation and rehabilitation period).  So, we should be grateful that this was not worse than it was.  Good things never happen with headfirst slides.

Like the ascension of Chance Adams to top pitching prospect status, Clint Frazier becomes the de facto top prospect in the organization pending Gleyber’s successful return to good health.  As I try to comprehend this depressing news, I didn’t really think that Torres was ready for the Big Leagues yet.  I had already viewed his timetable as next Spring.  With immediate projections that he’ll be ready for Spring Training, nothing really changes except he’ll lose valuable time learning the nuances of third base over the course of the next few months.  Manager Joe Girardi is already on record saying that if there is an infield need at second/short on the MLB roster, Tyler Wade would be the guy.  

Where do we go from here?  With first base surfacing as the greatest need, this probably enhances the chances for Chase Headley to remain as the third base starter (regardless of the consequences) unless the Yankees swing a less expensive deal for a guy like Howie Kendrick of the Philadelphia Phillies.  Without Major League ready third basemen in the Minor Leagues and greater needs at first base and left-handed relief in the bullpen, there’s probably not much that can be done to upgrade third base at this point without costing an arm and leg (a few arms and legs, in fact).  Even the guy the Yankees traded to the San Diego Padres for Headley (Yangervis Solarte) would be a better option today in a side-by-side comparison. 

Credit:  Associated Press

The Yankees are competing against the Houston Astros in the pitching market and for third base, they face stiff competition from the Boston Red Sox who appear ready to flush the Pablo Sandoval disaster.  I believe this makes the possibility of Mike Moustakas calling Fenway Park “home” the more likely outcome.  This year’s July Trading Deadline figures to be a very expensive one for the many teams looking to upgrade. 

The Yankees elevated 3B Miguel Andujar to AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to replace Torres.  He was 1-for-4 last night in the RailRiders’ 6-1 victory over the Syracuse Chiefs.  He also scored two runs.  The heroes of the game were Dustin Fowler, who had a two-run home run, and Brady Lail, who pitched 6 2/3 innings, surrendering only the one run and four hits, for the win.  Andujar is probably the best true third baseman right now but he’s not close to taking his game to the next level yet.

In case you were sleeping last night…

Despite the day off, the Yankees are back in sole possession of first place in the AL East.  The Boston Red Sox lost to the Kansas City Royals, 4-2, to fall a 1/2 game off the pace.  Having played three more games than the Yankees, the Red Sox are two games behind in the loss column.  The third place Tampa Bay Rays slid to 4 games back, thanks to their loss to the Cincinnati Reds, 7-3.   The Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles sit 5 games back entering play today.  The Jays beat the Texas Rangers, 7-6, while the Orioles were de-feathered by the Cleveland Indians, 12-0.  

Preview of Upcoming Angels-Yankees Series:

Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups for the series with the Los Angeles Angels which begins tonight at Yankee Stadium:

Tuesday, June 20th

Angels:  Parker Bridwell (1-0, 2.79 ERA)

Yankees:  Michael Pineda (7-3, 3.71 ERA)

Wednesday, June 21st

Angels:  Ricky Nolasco (2-8, 5.01 ERA)

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (4-4, 3.78 ERA)

Thursday, June 22nd

Angels:  Jesse Chavez (5-7, 4.85 ERA)

Yankees:  Luis Severino (5-2, 2.99 ERA)

Odds & Ends…

Yankees RHP Matt Marsh, 25, has been suspended for 50 games for a second violation of Baseball’s Minor League Drug Policy.  Marsh, a relief pitcher, has appeared in 15 games for High-A Tampa and AA-Trenton.  He is 3-2 with 2.49 ERA, and has held batters to .190 batting average while striking out 28 in 21 2/3 innings.  He did not allow a run in 7 innings pitched for Tampa.  Marsh was signed by the Yankees as an undrafted free agent in 2014.

Credit:  Josh Lefkowitz-Getty Images

Move over, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez.  Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers is now the hottest young home run hitter in baseball.  Bellinger hit two more homers last night against Zack Wheeler and the New York Mets and now has 21 in 51 games.  It is the fifth multi-homer game for Bellinger.  He is just the fourth player 21 years or younger with 20 homers by the All-Star Break (joining Eddie Matthews, Albert Pujols, and Miguel Cabrera).  Do the Dodgers miss injured first baseman Adrian Gonzalez?  I think not…

Credit:  Harry How-Getty Images

Have a great Tuesday!  It’s time to put the losing streak in the rearview mirror!

No Fight in this “Dog”…

Credit:  Tony Avelar-Associated Press

A’s 5, Yankees 2…

A funny thing happened on our way to a fun and exciting season.  We got our butts kicked by the American League’s worst team. The season-high losing streak has now reached five games (three in a row to the lowly A’s) as the agony on the West Coast continues.  

After the return of the “batting practice” pitcher (Masahiro Tanaka), the Yankees thrust a Triple A pitcher into the role of stopper later today.  It’s going to be a very long flight back to New York for the Yankees if they can’t at least salvage the final game of the four game series.

Masahiro Tanaka’s performance yesterday showed me that I really hope that he opts out of his contract at the end of the year.  But unfortunately, the worse he pitches, the more foolish he’d walk away from guaranteed money that he’d be unable to top on the open market.  Tanaka is no ace and I am becoming very pessimistic about his chances to reclaim any resemblance of a top of the rotation guy.

Tanaka did strike out 10 batters, when the A’s weren’t sending the pitches out of the park (three home runs in the first four innings).  In fact, Tanaka is the only pitcher in the last 100 years to strike out at least ten while allowing three homers in four innings or less.  It’s not exactly a record that I’d be proud of.

After the Yankees failed to score any runs in the top of the first inning despite a runner in scoring position, the A’s Matt Joyce hopped on the first pitch thrown by Tanaka and homered to right-center.  Tanaka struck out the next 3 batters to end the first (giving the false illusion that the homer was an aberration).  

The next inning, the Yankees took a 2-1 lead when they scored two runs on three successive singles and a sac fly against A’s starter Jesse Hahn.  But it was temporary.  In the bottom of the 2nd, Ryon Healy blasted a shot to left center to tie the game.  Like the inning before, Tanaka subsequently recorded all three outs by strikeout, leaving runners at first and second through a double and a walk which followed the homer.  Tanaka faced the minimum of three batters in the third (one by strikeout), but Ryon Healy opened the fourth with his second home run of the game.  The A’s had the lead for good, 3-2.  It was another inning of all three outs recorded by strikeout, but sadly they were mixed in with four singles that produced two more runs.  5-2, A’s.

Credit:  Getty Images

Tanaka (5-7, 6.34 ERA) didn’t come back for the fifth inning, and he was replaced by Domingo German who finished up the game (protecting the other tired arms in the bullpen).  German did an admirable job with four scoreless innings (6 strikeouts of his own) but the Yankees offense was silent for the remainder of the game.  Swinging strikeouts in the 9th by Chris Carter, Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine ended the game (leaving Ronald Torreyes, who had singled and taken second on defensive indifference, stranded).  

The Boston Red Sox missed out on an opportunity to tie the Yankees (38-28) for the AL East lead and they remain one game back thanks to their 7-1 loss to the Houston Astros.  The Red Sox seem to be having their own Tanaka-like problems with last year’s AL Cy Young Award winner, Rick Porcello (3-9, 5.05 ERA).  The Tampa Bay Rays and the Baltimore Orioles both won so they are 4 1/2 and 5 1/2 games behind, respectively.  

Luis Cessa will be on the mound for the Yankees later today, making his season debut.  The Yankees bullpen will be at its strongest for the first time in a long time with the expected activation of closer Aroldis Chapman.  I am hopeful that the return of Tyler Clippard to the 7th inning allows him to be more effective with the pressurized latter innings under the control of Dellin Betances and Chapman.  

Odds & Ends…

Since his elevation to the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 28th, first baseman/outfielder Cody Bellinger, son of former Yankees pitcher Clay Bellinger, has been on a home-run tear.  He already has four multi-homer games, and his 19th home run yesterday matched Gary Sanchez’s MLB record for most home runs in a player’s first 49 games.  The Dodger Days for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, currently on the DL with a degenerative disc in his lower back, appear to be numbered.

Credit:  Jeff Roberson-Associated Press

The Yankees received a scare yesterday when top prospect Gleyber Torres was pulled from the game with an injury suffered on a headfirst slide at home plate.  He has been diagnosed with a hyperextended elbow.  X-rays performed after the game were negative.  He’ll undergo further medical evaluation before returning to Scranton.  Hopefully all is well except for a few days of rest.

I hadn’t really seen a list yet, but Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported this weekend that the Yankees must place the following players on the 40-man roster between now and November 20th or risk losing them in the Rule 5 draft:  Gleyber Torres, Albert Abreu, Domingo Acevedo, Tyler Wade, Zack Littell, Thairo Estrada, Clint Frazier, Dustin Fowler, Ian Clarkin, Billy McKinney and J.P. Feyereisen.  It would seem that the abundance of talented prospects requiring protection will be a factor in the days leading up the trading deadline next month.  

Happy Father’s Day to all dads in the Yankees Universe!  I hope it’s a tremendous day for you, complete with a Yankees victory!  Enjoy!

Trying To Temper The Enthusiasm…

Credit:  Andy Martin/USA TODAY Sports

With the better-than-expected start to the season, it’s easy to get caught up with the thinking that the Yankees could actually win the American League East.  Sadly, I still do not believe that will be the case.  I think the Boston Red Sox remain the heavy favorite to win the division.  While the Yankees may be playing great without Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius, the Red Sox are starting to gather some steam even though Jackie Bradley, Jr. and arguably their best player, Mookie Betts, are currently on the DL.  Add Betts to the stellar starting rotation, and the Red Sox will be a very formidable force throughout the summer.  We’ll have some bumps and bruises with the younger starters as time goes by, and there’s no certainty that Michael Pineda has finally turned the corner.  My only reservation with the Red Sox is that they do not seem to have the same heart they did with David Ortiz in the lineup.  Hanley Ramirez is a great baseball player but he’s no Big Papi.  

Nevertheless, I do feel the strong start has positioned the Yankees to make a run at a Wild Card spot, especially with the horrific start of the perennial playoff contending Toronto Blue Jays. 

While the Yankees are currently chasing Baltimore, the Orioles lost their lock-down closer Zach Britton for at least ten days with a left sore forearm (his throwing arm).  Britton is obviously an elite closer so this severely weakens the O’s pen.  Although it’s possible that Britton will be back before the O’s get to New York late next week, they do go into a head-to-head showdown with the Red Sox starting Friday night for a three-game set in their weakened state.

It is amazing to think that the Yankees have played this well without Gregorius and Sanchez.  If they can continue to get solid pitching from the starting rotation, the return of Gregorius and Sanchez in a few weeks should be a great lift.  It’ll almost be like getting All-Star caliber players at the trading deadline with the only difference being the Yankees do not have to give up any premier prospects (or any prospects, for that matter, other than the probable DFA of Pete Kozma). 

The Yankees announced they’ve traded reliever Johnny Barbato to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a player to be named later or cash.  Those types of deals usually turn out to be cash.  Barbato was optioned to AAA by the Pirates.  It’s unfortunate that the Yankees didn’t get more out of Barbato considering they gave up dependable reliever Shawn Kelley to get him.  The Pirates always seem to get high mileage out of Yankee rejects.  Barbato will probably be their ace closer within a couple of years.  

I apologize in advance for going off topic (non-Yankees talk) but I have been very interested in watching Cody Bellinger, a first baseman in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.  Bellinger, son of former Yankee Clay Bellinger, is the Dodgers top prospect and the heir apparent to Adrian Gonzalez.  On Sunday, Bellinger was responsible for all three runs in Oklahoma City’s 3-2 win over the Memphis Redbirds.  Bellinger scored a run after walking in the fourth; tied the game with a solo homer in the fifth; and singled in the go-ahead run in the seventh.  For the season, the 21-year-old Bellinger is batting .372 (16-for-43) with 4 doubles, 3 homers, and 12 RBI’s.  Meanwhile, for the Big League Dodgers, the 34-year-old Gonzalez is hitting .250 with no homers and 4 RBI’s.  If Bellinger keeps it up, there could soon be a changing of the guard at first base in Dodger Stadium.  Looks like the Dodgers could be back to the days of bringing up an All-Star to the Majors every year.  If Bellinger does not get the call, top pitching prospect Julio Urias most certainly will.  

Credit:  Rob Tringali/Getty Images

Speaking of the Oklahoma City Dodgers (in an attempt to keep this Yankees-oriented), it’s kind of cool that their stadium, Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, is located at 2 S. Mickey Mantle Drive.  Too bad there was no room to build the stadium across the street and down a little for 7 S. Mickey Mantle Drive.

In other non-Yankees news (or is it?), Bryan Harper stepped to the plate on Sunday in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, with the Washington Nationals trailing the Philadelphia Phillies 4-3 and Philly closer Joaquin Benoit on the mound.  With two runners on base, Harper homered to center to win the game, 6-4.  It was his second home run of the game and it gave him 5 RBI’s for the day.  Preview of coming attractions at Yankee Stadium?  Time will tell, as it often does.  Hal, what’s a half-billion in the grand scheme of things?  It’s just money…

Welcome back, Matt Holliday!  After sitting out two games against his former team, the St Louis Cardinals, this past weekend, Matt Holliday returned on Monday to absolutely crush a baseball which allowed the Yankees to jump ahead of the Chicago White Sox with an early 3-0 lead.  The ball traveled 459 feet, with exit velocity of 113.9 MPH, and according to Statcast was the second longest homer of the year (two feet behind a Carlos Gomez blast). 

Aaron Judge also homered in the fourth inning with one on and two outs.

Jordan Montgomery impressed once again.  You gotta love his calm demeanor on the mound (unflappable).  His deceptive arm angle is a thing of beauty with the over the top motion.  Montgomery gave up three runs and seven hits in six innings of work, with two walks and two strikeouts.  The runs didn’t come until the seventh inning when Montgomery was tiring (a three run bomb by Yolmer Sanchez that ended Montgomery’s night).  Regardless of the end, Montgomery was better the second time around (as I thought he would be).  He’s an exciting part of the rotation and is quickly earning his pinstripes for the long haul.  

Credit:  Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Adam Warren did what he does best.  After Montgomery’s exit, he bridged the gap to the ninth inning.  Although he finally allowed a run, he did his job and turned the game over to Aroldis Chapman with one out and a runner on base.  Although Chapman did allow a single to the first hitter, pushing the lead runner to third, he needed just two pitches to earn his fourth save.  The next batter, Tyler Saladino, hit into a game-ending double play.

The Yankees won 7-4, and have now won eight consecutive games.  

Have a great Tuesday!  Nine would be just fine!