Tagged: David Robertson

Weird Win is a Win, I’ll Take It…

Photo Credit: AP (Ron Schwane)

Yankees survive Tribe on odd play and stellar bullpen…

If it takes a little league homer to beat the Cleveland Indians, so be it. A day after a Yankees rally fell short by one run against the Tribe, I had no issue with the deciding run in yesterday’s tilt being decided on Austin Romine’s lead-off double in the seventh inning that resulted in a run thanks to a couple of errors. Romine’s hit to the gap in the right center was bobbled by Brandon Guyer for the first error as Romine slid safely into third. The relay throw ended up bouncing past Jose Ramirez at third and Mike Clevinger back up the play into the dugout and the umpiring crew awarded Romine home plate for the go-ahead and eventual winning run.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (David Maxwell)

 

For two teams with great hitters and defenders, it was an odd way for a game to be decided. The win allowed the Yankees to go up two games to one in the current series, putting them in position to take the series today before most of the players head for their homes and families for a few days of rest and relaxation.

It wasn’t the greatest outing for CC Sabathia, giving up four runs on four hits over 5 2/3 innings against his original team but credit him for keeping it close. Didi Gregorius had staked CC to an early lead with his three-run homer in the first inning. It was Didi’s 17th home run of the year.

The Indians chipped away at the Yankees’ lead, tying the game at four in the bottom of the sixth when Brandon Guyer, who entered the game with a .162 batting average, hit a two-out infield single to third to score runners at second and third. Miguel Andujar’s wide throw pulled Greg Bird off the bag at first to allow Guyer to reach base safely and Bird’s subsequent throw home glanced off the glove of Austin Romine, allowing the second and tying run to score. The hit chased Sabathia, but David Robertson came in to restore order. He walked the first batter he faced but then struck out Yan Gomes to end the inning.

D-Rob pitched a clean seventh inning and Dellin Betances did the same in the eighth.

The ninth inning was filled with a bit of drama. It started when Brandon Guyer led off the bottom of the inning with a pop up in foul territory. Austin Romine went back for the ball and Miguel Andujar came charging in and neither player came up with the ball, with an error charged on Andujar. It looked like it should have been Romine’s ball but the ball drifted toward Andjuar who couldn’t get out of the way.

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

It didn’t matter when Guyer grounded out to short, but then Aroldis Chapman walked Cleveland’s top prospect Francisco Mejia, who represented the tying run. Mejia had just been recalled earlier in the day to make his 2018 MLB season debut.  After striking out Yan Gomes, it set up a rematch of the 2016 World Series with Chapman facing Rajai Davis. As the announcing crew reminded us again and again, Davis had homered off Chapman to tie that game, the seventh and deciding game, although the Chicago Cubs eventually won it and the series with Chappy picking up the win. There would be no Davis home run this time around. His fly out to right field ended the game, giving the save to Chapman, his 26th of the season, and the win to David Robertson (7-3). With seven wins, D-Rob has as many wins as Masahiro Tanaka and more than any other Yankees pitcher not named Luis Severino.

Greg Bird continued his recent hot hitting with a sixth inning solo blast off Indians starter Mike Clevinger that had briefly given the Yankees and Sabathia a two-run cushion. It was Bird’s eighth home run of the year.

The game also featured the ejection of Manager Aaron Boone who showed some fire in the top of the sixth inning. After Giancarlo took a called third strike on a ball that hit his hands as he swung, Boone argued that the ball should have been ruled foul but to no avail. The umps were right but it was fun to see Boone fired up. It was Boonie’s second ejection of the season.

Photo Credit: AP (Ron Schwane)

There was some good defensive play by second baseman Tyler Wade in the game (can we DFA Neil Walker already?) although he was unable to make a difficult play in the bottom of the sixth that led to the first baserunner who would eventually score on Brandon Guyer’s two-run single.

The Yankees (62-32) remained 3 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East. The Toronto Blue Jays took the Red Sox into extra innings before losing the game in the 10th on a walk-off grand slam home run by Xander Bogaerts.

With the Manny Machado rumors subsiding, it appears most likely that he’ll be traded to a National League team which, all things considered, is probably for the best. The rumors involving the Philadelphia Phillies seem the most fervent at the moment, but the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers remain in the chase. It does seem odd to me that some teams would be willing to part with top prospects for a player they may have no chance to re-sign in the off-season. But then again, if you think you have a chance for the World Series, it might be worth it if you feel that Machado is the difference-maker. I am sure the Dodgers would hate to see Machado end up in Philly. My biggest fear is Machado being traded to the Red Sox so I am anxious for the O’s to send their star shortstop to the NL as soon as possible. Given how much Orioles owner Peter Angelos hates the Yankees, I could see him sending Machado to Boston just to spite the Yankees even if the return for their team was less.

We may soon see Joe Girardi back in a dugout. The St Louis Cardinals surprisingly fired their manager, Mike Matheny, yesterday. Matheny was expected to be dismissed in the off-season but apparently the Cardinals organization became impatient (an uncharacteristic trait for them) as Matheny seemingly lost control of his clubhouse. Joe Girardi has emerged as a favorite to replace Matheny. The Cardinals are currently 47-46 and 7 1/2 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central and six games behind the second-place Milwaukee Brewers. they are just four games out in the Wild Card hunt. The last time the Cardinals fired a manager during the season was Joe Torre in 1995. I’ve seen the names of Jose Oquendo, Carlos Beltran, and even Jason Giambi mentioned, but Girardi would seem to make the most sense for a team trying to rebound from first half turbulence. Mike Shildt, the Cardinals bench coach, has been named interim manager. Girardi has some connection to the team as he finished his playing career in 2003 with the Cards.

While I realize the sexy names like Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Madison Bumgarner, and Blake Snell are beyond reach for the Yankees, the most likely names that are available just plain scare me (not in a good way). Michael Fulmer, a name that has been connected to the Yankees for months, has been awful this year. I’ve tried to rationalize his performance by the fact that he plays for a bad team, but he was hit hard by the Houston Astros yesterday.  He failed to complete five innings, giving up ten hits and seven runs, as his season record fell to 3-9. There’s no way that I’d want to see the Yankees give up Clint Frazier and/or other top prospects for Fulmer despite his youth, potential and cost-controlled status. Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ have been awful. TGP’s Daniel Burch cites Zack Wheeler as a possibility but that one doesn’t excite me. Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney of the Los Angeles Angels are the most recent names mentioned. There is a very real possibility that the Yankees are unable to find a match for a top starter or two. Other teams are willing to overpay but the Yankees are not. I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I want to see Frazier, Justus Sheffield and Estevan Florial thrive as Yankees, but on the other hand, something needs to give if the Yankees intend to catch the Red Sox in the second half. Boston shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Hopefully the Yankees can win today to send us into the All-Star Break on a positive note. Masahiro Tanaka (7-2, 4.68 ERA) makes the start against Trevor Bauer (8-6, 2.23 ERA). It should be a good game and a great day for a victory.

Go Yankees!

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Returning the Favor…

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (John Munson)

Yanks Take Series Against Red Sox…

A day after a lop-sided loss to the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees got revenge with a similar 11-1 beating of the Sox. I really wanted an identical 11-0 beating to match the Red Sox winning score on Saturday but Aroldis Chapman lost the shutout in the ninth. Oh well, all is good with the ten-run victory and a woefully quiet Red Sox Nation.

It was disheartening to watch the Yankees fall behind behind by six runs in the first two innings during Saturday’s loss so I am sure the Red Sox fans felt the same way yesterday. I had felt so much more confidence with Luis Severino pitching for the Yankees and perennial Yankees punching bag David Price going for Boston. Six home runs from the home team, including three from the other Aaron (Hicks), certainly did not hurt. On an evening when so many balls were leaving the yard, it was odd that Giancarlo Stanton didn’t join the party.  But he had a couple of hits and scored a run so not all was lost.  

First, Severino. Sevy has been one of the best pitchers in the American League this year and after this game, he might be the best. He’s 13-2 with 1.98 ERA, both marks are the best in the league.  Justin Verlander had been the ERA leader for most of the season but he currently stands at 2.12.  If Sevy is not named the starter for this year’s All-Star Game, it will be a travesty by Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch. For this game, Severino shut out the Red Sox for 6 2/3 innings, yielding only two hits and three walks. He struck out six to increase his season total to 138. I might have been a little worried going into the game that Sevy might not have his best stuff coming off his masterful performance against the Philadelphia Phillies last week, but Sevy showed why he is the ace of the staff. I am very happy Luis Severino is a Yankee.

As for the other guys, Aaron Judge got the homer party started early with a one-out homer over the center field wall into Monument Park.  After a single by Giancarlo Stanton and a double from Didi Gregorius, Gleyber Torres continued his magical season with a blast to right to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead.  David Price could only look up at the scorecard and think “there goes my ERA”.  Gleyber’s smile in the Yankees dugout after the homer was, you could say, priceless.

In the bottom of the second, the speedy Brett Gardner reached on an infield single to second when a bobble and momentum took Brock Holt away from getting the ball to first in time. The eldest Yankees position player didn’t have to stand on first base very long. Aaron Hicks took David Price deep to right for the first of his three home runs on the night.  

Photo Credit: NY Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

The Red Sox had something going in the top of the third inning and could have climbed back into the game. Mookie Betts worked a two-out walk and advanced to third on a single to left center by Andrew Benintendi, the first hit off Severino. It brought J.D. Martinez to the plate and the Red Sox Nation was probably thinking it would soon be a three-run game.  Martinez worked the count full and seemed to be in position for a big hit but a swinging strikeout ended the threat. A very nice job by Sevy in that spot.  No doubt it would have been a three-run homer if Sonny Gray had been on the mound.

The moment Kyle Higashioka had been waiting for happened in the fourth inning.  Higgy had struck out in the second inning to extend his Major League hitless streak to 0-for-22. But leading off the bottom of the fourth, Higgy made his first Major League hit a big one with a home run into the second deck in left field. Congrats, Higgy!  I hope it is the first of many.

 

An out later, Aaron Hicks had his second homer of the night, a shot to center. 8-0 Yankees, but they weren’t done. The Hicks homer ended David Price’s night and Aaron Judge greeted Red Sox reliever and fellow Fresno State alum Justin Haley with a single to left. Giancarlo Stanton followed with a double to left center, advancing Judge to third.  Didi Gregorius lofted a fly to left which was deep enough to score Judge with the third run of the inning.  

Manager Aaron Boone lifted Severino with two outs in the seventh inning after throwing 99 pitches and brought in David Robertson to record the final out, a fly out by Christian Vasquez.

With such a huge lead, I didn’t really expect to see Robertson, Dellin Betances and later Aroldis Chapman in the game. After D-Rob struck out the first two batters of the eighth inning, Betances came in to get the final out via a groundout to first by Andrew Benintendi.

With Hector Velasquez pitching for the Sox in the bottom of the eighth, Aaron Hicks blasted his third home run of the night with a shot to right from the left-side. The switch-hitting Hicks had recorded the first two homers from the right side. Hicks is only the third Yankee to hit three home runs in a game against Boston, joining Lou Gehrig and Mark Teixeira. Aaron Judge followed with a walk and took second on a single by Brandon Drury, pinch-hitting for Giancarlo Stanton. Neil Walker, who had entered the game at second in the seventh inning with Gleyber Torres sliding to short in place of Didi Gregorius, lifted a ball over the head of Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers into left to score Judge.  

Dellin Betances got the first out of the ninth inning (strikeout of J.D. Martinez) but Boone made the curious decision at that point to bring in Aroldis Chapman. Sandy Leon, pinch-hitting for Mitch Moreland, doubled into the left-field corner. Blake Swihart reached first on an infield single that advanced Leon to third. Rafael Devers hit a grounder to third and while the Yankees forced Swihart at second, Leon ruined the shutout when he scored on the play. Brock Holt hit a grounder to Gleyber Torres who, after looking toward first, tapped second base with his glove ahead of Devers for the final out. The Yankees win!  

The Yankees (54-27) put themselves back into a first place tie with the Red Sox (56-29) in the AL East and technically lead by percentage points (.667 to .659). My goal going into this series was to take two of three so I was very satisfied with the results. A sweep would have been great but as Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com often says, Sonny was not grayt.  Between Gray and David Price, the two Vanderbilt guys gave up fourteen runs in 5 2/3 innings. Not a great couple of days for former Commodores.

The last Yankee to hit three home runs in a game was a then-39 year old Alex Rodriguez who smacked three against the Minnesota Twins on July 25, 2015. A-Rod’s last homer of the game sailed over the head of Twins center fielder, you guessed it, Aaron Hicks. Hicks also had a homer in that game, a two-run shot off CC Sabathia. But the Yankees prevailed, 8-5.  

Poor Aaron Hicks. If Yankees Twitter had their way, Hicksie would have been DFA’d long ago. I have not felt the desire to bash Hicks (I’ll stick with Sonny Gray, Chasen Shreve and Neil Walker). I’d gladly take Hicks over DL-King Jacoby Ellsbury whom, honestly, I hope never wears the Pinstripes again regardless of the cost. If Estevan Florial was knocking at the door or if  Clint Frazier was a legitimate option for center, I’d feel differently but for now, I’m fine with Hicks in the outfield even if he hadn’t hit three dingers last night.  

The Yankees now host the NL East leading Atlanta Braves (48-34) for a three-game set at Yankee Stadium starting this evening. Jonathan Loaisiga (2-0, 1.93 ERA) gets the start. He’ll face former Detroit Tiger Anibal Sanchez who has pitched well for the Braves this year (3-2, 2.68 ERA) after being released by the Minnesota Twins during training camp.

It’s July which means it will be a big month for new Yankees. The 2018-19 International Signing Period opens today meaning some very talented international youths will soon begin their journeys for Major League dreams with Baseball’s most storied franchise. The non-waiver Trading Deadline is July 31st so the rumor mill, which was already cranked up, will be hitting on all cylinders for the next few weeks. Who will be the next players to pull on the famed Pinstripes? We will find out by month-end. Good times.

Go Yankees!

The Lasagna was Fantastic!…

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Photo Credit: For NJ.com (Lori M Nichols)

Jonathan Loaisiga assumes the role of “Stopper”…

The Yankees win!  My three favorite words.

The three-game losing streak is over, and the Yankees are back in the win column. Even though they may not have the most wins in MLB, they hold the best overall winning percentage.

While I was optimistic the Yankees would take the series opener in Philadelphia, I certainly did not expect young Jonathan Loaisiga to take a no-hitter into the sixth inning. It was a marvelous pitching performance for the 23-year-old who bypassed Triple A to put on the famed Pinstripes a couple of weeks ago.

Jorge Alfaro broke up the ‘no-no’ with a leadoff single to right in the bottom of the sixth inning. After a walk of Aaron Altherr, a groundout by Cesar Hernandez advanced the runners to second and third. It was the end of the night for Johnny Lasagna. Job well done. David Robertson came in (a nice NL double switch by Aaron Boone, who also inserted Neil Walker at first in place of Greg Bird to take the pitcher’s spot in the batting order) and struck out young Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins for the second out. Robertson induced Odubel Herrera to hit a grounder to second for the final out, leaving the two Phillies baserunners stranded. Hoskins and Herrera are such a huge part of the Phillies offense so it was a great moment for D-Rob to preserve Loaisiga’s scoreless outing.

Loaisiga (2-0) finished with 5 1/3 innings, 86 pitches, surrendering only the lone hit by Alfaro, a couple of walks, and eight strikeouts.  It was quite simply a magnificent performance for a team that needed the win. I know, for me, Loaisiga has certainly exceeded all expectations. To his credit, he has very strong believers in the Yankees organization. Otherwise, he’d still be pitching in Double-A.

It was good to see the Yankees score first.  It seemed like they were always playing from behind in the Tampa Bay series. In the top of the second inning, Greg Bird walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch by Phillies starter Vince Velasquez. Leading AL Rookie of the Year contender Gleyber Torres doubled to right to bring Bird home with the game’s first run.

With two outs in the top of the fifth, Aaron Judge scorched a liner into the left field stands to give the Yankees a two-run cushion. The home run was Judge’s 20th of the year.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

After David Robertson emerged unscathed in the sixth inning, he was not so lucky the next frame. Former Cleveland Indian Carlos Santana led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk. A wild pitch by D-Rob moved Santana to second. Scott Kingery, who hit the Yankees well in Spring Training, laced a run-scoring single to left to make it a one-run game.

The Yankees picked up a couple of insurance runs in the top of the eighth inning when Giancarlo Stanton delivered a two-run single off Phillies reliever Yacksel Rios. The eighth inning also saw one of the ugliest at-bats we’ll ever see when Dellin Betances, bat wiggle and all, struck out for the second out with two runners in scoring position. I guess it was his argument that the NL needs to adopt the DH rule. I know that I’d prefer to see him stick to his day job of throwing the baseball.

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Betances got into trouble in the bottom of the eighth. He walked the first batter which is never a good sign.  I guess he was still thinking about that awful at-bat. He picked up a couple of outs but then walked Odubel Herrera to bring the tying run to the plate in the form of Carlos Santana. Manager Aaron Boone pulled the plug on Betances and brought in closer Aroldis Chapman. Santana jumped on the first pitch with a laser shot to left that looked like it might drop in for extra bases but fortunately Giancarlo Stanton tracked the ball down and caught it on the warning track. For as much as we ripped Stanton’s defense during Spring Training, the Yankees could have lost the game right there if Stanton had not made that tremendous catch.

Chapman shut the door on the Phillies with three strikeouts in the bottom of the ninth, despite a meaningless two-out solo home run by Maikel Franco. Yankees win, 4-2.

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Photo Credit: For NJ.com (Lori M Nichols)

The Yankees (51-25) moved a half-game up on the Boston Red Sox in the AL East standings. The Red Sox had the night off. The Sox have one more win than the Yankees but two more losses. Every team in the division won yesterday except for the, well, pathetic Baltimore Orioles who never seem to win any games.

I am not quite sure why the Yankees continue to stand behind Chasen Shreve. I assume he’ll eventually figure this out and return to a role of prominence but, personally, I have lost patience with him. Sunday started with the false news reports that Shreve had been DFA’d and ended with Shreve served up the gopher ball to Jake Bauers which allowed the Rays to take the walk-off win after 12 innings, sweeping the series with the Yankees. It really made me wish those DFA news reports had been true. There are many who feel Triple A lefty Josh Rogers is fully capable of stepping into Shreve’s spot in the Yankees bullpen. Admittedly, it is tough to see guys like Shreve and Neil Walker on the MLB roster, blocking legitimate big leaguers like Tommy Kahnle and Brandon Drury…and others. Maybe the Yankees patience pays off and Shreve becomes a big part of the pen before the season is over. I just know that if I owned the team, his Yankees career would have already ended.

Given the Yankees are in Philly, it is only fitting the two starting pitchers most closely connected to the Yankees are former Phillies. While I like Cole Hamels, the pitcher that intrigues me the most is J.A. Happ. I remember back in the days when he pitched for Philadelphia and I thought his name was pronounced “Jay-Aye” Happ rather than the correct pronunciation of “Jay” Happ. I always liked the guy but he couldn’t really put it together in Philly or a few other stops until he became a 20-game winner for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2016. Last year was a bit of a disappointment (10-11, 3.53 ERA) but wins aren’t a good barometer for pitchers, particularly when their team is not so good. This year, Happ is 10-3 (3.62 ERA) but yesterday I was impressed how he beat Justin Verlander and the Houston Astros. Sure, he only pitched six innings and gave up three runs but he picked up the win when former Yankee Curtis Granderson hit his second home run of the night in the seventh inning. The Astros have been hot lately but Happ cooled their jets. The Blue Jays needed a brilliant defensive play by Randal Grichuk (took away a potential home run from George Springer) to preserve the win for Happ  but beating one of the best teams in baseball is a noteworthy achievement. I also like the fact that Happ wouldn’t cost top prospects and would slot very nicely into the Yankees rotation. He’s a free agent at the end of the year so he’d be a true rental unlike Hamels whose 2019 $20 million contract option carries a $6 million buyout. While Happ is a late bloomer, Hamels enjoyed his greatest success earlier in his career with the Phillies. Hamels may be the more accomplished pitcher but I’d rather go with Happ for the reduced financial and prospect commitments. The difference in their present day abilities is not that great.

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Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Brett Coomer)

Nice quote of Manager Aaron Boone (courtesy of Bryan Hoch) about Giancarlo Stanton: “He’s getting synced up. He’s getting started a little bit earlier. It’s very subtle but it’s allowing him to get into a strong position.  We’re starting to see the results a little more consistently now.” The best team winning percentage in Major League Baseball and Giancarlo is starting to crank it up. Nice. I should feel badly that Gary Sanchez will spend the next month on the disabled list but I have confidence in Austin Romine to hold the ship while the other bats get hot. No offense to El Gary, but it will be nice to see a few less passed balls in the coming days and weeks. Hopefully the time away will help Gary bring his A-game back when he resumes play next month.

Prior to yesterday’s game when the Yankees placed Sanchez on the disabled list, they also optioned Clint Frazier to Triple A (bummer!) and recalled catcher Kyle Higashioka to back up Romine and added an additional arm with righthander Giovanny Gallegos. I hope Higgy enjoys greater success than last year when he was hitless in 18 at-bats. His bat has gotten off to a slow start in Pennsylvania this year.

Today’s game at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia should be a fantastic one. The Yankees will send their ace (Luis Severino, 11-2, 2.24 ERA) to the mound against former Chicago Cubs ace Jake Arrieta (5-5, 3.42 ERA). Arrieta, a late free agent signing, has started off slowly like so many of the other late signees, but he’s still an ace and a champion. I expect him to raise the level of his game against the mighty Yankees. Top shelf competition which we know Sevy loves dearly. It should be a fun day.

Go Yankees!

Over 26 Need Not Apply…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rich Schultz)

Baby Bombers Power Yanks to Victory…

OK, the winning pitcher and the reliever who picked up the save have celebrated the Big 3-0, but the young bats of Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar and 26-year-old Aaron Judge homered to propel the Yankees to a one-run win over the New York Mets, 4-3, on Saturday.

The game had a bizarre beginning when Aaron Hicks led off with a shot to right that went into the Yankees bullpen through an open door. The potential triple wound up as a ground-rule double thanks to the inattentive unknown individual who left the door open. The Mets got out of the inning when Mets pitcher Steven Matz caught Hicks straying too far from second with two outs and nailed him with a tag out at second to end the inning. Perhaps if he had been on third, the results for the inning (goose egg) would have been different. Fortunately, the Mets would leave the door open for the Yankees to win the game after they scored three runs in the bottom of the first on homers by Todd Frazier and Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera’s hit was a two-run shot after a triple by Brandon Nimmo.

It looked like it was going to be a short outing for Domingo German but he settled down after the rough first inning. He ended up going five more strong innings without allowing anymore runs after the Mets’ uprising in the first. On 96 pitches, he struck out nine batters. He didn’t figure into the decision since he left with the game tied after completing the sixth inning but clearly the Yankees would not have won the game if the 25-year-old German did not shut down the Mets after those early home runs. With the announcement prior to the game that Masahiro Tanaka had been placed on the 10-day DL with the hamstring tightness in both legs, the Yankees need German now more than ever. The way he shook off the early problems showed veteran prowess despite his youth.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Corey Sipkin)

Like Jacob deGrom had done the day before, Steven Matz held the Yanks in check early. Gleyber Torres finally got the Yankees on the board with a solo shot in the top of the third inning to make it a 3-1 game.  In the top of the sixth, after Gary Sanchez had walked with one out, Miguel Andujar, displaying why he, and not the Toddfather nor Brandon Drury for that matter, is the Yankees third baseman, blasted a Matz pitch into the left field stands. The Yankees had knotted the game at three.

Photo Credit: Newsday (Joseph D Sullivan)

David Robertson took over for German in the bottom of the seventh and immediately gave up a lead-off double to Adrian Gonzalez on the first pitch. Fortunately, he retired the next three batters, which included a great defensive play by Didi Gregorius to end the inning, stranding A-Gon at second and leaving the game deadlocked.

The Mets inserted former Yankees reliever Anthony Swarzak to start the top of the eighth inning and he was greeted with a Judgian blast on the first pitch, a shot to left by Aaron Judge to give the Yankees a one-run lead. The Yankees proceeded to get runners at the corners with two outs, but failed to score any further runs when Greg Bird, pinch-hitting for Tyler Austin, grounded out to second.

Bottom of the eighth it was three up and three down by strikeout for Dellin Betances.  Man, oh man, he looks good lately. Earlier this season, I didn’t want Dellin anywhere near the ninth inning but he has restored my confidence in him. A day after Aroldis Chapman had a mound visit by Trainer Steve Donahue for ongoing tendonitis in his knee, I probably would have left Chappy on the bench for this game. I would have held Betances for the ninth after burning D-Rob earlier in the game. Of course, it’s easy to say in hindsight but suffice it say that I am very happy that Betances is becoming a trusted resource once again.

As for Chapman, it was a shaky performance. He walked Jay Bruce to start the ninth, a batter who cannot seem to hit the broad side of a barn this season. He struck out the next two batters including former Toronto villain Jose “Joey Bats” Bautista but a walk of Kevin Plawecki put Bruce in scoring position. Fortunately, the next batter was Jose Reyes, who is struggling to hold his roster spot with the Mets. A liner to right into the waiting glove of Aaron Judge ended the game and handed Chapman his 17th save of the season.

Prior to the season, I didn’t want rookies at second AND third but here we are. Andujar and Torres have clearly proved me wrong.  I still feel bad for Brandon Drury, a player I like, but I am thrilled with the performances of the rookies.  I never expected this kind of power from the very talented Torres who now has 11 homers for the year. The only time he had double-digit homers in the minors was 2016 between two Class A clubs. He certainly never displayed this type of power while he was in the Chicago Cubs organization. I remember being saddened when the Yankees traded Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs. I guess I’ve recovered…and then some. I love this Yankees team and the rookies are at the forefront of the team’s success.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Bill Kostroun)

The Yankees (42-18) maintained their half-game lead over the Boston Red Sox (44-21) in the AL East with the win. The Sox beat the other Sox, 4-2, to keep pace. Hopefully the White Sox can take today’s game.

With the placement of Tanaka on the disabled list, the Yankees recalled utility-man Ronald Torreyes prior to the game. It brought multiple comments of “The cameraman is back!” on Twitter but Toe’s value to the chemistry of the 2018 Yankees cannot be understated. The clubhouse was very happy to see him and it reinforces how this team supports one another.  Toe made it into yesterday’s game as a pinch-hitter for Dellin Betances in the ninth. He grounded out to short, but when his name is called upon the next time, his bat or glove, as always, will be ready. Welcome back, Toe!

Just when I thought Josh Rogers is putting his name into the conversation for spot starter, he threw his second consecutive stinker yesterday for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. After giving up six runs in 1 1/3 innings on June 3rd, Rogers allowed 13 hits and five runs in 4 2/3 innings yesterday as the Louisville Bats coasted past the RailRiders, 9-4, with a 20-hit attack. Many are saying that Jonathan Loaisiga will get the call to make the spot start on Friday but I also think A.J. Cole, the forgotten man on the bench, should get consideration. The Yankees really need to see what they have with Cole. Either they need to give him an opportunity or they need to move on and open his spot for one of the talented young arms in the system ready to take the next step.

The Yankees can sweep the Mets today with our best pitcher (Luis Severino, like I needed to mention his name) on the mound. A good day for baseball and a great day for a victory.

Go Yankees!

Not So Fun Deep in the Heart of Texas…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Richard Rodriguez)

Yanks lose first series since April…

With leads of 4-0 and later 10-5, you do not really expect to lose, but thanks to multiple pitching failures, the Yankees allowed the Texas Rangers to take the final game, 12-10, and win the series, two games to one. It was the first series the Yankees have lost since the Boston Red Sox took two of three from the Yankees on April 10th through 12th.

I keep hearing “don’t blame Sabathia, he is part of the solution, not the problem” but realistically, he’ll be 38 in a couple of months and he is not exactly a physical specimen. Since he held the Cleveland Indians to three hits and no runs over six innings on May 4th, he has averaged slightly under five innings per start (three starts). He has given up 15 runs (13 earned) in 13 1/3 innings pitched including 4 home runs and 7 walks. If CC wants to be part of the solution, he needs to start pitching better. My current confidence level in Sabathia is nowhere near where it was last year.

Yesterday’s game was a microcosm of the problems with both the starting pitching and the bullpen. Losing the 4-0 lead was bad enough, but there was no reason to blow the subsequent five-run lead. David Robertson did not look good. I have been a huge D-Rob fan but he’s pitching his way out of the Bronx right now. If these struggles continue throughout the season, there’s no doubt the Yankees will let him walk away at the end of the year. Of course, it’s all about cause and effect. Sabathia’s early departures put added and unnecessary pressure on the bullpen.

I am not sure why Aaron Boone tries to get more than one inning out of Dellin Betances. It seems like the second inning for Betances never works out in our favor regardless of how sharp he looks in the first inning of relief. Overall, I’ve liked the job Boone has done, but he hasn’t shown the ability to work the bullpen like Joe Girardi did. Girardi had his critics about his handling of the pen but the results were much better or at least I had more confidence in Joe’s ability. I think Boonie will get there and I am certainly not trying to go down a ‘we should have stayed with Joe’ path. I support Boone and like him as the Yankees manager. I was proud of his use of the f-bomb a few times the other night when he was thrown out of his first game as manager.

There were positives in the Texas series.  Namely, Gleyber Torres is a stud. There is literally nothing that the guy cannot do. He may not be the speediest guy on the team but I swear he wears an “S” on his shirt under the uniform.

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It was hard to watch Robinson Cano leave after the 2013 season via free agency. He had been the Yankees best player and it was great to have such a strong player at second base. Then we had to deal with a series of interim players like Brian Roberts and Stephen Drew.  With no disrespect to Starlin Castro, Torres gives us our first legitimate young superstar at the position since Cano left.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Richard Rodriguez)

Giancarlo Stanton’s numbers may be coming around, but I still trust Aaron Judge more.

Neil Walker keeps showing why he should not be the sacrificial lamb when Greg Bird returns. While I’d like the first base pairing of Bird and Tyler Austin, I still feel that it makes more sense to option to Austin to Triple A.  He’ll be needed again at some point.

Glad to see that Didi Gregorius is starting to warm up again. His slump was the worst of his career following his All-World performance and Player of the Month honors in April. The Yankees need Didi if they expect to contend in October.

I try to keep up with the Yankees farm system but I have to say that I was shocked when reliever Ryan Bollinger was added to the 25-man roster yesterday. My first reaction was ‘who?’. I hadn’t really paid much attention to his minor league free agent signing or the stellar work he has done for the Trenton Thunder this year. Since he is not really a “prospect” anymore at the stage of his career (he is 27 after all), I just viewed him as depth for the minor leagues. Honestly, I do not expect him to stay in the Bronx long, not with the impending returns of Tommy Kahnle and Adam Warren. I like what I’ve seen out of A.J. Cole and want him to stick around so it would seem Bollinger will be the odd man out in a few days and a potential DFA candidate if the Yankees need his 40-man roster spot. As for Cole, I’d probably give him a spot start over Domingo German to see what he can do.

Maybe it was because the Yankees were in Dallas, but the past week has brought so much speculation of Cole Hamels to the Yankees at the trading deadline. I do not see it. I like Hamels and I wouldn’t squawk about his presence on the roster.  There are a few guys in the starting rotation that he’d leapfrog. But, realistically, it makes no sense to me. Unless the Rangers are willing to pay significant dollars to pay down his contract, the Yankees would be responsible for the prorated portion of his $22.5 million 2018 salary. The contract has an option for $20 million in 2019. The option becomes guaranteed if Hamels has 400 IP in 2017-18 (he is presently at 206 2/3 innings so he’s unlikely to reach the milestone). The buyout for 2019 is $6 million.  Hamels also has a limited no trade clause that includes the Yankees. So, in order to get the Rangers to pay any dollars toward the contract, the Yankees would have to up the ante in terms of premium prospects. There would be more dollars involved to get Hamels to waive the no-trade. I don’t see how a few months of Hamels would justify the elimination of the majority of the cap space under the luxury tax threshold and the quality prospects that would be lost. Sure, if the Yankees win the World Series as a result, it would be worth it but I just don’t see Hamels as the difference-maker.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Joe Robbins)

I keep hoping the Seattle Mariners start losing now that they’ve lost Robinson Cano and Dee Gordon, but all they’ve done since is win. The M’s are currently riding a five-game winning streak and sit just two games behind the AL West leading Houston Astros. My desire to see the M’s lose is to open their willingness to move James Paxton. However, if they keep winning, there’s no chance.

The best possibility for the starting rotation might be our own Justus Sheffield. He came off the disabled list to pitch four innings of scoreless three-hit ball against the Pawtucket Red Sox yesterday. He struck out five and walked only one batter. Tommy Kahnle may have gotten the win in the 7-1 victory but it was a great limited outing for Sheffield’s return. I personally don’t think we’ll see Sheffield in the Bronx until August or September (if at all this year) but the power to accelerate the time table is certainly within his control. I probably shouldn’t read too much into Sheffield’s fine performance.  Chance Adams threw a one-hitter last week to go with ten strikeouts (to raise my excitement level), yet he followed it up with a stinker against Pawtucket on Tuesday (five runs and three walks in three innings of work).

With last night’s disappointing loss, the Yankees have fallen 1 ½ games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East. Boston wraps up their series with the Tampa Bay Rays today, so they could hold a two-game advantage entering play on Friday. The first half schedule for the Red Sox has been so generous for them.

For the Yankees, I am glad to see the road trip end. With the washout of the games in Washington, they finished the trip with a 3-3 record despite hitting three home runs or more in five straight games for the first time in franchise history. The road trip also included extended flight delays and sleeping at airports. Their flight last night was delayed for mechanical reasons and they didn’t get off the ground this morning until about 5:30 am Eastern. Fortunately, today is an off day, but they’ve certainly dealt with more than their share of adversity this trip. Hopefully, the Yankees will be rested and ready to play when they meet the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Yankee Stadium tomorrow night.

Go Yankees!

Time to Improve is Now…

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Julie Jacobson)

Please End the Battle of .500…

We are two-thirds the way through April and the Yankees are only one game above .500. Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox are winning at an amazing .889 clip.

Remember back in January and early February when we were so excited about the dynamic Yankees offense featuring the NL MVP and everyone said that the Yankees pitching staff was better than any potential replacements? Or how the Red Sox had no offense to go with their solid pitching rotation? Yeah, I miss those days.

Three weeks into the season and things are not quite as rosy. Yes, it’s a long season and much can happen between now and the end of September. I keep waiting for the silver lining to appear but sadly, so far anyway, the Boston Red Sox continue to devastate their opposition. Absolute annihilation might be more descriptive. It feels like HBO’s Game of Thrones and Red Sox manager Alex Cora is the Night King with an ice dragon and an army of the undead at his disposal.

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Hitting

.292/.362/.496, .859 OPS, 24 Home Runs, 109 RBIs, 323 Total Bases

.249/.343/.438, .781 OPS, 23 Home Runs, 92 RBIs, 260 Total Bases

Pitching

2.63 ERA, 127 Hits, 10 home runs, 1.09 WHIP

4.47 ERA, 145 Hits, 18 home runs, 1.27 WHIP

Fielding

.992 Fielding Percentage, 5 Team Errors

.971 Fielding Percentage, 18 Team Errors

It’s easy to look at the above numbers and recognize that the team with the top line is superior to the lower line team. I guess it’s little wonder why the Yankees trail the Boston Red Sox by six and a half games and it’s still only April (allegedly, according to my calendar).

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The team fielding is the most horrific stat since the Yankees are the worst team in Major League Baseball and the Red Sox are the second best, trailing only the Arizona Diamondbacks. It’s starting to feel like the Yankees are going to give away runs every game with their defense.

The law of averages say that the Yankees will improve their numbers while the Red Sox should cool off, but for the first three weeks of the season, Boston has been in a sprint. The Los Angeles Angels got off to a great start this year. When their series against Boston (at home) started on Tuesday, the Angels were 13-3. Three games later, when the Red Sox finally left Anaheim, the Angels had fallen to 13-6. They were decimated by a combined score of 27-3 over the course of the three games series sweep by the Red Sox. The Red Sox Nation is gloating and it sucks.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press

The Yankees have won three of four after last night’s 4-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, although the sting of the drubbing by the Miami Marlins on Wednesday night still hurts. Even though the Yankees did hang on Thursday evening for the one-run win, they gave two runs away and David Robertson walked a precarious tightrope in the 8th inning when the Jays loaded the bases with a couple of hits and walks and only one out. It was incredible that he emerged from the inning allowing only one run on a single by his former Yankees teammate Curtis Granderson. No offense to Dellin Betances (who pitched decently in the seventh inning), but it seems like if it had been Dellin in the eighth with the bases juiced, the Jays would have scored a plethora of runs. D-Rob’s performance (cleaning up his own mess in the face of great adversity) is one reason I hope the Yankees re-sign him in the off-season. I have far greater trust in Robertson as the setup man for Aroldis Chapman than I do Betances. By the way, it was very nice to see Chapman strike out the side in the ninth inning to preserve the win. It was a win but one that could have very easily gotten away from us.

Something’s got to give. At some point, Giancarlo Stanton is going to hit and he’ll carry the team on his back. I have no doubts about it but how deep is the hole going to be before it happens. That’s my biggest concern.  If the Red Sox play .550 baseball the rest of the way, they are a 95-win team. The Yankees need to improve their hitting, pitching and defense now, not later. The Yankees can’t let the Red Sox run away and hide with the AL East championship. Otherwise, we’re back into the one-game ‘do or die’ situation, assuming that the Yankees can grab one of the Wild Card slots.

There are 145 games left to play. Let’s make the most of them.

The Yankees re-signed first baseman Adam Lind this week to a minor league contract, most likely as a hedge against the health of Greg Bird and the sustained play of Tyler Austin. I don’t see how Lind will be ready to play when Austin begins serving his five-game suspension (or three or four games, whatever it turns out to be after the appeal is heard). I kind of wish Austin had started serving his suspension immediately. Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies received his five-game suspension after Austin and he has already finished serving his time.  With the Yankees only one game into a brutal 18-day consecutive game stretch against some of the best teams in baseball, it sucks that we’ll have to feature Neil Walker as the starting first baseman for a chunk of the games.

At this point, I can only say Thank God for Aaron Judge and Didi Gregorius. I am not sure where the Yankees would be without those two guys. The rest of the team should feel free to raise the level of their game to match the two young Yankees superstars. It starts tonight.  Sonny Gray, this is your wake up call. Pitch like we know you can. That’s all we ask.

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Photo Credit: MLB.com

I hate to keep using Daniel Burch’s line, but it’s never been more appropriate. Need a win…get a win.

Maybe one of these days I can wake up happy and cheerful like Daniel.

Go Yankees!

Always Sonny in Yankee Stadium…

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Adam Hunger)

Yesterday was a much better day… 

If the Yankees can win again today, it will be even better. After losing the first two games of the four-game set with the Baltimore Orioles, the Yankees have a chance to even up the series this afternoon before the Orioles hop on a plane to head home.

In one of the most overused phrases in the Yankees Universe, Saturday was a Sonny Day.  Sonny Gray gave the Yankees what they needed en route to the 8-3 victory. He held the O’s to four hits over six innings. He did give up a tying two-run double to Manny Machado in top of the third and a go-ahead run-scoring double to Pedro Alvarez the next inning, but from there, he held the Orioles in check. By the time he had exited after the sixth inning, Gray had only thrown 86 pitches (55 for strikes) and felt he could have kept going.

For a few minutes, it looked like the move to pull Gray and insert RHP Adam Warren for the top of the seventh might backfire on Manager Aaron Boone. Warren got the first batter out but proceeded to give up a single and a double to put runners at the corners. Enter David Robertson into the dangerous situation with the Yankees nursing a two-run lead. D-Rob did what he does best. He struck out Manny Machado (admittedly on a questionable call) and Jonathan Schoop to leave the runners stranded and get the Yankees out of the jam. Robertson shutting down the Orioles at that point and keeping the momentum with the Yankees was a very powerful moment in the game. In the bottom half of the seventh, Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin padded the lead with three more runs…a run-scoring double by Judge and a two-run single by Austin (thrown out trying to stretch the single into a double but not before both runs had scored).

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Adam Hunger)

I was a little nervous when Luis Cessa entered the game in the top of the ninth despite the five-run lead, but he did his job. This is why I prefer Cessa in relief so that hitters do not get multiple looks at him. He retired all three batters he faced, two by strikeout. I remain hopeful that Domingo German will be the designated spot starter in place of the injured CC Sabathia.

Congrats to Miguel Andujar for his first 2018 hit…a single to center to lead off the bottom of the second inning. Andujar was 1-for-3 and knocked in the run that gave the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth. It would be great for the Yankees if Andujar can start hitting like we know he can.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Paul J Bereswill)

Also, nice job by Jace Peterson. He played Friday night in the season opener for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, got a call at 2 am Saturday morning telling him that he needed to be in New York for the 1:05 pm ET game on Saturday, and was game ready in the Bronx, starting in left field. The infielder with limited outfield experience made some good plays and was 1-for-3. Peterson’s time in the Bronx should be short with the expected return of Aaron Hicks by mid-week, but I am glad to see him take advantage of the opportunity.

The World always feels better, despite its many problems, when the Yankees win.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

They kept pace with the Boston Red Sox and remain 2 1/2 games behind the Beantown Bunch in the AL East standings. The Toronto Blue Jays lost so the Yankees (5-4) were able to move into a tie for second place. Hopefully the Yankees can make it two in a row this afternoon before the team departs for Boston. Monday is an off-day, then they’ll play the Red Sox at Fenway Park for a three-game series beginning Tuesday evening. The Red Sox have Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello lined up and waiting for the Yankees.

I still haven’t figured out the 40-man roster following Saturday’s flurry of transactions.  Excluding Ben Heller who is on the 60-day DL (more on Heller later), I count a total of 41 players on the 40-man roster reflected on MLB.com’s website. I am sure there’s a reasonable explanation but so far I have not seen one addressed.

The Ben Heller story took an unexpected turn yesterday. Before the season started, the Yankees had optioned Heller to Triple A. Then it was announced that the option had been voided and Heller was placed on the 10-day DL due to bone spurs in his pitching elbow. He was subsequently moved to the 60-day DL. Yesterday morning, Ben posted a pic on social media, talking about how his old elbow had served him well but it was time for a new one.

Later in the day, it was announced that Heller had undergone Tommy John surgery in addition to the removal of the bone spurs. I didn’t see this one coming. Heller had been my expected bullpen breakout this year, but now, the Yankees won’t see him until mid-2019 at the earliest assuming that they hold him a spot on the 40-man roster over the off-season. That’s not a given as the Yankees have cut the last couple of arms which required TJ surgery (Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob Lindgren). Perhaps the goal was to re-sign them to minor league contracts outside of the 40-man roster but both times the moves failed as the pitchers signed with other organizations. Good moves with both of those pitchers due to subsequent surgeries which keep them sidelined but who knows what awaits Heller. I wish him the very best in his recovery and rehab and I truly hope he achieves the Major League success he seems destined for. I’d prefer to see it in Pinstripes but I will cheer for him regardless of what uniform he wears next time he takes the mound.

I am disappointed with the developments regarding third baseman Brandon Drury. I was such a fan of the trade that brought the former Arizona Diamondback to New York. It was one thing for Drury to be placed on the 10-day DL with migraine headaches yesterday but to subsequently find out that this is an on-going problem that has afflicted Drury for years was a shock.  Not that I want to be critical of GM Brian Cashman, but how did the Yankees not know about this?  Drury has exams scheduled for tomorrow so hopefully we’ll know more soon. I am hopeful that this is not a long-term problem or in Drury’s case, a life-threatening one. I am concerned but hopefully we’ll have better news tomorrow or later in the week.

I know many fans would love to see the Yankees sign pending free agent Bryce Harper in the off-season but with each loss, the pressure is on the Los Angeles Dodgers to make impact moves. They’ll need to do whatever it takes to keep Clayton Kershaw, but I fully expect the Dodgers to be in play for Harper. The Dodgers lost a heart-breaking fourteen-inning game to the San Francisco Giants last night after they had taken a one-run lead on a walk-off three-run homer by Andrew McCutcheon. The loss dropped the Dodgers, an expected World Series contender, to 2-6. It is their worst start since 1976. The Dodgers were Giancarlo Stanton’s preferred destination last off-season since he is a Los Angeles native. I am glad the Dodgers weren’t aggressive in pursuit of Stanton, leading the big man to New York, but underachievement this season will make the Dodgers desperate to make a big splash next year. Like the Yankees, the Dodgers are trying to reset the luxury tax penalties this season so if successful they’ll have the cash to spend big. LA is close to Harper’s Las Vegas home so all signs are pointing to the Dodgers as the slugger’s eventual new home.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rob Carr)

Well, it will be Gumby-Time in a couple of hours. Here’s hoping for another win by the home team. Austin Romine makes his second consecutive start in place of Gary Sanchez who was pulled for a leg cramp during Friday night’s loss.  I am optimistic the rest will help El Gary recapture his health and ignite his bat.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

Go Yankees!