Tagged: David Robertson

Dancing Among The Legends…

Credit:  Getty Images

Yankees 2, Blue Jays 1…

It may not have resulted in the AL East championship, but CC Sabathia gave the Yankees what they needed to propel the team to the narrow victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon. Give credit to the Yankees for making the Boston Red Sox earn the division title and not handing it to them. This was a game for the ages, raising the names of Whitey Ford and Babe Ruth…

Sabathia locked into a pitching battle with Toronto’s Marcus Stroman for the first few innings. The game was scoreless until the bottom of the 4th when Aaron Judge belted a monster blast over the left field seats (484 feet) for his 52nd home run of the year.  All Rise!

Credit:  Jim McIsaac-Getty Images

But the Yankees weren’t finished. Didi Gregorius hit a one-out single to left, a ball that nearly grazed the top of the glove of Blue Jays shortstop Ryan Goins. While Starlin Castro was taking his hacks at Stroman, a wild pitch got away from catcher Russell Martin (a bouncer through his legs) allowing Didi to advance to second. With the count full, Castro singled to center, past a diving Ryan Goins who barely got a piece of his glove on the ball, to score Gregorius. The Yankees were up, 2-0.

The Blue Jays changed pitchers for the bottom of the 5th with reliever Aaron Loup replacing Stroman. Loup walked two of the first three batters he faced (the two Aarons) to put Hicks in scoring position, but the Blue Jays pulled Loup and inserted Carlos Ramirez who shut down Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius on a strikeout and fly out, respectively.  

The top of the 6th brought a little drama and memories of the Jeffrey Maier incident years ago the then 12-year-old reached out to catch Derek Jeter’s fly in Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS and Jeter was awarded a home run. With one out, Ryan Goins got a hold of a Sabathia pitch and sent it high to right. Momentarily, it appeared to be a home run but replayed showed a young fan reaching out to catch the ball. The play was reviewed but the call on the field (ground-rule double due to fan interference) was upheld. Goins took second and the fan was shown the exit. Sabathia struck out Teoscar Hernandez for the second out but with Josh Donaldson on deck, CC’s day was done. Chad Green came into the game and got Donaldson to hit a fly to left for the final out. The shutout remained intact much to the delight of Sabathia. Sabathia finished with 5 2/3 innings pitched, and giving up only four hits with no runs or walks. He struck out six in what may have been his final Yankees regular season start.    

Credit:  Bill Kostroun-AP

Tommy Kahnle took over for Green in the top of the 8th and unfortunately gave his best impersonation of Dellin Betances (the bad version). The first batter he faced, Ezequiel Carrera, hit a soft dribbler on the third base side and beat the throw from Kahnle to first. Miguel Montero, pinch-hitting for Rob Refsnyder, drew a walk so the Blue Jays had the tying run on base. Kahnle was pulled and replaced with David Robertson. Ryan Goins struck out but D-Rob missed with a full count fastball to walk Teoscar Hernandez. The bases were loaded with only one out. Josh Donaldson hit a fly to left for the second out, with Carrera coming home to score on the sacrifice. Brett Gardner had to run to make the catch as the wind pulled it back, and his throw to the plate almost nailed Carrera but Gary Sanchez couldn’t hold on to the ball. 

Credit:  Bill Kostroun-AP

Robertson came through big when he struck out Justin Smoak swinging to preserve the Yankee lead by the slim one-run margin.

Aroldis Chapman on the for the 9th inning and it was 1-2-3 game over with Starlin Castro running to his left to catch Darwin Barney’s line drive for the final out. The Yankees win!

Credit:  Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees (91-70) saw their hopes for the AL East title dashed in the clubhouse when the Boston Red Sox completed their 6-3 victory over the Houston Astros. David Price got the Sox out of a bases-loaded jam in the 7th inning. Former Yankee Brian McCann did his part with a homer in the 9th inning but it wasn’t enough. The Yankees will host the AL Wild Card Game against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night. The winner will advance to play the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS. The Red Sox will continue their current series with the Houston Astros in their ALDS matchup, moving from Boston to Houston for Game 1.

Congratulations to CC Sabathia (14-5) for his successful season. I know that I had given up hope for the aging pitcher, like many fans, but he showed that he is capable of reinventing himself ala Andy Pettitte. The win was Sabathia’s 237th of his career, passing the legendary Whitey Ford. 

Credit:  Reuters

The troublesome knee is still a concern but CC Sabathia earned his right to be part of the 2018 Yankees. Hopefully, the team and the player can come together for a mutually rewarding contract in the off-season.  

Credit:  Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Judge will most likely not play today so if that’s the case, he finishes with a .284 batting average, 52 home runs and 114 RBI’s. His homer was the 33rd of the year at home, breaking the franchise record set by none other than the immortal George Herman “Babe” Ruth in 1921. It’s been an incredible season for the highly talented young slugger. First full season and he’s rubbing shoulders with the greatest  of the greats in franchise history.

 

Odds & Ends…

Andrew Romine of the Detroit Tigers became the fifth player to play all nine positions in a Major League game. To play catcher, he used a ‘hand me down’ glove courtesy of his brother Austin. Romine pitched in the bottom of the 8th inning with the Tigers nursing a 3-2 lead over the Minnesota Twins. He retired the only batter he faced, Miguel Sano, on a ground out to third. He handled all of his defensive chances cleanly. A very nice accomplishment for Austin’s older brother.  

Credit:  Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

There was a nice Twitter exchange between Aaron Judge and Marcus Stroman after yesterday’s game.  

Stroman:  @TheJudge44 is creating history. He hits baseballs extremely far too. Lol looking forward to competing against him the rest of my career!

Judge:  Much respect @MStrooo6!! Love your fire and passion for this game!! Keep that chip on your shoulder!! 👊👊

Stroman:  Always my man. The future battles will be legendary. Good luck in the playoffs young king!

Personally, I would rather see these two become Yankee teammates…

Have a great Sunday! The final game of the regular season. Let’s bring home a victory in preparation for Tuesday. Go Yankees!

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Slamming the Door, The Tale of Tanaka to Chapman…

Credit:  Julie Jacobson-AP

Yankees 4, Blue Jays 0…

I ripped Masahiro Tanaka for his last start and he looked at me and said “F-U!” with his latest performance. I love it! Outside of Dellin Betances, I liked everything about this game as the Yankees took down the Jays for their 90th win of the season on Friday afternoon.

While many people were speculating about whether this was Masahiro Tanaka’s final regular season start wearing a Yankees uniform, Masa-hero came out strong. I always like to use the first inning as a barometer and Tanaka was firing on all cylinders, striking out the side on thirteen pitches.

In the bottom of the first, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a one-out single through the hole to shallow left field off Blue Jays starter Joe Biagini. With Aaron Judge at the plate, Ellsbury stole second for his 22nd stolen base of the year. Judge ended up taking a walk anyway. Didi Gregorius was next and he singled to right on a looper that dropped in front of right fielder Michael Saunders to load the bases.  Starlin Castro hit a soft grounder between third and the pitching mound, and Biagini had no play by the time he got to the ball. Ellsbury scored on the play.  Greg Bird’s sacrifice fly to deep center scored Judge. It was the seventh consecutive game with a RBI for Greg Bird who has gone from a season afterthought to one of its prime performers in a matter of just a few weeks since he returned from the disabled list.  

Credit:  Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Chase Headley struck out to end the inning but the Yankees had a 2-0 lead.  

Tanaka held the Blue Jays hitless through two outs in the top of the 5th inning, when Ezequiel Carrera hit a grounder to second. Starlin Castro went hard after the ball, crashing his knee against the ground, but his throw was not in time to get Carrera at first. With Raffy Lopez batting, Carrera stole second. However, Tanaka got out of the inning when he turned to fire a perfect strike to Didi Gregorius at second to nail Carrera who was trying to dive back to the base. 

Austin Romine led off the bottom of the 5th with a single over the second baseman’s head into right center. Romine was forced out at second when Aaron Hicks hit a grounder to second but Hicks was safe at first. With Jacoby Ellsbury at bat, Hicks stole second. Jacoby Ellsbury lined out to first for the second out.  Aaron Judge followed with a single to left, scoring Hicks. Blue Jays catcher was up the line for the outfield throw so there was no play at the plate but they got Judge between first and second for the final out.  

Ryan Goins picked up the Blue Jays’ second hit off Tanaka in the 6th, a single to center that dropped in front of Jacoby Ellsbury, but Tanaka was still mowing hitters down so Goins didn’t go anywhere when Tanaka struck out the side again. Thirteen strikeouts through six innings for Tanaka.  Incredible.  

Matt Dermody replaced Biagini in the bottom of the 6th inning. Didi Gregorius led off with a single to left. With Starlin Castro batting, Didi Gregorius stole second on what appeared to be third strike on Castro. However, Joe Girardi came out with the argument that it was a foul tip. The umps agreed with Girardi, and Didi returned to first base with Castro coming back to the plate.    Two pitches later, the outcome was the same. Castro swung at the third strike but Didi successfully stole second. Next, Greg Bird (rapidly becoming one of the Yankees best post-trading deadline “acquisitions”) drilled a line drive single off the wall in the right field corner to score Gregorius. Danny Barnes entered the game in relief of Dermody and induced Chase Headley to hit into an inning-ending double play, but no matter, the Yankees had increased their lead to 4-0.

Tanaka allowed one more hit, a double down the line into the left field corner by Josh Donaldson in the top of the 7th, for a total of three. Donaldson got as far as third on a ground out, but Tanaka retired the next three batters in order including two by strikeout to end the inning and his time in the game. He finished with fifteen strikeouts to go with no hits, no runs, and no walks.  It was simply an outstanding performance by Tanaka. If this was his final regular season start as a Yankee, thank you very much. It was a masterpiece to remember.

Credit:  Julie Jacobson-AP

David Robertson pitched the 8th inning. It started with the first walk by a Yankees pitcher in the game, but the runner was erased on a beautiful double play. Raffy Lopez hit a grounder to Greg Bird at first. Bird threw to Didi Gregorius for the force at second. Didi’s throw back to first hooked out but Bird sprawled out on the ground for the catch with his right foot still on the bag.  Excellent defensive play by Bird. D-Rob struck out Ryan Goins to end the inning.  

The 9th inning was not quite as much fun…at least not at the start. Dellin Betances came in with a chance to prove he has finally righted the ship. Richard Urena had other ideas and led off with a single to right, a one hop off the wall.  With Teoscar Hernandez at the plate, a Betances pitch went off Austin Romine’s glove for a passed ball on the catcher. Urena moved to second. Betances ended up walking Hernandez and all you could do was shake your head. End of Betances, who is running out of time to prove that he can be trusted with late inning relief again. I hate to say it, given my disdain for the man, but Dellin is proving Yankees president Randy Levine was right for his critical comments about Betances after the reliever’s arbitration hearing in the off-season.  

Credit:  Abbie Parr-Getty Images

Enter Aroldis Chapman. Man, oh, Man, I am so happy this guy is the Missile again. He struck out Josh Donaldson on three pitches for the first out. Jose Bautista hit a grounder to short and the Yankees were able to force Hernandez out at second but they couldn’t turn the double play when the ball went over Greg Bird’s head. The ball bounced back so Urena had to hold at third. With Rob Refsnyder batting, Bautista took second on defensive indifference. Chapman laid three 100+ mph fastballs across the plate for Refsnyder, with the last pitch hitting 102 mph. Three swings and misses by the former Yankee. Game over. Yankees win!

The Yankees (90-70) looked like a playoff team in this game. They picked up a game on the Boston Red Sox, who lost 3-2 to the Houston Astros at Fenway Park. The Yankees trail the Sox by two games with two to play. I don’t expect the Yankees to catch the Red Sox but they’ve certainly made it interesting these final days of the season.  

Mike Axisa had a great tweet after the game about Tanaka pitching on seven days rest: “One day it will be acknowledged that Tanaka does not actually pitch better on extra rest. Today is not that day.”

Odds & Ends…

Brad Ausmus became the first managerial casualty when it was announced earlier this week that he would not be retained after the season by the Detroit Tigers. I can still remember being disappointed when the Colorado Rockies chose Ausmus, a catcher, in the 1992 Expansion Draft out of the Yankees farm system. Of course, I didn’t really know anything about a guy named Jorge Posada at the time. The latest non-returnee is Pete Mackanin of the Philadelphia Phillies. After the season, Mackanin will become a special assistant to Phillies GM Matt Klentak. As a rebuilding team, I thought that Mackanin would be back but apparently the Phillies leadership team felt otherwise. Two managerial job openings and counting although it’s been widely speculated that Terry Collins of the Mets will not return. So make it three…

The Minnesota Twins have activated their best hitter, 3B Miguel Sano, off the disabled list. Sano was placed on the DL in August when he fouled a ball off his left shin. Sano will have the weekend to get ready for next Tuesday’s Wild Card game.

Credit:  Bill Kostroun-AP

Tonight, I will be at Coors Field to watch Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers take on the Colorado Rockies. It will be Kershaw’s final appearance of the regular season as he tunes up for his NLDS Game 1 start next week. This will be the first time I get to see Cody Bellinger play in person.  It should be a great game. As a former Los Angeles resident, I have so missed the ability to go to Dodger Stadium on a regular basis.  

Have a great Saturday! My only request for today is a Pinstriped victory! Go Yankees!

I Get My Hicks Above The Fenceline, Sunshine…

Credit:  Jim McIsaac-Getty Images

Yankees 6, Rays 1…

Tuesday night, Aaron Hicks found himself back in the starting lineup after his latest stint on the disabled list. Not a moment too soon as A-A-Ron sparked the Yankees to victory with his superior catch in the first inning.

The game didn’t start so well for young Mr Jordan Montgomery. Kevin Kiermaier got the game started with a single up the middle to center field. Stephen Souza, Jr singled through the hole at short into shallow left field. Montgomery had Evan Longoria on a full count but lost him with Ball Four. The bases were loaded full of Rays with no outs. Monty finally struck out Logan Morrison to secure the first out. Wilson Ramos was up next and he blasted a shot over the center field wall for a grand slam…no, wait…Aaron Hicks with the spectacular over the fence catch for the second out!  Kiermaier tagged and scored on the play. I am not a math major but I’ll take a 1-0 deficit over 4-0 any day. Montgomery struck out Adeiny Hechavarria, who has seemed to feast on Yankees pitching this year, to end the inning. Whew! Monty and the Yankees dodged a major bullet.

The Yankees had two runners on base in the bottom of the 1st inning, courtesy of walks by Rays starter Blake Snell, but they were unable to score.  

The top of the 2nd went more smoothly for Montgomery as he set down the Rays in order…three up, three down.  No drama…just the way I like it.

In the bottom of the inning, Starlin Castro led off with a home run into the  left field bleachers to tie the game.  Star-light, Star-bright!

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The inning continued as consecutive singles by Todd Frazier, Clint Frazier and Ronald Torreyes loaded the bases. Aaron Hicks picked up the go-ahead RBI when he took a walk to bring the Toddfather home. Next up, Aaron Judge walked on four pitches to bring Red Thunder home. The Yankees were up, 3-1. The Rays pulled Snell, who hadn’t lost a game since late July, and replaced him with Chaz Roe. Gary Sanchez lined out to first, with Judge staying put, but the Rays caught Hicks off second (he couldn’t get back in time) to complete the double play. With Matt Holliday batting, Judge stole second so the Yankees had runners at second and third. Roe uncorked a wild pitch that got by Wilson Ramos all the way to the backstop, and Torreyes ran home with the fourth run of the inning. Judge moved to third but he was left stranded when Holliday flied out to center.

Jordan Montgomery kept the Rays off the board through the 6th inning and turned the game over to the bullpen in the 7th. Tommy Kahnle was up first and he retired the Rays in order, including the last two by strikeout. David Robertson took over in the 8th. He walked the first batter, Stephen Souza, Jr, but the runner did not advance past first base as D-Rob retired the next three Rays.

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

In the bottom of the 8th, with Rays reliever Austin Pruitt on the mound, Ronald Torreyes drew a one-out walk. While Brett Gardner was at bat, a wild pitch allowed Toe to move to second. Gardy grounded out to second, advancing Toe  to third. Aaron Judge walked to put runners at the corners. After a brief delay that saw Home Plate Umpire Dan Bellino toss a fan for tipping pitches, Gary Sanchez singled on a fly that dropped in front of center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (to my surprise) which brought Toe home to score. Matt Holliday reached on an infield single to short that Adeiny Hechavarria wasn’t able to field cleanly (made a running stop on the grounder in shallow left but the ball dropped out of his glove) allowing Sanchez to slide safely into second just ahead of the throw. Judge scored on the play and the Yankees had increased their lead to 6-1. Chase Headley grounded out, back to the pitcher, but the Yankees took the five run lead to the 9th.

Dellin Betances, who I thought should have pitched in Monday’s win over the Royals, entered the game in the non-save situation. A ground out and two fly outs on seven pitches, Game over. I was very glad to see a clean (and short) outing by Betances. The Yankees win!

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees (88-69) picked up another game on the Boston Red Sox with the win. The Sox lost to the Toronto Blue Jays for the second consecutive day. The Blue Jays won the game, 9-4, behind J.A. Happ. The loser for the Sox was Chris Sale, a loss that might tilt the AL Cy Young Award toward Cleveland’s Corey Kluber. The Yankees trail the Sox by three games with five to play. The Yankees secured home-field advantage for the Wild Card game with the win although they have not given up on the AL East championship. The Minnesota Twins won yesterday, 8-6 over the Cleveland Indians, and lead the second Wild Card spot by five games over the Los Angeles Angels.  

It was a great rebound by Jordan Montgomery (9-7). Lately, it has seemed like most of his struggles happen early. The Rays could have changed the complexion of the game with a first inning grand slam but Monty persevered after the incredible catch by Aaron Hicks. In six innings of work, he scattered six hits to hold the Rays to the single first inning run. He walked only one batter (the first inning walk of Evan Longoria), and struck out five.  The dude looks to be a strong piece for the rotation in 2018.
Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Hats off, again, to the Bullpen with three hitless innings of relief.
Starlin Castro was 3-for-3, including the second inning home run. It’s great to see him hitting again and just in time! No home runs for Aaron Judge after two consecutive multi-homer days, but he was in the mix with a run batted in, his 109th, thanks to the bases loaded walk and a run scored.
Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Odds & Ends…
I attended a few games at Target Field in Minneapolis, MN several years ago so, apparently, I am still on the Minnesota Twins mailing list. I received the notice that the Twins’ American League Division Series tickets go on sale on Thursday beginning at 10 a.m. CT. A bit of wishful thinking of their part. Hopefully, the Yankees can ensure those tickets are never used.
The Rays have made a pitching change for the series finale on Thursday. Alex Cobb had been the scheduled starter. With their season nearing its end, Rays manager Kevin Cash decided that Cobb had reached his season innings limit (179 innings in 2017 after only 22 in 2016). Jacob Faria (5-4, 3.33 ERA) will get the start versus Sonny Gray.
Have a great Wednesday! I’d like a win and maybe a couple of Aaron Judge home runs today, please. Go Yankees!

Mr McGwire, I Believe You Have My Seat…

Credit:  Adam Hunger-Getty Images

Yankees 11, Royals 3…

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

Oh yeah, they played a game too…

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

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

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

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

Credit:  Seth Wenig-AP

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

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

Credit:  Seth Wenig-AP

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit:  Robert Sabo

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

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

Thumbs down, Guys! This was a wonderful win!

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

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

Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:

TODAY

Rays:  Blake Snell (4-6, 4.01 ERA)

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

WEDNESDAY

Rays:  Matt Andriese (5-4, 4.44 ERA)

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

THURSDAY

Rays:  Alex Cobb (12-10, 3.66 ERA)

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

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

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

Odds & Ends…

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

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

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

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

Bye-Bye Birdie, Hello Playoffs…

Credit:  Tom Szczerbowski-Getty Images

Yankees 5, Blue Jays 1…

What a difference a day makes! Put Sonny Gray on the mound, give him a few runs and all is better in the world as the Yankees beat the Blue Jays and secured a post-season berth.  

On paper, Sonny Gray versus Joe Biagini seems like a mismatch. But early, Biagini was the better pitcher. Biagini breezed through the first three innings facing only the minimum number of batters (thanks to a double play in the second inning which eliminated the only Yankee baserunner). Meanwhile, Gray had a runner in scoring position in the first inning (which he escaped) and then allowed a third inning home run to Teoscar Hernandez which gave the Blue Jays the early 1-0 lead. Hernandez absolutely crushed the ball high into the center field stands. It was his second home run against Yankees in as many days.

The Yankees finally broke through against Biagini in the fifth inning. Chase Headley led off the inning with a walk. While Jacoby Ellsbury was batting, Headley successfully stole second. Ells subsequently struck out, but Starlin Castro followed by taking the second walk of the inning. Greg Bird, with a beautiful swing, homered to right center. As John Sterling said, “Bye-bye, Birdie! In the right field seats…the Birdman of New York…and the Yankees promptly take the 3-1 lead”.  

Gray was cruising until the sixth inning when he had trouble throwing strikes and had two men on base with free passes with only one out. Kevin Pillar lined a sharp fly to left center on a ball that looked like it might have a chance to drop in but a great running catch by Brett Gardner prevented the potential extra base hit. Gray retired the next  batter, Ryan Goins, on a ground out to get out of the inning.  

Credit:  Tom Szczerbowski-Getty Images

For Gray, his day was done. Chad Green came in for the bottom of the seventh, and did what he does best. Three up, three down…two by strikeout. C-Green will certainly help the Yankees see green (the money) in October.  

Credit:  Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Todd Frazier added an insurance run in the top of the eighth when he hit a solo home run over the center field wall. 4-1, Yankees. David Robertson took over in the bottom of the eighth and repeated Green’s performance…three batters, two strikeouts. Wash, rinse, repeat…it works for me.

On to the top of the ninth and the Yankees weren’t done. Gary Sanchez led off the inning with a double off the center field wall. Kevin Pillar went to the wall and got his glove on the ball but surprisingly, for Pillar given his strong defense, wasn’t able to make the catch. Gary Sanchez hesitated as if he thought the ball was either caught or out of the park but then ran safely to second after realizing it was in play. Moral of the story, always hustle. Chase Headley reached on a one-out walk, but he was erased when Jacoby Ellsbury hit into a fielder’s choice that erased Headley at second. But Sanchez was able to move to third. So, runners at the corners and two outs for Starlin Castro.  Castro hit a slow infield grounder that got past the pitcher. Third baseman Josh Donaldson charged the ball but couldn’t make the transfer. Runners safe as Sanchez crossed the plate for the Yankees’ final run.

Aroldis Chapman took over in the bottom of the 9th. He didn’t have the strikeouts of his two predecessors, but he still retired the three batters he faced in the non-save situation for the win. It was appropriate the final out was recorded by former Yankee Robert Refsnyder, pinch-hitting for Ryan Goins, when he hit a grounder to first with Greg Bird stepping on the bag to end the game. The Yankees win!

Credit:  Fred Thornill-AP

The Yankees (86-68) were business-like on the field with hugs and high-fives after the game, but pandemonium broke loose in the clubhouse as the Yankees celebrated their first post-season appearance since 2015.

Credit:  Tom Szczerbowski-Getty Images

Credit:  Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the win, they were unable to make up any ground on the Red Sox and remain four games behind in the AL East. Boston defeated the hapless Cincinnati Reds, 5-0, in a game that featured an inning of relief by Reds reliever Luke Farrell, son of Red Sox manager John Farrell. It would have been poetic justice for the younger Farrell to beat his pop but it was not meant to be.  The Yankees also remain 5 1/2 games up on the Minnesota Twins for home-field advantage in the Wild Card game. The Twins haven’t secured their WC spot yet but they continue to win and presently hold a commanding 4 1/2 game edge over the Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals, and Los Angeles Angels.  

Sonny Gray (10-11) showed what Masahiro Tanaka did not. When the stakes are high, raise the level of your play. Gray may not have had his best stuff on Saturday but he held the Blue Jays to four hits and one run in six innings. He walked three, but that was primarily the two he walked in the sixth when he was tiring. He struck out four.  

Excellent job by the Bullpen. Three innings, no hits, no runs, four strikeouts.  The Bullpen is the October difference-maker. If the Yankees can only get Dellin Betances right, you have to like the team’s late inning chances against the game’s best teams.     

Odds & Ends…

Magic Numbers:  The Yankees magic number to clinch home-field advantage for the Wild Card game is three (any combination of Yankees wins or Twins losses). The more impossible reach (AL East Championship) stands at five games (any combination of Red Sox wins or Yankees losses). With eight games remaining, the Red Sox do not play a team with a winning record until they entertain the Houston Astros at Fenway Park starting Thursday for the final series of the season. Even then, it’s possible that the Astros won’t have anything left to play for if the Cleveland Indians secure home field advantage for the play-offs. In other words, I don’t see the Red Sox losing anytime soon.

It does seem weird to have a champagne (and beer) celebration for the right to play one game that may or may not be won by the best team. I know, it’s better to have some chance than no chance. I personally do not buy into the Yankees’ dominance of the Twins as reason for optimism. Too much can happen with a single game and a bad start by the likely starter, Luis Severino, can send the Bombers home for the winter. My excitement will come if the Yankees can win that single game to advance to the expanded play-offs against the division winners.  

Luis Severino was struck by a batted ball before yesterday’s game. He was in the outfield playing catch during pre-game warmups when he was hit in the shoulder. The ball was believed to have been hit by Blue Jays catcher Luke Maile. Sevy dropped to the stadium turf but was able to get up to resume playing catch after being checked out by head athletic trainer Steve Donohue.  Fortunately, it was his non-throwing shoulder but it’s still scary to see your ace go down.  

Have a great Sunday! Hopefully this is a winning final road game of the regular season kind of day. Go Yankees!

Step Aside Babies, The Aging Bombers Got This…

Credit:  Adam Hunger-Getty Images

Yankees 5, Twins 2…

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

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

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

Credit:  Kathy Willens-Associated Press

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

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

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

Credit:  Adam Hunger-Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

Credit:  Kathy Willens-Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

Odds & Ends…

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

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

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

The Missile is Back!…

Credit:  Kathy Willens-Associated Press

Yankees 2, Twins 1…

The game had many stars…Jaime Garcia, Aaron Judge, David Robertson, Todd Frazier, but it was Aroldis Chapman who brought home the victory with his 5-out save that included working out of a one-out bases loaded jam in the top of the 8th inning as the Yankees held off the Minnesota Twins.

I’ve not been a very big fan of Jaime Garcia but he delivered on Monday night.  In a game that looked like a mismatch on paper (Garcia against 15-game winner Ervin Santana), Garcia was just a tad bit better on this night. It was evident that he brought his “A” game when he struck out the side in the first inning to start the game against his former team of 6 days in July.

Credit:  Kathy Willens-Associated Press

Aaron Judge gave Garcia an early lead when he belted his 44th homer of the year, a solo shot to right. It was Judge’s 97th RBI of the season.

The Twins tied the game in the top of the 5th inning. Eddie Rosario led off with a single to second on a ball that was deflected off the glove of  a diving Didi Gregorius into shallow right field. Eduardo Escobar singled to right, but Aaron Judge’s slight bobble of the ball (ruled an error) allowed Rosario the time he needed to race around to third base. Robbie Grossman hit a grounder to third. Todd Frazier fielded and threw to second for the force out on Escobar but Rosario scored and the game was tied.

Garcia was able to get the first two outs in the top of the 6th, but when he gave up Joe Mauer’s single to right, his day was done. David Robertson, ready and waiting, came in and struck out Byron Buxton to end the Twins’ side of the inning.  

Garcia probably wished that he could have gotten Mauer out because the Yankees scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the 6th inning. Chase Headley singled to center on a ball that was deflected off the glove of second baseman Brian Dozier with one out.  Starlin Castro singled to left, with Headley moving to second. With Jacoby Ellsbury at the plate, a wild pitch by Ervin Santana allowed the runners to move up to second and third.  Ellsbury was then intentionally walked to load the bases. Todd Frazier’s sacrifice fly to center scored Headley and the Yankees had a 2-1 lead.

The Twins made a pitching change and brought in Trevor Hildenberger who retired Greg Bird on a ground out at first so the Yankees were unable to push any further runs across.

Dellin Betances replaced the highly effective David Robertson to start the 8th inning and the drama began. He hit the first batter, Robbie Grossman, with a pitch to the hip. Zach Granite pinch hit for Jason Castro and moved Grossman to second with a sacrifice bunt. Max Kepler pinch hit for Ehire Adrianza and drew a walk on four successive pitches. After pitching coach Larry Rothschild visited the mound, Betances threw a wild pitch that advanced the runners to second and third. Larry, your talk didn’t work! Betances proceeded to walk Brian Dozier, after almost striking him out on a foul tip that Gary Sanchez was unable to catch earlier in the at-bat, and the bases were full with only one out. Finally, Joe Girardi realized that it was not Dellin’s night and mercifully made the call for Aroldis Chapman.  

Credit:  Paul J Bereswill-NY Post

Chapman proceeded to strike out the dangerous Joe Mauer on three pitches and got Byron Buxton to jump on the first pitch for a fly out to right to end the threat. Chapman had averted disaster in shutting down the Twins on four pitches. Whew!  No wait, a BIG WHEW!  

Credit:  Kathy Willens-Associated Press

Chapman easily retired the Twins in the top of the 9th, with the radar gun reaching 104 mph. His swinging strikeout of Eduardo Escobar ended the game. The Yankees win!

The Yankees (83-67) were unable to make up any ground on the Red Sox.  Boston, despite falling behind by five runs early, overcame the Baltimore Orioles in extra innings, winning 10-8. So, the Yankees remain three games behind the Sox. The Yankees increased their Wild Card lead over the Twins to five games.  

I will continue to be critical of Jaime Garcia because I am not a fan of his, but for this game, he pitched well enough to win. 5 2/3 innings, four hits, one run (no earned runs), and nine strikeouts on 85 pitches. An incredible stat, for him, was no walks given his propensity for free passes. David Robertson (9-2), the winner, has the most wins of any reliever. I love his ‘Andrew Miller’ like attitude (willingness to pitch anywhere, any time). Aroldis Chapman was clearly the game’s MVP for his clean-up of the mess created by Dellin Betances. Even better is that he only threw 16 pitches for the five-out save, his 19th, so he’ll be ready to go again tonight. Chapman pitching at the top of his game is crucial for October success.

Nice win, guys!  

 

Odds & Ends…

MLB.com has released its revised list of Top 100 Prospects and the great Gleyber Torres is #1! Of course, we already knew that and anxiously await his arrival in the Bronx in 2018.

Other notable Yankees and former Yankees include: 23) Clint Frazier; 41) Blake Rutherford (White Sox); 55) Chance Adams; 70) Dustin Fowler (Athletics); 82) Estevan Florial; 84) Justus Sheffield; and 96) Miguel Andujar. Proving that we drafted the wrong son of Dante Bichette Sr, Toronto’s Bo Bichette came in at #26. His brother, Dante Jr, has been a disappointment in the Yankees organization and probably will not return. The Yankees took Dante Jr with their first pick (a compensatory pick, #51) in 2011. It was the same year they drafted Greg Bird, Jake Cave and Jon Gray (who didn’t sign and was later drafted by the Colorado Rockies).   

Have a great Tuesday! Let’s put away those pesky Twins for the series win! Go Yankees!