The Dog Days of Spring…
One week to go until the games become “real”. The thought of Toronto, Canada on a day in late March gives me a rather chilly feeling but watching the Yankees play brings the necessary warmth. The current weather forecast calls for cloudy skies with an expected high of 47 degrees and a 20% chance of precipitation. Nevertheless, the temp inside the Rogers Centre should be very comfortable for the away team. Let the homers begin!
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
It sounds like Manager Aaron Boone intends to have his 25-man roster in place by the weekend. I was surprised to see that first baseman Tyler Austin didn’t make the cut. I assume that places Neil Walker and Austin Romine as the backup first basemen. The speculation is that the Yankees will carry 13 pitchers and 12 position players. We know that Tyler Wade has made the team as the second baseman and Brandon Drury will be the starter at third. So, the bench appears to be Austin Romine, Neil Walker, and Ronald Torreyes as it appears that neither Jacoby Ellsbury nor Clint Frazier will be ready. Under this scenario, the Yankees won’t carry a fifth outfielder with Ellsbury expected to open the season on the disabled list. The outfield rotation would be limited to the four outfielders currently in play (Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton) using the DH slot primarily for Stanton and Judge. This is where multi-position versatility is very helpful. Although Drury has only played third base for the Yankees, he was the starting second baseman for the Arizona Diamondbacks last year and he has also seen time in the outfield for the Snakes. Torreyes as the emergency catcher is funny but it makes sense. Walker will be all over the infield except shortstop and catcher.
Photo Credit: MLB.com
So it appears the critical decision with be the 13th pitcher. Luis Cessa simply no longer has my trust or support. I do not want him as the rotation’s “sixth man” and after a good Spring, I feel much better about Domingo German in that role. I thought this would be the breakout year for Ben Heller but he had a few rough outings recently and has found himself with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. There is still time for him to shine but it won’t be at the start of the season. I really like Jonathan Holder. He blazed through the Yankees farm system until struggling last year. I am convinced he will be much stronger this year. So, for me, I’d like to see either German or Holder get the last spot on the 25-man roster. German would be a true long man, but if the Yankees need an emergency starter, there’s always the Scranton Shuttle. I’d probably go with Holder to start the season but like last year, the final spot on the roster will be very fluid.
I was surprised to see the return of Rule 5 draftee Anyelo Gomez from the Atlanta Braves. We know that the Braves will be bad this year. I thought they’d bite the bullet and keep Gomez on the MLB roster all season to keep the talented young pitcher. But Gomez’s performance spiraled downward as the MLB-caliber competition in exhibition games increased and it led to Atlanta’s decision to offer Gomez back to the Yankees. Similarly, Jose Mesa, Jr has struggled with the Baltimore Orioles and he was designated for assignment this week when the O’s signed free agent pitcher Alex Cobb. If Mesa clears waivers, the O’s will have to offer him back to the Yankees. So, this leaves only Nestor Cortes, Jr (Orioles) and Mike Ford (Mariners) as the only Rule 5 draftees still with the teams that selected them from the Yankees in December. I remain convinced Cortes will make the O’s Opening Day Roster despite the three-run homer that he gave up to Aaron Judge in yesterday’s exhibition game. I still expect Ford to be offered back to the Yankees by the Mariners in a numbers crunch at first base.
Photo Credit: MLB.com
Speaking of the Mariners, I was saddened to learn that former Yankees reliever David Phelps will miss the upcoming season with a torn UCL that requires Tommy John surgery. I thought it was cool that Ichiro Suzuki had followed Phelps to the Yankees, Miami Marlins and then back to Seattle. Now, it appears their reunion on the active regular season roster will be delayed assuming that Ichiro continues to play for the M’s beyond this year. We wish David the very best with his surgery and recovery. Hope to see him back in the Mariners’ bullpen sometime next year and as good as ever (except when he pitches against the Yankees, of course).
Photo Credit: Seattle Times (Ken Lambert)
If you have a subscription to The Athletic, you should be sure to check out Marc Carig’s piece this morning on Brandon Drury entitled “Brandon Drury brings a serious edge to Yankees clubhouse”. Drury has become one of my favorite players in a short period of time. I love his quiet intensity. Like many believe including Yankees GM Brian Cashman, I feel very strongly that Drury’s best days are ahead. I think he’ll be a force at third base and will make us forget we ever knew Chase Headley or Todd Frazier. I am very pleased to see Carig covering the Yankees again after a few years away on the Mets beat. He’s an excellent writer and very insightful. Solid work, once again, by Carig.
It’s been tough with no televised Yankees games for the last few days. Fortunately, the Yankees will be on ESPN2 this afternoon against Jake Cave and the Minnesota Twins. I haven’t seen the lineups for the game yet but hopefully we’ll see Cave. I haven’t been following the Twins so I assume that Cave is remains in the Major League camp. The scheduled starter for the Twins will be former Yankee Phil Hughes.
7 Days to Toronto. I’m ready. You’re ready. They’re ready. Let’s Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)
Walker, New York Yankee…
When I heard the news the Yankees had signed free agent infielder Neil Walker, I admit it did not excite me. I had thought Walker might be an infield possibility before the Yankees acquired Brandon Drury from the Arizona Diamondbacks (in fact, TGP’s Bryan Van Dusen called it out as a move the Yankees should make before Drury found himself in Tampa with our favorite team). But once Drury arrived, I didn’t give it another thought.
Credit: Pittsburgh Magazine
The reaction among the Yankees Universe has been very mixed. Countless fans feel that Walker blocks the very talented rookies, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. I don’t look at it that way. For a one-year contract at $4 million plus incentives, this is not a marriage. It is a dinner date at McDonald’s. Walker may break camp as the starting second baseman but there’s no doubt that Gleyber Torres will be the man when he is ready. Gleyber needs the additional time at Triple A as he continues his comeback from Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing arm. He has shown this Spring that regardless of his MLB service time clock, he would greatly benefit from the added time in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Torres is going to be a star and there is nothing that Neil Walker can do about it.
Brandon Drury is the starting third baseman. With no offense to Miguel Andujar, Drury was not acquired to be a backup. The Yankees see too much potential in the player and feel that they can convert a number of those Drury doubles into home runs. The Yankees gave up two talented prospects in second baseman Nick Solak and pitcher Taylor Widener. At that price, they weren’t paying to get Drury as a part-time player. Perhaps Andujar goes to Pennsylvania and crushes Triple A pitching. There’s nothing wrong with two players fighting for one position. It’s a very good problem to have. For now, Walker’s arrival most likely means that Andujar will be joining Torres in Scranton. But like Torres, Andujar will be back. When he proves his defensive game has caught up with his bat, only a major trade for a starting pitcher could keep Andujar from pulling on the pinstripes. Walker certainly won’t stop that from happening.
I felt and probably still feel that Tyler Wade will see significant starts at second base. Worst case, I can see him in a platoon role with Walker at the position until young Gleyber arrives to take control. Best case, he breaks camp as the starter with Walker on the bench.
To me, the potential losers with the Walker signing are utilityman Ronald Torreyes and non-roster first baseman Adam Lind. Torreyes may make the Opening Day roster. In fact, I think it’s almost a certainty. But, when Torres and Andujar arrive in the Bronx with their minor league assignments completed, Torreyes is the potential odd man out. I thought Lind might have a chance to make the roster since the Yankees, for whatever reason, do not seem enamored with Tyler Austin. But with Walker’s ability to play first base (not to mention Drury too), Austin brings more to the team than Lind does as a right-handed first baseman (nice complement to the lefty-swinging Greg Bird) who can also play corner outfield. Lind is strictly 1B/DH. But Austin’s spot is not a given as the Yankees could opt for Billy McKinney if Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier are unable to start the season. McKinney has limited experience at first base, but the presence of Walker helps offset his inexperience.
To make room for Walker, the Yankees designated outfielder Jake Cave for assignment and released non-roster invitee Danny Espinosa. Shortstop Kyle Holder was also re-assigned to minor league camp. I’ve always liked Cave but he was squeezed by players ahead of him like Frazier and McKinney and was feeling the heat from hard charging younger prospects. Cave was in camp with the Cincinnati Reds a couple of years ago as a Rule 5 draftee. He opened some eyes although he proved he wasn’t quite ready for the Show. Hopefully, GM Brian Cashman is able to flip Cave for a younger prospect rather than simply letting him go for nothing. I was never excited about the addition of Espinosa. He was a decent player for the Washington Nationals a few years ago, but he wasn’t going to scare anyone with his bat. His poor reaction when the Nats acquired outfielder Adam Eaton which pushed star Trea Turner from the outfield to shortstop, displacing Espinosa, always bothered me. So, for me, I’ll gladly take Walker over Espinosa. The switch-hitter still has some pop left in his bat, and he is a very versatile dude (health-permitting).
Walker was assigned Starlin Castro’s number 14 (most recently worn by Espinosa). For me, the number is forever associated with the great “Sweet Lou” Pinella.
Photo Credit: UPI
By now, I don’t think any Yankees fans are expecting the team to add a starting pitcher before the start of the season. My early favorites for trade deadline candidates are Chris Archer and Danny Duffy. The Los Angeles Dodgers have long been interested in Archer, so I’d probably rate Duffy as the most likely choice if he can be pried from the Kansas City Royals. Personal preference, no doubt, is Archer. The health and performance of the existing starting five will obviously dictate what the Yankees do in July. It’s early, but I’ve been impressed with young right-hander Domingo German and would like to see him become the rotation’s sixth man in place of Luis Cessa.
Good times. I am ready for the season to start.
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
Next Stop, Toronto Pearson International Airport…
We should begin seeing some whittling down of bodies at Steinbrenner Field soon so it got me thinking about the Yankees’ Opening Day roster. March 29th, and a date with the Toronto Blue Jays, is only three weeks away so the regular season will be upon us before we know it.
Count me among those who do not place much stock in Miguel Andujar’s slew of home runs against mostly Double-A pitching. I think Andujar will make a contribution this year, perhaps a significant one, but I do not feel that he’ll head to Toronto with the team after they play their final Spring game in Atlanta against the Braves. My guess is that he spends more time with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to work on his defensive game.
Here is my projection for the Opening Day Roster (with starting position players in italics).
Rest of the Pen
Aaron Judge, RF
Brett Gardner, LF
Aaron Hicks, CF
Giancarlo Stanton, DH
The guess is Judge will be exclusively a right-fielder and DH, with Stanton primarily filling the DH role but covering both outfield corner positions dependent upon the ballpark. When (not if) Ellsbury gets hurt (assuming that he recovers from the right oblique strain in time for Opening Day), Clint Frazier gets the first look as his replacement with Billy McKinney next in line.
I don’t know what happens with Tyler Austin. The way the Yankees keep trying to replace him leads me to believe that he is not in the long-term vision. I could very well be wrong about the backup first base job. Perhaps Austin does win it and Lind opts out of his minor league contract in a couple of weeks. But it’s hard to overlook Lind’s history of success at the Major League level so I won’t.
It remains my belief we’ll see Gleyber Torres as the starting second baseman during the season, maybe as early as the first of May. Assuming he doesn’t go to Baltimore in a mammoth mid-season trade for Manny Machado, I think Andujar will see extended time in the Majors for the Pinstripers too. Admittedly, if he keeps up his torrid hitting over the next couple of weeks as MLB starters are stretched out in preparation for the season, he could force his way onto the Opening Day Roster. If that happens, Lind (or Austin) could be the odd man out, with Drury and Romine serving as the less-than-desirable first base backups in addition to their other duties.
The first reliever on the Scranton Shuttle will be right-hander Ben Heller, followed closely by fellow righty Giovanny Gallegos. For emergency starter, I’d prefer to go with Domingo German over Luis Cessa but the team seems to love Cessa in spot starts despite the lackluster results.
The toughest call is the batting order but my choices from second to fifth would be Judge, Bird, Stanton, and Sanchez, respectively. Regardless of how this shakes out under Aaron Boone, I feel sorry for American League pitchers.
There’s still plenty of time for roster surprises but I think injuries would play the primary role in any deviations, in my humble opinion (which of course could be seriously flawed).
As the saying goes, time will tell as it often does…
If you haven’t already done so, you should check out Bryan Hoch’s new book, The Baby Bombers: The Inside Story of the Next Yankees Dynasty. The book is available through multiple outlets including Amazon.com (where I bought my copy).
“Did Andujar hit another home run?”…
There’s no doubt it is fun to watch Miguel Andujar hit home runs in nearly every at bat (so it seems). But…c’mon, it is Spring Training. I put as much stock in Andujar’s home runs as I do the fact that neither Aaron Judge nor Giancarlo Stanton have gone yard. It is very early and the hurlers are still working on their pitches and not necessarily using strategy or attacking hitters like they would in the regular season. Plus, many of the Spring pitchers are guys who will never see a MLB roster in 2018 (if ever). In other words, keep expectations in check. When it is show time, you know Judge, Stanton and Sanchez will be leading the homer parade.
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
Since many are starting to project Opening Day lineups, I’ll toss in my own.
2B-Tyler Wade (although I could buy into Danny Espinosa for the short term)
These are safe choices but decisions I fully expect Manager Aaron Boone to roll with on March 29th. If Gleyber Torres shows that he is ready by the end of the month, then I think he breaks camp with the Yankees as the starting second baseman. Otherwise, he’ll begin the season in Triple A to fine tune his game. I’ve become convinced that service time will not factor into the decision. The Yankees want to field the team that gives them the best chance for success from the very first game of the season. When Gleyber is ready, he is the man at the second. For me, he’s the most exciting talent at the position since Dontcha Know Robinson Cano.
Photo Credit: Newsday (Thomas A Ferrara)
I feel confident, at this point, that the Opening Day roster will feature 25 guys currently in camp with the Yankees. In other words, I do not see any further trade activity or free agent signings before the start of the regular season. The Yankees have a huge advantage over the Boston Red Sox in terms of in-season flexibility. Boston is maxed out on payroll and they have a weak farm system. There will be no major acquisitions by the Red Sox at the trading deadline. The Yankees, on the other hand, have the ability to make huge moves dependent upon need, with salary room and cupboards overflowing with prospects. The Yankees have the talent, today, to hang with the Red Sox, if not potentially creating separation in the AL East Standings. Identifying mid-season weaknesses and seeking impact upgrades should allow the Yankees to explode past the Red Sox if all goes according to plan (which, of course, it never does). Nevertheless with all things considered, I’ll take my chances with the Yankees against the Beantown Bunch.
If I was Orioles GM Dan Duquette, I’d be on the phone to Brian Cashman. “Say Brian, I’ve been watching that Andujar kid. You still interested in Manny?”. I know that Orioles owner Peter Angelos hates the Yankees but a chance to grab a young third baseman with a lethal bat and perhaps a top pitching prospect, among others, for a guy that will wear the Orioles uniform for the final time on Sunday, September 30, 2018 against the Houston Astros at Camden Yards (barring a trade by the deadline).
While I think the Yankees will spend to sign (or if they successfully trade for him, re-sign) Manny Machado, I do not expect a big splash in the 2018-19 free agent market. I’ve seen some suggest that the Yankees will sign both Machado and Bryce Harper. That’s not happening. The Yankees have a large chunk of the roster comprised of pre-arbitration guys who are still making minimum wage or barely over. This list includes (in alphabetical order):
You could cut this list down to just Greg Bird, Chad Green, Aaron Judge, Jordan Montgomery, Gary Sanchez, and Luis Severino. That’s six players who will see significant increases in their pay over the coming years as they enter into arbitration. This is on top of the current arbitration players like Didi Gregorius who will command top dollars on the open market in the not-so-distant future. If Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner has taught us anything, he is not going to be frivolous with money. I can’t see committing Giancarlo Stanton-like money (or more) to outside free agents when the Yankees will have to pay their own young stars one day. I am more excited about the prospect of Estevan Florial eventually becoming the starting center fielder than the possibility of spending a half-billion dollars to bring Bryce Harper to the Bronx. Don’t get me wrong…I love Harper…but I think he is an excess luxury for a team with so many young talented hitters. I would rather see the dollars invested in upgrading the starting pitching and retaining our young superstars.
I don’t envy Aaron Boone for the decision he’ll have to make at third base. As a Vikings fan, I am watching their off-season with interest as the team does not have a quarterback signed beyond the young unproven Kyle Sloter. The big question is whether the Vikings will try to re-sign Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater or Case Keenum, or attempt to go after a big fish like Kirk Cousins. While I’d like Cousins on my team, I recognize the team needs to re-sign its own young stars. This is not unlike the Yankees. Yesterday, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, talking about the QB situation, said that the team has to make the right call for its next QB. Otherwise, it could cost him his job. I don’t think the third base competition between Brandon Drury and Miguel Andujar will cost Boonie his job, but Sports is big business. The financial considerations have to make as much sense as the ability of the players. So, my philosophy for free agency is the same in the MLB as it is in the NFL, “take care of your own”. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be new guys or that we shouldn’t get rid of guys who are simply filling a roster space. I just want to see the ‘tried and true’ players get their due.
Photo Credit: MLB.com
One final note: I would like to see more Domingo German and less Luis Cessa, please.
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
Blue Jays 2, Yankees 1…
I can’t say that I went into this game feeling very strongly about a win or loss. In the grand scheme of things, the playoff format has been decided so it didn’t really matter if the Yankees went 92-70 or finished 91-71 (which they did). They still finished second in the American League East and hold home field advantage in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday. Despite holding the Blue Jays to two hits, the Yankees were unable to muster any significant offense and lost by a run.
The Yankees lineup featured many backup players as key starters got the day off in advance of the AL Wild Card game. The only notable starters were Todd Frazier and Starlin Castro. Chase Headley got the start at first base, but he’s probably the team’s DH heading into the post-season. Greg Bird got into the game later.
Credit: Kathy Willens-AP
It was nice outing for Jordan Montgomery. He held the Blue Jays scoreless until the top of the 4th inning. Richard Urena worked a one-out walk. Justin Smoak singled to right on a grounder that went just past the glove of Tyler Wade, with Urena moving to third. Jose Bautista, making perhaps his final start as a Blue Jay, lofted a high fly to center. Urena scored on the sacrifice as the throw from Aaron Hicks was off line.
Credit: Associated Press
I thought the Yankees had a chance to potentially pick up a run in the bottom of the 4th. Tyler Wade singled to left barely over the stretched glove of shortstop Richard Urena with one down. While Matt Holliday was batting, Wade appeared to steal second to move into scoring position. However, replay showed that the tag was applied before Wade reached the base as Urena’s foot blocked the base to prevent Wade from touching the bag. Matt Holliday flied out to end the inning so the Yankees were still down by a run.
Credit: Getty Images
Montgomery made it into the 6th inning, striking out Ryan Goins. But that was all for Monty’s successful rookie campaign as Manager Joe Girardi took the ball and turned it over to Adam Warren. 5 1/3 innings for Montgomery. Two hits, a walk and a run. He struck out three batters for the eventual no-decision.
Credit: Kathy Willens-AP
Adam Warren, making his first appearance since being activated off the disabled list, retired the two batters he faced to end the inning and show that he’s ready to be a potential weapon for Tuesday night.
Warren retired the only batter he faced in the top of the 7th (pop out by Justin Smoak) and was replaced by Domingo German.
With Blue Jays reliever Danny Barnes on the mound in the bottom of the 7th, Matt Holliday homered into the left field seats with one out, a solo shot. The game was tied at 1. It looked like the Yankees might get more when Greg Bird followed with a walk. Miguel Andujar doubled to left center (ball dropped in front of a sliding Teoscar Hernandez), with Bird moving to third and there was still only one out. But the Yankees couldn’t get either runner home as both Austin Romine and Clint Frazier grounded out to leave the runners stranded.
The Blue Jays scored the eventual winning run in the top of the 8th despite no hits. With Domingo German still pitching, Rob Refsnyder reached first base after striking out when Austin Romine couldn’t catch a wild pitch from German (a low pitch that hit the ground behind the plate and bounced away). Ezequiel Carrera walked, with Refsnyder advancing to second. Darwin Barney laid down a good sacrifice bunt with two strikes to push the runners to second and third. Ryan Goins took advantage of the runner at third with perhaps the shortest RBI I’ve seen this year, a slow dribbler that went no more than 10 feet. Refsnyder came home to score as the only play was to get the runner at first. The Blue Jays had recaptured the lead, 2-1. German struck out Teoscar Hernandez to get out of the inning but the Jays had the run they would need to win the game.
From there, the Yankees couldn’t do anything against Toronto relievers Ryan Tepera and Roberto Osuna with Greg Bird popping out to the shortstop Richard Urena for the final out to end the game. It would have been nice to close out the season with a win but as I stated when I started this blog post, it didn’t really matter one way or the other. It’s hard to take momentum from a game when most of the starters are sitting on the bench.
The second-place Yankees (91-71) finish the season two games behind the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox (93-69) fell to the Houston Astros, 4-3, as those two teams prepare to resume their battle in Houston, Texas with Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday. The Minnesota Twins, the Yankees opponent on Tuesday, beat the Detroit Tigers, 5-1, to finish the season at 85-77.
It’s been a long, run season and I hope that it continues beyond Tuesday. If not, I feel that Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner has been given the message that this team is ready to compete now and that he needs to ensure the team is given the best possible chance for success in 2018.
GM Brian Cashman and Amateur Scouting Director Damon Oppenheimer presented Aaron Judge with an inscribed Waterford Crystal Gavel for his rookie record of 52 home runs.
Next Up: American League Wild Card Game, Minnesota Twins versus New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY…
Here it is…do or die. We’ve endured the rigor of 162 regular season games and the pay-off is a chance to advance to the American League Division Series. Win or lose, this has been a tremendous year for the Yankees. They’ve surprised the experts who didn’t expect the Yankees to contend this quickly. The Minnesota Twins have had an excellent year as well, going from a team that lost 100 games in 2016 to a play-off contender.
Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups. Suffice it to say that every pitcher on both teams will be ready for the call.
Tuesday, October 3rd, 8:00 pm ET
Twins: Ervin Santana (16-8, 3.28 ERA)
Yankees: Luis Severino (14-6, 2.98 ERA)
This should be a great game! The winner advances to play the Indians for Game 1 of the ALDS in Cleveland on Thursday.
Odds & Ends…
The Yankees announced on Sunday that “they will significantly expand the protective netting during the upcoming off-season at both Yankee Stadium and George M Steinbrenner Field”. The action comes after the young girl was hit in the mouth on a foul ball by Todd Frazier on September 25th.
The managerial firings should begin shortly. It’s been announced after much speculation that Terry Collins will not be returning to the dugout for the New York Mets in 2018. He’ll move into a front office position. Ironically, neither of the AL Wild Card managers have a contract beyond this year. I guess Tuesday will have a say in their respective futures although you’d have to believe that both would be back after unexpectedly successful seasons.
Have a great Monday! Enjoy the day off, and let’s get ready to root, root for the home team on Tuesday night. Go Yankees!
I don’t know, the Minnesota Twins might want to consider forfeiting the Wild Card game. Seriously, the Yankees seem to have the Twins number as evidenced by the sweep of the most recent three-game series. I only hope that it continues into October assuming the Twins are successful in holding off the Los Angeles Angels for the second Wild Card spot.
For the first two innings, the game appeared to be a pitching duel between Yankees ace Luis Severino and the ancient Bartolo Colon. A few isolated hits but no serious threats. Then, in the top of the 3rd inning, the Twins came out charging. Kennys Vargas singled on a soft bouncer to short that Didi Gregorius tried to barehand..unsuccessfully…with one out. Jason Castro followed with a single, a line drive to right. Runners at the corners. Brian Dozier drew a walk and the bases were full. Joe Mauer, battling Sevy for 13 pitches, singled to right, scoring Vargas. After a trip to the mound by Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild (which never seems to work), Jorge Polanco lashed a single to right just past a running Greg Bird who nearly had the ball, Castro and Dozier scored. The Twins were up, 3-0. Severino evaded further trouble by retiring the next two batters.
All I could think was, “We’re going to let Bartolo Colon beat us? Really?”. Fortunately, the Yankees heard me. Greg Bird led off the bottom of the 3rd with a double to the right field wall, sliding into second just under the outfield throw. After Brett Gardner struck out, Aaron Judge hammered a Colon pitch over the wall in right for a two-run home run. It was Judge’s 45th of the year and his 100th RBI. Amazing. This was a guy who was almost beat out of a job by Aaron Hicks in Spring Training.
Credit: Bill Kostroun-AP
Gary Sanchez was up next and he delivered his 32nd home run with a shot to center in Monument Park. Drop the accolades for Judge and pick them up for Sanchez. 32 homers…the most ever for a Yankees catcher despite missing nearly a month of the season. More homers than Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, Thurman Munson and Jorge Posada accomplished in one season. Incredible. The game was tied.
Credit: Bill Kostroun-AP
Luis Severino did not return for the 4th inning. 3 innings worked, 5 hits, 3 runs, a walk, and 3 K’s on 71 pitches. He needed 46 pitches for the 3rd inning alone. A no decision that pushed his season ERA back over three (3.03).
Credit: Andrew Theodorakis-The NY Post
Chasen Shreve took over for Severino. Given Shreve’s recent performances, I was feeling a little shell-shocked. But he retired the first batter he faced, Max Kepler, on a swinging strikeout. Eduardo Escobar followed by flying out to left on a ball that took Brett Gardner to the warning track. Whew! So far, so good. Then, he walked Kennys Vargas. Are you friggin’ kidding me? Get that bum out of there! Nobody listened to me, so Shreve was able to pitch to the next batter, Jason Castro, who grounded out to second for the final out. Okay, Shreve, that wasn’t bad. I feel better now…
The bottom of the 4th arrived and, man, so did the rejuvenated September 2017 Yankees. Well, Matt Holliday excluded. He started the inning with a pop out to first in foul territory. Jacoby Ellsbury, playing like a man who is worth $153 million, tripled to left (actually, it probably should have been an error on left fielder Eddie Rosario who didn’t take a good route to the ball and it bounced out of his glove). Todd Frazier walked. Greg Bird doubled to the right field corner with Ellsbury scoring on the play and the Toddfather moving to third. The Yankees had their first lead of the game. Paul Molitor decided to make a pitching change and brought in Tyler Duffey to replace Colon. I was worried that our little rally was going to be short-fused. Silly me. Brett Gardner lined a single to center which scored Frazier. Bird moved to third. Aaron Judge struck out to briefly bring the return of my pessimism, but Gary Sanchez lightened my mood with a single to right, scoring Bird. Didi Gregorius was up next and he crushed a three-run homer to the second deck in right. It was Didi’s 25th home run of the year, giving him the most for a Yankees shortstop in franchise history. After the hit, Didi turned around and apologized to Jason Castro for dropping the bat in front of him. Class act by a very classy guy.
Credit: Bill Kostroun-AP
The Yankees had scored 6 runs and now led 9-3. Starlin Castro grounded out to short to end the inning but I was okay with that.
Chasen Shreve did his job in the top of the 5th with no complaints or inner dialogue from me. In the bottom of the 5th, former Yankees farmhand Nik Turley took over for Tyler Duffey. Matt Holliday, deciding he wanted to join the party, started the Yankees half of the inning with a single to center. Jacoby Ellsbury drew a walk on four pitches. After a game delay when Todd Frazier hit a young fan with a foul ball, he flied out to center but Holliday tagged and moved to third. With Greg Bird at bat, Turley unleashed a wild pitch that got away from Jason Castro and Holliday came in to score. Ellsbury moved to second. Bird then singled on a grounder to first that the first baseman momentarily lost after stopping the ball to put runners at the corners. It was another hit that probably should have been ruled an error. Brett Gardner was hit by a pitch in the back and the bases were loaded. That would be all for Turley and he was replaced by Michael Tonklin. Aaron Judge hit a fly to right, scoring Ellsbury. The Yankees were now up, 11-3. Gary Sanchez singled to left to reload the bases, but Didi Gregorius struck out on a foul tip to end the inning.
Shreve returned with another solid inning in the 6th to help restore some of my confidence in the young Las Vegan left-hander. By the bottom of the 7th, both teams began making multiple substitutions. The Yanks rode the arms of Ben Heller and Domingo German to the finish. Nice job by both but special mention for German. He pitched two scoreless innings with no hits and a meaningless walk in the 9th. He struck out a total of four Twins including Kennys Vargas to end the game. The Yankees win!
The Yankees (85-67) increased their lead in the Wild Card standings to seven games over the Twins with 10 games to play. The Twins retained their 1 1/2 game lead over the Los Angeles Angels, who lost to the Cleveland Indians, 6-5. The Boston Red Sox swept the Baltimore Orioles with a 9-0 win on Wednesday, so they remain three games in front of the Yankees. The win clinched a post-season berth for the Red Sox.
Chasen Shreve (4-1), by virtue of Severino’s early departure, got the win. Three Yankees had three hits (Gary Sanchez, Jacoby Ellsbury and Greg Bird) and two had three RBI’s (Aaron Judge and Didi Gregorius). Sanchez had two ribbies. Judge now has 101 RBIs, becoming the fourth Yankees rookie to reach the 100 RBI mark, joining Tony Lazzeri (1926), Joe DiMaggio (1936), and Hideki Matsui (2003). Judge also became the third rookie in MLB history and eighth player in Yankees history with 100 runs, 100 RBIs, and 100 walks. This was yet another great team victory. Thumbs down, Everyone!
Next Up: Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada…
The Yankees enjoy their final day off of the regular season today (barring any rainouts) before embarking on their last road trip with a quick three-game set north of the border starting Friday night. The Blue Jays, picked by many to finish as high as second in the AL East prior to the season, have successfully held off the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays, for rights to the AL East Cellar although they’ll need to keep losing to fend off the O’s.
It may be a down year for the Blue Jays but they always seem to play the Yankees very tough. Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:
Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka (12-11, 4.73 ERA)
Blue Jays: Marco Estrada (9-8, 4.84 ERA)
Yankees: Jordan Montgomery (8-7, 4.06 ERA)
Blue Jays: Joe Biagini (3-11, 5.33 ERA)
Yankees: Sonny Gray (9-11, 3.38 ERA)
Blue Jays: Marcus Stroman (12-8, 3.01 ERA)
Marco Estrada, who had been due to become a free agent after the season, signed a one-year contract extension for $13 million this week. So, he’ll be a happy man on Friday night.
I really hope that the Yankees find the perfect combination of excellent pitching from Sonny Gray and run support on Sunday.
Odds & Ends…
The downside to Wednesday’s victory was the injury of a young girl who was hit by the foul ball off the bat of Todd Frazier in the 5th inning. The girl, a toddler, was attending the game with her grandparents. She was apparently struck in the mouth.
After the game, the Yankees released a short statement: “The child who was struck with a batted ball today was given first aid at the ballpark and is receiving medical attention at an area hospital. The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, prevents the team from giving more information. We will have no further comment at this time.”
Our prayers and well wishes to the young girl for a full and speedy recovery.
Credit: Bill Kostroun-AP
Credit: Abbie Parr-Getty Images
Joe Girardi said after the game that the little girl was “doing OK”. This was a wake up call for the Yankees organization to extend the netting to protect fans.
I do feel bad for the Twins fans. Many of them are fans of the Minnesota Vikings like me. The Vikings took one on the chin last Sunday when they were steamrolled by the Pittsburgh Steelers, 26-9, behind backup QB Case Keenum. So it has not been a great week for sports fans in and around Minneapolis/St Paul, MN. But I certainly do not feel bad enough that I wanted the Twins to escape with a victory. How sweep it is!
Have a great Thursday! It’s a day off…let’s enjoy! Go Yankees!
Angels 10, Yankees 5…
The win on Wednesday was just a tease. Losing teams find ways to lose and unfortunately the Yankees gave another game away last night. Unless they can turn this around, the Yankees are showing that the early season was just a mirage. You can’t blame Aaron Judge. He’s trying. He hit his 25th home run of the season and has hit safely in 24 consecutive games (the longest Yankee streak of the year). But pitching, which has alternated between very good and very bad, is sitting in the latter category at the moment albeit with an occasional solid performance like Jordan Montgomery the other night.
Bronx Pinstripes had a great tweet last night. “What a disaster. At least we have Tanaka tomorrow. …Oh wait.” My line of thinking exactly…
The game started well enough. Despite Cameron Maybin’s lead-off home run to give the Angels an early 1-0 lead, the Yankees quickly answered in the bottom of the first when Angels starter Jesse Chavez walked Aaron Judge and Matt Holliday with two outs. Starlin Castro followed with a run-scoring single to tie the game.
In the bottom of the 2nd inning, it looked like this was going to be our night. Chris Carter doubled and Ronald Torreyes reached base on an infield hit, pushing Carter to third. Brett Gardner grounded into a force-out at second but Carter scored on the play. Aaron Hicks singled, putting runners at the corner, bringing up Aaron Judge. With a three-run shot to center, the Yankees were up, 5-1. I didn’t really expect those to be the final runs scored by the Yankees.
Credit: Kathy Willens-AP
The Angels started chipping away in the third when both Albert Pujols and Yunel Escobar had run-scoring singles with two outs. 5-3, Yankees. Luis Severino settled down after that for a few innings of solid work, but gave up another run in the 6th when Escobar opened the inning with a double and scored on a single by Luis Valbuena. Valbuena, a third baseman, is a guy I thought the Yankees should have pursued in the off-season when he was a free agent.
Still, I had hope that the Yankees could lock down the Angels, score a couple of insurance runs and win the game. Then, the 7th inning happened. Cliff Pennington opened the inning with a single. From there, the game unraveled. Cameron Maybin hit a ground ball to Starlin Castro that should have been turned for a double play but Castro’s fielding error allowed Maybin to reach base, with Pennington moving to third. So, instead of two outs and no one on, the Angels had runners at the corners with no outs. End of game for Luis Severino. Chasen Shreve entered the game and was greeted by a sac fly from Kole Calhoun which tied the score at 5. Exit Shreve, enter Dellin Betances. Maybin stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by Gary Sanchez. Albert Pujols said ‘I’ll take your gifts…thank you very much’ and lined a single to right, scoring Maybin for the lead. Betances walked Escobar, followed by a wild pitch moving the runners to second and third. With two outs, Andrelton Simmons doubled to give the Angels two more runs, 8-5.
Credit: Kathy Willens-AP
I was not ready to admit defeat and was pulling for an amazing comeback like the Yankees did earlier in the season against the Baltimore Orioles. Yeah, right. The Yankees went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 7th and the Angels were ready for more in the 8th. Domingo German took the mound, replacing Betances, and retired the first batter on a strikeout. Unfortunately, this was followed by Cliff Pennington’s double and a wild pitch that moved him to third. Cameron Maybin walked. A failed pick-off attempt at first by German, the third Yankees error of the game, allowed Pennington to score with Maybin moving to third. Kole Calhoun graciously accepted the latest gift, and hit a sac fly to push the score to 10-5.
The Yankees could only muster a single from Chris Carter in the 9th, and he was left stranded at second when Ronald Torreyes grounded out.
This was a very disappointing loss. I am not sure how you can lose two of three in your home park against the Mike Trout-less Angels. Giving away free runs on multiple errors and wild pitches are not the signs of a successful team. With the loss, the Yankees (39-31) fell back into a first-place tie with the idle Boston Red Sox. The Tampa Bay Rays, who also had the night off, moved to within 2 1/2 games of the leaders.
Yes, I am mad about this loss. And it scares the hell out of me that we’ll be throwing Tanaka out tonight against Yu Darvish. It doesn’t get any easier…
Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium…
The Texas Rangers make their first trip to NYC for a three-game series starting tonight. Pete Kozma, who started the year with the Yankees when Didi Gregorius was on the DL, is currently a back-up infielder for the Rangers. Ernesto Frieri, who previously opted out of his Yankees minor league contract, is in the Texas bullpen.
Rangers: Yu Darvish (6-5, 3.35 ERA)
Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka (5-7, 6.34 ERA)
Rangers: Austin Bibens-Dirkx (2-0, 4.25 ERA)
Yankees: Luis Cessa (0-1, 7.36 ERA)
Rangers: Nick Martinez (2-3, 4.33 ERA)
Yankees: Michael Pineda (7-3, 3.56 ERA)
Y’all enjoy the games now, y’hear!
Hopefully, we’ll see the team that throttled the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles a couple of weeks ago. I miss that team…
Odds & Ends…
Prior to yesterday’s game, the Yankees purchased the contract of left-handed reliever Tyler Webb from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. I am very excited to see Tyler finally make it to the Show. I’ve been following his career for a few years and I’ve liked the pitcher. I was worried in the off-season when he was selected in the Rule 5 Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. As a mature lefty reliever (he’ll turn 27 in less than a month), I thought he had the potential to stick with the Pirates. Despite a solid Spring performance, he was returned to the Yankees in a numbers game (fortunately for us). In 21 games for SWB, Webb is 3-1 with 3.24 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. He has struck out 47 batters in 33 1/3 innings while allowing 33 hits and 12 runs. He has only given up 3 walks and home runs. They may not be elite numbers but I feel Webb has earned his shot. I am glad that he is here even if it’s only temporary. Rob Refsnyder was sent to SWB to make room for Webb.
Credit: Chris O’Meara-AP
Greg Bird has been given a cortisone shot in his ankle and the hope is that he’ll soon be able to resume his rehab. I find it highly unlikely that this will be the solution that gets Bird back on the field. It seems to me that the problem with the ankle is more serious than we’ve been led to believe. The cortisone shot just masks the pain, it doesn’t fix the problem. There is daily speculation who the Yankees should look at on the trade market. Lately, Yonder Alonso has been receiving the most attention. I like Alonso and do feel that he’d be an upgrade over Chris Carter or Tyler Austin. I have no problems with Matt Holliday at first other than I want to keep the guy healthy. DH is the better avenue to accomplish that goal. The Atlanta Braves did a wonderful job in trading for the under-utilized Matt Adams, previously of the St Louis Cardinals. Adams has done nothing but hit since he became a Brave and has sparked speculation that injured first baseman Freddie Freeman may be moved to third when he returns. I want GM Brian Cashman to make one of those under-the-radar but highly productive moves. I know, easier said than done.
I think Aaron Judge should accept the invitation to participate in this year’s Home Run Derby. I know that some players mess up their swings but like Manager Joe Girardi, I don’t think it would adversely impact Judge’s swing. I like the idea of his exposure to the other great sluggers of the game. It’s all part of his maturation as a Major League superstar. The Yankees have renewed popularity this year because of guys like Judge and Gary Sanchez. The All-Star Game is a great format to represent the pride and tradition of the Yankees.
This is not baseball related but as an owner of a black cat, I found this one quite humorous…and true!
Have a great Friday! Let’s not start a new losing streak today, please.