Tagged: Don Mattingly

Fishing Is Not For Everyone…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

Giancarlo Stanton takes a pass…

Although the Yankees clobbered the Miami Marlins, 12-1, on Monday night at Yankee Stadium, it is probably not a game Giancarlo Stanton will want to remember. He was the only regular without a hit against the Fish although he did score a run after being hit by a pitch in the bottom of the fourth inning, thanks to a Gregoriusly beautiful home run by the Yankees shortstop.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

Stanton is used to being “The Man” but here he is being picked up by his teammates on nearly a daily basis, much to the dissatisfaction of the Yankee Stadium crowd. He had two more strikeouts with his ‘O-fer’ night. The one thing I learned about Yankees fans, they’ll boo their own players when they passionately care. Yes, they’ll boo for players who suck too but everyone wants Stanton to succeed. The home crowd has yet to see the real Gone-carlo. There’s no doubt he will achieve great success in the Bronx but the journey in Pinstripes is not an easy one.

It’s way too early to say Stanton is not meant for New York. As Marlins manager Don Mattingly said about playing in NYC, “You struggle, you pay, that’s all there is to it. It’s a day-in, day-out place. It doesn’t matter what you did last year. I’m not surprised by it, but also in the same sense, I know it changes once he gets his feel and stuff like that.”

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While everyone focused on Stanton’s performance against his old team, poor Starlin Castro went under the radar with his 0-for-3 night. I am sure it was a tough and emotional evening for All-Starlin who most likely would have preferred being in the opposing dugout with his former mates.

It would be nice for Giancarlo go yard tonight against the Fish but it won’t be the end of the World if he doesn’t. He’ll have another shot at his friends and former teammates when the Yankees travel to Miami in late August. I am sure playing in front of the Miami fans will carry much deeper meaning for Stanton. Hopefully by then, Stanton will be crushing pitchers like we know he can.

What can you say about Aaron Judge and Didi Gregorius? In one word, spectacular. Aaron Judge’s home run in the second inning was his fourth of the year and 60th in 197 games (the fastest player in MLB history to record sixty career homers). Didi’s two home runs were his second multi-homer game of the season, and the sixth time in fifteen games that a Yankee player has hit two home runs in a game. Didi now leads the Yankees with five home runs on the season. Where is that flawed hitter the Yankees acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks a few years ago? The only flaw these days are rainouts which keep the Yankees great shortstop off the field. Didi continues to amaze…and get better.

I know Manny Machado is a great player and younger than Didi Gregorius but I’d rather lock up #18 on an extension and use resources in the off-season to strengthen starting pitching and the bullpen. Well, if Stanton continues to struggle, I’d trade him to Los Angeles after the season and sign Bryce Harper but that’s beside the point. The Yankees do not need Machado if his heart is set on playing short for the immediate future and I do not feel that Gregorius should be asked to move to another position to make room. I am still hopeful that either Miguel Andujar or Brandon Drury provide the long-term answer at third but as it stands, third base would be the only spot I’d keep for Machado. Didi is the Yankees shortstop…period and end of story.

 Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees
Photo Credit: SI.com

The Yankees made a surprise move yesterday when they re-signed Jace Peterson to a major league contract. He was in uniform last night and was a late inning replacement. The Yankees had an open spot on the active roster when they optioned Luis Cessa to Triple A on Sunday and did not immediately make a corresponding move. The spot of the 40-man roster was open when the Yankees waived Shane Robinson after his brief appearance with the big league club.  Robinson was subsequently sent outright to Triple A. The Yankees had waived Peterson when Robinson was added to the 25-man roster but after clearing waivers, Peterson elected free agency over minor league reassignment. So, his re-signing caught me by surprise. Eventually, Peterson will be the odd man out and will lose his seat at the table, perhaps for good as a Yankee, if/when the guys on the DL return to good health.

Congratulations to the great Gleyber Torres! He has been recognized as the International League Player of the Week (the first weekly award of the young season). In his first ten games with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Torres batted .385 (15-for-39) with a homer and ten RBI’s.

Gleyber caused a stir last night when he was pulled from the RailRiders game due to “stiffness”. I am sure there are a few jokes that could be driven from that term (e.g., his girlfriend didn’t mind), but from what I’ve been able to determine, the removal from the game was primarily caution-driven.  It was a cold night and there was no reason to risk the health of one of baseball’s top prospects. Gleyber will be re-evaluated today but at this point there does not seem to be any cause for concern or at the very least I hope not. The Gleyber Torres to the Bronx Watch will become magnified after tonight’s game as any MLB service time will extend free agency by a year.

Jacoby Ellsbury has yet another ailment? Seriously? I guess now he has a sore heel  in addition to the injured hip. I honestly cannot keep up with his current maladies. Wasn’t there something else prior to the hip injury?  Who knows?  Who cares. When can we cut bait and move on? The biggest hope I have for Ellsbury at this point is the honor to place the word “former” in front of the word “Yankee” when describing the brittle outfielder.

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Hopefully today will be a new and better day for Giancarlo Stanton. Masahiro Tanaka (2-1, 5.19 ERA) takes the mound looking for better results than his last outing when he gave up six runs to the Boston Red Sox despite grabbing the win. Tanaka will be opposed by Miami’s Jarlin Garcia (0-0, 1.13 ERA). Garcia should change his name to Jarlin Castro to make things interesting.

Never a better time to have a Fish fry in the Bronx than tonight…Go Yankees!

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All Talk But No Action…

Waiting for Santa Claus in the Yankees Universe…

My thoughts that this could be a busy week took a hit yesterday when it was very quiet in the Yankees Universe and around baseball.

One of The Greedy Pinstripes co-owners (Bryan Van Dusen) took it as an opportunity to make a compelling argument for the acquisition of Danny Duffy of the Kansas City Royals. I personally do not feel that the Kansas City Royals will trade Duffy. The organization actually received somewhat good news on Monday when the Boston Red Sox re-signed first baseman Mitch Moreland to a two-year, $13 million deal. The signing presumably removes the Red Sox from the first base market (they had been rumored as the favored destination for Royals free agent Eric Hosmer). There is now actually optimism in Kansas City that the Royals could re-sign Hosmer. The San Diego Padres have been mentioned as a possibility for Hosmer but they would have to move Wil Myers back to the outfield (defensively-speaking, Myers has been better at first than in the outfield) and they’d give up a second round draft pick as compensation since Hosmer received a qualifying offer from the Royals. The New York Mets and the St Louis Cardinals remain possibilities for Hosmer too, but if the Royals are successful in bringing Hosmer back to KC, they are not going to “tank it” for a major rebuild. This means they are not going to give up one of their best young pitchers in Duffy who is under team control for the next four years.  Duffy is also on record saying “Bury me a Royal” on Twitter in response to trade rumors. There’s no reason for the Royals to trade Duffy at the moment. Once they do trade Duffy, if they do, it will be a signal the team is ready to lose for the short term.  I don’t think they are at that point yet so I don’t see Duffy as a present alternative for the Yankees.

The other TGP owner, Daniel Burch, has repeatedly said that the longer trade rumors persist about the Yankees acquiring Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates, the less likely it will actually happen. I agree with that assessment as GM Brian Cashman has a reputation for striking quickly in stealth mode. Hence, the Ninja reputation.

Michael Fulmer does not presently appear to be an option since the Detroit Tigers are not motivated to make a deal. I am sure that every call between Tigers GM Al Avila and Cashman begins with “Are you ready to deal Gleyber Torres?” which abruptly ends the conversation.

So, at the moment, the frontrunner for rotation help appears to be Patrick Corbin of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The D-Backs would love to re-sign outfielder J.D. Martinez (who remains the primary target for the Red Sox) but they would need to move some salary to make it happen. It’s funny how every Yankees move is somehow tied to the Red Sox.  Corbin is arbitration eligible for his final year before free agency. He will get more expensive so now is the time for the D-Backs to make a move to ensure they do not lose the pitcher for nothing next off-season. He made a hair under $4 million last season. The D-Backs have a number of arbitration eligible players this off-season so moving Corbin would help control escalating costs while bringing back quality prospects. Corbin was terrific after the All-Star Break last year when he went 8-4 with a 3.26 ERA in his final 15 starts. MLB Trade Rumors is projecting that Corbin’s 2018 salary will be $8.3 million. The 28-year-old lefty would certainly represent an upgrade for the Yankees rotation and the cost shouldn’t involve the team’s best prospects. 2B/3B Brandon Drury has been frequently mentioned with Corbin’s name and he’d provide some help for the Yankees at those positions. Drury made $559,300 last season and is not arbitration eligible until 2019. The 25-year-old righty hit .267 with 13 HR and 63 RBI in 445 AB’s in 2017.

However, this trade rumor has been hanging out there since the Baseball Winter Meetings so the “Burch Rule” is probably in play (less likely to happen with each passing day).

As for third base options, I keep hoping that the Yankees can find a way to bring back Todd Frazier. A one-year contract with an option for one or two more years seems like the best team fit, but the player may feel that he can get more years elsewhere. Buster Olney floated the idea on Twitter yesterday that the Yankees would be a great fit for Mike Moustakas on a one-year deal which of course was met with laughter that Moose Tacos would actually accept one year (his agent is Scott Boras after all). But in theory, I love the idea for the player to build more value in the stacked Yankees lineup and an opportunity to exploit the right field porch before hitting the free agent market next off-season. It will never happen but it’s fun to think about.

Last Star out of Miami, Please Turn Out the Lights…

I feel bad for Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly who remains one of my favorite people in baseball. After the Giancarlo Stanton trade, he publicly made comments about his excitement for the youth movement in Miami. The Marlins have since traded Marcell Ozuna to the St Louis Cardinals and a couple of their remaining young stars (Christian Yelich and J.T. Realmuto) have expressed desires to leave. Mattingly will soon be fielding a team of minor leaguers at the Major League level. He deserves better. It’s a tough situation for the former Yankees captain regardless of the smile and positive words that he gives publicly.

Credit:  Charles Wenzelberg, NY Post

Well, let’s see what today brings. Go Yankees!

Early November in the Yankees Universe…

Mr Cashman will see you now…

The Hot Stove League has been open for a few days but for the most part, it’s been all quiet on the Eastern Front (a/k/a The Bronx).

The managerial interviews have begun with Yankees bench coach Rob Thomson taking the first at-bat. He must have fouled off a bunch of pitches because he apparently met with GM Brian Cashman for six hours this week. I should be fully supportive of Thomson for manager. He’s a company man who has been with the Yankees organization for 28 years. He brings promises of communication and trust in the players and has tried to give assurances that he would not be “more of the same”. Yet, for some reason, I cannot fully embrace his candidacy. I’d like to see him stay in the organization and I am certainly not opposed to his inclusion on the coaching staff for the eventual new manager. But he’s not really my ideal choice for manager.

Credit:  Associated Press

A new name surfaced yesterday in former Yankee Aaron Boone. It’s unknown when/if he will interview with Cashman. Given that I’ve been supportive of other broadcasters getting the job, like Jerry Hairston, Jr and Mark DeRosa, you’d think I would support the possibility of an ex-Yankee. Yet, I was ‘ho-hum’ when I saw his name. I am appreciative of his home run to win the 2003 American League Championship Series, but he’s not really someone that I can envision in the job. Perhaps he is someone I would grow with in time if he is the one. We’ll see.

David Cone and John Flaherty are also names that received heavy ink in New York publications this week. Between the two, Coney would be the better option to me with no offense to Flaherty.

The Miami Marlins have confirmed that manager Don Mattingly will return for the 2018 season so that effectively removes his name from consideration. As a huge Mattingly fan, even today, I did not really want to see Mattingly back in the Yankees organization as its manager. Managers are so heavily second-guessed and I didn’t want to see Mattingly tarnish his great Yankees legacy in any way.

I think the best tweet I saw about the managerial search yesterday came from MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand: “Something to keep in mind re: Yankees managerial search.  This is a chance for Cashman to interview several people to get a feel for them in a different role. Many will interview, only one will get the job. Don’t get caught up in any one name.”  So, as the saying goes, trust the process. I have the trust in Brian Cashman that he’ll make the right decision. His legacy is heavily invested in the next hire with the Yankees on the cusp of something great. Gene Michael was widely recognized as the chief architect of the 90’s dynasty but this potential run belongs solely to Cashman and his chief lieutenants (backed by the Steinbrenner family, of course). All things considered, Cashman can’t afford to make the wrong choice.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s Ohtani!…

I have been trying to avoid getting excited about the possibility of adding Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani but the ‘Ohtani to America’ (or should we just call it the ‘Ohtani to Pinstripes’) movement took another step in the right direction. Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reported that Japanese news reports are stating the Nippon-Ham Fighters have announced they will post Ohtani this off-season. All I want for Christmas is Ohtani in the Bronx! I am still trying to be cautiously optimistic but it would be very exciting to have him join the strong cast of Baby Bombers.

The Yankees can offer Ohtani the second highest signing bonus at $3.25 million. They trail only the Texas Rangers who can offer $285,000 more than the Yankees. The Rangers can also offer no state income tax. But I am hopeful the promotional opportunities will be greater for Ohtani in New York. He stands to make a great deal of his income through endorsement deals. Also, when you look long-term, the Yankees can offer more lucrative dollars and stability for future contracts. Faced with the impending free agency of Japanese ace Yu Darvish last summer, the Rangers chose to deal Darvish to the Dodgers rather than make a strong effort to re-sign him. Granted, Darvish didn’t exactly have a stellar finish to his season but it reinforced to me that if you want long-term security, New York is a better place to be than Texas. Plus, the Yankees have the legacy of Japanese greats Hideki Matsui and Masahiro Tanaka.

Shohei Ohtani (top right) / Credit:  Koji Watanbe, Getty Images

Farewell to a Pitcher and a Catcher…

It was tough to see the loss of former Blue Jays and Phillies great Roy Halladay this week to the tragic plane crash in the Gulf of Mexico near Tampa, FL. When he played, he was the definition of “the” true ace for me. I had always hoped the Yankees would find a way to acquire him when he played for the Blue Jays but recognized that intra-division trades of superstars rarely happen. Still, he was marvel to watch pitch despite his domination of the Yankees. His loss was felt and I am deeply saddened by his untimely departure.

A lesser known baseball player also died this week but it was equally as sad. 17-year-old Daniel Flores, a catcher out of Venezuela the Boston Red Sox had signed in last year’s International Draft for $3.1 million signing bonus, succumbed to cancer in Boston. Flores was rated as the fifth best prospect in the Red Sox system according to MLB.com. Prior to the draft last year, Flores was ranked as the second best International prospect behind shortstop Wander Franco (who signed with the Tampa Bay Rays). By comparison, the Yankees top signing, outfielder Everson Pereira, was ranked fourth. According to scouting reports, Flores would have been a brilliant defensive whiz behind the plate. It’s unfortunate he is unable to reach his dream to play at Fenway Park but hopefully his signing bonus provides long-term security for his family and loved ones.

May both men rest in peace.

No Gold Glove Awards but a few Silver Sluggers…

Congratulations to Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez for winning their first Silver Slugger Awards. These were easy calls and it would have been a great travesty if either player had been omitted. Now, we await the results of AL Rookie of the Year and AL MVP which should bring more hardware in Judge’s direction. Individual awards are nice but we really need to get these guys a World Series championship!

Today is Veteran’s Day. For all veterans everywhere, thank you for your service. We remember you today and always…

In closing, as always, Go Yankees!

Better Late Than Never…

Credit:  Mike Stobe-Getty Images

Yankees 5, Red Sox 4…

And thus endeth the Red Sox eight-game winning streak.  For seven innings, it looked like the Yankees offense was still MIA.  But then the 8th inning happened.  It got a little dicey in the 9th with Aroldis Chapman on the mound but in the end he got the job done with a huge assist from Aaron Hicks and Todd Frazier.  The Yankees emerged with the victory in the first game of a three game set with the Boston Red Sox.
Credit:  Charles Wenzelberg-NY Post

The Red Sox jumped on the board first.  In the top of the first inning, with Mookie Betts on first after a walk, Yankees starter Jaime Garcia decided to challenge Hanley Ramirez with an inside fastball on a 3-1 count.  Bad idea.  Ramirez deposited the ball over the left center wall into the bullpen, and the Red Sox had the early 2-0 lead.  In the bottom of the first, walks to Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge had a runner in scoring position with only one out.  But like the struggles in Toronto on Wednesday night, the Yankees failed to advance the runners.  Admittedly, it felt like it was going to be another one of those games.

Credit:  Frank Franklin II-The Associated Press

It seemed Red Sox were going to blow the game open in the 3rd inning.  Mookie Betts singled to left with one out  Great stop by Aaron Hicks that prevented a double.  He was followed by Andrew Benintendi who laced a soft line drive single to center.  Betts moved to third on the hit, with Benintendi advancing to second on Jacoby Ellsbury’s late throw to third.  Hanley Ramirez was intentionally walked, loading the bases.  Jaime Garcia, in one of the keys to the game, struck out former Yankee Chris Young and got Xander Bogarts to ground out to escape the inning unscathed.

Bottom of the third, another Yankee (Aaron Hicks) was left stranded at second after he had hit a one-out double to center past a lunging Mookie Betts.  The RISP struggle continued.

Boston added another run in the top of the 5th.  With Garcia still pitching, Andrew Benintendi homered to right with two outs, a solo shot into the second deck.  Garcia got into a little further trouble when the next batter (Hanley Ramirez) doubled off the center field wall and Chris Young walked, but, after a talk with pitching coach Larry Rothschild, he was able to get Xander Bogarts to hit a fly to right for the third out.

Ronald Torreyes doubled to left off the wall with one out in the bottom of the 5th, but like Hicks in the 3rd, he could go no further.  Another failed scoring opportunity.

The Red Sox had a chance to add to their lead in the 6th.  Garcia struck out Red Sox rookie Rafael Devers but Christian Vazquez got on base with a single up the middle.  Jackie Bradley, Jr hit a grounder to short which erased Vazquez at second but the Yankees couldn’t turn the double play.  With JBJ at first and Eduardo Nunez coming to bat, Manager Joe Girardi pulled Garcia and replaced him with Adam Warren.  Nunez stroked a single to right, with JBJ taking second.  The dangerous Mookie Betts came up but Warren got him on a fly out to right.  Whew!  Evading trouble in that spot was huge.  

Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez did not return for the 7th inning.  It was good to see him leave the game.  Six innings, two hits, no runs, seven strikeouts.  But the Yankees didn’t fare much better against Sox reliever Matt Barnes in the bottom of the 7th.  After he walked Todd Frazier, he easily set down the next three batters.

Hats off to Adam Warren.  He had shut down the Sox in the 7th and did the same in the 8th.  He was as responsible as anyone for the setting the stage for the bottom of the 8th dramatics.  If he had not held the Red Sox at bay, the hole might have been too large to overcome.  

Brett Gardner led off the bottom of the 8th against former New York Mets reliever Addison Reed.  Gardner reached first when he was hit by a pitch on his front foot (a call made after a replay challenge by the Yankees).  A-A-Ron Hicks, in his second game back from the DL, blasted Reed’s slider into the right field stands just inside the foul pole to make it a 3-2 game.  

Credit:  Frank Franklin II-The Associated Press

Continuing the inning, Gary Sanchez singled to left and took second on a wild pitch by Reed.  Aaron Judge patiently accepted a walk, and Reed was pulled in favor of Joe Kelly.  Didi Gregorius singled to left, scoring Sanchez to tie the game.  Judge moved to third.  Todd Frazier joined the party with a single to left that dropped in front of Andrew Benintendi to score Judge with the go-ahead run.  The Yankees loaded the bases when Jacoby Ellsbury, the $153 million man, singled to right after Chase Headley had struck out.  Ronald Torreyes, the little man with a big stick, hit a sacrifice fly to left which was deep enough to score Gregorius with what would prove to be a HUGE insurance run.  It was 5-3 Yankees.  Brett Gardner walked to re-load the bases, but the Sox replaced Kelly with Fernando Abad who retired Aaron Hicks, coming to bat for the second time in the inning, on a pop out to end the inning.  

Credit:  Frank Franklin II-The Associated Press

The 9th inning brought Aroldis Chapman into the game.  Unfortunately, this season has seen Chapman struggle with too much rest or too much use.  This time it was too much rust as he hadn’t pitched since last Saturday.  He walked the first three batters to load the bases (while I was losing my mind).  Girardi was much more patient than I would have been.  I would have pulled Chapman after he walked the second batter to replace him with David Robertson…the luxury of having proven closers in the pen behind Chapman.  But Girardi’s patience with Chapman paid off.  Even though the Red Sox scored a run with the next batter, Andrew Benintendi, the Yankees probably would have been unable to hold the lead without the sequence of events.  Benintendi hit a deep fly to left.  Aaron Hicks noticed that his former teammate with the Minnesota Twins, Eduardo Nunez, was breaking for third, and he fired a shot to Todd Frazier who grazed the sliding Nunez with the tag before he was able to reach third.  The Red Sox challenged the play (admittedly very close) but lost the appeal.  The double play thwarted the Red Sox momentum.  The next batter, Mitch Moreland, flied out to center to end the game.  If the Yankees had not thrown Nunez out, he most likely would have scored the game tying run when Moreland lofted his fly ball.  The  Yankees win, 5-4, and stop the Red Sox winning streak.

Credit:  Paul J Bereswill-NY Post

Adam Warren (3-2) was the winner in relief of Jaime Garcia.  New acquisitions Garcia and Sonny Gray can’t seem to get any runs from the Yankees offense.  Garcia’s final line was respectable…5 2/3 innings, 7 hits, 3 runs, 3 walks, and 6 strikeouts.  It was a ‘bend but not break’ performance that kept the Yankees in the game.  A-A-Ron Hicks was the clear MVP of the game with his home run and the brilliant throw to nail Nunez.  

Credit:  Charles Wenzelberg-NY Post

The Yankees (61-53) moved back to 3 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East Standings after it had felt like they might fall a season high 5 1/2 games back.  The Cleveland Indians shut out the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-0, to push the Rays 3 1/2 games behind the Yankees.  The Baltimore Orioles fell 5 games behind the Yanks with their 5-4 loss to the Oakland A’s.    

Aaron Judge struck out for his 28th consecutive game.  He was 0-for-2 with two walks and a run scored plus the strikeout.  

Odds & Ends…

It sounds like Derek Jeter is finally going to be Don Mattingly’s boss after months of rumors and speculation.  Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has accepted a bid to sell the team to a group headed by New York businessman Bruce Sherman and Jeter for $1.2 billion.  Apparently, Sherman will be the “control person” (the Hal Steinbrenner of the group) and Jeter will run baseball and business operations.  The investment group headed by Sherman and Jeter includes NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan.  The sale, which must be approved by MLB owners, is expected to close in October.  

Credit:  Andrew Savulich-New York Daily News

As expected, the Yankees placed LHP CC Sabathia (right knee inflammation) on the 10-Day DL and recalled LHP Jordan Montgomery.  Montgomery is expected to start on Sunday against Boston’s Chris Sale.  1B Tyler Austin was reinstated from the DL and optioned to Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  I am sure that Garrett Cooper’s recent performance had a strong say in that decision.

Friday night featured a great match-up between Chance Adams of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and Ryan Yarbrough of the Durham Bulls (Triple A team for the Tampa Bay Rays).  Yarbrough may not be a top pitching prospect for the Rays (he is #23 on their top prospect list according to MLB.com) but he entered the game with 12 wins, tied for the International League lead, or four more than Adams.  The RailRiders tagged Yarbrough with his sixth loss in the 6-2 victory as Adams (9-3) picked up the win.  I was very pleased to see that he walked only one batter.  Adams threw 101 pitches (69 for strikes) over six innings.  He only allowed four hits and two runs (one earned) while striking out six.  His season ERA stands at 2.31.  Soon, Young Grasshopper…

Have a great Saturday!  Let’s take down the Sox again this afternoon!  Go Yankees!

Solution: 15 K’s & Red Thunder…

Credit:  Al Bello-Getty Images

Yankees 5, Brewers 3…

Finally!  A fun and dramatic game.  Clint Frazier was the man of the hour with three hits.  The first hit broke up a no-hitter by Milwaukee starter Brent Suter in the fifth inning.  The second hit brought the Yankees within a run when the ball landed on top of the Stub Hub sign in left for a triple to score two runs.  The third hit was a game-winning walk-off home run to left as the Yankees overcame the Brewers on Saturday afternoon.

The first inning didn’t get started on the right foot.  After Eric Thames looped a double to right field, Travis Shaw was awarded first base in a controversial “hit by pitch”.  The umpire didn’t react until Shaw said something which caused the ump to send Shaw to first base, drawing the ire of Manager Joe Girardi.  Girardi could be overheard saying “He called it, you didn’t call it”.  The TV replays, to me, were inconclusive.  If the ball hit Shaw, it was fabric only but even then, the jersey didn’t move as the ball passed through to the catcher’s mitt.

Credit:  Julio Cortez-AP

Domingo Santana followed with a fly ball just over the right field wall which gave the Brewers an early 3-0 lead.

Credit:  Getty Images

For the Brewers, it would be the end of their offensive show for the day.  Luis Severino made the necessary adjustments (I hope you were watching, Michael Pineda!) and shut the Brewers down for the next six innings.  By the time he departed, he had pitched 7 innings, allowing 6 hits and the 3 runs allowed via the first inning home run.  He walked two, both in the 6th inning, while striking out 10.  It was a no-decision for him but the Yankees do not win this game without Severino’s performance.

Credit:  Julio Cortez-AP

The Yankees had a scoring opportunity in the 2nd inning when Didi Gregorius lofted a fly ball to center.  Four Brewers converged at the same time and the ball fell between them for an error on Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia.  But the Yankees were subsequently caught with awful base-running. Chase Headley hit a come-backer to the pitcher and the Brewers had Didi caught between second and third.  Didi didn’t try to extend the rundown and the Brewers were able to tag Didi out and nail Headley off first base for the double play.  If Didi had tried to evade the tag, it would have given Headley the time to get back to first.

The Yankee bats were silent until the fifth inning when Clint Frazier finally collected the Yankees’ first hit off Brent Suter, a two-out single to right.  The Yankees weren’t able to do anything with it but it was a start.

After Luis Severino struck out Eric Thames with a runner in scoring position to end the top of the 7th, the Yankees finally got some runs on the board.  Chase Headley hit a one-out ground rule double to center.  Jacoby Ellsbury singled to move Headley to third.  A failed pick-off attempt at first allowed Headley to score while Ellsbury moved to third.  Clint Frazier hit a fly ball that momentarily looked to be a home run but it bounced off the lower part of the left field wall for a triple which scored Ellsbury.  The Yankees had closed the gap to 3-2.  Ji-Man Choi, pinch hitting for Austin Romine, and Ronald Torreyes were unable to bring Frazier home.

Onto the 8th inning and it was time for the Yankees bullpen which has been an Achilles Heel in recent days.  Dellin Betances took the mound in relief of Severino.  It was a ‘hold your breath’ moment until Betances proved to be the All-Star that he is, allowing everyone to exhale.  He induced Ryan Braun to ground out and then struck out both Travis Shaw and Domingo Santana.  Whew…Welcome back, Dellin!

Credit:  Corey Sipkin-New York Post

The Yankees were unable to generate any offense in the bottom of the 8th.  Moving to the top of the 9th, Aroldis Chapman replaced Betances.  Chapman has struggled with his command in recent games, but not yesterday. Three strikeouts later, it was off the bottom of the 9th with the Yankees still trailing by one run.  The Brewers brought in their strong closer, Corey Knebel, who has been a very pleasant surprise for the Brewers this year.  Knebel has struck out 72 batters in 41 innings while saving 13 games for Milwaukee.  He came into the game having only allowed 5 runs in 41 games.  The only knock against him is a tendency to walk too many batters. The weakness appeared right away as Didi Gregorius walked to open the inning on four straight balls.  Chase Headley went down swinging but Jacoby Ellsbury, like Didi, also walked on four straight balls as Knebel continued to struggle with his control.  So, the Yankees had runners at first and second with one-out when Red Thunder strolled to the plate.  After a ball in the dirt, Knebel grooved a 97 mph four-seam fastball down the middle.  With his blazing bat speed, Frazier quickly blasted a shot into the left field stands for the game-winning three-run home run as the Yankees won the game, 5-3.

Credit:  Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Aroldis Chapman (2-0) was the winner.  The Yankees (45-40) were able to pick up a game on the Boston Red Sox so they are 3.5 games out in the AL East.  The Tampa Bay Rays remain a game behind the Yankees, courtesy of their 1-0 victory over the Red Sox.

Credit:  Julio Cortez-AP

The Yankees conclude the first half today when Masahiro Tanaka (7-7, 5.25 ERA) takes the mound against Milwaukee’s Jimmy Nelson (7-4, 3.20 ERA).  Hopefully, yesterday’s dramatic win and stellar bullpen work provide the momentum for a new surge by the home team.

Odds & Ends…

The rumor mill is certainly heating up.  Within the last 24 hours, it has been reported the Yankees have heavy interest in first baseman Justin Bour of the Miami Marlins and reliever Brad Hand of the San Diego Padres.  I am always a little suspect of the trade rumors you openly hear about as GM Brian Cashman generally plays his cards close to the vest.  The more likely trades are the ones that you never hear about in advance. I would love to have Hand in the bullpen but the issue is cost.  I’d hate to lose Chance Adams or Miguel Andujar (a couple of the names that have been mentioned). There would be a bit of irony with the Marlins (which includes Manager Don Mattingly) sending Bour to New York to be the Yankees first baseman.  Bour hit his 20th homer of the year yesterday in Miami’s 5-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants.  There’s no doubt he’d be an upgrade over Ji-Man Choi.

Credit:  Ben Margot-AP

The YES Network’s Michael Kay mentioned an interesting stat during the telecast.  Yesterday was the 17-year anniversary of the Yankees’ double-header sweep over the New York Mets which featured games at both home parks.  Dwight Gooden and Roger Clemens were the winning pitchers in the subway double-header.  It’s hard to believe that it has been 17 years as I can clearly remember that day well.  It was a preview of the memorable Fall Classic that would pit the two teams against each other.

Matt Holliday was 2-for-4, both singles, with two runs scored in his rehab assignment for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.  The RailRiders won the game, 8-1, over the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.  Jake Cave was 3-for-3 with 2 HR’s and 5 RBI’s.  Miguel Andujar also chipped in a home run.

Have a great Sunday!  I am looking forward to more Red Thunder! But, please, no Tyler Clippard. Let’s Go Yankees!

Michael, a Few Home Runs and Instant Replay…

Credit:  Bill Kostroun

Yankees 4, Royals 2…

In a season when Masahiro Tanaka has forgotten how to throw his splitter and slider, only to see his fastball regularly deposited into outfield bleachers, Michael Pineda has stepped up to be “the man”.  Down early 2-0 to the Kansas City Royals, it would have been the point where Pineda collapsed like a cheap suit in years past.  But these are not years past and Michael Pineda no longer contributes to an avalanche parade.  

When Brett Gardner homered in the bottom of the third, it felt like everything was under control even though the Yanks still trailed by one.  With one on in the fourth, Didi Gregorius decided it was much better to lead than follow, launching a homer to right center to put the Yanks in front.  

Credit:  Elsa/Getty Images

Pineda made it into the seventh inning.  After striking out Jorge Bonifacio, who had homered for the Royals earlier in the game, Pineda gave up a single to former Cub Jorge Soler.  It was the end of Pineda’s night.  

With Adam Warren on the mound, Soler took second on a wild pitch.  Following a flyout by Whit Merrifield, the Royals appeared to tie the game at 3 when Alcides Escobar hit a grounder to Starlin Castro.  Escobar was ruled safe at first, beating an off-balance throw from Castro.  Soler scored on the play.  The Yankees challenged the call and the Baseball Gods were smiling favorably on the Pinstripes.  The decision at first was overturned, the inning was over, and the run scored by Soler was erased.  All I can say it was incredibly close.

Leading off the bottom of the seventh, Chris Carter boldly let his bat say, “This is why you hired me” with a blast to left-center.  So, instead of a 3-3 game just minutes earlier, the score was suddenly 4-2.  A nice reversal of fortune.  

From there, the Yankees bullpen shut the Royals down.  Tyler Clippard and Dellin Betances each delivered a scoreless inning of relief, and Betances struck out Jorge Soler to end the game, picking up his third save.

For the game, Pineda (5-2) pitched 6 1/3 innings, giving up six hits and two runs, while walking one and striking out six.  It wasn’t a clean start but it was the continuation of the strong, consistent version of the Michael Pineda that we’ve literally been waiting years to see.  

The win allowed the Yankees (26-16) to move a game and a half in front of the Baltimore Orioles who were throttled 14-7 at Camden Yards by the Minnesota Twins in a 21-hit attack.  The Boston Red Sox had the night off so they slipped four and half games back.  

Bronx Fury, South Beach Version…

A pair of ex-Yankees squared off on Friday night in Miami.  Marlins manager Don Mattingly took offense to something Los Angeles Dodgers bench coach Bob Geren yelled to Marlins closer A.J. Ramos.  “If he is going to yell and scream at our guys, the he is going to have to go through me”, said Mattingly, who was ejected in the bench-clearing stand-off.  

Credit:  Los Angeles Times

Mattingly and Geren were Yankees teammates from 1988 to 1991.  

Credit:  Getty Images

I feel badly for Mattingly.  He is in the midst of a very poor season in Miami and he was facing the team that he once managed.  I am not sure that Mattingly will survive the season and he is probably gone if the sale of the Marlins goes through (even if one of the potential new owners is Derek Jeter) unless he can turn things around very quickly.  Mattingly remains my favorite manager but these are not the best of times.

Umm, no, thank you…

Yesterday, Joe Giglio of NJ Advance Media, quoting an article that appeared on SportsNet.ca, floated the possibility of the Yankees as suitors for third baseman Josh Donaldson of the Toronto Blue Jays.  I do not dispute that Donaldson is a great player but it doesn’t make sense to me.  Donaldson is 31 and the Yankees, regardless of the great start this year, are still one to two years away from true World Series contention.  Sure, crazier things have happened, but it doesn’t make sense to me to part with talented young prospects for a guy that is on the wrong side of 30.  

Manny Machado should remain the target.  I am not enamored with Chase Headley covering third until if/when we can get Machado but I don’t think the Yankees are either.  With the call-up of infielder Gleyber Torres to AAA, he is positioning himself for an appearance in the Bronx later this year or at the latest, next spring.  I’d gladly take Starlin Castro at third (over Headley) to make room for Torres at second.  The path to Machado will be costly in terms of dollars but it retains the wealth of prospects within the organization.  If the Yankees lose out on Machado, then they’ll need to look at Plan B.  I am still optimistic that Miguel Andujar can be a solution within the next couple of years.  Let the Boston Red Sox further deplete their farm system for Donaldson and add another player that will be ready for social security in a couple of years.

So, count me out if trying to decide whether or not to bring Donaldson to the Yankees.

All Rise, now entering Right Field, the Honorable Judge, Aaron…

The Yankees have climbed aboard the Judge Train with the rest of us.  They’ve unveiled a new area wrapped around the three rows in the back of Section 104 in right field aptly named “The Judge’s Chambers”.  Selected fans, with preference to those wearing Aaron Judge jerseys, will temporarily be given black robes adorned by #99 on the back while sitting the special area during games.  I guess it beats having a bad tasting candy bar named after you…

Credit:  Ben Walker/AP

Have a great Tuesday!  Let’s keep this winning feeling going!

Guilty of Playing Favorites…

There have been better Yankees than Derek Jeter.  Yes, I said it…

I know I should not say any disparaging words about Jeter but for as many fans as he had during his playing days, he was just not one of my favorites.  Sorry guys and more importantly, gals.  I liked the player and enjoyed his time, but probably more so in the earlier part of his career.  When everyone was wearing #2 jerseys, I was just not feeling it.  Throughout the last Yankees dynasty, my favorite player was Mariano Rivera.  So, basically from the time he started until he walked off the field for the final time, Mo was my favorite Yankee.  Well, I guess I should say that he didn’t technically become my favorite until 1996 when he zinging bullets in front of closer John Wetteland.  Up to 1995, my favorite was Donnie Baseball.  

Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoyed watching Jeter’s final days and the memorable last game at Yankee Stadium.  I’ll watch on Sunday with interest as the Yankees retire #2 to Monument Park.  I’ll be thankful for his time in pinstripes, and he’ll not be forgotten.  He just wasn’t one of my favorites, that’s all.  Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte…loved those guys when they wore pinstripes.  I can’t put a finger on it but I’ve never  felt the same way about Jeter.  For all his faults, I even loved Darryl Strawberry.  His home run swing is still one of my all-time favorites.  Maybe this is why it is easier for me to accept the fact that Jeter might be part of the ownership and management team for the Miami Marlins.  At that point, he’ll just be another dude.  No different than Brian Sabean, Dick Tidrow and Dave Righetti in San Francisco except that he’ll have an ownership stake in his team.  I am sure that Jeter will pull for the Yankees as long as they are not playing the Marlins but you know if they do meet, Jeter will be pulling out every stop to beat Baseball’s most storied franchise.  

I was glad when Jeter was finally out of the way and we were able to upgrade, first defensively and later offensively, with Didi Gregorius.  It was time for change.  I am sure the day will come when I’ll be glad to see Didi’s replacement. Unfortunately, all of us are adversely afflicted with aging.  Well, except for maybe Betty White.

I am not trying to offend anyone.  It’s simply a case that all of us are entitled to our own opinions.

I’ve been aware of Jeter since he was an 18-year-old from Kalamazoo, Michigan, picked 6th overall in the 1992 MLB Draft.  It was a great long successful career.  But there is nothing in the Yankees Fan Rule Book that says he had to be one of my favorites.  I always thought the crowds Jeter would draw at baseball games were somewhat humorous.  Women swooned in his presence and maybe a few guys.  He now lives a life in a mansion in Florida and is married to one of the most beautiful women in the world.  He obviously has excess cash to spend as part of the ownership group seeking to purchase the Marlins.  He lives in a world that I’ll never know or understand.  Pardon me, but I’d rather cheer for Aaron Judge or Gary Sanchez on Sunday.  Enjoy your day, Derek.  Lou Gehrig had it wrong.  You’re the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.

Since I seem to be on a negative roll today, I’ll go ahead and include Carlos Beltran.  Despite Beltran’s interest in returning to the Yankees in the off-season, I am thankful that he opted to grab the one-year, $16 million deal from the Houston Astros.  Beltran did a fine job as a Yankee and he was arguably our best hitter the first part of last year, but I strongly prefer Aaron Judge in right field (the obvious no-brainer) and Matt Holliday at DH.  I have absolutely no issue with the Yankees for not engaging Beltran in talks during his free agency period last November-December.  His present team might be one of our biggest roadblocks to October but I had/have no interest in a reunion tour with Beltran.

The Yankees fell to the Houston Astros 3-2 last night in the first game of a four game set.  This series is one of the major tests to determine if the Yankees are for real.  I knew, looking at the pitching matchup, this was going to be the hardest one with Yankee killer Dallas Keuchel on the mound.  In picking up his sixth win of the year, Keuchel dominated the Yankees as he always does.  In 50 2/3 innings, he has only allowed seven Yankees to cross home plate.  CC Sabathia would let teams do that every game if Joe Girardi allowed him to go deeper into games.  For the game, Keuchel went six innings.  He only gave up 5 hits and allowed an unearned run.  He walked one and struck out nine.  As tough as Keuchel was, the Yankees had their chances.

It didn’t help that the Astros jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning before many people had even gotten to their seats.  The first hit of the game was a double by Josh Reddick that fell between Didi Gregorius and Jacoby Ellsbury.  It was a play that Ellsbury should have called but didn’t, leading Didi to attempt a failed catch with his back turned.  With two outs, Carlos Correa homered to center, scoring Reddick.  The Yankees were never able to recover.

I certainly do not place any blame with Michael Pineda.  He did his job.  He gave up three runs over 6 2/3 innings, allowing six hits and a walk.  He struck out seven.  

With the bases loaded in the fifth and two outs, Jacoby Ellsbury was credited with an RBI on catcher’s interference (his bat hit Brian McCann’s glove).  It was the 28th catcher’s inference that Ellsbury has accumulated over his career, trailing Pete Rose by one.  Gary Sanchez grounded out to end the threat, leaving the bases loaded (one of the game’s missed opportunities).

The Yankees couldn’t get anything going against Chris Devenski, who replaced Keuchel in the seventh inning.  Devenski has been one of Baseball’s best setup men so far this young season.  But opportunity presented itself in the bottom of the ninth inning with the Yankees trailing 3-1.  With two outs, the Yankees had runners at second (Ellsbury) and third (Aaron Hicks) against Astros closer Ken Giles.  Gary Sanchez hit a single to left, scoring Hicks.  Third base coach Joe Espada also sent Ellsbury, but a perfect strike from left fielder Jake Marisnick to Brian McCann nailed Ells at the plate to end the game.

Credit:  Kathy Willens/AP

The Yankees fell to 21-11, allowing the Baltimore Orioles to re-take sole possession of first place in the AL East by a half-game (the O’s were off).  On the bright side, we won’t be seeing Keuchel again this series.  Tonight’s matchup will be tough as young Lance McCullers, Jr has performed well so far this year (2-1, 3.40 ERA).  The Yankees counter with Jordan Montgomery (2-1, 3.81 ERA).  

Have a great Friday!  Time to show the Astros that we are for real!