Tagged: Houston

The Bidding for James Paxton Begins…

Photo Credit: The Canadian Press (Fred Thornhill)

Will Paxton join Gerrit Cole in Houston?…

Last year, the Yankees missed an opportunity to acquire top starting pitcher Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Houston Astros swooped in to grab the talented righty. It’s possible that the Yankees could be outdone by the Astros for the second consecutive year. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweeted this morning that Houston is in on the potential trade  talks for James Paxton of the Seattle Mariners along with the Yankees and other clubs.

I wanted Cole last winter although a number of Yankee fans did not. Honestly, it’s unlikely Cole would have pitched as well in the Bronx as he did in Houston so perhaps the opposing fans were right. This is a new year, and now the trade speculation is on Paxton, Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. My initial desire is to place Kluber at the top of the list, but the more you think about it, the less likely you feel the Cleveland Indians would actually move their aces. The Indians remain a contending team so unless it is a serious overpay, the Tribe is not going to part with Kluber or Carrasco. So it leaves Paxton as potentially the best available trade target assuming the Mariners decide to move him. Seattle GM Jerry DiPoto is, of course, very unpredictable but the Yankees and Mariners have matched up for lesser deals in recent years so there is history of successful negotiations. I have no doubt DiPoto would trade within division for the right mix of players so Houston is a serious threat for the Yankees if they identify Paxton as the guy they want. The Astros may lose Charlie Morton to free agency and they’ve already lost Lance McCullers, Jr for the 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery. So the Astros are just as motivated to add top starters as the Yankees.

As much as I like Paxton, he is not someone I would trade Miguel Andujar for (or Estevan Florial or Justus Sheffield for that matter).  Kluber or Carrasco, yes, but not Paxton. Paxton carries much greater risk with his inability to stay healthy. So, as much as I would hate to get punked by the Astros again and as much as I’d like Paxton on the staff, there is a price I’d draw a line. If Houston wants to overpay, let them.  If GM Brian Cashman can get Paxton at his price, great. I’ll be excited to see Paxton join the Yankees starting rotation…with Miguel Andujar continuing to field grounders at third in Yankee Stadium.

A pic of a shaved Dallas Keuchel has been floating the Internet with talk about how the “beardless” one would look in the Bronx.

With no offense to Keuchel, I don’t really want to see him in the Bronx. I know he’s been tough on the Yankees over the years but I cannot find myself with the desire to root for him.  Keuchel will only be 31 when the season begins, however, I think Keuchel and Patrick Corbin are on opposite trajectories for their 30’s. Corbin, like fine wine, stands a much better chance of aging well. If the Yankees miss out on Corbin and others, it is possible they have to make a run at Keuchel but I really hope that’s a potential option which never comes to fruition. Bring me Corbin and J.A. Happ and I’ll be happy.

Trying to brace myself for the possibility the Yankees pass on the big ticket purchases this winter, I think Marwin Gonzalez and Jurickson Profar represent the best options for the infield to help cover for the loss of Didi Gregorius. I’ve liked Daniel Murphy in the past but I don’t feel he really fits the Yankees at this stage in his career. Both Gonzalez and Profar have positional diversity which makes them very valuable with the current group of Yankees. Who knows, maybe this is the year Tyler Wade puts it together to launch his Major League career in full force. It’s not really a bet I’d make but it is not my team or my money. Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is on record that he is tired of lining the pockets of other owners and it’s his right to make the financial decisions in the best interests of the Steinbrenner Family. I think most of us thought the Yankees were positioning themselves for a big splash into the 2018-19 free agent market but the reality is that we need to be prepared for Team Fiscal Restraint. I am hopeful Hal sees the potential salary relief when guys like Jacoby Ellsbury come off the books in just a couple of years but we’ll see.

It was tough in years past to see the Yankees pass on the big name free agents. Max Scherzer stands out as one. At the time of his free agency, the Yankees were cited as one of the favorites to sign him. They didn’t and Scherzer moved from Detroit to Washington and has continued to pitch at an elite level. Even if the Yankees weren’t ready to add an elite pitcher at the time of Scherzer’s availability, he’d certainly look fantastic in the starting rotation today. The price would have meant the inability to bring payroll under the luxury tax threshold this year so the decision to pass on Scherzer remains debatable. It’s amazing how the decision to sign Jacoby Ellsbury has haunted the Yankees for so many years. I guess that’s a strong argument for not going hog wild in the current free agent market.

Before I close, I’d like to send out our prayers and thoughts to all those affected by the wildfires in Northern and Southern California. For some, there will never be recovery. I hope the fires are brought under control soon and we suffer no further loss of life. For those of you in California, please stay safe.

View of Malibu from Santa Monica Pier

Lastly, Happy Veteran’s Day! We can never forget those who served and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to maintain our freedom. Today, and every day, we honor you.

As always, Go Yankees!

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Winning Ugly…

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

Yanks overcome mistakes and Astros…

There have been a few games the Yankees have lost this year that they should have won, but Tuesday’s game probably should have been a loss. Sure, the Yankees got fourteen hits, but they struck out seventeen freakin’ times and committed an incredulous five errors. Charlie Morton, Clark Kent in Pittsburgh but Superman in Houston, struck out ten Yankees in six innings of work. He did allow three runs to inflate his season ERA to 2.26 but he was in line for the victory with a 5-3 lead when he departed.

CC Sabathia did not look great but credit to him for holding the Astros to only five runs (three earned) on eight hits before departing after five innings and turning the game over to the bullpen. If Sabathia would have given up any more runs, there most likely would have been no dramatic comebacks on this night. ‘Keep it close and get the game into the hands of the bullpen’ is something I’ve been saying from the start of this series. There’s no doubt I’d prefer to take my chances with the Yankees pen over the Astros’ mess. Houston may have the best five starters in the game right now, but their bullpen is about as bad as Roseanne Barr on Twitter.

Every game, I am amazed about the play of Gleyber Torres. Considering he had two of the five errors, he had every reason to clunk this game. But there he was in the bottom of the tenth inning with the winning run on second. A ball that was generously called a strike by the home plate umpire aggravated Torres, but perhaps with an assist from third base coach Phil Nevin, Torres was able to shake it off and wait for his pitch. On a 2-2 count, he drove Brad Peacock’s two-seam fastball into right field, easily allowing Miguel Andujar to race home well ahead of the off-line throw from the outfield, scoring the walk-off winning run. 9 home runs, 26 RBI’s, .321 batting average. The guy has only had 117 plates appearances in the Major Leagues.  The dude is only 21 years old. When Charlie Hayes caught the pop-up to end the 1996 World Series, Gleyber was still marinating in his mother’s stomach. How is this possible? Amazing, simply amazing and something quite special.

The heroics by Torres were made possible by none other than the ancient Brett Gardner. I know, 34 is not old but on a team of twenty-somethings, he’d be the gray-haired man (if he had hair). Not one but two home runs by Gardy put the Yankees in position to win. The second home run, a two-run bomb off Houston’s Chris Devenski in the bottom of the ninth, tied the game to send it into extra innings.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Frank Franklin II)

It figures that Miguel Andujar played a key role in both the tying and winning moments. His walk to open the ninth set the stage for Gardy’s home run to tie it, and his double in the tenth, laced into left with the fury like ABC used to cancel Roseanne’s show, put him in position to score the walk-off run.

Also, mention must go to the spectacular play by Gary Sanchez to end the top of the tenth inning. With Houston’s Tony Kemp on second base and two outs, closer Aroldis Chapman’s 100 mph fastball sailed above El Gary’s head to the backstop. The sheer force and velocity of the pitch ricocheted the ball back to Gary who, in turn, fired a strike to third base to nail the sliding Tony Kemp. There was the pesky Miguel Andujar again, applying the tag for the final out.

The Yankees (34-17) won the game 6-5 and remain two games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East. The Sox, winners of eight of their last ten and two in a row, thumped the Toronto Blue Jays, 8-3. The Yankees and Red Sox have the equal number of losses (17), but Boston has four more wins.

On a side note about the seventeen strikeouts, every batter in the Yankees lineup struck out at least once and three guys (Greg Bird, Gary Sanchez, and Aaron Hicks) struck out three times. I am getting a little tired of watching Hicks take meatballs down the center of the plate with his bat on his shoulder. Count me among those who’d prefer to see what Red Thunder could do in center.

Despite two strikeouts of his own and the previously mentioned couple of errors, I am so proud to have Gleyber Torres on this team. He has given me a sense of confidence about second base that I haven’t felt since Robinson Cano patrolled these parts (I’d like to think drug-free, but who knows). Nothing against Giancarlo Stanton, but I feel Torres has been the most valuable new addition to the team this year. Maybe when Stanton starts crushing massive home runs every day with one of his typical monster tears I’ll feel differently but for now, I’ll just sit back and enjoy watching young Gleyber play…and win.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Al Bello)

Yesterday, I mentioned Josh Rogers as a potential callup for the Yankees. The 23-year-old lefty delivered a dominating performance on the road Tuesday for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders against the Louisville Bats. Rogers, who went to the University of Louisville and grew up nearby, pitched a five-hit shutout for seven innings. He walked two and struck out three while lowering his season ERA from 2.80 to 2.48 in the RailRiders’ 4-0 win. Rogers, unlike Chance Adams, is pitching like he wants a free ride to the Bronx. If he keeps this up, he’ll get it.

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Photo Credit: Todd Hiller

The Yankees conclude their season series with the Astros tonight. Noted Yankee killer Dallas Keuchel is on the mound but he’ll be going against our best, Luis Severino. I am sure we’ll see Keuchel again in October. Nothing better than sending him away with a loss to think about for the next few months. I gotta admit I have wondered what Keuchel would look like without that beard if he decides to try on pinstripes over the upcoming winter.

Go Yankees!

A Wish: To Beat Justin Verlander..

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

Eventually, the Wish will become Reality…

I was not too confident about the Yankees’ chances against Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander yesterday and unfortunately I was right as the Bombers fell to the Astros, 5-1. As if the cold bats against Verlander weren’t bad enough, the sight of him walking off the field while tipping his cap to the jeers from the Yankee Stadium crowd was sickening. When I think of Verlander, I can still see his ugly mug in the midst of the brawl in Detroit last summer.

I don’t like Justin Verlander. I’ll just get that out there. I do not wish the Yankees had been the team to acquire him last summer regardless of what he has done wearing an Astros uniform. I don’t want him on my team. I want my team to beat him, to crush him like an ant. If the Yankees can beat Verlander in the post-season, a regular season loss to him will mean absolutely nothing. So, for now, I’ll take solace in the fact the Yankees are watching and learning. The day will come when they tee off on Verlander and he’ll look like the aging pitcher he was in the final days of wearing Detroit Tigers gear. I look forward to our next meeting with Verlander which could very well happen in October.

The next two games against the Astros will be tough. Whatever it is about pitching in Houston, Charlie Morton is drinking the water. An average starter at best in Pittsburgh, he’s become a different man in Houston and has pitched very well against the Yankees. Morton is undefeated this season (7-0), carrying a low ERA of 2.04 (which of course is high compared to Verlander’s 1.11). I wish I felt more confident with CC Sabathia on the mound. Frankly, I don’t know what we are going to get today with CC (2-1, 3.55 ERA). I guess my philosophy is the same as yesterday. Try to keep it close and get the game into the hands of the bullpen. Bullpen to bullpen, I like the Yankees’ chances.

Tomorrow, for the series finale, the Astros will have proven Yankee-killer Dallas Keuchel on the mound. If there is a silver lining, this has been a down year for Keuchel (3-6, 3.39 ERA) which also happens to be his walk year. We’ll throw the best we’ve got (Luis Severino, 7-1, 2.28 ERA) at Houston but down year or not, I expect Keuchel to be on his game. It should be a classic pitching duel.

One positive from yesterday’s game (at least for me)…Greg Bird’s swing is a thing of beauty.

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Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

I know there were positives in Domingo German’s performance yesterday with the number of whiffs (he did record seven strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings) but a loss is a loss. I know, he’s learning and it is part of the process. The Astros fans were probably very confident yesterday knowing who was pitching for them. I want that kind of guy. Again, not Verlander (for me), but a pitcher who instills confidence the way he does for his team. It’s not Sabathia, it’s not Masahiro Tanaka nor German, and it sure the hell isn’t Sonny Gray. I am getting a little tired of the usual suspects with rumored potential trade candidates. Michael Fulmer is 2-3 with 4.08 ERA and 1.273 WHIP. He may be young and controllable but his numbers are trending in the wrong direction. Same with Chris Archer. He is 3-3 with 4.29 ERA and 1.304 WHIP. To Archer’s defense, outside of a poor start against the Baltimore Orioles on May 12th when he gave up six runs in a loss, he has pitched much better in May than he did in April. At the end of April, Archer had a 6.61 ERA so even with the dog start against the O’s, he has lowered his ERA by more than two runs in a month. Fulmer is probably the better option since he’s younger and maybe his numbers help make his price tag more affordable. I don’t know. I can’t see either pitcher being “the guy” in October.

Hopefully, GM Brian Cashman uncovers a gem (or two) prior to this year’s trading deadline. Go ahead, surprise us with a true ace. An improved pitching staff to go with the team’s offense would be the catalyst for the Yankees to overcome the Boston Red Sox and charge into October with significant momentum. I want another shot at Justin Verlander.  Only next time, I expect to win.

So, the Cleveland Indians have promoted Justin Bieber to start this week. Oh sorry, make that Shane Bieber. Bieber was taken in the MLB Draft two years after the Indians selected Justus Sheffield and three rounds later. Bieber is a year older than Top Sheff and has blazed through the Indians system. I think we’ll see Sheff in a couple of months. Not really trying to draw a comparison between the two given Bieber was a college pitcher and much closer to the Majors than Sheffield was when he was taken in the first round of the 2014 Draft. But the emergence of rookie starters for contenders is heightening the excitement of Sheff’s impending arrival even if we have to wait awhile longer. Josh Rogers (4-3, 2.80 ERA) is scheduled to pitch today for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He is quietly inserting his name above Chance Adams as another arm that could make his Major League debut for the Yankees in the not-so-distant future.

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Josh Rogers / Photo Credit: Scranton Times-Tribune

Despite the home run he allowed to Jose Altuve yesterday, I’d probably give German’s next start to A.J. Cole.  I remained intrigued with the pitcher. I know, he’s not the answer and he was never more than a borderline Number 5 starter for the Washington Nationals. But I’d still like to see what he could do with a spot start. At one time, Nats fans thought Cole could be dominant but it never materialized. After originally being drafted by the Nationals in 2010, he did spend a year in the Oakland A’s farm system, but was reacquired by the Nats in 2013. The optimist in me tries to see Cole as a late bloomer (tapping on the potential that Washington scouts once saw) but the realist in me knows that he is a future DFA candidate. I’d just like to see what we have before he goes.

Today is a new day. As the Mariano Duncan quote goes, “We play today. We win today.” Let’s do it. Go Yankees!

Houston, We Have No Problems…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Bob Levey)

Yankees win again…

I have to admit the Yankees are playing better against the Houston Astros than I thought they would. It was a miserable start to current series when Houston’s Charlie Morton dominated the Yankees to take the first game, but since then, the Yankees have held the Astros scoreless for 22 innings and have limited them to two runs overall for three games. Houston is bound to score runs and it most likely will occur today but it’s been a fun ride.

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Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)

The Astros clearly have the best starting rotation but the Yankees have the better bullpen.  While we had early concerns about certain guys in the pen, the unit appears to be coming together and Aroldis Chapman looks great (even if he wasn’t needed last night). It is very nice to see Dellin Betances pitching like the All-Star version again. Chad Green, David Robertson…I am grateful for these guys every day.

Last night’s pitching performance by Luis Severino was magnificent. A day after Justin Verlander pitched a three-hit shutout for eight innings, striking out fourteen, only to walk away with a no-decision when Astros closer Ken Giles coughed up the game-winning home run to Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino took his gem to the finish line with a complete game, five-hit shutout. He also reached double-digits with strikeouts (ten).  If you want something done, you have to do it yourself.  It paid off for Sevy as he picked up his fifth win of the young season. Personally, I probably would have called it a night for Severino after eight innings and 98 pitches but thankfully they pay Aaron Boone to make those decisions, not me.

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Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)

It was only a matter of time until Giancarlo Stanton starting hitting like the NL MVP he is. Prior to yesterday’s game, I lost count of how many times I was reminded that Dallas Keuchel has never yielded any home runs to the Yankees. So, it was only fitting that the newcomer took Keuchel deep, not once but twice. I am really anxious for Stanton to have a game like this at Yankee Stadium. He has awed crowds in Toronto and Houston but I would love nothing better than for Stanton to take a curtain call in the Bronx.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Bob Levey)

I’ll borrow a term currently used on the TV show Supergirl. When they are hitting, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are “World Killers”. Yes, I watch Supergirl. C’mon, Melissa Benoist is hot. But with all sincerity, when the World Killers are on, the Yankees are unstoppable.

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I was as disappointed as any Yankees fan with the news that Jordan Montgomery will miss the next several months. While I am glad that the immediate prognosis does not involve Tommy John surgery, I recognize that anything is possible until Monty is healthy enough to pitch again. Hopefully rest over the next three weeks allows Montgomery to begin his path toward building arm strength once again. In the interim, I am looking forward to watching Domingo German. In Spring Training, I was so on Team German over Team Cessa as the Yankees’ long reliever/spot starter.  It’s unfortunate that it took an injury to Luis Cessa to open the door for German but I am glad he’s here. The Yankees certainly need to explore potential Plan B’s but for now, let’s see what the kid can do.  In my mind, A.J. Cole probably represents the next option. I’d prefer to see him over recent returnee David Hale.

When word spread that Monty had left Tuesday’s game after seven pitches, Yankees Twitter started clamoring for Chance Adams. While admittedly I am one of those who believe Adams is destined for the bullpen in a long-term view, his numbers at Triple A this year simply do not support an argument for his promotion. So far this season for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Adams is 0-2 in five starts. He has given up 24 hits in 24 2/3 innings and 14 earned runs (including four home runs). His ERA is an unsightly 5.11 and his WHIP is the highest it has ever been (1.42).  He is not ready. Justus Sheffield is the Yankees best pitching prospect (in my opinion) and he is killing it in Double A. Okay, “killing it” might be a bit too strong at 1-2, but he’s struck out 39 guys in 28 innings. Only one batter has connected for a home run off Top Sheff and he’s limited teams to seven total earned runs for 2.25 ERA. I think Sheffield has earned a promotion to Triple A, but he’s not ready for The Show just yet. My personal favorite pitching prospect is Albert Abreu but he’s further away (has only made one start in High A after returning from injury).

We’re probably a good month and a half to two months away from teams legitimately talking trades for starting pitchers. Some have speculated the Yankees should go after Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants. MadBum is currently on the DL but when healthy, he’s one of the best when the calendar turns to October. I’d love to have the guy on the Yankees. I just don’t think the Giants will trade their best pitcher who has meant so much to the organization. But if he could be pried loose, I’d have to problem giving up guys like Clint Frazier and Chance Adams for him.

For now, I hope Domingo German takes the job as fifth starter and runs with it. I don’t expect him to be as good as Monty but as long as he keeps the Yankees in games, life will be good.

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Photo Credit: AP (Kathy Willens)

The Yankees play an afternoon matinee today in the final game of their four-game set with the Houston Astros. Win or lose, this has been a great road trip for the Yankees. Worst case, they had back to the Bronx with a 5-2 record for the latest travel. But to win six of seven would be fantastic. Lance McCullers, Jr always seems to rise to the occasion against his father’s former team, but as the Yankees showed Dallas Keuchel yesterday, no one is invincible. I am looking for Masahiro Tanaka to continue the string of outstanding pitching performances in this series. A few homers from Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez would not hurt. If it involves another implosion by Ken Giles, all the better.

Go Yankees!

Take 2 Runs and Call Me in the Morning…

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Photo Credit: Associated Press

Yanks win on two-run homer by El Gary…

A deep drive by Gary Sanchez and some stellar pitching were the right ingredients for the Yankees on Sunday night as the winning streak continues. The Yankees won their ninth consecutive game with the 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

With a runner in scoring position (former Yankee Chris Young at second) in the bottom of the ninth and two outs, the showdown between Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman and Angels second baseman Ian Kinsler was electrifying. As we are continually reminded, “Baseball’s greatest player” (Mike Trout…why do I always want to call him Steve?) was standing in the on-deck circle, putting increased pressure on Chapman to end the game with Kinsler. The seven pitch at-bat concluded with a swinging strike for the final out.  Mike Trout could only stand and watch as the Yankees congratulated each other on the field for the series sweep, his bat resting to await the arrival of the Baltimore Orioles.

CC Sabathia pitched much better than I expected him to and the Yankees were, no doubt, the beneficiaries. The Yankees lose this game without CC’s exemplary start. Sabathia shirked the notion that he has become a five-inning pitcher (well, not really) by delivering seven strong.  He held the Halos to five hits and one run, while walking one and striking out four. The run came courtesy of a wild pitch in the sixth inning after Justin Upton had reached base on an infield single and Albert Pujols singled, his 2,996th career hit, to advance Upton to third. It was vintage Sabathia and the Yankees needed every bit of it on this night.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Mark J Terrill)

Credit to Angels starter Tyler Skaggs for holding the Yankees offense in check. When Giancarlo Stanton doubled in the top of the fourth inning, it was the first hit for the Yankees.  Gary Sanchez followed with a home run to left, a shot that traveled 447 feet to give the Yankees a two-run advantage.  Skaggs departed in the sixth inning due to a high pitch count, but those two hits in the fourth and an infield single by Gleyber Torres in the fifth were the only hits Skaggs allowed. He struck out eight Yankees over 5 1/3 innings and only walked two.  He pitched well enough to win but, thanks to Gary Sanchez and CC Sabathia, he did not.

The Yankees (18-9) kept pace with the AL East division-leading Boston Red Sox. The Sox ended the Tampa Bay Rays’ eight-game winning streak on Sunday in a battle of bullpens which saw Rays closer Alex Colome cough up the winning run in the bottom of the eighth. Craig Kimbrel closed out the win for Boston.  Bummer, I was really enjoying Boston’s losing streak and was pulling for the Rays to sweep. Sadly, all good things must end. The Yankees remain two games behind the Red Sox as we enter play on the final day of April.

Today the Yankees are in Houston, Texas to face the defending World Series champions and the site of last year’s heart-breaking Game 7 of the AL Championship Series that ended the Yankees’ season. I am sure that all Yankees fans on the East Coast are delighted the Yankees are in the Central Time Zone and no longer three hours away in the Pacific Time Zone.

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I suspect the Yankees winning streak will end while the team is in Houston, but it would be nice for them to get at least ten in a row before it is over. I love ten-game winning streaks and we are so very close.

ESPN staff writer Coley Harvey posted this Giancarlo Stanton quote. “We can all click even more. So we’re getting the timely hitting, the things we need to win ballgames, and if it stays hot like that where it’s a different guy every night contributing, then we’ll be tough, tough to beat.”  I agree but it is going to take solid pitching too.  Sonny Gray takes the mound tonight and admittedly that scares me. Right now, I have the least amount of confidence in Gray among the Yankees starters. I never thought I’d say this but I want Gray to pitch like former Yankee Caleb Smith did yesterday. Smith picked up his first win of the season, going seven innings against the Colorado Rockies. He held the Rockies to two hits and no runs, walking only one batter while striking out nine. I’d love for Gray to deliver that type of performance for the Yankees. I seem to be losing faith in Gray with each start so selfishly speaking, I’d like to see him reverse the trend. I’d really like to see Gray pitch like he did in Oakland one of these days.

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The Yankees will miss Gerrit Cole this series but they’ll face every other Astros starter since we are playing four games this week.

Here are the scheduled starters:

Monday, April 30th

Yankees:  Sonny Gray (1-1, 7.71 ERA)

Astros:  Charlie Morton (3-0, 1.86 ERA)

Tuesday, May 1st

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (2-0, 3.76 ERA)

Astros:  Justin Verlander (4-0, 1.36 ERA)

Wednesday, May 2nd

Yankees:  Luis Severino (4-1, 2.61 ERA)

Astros:  Dallas Keuchel (1-4, 4.00 ERA)

Thursday, May 3rd

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (4-2, 4.37 ERA)

Astros:  Lance McCullers, Jr (4-1, 3.71 ERA)

This will be a tough series. Although the Yankees currently have a better winning percentage (.667 to .655), the Astros have the second highest win total in the American League with 19 wins (one behind Boston). The Astros have shown no World Series hangover and it is clear they’ll be a force to be reckoned with come October. The first test begins tonight. I just wish we were leading with our best foot forward (in other words, not Sonny Gray).

I am ready to win a game (or better yet, games) in Houston. Tonight does seem like a good time to start. C’mon, Sonny, don’t let me down.

Go Yankees!

Houston Astros, 2017 World Series Champions…

Credit:  Wally Skalij — LA Times

2017 World Series

Astros 5, Dodgers 1…

Astros Win Series, 4-3

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

Credit:  Robert Gauthier – LA Times

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

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

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

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

Credit:  David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

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

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

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

Credit:  Wally Skalij – LA Times

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

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

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

Credit:  Wally Skalij – LA Times

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

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

Credit:  Wally Skalij – LA Times

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

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

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

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

Credit:  Luis Sinco – LA Times

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

Credit:  Jason O Watson, Getty Images North America

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

Credit:  Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG

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

Credit:  John McCoy, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

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

Credit:  David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

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

Odds & Ends…

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

Credit:  Anthony Causi, New York Post

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

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

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

Credit:  USA TODAY Sports

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

Dodging Their Way to Game Seven…

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

2017 World Series 

Dodgers 3, Astros 1

Series tied, 3-3

The Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers, okay I am not quite that old…the Los Angeles Dodgers…forced the first World Series Game 7 in Dodger Stadium history with their win over the Houston Astros in Game 6 on Tuesday night. We’re a week into this World Series and we now stand in the month that Derek Jeter made famous. Who will be the latest November hero?  We’ll find out later today.

The game was expected to be a pitching duel with veteran ace Justin Verlander pitching for the Astros against the resurgent Rich Hill for the Dodger Blue. Unlike the slugfest the broke out between Dallas Keuchel and Clayton Kershaw match-up, Verlander-Hill did not disappoint.  

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

The Dodgers started the game by having former Dodgers greats Tommy Lasorda and Orel Hershiser, champions in 1988, throw out the first pitches. Hershiser is regularly seen by Dodgers fans on SportsNet LA but it was wonderful to see Lasorda on Dodger Stadium turf again. It’s always good to see the legendary Lasorda whenever he makes an appearance. I didn’t love the guy back during those World Series against the Yankees in the late 70’s, but he grew on me over time and I appreciate his role in Dodgers history.

Credit:  Los Angeles Daily News:  John McCoy/SCNG

Once the game began, it was a scoreless affair until George Springer’s solo shot to right into the front row seats with two outs in the top of the 3rd broke the ice. On a team with multiple offensive stars, Springer and teammate Alex Bregman have really stood out for the Astros. If the Astros ultimately win this World Series, there’s no doubt that one or both of these guys will be in the thick of the action.

 

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

Bregman followed Springer’s homer with a sharply hit ball to short that Corey Seager booted but Seager was able to recover quickly with his throw just beating Bregman to the bag for the final out.

While Verlander was cruising through the early innings, allowing only a meaningless single by Yasiel Puig in the second inning, the Astros finally got to Hill in the top of the fifth. Brian McCann led off the inning with a single to deep right which Yasiel Puig cut off in the corner. Marwin Gonzalez was next and he doubled down the left field line into the corner, moving the huffing and puffing McCann to third. After Hill struck out Josh Reddick and Verlander, Springer was intentionally walked to load the bases. 

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

Much to Hill’s disappointment, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts made the call to the bullpen and brought in reliever Brandon Morrow who had imploded during his previous outing in Houston. The day of rest helped for the former Blue Jay. He was able to get Alex Bregman to ground out to short, through the runner’s legs, on the second pitch of the at-bat to end the inning with the bases overflowing with Astros.

The Astros threatened again in the top of the 6th, while Verlander was still pitching a one-hitter at that point. With two outs, Yuli Gurriel singled to center off Morrow. Dave Roberts then made a double switch, bringing in former Pirates closer Tony Watson to replace Morrow and second baseman Chase Utley to replace Logan Forsythe. Watson promptly hit Brian McCann with a pitch in the back of the right arm that I am sure was not part of the plan. Runners at first and second. Fortunately, Marwin Gonzales hit a liner to second, with Chase Utley jumping up for the catch, for the final out. Another missed scoring opportunity for the Astros (bummer for them, for me…not so much). 

In the bottom of the 6th, Austin Barnes led off with a single to left. Chase Utley, batting in the pitcher’s spot thanks to the double switch, was hit by a pitch on his right foot with a bouncer in the dirt. Chris Taylor, who probably makes Mariners GM Jerry DiPoto lose sleep everytime he revisits that trade in his head, came up big…again…when he doubled to right, scoring Barnes and advancing Utley to third. The game was tied.  

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

Corey Seager hit a high fly to right that died in front of the wall but it was deep enough to score Utley on the sacrifice. Verlander was able to get Justin Turner to foul out on the first base side and he struck out Cody Bellinger, but the Dodgers had taken their first lead of the game, 2-1.

The Astros made noise again for the third consecutive inning in the top of the 7th. After Tony Watson walked the lead off hitter, Josh Reddick, Dave Roberts took the ball from him and brought in Kenta Maeda to face Evan Gattis, pinch-hitting for Justin Verlander. Gattis hit into a fielder’s choice at short that erased Reddick at second but the Dodgers were unable to turn a double play. Gattis clearly reached first base before the throw but the Dodgers challenged and lost the play at second when they argued unsuccessfully that Reddick had purposely tried to take out Chase Utley (on the appropriately named Chase Utley rule). Mets fans were probably snickering as they recalled the time in the 2015 NLDS when Utley  slid into Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada rather than the base, breaking Tejada’s leg and sending the shortstop’s career on a downward trajectory. Not snickering because of Tejada but because Utley was the victim of an aggressive play. 

Credit:  Pasadena Star-News:  Keith Birmingham/SCNG

George Springer hit a grounder to short but the ball got by Corey Seager and rolled into left field. Gattis moved to second and was replaced by pinch-runner Derek Fisher. Alex Bregman flied out to center, with Fisher tagging and moving to third. It brought Jose Altuve to the plate. Altuve hit a hard grounder to third, but Justin Turner made a great play in throwing the ball to first for the out to end the inning.

Joc Pederson added an insurance run in the bottom of the 7th when he took reliever Joe Musgrove deep with a solo blast to left. There was some initial doubt if he had hit the ball far enough but it carried over the wall much to the excitement of Pederson and his teammates.  

 

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

From there, the Dodgers not to take any chances and brought in ace closer Kenley Jansen for the top of the 8th to get the six-out save. He easily retired the three batters he faced to send the game to the bottom of the inning. The Dodgers had a chance for more runs when they had two on with two outs for Cody Bellinger, but Clay’s son struck out swinging in an extended 9-pitch at bat against Francisco Liriano (who was making his first appearance in the World Series).

Kenley Jansen came back out for the top of the 9th (obviously). Marwin Gonzalez had the first chance to get the Astros back into the game. He popped out to first baseman Bellinger in shallow right. Next up, Josh Reddick. He struck out, swinging and missing the last two pitches. One last man stood between the Dodgers and victory…former Yankees slugger Carlos Beltran. Jansen threw a 94 mph Cutter with the count at 0-2 in favor of the pitcher. Beltran took a big swing  at the high pitch and missed. 

Credit:  Houston Chronicle:  Michael Ciaglo

Game over. Dodgers win!

Credit:  LA Times – Gina Ferazzi

Dodgers Legend and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax was in attendance as a spectator, looking like he could be the Game 7 starter if necessary.  Of course, it’s Los Angeles so there were more than few celebrities in the house, such as former Los Angeles Lakers star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

 

Credit:  Houston Chronicle:  Karen Warren

I have no clue who is going to win the World Series, but it comes down to one game. Winner take all. The matchup will feature Lance McCullers, Jr on the mound for the Astros. He’ll face Yu Darvish. If the game was to be the played in Houston, you’d have to like the Astros chances. But we are not at Minute Maid Park anymore. Darvish will have the support of the partisan crowd and Chavez Ravine will be rocking tonight. It should be another World Series classic.

Credit:  Pasadena Star-News:  Keith Birmingham/SCNG

Editor’s Note:  This writer is pro-Dodgers (if you didn’t notice already).

Odds & Ends…

It was sad to read the words of Ken Rosenthal’s interview with former Yankees manager Joe Girardi on yesterday’s The Athletic. I refuse to pay a subscription fee to Rosenthal but fortunately the article was available in full. Girardi clearly sounded like a guy who wanted to be a part of the next great Yankees era. I was glad to read that Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner left the door open for Girardi’s eventual return to the organization in some capacity if he so chooses. I personally doubt Girardi returns, but I thought he handled his first interview since the dismissal with style and grace.

Credit:  Getty Images

As expected, Gabe Kapler was named manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. So the Yankees are the only team without a manager. Unless there is a secret deal already in place (probably), today brings an unsigned general manager too as Brian Cashman’s deal expired last night. I think it’s a given that Cashman will return but I’ll be anxious to get his new contract behind us so that the Yankees can truly begin their off-season strategy and preparation to bring us their 28th World Championship.

Have a great Wednesday! This is it…the final day of Major League Baseball for 2017. Let’s Go Dodgers, but more importantly, Let’s Go Yankees!