Tagged: Indians

To the ALCS? YES, in Didi!…

Credit:  Phil Long-AP

American League Division Series, Game 5

Yankees Win Series, 3-2

Yankees 5, Indians 2…

CC Sabathia pitched tremendously before handing it over to the bullpen and the bats of Didi Gregorius and Brett Gardner provided the offense as the Yankees surprised the Cleveland Indians and the Baseball World to advance to the American League Championship Series.

Going into the final game of the ALDS, none of the experts were giving the Yankees a chance going against likely AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber in his home ballpark. But thanks in very large part to Gregorius, Kluber didn’t stay around too long.  His two home runs ensured that Kluber was watching the game from the dugout by the end of the 4th inning. I am sure that’s not the game plan that Tribe manager Terry Francona had envisioned. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Greg Bird were a combined 0-for-13 with ten strikeouts, but with Didi Gregorius playing one of the greatest games in Yankee shortstop history, it did not matter.

The game started with Corey Kluber in control. Brett Gardner opened with a failed bunt attempt on the first pitch to record an out. Aaron Judge struck out for the first of four strikeouts on the night for the second out. But then Didi Gregorius, who entered the game with just one hit in the series, blasted a drive into the right field seats for the game’s first run. Kluber came right back and struck out Gary Sanchez and was seemingly in control despite the misplaced pitch to Didi.

The Yankees had a runner in scoring position in the 2nd inning when Aaron Hicks took a two-out walk and Jacoby Ellsbury reached first on, surprise, catcher’s interference (bat hit the top of the catcher’s glove). Todd Frazier flied out to end the inning and leave the runners stranded, but the Yankees were showing activity against Kluber. Meanwhile, CC Sabathia was facing the minimum number of batters with four strikeouts through the first two innings.

Brett Gardner led off the top of the 3rd inning with a sharp single to right. After Judge whiffed again, Didi Gregorius jumped on another Kluber pitch and ensured it was a fan souvenir in the right field seats again. The Yankees were up, 3-0. 

Credit:  Jason Miller-Getty Images

The bottom of the inning was another three-up, three-down performance for Sabathia, with two more strikeouts.

In the top of the 4th inning, Kluber retired the first two hitters but had reached three balls with both before getting a strikeout and a line out. When he walked Jacoby Ellsbury on five pitches, it was Miller Time in Cleveland. Terry Francona pulled Kluber, who left with a 12.79 ERA in this series, in favor of Andrew Miller. Miller struck out Todd Frazier to get the Tribe out of the inning but it was very surprising to see Kluber’s exit before the conclusion of four full innings. I certainly was not complaining.

CC Sabathia finally gave up his first hit in the bottom of the 4th when Francisco Lindor led off with a single through the hole into left field. Sabathia came back strong, retiring the next three batters, two by strikeout, and remained in control. He looked good starting the bottom of the 5th when he struck out Carlos Santana, but then four successive singles brought home two runs to make it a one-run game. Manager Joe Girardi wasn’t taking any chances at that point and went to the pen to bring in David Robertson to face Francisco Lindor with runners at first and second. 

Credit:  Getty Images

On his second pitch, Lindor hit a grounder to Didi who stepped on second and threw to first to complete the inning-ending double play. A huge defensive play by Didi to ensure that his glove was as loud as his bat. CC Sabathia may not have survived the 5th inning, but still, giving up only two runs and striking out nine batters was a tremendous effort despite the slim lead.  

Credit:  David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

It became a dueling battle of the bullpens as both teams put up scoreless frames through the eighth inning. The Tribe brought in their closer, Cody Allen, with two outs in the 8th (who proceeded to strike out Greg Bird), but I was very surprised…and a little uneasy…when the Yankees brought in Aroldis Chapman to start the bottom of the 8th. With so many other options available in the bullpen, I was fearful that Girardi had gone to Chapman too prematurely. Fortunately, Girardi proved why he is the Yankees manager and I am just a blogger on this site, when Chapman recorded three quick outs on thirteen pitches.

Credit:  Getty Images

In the top of the 9th, with Cody Allen still on the mound, Starlin Castro struck out for the first out. Next up, Aaron Hicks singled to left. A fielding error by Austin Jackson, the ball rolled under his glove, allowed Hicks to move to second. Allen got Chase Headley to pop out, but then he walked Todd Frazier. Brett Gardner’s single to right, just past the glove of second baseman Jose Ramirez, cleared the bases to give the Yankees two very huge insurance runs. Frazier was able to score the second run when the throw from right fielder Jay Bruce into second got past Francisco Lindor and the Toddfather was able to slide into home ahead of the throw to the plate. Gardy advanced to second on a throwing error. It was a legendary at-bat for Gardy, who battled Allen through 12 pitches before getting the key hit (the longest at-bat of the post-season). Francona made another pitching move and pulled his closer in favor of Joe Smith. Smith got Aaron Judge to ground out to third, but no matter, the Yankees had increased their lead to 5-2. A little breathing room.

Going into the bottom of the 9th with a three-run lead made me feel so much better about the return of Aroldis Chapman for a second inning of work. But I did feel some tension when Chapman walked the first batter (Jose Ramirez). Chapman allowed me to exhale slightly when he struck out Edwin Encarnacion.  Carlos Santana hit a ball to second for the force out of Ramirez. Two outs. The only man standing between the Yankees and a date in the ALCS with the Houston Astros was one-time Yankees prospect Austin Jackson. Carlos Santana took second on defensive indifference, but Gardy’s insurance runs ensured that Santana was inconsequential. Chapman’s job was simple…leave the potential tying run standing on deck without a chance to come to the plate. You could feel the excitement emerging when Chapman blew a fastball past Jackson for the called third strike to end the game. The Yankees win!

Credit:  Gregory Shamus-Getty Images

I blamed Joe Girardi for the second game loss, but this game completed his redemption. It’s amazing how many people wrote off the Yankees when they lost the first two games of the ALDS in Cleveland. Even after they tied the series in New York, I didn’t hear many voices giving the Yankees any chance for Game 5 in Cleveland except for maybe Alex Rodriguez. The Indians were arguably the best team in the American League, with 104 wins on the season including the two wins in the ALDS. Their season included the historic 22-game winning streak and they were nearly everyone’s favorite, excluding Yankees fans, to win the World Series after their loss last year to the Chicago Cubs. But in the end, they will not have the opportunity to make a repeat appearance in the Fall Classic.  

If Corey Kluber could have figured out an answer for Didi Gregorius, the results may have been very different and the Yankees might have been left wondering what could have been. Instead, the magic and the ‘never-say-die’ resiliency of the 2017 Yankees continues. The Yankees will get a rematch of their 2015 Wild Card Game loss to Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the ALCS. This time, we get seven games to show the World that heart, determination and desire, combined with a little talent, can make a difference.  

Congratulations to the New York Yankees! Goodbye, Cleveland…hello, Houston!

Credit:  David Dermer-AP

Have a great Thursday!  Friday the 13th, here we come!  Go Yankees!

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The Road to Cleveland…

Credit:  Adam Hunger-Getty Images

American League Division Series, Game 4

Yankees 7, Indians 3…

Riding the arm of Luis Severino, who atoned for his Wild Card Game disaster, the Yankees defeated the Cleveland Indians to send the series back to Cleveland, Ohio for the series finale and the right to advance to the American League Championship Series.  

This game featured the legendary Mariano Rivera on the mound. Mo tossed the  honorary first pitch, looking as great as ever. It was a sign of good things to come.

Credit:  MLB.com

Once the game started, it was three up and three down for Luis Severino, showing no signs of the jitters that brought about his collapse against the Minnesota Twins in his previous start.  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

When Jay Bruce led off the top of the 2nd inning with a line drive single to right over the outstretched glove of Starlin Castro, Twitter bemoaned the break-up of Sevy’s “perfect game”. But no fear, Sevy retired the next three hitters, including the last two by strikeout, to ensure that Bruce got nothing more than a conversation with Greg Bird at first base for his effort.  

The breaks started going the Yankees’ way in the bottom of the 2nd. Trevor Bauer, pitching on short rest (he started Game 1 last Thursday), has been dominant against the Yankees this year. But on Monday, those famed dancers, Mystique and Aura, came out in full force. Greg Bird started things off by grounding out at second. That didn’t start right, let’s try this again. Starlin Castro hit a hard grounder to third that third baseman Giovanny Urshela knocked down but it rolled away and Castro was safe at first. Chase Headley struck out for the second out, and it looked like Castro might suffer the same fate as Jay Bruce had in the top of the inning. With Todd Frazier batting, a Bauer pitch popped out of the glove of catcher Roberto Perez for a passed ball, allowing Castro to move to second. Todd Frazier, who had expressed prior to the game how much he enjoys playing in the post-season with the Yankees, doubled to to the left field corner to score Castro with the game’s first run. The Toddfather! Aaron Hicks kept it going with a single to the gap in center, scoring Frazier. 2-0, Yankees. Brett Gardner followed suit with a roller up the middle into center field, moving Hicks to third. A steal by Gardner put both runners in scoring position for Aaron Judge. Judge hit a fly to left that hit the warning track and bounced off the wall for a bases-clearing double. The Yankees had increased their lead to 4-0. 

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

After an intentional walk of Didi Gregorius, Tribe manager Terry Francona decided to move to Plan B and pulled Bauer in favor of reliever Joe Smith. Smith got Gary Sanchez to pop out to first in foul territory for the final out, but it had been a very big inning for the Yankees with four unearned runs.

Severino easily breezed through the Indians lineup in the top of the 3rd to bring the Yankees to bat once again. Reliever Mike Clevinger took over for Joe Smith and walked Greg Bird to start the Yankees’ half of the inning. Starlin Castro doubled to center off the wall to advance Bird to third. After Chase Headley struck out (not a great game for the Headster), Todd Frazier walked to load the bases. Aaron Hicks grounded into a force out to first baseman Carlos Santana who quickly threw home to retire Bird for the second out. Brett Gardner followed with a grounder to third, but the normally reliable Giovanny Urshela, after a slight hesitation, threw the ball high to first which pulled Santana off the bag for his second error of the game. Gardy safe at first. It allowed Starlin Castro to score on the play. Another call to the bullpen brought in Danny Salazar who struck out Aaron Judge to get the Indians out of the inning. The Yankees had a five-run lead and things were feeling very good in the Bronx.

The top of the 4th seemed to be going Severino’s way when he recorded two quick outs but then he walked Jay Bruce. Carlos Santana made Sevy pay for it with a two-run homer to center into Monument Park to cut the lead to 5-2. A coaching visit to the mound by pitching coach Larry Rothschild, which often prove to be unsuccessful, worked this time as Sevy was able to retire Michael Brantley on a line out to center.

The Indians closed the gap to two runs in the top of the 5th when Roberto Perez hit a one-out home run into the right field seats, making it 5-3. Despite the home runs, Severino had seven strikeouts up to that point.

In the bottom of the 5th, the Yankees added an insurance run. Todd Frazier led off with a slow roller back toward the pitcher. Danny Salazar’s throw to first hit the ground and sailed past the first baseman, allowing Frazier to race to second. A ground out to first by Aaron Hicks moved Frazier to third. Francona came out and signaled for his lefty, Tyler Olson, to replace  Salazar to face Brett Gardner. Gardy hit a fly to shallow center that didn’t look like it would be deep enough, but Frazier challenged the arm of center fielder Jason Kipnis (normally the team’s second baseman) and won, scoring on the sacrifice.

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

Another pitching change, this time bringing in Bryan Shaw, saw another strikeout of Aaron Judge to end the inning.

Gary Sanchez padded the lead with his one-out home run to right, barely missing the second deck, in the bottom of the 6th. The Sanchino! The four-run lead gave the team much needed breathing room.  

Credit:  Getty Images

  

With Sevy still going strong, the Yankees had an opportunity for more runs in the bottom of the 7th. The Indians inserted their closer Cody Allen a little early (the benefit of having the very versatile Andrew Miller on the roster). Things didn’t go Allen’s way when Aaron Hicks reached second base, thanks to a one-out fielding error by first baseman Carlos Santana (hard grounder bounced off his glove into right field). Brett Gardner singled to right, moving Hicksie to third. Gardy took second on the high throw in from the outfield. But they would not advance any further when Aaron Judge struck out and Didi Gregorius popped out to short to leave the runners stranded.

Dellin Betances took over for Severino in the top of the 8th and unfortunately things did not go well for the tall right-hander. He walked Yan Gomes (after nearly taking his head off with one errant pitch), bringing pitching coach Larry Rothschild to the mound. Like it usually happens when Rothschild visits, it didn’t work. The inconsistent Betances walked Francisco Lindor on four straight pitches which ended his latest appearance. It was very disappointing to see Betances continue his struggles with control, which makes him very unreliable moving forward.

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Tommy Kahnle came into the game, and did the job Betances was once so good at…he retired the three batters he faced, two by strikeout.

Josh Tomlin took over for Cody Allen in the bottom of the 8th and easily discharged the Yankees to push the game to the 9th. Tommy Kahnle returned to the mound to face Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley, and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kahnle rose to the challenge and struck out the side with Chisenhall missing on his swing for the final out. The Yankees win!

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Nice job by Luis Severino who finished with nine strikeouts in seven innings of work. Four hits, three runs (on the two homers), and one walk. It wasn’t perfect but he held the Indians down while the Yankees took advantage of the three Cleveland errors to score six of their seven runs. Granted, Cleveland’s lineup is not the same without Edwin Encarnacion but they are more than capable of erasing leads quickly. Sevy did not allow it to happen. Dellin Betances tried but Tommy Kahnle saved him from himself.  

Chase Headley’s performance (0-for-4 with three strikeouts) has me wondering if it might not be time for Matt Holliday’s name to be penciled in at DH. Aaron Judge’s first hit of the series was a big one with the two RBI’s in the second inning, while Gary Sanchez’s homer seemed to help suck the life out of the Tribe.  

The series now moves to the decisive Game 5 at Progressive Field in Cleveland. Prior to yesterday’s game, Joe Girardi announced that CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA) would be the starter, not Sonny Gray. Sabathia returns to the site where it all began for him so many years ago. Corey Kluber (18-4, 2.25 ERA) will be seeking redemption in front of his home fans after giving up six runs in his last start. The Yankees have a huge challenge before them, but the pay off is a road trip to Houston, Texas for the ALCS. Win or lose, this has been a great year for the Yankees. The team has heart and they do not quit.  

Credit:  Amanda Rabinowitz-WKSU

The Houston Astros overcame the Boston Red Sox, 5-4, to win their ALDS, three games to one. There was some satisfaction when former Yankee Carlos Beltran provided what would prove to be the winning run when he delivered an RBI double in the top of the 9th. Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers had an inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the 9th but it was not enough as the Astros overcame both Chris Sale (in relief) and Craig Kimbrel for the win.  

Odds & Ends…

I figured there would be defections from the Yankees organization to join Derek Jeter in Miami but I didn’t think they would happen so quickly. George A King III of the New York Post reported yesterday, via Twitter, that it was Gary Denbo’s last day with the Yankees. The former VP of Player Development will become the director of player development and scouting for the Marlins. A self-avowed non-fan of Derek Jeter, I am starting to actually dislike the guy. This was certainly one of the risks when Jeter’s group won the bid for the Marlins and Denbo’s defection may not be the last. If for whatever reason the Yankees do not ink GM Brian Cashman and/or Manager Joe Girardi to new deals, the Yankees front office could have have substantially different look in 2018. I thought it was very poor taste for Denbo to leave prior to the conclusion of the post-season but then again, if he didn’t want to be here, good riddance.   


Former Yankee pitching prospect Rookie Davis underwent hip surgery on his right hip to repair the labrum and remove a bone spur. It is a significant procedure and Davis will not be ready by the time training camp opens next spring. Davis was traded to the Cincinnati Reds, along with Eric Jagielo, Caleb Cotham and Tony Renda, in the 2015 trade that brought Aroldis Chapman to the Yankees. Only Davis and Jagielo remain in the Reds organization. Cotham retired in March and Renda was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in July. We send best wishes for a full and speedy recovery to Davis.


Have a great Tuesday! We have a day to enjoy and get ready for Game 5!  Thumbs down! Let’s do this. Go Yankees!

Yankees Fly to Victory Behind Tanaka and Company…

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

American League Division Series, Game 3

Yankees 1, Indians 0…

The Yankees rode the arms of Masahiro Tanaka and Aroldis Chapman, the glove of Aaron Judge and the bat of Greg Bird to to their first win in the ALDS. It was a very exciting game and one that cannot underestimate the value of Gary Sanchez’s defense behind the plate. 

After a postseason that was seen a bevy of starting pitching blowups in both leagues, this was a classic pitcher’s duel. Going against Cleveland Indians starter Carlos Carrasco, a “quiet” 18-game winner during the season, I figured that getting runs would be difficult.  

The Indians threatened first. With one out in the top of the 4th, the Indians got their second hit of the game when Jason Kipnis lined a shot into right field for a triple. Aaron Judge, running hard, tried to reach the ball but it bounced off the palm of his glove. It looked like the Indians might score the game’s first run but Tanaka struck out both Jose Ramirez and Jay Bruce, very dangerous sluggers, to retire the Indians (much to the delight of the very loud Yankee Stadium crowd).  

As great as Tanaka was pitching, the Yankees were unable to register their first hit against Carrasco until the bottom of the 4th when Didi Gregorius singled to center. He didn’t go anywhere but at least the Yankees had eliminated the goose egg under the hits column.  

Roberto Perez opened the top of the 6th inning for the Tribe with a single to left.  Giovanny Urshela lined out to right for the first out to bring superstar Francisco Lindor to the plate. Lindor smoked a Tanaka splitter high to right field and it looked like the Indians might have the first runs of the game. Hold your horses! Aaron Judge perfectly timed his leap and with his glove stretched high from his 6’7″ frame, he caught Lindor’s ball from landing in the first rows of the right field seats. It was a brilliant game-saving catch. If you can’t beat them with your bat, beat them with your glove.  

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

The Yankees mounted their first genuine scoring opportunity in the bottom of the 6th. The inning started when Aaron Hicks reached first base on a slow grounder to third off the end of his bat. Unfortunately, Brett Gardner hit a grounder to short which the Indians turned for a double play. Aaron Judge was next and he walked on five pitches. Gary Sanchez followed with a single to center. Didi Gregorius, like Judge, also walked on five pitches from Carrasco.  Bases loaded for Starlin Castro. Tribe manager Terry Francona made the call to the bullpen and brought in the great Andrew Miller. Miller retired Castro on a pop up to shallow left, leaving the bases full of Yanks. Ugh…

While Tanaka was continuing to breeze through the Indians’ lineup, Greg Bird led off the bottom of the 7th against Miller with a massive home run into the second deck (almost into the third deck) of right field. Remind me again why we (which includes me) wanted Yonder Alonso, Justin Bour, Lucas Duda or Jay Bruce for first base before the trading deadline. Bird is showing that he was the best first base “acquisition” of the second half. The Yankees were up, 1-0.

Credit:  Paul J Bereswill-NY Post

Todd Frazier followed Bird, however, he flied out to left. Francona made another call to the pen, this time for one-time Yankee Tyler Olson.  Olson struck out both Chase Headley and Aaron Hicks to end the inning, making me wonder why the Yankees cut Olson in 2016. Olson had come to the Yankees in the January 2016 trade that also brought Ronald Torreyes from the Los Angeles Dodgers for third baseman Rob Segedin. The Yankees ended up cutting both players, although we know that Torreyes eventually found his way back home. Nice job by Olson although I was hoping for a much worse result for him.

David Robertson took over for Tanaka in the top of the 8th. He got Austin Jackson to fly out to right for the first out, but then he walked Michael Brantley on a full count. Manager Joe Girardi wasn’t going to take any chances so he pulled D-Rob and replaced him with Aroldis Chapman. Chapman did his job, racking up two strikeouts on eight pitches.  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

In the bottom of the 8th, with Olson still pitching for the Indians, Brett Gardner led off with a fly to center that dropped barely in front of the glove of center fielder Jason Kipnis for a double. The Indians brought in former Los Angeles Angels reliever Joe Smith who struck out Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. After Didi Gregorius was intentionally walked, Starlin Castro hit into a fielder’s choice at third to retire Gardy on the force out. I would have preferred an insurance run or two in that spot but it was not to be.

Onto the top of the 9th, and time for a showdown between Chapman and the Indians, facing the top of the order. Chapman struck out Francisco Lindor for the first out. Then things got very tense. Jason Kipnis singled up the middle to center field, followed by a very sharp grounder to third by Jose Ramirez. Todd Frazier made a great stop but the ball came out of his glove on the transfer from his knees.  Runners at first and second with only one out. Chapman, firing at 100 mph+, dug deep and struck out Jay Bruce for the critical second out. One man stood between Chapman and victory and it was Carlos Santana, more than capable of sending one out for the tying run. Chapman won the battle when Santana got under a 102 mph Chapman fastball and lifted a fly to left center into the glove of Aaron Hicks for the final out. The Yankees win!

Credit:  Getty Images

It was a nail-biter at the end but the Yankees persevered to live another day. I honestly didn’t think that Greg Bird’s solo home run would hold up as the margin of victory but to my pleasant surprise, it did. Clearly, if Aaron Judge hadn’t made that great catch in the 6th inning, there would be champagne stains on the floor in the visitor’s clubhouse.  

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was booed heavily by the home crowd during the pre-game introductions. I blamed Girardi for the Game 2 loss as much as anyone, but I thought it was unfair to treat Girardi so poorly. Regardless of his faults, he is the current manager of the Yankees and his job is win games for us.  The last thing he needed was our non-support. Not one of the better moments at Yankee Stadium.  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Gary Sanchez, who has taken much heat for his defense and league-leading passed balls, did an excellent job catching this game.  

For today’s game, the Cleveland Indians have announced that Game 1 starter Trevor Bauer, pitching on short rest, will get the nod. He’ll be opposed by Luis Severino who made the less-than-stellar extremely short start in the Wild Card game. Hopefully, Sevy will have the answer for his nerves tonight when he steps out on the main stage. His job is to get this series back to Cleveland and into the hands of Sonny Gray.

Odds & Ends…

I enjoy reading Nick Cafardo’s Sunday Baseball Notes in the Boston Globe even if it does have a slight Red Sox taint to it. Cafardo is a very good baseball writer. But one entry this weekend was disturbing. I know that there’s a strong possibility and very likely that new Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter will draw upon past relationships as he builds his new organization in Miami. Already, names like Gary Denbo and even GM Brian Cashman have been mentioned. Cafardo threw out a few more names of potential possibilities…Andy Pettitte, Tino Martinez, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera. Ugh, I really hope that this does not happen. While I may never have been a great fan of Jeter, he’s hitting on some names that I hold very dear within the Yankees history. I didn’t dislike Jeter when he was a Yankee (I appreciated his time in Pinstripes), but he wasn’t one of my favorites. The other names would be a little harder to accept (for me). It is tough enough watching Don Mattingly in a Marlins cap…

Credit:  Getty Images

Have a great Monday! Let’s even this series! Go Yankees!

The Curious Case of the Girardi Gaffes…

Credit:  David Dermer-AP

American League Division Series, Game 1

Indians 9, Yankees 8…

Yankees manager Joe Girardi received accolades for his managing job in the Wild Card Game. He rightfully deserves the blame for the loss in this one.  Pulling CC Sabathia in the 6th inning at only 77 pitches and still going strong was a highly questionable move but the decision to not challenge the hit by pitch call later in the inning directly led to Cleveland stealing a game from the Yankees that the Yankees had appeared to have stolen from the Indians.

I’ve never been a great fan of Girardi but his minor league play in a critical major league game will most likely haunt us through the winter. The Yankees had a chance to send the series back to New York tied at one. Two games in New York with the series tied would have been a huge advantage for the Yankees. Instead, they now trail two games to none and every game they play going forward in the series is a ‘do or die’ elimination game for the Pinstripers.  It’s hard not to be upset about this game.

The game started so beautifully for the Yankees against likely AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber. Kluber has owned the Yankees this year but not Saturday. The team finally broke through against Kluber at the most opportune time. Aaron Judge took a one-out walk from Kluber in the 1st inning and was followed by Gary Sanchez who blasted a shot over the wall in center to give the Yankees an early 2-0 lead.  

Credit:  Chuck Crow-The Plain Dealer

They had a chance for more when Starlin Castro doubled to the wall in left and Greg Bird reached on a fielding error when second baseman Jose Ramirez couldn’t cleanly field the grounder to put runners at the corners with two outs but Aaron Hicks struck out to end the inning. Still, picking up two runs against Kluber was huge.

Credit:  Jason Miller-Getty Images

In the bottom of the 1st, the Indians got those runs back. Francisco Lindor led off with a  hard-hit grounder to third that Todd Frazier couldn’t handle (the ball rolled under his glove into left field) so he was safe at first. After Jason Kipnis flied out to center for the first out, Jose Ramirez walked on four straight pitches.  Edwin Encarnacion was hit by a pitch (a very painful shot to his leg), which loaded the bases. Carlos Santana singled to left, scoring Lindor and Ramirez to tie the game at two. Brett Gardner’s throw to Gary Sanchez was off line which allowed Ramirez to slide in with the second run. CC Sabathia was able to get out of the inning on a very unfortunate event. Jay Bruce hit a hard liner that Didi Gregorius jumped to catch and then Didi dove for second in an attempt to get Edwin Encarnacion who was attempting to get back. Encarnacion rolled his ankle as his foot hit the bag. The Yankees challenged the play, saying Encarnacion’s foot came off the base as he fell, drawing chants of “Yankees suck!” from the Cleveland crowd. The call on the field was overturned and Encarnacion was ruled out for the inning-ending double play. Encarnacion had to be helped off the field. Hopefully it is not the end of the season for Encarnacion.  

Credit:  Gregory Shamus-Getty Images

The Indians took the lead in the bottom of the 2nd. Austin Jackson led off with a single looped into center field. Yan Gomes hit a grounder to third but Todd Frazier’s throwing error to second (a  ball in the dirt) which Starlin Castro couldn’t dig out for the force attempt put runners at first and second with no outs. Giovanny Urshela successfully laid down a sacrifice bunt back to the pitcher to push the runners to second and third. Francisco Lindor was intentionally walked and the bases were loaded. Jason Kipnis singled to left past a diving Todd Frazier, scoring Jackson with the go-ahead run. Sabathia was able to get out of the inning without allowing any further runs when he got Jose Ramirez to pop out in foul territory and struck out Michael Brantley (who took over as Cleveland’s DH after Edwin Encarnacion had injured his ankle).

In the top of the 3rd, the Yankees chased Kluber with big two-out hits. Gary Sanchez started the rally with a one-out single off the end of his bat into right field. Didi Gregorius grounded out to first for the second out, moving Sanchez to second. Starlin Castro singled to left just past a diving Francisco Lindor, scoring Sanchez and the game was tied at three. Greg Bird followed with a solid single to right. Runners at first and second for Aaron Hicks who got a hold of a Kluber pitch to send it into the right field seats as right fielder Jay Bruce could only watch. Yankees were up, 6-3.  

Credit:  Gregory Shamus-Getty Images

Exit Kluber, enter Tyler Olson. The brief one-time Yankee retired Jacoby Ellsbury on a ground out to first but at that point, things were looking good for the Bombers.

CC Sabathia was pitching great after the earlier runs by Cleveland. Meanwhile, the Yankees added two more runs in the top of the 5th. Against Cleveland reliever Mike Cleavinger, Didi Gregorius led off with a walk. Starlin Castro struck out, but Greg Bird blasted a shot inside of the foul pole in right for a two-run homer to increase the lead to 8-3. A five-run lead with Sabathia still pitching great and the Yankees bullpen ready and waiting. Victory was in sight.

Credit:  Gregory Shamus-Getty Images

Then, the unfortunate 6th inning happened. After the Yankees had failed to score in the top of the inning, the Indians got a runner on first when Carlos Santana led off with a walk. Sabathia retired the dangerous Jay Bruce on a line out to short and appeared to be in control, but then Joe Girardi inexplicably pulled him and brought in Chad Green. Green got Austin Jackson to fly out to right for the second out. Yan Gomes doubled to left off the wall, with A-Jax advancing to third. It brought Lonnie Chisenhall to the plate, pinch-hitting for Giovanny Urshela. Green got two quick strikes on Chisenhall and then Chisenhall battled Green by fouling off the next four pitches. The fifth pitch came in and appeared, at quick glance, to hit Chisenhall in the hand. He was awarded first base. Replay showed that the ball had actually hit the bottom of the bat (no flesh). Despite objections from Gary Sanchez, Girardi made the quick decision not to challenge (later saying that he didn’t want to disrupt the pitcher’s rhythm). As Julia Roberts once said in Pretty Woman, “Big mistake. Big. Huge.”  

Credit:  Thomas Ondrey-The Plain Dealer

Chad Green then tried to get a slider past Francisco Lindor who jumped all over the pitch to send it into the right field seats off the foul pole for a grand slam. The once large five run lead was now a slim one run margin.  

Credit:  Thomas Ondrey-The Plain Dealer

David Robertson took over for Green and got the Yankees out of the heart-breaking inning.

Robertson pitched a clean 7th inning but he fell behind Jay Bruce leading off the bottom of the 8th on a 3-1 count and Bruce hammered a D-Rob cutter over the wall in left center to tie the game at eight.

The Yankees had Todd Frazier in scoring position in the top of the 9th (90 feet away) but couldn’t find a way to bring him home. The game went into extra innings but the Tribe bullpen continued to shut down the Yankees. They appeared to have a chance in the top of the 11th when Todd Frazier hit a grounder to third to lead off the inning and a throwing error by the third baseman (ball over the head of the first baseman) allowed Frazier to reach second. Ronald Torreyes was brought in to pinch-run for Frazier. A pick off attempt of Torreyes at second on a throw from the catcher initially appeared unsuccessful but the Tribe challenged the play and replay showed the tag applied before Toe could get his hand back on the base. It was a tremendous defensive play by Francisco Lindor with his lightning quick tag but a very forgettable pinch-running experience for Toe.

Credit:  UPI

Joe Girardi brought Dellin Betances back out for the 13th inning after he had already thrown the prior two innings. It was too much to ask of the short-inning reliever. Austin Jackson led off the inning with a walk and stole second. Yan Gomes ended the game with a single to left, bringing Jackson around with the winning run.  

Credit:  Jason Miller-Getty Images

This loss had the smell of Girardi all over it. Terry Francona who has proven time and again that he is a better manager than Girardi and proved it once again.  Cleveland never loses because of its manager. He’s the wild card that leads to wins.  Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for Girardi. I am not happy with Girardi and we’ll soon have a long winter to think about this missed opportunity.  

The series resumes on Sunday at Yankee Stadium with Masahiro Tanaka facing 18-game winner Carlos Carrasco. I am sure that Cleveland fans like their chances. I only wish that I could say the same.

Credit:  Joshua Gunter-Cleveland.com

Have a great Saturday! Let’s hope for a magical regroup and a Pinstriped charge to three consecutive wins in the ALDS. Thumbs down! Go Yankees!

Befuddled in Cleveland…

Credit:  Jason Miller-Getty Images

American League Division Series, Game 1

Indians 4, Yankees 0…

Aaron Judge, four strikeouts. That pretty much sums up how it went in Cleveland on Thursday night as the Yankees dropped the first game of the ALDS to the Indians. Their inability to figure out Trevor Bauer does not bode well for tonight when they face likely AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber.

While Bauer was making mincemeat out of the Yankee bats, the Indians got to Sonny Gray early. In the bottom of the 2nd inning, Jay Bruce got the party started for the Indians with a double off the left field wall against Yankees starter Sonny Gray. Carlos Santana followed with a single to center to put runners at the corners. Lonnie Chisenhall was hit by a pitch on his upper arm to load the bases. Gray was able to limit the damage when Roberto Perez hit into a double play at short, but Bruce came home on the play for Cleveland’s first run.  Giovanny Urshela flied out to right so Gray escaped a huge jam with minimal damage. Unfortunately, the way Bauer was pitching, the one run deficit felt like the Grand Canyon.

The Indians struck again in the bottom of the 4th. Edwin Encarnacion started the inning with a walk. Jay Bruce, a rumored trade target for the Yankees prior to the trading deadline, came back to haunt his near-employer when he blasted a shot into the right field stands. The Indians had increased their lead to 3-0.

Credit:  Phil Masturzo-Akron Beacon Journal/TNS

Gray walked two of the next three batters to end his night. Adam Warren entered the game and gave up a single to center to load the bases with only one out, but he then struck out the dangerous Francisco Lindor and got Jason Kipnis to fly out to center to escape without any further damage.

Credit:  Jason Miller-Getty Images

Meanwhile, with Trevor Bauer still pitching a no-hitter against the Yankees, the Indians got another run in the next inning. Jose Ramirez started it for the Tribe with a single up the middle on a ball that just got by a diving Didi Gregorius. While Edwin Encarnacion was at bat, a wild pitch, a ball in the dirt that Gary Sanchez dropped in front of him, advanced Ramirez to second. Encarnacion flied out to left in foul territory for the first out, and Manager Joe Girardi made the call to the bullpen, bringing in Jaime Garcia to replace Warren. With Jay Bruce batting, another wild pitch, another ball in the dirt that hit Sanchez in the chest and bounced away, allowed Ramirez to take third. Bruce took advantage of the wild pitches to loft a fly to center, scoring Ramirez on the sacrifice. 4-0, Indians.

In the top of the 6th inning, Chase Headley struck out and the Yankees were still searching for their first hit. Aaron Hicks ended the potential no-no when he doubled to left off the wall. Bauer received a very nice ovation from the crowd. The Yankees couldn’t do anything with Hicks at second but at least they had finally gotten their first hit on the board.

The Yankees added another hit in the 7th. After Bauer had retired the first two batters, Starlin Castro singled on a grounder to right field. The Indians dipped into their bullpen, bringing former Yankees reliever Andrew Miller into the game to face Greg Bird. The fear when you trade great players is that they’ll one day come back to bite you. Miller was no different with his strikeout of Bird to end the inning.

Despite two strikeouts by Miller in the top of the 8th, the Yankees had two baserunners, courtesy of walks. With Aaron Judge coming to the plate representing an ability to make it a one-run game, Cleveland called on its closer, Cody Allen. Allen proceeded to strike out Judge in the huge spot to end the inning.

In perhaps the lone bright spot for the Yankees, Dellin Betances pitched the bottom of the 8th inning and struck out the side on eleven pitches. It’s a good sign to see Dellin pitching so well even if the odds are against the Yankees in this series.

Credit:  Charles Wenzelberg-NY Post

The Yankees had no answer for Allen in the top of the 9th despite Starlin Castro’s second hit of the night (and only the third Yankee hit of the game), a single to right with two outs. Allen struck out Greg Bird on three pitches to end the game and hand the overwhelming advantage in the series to the Tribe.

Credit:  Getty Images
It’s hard to find positives in a loss but this could have been a blow out and the Yankees kept the Tribe from any big innings. I’ve been down on Jaime Garcia but he did a nice job with 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. A few timely hits and the Yankees could have gotten back into this one. The team needs to regroup and hopefully find a way to get their hits tonight against Corey Kluber in Game 2. They have not fared well against Kluber but clearly the team has the potential to take advantage of mistakes. Everyone can have an off night (see Sonny Gray) and the Yankees need to exploit any opportunities they are given. I am sure that the Houston Astros didn’t expect to get seven runs off Chris Sale yesterday, including two home runs (three overall) by Jose Altuve. CC Sabathia, pitching this evening in his original MLB city, has been the Yankees’ stopper all season. He’ll be asked to step into that role once again. It would be huge if the Yankees could earn a split at Progressive Field before heading back to the Bronx.
Odds & Ends…

The Houston Astros defeated the Boston Red Sox, 8-2, to take the first game of their series. As noted above, it was a night to forget for Chris Sale. When the Astros acquired Justin Verlander in August, it was clearly a move designed for October. He didn’t disappoint, holding the Red Sox to two runs over six innings. No disrespect for Sonny Gray (or Yu Darvish of the Dodgers), but I thought Verlander was the most significant pitching acquisition of the summer.

Credit:  Karen Warren-Houston Chronicle

All of the playoff teams will be in action today with the first game (Red Sox-Astros) starting at 2:05 pm ET. I hate to go against the Yankees but I think today’s winners will be the home teams (Indians, Astros, Dodgers and Nationals). I would love for the Yankees to prove me wrong.

Have a great Friday! Let’s steal a win from Kluber. Go Yankees!

Tonight’s Game Has Been Postponed…

Yankees-Indians rained out…

Tonight’s game versus the Cleveland Indians, postponed due to rain, has been re-scheduled as a single admission double-header for tomorrow, Wednesday, August 30th, beginning at 1:00 pm ET.

Jaime Garcia will be the Game 1 starter and Jordan Montgomery, scratched from tonight’s RailRiders game, will start Game 2.  They’ll oppose Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin.  Monty’s appearance allows CC Sabathia to start the first game of the upcoming four games series with the Boston Red Sox.  The move pits Luis Severino against Chris Sale on Sunday night.  Sonny Gray and Masahiro Tanaka will pitch on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

No word yet regarding a roster move for Montgomery but I have to believe that LHP Caleb Smith will be the odd man out and Scranton-bound.

Manager Joe Girardi has said that Aaron Judge will start at least one of the games tomorrow.  He had not been scheduled to start today’s game.  

IL North Division Champs…

Congratulations to the Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders for winning the 2017 International League North Division!  

Credit:  Fred Adams-for Times Leader

The RailRiders beat the second place Rochester Red Wings (Twins) on Monday night to clinch the division.  Bryan Mitchell was the winning pitcher.  Jake Cave, Mason Williams and Cito Culver all homered to back Mitchell and two relievers enroute to the 5-3 victory.  The Yankees will have to get creative with the 40-man roster in September but I am hopeful that we’ll see Mr Cave bring his show to the Bronx.

Credit:  Fred Adams-for Times Leader

The division crown is the third consecutive for the RailRiders and the ninth in twelve years.  The Governor’s Cup play-offs begin September 6th.

We’ll try this again tomorrow.  Enjoy your evening!

Yanks Get Klubered by the Indians…

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Indians 6, Yankees 2…

In a potential play-off barometer, the Yankees showed they are not quite ready to compete with the big boys.  The Tribe used four home runs to turn back the Yankees on Monday night.

This was destined to be a low scoring game for the Yankees with AL Cy Young contender Corey Kluber on the mound.  The hope was that Luis Severino would be able to make him pitch-for-pitch.  Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.  The top six hitters in the Yankees lineup went combined 0-for-22 with seven strikeouts and Aaron Judge wasn’t even in the lineup.  

After Luis Severino cruised through the game’s first two hitters, Jose Ramirez took him deep to right center for a quick 1-0 lead. Sevy had tried to challenge Ramirez on a full count and lost.  

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees tied the game in the bottom of the 3rd when Chase Headley led off with a homer to right. “There it goes…see ya!” (courtesy of Michael Kay).

Credit:  Bill Kostroun-Associated Press

Gary Sanchez showed off his powerful arm in the top of the 4th.  After Jose Ramirez walked and stole second.  A subsequent Sevy pitch got away from Sanchez.  Ramirez broke for third.  Sanchez grabbed the ball and fired it to third.  Todd Frazier cleanly applied the tag as the runner was sliding into the base for the out.  Sevy walked the next two batters before striking out Carlos Santana to end in the inning, but if Sanchez hadn’t made that play on Ramirez, it could have been much worse.

Todd Frazier put the Yankees ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the 5th.  Jacoby Ellsbury doubled to left with two outs, a high fly which bounced on the warning track to the wall.  Frazier’s single past diving shortstop Francisco Lindor into  left field scored Ellsbury.  Frazier took second on the throw but he was left stranded when Brett Gardner struck out.

In the top of the 6th, Jose Ramirez clubbed his second home run of the night off Severino, a solo shot deep into the second deck in right field.  The game was tied again.

The Indians got the separation they needed in the 7th inning.  With one out, Carlos Santana took Sevy deep to the second deck in right to give the Indians a 3-2 lead.  

Credit:  Bill Kostroun-Associated Press

The next batter, Bradley Zimmer, singled to center.  Sevy struck out Yan Gomes for the second out, but that would be all for the Yankees’ ace.  Joe Girardi made the call to the bullpen and brought in Adam Warren.  With Giovanny Urshela at the plate, Zimmer stole second and got up and raced to third when Starlin Castro failed to catch the throw from Gary Sanchez for an error.  A wild pitch by Warren got past Sanchez and allowed Zimmer to run home for the Tribe’s fourth run.  Urshela ended up grounding out after watching The Zimmer Show on the bases. 

Meanwhile, the Yankees couldn’t muster anything against the dominant Corey Kluber.  

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

In the top of the 8th, the Indians added to their lead when Austin Jackson belted a solo homer to left.  The Yankees challenged the call when replay showed the ball hit the hands of a fan in the first row and bounced back onto the field but the HR decision was upheld.  5-2, Indians.

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Chasen Shreve replaced Warren in the top of the 9th.  Like Warren, Shreve has looked very hittable in his last few outings and the trend continued.  After striking out Jay Bruce, Shreve walked Carlos Santana.  Big mistake.  Bradley Zimmer hit a liner to the center field wall for a double to score Santana.  Zimmer later reached third on a wild pitch but he was unable to score this time.  The Indians didn’t need the run with the four-run lead heading into the bottom of the 9th.

Indians closer Cody Allen came on in relief of Corey Kluber and set the Yankees down in order, striking out Starlin Castro to end the game.

The Yankees (70-60) lost ground in the AL East with the loss.  The Boston Red Sox held off the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-5, so the Yankees are now 3 1/2 games out of first.  The Baltimore Orioles won their fifth consecutive game, 7-6 over the Seattle Mariners, to move within 4 1/2 games of the Yankees.  The Tampa Bay Rays, 12-0 victors over the Kansas City Royals, are 5 1/2 games behind New York.  The Minnesota Twins had the night off so they were able to shave a half-game off the Wild Card Standings and trail the Yankees by 3 games.

I can’t say that I am very excited about the prospect of pitching Jaime Garcia tonight against Cleveland in a must-win situation.  No, it’s not the end of the world if the Yankees lose but I’d feel so much better about the team’s chances if Jordan Montgomery was the starter (despite the innings cap).  I hope I’m wrong and that Garcia delivers his best performance in Pinstripes. 

Severino (11-6) looked very strong early, but the three home runs were too much for him.  He finished with 6 2/3 innings, giving up four hits and four runs (three earned) with 108 pitches thrown.  He walked three and struck out nine.  With Corey Kluber holding the Yankees to three hits and two runs over eight innings, Sevy didn’t have a chance.

Odds & Ends…

Manager Joe Girardi has announced that right fielder Aaron Judge will take a seat for several games in an attempt to help the young slugger break out of his slump.  It always makes me think of Mark Grace’s infamous slumpbuster quote about finding the most hideous looking member of the opposite sex and taking one for the team.  Hopefully Judge doesn’t have to go to those extremes to find his first half swing.

Credit:  Phil Long-Associated Press

Another candidate for the “have a seat” approach is Aroldis Chapman.  The Yankees need an effective Chapman in September.  If that means some time away from the team to clear his head, so be it.  I think Chapman’s problems are more mental than physical.  He did have a MRI on Sunday but the results came back clear.  I want to see him reclaim his closer’s job so whatever it takes to get him back to elite status.

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