The Hot Stove League Begins Play…
There is always a quietness about the days that follow the World Series unless of course you’re a fan of the World Series champion. Teams have five days following the conclusion of the World Series to exclusively negotiate with their own free agents. It’s rare to see much activity and unlike the NFL and other sports, there is not a flurry of immediate activity when the free agents become free to talk to other teams. So, I guess that puts us in the calm before the storm…the days and weeks leading up to the Baseball Winter Meetings next month in Orlando, Florida. The meetings will be held from Sunday, December 10th through Wednesday, December 13th. The annual Rule 5 Draft will be held on Thursday, December 14th.
The two biggest opt-out clauses this off-season belonged to Justin Upton of the Los Angeles Angels and Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees. This week, the Angels announced they had signed Upton to a new 5-year deal, apparently worth $106 million. Then on Friday night, Masahiro Tanaka announced that he would not opt out of his contract and will remain with the Yankees. His current contract has three more years, through the 2020 season, at $67 million.
|Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images|
As a Yankees fan, the latter situation is more relevant to me. I am very glad that Tanaka decided to remain in New York. There had been strong speculation that if Tanaka opted out, the Yankees would not aggressively pursue him. Three more years at $22 million plus per year is not chump change and it would have been hard for Tanaka to capture more dollars. Maybe more years but the partial tear of his UCL and the associated risk of eventual Tommy John surgery would have most assuredly scared teams away. Regardless of the risks, the starting rotation for the Yankees is stronger with Tanaka in it than not. He did have an inconsistent 2017 regular season and there was a brief stretch that he looked absolutely awful but he rebounded with a strong finish. He was dominant in the post-season.
So, the front of the Yankees rotation in 2018 will feature Luis Severino, Tanaka, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery. There’s a chance the Yankees bring back CC Sabathia on a one-year deal if the two sides can come together on a mutually beneficial contract. But regardless of what happens with Sabathia, the Yankees have Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield, among others, gnawing at the door for opportunities. There had been a fear at one time that the 2018 would be a total rotation rebuild situation but now it appears to be a strength before the off-season strategy even begins.
With the Yankees trying to make a very strong effort to get under the salary cap this year and reset the luxury tax penalties, it is unlikely the Yankees will pursue any high-priced free agent talent. It’s unfortunate that third baseman Todd Frazier will most likely not return, but with another year remaining on Chase Headley’s contract and the near-readiness of prospects Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, there simply is no room for the Toddfather. Bummer. He was a great fit for the Yankees.
|Credit: Adam Hunger, USA TODAY Sports|
There seems to be stronger speculation this off-season that the Yankees could actually move Jacoby Ellsbury. They’ll have to eat a good portion of what’s left on his contract but regardless of the cost, this is a move that has to happen. I do not see the Yankees parting with Brett Gardner, and of course Aaron Judge owns right field after his spectacular season. So the Yankees have to make room in the outfield for Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier without even considering promising young talent like Billy McKinney or Jake Cave. The most likely team with interest (assuming the reports are true) are the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners would allow Ellsbury to return to his native Northwest (he’s from Oregon). The primary problem for the Mariners would be the heavy financial commitments they have invested in other players, most notably Robinson Cano. Therefore, the Yankees would probably have to pay a very significant portion of Ellsbury’s contract to move him to Safeco Field. Hopefully, GM Brian Cashman can figure this one out so that Ellsbury doesn’t become baseball’s highest paid pinch-runner again next year.
Other guys that are vulnerable to potential trades appear to be Chase Headley, Starlin Castro, Austin Romine, and Dellin Betances. With the disappointing end to his 2017 season, the value for Betances is down which probably enhances the potential for him to stay with the team (why try to sell the four-time All-Star while his value is low) but I don’t think the Yankees would hesitate to include him in a deal if it makes sense for the team. The Yankees also seem to be at the crossroads for making a decision about who backs up first baseman Greg Bird. With 40-man roster spots at a premium, it would seem that a choice needs to be made between Tyler Austin and Garrett Cooper. My preference probably leans toward Austin due to his versatility to play the outfield.
The Yankees lost a valuable prospect last year in the Rule 5 Draft when the San Diego Padres kept catcher Luis Torrens on the MLB roster all season. I expect this year’s Rule 5 Draft to be equally painful if not more so. It’s certainly a testament to the strength of the farm system but it is still difficult to see talented young prospects depart.
|Credit: Alex Gallardo, AP|
Now that Tanaka has made his decision to stay in the Bronx, the biggest immediate problem facing the Yankees is finding a new manager to replace the dismissed Joe Girardi. I am surprised the Yankees have not announced a new deal for GM Brian Cashman since his current deal expired at the end of October, but it doesn’t seem like Cash is going anywhere. Neither the team nor Cashman have tipped their hand to show potential managerial candidates but it does seem like the team is looking at outside alternatives. The question is how much they’ll prioritize actual managerial experience. If they want experience, then former Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus seems to be the best possible option. He was drafted by the Yankees in the 48th Round of the 1987 draft, although he never played for the Major League team. I can still remember the sense of loss when he was taken by the Colorado Rockies in the November 1992 Expansion Draft. Nevertheless, he is a Connecticut guy who grew up in close proximity to New York (even if his childhood team was the Boston Red Sox). He was criticized for being out-managed in the 2014 ALDS when the Detroit Tigers lost to the Baltimore Orioles and like Girardi, has a tendency to lean heavily on his veterans. But by all accounts, he is a player-friendly manager (good communicator) and would interact well with the media. For guys who lack managerial (or coaching) experience, Jerry Hairston, Jr seems to stand out. I also like Mark DeRosa of the MLB Network. I have no idea who the Yankees will ultimately choose but you have to believe that Cashman had someone in mind when the decision was made to part ways with long-time manager Girardi.
|Credit: Corey Sipkin, NY Daily News|
I am ready for the craziness that will ensue over the next six weeks before we settle into the Winter hibernation that precedes the opening of Spring Training camps next February. The Yankees are a team on the rise and the moves made this off-season will contribute toward the team’s success (or lack thereof) as we move forward. No pressure, Brian Cashman. The goal is simple…bring the Yankees’ 28th World Series Championship to New York City now. Teams like the Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim are not going to sit idly by. The job is to do it better so that we can celebrate on the streets of New York this time next year.
Rays 9, Yankees 6…
Despite four home runs, the Yankees fell to the Tampa Bay Rays in the series finale and their AL East title hopes are clinging on life support. I thought Manager Joe Girardi mismanaged the fateful 5th inning after Sonny Gray had relinquished the lead, bringing in the woefully inconsistent arm of Jonathan Holder when there were many superior options available.
The first sign that Sonny Gray might not have it on Thursday night was Corey Dickerson’s first inning home run to the second deck in right which gave the Rays an early 1-0 lead.
The Yankees wasted no time in coming back when Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge led off the bottom of the 1st inning with back-to-back home runs. Both players took Rays starter Jacob Faria deep to right into the second deck. It was Judge’s 51st home run of the year. The Yankees had taken the lead, 2-1.
|Credit: Noah K Murray-USA TODAY Sports|
The Rays had a potential scoring opportunity in the top of the 2nd when Gray walked two batters, Daniel Robertson and Cesar Puello with only one out. There was a brief delay when a Gray pitch hit the dirt and bounced up to hit Gary Sanchez on the collarbone during Robertson’s at-bat. Sanchez was able to shake it off and stay in the game. After Peter Bourjos lined out to right for the second out, Mallex Smith singled to left. The Rays third base coach Charlie Montoyo unwisely sent Daniel Robertson home rather than holding him up at third. Brett Gardner’s arm was smarter than the coach as Robertson was easily thrown out at home for the final out.
The Yankees picked up another run in the bottom of the inning. Jacoby Ellsbury singled to right past a diving Lucas Duda with one out. While Todd Frazier was batting, a passed ball off the glove of Rays catcher Wilson Ramos allowed Ellsbury to take second. Frazier then singled to left, scoring Ellsbury. A pitch got away from Ramos with Brett Gardner batting and Todd Frazier tried to advance to second but was thrown out. Gardy subsequently walked but Aaron Judge flied out to end the inning. As Michael Kay put it, “A sky high fly”. Nevertheless, the Yankees were up 3-1.
Chih-Wei Hu took over for Jacob Faria on the mound in the bottom of the 4th (Who is on the mound? I don’t know, Hu?). He was quickly introduced to the game when Greg Bird led off with a home run to the first row of the right field seats. Hu retired the next three batters, but the Yankees had increased their lead to 4-1.
|Credit: Paul J Bereswill-NY Post|
The dreadful 5th inning arrived with Sonny Gray still on the mound for the Yankees. The previous inning had gone so well for Gray. Three outs on six pitches. It was hard to foresee the disaster that awaited him in the 5th. Gray was able to get the first batter, Peter Bourjos, out on a grounder to short. Then the Rays rally began. Mallex Smith singled to right on a fly that dropped in. Corey Dickerson hit a line drive to center for a single with Smith moving to third. A wild pitch from Gray allowed Smith to come home to score. Gary Sanchez tried to throw to Gray covering home but his throw was too far right for Gray to catch as Smith slid safely into home plate. Sanchez was charged a throwing error on the play as it allowed Dickerson to advance two bases to third.
|Credit: Abbie Parr-Getty Images|
Evan Longoria struck out for the second out, but Dickerson subsequently scored when a passed ball went through El Gary’s legs. Lucas Duda walked, and it brought Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild out to the mound. It always seems like Larry’s talks fail and this was no exception. The next batter, Wilson Ramos, homered to center just over the wall into Monument Park and the Rays had taken a 5-4 lead.
|Credit: Frank Franklin II-AP|
Adeiny Hechavarria followed with a single to center and it was the end for Sonny Gray. Gray made a couple of throws to first during Daniel Robertson’s at bat to buy time for the bullpen, but I have to admit that I was bewildered by Joe Girardi’s decision to bring in Jonathan Holder even though I’d seen Holder warming up. Holder is a fine prospect and did a decent job for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders but he hasn’t really pitched in many big spots for the Yankees this year. He may eventually become a leading arm in the pen but I would have gone with one of the tried and true in an effort to keep the game close. Holder hit the first batter he faced, Daniel Robertson, with a pitch. Runners at first and second. Cesar Puello singled to center on a ball that dropped in front of Jacoby Ellsbury with Hechavarria coming around to score. Robertson moved to second. Peter Bourjos tripled to left on fly that hit the warning track and bounced off the wall, clearing the bases, and it was 8-4 Rays. Girardi finally pulled Holder and brought in Chasen Shreve who struck out Mallex Smith to end the inning. But the Rays had scored seven runs.
In the bottom of the 5th, with Tommy Hunter taking over for Chih-Wei Hu, Brett Gardner led off with a walk. After Aaron Judge struck out, Gary Sanchez was hit by a pitch on the back of his left shoulder. Runners at first and second.
|Credit: Abbie Parr-Getty Images|
Didi Gregorius hit a grounder to second and the Rays were able to force Sanchez for the second out, with Gardy moving to third. Starlin Castro hit an infield single to short, beating the throw to first which brought Gardner home to score. Greg Bird, representing the potential tying run, struck out to end the inning but the Yankees had gotten a run back, 8-5.
With Chasen Shreve still on the mound, the Yankees retired the first two Rays in the top of the 6th. But Trevor Plouffe, pinch-hitting for Lucas Duda, homered to left into the second deck, to restore the Rays’ four run lead. Shreve walked Wilson Ramos next and was pulled in favor of Ben Heller. Heller struck out Adeiny Hechavarria to end the inning without any further damage.
The Rays bullpen kept the Yankees offense quiet from there. Aaron Hicks, pinch-hitting for Todd Frazier, did manage to hit a solo home run to right into the bullpen in the bottom of the 9th against Chaz Roe but it was too little, too late. The other Yankees went down quietly, with Aaron Judge flying out to right to end the game.
This was a disappointing loss and I am bewildered why Girardi trusted Holder with the game on the line when the pitcher has done nothing this year at the MLB level to warrant consideration at that point. The Boston Red Sox lost 12-2 to the Houston Astros so the Yankees (89-70) could have picked up a game. Instead, they remain three games out with three to play. The best they can do is tie the Red Sox if they sweep the Blue Jays and the Astros sweep the Red Sox. More than likely, the Red Sox sew up the AL East title either tonight or tomorrow.
I hate losing winnable games. If the 5th inning hadn’t gotten away from the Yankees, they would have/could have won this game. If the Yankees play like this next Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins, it’s going to be a very short post-season experience.
Next Up: Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY…
And so, we’ve reached the final series of the regular season. It seems like we were just playing exhibition games at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. The Blue Jays completed a successful three-game road trip in Boston on Wednesday, winning two of three games. They are also the only team to win a series against the Yankees this month. Hopefully, the wins come our way in the latest and final series before the post-season begins.
Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:
Blue Jays: Joe Biagini (3-12, 5.34 ERA)
Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka (12-12, 4.94 ERA)
Blue Jays: Marcus Stroman (13-8, 3.06 ERA)
Yankees: Jaime Garcia (1-3, 4.70 ERA)
Blue Jays: Brett Anderson (2-2, 6.04 ERA)
Yankees: Jordan Montgomery (9-7, 3.96 ERA)
This is most likely Jaime Garcia’s final start for the Yankees. I hope that it’s not the final regular season start for Masahiro Tanaka’s Yankees career. We all know that this is just the conclusion of the great start of Jordan Montgomery’s career in Pinstripes. Looking forward to many successful wins going forward, including the 2017 post-season.
Odds & Ends…
The Yankees are planning to activate RHP Adam Warren off the disabled list today. Hopefully, he’ll be able to get in some work this weekend in preparation for the post-season (which, we hope and pray, is much longer than a one-game stay).
Have a great weekend! Let’s get the momentum rolling for October! Go Yankees!
Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Blue Jays 9, Yankees 5…
Despite two home runs by Aaron Judge, the Yankees couldn’t overcome shoddy pitching and lost the rubber game of the three-game series on Sunday to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Pardon me if I don’t get excited when Jaime Garcia is on the mound. I know that he did a decent job last time out, but he’s a subpar starter at best and a future ex-Yankee. Unfortunately, he played to form on Sunday. I don’t know if it was the hangover from Saturday’s celebration or simply the usual dismal performance from Garcia that put the Yanks in a hole early.
I suppose I shouldn’t blame Garcia for the home run he allowed Teoscar Hernandez to lead off the game. Hernandez’s home run to the second deck of the left field stands on the second pitch of the game was his third against the Yankees in three games. Both Masahiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray felt Garcia’s pain. The Jays up early, 1-0.
Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
It didn’t take the Jays long to add to their lead. Kevin Pillar led off the bottom of the 2nd inning with a double to the left field wall. With Russell Martin batting, Pillar easily stole third. Martin struck out, but Darwin Barney took advantage of the runner in scoring position to loft a sacrifice fly to center when he punched a low Garcia pitch. Pillar scored and it was 2-0.
In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Justin Smoak hit a one-out double to deep center between Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner. Garcia walked the next two batters, Jose Bautista and Kendrys Morales, to load the bases. Manager Joe Girardi had seen enough (of course, I had seen enough of Garcia when he was taking his warmup pitches before the game) and made his way to the mound.
Credit: Getty Images
Garcia was pulled and replaced with Jonathan Holder. Holder got Pillar to pop up in foul territory (third base side) for the second out, but then Russell Martin hit a double to deep right that Aaron Judge couldn’t get to. The double cleared the bases, and the Blue Jays were up 5-0.
The Yankees finally got to Jays starter Marcus Stroman in the top of the 4th inning. Chase Headley and Aaron Judge both walked to start the inning. Didi Gregorius singled to center to score Headley. Judge moved to second. It was a 5-1 game. Starlin Castro hit into a fielder’s choice that forced Gregorius out at second, with Judge moving to third. Unfortunately, Judge would stay at third as both Jacoby Ellsbury and Todd Frazier struck out against Stroman to end the potential scoring opportunity.
Bryan Mitchell was brought in to pitch the bottom of the 4th inning. No offense to Mitchell but he’s not the guy I would have brought into the game at that point. I like Mitchell but he’s been like gasoline poured on fire this season and not in a good way. Ryan Goins singled to left to get things started against Mitchell. After Teoscar Hernandez walked, Josh Donaldson singled up the middle to center field to score Goins, with Hernandez taking second. With Justin Smoak batting, Mitchell threw a wild pitch to advance the runners. It didn’t matter as Smoak walked to load the bases. Jose Bautista singled to right, scoring Goins, and the bases were still loaded. Kendrys Morales singled to left, scoring Hernandez and Donaldson. Bautista also tried to score but was nailed at the plate. After Mitchell hit Kevin Pillar with a pitch, Girardi finally pulled the plug on Mitchell. Not quite sure what took him so long to make that decision. Ben Heller came in and got Russell Martin to hit into an inning-ending double play. The Blue Jays held a commanding 9-1 lead over the Bombers.
In the top of the 6th inning, Aaron Judge led off with a home run to left, on a fly just over the wall, off Marcus Stroman. It was Judge’s 47th homer of the season.
Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
With two outs, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a ground-rule double to deep center. A walk of Todd Frazier ended Stroman’s day. Matt Dermody entered the game to face Greg Bird and exited when Bird doubled to deep right off the wall to score Ellsbury. Frazier moved to third. Ryan Tepera took over for Dermody and got Austin Romine to ground out to third for the final out.
Chase Headley reached base on a single up the middle with one out in the top of the 7th inning against Tepera. Aaron Judge followed with a two-run blast to left center to cut the Jays’ lead to 9-5. It was Judge’s second home run of the game and his 48th of the season (one shy of the MLB Rookie Record held by Mark McGwire).
From there, the Yankees couldn’t really mount much offense against Blue Jays bullpen. Jays closer Roberto Osuna took over in the 9th inning. After Osuna struck out Brett Gardner, the Blue Jays sent Ezequiel Carrera to right field to replace Jose Bautista. Joey Bats, perhaps playing his final home game for Toronto, made his way off the field through a series of hugs with the on-the-field players and received congratulations in the dugout. It is a foregone conclusion that Bautista won’t be back for the Blue Jays in 2018 given a $20 million mutual option that the team would be foolish to pick up for a player in the twilight of his career. It was a nice moment for the long-time Blue Jay.
|Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports|
Credit: Jon Blacker-The Canadian Press
Osuna struck out the next two batters, Chase Headley and Aaron Judge, to end the game.
The Yankees (86-69) lost further ground to the Boston Red Sox with their first series loss since being swept by the Cleveland Indians in late August. The Red Sox rallied to defeat the Cincinnati Reds, 5-4, and now hold a commanding five game lead in the AL East with seven games to play. The Minnesota Twins swept the Detroit Tigers with their 10-4 win on Sunday so they closed the gap in the Wild Card standings to 4 1/2 games. This definitely makes me wish that Jaime Garcia had been pitching for the Twins, and the not the Yankees, the last few weeks. We would have had a much greater lead.
Aaron Judge was clearly the hitting star with the two home runs, but he couldn’t do it all himself. God bless him for trying.
Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Dellin Betances looked good. Pitching the 8th inning, he did hit a batter (Justin Smoak) but otherwise retired the batters he faced. He ended the inning with a swinging strikeout of Kendry Morales. The Yankees really need to get this guy back to form and soon. Hopefully this was a step in the right direction.
I was hoping for better results yesterday but the Yankees need to focus on the task at hand. Time to head back to Yankee Stadium and make a strong home stand to end the season.
Next Up: Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York…
The Yankees and Royals play one game which is a makeup for the rainout on May 25th. At the time, the Yankees had taken two of three games from the Royals when the fourth game was postponed. Mathematically, the Royals still have a chance for the second Wild Card spot but their days are numbered (literally and figuratively speaking).
Here is today’s scheduled pitching matchup:
Royals: Jake Junis (8-2, 4.05 ERA)
Yankees: CC Sabathia (12-5, 3.81 ERA)
The Yankees currently lead the season series with the Royals, four games to two. At the time of the rainout, the Yankees were 27-17.
The Tampa Bay Rays will be in town for three games beginning Tuesday night.
Odds & Ends…
The Washington Nationals plan to activate RF Bryce Harper off the disabled list today to begin their series in Philadelphia Phillies. The Nationals, who already look like the best team in the NL with the recent collapse of the Los Angeles Dodgers, will try to get Harper in top form before October.
Have a great Monday! Hopefully today is a royal success for the home team. Go Yankees!
I don’t know, the Minnesota Twins might want to consider forfeiting the Wild Card game. Seriously, the Yankees seem to have the Twins number as evidenced by the sweep of the most recent three-game series. I only hope that it continues into October assuming the Twins are successful in holding off the Los Angeles Angels for the second Wild Card spot.
For the first two innings, the game appeared to be a pitching duel between Yankees ace Luis Severino and the ancient Bartolo Colon. A few isolated hits but no serious threats. Then, in the top of the 3rd inning, the Twins came out charging. Kennys Vargas singled on a soft bouncer to short that Didi Gregorius tried to barehand..unsuccessfully…with one out. Jason Castro followed with a single, a line drive to right. Runners at the corners. Brian Dozier drew a walk and the bases were full. Joe Mauer, battling Sevy for 13 pitches, singled to right, scoring Vargas. After a trip to the mound by Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild (which never seems to work), Jorge Polanco lashed a single to right just past a running Greg Bird who nearly had the ball, Castro and Dozier scored. The Twins were up, 3-0. Severino evaded further trouble by retiring the next two batters.
All I could think was, “We’re going to let Bartolo Colon beat us? Really?”. Fortunately, the Yankees heard me. Greg Bird led off the bottom of the 3rd with a double to the right field wall, sliding into second just under the outfield throw. After Brett Gardner struck out, Aaron Judge hammered a Colon pitch over the wall in right for a two-run home run. It was Judge’s 45th of the year and his 100th RBI. Amazing. This was a guy who was almost beat out of a job by Aaron Hicks in Spring Training.
Credit: Bill Kostroun-AP
Gary Sanchez was up next and he delivered his 32nd home run with a shot to center in Monument Park. Drop the accolades for Judge and pick them up for Sanchez. 32 homers…the most ever for a Yankees catcher despite missing nearly a month of the season. More homers than Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, Thurman Munson and Jorge Posada accomplished in one season. Incredible. The game was tied.
Credit: Bill Kostroun-AP
Luis Severino did not return for the 4th inning. 3 innings worked, 5 hits, 3 runs, a walk, and 3 K’s on 71 pitches. He needed 46 pitches for the 3rd inning alone. A no decision that pushed his season ERA back over three (3.03).
Credit: Andrew Theodorakis-The NY Post
Chasen Shreve took over for Severino. Given Shreve’s recent performances, I was feeling a little shell-shocked. But he retired the first batter he faced, Max Kepler, on a swinging strikeout. Eduardo Escobar followed by flying out to left on a ball that took Brett Gardner to the warning track. Whew! So far, so good. Then, he walked Kennys Vargas. Are you friggin’ kidding me? Get that bum out of there! Nobody listened to me, so Shreve was able to pitch to the next batter, Jason Castro, who grounded out to second for the final out. Okay, Shreve, that wasn’t bad. I feel better now…
The bottom of the 4th arrived and, man, so did the rejuvenated September 2017 Yankees. Well, Matt Holliday excluded. He started the inning with a pop out to first in foul territory. Jacoby Ellsbury, playing like a man who is worth $153 million, tripled to left (actually, it probably should have been an error on left fielder Eddie Rosario who didn’t take a good route to the ball and it bounced out of his glove). Todd Frazier walked. Greg Bird doubled to the right field corner with Ellsbury scoring on the play and the Toddfather moving to third. The Yankees had their first lead of the game. Paul Molitor decided to make a pitching change and brought in Tyler Duffey to replace Colon. I was worried that our little rally was going to be short-fused. Silly me. Brett Gardner lined a single to center which scored Frazier. Bird moved to third. Aaron Judge struck out to briefly bring the return of my pessimism, but Gary Sanchez lightened my mood with a single to right, scoring Bird. Didi Gregorius was up next and he crushed a three-run homer to the second deck in right. It was Didi’s 25th home run of the year, giving him the most for a Yankees shortstop in franchise history. After the hit, Didi turned around and apologized to Jason Castro for dropping the bat in front of him. Class act by a very classy guy.
Credit: Bill Kostroun-AP
The Yankees had scored 6 runs and now led 9-3. Starlin Castro grounded out to short to end the inning but I was okay with that.
Chasen Shreve did his job in the top of the 5th with no complaints or inner dialogue from me. In the bottom of the 5th, former Yankees farmhand Nik Turley took over for Tyler Duffey. Matt Holliday, deciding he wanted to join the party, started the Yankees half of the inning with a single to center. Jacoby Ellsbury drew a walk on four pitches. After a game delay when Todd Frazier hit a young fan with a foul ball, he flied out to center but Holliday tagged and moved to third. With Greg Bird at bat, Turley unleashed a wild pitch that got away from Jason Castro and Holliday came in to score. Ellsbury moved to second. Bird then singled on a grounder to first that the first baseman momentarily lost after stopping the ball to put runners at the corners. It was another hit that probably should have been ruled an error. Brett Gardner was hit by a pitch in the back and the bases were loaded. That would be all for Turley and he was replaced by Michael Tonklin. Aaron Judge hit a fly to right, scoring Ellsbury. The Yankees were now up, 11-3. Gary Sanchez singled to left to reload the bases, but Didi Gregorius struck out on a foul tip to end the inning.
Shreve returned with another solid inning in the 6th to help restore some of my confidence in the young Las Vegan left-hander. By the bottom of the 7th, both teams began making multiple substitutions. The Yanks rode the arms of Ben Heller and Domingo German to the finish. Nice job by both but special mention for German. He pitched two scoreless innings with no hits and a meaningless walk in the 9th. He struck out a total of four Twins including Kennys Vargas to end the game. The Yankees win!
The Yankees (85-67) increased their lead in the Wild Card standings to seven games over the Twins with 10 games to play. The Twins retained their 1 1/2 game lead over the Los Angeles Angels, who lost to the Cleveland Indians, 6-5. The Boston Red Sox swept the Baltimore Orioles with a 9-0 win on Wednesday, so they remain three games in front of the Yankees. The win clinched a post-season berth for the Red Sox.
Chasen Shreve (4-1), by virtue of Severino’s early departure, got the win. Three Yankees had three hits (Gary Sanchez, Jacoby Ellsbury and Greg Bird) and two had three RBI’s (Aaron Judge and Didi Gregorius). Sanchez had two ribbies. Judge now has 101 RBIs, becoming the fourth Yankees rookie to reach the 100 RBI mark, joining Tony Lazzeri (1926), Joe DiMaggio (1936), and Hideki Matsui (2003). Judge also became the third rookie in MLB history and eighth player in Yankees history with 100 runs, 100 RBIs, and 100 walks. This was yet another great team victory. Thumbs down, Everyone!
Next Up: Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada…
The Yankees enjoy their final day off of the regular season today (barring any rainouts) before embarking on their last road trip with a quick three-game set north of the border starting Friday night. The Blue Jays, picked by many to finish as high as second in the AL East prior to the season, have successfully held off the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays, for rights to the AL East Cellar although they’ll need to keep losing to fend off the O’s.
It may be a down year for the Blue Jays but they always seem to play the Yankees very tough. Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:
Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka (12-11, 4.73 ERA)
Blue Jays: Marco Estrada (9-8, 4.84 ERA)
Yankees: Jordan Montgomery (8-7, 4.06 ERA)
Blue Jays: Joe Biagini (3-11, 5.33 ERA)
Yankees: Sonny Gray (9-11, 3.38 ERA)
Blue Jays: Marcus Stroman (12-8, 3.01 ERA)
Marco Estrada, who had been due to become a free agent after the season, signed a one-year contract extension for $13 million this week. So, he’ll be a happy man on Friday night.
I really hope that the Yankees find the perfect combination of excellent pitching from Sonny Gray and run support on Sunday.
Odds & Ends…
The downside to Wednesday’s victory was the injury of a young girl who was hit by the foul ball off the bat of Todd Frazier in the 5th inning. The girl, a toddler, was attending the game with her grandparents. She was apparently struck in the mouth.
After the game, the Yankees released a short statement: “The child who was struck with a batted ball today was given first aid at the ballpark and is receiving medical attention at an area hospital. The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, prevents the team from giving more information. We will have no further comment at this time.”
Our prayers and well wishes to the young girl for a full and speedy recovery.
Credit: Bill Kostroun-AP
Credit: Abbie Parr-Getty Images
Joe Girardi said after the game that the little girl was “doing OK”. This was a wake up call for the Yankees organization to extend the netting to protect fans.
I do feel bad for the Twins fans. Many of them are fans of the Minnesota Vikings like me. The Vikings took one on the chin last Sunday when they were steamrolled by the Pittsburgh Steelers, 26-9, behind backup QB Case Keenum. So it has not been a great week for sports fans in and around Minneapolis/St Paul, MN. But I certainly do not feel bad enough that I wanted the Twins to escape with a victory. How sweep it is!
Have a great Thursday! It’s a day off…let’s enjoy! Go Yankees!
The way the game started, it looked like it was going to be the Twins’ day. But in the end, it was the grizzled old veterans (CC Sabathia and Brett Gardner) that keyed the victory for the Yankees.
In a game delayed by rain (one hour and five minutes), the Twins got an early jump on Sabathia. Brian Dozier led off with a single to center on the first pitch. Joe Mauer reached on a bunt to third (a roller on the line that Todd Frazier waited to see if it would roll out), Dozier advanced to second. Jorge Polanco followed with a bunt single back to the pitcher. CC must have been thrilled with all those bunts (memories of Boston). Polanco was called out on the field but the Twins challenged and replay showed that he had beaten Sabathia’s throw to first. The bases were loaded with no outs. Even though it resulted in a run, the play of the game occurred when Jorge Polanco hit a grounder to short and the Yankees completed a double play (second to first) with Dozier running home to score the game’s first run. Byron Buxton grounded out back to Sabathia to end the threat. The Twins could have scored multiple runs in that situation, which would have changed the complexion of the game, but CC was able to limit the damage.
The top of the 2nd saw a completely different Sabathia. He set down the Twins on a ground out and two strikeouts. Thanks to walks by Starlin Castro and Greg Bird, the Yankees had two runners on base in the bottom of the 2nd, with two outs, for Brett Gardner. Gardy delivered with a line drive to left to score Castro.
|Credit: Kathy Willens-Associated Press|
Bird moved to third, but Aaron Judge was unable to bring him home when he flied out to center to end the inning. Game tied.
Max Kepler led off the top of the 3rd inning with a home run to right center as the Twins recaptured the lead.
Jacoby Ellsbury led off the bottom of the 4th with a double down the left field line. After Todd Frazier struck out, Greg Bird took his second walk of the game. Runners at first and second. Brett Gardner came up big again with a single to right, past a diving Joe Mauer, to score Ellsbury. The Twins pulled starter Jose Berrios and replaced him with Alan Busenitz. With Aaron Judge batting, Busenitz uncorked a wild pitch which moved the runners to second and third. Aaron Judge took advantage with a sacrifice fly to the right field warning track that scored Bird. The Yankees had their first lead of the game, 3-2.
|Credit: Adam Hunger-Getty Images|
The Yankees added a run in the bottom of the 5th. With former Met Dillon Gee on the mound and one out, Chase Headley was hit by a pitch near the family jewels. Yikes! Headley was okay, but as Michael Kay of the YES Network said, I hope he was wearing a cup even though he was not playing in the field (DH) for this game. Starlin Castro followed with a single to left through the hole and Headley moved to second. Jacoby Ellsbury grounded out to first for the second out, but the runners advanced to second and third. Todd Frazier walked to load the bases. The Twins made another pitching change, replacing Gee with Buddy Boshers. Greg Bird hit a grounder to first that looked like it would be a routine play for Joe Mauer but the ball bounced off the side of his glove and all runners were safe, with Headley scoring. If there was ever a guy that deserved to score, it was Headley as he had truly taken one for the team. The Yankees had increased their lead to 4-2.
Sabathia found himself back in another jam in the 6th inning. Two singles, a stolen base, and an intentional walk loaded the bases with two outs, but CC was able to get Eddie Rosario to fly out to left to leave the runners stranded. Rosario’s hit took Brett Gardner to the warning track and back into the wall but it was still the third out even if it did cause me to lose my breath momentarily. Sabathia’s day was done.
In the bottom of the 6th, Twins reliever Ryan Pressly took over for Buddy Boshers. The first batter, Aaron Judge, singled to left through the hole. Gary Sanchez followed with a single to left and the Yankees had runners at the corners. After outs by Didi Gregorius and Chase Headley, Starlin Castro singled to right, inches past a diving Brian Dozier, to score Judge. Sanchez moved to second. A wild pitch had advanced the runners to second and third. From there, Pressly intentionally walked Jacoby Ellsbury to load the bases. Unfortunately, Todd Frazier grounded out to short to end the inning but the Yankees had added to their lead, 5-2.
Chad Green took over for Sabathia in the 7th. It wasn’t the usual Terminator-like appearance for Green, but he did hold the Twins scoreless despite allowing a single and a walk in the inning.
The Yanks missed another scoring opportunity in the bottom of the 7th. Brett Gardner had reached on a one-out grounder to short (a ball that squirted out of the shortstop’s glove). With Aaron Judge batting, Gardy stole second. He then moved to third on a wild pitch by reliever John Curtiss. Judge hit a grounder to third and Gardy made an unsuccessful break for home. Eduardo Escobar’s throw to catcher Chris Gimenez nailed Gardy at the plate.
|Credit: Kathy Willens-Associated Press|
In the top of the 8th, David Robertson got the call. Joe Girardi had said prior to the game that Dellin Betances would be unavailable after pitching in the two previous games but obviously there was much discussion among the Yankees Universe yesterday about whether the Yankees should drop Betances to less pressurized situations until he can find himself again. D-Rob added fuel to the argument when he struck out the side.
Aroldis Chapman came into the game in the 9th. Although he did allow a two-out double to Chris Gimenez, he got Max Kepler to hit a liner to left for the final out to earn his 20th save. The Yankees win!
The Yankees (84-67) kept pace with the Boston Red Sox, staying three games back. The Baltimore Orioles have done the Yankees no favors as they fell to the Sox again, this time by a score of 1-0 in extra innings. Manny Machado, please feel free to mix in a few timely hits. The Yankees have built a commanding six game lead in the Wild Card standings over the Twins. The third place WC-contending team, the Los Angeles Angels, also lost so they failed to make up any ground on their 1 1/2 game deficit to the Twins.
CC Sabathia (12-5) was clearly the crafty vet in this game. He escaped huge jams and overall held the Twins in check. ‘Get the game to the bullpen’ and he did.
Both Brett Gardner and Starlin Castro had three hits, and Aaron Judge had two. Another good win by the home team!
Odds & Ends…
The Yankees have made a pitching change for today’s game. Earlier, Joe Girardi had announced that Masahiro Tanaka would be the scheduled starter. However, upon reconsideration (based primarily on the fact that the Yankees have not yet clinched a post-season berth), they have decided to pitch Luis Severino (13-6, 2.93 ERA). He’ll be opposed by the ageless Bartolo Colon (4-5, 4.80 ERA). Tanaka will pitch Friday night in Toronto. The move gives Severino the potential for three starts if the Yankees are still challenging the Sox for the division championship. If not, he’ll make two more starts, including today, and will take the mound for the Wild Card game.
It is amazing to think that if/when Aaron Judge hits his 45th home run of the season, he’ll join very select company as the only Yankees with 45 or more home runs in a season…Roger Maris (61); Babe Ruth (60, 59, 54, 54, 49, 47, 46, 46, 46); Mickey Mantle (54, 52); Alex Rodriguez (54, 48); Lou Gehrig (49, 49, 47, 46); and Joe DiMaggio (46). Standing pat at 44 HR’s is impressive as it would also include Tino Martinez but clearly we want Judge to continue to send balls into orbit.
Have a great Wednesday! It’s a wonderful day for a win! Go Yankees!
Yankees 2, Twins 1…
The game had many stars…Jaime Garcia, Aaron Judge, David Robertson, Todd Frazier, but it was Aroldis Chapman who brought home the victory with his 5-out save that included working out of a one-out bases loaded jam in the top of the 8th inning as the Yankees held off the Minnesota Twins.
I’ve not been a very big fan of Jaime Garcia but he delivered on Monday night. In a game that looked like a mismatch on paper (Garcia against 15-game winner Ervin Santana), Garcia was just a tad bit better on this night. It was evident that he brought his “A” game when he struck out the side in the first inning to start the game against his former team of 6 days in July.
Credit: Kathy Willens-Associated Press
Aaron Judge gave Garcia an early lead when he belted his 44th homer of the year, a solo shot to right. It was Judge’s 97th RBI of the season.
The Twins tied the game in the top of the 5th inning. Eddie Rosario led off with a single to second on a ball that was deflected off the glove of a diving Didi Gregorius into shallow right field. Eduardo Escobar singled to right, but Aaron Judge’s slight bobble of the ball (ruled an error) allowed Rosario the time he needed to race around to third base. Robbie Grossman hit a grounder to third. Todd Frazier fielded and threw to second for the force out on Escobar but Rosario scored and the game was tied.
Garcia was able to get the first two outs in the top of the 6th, but when he gave up Joe Mauer’s single to right, his day was done. David Robertson, ready and waiting, came in and struck out Byron Buxton to end the Twins’ side of the inning.
Garcia probably wished that he could have gotten Mauer out because the Yankees scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the 6th inning. Chase Headley singled to center on a ball that was deflected off the glove of second baseman Brian Dozier with one out. Starlin Castro singled to left, with Headley moving to second. With Jacoby Ellsbury at the plate, a wild pitch by Ervin Santana allowed the runners to move up to second and third. Ellsbury was then intentionally walked to load the bases. Todd Frazier’s sacrifice fly to center scored Headley and the Yankees had a 2-1 lead.
The Twins made a pitching change and brought in Trevor Hildenberger who retired Greg Bird on a ground out at first so the Yankees were unable to push any further runs across.
Dellin Betances replaced the highly effective David Robertson to start the 8th inning and the drama began. He hit the first batter, Robbie Grossman, with a pitch to the hip. Zach Granite pinch hit for Jason Castro and moved Grossman to second with a sacrifice bunt. Max Kepler pinch hit for Ehire Adrianza and drew a walk on four successive pitches. After pitching coach Larry Rothschild visited the mound, Betances threw a wild pitch that advanced the runners to second and third. Larry, your talk didn’t work! Betances proceeded to walk Brian Dozier, after almost striking him out on a foul tip that Gary Sanchez was unable to catch earlier in the at-bat, and the bases were full with only one out. Finally, Joe Girardi realized that it was not Dellin’s night and mercifully made the call for Aroldis Chapman.
Credit: Paul J Bereswill-NY Post
Chapman proceeded to strike out the dangerous Joe Mauer on three pitches and got Byron Buxton to jump on the first pitch for a fly out to right to end the threat. Chapman had averted disaster in shutting down the Twins on four pitches. Whew! No wait, a BIG WHEW!
Credit: Kathy Willens-Associated Press
Chapman easily retired the Twins in the top of the 9th, with the radar gun reaching 104 mph. His swinging strikeout of Eduardo Escobar ended the game. The Yankees win!
The Yankees (83-67) were unable to make up any ground on the Red Sox. Boston, despite falling behind by five runs early, overcame the Baltimore Orioles in extra innings, winning 10-8. So, the Yankees remain three games behind the Sox. The Yankees increased their Wild Card lead over the Twins to five games.
I will continue to be critical of Jaime Garcia because I am not a fan of his, but for this game, he pitched well enough to win. 5 2/3 innings, four hits, one run (no earned runs), and nine strikeouts on 85 pitches. An incredible stat, for him, was no walks given his propensity for free passes. David Robertson (9-2), the winner, has the most wins of any reliever. I love his ‘Andrew Miller’ like attitude (willingness to pitch anywhere, any time). Aroldis Chapman was clearly the game’s MVP for his clean-up of the mess created by Dellin Betances. Even better is that he only threw 16 pitches for the five-out save, his 19th, so he’ll be ready to go again tonight. Chapman pitching at the top of his game is crucial for October success.
Nice win, guys!
Odds & Ends…
MLB.com has released its revised list of Top 100 Prospects and the great Gleyber Torres is #1! Of course, we already knew that and anxiously await his arrival in the Bronx in 2018.
Other notable Yankees and former Yankees include: 23) Clint Frazier; 41) Blake Rutherford (White Sox); 55) Chance Adams; 70) Dustin Fowler (Athletics); 82) Estevan Florial; 84) Justus Sheffield; and 96) Miguel Andujar. Proving that we drafted the wrong son of Dante Bichette Sr, Toronto’s Bo Bichette came in at #26. His brother, Dante Jr, has been a disappointment in the Yankees organization and probably will not return. The Yankees took Dante Jr with their first pick (a compensatory pick, #51) in 2011. It was the same year they drafted Greg Bird, Jake Cave and Jon Gray (who didn’t sign and was later drafted by the Colorado Rockies).
Have a great Tuesday! Let’s put away those pesky Twins for the series win! Go Yankees!
Credit: Bill Kostroun
Orioles 6, Yankees 4…
The Yankees apparently forgot that it was Ubaldo Jimenez on the mound yesterday. Jimenez entered the game with a 5-10 record and 6.75 ERA. It’s pretty much representative of who the pitcher has been the last few years. On Sunday, he may as well have been Chris Sale…5 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 1 walk and 10 strikeouts. He was certainly a better version of Sonny Gray on this day.
For as much as Sonny Gray has given the Yankees so far, they could have picked up an average starter for much less (somebody better than Jaime Garcia) to give them three wins since the July trading deadline and kept Jorge Mateo, Dustin Fowler and James Kaprielian in pinstripes. I know, that’s a bit harsh, and Gray is an upper echelon rotation starter but in the small sampling size with the Yankees, the results have been underwhelming. Granted, he doesn’t get run support with his losses but I was hoping for better results. The Red Sox, meanwhile, will ride the arm of a pitcher (Doug Fister) they picked up off the scrap heap to go with Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz. Fister has four wins for the Red Sox since the end of July. I’d take Gray over Fister any day of the week (obviously), but it is disappointing that more wins have not materialized.
|Credit: Jim McIsaac-Getty Images|
Baltimore got on the board first in the top of the 2nd inning. Chris Davis hit a one-out fly to left for a double. Clint Frazier misjudged his leap and was unable to make the catch. Seth Smith hit a grounder to third and was thrown out at first, but Davis moved to third on the play. Todd Frazier almost tagged Davis out but opted to go for the sure out at first. After Mark Trumbo walked, Austin Hays singled up in the middle, past a diving Didi Gregorius, into center field, scoring Davis.
The Yankees got the run back in the bottom of the inning when Didi Gregorius led off with a homer just over the wall in right center to tie the game at one. It was Didi’s 24th home run, which tied the Yankees mark for most home runs by a shortstop set by Derek Jeter in 1999.
|Credit: Jim McIsaac-Getty Images|
The Orioles quickly took the lead again in the top of the 3rd. Manny Machado hit a one-out single to right, breaking an 0-for-19 slump. With two outs, Trey Mancini doubled down the left field line to the corner to score Machado. Baltimore had taken a 2-1 lead.
The 4th inning was the one that got away from Sonny Gray. He walked Seth Smith to start the inning. He retired the next two hitters and was a strike away from getting out of the inning with Caleb Joseph at the plate. Unfortunately, Joseph singled to left, between Todd Frazier and Didi Gregorius, to keep the inning alive. Tim Beckham, proving to be one of the best trading deadline pickups, homered into the bleachers in left to give the O’s all the runs they would need. 5-1, Baltimore.
|Credit: Anthony Grupposo-USA TODAY Sports|
Gray got Manny Machado to hit a liner to right for the final out (great diving play by Aaron Judge) but he would not return.
Bryan Mitchell took over for Gray in the top of the 5th inning. Jonathan Schoop led off with a single to left and Trey Mancini singled to center past a diving Didi Gregorius. The O’s had runners at the corners and no outs. After Chris Davis struck out, Seth Smith hit a grounder between first and second. With a throw from Starlin Castro to Didi Gregorius, they forced Mancini out at second but Schoop scored on the play. The O’s had increased their lead to 6-1.
In the bottom of the 6th, Mychal Givens took over for Jimenez who had thrown 100 pitches through five innings. Gary Sanchez drew a one-out walk and with two outs, Starlin Castro hit a soft grounder toward third and beat the throw from Givens which pulled Chris Davis off the base. Runners at first and second. Matt Holliday drilled a line drive to left for a double which scored both Sanchez and Castro. 6-3, O’s. Buck Showalter pulled Givens and brought in former Yankee Richard Bleier to face Greg Bird. Bird had homered off Bleier in Friday night’s win and he had a chance to make it a game once again. Sadly, Bleier won the battle this time when Bird grounded out to first to end the inning.
Baltimore reliever Brad Brach took over in relief of Darren O’Day to start the bottom of the 8th inning. Aaron Judge doubled to left with a fly ball off the base of the wall to lead things off. Gary Sanchez struck out on three pitches for the first out. Didi Gregorius hit a grounder to short, but Tim Beckham’s throwing error (pulled Chris Davis off the bag) allowed Didi to reach first safely. Judge moved to third on the play. Starlin Castro hit a fly to right field and it was deep enough to score Judge on the sacrifice. The Yankees had cut the Orioles lead to 6-4. Matt Holliday walked to bring the potential go-ahead run to the plate. Showalter pulled Brach and brought in closer Zach Britton. The Yankees replaced Holliday at first with Tyler Wade and sent Chase Headley in to pinch hit for Greg Bird. Unfortunately, Headley grounded out to short to end the rally.
The Yankees made one last valiant effort in the bottom of the 9th. Todd Frazier struck out for the first out, but Jacoby Ellsbury looped a double down the left field line to give the Yankees a runner in scoring position. Brett Gardner grounded out to first for the second out but Ellsbury advanced to third. Aaron Judge was intentionally walked to pit Britton against Gary Sanchez. Sanchez, representing the potential tying run, failed to deliver when he went down swinging for the final out. Bummer, the Yankees had clearly proven they were the better team in this series and they had their chances. If Sonny Gray could have avoided the disastrous 4th inning…I know, if “ifs” and “buts” were candy and nuts…
The Yankees (82-67) did not lose any ground to the Red Sox despite the loss. Boston dropped a 3-2 decision to the Tampa Bay Rays. So, the Yankees remain three games behind the Red Sox. The Minnesota Twins clobbered the Toronto Blue Jays, 13-7, so they moved back to four games behind the Yankees in the Wild Card standings.
Next Up: Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York…
The Twins come into this series very motivated. Since they only trail the Yankees by four games for the top Wild Card slot (home-field advantage), they can make up serious ground on the Yankees with a sweep. If the Twins beat Jaime Garcia, they’ll be able to sit back and laugh “our plan worked to perfection!”. Steal a couple of prospects from the Yankees and give them a starter who is unable to produce in the clutch.
Twins: Ervin Santana (15-7, 3.35 ERA)
Yankees: Jaime Garcia (1-2, 4.50 ERA)
Twins: Jose Berrios (12-7, 3.84 ERA)
Yankees: CC Sabathia (11-5, 3.85 ERA)
Twins: Bartolo Colon (4-5, 4.80 ERA)
Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka (12-11, 4.73 ERA)
The Yankees are not exactly leading with their best foot, but I understand the need to keep CC Sabathia’s knee off the artificial turf for the next series in Toronto.
Odds & Ends…
The Yankees have recalled another RailRider. The latest to get the invitation to join the big league club is RHP Domingo German.
Have a great Monday! Time for the Pinstripers to make a statement about their October chances. Let’s Go Yankees!