Tagged: Jacoby Ellsbury

Putting Two (Bald) Heads Together…

Credit:  MLB.com

Yankees 7, Blue Jays 0…

The Yankees now have as many wins at Rogers Centre (two) as they had all of last year.  They’ve also assured themselves that they’ll leave Toronto later today with no worse than a split of the four-game series and have the potential to take three of four.

There were questions about Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery coming into the game.  Even Manager Joe Girardi was a bit testy before the game when the subject of hot prospect Chance Adams was raised.  “Are you kidding me?”, Girardi said.  “Chance Adams has one or two starts in Triple-A.  That kid was like 16-5 last year between Double-A and Triple-A.  He’s pitched really well here.  Give Chance a chance to get ready.  I like what he’s doing and he might pitch for us one day, but we’re not ready to start that.”  Adams has actually had four starts at Triple-A and was 13-1 last year between High-A and Double A but that’s beside the point.  The best answer to the Chance Adams question is to pitch like you belong in the Major Leagues.

Jordan Montgomery answered that question.

The tall lefty limited the Blue Jays to three hits over six innings.  He did walk 3 batters but struck out 5 in lowering his season ERA to 3.67.  It was a great performance by the 24-year-old and one that shows he wants to be part of the fun that is called the 2017 New York Yankees.

Credit:  Tom Szczerbowski-Getty Images

The game was really a tale of two stories.  The first half was a tight pitcher’s game as the Yankees were only able to score two unearned runs in the third through the game’s first six innings.  In the third, with one out, Rob Refsnyder reached first base when Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki booted a ground ball twice for an E-6.  Ref stole second (let’s see Chris Carter do that) to put himself in scoring position.  After Brett Gardner flied out for the second out, the Aarons followed with doubles as Hicks scored Refsnyder and Judge scored Hicks.  Those were the only Yankees hits until the seventh inning.

The Yankees finally scored an earned run off Blue Jays starter Joe Biagini in the seventh but it was a very good performance by Toronto’s 27-year-old right-hander.  However, on this day, Montgomery was  better.

With the pitching duel out of the way following the departures of both Montgomery and Biagini, the game turned into a Home Run Derby in the eighth inning for the Bombers.  With reliever Jason Grilli, a former closer, on the mound, it was time for some fun.  Brett Gardner opened the inning with his 12th homer of the year with a shot to right to put the Yankees up 4-0.  After the Aarons contributed the first two outs of the inning, it was time for the show.  First up, Matt Holliday.  Obviously upset that his Bald Brother, Gardner, had taken the lead in their home run battle, evened the score with his 12th.  “I gotcha Gardy!”  I loved that line as Holliday returned to the dugout.  The next batter, Starlin Castro, with the 9th pitch of the at-bat, just cleared the left field fence for his 9th home run of the season.  That brought Didi Gregorius to the plate.  With a shot to right, Didi completed the back-to-back-to-back homer barrage, ending Grilli’s day and capping the Yankees’ scoring.  Man, I hated to see Grilli go…

Credit:  Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports, via Reuters

Credit David Cone of the YES Network with the reference to Rodney Dangerfield in the movie Easy Money when talking about the Bald Brothers.  “Why don’t you two put your heads together and make an @$$ out of yourselves.”  The ending of the quote may not be appropriate for these two but it is a blast watching Holliday and Gardner match each other homer by homer.  

It was an interesting stat that the Yankees won this game without hitting at least one single.  All of the hits were either doubles or home runs.  

Adam Warren, Tyler Clippard and Dellin Betances combined for three innings of hitless relief in support of Montgomery (3-4).

The Yankees (32-21) increased their AL East lead to three games as the Baltimore Orioles slipped back to third following their 5-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox.  The O’s are 3 1/2 games back.  

Odds & Ends…

I need to preface this by saying that I hope Jacoby Ellsbury is not seriously hurt and will not have long-term health implications.  According to the Yankees, Ellsbury has suspended baseball activities and will see a neurologist in New York tomorrow due to continued headaches after his concussion.  I was glad to hear that Aaron Hicks will continue as the starter in center field although I hate to take satisfaction at Ellsbury’s expense.  Ellsbury aside, Hicks has proven he deserves to be a starter in the Major Leagues.  The former top Twins prospect is having a career year and is such a part of the success so far this season. 

There is not much to report from AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  The RailRiders were two-hit in a shutout loss to the Toledo Mud Hens so it was an off-night for everybody.  

Although the talk is that Gleyber Torres will be promoted to the Yankees later this summer if Chase Headley continues to scuffle, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe is reporting that New York is more likely to pursue a more proven veteran for the hot corner if the Yankees remain in the pennant chase.  

Congratulations to Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels who hit his 600th home run in grand fashion…a grand slam off Ervin Santana of the Minnesota Twins.  

Credit:  Mark J Terrill-Associated Press

Also, a shout out to Miami Marlins starter Edinson Volquez.  He threw the season’s first no-hitter yesterday against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Miami.  He accomplished the feat with just 98 pitches and he did it on a day when he paid tribute prior to the game to his good friend and former teammate, the late Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura.  Yesterday would have been Ventura’s 26th birthday.  After the game, Volquez dedicated the performance to late Miami ace Jose Fernandez and Ventura.  

Credit:  Wilfredo Lee-Associated Press

Have a great Sunday!  Hopefully the Yankees can continue the winning feeling today to help make the flight back to New York a happy one.

Putting Crooked Numbers on the Board…

Credit:  Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Yankees 8, Orioles 3…

For a moment there, I thought the Yankees were playing a game of Home Run Derby between Brett Gardner and Matt Holliday.  By the fourth inning, both players had two home runs.  After chasing Orioles starter Chris Tillman and roughing up reliever Logan Verrett, the Yankees offense was finished for the night but like the 70’s show, Eight is Enough.  

For both Gardner and Holliday, it was their tenth and eleventh home runs of the season.    After the game, Gardner said, “Offensively we got off to such a great start early in the season, the last week or two we slowed down a bit collectively. It’s nice to put some runs back up, put some crooked numbers on the board and give Sevvy a lead he’s comfortable with.” The Yankees were able to put up crooked numbers in three of those first four innings as they cruised to the victory.

The maturation of Luis Severino continues.  I thought he did an excellent job escaping the bases loaded jam in the second inning when he struck out JJ Hardy with Gary Sanchez completing the out by throwing to first.  Severino (4-2) lasted 6 1/3 innings, limiting the O’s to only one run on seven hits.  He walked a batter and struck out eight.  

Credit:  Ron Sachs/CNP

Aaron Judge didn’t join the Home Run Derby but his bat was just as lethal.  He had a two-run double in the fourth to cap the Yankees’ scoring and was 2-for-4 on the day, raising his season batting average to .323.

Rob Refsnyer got the start at first base.  He was 0-for-3, but had a nice defensive play in the bottom of the third with a diving stop and quick run to first base to erase Seth Smith.  Refsnyder, lifted for Chris Carter in the bottom of the seventh inning, was the only Yankees starter without a hit.

The Yankees bullpen did a great job except for a sloppy eighth inning when Bryan Mitchell  committed a throwing error and subsequently allowed two runs.  Tyler Clippard, overcoming his recent woes, cleanly got the final four outs.  He struck out the dangerous Mark Trumbo to finish the game.

Credit Yankees pitching for the great job they’ve done with the O’s great Manny Machado.  Machado was hitless in five at-bats with four strikeouts.  In the first two games of the series, he is 0-for-9 with six strikeouts.

The Yankees did receive a scare in the ninth when Didi Gregorius was hit on the hand with a pitch from former Yankees pitcher Richard Bleier, but he was able to shake it off and continue playing.  X-rays after the game revealed no fractures.  Whew!

Credit:  Randy Miller/NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

The Boston Red Sox hammered the Chicago White Sox, 13-7, behind former White Sock Chris Sale (who received a standing ovation from the crowd prior to the game).  So, the Yankees  (30-19) maintained their three game lead over the Sox in the AL East.  Baltimore fell 4 1/2 games back.

The series concludes this evening with Masahiro Tanaka seeking to continue his rebound from an earlier slump.  Greg Bird’s Grandview High School (Aurora, CO) teammate, Kevin Gausman, will oppose Tanaka.  

Yankees in the News…

Okay, we may have to fast-forward to 2019 for this one…future Yankees outfielder Bryce Harper has been suspended for four games.  After he was plunked on Monday by Hunter Strickland of the San Francisco Giants, Harper “charged the mound, threw his helmet, and fought”.  Strickland was suspended for six games.  Both players have appealed.  The penalty is harsher for Harper as an every day player.  We’ll have to wait and see if Gerrit Cole plunks a Giant in defense of his future Yankees teammate when San Francisco visits Pittsburgh at the end of June…

Credit:  Ben Margot/Associated Press

Wanted:  Billionaire.  Yankees Legend Derek Jeter is searching for a new investment group after Jeb Bush dropped out of the bidding for the Miami Marlins.  It will be interesting to see if Jeter joins up with the group headed by Tagg Romney, which also includes Tom Glavine and Dave Stewart.  Jeter remains part of the Bush-less group so time will tell if they have the financial resources to top the Romney group.  If not, it’s potentially the old ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ situation.  

Jacoby Ellsbury is feeling better (finally) and has been cleared to fly to Toronto with the team on Wednesday.  He is eligible to come off the DL on Thursday but there’s still no timetable when he’ll be ready.  He could be activated this weekend.  Given that I am completely comfortable with Aaron Hicks in center, I really wouldn’t mind if Ellsbury wanted to take another week off.  

Tyler Austin was the starting DH last night for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders in a 5-0 loss to the Columbus Clippers.  He had two hits in four at-bats with a single and a double.  

Considering Austin’s multi-position eligibility and much cheaper price tag, it will be interesting to see what the Yankees do with Chris Carter when Greg Bird returns to health.  Carter hasn’t hit enough to warrant future consideration in my mind.  He is a below average hitter and fielder so if he’s not hitting home runs like a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, he’s not worth the roster space.  Maybe Austin should start taking some reps at third to expand his resume.  Seriously, I think there’s more value with Austin than Carter.  So, to Carter, I’d say SEE YA!

After taking a rest day yesterday, Aroldis Chapman will throw again today.  Hopefully, all continues to go well for Chapman as he eyes a mid-June return.  

Have a great Wednesday!  Here’s hoping the Yankees take the series tonight before embarking on their flight to Toronto.  Safe travels to the team and of course, Go Yankees!

Two Little, Too Late…

Credit:  Matt Hazlett/Getty Images

Orioles 3, Yankees 2…

Admittedly, I had wished the Baltimore Orioles had won on Sunday (when they lost to the Houston Astros, 8-4).  Coming into the series with the Yankees, the O’s were on a seven-game losing streak but were returning home to Camden Yards for the Memorial Day showdown (a wounded dog ready to bite).  The Orioles were due and unfortunately it came at the expense of the Yankees.

It was a winnable game, but you need offense to win.  Dylan Bundy, who has been Baltimore’s best pitcher so far this year, was good but you can’t say great.  He scattered seven hits over seven innings and held the Yanks to only two runs.  Bundy was the beneficiary of three double-plays.  It was hard to say if it was simply great Bundy pitching or anemic Yankee bats.  Outside of the Aarons, the Yankees couldn’t generate any runs.  Aaron Hicks had an early sac fly, scoring Starlin Castro to tie the game at one in the second inning, and Aaron Judge had a solo homer in the seventh (his 17th of the year).  

Credit:  Randy Miller/NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

The two runs were not enough to overcome Mark Trumbo’s run-scoring single in the first and Jonathan Scoop’s two-run double in the third.

Jordan Montgomery (2-4) reopened long term concerns about his spot in the rotation.  He threw 100 pitches just to get into the fifth inning.  After allowing two one-out singles in the fifth, Montgomery was finished.  For 4 1/3 innings of work, he had allowed eight hits and three runs (only one earned, thanks to Starlin Castro’s fielding error in the third).  He walked one and struck out five.  He is pitching well enough to earn his next start, but if the Yankees do make a trade for a starter within the next couple of months, Montgomery could be the odd man out.  

Both Jonathan Holder and Chasen Shreve pitched well in relief of Montgomery as they combined for 3 2/3 innings of hitless, scoreless relief and six strikeouts.  The only blemish was Shreve’s insignificant walk of Mark Trumbo in the seventh.

Aaron Judge had one final shot in the ninth inning to try and tie the game, but he struck out against interim O’s closer Brad Brach.  Brach, hardly a clone of injured O’s elite closer Zach Britton, also struck out Didi Gregorius to end the game.

Credit:  Ulysses Munoz/Baltimore Sun

Chris Carter was miserable.  He had an 0-for-3 day with two strikeouts.  Overall, he is 0-for-12 for his last five games and has been punched out in half of those at-bats.  Carter is batting .188 on the season.  When both Tyler Austin and Greg Bird are healthy, Carter is going to be in a very precarious situation if he doesn’t find the swing that drilled 41 homers last year.  

Chase Headley, after a two game rest, was 1-for-2 with a walk.  It kind of makes me wonder what the pesky Ronald Torreyes could have done against Bundy.  But alas, we’ll never know.  The Orioles won this game, and pulled back to within 3 1/2 games of the Yankees (29-19) in the AL East.  Fortunately, the Chicago White Sox rallied against the Red Sox bullpen to beat Boston 5-4 in a game saved by former Yankee closer David Robertson.  So, the Red Sox remain 3 games behind the Yankees.  

Credit:  Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune

Better luck to the Baby Bombers today.  It is more fun to write about wins than losses.  

Player Updates…

It doesn’t sound like Jacoby Ellsbury will be back anytime soon.  As of Sunday, he still had a headache and continues to deal with the neck sprain so he has not resumed baseball activities.  The presence of Aaron Hicks makes Ellsbury’s absence a non-factor unless Brett Gardner or Aaron Judge get hurt.

Aroldis Chapman was able to throw again prior to yesterday’s game against Baltimore but still no word when he’ll be ready for a rehab assignment.  He’ll take today off before resuming light throwing tomorrow.

Tyler Austin was 1-for-4 (single) in his latest rehab assignment as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders fell to the Toledo Mud Hens, 5-0.

The Yankees will miss Los Angeles Angels slugger Mike Trout in a couple of weeks when they make their West Coast road trip.  Trout had surgery yesterday on a torn ulnar ligament in his left thumb and is expected to miss 6-8 weeks.  Trout injured the thumb on Sunday with a head first slide in Miami. 

Have a great Tuesday!  Twelve games left against the AL East in the current stretch…let’s make the most of it.  A win today would be a good start…

Sevy and the Blazing Fast Goose Eggs…

Credit:  Kathy Willens/AP

Yankees 3, Royals 0…

Luis Severino continued the recent albeit short trend of stellar pitching performances by Yankee starters.  Masahiro Tanaka excluded, the rotation has pitched to win the last four games.  Severino was tremendous, pitching eight innings.  He was still clicking the radar gun at 99 mph in the 8th.  By completing eight, Severino was able to pass the baton to Dellin Betances for the one inning save without relying on any of the tired arms in the pen. 

Severino (3-2) was incredible in the scoreless outing with a season high 114 pitches.  He allowed only one extra base hit (a double by Brandon Moss in the 5th inning) and did not allow any runners past second base.  Sevy only allowed four hits and walked one while striking out seven.  He lowered his season ERA to 3.11.

Jason Hammel kept the Yankees in check most of the night but the Pinstripers didn’t need much.  Didi Gregorius hit a solo homer in the third inning to give the Yanks an early 1-0 lead.  

Credit:  Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports

In the 6th inning, the Yankees picked up another run through great-base running effort by Gary Sanchez.  Sanchez singled to open the inning and then stole second.  Thanks to a throwing error by Royals catcher Salvador Perez, Sanchez alertly raced on to third.  Matt Holliday brought him home with a sac fly.

The Yankees picked up their final run when Gregorius led off the 7th inning with a double.  A ground out by Chris Carter moved Gregorius to third, which brought Brett Gardner to the plate.  With two strikes, Gardner was the beneficiary of a called ball on a pitch by Royals reliever Matt Strahm that seemingly landed well within the strike zone.  It should have been the third strike for the second out of the inning but with the next pitch, Gardner singled to center to drive in the run.

Betances struck out the side in the 9th inning to earn his fourth save of the season, lowering his season ERA to 0.57.

The Yankees (27-17) moved 2 1/2 games up on the Baltimore Orioles.  Baltimore lost 4-3 to the Minnesota Twins and their fine rookie pitcher Jose Berrios.  The Boston Red Sox remained 3 1/2 games back with their 9-4 win over the Texas Rangers.

I want one of those guys…

Last night, Chris Sale of the Red Sox attempted to become the MLB pitcher in the Modern Era to record at least 10 strikeouts in nine straight games.  He failed but he is still the fifth pitcher since 1900 to reach 100 strikeouts in his first 10 starts.  It probably wasn’t one of his better games, but Sale still kept the game within reach for the Red Sox until their offense exploded for 7 runs in the 7th inning of their game against the Texas Rangers.  Sale finished the night with 7 1/3 innings, 6 hits, 4 runs (3 earned), 1 walk and 6 strikeouts.  

Credit:  Christopher Evans

Sale has such a presence when he is on the mound.  I can’t think of any potential trade targets that can match Sale as a frontline ace.  I remain hopeful that GM Brian Cashman will surprise me, but I think most of us know who the available trade suspects are.  

Gleyber Torres Watch (with a little Tyler Austin thrown in)…

It was another night at third base yesterday for Yankees top prospect Gleyber Torres as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders defeated the Columbus Clippers, 5-0. 

Watching the RailRiders this closely shows me one thing.  Clint Frazier is on fire.  He hit his eighth home run (and 28th RBI) in the first inning of the RailRiders’ game against the Columbus Clippers on Wednesday.  He also had a two-run shot on Tuesday during Gleyber’s first game at the AAA Level.  But enough about ridiculously hot outfielders and how the Yankees like to keep them down while parading the $153 Million Man in center field at Yankee Stadium on a nightly basis.  Note:  To Jacoby Ellsbury’s defense, he was injured during last night’s game against the Royals when he collided into the outfield wall after making a catch.  He suffered a neck sprain and a concussion, and has been placed on the 7-Day DL.  I wish him no ill will and hope that he returns to the health sooner than later.  It does kind of make me wish that the padding on the outfield walls was a little more player-friendly.  Rob Refsnyder has been recalled to the Bronx to replace Ellsbury.  On performance alone, Frazier would have been the best option, but Refsnyder is already on the 40-Man Roster which was the difference-maker.  

Credit:  Andy Grosh/MiLB.com

Torres was a wee bit cooler than Frazier.  With an ‘O-fer’ night (0-for-3), he wasn’t really doing much with the bat but he did walk twice, stole a base, and avoided striking out.  All things considered, it was another game in the education and development of the Yankees premier prospect as he climbs the ladder for the eventual call to the Bronx.  

I thought Mike Ford did a good job for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the short time since his call-up.  In nine games, he hit 4 homers and 10 RBI’s, batting .306/.432/.750.  But he was returned to AA-Trenton yesterday when Ji-Man Choi was activated from the 7-Day DL for the RailRiders.  

Credit:  Cheryl Pursell

Maybe I should have re-named this section the Minor League Report.

As promised, here’s a little Tyler Austin…


Finally…

The Yankees conclude their four-game set against the Kansas City Royals this afternoon at 1:05 pm Eastern.  The Royals have announced a change in starters for the game as Miguel Almonte, called up on Tuesday from the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Double-A), will replace Nathan Karns who was placed on the DL with forearm stiffness. He was 1-0 with a 1.86 ERA in 6 starts for the Naturals. For Almonte, the start at Yankee Stadium will be a treat.  “That was my favorite team growing up”, Almonte said yesterday through an interpreter.  No worries, Miguel, they are our favorite team too.
Masahiro Tanaka takes the hill for the Yankees in an outing that will probably have me watching the game between my fingers.  I really hope that he has rediscovered the touch and can continue the streak of solid pitching performances.  Otherwise, the fans in the outfield bleachers should receive hazard duty pay.
Have a great Thursday!  Why settle for two when you can take three??!!…

 

Guilty of Playing Favorites…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit:  Kathy Willens/AP

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

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

Resiliency-R-Us, Open All Night…

Credit:  MLB.com

When you have one of Baseball’s elite closers on the mound with a three run lead in the bottom of the 9th, it should be game over.  Sadly, it was an off night for Aroldis Chapman as he allowed three runs before being pulled from the game.  From that point, it felt like it was only a matter of time before the Chicago Cubs pulled off a walk-off.  Fortunately, these are not the 2016 New York Yankees.

In an 18-inning affair that lasted six hours and five minutes (sorry, I didn’t stay up), Aaron Hicks , Ronald Torreyes and Starlin Castro emerged as the heroes of heroes.  Leading off the 18th, Aaron Hicks bunted toward third and reached second thanks to a throwing error by Cubs catcher Wilson Contreras.  After a sacrifice bunt by Torreyes moved Hicks to third, he scored on a grounder to short by Castro.

When Chasen Shreve (1-0) struck out Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks at 2:13 a.m., the Yankees (20-9) had completed an improbable and very exhausting 5-4 victory.

It’s tough to play a night game on “getaway” day, but even tougher to play what essentially equates to a double-header in terms of innings played.  It was an incredible job by the bullpen for anyone not named Chapman.  Tyler Clippard, Adam Warren, Jonathan Holder and Shreve combined for 9 1/3 innings of scoreless relief following Chapman’s blown save.  The Yankees and Cubs set a Major League record for strikeouts with 48.  Yankees pitchers accounted for 26 of those K’s, including 9 by starter Luis Severino and 5 by Shreve.  The Cubs also set a record by using three pitchers as pinch-hitters.  

I am thankful the Yankees didn’t have to employ the last man standing in the bullpen (Tommy Layne) given his recent propensity for watching the opponent score while he is on the mound.  

Chapman’s underwhelming performance against his World Series teammates wasted another great start by Severino.  With a four-hitter in 7 innings of work while allowing only a single run (a 2nd inning home run by Javier Baez), he bested former Boston Red Sox nemesis Jon Lester and stood in line for the victory until Chapman let it get away.  A run scoring triple by Aaron Judge in the 7th inning had put Severino in position to win, with a two-run homer by Jacoby Ellsbury in the 8th for support.  But the Cubs, stealing a page from these exciting young Pinstripers, showed that the game is not over ’til it’s over…to borrow a line from legendary Yankees catcher Yogi Berra.  

Castro completed his three day Chicago reunion with 2 RBI’s despite an 0-for-8 night.  He also had a run-scoring ground-out in the first inning.  

The game had its humorous moment when left fielder Aaron Hicks lost sight of Baez’s home run ball.  That’s how I would play every inning…

Credit:  MLB.com

Matt Holliday did a solid job with his first Yankees start at first base.  He went 2-for-4 until he was lifted for pinch-hitter Chris Carter.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see Holliday play some more first base in Cincinnati.  Heck, at this point, the Yankees should probably play Aaron Hicks at first.  They have to find ways to keep that dude’s bat in the lineup.  

For the Yankees, they became only the second team to sweep the Cubs this season.  They maintained a half-game over the Baltimore Orioles for the AL East lead.  The O’s had a broom of their own with a weekend sweep of the Chicago White Sox.  Sadly, the Red Sox won again after providing 17 runs for their ace, Chris Sale.  

The Yankees make a short hop to Cincinnati, Ohio for a game against former Yankees top pitching prospect Rookie Davis and the Cincinnati Reds later today.  I would generally say that the Yankees may be a little sluggish after the late night, but that would be underestimating the resiliency of this team.  It will be a challenge as the Reds (17-14) are the current leader in the NL Central, thanks to the Yankees’ sweep of the Cubs.  But if any team can find a way, I’ll take my chances with the Yankees.

Have a great Monday!  Hopefully we’re in line for a restful and victorious day!

Forget Yesterday, Fight for Today…

It’s tough to follow a game that you should have won with a dull, listless performance.  So it was for the Yankees as they fell 7-1 to the AL cellar rats, the Toronto Blue Jays.  To the Blue Jays credit, they are now on a three-game winning streak and have held their opponents to a single run in each of those victories.  It was just a matter of time before the Blue Jays started playing like the team many predicted to contend for the AL East and unfortunately the Yankees may have run into them at the wrong time. 

Luis Severino, after his brilliant performance in Boston, let the bottom of Toronto’s batting order do the damage.  In the second inning, he allowed a two-run homer to the number seven hitter, shortstop Ryan Goins, who is subbing for the injured Troy Tulowitzki.  It would be the only runs Toronto would need on a quiet night for Yankee bats.  Severino allowed another home run in the sixth inning to the number nine hitter, third baseman Chris Coghlan, a fill-in for the injured Josh Donaldson.  Severino (2-2) lasted 5 2/3 innings, giving up 8 hits and 5 runs.  He walked two and struck out 3.  

Credit:  Kathy Willens/AP

Reliever Luis Cessa took one for the team and finished the remaining 3 1/3 innings to provide rest for the weary Yankees bullpen.  He did give up a two-run shot to Jose Bautista in the seventh inning but was otherwise effective.  

Jacoby Ellsbury made a great play in the sixth inning with a leaping catch of a potential double.  His momentum carried him into the centerfield wall.  A runner on third scored on the sac fly, but then Ellsbury overthrew Aaron Judge on an attempt to get the ball back into the infield which allowed a runner on second to also score.  

Greg Bird is lost at the plate.  His latest 0-for-4 performance dropped his batting average to an even .100.  He left 5 men on base.  The Yankees continue to give him chances to turn it around, but when is enough?  I’ve been in Bird’s corner but at some point, he needs to figure this out at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, not New York, in order to restore his confidence.  I had thought he was getting better swings in recent days but the results are not there.  I am not ready to say ‘send him down today’ but it is probably not going to take too many more games of hitless results.  

It was just one of those games.  The Yankees have struggled against the Blue Jays in recent years as they are just 13-26 against Toronto since the start of the 2015 season.  The loss dropped the Yankees (15-9) one game behind the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East.  The O’s beat the Boston Red Sox 5-2 on Monday night to recapture sole possession of first place.  But today, yesterday means nothing.  The Yankees can still take this series and it starts today with timely hitting and precision pitching.   

Prior to the game, the Yankees recalled Cessa to provide long relief insurance and optioned reliever Bryan Mitchell to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  Brendan Kuty of NJ.com had the best Twitter line:  “Mitchell will likely share 1B duties with Refsnyder and Choi” in reference to Mitchell’s one inning of work at first base on Sunday.  Too funny!

With no offense to Jorge Mateo, my personal favorite for the future of center field at Yankee Stadium had quite a game on Sunday.  Dustin Fowler, a strong candidate to eventually unseat Jacoby Ellsbury, hit for the cycle as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders defeated the Indianapolis Indians (the Pittsburgh Pirates’ top farm club), 7-6. 

In the bottom of the 11th inning, Fowler capped his memorable day with a walk-off home run, completing the cycle.   For the game, the 22-year-old went 5-for-6 with 2 runs scored and 2 RBI’s.  For the season, Fowler is batting .293 (24-for-82), 4 home runs, and 12 RBI’s.  He is second on the team with a .914 OPS.  He has also stolen two bases.

Fowler’s day:

1st Inning:  Tripled to right.

3rd Inning:  Grounded out to third.

5th Inning:  Doubled to right, scoring Tyler Wade.

7th Inning:  Singled to center.

9th Inning:  Doubled to right.

11th Inning:  Homered to right, no one on…RailRiders win!

It may have taken two extra innings, but what a way to cap hitting for the cycle!  Congrats to Fowler for the terrific game.  I look forward to the day when he is doing this in the Bronx.

Credit:  Times Leader

I am a Yankees Homer but I can’t predict an AL championship for the Yankees yet.  Granted, the team finished the month of April in a first-place tie with the Baltimore Orioles, but it’s still a very long season.  The Yankees had a chance to bury the Orioles on Sunday and couldn’t do it.  The ebbs and flows the season will ultimately predict the final standings.  Let’s see how the team handles its first real stretch of difficulty.  With the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros looming on the horizon, adversity is on its way.  The last time catcher Gary Sanchez started a game, the Yankees were 1-4.  So let’s not start printing World Series tickets just yet.  Through May 1st last year, the Yankees were 8-15.  This season, they are 15-9 through the same date.  If they finish the season, from this point forward, with the same number of wins and losses as last year, they are a 90-win team.  I think this team can contend for a Wild Card spot but I am not ready to anoint them as potential division champions. I still expect Boston to play much better as the season progresses, particularly if they get David Price back.  And I’ve learned to never underestimate Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles.  The charging Blue Jays also have the Yankees’ number.  If the Yankees are still slugging it out for first place at the All-Star Break, then I’ll reconsider my forecast.  But for now, I still feel the best case scenario is a Wild Card slot with the division championship a season or two away.

Have a great Tuesday!  Today is a new day…time to beat these pesky Jays!