Tagged: Joe Girardi

End of Astros’ Two-Game Winning Streak…

Credit:  Los Angeles Times: Wally Skalij

2017 World Series

Dodgers 3, Astros 1…

Dodgers lead Series, 1-0

Powered by the arm of Clayton Kershaw and the bat of Justin Turner, the Los Angeles Dodgers captured Game 1 of the World Series. It was a bittersweet game for Yankees fans as we were left to wonder what could have been. Nevertheless, the Yankees turn will be here soon enough.  For now, it’s about the Dodgers and Astros.

After Kershaw easily set down the Astros in the top of the 1st, Chris Taylor jumped on the first pitch from Astros starter Dallas Keuchel to send it 447 feet over the left field wall. The Dodgers led 1-0 on a very hot Los Angeles evening. It seems like every time I watch the Dodgers play, Taylor is coming up big. He filled in for shortstop Corey Seager during the NLCS when Seager was left off the roster to recover from a lower back sprain. Back in center field, Taylor hit 21 home runs and drove in 72 RBI’s in 140 games for the Dodgers this year, batting .288. It’s incredible to think the Dodgers acquired Taylor from the Seattle Mariners in June 2016 for a pitcher (Zach Lee) who has been released two times since the trade.  

Credit:  Los Angeles Times:  Gina Ferazzi

The 1-0 score held up until the top of the 4th inning when Astros third baseman Alex Bregman took Kershaw deep with a solo shot to left leading off the inning.  It was not as far as Taylor’s blast but it still counts the same. It got Kershaw’s attention…he responded by striking out the side. Say what you will about Kershaw but he’s arguably the best pitcher in baseball. He has not had great post-season success to add to his resume…until now. With Kershaw pitching as well as he did, the Astros didn’t really have a chance.

With both starting pitchers still on the mound, the game stayed tied until the bottom of the 6th inning. The Dodgers recorded two quick outs when both Austin Barnes and Kershaw grounded out to shortstop Carlos Correa. But then Keuchel issued a two-out walk to aforementioned Chris Taylor. Justin Turner, the one-time Mets cast-off, strolled to the plate with long red hair and beard flowing. Dallas Keuchel tried to slip a 1-2 cutter past Turner. Boom! Over the wall in the left center and the Dodgers led, 3-1.  

Credit:  Los Angeles Times

Kershaw was done after seven innings, receiving congratulations and hugs from Manager Dave Roberts and others in the Dodgers dugout while the Dodgers were preparing to bat. It was a tremendous performance by the big Texan left-hander. He was never in trouble despite the game-tying home run in the 4th inning, limiting the Astros to three hits and one run. He struck out eleven batters and didn’t walk anyone. A big game performance by the game’s elite.  

Credit:  Los Angeles Times: Robert Gauthier

From there, it was time for the trusted Dodgers bullpen. Despite scoreless relief from Houston’s Brad Peacock and Chris Devenski to hold Los Angeles in check, the two-run Dodgers lead was a canyon with Brandon Morrow and Kenley Jansen setting down the Astros in order for the final six outs. Jansen may have gotten a few dollars less than Aroldis Chapman last off-season when he re-signed with the Dodgers in free agency, but right now, it’s Jansen and not Chapman that you would want for that big final out. He has been Mr Consistency all season long.  

This was a great win for the Dodgers and a wonderful way to start the World Series. The 2017 post-season has been punctuated by home field advantage which certainly works to the favor of the Dodgers.  

Former Yankee Rich Hill gets the Game 2 start tonight for the Dodgers. He’ll be opposed by Houston’s Justin Verlander. I look for the Dodgers to grab a two-game cushion before the series heads to Minute Maid Park in Houston. My prediction is Dodgers 7, Astros 4.  

Credit:  Stephen Dunn-Getty Images

Prior to yesterday’s game, I was saddened to see that former Yankee Curtis Granderson was left off the World Series roster for the Dodgers. Based on performance, it was an easy decision for Dave Roberts. The Grandy Man was 1-for-15 in the post-season and he only hit .161 in 36 games for Los Angeles after being acquired from the New York Mets on August 19th (after that tremendous grand slam against the Yankees at Citi Field). Still, it would have been nice to see Granderson, one of the game’s classiest guys, on the roster after such a good career. The Dodgers made room for 12 pitchers on the World Series roster including oft-injured former Yank Brandon McCarthy which cost Grandy his spot.  

It was great to see Corey Seager back on the field after his absence in the NLCS. Kyle’s brother is one of the game’s best young talents and the Dodgers are clearly a better team with him in the lineup. Seager will most likely see time at DH when the series shifts to Houston to limit the wear and tear on his back.  

Credit: Los Angeles Times: Wally Skalij

Editor’s Note:  This writer is pro-Dodgers.  

Odds & Ends…

The World Series means very quiet news for other MLB teams. The only meaningful day for potential news will be Thursday since it is a travel day for the World Series teams.  

Yankees manager Joe Girardi made a one hour visit to Yankee Stadium yesterday which drew tremendous speculation on social media but no news from credible Yankees beat writers. It’s also being reported that the Houston Astros are looking at Yankees third base coach Joe Espada for the bench coach vacancy created when current bench coach Alex Cora accepted the managerial gig in Boston effective at the end of the World Series.    

I was glad to see former Cardinal great and one-time Yankees prospect Willie McGee added to the coaching staff for the St Louis Cardinals. I can still remember feeling so underwhelmed when the Yankees traded McGee, a highly touted young prospect, to St Louis for the forgettable Bob Sykes in October 1981. McGee went on to have a tremendous career for the Cardinals including the 1985 NL MVP Award. He was elected to the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2014.  His specific role on the coaching staff has yet to be announced.  

Have a wonderful Wednesday! Their season may be over, but Go Yankees!

Advertisements

It’s Not Over, It’s Only The Beginning…

Credit:  NY Post: Anthony J Causi

American League Championship Series

Astros 4, Yankees 0…

Astros win series, 4-3

“The darkest night is often the bridge to the brightest tomorrow.”

–Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Sure, it was very disappointing to see the Yankees come so close to making the Fall Classic but the future is so bright for this young Yankees team. This is only the beginning of the wonderful ride they are embarking upon and we’d better hold on tight because it’s going to be one helluva ride. I am very proud of the accomplishments of the 2017 New York Yankees.  They achieved far more than anyone expected and are only setting themselves up for loftier heights as we advance forward.  Congratulations, Yankees!  Thumbs down, you are an incredible group of ultra-talented players and you are champions to us.

You have to give credit to the Houston Astros. They earned home-field advantage by winning 101 games over the regular season and it positioned them for success in a series dominated by the home teams. On Saturday night, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers, Jr held the Yankees to three hits and no runs to send the Astros to their first World Series since 2005 and only their second overall.  

I was afraid that it would be asking a lot for CC Sabathia to be the savior for Game 7. I know that he had been undefeated in his role as a stopper following Yankee losses this year but this game obviously had heightened magnitude. With no offense to Sonny Gray, the Yankees paid a very high price to get him and this should have been his spot to be the team’s post-season savior. He may ultimately have a fantastic Yankees career but he was a non-factor this post-season.  

After trading scoreless frames to open the game, Houston’s Yuli Gurriel lined a shot to right that looked like it had a chance to clear the wall. Aaron Judge, on the run, leaped up to make a terrific catch to deny Gurriel.  

Credit:  Elsa-Getty Images

I was hopeful that it was a sign for great things to come. Unfortunately, it was not.  

The Astros, getting at least a single each inning against Sabathia, finally broke through in the 4th inning. Evan Gattis led off the bottom of the inning with a powerful home run to left center. Sabathia walked Brian McCann on a full count.  Marwin Gonzalez hit a grounder to short which Didi Gregorius zipped to Starlin Castro to force McCann, but they were unable to turn the double play. Josh Reddick singled to left and Manager Joe Girardi had seen enough. He went to the mound to take the ball from Sabathia, perhaps for the last time in either individual’s Yankees career. Enter Tommy Kahnle who quickly induced George Springer, on one pitch, to ground into an inning-ending double play, short to second to first.

The top of the 5th brought a great chance for the Yankees. Greg Bird led off with a double to the right field corner. Starlin Castro was next but he struck out. With Aaron Hicks at the plate, a wild pitch on ball four allowed Bird to fly to third and Hicks to take first. Runners at the corners and one out for Todd Frazier. Frazier hit a chopper to third baseman Alex Bregman and Yankees third base coach Joe Espada made the decision to send Bird home. It would take a perfect throw to nail Bird at the plate. Sadly for us, that’s exactly what happened. Bregman’s throw to Brian McCann could not have been any better and McCann easily applied the tag on Bird’s foot. 

Credit:  Ronald Martinez-Getty Images

Chase Headley grounded out to second and it was an inning of missed opportunity for the Yankees.  

The Yankees lack of scoring hurt as the Astros padded their lead in the bottom of the 5th. With Tommy Kahnle still on the mound for the Yankees, Jose Altuve blasted a one-out home run to right (too high for Judge to make another leaping catch). Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel followed with singles to put runners at the corners. Kahnle struck out Evan Gattis for the second out, but then Brian McCann doubled to the corner in right, scoring both Correa and Gurriel. Girardi pulled the plug on Kahnle and brought in Adam Warren to get the final out.  The Astros had increased their lead to 4-0.

The Astros made a pitching change for the top of the 6th. Lance McCullers, Jr was brought in to replace Charlie Morton who had held the Yanks to two hits.  Brett Gardner greeted McCullers with a single to left down the line and there was optimism that the Yankees could get back into the game. The optimism started to dissipate as McCullers retired the next three batters end the inning. Gardy’s hit was the last one that McCullers, who finished the game, would allow.  

The Yankees went down quietly in the 9th and when Greg Bird’s fly to center was caught by George Springer, their season was over. As the Astros celebrated on the field and later in the clubhouse, the Yankees could only gather their things and begin preparations for the flight home to New York City.  

Credit:  Ronald Martinez-Getty Images

Last year, the Los Angeles Dodgers watched the Chicago Cubs celebrate on Wrigley Field turf when the Cubs won the NLCS to advance to the World Series. They remembered that feeling and it helped fuel them to the NL Championship this year and a role as the host for Game 1 of the 2017 World Series. I am hopeful that the Yankees take the same sense of disappointment to fuel their hopes and aspirations for the 2018 season.  

Hopefully, the Steinbrenner Family moves quickly to re-sign both GM Brian Cashman and Manager Joe Girardi so that the team can begin its off-season planning to bring the 2018 championship back to the Bronx.  

Credit:  Elsa-Getty Images

As always, Go Yankees!

Odds & Ends…

Friday, I was surprised when the Washington Nationals fired manager Dusty Baker. Yesterday, I was equally surprised when the San Francisco Giants dismissed Dave Righetti as the team’s pitching coach. Righetti, the former Yankees closer, was the longest tenured pitching coach in the Major Leagues, having served under three managers since 2000. During that time, Rags was part of three World Championships.  Righetti, a Bay Area native, will remain in the Giants organization as a special assistant to GM Bobby Evans. Righetti is one of the most respected pitching coaches in the game but I guess the age-old question ‘what have you done for me lately?’ gets the best of us. Rags is too good not to get another opportunity elsewhere if he wants it.

Credit:  Brian Rothmuller-Icon Sportswire

The Chicago Cubs fired their pitching coach (Chris Bosio) too. Bosio had held the position since 2012 and he’s fresh off a World Series Championship from last season. I guess those three home runs by Kiké Hernandez last week to send the Los Angeles Dodgers to the World Series and the Cubs home for the holidays were Bosio’s fault.  

It sounds as though the Boston Red Sox will be offering a three-year deal to Astros bench coach Alex Cora to be their new manager. Cora will most likely accept once the World Series is over. The initial reaction from my Red Sox friends is lukewarm but I think Cora is a sound option for the Sox. For Cora, it will be about the right coaching hires to help him succeed. He will already have a strong team in place and he’ll be gaining front row World Series experience this year.  

I will watch the World Series with interest. As a former resident of Los Angeles, it’s hard not to cheer for the Dodgers. They’ve been my favorite NL team, despite my love for the Yankees. So, I’ll be rooting for Blue and hoping they send the Astros home with saddened faces.

Have a great Sunday! Remember the magic of the 2017 Yankees and dream of the potential for the 2018 club. Go Yankees!

No Answer for Justin Verlander…

Credit:  Eric Christian Smith-AP

American League Championship Series

Astros 7, Yankees 1…

Series tied, 3-3

If the Yankees are going to win the ALCS, they’ll need to figure out how to score more than a single run in a game at Minute Maid Park.  Three runs in three games is not going to get ‘er done.  The Yankees were getting hard hits against Justin Verlander on Friday night, but they had nothing to show for it.  Meanwhile, the Astros bats came alive and they seized the win in Game 6.

On the bright side, the Yankees have responded to adversity the entire post-season, winning ‘do or die’ games against the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians.  It’s that time once again so hopefully the Yankees can find a way to score runs and take the victory tonight.

Brett Gardner led off the game with a single to center over the outstretched glove of shortstop Carlos Correa.  Unfortunately, Aaron Judge followed with a grounder to Correa that the Astros quickly turned for a double play.  

After Luis Severino easily set down the Astros in the bottom of the 1st, Gary Sanchez reached first  base on a soft grounder to third to open the 2nd inning.  But El Gary wasn’t able to do more than have a brief conversation with first base coach Tony Pena when Verlander struck out two of the next three hitters (Greg Bird and Aaron Hicks) and got the middle batter (Starlin Castro) to fly out to center.

The Yankees got another hit in the 3rd inning, a one-out single up the middle into left center field by Chase Headley, but again the runner had no place to go as he was left stranded.

Meanwhile, through the first three innings, Luis Severino had yet to give up a hit.  Carlos Correa finally got the first hit for the Astros with a two-out single to right center in the bottom of the 4th.  Correa was left stranded but the tide was turning.  Instead of the hits against Verlander and none against Severino, the reverse pattern developed.  Verlander set the Yankees down in order in the 4th and 5th innings.  

Credit:  Eric Christian Smith-AP

The Astros led off the bottom of the 5th with a walk by Alex Bregman.  A groundout to Starlin Castro by Marwin Gonzalez moved the runner to second.  Sevy was unable to throw strikes to Evan Gattis and walked him on four pitches.  Brian McCann took advantage of the runner in scoring position with a drive to right that bounced over the wall on one hop for a ground-rule double, scoring Bregman and moving Gattis to third.  Like Gattis, Sevy was unable to throw strikes to George Springer, also walking him on four straight pitches.  The bases were loaded, with only one out.  Josh Reddick lofted a fly to center for the second out but it wasn’t deep enough to score the runner.  It brought Jose Altuve to the plate with the bases still jammed with Astros.  To borrow a line from Manager Joe Girardi, it’s not what you want.  Altuve rapped a hard drive to left to score Gattis and McCann.  The Astros were up 3-0.  It was end of the line for Severino.  Chad Green came in and got the final out when Carlos Correa popped out to Starlin Castro.  It was a very disappointing inning for the young 23-year-old starter and quite possibly his final inning of the year if the Yankees cannot find ways to score runs in Houston.

Credit:  NY Post: Charles Wenzelberg

The Yankees finally got a couple of hits in an inning against Verlander when they got two singles in the top of the 6th.  Chase Headley led off with a single to center.  Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge recorded outs (pop out to short and strikeout, respectively) but then Didi Gregorius lined a single to right, the ball dropping in front of right fielder Josh Reddick.  Runners at first and second with two outs for Gary Sanchez.  With one swing of the bat, El Gary had the potential to tie the game.  Sadly, all he could do was hit a grounder to short for the final out.  

More promise but ultimately disappointment continued in the top of the 7th when Greg Bird walked and Starlin Castro was hit by a pitch.  The HBP was not initially called by the home plate umpire but Girardi, learning from prior lessons, challenged the call and it showed that Castro had, in fact, been hit on the wristband.  Aaron Hicks had the first crack at Verlander but he struck out.  Todd Frazier was next and he hit a high fly to center, to the wall, and a leaping catch by George Springer.  Oh man, just another foot or so and the game would have been tied.  

Credit:  NY Post: Anthony J Causi & Getty Images

Chase Headley grounded out to the right side to end the threat, missing a huge opportunity for the road team.

In the top of the 8th, Verlander was finally out of the game, replaced by Brad Peacock.  After Peacock got Brett Gardner to fly out in left field foul territory (credit left fielder Marwin Gonzales for the running catch with very limited room), Aaron Judge blasted a pitch, nearly to the roof, over the wall in left center to make it a 3-1 game.  

Credit:  Houston Chronicle: Karen Warren

Signs of life…not.  Didi Gregorius flied out to left and Gary Sanchez struck out to end the inning.

For the bottom of the 8th, the Yankees replaced Chad Green with David Robertson.  Great job by Green.  After replacing Severino in the bottom of the 5th, Green did not allow a hit or run over 2 1/3 innings pitched.  He only walked a batter and struck out three ‘Stros.  For David Robertson, the results were not the same.  He was greeted with a homer to left over the scoreboard by Jose Altuve. After the game, D-Rob said that he threw the 2-2 pitch where he wanted but Altuve still went yard.  Carlos Correa was next and he doubled to left into the corner.  Yuli Gurriel singled to right and the Astros had runners at the corners and still nobody out.  Alex Bregman lined a double to left center on a ball that dropped between Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks to bring both runners around to score.  A throwing error by Didi Gregorius to home plate that got away from Gary Sanchez allowed Bregman to move to third.  Four batters, four hits, three runs (with a fourth to eventually score), no outs.  An ugly line for D-Rob and the end of his latest outing.  

Credit: NY Post: Charles Wenzelberg

Dellin Betances entered the game.  It started well when he struck out Marwin Gonzalez for the first out.  But then Evan Gattis lofted a fly ball deep enough to right center to score Bregman on the sacrifice as the throw from Aaron Hicks to Gary Sanchez was off the line.  The Astros had increased their lead to 7-1 over the offensively-challenged Yankees.  Brian McCann followed with a single to right that Starlin Castro couldn’t quite reach, but Betances got George Springer to ground out to third with a broken bat for the final out.  Two very ugly innings for the Pinstripers…the 5th and the 8th.  

The Astros brought their closer, Ken Giles, out for the top of the 9th despite the six-run lead.  It seemed odd to bring in your best reliever in that situation but Astros manager A.J. Hinch gets paid a lot more money than I do to make those decisions.  Greg Bird flied out to right for the first out, but then Starlin Castro singled to left center.  Aaron Hicks walked and the Yankees had two runners on base with only one out.  After a coaching visit to the mound, Giles settled down and retired Todd Frazier on a fly out to left.  He struck out Chase Headley swinging for the game-ending out.

I don’t know what you say after a game like this.  The Yankees were whipped in all facets of the game.  It was a game that you quickly forget and move on.  

The Yankees will pull out their stopper, CC Sabathia, for the seventh and final game of the series.  No doubt this is an ‘all hands on deck’ situation.  Dallas Keuchel has already said on record that he’ll be ready to thwart any rallies out of the bullpen, and even Justin Verlander was saying that he might be ready depending upon how his arm feels today.  Charlie Morton will make the Game 7 start for the Astros.  The childhood Yankees fan will get the opportunity to disappoint the many of us who are still Yankees fans.  Sabathia has not been defeated following a Yankees loss this year.  Let’s hope that streak continues one more time.  

Odds & Ends…

Yesterday, I wrote about the managerial openings but I could not have envisioned that the Washington Nationals would emerge as a team with an opening.  Their firing of Dusty Baker caught me by surprise.  Both John Farrell and Baker have proved that simply winning your division to make the play-offs is not enough. There’s no doubt that Baker mishandled the Stephen Strasburg injury situation earlier in the post-season and that may have been the ultimate cause for his dismissal.  The Nationals have one more shot next year before star Bryce Harper becomes a free agent so whomever gets the job will carry high expectations.  It’s a tough job to walk into and I thought they would have been stronger with the continuity of Baker, a very good manager, at the top.  The Nationals reportedly want to talk to Astros bench coach Alex Cora which could throw a monkey wrench into Boston’s plans to hire Cora.  There will be no honeymoon period for the guys who get the jobs with the Nationals and the Red Sox.  Win now or walk.

Of course, there’s still a chance that the Yankees could be looking for a new manager soon.  Never a dull moment in Major League Baseball.

Credit:  NY Daily News: Andrew Savulich / TNS

Have a great Saturday!  Bring home the AL Championship, Guys!  Thumbs down, you got this!  Go Yankees!

All Rise for Home Sweet Home…

Credit:  Abbie Parr-Getty Images

American League Championship Series

Yankees 8, Astros 1

Astros lead Series, 2-1

CC Sabathia is proving, again and again, that he is the team’s prime stopper in 2017. I almost feel bad since I was among those who left CC for dead. I started to buy into Sabathia early in the season, but when he ran into his bump in the road and time on the DL, I was burying the guy again. Yet, here he is on the main stage, being trusted with the ball in the most dire situations and he has not disappointed. Monday, backed by home runs from Todd Frazier and Aaron Judge, Sabathia reeled off his 10th win (against no losses) following a Yankees loss with an elite 1.69 ERA in those situations as the Yankees put the brakes on Houston’s march to the World Series.  

Aaron Judge draws the most attention when going yard, but the biggest hit was provided courtesy of Todd Frazier. At the trading deadline when the Yankees acquired Frazier, it felt like he was going to be a two month rental before moving on. However, Frazier is showing how much he enjoys playing in the Bronx and seems to be tailor made for Yankee Stadium. I recognize that Miguel Andujar (or perhaps a free agent signing of Manny Machado after the 2018 season) represents the future at third, but Frazier deserves an encore performance in the Bronx next season.  

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

While the final line for Astros starter Charlie Morton was not pretty, he was pitching great early. After two strikeouts by Morton to start the game, Didi Gregorius got the first hit for the Yankees with an infield grounder to third, but he was quickly erased for the final out when Morton’s pickoff throw to first was a little faster than Didi’s sliding hand. 

It looked like Morton, who grew up as a Yankees fan in Connecticut, was going to have a very good game in this pitching-strong series. Like the first inning, Morton got two quick outs to start the second inning…a line out to center by Gary Sanchez, who jumped on the first pitch, and a strike out of Greg Bird. Then, Starlin Castro hit a weak squibbler toward third that third baseman Alex Bregman tried unsuccessfully to barehand. Carlos Correa retrieved the ball and threw to first, but Castro had already crossed the bag. Aaron Hicks followed with a high fly to left that dropped in for a single. The Yankees had runners at first and second, but those were two hard earned hits so you couldn’t really fault Morton. On Morton’s third pitch to Todd Frazier, he threw a good outside fastball but Frazier reached out and got enough of the bat on the ball with a one-handed swing to power it over the right field wall. The Yankees were up, 3-0.

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Staked to a three-run lead, CC Sabathia appeared to wobble in the top of the 3rd inning. After getting two outs, he walked George Springer. Alex Bregman singled to deep left, but a great throw by Brett Gardner to second base held the runners at the corners. The very dangerous Jose Altuve was up next and Sabathia pitched very cautiously to him before losing him on four balls. The bases were loaded for the Astros, the best hitting team in baseball with runners in scoring position. However, Sabathia got Carlos Correa to pop out to short for the final out. Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down. Excellent job by Sabathia to get out of the inning unscathed.

Greg Bird led off the bottom of the 4th with a fly to left that bounced over the wall for a ground rule double. Left fielder Cameron Maybin came running up to catch the ball but then pulled up at the last moment before the ball hit the ground and became a souvenir in the seats. After Starlin Castro grounded out to third, Aaron Hicks hit a fly to right which Josh Reddick caught on the warning track but Bird was able to tag and move to third. Todd Frazier walked to bring up Chase Headley. Headley hit a grounder to second baseman Jose Altuve in shallow right and reached when Altuve bobbled the ball. Frazier was safe at second and Bird scored on the play. Brett Gardner was hit by a pitch on the left knee to load the bases, which brought Astros manager A.J. Hinch out of the dugout with a call to the bullpen. He brought in Will Harris to replace Morton. With Aaron Judge batting, Harris threw a wild pitch and the runners advanced, pushing Frazier across home plate to score the Yankees’ fifth run. Judge finally broke out of his ALCS slump when he blasted a line drive into the left field seats for three more runs. The Yankees had increased their lead to 8-0.

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

The Astros threatened again in the top of the 6th inning. Carlos Correa started the inning with a hard grounder that deflected off the glove of Didi Gregorius to safely reach first base. After Sabathia recorded two outs, Marwin Gonzalez hit a grounder to Gregorius and reached base when Didi lost his footing and overthrew Greg Bird at first. Correa moved to third. After a visit to the mound by Larry Rothschild, Sabathia got Josh Reddick to hit a soft grounder back to the pitching mound that CC was able to field and throw to first for the final out. The shutout remained intact for the great 37-year-old Yankees lefty.

For Sabathia, his day was finished. Adam Warren took over in the top of the 7th.  It didn’t start well when he walked his first batter, but he settled in and retired the next three batters to push the game to the 8th inning. Warren was back out for the 8th and retired the Astros in order.

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

It was inevitable that we’d see Dellin Betances at some point and Joe Girardi decided his time was the top of the 9th inning to seal the deal for the Yankees. It was a great opportunity for Betances to earn redemption and show that he can be a trusted arm for the duration of the playoffs. Unfortunately, it was a missed opportunity for Betances who walked the first two batters he faced and was pulled.  

Credit:  Getty Images

Tommy Kahnle was brought in. Cameron Maybin greeted Kahnle with a single to left to load the bases.  Kahnle struck out George Springer for the first out but then he walked Alex Bregman which pushed Marwin Gonzalez across the plate for the Astros’ first run (a run charged to Betances). Bases still loaded for likely AL MVP Jose Altuve and only one out. Kahnle came up big when Altuve hit a grounder to second baseman Starlin Castro who stepped on second and threw to Greg Bird at first to complete the double play. Game over. Yankees win!

Granted, Judge’s home run was huge. While I still feel that Frazier’s bomb was the difference-maker (offensively), the play of the game occurred in the top of the 4th inning when Marwin Gonzalez led off with a fly to right that took Aaron Judge to the wall. Judge reached up to catch the ball as he crashed into the wall and fall to the ground. It was an incredible catch to rob Gonzalez of a potential home run. Of course, it brought the obligatory questions of who was hurt the most…Judge or the wall…but it was the play of the game in my opinion. The Yankees were holding the three-run lead at that point courtesy of the Frazier home run, and a rally by the Astros in that spot would have made it a much different game.  

Credit:  Elsa-Getty Images

Judge, proving his glove is as powerful as his bat, also made a diving catch of a line drive hit by Cameron Maybin in the fifth inning.

Credit:  Robert Sabo

I can’t say enough great things about CC Sabathia. Time and again, he has proven to be a crafty veteran who simply knows how to win.  He’s faced his share of adversity but continues to overcome. Like Frazier, I think that CC Sabathia was earned a spot on the 2018 Yankees.  

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

The Yankees now turn Game 4 over to the forgotten Sonny Gray. Like Betances (who failed his ALCS audition), this is a chance for redemption for Gray. We know that he will be a huge part of future Yankee teams but this is his time to grab the moment and make his mark in New York. Gray (10-12, 3.55 ERA) will be opposed by Lance McCullers, Jr (7-4, 4.25 ERA). Don’t let the ERA fool you, McCullers, the son of a former Yankee, has been very tough on the Pinstripers. This game should be a classic. Hopefully, Sonny Gray rises to the challenge to craft an exciting first chapter of his Yankees post-season career.  

Odds & Ends…

I missed the weekend game (Game 2) due to a preplanned trip. The Yankees failed to tell me that they were going to make it to the American League Championship series earlier in the year when I made plans. A heartbreaking loss is not fun to write about, but I really appreciated the way that Astros catcher stood up for Gary Sanchez after the game. McCann could easily join the throngs who love to bash the Yankees but he’s been nothing but the professional that we came to love during his days in the Bronx.  

I keep reading so many articles that speculate whether or not Manager Joe Girardi will return and how he seems to be edgier around friends and family. Personally, I think he’d be foolish to leave at the dawn of a new era in Yankees baseball. I think he’ll come to an agreement with the Yankees after the season is over to help the Baby Bombers strive for greater heights over the next few years. Honestly, I do not see any viable alternatives and nothing against Yankee coaches like Tony Pena or Rob Thomsen but I think, despite his faults, Joe Girardi is the best man for the job.


Have a great Tuesday! Like Joe Girardi and Joe Torre before him have said, let’s just win one game today. We believe. Go Yankees!

No Love for Dallas in Houston…

Credit:  Tony Gutierrez-AP

American League Championship Series

Astros 2, Yankees 1…

Astros lead Series, 1-0

The Yankees had the answer this season for Chris Sale and they finally figured out likely AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber in the post-season but Dallas Keuchel remains a mystery. Unable to generate any runs against Keuchel, the Yankees fell to the Astros in the first game of the ALCS despite a solid outing from Masahiro Tanaka.

Credit:  Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees didn’t pick up their first hit against Keuchel until Brett Gardner lined a single to left with two outs in the 3rd inning. Unfortunately, he didn’t go anywhere when Aaron Judge followed with his only strikeout of the game.

Starlin Castro picked up a single to left, just past the outstretched glove of running shortstop Carlos Correa, in the top of 4th inning, also with two outs, but like Gardy, he did not do anything except have a brief conversation with first baseman Yuli Gurriel. Aaron Hicks flied out to center, on huge fly that nearly took center fielder George Springer to the wall, to send Castro looking for his hat and glove to take the field. A couple more feet and the Yankees might have taken the early lead.

The Astros, meanwhile, didn’t miss the only opportunity that Masahiro Tanaka gave them. With one out in the bottom of the 4th, Jose Altuve singled on a grounder to second, beating the throw to first.  He subsequently stole second to put himself in scoring position. Carlos Correa’s single to left brought the probable AL MVP around to score the game’s first run.  Marwin Gonzalez hit a  slow grounder to second and was thrown out at first for the second out, but Correa advanced to second base. Yuli Gurriel’s single to center, a grounder up the middle between Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius, scored Correa and the Astros had a 2-0 lead.

Credit:  Elsa-Getty Images

The Yankees had their chance in the top of the 5th but were unable to convert.  Greg Bird led off with a single to right, a sharply hit ball just past first baseman Yuli Gurriel. Matt Holliday reached on a fielding error by Jose Altuve (bobbled the ball after stopping the grounder) so the Yankees had runners at first and second with no outs. Todd Frazier lined out to center and Brett Gardner struck out but Aaron Judge followed them with a single to left. Bird hesitated a moment and then raced around third and headed home. Unfortunately, left fielder Marwin Gonzalez threw a perfect strike in to catcher Brian McCann to nail Bird at the plate for the final out of the inning.  The Yankees challenged the play but replay showed Bird was less than a second too late. Sadly, Bird’s run around third seemed like slow motion compared Jose Altuve’s run in the prior inning. Credit Gonzalez and McCann for the stellar play.

Credit:  Elsa-Getty Images

Dallas Keuchel finally left the game after seven scoreless innings (and ten strikeouts). Houston fans may love Dallas (the pitcher, not the city) but I was very glad to see him leave. But the Astros bullpen is strong and set up artist Chris Devenski has been a better version of Dellin Betances this year. Still, the Yankees had their chance in the 8th against Devenski. Brett Gardner worked a one-out walk, which brought Astros manager A.J. Hinch out of the dugout to replace Devenski with closer Ken Giles. Giles promptly threw a wild pitch with Aaron Judge at the plate, allowing Gardy to move to second.  Judge grounded out to third for the second out, but Gary Sanchez walked to put two runners on for Didi Gregorius. The Yankees replaced Sanchez at first with pinch-runner Ronald Torreyes. Didi has come up so big for the Yankees in key spots this year but on this night, Giles won the battle when Didi swung and missed on an 0-2 count after three successive foul balls.  

In the top of the 9th, Giles struck out both Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks to start the inning. Greg Bird finally put the Yankees on the board when he homered to right, a high fly inside of the foul pole, to make it a one-run game.

Credit:  Anthony J Causi-NY Post

DH Matt Holliday was due up next, but Manager Joe Girardi opted to send Jacoby Ellsbury to the plate. Ellsbury went down swinging to end the game and hand the series advantage to the Astros.

In retrospect, the huge missed opportunity was Greg Bird’s out at the plate in the 5th inning. If he had gotten a good jump when Aaron Judge hit that drive to left, he might have beaten the throw. But hats off to the Astros for making their plays. The Yankees pitched a good game but the Astros pitched a little better. Fortunately, the bullpen will be rested for Game 2 as the Yankees only had to burn Chad Green in relief of Tanaka. Green pitched two frames of scoreless relief with 31 pitches thrown.  

Credit:  Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

On the bright side, Dallas Keuchel won’t take the mound again until a potential Game 5. The Yankees offense should fare much better against crafty veteran Justin Verlander (15-8, 3.38 ERA) and the rest of the Astros starters. For Game 2, Verlander will be tough, no doubt, but the Yankees can win this game and send the series to New York with a split. We’ll have staff ace Luis Severino (14-6, 2.98 ERA) to lead the way. I like those odds.

Have a great Saturday! A perfect day would feature a Yankees win! Let’s make it happen. Go Yankees!

To the ALCS? YES, in Didi!…

Credit:  Phil Long-AP

American League Division Series, Game 5

Yankees Win Series, 3-2

Yankees 5, Indians 2…

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

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

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

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

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

Credit:  Jason Miller-Getty Images

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

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

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

Credit:  Getty Images

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

Credit:  David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

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

Credit:  Getty Images

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

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

Credit:  Gregory Shamus-Getty Images

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

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

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

Credit:  David Dermer-AP

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

The Curious Case of the Girardi Gaffes…

Credit:  David Dermer-AP

American League Division Series, Game 1

Indians 9, Yankees 8…

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

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

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

Credit:  Chuck Crow-The Plain Dealer

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

Credit:  Jason Miller-Getty Images

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

Credit:  Gregory Shamus-Getty Images

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

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

Credit:  Gregory Shamus-Getty Images

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

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

Credit:  Gregory Shamus-Getty Images

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

Credit:  Thomas Ondrey-The Plain Dealer

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

Credit:  Thomas Ondrey-The Plain Dealer

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

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

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

Credit:  UPI

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

Credit:  Jason Miller-Getty Images

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

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

Credit:  Joshua Gunter-Cleveland.com

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