Tagged: Jonathan Holder

How to Lose the AL East with One Pitching Move…

Credit:  Frank Franklin II-AP

Rays 9, Yankees 6…

Despite four home runs, the Yankees fell to the Tampa Bay Rays in the series finale and their AL East title hopes are clinging on life support.  I thought Manager Joe Girardi mismanaged the fateful 5th inning after Sonny Gray had relinquished the lead, bringing in the woefully inconsistent arm of Jonathan Holder when there were many superior options available.  

The first sign that Sonny Gray might not have it on Thursday night was Corey Dickerson’s first inning home run to the second deck in right which gave the Rays an early 1-0 lead.  

The Yankees wasted no time in coming back when Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge led off the bottom of the 1st inning with back-to-back home runs.  Both players took Rays starter Jacob Faria deep to right into the second deck.  It was Judge’s 51st home run of the year.  The Yankees had taken the lead, 2-1.

Credit:  Noah K Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Rays had a potential scoring opportunity in the top of the 2nd when Gray walked two batters, Daniel Robertson and Cesar Puello with only one out. There was a brief delay when a Gray pitch hit the dirt and bounced up to hit Gary Sanchez on the collarbone during Robertson’s at-bat.  Sanchez was able to shake it off and stay in the game.  After Peter Bourjos lined out to right for the second out, Mallex Smith singled to left.  The Rays third base coach Charlie Montoyo unwisely sent Daniel Robertson home rather than holding him up at third.  Brett Gardner’s arm was smarter than the coach as Robertson was easily thrown out at home for the final out.

The Yankees picked up another run in the bottom of the inning.  Jacoby Ellsbury singled to right past a diving Lucas Duda with one out.  While Todd Frazier was batting, a passed ball off the glove of Rays catcher Wilson Ramos allowed Ellsbury to take second.  Frazier then singled to left, scoring Ellsbury.  A  pitch got away from Ramos with Brett Gardner batting and Todd Frazier tried to advance to second but was thrown out.  Gardy subsequently walked but Aaron Judge flied out to end the inning. As Michael Kay put it, “A sky high fly”.  Nevertheless, the Yankees were up 3-1.

Chih-Wei Hu took over for Jacob Faria on the mound in the bottom of the 4th (Who is on the mound? I don’t know, Hu?).  He was quickly introduced to the game when Greg Bird led off with a home run to the first row of the right field seats.  Hu retired the next three batters, but the Yankees had increased their lead to 4-1. 

Credit:  Paul J Bereswill-NY Post

The dreadful 5th inning arrived with Sonny Gray still on the mound for the Yankees. The previous inning had gone so well for Gray.  Three outs on six pitches.  It was hard to foresee the disaster that awaited him in the 5th.  Gray was able to get the first batter, Peter Bourjos, out on a grounder to short.  Then the Rays rally began.   Mallex Smith singled to right on a fly that dropped in.  Corey Dickerson hit a line drive to center for a single with Smith moving to third.  A wild pitch from Gray allowed Smith to come home to score.  Gary Sanchez tried to throw to Gray covering home but his throw was too far right for Gray to catch as Smith slid safely into home plate.  Sanchez was charged a throwing error on the play as it allowed Dickerson to advance two bases to third.  

Credit:  Abbie Parr-Getty Images

Evan Longoria struck out for the second out, but Dickerson subsequently scored when a passed ball went through El Gary’s legs.  Lucas Duda walked, and it brought Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild out to the mound.  It always seems like Larry’s talks fail and this was no exception. The next batter, Wilson Ramos, homered to center just over the wall into Monument Park and the Rays had taken a 5-4 lead.  

Credit:  Frank Franklin II-AP

Adeiny Hechavarria followed with a single to center and it was the end for Sonny Gray.  Gray made a couple of throws to first during Daniel Robertson’s at bat to buy time for the bullpen, but I have to admit that I was bewildered by Joe Girardi’s decision to bring in Jonathan Holder even though I’d seen Holder warming up.  Holder is a fine prospect and did a decent job for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders but he hasn’t really pitched in many big spots for the Yankees this year.  He may eventually become a leading arm in the pen but I would have gone with one of the tried and true in an effort to keep the game close.  Holder hit the first batter he faced, Daniel Robertson, with a pitch.  Runners at first and second.  Cesar Puello singled to center on a ball that dropped in front of Jacoby Ellsbury with Hechavarria coming around to score.  Robertson moved to second.  Peter Bourjos tripled to left on fly that hit the warning track and bounced off the wall, clearing the bases, and it was 8-4 Rays.  Girardi finally pulled Holder and brought in Chasen Shreve who struck out Mallex Smith to end the inning.  But the Rays had scored seven runs.

In the bottom of the 5th, with Tommy Hunter taking over for Chih-Wei Hu, Brett Gardner led off with a walk.  After Aaron Judge struck out, Gary Sanchez was hit by a pitch on the back of his left shoulder.  Runners at first and second.

Credit:  Abbie Parr-Getty Images

Didi Gregorius hit a grounder to second and the Rays were able to force Sanchez for the second out, with Gardy moving to third.  Starlin Castro hit an infield single to short, beating the throw to first which brought Gardner home to score.  Greg Bird, representing the potential tying run, struck out to end the inning but the Yankees had gotten a run back, 8-5.  

With Chasen Shreve still on the mound, the Yankees retired the first two Rays in the top of the 6th.  But Trevor Plouffe, pinch-hitting for Lucas Duda, homered to left into the second deck, to restore the Rays’ four run lead.  Shreve walked Wilson Ramos next and was pulled in favor of Ben Heller.  Heller struck out Adeiny Hechavarria to end the inning without any further damage.

The Rays bullpen kept the Yankees offense quiet from there.  Aaron Hicks, pinch-hitting for Todd Frazier, did manage to hit a solo home run to right into the bullpen in the bottom of the 9th against Chaz Roe but it was too little, too late.  The other Yankees went down quietly, with Aaron Judge flying out to right to end the game.

This was a disappointing loss and I am bewildered why Girardi trusted Holder with the game on the line when the pitcher has done nothing this year at the MLB level to warrant consideration at that point.  The Boston Red Sox lost 12-2 to the Houston Astros so the Yankees (89-70) could have picked up a game.  Instead, they remain three games out with three to play.  The best they can do is tie the Red Sox if they sweep the Blue Jays and the Astros sweep the Red Sox.  More than likely, the Red Sox sew up the AL East title either tonight or tomorrow.  

I hate losing winnable games.  If the 5th inning hadn’t gotten away from the Yankees, they would have/could have won this game.  If the Yankees play like this next Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins, it’s going to be a very short post-season experience.  

Next Up:  Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY…

And so, we’ve reached the final series of the regular season.  It seems like we were just playing exhibition games at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.  The Blue Jays completed a successful three-game road trip in Boston on Wednesday, winning two of three games.  They are also the only team to win a series against the Yankees this month.  Hopefully, the wins come our way in the latest and final series before the post-season begins.

Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:

TODAY

Blue Jays:  Joe Biagini (3-12, 5.34 ERA)

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (12-12, 4.94 ERA)

SATURDAY

Blue Jays:  Marcus Stroman (13-8, 3.06 ERA)

Yankees:  Jaime Garcia (1-3, 4.70 ERA)

SUNDAY

Blue Jays:  Brett Anderson (2-2, 6.04 ERA)

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (9-7, 3.96 ERA)

This is most likely Jaime Garcia’s final start for the Yankees.  I hope that it’s not the final regular season start for Masahiro Tanaka’s Yankees career.  We all know that this is just the conclusion of the great start of Jordan Montgomery’s career in Pinstripes.  Looking forward to many successful wins going forward, including the 2017 post-season.

Odds & Ends…

The Yankees are planning to activate RHP Adam Warren off the disabled list today.  Hopefully, he’ll be able to get in some work this weekend in preparation for the post-season (which, we hope and pray, is much longer than a one-game stay).  

Have a great weekend!  Let’s get the momentum rolling for October!  Go Yankees!

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How do you spell “R-E-L-I-E-F”? No clue…

 

Credit:  Ben Margot-Associated Press

A’s 7, Yankees 6…

I am not gonna lie.  This has been a tough week with games that don’t start until after 10 pm EDT and a series of losses that could have been wins if not for bullpen breakdowns.  Aroldis Chapman is within our sights yet he seems so far away as the bullpen provides loss after loss. Sunday cannot get here quick enough.

This was another game that saw the Yankees fight back after falling behind early.  The A’s jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second inning but the Yankees answered with a three-run homer by Aaron Judge in the top of the 3rd, his 23rd HR of the year.  

Credit:  John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

They picked up single runs in the 5th through 7th innings, including a solo shot by Chris Carter in the 6th, to take a 6-4 lead.  

In the bottom of the 7th, with Chasen Shreve on the mound, the A’s picked up a run on a sac fly by Chad Pinder.  Jonathan Holder replaced Shreve for the 8th, but a walk, double and intentional walk, which loaded the bases, set the stage for A’s rookie third baseman Matt Chapman to deliver the game-winning hit with a two-run single.

A’s closer Santiago Casilla struck out three of the four batters he faced to seal the 7-6 victory for Oakland.  

Aside from the disastrous second inning, Luis Severino pitched well. He went six innings, allowing four hits, runs, and walks.  He struck out six.  He banged his knee against a locker prior to the game but didn’t attribute it as a cause for his early struggles.  Jonathan Holder (1-1) took the loss with a pitch that was supposed to be in the dirt but was left where Chapman could emerge as the victor with the winning hit. 

With a starting lineup that included Rob Refsnyder, Mason Williams, Austin Romine, and Ronald Torreyes, I was concerned about this game from the start.  Nothing against those guys, but the players who sat (Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Gary Sanchez, and Didi Gregorius) are heavy artillery.  Hopefully everyone is feeling a little healthier and/or rested today.  

The 8th inning has been a major problem area with Dellin Betances as the designated ninth inning guy.  It will be nice to have Betances back to provide the late setup coverage when Chapman returns.  For all the bullpen failures, Betances has stood alone as the bright spot.  Note to Yankees Prez Randy Levine, Betances is worth more than $3 million.  Pay him, you blithering idiot.

While the Yankees (38-27) were losing to the American League’s worst team, the Boston Red Sox were beating its best (2-1 victory over the Houston Astros).  So, the Red Sox have pulled to within one game of the Yankees in the AL East standings.  All the other AL East teams lost.  The Yankees have now lost four in a row, a new season high, after snapping their six-game winning streak in Anaheim.  

Odds & Ends…

Prior to Friday’s game, the Yankees made a few roster moves.  The injuries to Gary Sanchez and Aaron Hicks forced their hand.  With both players day to day, a trip to the DL doesn’t make sense for either guy.  So, roster help had to come from other areas.  Adam Warren, dealing with a sore trapezius muscle, was moved to the DL and Giovanny Gallegos was returned to AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  Kyle Higashioka was recalled to back up Austin Romine while Sanchez is dealing with his tight groin muscle, and Mason Williams was elevated to provide the Yankees an additional outfielder to help offset the temporary loss of Hicks.  Necessary moves, but ones that weakened an already strained bullpen. 

Speaking of Aroldis Chapman, the results of his final rehab tune-out at AA-Trenton were less than ideal.  Chapman started the Thunder’s game on Friday against the Erie SeaWolves.  He threw 20 pitches (his pitch limit).  While he struck out two in pitching 2/3rd’s of an inning, he walked two and threw two wild pitches which allowed the SeaWolves to score a run.  The Thunder eventually won the game, 4-2.  After the game, Chapman, through an interpreter, said, “I felt good out there.  I know my command wasn’t 100%, but I felt really good.  The good thing is I know I am going to come back strong.”  I hope so as the Yankees need a strong and healthy Chapman now more than ever.

Credit:  Greg Slaboda-The Trentonian

It does not sound good for first baseman Greg Bird.  He met with the Yankees team physician and had a CT scan and MRI for his knee and ankle on Friday.  He’ll meet with Dr Bob Anderson in North Carolina for a second opinion.  It’s starting to look as though this will be another lost year for Bird.  

Yesterday saw a nice Triple A debut for starting pitcher Domingo Acevedo.  He pitched 7 innings of three-hit ball in the RailRiders’ 8-1 win over the Buffalo Bisons.  He gave up only one run, and struck out four.  Walks were high (five) but it was a great start for Acevedo.  Gleyber Torres was 3-for-4 in the game with a run scored.  

Have a great Saturday!  Please let today be the start of a new winning streak.  Go Yankees!

Splitter showed up but Clippard did not…

Credit:  Charles Wenzelberg

Friday night was very disappointing…  

The disappointment certainly did not reside with Masahiro Tanaka who was able to put the horrific past couple of weeks in his rearview mirror, but it was the implosion of the bullpen.  Tyler Clippard picked a very bad night to have a bad night and Jonathan Holder didn’t do anything to help.  

Tanaka started the game with three strikeouts although he did give up a double to Oakland’s Jed Lowrie.  It went a long way for me to show that Tanaka was not going to be a punching bag on this evening.  Tanaka pitched into the eighth without allowing any runs, while striking out a season-high 13 batters.  The only problem was that Sean Manaea, moved up a day in the rotation after Kendall Graveman was scratched, was just as good. The Yankees could not muster any offense against Manaea, who only permitted one extra base-hit, a double by Austin Romine in the third inning.

Credit:  Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With the game still deadlocked at 0-0 in eighth inning, Tanaka struck out Mark Canha and was then pulled by manager Joe Girardi after giving up a single to Adam Rosales.  Using ‘ifs and buts’, if Aroldis Chapman had been healthy, the Yankees could have gone to Dellin Betances in that situation but Girardi had no choice but to go to interim setup reliever Tyler Clippard.  

From there, the game fell apart.  Rosales was safe at third following a throwing error by Clippard.  The next batter, Rajai Davis, hit into a fielder’s choice, and Rosales was erased at home.  Davis then stole second, but it didn’t matter because Clippard walked the next batter, Matt Joyce, a .194 hitter.  Jed Lowrie, 3-for-4 on the night, promptly singled to score Davis.  While I understand the rules for why the run was charged to Tanaka, this one was clearly on Clippard.  The next batter, Khris Davis, reached first on an infield single to Gregorius, scoring Joyce.  The Yankees challenged the call at first but lost.  Things could have gotten worse from there as Clippard threw a wild pitch to advance the runners to second and third but Ryan Healy flied out to left to end the inning.

Jonathan Holder replaced Clippard in the top of the ninth inning and was greeted by a single (Trevor Plouffe) and a home run (Stephen Vogt) which put the A’s up 4-0.  He stayed and got the next three outs, but by then the damage had been done.

The Yankees tried to muster a rally in the bottom of the ninth.  They had the bases loaded with just one out for Didi Gregorius.  Didi was unable to get the ball out of the park and the Yankees had to settle for a sac fly to put their first run on the board.  With two outs and the game-tying run still at the plate, Girardi pinch-hit Gary Sanchez for Chase Headley.  Unfortunately, Sanchez delivered the same result that Headley would have, a pop up in the infield to end the game.  

Numerous disappointments with this night.  Obviously, the bullpen.  The Yankees need Aroldis Chapman back.  Since he went on the DL, Betances is the only reliever to step up his game.  The others have regressed from the added work.  Chapman is scheduled to throw catch today if a visit to the doctor goes well so hopefully this is the start of his return.  Matt Holliday was a no-show.  He was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, leaving three runners on base.  Chase Headley is bringing nothing to the table.  He was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, and hasn’t been able to hit for a month as his batting average has fallen to .228.  

I know the calls for Gleyber Torres will soon begin but I think it’s more likely the Yankees would swing a minor trade for a Major League third base replacement at this point.  This is a direct reflection of how poorly the Yankees have drafted for third base.  Miguel Andujar is the organization’s best third baseman and he’s further away than Torres who most likely will be the eventual starter for the Yankees.  In 2011, the year they drafted Greg Bird, the Yankees first pick (51st selection) was Dante Bichette, Jr.  Had Bichette been able to develop, he would have been ready for a job in the Bronx.  As it is, the 24-year-old Bichette is batting .147/.213/.265 for AA-Trenton and is closer to a job outside of Baseball.  I recognize that 2011 was not a strong year for third basemen in general, but with the 292nd pick, the Boston Red Sox chose Travis Shaw who is currently the starting third baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers (9 HR, 34 RBI, .286 BA) .  The Yankees chose a few more third basemen in the 2011 Draft.  Matthew Duran was chosen with the 149th pick (Greg Bird wasn’t chosen until 30 picks later), Zach Wilson was picked 659th, and Connor Mach was the 1409th selection.  All three players are out of baseball.

I think the Yankees are stuck with Headley for the duration of the year.

Credit:  Elsa/Getty Images

The Yankees (27-18) maintained their 2 1/2 game advantage over the Baltimore Orioles, but lost ground with the AL East lead to two games as the hard-charging Boston Red Sox have moved up to second.  Baltimore lost to the very strong Houston Astros, 2-0, while the Red Sox were beating the punchless Seattle Mariners, 3-0.  

Here are the revised pitching match-ups for the remainder of the Oakland series with the scratch of Kendall Graveman yesterday:

TODAY

Athletics:  Jharel Cotton (3-4, 5.68 ERA)

Yankees:  CC Sabathia (4-2, 4.62 ERA)

TOMORROW

Athletics:  Andrew Triggs (5-3, 2.77 ERA)

Yankees:  Michael Pineda (5-2, 3.35 ERA)

I would have liked to have seen Sonny Gray this series given the trade rumors but Gray’s turn in the rotation doesn’t come up again until Tuesday in Cleveland.  

Credit:  Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees need to provide some offense today for Sabathia who, hopefully, continues his recent string of quality starts.  This is a series that the Yankees should be winning so if they lose two of three or worse yet, get swept, this will be looked upon as a missed opportunity.  Win the games you are supposed to win.  Apparently, the Red Sox got the memo but the Yankees didn’t.  Turn it around…today. 

Have a great Saturday!  Let’s find ways to beat the A’s!

Despite Jeter, Yankees Unable To Turn 2…

Credit:  John Munson/NJ Advance Media

It was a majestic day as the Yankees honored Derek Jeter and officially hung No. 2 among the Legends in Monument Park.  Sadly, the Yankees were unable “Turn 2” as they lost the second game of the doubleheader following the Jeter ceremony.

In the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader, the pink Yankees rallied, after falling behind, to win the game.  The Yankees opened the scoring in the first inning on a run-scoring groundout by Matt Holliday.  Sadly, Luis Severino did not have it for Mother’s Day and he fell apart in the third inning.  He opened the inning by hitting George Springer with a pitch, and then gave up a single to Josh Reddick.  After Jose Altuve hit into a fielder’s choice that forced Reddick out at second, the Astros put together a string of four singles to score three runs, ending Severino’s day.  Chad Green, called up earlier in the day from AAA, got Alex Bregman to hit into an inning-ending double play.  

As bad as Severino was, Green was terrific.  He went 3 2/3 innings, holding the Astros to only one hit and no runs.  He walked one and struck out three.  In the 4th inning, the Yankee tied the game with a two-run homer by Starlin Castro and then took a 4-3 lead in the next at-bat when Aaron Judge finally went deep again with his 14th home run of the season.

Credit:  Seth Wenig/Associated Press

The game stayed 4-3 until the top of the 7th inning with Adam Warren pitching.  A couple of singles, a walk, a fielding error by Starlin Castro and a sac fly allowed the Astros to re-take the lead, 6-4.  Heading into the bottom of the 7th after Austin Romine grounded out, Brett Gardner singled and Jacoby Ellsbury doubled, moving Gardner to third.  Matt Holliday, in a gutsy at-bat after falling behind 0-2, fought off a few pitches and singled in a failed diving attempt by Astros shortstop Carlos Correa which scored Gardner.  At that point, the Astros brought in Chris Devenski who has been virtually unhittable this year.  Apparently, Starlin Castro hasn’t been listening to how dominant Devenski is and he doubled to score Ellsbury.  After an intentional walk to Aaron Judge and a strikeout of Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley came to bat with the bases loaded.  On the TV telecast, Michael Kay was making comments about how Headley is due.  Then, as if Headley heard Kay, he laced a triple to right to clear the bases, putting the Yankees up 9-6.  Chris Carter doubled to score Headley, and the Yankees held a 10-6 lead after pushing six runs across the plate in the inning.

Brett Gardner added an insurance run in the 8th with a solo shot to center.  In probably his worst outing of the season, Adam Warren (1-0) picked up the victory.  Jonathan Holder pitched a scoreless 9th inning to close out the game in a non-save situation.  Yankees win, 11-6.

The second game started very badly for starter Masahiro Tanaka.  From the beginning, Tanaka was struggling with each batter, and by the time Alex Bregman hit a grand slam, the Astros were up 6-0 before the Yankees had even taken an at-bat. When Tanaka was pulled after 1 2/3 innings, he had given up two home runs to George Springer and was trailing 8-0. Tanaka has given up 16 runs in his last 15 innings. Still, this was Derek Jeter’s day so I felt no lead was too much.  The Yankees almost proved me right.  In the 5th, trailing 9-0, the Yanks scored four runs on an RBI single by Brett Gardner and a three-run homer by Matt Holliday.  

In the 9th inning, after a passed ball had allowed Marwin Gonzalez to score to put the Astros up 10-4, the Yankees tried valiantly to erase the deficit.  A two-run single by Starlin Castro and a run-scoring single by Aaron Judge brought the Yankees within three runs at 10-7.  With two outs and runners at the corners, the Yankees brought the tying run to the plate with Aaron Hicks.  It could have been a signature moment for Hicksey but unfortunately he grounded out to end the game.  

It was a good job by the bullpen to limit the damage after the Tanaka disaster.  The two runs charged to the bullpen were both unearned.  They gave the team a chance to win despite the overwhelming early Astros lead.  

The doubleheader split left the Yankees with a 22-13 record (losing three of four to Houston).  However, thanks to Tuesday’s opponent (the Kansas City Royals), the Baltimore Orioles lost their fourth in a row in a 9-8 loss.  The loss allowed the Yankees to re-take sole possession of first place in the AL East by a half-game.  The Boston Red Sox also lost, 11-2 to the Tampa Bay Rays. The hottest team in the division at the moment is the cellar-dwelling Toronto Blue Jays, winners of their fifth consecutive game.  

The Yankees were competitive with the Astros but unfortunately Houston proved the age-old adage, “good pitching beats good hitting”.  Things do not get any easier as the Yankees hit the road to Kansas City.  The Royals swept the O’s over the weekend with three one-run victories.  The Yankees will need better starting pitching than they received in the Astros series if they are to have any hope.  

Sunday morning started with disturbing news.  The Yankees announced they had placed closer Aroldis Chapman on the 10-Day Disabled List.  Clearly, something was not right with Chapman who failed to get out of the inning in his last two appearances.  A MRI showed no structural damage (whew!) so Chapman only needs rest.  He’ll avoid any baseball-related activities for two weeks and then he’ll resume throwing.  He’ll most likely need a rehab stint before he is activated so the current projection is that he’ll be out for a month.  In the interim, Dellin Betances will slide into the closer’s role with Warren, Holder and Tyler Clippard providing set-up.  There’s no doubt that Holder has been a Godsend this year and his presence helps ease the sting of losing Chapman.  Hopefully, the Betances that struggled last September was simply one that was tired after a long season.  Now, Betances has a chance for redemption.  If he proves successful, the Yankees need to take care of Betances financially this coming off-season and avoid penny-pinching him like they did during last year’s arbitration hearing.  

Recently, when top closers Zach Britton and Mark Melancon had been placed on the DL, I had expressed hope that the DL-epidemic would not impact the remaining elite closers, Chapman and Kenley Jansen.  Now, Jansen is the last man standing.  It definitely shows the value of having an elite set-up artist capable of filling in for a closing role.  

Chad Green was called up to replace Chapman.  Green is getting used to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to the Bronx commute.  If he keeps pitching like he did in yesterday’s first game, he’s making an argument for why he shouldn’t go back to Pennsylvania.  

Here’s hoping that Chapman is able to fully recover with rest and is able to return on schedule next month.  

Despite the mixed results from the doubleheader and the loss of our closer, it was a special day.  The Jeter ceremony was one of the greatest I’ve ever seen and it will be a long-time before we see such a memorable event again.  Congratulations to Derek as he awaits the arrival of his first child, a child who almost certainly felt the magic of the day in his mother’s womb.  It was a good day, a very good day…

Credit:  Andrew Savulich/New York Daily News

Have a great Monday!  Yesterday was Jeter’s Day, today is your day.  

Mystique & Aura Were Dancing The Night Away…

Credit:  Adam Hunger/Getty Images

Despite CC Sabathia pitching like this is truly his final year in Pinstripes, the Yankees staged a very improbable and dramatic comeback to beat the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night.  

Mark Trumbo’s grand slam in the sixth inning off reliever Bryan Mitchell had me switching channels to check out what was happening with the NFL Draft.  At 9-1, I was fairly confident the Yankees would be falling to two games behind the O’s in the AL East standings when the night was done.  Fortunately for me, none of the current 25 men on the Yankees roster shared my opinion.  

Yesterday before the game, I read this observation about CC Sabathia on a Yankees blog site:

“It’s hard to judge CC Sabathia, seeing as how he’s a different pitcher than he was just a couple of years ago. However, I believe his final ERA this season will be closer to 5.00 than it will be to 3.00 (he’s currently at 2.70).”

While I agreed with the comments, I just didn’t expect it to come true on a single night.  By the time CC was pulled last night in the sixth inning, his season ERA had ballooned from the aforementioned 2.70 to 4.34.  CC’s line was very ugly…5 2/3 innings, 9 hits, 7 runs, 2 home runs.  It doesn’t matter that he managed to strike out 6 batters.  It was an awful night for CC and most nights, it would have been one for the “L” column.

Although the Yankees scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth, which included a two-run homer from Aaron Judge, to close the gap to 9-4, it looked like the Orioles were going to have a monster inning in the seventh.  They scored a couple more runs off Mitchell to push their lead to 11-4 and had the bases loaded with one out.  In perhaps the best pitching performance of the night, Jonathan Holder came on to thwart the O’s and the end the inning without further damage by retiring the always dangerous Manny Machado and slugger Mark Trumbo.  

When Jacoby Ellsbury hit his first career grand slam in the bottom of the seventh to bring the score to 11-8, it still felt like it was too little too late but the door was cracked.  It was a game again.  Coming into the bottom of the ninth, it still felt like the 11-8 score was too much to overcome.  With elite closer Zach Britton on the Disabled List, the O’s had to go to Brad Brach for the attempted save.  After picking up a run on a force-out, Starlin Castro launched an improbable game-tying two-run home run from his knees.  

The game moved into extra innings and Aroldis Chapman held the O’s in check in the top of the 10th despite allowing a single to Mark Trumbo.  He racked up his second strike-out of the frame by ending the O’s threat on a called third strike to Chris Davis.  

Enter bottom of the tenth.  Orioles reliever Jayson Aquino came on to replace Brach, and proceeded to walk the first two batters (Aaron Hicks and Kyle Higashioka).  Chase Headley had an opportunity to be the hero but struck out swinging as he chased a few high pitches.  Next up, Matt Holliday, a member of the New York Yankees for a grand total of 21 games.  Aquino opted to throw a soft change-up to Holliday with his first pitch.  Big mistake.  Game over.  Yankees win, 14-11.  Wow, games don’t get much more exciting than this.  For new players to the Bronx, there is often a long adjustment period.  For Holliday, he decided that patience is not a virtue and decided to go ahead and carve his own piece of history into the hallowed grounds of Yankee Stadium three weeks into his new Pinstriped career.  It was an incredible game.

The Yankees and Orioles are tied for the AL East Lead with 14-7 records entering today’s action.  I know, it’s still early and it is a long season, but this Yankees team is very fun.  It’s been fun since the trading deadline last year and has continued.  Aaron Judge ended up hitting two home runs on the night which I didn’t really address in this post.  He is rapidly becoming ‘must-watch’ with every at-bat.  Matt Holliday’s accolades for Judge were overflowing in his post-game comments.  We are clearly watching the blossoming of a Yankees superstar before our eyes.  Had Judge homered in the bottom of the ninth instead of walking, this game would have been on continual replay on the YES Network.  

Have a great Saturday!  It will be tough to top Friday night, but let’s take this series today.  Go Yankees!

The Dawn of the New Season…

It seems like we were just getting excited about pitchers and catchers reporting to training camp.  Now, here we are at the end of the Grapefruit League season and awaiting the first pitch to start the 2017 MLB season.

It was a very successful Spring for the Yankees.  It was far better than I could have imagined.  Heading into Spring, we were concerned about Greg Bird.  He hit well late in the 2015 season but missed most of last year due to his shoulder injury.  There was doubt about how he would perform and if the shoulder would hold him back like, say, the way Mark Teixeira’s wrist did.  Bird smashed any concerns that he is ready.  I know that Spring stats do not really mean much, but Bird led the Yankees with 8 home runs and was second on the team behind Gary Sanchez with 15 RBI’s.  He played first base like a veteran and by all accounts, he is posed to be a future star in New York.  I’ve always thought of Bird as a professional hitter and not one who will be susceptible to prolonged slumps.  I am very glad to see that he is ready to fly (no pun intended).

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Credit:  John Raoux, AP

What can you say about Gary Sanchez?  He continued the great success from last Fall without missing a beat.  His bat delivered (5 homers and 16 RBI’s), and do did his arm (.983 fielding percentage in 102 innings worked, with a sub .500 stolen base percentage against him as he threw out 6 runners while only allow 4 SB’s).  He is arguably the most exciting Yankees catcher since Jorge Posada or to place him higher, Thurman Munson.  Good times ahead for the catching position, no doubt.

Aaron Judge held off Aaron Hicks to win right field in the Battle of Aarons.  I feel bad for Hicks because I know that he needs to play every day to be successful.  It’s hard to get into rhythm with limited, spot starts.  But I would have been very disappointed to see Hicks get the right field job over Judge.  At this point, sending Judge down to Triple A serves no purpose.  He has proven himself at that level.  He needs to master the Major Leagues and he can only do that by being here and playing every day.  His ceiling, if successful, is so much greater than Hicks.  Dating back to the days of Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield, I love powerful right fielders at Yankee Stadium.

If I was the General Manager of the Yankees, Brett Gardner would be living in a different zip code.  Nothing against Gardner, he’s been a good Yankee but his best days are behind him.  He needs to open the way for younger guys.  I’d prefer to start Hicks in left over Gardner, so I’d find a way to move Gardy even if the return is not ideal.  The perfect scenario would be to trade Jacoby Ellsbury and move Gardner to center, but that’s not going to happen with nearly $90 million left on Ellsbury’s contract.

In the starting rotation, Luis Severino won the fourth spot but it was not an overpowering Spring performance.  Last year, Severino chased his first win as a starter without success (he picked up a few wins in the bullpen but was 0-8 in his starts).  I really hopeful that we do not go weeks or months trying to get that elusive first win this year.  Severino has so much potential but he still leaves so many wondering if his stuff plays better out of the pen.  It would be nice if he could prove those naysayers wrong (including me) to become a vital part of the rotation.

Manager Joe Girardi has delayed his decision for a fifth starter.  With three scheduled off days during April including two days in the first week, a fifth starter is not needed until Sunday, April 16th at home against the St Louis Cardinals.  Of the competitors for the fifth spot, only Bryan Mitchell made the Opening Day roster as a reliever.  Chad Green will go down to AA Trenton while Jordan Montgomery will go to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  Both Green and Montgomery will have early April starts in the minors for further auditions.  I am sure that Mitchell will get some audition opportunities through long relief.  Mitchell had been my favorite for the rotation but Jordan Montgomery changed my mind.  So, I am hopeful that Montgomery gets the call-up when it is time for the fifth starter.

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Credit:  Associated Press

I was glad to see Chasen Shreve make the Opening Day roster as the second lefty behind Tommy Layne.  Well, technically the third but Aroldis Chapman doesn’t really count since he’s on the mound at the end of games regardless of who is at the plate.  When the Yankees toyed with the minor league signings of Ernesto Frieri and Jon Niese, I was fearful that Shreve would be one of the odd men out.  Perhaps he still is given the Yankees’ propensity for the using the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre shuttle to keep the bullpen fresh.  Another young reliever I am happy for is Jonathan Holder.

Utility player Ronald Torreyes won the interim shortstop role while Didi Gregorius begins the year on the Disabled List.  I am not excited about Torreyes in an every day role, but there were limited internal options.  The Yankees will make room on the 40-man roster to bring up Pete Kozma to back up Torreyes, but Kozma has no bat.  It did not make sense for the Yankees to trade for a shortstop since Didi will be back by the end of April or early May, and, unfortunately,  prospect Tyler Wade is not quite ready.  I also didn’t want to see the Yankees slide Starlin Castro back to short.  He is still relatively inexperienced at second and needs to continue his work at the position.  The Yankees obviously agreed as they never played Castro at short during training camp.  Many thought the Yankees should have slid Castro to short to allow Rob Refsnyder to start at second.  I am not sure that Refsnyder, for whatever reason, will ever get a legitimate chance in the Bronx.  He was sent down to AAA for the start of the season with earlier reports that he was on the trading block.

I am not expecting this to be a playoff year for the Yankees.  They could surprise and nab a Wild Card spot but I don’t think this is their year to unseat the Boston Red Sox as AL East Champions.  They are still a year or two away from being a legitimate World Series contender.  I do think this will be a more exciting team than last year’s team from beginning to end.  The Baby Bombers proved that last year when the deadline deals moved Chapman to the Cubs and Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians, and Alex Rodriguez was released.  It was only a preview of the excitement and energy the younger players can bring, which is further enhanced by the presence of Greg Bird this year.

Despite the quick arrival of the regular season, I am ready.  Play ball!…

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