Tagged: Justin Verlander

Dodging Their Way to Game Seven…

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

2017 World Series 

Dodgers 3, Astros 1

Series tied, 3-3

The Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers, okay I am not quite that old…the Los Angeles Dodgers…forced the first World Series Game 7 in Dodger Stadium history with their win over the Houston Astros in Game 6 on Tuesday night. We’re a week into this World Series and we now stand in the month that Derek Jeter made famous. Who will be the latest November hero?  We’ll find out later today.

The game was expected to be a pitching duel with veteran ace Justin Verlander pitching for the Astros against the resurgent Rich Hill for the Dodger Blue. Unlike the slugfest the broke out between Dallas Keuchel and Clayton Kershaw match-up, Verlander-Hill did not disappoint.  

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

The Dodgers started the game by having former Dodgers greats Tommy Lasorda and Orel Hershiser, champions in 1988, throw out the first pitches. Hershiser is regularly seen by Dodgers fans on SportsNet LA but it was wonderful to see Lasorda on Dodger Stadium turf again. It’s always good to see the legendary Lasorda whenever he makes an appearance. I didn’t love the guy back during those World Series against the Yankees in the late 70’s, but he grew on me over time and I appreciate his role in Dodgers history.

Credit:  Los Angeles Daily News:  John McCoy/SCNG

Once the game began, it was a scoreless affair until George Springer’s solo shot to right into the front row seats with two outs in the top of the 3rd broke the ice. On a team with multiple offensive stars, Springer and teammate Alex Bregman have really stood out for the Astros. If the Astros ultimately win this World Series, there’s no doubt that one or both of these guys will be in the thick of the action.

 

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

Bregman followed Springer’s homer with a sharply hit ball to short that Corey Seager booted but Seager was able to recover quickly with his throw just beating Bregman to the bag for the final out.

While Verlander was cruising through the early innings, allowing only a meaningless single by Yasiel Puig in the second inning, the Astros finally got to Hill in the top of the fifth. Brian McCann led off the inning with a single to deep right which Yasiel Puig cut off in the corner. Marwin Gonzalez was next and he doubled down the left field line into the corner, moving the huffing and puffing McCann to third. After Hill struck out Josh Reddick and Verlander, Springer was intentionally walked to load the bases. 

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

Much to Hill’s disappointment, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts made the call to the bullpen and brought in reliever Brandon Morrow who had imploded during his previous outing in Houston. The day of rest helped for the former Blue Jay. He was able to get Alex Bregman to ground out to short, through the runner’s legs, on the second pitch of the at-bat to end the inning with the bases overflowing with Astros.

The Astros threatened again in the top of the 6th, while Verlander was still pitching a one-hitter at that point. With two outs, Yuli Gurriel singled to center off Morrow. Dave Roberts then made a double switch, bringing in former Pirates closer Tony Watson to replace Morrow and second baseman Chase Utley to replace Logan Forsythe. Watson promptly hit Brian McCann with a pitch in the back of the right arm that I am sure was not part of the plan. Runners at first and second. Fortunately, Marwin Gonzales hit a liner to second, with Chase Utley jumping up for the catch, for the final out. Another missed scoring opportunity for the Astros (bummer for them, for me…not so much). 

In the bottom of the 6th, Austin Barnes led off with a single to left. Chase Utley, batting in the pitcher’s spot thanks to the double switch, was hit by a pitch on his right foot with a bouncer in the dirt. Chris Taylor, who probably makes Mariners GM Jerry DiPoto lose sleep everytime he revisits that trade in his head, came up big…again…when he doubled to right, scoring Barnes and advancing Utley to third. The game was tied.  

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

Corey Seager hit a high fly to right that died in front of the wall but it was deep enough to score Utley on the sacrifice. Verlander was able to get Justin Turner to foul out on the first base side and he struck out Cody Bellinger, but the Dodgers had taken their first lead of the game, 2-1.

The Astros made noise again for the third consecutive inning in the top of the 7th. After Tony Watson walked the lead off hitter, Josh Reddick, Dave Roberts took the ball from him and brought in Kenta Maeda to face Evan Gattis, pinch-hitting for Justin Verlander. Gattis hit into a fielder’s choice at short that erased Reddick at second but the Dodgers were unable to turn a double play. Gattis clearly reached first base before the throw but the Dodgers challenged and lost the play at second when they argued unsuccessfully that Reddick had purposely tried to take out Chase Utley (on the appropriately named Chase Utley rule). Mets fans were probably snickering as they recalled the time in the 2015 NLDS when Utley  slid into Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada rather than the base, breaking Tejada’s leg and sending the shortstop’s career on a downward trajectory. Not snickering because of Tejada but because Utley was the victim of an aggressive play. 

Credit:  Pasadena Star-News:  Keith Birmingham/SCNG

George Springer hit a grounder to short but the ball got by Corey Seager and rolled into left field. Gattis moved to second and was replaced by pinch-runner Derek Fisher. Alex Bregman flied out to center, with Fisher tagging and moving to third. It brought Jose Altuve to the plate. Altuve hit a hard grounder to third, but Justin Turner made a great play in throwing the ball to first for the out to end the inning.

Joc Pederson added an insurance run in the bottom of the 7th when he took reliever Joe Musgrove deep with a solo blast to left. There was some initial doubt if he had hit the ball far enough but it carried over the wall much to the excitement of Pederson and his teammates.  

 

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

From there, the Dodgers not to take any chances and brought in ace closer Kenley Jansen for the top of the 8th to get the six-out save. He easily retired the three batters he faced to send the game to the bottom of the inning. The Dodgers had a chance for more runs when they had two on with two outs for Cody Bellinger, but Clay’s son struck out swinging in an extended 9-pitch at bat against Francisco Liriano (who was making his first appearance in the World Series).

Kenley Jansen came back out for the top of the 9th (obviously). Marwin Gonzalez had the first chance to get the Astros back into the game. He popped out to first baseman Bellinger in shallow right. Next up, Josh Reddick. He struck out, swinging and missing the last two pitches. One last man stood between the Dodgers and victory…former Yankees slugger Carlos Beltran. Jansen threw a 94 mph Cutter with the count at 0-2 in favor of the pitcher. Beltran took a big swing  at the high pitch and missed. 

Credit:  Houston Chronicle:  Michael Ciaglo

Game over. Dodgers win!

Credit:  LA Times – Gina Ferazzi

Dodgers Legend and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax was in attendance as a spectator, looking like he could be the Game 7 starter if necessary.  Of course, it’s Los Angeles so there were more than few celebrities in the house, such as former Los Angeles Lakers star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

 

Credit:  Houston Chronicle:  Karen Warren

I have no clue who is going to win the World Series, but it comes down to one game. Winner take all. The matchup will feature Lance McCullers, Jr on the mound for the Astros. He’ll face Yu Darvish. If the game was to be the played in Houston, you’d have to like the Astros chances. But we are not at Minute Maid Park anymore. Darvish will have the support of the partisan crowd and Chavez Ravine will be rocking tonight. It should be another World Series classic.

Credit:  Pasadena Star-News:  Keith Birmingham/SCNG

Editor’s Note:  This writer is pro-Dodgers (if you didn’t notice already).

Odds & Ends…

It was sad to read the words of Ken Rosenthal’s interview with former Yankees manager Joe Girardi on yesterday’s The Athletic. I refuse to pay a subscription fee to Rosenthal but fortunately the article was available in full. Girardi clearly sounded like a guy who wanted to be a part of the next great Yankees era. I was glad to read that Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner left the door open for Girardi’s eventual return to the organization in some capacity if he so chooses. I personally doubt Girardi returns, but I thought he handled his first interview since the dismissal with style and grace.

Credit:  Getty Images

As expected, Gabe Kapler was named manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. So the Yankees are the only team without a manager. Unless there is a secret deal already in place (probably), today brings an unsigned general manager too as Brian Cashman’s deal expired last night. I think it’s a given that Cashman will return but I’ll be anxious to get his new contract behind us so that the Yankees can truly begin their off-season strategy and preparation to bring us their 28th World Championship.

Have a great Wednesday! This is it…the final day of Major League Baseball for 2017. Let’s Go Dodgers, but more importantly, Let’s Go Yankees!

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Astros Win in Sudden Death Overtime…

Credit:  LA Times:  Wally Skalij

2017 World Series

Astros 7, Dodgers 6…

Series tied, 1-1

Wow! The Dodgers may have lost but that was one heck of a game! A low-scoring affair until the Astros tied it at 3 in the top of the 9th inning, the game became a battle of home runs in extra innings with George Springer’s two-run homer in the 11th inning providing the final margin of victory for the ‘Stros.

This was a magical game from the start. The first pitch was “thrown” (I use that term loosely) by legendary former Dodgers announcer Vin Scully with an assist from Fernando Valenzuela. I miss the days of Scully calling Dodger games but it was so incredible to have him on the Dodger Stadium turf. Great call by the Dodgers to have Scully, one of the greatest announcers of all-time if not THE greatest, throw the first pitch. It’s time for Dodgers baseball!  Damn, love that guy. It was so wonderful to hear his voice again. Valenzuela, in relief of Scully (who suffered a “rotator cuff” injury on his attempted throw…wink, wink), threw the pitch to former Dodgers catcher Steve Yeager.

Credit:  LA Times:  Robert Gauthier

With veteran Rich Hill pitching for the Dodgers and former Tigers ace Justin Verlander on the mound for the Astros, the game remained scoreless until the top of the 3rd inning. Josh Reddick hit a sharp grounder to second baseman Chase Utley in shallow right that got away from the former Phillie when the ball bounced off the palm of his glove. No error on the play but Reddick safe at first with a hit. Inexperienced batsman Justin Verlander was next in the obvious bunt situation. His first attempt resulted in a foul fly off the backstop net. He looked like an American Leaguer trying to bat. But then on his second attempt, he laid it down perfectly with a slow roller back to the pitcher. Verlander took five steps in the California heat before giving up for the out, but he did his job pushing Reddick to second. George Springer followed with a single to left to put runners at the corners. Alex Bregman’s single to center scored Reddick and the Astros led 1-0. It may have been an extra-base hit if not for centerfielder Chris Taylor’s hat. The ball went up on the diving Taylor but was re-directed toward left fielder Joc Pederson thanks to the bill of his cap. Hill prevented further damage when he struck out Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa to end the inning. I thought the Dodgers did an excellent job limiting the Astros to only one run in that situation.

The Dodgers tied the game in the bottom of the 5th when Joc Pederson took Verlander deep with a shot over the wall in right field.

Things were looking good for the Dodgers in the bottom of the 6th inning. Chris Taylor took a two-out walk. Corey Seager was next and he belted a Verlander pitch over the left field wall into the first row to give the Dodgers a two run advantage.

Credit:  LA Times:  Gina Ferazzi

Moving into the 8th inning with Dodgers setup man Brandon Morrow on the mound, Alex Bregman led off with a ground-rule double to right. Right fielder Yaiel Puig made a running dive in an attempt to get to the ball but it hit the end of his glove and bounced up into the stands, much to the chagrin of the visibly upset Puig. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts decided to take no chances and brought in closer Kenley Jansen. Jansen had only blown one game all season and the Dodgers had a ridiculous stat of 98-0 when leading after eight innings. Jansen got the first batter he faced (Jose Altuve) to ground out to second, but Bregman moved to third. Carlos Correa singled to center on a chopper that got by second baseman Chase Utley, making it a one run game, 3-2. After Yuli Gurriel flied out in foul territory near first base, Jansen got Brian McCann with a huge strikeout to end the inning.  

Normally, a one-run lead at Dodger Stadium in the 9th inning is a guarantee for victory. Unfortunately, Marwin Gonzalez had other ideas. On an 0-2 count while leading off for the Astros, Gonzalez turned on a Jansen cutter (an unusual bad pitch from the All-Star Closer) to deposit it over the wall in left center to tie the game.

Credit:  LA Times: Robert Gauthier

The Astros had the go-ahead run at second when George Springer hit a two-out double down the left field line, but he was left stranded when Alex Bregman grounded out to short.

The Dodgers were unable to score in the bottom of the 9th against Astros closer Ken Giles when they were retired in order. I was really hoping that Cody Bellinger, who made the final out, could have come up huge in that situation but it was not to be. So, off to extra innings we went…

Top of the 10th and Jansen was gone. Dodgers reliever Josh Fields was on the mound in his place. The Astros decided it was time to play Home Run Derby.  Jose Altuve led off with a blast to the front row of the center field stands to give the Astros the lead, 4-3. Carlos Correa said ‘I can do that, only better’ and sent the ball fourteen feet further into the left center field seats. 5-3, Astros.

Ken Giles was still pitching for the Astros in the bottom of the 10th. Yasiel Puig led off with a towering shot to left to make it a one-run game. After Giles struck out Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes, Logan Forsythe drew a walk on a full count. With Enrique “Kike” Hernandez at the plate, a wild pitch by Giles moved Forsythe to second. Hernandez, the hero of the NLCS with three home runs in the final game to send the Dodgers to the World Series, singled to right to score Forsythe. Astros right fielder Josh Reddick made a perfect throw to catcher Brian McCann but Forsythe’s speed was too much as he safely slid into home.  

Credit:  LA Times: Robert Gauthier

The game was tied once again. Hernandez advanced to second on the throw but the Astros made a pitching change to bring in Chris Devenski who retired Chris Taylor on a fly out to center to push the game into the 11th inning.

The Dodgers made another pitching change, bringing in their ninth pitcher of the game…former Yankee Brandon McCarthy. It wasn’t McCarthy’s finest hour (or maybe I should say minutes). Cameron Maybin led off with a single to center, just past the outstretched glove of Corey Seager. He subsequently stole second on a close play at the bag. George Springer handed the Astros another two-run lead when he homered to right center. 7-5, Astros.  

Credit:  LA Times:  Wally Skalij

McCarthy was able to retire the next three Astros to give the Dodgers, as Michael Kay would say, “their last licks”. 

Houston’s Chris Devenski came back out to the mound for the bottom of the 11th. He got the first two hitters when Corey Seager lined out to center and Justin Turner lined out to third. Charlie Culberson, who had just entered the game in the top of the 11th when he took over in left field, homered to left center, making it a one-run game for Yasiel Puig. Trailing by one run with two outs in the bottom of the 11th, it was a huge opportunity for Puig who clearly loves the limelight. Not this day. After battling Devenski, Puig swung and missed on Devenski’s ninth pitch of the at-bat to end the game. Astros win, 7-6.  

Credit:  LA Times: Wally Skalij

I know there is no “overtime” in baseball but that was as close to a hockey shootout as I’ve seen (especially in a World Series game).

The two teams take a break today to travel to Houston for Game 3 on Friday night at Minute Maid Park. The pitching matchup is currently scheduled to feature the Dodgers’ Yu Darvish against the Astros’ Lance McCullers, Jr. For Darvish, it is a homecoming of sorts with the return to Texas.  Although when you are from Dallas, anything from or in Houston sucks. I am sure that the former Texas Ranger will thrive back in the Lone Star state. It should be a fantastic pitcher’s duel, particuarly if McCullers, Jr can pitch as well as he did against the Yankees.  

Credit:  LA Times:  Allen J Schaben

I will be watching with my Dodgers gear in hand…

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

Odds & Ends…

It is funny watching the daily tweets about Joe Girardi’s appearances at Yankee Stadium. The fact that I know Girardi left the stadium at 1:10 pm yesterday shows how much New York writers are seeking to find stories about whether or not Girardi will return to the Yankees next season. So far, those writers have been disappointed. Girardi may not be giving away any signals of what is on his mind, but at least he’s talking with the team.  I remain hopeful that it leads to a new deal for the long-time manager. Honestly, who is out there that can do a better job than Girardi? I know that we’ve been frustrated with some of his decisions but I seriously doubt that any of us could do a better job. Hopefully Hal Steinbrenner moves quickly to re-sign both Girardi and GM Brian Cashman so that the team can start its off-season strategy to bring the 28th World Championship for the Yankees next season.    

Credit:  NY Post:  Richard Harbus

Saw the pic of Dellin Betances, Aaron Judge and CC Sabathia taking in a Brooklyn Nets game last night. Admittedly, I would have preferred to have seen these guys playing in Los Angeles. Or maybe Judge should have been in a batting cage working on those breaking pitches. Ha!  Next year, guys, next year…

Credit:  Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Have a great Thursday! I wonder what time Girardi will show up at Yankee Stadium today or when he will leave. 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!

The Dawn of Something Great?…

October Baseball On Our Minds…

Everyone is talking like the New York Yankees are already in the World Series but I do not view (potentially) two games in Houston against the Astros to be a cakewalk.  Tonight, the Yankees send their best (Luis Severino) against crafty veteran Justin Verlander who is very clearly a big game pitcher.  If the Astros win tonight, they have to be viewed as the favorite for Game 7 in Minute Maid Park.  We’re not in the Bronx anymore. But the Yankees have already defeated the best team in the American League in a best-of-five series and they are a single game away from reaching the Fall Classic.  This Yankees team has incredible heart and a ‘no-quit’ drive like none other.

Regardless of what happens, I am very proud of the 2017 Yankees.  Going into the season, it seemed like the experts were forecasting a .500 season at best.  It was unclear if Aaron Judge or Aaron Hicks would win the right field job.  Questions were abound about whether Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia had seen their better days.  Or if Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius could continue their development in the middle infield.  I was one of many uncertain if Luis Severino’s stronger future was in the starting rotation or the bullpen. The Yankees answered those questions (and more) and now stand one game away from the World Series.  There is nothing that the Houston Astros can do to take away from the huge accomplishments achieved by the Yankees.  This is a young team that is only going to get better.  As the saying goes, ‘the future is so bright, I’ve got to wear shades!’

If the Yankees do make it to the World Series, they’ll be heading to Los Angeles next week.  The Los Angeles Dodgers dethroned the Chicago Cubs last night to win the NLCS, 4 games to 1.  The Dodgers throttled the Cubs, 11-1, behind the power of their utility outfielder.  Enrique “Kiké” Hernandez put his name into the history books with three home runs and seven RBI’s as the Dodgers coasted to the victory behind the three-hit, one-run pitching of the great Clayton Kershaw over seven innings and three innings of scoreless relief from the bullpen.  Kenley Jansen, the closer, is a stud, but where did Brandon Morrow come from?  The one-time former closer of the Seattle Mariners and ex-Blue Jay has been ‘lights out’ for the Dodgers.  He was 6-0 with a 2.06 ERA in 45 games this year, and in 4 games against the Cubs in the NLCS, he allowed only one hit, a walk, and no runs over 4 2/3 innings while striking out seven.  There won’t be too many late inning rallies against the Dodgers.

For the Dodgers, their ten consecutive appearances in the post-season without a championship is the longest streak in MLB history. During that time, the Dodgers have been defeated in the NLCS four times, including last year on the very field they spilled champagne last night.  This makes their eleventh appearance in post-season play since they defeated the Oakland A’s in the 1988 World Series.

The Managerial Musical Chairs…

Growing up watching the Yankees-Dodgers World Series (three times over five years from 1977 to 1981), it is very exciting and intriguing to think the Yankees might finally have the chance to avenge their loss in the 1981 World Series.  Ironically, the 1981 Dodgers also had to get past the Houston Astros (in the NLDS) to reach the World Series.  They defeated the Montreal Expos in the NLCS that year.  The 1981 World Series was also the time when Owner George Steinbrenner allegedly got into an altercation with two Dodgers fans in the elevator of a Los Angeles hotel.  Steinbrenner told reporters, “I clocked them.  There are two guys in this town looking for their teeth and two guys who will probably sue me”.  Steinbrenner was not sued and the two guys were never identified.  Who knows if Steinbrenner really faced anyone in that elevator but the Yankees finally have the chance for redemption in the City of Angels if they can win one more game against the Astros (just one, let’s do it!).  I am sure that the Boss would be very pleased.

The MLB Post-Season has certainly not stopped other teams from taking action, or at the very least, talking action.

The Detroit Tigers are expected to announce former Twins manager and current Arizona Diamondbacks bench coach Ron Gardenhire as their manager later today (replacing the fired Brad Ausmus).

Ausmus remains a candidate for the job to replace John Farrell in Boston as the Red Sox manager, however, all reports indicate that current Astros bench coach Alex Cora is the likely choice.  Cora is certainly getting a firsthand view of what he may be facing next year.

I personally think that it is a shame for current Chicago Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez hasn’t gotten stronger consideration for managerial openings.No word on the open jobs with the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets, but former Yankees and current Mets hitting coach Kevin Long has emerged as a favorite for the post in Queens.

It remains to be seen if Yankees manager Joe Girardi returns next year.  While one would think that it is a foregone conclusion that Girardi will be back with a new agreement in hand, it is also possible that family considerations could cause Girardi to walk away.  I think the latter is a greater possibility if the Yankees lose the ALCS to the Astros.  I continue to hope that Girardi and the Steinbrenner family come together on a new deal.  I honestly do not see a better alternative currently available.

Have a great Friday!  Like last night, let’s hope the road team is pouring champagne in the visitor’s clubhouse after the game.  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!

Befuddled in Cleveland…

Credit:  Jason Miller-Getty Images

American League Division Series, Game 1

Indians 4, Yankees 0…

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

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

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

Credit:  Phil Masturzo-Akron Beacon Journal/TNS

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

Credit:  Jason Miller-Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

Credit:  Charles Wenzelberg-NY Post

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

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

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

Credit:  Karen Warren-Houston Chronicle

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

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

Holding the Door to Victory…

Credit:  HBO

Yankees 6, Red Sox 2…

There was too much drama in the 9th inning but the Yankees persevered to defeat the Boston Red Sox in the opener of a four-game series in the Bronx.

CC Sabathia, reinforcing his reputation this year as the Yankees’ stopper, got the win in a strong performance.  The first inning started a little rocky, but Sabathia made his pitches and avoided putting the Yankees in the early hole like they had with the Cleveland Indians the last couple of games.  After easily retiring lead-off hitter Rajai Davis, Eduardo Nunez, in a move that would draw CC’s ire, bunted toward the pitcher.  Sabathia retrieved the ball but his throw to first base pulled Greg Bird off the bag.  Two subsequent walks and the bases were loaded.  Sabathia struck out the next two batters to avoid what could have been a very big inning for the Red Sox.  

Credit:  Craig Ruttle-Associated Press

There were a few challenges in the game.  The first one occurred in the top of the 2nd.  Rajai Davis was at the plate with a runner on first and two outs.  He was awarded base on a hit by pitch, but replay showed that the ball hit the end of the bat and not the player.  So, Davis, who had taken first with his acting performance, had to return to the plate.  He proceeded to strike out to end the inning.

Top of the 3rd and more challenges.  Eduardo Nunez led off the inning for the Red Sox with a single up the middle.  Next up was Andrew Benintendi who hit a liner to left field.  Nunez went around to third, and Benintendi slid into second at the same time as the throw.  The call on the field was safe but the Yankees challenged it and Benintendi was ruled out upon review (in a very close call).

Credit:  Rich Schultz-Getty Images

Mookie Betts walked to put runners at the corners.  Xander Bogaerts hit a grounder to short that appeared to be turned for a double play, but it was Boston’s turn to challenge.  Betts, sliding into second, was ruled safe ahead of the throw from Didi Gregorius to Starlin Castro, so Bogaerts was the only out and Nunez scored on the play.  1-0, Red Sox.  Betts subsequently stole third and the Sox had runners at the corners when Rafael Devers walked, but Sabathia, continuing his bend but not break outing, induced Hanley Ramirez to hit into an inning-ending ground out.

The Yankees finally got on the board in the bottom of the 3rd to tie the game.  Brett Gardner led off with a single to left, but he was erased when Aaron Hicks hit into a double play.  So, the bases were empty when Gary Sanchez came to the plate.  El Gary hit a high fly off Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez that carried into the right field stands. It was Gary’s 28th home run of the season and his 12th in August.

Credit:  Craig Ruttle-Associated Press

Sanchez always takes heat for the passed balls and wild pitches that get past him, but his arm is a thing of beauty.  In the top of the 5th, with Andrew Benintendi on first and Mookie Betts at the plate, Benintendi broke for second on a called third strike on Betts and El Gary’s throw to Starlin Castro was easily in time to nail the sliding runner for the strike-em out, throw-em out double play.

In the bottom of the 5th, the Yankees took the lead.  With one out, singles by Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks put runners at the corners.  Gary Sanchez hit a high fly to shallow right that looked like it would be the second out but Eduardo Nunez went too far and couldn’t reach back to make the catch over his shoulder so the ball fell in.  Sanchez was awarded a single in what appeared to be an error.  No matter, Gardy scored on the play and it was 2-1 Yankees.  The Yankees subsequently loaded the bases for Aaron Judge with two outs but he weakly popped out for a missed opportunity.

While Sabathia was holding the Red Sox in check, the Yankees broke through with more runs in the bottom of the 6th.  Chase Headley started the inning with a double off the center field wall.  Greg Bird, who can be a huge asset down the stretch, ripped a Rodriguez pitch deep into the right-center field stands for a two-run home run.  After Todd Frazier singled to left, the Sox pulled Eduardo Rodriguez and replaced him with Fernando Abad.  Abad struck out Brett Gardner, but Aaron Hicks reached first with an infield hit.  Gary Sanchez lined out for the second out, however, Didi Gregorius singled up the middle to center field to score Headley.  The Yankees had taken a 5-1 lead.  The Sox replaced Abad with Heath Hembree who got the final out when Starlin Castro hit a grounder to short, forcing Didi out at second.

David Robertson took the mound to start the 7th inning so it closed the book on CC Sabathia.  It was a very gutty performance by Sabathia.  He could have easily broken and allowed the Red Sox to take advantage of their scoring opportunities but he held the door.  DRob easily set down the Red Sox for three quick outs to send the game to the bottom of the 7th.  The Yankees had an opportunity for a big inning but they were only able to score a single run.  Aaron Judge started things by working a walk on four pitches.  Chase Headley singled to center, a fly that dropped in, with Judge moving to third.  Greg Bird singled to left on a grounder through second and short to score Judge.  The Yankees were up 6-1.  Todd Frazier subsequently walked to load the bases with no outs.  The Sox went to the pen and brought in Robby Scott.  Sadly, Brett Gardner hit a liner at Eduardo Nunez and his throw to Xander Bogaerts beat Bird sliding back into second for the double play.  The Yankees challenged the play (replay did appear to show Bird’s hand reaching second base just ahead of Bogaerts’ foot) but the umps felt otherwise and stood by the call on the field.  Aaron Hicks followed by striking out for a huge missed opportunity.  I know that I didn’t feel comfortable with a five-run lead at that point against the dangerous Red Sox lineup.

Robertson evaded trouble in the top of the 8th when the first two batters reached base, the second on his own fielding error.  Fortunately, he retired the next three batters to end the inning unscathed.  Moments like that make me appreciate that Big Papi retired last year.

Red Sox reliever Blaine Boyer easily set down the Yankees in the bottom of the 8th to send the game into the 9th inning.  Dellin Betances replaced DRob and then proceeded to scare the h**l out of me.  After Chris Young walked, Betances hit the next two batters (Christian Vazquez and Brock Holt) to load the bases with no outs.  He finally got the first out when Eduardo Nunez struck out swinging.  But a walk to Andrew Benintendi scored Young.  The Red Sox had two chances with the potential tying run at the plate and two hitters very capable of hitting the long ball.  Mookie Betts was first and he popped up for the second out.  Mitch Moreland, pinch-hitting for Xander Bogaerts, was next.  Moreland has done some damage against the Yankees this year, but Betances got him to fly out to left for the final out.  Whew, game over!  Yankees win!

Credit:  Paul J Bereswill-NY Post

The Yankees (71-62) moved to within 4 1/2 games of the Red Sox with the victory.  They maintained a one-game lead in the Wild Card standings over the red-hot Minnesota Twins.  The Baltimore Orioles finally lost, 11-8 to the Toronto Blue Jays, so they fell 3 1/2 games behind the Yankees.

CC Sabathia (11-5) got the much-deserved win.  He walked too many (five) but he held the Sox to four hits and one run despite what seemed like multiple run-scoring opportunities.  He struck out six.  I was so fearful that Dellin Betances was going to blow the big lead in the top of the 9th but credit to him for his recovery to get the outs when he needed them.  My preference, not shared by Joe Girardi, is to keep Betances in a setup role and use David Robertson as the closer until Aroldis Chapman can right the ship.  

I like what I am seeing out of Greg Bird.  He is clearly showing signs of being the tremendous hitter he exhibited in spring training before injuring his foot.  He was 2-for-4 with 3 RBI’s.  Gary Sanchez was great with his home run and 2 RBI’s but it’s a little bittersweet given the impending suspension. 

The Judge’s Chambers featured a true Judge with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in attendance.

Credit:  Craig Ruttle-Associated Press

Hopefully the Yankees can continue their success against the Red Sox tonight when Sonny Gray takes the hill in perhaps his most significant Yankees start yet.  He’ll be opposed by journeyman Doug Fister.   

Odds & Ends…

While we continue to await word on the suspension appeals for Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine (it is my understanding that Gary’s appeal will be heard today), it sounds as though the Yankees will be able to stagger the suspensions so that the team is not without at least one member of its top catching tandem.  It’s disappointing that Kyle Higashioka remains on the DL since it will most likely result in the loss of a 40-man roster spot for another player in order to create room for a back-up catcher.  It was looking like career minor leaguer Eddy Rodriguez might get the call, but the Yankees acquired veteran catcher Erik Kratz yesterday from the Cleveland Indians for cash considerations. The Yankees will soon make a roster move to add Kratz.  Kratz is 37 and has logged 225 MLB games since 2010 for various teams.  By comparison, the 31-year-old Rodriguez has only played 2 MLB games (for San Diego in 2012).  Any way you look at it, there’s going to be a noticeable drop-off from the team of Sanchez and Romine to whomever fills the interim backup role.  


Prior to last night’s game, the Yankees recalled RHP Giovanny Gallegos.  He takes the roster spot vacated when LHP Caleb Smith was optioned to Triple A after Wednesday’s double-header loss to the Cleveland Indians.  DH Matt Holliday is expected to be activated soon.


Former Yankees Assistant GM and now Angels GM Billy Eppler is getting aggressive in helping his team track down the Yankees and the Twins in the Wild Card chase.  Eppler made a bold move yesterday to acquire OF Justin Upton from the Detroit Tigers.  Upton is batting .279 with 28 HRs and 94 RBIs. Solid move for the Halos.  They gave up young pitching prospect RHP Grayson Long.  To make room for Upton, the Angels placed much-traveled Cameron Maybin on waivers.  He was subsequently acquired by the Houston Astros.  Later in the day, the Angels acquired 2B Brandon Phillips from the Atlanta Braves and the Astros, in a move that could solidify their chances for the World Series, picked up pitcher Justin Verlander from the Detroit Tigers.

There has been much talk about Shohei Otani this week with GM Brian Cashman’s trip to Japan, but it is too premature for me to read anything into it. The Yankees do not have an advantage over other clubs should Otani decide to come to the United States other than they’d have more dollars to spend on some future contract that would have absolutely no bearing on the dollars that will be present for Otani’s first contract.  It’s a level playing field for the most part in terms of the international bonus pool money, with the slight increases for those teams like the Yankees that have added money through trades.  Still, the cap on those dollars can be reached by any number of teams.  I’ll get excited if there are signs that Otani is actually considering the Yankees, but until then, it’s a pipe dream.

Have a great Friday!  Hopefully the Yankees won’t have to “labor” too hard for victories this weekend!  Go Yankees!