Tagged: Kansas City

Sonny Gray, We Found You!…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Ed Zurga)

Yanks win eighth consecutive Series…

Backed by uncharacteristic run support (at least for him), Sonny Gray finally pitched on Sunday like the guy who was an ace in Oakland. We’ve seen few glimpses of that guy since he became a Yankee last July. I know, it was against one of the worst teams in the American League but it was a great Sonny Gray start. For a game anyway, this warrants a ‘Sonny Gray DOES NOT suck’ from me.  

As you know, I am quick to criticize Gray so I owe it to him to recognize a wonderful performance. Gray (3-3) pitched eight innings, holding the Kansas City Royals to four hits and a single run. He didn’t allow the run until the eighth inning when he was starting to tire. He walked a batter and struck out five in the 10-1 victory. The four homers, including two by Tyler Austin, were fantastic but there was no doubt Gray was the star of this game.

A.J. Cole, in a rare appearance, pitched a clean ninth inning. Sure, he had a big lead but ask the Miami Marlins about holding a big lead in the ninth inning. They had a 9-4 advantage Sunday against the Atlanta Braves (a team many are starting to liken to the 2017 Yankees) and had Brad Ziegler on the mound to close it out. Six runs later, the Braves walked off the field a winner. So, I try to never underestimate a mop up role like the one Cole faced. 

Now for the home runs. Tyler Austin is making a very convincing case to stay with the Major League club despite the impending return of Greg Bird. I’ve felt all along Austin is the most susceptible for a demotion to Triple A to make room for Bird. Even with his two home runs on Sunday, I still think he’ll be the odd man out since he has options remaining. The Yankees aren’t getting rid of Ronald Torreyes and I don’t see them cutting bait with Neil Walker. Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media speculated this morning that the Yankees will DFA Walker and trade him for a minor leaguer to use the remaining balance of his $4 million contract at the trading deadline (in addition to the space they already have) to open a spot for Bird. I suppose he may be right but I have liked the versatility Walker brings and he has hit better of late. But I have to admit that a tandem of Bird-Austin at first base is a bit scary (in a good way).    

Photo Credit: The Kansas City Star (John Sleezer)

Miguel Andujar and Austin Romine tacked on solo homers in the ninth which did more to help their personal statistics than the team’s result.

Yankees Twitter was aghast before the game when the lineup was posted. Many had expected to see Gary Sanchez at DH, Didi Gregorius at short, and Clint Frazier in left. Instead, Giancarlo Stanton was the DH, Brett Gardner in left, and Ronald Torreyes was the shortstop for the second day in a row. I understood the move with Sir Didi who is mired in a 1-for-45 slump. Nothing against the great Brett Gardner, but I would have preferred to see Red Thunder in left. But at the end of the day, it didn’t matter. The Yankees cranked out fourteen hits with Aaron Boone’s lineup to power the offense.  

Nice job by Austin Romine. During the off-season, so many Yankees fans (maybe even me) wanted the Yankees to sign Alex Avila to replace Romine as the backup catcher. Yesterday, Romine had perhaps his greatest game as a Yankee. He was 3-for-5 with two RBI’s. He had a run-scoring single in the fourth inning in addition to the ninth inning dinger. It’s worth noting that Romine is batting .326 in 48 plate appearances with the homer and nine RBI’s, while Avila is only batting .132 with two homers and four RBI’s in nearly twice as many plate appearances and has opened the door for more playing time for former Yankee John Ryan Murphy with the Snakes.   

It was great to see the Yankees dominate two consecutive games against the lowly Royals after Friday night’s disappointing loss. It had been a very tough week for the Yankees with the rainouts in Washington, D.C. It was not surprising they played sluggishly in their only loss in the Royals series, but I was glad to see that it lasted only one game before they were back in expected form.  

The lone disappointment yesterday was the option of outfielder Clint Frazier to Triple A after the game. I know, it was inevitable. It was a numbers game and Frazier is better served by playing every day for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He’ll head to Pennsylvania and await the next call to Yankee Stadium. It’s not what you want (to borrow Joe Girardi’s line), but Frazier is only an injury away from returning. 

The Yankees now head to Dallas/Fort Worth to face the Texas Rangers. The Rangers have under-performed this year (18-30) but they are generally a handful for the Yankees. The first two games of the series feature Yankees Past and what could be Yankees Future. Today, the Yankees will face a former Yankee in the ancient Bartolo Colon while Tuesday features 2009 World Series foe Cole Hamels, whose name has been mentioned as a possible trading deadline candidate for the Yankees. There are other trade candidates I’d like to see over Hamels, but he is a proven veteran arm. After the Yankees finish the three game series in Texas, they’ll head back to the Bronx to meet up with Shohei Ohtani and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in a series that starts Friday night.

David Hale just keeps coming back like a bad penny. I really thought we’d seen the last of Hale when he was designated for assignment for the second time this year by the Yankees. When he elected free agency after his most recent DFA, I felt sure he’d go elsewhere. It was not to be as Hale signed another minor league deal with the Yankees and will head to Scranton, PA to join the starting rotation for the RailRiders. His addition led to the release of former Yankees prospect Daniel Camarena. I had hoped for better results from Camarena who had been re-acquired from the Chicago Cubs earlier this year after signing a minor league free agent contract with the Cubs in the off-season. But a 2-3 record and 5.08 ERA (44 hits and 20 walks in 39 innings) led to Camarena’s second exit from the organization. I wish him the best with his next opportunity.  It’s unfortunate he was unable to realize his dream in Pinstripes.

Speaking of the RailRiders starting rotation, their latest addition (besides Hale) is prospect Erik Swanson. Swanson’s name hasn’t really been mentioned much since he was acquired in the trade that sent Carlos Beltran to the Texas Rangers a couple of seasons ago. Dillon Tate was the more highly regarded name in the trade, but Swanson is the minor league pitcher of the moment. The guy has been sensational in Double A this year. The 24-year-old righty started six games for the Trenton Thunder, winning five with no defeats. He has given up a paltry two earned runs in 40 2/3 innings (0.44 ERA) while striking out 52. He has only allowed 12 walks. The superb performance led to his recent promotion to Triple A. In an organization with so many talented young prospects, Swanson has illuminated his name.

Photo Credit: Martin Griff, via Pinstriped Prospects

The Yankees did so well with the 2016 trades of Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, they are generally recognized as the trades that highlight the genius of GM Brian Cashman. Nevertheless, the returns for Beltran (namely Swanson and Tate) and Brian McCann (Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman, who helped bring Giancarlo Stanton to New York) were spectacular.  Cashman and Company were certainly well prepared when they made those “under-the-radar” trades that opened roster space for younger, more talented players.

Unfortunately, the Boston Red Sox keep winning so the Yankees and Sox remain tied atop the AL East although the Yankees (30-13) continue to hold a slight advantage in winning percentage.  New York is at .698 while the Red Sox (32-15) are .681.  Boston is off today so the Yankees could pick up a half-game to take sole possession of first place or they could lose to fall into second place.  With 119 games to play, I suppose it does not really matter either way in the grand scheme of things but I always prefer to see the Red Sox in the rear view mirror.

Credit: Frank Galasso Illustration

Go Yankees!

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False Start by the Pinstripers…

Photo Credit: TNS (John Sleezer)

Yanks fall to Royals…

My fear after nearly a week of no Yankees baseball is that they’d go ‘thud’ against one of the worst teams in the American League. Sadly, my fear became reality when the Yankees lost Friday night against the lowly Kansas City Royals, 5-2. It was a close game but, at least for me, it never felt like the Yankees were in it.  For Royals manager Ned Yost, it was his 1,100th career managerial victory.

Photo Credit: TNS (John Sleezer)

It’s been a tough week for the Yankees. They played their way to a 3-3 tie with the Washington Nationals through 5 1/2 innings on Tuesday, only to have the game suspended for rain. The rain wiped out the resumption of the suspended game and the regularly scheduled one the next day, leaving the Yankees to spend the night at Washington Dulles International Airport due to the unavailability of hotel accommodations.  They had an off day on Thursday but it didn’t help. There were no extra base hits to be found in Yankee bats last night. Eight singles equated to two runs and a loss. The legendary Jake Junis (who?) gets the win, and CC Sabathia gets saddled with his first loss of the young season.

When an uncharacteristic error was made by Gleyber Torres in the first inning which allowed the Royals to pick up the game’s first run, it felt like it was not going to be the Yankees’ night.

Photo Credit: TNS (John Sleezer)

I guess if there was any solace about the loss, the Boston Red Sox lost too. Boston fell 7-4 to Alex Cobb and the Baltimore Orioles so the Red Sox and Yankees remain tied atop of the AL East standings. The Red Sox have two more wins than the Yankees (30 to 28), but the Yankees have the slight advantage in winning percentage (.683 to .667) thanks to two fewer losses (13 to 15). It would have been nice for the Yankees to have won to create a game advantage but today is a new day. On paper, Luis Severino (6-1, 2.14 ERA) versus Danny Duffy (1-5, 6.51 ERA) looks like a mismatch. Of course, those tend to be the ones we struggle with the most.

The Didi Gregorius for MVP talk has subsided with his 1-for-45 slide. Hopefully, he’ll rediscover his stroke while the team is in Kansas City. April’s Player of the Month has been MIA in May.

Photo Credit: New York Daily News (Howard Simmons)

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player on the DL incur so many consecutive injuries while out as Jacoby DL’s-bury. The latest ailment for Ellsbury seems to be a back injury. I’ve forgotten the original reason he was placed on the DL or the variety of injuries that have subsequently sidelined him. Maybe I am just looking forward to the day the Steinbrenner family says enough is enough and they pull the trigger to cut bait despite the cost. The guy is nearly untradeable (IDK, is that a word or was it just made up for Ellsbury?). At this point, even if the Yankees back up a Brink’s truck to haul oodles of cash to another team to take the disabled veteran, there would be no takers. The true travesty would be for Ellsbury to actually get healthy and take a 25-man roster spot from a more deserving player. I am ready for Ellsbury’s post-Yankees career.

Speaking of the DL, a good Yankees center fielder is lost until August. Top prospect Estevan Florial (technically, Gleyber Torres is the top prospect but since he’s in the Major Leagues to stay and will soon lose prospect status, Florial is the top prospect by default) will be out for a few months after it was determined that he’ll need surgery on his hamate bone (right hand, unlike the illustration below).

Hopefully all goes well with Florial’s surgery and recovery and this is not a roadblock or delay for his eventual arrival in the Bronx within the next few years.

Another injured player made a triumphant return yesterday. Greg Bird, on rehab assignment with Double-A Trenton, homered off Bowie Baysox reliever Reid Love in the eighth inning of a 2-0 Thunder win. There’s no doubt Bird will soon be back with the big league club and he’ll be a welcome addition. With no offense to Tyler Austin or Neil Walker, I can’t wait to see Bird manning first base for the Bombers once again.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Corey Sipkin)

Billy McKinney also had two hits for the Thunder as he works his way back too, but the roster crunch will send him to Scranton, PA when he is ready.

Given how long it has been since Dellin Betances last pitched, you just know that he is going to implode the next time out. Betances last threw an inning of relief in the 6-2 win over the Oakland A’s on May 13th. I always cringe whenever there are extended delays between appearances for Betances.

In a non-baseball related topic, here is a shameless plug for a new TV series that will air on FX Network this fall, Mayans MC.

Mayans MC stars J.D. Pardo, Emilio Rivera and Edward James Olmos. The show was created by Kurt Sutter and Elgin James, and is set in the post-Jax Teller Sons of Anarchy universe. The story focuses on the struggles of Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes (Pardo), a prospect in the Mayan MC Santo Padre charter on the California/Mexico border.  According to the official storyline, EZ is the gift son of a proud Latino family, who American dream was snuffed out by cartel violence. Now, his need for vengeance drives him toward a life he never intended and can never escape. Rivera reprises his SOA role as Marcus Alvarez, the President of the Mayans MC Oakland charter and the MC’s National President. Olmos plays EZ’s father, Felipe Reyes.  Michael Irby is featured as Obispo “Bishop” Losa, President of the Santo Padre charter. I’ve been tracking this show for several years now and it is exciting that it will finally be part of the Fall TV lineup.

Hopefully today brings the more resilient Yankees team we are familiar with as they’ve shaken off the rust from the long delay between games. The Yankees have proven they can beat the best teams in the American League. Now, they just need to prove they can beat the worst ones.

Go Yankees!

The Washington Washout…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mitchell Layton)

Rain sweeps the Yankees away to Kansas City…

I guess we have Tyler Austin to thank for the last couple of days not being a total loss. Without his heroics (3 RBI’s), the Yankees would have lost Tuesday’s game which was ultimately suspended after 5 ½ innings with the score tied at 3. The Nats would have won the game if Austin hadn’t tied the score with the sac fly after his earlier home run. When the game is resumed, the Yankees will have nine outs to twelve for the Nationals so the odds favor the Nats. Nevertheless, credit goes to Austin for helping to avert a rain-shortened loss.

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Photo Credit: AP (Pablo Martinez Monsivais) via BTA

With rain sweeping away the resumption of the suspended game and Wednesday night’s scheduled game, the Yankees have a couple of days off until they take the field in Kansas City tomorrow night for the first game of a three game weekend series.

I saw a good tweet on Twitter earlier this week that angrily asked why Robinson Cano got suspended for 80 games but the Yankees were only suspended for one. I see no association between Cano’s situation and the Yankees (he hasn’t worn pinstripes since 2013) but it was a good comeback for a day that saw both Cano and the Yankees get suspended (obviously for quite different reasons).

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

As for Cano, I am disappointed. I don’t know all the facts of his case, but I am glad the Yankees didn’t try to match the huge offer the Seattle Mariners made to Cano after the 2013 season. I was not in favor of a ten year deal then, and this incident only reaffirms what can go wrong with inflated extended deals (I know, we have our own ‘Jacoby Ellsbury’ to bear). I always liked Robbie even if I did get frustrated at times with his lack of hustle. But as we stand here today, I’d much rather have Gleyber Torres as the Yankees starting second baseman than Robinson Cano, even if he hadn’t fractured a bone in his hand or was not currently serving a suspension for banned substances. The only injustice I saw about Cano’s suspension is he gets to begin serving it while he is on the disabled list. So, the actual playing time he’ll miss as a result of the 80-game suspension will be much less since the bulk of the time will be spent recovering and rehabbing from the surgery on his hand. I am glad he was ruled ineligible for post-season play, should the Mariners make the playoffs. It’s very convenient (and fortunate) for the Mariners that they have another All-Star second baseman on the roster with Dee Gordon who was serving as a first-time starting center fielder for the M’s prior to Cano’s injury and subsequent suspension.  The M’s will still, no doubt, miss Cano in their lineup.

I do hope for Cano’s sake, he is able to put this behind him and he has no further acts of indiscretion for the duration of his playing career. I will continue to root for and support the former Yankee.

Poor David Hale. He’s been DFA’d three times this year (twice by the Yankees and once by the Minnesota Twins). Honestly, I am not really sure why the Yankees picked him up a second time. I’d rather see him cut this time rather than going to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on an outright assignment if he clears waivers. There’s nothing special in Hale’s arm and I’d rather see a young, hungry pitcher get his opportunity. I wish Hale the best in his future non-Yankee endeavors.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

The latest DFA for Hale cleared a temporary spot for Clint Frazier. It was speculated his latest time with the big league club would be limited to the Nationals series (to provide an extra bat off the bench for the National League-style of play) but with the rainouts, Frazier traveled with the team to KC and will hopefully get some time in the outfield with Aaron Judge and company before he gets the inevitable call to head back to Pennsylvania. It would be great if Red Thunder and his bat make it very difficult to demote him. Admittedly, I am growing tired of Aaron Hicks in center. Hicks may be the better defender and the more “true” center fielder, but I think Frazier has the better promise and potential for the now and in the future. Hicks is too inconsistent for me. I only wish that Estevan Florial was more advanced in his development and maturity. Dude, hurry up and age, will ya??!!

To sidetrack for a moment, I do have to say I’d gladly put Frazier in a trade package if it meant the Yankees could pry LHP Madison Bumgarner from the San Francisco Giants. I know Mad Bum has suffered some fluke injuries in recent years and has as much familiarity with the DL as Jacoby Ellsbury and Clayton Kershaw but when healthy, he’s a gamer. I’d love to roll with Luis Severino and Bumgarner as my top two pitchers heading into October. However, if Frazier is not traded, I hope he gets his chance to stay with the Pinstripes even if it comes at the expense of Aaron Hicks and Jacoby Ellsbury.

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Shanna Lockwood)

Back to the Yankees and Nationals, the makeup day will be Monday, June 18th at 5:05 pm Eastern. It is going to make for a very long night for the Yankees with at least 12 innings of baseball. They finish a series against the Tampa Bay Rays in the Bronx on the preceding Sunday afternoon, and then after the game and a half on Monday night in the Nation’s Capital, they quickly head back to Yankee Stadium to begin a series against the Cano-less Mariners the next day.

Despite the washout in Washington, the Yankees (28-12) are currently a ½ game ahead of the Boston Red Sox (29-14) in the AL East Standings.  Boston plays tonight at Fenway Park against the lowly Baltimore Orioles so it’s possible the Yankees and Red Sox could be tied entering play tomorrow. But then again, the spineless David Price is on the mound for the Sox so I’ll gladly take my chances with Greg Bird’s high school buddy Kevin Gausman and the O’s.

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Photo Credit: The Aurora Sentinel (Heather Longway)

I really feel bad for the Los Angeles Dodgers and their fans. I am a known Dodgers sympathizer (they’re my NL team) and this has been an awful start to the year for the defending National League champs. Entering the season, many had them making the World Series for the second year in a row, but after another loss to the Miami Marlins last night, the Dodgers are 16-26 and have fallen into last place in the NL West.  Well, technically they are tied with the San Diego Padres, but the Padres have the slight advantage in winning percentage.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jennifer Stewart)

Injuries have been tough but there were so many parallels between the Yankees and the Dodgers at the start of the season. Both are big market teams trying to reset luxury tax penalties with strong, young teams. But the similarities end there. The Dodgers had to let valuable role players like Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson walk in the off-season to keep payroll down and they’ve lost superstar players like Corey Seager (out for the year) and Clayton Kershaw to injury. This is Justin Turner’s first week back after his DL stint to start the year. The Dodgers face a lost season or they need to quickly spend to bring in strong reinforcements if they hope to salvage the season. The Dodgers have a strong farm system (okay, not as strong as the Yankees) but it is not ready to help.  They’re already leaning on young guys like Walker Buehler in the starting rotation.  Manny Machado’s name keeps coming up as an option for the Dodger Blue but he’d probably eliminate any chance of the Dodgers staying under the luxury tax threshold. Plus, they’d have to find a position for him if they have any hopes of signing him after the season since Seager will be back next year to reclaim shortstop. The Dodgers situation shows how much luck plays into strategy when it comes to navigating the treacherous waters of payroll. The Yankees and Dodgers are clearly trending in opposite directions.

I have tickets to two upcoming Dodgers games. Sounds like I’ll probably have a more enjoyable time watching the out of town scoreboard to see how the Yankees are doing.

To the Yankees and all of us fans, enjoy your day off. We look forward to watching the road team step up to the plate at Kaufman Stadium on Friday night.

Go Yankees!

Mr McGwire, I Believe You Have My Seat…

Credit:  Adam Hunger-Getty Images

Yankees 11, Royals 3…

Welcome to the Aaron Judge Show!  Number 99 entered the game trailing Mark McGwire’s MLB Rookie Home Run Record of 49 by one homer. He departed the game, two homers later, as the new record holder. All Rise for the Judge!

Oh yeah, they played a game too…

The Yankees got on the board first. After CC Sabathia retired the Royals in order in the top of the 1st inning, Brett Gardner led off the Yankees’ half with a single that dropped in right center field. After Aaron Judge flied out to center (a warning track fly that drew awes from the crowd), Gary Sanchez doubled to deep right into the corner with Gardner holding up at third. Didi Gregorius hit a grounder to first for the second out, but Gardy scored on the play. Sanchez moved to third. Unfortunately, he was left stranded when Matt Holliday struck out. Yankees were up, 1-0.

As Sabathia made his way through the Royals lineup in vintage 2009 fashion, the Yankees struck again in a big way in the bottom of the 3rd. Royals starter Jake Junis gave Brett Gardner a free pass on five pitches with one out. Aaron Judge came to the plate and demolished a Junis pitch into the right field stands to increase the Yankees’ lead to 3-0. The home run was Judge’s 49th of the year, tying the MLB Rookie Record held by Mark McGwire (set in 1987).  

While Sabathia was holding the Royals scoreless, the Yankees got on the board again in the bottom of the 6th. Didi Gregorius hit a one-out single to left on a short hop to left fielder Melky Cabrera. He came around to score on a double to the left field wall by Matt Holliday. Didi didn’t have to stand on second base very long as Greg Bird followed with a home run to the second deck in right. The Yankees had increased their lead to 6-0.  

As great as Sabathia was pitching (three hits over six scoreless innings), I thought bringing him out for the 7th inning might be pushing our luck. Eric Hosmer led off with a single to left just over the glove of Didi Gregorius. Salvador Perez made it a 6-2 game with a home run to left. I thought surely Joe Girardi would make a move at that point but he didn’t. With CC’s 80th pitch, the bat of Mike Moustakas said “big mistake”, homering to right to cut the deficit to three runs. 

Credit:  Seth Wenig-AP

Finally, Girardi made the move and ended Sabathia’s day. As great as CC can be at times, he is no longer more than a 5-6 inning guy. I know, it’s easy to second guess but I just don’t trust Sabathia past the 6th inning anymore. Plus, with the plethora of arms in the pen, it’s not really necessary.  Chad Green entered the game. He walked the first batter he faced, Jorge Bonifacio. Alcides Escobar hit a fielder’s choice to short, forcing Bonifacio out at second. Escobar was too quick for the Yankees to turn the double play. Green struck out Paulo Orlando for the second out and was finally able to end the inning when he got Whit Merrifield to ground out to second in an 8-pitch at-bat. It was a tough inning for Yankees pitching but fortunately the Yankees were able to hold the Royals after the back-to-back homers.

With Trevor Cahill on the mound, Ronald Torreyes led off the bottom of the 7th with a single that dropped into center field. Brett Gardner momentarily dampened spirits when he hit into a double play at second. Very close play at first as it looked like Gardy may have beat the throw, but the Yankees did not challenge. But no fear, Aaron Judge stepped up and broke the tie with McGwire for the MLB Rookie HR Record when he blasted Cahill’s offering into the left field seats for his 50th home run. Gary Sanchez wasted no time, jumping all over Cahill’s first pitch, to deposit another ball, a bullet, into the left field seats for consecutive home runs. The Yankees subsequently loaded the bases on a single and two walks, but Todd Frazier grounded into a force out at third to end the inning. Still, the Yankees had increased their lead to 8-3.

Credit:  Seth Wenig-AP

With no offense to Dellin Betances, I love having David Robertson in the 8th inning to set up Aroldis Chapman. He came in and struck out the side to push the game to the bottom of the 8th. I get fired up watching D-Rob pitch and the way he runs off the field when the inning is over. I enjoyed him replacing Mariano Rivera as the team’s closer a few years back and I enjoy him now in whatever role he can be afforded as long as he’s on the field pitching.  

In the bottom of the 8th, Ronald Torreyes hit a one-out double to right, a ball that dropped in between a crowd of Royals. A throwing error by the right fielder, Jorge Bonifacio (ball got past Alcides Escobar at second), allowed Toe to advance to third. Last time, Brett Gardner hit into a double play to erase Toe. This time, Gardy doubled down the right field line to make it a 9-3 game. Aaron Judge walked (I wouldn’t have thrown him anything to hit either) and he left the game to an ovation when he was replaced at first base by pinch-runner Clint Frazier. Gary Sanchez singled to left on a line drive to load the bases and there was still only one out. Didi Gregorius singled to right, scoring Gardy, to keep the bases full of Yanks. Matt Holliday lofted a fly ball to right, deep enough to score Clint Frazier on the sacrifice. Greg Bird finally brought the inning to a close when he popped out to third, but the Yankees had increased their lead to 11-3.

Actually, this probably would have been a great spot to bring in Dellin Betances but Girardi opted to go with Tommy Kahnle. A good choice but I’d really like to see Betances continuing work out of his funk and an 8-run lead would have been good placement for him. Kahnle walked a batter but it was otherwise a quiet inning as the Royals went down without advancing the runner. The Yankees win!

The Royals can probably have t-shirts made up that say “I went to NYC for one day and all I got was a butt-kicking”. I am sure that all things considered, they wish they had ended this series back in May. The loss most likely ended any aspirations the Royals held for the second Wild Card slot.  

The Yankees (87-69) picked up a game on the Boston Red Sox although it is probably too little, too.  The Toronto Blue Jays, fresh off a series win over the Yankees last weekend, defeated Boston, 6-4 yesterday.  The Yankees trail the Sox by four games with six to play.  The Yankees lead the Wild Card standings by five games.  

It was a great start by CC Sabathia despite the Perez-Moustakas freight train he ran into by overstaying his welcome. With the win (his 236th career victory), Sabathia improved his season record to 13-5. 

Credit:  Robert Sabo

The bullpen trio of Green, Robertson and Kahnle held the Royals hitless (and scoreless) for nine outs while compiling six strikeouts. A job well done! 

I don’t know about you, but I am kinda thinking this Judge guy has a chance to be something special. Seriously, this has to be one of the greatest Rookie seasons that I’ve ever experienced. Obviously, my view is a little Pinstriped tainted but Judge has put his name among the All-Time Greats. With an organization as deep in tradition and history as the Yankees, that’s very, very hard to do.

Thumbs down, Guys! This was a wonderful win!

Next Up:  Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY…

The march toward the conclusion of the regular season and the Wild Card game that awaits the Yankees will continue tonight with the division foe Rays coming to town. There was a time when the Rays were battling the Yankees for the Wild Card but at this point, the Rays are just playing out the string to get a jump start on their October vacation plans. They can certainly play the role of spoiler as the Yankees attempt to drive to home field advantage for next week’s Wild Card game.  

Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:

TODAY

Rays:  Blake Snell (4-6, 4.01 ERA)

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (8-7, 4.06 ERA)

WEDNESDAY

Rays:  Matt Andriese (5-4, 4.44 ERA)

Yankees:  Luis Severino (13-6, 3.03 ERA)

THURSDAY

Rays:  Alex Cobb (12-10, 3.66 ERA)

Yankees:  Sonny Gray (10-11, 3.31 ERA)

This should be Severino’s final tune-up before the Wild Card game.  Hopefully he’s more effective than he was last time out. 

Is Alex Cobb a preview of coming attractions? He’s a free agent this off-season and his name has been linked to the Yankees as a possibility.  

Odds & Ends…

Given the surprising success of the Yankees this year, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the Yankees do not re-sign both Manager Joe Girardi and General Manager Brian Cashman. 

Cashman has done a tremendous job in rebuilding the Yankees and setting them up for success for years to come. But with no offense to Cashman, he isn’t the sole reason for the success.  Other people, including Damon Oppenheimer, Jean Afterman, Gary Denbo and others have played significant roles. Is it time for a new GM? Alex Anthopoulos has been my personal favorite for the job, but I wish I had realized how great Mike Hazen was. The former Red Sox GM has transformed the Arizona Diamondbacks into a team that could catapult themselves over the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers into the World Series. Who’s the next Mike Hazen-in-waiting? I have mixed feelings about Cashman. I have long respected the guy but I wonder if it is time for new blood. With the loss of the late Gene Michael’s voice in the organization, Cashman is one of the last links to the old regime led by George Steinbrenner. I don’t know the answer to this question and I certainly won’t be disappointed if Hal Steinbrenner signs Cashman to a new long-term deal. Inevitably, I trust young Steinbrenner to do the right thing…whatever that may be.  

Girardi is not as easy for me. I’ve never been a big Girardi guy but it’s not like I feel he is the wrong man for the job. There’s no doubt that I’d prefer someone like Terry Francona and my personal homer pick, Don Mattingly. But Francona won’t be leaving Cleveland anytime soon and Mattingly is currently unavailable (as he awaits the arrival of his new boss in Miami, Derek Jeter). Nothing against Al Pedrique or Tony Pena, but I don’t really think either guy would be an improvement over Girardi. For the lack of better available candidates, I am probably for re-signing Girardi to a new 3 to 5 year contract.  

Have a great Tuesday! Let’s have our way with the Rays. Go Yankees!

Flying to New York on a Positive Note…

All is right in the world again…  

Yankees win and the Orioles do not.  Two to three weeks ago, who would’ve guessed that the Yankees best pitcher would be CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka its worst.  Thanks to CC’s strong performance, the three runs scored by the Yankees in the second inning would be all they needed in the 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.  

Despite the run-scoring single by Didi Gregorius and a two-run homer by Brett Gardner, Chris Archer showed why he would be a prime trade target for the Yankees.  He struck out twelve Bombers in 6 1/3 innings but couldn’t overcome CC or the Yanks bullpen.  

The play of the game was Aaron Judge’s diving backhanded catch of a deep fly by Evan Longoria with a runner on base.  If Judge was two inches shorter, he never would have made the catch!  He needed every bit of his 6’7” frame to reach the fly but much to the surprise of Rays base runner Corey Dickerson, who was doubled off first, he did.  

Credit:  Associated Press

Sabathia (4-2) went five innings for the win.  In 95 pitches, he only allowed four hits, two runs (one earned) and one walk.  He had six strikeouts.  The Yanks bullpen trio of Chad Green, Tyler Clippard and Dellin Betances contributed four innings with no hits or runs, one walk, and five strikeouts.  Betances earned his second save since Aroldis Chapman went on the 10-Day DL.

Didi Gregorius was 4-for-4, matching his career high for hits.  Both Aaron Judge and Matt Holliday whiffed four times in 0-for-4 days.  

The Yankees (25-16) recaptured first place in the AL East, thanks to Marco Estrada and the Toronto Blue Jays.  The Jays defeated the Baltimore Orioles, 3-1, to allow the Yanks to re-take a half-game lead.  

The Tyler Austin Watch…  

In his second game for the AA-Trenton Thunder, Tyler Austin was 1-for-2, a single, in the Thunder’s 1-0 loss to the Portland Sea Dogs.  He played first base and was replaced by Billy Fleming after two at-bats.  The game also saw the AA debut of reliever Jose Mesa, Jr (son of the former major leaguer) for the Thunder.  He pitched three innings with no hits or runs, but did allow two walks while striking out two, in relief of tough-luck loser Yefry Ramirez (6 IP, 4H, 1R/ER, 2BB, and 8SO). 

In related news, Chris Carter was 0-for-3 for the Yankees in Tampa.  If Austin continues to hit and Carter does not, we know how this story is going to end.  Or how it should end.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Shuttle…  

Prior to Sunday’s game, the Yankees recalled reliever Bryan Mitchell and returned Giovanny Gallegos to AAA.  

Credit:  Elsa/Getty Images

Speaking of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre…

The Yankees top prospect, shortstop Gleyber Torres, has been elevated to the RailRiders.  In 32 games, Torres hit 5 home runs and drove in 18 runs.  He batted .273 and stole 5 bags.    The 20-year-old, who can also play second and third, is just a stone’s throw away from the Bronx.  Current theory has Torres taking second base for the Yankees when he is ready, with Starlin Castro sliding to third. 

Credit:  Matt Rourke/AP

I cannot say SWB without mentioning righty Chance Adams.  Through two games, Adams is 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA.  He has pitched 12 innings, allowing six hits and two runs.  He has walked three batters while striking out eleven.  Adams was the loser in Friday’s 2-1 pitcher’s duel loss to Aaron Slegers and the Rochester Red Wings.

Pitching Match-ups for Yankees-Royals…  

The Yankees are back in the Bronx for a four-game set against the Kansas City Royals, their opponent prior to the just-completed Tampa Bay Rays series.  The Yankees took two of three in Kansas City, losing only the final game of the series.  

TODAY:

Royals:  Jason Vargas (5-2, 2.03 ERA)

Yankees:  Michael Pineda (4-2, 3.42 ERA)

TUESDAY:

Royals:  Danny Duffy (3-3, 2.97 ERA)

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (2-3, 4.81 ERA)

WEDNESDAY:

Royals:  Jason Hammel (1-5, 6.20 ERA)

Yankees:  Luis Severino (2-2, 3.64 ERA)

THURSDAY:

Royals:  Nathan Karns (2-2, 4.17 ERA)

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (5-3, 6.56, Yikes!)

Honestly, I would have skipped Tanaka this run through the rotation.  He needs to work on the mental side to get back to the basics to re-establish his splitter and slider.  Karns was a late announcement for Thursday’s game.  The veteran is dealing with forearm stiffness.  If he is unable to go, I’d probably expect to see Chris Young (0-0, 6.85 ERA) filling in.  I seriously hope that we’ll see an improved Tanaka on Thursday but admittedly my glass is half-empty…

 

Have a great Monday!  Let’s make it two in a row!   

Looking Ahead to 14 Days in July…

Credit:  Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

Team Prospect-Hugger could get a new look the last two weeks of July.  In an interview, Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner indicated that he’ll look at any deal that crosses his desk during the final two weeks of July.  He’ll read the scouting reports, talk to GM Brian Cashman and the Scouting Department and tap into other resources to determine the best moves for the Yankees organization moving forward.  He said that he’ll divert all of his attention to any one deal that comes across his desk as he has always done in the couple of weeks leading up to the trading deadline.  It doesn’t mean that he’ll approve a deal but he’ll certainly give more than a passing thought to any deal that makes sense.

Steinbrenner sees the value in holding onto the team’s prospects as they have done for the last three or four years.

With significant dollars coming off the payroll at the end of the year ($59 million alone with the expiring contracts of CC Sabathia, Matt Holliday, and Alex Rodriguez), Steinbrenner feels the Yankees will be active in the free agent market.  “To what degree, and in what areas remains to be seen”, said Steinbrenner, in talking with reporters.

I am probably somewhere in between Hal and his father, George.  I’d be more inclined to make moves to strengthen weaker areas.  But I’d also be trying to find ways to unload dead weight off the roster.  Spending $46 million for CC Sabathia’s unreliable performances and Alex Rodriguez’s “consulting services” is a bad return on investment in a statement of the obvious.  Why don’t they just increase it to $47 million and toss me the difference? I would certainly have a more company-aligned outlook and they would be no worse for the wear.  I am looking forward to next year when a greater percentage of the payroll goes to active, contributing members of the team’s 25-man roster.  

Even though Steinbrenner may not be open to considering any deals until mid-July, there’s no doubt that Cashman and Company have already begin dialing other teams to open dialogue for potential trades involving targeted players.  If the Yankees do prove that they are for real this year, it should be a very fun and active July.  I am certainly not expecting a Bryce Harper or Manny Machado type trade, but reinforcements to stay the upward course would be very much appreciated.  

I am glad to hear that one of my favorite prospects, pitcher Albert Abreu, will be coming off the DL for High-A Tampa on Friday.  Abreu has been on the DL since May 2nd with elbow inflammation.  Abreu will start in Friday’s game against the Dayton Tortugas in place of Domingo Acevedo, who was promoted to AA-Trenton.  

Last summer, the two best outfield prospects in the Cleveland Indians organization were Clint Frazier and Bradley Zimmer.  Zimmer received his call to join the Show this week, and looks to be a long-term fixture in Cleveland as an Andrew Miller teammate.  On Wednesday, with his parents in attendance, Zimmer had a run-scoring double and a home run.  Zimmer, two years older than Frazier, looks to be one of the game’s superior talents for years to come.  I know it’s not Yankees-related but it is great to see good young players flourish in the Major Leagues.  There’s no doubt he received a congratulatory text from Frazier.

The Yankees were victorious in baseball action last night with an 11-7 victory over the Kansas City Royals.  With the final game of the series to be played today, the Yankees have already taken the series by winning the first two games of the three-game set.  

Of the three Royals pitchers that we would be facing, I was most concerned about Jason Vargas.  The veteran pitcher had gotten off to a great start at 5-1 with a 1.01 ERA.  But four innings and six runs later, the ERA had more than doubled to 2.03.  Michael Pineda (4-2) was the winner, but he did give up two home runs.  For six innings of work, he gave up six hits, four runs (three earned), and two walks.  He also registered 5 K’s.  I would have liked to have seen better work but with the Yankees racing out to a 10-2 lead by the fifth inning, Pineda was guilty somewhat of letting up on the gas.  

Every Yankee in the starting lineup got a hit in the 16-hit attack.  Aaron Hicks, filling in for Jacoby Ellsbury, hit a three run homer in the fourth inning on a 2-for-4 night.

Credit:  John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS

The Royals scored three runs with two outs in the ninth inning against Yankees reliever Giovanny Gallegos.  With two runners on base and the potential tying run on deck, Dellin Betances came in for one out, a soft grounder back to the pitcher, to end the game, recording his first save of the season with just four pitches. 

The Yankees (24-13) took advantage of a loss by the Baltimore Orioles to move 1 1/2 games up in the AL East.  The O’s lost to the Detroit Tigers in a close game, 5-4.  Former Yankee Justin Wilson, recently named closer for the Tigers, picked up his third save.  It could have been a great night but the Boston Red Sox pulled out a 5-4 win in 13 innings against the St Louis Cardinals.  

Have a great Thursday!  Hopefully the Yankees grab another “W” before racing to Kansas City International Airport for the flight to Tampa later this evening.

The Cole Hard Truth…

Credit:  Elsa/Getty Images

The Yankees are in first place in the American League East so it might be a bit premature to scream, “the sky is falling”, but frankly, the starting rotation scares the h**l out of me and not in a good way.

The last five starts look like this:

In terms of numbers, the results are just as ugly:

1 2/3 innings, 7 hits, 8 runs/earned runs, 1 BB, 3 K’s, 4 home runs

2 1/3 innings, 6 hits, 3 runs/earned runs, 3 BB, 2 K’s

6 innings, 8 hits, 4 runs/earned runs, 1 BB, 7 K’s, one home run

6 2/3 innings, 6 hits, 3 runs/earned runs, 1 BB, 7 K’s, one home run

6 innings, 7 hits, 5 runs/earned runs, 2 BB, 2 K’s

So, for 22 2/3 innings of work, Yankee starters have given up 23 runs.  If you want to heavily tax a bullpen, I give you the New York Yankees starting rotation.  It’s no wonder that we started to see some cracks in the armor this past week.  Michael Pineda has probably been the most consistent pitcher.  He’s the only one that threw a so-called “quality” start and that’s a scary thought.  

I saw one tweet that said the Yankees need to trade for Gerrit Cole or Chris Archer before the trading deadline.  As much as I like Chris Archer, I don’t think the Tampa Bay Rays would trade him within the division without a serious overpay.  That’s why Cole remains high on my priority list.  The Pirates are currently in last place in the NL Central and going nowhere fast.  Cole is presently 1-4 but has a better ERA than any Yankees starter (3.06).  In 50 innings, he has only given up 43 hits, 17 earned runs, 7 HR’s, and 10 walks.  He has struck out 47 batters.  Cole, 26, is currently paid $3.75 million with two years of arbitration eligibility remaining.  I don’t care that he’ll be a free agent in 2020.  This is an opportunity to kick the tires, so long as it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg (in other words, Gleyber Torres).  Outside of Torres, no one is untouchable and the Yankees should put together a package that works for both sides.  

Credit:  Ross D Franklin/Associated Press

The Boston Red Sox keep scuffling but knowing that they can throw out Chris Sale every five days keeps them a prime threat.  The Yankees need one of those kind of guys.  I know, aces are not grown on trees but GM Brian Cashman is a creative guy.  He can make some magic to bring help for the rotation.  I thought CC Sabathia was the weak link in the rotation but there are no guarantees in any spot.  Every time a pitcher posts an ugly line, the comment is always how the pitches weren’t working.  When do we hold the pitcher, and not the pitches, accountable?  The Yankees need an anchor in the rotation.  With the promise of the young offense, intermixed with the veteran influence, a decent starting rotation could carry this team to October.  Chance Adams, would you hurry up and get your butt to the Bronx?…

Credit:  Patrick Teale

Today finds the Yankees in the City of Fountains.  They begin a three game set in Kansas City before making their way to their home away home in Tampa.  The scheduled pitching matchups are:

TODAY

Yankees:  CC Sabathia (2-2, 5.77 ERA)

Royals:  Jason Hammel (1-4, 5.97 ERA)

WEDNESDAY

Yankees:  Michael Pineda (3-2, 3.27 ERA)

Royals:  Jason Vargas (5-1, 1.01 ERA)

THURSDAY

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (2-2, 4.19 ERA)

Royals:  Danny Duffy (2-3, 3.38 ERA)

These games are winnable regardless of the great start that Jason Vargas has gotten off to.  We just need to concentrate on one pitch at a time.  Objective:  To miss bats and or least only allow balls to be hit to positional players in proper fielding position without touching the ground.  C’mon, how hard can that be?…

Have a great Tuesday!  Let’s have a royal good time!