Tagged: Kyle Higashioka

It HAPPened One Night…

Photo Credit: Mark Blinch, Getty Images

More often than I would like…

I guess it was inevitable the Yankees would eventually lose, but I like ten-game winning streaks and the team fell one victory short of “my” goal. J.A. Happ, as usual this season, was “happ-less” in Friday night’s 8-2 loss to his former team, the Toronto Blue Jays. Oh well, today is a new day. The Yankees are back at Rogers Centre this afternoon for the third game of a four-game set and the series tied. They’ll send Chad Green, Opener, to the mound, to defend the Yankees’ 9-0 record in games that he opens to hopefully start a new winning streak.

I think my biggest disappointment of the July trading deadline was on display last night. I really wanted the Yankees to replace J.A. Happ in the starting rotation. I know, it was never going to happen and we’re stuck with Happ, good or bad, at least for the duration of this year. With another $17 million owed him next season, and an option that could trigger a third year, the Yankees will have to part with some money if they hope to move Happ in the off-season but they should. At 36, he is not going to get any better. Assuming that Jordan Montgomery is able to come back to be a reliable fifth starter, any pitching upgrade in the off-season should take Happ’s spot. Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino will be back, and Domingo German, with 15 wins, has ensured his place in the rotation. So, with Monty back in the fold and taking the soon-to-be retired CC Sabathia’s spot, the only spot that is potentially open belongs to Happ. I can’t look back and say the Yankees should have signed Lance Lynn instead of Happ since I didn’t feel that way at the time, but in retrospect, it certainly would have been the better move. Or signing Charlie Morton would have made a world of sense at the time and he’s certainly over-performed on the two-year, $30 million deal ($4 million less than Happ) he was given by the Tampa Bay Rays. I am still surprised the Houston Astros made no move to re-sign either him or Dallas Keuchel (regardless of how poorly the latter has pitched in Atlanta so far).

As it stands right now, Happ should not get a sniff of a post-season start. There’s no way I’d trust him when the chips are on the table. Give him long relief or leave him off the playoff roster but I do not want to see his name as a scheduled starting pitcher come October.

Okay, I’ll let my dislike of Happ go…for now.

As expected, the Yankees activated catcher Gary Sanchez off the Injured List for today’s game. I thought Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka did outstanding job s while El Gary was away, but still, I’d rather have Gary on the field and in the lineup. I am not expecting to see his monster home runs right away, but hopefully he’s 100% healthy and can start ramping up his play over the next few games. I am sure his bat is salivating at the prospect of facing Orioles pitching next week. If there was hope the Yankees would re-sign Romine in the off-season (in my mind), it was lost with how well Ro has played in El Gary’s absence. He deserves more than a backup gig and there are plenty of teams that could use someone like him.  I can easily see Romine going home to Southern CA to play for the Los Angeles Angels.  The familiarity is certainly there with Angels GM Billy Eppler. My guess is Kyle Higashioka will be the backup catcher when Spring Training rolls around next year. But this year, with El Gary back on the active roster, Higgy heads back to Pennsylvania.

The surprise transaction move today was the placement of reliever Jonathan Holder on the Injured List with right shoulder inflammation. LHP Stephen Tarpley was recalled from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre was recalled to take Holder’s place. At this point, I am really hoping that Jonathan Loáisiga is ready soon to take Tarpley’s spot.

There was such mixed reaction this week when it was announced that the Yankees and the Chicago White Sox would play a game in Dyersville, Iowa on August 13, 2020 near the spot of the field from the movie Field of Dreams. Immediately, fans were upset about the dimensions of the existing playing field from the movie without realizing there are plans for a new temporary stadium to be built next to the movie grounds that would provide normalized dimensions for the playing field and seating capacity for 8,000.

Credit: MLB

I like the idea. As a native Iowan, I never dreamed the Yankees would play on my native soil. It’s not like Des Moines, the largest Iowa city, is ever going to get a professional team. I grew up about 150 miles from Dyersville in a similar rural community. I hate to think about how much those tickets will cost and what a snarled mess Dyersville will be next August. I know Iowans, we all pile into the car to go check things out even if we don’t have tickets.  So Dyersville is not only going to be filled by visitors holding tickets to see the game, the gawkers will be out in full force too. I think I’ll just stick with the FOX telecast. I wonder how much gate revenue the Chicago White Sox will lose by giving up a home game for this attraction and how much MLB is compensating them for the loss. I am sure the Yankees are among the highest revenue attractions at Guaranteed Rate Field. As cool as it would be to see the Yankees wear their famed pinstripes in Iowa, the White Sox are considered the home team and they probably deserve to wear their pinstripes, especially since Field of Dreams featured former Chicago White Sox player Shoeless Joe Jackson. I wouldn’t be a fan of both teams wearing pinstripes.

Anyway, it should be a fun August day next summer regardless of where you watch the game from. It would be cool if Kevin Costner could throw out the first pitch.

With no idea when Luke Voit will return (he hasn’t resumed baseball activities and potential surgery remains on the table), I wonder when first baseman/DH Ryan McBroom gets his opportunity. At 27, he is no longer a prospect but has been very strong at Triple A this year. McBroom accounted for the RailRiders’ only runs in yesterday’s 10-2 loss to the Gwinnett Stripers with a two-run double in the eighth inning. On the year, he is batting .320/.398/.559 with .958 OPS. He has 19 home runs, 24 doubles, and 47 RBIs. If he is ever going to get his shot with the Yankees, this is it. There probably comes a time when a minor league player wonders what more he has to do to prove himself and McBroom is probably there. I know I still think of McBroom as simply the guy the Yankees got for Robert Refsnyder, but I’d like to see him get a taste of the Big Leagues. I’d prefer McBroom over a reunion signing of former Giant/Twin/Yankee Tyler Austin.

There was a part of me that hoped the Yankees would sign free agent second baseman Joe Panik who was recently been cut loose by the Giants, but he took the chance for more playing time with the New York Mets. I know, he’s been dreadful this year and lost his job when the Giants acquired Scooter Gennett from the Cincinnati Reds, but I guess I was optimistic that he’d display some of the promise he once held by returning to his native New York City on a contending team. I guess we’ll see if that happens with the Mets. Robinson Cano will not be returning to the Mets this year with his torn hammy (even if he seems to think so) which created the opportunity for the Mets to push the Panik button (sorry, I had to do it even if that terminology has been overused in recent days).

Former Yankee (and, ugh, Red Sock) Mark Melancon has been named as the closer for the Atlanta Braves. He was considered one of the top closers when he signed a free agent deal with the San Francisco Giants a couple of years ago, but injuries have derailed him. I thought former Yankee and Tiger Shane Greene would get the job, but he’s been a little underwhelming in Hot-lanta. On the bright side, playing behind Melancon should mean hope since it’s questionable if Melancon can remain healthy. Greene needs to make the necessary adjustments to give the Braves the same confidence the Tigers showed in him. Greene was one of the arms that I had hoped the Yankees would acquire at the trading deadline. Despite his struggles, I’d still prefer him over Stephen Tarpley any day.

I am trying to contain my enthusiasm but it was a positive to see Luis Severino throw a 23-pitch bullpen session yesterday. He’s still weeks away from a return and any setback could derail him for the season, but I am cautiously optimistic that he’ll be an available arm in September. Regardless of the role he’ll play this year, I want him to be an active part of this year’s team and not just an observer with an awesome dugout view of the game.

As always, Go Yankees!

Advertisements

Yankees Win, Always a Good Thing…

Credit: Getty Images

CC Sabathia Relishes the Role of Stopper…

Well, the last week didn’t go exactly as planned. I didn’t think the Yankees would win the three-game series in Houston but I had hoped for at least one win. They played well enough to win all three games if not for the lack of bullpen support. After Friday night’s rain-shortened loss to Eloy Jimenez and the Chicago White Sox, the Yankees had lost four consecutive games and could have been overtaken in the AL East Standings on Saturday by the Boston Red Sox, a team that has seemingly gotten off to a much worse start than our favorite team, if the Sox had won and the Yankees had not. Fortunately, CC Sabathia represented the Cavalry, arriving to save the day, while the highly paid hitless wonder known as Chris Davis helped power Baltimore past the struggling Red Sox.

It is funny how the World looks so much better after a Yankees win. Life as a Yankee fan is such a roller coaster ride at times. It was hard watching Eloy Jimenez (first two home runs of his young career) and the White Sox crush Yankee pitching during Friday night’s rain-shortened seven innings loss. Although I am sure CC Sabathia would have liked to have stayed in yesterday’s game a little longer, he combined with Domingo German, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman to shut out the White Sox, 4-0, giving the Pinstripers a very much-needed victory. Honestly, I was unsure what Sabathia would bring in his first start of his final season. Delayed by December’s Angioplasty that placed a stent in a heart valve, a five-game suspension, and a trip to the Injured List as he worked his way back into prime form, it was vintage Sabathia on Saturday. He held the White Sox to a meaningless single by second baseman Jose Rondon in the top of the third inning. It was the first and only hit the Sox would get on this day.

Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images

Sabathia looked strong when he struck out Wellington Castilllo looking to end the top of the fifth inning but the pitch, his 62nd, would be his last. The TV cameras showed a disappointed Sabathia in the dugout as Manager Aaron Boone informed him his day was finished. I don’t blame Boone. No reason to push Sabathia this early. His 62 pitches for the Tampa Tarpons (High-A) in a rehab start last Sunday were his season high. He probably would have been good for a few more pitches but why risk it. We need the big guy in the weeks and months ahead. With an off-day last Thursday and another tomorrow, the Yankees were able to skip the fifth spot in the rotation, making Domingo German available to provide back up support for Sabathia. It was the perfect formula. German, continued his brilliant 2019 performance with two innings of hitless relief and four strikeouts. If you looked at stats alone without names, you’d think his line belonged to the team’s ace. 3-0, 1.38 ERA, 9.69 K/9, and 1.03 BABIP. Not that Luis Severino is coming back anytime soon but if he were to return today, you’d have to argue that J.A. Happ, not German, should be the loser of a rotation spot.

Zack Britton finally delivered a relief outing that we expect to see. Three-up, three down in the top of the eighth. I know, it was just the White Sox but you would have thought they were the second coming of Harvey’s Wallbangers after Friday night. Britton had to start somewhere with a solid appearance. Saturday was as good a day as any. Now if we could just get Chad Green and Jonathan Holder back on track. I’d really like to see this so-called Super Bullpen that everyone has been talking about. I know, Dellin Betances is a major cog and his absence hurts, but the other guys need to pick up the slack. They are certainly capable of so much more.

I know I was feeling much better about Aroldis Chapman from his first pitch in the top of the ninth when the radar gun clocked his strike to Adam Engel at 99 MPH. In throwing nine pitches to finish off the game, Chappy hit 100 MPH four times. He is trending in the right direction for those fearing his loss of velocity. It was not a save situation but Chapman needed the work and he did not disappoint.

Credit: Paul J Bereswill/NY Post

Credit to White Sox starter and former Yankee Ivan Nova. Back in the stadium he was raised, he delivered as well as he could have. He faced one batter in the top of the seventh, giving up a single to Gleyber Torres. Pulled at that point, Torres would eventually score the first run for the Yankees when Luke Voit singled with the bases loaded. It was almost unfair for Nova to be charged a run on this day, but he was, thus taking the tough luck loss despite holding the Yanks to only four hits, and no runs while he was standing on the mound, over six innings and the one batter faced in the seventh. No doubt he’ll look back on the day proud that he was able to compete exceptionally well with his one-time mentor as Sabathia prepares for his ride to the Sunset and eventual placement in MLB’s Hall of Fame.

Credit: Kathy Willens/AP

With such a great pitching performance by the Yankees, the team’s offense was almost an afterthought. The Yankees needed the runs, of course, to win the game but for inning after inning, they were unable to mount any serious threat against Nova. When Nova gave up that single to Gleyber Torres in the bottom of the seventh and departed the game, it opened the door for the Yankees. It took a little luck when Greg Bird hit into a fielder’s choice at second against White Sox reliever Jace Fry. An error by Yolmer Sanchez, booting a potential double play ball, left both runners safe at first and second. After another pitching change, Clint Frazier singled to right off reliever Ryan Burr to load the bases. Luke Voit keep it going with a broken bat single past the outstretched glove of the shortstop, scoring Torres.

Credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Kyle Higashioka, getting the start at catcher in place of Austin Romine, hit a long sacrifice fly to right which brought Bird home with the second run. Tyler Wade displayed his athleticism with a rare squeeze bunt toward third that easily allowed Frazier to score. The Yankees were up, 3-0.

Aaron Judge accounted for the final Yankees run when he led off the bottom of the eighth with a short home run (a 335’ shot that took full advantage of the right field porch). Hey, a homer is a homer. Sure, we love the homers that reach the second deck, especially when Judge is at the plate, but I’ll take the short fly that lands into the first row of the right field porch any day.

Hopefully the win helps the Yankees “turn the corner” (as Aaron Boone would say). A win today to take the series against the White Sox would be ideal, considering the other Sox come to town on Tuesday. Nothing like changing our Sox on a positive note. The Houston Astros got hot at the right time last week to sweep the Yankees in their home park. It would be nice for the Yankees to do the same to the visiting Red Sox for the brief two-game series.

Masahiro Tanaka (1-0, 1.47 ERA) gets the ball in the White Sox finale this afternoon. He’ll be opposed by the talented Carlos Rodon (1-2, 3.38 ERA) in what should be a great pitching matchup. I kind of wish Tanaka was pitching against the Red Sox this week, but if he can deliver a win today, that’s all we can ask.  Tuesday’s game will feature James Paxton against Chris Sale, two pitchers with high expectations who have, so far, delivered uninspiring results. Wednesday is the battle of 8.00+ ERA pitchers with J.A. Happ going against former Yank Nathan Eovaldi. I really hope Paxton and Happ were watching Sabathia pitch yesterday. They need to follow his lead. Get on a roll and the team’s slow start will be nothing but a distant memory. A nice ten-game winning streak would help warm things up for the summer ahead.

Stephen Tarpley was the loser of a spot on the 25-man roster when he was optioned to Triple A to make room for Sabathia. It meant that Joe Harvey’s stay in the Bronx will last awhile longer and rightfully so. He has only appeared in one game (one of the losses to the Astros last week) but he did his job when called upon (unlike Green and Holder). I’d like to see what he can do with an extended stay in the Show. Tarpley, on the other hand, is not quite ready. He’ll benefit from a little more seasoning in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

As always, Go Yankees…and, please, stay healthy!

4th of July Fireworks in the Bronx…

Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)

Yankees take Braves Series with a win…

It may not have been a no-hitter like Dave “Rags” Righetti’s no-no in 1983 but I’ll take it. It didn’t look like it would be CC Sabathia’s day when the Braves loaded the bases in the first inning, but, as they say, ‘all’s well that ends well’. Sabathia escaped the first inning jam without giving up a run and he pitched six strong innings, limiting the Braves to  a couple of runs in the fifth and sixth innings, for the 6-2 win.

Credit to Sabathia for the adjustments he has made to become an effective older pitcher. I’ll admit that I had my doubts and I thought he was done just a couple of years ago. Thanks CC for proving me wrong. For all the other issues in the starting rotation, there’s no telling where the Yankees would be without Sabathia. CC improved to 6-3 and maintained his season ERA at 3.02.  

Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)

I always like games where the Yankees score first and this was one of those games. Didi Gregorious ripped a one-out liner to left inside the foul line for a double in the second inning. After Gleyber Torres struck out for the second out, Greg Bird singled to right, bringing Didi home for the first run.  

The Yankees got more runs in the third inning. Neil Walker led off the bottom of the inning with a single to right. Following outs by Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks drew a walk from Braves starter Julio Teheran. Walker and Hicks came around to score when Giancarlo Stanton blasted a shot to the right field porch to put the Yankees ahead, 4-0. Maybe it’s just me but it sure seems like Giancarlo is starting to crank it up for one of his annual monster tears.  

Kyle Higashioka continued his dislike for anything but round-trippers with a solo shot in the fourth inning, his third consecutive home run to start his Major League career (matching the Yankees record set by Alfonso Soriano).  

Photo Credit: NY Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

Gleyber Torres exited the game in the top of the 5th inning when the Yankees moved Neil Walker from third to second and inserted Brandon Drury at third. Later we learned Torres was pulled due to the hip flexor issue that had limited him to replacement duties on Tuesday. After the game, Gleyber was placed on the 10-day DL when the MRI results revealed a mild strain. Hopefully Gleyber will only serve the minimum time on the DL and will be back after the All-Star break.

The fifth inning started right for CC Sabathia when he struck out Dansby Swanson, but then he issued a free pass to Ender Inciarte in a 10-pitch at-bat. Ozzie Albies single to center to put runners at the corners. Danny Santana grounded out to second but Inciarte scored on the play for the Braves’ first run. CC was able to escape any further damage by getting Nick Markakis to line out to center.

The Braves got another run in the sixth inning when Johan Camargo deposited a Sabathia pitch into the left field seats. Charlie Culberson, the former LA Dodger who always seems to come up with the big hit, followed Camargo’s homer with a double to left. Manager Aaron Boone stayed with Sabathia who was able to exit the inning by inducing Dansby Swanson to ground out to second.

The seventh inning brought the rested Chad Green into the game, and although the Braves made noise, they had no runs to show for it when all was said and done. Ender Inciarte and Ozzie Albies both singled to lead off the inning, with Inciarte moving to second. Representing the tying run, both Danny Santana and Nick Markakis hit deep flies off Green to cause momentary alarm but neither was deep enough to do any damage. Subsequently, a double steal advanced the runners to second and third. Kurt Suzuki had a chance to be the hero for the visiting Braves, but he lined out to right on a 2-0 pitch from Green to end the threat.  

Aaron Judge gave the Yankees an insurance run in the eighth when he hit his 24th home run of the season with a blast to right off Braves reliever Luiz Gohara. Hey, Gohara, that ball go far-ah! Well, not too far but it was still deep enough to set off the siren. Don’t worry about it, Mr Gohara, Judge has a tendency to do that to a lot of pitchers. The Judge homer made it 6-2, Yankees.  

Jonathan Holder, another rested arm, entered the game in the ninth in relief of Dellin Betances who had pitched a scoreless, one-hit inning (double by Charlie Culberson) in the eighth with a couple of strike outs. Holder, like Betances, allowed a hit (a single by Ozzie Albies who subsequently advanced to second on defensive indifference), but the runner could not advance beyond second as Holder closed out the game for the Yankees’ win. 

In retrospect, the Yankees could have easily swept this series but taking two of three from the NL East leaders is still a noteworthy accomplishment. I was glad they prevented the Braves from becoming the second NL team to reach 50 wins. The Yankees (56-28) stayed a game behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East standings. The Red Sox completed a three-game sweep of the disappointing Washington Nationals with a 3-0 victory on Wednesday behind a much-improved Eduardo Rodriguez. The Sox are only a win away from becoming MLB’s first 60-game winner.   

The Yankees have a much-needed day off today as they prepare for a weekend series in Toronto, Ontario against the Blue Jays. All eyes will be on Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ when he takes the mound against the Yankees on Saturday. With trade speculation connecting Happ to the Yankees, he has an opportunity to show his potential future teammates what he can do. I guess it’s one of those situations where I want him to pitch really well but still take the loss. There’s a part of me that is quietly hoping GM Brian Cashman is able to pry Jacob deGrom from the New York Mets, but the realist in me knows that is very unlikely. Happ may not be in deGrom’s class, but he’d still represent an experienced improvement for the rotation. He would not shy away from the challenge of taking down the Houston Astros or Boston Red Sox.  

Neil Walker becomes the starter at second base while Gleyber Torres is sidelined. Brandon Drury, who served as the regular starting second baseman for the 2017 Arizona Diamondbacks, is also an option. I am hopeful that some regular playing time will help bring around Walker’s bat to minimize the pain of Gleyber’s loss. Ronald Torreyes is currently on the temporary inactive list with Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre so he is not expected to be an option to replace Torres on the active roster. Tyler Wade seems most likely, but we’ll see. The Yankees have options given the terrific depth at Triple A.  

A happy belated birthday to Yankees broadcaster John Sterling who celebrated his 80th birthday on the 4th of July (a birthday he shared with the Boss). George Steinbrenner would have been 88 yesterday. Michael Kay paid tribute to Sterling with his home run call for Giancarlo Stanton’s third inning homer using Sterling’s “Giancarlo, non si puo stoparlo” tag line.

Masahiro Tanaka made a rehab start for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders against the Buffalo Bisons on Wednesday. It didn’t start off very good. The first batter singled and the second, Richard Urena, took Tanaka yard for a two-run homer. But Tanaka recovered nicely, retiring fourteen in a row at one point. He finished with five innings of three-hit ball, giving up only the two first inning runs, and struck out four. He didn’t walk anybody, and did not factor into the decision. The RailRiders won the game, 4-2, thanks to a four-run seventh inning that included a double, scoring two runs, by likely call-up candidate Tyler Wade.  

Enjoy the day off. I am sure that with the 4th of July celebrations, we could all use some rest. Tomorrow is a new day, and the Yankees will be back in action north of the border and on a TV near you.  

Go Yankees!

Returning the Favor…

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (John Munson)

Yanks Take Series Against Red Sox…

A day after a lop-sided loss to the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees got revenge with a similar 11-1 beating of the Sox. I really wanted an identical 11-0 beating to match the Red Sox winning score on Saturday but Aroldis Chapman lost the shutout in the ninth. Oh well, all is good with the ten-run victory and a woefully quiet Red Sox Nation.

It was disheartening to watch the Yankees fall behind behind by six runs in the first two innings during Saturday’s loss so I am sure the Red Sox fans felt the same way yesterday. I had felt so much more confidence with Luis Severino pitching for the Yankees and perennial Yankees punching bag David Price going for Boston. Six home runs from the home team, including three from the other Aaron (Hicks), certainly did not hurt. On an evening when so many balls were leaving the yard, it was odd that Giancarlo Stanton didn’t join the party.  But he had a couple of hits and scored a run so not all was lost.  

First, Severino. Sevy has been one of the best pitchers in the American League this year and after this game, he might be the best. He’s 13-2 with 1.98 ERA, both marks are the best in the league.  Justin Verlander had been the ERA leader for most of the season but he currently stands at 2.12.  If Sevy is not named the starter for this year’s All-Star Game, it will be a travesty by Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch. For this game, Severino shut out the Red Sox for 6 2/3 innings, yielding only two hits and three walks. He struck out six to increase his season total to 138. I might have been a little worried going into the game that Sevy might not have his best stuff coming off his masterful performance against the Philadelphia Phillies last week, but Sevy showed why he is the ace of the staff. I am very happy Luis Severino is a Yankee.

As for the other guys, Aaron Judge got the homer party started early with a one-out homer over the center field wall into Monument Park.  After a single by Giancarlo Stanton and a double from Didi Gregorius, Gleyber Torres continued his magical season with a blast to right to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead.  David Price could only look up at the scorecard and think “there goes my ERA”.  Gleyber’s smile in the Yankees dugout after the homer was, you could say, priceless.

In the bottom of the second, the speedy Brett Gardner reached on an infield single to second when a bobble and momentum took Brock Holt away from getting the ball to first in time. The eldest Yankees position player didn’t have to stand on first base very long. Aaron Hicks took David Price deep to right for the first of his three home runs on the night.  

Photo Credit: NY Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

The Red Sox had something going in the top of the third inning and could have climbed back into the game. Mookie Betts worked a two-out walk and advanced to third on a single to left center by Andrew Benintendi, the first hit off Severino. It brought J.D. Martinez to the plate and the Red Sox Nation was probably thinking it would soon be a three-run game.  Martinez worked the count full and seemed to be in position for a big hit but a swinging strikeout ended the threat. A very nice job by Sevy in that spot.  No doubt it would have been a three-run homer if Sonny Gray had been on the mound.

The moment Kyle Higashioka had been waiting for happened in the fourth inning.  Higgy had struck out in the second inning to extend his Major League hitless streak to 0-for-22. But leading off the bottom of the fourth, Higgy made his first Major League hit a big one with a home run into the second deck in left field. Congrats, Higgy!  I hope it is the first of many.

 

An out later, Aaron Hicks had his second homer of the night, a shot to center. 8-0 Yankees, but they weren’t done. The Hicks homer ended David Price’s night and Aaron Judge greeted Red Sox reliever and fellow Fresno State alum Justin Haley with a single to left. Giancarlo Stanton followed with a double to left center, advancing Judge to third.  Didi Gregorius lofted a fly to left which was deep enough to score Judge with the third run of the inning.  

Manager Aaron Boone lifted Severino with two outs in the seventh inning after throwing 99 pitches and brought in David Robertson to record the final out, a fly out by Christian Vasquez.

With such a huge lead, I didn’t really expect to see Robertson, Dellin Betances and later Aroldis Chapman in the game. After D-Rob struck out the first two batters of the eighth inning, Betances came in to get the final out via a groundout to first by Andrew Benintendi.

With Hector Velasquez pitching for the Sox in the bottom of the eighth, Aaron Hicks blasted his third home run of the night with a shot to right from the left-side. The switch-hitting Hicks had recorded the first two homers from the right side. Hicks is only the third Yankee to hit three home runs in a game against Boston, joining Lou Gehrig and Mark Teixeira. Aaron Judge followed with a walk and took second on a single by Brandon Drury, pinch-hitting for Giancarlo Stanton. Neil Walker, who had entered the game at second in the seventh inning with Gleyber Torres sliding to short in place of Didi Gregorius, lifted a ball over the head of Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers into left to score Judge.  

Dellin Betances got the first out of the ninth inning (strikeout of J.D. Martinez) but Boone made the curious decision at that point to bring in Aroldis Chapman. Sandy Leon, pinch-hitting for Mitch Moreland, doubled into the left-field corner. Blake Swihart reached first on an infield single that advanced Leon to third. Rafael Devers hit a grounder to third and while the Yankees forced Swihart at second, Leon ruined the shutout when he scored on the play. Brock Holt hit a grounder to Gleyber Torres who, after looking toward first, tapped second base with his glove ahead of Devers for the final out. The Yankees win!  

The Yankees (54-27) put themselves back into a first place tie with the Red Sox (56-29) in the AL East and technically lead by percentage points (.667 to .659). My goal going into this series was to take two of three so I was very satisfied with the results. A sweep would have been great but as Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com often says, Sonny was not grayt.  Between Gray and David Price, the two Vanderbilt guys gave up fourteen runs in 5 2/3 innings. Not a great couple of days for former Commodores.

The last Yankee to hit three home runs in a game was a then-39 year old Alex Rodriguez who smacked three against the Minnesota Twins on July 25, 2015. A-Rod’s last homer of the game sailed over the head of Twins center fielder, you guessed it, Aaron Hicks. Hicks also had a homer in that game, a two-run shot off CC Sabathia. But the Yankees prevailed, 8-5.  

Poor Aaron Hicks. If Yankees Twitter had their way, Hicksie would have been DFA’d long ago. I have not felt the desire to bash Hicks (I’ll stick with Sonny Gray, Chasen Shreve and Neil Walker). I’d gladly take Hicks over DL-King Jacoby Ellsbury whom, honestly, I hope never wears the Pinstripes again regardless of the cost. If Estevan Florial was knocking at the door or if  Clint Frazier was a legitimate option for center, I’d feel differently but for now, I’m fine with Hicks in the outfield even if he hadn’t hit three dingers last night.  

The Yankees now host the NL East leading Atlanta Braves (48-34) for a three-game set at Yankee Stadium starting this evening. Jonathan Loaisiga (2-0, 1.93 ERA) gets the start. He’ll face former Detroit Tiger Anibal Sanchez who has pitched well for the Braves this year (3-2, 2.68 ERA) after being released by the Minnesota Twins during training camp.

It’s July which means it will be a big month for new Yankees. The 2018-19 International Signing Period opens today meaning some very talented international youths will soon begin their journeys for Major League dreams with Baseball’s most storied franchise. The non-waiver Trading Deadline is July 31st so the rumor mill, which was already cranked up, will be hitting on all cylinders for the next few weeks. Who will be the next players to pull on the famed Pinstripes? We will find out by month-end. Good times.

Go Yankees!

The Hot Stove League is Starting to Bubble…

And Then There Were Six…

The Yankees managerial interviews are over. According to Yankees GM Brian Cashman, there will be no further interviews nor will there be second round interviews in Tampa with the Steinbrenner family. According to sources, a clear frontrunner has emerged from the band of six although no speculation to who it might be.

As we know it, the following individuals interviewed for the job:

  • Rob Thomson 
  • Eric Wedge
  • Hensley Meulens
  • Aaron Boone
  • Chris Woodward
  • Carlos Beltran

My personal preference remains Hensley Meulens for manager (I like his championship pedigree as part of the coaching staff for three World Series champions in San Francisco and his strong communication skills and ability to converse in multiple languages).

Hensley Meulens

My choice for bench coach would either be Rob Thomson or Al Pedrique. But if Meulens does not get the job, I’d like to see either Aaron Boone or Carlos Beltran emerge as the choice.

With today’s announcement about the end of the interview process, it would seem that an announcement about the new manager is imminent. However, I am sure that there is still the small matter of ‘offer and acceptance’ before any official statements are made. Credit the Yankees for keeping this process, outside of the post-interview interviews, very mum.

I might be writing this post too soon as things could start moving very quickly for the next Yankees manager.

Player of Unique Abilities…

The MLB Owners met today (via conference call) to ratify the Posting Agreement with Nippon Professional Baseball. The agreement was met with unanimous approval. Otani is expected to be posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters later today. Once posted, teams will have three weeks to sign the two-way superstar. If he is posted today as expected, the deadline for signing will be December 22nd. Merry Christmas to us! All I want for Christmas is Otani. They are reporting that Otani is already in Los Angeles and preparing to meet with teams next week.

Shohei Otani

The Yankees made their public comment about Otani today when Brian Cashman said that Otani would be a “perfect fit” for the Yankees. However, there have been some unconfirmed reports that Otani would prefer to sign with a team that does not currently have a Japanese superstar (which seemingly would rule out the Yankees with the presence of Masahiro Tanaka). I personally think that Tanaka’s presence should be viewed as a plus to help Otani make the transition to life in the United States. After months of talking about Otani, it’s great that we are finally moving to the next phase. Cashman, in Stamford, CT for his annual rappel down the Landmark Building, said, “Obviously, he’s a player of unique abilities. I am certainly hopeful that he sees all the characteristics that the New York Yankees would have to offer.” Cash, we’re hopeful too.

Austin Romine Day…

This might not have the same impact as Shohei Otani, but the Yankees had a decision to make today on backup catcher Austin Romine. They had to decide if they would tender a 2018 contract by tonight’s 8 pm ET deadline for clubs. There had been some speculation the Yankees could non-tender the 29-year-old Romine, making him a free agent. But fear not, the Yankees have made the decision to tender 2018 contracts to all of their arbitration-eligible players which includes Romine.  The other no-brainer decisions were Dellin Betances, Sonny Gray, Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, Tommy Kahnle, Chasen Shreve, and Adam Warren.

There have been calls on this blog site for the Yankees to sign Alex Avila to back up Gary Sanchez. There’s no guarantee that Romine retains his backup job next Spring, even though he was tendered a contract today, so Avila is not out of the question. Another option, Kyle Higashioka, was hitless in 18 MLB at-bats last season and he played in only 21 minor league games due to injury. It’s anybody’s guess what he will bring in 2018 but he did hit .338 with nine dingers in his limited minors play. It would be nice if he comes to Spring Training happy and healthy, and shows that he can be the primary support for El Gary…with no offense to Romine (who, of course, has none).

Kyle Higashioka

One ex-Yankee has already been non-tendered today. Chase Whitley, who spent the last couple of years in Tampa, was waived by the Rays and claimed by the Atlanta Braves.

Happy Belated Birthday, Mo…

I know that Mariano Rivera pitched at an elite level into his 40’s but it was still hard to believe that Mo turned 48 years old on Wednesday. Man, I loved that guy! He was by far my favorite Yankee during the Dynasty years.  We wish him a very Happy (Belated) Birthday!  And,  yes, we still miss that amazing right arm on the Yankee Stadium mound.

Mariano Rivera (Credit:  Jim McIsaac, Getty Images)

The Hot Stove League has been simmering for the last month, but we are now on the edge of rapid fire. Let’s hope it brings great news for the 2018 Baby Bombers.

Go Yankees!

The Losing Skid Continues…

Credit:  Andrew Villa-USA TODAY Sports

A’s 4, Yankees 3…

The Yankees finished their West Coast trip with a six-game losing streak.  After winning the first game against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim last Monday, they did not win another game in the Pacific Time Zone (finishing the trip with a 1-6 mark).  The A’s series is the first time the Yankees have been swept this year. This has been a long, agonizing road trip. Late games, blown leads, emotional losses, pileup of injuries, etc.  Every loss was a winnable game which makes it that much harder to accept. The starting rotation was 0-2 with 6.98 ERA for the last six games. The Yankees fly back home for a much-needed day off before resuming play on Tuesday in the Bronx against the Angels.

On Sunday, the Yankees jumped out early to a 2-0 lead over the Oakland A’s.  Matt Holliday homered off A’s starter Jharel Cotton in the top of the 2nd inning to start the scoring.  In the third, Brett Gardner led off with a double.  After Gary Sanchez struck out, Aaron Judge singled to right, scoring Gardner.

Unfortunately, like the other games, the Yankees couldn’t hold the lead.  In the bottom of the third, the A’s tied the game at two on a two-run double by Chad Pinder.  They then took the lead when Khris Davis hit his 18th home run of the season off Luis Cessa to put the A’s up, 4-2.

Didi Gregorius quickly answered with a home run leading off the fourth to pull the Yankees within a run.  But unfortunately for our guys, it would represent the last run scored in the game.

Luis Cessa (0-1) was pulled after four innings, allowing a total of 5 hits and 4 runs. One bad inning but enough to push the team to another loss.  He walked one and struck out 4 in an outing that will most likely buy him airfare to Scranton, PA.

Credit:  Thearon W Henderson-Getty Images

The Yankees had a scoring opportunity in the 9th against the A’s Sean Doolittle.  Didi Gregorius reached second on a two-base throwing error with one out.  Sadly, Chase Headley struck out and Chris Carter weakly popped out to Yonder Alonso in foul territory to strand Gregorius, the potential tying run.

It’s incredibly painful to lose so many close games.  After showing signs of fighting back in the earlier losses, the last two were feeble offensive performances after the Yankees lost their early leads.  Chris Carter is killing this team.  There’s a reason that the Milwaukee Brewers said ‘thanks, but no thanks’ when they cut Carter after a season in which he hit 41 home runs.  At least they got a plethora of bombs.  Although Carter has gotten a hold of a few mistake pitches this season, he is mostly providing rally-killing outs.

Aroldis Chapman was able to get one inning of work in to at least justify the cross-country flight to join the team for one game before boarding the eastbound plane back to NYC.  It was a clean inning for Chapman as he retired the three batters he faced with just 8 pitches.  He struck out the first batter he faced.  The other two were groundouts.

Credit:  Tony Avelar-Associated Press

The Yankees (38-29) will now have a day to regroup with the return to New York.  The Eastern Time Zone never looked so good.  The Boston Red Sox beat the Houston Astros 6-5 to move into a first place tie with the Yankees.  Every team in the AL East picked up a game on the Yankees yesterday.  The Tampa Bay Rays are just 3 1/2 games behind, followed by the Baltimore Orioles (4 1/2) and the Toronto Blue Jays (5 1/2).  The Red Sox play this evening against the Royals in Kansas City so it’s very possible the Yankees could find themselves in second place when play resumes tomorrow.

Odds & Ends…

After a two-day stint backing up Austin Romine while Gary Sanchez sat out a couple of games, Kyle Higashioka is headed back to Scranton.  He was optioned on Sunday to make room for closer Aroldis Chapman.  Higashioka did not appear in any games so he remains in search of his first Major League hit (hitless in 18 at-bats this season).

Chance Adams gets the attention at Triple A, but RHP Caleb Smith is now 5-0 for the RailRiders after throwing a one-hit shutout on Sunday.  The RailRiders defeated the Buffalo Bisons, 2-0.  Smith, 25, went the distance (7 innings), walking two and striking out seven.  His season ERA is 2.44.  Adams, who also won this weekend, is 4-2 with 2.43 ERA.

Credit:  Fred Adams-For Times Leader

Gleyber Torres has been placed on the 7-Day Disabled List with the hyperextended elbow.  He will consult with Yankees team physician Dr Christopher Ahmad on Monday.  They are saying that Torres could be out of action for more than a week.

Former Yankees prospect Peter O’Brien, who has become much-travelled, has been claimed by the Los Angeles Dodgers.  O’Brien was designated for assignment by the Texas Rangers earlier this month and subsequently placed on waivers.  The Yankees traded O’Brien to the Arizona Diamondbacks in July 2014 in the deal that brought Martin Prado to New York.  The D-Backs traded O’Brien to the Kansas City Royals this past January.  He was subsequently claimed off waivers by the Cincinnati Reds, and then the Rangers.  The Dodgers become the fifth team to take a chance on O’Brien this year.  Teams love his power but quickly grow weary of his plate discipline and questionable defense.

Have a great Monday!  On the bright side, it is impossible for the Yankees to lose today. Here’s hoping for better results tomorrow.

The State of the Curious…

With the impending returns of shortstop Didi Gregorius and catcher Gary Sanchez within the next few weeks, the Yankees have some decisions to make.  Granted, Kyle Higashioka goes back down to AAA to become the starting catcher for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, retaining his seat at the table (the 40-Man roster).  But for Pete Kozma, the future is less certain.

There’s no reason to protect Kozma on the 40-man roster.  It is possible that the Yankees stash him at AAA when Didi returns for insurance, but, realistically, why?  As I type this post, shortstop Tyler Wade is the top hitter for the RailRiders with a .386 batting average (17-for-44 in 11 games).  He has also stolen 6 bags.  With Ronald Torreyes moving back to the super-sub role, Wade represents the greatest shortstop insurance going forward.  Therefore, if it’s my call, Kozma is DFA’d upon Didi’s return.  If he clears waivers, assign him to AAA.  If he is claimed, so be it.  It’s no great loss.  The downside to assigning Kozma to AAA is the fight for playing time with Wade.  So, I’d probably just cut him outright and send him on his way.

The decision then becomes what to do with the 40-man roster spot vacated by Kozma.  It probably doesn’t make sense to give it to Wade (not yet anyway).  I could see the Yankees giving it to a pitcher like Tyler Webb to be part of the bullpen shuttle throughout the summer.  The harder decisions about the 40-man roster will have to be made after the season and before the Rule 5 Draft in December.  For now, the roster decisions are about who can help us today, not tomorrow. 

I know that we didn’t quite make it, but there is something about a ten-game winning streak that I’ve always loved.  It cures all ails.  It is so fun to go more than a week without feeling the agony of defeat.  The Yankees missed making it ten-in-a-row by two games but it was still a fun ride.  The sad part is that with a few clutch hits here and there and no error by the aforementioned Kozma, the Yankees probably could have extended the win streak to nine.  But as they say, that’s the way the ball bounces, so I guess I’ll just have to look forward to the next streak to achieve my self-fulfilling objective for ten. 

Coming into the season, I really had my doubts about Luis Severino and his ability to be a quality major league starter.  I was starting to feel that his stuff played best in the bullpen.  At a quick glance, his stats do not tell the story.  He is 1-1 with a 4.05 ERA in three starts.  It sounds very pedestrian, but then you look at 20 innings pitched (an average of nearly 7 innings per game) with 27 strikeouts.  More impressive is his 0.80 WHIP (14 hits and 2 walks).  He is currently behind only five pitchers for the lowest WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched).  The only pitchers with better WHIP are Ervin Santana of the Minnesota Twins (0.45), James Paxton of the Seattle Mariners (0.57), Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros (0.62), Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers (0.70), and Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox (0.74).  Severino is in very good company.  I know it’s just three starts but this is a significant improvement over last year and it does appear to be sustainable.

Credit:  Noah K Murray/USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to the improved performances of both Severino and Michael Pineda, there is reason for optimism with every starter in the rotation.  This also supports that the Yankees could have another extended winning streak coming their way in the not-so-distant future.  Good times at Yankee Stadium. 

The Yankees signed LHP Nestor Oronel, 20, to a minor league deal.  The Pittsburgh Pirates released Oronel after three years in March.  My first thought was that Oronel is just fodder for minor league starting pitching depth.  But being a lefty and only 20 years of age (he doesn’t turn 21 until December) leads me to believe that he might be viewed as a reclamation project.  

Gleyber Torres has been placed on the 7-day Minor League DL with his shoulder injury.  Manager Joe Girardi said on Wednesday that he just has some inflammation in the shoulder and shouldn’t be down too long.  So, it does sound as though the team (and Torres) dodged a bullet, and he will be back in the Trenton Thunder lineup soon.

The Yankees returned to the win column with Wednesday night’s win over the Chicago White Sox, 9-1.  Masahiro Tanaka didn’t have his best stuff, but he still went 7 innings, giving up only a single run.  He struck out 6 and walked two while scattering six hits.  The Yankees need this guy to be hitting on all cylinders, and he’s getting closer.  It was a great offensive night as every starter had a hit, and the team was homer happy with four.  

The Yankees only allowed former closer David Robertson to get one save opportunity as they took the three game set from the White Sox, two games to one.  At 10-5, the Yankees are percentage points behind the Baltimore Orioles (9-4).  They lead the third place Boston Red Sox by a game, although the Red Sox can cut the distance by a 1/2 game with a win today (an off day for the Yankees).  Since the Orioles also play today, the Yankees could either be 1/2 game behind the O’s at the end of the day or they could be the AL East Leaders.  

Friday, the Yankees head to Pittsburgh for a weekend series with the Pirates.  Like the White Sox, the Pirates feature a few former Yankees.  Catchers Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart, and Pitchers Ivan Nova and Wade LeBlanc.  You could loosely throw Gerrit Cole into the category although he was never officially a Yankee.  He was a former top draft pick who never signed.   Although Nova wears Andy Pettitte’s number (46) for Pittsburgh, his first start against his former team will pit him against his old number (47) when he matches up with Jordan Montgomery on Sunday.  

The Yankees deserve this day off.  They’ve exceeded expectations and have been a very exciting team to watch.  It’s amazing to think it’s only going to get better when Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius are back and Greg Bird is hitting like we know he can.

Have a great Thursday!  One in row, Baby!  Let’s make it two on Friday!