|Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)|
Astros win ALCS Rematch…
The headline of this post are Aaron Boone’s words, not mine.
I preface this by saying I know Spring games mean absolutely nothing. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say my fear of the Houston Astros is their starting pitching. I think the Yankees’ offense is equal to the World Champions. Some argue the Yankees are better while other put the Astros on top. Either way, both offenses will be among the very best in the game. Now, the starting pitching, at least in my opinion, is not quite so close.
Yesterday’s matchup featured the number five starters for both teams. For the Yankees, Jordan Montgomery gave up two solo home runs. Meanwhile, Houston’s Lance McCullers, Jr held the Yankees hitless until Miguel Andujar’s lead-off single in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Astros limited the Yankees to two hits, winning the game 2-0. The game felt like a microcosm of the difference between the Yankees and the Astros. Of course I didn’t actually get to “see” the game since it was not televised and I am not in Tampa. Manager Aaron Boone felt that Montgomery was “crisper” than earlier Spring starts. Giving up two runs is not the end of the World and in fact it fits within the definition of a quality start (outside of the shortened number of innings for Spring starts). A good start by Monty but a dominant one by the son of a former Yankee.
The top of the Yankees order (Brett Gardner, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, and Didi Gregorius) went 0-for-12, with five strikeouts.
I am not going to fret over a meaningless Spring game but it is the back end of the starting rotation that concerns me when you compare the Yankees to the Astros. Don’t get me wrong, I like Jordan Montgomery but seriously I’d rather have McCullers, Jr. The difference maker is the depth. The Astros have Brad Peacock and Colin McHugh, two very capable pitchers in reserve, if there are any injuries in the rotation. The Yankees have Luis Cessa and Domingo German. The top young prospects like Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield have shown they are not quite ready to be a force at the MLB level, now, even if we know they eventually will.
Maybe I am unnecessarily concerned about the rotation and the young guys will rise to the challenge if the chips are on the line. But if it was my team, I’d be trying to find a way to sign Alex Cobb, a ‘tried and true’ AL East pitcher.
Is Tyler Austin bound for Scranton?…
I was wrong yesterday when I said that Ronald Torreyes might be the one most adversely impacted by Neil Walker’s presence on the roster. After hearing Boone’s words yesterday, it sounds like the guy who should be most concerned about making the Opening Day roster is Tyler Austin. Boonie sounds like he is comfortable with a second base tandem of Tyler Wade and Walker, finding regular at-bats for both, and indicated Walker is the one who could provide relief for Greg Bird at first base.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)|
I can’t really put my finger on it, but it has never seemed like the Yankees have fully embraced Austin despite his big hits. I know that health is part of it, but it just doesn’t seem like they want him on the MLB roster. I hope I am reading that wrong and Austin turns out to be a major contributor for the team this year.
Cave finds a home…
I have always liked Jake Cave but I recognized there was simply no room for the talented outfielder. I remember how excited he was to participate in Spring Training with the Cincinnati Reds as a Rule 5 draftee a couple of years ago. He started the Spring off strongly and was drawing raves, but he cooled off and was subsequently returned to the Yankees.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rob Tringali)|
After Cave was designated for assignment earlier in the week to make room for Neil Walker, the Yankees shipped the 25-year-old outfielder to the Minnesota Twins for young Dominican RHP Luis Gil, 19. Gil was not rated among the Twins top prospects and has yet to play outside of the Dominican leagues. He continues the Yankees trend of stockpiling young power arms with tremendous upside. Cave was inserted at #26 for the best Twins prospects by MLB.com, ahead of Twins outfielder and New York native Zack Granite.
In Minnesota, Cave is expected to help at the Major League Level or provide depth at Triple A. For his sake, I hope it’s the former. The Twins made statements yesterday they’ve been interested in Cave since last year’s Jaime Garcia trade. They noticed the power surge and it is something that they want to “keep on track” in the words of Twins manager Paul Molitor.
We wish Cave the very best as he continues his journey to reach the Major Leagues.
Speaking of finding jobs…
The Toronto Blue Jays have signed infielder Danny Espinosa, recently released by the Yankees, to a minor league contract with an invite to camp. Espinosa will have a very short time to prove that he belongs on the field when the Blue Jays open Rogers Centre on March 29th against Espinosa’s old club. The best way for an infielder to play in the Major Leagues? Find the team that employs Troy Tulowitzki. Tulo owns the DL in a way that only Jacoby Ellsbury understands.
The odds are probably against Espinosa this late in March so he’ll probably toil in Triple A until injuries open up big league opportunities.
Well, it’s Saturday. For most of us, that’s a day off. Nothing better than sitting back to watch a Yankees game on a lazy afternoon. Fortunately for us, today’s Spring game between the Yankees and the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, Florida (1 pm Eastern) will be televised. Masahiro Tanaka on the mound and Estevan Florial in center field. It should be a fun day!
|Photo Credit: Associated Press|
|Credit: Associated Press|
Yankees 13, Astros 4…
I have to admit that I thought Friday night’s game against the Astros was going to be a struggle. The Yankees did not arrive in Houston until 6 am after playing and the losing the rain-delayed game in Chicago the night before. They arrived deep in the heart of Texas to play MLB’s best team and were scheduled to face the very tough Lance McCullers, Jr, the son of a former Yankee. It was noted before the game that McCullers had not given up more than three runs in any of his home starts this year. Against the Yankees, he was 2-0 with 0.75 ERA since 2016. Fortunately, the Yankees came together as a team…as they’ve frequently done this year…and came away with the decisive victory.
Early on, it looked like it was going to be another struggle for runs that would potentially come up short. The Astros scored their first run in the bottom of the inning when George Springer led off with a double against Yankees starter Michael Pineda. He moved to third on a ground out and scored on a sac fly by All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve.
The Yankees picked up a run to tie the game in the third. Brett Gardner led off with a double when the ball dropped in despite a running dive by Astros right fielder Josh Reddick. It looked like McCullers might escape when he struck out the next two batters, but Didi Gregorius doubled down the first base line to score Gardy.
The Yankees had two runners in scoring position in the top of the 4th with no outs. Unfortunately, both Tyler Wade and Chris Carter struck out. The inning was over when the runner on third, Austin Romine, attempted to score on a wild pitch. Nice trick slide though as Romine tried unsuccessfully to evade the tag.
|Credit: Bob Levey-Getty Images|
In the bottom of the 4th, the Astros led off with two singles. A throwing error by right fielder Tyler Wade put runners at second and third. After former Yankee Brian McCann struck out, another former Yankee, Carlos Beltran, hit into a ground out which scored the lead runner. Marwin Gonzalez followed with a single to score a run and the Astros led, 3-1. With McCullers Jr pitching well, it looked like it would be difficult to make a comeback.
But the light at the end of tunnel occurred in the sixth inning. Didi Gregorius opened with a single. After Chase Headley struck out, Austin Romine walked and the Astros made a pitching change. They brought in Michael Feliz to replace McCullers Jr. Ronald Torreyes greeted Feliz with a single to left, scoring Gregorius. Tyler Wade struck out for the second out, but Chris Carter, Brett Gardner, and Jacoby Ellsbury followed with run-scoring singles to put the Yankees up, 5-3. A fielding error allowed Gardy to advance to 3rd. He scored the fifth and final run of the inning when Feliz threw a wild pitch. 6-3, Yankees. I really hated to see Feliz go but the Astros brought in Reymin Guduan and he secured the final out.
|Credit: Karen Warren-Houston Chronicle|
Nevertheless, the 7th brought more Yankee offense. Chase Headley and Austin Romine opened with singles, and Ronald Torreyes walked to load the bases. Tyler Wade hit a grounder that erased Headley at home and Chris Carter (wait for it) struck out. So, with two outs and the bases loaded, Brett Gardner, who largely struggled during the month of June, came to the plate. On a 3-2 count, Gardy put one over the right center field wall for the grand slam (his 15th homer of the year, and just two away from his career high).
|Credit: Bob Levey-Getty Images|
With the seven run lead, Michael Pineda’s night was finished. Much better results than the last time Pineda faced a Texas team. Pineda (8-4) went 6 innings and allowed 7 hits, 3 runs (2 earned), and struck out 3. He didn’t walk anybody and more importantly, he didn’t give up any home runs. It wasn’t a perfect outing but he gave the Yankees exactly what they needed…a fighting chance until the offense got untracked.
The Astros picked up a meaningless run in the 8th when Josh Reddick opened with a double and advanced to third on a throwing error by Jacoby Ellsbury. He scored when Jose Altuve grounded out. Despite a subsequent single allowed, Bryan Mitchell, who had relieved Pineda in the 7th, was able to get out of the inning without any further damage.
The Yankees tacked on three more runs in the 9th. Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade both walked. Chris Carter struc…I mean…doubled to score Torreyes. Brett Gardner lofted a sac fly to right to score Wade, his 6th RBI of the game. Jacoby Ellsbury hit into a groundout, scoring Carter. The runs gave the Yankees the final margin of victory, 13-4. Bryan Mitchell set down the Astros in order in the bottom of the ninth to earn his first save of the season. Great job by Mitchell to protect the bullpen and to keep the Astros down.
The Boston Red Sox defeated the Toronto Blue Jays, 7-4, in 11 innings, so the Yankees (43-35) remain one game behind in the AL East Standings. The Tampa Bay Rays also won in extra innings (6-4 over the Baltimore Orioles) so they are still 3 games behind the Yankees.
This was a great team victory.
|Ronald Torreyes, the “Tall” One…
Credit: Karen Warren-Houston Chronicle
Odds & Ends…
All of our hearts are with Yankees outfielder Dustin Fowler as he begins his recovery from knee surgery on Thursday night. It will be a long, hard road of recovery and rehabilitation. It’s been reported that he’ll be on crutches for three months before he begins physical therapy. Everyone is hopeful that he’ll be ready by the time training camp in Tampa opens next February. I thought it was cool the team had a face-time call with Fowler in Joe Girardi’s office before yesterday’s game.
In the aftermath of Fowler’s devastating injury, the Yankees made a few expected moves on Friday. With the placement of Fowler on the 10-Day DL and the demotion of Ronald Herrera to Triple A, the Yankees recalled RHP Bryan Mitchell and 3B Miguel Andujar. For Andujar, he returns as a Major League Vet albeit with just one game under his belt. But it will be hard for him to match that terrific first impression (3 hits, 4 ribbies). I hope his defense is ready to play at the MLB level. I’d like to see him get a few turns at third as an alternative to Chase Headley and Ronald Torreyes. I am glad to see that Mitchell is back. He is a Major League pitcher that just gets caught in the numbers game. But he’s always been one of my favorites. Best of luck…and health…to both men.
Clint Frazier, according to multiple reports, will be called up today for his first trip to the big leagues. I was surprised when the Yankees recalled Miguel Andujar after previously saying they wanted him to get more reps at third. Nothing against Andujar and of course he had the greatest possible MLB debt performance, but the Yankees have a greater need in the outfield. Rob Refsnyder is not the right answer to rotate with Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Aaron Judge (keeping those guys fresh). I’ve heard the most likely candidate to be sent down will be reliever Bryan Mitchell who made an extended appearance in last night’s game in relief of Michael Pineda. I assume that Andujar is another potential candidate for the trip to Scranton, PA. He was a convenient call-up for the Yankees following Fowler’s injury because he was still in Chicago. Frazier will be the 10th Yankee to make his MLB debut this year (counting Fowler’s very brief appearance).
|Credit: J Conrad Williams, Jr|
CC Sabathia pitched a simulated game on Thursday and is expecting to make his next start. I assume that Luis Cessa will be return to Scranton when Sabathia is activated off the DL. Still no word about Matt Holliday as tests continue. This is a bit frightening, to say the least. I really hope this is not something more serious than we’ve been led to believe. Tyler Clippard was away from the team on Friday to attend his grandmother’s funeral. He is expected back today.
Have a great Saturday! Even better if the Yankees can pull out a second victory against a very tough Astros squad. Let’s Go Yankees!
The latest Yahoo Sports MLB Power Rankings that pushed the New York Yankees to #1 were a bit premature. These Yankees are not quite up to par with the high flying Houston Astros (who were ranked #3). Two games does not a season make, but the Yankees haven’t exactly shown they can hang with the Astros so far in this series.
The Astros seem to have every answer and it appears that both Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran have found themselves on the right side of the equation.
Credit: Frank Franklin II/Associated Press
Right now, the two best teams in Baseball are the Astros and the Washington Nationals (even with their bullpen problems).
The Yankees have two games to right the ship. They can prove that they can play with the Astros, just not with pitchers named Keuchel or McCullers. Today’s game has been postponed due to inclement weather so the Yankees will play a double-header tomorrow for the joint Derek Jeter’s and Mother’s Day. It’s single-admission entry so only Sunday’s ticketholders have seats for the Derek Jeter ceremonies. Saturday’s ticketholders will be able to exchange their tickets for future games. The Bronx weather forecast calls for a 60% chance for rain tomorrow which falls to 20% by evening. The first game is expected to start at 2:05 pm. Hopefully we’ll be listening to Frank Sinatra singing New York, New York by the end of the day.
Yesterday’s game was not pretty. Brian McCann set the tone early with his three run homer off Jordan Montgomery in the fourth inning. The ball traveled just inside right-field foul pole into an area that McCann has frequently deposited pitches. As a guy we once cheered for, McCann is becoming a thorn. He caught the pitch that nailed Jacoby Ellsbury at the plate to end Thursday’s game, then he launched the deciding blast yesterday. Lance McCullers, Jr showed why he is one of the great young talents in the game. It was eery when the TV telecast showed a comparison of his dad pitching for the Yankees and then the younger McCullers. They are very similar with their pitching motions and release. Young Lance went six innings, holding the Yanks to four hits and no runs. He showed excellent control with no walks, and struck out seven Bombers (although Gary Sanchez was the most frequent contributor to those K’s).
The Yankees scored a run in the ninth inning on a two-out RBI single by Didi Gregorius, but it was too little, too late. Ronald Torreyes struck out to end the game.
I felt bad for Jordan Montgomery. Remove the McCann homer, and he didn’t pitch that badly. He did register 7 strikeouts, but the final line in six innings was not pretty. 8 hits and 4 runs saw the elevation of Montgomery’s season ERA from 3.81 to 4.19. As for the bullpen, Jonathan Holder and Tyler Clippard continue to show that the arms in front of Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman are very strong. Aroldis Chapman, on the other hand, is cause for concern. Chapman only lasted two-thirds of an inning in the ninth when he allowed three hits, including a two-out RBI single to Josh Reddick. With shades of his poor performance in Cincinnati earlier in the week, Chapman couldn’t finish the inning after he gave up a single to Jose Altuve. Giovanny Gallegos, making his Major League debut, had to be called on to retire the Astros (he induced Yankee killer Carlos Correa into a fly out to center). Hopefully this is just a temporary funk for Chapman and he is not seriously injured.
Credit: Elsa/Getty Images
Despite the loss (their third in a row), the Yankees (21-12) remain a half-game behind the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East as the O’s fell to the Kansas City, 3-2. The Boston Red Sox tried unsuccessfully to rally against the Tampa Bay Rays and lost 5-4, so there was no movement at the top of the division standings.
Chance Adams is getting closer to New York. You can feel the rumble. On Friday, the Yankees promoted the 22-year old right-hander from AA-Trenton to AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In six games for the Thunder, Adams was 4-0 with a 1.03 ERA. In 35 innings, he has only given up 23 hits, 6 runs (4 earned), 2 HR’s, and 15 walks. He has also sent 32 batters muttering to themselves as they walked back to the dugout after strikeouts. There’s no doubt we’ll soon be taking a chance on Adams in the Big Apple in the not-so-distant future if he keeps pitching like this. Given that he’s dominated every level, there’s little doubt that AAA is his next victim.
The word is that Tyler Austin will begin playing rehab games soon. So, when he is ready, the Yankees have decisions to make. They can send Austin to AAA or they can bring him to the Bronx. If he arrives at 161st and River and starts making solid contributions, Chris Carter is going to become obsolete. I do not see a need for Carter once both Austin and Greg Bird are healthy. If Carter was at least demonstrating some of the power that led to 41 home runs last year, it would be one thing but he’s not. He’s a one-dimensional player that isn’t exactly tearing it up in his one dimension. I think Carter needs regular at-bats to get into a groove but the Yankees are not going to afford him that opportunity (nor should they). The team would be best served by flipping Carter to another team for some spare parts.
Have a great Saturday! Stay dry and keep your fun and excitement at an all-time high!