Tagged: Luis Severino

No Answer for Justin Verlander…

Credit:  Eric Christian Smith-AP

American League Championship Series

Astros 7, Yankees 1…

Series tied, 3-3

If the Yankees are going to win the ALCS, they’ll need to figure out how to score more than a single run in a game at Minute Maid Park.  Three runs in three games is not going to get ‘er done.  The Yankees were getting hard hits against Justin Verlander on Friday night, but they had nothing to show for it.  Meanwhile, the Astros bats came alive and they seized the win in Game 6.

On the bright side, the Yankees have responded to adversity the entire post-season, winning ‘do or die’ games against the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians.  It’s that time once again so hopefully the Yankees can find a way to score runs and take the victory tonight.

Brett Gardner led off the game with a single to center over the outstretched glove of shortstop Carlos Correa.  Unfortunately, Aaron Judge followed with a grounder to Correa that the Astros quickly turned for a double play.  

After Luis Severino easily set down the Astros in the bottom of the 1st, Gary Sanchez reached first  base on a soft grounder to third to open the 2nd inning.  But El Gary wasn’t able to do more than have a brief conversation with first base coach Tony Pena when Verlander struck out two of the next three hitters (Greg Bird and Aaron Hicks) and got the middle batter (Starlin Castro) to fly out to center.

The Yankees got another hit in the 3rd inning, a one-out single up the middle into left center field by Chase Headley, but again the runner had no place to go as he was left stranded.

Meanwhile, through the first three innings, Luis Severino had yet to give up a hit.  Carlos Correa finally got the first hit for the Astros with a two-out single to right center in the bottom of the 4th.  Correa was left stranded but the tide was turning.  Instead of the hits against Verlander and none against Severino, the reverse pattern developed.  Verlander set the Yankees down in order in the 4th and 5th innings.  

Credit:  Eric Christian Smith-AP

The Astros led off the bottom of the 5th with a walk by Alex Bregman.  A groundout to Starlin Castro by Marwin Gonzalez moved the runner to second.  Sevy was unable to throw strikes to Evan Gattis and walked him on four pitches.  Brian McCann took advantage of the runner in scoring position with a drive to right that bounced over the wall on one hop for a ground-rule double, scoring Bregman and moving Gattis to third.  Like Gattis, Sevy was unable to throw strikes to George Springer, also walking him on four straight pitches.  The bases were loaded, with only one out.  Josh Reddick lofted a fly to center for the second out but it wasn’t deep enough to score the runner.  It brought Jose Altuve to the plate with the bases still jammed with Astros.  To borrow a line from Manager Joe Girardi, it’s not what you want.  Altuve rapped a hard drive to left to score Gattis and McCann.  The Astros were up 3-0.  It was end of the line for Severino.  Chad Green came in and got the final out when Carlos Correa popped out to Starlin Castro.  It was a very disappointing inning for the young 23-year-old starter and quite possibly his final inning of the year if the Yankees cannot find ways to score runs in Houston.

Credit:  NY Post: Charles Wenzelberg

The Yankees finally got a couple of hits in an inning against Verlander when they got two singles in the top of the 6th.  Chase Headley led off with a single to center.  Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge recorded outs (pop out to short and strikeout, respectively) but then Didi Gregorius lined a single to right, the ball dropping in front of right fielder Josh Reddick.  Runners at first and second with two outs for Gary Sanchez.  With one swing of the bat, El Gary had the potential to tie the game.  Sadly, all he could do was hit a grounder to short for the final out.  

More promise but ultimately disappointment continued in the top of the 7th when Greg Bird walked and Starlin Castro was hit by a pitch.  The HBP was not initially called by the home plate umpire but Girardi, learning from prior lessons, challenged the call and it showed that Castro had, in fact, been hit on the wristband.  Aaron Hicks had the first crack at Verlander but he struck out.  Todd Frazier was next and he hit a high fly to center, to the wall, and a leaping catch by George Springer.  Oh man, just another foot or so and the game would have been tied.  

Credit:  NY Post: Anthony J Causi & Getty Images

Chase Headley grounded out to the right side to end the threat, missing a huge opportunity for the road team.

In the top of the 8th, Verlander was finally out of the game, replaced by Brad Peacock.  After Peacock got Brett Gardner to fly out in left field foul territory (credit left fielder Marwin Gonzales for the running catch with very limited room), Aaron Judge blasted a pitch, nearly to the roof, over the wall in left center to make it a 3-1 game.  

Credit:  Houston Chronicle: Karen Warren

Signs of life…not.  Didi Gregorius flied out to left and Gary Sanchez struck out to end the inning.

For the bottom of the 8th, the Yankees replaced Chad Green with David Robertson.  Great job by Green.  After replacing Severino in the bottom of the 5th, Green did not allow a hit or run over 2 1/3 innings pitched.  He only walked a batter and struck out three ‘Stros.  For David Robertson, the results were not the same.  He was greeted with a homer to left over the scoreboard by Jose Altuve. After the game, D-Rob said that he threw the 2-2 pitch where he wanted but Altuve still went yard.  Carlos Correa was next and he doubled to left into the corner.  Yuli Gurriel singled to right and the Astros had runners at the corners and still nobody out.  Alex Bregman lined a double to left center on a ball that dropped between Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks to bring both runners around to score.  A throwing error by Didi Gregorius to home plate that got away from Gary Sanchez allowed Bregman to move to third.  Four batters, four hits, three runs (with a fourth to eventually score), no outs.  An ugly line for D-Rob and the end of his latest outing.  

Credit: NY Post: Charles Wenzelberg

Dellin Betances entered the game.  It started well when he struck out Marwin Gonzalez for the first out.  But then Evan Gattis lofted a fly ball deep enough to right center to score Bregman on the sacrifice as the throw from Aaron Hicks to Gary Sanchez was off the line.  The Astros had increased their lead to 7-1 over the offensively-challenged Yankees.  Brian McCann followed with a single to right that Starlin Castro couldn’t quite reach, but Betances got George Springer to ground out to third with a broken bat for the final out.  Two very ugly innings for the Pinstripers…the 5th and the 8th.  

The Astros brought their closer, Ken Giles, out for the top of the 9th despite the six-run lead.  It seemed odd to bring in your best reliever in that situation but Astros manager A.J. Hinch gets paid a lot more money than I do to make those decisions.  Greg Bird flied out to right for the first out, but then Starlin Castro singled to left center.  Aaron Hicks walked and the Yankees had two runners on base with only one out.  After a coaching visit to the mound, Giles settled down and retired Todd Frazier on a fly out to left.  He struck out Chase Headley swinging for the game-ending out.

I don’t know what you say after a game like this.  The Yankees were whipped in all facets of the game.  It was a game that you quickly forget and move on.  

The Yankees will pull out their stopper, CC Sabathia, for the seventh and final game of the series.  No doubt this is an ‘all hands on deck’ situation.  Dallas Keuchel has already said on record that he’ll be ready to thwart any rallies out of the bullpen, and even Justin Verlander was saying that he might be ready depending upon how his arm feels today.  Charlie Morton will make the Game 7 start for the Astros.  The childhood Yankees fan will get the opportunity to disappoint the many of us who are still Yankees fans.  Sabathia has not been defeated following a Yankees loss this year.  Let’s hope that streak continues one more time.  

Odds & Ends…

Yesterday, I wrote about the managerial openings but I could not have envisioned that the Washington Nationals would emerge as a team with an opening.  Their firing of Dusty Baker caught me by surprise.  Both John Farrell and Baker have proved that simply winning your division to make the play-offs is not enough. There’s no doubt that Baker mishandled the Stephen Strasburg injury situation earlier in the post-season and that may have been the ultimate cause for his dismissal.  The Nationals have one more shot next year before star Bryce Harper becomes a free agent so whomever gets the job will carry high expectations.  It’s a tough job to walk into and I thought they would have been stronger with the continuity of Baker, a very good manager, at the top.  The Nationals reportedly want to talk to Astros bench coach Alex Cora which could throw a monkey wrench into Boston’s plans to hire Cora.  There will be no honeymoon period for the guys who get the jobs with the Nationals and the Red Sox.  Win now or walk.

Of course, there’s still a chance that the Yankees could be looking for a new manager soon.  Never a dull moment in Major League Baseball.

Credit:  NY Daily News: Andrew Savulich / TNS

Have a great Saturday!  Bring home the AL Championship, Guys!  Thumbs down, you got this!  Go Yankees!

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The Dawn of Something Great?…

October Baseball On Our Minds…

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

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

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

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

The Managerial Musical Chairs…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Love for Dallas in Houston…

Credit:  Tony Gutierrez-AP

American League Championship Series

Astros 2, Yankees 1…

Astros lead Series, 1-0

The Yankees had the answer this season for Chris Sale and they finally figured out likely AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber in the post-season but Dallas Keuchel remains a mystery. Unable to generate any runs against Keuchel, the Yankees fell to the Astros in the first game of the ALCS despite a solid outing from Masahiro Tanaka.

Credit:  Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees didn’t pick up their first hit against Keuchel until Brett Gardner lined a single to left with two outs in the 3rd inning. Unfortunately, he didn’t go anywhere when Aaron Judge followed with his only strikeout of the game.

Starlin Castro picked up a single to left, just past the outstretched glove of running shortstop Carlos Correa, in the top of 4th inning, also with two outs, but like Gardy, he did not do anything except have a brief conversation with first baseman Yuli Gurriel. Aaron Hicks flied out to center, on huge fly that nearly took center fielder George Springer to the wall, to send Castro looking for his hat and glove to take the field. A couple more feet and the Yankees might have taken the early lead.

The Astros, meanwhile, didn’t miss the only opportunity that Masahiro Tanaka gave them. With one out in the bottom of the 4th, Jose Altuve singled on a grounder to second, beating the throw to first.  He subsequently stole second to put himself in scoring position. Carlos Correa’s single to left brought the probable AL MVP around to score the game’s first run.  Marwin Gonzalez hit a  slow grounder to second and was thrown out at first for the second out, but Correa advanced to second base. Yuli Gurriel’s single to center, a grounder up the middle between Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius, scored Correa and the Astros had a 2-0 lead.

Credit:  Elsa-Getty Images

The Yankees had their chance in the top of the 5th but were unable to convert.  Greg Bird led off with a single to right, a sharply hit ball just past first baseman Yuli Gurriel. Matt Holliday reached on a fielding error by Jose Altuve (bobbled the ball after stopping the grounder) so the Yankees had runners at first and second with no outs. Todd Frazier lined out to center and Brett Gardner struck out but Aaron Judge followed them with a single to left. Bird hesitated a moment and then raced around third and headed home. Unfortunately, left fielder Marwin Gonzalez threw a perfect strike in to catcher Brian McCann to nail Bird at the plate for the final out of the inning.  The Yankees challenged the play but replay showed Bird was less than a second too late. Sadly, Bird’s run around third seemed like slow motion compared Jose Altuve’s run in the prior inning. Credit Gonzalez and McCann for the stellar play.

Credit:  Elsa-Getty Images

Dallas Keuchel finally left the game after seven scoreless innings (and ten strikeouts). Houston fans may love Dallas (the pitcher, not the city) but I was very glad to see him leave. But the Astros bullpen is strong and set up artist Chris Devenski has been a better version of Dellin Betances this year. Still, the Yankees had their chance in the 8th against Devenski. Brett Gardner worked a one-out walk, which brought Astros manager A.J. Hinch out of the dugout to replace Devenski with closer Ken Giles. Giles promptly threw a wild pitch with Aaron Judge at the plate, allowing Gardy to move to second.  Judge grounded out to third for the second out, but Gary Sanchez walked to put two runners on for Didi Gregorius. The Yankees replaced Sanchez at first with pinch-runner Ronald Torreyes. Didi has come up so big for the Yankees in key spots this year but on this night, Giles won the battle when Didi swung and missed on an 0-2 count after three successive foul balls.  

In the top of the 9th, Giles struck out both Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks to start the inning. Greg Bird finally put the Yankees on the board when he homered to right, a high fly inside of the foul pole, to make it a one-run game.

Credit:  Anthony J Causi-NY Post

DH Matt Holliday was due up next, but Manager Joe Girardi opted to send Jacoby Ellsbury to the plate. Ellsbury went down swinging to end the game and hand the series advantage to the Astros.

In retrospect, the huge missed opportunity was Greg Bird’s out at the plate in the 5th inning. If he had gotten a good jump when Aaron Judge hit that drive to left, he might have beaten the throw. But hats off to the Astros for making their plays. The Yankees pitched a good game but the Astros pitched a little better. Fortunately, the bullpen will be rested for Game 2 as the Yankees only had to burn Chad Green in relief of Tanaka. Green pitched two frames of scoreless relief with 31 pitches thrown.  

Credit:  Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

On the bright side, Dallas Keuchel won’t take the mound again until a potential Game 5. The Yankees offense should fare much better against crafty veteran Justin Verlander (15-8, 3.38 ERA) and the rest of the Astros starters. For Game 2, Verlander will be tough, no doubt, but the Yankees can win this game and send the series to New York with a split. We’ll have staff ace Luis Severino (14-6, 2.98 ERA) to lead the way. I like those odds.

Have a great Saturday! A perfect day would feature a Yankees win! Let’s make it happen. Go Yankees!

The Road to Cleveland…

Credit:  Adam Hunger-Getty Images

American League Division Series, Game 4

Yankees 7, Indians 3…

Riding the arm of Luis Severino, who atoned for his Wild Card Game disaster, the Yankees defeated the Cleveland Indians to send the series back to Cleveland, Ohio for the series finale and the right to advance to the American League Championship Series.  

This game featured the legendary Mariano Rivera on the mound. Mo tossed the  honorary first pitch, looking as great as ever. It was a sign of good things to come.

Credit:  MLB.com

Once the game started, it was three up and three down for Luis Severino, showing no signs of the jitters that brought about his collapse against the Minnesota Twins in his previous start.  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

When Jay Bruce led off the top of the 2nd inning with a line drive single to right over the outstretched glove of Starlin Castro, Twitter bemoaned the break-up of Sevy’s “perfect game”. But no fear, Sevy retired the next three hitters, including the last two by strikeout, to ensure that Bruce got nothing more than a conversation with Greg Bird at first base for his effort.  

The breaks started going the Yankees’ way in the bottom of the 2nd. Trevor Bauer, pitching on short rest (he started Game 1 last Thursday), has been dominant against the Yankees this year. But on Monday, those famed dancers, Mystique and Aura, came out in full force. Greg Bird started things off by grounding out at second. That didn’t start right, let’s try this again. Starlin Castro hit a hard grounder to third that third baseman Giovanny Urshela knocked down but it rolled away and Castro was safe at first. Chase Headley struck out for the second out, and it looked like Castro might suffer the same fate as Jay Bruce had in the top of the inning. With Todd Frazier batting, a Bauer pitch popped out of the glove of catcher Roberto Perez for a passed ball, allowing Castro to move to second. Todd Frazier, who had expressed prior to the game how much he enjoys playing in the post-season with the Yankees, doubled to to the left field corner to score Castro with the game’s first run. The Toddfather! Aaron Hicks kept it going with a single to the gap in center, scoring Frazier. 2-0, Yankees. Brett Gardner followed suit with a roller up the middle into center field, moving Hicks to third. A steal by Gardner put both runners in scoring position for Aaron Judge. Judge hit a fly to left that hit the warning track and bounced off the wall for a bases-clearing double. The Yankees had increased their lead to 4-0. 

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

After an intentional walk of Didi Gregorius, Tribe manager Terry Francona decided to move to Plan B and pulled Bauer in favor of reliever Joe Smith. Smith got Gary Sanchez to pop out to first in foul territory for the final out, but it had been a very big inning for the Yankees with four unearned runs.

Severino easily breezed through the Indians lineup in the top of the 3rd to bring the Yankees to bat once again. Reliever Mike Clevinger took over for Joe Smith and walked Greg Bird to start the Yankees’ half of the inning. Starlin Castro doubled to center off the wall to advance Bird to third. After Chase Headley struck out (not a great game for the Headster), Todd Frazier walked to load the bases. Aaron Hicks grounded into a force out to first baseman Carlos Santana who quickly threw home to retire Bird for the second out. Brett Gardner followed with a grounder to third, but the normally reliable Giovanny Urshela, after a slight hesitation, threw the ball high to first which pulled Santana off the bag for his second error of the game. Gardy safe at first. It allowed Starlin Castro to score on the play. Another call to the bullpen brought in Danny Salazar who struck out Aaron Judge to get the Indians out of the inning. The Yankees had a five-run lead and things were feeling very good in the Bronx.

The top of the 4th seemed to be going Severino’s way when he recorded two quick outs but then he walked Jay Bruce. Carlos Santana made Sevy pay for it with a two-run homer to center into Monument Park to cut the lead to 5-2. A coaching visit to the mound by pitching coach Larry Rothschild, which often prove to be unsuccessful, worked this time as Sevy was able to retire Michael Brantley on a line out to center.

The Indians closed the gap to two runs in the top of the 5th when Roberto Perez hit a one-out home run into the right field seats, making it 5-3. Despite the home runs, Severino had seven strikeouts up to that point.

In the bottom of the 5th, the Yankees added an insurance run. Todd Frazier led off with a slow roller back toward the pitcher. Danny Salazar’s throw to first hit the ground and sailed past the first baseman, allowing Frazier to race to second. A ground out to first by Aaron Hicks moved Frazier to third. Francona came out and signaled for his lefty, Tyler Olson, to replace  Salazar to face Brett Gardner. Gardy hit a fly to shallow center that didn’t look like it would be deep enough, but Frazier challenged the arm of center fielder Jason Kipnis (normally the team’s second baseman) and won, scoring on the sacrifice.

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

Another pitching change, this time bringing in Bryan Shaw, saw another strikeout of Aaron Judge to end the inning.

Gary Sanchez padded the lead with his one-out home run to right, barely missing the second deck, in the bottom of the 6th. The Sanchino! The four-run lead gave the team much needed breathing room.  

Credit:  Getty Images

  

With Sevy still going strong, the Yankees had an opportunity for more runs in the bottom of the 7th. The Indians inserted their closer Cody Allen a little early (the benefit of having the very versatile Andrew Miller on the roster). Things didn’t go Allen’s way when Aaron Hicks reached second base, thanks to a one-out fielding error by first baseman Carlos Santana (hard grounder bounced off his glove into right field). Brett Gardner singled to right, moving Hicksie to third. Gardy took second on the high throw in from the outfield. But they would not advance any further when Aaron Judge struck out and Didi Gregorius popped out to short to leave the runners stranded.

Dellin Betances took over for Severino in the top of the 8th and unfortunately things did not go well for the tall right-hander. He walked Yan Gomes (after nearly taking his head off with one errant pitch), bringing pitching coach Larry Rothschild to the mound. Like it usually happens when Rothschild visits, it didn’t work. The inconsistent Betances walked Francisco Lindor on four straight pitches which ended his latest appearance. It was very disappointing to see Betances continue his struggles with control, which makes him very unreliable moving forward.

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Tommy Kahnle came into the game, and did the job Betances was once so good at…he retired the three batters he faced, two by strikeout.

Josh Tomlin took over for Cody Allen in the bottom of the 8th and easily discharged the Yankees to push the game to the 9th. Tommy Kahnle returned to the mound to face Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley, and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kahnle rose to the challenge and struck out the side with Chisenhall missing on his swing for the final out. The Yankees win!

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Nice job by Luis Severino who finished with nine strikeouts in seven innings of work. Four hits, three runs (on the two homers), and one walk. It wasn’t perfect but he held the Indians down while the Yankees took advantage of the three Cleveland errors to score six of their seven runs. Granted, Cleveland’s lineup is not the same without Edwin Encarnacion but they are more than capable of erasing leads quickly. Sevy did not allow it to happen. Dellin Betances tried but Tommy Kahnle saved him from himself.  

Chase Headley’s performance (0-for-4 with three strikeouts) has me wondering if it might not be time for Matt Holliday’s name to be penciled in at DH. Aaron Judge’s first hit of the series was a big one with the two RBI’s in the second inning, while Gary Sanchez’s homer seemed to help suck the life out of the Tribe.  

The series now moves to the decisive Game 5 at Progressive Field in Cleveland. Prior to yesterday’s game, Joe Girardi announced that CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA) would be the starter, not Sonny Gray. Sabathia returns to the site where it all began for him so many years ago. Corey Kluber (18-4, 2.25 ERA) will be seeking redemption in front of his home fans after giving up six runs in his last start. The Yankees have a huge challenge before them, but the pay off is a road trip to Houston, Texas for the ALCS. Win or lose, this has been a great year for the Yankees. The team has heart and they do not quit.  

Credit:  Amanda Rabinowitz-WKSU

The Houston Astros overcame the Boston Red Sox, 5-4, to win their ALDS, three games to one. There was some satisfaction when former Yankee Carlos Beltran provided what would prove to be the winning run when he delivered an RBI double in the top of the 9th. Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers had an inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the 9th but it was not enough as the Astros overcame both Chris Sale (in relief) and Craig Kimbrel for the win.  

Odds & Ends…

I figured there would be defections from the Yankees organization to join Derek Jeter in Miami but I didn’t think they would happen so quickly. George A King III of the New York Post reported yesterday, via Twitter, that it was Gary Denbo’s last day with the Yankees. The former VP of Player Development will become the director of player development and scouting for the Marlins. A self-avowed non-fan of Derek Jeter, I am starting to actually dislike the guy. This was certainly one of the risks when Jeter’s group won the bid for the Marlins and Denbo’s defection may not be the last. If for whatever reason the Yankees do not ink GM Brian Cashman and/or Manager Joe Girardi to new deals, the Yankees front office could have have substantially different look in 2018. I thought it was very poor taste for Denbo to leave prior to the conclusion of the post-season but then again, if he didn’t want to be here, good riddance.   


Former Yankee pitching prospect Rookie Davis underwent hip surgery on his right hip to repair the labrum and remove a bone spur. It is a significant procedure and Davis will not be ready by the time training camp opens next spring. Davis was traded to the Cincinnati Reds, along with Eric Jagielo, Caleb Cotham and Tony Renda, in the 2015 trade that brought Aroldis Chapman to the Yankees. Only Davis and Jagielo remain in the Reds organization. Cotham retired in March and Renda was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in July. We send best wishes for a full and speedy recovery to Davis.


Have a great Tuesday! We have a day to enjoy and get ready for Game 5!  Thumbs down! Let’s do this. Go Yankees!

The Road from the Bronx to Cleveland…

Credit:  Frank Franklin II-AP

American League Wild Card Game

Yankees 8, Twins 4…

Eventually, the Minnesota Twins will find the answer for their struggles in the Bronx but this will not be one of those years.  Admittedly, I was not feeling too good after Luis Severino had given up three runs on two homers in the opening inning and the Twins were threatening for more with only one out.  But exit Severino and enter the stellar Yankees bullpen, plus a few timely home runs, and the Yankees found themselves with a date with the Indians in Cleveland for the American League Division Series.  

For Luis Severino, it was a game to forget.  Whether it was his youth and/or his lack of post-season experience, he was overwhelmed and unable to find any of his pitches.  He needs to have another talk with Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, this time about life in October.  It was a learning experience for the youngster and I am sure that he’ll be stronger for it as we move forward.  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

The Twins quickly took the lead when Brian Dozier led off the game with a home run that landed in the first row of the left field stands, bouncing off a fan’s hands and back onto the field.  Still, I thought that it was something that Sevy could overcome.  He got the next batter, Joe Mauer, to pop up which Todd Frazier caught in foul territory for the first out.  But then Sevy was unable to put away Jorge Polanco and walked him.  Eddie Rosario hit a line drive to right that carried out, and it was 3-0 Twins.  Manager Joe Girardi picked up the phone to get the bullpen ready.  Eduardo Escobar singled to left center, and Max Kepler followed with a double to right, moving Escobar to third. Unfortunately, it was evident, by then, that Severino was not going to overcome the jitters. Girardi made the call to the bullpen and brought in Chad Green.  Using Girardi’s words, it’s not what you want.  But the decision to go to Green paid off with two huge strikeouts of Byron Buxton and Jason Castro to hold the game to a three-run deficit.  There’s no question that the Twins could have easily escalated it to five runs or more.  Holding the Twins to only three runs was tremendous, and the set the stage for the events to follow.

The game was billed as a battle of Dominican Republic pitchers.  Ervin Santana, the Twins ace, was born about 70 miles away from Severino’s hometown.  Santana, carrying an 0-5 record in six starts at Yankee Stadium, had been asked how many wins he had at Yankee Stadium earlier this week and he responded that Tuesday would be one.  Tuesday has passed and he’s still looking for that first win.  

Handed a three-run lead, Santana walked Brett Gardner to start the bottom of the first inning.  Aaron Judge  battled Santana before finally hitting a single to center to put runners at the corners.  Gary Sanchez popped up to the catcher for the first out.  It brought Didi Gregorius to the plate.  Didi has been nothing short of spectacular this season and he came through in a big way.  On a full count, he got a hold of a Santana pitch to deposit it into the right field seats.  Suddenly, with a swing of the bat, the game was tied.  

After Chad Green easily retired the Twins in the top of the 2nd including two by strikeout, Brett Gardner hit a two-out solo homer into the second deck of the right field stands in the bottom of the inning to give the Yankees their first lead, 4-3.  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

However, with Green still pitching, the Twins charged right back in the top of the 3rd.  Perhaps overstaying his welcome, the Twins loaded the bases when Jorge Polanco led off with a single to right and Green walked two of the next three hitters to load the bases with only one out.  Despite two starters in the bullpen, Girardi pulled Green and brought in David Robertson.  Byron Buxton grounded into a force out at second but Polanco scored on the play when the Yankees were unable to turn the double play to re-tie the game.  D-Rob struck out Jason Castro to end the inning and prevent any further damage. That was a huge spot for D-Rob and he came up big holding the Twins to only one run when they could have easily scored more.

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

In the bottom of the 3rd, Ervin Santana was gone, replaced by young Twins starter Jose Berrios.  Gary Sanchez led off the inning with a double to the left field wall.  When Berrios struck out the next two batters, it looked like he might be able to get out of the inning without Sanchez coming home to score.  Greg Bird had other ideas as he lined a single to right bringing Sanchez around for the go-ahead run.  5-4, Yankees.  Aaron Hicks singled on a soft grounder to third to put runners at the corners, but the Yankees couldn’t capitalize when Jacoby Ellsbury, starting at DH over Chase Headley and Matt Holliday, popped out to third to end the inning.

The Twins made a defensive substitution in the bottom of the 4th inning.  Byron Buxton, who had hit the wall to catch a Todd Frazier fly in the 2nd inning, was removed due to lingering effects of back tightness and replaced by New York native Zack Granite.  With the Twins’ best player, Miguel Sano, off the playoff roster dealing with his prior shin injury, losing Buxton, their next best great player was tough for the Twins.  Nothing against Granite, but he’s not the player Buxton is.  I hope that Buxton is okay and you never want to see a player leave through injury.  But that one hurt the Twins (no pun intended).  Todd Frazier struck out for the first out but Brett Gardner followed with a single to left on a fly dropped in front of the left fielder. Aaron Judge stepped up (literally and figuratively) and hit one of his shorter home runs to left.  I was unsure for a moment if it was a home run but the ball had indeed hit above the fence line before bouncing back on the field.  Judge, showing the most emotion I’ve seen from him as he rounded first base, circled the bases to give the Yankees a 7-4 lead.  

David Robertson was still pitching in the 6th inning, making one of his longest appearances.  Zack Granite led off with a single to right on a ball that got under Starlin Castro’s glove.  D-Rob struck out Jason Castro and Robbie Grossman for two outs, but that final out would prove elusive.  With Brian Dozier at the plate, a wild pitch allowed Granite to easily move to second.  Dozier subsequently walked to bring the tying run to the plate.   Girardi signaled for the bullpen and brought in Tommy Kahnle to replace D-Rob. Joe Mauer hit a long fly to left and for a moment I couldn’t tell if it was in or out when the TV crew switched cameras as the ball was falling.  Fortunately, Brett Gardner made the catch on the warning track for the final out.   Another huge spot with success for the Yankees.

Kahnle easily retired the Twins in the 7th inning.  In the bottom of the inning with Twins reliever Trevor Hildenberger on the mound, Aaron Judge got things started by taking a walk.  I thought it was an excellent at-bat for Judge as he avoided chasing any pitches.  Gary Sanchez hit a ball through the hole on the left side into the outfield.  Judge advanced to third.  The throw from the outfield sailed over the third baseman’s head (they probably could have nailed Judge at third had the throw been accurate) so Sanchez was able to move to second.  With no outs and two runners in scoring position, the Twins elected to intentionally walk Didi Gregorius.  Great strategy to open up the potential for the double play or a force out at home, but it left no margin for error.  Starlin Castro had the first crack at the potential scoring opportunity but he flied out to right.  With Greg Bird up next, the Twins brought in reliever Taylor Rogers, a lefty, for an all-Denver, Colorado battle (Bird is from Aurora, CO while Rogers hails from Littleton, CO).  Rogers won the battle when he struck out Bird for the second out.  The Twins made another call to the bullpen and brought in Alan Busenitz to face former Twin Aaron Hicks.  Busenitz couldn’t throw strikes and walked A-A-Ron on four pitches to bring Judge home.  The Yankees had increased their lead to 8-4.  Jacoby Ellsbury flied out to leave the bases full, but the Yankees added an important insurance run.

Tommy Kahnle came back out for the 8th inning and retired the Twins in order. The Twins nearly had a base runner with one out but Zack Granite ran over first base without touching the bag on a grounder to first.  Bird tossed the ball to Kahnle who dropped the ball but Starlin Castro alertly picked up the ball to tag Granite out before he could get back. I didn’t expect to see Dellin Betances given his struggles in September so I was very glad to see Kahnle continuing to pitch very strongly to get the game into the 9th inning and into the hands of Aroldis Chapman.  Chapman gave up a two-out single to Joe Mauer but the inning was never in doubt as Chapman easily shut down the Twins, striking out Jorge Polanco to end the game.  The Yankees win!  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

I am still not a fan of the single-game elimination but the Yankees persevered and head for Cleveland to face the Indians for Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Thursday.  Now I can say that I am very joyous about the Yankees being in the post-season. It is so hard to be excited about a potential ‘one and done’ situation and I was very uneasy coming into the game.  It didn’t help when Luis Severino had nothing and gave the Twins the strong early lead.  You’d think that the Law of Averages would eventually tilt in Minnesota’s favor given the Yankees long-standing history of dominance over the Twins.  I was very pleased that Tuesday was not their night.  They’ll eventually get a key victory in the Bronx but it won’t be this year.  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Congratulations to the New York Yankees for moving to the next round!  I have very proud of this team and their accomplishments this year.  They may not win the next round but the Yankees have shown the world their future is bright.  This team has the potential to surprise but if not, there’s no doubt this will be a stronger team when they take the field next season.  

Game Notes…

Chasen Shreve threw out the first pitch.  The Las Vegas native symbolized representation for his home city after this week’s senseless tragedy that claimed 58 lives and injured more than 500 people. There was a moment of silence observed for the victims.   

Credit:  Paul J Bereswill-NY Post

Earlier this season, Chase Headley took one near the family jewels.  The same fate was bestowed upon Gary Sanchez when a foul ball hit the catcher where the sun doesn’t shine causing Sanchez to roll on the ground in pain while David Robertson was still on the mound.  Ouch!  Fortunately, he was able to continue. That was a painful experience to watch.  It would not have been fun to be the recipient.  

Have a great Wednesday!  We have a day to enjoy and then the work begins on Thursday.  Go Yankees!

Sevy & The Case of Homers & K’s…

Credit:  Bill Kostroun

Yankees 6, Rays 1…

Pitching like I hope he does next week against the Minnesota Twins, Luis Severino dominated the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday behind home runs from Starlin Castro, Greg Bird and Aaron Hicks.  He amassed nine strikeouts to put place his name among the greatest statistical leaders in franchise history.

On paper, the matchup looked like a mismatch in favor of the Yankees.  However, Rays starter Matt Andriese kept the game scoreless for the first four innings.  Then, Tampa’s Adeiny Hechiavarria led off the top of the 5th with a home run, a high fly into the left field seats, to give the Rays an early 1-0 lead.  

Fortunately, the Yankee bats finally woke up in the bottom of the inning.  Jacoby Ellsbury got it started by working a walk off Andriese.  Aaron Hicks hit a grounder into right field, on a ball that got past a diving Brad Miller at second, for a single.  Ellsbury raced around to third base.  After Brett Gardner hit a line drive right at the shortstop for the first out, Aaron Judge doubled to the left field corner to score both Ellsbury and Hicks.  The Yankees had taken the lead, 2-1.

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

After Severino breezed through the Rays in the top of the 6th, retiring two batters by strikeout, Starlin Castro led off the bottom of the inning with a home run to left center into the Rays bullpen.  The Rays pulled Andriese and brought in reliever Xavier Cedeno.  Greg Bird, with his beautiful swing, greeted Cedeno with a homer to right.  Chase Headley kept it going with a single to left that squeezed through 3B Evan Longoria and SS Adeiny Hecchavarria.  Jacoby Ellsbury grounded back to the pitcher for the out at first, while Headley moved to second.  Aaron Hicks ended Cedeno’s short stint when he homered on a high fly into the left field seats.  The Rays pulled Cedeno and replaced him with Jose Alvarado.  It looked like the Yankees’ big inning, with four runs already across, might continue.  Brett Gardner doubled to left, and Aaron Judge walked. However, Alvarado struck out Gary Sanchez on three pitches and got Didi Gregorius to hit into a ground out at short.  However, the Yankees had increased their lead to 6-1.

In the top of the 7th, Chasen Shreve replaced Severino.  As the team’s primary lefty in the bullpen, Shreve has been consistently inconsistent for weeks.  He walked the first batter he faced, Stephen Souza, Jr.  Corey Dickerson hit a grounder to first and the Yankees were able to force Souza out at second.  But Adeiny Hechavarria followed with a single to right.  Shreve was able to strike out Brad Miller, who has been struggling this year.  But that would all as Joe Girardi opted to go with Chad Green to face Jesus Sucre.  Green retired Sucre on a grounder to short that forced Hechavarria out at second with a flip from Didi Gregorius to Starlin Castro to end the inning.  

Dellin Betances pitched the 8th inning and looked strong.  He retired the three men he faced with a total of 13 pitches.  No walks, no hits, his 100th strikeout of the season…this is the Dellin that we need for October.

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

Aroldis Chapman pitched a clean 9th inning, ending the game on a swinging strikeout of Corey Dickerson.  The Yankees win!

The Yankees (89-69) moved to twenty games above .500 for the first time this season.  Unfortunately, the Boston Red Sox took a step closer to sewing up the AL East Championship with a come-from-behind 10-5 thrashing of the Toronto Blue Jays.  The Yankees remain three games behind the Red Sox with four to play.  The Minnesota Twins lost 4-2 to the Cleveland Indians but they clinched the second Wild Card spot when the Los Angeles Angels fell to the Chicago White Sox in extra innings, 6-4.  The Twins become the first team to reach the playoffs after losing 100 games in the preceding season.  

Credit:  Ron Schwane-AP

Luis Severino (14-6) now awaits the probable Wild Card game start next week against the Twins in the Bronx.  He lowered his season ERA to 2.98.  His six innings of work yielded only four hits, a walk and a single run for the Rays. His nine strikeouts allowed him to reach 230 for the season, putting him in a third place tie with CC Sabathia for the most strikeouts in club history.  Sabathia reached the mark in 2011.  The strikeout leader is Ron Guidry who struck out 248 batters in his magical 1978 season, while Jack Chesbro had 239 K’s in a mind-blowing 454 2/3 innings in 1904.  

This was another great team win with multiple hitting stars.  The Yankees can become a 90-win team with their next victory.  Honestly, that seemed impossible at the start of the season.  Without so many key injuries, I have no doubt the Yankees would be leading the AL East right now.  But the Yankees are now nearly healthy as they approach the season’s biggest game next week against the Twins.  I am not giving up on the AL East until the numbers say it’s over, but at this point, it does seem improbable.  This is a much better team than the one that lost the 2015 Wild Card game to Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros. 

Odds & Ends…

MLB Owners officially approved the sale of the Miami Marlins to the investment group headed by Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter.  The sale is expected to close within the next few days.  I was never a big Jeter fan so I guess I am a little indifferent to the end of his direct association with the Yankees.  I am sure that the true Jeter lovers are having a more difficult time but realistically, the Yankees won’t see the Marlins very often.  If they meet in the World Series, great!  Otherwise, it’ll just be a few games every few years in interleague play.  I am not going to lose any sleep about Jeter.  He was a great Yankee and he is immortalized in Monument Park.  But he’s a Marlin now.  I don’t wish him any more luck than I’d wish Brian Sabean in San Francisco or Billy Eppler in Anaheim.  They are simply other teams and…they are not the Yankees.  

Credit:  Getty Images

My favorite Core Four player was Mariano Rivera.  No disrespect for Jeter and what he did for the Yankees.  But now, he’s just another guy trying to beat the Yankees.

I hate the one-game ‘do or die’ Wild Card format.  I prefer at least a three game series that MLB could squeeze in without pushing the World Series to November.  I still think the best team may or may not win a three-game series but it’s a thousand times better than the single game elimination.  I take this position regardless of whether or not the Yankees win the Wild Card game.  

Have a great Thursday!  Let’s say goodbye to the Rays in good fashion…with a win!  Go Yankees!

Bye-Bye Birdie, Hello Playoffs…

Credit:  Tom Szczerbowski-Getty Images

Yankees 5, Blue Jays 1…

What a difference a day makes! Put Sonny Gray on the mound, give him a few runs and all is better in the world as the Yankees beat the Blue Jays and secured a post-season berth.  

On paper, Sonny Gray versus Joe Biagini seems like a mismatch. But early, Biagini was the better pitcher. Biagini breezed through the first three innings facing only the minimum number of batters (thanks to a double play in the second inning which eliminated the only Yankee baserunner). Meanwhile, Gray had a runner in scoring position in the first inning (which he escaped) and then allowed a third inning home run to Teoscar Hernandez which gave the Blue Jays the early 1-0 lead. Hernandez absolutely crushed the ball high into the center field stands. It was his second home run against Yankees in as many days.

The Yankees finally broke through against Biagini in the fifth inning. Chase Headley led off the inning with a walk. While Jacoby Ellsbury was batting, Headley successfully stole second. Ells subsequently struck out, but Starlin Castro followed by taking the second walk of the inning. Greg Bird, with a beautiful swing, homered to right center. As John Sterling said, “Bye-bye, Birdie! In the right field seats…the Birdman of New York…and the Yankees promptly take the 3-1 lead”.  

Gray was cruising until the sixth inning when he had trouble throwing strikes and had two men on base with free passes with only one out. Kevin Pillar lined a sharp fly to left center on a ball that looked like it might have a chance to drop in but a great running catch by Brett Gardner prevented the potential extra base hit. Gray retired the next  batter, Ryan Goins, on a ground out to get out of the inning.  

Credit:  Tom Szczerbowski-Getty Images

For Gray, his day was done. Chad Green came in for the bottom of the seventh, and did what he does best. Three up, three down…two by strikeout. C-Green will certainly help the Yankees see green (the money) in October.  

Credit:  Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Todd Frazier added an insurance run in the top of the eighth when he hit a solo home run over the center field wall. 4-1, Yankees. David Robertson took over in the bottom of the eighth and repeated Green’s performance…three batters, two strikeouts. Wash, rinse, repeat…it works for me.

On to the top of the ninth and the Yankees weren’t done. Gary Sanchez led off the inning with a double off the center field wall. Kevin Pillar went to the wall and got his glove on the ball but surprisingly, for Pillar given his strong defense, wasn’t able to make the catch. Gary Sanchez hesitated as if he thought the ball was either caught or out of the park but then ran safely to second after realizing it was in play. Moral of the story, always hustle. Chase Headley reached on a one-out walk, but he was erased when Jacoby Ellsbury hit into a fielder’s choice that erased Headley at second. But Sanchez was able to move to third. So, runners at the corners and two outs for Starlin Castro.  Castro hit a slow infield grounder that got past the pitcher. Third baseman Josh Donaldson charged the ball but couldn’t make the transfer. Runners safe as Sanchez crossed the plate for the Yankees’ final run.

Aroldis Chapman took over in the bottom of the 9th. He didn’t have the strikeouts of his two predecessors, but he still retired the three batters he faced in the non-save situation for the win. It was appropriate the final out was recorded by former Yankee Robert Refsnyder, pinch-hitting for Ryan Goins, when he hit a grounder to first with Greg Bird stepping on the bag to end the game. The Yankees win!

Credit:  Fred Thornill-AP

The Yankees (86-68) were business-like on the field with hugs and high-fives after the game, but pandemonium broke loose in the clubhouse as the Yankees celebrated their first post-season appearance since 2015.

Credit:  Tom Szczerbowski-Getty Images

Credit:  Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the win, they were unable to make up any ground on the Red Sox and remain four games behind in the AL East. Boston defeated the hapless Cincinnati Reds, 5-0, in a game that featured an inning of relief by Reds reliever Luke Farrell, son of Red Sox manager John Farrell. It would have been poetic justice for the younger Farrell to beat his pop but it was not meant to be.  The Yankees also remain 5 1/2 games up on the Minnesota Twins for home-field advantage in the Wild Card game. The Twins haven’t secured their WC spot yet but they continue to win and presently hold a commanding 4 1/2 game edge over the Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals, and Los Angeles Angels.  

Sonny Gray (10-11) showed what Masahiro Tanaka did not. When the stakes are high, raise the level of your play. Gray may not have had his best stuff on Saturday but he held the Blue Jays to four hits and one run in six innings. He walked three, but that was primarily the two he walked in the sixth when he was tiring. He struck out four.  

Excellent job by the Bullpen. Three innings, no hits, no runs, four strikeouts.  The Bullpen is the October difference-maker. If the Yankees can only get Dellin Betances right, you have to like the team’s late inning chances against the game’s best teams.     

Odds & Ends…

Magic Numbers:  The Yankees magic number to clinch home-field advantage for the Wild Card game is three (any combination of Yankees wins or Twins losses). The more impossible reach (AL East Championship) stands at five games (any combination of Red Sox wins or Yankees losses). With eight games remaining, the Red Sox do not play a team with a winning record until they entertain the Houston Astros at Fenway Park starting Thursday for the final series of the season. Even then, it’s possible that the Astros won’t have anything left to play for if the Cleveland Indians secure home field advantage for the play-offs. In other words, I don’t see the Red Sox losing anytime soon.

It does seem weird to have a champagne (and beer) celebration for the right to play one game that may or may not be won by the best team. I know, it’s better to have some chance than no chance. I personally do not buy into the Yankees’ dominance of the Twins as reason for optimism. Too much can happen with a single game and a bad start by the likely starter, Luis Severino, can send the Bombers home for the winter. My excitement will come if the Yankees can win that single game to advance to the expanded play-offs against the division winners.  

Luis Severino was struck by a batted ball before yesterday’s game. He was in the outfield playing catch during pre-game warmups when he was hit in the shoulder. The ball was believed to have been hit by Blue Jays catcher Luke Maile. Sevy dropped to the stadium turf but was able to get up to resume playing catch after being checked out by head athletic trainer Steve Donohue.  Fortunately, it was his non-throwing shoulder but it’s still scary to see your ace go down.  

Have a great Sunday! Hopefully this is a winning final road game of the regular season kind of day. Go Yankees!