Tagged: Masahiro Tanaka

Drama-Free Saturday Night…

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Mark J Terrill)

Yanks Score Early, Win Big…

The Yankees put up ten runs in the first two innings in Anaheim, CA and coasted to an 11-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday night.

I guess the Yankees were telling their East Coast fan base it was okay to go to bed early. Very considerate of these young and very talented Yankees.  Always looking out for Yankees fans.

The FOX announcers were quick to point out that no team had ever scored five runs in consecutive innings to start a game against the Angels in the history of the franchise. Considering the Yankees have not matched up well against the Angels in recent years, it was even sweeter for the Yankees to win the first two games of the series. What’s amazing to me is the Yankees did it without any home runs or Didi Gregorius (0-for-3, although he did score a run after walking in the first inning, thanks to a couple of errors by the Angels’ Zack Cozart and a huge double to the left field corner by Gary Sanchez). If the Yankees are doing this well with minimal contributions from Giancarlo Stanton, what happen when the big guy goes on one of his home run tears? It’s scary to think what this offense is capable of when they are hitting on all cylinders.

When the Yankees scored those early runs, I felt this would be the game we’d see the Yankees debut of former Washington National A.J. Cole. Sure enough, Cole was assigned mop-up duty for the game’s final two innings. He extended the game a little further than I would have liked, leaving two baserunners in each frame, but at least he didn’t allow any runs. I’d love for pitching coach Larry Rothschild and the Yankees to figure out a way to unleash the potential talent in Cole but the first outing only reinforced that he is an eventual DFA candidate.

As for Masahiro Tanaka (4-2), it was a great start. Yes, he gave up another home run (as he, unfortunately, often does), but solo shots when you are leading by ten runs are not consequential. Masa’s final line was excellent…6 innings, two hits, one run, two walks, and nine K’s. He only threw 88 pitches but there was no need to extend him deeper into the game although he certainly could have. This is the Masahiro Tanaka we need for the long summer ahead.

Photo Credit: Orange County Register (Bill Alkofer)

The win was the eighth consecutive for the Yankees (17-9) but surprisingly they are not the hottest team in baseball. They share honors with the Tampa Bay Rays who also won their eighth straight with a big 12-6 win over their former ace, David Price, and the Boston Red Sox. The Rays were expected to reign supreme in the AL East Cellar this year but they’ve hurt their cause with a six-game lead on the pathetic Baltimore Orioles. Meanwhile, the Yankees have quietly slipped to within two games of the front-running Boston Red Sox and the calendar has not yet flipped to May. I guess they were right when they said that the AL East would not be decided in the month of April. Seriously, I didn’t grip when the Red Sox took off running to start the season but there were many Yankees fans who did. It’s still a very long season and it will be awhile before anything is decided…except that these Yankees are very good.

The Yankees conclude their three-game series with the Angels this evening and will be featured on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.  Alex Rodriguez has been in town getting ready to provide color on his favorite team for the ESPN broadcast crew. The game features CC Sabathia (1-0, 1.86 ERA) against Tyler Skaggs (3-1, 2.96 ERA). The Yankees have a flight to Houston, Texas so they’ll have to work quickly tonight if they have any plans for sleep. The most brutal stretch of the schedule continues but at least the Yankees are winning.  I know that helps me sleep better at night.

The Yankees lost RHP David Hale last week when he was claimed by the Minnesota Twins on waivers.  However, his stay with the Twins did not last long.  He gave up four runs in three innings during his Twins debut on Friday night and was subsequently designated for assignment. I suspect he’ll clear waivers this time around and will head to the minor leagues for the Twins. I wish the 30-year-old the very best as he tries to recapture the pitches necessary to sustain MLB success.

There has been much talk and debate about the impending return of third baseman Brandon Drury. It’s tough. Miguel Andujar has shown that he is ready and capable of being the regular at third. I was and remain a big fan of Drury and I still feel the Yankees will unlock greater magic from the bat of the former Arizona Diamondback. But admittedly, I agree you cannot sit Andujar. Perhaps Andujar goes into a slump and is inevitably sent down to Triple A. I hope not and doubt it but as the FOX crew frequently reminded us, “these things have a way of working themselves out”.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Although I think it will be a pitcher that does down to make room for Drury’s return from the 10-day DL, Neil Walker’s position the roster is becoming tenuous. Sure, he did have 2 RBI’s during yesterday’s win over the Angels but he is only 11-for-67 (.164/.219/.194, .413 OPS) and has yet to rediscover his power stroke. Drury’s ability to play first and second make Walker a redundant luxury since we know Ronald Torreyes is not going anywhere and Gleyber Torres is firmly planted as the team’s starting second baseman.

Walker is going to hit and he is capable of helping someone so armed with a team friendly contract, the Yankees should get some level of return for him in a trade rather than simply cutting him. I like the guy but there are only so many roster spots.

It blows my mind the guys the Yankees are connected to on the international market this summer were born four to five years after the great 1998 World Series championship. It seems like it was only yesterday the Yankees were on their magical run en route to 125 victories including the post-season.

Like many people, I thoroughly enjoyed Avengers: Infinity War this weekend and encourage everyone to see it. With lengthy trailers that carry the overall theater time to more than three hours (as with any Marvel movie, you have to stay through the end of the closing credits), I was caught up in every sequence of the movie and it certainly did not feel like I had been planted in my seat for three hours. It is highly recommended to visit the bathroom ahead of the movie and avoid any drinks. This is not a movie to step away for a few minutes for a trip down the hall.

Enjoy your Sunday and make it a wonderful day before you settle in to watch ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. Let’s keep this winning streak alive. Only two games from my goal of ten in a row.

Go Yankees!

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The Land of Confusion…

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

He’s out or was he?…

I couldn’t help but think of the old Phil Collins/Genesis song during the eventful sixth inning of last night’s game between the Yankees and Angels. The title; not necessarily the lyrics although I could hear the music in my mind when Giancarlo Stanton was ruled out for not tagging second base on the near-home run by Neil Walker that was caught by the Angels’ Kole Calhoun above the right field wall.  Video replay showed Stanton did tag up when Walker’s fly was caught so he should not have been doubled off second.  The photo above occurred earlier in the game when Stanton stumbled after hitting his single in the second inning but it seemed appropriate for the game’s events.

Even though the Yankees could not specifically challenge the tag play at second, they could have challenged the overall play which started with the catch by Calhoun and would have encompassed the ‘did he or didn’t he’ play at second. By the time the Yankees figured it out, it was too late to challenge. So much for Joe Girardi as the only manager in Yankees history for not getting a challenge call right. Sorry Boonie, we still love you.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

Fortunately, the Yankees scored a run on the play when Didi Gregorius tagged from third and scored ahead of the questionable tag out of Stanton at second.  There was some doubt whether Didi touched home plate prior to the out at second but the Yankees got that call which was perhaps the only one that eventually mattered. Kudos to Didi for starting that inning by reaching base on a perfectly placed bunt to third.

As the saying goes, all’s well that ends well. Didi Gregorius ensured the continuation of the Yankees winning streak with a tenth-inning home run, the margin of victory preserved by Aroldis Chapman (despite a two-out double by Zack Cozart) to close out the game, for the 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Didi Gregorius is doing it all for the Yankees right now. It’s amazing that he hit 25 home runs last year and didn’t play his first game until a year ago today.  This year, Sir Didi enters April 28th with 10 home runs and 30 RBI’s. He is batting .368/.459/.828 with 1.286 OPS. Forget Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, the Yankees are going to need big money to re-sign Didi at this point if he keeps up his All-World performance. And he’ll be worth every penny.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

Didi Gregorius for President.  But he’s not as good as Derek Jeter or one of the ten best shortstops in the game, right?  There is no other man I would want covering shortstop for the Yankees right now than Sir Didi.

When I lived in the Los Angeles area, I would frequently attend the Yankees games in Anaheim and was always amazed at the high number of Yankees fans among the Sea of Red. So it was no surprise to me that the seemingly partisan-Angels crowd called Didi out for a curtain call. Weird for a road curtain call but then again the Yankees are like traveling rock stars especially when they are doing well. The Bandwagon is open, hop aboard!

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

The game’s first score came courtesy of a second inning solo shot by Japanese rookie Shohei Ohtani.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports, via Reuters (Jayne Kamin-Oncea)

I had viewed this game as a match up of the Yankees off-season targets. The guy they got against the guy they didn’t. Although he departed the game early (trying to run out a ground ball in the bottom of the fifth) with a sprained ankle, the first matchup goes to Ohtani over Stanton for his home run. Stanton was 1-for-4 (single) but struck out twice and did not score a run. Hopefully Ohtani is okay and won’t miss much time. I am still not happy about how the Ohtani signing went down but I certainly do not wish any ill will on the player. I am a firm subscriber in the belief that to be the best you have to beat the best so I want the best Angels on the field.  I had been looking forward to today’s match-up featuring Masahiro Tanaka against Ohtani but I assume we’ll most likely have to wait for another time.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

Granted, Gregorius was the star of this game (as he is in nearly every game), but one has to throw mention to Brett Gardner. His ninth-inning sacrifice fly with the bases loaded tied the game and set the stage for Didi’s dramatic game-winning home run. Gardy rolled off the bench and pinch-hit for Ronald Torreyes in the key spot, simply doing his job. It was the first blown save of the season for the Angels’ young new closer Keynan Middleton. It would have been great to pick up a few more runs but the Angels could have easily shut the Yankees down from there to emerge with the victory. Brett was unwilling to accept no for an answer and delivered the game-tying sac fly.

Angels first baseman Albert Pujols picked up a hit in the game and now has 2,995 hits for his career. It’s not outside the realm of possibility for Pujols to join the 3,000 Hit Club this weekend but it will most likely happen for him some time next week. He’ll be able to feast on Orioles pitching when the Yankees leave town. I liked the stat Yankees starter Luis Severino was only 7 years old when Prince Albert got his first MLB hit.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

Thanks to the win, the Yankees (16-9) were able to gain a game on the division-leading Boston Red Sox.  The Red Sox lost a one-run game (4-3) to the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park. The game featured a home run by former Yankee Robert Refsnyder, his first of the year. Thanks Ref! It’s always great when the Yankees win and the Red Sox lose. The Yankees are now only three games behind the Red Sox after Boston’s scorching start to the season. The Rays have matched the Yankees game for game on this current seven-game winning streak as they are unbeaten in the same number of games. I hope their winning streak continues. For whatever reason, the Red Sox Nation does not seem to be beating their chests like they did earlier this year.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

I am grateful for a night game this evening even if the East Coast Yankees fans pay the price with lack of sleep. My afternoon features Avengers: Infinity War so I have my priorities. Thanks for your “willingness” to bypass sleep so that I can see the latest and greatest superhero movie.

Go Yankees (and Avengers, of course)!

Yankees Dominate Twins in Series Opener…

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Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

Solid Hitting, Pitching and Defense…

 The World always seems to be a better place the day after a Yankees win. Even better when the Yankees’ vaunted offense goes ‘Postal’ on the Minnesota Twins en route to the convincing 14-1 win. So much for Minnesota’s plans for the revenge game following their loss in last year’s Wild Card game to the Yankees. As a Vikings fan, I generally have a soft spot for Twins fans since we share a common alliance in football but all bets are off when they play the Yankees.

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Photo Credit: Pioneer Press (Richard Marshall)

Miguel Andujar continued his consecutive game streak with extra-base hits to rub shoulders with none other than Mickey Mantle and Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio. The trio of two Hall of Famers and a rookie are the only Yankees under the age of 24 to have an extra-base hit in at least seven consecutive games. When the Yankees acquired Brandon Drury to be their third baseman during Spring Training, I was solidly in Camp Drury. But when Drury returns from the DL, there’s no way the Yankees can sit Andujar. With no offense to Todd Frazier (a player I loved as a Yankee), third base is in better hands with Andujar and Drury than it was Frazier and Chase Headley. The dilemma for Manager Aaron Boone will be how to make room on the roster for guys like Drury, Jacoby Ellsbury, Clint Frazier and Greg Bird when they are healthy. Actually, it’s GM Brian Cashman’s job but still, there are some difficult decisions awaiting the team on down the road.

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The first major league hit is in the books for young future star Gleyber Torres. His single in the bottom of the eighth inning off Twins reliever Tyler Kinley halted an 0-for-7 skid to start his Major League career. Now that the first one is out of the way, Torres can settle in and play the game his way. I don’t know what was more exciting…Gleyber getting his first hit or Giancarlo Stanton’s 4-for-4 night with a home run, three runs scored and two RBI’s. Or the grand salami courtesy of The Shredder’s non-Top Ten shortstop, Didi Gregorius who continues to elevate his game to heights previously unimaginable.

Tyler Austin, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks…so many Yankees that contributed to last night’s big win. And, oh by the way, Masahiro Tanaka did not suck. He held the Twins to three hits and a single run over 6 2/3 innings and 91 pitches. He struck out five Twinkies while walking only two. Not bad for a day’s work. Chad Green and David Hale finished off the game, keeping the Twins from adding any further runs.

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

The Yankees are now 12-9 and have pushed themselves back to five games behind the division leading Boston Red Sox. They trail the second place Toronto Blue Jays by just a game. A few consecutive wins and everything looks rosy again. Of course, if they lose tonight against the Twins, it will be doom and gloom all over again. But for now, I am enjoying the win streak and hope it continues for the foreseeable future. I’ve always been a huge fan of ten-game winning streaks and there’s no time like the present to achieve one.

After holding the Twins scoreless over the final two innings last night despite allowing three hits, David Hale found himself in DFA limbo after the game. His roster spot was taken by former Washington Nationals right-hander A.J. Cole whom the Yankees acquired for cash considerations. All winter I wanted Brian Cashman to acquire RHP Cole. I guess I should have been more specific. Cole, 26, a former fourth-round pick, has been an occasional spot starter for the Nats and was scheduled to be their fifth starter this year until his performance forced the Nationals to replace him with veteran starter Jeremy Hellickson. His season line is horrific. He has given up 16 hits and 15 runs (including six homers) over 10 1/3 innings. He has walked six while striking out ten. It’s kind of funny. In his last appearance for the Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Hale gave up 12 hits and 6 runs. It earned him a promotion to the Bronx, where he gets his walking papers after pitching two scoreless innings. He is replaced by a guy who has been arguably worse. I guess the Yankees want Sonny Gray to feel like he isn’t the worst pitcher on the staff. To Cole’s defense, he has greater upside than Hale so I don’t necessarily have a problem with the move. But I hope pitching coach Larry Rothschild can fix whatever ails Cole’s pitches. At this point, he looks like a worse version of Bryan Mitchell, but who knows, maybe the Yankees see something in Cole that is not outwardly visible to the rest of us. Or maybe he’s just the next DFA candidate. I’d like to see Cole succeed. He’s still young enough to figure this thing out.

 Nationals Preview Baseball
Photo Credit: Associated Press (Matt Slocum)

Tonight’s game features the Twins’ very talented young righty Jose Berrios (2-1, 1.63 ERA) pitching against crafty veteran CC Sabathia (0-0, 2.70 ERA).  In his last start, Berrios held the Cleveland Indians scoreless with seven innings of work, allowing only three hits. In fact, he’s held three of his four opponents to three hits and no runs. The only blemish was an April 7th start against the Seattle Mariners when he was roughed up for five runs in 4 2/3 innings. It will be a tough game for the Yankees hitters but conversely it’s not going to be an easy one for Berrios.

Go Yankees!

The Showdown in Boston…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Adam Glanzman)

Yankees invade Fenway Park…

Without delving too much into last weekend, I’ve had better days. Losing three of four to a team that you are supposed to beat (the Baltimore Orioles) is difficult to accept, especially when the Yankee could have easily won the last loss when they had the bases loaded, no outs, in extra innings with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton coming to bat.

Am I disappointed in Stanton so far? Absolutely. Am I going to fret over him in Pinstripes as a result? Absolutely NOT! Death, taxes, and Giancarlo Stanton going on a home run tear are certainties of life. Things will get better and so will Stanton and Company. When Stanton is on one of his monster tears like last summer, his slow start (the two Opening Day home runs in Toronto excluded) will be long forgotten.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)

While the Yankees have struggled out of the gate (winning only five of ten games), the Boston Red Sox have been on a roll. The last time Boston lost was the season opener in St Petersburg, FL on March 29th. They have yet to lose another game, and lead the AL East by two games over the Toronto Blue Jays. The Yankees trail the Sox by three and a half games.  As many have already said, no division championships were ever won in April. Well, except for maybe a few NBA and NHL teams. For MLB teams, this is far from over. Once the Yankee bats heat up like we know they can, it’s going to be a fun and exciting chase in the American League East. The Red Sox can run but they can’t hide. The target is on their back; not ours.

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I am sure that Red Sox fans are ecstatic over their team’s 8-1 record but you have to keep in mind they did it against the lowly Florida teams. Sorry Jetes, but your team does suck right now (poor Starlin). So does Rob Refsnyder’s team. The Yankees represent the first real test Boston has faced this year. I know, it would be better if the Yankees weren’t scuffling coming into this series, but the intensity of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry always seems to bring out the best in everyone. The Red Sox will throw Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello at the Yankees on successive nights.  The Yankees counter with their best…Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, and most likely Sonny Gray. Win or lose, this is going to be a great series.  If the Yankees can take at least two of three, they’ll be in great shape. A sweep would be perfect but that might be asking for too much. So, for now, I’d settle for at least two of the games.

Tuesday, April 10th at 7:10 pm ET

Yankees:  Luis Severino (2-0, 1.38 ERA)

Red Sox:  Chris Sale (0-0, 0.82 ERA)

Wednesday, April 11th at 7:10 ET

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (1-1, 2.92 ERA)

Red Sox:  David Price (1-0, 0.00 ERA)

Thursday, April 12th at 7:10 ET

Yankees:  TBA (expected to be Sonny Gray, 1-0, 3.60 ERA)

Red Sox:  Rick Porcello (2-0, 2.84 ERA)

The Red Sox did suffer a setback prior to the start of the series. It was announced yesterday they have placed shortstop Xander Bogaerts on the 10-day DL with a small fracture in his left ankle. He is expected to be out 10-14 days. To take his place on the roster, the Red Sox recalled infielder Tzu-Wei Lin from Triple A Pawtucket. Lin and Brock Holt are expected to share time at short while Bogaerts is out.

MLB.com finally resolved the 40-man roster dilemma by removing Cody Asche. I never did see any explanations so I honestly do not know if Asche was reported on the 40-man roster in error or if he cleared waivers. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders site was also corrected to show that he is not on the 40-man roster. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why forty-one names were showing on the 40-man roster last weekend. I knew that Asche had to be the key but it was odd no explanations could be found. On the transactions page of MLB.com, the 4/04/18 entry shows that Asche was “optioned” to Triple A which implies that he was on the MLB roster. There are no subsequent transactions involving Asche, who started at third base last night for the RailRiders. I guess whatever the situation is/was, they got it resolved as I knew they would. I just hate it when something does not make sense to me.
The Yankees are expected to get Aaron Hicks back for the getaway game on Thursday before the Yankees leave Boston for Detroit. He will be a welcome addition. Hopefully A-A-Ron can hit the ground running when he returns. We need his bat and defense ASAP.

Today is a new day.  It is time for the Giancarlo Stanton Era to begin in earnest. The Yankees are deep in the heart of enemy territory. All hands on deck. Let’s beat the Red Sox.

Go Yankees!

How Do You Spell Relief?…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)

For one night, the answer is not G-R-E-E-N…

Well, so much for the thought (my thought anyway) that Chad Green is the lone bright spot in the Yankees bullpen. I know, that’s not fair to Aroldis Chapman, who has had very limited opportunities, or Dellin Betances, who actually was the best reliever last night. The Yankees held the lead in the game until the seventh inning when Masahiro Tanaka started to tire and gave up a two-run blast to Adam Jones. Tanaka stayed in the game, retiring Chris Davis on a grounder to third, but Tim Beckham ended his night with a single to right. If the Yankees bullpen could have held it from there, the Yankees might have been able to dig out of the one-run hole.

Alas, it was not meant to be. I guess you can chalk it up to ‘one of those nights’. Manager Aaron Boone brought in the usually reliable Chad Green. He did strike out two batters to get out of the inning but not before the Orioles hit a single, run-scoring double and two-run single to push three more runs across the plate.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Julie Jacobson)

The Yankees had their chances but could not erase the large deficit. They picked up a run in the bottom of the seventh on a run-scoring single by Neil Walker after Didi Gregorius had doubled, but Miguel Andujar popped out with two men on and two outs to end the threat. The next inning, the Yankees had the bases juiced with two outs for Neil Walker, thanks to a walk and two batters hit by pitches. Unfortunately, Walker grounded out to the pitcher to eliminate the last serious threat.  Sadly, the Yankees dropped the contest, 5-2, to fall to 4-3 and two games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East standings.

I was pleased to see the strong work by Dellin Betances in the top of the ninth inning when he struck out three batters despite allowing a meaningless walk.

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Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

Love or hate Buck Showalter, but he schooled Aaron Boone on the fine art of managing. I know, you can’t blame Boone for this loss but Showalter is the wise grandmaster in terms of the depth of managerial experience. You’ll never beat Showalter by out-managing him.

I always enjoy the work of Mike Axisa over at River Ave Blues. He had great perspective this morning. He said “Every team is going to win 50 games and lose 50 games each year. It’s what they do in the other 62 games that determines their fate. This is one of those 50 losses.”  I agree with his assessment (as usual) but it is tough to take a loss on a night when the Boston Red Sox win.

Boston kills me. They have such a ‘cream puff’ schedule to start the year. They won their home opener yesterday against the Tampa Bay Rays, tying the game in the bottom of the ninth inning with two runs and then scoring the game winner in the bottom of the 12th. The Rays featured a starting pitcher that I’ve never heard of, Yonny Chirinos. He did a decent job, along with the subsequent relievers until closer Alex Colome took the bump. The Rays almost lost the game in regulation when second baseman Daniel Robertson took a grounder with a runner on first, bypassing the obvious and easy force out at second, to barely beat the runner to first. The play was challenged but the throw beat the runner by a split-second, sending the game into extra innings before the Rays ultimately lost. The takeaway for me is that other teams like to hand gifts to the Red Sox.

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Photo Credit: Boston Herald (Christopher Evans)

Right now, Boston wins the games when they do not play well and the Yankees do not. I fully expect the Yankees to gel as a team but seven games into the season, we’re not there yet. I am not going to panic. There are still 155 games to play. Nobody is handing the Red Sox the AL East championship in April.

The Yankees look to rebound tonight when CC Sabathia takes the mound. He’ll face Greg Bird’s Colorado high school buddy, Kevin Gausman. Last year, CC was the man following a Yankees loss so hopefully the trend continues.

I was sad to see Trayce Thompson’s time with the Yankees was so short. I really like the guy even if he hasn’t put up the numbers to earn such support. Thompson was out of options when the Yankees claimed him on waivers earlier this week but they tipped their hand when Aaron Boone said that he’d start out in the minors. Thompson couldn’t go to the minors without clearing waivers and the Oakland A’s jumped at the chance to bring the brother of Klay Thompson, a star with Oakland’s Golden State Warriors to the Bay Area. Nice attempt by the Yankees to try to slide him through waivers but it failed like it did for the Dodgers. It’s nice for Klay who picks up a roommate to help pay bills (like he really needs the help). I wish Trayce the very best for success in Oakland, however, I think we’ll see him again soon on the waiver wire. For his sake, I hope not. I’d like to see him succeed.

The Yankees also made a depth move this week to acquire third baseman Cody Asche from the Kansas City Royals for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jennifer Stewart)

Asche will take over third base for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders while Miguel Andujar toils in the Bronx. I really wanted the Yankees to acquire Asche several years ago. I am always on the lookout for the next Paul O’Neill (I guess I can modify it to say the next Didi Gregorius). I thought Asche had potential when he was with the Philadelphia Phillies as a young third baseman. Asche, 27, is a career .234 hitter in 390 MLB games so he clearly has not become the player I thought he would be. There’s no chance he’ll ever leap-frog over Andujar or Brandon Drury so for now he becomes a Triple A performer waiting to help in the event of injuries at the position for the big league club. No offense, Cody, but I hope we never see you in the Bronx. It’s not because we don’t like you…we simply prefer good health for Andujar and Drury.

Lastly, I am going to borrow the words of TGP’s Bryan Van Dusen: In summary, the 2018 New York Yankees are still a World Series contender. If you want to jump off the Yankees’ bandwagon, be my guest. There are still plenty more on board.

Go Yankees!

The Road to 162-0…

So Far, So Good…

Two games into the 162-game schedule and life in the Yankees Universe is fantastic. Okay, we’re not going to win every game and of course winning only 60% of the remaining games would be a stellar regular season but it’s fun to open the year with successive wins.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

The Opener was a perfect day for Yankees fans and new Manager Aaron Boone. It couldn’t have been scripted better with the superior work of ace Luis Severino, the bullpen (particularly Chad Green with three strikeouts against the four batters he faced), and the bat of Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton’s two home runs were the talk of the game but it was a great team victory from top to bottom. The only blemish was the solo home run that Dellin Betances allowed to Kevin Pillar when he entered the game in the bottom of the 8th en route to the 6-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.

Yesterday’s game was a little tougher for Boone. The big guns (Aaron Judge, Stanton, and Gary Sanchez) were a combined 0-for-12 with four strikeouts, but in the end it did not really matter. Batting clean-up for the first time this season, Didi Gregorius was 2-for-3 with 2 runs scored on two extra-base hits. Getting thrown out at the plate with no outs was the only negative for an otherwise tremendous day for Sir Didi. The big bats belonged to the bottom of the order with the 8th and 9th hitters, Brandon Drury and Tyler Wade. Drury had two RBIs on a single and a double, while Wade had a two-run double. I groaned when Masahiro Tanaka gave up a home run (fortunately with the bases empty) to former St Louis Cardinal Randall Grichuk in the 2nd inning but it was only one of three hits Tanaka allowed over the course of 79 pitches and six innings of work. The Yankees won the game, 4-2, to earn no less than a split of the four-game series pending the outcome of the next two games in Toronto.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Tom Szczerbowski)

What can you say about the debut performances of Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka? Collectively, they pitched 11 2/3 innings, allowing only 4 hits, one run, 3 walks, and 15 strikeouts. They’ve set the bar high for the rest of the starting rotation. I am sure that no one wants to be the first to implode.

The bullpen has been outstanding, as usual and as expected, despite the homer Betances gave up or the run-scoring double Aroldis Chapman allowed last night. Both guys were able to finish the job without assistance and will no doubt prove to be their dominant selves for the course of the long season. Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, and David Robertson showed why this is Baseball’s best bullpen. I am sure that Chasen Shreve, Adam Warren and Jonathan Holder are itching for their 2018 premieres and should take the mound today and/or tomorrow.

I saw an interesting fact yesterday when it was mentioned that the Blue Jays featured more members of 2011 Yankees Opening Day lineup in their batting order than the Yankees did. Looking back at the March 31, 2011 game that saw Joba Chamberlain pick up the win in relief of CC Sabathia for the Yankees’ 6-3 win over the Detroit Tigers, the starting lineup featured the following guys:

Brett Gardner, LF (Yankees LF/CF)

Derek Jeter, SS (Marlins CEO)

Mark Teixeira, 1B (Retired, Baseball Analyst)

Alex Rodriguez, 3B (Retired, Baseball Analyst)

Robinson Cano, 2B (Mariners 2B)

Nick Swisher, RF (Retired, Highly Wired)

Jorge Posada, DH (Retired, Humanitarian)

Curtis Granderson, CF (Blue Jays LF)

Russell Martin, C (Blue Jays C)

This seems like so long ago. I enjoyed the Grandy Man and Martin during their time in Pinstripes but I am glad that they are Blue Jays today. Hopefully Sabathia picks up another win seven years later to the day.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

I am not going to read too much into a 2-0 start given that there are still 160 games to be played, but I am glad the Yankees are faring much better than the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers have opened the season by scoring no runs over 18 innings and have lost two heart-breaking 1-0 losses to one of baseball’s worst teams last season (the San Francisco Giants) on two solo homers by second baseman (and New York native) Joe Panik. While the Dodgers may not be “Paniking”, I’d rather be 2-0 than 0-2. Watching the Dodgers bat in the bottom of the 9th last evening showed how deep and special the Yankees lineup truly is. After the Giants had homered against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen to take the lead in the scoreless battle, the Dodgers sent 39-year-old Chase Utley and Logan Forsythe to the plate in the bottom of the 9th for the rally attempt. Both Utley and Forsythe left their bats on their shoulders for called third strikes. Joc Pedersen, a good but inconsistent hitter, pinch hit for Jansen. He weakly popped up in foul territory to end the game.  With no offense to the fine career Utley has had, I’d much rather have Brandon Drury and Tyler Wade at the bottom of the lineup any day of the week.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

It didn’t take too long for the Yankees depth to be tested. In a surprise move yesterday, the Yankees placed center fielder Aaron Hicks on the 10-day DL before the game with an intercostal muscle strain. Hicks was not happy with the move as he felt he’d be fine with a few days rest but the Yankees are notoriously conservative when it comes to potential injuries. It was a great story to see outfielder Billy McKinney get his unexpected Major League debut. He woke up in Tampa on Friday morning, thinking about the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders season opener in a week, only to find out that he had a mid-day flight to Toronto to catch. By the end of the evening, he had collected his first Major League hit. I couldn’t help but think of Dustin Fowler’s horrific debut last year with the devastating knee injury, but the results were much better for McKinney. He was only 1-for-4 but it’s nice to get that first hit out of the way.  He had a few good defensive plays in left as well. After the game, McKinney said that ball for the first hit would go to his parents. A very classy move by the 23-year-old.

MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch posted an interesting stat that McKinney is only the second Yankee since 1956 to make his MLB debut in the starting lineup within the first two games of the season. The last Yankee do it was Hideki Matsui on this date in 2003, also in Toronto against the Blue Jays. Like McKinney, Matsui had a hit in four at-bats but Godzilla did knock in a run in a game that saw Rogers Clemens defeat former Blue Jays great Roy Halladay.

McKinney’s stay with the big league club figures to be short. Jacoby Ellsbury is eligible to come off the DL next Thursday so it’s likely that McKinney will be playing in next Friday’s season opener for the RailRiders at PNC Field in Moosic, PA against the Syracuse Chiefs. But for now, McKinney gets to play and make an impression for our favorite team. It sure beats working out at Minor League Camp in Tampa. Welcome to the Show, Billy!

Photo Credit: The New York Post (Corey Sipkin)

For Yankees fans, like me, who had hoped Aaron Hicks would stay healthy for an entire season, it is not a great start. But at least it sounds like he’ll be able to return as soon as he is eligible. We’ll see. Hicks must prove he deserves our trust and support. As frustrated as I get with the health of Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Greg Bird, I feel badly for Toronto and their fans. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki remains one of the game’s best but the guy can’t stay on the field. Every year, it’s something. The latest setback was this week when it was announced that Tulo would need surgery on both ankles to remove bone spurs. Very sad for the talented player who can’t seem to get or stay healthy. So, I guess the Yankees are not the only team to get Ellsbury’d on a routine basis.

Great tweet by Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media this morning: “I mean, how do you bet against Aaron Boone? He’s never lost.” True statement.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Tom Szczerbowski)

Today, CC Sabathia takes the mound against Blue Jays fan favorite Marco Estrada. I guess you could say that it is a battle of former Milwaukee Brewers. May the 6’6” left-hander and 2008 Brewer emerge victorious!

Photo Credit: The Record (Kevin R Wexler)

Go Yankees!

They Some Kind of Shut Us Down…

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

Go Yankees!