|Photo Credit: Instagram (masahiro_tanaka.official)|
Strong pitching carries Yanks past Angels…
The Yankees needed a strong effort by Masahiro Tanaka on Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and they got it. He gave up his obligatory home run but it didn’t matter as the Yankees used a three-run third inning to cruise past the Halos, 3-1.
The highlight of the game, not for its meaning to the final outcome but rather the drama of the moment, was Tanaka’s strikeout of fellow Japanese countryman Shohei Ohtani to end the first inning. Tanaka fell behind Ohtani on a 3-1 count but two swinging strikes sent Ohtani to the bench, much to the delight of the Yankee Stadium crowd. For the game, Ohtani was 0-for-2 against Tanaka, with a walk and two strikeouts. Mike Trout, who had a career day on Saturday, was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against Tanaka. Simple formula: Hold Ohtani and Trout in check and good things happen.
Tanaka’s terrific day was done after the sixth inning and 104 pitches. He held the Angels to only three hits and the isolated run on Andrelton Simmons’ solo homer in the sixth. Tanaka (6-2) walked three and struck out eight. THIS is the Masa we need for the summer’s pennant chase.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Bill Kostroun)|
With six strong from Tanaka, Manager Aaron Boone was able to effectively lay out David Robertson, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman for three innings of scoreless relief. Very nice play by Didi Gregorius to stop a hard hit grounder by Martin Maldonado, throwing the Angels catcher out at first to end the game and hand Chapman his eleventh save.
The Yankees (33-16) ended up taking two of three from the Angels after Saturday night’s debacle when Sonny Gray (Sucks!) and the Yankees bullpen were hammered by Mike Trout and the Angels in an 11-4 loss. Fortunately, the Boston Red Sox finally lost yesterday against the NL East leading Atlanta Braves, 7-1. The Braves victory was especially sweet as they gave Chris Sale an early exit (4 1/3 innings) by scoring six runs off Boston’s prized left-hander. The Red Sox lead over the Yankees in the AL East is back to one game.
The schedule, which has been Boston’s friend so far this season, continues to benefit the Red Sox. The Atlanta Braves were one of the rare winning teams the Red Sox has faced so far this year. They return to playing sub .500 teams today with the arrival of the Toronto Blue Jays (25-28) at Fenway Park. Meanwhile, the Yankees draw the defending World Champions, the Houston Astros, for a three-game set at Yankee Stadium. Yes, the Yankees did sweep the Astros in Houston at the beginning of the month, but the team was on a roll at the time. I can’t say I am too confident with today’s matchup (Domingo German, 0-2, 5.59 ERA vs Justin Verlander, 6-2, 1.08 ERA). But if the Yankees can keep it close, I like the Yankees’ chances against the Houston bullpen. Yesterday, with closer Ken Giles on the mound, the Astros blew an 8-3 ninth inning lead in their fourteen-inning loss to the Cleveland Indians.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jason Miller)|
The Yankees need pitching help but it doesn’t look like Chance Adams wants to play. The RailRiders game had barely started yesterday when Adams was pulled. With an inability to find the strike zone, Adams departed in the first inning after recording only two outs. He had given up only one hit, but three walks and a hit batter gave the Syracuse Chiefs an early 3-0 lead. The RailRiders came back to win the game, 7-4, so Adams wasn’t saddled with the loss but it was a pathetic performance. His season ERA is an unsightly 5.93 and he leads the team with 22 walks. It doesn’t sound like Adams wants to join his former RailRiders teammates in the Bronx, at least if he continues to pitch like the second coming of Sonny Gray. Hopefully he figures this thing out and restores the bloom of his potential. I still think his future lies in the bullpen but regardless, he is a guy I hope reaches Pinstriped glory.
I was surprised as anyone when the Yankees optioned popular utility man Ronald Torreyes to Triple A to make room for the activation of first baseman Greg Bird. I had fully expected either Tyler Austin or a pitcher to go down. Neil Walker has proven his worth to the organization so the team wasn’t go to eliminate his roster spot. I also think the Yankees are intrigued with A.J. Cole and haven’t seen enough to make a decision about him yet. The YES Network’s Michael Kay noted yesterday that Toe’s locker has not been cleaned out. It is expected he’ll be back when his ten days are up or shortly thereafter. An injury to someone (I hope not) will accelerate the timetable. In the grand scheme of things, I fully expect Torreyes to have a longer Yankees career than Tyler Austin. I could see Austin as part of a trade in the days leading up to this year’s trading deadline when the Yankees attempt to seek upgrades for their pitching staff.
He was only a Yankee for 33 games in 2008 but it is enough to qualify Hall of Famer Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez as a member of the Yankees family. I am sure that Pudge is very excited today as the San Francisco Giants have selected the contract of his son, Dereck, from their Triple A affiliate. Dereck started his professional career in 2011 as an outfielder in the Minnesota Twins farm system but was converted to pitching in 2013. He signed with the Giants organization as a minor league free agent during the off-season. A starter in the minor leagues, Rodriguez is expected to provide long relief for the Giants. I hope Rodriguez pitches so well the Giants decide to trade Madison Bumgarner to the Yankees. C’mon, a guy can dream, can’t he? Seriously, congratulations to Dereck for the realization of his own dream.
|Photo Credit: Instagram (drod_31)|
Speaking of former Yankees, Phil Hughes has found a new home. The Minnesota Twins had designated the pitcher for assignment earlier in the week. On Sunday, the Twins sent Hughes and a compensatory draft pick (74th overall) to the San Diego Padres for a minor league catcher. The incentive for the Padres is the competitive balance draft pick. The Twins will send money to pay down the contract owed to Hughes to lessen the financial commitment for the Padres. For now, Hughes will be inserted into the Padres bullpen, joining former Yankees Bryan Mitchell and Tyler Webb. I am not sure if this is the eventual end of the line for Hughes, who has undergone multiple surgeries for thoracic outlet syndrome, or if he will be able to resurrect his career in sunny Southern CA, but I wish the veteran 31-year-old righty the very best in his latest comeback attempt.
It’s Memorial Day so we pay tribute to those who have fallen in defense of our Country. Of course, we think about those individuals every day of the year, not just this day, and are grateful for their service and sacrifice to defend our liberty and freedom. We can never repay them or their families. We carry the memory of the slain men and women who have served this great Nation today and always.
The Tower of Terror, Bronx Revisited…
The beginning of the season was a tease. Well, late April and early May were a good ride as the Yankees raced to first in the AL East. However, and inevitably, reality hit as the Yankees have been clobbered by the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers. They are currently on a 6 game slide and are 1-9 in the last 10 games. They are surprisingly only 1 1/2 games out at 22-22, however, the gap is much larger than that. For a few weeks, the Yankees were getting a wonderful mix of pitching and hitting, but the lack of production from the bottom half of the order was eventually going to catch up with the team…and it did.
Michael Pineda, after his 18 strikeout performance, has looked like CC Sabathia and is not currently giving any illusions of being the staff ace. Sabathia has looked even worse, almost Ed Whitson-like. He had a quality start earlier in the year, but the last couple of starts have looked pathetic and he was pulled the earliest since 2009 in his most recent start. Nathan Eovaldi, after showing early signs of some promise, looks hittable, as do the other arms in the rotation, Chris Capuano and Adam Warren.
I realize that Ivan Nova will soon be back but it generally takes time for post-TJ surgery pitchers to recapture what they once had (if at all). Generally, they say, it takes a year after returning so realistically, if Nova plays to the averages, he will not be a reliable starting option until 2016.
I am glad to see youngsters like Slade Heathcott and Jacob Lindgren get their opportunity. However, it’s time for the Yankees to start thinking about bringing up Rob Refsnyder. His bat would be an immediate improvement over Stephen Drew. I know the team feels that Drew will eventually hit, but after a couple of years, how much longer are they going to wait? I am not convinced his bat will ever come around again. Heathcott has had a tough road to the major leagues due primarily to injuries, and he was almost lost to the organization this past off-season until they re-signed him. Carlos Beltran has been nothing short of dead weight, and it would be good to see Heathcott take advantage of his time in New York to keep Beltran on the pine. I know everyone is keeping right field warm for the eventual arrival of Aaron Judge, but for now, I’d like to see what Heathcott can do.
If hitting coach Jeff Pentland is not able to turn around Didi Gregorius, I wonder if he’ll be a one and done. Actually, that could go for both of them…
I knew this was going to be a challenging year for the Yankees. I do not expect this team to be in it come October. But it was fun watching the team have some early success. Obviously, I wish that reality could have been a bit more gradual. The Texas Rangers were having a sluggish start to the season, but the Yankees were just what they needed to get their bats going.
With the Kansas City Royals on tap for the Yankees, it certainly is not going to get any easier.
Bern Baby Bern…
I am glad the team was able to finally recognize the accomplishments of former outfield great Bernie Williams.
Al Bello/Getty Images
Another number is out of circulation, but Bernie deserved the recognition and the opportunity to have ‘his’ day. It was also good to see the other Yankees greats from the 90’s dynasty team in Paul O’Neill, Derek Jeter, Tino Martinez, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and others.
If Bernie had left the Yankees to sign a free agent deal with the Boston Red Sox (which almost happened), I do wonder if yesterday would have happened. But it didn’t, so we’ll never know. I am glad that Bernie opted to return to the Yankees and cement his place in franchise history.
I didn’t think that we’d see Derek Jeter back at Yankee Stadium so soon but Bernie Williams Day ensured that he couldn’t stay away too long.
Congratulations #51. I am looking forward to seeing the number during my next trip to Monument Park.
Thank you to all who have served in the United States Armed Forces, and a heavy heart and deep debt of gratitude to those who gave their lives so we could continue to be free. We stand stronger because of your efforts.