Tagged: Neil Walker

Baseball Talk During Super Bowl Week…

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Who Cares About Tom Brady and the New England Patriots…

Yankee pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training two weeks from today. Finally, the end is in sight for the long, often grueling, off-season. Well, maybe not for the high number of MLB free agents including two “generational talents” but for the rest of us and those players signed, we’ll be hearing the sounds of baseballs popping in catching mitts soon.

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I don’t think any of us expected utility man Neil Walker to return but any chance was eliminated last night when it was announced that he had signed with the Miami Marlins. Walker is expected to platoon with former Yankees prospect Peter O’Brien at first base. Not sure where Garrett Cooper is in the mix (maybe the outfield?) but I think he’s healthy now so there should be a few ex-Yankees roaming the training fields with holdovers Starlin Castro and Caleb Smith for Derek Jeter’s team this Spring. I think I’d be hesitant to wear the Number 14 for the Yankees this year. The last two guys who wore it during the regular season now reside in Miami. Personally, I’d prefer to see Tyler Wade wear the number, giving up 12 for Troy Tulowitzki who obviously cannot wear his Number 2 (as worn in Denver and Toronto) for obvious reasons.

Speaking of numbers, I have no clue what number DJ LeMahieu will wear. If he wants to keep his Colorado Rockies 9 in his number, I suppose he can wear Todd Frazier’s old Number 29. If it were up to me, I’d go with David Robertson’s number (30). James Paxton should wear 65 so that means Domingo German will be part of the number-searching brigade.

I am surprised that we are at the end of January and neither Bryce Harper nor Manny Machado have signed. It was funny watching the unofficial reports yesterday in Philadelphia that had the Phillies signing Harper. Turned out to be fake news like so many of the Harper-Machado rumors we’ve heard this winter. I think I’ve gotten to the point that if Ken Rosenthal is not talking about it, there’s nothing to it.

Despite the infield additions, I would still like to see the Yankees bring in another shortstop. I think they need to plan for the ‘what if’…what if Troy Tulowitzki is unable to recapture his past form? No doubt we’ll see DJ LeMahieu starting at second and Gleyber Torres covering short until Didi Gregorius returns (which is the way it should be anyway with the current roster makeup). But I’d like a strong fallback plan for the Tulo experiment. The Yankees lost one option yesterday when Freddy Galvis signed a one-year deal with the division rival Toronto Blue Jays (who will compete with Lourdes Gurriel, Jr for Tulo’s old job). Adeiny Hechevarria remains available and he’s certainly a guy I’d try to bring back. I think the ship has sailed for someone like Marwin Gonzalez but the former Astro fits the roster so well given his versatility. Jose Iglesias is the only other name out there that seems like a decent possibility. As it stands, it seems as though the Yankees will roll with the tandem of Tulo and Gleyber at short, backed by Tyler Wade. If there was ever a time for Wade to step up big, now is it. I wish I had more confidence in his ability to do it. Maybe the Yankees do. We’ll see.

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The Yankees are continuing their search for another starter as a hedge against the health of CC Sabathia which I feel is a very good idea. None of us want to see Luis Cessa starting on a consistent basis. Most likely Jonathan Loaisiga, if he can stay healthy, represents the best in-house insurance backed by Domingo German.  I fully expect to see Chance Adams and Domingo Acevedo given their chances this year. If the Yankees do bring in another starter, I see someone like Brett Anderson, not Dallas Keuchel.

I was surprised to see the Boston Red Sox sign former Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia to a minors deal. The three-time PED offender who received a lifetime ban a few years ago which was subsequently lifted by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred last summer, gets a fourth chance. The minor-league contract does not include a provision to attend Major League camp but no doubt if Mejia shows anything, he has a chance to make the Red Sox roster at some point this season. Mejia represents a shot in the dark for the Red Sox who have seen their bullpen depleted with the departure of Joe Kelly and the potential Craig Kimbrel does not return. Mejia was once a decent receiver. He’s been away from the game for a long time, yet he is only 29 and could certainly surprise some people. I am sure Boston loves the price tag (Mejia would make $625,000 if he is on the Major League roster) but Mejia’s character is enough for me to pass. Better Boston signs him than the Yankees. Boston fans can stop trashing Alex Rodriguez for his PED use now.

To flip the coin, I hate to defend the Red Sox but I’ve seen so many Yankee fans quick to rip Boston about their bullpen and how the Red Sox cannot match last year’s 108 wins due to career years by a few players. The Red Sox have won three consecutive AL East division championships in a row and four overall since the Yankees last won the division. Boston’s bullpen may not match up with the Yankees at the moment but as we’ve seen, relievers can be the most unpredictable in the sport. The Tampa Bay Rays, historically, have been very good at throwing together very effective bullpens with a cast of no-names. Conversely, even the great Yankee relievers are prone to blow a game now and then. The Yankees’ super-pen may look much better on paper right now but there is still time for the Red Sox to re-sign Kimbrel even if his level of play may be slipping. I know there are some young guys coming up in the Red Sox system that can be effective arms and there are a few holdovers that should not be dismissed like Tyler Thornburg, Ryan Brasier and Matt Barnes. I don’t think we should be so quick to discount the Red Sox this year. They are the defending World Champions and they made their AL Division Series with the Yankees last October look like a total mismatch. They still have many of the very talented players that made the Los Angeles Dodgers look like a minor league team in the World Series. Based on their first seasons, Alex Cora was a better manager than Aaron Boone. It doesn’t mean that Boone can’t get better but the Red Sox are simply not going away. I see the division as a total dogfight. The Tampa Bay Rays, with their pitching staff, have the potential to be the surprise team of 2019 like the Oakland A’s were last year.  I’ve gotten to the point where I am tired of people saying that Harper and Machado are “luxuries, not necessities”. Until the Yankees can win the division and advance to the World Series to claim the championship, better players are a necessity. The Yankees haven’t won the World Series since 2009 (ten years ago) and have not sat atop the AL East since 2011.  Yes, the 2019 Yankees, with no further additions, are arguably the best team we’ve seen since the 2009 Yankees, I agree. It does not mean that we cannot or should not strive to be better. No team is going to roll over for the Yankees, not even the lowly Baltimore Orioles. If anything, teams play harder, try harder against the Yankees than any other team. With or without Harper or Machado, the Yankees have much to prove before we can start beating our chests.

Congratulations to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders for the selection of their new manager, Jay Bell.  Bell, known as a player’s manager and referred to as the GOAT by his teams, has managed in the Yankees’ minor league system since 2017. In two years, he has taken High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton to the playoffs and will be looking to make it to the post-season for the third consecutive season with the RailRiders. I know that Aaron Boone likes ‘smart and confident’ which is the reason he chose Josh Bard, most likely a future manager, as his bench coach, but I can’t help but think Boonie would have benefited from someone like Bell at his side. Nevertheless, Bell is now coaching the guys who are just a phone call (and a bus ride) away from the Bronx and guys he has watched grow and develop over the last few years. The former Arizona Diamondback, who scored the winning run on the World Series-winning walk-off single by Luis Gonzalez in 2001 off legendary Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera, is making a huge contribution to the Yankees organization. I guess it’s his payback for breaking our hearts so many years ago although I am sure that he’d gladly step on home plate again to defeat the Yankees if given the opportunity. I think Bell’s promotion from Trenton was an excellent move. Nothing against former RailRiders manager Bobby Mitchell but he didn’t really excite me as a manager. Bell does. He seems to have the presence or aura held by former RailRiders manager Al Pedrique, maybe even more so. He’ll do well with the top Yankees farm team and the fruits of his efforts will be highly visible in the Bronx this coming season and for years to come.

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The Yankees should be commended for their decision to sign lefty reliever Danny Farquhar to a minor league contract with an invitation to Major League camp. Last summer, it appeared Farquhar’s career was over with his brain hemorrhage. He survived the life-threatening ordeal and is pitching again.  It’s a tall order for him to make the Yankees roster but I don’t think anybody is rooting against him. It would be a great story if he does deliver this Spring and finds his moment to step out on the Yankee Stadium turf wearing the famed Pinstripes.

If I was a Major League player, I think I’d want to know where I’d be reporting in two weeks. It seems like maybe we’ll see a flurry of signings in the coming days. Starting to see reports this morning that reliever/closer Greg Holland has signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks so there’s another relief option off the board for Boston. I really hope the next week or so finally brings closure to the Harper-Machado saga, wherever they may land. It would be great if one (or both) fell into the Yankees’ lap but I am done with them, and just want to move on.

As always, Go Yankees!

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Facing Partial Season Without Emojis…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

Star Shortstop to undergo TJ surgery on his elbow…

My words yesterday morning didn’t age very well. I had said that shortstop was firmly set, yet here we sit today searching for Plan B at the position. I was as surprised as anyone to hear yesterday after my post that Didi Gregorius needed Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm after an apparent injury suffered during the recent ALDS against Boston. When Didi was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks, he apparently had a partial tear in the elbow that was asymptomatic. In a way, we’ve probably been living on borrowed time, much like we are with Masahiro Tanaka. While Gleyber Torres was able to bounce back fairly quickly from the same surgery, his surgery was on his non-throwing arm so the rehab for Didi will be longer than it was for Gleyber. Some have said that Didi could be out until after the All-Star Break. Plus, there are no guarantees with the surgery.

For those of us still trying to recover from the disappointment of losing the ALDS, these were not the words we wanted to hear. The immediate option is to slide Gleyber to short and play someone like Tyler Wade at second or re-sign Neil Walker to do it. Daniel Burch, the fearless leader of The Greedy Pinstripes, has cited second baseman D.J. LeMahieu as someone the Yankees could pursue. LeMahieu, who helped the Colorado Rockies reach the NLDS before their ouster by the Milwaukee Brewers, will be a free agent after the season. I think most Rockies fans would prefer for him to stay in the Mile High City. Some have mentioned him as a possible solution at third for the inevitable departure of the Rockies’ great third baseman Nolan Arenado, who will be a free agent after the 2019 season. I like LeMahieu but I am not sure he’s the best solution for the Yankees. Sometimes it takes a while for an idea to warm up for me, so if the Yankees do sign LeMahieu, maybe I’ll come around. Credit to Daniel for his “outside the box” thinking.

The obvious answer, for me, is to sign Manny Machado to play short until Didi can return, then slide him to third, pushing Miguel Andujar to left (or trade Andujar for much-needed pitching). I wanted Manny before the announcement of Didi’s surgery yesterday so this only reinforces the desire. Manny was 2-for-4 and had a homer and 3 RBI’s last night for the Los Angeles Dodgers in their 6-5 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. Manny was the lone star on a night Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal tried to do his best Gary Sanchez impersonation with two passed balls and a couple of errors.

I am worried about the future of Didi Gregorius. He is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the 2019 season. Facing a potentially lost season, it’s not outside the realm of possibility the Yankees decide to move on. I personally hope the surgery does not prevent the team from looking into a long-term deal for the Yankees shortstop. I wouldn’t wait until next November to discuss dollars with Didi’s agent. The time is now. I would prefer Didi is not facing the pressure of playing for a new contract when he returns next June or July.

It was funny when GM Brian Cashman mentioned Sonny Gray during yesterday’s press conference. I didn’t reference Gray at all in my post yesterday which shows how much I’ve moved on from the guy. I’ve been absolutely convinced that he cannot pitch under the pressure of New York, and Cashman reaffirmed it when he said that “probably to maximize his abilities would be more likely best somewhere else”. Cashman had to back-pedal a little but it was only because he needs to protect potential trade value for Gray. Gray is as good as gone, and I am glad. I think he’ll prosper someplace like Pittsburgh or Milwaukee or even back in Oakland. But he was never going to be “the man” in New York. It happens. Just ask Ed Whitson or Javier Vazquez. New York is not for everybody. I do not wish any ill will toward Gray. I hope he goes on to have a very fine career…in a different uniform.

It was also revealed CC Sabathia had surgery on his right knee, but realistically this is just an annual thing with Sabathia at this stage of his career. It should have no  bearing on whether or not the Yankees try to lock up CC on another one-year deal. Sabathia is expected to be ready next Spring, regardless of whether he is in Tampa, FL for training camp or elsewhere.

Former Yankees manager Joe Girardi interviewed with the Texas Rangers yesterday for their open managerial position. I could see Girardi in Dallas/Fort Worth. I’d probably prefer to see him resume his managerial career in the National League but if he was to go anywhere, the Rangers are fine. It’s better than seeing Girardi show up in the AL East with Baltimore or Toronto.

While I wish Girardi the best, I don’t look back and wish he was still the Yankees manager. In an interview yesterday, Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner said that the decision to move on from Girardi was years in the making. I trust Yankees Leadership for the reasons they felt a change was necessary. I remain supportive of Manager Aaron Boone, but I am slightly disappointed that the team intends to stand pat with the coaching staff. I think Josh Bard will be an improved Bench Coach in 2019 unless he snags a managerial gig before then, but probably the one position I’d look closely at is pitching coach. Larry Rothschild is revered as one of the best pitching coaches in the game, yet when a Yankees pitcher makes an adjustment that results in success, the player compliments are generally directed at other guys like Pedro Martinez or Andy Pettitte. I’ll use Hal Steinbrenner’s words from yesterday, “look, I am not a baseball guy”, but from afar I really haven’t been all that impressed with Rothschild. It’s very possible that I don’t know “shit from Shinola” on this topic but it’s just a casual observation from a fan. I can’t really recall a time when I heard a pitcher say that their success is attributable to Larry. Maybe it’s been said and I just haven’t heard it.  Whatever. When Mel Stottlemyre, Sr was the Yankees pitching coach, you clearly knew the impact he had on the pitching staff. I just don’t have that same confidence with Rothschild.

Adeiny Hechavarria is a pending free agent, but I hope the Yankees find a way to bring him (and his glove) back. I know that everyone loves Ronald Torreyes, but I’d prefer the defensive wizard in Hechavarria over Toe even if it means the team parts ways with Aaron Judge’s little buddy. With Didi shelved, the Yankees could certainly use the defense lost with his absence.

I guess the Yankees will be giving us blog writers plenty to write about this winter. Never a dull moment in the Bronx. As long as it culminates in a World Series championship next year, all is good.

As always, Go Yankees!

On a Wing (Voit) and a Prayer (Britton)…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Patrick McDermott)

Yanks Use Unlikely Heroes to Thwart the O’s…

When the lineup was posted prior to the game, Luke Voit’s name at first base was about as exciting as getting teeth pulled despite Greg Bird’s struggles with the bat. After the game was over, Voit had ensured he could be the beneficiary of more playing time at Bird’s expense.  His two home runs were huge. The first tied the game in the early stages and the latter provided the necessary insurance for the win. The muscled kid from St Louis came up big for the Pinstripes with 4 RBI’s in the 7-5 win over the Baltimore Orioles.

Zach Britton picked up his first save for the Yankees, his fifth of the year. He was treated rudely by former teammate Chris Davis who blasted a solo home run in the bottom of the tenth, but thanks to Voit’s two-run shot after the Yankees had taken a one-run lead in the top of the tenth, Britton withstood the Davis home run trot to preserve the win. Things might have looked differently had Britton not gotten Trey Mancini, the batter before Davis, to hit into a double play. Whatever it takes, it was a win and the Yankees finally have a winning season record against the O’s at 7-6.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

The Orioles got on the board first. After the Yankees had threatened in the top of the first inning (but failed), the O’s grabbed the early lead with a two-run single by Chris Davis in the bottom of the inning off Yankees starter CC Sabathia. Davis entered the game batting .163 on the season but apparently Yankees pitching didn’t get the memo.

Orioles starter Alex Cobb, who has enjoyed a resurgent second half following a 2-12 record leading up to the All-Star Game, was tough on the Yankees lineup. After escaping the first inning scoring opportunity, he blanked the Yankees over the  next two innings, allowing just a couple of meaningless walks. It looked like he was going to have his way in the top of the fourth inning when he struck out Miguel Andujar to start the frame. Neil Walker singled to center, but Gleyber Torres flied out to right for the second out. Up to the plate strolled Luke Voit who had hit into a double play in the second inning for his first at-bat. Voit crushed the Cobb offering over the wall in left center to tie the game at two. It looked weird to see Chasen Shreve’s #45 circling the bases.

CC Sabathia got the Yankees through six innings with the game knotted at two. The ball was turned over to David Robertson for the seventh but unfortunately he ran into a bit of bad luck. The first hitter, John Andreoli (a recent cast-off from the Seattle Mariners), reached base on a fielding error by interim shortstop Gleyber Torres (the ball rolled up his arm off his wrist and dropped into shallow left field). Torres was in pain but stayed in the game. D-Rob was able to retire the next two hitters but then Jonathan Villar, the former Milwaukee Brewer, took Robertson deep to left center, giving the O’s a 4-2 lead. I hate to say it, but I don’t really see the Yankees re-signing D-Rob, one of my favorite Yankees over the years, after the season.

The Yankees answered in the top of the eighth. With only one out, they loaded the bases against two Orioles relievers. The third O’s pitcher of the inning, Mychal Givens, came in to face Gleyber Torres and was greeted with a two-run single to right. The O’s had a play at the plate for the second runner, Miguel Andujar, on a strong throw by Adam Jones, but the ball came loose on the collision at home. Papa was safe and the game was tied again. The Yanks re-loaded the bases after Luke Voit had struck out for the second out, but Ronald Torreyes left the runners stranded with a pop out to first.

Dellin Betances, sporting yellow shoes, pitched the bottom of the eighth. He got into a little trouble with a couple of singles but was able to get out of the inning with a couple of swinging strikeouts.

The Yankees had a chance in the ninth when Brett Gardner opened the inning with a single, but after Giancarlo Stanton flied out, Aaron Hicks hit the ball directly into Chris Davis’ glove, standing on first base, for an inning-ending double play. Three up and three down for Chad Green in the bottom of the ninth, and it was off to extra innings we went.

With former Yankees prospect Cody Carroll pitching, Neil Walker homered to right center with one out to give the Yankees their first lead of the game. Neil, please accept my apology for any disparaging words I may have used about you earlier in the season. Gleyber Torres followed with a walk. He stole second and then advanced to third on a throwing error by the O’s catcher. Luke Voit, who obviously enjoyed the fourth inning home run, decided to re-live the experience with another two-run blast, this time to right center.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Patrick Semansky)

The Yankees took the three-run lead into the bottom of the tenth, bringing in former Orioles closer Zach Britton to finish off his ex-teammates. Adam Jones singled to right to open the inning for the Orioles, but Trey Mancini, in the midst of a down year for him, grounded into a double play. So Chris Davis came to the plate with the bases empty and two outs. His homer to center, traveling 430 feet, cut the Yanks’ lead to two. Fortunately, Tim Beckham grounded out to first to end the game. It was a struggle but the Yankees persevered to pull out the victory. Britton walked off the Orioles mound with another save in his illustrious Camden Yards career, but the first in opposing gear.

The win, the Yankees’ 80th of the year, helped them to cut the gap to 8 1/2 games behind the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox dropped a 10-3 game to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees are just the second team in MLB to reach 80 wins, but of course the Red Sox became the first to 90 earlier this week. The Yankees hold a four-game lead on the Oakland A’s in the Wild Card standings and eight games over Adam Warren and the Seattle Mariners.

Nice job by CC Sabathia, fresh off the 10-day DL, to give the Yankees some length after the first inning difficulties. He mixed in a couple of eight-pitch innings. He may not have gotten the decision but he put his team in position for the win. As they say, wins are a worthless statistic to prove a pitcher’s worth. The Yankees would not have won this game without CC’s strong performance.

Gary Sanchez began a rehab assignment in Florida (Gulf Coast League) today so it sounds like we’ll be getting one of the wounded soldiers back soon. Sanchez will move up to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after today’s game before rejoins the team, hopefully next week. I really hope that El Gary brings some of the hustle I’ve seen with the rehab workout videos. We could really use the pre-2018 version of Sanchez for the regular season’s final month.

The Yankees and the Orioles play two today. RHP Luis Cessa has been called up as the 26th man for the day/night double-header. The first game, at 1:00 pm ET, features J.A. Happ (14-6, 3.84 ERA) against Jimmy Yacabonis (0-1, 6.75 ERA). Luke Voit hit his last Triple A homer, prior to his call-up, against Yacabonis. Sure enough, on the lineup just posted for today’s game, Voit is playing first base. The second game, 7:05 pm ET, will pit the beleaguered Sonny Gray (9-8, 5.34 ERA) against Andrew Cashner (4-11, 4.84 ERA). Despite his record, Cashner always seems to pitch well against the Yankees. If Gray wants to pitch any meaningful games for the Yankees down the stretch, he needs to show up tonight. No pressure. Somehow I suspect he’ll fail miserably to maintain his grip on the Sonny Gray Sucks! tag line. Sonny, dammit, prove me wrong.

Hopefully last night’s win provides some momentum for the Yankees against the pesky O’s. Why win just one game, when you can take two?  Let’s do this. Go Yankees!

Using Bats and Rain to Beat the Blue Jays…

Photo Credit: NY Post (Paul J Bereswill)

Yanks overcome pesky Jays in rain-shortened game…

As nice as it would be, I don’t want the Yankees to coast to victory every game. I like to see resiliency in the face of adversity and that’s what we were treated to Friday night in the rain-shortened 7-5 victory over the, pardon the pun, “Happ-less” Toronto Blue Jays.

Sure, I was worried along with everyone else when the Blue Jays opened the game with four runs against starter Lance Lynn. There were some fluke hits and I have no doubt that had Aaron Judge been playing right field, the inning would have been over before the Jays had pushed four across the plate. Nevertheless, it is what it was. A four-run deficit is not a monstrous gap, well, so long as your opponent is not the Tampa Bay Rays (or Baltimore Orioles) when it comes to the Yankees.

Nice jobs by Didi Gregorius and Miguel Andujar to cut the deficit to two runs in the bottom of the first inning. After Aaron Hicks took a two-out walk against Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman, Gregorius laced a triple to left center past defensive whiz Kevin Pillar to score  Hicks with the Yankees’ first run. Miguel Andujar followed with a double to deep right over Curtis Granderson’s head to score Sir Didi.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

Much easier moving into the later innings trailing by only two.  Andujar has taken some heat for his defensive play at third, but his bat has been  a source of consistency. He leads the team with doubles, ensuring his name will rank high among Yankee rookies in the history of the franchise. The first inning hit was his 35th of the year, six more than Giancarlo Stanton. Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio holds the Yankees rookie record with 44 doubles in 1936. Don Mattingly holds the team record for doubles with 53 in 1986.

Despite giving up those four runs in the first inning, I thought Lance Lynn bounced back nicely. He retired three batters in order in the top of the second inning and although he gave up an infield hit in the third, a double play allowed him to face the minimum number of batters for the second consecutive inning. After an easy three-up, three down top of the fourth for Lynn, the Yankees struck hard in the bottom of the frame. Gleyber Torres doubled to left, banging a hanging slider to the wall, with one out, and Greg Bird followed with a walk. It brought Neil Walker to the plate, and his three-run blast to right, high over the head of Curtis Granderson, gave the Yankees their first lead of the game, 5-4. Glad to see runners in scoring position was not an issue for this game.

Photo Credit: AP (Frank Franklin II)

Unfortunately, the fifth inning was not so kind for Lynn. Curtis Granderson, a player who has been the target of much trade speculation for the Yankees, opened the inning with a double to left center off Lynn. Devon Travis singled to right, scoring the Grandy Man and the game was tied. Lynn’s day was over but I liked the way he battled despite not having his best stuff. The three walks were a bugaboo and so were 99 pitches without an ability to record an out in the fifth inning, but for guys like Double-L, my request is always to just give the team a chance and he did. The dude could have melted down after the ugly first inning and he didn’t. Sure, he allowed the hit that tied the game, but he didn’t yield any home runs and for the most part, he did his job after the first inning had gotten away from him.

The Yankees quickly retook the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Aaron Hicks opened with a walk off Jays reliever Joe Biagini. After Didi Gregorius flied out, Miguel Andujar singled to right to place runners at the corners. Gleyber Torres grounded into a fielder’s choice at shortstop, with the Jays recording the out at second on Andujar but Hicks scored on the play.  Nice hustle by Torres to beat the throw to first. If it had been Gary Sanchez, he would have been thrown out by a mile.

The Yanks took the 6-5 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning. With Blue Jays reliever Luis Santos on the mound, Giancarlo Stanton gave the Yankees a two-run lead with his 31st home run of the season, a shot that traveled 431 feet. It’s funny how easily the balls come off Stanton’s bat (seemingly looking like fly outs that just keep on going and going and going…). After Aaron Hicks struck out, the threat of heavy rain forced the grounds crew to roll out the tarp. From there, the team waited until the game was eventually called. Yankees win, 7-5. Chad Green picked up the win in relief of Lance Lynn.

Despite the win, the Yankees (76-46) remain 10 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox. The Sox, unlike the Yankees, had no trouble with the Tampa Bay Rays, winning 7-3 at Fenway Park. The Yankees maintained their three-game lead over the Oakland A’s, but, man, look out for the high flying Athletics. With their 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros in ten innings, they trail the World Champions by only a game in the AL West. It’s certainly within the realm of possibility the Astros are the team fighting for a Wild Card berth. The other Wild Card contender, the Seattle Mariners, lost, 11-1 to the LA Dodgers, so they trail the A’s by 3 1/2 games.

With word pain still lingers in Aaron Judge’s right wrist, I remain hopeful the Yankees do something about upgrading right field in his absence. I like Neil Walker’s bat in the lineup but let’s face it, he is an infielder and not an outfielder. We need a better option in right than Walker or Shane Robinson. I don’t know who that is and I know the Yankees have to be cautious with the luxury tax threshold but hopefully GM Brian Cashman can reinforce the outfield for the stretch run.

Although he didn’t make it into the game, congratulations to former Yankees outfielder Billy McKinney for his promotion to the Blue Jays roster. No doubt we’ll see McKinney sometime this weekend. Who knows, maybe he gets a chance to hit against the man he was traded for, J.A. Happ. Speaking of Happ, I was listening to a pre-game interview on MLB Network Radio yesterday and they ended the interview calling him “J-A” Happ. C’mon guys, it’s “Jay” Happ.

I figured the Yankees would lose reliever George Kontos when he was designated for assignment. It was not the case as Kontos cleared waivers and was sent outright to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Kontos could elect free agency but I’d stay with the Yankees if I were him. He may get another chance in September when rosters expand.

Nice to see that Jonathan Loaisiga has been activated off the disabled list. He made the start yesterday for the Double-A Trenton Thunder with pitches hitting the mid-90’s. He only threw an inning and a third, giving up a run but it was a start, literally and figuratively. Hopefully he can shake off the rust and help the Yankees in September.

Photo Credit: The Trentonian (Kyle Franko)

The Yankees apparently will be playing the Los Angeles Dodgers next year at Dodger Stadium. I was excited to hear the news and hope to be at Chavez Ravine for the series. If I don’t make it to Los Angeles, I’ll try to catch up with the Yankees in San Francisco if they play there. I look forward to seeing the actual 2019 schedule to determine the whens and wheres with the NL West teams against the Pinstripers. I would love to see the damage Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge could do at Coors Field. Of course the Yankees will also travel to London, England to face the “home team” Boston Red Sox but I doubt I make that trip (as much as I would like to go).

Luis Severino (15-6, 3.27 ERA) will face Toronto’s Sean Reid-Foley (0-1, 5.40 ERA) in today’s game.  I honestly do not know what we’ll get with Sevy. Also, I don’t have the stats to back it but it seems like we never fare well against pitchers with hyphenated names or rookie pitchers for that matter. This is a very good day for Sevy to get back on track. We need him in prime form as the calendar page gets ready to flip to September. According to my knowledgeable cell phone, there’s rain forecasted for this afternoon. Hopefully they get a full nine innings in today before the rain makes its appearance at Yankee Stadium.

Go Yankees!

Mother Nature Beats Yankees Again…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

Ninth Postponement of the Season…

Friday brought another weather-related postponement for our favorite baseball team. It was the ninth of the season. The Yankees and the Kansas City Royals will play two today as a result with a day/night double-header. In one of the most used phrases ever in the Yankees Universe, ‘it’s not what you want’.

I guess if there is a positive, the Yankees opponent today will be a little weaker. They lost significant power with last night’s trade of Mike Moustakas to the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers, who aggressively lost out on Manny Machado, presumably will move third baseman, and former Red Sock, Travis Shaw to second to make room at third for Moose Tacos. I am a little disappointed the Yankees were unable to acquire Moose. His left-handed bat would have played nicely at Yankee Stadium, and his power would have helped compensate for the temporary losses of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. I don’t really see any other options on the market that would appeal to me as greatly as Moustakas, who was batting .249/.309/.468, .778 OPS, with 20 homers and 62 RBIs.

I was a little surprised to see him end up with Milwaukee. Earlier in the day, it had been reported the Brewers were in heavy talks with the Baltimore Orioles for second baseman Jonathan Schoop and possibly RHP Kevin Gausman. They must have pivoted to the Royals over a failure to make any headway with Orioles GM Dan Duquette or whomever is running the show for the O’s these days (surprise, surprise).

I keep hearing Curtis Granderson’s name as a possibility. I enjoyed his time in Pinstripes but at this stage of his career, I am not really interested in a reunion. He is 37 years old and is no longer the player he once was. The Grandy Man is batting .231/.334/.421, .756 OPS, with 10 home runs and 31 RBIs in 288 plate appearances. No thanks. I’d rather get Clint Frazier healthy although admittedly I don’t know how long that will take. Oh man, my head hurts. No wait, that’s Frazier, not me.

Another name that seems to come up frequently is Jose Martinez of the St Louis Cardinals. The Aaron Judge-sized first baseman/outfielder has put up some good numbers this year (.295/.358/.463, 13 homers, 58 RBIs) but he is losing playing time because of his poor defensive skills. I am not interested in a guy who can only DH. Any acquisition the Yankees make would need to be someone who can continue to help the team after Judge and Sanchez return in late August or early September.

I guess it’s not the end of the world for the Yankees to roll with what they currently have. I may not be Neil Walker’s greatest fan but I recognize he plays better with regular playing time. Using DH as a rotation between Walker and Neil Walker is certainly passable for a few weeks. I thought Tyler Austin would be the one to get the call when Aaron Judge was placed on the disabled list but the Yankees went with Tyler Wade instead. From a defensive perspective, Wade makes more sense. He can field the corner outfield positions better than Austin, making him a more useful fourth outfielder-type. But he can also spell relief at second and short, something Austin obviously cannot do. The only guy on the roster who doesn’t make sense to me right now, excluding Chasen Shreve, is outfielder Shane Robinson but he is expected to be demoted today to make room for J.A. Happ.

The month of August is filled with winnable series. The only playoff contender they face is the Boston Red Sox with a four-game series starting Thursday, August 2nd. They won’t see a potential playoff team again until Labor Day (Monday, September 3rd) when they travel to Oakland, CA to take on Dustin Fowler and the Athletics. My concern is the difficulty the Yankees have had with losing teams this year. Boston is winning the games they are supposed to and as it stands right now, it is why they are the first place club in the AL East. Last night, they blew a lead in the ninth inning but still came back to tie it to push the game into extra innings where they won it on a walk-off home run by Mookie Betts. They are finding ways to beat the losing clubs. Sorry, Minnesota. Meanwhile, the Yankees are struggling against those teams. Well, maybe not against the Twins, but the other losing teams. The Twins, who apparently have given up on the season (they are 12 1/2 games out in the Wild Card chase), are a weaker team today after trading infielder Eduardo Escobar to the Arizona Diamondbacks yesterday and reliever Ryan Pressly to the Houston Astros last night. I am sure the Red Sox are salivating although they probably could have used Pressly themselves if only Dave Dombrowski had not stripped the cupboards of quality prospects.

Apparently the weather is impacting J.A. Happ’s ability to get to New York City. His flight was cancelled yesterday so he has yet to join the team.  He is expected to arrive today. I am always curious about numbers since there is such a limited selection with so many retired numbers. Happ will take number 34, a number previously worn by A.J. Burnett and Brian McCann. With Zach Britton getting Phil Nevin’s #53, the third base coach will flip the numbers to grab 35. Happ is expected to get the start in the series finale with the Royals tomorrow although we’ll see if Happ’s late arrival alters those plans.

The Yankees received some good news for Sonny Gray. Assuming he is not traded, Gray will make his next start as planned. X-rays on his thumb were negative and he’s feeling much better after the come-backer off his right hand during Thursday’s game.

For today’s double-header, Luis Severino will get the start for the day game. Sevy (14-3, 2.63 ERA) looks to get back on track after a couple of bumpy starts. He’ll be opposed by Brad Keller (3-4, 3.20 ERA). For the night game, yesterday’s scheduled starter, CC Sabathia, will take the mound. CC (6-4, 3.51 ERA) will face Heath Fillmyer (0-1, 2.82 ERA). The Yankees enter the day five games behind the Boston Red Sox. A perfect day would find the Yankees trailing the Sox by only 3 1/2 games when the clock strikes midnight tonight. It’s a great day for two wins and a Red Sox loss. Let’s do this.

Go Yankees!

Great Britton Has Joined the War…

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Yanks acquire elite Reliever for Stretch Run…

I am not sure how I felt when I first heard that trade negotiations were heating up between the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles.  In 2016, there was not a more dominant reliever in baseball than Zach Britton. He was 2-1 with 47 saves and was virtually unhittable with 0.54 ERA (giving up only four earned runs in 67 innings pitched). He struck out 74 batters and was only touched for one home run. He thrust his name in the arena of elite closers, but then the last couple of years have been injury-filled. After accumulating 120 saves between 2014 and 2016, he has only 19 this year and last. By comparison, the interim closer for the O’s, Brad Brach, has 29 saves for 2017 and YTD 2018.

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When healthy, there are not too many pitchers better than Britton. Plus, he’s a lefty so that’s huge plus for Yankee Stadium. Hopefully this means that Chasen Shreve’s days are numbered. When Britton returned from the DL, he was generally effective although his ERA was torched by a bad outing in Atlanta on June 22nd when he gave up 4 runs on 5 hits while recording only a single out. But in July, he’s been his dominant self, allowing no runs over 7 innings and striking out 13. He shut down the Yankees for an inning on July 10th (the two-homer game by former Oriole Manny Machado), picking up the win on the walk-off single by Jonathan Schoop. He struck out the last two Yankees he faced (Miguel Andujar and Greg Bird).

I am in favor of the Britton trade, but I think I was as grateful he wasn’t traded to the Houston Astros or the Boston Red Sox as I was with the thought of him restoring the three-headed beast in the bullpen that has been missing since the Yankees traded away Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman in 2016 (with no offense to David Robertson, who remains one of my favorite Yankees).

Yesterday must have been weird for Britton.  His team was playing the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards in Baltimore. When the game started, Britton and the Orioles were 42 ½ games behind the Red Sox in the AL East Standings. By the time the rain-delayed game ended, Britton had gained 37 ½ games on the Red Sox, thanks to his new Pinstripes. Britton first became aware of the potential Yankees trade during the rain delay when he was met with countless messages and texts on his cell phone so it must have been bittersweet for him to watch his teammates defeat the Red Sox when play resumed. Part of me wished that the O’s had brought Britton out one last time (nothing better than to see him defeat the Red Sox), but the Orioles were not going to risk potential injury to jeopardize the trade. So Brad Brach came in to close it out and nearly blew the game in the rain-marred 9th inning. But in the end, he left the game-tying and -winning runs stranded on base by inducing the great Mookie Betts to hit into a game-ending double play. The win allowed Britton to walk away from Camden Yards on a positive note.

So, welcome to the New York Yankees, Zach Britton! Whether your stay is only for a few months or long-term should you decide to sign with the Yankees in the off-season, we are glad to have you. With Chapman’s knee issues, I am sure that there will be save opportunities for you. Looking forward to watching you send AL hitters home frustrated with that deadly sinker.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rich Schultz)

As for the guys the Yankees gave up, the one I probably hated to see leave the most was Cody Carroll. I’ve liked the reliever for the last few years but the loaded Yankees pen has kept him at Triple A. Although he has been assigned to the O’s Triple A club in Norfolk, there’s no doubt he’ll soon be making his Major League debut for his new club. Former Yanks like Richard Bleier and Yefry Ramirez (the winner pitcher in Baltimore’s win over the Red Sox yesterday) have done very well for the Orioles and I expect no less from Carroll. The headliner was Dillon Tate who has restored his stock as a quality prospect this year after once being selected fourth overall in the 2015 MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers. Tate, acquired in the trading deadline deal that sent Carlos Beltran to the Texas Rangers two years ago, may turn out to be a fine middle-of-the-rotation starter or a good setup reliever but he was never going to get that opportunity in New York. There are too many better guys in front of him. Josh Rogers has been a nice left-handed starter for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders but I agree with one Yankees beat writer that labeled him as a “poor man’s Jordan Montgomery”. With so many players needing protection from the Rule 5 Draft in December, I have no problem clearing the board of some of the fringe prospects. The fact the Yankees got an elite reliever without giving up a player from the cream of their prospects is incredible. The Yankees paid more for Britton than the A’s paid for Mets closer Jeurys Familia but it was worth it. Casey Stern’s famous quote (“Prospects are cool…Parades are cooler”) is very appropriate in this situation. If the Yankees win the World Series, I am not going to worry about future damage that Tate, Carroll and Rogers may do to the Yankees just like Cubs fans do not regret the trade that sent the very talented young Gleyber Torres to the Yankees.

There’s now less than a week to go to the non-waivers trading deadline next Tuesday. I still fully anticipate a trade for a proven starter although I do not feel the Yankees will be making any surprise stealth moves to acquire premium starters like Jacob deGrom or Madison Bumgarner. At this point, I probably feel more strongly than ever that J.A. Happ of the Toronto Blue Jays has a future in the Bronx. Given the Yankees are responsible for the full pro-rated balance of Britton’s one-year deal, I think they’ll tread lightly for luxury tax avoidance purposes. So, Happ makes more sense to me than Cole Hamels even though the latter has the better post-season resume. Although Happ has generally been awful for his last few starts, he held the Orioles to 1 run on 4 hits over 5 innings in his most recent start, striking out 9. He has shown the ability to beat the Astros and Red Sox so I’d have no qualms about adding him to the rotation. Zach Britton represents huge insurance and protection for Happ’s addition.

Lost in the Britton trade was the dominating performance of Masahiro Tanaka last night as the Yankees took down the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-0. Tanaka pitched a complete game shut-out, giving up only three hits and avoiding his usual obligatory home runs. He walked a batter and struck out 9 while throwing 105 pitches and lowering his season ERA to 4.09. After watching Luis Severino fall down against the Rays the night before, the Yankees needed a solid effort from Tanaka and they got it.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Ehrmann)

The win allowed the Yankees (64-35) to pick up a game on the Red Sox (71-32). The Yankees are 5 games behind the Red Sox entering play today and they are 5 games up on the Seattle Mariners in the AL Wild Card Standings.

I haven’t heard yet when Britton will join his new team but I think it would be foolish to make him travel to Tampa, Florida for today’s game, particularly given its early start time. The Yankees bullpen is rested and they can afford to wait a day for Britton’s arrival. Therefore, I’d send Britton to New York in anticipation of Thursday’s game against the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium. It would give Britton a breather to adjust to the change and to make temporary living accommodations. I’ve wondered if third base coach Phil Nevin will give up #53 for Britton. It’s not like he is married to the number. I guess we’ll soon find out.

Luis Cessa (1-1, 3.00 ERA) makes his return to the Yankees today for the start in the series finale with the Rays. He’ll be opposed by former (and maybe future?) Yank Nathan Eovaldi (3-4, 4.26 ERA). The Yankees are expected to activate Gleyber Torres before today’s game. It will be interesting to see the roster move made to open a spot for Torres. Cessa’s spot was opened by last night’s demotion of Giovanny Gallegos to Triple A. The most likely guy to join him with the RailRiders is Tyler Wade although Brandon Drury could certainly be an option if he needs a stint on the DL following his hand injury yesterday. Test results on the hand were negative but Drury’s hand is bruised and he could miss a few days.  A short stint on the DL might be good for him. Inevitably, I see the road coming to an end for Neil Walker but I don’t expect to see his name on the transactions wire today. Getting Torres back might be the single greatest “acquisition” the Yankees make this month. The Yankees have done a much better job winning with Gleyber’s name in the lineup than not so his presence is tremendous for the team.

Today is a great day for a Yankees victory. Cessa, please make it happen. Go Yankees!

Thud! Starts the Second Half…

Yankees fall to the lowly Mets in Series Opener…

Well, that was disappointing. I can’t say I met the news the Yankees would start Domingo German and Sonny Gray to open the second half with great optimism. Still, I had hoped for a better performance from German on Friday but it was not to be. From the time German walked the lead-off hitter with four consecutive balls to start the game, it felt like it wasn’t going to be his night.

The Mets had a 3-0 lead before the Yankees had even come to bat, and German was headed for the showers after 3 2/3 innings and four runs. He somehow made the pathetic Mets offense look like a juggernaut. The Yankees tried to rally but the hole dug by German and reliever Adam Warren was too great as the Yankees fell to the Mets, 7-5. German’s season record dropped to 2-6 with the loss, paired with a 5.68 ERA. After the game, German was given a ticket to catch up with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders in Columbus, Ohio to work on his mechanics. I can’t say that I am sorry to see him go.

Photo Credit: NY Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

This really underscores the inability of GM Brian Cashman to secure much-needed reinforcements for the starting rotation. We’ve known for a long time the team needed help. I know Jordan Montgomery’s Tommy John surgery was unforeseen but Cashman was openly talking about the need for another quality starter last winter (an obvious need that everyone saw). German and Jonathan Loaisiga may turn out to be great middle-of-the-rotation arms but for a team in contention, we don’t have the luxury of learning with their bumps and bruises. Last start excluded, I don’t think anyone thought Sonny Gray would be this bad and that has magnified Cashman’s inability to find adequate help. If the deal-breaker to acquire former Pittsburgh Pirate Gerrit Cole last winter was Clint Frazier, it was a huge error on Cashman’s part.  Cole (10-2, 2.52 ERA for the Houston Astros) would look great in the Yankees rotation right now.

After last night’s game when German was demoted, manager Aaron Boone said Luis Cessa would make German’s next start. The Yankees were expected to temporarily call up a reliever until it was time for Cessa to make his start and today they promoted Domingo Acevedo to take German’s spot. Acevedo, a starter for Double-A Trenton, is expected to provide long relief for the Yankees until it is time for Cessa to make his start. He provides Boone with another power arm in the pen for now. I think Acevedo’s long term future is the bullpen so this is his moment to impress.

Photo Credit: Martin Griff

Cessa pitched fine his last time out for the Yankees but I am starting to join the crowd that wants to see top pitching prospect Justus Sheffield. I don’t think Sheffield will be a starter for a pennant-chasing team as we head toward the stretch run, at least not this year particularly given he’ll be bumping up against an innings limit, but I am intrigued to see what he can do.  It can’t be any worse than German has already given us. The downside with the promotion of Sheffield is the need to create room on the 40-man roster, which is not a factor for either Cessa or Acevedo. The Yanks have to place Sheff on the 40-man roster prior to December’s Rule 5 Draft, but that’s a move for later.

Prior to yesterday’s game, the Yankees recalled infielder Brandon Drury to fill the spot vacated when they optioned Clint Frazier to Triple A prior to the All-Star break. By spend ing more time in the Minors, the Yankees secured an extra year of control on Drury. I hope he’s here to stay. It remains my opinion that I’d be very comfortable with Drury at third should the Yankees find it necessary to include Miguel Andujar for a top starting pitcher. Andujar is a very nice young player but there’s no doubt this team’s greater need is starting pitching.

The Yankees apparently lost out on reliever Brad Hand when they refused to include Andujar in a potential trade with the San Diego Padres before he was dealt to the Cleveland Indians. As much as I would have liked to have given the bullpen a Hand, I agree if Andujar is moved, it should be for a top starter (not guys like Cole Hamels or J.A. Happ) and certainly not for relievers. I really like Baltimore’s Zach Britton but Andujar should not be part of the discussion despite the O’s obvious need for a third baseman now that Tim Beckham has moved back to short.

Drury is penciled in to play second base today against the Mets and Steven Matz. The two ribbies last night by Neil Walker was nice but I’ll gladly take Drury over Walker any day of the week. “Yankees DFA Walker” remains the headline that I am most anxious to see. Well, maybe “Yankees acquire elite starting pitcher…” but the elimination of Walker is not far behind.

The most painful aspect of last night’s loss was the win by the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox made a solo first inning run hold up in the 1-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers behind former Tiger David Price. The win allowed the Red Sox to increase their lead in the AL East to 5 1/2 games. If the Yankees can’t shake this tailspin, the Red Sox are going to run away with the division as they’ve shown no signs of losing anytime soon. The Red Sox continue to show that they can do what the Yankees cannot, beat the teams you are supposed to.

Gary Sanchez, who struck out to end the eighth inning last night with the bases loaded, remains a disappointment.  His batting line stands at .191/.289/.428. Entering the season, I felt Sanchez was the Yankees best hitter but clearly I was wrong. I saw one random Twitter post suggest the Yankees should include Sanchez in a trade for Jacob deGrom and then swing a deal with the Miami Marlins for their catcher, J.T. Realmuto. A few months ago, I would have laughed at the thought but today it is one that gives you pause. I remain hopeful that El Gary starts hitting like 2017 and there’s still time. We need his bat.

Manny Machado’s debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers was a successful one. He singled in his first at bat against the Brewers at Miller Park in Milwaukee, and finished the game with two hits and a couple of walks. The Dodgers used a three-run homer by Kike Hernandez to hold off the Brewers for a 6-4 win to make Machado’s first game as a Dodger a winning one. Machado was met with boos from the Milwaukee crowd. Milwaukee had fallen short in their quest to acquire Machado. As if it was Manny’s fault Orioles GM Dan Duquette made the decision to send him to sunny LA rather than the Beer Capital of the World. I enjoyed how seamlessly Manny fit in with the Dodgers on his first day, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I hope he doesn’t like it well enough to prevent him from signing with the Yankees in the off-season.

When it was speculated that Manny had chosen #8 with the Dodgers out of respect for Orioles great Cal Ripken, Jr, he should have run with it even if it wasn’t the case.

During his press conference for his Dodgers introduction, he stated that he was a fan of Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant (even has a dog named after him) and chose the number for Kobe. I know that Kobe won more titles with #8, but I tend to remember him as #24. Machado also stated the number 8 was symbolic of “new beginnings”. Orioles fans are grieving about the loss of Machado and I think it would have been very soothing for them to hear that he had chosen the number for Ripken rather than Bryant. But on the other hand, you can’t blame Manny for wanting to turn the page. Hopefully he’ll be turning the page on the Dodgers in a few months and making plans for finding a new home in Manhattan.

I remain hopeful Brian Cashman surprises us all with a golden stealth move to strengthen starting pitching and help give the Yankees the necessary weapons to take down the Boston Red Sox. We’re ten days away from the non-waiver trading deadline so there’s time. Personally, I am feeling the urgency, especially considering starts like German last night, but I am optimistic that Cash will not let us down. There is too much potential for the 2018 Yankees to let it slip away.

Sonny Gray, please man up today. I know you’re pitching at Yankee Stadium, a venue you do not seem to appreciate if your pitching stats are any indication, but today is a new day. And these are the Mets. Just win, that’s all I ask.

Go Yankees!