Tagged: Orioles

I’d Judge the Weekend a Slamming Success…

Credit:  Paul J Bereswill

Yankees 9, A’s 5…

On the eve of thirteen consecutive games against American League East teams, the Yankees used the Judge to set sentence Sunday on the three game series with the Oakland A’s.  The verdict — the Yankees are guilty of taking the series, two games to one.

With the Yankees trailing 2-1 in the third inning, they loaded the bases (I can’t believe that Matt Joyce dropped that fly ball by Matt Holliday but hey, I’ll take it) with two outs for Aaron Judge.  In the preceding at-bat, Starlin Castro had a chance for the grand salami but he struck out.  A’s pitcher Andrew Triggs, with the count at two balls and a strike, threw a two-seam fastball to Judge.  As Julia Roberts said in the movie ‘Pretty Woman’, “Big mistake. Big. Huge.”  Judge made the most of his swing as he sent the ball over the center field wall for his 16th home run of the year.  The Yankees were up by three runs at 5-2 with the grand slam, Judge’s first, and a lead that they would not relinquish this day.  

It wasn’t a clean outing for Michael Pineda (6-2) but he did enough to capture the win.  He needs to clean up the mental errors…the three walks (two of the runners eventually scored), a balk and a throwing error.  In the sixth inning, with the Yankees leading 6-2, Pineda walked Jed Lowrie and then, with Khris Davis at the plate, balked to allow Lowrie to advance to second.  Davis subsequently reached first base on a throwing error by Pineda, while Lowrie raced around to home plate to close the gap to 6-3.  As the YES Network’s Michael Kay put it, “A walk, a balk, and an E-1”. Pineda finished the sixth, thanks to a double play, but that would be it for his day.  He finished with three hits, three runs (two earned although he was the responsible party for the unearned run), and five strikeouts.  

Credit:  Kathy Willens/AP

The Yankees picked up another run in the seventh inning when Gary Sanchez doubled to left with two outs and Ronald Torreyes on first.  The hit scored Torreyes, to push the score to 7-3.  The A’s challenged the call saying that left fielder Khris Davis held the ball long enough before bouncing out of his glove but the call on the field was upheld.  

The A’s responded with two runs in the eighth inning when Khris Davis hit his fifteenth homer of the season, a two-run shot off Yankees reliever Chad Green (with yet another walked batter that scored) to tighten the score, 7-5.  After a one batter appearance by the LOOGY (Tommy Layne, who retired lefty swinging Yonder Alonso on a fly out to right), Adam Warren was brought in for the role of cleaner (Mr Kaplan?)  and he eliminated Ryon Healy with a fly out to end the inning.

In the bottom of the eighth, Brett Gardner gave the Yankees some breathing room with a two-run double to increase the Yankees lead to 9-5.  Warren stayed in the game in the ninth to clean up the bodies with three up, three down for his first save of the season.  Start spreadin’ the news, I’m leavin’ today, I want to be a part of it, New York, New York…

Credit:  Kathy Willens/AP

It was a good day all around for the Yankees (29-18).  The Boston Red Sox finally dropped a game to Robinson Cano and the Seattle Mariners, 5-0, while the Baltimore Orioles, today’s opponent, lost their seventh consecutive game, 8-4 to the Houston Astros.  The losses increased the Yankees’ lead in the AL East to 3 games over the Red Sox and 4 1/2 games over the Orioles.  The Tampa Bay Rays, the only other team to win in the AL East on Sunday, are 5 games back.

Down on the Farm…

Tyler Austin continued his latest rehab assignment in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Sunday.  At DH, he was 1-for-3 with a run scored in the RailRiders’ 3-0 victory over the Toledo Mud Hens.  Gleyber Torres, at short, was 1-for-4 with a single.  

Yankees left-hander Justus Sheffield had a great game for the AA-Trenton Thunder.  He pitched a three-hitter in 6 2/3 innings to beat the Portland Sea Dogs, 6-2.  He only gave up one run (none earned), walked one and struck out six.  With more performances like that, the 21-year-old could very well find himself in Pennsylvania.  The hitting star for the Thunder was third baseman Miguel Andujar.  He was 3-for-4 with a home run and two runs scored.  

The Road Ahead…

The Yankees take to the road today with a trip to Baltimore, Maryland for three games with the Orioles, followed by a trip north of the border to Toronto, Canada for a four-game set with the Blue Jays.  Upon completion of the road trip, the Yankees return home to face the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles in three-game series.  As losers of seven straight, the Orioles will be looking to turn things around in their home park.  It’s not going to be an easy series by any stretch of the imagination.

Here are the pitching matchup’s for the Baltimore series:

TODAY

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (2-3, 4.30 ERA)

Orioles:  Dylan Bundy (5-3, 2.92 ERA)

TUESDAY

Yankees:  Luis Severino (3-2, 3.11 ERA)

Orioles:  Chris Tillman (1-1, 4.43 ERA)

WEDNESDAY

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (5-4, 5.86 ERA)

Orioles:  Kevin Gausman (2-4, 6.17 ERA)

Have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day!  Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who has lost family, friends, and loved ones in the defense of our Country.  Our eternal thanks to the men and women who gave all…

Splitter showed up but Clippard did not…

Credit:  Charles Wenzelberg

Friday night was very disappointing…  

The disappointment certainly did not reside with Masahiro Tanaka who was able to put the horrific past couple of weeks in his rearview mirror, but it was the implosion of the bullpen.  Tyler Clippard picked a very bad night to have a bad night and Jonathan Holder didn’t do anything to help.  

Tanaka started the game with three strikeouts although he did give up a double to Oakland’s Jed Lowrie.  It went a long way for me to show that Tanaka was not going to be a punching bag on this evening.  Tanaka pitched into the eighth without allowing any runs, while striking out a season-high 13 batters.  The only problem was that Sean Manaea, moved up a day in the rotation after Kendall Graveman was scratched, was just as good. The Yankees could not muster any offense against Manaea, who only permitted one extra base-hit, a double by Austin Romine in the third inning.

Credit:  Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With the game still deadlocked at 0-0 in eighth inning, Tanaka struck out Mark Canha and was then pulled by manager Joe Girardi after giving up a single to Adam Rosales.  Using ‘ifs and buts’, if Aroldis Chapman had been healthy, the Yankees could have gone to Dellin Betances in that situation but Girardi had no choice but to go to interim setup reliever Tyler Clippard.  

From there, the game fell apart.  Rosales was safe at third following a throwing error by Clippard.  The next batter, Rajai Davis, hit into a fielder’s choice, and Rosales was erased at home.  Davis then stole second, but it didn’t matter because Clippard walked the next batter, Matt Joyce, a .194 hitter.  Jed Lowrie, 3-for-4 on the night, promptly singled to score Davis.  While I understand the rules for why the run was charged to Tanaka, this one was clearly on Clippard.  The next batter, Khris Davis, reached first on an infield single to Gregorius, scoring Joyce.  The Yankees challenged the call at first but lost.  Things could have gotten worse from there as Clippard threw a wild pitch to advance the runners to second and third but Ryan Healy flied out to left to end the inning.

Jonathan Holder replaced Clippard in the top of the ninth inning and was greeted by a single (Trevor Plouffe) and a home run (Stephen Vogt) which put the A’s up 4-0.  He stayed and got the next three outs, but by then the damage had been done.

The Yankees tried to muster a rally in the bottom of the ninth.  They had the bases loaded with just one out for Didi Gregorius.  Didi was unable to get the ball out of the park and the Yankees had to settle for a sac fly to put their first run on the board.  With two outs and the game-tying run still at the plate, Girardi pinch-hit Gary Sanchez for Chase Headley.  Unfortunately, Sanchez delivered the same result that Headley would have, a pop up in the infield to end the game.  

Numerous disappointments with this night.  Obviously, the bullpen.  The Yankees need Aroldis Chapman back.  Since he went on the DL, Betances is the only reliever to step up his game.  The others have regressed from the added work.  Chapman is scheduled to throw catch today if a visit to the doctor goes well so hopefully this is the start of his return.  Matt Holliday was a no-show.  He was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, leaving three runners on base.  Chase Headley is bringing nothing to the table.  He was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, and hasn’t been able to hit for a month as his batting average has fallen to .228.  

I know the calls for Gleyber Torres will soon begin but I think it’s more likely the Yankees would swing a minor trade for a Major League third base replacement at this point.  This is a direct reflection of how poorly the Yankees have drafted for third base.  Miguel Andujar is the organization’s best third baseman and he’s further away than Torres who most likely will be the eventual starter for the Yankees.  In 2011, the year they drafted Greg Bird, the Yankees first pick (51st selection) was Dante Bichette, Jr.  Had Bichette been able to develop, he would have been ready for a job in the Bronx.  As it is, the 24-year-old Bichette is batting .147/.213/.265 for AA-Trenton and is closer to a job outside of Baseball.  I recognize that 2011 was not a strong year for third basemen in general, but with the 292nd pick, the Boston Red Sox chose Travis Shaw who is currently the starting third baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers (9 HR, 34 RBI, .286 BA) .  The Yankees chose a few more third basemen in the 2011 Draft.  Matthew Duran was chosen with the 149th pick (Greg Bird wasn’t chosen until 30 picks later), Zach Wilson was picked 659th, and Connor Mach was the 1409th selection.  All three players are out of baseball.

I think the Yankees are stuck with Headley for the duration of the year.

Credit:  Elsa/Getty Images

The Yankees (27-18) maintained their 2 1/2 game advantage over the Baltimore Orioles, but lost ground with the AL East lead to two games as the hard-charging Boston Red Sox have moved up to second.  Baltimore lost to the very strong Houston Astros, 2-0, while the Red Sox were beating the punchless Seattle Mariners, 3-0.  

Here are the revised pitching match-ups for the remainder of the Oakland series with the scratch of Kendall Graveman yesterday:

TODAY

Athletics:  Jharel Cotton (3-4, 5.68 ERA)

Yankees:  CC Sabathia (4-2, 4.62 ERA)

TOMORROW

Athletics:  Andrew Triggs (5-3, 2.77 ERA)

Yankees:  Michael Pineda (5-2, 3.35 ERA)

I would have liked to have seen Sonny Gray this series given the trade rumors but Gray’s turn in the rotation doesn’t come up again until Tuesday in Cleveland.  

Credit:  Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees need to provide some offense today for Sabathia who, hopefully, continues his recent string of quality starts.  This is a series that the Yankees should be winning so if they lose two of three or worse yet, get swept, this will be looked upon as a missed opportunity.  Win the games you are supposed to win.  Apparently, the Red Sox got the memo but the Yankees didn’t.  Turn it around…today. 

Have a great Saturday!  Let’s find ways to beat the A’s!

Sabathia and his 20th Career Victory against the Royals…

Credit:  Brian Davidson/Getty Images

After giving up 22 runs in his previous four starts, CC Sabathia had his best game since his season opening start.  He pitched 6 2/3 innings of scoreless ball to help the Yankees defeat the Kansas City Royals, 7-1.  He only gave up five hits and two walks while striking out four.  The effort dropped his season ERA from 5.77 to 4.93.  He did get into a little trouble in the seventh inning when the Royals loaded the bases with two outs.  Joe Girardi pulled Sabathia, and Tyler Clippard was able to get the last out by swinging strikeout to preserve the scoreless outing for Sabathia.  

This is one of those games where everyone who played contributed in some way with a run, hit, or RBI.  The biggest hit was clearly the three-run homer by Gary Sanchez in the third inning.  It set the tone early and the Yankees were in control throughout.  Chris Carter finally did the one thing he is paid to do with a two-run dinger in the fourth, his second of the year.  Carter was 3-for-4 on the night, making it easily his best game as a Yankee.  Chase Headley deserves kudos for his amazing catch of the first pitch hit to start the game.  

Credit:  John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS

The Royals scored their only run in the ninth inning against Jonathan Holder on a fielder’s choice force-out with the bases loaded.  Things could have gotten hairy from there, but Holder got Alcides Escobar to pop up to Didi Gregorius to end the threat and the game.  

I have to say that the outing by Sabathia was bittersweet.  It buys the left-hander more time in the rotation, potentially setting us up for disappointment when we need him the most.  It’s one of those things that I hope I am wrong and CC shows he is capable of putting up more quality starts than not.  But one must recognize this wasn’t the Houston Astros, Baltimore Orioles or Boston Red Sox facing Sabathia.  The Royals are the worst hitting team in the American League at .226/.289/.355.  

For his career, Sabathia is 20-11 against the Royals in 38 starts, with a 3.11 ERA.  I am glad that he likes to pitch in Kansas City, where he is 13-5.  Now, I am hoping that Michael Pineda and Jordan Montgomery enjoy Kauffman Stadium as much as Sabathia has.  

The Yankees (23-13) remain a half-game ahead of the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East.  The Orioles beat the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday night in slugfest, 13-11.  It took two homers by Chris Davis in extra innings for the O’s to win.  Former Yankee Justin Wilson blew a save opportunity for the Tigers in the ninth, while former Yankee Richard Bleier took the win for the O’s.  Sadly, the Boston Red Sox also won, defeating the St Louis Cardinals, 6-3.  The Sox are four games back.

I was surprised to see the Arizona Diamondbacks have released former Orioles lefty Brian Matusz.  It doesn’t seem like that long ago he was a highly touted pitcher for the O’s but struggled as a starter.  He eventually found some success in the pen.  I always liked him and wanted to see him fulfill his promise (albeit not against the Yankees) but it was not meant to be.  Matusz is only 30 but I don’t see anything in his numbers to warrant consideration as a reclamation project.  It’s sad to see.  I am sure that someone will take a flyer but I don’t think the Yankees should.

Speaking of former Yankees, Robinson Cano has been placed on the disabled list for the first time since 2006 when he was still with the Yankees.  He injured his right quadriceps last week and had been expected to return yesterday.  The Seattle Mariners opted to place Cano on the 10-Day DL retroactive to May 13th.  While Cano had a great season in 2016 and was off to a good start in 2017, he is 34 and the risk of injury continues to increase.  Proof the Yankees were smart not to pay Cano $240 million for ten years (as much as I would have liked to have seen the player wear pinstripes throughout his career with an eventual Robinson Cano Day that he’ll never see at Yankee Stadium).  I do wish Cano a quick return to good health and that he is able to return to the Mariners lineup on May 23rd.

Credit:  MLB.com

Congratulations to Mike Ford.  The first base prospect was recently promoted from the AA Trenton Thunder to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and he had a big game yesterday to help defeat the Pawtucket Red Sox, 7-2.  Ford was 2-for-3 with a two run shot off Henry Owens, a pitcher the Yankees are familiar with at the big league level.  Tyler Webb took the win in relief of Bryan Mitchell with 3 1/3 innings of scoreless work and six K’s.  Webb, returned to the Yankees this spring after being taken by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Rule 5 Draft, should get a shot in the Yankees bullpen sometime this year if a spot on the 40-man roster opens up.  

Meanwhile in AA, Gleyber Torres hit a tie-breaking game-winning two run homer in the eighth inning yesterday as the Thunder beat the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, 4-2.  Just another day at the office for the supremely talented infielder.  

Have a great Wednesday!  I hope it’s another royally wonderful day for Yankees fans!

No Room For Racial Injustice…

Credit:  Jim Davis/Globe Staff

The lead for my post today has to be in support of Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones.  He was subjected to thrown objects and racial taunts in Boston on Monday night.  As a Yankees fan, it would be easy to pick on the Red Sox fans but this is not isolated to Fenway Park.  There are small, narrow-minded people in every stadium, including Yankee Stadium.  There is no excuse for the racial slurs and unacceptable behavior anywhere.  

Boston Red Sox President Sam Kennedy issued the following statement:

“The Red Sox have zero tolerance for such inexcusable behavior, and our entire organization and our fans are sickened by the conduct of an ignorant few. Such conduct should be reported immediately to Red Sox security, and any spectator behaving in this manner forfeits his/her right to remain in the ballpark, and may be subject to further action. Our review of last night’s events is ongoing.”

Granted, the Red Sox response was driven in large part by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred but I thought the Red Sox said the right words.  The proof is in the pudding so now let’s see Red Sox security enforce those words.  But it doesn’t stop there.  Security for every MLB team needs to take similar action.  There simply cannot be any tolerance for this type of behavior regardless of geography.  I support the Yankees but I will never support racial inequality and injustice.  I do not support the uniform he wears, but I will always support Adam Jones…the player and the man.  

A close friend of mine, a Boston-area resident and die-hard Red Sox fan, posted this on Social Media yesterday:

“I’m baffled….why are so many Red Sox fans defending the deplorable behavior of the fans last night at Fenway who yelled racial slurs and threw things at Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles? This SHOULD be something we all agree on….there is no room for hate at Fenway.”

I am in 100% agreement with her words.  This type of behavior must stop now.

To Boston’s credit, Red Sox fans gave Adam Jones a much-deserved standing ovation during yesterday’s game.

Moving on to baseball, the Yankees made a couple of moves yesterday.  Greg Bird was placed on the 10-Day Disabled List.  The ankle he injured the last week of training camp has not sufficiently healed and may have contributed to the dreadful 6-for-60 start (.100 batting average) with 22 strikeouts.  Rob Refsnyder was recalled to take Bird’s roster spot and he’ll back up interim starting first baseman Chris Carter.  Also, Luis Cessa was demoted after one day in the Bronx.  He came up long enough to cover the innings that Luis Severino could not on Monday (allowing the rest of the bullpen to take a much needed night off).  Mission accomplished, and back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  Recalled in his place is lefty reliever Chasen Shreve.  Shreve has pitched very well this year whether for the Yankees or the RailRiders.  Prior to his demotion to AAA, he pitched three scoreless innings with two strikeouts.  At Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he pitched 6 1/3 innings and allowed only one run.  He struck out twelve and walked none.  

The Yankees may get catcher Gary Sanchez back on Friday at Wrigley Field in Chicago.  

It’s possible that Jacoby Ellsbury could find his way to the DL (surprise, surprise…yeah, not really).  He has a bruised nerve in his left elbow.  The Yankees are going to give it a couple of days before making any decisions.  Oh well, it’s good opportunity for Aaron Hicks to get some regular playing time.  I personally could have come up with many better ways to spend $153 million a few years ago but the Yankees didn’t ask me.  

According to the Miami Herald, Jeb Bush has indicated Derek Jeter will run Baseball Operations if their purchase of the Miami Marlins comes to fruition.  With a lack of experience, it will be interesting, if the sale does go through, to see who Jeter hires or if he’ll retain Yankees Legend Don Mattingly as the team’s manager.  I’ve heard some speculate that Alex Rodriguez could be the eventual manager.  If it were me, one of the first telephone calls I would make to join my administration would be Yankees Vice President and Director of Amateur Scouting Damon Oppenheimer.  I could easily envision Oppenheimer as the team’s GM.  If not Oppenheimer, then former Yankees Assistant GM Kim Ng, currently Senior Vice President for Baseball Operations with Major League Baseball.  Rule Number One, surround yourself with people that are smarter than you.

In last night’s baseball action, where do we begin?  You can talk about Brett Gardner’s second multi-homer game in four days, Matt Holliday’s 3-for-4 night or another win by Masahiro Tanaka (4-1) as the Yankees stopped Toronto’s three-game winning streak with an 11-5 victory.  But really, the game came down to two words:  

Aaron Judge.

The Aaron Judge Show continues to dazzle live and TV audiences.  Judge started the day with a smashed TV in the outfield terrace during batting practice off a monster home run.  It was a sign of things to come as Judge matched Gardner’s two homer day and easily took the spotlight from the speedy Gardner.  With a homer by center fielder Aaron Hicks, the Yankees outfield produced five home runs.  It was the most home runs produced by a Yankees outfield trio since Mickey Mantle (2), Roger Maris (2) and Yogi Berra (1) did it on May 30, 1961 in a 12-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox.  Judge finished with four RBI’s while Gardner had three.

Credit:  Kathy Willens/AP

Masahiro Tanaka was unable to match his last start in Boston and he failed to deliver a quality start but fortunately on this night it was not needed.  He needed to do enough to deliver the win and, thanks to the Yankees bats, he did his job.  He went 6 1/3 innings.  He allowed eight eights and four runs, striking out two.  Toronto got to Tanaka in the 7th inning when Steve Pearce homered and Devon Travis singled.  With one out, Clippard replaced Tanaka after the Travis at-bat, and was ineffective.  Although he got Chris Coghlan out, he gave up a single to Kevin Pillar and walked Joey Bats to load the bases.  Dellin Betances replaced Clippard, and balked to allow Travis to score (with the run charged to Tanaka).  Betances then walked Russell Martin to re-load the bases, which brought the tying run to the plate.  But Betances struck out Kendrys Morales to end the threat.  

Former Yankee Steve Pearce had two home runs for Toronto, both off Tanaka.  

With the win, the Yankees (16-9) moved back into a first place tie in the AL East with the Baltimore Orioles.  The O’s lost to the Red Sox, 5-2.  

On the downside, catcher Austin Romine left the game with a cramp in his right groin.  According to manager Joe Girardi, Romine was pulled from the game despite saying no at least three times.  Hopefully, Romine is better today and this doesn’t develop into something more serious that causes lost playing time.  Regardless of how Romine feels today, I’d guess that Kyle Higashioka will be the starting catcher for the final game of the three-game set with the Blue Jays.  The Yankees will play it conservatively and allow Romine sufficient rest to recover.  The impending return of #24 comes at a very good time.  

Have a great Wednesday!  Hopefully the Yankees can get over the hump and beat Marcus Stroman and the Blue Jays!

Forget Yesterday, Fight for Today…

It’s tough to follow a game that you should have won with a dull, listless performance.  So it was for the Yankees as they fell 7-1 to the AL cellar rats, the Toronto Blue Jays.  To the Blue Jays credit, they are now on a three-game winning streak and have held their opponents to a single run in each of those victories.  It was just a matter of time before the Blue Jays started playing like the team many predicted to contend for the AL East and unfortunately the Yankees may have run into them at the wrong time. 

Luis Severino, after his brilliant performance in Boston, let the bottom of Toronto’s batting order do the damage.  In the second inning, he allowed a two-run homer to the number seven hitter, shortstop Ryan Goins, who is subbing for the injured Troy Tulowitzki.  It would be the only runs Toronto would need on a quiet night for Yankee bats.  Severino allowed another home run in the sixth inning to the number nine hitter, third baseman Chris Coghlan, a fill-in for the injured Josh Donaldson.  Severino (2-2) lasted 5 2/3 innings, giving up 8 hits and 5 runs.  He walked two and struck out 3.  

Credit:  Kathy Willens/AP

Reliever Luis Cessa took one for the team and finished the remaining 3 1/3 innings to provide rest for the weary Yankees bullpen.  He did give up a two-run shot to Jose Bautista in the seventh inning but was otherwise effective.  

Jacoby Ellsbury made a great play in the sixth inning with a leaping catch of a potential double.  His momentum carried him into the centerfield wall.  A runner on third scored on the sac fly, but then Ellsbury overthrew Aaron Judge on an attempt to get the ball back into the infield which allowed a runner on second to also score.  

Greg Bird is lost at the plate.  His latest 0-for-4 performance dropped his batting average to an even .100.  He left 5 men on base.  The Yankees continue to give him chances to turn it around, but when is enough?  I’ve been in Bird’s corner but at some point, he needs to figure this out at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, not New York, in order to restore his confidence.  I had thought he was getting better swings in recent days but the results are not there.  I am not ready to say ‘send him down today’ but it is probably not going to take too many more games of hitless results.  

It was just one of those games.  The Yankees have struggled against the Blue Jays in recent years as they are just 13-26 against Toronto since the start of the 2015 season.  The loss dropped the Yankees (15-9) one game behind the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East.  The O’s beat the Boston Red Sox 5-2 on Monday night to recapture sole possession of first place.  But today, yesterday means nothing.  The Yankees can still take this series and it starts today with timely hitting and precision pitching.   

Prior to the game, the Yankees recalled Cessa to provide long relief insurance and optioned reliever Bryan Mitchell to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  Brendan Kuty of NJ.com had the best Twitter line:  “Mitchell will likely share 1B duties with Refsnyder and Choi” in reference to Mitchell’s one inning of work at first base on Sunday.  Too funny!

With no offense to Jorge Mateo, my personal favorite for the future of center field at Yankee Stadium had quite a game on Sunday.  Dustin Fowler, a strong candidate to eventually unseat Jacoby Ellsbury, hit for the cycle as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders defeated the Indianapolis Indians (the Pittsburgh Pirates’ top farm club), 7-6. 

In the bottom of the 11th inning, Fowler capped his memorable day with a walk-off home run, completing the cycle.   For the game, the 22-year-old went 5-for-6 with 2 runs scored and 2 RBI’s.  For the season, Fowler is batting .293 (24-for-82), 4 home runs, and 12 RBI’s.  He is second on the team with a .914 OPS.  He has also stolen two bases.

Fowler’s day:

1st Inning:  Tripled to right.

3rd Inning:  Grounded out to third.

5th Inning:  Doubled to right, scoring Tyler Wade.

7th Inning:  Singled to center.

9th Inning:  Doubled to right.

11th Inning:  Homered to right, no one on…RailRiders win!

It may have taken two extra innings, but what a way to cap hitting for the cycle!  Congrats to Fowler for the terrific game.  I look forward to the day when he is doing this in the Bronx.

Credit:  Times Leader

I am a Yankees Homer but I can’t predict an AL championship for the Yankees yet.  Granted, the team finished the month of April in a first-place tie with the Baltimore Orioles, but it’s still a very long season.  The Yankees had a chance to bury the Orioles on Sunday and couldn’t do it.  The ebbs and flows the season will ultimately predict the final standings.  Let’s see how the team handles its first real stretch of difficulty.  With the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros looming on the horizon, adversity is on its way.  The last time catcher Gary Sanchez started a game, the Yankees were 1-4.  So let’s not start printing World Series tickets just yet.  Through May 1st last year, the Yankees were 8-15.  This season, they are 15-9 through the same date.  If they finish the season, from this point forward, with the same number of wins and losses as last year, they are a 90-win team.  I think this team can contend for a Wild Card spot but I am not ready to anoint them as potential division champions. I still expect Boston to play much better as the season progresses, particularly if they get David Price back.  And I’ve learned to never underestimate Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles.  The charging Blue Jays also have the Yankees’ number.  If the Yankees are still slugging it out for first place at the All-Star Break, then I’ll reconsider my forecast.  But for now, I still feel the best case scenario is a Wild Card slot with the division championship a season or two away.

Have a great Tuesday!  Today is a new day…time to beat these pesky Jays!

Fifteen wins for April? Sign me up…

Credit:  Elsa/Getty Images

All things considered, I’d rather talk about wins than losses…  

After reeling off two wins against the Baltimore Orioles, it felt like the chances were good for a sweep when the Yankees rallied for two runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie Sunday’s game 4-4.  But unfortunately, luck ran out and the Yankees lost 7-4 as they now await the arrival of the Toronto Blue Jays later today.  

The loss dropped the Yankees to 15-8 and back into a tie for first place with the Orioles.

Although the Yankees had their chances late in the game, I thought the inability to push more runs across early in the game was key.  Had they broken open the game early, there would have been no need for late game heroics.  Through the first three innings, the Yankees left seven men on base.  The Yankees had runners on second and third with no outs in the second inning, but failed to score when O’s starter Wade Miley struck out Kyle Higashioka, Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks in succession.

For the game, the Yankees left sixteen runners on base.  Still, they had a chance, thanks to a single by Didi Gregorius in the bottom of the ninth that scored Aaron Judge and Chase Headley to tie the game.  After Gregorius took second due to defensive indifference, the Yankees had runners at second and third.  Unfortunately, Chris Carter struck out to end the threat with a weak at-bat.  

From there, things got interesting.  Manager Joe Girardi moved reliever Bryan Mitchell, who had pitched the top of the ninth, to first base, and brought in Aroldis Chapman.  By keeping Mitchell in the game, the Yankees lost the DH spot in the lineup as it was taken by the new pitcher.  Had the Yankees won the game in the bottom of the tenth, it would have been a brilliant move.  Mitchell did commit one error (dropped foul pop) but Chapman prevented any other damage.  Sadly, with no DH, Matt Holliday was out of the game, and the Yankees had to pinch hit Greg Bird with the winning run at third base and only one out.  Bird was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and the next batter, Starlin Castro, hit into a force out that got Austin Romine out at the plate.  With the bases still loaded and two outs, Aaron Judge had a chance to send his team to victory, but it was not meant to be as he struck out.  

The lost chances eliminated the Yankees’ hopes for a win as the Orioles scored three runs in the top of the eleventh against Bryan Mitchell, who had moved back to pitching from first base to replace Chapman at the start of the inning.  

It was a frustrating set of circumstances that led to the lost DH but I do not fault Girardi for trying to get creative.  With a depleted bullpen, the Yankees did not have the men for an extended extra inning affair.  I would have preferred to have seen Holliday batting in the tenth with the winning run 90 feet away but you cannot fault Girardi’s logic.  He was trying to win a game and it could have (coulda, woulda, shoulda) worked out.  

I am not going to worry about a loss on April 30th.  The Yankees are still playing very well, and there’s nothing about yesterday’s loss that can detract from the excitement about the team.  If the Yankee took two games out of three for every series, they’d be in excellent shape.  

Credit:  Elsa/Getty Images

Tonight, the Yankees begin a three game series with the Toronto Blue Jays.  After a horrific start to the season, the Blue Jays are starting to win.  They took two of three from the Tampa Bay Rays over the weekend.  This will be a big test for the young Yankees.

The scheduled pitching match-ups are:

MONDAY

Blue Jays:  Marco Estrada (0-1, 2.70 ERA)

Yankees:  Luis Severino (2-1, 3.00 ERA)

TUESDAY

Blue Jays:  Mat Latos (0.00, 3.27 ERA)

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (3-1, 4.20 ERA)

WEDNESDAY

Blue Jays:  Marcus Stroman (2-2, 2.97 ERA)

Yankees:  CC Sabathia (2-1, 4.34 ERA)

The former Yankees in this series are Blue Jays starting catcher Russell Martin and outfielder Steve Pearce.

Speaking of ex-Yankees, infielder Pete Kozma, who had been designated for assignment when Didi Gregorius returned, has been claimed by the Texas Rangers.  To make room for Kozma, the Rangers demoted former top prospect Jurickson Profar to Triple-A.  Best of luck to Kozma and thanks to him for his brief efforts in the Bronx.

As for current Yankees, catcher Gary Sanchez begins a rehab assignment with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre tomorrow with eyes on returning this weekend at Wrigley Field in Chicago.  

Have a great Monday!  Let’s get this machine back in the win column!

Who Was That Masked Man?…

On Saturday, the Yankees were led by slugging outfielder Brett Gardner and the Hit Machine, Austin “So Fine” Romine.  Wait a minute!  Say what?  You’re friggin’ kidding me, right?  Gardner entered the game hitting .188 with no home runs or RBI’s.  Romine, a seemingly career minor leaguer until he finally became a Major League back up last year at age 27, came into the game with a more respectable .277, but only a single homer and five RBI’s.  On Saturday, the two went off for combined nine RBI’s as the Yankees throttled the Baltimore Orioles, 12-4.  The Yankees, in scoring 26 runs in two victories, have ensured that they’ll leave April, pending the outcome of today’s game, no worse than tied for the American League East lead.

Gardner hit not one but two home runs in doing his best impersonation of Aaron Judge, albeit a short one, and drove in four Yankees runs.  His 2-for-4 performance raised his batting average above .200 (to .206).  With a 2-for-3 day (which also included a home run), Romine boosted his average to .300 and bested Gardner’s RBI total by one.  I really didn’t expect Romine to start on Saturday after catching Friday night’s game, but I am glad Manager Joe Girardi penciled his name in.  By the way, Aaron Judge sent one out but that’s getting to be old news.  The big news anymore is the days he doesn’t send a ball screaming out of Yankee Stadium at record speed.  Seriously, Judge is locked in right now and is tied with Khris Davis of the Oakland A’s for the most home runs in the American League with ten.  Things are going so well for Judge, he even stole a base against the O’s, with footsteps that must have reverberated throughout the Stadium as the big man ran toward third.  

Credit:  Al Bello/Getty Images

Michael Pineda was the winning pitcher with 5 1/3 innings of work.  He got into some trouble in the sixth inning when Manny Machado doubled and subsequently scored on a Chase Headley throwing error.  Girardi had a quick hook and pulled Pineda despite the 7-1 lead to avoid a potential return to “Bad Mike”.  Big Mike’s day finished with five hits, two runs (although none earned), one walk, and eight strikeouts.  He picked up his third win (3-1) of the year.  

The Yankees are 15-7, and a game up on the Orioles for the AL East lead.  Aaron Judge is on pace for 74 home runs (I know, it’s not sustainable) and this is an absolutely fun team to watch.  What a difference a year makes!  Last year on April 29th, the Yankees fell to the Boston Red Sox 4-2 to drop their season record to 8-13.  Last April, the 2016 club felt lethargic and old. This year’s team is enthusiastic, supportive and energetic.  I am not saying this is the 1998 Yankees but this is the best team chemistry I have seen since the golden years of the late 90’s.  

Credit:  Noah K Murray/USA TODAY Sports

Today, the Yankees will send Jordan Montgomery to the mound to face the O’s Wade Miley in the finale of the three game series.  The Yankees stay at home to begin a three-game set with the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday.

Yankees pitching prospect Chance Adams is soon going to be making noise for Big League consideration.  So far this season, he is dominating Double-A for the Trenton Thunder.  Through four starts, the 22-year-old is 3-0 with 0.82 ERA (13 hits and 2 earned runs in 22 innings).  Although he has walked 10 batters, he was struck out 22.  He’ll no doubt get the call to make the trip to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre soon and is positioning himself for a possible late-season call-up to the Bronx.  If the Yankees need an emergency starter, I am sure that it would be Chad Green or Luis Cessa.  But Adams is ensuring that his name will soon be in the conversation.  Good problems to have.

News around Baseball the last few days has shown the risk of making big trades.  On December 9, 2015, the Arizona Diamondbacks packaged promising young shortstop Dansby Swanson, pesky outfielder Ender Inciarte, and pitcher Aaron Blair in a deal to acquire starting pitcher Shelby Miller and a minor leaguer.  Miller has struggled in Arizona and this week it was announced that he’ll undergo Tommy John surgery.  Like James Kaprielian, he won’t be back until late 2018 at the earliest.  Last year on December 7th, the Washington Nationals traded top young pitchers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning to the Chicago White for outfielder Adam Eaton after their failed attempt to acquire Andrew McCutheon from the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Yesterday it was announced that Eaton will miss the remainder of the 2017 season with a torn ACL in his left knee.  Ouch!  These were very high prices to pay for nothing.  I hope that both Miller and Eaton are successful in their respective recoveries and return one day stronger than ever, but it doesn’t help either the D-Backs or the Nationals today.  The Nationals have a World Series contending club and now they need outfield help in addition to the desperate need for a proven closer.  

Have a great Sunday!  I have no desire to see former Yankees manager Buck Showalter gain a victory today…let’s sweep this series!