Tagged: Rays

CC Sabathia and the Hall of Fame…

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Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, NY Post

Resume now includes 250 wins and 3,000 strikeouts…

Many of us fans were getting discouraged with the June Yankees after the May Yankees had made baseball fun again, but it’s funny how a nice little five-game win streak quickly changes one’s perspective.  I was a little late tuning into yesterday’s series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays, and it was already 6-0 in the first inning and the Rays were on their second pitcher after AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell had been pulled after one out and 39 pitches. Yikes! That’s the Yankee Juggernaut this team is capable of.

Congratulations to CC Sabathia for the achievement of his 250th Major League victory with the 12-1 win.  I know it took a few tries and CC was more worried about getting the Yankees their 46th win this year than the 250th of his career, but it’s an amazing achievement for the big guy from Vallejo, California.  With a career record of 250-157, 3.71 ERA, and 3,043 strikeouts, he seems like a shoo-in for Baseball’s Hall of Fame.  As an eleven-year member of the team, it seems natural that he should go into the Hall as a Yankee despite his early years in Cleveland.  I suspect in five years, CC will need to make travel arrangements for Cooperstown, New York. He’s been a great Yankee.

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The sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays couldn’t have come at a better time.  Entering the series, the Yankees held a slim ½ game lead over the Rays and had been scuffling for a few series until they finally won the last two games of the four-game set in Chicago with the White Sox to earn a split.  Now, three days later, the Yankees have a more comfortable 3 ½ game margin on the Rays and barring another tailspin should enter the month of the July atop the AL East Standings.

Now the challenging part. The Houston Astros are in the Bronx for a four-game series starting this evening. Yes, the Cincinnati Reds just swept the Astros and Houston is on a four-game losing streak but they still have the second-best record in the American League behind the Minnesota Twins at 48-27 (two wins more than the Yankees but the same number of losses).  Regardless of what happened in Cincinnati, playing in Yankee Stadium will energize the Astros and it will almost certainly be a playoff-like atmosphere. I expect it to be a very tough series, more challenging than the last three days.  Not taking anything away from the Rays, they are a very good team, but in my mind, the Astros, who many predict to advance to the World Series this year, are the team to beat.  They are boosted by the return of second baseman Jose Altuve who was activated off the IL yesterday. Similarly, the Yankees benefit from the returns of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge (the latter played his last rehab game for the RailRiders last night and should be activated for Friday night’s game).  It feels like the Yankees are catching the Astros at the right time, and I am glad the series is in New York and not Houston.  If the Yankees continue to get the pitching performances they’ve seen the last few games, I like the Yankees’ chances of taking at least three of four from the Astros.  After getting swept in Houston earlier this season, it would be fun if the Yankees could return the favor.

The pitching matchups are set:

Thursday:  Houston’s Framber Valdez (3-2, 2.77 ERA) vs Chad Green, Opener (1-2, 7.54 ERA) who will most likely be followed by Nestor Cortes Jr (1-0, 3.79 ERA).

Friday: Houston’s Brad Peacock (6-4, 3.67 ERA) vs James Paxton (4-3, 3.93 ERA)

Saturday: Houston’s Wade Miley (6-4, 3.30 ERA) vs Masahiro Tanaka (5-5, 3.23 ERA)

Sunday: Houston’s Justin Verlander (9-3, 2.59 ERA) vs J.A. Happ (7-3, 4.59 ERA)

I am kind of glad the Yankees will be missing future Yank Gerrit Cole this series.  I think the only matchup that truly concerns me is Verlander-Happ.  Hopefully Happ can go toe-to-toe (or maybe I should say arm-to-arm) with Verlander with the Yankees’ offense providing the difference.

The Cameron Maybin decision. I agree with those who say the best course of action after tonight’s game is to option Cortes Jr to Triple A to clear a spot on the 25-man roster for Aaron Judge.  If Cortes Jr can pitch at least five innings tonight, he won’t be ready to pitch again for five days so it buys more time for Maybin on the Yankees roster.  Sadly, if Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Judge stay healthy, I do not see room on the roster for Maybin.  It sucks because I think he’s been a fantastic addition and he fits so well into the clubhouse, but inevitably, the Yankees will need his roster spot.  Brett Gardner will provide the necessary outfield insurance so at that point, Maybin becomes a redundant part and one not likely to play much.  Hopefully Brian Cashman can work his magic and get a little something for Maybin rather than just lose him on waivers.  Of course, an injury could change this in a heartbeat.  I do not wish injury upon anyone, but I am in favor of buying as much time with Maybin as we possibly can before the inevitable guillotine falls.  That’s why I feel the Yankees should drop to a 12-man pitching staff at least temporarily.

I really do not get the adverse reaction Giancarlo Stanton has gotten from Yankee fans.  I feel it is unrealistic to expect players who have missed so much time to immediately hit to normal standards.  Recapturing one’s timing is a process. Facing Triple-A pitchers is not the same as MLB pitching.  Stanton missed 68 games until he was activated earlier this week.  I had absolutely no problem with Aaron Boone’s decision to rest Stanton yesterday. If Boone wants to take his time working Stanton back into form, he certainly knows more about the situation (where Stanton is physically and mentally) and it’s his right to make those decisions.  I know Stanton will eventually hit and I am not going to get on him for every strikeout until it happens. He deserves our patience and support, not our abuse.  I am glad Giancarlo Stanton is a Yankee and if the Yankees win the World Series this year, I have no doubts Stanton will be a huge reason why.  If you choose to boo him, I don’t consider you to be real fans anyway.

The Yankees had a couple of minor league transactions of note yesterday.  Pitchers Drew Hutchison and Danny Farquhar were released.  I never really expected Hutchison to last in the organization.  He wasn’t going to get a chance at the Big League level and apparently he had an opt-out in his minor league contract.  There was a time when I thought the one-time Blue Jay had potential but that time passed years ago.  Farquhar is the sadder story.  After his life-threatening brain aneurysm with the Chicago White Sox last year, he was the feel-good story of the Spring as he attempted his comeback with the Yankees.  While I didn’t think he’d crack the Yankees’ vaunted bullpen, there was a part of me that kind of hoped he would.  I wish him nothing but the best as he continues his journey back to the Major Leagues.  I hope he has better luck with his next organization and I look forward to the day he stands on a Major League mound again.

Lastly, a quick note on the starting pitching speculations for our favorite team.  As much as I would love to have Max Scherzer and there’s probably no untouchable prospects to get him (in my mind), he will never be a Yankee.  Primarily, I don’t think the Washington Nationals will trade him.  They’ve won 16 of 23 games and are only 4 games out in the NL Wild Card hunt.  Sure, much can happen between now and July 31st, but I don’t see the Nationals in seller’s mode (at least not as far as Scherzer is concerned).  But even if the Nats were willing to trade him, I honestly do not feel the Yankees would take the contract, even if Washington was willing to include a few dollars in the deal.  I know Hal Steinbrenner is on record saying that he’d be willing to surpass the highest luxury tax threshold if necessary to improve pitching but what he says and what he does are often two different things.  There always seems to be the eye on the bottom line and truthfully Scherzer is probably the only pitcher worth paying the highest tax but I don’t see it happening.  I guess you can never say never, but as much as I like Max Scherzer, I don’t think we’ll ever see him calling Yankee Stadium home.

As always, Go Yankees!

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The Resilient Yankees Capture 1st Place…

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II/AP

Comeback Win Vaults Yankees Past Rays in AL East…

Okay, it’s just mid-May and like Aaron Boone alluded to last night after the game, it’s a long season ahead. Yet, it is satisfying to sit atop the AL East even if it is only temporary depending upon the outcome of today’s game. Standings will become more important in the months ahead but I continue to be amazed at the resiliency of this team.

Gio Urshela’s run-scoring single in the bottom of the ninth inning to win it last night may have been his game-winning hit, but it’s a microcosm of this season and how well the replacement Yankees have stepped up to support the team in the wake of injuries to multiple major team stars. I was kind of hoping Kendrys Morales would have his signature Yankee moment in his second game with a home run in the bottom of the ninth, which would have been his second of the game, to win it but it was not meant to be. Kendrys was probably wishing too hard for a homer too and that’s why he struck out. Oh well, Gio was there to pick him up.

To answer your question, yes Michael Kay, the Yankees had a rally in their bones.

Credit Luke Voit for the home run to open the bottom of the ninth to cut it to a one-run deficit. Perhaps the Yankees were destined to win it anyway but the homer changed the mood in the air. As a TV viewer, I know I was feeling a lift even if the Yankees were still trailing at that point after only putting up one run (the Morales homer in the bottom of the second) the prior eight innings.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/NY Post

I’ve seen many jump on Aaron Boone for pitching Chad Green in the eighth inning when the Rays put two runs on the board to break the 1-1 tie. I had no problem with the move. After the game, Boone indicated that the decision was to avoid Zack Britton this game since he had thrown 31 pitches in Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles. Aroldis Chapman would have only entered in a save situation. But even without his explanation for not using Britton (or Chapman), I had no problem with Boone’s decision to bring Green into the high leverage situation. I’m sure Green would have liked a mulligan on the sixth pitch to Brandon Lowe, which Lowe ripped to deep center for a run-scoring double, but otherwise, I thought he pitched very effectively. The unearned run on the errant throw to first base by Gleyber Torres which allowed another run to score was not Green’s fault. The bullpen has been pitching so well lately, I guess the fans have come to expect zeros every time a Yankee reliever takes the mound but guess what, shit happens. I want Chad Green to be a big part of this bullpen and I hope Boone keeps rolling him out in high leverage spots. I am convinced he rediscovered himself with his brief stay in Scranton a couple of weeks ago and the results, over a broader span, will prove it. Say what you will, but I think Aaron Boone has improved as a manager over the course of two seasons.

Great job by CC Sabathia. Outside of the fourth inning solo dinger by Willy Adames which tied the game, Sabathia was excellent. It was his longest start of the season at six innings, with an economical 84 pitches. He only walked two batters, while striking out four, and lowered his season ERA to 2.97 with the single earned run on the Adames homer. The four K’s pushed the future Hall of Famer’s career strikeout total to 3,013.

Photo Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images

This is a strange season. I am excited about how well the Yankees have done despite missing so many huge parts of the team. On the other hand, I keep wondering when the shoe is going to drop. I really hope the replacements can keep this up until we start to get the big guns back.

Before the Yankees completed their comeback win, the Houston Astros exerted their position as the best team in the American League, right now, with their 3-1 win over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Despite their sluggish start, the Red Sox have been very strong lately as they have charged back into AL East relevance (which I had fully expected, hence, the reason I never talked smack when the Red Sox were down). The Red Sox loss and the Yankee win leaves the Sox 4 1/2 games behind the Yankees…not that it matters at this point. I didn’t watch the Astros-Red Sox game but I did see enough to shake my head and say that Alex Bregman is incredible. He didn’t do anything with his bat (1-for-4, a meaningless first inning single) but his defense play was, as usual, outstanding. Such a great all-around player. It really makes me appreciate Gio Urshela as the Yankees’ third baseman in Miguel Andujar’s absence.  A great glove at third cannot be underestimated. After the Rays game, CC Sabathia was asked if he had ever played with anyone as good defensively as Urshela, and CC couldn’t come up with a name.

Last winter, I had wanted the Yankees to sign Manny Machado for his all-around play. Who knows if he can keep it up, but at this point, Urshela has provided everything I wanted from Machado at a fraction of the cost. Manny is batting .268/.346/.470 with .347 wOBA and 120 wRC+ (1.4 WAR) in 44 games. He has 9 homers and 23 RBIs. In 10 fewer games, Urshela is batting .347/.398/.500 with .384 wOBA and 142 wRC+ (1.0 WAR).  He has 2 home runs and 16 RBIs. Granted, Machado has more power but Urshela has more than fulfilled expectations. I am not saying that Urshela will ever be the player Machado is, but I really hope that he is able to keep this up to prevent GM Brian Cashman from going outside to get further help at third base. It would be awesome if this is truly Urshela’s breakout year. Not sure how this plays out when Didi Gregorius returns to take shortstop, creating an infield crowd. But that’s a problem for another day. Today, I’ll gladly watch Urshela with amazement, play after play, day after day.

I guess it was in the back of all of our minds but it was rough hearing Carlos Beltran say that Aaron Judge will not fully recover from the oblique injury this season. I know, it’s a core muscle and anyone who has had a similar injury knows how difficult it is to let the muscle rest. In other words, you can’t. Hopefully Judge is able to get healthy enough to help the team at some point in the not-so-distant future although he hasn’t resumed baseball activities yet. I’d rather he waits until he is truly ready, even though he won’t be 100%, and not try to come back too soon. We need Judge when the summer months get here.

 

Photo Credit: Paul J Bereswill/NY Post

It’s a new day. Let’s hope the Yankees magic continues today (and tomorrow and the next day…). As with The Three Musketeers, same with The Twenty-Five New York Yankees, “all for one and one for all”.

As always, Go Yankees!

Doubleheader with Sweeping Success…

Photo Credit: Al Bello, Getty Images

Yankees take 2 from the lowly O’s…

After a couple of rainy days and no Yankees baseball, everybody’s favorite team returned yesterday with a sweep of the doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles to salvage two of the three scheduled games of the series. The third game, Tuesday’s rainout, will be played as part of another doubleheader on August 12th.

The two wins, by scores of 5-3 and 3-1, put the Yankees a half-game behind the division-leading Tampa Bay Rays, who won a 1-0 pitching duel with the Miami Marlins, entering this weekend’s AL East Showdown between the Yankees and Rays. I really wish that Donnie Baseball’s team could have put up a couple of runs against Tampa. A Rays blowout would have been easier to take than a one-run victory.

A common phrase during this injury-challenged year is ‘where would we be without (insert player name)?’  Yesterday, the man was Gleyber Torres. His three home runs (two in the first game and one in the second) represented the first time a Yankee at age 22 or younger, had homered three times in one day since Joe DiMaggio homered three times during a game in 1937. Joltin’ Joe actually did it twice with three homers during a 1936 doubleheader, but still, anytime you can put your name with DiMaggio, you’re doing something right.

Domingo German (8-1, 2.41 ERA) continues to amaze. Entering the season, it was a question if he’d even make the MLB roster and if so, a swing role probably represented his best opportunity. Asked to step in for the injured Luis Severino, German has never looked back. His eight wins, one more than Houston’s Justin Verlander, lead Major League Baseball. If he continues to pitch like this, there’s no doubt he’ll be at Progressive Field in Cleveland on July 9th for the All-Star Game. Yesterday, he pitched seven innings in the second game, yielding only a single run although he did have to escape a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the seventh inning. He struck out eight. His emotion in getting the final out on a groundout to third by Joey Rickard told the story. He was great this game. Despite the struggles in his final inning, he pitched very efficiently with only 85 pitches, walking just one (the next to last batter he faced).

When James Paxton and Luis Severino return, the Yankees will have an interesting decision to make. Of course, this is one of those situations where you worry about it when it happens, but there’s no way the Yankees can pull German from the starting rotation if he continues to pitch like this. I can easily see J.A. Happ as the odd man out, but then the question is what do you do with Happ. Signed to a two year deal, with vesting option for a third year, in the off-season, Happ seems to be coming around despite the two homers he allowed yesterday.  His vesting option is not impacted by innings or starts in 2019 so he seemingly is a candidate to move into the bullpen as the long man if necessary.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, NY Post

Seems a bit of a waste of a proven Major League starter but honestly who else are you going to pull from the starting rotation? Tanaka is not going anywhere and CC Sabathia, in his final season, has earned the right to start to season’s end. These things usually work themselves out and while I don’t want to see any more injuries, it is inevitable somebody will go down beyond the present list of injured players. If Happ gets on a summer-time roll or pitches like he did down the stretch last year for the Yankees, it will be hard to remove him from the rotation but I honestly see no other alternatives and do not feel the Yankees would move to a six-man rotation. Oh well, that’s a problem to think about if/when it happens. I’d much prefer having guys Domingo German and Gio Urshela take strangleholds on their positions and forcing the hard decisions by Brian Cashman and his team.

Speaking of Urshela, his long-term future with the Yankees for the season was solidified with the somber news that Miguel Andujar has opted for season-ending surgery to repair the torn labrum in his right shoulder. While Miggy was contemplating whether or not to have the surgery, I felt it was the right move from the start. He tried rest and rehab and it didn’t work. Rather than gamble with continued rest and potential setbacks, get the problem fixed and come back healthy and strong. It may mean 9-12 months lost, but that’s better than trying to play deeper into the 2019 season  with unsuccessful results and potentially losing all of next year. Hopefully Andujar comes back as good as new and enjoys a Didi Gregorius-like road to recovery.

Someone mentioned the Yankees should make a trade for Toronto’s Brandon Drury for third base. No question he is a good player, the Yankees liked him and he only lost out with the team because of Andujar’s stellar play. However, I think the Yankees are in good hands with Urshela and DJ LeMahieu. I really liked Drury during his brief Yankees career but once Didi comes back, Torres will take back second base. You have to keep LeMahieu in the lineup so I think you’ll see him spend the majority of his time at third when Didi and Gleyber are on the field. Regardless of whether it is Gio or DJ at third, you know great glove work will be in play. No offense to Andujar but I love above-average defense at third base.

I am not sure what I think about the Yankees’ acquisition of Kendrys Morales. I don’t necessarily look at him as a feared hitter but he always seemed to have the annoying knack of clobbering home runs at the worst times against the Yankees. At least he can’t do that anymore since his dingers will only help the team. I guess i’s a good, cheap move. The Yankees have no long-term commitments to Morales and he can help now. I think his body of work in 2019 with the Oakland A’s was too limited to draw any conclusions, and feel he’ll be closer to the guy he was last year in Toronto. He is what he is. He’s a .250 hitter that will potentially give you 20 bombs.  Nothing special but he can help until the Yankees get the big bats back in the lineup. When Morales was at first base three times during yesterday’s second game (two walks and a single), I couldn’t help but think it was a reunion of sorts for Morales and first base coach Reggie Willits. Willits is only two years older than Morales and they were teammates on the Los Angeles Angels for a few years, as recently as 2011 (Willits’ final year as an active player). If Morales helps, great. If not, GM Brian Cashman will be on to his next “discovery”. I have confidence this will work out. But no doubt I’ll sleep better once Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are back in the everyday lineup. I doubt Morales is on the team by season’s end but if he is, it means his bat made the difference.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

I am proud of the 2019 New York Yankees. They’ve faced more adversity than most teams, yet they are 26-16. If you had told me during Spring Training the Yankees would be ten games above .500 by mid-May without Severino, Betances, Judge, Stanton, Gregorius and others, I would have laughed at you. I would have been thinking about division battles for positioning with the Baltimore Orioles, not the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox. I am not sure how this season will play out if we don’t start getting some of the big guns back but I am sure the ‘never quit’ mentality will persevere. It’s a little early to say the team has the “it” quality to it this year, but they are on their way of proving the point.

After no Yankees baseball in two of the last three days, it’s another off-day today. At least we have yesterday’s wins to carry us into the AL East Showdown that starts tomorrow night in the Bronx. Thank God we don’t have to play at the horrific Tropicana Field this series. Not that I mind road games, but man, I hate that empty warehouse posing as a Major League park.

As always, Go Yankees!

InCESSAnt Behavior…

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Photo Credit: AP (Frank Franklin II)

Yanks Ride Luis Cessa to Loss…

Sorry Cessa, not a fan…

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Luis Cessa may be a great guy and one of the ‘boys’ in the clubhouse, but he isn’t a pitcher I want in the starting rotation for a team driving for a shot in the post-season. I realize that Cessa had a couple of good starts in July, but in two August starts totaling seven innings, he has given up fourteen hits and ten runs.  In three seasons with the Yankees, he is 5-10 with 4.71 ERA in 133 2/3 innings. He has given up 129 hits. This is who he is. If you’re lucky, he is not going to give up more than 4-5 runs before the game is halfway over. We need better.

I am not sure why the Yankees have such an infatuation with Cessa. I think he’s better served pitching in the bullpen.  That’s not a slam.  Bullpens are filled with failed starters. I’d gladly take Cessa as the long man in the pen over A.J. Cole. Cessa is better in short non-starting spurts than he is starting games. Cole would be better served pitching elsewhere.

To Cessa’s defense, any of the Yankees starting pitchers were going to lose yesterday if the offense could only push one run across the plate in the 6-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Still, it felt like it was going to be a loss before the first pitch was thrown. Maybe his teammates have full faith and confidence in his ability, but for me, it was a psychological downer knowing Cessa would be on the mound.  It’s hard to be at your best when you are not mentally in the game. I can’t really see what Cessa has done to inspire any confidence.

After the game, Cessa was optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre so A.J. Cole lives to see another day. He remains my latest preferred DFA candidate unless he can somehow survive the next 15 days. George Kontos, on the other hand, was not so fortunate. I am not really sure why the Yankees acquired Kontos. They paid cash to the Cleveland Indians on August 4th for the former San Francisco Giants reliever and one-time Yankees prospect. It was kind of a nice story about the former Yankees farmhand coming home.  They placed him at Triple A for a week and promoted him to the active roster on August 13th. He pitched an inning and two-thirds against the New York Mets on the day of his promotion, limiting the Mets to a hit and no runs while striking out two. Yesterday, he was designated for assignment to make room for Cessa’s start. There was a reason Kontos was available. His velocity is down significantly from last year, but I am not sure why the Yankees even bothered to acquire him. To create a spot on the 40-man roster to pitch him for less than two innings seems curious at best. It’s not like he pitched Sonny Gray-style in his one and only appearance. Maybe he clears waivers and is outrighted to Triple A, but I’d be surprised if another team doesn’t place a claim. Everyone could use bullpen help.  Just ask the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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Photo Credit: AP (Mark J Terrill)

Frankly, I am a little tired of people who keep promoting GM Brian Cashman as the greatest genius in the sport and the Ninja Master. There’s no doubt he has had his share of successes but his closet is littered with failures.  I shouldn’t be bitter the Yankees have the second best record in Major League Baseball, but I am frustrated that the team could have been better if not for questionable Cashman moves and the overall inexperience of manager Aaron Boone. Boone’s a good man and I think he’ll eventually be a good manager but there have been and will continue be bumps along the way. Cashman and his analytic team making the lineup decisions is befuddling at times. I guess we should say that Michael Fishman, VP, Assistant General Manager and head of the Analytics Department, is the true manager of the Yankees.  Sometimes, the answers are not in the numbers.

When it was mentioned that Aaron Judge was only going to be out for three weeks for his injured right wrist, I felt the timetable was probably a little over-aggressive. So, the latest word that Judge will need more time and we may not see him until September is not surprising.  This is why I felt the Yankees should have acquired another outfielder in lieu of promoting one of the few healthy outfielders at Triple A, Shane Robinson, earlier in the month. I’ve mentioned Curtis Granderson.  I know that will bring ire from TGP’s Bryan Van Dusen. I get that Grandy has seen his better days and he was such a disappointment down the stretch last year for the Los Angeles Dodgers. But, compared to Shane Robinson, Grandy still looks appealing to me. Of course, he hit a grand slam last night for the Toronto Blue Jays so it’s easy to say when the player is performing.  I really wish that Clint Frazier was healthy. This would have been his opportunity to shine and his chance to prove to the Yankees he represents the future of the outfield.  It was not meant to be, unfortunately, so I feel that Cashman and Company should have turned quickly to Plan B. “B” standing for ‘better than Shane Robinson’.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

It was funny yesterday when first baseman Ryan McBroom was pulled from the lineup in the double-header between the Indianapolis Indians and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders at Moosic, PA. Yankees Twitter blew up with the usual ‘trade or call up’ speculation. Subsequent word was that he was scratched due to a stiff back that tightened up on him during Tuesday’s game. He is expected to be available today for the RailRiders. Despite his good year at Triple A, he doesn’t seem like a prospect that is going to warrant much consideration from the Front Office.

To replace Luis Cessa on the active roster, it appears reliever Tommy Kahnle will be returning to the Bronx.  He cleared out his locker at Triple A last night, after not appearing in the double-header. I am hopeful Kahnle is back for good. Of course he has to pitch like we know he can to keep the spot but that’s on him. Welcome back, Tommy! The Philadelphia Eagles suck but we are happy you are back.

Speaking of the RailRiders’ double-header, the first game was not very kind for top Yankees prospect Justus Sheffield. He only lasted an inning and two-thirds after getting tagged for four hits and four runs, while mixing in five walks in the short outing. Not exactly a stellar start for Top Sheff. He took the loss as the RailRiders were unable to rally against the Indians. He held Indianapolis scoreless in the first inning despite leaving two runners stranded after a hit and a walk. But it unraveled for him in the second inning.  The Indians scored three of four runs that inning  after Sheff had recorded two outs, and he was pulled with the bases loaded. J.P. Feyereisen struck out Wyatt Mathisen to end the inning so the damage to Sheffield’s final pitching line could have been much worse if not for Feyereisen’s K. Nevertheless, it was just a blip. Sheffield has not become the second incarnation of Luis Cessa. It happens to the best of pitchers. He’ll be back strong next start, I am sure. Brian Cashman has indicated we’ll see Sheffield at some point this season so I fully expect his arrival when rosters expand in September.

I guess at this point the AL East standings do not really matter, however, the Yankees lost an opportunity to pick up a game on the Boston Red Sox yesterday. The Sox suffered a rare loss against the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday while the Yankees were losing to the Rays. The Yankees (75-45) stayed ten games behind Boston. They also maintained their slim 3 ½ game lead in the Wild Card standings over the Oakland A’s. The A’s lost to the other Wild Card contender, the Seattle Mariners. The M’s are 2 ½ games behind Oakland.

The Yankees conclude their series against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium today. They’ll send Masahiro Tanaka (9-3, 4.08 ERA) to the mound. He’ll be opposed by Rays ace Blake Snell (13-5, 2.18 ERA). I am hopeful that we’ll see a much better Tanaka than we did last start. Regardless, the Yankees offense needs to chip in some runs today if we are to be successful. I am sure that a few balls will leave the yard today but hopefully the majority of the culprits will be wearing pinstripes.

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!

I Thought the Yankees Owned Tampa…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Julio Aguilar)

Tampa’s Best Resident treated rudely by the St Pete Rays…

The last couple of days have not been fun.

I was afraid after the Yankees finished off the sweep of the surging Seattle Mariners, the Yankees might struggle against a losing team. I know, every team goes through mini-slumps and it is inevitable the Yankees will lose from time to time as difficult as it may be for Yankees fans. They’ll eventually lose around sixty games (give or take) by the time the season is finished so Loss #24 on June 23rd is not the end of the World. Winning 116 games in the regular season does not guarantee anything. Just ask the Mariners. The goal is to win the division, not to see if the Yankees can top the 114 victories by the 1998 Yankees.

I think the toughest part of Friday night’s 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays was the inability of the Yankees to score runs off the Rays rotation by bullpen. Trailing 2-0 in the 7th inning, Aaron Judge delivered a run-scoring single off one-time brief Yankee Chaz Roe and had the Yankees set up in scoring position with Brett Gardner at second and Judge at first and only one out. But both Giancarlo Stanton and Didi Gregorious both grounded out to end the Yankees best chance to tie the game. Otherwise, it was a very quiet night.

On the same night as the Yankees were floundering in St Petersburg, the Boston Red Sox overcame deficits of 0-5 and 5-10 to defeat the Seattle Mariners by a score of 14-10. The Yankees couldn’t squeeze out one more run while the Red Sox had no problem erasing not one but two five-run deficits.

Yesterday’s loss might have been easier to take for no other reason than the Red Sox finally lost. The Mariners snapped their five-game losing skid with a 7-2 victory over Boston and nine-game winner Edwin Rodriguez.

There were not very many positives with Saturday’s game as the Rays bullpen held the Yankees scoreless on four hits en route to the 4-0 win over the Yanks. Sonny Gray gave up three runs in the first two innings to put the Yankees in a hole and the last hitter he faced in the bottom of the 7th, rookie Willy Adames, took him yard. Credit Gray for the stretch of hitters when he retired 15 Rays in a row, but ultimately it was just another loss for the disappointing Gray (5-5, 4.93 ERA).

Photo Credit: Getty Images

I do not understand Wilmer Font’s mastery of the Yankees. Font lost jobs earlier this year with the Los Angeles Dodgers (11.32 ERA) and Oakland A’s (14.85 ERA) but against the Yankees, Font is 1-0 and has limited the team to only 2 runs over 11 1/3 innings with 9 strikeouts. The Yankees have almost single-handedly revived Font’s career.

The most painful at-bat for me yesterday was Giancarlo Stanton’s strikeout (against Rays reliever and Friday night’s “opener” Ryne Stanek) to end the top of the 6th inning, leaving Aaron Judge stranded at third. Leaving runners in scoring position has plagued the Yankees in both losses and the last couple of weeks. Friday night, they were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and they left nine men on base. Yesterday, they were 1-for-8 (Didi Gregorius advanced Judge from second to third prior to Stanton’s swinging strikeout) but couldn’t get anyone home.

The Yankees offense really hasn’t done anything since the two-homer outburst in the first inning of the series finale with the Mariners last Thursday.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Julio Aguilar)

The Yankees (50-24) hold a slim one-game lead over the Red Sox (51-27) in the AL East. After helping the Rays climb closer to .500, the Yankees have a tough week ahead. When today’s game is over, they’ll hop on a plane bound for Philadelphia to play a three-game set against the Phillies. The Phillies currently have a better record than the Washington Nationals and sit just a game and a half behind the surprising Atlanta Braves in the NL East. There’s no doubt they’ll be ready to play when the Yankees come to town. The Phillies are riding a three-game winning streak entering play today. After a much-needed day off on Thursday, the Yankees return home to face the Boston Red Sox for three games next weekend. The Braves follow the Red Sox so the Yankees have clearly missed an opportunity to beat up on a losing team before another difficult stretch. Time to get the team’s offense going. Today is better than tomorrow. I’ve really missed Michael Kay’s “See ya!” calls.

I was going to rip on Chasen Shreve but the Yankees did it for me. Shreve relieved Sonny Gray yesterday after the homer by Willy Adames and he had the Rays set up for more runs with a couple of walks and a hit to load the bases. Fortunately he struck out Wilson Ramos to leave the bases full, but it appears this may have been his final Yankees appearance. The Yankees designated Shreve for assignment today, recalling Tommy Kahnle from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. As a lefty who has experienced some success at the MLB level, I doubt Shreve clears waivers so thus endeth his Yankees career. The Yankees need another lefty for the pen but I am not sad to see Shreve go. He was the bullpen’s weakest link.

Welcome back, Tommy Kahnle!  The Philadelphia Eagles fan was 1-1 with 3.12 ERA in eight games for the RailRiders. He struck out 15 batters in 14 innings and yielded only 3 walks. I am glad to have Kahnle back even if his 7th inning role has been supplanted by Jonathan Holder.  He gives Aaron Boone a few choices before he pulls the Dellin Betances-Aroldis Chapman card late in games.

I cannot talk about the RailRiders without mentioning Brandon Drury. Drury’s two-run homer  yesterday was the difference-maker in the RailRiders’ 4-2 win over the Rochester Red Wings.  Drury continues to be an on-base machine even if he was only 1-for-4 in the game. For a big league club that’s struggling to advance base runners, Drury could help. At this point, I’d be ready to eat the balance of Neil Walker’s contract to open a spot for Drury. Walker has done a fine job supporting first base, but the athletic Drury can be equally as effective (if not more so).

Very nice job on Saturday by Yankees pitching prospect Garrett Whitlock for the Tampa Tarpons (High-A). Whitlock, 22, picked up the win over the Jupiter Hammerheads with a three-hit shutout. He beat former Yankees prospect Jorge Guzman (the hard-thrower who went to Miami in the Giancarlo Stanton trade), striking out eleven Hammerheads over seven innings while only walking one. Whitlock was drafted in the 18th round of the 2017 MLB Draft. He is currently rated as the 26th best Yankees prospect by MLB.com. He is exceeding expectations (5-3, 1.41 ERA  in combined A ball, with 81 strikeouts and only 15 walks in 70 innings) and should advance his stature within one of baseball’s best farm systems with his breakout season. Whitlock has only given up one homer this year (only the second of his minor league career) and none for the Tarpons. I suspect that we’ll be hearing more and more about Whitlock in the coming months.

Photo Credit: Mark LoMoglio

Hard to believe that the calendar will soon turn to July. Trade talks should be heating up in the coming weeks. That should spark some good Bryan Van Dusen posts. It will be a fun month, made even better if the Yankees can put some distance between themselves and the Red Sox.

Never a better day to start winning than today. Go Yankees!

 

Update:  Sounds like the DFA of Chasen Shreve was fake news or just my wishful thinking. Bummer.  I am ready for the guy to go and for Tommy Kahnle to rejoin the Yanks.

Old Timer’s Show More Offense Than The Kids…

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (John Munson)

Yankees Drop Series Finale to the Rays…

I hate it when the Yankees lose. I know, it’s inevitable. Even a team as great as the Yankees has to lose every now and then. But it stinks when the Yankees clearly had a chance to sweep the four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays. If they could have mixed in a little offense, they win the game. Instead, they fell 3-1 to the AL East’s third-place team

CC Sabathia, aside from a not-so-good second inning, pitched very well despite giving up ten hits. He held the Rays to those three second inning runs and got his team into the eighth inning before turning over the keys to Adam Warren to finish the game.

Photo Credit: AP (Bill Kostroun)

Aaron Hicks tried. His eighth inning home run gave the Yankees their only run for the day. He was 2-for-5 on the day but his pop out to third, with Neil Walker on second base, in the bottom of the ninth sent the Yankees home with the loss.

The game featured the use of an “opener” for the second game in a row for the Rays. Wilmer Font couldn’t hold jobs with the Los Angeles Dodgers or Seattle Mariners earlier this year, but he was able to hold the vaunted Yankees offense to one run through 4 2/3 innings. Chaz Roe, who pitched two innings in three appearances for the Yankees in September 2014, was the winner. Sergio Romo, another failed Dodger, picked up the save. The Yankees offense should have crushed this Rays pitching staff…but didn’t.

According to Mike Mazzeo of the New York Daily News, Giancarlo Stanton is 13-for-64 with runners in scoring position. Ouch!

Photo Credit:  AP (Bill Kostroun)

The loss allowed the Boston Red Sox (49-24) to creep back into a first place tie with the Yankees although the Yanks (46-21) still lead by percentage points, .687 to .671. The Rays sit 15 games behind the leaders.

The highlight of the day yesterday was Nick Swisher’s home run for the Old Timer’s Day game. Honestly, I wish that I could go through life with the same passion as energy as Nick Swisher. His love for life and the Yankees is so strong.

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (John Munson)

This was certainly a beautiful sight to see yesterday. Hard to believe that Andy Pettitte not only wears 46 but is 46 and is now a grandfather.  He still graces the Yankee Stadium mound with his presence like he always did.

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (John Munson)

Today is an odd day. The Yankees make up the suspended game from May 15th (tied 3-3, top of the sixth inning) and the rain-out from May 16th at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. The Red Sox are off today so if the Yankees lose both games today, they’ll fall behind the Sox. Technically, they can split and maintain the first place tie. Thanks to the weather, the Sox have played six more games than the Yankees so it will be shortened to four games after today.

After the game, the Yankees return home to Yankee Stadium to face the Seattle Mariners. The M’s, coming off a weekend split with the Red Sox, are the Kings of One-Run Games. They’ve won 23 one-run games this year and have won as many games as the Yankees entering play today. The Mariners, minus the suspended Robinson Cano, are currently 46-26. They’re off today so the Seattle players get the run of New York City while the Yankees play in the Nation’s Capitol.

My Brandon Drury watch shows that the Yankees third baseman is continuing to tear up the International League. He was 2-for-3 with two doubles and a run scored in yesterday’s 4-2 loss to the Syracuse Chiefs. The dude has been an on-base machine and would pair very well right now with Miguel Andujar at third in the Bronx. Drury’s current slash line with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders is .360/.470/.529 with a .999 OPS.  #FreeDrury

Photo Credit: Times Leader

As excited as I am about the impending return of Drury, the news that Jacoby Ellsbury will soon resume baseball activities was somewhat of a gut punch. I know, the guy has some baseball talent but is it wrong that I don’t want him on my team? For a team that finds it so difficult to squeeze all their talented Major League-ready players onto a 25-man roster, Ellsbury would take a spot away from a more deserving player. Maybe the guy returns like it is 2011 or maybe he comes back for a temporary stay until his next trip to the disabled list. My money is on the latter. But even if he can still give something, let him do it for someone else. Go back to Boston (even if we pay the freight), I don’t really care. I think the funniest line on Twitter yesterday was that Nick Swisher has done more at Yankee Stadium this year than Jacoby Ellsbury has.

Today is a new day. One win would be great, two wins even better. Let’s Go Yankees!