Tagged: Red Sox

Thinking Baseball on Football Sunday…

I may be a Minnesota Vikings fan and looking forward to seeing how the team performs today against the Washington Redskins with Teddy Bridgewater standing on the field for the first time in 15 months, albeit in a backup role…for the moment. But truth be told, I am more interested in the moves that can be made to continue the growth and development of the 2018 New York Yankees.

Ohtani or Otani?…

I’ve spelled it both ways but I guess I’ll go with Otani moving forward. I continue to see it spelled either way and I don’t have Ohtani/Otani on speed-dial to clarify.

Credit:  Getty Images

The Associated Press reported that Shohei Otani held a news conference on Saturday. Otani’s words included, “The other day I met with team officials and stated my intentions. My request was met with warm words of support, so I hope to do my best in America from next year on.” While it would be financially wiser to wait until he turns 25 to enter Major League Baseball (when he could be a free agent with no restrictions), Otani wants to raise the level of his game now rather than wait. “I am not a complete player yet, and I want to go to an environment where I can continue to get better”.

Otani apparently had a desire to go to MLB straight from high school but instead opted to sign with the Nippon-Ham Fighters with assurances that he could play a two-way role for the team. While he would like to continue hitting and pitching, it sounds like he is a realist and wants to see what situations are available to him in the United States. “Just before I turned professional, I didn’t imagine I would be able to do both, but since then, the fans have encouraged it,” Otani said. “That has left me with a strong desire to keep doing it…not only for me, but for them.” The DH role seems to tilt the scales in favor of the American League and the big market endorsement opportunities ($$$$) seem to favor the Yankees.

The Yankees remain the frontrunners but until he is formally posted and signs a contract with a MLB team, it’s anybody’s guess where he’ll ultimately end up. I hope he is a Yankee and that the presence of Hideki Matsui and Masahiro Tanaka in the organization are deemed as huge positives for him. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe cites the Toronto Blue Jays as a possible  dark horse destination for Otani but, seriously, the Blue Jays do not bring the honor and prestige of MLB’s most-storied franchise.

My off-season goal remains to see the headline, “Yankees to sign Otani”, followed closely by “Yankees trade Ellsbury”….

Eric Wedge…Seriously?

The second name on GM Brian Cashman’s interview list was the former Indians and Mariners manager.  Ummm, next please. I do not want to see the former backup Red Sox catcher as Manager of Baseball’s greatest franchise. I don’t buy the ‘third time’s a charm’ logic for the two-time managerial loser. This name reinforces to me that I want someone with connections to either the Yankees or to the city of New York and its surrounding region as the next skipper.

Aaron Boone is another name receiving much attention and he’ll most likely be included on the interview list in the not-so-distant future.

With the GM Meetings on tap for this week, starting Monday, it will be interesting to see if Cashman is able to continue with the interview process or if he has to take a brief pause. The big name agents will be present at the meetings to begin dialogue for potential signings leading up to next month’s Winter Meetings. So even though there probably won’t be any significant trades or signings this week, the groundwork is being laid. Perhaps Cashman spends just a day or so at the GM Meetings before excusing himself and leaving his chief lieutenants to represent the Yankees.

I don’t know the Yankees time frame, but I am hopeful they resolve the managerial search by Thanksgiving so the team knows its leadership as we head into the very busy and vital December trading/signing period.

Albert Abreu, Ace or Bullpen Duty?…

I personally like Yankees prospect Albert Abreu, the young 22-year-old right-hander acquired from the Houston Astros in the Brian McCann trade, as one of my favorites in the farm system.  But scouts seem mixed regarding whether he is the next Luis Severino or is deemed to be a more valuable component to add to the bullpen mix. Of course, it was only last off-season the same question was being asked about Severino. I prefer to see Abreu start, but opportunity will play a major role. If the Yankees sign Otani, the Yankees rotation seems fairly solidified with Otani, Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery. That’s already considering young arms like Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield (plus Domingo Acevedo) are waiting in the wings. But I can never think of a season off the top of my head where a team’s sixth or seventh starter didn’t play a key role at some point in the season. Abreu must take advantage of any opportunities that he is given. He’s one of the arms that I’ll be paying close attention to next Spring.

Credit:  Zachary Lucy, Four Seam Images via AP

Brian McCann may have picked up a World Series ring, making his acquisition a huge win for the Astros, but the Yankees did very well picking up Abreu and RHP Jorge Guzman for the former Yankees catcher. I’ve seen a number of pro-Astros articles that claim a huge Astros victory for the trade, but in time, I think the Astros and their fans will rue the day they let Abreu and Guzman go.

Where will the path lead Giancarlo Stanton?…

I know that it’s been written on this site that the Yankees should go after Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, but it’s not going to happen on Hal Steinbrenner’s watch. With the team committed to getting under the payroll cap to reset luxury tax penalties, I don’t see the Yankees parting with the young prospects that it would take to acquire Stanton or committing the necessary dollars to take on Baseball’s largest contract. Yes, Yankee fans can dream but it is not going to happen for the Pinstriped faithful.

So, where does Stanton go? There is talk that early conversations are being held with the Boston Red Sox. I fully expect the Red Sox to add a big bat this off-season but I’d be surprised if they went after Stanton. It’s scary to think of Stanton in that lineup, but the Red Sox will need big dollars for their young, cheap talent like Mookie Betts and Chris Sale. Betts made just $950,000 last year and is now arbitration-eligible. The Red Sox have Sale for two more years  and will need lock him up on a long-term deal to avoid losing him through free agency. Those are two guys who will command a healthy chunk of Red Sox payroll over the next few years. I think it is more likely the Red Sox pursue someone like free agents first baseman Eric Hosmer or outfielder J.D. Martinez to help fill the void when David Ortiz retired after the 2016 season. Nevertheless, it’s within the realm of possibility for Boston to get “greedy”. After all, Sox owner John Henry has to feed the beast, otherwise known as the Red Sox Nation.

Another team mentioned for Stanton is the St Louis Cardinals. I don’t see the Cardinals ponying up the cash to take on Stanton’s contract, let alone the prospects that it would take. While it now looks like a very prudent financial decision, they let their franchise player, Albert Pujols, one of the all-time Cardinal greats, depart through free agency a few years ago over money.

The other two teams mentioned as possible destinations are the San Francisco Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies.

It will be interesting to see how this develops over the course of the off-season even if we are forced to be bystanders as Team Hal looks at the bigger picture and of course the bottom line.

Well, let’s see what this week brings. Go Yankees!

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Disliking Off-Season Inactivity…

Baseball is such a rush. It starts in February when pitchers and catchers report, and then slowly builds over the course of the next eight months, reaching the adrenaline rush of the post-season, capped by the exhilarating World Series. Then, nothing. We can only wait and watch as the Yankees beat writers jump from one potential story to another without yielding much fruit.

Things will pick up in a few weeks as we approach the Winter Meetings, but for now, we just have to sit around wondering when the Yankees will give us an indication who they might be considering for the job to lead the 2018 Yankees.

Without much to really think about, here are some of my random thoughts…

Alex Rodriguez, Just Say No…

I can honestly say that I have no desire to see Alex Rodriguez named as Yankees manager. I do not dispute A-Rod’s baseball knowledge and I know that he’s been a positive influence on the younger players during Spring Training but neither of those attributes qualify him as a Major League manager. This is a man who was suspended an entire year for PED use after he had already been implicated with earlier use of performance-enhancing drugs. I was glad to see A-Rod’s time as an active member of the Yankees end and I have no interest in watching him don the pinstripes again (outside of brief Spring Training appearances).  As it is, I am tired of the daily “J-Rod” updates.  If Alex became the Yankees manager, those daily sightings of Jennifer Lopez and A-Rod would only worsen.  I lived through the Bronx Zoo of the 1970’s.  I am not willing to entertain the thought of The Bronx Zoo, Part II. So count me among those with no interest in seeing A-Rod become manager of the Yankees.

Jake Cave, Member of the 40-Man Roster…

It took awhile and included a detour through Cincinnati, but Jake Cave finally earned a spot on the Yankees 40-Man Roster when he was added on Monday.

Cave was drafted by the Yankees in the 6th Round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of Kecoughtan High School in Hampton, VA.  He was left unprotected when he became Rule 5 eligible after the 2015 season and was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds.  He started 2016 Spring Training very hot for the Reds but by the end of camp had cooled considerably.  In the end, the Reds opted to keep a 30-year old outfielder (Jordan Pacheco), who was released by the Reds in June 2016, over the then-23 year old Cave. At the time of his return to the Yankees, Reds manager Bryan Price offered the following comments:  “He was and is a terrific young player, and we all saw him as a big-leaguer. There was just some limitations on how much playing time I thought I could get him over the course of this year. My big concern was the history with Donald Lutz and Neftali Soto, guys that have come up and really not played much at a very young age and how they were able to deal with that and when they returned to the minor leagues how they performed afterwards, and I would hate to see that happen to Jake as a guy who really got limited playing time early in the season and how that would have affected his long-term development.”

Cave returned to the Yankees but rather than sulk, he continued to work on his craft.  He was left unprotected again in 2016 but was not selected in that year’s Rule 5 Draft.  His performance in 2017 exceeded expectations as he finished with 20 home runs and 56 RBI’s at AA/AAA combined.  His batting line was .305/.351/.542 with .893 OPS in 103 total games.  His hard work has been acknowledged by the Yankees and he’ll get an opportunity to go to the Major League Camp with the Yankees in February for the first time.

Cave profiles as a fourth outfielder but he is clearly a success story among Yankees prospects.  With guys like Cave and Billy McKinney chomping at the bit, the Yankees need to clear out Jacoby Ellsbury and/or Brett Gardner to make way for the younger guys. I’d hate to see Gardner go but it is Clint Frazier’s time for left field.  Aaron Hicks is a better center fielder than Ellsbury.  So, I’d prefer to see Hicks and Frazier in the starting outfield with Aaron Judge, and guys like Cave and/or McKinney backing them up.

The Yankees also added reliever Nick Rumbelow to the 40-man roster. Rumbelow had Tommy John surgery in 2016 and missed part of the 2017 season with his recovery. After pitching briefly for the Double-A Trenton Thunder, he was lights out for the Triple A-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. In 17 games (covering 29 innings) for the RailRiders, Rumbelow was 5-1 and had a sterling 1.12 ERA with 5 saves. He struck out 30 batters, while walking only 8.  Rumbelow, like Cave, is a success story.  He was released by the Yankees in November 2016 (free to go anywhere like Nathan Eovaldi did when he signed with the Tampa Bay Rays).  Rumbelow opted to re-sign with the Yankees on December 15, 2016 and we’re glad he did.

The Yankees still have a number of Rule 5 decisions to make but these were a couple of easy ones.  I have no doubt the Yankees will be forced to leave quality talent unprotected for this year’s Rule 5 Draft.  GM Brian Cashman, between his managerial interviews and negotiation of a new contract, has his work cut out for him.

Free Agency is Upon Us…

Free Agents became available to talk to other teams on Monday afternoon. Most forecasts show the Yankees to be very limited players in the FA arena as they attempt to avoid MLB’s competitive balance tax and reset future penalties for going above the payroll threshold.  Sadly, the Boston Red Sox were able to do that this year, so they’ll be more aggressive this off-season. During the press conference yesterday to announce new Red Sox manager Alex Cora, Dave Dombrowski, President of Baseball Operations, was asked if the luxury tax would be limitation. He responded, “No, I do not”. The same question was posed to Red Sox owner John Henry and he replied with, “Well, (Dombrowski) answered the question. He said he could go over.”  I would not be surprised to see the Red Sox go hard and heavy after Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer.

Most forecasts that I have seen only show the Yankees signing Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani and CC Sabathia. Without too many moves necessary, I’d be very happy to see the Yankees acquire Otani. There is uncertainty with the current dispute in negotiations between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball for a new posting agreement. However, Otani took a step in the positive direction by hiring Creative Artists Agency (CAA) to represent him if he is posted and made available to MLB teams this off-season.

I am not overly excited about the anticipated return of Chase Headley to third base for the 2018 season. The question will be whether Gleyber Torres or Miguel Andujar will be ready. I doubt either one breaks camp as the starter but it could happen sooner rather than later.  Headley runs too hot and cold for me. I’d prefer to see greater consistency out of the position to protect the big bats in the lineup. I’d love to see the return of Todd Frazier, but the timing is not right and the Yankees are not in a position to offer a free agent multiple years at third base. For the short-term, we’ll have to deal with Headley.

Dueling Airwaves…

It was funny yesterday that both Yankees GM Brian Cashman and former Yankees manager Joe Girardi were giving interviews at the same time. It’s tough listening to Girardi as he really sounds like a guy who wanted to be a part of the next great Yankees dynasty. I am surprised that the Washington Nationals didn’t make a run at Girardi with their World Series-caliber roster. But then again, the Nats aren’t known for spending cash on the managerial position and perhaps they were too far down the road with new manager Dave Martinez.

At this point, it appears that Girardi will sit out a year (perhaps taking a broadcasting position) and will emerge as a viable managerial candidate in the 2018 off-season.

The more Cashman talks about communication as a primary reason that Girardi was not re-hired and in particular his relationship with the younger players, it leads me to believe that there are reasons at play that we will never know. Maybe one day when Cashman retires and writes his memoirs.

I don’t know about you, but I am ready for some genuine Yankees news. These quiet days leading up to the Baseball Winter Meetings next month are tough. I am getting a little tired of watching Houston Astros show up on Saturday Night Live or Carlos Correa discussing how he decided to propose to his girlfriend immediately after the World Series had ended on the Jimmy Kimmel show. Justin Verlander’s wedding pics in Italy are nice, but I want to know about our guys.  It is time to get the Yankees back in the news.

As always, Go Yankees!

I Get My Hicks Above The Fenceline, Sunshine…

Credit:  Jim McIsaac-Getty Images

Yankees 6, Rays 1…

Tuesday night, Aaron Hicks found himself back in the starting lineup after his latest stint on the disabled list. Not a moment too soon as A-A-Ron sparked the Yankees to victory with his superior catch in the first inning.

The game didn’t start so well for young Mr Jordan Montgomery. Kevin Kiermaier got the game started with a single up the middle to center field. Stephen Souza, Jr singled through the hole at short into shallow left field. Montgomery had Evan Longoria on a full count but lost him with Ball Four. The bases were loaded full of Rays with no outs. Monty finally struck out Logan Morrison to secure the first out. Wilson Ramos was up next and he blasted a shot over the center field wall for a grand slam…no, wait…Aaron Hicks with the spectacular over the fence catch for the second out!  Kiermaier tagged and scored on the play. I am not a math major but I’ll take a 1-0 deficit over 4-0 any day. Montgomery struck out Adeiny Hechavarria, who has seemed to feast on Yankees pitching this year, to end the inning. Whew! Monty and the Yankees dodged a major bullet.

The Yankees had two runners on base in the bottom of the 1st inning, courtesy of walks by Rays starter Blake Snell, but they were unable to score.  

The top of the 2nd went more smoothly for Montgomery as he set down the Rays in order…three up, three down.  No drama…just the way I like it.

In the bottom of the inning, Starlin Castro led off with a home run into the  left field bleachers to tie the game.  Star-light, Star-bright!

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The inning continued as consecutive singles by Todd Frazier, Clint Frazier and Ronald Torreyes loaded the bases. Aaron Hicks picked up the go-ahead RBI when he took a walk to bring the Toddfather home. Next up, Aaron Judge walked on four pitches to bring Red Thunder home. The Yankees were up, 3-1. The Rays pulled Snell, who hadn’t lost a game since late July, and replaced him with Chaz Roe. Gary Sanchez lined out to first, with Judge staying put, but the Rays caught Hicks off second (he couldn’t get back in time) to complete the double play. With Matt Holliday batting, Judge stole second so the Yankees had runners at second and third. Roe uncorked a wild pitch that got by Wilson Ramos all the way to the backstop, and Torreyes ran home with the fourth run of the inning. Judge moved to third but he was left stranded when Holliday flied out to center.

Jordan Montgomery kept the Rays off the board through the 6th inning and turned the game over to the bullpen in the 7th. Tommy Kahnle was up first and he retired the Rays in order, including the last two by strikeout. David Robertson took over in the 8th. He walked the first batter, Stephen Souza, Jr, but the runner did not advance past first base as D-Rob retired the next three Rays.

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

In the bottom of the 8th, with Rays reliever Austin Pruitt on the mound, Ronald Torreyes drew a one-out walk. While Brett Gardner was at bat, a wild pitch allowed Toe to move to second. Gardy grounded out to second, advancing Toe  to third. Aaron Judge walked to put runners at the corners. After a brief delay that saw Home Plate Umpire Dan Bellino toss a fan for tipping pitches, Gary Sanchez singled on a fly that dropped in front of center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (to my surprise) which brought Toe home to score. Matt Holliday reached on an infield single to short that Adeiny Hechavarria wasn’t able to field cleanly (made a running stop on the grounder in shallow left but the ball dropped out of his glove) allowing Sanchez to slide safely into second just ahead of the throw. Judge scored on the play and the Yankees had increased their lead to 6-1. Chase Headley grounded out, back to the pitcher, but the Yankees took the five run lead to the 9th.

Dellin Betances, who I thought should have pitched in Monday’s win over the Royals, entered the game in the non-save situation. A ground out and two fly outs on seven pitches, Game over. I was very glad to see a clean (and short) outing by Betances. The Yankees win!

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees (88-69) picked up another game on the Boston Red Sox with the win. The Sox lost to the Toronto Blue Jays for the second consecutive day. The Blue Jays won the game, 9-4, behind J.A. Happ. The loser for the Sox was Chris Sale, a loss that might tilt the AL Cy Young Award toward Cleveland’s Corey Kluber. The Yankees trail the Sox by three games with five to play. The Yankees secured home-field advantage for the Wild Card game with the win although they have not given up on the AL East championship. The Minnesota Twins won yesterday, 8-6 over the Cleveland Indians, and lead the second Wild Card spot by five games over the Los Angeles Angels.  

It was a great rebound by Jordan Montgomery (9-7). Lately, it has seemed like most of his struggles happen early. The Rays could have changed the complexion of the game with a first inning grand slam but Monty persevered after the incredible catch by Aaron Hicks. In six innings of work, he scattered six hits to hold the Rays to the single first inning run. He walked only one batter (the first inning walk of Evan Longoria), and struck out five.  The dude looks to be a strong piece for the rotation in 2018.
Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Hats off, again, to the Bullpen with three hitless innings of relief.
Starlin Castro was 3-for-3, including the second inning home run. It’s great to see him hitting again and just in time! No home runs for Aaron Judge after two consecutive multi-homer days, but he was in the mix with a run batted in, his 109th, thanks to the bases loaded walk and a run scored.
Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Odds & Ends…
I attended a few games at Target Field in Minneapolis, MN several years ago so, apparently, I am still on the Minnesota Twins mailing list. I received the notice that the Twins’ American League Division Series tickets go on sale on Thursday beginning at 10 a.m. CT. A bit of wishful thinking of their part. Hopefully, the Yankees can ensure those tickets are never used.
The Rays have made a pitching change for the series finale on Thursday. Alex Cobb had been the scheduled starter. With their season nearing its end, Rays manager Kevin Cash decided that Cobb had reached his season innings limit (179 innings in 2017 after only 22 in 2016). Jacob Faria (5-4, 3.33 ERA) will get the start versus Sonny Gray.
Have a great Wednesday! I’d like a win and maybe a couple of Aaron Judge home runs today, please. Go Yankees!

Thank You, We’ll Just Take The Wild Card…

Credit:  Frank Gunn-The Canadian Press via AP

Blue Jays 8, Yankees 1…

The title is sarcastic (if you didn’t notice). I am very disappointed with Masahiro Tanaka and the blow out loss to the AL East Cellar Dwellers. Trailing the Red Sox by four games with only nine games to play makes it a near impossibility to catch Boston unless they go into a tailspin like the Los Angeles Dodgers recently did. I seriously doubt that will happen for the Red Sox as they keep winning.

The Yankees had been playing so well, winning 15 of 20 games since August 31st. For a year that the Yankees have exceeded all expectations, Tanaka’s overall performance is the reason the Yankees are talking Wild Card and not AL East title. If he had pitched like his previous three years, we’d be talking about how many games the Red Sox are behind. It bothers me that we can hold a 5 1/2 game lead over the Minnesota Twins, we can sweep the most recent series with the Twins, and yet, the Twins have a chance for one game to send the Yankees packing for the winter. If the Yankees play like they did yesterday, there will be no expanded playoffs for the Pinstripes.  

Aaron Judge is the only player that came ready to play. His solo home run in the first inning, a monster 469 foot blast to left center off the facing of the second deck, gave the Yankees an early lead but it was the last run the Yankees would score. It was Judge’s 46th home run of the season, matching Joe DiMaggio’s career high. 

Credit:  Frank Gunn-The Canadian Press via AP

The Blue Jays quickly tied the game in the bottom of the 1st against Tanaka.  Teoscar Hernandez led off with a single to left center. Josh Donaldson hit into a fielder’s choice at third but Todd Frazier’s throw to Starlin Castro, which should have been an easy force out at second, got past Castro for an error as Hernandez raced around to third. Runners at the corners. Jose Bautista hit a soft grounder to third and was thrown out at first but Hernandez scored. Game tied, 1-1.

In the top of the 3rd, Todd Frazier doubled to right on a ball that went to the wall, sliding into second just under the throw from Jose Bautista. Clint Frazier popped out to the shortstop for the first out.  Jacoby Ellsbury lined out to right on a great running catch by Bautista, who then threw the ball in to second baseman Ryan Goins.  With the Toddfather standing on second, Goins used the old hidden ball trick with a fake throw.  Frazier momentarily lifted his foot off second to turn around and Goins nabbed him for the out to complete the double play. It was that type of game…

Credit:  Frank Gunn-The Canadian Press via AP

In the bottom of the 3rd, Teoscar Hernandez got to Tanaka again, this time a solo shot to left to give the Blue Jays the 2-1 lead. Bottom of the 4th, it was Russell Martin’s turn. His two-run shot, a liner just over the left field wall off Tanaka after Joey Bats had walked to start the inning, put the Blue Jays, 4-1.  

The Yankees’ third and final hit came in the top of the 6th when Aaron Judge led off with a double to deep left center that hit the warning track and bounced off the wall.  But the silent Yankee bats left him stranded behind the pitching of Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada, the recipient of a $13 million contract extension a few days earlier.

In the bottom of the 6th, the Blue Jays put the game away against Tanaka.  Jose Bautista walked to start the inning.  Kevin Pillar singled to center as Joey Bats moved to second.  Tanaka struck out Russell Martin and Miguel Montero so it looked like he might be able to get out of the inning, but then he walked Kendrys Morales, pinch-hitting for Darwin Barney, on four consecutive balls out of the strike zone to load the bases.  Tanaka had two strikes on the ‘Hidden Ball’ Master, Ryan Goins, but the third pitch, a slider, left the park in right for a grand slam. 8-1 Blue Jays, and, finally, the end of the night for Tanaka.  

Credit:  Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The only remaining runner that the Yankees could muster was when Aaron Judge walked in the 8th. The Blue Jays easily coasted to victory and most likely handed the Boston Red Sox the AL East Championship.

I apologize to those of you who are Tanaka fans but he sucked. His win-loss record now stands at 12-12 and his season ERA has increased to 4.94.  He gave up eight runs (seven earned) and three home runs in 5 2/3 innings.  He disappeared at a time when the Yankees needed him the most.  Dude, please opt out at the end of the year if this is truly the pitcher you are now.

Credit:  Tom Szczerbowski-Getty Images

The Yankees (85-68), as mentioned, fell four games behind the Red Sox.  Boston beat Sal Romano, who grew up as a Yankees fan, and the Cincinnati Reds, 5-4.  The Minnesota Twins have won two straight since they were swept by the Yankees so they have reduced their Wild Card deficit from 7 games to 5 1/2 in two days.  The Los Angeles Angels are in a downward spiral, losers of five in a row, so they trail the Twins by 3 1/2 games, along with the Texas Rangers.  

I don’t mind when the Yankees battle hard and lose, but Friday night was not one of those games.  Outside of Aaron Judge, it was a complete team letdown. If I didn’t know better, it looked like the Toronto Blue Jays were the playoff team, not the Yankees.  We expect and demand better play today.

Odds & Ends…

Today’s pitching matchup will feature Sonny Gray (9-11) versus Joe Biagini (3-11). A change was announced for Sunday. Jaime Garcia (5-9) now gets the start. He’ll oppose New York native Marcus Stroman (12-8).  

Todd Frazier was able to talk to the father of the little girl struck by the foul ball during Wednesday’s game. The little girl is still in the hospital and as one relative indicated, it will be a long process. Frazier was told by the girl’s father that “she’s doing okay”. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the little girl as she continues to recover.  

After last night’s game, an unauthorized man apparently gained access to the Yankees clubhouse in an attempt to steal some towels and a batting helmet. He was chased away by Todd Frazier, Tyler Wade, and others. The man was subsequently detained by stadium security but it’s scary that someone could have penetrated the crowded clubhouse that easily.  

Have a great Saturday!  Hopefully this a much better baseball day for all of us.  Go Yankees!

On Second Thought, He’s Safe!…

Credit:  Corey Sipkin-NY Post

Yankees 9, Red Sox 2…

The most critical play of the game might have been when the Yankees challenged the call in the bottom of the 6th.  The bases were loaded and two outs for Gary Sanchez.  He hit a hard smash to third.  Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers dove to stop the ball and got up, throwing the ball to first.  The ref signaled out and it appeared the inning was over.  But hold on, the Yankees challenged the play and replay showed that Sanchez had reached first just ahead of the ball.  The call was overturned and the inning continued.  Six runs later and the Yankees had placed a dagger in Boston’s heart.

The Yankees had runners at third in the first two innings but nothing to show for it.  Luis Severino was dominating the Red Sox but the Yankees were getting their chances against Boston starter Chris Sale.  Finally, to open the bottom of the 3rd, Chase Headley sent a Sale pitch into the left field stands (just over the wall).  

In the bottom of the 4th, the long ball continued to be the only weapon.  Matt Holliday, after battling off a few pitches, blasted a solo shot to the deepest part of the park in center and was followed by Todd Frazier’s homer to left (a few rows back).  The Yankees had taken a 3-0 lead.  

When Chris Sale was pulled with one out and runner at first in the top of the 5th inning, he was laboring and had thrown 109 pitches.  It’s amazing that as dominant as Sale has been this year against the Yankees, he failed to win a game in four tries.  

Credit:  Rich Schultz-Getty Images

The Sox finally got on the board in the top of the 6th.  Eduardo Nunez made it to first with one out when Todd Frazier failed to handle a grounder to third and the ball rolled into left field.  Following the second out by Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts hit a grounder to third but Frazier’s low throw bounced past first baseman Chase Headley.  Frazier’s second error of the inning. The runners moved up to second and third.  Nunez came home to score when a low Sevy pitch got past Gary Sanchez to the backstop.  3-1, Yankees.  Boston was unable to bring Betts home from third when Mitch Moreland struck out swinging.  It would be Luis Severino’s final pitch but what a game for the young right-hander!  Two hits, one run (but none earned), no walks and nine strikeouts.  Chris Sale may very well win the AL Cy Young Award (I know, Corey Kluber will have something to say about that) but on this day, Luis Severino was better.

Credit:  Corey Sipkin-NY Post

With Boston’s Joe Kelly on the mound, Matt Holliday opened the bottom of the 6th by working a walk.  Kelly struck out Todd Frazier and was replaced by Robby Scott.  Jacoby Ellsbury greeted Scott with a single lined to right.  Brett Gardner walked and the bases were full of Yanks.  The Sox made another pitching move and brought in former New York Met Addison Reed.  Reed struck out Chase Headley for the second out.  Gary Sanchez was next.  During the at-bat, Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis was barking about balls and strikes from the Boston dugout when he felt several calls were missed.  He got an early departure from the game for his troubles.  Sanchez hit the ball to third and it appeared that he was out at first for the final out.  The play was incredibly close but I was uncertain.  While Yankee players were signaling safe in the dugout, the Yankees challenged the play and the call was overturned when it showed El Gary’s foot touching first base just ahead of the throw.  The safe call validated Holliday’s run.  It was 4-1 Yankees.

Starlin Castro kept the inning going with a hard liner to right.  The ball went to the wall for a double and all three baserunners scored.  Minutes earlier, the game had been a tight pitching duel and now the Yankees had a six-run lead.  It brought Aaron Judge to the plate.  Boom!  No doubt about it as the ball sailed 469 feet into the left field seats at an exit velocity of 115.1 mph.  

Credit:  Bill Kostroun-Associated Press

 

From there, it was about riding the bullpen to victory.  Despite the eight-run lead, it was a slightly bumpy ride.  Tommy Kahnle was first.  He pitched the top of the 7th in relief of Severino after Manager Joe Girardi decided against bringing Sevy back out after the long bottom of the 6th.  Kahnle looked rusty as he walked the first batter, Dustin Pedroia.  Deven Marrero was brought in to pinch-run for Pedroia.  Rafael Devers singled to left which moved Marrero to second and no outs.  Fortunately, Kahnle struck out the next two batters and got the final out when Jackie Bradley, Jr popped out to third in foul territory.  

Chasen Shreve took over in the 8th.  Given his recent struggles, I felt far from secure.  But he proved me wrong by retiring the three batters he faced (two by strikeout).  For the 9th, Girardi brought in Giovanny Gallegos.  I know that the Yankees had a big lead, but I probably would have gone with Aroldis Chapman for no other reason than to get him some work.  Oh well, they pay Girardi to make the decisions.  Sam Travis was up first and he singled to left, just past Todd Frazier at third. A wild pitch (high throw from Gallegos) moved Travis to second.  Gallegos was looking a bit like a rookie but then he struck out Deven Marrero.  A groundout by Rafael Devers moved Travis to third. Blake Swihart came in, pinch-hitting for Hanley Ramirez, and drew a walk.  Sandy Leon’s single to left scored Travis.  Swihart moved to second.  Gallegos, with Aroldis Chapman warming up, finally got Jackie Bradley, Jr to swing at the third strike to end the game.  The Yankees win!

Credit:  Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees (73-63) moved to within 3 1/2 games of the Red Sox with the win in the final head-to-head match-up between the two teams.  The Yankees took the season series, 11 games to 8.  This was a huge series.  If the results had been in reverse, the Yankees could have potentially been looking up in the Wild Card Standings and holding a distant view of the top of the AL East.  Instead, they are still within striking distance for the division crown and continue to hold the edge in the Wild Card.  The Yankees maintained their 3 1/2 game advantage over the Baltimore Orioles.  The O’s fought back against the Toronto Blue Jays to win 5-4 in 12 innings.  The Minnesota Twins lost (5-4 to the Kansas City Royals) so the Yankees increased their Wild Card lead to two games.

Luis Severino (12-6) was outstanding.  The guy welcomes the challenge of continually facing the top aces in the game.  Sevy became the youngest Yankees pitcher to record 200 strikeouts in a season by age 23 since Al Downing did it back in 1964 with 217 strikeouts.  

Credit:  Rich Schultz-Getty Images

It was good to see Aaron Judge hit his 38th home run.  Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers had hit his 36th earlier in the day.  The rookies might not reach Mark McGwire’s rookie record of 49 (set in 1987) but they’re certainly giving it a try.  

Credit to Gary Sanchez for his effort to get to first base in the 6th inning.  I was listening to sports announcers earlier in the day who were complaining about Robinson Cano’s “60% effort”, at times, when running to first base.  Sanchez showed that hustle can make a difference.

Next Up:  Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland…

After playing a Sunday night game in New York, the Yankees turn right around and play an afternoon game in Baltimore.  It probably feels like a night-day double-header.  No rest for the wicked…or in this case, no rest for the good guys.  

Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:

MONDAY

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (7-7, 4.15 ERA)

Orioles:  Dylan Bundy (13-8, 3.94 ERA)

TUESDAY

Yankees:  CC Sabathia (11-5, 3.71 ERA)

Orioles:  Ubaldo Jimenez (5-9, 6.85 ERA)

WEDNESDAY

Yankees:  Sonny Gray (8-9, 3.36 ERA)

Orioles:  Jeremy Hellickson (2-3, 6.55 ERA)

I was glad to see the Yankees replace Jaime Garcia with Jordan Montgomery.  Not that Monty pitched much better than Garcia last time out (the actual line was worse) but I trust Monty more with the chips on the line. Hopefully the Yankees can take this series to hold off the recent charge by the Orioles.

Odds & Ends…

The Yankees have placed OF Aaron Hicks on the 10-day DL with a left oblique strain.  After missing time earlier this summer with a right oblique strain, maybe Hicks should invest in a new personal trainer.  Hopefully this is not the end for Hicks’ 2017 season. LHP Caleb Smith was recalled from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to take A-A-Ron’s roster spot.

Have a great Monday!  It’s Labor Day but let’s hope it is not too much labor to carve out the O’s.  Go Yankees!

The Holliday Weekend…

Credit:  Jim McIsaac-Getty Images

Yankees 5, Red Sox 1…

Matt Holliday gets great credit for the win with his three-run homer, but admittedly, this game was about Masahiro Tanaka as the Yankees took down the Sox in the third game of their four game series. Luis Severino may be the trendy new choice as staff ace but Tanaka is showing that he is still the master.  From the first pitch (a called strike), you could tell that Tanaka had his pitches working. I was listening to the NESN broadcasters during the game and they marveled all game at how Tanaka was keeping his pitches down.  

Credit:  Jim McIsaac-Getty Images

The Yankees got on the board first when Chase Headley hit a high fly to left for solo home run in the bottom of the 2nd off Red Sox starter Drew Pomeranz. After the Headley home run, the Yankees loaded the bases but they were left stranded when Aaron Hicks grounded out to second on a bullet that was stopped by second baseman Tzu-Wei Lin. His throw to first easily beat Hicks.

Meanwhile, Tanaka was dealing. The Red Sox didn’t pick up their first hit until the top of the 4th when Andrew Benintendi led off with a single to right center.  

The Red Sox briefly tied the game in the top of the 6th. The pesky Eduardo Nunez led off with a beautiful swing that drove the ball to left field.  Brett Gardner played the ball of the wall but Nunez slid into second ahead of the throw for a double. Andrew Benintendi hit a grounder to second and was thrown out at first, but Nunez moved to third.  With Mookie Betts at the plate, a Tanaka pitch hit the dirt and ricocheted off Gary Sanchez’s glove. Nunez came flying home ahead of Tanaka who was covering. Game tied, 1-1. The Yankees prevented any further damage when Didi Gregorius made a great diving catch for the second out and Aaron Hicks tracked down a fly ball running to the wall for the final out.  

In the bottom of the 6th, Drew Pomeranz walked Didi Gregorius on a full count. Chase Headley lined a single to center and Didi slid headfirst into third ahead of the throw from Jackie Bradley, Jr. Runners safe at the corners.  Matt Holliday came up and crushed a Pomeranz pitch with a high fly into the left field stands.  Andrew Benintendi just stood and watched the ball sail into the crowd for the three-run bomb.  4-1, Yankees.  

Credit:  Robert Sabo

The Yankees added an insurance run in the bottom of the 7th against Red Sox reliever Brandon Workman. Jacoby Ellsbury, who had replaced Aaron Hicks at the top of the inning, roped a shot into left center field. Andrew Benintendi retrieved the ball but overthrew his first cut-off man.  It allowed the couple seconds that Ellsbury needed to safely slide into third for a triple.  Gary Sanchez followed with a grounder between second and third. Eduardo Nunez was going to his right and Rafael Devers went in front of him, moving to his left.  The ball glanced off Devers’ glove and rolled into left field. Ellsbury scored on the play.

Masahiro Tanaka came back out for the top of the 8th, but he was pulled by Joe Girardi after the lead-off hitter, Tzu-Wei Lin, singled through the hole into right field.  David Robertson replaced Masa and recorded two quick outs.  Lin moved into scoring position when Didi Gregorius made a bare-handed grab  on a grounder by Mookie Betts but held the ball knowing he couldn’t beat Betts to first. Fortunately, Mitch Moreland grounded to Gregorius for a force out at second to end the threat.

Dellin Betances took over for D-Rob in the 9th.  Unlike his last outing, there was no drama this time. After it appeared that Gary Sanchez had caught a pop up  by Hanley Ramirez behind the backstop for the first out, the call was overruled when it was determined the ball had hit the netting.  It didn’t matter…Betances struck out Ramirez and the next two batters to end the game.  The Yankees win!

The Yankees (72-63) pulled back to within 4 1/2 games of the Red Sox with the win. They maintained their one-game edge over the Minnesota Twins in the Wild Card Standings.  The Twins absolutely destroyed the Kansas City Royals, 17-0.  The Yankees did increase their lead over the third place Baltimore Orioles to 3 1/2 games.  The O’s fell to the Toronto Blue Jays, 7-2.  

Masahiro Tanaka (11-10) got the win with his seven innings of work.  He held the Red Sox to five hits, two walks and one run.  He only struck out three, but the most important stat…he didn’t allow any home runs. Nice job by Dellin Betances to strike out the side in the 9th.  Matt Holliday was clearly the hitting star with the massive home run but both Chase Headley and Gary Sanchez were 3-for-4 in the game. Plus, Headley had the homer that gave the Yankees an early lead. 

Credit:  Jim McIsaac-Getty Images

Ronald Torreyes, subbing for Starlin Castro, was hitless in three at-bats for his 25th birthday. Castro missed Saturday’s game after undergoing a root canal in the morning following the loss of an artificial front tooth sometime Friday night. Despite the lack of hits, Toe made his plays in the field, including his tag of Rafael Devers who had attempted to steal second in the 5th inning.

Credit:  Bill Kostroun-Associated Press

Aaron Hicks left the game after the sixth inning due to tightness in his left oblique (the opposite side of prior injury that landed him on the DL earlier in the season). He’ll undergo a MRI to determine the extent of the injury. Hicks apparently felt the tightness while making the running catch of the high fly to center by Hanley Ramirez  to end the top of the 6th. The injury will most likely reinsert Jacoby Ellsbury as a prominent part of the starting lineup. Clint Frazier was in Trenton doing some light work with the Thunder but he has yet to begin a rehab assignment so he’s not an immediate option.

Odds & Ends…

The suspension appeals have been heard for both Miguel Cabrera and Alex Wilson for their part in the recent Yankees-Tigers brawl. Both players saw a game shaved off their respective penalties. Cabrera will sit out six games instead of seven, while Wilson takes a 3-day rest (instead of four). Hopefully, it is a sign that Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine will receive the benefit of a one-game reduction when the results of their appeals are announced. Cabrera may have gotten the longest penalty but there’s no doubt the cost is much greater for the Yankees given they have something to play for this month.

Have a great Sunday! The Yanks can take the series win today against AL Cy Young frontrunner Chris Sale. They’ll need to bring their “A” game.  Go Yankees!

Seriously? It Was Only Doug Friggin’ Fister…

Credit:  Paul J Bereswill-NY Post

Red Sox 4, Yankees 1…

For Friday’s starters, the Yankees previously sent three of their top prospects to the Oakland A’s for their ace while the Boston Red Sox picked up their’s off the scrap heap.  Nothing against Doug Fister but there’s no way he should look like Corey Kluber or Chris Sale on the mound.  However, for yesterday’s game, the listless Yankees made him appear to be one of the game’s aces as the Red Sox easily got past the Yankees.

Credit:  Corey Perrine-Getty Images

When the Yankees scored first, on Aaron Judge’s first RBI against the Red Sox since April, it looked like it might be the start of something good with Sonny Gray on the mound.  But after that point, the Yankees didn’t have to worry about their problem with runners in scoring position because they couldn’t get any.  

After Gray breezed through the Red Sox in the top of the first, the Yankees got to business in the bottom of the inning.  Brett Gardner led off with a double to deep center, bouncing on the warning track and off the wall.  Aaron Judge followed him with another double to the wall in left center to score Gardy with the game’s first run.  Sadly, at that moment, the Yankees forgot that it was only Doug Fister on the mound.  The next three hitters grounded out and the Yankees had seen their last RISP when Judge was left standing at second.

The Red Sox erased the Yankees’ lead in the top of the 3rd.  After striking out Sandy Leon, Gray walked Brock Holt.  Eduardo Nunez made him pay for it with a two-run shot to left. Brett Gardner could only watch as the ball sail into the stands.  From there, the Red Sox tacked on a couple of unnecessary insurance runs in the form of solo home runs.

Andrew Benintendi, doing to the Yankees what I can only wish Aaron Judge would do to the Red Sox, pounded a Gray pitch into the right field stands (nearly into the Judge’s Chambers) in the top of the 5th.

Credit:  Bill Kostroun-Associated Press

Hanley Ramirez, having a down year against any team not called the Yankees, drilled a shot to right center in the top of the 7th.  

I’d like to find a positive in the game but unfortunately I can’t.  Both Gray and Fister went seven innings with 98 pitches.  Gray only gave up one more hit than Fister (five to four) but the three home runs were the difference maker.  We needed Gray to have his finest moment in Pinstripes but instead it was the Red Sox partying on the field after the game.  

Credit:  Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Aroldis Chapman pitched the eighth inning.  He gave a hit (a single to Mookie Betts) but recorded all three outs by strikeout. Velocity didn’t seem to be a problem with Chapman hitting nearly 105 mph on a pitch that Dustin Pedroia fouled off.  Adam Warren also pitched an inning of one-hit, scoreless relief.  

I’m sorry, there was one positive in the game.  Bernie Williams did a great job of playing the National Anthem on his guitar during pre-game ceremonies.  I will always appreciate #51.  

This was a very winnable game.  Instead, the Yankees (71-63) are back to 5 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East standings.  The Baltimore Orioles won, beating the Toronto Blue Jays 1-0 in extra innings, so they are just 2 1/2 games behind the Yankees.  New York maintained its one game lead in the Wild Card standings thanks to the Minnesota Twins’ 7-6 loss to the Kansas City Royals, but there are seven AL teams within striking distance (3 1/2 games or less).  

The Yankees need to take care of business. If they go down fighting, it’s one thing.  When they go down meekly, it is unacceptable.  

Odds & Ends…

The Yankees made the first of their September call-ups with names you’d expect to see:  DH Matt Holliday, C Erik Kratz (acquired solely to back up Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine while they serve their staggered suspensions), RHP Bryan Mitchell, LHP Jordan Montgomery, and RHP Ben Heller.  To make room for Kratz on the 40-man roster, the Yankees moved RHP Luis Cessa (ribcage injury) to the 60-day DL.  I am glad to see that the Kratz move didn’t result in a “forced” DFA.  I didn’t see an easy candidate to dump.  There will be other names to follow but the Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders will begin play in the International League play-offs next week so it may be a few weeks before we see guys like Miguel Andujar or Jake Cave.  

I thought CC Sabathia getting upset about Eduardo Nunez’s bunt in the first inning of Thursday’s game was a little over-reactionary (why not exploit an opponent’s weakness?).  But Hall of Famer Jim Rice’s comments about CC’s weight were, in my opinion, out of line.  

Tyler Clippard must think he won the lottery.  A couple of months ago, he was pitching like the worst reliever in baseball for the Yankees.  Now, he finds himself with a vital role in the bullpen for a team poised to make a World Series run with starting pitchers led by Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel.  

Credit:  Christian Petersen-Getty Images

Have a great Saturday!  Here’s hoping that Masa washes those dirty Sox.  Go Yankees!