Tagged: Royals

Sonny Gray, We Found You!…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Ed Zurga)

Yanks win eighth consecutive Series…

Backed by uncharacteristic run support (at least for him), Sonny Gray finally pitched on Sunday like the guy who was an ace in Oakland. We’ve seen few glimpses of that guy since he became a Yankee last July. I know, it was against one of the worst teams in the American League but it was a great Sonny Gray start. For a game anyway, this warrants a ‘Sonny Gray DOES NOT suck’ from me.  

As you know, I am quick to criticize Gray so I owe it to him to recognize a wonderful performance. Gray (3-3) pitched eight innings, holding the Kansas City Royals to four hits and a single run. He didn’t allow the run until the eighth inning when he was starting to tire. He walked a batter and struck out five in the 10-1 victory. The four homers, including two by Tyler Austin, were fantastic but there was no doubt Gray was the star of this game.

A.J. Cole, in a rare appearance, pitched a clean ninth inning. Sure, he had a big lead but ask the Miami Marlins about holding a big lead in the ninth inning. They had a 9-4 advantage Sunday against the Atlanta Braves (a team many are starting to liken to the 2017 Yankees) and had Brad Ziegler on the mound to close it out. Six runs later, the Braves walked off the field a winner. So, I try to never underestimate a mop up role like the one Cole faced. 

Now for the home runs. Tyler Austin is making a very convincing case to stay with the Major League club despite the impending return of Greg Bird. I’ve felt all along Austin is the most susceptible for a demotion to Triple A to make room for Bird. Even with his two home runs on Sunday, I still think he’ll be the odd man out since he has options remaining. The Yankees aren’t getting rid of Ronald Torreyes and I don’t see them cutting bait with Neil Walker. Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media speculated this morning that the Yankees will DFA Walker and trade him for a minor leaguer to use the remaining balance of his $4 million contract at the trading deadline (in addition to the space they already have) to open a spot for Bird. I suppose he may be right but I have liked the versatility Walker brings and he has hit better of late. But I have to admit that a tandem of Bird-Austin at first base is a bit scary (in a good way).    

Photo Credit: The Kansas City Star (John Sleezer)

Miguel Andujar and Austin Romine tacked on solo homers in the ninth which did more to help their personal statistics than the team’s result.

Yankees Twitter was aghast before the game when the lineup was posted. Many had expected to see Gary Sanchez at DH, Didi Gregorius at short, and Clint Frazier in left. Instead, Giancarlo Stanton was the DH, Brett Gardner in left, and Ronald Torreyes was the shortstop for the second day in a row. I understood the move with Sir Didi who is mired in a 1-for-45 slump. Nothing against the great Brett Gardner, but I would have preferred to see Red Thunder in left. But at the end of the day, it didn’t matter. The Yankees cranked out fourteen hits with Aaron Boone’s lineup to power the offense.  

Nice job by Austin Romine. During the off-season, so many Yankees fans (maybe even me) wanted the Yankees to sign Alex Avila to replace Romine as the backup catcher. Yesterday, Romine had perhaps his greatest game as a Yankee. He was 3-for-5 with two RBI’s. He had a run-scoring single in the fourth inning in addition to the ninth inning dinger. It’s worth noting that Romine is batting .326 in 48 plate appearances with the homer and nine RBI’s, while Avila is only batting .132 with two homers and four RBI’s in nearly twice as many plate appearances and has opened the door for more playing time for former Yankee John Ryan Murphy with the Snakes.   

It was great to see the Yankees dominate two consecutive games against the lowly Royals after Friday night’s disappointing loss. It had been a very tough week for the Yankees with the rainouts in Washington, D.C. It was not surprising they played sluggishly in their only loss in the Royals series, but I was glad to see that it lasted only one game before they were back in expected form.  

The lone disappointment yesterday was the option of outfielder Clint Frazier to Triple A after the game. I know, it was inevitable. It was a numbers game and Frazier is better served by playing every day for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He’ll head to Pennsylvania and await the next call to Yankee Stadium. It’s not what you want (to borrow Joe Girardi’s line), but Frazier is only an injury away from returning. 

The Yankees now head to Dallas/Fort Worth to face the Texas Rangers. The Rangers have under-performed this year (18-30) but they are generally a handful for the Yankees. The first two games of the series feature Yankees Past and what could be Yankees Future. Today, the Yankees will face a former Yankee in the ancient Bartolo Colon while Tuesday features 2009 World Series foe Cole Hamels, whose name has been mentioned as a possible trading deadline candidate for the Yankees. There are other trade candidates I’d like to see over Hamels, but he is a proven veteran arm. After the Yankees finish the three game series in Texas, they’ll head back to the Bronx to meet up with Shohei Ohtani and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in a series that starts Friday night.

David Hale just keeps coming back like a bad penny. I really thought we’d seen the last of Hale when he was designated for assignment for the second time this year by the Yankees. When he elected free agency after his most recent DFA, I felt sure he’d go elsewhere. It was not to be as Hale signed another minor league deal with the Yankees and will head to Scranton, PA to join the starting rotation for the RailRiders. His addition led to the release of former Yankees prospect Daniel Camarena. I had hoped for better results from Camarena who had been re-acquired from the Chicago Cubs earlier this year after signing a minor league free agent contract with the Cubs in the off-season. But a 2-3 record and 5.08 ERA (44 hits and 20 walks in 39 innings) led to Camarena’s second exit from the organization. I wish him the best with his next opportunity.  It’s unfortunate he was unable to realize his dream in Pinstripes.

Speaking of the RailRiders starting rotation, their latest addition (besides Hale) is prospect Erik Swanson. Swanson’s name hasn’t really been mentioned much since he was acquired in the trade that sent Carlos Beltran to the Texas Rangers a couple of seasons ago. Dillon Tate was the more highly regarded name in the trade, but Swanson is the minor league pitcher of the moment. The guy has been sensational in Double A this year. The 24-year-old righty started six games for the Trenton Thunder, winning five with no defeats. He has given up a paltry two earned runs in 40 2/3 innings (0.44 ERA) while striking out 52. He has only allowed 12 walks. The superb performance led to his recent promotion to Triple A. In an organization with so many talented young prospects, Swanson has illuminated his name.

Photo Credit: Martin Griff, via Pinstriped Prospects

The Yankees did so well with the 2016 trades of Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, they are generally recognized as the trades that highlight the genius of GM Brian Cashman. Nevertheless, the returns for Beltran (namely Swanson and Tate) and Brian McCann (Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman, who helped bring Giancarlo Stanton to New York) were spectacular.  Cashman and Company were certainly well prepared when they made those “under-the-radar” trades that opened roster space for younger, more talented players.

Unfortunately, the Boston Red Sox keep winning so the Yankees and Sox remain tied atop the AL East although the Yankees (30-13) continue to hold a slight advantage in winning percentage.  New York is at .698 while the Red Sox (32-15) are .681.  Boston is off today so the Yankees could pick up a half-game to take sole possession of first place or they could lose to fall into second place.  With 119 games to play, I suppose it does not really matter either way in the grand scheme of things but I always prefer to see the Red Sox in the rear view mirror.

Credit: Frank Galasso Illustration

Go Yankees!

Advertisements

False Start by the Pinstripers…

Photo Credit: TNS (John Sleezer)

Yanks fall to Royals…

My fear after nearly a week of no Yankees baseball is that they’d go ‘thud’ against one of the worst teams in the American League. Sadly, my fear became reality when the Yankees lost Friday night against the lowly Kansas City Royals, 5-2. It was a close game but, at least for me, it never felt like the Yankees were in it.  For Royals manager Ned Yost, it was his 1,100th career managerial victory.

Photo Credit: TNS (John Sleezer)

It’s been a tough week for the Yankees. They played their way to a 3-3 tie with the Washington Nationals through 5 1/2 innings on Tuesday, only to have the game suspended for rain. The rain wiped out the resumption of the suspended game and the regularly scheduled one the next day, leaving the Yankees to spend the night at Washington Dulles International Airport due to the unavailability of hotel accommodations.  They had an off day on Thursday but it didn’t help. There were no extra base hits to be found in Yankee bats last night. Eight singles equated to two runs and a loss. The legendary Jake Junis (who?) gets the win, and CC Sabathia gets saddled with his first loss of the young season.

When an uncharacteristic error was made by Gleyber Torres in the first inning which allowed the Royals to pick up the game’s first run, it felt like it was not going to be the Yankees’ night.

Photo Credit: TNS (John Sleezer)

I guess if there was any solace about the loss, the Boston Red Sox lost too. Boston fell 7-4 to Alex Cobb and the Baltimore Orioles so the Red Sox and Yankees remain tied atop of the AL East standings. The Red Sox have two more wins than the Yankees (30 to 28), but the Yankees have the slight advantage in winning percentage (.683 to .667) thanks to two fewer losses (13 to 15). It would have been nice for the Yankees to have won to create a game advantage but today is a new day. On paper, Luis Severino (6-1, 2.14 ERA) versus Danny Duffy (1-5, 6.51 ERA) looks like a mismatch. Of course, those tend to be the ones we struggle with the most.

The Didi Gregorius for MVP talk has subsided with his 1-for-45 slide. Hopefully, he’ll rediscover his stroke while the team is in Kansas City. April’s Player of the Month has been MIA in May.

Photo Credit: New York Daily News (Howard Simmons)

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player on the DL incur so many consecutive injuries while out as Jacoby DL’s-bury. The latest ailment for Ellsbury seems to be a back injury. I’ve forgotten the original reason he was placed on the DL or the variety of injuries that have subsequently sidelined him. Maybe I am just looking forward to the day the Steinbrenner family says enough is enough and they pull the trigger to cut bait despite the cost. The guy is nearly untradeable (IDK, is that a word or was it just made up for Ellsbury?). At this point, even if the Yankees back up a Brink’s truck to haul oodles of cash to another team to take the disabled veteran, there would be no takers. The true travesty would be for Ellsbury to actually get healthy and take a 25-man roster spot from a more deserving player. I am ready for Ellsbury’s post-Yankees career.

Speaking of the DL, a good Yankees center fielder is lost until August. Top prospect Estevan Florial (technically, Gleyber Torres is the top prospect but since he’s in the Major Leagues to stay and will soon lose prospect status, Florial is the top prospect by default) will be out for a few months after it was determined that he’ll need surgery on his hamate bone (right hand, unlike the illustration below).

Hopefully all goes well with Florial’s surgery and recovery and this is not a roadblock or delay for his eventual arrival in the Bronx within the next few years.

Another injured player made a triumphant return yesterday. Greg Bird, on rehab assignment with Double-A Trenton, homered off Bowie Baysox reliever Reid Love in the eighth inning of a 2-0 Thunder win. There’s no doubt Bird will soon be back with the big league club and he’ll be a welcome addition. With no offense to Tyler Austin or Neil Walker, I can’t wait to see Bird manning first base for the Bombers once again.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Corey Sipkin)

Billy McKinney also had two hits for the Thunder as he works his way back too, but the roster crunch will send him to Scranton, PA when he is ready.

Given how long it has been since Dellin Betances last pitched, you just know that he is going to implode the next time out. Betances last threw an inning of relief in the 6-2 win over the Oakland A’s on May 13th. I always cringe whenever there are extended delays between appearances for Betances.

In a non-baseball related topic, here is a shameless plug for a new TV series that will air on FX Network this fall, Mayans MC.

Mayans MC stars J.D. Pardo, Emilio Rivera and Edward James Olmos. The show was created by Kurt Sutter and Elgin James, and is set in the post-Jax Teller Sons of Anarchy universe. The story focuses on the struggles of Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes (Pardo), a prospect in the Mayan MC Santo Padre charter on the California/Mexico border.  According to the official storyline, EZ is the gift son of a proud Latino family, who American dream was snuffed out by cartel violence. Now, his need for vengeance drives him toward a life he never intended and can never escape. Rivera reprises his SOA role as Marcus Alvarez, the President of the Mayans MC Oakland charter and the MC’s National President. Olmos plays EZ’s father, Felipe Reyes.  Michael Irby is featured as Obispo “Bishop” Losa, President of the Santo Padre charter. I’ve been tracking this show for several years now and it is exciting that it will finally be part of the Fall TV lineup.

Hopefully today brings the more resilient Yankees team we are familiar with as they’ve shaken off the rust from the long delay between games. The Yankees have proven they can beat the best teams in the American League. Now, they just need to prove they can beat the worst ones.

Go Yankees!

The Washington Washout…

 Rainout - Copy
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mitchell Layton)

Rain sweeps the Yankees away to Kansas City…

I guess we have Tyler Austin to thank for the last couple of days not being a total loss. Without his heroics (3 RBI’s), the Yankees would have lost Tuesday’s game which was ultimately suspended after 5 ½ innings with the score tied at 3. The Nats would have won the game if Austin hadn’t tied the score with the sac fly after his earlier home run. When the game is resumed, the Yankees will have nine outs to twelve for the Nationals so the odds favor the Nats. Nevertheless, credit goes to Austin for helping to avert a rain-shortened loss.

 download - Copy
Photo Credit: AP (Pablo Martinez Monsivais) via BTA

With rain sweeping away the resumption of the suspended game and Wednesday night’s scheduled game, the Yankees have a couple of days off until they take the field in Kansas City tomorrow night for the first game of a three game weekend series.

I saw a good tweet on Twitter earlier this week that angrily asked why Robinson Cano got suspended for 80 games but the Yankees were only suspended for one. I see no association between Cano’s situation and the Yankees (he hasn’t worn pinstripes since 2013) but it was a good comeback for a day that saw both Cano and the Yankees get suspended (obviously for quite different reasons).

 cano
Photo Credit: Getty Images

As for Cano, I am disappointed. I don’t know all the facts of his case, but I am glad the Yankees didn’t try to match the huge offer the Seattle Mariners made to Cano after the 2013 season. I was not in favor of a ten year deal then, and this incident only reaffirms what can go wrong with inflated extended deals (I know, we have our own ‘Jacoby Ellsbury’ to bear). I always liked Robbie even if I did get frustrated at times with his lack of hustle. But as we stand here today, I’d much rather have Gleyber Torres as the Yankees starting second baseman than Robinson Cano, even if he hadn’t fractured a bone in his hand or was not currently serving a suspension for banned substances. The only injustice I saw about Cano’s suspension is he gets to begin serving it while he is on the disabled list. So, the actual playing time he’ll miss as a result of the 80-game suspension will be much less since the bulk of the time will be spent recovering and rehabbing from the surgery on his hand. I am glad he was ruled ineligible for post-season play, should the Mariners make the playoffs. It’s very convenient (and fortunate) for the Mariners that they have another All-Star second baseman on the roster with Dee Gordon who was serving as a first-time starting center fielder for the M’s prior to Cano’s injury and subsequent suspension.  The M’s will still, no doubt, miss Cano in their lineup.

I do hope for Cano’s sake, he is able to put this behind him and he has no further acts of indiscretion for the duration of his playing career. I will continue to root for and support the former Yankee.

Poor David Hale. He’s been DFA’d three times this year (twice by the Yankees and once by the Minnesota Twins). Honestly, I am not really sure why the Yankees picked him up a second time. I’d rather see him cut this time rather than going to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on an outright assignment if he clears waivers. There’s nothing special in Hale’s arm and I’d rather see a young, hungry pitcher get his opportunity. I wish Hale the best in his future non-Yankee endeavors.

 David-Hale-951792
Photo Credit: Getty Images

The latest DFA for Hale cleared a temporary spot for Clint Frazier. It was speculated his latest time with the big league club would be limited to the Nationals series (to provide an extra bat off the bench for the National League-style of play) but with the rainouts, Frazier traveled with the team to KC and will hopefully get some time in the outfield with Aaron Judge and company before he gets the inevitable call to head back to Pennsylvania. It would be great if Red Thunder and his bat make it very difficult to demote him. Admittedly, I am growing tired of Aaron Hicks in center. Hicks may be the better defender and the more “true” center fielder, but I think Frazier has the better promise and potential for the now and in the future. Hicks is too inconsistent for me. I only wish that Estevan Florial was more advanced in his development and maturity. Dude, hurry up and age, will ya??!!

To sidetrack for a moment, I do have to say I’d gladly put Frazier in a trade package if it meant the Yankees could pry LHP Madison Bumgarner from the San Francisco Giants. I know Mad Bum has suffered some fluke injuries in recent years and has as much familiarity with the DL as Jacoby Ellsbury and Clayton Kershaw but when healthy, he’s a gamer. I’d love to roll with Luis Severino and Bumgarner as my top two pitchers heading into October. However, if Frazier is not traded, I hope he gets his chance to stay with the Pinstripes even if it comes at the expense of Aaron Hicks and Jacoby Ellsbury.

 clint-frazier-4f2435dcb97ea16a
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Shanna Lockwood)

Back to the Yankees and Nationals, the makeup day will be Monday, June 18th at 5:05 pm Eastern. It is going to make for a very long night for the Yankees with at least 12 innings of baseball. They finish a series against the Tampa Bay Rays in the Bronx on the preceding Sunday afternoon, and then after the game and a half on Monday night in the Nation’s Capital, they quickly head back to Yankee Stadium to begin a series against the Cano-less Mariners the next day.

Despite the washout in Washington, the Yankees (28-12) are currently a ½ game ahead of the Boston Red Sox (29-14) in the AL East Standings.  Boston plays tonight at Fenway Park against the lowly Baltimore Orioles so it’s possible the Yankees and Red Sox could be tied entering play tomorrow. But then again, the spineless David Price is on the mound for the Sox so I’ll gladly take my chances with Greg Bird’s high school buddy Kevin Gausman and the O’s.

 ws-GrandviewBaseball1-030910
Photo Credit: The Aurora Sentinel (Heather Longway)

I really feel bad for the Los Angeles Dodgers and their fans. I am a known Dodgers sympathizer (they’re my NL team) and this has been an awful start to the year for the defending National League champs. Entering the season, many had them making the World Series for the second year in a row, but after another loss to the Miami Marlins last night, the Dodgers are 16-26 and have fallen into last place in the NL West.  Well, technically they are tied with the San Diego Padres, but the Padres have the slight advantage in winning percentage.

 841306206.0
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jennifer Stewart)

Injuries have been tough but there were so many parallels between the Yankees and the Dodgers at the start of the season. Both are big market teams trying to reset luxury tax penalties with strong, young teams. But the similarities end there. The Dodgers had to let valuable role players like Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson walk in the off-season to keep payroll down and they’ve lost superstar players like Corey Seager (out for the year) and Clayton Kershaw to injury. This is Justin Turner’s first week back after his DL stint to start the year. The Dodgers face a lost season or they need to quickly spend to bring in strong reinforcements if they hope to salvage the season. The Dodgers have a strong farm system (okay, not as strong as the Yankees) but it is not ready to help.  They’re already leaning on young guys like Walker Buehler in the starting rotation.  Manny Machado’s name keeps coming up as an option for the Dodger Blue but he’d probably eliminate any chance of the Dodgers staying under the luxury tax threshold. Plus, they’d have to find a position for him if they have any hopes of signing him after the season since Seager will be back next year to reclaim shortstop. The Dodgers situation shows how much luck plays into strategy when it comes to navigating the treacherous waters of payroll. The Yankees and Dodgers are clearly trending in opposite directions.

I have tickets to two upcoming Dodgers games. Sounds like I’ll probably have a more enjoyable time watching the out of town scoreboard to see how the Yankees are doing.

To the Yankees and all of us fans, enjoy your day off. We look forward to watching the road team step up to the plate at Kaufman Stadium on Friday night.

Go Yankees!

Mr McGwire, I Believe You Have My Seat…

Credit:  Adam Hunger-Getty Images

Yankees 11, Royals 3…

Welcome to the Aaron Judge Show!  Number 99 entered the game trailing Mark McGwire’s MLB Rookie Home Run Record of 49 by one homer. He departed the game, two homers later, as the new record holder. All Rise for the Judge!

Oh yeah, they played a game too…

The Yankees got on the board first. After CC Sabathia retired the Royals in order in the top of the 1st inning, Brett Gardner led off the Yankees’ half with a single that dropped in right center field. After Aaron Judge flied out to center (a warning track fly that drew awes from the crowd), Gary Sanchez doubled to deep right into the corner with Gardner holding up at third. Didi Gregorius hit a grounder to first for the second out, but Gardy scored on the play. Sanchez moved to third. Unfortunately, he was left stranded when Matt Holliday struck out. Yankees were up, 1-0.

As Sabathia made his way through the Royals lineup in vintage 2009 fashion, the Yankees struck again in a big way in the bottom of the 3rd. Royals starter Jake Junis gave Brett Gardner a free pass on five pitches with one out. Aaron Judge came to the plate and demolished a Junis pitch into the right field stands to increase the Yankees’ lead to 3-0. The home run was Judge’s 49th of the year, tying the MLB Rookie Record held by Mark McGwire (set in 1987).  

While Sabathia was holding the Royals scoreless, the Yankees got on the board again in the bottom of the 6th. Didi Gregorius hit a one-out single to left on a short hop to left fielder Melky Cabrera. He came around to score on a double to the left field wall by Matt Holliday. Didi didn’t have to stand on second base very long as Greg Bird followed with a home run to the second deck in right. The Yankees had increased their lead to 6-0.  

As great as Sabathia was pitching (three hits over six scoreless innings), I thought bringing him out for the 7th inning might be pushing our luck. Eric Hosmer led off with a single to left just over the glove of Didi Gregorius. Salvador Perez made it a 6-2 game with a home run to left. I thought surely Joe Girardi would make a move at that point but he didn’t. With CC’s 80th pitch, the bat of Mike Moustakas said “big mistake”, homering to right to cut the deficit to three runs. 

Credit:  Seth Wenig-AP

Finally, Girardi made the move and ended Sabathia’s day. As great as CC can be at times, he is no longer more than a 5-6 inning guy. I know, it’s easy to second guess but I just don’t trust Sabathia past the 6th inning anymore. Plus, with the plethora of arms in the pen, it’s not really necessary.  Chad Green entered the game. He walked the first batter he faced, Jorge Bonifacio. Alcides Escobar hit a fielder’s choice to short, forcing Bonifacio out at second. Escobar was too quick for the Yankees to turn the double play. Green struck out Paulo Orlando for the second out and was finally able to end the inning when he got Whit Merrifield to ground out to second in an 8-pitch at-bat. It was a tough inning for Yankees pitching but fortunately the Yankees were able to hold the Royals after the back-to-back homers.

With Trevor Cahill on the mound, Ronald Torreyes led off the bottom of the 7th with a single that dropped into center field. Brett Gardner momentarily dampened spirits when he hit into a double play at second. Very close play at first as it looked like Gardy may have beat the throw, but the Yankees did not challenge. But no fear, Aaron Judge stepped up and broke the tie with McGwire for the MLB Rookie HR Record when he blasted Cahill’s offering into the left field seats for his 50th home run. Gary Sanchez wasted no time, jumping all over Cahill’s first pitch, to deposit another ball, a bullet, into the left field seats for consecutive home runs. The Yankees subsequently loaded the bases on a single and two walks, but Todd Frazier grounded into a force out at third to end the inning. Still, the Yankees had increased their lead to 8-3.

Credit:  Seth Wenig-AP

With no offense to Dellin Betances, I love having David Robertson in the 8th inning to set up Aroldis Chapman. He came in and struck out the side to push the game to the bottom of the 8th. I get fired up watching D-Rob pitch and the way he runs off the field when the inning is over. I enjoyed him replacing Mariano Rivera as the team’s closer a few years back and I enjoy him now in whatever role he can be afforded as long as he’s on the field pitching.  

In the bottom of the 8th, Ronald Torreyes hit a one-out double to right, a ball that dropped in between a crowd of Royals. A throwing error by the right fielder, Jorge Bonifacio (ball got past Alcides Escobar at second), allowed Toe to advance to third. Last time, Brett Gardner hit into a double play to erase Toe. This time, Gardy doubled down the right field line to make it a 9-3 game. Aaron Judge walked (I wouldn’t have thrown him anything to hit either) and he left the game to an ovation when he was replaced at first base by pinch-runner Clint Frazier. Gary Sanchez singled to left on a line drive to load the bases and there was still only one out. Didi Gregorius singled to right, scoring Gardy, to keep the bases full of Yanks. Matt Holliday lofted a fly ball to right, deep enough to score Clint Frazier on the sacrifice. Greg Bird finally brought the inning to a close when he popped out to third, but the Yankees had increased their lead to 11-3.

Actually, this probably would have been a great spot to bring in Dellin Betances but Girardi opted to go with Tommy Kahnle. A good choice but I’d really like to see Betances continuing work out of his funk and an 8-run lead would have been good placement for him. Kahnle walked a batter but it was otherwise a quiet inning as the Royals went down without advancing the runner. The Yankees win!

The Royals can probably have t-shirts made up that say “I went to NYC for one day and all I got was a butt-kicking”. I am sure that all things considered, they wish they had ended this series back in May. The loss most likely ended any aspirations the Royals held for the second Wild Card slot.  

The Yankees (87-69) picked up a game on the Boston Red Sox although it is probably too little, too.  The Toronto Blue Jays, fresh off a series win over the Yankees last weekend, defeated Boston, 6-4 yesterday.  The Yankees trail the Sox by four games with six to play.  The Yankees lead the Wild Card standings by five games.  

It was a great start by CC Sabathia despite the Perez-Moustakas freight train he ran into by overstaying his welcome. With the win (his 236th career victory), Sabathia improved his season record to 13-5. 

Credit:  Robert Sabo

The bullpen trio of Green, Robertson and Kahnle held the Royals hitless (and scoreless) for nine outs while compiling six strikeouts. A job well done! 

I don’t know about you, but I am kinda thinking this Judge guy has a chance to be something special. Seriously, this has to be one of the greatest Rookie seasons that I’ve ever experienced. Obviously, my view is a little Pinstriped tainted but Judge has put his name among the All-Time Greats. With an organization as deep in tradition and history as the Yankees, that’s very, very hard to do.

Thumbs down, Guys! This was a wonderful win!

Next Up:  Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY…

The march toward the conclusion of the regular season and the Wild Card game that awaits the Yankees will continue tonight with the division foe Rays coming to town. There was a time when the Rays were battling the Yankees for the Wild Card but at this point, the Rays are just playing out the string to get a jump start on their October vacation plans. They can certainly play the role of spoiler as the Yankees attempt to drive to home field advantage for next week’s Wild Card game.  

Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:

TODAY

Rays:  Blake Snell (4-6, 4.01 ERA)

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (8-7, 4.06 ERA)

WEDNESDAY

Rays:  Matt Andriese (5-4, 4.44 ERA)

Yankees:  Luis Severino (13-6, 3.03 ERA)

THURSDAY

Rays:  Alex Cobb (12-10, 3.66 ERA)

Yankees:  Sonny Gray (10-11, 3.31 ERA)

This should be Severino’s final tune-up before the Wild Card game.  Hopefully he’s more effective than he was last time out. 

Is Alex Cobb a preview of coming attractions? He’s a free agent this off-season and his name has been linked to the Yankees as a possibility.  

Odds & Ends…

Given the surprising success of the Yankees this year, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the Yankees do not re-sign both Manager Joe Girardi and General Manager Brian Cashman. 

Cashman has done a tremendous job in rebuilding the Yankees and setting them up for success for years to come. But with no offense to Cashman, he isn’t the sole reason for the success.  Other people, including Damon Oppenheimer, Jean Afterman, Gary Denbo and others have played significant roles. Is it time for a new GM? Alex Anthopoulos has been my personal favorite for the job, but I wish I had realized how great Mike Hazen was. The former Red Sox GM has transformed the Arizona Diamondbacks into a team that could catapult themselves over the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers into the World Series. Who’s the next Mike Hazen-in-waiting? I have mixed feelings about Cashman. I have long respected the guy but I wonder if it is time for new blood. With the loss of the late Gene Michael’s voice in the organization, Cashman is one of the last links to the old regime led by George Steinbrenner. I don’t know the answer to this question and I certainly won’t be disappointed if Hal Steinbrenner signs Cashman to a new long-term deal. Inevitably, I trust young Steinbrenner to do the right thing…whatever that may be.  

Girardi is not as easy for me. I’ve never been a big Girardi guy but it’s not like I feel he is the wrong man for the job. There’s no doubt that I’d prefer someone like Terry Francona and my personal homer pick, Don Mattingly. But Francona won’t be leaving Cleveland anytime soon and Mattingly is currently unavailable (as he awaits the arrival of his new boss in Miami, Derek Jeter). Nothing against Al Pedrique or Tony Pena, but I don’t really think either guy would be an improvement over Girardi. For the lack of better available candidates, I am probably for re-signing Girardi to a new 3 to 5 year contract.  

Have a great Tuesday! Let’s have our way with the Rays. Go Yankees!

Sevy and the Blazing Fast Goose Eggs…

Credit:  Kathy Willens/AP

Yankees 3, Royals 0…

Luis Severino continued the recent albeit short trend of stellar pitching performances by Yankee starters.  Masahiro Tanaka excluded, the rotation has pitched to win the last four games.  Severino was tremendous, pitching eight innings.  He was still clicking the radar gun at 99 mph in the 8th.  By completing eight, Severino was able to pass the baton to Dellin Betances for the one inning save without relying on any of the tired arms in the pen. 

Severino (3-2) was incredible in the scoreless outing with a season high 114 pitches.  He allowed only one extra base hit (a double by Brandon Moss in the 5th inning) and did not allow any runners past second base.  Sevy only allowed four hits and walked one while striking out seven.  He lowered his season ERA to 3.11.

Jason Hammel kept the Yankees in check most of the night but the Pinstripers didn’t need much.  Didi Gregorius hit a solo homer in the third inning to give the Yanks an early 1-0 lead.  

Credit:  Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports

In the 6th inning, the Yankees picked up another run through great-base running effort by Gary Sanchez.  Sanchez singled to open the inning and then stole second.  Thanks to a throwing error by Royals catcher Salvador Perez, Sanchez alertly raced on to third.  Matt Holliday brought him home with a sac fly.

The Yankees picked up their final run when Gregorius led off the 7th inning with a double.  A ground out by Chris Carter moved Gregorius to third, which brought Brett Gardner to the plate.  With two strikes, Gardner was the beneficiary of a called ball on a pitch by Royals reliever Matt Strahm that seemingly landed well within the strike zone.  It should have been the third strike for the second out of the inning but with the next pitch, Gardner singled to center to drive in the run.

Betances struck out the side in the 9th inning to earn his fourth save of the season, lowering his season ERA to 0.57.

The Yankees (27-17) moved 2 1/2 games up on the Baltimore Orioles.  Baltimore lost 4-3 to the Minnesota Twins and their fine rookie pitcher Jose Berrios.  The Boston Red Sox remained 3 1/2 games back with their 9-4 win over the Texas Rangers.

I want one of those guys…

Last night, Chris Sale of the Red Sox attempted to become the MLB pitcher in the Modern Era to record at least 10 strikeouts in nine straight games.  He failed but he is still the fifth pitcher since 1900 to reach 100 strikeouts in his first 10 starts.  It probably wasn’t one of his better games, but Sale still kept the game within reach for the Red Sox until their offense exploded for 7 runs in the 7th inning of their game against the Texas Rangers.  Sale finished the night with 7 1/3 innings, 6 hits, 4 runs (3 earned), 1 walk and 6 strikeouts.  

Credit:  Christopher Evans

Sale has such a presence when he is on the mound.  I can’t think of any potential trade targets that can match Sale as a frontline ace.  I remain hopeful that GM Brian Cashman will surprise me, but I think most of us know who the available trade suspects are.  

Gleyber Torres Watch (with a little Tyler Austin thrown in)…

It was another night at third base yesterday for Yankees top prospect Gleyber Torres as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders defeated the Columbus Clippers, 5-0. 

Watching the RailRiders this closely shows me one thing.  Clint Frazier is on fire.  He hit his eighth home run (and 28th RBI) in the first inning of the RailRiders’ game against the Columbus Clippers on Wednesday.  He also had a two-run shot on Tuesday during Gleyber’s first game at the AAA Level.  But enough about ridiculously hot outfielders and how the Yankees like to keep them down while parading the $153 Million Man in center field at Yankee Stadium on a nightly basis.  Note:  To Jacoby Ellsbury’s defense, he was injured during last night’s game against the Royals when he collided into the outfield wall after making a catch.  He suffered a neck sprain and a concussion, and has been placed on the 7-Day DL.  I wish him no ill will and hope that he returns to the health sooner than later.  It does kind of make me wish that the padding on the outfield walls was a little more player-friendly.  Rob Refsnyder has been recalled to the Bronx to replace Ellsbury.  On performance alone, Frazier would have been the best option, but Refsnyder is already on the 40-Man Roster which was the difference-maker.  

Credit:  Andy Grosh/MiLB.com

Torres was a wee bit cooler than Frazier.  With an ‘O-fer’ night (0-for-3), he wasn’t really doing much with the bat but he did walk twice, stole a base, and avoided striking out.  All things considered, it was another game in the education and development of the Yankees premier prospect as he climbs the ladder for the eventual call to the Bronx.  

I thought Mike Ford did a good job for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the short time since his call-up.  In nine games, he hit 4 homers and 10 RBI’s, batting .306/.432/.750.  But he was returned to AA-Trenton yesterday when Ji-Man Choi was activated from the 7-Day DL for the RailRiders.  

Credit:  Cheryl Pursell

Maybe I should have re-named this section the Minor League Report.

As promised, here’s a little Tyler Austin…


Finally…

The Yankees conclude their four-game set against the Kansas City Royals this afternoon at 1:05 pm Eastern.  The Royals have announced a change in starters for the game as Miguel Almonte, called up on Tuesday from the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Double-A), will replace Nathan Karns who was placed on the DL with forearm stiffness. He was 1-0 with a 1.86 ERA in 6 starts for the Naturals. For Almonte, the start at Yankee Stadium will be a treat.  “That was my favorite team growing up”, Almonte said yesterday through an interpreter.  No worries, Miguel, they are our favorite team too.
Masahiro Tanaka takes the hill for the Yankees in an outing that will probably have me watching the game between my fingers.  I really hope that he has rediscovered the touch and can continue the streak of solid pitching performances.  Otherwise, the fans in the outfield bleachers should receive hazard duty pay.
Have a great Thursday!  Why settle for two when you can take three??!!…

 

Win as a Team, Lose as a Team…

Credit:  Kathy Willens/AP

Royals 6, Yankees 2…

Jordan Montgomery showed why he is a Major League pitcher.  After a few outings that had led to speculation he could potentially be replaced in the rotation, Monty delivered his finest outing yet.  The bullpen couldn’t hold it but you’ll never find a complainer with Montgomery.  “I trust those guys coming out of the bullpen.  I trust them all.  They’re doing the best to execute pitches.  They’ve been so great throughout the year already.  Nobody is perfect.  Win as a team, lose as a team.”, Montgomery said in his post-game comments.  

Credit:  Robert Sabo

Monty took a one-hitter into the seventh inning but gave up a solo home run to Lorenzo Cain.  After getting the second out of the inning, Montgomery was pulled for Adam Warren with the Yankees leading 2-1 and no one on, finishing with a two-hit effort.  At that point, the bullpen imploded to the tune of four hits and five runs, which allowed the Royals to walk away with the 6-2 victory.  After watching Montgomery’s brilliant two-hitter, Warren (1-1) allowed two hits to the first two batters he faced, the second a homer by Jorge Bonifacio, while both Jonathan Holder and Chasen Shreve were greeted with solo shots from the first batters they faced in the eighth.  Bryan Mitchell pitched a three-up, three down ninth inning but by then, it was too little, too late as the Yankees were unable to rally.

It’s disappointing to see such a great performance by Montgomery wasted but the overworked bullpen is a byproduct of the overall recent poor performances by the starting rotation.  It’s hard to fault Warren and Company as it was inevitable they’d crack from overuse and it was really good to see the maturity of Montgomery as he refused to place any blame on his teammates.  You could say that manager Joe Girardi should have left Montgomery in the game, but he was at 98 pitches.  It was time for his tip of the cap as he walked off the mound.  

Credit:  Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Danny Duffy, the winning pitcher for the Royals, took notice.  After the game, Duffy said “He’s out there, and he’s beyond his years and it’s fun to watch him compete.”

The Yankees scored their only runs in the fourth and fifth innings with solo home runs from Aaron Hicks and Chris Carter, respectively.  The Yankees had a chance to close the gap in the eighth when Chase Headley came to bat with two outs and runners at the corners, but his liner to Eric Hosmer, who made a great play, thwarted the attempt.  

Prior to the game, the Yankees took a moment of silence for the victims of the horrific and senseless terror attack in Manchester, England, playing “God Save The Queen”.  

Credit:  Kathy Willens/AP

The Yankees (26-17) maintained their 1 1/2 game lead over the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East despite the loss.  The Orioles fell 2-0 to Ervin Santana and the Minnesota Twins.  Santana pitched a complete game two-hitter.  The Boston Red Sox beat the Texas Rangers 11-6 to close to within 3 1/2 games.

Bird Update…

Greg Bird has resumed hitting off a tee as he begins his journey back from the bruised ankle injury.

I know, that pic couldn’t possibly be Greg Bird.  He’d never wear his jeans that high up!

The current plan is for Bird to hit in an indoor cage today, rest tomorrow, and take outdoor batting practice on Friday and Saturday.  Sunday, he’d travel down to Florida to begin either extended spring training on Monday or start a rehab assignment with High-A Tampa.

It’s possible that we could see Bird back with the Yankees late next week or weekend depending upon how things go.  Hopefully, there will be no setbacks and he’ll be much stronger and healthier than we last saw him.

Gerrit Cole Update…

Yeah, that’s probably true.

For the record, Cole did kind of stink it up in Pittsburgh’s 5-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Monday.  He was almost Masahiro Tanaka-like in lasting only 4 2/3 innings.  The Braves teed off him, maybe using Bird’s tee, for 10 hits and 5 runs.  I guess we can get that production from our own staff without giving up prospects off the MLB Top 100 list.  

But all things considered, and throwing in the AL East surcharge on ERA, I’d still take Cole.  I know that he spurned the Yankees when drafted a few years ago, but I have to say that for a chance to go to UCLA, I probably would have too.  

Gleyber Torres Update…

Tuesday night saw Gleyber Torres in the lineup for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders at third base.  Rob Refsnyder was at second, and Tyler Wade at short.  Physically, Torres really isn’t that much smaller than Headley.  He is an inch shorter at 6’1″ and about 40 pounds lighter at 175 lbs.  I guess when I think of third basemen, I think of guys like Kris Bryant (6’5″, 230 lbs) but Torres is taller than others such as Justin Turner or Pablo Sandoval.  Nolan Arenado sets the bar for third base from a performance standpoint and he’s only 6’2″, 215 lbs.  Torres will continue to pack muscle on his frame so he certainly has the physical attributes to excel at the position.  I guess selfishly I wanted to keep third base relatively open or flexible for the possible addition of Manny Machado but I am not going to complain if Torres grabs third for years of All-Star games and World Series Championship rings.  

Torres was 1-for-3 with a single in the RailRiders’ 3-1 loss to the Columbus Clippers.  

Have a great Wednesday!  Time to get a new winning streak started!  It’s a new day!

Michael, a Few Home Runs and Instant Replay…

Credit:  Bill Kostroun

Yankees 4, Royals 2…

In a season when Masahiro Tanaka has forgotten how to throw his splitter and slider, only to see his fastball regularly deposited into outfield bleachers, Michael Pineda has stepped up to be “the man”.  Down early 2-0 to the Kansas City Royals, it would have been the point where Pineda collapsed like a cheap suit in years past.  But these are not years past and Michael Pineda no longer contributes to an avalanche parade.  

When Brett Gardner homered in the bottom of the third, it felt like everything was under control even though the Yanks still trailed by one.  With one on in the fourth, Didi Gregorius decided it was much better to lead than follow, launching a homer to right center to put the Yanks in front.  

Credit:  Elsa/Getty Images

Pineda made it into the seventh inning.  After striking out Jorge Bonifacio, who had homered for the Royals earlier in the game, Pineda gave up a single to former Cub Jorge Soler.  It was the end of Pineda’s night.  

With Adam Warren on the mound, Soler took second on a wild pitch.  Following a flyout by Whit Merrifield, the Royals appeared to tie the game at 3 when Alcides Escobar hit a grounder to Starlin Castro.  Escobar was ruled safe at first, beating an off-balance throw from Castro.  Soler scored on the play.  The Yankees challenged the call and the Baseball Gods were smiling favorably on the Pinstripes.  The decision at first was overturned, the inning was over, and the run scored by Soler was erased.  All I can say it was incredibly close.

Leading off the bottom of the seventh, Chris Carter boldly let his bat say, “This is why you hired me” with a blast to left-center.  So, instead of a 3-3 game just minutes earlier, the score was suddenly 4-2.  A nice reversal of fortune.  

From there, the Yankees bullpen shut the Royals down.  Tyler Clippard and Dellin Betances each delivered a scoreless inning of relief, and Betances struck out Jorge Soler to end the game, picking up his third save.

For the game, Pineda (5-2) pitched 6 1/3 innings, giving up six hits and two runs, while walking one and striking out six.  It wasn’t a clean start but it was the continuation of the strong, consistent version of the Michael Pineda that we’ve literally been waiting years to see.  

The win allowed the Yankees (26-16) to move a game and a half in front of the Baltimore Orioles who were throttled 14-7 at Camden Yards by the Minnesota Twins in a 21-hit attack.  The Boston Red Sox had the night off so they slipped four and half games back.  

Bronx Fury, South Beach Version…

A pair of ex-Yankees squared off on Friday night in Miami.  Marlins manager Don Mattingly took offense to something Los Angeles Dodgers bench coach Bob Geren yelled to Marlins closer A.J. Ramos.  “If he is going to yell and scream at our guys, the he is going to have to go through me”, said Mattingly, who was ejected in the bench-clearing stand-off.  

Credit:  Los Angeles Times

Mattingly and Geren were Yankees teammates from 1988 to 1991.  

Credit:  Getty Images

I feel badly for Mattingly.  He is in the midst of a very poor season in Miami and he was facing the team that he once managed.  I am not sure that Mattingly will survive the season and he is probably gone if the sale of the Marlins goes through (even if one of the potential new owners is Derek Jeter) unless he can turn things around very quickly.  Mattingly remains my favorite manager but these are not the best of times.

Umm, no, thank you…

Yesterday, Joe Giglio of NJ Advance Media, quoting an article that appeared on SportsNet.ca, floated the possibility of the Yankees as suitors for third baseman Josh Donaldson of the Toronto Blue Jays.  I do not dispute that Donaldson is a great player but it doesn’t make sense to me.  Donaldson is 31 and the Yankees, regardless of the great start this year, are still one to two years away from true World Series contention.  Sure, crazier things have happened, but it doesn’t make sense to me to part with talented young prospects for a guy that is on the wrong side of 30.  

Manny Machado should remain the target.  I am not enamored with Chase Headley covering third until if/when we can get Machado but I don’t think the Yankees are either.  With the call-up of infielder Gleyber Torres to AAA, he is positioning himself for an appearance in the Bronx later this year or at the latest, next spring.  I’d gladly take Starlin Castro at third (over Headley) to make room for Torres at second.  The path to Machado will be costly in terms of dollars but it retains the wealth of prospects within the organization.  If the Yankees lose out on Machado, then they’ll need to look at Plan B.  I am still optimistic that Miguel Andujar can be a solution within the next couple of years.  Let the Boston Red Sox further deplete their farm system for Donaldson and add another player that will be ready for social security in a couple of years.

So, count me out if trying to decide whether or not to bring Donaldson to the Yankees.

All Rise, now entering Right Field, the Honorable Judge, Aaron…

The Yankees have climbed aboard the Judge Train with the rest of us.  They’ve unveiled a new area wrapped around the three rows in the back of Section 104 in right field aptly named “The Judge’s Chambers”.  Selected fans, with preference to those wearing Aaron Judge jerseys, will temporarily be given black robes adorned by #99 on the back while sitting the special area during games.  I guess it beats having a bad tasting candy bar named after you…

Credit:  Ben Walker/AP

Have a great Tuesday!  Let’s keep this winning feeling going!