|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports, via Reuters (Adam Hunger)|
Yanks kick off final regular season home stand with an easy win…
For all of the struggles by the Yankees this month, last night was fun. The Yankees were in charge from the start and never looked back en route to the 11-0 thrashing of the Toronto Blue Jays behind the stellar pitching of restored staff ace Masahiro Tanaka.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)|
After a disappointing nine-game road trip that saw the Yankees drop series in Oakland and Minneapolis to finish 4-5, allowing the A’s to close the gap in the AL Wild Card standings, the Yankees needed a strong game with contributions across the roster. I suppose it was a good sign when it was announced Aaron Judge had been activated off the disabled list prior to the game, even if his bat wasn’t activated with him. Judge will serve as a pinch runner and defensive specialist until it is time to take a few swings in simulated games in Tampa before he gets an opportunity to seek his 27th home run for the Bombers. Given that Judge is the obvious heart and soul of this team (and its future Captain if the Yankees do what’s right), I am glad to see him on the active roster even with his limitations.
I am resigned to the fact that this has been a special season for the Boston Red Sox. I hope they fail in the post-season (like the 2001 Seattle Mariners) but there’s been no doubt they’ve owned the regular season. Unlike the Yankees, they’ve been able to limit the slumps and no opposing lead seems safe against J.D. Martinez and Company. I remain hopeful that they’ll fail in the post-season with their questionable bullpen but at the moment they are the best Red Sox team of my lifetime (well, anybody’s lifetime for that matter). I hate the Houston Astros but if the AL Championship comes down to the Astros and the Red Sox, I’d have to pull for a repeat World Series appearance for the defending champs.
There’s been so much talk about which pitcher should get the call in the inevitable Wild Card game against the Oakland A’s. Right now, it would seem that Tanaka is the man of the hour. Many have mentioned J.A. Happ as a possibility but as good as he has been as a Yankee, I really think the choice should be limited to Tanaka or Luis Severino. I guess I can still remember the times when the Yankees had their way with Happ when he was wearing a Blue Jays uniform. In his last game against the Yankees in July, he was pounded for six runs in 2 2/3 innings in Toronto’s 10-5 loss to the Yanks. Although Severino has been struggling for awhile, he pitched much better in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins when the Yankees didn’t get their first hit until the eighth inning. He held the Twins to only one run on four hits in 5 2/3 innings and didn’t walk anybody in the tough luck loss. He struck out five. It’s a start, both literally and figuratively.
As the Yankees begin their final home stand, it is a little sad that it could be the last regular season games at Yankee Stadium for a few of the guys. Brett Gardner, CC Sabathia, and David Robertson are the names that stick out the most to me. Several guys, like Sonny Gray and maybe even Greg Bird, may have played themselves off the roster after the season. It’s doubtful the Yankees will re-sign Andrew McCutchen or Zach Britton so their brief Pinstriped careers could soon be coming to an end and there is no certainty the Yankees will re-sign J.A. Happ. MLB Trade Rumors speculated this morning that Happ could earn more than a guaranteed $40 million for three years on his next deal when he becomes a free agent after the season. That’s a lot of money for a guy who turns 36 next month. Hopefully the Yankees hang on to their Wild Card lead so that there is at least one more game at Yankee Stadium for the impending departees after the current home stand ends.
I am not sure how I feel about the Yankees’ chances for October. If they play like the team we’ve seen in recent weeks, it will be ‘one and done’ in the Wild Card game. If they can capitalize on the momentum of last night’s game and propel themselves into the playoffs on a roll, anything can happen. We know this team is capable of beating anybody including the Red Sox. But we also know that the bats can go into silent mode with runners in scoring position at times (more often than I would like). I guess I could say that while I am hopeful for the best, I am braced for the worst. I do know the Yankees need a healthy Aaron Judge and Aroldis Chapman before we play the final regular season series in Boston at the end of the month. We need both guys firing on all cylinders for the team’s hopes to advance deep into October.
Like many Yankee fans, I am very pleased with the production and energy that we’ve seen from first baseman Luke Voit. I certainly never dreamed that GM Brian Cashman would be able to flip relievers Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos for a guy who has become such a big part of the Yankees offense. I don’t know what the future holds for Voit but I am enjoying the current ride. I think the Yankees will look to upgrade the position in the off-season but Voit has certainly earned the right to battle Greg Bird for the starting position next Spring.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)|
I’ve seen so many people call for the head of Aaron Boone. Sure, he’s made his share of rookie mistakes in his first year as Yankees manager but I think he’ll be stronger for it in 2019. There’s not anybody out there I would prefer to see as the team’s manager at this point and I am certainly not pining for the return of Joe Girardi. When Boone was announced as the Yankees manager last off-season, I had been hopeful that he’d select a veteran manager as his bench coach. So I was a little disappointed when he went with Josh Bard who has not managed at any level. Bard may be smart and confident, but I really preferred a battle tested veteran manager in the role as lead consultant for Boone. Boone does have managerial experience on his staff with Larry Rothschild who was the original manager for the Tampa Bay Rays (then Devil Rays) when they entered the American League. Third base coach Phil Nevin has minor league managerial experience. But that’s not the same as your right hand guy. The best case scenario would have been for the Yankees to have retained former bench coach Rob Thomson who now serves in the same role for the Philadelphia Phillies and their infant manager, Gabe Kapler. Another veteran manager who left the organization last off-season will most likely be coaching first base for the Yankees’ Wild Card opponent. Al Pedrique, the former manager of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, is presently first base coach for the Oakland A’s. In my opinion, Thomson or Pedrique would have been much better options to sit (or rather stand) beside Boone in the Yankees dugout than Bard.
Speaking of Joe Girardi, I am not sure where he’ll get his next opportunity. I had thought St Louis was an obvious destination but the Cardinals have committed to their interim manager, Mike Shildt, by dropping the interim tag. Shildt has made the Cardinals relevant again after their disappointing performance under former manager Mike Matheny. I thought Washington might be another possibility but it sounds like first-year manager Dave Martinez will get another shot in 2019 even if the team will be Bryce Harper-less. The Toronto Blue Jays have been mentioned as a possibility given the speculation that their manager, John Gibbons, is managing his final games in a Blue Jays uniform. It would be weird to see Girardi in the AL East with another team. But when you look at teams with great young prospects on the horizon, the Blue Jays would be near the top of the list with the highly rated sons of former Major Leaguers Vladimir Guerrero, Dante Bichette, and Craig Biggio among others. All things considered, I am hopeful Girardi likes his job with MLB Network well enough to wait for a Chicago job to open at some point in the future.
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders beat the heavily favored Durham Bulls last night to send the International League’s Governors’ Cup Finals to the winner-take-all Game Five to be played in Moosic, PA later today. Domingo German will start for the RailRiders against Durham’s Kyle Bird (part of the Bulls planned bullpen day). The Bulls are the defending IL champs, while the RailRiders were the Wild Card entrant and last year’s championship series loser. Win or lose, this has been a great season for the Yankees’ top farm team. The Bulls have been at a disadvantage for the series since all of the games have been played at PNC Field in Moosic due to the weather conditions in the Carolinas.
Entering play today, the magic number for the Boston Red Sox to win the AL East championship is six games. The Yankees (91-56) currently trail the Red Sox by 9 1/2 games so at this point it is only a matter of time until the Red Sox are sipping champagne. My hope is that they do not do it next week on Yankee Stadium soil. The Yankees lead the AL Wild Card by a game and a half over the Oakland A’s but hold the tie-breaker. The Seattle Mariners trail the A’s by 8 1/2 games so barring any miracle comebacks, the AL Wild Card will be Yankees-A’s with location being the only question.
For today’s game, the Yankees send CC Sabathia (7-6, 3.54 ERA) to the mound. He’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Sean Reid-Foley (1-3, 6.86 ERA). Sabathia has not looked good in his recent outings and he really needs to step his game soon. Hopefully today is the start. We want a win, we need a win, let’s get a win. Go Yankees!
Rays 2, Yankees 1…
The Yankees picked a bad night to go dry offensively as they fell to the Tampa Bay Rays despite a solid complete game effort from Sonny Gray. In the end, it was two misplaced pitches that were deposited into the outfield seats that helped the Rays overcome the Yankees. If the Yankees fall short of their bid to win the AL East, they’ll look back at games like this and wonder what could have been.
Matt Holliday put the Yankees on the board first. Aaron Judge took a one-out walk in the top of the 1st inning, his 110th of the season to extend his own MLB rookie record. He moved to second on a slow rolling ground out by Gary Sanchez. Matt Holliday laced a double to left when the ball went under the glove of left fielder Corey Dickerson, scoring Judge. But Holliday was left stranded when Starlin Castro followed by striking out.
|Credit: Frank Franklin II-Associated Press|
The Rays wasted no time in answering the run. Rays leadoff hitter Kevin Kiermaier jumped on the first pitch by Sonny Gray to send it over the center field wall. As YES Network announcer Al Leiter said, “Welcome to the game, Sonny Gray”.
Gray rebounded and found his groove, shutting the Rays down until the 8th inning. Unfortunately, he left a pitch high and over the middle of the plate for Adeiny Hechavarria and the hitter did not waste the opportunity. He got all of the Gray pitch to send it over the wall in left center. The Rays had their first lead of the game, 2-1.
|Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports|
Meanwhile, the Yankees just couldn’t get any going. Rare was the inning they sent more than three men to the plate. A 5th inning walk by Todd Frazier, a 6th inning single by Brett Gardner, and a 7th inning single by Chase Headley were the only baserunners that the Yankees could get. Unfortunately, none could get past first base, thanks in large part to ten strikeouts by Rays starter Blake Snell and the bullpen.
The Yankees bowed out quietly in the 9th against Rays closer Alex Colome who picked up his 44th save.
The Boston Red Sox beat the punchless Oakland A’s, 11-1, so they increased their AL East lead over the Yankees (78-66) to four games. The Minnesota Twins scored two touchdowns and a safety in destroying the San Diego Padres, 16-0 (hey, it’s football season, gimme a break!). So, the lead in the Wild Card Standings shrank to three games. The Rays were able to leap-frog the Baltimore Orioles for third place in the AL East with the win. They are 7 games behind the Yankees. The O’s lost a close 3-2 game to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Sonny Gray’s final line was great. He pitched 8 innings and only allowed five hits, two runs, and one walk. He struck out five. But the killer was two home runs out of 94 pitches thrown. Run support has not been Gray’s friend during his short Yankees career. In his five losses as a Yankee, he’s been backed by four runs.
|Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports|
Clint Frazier, making his return from the disabled list, tried. He had a couple of deep balls in his two at-bats, the second of which would have been met with “See ya!” from Michael Kay had the game been played at Yankee Stadium. Instead, it was just a running catch by Rays right fielder Stephen Souza, Jr.
|Credit: Anthony J Causi-NY Post|
I wish I had more optimism about today’s game but it is hard to get excited about Jaime Garcia, especially when he is going against Chris Archer. On paper, it looks like a mismatch in favor of the Rays. The Yankees have had a fair amount of success against Archer so hopefully this afternoon will be another one of those times. We need runs. Hopefully the offense decides to bring their bats for the series finale.
Odds & Ends…
It was also a bad night for the Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders as they dropped Game 1 of the International League’s Governor’s Cup Finals to the Durham Bulls (Rays), 6-0. The losing pitcher for the RailRiders was starter Ronald Herrera. Not much offense as the RailRiders were only able to pound out three hits (two by Mason Williams). Game 2 is scheduled for this evening in Durham, NC. Domingo German gets the start for the RailRiders.
|Credit: Ben McKeown-for Times Leader|
The losing continued with the Double A Trenton Thunder as they dropped Game 1 of the Eastern League Championship Series to the Altoona Curve (Pirates) by a score of 2-1. The losing pitcher for the Thunder was Dillon Tate, who like Sonny Gray pitched a great game. But at the end of the game, the scoreboard showed more runs for the other team. Game 2 will be this evening in Trenton, NJ with Justus Sheffield on the mound for the home team.
Have a great Wednesday! Let’s make it a Winning Wednesday for the Pinstripers and their top farm teams! Go Yankees…and RailRiders…and Thunder!
Yankees-Indians rained out…
Tonight’s game versus the Cleveland Indians, postponed due to rain, has been re-scheduled as a single admission double-header for tomorrow, Wednesday, August 30th, beginning at 1:00 pm ET.
Jaime Garcia will be the Game 1 starter and Jordan Montgomery, scratched from tonight’s RailRiders game, will start Game 2. They’ll oppose Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin. Monty’s appearance allows CC Sabathia to start the first game of the upcoming four games series with the Boston Red Sox. The move pits Luis Severino against Chris Sale on Sunday night. Sonny Gray and Masahiro Tanaka will pitch on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
No word yet regarding a roster move for Montgomery but I have to believe that LHP Caleb Smith will be the odd man out and Scranton-bound.
Manager Joe Girardi has said that Aaron Judge will start at least one of the games tomorrow. He had not been scheduled to start today’s game.
IL North Division Champs…
Congratulations to the Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders for winning the 2017 International League North Division!
Credit: Fred Adams-for Times Leader
The RailRiders beat the second place Rochester Red Wings (Twins) on Monday night to clinch the division. Bryan Mitchell was the winning pitcher. Jake Cave, Mason Williams and Cito Culver all homered to back Mitchell and two relievers enroute to the 5-3 victory. The Yankees will have to get creative with the 40-man roster in September but I am hopeful that we’ll see Mr Cave bring his show to the Bronx.
Credit: Fred Adams-for Times Leader
The division crown is the third consecutive for the RailRiders and the ninth in twelve years. The Governor’s Cup play-offs begin September 6th.
We’ll try this again tomorrow. Enjoy your evening!
It’s tough to follow a game that you should have won with a dull, listless performance. So it was for the Yankees as they fell 7-1 to the AL cellar rats, the Toronto Blue Jays. To the Blue Jays credit, they are now on a three-game winning streak and have held their opponents to a single run in each of those victories. It was just a matter of time before the Blue Jays started playing like the team many predicted to contend for the AL East and unfortunately the Yankees may have run into them at the wrong time.
Luis Severino, after his brilliant performance in Boston, let the bottom of Toronto’s batting order do the damage. In the second inning, he allowed a two-run homer to the number seven hitter, shortstop Ryan Goins, who is subbing for the injured Troy Tulowitzki. It would be the only runs Toronto would need on a quiet night for Yankee bats. Severino allowed another home run in the sixth inning to the number nine hitter, third baseman Chris Coghlan, a fill-in for the injured Josh Donaldson. Severino (2-2) lasted 5 2/3 innings, giving up 8 hits and 5 runs. He walked two and struck out 3.
Credit: Kathy Willens/AP
Reliever Luis Cessa took one for the team and finished the remaining 3 1/3 innings to provide rest for the weary Yankees bullpen. He did give up a two-run shot to Jose Bautista in the seventh inning but was otherwise effective.
Jacoby Ellsbury made a great play in the sixth inning with a leaping catch of a potential double. His momentum carried him into the centerfield wall. A runner on third scored on the sac fly, but then Ellsbury overthrew Aaron Judge on an attempt to get the ball back into the infield which allowed a runner on second to also score.
Greg Bird is lost at the plate. His latest 0-for-4 performance dropped his batting average to an even .100. He left 5 men on base. The Yankees continue to give him chances to turn it around, but when is enough? I’ve been in Bird’s corner but at some point, he needs to figure this out at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, not New York, in order to restore his confidence. I had thought he was getting better swings in recent days but the results are not there. I am not ready to say ‘send him down today’ but it is probably not going to take too many more games of hitless results.
It was just one of those games. The Yankees have struggled against the Blue Jays in recent years as they are just 13-26 against Toronto since the start of the 2015 season. The loss dropped the Yankees (15-9) one game behind the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East. The O’s beat the Boston Red Sox 5-2 on Monday night to recapture sole possession of first place. But today, yesterday means nothing. The Yankees can still take this series and it starts today with timely hitting and precision pitching.
Prior to the game, the Yankees recalled Cessa to provide long relief insurance and optioned reliever Bryan Mitchell to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Brendan Kuty of NJ.com had the best Twitter line: “Mitchell will likely share 1B duties with Refsnyder and Choi” in reference to Mitchell’s one inning of work at first base on Sunday. Too funny!
With no offense to Jorge Mateo, my personal favorite for the future of center field at Yankee Stadium had quite a game on Sunday. Dustin Fowler, a strong candidate to eventually unseat Jacoby Ellsbury, hit for the cycle as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders defeated the Indianapolis Indians (the Pittsburgh Pirates’ top farm club), 7-6.
In the bottom of the 11th inning, Fowler capped his memorable day with a walk-off home run, completing the cycle. For the game, the 22-year-old went 5-for-6 with 2 runs scored and 2 RBI’s. For the season, Fowler is batting .293 (24-for-82), 4 home runs, and 12 RBI’s. He is second on the team with a .914 OPS. He has also stolen two bases.
1st Inning: Tripled to right.
3rd Inning: Grounded out to third.
5th Inning: Doubled to right, scoring Tyler Wade.
7th Inning: Singled to center.
9th Inning: Doubled to right.
11th Inning: Homered to right, no one on…RailRiders win!
It may have taken two extra innings, but what a way to cap hitting for the cycle! Congrats to Fowler for the terrific game. I look forward to the day when he is doing this in the Bronx.
Credit: Times Leader
I am a Yankees Homer but I can’t predict an AL championship for the Yankees yet. Granted, the team finished the month of April in a first-place tie with the Baltimore Orioles, but it’s still a very long season. The Yankees had a chance to bury the Orioles on Sunday and couldn’t do it. The ebbs and flows the season will ultimately predict the final standings. Let’s see how the team handles its first real stretch of difficulty. With the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros looming on the horizon, adversity is on its way. The last time catcher Gary Sanchez started a game, the Yankees were 1-4. So let’s not start printing World Series tickets just yet. Through May 1st last year, the Yankees were 8-15. This season, they are 15-9 through the same date. If they finish the season, from this point forward, with the same number of wins and losses as last year, they are a 90-win team. I think this team can contend for a Wild Card spot but I am not ready to anoint them as potential division champions. I still expect Boston to play much better as the season progresses, particularly if they get David Price back. And I’ve learned to never underestimate Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles. The charging Blue Jays also have the Yankees’ number. If the Yankees are still slugging it out for first place at the All-Star Break, then I’ll reconsider my forecast. But for now, I still feel the best case scenario is a Wild Card slot with the division championship a season or two away.
Have a great Tuesday! Today is a new day…time to beat these pesky Jays!