Tagged: Seattle

Thunder & Lightning Capture Series Win…

Credit:  Ted S Warren-AP

Yankees 6, Mariners 4…

I hate solo home runs.  I should qualify it by saying I do not dislike home runs…I just prefer to see men on base when it happens.  After the Yankees clubbed three home runs (of the solo variety), the Mariners were able to rally past the Yanks against starter Caleb Smith before the Yankees rebounded to take the win, courtesy of Red Thunder (Clint Frazier) and the blazing heat of the bullpen. 

Caleb Smith was solid…for three innings.  Early, he was backed by homers.  Brett Gardner led off the game with his 17th homer of the season off Mariners starter Yovani Gallardo (breaking his tie with Matt Holliday to take sole possession of second place for team homers behind Aaron Judge).  The hit was #1,040 of Gardner’s career, breaking a tie for 39th place on the all-time franchise list with Tino Martinez.  Next within Gardner’s sights is #38 Yanks hit leader, Charlie Keller, with 1,053 hits.  

Credit:  Ted S Warren-AP

In the second inning, Didi Gregorius launched a line drive homer to right center as the Yankees increased their lead to 2-0.   Gregorius led off the 4th inning with another shot to the right field stands for his second home run of the game.  It was Didi’s first multi-homer game in his young career.  

Credit:  Ted S Warren-AP

Staked to a 3-0 lead, Smith couldn’t hold it in the 4th inning.  After breezing through the first three innings allowing only a meaningless second inning double, the Baseball Gods turned against Smith.  Danny Valencia got the party started with a single to right.  Robinson Cano followed with a liner to right, moving Valencia to second.  Smith had Nelson Cruz in a 3-2 count but lost him with Ball 4 to load the bases.  For a moment, it looked like Smith might escape the 4th inning unscathed.  He struck out Kyle Seager and got Mitch Haniger to fly out in right field foul territory.  But Ben Gamel, thoroughly enjoying this series against his former team, singled to score Valencia and Cano.  The Yankees held a slim 3-2 lead.  Guillermo Heredia followed with a double to left which scored Cruz and Gamel as the Mariners took a 4-3 lead.  End of game for Caleb Smith.  

Credit:  Ted S Warren-AP

A round of ovation for Chad Green.  While the entire bullpen was magnificent, Green was outstanding.  He struck out Carlos Ruiz to end the 4th, and pitched two more innings without allowing a hit and struck out 3.  He has thrived in his current role and this performance was critical as it set the stage for the Yankees’ comeback in the top of the 6th inning.  With one out in the top of the 6th, both Chase Headley and Todd Frazier walked against reliever and former Yankee James Pazos.  Ronald Torreyes, pinch-hitting for second baseman Tyler Wade, singled to right  to load the bases.  Brett Gardner followed with a single to left, scoring Headley with the tying run.  The Mariners pulled Pazos and replaced him with Tony Zych.  Clint Frazier greeted Zych with a double to left, scoring both Frazier and Torreyes as the Yanks moved ahead, 6-4.  Zych intentionally walked Aaron Judge, much to the dismay of the Yankee fans in attendance at Safeco Field, but it proved the right decision for the M’s since Gary Sanchez popped out and Matt Holliday grounded into the final out.

From there, it was up to the rest of the bullpen.  Dellin Betances and David Robertson pitched clean 7th and 8th innings, respectively, pushing the game to the final inning and last licks for the Mariners.

The Yankees had a chance to add an insurance run in the top of the 9th.  Matt Holliday walked with one out and was replaced by pinch-runner Jacoby Ellsbury.  After Didi Gregorius flied out the second out, Chase Headley hit a liner into the right field corner.  Ellsbury came flying around the bases but the relay from right fielder Mitch Haniger to second baseman Robinson Cano to catcher Carlos Ruiz was on target and just ahead of the sliding Ellsbury for the final out.

The bottom of the 9th brought Aroldis Chapman and a little holding of the breath to see what type of command he would have.  Nelson Cruz, the first batter, reached with a hit that ricocheted off Chapman and retrieved too late by Didi Gregorius to get Cruz at first.  The M’s replaced Cruz with pinch-runner Taylor Motter, who sports a similar “Johnny Damon Caveman“ look like Ben Gamel, to get some speed on the base paths.  Fortunately, Chapman caught him off first and it was an easy rundown by Chase Headley for the first out.  It proved to be invaluable as the next hitter, Kyle Seager, doubled to center.  A passed ball by Gary Sanchez allowed Seager to move to third.  The game would have looked much different had the Yankees not gotten Motter out.  He most likely would have scored with Seager representing the tying run just 90 feet away.  As it was, the tying run was still at the plate.  Mitch Haniger had first crack but he popped out to Ronald Torreyes.  Last chance came up in the form of new Yankee-killer Ben Gamel.  But with Chapman’s blazing heat inching up the velocity chart, Gamel went down swinging.  Game over.  Yankees win.  The Yankees win!

Credit:  Stephen Brashear-Getty Images

Unlike Saturday when the Yankees failed to gain any ground following losses by the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays, Sunday was the opposite.  With the win, the Yankees (51-46) took sole possession of second place in the AL East and moved 2 1/2 games behind the Red Sox.  The Rays slipped a full game behind the Yankees (two games in the loss column).  Both the Red Sox and Rays lost one-run games on Sunday.  The Red Sox were defeated by the Los Angeles Angels, 3-2, while the Rays lost a tough 6-5 game to the Texas Rangers.

Todd Frazier finally got a hit and scored a run so hopefully he’s starting to come around.  His Yankee Stadium debut on Tuesday will feature a game against his original team, the Cincinnati Reds.  So it should give Frazier added incentive when he makes his first home appearance in front of family, friends, and newfound Frazier fans in the Yankees Universe.

Hopefully Gary Sanchez’s bat is waiting for him too.

Headed Home to NYC…

Odds & Ends…

The Yankees made a rare intra-division trade on Sunday to send infielder Rob Refsnyder to the Toronto Blue Jays.  The return is an underwhelming 25-year-old first base prospect who has failed to advance past Double A, Ryan McBroom.  Here’s hoping to much better success in the Yankees organization.  Welcome, Ryan!

Credit:  Mark J Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

And so, the Yankees story for Refsnyder ends with no fanfare.  It is rather sad as most of us at one time wanted Ref to succeed as the second baseman for the Yankees.  He never succeeded with his limited opportunities…either due to his own inability or the lack of chances or a combination of both.  So long, Ref and best of luck as you continue your (hopeful) MLB career in Toronto.

Also, in other transaction news, the Yankees announced they have outrighted first baseman Ji-Man Choi to Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

The competition for quality starters figures to be very intense as we enter the final week before the trading deadline.  With news that Clayton Kershaw was pulled early from a start on Sunday due to lower back tightness (and a possible trip to the DL), the Los Angeles Dodgers will most likely be very aggressive in their pursuit of another top starter.  The Texas Rangers figure to capture a King’s Ransom for two months of service from impending free agent Yu Darvish.  The Yankees starting rotation looks very vulnerable right now with Caleb Smith’s inability to get out of the fourth inning on Sunday and Masahiro Tanaka’s disappointing showing on Saturday.  This week should be very interesting but probably a bit disappointing for Yankees fans if the team desires to retain its top prospects (which they should).  

The Kansas City Royals beat the Chicago White Sox on Sunday with a walk-off run-scoring double by Brandon Moss.  The pitcher?  Tyler Clippard, facing his first batter wearing a White Sox uniform, with runners at first and second and no outs in the bottom of the 9th.  Man, I sure do not miss Clippard…

Credit:  Getty Images

Have a great Monday!  The Yankees get to sleep in while the rest of us trudge off to work.  Oh well, make it a wonderful day!  Go Yankees!

Sweepless in Seattle…

Credit:  Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

Mariners 6, Yankees 5…

So much for a potential sweep in Seattle as the Mariners prevailed over the Yankees in extra innings on Saturday night.  Ex-Yankees Ben Gamel and Robinson Cano made themselves heard in this game.  The Yankees can still take three of four with a victory today so they can still end this road trip on a high note.

Masahiro Tanaka didn’t have his best stuff (in a statement that we have made far too often this season).  The Yankees scored first in the second inning when Gary Sanchez doubled to right, a one-hopper off the wall. After Sanchez was nearly picked off at second, Didi Gregorius hit a single to right which moved Sanchez to third.  Todd Frazier hit into a 6-4-3 double play, but Sanchez scored on the play.  After allowing a meaningless single in each of the two first innings, Tanaka lost the lead in the third.  Mike Zunino opened with a blast to left center and the game was tied.  Following a strikeout of Jean Segura, former Yankee Ben Gamel homered on the first pitch to right center.  It was the 26th home run allowed by Tanaka this season, tying him for the  dubious AL lead with Ricky Nolasco. Robinson Cano went down swinging for the second out.  Nelson Cruz singled on an infield grounder to third (Tood Frazier’s long throw was up the line which took Garrett Cooper off first) and Kyle Seager was hit by a pitch on the back toe to put runners at first and second.  Following a coaching visit to the mound by pitching coach Larry Rothschild (it didn’t work), Danny Valencia ripped a single to left to score Cruz and Mitch Haniger singled through the hole to left to score Seager.  It was 4-1 Mariners.  Jarrod Dyson grounded out to end the inning.

Credit:  Ted S Warren/AP

Garrett Cooper tripled to center in the fifth with a near home run which sent center fielder Jarrod Dyson into the wall.  Dyson stayed but you could tell that he was still affected by the collision.  He would depart the game after the inning was over.  Ronald Torreyes lofted a fly ball to Dyson in center as Cooper tagged and scored.  In the sixth, Clint Frazier started the inning with a 10-pitch at-bat against M’s starter Ariel Miranda but chased an upstairs fastball to strike out. The Mariners pulled Miranda and replaced him with Steve Cishek.  Aaron Judge greeted Cishek with a high fly to right center for his 32nd home run of the season.  The Yankees had closed the gap to 4-3.

Credit:  Ted S Warren/AP

The Yankees tied the game in the 8th inning.  With one out, Brett Gardner beat out a grounder to short for a single.  Clint Frazier doubled to center off the top of the wall (if only it had been just a few more inches), Gardner moved to third.  The Mariners intentionally walked Aaron Judge to face Matt Holliday.  Holliday hit a deep sacrifice fly to right, easily scoring Gardner.  The game was tied at 4.  Gary Sanchez lined out to right so the Yankees were unable to push any more runs across the plate.  In retrospect, this was a very big missed opportunity.

In the bottom of the 8th, the Mariners recaptured the lead when Robinson Cano led off with a home run to left off David Robertson. Bummer, but you couldn’t blame D-Rob as it was an excellent pitch. He was able to retire the next three batters to get out of the inning without any further damage. 

The Yankees had life again in the top of the 9th with Mariners closer Edwin Diaz on the mound.  Didi Gregorius walked to start the inning.  Diaz was able to retire the next two batters, Todd Frazier and Chase Headley who pinch-hit for Garrett Cooper.  With Ronald Torreyes at the plate, Jacoby Ellsbury was brought in to pinch run for Gregorius and promptly stole second.  Torreyes singled to left on a line drive, bringing Ellsbury around to score and the game was tied again.  After Tommy Kahnle finished the M’s in the bottom of the 9th, it was off to extra innings.

Credit:  Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

M’s reliever Tony Zych replaced Diaz in the 10th and easily retired the Yankees, including strikeouts of both Clint Frazier and Aaron Judge.  In the bottom of the 10th, Adam Warren was on the mound.  Warren gave up a lead-off double by Ben Gamel (rapidly becoming a Yankee killer).  Robinson Cano was intentionally walked to open the possibility for a double play, but unfortunately, Nelson Cruz hit a line drive to left and Clint Frazier’s throw to the plate was off the mark as Gamel scored the winning run.  The Mariners win, 6-5.  

Credit:  Ted S Warren/AP

The Yankees (50-46) didn’t lose any ground in the AL East despite the loss.  The Boston Red Sox fell to the Los Angeles Angels, 7-3, while the Texas Rangers rallied to beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-3.  It would have been a great opportunity to pick up ground in the division but it was not meant to be.  The Yankees and Rays remain 3 1/2 games behind Boston.  

Somehow, the Yankees need to get Todd Frazier going.  His 0-for-4 night dropped his season batting average to .201.  Anything from him last night could have been a difference-maker.  Among the starting position players, he was the only one without a hit for the second game in a row.

Odds & Ends…

Second baseman Starlin Castro has been placed on the 10-Day DL after re-aggravating his hamstring.  Tyler Wade, who was seen in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre locker room before the RailRiders’ game yesterday, was recalled and didn’t get to Seattle until late last night.  Presumably, he’ll share time at second with Ronald Torreyes.  Wade had a tremendous game on Thursday when the RailRiders defeated the Charlotte Knights, 13-2.  He tripled and homered, driving in 4 RBI’s.  

Caleb Smith (0-1, 6.00 ERA) will start today’s getaway game against the Mariners in place of Luis Cessa.  I am very glad to see this move.  I’d rather see what Smith is capable of doing with his first Major League start versus another uneven performance by Luis Cessa.  I am sure that Cessa will be the first call to the pen if Smith gets into trouble early but hopefully he is able to show the great success he has enjoyed in Triple A this year.  Yovanni Gallardo (4-7, 5.59 ERA) will oppose Smith.  

Jacoby Ellsbury, at least temporarily, has lost his starting gig.  With over $68 million still owed Ellsbury after this year, there’s probably not much chance he’ll be exiting anytime soon.  Manager Joe Girardi has said that he wants to go with the hot hand which means keeping Clint Frazier in the lineup.  The threat of Frazier being demoted to Triple A when Aaron Hicks returns still looms as the Yankees are not going to cut Ellsbury.  This goes against the premise of putting your best players on the field but obviously there are more factors at play.  

The Yankees get a much needed day off on Monday following their cross-country flight home.  Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox, flying up from Orange County, will replace the Yankees at Safeco Field for a three-game series against the Mariners.

Have a great Sunday!  Let’s make this a fun day with a much-needed win!  Go Yankees!

Judge Rules In Favor Of Yanks…

Credit:  Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

Yankees 5, Mariners 1…

Powered by a monster blast from Aaron Judge that nearly reached the back wall of the upper left stands (if not for a fan in the next to the last row), the Yankees won for the second night in a row in Seattle.  Statcast was unable to capture the length of the homer and it was estimated at 440 feet although it seemed longer to most people watching.  It probably wasn’t the game highlight that Mariners starter Andrew Moore wanted to see after the game but he’s not the first nor the last pitcher that will have to wait a very long time to watch a home run ball drop with Judge at the plate.  

The game should have been about veteran lefty starter CC Sabathia (9-3).  Celebrating his 37th birthday, CC had previously never won a birthday start in his career.  Friday night was a different story.  The game didn’t start like it was going to be a good evening for the road gray.  After Moore breezed through the first three of the Yankees order in the top of the first inning, CC ran into trouble after easily retiring the first two batters in the bottom of the inning.  He lost Robinson Cano, walking him on a full count.  Nelson Cruz hit a “loud” single to the left field wall, with Cano racing around to third.  Chase Headley’s inexperience as a first baseman showed with the next batter, Kyle Seager.  Seager hit a grounder that deflected off Headley’s glove and was retrieved by Starlin Castro in shallow right.  Headley went back to first but his foot placement was inch or two off the base.  So, although Castro’s throw to first was in time, Headley’s recovery to move his foot to the base was too late to get Seager.  Cano scored on the play.  Mitch Haniger laced a line drive down the first base line, past a diving Headley, to load the bases.  Fortunately, CC induced Guillermo Heredia to hit an infield grounder, Todd Frazier to Starlin Castro, to force Haniger out at second for the final out.  Whew!

Credit:  Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

After the Yankees failed to score in the of the 2nd despite a couple of hits, Ben Gamel opened the bottom of the inning for the M’s with a double to center past a running Brett Gardner.  Mike Zunino followed with a hard hit liner to left but Clint Frazier made a terrific diving catch for the out and held Gamel at second.  As YES Network Analyst David Cone said, “Young athleticism on display”.  Gamel was subsequently erased at third on a fielder’s choice by Didi Gregorius with a snap throw to Todd Frazier.  CC was able to retire Danny Valencia on a weak grounder back to the pitcher to emerge from the inning unscathed.  

The Yankees were finally able to get to M’s starter Andrew Moore in the 3rd inning.  Chase Headley opened the inning with a double to left center, just beyond the glove of diving center fielder Guillermo Heredia.  Red Thunder blasted a double off the right center wall as Headley circled around to score just ahead of the throw which got away from catcher Mike Zunino.  Clint Frazier tagged on the next play, a fly ball by Brett Gardner to center, and made it to third just ahead of a tremendous throw by Heredia.  A sacrifice fly to warning track in center by Aaron Judge scored Frazier and the Yankees had a 2-1 lead.

With CC Sabathia seemingly gaining steam as he progressed through the innings, the Yankees scored again in the 5th.  Brett Gardner singled on a line drive to right.  Gary Sanchez singled to left, with Gardner moving to third.  Aaron Judge came up and smashed the Andrew Moore offering to left as the ball nearly left the stadium.  5-1, Yankees.  4 RBI’s on the night for Judge.

Credit:  Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

CC opened the sixth but he walked the leadoff batter, Kyle Seager, and his night was done.  I know that CC could have continued to be effective, but the high pitch count in the early innings had Sabathia at 98 pitches following the walk to Seager.  Nevertheless, this is no longer the Tyler Clippard era of the bullpen.  Tommy Kahnle, who might be my new favorite Yankee, came in to strike out Mitch Haniger.  He easily retired pinch-hitter Jarrod Dyson and Ben Gamel for another highly effective inning of work.

The bottom of the 7th saw the 2017 Yankees debut for former Yankees and White Sox closer David Robertson.  D-Rob was the magnificent reliever of old as he retired the side by strikeout.  Welcome back, D-Rob!  We have certainly missed you and  your leg kick.  My only concern about D-Rob pitching the 7th was that he would not be there as a safety net in later innings.  Fortunately, the Yankees bullpen was as good as advertised.  Dellin Betances got into a little trouble with a double by Robinson Cano and a single by Mitch Haniger, sandwiched between two strikeouts, had runners at the corners.  But he was able to get Jarrod Dyson to pop up to third to leave the runners stranded.

With Aroldis Chapman taking the night off due to a non-save situation, Adam Warren came on in the 9th.  The pesky Ben Gamel opened with a single to left, but was eliminated when Mike Zunino grounded into a double play, Gregorius to Castro to Headley.  Jean Segura hit a hard grounder to Didi Gregorius and he threw to Chase Headley for the final out.  The Yankees win!

Credit:  Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

The Yankees (50-45) were unable to gain ground on the Boston Red Sox in the AL East, however, they did move into a tie for second place.  The Red Sox scored five runs in the first inning to back Chris Sale as they beat the Los Angeles Angels, 6-2.  The Tampa Bay Rays fell 4-3 to the Texas Rangers.  The Yankees and the Rays are both 3 1/2 games behind the Red Sox.

The Toddfather was the only Yankee without a hit other than the bench players who didn’t get into the game.  So, we’ll have to wait a bit longer for the first T-Frazier blast.

Odds & Ends…

It’s tough watching Ben Gamel have such success in Seattle.  I understand the reasons for the trade but it doesn’t make it any easier to watch him thrive at the MLB level for another team.  I don’t know if he’ll have a Jay Buhner type career but it was comparable circumstances.  Enjoyed watching the tremendous Minor League exploits of the player, only to watch him traded to Seattle for a long and prosperous career.  The two players the Yankees received for Gamel are Jio Orozco and Juan De Paula.  Orozco, 19, a right-handed pitcher, is 2-0 with 2.36 ERA in five games (four starts) for the Advanced Rookie League Pulaski Yankees while De Paula, also a 19-year-old righty, is 2-3 with 5.25 ERA in five games (all starts) for the Short-Season A Staten Island Yankees.  In other words, it is going to be a very long time before we see any payoff for Gamel.  

I liked David Cone’s comments about the Yankees new and improved combination of power arms in the bullpen.  He said that it has reduced the need for starting pitchers to a “soft-tossing lefty to give you three or four (innings)”.  I know that I am loving the bullpen parade of the current crew.  I do not miss the cringing feeling that came with the entry of Tyler Clippard into the game.  But despite the strong pen, the Yankees do need to do something about the starting rotation.  We’ll probably have to live with a few more starts by Luis Cessa (I’d prefer to see Caleb Smith) as I doubt any of the available starters are moved until the last minute before the trading deadline as their current teams seek maximum return.  I have no speculation who the Yankees should acquire other than I don’t want to lose top and highly regarding prospects which probably means the team will have to stand pat or take chances for catching lightning in a bottle with bottom feeders.  I am hopefully optimistic that GM Brian Cashman will surprise me.

Brian Cashman is on record saying that Red Thunder will be returned to Triple A when Aaron Hicks comes off the DL but with each passing game, it is so hard to think that the Yankees most exciting outfielder, behind Aaron Judge, will have to go down.  He has shown he is ready the big time and he has nothing left to prove for the RailRiders.  He is better player, right now, than Jacoby Ellsbury despite the $20 million plus difference being paid to the latter player this year.  Money for nothin’ and the chicks for free.  I hope Clint Frazier stays.

Have a great Saturday!  Let’s keep this winning streak alive!  Go Yankees!

Credit:  Ted S Warren/AP

Just Winning Games in Seattle…

Credit:  Elaine Thompson/AP

Yankees 4, Mariners 1…

The Yankees took manager Joe Girardi’s biggest concern (“just winning games”) to heart as they defeated the Seattle Mariners on late night TV.  Of course, it didn’t hurt to have perhaps the best Yankees starting pitcher (Luis Severino) on the mound.  Felix Hernandez is tough but I had the confidence in Sevy to persevere.

Credit:  Elaine Thompson/AP

The first innings of games, lately, always seem to be so tough.  King Felix easily dispatched the first three Yanks to move to the bottom of the first.  Ben Gamel ripped a one-out double to left (why did we get rid of him one day after being named the 2016 International League MVP again?…I know, the glut of outfielders but still, he has been very solid for the M’s).  Robinson Cano hit an infield grounder that caught Gamel off second (out in a rundown…great athleticism by Sevy to start the play).  The deadly Nelson Cruz came up and singled to left to move Cano to second.  Corey Seager’s big brother Kyle was next but Sevy dialed up the heat to 99 mph and punched Seager out to end the threat.  I am so tired starting games in the hole so it was great to see the Yankees escape without allowing any runs despite the two hits.  

The Mariners got their hits against Sevy but pushing them across the plate was a different story.  The M’s threatened in the fourth with the game still in a scoreless tie.  Kyle Seager opened with a double just fair down the third base line (glad he didn’t do that in the first inning).  Danny Valencia followed with a solid single to center to put runners at the corners with no outs.  Sevy was able to retire Mitch Haniger on a pop-up and Jarrod Dyson on a shallow center fly out after falling behind 3-0, before walking Mike Zunino to load the bases.  Fortunately, Jean Segura, in a long at-bat, hit a grounder to Didi Gregorius who flipped the ball to Starlin Castro to force Zunino out at second to end the inning.  

In the 6th inning with one out, Brett Gardner drilled a ‘no doubt about it’ homer right center, his 16th to match Matt Holliday and Todd Frazier, giving the Yankees a 1-0 lead.  He was fortunate as King Felix was still going strong, recording all outs in the 6th by strikeout.  But on the other side, Sevy was still holding the M’s off the board.

Credit:  Getty Images

Former Yankee James Pazos replaced King Felix in the top of the 8th.  After Jacoby Ellsbury weakly grounded out to Pazos with a broken bat, Chase Headley singled to center on a ball deflected off the tip of Robinson Cano’s glove.  Brett Gardner hit into a fielder’s choice but a fielding error by Jean Segura (he would have easily had the force out at second but was unable to successfully pull the ball out of his glove) allowed Gardy to reach base with Headley safe at second.  Tony Zych replaced Pazos and promptly walked Gary Sanchez on a full count to load the bases.  A single to right by Aaron Judge scored Headley and it was 2-0 Yankees.  Unfortunately, Matt Holliday hit into an inning-ending double play so the Yankees were unable to further cash in with the bases full of Yanks.

Dellin Betances replaced Sevy in the 8th and ran into a little trouble.  After hitting Kyle Seager with a pitch, Danny Valencia singled to right to move Seager to second.  With one out and the tying run at the plate, Mitch Haniger hit into a force out at second (a play challenged by the M’s after Castro bobbled the ball on the exchange but upheld by the umps).  Seager moved to third.  Betances reared back and struck out Jarrod Dyson to leave Seager stranded. 

The Yankees picked up a couple of huge insurance runs in the 9th courtesy of Robinson Cano.  Didi Gregorius and Todd Frazier hit one-out singles off M’s reliever Max Povse.  After Jacoby Ellsbury flied out to left (sure seemed like the Yankees were always having to work around Ellsbury outs), Chase Headley reached first base on a throwing error by Cano.  Both Gregorius and Frazier scored on the play.  Thanks Robby!  To Cano’s defense, first baseman Danny Valencia gave up too early and didn’t try to reach out to catch Cano’s wide throw from shallow right.

It was off to the 9th and Aroldis Chapman with the Yankees leading 4-0.  Chapman’s control issues continued as he walked the first batter, Mike Zunino.  Zunino was replaced by pinch-runner Guillermo Heredia.  A wild pitch by Chapman moved to Heredia to second.  Chapman struck out Jean Segura and Ben Gamel, with Heredia taking third, before Robinson Cano laced a double to the center field wall bringing Heredia home to score.  Chapman was able to secure the final out when Nelson Cruz flied out to right.  The Yankees win…a much needed victory.

Credit:  Getty Images

Hats off to Luis Severino (6-4) for delivering an ace-like performance against one of the AL’s best starting pitchers.  Although he gave up 8 hits and a walk in 7 innings, he held the M’s scoreless while striking out 6.  King Felix held the Yanks to 3 hits and struck out 9, but one of those hits was the Gardy homer which gave the Yanks the lead they would not relinquish.  I had confidence going into this game with Sevy on the mound and he did not disappoint.

Todd Frazier was 1-for-4 in his first Yankees start with a run scored.  Neither David Robertson nor Tommy Kahnle made an appearance in this game although Chapman was giving me reasons to wish that it was D-Rob on the mound in the 9th.  Joe Girardi must have thought the same thing as he had Robertson up in the pen after Chapman’s wild pitch.

Ben Gamel was hitless in his next four at-bats after the first inning double, striking out three times. Robby Cano, Dontcha Know!, was 3-for-5 with the lone Mariners RBI.

Credit:  Elaine Thompson/AP

The Yankees (49-45) picked up on a game on the Boston Red Sox in the AL East standings and trail by 3 1/2 games.  The Red Sox lost 8-6 to the Toronto Blue Jays.  The Yanks are a game behind the idle Tampa Bay Rays (tied in the loss column).  

The Yankees go for their 50th win tonight with CC Sabathia (8-3, 3.54 ERA) on the mound facing Andrew Moore (1-1, 5.25 ERA). Sabathia was moved up from Saturday as Masahiro Tanaka was pushed back a day.  The Mariners announced a change for their scheduled starter on Sunday.  Yovani Gallardo (4-7, 5.59 ERA) will replace Sam Gaviglio in the match-up against Luis Cessa.

Odds & Ends…

I’ve been reading columns that feel the Yankees overpaid to acquire Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle.  After watching yesterday’s acquisition of reliever and former Yankee David Phelps by the Seattle Mariners, I am starting to think the Yankees may have underpaid.  For Phelps alone, the Miami Marlins acquired four players.  Three of the players rank in the Mariners list of Top 30 Prospects according to MLB.com.  OF Brayan Hernandez rates the highest at #6.  RHP Brandon Miller is #16 and RHP Pablo Lopez is #22.  The Marlins also acquired RHP Lukas Schiraldi, son of former Major Leaguer Calvin Schiraldi.  Granted, the Yankees have a stronger farm system so #6 on the Mariners’ list does not equal #6 on the Yankees list but this is still a very  good haul by the Marlins.  I know that one scout referred to them as “just guys” but I am also a believer in ‘expect the unexpected’.  Suddenly, losing OF Blake Rutherford, LHP Ian Clarkin, and OF Tito Polo (along with the inconsequential Tyler Clippard) seems like a very small price to pay for a strong third base upgrade and two bullpen power arms.  I guess that we’ll be seeing David Phelps very soon unless the Yankees can avoid giving the Mariners any late inning leads to work with.   

Credit:  Gary Landers/AP

Todd Frazier is now saying that he’ll stay with #29 rather than ask Paul O’Neill if he can use #21.  If I was O’Neill, I’d probably reach out to Frazier and say, “It’s okay, Kid…you’ve worn the number out of respect for me and for my original team (the Reds).  Please take #21 and wear it with pride”.  There’s no doubt Frazier will do the number justice.  


GM Brian Cashman has said that Clint Frazier will be optioned to Triple A when Aaron Hicks returns in a few weeks.  I know that he’ll be back in September, but it does kind of stink that a douche like Jacoby Ellsbury gets to keep his seat at the grownups’ table while Frazier has to go have a seat with the kids.  I hope that Frazier continues to make this a very hard decision for the Yankees.

Have a great Friday!  Let’s just keep winning games in Seattle.  Go Yankees!

I know the Fat Lady is not singing but…

So close, yet so far away…

The Yankees may only be 3 games back in the Wild Card chase as they enter play this evening, but trailing three teams for two spots sounds a bit daunting.  Particularly when two of those teams are perhaps the best in the American League with the Oakland A’s and the Detroit Tigers.  At the end of play last night, Oakland, Detroit and the Seattle Mariners were tied.  While I think the Yankees could catch the Mariners, the odds are against them when it comes to the A’s (or Angels) or the Tigers (or Royals).

Much larger leads have fallen in the past, but I think the superiority of the A’s and Tigers will win out.  If they take their divisions, the Angels and Royals both field superior teams to the Yankees.  I don’t think there are any waiver deals at the deadline that can be made to improve this year’s Yankees.  As with the non-waiver deadline in July, I didn’t want the Yankees to part with prospects nor do I now.  If I legitimately felt that the team had a chance in October, perhaps I’d feel differently.  But the 2014 Yankees, even if they landed a Wild Card spot, would be destined for a one game Wild Card loss or if they prevailed, they’d be bounced in the first round. 

It’s disappointing as a Yankees fan as it doesn’t feel like championship hopes can be restored in the short term.  The Yankees are 11 games ahead of the Boston Red Sox, and yet, the outlook for the 2015 Red Sox is far more promising. 

Huh, I didn’t know he was available?…

When I heard that the Yankees had signed Chris Young to a minor league deal, my first thought was when did the Seattle Mariners get rid of their starting pitcher who is 12-6 with a 3.16 ERA on the season?  But then I heard the talk about him playing the outfield and realized they were talking about the other one.  I don’t know much about OF Chris Young but it seems like he was once a promising Arizona Diamondback who had a disappointing 2013, signed with the Mets and continued to underwhelm until his release.  Given the Yanks success with ex-Diamondbacks (i.e., Martin Prado and Brandon McCarthy) perhaps Young will revert to his old form under the tutelage of the Pinstripes.  Not sure if the Yankees will call him up before or after September 1st but he seems like a good replacement for Ichiro Suzuki if he is successful.

A little early to look to next year but…

With the success of Shane Greene and Brandon McCarthy in the starting rotation, it will be interesting next year.  While CC Sabathia will be returning, I honestly do not know what the Yankees will be getting and if it will be an upgrade over Greene or McCarthy.  Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka are obvious locks, although Ivan Nova might be delayed since he’s coming off Tommy John surgery.  I think this is the final year in the United States for Hiroki Kuroda before he heads back to Japan permanently.  Still, even if the starting rotation projects to be Tanaka-Pineda-Sabathia-McCarthy-Greene, I fully expect the Yankees to go after a free agent pitcher like Jon Lester.  Lester, partnered with a healthy Tanaka, at the head of the rotation would be huge. 

Lester was my favorite pitcher when he played for Boston so having him on the Yankees would be ideal. 

There will be lots of interesting decisions to be made by Manager Joe Girardi and company.  And oh yeah, we’ll have to deal with the return of he who shall remain nameless at third and DH. 

–Scott

 

Day by day is life in the Bronx…

24:  Live Another Day…

To some, that title refers to the upcoming 12-episode FOX TV Series with Kiefer Sutherland returning as Jack Bauer, but it is also has some parallels with the current state of the Yankees.  24 is the continuation of the roster size until Sunday when Michael Pineda’s suspension ends and he is subsequently placed on the DL.  24 was the return of Robinson Cano to New York even though he now wears #22.  24 seems like the length of yesterday’s 14-inning loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.  24 is the description of the day by day adventure that is a major league baseball season.

Clearly, the Yankees are in a funk right now with a shortened two game sweep by Cano and the Seattle Mariners, followed by last night’s series opening loss to the Rays.

There was a brief stretch earlier in the season where I was feeling very confident with the starting rotation but that lasted about one cycle through the rotation as the Yankees lost Ivan Nova for the season due to Tommy John surgery and Michael Pineda to suspension and subsequently an injured back.  So, Vidal Nuno becomes the #4 starter with David Phelps filling the role of the last man in the rotation.  If CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda were pitching to their proven levels, it would be a different story but they are not.  So, it places so much more focus on the back end.  Right now, there is only one starter that conveys a sense of confidence.  It doesn’t mean that he’ll win every time out, but you feel as though you’ll have the best possible chance for success.  That pitcher, of course, is Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka who has been everything as advertised.  I hate to think where the Yankees rotation would be if he was a Chicago Cub or a Los Angeles Dodger.  We’d probably be bracing for the return of Freddy Garcia at this point.

The Yankees need to do something.  With Nuno and Phelps in the rotation, the bullpen, which had actually started to gel after some early concerns, is a mess.  Nuno strikes me as no more than a good long man, not a starter.  I think Phelps has promise but relying on the combo of Nuno-Phelps is too much.  The Yankees need to find a proven starter, somewhere…somehow, so that they can push, ideally, Nuno back to the pen.   Of course, where that starter is going to come from is anybody’s guess.  It’s not exactly like the Detroit Tigers are going to hand Max Scherzer to the Yanks.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see the return of Alfredo Aceves to the Bronx.   It’s too bad that Manny Banuelos didn’t develop as planned as this would have been a good time for him to make his introduction into the major leagues if he hadn’t encountered injury along his path.   He may still make it one day but unfortunately, he’s not an answer right now.  He’s probably not an answer but you gotta love Graham Stoneburner’s name if nothing else about his game.  Hopefully, the Yankees can make some necessary improvements now rather than having to wait until closer to the July trading deadline.

Death, Taxes, and MLB Injuries…

This has been a tough year for injuries given how many pitchers have had to have Tommy John surgery, and frontline players like Bryce Harper and Jason Kipnis currently on the disabled list.  While the Yankees have been plagued with injuries, they are fortunate it hasn’t been more severe.  Losing Nova for 12-18 months hurts, but still, it could be worse.  These are the times that GM Brian Cashman is asked to prove his mettle.  How he responds to the Yankees current situation will shape the remainder of the season.  As presently constructed, I am not sure that this is a team that will be knocking in October.  It was an older, vulnerable team that has had to deal with injuries and one without able, capable young bodies in the farm system ready and capable to make their mark in The Show.  But, as the saying goes, time will tell as it often does…

The (new) Yankee Stadium hits leader in road gray…

Speaking of Robinson Cano, I had mixed feelings about his return to the Bronx.  There was criticism directed at him in the form of the very loud boos and chants against him, but the louder the Bronx cheers, the more you realize how much the player meant to the fans.  I hated to see Cano leave but I felt and continue to feel the Yankees made the right decision not to match the Mariners’ $240 million offer.  It wasn’t about disrespect, but rather a decision that was in the best interests of the long-term health of the team roster through the next 10 years.  I had no issue with the fans booing and it was clear that Cano was prepared to handle it.  His appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon illustrated how ready he was to confront the fans.  The clip where fans thought they were booing a picture of Cano only to have the real thing step out was classic.  It also showed that how much we may boo Cano and how unhappy we were he didn’t take less money to stay in pinstripes, the bottom line is that he is a quality human being and he sets a good example for the game.

Naturally, I hope he fails in Seattle.  Okay, not really.  I recognize that he is the best at his position.  That won’t be the case in 7-8 years and perhaps the Yankees will have found their long term answer at the position by then.  It was good to see Cano back in the Bronx and despite the sweep, I do wish him well.  But, when he returns to the Bronx the next time, I will boo him.  Sorry, it’s just what we do…

Have a wonderful weekend!

 

–Scott

And the WINNER is…

 

For months, the talk centered on prized Japanese pitcher Mashiro Tanaka.  He was highly touted as the most valuable free agent pitcher on the market.  Of course, his free agency began slowly when there was doubt if his Japanese team would allow him to be posted, particularly after the posting fee was capped at $20 million.  Nevertheless, Tanaka was subsequently posted, as we all know.

Almost immediately, the Yankees were regarded as the frontrunner.  But given that any team to offer to pay the $20 million posting fee, it opened the field to any team that wanted to make a run at the latest Japanese import.  Early on, there was talk that the Seattle Mariners would make a play for Tanaka.  It was said that the Los Angeles Dodgers would not be outbid, and the Chicago Cubs were completely enamored with the idea of Tanaka headlining their rotation.  The Los Angeles Angels and the Arizona Diamondbacks were other teams mentioned as strong possibilities.

I read that the Mariners were favorites because the team is predominantly owned by Nintendo and Los Angeles was cited because of its close proximity to Japan and its strong Asian community.  There was talk that some team would make a surprise late bid, kind of like what the Angels when they signed Albert Pujols.

I never really expected the Dodgers to be “all-in”.  They had their own pending free agent to be in Clayton Kershaw and they couldn’t make a ridiculously high bid without driving up their costs to retain Kershaw.  They subsequently re-signed Kershaw to a $215 million deal, but I still didn’t think they’d go hard after Tanaka.  I did think the Chicago Cubs were a strong challenger for Tanaka despite prior rumors that he preferred a coastal destination.  If I have learned anything with Major League Baseball, it’s to never underestimate Theo Epstein.

But fortunately, when Tanaka finally made his decision, he was a Yankee.  Almost instantly, the stories about his superior talent turned to questions about how he’ll make the adjustment to life in America and how he is a #2 or #3 starter at best.  Everyone is now quick to say that he does not have the talent of Yu Darvish, and I’ve seen the name “Kei Igawa” more than I’d care to in recent days.  But still, this was a move that the Yankees HAD to make.  With a weak farm system at the upper levels, they had no choice but to overpay for young pitching talent with solid upside.  With the hype surrounding Tanaka (who went 24-0 in Japan last year), he also represents a gate attraction.  With Tanaka in the fold, the Yankees become the second major league team to have two Japanese players in their starting pitching rotation (the first was the Dodgers with Hideo Nomo and Kaz Ishii).  If the Japanese media made it a circus following Hideki Matsui, they’ll have a field day following the trio of Tanaka, Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki.

The realist in me knows not to expect top of the rotation stuff from Tanaka.  I know the Yankees want more, but I’d be very satisfied if he could give the Yankees what Kuroda has for the last two years.  This is most likely Kuroda’s last year, and it is good that Tanaka will have a year to spend under Hiroki’s wing.  I think that will greatly aid his transition to the United States and MLB.

I thought that it would take a contract of 7 years, $140 million to sign Tanaka.  So, the Yankees did overbid in that regard.  Today I saw an article that one GM speculated the next highest bid were the Cubs and D-Backs at $120 million.  I really doubt the gap between the Yankees and the others was that great.  The same source mentioned the Dodgers were at $119 million which doesn’t make sense as everyone knew it would take $120 million plus to sign Tanaka.  My guess is the Cubs and Dodgers were in the vicinity of $140 million plus.  Not bad for a pitcher who has never thrown a major league pitch.

While I would still like to see an additional pitcher brought to camp, there is potential with a rotation that features CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda or David Phelps.  If Pineda could possibly show the potential that caused the Yankees to trade for him (prior to the injuries), the rotation could be very strong.  While I would not be opposed to seeing Bronson Arroyo or Ubaldo Jimenez signed, I think the Yankees need to focus on the infield.  Yes, they’ve brought in San Diego’s Dean Anna, signed Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts and Scott Sizemore, and still have Eduardo Nunez but there are too many questions.  What happens if Mark Teixeira struggles in his return, or Derek Jeter?  Neither of those positions are air tight without getting into the holes at second and third.  Jeter will be 40, and Teixeira is a notoriously slow starter.  April could be a very challenging month.

My preference would be to find a decent third baseman so that Kelly Johnson could be the primary second baseman.  But the team is probably enamored with the idea that Roberts is capable of rebounding from the injury filled years that have plagued him since 2009.  Scott Sizemore is nothing more than camp fodder.  One magazine I read said “But other than OK pop and a few walks, offers little even when healthy”.  Anna is nothing more than a potential reserve.

Catching and the outfield is set, but there is still work to be done in the infield and in the bullpen.  I agree with the choice to anoint David Robertson as the closer, but there needs to be an insurance plan in place.  Grant Balfour would have been a great option but he is now a Tampa Bay Ray once again.  I don’t want Fernando Rodney, but the Yankees need someone who is capable of closing games if Robertson is not up to the task.  If Boston can find an elite closer as their fourth choice last year, there are potential arms that can be found.  I really hated to see the departure of Boone Logan.  Not much has been written about it, but I can only hope that Matt Thornton is a capable, albeit older, replacement.  I know the team has long admired lefty Cesar Cabral so perhaps this is Cabral’s year to take it to the next level.  I’d also like to see Dellin Betances take advantage of his opportunity and become a force in the pen.  I guess every team thinks they can follow the Tampa blueprint for bullpen success given how the Rays are always able to craft something out of nothing.

With pitchers and catchers reporting to training camp in a few weeks, I am sure that the transaction wires will be busy as teams, and most notably the Yankees, look to create playoff caliber rosters.

For the Yankees, while it will be great to see Brian McCann show up to become his orientation with the Yankee pitchers, the cameras and the reporters will be flocked around #19, Masahiro Tanaka, as he begins his pinstriped career.  Time to build upon last year’s 85 wins and return the Yankees to October baseball.  With the commitment the Yankees have shown this off-season, it’s clear their last move was not their “last” move.

Go Yankees!

–Scott