Photo Credit: Getty Images (Joe Robbins)
No fear, Bird will fly…
Spring stats mean nothing. A few homers against mostly Double-A pitching and everyone felt that Miguel Andujar should be the starting third baseman. Now, I see that there are fans starting to grip about first baseman Greg Bird and his cold bat. Entering play today, Bird is batting .095 (2-for-21 with no home runs). Chill…when the season starts, Bird will be a competent and reliable bat in the Yankees batting order. If there is a certainty, Bird knows how to hit. Health is always questionable but when/if healthy, I fully expect Bird to get his share of big knocks.
|Photo Credit: MLB.com|
Poor Sonny Gray. He pitched great against the Atlanta Braves yesterday, going 3 2/3 innings and allowing only one hit and no runs. But the Yankees were held to one run on Gary Sanchez’s solo home run in the 6th inning and lost to the Braves, 3-1. No run support as usual for the Tennessean. I know, spring games are meaningless, but I did think it was humorous as the guy never seems to get any runs. Of course, the Yankees offense did not have its full arsenal since this was a road game. Honestly, with the benefit of training camp with the Yankees and time to adjust to being a New York Yankee and all that entails, I am expecting this to be a big year for Sonny Gray. I think he’ll pitch closer to the ace he was with the Oakland A’s and not the pitcher we saw at the end of last season (which was still very good). I am excited to see what a full season of Gray in the rotation will bring. I am very confident it will yield great results.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Abbie Parr)|
Speaking of starting pitching, Jordan Montgomery, as expected, has been announced as the team’s fifth starter by Manager Aaron Boone. Monty has looked very good this Spring. In 3 games covering 8 2/3 innings, he is 1-0 with 1.04 ERA. He has only allowed five hits and one run, while striking out eleven batters. He has walked four. Armed with his trusty change-up, a pitch missing for much of last year, we should see an improved Montgomery this season. I would not surprise me if Monty ends up with better stats than Houston’s Gerrit Cole by the time the post-season begins.
Ivan Nova, who probably couldn’t crack the Yankees top five, was recently named as the Pittsburgh Pirates Opening Day starter. There is much to like about the potential of Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia, and Jordan Montgomery.
The Yankees play the New York Mets today at Steinbrenner Field. The game is at 1:05 pm Eastern. The scheduled starters are:
Brett Gardner, CF
Aaron Judge, RF
Giancarlo Stanton, LF
Brandon Drury, 3B
Tyler Austin, 1B
Austin Romine, C
Jace Peterson, DH
Ronald Torreyes, SS
Tyler Wade, 2B
The starting pitcher will be former Mets prospect Luis Cessa. After the recent Twitter wars between the Yankees and Mets, I hope the Yankees send the Mets home on a disappointing bus ride back to Port St Lucie.
Today’s game will be televised by the YES Network but not tomorrow’s game when the Yankees travel to Jupiter, FL (Giancarlo Stanton’s old stomping grounds) to play the Miami Marlins. The Yankees who are making the trip (like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez) will see old friend Starlin Castro. Stanton is not expected to make the trip. If he had, I would have been really disappointed about Sunday’s game not being televised. The Marlins travel to Steinbrenner Field a week from Sunday so that should be a good game to watch as Stanton most likely will be in the lineup. Hopefully Starlin makes the trip so those of us not fortunate enough to be in Florida can see him again.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Robert Deutsch)|
The Yankees made a few more cuts yesterday. RHP Albert Abreu, slowed by recent appendectomy surgery, and Thairo Estrada, continuing to recover from the gunshot with bullet still lodged in his hip during a failed robbery attempt in late January, were reassigned to minor league camp. Johnny Lasagna aka Jonathan Loaisiga was also reassigned.
As I watch Shohei Otani attempt to both pitch and bat for the Los Angeles Angels, I am so glad that the Yankees are not dealing with the distraction. While I love Otani, the pitcher, I much prefer the bat of Giancarlo Stanton regardless of what the Japanese superstar is able to accomplish in Anaheim, CA this year.
Bummer…the Chicago White Sox eliminated the future possibility of their All-Garcia outfield when they released outfielder Willy Garcia. He had played a couple of times last year in a starting outfield that also featured fellow Garcia’s, Avisail and Leury. Willy was not expected to make this year’s White Sox squad. Thus endeth the All-Garcia outfield. I guess the Yankees need to acquire Phillies outfielder Aaron Altherr so that they can feature an All-Aaron outfield. Ha, not really. Maybe Brett can just change his name to Aaron Gardner…
Photo Credit: Associated Press (Lynne Sladky)
A Meaningful Monday…
Not bad for a Monday. The day started with the arrival of Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson in training camp to field grounders with Didi Gregorius and blast a few homers (six) for batting practice in a group that featured Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez. After the eventful day, third baseman Miguel Andujar capped it off with a dramatic 9th inning two-out walk-off home run to beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-3.
Clearly, the story of the day was Russell Wilson. It’s funny how every news article, especially those in Seattle, expressly state that he has not suddenly decided to give up his day job (as if they are worried about it). Some Yankees fan think Wilson is a distraction, but I take it for what it is. It is an opportunity to break up monotonous Spring Training by spending time with a Super Bowl-caliber professional athlete. I’ve always said there are guys who know how to play the game and there are guys who are winners. The rare combination is the guy who embodies both. Wilson is one of those rare athletes. I think he has much to offer the young Yankees even if he never fields a single play or takes an at-bat in an exhibition game. Winners breed winners. I am glad that Wilson is a Yankees fan and is spending his off-season in a baseball environment around the Yankees. His five or six days in camp will pass quickly and he’ll be gone. But the impact of his visit will remain with the players as they march toward the start of the 2018 season and its grand expectations.
Photo Credit: Associated Press (Lynne Sladky)
Maybe Wilson should spend some time trying to talk some sense into reliever Tommy Kahnle and his “overkill” love for the Philadelphia Eagles. Sadly, I think that’s a lost cause.
At the very least, I’d give Wilson an at-bat in one of the upcoming exhibition games but it is possible the Seahawks have imposed a moratorium on what Wilson can and cannot do while in Yankees Camp. It would be nice to see Stanton and Judge catch a few passes before Wilson departs.
Photo Credit: Associated Press (Lynne Sladky)
Monday evening, in the first night game of the Exhibition Season, the Yankees continued their winning ways, fourth win in four games, to make Aaron Boone an undefeated manager to start his career. I know, these games mean nothing but it’s tremendous to see everyone embrace Boone’s desire to be “great”. I was disappointed the Phillies game was not televised as I would have enjoyed watching Sonny Gray’s Spring debut. He pitched two innings, giving up two isolated singles, but struck out 2 batters and did not allow any runs. He was throwing strikes as all 12 of his pitches were in the zone.
Chance Adams made his debut (which is another reason I wanted to watch the game). Adams got into trouble with the first batter he faced, his high school teammate Dylan Cozens. Adams and Cozens were in the same class at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Arizona (Class of 2012).
Cozens, comparable to Giancarlo Stanton in size and weight, drew a walk off his friend to start the third inning. He stole second and then advanced to third when Rhys Hoskins hit a grounder to first. A sacrifice fly by Phillies free agent acquisition Carlos Santana brought Cozens home for the only run off Adams. The next batter, Cesar Hernandez, got the only hit off Adams over his two innings of work, with a single to left. Aaron Altherr followed with the second walk of the inning but Gary Sanchez rescued Adams when his throw to second caught Hernandez off base for the third out.
The player of the game was, no doubt, Miguel Andujar. Andujar entered the game as a pinch-hitter for right fielder Billy McKinney in the bottom of the 7th inning. Andujar’s double to left scored Mark Payton, running for Brandon Drury, from third to tie the score at 2. Andujar stayed in the game as the replacement for Drury at third base. The Yankees had a chance to win it with a RBI single by Jorge Saez in the 8th, but Cody Carroll’s attempt to earn the save failed when he allowed a solo home run to Scott Kingery, another Arizonan, in the top of the 9th. No worries. Gleyber Torres and Mark Payton recorded the first two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning, bringing Andujar to the plate. After two balls, Andujar swung and missed at the next two pitches. On the fifth pitch from Phillies reliever Ranger Suarez, Andujar sent the ball over the fence in left clearing most of the Phillies off the field before Andujar could finish his home run trot.
For a meaningless game, it sure was exciting. If only we had been able to watch it…well, those of us not so fortunate to be at Steinbrenner Field. So far, the battle for third base between Brandon Drury and Miguel Andujar has been very spirited. It’s early but the competition at third base has been better than second base.
Photo Credit: Newsday
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
The Yankees starting lineup for today’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, Florida at 1:05 pm Eastern will be:
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Miguel Andujar (aka “The Stud”), 3B
Tyler Austin, 1B
Danny Espinosa, 2B
Austin Romine, C
Jace Peterson, DH
Ronald Torreyes, SS
Billy McKinney, LF
Shane Robinson, RF
The starting pitcher will be Bullpen Ace Chad Green.
I am not exactly a fan of Hanley Ramirez, but the Red Sox 1B/DH was popping off yesterday after Boston finally announced the signing of free agent slugger J.D. Martinez. His words were something to the effect that they were going to step on everybody’s neck now. I harbor no ill will toward Ramirez, Martinez or the Red Sox but I am looking forward to Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton putting on a display this year against the Red Sox, along with the other great young Yankees hitters. Let’s see whose neck gets stepped on. I hope, and I suspect, that this will not be a fun year for Ramirez. The best way to shut up Han-Ram is for the Yankees to win the American League East. I like our odds.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
|Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)|
It’s Stanton Time…
It is hard to believe (still) but Giancarlo Stanton is close to taking the field as a member of the New York Yankees. I’ve enjoyed seeing the early camp photos of Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Greg Bird and other position players ahead of Sunday’s reporting deadline, but clearly, the appearance I’ve been waiting for the most is the arrival of Giancarlo Cruz Michael Stanton.
|Photo Credit: Patrick Hennessy, via Twitter @TrueHennessy|
Stanton indicated that he arrived early to take everything in and adjust to the time zone since he’s a “West Coast Guy”. Regardless of his reasons, I am ready to see him on the field with his new teammates sooner rather than later.
Based on his words, Stanton understands the goal in the Bronx. Per Bryan Hoch of MLB.com on the expectation of winning, Stanton said “It’s huge. I’ve never been able to experience that at this level. This is a level I’ve worked toward my whole life and never been able to experience that, so I’m really excited for that aspect.” Yes, we are too. Hoch went on to say Stanton added there is curiosity about how many homers he and Judge can hit, but “We can’t worry about expectations when the main goal is to win. If our expectations help us win, then it doesn’t really matter what the numbers are.” But c’mon, all of us want to see massive numbers between these two. Triple-digit homers traveling many, many miles will be just fine.
Good times in the Yankees Universe!
Other Spring Notes…
Now that pitchers and catchers have reported to all camps, we’re starting to see movement in the free agent market.
In moves that indirectly impact the Yankees, the Boston Red Sox re-signed infielder Eduardo Nunez (pending a physical) and the Toronto Blue Jays signed lefty Jaime Garcia. Nunez might have been a nice cog to use for support in transitioning the rookies at second and third, but he’s not a great defender and seems somewhat injury prone so it was no loss to the Yankees in my opinion. I never heard any interest with the Yankees bringing back Garcia but no doubt I would have preferred him in a spot start over Luis Cessa. While Garcia is an average starter at best, I’m sure he’ll throw a no-hitter against the Yankees now. Seriously, I wish him well in Toronto but I am okay with the Yankees decision to let him go. The only negative is the loss of the pitching prospects that the Yankees sent to the Minnesota Twins (Zack Littell and Dietrich Enns) last year for Garcia. I liked the work Littell had done in the minor leagues last year prior to the trade.
At this point, the only veteran free agent infielder that appeals to me is Neil Walker. I’d love for Mike Moustakas to sign a one-year “pillow” contract but realistically it is not going to happen. The Yankees are committed to keeping payroll under the $197 million threshold and I think the loss of $1 million in international bonus pool money represents a bigger detriment to the Yankees than the loss of the second and fifth round draft picks. Last month, Baseball America named the Yankees as one of three teams favored to sign soon-to-be free agent outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez from Cuba. If the Yankees truly have interest in Martinez, they won’t sacrifice international bonus pool money for a one year of Moustakas. The Yankees have limited space available for the current 2017-18 signing period so they’d be looking at July 2nd for the next signing period once Martinez is declared a free agent by MLB. The only way the Yankees could justify losing the draft picks and the international bonus pool money would be a long-term contract for Moose Tacos and that’s simply not going to happen as we await the eventual expected landing of Manny Machado in the Bronx.
We are just one week away from the first Spring game. The Yankees open the Grapefruit League schedule with a 1:05 pm EST matchup at Steinbrenner Field next Friday against their “fight opponent” from last July, the Detroit Tigers. No doubt that the players will be much calmer than their last meeting and the managers involved are long gone. Boonie, please be sure to hand Giancarlo a bat next Friday. We need some action photos of the big guy going deep in Yankees gear. I am tired of these Marlins pics…
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Drew Hallowell)|
My thoughts for Opening Day Starting Pitcher
Last year, we knew almost immediately when training camp began who would get the Opening Day pitching assignment. New manager, new coaching staff, and a down year from the 2016 staff ace leave the decision a little more up in the air this year.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Tom Szczerbowski)|
Let’s break down the candidates:
The unquestioned (and surprising) leader of the 2017 Yankees Rotation. Sevy shared the team lead of 14 wins with CC Sabathia (he had a 14-6 record with 2.98 ERA in 31 games started covering 193 1/3 innings pitched). Severino also struck out 230 batters. He finished third in the AL Cy Young voting behind Corey Kluber and Chris Sale. If the decision is based solely on stats, Sevy is your man.
The “recognized” staff ace had an uncharacteristic 2017 compared to prior seasons. His record was 13-12 with 4.74 ERA, however, he finished the year strong and was 2-1 with 0.90 ERA in the post-season against the Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros. His body of work for his four-year Yankees career (52-28, 3.56 ERA, 668 1/3 innings pitched, 30 starts) attests to his stature and continued rank as a leader of the staff. Personally, I feel that we’ll see a more normalized Tanaka in 2018, pitching closer to his pre-2017 numbers.
Okay, if we go solely on the basis of the body of work, Sabathia is the clear and undisputed leader as the most tenured member of the pitching staff. 120-73 in nine years as a New York Yankee, with a 3.75 ERA in 1,657 2/3 innings pitched. In 2017, CC was 14-5 with 3.69 ERA in 27 games started (148 2/3 innings pitched). If the decision for Opening Day starter is Lifetime Achievement Award, Sabathia is the choice. This is probably a sentimental choice as it could be Sabathia’s final year in Pinstripes depending upon how the season goes.
While it is possible that Gray may someday be an Opening Day starter for the Yankees, this is not the year. Sonny appeared in only 11 games for the games following the trading deadline deal that brought him to New York last year. He was 4-7 with 3.72 ERA over 65 1/3 innings. Granted, he didn’t get much run support but he also did not help his own cause as he pitched better in Oakland than he did in the Bronx. Gray’s goal for this year will be to set himself up Opening Day in a future season.
He was just a rookie. No offense to Monty but he is the fifth starter until proven otherwise. He finished 8-7 with 4.07 ERA in 29 games started over 155 1/3 innings pitched. He did an admirable job as the fifth starter; much better than Luis Severino did the year before.
This is a tough decision. I think that any of the top three (Severino, Tanaka and Sabathia) would make an excellent choice for Opening Day starter. Severino is probably viewed the current staff ace by most, but Tanaka has put up good numbers collectively over the past four years. Sabathia would be a wonderful choice to recognize how much the man has meant to the Yankees. For me, I’d probably go with Severino as the future face (or ace, however you want to look at it) of the rotation but with all sincerity none of the three would be a bad choice in my humble opinion.
Prize Fight between Betances and Levine called off…
The Yankees avoided an off-the-field fight yesterday when they signed all of their arbitration-eligible players to one-year, non-guaranteed contracts, including Dellin Betances who lost his fight at the arbitration table last year. It sparked angry (and, in my opinion, unnecessary and ridiculous) words from Yankees Team President Randy Levine. This year, Betances gets the $5 million he sought a year ago when Levine said that “five million dollars goes to elite closers, people who pitch the ninth inning and have a lot, a lot and a lot of saves.” Personally, I think Betances will rediscover the magic and will resume his role as one of the elite setup artists in baseball. He is worth the money, regardless of what Levine may think.
|Photo Credit: Anthony J Causi, New York Post|
I was glad to see the Yankees stayed a couple of dollars shy of the $29.4 million total projected by MLB Trade Rumors. Not that MLB Trade Rumors is the foremost authority, but they were fairly accurate in their projections.
Here are the actual one-year settlements for the arbitration-eligible players:
Didi Gregorius, $8.25 million
Sonny Gray, $6.5 million
Dellin Betances, $5.1 million
Adam Warren, $3.315 million
Aaron Hicks, $2.825 million
Tommy Kahnle, $1.3125 million
Austin Romine, $1.1 million
Chasen Shreve, $825,000
Total: $29.2275 million
Gregorius accepting $750,000 less than his projected amount of $9 million was the difference-maker in bringing the total for all players under $29.4 million. Gregorius has one more year of arbitration before he hits free agency. I really hope the Yankees look to lock him up on a new long-term deal next off-season rather than wait for him to hit the free market. Same with Sonny Gray.
Yu had me at…
Following the Yankees’ ‘did they or didn’t they’ make an offer to free agent pitcher Yu Darvish is funny. Earlier in the week, Michael Kay reported on his show the Yankees had offered Darvish a 7-year contract for $160 million. On Twitter, Darvish responded “They don’t give me offer yet”. Darvish subsequently clarified his position with “Sorry guys. My mistake. Actually they did make offer the numbers are not correct.”
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|
Nothing against Darvish, I like the pitcher, but I wouldn’t want to devote in excess of $20 million per year to the pitcher even if the Yankees could somehow find a way to move Jacoby Ellsbury and his heavy contract or trade someone like Brett Gardner or David Robertson. Yesterday, Dodgers Nation posed a question to their fan base if they wanted the Dodgers to re-sign Darvish. The immediate reaction was negative, with many lingering feelings of disappointment and resentment over the awful World Series performance given by Darvish. Not that I feel a couple of poor (very poor) starts should define Darvish, but the October Stage is not made for everyone. It was a red flag that Darvish might not be a guy who can elevate his game when the stakes are at their highest. If money was no object, then I’d gladly be willing to accept Darvish on the team. But in the grand scheme of things for a team trying to stay under $197 million, the money is better served in other areas.
Please Keep Numbers 29 and 77 Ready…
We are now only a month away before pitchers and catchers report to training camp in Tampa, Florida. With so many free agents still available, it would seem that we’ll be playing exhibition games before some big names know what jerseys they’ll be pulling on. I continue to preach for the Yankees to re-sign Todd Frazier to a two-year deal to take third base and provide backup support at first for Greg Bird. Of course, I’d also trade Brett Gardner despite his leadership qualities and status as the most tenured Yankee to open up a significant role for Clint Frazier. So, my views are obviously ‘Up goes Frazier(s)’.
|Photo Credit: Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports, via Reuters|
I thought we’d see more baseball activity last week than we did. Admittedly, it seems like I feel that way every week yet we continue to hear crickets. Yes, the Mets re-signed Jay Bruce but the off-season continues to move along very slowly. I don’t believe owners are guilty of collusion. I think this year has been a wakeup for owners who do not want to give extended contracts to guys and end up with ‘Jacoby Ellsbury-like’ situations on your hands. Plus, you have the added factor that MLB’s two biggest spenders are furiously trying to keep payroll under $197 million. I am hopeful the current sluggish market conditions bring quality third base help to the Yankees.
R.I.P. to a Legendary Sportcaster…
I am very sad to hear the news of the passing of retired sportscaster Keith Jackson. Growing up in the 70’s, he was the premier voice of College Football and so many other top sporting events to me. His style and grace were legendary qualities. So many times in my life I’ve said “Whoa, Nellie!”, thanks to Jackson. He passed away Friday night in the Los Angeles area, where he made his home. Farewell, Keith. May you rest in peace. Heaven has gained a tremendous Angel and we will miss you.
|Photo Credit: LA Times|
Have a great long weekend, Yankees family! Go Yankees!
American League Championship Series
Yankees 6, Astros 4…
Series tied, 2-2
The 2017 Yankees seem to thrive in the face of adversity. Down by four runs and facing a potential 3-1 disadvantage in the ALCS, the young Baby Bombers rose up and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
The game was expected to be a pitching duel between Sonny Gray and Lance McCullers, Jr but then again, with the exception of Monday night’s game, every game has featured stellar starting pitching. Former Yankee Carlos Beltran picked up the game’s first hit when he doubled to the right field wall off Yankees starter Sonny Gray with two outs in the second inning. Fortunately, he didn’t get to experience third base but the early goings of the game saw a few runners left stranded. All dressed up and nowhere to go.
I knew that Lance McCullers, Jr was going to be tough on the Yankees. Despite his inconsistent year, he has generally been very strong when facing his dad’s old club.
The bottom of the 4th brought an interesting play albeit with no runs for the Yankees. Aaron Judge walked to start the inning for the Yanks. With one out, Gary Sanchez flied out to right. On El Gary’s fly, Judge was running with the pitch. He turned after running past second and ran back to first after realizing the ball had been caught but was called out as he slid back into the bag. The Yankees challenged the play which confirmed Judge’s foot had reached the base before the ball, however, when Judge was at second and passed the bag, he did not re-step on the bag on his way back to first. As the Astros prepared to throw to second as a follow-up to the challenge play at first, Judge made the break for second. The Astros threw Judge out on the play but, technically, he was out for that “misstep”, ending the inning. A lesson learned for the big guy.
|Credit: Michael Ciaglo-Houston Chronicle|
Poor Sonny Gray. The guy never gets any run support and Tuesday was no exception. The game entered the sixth inning still scoreless for both teams. After Gray walked George Springer, Gray’s former Oakland teammate Josh Reddick reached base on catcher’s interference by Austin Romine (much to Romine’s chagrin). Despite allowing only one hit up to that point, Manager Joe Girardi made the decision to pull Gray one pitch into the next at-bat (Jose Altuve), a ball in the dirt, and replaced him with David Robertson.
|Credit: Michael Ciaglo-Houston Chronicle|
D-Rob walked Altuve which loaded the bases with no outs. After striking out Carlos Correa for the first out, Yuli Gurriel cleared the bases with a double down the line, just inches past the glove of the diving Todd Frazier at third, to the left field corner. Brett Gardner threw the ball in to Didi Gregorius and the Yankees were able to catch Gurriel between second and third for an out. Alex Bregman subsequently grounded out to third to end the inning for the Astros, but they had taken a 3-0 lead.
Chad Green replaced Robertson in the top of the 7th inning. He struck out former Yankee Carlos Beltran for the first out, but then gave up a double to right center by Marwin Gonzalez. Brian McCann hit a grounder to second baseman Starlin Castro in shallow right but the ball ate up Castro for an error, allowing McCann to safely reach base. Gonzalez scored on the play to increase Houston’s lead to 4-0. George Springer hit a grounder to third that Todd Frazier turned for a double play, second to first, to avoid further damage and send the game to the bottom of the 7th.
Trailing by four runs with Lance McCullers, Jr pitching a shutout, Aaron Judge stepped to the plate. Judge hammered McCullers’ first pitch over the wall in center field into Monument Park for a home run. The Yankees were on the board.
|Credit: Howard Simmons-New York Daily News|
The Astros still held a 4-1 lead, but McCullers was finished. The Astros brought in Chris Devenski to face Didi Gregorius. Didi tripled to the left-center field wall. Gary Sanchez was next and he hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Didi. The Yankees had closed the deficit to two runs. Greg Bird walked to finish Devenski’s stay and Joe Musgrove came in to retire Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks. Still, the Yankees had chipped away and their bats were starting to show signs of life.
After three up-three down for Chad Green in the top of the 8th, the Yankees got to business in the bottom of the inning. Todd Frazier singled to left to get things started. Chase Headley, pinch-hitting for Austin Romine, singled to left in the gap, moving Frazier to third. Headley took second on the throw in from the outfield, after stumbling between first and second. He was able to make it to second ahead of the throw after cut-off man Carlos Correa had thrown the ball to first.
|Credit: Andrew Savulich-New York Daily News|
The Astros pulled Musgrove to bring in their closer, Ken Giles. Brett Gardner hit a grounder to second baseman Jose Altuve who threw to first for the out but Frazier scored to make it a one-run game. Headley moved to third, and was replaced by pinch-runner Jacoby Ellsbury. Aaron Judge doubled to left off the wall to score Ellsbury and the game was tied at 4. Didi Gregorius singled to left, a roller under the glove of shortsop Carlos Correa, with Judge advancing to third. It set up Gary Sanchez’s double to the wall in right center to score both Judge and Gregorius. The Yankees had captured the lead, 6-4.
|Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports|
After Ken Giles intentionally walked Greg Bird, he was pulled and replaced by Luke Gregerson. Starlin Castro worked a walk to load the bases but the Yankees were unable to capitalize when Aaron Hicks hit a slow grounder toward first allowing the Astros to get the force out of Sanchez at home and Todd Frazier grounded out to third.
On to the 9th inning and the awaiting arm of Aroldis Chapman. Chapman struck out fellow Cuban Yuli Gurriel and Alex Bregman for the first two outs. With Carlos Beltran due up, the Astros sent in pinch-hitter Evan Gattis to hit. I personally would have stayed with Beltran but Astros manager A.J. Hinch had different ideas. It didn’t pay off for him as Gattis lofted a fly to left for the final out. The Yankees had overcome a four-run deficit to win the game and tie the ALCS at two games apiece. The Yankees win! Woohoo!
Chad Green (1-0) was the winner, while Aroldis Chapman earned the save. Ken Giles (0-1) took the loss for the Astros.
The ceremonial first pitch was thrown out by former Yankee great Paul O’Neill with Ronald Torreyes catching. O’Neill looks like he could still take a few hacks at home plate or at the very least, overturn a water cooler or two.
Credit Aaron Judge. His home run changed the offensive temperature from very cold to very hot. It was the tandem of Judge and Didi Gregorius that set the pace for the Yankees to score six unanswered runs. Very nice to see Gary Sanchez join the action after an 0-for-13 skid in the ALCS.
|Credit: Karen Warren-Houston Chronicle|
The two errors by Starlin Castro on what appeared to be two fairly simple grounders was not fun to watch.
There were complaints prior to the game about Joe Girardi’s decision to have Austin Romine catch Sonny Gray with Gary Sanchez sliding to DH. I had no issue with the move. In the limited sample size since Gray joined the Yankees at the trading deadline, his ERA with Romine has been significantly better (3 starts, 1.45 ERA) than when El Gary is behind the plate (8 starts, 4.63 ERA). Among Matt Holliday, Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley, there’s no doubt that Headley deserves the next start at DH. I am disappointed see Holliday’s Yankee career end on the bench but the simple truth is that he has not hit since returning from the DL after his bout with the Epstein-Barr Virus. I know that to get hits, you need at-bats, but the Baseball Gods have not smiled upon Holliday in the second half. It would still be cool if he could get a crucial pinch-hit at some point before the Pinstripes become a distant memory for him.
It was a very solid performance by Sonny Gray and is certainly a tremendous preview of coming attractions for the 2018 season (if not the remainder of the 2017 post-season).
|Credit: Andrew Mills-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com|
By winning, the Yankees have guaranteed that the series will head back to Houston for Game 6. Hopefully, they can win today to make it a much sweeter plane flight to Texas. The challenge is difficult with Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander slated for the mound over the next two games. However, the 2017 Yankees have beaten Chris Sale and Corey Kluber and they tend to excel when their backs are to the wall. Win or lose, you can be assured that the Yankees will never, ever quit.
Have a great Wednesday! Let’s just get a win today. Only one win. Thumbs down, let’s do this! Go Yankees!
|Credit: Jason Miller-Getty Images|
American League Division Series, Game 1
Indians 4, Yankees 0…
While Bauer was making mincemeat out of the Yankee bats, the Indians got to Sonny Gray early. In the bottom of the 2nd inning, Jay Bruce got the party started for the Indians with a double off the left field wall against Yankees starter Sonny Gray. Carlos Santana followed with a single to center to put runners at the corners. Lonnie Chisenhall was hit by a pitch on his upper arm to load the bases. Gray was able to limit the damage when Roberto Perez hit into a double play at short, but Bruce came home on the play for Cleveland’s first run. Giovanny Urshela flied out to right so Gray escaped a huge jam with minimal damage. Unfortunately, the way Bauer was pitching, the one run deficit felt like the Grand Canyon.
The Indians struck again in the bottom of the 4th. Edwin Encarnacion started the inning with a walk. Jay Bruce, a rumored trade target for the Yankees prior to the trading deadline, came back to haunt his near-employer when he blasted a shot into the right field stands. The Indians had increased their lead to 3-0.
|Credit: Phil Masturzo-Akron Beacon Journal/TNS|
Gray walked two of the next three batters to end his night. Adam Warren entered the game and gave up a single to center to load the bases with only one out, but he then struck out the dangerous Francisco Lindor and got Jason Kipnis to fly out to center to escape without any further damage.
|Credit: Jason Miller-Getty Images|
Meanwhile, with Trevor Bauer still pitching a no-hitter against the Yankees, the Indians got another run in the next inning. Jose Ramirez started it for the Tribe with a single up the middle on a ball that just got by a diving Didi Gregorius. While Edwin Encarnacion was at bat, a wild pitch, a ball in the dirt that Gary Sanchez dropped in front of him, advanced Ramirez to second. Encarnacion flied out to left in foul territory for the first out, and Manager Joe Girardi made the call to the bullpen, bringing in Jaime Garcia to replace Warren. With Jay Bruce batting, another wild pitch, another ball in the dirt that hit Sanchez in the chest and bounced away, allowed Ramirez to take third. Bruce took advantage of the wild pitches to loft a fly to center, scoring Ramirez on the sacrifice. 4-0, Indians.
In the top of the 6th inning, Chase Headley struck out and the Yankees were still searching for their first hit. Aaron Hicks ended the potential no-no when he doubled to left off the wall. Bauer received a very nice ovation from the crowd. The Yankees couldn’t do anything with Hicks at second but at least they had finally gotten their first hit on the board.
The Yankees added another hit in the 7th. After Bauer had retired the first two batters, Starlin Castro singled on a grounder to right field. The Indians dipped into their bullpen, bringing former Yankees reliever Andrew Miller into the game to face Greg Bird. The fear when you trade great players is that they’ll one day come back to bite you. Miller was no different with his strikeout of Bird to end the inning.
Despite two strikeouts by Miller in the top of the 8th, the Yankees had two baserunners, courtesy of walks. With Aaron Judge coming to the plate representing an ability to make it a one-run game, Cleveland called on its closer, Cody Allen. Allen proceeded to strike out Judge in the huge spot to end the inning.
In perhaps the lone bright spot for the Yankees, Dellin Betances pitched the bottom of the 8th inning and struck out the side on eleven pitches. It’s a good sign to see Dellin pitching so well even if the odds are against the Yankees in this series.
|Credit: Charles Wenzelberg-NY Post|
The Yankees had no answer for Allen in the top of the 9th despite Starlin Castro’s second hit of the night (and only the third Yankee hit of the game), a single to right with two outs. Allen struck out Greg Bird on three pitches to end the game and hand the overwhelming advantage in the series to the Tribe.
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The Houston Astros defeated the Boston Red Sox, 8-2, to take the first game of their series. As noted above, it was a night to forget for Chris Sale. When the Astros acquired Justin Verlander in August, it was clearly a move designed for October. He didn’t disappoint, holding the Red Sox to two runs over six innings. No disrespect for Sonny Gray (or Yu Darvish of the Dodgers), but I thought Verlander was the most significant pitching acquisition of the summer.
|Credit: Karen Warren-Houston Chronicle|
All of the playoff teams will be in action today with the first game (Red Sox-Astros) starting at 2:05 pm ET. I hate to go against the Yankees but I think today’s winners will be the home teams (Indians, Astros, Dodgers and Nationals). I would love for the Yankees to prove me wrong.
Have a great Friday! Let’s steal a win from Kluber. Go Yankees!
Rays 9, Yankees 6…
Despite four home runs, the Yankees fell to the Tampa Bay Rays in the series finale and their AL East title hopes are clinging on life support. I thought Manager Joe Girardi mismanaged the fateful 5th inning after Sonny Gray had relinquished the lead, bringing in the woefully inconsistent arm of Jonathan Holder when there were many superior options available.
The first sign that Sonny Gray might not have it on Thursday night was Corey Dickerson’s first inning home run to the second deck in right which gave the Rays an early 1-0 lead.
The Yankees wasted no time in coming back when Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge led off the bottom of the 1st inning with back-to-back home runs. Both players took Rays starter Jacob Faria deep to right into the second deck. It was Judge’s 51st home run of the year. The Yankees had taken the lead, 2-1.
|Credit: Noah K Murray-USA TODAY Sports|
The Rays had a potential scoring opportunity in the top of the 2nd when Gray walked two batters, Daniel Robertson and Cesar Puello with only one out. There was a brief delay when a Gray pitch hit the dirt and bounced up to hit Gary Sanchez on the collarbone during Robertson’s at-bat. Sanchez was able to shake it off and stay in the game. After Peter Bourjos lined out to right for the second out, Mallex Smith singled to left. The Rays third base coach Charlie Montoyo unwisely sent Daniel Robertson home rather than holding him up at third. Brett Gardner’s arm was smarter than the coach as Robertson was easily thrown out at home for the final out.
The Yankees picked up another run in the bottom of the inning. Jacoby Ellsbury singled to right past a diving Lucas Duda with one out. While Todd Frazier was batting, a passed ball off the glove of Rays catcher Wilson Ramos allowed Ellsbury to take second. Frazier then singled to left, scoring Ellsbury. A pitch got away from Ramos with Brett Gardner batting and Todd Frazier tried to advance to second but was thrown out. Gardy subsequently walked but Aaron Judge flied out to end the inning. As Michael Kay put it, “A sky high fly”. Nevertheless, the Yankees were up 3-1.
Chih-Wei Hu took over for Jacob Faria on the mound in the bottom of the 4th (Who is on the mound? I don’t know, Hu?). He was quickly introduced to the game when Greg Bird led off with a home run to the first row of the right field seats. Hu retired the next three batters, but the Yankees had increased their lead to 4-1.
|Credit: Paul J Bereswill-NY Post|
The dreadful 5th inning arrived with Sonny Gray still on the mound for the Yankees. The previous inning had gone so well for Gray. Three outs on six pitches. It was hard to foresee the disaster that awaited him in the 5th. Gray was able to get the first batter, Peter Bourjos, out on a grounder to short. Then the Rays rally began. Mallex Smith singled to right on a fly that dropped in. Corey Dickerson hit a line drive to center for a single with Smith moving to third. A wild pitch from Gray allowed Smith to come home to score. Gary Sanchez tried to throw to Gray covering home but his throw was too far right for Gray to catch as Smith slid safely into home plate. Sanchez was charged a throwing error on the play as it allowed Dickerson to advance two bases to third.
|Credit: Abbie Parr-Getty Images|
Evan Longoria struck out for the second out, but Dickerson subsequently scored when a passed ball went through El Gary’s legs. Lucas Duda walked, and it brought Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild out to the mound. It always seems like Larry’s talks fail and this was no exception. The next batter, Wilson Ramos, homered to center just over the wall into Monument Park and the Rays had taken a 5-4 lead.
|Credit: Frank Franklin II-AP|
Adeiny Hechavarria followed with a single to center and it was the end for Sonny Gray. Gray made a couple of throws to first during Daniel Robertson’s at bat to buy time for the bullpen, but I have to admit that I was bewildered by Joe Girardi’s decision to bring in Jonathan Holder even though I’d seen Holder warming up. Holder is a fine prospect and did a decent job for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders but he hasn’t really pitched in many big spots for the Yankees this year. He may eventually become a leading arm in the pen but I would have gone with one of the tried and true in an effort to keep the game close. Holder hit the first batter he faced, Daniel Robertson, with a pitch. Runners at first and second. Cesar Puello singled to center on a ball that dropped in front of Jacoby Ellsbury with Hechavarria coming around to score. Robertson moved to second. Peter Bourjos tripled to left on fly that hit the warning track and bounced off the wall, clearing the bases, and it was 8-4 Rays. Girardi finally pulled Holder and brought in Chasen Shreve who struck out Mallex Smith to end the inning. But the Rays had scored seven runs.
In the bottom of the 5th, with Tommy Hunter taking over for Chih-Wei Hu, Brett Gardner led off with a walk. After Aaron Judge struck out, Gary Sanchez was hit by a pitch on the back of his left shoulder. Runners at first and second.
|Credit: Abbie Parr-Getty Images|
Didi Gregorius hit a grounder to second and the Rays were able to force Sanchez for the second out, with Gardy moving to third. Starlin Castro hit an infield single to short, beating the throw to first which brought Gardner home to score. Greg Bird, representing the potential tying run, struck out to end the inning but the Yankees had gotten a run back, 8-5.
With Chasen Shreve still on the mound, the Yankees retired the first two Rays in the top of the 6th. But Trevor Plouffe, pinch-hitting for Lucas Duda, homered to left into the second deck, to restore the Rays’ four run lead. Shreve walked Wilson Ramos next and was pulled in favor of Ben Heller. Heller struck out Adeiny Hechavarria to end the inning without any further damage.
The Rays bullpen kept the Yankees offense quiet from there. Aaron Hicks, pinch-hitting for Todd Frazier, did manage to hit a solo home run to right into the bullpen in the bottom of the 9th against Chaz Roe but it was too little, too late. The other Yankees went down quietly, with Aaron Judge flying out to right to end the game.
This was a disappointing loss and I am bewildered why Girardi trusted Holder with the game on the line when the pitcher has done nothing this year at the MLB level to warrant consideration at that point. The Boston Red Sox lost 12-2 to the Houston Astros so the Yankees (89-70) could have picked up a game. Instead, they remain three games out with three to play. The best they can do is tie the Red Sox if they sweep the Blue Jays and the Astros sweep the Red Sox. More than likely, the Red Sox sew up the AL East title either tonight or tomorrow.
I hate losing winnable games. If the 5th inning hadn’t gotten away from the Yankees, they would have/could have won this game. If the Yankees play like this next Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins, it’s going to be a very short post-season experience.
Next Up: Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY…
And so, we’ve reached the final series of the regular season. It seems like we were just playing exhibition games at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. The Blue Jays completed a successful three-game road trip in Boston on Wednesday, winning two of three games. They are also the only team to win a series against the Yankees this month. Hopefully, the wins come our way in the latest and final series before the post-season begins.
Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:
Blue Jays: Joe Biagini (3-12, 5.34 ERA)
Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka (12-12, 4.94 ERA)
Blue Jays: Marcus Stroman (13-8, 3.06 ERA)
Yankees: Jaime Garcia (1-3, 4.70 ERA)
Blue Jays: Brett Anderson (2-2, 6.04 ERA)
Yankees: Jordan Montgomery (9-7, 3.96 ERA)
This is most likely Jaime Garcia’s final start for the Yankees. I hope that it’s not the final regular season start for Masahiro Tanaka’s Yankees career. We all know that this is just the conclusion of the great start of Jordan Montgomery’s career in Pinstripes. Looking forward to many successful wins going forward, including the 2017 post-season.
Odds & Ends…
The Yankees are planning to activate RHP Adam Warren off the disabled list today. Hopefully, he’ll be able to get in some work this weekend in preparation for the post-season (which, we hope and pray, is much longer than a one-game stay).
Have a great weekend! Let’s get the momentum rolling for October! Go Yankees!