Tagged: Starlin Castro

No Answer for Justin Verlander…

Credit:  Eric Christian Smith-AP

American League Championship Series

Astros 7, Yankees 1…

Series tied, 3-3

If the Yankees are going to win the ALCS, they’ll need to figure out how to score more than a single run in a game at Minute Maid Park.  Three runs in three games is not going to get ‘er done.  The Yankees were getting hard hits against Justin Verlander on Friday night, but they had nothing to show for it.  Meanwhile, the Astros bats came alive and they seized the win in Game 6.

On the bright side, the Yankees have responded to adversity the entire post-season, winning ‘do or die’ games against the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians.  It’s that time once again so hopefully the Yankees can find a way to score runs and take the victory tonight.

Brett Gardner led off the game with a single to center over the outstretched glove of shortstop Carlos Correa.  Unfortunately, Aaron Judge followed with a grounder to Correa that the Astros quickly turned for a double play.  

After Luis Severino easily set down the Astros in the bottom of the 1st, Gary Sanchez reached first  base on a soft grounder to third to open the 2nd inning.  But El Gary wasn’t able to do more than have a brief conversation with first base coach Tony Pena when Verlander struck out two of the next three hitters (Greg Bird and Aaron Hicks) and got the middle batter (Starlin Castro) to fly out to center.

The Yankees got another hit in the 3rd inning, a one-out single up the middle into left center field by Chase Headley, but again the runner had no place to go as he was left stranded.

Meanwhile, through the first three innings, Luis Severino had yet to give up a hit.  Carlos Correa finally got the first hit for the Astros with a two-out single to right center in the bottom of the 4th.  Correa was left stranded but the tide was turning.  Instead of the hits against Verlander and none against Severino, the reverse pattern developed.  Verlander set the Yankees down in order in the 4th and 5th innings.  

Credit:  Eric Christian Smith-AP

The Astros led off the bottom of the 5th with a walk by Alex Bregman.  A groundout to Starlin Castro by Marwin Gonzalez moved the runner to second.  Sevy was unable to throw strikes to Evan Gattis and walked him on four pitches.  Brian McCann took advantage of the runner in scoring position with a drive to right that bounced over the wall on one hop for a ground-rule double, scoring Bregman and moving Gattis to third.  Like Gattis, Sevy was unable to throw strikes to George Springer, also walking him on four straight pitches.  The bases were loaded, with only one out.  Josh Reddick lofted a fly to center for the second out but it wasn’t deep enough to score the runner.  It brought Jose Altuve to the plate with the bases still jammed with Astros.  To borrow a line from Manager Joe Girardi, it’s not what you want.  Altuve rapped a hard drive to left to score Gattis and McCann.  The Astros were up 3-0.  It was end of the line for Severino.  Chad Green came in and got the final out when Carlos Correa popped out to Starlin Castro.  It was a very disappointing inning for the young 23-year-old starter and quite possibly his final inning of the year if the Yankees cannot find ways to score runs in Houston.

Credit:  NY Post: Charles Wenzelberg

The Yankees finally got a couple of hits in an inning against Verlander when they got two singles in the top of the 6th.  Chase Headley led off with a single to center.  Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge recorded outs (pop out to short and strikeout, respectively) but then Didi Gregorius lined a single to right, the ball dropping in front of right fielder Josh Reddick.  Runners at first and second with two outs for Gary Sanchez.  With one swing of the bat, El Gary had the potential to tie the game.  Sadly, all he could do was hit a grounder to short for the final out.  

More promise but ultimately disappointment continued in the top of the 7th when Greg Bird walked and Starlin Castro was hit by a pitch.  The HBP was not initially called by the home plate umpire but Girardi, learning from prior lessons, challenged the call and it showed that Castro had, in fact, been hit on the wristband.  Aaron Hicks had the first crack at Verlander but he struck out.  Todd Frazier was next and he hit a high fly to center, to the wall, and a leaping catch by George Springer.  Oh man, just another foot or so and the game would have been tied.  

Credit:  NY Post: Anthony J Causi & Getty Images

Chase Headley grounded out to the right side to end the threat, missing a huge opportunity for the road team.

In the top of the 8th, Verlander was finally out of the game, replaced by Brad Peacock.  After Peacock got Brett Gardner to fly out in left field foul territory (credit left fielder Marwin Gonzales for the running catch with very limited room), Aaron Judge blasted a pitch, nearly to the roof, over the wall in left center to make it a 3-1 game.  

Credit:  Houston Chronicle: Karen Warren

Signs of life…not.  Didi Gregorius flied out to left and Gary Sanchez struck out to end the inning.

For the bottom of the 8th, the Yankees replaced Chad Green with David Robertson.  Great job by Green.  After replacing Severino in the bottom of the 5th, Green did not allow a hit or run over 2 1/3 innings pitched.  He only walked a batter and struck out three ‘Stros.  For David Robertson, the results were not the same.  He was greeted with a homer to left over the scoreboard by Jose Altuve. After the game, D-Rob said that he threw the 2-2 pitch where he wanted but Altuve still went yard.  Carlos Correa was next and he doubled to left into the corner.  Yuli Gurriel singled to right and the Astros had runners at the corners and still nobody out.  Alex Bregman lined a double to left center on a ball that dropped between Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks to bring both runners around to score.  A throwing error by Didi Gregorius to home plate that got away from Gary Sanchez allowed Bregman to move to third.  Four batters, four hits, three runs (with a fourth to eventually score), no outs.  An ugly line for D-Rob and the end of his latest outing.  

Credit: NY Post: Charles Wenzelberg

Dellin Betances entered the game.  It started well when he struck out Marwin Gonzalez for the first out.  But then Evan Gattis lofted a fly ball deep enough to right center to score Bregman on the sacrifice as the throw from Aaron Hicks to Gary Sanchez was off the line.  The Astros had increased their lead to 7-1 over the offensively-challenged Yankees.  Brian McCann followed with a single to right that Starlin Castro couldn’t quite reach, but Betances got George Springer to ground out to third with a broken bat for the final out.  Two very ugly innings for the Pinstripers…the 5th and the 8th.  

The Astros brought their closer, Ken Giles, out for the top of the 9th despite the six-run lead.  It seemed odd to bring in your best reliever in that situation but Astros manager A.J. Hinch gets paid a lot more money than I do to make those decisions.  Greg Bird flied out to right for the first out, but then Starlin Castro singled to left center.  Aaron Hicks walked and the Yankees had two runners on base with only one out.  After a coaching visit to the mound, Giles settled down and retired Todd Frazier on a fly out to left.  He struck out Chase Headley swinging for the game-ending out.

I don’t know what you say after a game like this.  The Yankees were whipped in all facets of the game.  It was a game that you quickly forget and move on.  

The Yankees will pull out their stopper, CC Sabathia, for the seventh and final game of the series.  No doubt this is an ‘all hands on deck’ situation.  Dallas Keuchel has already said on record that he’ll be ready to thwart any rallies out of the bullpen, and even Justin Verlander was saying that he might be ready depending upon how his arm feels today.  Charlie Morton will make the Game 7 start for the Astros.  The childhood Yankees fan will get the opportunity to disappoint the many of us who are still Yankees fans.  Sabathia has not been defeated following a Yankees loss this year.  Let’s hope that streak continues one more time.  

Odds & Ends…

Yesterday, I wrote about the managerial openings but I could not have envisioned that the Washington Nationals would emerge as a team with an opening.  Their firing of Dusty Baker caught me by surprise.  Both John Farrell and Baker have proved that simply winning your division to make the play-offs is not enough. There’s no doubt that Baker mishandled the Stephen Strasburg injury situation earlier in the post-season and that may have been the ultimate cause for his dismissal.  The Nationals have one more shot next year before star Bryce Harper becomes a free agent so whomever gets the job will carry high expectations.  It’s a tough job to walk into and I thought they would have been stronger with the continuity of Baker, a very good manager, at the top.  The Nationals reportedly want to talk to Astros bench coach Alex Cora which could throw a monkey wrench into Boston’s plans to hire Cora.  There will be no honeymoon period for the guys who get the jobs with the Nationals and the Red Sox.  Win now or walk.

Of course, there’s still a chance that the Yankees could be looking for a new manager soon.  Never a dull moment in Major League Baseball.

Credit:  NY Daily News: Andrew Savulich / TNS

Have a great Saturday!  Bring home the AL Championship, Guys!  Thumbs down, you got this!  Go Yankees!

Advertisements

How to Judge a Four-Run Deficit…

Credit:  Andrew Savulich-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

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:  Elsa-Getty Images

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!

The Road to Cleveland…

Credit:  Adam Hunger-Getty Images

American League Division Series, Game 4

Yankees 7, Indians 3…

Riding the arm of Luis Severino, who atoned for his Wild Card Game disaster, the Yankees defeated the Cleveland Indians to send the series back to Cleveland, Ohio for the series finale and the right to advance to the American League Championship Series.  

This game featured the legendary Mariano Rivera on the mound. Mo tossed the  honorary first pitch, looking as great as ever. It was a sign of good things to come.

Credit:  MLB.com

Once the game started, it was three up and three down for Luis Severino, showing no signs of the jitters that brought about his collapse against the Minnesota Twins in his previous start.  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

When Jay Bruce led off the top of the 2nd inning with a line drive single to right over the outstretched glove of Starlin Castro, Twitter bemoaned the break-up of Sevy’s “perfect game”. But no fear, Sevy retired the next three hitters, including the last two by strikeout, to ensure that Bruce got nothing more than a conversation with Greg Bird at first base for his effort.  

The breaks started going the Yankees’ way in the bottom of the 2nd. Trevor Bauer, pitching on short rest (he started Game 1 last Thursday), has been dominant against the Yankees this year. But on Monday, those famed dancers, Mystique and Aura, came out in full force. Greg Bird started things off by grounding out at second. That didn’t start right, let’s try this again. Starlin Castro hit a hard grounder to third that third baseman Giovanny Urshela knocked down but it rolled away and Castro was safe at first. Chase Headley struck out for the second out, and it looked like Castro might suffer the same fate as Jay Bruce had in the top of the inning. With Todd Frazier batting, a Bauer pitch popped out of the glove of catcher Roberto Perez for a passed ball, allowing Castro to move to second. Todd Frazier, who had expressed prior to the game how much he enjoys playing in the post-season with the Yankees, doubled to to the left field corner to score Castro with the game’s first run. The Toddfather! Aaron Hicks kept it going with a single to the gap in center, scoring Frazier. 2-0, Yankees. Brett Gardner followed suit with a roller up the middle into center field, moving Hicks to third. A steal by Gardner put both runners in scoring position for Aaron Judge. Judge hit a fly to left that hit the warning track and bounced off the wall for a bases-clearing double. The Yankees had increased their lead to 4-0. 

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

After an intentional walk of Didi Gregorius, Tribe manager Terry Francona decided to move to Plan B and pulled Bauer in favor of reliever Joe Smith. Smith got Gary Sanchez to pop out to first in foul territory for the final out, but it had been a very big inning for the Yankees with four unearned runs.

Severino easily breezed through the Indians lineup in the top of the 3rd to bring the Yankees to bat once again. Reliever Mike Clevinger took over for Joe Smith and walked Greg Bird to start the Yankees’ half of the inning. Starlin Castro doubled to center off the wall to advance Bird to third. After Chase Headley struck out (not a great game for the Headster), Todd Frazier walked to load the bases. Aaron Hicks grounded into a force out to first baseman Carlos Santana who quickly threw home to retire Bird for the second out. Brett Gardner followed with a grounder to third, but the normally reliable Giovanny Urshela, after a slight hesitation, threw the ball high to first which pulled Santana off the bag for his second error of the game. Gardy safe at first. It allowed Starlin Castro to score on the play. Another call to the bullpen brought in Danny Salazar who struck out Aaron Judge to get the Indians out of the inning. The Yankees had a five-run lead and things were feeling very good in the Bronx.

The top of the 4th seemed to be going Severino’s way when he recorded two quick outs but then he walked Jay Bruce. Carlos Santana made Sevy pay for it with a two-run homer to center into Monument Park to cut the lead to 5-2. A coaching visit to the mound by pitching coach Larry Rothschild, which often prove to be unsuccessful, worked this time as Sevy was able to retire Michael Brantley on a line out to center.

The Indians closed the gap to two runs in the top of the 5th when Roberto Perez hit a one-out home run into the right field seats, making it 5-3. Despite the home runs, Severino had seven strikeouts up to that point.

In the bottom of the 5th, the Yankees added an insurance run. Todd Frazier led off with a slow roller back toward the pitcher. Danny Salazar’s throw to first hit the ground and sailed past the first baseman, allowing Frazier to race to second. A ground out to first by Aaron Hicks moved Frazier to third. Francona came out and signaled for his lefty, Tyler Olson, to replace  Salazar to face Brett Gardner. Gardy hit a fly to shallow center that didn’t look like it would be deep enough, but Frazier challenged the arm of center fielder Jason Kipnis (normally the team’s second baseman) and won, scoring on the sacrifice.

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

Another pitching change, this time bringing in Bryan Shaw, saw another strikeout of Aaron Judge to end the inning.

Gary Sanchez padded the lead with his one-out home run to right, barely missing the second deck, in the bottom of the 6th. The Sanchino! The four-run lead gave the team much needed breathing room.  

Credit:  Getty Images

  

With Sevy still going strong, the Yankees had an opportunity for more runs in the bottom of the 7th. The Indians inserted their closer Cody Allen a little early (the benefit of having the very versatile Andrew Miller on the roster). Things didn’t go Allen’s way when Aaron Hicks reached second base, thanks to a one-out fielding error by first baseman Carlos Santana (hard grounder bounced off his glove into right field). Brett Gardner singled to right, moving Hicksie to third. Gardy took second on the high throw in from the outfield. But they would not advance any further when Aaron Judge struck out and Didi Gregorius popped out to short to leave the runners stranded.

Dellin Betances took over for Severino in the top of the 8th and unfortunately things did not go well for the tall right-hander. He walked Yan Gomes (after nearly taking his head off with one errant pitch), bringing pitching coach Larry Rothschild to the mound. Like it usually happens when Rothschild visits, it didn’t work. The inconsistent Betances walked Francisco Lindor on four straight pitches which ended his latest appearance. It was very disappointing to see Betances continue his struggles with control, which makes him very unreliable moving forward.

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Tommy Kahnle came into the game, and did the job Betances was once so good at…he retired the three batters he faced, two by strikeout.

Josh Tomlin took over for Cody Allen in the bottom of the 8th and easily discharged the Yankees to push the game to the 9th. Tommy Kahnle returned to the mound to face Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley, and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kahnle rose to the challenge and struck out the side with Chisenhall missing on his swing for the final out. The Yankees win!

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Nice job by Luis Severino who finished with nine strikeouts in seven innings of work. Four hits, three runs (on the two homers), and one walk. It wasn’t perfect but he held the Indians down while the Yankees took advantage of the three Cleveland errors to score six of their seven runs. Granted, Cleveland’s lineup is not the same without Edwin Encarnacion but they are more than capable of erasing leads quickly. Sevy did not allow it to happen. Dellin Betances tried but Tommy Kahnle saved him from himself.  

Chase Headley’s performance (0-for-4 with three strikeouts) has me wondering if it might not be time for Matt Holliday’s name to be penciled in at DH. Aaron Judge’s first hit of the series was a big one with the two RBI’s in the second inning, while Gary Sanchez’s homer seemed to help suck the life out of the Tribe.  

The series now moves to the decisive Game 5 at Progressive Field in Cleveland. Prior to yesterday’s game, Joe Girardi announced that CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA) would be the starter, not Sonny Gray. Sabathia returns to the site where it all began for him so many years ago. Corey Kluber (18-4, 2.25 ERA) will be seeking redemption in front of his home fans after giving up six runs in his last start. The Yankees have a huge challenge before them, but the pay off is a road trip to Houston, Texas for the ALCS. Win or lose, this has been a great year for the Yankees. The team has heart and they do not quit.  

Credit:  Amanda Rabinowitz-WKSU

The Houston Astros overcame the Boston Red Sox, 5-4, to win their ALDS, three games to one. There was some satisfaction when former Yankee Carlos Beltran provided what would prove to be the winning run when he delivered an RBI double in the top of the 9th. Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers had an inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the 9th but it was not enough as the Astros overcame both Chris Sale (in relief) and Craig Kimbrel for the win.  

Odds & Ends…

I figured there would be defections from the Yankees organization to join Derek Jeter in Miami but I didn’t think they would happen so quickly. George A King III of the New York Post reported yesterday, via Twitter, that it was Gary Denbo’s last day with the Yankees. The former VP of Player Development will become the director of player development and scouting for the Marlins. A self-avowed non-fan of Derek Jeter, I am starting to actually dislike the guy. This was certainly one of the risks when Jeter’s group won the bid for the Marlins and Denbo’s defection may not be the last. If for whatever reason the Yankees do not ink GM Brian Cashman and/or Manager Joe Girardi to new deals, the Yankees front office could have have substantially different look in 2018. I thought it was very poor taste for Denbo to leave prior to the conclusion of the post-season but then again, if he didn’t want to be here, good riddance.   


Former Yankee pitching prospect Rookie Davis underwent hip surgery on his right hip to repair the labrum and remove a bone spur. It is a significant procedure and Davis will not be ready by the time training camp opens next spring. Davis was traded to the Cincinnati Reds, along with Eric Jagielo, Caleb Cotham and Tony Renda, in the 2015 trade that brought Aroldis Chapman to the Yankees. Only Davis and Jagielo remain in the Reds organization. Cotham retired in March and Renda was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in July. We send best wishes for a full and speedy recovery to Davis.


Have a great Tuesday! We have a day to enjoy and get ready for Game 5!  Thumbs down! Let’s do this. Go Yankees!

Befuddled in Cleveland…

Credit:  Jason Miller-Getty Images

American League Division Series, Game 1

Indians 4, Yankees 0…

Aaron Judge, four strikeouts. That pretty much sums up how it went in Cleveland on Thursday night as the Yankees dropped the first game of the ALDS to the Indians. Their inability to figure out Trevor Bauer does not bode well for tonight when they face likely AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber.

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.

Credit:  Getty Images
It’s hard to find positives in a loss but this could have been a blow out and the Yankees kept the Tribe from any big innings. I’ve been down on Jaime Garcia but he did a nice job with 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. A few timely hits and the Yankees could have gotten back into this one. The team needs to regroup and hopefully find a way to get their hits tonight against Corey Kluber in Game 2. They have not fared well against Kluber but clearly the team has the potential to take advantage of mistakes. Everyone can have an off night (see Sonny Gray) and the Yankees need to exploit any opportunities they are given. I am sure that the Houston Astros didn’t expect to get seven runs off Chris Sale yesterday, including two home runs (three overall) by Jose Altuve. CC Sabathia, pitching this evening in his original MLB city, has been the Yankees’ stopper all season. He’ll be asked to step into that role once again. It would be huge if the Yankees could earn a split at Progressive Field before heading back to the Bronx.
Odds & Ends…

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!

Dancing Among The Legends…

Credit:  Getty Images

Yankees 2, Blue Jays 1…

It may not have resulted in the AL East championship, but CC Sabathia gave the Yankees what they needed to propel the team to the narrow victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon. Give credit to the Yankees for making the Boston Red Sox earn the division title and not handing it to them. This was a game for the ages, raising the names of Whitey Ford and Babe Ruth…

Sabathia locked into a pitching battle with Toronto’s Marcus Stroman for the first few innings. The game was scoreless until the bottom of the 4th when Aaron Judge belted a monster blast over the left field seats (484 feet) for his 52nd home run of the year.  All Rise!

Credit:  Jim McIsaac-Getty Images

But the Yankees weren’t finished. Didi Gregorius hit a one-out single to left, a ball that nearly grazed the top of the glove of Blue Jays shortstop Ryan Goins. While Starlin Castro was taking his hacks at Stroman, a wild pitch got away from catcher Russell Martin (a bouncer through his legs) allowing Didi to advance to second. With the count full, Castro singled to center, past a diving Ryan Goins who barely got a piece of his glove on the ball, to score Gregorius. The Yankees were up, 2-0.

The Blue Jays changed pitchers for the bottom of the 5th with reliever Aaron Loup replacing Stroman. Loup walked two of the first three batters he faced (the two Aarons) to put Hicks in scoring position, but the Blue Jays pulled Loup and inserted Carlos Ramirez who shut down Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius on a strikeout and fly out, respectively.  

The top of the 6th brought a little drama and memories of the Jeffrey Maier incident years ago the then 12-year-old reached out to catch Derek Jeter’s fly in Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS and Jeter was awarded a home run. With one out, Ryan Goins got a hold of a Sabathia pitch and sent it high to right. Momentarily, it appeared to be a home run but replayed showed a young fan reaching out to catch the ball. The play was reviewed but the call on the field (ground-rule double due to fan interference) was upheld. Goins took second and the fan was shown the exit. Sabathia struck out Teoscar Hernandez for the second out but with Josh Donaldson on deck, CC’s day was done. Chad Green came into the game and got Donaldson to hit a fly to left for the final out. The shutout remained intact much to the delight of Sabathia. Sabathia finished with 5 2/3 innings pitched, and giving up only four hits with no runs or walks. He struck out six in what may have been his final Yankees regular season start.    

Credit:  Bill Kostroun-AP

Tommy Kahnle took over for Green in the top of the 8th and unfortunately gave his best impersonation of Dellin Betances (the bad version). The first batter he faced, Ezequiel Carrera, hit a soft dribbler on the third base side and beat the throw from Kahnle to first. Miguel Montero, pinch-hitting for Rob Refsnyder, drew a walk so the Blue Jays had the tying run on base. Kahnle was pulled and replaced with David Robertson. Ryan Goins struck out but D-Rob missed with a full count fastball to walk Teoscar Hernandez. The bases were loaded with only one out. Josh Donaldson hit a fly to left for the second out, with Carrera coming home to score on the sacrifice. Brett Gardner had to run to make the catch as the wind pulled it back, and his throw to the plate almost nailed Carrera but Gary Sanchez couldn’t hold on to the ball. 

Credit:  Bill Kostroun-AP

Robertson came through big when he struck out Justin Smoak swinging to preserve the Yankee lead by the slim one-run margin.

Aroldis Chapman on the for the 9th inning and it was 1-2-3 game over with Starlin Castro running to his left to catch Darwin Barney’s line drive for the final out. The Yankees win!

Credit:  Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees (91-70) saw their hopes for the AL East title dashed in the clubhouse when the Boston Red Sox completed their 6-3 victory over the Houston Astros. David Price got the Sox out of a bases-loaded jam in the 7th inning. Former Yankee Brian McCann did his part with a homer in the 9th inning but it wasn’t enough. The Yankees will host the AL Wild Card Game against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night. The winner will advance to play the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS. The Red Sox will continue their current series with the Houston Astros in their ALDS matchup, moving from Boston to Houston for Game 1.

Congratulations to CC Sabathia (14-5) for his successful season. I know that I had given up hope for the aging pitcher, like many fans, but he showed that he is capable of reinventing himself ala Andy Pettitte. The win was Sabathia’s 237th of his career, passing the legendary Whitey Ford. 

Credit:  Reuters

The troublesome knee is still a concern but CC Sabathia earned his right to be part of the 2018 Yankees. Hopefully, the team and the player can come together for a mutually rewarding contract in the off-season.  

Credit:  Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Judge will most likely not play today so if that’s the case, he finishes with a .284 batting average, 52 home runs and 114 RBI’s. His homer was the 33rd of the year at home, breaking the franchise record set by none other than the immortal George Herman “Babe” Ruth in 1921. It’s been an incredible season for the highly talented young slugger. First full season and he’s rubbing shoulders with the greatest  of the greats in franchise history.

 

Odds & Ends…

Andrew Romine of the Detroit Tigers became the fifth player to play all nine positions in a Major League game. To play catcher, he used a ‘hand me down’ glove courtesy of his brother Austin. Romine pitched in the bottom of the 8th inning with the Tigers nursing a 3-2 lead over the Minnesota Twins. He retired the only batter he faced, Miguel Sano, on a ground out to third. He handled all of his defensive chances cleanly. A very nice accomplishment for Austin’s older brother.  

Credit:  Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

There was a nice Twitter exchange between Aaron Judge and Marcus Stroman after yesterday’s game.  

Stroman:  @TheJudge44 is creating history. He hits baseballs extremely far too. Lol looking forward to competing against him the rest of my career!

Judge:  Much respect @MStrooo6!! Love your fire and passion for this game!! Keep that chip on your shoulder!! 👊👊

Stroman:  Always my man. The future battles will be legendary. Good luck in the playoffs young king!

Personally, I would rather see these two become Yankee teammates…

Have a great Sunday! The final game of the regular season. Let’s bring home a victory in preparation for Tuesday. Go Yankees!

Slamming the Door, The Tale of Tanaka to Chapman…

Credit:  Julie Jacobson-AP

Yankees 4, Blue Jays 0…

I ripped Masahiro Tanaka for his last start and he looked at me and said “F-U!” with his latest performance. I love it! Outside of Dellin Betances, I liked everything about this game as the Yankees took down the Jays for their 90th win of the season on Friday afternoon.

While many people were speculating about whether this was Masahiro Tanaka’s final regular season start wearing a Yankees uniform, Masa-hero came out strong. I always like to use the first inning as a barometer and Tanaka was firing on all cylinders, striking out the side on thirteen pitches.

In the bottom of the first, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a one-out single through the hole to shallow left field off Blue Jays starter Joe Biagini. With Aaron Judge at the plate, Ellsbury stole second for his 22nd stolen base of the year. Judge ended up taking a walk anyway. Didi Gregorius was next and he singled to right on a looper that dropped in front of right fielder Michael Saunders to load the bases.  Starlin Castro hit a soft grounder between third and the pitching mound, and Biagini had no play by the time he got to the ball. Ellsbury scored on the play.  Greg Bird’s sacrifice fly to deep center scored Judge. It was the seventh consecutive game with a RBI for Greg Bird who has gone from a season afterthought to one of its prime performers in a matter of just a few weeks since he returned from the disabled list.  

Credit:  Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Chase Headley struck out to end the inning but the Yankees had a 2-0 lead.  

Tanaka held the Blue Jays hitless through two outs in the top of the 5th inning, when Ezequiel Carrera hit a grounder to second. Starlin Castro went hard after the ball, crashing his knee against the ground, but his throw was not in time to get Carrera at first. With Raffy Lopez batting, Carrera stole second. However, Tanaka got out of the inning when he turned to fire a perfect strike to Didi Gregorius at second to nail Carrera who was trying to dive back to the base. 

Austin Romine led off the bottom of the 5th with a single over the second baseman’s head into right center. Romine was forced out at second when Aaron Hicks hit a grounder to second but Hicks was safe at first. With Jacoby Ellsbury at bat, Hicks stole second. Jacoby Ellsbury lined out to first for the second out.  Aaron Judge followed with a single to left, scoring Hicks. Blue Jays catcher was up the line for the outfield throw so there was no play at the plate but they got Judge between first and second for the final out.  

Ryan Goins picked up the Blue Jays’ second hit off Tanaka in the 6th, a single to center that dropped in front of Jacoby Ellsbury, but Tanaka was still mowing hitters down so Goins didn’t go anywhere when Tanaka struck out the side again. Thirteen strikeouts through six innings for Tanaka.  Incredible.  

Matt Dermody replaced Biagini in the bottom of the 6th inning. Didi Gregorius led off with a single to left. With Starlin Castro batting, Didi Gregorius stole second on what appeared to be third strike on Castro. However, Joe Girardi came out with the argument that it was a foul tip. The umps agreed with Girardi, and Didi returned to first base with Castro coming back to the plate.    Two pitches later, the outcome was the same. Castro swung at the third strike but Didi successfully stole second. Next, Greg Bird (rapidly becoming one of the Yankees best post-trading deadline “acquisitions”) drilled a line drive single off the wall in the right field corner to score Gregorius. Danny Barnes entered the game in relief of Dermody and induced Chase Headley to hit into an inning-ending double play, but no matter, the Yankees had increased their lead to 4-0.

Tanaka allowed one more hit, a double down the line into the left field corner by Josh Donaldson in the top of the 7th, for a total of three. Donaldson got as far as third on a ground out, but Tanaka retired the next three batters in order including two by strikeout to end the inning and his time in the game. He finished with fifteen strikeouts to go with no hits, no runs, and no walks.  It was simply an outstanding performance by Tanaka. If this was his final regular season start as a Yankee, thank you very much. It was a masterpiece to remember.

Credit:  Julie Jacobson-AP

David Robertson pitched the 8th inning. It started with the first walk by a Yankees pitcher in the game, but the runner was erased on a beautiful double play. Raffy Lopez hit a grounder to Greg Bird at first. Bird threw to Didi Gregorius for the force at second. Didi’s throw back to first hooked out but Bird sprawled out on the ground for the catch with his right foot still on the bag.  Excellent defensive play by Bird. D-Rob struck out Ryan Goins to end the inning.  

The 9th inning was not quite as much fun…at least not at the start. Dellin Betances came in with a chance to prove he has finally righted the ship. Richard Urena had other ideas and led off with a single to right, a one hop off the wall.  With Teoscar Hernandez at the plate, a Betances pitch went off Austin Romine’s glove for a passed ball on the catcher. Urena moved to second. Betances ended up walking Hernandez and all you could do was shake your head. End of Betances, who is running out of time to prove that he can be trusted with late inning relief again. I hate to say it, given my disdain for the man, but Dellin is proving Yankees president Randy Levine was right for his critical comments about Betances after the reliever’s arbitration hearing in the off-season.  

Credit:  Abbie Parr-Getty Images

Enter Aroldis Chapman. Man, oh, Man, I am so happy this guy is the Missile again. He struck out Josh Donaldson on three pitches for the first out. Jose Bautista hit a grounder to short and the Yankees were able to force Hernandez out at second but they couldn’t turn the double play when the ball went over Greg Bird’s head. The ball bounced back so Urena had to hold at third. With Rob Refsnyder batting, Bautista took second on defensive indifference. Chapman laid three 100+ mph fastballs across the plate for Refsnyder, with the last pitch hitting 102 mph. Three swings and misses by the former Yankee. Game over. Yankees win!

The Yankees (90-70) looked like a playoff team in this game. They picked up a game on the Boston Red Sox, who lost 3-2 to the Houston Astros at Fenway Park. The Yankees trail the Sox by two games with two to play. I don’t expect the Yankees to catch the Red Sox but they’ve certainly made it interesting these final days of the season.  

Mike Axisa had a great tweet after the game about Tanaka pitching on seven days rest: “One day it will be acknowledged that Tanaka does not actually pitch better on extra rest. Today is not that day.”

Odds & Ends…

Brad Ausmus became the first managerial casualty when it was announced earlier this week that he would not be retained after the season by the Detroit Tigers. I can still remember being disappointed when the Colorado Rockies chose Ausmus, a catcher, in the 1992 Expansion Draft out of the Yankees farm system. Of course, I didn’t really know anything about a guy named Jorge Posada at the time. The latest non-returnee is Pete Mackanin of the Philadelphia Phillies. After the season, Mackanin will become a special assistant to Phillies GM Matt Klentak. As a rebuilding team, I thought that Mackanin would be back but apparently the Phillies leadership team felt otherwise. Two managerial job openings and counting although it’s been widely speculated that Terry Collins of the Mets will not return. So make it three…

The Minnesota Twins have activated their best hitter, 3B Miguel Sano, off the disabled list. Sano was placed on the DL in August when he fouled a ball off his left shin. Sano will have the weekend to get ready for next Tuesday’s Wild Card game.

Credit:  Bill Kostroun-AP

Tonight, I will be at Coors Field to watch Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers take on the Colorado Rockies. It will be Kershaw’s final appearance of the regular season as he tunes up for his NLDS Game 1 start next week. This will be the first time I get to see Cody Bellinger play in person.  It should be a great game. As a former Los Angeles resident, I have so missed the ability to go to Dodger Stadium on a regular basis.  

Have a great Saturday! My only request for today is a Pinstriped victory! Go Yankees!

How to Lose the AL East with One Pitching Move…

Credit:  Frank Franklin II-AP

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:

TODAY

Blue Jays:  Joe Biagini (3-12, 5.34 ERA)

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (12-12, 4.94 ERA)

SATURDAY

Blue Jays:  Marcus Stroman (13-8, 3.06 ERA)

Yankees:  Jaime Garcia (1-3, 4.70 ERA)

SUNDAY

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!