Tagged: Tampa Bay

I Thought the Yankees Owned Tampa…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Julio Aguilar)

Tampa’s Best Resident treated rudely by the St Pete Rays…

The last couple of days have not been fun.

I was afraid after the Yankees finished off the sweep of the surging Seattle Mariners, the Yankees might struggle against a losing team. I know, every team goes through mini-slumps and it is inevitable the Yankees will lose from time to time as difficult as it may be for Yankees fans. They’ll eventually lose around sixty games (give or take) by the time the season is finished so Loss #24 on June 23rd is not the end of the World. Winning 116 games in the regular season does not guarantee anything. Just ask the Mariners. The goal is to win the division, not to see if the Yankees can top the 114 victories by the 1998 Yankees.

I think the toughest part of Friday night’s 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays was the inability of the Yankees to score runs off the Rays rotation by bullpen. Trailing 2-0 in the 7th inning, Aaron Judge delivered a run-scoring single off one-time brief Yankee Chaz Roe and had the Yankees set up in scoring position with Brett Gardner at second and Judge at first and only one out. But both Giancarlo Stanton and Didi Gregorious both grounded out to end the Yankees best chance to tie the game. Otherwise, it was a very quiet night.

On the same night as the Yankees were floundering in St Petersburg, the Boston Red Sox overcame deficits of 0-5 and 5-10 to defeat the Seattle Mariners by a score of 14-10. The Yankees couldn’t squeeze out one more run while the Red Sox had no problem erasing not one but two five-run deficits.

Yesterday’s loss might have been easier to take for no other reason than the Red Sox finally lost. The Mariners snapped their five-game losing skid with a 7-2 victory over Boston and nine-game winner Edwin Rodriguez.

There were not very many positives with Saturday’s game as the Rays bullpen held the Yankees scoreless on four hits en route to the 4-0 win over the Yanks. Sonny Gray gave up three runs in the first two innings to put the Yankees in a hole and the last hitter he faced in the bottom of the 7th, rookie Willy Adames, took him yard. Credit Gray for the stretch of hitters when he retired 15 Rays in a row, but ultimately it was just another loss for the disappointing Gray (5-5, 4.93 ERA).

Photo Credit: Getty Images

I do not understand Wilmer Font’s mastery of the Yankees. Font lost jobs earlier this year with the Los Angeles Dodgers (11.32 ERA) and Oakland A’s (14.85 ERA) but against the Yankees, Font is 1-0 and has limited the team to only 2 runs over 11 1/3 innings with 9 strikeouts. The Yankees have almost single-handedly revived Font’s career.

The most painful at-bat for me yesterday was Giancarlo Stanton’s strikeout (against Rays reliever and Friday night’s “opener” Ryne Stanek) to end the top of the 6th inning, leaving Aaron Judge stranded at third. Leaving runners in scoring position has plagued the Yankees in both losses and the last couple of weeks. Friday night, they were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and they left nine men on base. Yesterday, they were 1-for-8 (Didi Gregorius advanced Judge from second to third prior to Stanton’s swinging strikeout) but couldn’t get anyone home.

The Yankees offense really hasn’t done anything since the two-homer outburst in the first inning of the series finale with the Mariners last Thursday.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Julio Aguilar)

The Yankees (50-24) hold a slim one-game lead over the Red Sox (51-27) in the AL East. After helping the Rays climb closer to .500, the Yankees have a tough week ahead. When today’s game is over, they’ll hop on a plane bound for Philadelphia to play a three-game set against the Phillies. The Phillies currently have a better record than the Washington Nationals and sit just a game and a half behind the surprising Atlanta Braves in the NL East. There’s no doubt they’ll be ready to play when the Yankees come to town. The Phillies are riding a three-game winning streak entering play today. After a much-needed day off on Thursday, the Yankees return home to face the Boston Red Sox for three games next weekend. The Braves follow the Red Sox so the Yankees have clearly missed an opportunity to beat up on a losing team before another difficult stretch. Time to get the team’s offense going. Today is better than tomorrow. I’ve really missed Michael Kay’s “See ya!” calls.

I was going to rip on Chasen Shreve but the Yankees did it for me. Shreve relieved Sonny Gray yesterday after the homer by Willy Adames and he had the Rays set up for more runs with a couple of walks and a hit to load the bases. Fortunately he struck out Wilson Ramos to leave the bases full, but it appears this may have been his final Yankees appearance. The Yankees designated Shreve for assignment today, recalling Tommy Kahnle from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. As a lefty who has experienced some success at the MLB level, I doubt Shreve clears waivers so thus endeth his Yankees career. The Yankees need another lefty for the pen but I am not sad to see Shreve go. He was the bullpen’s weakest link.

Welcome back, Tommy Kahnle!  The Philadelphia Eagles fan was 1-1 with 3.12 ERA in eight games for the RailRiders. He struck out 15 batters in 14 innings and yielded only 3 walks. I am glad to have Kahnle back even if his 7th inning role has been supplanted by Jonathan Holder.  He gives Aaron Boone a few choices before he pulls the Dellin Betances-Aroldis Chapman card late in games.

I cannot talk about the RailRiders without mentioning Brandon Drury. Drury’s two-run homer  yesterday was the difference-maker in the RailRiders’ 4-2 win over the Rochester Red Wings.  Drury continues to be an on-base machine even if he was only 1-for-4 in the game. For a big league club that’s struggling to advance base runners, Drury could help. At this point, I’d be ready to eat the balance of Neil Walker’s contract to open a spot for Drury. Walker has done a fine job supporting first base, but the athletic Drury can be equally as effective (if not more so).

Very nice job on Saturday by Yankees pitching prospect Garrett Whitlock for the Tampa Tarpons (High-A). Whitlock, 22, picked up the win over the Jupiter Hammerheads with a three-hit shutout. He beat former Yankees prospect Jorge Guzman (the hard-thrower who went to Miami in the Giancarlo Stanton trade), striking out eleven Hammerheads over seven innings while only walking one. Whitlock was drafted in the 18th round of the 2017 MLB Draft. He is currently rated as the 26th best Yankees prospect by MLB.com. He is exceeding expectations (5-3, 1.41 ERA  in combined A ball, with 81 strikeouts and only 15 walks in 70 innings) and should advance his stature within one of baseball’s best farm systems with his breakout season. Whitlock has only given up one homer this year (only the second of his minor league career) and none for the Tarpons. I suspect that we’ll be hearing more and more about Whitlock in the coming months.

Photo Credit: Mark LoMoglio

Hard to believe that the calendar will soon turn to July. Trade talks should be heating up in the coming weeks. That should spark some good Bryan Van Dusen posts. It will be a fun month, made even better if the Yankees can put some distance between themselves and the Red Sox.

Never a better day to start winning than today. Go Yankees!

 

Update:  Sounds like the DFA of Chasen Shreve was fake news or just my wishful thinking. Bummer.  I am ready for the guy to go and for Tommy Kahnle to rejoin the Yanks.

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Old Timer’s Show More Offense Than The Kids…

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (John Munson)

Yankees Drop Series Finale to the Rays…

I hate it when the Yankees lose. I know, it’s inevitable. Even a team as great as the Yankees has to lose every now and then. But it stinks when the Yankees clearly had a chance to sweep the four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays. If they could have mixed in a little offense, they win the game. Instead, they fell 3-1 to the AL East’s third-place team

CC Sabathia, aside from a not-so-good second inning, pitched very well despite giving up ten hits. He held the Rays to those three second inning runs and got his team into the eighth inning before turning over the keys to Adam Warren to finish the game.

Photo Credit: AP (Bill Kostroun)

Aaron Hicks tried. His eighth inning home run gave the Yankees their only run for the day. He was 2-for-5 on the day but his pop out to third, with Neil Walker on second base, in the bottom of the ninth sent the Yankees home with the loss.

The game featured the use of an “opener” for the second game in a row for the Rays. Wilmer Font couldn’t hold jobs with the Los Angeles Dodgers or Seattle Mariners earlier this year, but he was able to hold the vaunted Yankees offense to one run through 4 2/3 innings. Chaz Roe, who pitched two innings in three appearances for the Yankees in September 2014, was the winner. Sergio Romo, another failed Dodger, picked up the save. The Yankees offense should have crushed this Rays pitching staff…but didn’t.

According to Mike Mazzeo of the New York Daily News, Giancarlo Stanton is 13-for-64 with runners in scoring position. Ouch!

Photo Credit:  AP (Bill Kostroun)

The loss allowed the Boston Red Sox (49-24) to creep back into a first place tie with the Yankees although the Yanks (46-21) still lead by percentage points, .687 to .671. The Rays sit 15 games behind the leaders.

The highlight of the day yesterday was Nick Swisher’s home run for the Old Timer’s Day game. Honestly, I wish that I could go through life with the same passion as energy as Nick Swisher. His love for life and the Yankees is so strong.

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (John Munson)

This was certainly a beautiful sight to see yesterday. Hard to believe that Andy Pettitte not only wears 46 but is 46 and is now a grandfather.  He still graces the Yankee Stadium mound with his presence like he always did.

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (John Munson)

Today is an odd day. The Yankees make up the suspended game from May 15th (tied 3-3, top of the sixth inning) and the rain-out from May 16th at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. The Red Sox are off today so if the Yankees lose both games today, they’ll fall behind the Sox. Technically, they can split and maintain the first place tie. Thanks to the weather, the Sox have played six more games than the Yankees so it will be shortened to four games after today.

After the game, the Yankees return home to Yankee Stadium to face the Seattle Mariners. The M’s, coming off a weekend split with the Red Sox, are the Kings of One-Run Games. They’ve won 23 one-run games this year and have won as many games as the Yankees entering play today. The Mariners, minus the suspended Robinson Cano, are currently 46-26. They’re off today so the Seattle players get the run of New York City while the Yankees play in the Nation’s Capitol.

My Brandon Drury watch shows that the Yankees third baseman is continuing to tear up the International League. He was 2-for-3 with two doubles and a run scored in yesterday’s 4-2 loss to the Syracuse Chiefs. The dude has been an on-base machine and would pair very well right now with Miguel Andujar at third in the Bronx. Drury’s current slash line with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders is .360/.470/.529 with a .999 OPS.  #FreeDrury

Photo Credit: Times Leader

As excited as I am about the impending return of Drury, the news that Jacoby Ellsbury will soon resume baseball activities was somewhat of a gut punch. I know, the guy has some baseball talent but is it wrong that I don’t want him on my team? For a team that finds it so difficult to squeeze all their talented Major League-ready players onto a 25-man roster, Ellsbury would take a spot away from a more deserving player. Maybe the guy returns like it is 2011 or maybe he comes back for a temporary stay until his next trip to the disabled list. My money is on the latter. But even if he can still give something, let him do it for someone else. Go back to Boston (even if we pay the freight), I don’t really care. I think the funniest line on Twitter yesterday was that Nick Swisher has done more at Yankee Stadium this year than Jacoby Ellsbury has.

Today is a new day. One win would be great, two wins even better. Let’s Go Yankees!

Sevy & The Era of Dominance…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)

Yanks win again behind their Ace…

I remember in 2016 when Luis Severino was struggling as a starter and couldn’t buy a win. He was 0-8 as a starter and ended up in the pen. Many of us (well, namely me) wondered if he was better suited for a role in relief rather than the rotation. Fast-forward to June 2018 and Sevy is 10-2 with his name easily insertable among the league’s best. I can never say that I missed my calling as a Major League scout as I never saw Severino as the ace he has become. I’ll just chalk this up to one of those grand moments when I love it when I am wrong.

I love the confidence you have with games featuring Severino. Sure, he may lose like he did against the recent game against the New York Mets, but he’ll have his team in the game win or lose. On Saturday, he mowed down the Tampa Bay Rays on the way to a 4-1 victory for his 10th win of the season. He is tied with Cleveland’s Corey Kluber  and Washington’s Max Scherzer for most wins in the Major League Baseball. His 2.09 ERA is second only to Justin Verlander’s 1.61 in the AL, and third behind Verlander and Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets (1.55) overall.  On the mound or on the field, Sevy can do it all.

Photo Credit: Newsday (Joseph D Sullivan)

Against the Rays, Severino was very stingy with hits, giving up only three over eight innings. He walked two and struck out nine, handing over a scoreless game to the bullpen. Sadly, Chasen Shreve blew it when he allowed a home run to Matt Duffy to open the top of the ninth. Shreve gave up a triple to the next batter, which forced the Yankees to bring in Aroldis Chapman to close out the gem for Severino. It took all of ten pitches for Chapman to record his 20th save but Shreve clearly left a bad taste on an otherwise beautiful afternoon.

It was probably one of those games where the Yankees should have scored many more runs than they did. They certainly had their chances. With runners at first and second and two outs in the bottom of the second, the Yankees scored a run when Gleyber Torres hit a shot bounced up and off the glove of Rays third baseman Matt Duffy into left field for a double.

In the bottom of the third, the Yankees picked up another run when Aaron Judge opened the inning with a double to deep center and was brought home on a single to left by Didi Gregorius. Gregorius advanced to second on the throw, but like the second inning, the Yankees were not able to capitalize on more runs against the Rays rotation by committee.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

The fifth inning brought previews of coming attractions when Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez opened the bottom of the inning with back-to-back home runs.

Photo Credit: AP (Adam Hunger)

This is an example of what can easily happen with these two guys get on a roll. It’s scary to think the team is 46-20 and there are still guys on the team with subpar numbers. That would be it for Yankees scoring but with Luis Severino on the mound, all was good. Well, at least until the momentary scare by Chasen Shreve in the ninth inning.

The Yankees picked up ground in the AL East with the win, thanks to a Red Sox loss in Seattle.  The Mariners got a career game out of 33-year-old Wade LeBlanc, who spent spring training with the Yankees. LeBlanc and the M’s bullpen held the Sox (48-24) to two hits in the 1-0 victory. The Yankees now lead Boston by a game and they extended baseball’s best home record to 26-10. It is an odd stat that the Yankees have the best overall winning percentage in the MLB, yet three teams have at least 46 wins like the Yankees (Mariners) or more (Red Sox and Astros).

In the ‘what more does he have to do?’ category, Brandon Drury continues to rake for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He was 3-for-5 in yesterday’s 9-7 win over the Syracuse Chiefs, driving in three runs. In 38 games for the RailRiders, Drury is batting .353/.463/.511 with .974 OPS.  There’s no doubt Drury will soon find himself back in the Bronx where he belongs.

The Yankees have made a few minor moves the last couple of days. On Friday, they traded RHP Chad Whitmer, 23, to the Milwaukee Brewers for undisclosed international bonus pool money. Whitmer was drafted in the tenth round of last year’s MLB Draft. Yesterday, the Yankees acquired minor league infielder Wendell Rijo as the player to be named later in the earlier deal that sent catcher Erik Kratz to the Brewers. Rijo, 22, was originally signed by the Boston Red Sox (2013) but has never been able to capitalize on his talent with consistent production. In Double A this year, Rijo’s slash line is .200/.304/.375.  He has 4 homers and 14 RBI’s in 32 games. Oh well, he has a chance for a ‘do-over’ in the farm system of America’s favorite team.

Today is always one of the most exciting days annually at Yankee Stadium. Old Timer’s Day.  We are privileged for every year that allows an appearance by the great and legendary Edward Charles “Whitey” Ford, 89.

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

It is the first of hopefully many for the other greatest left-hander in Yankees history, Andy Pettitte. Jason Giambi will be there, sporting a Gleyber Torres jersey, as will the always-bubbly Nick Swisher. So many wonderful former Yankees (forty in total), five widows, and the team’s long-time former trainer will be present for roll call at the 72nd Annual Old Timer’s Day at Yankee Stadium. Lovin’ the Pinstripes is a daily occurrence but today reigns supreme as a day of Yankees Pride and Passion.

Go Yankees!

The Yankees Celebrate Pasta Night in the Bronx…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Stobe)

Johnny Lasagna captures first MLB win in debut…

The much-anticipated Major League debut of Jonathan Loaisiga, a/k/a Johnny Lasagna, was a great success. Domingo German didn’t win his first game until Thursday, his seventh start of the season and his 12th appearance overall. Loaisiga, who was in Double A earlier this week, delivered five solid innings, holding the Tampa Bay Rays to three hits and no runs, en route to the Yankees’ 5-0 win. He threw 91 pitches, while walking an uncharacteristic four walks for the strike-thrower and sending six to the bench by strikeout.

I’d blame the walks on jitters for pitching at Yankee Stadium for the first time but Loaisiga had the calmness of a savvy veteran on the mound. A very good impression left by the young right-hander who picked up first first Major League win. During the game, someone tweeted that Domingo German and Loaisiga are better than last year’s duo of Luis Cessa and Caleb Smith. That’s an understatement. When Cessa pitches, I always feel it’s inevitable he’ll give up 3 to 4 early runs and the team will need to rely upon its offense for any hope. To Smith’s defense, he has pitched much better for the Miami Marlins this year (5-6, 3.75 ERA, 83 strikeouts in 72 innings) but he certainly didn’t “wow” anyone last year like German and Loaisiga have done. His Yankees career stands at 0-1, 7.71 ERA in nine games (two starts).

The nice thing about the respective jobs this year’s rookie pitchers have provided is the elimination of the immediate desperation for the Yankees to acquire proven Major League pitching talent for the stretch run. Sure, the Yankees will no doubt acquire another proven starter by the July trading deadline but the performance of the young guys will help GM Brian Cashman to acquire pitching on his terms as opposed to other team smelling blood in the water and circling the Yankees with demands of over-payment.

I thought the fourth inning was a terrific moment for Loaisiga. With one out, Wilson Ramos recorded the first hit off Loaisiga with a single to right. A ground out by Joey Wendle moved Ramos to second for the second out of the inning, but the Rays loaded the bases on another single and a walk. Yankee Stadium and the pressure of the situation could have been overwhelming for Loaisiga but after several mound visits, Loaisiga was able to settle down and ended the threat with a strikeout of Christian Arroyo (the return for when the Rays traded Yankee killer Evan Longoria to the San Francisco Giants). It was a huge moment for the youngster, especially with the Yankees clinging to a 1-0 lead at that point.

Let’s talk about that 1-0 advantage. Didi Gregorius, who disappeared during the month of May (bat, not defense) has returned with a vengeance. His homer to right in the third inning gave the Yankees their first run of the game. He was 3-for-4, with two runs scored and the RBI on the homer. No strikeouts for Sir Didi despite the presence of the hard-throwing Nathan Eovaldi on the mound. It’s great to see Gregorius back in form.  I had to go back and watch the video replay of Didi’s first Major League home run at Yankee Stadium while he was a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks to re-live the excitement on his face and holding the knowledge that he’d one day be a star at the Stadium.

I felt bad for Eovaldi. Well, not bad enough that I wanted to see him emerge with a victory over his former teammates. Nevertheless, it has been a long, hard road for Nasty Nate with his Tommy John surgery, the second of his career, and subsequent injuries since his release by the Yankees. He pitched into the eighth inning and had held the Yankees to two runs until the Yankees loaded the bases on two hits and an intentional walk. Exit Eovaldi and enter fellow multiple Tommy John recipient Jonny Venters, the former Atlanta Braves reliever, who, after striking out Greg Bird, served up a bases clearing double to Gary Sanchez with all the runs charged to Eovaldi. So, the final pitching line does not show how well Eovaldi pitched on this night. I wish him success as he moves forward with his Rays career, but if he pitches too well, he’ll find himself on another team next month.

Hopefully the double is a positive sign for El Gary. The hit helped him evade an ‘0-fer’ night and left him with a season batting average of .189. I’d love to see him follow up with a couple of hits today to get his bat going and return him to his status as one of the key bats in the Yankees lineup. The Yankees need Sanchez playing like we know he can for the long summer ahead.

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun

Another stellar job by the Yankees bullpen. Jonathan Holder, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, and Adam Warren, in that order, held Tampa to one hit, no runs, a walk and four strikeouts. I wouldn’t want to say anything to Betances right now. He’s like a guy throwing a no-hitter in the late innings.  We would not want to jinx that bad boy.

I thought the Yankees would remain in second place in the AL East last night when I went to bed. The Boston Red Sox had jumped all over Seattle Mariners starter James Paxton with six runs (five earned). Paxton couldn’t make it out of the third inning. The Sox had a 6-3 lead when I shut the TV off. It was nice to wake up to news that the Mariners had rallied against Sox starter Rick Porcello and the Boston bullpen for a 7-6 win. The loss dropped Boston (48-23) into a first place tie with the Yankees (45-20) although the better team (Yankees of course) lead by sixteen percentage points (.692 to .676).

To make room for Jonathan Loaisiga, the Yankees optioned Tyler Austin to Triple A. While I wish Austin could have hit well enough to stay, I really hope this eventually leads Brandon Drury back to the Major Leagues where he belongs. I have been intrigued to see what the Yankees have with pitcher A.J. Cole but at this point, he is offering nothing and does not seem to be an option for any meaningful role. Therefore, when the Yankees complete this current stretch of consecutive games, I’d like to see them DFA Cole to open a spot for Drury. I am appreciative of the job Neil Walker has done but I’d trade Walker if necessary to get Drury back to the Bronx. It seems like almost every trade suggestion by Yankees Twitter now includes Drury but I’d love to find a way to keep him and have him provide infield support for Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres, and Greg Bird. I’d trade Andujar for the right pitcher to open third base for Drury but of course I’ve been a fan of Drury all along despite the “headaches” he caused the Yankees and their fans.

How great was it to see Andy Pettitte pitching batting practice before yesterday’s game? I love that guy. Friday was Andy’s 46th birthday which made it very appropriate for him to be at Yankee Stadium. He’s in town, along with a number of other former Yankees greats, for Sunday’s Old Timer’s Day. Pettitte has always been one of my favorite Yankees. With no disrespect to Larry Rothschild, I am hopeful that Pettitte will one day return to the Yankees as the team’s pitching coach. There was talk Pettitte might have joined Lance Berkman as his pitching coach if Berkman had gotten the Rice University coaching gig, but that job went to Matt Bragga on Friday. Congratulations to Andy for the recent birth of his first grandchild.  Hard to believe that #46 is now a grandfather. Andy looks like he could still suit up for the Yankees and deliver a win.

Photo Credit:  Mike Mazzeo/@MazzNYDN (Twitter)

It’s Luis Severino day. The Yankees ace (9-2, 2.27 ERA) will be opposed by Tampa’s Ryne Stanek (1-1, 2.76 ERA). Let keep this two-game winning streak going and take the series against the Rays today. It is a good day and a great day for a Yankees victory.

Go Yankees!

I’m Glad Giancarlo Stanton is a Yankee…

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Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Don’t Worry, I’ve Got Your Back…

Aaron Judge recently put it in the best perspective. One of the things he likes most about the Yankees was something to the effect that if you don’t do your job, there are 24 guys ready to pick you up. I don’t remember the exact words but that really isn’t the point. This is a team and a group of guys that are ready to back each other, regardless of the circumstances. Team chemistry made the 1998 Yankees a very special team. I am not saying that the 2018 Yankees are the version of 20 years ago, but this is one of the most closely knit teams that I’ve seen in recent years.

Didi Gregorius had a huge night last evening for the Yankees, powering the team to victory with two home runs and eight RBIs, yet many Yankees fans chose to boo Giancarlo Stanton instead or trash him on social media. Whoa, please step away from the ledge and relax.

There’s no doubt Stanton had a night to forget with five strikeouts in his Yankee Stadium Pinstriped debut. But, never once did I find myself in a position wanting to boo the man. In jest, TGP’s fearless leader, Daniel Burch, tweeted #TradeGiancarlo. It was amazing how many Yankees reacted like that but with full sincerity. Granted, Daniel was not serious (he tagged the comment with #TotallyJoking) but the fans who booed Stanton acted like he was the biggest Yankee disappointment since Chris Carter.

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Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (John Munson)

Stanton’s fault, if anything, was trying too hard to impress the Yankees faithful. He wanted to be the difference-maker, perhaps a little too much. There will be better days. That’s not just my opinion…it is fact. Looking at the attendance figures for the Miami Marlins, it’s obvious that Giancarlo has never played before an Opening crowd of over 47,000 people. The Marlins averaged barely more than 15,000 last year despite an MVP season by Stanton. Stanton has said the right words and we know that he loves New York and he wants to deliver. The pressure he puts on himself is far greater than the pressure we can put on him. He needs our support; not our boos. He didn’t stumble upon 59 home runs last year by accident. Pitchers weren’t lobbing him freebies to hit over the fence. I remember how Dave Winfield would carry the team on his back for weeks. Stanton is that kind of player, only better.

My favorite quote after the game was Stanton’s remarks about the incredible accomplishments by the Yankees shortstop who batted fourth behind Giancarlo. “That’s what a cleanup hitter does. You clean up the garbage in front of you.” He took ownership of his performance but was not going to let it defeat him.

Aaron Boone was asked about Stanton after the game and he talked about how the slugger can have an off-night and yet the team produces eleven runs. As Boonie said, “There’s going to be a lot of days when we jump on his back”. Boone added that he was not at all worried about Stanton. Why should he be? Stanton is a stud and I am glad he’s a Yankee.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

What can you say about Didi’s performance?  It was the greatest game for a Yankees shortstop in franchise history. He was 4-for-4 and helped to ensure the snow-postponed, rain-delayed home opener was a success despite the questionable weather conditions. When interviewed after the game, Didi deflected the attention away from him individually and spoke how it was a team effort.

It was crazy in the off-season when everyone was developing top ten lists and Didi’s name was rarely mentioned in the conversations. I honestly cannot think of anyone that I’d rather have at shortstop for the New York Yankees than Sir Didi (with no offense to Manny Machado or others). Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa are incredibly gifted but I am glad we can call Didi Gregorius our own. He’s a worthy successor to Derek Jeter and has proven he is his own man. He’ll go down as one of GM Brian Cashman’s best trade acquisitions.

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Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (John Munson)

I know all of us kind of wish that Jordan Montgomery had been allowed to go a little deeper into the game, but he was excellent for five innings despite the four walks he gave up. 80 pitches, two hits, one run, and four strikeouts to start the year with an ERA of 1.80. He has looked noticeably better than last year when he did a really good job as a rookie. You have to really like the progress he is making to become a reliable force in the rotation. In many cities, the fifth starter is either a Triple A performer or an older veteran trying to hang on. Gumby has the potential to be an October star. He’ll never be Luis Severino but you don’t need five Severinos to win a World Series championship. You need winners and Montgomery is one. A single run through the starting rotation this season and I am feeling very good about the state of the starting staff. Knock on wood that the present outfield injury plague doesn’t spread to the pitchers.

Speaking of outfielders, the Yankees claimed outfielder Trayce Thompson yesterday off waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers. I realize that Thompson did absolutely nothing in 2017 (55 plate appearances, one home run, two RBIs, .122/.218/.265, .483 OPS) but I like the move. Thompson, 27, was well-liked by Dodger fans and his availability was due to the glut of right-handed outfielders on the Dodgers roster. Thompson, brother of Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors and the son of former NBA player (and champion) Mychal Thompson, hit 13 homers in 2016 before a back fracture ended his season so he has some pop. The guy just needs to play. Sure, he could be back on the unemployment line once guys like Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier return to good health but I think it was worth taking a flyer on Thompson.  The Yankees have one coach who is very familiar with Thompson, bench coach Josh Bard. Bard served as the Dodgers bullpen coach for the two years that Thompson was in LA. So I am sure that Cashman sought input from Bard before making the waiver claim.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Lisa Blumenfeld)

To make room for Thompson on the 40-man roster, the Yankees moved reliever Ben Heller from the 10-day disabled list to the 60-day DL (right elbow bone spur). No word yet if Thompson will be immediately added to the 25-man roster or if he’ll start the season with extended spring training. He is out of options. While I am saddened to see Heller’s season start off on the wrong foot, kudos to the Yankees. They had optioned Heller to the minors, but when the decision was made to place him on the DL, they voided the demotion to keep him at the Major League level which means that he is accruing MLB service time and pay while on the disabled list.  I don’t know the circumstances behind the decision but it appears to me they could have placed him on the DL after the minor-league assignment which would have prevented the service time accrual at lesser minor league pay. Outwardly, it appears to be a very generous move by the Yankees to look out for Heller’s best interests. Heller was my breakout candidate for the year so I am hopeful that he has his opportunity before the season is done.

It’s a new day. When Giancarlo Stanton takes his position in the batter’s box later today, I know I’ll be cheering. Regardless of whether the result is a home run or a strikeout, I will be proud #27 wears Pinstripes. And #18 too, oh, hell yes!

Go Yankees!

Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, Take 2…

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Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (John Munson)

Let’s Try This Again…

Here we are…Opening Day at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx, New York! Of course, it’s not a certainty the game will be played given the rain currently in the forecast. According to my weather app, there is an 85% chance of rain at scheduled game time of 4 pm Eastern. Decreasing rains are expected throughout the evening.  Will the game be played or not?  Stay tuned.

If the game is rained out, there is a possibility the Yankees could play a double-header tomorrow. More rain is anticipated, however, the likelihood decreases later in the day. The Rays do not return to New York until Thursday, June 14th for the start of a four-game set. Monday, June 18th is an off day between home series.  Hopefully, the weather cooperates and there is no need to strategically alter the schedule for a makeup game.

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The way the schedule has played out, the Yankees will face the two best (healthy) Rays starters, Chris Archer and Blake Snell. Meanwhile, when the Rays travel to Boston this weekend, they’ll use the bullpen for at least one of the starts with their current four-man rotation. Sure, they go easy on Boston. The Red Sox have clearly benefited from the schedule early. They opened with a four-game set in St Petersburg, FL against the Rays, winning three of the games. They traveled down to Miami yesterday to beat the Marlins in front of Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada, with another game scheduled for today and their best starter, Chris Sale, on the mound. Then, they’ll fly back to Boston to face the lowly Rays again. The Red Sox do not face a playoff caliber team until they see the Yankees at Fenway Park next Tuesday. Aside from another series at Yankee Stadium in May, the Red Sox do not face a 2017 playoff team again until the end of May/first of June when they travel to Houston. Meanwhile, during that time in addition to the two Boston series, the Yankees face the Minnesota Twins, Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians, and Washington Nationals.  It doesn’t get any easier for the Pinstripers. Manager Aaron Boone needs to improve his bullpen management in a hurry and the big guys need to hit.

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kevin Sousa)

Entering play today, the Red Sox lead the American League East by one game over the Toronto Blue Jays and a game and a half over the beloved Yankees. The Sox have won four consecutive games after losing the season opener against the Rays. I am looking for the Yankees to be aggressive in their series with the Rays and the upcoming weekend set with the Baltimore Orioles before next week’s showdown in Boston. Time to show the Sox the better team wears Pinstripes.

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Former Yankee Stephen Drew has called it quits. I am not quite sure what Daniel Burch will do now with his Stephen Drew Sucks Award. He may have to find a new player to recognize although the Yankees bullpen…presently…is giving him plenty of candidates to choose from. For his Yankees career (2014-15), Drew played in 177 games. He swatted 20 home runs and drove in 59 RBIs. His batting line was a horrific .187/.257/.352. He struck out 107 times in 583 plate appearances, managing to draw only 50 walks. Farewell, Stephen. I hope your post-playing career accomplishments exceed those on the baseball field.

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Photo Credit: USATSI

How good would Bryce Harper look in Pinstripes right now? He belted a three-run homer last night against the Atlanta Braves, and has three home runs on the year and seven RBIs. His batting line is .417/.550/1.167. Here’s $400 million, Mr Harper. Please sign here. We’re keeping #34 warm for you (please don’t pay any attention to the A.J. Burnett stains).

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Kevin C Cox)

I saw some tweets yesterday that the Yankees had reacquired Minor League LHP Daniel Camarena, however, I’ve been unable to confirm it. Wikipedia states that he was traded back to the Yankees organization on April 1st. Camarena, originally drafted by the Yankees in 2011, had signed with the Chicago Cubs in January as a minor league free agent. The Yankees could certainly use more lefties at Triple A, but Camarena is still showing on the Iowa Cubs roster and there have been no announcements through either the Cubs website or the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders site. Camarena did not have a great training camp for the Cubbies. He pitched in five games covering 4 1/3 innings. He gave up eight hits and six runs for an inflated 12.46 ERA. He walked two and struck out four. To his defense, he did register two saves. But until his acquisition is confirmed, I don’t know whether to say ‘Welcome back’ or ‘Good luck with the Cubs’. I’ll gladly take any decent left-handed options over the newly signed Oliver Perez.

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Well, here’s hoping there is a break in the afternoon’s storm clouds so that we can play nine.

Go Yankees!

Opening Day at Yankee Stadium (Not Today)…

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Photo Credit: New York Post (Greg Joyce)

Frosty the Snowman punches out the Yankees…

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As I type this post, it is in the low 30’s and snowing in New York for today’s now-postponed Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. Snow and baseball do not mix. I love baseball at Yankee Stadium but admittedly it would be more enjoyable facing the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, Florida right now. The game has been re-scheduled for Tuesday. Tomorrow will be a little warmer…temps in the 40’s…but rain is expected in the afternoon (there is a 95% chance at the expected 4 pm Eastern game time, according to Weather.com). April in New York, you gotta love it…

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I was really hoping the Yankees could have won three of four heading back to the Bronx, but it was not meant to be. I am not ready to crucify Manager Aaron Boone but the same could not be said about the Yankees Universe on Twitter. You would have thought Boone burned Derek Jeter’s famed #2 jersey after yesterday’s loss. Give Boonie a break. He’s going to make mistakes. Outside of Giancarlo Stanton’s two home runs last Thursday, the Blue Jays did a great job shutting down our best hitters. Credit to them for a job well done. When we are forced to rely upon the bats at the bottom of the lineup, we put ourselves into situations where the bullpen has no safety net.

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Four games into the season, I know two facts. The bullpen is going to perform better than this and the big sluggers are going to hit. Aaron Boone is a smart man and I think he grows stronger by the day. I don’t want the return of Joe Girardi even if it was possible. That ship has sailed and Girardi awaits his next managerial gig in Chicago or St Louis. For better or worse, I am behind Boone as the manager of this team. The last two losses were agonizing, to say the least, but there are better days ahead. In the coming weeks and months, Boone will prove himself to be a master strategist and will be a worthy foe to the game’s best.

The next seven games will be at home against the Rays and the Baltimore Orioles.These are the games to win. The Yankees need to take both series before heading to Boston a week from tomorrow. The O’s series will be a big test for Boone as he’ll be going against one of the greater managerial minds in the game. Buck Showalter may not have the talent on the field to match the Yankees but one must never underestimate the power of the former Yankees manager. This will be a series of the student against the master. One game at a time. I am confident that Boone will use these games as building blocks for his managerial greatness.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mark Brown)

Until further notice, I’d like to avoid hearing the Yankees have the best bullpen in baseball. At the moment, the only trustworthy guy appears to be Chad Green. Regardless, I am convinced the bullpen will be dominant but it gets old to continually hear they are the best, followed by another implosion. The most disappointing aspect of yesterday’s game for me was the inability of Sonny Gray to get out of the fifth inning. It put too much pressure on the pen, after several days of early starter departures. The bullpen will get better and Boone will make stronger choices. The current mood of disappointment can easily be swept away by a nice seven-game winning streak.

I know that many of you were glad GM Brian Cashman didn’t blink during  the  failed off-season trade talks with the Pittsburgh Pirates and RHP Gerrit Cole ended up moving to Houston to play for the World champions. I was in favor of the trade even if it meant losing Clint Frazier and a top pitching prospect so it was kind of tough to see Cole’s strong debut for the Astros yesterday. He was the winning pitcher in Houston’s 8-2 win over the Texas Rangers.  He pitched seven strong innings, allowing only two hits and a run.  He walked three and struck out eleven. His only mistake pitch was a slider to the second batter he faced to start the game, Joey Gallo. Gallo homered to left on Cole’s second pitch to give the Rangers an early lead, but former Pirate and childhood Yankees fan was dominant from there. I suspect that there will be more than a few AL pitchers who watch their offerings deposited into the outfield seats by Gallo, including a few Yankee pitchers, before this season is done. Now let’s see if Cole can continue to pitch at this level, particularly as AL hitters gain familiarity. The verdict is still out on that one, but for one day, Cole pitched like an ace and would have looked awfully nice in Pinstripes.

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Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)

Let’s hope that the Weather Gods decide to smile upon New York tomorrow so that we can get Opening Day at the Stadium underway. Rain, rain, go away, come again when we’re on the road. I know, that doesn’t rhyme but I never said I was a poet.  I just want to watch some Pinstriped Baseball.

Enjoy the snowy day.  Go Yankees!