Tagged: Toronto

The Power of a Good Third Baseman…

Credit:  Associated Press

Blue Jays 3, Yankees 2…

Two great offensive games and two not-so-great, so the Yankees go home with a split in Toronto.  Not the best case scenario with the Boston Red Sox on tap in the Bronx starting Tuesday night.  The Blue Jays used two late home runs to over take the Yankees in the series finale.

It was another good start by Luis Severino.  He was pitching a shutout until Justin Smoak connected for a two-run homer with two outs in the sixth inning to tie the game at 2.  Severino bent but he did not break.  Sadly, that was Tyler Clippard who served up the eventual game-winning home run by Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson in eighth.  For his effort in the no-decision, Sevvy went 7 innings, giving up 6 hits and the aforementioned 2 runs.  He only allowed one walk and struck out 7 while lowering his season ERA to a team-best 2.90 for starters.

Credit:  Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

As for Clippard (0-3), it is hard to blame anyone who gives up homers to Donaldson.  He has a knack for doing that against the best.  Still, the game might have looked different had Aroldis Chapman been healthy and active as it would have ensured the placement of Dellin Betances in the critical 8th inning.  

The Yankees only offense on this day was provided courtesy of Matt Holliday.  He had a run-scoring double in the fourth, and picked up another RBI in the sixth inning when he hit into a force play at second base that allowed Brett Gardner to score from third.

Credit:  Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

Sevvy pitched well enough to win.  Through the last run through the rotation, the only weak links were Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda.  Unfortunately, the former is on the mound for the opening game of the Boston series.  It’s sad when the rotation’s ace is the one you trust the least (at the moment).  Severino is starting to pitch like a guy who intends to supplant Tanaka atop the rotation one day.

The Jays have a very good third baseman.  I wish we had one of those…

Credit:  Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

With Boston’s 7-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday, the Red Sox are just two games behind the Yankees (32-22) in the AL East.  The Orioles remain 3 1/2 games back.  

Odds & Ends…

The series finale on Sunday between the AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and the Toledo Mud Hens was rained out.  The RailRiders resume play tonight in Rochester, New York against the Red Wings, the top farm affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.  The game will feature the next start for Yankees pitching prospect Chance Adams (3-1).  He will be opposed by Yohan Pino (0-1).  

The RailRiders officially released reliever Ernesto Frieri yesterday after he had exercised a June 1st opt-out of his AAA contract.

The Yankees traded infielder Ruben Tejada, who was on the RailRiders roster, to the Baltimore Orioles for cash considerations.  Tejada was batting .269/.345/.462 with 6 homers and 21 RBI’s in 37 games.  Tejada had lost playing time with the arrival of Gleyber Torres and the recent activation of Donovan Solano off the DL.  Granted, Tejada is not the second coming of Cal Ripken, Jr, but I am not sure why the Yankees would want to help the Orioles in any way.  Tejada was assigned to Triple-A Norfolk.

Greg Bird had a run-scoring single (driving in Jorge Mateo) in the High-A Tampa Yankees 9-1 win over the Jupiter Hammerheads.  Prior to the 7th inning hit, Bird’s other three at-bats ended with fly outs.  

Have a great Monday!  Hopefully it’s a restful one for the Yankees as they prepare for the Red Sox tomorrow night.

Putting Two (Bald) Heads Together…

Credit:  MLB.com

Yankees 7, Blue Jays 0…

The Yankees now have as many wins at Rogers Centre (two) as they had all of last year.  They’ve also assured themselves that they’ll leave Toronto later today with no worse than a split of the four-game series and have the potential to take three of four.

There were questions about Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery coming into the game.  Even Manager Joe Girardi was a bit testy before the game when the subject of hot prospect Chance Adams was raised.  “Are you kidding me?”, Girardi said.  “Chance Adams has one or two starts in Triple-A.  That kid was like 16-5 last year between Double-A and Triple-A.  He’s pitched really well here.  Give Chance a chance to get ready.  I like what he’s doing and he might pitch for us one day, but we’re not ready to start that.”  Adams has actually had four starts at Triple-A and was 13-1 last year between High-A and Double A but that’s beside the point.  The best answer to the Chance Adams question is to pitch like you belong in the Major Leagues.

Jordan Montgomery answered that question.

The tall lefty limited the Blue Jays to three hits over six innings.  He did walk 3 batters but struck out 5 in lowering his season ERA to 3.67.  It was a great performance by the 24-year-old and one that shows he wants to be part of the fun that is called the 2017 New York Yankees.

Credit:  Tom Szczerbowski-Getty Images

The game was really a tale of two stories.  The first half was a tight pitcher’s game as the Yankees were only able to score two unearned runs in the third through the game’s first six innings.  In the third, with one out, Rob Refsnyder reached first base when Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki booted a ground ball twice for an E-6.  Ref stole second (let’s see Chris Carter do that) to put himself in scoring position.  After Brett Gardner flied out for the second out, the Aarons followed with doubles as Hicks scored Refsnyder and Judge scored Hicks.  Those were the only Yankees hits until the seventh inning.

The Yankees finally scored an earned run off Blue Jays starter Joe Biagini in the seventh but it was a very good performance by Toronto’s 27-year-old right-hander.  However, on this day, Montgomery was  better.

With the pitching duel out of the way following the departures of both Montgomery and Biagini, the game turned into a Home Run Derby in the eighth inning for the Bombers.  With reliever Jason Grilli, a former closer, on the mound, it was time for some fun.  Brett Gardner opened the inning with his 12th homer of the year with a shot to right to put the Yankees up 4-0.  After the Aarons contributed the first two outs of the inning, it was time for the show.  First up, Matt Holliday.  Obviously upset that his Bald Brother, Gardner, had taken the lead in their home run battle, evened the score with his 12th.  “I gotcha Gardy!”  I loved that line as Holliday returned to the dugout.  The next batter, Starlin Castro, with the 9th pitch of the at-bat, just cleared the left field fence for his 9th home run of the season.  That brought Didi Gregorius to the plate.  With a shot to right, Didi completed the back-to-back-to-back homer barrage, ending Grilli’s day and capping the Yankees’ scoring.  Man, I hated to see Grilli go…

Credit:  Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports, via Reuters

Credit David Cone of the YES Network with the reference to Rodney Dangerfield in the movie Easy Money when talking about the Bald Brothers.  “Why don’t you two put your heads together and make an @$$ out of yourselves.”  The ending of the quote may not be appropriate for these two but it is a blast watching Holliday and Gardner match each other homer by homer.  

It was an interesting stat that the Yankees won this game without hitting at least one single.  All of the hits were either doubles or home runs.  

Adam Warren, Tyler Clippard and Dellin Betances combined for three innings of hitless relief in support of Montgomery (3-4).

The Yankees (32-21) increased their AL East lead to three games as the Baltimore Orioles slipped back to third following their 5-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox.  The O’s are 3 1/2 games back.  

Odds & Ends…

I need to preface this by saying that I hope Jacoby Ellsbury is not seriously hurt and will not have long-term health implications.  According to the Yankees, Ellsbury has suspended baseball activities and will see a neurologist in New York tomorrow due to continued headaches after his concussion.  I was glad to hear that Aaron Hicks will continue as the starter in center field although I hate to take satisfaction at Ellsbury’s expense.  Ellsbury aside, Hicks has proven he deserves to be a starter in the Major Leagues.  The former top Twins prospect is having a career year and is such a part of the success so far this season. 

There is not much to report from AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  The RailRiders were two-hit in a shutout loss to the Toledo Mud Hens so it was an off-night for everybody.  

Although the talk is that Gleyber Torres will be promoted to the Yankees later this summer if Chase Headley continues to scuffle, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe is reporting that New York is more likely to pursue a more proven veteran for the hot corner if the Yankees remain in the pennant chase.  

Congratulations to Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels who hit his 600th home run in grand fashion…a grand slam off Ervin Santana of the Minnesota Twins.  

Credit:  Mark J Terrill-Associated Press

Also, a shout out to Miami Marlins starter Edinson Volquez.  He threw the season’s first no-hitter yesterday against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Miami.  He accomplished the feat with just 98 pitches and he did it on a day when he paid tribute prior to the game to his good friend and former teammate, the late Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura.  Yesterday would have been Ventura’s 26th birthday.  After the game, Volquez dedicated the performance to late Miami ace Jose Fernandez and Ventura.  

Credit:  Wilfredo Lee-Associated Press

Have a great Sunday!  Hopefully the Yankees can continue the winning feeling today to help make the flight back to New York a happy one.

Good Hitting < Bad Pitching…

Credit:  Frank Gunn-Associated Press

Blue Jays 7, Yankees 5…

Bummer…

I was hoping for better results last night with Big Mike on the mound.  The Yankees tried a valiant comeback with a couple of two-run home runs but it was not enough.  

The Yankees were in an early hole when the Blue Jays scored three runs off Pineda in the first.  Josh Donaldson homered with one out and no one on.  After getting Joey Bats for the second out, Pineda walked Kendrys Morales.  That brought up Justin Smoak, who is having a breakout year at age 30.  Unfortunately, Smoak smoked the ball to right center and I was having visions of Pineda from years past.

The Blue Jays picked up a couple of more runs in the third and fourth innings to lead 5-0 when the Yankees began their comeback in the sixth.  Gary Sanchez led off with a single and Aaron Judge followed with his 18th homer.  It ended Francisco Liriano’s start.  Reliever Danny Barnes walked Matt Holliday on a 3-2 count and the next batter up, Starlin Castro, brought the Yankees to within a run at 5-4 with a homer to right center.  

Credit:  Tom Szczerbowski-Getty Images

The Blue Jays came right back in the bottom of the sixth when Donaldson hit his second homer of the night, a solo shot.  

The Yankees scored a run in the seventh when Matt Holliday doubled to score Aaron Judge who had walked in the previous at-bat.  But again, the Blue Jays answered in the bottom of the frame.  After Justin Smoak reached first on an error charged to Chris Carter (Yankees challenged the play and lost), Troy Tulowitzki doubled to push Smoak to third.  Devon Travis then hit a sac fly to score Smoak, bringing the score to 7-5.  

From there, the Yankees were unable to mount any threats against the Blue Jays bullpen and it was game over.  

It was a disappointing start by Michael Pineda (6-3).  He went five innings, giving up 10 hits and 5 runs.  He walked 3 batters while only striking out one.  He was unable to overcome that first inning breakdown when he allowed the two home runs.  Of course, it didn’t help that neither Jonathan Holder nor Adam Warren were able to deliver clean innings.  

Credit:  Getty Images

The Yankees (31-21) remain in first place in the AL East, but the Baltimore Orioles did pick up a game and leap frogged Boston with a 3-2 win over the Red Sox.  The Orioles are 2 1/2 games back, while the Red Sox remain 3 games behind.  The Blue Jays may be in last place but they are just 5 1/2 games behind the leaders.   The only division that is tighter is the NL Central where the first place Milwaukee Brewers lead the last place Pittsburgh Pirates by only four games.  It must be nice to be a Houston Astros or Washington Nationals fan with double digit leads over their closest competitors.  One day, it will be our time to shine.  

Odds & Ends…

The rumors of Gleyber Torres to the Bronx seem to be picking up steam.  I don’t think he’s ready yet, but reports are indicating that we could see Torres as early as next month.  There’s no doubt the kid has maturity beyond his years and is a special talent, but I feel that he is an asset for opening in Spring 2018.  The lackluster play of Chase Headley, of course, is forcing acceleration of the plan.  At AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Torres is currently batting .212 (7-for-33).  In last night’s 7-5 win over the Toledo Mud Hens, Torres was 1-for-4 with a single and a run scored.  Two of his outs were by strikeout, and he walked once.  He was charged with a fielding error, his fourth at AAA.  

Credit:  Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

It appears that ultimately this may come down to a choice between Tyler Austin or Torres.  If Torres is called up, Headley becomes the backup first/third baseman.  If Austin comes up, he backs up Greg Bird at first, with Ronald Torreyes remaining the primary backup at third for Headley.  None of these scenarios bode well for Chris Carter.  We still have the potential problem at first (what if Bird continues to struggle when he returns) but there’s clearly some difficult decisions looming on the horizon.  

Austin was 1-for-4 (single) for the RailRiders yesterday.

All he does is friggin’ win.  The story of Chance Adams is amazing.  In a short time, he’s become a minor league legend.  Since being drafted in the fifth round in 2015, he’s 23-3 with 1.96 ERA in 34 games started covering 220 2/3 innings.  He has struck out 248 batters.  In the 2015 MLB Draft, current Yankees pitching prospect Dillon Tate was the fourth overall selection by the Texas Rangers.  Adams wasn’t chosen until 149 picks later.  2015 was the year the Yankees chose James Kaprielian as their first round choice.  We know the talent that Kaprielian possesses but staying healthy has been another matter.  Before the Yankees took Adams, they chose two other pitchers after Kaprielian…Jeff Degano and Drew Finley.  In a do-over, I think you’d take Adams over any of the three or four if you threw in Tate.  I still have high hopes for Kaprielian, but there is so much to be excited about Adams.   I liked the quote from AA-Trenton Thunder manager Bobby Mitchell, “He is just a big leaguer in the making”.  The finished product is probably not too far away.

Credit:  Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In AAA transactions on Friday, the RailRiders released LHP Jason Gurka.  Gurka was signed as a minor league free agent in December 2016.  He appeared in a few Spring Training games, but wasn’t going to be an arm for consideration at the big league level.  For the RailRiders, he was 0-0 with 5.40 ERA in 16 2/3 innings.  He did strike out 20 batters so I am sure that he’ll get a look by another organization.  Best of luck to him.

Have a great Saturday!  Go Yankees!

Whatever You Can Do, I Can Do Better…

Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-Getty Images

Yankees 12, Blue Jays 2…

Oh, that’s the way, uh-huh uh-huh,

I like it, uh-huh, uh-huh.

Forget the Toronto Blue Jays are in last place in the AL East.  This is a dangerous club and one that was predicted to battle the Boston Red Sox for the division championship in most pre-season polls.  They’re a good club and much better than their record might indicate.  They’ve been very hot recently (winners of 8 of their prior 10 games) and previously injured stars Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzski have rejoined the team.  So, it is that much sweeter to emerge from the first game of the Yankees-Blue Jays series with such a convincing win.

I love the way Manager Joe Girardi said before the game that Gary Sanchez was due to break out and then Sanchez promptly parks one in the second deck in left during the second inning at Rogers Centre for his fifth homer of the season, followed by another shot to left for his sixth round-tripper in the fourth, a two-run blast.  As John Sterling put it, “Gary is scary!”.  The two home runs traveled a combined distance of 874 feet.  Now if I could just get Girardi to say that GM Brian Cashman is really close to trading (i.e., dumping) Jacoby Ellsbury and Chris Carter…

Credit:  Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

If you purely looked at numbers between two players, who would you start in center field?

Player 1:  135 AB, 4 HR, 14 RBI, .281/.349/.422, .771 OPS

Player 2:  126 AB, 8 HR, 30 RBI, .317/.437/.579, 1.016 OPS

Let’s just say that I am glad Jacoby Ellsbury was unable to come off the DL when he was eligible to be activated on Thursday.  Aaron Hicks is on fire.  It’s hard to say he was the star of the game when Sanchez smacked two massive home runs, but Hicksie was 4-for-5 with 6 RBI’s to achieve at least co-star honors.  A very impressive performance for the player who was slow to realize his potential but seems to be breaking out with full force this season.

Credit:  Tom Szczerbowski-Getty Images

Aaron Judge, moved up to third in the batting order, singled in the game’s first run.

The Yankees were in control from the start.  They jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning off Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada and never looked back.  

The recent solid run by CC Sabathia (6-2) has been nice.  Backed by superb offense, he pitched into the seventh inning.  He departed after allowing the first Blue Jays run on a homer by Kendrys Morales and subsequently striking out Justin Smoak.  The Blue Jays were only able to get five hits off CC, in addition to the one run.  CC had seven strikeouts and did not walk batter. Chad Green finished the game in relief.  He did allow a solo homer by Ezquiel Carrera but provided length to give the rest of the bullpen the night off.  

Brett Gardner, with a single in the fourth inning, achieved a career milestone with his 1,000th hit of his career.  

This was just a fun game.  The Rogers Centre has been a House of Horrors for the Yankees.  Last year, they dropped 8 of 10 games to the Blue Jays in the ballpark.  So the dominating performance made the win that much more enjoyable.  

The Yankees (31-20) were able to gain a game on the Boston Red Sox in the AL East.  The Red Sox lost to the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards, 7-5.  The Red Sox are 3 games back, and the Orioles remained 3 1/2 games behind.  

Yankees in the News…

Reliever Ernesto Frieri opted not to exercise his opt-out yesterday.  Frieri, currently with AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, is 2-0 with 3.00 ERA.  Frieri has pitched in 17 games for the RailRiders, covering 21 innings.  He has struck out 24 batters and is currently carrying a WHIP of 1.05.  As the primary closer for the RailRiders, he has 7 saves.  Time will tell if he gets another big league opportunity but you probably shouldn’t hold your breath.

Greg Bird began a rehabilitation assignment with the High-A Advanced Tampa Yankees on Thursday.  Bird played first base in the game against the Charlotte Stone Crabs (you gotta love those unique minor league team names).  Maybe Tampa should be the Anti-Rays.  Bird walked in his first two at-bats showing his eyes are as strong as ever.  He finished the game with a single, in addition to the two walks, in the 6-4 loss. 

Credit:  Paul LoMoglio-Yankees

While Chris Carter was putting up another 0-fer night (hitless in 4 at-bats), Tyler Austin, starting at first base for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, was getting plenty of legwork with a 3-for-4 night that featured a two run home run in the first inning of the RailRiders’ 6-3 loss to the Columbus Clippers.  Carter’s batting average has plummeted to .179 and is making it much easier for the Yankees to eventually decide between Carter and Austin.  

Aroldis Chapman threw from 90 to 100 feet on Thursday.  Girardi said that the Yankees closer will probably throw a bullpen session next week.  The closer is slowly getter closer.

In the first release of All-Star Game balloting, Aaron Judge is currently third with 730,438 votes.  The only players he trails are Washington Nationals’ star Bryce Harper and the Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout (who is currently on the DL following thumb surgery).  I am hoping that Harper and Judge are teammates in 2019, but Judge says screw that, I want to be his teammate this year!  Not really but if Aaron gets the call for the ASG, I am okay if he does a little schmoozing with Harper and lets him know how wonderful us Yankees fans are.  

Have a great Friday!  It’s a wonderful time to be alive…and a Yankees fan!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Is the awful Tanaka the new Tanaka?…

Credit:  Randy Miller/NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Orioles 10, Yankees 4…

Disappointing, to say the least…

Masahiro Tanaka, proving that his last start was just a facade, got hammered again as the Orioles cruised to victory.  In 5 2/3 painful innings, Tanaka (5-5) was pounded for nine hits and seven runs.  The latest implosion pushed his ERA up to 6.34 for the season.  

The Yankees had their opportunities to get back into the game but couldn’t deliver.  The Yankees bullpen, most notably Giovanny Gallegos who had been called up earlier in the day to replace Bryan Mitchell, let the Orioles break the game open.  Gallegos allowed a two-run homer to Chris Davis in the seventh inning and three runs overall in his 1 2/3 innings.

For the Orioles, Adam Jones was the offensive force of the night.  After missing multiple games due to a sore ankle and hip, Jones was back in the lineup on Wednesday night.  Apparently he felt that he had to make up for lost time as he was 3-for-5 with 5 RBI’s.  His crushing hit was a three-run homer off Tanaka in the fourth inning.  

Credit:  Randy Miller/NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

To the Yankees credit, they completely shut down Manny Machado in the series.  He was 0-for-5 and struck out twice.  In the three games played, Machado was hitless in 15 at-bats which dropped his batting average to .205.  It’s unfortunate that the Yankees couldn’t hold the other Orioles sluggers in check as they lost the three game series, two games to one.  

I guess on the bright side, the Yankees had no need to use their top bullpen arms so Dellin Betances, Tyler Clippard and Adam Warren will be fresh for the latest series in Toronto.  

Every Yankees starter got at least one hit except for Chase Headley, who was hitless in three at-bats with two strikeouts although he did walk twice.  Rob Refsnyder, manning first base for the second game in a row, picked up two hits in his four plate appearances.  The hits were Refsnyder’s first of the season.   

It is very hard to find any positives with this game.  I am not sure what can be done to fix Tanaka.  It’s up to him to make the necessary adjustments but for whatever reason, his adjustments so far have been futile.  

Things do not get any easier for the Yankees as they now travel to Toronto to face a suddenly red-hot Blue Jays squad (8-2 in their last ten games).  

The Yankees (30-20) lost ground in the AL East as the Boston Red Sox pulled within two games with their 4-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox.  The Orioles moved up to 3 1/2 games behind the Yankees.  Last-placed Toronto is only 5 1/2 games back so they have an opportunity to make some noise over the next few days.  

Yankees in the News…

Future Yankees outfielder Bryce Harper (hey, if everyone else can talk about it, so can I!) received good news on Wednesday.  His four-game suspension for this week’s fight with Hunter Strickland and the San Francisco Giants has been reduced to three games.  The suspension should not impact Harper’s availability to open the 2019 season for the Yankees.  

Greg Bird is getting ready to fly.  After playing in three simulated innings on Wednesday, he’ll begin a rehab assignment with High-A Tampa today.  I am really hoping to see the bat that wore out pitchers in Spring Training and not the Mark Teixeira Annual April-Ice-Cold bat we saw after his ankle injury.  

Tyler Austin didn’t do much for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders yesterday in their 4-3 victory over the Columbus Clippers in the second game of a doubleheader.  He was penciled in at DH (did not play in the first game).  He went hitless in four at-bats, striking out three times, in his best impersonation of Chris Carter.  I guess to be Chris Carter and take his job, you have to become Chris Carter.  Still, Austin is a better first baseman than either Carter or Rob Refsnyder.  So, once that bat starts humming, it will be Bronx-bound.  

As for the first game of the RailRiders doubleheader, WHOA!  Chance Adams was spectacular.  He threw a one-hitter over six scoreless innings of work.  He struck out twelve batters while walking only two.  He is now 3-1 at the AAA Level with a 1.57 ERA.  The RailRiders won the game, 6-0.  Adams has the accelerator mashed to the floor in his drive for the Bronx.  At some point, somebody is going to have to make room in the rotation.  

Credit:  MiLB.com

Reliever Ernesto Frieri, currently at AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, has an opt-out clause in his contract that can be exercised today.  Let him go.  I see no compelling reasons to create room on the 40-man roster for Frieri.  He has been the RailRiders’ closer, picking up his seventh save in yesterday’s second game of the double-header.  He was touched for two runs in the bottom of the seventh as the Clippers tried an unsuccessful rally against the RailRiders.  He walked a batter in his one inning of work and one of the two hits he allowed was a homer.  Frieri hasn’t been relevant in years and he is not going to be relevant in 2017.  Pass.

Life North of the Border…

The Yankees begin a four-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays this evening.  Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:

TODAY

Yankees:  CC Sabathia (5-2, 4.42 ERA)

Blue Jays:  Marco Estrada (4-2, 3.15 ERA)

FRIDAY

Yankees:  Michael Pineda (6-2, 3.32 ERA)

Blue Jays:  Francisco Liriano (2-2, 6.35 ERA)

SATURDAY

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (2-4, 4.11 ERA)

Blue Jays:  Joe Biagini (1-3, 3.64 ERA)

SUNDAY

Yankees:  Luis Severino (4-2, 2.93 ERA)

Blue Jays:  Marcus Stroman (6-2, 3.28 ERA)

This puts Masahiro Tanaka on track to open the three-game series against the Boston Red Sox next Tuesday at Yankee Stadium.  Things do not get any easier…

Have a great Thursday!  Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.  Don’t quit.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Forget Yesterday, Fight for Today…

It’s tough to follow a game that you should have won with a dull, listless performance.  So it was for the Yankees as they fell 7-1 to the AL cellar rats, the Toronto Blue Jays.  To the Blue Jays credit, they are now on a three-game winning streak and have held their opponents to a single run in each of those victories.  It was just a matter of time before the Blue Jays started playing like the team many predicted to contend for the AL East and unfortunately the Yankees may have run into them at the wrong time. 

Luis Severino, after his brilliant performance in Boston, let the bottom of Toronto’s batting order do the damage.  In the second inning, he allowed a two-run homer to the number seven hitter, shortstop Ryan Goins, who is subbing for the injured Troy Tulowitzki.  It would be the only runs Toronto would need on a quiet night for Yankee bats.  Severino allowed another home run in the sixth inning to the number nine hitter, third baseman Chris Coghlan, a fill-in for the injured Josh Donaldson.  Severino (2-2) lasted 5 2/3 innings, giving up 8 hits and 5 runs.  He walked two and struck out 3.  

Credit:  Kathy Willens/AP

Reliever Luis Cessa took one for the team and finished the remaining 3 1/3 innings to provide rest for the weary Yankees bullpen.  He did give up a two-run shot to Jose Bautista in the seventh inning but was otherwise effective.  

Jacoby Ellsbury made a great play in the sixth inning with a leaping catch of a potential double.  His momentum carried him into the centerfield wall.  A runner on third scored on the sac fly, but then Ellsbury overthrew Aaron Judge on an attempt to get the ball back into the infield which allowed a runner on second to also score.  

Greg Bird is lost at the plate.  His latest 0-for-4 performance dropped his batting average to an even .100.  He left 5 men on base.  The Yankees continue to give him chances to turn it around, but when is enough?  I’ve been in Bird’s corner but at some point, he needs to figure this out at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, not New York, in order to restore his confidence.  I had thought he was getting better swings in recent days but the results are not there.  I am not ready to say ‘send him down today’ but it is probably not going to take too many more games of hitless results.  

It was just one of those games.  The Yankees have struggled against the Blue Jays in recent years as they are just 13-26 against Toronto since the start of the 2015 season.  The loss dropped the Yankees (15-9) one game behind the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East.  The O’s beat the Boston Red Sox 5-2 on Monday night to recapture sole possession of first place.  But today, yesterday means nothing.  The Yankees can still take this series and it starts today with timely hitting and precision pitching.   

Prior to the game, the Yankees recalled Cessa to provide long relief insurance and optioned reliever Bryan Mitchell to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  Brendan Kuty of NJ.com had the best Twitter line:  “Mitchell will likely share 1B duties with Refsnyder and Choi” in reference to Mitchell’s one inning of work at first base on Sunday.  Too funny!

With no offense to Jorge Mateo, my personal favorite for the future of center field at Yankee Stadium had quite a game on Sunday.  Dustin Fowler, a strong candidate to eventually unseat Jacoby Ellsbury, hit for the cycle as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders defeated the Indianapolis Indians (the Pittsburgh Pirates’ top farm club), 7-6. 

In the bottom of the 11th inning, Fowler capped his memorable day with a walk-off home run, completing the cycle.   For the game, the 22-year-old went 5-for-6 with 2 runs scored and 2 RBI’s.  For the season, Fowler is batting .293 (24-for-82), 4 home runs, and 12 RBI’s.  He is second on the team with a .914 OPS.  He has also stolen two bases.

Fowler’s day:

1st Inning:  Tripled to right.

3rd Inning:  Grounded out to third.

5th Inning:  Doubled to right, scoring Tyler Wade.

7th Inning:  Singled to center.

9th Inning:  Doubled to right.

11th Inning:  Homered to right, no one on…RailRiders win!

It may have taken two extra innings, but what a way to cap hitting for the cycle!  Congrats to Fowler for the terrific game.  I look forward to the day when he is doing this in the Bronx.

Credit:  Times Leader

I am a Yankees Homer but I can’t predict an AL championship for the Yankees yet.  Granted, the team finished the month of April in a first-place tie with the Baltimore Orioles, but it’s still a very long season.  The Yankees had a chance to bury the Orioles on Sunday and couldn’t do it.  The ebbs and flows the season will ultimately predict the final standings.  Let’s see how the team handles its first real stretch of difficulty.  With the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros looming on the horizon, adversity is on its way.  The last time catcher Gary Sanchez started a game, the Yankees were 1-4.  So let’s not start printing World Series tickets just yet.  Through May 1st last year, the Yankees were 8-15.  This season, they are 15-9 through the same date.  If they finish the season, from this point forward, with the same number of wins and losses as last year, they are a 90-win team.  I think this team can contend for a Wild Card spot but I am not ready to anoint them as potential division champions. I still expect Boston to play much better as the season progresses, particularly if they get David Price back.  And I’ve learned to never underestimate Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles.  The charging Blue Jays also have the Yankees’ number.  If the Yankees are still slugging it out for first place at the All-Star Break, then I’ll reconsider my forecast.  But for now, I still feel the best case scenario is a Wild Card slot with the division championship a season or two away.

Have a great Tuesday!  Today is a new day…time to beat these pesky Jays!

Well, that didn’t turn out as planned…

Be careful what you ask for…

In my last post, I stated my preference for Masahiro Tanaka to be named the Opening Day starter.  This, of course, was before Joe Girardi announced that Tanaka, in fact, would be the starter.  So of course, Tanaka promptly bombed as the Yankees were throttled by the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-1.

The start didn’t change my opinion that Tanaka was the best choice.  Michael Pineda is the next best starter on the staff, but he didn’t deserve the nod over Tanaka.  CC Sabathia may have been the sentimental choice if for no other reason than the consecutive years he has been the starter.  But his performance last season (injuries combined with the continued gradual decline) didn’t warrant the start either.  Nathan Eovaldi wasn’t going to get it, and neither was Adam Warren.  The right choice was made by Girardi even if the results indicated otherwise.

My concern, more than anything, is the health of Tanaka’s arm.  Yes, it was only one start and one start does not a season make.  But going to last year after he returned from the DL, the results of not been great.  If Tanaka has to learn to be a different pitcher at age 26 to lessen the strain on the elbow ligament, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be successful.  A solid outing would certainly help allay some of the concerns, but inevitably, I do feel this road leads to Tommy John surgery.  The sad part is that if he undergoes the surgery at any point this season, we most likely would not see him again until 2017, with 2018 being the target for a full return to health.

It’s too bad the Yankees do not have the quality starters to go six deep.  I’d rather lessen the load on Tanaka by spreading the distance between his starts.

Tanaka’s health certainly increases the spotlight on Adam Warren, as he’ll need to be the man to bridge the gap.  Today he is covering for Chris Capuano and Ivan Nova, but later in the summer, it could very well be for Tanaka.

Larry Rothschild is certainly earning his paycheck.  Earlier in the year, I didn’t think we’d see Luis Severino in the major leagues this year.  Now, it appears to be only a matter of time.

Another prospect lost…

It is hard not to get excited about certain prospects, and that certainly held true for catcher Austin Romine who was once billed as one of the organization’s best catching prospects along with since traded Jesus Montero.  Romine has the bloodline (his father Kevin played for the Boston Red Sox among other teams and his brother Andrew plays for the Detroit Tigers).  I was hopeful that Romine would use spring training to show the team that he belongs in New York.  It didn’t happen with a sub .200 batting average.  Perhaps the odds were against him since he was out of options and John Ryan Murphy, his competition for the back-up catching spot, is the better hitter.  Still, it was sad when the team announced just before the start of the season that it had designated Romine for assignment.  Maybe there’s a chance that he stays in the organization, but it seems inevitable that a trade is the more probable outcome as there isn’t much of a chance Romine could slide through waivers (teams need catching help too much, just ask Boston).  Romine has been an outstanding team guy and he’ll serve some organization well when/if he finally gets his chance at the Show.

A-Rod…

I am still not an A-Rod fan but I have to admit that he carried himself well in spring training and has done everything the team has asked.  If the Yankees suddenly found a way to rid themselves of A-Rod, I’d be all in favor.  But since that’s not going to happen, I’ll have to give A-Rod credit for not rocking the boat.

I still can’t bring myself to cheer for A-Rod but he’s effectively shut me up from booing for now.

*    *     *

I am glad that the baseball season is back but it would have been more exciting to open the season with a victory.  It was tougher to see the loss combined with a convincing Red Sox win on Opening Day.  Red Sox always gloat in victory so Opening Day was no exception.

I do feel more confident with Michael Pineda on the mound Wednesday, however, the team offense needs to step up their game.

Let’s Go, Yankees!

–Scott