|Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)|
Astros win ALCS Rematch…
The headline of this post are Aaron Boone’s words, not mine.
I preface this by saying I know Spring games mean absolutely nothing. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say my fear of the Houston Astros is their starting pitching. I think the Yankees’ offense is equal to the World Champions. Some argue the Yankees are better while other put the Astros on top. Either way, both offenses will be among the very best in the game. Now, the starting pitching, at least in my opinion, is not quite so close.
Yesterday’s matchup featured the number five starters for both teams. For the Yankees, Jordan Montgomery gave up two solo home runs. Meanwhile, Houston’s Lance McCullers, Jr held the Yankees hitless until Miguel Andujar’s lead-off single in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Astros limited the Yankees to two hits, winning the game 2-0. The game felt like a microcosm of the difference between the Yankees and the Astros. Of course I didn’t actually get to “see” the game since it was not televised and I am not in Tampa. Manager Aaron Boone felt that Montgomery was “crisper” than earlier Spring starts. Giving up two runs is not the end of the World and in fact it fits within the definition of a quality start (outside of the shortened number of innings for Spring starts). A good start by Monty but a dominant one by the son of a former Yankee.
The top of the Yankees order (Brett Gardner, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, and Didi Gregorius) went 0-for-12, with five strikeouts.
I am not going to fret over a meaningless Spring game but it is the back end of the starting rotation that concerns me when you compare the Yankees to the Astros. Don’t get me wrong, I like Jordan Montgomery but seriously I’d rather have McCullers, Jr. The difference maker is the depth. The Astros have Brad Peacock and Colin McHugh, two very capable pitchers in reserve, if there are any injuries in the rotation. The Yankees have Luis Cessa and Domingo German. The top young prospects like Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield have shown they are not quite ready to be a force at the MLB level, now, even if we know they eventually will.
Maybe I am unnecessarily concerned about the rotation and the young guys will rise to the challenge if the chips are on the line. But if it was my team, I’d be trying to find a way to sign Alex Cobb, a ‘tried and true’ AL East pitcher.
Is Tyler Austin bound for Scranton?…
I was wrong yesterday when I said that Ronald Torreyes might be the one most adversely impacted by Neil Walker’s presence on the roster. After hearing Boone’s words yesterday, it sounds like the guy who should be most concerned about making the Opening Day roster is Tyler Austin. Boonie sounds like he is comfortable with a second base tandem of Tyler Wade and Walker, finding regular at-bats for both, and indicated Walker is the one who could provide relief for Greg Bird at first base.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)|
I can’t really put my finger on it, but it has never seemed like the Yankees have fully embraced Austin despite his big hits. I know that health is part of it, but it just doesn’t seem like they want him on the MLB roster. I hope I am reading that wrong and Austin turns out to be a major contributor for the team this year.
Cave finds a home…
I have always liked Jake Cave but I recognized there was simply no room for the talented outfielder. I remember how excited he was to participate in Spring Training with the Cincinnati Reds as a Rule 5 draftee a couple of years ago. He started the Spring off strongly and was drawing raves, but he cooled off and was subsequently returned to the Yankees.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rob Tringali)|
After Cave was designated for assignment earlier in the week to make room for Neil Walker, the Yankees shipped the 25-year-old outfielder to the Minnesota Twins for young Dominican RHP Luis Gil, 19. Gil was not rated among the Twins top prospects and has yet to play outside of the Dominican leagues. He continues the Yankees trend of stockpiling young power arms with tremendous upside. Cave was inserted at #26 for the best Twins prospects by MLB.com, ahead of Twins outfielder and New York native Zack Granite.
In Minnesota, Cave is expected to help at the Major League Level or provide depth at Triple A. For his sake, I hope it’s the former. The Twins made statements yesterday they’ve been interested in Cave since last year’s Jaime Garcia trade. They noticed the power surge and it is something that they want to “keep on track” in the words of Twins manager Paul Molitor.
We wish Cave the very best as he continues his journey to reach the Major Leagues.
Speaking of finding jobs…
The Toronto Blue Jays have signed infielder Danny Espinosa, recently released by the Yankees, to a minor league contract with an invite to camp. Espinosa will have a very short time to prove that he belongs on the field when the Blue Jays open Rogers Centre on March 29th against Espinosa’s old club. The best way for an infielder to play in the Major Leagues? Find the team that employs Troy Tulowitzki. Tulo owns the DL in a way that only Jacoby Ellsbury understands.
The odds are probably against Espinosa this late in March so he’ll probably toil in Triple A until injuries open up big league opportunities.
Well, it’s Saturday. For most of us, that’s a day off. Nothing better than sitting back to watch a Yankees game on a lazy afternoon. Fortunately for us, today’s Spring game between the Yankees and the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, Florida (1 pm Eastern) will be televised. Masahiro Tanaka on the mound and Estevan Florial in center field. It should be a fun day!
|Photo Credit: Associated Press|
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)
Walker, New York Yankee…
When I heard the news the Yankees had signed free agent infielder Neil Walker, I admit it did not excite me. I had thought Walker might be an infield possibility before the Yankees acquired Brandon Drury from the Arizona Diamondbacks (in fact, TGP’s Bryan Van Dusen called it out as a move the Yankees should make before Drury found himself in Tampa with our favorite team). But once Drury arrived, I didn’t give it another thought.
Credit: Pittsburgh Magazine
The reaction among the Yankees Universe has been very mixed. Countless fans feel that Walker blocks the very talented rookies, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. I don’t look at it that way. For a one-year contract at $4 million plus incentives, this is not a marriage. It is a dinner date at McDonald’s. Walker may break camp as the starting second baseman but there’s no doubt that Gleyber Torres will be the man when he is ready. Gleyber needs the additional time at Triple A as he continues his comeback from Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing arm. He has shown this Spring that regardless of his MLB service time clock, he would greatly benefit from the added time in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Torres is going to be a star and there is nothing that Neil Walker can do about it.
Brandon Drury is the starting third baseman. With no offense to Miguel Andujar, Drury was not acquired to be a backup. The Yankees see too much potential in the player and feel that they can convert a number of those Drury doubles into home runs. The Yankees gave up two talented prospects in second baseman Nick Solak and pitcher Taylor Widener. At that price, they weren’t paying to get Drury as a part-time player. Perhaps Andujar goes to Pennsylvania and crushes Triple A pitching. There’s nothing wrong with two players fighting for one position. It’s a very good problem to have. For now, Walker’s arrival most likely means that Andujar will be joining Torres in Scranton. But like Torres, Andujar will be back. When he proves his defensive game has caught up with his bat, only a major trade for a starting pitcher could keep Andujar from pulling on the pinstripes. Walker certainly won’t stop that from happening.
I felt and probably still feel that Tyler Wade will see significant starts at second base. Worst case, I can see him in a platoon role with Walker at the position until young Gleyber arrives to take control. Best case, he breaks camp as the starter with Walker on the bench.
To me, the potential losers with the Walker signing are utilityman Ronald Torreyes and non-roster first baseman Adam Lind. Torreyes may make the Opening Day roster. In fact, I think it’s almost a certainty. But, when Torres and Andujar arrive in the Bronx with their minor league assignments completed, Torreyes is the potential odd man out. I thought Lind might have a chance to make the roster since the Yankees, for whatever reason, do not seem enamored with Tyler Austin. But with Walker’s ability to play first base (not to mention Drury too), Austin brings more to the team than Lind does as a right-handed first baseman (nice complement to the lefty-swinging Greg Bird) who can also play corner outfield. Lind is strictly 1B/DH. But Austin’s spot is not a given as the Yankees could opt for Billy McKinney if Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier are unable to start the season. McKinney has limited experience at first base, but the presence of Walker helps offset his inexperience.
To make room for Walker, the Yankees designated outfielder Jake Cave for assignment and released non-roster invitee Danny Espinosa. Shortstop Kyle Holder was also re-assigned to minor league camp. I’ve always liked Cave but he was squeezed by players ahead of him like Frazier and McKinney and was feeling the heat from hard charging younger prospects. Cave was in camp with the Cincinnati Reds a couple of years ago as a Rule 5 draftee. He opened some eyes although he proved he wasn’t quite ready for the Show. Hopefully, GM Brian Cashman is able to flip Cave for a younger prospect rather than simply letting him go for nothing. I was never excited about the addition of Espinosa. He was a decent player for the Washington Nationals a few years ago, but he wasn’t going to scare anyone with his bat. His poor reaction when the Nats acquired outfielder Adam Eaton which pushed star Trea Turner from the outfield to shortstop, displacing Espinosa, always bothered me. So, for me, I’ll gladly take Walker over Espinosa. The switch-hitter still has some pop left in his bat, and he is a very versatile dude (health-permitting).
Walker was assigned Starlin Castro’s number 14 (most recently worn by Espinosa). For me, the number is forever associated with the great “Sweet Lou” Pinella.
Photo Credit: UPI
By now, I don’t think any Yankees fans are expecting the team to add a starting pitcher before the start of the season. My early favorites for trade deadline candidates are Chris Archer and Danny Duffy. The Los Angeles Dodgers have long been interested in Archer, so I’d probably rate Duffy as the most likely choice if he can be pried from the Kansas City Royals. Personal preference, no doubt, is Archer. The health and performance of the existing starting five will obviously dictate what the Yankees do in July. It’s early, but I’ve been impressed with young right-hander Domingo German and would like to see him become the rotation’s sixth man in place of Luis Cessa.
Good times. I am ready for the season to start.
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
Next Stop, Toronto Pearson International Airport…
We should begin seeing some whittling down of bodies at Steinbrenner Field soon so it got me thinking about the Yankees’ Opening Day roster. March 29th, and a date with the Toronto Blue Jays, is only three weeks away so the regular season will be upon us before we know it.
Count me among those who do not place much stock in Miguel Andujar’s slew of home runs against mostly Double-A pitching. I think Andujar will make a contribution this year, perhaps a significant one, but I do not feel that he’ll head to Toronto with the team after they play their final Spring game in Atlanta against the Braves. My guess is that he spends more time with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to work on his defensive game.
Here is my projection for the Opening Day Roster (with starting position players in italics).
Rest of the Pen
Aaron Judge, RF
Brett Gardner, LF
Aaron Hicks, CF
Giancarlo Stanton, DH
The guess is Judge will be exclusively a right-fielder and DH, with Stanton primarily filling the DH role but covering both outfield corner positions dependent upon the ballpark. When (not if) Ellsbury gets hurt (assuming that he recovers from the right oblique strain in time for Opening Day), Clint Frazier gets the first look as his replacement with Billy McKinney next in line.
I don’t know what happens with Tyler Austin. The way the Yankees keep trying to replace him leads me to believe that he is not in the long-term vision. I could very well be wrong about the backup first base job. Perhaps Austin does win it and Lind opts out of his minor league contract in a couple of weeks. But it’s hard to overlook Lind’s history of success at the Major League level so I won’t.
It remains my belief we’ll see Gleyber Torres as the starting second baseman during the season, maybe as early as the first of May. Assuming he doesn’t go to Baltimore in a mammoth mid-season trade for Manny Machado, I think Andujar will see extended time in the Majors for the Pinstripers too. Admittedly, if he keeps up his torrid hitting over the next couple of weeks as MLB starters are stretched out in preparation for the season, he could force his way onto the Opening Day Roster. If that happens, Lind (or Austin) could be the odd man out, with Drury and Romine serving as the less-than-desirable first base backups in addition to their other duties.
The first reliever on the Scranton Shuttle will be right-hander Ben Heller, followed closely by fellow righty Giovanny Gallegos. For emergency starter, I’d prefer to go with Domingo German over Luis Cessa but the team seems to love Cessa in spot starts despite the lackluster results.
The toughest call is the batting order but my choices from second to fifth would be Judge, Bird, Stanton, and Sanchez, respectively. Regardless of how this shakes out under Aaron Boone, I feel sorry for American League pitchers.
There’s still plenty of time for roster surprises but I think injuries would play the primary role in any deviations, in my humble opinion (which of course could be seriously flawed).
As the saying goes, time will tell as it often does…
If you haven’t already done so, you should check out Bryan Hoch’s new book, The Baby Bombers: The Inside Story of the Next Yankees Dynasty. The book is available through multiple outlets including Amazon.com (where I bought my copy).
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (David Goldman)|
The Rivalry Continues…
Today is the first meeting of the Boston Red Sox and your New York Yankees. Of course, it’s just a meaningless exhibition game but there’s no doubt all of us, without exception, want to beat the hated Red Sox. We’ll have to do it without the Big Boppers as neither Aaron Judge nor Giancarlo Stanton will provide a preview of what they intend to do to Red Sox pitching.
Here is the scheduled lineup for today’s game at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, FL:
Aaron Hicks, CF
Greg Bird, 1B
Brandon Drury, 3B
Didi Gregorius, SS
Gleyber Torres, 2B
Danny Espinosa, DH
Austin Romine, C
Billy McKinney, RF
Jake Cave, LF
The starting pitcher will be Chance Adams, making his second Spring start.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)|
For the Red Sox, they won’t be giving the Yankees an advance look at J.D. Martinez as he, like Judge and Stanton, will take the bench. Pitching for the Red Sox will be left-hander Brian Johnson who is the favorite to win the fifth spot in the Red Sox rotation at the start of the year, thanks to the injuries to Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez.
The Yankees signed free agent first baseman Adam Lind on Friday to a minor league deal with an invitation to training camp. The deal includes an opt-out at the end of training camp if he is not on the Major League roster. The backup first base job appears to be Tyler Austin’s to lose. It’s hard to envision Lind making the team unless the Yankees do not trust Austin as the primary support for Greg Bird (or if Austin gets hurts, which is within the realm of possibility). Lind did have surprisingly good numbers for the Washington Nationals last year when he batted .303/.362/.513 with .875 OPS in 301 plate appearances. Four of his 14 home runs were pinch-hits. He is a career .272/.330/.465 (.795 OPS) hitter with 200 home runs. Lind, 34, came up in the Toronto Blue Jays organization and played for them through the 2014 season. Since then, he’s had a new team each year. Milwaukee Brewers (2015), Seattle Mariners (2016) and the Nationals (2017).
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Alex Brandon)|
Austin answered Lind’s signing with a walk-off home run to beat the Atlanta Braves on Friday afternoon. Apparently he borrowed a page from Miguel Andujar’s playbook for rules of engagement with the competition at your position.
My guess is that Austin makes the team and Lind opts out to sign a MLB deal with another team to be their backup first baseman. I don’t see the Austin to Triple A and Lind on the Opening Day roster scenario. One or the other will be part of the organization and the other will not, in my opinion.
Jacoby Ellsbury has a nagging injury. Great. The DL King has been diagnosed with a mild right oblique strain. If it was Ellsbury’s intent to beat out Aaron Hicks for the starting center field job, he’s not off to a good start. Honestly, the Yankees should bite the bullet after the season is over. There will be $47.3 million left on his contract, but at that point, it will be time to cut bait. It’s too bad that Brian Cashman was unable to find a taker, even with the willingness to pay a significant portion of what’s left on Ellsbury’s deal. I agree with Cashman’s assessment that Ellsbury remains an above-average player when healthy but those last two words become more dicey with each passing year.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Tom Szczerbowski)|
Ellsbury’s “backup”, outfielder Clint Frazier, is struggling with his own problems. He continues to be troubled by headaches associated with a concussion he suffered earlier in the Spring. The Yankees had been trying to increase his workload but Thursday’s workout led to sending Frazier for a MRI on Friday. He whacked his head against the wall in left field at LECOM Park in Bradenton, FL last Saturday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hopefully this is not a setback and Frazier continues his path toward good health. I know I’d rather go to war with Red Thunder over Ellsbury.
It creates a potential opening for either Jake Cave or Billy McKinney to make noise although it is likely that Ellsbury will be ready for Opening Day.
I try not to get too caught up in Spring stats but I have to admit that, physically, Jordan Montgomery looks great. He doesn’t quite have the ‘Gumby’ look from last year and his face seems more mature. He pitched three innings yesterday in the win over the Braves, striking out five batters. He gave up two hits, but did not allow any runs. All 22 of his pitches were in the strike zone. The 25-year-old appears capable of showing that he is not the starting rotation’s weakest link.
Now, let’s beat those friggin’ Red Sox. Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports|
And Thus Endeth the Cole Rumors…
The trade rumor that wouldn’t go away…did. The Pittsburgh Pirates finally traded their so-called ace to the Houston Astros for a package that included reliever Joe Musgrove (a speculated middle-of-the-rotation starter type), third baseman Colin Moran, reliever Michael Feliz, and minor league outfielder Jason Martin. Moran, former Major Leaguer B.J. Surhoff’s nephew, was the Astros’ seventh-rated prospect according to MLB.com.
If the Yankees did, in fact, offer Clint Frazier, Chance Adams, and Miguel Andujar to the Pirates, Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington didn’t stop until he could find a much worse package for Steel Town. In reality, the trade shows that GM Brian Cashman never offered the much talked about packages for Cole. It’s been said that he may have only offered Clint Frazier OR Chance Adams. The Yankees were clearly not as high on Cole as the Astros were.
I’m glad the page can finally be turned. I am in favor of adding a starting pitcher only if it upgrades the current starting rotation. After completion of the one-year contracts for all the arbitration-eligible players, the Yankees have approximately $22 million left before they hit the luxury tax threshold (which is, of course, a hard “salary cap” in the Hal Steinbrenner Universe) of $197 million. The Yankees will not use all of that money so to say that they have $22 million left to spend is a bit of a misnomer. They need to set aside $2 million in case CC Sabathia hits his bonus milestones and there’s no way that Team Hal will bring payroll (AAV) tightly against the threshold. He’ll want a buffer and of course there needs to be enough room to play at the trading deadline. Only the Yankees truly know how much money they have left to spend.
If the Yankees did sign a free agent pitcher like Yu Darvish or Alex Cobb, it is a certainty that the contract of Brett Gardner or David Robertson would be moved to make room. With the money the Yankees would have to include with Jacoby Ellsbury if they could entice him to waive his no-trade clause, I don’t think moving him would provide enough salary space for a big ticket purchase. They’d have to find a team willing to take at least half of his current salary and honestly I don’t think that team exists.
Chris Archer, we’re coming for you. With Cole out of the picture, the pitcher most likely to draw top speculation as the guy targeted for the Yankees, it is the talented 29-year-old righthander of the Tampa Bay Rays. Of course, it’s possible that we could start hearing Michael Fulmer’s name again but both men continue to carry high price tags. If he doesn’t get a viable role for the 2018 Yankees (i.e., trade of Gardner or Ellsbury to make way), Frazier would look very good in Detroit’s outfield.
Even despite the current stagnant free agent market, I don’t think either Mike Moustakas or Todd Frazier will accept a one-year “pillow” contract regardless of what happens between now and training camp. I like the left-handed bat of Moustakas but I think he’ll eventually end up with the St Louis Cardinals.
At this point, there is not really much left to do for the Yankees except make preparations to to start training camp in a month. Now that long-time coach Rob Thomson (annual organizer of training camp) is in Philadelphia, third base coach Phil Nevin and others will have to step up and deliver for new manager Aaron Boone. I am looking forward to the results of their preparation and organization as they host the members and challengers for the 2018 New York Yankees.
Go ahead, underestimate Didi Gregorius…
The MLB Network has been reviewing their top ten lists at each position, but they blew it for shortstops. The omission of Didi Gregorius is wrong. There’s no way that I’d trade Didi for half of the guys on this list:
Tim Beckham over Didi is a joke. Trevor Story was struggling to hold his job last season and it’s only a matter of time until Rockies top prospect Brendan Rodgers pushes him out of the way.
That’s fine. Pitch to Didi like you think he’s an afterthought in the Yankees lineup and let’s see what happens.
Congratulations to Tyler Austin…
Tyler Austin proposed to his long-time girlfriend, Stephanie Dana, over the weekend and she said yes. Hopefully this is a sign that 2018 is shaping up to be a fantastic year for the young Yankees first baseman/outfielder. Congrats to Tyler and Stephanie!
The New York Mess…
The Mets are really going to sign free agent first baseman Adrian Gonzalez? It makes me appreciate every day that I am a Yankees fan. Nothing like pushing a young, promising first baseman (Dominic Smith) out of the way for an aged ‘has-been’. Jon Heyman’s argument is that A-Gon only costs the minimum and there are questions about Smith’s conditioning. Viable arguments but I am glad that A-Gon is on their team and not mine.
|Photo Credit: Orange County Register|
Life as a Minnesota Vikings fan has not been as rewarding as life as a Yankees fan, but the best Vikings team in years takes the field today against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC playoffs. The winner moves on to the NFC Championship to play the Eagles in Philadelphia. I am hopeful and optimistic that the Vikings will be the ones traveling to the City of Brotherly Love.
The Vikings will feature three active QB’s behind starter Case Keenum. Sam Bradford, who missed the majority of the season with a knee injury, was activated for today’s game. He’ll be joined by fellow QB’s Teddy Bridgewater and Kyle Sloter. With Keenum, Bradford, and Bridgewater all potential free agents after the season, I was very glad to see the Vikings waive backup TE Kyle Carter rather than Sloter to free up a spot for Bradford. Bradford was the starting QB in the season opener when the Vikings beat the Saints. My hope is that all three backups need to do no more than hold clipboards while Keenum continues his season of rejuvenation.
And as always, Go Yankees!
Credit: Richard Rodriguez-Getty Images
Yankees 3, Rangers 1…
Luis Severino was spectacular on Saturday as he combined with two relievers to one-hit the Texas Rangers. Sevy didn’t get the win, but he was masterful a day after Masahiro Tanaka’s implosion. Manager Joe Girardi went with the “A” team for the bullpen, using David Robertson (the winner) and Aroldis Chapman (the save).
Brett Gardner kicked off the game with a single to left. However, the Yankees came up empty when Chase Headley hit a sharp fly to center that Gardy thought was going to drop in. He took off for second and thinking the ball would fall, he accelerated for third. Unfortunately, Rangers center fielder Carlos Gomez made a great catch. There was no chance for Gardy to get back to first so the Rangers were able to complete the easy double play. Gary Sanchez popped out to short so it was time to start the Luis Severino Show.
The Yankees came up with a great defensive play of their own in the bottom of the first when Jacoby Ellsbury, echoing shades of his younger self, recorded the final out with a diving catch to rob Elvis Andrus of a hit. The play received an ovation from Severino on the mound.
In the bottom of the 2nd, the Rangers’ Carlos Gomez had to be helped off the field during an at-bat when he rolled his right ankle after hitting a grounder to second and suffered a high ankle sprain.
Through the early innings, Severino was cruising but unfortunately so was Rangers starter Andrew Cashner. The Yankees threatened again in the top of the 3rd when Brett Gardner hit a two-out single to left. Chase Headley singled to right to put the runners at the corners, but Gary Sanchez went down swinging to end the inning.
In the bottom of the 5th, with the Rangers still searching for their first hit against Severino, Joey Gallo walked to start the inning for the Rangers. Will Middlebrooks hit into a fielder’s choice at third and the Yankees erased Gallo at second but they were unable to turn the double play. Rangers backup catcher Brett Nicholas, starting in place of Robinson Chirinos who had the day off, doubled to the right field corner to score Middlebrooks. It was the only hit the Rangers would get off Severino and the Yankees bullpen for the duration of the game.
Luis Severino pitched through the 7th inning but the Yankees still trailed 1-0.
In the top of the 8th with Andrew Cashner still on the mound for the Rangers, Todd Frazier was hit by a pitch. That would be all for Cashner, who did a magnificent job. The Rangers brought in Alex Claudio to replace Cashner. The Yankees sent up Matt Holliday to pinch hit for Greg Bird. Holliday singled to right and Frazier moved to third. Tyler Wade replaced Holliday at first. After Brett Gardner fouled out to the catcher, Chase Headley hit a sacrifice fly deep to center to score Frazier. The game was tied. Gary Sanchez singled to left past shortstop Elvis Andrus, moving Wade to second. However, the Yankees were unable to capitalize when Didi Gregorius grounded out to the defensive shift at short/second to end the inning.
David Robertson pitched a clean bottom of the 8th to send the game to the 9th.
With Alex Claudio still pitching for the Rangers, Starlin Castro led off the 9th with a single to right. Aaron Judge hit a grounder to third and the throw erased Castro at second. The Rangers were unable to turn the double play when the relay to first pulled Joey Gallo off the bag so Judge was safe. Jacoby Ellsbury lined a single to right which advanced Judge to third. The Rangers replaced Claudio with Ricky Rodriguez. Todd Frazier was hit by pitch, again, so he took first and Ellsbury moved to second. The bases were loaded. Tyler Austin, who had entered the game in the bottom of the 8th to replace Bird, singled to left on a hard hit ball which brought Judge home with the go-ahead run.
Credit: Larry W Smith-EPA
Brett Gardner was unable to advance the runners when he popped out to short. It brought Chase Headley to the plate with the bases still packed. He patiently took a walk which brought Ellsbury home with the second run of the inning. The Yankees led 3-1. The Rangers made another pitching change to bring in Nick Gardewine. Gardewine ended the Yankees rally by getting Gary Sanchez to hit into a fielder’s choice which forced Headley at second.
Bottom the 9th and the heart of the Rangers order due up. It was time for the return of Aroldis Chapman to his endeared role as the Yankees closer. He did not disappoint. After Elvis Andrus grounded out to second (Starlin Castro’s brilliant throw to first just beat the runner as confirmed by the challenge replay), Chapman struck out both Nomar Mazara and pinch-hitter Mike Napoli to end the game. The Yankees win!
Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
The Yankees (76-65) were unable to make up any ground on the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox, behind Chris Sale, dismantled the Tampa Bay Rays, 9-0, and maintained their 4 1/2 game lead over the Yankees. The Cleveland Indians won their 17th game in a row. Their 4-2 victory over Baltimore pushed the O’s 5 1/2 games behind the Yankees.
It was an incredible effort by Luis Severino. He pitched seven innings, allowing only the single hit and run. He walked three and struck out ten. The outing lowered his season ERA to 2.96. David Robertson (7-2) picked up the win and Aroldis Chapman captured his 17th save.
For the Yankees offense, they had nine hits but all were singles. Brett Gardner (2-for-5) was the only hitter with multiple hits. Chase Headley had 2 RBI’s and Tyler Austin had the crucial game-winning RBI in the 9th.
Odds & Ends…
The Yankees have a change in the pitching match-up for today’s game. Jordan Montgomery (7-7, 4.14 ERA) will start in place of CC Sabathia, who was moved to Monday against the Tampa Bay Rays at Citi Field in Queens. A.J. Griffin (6-5, 5.09 ERA), who had originally been scheduled to pitch on Saturday until Andrew Cashner was moved up, will start for the Rangers. The Minnesota Twins lost so they are 2 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the Wild Card Standings (holding the 2nd spot). The Los Angeles Angeles and Texas Rangers are 2 and 2 1/2 games behind the Twins, respectively.
The Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders won Game 3 of their Governor’s Cup best-of-five first round series against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies). The 6-1 win, behind the arm of Brady Lail, gives the RailRiders the 2-1 series advantage. Donovan Solano was 3-for-4 with 2 RBI’s and 2 runs scored. Mason Williams was 2-for-4 with a run scored. Billy McKinney homered for the second time in the series with a two-run shot in the 6th inning.
Credit: Fred Adams-for Times Leader
Game 4 is scheduled for today at 1:05 pm at PNC Field in Moosic, PA. Nestor Cortes (2-4, 1.49 ERA) takes the mound in the potential series-clinching game. he’ll face Jacob Waguespack (9-7, 3.42 ERA in A-Adv and AA this year).
The Double A Trenton Thunder crushed the Binghamton Rumble Ponies (Mets), 9-1, in Game 4 of their Eastern League Division Series to win the series and advance to the Eastern League Championship Series. They’ll face the Altoona Curve (Pirates) with Game 1 scheduled for Tuesday night at Arm & Hammer Park in Trenton, NJ.
As expected, the Yankees signed 16-year-old Dominican shortstop prospect Ronny Rojas. The Yankees have long been tied to the youngster but he didn’t turn 16 until August 23rd. Rojas was rated as the eleventh best unsigned international prospect earlier this summer by MLB.com. He is the highest rated Yankees signing behind OF Everson Pereira, who was rated fourth.
Have a great Sunday! Let’s take this series and head for NYC! Go Yankees!
Orioles 7, Yankees 6…
I’ve never been a big fan of Dellin Betances as closer and Tuesday night was Exhibit A. I do not feel that he has the closer’s mentality and his arm plays best in a prime setup role. His inability to throw strikes to Tim Beckham with two outs set up Manny Machado for the late night heroics with a dramatic two-run walk-off home run. I’ve felt all along that David Robertson should have been the interim closer but at this point, an argument could be made for the return of Aroldis Chapman.
In a game delayed by rain (game time was 9:15 pm Eastern), the Orioles scored first in the bottom of the first inning. Jonathan Schoop worked a two-out walk off Yankees starter CC Sabathia. Adam Jones reached base on an infield single to third (a slow roller that hit the bag). During Trey Mancini’s at-bat, a wild pitch by Sabathia that got away from Austin Romine allowed the runners to move up to second and third. Mancini proceeded to hit a short dribbler to short. Didi Gregorius charged in to retrieve the ball but in the words of Michael Kay, he had to “eat it” when there was no play at either first or home. Schoop scored and the O’s led 1-0.
The Yankees erupted in the third inning against Orioles starter Jeremy Hellickson. Austin Romine led off with a single to left through the hole. After Brett Gardner lined out to right, Aaron Judge walked and Starlin Castro was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Didi Gregorius lined a single to right which scored both Romine and Judge. Judge slid in safely under the throw. Matt Holliday walked to re-load the bases. The O’s then pulled Hellickson and replaced him with former Yankee Richard Bleier. Greg Bird hit a sacrifice fly to center which scored Castro. An error by center fielder Adam Jones, he dropped the ball, allowed Bird to safely reach base and the bases were still loaded. Todd Frazier grounded out softly to short with the only play the throw to first. Gregorius came home with the fourth run. Jacoby Ellsbury was next and he singled up the middle to center to score Holliday and Bird. The Yankees were seemingly in control at 6-1.
|Credit: Patrick Semansky-Associated Press|
Leading off the bottom of the 3rd, Manny Machado, the American League Player of the Month in August, gave a preview of coming attractions with his line drive home run to center. The Yankees still led, 6-2, but it was statement by Machado that the game was not over.
While the Yankees were struggling to get runners past second base, the O’s added another run in the bottom of the 5th inning when Jonathan Schoop took Sabathia deep to left center for a solo homer.
Sabathia pitched into the 6th inning but overstayed his welcome. Trey Mancini led off with a looper just over Todd Frazier’s outreached glove for a single. Mark Trumbo took advantage and blasted a two-run shot to left. It was a one-run game. After Chris Davis grounded out for the first out of the inning, the Yankees finally pulled Sabathia. Tommy Kahnle took over and got the final two outs.
Girardi’s formula was then to use David Robertson for the 7th and Aroldis Chapman for the 8th. Both men did their jobs. Each retiring the three batters they faced. Unfortunately, after the big 3rd inning, the Yankees offense stalled. Their last chance came in the 8th when they had two men on base with only one out, but Aaron Judge struck out and Starlin Castro popped out to third in foul territory to strand the runners.
Fast-forward to the bottom of the 9th, Dellin Betances took over for Chapman and retired the first two batters. He needed just one more out which never came. He couldn’t throw strikes to Tim Beckham, walking him on a 3-1 count. Manny Machado, swinging at a poorly placed high pitch from Betances, sent the ball over the wall in center field for the walk-off two-run home run.
|Credit: Associated Press|
The Yankees (74-64) lost ground to the Boston Red Sox. The Sox were trailing the Toronto Blue Jays 2-0 in the bottom of the 9th before tying the game and sending it into extra innings. They finally scored the walk-off run in the 19th inning to win the game and push the Yankees 3 1/2 games back. The Orioles moved back to 3 1/2 games behind the Yankees with the win. The Los Angeles Angels leap-frogged the Minnesota Twins and trail the Yankees by 2 1/2 games in the Wild Card Standings. The Angels beat the Oakland A’s, 8-7, in 10 innings, while the Twins fell to the Tampa Bay Rays, 2-1.
This is another game that the Yankees should have won. It would have been huge to win the first two games in Baltimore. But it was not meant to be so hopefully the Yankees can rebound today. Rain is in the forecast throughout the evening so there’s a strong possibility the game is called and pushed to Thursday. When the teams take the field, the Yankees must play like a team fighting for the post-season and avoid the mistakes that allow the opponent to capitalize. Moving Betances back to set up would be a start.
Odds & Ends…
Every time the Yankees add a player from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, I can’t help but feel bad for RailRiders Manager Al Pedrique as his team prepares for its International League playoff series against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. But then again, the RailRiders can raid from the Double A Trenton Thunder as 2B Billy Fleming will attest. I guess talent rolls up hill. The latest RailRider to exit the team is 1B/OF Tyler Austin who was promoted to the big league club prior to yesterday’s game. It makes more sense for Austin to provide outfield corner support than either Tyler Wade or Ronald Torreyes. Austin had two home runs the other day in the RailRiders’ regular season finale.
Luis Severino’s post on The Player’s Tribune website entitled My Journey to the Bronx is a great read. It makes you feel proud and excited to be a Yankees fan. I didn’t realize how close he came to being a Colorado Rockie. I am glad it didn’t happen and that the opportunity to play for his favorite childhood team came to fruition.
Have a great Wednesday! Let’s grab a win today at Camden Yards before the team jumps on a plane bound for the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex! Go Yankees!