Tagged: Wild Card

The Road from the Bronx to Cleveland…

Credit:  Frank Franklin II-AP

American League Wild Card Game

Yankees 8, Twins 4…

Eventually, the Minnesota Twins will find the answer for their struggles in the Bronx but this will not be one of those years.  Admittedly, I was not feeling too good after Luis Severino had given up three runs on two homers in the opening inning and the Twins were threatening for more with only one out.  But exit Severino and enter the stellar Yankees bullpen, plus a few timely home runs, and the Yankees found themselves with a date with the Indians in Cleveland for the American League Division Series.  

For Luis Severino, it was a game to forget.  Whether it was his youth and/or his lack of post-season experience, he was overwhelmed and unable to find any of his pitches.  He needs to have another talk with Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, this time about life in October.  It was a learning experience for the youngster and I am sure that he’ll be stronger for it as we move forward.  

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

The Twins quickly took the lead when Brian Dozier led off the game with a home run that landed in the first row of the left field stands, bouncing off a fan’s hands and back onto the field.  Still, I thought that it was something that Sevy could overcome.  He got the next batter, Joe Mauer, to pop up which Todd Frazier caught in foul territory for the first out.  But then Sevy was unable to put away Jorge Polanco and walked him.  Eddie Rosario hit a line drive to right that carried out, and it was 3-0 Twins.  Manager Joe Girardi picked up the phone to get the bullpen ready.  Eduardo Escobar singled to left center, and Max Kepler followed with a double to right, moving Escobar to third. Unfortunately, it was evident, by then, that Severino was not going to overcome the jitters. Girardi made the call to the bullpen and brought in Chad Green.  Using Girardi’s words, it’s not what you want.  But the decision to go to Green paid off with two huge strikeouts of Byron Buxton and Jason Castro to hold the game to a three-run deficit.  There’s no question that the Twins could have easily escalated it to five runs or more.  Holding the Twins to only three runs was tremendous, and the set the stage for the events to follow.

The game was billed as a battle of Dominican Republic pitchers.  Ervin Santana, the Twins ace, was born about 70 miles away from Severino’s hometown.  Santana, carrying an 0-5 record in six starts at Yankee Stadium, had been asked how many wins he had at Yankee Stadium earlier this week and he responded that Tuesday would be one.  Tuesday has passed and he’s still looking for that first win.  

Handed a three-run lead, Santana walked Brett Gardner to start the bottom of the first inning.  Aaron Judge  battled Santana before finally hitting a single to center to put runners at the corners.  Gary Sanchez popped up to the catcher for the first out.  It brought Didi Gregorius to the plate.  Didi has been nothing short of spectacular this season and he came through in a big way.  On a full count, he got a hold of a Santana pitch to deposit it into the right field seats.  Suddenly, with a swing of the bat, the game was tied.  

After Chad Green easily retired the Twins in the top of the 2nd including two by strikeout, Brett Gardner hit a two-out solo homer into the second deck of the right field stands in the bottom of the inning to give the Yankees their first lead, 4-3.  

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

However, with Green still pitching, the Twins charged right back in the top of the 3rd.  Perhaps overstaying his welcome, the Twins loaded the bases when Jorge Polanco led off with a single to right and Green walked two of the next three hitters to load the bases with only one out.  Despite two starters in the bullpen, Girardi pulled Green and brought in David Robertson.  Byron Buxton grounded into a force out at second but Polanco scored on the play when the Yankees were unable to turn the double play to re-tie the game.  D-Rob struck out Jason Castro to end the inning and prevent any further damage. That was a huge spot for D-Rob and he came up big holding the Twins to only one run when they could have easily scored more.

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

In the bottom of the 3rd, Ervin Santana was gone, replaced by young Twins starter Jose Berrios.  Gary Sanchez led off the inning with a double to the left field wall.  When Berrios struck out the next two batters, it looked like he might be able to get out of the inning without Sanchez coming home to score.  Greg Bird had other ideas as he lined a single to right bringing Sanchez around for the go-ahead run.  5-4, Yankees.  Aaron Hicks singled on a soft grounder to third to put runners at the corners, but the Yankees couldn’t capitalize when Jacoby Ellsbury, starting at DH over Chase Headley and Matt Holliday, popped out to third to end the inning.

The Twins made a defensive substitution in the bottom of the 4th inning.  Byron Buxton, who had hit the wall to catch a Todd Frazier fly in the 2nd inning, was removed due to lingering effects of back tightness and replaced by New York native Zack Granite.  With the Twins’ best player, Miguel Sano, off the playoff roster dealing with his prior shin injury, losing Buxton, their next best great player was tough for the Twins.  Nothing against Granite, but he’s not the player Buxton is.  I hope that Buxton is okay and you never want to see a player leave through injury.  But that one hurt the Twins (no pun intended).  Todd Frazier struck out for the first out but Brett Gardner followed with a single to left on a fly dropped in front of the left fielder. Aaron Judge stepped up (literally and figuratively) and hit one of his shorter home runs to left.  I was unsure for a moment if it was a home run but the ball had indeed hit above the fence line before bouncing back on the field.  Judge, showing the most emotion I’ve seen from him as he rounded first base, circled the bases to give the Yankees a 7-4 lead.  

David Robertson was still pitching in the 6th inning, making one of his longest appearances.  Zack Granite led off with a single to right on a ball that got under Starlin Castro’s glove.  D-Rob struck out Jason Castro and Robbie Grossman for two outs, but that final out would prove elusive.  With Brian Dozier at the plate, a wild pitch allowed Granite to easily move to second.  Dozier subsequently walked to bring the tying run to the plate.   Girardi signaled for the bullpen and brought in Tommy Kahnle to replace D-Rob. Joe Mauer hit a long fly to left and for a moment I couldn’t tell if it was in or out when the TV crew switched cameras as the ball was falling.  Fortunately, Brett Gardner made the catch on the warning track for the final out.   Another huge spot with success for the Yankees.

Kahnle easily retired the Twins in the 7th inning.  In the bottom of the inning with Twins reliever Trevor Hildenberger on the mound, Aaron Judge got things started by taking a walk.  I thought it was an excellent at-bat for Judge as he avoided chasing any pitches.  Gary Sanchez hit a ball through the hole on the left side into the outfield.  Judge advanced to third.  The throw from the outfield sailed over the third baseman’s head (they probably could have nailed Judge at third had the throw been accurate) so Sanchez was able to move to second.  With no outs and two runners in scoring position, the Twins elected to intentionally walk Didi Gregorius.  Great strategy to open up the potential for the double play or a force out at home, but it left no margin for error.  Starlin Castro had the first crack at the potential scoring opportunity but he flied out to right.  With Greg Bird up next, the Twins brought in reliever Taylor Rogers, a lefty, for an all-Denver, Colorado battle (Bird is from Aurora, CO while Rogers hails from Littleton, CO).  Rogers won the battle when he struck out Bird for the second out.  The Twins made another call to the bullpen and brought in Alan Busenitz to face former Twin Aaron Hicks.  Busenitz couldn’t throw strikes and walked A-A-Ron on four pitches to bring Judge home.  The Yankees had increased their lead to 8-4.  Jacoby Ellsbury flied out to leave the bases full, but the Yankees added an important insurance run.

Tommy Kahnle came back out for the 8th inning and retired the Twins in order. The Twins nearly had a base runner with one out but Zack Granite ran over first base without touching the bag on a grounder to first.  Bird tossed the ball to Kahnle who dropped the ball but Starlin Castro alertly picked up the ball to tag Granite out before he could get back. I didn’t expect to see Dellin Betances given his struggles in September so I was very glad to see Kahnle continuing to pitch very strongly to get the game into the 9th inning and into the hands of Aroldis Chapman.  Chapman gave up a two-out single to Joe Mauer but the inning was never in doubt as Chapman easily shut down the Twins, striking out Jorge Polanco to end the game.  The Yankees win!  

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

I am still not a fan of the single-game elimination but the Yankees persevered and head for Cleveland to face the Indians for Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Thursday.  Now I can say that I am very joyous about the Yankees being in the post-season. It is so hard to be excited about a potential ‘one and done’ situation and I was very uneasy coming into the game.  It didn’t help when Luis Severino had nothing and gave the Twins the strong early lead.  You’d think that the Law of Averages would eventually tilt in Minnesota’s favor given the Yankees long-standing history of dominance over the Twins.  I was very pleased that Tuesday was not their night.  They’ll eventually get a key victory in the Bronx but it won’t be this year.  

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

Congratulations to the New York Yankees for moving to the next round!  I have very proud of this team and their accomplishments this year.  They may not win the next round but the Yankees have shown the world their future is bright.  This team has the potential to surprise but if not, there’s no doubt this will be a stronger team when they take the field next season.  

Game Notes…

Chasen Shreve threw out the first pitch.  The Las Vegas native symbolized representation for his home city after this week’s senseless tragedy that claimed 58 lives and injured more than 500 people. There was a moment of silence observed for the victims.   

Credit:  Paul J Bereswill-NY Post

Earlier this season, Chase Headley took one near the family jewels.  The same fate was bestowed upon Gary Sanchez when a foul ball hit the catcher where the sun doesn’t shine causing Sanchez to roll on the ground in pain while David Robertson was still on the mound.  Ouch!  Fortunately, he was able to continue. That was a painful experience to watch.  It would not have been fun to be the recipient.  

Have a great Wednesday!  We have a day to enjoy and then the work begins on Thursday.  Go Yankees!

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I Get My Hicks Above The Fenceline, Sunshine…

Credit:  Jim McIsaac-Getty Images

Yankees 6, Rays 1…

Tuesday night, Aaron Hicks found himself back in the starting lineup after his latest stint on the disabled list. Not a moment too soon as A-A-Ron sparked the Yankees to victory with his superior catch in the first inning.

The game didn’t start so well for young Mr Jordan Montgomery. Kevin Kiermaier got the game started with a single up the middle to center field. Stephen Souza, Jr singled through the hole at short into shallow left field. Montgomery had Evan Longoria on a full count but lost him with Ball Four. The bases were loaded full of Rays with no outs. Monty finally struck out Logan Morrison to secure the first out. Wilson Ramos was up next and he blasted a shot over the center field wall for a grand slam…no, wait…Aaron Hicks with the spectacular over the fence catch for the second out!  Kiermaier tagged and scored on the play. I am not a math major but I’ll take a 1-0 deficit over 4-0 any day. Montgomery struck out Adeiny Hechavarria, who has seemed to feast on Yankees pitching this year, to end the inning. Whew! Monty and the Yankees dodged a major bullet.

The Yankees had two runners on base in the bottom of the 1st inning, courtesy of walks by Rays starter Blake Snell, but they were unable to score.  

The top of the 2nd went more smoothly for Montgomery as he set down the Rays in order…three up, three down.  No drama…just the way I like it.

In the bottom of the inning, Starlin Castro led off with a home run into the  left field bleachers to tie the game.  Star-light, Star-bright!

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The inning continued as consecutive singles by Todd Frazier, Clint Frazier and Ronald Torreyes loaded the bases. Aaron Hicks picked up the go-ahead RBI when he took a walk to bring the Toddfather home. Next up, Aaron Judge walked on four pitches to bring Red Thunder home. The Yankees were up, 3-1. The Rays pulled Snell, who hadn’t lost a game since late July, and replaced him with Chaz Roe. Gary Sanchez lined out to first, with Judge staying put, but the Rays caught Hicks off second (he couldn’t get back in time) to complete the double play. With Matt Holliday batting, Judge stole second so the Yankees had runners at second and third. Roe uncorked a wild pitch that got by Wilson Ramos all the way to the backstop, and Torreyes ran home with the fourth run of the inning. Judge moved to third but he was left stranded when Holliday flied out to center.

Jordan Montgomery kept the Rays off the board through the 6th inning and turned the game over to the bullpen in the 7th. Tommy Kahnle was up first and he retired the Rays in order, including the last two by strikeout. David Robertson took over in the 8th. He walked the first batter, Stephen Souza, Jr, but the runner did not advance past first base as D-Rob retired the next three Rays.

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

In the bottom of the 8th, with Rays reliever Austin Pruitt on the mound, Ronald Torreyes drew a one-out walk. While Brett Gardner was at bat, a wild pitch allowed Toe to move to second. Gardy grounded out to second, advancing Toe  to third. Aaron Judge walked to put runners at the corners. After a brief delay that saw Home Plate Umpire Dan Bellino toss a fan for tipping pitches, Gary Sanchez singled on a fly that dropped in front of center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (to my surprise) which brought Toe home to score. Matt Holliday reached on an infield single to short that Adeiny Hechavarria wasn’t able to field cleanly (made a running stop on the grounder in shallow left but the ball dropped out of his glove) allowing Sanchez to slide safely into second just ahead of the throw. Judge scored on the play and the Yankees had increased their lead to 6-1. Chase Headley grounded out, back to the pitcher, but the Yankees took the five run lead to the 9th.

Dellin Betances, who I thought should have pitched in Monday’s win over the Royals, entered the game in the non-save situation. A ground out and two fly outs on seven pitches, Game over. I was very glad to see a clean (and short) outing by Betances. The Yankees win!

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees (88-69) picked up another game on the Boston Red Sox with the win. The Sox lost to the Toronto Blue Jays for the second consecutive day. The Blue Jays won the game, 9-4, behind J.A. Happ. The loser for the Sox was Chris Sale, a loss that might tilt the AL Cy Young Award toward Cleveland’s Corey Kluber. The Yankees trail the Sox by three games with five to play. The Yankees secured home-field advantage for the Wild Card game with the win although they have not given up on the AL East championship. The Minnesota Twins won yesterday, 8-6 over the Cleveland Indians, and lead the second Wild Card spot by five games over the Los Angeles Angels.  

It was a great rebound by Jordan Montgomery (9-7). Lately, it has seemed like most of his struggles happen early. The Rays could have changed the complexion of the game with a first inning grand slam but Monty persevered after the incredible catch by Aaron Hicks. In six innings of work, he scattered six hits to hold the Rays to the single first inning run. He walked only one batter (the first inning walk of Evan Longoria), and struck out five.  The dude looks to be a strong piece for the rotation in 2018.
Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Hats off, again, to the Bullpen with three hitless innings of relief.
Starlin Castro was 3-for-3, including the second inning home run. It’s great to see him hitting again and just in time! No home runs for Aaron Judge after two consecutive multi-homer days, but he was in the mix with a run batted in, his 109th, thanks to the bases loaded walk and a run scored.
Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Odds & Ends…
I attended a few games at Target Field in Minneapolis, MN several years ago so, apparently, I am still on the Minnesota Twins mailing list. I received the notice that the Twins’ American League Division Series tickets go on sale on Thursday beginning at 10 a.m. CT. A bit of wishful thinking of their part. Hopefully, the Yankees can ensure those tickets are never used.
The Rays have made a pitching change for the series finale on Thursday. Alex Cobb had been the scheduled starter. With their season nearing its end, Rays manager Kevin Cash decided that Cobb had reached his season innings limit (179 innings in 2017 after only 22 in 2016). Jacob Faria (5-4, 3.33 ERA) will get the start versus Sonny Gray.
Have a great Wednesday! I’d like a win and maybe a couple of Aaron Judge home runs today, please. Go Yankees!

Bye-Bye Birdie, Hello Playoffs…

Credit:  Tom Szczerbowski-Getty Images

Yankees 5, Blue Jays 1…

What a difference a day makes! Put Sonny Gray on the mound, give him a few runs and all is better in the world as the Yankees beat the Blue Jays and secured a post-season berth.  

On paper, Sonny Gray versus Joe Biagini seems like a mismatch. But early, Biagini was the better pitcher. Biagini breezed through the first three innings facing only the minimum number of batters (thanks to a double play in the second inning which eliminated the only Yankee baserunner). Meanwhile, Gray had a runner in scoring position in the first inning (which he escaped) and then allowed a third inning home run to Teoscar Hernandez which gave the Blue Jays the early 1-0 lead. Hernandez absolutely crushed the ball high into the center field stands. It was his second home run against Yankees in as many days.

The Yankees finally broke through against Biagini in the fifth inning. Chase Headley led off the inning with a walk. While Jacoby Ellsbury was batting, Headley successfully stole second. Ells subsequently struck out, but Starlin Castro followed by taking the second walk of the inning. Greg Bird, with a beautiful swing, homered to right center. As John Sterling said, “Bye-bye, Birdie! In the right field seats…the Birdman of New York…and the Yankees promptly take the 3-1 lead”.  

Gray was cruising until the sixth inning when he had trouble throwing strikes and had two men on base with free passes with only one out. Kevin Pillar lined a sharp fly to left center on a ball that looked like it might have a chance to drop in but a great running catch by Brett Gardner prevented the potential extra base hit. Gray retired the next  batter, Ryan Goins, on a ground out to get out of the inning.  

Credit:  Tom Szczerbowski-Getty Images

For Gray, his day was done. Chad Green came in for the bottom of the seventh, and did what he does best. Three up, three down…two by strikeout. C-Green will certainly help the Yankees see green (the money) in October.  

Credit:  Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Todd Frazier added an insurance run in the top of the eighth when he hit a solo home run over the center field wall. 4-1, Yankees. David Robertson took over in the bottom of the eighth and repeated Green’s performance…three batters, two strikeouts. Wash, rinse, repeat…it works for me.

On to the top of the ninth and the Yankees weren’t done. Gary Sanchez led off the inning with a double off the center field wall. Kevin Pillar went to the wall and got his glove on the ball but surprisingly, for Pillar given his strong defense, wasn’t able to make the catch. Gary Sanchez hesitated as if he thought the ball was either caught or out of the park but then ran safely to second after realizing it was in play. Moral of the story, always hustle. Chase Headley reached on a one-out walk, but he was erased when Jacoby Ellsbury hit into a fielder’s choice that erased Headley at second. But Sanchez was able to move to third. So, runners at the corners and two outs for Starlin Castro.  Castro hit a slow infield grounder that got past the pitcher. Third baseman Josh Donaldson charged the ball but couldn’t make the transfer. Runners safe as Sanchez crossed the plate for the Yankees’ final run.

Aroldis Chapman took over in the bottom of the 9th. He didn’t have the strikeouts of his two predecessors, but he still retired the three batters he faced in the non-save situation for the win. It was appropriate the final out was recorded by former Yankee Robert Refsnyder, pinch-hitting for Ryan Goins, when he hit a grounder to first with Greg Bird stepping on the bag to end the game. The Yankees win!

Credit:  Fred Thornill-AP

The Yankees (86-68) were business-like on the field with hugs and high-fives after the game, but pandemonium broke loose in the clubhouse as the Yankees celebrated their first post-season appearance since 2015.

Credit:  Tom Szczerbowski-Getty Images

Credit:  Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the win, they were unable to make up any ground on the Red Sox and remain four games behind in the AL East. Boston defeated the hapless Cincinnati Reds, 5-0, in a game that featured an inning of relief by Reds reliever Luke Farrell, son of Red Sox manager John Farrell. It would have been poetic justice for the younger Farrell to beat his pop but it was not meant to be.  The Yankees also remain 5 1/2 games up on the Minnesota Twins for home-field advantage in the Wild Card game. The Twins haven’t secured their WC spot yet but they continue to win and presently hold a commanding 4 1/2 game edge over the Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals, and Los Angeles Angels.  

Sonny Gray (10-11) showed what Masahiro Tanaka did not. When the stakes are high, raise the level of your play. Gray may not have had his best stuff on Saturday but he held the Blue Jays to four hits and one run in six innings. He walked three, but that was primarily the two he walked in the sixth when he was tiring. He struck out four.  

Excellent job by the Bullpen. Three innings, no hits, no runs, four strikeouts.  The Bullpen is the October difference-maker. If the Yankees can only get Dellin Betances right, you have to like the team’s late inning chances against the game’s best teams.     

Odds & Ends…

Magic Numbers:  The Yankees magic number to clinch home-field advantage for the Wild Card game is three (any combination of Yankees wins or Twins losses). The more impossible reach (AL East Championship) stands at five games (any combination of Red Sox wins or Yankees losses). With eight games remaining, the Red Sox do not play a team with a winning record until they entertain the Houston Astros at Fenway Park starting Thursday for the final series of the season. Even then, it’s possible that the Astros won’t have anything left to play for if the Cleveland Indians secure home field advantage for the play-offs. In other words, I don’t see the Red Sox losing anytime soon.

It does seem weird to have a champagne (and beer) celebration for the right to play one game that may or may not be won by the best team. I know, it’s better to have some chance than no chance. I personally do not buy into the Yankees’ dominance of the Twins as reason for optimism. Too much can happen with a single game and a bad start by the likely starter, Luis Severino, can send the Bombers home for the winter. My excitement will come if the Yankees can win that single game to advance to the expanded play-offs against the division winners.  

Luis Severino was struck by a batted ball before yesterday’s game. He was in the outfield playing catch during pre-game warmups when he was hit in the shoulder. The ball was believed to have been hit by Blue Jays catcher Luke Maile. Sevy dropped to the stadium turf but was able to get up to resume playing catch after being checked out by head athletic trainer Steve Donohue.  Fortunately, it was his non-throwing shoulder but it’s still scary to see your ace go down.  

Have a great Sunday! Hopefully this is a winning final road game of the regular season kind of day. Go Yankees!

Thank You, We’ll Just Take The Wild Card…

Credit:  Frank Gunn-The Canadian Press via AP

Blue Jays 8, Yankees 1…

The title is sarcastic (if you didn’t notice). I am very disappointed with Masahiro Tanaka and the blow out loss to the AL East Cellar Dwellers. Trailing the Red Sox by four games with only nine games to play makes it a near impossibility to catch Boston unless they go into a tailspin like the Los Angeles Dodgers recently did. I seriously doubt that will happen for the Red Sox as they keep winning.

The Yankees had been playing so well, winning 15 of 20 games since August 31st. For a year that the Yankees have exceeded all expectations, Tanaka’s overall performance is the reason the Yankees are talking Wild Card and not AL East title. If he had pitched like his previous three years, we’d be talking about how many games the Red Sox are behind. It bothers me that we can hold a 5 1/2 game lead over the Minnesota Twins, we can sweep the most recent series with the Twins, and yet, the Twins have a chance for one game to send the Yankees packing for the winter. If the Yankees play like they did yesterday, there will be no expanded playoffs for the Pinstripes.  

Aaron Judge is the only player that came ready to play. His solo home run in the first inning, a monster 469 foot blast to left center off the facing of the second deck, gave the Yankees an early lead but it was the last run the Yankees would score. It was Judge’s 46th home run of the season, matching Joe DiMaggio’s career high. 

Credit:  Frank Gunn-The Canadian Press via AP

The Blue Jays quickly tied the game in the bottom of the 1st against Tanaka.  Teoscar Hernandez led off with a single to left center. Josh Donaldson hit into a fielder’s choice at third but Todd Frazier’s throw to Starlin Castro, which should have been an easy force out at second, got past Castro for an error as Hernandez raced around to third. Runners at the corners. Jose Bautista hit a soft grounder to third and was thrown out at first but Hernandez scored. Game tied, 1-1.

In the top of the 3rd, Todd Frazier doubled to right on a ball that went to the wall, sliding into second just under the throw from Jose Bautista. Clint Frazier popped out to the shortstop for the first out.  Jacoby Ellsbury lined out to right on a great running catch by Bautista, who then threw the ball in to second baseman Ryan Goins.  With the Toddfather standing on second, Goins used the old hidden ball trick with a fake throw.  Frazier momentarily lifted his foot off second to turn around and Goins nabbed him for the out to complete the double play. It was that type of game…

Credit:  Frank Gunn-The Canadian Press via AP

In the bottom of the 3rd, Teoscar Hernandez got to Tanaka again, this time a solo shot to left to give the Blue Jays the 2-1 lead. Bottom of the 4th, it was Russell Martin’s turn. His two-run shot, a liner just over the left field wall off Tanaka after Joey Bats had walked to start the inning, put the Blue Jays, 4-1.  

The Yankees’ third and final hit came in the top of the 6th when Aaron Judge led off with a double to deep left center that hit the warning track and bounced off the wall.  But the silent Yankee bats left him stranded behind the pitching of Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada, the recipient of a $13 million contract extension a few days earlier.

In the bottom of the 6th, the Blue Jays put the game away against Tanaka.  Jose Bautista walked to start the inning.  Kevin Pillar singled to center as Joey Bats moved to second.  Tanaka struck out Russell Martin and Miguel Montero so it looked like he might be able to get out of the inning, but then he walked Kendrys Morales, pinch-hitting for Darwin Barney, on four consecutive balls out of the strike zone to load the bases.  Tanaka had two strikes on the ‘Hidden Ball’ Master, Ryan Goins, but the third pitch, a slider, left the park in right for a grand slam. 8-1 Blue Jays, and, finally, the end of the night for Tanaka.  

Credit:  Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The only remaining runner that the Yankees could muster was when Aaron Judge walked in the 8th. The Blue Jays easily coasted to victory and most likely handed the Boston Red Sox the AL East Championship.

I apologize to those of you who are Tanaka fans but he sucked. His win-loss record now stands at 12-12 and his season ERA has increased to 4.94.  He gave up eight runs (seven earned) and three home runs in 5 2/3 innings.  He disappeared at a time when the Yankees needed him the most.  Dude, please opt out at the end of the year if this is truly the pitcher you are now.

Credit:  Tom Szczerbowski-Getty Images

The Yankees (85-68), as mentioned, fell four games behind the Red Sox.  Boston beat Sal Romano, who grew up as a Yankees fan, and the Cincinnati Reds, 5-4.  The Minnesota Twins have won two straight since they were swept by the Yankees so they have reduced their Wild Card deficit from 7 games to 5 1/2 in two days.  The Los Angeles Angels are in a downward spiral, losers of five in a row, so they trail the Twins by 3 1/2 games, along with the Texas Rangers.  

I don’t mind when the Yankees battle hard and lose, but Friday night was not one of those games.  Outside of Aaron Judge, it was a complete team letdown. If I didn’t know better, it looked like the Toronto Blue Jays were the playoff team, not the Yankees.  We expect and demand better play today.

Odds & Ends…

Today’s pitching matchup will feature Sonny Gray (9-11) versus Joe Biagini (3-11). A change was announced for Sunday. Jaime Garcia (5-9) now gets the start. He’ll oppose New York native Marcus Stroman (12-8).  

Todd Frazier was able to talk to the father of the little girl struck by the foul ball during Wednesday’s game. The little girl is still in the hospital and as one relative indicated, it will be a long process. Frazier was told by the girl’s father that “she’s doing okay”. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the little girl as she continues to recover.  

After last night’s game, an unauthorized man apparently gained access to the Yankees clubhouse in an attempt to steal some towels and a batting helmet. He was chased away by Todd Frazier, Tyler Wade, and others. The man was subsequently detained by stadium security but it’s scary that someone could have penetrated the crowded clubhouse that easily.  

Have a great Saturday!  Hopefully this a much better baseball day for all of us.  Go Yankees!

Trading Places: Gray Pitches Like Jimenez and Vice Versa…

Credit:  Bill Kostroun

Orioles 6, Yankees 4…

The Yankees apparently forgot that it was Ubaldo Jimenez on the mound yesterday. Jimenez entered the game with a 5-10 record and 6.75 ERA. It’s pretty much representative of who the pitcher has been the last few years. On Sunday, he may as well have been Chris Sale…5 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 1 walk and 10 strikeouts. He was certainly a better version of Sonny Gray on this day.

For as much as Sonny Gray has given the Yankees so far, they could have picked up an average starter for much less (somebody better than Jaime Garcia) to give them three wins since the July trading deadline and kept Jorge Mateo, Dustin Fowler and James Kaprielian in pinstripes. I know, that’s a bit harsh, and Gray is an upper echelon rotation starter but in the small sampling size with the Yankees, the results have been underwhelming. Granted, he doesn’t get run support with his losses but I was hoping for better results. The Red Sox, meanwhile, will ride the arm of a pitcher (Doug Fister) they picked up off the scrap heap to go with Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz. Fister has four wins for the Red Sox since the end of July. I’d take Gray over Fister any day of the week (obviously), but it is disappointing that more wins have not materialized.

Credit:  Jim McIsaac-Getty Images

Baltimore got on the board first in the top of the 2nd inning. Chris Davis hit a one-out fly to left for a double. Clint Frazier misjudged his leap and was unable to make the catch. Seth Smith hit a grounder to third and was thrown out at first, but Davis moved to third on the play. Todd Frazier almost tagged Davis out but opted to go for the sure out at first. After Mark Trumbo walked, Austin Hays singled up in the middle, past a diving Didi Gregorius, into center field, scoring Davis. 

The Yankees got the run back in the bottom of the inning when Didi Gregorius led off with a homer just over the wall in right center to tie the game at one. It was Didi’s 24th home run, which tied the Yankees mark for most home runs by a shortstop set by Derek Jeter in 1999.  

Credit:  Jim McIsaac-Getty Images

The Orioles quickly took the lead again in the top of the 3rd. Manny Machado hit a one-out single to right, breaking an 0-for-19 slump. With two outs, Trey Mancini doubled down the left field line to the corner to score Machado.  Baltimore had taken a 2-1 lead.

The 4th inning was the one that got away from Sonny Gray. He walked Seth Smith to start the inning.  He retired the next two hitters and was a strike away from getting out of the inning with Caleb Joseph at the plate. Unfortunately, Joseph singled to left, between Todd Frazier and Didi Gregorius, to keep the inning alive. Tim Beckham, proving to be one of the best trading deadline pickups, homered into the bleachers in left to give the O’s all the runs they would need. 5-1, Baltimore.  

Credit:  Anthony Grupposo-USA TODAY Sports

Gray got Manny Machado to hit a liner to right for the final out (great diving play by Aaron Judge) but he would not return.  

Bryan Mitchell took over for Gray in the top of the 5th inning. Jonathan Schoop led off with a single to left and Trey Mancini singled to center past a diving Didi Gregorius. The O’s had runners at the corners and no outs. After Chris Davis struck out, Seth Smith hit a grounder between first and second. With a throw from Starlin Castro to Didi Gregorius, they forced Mancini out at second but Schoop scored on the play. The O’s had increased their lead to 6-1.

In the bottom of the 6th, Mychal Givens took over for Jimenez who had thrown 100 pitches through five innings. Gary Sanchez drew a one-out walk and with two outs, Starlin Castro hit a soft grounder toward third and beat the throw from Givens which pulled Chris Davis off the base.  Runners at first and second.  Matt Holliday drilled a line drive to left for a double which scored both Sanchez and Castro. 6-3, O’s. Buck Showalter pulled Givens and brought in former Yankee Richard Bleier to face Greg Bird. Bird had homered off Bleier in Friday night’s win and he had a chance to make it a game once again. Sadly, Bleier won the battle this time when Bird grounded out to first to end the inning.  

Baltimore reliever Brad Brach took over in relief of Darren O’Day to start the bottom of the 8th inning. Aaron Judge doubled to left with a fly ball off the base of the wall to lead things off. Gary Sanchez struck out on three pitches for the first out. Didi Gregorius hit a grounder to short, but Tim Beckham’s throwing error (pulled Chris Davis off the bag) allowed Didi to reach first safely. Judge moved to third on the play. Starlin Castro hit a fly to right field and it was deep enough to score Judge on the sacrifice. The Yankees had cut the Orioles lead to 6-4. Matt Holliday walked to bring the potential go-ahead run to the plate. Showalter pulled Brach and brought in closer Zach Britton. The Yankees replaced Holliday at first with Tyler Wade and sent Chase Headley in to pinch hit for Greg Bird. Unfortunately, Headley grounded out to short to end the rally.  

The Yankees made one last valiant effort in the bottom of the 9th. Todd Frazier struck out for the first out, but Jacoby Ellsbury looped a double down the left field line to give the Yankees a runner in scoring position. Brett Gardner grounded out to first for the second out but Ellsbury advanced to third. Aaron Judge was intentionally walked to pit Britton against Gary Sanchez.  Sanchez, representing the potential tying run, failed to deliver when he went down swinging for the final out. Bummer, the Yankees had clearly proven they were the better team in this series and they had their chances. If Sonny Gray could have avoided the disastrous 4th inning…I know, if “ifs” and “buts” were candy and nuts…

The Yankees (82-67) did not lose any ground to the Red Sox despite the loss. Boston dropped a 3-2 decision to the Tampa Bay Rays. So, the Yankees remain three games behind the Red Sox. The Minnesota Twins clobbered the Toronto Blue Jays, 13-7, so they moved back to four games behind the Yankees in the Wild Card standings.  

Next Up:  Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York…

The Twins come into this series very motivated. Since they only trail the Yankees by four games for the top Wild Card slot (home-field advantage), they can make up serious ground on the Yankees with a sweep. If the Twins beat Jaime Garcia, they’ll be able to sit back and laugh “our plan worked to perfection!”. Steal a couple of prospects from the Yankees and give them a starter who is unable to produce in the clutch.  

TODAY

Twins:  Ervin Santana (15-7, 3.35 ERA)

Yankees:  Jaime Garcia (1-2, 4.50 ERA)

TUESDAY

Twins:  Jose Berrios (12-7, 3.84 ERA)

Yankees:  CC Sabathia (11-5, 3.85 ERA)

WEDNESDAY

Twins:  Bartolo Colon (4-5, 4.80 ERA)

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (12-11, 4.73 ERA)

The Yankees are not exactly leading with their best foot, but I understand the need to keep CC Sabathia’s knee off the artificial turf for the next series in Toronto.  

Odds & Ends…

The Yankees have recalled another RailRider. The latest to get the invitation to join the big league club is RHP Domingo German.

Have a great Monday! Time for the Pinstripers to make a statement about their October chances. Let’s Go Yankees! 

Monty & The Power of Three…

Credit:  Paul J Bereswill-NY Post

Yankees 9, Orioles 3…

Jordan Montgomery turned in one of his best performances of the season with six shutout innings to lead the Yankees over Buck Showalter’s Orioles. He was backed by three home runs in the third game of the four-game series with the O’s. Chasen Shreve was unable to get three outs in the ninth, but the Yankees emerged with their third consecutive victory over the Orioles.

The Orioles started a fly ball pitcher, Jeremy Hellickson, which is probably not the best of ideas at Yankee Stadium. To his credit, he held the Yankees at bay for 2 2/3 innings.  But then, with two outs in the 3rd inning, he walked both Chase Headley and Aaron Judge. Didi Gregorius made him pay for it with a three-run homer to the right field porch.

Credit:  Julie Jacobson-Associated Press

While Jordan Montgomery was cruising, the Yankees struck again in the 4th inning. Jacoby Ellsbury got it started when he ripped a double to the right field wall. After Todd Frazier walked, Greg Bird hit a home run into the second deck in right (“See ya!”) to make it a 6-0 game. It was the second consecutive game with a homer for Bird. Buck Showalter decided he’d seen enough of Hellickson and brought in Chris Tillman who got the O’s out of the inning.

The Yankees added a run in the 5th inning. Didi Gregorius reached base on a one-out single to second that was deflected by Tillman.  Starlin Castro was hit by a pitch on his right knee (Ouch!) which moved Gregorius into scoring position at second.  Jacoby Ellsbury’s single, through the fielders at third and shortstop into left field, brought Gregorius home and it was 7-0 Yankees.  

Tommy Kahnle took over for Jordan Montgomery in the top of the 7th inning.  It started well when Kahnle struck out the first two batters, but then JJ Hardy reached base on an infield single to third, a soft roller.  A wild pitch that got past Austin Romine moved Hardy to second.  Kahnle had Austin Hays down to two strikes (2-2 count) but lost him with two successive balls to put runners at first and second.  Fortunately, Kahnle struck out Joey Rickard to end the inning.

In the bottom of the 7th, the Yankees added to their lead.  Donnie Hart took over Chris Tillman on the mound.  Didi Gregorius hit an infield single to third, beating the throw to first, to lead off the inning for the Yanks.  Then, with two outs, Todd Frazier homered on a high fly to center, just to the left of Monument Park.  The Yankees had a commanding 9-0 lead.

Credit:  Jim McIsaac-Getty Images

From there, it was up to the second tier bullpen.  Ben Heller replaced Kahnle for the eighth.  I was a bit concerned when he walked the first two batters, but then he settled down and retired the next three batters.  Chasen Shreve took over in the 9th and was dreadful.  JJ Hardy took a one-out walk and Austin Hays followed with a homer to right in front of the Modell’s sign to spoil the shutout.  Shreve struck out Joey Rickard but then proceeded to walk the next three batters to load the bases.  Joe Girardi finally made the move to replace Shreve and brought in Giovanny Gallegos.  With Anthony Santander batting, Gallegos balked which brought Tim Beckham home from third to score.  I can’t say that I saw the balk but Joe Girardi didn’t argue the call. Aroldis Chapman was up in the bullpen but Gallegos was able to end the game when he struck out Santander.  The Yankees win!

The Yankees (82-66) won their fourth consecutive game but remain three games behind the Red Sox.  Boston beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-1, as both the O’s and Rays fade to oblivion.  The Minnesota Twins lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, 7-2, so the Yankees’ lead in the Wild Card Standings has increased to five games.  They remain six games up on the third place WC team, the Los Angeles Angels.  

Excellent job by Jordan Montgomery (8-7) in picking up his first win since July.  Pitching six scoreless innings, he only allowed 4 scattered hits and 1 walk while striking out six.  

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

What can you say about Didi Gregorius?  He’s been incredible and continued his dominance with a 3-for-4 day, scoring three runs and driving in 3 RBI’s.  At the beginning of the season, I would have laughed at the thought of Didi batting in the cleanup position.  I am not laughing anymore. He needs one more home run to match Derek Jeter for most HR’s in a season by a Yankees shortstop.  Jacoby Ellsbury, continuing his resurgence as a force in the lineup, also had a 3-for-4 day, with one run scored and an RBI.  Greg Bird, the Toddfather…it was yet another great team win.

With yesterday’s win, the Yankees assured themselves of their 25th consecutive winning season.  It is the longest streak in Yankees history since the Yankees won for 39 consecutive seasons between 1926 and 1964.

The series finale is set for this afternoon at 1:05 pm.  The Yankees have made a pitching change for the game.  Sonny Gray (9-10, 3.17 ERA) gets the start while the originally scheduled starter, CC Sabathia, has been moved to Tuesday to pitch against the Minnesota Twins.  Jaime Garcia gets the start on Monday versus his former team of six days in July.  The moves allow CC to avoid the series in Toronto and the artificial turf of Rogers Centre.  The Yanks also avoid sending Luis Severino out to face the Twins, their likely Wild Card opponent if the current standing remain unchanged.  Gray will be opposed by Ubaldo Jimenez (5-10, 6.75 ERA).

Odds & Ends…

Prior to yesterday’s game, the Yankees recalled 3B Miguel Andujar and RHP Jonathan Holder from Triple A.  Andujar made it into the game as a pinch-hitter but he grounded out in the 8th inning.  The Yankees also placed LHP Caleb Smith on the 10-day DL with a viral infection.

Have a great Sunday!  Let’s make it a sweeping success.  Go Yankees!

Trying to be optmistic, but failing miserably…

 

The Boston Massacre or the Bronx Massacre?…

Since the games are being held in the Bronx, I suppose the Boston Red Sox kill of any Yankee play-off aspirations should be called the Bronx Massacre.  Unfortunately, the high hopes coming off the sweep of the Chicago White Sox were dashed as the Sox are definitely now on the other foot.

Thursday’s game was disappointing as the Yankees launched a valiant rally only to lose a game they were within one strike of winning.  The defeat came with none other than the legendary Mariano Rivera on the mound.  Friday night, it was the Yankees who built the large early lead, but the Red Sox stormed back and thrashed the Yankees.  Although Boone Logan gave up the key grand slam, I blame Phil Hughes for changing the momentum of the game.  Today’s game (Saturday) is still underway but the team is getting royally throttled at the moment (12-3 in the 5th inning).  The Yankee pitching staff has not shown the ability to get Red Sox hitters out during this series so I have no reason to expect the team to rally from the latest hole (either today’s game or the season).  If they lose today’s game as expected, they’ll be 11 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East standings.  The races for the Wild Card spots are still within reach but the Yankees aren’t playing like a team that wants to win.  They still have one more series against the Red Sox (in Boston) and if they can’t beat the Sox in the Bronx, they certainly are not going to win in Beantown.

This has been a very weird season as a Yankees fan.  The team did nothing to improve upon last year’s squad and simply filled key roles with bargain basement replacements.  Alfonso Soriano is the only quality acquisition, but he is an aging player with a large salary.  It’s not exactly like it was a brilliant acquisition for GM Brian Cashman.  The Chicago Cubs were glad to part with Soriano even if they are still picking up a large part of his compensation.  I’ve been reading many articles that talk about the great managing job Joe Girardi has done this season, but no one is saying the same about Cashman.  The unknown variable is that we do not know the restraints he is under from Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner.  If you are under standing orders that you cannot increase salary, it’s not exactly like you are going to go out and land a Giancarlo Stanton or Cliff Lee.  But it’s odd watching the Pittsburgh Pirates being more aggressive in the addition of reinforcements (i.e., Justin Morneau, Marlon Byrd and John Buck) than the Yankees.  A few key “stronger” players here or there could have meant the difference in the current Wild Card standings and the Yankees wouldn’t be on the outside looking in.

The only guarantee is that there will be changes in the off-season.  At this point, I have to believe that the departure of Cashman is a possibility.  I do not expect Joe Girardi to be going anywhere but this team will look radically different, particularly if the Yankees do not re-sign impending free agent Robinson Cano.  I am not sure what to expect with the 2014 Yankees.  I don’t know if optimism will be part of the equation and if we will be looking at another “patched-together” squad of expensive, deteriorating older players and cheap free agent acquisitions of players released from their current clubs.  The Yankees need to get younger but is this going to take a season or two, or years.  The decisions being made by Hal Steinbrenner will impact the Yankees for years to come.  Time will tell if he is making very astute and winning decisions to set up future success, or if he is ensuring that this time period will be the 1980’s re-visited.

If somehow the Yankees manage to salvage the 2013 season and grabbed a Wild Card spot, I seriously doubt they’d be able to do anything with it.  Hopefully, the Steinbrenner family is able to do something to return optimism to the Bronx in the not-so-distant future.

Pondering the Quarterback situation…

As a long-suffering Minnesota Vikings fan, the hope is that this is the year QB Christian Ponder “figures it out”.  He is a talented and intelligent guy, and there’s no reason for him not to become the answer for the Vikings if he chooses to be.  How many guys would like to have Adrian Peterson in the backfield, Greg Jennings out wide, and Kyle Rudolph at tight end?  Ponder has the weapons and he has the physical tools to succeed.  It is all up to him.  If the Vikings have to make the move to replace Ponder with backup Matt Cassel, then the team is sunk.

Last year was a pleasant surprise but it will be more challenging this year with the more difficult schedule.  I do wish that Adrian Peterson would let go of the dream to reach 2,500 rushing yards in a season.  I would not want to see him at such risk for injury nor would I want an individual goal to become superior to the team’s goals.

The Vikings start the season against the Detroit Lions, a team that knows a thing or two about having huge offensive weapons.  The young Vikings secondary will have to show that they are ready for the big time as it doesn’t get any easier in the coming weeks.  It’s too bad that, so far, the team hasn’t been able to get former starter Antoine Winfield to come out of retirement.  Josh Robinson is fast, but we’ll see if he can keep up with Megatron…

Hockey’s around the corner…

Soon, the San Jose Sharks will join the Minnesota Vikings as “distractions” for me during this disappointing MLB campaign.  I am looking forward to a full season of NHL Hockey rather than last year’s strike-shortened version.  I am still having a tough time thinking of the HP Pavilion or “Shark Tank” as the SAP Center.    While it is called S-A-P and not the word “sap”, how long before the latter becomes the norm if the team fails to succeed?

Where are you, Optimism?  I miss you…  😉

–Scott