Monday, September 26, 2016

Multiple Yankee Ejections Fire Up Team, Lead to 7-5 Comeback Win Over Blue Jays

In one of the wildest games of the entire 2016 season, the Yankees pulled out a win in the final game of the four-game set with the Toronto Blue Jays. Luis Severino got the call for the Yankees tonight in a spot-start for Masahiro Tanaka, but The fiery rookie would get ejected after plunking multiple bluejays in just two innings of work. The winningest pictcher for the Blue Jays, J.A. Happ got the start against the Yankees; but fell victim to a shotty performance by his bullpen that prevented him from winning a Toronto record high 21st game of the season.

The Yankees were quick to jump on the 20-game winner, scoring on Happ in the top of the first inning. Brett Gardner led off the game with an infield single, advancing to third on a two-base throwing error by catcher Russell Martin where he launched his throw to first base over the head of Edwin Encarnacion. Two batters later, Gary Sanchez drove in the 39th run of his young career by grounding out to short to give the Yankees a first inning one run lead.

The Jays didn't take Long to get that run back, tying the game as they forced the wild Severino to throw 33 pitches in the bottom of the first. The first inning was a rough one for Severino, not really having any control of the strike zone and inadvertently drilling Josh Donaldson in the elbow for Toronto's first base runner of the game. After an Encarnacion single moved Donaldson to third, Jose Bautista walked to load the bases with one out. The next batter Russell Martin also worked a walk, forcing in the Jays' first run of the game to tie it at one apiece.

Although Severino got out of the first, that Donaldson HBP would loom large in the top of the second. Happ took exception to his third baseman getting plunked and in turn drilled Yankees third baseman Chase Headley to begin the frame. As the Homeplate umpire gave warnings to both sides, Yankee players and coaching staff took exception to the situation, which led to the first of several on-field delays. After Gregorius grounded out to end the frame, manager Joe Girardi was ejected from the game still visibly upset over the beanball wars and was sent to the clubhouse, leaving Coach Rob Thompson to take over the game.

Girardi wasn't the only person to take exception, as Severino drilled first baseman Justin Smoak to begin the bottom of the second. Smoak charged the mound towards a barking Severino, as both benches cleared and multiple ejections would be handed out. Severino, pitching coach Larry Rothchild and acting manager Rob Thompson were all ejected from the game, leaving third-base coach Joe Espada to take over the Yankees managerial duties. If nothing else, the play showed that young Severino had his teammate's backs.

After order resumed, the Jays capitalized on tapping into the Yankees bullpen so early, taking the lead in the bottom of the third. Jose Bautista started the rally when he ripped a one out single off Yankee reliever Jonathan holder, advancing to second on a Russell Martin walk. The next batter Troy Tulowitzki ripped a double into the left center field gap, advancing Martin to third and scoring Bautista to give the Birds a one run lead. Holder was then lifted for left-handed reliever James Pazos, who immediately served up a single to Michael Saunders that scored Martin and extended Toronto's lead to 3-1.

It took then until the eighth, but the Yankees got one of those runs back as they chased Happ from the game. With one out, Brett Gardner roped a double into right, scoring when the next batter Jacoby Ellsbury ripped a single into center to close the gap to 3-2. After the RBI knocked Happ out of the game, left-hander Brett Cecil got pinch-hitter Brian McCann to ground out to short to end the frame and prevent any further damage.

 Because the Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna had the night off, Jason Grilli came on to pitch the ninth and opened the door on the Yankees late-inning comeback. With one out, Mark Teixeira absolutely  obliterated a Grilli fastball into the second deck in right-center, tying the game at three apiece. After a Gregorius opposite field single, Aaron Hicks unloaded on a Grilli breaking ball into the seats in right field to give the Yankees a 5-3 lead. After a Donovan Solano double kept the Yankee rally alive, Grilli was pulled for righty Danny Barnes. Barnes immediately walked Brett Gardner and then allowed Solano to score on a Jacoby Ellsbury single to right, 6-3 New York. And then Gary Sanchez capped off the rally by smacking a fly ball into centerfield for sacrifice fly, scoring Gardner to push their lead out to four.

The struggles for Delin Betances continued on this nightmarish road trip as he let the Jays back in the game in the bottom of the ninth. Betances missed badly on four straight pitches to leadoff hitter Justin Smoak, Who advanced to second when the next batter Kevin Pillar reached on a throwing error by (who else)Betances. After a VERY wild pitch advanced both runners up a base, Betances walked Darwin Barney to load the bases with no one out for Josh Donaldson. And even though there was only a lefty up in the bullpen, Espada went to that lefty Tommy Layne.  The mid-season supposed left-handed specialist got Donaldson to hit a short pop up, leaving the bases loaded with now one out. He followed up the pop out by walking Encarnacion to force in Smoak from third to make it a three run game. Layne then served up a soft fly ball to "no man's land" by Russell Martin for a single, scoring Pillar and pulling the Jays back to within two. But two sparkling plays, first by Layne to record out number two at home plate and the second a diving catch to end the game by Gardner, put the Yankees back in the win column to close out the roughest road trip of the season.

The Bombers head home for their final games of the season, starting tomorrow at 7:05 PM/EST when they host the retiring David Ortiz and the Red Sox for a three-game set.

Game Thread: New York Yankees @ Toronto Blue Jays 9/26

Here we go ladies and gentleman as the New York Yankees prepare for their final road game of the season unless they can somehow pull off a miracle and make the postseason. Let's do it. In the road finale for New York the Yankees will make the trip to the Rogers Centre to face off with their AL East foes the Toronto Blue Jays. In the game the Yankees will send -- to the mound replacing Masahiro Tanaka who is battling with a slight strain in his forearm while the Blue Jays will send JA Happ to the mound looking for his 21st win of the season. The game will be played at 7:07 pm ET inside Rogers Centre and can be seen on the YES Network, MLB Network and MLB TV.

Seven games left this season including this one. Let's win them all. Go Yankees!

ICYMI: I Couldn't Have Been More Wrong About JA Happ

I wrote THIS article on December 2, 2015 for a few reasons. At the beginning of December the news around Major League Baseball is slow. Also it's the best time to be optimistic because basically all of free agency is ahead of you and every team is technically in first place. When the Toronto Blue Jays signed Jesse Chavez I wasn't exactly scared or worried. When they signed JA Happ I only feared for the left-handed hitters on the team, Happ has made it a habit of hitting and injuring left-handed Yankees hitters in recent years, and boy I could not have been more wrong about Happ. 20-wins later and possibly two more starts to go including tonight's star against New York it's time for me to eat crow on the issue publicly.

Here is the article that was originally posted on December 2nd in it's entirety: 

It's the offseason and I don't know if everyone is just turkey drunk, the Black Friday deals are just that good or if the fact that the market is so deep that teams are taking their time but times are slow right now. With the extra time on my hands I have turned my attention to not only the New York Yankees but the other four teams inside the American League East, especially the Toronto Blue Jays. Earlier this offseason I took a look at the fact that Jesse Chavez, a recent acquisition for the Mark Shapiro led Blue Jays franchise, was not David Price but left the door open for a return to Toronto for the lefty. That door is probably officially closed now after the team also signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three year deal and no, he isn't David Price either.

Price was absolute money for the Blue Jays down the stretch posting a 9-1 record in 11 starts with a 2.30 ERA and 1.009 WHIP. Price faced the Yankees four times as a member of the Blue Jays and beat them three times including twice in the middle of their pennant race in September. Without Price that division tells an entirely different story, is Happ enough to replace that production and almost a 6.0 WAR in 2016?

Well Happ only threw to a 3.0 WAR and was less than stellar the last time he pitched in the American League. Happ is no stranger to the American League, the AL East or the Blue Jays as this is his second stint with the club. Remember, Happ was the one that hit Curtis Granderson (the second time) to break his wrist in his final season in New York on his way to posting a 19-20 record with a 4.39 ERA in three seasons. Happ in a National League pitcher at this point in his career.

Happ owns a career .469 winning percentage(four season) in the AL and a .527 percentage (seven seasons) in the NL. If that were not enough then surely his better ERA+, WHIP, WAR, K and his overall numbers across the board are better in the National League. Happ is not the pitcher he was in Pittsburgh for half a season last year and he's not going to be enough to replace David Price. Toronto isn't necessarily in trouble yet but over the course of a 162 game season the Blue Jays aren't running away with this division either, even with Marcus Stroman.

Most Popular Article of the Week: It's My Turn To Judge The Situation

By Bryan Van Dusen seen HERE: 

No, your eyes are not deceiving you, I really am writing again. I can't tell you for sure why I've been gone for so long, all I can say is that this team has not inspired me at all. And to be honest, I don't know when I'll write again. Perhaps not until some news and/or rumors start pouring in during the offseason (Jose Fernandez? Hmm....).
"Nice foreshadowing, bro."

It's great watching young players like Gary Sanchez play regularly, seeing Didi Gregorius look like a long-term solution at shortstop, and rooting for Starlin Castro to finally "get it". However, I've also watched every non-Tanaka pitcher disappoint me day after day. Hell, after a busy few days I finally got to watch the Yankees last Thursday night, only to go to sleep feeling ill after Hanley Ramirez won the game with a three-run bomb off of Dellin Betances.

Yankees pitching isn't the only area that's disappointed me lately, though. I've been all about Aaron Judge, and had him penciled into the Yankees 2018 lineup that could make a strong push for the World Series title. But a batting line of .179/.263/.345 in 27 games with the Yankees this season has left me a bit disillusioned.

Now, I understand it's just 27 games, and plenty of hitters have a hard time early in their MLB careers. But Judge struck out in exactly half of his at bats (42 Ks in 84 ABs). And at 6'7" tall, there are plenty of holes in his swing for MLB caliber pitchers to exploit. In summary, it wouldn't surprise me if he never reaches his ceiling... metaphorically, of course.

So where does that leave things? Well, if you read Daniel's article on Sunday about the possibility of the team dealing away Jorge Mateo this offseason, you'll know where this is going.

As hard as it may be, let's forget Aaron's poor debut and look at the team's outfield situation.

Brett Gardner
Brett is signed through the 2018 season, and looks to be firmly entrenched into the regular lineup. At one point he looked like a great trade piece, but after a below average season with dwindling stolen base totals, I'm not sure another team would truly be interested in acquiring the guy.

Jacoby Ellsbury
I think Ellsbury will be a Yankee through 2020... the end of his contract. Unless he's somehow able to hit 20+ home runs a season, the guy is pretty much done. His value was all in his legs, leading to very good defense and a nice stolen base total, and both of those things have declined.

Clint Frazier
We probably won't see Frazier in the Majors until late next season, and more likely sometime in 2018, as he has some work to do in AAA before being truly ready for the Show. But it's only a matter of time until he's pounding on the Yankees' door to be called up.

"Which one's mine, dude?"

Blake Rutherford
He's just 19 years old, so there's a ways to go before he'll possibly wear Yankees' pinstripes. But there's plenty of reason to think he could be a key player for the Yankees by 2020. Hell, reports that some scouts liken Rutherford to a more athletic version of David Justice. Not bad.

Dustin Fowler
While his ETA is probably sometime in 2018, Dustin has turned a few heads at AA Trenton. His 12 home runs, to go along with 25 SB, has some people believing he could evolve into a 20-20 player in MLB.

Mason Williams
Not long ago Williams was seen as one of the Yankees' better prospects. Unfortunately, that shine wore off after lackluster 2013 and 2014 seasons. But Mason has been able to turn things around putting together a stellar 2015 season, and followed that up with a nice 2016 that saw him finally make it to the show.

Billy McKinney
McKinney followed up an incredible 2015 at the plate with a not-so-great 2016. At least part of that is due to suffering a hairline fracture to his kneecap last August, but the fact remains that Billy has some areas to improve (mainly on defense) to truly make a push for the big leagues.

Tyler Austin
The "Tyler Austin" we've seen in 2016 is not the same "Tyler Austin" we saw in 2015. Just compare his '15 batting line of .240/.315/.343 between Trenton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to his '16 line of .294/.392/.524 between those same two teams this season. Oh, and let's not dwell on what he's done in just 23 games with New York. Besides, if Greg Bird can come back as the regular 1B, Austin will need a spot and the OF could be it.

Rob Refsnyder
If the Yankees ever decided to give this guy some regular player time perhaps he'd have a future with the team, but for the time being Refsnyder looks to be a bench filler for the team. But he's not totally out of the picture yet, so when talking about possibly outfielders you have to bring up Robbie here.

Aaron Hicks
While Aaron is a 4th outfielder at best, the fact remains that he can fill-in when needed in the outfield, So he must be included when talking about the outfield depth that the Yankees currently have or could have soon.

Wow! That's ten guys that could are already MLB regulars, or could be MLB regulars very soon. And the Yankees have only three spots to fit them into on their lineup cards. And no, the DH spot will likely have the name "Brian McCann" or "Gary Sanchez" filling it for the next two years.

And that list of ten players did not include Aaron Judge. So make it 11 guys for three spots through 2018. Add a logjam like that in the outfield along with the need for starting pitching, and I think you have the makings of a blockbuster deal.

Say... Jorge Mateo and Aaron Judge leading a package of players for Jose Fernandez?

Think about it... Giancarlo Stanton's salary will jump from $9 million in 2016 to $14.5 million next season. Then, once 2018 hits, Giancarlo's salary will reach $25 million a year or higher for the next ten years. You don't think Miami would like to unload that gigantic contract, and get a hitter that could take his spot in the lineup?

"Sure, I may be made of money, but I'm not going to spend it."

While I agree that thanks to Gleyber Torres we could see Mateo dealt away this offseason, I think the chances of the Yankees dealing away Aaron Judge are just as good.

Game Preview: New York Yankees @ Toronto Blue Jays 9/26

Here we are on a Monday morning and the four-game set that has put the nail in the Yankees coffin finally comes to an end. Finally. It's probably not a coincidence that the Toronto Blue Jays all but ended the Yankees chance at a AL East title last year with a big series and now the Blue Jays may have ended the Wild Card hopes of the Baby Bombers as well with a similarly huge series in 2016. Oh well, let's get on with it  and get it over with so we can head back home to the Bronx to finish this season. In the finale the Yankees will send Luis Severino to the mound who will be taking Masahiro Tanaka's turn in the rotation while the Blue Jays will counter with JA Happ.

Severino makes the start tonight in place of the injured Masahiro Tanaka after allowing just one run in 15 innings this month as a reliever. Severino has pitched like a man with newfound confidence since entering the bullpen so hopefully that confidence carries over tonight.

Happ is set to be in some elite company in Toronto Blue Jays history with another win, we're just hoping that win doesn't come at the expense of the Yankees tonight. With one more victory Happ would surpass David Wells for the most wins in a Blue Jays uniform by a left-handed pitcher while last time out he became just the sixth Blue Jays pitcher in the history of the franchise to reach the 20 win plateau.

The game will be played at 7:07 pm ET inside the Rogers Centre and can be seen on the YES Network, MLB Network and MLB TV. I bet when the MLB schedule makers had this game on the calendar they didn't think the Yankees would be in the state they are both in terms of roster and in terms of standings. I know I didn't. Gotta keep fighting though, even if the playoffs will not be happening. It's still Go Yankees regardless!

Meet a Prospect: Jose Fernandez

Wow, talk about taking a punch to the gut yesterday morning when I woke up to the news that the Miami Marlins had lost their 24-year old pitching ace to a boating accident. 24-years old. Talk about the whole immortality thing hitting you like a ton of bricks. I wanted to say something that could put some at ease while really honoring and showcasing what Fernandez had been able to do in such a short time in Major League Baseball and I kept coming back to a Meet a Prospect post. It's the only way I know how to honor someone like this so that's what I'll do, and I hope I do well with it. This is Meet a Prospect: The Jose Fernandez Special Edition.

Jose D. Fernandez was born on July 31, 1992 and died on September 25, 2016. Fernandez was a Cuban American professional pitcher who spent his entire career with the Miami Marlins after defecting from Santa Clara, Cuba where he was born. Fernandez tried to defect from Cuba three times before successfully making it to the states before the 2011 MLB First Year Players Draft.  While still in Cuba though Fernandez lived on the same street as MLB shortstop Aledmys Diaz and even played on the same youth baseball team as the St. Louis Cardinals star. Conveniently, Diaz faced Fernandez in his first MLB at-bat and wouldn't you know it he hit a home run. Maybe Fernandez gave him that one?

Fernandez failed to defect from Cuba three times before finally leaving Cuba in 2007, but not without issue. Fernandez's mother fell off the boat during the trip and Fernandez had to dive into turbulent waters to save his mother's life. Fernandez was a hero, and not for anything he ever did on a MLB pitching mound. When Fernandez reached U.S. soil he attended Braulio Alonso High School in Tampa, Florida although not without issues. Before Fernandez's senior season the Florida High School Athletic Association ruled that Fernandez was ineligible to play since he entered ninth grade while in Cuba back in 2006. Fernandez appealed, while the Cincinnati Reds prepared to sign him as an international free agent with a $1.3 million signing bonus, and won his appeal allowing him to pitch during his senior year. Fernandez threw two no-hitters as a senior and went 13-1 with a 2.35 ERA.

What Fernandez did as a High School pitcher was enough for the Miami Marlins who took him 14th overall in the 2011 MLB First Year Players Draft. Fernandez signed for $2 million and was immediately assigned to the New York Penn League. Fernandez finished 2011 there before receiving a bump up to Class-A ball in the SAL League in 2012 where he started a combined no-hitter, won SAL Pitcher of the Week twice and represented the Marlins in the 2012 XM Futures Game. Fernandez finished the season in High-A Ball where he finished 2012 as the Miami Marlins Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Fernandez was on his way.

Fernandez was named the Marlins best prospect before the 2013 season and was named the fifth best prospect in all of baseball according to Baseball American but Miami opted to send Fernandez back to the minor leagues out of spring training. Injuries to Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez though led Fernandez to starting the season with the club on their 25-man roster and Fernandez did not disappoint despite being on a pitch limit. See Fernandez was promoted by owner Jeffrey Loria as a goodwill gesture to the fans who just went through another fire sale the previous season and Fernandez had the organization, and the city of Miami, on his right shoulder. Fernandez had to be a hero once again.

Fernandez was selected to represent the Miami Marlins at the 2013 All-Star Game after being donned one of the best young pitchers in the game. Fernandez pitched a perfect sixth inning in that game getting outs from Dustin Pedroia, Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis. Two of them were via strikeout while Miguel Cabrera popped out for his out. Fernandez finished the season with a 4.2 WAR and a 174 ERA+ which are both Top 10 stats for pitchers 21-years and younger in the history of Major League Baseball since 1900. Fernandez hit his first career home run on September 11, 2013 and finished the season 3rd in the NL Cy Young Award vote behind Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals.

Fernandez was the Marlins Opening Day starter in 2014, the youngest in MLB history since Dwight Gooden in 1986, but on May 12 Fernandez was added to the 15-day disabled list with a right elbow sprain. An MRI revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament and on May 16th Fernandez went under the knife with Tommy John surgery after making just eight starts that season and posting a 4-2 record with a 2.44 ERA and 70 strikeouts. Fernandez was out until July 2nd of the 2015 season but when he returned it didn't look like he skipped a beat. Fernandez struck out six in six innings of work while also hitting a home run in the start.

Fernandez entered the 2016 season looking to help with his recovery from Tommy John surgery and vowed to throw less fastballs this season. Amidst offseason trade rumors both before 2016 and with potential trade talks already circulating for after the 2016 season Fernandez went out and simply did what Fernandez always did, he pitched and he pitched well. Fernandez finished the season, and his career, with a 16-8 record with a 2.86 ERA and 253 strikeouts in 182.1 innings pitched. At the time of his death the Miami Marlins were still in the discussion for the National League Wild Card, although were facing elimination early in the final week of the season.

Fernandez loved pitching in Miami which was evident by the fact that he was the first modern era pitcher to win his first 17 career home decisions as well as going 24-1 in his first 25 home decisions. Fernandez was a National League All-Star in his first season in 2013 while also notching the NL Rookie of the Year Award in the same year. Fernandez finished third in the Cy Young Award voting that season. Fernandez was 24-years old. Rest, young soul. Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to his friends, family, the Miami Marlins organization and their fans.

Playoff Scoreboard Watching for 9/26

As we enter the final week of the 2016 regular season it's time to start scoreboard watching for certain teams. Seven more games to go for most including today, seven games that will tell the story for the entire offseason. Let's see what's going on.

AL East Race:

Boston Red Sox - OFF
Baltimore Orioles - OFF
Toronto Blue Jays @ New York Yankees

AL Wild Card Race: 

Detroit Tigers vs. Cleveland Indians
Seattle Mariners @ Houston Astros
Houston Astros vs. Seattle Mariners
New York Yankees @ Toronto Blue Jays
Kansas City Royals - OFF

National League Wild Card: 

New York Mets @ Miami Marlins
San Francisco Giants - OFF
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Cincinnati Reds
Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Chicago Cubs
Miami Marlins vs. New York Mets

* If your favorite team is missing or your division race is not listed it's because those races are over entering the final week of the season.

This Day in New York Yankees History 9/26: Roger Maris #60 in '61

Also on this day in 1961 Roger Maris tied Babe Ruth for the single season home run record with his 60th home run of the season. Maris accomplished the feat in his 159th game of the season. Ruth’s record came in his 154th game of the season which was the reason for the asterisk that was behind the record for so many years.

Finally on this day in 1954 Yankees manager Casey Stengel fielded a new look lineup on the final game of the season as New York was eight games behind Cleveland for the pennant. Yogi Berra played third base without an error, Mickey Mantle played shortstop with any miscues, and Moose Skowron made one error at second base.