Sunday, July 30, 2017

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Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Yankees 5, Rays 4…

Aroldis Chapman to stop the top of the 9th and Brett Gardner to walk it off in the bottom of inning.  This formula seems to be working.  Chapman has long been a high end finisher, but Gardy is the one who seems to come through in the clutch when you need him the most.  He is the first Yankees player to two walk-off’s in the same series.  The Yankees used this formula to pull out another victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday, their third consecutive win over the Rays and sixth overall.  

Credit:  Julie Jacobson-AP
Caleb Smith, perhaps making his final start for the Yankees this year, was in a hole immediately when Peter Bourjos homered to left center with the game’s second pitch.  He recovered to get out of the inning without any further damage.

In the bottom of the 2nd, Gary Sanchez led off with a ground-rule double to right.  Matt Holliday hit a grounder to the left side but Sanchez wisely read that third baseman Trevor Plouffe was committed to throwing to first so he was easily able to take third on the play.  Didi Gregorius hit a sacrifice fly to center and Sanchez tagged and scored standing up.  Game was tied.

The Rays had a huge opportunity to break the game open in the third inning.  Jesus Sucre led off with a single to left against Smith.  Peter Bourjos hit a grounder to Didi Gregorius which erased Sucre at second.  Steven Souza, Jr hit a hard liner which Gregorius almost snared (man, that would have been a brilliant play) but the ball bounced out of his glove toward third.  Runners at first and second.  Evan Longoria walked to load the bases, still with only one out.  Lucas Duda hit a sacrifice fly to center as Bourjos scored, giving the Rays the 2-1 lead. With runners at the corners and two outs, I thought Todd Frazier had one of the plays of the game when he made a barehanded grab on Trevor Plouffe’s grounder and his throw to Garrett Cooper just beat Plouffe to first.  If the Rays had been able to score multiple runs, the game would have had a much different look.

Caleb Smith pitched into the 4th inning.  After striking out Corey Dickerson, he walked Tim Beckham.  Even the YES Network announcers were commenting about Smith leaving his pitches up in the strike zone.  All things considered, he was very lucky the Rays weren’t more successful against him.  Smith’s departure after 71 pitches underscored the Yankees need for a quality starter.  Adam Warren replaced Smith and struck out Adeiny Hechavarria.  Beckham attempted to steal on the swinging strikeout, but the throw from Gary Sanchez to Ronald Torreyes was on target to nail the runner for the final out.

The Yankees tied the game in the bottom of the 4th when Gary Sanchez homered to left center.  But this seemed like one of those games where the Rays continually had the answer for the Yankees runs.  In the top of the 5th, Steven Souza, Jr homered to left as the Rays re-took the lead, 3-2.  

Dellin Betances pitched the the top of the 6th inning.  It wasn’t clean as he walked the first batter, Lucas Duda, on four straight balls.  But he retired the next three batters to get out of the inning, leaving Duda stranded at second.  In the bottom of the frame, Matt Holliday opened with a single to left.  A fly out by Didi Gregorius ended the day for Rays starter Blake Snell and he was replaced by former San Francisco Giants closer Sergio Romo.  The Yankees sent Chase Headley to the plate to pinch hit for Garrett Cooper.  Good call by Manager Joe Girardi as Headley homered to left to give the Yankees their first lead of the game, 4-3.  

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
The 7th inning brought Tommy Kahnle to the mound to replace Betances.  A couple of hits had runners at the corners with one out but he was able to strike out Steven Souza, Jr and get Yankee killer Evan Longoria to pop out in foul territory to strand the runners. Steve Cishek, acquired during this series by the Rays from the Seattle Mariners, entered the game in the bottom of the 7th in relief of Romo.  Last Saturday in Seattle, Aaron Judge had homered off Cishek but it was not to be this time around as Cishek struck out the side including Judge who went down swinging.

David Robertson took over for Kahnle in the 8th but he was immediately victimized by Lucas Duda who absolutely crushed the D-Rob pitch into the right field upper deck.  Duda has been the Ben Gamel of this series.  Watching how tailor-made Duda’s swing is for Yankee Stadium makes one wish that GM Brian Cashman had been more aggressive in his talks with the Mets before the first baseman was acquired by the Rays.  Robertson gave up another single was was able to get out of the inning with the game tied at 4.

Credit:  Julie Jacobson-AP
9th inning and it was time for Aroldis Chapman.  It wasn’t a perfect inning as Wilson Ramos was awarded first base on catcher’s interference (if the bat touched El Gary’s glove, it must have only been one of the strings as it wasn’t readily apparent watching replay).  A ground out by Steven Souza, Jr eliminated Ramos at second but Souza, Jr subsequently made it to third when he stole second and advanced another base on an error.  With the go-ahead run 90 feet away, Chapman retired Evan Longoria for the final out on a pop up in foul territory.

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
For the bottom of the 9th, the Rays replaced reliever Tommy Hunter with Brad Boxberger.  He walked his first batter, Chase Headley, and the Yankees replaced Headley with the $153 million pinch-runner, Jacoby Ellsbury, sporting stylish shades.  Ellsbury successfully stole second with Todd Frazier at bat but it didn’t really matter as Boxberger plunked Frazier with a pitch to give him first base.  Ronald Torreyes then laid down a beautiful bunt to third which left all three runners safe and the bases loaded.  The Rays then pulled Boxberger and replaced him with former White Sox reliever Dan Jennings.  Maybe Rays manager Kevin Cash didn’t catch the fact that this was not the best of games for former White Sox relievers (see Kahnle and Robertson).  Brett Gardner came the plate and nicely laid down a single to center to score Ellsbury with the winning run.  The Yankees win!

Credit:  Julie Jacobson-AP
The Yankees (56-46) remained the AL East division leaders with the win, but the Boston Red Sox stayed just a half game off the pace with their comeback win over the Kansas City Royals.  The Sox won in 10 innings with a walk-off grounder by former Yankee Eduardo Nunez which scored Sandy Leon with the winning run.  It was a big game for Nunez.  He was 3-for-6 with 2 homers and 3 RBI’s.  With the loss, the Rays fell 4 1/2 games behind the leaders.

Matt Holliday was 2-for-4 in the game with a run scored so hopefully it is a sign that his bat is starting to unthaw.  Todd Frazier is still cold as he was hitless in 3 at-bats.  

Odds & Ends…

Gray skies are forming over Yankee Stadium.  I am not referring to the weather but as we near the final 24 hours before the trading deadline, the Sonny Gray rumors will not go away.  Twitter was abuzz with words yesterday that Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s had moved off their demand for either Gleyber Torres or Clint Frazier in the deal.  I think most of us are expecting outfielder Estevan Florial and 2B/SS/OF Jorge Mateo to be included so it is a matter of what other pitching prospects will comprise the package and whether or not Yonder Alonzo will be coming the other way.  It seems like there is strong room for agreement at this point.  

This morning’s news brings word that the Yankees are nearing a deal for lefty starter Jaime Garcia of the Minnesota Twins.  Pitching prospect Zach Littell (currently in Double A) is a healthy scratch today for the Trenton Thunder which has led to speculation that he’ll be the prospect heading to the Twin Cities.  Littell was acquired by the Yankees last fall in the trade that sent reliever James Pazos to the Seattle Mariners and has been terrific in the Yankees system this year.  But he is a casualty of the roster-crunch as the Yankees must protect him on the 40-man roster this year or risk exposing him to the Rule 5 Draft.  Garcia does not appear to be a fall back plan for Gray considering he is nowhere near the same level of pitcher. He represents rotation insurance, with Jordan Montgomery nearing a career high in innings pitched (and is potentially working with an innings limit) and would be hedge for good health with CC Sabathia and potentially Gray.

Jaime Garcia
Garcia came up with the St Louis Cardinals where he was a starter for the majority of the Matt Holliday years.  He was traded last December to the Atlanta Braves.  Garcia, who turned 31 earlier this month, was traded to the Twins a week ago for the pennant push.  But a string of losses subsequently caused the Twins to re-think their strategy.  Entering play today, the Twins find themselves 7 games behind the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central.  Garcia has only pitched one game for the Twins.  He was the winner in Oakland on Friday night (6.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 7 SO).  

If the Yankees successfully acquire Gray, Alonzo, and/or Garcia, the MLB roster losers appear to be Caleb Smith, Luis Cessa, and Garrett Cooper.  GM Brian Cashman will have to get very creative with his 40-man roster moves.

Word is now breaking that the Yankees have, in fact, acquired Garcia for Littell and Triple A pitcher Dietrich Enns.  The Twins will also pay some of the money remaining on Garcia’s contract.  My initial reaction is that the cost seems very high to acquire a journeyman starter but Enns held a highly valued spot on the 40-man roster.  

Sounds like we are in for a turbulent ride until the trading deadline.

Have a great Sunday!  Let’s make the Rays series a sweeping success!  Go Yankees!

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