Thursday, August 31, 2017

Are Playoff Chances Being Swept Away?...

Credit:  Corey Sipkin-NY Post
Game 1 - Indians 2, Yankees 1...

The Yankees continued their struggles with runners in scoring position and lost another one run game.  Sadly, these games against the Cleveland Indians are showing the Yankees are not postseason-worthy or if they do make the play-offs, it will be a short stay.  I'd love for the Yankees to make me eat these words.

The first inning is generally a good litmus test for the starting pitcher.  By my account, Yankees starter Jaime Garcia failed.  Francisco Lindor led off the game with a single to right center.  Excuse me a moment...Jaime Garcia, you suck!...okay, I'm back.  Lindor stole second, and then advanced to third when Jose Ramirez singled to left past a diving Didi Gregorius.  Lindor came home to score the first run when Garcia's pitch got past Gary Sanchez (here we go again).  It was El Gary's thirteenth passed ball this season.  Ramirez moved up to second.  Yandy Diaz (who?) then singled to center (another unsuccessful dive by Didi) which scored Ramirez.  The Indians had the early 2-0 lead.  

Credit:  Bill Kostroun-Associated Press

The Yankees had something going in the bottom of the 2nd but couldn't produce.  Chase Headley led off with a walk.  After Greg Bird popped out to the shortstop (Lindor), Todd Frazier singled to left to put runners at the corners with just the one out.  Unfortunately, neither Jacoby Ellsbury nor Ronald Torreyes could move the runners against Indians starter Trevor Bauer.  Another failed RISP opportunity which has been a common theme the second half.  

The Yankees picked up their first run in the bottom of the 3rd before the ugly RISP monster raised its head again.  Aaron Hicks worked a walk with one out.  A ground out by Gary Sanchez pushed Hicksie to second.  Doing his best "Bradley Zimmer" impersonation, Hicks advanced to third on a wild pitch by Bauer that got away from catcher Roberto Perez.  Didi Gregorius must have been unaware there was a runner in scoring position because he doubled to left to score A-A-Ron.  Another wild pitch by Bauer moved Didi 90 feet away from home plate, but Chase Headley, realizing there WAS a runner in scoring position, struck out to end the inning.

Jaime Garcia ended up making it through five innings with just the two first inning runs scored against him (only one earned), but you know what?  He still sucks.  The Tribe had runners in scoring position every inning against him except for the 3-up, 3-down 2nd inning.  Luck was his friend this day...not talent.  He walked the first batter (Carlos Santana) to start the 6th inning which caused Manager Joe Girardi to make the call to the bullpen.  Exit He Who Sucks, Enter Chad Green.  For a bullpen that has been leaky recently, Green just quietly goes about his business.  Two strikeouts and Santana caught stealing second sent the game to the bottom of the 6th.  No drama...thanks Greeny!

Green struck out the side in the 7th but allowed a lead-off double in the 8th to the pesky Jose Ramirez.  He struck out the next two batters before Girardi gave him the hook and brought in Tommy Kahnle.  Kahnle induced Carlos Santana to pop out to third to end the inning.  I can't say enough great things about the job that Chad Green has done this year.  He hasn't been perfect, but all things considered, he is most of the time.  For this outing, he ended up with 7 strikeouts for 2 2/3 innings of work and just the one hit.  I never thought I'd say that Green is a better reliever (right now) than Aroldis Chapman.  For his effort, according to, Green became the first player in history to record seven strikeouts in a game when facing eight or fewer batters.  

The last Yankees reliever who was this dominant was Ron Davis, who struck out eight of nine on May 4, 1981 against the then-California Angels in Anaheim. The Yankees won that game, 4-2, with Davis picking up the save in relief of Gene Nelson. 

Meanwhile, the Yankees couldn't muster anything against Bauer and reliever Tyler Olson.  Ronald Torreyes made it to second in the bottom of the 7th but that would be as far as he would get.  That was the last opportunity the Yankees would get as relievers Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen slammed the door over the final two innings.  Aaron Judge striking out to end the game seemed to represent how the second half has gone for the Yankees.  This was a very disappointing loss.  

With the loss, the Yankees (70-61) fell 4 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox before the start of the second game of the double-header.  They moved closer to the third place Baltimore Orioles than they are from the top.  If the O's keep winning, they'll soon be making noise in the Wild Card Standings and potentially for second place in the AL East.  

Game 2 - Indians 9, Yankees 1...

Perhaps I should have been kinder toward Jaime Garcia.  If he failed the first inning test for me, Jordan Montgomery stunk the place up.  I always want to see the game's first batter retired for home games, but it was not to be for this double-header in either game.  Like the first game, Francisco Lindor led off with a single to center.  The second batter, Austin Jackson, walked.  Surprisingly, Jose Ramirez, who has proven to be a Yankee killer, struck out swinging.  But it didn't stop the next few batters from celebrating batting practice against Montgomery.  

Credit:  Bill Kostroun-Associated Press

Edwin Encarnacion got the party started with a single to center to score Lindor. Austin Jackson advanced to third on the hit and subsequent throw. A double to left by Carlos Santana brought Jackson home.  Encarnacion moved to third. Yandy Diaz (who is this guy and why does he keep scorching us?) singled to left, scoring both Encarnacion and Santana.  Brandon Guyer got the fifth hit of the inning off Montgomery with a single to left.  Diaz moved to second.  Yan Gomes struck out for the second out. A wild pitch sent Diaz to third.  Erik Gonzalez walked to load the bases, but fortunately, Francisco Lindor, coming to bat for the second time in the inning, struck out swinging to finally end the first inning disaster.  The Indians led, 4-0, before the Yankees could even pick up a bat.

The Yankees' half of the inning started promising.  Brett Gardner led off and reached on an infield single.  So far, so good.  Starlin Castro followed by hitting into a double play.  End of smiley face.  A fly out by Gary Sanchez and it gave the illusion that it would be another long day for the Yankee hitters (which ultimately proved to be true).  

The Yankees scratched out a run in the bottom of the 2nd.  Aaron Judge led off with an infield single.  Aaron Hicks stroked a one-out single to left, Judge to second.  Greg Bird singled to right which brought Judge around to score with Hicks moving to second.  4-1, Indians.  Ronald Torreyes hit into a fielder's choice which erased Bird at second so the Yankees had runners at the corners with two outs.  But Austin Romine continued the RISP struggles when he grounded out to third.

Credit Jordan Montgomery for recovering from the devastating first inning.  He held the Indians in check from the second inning through the fourth.  Unfortunately, the Yankees just couldn't get their offense untracked.  Monty was gone when the 5th inning rolled around, having thrown 92 pitches.  Lefty Chasen Shreve replaced Monty to start the 5th.  Sadly, Shreve's recent struggles continued as Edwin Encarnacion took him deep into the left field stands for a solo home run.  If you are slumping, just trying hitting against Shreve.  You're guaranteed to bust out in a big way.  Carlos Santana followed with a grounder to short, but the throw from Didi Gregorius took Greg Bird off the base to allow Santana to reach first safely.  Fortunately, Shreve retired the next 3 Indians to end the inning but I can't say I am too confident in the pitcher at the moment.

In the top of the 6th, with the still not-so-reliable Shreve on the mound, Erik Gonzalez led off with a double to left field.  After Francisco Lindor grounded out, Austin Jackson doubled to center to score Gonzalez.  The Tribe had increased their lead to 6-1.  Joe Girardi pulled Shreve (wasn't too sorry to see him go) and brought in Caleb Smith.  Smith got out of the 6th, but he wasn't so lucky in the 7th.  After a Yandy Diaz walk, Yan Gomes smashed a two-run homer off Smith to right.  

Credit:  Bill Kostroun-Associated Press

Smith ended up taking one for the team and finished the game to spare the other bullpen arms for Boston.  He allowed one more homer in the 8th when Francisco Lindor blasted a solo shot to left.  Not a pretty performance but at this point, it didn't really matter anymore.

The Indians took the 8-run lead into the bottom of the 9th.  With former Yankee Zach McAllister on the mound and in the 'too little, too late' department, Greg Bird unloaded a three-run bomb to right-center.  It was meaningless for this game but hopefully it is a sign that Bird's bat is coming around for the weekend series.  The Indians walked off the field with the 9-4 victory and the double-header sweep.  

Credit:  Bill Kostroun-Associated Press

The three-game downward spiral for the Yankees (70-62) dropped them 5 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox after pulling within 2 1/2 games just 48 hours previously.  The Baltimore Orioles won their seventh game in a row to draw within 2 1/2 games of the Yankees in both the AL East and the Wild Card standings.  At this point, the Yankees hold a very slight edge for the Wild Card  (one game ahead of the Minnesota Twins) and playing like they intend to bow out completely.  

Credit:  Getty Images

Things do not get any easier...

Next Up:  Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York...

The Yankees and Red Sox resume their great rivalry today with a four-game set at 161st and River.  The Yankees can make some noise in the AL East by winning this series.  At the very least, they need to hold their own with at least a split to avoid slipping further behind the Red Sox.

Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:

Red Sox:  Eduardo Rodriguez (4-4, 4.19 ERA)
Yankees:  CC Sabathia (10-5, 3.82 ERA)

Red Sox:  Doug Fister (3-7, 4.53 ERA)
Yankees:  Sonny Gray (8-8, 3.26 ERA)

Red Sox:  Drew Pomeranz (14-4, 3.23 ERA)
Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (10-10, 4.69 ERA)

Red Sox:  Chris Sale (15-6, 2.77 ERA)
Yankees:  Luis Severino (11-6, 3.14 ERA)

Odds & Ends...

The Yankees will be sending six players to the Arizona Fall League this year. You may recall that Gleyber Torres had tremendous success there last year (AFL Most Valuable Player).  He's not going this year as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery, but we'll be closely watching the six prospects who will be there.  OF Estevan Florial and LHP Justus Sheffield lead the pack.  They'll be joined by RHP Dillon Tate (who has really reinvigorated his prospect status this year), 1B Chris Gittens, SS Thairo Estrada, and SS Kyle Holder.  I'd love to see Florial dominate this year like Torres did last year.  That might be a tall order for the youngster but I am looking forward to seeing what the latest crop of Baby Bombers will bring.  

After yesterday's double-header, the Yankees optioned LHP Jordan Montgomery (the 26th man) and LHP Caleb Smith to Triple A.  No immediate word who will fill Smith's spot on the active roster.  The obvious move is the activation of DH Matt Holliday from the 10-day DL but we'll find out before today's game.  

Have a great Thursday!  Time to make a statement against the Red Sox and bring silence to the RSN!  Go Yankees!

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