Thursday, September 21, 2017

Just Another Game for the History Books...

Credit:  Noah K Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Yankees 11, Twins 3...

I don't know, the Minnesota Twins might want to consider forfeiting the Wild Card game. Seriously, the Yankees seem to have the Twins number as evidenced by the sweep of the most recent three-game series. I only hope that it continues into October assuming the Twins are successful in holding off the Los Angeles Angels for the second Wild Card spot.

For the first two innings, the game appeared to be a pitching duel between Yankees ace Luis Severino and the ancient Bartolo Colon. A few isolated hits but no serious threats. Then, in the top of the 3rd inning, the Twins came out charging. Kennys Vargas singled on a soft bouncer to short that Didi Gregorius  tried to barehand..unsuccessfully...with one out. Jason Castro followed with a single, a line drive to right. Runners at the corners.  Brian Dozier drew a walk and the bases were full. Joe Mauer, battling Sevy for 13 pitches, singled to right, scoring Vargas. After a trip to the mound by Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild (which never seems to work), Jorge Polanco lashed a single to right just past a running Greg Bird who nearly had the ball, Castro and Dozier scored. The Twins were up, 3-0. Severino evaded further trouble by retiring the next two batters.  

All I could think was, "We're going to let Bartolo Colon beat us? Really?". Fortunately, the Yankees heard me.  Greg Bird led off the bottom of the 3rd with a double to the right field wall, sliding into second just under the outfield throw. After Brett Gardner struck out, Aaron Judge hammered a Colon pitch over the wall in right for a two-run home run.  It was Judge's 45th of the year and his 100th RBI. Amazing. This was a guy who was almost beat out of a job by Aaron Hicks in Spring Training. 


Credit:  Bill Kostroun-AP

Gary Sanchez was up next and he delivered his 32nd home run with a shot to center in Monument Park. Drop the accolades for Judge and pick them up for Sanchez. 32 homers...the most ever for a Yankees catcher despite missing nearly a month of the season. More homers than Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, Thurman Munson and Jorge Posada accomplished in one season. Incredible. The game was tied.


Credit:  Bill Kostroun-AP

Luis Severino did not return for the 4th inning. 3 innings worked, 5 hits, 3 runs, a walk, and 3 K's on 71 pitches. He needed 46 pitches for the 3rd inning alone. A no decision that pushed his season ERA back over three (3.03).  


Credit:  Andrew Theodorakis-The NY Post

Chasen Shreve took over for Severino. Given Shreve's recent performances, I was feeling a little shell-shocked. But he retired the first batter he faced, Max Kepler, on a swinging strikeout. Eduardo Escobar followed by flying out to left on a ball that took Brett Gardner to the warning track. Whew! So far, so good. Then, he walked Kennys Vargas. Are you friggin' kidding me? Get that bum out of there! Nobody listened to me, so Shreve was able to pitch to the next batter, Jason Castro, who grounded out to second for the final out. Okay, Shreve, that wasn't bad. I feel better now...

The bottom of the 4th arrived and, man, so did the rejuvenated September 2017 Yankees. Well, Matt Holliday excluded. He started the inning with a pop out to first in foul territory. Jacoby Ellsbury, playing like a man who is worth $153 million, tripled to left (actually, it probably should have been an error on left fielder Eddie Rosario who didn't take a good route to the ball and it bounced out of his glove). Todd Frazier walked. Greg Bird doubled to the right field corner with Ellsbury scoring on the play and the Toddfather moving to third. The Yankees had their first lead of the game. Paul Molitor decided to make a pitching change and brought in Tyler Duffey to replace Colon. I was worried that our little rally was going to be short-fused. Silly me. Brett Gardner lined a single to center which scored Frazier. Bird moved to third. Aaron Judge struck out to briefly bring the return of my pessimism, but Gary Sanchez lightened my mood with a single to right, scoring Bird. Didi Gregorius was up next and he crushed a three-run homer to the second deck in right. It was Didi's 25th home run of the year, giving him the most for a Yankees shortstop in franchise history. After the hit, Didi turned around and apologized to Jason Castro for dropping the bat in front of him.  Class act by a very classy guy.


Credit:  Bill Kostroun-AP

The Yankees had scored 6 runs and now led 9-3. Starlin Castro grounded out to short to end the inning but I was okay with that.

Chasen Shreve did his job in the top of the 5th with no complaints or inner dialogue from me. In the bottom of the 5th, former Yankees farmhand Nik Turley took over for Tyler Duffey. Matt Holliday, deciding he wanted to join the party, started the Yankees half of the inning with a single to center. Jacoby Ellsbury drew a walk on four pitches. After a game delay when Todd Frazier hit a young fan with a foul ball, he flied out to center but Holliday tagged and moved to third. With Greg Bird at bat, Turley unleashed a wild pitch that got away from Jason Castro and Holliday came in to score. Ellsbury moved to second. Bird then singled on a grounder to first that the first baseman momentarily lost after stopping the ball to put runners at the corners.  It was another hit that probably should have been ruled an error. Brett Gardner was hit by a pitch in the back and the bases were loaded. That would be all for Turley and he was replaced by Michael Tonklin. Aaron Judge hit a fly to right, scoring Ellsbury. The Yankees were now up, 11-3.  Gary Sanchez singled to left to reload the bases, but Didi Gregorius struck out on a foul tip to end the inning.

Shreve returned with another solid inning in the 6th to help restore some of my confidence in the young Las Vegan left-hander. By the bottom of the 7th, both teams began making multiple substitutions. The Yanks rode the arms of Ben Heller and Domingo German to the finish.  Nice job by both but special mention for German.  He pitched two scoreless innings with no hits and a meaningless walk in the 9th.  He struck out a total of four Twins including Kennys Vargas to end the game.  The Yankees win!

The Yankees (85-67) increased their lead in the Wild Card standings to seven games over the Twins with 10 games to play. The Twins retained their 1 1/2 game lead over the Los Angeles Angels, who lost to the Cleveland Indians, 6-5.  The Boston Red Sox swept the Baltimore Orioles with a 9-0 win on Wednesday, so they remain three games in front of the Yankees.  The win clinched a post-season berth for the Red Sox.

Chasen Shreve (4-1), by virtue of Severino's early departure, got the win. Three Yankees had three hits (Gary Sanchez, Jacoby Ellsbury and Greg Bird) and two had three RBI's (Aaron Judge and Didi Gregorius).  Sanchez had two ribbies. Judge now has 101 RBIs, becoming the fourth Yankees rookie to reach the 100 RBI mark, joining Tony Lazzeri (1926), Joe DiMaggio (1936), and Hideki Matsui (2003). Judge also became the third rookie in MLB history and eighth player in Yankees history with 100 runs, 100 RBIs, and 100 walks. This was yet another great team victory.  Thumbs down, Everyone!  



Next Up: Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada...

The Yankees enjoy their final day off of the regular season today (barring any rainouts) before embarking on their last road trip with a quick three-game set north of the border starting Friday night. The Blue Jays, picked by many to finish as high as second in the AL East prior to the season, have successfully held off the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays, for rights to the AL East Cellar although they'll need to keep losing to fend off the O's.  

It may be a down year for the Blue Jays but they always seem to play the Yankees very tough. Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:

FRIDAY
Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (12-11, 4.73 ERA)
Blue Jays:  Marco Estrada (9-8, 4.84 ERA)

SATURDAY
Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (8-7, 4.06 ERA)
Blue Jays:  Joe Biagini (3-11, 5.33 ERA)

SUNDAY
Yankees:  Sonny Gray (9-11, 3.38 ERA)
Blue Jays:  Marcus Stroman (12-8, 3.01 ERA)

Marco Estrada, who had been due to become a free agent after the season, signed a one-year contract extension for $13 million this week. So, he'll be a happy man on Friday night.  

I really hope that the Yankees find the perfect combination of excellent pitching from Sonny Gray and run support on Sunday.

Odds & Ends...

The downside to Wednesday's victory was the injury of a young girl who was hit by the foul ball off the bat of Todd Frazier in the 5th inning.  The girl, a toddler, was attending the game with her grandparents.  She was apparently struck in the mouth. 

After the game, the Yankees released a short statement:  "The child who was struck with a batted ball today was given first aid at the ballpark and is receiving medical attention at an area hospital.  The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, prevents the team from giving more information.  We will have no further comment at this time."  

Our prayers and well wishes to the young girl for a full and speedy recovery.


Credit:  Bill Kostroun-AP
Credit:  Abbie Parr-Getty Images
Joe Girardi said after the game that the little girl was "doing OK".  This was a wake up call for the Yankees organization to extend the netting to protect fans.

I do feel bad for the Twins fans. Many of them are fans of the Minnesota Vikings like me. The Vikings took one on the chin last Sunday when they were steamrolled by the Pittsburgh Steelers, 26-9, behind backup QB Case Keenum. So it has not been a great week for sports fans in and around Minneapolis/St Paul, MN.  But I certainly do not feel bad enough that I wanted the Twins to escape with a victory.  How sweep it is!  



Have a great Thursday!  It's a day off...let's enjoy!  Go Yankees!  

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