Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Mr McGwire, I Believe You Have My Seat...

Credit:  Adam Hunger-Getty Images
Yankees 11, Royals 3...

Welcome to the Aaron Judge Show!  Number 99 entered the game trailing Mark McGwire's MLB Rookie Home Run Record of 49 by one homer. He departed the game, two homers later, as the new record holder. All Rise for the Judge!

Oh yeah, they played a game too...

The Yankees got on the board first. After CC Sabathia retired the Royals in order in the top of the 1st inning, Brett Gardner led off the Yankees' half with a single that dropped in right center field. After Aaron Judge flied out to center (a warning track fly that drew awes from the crowd), Gary Sanchez doubled to deep right into the corner with Gardner holding up at third. Didi Gregorius hit a grounder to first for the second out, but Gardy scored on the play. Sanchez moved to third. Unfortunately, he was left stranded when Matt Holliday struck out. Yankees were up, 1-0.

As Sabathia made his way through the Royals lineup in vintage 2009 fashion, the Yankees struck again in a big way in the bottom of the 3rd. Royals starter Jake Junis gave Brett Gardner a free pass on five pitches with one out. Aaron Judge came to the plate and demolished a Junis pitch into the right field stands to increase the Yankees' lead to 3-0. The home run was Judge's 49th of the year, tying the MLB Rookie Record held by Mark McGwire (set in 1987).  

While Sabathia was holding the Royals scoreless, the Yankees got on the board again in the bottom of the 6th. Didi Gregorius hit a one-out single to left on a short hop to left fielder Melky Cabrera. He came around to score on a double to the left field wall by Matt Holliday. Didi didn't have to stand on second base very long as Greg Bird followed with a home run to the second deck in right. The Yankees had increased their lead to 6-0.  

As great as Sabathia was pitching (three hits over six scoreless innings), I thought bringing him out for the 7th inning might be pushing our luck. Eric Hosmer led off with a single to left just over the glove of Didi Gregorius. Salvador Perez made it a 6-2 game with a home run to left. I thought surely Joe Girardi would make a move at that point but he didn't. With CC's 80th pitch, the bat of Mike Moustakas said "big mistake", homering to right to cut the deficit to three runs. 

Credit:  Seth Wenig-AP

Finally, Girardi made the move and ended Sabathia's day. As great as CC can be at times, he is no longer more than a 5-6 inning guy. I know, it's easy to second guess but I just don't trust Sabathia past the 6th inning anymore. Plus, with the plethora of arms in the pen, it's not really necessary.  Chad Green entered the game. He walked the first batter he faced, Jorge Bonifacio. Alcides Escobar hit a fielder's choice to short, forcing Bonifacio out at second. Escobar was too quick for the Yankees to turn the double play. Green struck out Paulo Orlando for the second out and was finally able to end the inning when he got Whit Merrifield to ground out to second in an 8-pitch at-bat. It was a tough inning for Yankees pitching but fortunately the Yankees were able to hold the Royals after the back-to-back homers.

With Trevor Cahill on the mound, Ronald Torreyes led off the bottom of the 7th with a single that dropped into center field. Brett Gardner momentarily dampened spirits when he hit into a double play at second. Very close play at first as it looked like Gardy may have beat the throw, but the Yankees did not challenge. But no fear, Aaron Judge stepped up and broke the tie with McGwire for the MLB Rookie HR Record when he blasted Cahill's offering into the left field seats for his 50th home run. Gary Sanchez wasted no time, jumping all over Cahill's first pitch, to deposit another ball, a bullet, into the left field seats for consecutive home runs. The Yankees subsequently loaded the bases on a single and two walks, but Todd Frazier grounded into a force out at third to end the inning. Still, the Yankees had increased their lead to 8-3.

Credit:  Seth Wenig-AP

With no offense to Dellin Betances, I love having David Robertson in the 8th inning to set up Aroldis Chapman. He came in and struck out the side to push the game to the bottom of the 8th. I get fired up watching D-Rob pitch and the way he runs off the field when the inning is over. I enjoyed him replacing Mariano Rivera as the team's closer a few years back and I enjoy him now in whatever role he can be afforded as long as he's on the field pitching.  

In the bottom of the 8th, Ronald Torreyes hit a one-out double to right, a ball that dropped in between a crowd of Royals. A throwing error by the right fielder, Jorge Bonifacio (ball got past Alcides Escobar at second), allowed Toe to advance to third. Last time, Brett Gardner hit into a double play to erase Toe. This time, Gardy doubled down the right field line to make it a 9-3 game. Aaron Judge walked (I wouldn't have thrown him anything to hit either) and he left the game to an ovation when he was replaced at first base by pinch-runner Clint Frazier. Gary Sanchez singled to left on a line drive to load the bases and there was still only one out. Didi Gregorius singled to right, scoring Gardy, to keep the bases full of Yanks. Matt Holliday lofted a fly ball to right, deep enough to score Clint Frazier on the sacrifice. Greg Bird finally brought the inning to a close when he popped out to third, but the Yankees had increased their lead to 11-3.

Actually, this probably would have been a great spot to bring in Dellin Betances but Girardi opted to go with Tommy Kahnle. A good choice but I'd really like to see Betances continuing work out of his funk and an 8-run lead would have been good placement for him. Kahnle walked a batter but it was otherwise a quiet inning as the Royals went down without advancing the runner. The Yankees win!

The Royals can probably have t-shirts made up that say "I went to NYC for one day and all I got was a butt-kicking". I am sure that all things considered, they wish they had ended this series back in May. The loss most likely ended any aspirations the Royals held for the second Wild Card slot.  

The Yankees (87-69) picked up a game on the Boston Red Sox although it is probably too little, too.  The Toronto Blue Jays, fresh off a series win over the Yankees last weekend, defeated Boston, 6-4 yesterday.  The Yankees trail the Sox by four games with six to play.  The Yankees lead the Wild Card standings by five games.  

It was a great start by CC Sabathia despite the Perez-Moustakas freight train he ran into by overstaying his welcome. With the win (his 236th career victory), Sabathia improved his season record to 13-5. 

Credit:  Robert Sabo

The bullpen trio of Green, Robertson and Kahnle held the Royals hitless (and scoreless) for nine outs while compiling six strikeouts. A job well done! 

I don't know about you, but I am kinda thinking this Judge guy has a chance to be something special. Seriously, this has to be one of the greatest Rookie seasons that I've ever experienced. Obviously, my view is a little Pinstriped tainted but Judge has put his name among the All-Time Greats. With an organization as deep in tradition and history as the Yankees, that's very, very hard to do.



Thumbs down, Guys! This was a wonderful win!

Next Up:  Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY...

The march toward the conclusion of the regular season and the Wild Card game that awaits the Yankees will continue tonight with the division foe Rays coming to town. There was a time when the Rays were battling the Yankees for the Wild Card but at this point, the Rays are just playing out the string to get a jump start on their October vacation plans. They can certainly play the role of spoiler as the Yankees attempt to drive to home field advantage for next week's Wild Card game.  

Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:

TODAY
Rays:  Blake Snell (4-6, 4.01 ERA)
Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (8-7, 4.06 ERA)

WEDNESDAY
Rays:  Matt Andriese (5-4, 4.44 ERA)
Yankees:  Luis Severino (13-6, 3.03 ERA)

THURSDAY
Rays:  Alex Cobb (12-10, 3.66 ERA)
Yankees:  Sonny Gray (10-11, 3.31 ERA)

This should be Severino's final tune-up before the Wild Card game.  Hopefully he's more effective than he was last time out. 

Is Alex Cobb a preview of coming attractions? He's a free agent this off-season and his name has been linked to the Yankees as a possibility.  

Odds & Ends...

Given the surprising success of the Yankees this year, it's hard to imagine a scenario where the Yankees do not re-sign both Manager Joe Girardi and General Manager Brian Cashman. 

Cashman has done a tremendous job in rebuilding the Yankees and setting them up for success for years to come. But with no offense to Cashman, he isn't the sole reason for the success.  Other people, including Damon Oppenheimer, Jean Afterman, Gary Denbo and others have played significant roles. Is it time for a new GM? Alex Anthopoulos has been my personal favorite for the job, but I wish I had realized how great Mike Hazen was. The former Red Sox GM has transformed the Arizona Diamondbacks into a team that could catapult themselves over the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers into the World Series. Who's the next Mike Hazen-in-waiting? I have mixed feelings about Cashman. I have long respected the guy but I wonder if it is time for new blood. With the loss of the late Gene Michael's voice in the organization, Cashman is one of the last links to the old regime led by George Steinbrenner. I don't know the answer to this question and I certainly won't be disappointed if Hal Steinbrenner signs Cashman to a new long-term deal. Inevitably, I trust young Steinbrenner to do the right thing...whatever that may be.  

Girardi is not as easy for me. I've never been a big Girardi guy but it's not like I feel he is the wrong man for the job. There's no doubt that I'd prefer someone like Terry Francona and my personal homer pick, Don Mattingly. But Francona won't be leaving Cleveland anytime soon and Mattingly is currently unavailable (as he awaits the arrival of his new boss in Miami, Derek Jeter). Nothing against Al Pedrique or Tony Pena, but I don't really think either guy would be an improvement over Girardi. For the lack of better available candidates, I am probably for re-signing Girardi to a new 3 to 5 year contract.  

Have a great Tuesday! Let's have our way with the Rays. Go Yankees!

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