Thursday, September 14, 2017

Turbulence at 10,000 Feet but Landing is Perfect...

Credit:  Frank Franklin II-Associated Press
Yankees 3, Rays 2...

The only way to play drama-free baseball with the Yankees bullpen is to insert Chad Green.  Otherwise, it's going to be a bumpy ride. Joe Girardi made a few pitching moves that left a couple of Yankee pitchers with ruffled feathers but in the end, the Yankees came away with the game and series win over the Tampa Bay Rays. It doesn't matter how we get the "W" as long as we successfully get the "W".

The Yankees jumped on Rays starter Chris Archer first.  Starlin Castro led off the top of the 2nd inning with a single to center. He was followed by Jacoby Ellsbury who singled to right, putting runners at first and third. Todd Frazier's single to left center past a diving Adeiny Hechavarria scored Castro while Ellsbury took second. After Clint Frazier struck out, Austin Romine walked to load the bases.  Brett Gardner singled through the hole to left, driving in both Ellsbury and the Toddfather. The Yankees led, 3-0. Chase Headley grounded into a double play at second so the Yanks were unable to push any further runs across. Sadly, it would be the last runs the Yankees would see on the day.


Credit:  Frank Franklin II-Associated Press

The Yanks had the bases loaded with two outs in the top of the 3rd but Archer struck out Clint Frazier to escape the jam.

While I was wishing that the Yankees had anyone on the mound not named  Jaime Garcia, the Rays got a run back in the bottom of the 3rd when Kevin Kiermaier led off with a home run to right field. It was Kiermaier's second home run in as many days. But that's the hazard of having Garcia pitch, you know the opponent is going to score runs. The job is to score more than he allows.   

To the Yankees' credit, they made Chris Archer work. While they only got the three 2nd inning runs off him, Archer was gone after surrendering a lead-off double to Gary Sanchez in the top of the 5th. Four innings of work with 92 pitches thrown.  Sonny Gray's complete game on Tuesday was only 2 more pitches than Archer threw with four more innings. It's unfortunate that the Yankees couldn't do more damage against Archer in light of their extended at-bats.


Credit:  Frank Franklin II-Associated Press

Jaime Garcia got the hook in the bottom of the 5th when he gave up a two-out single to Lucas Duda. With Evan Longoria coming to bat, Joe Girardi didn't want to take any chances. Chad Green came in and got the final out. I was actually amazed that Garcia made it into the 5th inning without allowing more than one run. He didn't last long enough to qualify for a win but I can assure you that I did not shed a tear as he was walking off the mound.


Credit:  Frank Franklin II-Associated Press

As for Chad Green, he's a freakin' rock star. I didn't want the guy to make the opening day roster yet he's been Mr Lights Out for the bullpen. He showed off his magic when he struck out the side in the bottom of the 6th. I can see why  Joe Girardi gets the urge to leave Green in the game, but I was thankful that he only worked 1 1/3 innings despite his stellar work. I'd rather have Green available on Thursday or Friday as opposed to waiting until Saturday at the earliest. Need to keep this guy ready for frequent work.

Tommy Kahnle took over in the 7th. It provoked Rays manager Kevin Cash to start making moves. First up, Mallex Smith pinch-hit for Peter Bourjos and reached on a single to left field. Corey Dickerson, pinch-hitting for Jesus Sucre, hit into a double play, first to second. It was a good thing because Brad Miller followed, pinch-hitting for Danny Espinosa, and singled to left. If the Yankees had not been able to erase Smith at second, it is very possible that he could have scored on Miller's hit. Kevin Kiermaier flied out to left to end the drama, but Kahnle did his job. It wasn't as pretty as Green's performance but the end result was the same...no runs for the Rays.

The Yankees had a great opportunity to tack on some insurance runs in the top of the 8th inning. Starlin Castro singled to left, Jacoby Ellsbury doubled down the right field line and Todd Frazier was intentionally walked to load the bases. Clint Frazier had first crack but he popped out to first baseman Logan Morrison in foul territory. Next up was Austin Romine but he struck out to end the inning.  A huge missed opportunity to get at least a run or two more.

On to the 8th and it was Dellin's turn. Lucas Duda, potentially facing his last at-bat in his former ball park for this series, flied out to center in front of the warning track. I was worried about him and it would not have surprised me to see the man on the field with the most career HR's at Citi Field to have parked one. It was not to be but it didn't stop Evan Longoria, Yankee-killer, from hitting a single up the middle in the next at-bat. Betances always makes me think of former Orioles manager Earl Weaver and his reliever Don Stanhouse, whom Weaver referred to as "Full Pack" in reference to the number of cigarettes he would smoke during Stanhouse's appearances. Betances does that to me even if I don't smoke. Dellin struck out Logan Morrison for the second out, but Joe Girardi wasn't going to take any chances. He made the call to the pen to bring in Aroldis Chapman an inning early. Of course, Chapman walked his first batter (Stephen Souza, Jr) to move Longoria into scoring position at second base.  Adeiny Hechavarria, the latest Yankee-killer, singled to shallow center field, scoring Longoria. Hechavarria and Chapman played together in the Cuban Leagues ten years ago so there's history between the two.  Souza moved to third to put runners at the corners. Chapman finally struck out Wilson Ramos, pinch-hitting for Mallex Smith, on a foul tip, but the Rays had closed the gap to 3-2. Those potential insurance runs in the 8th inning sure would have been nice.  

The Yankees blew another huge opportunity for runs in the 9th. With Brad Boxberger pitching for the Rays, Brett Gardner led off with a single up the middle. With Chase Headley at bat, Gardy appeared to steal second base but he was sent back to first when it was ruled that Headley's bat had hit the catcher's arm for interference. Headley then singled to right, advancing Gardy to third.  Gardy probably would have scored had the steal been successful.  From there, the offense stalled. Gary Sanchez struck out swinging and Didi Gregorius flied out to left (not deep enough to score Gardy). Headley stole second but it didn't really matter when Starlin Castro popped out to center to end the inning.  Ugh!

Chapman had me on the edge in the bottom of the 9th. He walked the first batter, Curt Casali, a career .197 hitter. WTF??!! Fortunately, from there, Chapman struck out Brad Miller and Kevin Kiermaier. Lucas Duda was able to make it to the plate for one final Citi Field "home" appearance with a chance to send the ball out of the park for a walk-off win.  But the Missile rose to the occasion and struck out Duda for the final out. The Yankees win!

The Yankees (79-66) moved back to three games behind Boston with the win.  The Red Sox fell to the Oakland A's, 7-3. The Baltimore Orioles beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 2-1, so they recaptured third place from the Tampa Bay Rays.  The O's trail the Yanks by 7 1/2 games entering play today. The Minnesota Twins held off the San Diego Padres, 3-1, in extra innings to remain three games behind the Yankees in the Wild Card Standings.  

Jaime Garcia was apparently very upset with Joe Girardi about the early hook but I could care less what Garcia thinks. His Yankees career will be over soon. There's no way he is a member of the 2018 Yankees.  


Credit:  Charles Wenzelberg-New York Post

Chad Green (5-0) picked up Garcia's win with his stellar relief effort. Aroldis Chapman captured his 18th save despite the high wire act.  

I was very grateful that those late missed scoring opportunities didn't come back to bite the Yankees. As we saw, they very possibly could have. The Yankees will need to play better at home in the upcoming series if they want to continue to win.

Next Up:  Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York...

Having completed the short stay in Queens, the Yankees return to home sweet home to face the fading Baltimore Orioles for a long four-game set. The O's generally play the Yankees very tough so they'll be looking to play the role of spoiler for this series. If there is anything I've learned over the years it is to never underestimate Orioles manager Buck Showalter.

Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:

TODAY
Orioles:  Wade Miley (8-12, 4.96 ERA)
Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (11-11, 4.82)

FRIDAY
Orioles:  Jeremy Hellickson (2-4, 6.54 ERA)
Yankees:  Luis Severino (12-6, 2.96 ERA)

SATURDAY
Orioles:  Ubaldo Jimenez (5-10, 6.75 ERA)
Yankees:  CC Sabathia (11-5, 3.85 ERA)

SUNDAY
Orioles:  Dylan Bundy (13-9, 4.03 ERA)
Yankees:  Sonny Gray (9-10, 3.17 ERA)

October is coming.  Live it, feel it.  Now is the time for the Yankees to make a charge!

Odds & Ends...

Game 2 of the International League Governor's Cup Finals goes to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. The RailRiders beat the Durham Bulls, 4-0, behind stellar pitching from Domingo German (7 innings, one hit, no runs, three walks and eight K's) and two relievers.  The Bulls featured an inning of relief from former Yankees starter Nathan Eovaldi, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Nasty Nate pitched an inning of scoreless relief for the Bulls, giving up two hits and striking out one. The series is tied.  Game 3 will be tonight at PNC Field in Moosic, PA. Chance Adams will be on the mound for the RailRiders, while the Rays top prospect, Brent Honeywell, will pitch for the Bulls.

The news wasn't so good in Trenton, NJ where the Thunder dropped Game 2 of their Eastern League Championship series to the Altoona Curve by a score of 4-2. The losing pitcher was Justus Sheffield who had been part of a no-hitter during his previous outing. The series now shifts to Altoona, PA this evening with the Curve needing to win just one game for the best-of-five championship. Will Carter (3-1, 3.26 ERA) gets the start for the Thunder.

Have a great Thursday!  Not asking for much today...just a win!  Go Yankees!

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