Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Road to Cleveland...

Credit:  Adam Hunger-Getty Images

American League Division Series, Game 4
Yankees 7, Indians 3...

Riding the arm of Luis Severino, who atoned for his Wild Card Game disaster, the Yankees defeated the Cleveland Indians to send the series back to Cleveland, Ohio for the series finale and the right to advance to the American League Championship Series.  

This game featured the legendary Mariano Rivera on the mound. Mo tossed the  honorary first pitch, looking as great as ever. It was a sign of good things to come.

Credit:  MLB.com

Once the game started, it was three up and three down for Luis Severino, showing no signs of the jitters that brought about his collapse against the Minnesota Twins in his previous start.  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

When Jay Bruce led off the top of the 2nd inning with a line drive single to right over the outstretched glove of Starlin Castro, Twitter bemoaned the break-up of Sevy's "perfect game". But no fear, Sevy retired the next three hitters, including the last two by strikeout, to ensure that Bruce got nothing more than a conversation with Greg Bird at first base for his effort.  

The breaks started going the Yankees' way in the bottom of the 2nd. Trevor Bauer, pitching on short rest (he started Game 1 last Thursday), has been dominant against the Yankees this year. But on Monday, those famed dancers, Mystique and Aura, came out in full force. Greg Bird started things off by grounding out at second. That didn't start right, let's try this again. Starlin Castro hit a hard grounder to third that third baseman Giovanny Urshela knocked down but it rolled away and Castro was safe at first. Chase Headley struck out for the second out, and it looked like Castro might suffer the same fate as Jay Bruce had in the top of the inning. With Todd Frazier batting, a Bauer pitch popped out of the glove of catcher Roberto Perez for a passed ball, allowing Castro to move to second. Todd Frazier, who had expressed prior to the game how much he enjoys playing in the post-season with the Yankees, doubled to to the left field corner to score Castro with the game's first run. The Toddfather! Aaron Hicks kept it going with a single to the gap in center, scoring Frazier. 2-0, Yankees. Brett Gardner followed suit with a roller up the middle into center field, moving Hicks to third. A steal by Gardner put both runners in scoring position for Aaron Judge. Judge hit a fly to left that hit the warning track and bounced off the wall for a bases-clearing double. The Yankees had increased their lead to 4-0. 

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

After an intentional walk of Didi Gregorius, Tribe manager Terry Francona decided to move to Plan B and pulled Bauer in favor of reliever Joe Smith. Smith got Gary Sanchez to pop out to first in foul territory for the final out, but it had been a very big inning for the Yankees with four unearned runs.

Severino easily breezed through the Indians lineup in the top of the 3rd to bring the Yankees to bat once again. Reliever Mike Clevinger took over for Joe Smith and walked Greg Bird to start the Yankees' half of the inning. Starlin Castro doubled to center off the wall to advance Bird to third. After Chase Headley struck out (not a great game for the Headster), Todd Frazier walked to load the bases. Aaron Hicks grounded into a force out to first baseman Carlos Santana who quickly threw home to retire Bird for the second out. Brett Gardner followed with a grounder to third, but the normally reliable Giovanny Urshela, after a slight hesitation, threw the ball high to first which pulled Santana off the bag for his second error of the game. Gardy safe at first. It allowed Starlin Castro to score on the play. Another call to the bullpen brought in Danny Salazar who struck out Aaron Judge to get the Indians out of the inning. The Yankees had a five-run lead and things were feeling very good in the Bronx.

The top of the 4th seemed to be going Severino's way when he recorded two quick outs but then he walked Jay Bruce. Carlos Santana made Sevy pay for it with a two-run homer to center into Monument Park to cut the lead to 5-2. A coaching visit to the mound by pitching coach Larry Rothschild, which often prove to be unsuccessful, worked this time as Sevy was able to retire Michael Brantley on a line out to center.

The Indians closed the gap to two runs in the top of the 5th when Roberto Perez hit a one-out home run into the right field seats, making it 5-3. Despite the home runs, Severino had seven strikeouts up to that point.

In the bottom of the 5th, the Yankees added an insurance run. Todd Frazier led off with a slow roller back toward the pitcher. Danny Salazar's throw to first hit the ground and sailed past the first baseman, allowing Frazier to race to second. A ground out to first by Aaron Hicks moved Frazier to third. Francona came out and signaled for his lefty, Tyler Olson, to replace  Salazar to face Brett Gardner. Gardy hit a fly to shallow center that didn't look like it would be deep enough, but Frazier challenged the arm of center fielder Jason Kipnis (normally the team's second baseman) and won, scoring on the sacrifice.

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

Another pitching change, this time bringing in Bryan Shaw, saw another strikeout of Aaron Judge to end the inning.

Gary Sanchez padded the lead with his one-out home run to right, barely missing the second deck, in the bottom of the 6th. The Sanchino! The four-run lead gave the team much needed breathing room.  

Credit:  Getty Images
  
With Sevy still going strong, the Yankees had an opportunity for more runs in the bottom of the 7th. The Indians inserted their closer Cody Allen a little early (the benefit of having the very versatile Andrew Miller on the roster). Things didn't go Allen's way when Aaron Hicks reached second base, thanks to a one-out fielding error by first baseman Carlos Santana (hard grounder bounced off his glove into right field). Brett Gardner singled to right, moving Hicksie to third. Gardy took second on the high throw in from the outfield. But they would not advance any further when Aaron Judge struck out and Didi Gregorius popped out to short to leave the runners stranded.

Dellin Betances took over for Severino in the top of the 8th and unfortunately things did not go well for the tall right-hander. He walked Yan Gomes (after nearly taking his head off with one errant pitch), bringing pitching coach Larry Rothschild to the mound. Like it usually happens when Rothschild visits, it didn't work. The inconsistent Betances walked Francisco Lindor on four straight pitches which ended his latest appearance. It was very disappointing to see Betances continue his struggles with control, which makes him very unreliable moving forward. 

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Tommy Kahnle came into the game, and did the job Betances was once so good at...he retired the three batters he faced, two by strikeout.

Josh Tomlin took over for Cody Allen in the bottom of the 8th and easily discharged the Yankees to push the game to the 9th. Tommy Kahnle returned to the mound to face Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley, and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kahnle rose to the challenge and struck out the side with Chisenhall missing on his swing for the final out. The Yankees win!  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Nice job by Luis Severino who finished with nine strikeouts in seven innings of work. Four hits, three runs (on the two homers), and one walk. It wasn't perfect but he held the Indians down while the Yankees took advantage of the three Cleveland errors to score six of their seven runs. Granted, Cleveland's lineup is not the same without Edwin Encarnacion but they are more than capable of erasing leads quickly. Sevy did not allow it to happen. Dellin Betances tried but Tommy Kahnle saved him from himself.  

Chase Headley's performance (0-for-4 with three strikeouts) has me wondering if it might not be time for Matt Holliday's name to be penciled in at DH. Aaron Judge's first hit of the series was a big one with the two RBI's in the second inning, while Gary Sanchez's homer seemed to help suck the life out of the Tribe.  

The series now moves to the decisive Game 5 at Progressive Field in Cleveland. Prior to yesterday's game, Joe Girardi announced that CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA) would be the starter, not Sonny Gray. Sabathia returns to the site where it all began for him so many years ago. Corey Kluber (18-4, 2.25 ERA) will be seeking redemption in front of his home fans after giving up six runs in his last start. The Yankees have a huge challenge before them, but the pay off is a road trip to Houston, Texas for the ALCS. Win or lose, this has been a great year for the Yankees. The team has heart and they do not quit.  

Credit:  Amanda Rabinowitz-WKSU

The Houston Astros overcame the Boston Red Sox, 5-4, to win their ALDS, three games to one. There was some satisfaction when former Yankee Carlos Beltran provided what would prove to be the winning run when he delivered an RBI double in the top of the 9th. Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers had an inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the 9th but it was not enough as the Astros overcame both Chris Sale (in relief) and Craig Kimbrel for the win.  

Odds & Ends...

I figured there would be defections from the Yankees organization to join Derek Jeter in Miami but I didn't think they would happen so quickly. George A King III of the New York Post reported yesterday, via Twitter, that it was Gary Denbo's last day with the Yankees. The former VP of Player Development will become the director of player development and scouting for the Marlins. A self-avowed non-fan of Derek Jeter, I am starting to actually dislike the guy. This was certainly one of the risks when Jeter's group won the bid for the Marlins and Denbo's defection may not be the last. If for whatever reason the Yankees do not ink GM Brian Cashman and/or Manager Joe Girardi to new deals, the Yankees front office could have have substantially different look in 2018. I thought it was very poor taste for Denbo to leave prior to the conclusion of the post-season but then again, if he didn't want to be here, good riddance.   

Former Yankee pitching prospect Rookie Davis underwent hip surgery on his right hip to repair the labrum and remove a bone spur. It is a significant procedure and Davis will not be ready by the time training camp opens next spring. Davis was traded to the Cincinnati Reds, along with Eric Jagielo, Caleb Cotham and Tony Renda, in the 2015 trade that brought Aroldis Chapman to the Yankees. Only Davis and Jagielo remain in the Reds organization. Cotham retired in March and Renda was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in July. We send best wishes for a full and speedy recovery to Davis.

Have a great Tuesday! We have a day to enjoy and get ready for Game 5!  Thumbs down! Let's do this. Go Yankees!

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