Friday, June 22, 2018

High-Flying Yankees Invade Florida...

Photo Credit: AP (Bill Kostroun)
Another Series Win, check...

What a week! After splitting Monday’s quasi-double-header with the Nationals in Washington, D.C., the Yankees swept the resurgent Seattle Mariners in the Bronx.

The games against the Mariners couldn’t have been more exciting. After a fairly easy win on Tuesday night, Wednesday featured the Yankees' rally from a 0-5 deficit with a game tying two-run homer in the 8th inning by Gary Sanchez followed by Giancarlo Stanton’s dramatic two-out, two-strike walk-off home run in the bottom of the 9th. Yesterday, the Yankees used two first inning two-run dingers by Aaron Judge and Miguel Andujar to hold off the M’s for the series sweep.  


Photo Credit: AP (Bill Kostroun)

Honestly, I did not expect the Yankees to sweep the Seattle series. The Mariners entered the game 20 games above .500, and were hanging with the Houston Astros atop the AL  West. The M’s left NYC yesterday with a four-game losing streak and 3 1/2 games behind the Astros.  Not a fun week for them. Still, the Mariners are playing much better than people expected when their star player, former Yankee Robinson Cano, was injured and then subsequently suspended for 80 games due to suspected PED use. There's no doubt with a play or two here and there, the M's could have easily taken two of the three games.  

I didn’t really get Aaron Boone’s decision to bring in Chasen Shreve to relieve Jonathan Loaisiga during Wednesday’s game. Sure, Loaisiga created the fourth inning mess that had given the Mariners an early 1-0 lead and he departed the game with two outs and runners at first and second, but Shreve did him no favors by allowing a two-run single to Dee Gordon, with both runs charged to Loaisiga. When Shreve entered the game, it felt like it was a great opportunity for the M’s, not the Yankees, and it was. I do not trust the lefty and if there’s a spot in the bullpen that desperately needs an upgrade, it is Shreve. In a bullpen of stars, he is the weakest link.    

Fortunately, after Shreve allowed a couple more runs, Boone made the decision to bring in Jonathan Holder who has been the best reliever not named Dellin Betances in recent weeks. Holder held the M’s scoreless over 2 1/3 innings to set the stage for the late inning heroics by Sanchez and Stanton. For me, Holder’s performance was the key to winning the game. 

I don’t know if it (the dramatic 9th inning game-winning home run) was Giancarlo Stanton’s “signature moment” but it was certainly a huge one for the Yankees and their fans. Stanton benefited from a misplaced pitch but to his credit, he didn’t miss it. Seattle reliever Ryan Cook knew he had made a mistake almost as quickly as the ball had left his hand. Hopefully, for Stanton’s sake, it is a sign of great things to come at Yankee Stadium for the slugger who has been much better on the road than at home ala Sonny Gray.  

On a day when the Yankees used a walk-off home run by #27 to win a game, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders did the same when Zack Zehner, wearing #27, hit a 9th-inning two-run homer to beat the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, 5-3. Very ironic and coincidental.

Yesterday, the Yankees scored four runs on two homers in the first inning against Seattle’s James Paxton, and then had to hold on when Luis Severino did not have his best stuff. Sevy allowed a two-run homer in the second to Kyle Seager and was touched again for a run-scoring single in the sixth inning by former Yankee Ben Gamel to make it a one-run game. The bullpen trio of David Robertson, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman kept Seattle off the board from there to deliver Sevy his 11th victory of the season and it almost certainly ensures the young right-hander will be part of the AL All-Star team next month.  


Photo Credit: AP (Bill Kostroun)

Thursday’s game also featured the first time that both Seattle’s Andrew Romine and his brother, Austin, started the same game.  It seems like that would have happened while Andrew was playing for the Detroit Tigers but it never did. Andrew started at shortstop for the Mariners and was 1-for-4 (seventh inning single; stranded at second) while Austin was 0-for-4, starting at catcher in place of Gary Sanchez. I loved the punch that Andrew threw at Austin while at the plate.  


Photo Credit: NY Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

With the Yankees  (50-22) in St Petersburg, Florida to face the Tampa Bay Rays for a weekend series, they enter play today with a two-game lead over the Boston Red Sox (50-26) in the AL East. The Red Sox averted a series sweep by the home team at Target Field in Minneapolis, MN yesterday when they beat the Twins, 9-2, but the two-game lead for the Yankees is the largest they’ve held this month. It’s incredible that both the Yankees and Red Sox are on a path for more than 100 wins and the Yankees have yet to play their best baseball. Yesterday was the first day of summer but it should be a very fun summer for the Yankees and their fans. Somewhere in other Major League cities, there are several talented players and/or pitchers that will soon find themselves on the roster of the greatest team in baseball. No offense to the All-Star Game, but the MLB trading deadline is THE event of July. We're buyers this year, boys...

The Brandon Drury Watch continues to yield fruit. On Thursday, Drury’s two-run single keyed a series win by the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders over the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. Drury played first base (second time this season) in the 3-1 win and made some good defensive plays.

A.J. Cole finally got to pitch Tuesday after 22 days as a spectator with a good seat for Yankees games, holding Seattle scoreless over the final two innings in the Yankees’ 7-2 win and now he’s on the 10-day DL. Bummer. Cole apparently suffered a neck strain prior to Wednesday’s game while playing catch. I guess that's better than landing on the DL after injuring yourself while pulling on your pants like Chicago Cubs closer Brandon Morrow. Luis Cessa, on a rehab assignment with the Double-A Trenton Thunder, was recalled to take Cole’s place. Pardon me if I am feeling a little underwhelmed.

Given the Yankees are back in Florida to play the Rays, it means more starts against "openers". Ryne Stanek opens tonight. He opened for the Rays last Saturday in New York when the Rays lost to the Yankees, 4-1. Stanek pitched an inning and a third before making way for a more extended stint by Ryan Yarbrough. I expect the same 1-2 formula tonight. Yarbrough hasn't pitched since Saturday's game, while Stanek pitched an inning of relief for Blake Snell on Tuesday night when the Rays snapped Houston's 12-game consecutive win streak. CC Sabathia will open, okay start, for the Yankees. The Rays (34-40) are currently tied for third place in the AL East with the Toronto Blue Jays, 17 games behind your favorite Pinstripers.


The Rays go with another opener on Saturday (Wilmer Font) against Sonny Gray. As a road game, I am looking for much better things from Gray. Sunday will feature the first legitimate starter for Tampa when the talented Blake Snell takes the hill. He'll face the ever-improving Domingo German in what should be a great pitcher's duel.  


A great time to be a Yankees fan. A great day for a Yankees win.


Go Yankees!

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