Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Yankees Celebrate Pasta Night in the Bronx...

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Stobe)
Johnny Lasagna captures first MLB win in debut…

The much-anticipated Major League debut of Jonathan Loaisiga, a/k/a Johnny Lasagna, was a great success. Domingo German didn’t win his first game until Thursday, his seventh start of the season and his 12th appearance overall. Loaisiga, who was in Double A earlier this week, delivered five solid innings, holding the Tampa Bay Rays to three hits and no runs, en route to the Yankees’ 5-0 win. He threw 91 pitches, while walking an uncharacteristic four walks for the strike-thrower and sending six to the bench by strikeout.  

I’d blame the walks on jitters for pitching at Yankee Stadium for the first time but Loaisiga had the calmness of a savvy veteran on the mound. A very good impression left by the young right-hander who picked up first first Major League win. During the game, someone tweeted that Domingo German and Loaisiga are better than last year’s duo of Luis Cessa and Caleb Smith. That’s an understatement. When Cessa pitches, I always feel it’s inevitable he’ll give up 3 to 4 early runs and the team will need to rely upon its offense for any hope. To Smith’s defense, he has pitched much better for the Miami Marlins this year (5-6, 3.75 ERA, 83 strikeouts in 72 innings) but he certainly didn’t “wow” anyone last year like German and Loaisiga have done. His Yankees career stands at 0-1, 7.71 ERA in nine games (two starts).  

The nice thing about the respective jobs this year’s rookie pitchers have provided is the elimination of the immediate desperation for the Yankees to acquire proven Major League pitching talent for the stretch run. Sure, the Yankees will no doubt acquire another proven starter by the July trading deadline but the performance of the young guys will help GM Brian Cashman to acquire pitching on his terms as opposed to other team smelling blood in the water and circling the Yankees with demands of over-payment.   

I thought the fourth inning was a terrific moment for Loaisiga. With one out, Wilson Ramos recorded the first hit off Loaisiga with a single to right. A ground out by Joey Wendle moved Ramos to second for the second out of the inning, but the Rays loaded the bases on another single and a walk. Yankee Stadium and the pressure of the situation could have been overwhelming for Loaisiga but after several mound visits, Loaisiga was able to settle down and ended the threat with a strikeout of Christian Arroyo (the return for when the Rays traded Yankee killer Evan Longoria to the San Francisco Giants). It was a huge moment for the youngster, especially with the Yankees clinging to a 1-0 lead at that point.  

Let’s talk about that 1-0 advantage. Didi Gregorius, who disappeared during the month of May (bat, not defense) has returned with a vengeance. His homer to right in the third inning gave the Yankees their first run of the game. He was 3-for-4, with two runs scored and the RBI on the homer. No strikeouts for Sir Didi despite the presence of the hard-throwing Nathan Eovaldi on the mound. It’s great to see Gregorius back in form.  I had to go back and watch the video replay of Didi’s first Major League home run at Yankee Stadium while he was a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks to re-live the excitement on his face and holding the knowledge that he’d one day be a star at the Stadium.  



I felt bad for Eovaldi. Well, not bad enough that I wanted to see him emerge with a victory over his former teammates. Nevertheless, it has been a long, hard road for Nasty Nate with his Tommy John surgery, the second of his career, and subsequent injuries since his release by the Yankees. He pitched into the eighth inning and had held the Yankees to two runs until the Yankees loaded the bases on two hits and an intentional walk. Exit Eovaldi and enter fellow multiple Tommy John recipient Jonny Venters, the former Atlanta Braves reliever, who, after striking out Greg Bird, served up a bases clearing double to Gary Sanchez with all the runs charged to Eovaldi. So, the final pitching line does not show how well Eovaldi pitched on this night. I wish him success as he moves forward with his Rays career, but if he pitches too well, he’ll find himself on another team next month.

Hopefully the double is a positive sign for El Gary. The hit helped him evade an ‘0-fer' night and left him with a season batting average of .189. I’d love to see him follow up with a couple of hits today to get his bat going and return him to his status as one of the key bats in the Yankees lineup. The Yankees need Sanchez playing like we know he can for the long summer ahead.

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun

Another stellar job by the Yankees bullpen. Jonathan Holder, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, and Adam Warren, in that order, held Tampa to one hit, no runs, a walk and four strikeouts. I wouldn’t want to say anything to Betances right now. He’s like a guy throwing a no-hitter in the late innings.  We would not want to jinx that bad boy.  

I thought the Yankees would remain in second place in the AL East last night when I went to bed. The Boston Red Sox had jumped all over Seattle Mariners starter James Paxton with six runs (five earned). Paxton couldn’t make it out of the third inning. The Sox had a 6-3 lead when I shut the TV off. It was nice to wake up to news that the Mariners had rallied against Sox starter Rick Porcello and the Boston bullpen for a 7-6 win. The loss dropped Boston (48-23) into a first place tie with the Yankees (45-20) although the better team (Yankees of course) lead by sixteen percentage points (.692 to .676).

To make room for Jonathan Loaisiga, the Yankees optioned Tyler Austin to Triple A. While I wish Austin could have hit well enough to stay, I really hope this eventually leads Brandon Drury back to the Major Leagues where he belongs. I have been intrigued to see what the Yankees have with pitcher A.J. Cole but at this point, he is offering nothing and does not seem to be an option for any meaningful role. Therefore, when the Yankees complete this current stretch of consecutive games, I’d like to see them DFA Cole to open a spot for Drury. I am appreciative of the job Neil Walker has done but I’d trade Walker if necessary to get Drury back to the Bronx. It seems like almost every trade suggestion by Yankees Twitter now includes Drury but I’d love to find a way to keep him and have him provide infield support for Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres, and Greg Bird. I’d trade Andujar for the right pitcher to open third base for Drury but of course I’ve been a fan of Drury all along despite the “headaches” he caused the Yankees and their fans.  

How great was it to see Andy Pettitte pitching batting practice before yesterday’s game? I love that guy. Friday was Andy’s 46th birthday which made it very appropriate for him to be at Yankee Stadium. He’s in town, along with a number of other former Yankees greats, for Sunday’s Old Timer’s Day. Pettitte has always been one of my favorite Yankees. With no disrespect to Larry Rothschild, I am hopeful that Pettitte will one day return to the Yankees as the team’s pitching coach. There was talk Pettitte might have joined Lance Berkman as his pitching coach if Berkman had gotten the Rice University coaching gig, but that job went to Matt Bragga on Friday. Congratulations to Andy for the recent birth of his first grandchild.  Hard to believe that #46 is now a grandfather. Andy looks like he could still suit up for the Yankees and deliver a win.

Photo Credit:  Mike Mazzeo/@MazzNYDN (Twitter)

It’s Luis Severino day. The Yankees ace (9-2, 2.27 ERA) will be opposed by Tampa’s Ryne Stanek (1-1, 2.76 ERA). Let keep this two-game winning streak going and take the series against the Rays today. It is a good day and a great day for a Yankees victory.

Go Yankees!

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