Archives for posts with tag: AL East

I did expect this year’s Boston Red Sox to be an improvement on the squads that have finished in last place, three of the last four years. But I didn’t see a complete upgrade coming. The Sawx enter the 2nd half at 49-38, battling the Toronto Blue Jays in the quest to take down the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles. After a shaky June where the team went 10-16, Sawx Nation went into panic mode. Thankfully, the Sawx found a way to prevail and finished the 1st half with a four game win streak. I still think the Sawx are over performing based on their below league average pitching, but with the best offense in baseball, the team may have just enough juice to reach October and make another championship run.

As the Sawx offense goes, so goes the Sawx. This year’s team is on pace for over 900 runs and they show no sign of slowing down. It all starts with the new generation of Killer B’s in Beantown: Betts, Bogaerts, and Bradley, Jr. This trio of young superstars are all showing 5-tool potential and were justly rewarded with starting spots on this year’s AL All Star squad. Both Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Xander Bogaerts flirted with extended hitting streaks earlier this season and Mookie Betts will garner the serious MVP consideration I mentioned at the end of last year. Travis Shaw was the right choice to man 3B over Pablo Sandoval and has responded with a .464 slugging pct. Dustin Pedroia continues to be a staple in the lineup, both at the plate and in the field. And while Hanley Ramirez is not playing like $20 milllion/year free agent the Sawx signed in late 2014, he has taken to 1B, is staying healthy and looks primed to return to 2013 form.

And yet this year seems to be all about “Big Papi” David Ortiz. Not only is he being celebrated for his final season in the bigs but he is being lauded for his MVP-type production at the plate. Big Papi currently leads the team in the triple crown categories (not unlike an aging Carlos Beltran in the Bronx). There has been talk about trying to coax the Sawx DH into another season and yet I have to wonder how much of his production is based on knowing this is the last go-ahead and feeling the need to leave everything on the field. I will miss his competitive spirit but not his production in this rivalry.

The Sawx pitching has seen better days, which is surprising considering the Powerball-sized contract that lured David Price to Fenway. The former Cy Young award winner, who has succeeded in Tampa Bay, Detroit, and Toronto may need more time to adjust to his new surroundings based on his 1st half 4.34 ERA. I doubt his ills will last for long, I only hope Sawx fans have the patience. On the bright side, Rick Porcello seems to have found his footing in his 2nd year in Boston and Steven Wright is the surprise ace of the staff with his Knuckleball infused 2.78 ERA. The question is who will or can step up next? Clay Buchholz? Joe Kelly? Eduardo Rodriguez? The signing of Drew Pomeranz maybe an answer but not THE answer. Despite 1st half success in San Diego, Pomeranz has shown Buchholz-like inconsistency in his brief career and may need a handful of starts to re-adjust to the AL.

As for the bullpen, the loss of Craig Kimbrel may be hastened by the recent signing of Brad Zigler. But the recent DL stint of Junichi Tazawa may be more troubling considering the pressure added to an already struggling, and aging, Koji Uehara. The Sawx will definitely be in the market for bullpen help at the deadline. I only pray that help doesn’t come from the Bronx……unless Dave Dombrowski wants to continue his history of emptying the farm system cupboards.

The Sawx have started the 2nd half right with back-to-back wins over the Yanks. Tonight I will live blog my first game of the season in the hopes that Yanks can salvage something from this series. Feel free to join in my baseball watching….and imminent pain.

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The Yanks finished off a disappointing 1st half by taking three of four from the AL Central leading Cleveland Indians. And while you would think such a series victory would normally be celebrated it was only good enough to get them back to .500, again. This year’s squad will enter the 2nd half of the season at 44-44 and 7 ½ games back in the AL East, with three teams to surpass in the division for any hope of October baseball. The season has been ripe with missed opportunities, under-performing once-weres and a whole lot of injuries. Next up the Yanks must decide if it’s time to start selling and just how much is Brian Cashman willing to give up for much needed prospects.

The offense has been a sore spot all year-long with Walking Dead-like performances from A-Roid and Mark Teixeira. It’s hard imagine just a year ago that they were the sparkplugs. Now, they’re just duds. On the bright side, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are becoming consistent .350 OBP table setters. Didi Gregorius is following up a .337 June with a .351 July and getting serious 5th spot in the lineup consideration. Personally, I like him in the lower 3rd of the lineup to provide turnover, like Scott Brosius did during his four-year stint in the Bronx. Starlin Castro hasn’t shown brightly yet and is still on pace for a 20 HR campaign, as is Brian McCann who is providing more than enough offense from behind the plate. And Carlos Beltran is saving his best for last in the last year of his three-year deal. Currently, the Yankee RF/DH is leading the team in the triple crown categories and garnering plenty of interest from AL teams a little further up the playoff ladder.

Yankee starting pitching continues to be a crap shoot with no one ace able to emerge. Masahiro Tanaka continues to have issues with pitching on four days rest as most recently highlighted in last Sunday’s contest against the Indians where he couldn’t be trusted with an 11-1 lead and was lifted after 4 2/3. C.C. Sabathia’s “regained form” has become amorphous thanks to allowing at least 5 ER in each of his last four starts. Michael Pineda has finally gotten his ERA under 6.00 but there’s no telling when his troubles will start again. And Nathan Eovaldi has been sent to the bullpen because of his poor 1st half but may have found his niche with 4 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Tanaka on Sunday.

And the fact that the Yankees can’t seem to find consistent mediocre pitching becomes even more infuriating considering that their No Runs DMC bullpen only needs six innings to take the baton. Betances, Miller, and Chapman haven’t been perfect but I’m guessing most fans and experts have no problem with the game in their K-pable hands.

The next two weeks will be the determining factor for the direction of the season as well as the team’s future. The Yanks play 13 games against all above .500 teams and a losing spell here will most likely make up Brian Cashman’s mind. I would love to see Beltran and Chapman finish the season in pinstripes but I’m also enough of a fan to know that getting value through their trades would also be worthy. I was really hoping this team would be in the mix. But then again, I’ve seen enough winning in my lifetime to make any Cub fan envious.

After yesterday’s 2-1 win over the Minnesota Twins, the 2016 New Yankees have finally passed the most impassable of marks of early season success: the .500 mark. Sadly, it’s not that early in the season anymore at 37-36 and they are only over by a single game but Damnit, baby steps, Yankee fans. The Yanks have also been helped by having to only play five games this week with two luxurious days off. Regardless, the Yanks have taken advantage of their situation, for now, by winning three in a row, and six of their last eight hoping to build some sense of momentum with the mighty 1st place AL West leading Texas Rangers headed into the Bronx for a four game starting tomorrow. Of course the Yanks still have one more game against the Twins today to increase the newfound WINNING percentage.

The week was more of the same from this year’s Yanks, with a few surprises. Most of the surprises came in Thursday’s comeback win over the Colorado Rockies. The first surprise came in the form of Chase Headley’s 425-foot grand slam over the CF field wall that staked CC Sabathia to any early 4-0 lead. Headley may not be the same player that the Yanks signed for 4 years/$52 million last season but can still be counted on for solid defense and quality at-bats at the right moment. The next surprise came when CC Sabathia seemed to revert to his old ways, unable to hold the lead and not even being able to get out of the 5th inning. It was CC’s worst start in two months (though his ERA still stands at an impressive 2.71) and hopefully this is not an omen of things to come. But the biggest surprise came when the Yanks were facing an 8-4 deficit in the bottom of the 7th inning and came back, bit by bit. Carlos Beltran started things off with a three-run HR in the bottom of the frame, followed by an RBI single from Didi Gregorius in the 8th, and capped off by Starlin Castro’s game winning bomb over the LF wall in the 9th. This offensive output was aided by No Runs DMC being a tourniquet on the other end, keeping the Rockies lineup silent for the last three innings.

Probably don’t want to think too much into this win and yet there’s always that possibility that this is the signature win where everything falls into place. The Yanks best starter doesn’t have his best stuff, the offense finds a way to rally, and the lights out bullpen secures the win. It’s pretty much the equation that most in the Yankee hierarchy envisioned all season. The question is will it always compute? And what happens when all of the variables aren’t in place? For example, today Betances, Miller, and Chapman are almost certainly unavailable as Joe Girardi has made use of their extraordinary services in the last three games, all wins. Is this the day that Nasty Nate Eovaldi returns and gives the Yanks the 7-8 innings that he is more than capable of providing?

It’s gut check time for the Yanks today, again, even against the lowly Twins. At some point this team needs to get on a roll and stay on it. Otherwise, Brian Cashman will need to develop a better poker face than Howard Lederer as the trade deadline starts to loom. I certainly hope the Yanks do not become sellers since I think they have more than enough talent to make a run. Just hoping they get to running very soon……..

After yesterday’s 7-6 win over the Minnesota Twins, the 2016 New York Yankees find themselves back at .500. The last two weeks has seen them sweep four from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim then drop four in a row to the Detroit Tigers and Colorado Rockies (two games each) and are now riding a three game win streak thanks to a fortuitous stop at Target Field. The Yankees are running more hot and cold than Ben Affleck’s film career. As has been their M.O. the past few seasons, the Bronx Bombers show flashes of excellence alternating with periods of middling mediocrity. At some point the real Yanks need to step forward……..as long as they’re the excellent version, that is.

The offense continues to chug along in fits and spurts. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner seem to have the top of the lineup locked down. The pair have OBPs over .345, even though Grander is in the midst of a 2 for 19 funk. A-Roid looks to be returning to 2015 form with a big HR in yesterday’s win that has been the highlight of .293 June. The bottom of the lineup has been getting serious contributions from Didi Gregorius (.355 in June), Chase Headley (.450 for the week, .321 in June) and Rob Refsnyder (.375 for the week, .283 overall). Sir Didi in particular has been a spark with a much needed go-ahead HR in Thursday’s opener against the Twins and has been scorching left-handed pitching to the tune of .383 for the season. Refsnyder also deserves some notice as he is quickly becoming a much needed utility player, sharing time at 1B, 2B, and RF. Can you say Brock Holt?

Brian McCann continues to struggle, currently hovering at .207. There’s talk of giving more time to the more consistent-hitting Austin Romine but I think that may be an overreaction. McCann has been too good for too long, and unless he’s fighting some unpublicized injury he needs to get his regular at-bats to work out whatever’s ailing him at the plate. But the one Yankee who seems to not know of any type of struggles is the rejuvenated Carlos Beltran. The future HOFer (in my opinion) leads the Yanks in the Triple Crown categories and is making a serious case for any extension. I only wish there were a way to switch his and A-Roid’s contracts. Anyone interested in a Mission: Impossible-style break-in at the Yankee front office? Maybe some papers and signatures get switched around, just sayin’……..

Yankee starting pitching continues to be better than advertised, despite a few hiccups. Michael Pineda continues to have his issues in the 1st inning and yet leads the team with 88 Ks (10.24 Ks/9). The Ivan Nova experiment may be coming to a close as the Yankee’s reserve starter is looking at a 6.75 ERA over three June starts. And Nathan Eovladi may be pitching for his rotation spot today at Target Field with a 9.82 ERA over his three June starts. On the bright side, Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia have been the anchors for this veteran rotation. Tanaka stumbled a little in last Sunday’s loss to the Tigers but recovered nicely in Friday night’s win with eight much needed innings of 1-run ball. And Sabathia continues to dazzle and mystify hitters and critics with a 0.81 ERA over his last seven starts and 2.20 ERA overall. Not sure how long Sabathia can keep this magic going but it may be enough a garner an All-Star selection in July.

The bullpen continues to be a regular topic of conversation, both in terms of effectiveness and possible trade-options. The Unholy Trinity is still doing their job when called upon, even though Aroldis Chapman made things more interesting than they needed to be by allowing back-to-back two-out HRs in yesterday’s 7-6 win. It’s also weird to see him and Dellin Betances with 3.00+ ERAs but that’s as likely to continue as a successful DC Studios slate. And Anthony Swarzek is becoming quickly indispensable with a 2.84 ERA over five appearances.

The Yanks are 34-34 and currently gifted with three more games against the Twins next weekend, in addition to today’s series finale at Target Field. True, the competition may not be of the highest caliber but at the end of the day if you have to beat the teams you’re supposed to beat. It also helps to get lucky against the teams you aren’t supposed to beat. Here’s hoping for a little consistency and a whole lot of luck.

It only took two months but the Yankees have finally made it back to .500 and some assemblage of relevance. A four game sweep of the visiting Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (buoyed by 29 runs scored) followed by splitting the first two games with the Detroit Tigers has the Yanks primed to make a move to get back in the AL East race. This is especially true since the next two weeks see the Bronx Bombers fortunate enough to play four against the Colorado Rockies (Winning Pct. 468) and seven against the Minnesota Twins (.295). Talk about getting hot at the right time.

The biggest statement being made during this current run is from the bat of Brett Gardner. After starting the first two months hitting a boo-worthy .215, the Yankee LF has heated up with the weather, to the tune of a .459 June. Throw in Jacoby Ellsbury’s .316 over the same time frame and the Yanks have plenty of table setting from the top of the lineup. June has also been kind to Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius hitting .317 and .308 respectively. Even A-Roid’s contributing with a .289 June of his own. But the true Yankee fireworks have been consistently lit by the resurgent Carlos Beltran. Leading the team in hits (62), HRs (16), RBIs (44), and slugging pct. (.561), the Puerto Rican switch-hitter is making a case for both another All-Star selection as well as serious HOF consideration.

The only major concern is who can survive playing 1B. Recent call-up Chris Parmelee seemed to be the answer after getting off to a .500 start with a pair of HRs before injuring his hamstring while stretching for a throw. Teixeira, Ackley, Parmelee, throw in Greg Bird from spring training and playing 1B for the Yanks is like being the drummer for Spinal Tap. Hopefully, Rob Refsnyder can provide some relief. He may still be finding his footing in the field but his bat looks to be an upgrade over a struggling Teixeira.

Yankee starting pitching continues to be a pleasant surprise. Despite yesterday’s 4R outing against the Tigers, Masahiro Tanaka is becoming more and more dependable. He held the Angels in check for 2R over 7 innings on Tuesday and has 3.08 ERA overall. Michael Pineda seems to have turned a corner with back-to-back effective starts. Ivan Nova continues to earn his spot in the rotation with another quality effort in Thursday’s win. Nathan Eovaldi is still fighting high pitch counts and holding leads but if last year is an indicator, he should be heating up with the summer months. And after three injury-addled seasons, CC Sabathia is earning his big salary again with a 0.71 ERA over his last six starts, and 2.28 ERA overall. The 2009 Yankee ace is back and in fine rediscovered form.

The Yankee bullpen is still dominating as ever, even with Dellin Betances working his way back from a shaky early June. This week saw him strikeout four over three scoreless appearances. The recent acquisition of Anthony Swarzak looks promising after his first two scoreless appearances in pinstripes. And Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman are still holding down the late innings while attracting trade interest from teams trying to stay in the hunt. Hopefully the Yankees continue to have use for both of these relief aces into September and beyond.

It’s been a long road back to .500 and there are still plenty of miles ahead to reach the top of the division. The Yankees are proving to be equal parts resourceful and resilient. This squad shouldn’t be counted out anytime soon.

After taking two of three from the Tampa Bay Rays last weekend, the Yanks looked primed to start June off with some swagger. Sadly, the Bronx Bombers started this week by getting embarrassingly swept by the Toronto Blue Jays, while being outscored 15-3. Things looked a tad more promising when they used their Thursday off-day to beat the Detroit Tigers 5-4 in a make-up game from April. And they have split the last two games with the upstart Baltimore Orioles, with the offense scoring 14 runs in the two contests. The Yanks are searching for consistency the same way Sarah Palin is searching for relevance.

The Yankee offense is still sputtering towards the bottom of the league standings, currently ranking 26th. And yet, there are positives to be found. A healthy Jacoby Ellsbury hit .320 in May and leads the team with 12 SBs, including his 2nd steal of home this season in last night’s win at Camden Yards. Brett Gardner’s .225 average may not garner him a 2nd consecutive All-Star selection but at least he’s still getting on base at a team-leading .351 clip. Starlin Castro continues to be hot and cold (.385 so far in June) but with a .254 average is eons beyond last year’s 2B manned by Stephen Drew, who seemed to be allergic to pinstripes. May has also been kind to Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius who hit .298 and .287 respectively. The team’s best hitter continues to be Carlos Beltran who is off to a .318 start in June and the less said about his defense the better. And even A-Roid is showing infinitesimal strides with a .300 start to June. I’m guessing Joe Girardi will continue to find excuses to bench A-Roid in favor of the more DH-suited Beltran if necessary.

Brian McCann has cooled off considerably after his surprising .262 April. Despite his recent struggles he still hit 4 HRs in May and is still on pace for another 20 HR season, which is all the Yanks need from their backstop. And the recent DL addition of Mark Teixeira may be a mercy killing. Tex was hoping to finagle his final contracted year in pinstripes into another 2-3 year stay in the Bronx but has just been hobbled by more of the same injuries that has made his stay in NY continually frustrating. At .180 and only 3 HRs maybe it’s time for a change right now. The Yanks called by Chris Parmelee as a stop-gap measure and yet the answer may be Rob Refsnyder. The highly-touted Yankee prospect has seen time at 2B, 3B, RF, and now 1B. It may be a small sample size but hitting .294 while slugging.529 in six games is a huge upgrade.

The Yankee starting pitching continues to be an effective patchwork job with Masahiro Tanaka leading the way with a 2.78 ERA and the rejuvenated C.C. Sabathia not far behind at 2.86. Nathan Eovaldi continues to have issues with lineups the 3rd time around, as shown in Friday night’s loss. Ivan Nova has shown a little wear allowing 9 ERs in his last two six inning outings. But the bright spot may be Michael Pineda who finally showed a spark by holding a formidable Detroit Tiger lineup to only one run over 5 1/3 innings. Not exactly a quality start but baby steps.

The bullpen continues to be Joe Girardi’s most prized possession even if it’s showing signs of vulnerability. The Unholy Trinity (like it?) of Dellin Betances-Andrew Miller-Aroldis Chapman has yet to implode but hasn’t been as intimidating as it seems. Betances in particular has been the weak link in the chain allowing 4 ERs in his last three innings of work. And Chapman made Thurdsay’s win against the Tigers more interesting than it needed to be. Thankfully, he was rescued by a highlight-worthy double play courtesy of Sir Didi and Super Starlin.

Here in June the Yanks stand at 26-29 and 4th place in the AL East. If the Yanks are going to make a move it’s now or not. At some point I do feel the Sawx and O’s will fall back to earth as teams cannot rely on offense alone. I do hope the addition and Refsnyder and potential revival of Pineda will be enough.

The first seven weeks of the baseball season haven’t been a pretty sight for Yankee fans, and yet the Bronx Bombers seem to be playing their best ball at the Sparky Mark. 40 games in is the designated time that the HOF manager Sparky Anderson said is the best time to evaluate any club. This year’s mark sees the Yankees at 18-22, which may seem disappointing but is rather encouraging considering they started 8-16. Throw in two more wins against the Oakland A’s and the Yanks have finally climbed out the AL East cellar (by a ½ game over the Toronto Blue Jays) and look primed to make their move to get back into the race.

The Yanks are currently riding a four game winning streak and have won nine of thirteen overall. Coincidence or not, this current winning clip started with the season debut of Aroldis Chapman. But the real spark has been provided by the 1-2 punch of Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner. The Yankee speedsters have combined for 17 SBs so far and have their OBPs north of .345. This last week has also seen hot-hitting from Didi Gregorius (.292), Chase Headley (.350), and Carlos Beltran (.385). Beltran in particular has been key, with 11 RBIs in the last 7 games. This aging Puerto Rican slugger is making a strong case to take the majority of the future DH at-bats. Sorry, A-Roid.

Another reason for the Yankees recent turnaround has been the resurgent/healthy starting pitching. Nathan Eovaldi threw six innings of one-run ball in Wednesday’s win over the D-Backs and leads the staff with four wins. Ivan Nova threw six innings of one-run ball of his own against the A’s in Thursday’s win and has lowered his ERA to 3.26. C.C. Sabathia returned from the DL to add to the six inning/one run milieu and racked up his 100th win in pinstripes in the process. And Masahiro Tanaka shook off back-to-back 4+ run starts and held the A’s in check to the tune of one run over seven innings in yesterday’s win.

Joe Girardi caused some heads to shake when he took both Eovaldi and Nova out of low pitch six inning efforts to use his new toy: Betances/Miller/Chapman. I, too, was skeptical but have come around to understand the moves, realizing he was trying to protect one-run leads and more importantly, if you have such a late game advantage, might as well use it. BAM (still looking for a better nickname) may have made both games a little interesting with the propensity for allowing leadoff baserunners but they got the job done. And thankfully overuse may not be an issue, especially with Nick Goody (ERA 1.64) and Kirby Yates (ERA 2.08) able to spell them in the last two games for much needed rest.

The Yankees look to complete their four game sweep of the Oakland A’s today. Sadly, it involves Michael Pineda taking the hill. But with the way the Yankees’ offense and bullpen has been performing, Pineda just needs to hold the Athletics at bay for five innings. Still sounds like a tall order, I know. Otherwise, the Yankees seem to be getting hot at the right time and I’m hoping that once they get over .500 their slow start will become a fading sight in the rearview mirror.