Archives for posts with tag: Red Sox

We are still a little over ten games away from the Sparky Mark (40 games), but this year’s New York Yankees show no signs of slowing down or going away quietly – best exemplified by Sunday night’s 18 inning marathon victory over last year’s World Series champion Cubs. Even the most optimistic fan, which I am often accused of being, didn’t see foresee this squad playing .690 ball and making a legitimate claim at being the best team in baseball. This team is far from perfect and yet is finding ways to excel and make a case for World Series talk this year, not next.

Biggest Surprise: Aaron Judge/The Bench (tie) – Following a brief 2016 campaign that saw this Baby Bomber K in 42 of 84 at-bats, Aaron Judge is attempting to lay claim to both the A.L. Rookie of the Year and MVP – and he may just succeed in both. After a slow start, Judge has left little doubt as to who should be the Yankees starting RF for the near future with 13 HRs (tied for MLB league) and surprisingly good defense. I doubt he will keep this pace up with pitchers either making adjustments or dolling out free passes, but Aaron Judge has shown an early knack for overcoming 1-2 counts and deflecting any praise with Derek Jeter-like humility.

While Judge looks like he can carry the team, both figuratively and literally, he has plenty of help from surprising contributors. Injuries to Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez, allowed both Ronald Torreyes and Austin Romine a chance to step up and produce. Torreyes has hit .311 with a once team-leading 13 RBIs and Romine has a .281 BA to go with stellar game calling to ease along a young staff highlighted by Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery. And with Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury needing the occasional spell in the field, Aaron Hicks has finally justified his #1 draft selection by the Minnesota Twins in 2012. Hicks is showing 5-tool ability with a slash-line of .338/.459/.662 to go with 5 SBs. No telling how long this Yankee 4th OF will need a chance to be a #1 somewhere else, for the right compensation.

Biggest Disappointment: Greg Bird – After a monster spring where he looked like the heir apparent to Mark Teixeira, Greg Bird is looking more like the next Nick Johnson. Hitting only .100 through 19 games, Bird is currently on the DL dealing with a bone bruise in his leg. Apparently the injury happened at the end of spring training and its severity is still unknown. What is known is the faith and commitment that Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman have in the young Yankee 1B. In the meantime, Chris Carter and Matt Holliday will split time in his absence.

No Surprise: The Bullpen – Sunday night’s 3-run hiccup aside, the Yankees lay claim to the best bullpen in the game, and the sky is still the limit. The new three-headed monster of Tyler Clippard/Dellin Betances/Aroldis Chapman is beastly to say the least. Throw in impressive early work from Jonathan Holder, Chasen Shreve, and the ever-reliable Adam Warren and the Yanks have little to worry about protecting a lead or giving their team a chance at a comeback as demonstrated in the 8-run rally against the Baltimore Orioles on April 28th.

Honorable Mention: Starlin Castro – In his 2nd year in pinstripes, the Yankees 2nd baseman is providing the type of offensive production that is making Yankee fans ponder, “Robinson who?” Surprisingly, Castro is flying under radar with his league leading .355 average along with 6 HRs and is 2nd to Judge in RBIs with 21. Despite a crowded field at 2nd with the aforementioned Cano, as well as Brian Dozier and Jose Altuve, Starlin Castro should garner serious All-Star consideration and I plan to do my part.

 

Depending on your point of view this year’s Yankees are either ahead of schedule or right on time. No longer being billed as a “re-building year” this team is ready to win now and is. Will they continue at this torrid pace? Most likely not. But they have shown they are adaptable to adversity and still have plenty of gems to deal in the farm system for any in-season adjustments (“Paging, Gerritt Cole”). In March, I had this team competing for a Wild Card slot but I see no reason they shouldn’t be jockeying for 1st in the AL East – especially once the Sawx inevitably get going.

Another great season of Yankee baseball lay ahead, along with the promise of a future filled with October baseball.

Tonight I will live blog as David Ortiz takes his last swings against the Yankees. I will do my best to fight through the tears, of joy, as one of the most feared/loathed Yankee killers says a much-anticipated goodbye.

Thankfully both sides still have something to play for as the AL East winning Sawx are competing for home advantage in the playoffs and the Yanks are playing the Sawx – motivation enough.

See you after the 1st inning!

I have to admit, things were getting exciting. After a week that saw the Yanks energized by a 7-game win streak the Bronx Bombers have now crashed back to reality thanks to losing two out of three to the visiting LA Dodgers and dropping three in a row to the rival Sawx with a series sweep possible after tonight’s contest. Leave it the Boston Red Sox to make a statement this week about who the AL East champ should be. Truth be told to, the Yanks were playing above their talent and the Sawx have been nice enough to provide a much needed reality check.

Thursday night’s 7-5 loss which saw the Sawx rally for 5 runs in 9th inning, with four runs charged to “relief ace” Dellin Betances, was a defining moment for both clubs. For the Sawx, it was a reminder of just how intimidating their lineup is and that no lead is insurmountable. For the Yanks, it was another example of going to the bullpen well once too often as well as not being capable of putting opponents away, as best exemplified by the 12 runners left on base. I know that no closer is perfect, not even the great soon to HOFer Mariano Rivera, but if your closer can’t protect a three-run lead in the 9th inning of a September game, your team shouldn’t be playing in October.

On the bright side, this year’s Yankees are still six games over .500 and still capable of another winning season. Not exactly the consolation prize you want, but sometimes you take what you can get. Gary Sanchez continues to carry the team on his back and garner serious AL Rookie of the Year talk with 15 HRs and 29 RBIs in just 40 games played. Masahiro Tanaka is pitching like the ace the Yanks signed in 2014 with a 2.97 ERA as he approaches 200 IP for the season. And the recent signing of Billy Butler has been a much needed shot in the arm with Billy, also known as “Country Breakfast,” going 3 for 7 with a HR and 4 RBIs in his first three games. I do not see him as a long term acquisition but if he wants to use the last two weeks of the season as an audition for the rest of the AL, he can just keep slugging away.

Mathematically the Yanks playoff hopes aren’t over. But as they currently stand at 3.4% I think we can pronounce those hopes dead. It’s been quite the rollercoaster season and with the two weeks left anything is possible…..with the exception of a playoff berth.

It’s nice when things start falling into place. It’s been almost a month since a trade deadline that saw the Yankees uncharacteristically trading off their established stars for farm talent and the Yankees are actually fighting their way back into relevance and possibly the AL East. Of course, it helps to have a rookie Phenom like Gary Sanchez carrying the team with his historic start. The Yankees have an AL East best record of 15-9 in the month of August and are definitely giving Yankee fans reason for hope here in 2016….not to mention 2017 and beyond.

In his first 21 games in pinstripes, Gary Sanchez, aka The Sanchize, is living up to and exceeding expectations. Sanchez is off to a juggernaut rookie campaign with a slashline of .400/.467/.900 highlighted by 11 HRs and 23 RBIs. He is quickly galvanizing the joy of Yankee fans and garnering respect from the league as well as demonstrated by his pair of intentional BBs in the Seattle series. It’s still too soon to tell if this just a small sample size but it’s hard to not be excited by such an impressive debut. And while he may see the majority of starts behind the plate this season, the Yankees would be smart to give the lion’s share of DH at-bats to Brian McCann, who is still on pace for another 20 HR season.

While Gary Sanchez is the current straw stirring the drink, at least offensively, there are plenty of other Yanks who have contributed to this August run that most recently has produced 64 runs in the last 10 games. Starlin Castro is on another hot streak with 3 HRs over this past .444 week. Didi Gregorius is only hitting .258 over August but has 6 HRs in the month. The Yankee middle infield of Castro/Gregorius has combined for a very impressive 35 HRs this year. Ronald Torreyes is campaigning for regular playing time with his .414 August. And even Aaron Hicks is starting to silence the boos at New Yankee Stadium with 4 HRs in 71 August at-bats while hitting .310.

Yankee starting pitching is finally being anchored by Masahiro Tanaka’s ace-like August. Tanaka holds a 2.91 ERA in the month to go with 34Ks and a single BB. Luis Cessa has won back-to-back starts with a 1.50 ERA to go with 10Ks/2 BBs. And despite not being able to qualify for the win in yesterday’s dominance of the Orioles, Chad Green has made great strides in the last few weeks. Green has a 2.51 ERA in his last 28.2 innings, which includes an 11K, 6-inning, no-run gem against the mighty Blue Jays.

The Yankees have plenty of season left and hopefully enough young talent to keep them in the hunt for October. Their current 5 ½ game deficit in the division may seem daunting but they still have time and plenty of opportunities with 28 of their final 34 games against the AL East. They may fall short but Yankee fans are getting a glimpse of the future, and it’s a bright one at that. #TheSanchize.

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.

Yes, I expected the Boston Red Sox to improve on last year. How could they not? But I did not expect such an explosive start out of the gate. Here in mid-May, the Boston Red Sox have announced, with authority, their intention to win the AL East. As we speak they sit one game out of 1st place from the truly surprising Baltimore Orioles. Not sure how long this ride will last, but don’t be surprised if the Sawx can ride this early wave into October.

The Sawx are riding high for one reason: the best offense in the game. Scoring a lot runs will cure a lot of ills and this year’s BoSox are looking a lot like last year’s Yanks: best offense, average pitching. Just about everyone is contributing, including new Yankee-killer, Jackie Bradley, Jr. After a slow first few weeks, JBJ is hitting .336 for season, helped in no small part by his .474 clip against the Yanks in six meetings. The only reason he is not leading the team in hitting is because Xander Bogaerts is off to a slightly hotter start at .340. Mookie Betts continues to develop his 5-tool potential in RF with 7 SBs to go with his 6 HRs. Travis Shaw has paid off John Farrell’s faith as the new starting 3B by slugging .567. Hanley Ramirez isn’t slugging like the Hanley of old but has embraced his new job at 1B and showing some surprising aptitude. Dustin Pedroia is healthy and back to All-Star form. And 40-year-old David Ortiz is hitting like, well, 39-year-old David Ortiz. With a robust .695 slugging pct. and team-leading 33 RBIs, the fans of Boston may want a say in Big Papi’s impending retirement.

On the pitching side, the biggest surprise is that $217 million acquisition David Price is not the ace. After a few good early showings, Price has been touched up repeatedly with his ERA sitting at 6.00. The Yanks have played their part with back-to-back 6 run outputs against the former Cy Young winner. Fortunately, 4 year/$82.5 million Rick Porcello is finally pitching like the stud the Sawx acquired from the Detroit Tigers last season. Porcello is off to a 6-1 start with a 3.11 ERA and earning every penny of the extension that many questioned last year. Also in the running for staff ace is Steven Wright (not to be confused with the Boston-area deadpan comic). Despite a 3-3 record (indicative of a lack of the run support) the 31-year-old knuckleballer has a starting rotation best ERA of 2.36. Sawx fans may be seeing a second-coming of Fenway perennial Tim Wakefield. And on the downside are the continuing struggles of Clay Buchholz. Currently pitching to an ERA north of 6.00, Buchholz can’t seem to return his 2013 form, or at very least, last year’s 3.26 ERA form. I wonder at what point John Farrell decides to send him to the bullpen, especially with the imminent return of Eduardo Rodriguez.

As for the bullpen, the Sawx have found their own formula. Their three headed beast consists of Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, and Craig Kimbrel. Despite a few early hiccups from Kimbrel, things seem to be back on track. The bullpen is rounded out by Matt Barnes, Tommy Layne, and Robbie Ross, Jr. who are all pitching sub 3.50 ERA baseball.

Overall, the Sawx are looking good. Of course scoring lots of runs makes you look good, in much the same way that Mickey Rooney once remarked, “Money makes you handsomer.” The Sawx, aside from a few starting pitching issues, seem to be in mid-season form. Not sure how much longer the Orioles can keep up their charade. The Sawx, to me, are the real deal. And the Yankees will have their hands full all year long. Let the trash talk commence.

The 2016 Yankees are continuing to find their legs, along with some runs, in the young season. After being embarrassingly swept at home by the visiting Oakland Athletics, the Yanks have rebounded nicely by taking the last two against the Tampa Bay Rays and now have a chance to complete their own sweep today when Michael Pineda takes the hill. 7-9 may not be a good start but right now it’s good enough to sit a ½ game back of 2nd place in the tight AL East. Just think how good they good be with some offense.

On the bright side, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are giving another glimpse of what can be the most potent 1-2 combo in baseball. Ellsbury is hitting .421 over the last week and seemed to spur his Yankee teammates onto victory Friday night with his game-tying straight steal of home, which he followed up with a 2-run double in the 8th. Gardner is hitting .412 over the same time and single-handedly won yesterday’s game with a game-tying single in the 7th inning and game-winning solo shot in the 9th. Just imagine what the Yanks could have if these two can produce consistently over the course of a season. I know I am.

Masahiro Tanaka is starting to cement his status as team ace with back-to-back 7 inning efforts. He may not have the same 94 mph heat from 2014 be he still has enough to fool AL hitters with 23 Ks over 24.2 innings. The rest of the starting staff is hovering around 5.00 ERA-wise but has also not been helped by a lack of run support. And the bullpen is still a beast with Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller still unable to allow an earned run so far, not to mention very few baserunners as well. They have combined for only 2 BBs over 17 innings and both have sub 1.00 WHIPs. What a nightmare for late-inning hitters.

A-Roid is still struggling, and perhaps it is time to bench him. Chase Headley is also struggling but at least he has the luxury of making up for his BA with some nice plays in the field, especially in yesterday’s win.  The same could be said for Starlin Castro who has cooled down to a more pedestrian .258 but still looks impressive at 2B. I do wonder at what point Joe Girardi brings up Slade Heathcott or Aaron Judge to inject a spark into this, at times, lifeless group of veterans.

After today’s game, the Yanks head to Texas for three and then over to Beantown for their first showdown of the season with the Sawx. Next weekend will definitely be an early season test for both squads. The Yankees have shown flashes of excellence. I’m just waiting for a full blown display. Then again, it’s only April.