Archives for posts with tag: Tampa Bay Rays

The youth movement in the Bronx is continuing to pay winning dividends. The New York Yankees have won seven games in a row and show no signs of slowing down as they play themselves back into serious playoff contention. Not only are they jockeying for position in the Wild Card standings, where they are currently one game out of the 2nd spot, but are now only three games back of the rival Sawx in the race for the AL East. Yep, this is the same team that held an early “Back to School” sale at the trade deadline. And the result? A record of 24-13 and a month long display of what the future may hold in the Bronx.

After a ten game homerless streak where more than a few commentators starting squawking about Kevin Maas, Gary Sanchez returned to early August form with HRs in each of the last two games. The big hitting catcher also pulled a Kelly Leak when he whacked an intentional ball to deep left center, which was good enough to merit a sacrifice fly. Seriously, good luck pitching around this guy. Brian McCann seems to have adjusted to his new role as DH and back-up catcher with a .313 week highlighted by 3 HRs. McCann should easily eclipse the 20 HR mark for the ninth straight season with one more blast. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are back to early season form hitting .391 and .318, respectively, over the last week. Gardner in particular saved Tuesday night’s 7-6 win against the Blue Jays when he tracked down Justin Smoak’s line drive to end the game. And Tyler Austin is making a serious case to be the Yankees new full-time first baseman. Next spring, he will have to complete with Greg Bird, who is still recovering from shoulder surgery that has sidelined him this year, but Austin is garnering plenty of favor after Thursday night’s game winning HR over the Rays. At the very least, Austin should be the new 4th OF with Aaron Hicks now thankfully dispensable.

Despite my reservations, Masahiro Tanaka continues to impress as the much needed Yankee ace. Tanaka has won two games during the current win streak and has lowered his ERA to just above 3.00. Most importantly, he has proved to very effective against the explosive line up of the Toronto Blue Jays. Over three starts this season, he has a 2.60 ERA which will be counted on again as the Yanks have one more trip planned north of the border. Bryan Mitchell’s first start of the year was fruitful as he held the aforementioned Jays scoreless over five innings. And while Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia are having their recurring struggles, Joe Girardi is having no issues using his newly expanded September bullpen to get outs. Luis Severino has blossomed in his new middle relief role. Tommy Layne and Chasen Shreve have found success in their recent outings. And even Blake Parker came up big when he found himself in the unfamiliar role of having to get Dellin Betances out of a jam in Tuesday night’s heart-attack inducing 9th inning. Despite the hiccup, Betances should be fine especially with fellow relief ace Tyler Clippard along for back-up.

Another September and the Yankees are playing meaningful baseball. More importantly, they are hot at the right time and not stumbling to the finish line. Not sure they will challenge the 2007 Colorado Rockies 21-1 run but the Yankees are finding many ways to win with a new hero almost every night. There’s plenty of baseball and plenty of hope left in the season.

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At the start of the season I had the Yankees winning the AL East. Call me a fanatic, call me delusional, I just saw something special happening this year. And it turns that I may just be right, about the special part, not the division. After going into sell mode at the trade deadline, a tactic that no Yankee fan or front office rep has ever been familiar with, the Yankees are slowly but surely moving in the right direction for future championship runs, and playing actual winning baseball in the meantime. After unloading Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran, and Ivan Nova, the Yanks are flush with prospects. And the recent/timely release A-Roid means Aaron Judge his finally getting his shot this year. It’s an exciting time to be a Yankee fan.

The Yankees have won 7 of their last 10, which includes winning two of three from the contending Sawx and back-to-back wins over the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yanks are back to a season-high four games over .500 and while they still lack the pitching for a serious AL East run they are currently giving fans a glimpse of the future. Gary Sanchez has gotten off to a .278 start in his career including a mammoth HR at Fenway that highlighted a 4-hit night. I do hope the Yanks hold onto Brian McCann so that Sanchez has a chance to develop behind the plate, with two years left on McCann’s deal. Yesterday’s 8-4 win was highlighted by Tyler Austin and the previously mentioned Aaron Judge both making the MLB debuts and both homering in their first at-bats, going back to back no less. I’m not saying we need to start the coronation of the next Core Four but I also wouldn’t be too hasty to write off any of these young hopefuls as the next Kevin Maas or Shane Spencer.

This new young trio of everyday Yankees are being aided in their early playing days by other young, more seasoned players like Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius. Castro seems to be in the midst of another hot streak with HRs in the last two games as well as 13 RBIs in 12 August games. And with the departure of Carlos Beltran, Didi Gregorius is now the most talented and MVP-worthy star the Yanks have. Hard to believe that just a year ago he was being doubted as he stepped into the shoes of a legend, now he’s flashing 5-tool potential and should garner serious All-Star consideration next year.

As far as pitching no word if any of the recently acquired prospects will be developed or be used as trade bait for traded targets like Chris Sale. In the meantime, last year’s phenom Luis Severino continues to show some progress. After returning from an extended minor league assignment, Severino responded with 8 1/3 scoreless innings over three relief appearances. Unfortunately, this was followed up by a 5-run outing courtesy of the Boston Red Sox. Severino may best be served working out of the bullpen for the short term. Speaking of the bullpen, the recent acquisition of former Yankee prospect Tyler Clippard and re-acquisition of Adam Warren have made up for the losses of Miler and Chapman. Not exactly No Runs DMC but they’ve been more than effective getting the ball to the new closer Dellin Betances.

There’s still plenty of baseball left and while I don’t see the Yanks making a playoff run I am encouraged by seeing young talent getting a chance to play. In the coming weeks, I will speak on A-Roid as well as the imminent departures of Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia. In the meantime, I’m feeling something I haven’t felt in a while as a Yankee fan: hope. It’s hope for a winning season, hope for a winning future, hope for a return to championship form. Like I said, it’s an exciting time to be a Yankee fan.

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 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.

After salvaging the series finale to the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday, the Yankees seem to be back on track having subsequently won two of three from the Tampa Bay Rays. But with the Jays also winning two of three against the Atlanta Braves, the Yankees stay locked in second place in the AL East by a deficit of three games. On the one hand, the Yankees have surprised everyone by how far they have gotten this year with a mixture of first year talent and fragile veterans. On the other hand, they are so close to becoming a top tier team that anything less than a division series win would be a disappointment.

This past week was highlighted by first rate pitching. Masahiro Tanaka continues to be the only antidote for the hot-hitting Blue Jay bats with another much needed gem. Luis Severino is the best deal the Yankees didn’t make at the deadline and only suffers from a lack of run support, while sporting a 3.12 ERA in his young career. And even C.C. Sabathia is showing signs of life with 6+ shutout innings in Monday night’s series opener.

A-Roid has handled every challenge and clutch at-bat this season with a surprising amount of grace and fortitude. Without him, the Yanks would most likely be hovering around .500. While the entire lineup is slumping in general, there are some bright spots. While only hitting .184 in September, Brett Gardner is riding a power surge with 3 HRS in the last week. Greg Bird continues to fill in admirably for Mark Teixeira with a .505 slugging percentage over 29 games. And Slade Heathcott may have hit the most important HR of the year with his 3-run bomb to win Monday night’s game. Heathcott may see more time in lieu of the struggling Jacoby Ellsbury.

The bullpen is still an effective if shaky weapon late in games. While Justin Wilson and Andrew Miller have been key in these most recent September games both Chasen Shreve and Dellin Betances are starting to show wear. Betances in particular has been the creator of his own problems with 7 BBs in his last 8 appearances. Joe Girardi has been criticized for overusing Betances but the real issue has been Betances’s in ability to pitch efficiently, using 30 pitches when only 10-15 should really be needed.

The next six days see the Yankees matchup against the crosstown 1st place New York Mets and the mighty Blue Jays. The Yankees are in line to host the AL Wild Card game but considering that it would entail hosting the Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, or Cleveland Indians (all teams with true #1 starters) they really need to find a way back to the top of the AL East. The Yankees need to win four of the next six games just to stay significant and not hinge their playoff future on a 50/50 play-in game.

With just a week to go before the All-Star break the New York Yankees continue to defy expectations as they find themselves atop the highly contested AL East. After going 3-4 on a road trip to Houston and Anaheim, the Yankees returned home to take two of three from the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays along with the Blue Jays and Orioles keep jockeying for position but the Yankees keep finding a way to stay one step ahead.

The Yankee pitching staff continues to be a work in progress. Michael Pineda and Mashahiro Tanaka alternate brilliant starts with pedestrian ones. Nathan Eovaldi is iffy at best and has been the beneficiary of the buoyant Yankee offense which explains his 8-2 record with a 4.52 ERA. Ivan Nova has shown some progress in his TJ return and may be the key to the rotation succeeding. And C.C. Sabathia continues to falter. He would be best suited for long work out of the bullpen but is not a possibility because of his $24 million salary.

The Yankee offense is currently tied for 2nd best in all of baseball along with the Houston Astros. Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira and A-Roid have been the main cogs and show no signs of slowing down. Brett Gardner is playing All-Star quality baseball and is on pace to be the first Yankee to score 100 runs since Robinson Cano in 2011. Carlos Beltran is back on the DL and may not be a reliable RF option for the long haul. And the sooner the Stephen Drew experiment ends, the better. Not sure if Jose Pirela or Rob Refsnyder is the answer at 2B but either can do better than Drew’s .178 batting average.

The bullpen is still the most reliable weapon in the Yankee arsenal, and the options will just get better with the imminent return of Andrew Miller. Justin Wilson and Chasen Shreve have improved as the season has gone on and Bryan Mitchell is developing into a depending long relief arm. And despite a recent blown save against the Rays, Dellin Betances flourishes in both the set-up and closer roles.

But the key to an AL East title is the return of a healthy Jacoby Ellsbury. Brett Gardner and Chase Headley have been able to tread water for now but the combination of Ellsbury and Gardner at the top of the Yankee lineup is formidable and necessary for October baseball in the Bronx.

The only other suggestion I would make to the organization is take notice of Chris Young’s success in Houston and trade him to the Astros. Houston needs a bat for their playoff run and the Yankees could use either Collin McHugh or Lance McCullers in the starting rotation. It would be a win-win.

The Yankees finish the first half with a pair of last-place opponents: three at home against the Oakland A’s and three in Boston against the Sawx. At some point this Yankees squad needs to open a lead in the division and there’s no time like the present, especially against these two disappointing teams.

The moment I have been waiting for all season finally arrived yesterday. No, Ivan Nova will never be mistaken for a CY Young award winner or even a top of the rotation-type starter, but he can be the difference maker needed by the Yankees in their quest for the AL East crown this season.

Yesterday’s 6 2/3 inning shutout performance against the recently slugging Philadelphia Phillies not only ended a three game slide for the Bronx Bombers but might just be the right push needed to get over of the hump. For now, it looks as though the Yankees will use a 6-man rotation to accommodate the abundance of starters. But eventually skipper Joe Girardi will have to send somebody to bullpen be it the recently reliable Adam Warren, the inconsistent fireballer Nathan Eovaldi or the $20 million plus salary attached to C.C. Sabathia.

The Yankee offense has continued to flourish, especially the last week that has seen Brett Gardner hitting .500, Chase Headley hitting .357, Carlos Beltran hitting .333 and even Didi Gregorius raising his batting average to a season high .236. Didi has also continued to make many impressive plays in the field. The biggest surprise of all may be Brian McCann who is riding a .328 June to raise his batting average to a personal pinstripe high of .275.

The Yankees still have the 2nd best offense in the AL behind the Toronto Blue Jays but have struggled recently because of poor outings from Michael Pineda, Masahiro Tanaka, and C.C. Sabathia. I do hope the return of Ivan Nova can bring some measure of stability to a rotation in desperate need of length to relieve an already taxed bullpen. On the bright side, Justin Wilson and Chasen Shreve are developing into first rate set-up relievers who may merit All-Star consideration, if not this year then next.

Another tough test lies ahead in a seven game road trip with four games against the high-flying Astros and three games with the always dangerous Angels. The Yankees can’t afford to lose any ground with the Rays, Blue Jays, and Orioles all jockeying for position just before the All-Star break. The Yankees need to take at least four of the next seven to stay in the mix. Anything less may be insurmountable, even on July 1st.