Archives for posts with tag: Toronto Blue Jays

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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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.

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.

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.

With the wild card play-in games complete now we can look at the actual playoff picture. And while I believe it’s anyone’s game and that any team can get hot and stay hot here’s what I see:

Blue Jays over Rangers in 5 games

Royals over Astros in 4 games

Cardinals over Cubs in 4 games

Dodgers over Mets in 3 games

 

Royals over Blue Jays in 6 games

Dodgers over Cardinals in 7 games.

 

Royals over Dodgers in 7 games

 

So, yes, I am staying on the same Kansas City Royals’ bandwagon that I joined last year. The Royals season ended last year a mere 90 feet from tying game 7 of the World Series and they have just gotten better. I do believe this is their year. Then again, I had the Yankees winning the AL East in July.

 

Play ball!!!

It took longer than it should have but the 2015 New York Yankees finally secured their slot in the Wild Card game last night with a desperately needed 4-1 win over the rival Sawx. The win salvaged the series finale and halted an untimely three game skid. If the Yankees could have simply won one of the first three games, they would have already guaranteed themselves the opportunity to host the “play-in” game. As it stands they now need to win one of three in Baltimore for that to become a reality. And with the monsoon conditions predicted who knows what games can even be played.

As for the current state of the Yankees, it continues to be a showcase of Jekyll and Hyde. Everytime you start to believe, they fall flat as witnessed by the first three losses in the Boston series. Everytime you count them out, they power up by displaying the 2rd best offense in baseball and their lights-out bullpen. The Yankees are nothing if not entertaining when they are not infuriating their fans.

Last night displayed just the right amount of veteran talent bolstered by the youth movement. C.C. Sabathia pitched another five solid innings and has a 2.17 ERA since returning from the DL. Adam Warren added three scoreless innings of relief and may prove to be the new Ramiro Mendoza, with his ability to provide long relief and spot starts. Carlos Beltran jump started the Yankee offense with his 2nd inning HR and has made a case to be the Yankees 2nd half MVP. Greg Bird and Rob Refsnyder added solo HRs and are giving Yankee fans plenty to look forward to, even if this year ends after next Tuesday night’s Wild Card game.

The question is which Yankee team will show up on Tuesday? Will it be the team that had every cylinder clicking last night or the team that was unable to overcome shoddy starting pitching and left 30 men on base in the first three games of the Boston series? And more importantly, which Masahiro Tanaka will show up? Will it be the ace worth $155 million who seems to be the mighty Jays only kryptonite? Or will it be the pedestrian pitcher who has given up four runs in his last two starts against the Sawx? The problem with the one game playoff is the endless amount of questions that need to be answered.

In the short term, I am disappointed that the Yankees lost a seven game lead in the AL East to the Toronto Blue Jays and have to settle for the Wild Card game. But overall, it’s hard to not be excited about the Yankees future, currently embodied by Luis Severino, Greg Bird, Slade Heathcott, Rob Refsnyder, and Rico Noel. The Yankees are now approaching a crossroads where the next few seasons will see the passing of the torch and thinning of the payroll with players like Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia, and A-Roid likely to move on. I am not saying this is 1995 all over again but it’s hard to not see some parallels and the beginning of something special.

These are exciting and tenuous times in the Bronx. And Yankee fans wouldn’t have it any other way.