May 182017

Sorry friends. It’s been years since I was truly excited about a Yankee team, and when I have only a little time I can’t seem to focus very often on anything else. One of these days I’ll have several hours to spare and I’ll write about what has happened to the Giants, or the Mets, or the Astros or the Twins. But for now, NYY it is.

The Yankees have scored 7 or more runs four games in a row. Last night they actually scored 11, and that game was started by the MLB ERA leader. OK, Jason Vargas was a bogus ERA leader (4.00+ career and a long career) but he started the day at 1.01 (!) and had allowed 0 or 1 run in 6 of 7 starts, 5 ER overall. So I was thrilled when they scratched across a first-inning run (Gardner single, Castro 2-out double) but it looked like Pineda was going to struggle (first inning included a single, a steal and a wild pitch). The predicted pitcher’s duel seemed to materialize over the next two innings, as Vargas allowed nothing at all, and Pineda only a walk, plus a couple of hard-hit outs.

Then in the top of the fourth with one out, Castro hit a fly ball that induced a rare misplay from Cain: he started back, looped left and forward, dove, made the catch, and flopped awkwardly to the ground. His wrist bent back (ouch – it reminded me of a play that cost Matsui most of a season) and the ball bounced out for a double. Cain appeared to be all right, he stayed in the game. Perhaps today’s lineup will tell us something. Judge then had an interesting at bat: he took three straight out of the zone, for a 3-0 count. Turned loose on the 3-0, he took a swing that would have put a 87-mph fastball into ORBIT, only Vargas threw him a 3-0 changeup and Judge was WAY out in front. On 3-1, same pitch, same swing, same result. Aaron did not come close to making contact with either pitch. Now the mind-game: does Vargas come back with the fastball, or stay with the change? And if the latter, is Judge sitting on it? Answer: he threw another change, not in the zone, and Judge did not even flinch. Walk, runners on first and second. Headley flied out on a 2-2 pitch, and my thought was “here we go again!” But Didi pulled a 1-2 pitch to right, they sent Castro with two outs, and when the throw missed the cutoff Judge took third as Castro beat the ball home. 2-0 Yankees. Hicks watched 4 pitches go by (strike, ball, strike, ball) and then belted a 3-run homer to left. 5-0 Yankees. Ken Singleton called the homer a “rally killer” (more like a rally finisher I’d say) but anyway there were now 2 outs and no one on, so you’d think the rally was done. Think again: Carter, he of the .200 batting average, singled through the shift (INTO it, not the other way) and Gardner pulled the ball into the right field gap. With 2 outs Carter is running as hard as he can from contact (I am not sure he is actually faster than I am, though I’d probably have a heart attack running 270 feet in a circle as fast as I can go) and the coach sent him. Gardner at that point is rounding second but continues on to third as Carter actually beats the throw home. The gave Gardner a triple, which is fine with me, though I personally would score it a double and takes third on the throw. But he didn’t visibly hesitate, and he MIGHT have made third even if the throw had been cut off so I guess it’s fair. 6-0 and the Yankees had scored more earned runs off Vargas in 3 2/3 innings than his other 7 opponents combined. Vargas’ ERA doubled to 2.03 (still pretty good, though).

Pineda gave up 2 singles and a HR in the bottom of the fourth, but it was only 2 runs because the first single was followed by a DP. Big lead, throw strikes, but he was hit pretty hard. And then the Yankees did something that has been missing from their repertoire for about 5 years: they didn’t stop hitting with the lead. Having batted around in the fourth, Castro got to lead of the fifth and he singled. Judge got a 3-1 count, saw a pitch he liked but swung through it, and then resisted the temptation to swing at a ball out of the zone for his second walk in two innings. Headley singled, Castro scoring, Gregorius singled, Judge scoring, and Hicks walked, loading the bases with no outs. Carter was 3 for 4 on this night, but this is the other one: a ground ball to short. They got the force at second and the speedy (???) Carter beat the relay to first for an RBI (run would have scored anyway). Gardner then hit a sac fly to make it 10-2, and Carter motored into second (he is beginning to BELIEVE that he can run!). Sanchez then drilled the ball to left field, and Carter attempted to score. There was a close play, he was called safe, but it was reversed (correctly) on review. But NY had an 8 run lead. Pineda allowed another HR (10-3) in the fifth. At this point the only Yankees without a hit were Judge (2 walks though) and Holliday. Both took care of this with singles in the sixth, but no runs scored. For good measure the Yankees loaded the bases AGAIN with no outs in the 8th and with Judge at the plate. Sadly, he struck out, but they scored another run on an out, and won 11-4.

Well, no, actually. In the bottom of the ninth, with the score 11-4, the Yankees gave a brief audition to Mike Gallegos. His job, as my son Joe would say, was to create a save for Betances, which is a tall task with NY up by 7. But Gallegos was up to the task: He started single, strike out, fly out – one on with one more out needed. Four straight singles plated 3 runs, and voila! He had done it. The Yankees now led by 4, but the tying run was on deck, the very definition of a save, so Betances came out of the pen, induced Hosmer to tap back to him, and notched the save. Somehow, I don’t think Gallegos will get much credit for this outing, even though he got his job done, creating the save.

This was Pineda’s worst start since his first of the year, and I guess he struggled, but actually I though he was pretty good. His game score (49) is ordinary, but he basically gave up NOTHING until he had a big lead. Then he began to pour in strikes, and a couple of them got turned around. He threw 57 strikes out of 98 pitches, and I’m pretty satisfied with the outing. This was a fun game to watch only if you are a fan – they put it away in the middle innings, and I’m sure it was boring for most people after that. But I’m having fun watching this team and enjoyed it all. With Baltimore’s loss they lead the Orioles by 1 1/2 and the Red Sox by 4.

Fun times.

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