Yankees Clinch! The Yankees Clinch! Clinch Postseason with 10,000th Win

Ballgame Over! Yankees Clinch! Da Yankees Clinch! Dellin Betances is mobbed by John Ryan Murphy after recording the final out of a Yankees 4-1 win over the Red Sox to clinch the postseason. It was also the franchise's 10,000th win. AP Photo by Kathy Willens/Getty Images
Ballgame Over! Yankees Clinch! Da Yankees Clinch! Dellin Betances is mobbed by John Ryan Murphy after recording the final out of a Yankees 4-1 win over the Red Sox to clinch the postseason. It was also the franchise’s 10,000th win.
AP Photo by Kathy Willens/Getty Images

The Yankees finally got back in the win column. It was an emotional night at Yankee Stadium. In their final home game of the regular season, the Yankees clinched the playoffs with a 4-1 win over the Red Sox. It’ll be the first postseason for the Yanks in three years. They’ll do it as a wild card against either the Astros or Angels in a one-game elimination on Tuesday.

The Bronx Bombers also reached a franchise milestone with their 10,000th win. That it came against Boston feels appropriate. So much of their history has to do with the Red Sox dating back to Babe Ruth being sold to the Yankees for $100,000 a day after Christmas in 1919. Since then, they’ve won a sports record 27 World Championships and 40 Pennants. It took the Red Sox a bit longer to end The Curse winning three World Championships (’04, ’07, ’13).

They did it by doing what they do best via the long ball. Carlos Beltran, Greg Bird and Rob Refsnyder all hit home runs. C.C. Sabathia delivered a solid five innings of one run ball walking three and fanning three to pick up his sixth win. Adam Warren worked three scoreless in middle relief and Dellin Betances worked a perfect ninth for his ninth save. A night after giving up a tying home run to Mookie Betts, Betances struck out two including coming back from 3-0 to get Josh Rutledge swinging to wrap up a postseason berth.

”It’s kind of fitting that the 10,000th win clinches a postseason berth,” Brett Gardner said after finishing 1-for-4 in the leadoff role with Jacoby Ellsbury getting the night off.

They did it by scoring twice of Red Sox lefty Rich Hill. The 35-year old southpaw came in red hot having recorded 10 strikeouts in all three starts since being recalled. An afterthought, Hill made the long journey back to the majors from Long Island to Pawtucket to Boston. He entered off a one-hit shutout. The Yanks were able to scratch out two runs in six innings against him.

Beltran Belts One: Carlos Beltran celebrates a second inning home run in the Yankees 4-1 win over the Red Sox that clinched the postseason.  AP Photo by Kathy Willens/Getty Images
Beltran Belts One: Carlos Beltran celebrates a second inning home run in the Yankees 4-1 win over the Red Sox that clinched the postseason.
AP Photo by Kathy Willens/Getty Images

In the home half of the second, Beltran went to the opposite field from the right side with his 19th homer clearing the short porch a few rows back. The 38-year old veteran right fielder has been the Yanks’ second half MVP connecting for 12 dingers with 36 RBI’s. Without that production, they’re not here.

The same can be echoed for Alex Rodriguez, whose team-leading 33 homers along with 86 RBI’s are more than anyone envisioned. Coming off hip replacement surgery and a year long ban due Biogenesis, he proved that there’s still plenty of life left in his bat at 40. A-Rod’s production is remarkable. Even though his batting average has dipped down to .252, he’s continued to drive in runs with seven homers and 15 RBI’s in September. Hopefully, he has one more big game left in him to carry the team to the AL Division Series.

Also in the second, Brendan Ryan had a run scoring base hit that plated John Ryan Murphy. But following a Didi Gregorius walk, Gardner stranded two runners by striking out. Hill went six allowing two earned with three walks and six K’s with the final three coming in his last inning. He’s a remarkable story. Hopefully, Hill will have a job next Spring.

A Betts RBI single plated the only Boston run in the fifth cutting it to 2-1. Sabathia escaped further trouble. After Yankee manager Joe Girardi decided to intentionally walk dangerous Red Sox shortstop Xander Boegarts to load the bases with two outs, Sabathia got Travis Shaw to fly out to center. That his 96th and final pitch.

Warren took over and was terrific going three scoreless allowing only a hit and a walk while striking out three. As he kept the Boston bats off the scoreboard, Bird provided some insurance with his 11th dinger in the seventh. An inning later, it was Refsnyder’s turn drilling a 430-foot bomb to deep left center.

”These guys to me did it a lot on just heart and hard work,” Girardi said in the winner’s locker room during a celebration. ”We had a lot of injuries. We have age on this team. We dealt with a lot of stuff. But they always kept fighting and they always seemed to be bounce back.”

After two straight years away from the postseason with back-to-back retirements of Yankee legends Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, the Yankees return to the playoffs.

”We’ll never forget what Derek did for this organization,” Girardi noted of Jeter, ”but you have to move on. Yogi retired. Mickey Mantle retired and Joe D retired – all these guys, they were great players, but the Yankees continued to win.”

Masahiro Tanaka will take the ball on Tuesday. We know that much. We’ll find out who it’s against. For now, they should enjoy it.

Red Sox have emerging star in Mookie Betts

While the Yankees limp to the finish line, the Red Sox have played well down the stretch. In 11 innings last night, they prevailed 9-5 over the Bronx Bombers to win the first three games of a four-game series at Yankee Stadium. It was their sixth straight victory.

A big reason why is the emergence of starting center fielder Mookie Betts. The 22-year old former 2011 fifth round pick has developed into a superb outfielder who combines speed with power along with Gold Glove caliber defense. His game-ending catch robbing Chris Davis of a home run in a Boston 8-0 shutout of Baltimore last week is probably the web gem of the season. A play in which he leaped over the right field fence at Fenway Park and leaned against it while grabbing the ball with his glove out-stretched maintaining his balance to preserve Rich Hill’s shutout. It was remarkable.

When Betts isn’t robbing hitters, he’s busy tormenting opposing pitchers with his quick bat. He hit two homers Wednesday making it three in two games against the Yankees. That included a game-tying solo shot off Dellin Betances in the eighth. He added another in a four-run 11th. In the three Red Sox wins, he’s 6-for-15 with three dingers, six extra base hits, four runs scored and four RBI’s. Tonight, he’ll face C.C. Sabathia. He’s only faced him twice going hit-less with a RBI.

In only his second season, Betts is an exciting ballplayer who should be great for the next decade. Originally a middle infielder, he was shifted to the outfield last year at Pawtucket. With second base blocked by Dustin Pedroia, Betts adjusted well while continuing to hit at a .335 clip at Triple-A before getting recalled last year. In 52 games at the big league level, he hit .291 with five homers, 18 RBI’s and seven stolen bases with a .368 on-base percentage. He’s carried that forward. Over 141 games in his first full year, he’s batting .296 with 18 dingers, 76 RBI’s with 92 runs and 20 steals. Betts also has 42 doubles and eight triples giving him 68 extra base hits. He also carries a .344 OBP and .488 slugging giving him a combined .832 OBP.

Over the last 10 games, Betts has reached base in every single one and has hit in nine recording six multi-hit games while scoring 12 runs at the top of the order. He’s just a superb player. Still new to the Yankees/Sox rivalry, Betts already has six home runs and 15 RBI’s against the Yanks in 23 games with a .287 average. The scary aspect is he turns 23 on Oct. 7 following the season. He should only get better. The rest of the American League should take note.

The Blue Jays are AL East Champs

Blue Jays AL East Champs: For the first time since 1993 when they won it all, the Blue Jays are AL East champs. Here's a closer look at their special season and what life was like in '93. AP Photo by Patrick Semansky/Getty Images
Blue Jays AL East Champs: For the first time since 1993 when they won it all, the Blue Jays are AL East champs. Here’s a closer look at their special season and what life was like in ’93.
AP Photo by Patrick Semansky/Getty Images

It took the Blue Jays 22 years to once again become AL East champs. For the first time since ’93 when I was a junior in high school watching Joe Carter take Mitch Williams deep for a Game 6 walk off that sent Toronto to a second consecutive World Title, the Blue Jays are the best team in the AL East.

They did it by doing what they do best. Destroying the Orioles 15-2 to spray the champagne in the road locker room at Camden Yards. The Jays scored in five of nine innings slugging three home runs. Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista each hit two-run shots and Justin Smoak also went deep. All nine Jays starters each had a hit. Eight drove in runs. AL MVP front runner Josh Donaldson went 2-for-4 with his major league best 123rd RBI. He’s hit 41 dingers which puts him one up on Bautista. Encarnacion has 37 giving Toronto three sluggers with over 35 with 100-plus knocked in. A scary thought for the opposition this postseason.

Marcus Stroman won again improving to 4-0 by working eight strong allowing one earned on a Steve Pearce solo shot. Stroman fanned eight. He should slot in behind ace David Price for the Jays playoff rotation. Figure R.A. Dickey to be third leaving manager John Gibbons to choose between Marco Estrada and Mark Buehrle. Considerig that Estrada has pitched better, he might be the choice despite Buehrle’s experience.

The Jays improved to 92-65 with the win. Even though they dropped the second game of a double header, it didn’t matter. They rallied back from a .500 team that once trailed the first place Yankees by seven games. Once they added Troy Tulowitzki and Price, everything fell into place for Toronto. For two months, they have dominated and now could be the favorite to come out of the AL with the Royals losing Greg Holland for the year. He’ll also likely miss next season due to Tommy John surgery.

The Blue Jays with a powerful lineup that also features Russell Martin and speedster Ben Revere¬†now have the pitching to go with the hitting. Price has been lethal since joining them going 9-1 in 11 starts with a 2.30 earned run average along with a dominant 87 K’s in 74 and a third innings. He is front and center for the AL Cy Young with Astros ace Dallas Keuchel. The difference between them is minimal with Keuchel having one more win (19) while Price has a lower ERA by a measly 0.02 (2.45).

Rookie Antonio Osuna has become a reliable closer saving 20 games. If there is a potential weak spot, the bullpen isn’t lock down with vet LaTroy Hawkins and youngster Aaron Sanchez plus lefty Brett Cecil setting up. If the Jays aren’t able to outslug teams in October when the games are usually closer, the pen could come into play.

Either way, a tip of the cap to the Jays for finally giving Canada something else to cheer about aside from hockey. Ironically, the last time Canada had a Stanley Cup champion was also ’93 when the Canadiens won it all behind an all world goalie by the name of Patrick Roy. If the Jays win it all, does that bode well for the Cup returning to Canada?

The last time the Blue Jays won, Bill Clinton was in his first term as President. MTV actually was still en vogue with actual music videos and Yo! MTV Raps and Rock The Vote with Clinton going on MTV as part of his ’92 campaign to defeat George Bush. MTV still had cool veejays like Adam Curry, Daisy Fuentes¬†and Idalis along with lifer Kurt Loder. Cindy Crawford was at her peak in House of Style. Life was good.

Yeah. It was a different era. There was no social media. No Facebook or Twitter. No TMZ to destroy celebrities and athletes. No steroid scandals. And the only internet was dial up. Prodigy was my first service before AOL. Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo dominated. Guns N’ Roses still was intact. 2Pac and Biggie were alive. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg teamed up for The Chronic with gangsta rap taking over.

Harder Hits 9-29-15: A Dodger Coronation

A Dodger Domination: Clayton Kershaw was his dominant self going the distance for a one-hit shutout with 13 strikeouts highlighting the Dodgers' 8-0 shutout of the Giants to wrap up the NL West. AP Photo by Jeff Chiu/Getty Images
A Dodger Domination: Clayton Kershaw was his dominant self going the distance for a one-hit shutout with 13 strikeouts highlighting the Dodgers’ 8-0 shutout of the Giants to wrap up the NL West.
AP Photo by Jeff Chiu/Getty Images

On this episode of Harder Hits, Derek surprises celebratory co-hosts John “JPG” Giagnorio and Brian Sanborn with a revelation on a night of Dodger blue. They are unprepared for what’s in store.

Clayton Kershaw tosses a complete game one-hit shutout fanning 13 Giants to lead the Dodgers to the NL West crown. Three Dodgers take 2014 World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner deep. Dodger blue reigns supreme wrapping up the division and guaranteeing a much anticipated National League Division Series showdown between the Dodgers and Mets. A showdown Derek and JPG can’t wait for.

Flex debuts some new music.

Catch the show archive below:

Harder Hits 9-29-15

Yankees try to give away wildcard

Masahiro Tanaka meets with Yankee catcher Brian McCann.  AP Photo by Kathy Willens/Getty Images
Masahiro Tanaka meets with Yankee catcher Brian McCann.
AP Photo by Kathy Willens/Getty Images

For what seemed like forever, the Yankees were gonna make the playoffs. And while that still seems probable with them needing just one win to finally guarantee themselves of meaningful baseball in October, they are trying to give away the wildcard.

Case in point, with a chance to clinch the Yanks lost to the Red Sox 9-5 at a lifeless Stadium. It was their third consecutive defeat to their bitter rival. While the Blue Jays were busy spraying champagne this afternoon following a 15-2 dismantling of the Orioles, the Yankees couldn’t get out of their own way. After spotting Boston a 4-1 lead, they rallied to it with three in the fifth. Alex Rodriguez’ solo shot in the home sixth gave them a 5-4 lead.

But once again, Dellin Betances couldn’t protect a lead. He served up a solo home run to Mookie Betts. Betances has struggled for about a month getting batters out. Whether it be walks due his command or the long ball which has become an issue, he has not be the same pitcher. In fact, all six homers he’s allowed have come since July. Yankee skipper Joe Girardi takes part of the blame for continuing to overuse Betances by bringing him into the seventh.

Not having a dependable seventh inning guy since moving Adam Warren to the rotation has hurt. Justin Wilson isn’t that guy and Chasen Shreve continues to struggle. He served up Betts’ second dinger of the night in a 4-run Boston 11th that broke a 5-5 tie. Andrew Bailey continues to serve meatballs. The former A’s closer gave up three earned on three hits in one-third. Why does he continue to be run out there?

Girardi has leaned heavily on Betances and Andrew Miller all season. As Girardi’s lack of trust has increased, their workload has doubled. He has taxed his two best. Assuming the Yanks get the one win or loss they need, how much will they have left for the postseason? Would you bet on them right now even if they host the Angels in the wildcard next Tuesday? It’s not looking good.

Masahiro Tanaka wasn’t sharp allowing four earned in five innings. He should be Tuesday’s starter. It’s not like they can trust the inconsistent Michael Pineda, who allowed seven earned including a six-run first in a lopsided 10-4 loss to the Red Sox. You could make a case for talented rookie Luis Severino who outside of one poor outing to the powerhouse Jays has pitched to a 2.77 earned run average over 10 starts with a 5-3 record. But that would be too much pressure on a 21-year old. He’s the future of the rotation. With 50 strikeouts in 55-plus innings, Severino shows promise.

As for the Yankee bats, if they’re not going deep it’s pointless. They never get anyone in from third with less than two outs. They continue to find ways to not score runs. In the eighth, they drew four walks but didn’t score due to Jacoby Ellsbury getting picked off. Brett Gardner left the bases loaded by bouncing out weakly.

Outside of Carlos Beltran, Greg Bird and Rodriguez, there hasn’t been much production from anyone else. Brian McCann is without a home run since Sept. 19. His average is down to .234. He does have an RBI in each of the last three games. Didi Gregorius also has been solid but stranded 10 runners going 0-for-5. Overall, the Yankees left 23.

C.C. Sabathia opposes red hot lefty Rich Hill Thursday night in the final Yankee home game of the regular season. Since being recalled, Hill has made three starts and struck out 10 batters in each game. In fact, his last start was a complete game two-hit shutout of the Orioles. In 23 innings, he’s 2-0 with two walks and 30 K’s. If he pitches lights out again, you’re looking at a four-game Red Sox sweep. An embarrassing way for the Yanks to finish at home.

Thanks to the Angeles losing to lowly Oakland, the Yanks still are three up for the first wildcard. At last check, the Astros had come back to take a 7-6 lead on the Mariners. A win would put them within two and a half. They would go half a game up on the Halos for the second wildcard. With a split of a doubleheader, the Twins are 82-76 a game out pending the Astros/Mariners result.