Bird’s The Word In Yankees 6-4 win over Jays in 10 innings

Bird's The Word: Greg Bird high fives Slade Heathcott after his clutch three-run home run in the 10th made the Yankees 6-4 winners over the Blue Jays. AP Photo by Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press
Bird’s The Word: Greg Bird high fives Slade Heathcott after his clutch three-run home run in the 10th made the Yankees 6-4 winners over the Blue Jays.
AP Photo by Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

The Yankees needed a win in the worst way possible to have any realistic chance of catching the Blue Jays. After losing the opener of a three-game series 4-2 to David Price, what they got was another clutch performance from 22-year old first baseman Greg Bird. Bird was indeed the word in a big 6-4 Yankee 10 inning win over the Jays at a loud Rogers Centre. His three-run home run off Toronto reliever Mark Lowe made a winner of closer Andrew Miller after he blew just his second save.

With the game knotted at two, Carlos Beltran stayed red hot going yard off Liam Hendricks to put the Yankees in front in the eighth inning. But the Jays wouldn’t go quietly. They loaded the bases against set up man Dellin Betances before he got Edwin Encarnacion to chase a low breaking ball out of the strike zone. Betances recovered from a bout of wildness walking two straight Jays to load the bases. It’s been a bit tougher for him this month with his command not as sharp. But he battled through relying on two 98 MPH heaters to set up the big strikeout of Encarnacion.

In the ninth, the Yanks had a great opportunity to pad their lead. After Chris Young walked, a Didi Gregorius ground rule double put runners in at second and third with nobody out. But a medium fly out by Jacoby Ellsbury wasn’t enough to score Young, who was nailed at the plate thanks to a great throw by Toronto right fielder Jose Bautista for a 9-9-2 double play. Following a Brett Gardner walk to put runners on the corners, Alex Rodriguez flied out to end the threat. That would nearly prove fatal.

One thing about these Jays. They go down swinging. With virtually an entire lineup possessing enough power to go deep, you can’t blind for a second. After Miller got Justin Smoak swinging, he served up a meatball to Dioner Navarro, who belted his fifth dinger into the left field seats. The Jays nearly ended it loading the bases. That included a puzzling move by Yankee skipper Joe Girardi who elected to intentionally walk Matt Hague. Thinking Miller would face lefty hitting Ben Revere, Girardi didn’t anticipate that Jays manager John Gibbons would send up Russell Martin to pinch hit. Miller pitched him carefully missing high and away which allowed AL MVP front runner Josh Donaldson to come up with the bases packed and two outs. With the crowd going nuts, Miller bounced back getting Donaldson chasing sending the game to extra innings.

In the 10th, Brian McCann bunted against the shift reaching base on an errant throw. Amazingly, it was scored a hit. In a better move Girardi sent in Rico Noel to pinch run for McCann. He can fly. With the threat of a steal, the Yankees hit and run with Slade Heathcott, whose swing was interrupted by Navarro’s glove resulting in catchers interference. That put two runners on with no out setting the stage for Bird. After working the count back to 2-2, he drove Lowe’s low fastball out to right for a game-winning three-run home run. It was his 10th of the season. He’s hit homers in three straight and has five in the last seven with 11 RBI’s.

With no one else to go to, Girardi sent Miller back out to get the final three outs. It wasn’t without a loud thud with Encarnacion clocking his 35th long ball slicing the deficit to 6-4 with one away. But Miller got the next two batters to finally give the Yanks a well earned victory which pulled them within two and a half games. The rubber match is tomorrow with Ivan Nova facing Marcus Stroman. We’ll see if Nova can get himself righted subbing for Masahiro Tanaka.

Aside from Bird continuing to impress, Luis Severino gave the Yanks six solid frames of two-run ball with three walks and three K’s. A better outing than last time when the Jays lit him up for six earned and two homers in two-plus. He did allow a solo shot to Kevin Pillar and a game-tying Smoak RBI single. But the results were positive for the 21-year old righty.

One question for Girardi is whether Miller will be available. He threw 42 pitches and 26 for strikes. Maybe if it’s a save situation, Betances gets the chance instead. He threw 20 pitches (10 strikes), That’s assuming Nova can actually match Stroman and the Yankee offense can score enough runs. We’ll see.

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More HB: Harper will win MVP, Ellsbury slump, Eli and Peyton Manning

We’re back for some More HB. An old format from the original Hitting Back. This will be our first entry on the newyorkpuck.wordpress.com server. Among the topics are Bryce Harper, Jacoby Ellsbury and the Mannings.

MORE HB

-For a while, it looked like the NL MVP was up for grabs. With the Nats folding, there was even talk about Mets rental Yoenis Cespedes winning it. But reality has set in. With top candidate Bryce Harper slugging two more home runs in a rare September Nats win tonight, he’s up to an NL best 39 dingers moving one up on Rockies slugger Nolan Arenado. The 22-year old right fielder also leads the senior circuit in hitting with three more hits raising his batting  average to .338. His line of .338-38-90 on a mediocre underachiever is worthy. As much as I kill him for his lack of big hits versus the Mets, he’s the runaway winner.

-If I had to vote, I would go in this order:

1.Harper 2.Greinke 3.McCutchen 4.Goldschmidt 5.Cespedes

-In the AL, it’s all about Josh Donaldson who has powered the Blue Jays past the Yankees for the AL East lead. With 38 home runs and a major league-leading 119 RBI’s and 109 runs scored, nobody has had a more productive season. He does benefit from a ridiculous lineup that also boasts sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. But the former Oakland Athletic should easily outdistance Mike Trout, who has faded down the stretch.

-Our AL MVP top 5:

1.Donaldson 2.Trout 3.Cain 4.Davis 5.Rodriguez

-With another 0-for-4 effort in a bad Yankee loss to the Rays, Jacoby Ellsbury is 0 for his last 24. The slumping starting center fielder is looking like a nightmare signing. He is signed thru 2020 to a 7-year 153 million contract with a team option. Johnny Damon he is not.

-If you notice, A-Rod is in my top five for AL MVP. He deserves it. The full-time DH has come up with many big hits for the Yanks. With 32 long balls and 83 RBI’s, Alex Rodriguez has had a season for the ages. At 40 with most writing him off following a year off. He will never make Cooperstown. But that doesn’t mean he’s not one of the greatest ballplayers of the modern era. He is and has been a team leader after Jeter. Didi Gregorius’ improvement can be attributed to listening to Alex. Say what you will about him off the field. On it, he is an asset.

Eli Manning taking full responsibility for that awful third down pass on what should’ve been another run to run time off the clock is what you come to expect from the former Super Bowl MVP. Here’s what I don’t understand. How does that happen on a Tom Coughlin coached team?

-Once Tony Romo got the football back, you knew it was coming. And they marched down so fast, you wondered if there were any Giants defensive players out there. Would it have killed Coughlin to use a timeout and stop the Cowboys’ momentum?

Peyton Manning is starting to show his age. He didn’t throw for a touchdown in a ugly Broncos 19-13 home win over the Ravens. However, it’s a bit premature to write off one of the all-time best. Give it some more time.

-What a shame that Terrell Suggs lost his season to a torn ACL in Week 1. The NFL is unlike any other sport. Unforgiving. It is so fast that it stops for no one. Vinny Testaverde just called.

Random Thoughts: Yankees, Mets and Baseball

AL MVP front runner Josh Donaldson has carried the Blue Jays to the top of the AL East. news.nationalpost.com Associated Press/Getty Images

I’m bringing back Random Thoughts. It originated from Hitting Back. That is the old blog run off NYSportsDay. Today’s theme is the Yankees, Mets and baseball. So let’s get to it.

1.It’s nice to have two good teams in this town. Baseball hasn’t been kind to New York City the past couple of years. The Yankees spoiled us for two decades. The playoffs are no longer a lock. Competition has gotten better shifting to small markets who are run well such as the Royals and Pirates. Both of who will again be heard from this October. The Astros appear to be on the verge of winning the AL West and joining the fracas. The Blue Jays were big buyers at the deadline and have vaulted into first in the AL East. Toronto hasn’t seen a winner since 1993. The Cubs are good again. The Mets are back. It makes for what should be a compelling October.

2.When they don’t hit the ball out, the Bronx Bombers remain too one dimensional. With Mark Teixeira banged up and A-Rod showing his age, the offense has been non-existent. The only player hitting is Carlos Beltran. Healthier, he’s had a good second half. Brian McCann has been better in Year 2. The issue is that you can’t rely on the home run. That’s always been my one criticism of Joe Girardi. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner haven’t been utilized enough. Their speed isn’t used due to all too predictable station to station baseball that doesn’t win in October assuming the Yanks make it.

3.Ever since Wilmer Flores cried after thinking he was traded, everything has gone right for the Mets. Not only did Sandy Alderson turn down a trade that would’ve sent Flores and Zach Wheeler to Milwaukee for Carlos Gomez. But he then turned around and dealt for slugger Yoenis Cespedes. He’s been brilliant since hitting over 300 with seven dingers and 20 RBI’s in 22 games highlighted by the three-homer seven RBI game against the Rockies in that joke of a stadium. Flores has hit blasting a pair of homers in a record setting win over the Phillies in which the Amazin’s set a team record with eight dingers. Suddenly scoring runs, they have a healthy five and a half game lead over the overrated Nationals. Unlike what Jayson Werth said, it’s the Mets division to lose.

4.The Amazin’ summer has fans excited about their team for the first time in nearly a decade. With a pair of aces in Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey, they have the pitching that makes them a serious contender. Rookie Noah Syndergaard is still learning and finally won a road game. Jon Niese has been better in the second half. The bullpen is better since the acquisition of Tyler Clippard who has set up for closer Jeurys Familia. It’s them, the Cubs and Pirates who are the teams to watch this Fall.

5.No disrespect to the Cardinals who continue to win games like a daily ritual. They lead the majors with a 80-45 record. Michael Wacha has developed into a ace that’s not talked about. Matt Carpenter remains a constant and youngsters Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty are players to watch. Even without ace Adam Wainwright and first base slugger Matt Adams, St. Louis is again here. It’s amazing. You can’t kill them. Just imagine if the Mets have to go through them like 2006. The Cardinals are The Terminators of baseball.

6.I like what I’ve seen from Greg Bird and Luis Severino so far. Good on Brian Cashman for not parting with either or Aaron Judge for rentals. It would’ve been a mistake to trade Jorge Mateo, who has 81 stolen bases in his first full pro season in Single A. Indeed, there is a bright future in the Bronx.

7.Just about every day, Josh Donaldson is hitting the ball out or driving in big runs for the Jays. With a higher average, more home runs and a major league leading 100 RBI’s, that’s your AL MVP.

8.Mike Trout is fantastic. But if he wins MVP, it would be a crime. The Angels aren’t even in the playoffs. Trout is the best player in the game. Forget his bat. It’s all about his defense which is on display nightly.

9.Dallas Keuchel should win AL Cy Young. If you’ve never heard of him, shame on you. That said, I still believe Chris Sale got robbed last year. If he pitched on a good team, he’d have won one already.

10.One of my pet peeves is when outfielders throw home when they have no chance of nailing the runner. How many times do we have to see fundamentally poor defense which allows hitters to take the extra base?

11.Regarding Larry Bowa’s blowup at plate umpire Dan Bellino for Mets reliever Hansel Robles quick pitching Darin Ruf, he’s right. By rule, the quick pitch is allowed. But pitchers should give batters time to get set. The new rules so favor pitchers that they’re taking advantage. Jeff Francoeur explained it perfectly:

“Let the guy get in the box.” “My whole thing is ‘Give the guy time to get in the box and then pitch.'” He cited Familia who did it exactly “like he was supposed to but he gave guys time to be set and then he went.”

12.As for Bowa going off on Daniel Murphy for the bat flip, it’s something we see too much of. Whether it’s batters celebrating home runs or guys such as Carlos Gomez showing frustration when their team is up big, it’s easy to see why opponents get riled up. Though the Post’s Joel Sherman is right when he says do something about it on the scoreboard. I just don’t like showing up the opposition. But that’s what it’s become. It’s not changing.

13.The Yanks picked quite a time to have a dreadful home stand.

14.Kris Bryant is now the front runner for NL Rookie Of The Year. With a two homer game and some heroics at Wrigley Field, he’s been as advertised. The young third baseman is a stud who’ll be a superstar. It should be fun to see how he performs on the big stage.

15.I was wrong about Jon Lester. He and Jake Arrieta have teamed to form a great 1-2 punch at the top of the Cubs rotation. Speaking of Arrieta, he’s 5-0 in August with an ERA below 0.60. You think the Orioles want a do over?

16.As good as the NL is, it also has some of the worst teams. The Rockies, Phillies, Marlins and Reds are punching bags. At least in the AL, doormats Oakland and Cleveland are competitive. Even Boston is with their lineup featuring future star Mookie Betts.

17.Kinda sad about Hanley Ramirez already being moved to first base after the failed outfield experiment. He went from an All-Star shortstop to a player without a position pretty quickly. He is one of the most talented players but now the Red Sox paid him all that money and don’t know where to play him. Jeez.

18.Remember when Joc Pederson was a lock for NL ROY? I regret trading for him. I could care less about his OBP when he can’t hit and doesn’t play versus lefties.

19.Only in this era can one dimensional sluggers last. There are way too many Rob Deers. It would be nice if more players could hit for average and get more credit for being a professional hitter. Remember when doubles were king and Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn were hitting for ridiculous averages? What about the days of the stolen base when Rickey Henderson and Vince Coleman tore up the base paths. That is missed.

20.If only Paul Goldschmidt didn’t play in obscurity with Arizona. He’s hitting .330 with 24 homers, 93 RBI’s and 20 stolen bases. The 27-year old is an old school superstar who deserves more recognition.

21.Unless something changes, it’ll be two consecutive years a Dodger pitcher sweeps the Cy Young and MVP. Zach Greinke is 13-3 with a major league best 1.67 ERA. None of the MVP candidates have stood out. Bryce Harper and Buster Posey are probably the best hitters but it looks like their teams will miss the postseason. The aforementioned Goldschmidt won’t get it. Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez play for the Rockies. Former MVP Andrew McCutchen is the best player on the Pirates. But .299-19-81 with 72 runs scored doesn’t scream MVP. I love him as a player though and maybe this is the year he carries Pittsburgh.

22.It’s ridiculous that three teams from the NL Central will make the playoffs and two will play in a one-game elimination with better records than division winners. Change the rule!

23.Does anyone think the Dodgers will do anything this October? I don’t see it. Not unless Clayton Kershaw brings it and Yasiel Puig proves he’s not overrated. Think LA doesn’t miss Matt Kemp?

24.Two of my favorite players are Dee Gordon and Jose Altuve. Two elite second basemen who can hit, run and field. They play the game the right way.

25.Robinson Cano isn’t having a great year but did make history by becoming the first player to hit 30 doubles in each of his first 11 seasons. It’s not working out the way he envisioned so far in Seattle. At 32, his numbers are down. Even with a strong second half, he’ll probably wind up just shy of .300 with 20 homers and 90 RBI’s. Are his best seasons behind him? If so, Seattle paid an awful lot for a fading star. With 30 more hits, Cano will reach 2000. He turns 33 on October 22. Can he reach 3000?

26.Who is Michael Pineda? That’s what more Yankee fans need to be asking.

27.C.C. Sabathia is probably done for the season. He tried hard and pitched better recently. But in his mid-30’s with a lot of weight, injuries and inconsistency will continue for the former Yankee ace. He’s had a great career. But let’s face it. It’s been over for some time. Time for the Yankee organization to face the facts. Sabathia will always have that world championship.

28.Was there better theater than David Wright hitting the first pitch he saw into the left field upper deck after returning?

29.Delino Deshields, Jr. is a good player for the Rangers. The son of former Expo Delino Deshields, he doesn’t get much ink. But like Dad, he brings speed to the top of the Texas order. He’s stolen 22 bases and has seven triples. Given up on by the Astros, it looks like Deshields, Jr. has found a home. Playing center field for the other team in Texas, he might even get a chance to face Houston in the postseason. Pretty cool story.

30.Final thought. Andy Pettite and Jorge Posada were two important Yankees. Part of the Core Four, they were an integral part of great teams that won world championships. Neither was great. I’d put each in the very good category. It’s not their fault that the Yankees retired their numbers. So don’t blame them. Put it where it belongs on the organization who did it for the fanfare. Let’s face it. Sports are a big business. Drawing is part of it. Retiring their numbers guaranteed that. They became the 20th and 21st Yankees to have their number retired. Derek Jeter will become the 22nd. The only difference is he was great and is a Hall Of Fame lock. Retiring numbers should be reserved for legends. Especially when it comes to the Yankees. Case closed.