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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On the first autumn Monday, we take a look back at a busy sports weekend.
-For five innings, Matt Harveyshut down the Yankee offense holding them to a single infield hit while walking one and fanning seven on 77 pitches. Then Mets skipper Terry Collins pulled the plug due to the “innings limit” imposed by evil agent Scott Boras. Then Collins watched helplessly as the Yanks erupted for five runs in a ugly sixth off rookie reliever Hansel Robles that included two errors- one from Daniel Murphy on a Jacoby Ellsbury infield hit and a David Wright miscue on a 95 MPH strike from Robles on a bad Brett Gardner bunt that should’ve nailed Ellsbury at third. If Wright makes the tag, who knows how the inning plays out. Instead, a two-run Carlos Beltran go-ahead double followed along with a two out Dustin Ackley three-run bomb.
-The Mets pen turned in a comedy allowing 11 runs (7 ER) in three consecutive innings highlighted by a opposite field Greg Bird three-run blast that made it 11-1. It was predictable once Harvey exited. Whose fault is it? It’s hard to blame Collins when he’s been put in an uncomfortable position. Blame Boras and his client who have put future interests ahead of this special season at Citi Field. Harvey is at 176.2 innings with potentially two starts left before the postseason. How will he be used? If they’re saving him, the Dark Knight better deliver in October.
-The loss sent Amazin’ fans into panic mode. Despite their team still comfortably up on the Nationals by six games with 13 games left, they still are concerned about another collapse. Unlike ’07 and ’08, it remains highly unlikely. The Nats would have to go 11-2 while the Mets would have to finish 5-8 to force a one-game playoff. Given that their next opponent is the lowly Braves starting tonight, reducing a magic number of eight shouldn’t be a problem. After playing three against Atlanta at home, they travel to Cincinnati for a four-game series and visit Philadelphia for three. The final three come against Washington at home Oct. 2-4. The Nats probably can only lose once to have any realistic shot. They host close rival Baltimore for three and then the Phillies for three. They then play a make up game at home versus the Reds before visiting the Braves for three. Then comes the final series at the Mets.
-For the Mets, even with the Harvey distraction they have six starters with Jacob deGrom, Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese and rookies Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz all part of the rotation. In other words, Collins has plenty of options.
-On the flip side, it was a successful weekend for the Yankees who took the final two games and actually gained two games on the first place Blue Jays cutting the AL East deficit to two and a half entering a pivotal three-game series at Toronto later tonight. They can thank the ageless Beltran who drove in five in the two wins including a three-run bomb off Syndergaard into the upper deck in Saturday’s 5-0 shutout. In the second half, Beltran has hit .302 with nine dingers and 28 RBI’s. Not bad for the former All-Star outfielder who most thought was done at 38. He can still get it done.
-The Yanks also had to be pleased with Michael Pineda and C.C. Sabathia. Both delivered well pitched games. Pineda pitched shutout ball into the sixth before manager Joe Girardi went to Justin Wilson, who fanned the final two batters to get out of a jam. After lumbering in a long first using 32 pitches but only permitting one run on a Wright RBI double, Sabathia settled down going six allowing one earned on five hits with three walks and seven strikeouts to finally win for the first time in 11 starts. It was his second straight good outing. He got a no-decision against the Rays on Sept. 14 after permitting no runs in six and two thirds while having six K’s. Sabathia attributes the recent success to wearing a knee brace. It’s nice to see the 35-year old southpaw able to contribute.
-Every time I watch Bird at bat, I come away very impressed. The 22-year old former 2011 fifth round pick has shown good patience at the plate working counts while making solid contact. With his eighth home run and two walks, he reached base three times Sunday night. In fact, the future starting first baseman has reached base in eight consecutive games hitting in all but one. He’s 8-for-29 with three homers, seven RBI’s, four runs scored with five walks. There’s a lot to like about him. It’s early but he’s done a solid job replacing Mark Teixeira.
-The Yanks need to take two of three from the Jays in this series. The pitching match-ups don’t favor them. Adam Warren opposes David Price tonight. Rookie Luis Severino gets a chance at redemption tomorrow. Ivan Nova replaces Masahiro Tanaka, who will skip a start after suffering a Grade 1 sprain in his right hamstring while running to first after a bunt. Girardi didn’t think it was too serious. Hopefully, it isn’t because we all remember what happened Chien-Ming Wang’s career while running the base paths.
-You knew it was coming. Once Eli Manning lost the football on that crucial third-and-goal with the Giants going for the kill up 20-10 on the Falcons, another Giants collapse was coming. Should it come as any surprise? The team GM Jerry Reese put together is a mediocre one that finds ways to lose games. That’s two consecutive weeks they’ve blown 10-point leads in the fourth quarter. After the Cowboy debacle, here they were allowing Matt Ryan to drive his team down twice for touchdowns against a invisible defense that doesn’t scare anyone. But this isn’t as much about them as it is about Manning, who made costly mistakes. He didn’t protect the football when at worst, Big Blue should’ve come away with a field goal that would’ve made it 13. A week after he screwed up royally mismanaging the clock, Manning was a goat again. There also was a mind boggling delay of game penalty out of a timeout that put the Giants in a 3rd-and-12 which of course they didn’t convert. Then there were errant throws on the final drive which can’t happen after your best player Odell Beckham Jr. draws pass interference at midfield that gives you a chance.
-Speaking of Beckham, Jr. how special is he. That catch and run for a 67-yard touchdown was a thing of beauty. He caught seven for 146. Most of it came in the first half. Why? The Giants at least did a good job using ex-Patriot back Shane Vereen, who had eight receptions for 76 yards. But outside of him and ODB Jr. they got virtually nothing. Consistently inconsistent tight end Larry Donnell did manage a TD catch that put them ahead 20-10 four minutes into the second half. That was it. On a day Manning’s numbers said otherwise finishing 27-for-40 with 292 yards and two touchdowns, he wasn’t good enough. Now comes a must win against the Redskins at Met Life Stadium on Thursday night. And the Skins won beating the Rams after they stunned the Seahawks, who also are 0-2 after falling to the Packers.
-The problem for Big Blue is they don’t make the big plays on either side of the football. In what should be proud coach Tom Coughlin’s swan song, they are a losing team that doesn’t know how to win. If they did, we’d be talking about a totally different story with a 2-0 mark. Instead, they’ve lost in epic fashion twice by a combined five points.
–Julio Jones is also pretty special using a combination of size and athleticism to beat secondaries. Prince Amukamara did a good job limiting him until that huge 37-yard reception he got burned on that set up Devonta Freeman’s go-ahead score from two yards out with 1:14 left. Jones finished with 13 catches for 135 yards.
-It’s sad that on a day they honored the 25-year anniversary of the Super Bowl XXV team, the Giants couldn’t get a win. For a successful franchise that’s won four Lombardi Trophies, they sure have had a lot of bad losses. Add Weeks 1 and 2 to the regrettable list that includes the 49ers playoff choke, the Vikings one in ’97, the Eagles countless times and the Boys.
-How unpredictable is the NFL? The Seahawks are 0-2 as are the Ravens and Saints, who lost at home to the Bucs. New Orleans has now dropped six straight at the Super Dome. The Seahawks should bounce back and I’d also expect Baltimore to be better even without Terrell Suggs. The Saints are a franchise in decline. Even with Drew Brees throwing for record numbers, they’re one dimensional.
-The Jets have a good one later at the Colts on Monday Night Football. It’ll be interesting to see if they can beat Andrew Luck coming off a ugly loss at Buffalo. They have a shot ifRyan Fitzpatrick doesn’t make mistakes and the defense gets to Luck. The Jets will need success on the ground from Chris Ivory.
-If it was six years ago, Frank Gore and Andre Johnson would be a scary combo added to T.Y. Hilton.
-Even with losing Tony Romo for at least eight weeks and star receiver Dez Bryant for roughly the same, the Cowboys remain the team to beat in the NFC East. A strong offensive line and improved defense should keep them around. They had no trouble blanketing ex-Cowboy DeMarco Murray, who’s finding out it’s a lot harder without a good line after being held to two yards on 13 carries. In two weeks, he’s rushed for a grand total of 11 yards on 21 carries.
-What exactly does Chip Kelly see in Sam Bradford?
-Great college football Saturday with Ole Miss upsetting Alabama 43-37 in a wild one that even featured a hilarious blooper with Mississippi quarterback Chad Kelly throwing one up for grabs after feeling pressure and having his prayers answered by receiver Quincy Adeboyejo for a 66-yard TD. After trailing by 20 in their own barn, the Tide never gave up with QB Jake Coker rallying them with two straight scores to cut the deficit to 30-24. But a great play by Kelly which saw him sucker the Bama secondary before threading the needle to Cody Core for a 73-yard TD proved pivotal. Kelly also hooked up with LaQuon Treadwell for a 24-yard score that made it 43-24. To Bama’s credit, they made it interesting with another Coker led drive setting up a Derrick Henry score. They then recovered the onside kick and scored again to cut it 43-37 with over four minutes to go. But after a Ole Miss drive stalled, Coker threw a interception for the Tide’s fifth turnover. They made too many mistakes to win.
-Stanford also sent USC to its first defeat with an impressive 41-31 win at The Coliseum in another great rivalry game. They were led by QB Kevin Hogan, who chewed up the Trojans’ secondary going 18-of-23 for 279 yards and two TDs. Sophomore running back Christian McCaffrey also impressed with a career best 115 rushing yards on 26 carries and Remound Wright ran for three scores. Even when USC’s Cody Kessler going 25-of-32 for 272 yards and three scores, it wasn’t enough. The Trojans never could stop the Cardinals.
-Ohio State remained undefeated in ugly fashion defeating Northern Illinois 20-13. It was the second straight week Cardale Jones was replaced. The BCS hero only completed four passes in nine attempts throwing two picks. J.T. Barrett relieved him finishing 11-of-19 for 97 yards with a TD and int. They should get some competition from Michigan State.
-Notre Dame also stayed unbeaten taking care of Georgia Tech 30-22. CJ Promise ran for 198 yards and three scores and Will Fuller caught six passes for 131 yards and a TD.
-Heisman front runner Leonard Fournette torched Auburn for 228 yards on the ground with three scores in the Tigers’ 45-21 blowout win. That included a 71-yard run plus a 40-yard TD run that made it 24-0 LSU.
The Yankees bounced back from a tough loss by defeating the Rays 3-1 at the Trop to stay within three of first place Toronto. The Blue Jays were 9-1 winners over the Braves. For the Yanks, rookie first baseman Greg Bird continues to hammer the baseball going yard for a second straight game. His solo shot in the ninth gave the Bronx Bombers a big insurance run. He went 2-for-3 with his seventh homer and two RBI’s including a run scoring double to start things in the first.
The 22-year old Bird has seven dingers and 21 RBI’s in 29 games. The production has come over 101 at bats. The former 2011 Yankees’ fifth round pick is 25-for-101 (.248) since being recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. With starting first baseman Mark Teixeira done for the season, Bird is proving he can contribute in the middle of a playoff race. His 10-pitch at bat the previous night in which he fouled off Jake Odirizzi heaters before driving one to dead center for a two-run blast demonstrated good plate discipline. He kept battling until he got a pitch he could handle.
There’s a lot to like about the Bird man. Or as WFAN Yankee radio voice John Sterling calls him, “Bye Bye Birdie” when he hits one out. He has K’d quite a bit fanning 32 times. However, he’s also drawn 13 walks which shows that he has a good concept of the strike zone.
Bird wasn’t the only rookie to star in the win. Luis Severino bounced back from the worst start of his career by working into the sixth permitting one earned while walking one and fanning seven. Severino improved to 4-3. Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller held it down with Miller striking out the side for his 34th save. Betances again struggled walking three in one-plus but was unscathed.
There was a Jacoby Ellsbury sighting with the slumping center fielder recording two hits in five at bats. With the win, the Yanks gained a game on the slumping Astros, who got shellacked 14-3 to fall a game and a half out in the AL West. If the season ended today, the Yanks would get the first wildcard while the Astros would get the second. Houston leads the Twins by a game. At last check, Minnesota trailed Detroit 2-1 in the seventh. A win would put them within a half game. The Indians got back to .500 (72-72) with a 5-1 win over the Royals. Cleveland is four off the pace.
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.