Monday, June 8, 2015

Yankees Sweep Angels, Have Won 6 Straight

The team known officially as the Los Angeles Angels (1961-65), the California Angels (1966-96), the Anaheim Angels (1997-2004) and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (2005-present) has been, on this blog (2007-present), been mocked for these name changes.

Sometimes, I call them the Whatever They're Calling Themselves This Season Angels of Anaheim. Other times, I indulge my seemingly disparate (unless you watched Deep Space Nine) loves of baseball and Star Trek by calling themselves the Los Angeles Angels of Katella Boulevard, Anaheim, Orange County, California, Western Time Zone, United States of America, North America, Western Hemisphere, Earth, Sector 001, United Federation of Planets, Alpha Quadrant, Milky Way Galaxy, Known Universe.

This weekend, they came to Yankee Stadium II to take on the Bronx once-again Bombers. The Friday night game was a slugfest, and both Yankee starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and his opposite number Jered Weaver failed to close out the 6th inning.

Garrett Jones singled in the top of the 2nd, and the much-maligned Stephen Drew hit a home run to make it 2-0 Yankees. In the 3rd, Brett Gardner singled, and Mark Teixeira, who (sorry, people who are really fed up with John Sterling by now) has really been on the mark this season (so much so that Mike Lupica, who hates the Yankees more than anyone in New York media due to his New England and Red Sox roots, went out of his way to praise Teix in his Sunday Daily News column this weekend), sent another Teix Message, his 17th of the season, making it 4-0. In the 5th, Gardner tripled, and Alex Rodriguez singled him home. 5-0 Yankees.

A 5-0 lead, especially at home, should not be blown. But in the top of the 6th, Eovaldi walked the bases loaded with just 1 out, and, naturally, Yankee manager Joe Girardi panicked. He brought in Chasen Shreve, who got out of it with only 1 run coming home.

Brian McCann led off the bottom of the 6th with a double, and came home on Didi Gregorius' sacrifice fly. Then Drew hit another home run, giving him 7 on the season, to make it 7-1. A single by Chris Young got a run home in the 7th, making it 8-1, seemingly putting the game out of reach.

But these are the 2015 New York Yankees, proving Yankee Legend Yogi Berra right: "In baseball, you don't know nothin'."

Jacob Lindgren pitched a scoreless 8th, and Girardi probably should have left him in. Instead, Girardi figures, "Hell, even that fucking moron Esmil Rogers isn't pathetic and incompetent enough to blow a 7-run lead in the 9th inning at home."

Rogers faced 5 batters: Single, double, RBI single, wild pitch and then walk, RBI single. Now, it's 8-3.

Girardi now knew he had a fire on his hands, and had to put it out. He called in Dellin Betances, instead of realizing that there was no game yesterday and closer Andrew Miller was fresh. Betances allowed a 2-RBI single, a walk to load the bases, and a bases-loaded walk, making it 8-6. And ther's still nobody out!

Betances got a strikeout, then allowed a run on a force play -- the 1st earned run he'd allowed all season. Now it was Yankees 8, Angels 7, with 1 out to go, with the tying run on 3rd, and the potential winning run on 1st.

Carlos Perez, batting over .300, was sent up to pinch-hit. I mentioned Star Trek before. This was more of a Star Wars moment: "I've got a bad feeling about this!"

Betances struck him out. Ballgame over, Yankees win, theeeeeeee Yankees win. Whew.

You know how I say, "I don't care what happens, as long as the Yankees win"? Well, I was wrong: Don't ever do that again.

WP: Eovaldi (5-1). SV: Betances (2). LP: Weaver (4-5).

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"Okay, Yankees," you may have been thinking, "that's enough fooling around. Last night, you scored 8 runs, and it was just barely enough. Tonight, I want to see 8 or more runs and have it be much more than enough."

Adam Warren wasn't great, but he pitched into the 7th, allowing just 2 runs. Plenty of reason for the Yankee bats to score 8 runs again, and cruise to victory.

There were 2 straight innings at Yankee Stadium that featured a team scoring 6 runs: The Angels in the 9th on Friday night, and the Yankees in the 1st on Saturday night. (Okay, there was the top of the 1st, in which the Angels didn't score. Don't mess up a nice narrative.)

Gardner led off with a walk. Chase Headley beat out an infield single. A-Rod walked to load the bases with nobody out. When that happens, you expect an inning where a lot of runs are scored. But, having seen the Yankees of October 2012 to May 2015, you've learned that you can't count on this.

This time, we got it. Teix got Gardner home with a sac fly. A wild pitch got Headley home. McCann hit one out, his 9th of the season. Carlos Beltran started it all over again with a single. Gregorius singled. Drew got on via a fielder's choice that was successfully challenged by Girardi, preventing an out. Ramon Flores struck out, but Gardner singled home Beltran to make it 6-0.

The Yankees later got runs home on an RBI single by Beltran in the 2nd, and a bases-loaded walk by Teixeira in the 8th. Girardi trusted Justin Wilson to get the last out in the 7th, and all of them in the 8th. Then, deciding not to trust Rogers with a 6-run lead in the 9th at home, gave the ball to former (and hopefully not future) starter Chris Capuano, who got through the 9th unscathed.

Yankees 8, Angels 2. WP: Warren (4-4). No save. LP: Grant Richard (4-5).

One of the Angel runs came on a home run by Mike Trout, his 15th of the season. This week, Bob Costas taped an interview in Monument Park with David Mantle. In it, Mickey's son and caretaker of his legacy says that Trout, the 23-year-old superstar center fielder from Millville, Cumberland County, South Jersey, is the closest thing to the Mick that he's seen since: "He's got a great swing. He can run, and then he's a good fielder," adding, "He almost even smiles like Dad."

He's certainly doing a better job as a big-market center fielder than the aging, declining Beltran is. Some people on social media were telling general manager Brian Cashman words to the effect of, "Come on, he's already right here in Yankee Stadium, make the deal!"

I'm not sure who they think the Angels are going to take in a trade for Trout. You see, it just doesn't work this way.

These people are like the Arsenal fans who want manager Arsene Wenger to sign Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema because Olivier Giroud isn't good enough -- even though Wenger has had chances to sign Benzema before, and Giroud now starts ahead of Benzema for the France national team. True, there may be a lot of Yankee Fans with more sense than Cashman, but few understand how these deals work as well as he does, and none of these Arsenal "supporters" know as much about soccer as either Wenger or France manager Laurent Blanc.

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Yesterday afternoon, CC Sabathia took the hill, and, once again, it looked like the Big Fella needed to hang up his cleats. He struck out Erick Aybar to open the game, then allowed back-to-back home runs to Trout, who could well be on his way to the Hall of Fame, and Albert Pujols, who almost certainly is (unless he gets proven to be a PED user, but so far he hasn't been credibly charged). The Yankees trailed 2-0 before they even got to bat, and some people were ready to bury CC as a player.

CC then got through the next 5 2/3 innings with no runs, only 3 hits, just 1 walk. The man is a professional, and he's got some pride. He will not go gently into retirement's good night.

Did I say he is a professional? He got into a profanity-laced tirade with umpire Dan Bellino at the end of the 6th, apparently angry over Bellino squeezing him on the strike zone, and got ejected. Girardi went out to defend CC to Bellino, and Bellino ejected him, too.

No, CC is definitely not going gently.

At any rate, after those 1st inning Angel homers, it was all Yankees the rest of the way. C.J. Wilson, a Yankee nemesis from the 2010 American League Championship Series with the Texas Rangers, kept the Yankees at bay until the 3rd, when rookie Jose Pirela led off with a double, and scored on a flyout by John Ryan Murphy and a groundout by Gregorius. Chris Young hit a big fly to lead off the 5th (his 7th of the season), and then Murphy and Gregorius singled, before Gardner pulled one down the right-field line for a short-porch homer, his 5th dinger of the season.

Where were you when Jose Pirela hit his 1st major league home run? I was in East Brunswick, New Jersey, waiting for a bus. I wish I'd been at Yankee Stadium II instead. He hit it off Wilson in the 7th, a long drive to left-center, to forge the final score.

Wilson pitched a scoreless 7th, Betances a scoreless 8th, and Miller, needing the work even though it wasn't a save situation, a scoreless 9th.

Yankees 6, Angels 2. WP: Sabathia (3-7). No save. LP: Wilson (3-5).

The attendance, 43,178 people who chose to come to Yankee Stadium II instead of going to Coney Island, the Rockaways, City Island, or any of the Long Island or Jersey Shore beaches.

And Yankee broadcaster Michael Kay will love this: The time of the game, an exceptionally manageable 2 hours and 20 minutes! A Yankee win, good hitting, good pitching, a big crowd and beautiful weather in he greatest city in the world, That, to borrow an old phrase from that other baseball team in New York, is baseball like it ought to be.

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Finally, I'm caught up with this blog. Here's how things stand for the Yankees:

We are 10 weeks into a 26-week Major League Baseball season. The Yankees, having won 6 straight, are 32-25, with a winning percentage of .561. Over a full 162 games, that would work out to a record of 91-71. As I've said a few times, the average number of wins of the 2nd place team in the AL Eastern Division, from the start of the Divisional Play Era in 1969 onward, has been 92 wins, thus 93 wins is usually enough to win the Division. A 91-win pace suggests that the Yankees won't win the AL East this season.

But the Division is as weak as it's ever been. The Yankees are in 1st place, a game and a half ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays, 2 in the All-Important Loss Column. The Toronto Blue Jays are 3 back, but 5 in the loss column. The despised Boston Red Sox are 4 back, 6 in the loss column. And the defending Division Champion Baltimore Orioles are dead last, 4 back, but only 5 in the loss column. The O's have a game in hand on the Yanks, while the Yanks have a game in hand on the Sox, Jays and Rays.

If the current Major League Baseball standings hold to the end of the season, the Playoffs would be as follows:

The defending AL Champion Kansas City Royals would host the AL Wild Card play-in game against the Rays, and would then face the resurgent Minnesota Twins in the AL Division Series, while the Yankees would face the surprising Houston Astros, who have the best record in the AL despite finishing with over 100 losses in each of the last 4 seasons. (The Yankees and Astros have both made the Playoffs in 1980, '81, '97, '98, '99, 2001, '04 and '05, but, because the Astros were in the National League until recently, and have won just 1 Pennant in their history, they've never played each other in the postseason.)

The defending World Champion San Francisco Giants would host the NL Wild Card play-in game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, with the winner facing the St. Louis Cardinals, while the Los Angeles Dodgers would have the home-field advantage against the Mets.

The Mets are currently 31-27, and in spite of injuries and weak bats remain atop the NL East, leading the Washington Nationals by half a game (even in the loss column), the Atlanta Braves by 3 (2), the Miami Marlins by 6 1/2 (6), and the Philadelphia Phillies by 9 (9). Nevertheless, if the Mets were in the AL East with the same record, they'd be a game and a half behind the Yankees, the Yanks' 2-out-of-3 against The Other Team in The Bronx making that difference. The Mets were touted by many to be better than the Yankees this season, and they just aren't, especially now that their best player, David Wright, is apparently out for the season with a back problem.

The Yankees have tonight off. Tomorrow night, the Nationals come in, matching the 2 games that they took from the Yankees in Washington last month. With 2 games here. Tomorrow night, there will be a corker of a pitching matchup, between Masahiro Tanaka and former Detroit Tiger and Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. On Wednesday afternoon, the Yanks will start Nathan Eovaldi, while the Nats have not yet decided on a starting pitcher.

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Now that I'm finally caught up, maybe I can finally do some posts I've been putting off:

* A look at A-Rod's resurgence.
* A profile of new Devils head coach John Hynes.
* A profile of new Devils general manager Ray Shero.
* A laugh at the Rangers, who choked again, as they always do.

Plus, with this month marking the 20th Anniversary of the Devils' 1st Stanley Cup, I'm going to do a "Where Are They Now?" piece on them.

The Women's World Cup is underway in Canada, artificial turf and all. Tonight, the U.S. team plays its first game in the tournament, against Australia. Come on you Stars & Stripes!

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