Thursday, September 8, 2016

Yanks Sweep Jays, Back In Race for Title 28

When Brian Cashman traded Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova for the failed Adam Warren and 247 "prospects" who might never make it, I figured the season was over.

I'm the guy who sees that it's still mathematically possible for the Yankees to make the Playoffs, and thinks that the World Series can still be won. I'm the guy who, no matter how bad it might look, will quote the late, great Yogi Berra: "It ain't over 'til it's over." But I figured it was over.

Silly Uncle Mike. O, me of little faith. The Yankees just swept those pesky Toronto Blue Jays, and they're back in the race.


Monday was Labor Day, so the game was a matinee at Yankee Stadium II. The Jays came in as the 1st place team in the American League Eastern Division, and their fans were talking smack on social media. They've made the Playoffs once in 23 years, and their fans are acting like they're the ones with the 27 World Championships.

R.A. Dickey, once a Cy Young Award winner with the Mets, only pitched 4 innings for the Jays, because the Yankees did this interesting thing that they frequently did not do enough of earlier in the season: They drove in runs. The Jays led 1-0 in the 1st, but Jacoby Ellsbury made it 2-1 Yanks with a home run, only his 7th of the season. He also singled in a run in the 3rd, and Tyler Austin drove in 2 runs with a single in the 4th.

Masahiro Tanaka started for the Yankees, and pitched into the 7th inning. A 7th inning in which Joe Girardi used 4 pitchers: Tanaka, Jonathan Holder, Ben Heller and Tommy Layne. Between them, they held the Jays to 2 runs. Tyler Clippard pitched a perfect 8th, and Dellin Betances a perfect 9th.

Yankees 5, Blue Jays 3. WP: Tanaka (12-4). SV: Betances (9). LP: Dickey (9-14... Pitching in the American League is hard!)

Attendance: 42,141. Understandable, you say? Because the Yankees are close, it was a holiday, and the weather was good? Not really: The Yankees hadn't been close most of the season, and a storm had been hanging off the coast for a few days. So this was actually a very good attendance figure.


The Tuesday night game was the Yankee season, thus far, in a nutshell. Emphasis on the nut.

Luis Cessa started, and pitched decently, but was trailing 2-1 when he left in the 6th, his run coming on the 17th homer of the season by Brian McCann. Tyler Austin gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead with his 2nd homer in the 7th. But Warren and Layne both allowed runs in the top of the 8th, and it was 4-3 Jays.

Cliche alert: Those walks'll kill you, especially leadoff walks. Ellsbury drew a walk to lead off the bottom of the 8th. Didi Gregorius nearly hit one out, driving Ellsbury in with a game-tying triple. Starlin Castro brought Didi home with a sacrifice fly. McCann walked, and then Chase Headley hit one out, making it 7-4 Yanks. This made Chasen Shreve, who closed out the 8th inning, the pitcher of record.

That was the 13th homer of the season for the much-maligned Headley. It might turn out to be the most important home run of the season.

No longer having Chapman or Miller, Girardi brought Betances in to pitch the 9th. This was the 3rd night in a row that Betances had pitched, and he had nothing. Again, "Those walks'll kill you, especially leadoff walks." He walked Jose Bautista. Then he walked Josh Donaldson. Then he threw a wild pitch. Then Edwin Encarnacion beat out an infield hit, and it was 7-5.

Betances struck out former Yankee catcher Russell Martin, but he walked another former Yankee catcher, Dioner Navarro. (Both he and Encarnacion were removed for pinch-runners.) Melvin Upton Jr. beat out an infield hit, and that scored Donaldson.

Now it was 7-6 Jays, the bases were loaded, and there was only 1 out. #YankeesTwitter, myself included, was going berserk. We were cursing Betances (perhaps unfairly), Girardi (very fairly), and Cashman (especially fairly, since he'd decimated the bullpen for these alleged prospects that we didn't need with Scranton and Trenton doing so well).

Girardi had seen enough: He took Betances out, and brought in Blake Parker. He struck out Kevin Pillar, and then Justin Smoak hit a sinking liner to left that looked like it might make the score 8-7 Toronto. But Brett Gardner made a "Holy cow!" catch, and... exhale.

Yankees 7, Blue Jays 6. WP: Shreve (2-1). SV: Parker (1). LP: Jason Grilli (4-3). Attendance: 27,532, and given that it was a Tuesday night game, between the 1st place Jays and the struggling Yanks, a figure that low, held down by low walk-up sales, is understandable.


Last night's game had all the hallmarks of a Yankee loss. The opposition was both good and angry. Our starting pitcher, Bryan Mitchell, was a lightly-regarded prospect. Our closer, Betances, was unavailable due to overwork. And the Jays' starter, Marcus Stroman, has a good record against us. And, when it was over, the Yankees had converted 9 hits and 2 walks into only 2 runs -- coming on a Castro home run (his 20th) and a McCann single, both in the 3rd.

But Mitchell went 5 innings, allowing 4 hits, 2 walks... and no runs. Luis Severino came in, and pitched 3 innings, allowing just 1 hit and 1 walk... and no runs. Clippard pitched a perfect 9th.

Yankees 2, Blue Jays 0. WP: Mitchell (1-0). SV: Clippard (1). LP: Stroman (9-7). Attendance: 30,501. Maybe the fans are getting the message.

The Blue Jays sure got the message: The Yankees swept them, and knocked them (for the moment) out of 1st place.


When this series began, the Yankees were 6 1/2 games out of 1st place in the AL East, and 4 1/2 games out of the 2nd Wild Card slot. It looked bad.

Now? The Boston Red Sox are in 1st place, 1 game ahead of the Jays, 2 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles, and just 4 1/2 ahead of the Yankees, 4 in the loss column. In the Wild Card race, the Yankees trail the O's by 2 1/2, 2 in the loss column.

There are 24 games left. Anything can happen. Including Title 28.

Tonight, the Yankees begin a 4-game home series with the Tampa Bay Rays, in last place in the AL East. With the Sox and Jays playing each other in Toronto this weekend, and the O's away to the Playoff-contending Detroit Tigers, this is a good chance to gain some more ground.

Here are the projected starting pitchers:

* Tonight, 7:05 PM: CC Sabathia vs. Alex Cobb.

* Tomorrow, 7:05 PM: Michael Pineda vs. Blake Snell.

* Saturday, 4:05 PM: Tanaka vs. Chris Archer.

* Sunday, 1:05 PM: Cessa vs. Matt Andariese.

Come on you Pinstripes!

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