Friday, May 5, 2017

Yankees Come Back to Beat Blue Jays, Prepare for Champion Cubs

Going from having the best record in baseball (or tied for it with the Baltimore Orioles) to dropping 2 out of 3 at home against the Toronto Blue Jays, the team with the worst record in baseball, would have been unacceptable for the Yankees.

For a while on Wednesday night, it looked like they were willing to accept that. But they did not accept it.

It was a wild, seesaw game. After 4 fine starts to begin the season, CC Sabathia had nothing for the 2nd straight start. But Marcus Stroman, who usually pitches well against the Yankees, was not appreciably better. It was 4-0 Jays going to the bottom of the 1st inning, 4-3 Jays after 1 (thanks to a 3-run dinger by Matt Holliday, his 5th of the season), then 6-3 Jays going to the bottom of the 2nd, and 6-5 Jays after 3 (due to a 2-run jack by Aaron Judge, his 13th -- and it was only May 3).

Joe Girardi pulled CC after only 4 innings. Adam Warren pitched a perfect 5th. Tyler Clippard pitched a scoreless 6th, and he and Dellin Betances combined for a scoreless top of the 7th.

Then came the bottom of the 7th. Starlin Castro was robbed by the enormous strike zone of home plate umpire Bill Welke, and Girardi argued his calls -- "There were 4 pitches that I felt weren't strikes," he told the media after the game -- and received an invitation to an early shower as a result.

Maybe that was the spark the Yankees needed. Not only did Girardi suggest that Welke's strike zone improved thereafter -- "I was more pleased with it," he said, as if suggesting that Welke didn't like him, rather than his team -- but the team responded. Judge singled. Chase Headley doubled. Chris Carter singled home Judge. Didi Gregorius beat out an infield single to score Headley and give the Yankees the lead. Kyle Higashioka struck out, but Brett Gardner drew a walk to load the bases, and Aaron Hicks drew another to force Carter home.

Betances pitched a perfect 8th, and Aroldis Chapman pitched a perfect 9th, to nail down a nice comeback victory: Yankees 8, Blue Jays 6. WP: Betances (3-1). SV: Chapman (6). LP: Biagini (0-1).

The Yankees are now 17-9, half a game ahead of the Orioles in the American League Eastern Division, a full game in the all-important loss column. The Boston Red Sox are 3 back, the Tampa Bay Rays 4, and the Jays 9.

For the best overall record in the AL, and thus the top seed in the Playoffs, the Yankees are half a game behind the Houston Astros, 2 1/2 ahead of both the Chicago White Sox and the Cleveland Indians, 3 ahead of the Minnesota Twins, 3 1/2 ahead of the Detroit Tigers.

Am I getting ahead of myself? Maybe. I am not a Met fan: Being in 1st place on May 3 is exciting, but I know it is nearly meaningless. I am not assuming anything. I am merely highly encouraged.

The Yankees now begin a 5-game Interleague roadtrip, with 3 games against the Chicago Cubs, defending World Champions for the 1st time in 108 years, at Wrigley Field, then 2 against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ballpark, before returning home to face the Astros.

Here are the projected starting pitching matchups:

* Today, 2:20 PM (1:20 Chicago time): Michael Pineda vs. Kyle Hendricks.

* Tomorrow, 7:15 PM (6:15): Jordan Montgomery vs. Brett Anderson.

* Sunday, 8:00 PM (7:00): Luis Severino vs. former Red Sox pain in the ass Jon Lester.

* Monday, 7:10 PM (Cincinnati is also on Eastern Time): Masahiro Tanaka vs. the aptly-nicknamed William "Rookie" Davis, who made his big-league debut this past April 6.

* Tuesday, 7:10 PM: Sabathia vs. Tim Adleman.

Then Wednesday off, and Thursday through Sunday, home to Houston.

One more thing: Gary Sanchez, who has hit very well in his minor-league injury-rehab assignment, has been activated for today's game.

The Yankees are playing at a 98-win pace, and yet, today will be the 1st day that both Sanchez and Gregorius are available. And Judge is available, too.

Chicago Cubs, 2016 World Champions, prepare to meet the team in the best position to become 2017 World Champions: The New York Yankees.

No comments: