Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Severino Is the Ace We Need Right Now

With a backlog of posts to do -- including on the deaths of baseball legends Darren Daulton and Don Baylor -- it was a good thing for me that yesterday was a day off for the Yankees, because I still haven't done my recap of this past Sunday's game, until now.

A weird thing about writing these recaps: Essentially, I have to write them backwards. I go to ESPN.com's baseball scoreboard page (I don't like using MLB.com's), and type in the final score, the pitchers of record, and the facts of the Yankees' next game, including the starting pitchers. Then I go back to the beginning, and start by saying who the Yankees' starting pitcher was, whether he had good stuff, and the specifics thereof. Then the Yankees' offense, and usually what the bullpen did, letting that segue into the final score and the pitchers of record. And then, after those, I tack on whatever details I think are pertinent.

So Sunday was the finale of the Yankees' 4-game series against the Cleveland Indians, the American League Central Division leaders and the defending AL Champions, at Progressive Field in Cleveland, formerly Jacobs Field.

Luis Severino started, and got the reviews saying things like, "He has become the Yankees' true ace." Which is good, because a championship contender needs an ace. Not a guy called an ace, or even as many as 4 guys called "aces,"as the Mets found out the last couple of years, but an actual ace.

To paraphrase The Dark Knight (the actual Batman movie, not the Mets' phony ace Matt Harvey), I don't know if Sevy is the ace the Yankees deserve, but he's pitching like he's the one we need right now. So we'll start him. Because he can take us to the top.

He gave up a home run to Mickey Brantley in the bottom of the 1st inning, but cruised thereafter. That home run broke up an inning in which he otherwise struck out the side. Joe Girardi let him pitch into the 7th inning, throwing 107 pitches (with 95 being Joe's "Uh-oh, this guy has to come out soon" number), allowing only that 1 run, on 2 hits, and just 1 walk. He struck out 9.

Tommy Kahnle finished the 7th, Adam Warren pitched the 8th, and Chasen Shreve pitched the 9th. The bullpen didn't allow a single baserunner. Indeed, Yankee pitching allowed a good team only 3 baserunners in total. Considering that Warren and Shreve both pitched, this is astonishing.

Of course, none of that would have mattered if the Yankees didn't score at least 2 runs themselves. And they went into the top of the 6th still trailing 1-0. But Brett Gardner led off with a single. Clint Frazier doubled, and yet Gardner, the Yankees' speed guy, didn't score. Didi Gregorius popped up, and Aaron Judge was intentionally walked to set up the inning-ending double play. Chase Headley foiled the strategy with a sacrifice fly that got Gardner home. Tie ballgame.

Todd Frazier drew a walk to reload the bases. And the Jacoby Ellsbury cleared the bases with a triple. Ronald Torreyes singled home Ellsbury. 5-1 Yankees.

With 1 out in the 7th, Clint Frazier drew a walk, Gregorius singled him to 3rd, and Judge showed he has fully gotten out of his post-Home Run Derby slump with an opposite-field home run, his 35th dinger of the season. That provided the final score: Yankees 8, Indians 1. WP: Severino (9-4). No save. LP: Carlos Carrasco (10-5).


So here's how things stand, after Week 18 of the 26-week Major League Baseball regular season:

* The Yankees are 59-51, 3 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The Tampa Bay Rays are 5 1/2 games back, the Baltimore Orioles 7, and the Toronto Blue Jays 10 1/2. In the loss column, the Yankees are 2 games back, the Rays 6, the O's 7, and the Jays 10. The Yankees have 52 games left.

* If the current standings turn out to be the final standings, the Yankees will host the AL Wild Card Game against the Kansas City Royals, with the winner facing the Houston Astros in the Division Series. The other ALDS would have the Red Sox facing the Indians. For the moment, every AL team except the Chicago White Sox, who are 15 games back, is within 7 1/2 games behind the 2nd Wild Card.

* In the National League, the Wild Card game would be the Colorado Rockies hosting the Arizona Diamondbacks, the 2 Mountain Time teams facing each other, for the right to play the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Division Series. The Dodgers have won 43 out of their last 50, and are starting to look like the 2001 Seattle Mariners. Well, we know how that turned out, don't we? The other NLDS would be the defending World Champion Chicago Cubs (how strange that looks), who have really come on strong lately, facing the Washington Nationals. So, a team that's won exactly 1 Pennant in the last 71 seasons faces a franchise that's never won one in 48 seasons, playing in a city that hasn't won one in 83 seasons.

* The Yankees' injury situation is as follows: Tyler Austin and Aaron Hicks are now rehabbing with Triple-A Scranton, and could return by the weekend's series with the Red Sox; Matt Holliday has a back strain, and is eligible to return as soon as August 15; Greg Bird is recovering well from ankle surgery, and could begin a minor-league rehab assignment as soon as next week; Starlin Castro reaggravated his hamstring injury, and should not be counted on to return anytime soon; and Michael Pineda is done for the season, and will likely never pitch for the Yankees again, hence the trades for Sonny Gray and Jaime Garcia.

* The Mets are way out of it. They're not making the Playoffs. That whole "We're taking back New York" thing is over, and they failed.

Tonight, the Yankees begin a 3-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. Here are the projected starting pitchers:

* Tonight: An all-initial matchup of CC Sabathia vs. J.A. Happ.

* Tomorrow: Masahiro Tanaka vs. Cesar Valdez.

* Thursday: Sonny Gray vs. Marco Estrada.

All 3 games are, as Blue Jays home games always are, officially listed as starting at 7:07 PM.

Then, the Yankees come home, to face the Boston Red Scum, in a series that could set the tone for the rest of the season.

Gotta win those.

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