New York Yankees Recap: Yankees claw their way back to beat the Toronto Blue Jays

The New York Yankees tonight faced the Toronto Blue Jays at Sahlen Field in Buffalo in game one of a three-game set. The Blue Jays are one of the teams the Yankees trail in the AL East. So far this season, the Yankees have had trouble winning against the Canadian team. The Yankees broke their 3 game losing streak with a 6-5 comeback win over Toronto.

DJ LeMahieu led off the first inning with a single against Hyun Jin Ryu. Aaron Judge flew out to center field. Gleyber Torres ground to third with the Jays getting the force at second. Torres made second on a wild pitch. Giancarlo Stanton walked. Gio Urshela, with two on and two outs, ground out to second, leaving two men on base.

At the bottom, Marcus Semien walked off of Montgomery. Semien stole second base. Bo Bichette also walked for the second walk in the inning. Vlad Guerrero also walked, bringing on Matt Blake, the pitching coach. Teoscar Hernandez sac flew to center, driving in a run. Randal Grichuk flew out for the second out. Lourdes Gurriel, with runners on the corners and two outs, chopped back to Montgomery for the final out. Blue Jays 1 New York Yankees 0.

At the top of the second inning, Gary Sanchez homered into the left-field parking lot. Miguel Andujar worked a walk. Chris Gittens, still looking for his first major league hit, flew out to center.  Brett Gardner went down on strikes. LeMahieu walked. Judge with two on, and two outs struck out to end the half, but the game was tied. At the bottom, Joe Panik led off by flying out to Andujar in left. Riley Adams struck out. Santiago Espinal singled to left. Semien flew out to Judge. New York Yankees 1 Blue Jays 1.

The top of the third had Torres at the plate; he ground out to third. Stanton walked for the second time. Urshela hit into the Yankees 35th double play of the season to end the inning. Bichette led off the bottom and hit his fifth home run off the Yankees this season. Gerrero Jr. struck out looking. Hernandez ground out to Torres. Grichuk struck out to end the inning. Jays 2. Yankees 1.

Gary Sanchez led off the fourth by striking out. Andujar ground out. Gittens got his first big league hit with a homer (439′) to center field, tying up the game. Gardner ground out, but the Yankees tied the game. Gurriel Jr. led off the bottom and grounded out to first. Panik walked. Adams flew out to Gardner for the second out of the inning. Espinal singled up the center. Semien singled when Torres missed a bare-handed play Bichette at the plate; a ball got past Sanchez, and Espinal scored. Bichette singled as two Jays scored. Guerrero struck out on a ball in the dirt, but the damage was done. Blue Jays 5 Yankees 2.

At the top of the fifth, it was the top of the lineup for the Yankees. LeMahieu ground out. Judge grounded out to short. Torres also ground out to short for a 1-2-3 inning for Ryu. At the bottom, Hernandez flew out to right. Grichuk popped out to short. Gurriel went down, grounding out for a very fast inning for both pitchers. Jays 5 Yankees 2.

Giancarlo Stanton flew out to left in the top of the sixth. Urshela singled to right. Sanchez doubled for a man on second and third and only one out. Andujar ground out but drove in Urshela. After hitting a homer in the fourth, Gittens ground out to short, but the Yankees picked up a run. At the bottom, Panik flew out to the left side of short, and that was Montgomery’s night as Luis Cessa took over the pitching. Adams ground out to LeMahieu. Espinal going 3 for 3 on the night, hit a double to center. Semien struck out to end the inning. Jays 5 Yankees 3.

At the top of the seventh, Brett Gardner faced the new Jay’s pitcher Castro and homered to right-center to bring the Yankees within one. LeMahieu doubled to the left-field wall with no outs. Judge at the plate a wild pitch allowed LeMahieu to go to third base, but Judge ground out. Torres at the plate another wild pitch allowed LeMahieu to score and tied the game at 5. Torres walked. Stanton faced the new Jay’s pitcher Carl Edwards and almost homered to the right-field wall. Urshela faced the next new pitcher Tim Mayza. Urshela walked, making it two on and two outs. Sanchez ground out to third, but the Yankees tied the game at 5.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, Bo Bichette ground out to the new New York Yankees’ new pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga. Then, Guerrero singled, as did Hernandez. Finally, Grichuk ground into a double play stranding two Jays. Yankees 5 Jays 5.

At the top of the eighth inning, Miguel Andujar got a lead-off single to left field. Gittens struck out swinging. Tyler Wade came in to pinch run for Andujar; Clint Frazier came in to pinch hit for Gardner leading to another Jay’s pitching change. Jordon Romano faced Frazier, who, while at the plate, saw Wade steal second. Frazier had a huge RBI double to give the Yankees the one-run lead. LeMahieu with Frazier at second and one out ground out to short, but Frazier made it to third base. Judge struck out, but the New York Yankees had come all the way back to take the lead in the game.

At the bottom of the eight with the new Yankee pitcher Zack Britton on the mound, Gurriel led off by grounding out to Torres at short. Joe Panik walked. Adams grounded through Torres for a single and two on with one out. Biggio pinch ran from second. Espinal flew out to a running Tyler Wade. Semien, with two on and two outs, walked to load the bases for Bo Bichette. Bichette flew out to Judge in right to get Britton out of a bases-loaded jam. New York Yankees 6 Jays 5.

At the top of the ninth inning in Buffalo, Gleyber Torres led off flying out to center. Stanton flew out to right field. Urshela singled against the new Jays pitcher Tyler Chatwood. Sanchez struck out swinging, leaving the Yankees with a one runs cushion. At the bottom, the Jays faced the Yankee closer, Aroldis Chapman. Guerrero Jr. ground out to short. Hernandez struck out swinging. Grichuk ground out for the Yankee come-back win. The final score was the New York Yankees 6 and the Blue Jays 5. The winning pitcher was Jonathan Loaisiga, the loser was Tim Mayza, and the save went to Aroldis Chapman for his 13th save of the season.

 

New York Yankees: Issues remain going into spring training for the Yankees

New York Yankees, Corey Kluber

Spring training is just days away. Pitchers and catchers show up no later than February 17, only two days out for the New York Yankees, yet there are still issues to face as the season opener approaches on April first. After a long wait to resign batting champ DJ LeMahieu, the Yankees have been super busy improving the team since then. Yet issues still exist.

After losing three pitchers to free agency after the season, the Yankees finally addressed the issue by signing Corey Kluber, a two-time Cy Young award winner, and trading for starter Jameson Taillon from the Pittsburgh Pirates. With the pitching rotation pretty well patched together, there are still areas of concern. Who will follow ace Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber, and Jameson Taillon? Right now, it appears to be Jordan Montgomery, leaving the fifth spot open to whoever pitches the best in spring training. Domingo German, Deivi Garcia, and Clarke Schmidt seem to be the leading candidates for that job. However, don’t leave Jonathan Loaisiga out of that mix.

There are plenty of players with subpar and even miserable 2020 seasons, but few a bad as catcher Gary Sanchez. Sanchez was near useless behind the plate and at the plate. His batting average for the season was just .147, and his catching skill lacked. He was so bad that as the season progressed, he was often benched in place of backup catcher Kyle Higashioka who both caught and hit better than Sanchez. Higashioka became ace Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher and replaced him in four of the six postseason games. General manager Brian Cashman made it clear that Sanchez will be the starting catcher in 2021 when they tendered him a $6.35 million contract, yet questions remain.

Speaking of poor seasons caused by the entire 2020 shortened season’s strangeness, Gleyber Torres did not escape having a forgettable season as the New York Yankees shortstop. Cashman called into question his conditioning following the restart of summer camp. But the Yankees are still relying on him at shortstop and are counting on the fact he played much better in the latter part of last season (.873 OPS in his final 25 games, compared to a .509 OPS in his first 17) and even better in the playoffs when he went 10-for-23 with a pair of homers in seven games. The Yankees are hoping he can return to his 2019 form when he led the Yankees with 38 home runs.

Although somewhat addressed, the bullpen still needs another quality arm after losing Tommy Kahnle to the Dodgers and trading the declining Adam Ottavino to the Red Sox. In a brilliant move, the New York Yankees did hire one of the best relievers over the past two seasons in Darren O’Day. He pitched masterfully in 2020 with a tiny ERA of just 1.10. They also had a reunion with Adam Warren and Nestor Cortes Jr., yet it seems they still have one hole to fill to get up to steam.

As of this writing, Brett Gardner remains unsigned, and if the outfielder, who made his Yankees debut in 2008, ends up not re-signing with the team, his absence in the clubhouse would be greatly felt. And it would open a giant door for Clint Frazier to finally play a full season in the majors after he emerged as a force when given the opportunity last season and coming in second in the Gold Glove competition. The Yankees .did sign outfielder Jay Bruce for outfield depth, but he is not the veteran presence that Brett Gardner was with the Yankees. The Yankees could still have a reunion with the fan-favorite, but time is running short.

Then there is the case of Miguel Andujar, remember him? Yes, he hasn’t been traded as many thought he would be and is still around. If third baseman Gio Urshela recovers from offseason elbow surgery in time to be ready for Opening Day, it’s hard to see where Andujar would fit on the roster. The Yankees’ attempted to make him somewhat of a utility player last season, moving him from third base to first to left field, but it didn’t go well, and he split time between the Bronx and the alternate site. Andujar turns 26 in March and still has time to prove his 27-homer season when he finished second to Shohei Ohtani (and ahead of Torres) in the AL Rookie of the Year voting, wasn’t a fluke. But where will he play?

Lastly and maybe most importantly is was Giancarlo Stanton’s rebirth as the player he was in 2017 a reality or a fluke. After an injury-plagued season, he came on strong playing like the player every Yankee fan thought he could be at the end of that season. And in the postseason, he was the Yankee’s best player hitting six home runs in just seven postseason games and hitting .302 in the two series. If Stanton and Aaron Judge can have injury-free seasons, the Yankees will be the team to be contended with.

At this point, everything considered, it seems the entire New York Yankees 2020 season will rest on if the team can stay mostly healthy. Kluber and Taillon, after not pitching last season, must show that the low-risk high reward factor depended upon by Cashman can be a reality. And if Judge and Stanton can remain mostly healthy, the Yankees could indeed find their way to another long-awaited championship.

 

 

 

New York Yankees top 10’s: A Yankee history of great center fielders (video)

New York Yankees, Mickey Mantle

The New York Yankees in their 107-year glorious history have had their share of great baseball players.  From Babe Ruth to Joe DiMaggio to Ron Guidry, Derek Jeter, and dozens more, some of the best baseball players in history have graced Yankee Stadium.  I’ve dealt with the pitchers, catchers, baseman, and right fielders in my other top ten columns.  In this installment, I will attempt to identify the great Yankee centerfielders.  With so many great centerfielders, some writers will differ with the order of their preferences.  Here are this writer’s top 10.

10. Curtis Granderson

Curtis Granderson would have been higher on this list, except his tenure with the Yankees was limited.  Granderson played centerfield for the New York Yankees from 2010 to 2013.  2011 was one of the best years of his career.  He scored an incredible 139 times and drove in 119 runs while stealing 25 bases.  He was an All-Star, came in 4th in the MVP voting, and was a Silver Slugger.

9.  Hideki Matsui

Hideki Matsui is another Yankee player the might have scored higher in this ranking if he had played solely in centerfield.  His time with the Yankees was shared with left-field in the last years of his career as a DH.  Matsui was a great contact hitter and shined at important moments.  In his seven-year career with the Yankees from 2003 to 2009, he drove in over a hundred runs a year four of his first five years. During his Yankee career, he hit .292.

8.  Ricky Henderson

Had Ricky Henderson played his entire 25-year career with the Yankees and had only played in centerfield, he would be closer to the top of this list, but he shared it with eight other teams in both leagues.  With the Yankees, he in five years had 326 stolen bases while hitting .288 and driving in 255 runs.  If it wasn’t for his stolen bases, he might not be on this list at all.

7.  Mickey Rivers

Mickey Rivers spent four years with the New York Yankees.  Rivers was a hugely popular Yankee with a cannon for an arm.  He had a fielding average of .985. He was either an All-Star or an MVP candidate every year he was with the Yankees.  The best years of his 15-year career were with the Yankees.  He stole nearly 100 bases and batted .299.  Few players could cover as much grass in center and run the bases as fast.

6.  Bobby Murcer

Bobby Murcer is one of the most popular of New York Yankees in the last fifty years.  Murcer played two stints with the Yankees, the first one from 1965 to 1974 and again from 1979 to when he ended his playing days in 1983. Murcer was a complete baseball player who shined in important moments.  With the Yankees, he hit .278 with 687 runs driven in.  He also hit 275 home runs.  On the day of Thurmon Munson’s funeral, he came back to the Stadium and almost singly won the game that night.  After his playing days, he would broadcast from the Yankee booth for sixteen years. The five-time All-Star died of brain cancer at the age of 62.

5.  Brett Gardner

Many sportswriters would put Brett Gardner further down this list, mostly due to his somewhat low batting average of .260. In his 12 years with the Yankees, Brett Gardner has been one of the most consistent players on the team, always on the edge of greatness.  Few Yankee players have left their guts on the field in every game.  This do or die player puts everything he has into every single game and is the heart and soul of the team.  His mentorship to younger players was never more evident last season when the club endured a historic number of injuries.  Gardner, through example, led many minor league replacements to greatness.  In his twelfth year as a Yankee, he had one of the best seasons of his career, hitting 28 home runs while having an incredible .992 fielding percentage in centerfield. Gardner has accrued the fifth-most WAR in Yankees center field history. He has long been an unsung stalwart of the team. He is also the only present player on this list. Below you will see some of the fantastic plays he has made.

4.  Earl Combs

Most Yankee fans are not familiar with Earl Combs.  Combs played for the Yankees between 1924 and 1935.  It should be noted that the top five players on this list have played at least 12 years with the Yankees and are generally considered not only Yankee greats but some of the best players to ever play the game.  Combs in his 12 years with the Yankees compiled a .325 batting average, and in five of his years, he batted over .342.  He also had a .970 fielding percentage in centerfield.  Combs contributed to teams that won the World Series three times during his career. This baseball Hall of Famer nearly averaged 200 hits a year while striking out an average of only 31 strikeouts per season.

3.  Bernie Williams

One of the most beloved Yankees is Bernie Williams who graced centerfield from 1991 to 2006.  In his 16 years, all as a New York Yankee, he compiled a .297 batting average with 1257 runs batting in a while hitting nearly 300 home runs.  One thing fans enjoyed was that Bernie was a doubles machine.  Bernie was a five-time All-Star, a six-time MVP candidate, and was awarded the Golden Glove award four times for his defense in centerfield. Bernie Williams contributed to four Yankee World Series wins.   Williams was such a good player that early in his career, Yankee owner George Steinbrenner three times considered trading Williams for other star players to plug holes in the team. Still, luckily for Yankee fans, none of those trades came to fruition.  On September 21, 2008, Williams made his first return to Yankee Stadium since 2006 for the ceremonies preceding the final game at the stadium. He was the last former player to be introduced and received a standing ovation that lasted a minute and 42 seconds.  In 2015 Bernie Williams was rewarded a plaque in Monument Park.

2.  Joe DiMaggio

With the top two on this list, we step into rarified greatness.  Joe DiMaggio is one of the greatest players to ever play the game.  Joe was nicknamed the “Clipper” and “Joltin’ Joe” spent his entire 13 years career as a Yankee.  DiMaggio is best known for his 56-game hitting streak (May 15–July 16, 1941), a record that still stands today.  His career batting average of .325 with 361 home runs is among the best in baseball.  He spent his entire career in centerfield at Yankee Stadium. Baseball fans remember him as a Yankee legend and cultural icon of the era. His nine World Series rings trails only Yogi Berra in team history, and his number 5 is immortalized in the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Yankee’s Monument Park. Being one of the more colorful players of his time, he is also known for his failed marriage to Marilyn Monroe.

DiMaggio was a thirteen-time All-Star and a twelve-time MVP candidate winning the coveted award three times.  Many baseball analysts believe that if he hadn’t missed three years in the heart of his career while in the military that his career would have been even better.  They also cite that the 457-foot left-center field fence in the old Yankee Stadium robbed DiMaggio of more home runs than any other player in history.

1.  Mickey Mantle

If the last four on this list leapfrog the bottom five, Mickey Mantle leapfrogs Joe DiMaggio as the second greatest Yankee in history next to the famed Babe Ruth. Mantle played centerfield at Yankee Stadium for eighteen years from 1951 to 1968.  Over his career spent entirely as a New York Yankee, he had a .298 batting average and hit 536 home runs and 1,676 runs scored.  The sixteen-time All-Star also was an MVP nominee 14 times.  He was the MVP in 1956, 1957, and again in 1962. Most sportswriters regard Mickey Mantle as the greatest switch-hitter in baseball history.

Mantle won the Triple Crown in 1956, when he led the major leagues in batting average (.353), home runs (52), and runs batted (RBI) (130).  Mantle appeared in 12 World Series, including seven championships, and he holds World Series records for the most home runs (18), RBIs (40), extra-base hits (26), runs (42), walks (43), and total bases (123).  Mantle was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974 and has a plaque in Yankees Monument Park.  Mantles number 7 was retired by the Yankee on June 8, 1970.

Here are a few more interesting facts about the “Mick”.  He hit two or more home runs in World Series games twice. He hit an unbelievable ten Grand Slams and hit six inside the park home runs, five in the old Yankee Stadium and one against the Chicago White Sox in the old Cominsky Park.

In selecting my top ten, I valued time with the club, performance as per Baseball-Reference.com.  Peak career performance and performance in postseason play was also a factor.  Special situations like changing career positions were also a consideration.

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam