Happy Easter everyone! Sonny Gray toes the rubber this afternoon against Marcus Stroman and the Blue Jays in the series finale. After strong starts by the Yankees staff, Gray looks to continue the trend in his first start of the year.
After three games there already is plenty to talk about in Yankee land. In the season opener Giancarlo Stanton stole the show with a monster Yankee debut. He homered in his first and last at bat, with an RBI double sandwiched in between. Luis Severino only allowed one hit while helping shut down Toronto's lineup in a well played season opener.
With the buzz from Stanton's debut being the talk of baseball after Thursday, game two Friday night featured the bottom half of the lineup stealing the show. The eight and nine hole hitters, Brandon Drury and Tyler Wade drove in all four runs for the Bombers. Billy McKinney notched his first career base hit, and Sir Didi Gregorius had a good night at the plate going 2 for 3 with a double, triple and two runs scored.
Masahiro Tanaka was absolutely brilliant, dominating the Blue Jays lineup, allowing only three hits. After serving up a solo homerun in the second inning he retired 13 straight batters. Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson followed by shutting down the Blue Jays before Aroldis "Chappie" Chapman earned a save in a somewhat shaky outing. Back to back two out doubles in the ninth made things interesting before Randal Grichuk struck out to end the game.
After two statement games to start the year, the Yankees looked to CC Sabathia to continue their two game winning streak. Sabathia battled all day giving up three runs in five innings, including a big inning ending double play to get out of a jam in the fifth.
Tyler Austin had a huge day, going deep twice and driving in all three runs. He was the only one able to get to Marco Estrada, who dominated the rest of the lineup. It came down to late inning relief and Dellin Betances couldn't hold a baserunner and was embarrassed by Kevin Pillar. Betances gave up four stolen bases. Pillar stole three in one inning, including home, to add an insurance run. Not a good start of the year for Betances, who has also served up two homeruns this year.
Other notes and observations before the series finale:
What happened to the outfield logjam? Aaron Hicks went on the ten day DL after opening day with a right intercostal muscle strain. It doesn't look to be serious, but with Jacoby Ellsbury not expected to be ready before next Thursday and Clint Frazier still recovering from a concussion, the Yankees called up Billy McKinney. That didn't last long, as he was put on the DL Saturday after crashing into the outfield wall in the first inning.
Miguel Andujar gets the call up to fill a much needed bench spot after two outfield injuries. The fourth outfielder spot seems to belong to Tyler Wade for the time being, or at least until Ellsbury or Hicks return.
The Yankees outfield Saturday had Judge in center field, Gardner in left field and Stanton in right field. This may be an alignment we may see more of this year, especially in the next week or so.
Many of you who thought Gardner was going to be inserted into center, after McKinney was pulled, was just as surprised as I was to see Aaron Boone stick with Judge in centerfield. It may have had more to do with a reluctance to play Stanton in left. I will be curious to see if this continues to happen in the near future.
Dellin Betances had a brutal game on Saturday. It's hard to believe a Major League pitcher can be that inept at holding runners. Without an absolute great play by Gary Sanchez throwing out Curtis Granderson, Betances would have given up five stolen bases in two innings. That is absolutely unacceptable. Expect major adjustments to mechanics and psyche. Kevin Pillar looked like Rickey Henderson showing zero hesitation on the basepaths.
The Yankees looked totally unprepared for that stealing of home by Pillar. Brandon Drury wasn't even close to the bag leaving Pillar to a huge lead off third. Sanchez also looked off guard, and it was embarrassing all around. When was the last time you saw a player steal second, third and home in the same game, let alone the same inning?
Aaron Boone showed a lot of faith in CC Sabathia on Saturday by sticking with him to get out of a fifth inning jam. The big lefty rewarded him by inducing an inning ending double play. It wasn't a dominating performance by any means, but Sabathia looked good on the mound.
Adam Warren suffered a right ankle contusion after being struck by a comebacker in the sixth. X-rays were negative, and he is considered day to day.
Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez are still homerless after three games. Sanchez will get the day off behind the plate on Sunday. It will be up to Boone on whether he pencils him in as DH.
Sunday's game is a big one with a series win on the line. A split with the Blue Jays will be a disappointment after taking the first two games.
Jordan Montgomery will make his first start of the season Monday, against the Rays to begin a three game set at home. He will look to build on his solid rookie campaign where he finished 9-7, with a 3.88 ERA in 29 starts.