Okay, so I am going to mix things up now. I am going to start publishing a post each Wednesday and Saturday regularly with the odd extra post thrown in on occasion to deal with any major piece of breaking news that occurs. In this episode, I will tackle the trade deadline and what moves were made by Cashman to improve the Yankees. I will look at the Tampa Bay series, and finally, I will celebrate the fact the Yankees have taken the lead in the division.
So first things first. The trade deadline has come and gone and Brian Cashman was certainly busy this year. He looked at the needs of this team and went out and addressed those needs. First of all, there was the problem at first base. He traded Tyler Webb to the Brewers for Garret Cooper which was a fantastic move because Cooper has turned out to be a great addition at first base, and has also hit well. Then Cashman traded with the White Sox and landed Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle which was a smart move because it tackled the need with the bullpen, especially since it got rid of Tyler Clippard who was just rubbish while adding two great arms to the bullpen. Todd Frazier at third base meant that Chase Headley was also moved to first base, and that was a great move for Headley who has turned out to be brilliant. The first base problem was sorted.
The bullpen was dealt with, the first base problem was solved, but the starting rotation was still a big problem. Pineda had imploded before he found himself on the DL. Tanaka has struggled at one moment and then been brilliant at others. His lack of consistency has been maddening. The Yankees have tried at times to fill the need for in the rotation using a variety of Double-A pitchers who have been equally inconsistent due to their inexperience at this level but they have all done a decent enough job keeping the Yankees in the game. But the Yankees had to do something with the rotation because the starting rotation needs more than just stop gap pitchers or pitching by committee, which was how things had started to turn out.
Brian Cashman was very clever, he went out and got Jaime Garcia from the Twins, and then made what we would call an old fashioned Yankee blockbuster trade that brought the highly coveted pitcher Sonny Gray from Oakland for three prospects. What was great about this move is that we got a great pitcher who is on a contract for two years which means he is not just a loan deal which Yu Darvish would be, and yes we had to give up three prospects, the main thing was we got to keep Frazier who Oakland wanted. We got to keep Gleber Torres, who was also in the A’s sights. We got to keep the best of our prospects and on top of that, we now have a rotation that is hopefully fixed. The move was certainly a clear message from the Yankee owners and front office that they have their sights firmly fixed on a pennant, if not a World Series win.
TAMPA BAY COMES TO TOWN:
The Yankees welcomed Tampa to the Bronx during the weekend for a four game series on the back of a rampant resurgence. It was fair to say that this series was certainly the most important of the post ASG break series that they have played yet because Tampa was breathing down their necks. But we didn’t have to worry a whole bunch. The Yankee pitching was out of sight at times and at times beyond a little shaky. CC had a disaster in the opening game of the set, pitching just 4.1 innings, giving up 5 hits and 4 runs including a home run. He was pulled out of the game and backed up with some pretty amazing work by the bullpen to keep Tampa off the boards while the Yankee bats got into gear and forced the game into extra innings where Brett Gardner hit a line drive homer to right field to take the game. The celebrations led to Aaron Judge getting a chipped tooth and a hilarious game of whodunnit in the Yankee dressing room in which Todd Frazier blamed Clint Frazier who blamed Austin Romine. Todd Frazier then told Clint not to point the finger, at which point Clint reminded Todd that he had just done the same thing, only for Todd to remind the younger Frazier that he wasn’t a rookie and therefore could point the fingers.
The 2nd game started just as the last one had ended with Gardner taking the ball to the house becoming only the third Yankee to go score a homer at the end of one game and the start of the next game. But as good as that was, and the way the Yankees managed to get runs (they were 2-2 with runners in scoring positions) the real talking point was Tanaka. He was just lights out brilliant in this game striking out 14 while giving up 2 hits, and just one measly run. It was a glimpse of Tanaka as he could be, the brilliant ace. His form is maddening because as I have commented on, he is hot and cold. But enough banging on about his poor form because he was outstanding in this game and it was a thrill to witness it. My hope is that we will get more of this from him. It was a gem, and the Yankees took game 2 easy. They also took the lead in the division.
Game 3 got off to a worrying start as Caleb Smith fell apart and lasted just one out in the 3rd before the bullpen came in and pitched by committee. The pen was not as sharp as they had been probably due to being used early too many times. Warren and Robertson both coughed up a run each but it was not enough for the Rays as the Yankees were able to steal this one 5-4, taking a third series win in a row.
Game 4 was just a mess, the pitching was the letdown and Montgomery, who has been a good pitcher for the Yankees hit a blip and gave up 4 runs on 6 hits while only pitching just 2.2 innings. Torreyes was the main man as far as scoring was going as he had a hand directly in all 3 runs scored by the Yanks. They came close to winning so many times in this game but just couldn’t get the runners home. Just think about this stat for a second, the Yankees were 1-11 with runners in scoring positions. Yes, 1-11. They had eleven chances to score in this game and just got one RBI!!! It is no small wonder then that they had lost this game, but it didn’t really seem to matter because they were still on top of the division when the dust settled on this series.
The Yankees have done really well, just as well as the Sox have done poorly, and they are now leading the division. Of course, they mustn’t rest on their laurels. They have one more series at home, against Detroit, before they set off for a two series road trip that will be a big test for them. They face the AL champions and then the ever dangerous albeit struggling Blue Jays. Cleveland will be no push overs, going 8-2 in their last 10 games, while Toronto is 5-5 in their last 10. Boston who have not been as good lately and seem to be in a bit of disarray thanks to David Price’s weak antics. But they are just 0.5 games behind the Yankees in second at the moment. So it is “knuckle down” and consolidate time for the Bronx Bombers. They have started well taking the first game against Detroit, of which I shall write more about later. But it is certainly exciting for Yankee fans to see their team, which many had written off at the start of the season, taking the division lead, hitting well, playing exciting ball, and making the big moves off field to bring one of the hottest pitchers in the league to the Bronx, as well as the feel good trade of Frazier-Robertson-Kahnle, which brought three guys all with links to the Yankees into the team, and all of whom have contributed big since joining us. This certainly is a much better season than we thought.