Prior to Thursday night's finale with the Rays, the Yankees lineup was posted. Greg Bird was returned to the lineup, but moved down to the 6th spot. So the Yankees cleanup hitter became Starlin Castro. The same Starlin Castro I saw as the Cubs cleanup hitter in 2014, when the Yankees last visited Wrigley. And unlike now, the Cubs were not good in 2014.
Castro the cleanup hitter got his first opportunity to do something special from the four hole in the lineup, and he struck out with the bases loaded in the 3rd inning to end any threat. In the last of the sixth, Castro led off with a double, but was left stranded as Chase Headley, Greg Bird and Aaron Judge, failed to budge Castro off second base.
Here are the Yankees, trying to fill the void left by the loss of regulars, shortstop Didi Gregorius and catcher Gary Sanchez, both of whom were expected to hold down a prominent spot in the middle the lineup. So Castro was pressed into duty as the cleanup hitter. Sounds like a bad night in the making. And, for some among the Yankees, it was. Bird went 0 for 4 with three more strikeouts lowering his season average to .050. But all wasn't lost as a couple of Yankees in particular had the type of game they only dreamed of a year ago.
And the Yankees won 3-2.
Aaron Hicks hit an early solo home run, before the Yankees fell behind 2-1. But starter, Luis Severino kept the Yankees in the game, going seven strong innings while allowing the two runs on just five hits with one walk and eleven strikeouts. For Severino, the struggles of last season, especially early, faded into distant memory on Thursday.
And the same can be said for Aaron Hicks, another Yankee who struggled mightily in 2016. Hicks' two run home run in the 7th inning turned out to be the game winner. Hicks, with all three RBI's joins Severino as the two stars of the game. And the bullpen of Betances and Chapman did their job as well.
So through all the injuries and player struggles. the Yankees have won four in a row and are above .500 for the first time this season. Next up on this current home stand are the Cardinals followed by the White Sox.
Let's keep this going.
Cardinals Come to the Bronx This Weekend
Since the 1964 World Series, the St Louis Cardinals have made only one trip to the Bronx, and that was for interleague play, June 13-15, 2003. The Yankees swept the series. The Friday June 13th game marked a double milestone in the career of then Yankee, Roger Clemens. Clemens recorded his 300th career win and 4000th career strikeout in the very same game. The Cardinals did not perform well in any of the games and their lone hitting star might have been a player familiar in the Bronx. Tino Martinez homered twice in one game in a losing effort for the Cardinals. The Yankees have played the Cardinals perhaps less than any other National League team in interleague play, sporting a 3-0 record at home and a 3-3 record at St Louis.
St Louis has not played well so far this season, with a 3-6 record in their first nine games. Even though they play in the same division as the Cubs, the Cardinals are considered contenders in the NL Central race. There will not be as much intrigue as in 2003 with the Clemens milestones, but Saturday is Jackie Robinson Day around baseball and all teams will wear number 42 in his memory. Robinson's debut was 70 years ago Saturday. Michael Pineda is scheduled to pitch the Sunday game, which will be televised nationally on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, the first of several Sunday night games involving the Yankees this season. The Yankees usually don't fare well in Sunday night games. Hopefully they can reverse that trend in 2017.