YANKEES 7, PIRATES 1
On a day when David Phelps was struggling with his command and his pitch count was exploding the Yankees found a time-honored way to dispatch the Pirates: Break out the home-run ball.
Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann connected for a pair of two-run home runs and Zoilo Almonte, Brett Gardner and Alfonso Soriano each added solo shots as New York deep-sixed Pittsburgh in front of a national TV audience and a paid crowd of 47,353 at Yankee Stadium.
It was only the second time this season the Yankees have hit more than three home runs in a game and they tied their season high with five set against the Boston Red Sox on April 12.
Despite his struggles, Phelps (1-0) managed to pitch five shutout innings, yielding five hits, three walks and a hit batter while striking out five. Phelps did not have a single 1-2-3 inning but kept the Pirates off the scoreboard by wriggling out of jams.
He escaped a two-on, no out situation in the second by retiring Gaby Sanchez on a flyout and striking out Jordy Mercer and Tony Sanchez. He did the same thing in the fifth by striking out Neil Walker, getting Andrew McCutchen on a flyout and Pedro Alvarez on a groundout.
He also gave up three hits in the fourth, but he escaped without giving up a run thanks, in part, to a strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play when Ike Davis struck out and McCann threw out Starling Marte attempting to steal second base. Gaby Sanchez then stroked a two-out double and Mercer followed with a single to right but Soriano nailed Sanchez with a perfect throw to McCann.
Four of the five home runs came off Pirates right-hander Edinson Volquez (1-4), who had given up just one homer in his first five starts but has surrendered eight in his past four starts. he was charged with five runs on six hits and struck out three in 6 1/3 innings.
Teixeira opened the barrage in the first inning by following a one-out single by Derek Jeter with his ninth home run in just 23 games after coming off the disabled list on April 20.
Almonte, who was a late addition to the lineup because Jacoby Ellsbury was scratched from the lineup due to flu-like symptoms, hit Volquez’s first delivery in the third inning deep into the second deck in right-center for his first home run of the season and only the second of his major-league career.
Dellin Betances relieved Phelps and the sixth and he was greeted on his first pitch with a line-drive homer into the left-field bleachers by Marte to account for the Pirates’ only run of the day.
Gardner got the run back by stroking his third home run of the season to lead off the sixth inning, making the score 4-1.
Soriano added his sixth home of the season to lead off the seventh and McCann capped the scoring by cracking a two-run shot, also his sixth of the season, with two out in the eighth off right-hander Vin Mazzaro.
The Yankees have hit 25 home runs in just 20 games at Yankee Stadium compared to 13 home runs in 21 games on the road.
After going through a stretch of losing four games in a row earlier this week, the Yankees have now won three straight and Yankee pitchers have given up just one earned run (Marte’s homer) over the past 27 2/3 innings.
The Yankees improved their season record to 22-19 and they also climbed into a tie with the Baltimore Orioles for first place in the American League East, one game ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Pirates dropped to 17-24.
- To put Phelps’ struggles in perspective, he threw 25 pitches in both the first and second innings and 26 in the fifth. His breaking pitches were diving out of the strike zone and the Pirates were not looking for anything but fastballs. But give Phelps credit for keeping the Pirates scoreless and he now owns a 1-0 record and a 2.93 ERA in his three starts in place of the injured Michael Pineda.
- McCann looks like he is beginning to be heating up with the bat. He was hitting .209 on May 6 but since then he has had at least one hit in six of his past seven games. In that span he is 8-for-28 (.286) with two homers and five RBIs to raise his season average to .225.
- Teixeira has hit in seven straight games and is 9-for-25 (.360) with four homers and nine RBIs in that stretch. With Carlos Beltran on the disabled list and McCann hitting well below his normal level, Teixeira has helped the Yankees by providing consistent production in the middle of the order.
The starter pitches five shutout innings, the team hits five home runs and the defense chips in by nailing base-runners at second and at the plate. Despite Betances blowing the shutout there is not much to criticize in this one.
The Yankees’ banged up outfield took another hit when Ellsbury had to be scratched before Saturday’s game. He had only missed one game this season. Ellsbury is day-to-day but the Yankees hope to have him available for Sunday’s doubleheader. . . . Meanwhile, Ichiro Suzuki, who has missed all of this week with a lower-back strain, was used as a defensive replacement in right-field in the ninth inning of Saturday’s game. He is expected to start at least one of two games on Sunday. . . . Although CC Sabathia will be eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on May 26, manager Joe Girardi told reporters on Saturday that he will need more time. Sabathia had right knee drained of fluid and a degenerative change in the knee was treated with a cortisone and stem-cell injection this week by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, AL. Sabathia is expected to be back in New York on Sunday and he will be re-evaluated early next week.
Because of a rainout on Friday the Yankees will play a single-admission doubleheader against the Pirates on Sunday.
Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (2-3, 4.62 ERA) will pitch the first game for the Yankees. Kuroda, 39, gave up four runs on seven hits in six innings against the New York Mets on Monday before the bullpen imploded after he left. He did not get a decision.
The Pirates will counter with hard-luck right-hander Charlie Morton (0-5, 3.22 ERA). Morton yielded three unearned runs in the first inning and lost to St. Louis Cardinals despite yielding just one earned run on seven hits in six innings last Sunday.
Left-hander Vidal Nuno (1-1, 6.43 ERA) will pitch the second game for the Yankees. Nuno has been a disappointment so far as a No. 5 starter, having given up seven runs (five earned) on four hits and four walks in just 3 1/3 innings against the Mets on Tuesday. He is 1-1 with a 4.94 ERA in his five starts.
He will be opposed by hard-throwing right-hander Gerrit Cole (3-3, 3.76 ERA). Cole was tagged for three runs on seven hits and three walks while he struck out six in 5 2/3 innings of a loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday.
Game-time for the first game will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the second game will start approximately 30 minutes after the first game is completed. Both games will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 4, PIRATES 0
TAMPA – After CC Sabathia ended the 2013 season with a disappointing 14-13 record and 4.78 ERA he vowed he would be better in 2014. Judging by his past two spring starts, he is well on his way to delivering on that promise.
Sabathia (2-1) threw seven shutout innings and fanned seven Pirates as New York went on to blank Pittsburgh 4-0 on Friday in front of a paid crowd of 10,890 at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
The slimmed-down left-hander gave up only four hits and a walk while stretching his current scoreless inning streak to 13. In his past two starts, Sabathia has yielded no runs on four hits and one walk while striking out 12 in 12 innings.
The Yankees handed Sabathia all the runs he really needed in the first two innings against right-hander Edinson Volquez (0-3).
Brian McCann started it with a two-out RBI double in the first and Carlos Beltran later scored on a wild pitch. Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter each delivered RBI groundouts in the second as the Yankees touched Volquez for four runs on five hits and two walks in five innings.
The Yankees backed Sabathia’s strong outing with four double plays and two of them came from McCann.
The seven-time All-Star catcher nailed Josh Harrison attempting to steal as Andrew McCutchen struck out in the first. Then in the third inning he did it again as Harrison struck out and he threw out Robert Andino.
The Yankees have now won six consecutive Grapefruit League contests and they outscored their opponents 36-7, with three of the victories coming via shutout.
The Yankees’ spring record is now 14-9-2. The Pirates fell to 11-9.
- Sabathia arrived in camp more than 30 pounds slimmer and determined to regain his ace status despite reduced velocity on his fastball. This spring he has sort of reinvented himself much like Andy Pettitte had to do when he lost velocity on his fastball. For those who were ready to shovel dirt on Sabathia’s career may be in for a huge surprise. Sabathia has always been more of a pitcher than a thrower so he can adapt at age 33.
- When McCann signed a free-agent contract the Yankees knew they were getting one of the best hitting catchers in baseball. Though he is solid defensively, the weakest part of his game has been his throwing. On Friday, he looked every bit as good as Russell Martin and Chris Stewart. McCann’s spring batting average is now .235, but that is misleading. Even McCann’s outs are hit hard and the ball jumps off his bat. The Yankees might have found the perfect successor to Jorge Posada.
- Very quietly Brian Roberts has been getting better this spring. After a slow start, he is hitting .290 with his 1-for-3 night on Friday. Roberts has to prove he can remain healthy but his last season like that was 2009 with the Baltimore Orioles. That year all Roberts did was score 110 runs, blast 16 home runs, drive in 79 runs, hit 56 doubles, steal 30 bases and bat .283. The Yankees don’t expect that kind of production but don’t be surprised if he gets near those numbers.
The Yankees have had their best week of the spring. The pitching has been magnificent. The starting lineup is beginning to hit and even the defense and the bullpen have been good. No need to dwell on any negatives here.
Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury tested his sore right calf on Friday by running on grass and he possibly could return to action as early as Tuesday. That would give Ellsbury five games before the season begins on April 1 in Houston. Ellsbury was the only starter not in the lineup on Friday. . . . Jeter played seven innings on Friday despite the fact he fouled two balls off his surgically repaired left ankle. Jeter told reporters after the game that he was fine. He said the ankle was sore but he hopes to be ready to play on Sunday. Jeter was not scheduled to play on Saturday. . . . MRIs taken on backup infielder Brendan Ryan indicate a pinched nerve in his upper back and it is almost certain that he will begin the season on the disabled list. Ryan has not played in a game since March 4. He was scheduled to start on Thursday in Fort Myers against the Boston Red Sox. But during infield drills, Ryan’s upper back stiffened and he had to be scratched. To replace Ryan on the roster, manager Joe Girardi told reporters that he will pick two players from among Eduardo Nunez, Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte. . . . Prior to the start of the game on Friday the Yankees infielder Greg Bird and right-handed pitcher Shane Greene were named winners of the 2013 Kevin Lawn Award as the Yankees’ minor-league “Player of the Year” and “Pitcher of the Year,” respectively. Bird, 21, batted .288 with 36 doubles, 20 home runs and 84 RBIs in 130 games with the Class-A Charleston RiverDogs. Greene, 25, played for both Class-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, posting a 12-10 record with a 3.38 ERA over 27 appearances (26 starts). . . . Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins threw out the ceremonial first pitch for Friday’s game. Marino threw a strike to Posada, who is in camp as a special instructor.
The Yankees make the long trek to Fort Myers on Saturday to face the Minnesota Twins at Hammond Stadium.
The Yankees have selected Masahiro Tanaka (0-0, 1.93 ERA) to make his third start of the spring. Gardner, Francisco Cervelli and Kelly Johnson are expected to make the trip.
The Twins will counter with right-hander Kevin Correia (1-1, 6.00 ERA).
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network.
YANKEES 8, FLORIDA STATE 3
Vidal Nuno fanned three and gave up only an infield single in two innings and Ramon Flores homered while Dean Anna and JR Murphy each stroked RBI doubles as New York defeated the Seminoles in an exhibition game on Tuesday at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL.
Nuno, 26, who is one of four pitchers vying for the team’s No. 5 starter role, threw 17 of his 26 pitches for strikes and did not walk a batter in earning credit for the victory.
The Seminoles drew a huge contingent of fans among the announced crowd of 7,708 and the colors of garnet and gold lined the upper decks of the stadium.
The contest marked the team’s first meeting against Florida State since 1958, when the Yankees defeated the Seminoles 7-3 in a game played in Tallahassee, FL.
Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston entered the game for the Seminoles in the fifth inning as a defensive replacement in left field. He was 0-for-2 in the game with a groundout and a strikeout.
Winston told reporters after the game that baseball is just as important to him as football and that he would not mind pursuing a career in both sports as Bo Jackson and FSU alumni Deion Sanders did.
Manager Joe Girardi told reporters on Tuesday that newly signed free-agent starter Masahiro Tanaka will make his Yankee and spring training debut in relief on Saturday in a game at Steinbrenner Field against the Philadelphia Phillies. Girardi said CC Sabathia will start the game. He will be followed by right-hander Hiroki Kuroda and then Tanaka. Each pitcher is expected to go two innings and throw about 35 pitches. The idea to feature the three starting pitchers in one game, Girardi said, was that of pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Girardi indicated that the three will pitch in a normal rotation after this first outing.
The Yankees officially open their Grapefruit League schedule on Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, FL.
The Yankees will start with right-hander Ivan Nova, who is coming of a 2013 season in which he was 9-6 with a 3.10 ERA in 23 games (20 of them starts). Nova was the Yankees’ hottest pitcher in the second half of the season. He was 7-2 with a 1.73 ERA after July 5.
The Pirates will counter with their 2013 Opening Day starter in left-hander Francisco Liriano, who was 16-8 with 3.02 ERA in 26 starts last season.
The Yankees are scheduled to play three of their high-priced free agents, catcher Brian McCann and outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. Each are expected to play about four or five innings.
The Pirates will play their projected starting lineup, including former Yankee catcher Russell Martin and All-Star outfielder Andrew McCutchen.
Gametime will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be broadcast by MLB Radio through KDKA-FM in Pittsburgh.
YANKEES 10, PIRATES 3
TAMPA – All spring, Alex Rodriguez has carried the hardened look of a man on a mission to re-establish himself as one of the elite players in baseball. It seems to be working for him, too.
Rodriguez blooped a RBI single to center in the third inning to tie the game and then cracked a two-out, two-run double to left as part of a five-run fourth as New York went on to rout Pittsburgh 10-3 on Tuesday night in a Grapefruit League contest at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Ageless wonder closer Mariano Rivera (2-0) needed only eight pitches (seven of which were strikes) to retire the Pirates in order in the fourth to get credit for the victory.
Pirates left-hander Erik Bedard (0-1) gave up four runs (three earned) on five hits and three walks while striking out three in 3 2/3 innings of work to take the loss. But the Yankees jumped on reliever Jo-Jo Reyes with two out in the fourth to score five runs and put the game out of reach early.
Reyes entered the game with Russell Martin at second and Curtis Granderson on first with two out. But Reyes walked Justin Maxwell to load the bases. He then compounded his troubles by walking Robinson Cano to allow Martin to score the tie-breaking run.
Rodriguez followed with his two-run double and Mark Teixeira and Andruw Jones followed with an RBI single and an RBI double, respectively, which chased Reyes from the game.
- It is always a positive sign when Rodriguez is healthy and hitting the ball with authority. The veteran third baseman is doing a great job this spring of hitting the ball where it is pitched rather than pulling the ball exclusively. The result has been a very good spring where Rodriguez is hitting .333 with two home runs and nine RBIs.
- Granderson hit leadoff in the game and was 2-for-2 with two walks and three runs scored. The only regular having a better spring than Rodriguez is Granderson, who is hitting a sizzling .385 and seems primed to follow up on his career season of 2011.
- Maxwell hit .222 in his first spring training with the Yankees in 2011. This spring, he is a totally different player. Maxwell was 2-for-2 after coming in the game in the third inning to replace an injured Nick Swisher, including a clutch two-run double in the fifth inning. Maxwell is hitting a red-hot .429 with five RBIs and three stolen bases. At age 28, Maxwell will not make the Yankees’ 25-man roster at as outfielder but he could be a valuable call-up from Triple-A Empire State during the season.
- Rivera looked so surgical in the fourth inning it was scary. Here is a statistic that will absolutely floor you. Rivera has not been scored upon in spring training since the 2008 season. Wow!
- Yankees starter Michael Pineda got off to a very rocky start in the first inning. He gave up a one-out single to former Yankee outfielder Jose Tabata and then left a 3-2 breaking pitch up to Andrew McCutchen that was deposited over the left-field wall for an early 2-0 Pirates lead. Pineda ended up throwing 39 pitches in the first inning alone. However, there were two real good signs in his outing: No. 1 Pineda’s velocity rose to 93 miles per hour and No. 2 Pineda settled in and retired the last seven batters he faced, five of them on strikeouts. He struck out the side in the second inning.
- Cory Wade got roughed up a bit in the sixth inning. He gave up three straight singles to Tabata, McCutchen and Neil Walker to surrender the Pirates lone run after the first inning. He has given up three runs on eight hits and a walk in seven innings of work spanning six games. But Wade’s role the bullpen looks to be safe because of the fine work he did for the team in 2011.
- Coming off a day off on Monday, manager Joe Girardi basically played the starting lineup he would have used in the regular season against a left-handed starter with the exception of shortstop Derek Jeter, who was unable to start because of lingering issues with a sore left calf. Then the Yankees lost Swisher to another groin strain in the third inning as he ran to first on a potential double-play grounder then ended up being scored an error. With the veteran club the Yankees have they have to avoid these nagging injuries once the season starts.
The actual headline news of the day had nothing to do with the game. Andy Pettitte arrived at the Yankees spring training complex and threw an eye-popping and electric bullpen session that had even the most cautious Yankee insiders gushing. Pettitte summed it up nicely after the session: “It’s weird to say, but I feel like I never left” Martin caught the 50-pitch session and said, “That’s as good of a bullpen as I’ve caught all spring – from anyone.” Pettitte, 39, who signed a minor-league contract for $2.5 million last week, is now on a mission to build up his legs for the season and he is targeting May 1 for his return to the major leagues. Somewhere do you hear Bobby Valentine and Joe Maddon weeping? . . . Cano returned to the lineup quicker than anyone expected after he was plunked on the left hand by a pitch from Orioles left-hander Troy Patton. X-rays taken after the game were negative and Cano apparently did not experience any lingering soreness. . . . With the Yankees scheduled to play road games on Wednesday and Thursday, Jeter will not return to lineup until Friday, at the earliest. The Yankees are playing it very cautious with their 37-year-old shortstop.
Transmission of this report was delayed by technical difficulties.
PIRATES 7, YANKEES 4
Andrew McCutchen, who signed a six-year, $51.7 million extension earlier in the day, went 2-for-3 and drove in two runs to lead Pittsburgh to a Grapefruit League victory over New York on Tuesday at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, FL.
Right-hander Chris Resop (1-0) gave a run in his one inning of work and got credit for the victory. Phil Hughes (0-1) gave up two runs (one earned) on four hits in 1 1/3 innings of work and took the loss.
Minor-league second baseman David Adams stroked a bases-loaded, two-out, two-run double to bring the tying run to the plate for the Yankees in the ninth inning. However, Melky Mesa popped out against right-hander Daniel McCutcheon to end the game.
The Yankees are 2-2 in spring play and the Pirates drew their mark to 2-2.
- Alex Rodriguez continued his fine work this spring at the plate, drawing a first inning walk and slapping a leadoff single in the sixth inning. It is still early but A-Rod is hitting .800 through the first four games.
- Non-roster right-hander Brett Marshall was the only Yankee pitcher who did not surrender a run to the Pirates. In 1 2/3 innings Marshall did not give up a hit, walked one batter and struck out one. Marshall recovered from Tommy John surgery to post a 9-7 record and a 3.78 ERA at Class-A Tampa in the Florida State League in 2011.
- Francisco Cervelli just missed hitting a three-run home run in the sixth inning off left-hander Doug Slaten. A strong 19-mph wind blowing in from left held the ball up and allowed left-fielder Robbie Grossman to haul it in at the base of the wall. The fly ball scored pinch-runner Mesa from third to bring the Yankees to within a run at 3-2.
- CC Sabathia struggled some with command of his pitches in his spring debut. Sabathia gave only one run but was tagged for three hits in his two innings of work. Sabathia threw 30 pitches and 17 were strikes and he threw first-pitch strikes to only two of the eight batters he faced. Sabathia started off the contest by giving up an infield single to former Yankee Jose Tabata. Clint Barmes followed with a bloop single to right and McCutchen plated Tabata with a sharp single to left.
- Hughes also did not look comfortable in his stint. He allowed Barmes to reach on a two-out single and Barmes scored on a double to the wall in right-center by McCutchen. Hughes threw 24 strikes in his 38 pitches but he was tagged for four hits and he could not complete his allotted two innings. Hughes is competing for a spot in the Yankees’ rotation.
- Although Rodriguez has been excellent this spring, he picked a bad time to make his first out of the season in the third inning. With a run in and Derek Jeter on second and one out, Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira both struck out looking against Resop.
- Texieira was actually charged an error on a bad double-play flip from Robinson Cano in the fourth inning that was knocked loose by Nick Evans hustling to first base and the error allowed Neil Walker to score the Pirates’ third run. Rodriguez then misplayed a McCutchen grounder in the fifth. The Yankees’ defense was not good.
On the play where Teixeira tried a swipe tag on Nick Evans in the fourth inning, Teixeira said he jammed his left thumb. Teixeira did remain the game and he singled in the sixth inning. Though the injury is not considered serious, Teixeira will be day-to-day. He hopes to play again on Thursday when the Yankees head to Dunedin, FL to play the Toronto Blue Jays. . . . Yankee reserve infielder Eduardo Nunez, who suffered a bruised hand when he was hit by a pitch on Monday in a game in Clearwater, FL., hopes to be in the starting lineup on Wednesday.
The Yankees are back home at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Wednesday to host the Tampa Bay Rays.
Hiroki Kuroda will make his Yankee debut and his first start of 2012. The Yankees will have their outfield of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher in the starting lineup for the game.
The Rays will start their ace right-hander James Shields, who will be making his first start of the spring. Burke Badenhop, Josh Lueke and Alex Colome are also scheduled to pitch for the Rays.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.