YANKEES 8, TWINS 7 (10 INNINGS)
On a night where the team was literally battered, bruised and besieged leave it to a former New York Yankees shortstop to provide the Yankees with the mistake that handed them a hard-fought 10-inning walk-off victory at Yankee Stadium on Monday.
Chase Headley’s hard-hit bases-loaded grounder clanked off Eduardo Nunez’s glove just enough to allow Greg Bird to score the winning run as New York came back from a 7-5 deficit to beat Minnesota on what was Frank Sinatra Night.
And in true Sinatra-like fashion, the Yankees did their way.
Facing Twins closer Glen Perkins, Bird opened the inning with a line-drive double in the gap in right-center. The only reason Bird was in the game is starting first baseman Mark Teixeira was forced to leave the game in the sixth with a bruised right leg.
Brian McCann, who had driven in five runs on the night with a two-out three-run homer and a two-out two-run single earlier, delivered a double off the glove of left-fielder Eddie Rosario, which should have scored Bird easily with the winning run.
However, Bird went back to tag up at second base and was unable to score because Rosario got the ball in quickly.
With Bird at third and McCann on second, the Twins intentionally walked Carlos Beltran, who had tied the game up with one out in the sixth inning with a two-run home run. Twins manager Paul Molitor then replaced right-fielder Torii Hunter with infielder Eduardo Escobar and positioned him to give the Twins five infielders.
Headley then slapped a 1-2 pitch on two hops to Nunez at shortstop. But Nunez – who basically punched his ticket out of New York because of chronic fielding issues – allowed the ball to carom off his glove.
Nunez inexplicably threw to first base to retire Headley after Bird already had scored the decisive run.
I want to wake up in a city
That doesn’t sleep
And find I’m king of the hill
Top of the heap
The Yankees’ walk-off victory allowed them to extend their lead in the American League East over the idle Toronto Blue Jays to a full game.
But getting from Point A (the game) to Point B (the victory) proved extremely difficult despite the fact that McCann provided rookie right-hander Bryan Mitchell an early 3-0 lead on a night that CC Sabathia was scheduled to pitch but didn’t because Yankees manager Joe Girardi wanted to give all his starters an extra day of rest.
So the Yankees opened the first with Jacoby Ellsbury reaching on a single and Alex Rodriguez drew a one-out walk. One out later, McCann launched a 0-2 fastball off right-hander Kyle Gibson deep into the right-field bleachers for his 21st home run of the season.
The Twins got one of the runs back in the second inning when Rosario and Kurt Suzuki hit a pair of two-out singles and Nunez capped it by lining a wicked line drive that struck Mitchell in the face and the ball caromed into center-field to score Rosario.
Mitchell immediately fell to the ground with blood pouring profusely from his nose. Mitchell was able to walk off the mound with a towel covering his face with what later was diagnosed as a nasal fracture.
Girardi called upon rookie right-hander Caleb Cotham to replace Mitchell and Cotham was able to strike out Aaron Hicks to end the inning with Suzuki on third and Nunez on second after a stolen base.
But the Twins took advantage of the inexperienced Cotham in the third inning. Brian Dozier led off with a single and, one out later, Miguel Sano stroked his eighth home run of the season into the left-field bleachers.
Forced to leave Cotham in because the Yankees were a man short in the bullpen with Mitchell starting, Trevor Plouffe exploited it by singling to right and Hunter reached on a fielder’s choice in which shortstop Didi Gregorius mishandled his ground ball for an error and it allowed Plouffe to reach third.
Rosario followed with an RBI single to center and the Twins took a 4-3 lead.
But the Yankees reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the frame after Ellsbury singled, Brett Gardner walked and Rodriguez hit a hard-hit grounder that caromed past Plouffe into left-field for an error. Ellsbury, however, was thrown out at home plate on a throw from Rosario. It was his 11th outfield assist of the season.
Because the Twins were running the bases every chance they got in the game, Rodriguez decided to steal a base on a befuddled Gibson. That proved to be a very smart move.
One out later, McCann dumped a bloop single to right that allowed both Gardner and Rodriguez to score. The Yankees reclaimed the lead 5-4.
But it did not last for even one hitter in the fourth. The Twins again exploited Cotham when Hicks led off with his eighth home run of the season into the Yankees bullpen in right-field.
Two batters later Cotham left in favor of left-hander Chasen Shreve after being charged with four runs on six hits in just two innings.
But the normally reliable Shreve was ambushed in the fifth inning when Plouffe led off by cracking a 1-2 pitch that also landed in the Yankees bullpen for his 18th home run of the season.
Plouffe extended the Twins’ lead to 7-5 with two out in the sixth. After Joe Mauer and Sano reached on two-out singles off left-hander Justin Wilson, Plouffe followed with an RBI single to left.
But the seesaw game swung back again in the sixth inning after Teixeira battled Gibson to draw an 12-pitch walk. Bird pinch-ran for Teixeira after the veteran first baseman fouled a pitch off his right leg earlier in the at-bat.
Molitor replaced Gibson with left-hander Brian Duensing. After Duensing struck out McCann, Beltran tied it 7-7 with his 13th home run of the season and his third homer in his past four games.
Gibson, who entered the contest with an ERA over 10.00 in four career starts against the Yankees, was charged with six runs on four hits and three walks and struck out two in five-plus innings.
The game remained tied despite the fact the Yankees loaded the bases with one out against first left-hander Ryan O’Rourke and then right-hander Casey Fien. The Yankees had McCann and Beltran up with the bases loaded but McCann was retired by Fien on a weak infield popup and Beltran struck out swinging.
But the Yankees bullpen trio of right-hander Adam Warren (seventh), right-hander Dellin Betances (seventh, eighth and ninth) and left-hander Andrew Miller (10th) held the Twins to one hit and one walk and struck out five in the final four innings to set up the walk-off victory in the 10th.
Miller (1-2) was credited with his first victory of the season in relief. Perkins (1-4) took the loss.
The Yankees improved their season record to 65-52. The Twins dropped to 59-59.
Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall
And did it my way
- McCann had himself a MVP-like night after going 3-for-5 with a single, double, home run, a run scored and five RBIs. The five RBIs tied a career high, which he has done six times. You think that was good? Well, how about his work behind the plate? McCann threw out three Twins base-runners to become the first Yankees catcher to do that since Jose Molina did it 2011 against the Boston Red Sox. McCann threw out Dozier in the fourth, Hunter in the fifth and Nunez in the seventh.
- Beltran’s hot streak in August continued in a big way on Monday. He was only 1-for-4 but that one was a game-tying home run. This season eight of Beltran’s 13 home runs have either tied or given the Yankees a lead. Beltran is batting .317 with five homers and nine RBIs halfway through the month. It appears Beltran is tired of being platooned with Chris Young and he now has become a must-start every day.
- Let’s give a shout out to Brian Cashman for having the foresight to release “Eduardo Scissorhands” (Nunez) on April Fool’s Day of 2014. That seems appropriate since Nunez committed 42 errors in 270 games with the Yankees between 2010 and 2013. Now he is the Twins’ problem and his shaky fielding handed the Yankees a victory. “It’s all my fault,” Nunez told reporters. “The pitcher did his job. I have to do my job and make the play. It’s all on my back. This game. I think I lost the game.” Well said, Scissorhands!
- I have no idea what the Yankees see in Cotham, 27. He looked tentative on the mound and he seemed absolutely afraid to throw a pitch in the strike zone. It might get hitters to swing out of the zone at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre but not in Major League Baseball. There is a strong possibility that Cotham will be shipped back to Scranton now that he is sporting a 7.36 ERA in just two games.
- Rodriguez’s struggles continue and they are getting worse. He was 0-for-4 with a walk, which means he is now in a 3-for-37 (.081) skid since Aug. 6. His season average has sunk 19 points from .281 to .262 and he struck out 10 times in those 37 at-bats. He was rested on Saturday so that is not an excuse. Perhaps he needs to be lowered in the order. That is what got him going early in the season.
X-rays of Mitchell indicated a small nasal fracture but the team is also going to monitor the 24-year-old right-hander for concussion symptoms. He is expected to be placed on the 15-day disabled list prior to Tuesday’s game. . . . Precautionary X-rays taken on Teixeira’s right leg just above his knee were negative. Teixeira, 35, was unable to put any pressure on the leg after the game and he is listed as day-to-day. . . . As part of a salute to the late Frank Sinatra on Monday, his son Frank Jr. sang the national anthem before the game and the first 18,000 fans (21 and over) were given free Frank Sinatra music download cards.
A battered and tired Yankee team will resume its three-game home series with Twins on Tuesday.
Sabathia (4-9, 5.23) will pitch for the Yankees with that extra day of rest. Despite giving up two runs on nine hits and two walks in six innings against the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday, the Yankees gave him just one run of support and he took the loss.
Veteran right-hander Mike Pelfrey (6-7, 3.70 ERA) will pitch for the Twins. He held Texas Rangers to one run on four hits and one walk with four strikeouts in seven innings of a 11-1 victory on Wednesday.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 13, WHITE SOX 6
After the Yankees landed in Chicago at 4 a.m. after their long flight from Dallas most all of the players were pretty tired after a grueling four-game series in the Texas heat. But Mark Teixeira was not one of those players because he was rested on Thursday.
He definitely was wide awake playing against the White Sox on Friday at U.S. Cellular Field.
Teixeira blasted a pair of homers, including his 10th career grand slam, and drove in six runs to lead New York to a rout of Chicago and allow right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to notch his 11th victory of the season.
The Yankees jumped on rookie left-hander Carlos Rodon (4-4) for eight runs in three-plus innings and they scored five runs and sent 10 men to the plate in both the second and fourth innings to post an early 11-2 lead.
Eovaldi (11-2), who has been getting 7.09 runs of a support per start, was able to pitch into the sixth inning to earn his sixth consecutive victory over his past eight starts to lead the Yankees starters in wins.
Eovaldi yielded three runs on seven hits and three walks with five strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings.
The Yankees scored a single run in the first on a two-out double by Alex Rodriguez. Teixeira then drew a walk and Carlos Beltran followed with an RBI double.
They added five runs in the second keyed by a two-out RBI single from Rodriguez and Teixeira’s grand slam home run to center.
The White Sox drew to within four runs in the third inning on a one-out single by Adam Eaton and two-out, two-run home run by Jose Abreu, his 18th of the season.
But the Yankees chased Rodon and put the game away in the fourth starting with a leadoff double by Chris Young and Young later scored on a pair of wild pitches by Rodon with Rodriguez at the plate.
Rodriguez ended up drawing a four-pitch walk and White Sox manager Robin Ventura replaced Rodon with right-hander Matt Albers.
Teixeira then greeted the veteran right-hander by blasting a 2-2 pitch into center-field for his second home run of the evening and his 28th of the season.
With the home run Teixeira also became the Major League leader among switch-hitters who have hit home runs from both sides of the plate in a game. It was the 14th time the 35-year-old first baseman had done it to pass former teammate Nick Swisher, who was tied with Teixeira at 13.
The Yankees then reloaded the bases on Albers and Brendan Ryan stroked an RBI single and Didi Gregorius followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 11-2.
Rodon was charged with a career-high eight runs on seven hits and four walks with four strikeouts. He also threw three wild pitches in what also was the shortest outing of his career.
The Yankees added single runs in the fifth and sixth innings on RBI singles by Chase Headley and Jacoby Ellsbury, respectively, as each member of the Yankees starting lineup collected at least one hit.
In their past two victories the Yankees have outscored their opposition 32-10 and rapped out a total of 37 hits.
The Yankees have now won a Major-League-best 17 games after the All-Star break and their overall record improved to 58-44.
They lead the second-place Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays by six games in the American League East. The White Sox dropped to 49-52.
- It took this season to remind Yankee fans how valuable Teixeira was before injuries ruined the past two seasons of his career. Teixeira was 3-for-4 with a double, two home runs, two walks, two runs scored and six RBIs. Teixeira is now batting .269 with 28 homers (tied for third in the American League) and 73 RBIs (tied for first in the A.L.). You can’t do much better than what he has done, especially when you factor in his defense at first base (only two errors).
- Teixeira was batting fourth between Rodriguez and Beltran. Those 3-4-5 hitters combined to go an unbelievable 8-for-10 with five walks, seven runs scored and eight RBIs. Rodriguez was 2-for-2 with three walks, four runs scored and one RBI. Beltran was 3-for-4 with a single and two doubles, a run scored and one RBI.
- Ryan, 33, has been amazing ever since he was inserted as the starting second baseman against left-handers. On Friday, the career .234 hitter was 3-for-6 including a double and an RBI. In his past three starts, Ryan is 6-for-16 (.375) and he has driven in four runs. The hot streak will not last but Ryan’s bat is helping lengthen the Yankees’ lineup along with Headley and Gregorius.
- The White Sox obviously used the the same game plan all teams use against Eovaldi by shortening their swings in order to foul off multiple pitches to drive up his pitch count. It has not worked in beating him. But it has kept him from pitching six innings in 13 of his 20 starts. It took Eovaldi 117 pitches to make it through 5 2/3 innings and the Yankees would prefer he go deeper into games.
Outfielder Dustin Ackley made his debut with the Yankees on Friday after being acquired in a trade-deadline deal with the Seattle Mariners for right-hander Jose Ramirez and outfielder Ramon Flores. Ackley, 27, pinch-hit for Beltran in the seventh inning and played left-field. He ended up going 0-for-2. Ackley will fill the role that was held by Garrett Jones, who was designated for assignment on Friday. He will backup Teixeira at first base and play some outfield. He is hitting .213 with six homers and 19 RBIs. Though Ackley primarily was a second baseman early in his career, he likely will not play there much because he only played one game there in the past two seasons. . . . The Yankees announced on Friday that the team’s No. 1 prospect, right-hander Luis Severino, will make his Major-League debut as a starter next week in the Boston Red Sox series at Yankee Stadium. Severino, 21, is 7-0 with a 1.91 ERA in 11 starts at Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre. He is coming off a career-high 10-strikeout performance while pitching one-hit ball over six innings on Wednesday for the RailRiders. Severino will take the place of right-hander Michael Pineda, who was placed in the 15-day disabled list with a right forearm flexor strain. General manager Brian Cashman said that Severino could get a extended look.
The Yankees can clinch a series victory if they are able to defeat the White Sox in the second game of their weekend set on Saturday.
Right-hander Bryan Mitchell (0-0, 2.89 ERA) will make his second career Major-League start and his first of the season. Mitchell, 24, is replacing Pineda for this start after being called up from Scranton on Thursday. Mitchell was 5-5 with a 3.12 ERA in 15 starts for the RailRiders this season.
The White Sox will counter with left-hander John Danks (5-8, 4.87 ERA). Danks, 30, is coming a disastrous outing in which he gave up six runs on nine hits and one walk in 4 1/3 innings to the Red Sox. He is 2-3 in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by WPIX.
YANKEES 5, MARINERS 3 (11 INNINGS)
When the Yankees obtained Garrett Jones from the Miami Marlins this winter they envisioned his left-handed power and versatility as an outfielder and first baseman would be perfect fit. But up until Tuesday, Jones has struggled to bat .232 with one home run and four RBIs.
With one swing that all changed.
Jones connected on a 2-0 pitch with two on and two out in the 11th inning for a three-run homer off left-hander Joe Beimel that allowed New York to come from behind to defeat Seattle at Safeco Field.
The Yankees were granted the opportunity to win their first extra-inning game of the season in four tries after Stephen Drew delivered a two-out RBI double off closer Fernando Rodney in the bottom of the ninth inning that tied the game at 2-2.
That set the stage for 11th, which hit a speed bump when Brian McCann had erased a leadoff single by Didi Gregorius by hitting into a double play. However, Drew singled off right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen (0-2) and Brett Gardner followed with a single of his own.
Jones, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh and struck out, then faced Beimel. His blast off Beimel landed well into the bleachers in right-center to reclaim a lead the Yankees had lost in the third inning.
Left-hander Justin Wilson (2-0) pitched a scoreless 10th, making a spectacular diving grab of a popped up bunt by Rickie Weeks and turning it into a double play, to earn the victory.
Andrew Miller was touched for a run in the 11th on an RBI single by former Yankee Robinson Cano. But Miller struck out the major-league leader in home runs, Nelson Cruz, representing the potential winning run to earn his 16th save in 16 tries this season.
The Yankees grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning after Gardner drew a one-out walk on a disputed checked swing and advanced to second on a wild pitch by left-hander Mike Montgomery, who was called up from Triple-A Tacoma and was making his first major-league start.
One out later, Alex Rodriguez also drew a walk on a disputed checked swing. Mariners catcher Mike Zunino and manager Lloyd McClendon were ejected from the game by first-base umpire Will Little for arguing the call. On the very next pitch from Montgomery, Mark Teixeira stroked an RBI double to score Gardner.
The Mariners responded in the bottom of the frame off left-hander CC Sabathia. Austin Jackson, who was 4-for-4 with two walks in the game, slapped a one-out single to left. One out later, Cano hit a lined single to right that Carlos Beltran bobbled to allow Jackson to reach third.
Cruz followed with an opposite-field single to right that scored Jackson to tie the game.
The Mariners broke the tie in the sixth after Logan Morrison reached on a one-out single and Welington Castillo, who had replaced Zunino in the third inning, followed one out later with a single that advanced Morrison to third. Yankees manager Joe Girardi replaced Sabathia with right-hander David Carpenter and Jackson greeted him with a double that scored Morrison.
But the Yankees tied it in the ninth off Rodney, starting with a leadoff walk by Chase Headley and a two-out single by McCann, who was pinch-hitting for John Ryan Murphy, to move Headley to third. Drew then laced a double to right that scored Headley easily.
Montgomery was charged with one run on four hits and two walks with four strikeouts in six innings of work in his debut. Sabathia was charged with two runs on nine hits and two walks with five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.
With the victory the Yankees improved their season ledger to 28-25 and they maintained their one-game lead over the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Mariners are 24-28.
- Oddly enough, Jones’ three-run home run was his his second of the season. Jones, 33, also hit a pinch-hit three-run homer with one out in the eighth inning off right-hander Tanner Scheppers to draw the Yankees to within 10-8 of the Texas Rangers in a game the Yankees eventually lost 10-9 on May 22. At that point, Jones was batting .150 with no homers and one RBI. Since then, Jones is 9-for-19 (.474) and that surge just may have rescued Jones’ tenure with the Yankees.
- If you throw out Carpenter’s inability to get Jackson out in the sixth that lost the lead, the Yankees bullpen was spectacular the rest of the way. The Mariners had many chances to win the game but Chasen Shreve, Jacob Lindgren, Dellin Betances, Wilson and Miller combined to yield just one run on four hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in five innings. The biggest reason the Yankees are on first place is their formidable bullpen.
- Drew, 32, also may have saved his future with the team with his RBI double in the ninth and his clutch two-out single in the 11th. Drew entered the game batting .160 with five homers and 15 RBIs after he batted a combined .162 in 2014 with the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees. The Yankees hope that Drew can turn it around soon but the team’s other second baseman, Jose Pirela, is batting just .222. Second base prospect Rob Refsnyder is batting only .276 with two homers and 18 RBIs and he also has committed 11 errors in 46 games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
- Carpenter, 29, was called upon to do one thing – get out Jackson with two outs and runners on first and third – and he failed to do it. Carpenter is 0-1 with a bloated 4.82 ERA despite being able to throw 95-mph fastballs. But Carpenter has given up 20 hits and seven walks in 18 2/3 innings (1.45 WHIP) covering 22 appearances. There is just no excuse for how awful he is pitching.
- Gregorius, 25, would have ended up with big goat horns if the Yankees ended up losing the game. Gregorius was on first on a pinch-hit single off right-hander Mark Lowe to lead off the seventh. Murphy followed with a hard-hit single to right that should have allowed Gregorius to reach third with no outs. However, Gregorius tripped over the second-base bag and ended up being thrown by Cruz. The young shortstop was 2-for-3 after entering the game but his mental mistakes and physical errors at short sometimes hurt this team.
Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury likely will not return to Yankees off the 15-day disabled list until late June, general manager Brian Cashman told Michael Kay on ESPN Radio on Tuesday. Cashman said Ellsbury will wear an immobilizing brace on his right knee for at least another week. Then the 31-year-old veteran, who has not played since May 19, will have 10 days to resume baseball activities and perhaps begin a rehab assignment. Ellsbury is leading the team in batting (.324) and steals (19) with one homer and six RBIs.
The Yankees will have an opportunity to sweep the three-game series with Mariners on Wednesday.
Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (2-1, 3.44 ERA) will come off the disabled list to start of the Yankees. Tanaka, 26, last pitched on April 23 and was sidelined with tendinitis in right wrist and tightness in his right forearm.
The Mariners will counter with right-hander Taijuan Walker (2-5, 6.18 ERA), who is baseball’s equivalent of the little girl with the curl. When he is good – like his last outing – he is really good. He shut out the Cleveland Indians on just two hits with no walks and eight strikeouts in eight innings on Friday. But his record and ERA indicate how bad he has been in his other nine starts.
Game-time will be 3:30 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 4, ORIOLES 3
The Pythagorean Theorem. Newton’s Law. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. You can now add to those “The Joe Girardi Formula,” which is (1) get a lead by the sixth inning (2) go to your terrific bullpen and (3) win the game.
As an equation it would read: L(6th) + B(GAS) = V
That is exactly the formula the Yankees have used all season and it worked again against the Orioles on Thursday at Yankee Stadium.
Alex Rodriguez blasted the 661st home run of his career to pass Willie Mays, Mark Teixeira drove in two runs – including a game-winning double in the fifth – and New York’s awesome bullpen held Baltimore scoreless over the final 3 1/3 innings for their 18th victory of the season.
The Yankees and Orioles were locked in a bit of a seesaw affair for five innings in a pitching matchup between right-handers Chris Tillman and Nathan Eovaldi.
The Orioles drew first blood when Jimmy Parades tagged an Eovaldi fastball into the bullpen right-center for his fourth home run of the season and an early 1-0 lead with one out in the first inning.
But the Yankees responded the bottom of the frame when Jacoby Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to nine games with a leadoff single and he advanced to third on a single by Brett Gardner.
Rodriguez then launched a high-arcing ball to right that right-fielder Delmon Young grabbed off the top of the wall to rob him of what would have been No. 661. But he settled for a sacrifice fly that scored Ellsbury. Teixeira then followed with a shot off the wall in right that scored Gardner. Teixeira was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double on a throw from Young.
The Orioles tied it in the third inning on a one-out solo home run off the bat of Caleb Joseph, his third of the season.
The Yankees then took back the lead with two out in the third inning when Rodriguez launched a Tillman fastball just to the left of straightaway center for his seventh home run of the season and the one that now places him alone in fourth place on the all-time home run list behind Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth.
Most of the paid crowd of 39,816 were on their feet demanding a curtain call for the 40-year-old designated hitter and Rodriguez obliged with both arms raised in front of the home dugout.
Eovaldi, however, was unable to hold that lead either. Travis Snider led off the fifth with a ringing double down the right-field line and Joseph scored him with an RBI double.
But Eovaldi was able to wriggle out of a jam when Manny Machado sacrificed Joseph to third and he walked Paredes. First, he picked off Paredes and then he retired hot-hitting Adam Jones, who ended up 0-for-4 on the night, on a groundout.
The Yankees then reclaimed the lead for good in the fifth after Gardner doubled to start the inning and, one out later, Teixeira laced an RBI double into right to score Gardner.
Tillman (2-4) was charged four runs on 10 hits and three walks with three strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. The Orioles’ ace entered play with a career ERA of 7.47 at Yankee Stadium, his highest ERA in any ballpark.
Eovaldi (4-0) also left in the sixth with Young on third and J.J. Hardy on first with two out. Left-hander Justin Wilson came on to retire Snider on a groundout.
Eovaldi was charged with three runs on six hits and three walks with three strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings to earn his first career victory at Yankee Stadium.
Wilson pitched a perfect seventh and Dellin Betances hurled a perfect eighth. Andrew Miller pitched around a leadoff four-pitch walk to Steve Pearce by retiring the next three hitters, two of them via the strikeout, to earn his Major-League-leading 12th save of the season in 12 chances.
With the victory, the Yankees are 18-11 and they have opened up a three-game lead over the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Orioles fell to 12-14 and they are tied with the Boston Red Sox for last place in the division, 4 1/2 games behind the Yankees.
- A-Rod had himself a good night by going 2-for-3 including his historic home run and he drove in two runs. Though he is batting only .245, he is second on the team with seven homers and 18 RBIs. Gardner and Ellsbury combined to go 4-for-7 with a walk, a double and three runs scored and they are making it very easy for Rodriguez and Teixeira to drive in runs.
- Tex is also holding up his end in the cleanup spot. He was 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs and he now leads the team with 10 homers and 25 RBIs despite batting only .223. Teixeira is on a pace to drive in more than 130 runs this season.
- Wilson, Betances and Miller combined to retire 10 of the final 11 batters they faced, striking out three and only allowing one ball to reach the outfield. Though Eovaldi was shaky at times, he at least pitched far enough into the contest to allow this very special bullpen to do its work.
- Although Carlos Beltran was 0-for-4 in the game, which lowered his season average to .187, I did see some encouraging signs. Beltran hit two balls hard into the deepest part of center-field in the fourth and the fifth innings. Beltran remains without a home run and he has driven in just nine runs. The Yankees keep hoping he gets into a groove but for now we are still waiting.
- Though A-Rod and Tex got into the swing of things, Brian McCann did not in the fifth spot in the order. He also was 0-for-4 with a strikeout. McCann keeps hitting right into the teeth of the shift and that has dragged his season average down to .227.
- Eovaldi might remind Yankee fans of Phil Hughes, who also dealt with problems getting outs with two strikes and keeping the ball in the ballpark. There is no denying that Eovaldi’s velocity is impressive. But the command of his pitches is still an issue that he needs improve. With Masahiro Tanaka on the disabled list, the Yankees need Eovaldi to step up.
Tanaka took a first step in his recovery from tendinitis in right wrist and mild strain in his right forearm by making 50 throws from 60 feet prior to Thursday’s game. The 26-year-old right-hander did not feel any pain and general manager Brian Cashman told reporters that Tanaka remains on a timetable that will allow him to return in a month. . . . Despite the fact Jose Pirela had two hits in his season debut at second base on Wednesday, Stephen Drew will remain the starter at second for now. Drew was 1-for-3 with a double and a walk on Thursday but he is still batting .169 with four homers and 10 RBIs in 26 games.
The Yankees will continue their four-game home weekend series with the Orioles on Friday.
Right-hander Adam Warren (2-1, 4.78 ERA) will start for the Yankees. He got credit for a victory over the Red Sox on Sunday despite yielding four runs on four hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings. It will be Warren’s first appearance against the O’s as a starter.
The Orioles will counter with right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (3-1, 2.59 ERA). Gonzalez, 30, shut out the Rays on four hits and a walk with six strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings for a victory on Saturday. He defeated the Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 14.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 4, RAYS 2
The baseball diamond is usually the proving ground but sometimes events off the field greatly overshadow what occurs in between the lines. Tuesday was one of those days.
While the New York thoroughly frustrated Tampa Bay and got two doubles and three RBIs from Brian McCann to run their season record against the Rays to 5-0, the team learned that ace starter Masahiro Tanaka was placed on the 15-day disabled list.
Tanaka, 26, is experiencing tendinitis in his right wrist and tightness in his right forearm and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the right-hander will not throw for at least seven to 10 days and will miss a month at a minimum.
For the Yankees this is a major blow to a rotation that helped push the team into first place in the American League East. Tanaka, who felt the discomfort a day after pitching a bullpen session on Sunday and reported it to the team on Tuesday, becomes the third Yankee starter on the disabled list along with left-hander Chris Capuano and right-hander Ivan Nova.
Cashman told reporters that Tanaka’s current injury is unrelated to the partial tear in his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow he sustained last July.
“It has nothing to do with my elbow, so that’s something that’s out of the question for me,” Tanaka told reporters through an interpreter.
Tanaka is 2-1 with a 3.22 ERA in four starts.
As for the game, the Yankees used right-hander Chase Whitley (1-0) as a spot starter ostensibly to give Tanaka an extra day of rest and he kept wriggling out jams so well over his five innings that he earned a victory.
The Yankees spotted him an early 2-0 lead in the first inning as Jacoby Ellsbury used his speed to manufacture a run. He singled off starter Jake Odorizzi (2-2), stole second and advanced to third when catcher Rene Rivera’s throw to get him at second trickled into center-field.
Brett Gardner then scored him on an infield groundout.
Mark Teixeira followed Gardner with a double and McCann, who entered the game 6-for-15 (.400) with two home runs in his career against Odorizzi, touched him for an RBI double to score Teixeira.
The Rays halved the lead in the third inning after Steven Souza Jr. worked a one-out walk and scored on a RBI double by Asdrubal Cabrera.
But the Yankees added two more runs in the fifth on an infield single by Ellsbury, a single by Gardner that advanced Ellsbury to third and, after Gardner stole second, McCann scored both of them one out later on an opposite-field double.
Odorizzi was charged with four runs on nine hits and no walks with four strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.
Whitley only pitched one perfect inning – the first. But he was able to keep the Rays from getting any closer by escaping trouble Houdini style.
In the second, the Rays loaded the bases with one out but Whitley retired Tim Beckham on a shallow fly ball to left and Rivera hit into a force out.
In the third after Cabrera’s RBI double, Whitley uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Cabrera to take third. However, Whitley struck out both Evan Longoria and James Loney to end the threat.
In the fourth the Rays got a one-out double from Kevin Kiermaier but Whitley retired Beckham on a groundout and he struck out Rivera.
Whitley gave up just one run on six hits and one walk with six strikeouts in five innings of work.
The Rays did add a run in the sixth off left-hander Chasen Shreve on a leadoff walk to Loney and a RBI triple to Logan Forsythe. But Shreve did strike out Kiermaier before he gave way to right-hander Esmil Rogers.
Keeping with the theme of the evening, Rogers stranded Forsythe at third by striking out Beckham and getting Rivera on a groundout.
The Rays were a pathetic 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position an left 10 men on base.
Right-hander Chris Martin pitched the ninth inning because Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller had been used in the past two games and he ended up pitching a scoreless frame to earn his first career major-league save.
With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 13-8 and the Rays fell to 11-10 and they are two games back in the division tied with the Boston Red Sox.
- Whitley’s start does not appear as if it will be a singular event with Tanaka on the disabled list. Although the right-hander allowed one run and seven base-runners in five innings, he battled through 93 pitches to hand the lead over to the bullpen. Whitley made 12 starts for the Yankees last season and eventually was shifted to the bullpen. He ended the season 4-3 with a 5.23 ERA. But he had an excellent spring (0-1, 1.17 ERA in seven games – two of them starts) and he was 2-0 with 2.12 ERA in three starts with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
- McCann has been like a one-man wrecking crew against the Rays and Odorizzi this season. In his past three starts against the Rays, McCann is 7-for-12 (.583) a home run, a triple, two doubles and three singles with six RBIs. In his two starts against Odorizzi this season, McCann is 5-for-6 (.833) with a triple and two doubles and five RBIs.
- Ellsbury was 3-for-4 with two stolen bases and two runs scored in the game. Since April 18, Ellsbury is 14-for-39 (.359) with a homer, three RBIs and nine runs scored. He also has stolen five bases. The 10-game hot streak has raised his average from .256 to .308.
On a night when a call-up from the minors pitches five solid innings and the bullpen protects the lead with its four top pitchers (Betances, Miller, David Carpenter and Justin Wilson) unavailable to pitch, you can’t really complain about much. The Yankees are 10-2 since they began the season 3-6. Enough said.
The Yankees optioned backup infielder Gregorio Petit to Scranton on Tuesday in order to make room on the roster for Whitley. Petit, 29, was 5-for-24 (.208) with no home runs and five RBIs in 13 games. That temporarily leaves the Yankees with 13 pitchers but they will have to make a roster move to replace. Infielder Jose Pirela, who suffered a concussion late in spring training was just sent out to Double-A Trenton on a rehab assignment and veteran Brendan Ryan has not resumed baseball activities after suffering a calf strain late in the spring. That means the Yankees would have to move somebody off the 40-man roster if they want call up another middle infielder.
The Yankees will try to sweep the Rays for the second time this season on Wednesday.
Right-hander Michael Pineda (3-0, 3.86 ERA), who was originally scheduled to open the Red Sox series on Friday, will now replace Tanaka for this start. Pineda, 26, yielded just one run on five hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings on Friday against the New York Mets. He defeated the Rays on April 19.
Left-hander Drew Smyly (0-0, 3.86) will make his second start for the Rays after coming off the disabled list. Smyly, 25, gave up two runs on four hits with no walks in 4 2/3 innings in a no decision against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday.
Game-time will be 1 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 6, METS 2
With both the Yankees and Mets in first place in their respective divisions and the Mets having won 11 games in a row, there was large groups of Mets fans lining the upper decks of Yankee Stadium on Friday. It is just too bad they came all way that for nothing.
Mark Teixeira slammed a pair of two-run homers and Jacoby Ellsbury added a solo shot of his own while Michael Pineda practically turned the Mets hitters into pretzels – soft pretzels at that – through 7 2/3 innings as New York struck the first blow of the 2015 version of the Subway Series by thrashing the interlopers from Queens, NY, in front of a national television audience and a paid crowd of 45,310.
Teixeira wasted no time against right-hander Jacob deGrom (2-2) when he connected for his sixth home run in the first inning with Brett Gardner on first and two out. Teixeira launched a 2-1 fastball into the second deck just down the right-field line to give the Yankees an early 2-0 edge.
Ellsbury jumped on deGrom’s second offering to lead off the third inning and lined a rocket shot into third row of the right-field bleachers.
With one out in the same inning, Alex Rodriguez drew a walk and Teixeira followed by swatting an almost identical high-arcing home run into the same second deck in right-field to extend the Yankees’ margin to 5-0.
Teixeira’s two home runs now give him four home runs in his past four starts and his seven home runs is only second to Nelson Cruz of the Seattle Mariners, who leads Major League Baseball with eight.
The Yankees were not through with the obviously shell-shocked deGrom in the third inning. They managed to load the bases on a Brian McCann single, a Carlos Beltran walk and a hard ground single to right by Chase Headley.
Stephen Drew then lofted a sacrifice fly to deep center to score McCann and give the Yankees a 6-0 lead on the 2014 National League Rookie of the Year, who entered the game with a 0.93 ERA.
Meanwhile, Pineda (3-0) pitched his best game of the season in his fourth start.
The Mets’ lone run came in the sixth inning when former Yankee Curtis Granderson led off with an infield single, advanced to second on a wild pitch and reached third on a flyout off the bat of Juan Lagares.
Grandson then scored on a sacrifice fly by Lucas Duda.
Pineda was charged with one run on five hits and no walks while he struck out seven batters. Of the 100 pitches Pineda threw in the game, 78 of them were strikes. He also lowered his season ERA to 3.86.
The Mets’ right-hander deGrom yielded six runs on eight hits and two walks while he fanned two batters in five innings. In his previous 128 2/3 innings, deGrom had given up just two home runs. After the third inning the Yankees had tagged him for three.
With the victory the Yankees extended their winning streak to four games and they have now won seven of their past eight games. They are also tied with the Boston Red Sox for first place in the American League East with identical 10-7 records for both teams.
The Mets, in having their 11-game winning streak snapped, are now 13-4.
- Based on his early success it looks as if a lot of players may be converting to the gluten-free, sugar-free diet Teixeira embarked upon in the offseason. It is certainly doing wonders for his production. Though Teixeira is only batting .218, he leads the Yankees in homers (7) and RBIs (17). In addition, April is usually a slow month for Teixeira. But not this season.
- If there were any doubts that the Yankees have a dynamic one-two pitching punch in Masahiro Tanaka and Pineda, they both pretty much ended those thoughts the way they pitched the past two days. Tanaka and Pineda combined to limit their opponents to two runs on eight hits and two walks while striking of 15 in 14 innings. If a case can be made for two better pitchers in the A.L. East I would like to hear someone prove it to me.
- Ellsbury won the game on Thursday against the Tigers with his speed. He helped the Yankees win this one with his power. It was his first home run of the season and his 2-for-5 night raised his season average to .294. Since April 18, Ellsbury is 10-for-29 (.345) with a home run, two RBIs and seven runs scored. Ellsbury is showing he is much more comfortable and effective hitter in the leadoff spot rather than the when he was forced to bat third last season.
Headley committed an error, but it was in the ninth inning and it was erased by a double play. Beltran was 0-for-3 with a walk and is now hitting a woeful .173. But you just can’t nitpick when the team is firing on all cylinders like this team is doing right now. It will be interesting to see what Joe Buck of FOX Sports says about them on Saturday. He can’t exactly rip them now. Or can he?
Former Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams finally made it official on Friday as he signed papers indicating that he is retired from baseball. Williams, who has not played since 2006, also was on hand to throw the first pitch of the game and he drew a huge ovation from the crowd. Though he was not part of the 2009 championship team as were the so-called “Core Four” of Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, “To set the record straight, Bernie is part of the Fab Five.” Williams will have his No. 51 retired and will have a plaque in Monument Park dedicated to him on May 24.
The Yankees will continue the home portion of the Subway Series with the Mets on Saturday.
Left-hander CC Sabathia (0-3, 4.35 ERA) will start of the Yankees. Sabathia, 34, is coming off his best effort of the season even though he lost the game 2-1 to the Detroit Tigers on Monday. Sabathia was charged with two runs on seven hits and three walks while he struck out five in eight innings.
The Mets will go to right-hander Matt Harvey (3-0, 3.50 ERA), who will be making his first start in Yankee Stadium. Harvey will be pitching with his sprained left ankle heavily taped. Harvey won his last start on Sunday against the Miami Marlins despite surrendering four runs on eight hits with seven strikeouts in six innings.
Game-time will be 4:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by FOX Sports 1 and locally by WPIX.
With spring training in their rear-view mirror and the 2015 season about to start, the question is where will the New York Yankees finish in the American League East. The Yankees have failed to make the playoffs the past two seasons and many experts believe it will be three. But with the additions the Yankees made could they possibly have a surprise in store. Here is how I project it.
NEW YORK YANKEES
First of all, let’s admit that this is not your father’s A.L. East. There is NO dominant team in the division and there is not much separation between any of the five teams in terms of talent.
That said, the Yankees come into 2015 building around the foundation they began with their half-billion dollar investment last winter with the signings of outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, catcher Brian McCann and right-handed pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
Those free agents were added to the holdovers in shortstop Derek Jeter, first baseman Mark Teixeira, outfielder Brett Gardner and left-hander CC Sabathia.
General manager Brian Cashman actually started the rebuilding process for 2015 last summer by retaining a number of players they acquired around the trade deadline or later such as third baseman Chase Headley, second baseman Stephen Drew, outfielder Chris Young and left-hander Chris Capuano.
With the retirement of Jeter, the loss of free-agent closer David Robertson and right-hander’s Hiroki Kuroda’s decision to end his career pitching in his native Japan, Cashman was forced to shuffle the deck by using young pitchers like right-handers David Phelps and Shane Greene and left-hander Manny Banuelos to bring in right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, backup first baseman and outfielder Garrett Jones, starting shortstop Didi Gregorius and relievers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve.
Cashman also used cash to lure free-agent left-hander Andrew Miller to bolster the bullpen around rookie sensation Dellin Betances.
The result is a team that features a starting lineup of eight players ranging in age from 31 to Alex Rodriguez at 39. The former starting third baseman is returning from a year-long performance-enhancing drug suspension to become the team’s designated hitter.
Only Gregarious at age 25 is considered young.
However, the rotation features a 26-year-old in Tanaka, a 26-year-old in Michael Pineda and a 25-year-old in Eovaldi. A spring injury to 36-year-old Capuano has thrust 27-year-old Adam Warren into the No. 5 slot. So the only pitcher over 27 in the Yankees rotation is Sabathia, who is 34. When is the last time you could say that about the Yankees’ rotation?
The bullpen will center around Betances, 26, and Miller, 28, who are – at least for now – going share the closing duties. If both pitch as they have up to now, it will be a very good shutdown pair because neither have been hit hard by righties or lefties.
The concern will be with the setup spots. Warren is in the rotation so the Yankees will be counting on the right-handed Carpenter, 29, and left-handed Justin Wilson, 27, who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates with Cashman using the team’s catching surplus to deal away Francisco Cervelli.
If Carpenter and Wilson are successful, the bullpen will have a chance to be very good. If they fail, it could be a long season. Warren’s shift back to the bullpen with the return of both Capuano and right-hander Ivan Nova from Tommy John surgery in June can only be a big plus for the group.
Esmil Rogers, 29, will handle long relief. Shreve, 24, gives Girardi a third left-hander and 6-foot-8 right-hander Chris Martin has 95-mile-per-hour stuff that moves on an extreme downward plane. This trio looks solid and give Girardi credit for being a master of managing bullpens.
All spring long the Yankees struggled to score runs. It was not too much different from the way the offense struggled last season.
A pair of speed demons – Ellsbury and Gardner – are stacked on top of the lineup. The idea is to get them on base as much as possible and let them use their speed to get into scoring position for the middle of the lineup.
Both combined to steal 60 bases in what both players admittedly could call an off year. So they hope they can top 80 this season.
The whole strategy rests upon the middle of the order bouncing back from injuries and off years in 2015.
The third batter, Beltran, incurred painful bone chips in his right elbow and ended up posting the worst numbers of his career.
The cleanup hitter, Teixiera, was still limited by a sore right wrist and other injuries and posted only 22 home runs.
Although the fifth hitter, McCann, did crack 23 home runs and drive 78 runs, he only batted .232. So the Yankees would like him to hit closer to his career .272 average this season.
That is plenty of firepower but it seems like a fragile situation counting on Beltran, who will be 38 on April 24 and Teixeira, who will be 35 on April 11.
Behind McCann may be the one diamond-in-the-rough player who is primed for huge season in Headley, 30, who hit 31 homers and drove in 115 runs for the San Diego Padres in 2012. Back issues have hampered him for the past two seasons but he seems healthy now.
He batted .305 with three homers and eight RBIs this spring and the former Gold Glove winner has been flashing some serious leather at third base.
It is unclear how much A-Rod will contribute from the DH spot. Rodriguez has not played more than 138 games since his Most Valuable Player season in 2007. Hip surgeries, nagging other ailments and the drug suspension have teamed with Father Time to make him an unknown quantity.
This spring, Rodriguez batted .267 with three homers and four RBIs and he did not look overmatched at the plate. But it is hard to know what A-Rod will provide until the bells rings on the regular season.
Nowhere did the Yankees look more vulnerable last season than at second base. After Robinson Cano took his power, his .300 average and his Gold Glove defensive skills to Seattle, the Yankees tried veteran Brian Roberts at the position.
But his batting and fielding skills eroded over four seasons of injuries and the Yankees cut him loose in July in favor of Drew, who had never played second base in the pro baseball. Drew also was dealing with a season-long hitting slump that saw him bat only .162 between the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees.
Drew started this spring very slowly but emerged to bat over .470 in the final three weeks with three home runs. Drew has been working with the Yankees’ new hitting coach Jeff Petland and it seems to have been paying some dividends. The Yankees would settle for Drew batting .250 or so with 15 homers and 65 RBIs this season. Those had been norms for Drew in his previous seasons.
Though it was sad to see the 20-year era of Jeter’s career at shortstop come to an end, the Yankees are very hopeful they have an emerging star in the making in Gregorius.
What fans immediately saw this spring is that Gregorius has outstanding range, great hands and an powerful and accurate arm. The Yankees believe his defense will be upgrade since Jeter’s range had been so limited the past several years.
Jeter batted .256 in his final season and the Yankees hope that Gregorius can possibly top that average this season largely batting ninth. When Gregorius was in Arizona, manager Kirk Gibson benched him against left-handers because he has batted only .150 in his career against them.
But the Yankees allowed him to hit against left-handers this spring and Gregorius did not seem to look bad against them. So, for now, Girardi is content with playing his young shortstop every day.
The bench is solid and features power-hitting right-hander Young and power-hitting left-hander Jones. Young, 31, had an exceptional spring and he brings athleticism to all three outfield spots he plays and a potential deadly bat against left-handed pitching.
Jones, 33, hit 15 homers for the Miami Marlins last season and he seems to have the perfect swing for Yankee Stadium. Jones will primarily back up Teixeira at first and he can also play the corner outfield spots, if needed.
Backup infielder Brendan Ryan, 33, had a spring he would rather forget. First, he was delayed at the start with a back injury he sustained lifting weights. After he returned, Ryan ended up pulling a right calf muscle last week and he will start the season on the disabled list.
Ryan brings a slick glove to second, shortstop and third base – although short is where he really shines in the field. But he can’t hit a lick. He has no power and he is a career .234 hitter.
The Yankees obtained infielder Gregorio Petit from the Houston Astros in exchange for cash in the last week of the spring. So Petit, 30, will assume Ryan’s role despite having played on only 62 major-league games with the Oakland Athletics and the Astros. He has batted .278 in just 151 at-bats. He will be a stopgap until Ryan is healthy again.
John Ryan Murphy, 23, managed to hold off a challenge from veteran Austin Romine this spring to remain the backup to McCann. Murphy batted .284 with a homer and nine RBIs in 32 games last season and the Yankees rave about his defense behind the plate.
But the biggest secret the Yankees are carrying with them now lies in the young players they were able to showcase this spring. For the first time in a very long time the Yankees have a number of very good prospects and some positional depth at the minor-league level that could be factors this season.
But the promise is even brighter longer term.
Right-handed starters Luis Severino and Domingo German (obtained in the trade for Phelps and Martin Prado) and left-handed starter Ian Clarkin along with left-handed reliever Jacob Lindgren and right-handed relievers Nick Rumbelow and Jose Ramirez are in the pipeline and moving quickly to the majors.
Second basemen Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela tore the cover off the ball this spring and their presence at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is just a taste of what is the horizon with outfielders Slade Heathcott and Ramon Flores also knocking on the door.
Right-hander Chase Whitley, 25, had a 1.17 ERA this spring and he still not crack the bullpen. You have to figure he is going to get a call-up to the 25-man roster at some point. Keep an eye also on Bryan Mitchell, who will be 24 this month. Mitchell drew rave reviews when he fanned Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez back-to-back in a five-inning effort in a split-squad game in Lakeland, FL, on April 2.
At Double-A Trenton will be prospects such as outfielder Aaron Judge and first baseman Greg Bird, both of whom looked undaunted by major-league pitching this spring.
Catching prospect Gary Sanchez, 23, is also not too far away from contributing in the major leagues.
Though Yankee fans and the Yankee front office never has shown much patience with its young prospects in the past, this group might just force the front office to use them and perhaps the revolving door of signing aging free agents will finally end.
Should the Yankees falter as what so many experts are predicting this season. The young players who are on the way could be a foundation to build around, It is there to see. It is just up to Cashman and the Yankee front office not to screw it up.
Here now is my brief assessment of the other four teams in the division and my prediction for the order of finish in 2015.
This is a team that ran away with this division last season. But it is hard to see them as a “great” team.
Their ace is a very pedestrian Chris Tillman. Their offense lost outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. They also are likely to be without Matt Wieters to start the season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Ditto for shortstop J.J. Hardy, who has left shoulder injury.
With all that they still have Adam Jones, Manny Machado and they are really hoping that Chris Davis recovers his home-run stroke.
Though Tillman is not a true ace they do have Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzales and Bud Norris to form a solid foursome. The bullpen with closer Zach Britton and setup guys Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter is top notch.
They also have one of the best managers in baseball in Buck Showalter. So in Baltimore there is hope the O’s can repeat.
A lot depends on how new outfielders Alejandro De Aza and Travis Snider do to make up for the losses of Cruz and Markakis.
BOSTON RED SOX
This team flopped in 2014 and yet many are picking them to win the title in 2015.
Most of that is based on their offense. To Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, the Red Sox have added Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts and Pablo Sandoval.
They are also hoping for better seasons and health from Xander Bogaerts and Shane Victorino.
However, it is hard to look at the rotation and see anything but potential disaster.
Clay Buchholz was 8-11 with a 6.34 ERA and is considered the ace. Rick Porcello did have a 15-13 record and a 3.43 ERA with the Tigers. But Justin Masterson was 7-9 with a 5.88 with the Cleveland Indians and the St. Louis Cardinals.
Lefty Wade Miley was 8-12 with a 4.34 ERA for the Arizona Diamondbacks. A better offense will help him but he is not anything close to Jon Lester, who the Red Sox traded last season and were unable to re-sign as a free agent.
No. 5 starter Joe Kelly (6-4, 4.20 ERA with the Cardinals) starts the season on the disabled list with right bicep injury. In addition, closer Koji Uehara, who just turned 40, is also on the disabled list with a hamstring injury so Edward Mujica and his 49 career saves are it for now.
There is no doubt that the Red Sox will be capable of scoring runs. The question is will it be enough runs to cover a pitching staff and an underbelly of a bullpen that could really exploited?
Add that up to the fact that catcher Christian Vazquez is out for the season to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and you have enough doubts about the Red Sox to make it unlikely they are a good choice to win this division.
The Toronto Blue Jays tried this approach last season and it did not work.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
This team seemingly lost everything so quickly that their home radio station, WDAE, is not very enthusiastic about them.
Manager Joe Maddon and his screwy ideas that seem to work on shifting is gone. General manager Andrew Friedman, who introduced sabermetrics and advanced scouting techniques to the organization that built this team, is also gone.
The team’s best pitcher in David Price was traded last season and now is pitching for the Detroit Tigers. Their second-best pitcher, Matt Moore, is not expected back until June because he is recovering from Tommy John surgery.
This spring they incurred injuries to their best remaining pitcher Alex Cobb. Their closer, Jake McGee, will miss the first month.
They also traded away offensive contributors such as Wil Myers, Ben Zobrist, Yunel Escobar and Matt Joyce.
The team’s offense can be wrapped up in third baseman Evan Longoria and a lot of hope and praying.
They are counting on production out of rookie outfielder Steven Souza Jr., who batted .130 this spring and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who the Indians discarded saying he could not play shortstop and he was not the hitter he was in 2011 (25 home runs and 92 RBIs).
They are still hoping that Desmond Jennings just shows one little spark of the long-departed Carl Crawford. But it is not looking like it will happen.
This could amount to one of the weakest hitting teams in baseball in 2015 and it could be worse without Maddon running the show.
Granted, Cobb, Moore, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi could form a solid rotation when they are all healthy. The question is can the Rays tread water long enough to see that happen?
Though McGee, Grant Balfour and Brad Boxberger form a solid trio at the back of the bullpen, the Rays are counting on a pair of former failed relievers in Kevin Jepsen and Ernesto Frieri to help out in the middle innings.
They also do not have a decent lefty beyond McGee. Ouch!
After many years of dealing with their obnoxious cowbell-ringing fans – all of about 7,000 of them a game – it appears that the bloom is off the rose and the cowbells will eventually fall silent this season unless there is some sort of miracle new manager Kevin Cash can create.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
This was the sexy choice to win the division in 2014. Funny thing is, I would have selected them to win this season if young right-hander Marcus Stroman did suffer knee injury that will force him to miss the entire season.
Stroman would have formed a nice 1-2 punch with right-hander Drew Hutchison, who at 24 has progressed so much as a pitcher he is starting on Opening Day ahead of Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and veteran Mark Buehrle.
To that they have added a pair of young pitchers in left-hander Daniel Norris and right-hander Aaron Sanchez, who looked to be the team’s closer in waiting until the team opted to use him as a starter instead.
The bullpen is untested but it has closer Brett Cecil. There is a lot untested pitchers in the mix behind him but 20-year-old Miguel Castro may end being something special as he gets his feet wet in the majors.
Like the Red Sox, the Blue Jays never have to worry about scoring runs. Add to the thundering power of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion the bat of third baseman Josh Donaldson, who hit 29 home runs and drove in 98 runs for the Athletics in their cavernous ballpark.
You would think Donaldson will love the Rogers Centre.
Though the Jays will miss line-drive machine Melky Cabrera, they still have Jose Reyes and they have also added catcher Russell Martin, who can hit 20 homers and run a pitching staff like a pitching coach.
So there is a lot to like.
The question is after losing Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus the Blue Jays are trotting a pair of young outfielders in Dalton Pompey (center) and Kevin Pillar (left). Much of what the Blue Jays do will revolve around what they do.
They also have a new second baseman in Devon Travis.
It is hard to pick a team to win with so many new players in the lineup like Pillar, Pompey and Travis. This team is carrying six rookies!
But the real test of how the Blue Jays do in 2015 will hinge on its pitching staff. Stroman was a much bigger loss than I think the Blue Jays can overcome.
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1) BALTIMORE ORIOLES (92-70)
2) TORONTO BLUE JAYS (86-76)
3) NEW YORK YANKEES (84-78)
4) BOSTON RED SOX (80-82)
5) TAMPA BAY RAYS (76-86) Hello Montreal!
The Orioles will fall back to the pack but not enough to make much difference. The Blue Jays actually could have won it with Stroman, but now they will fall short and they will not win the wildcard either. I was tempted to pick the Yankees for second because Tanaka, Pineda and Eovaldi are all primed for excellent seasons. But the offense this spring was woefully lacking and it looks as if they will lose a lot of 4-3 and 3-2 games unless make a deal for a young slugger like Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees just do not have that stud in the middle of the order and it will hurt. The Red Sox will be the Red Flops mainly because their pitching is not as good as people believe it is. Their bullpen also is much weaker without Miller. About all that the “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval is good for is twining with Ortiz to advertise for a doughnut shop. Ramirez is talented but he also is moody and can give up when things are not going well. Ask the Marlins and Dodgers. As for the Rays, their collapse could not have come at a worse time for them when attendance and TV viewership is dropping. The owner wants to have a new stadium built despite the fact that they are tied to dumpy and ugly Tropicana Field for many more years. That is why it is inevitable that the team will be sold and shifted to another city like Montreal soon. Tre bien!