YANKEES 1, ASTROS 0
When two of the top three home run hitting teams in baseball meet at Yankee Stadium with its inviting short right-field porch it only stands to reason that the game will be . . . a pitchers’ duel!
Both the Yankees and Astros went against type but it was the Yankees who managed to win the game on Monday with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth.
Carlos Beltran scored Brett Gardner with the only run of the game with no outs in the ninth as New York edged Houston to reclaim a share of first place in the American League East in front of a paid crowd of 37,125 in the Bronx, NY.
Yankees right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and Astros right-hander Scott Feldman matched each other pitch for pitch for eight innings until Astros manager A.J. Hinch elected to use left-hander and former New York Mets headcase Oliver Perez to pitch the ninth.
Gardner was able to work a leadoff walk and, after Perez uncorked a wild pitch to allow Gardner to reach second, the Astros decided to walk Alex Rodriguez intentionally so Perez could face left-handed hitting Brian McCann.
But Perez ended up also walking McCann to load the bases and Hinch called upon right-hander Chad Qualls to pitch to the switch-hitting Beltran.
Beltran jumped on the first pitch and he lofted the ball into deep center-field to score Gardner easily with the game-winning run.
Left-hander Andrew Miller (2-2) struck out two batters in a scoreless ninth inning to earn the victory in relief. Perez (2-2) was saddled with the loss.
Eovaldi, who entered the game undefeated in his past 11 starts and winner of eight straight decisions, held the Astros to just four hits and three walks and he struck seven in eight innings.
He also managed to kept the Astros 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. He was at his best in the seventh inning after Carlos Correa singled to open the frame and Colby Rasmus drew a walk.
Carlos Gomez laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance both runners but Eovaldi got out of the jam on a fielder’s choice off the bat off Evan Gattis that retired Rasmus roaming too far off second and Luis Valbuena flied out to center.
Feldman, 32, held the Yankees to six hits and he struck out six without issuing a walk in eight innings.
The Yankees had an excellent opportunity to score in the second when Didi Gregorius and Stephen Drew opened the inning with singles. But Feldman retired Drew on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Jacoby Ellsbury, Gardner struck out swinging and Rodriguez flied out.
The Yankees also had a chance to score with McCann on third and Beltran on first with no outs in the seventh. However, Greg Bird struck out swinging and Chase Headley hit a fly ball to medium center and Gomez was able to throw out the slow-footed McCann at home plate on a three-hop heave for an inning-ending double play.
With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 69-55 and they jumped into a tie with the Toronto Blue Jays for the top spot in the division. The first-place Astros dropped to 69-57.
- Eovaldi has come a long way in his development as a starter this season. In his past 12 starts, he is 8-0 with a 2.93 ERA. He used his slider to compliment his 100-mile-per-hour fastball, splitter and curveball to keep the Astros guessing all night. The Yankees very quietly are developing a strong, young rotation in 26-year-old Masahiro Tanaka, 26-year-old Michael Pineda (who will be activated form the disabled list on Wednesday), 25-year-old Eovaldi, 27-year-old Ivan Nova and 21-year-old Luis Severino.
- McCann was 3-for-3 with a walk in the game and he is now 5-for-11 (.455) with his new forward-leaning stance. In addition, McCann also managed to throw out pinch-runner Jake Marisnick attempting to steal on a strike out of Valbuena in the ninth inning. McCann has now caught 22 of 55 base-runners stealing this season, which puts him at a career-best 40 percent. McCann credits bullpen coach Gary Tuck. “We work every single day on it,” McCann told reporters. “I’ve gotten better as the season’s gone on. It’s good to put the ball on the bag there.”
- Beltran’s night began with him striking out looking in the second and bouncing into a double play in the fourth. But he singled to advance McCann to third before McCann was thrown out to end the seventh. But his at-bat in the ninth was classic Beltran. Though Qualls is noted as a ground-ball pitcher, he was able to get under his first offering and hit it deep enough to get Gardner home with the winning run.
- Rodriguez was placed back into the lineup after two days off but he ended up 0-for-3 with a walk. He struck out in the sixth on a pitch that was about two feet outside and it nearly hit the dirt. Since Aug. 7, Rodriguez is 7-for-57 (.123) with two homers and six RBIs. That has dropped his season average from .281 to .259. As long as he slumps he is killing the Yankees offense.
- Gardner and Ellsbury combined to go 0-for-7 with two strikeouts. If you add Rodriguez batting third they were a combined 0-for-10, which makes you wonder how Perez was able to walk Gardner and Rodriguez to begin the inning. The Yankees need their top three hitters to HIT! If they don’t, the team loses to last-place teams like the Cleveland Indians and surrenders first place in the A.L. East. It’s that simple.
The Yankees will not say it but I will: CC Sabathia has thrown his last pitch of the 2015 season and his career in real jeopardy. Sabathia, 35, was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Monday with inflammation in his right knee. Sabathia left Sunday’s game against the Indians with two out in the third inning due to pain in the knee, which was drained twice this season and received a cortisone shot last week. After making only eight starts last season, Sabathia underwent debridement surgery on the knee and was told that he would have to follow strict procedures to limit recurring pain. Sabathia, who is 4-9 with a 5.27 ERA in 24 starts this season, will see a specialist on Tuesday. But Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters, “Is it possible that he doesn’t pitch the rest of the year? It’s a possibility.” To replace Sabathia on the roster the Yankees announced that left-hander Chris Capuano had elected free agency and then signed a new Major-League contract with the team of the rest of the season. . . . Mark Teixeira, who has been nursing a deep bone bruise on his right leg, said on Tuesday that he was available to pinch-hit in Monday’s game. He was not used and Teixeira has now missed the team’s past six games with the injury. Girardi told reporters that he is hopeful Teixeira will be able to start Tuesday’s game.
The Yankees will continue their three-game home series with the Astros on Tuesday.
Nova (5-5, 3.72 ERA) will pitch for the Yankees. Nova is coming off a loss against the Indians on Thursday in which he was tagged for three runs on six hits and two walks while he struck four in five innings.
The Astros will start left-hander Dallas Keuchel (14-6, 2.37 ERA). Keuchel did not get a decision while giving up two runs on seven hits and one walk with five strikeouts in seven innings against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 10, PHILLIES 2
When assessing the New York Yankees in 2015 most forecasters discounted any contribution that Ivan Nova might make since he was coming off of Tommy John surgery and 14 months of rehab. By the looks of what he did in his first start back on Wednesday it looks like his potential contribution to the team could be monumental.
Nova pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings and allowed only three hits and two walks with one strikeout as New York avoided a sweep to the team with the worst record in baseball in Philadelphia at Yankee Stadium in front of a paid crowd of 45,877.
Nova, 28, quickly established his mid-90s sinking fastball and sharp breaking curveball to hold scoreless a Phillies team that had tallied 11 runs in both of their two previous games against the Yankees. Nova (1-0) navigated deftly through the Phillies to throw 92 pitches and 51 of them for strikes (55%).
It was his first victory since April 13, 2014 and his first start since April 19 the same year.
In contrast, left-hander Cole Hamels (5-6) was not sharp in his five innings of work. He was charged with five runs on eight hits and three walks with strikeouts.
With the help of a throwing error, the Yankees were able to score a pair of runs off Hamels in the second inning after they loaded the bases on a single by Chris Young, a walk by John Ryan Murphy and an infield bunt single by Didi Gregorius.
Rookie Jose Pirela slapped a grounder to third baseman Andres Blanco, but Blanco’s throw home to catcher Carlos Ruiz bounced away to allow Young and Murphy to score on the fielder’s choice.
The Yankees added three runs in the fifth inning on an RBI single by Brett Gardner, an RBI double by Chase Headley and an RBI single by Mark Teixeira, who had missed the two previous games with stiffness in his neck.
The Yankees added a run in the sixth inning off left-hander Jake Diekman on a two-out RBI single by Young and they broke the game wide open with a four-run seventh inning off right-hander Justin De Fratus capped by a two-run single by Alex Rodriguez and another RBI single by Teixeira.
The Phillies broke up the shutout with a pair of runs in the ninth inning off 27-year-old right-hander Diego Moreno, who was just called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Monday.
They scored on RBI single by Dominic Brown and Cody Asche. Moreno was optioned back to Triple A after the game.
With the victory the Yankees ended a three-game skid to improve their record to 39-33. They also pulled to within one game of the first-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Phillies fell to 26-48.
- Because of some shaky outings from Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia, the successful return of Nova was welcome on a day the team was facing one of the better left-handers in baseball in Hamels. But Nova showed why he had compiled a 40-22 record since his debut in 2010. People forget that he was 16-4 in 2011 and that he was the team’s best pitcher in the second half of 2013 when he finished 9-6 with 3.10 ERA. This was vintage Nova.
- The Yankees also could breathe a sigh of relief that Teixeira was able to play and, in addition, go 3-for-5 with two RBIs. His two RBIs give him 51, which ties him with Stephen Vogt of the Oakland Athletics for second in the American League. Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers leads with 52. Teixeira had been bothered for two weeks with a stiff neck and had to have a cortisone shot to speed the healing enough to get him back in the lineup.
- Gardner was 1-for-5 with a single, a walk, two runs scored and an RBI. In the eight-game homestand, Gardner batted .472 with three doubles, a triple, four homers, 10 RBIs and he scored 12 runs. Gardner’s .292 average leads the team and he has nine homers and 38 RBIs. After struggling initially when he replaced Jacoby Ellsbury in the leadoff spot, he has come back to post numbers that could get him into the All-Star team picture.
After two days where they looked looked like the worst team in baseball and the Phillies looked like the contending team, the Yankees finally put together a good starting pitching performance and some timely hitting against a very good left-hander. Hopefully, Nova’s return will help shore up a starting staff that has been poor of late.
Manager Joe Girardi received his second ejection of the season in the third inning after disputing a checked-swing call on Maikel Franco on an 0-2 count by first-base umpire Alan Porter. Girardi contended from the dugout that Franco swung and Porter ejected him. On the next pitch, Franco struck out when he failed to check his swing. . . . Left-handed closer Andrew Miller threw for the first time on Wednesday since being placed on the disabled list with a strained flexor muscle in his elbow. Miller, 29, threw 25 times off flat ground at 60 feet and reported no issues with his arm. Miller, 30, hopes to be able to begin throwing off a mound next week but there is still no firm timetable for his return. Right-hander Dellin Betances will continue to close until Miller returns.
The Yankees are off to Houston to begin a four-game weekend series on Thursday with the surprising Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Right-hander Adam Warren (5-4, 3.52 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Warren pitched the best game of his career on Friday, holding the Tigers to two runs on seven hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in a career-best eight innings.
The Astros will counter with ace left-hander Dallas Keuchel (8-3, 2.35 ERA). Keuchel, 27, was beaten by the Seattle Mariners on Saturday, giving up five runs on five hits and four walks with seven strikeouts in five innings.
Game-time will be 8:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 11, TIGERS 2
Alex Rodriguez and Rob Refsnyder homered to help provide right-hander Adam Warren to six runs before he even threw a pitch as New York blistered Detroit pitching on Friday at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, FL.
The Yankees greeted right-hander Alfredo Simon (1-2) with four extra-base hits in the first inning, keyed by a two-run home run off the bat of Refsnyder. Jose Pirela – hitting a sizzling .370 this spring – preceded Refsnyder with a two-run double off Simon, who was tagged for six runs on six hits and one walk over three innings.
Rodriguez launched an opposite-field shot to right-center in the fifth inning off right-hander Bruce Rondon.
Meanwhile, Warren (2-0) sailed through five innings, yielding only a leadoff home run to Yoenis Cespedes in the bottom of the fifth inning. He limited the Tigers to four hits, walked none and fanned three to stake a very strong claim on the No. 5 starter spot.
With the victory the Yankees also seemed to have set themselves as spring “road warriors.” They have scored 48 runs in nine road games in March while they have managed only 30 runs in 10 home contests.
Their overall Grapefruit League record stands at 11-7.
- After right-hander Esmil Rogers struggled in his start on Thursday it was encouraging to see Warren pitch so well against the Tigers on Friday. Warren, 27, has a tidy 2.77 ERA and has not walked a batter in 13 innings this spring. Though the decision on who will replace injured left-hander Chris Capuano in the rotation will not be made until March 28, Warren seems to be the clear leader now.
- Pirela and Refsnyder each drove in two runs in that six-run first inning and they both have had impressive springs. Pirela, 25, is an excellent line-drive hitter but he is not a real gifted fielder. He can play second, third and in the outfield. So he has some real value as utility player. Refsnyder, 23, is also a legitimate .300 hitter. But the converted outfielder is still learning second base. They both will start the season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre but you could see both of them in Yankee Stadium this season.
- Rodriguez, 39, has avoided off-field drama and played hard this spring. It is beginning to pay off as A-Rod may be winning the primary DH role. He is hitting .269 with two home runs and three RBIs in 11 games. But the real indicator that Rodriguez is progressing at the plate is the four walks he has drawn as opposed to only five strikeouts. That means the right-handed slugger is seeing the ball well.
If a team scores six runs in the first inning and cruises to a 11-2 victory there hardly can be anything to criticize. It is nice to see the Yankees score 11 runs in each of their past two road games. It would be nice if they would score more often at home.
Backup infielder Brendan Ryan made his spring debut for the Yankees at shortstop and he doubled to drive in Brett Gardner in the first inning and later scored on Brian McCann’s RBI single. He ended the day 1-for-3 after five innings. Ryan, 32, has been sidelined by a mid-back strain he sustained while lifting weights just before the start of the exhibition season. Barring any setbacks, Ryan will be the backup middle infielder behind shortstop Didi Gregorius and second baseman Stephen Drew. . . . The Yankees trimmed their spring roster of five players on Friday including outfielder Tyler Austin. The team optioned Austin, right-hander Dan Burawa and left-hander Jose De Paula to Scranton. Outfielder Mason Williams was optioned to Double-A Trenton. Meanwhile, right-hander Wilking Rodriguez was reassigned to minor-league camp. That leaves the Yankees with 48 players on their spring roster.
The Yankees return home to George M. Steinbrenner Field to play host to the Houston Astros on Saturday.
Right-hander Michael Pineda will start for the Yankees hoping to continue what has been a very impressive spring. Pineda, 26, is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two starts. He has only given up one hit and one walk while he has fanned six in five innings.
The Astros will counter with their ace left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who is 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA in two starts.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by MLB Radio through KBME in Houston.
PIRATES 3, YANKEES (SS) 1
Tony Sanchez cracked a two-run home run in the second inning and Jeff Decker added a mammoth solo shot to lead off the fifth inning on Friday as Pittsburgh edged a New York split squad on a chilly night at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL.
The Sanchez homer came off Yankee starter Chris Capuano (0-1). Jeff Locke (1-0) started for Pittsburgh and got credit for the victory. Wilfredo Boscan pitched a perfect ninth inning to earn a save.
The Yankees, who were limited to only five hits, scored their lone run in the eighth inning when Eddy Rodriguez doubled, advanced to third on a hit by Francisco Arcia and then scored on a single by Jake Cave.
- Carlos Beltran made his spring debut in right field and he drew a walk and struck out twice in his first action since undergoing surgery on his right elbow last September. Beltran reported no problems. “The good thing is I am pain-free,” Beltran told reporters.
- Right-handed reliever David Carpenter made his spring debut and he pitched a scoreless inning, striking out one batter. Carpenter, 29, was acquired along with left-hander Chasen Shreve from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for former No. 1 pitching prospect Manny Banuelos.
- Cave, 22, is speedy outfield prospect with a decent bat. He is making the most of his early chances and he is batting .400 in the early going. The non-roster invitee batted ..294 with seven homers and 42 RBIs in 132 games in two minor-league stops last season.
- Capuano gave up two runs on three hits and no walks while fanning four batters in two innings. Sanchez tagged him for a two-run shot over the right-field bleachers. Though Capuano was better than the result indicated, he still needs to make sure to keep the ball inside the yard.
- Pirate pitchers fanned the Yankees 12 times, including two each by Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jonathan Galvez. At times it appeared the Yankees were mailing this one in because of the temperatures, which dipped into the high 50s with a stiff breeze.
- Brian McCann was 0-for-2 with a walk and still has not had a hit this spring. It is still early and it is doubtful manager Joe Girardi is too concerned. But with the Yankees struggling to hit it would be nice if McCann, Beltran and Mark Teixeira would get untracked soon.
CC Sabathia pitched a 20-pitch batting practice session on Thursday and Masahiro Tanaka faced live hitters in a simulated game on Friday. The Yankees are encouraged by the progress of both starters and they are expected to be ready by Opening Day. . . . Alex Rodriguez played his second game of the spring as the team’s designated hitter and went 0-for-2 with a walk.
The Yankees are on the road on Saturday to face the Houston Astros at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, FL.
Journeyman right-hander Scott Baker, a non-roster invitee, will start for the Yankees. Baker, 33, was 3-4 with a 5.47 ERA in 25 games (eight starts) with the Texas Rangers last season.
The Yankees’ starting infield of Teixeira, Gregorius, Stephen Drew and Chase Headley are expected to make the trip.
The Astros will start right-hander Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel, 27, was 12-9 with a 2.93 ERA in 29 starts with the Astros last season.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST an the game will be broadcast live on WFAN radio in New York through MLB Radio.