YANKEES 9, ASTROS 4
“It’s never over until it’s over.”
– Yogi Berra
KISSIMMEE, FL – This wise old saying should be on the lips of every young prospect in Major League Baseball. It certainly rang true for the young Yankee prospects on Saturday
Fueled by home runs Jake Cave and Greg Bird, New York scored two runs in the eighth inning and six runs in the ninth as New York rallied from a 4-1 deficit to stun Houston at Osceola County Stadium.
Through the first seven innings, Astros pitchers held the Yankees to one run (a Ramon Flores home run to lead of the sixth) and three hits but Cave started the rally with his solo home run to lead off the eighth off left-hander Darin Downs.
Nick Noonan then chased Downs by following Cave’s homer with a double. Then Jose Pirela greeted reliever Jordan Jankowski with an RBI triple to bring the Yankees to within 4-3. However, Pirela later in the inning was thrown out at home plate by first baseman Matt Duffy on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Bird to preserve the Astros’ 4-3 lead.
The Yankees then loaded the bases with one out in the ninth off Jankowski when Cave hit an infield roller for a single. Noonan drew a bases-loaded walk to tie the game and Pirela, one out later, gave the Yankees their first lead with a two-run single to left.
Jankowski was replaced on the mound by left-hander Kent Emanuel, who then balked to allow Noonan to score and Bird – later in the same at-bat – cracked a 410-foot home run to right-center that closed the scoring.
Chris Cotham (1-0) escaped a one-out jam with runners at second and third in the bottom of the eighth to get credit for the victory. Jankowski (0-1) took the loss.
The Yankees are 3-2 in the first week of Grapefruit League action.
Much has been said about how dysfunctional the Yankee’s minor-league system has been over the years. This spring maybe marks a stark change to the idea that the Yankees do not have much talent in their system.
Cave, Bird, Flores, Refsnyder and Pirela are prime examples the Yankees do have young position players who soon will be knocking on the door to get opportunities to play at Yankee Stadium.
As this blog pointed out in earlier posts, the Yankees have legitimately talented young players at every position:
CATCHER – Gary Sanchez, FIRST BASE – Bird, SECOND BASE – Pirela and Refsnyder, THIRD BASE – Eric Jagielo, OUTFIELDERS – Cave, Flores, Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin among others. The shortstop position has 25-year-old Didi Gregorius, who was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
If you add in young starting pitchers like Luis Severino (the team’s No. 1 prospect), Ian Clarkin and Domingo German and up-and-coming relievers such as Branden Pinder, Jacob Lindgren, Danny Burawa and Tyler Webb it becomes clear the Yankees might have a strong corps of young players who can contribute.
So while the 2015 season might hold a lot of dark clouds on how the Yankees will do with so many questions surrounding veterans like Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia. There is just a bit of hope for the near future.
Seeing it all play out with an eight-run rally in the final two innings in Kissimmee on Saturday was pretty fun to watch.
- Bird, 22, is batting a red-hot .444 in the early going and it is no accident. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound first baseman was named the Most Valuable Player in the Arizona Fall League for Scottsdale this winter and he has just picked up where he left off there. Bird likely will open the season at Double-A Trenton but he could possibly move up to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
- Refsnyder, 23, may have to work on his fielding at second since he is a converted outfielder but he can flat-out hit. After going 1-for-2 on Saturday he is batting an even .500 on the spring. He is a career .297 hitter in the minors and hit .318 in 137 games in two minor-league stops in 2014. He is ticketed for Scranton but he could advance to the major leagues should Stephen Drew get injured or fail to succeed in his switch to second base.
- Cave, 23, was 2-for-2 including his home run and now is hitting a scorching .571 early. Cave only has nine career minor-league home runs so power is not really his thing. Cave is more of line-drive gap hitter with some speed. The 6-foot, 180-pound Cave hit a combined .294 in two minor-league stops in 2014. He likely will start off in Trenton.
- Scott Baker, a 33-year-old former Minnesota Twins ace, started for the Yankees and was tagged for three runs on six hits as the Astros batted around in the first inning. Chris Carter smacked a two-run double and Luis Valbuena followed with an RBI single. Baker is a non-roster invitee trying to make the team as a spot starter and long reliever. Unfortunately, the Astros jumped on Baker’s fastball early in the count and did some damage because Baker’s fastball had very little movement. Baker was 3-4 with a 5.37 ERA in 25 games with the Texas Rangers last season and was rewarded with his release.
- The Yankees started their starting infield of Teixeira, Drew, Gregorius and Chase Headley. After leaving in the sixth inning they were a combined 2-for-11 with a walk. The exception was Teixeira, who smacked an opposite-field single in the second and lined out in the fourth. Teixeira is showing signs of recovering fully from his wrist surgery in 2013 and he also is sporting a trimmer look due to a new diet.
Masahiro Tanaka threw 29 pitches in a simulated game in Tampa, FL, on Saturday and told reporters later that he feels he is ready to pitch in exhibition games. “He’s exactly where you want him to be at this point in spring training,” Rothschild told reporters. . . . Rodriguez, 39, will play third base in one of the next two home games on Sunday or Monday, manager Joe Girardi told reporters on Saturday. In two previous spring games Rodriguez has been the designated hitter. Rodriguez is 1-for-4 with two walks and single in the early going.
The Yankees will play host to the Washington Nationals today at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Right-hander Adam Warren will make his second start of the spring. Warren looked sharp in his first outing on Tuesday against the Phillies at Bright House Field In Clearwater, FL, giving up just one hit in two innings of work.
The Nationals will counter with veteran right-hander Doug Fister, who led the Nationals in 2014 with 16 victories and a 2.41 ERA.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on a delayed basis at 8 p.m. by the MLB Network and live by the YES Network. It also will be available on a live broadcast by WFAN in New York via MLB Radio.
YANKEES 9, ASTROS 6
KISSIMMEE – There is an old saying that sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. On Saturday, the Yankees needed a bit of both to down the Astros in a seesaw affair.
Trailing 6-4 in the sixth, Mason Williams hit a sacrifice fly to bring the Yankees to within a run and Brett Gardner stroked a single that center-fielder Dexter Fowler threw into the Astros dugout to allow two runs to score as New York rallied to down Houston at Osceola County Stadium.
The Yankees actually held a 4-3 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth when Jose Altuve doubled and Jason Castro walked just ahead of Chris Carter’s three-run blast to left off Yankees’ left-hander Manny Banuelos, who was making his first major-league appearance since undergoing Tommy John surgery in October 2012.
Chase Whitley (1-2) struck out the only batter he faced in relief of Banuelos in the fifth to get credit for the victory. Chris Leroux pitched a scoreless ninth to earn a save.
Jose Cisnero (0-1) was charged with three runs (one earned) on three hits and a walk in his one inning of work to take the loss.
Right-hander Ivan Nova started for the Yankees and he suffered through what was his worst outing of the spring, yielding three runs on eight hits with no walks and five strikeouts in four innings.
The Yankees scored two runs (one earned) off Astros starter Jarred Cosart in the second inning and they added a pair of runs in the third off left-hander Darin Downs on Mark Teixeira’s first hit of the spring, a double, and Kelly Johnson’s first home run of the spring.
The Yankees added a pair of insurance runs in the seventh off right-hander Jake Buchanan on an RBI single by Scott Sizemore and an RBI fielder’s choice by Ramon Flores in which Astros first baseman Telvin Nash started to turn a double play but instead elected to throw home to get a sliding Yangervis Solarte.
But the throw was late and the Yankees extended their lead to 9-6.
The Yankees won their straight Grapefruit League game and are now 7-4. The Astros fell to 3-5.
- The most encouraging sign for the Yankees was that Teixeira doubled to deep left batting right-handed. Teixeira, 33, was playing in only his second spring game after undergoing surgery to repair his right wrist. Teixeira was 1-for-2 with a walk and a run scored.
- Johnson is quietly having an excellent spring with his new team. Johnson was 1-for-2 with a home run, a walk, a run scored and an RBI. Johnson is 5-for-14 (.357) with a homer and five RBIs. He also has not committed an error at third base in five starts, even though he has only played 16 major-league regular-season games there.
- An injury last season stunted the development of Williams and some of his other fellow outfielders also stalled. That forced the Yankees into looking to sign veterans such as Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury to multi-year deals. Williams is showing signs of rebounding after lacing an RBI double in the second and adding a sac fly in the sixth. Williams is rated as the team’s No. 2 prospect behind catcher Gary Sanchez.
- With Nova it always seems to be a step forward and two steps back. Coming off a dominant three innings of shutout baseball on March 3 against the Washington Nationals, Nova was lit up like a bottle rocket from the first batter he faced. Granted, after giving up three runs on six hits in the first two frames, Nova did throw two scoreless innings in the third and fourth and yielded only two hits. His spring ERA shot up from 4.15 to 5.40.
- Banuelos, 22, could not command his pitches, fell behind batters and paid the ultimate price when Carter launched a titanic three-run shot to left in the fifth. In Banuelos’ defense, he was never expected to make the roster this spring. The Yankees want him to build up his arm strength at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and work on his control. He will likely not fight for a starting job until 2015.
- Eduardo Nunez is not guaranteed a roster spot and he needs to pick things up a bit. He was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts on Saturday. He is 4-for-17 (.235) with a homer and two RBIs this spring.
The Astros and Yankees welcomed University of Central Florida head football coach George O’Leary to Saturday’s game and he drew a huge round of applause from most of the paid crowd of 5,001. O’Leary led the Knights to a 12-1 record, including a 52-42 victory over No. 5 Baylor in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. By the way, UCF is my alma mater and I am darn proud of it!
The Yankees return to George M. Steinbrenner Field on Sunday as they will play host to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Right-hander David Phelps, who is 0-0 with a 3.86 ERA in two spring starts, will start for the Yankees. Derek Jeter, who has four hits in his past four at-bats, will start at shortstop.
The Rays are scheduled to pitch right-hander Chris Archer (1-0, 0.00 ERA).
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast live by the YES Network and on tape delay at midnight by the MLB Network.
TIGERS 10, YANKEES 6
Miguel Cabrera broke a 4-4 tie in the seventh with a two-run home run that sparked a five-run inning as Detroit overcame what was once a 4-1 deficit to down New York on Saturday at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, FL.
Cabrera’s fourth homer of the spring came off Cody Eppley (0-2), who failed to retire any of the five batters he faced in the frame and he was charged with all five runs.
Right-hander Darin Downs (1-0) pitched a scoreless inning in the top of the seventh to get credit for the victory.
Andy Pettitte started the game for the Yankees and he pitched well until he was tagged for three runs in the fifth inning. He ended up giving up four runs on eight hits and one walk while striking out five in 6 1/3 innings.
The Yankees broke out on top on the strength of an RBI single by Eduardo Nunez in the third inning, a solo home run from Ben Francisco – one of two home runs he hit on the day – and a two-run double in the fifth inning off the bat of Kevin Youkilis.
With the loss the Yankees dropped to 11-17 this spring. The Tigers improved to 16-11.
- Francisco’s solo shot in the fourth and two-run blast in the eighth were his first two home runs of the spring. Francisco, 31, may be a non-roster player but he is very quickly pushing his way into the outfield picture as part of a potential platoon with the lefty swinging Brennan Boesch. Francisco is hitting a sizzling .350 on the spring.
- Pettitte pitched much better than his final line indicated. He was in command and looking like he was in midseason form in the first four innings. Discounting the bad inning, Pettitte gave up one run on four hits and one walk while striking out five. Pettitte, 40, said after the game he felt good about the outing and that he just got too many pitches up in that three-run third.
- Youkilis snapped a small slump over the past week to drive in two big runs with his double with two out in the fifth inning off Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez. Youkilis now has eight RBIs this spring, which is second on the team behind outfielder Melky Mesa, who has 10.
- Eppley had one of those days he would like to forget. The sidewinding right-hander came into the game for Pettitte with one out in the sixth and proceeded to give up a single to Torii Hunter, the homer to Cabrera, a single to Quintin Berry, an RBI double to Victor Martinez and a RBI single to Matt Tuiasosopo before being removed from the game by manager Joe Girardi. Eppley is 0-2 with a 14.29 this spring. However, he likely still will make the 25-man roster.
- On a day when the Yankees scored six runs on 14 hits, designated hitter Travis Hafner – once again – contributed nothing to the attack. Hafner, 35, was 0-for-3 and did not get a ball out of the infield. He is hitting .118 on the spring and may end up being a huge bust. Perhaps signing free agent Jim Thome would have made more sense.
Derek Jeter grounded out in each of his four at-bats in a minor-league game played against the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate at the Yankees’ spring complex in Tampa. Jeter did not run hard on his surgically repaired left ankle but Jeter remains confident he will be able to be ready to play on Opening Day. . . . It was made official on Saturday: The Yankees announced they have signed right-hander Chien-Ming Wang to minor-league contract. Wang, 32, won 55 games over a four-year span with the Yankees, including two seasons in which he won 19 games. He was 6-6 with a 4.94 in 21 games with Washington Nationals last season. . . . Vidal Nuno has opened eyes this spring enough to be in the running for a spot in the bullpen, according to general manager Brian Cashman. With left-handed specialist Clay Rapada recovering from bursitis in his throwing shoulder, Nuno has a shot to make the 25-man roster. The 25-year-old lefty is 1-1 with a 0.68 ERA this spring. . . . Boesch was examined by a team doctor on Saturday and his sore left ribcage checked out fine. Girardi said Boesch could return to the lineup on Tuesday or Wednesday.
The Yankees return to George M. Steinbrenner Field to play host to the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday.
Right-hander Adam Warren will start for the Yankees and he will be opposed by right-hander Jeremy Hellickson.
Game-time will be 1:05 EDT and the game will be telecast locally by the YES Network and nationally by the MLB Network.
YANKEES 12, TIGERS 8
Sometimes a victory can be as majestic and beautiful as a priceless painting and sometimes they can look like a 5-year-old child’s refrigerator drawing. The New York Yankees victory on Wednesday at Comerica Park looked more like the latter to manager Joe Girardi but he will cherish it all the same.
Fueled by a home run and four RBIs from Curtis Granderson and with CC Sabathia on a the mound nursing a 7-0 cushion, New York ended up having to fight their rear ends off in the final three innings to gain a huge win over Detroit.
Sabathia (12-3) was coasting with a 7-1 lead in the sixth inning when the Tigers pushed across two runs on a one-out single by Jeff Baker. After the Yankees added a run in the top of the seventh on an Ichiro Suzuki infield single, the Tigers then used a fielding error by third baseman Casey McGehee in the seventh to score another run on a Prince Fielder groundout to pull within 8-4 when Sabathia was removed in favor of David Robertson.
Robertson then suffered through one of those “House of Horrors” moments coming in with two out and a runner on second base.
A Delmon Young grounder that was headed to Robinson Cano for what could have been the final out was cut off by first baseman Mark Teixeira and it rolled off his glove for a infield single. Pinch-hitter Andy Dirks was fooled so badly on a 1-1 pitch he swung late and rolled a single just inside the third base bag and into left to drive in a run.
Robertson then had Brennan Boesch in a 2-2 hole when he swung at a pitch off the plate and bounced it slowly to McGehee for a single that scored another run. Pinch-hitter Alex Avila then rolled another ball past third to bring the Tigers to within a run at 8-7 before Robertson retired Ramon Santiago to end the rally.
Because of the four-run frame, Sabathia was charged with five runs (three earned) on eight hits and a walk while he struck out seven over 6 2/3 innings. Robertson, though none of the four singles he gave up would have broken a pane of glass, was charged with three runs on five hits in one inning of relief.
The Yankees, however, had just about enough of the Tigers in the eighth and they jumped on former Yankee left-hander Phil Coke for a pair of one-out runs on a Teixeira RBI single and an RBI groundout off the bat of Eric Chavez, who is 7-for-12 (.583) in the series.
They added another pair of runs with two out in the ninth off Bryan Villarreal on a balk with Jayson Nix on third and an RBI single off the bat of Cano. Those two runs pretty much declawed the Tigers before the bottom of the inning as Rafael Soriano retired the side in order, striking out two, to give the Yankees the victory.
Granderson, who was dropped to the No. 6 spot in the batting order after going 0-for-10 with five strikeouts in the first two games of the series, slapped a two-out RBI single as part of a two-run first inning and he added a three-run home run in the third off Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez (6-9).
Sanchez and a vengeful Tigers manager Jim Leyland paid the price for their anger dearly in that third inning after Sanchez had hit Teixeira with a pitch in the first inning and Sabathia reciprocated by hitting Prince Fielder with a pitch in the bottom of the stanza.
With one out in the third Sanchez plunked Cano in the backside in what clearly was a purpose pitch. Home-plate umpire Tim Welke warned both benches against any further incidents. But Leyland may want to reconsider that strategy now since it worked to the detriment of his team.
Cano stole second and, one out later, Chavez drew a walk to set the stage for the former Tiger, Granderson. He launched a weak fluttering 0-1 change-up from Sanchez deep into the seats in right to give the Yankees a 5-0 lead.
The Yankees finally chased Sanchez in the fourth after an RBI single by Nick Swisher and Teixeira made it 7-0 on a sacrifice fly off reliever Duane Below.
Sanchez, who entered the game with a 3.99 ERA, was charged with seven runs on seven hits and two walks and struck out two in three-plus innings.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their season ledger to 64-46 and they remain 4 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The Tigers fell to 60-51 and their 10-game home winning streak is, like Sanchez, history.
- Granderson has pretty much been a vexing problem this season. He goes into stretches where he swings at every off-speed pitch in the dirt and a foot outside. Then there are times he goes 3-for-5, including a double and a home run, he scores two runs and drives in four. Granderson has 30 home runs and 66 RBIs this season but he is hitting .244 and has struck out 136 times, the third most in the majors behind Adam Dunn and Carlos Pena.
- Chavez is making the most of his increased playing time in the absence of Alex Rodriguez. Since July 30, Chavez is 12-for-26 (.462) with three home runs and eight RBIs. On the season, Chavez is now hitting .284 with 11 home runs and 28 RBIs. Alex who?
- Girardi might have panicked a bit by pulling Sabathia in the seventh in favor of Roberrson. Sabathia actually was pitching pretty well at that point and he had thrown only 94 pitches. But because the Yankees have struggled this month, Girardi made the move to Roberrtson and what happened to him was borderline unfair. But Sabathia has his 12th victory and he earned it.
- Girardi decided to use six-time Gold Glove winner Chavez as the designated hitter to “rest” him and the manager found out McGehee is a butcher in the field with no range. He brought Nix in to play third in the eighth inning but, by that time, the Tigers had clawed back into the game at 8-7 because of McGehee’s substandard play at third. I guess Girardi has learned a valuable lesson.
- Cano committed an error and Teixeira also misplayed a pair of grounders so the Yankee defense was somewhat lacking. With Chavez playing third, the Yankees have a combined total of 27 Gold Gloves including every member infield. They also were on a steak of 13 errorless games since July 24. However, they did not play that way on Wednesday.
- For some reason, Girardi also turned his players loose on the base-paths and two of them got picked off. Swisher got the green light after one-out walk and was picked off by Below. Cano and Teixeira followed with singles but the Yankees did not score that inning. An inning later, Suzuki took off too early with one out and ended up be being picked off by rookie left-hander Darin Downs. Those things hurt.
The Yankees will complete their four-game series against the Tigers on Thursday.
Hiroki Kuroda (10-8, 3.19 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Kuroda gave up just one run on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings against the Seattle Mariners on Saturday but ended up a 1-0 loser to Felix Hernandez. Kuroda is 0-1 with a 3.46 ERA in limited action against the Tigers in his career.
The Tigers will counter with right-hander Doug Fister (6-7, 3.52 ERA). Fister threw a complete-game victory over the Cleveland Indians on Saturday. He is 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA against the Yankees in his career.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.