YANKEES 4, BLUE JAYS 1
Going into Saturday’s game at Rogers Centre the New York Yankees knew they would be without both right-hander Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller because they had both pitched in the previous two games the team won. So the question was: Who would close for the Yankees?
Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka provided the answer. He would.
Tanaka threw his first complete game of the season and Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira both hit solo home runs as New York knocked off Toronto for the second straight day and extended their American League East lead over the Blue Jays to 1 1/2 games.
Tanaka (9-5) held the powerful Blue Jays to one run on just five hits and three walks while struck out eight batters in a sparkling 112-pitch outing. It was Tanaka’s first victory of the season over the Blue Jays in three starts.
“Up to this point, I think today was one of the most important games that I’ve pitched in,” Tanaka told reporters through an interpreter. “My mindset was, I wanted to go as deep into the game as possible. I was really satisfied that I was able to do that.”
Beltran, who was the big hero in Friday’s 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Blue Jays with a pinch-hit three-run home run in the eighth inning, got the Yankees’ offense rolling right away against right-hander Marco Estrada (10-7).
With two out in the first inning, Beltran lined a 3-2 fastball into the right-field bleachers for his 12th home run of the season.
Meanwhile, Tanaka looked every bit the $155-million ace the Yankees signed as free agent last season through the first four innings until he temporarily lost command of the strike zone in the fifth.
Ryan Goins drew a leadoff four-pitch walk and Ben Revere followed it with a hard-hit single to left. Tanaka then walked Troy Tulowitzki on four pitches to load the bases with no outs.
Josh Donaldson scored Goins with a sacrifice fly to left but Tanaka was able to wriggle out of further trouble by striking out Jose Bautista swinging and retiring Edwin Encarnacion on a infield popup.
He did not allow another hit except a two-out single by Encarnacion in the eighth inning.
Estrada, at the same time, recovered from the first-inning to hold the Yankees to just one hit – a one-out triple by Jacoby Ellsbury in the third – until there were two outs in the sixth inning.
Teixeira entered the day struggling in August, batting .182 during the month and 2-for-21 (.095) in his past five games. But he was able to connect on a 1-0 fastball and hit it into the second deck down the right-field line for his 31st home run of the season.
Teixeira’s tie-breaking home run was all Tanaka really would need but Teixeira also added a one-out RBI single in the eighth off right-hander LaTroy Hawkins after Beltran had doubled off the top of the wall in right-center.
Ellsbury closed out the scoring in the ninth with an one-out RBI single off left-hander Aaron Loup.
“Right now, the most important thing is winning,” Beltran told reporters. “It doesn’t matter how we win, we just have to go out there with the mentality of not being able to think of our personal numbers, what we’re doing. We have to think about how we can win this ballgame. Right now, we’re doing good.”
Another sellout crowd of 46,630 saw the Yankees win their third straight game after they had lost the previous five games. Their season record is now 64-51. The Blue Jays dropped to 64-54.
- Tanaka, 26, has been somewhat disappointing this season between stretches of inconsistency and a stint on the disabled list. But on Saturday he looked every bit the ace pitcher the Yankees wanted him to be. Despite the three walks, Tanaka kept Toronto’s hitters off-balance by using his slider more than usual and not giving them fastballs in the strike zone. Tulowitzki, Donaldson and Bautista were a combined 1-for-8 with two strikeouts and only two balls reached the outfield.
- Beltran’s hot month of August continued on Saturday as he was 2-for-3 with a walk, a double, a home run, two runs scored and one RBI. He now has a hitting streak of 10 games and he is 12-for-32 (.375) with four homers and seven RBIs in that stretch. He is now batting .271 on the season.
- Teixeira’s home run and two RBIs were his first of each since he homered in the first game of the series against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 7. He ended his day 2-for-4 with a run scored and he drove in the tie-breaking run and added a key insurance run. Despite the slump Teixeira is batting .261 with 31 homers and 79 RBIs this season.
I would really have to nitpick to find a downside to this game. After losing in 10 innings 2-1 to the Blue Jays on Aug. 7 on a Bautista home run, Bautista said the Blue Jays did more than beat the Yankees. They made a “statement.” Well, after losing the first two games of this series I wonder what has become of Bautista’s “statement?” You may want to put a lot of ketchup on that serving of crow, Jose!
The Yankees bolstered their bullpen on Saturday by recalling right-hander Caleb Catham from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and designating left-hander Chris Capuano for assignment for a second time. Cotham, 27, will be beginning his third stint with the Yankees this season. In 31 games between Double-A Trenton and Scranton, Cotham is 6-2 with a 1.89 ERA and two saves. Capuano, 36, had not appeared in a game since the Yankees selected his contract from Scranton on Aug. 12. He was 0-4 with a 6.97 ERA in 16 games (four starts) with the Yankees. . . . Rookie Greg Bird started at first base on Saturday to allow Teixeira to serve as the designated hitter and he singled with two out in the eighth inning off Hawkins for his first Major-League hit. In the sixth inning, Bird, 22, hit a mammoth drive into the right-field seats, which would have been a two-run home run. But it was ruled a foul ball and a review of the play confirmed the call. . . . Right-hander Ivan Nova will make his next start despite soreness in right ring finger. Nova, 28, thought he had fractured the finger after he attempted to grab a come-backer off the bat of Tulowitzki in the third inning of Friday’s 4-3 victory over the Blue Jays. Nova still was able to pitch seven innings and got credit for his fifth victory of the season.
After being swept by the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium last weekend the Yankees will have a chance to return the favor to the Blue Jays on Sunday.
Rookie right-hander Luis Severino (0-1, 2.45 ERA) will make his third career start for the Yankees. Severino, 21, has not yielded more than two runs or pitched less than five innings in his first two starts. However, he is still seeking his first Major-League victory.
The Blue Jays will counter with right-hander Drew Hutchison (11-2, 5.26 ERA). Judging by the ERA you can tell that Hutchison, 24, is living off the run support the Blue Jays are providing him. In five starts in July, Hutchison recorded a 6.93 ERA and yet he was 1-1 in those starts.
Game-time will be 1:07 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 4, BLUE JAYS 3
Carlos Beltran has 180 career postseason at-bats and 16 home runs. So he knows a lot about pressure situations. On Friday, he used that experience to hit what could be one of the most memorable home runs in New York Yankees’ history.
The 38-year-old outfielder came off the bench to deliver a mammoth three-run home run off right-hander Aaron Sanchez with one out in the top of the eighth inning to propel New York back into first place in the American League East with a victory over Toronto at Rogers Centre.
Beltran’s blast capped a clutch four-run rally to overcome a 3-0 deficit against left-hander David Price and also ended the Blue Jays’ 11-game winning streak.
Price held a 3-0 lead, having scattered eight hits with no walks and striking six batters, heading into the eighth.
Mark Teixiera singled to center with one out and Brian McCann followed with s single to left. Chase Headley then drove in the Yankees’ first run and chased Price with a ground-rule double into the gap in left-center.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons replaced Price with the hard-throwing Sanchez and Yankees manager Joe Girardi countered that move by sending up the switch-hitting Beltran in place of Chris Young.
After swinging and missing two high fastballs, Beltran allowed a head-high fastball go to make the count 1-2. Sanchez then delivered a belt-high 97-mile-per-hour fastball that Beltran sent high up into the first deck of the bleachers in center-field to give the Yankees a dramatic come-from-behind victory.
Price was charged with three runs on 11 hits in 7 1/3 innings. Sanchez (6-5) was saddled with the loss.
Dellin Betances pitched a perfect eighth to protect the victory for right-hander Ivan Nova (5-4) but left-hander Andrew Miller had to withstand a nail-biting attempted rally by the Blue Jays in the bottom of the ninth to earn his 26th save in 27 tries.
Pinch-hitter Chris Colabello drew a one-out walk and Kevin Pillar followed with a single to left. On the first pitch to Ben Revere, Miller crossed up McCann and threw a wild pitch to allow pinch-runner Cliff Pennington and Pillar to move into scoring position.
Miller subsequently struck out Revere swinging, but he ended up locked into a dramatic 11-pitch showdown with newly purchased All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki in which Tulowitzki was able to foul off seven sliders from Miller – three in a row after the count reached 3-2.
But on the 12th pitch, Tulowitzki’s bat swung under Miller’s 86-mph slider for strike three. The normally stoic Yankees raced from the dugout onto the field to congratulate Miller as a sellout crowd of 46,689 at Rogers Centre saw their team get ambushed after they swept the Yankees last weekend at Yankee Stadium.
The Beltran home run and the Tulowitzki-Miller showdown overshadowed what was a very good outing from Nova, who Price had defeated 6-0 on Saturday.
Nova was charged with three runs on only five hits and one walk and three strikeouts. He also hit two batters and one of those ended up costing him in the third inning.
Nova hit Pillar on an 0-2 pitch to open the frame. Revere singled to left to advance Pillar to third. Tulowitzki then scored Pillar on what was an amazing recovery by shortstop Didi Gregorius to record a fielder’s choice.
Tulowitzki hit a hard come-backer to the mound that Nova attempted to grab with his bare right-hand. But the ball deflected behind him and Gregorius scooped it up between shortstop and second base and touched second with his glove to retire Revere.
Josh Donaldson singled to left and Jose Bautista scored Tulowitzki on a double to left and Edwin Encarnacion scored Donaldson on a sacrifice fly.
The victory gave the Yankees a season record of 63-51 and restored them to a half-game lead over the Blue Jays in the division. The stunned Blue Jays dropped to 64-53.
- There is no doubt that Beltran has been a bust as a free-agent signing since 2014. He was ineffective last season playing with bone chips in his right elbow and he got off to a terrible start this season in April. Since then he is 71-for-.239 (.297) with 10 homers and 32 RBIs. He also has been the Yankees’ hottest hitter in August with a .323 average and three homers and six RBIs. His big home run tonight was reminiscent of Raul Ibanez’s heroic home runs during the 2012 season. Perhaps this is why the eight-time All-Star is on the roster.
- Also lost in the drama was the clutch hitting of Headley on Friday. He was 3-for-4 with a single and two doubles and one huge RBI off Price. Headley, 31, turned his season around after the All-Star break by sacrificing power for contact. As a result, he is 31-for-91 (.341) with just one homer and 17 RBIs since the break and that has raised his season average to .274.
- Nova, 28, was valiant through seven innings on Friday. If you take away the three-run third inning, Nova shut out the powerful Blue Jays on just two hits and one walk over the other six innings. Of the 21 outs Nova recorded, 14 of them were on ground balls, which indicates that his sinking fastball and sharp-breaking curve had the Blue Jays off balance. Yankee fans may have forgotten than Nova was 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 2011. This was a great effort.
- Miller, 30, may have won the 12-pitch battle with Tulowitzki to earn the save but his recent outings continue to be very shaky. In his past three outings, Miller has given up three runs on six hits. He blew his first save on Tuesday and came close to blowing two others in the past two days. If it continues Girardi might have to consider switching to Betances to close out games.
The Yankees announced on Friday they will conduct a pregame ceremony to celebrate Alex Rodriguez’s 3,000th career hit on Sept. 13, against the Blue Jays. Rodriguez, 40, became the 29th player to reach the 3,000-hit plateau on June 19, hitting a first-inning home run off the Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers. Rodriguez and Derek Jeter are the only players to join the 3,000-hit club while wearing a Yankees uniform.
The Yankees will have another chance at blessed retribution against the cocky Blue Jays on Saturday in Game 2 of the weekend series.
Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (8-5, 3.79 ERA) will pitch for the Yankees. Tanaka, 26, lost but gave up only two runs on three hits with five strikeouts against the Blue Jays on Sunday. He has seven consecutive starts in which he has pitched six innings or more.
Right-hander Marco Estrada (10-6, 3.21 ERA) will start for the Jays. Estrada shut out the Yankees on three hits and three walks with three strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings to defeat Tanaka on Sunday. His career ERA against the Yankees is 4.50.
Game-time will be 1:07 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
BLUE JAYS 3, YANKEES 1
Former Yankee Russell Martin hit a two-out infield RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning off Dellin Betances to break a 1-1 tie as Toronto rallied late to defeat New York on Monday at Rogers Centre in Toronto.
The Yankees entered the inning with a 1-0 lead on the strength of seven shutout innings from right-hander Chase Whitley. But Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista hit consecutive one-out singles off right-hander Chris Martin.
Betances then replaced Martin and was greeted by a bloop RBI double off the bat of Edwin Encarnacion that tied the game. One out later, Martin hit a ball down the third-base line on which Chase Headley was able to make a diving stop. However, Garrett Jones was unable to dig out Headley’s one-hop throw and both Bautista and Encarnacion scored on the play.
R.A. Dickey (1-3) yielded just one run on three hits and three walks with no strikeouts in eight innings to earn the victory.
Martin (0-1) was charged with the loss in one of the rare occasions this season that the Yankees’ bullpen was unable to protect a lead. They entered play in second place in the American League in bullpen ERA.
Brett Cecil pitched a perfect ninth to earn his second save.
The loss dropped the season record for the Yankees to 16-10 but they remain two games ahead of the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Blue Jays are 13-14 and 3 1/2 games behind the Yankees.
- Whitley was brilliant and he deserved a much better fate. He shut out the high-powered Blue Jays on six hits, did not walk a batter and fanned six in what was only his second start of the season replacing Masahiro Tanaka in the rotation. Whitley also showed some “Houdini-like” skills by wriggling out of two tough spots. With one out in the third, Ezequiel Carrera laid down a bunt that Whitley fielded and threw wildly down the right-field line for a two-base error that allowed Carrera to advance to third. But Whitley escaped by striking out Devon Travis and retiring Donaldson on a groundout. In the sixth, Travis led off with a single and Donaldson followed with a double. However, Whitley kept the Jays from scoring by getting Bautista on a groundout, striking out Encarnacion and inducing Kevin Pillar to hit a weak infield popup. Whitley’s ERA after two starts is 0.75.
- The Yankees were able to score a run off Dickey in the seventh on a leadoff double by Carlos Beltran. He advanced to third on a groundout by Stephen Drew and he scored on a groundout off the bat of Jones. Beltran was 1-for-3 but he actually hit the ball hard all three times off Dickey’s knuckleball. Beltran entered the game batting .197 and the Yankees need him to get going with the bat.
- Jacoby Ellsbury was 1-for-4 with a single in the sixth, which extended the 31-year-old outfielder’s hitting streak to seven games. Ellsbury is 15-for-30 (.500) in that span.
- I was not happy with manager Joe Girardi’s decision to rest both first baseman Mark Teixeira and catcher Brian McCann in this game. Those two hitters combined the night before against the Boston Red Sox for a double, a home run and four RBIs in an 8-5 victory. I can understand resting McCann because you do need to find a day to rest a catcher. However, Teixeira and McCann are the No. 4 and No. 5 hitters in the lineup so Girardi had a struggling Beltran batting fourth and a struggling Drew hitting fifth in their place. It is lucky the Yankees managed even one run with the lineup they deployed.
- Here is another criticism for Girardi. He thought enough about replacing Beltran in right-field defensively with Chris Young to begin the bottom of the eighth. But he did not think of inserting Teixeira at first in place of Jones. Is it possible that a five-time Gold Glove award winner like Teixeira digs out Headley’s one-hop throw in the eighth? If that had happened the Yankees would have gone into the ninth tied 1-1 instead of losing 3-1.
- One last Girardi criticism. In the ninth, he allowed Alex Rodriguez and Young to hit to start the inning, as he should. However, he opted not to use either McCann or Teixeira to pinch-hit for Drew. Instead he chose to use Gregorio Petit, who was batting .200. It was almost as if Girardi conceded the game after the Blue Jays scored three runs. It was just odd.
The Yankees continue their three-game series with the Blue Jays on Tuesday.
Right-hander Michael Pineda (3-0, 3.73 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Pineda held the Rays to two runs on six hits and he fanned five in 5 2/3 innings in a victory on Wednesday.
He will be opposed by right-hander Marco Estrada (1-0, 0.84), who will be making his first start of the season after the Blue Jays optioned rookie left-hander Daniel Norris to Triple-A Buffalo. Estrada will be limited to 75 pitches so watch the Yankees keep attacking the first pitch and make easy outs like fools.
Game-time will be 7:07 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
BLUE JAYS 6, YANKEES 3
The Blue Jays strung together four consecutive hits to open the second inning against CC Sabathia and all four runners later scored as Toronto went on to defeat New York on Thursday in front of a paid crowd of 32,152 at Yankee Stadium.
Sabathia (0-1), who making his first start since May 10 of last season, was touched for an opposite-field single by Edwin Encarnacion, a lined single to center by Josh Donaldson, a ground single by Danny Valencia that ticked off the glove of Sabathia and a lined single to left by Kevin Pillar that scored Encarnacion.
The Blue Jays added runs on consecutive RBI groundouts by Steve Tolleson and Devon Travis and completed the scoring with an RBI single by Jose Reyes.
Meanwhile, rookie left-hander Daniel Norris (1-0) yielded three runs on six hits and two walks while striking out five over 5 2/3 innings for his first major-league victory in only his second career start.
The Blue Jays added an unearned run off Sabathia in the fifth inning when Donaldson reached on a two-out infield single and then Valencia followed with a seeing-eye single that rolled past second baseman Gregorio Petit into right-field. Right-fielder Carlos Beltran’s throw to third base caromed off Donaldson and allowed him to score on the throwing error.
Sabathia was charged with five runs (four earned) on eight hits and no walks while he struck out eight in 5 2/3 innings.
The Yankees scored a run in the fifth on a leadoff double by John Ryan Murphy and a one-out RBI single by Didi Gregorius, however, Gregorius was picked off straying too far off first by Valencia.
Alex Rodriguez blasted his first home run since Sept. 20, 2013 and his first of the season off Norris to lead off the sixth inning and one batter later Mark Teixeira added his first of the season to draw the Yankees to within two runs at 5-3.
But Encarnacion connected for his second home run of the series with two out in the eighth inning off right-hander Esmil Rogers.
Twenty-year-old right-hander Miguel Castro, who was named the closer earlier in the day, pitched a perfect ninth to earn his first career save.
- I am not crazy for saying this but Sabathia actually pitched a lot better than the results showed. If you take away the O.B.I. (One Bad Inning), Sabathia yielded just one unearned run on three hits and no walks. One big surprise was the eight strikeouts. Two of those strikeouts were against Jose Bautista, who ended up 0-for-12 with eight strikeouts in the series. There is something for Sabathia to build upon in this game despite the defeat.
- The Yankees managed only seven hits, which is nothing new when it comes to their weak offense. However, the backup catcher, Murphy, ended up with two of them and both were lined doubles. Much was made of the spring training battle between Murphy and Austin Romine for the backup job, but manager Joe Girardi obviously made the right choice in the 23-year-old Murphy.
- It was nice to see A-Rod and Teixeira connect for their first home runs of the season. The Yankees will require both of them to put up a lot of them and drive in a lot of runs if they are to contend at all in the American League East. It would just be nice if the homers weren’t solo shots.
- Fielding has been a bit of an issue and it hurt the Yankees badly in the four-run second inning. With Encarnacion on second and Donaldson at first, Valencia hit a ground ball that ticked off Sabathia’s glove for an infield single. If Sabathia had either fielded it cleanly or had let it get by to Gregorius at shortstop it would have been an easy double play and it would have changed the complexion of the game. Sabathia also failed to back up third on Beltran’s throw to nail Donaldson in the sixth and it cost the Yankees a run. When it comes to fielding, Sabathia is just plain lazy and Girardi needs to lay down the law by fining players for mental errors like this.
- After Rodriguez and Teixeira homered and there were two out in the sixth, Chris Young drew a walk from Norris, which ended Norris’ outing. Murphy then doubled off right-hander Roberto Osuna to put the tying run in scoring position. Girardi sent Stephen Drew up to pinch-hit for Petit. On a 1-2 count, Drew got a good pitch to hit but he fouled it off. On the next pitch he struck out swinging. That at-bat really cost the Yankees dearly.
- Gregorius drove in his first run of the season with his first hit of the season in the fifth. That is a good thing. However, Gregorius also killed the inning by roaming too far off first on Pillar’s throw home as Murphy scored. Valencia cut off the throw and Travis snuck in behind Gregorius at first to tag him out. In two instances in this series, Gregorius has been thrown out on base-running gaffes. Derek Jeter might have done that twice in his entire career. The young shortstop has a lot to learn.
The Yankees will play host to the evil scourge of the East in the Boston Red Sox on Friday.
Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, 25, will make his debut as a starter with the Yankees. Eovaldi was obtained in the offseason from the Miami Marlins and he had an excellent spring with a 1-1 record and a 1.93 ERA in four starts.
The Red Sox will counter with left-hander Wade Miley, who was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Miley had no record with a 3.71 ERA in four spring appearances (three starts).
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by WPIX.
YANKEES 4, BLUE JAYS 3
Some rallies are loud and thunderous. Others are executed with a little pluck and a lot of luck.
On Wednesday night, the Yankees came from behind using the latter method.
Down 3-1 in the bottom of the eighth, the Yankees sent nine men to the plate and scored three runs thanks to a wind-blown double, two hit batters, a wild pitch, an intentional walk and a single that hit off a pitcher’s glove and rolled into left-field.
Chase Headley’s single off left-hander Brett Cecil’s glove scored Brett Gardner with what proved to be the winning run as New York pulled off late-inning comeback to down Toronto in front of a chilly crowd of 31,020 at Yankee Stadium.
Dellin Betances (1-0) got credit for the victory despite struggling mightily with his command in the eighth inning. Andrew Miller pitched a perfect ninth to earn his first save with the Yankees and only the second of his career.
The Yankees opened the eighth against left-hander Aaron Loup (0-1) with a pinch-hit double off the bat of Chris Young that just eluded second baseman Devon Travis 25 feet behind first base. Jacoby Ellsbury followed with a lined single to center that advanced Young to third.
Loup then hit Gardner on the right forearm to load the bases. Manager John Gibbons replaced Loup with Cecil and, with Carlos Beltran batting, the Blue Jays closer uncorked a wild pitch that scored Young.
After Cecil fanned Beltran, Gibbons elected to walk Mark Teixeira to reload the bases but it backfired when Cecil hit Brian McCann with a pitch to bring in the tying run. Headley then followed with his game-winning single.
The Yankees actually squandered what was an excellent outing from right-hander Michael Pineda, who limited the Blue Jays to two runs on six hits and one walk and struck out six in six innings of work.
The Blue Jays used a lot of luck of their own to score their two runs, using an infield roller by Kevin Pillar, a double by Justin Smoak and another infield single off the bat of Travis to score their first run in the third inning.
They added another run on a one-out single by Travis, a infield bouncer by Jose Reyes followed with a throwing error by Stephen Drew that allowed Travis to reach third before Russell Martin hit a sacrifice fly to score Travis.
The Yankees cut the lead in half in the sixth when Ellsbury singled, stole second, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on Beltran’s sacrifice fly.
But Betances struggled with one out in the sixth by walking Jose Bautista, allowing a single by Edwin Encarnacion and a walk to Josh Donaldson.
However, Bautista actually scored to make 3-1 when McCann threw wildly to first base in an attempt to pick off Donaldson.
The implosion of the Blue Jays’ bullpen spoiled a solid effort from knuckeball right-hander R.A. Dickey, who limited the Yankees to one run on four hits and three walks and struck out four in 6 1/3 innings.
- Ellsbury reached base in all four of his plate appearances with two walks and two singles and he scored two runs. In addition, he stole a base. His only negative was he allowed himself to get picked off first base by Dickey in the first inning. But replays showed Dickey actually got away with a balk by moving his left knee.
- Based on what I saw on Wednesday, I am not sure that Betances will be able to wrest the closer’s role away from Miller. The 6-for-7 left-hander overpowered pinch-hitter Danny Valencia, breaking his bat on an infield roller, struck out Travis and retired Reyes on a grounder. As long as Betances struggles, Miller should be the main man.
- The Yankees were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position until Headley’s game-winning single in the ninth. Give Headley credit because he put the ball in play and Cecil could not field it cleanly. Headley was 2-for-4 in the game after going 0-for-4 in the opener on Monday.
- Granted, it was a cold and windy evening that made both teams have to resort to “small ball.” But the Yankees offense again looked sluggish against Dickey. They managed just four hits off him. Of their three hits in the eighth, only Ellsbury’s single was hit hard. I think Yankee fans are just going to have to resign themselves to the fact this Yankee team is going to have trouble scoring runs.
- Betances not only is dealing with less velocity. He also is dealing with some messed up mechanics. He was missing his spots badly and the Blue Jays were able to make him throw 32 pitches in the inning. Fortunately, Betances got out of the mess by inducing both Dalton Pompey and Kevin Pillar to hit weak comebackers to the mound.
- In a close game, errors can kill you. The errors by Drew and McCann both were costly because the Blue Jays scored a pair of runs off them. Defense was supposed to be a strength of this team. They need to tighten it up.
Catcher Austin Romine cleared waivers and the Yankees outrighted him to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Romine, 26, lost a spring training battle to unseat John Ryan Murphy, 23, as the backup to McCann. Romine has batted .204 in 76 games with the Yankees. Murphy has a .252 average in 48 games. Romine is the son of former major-league outfielder Kevin Romine and the brother of Andrew Romine, who is an infielder with the Detroit Tigers.
The Yankees will play the rubber game of their three-game home series with the Blue Jays on Thursday.
Left-hander CC Sabathia, 34, will start for the Yankees for the first time since May 10 of last season. Sabathia missed the rest of the season and underwent surgery on his right knee. He was 0-3 with a 8.10 ERA in spring training but showed that his velocity has returned.
The Blue Jays will counter with left-hander Daniel Norris, who will be making only his second major-league start. The rookie was 4-0 with a 2.93 ERA in seven spring starts.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
BLUE JAYS 6, YANKEES 1
Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-run home run and Russell Martin added a two-run single as part of a five-run third inning off right-hander Masahiro Tanaka as Toronto defeated New York on Opening Day on Monday at Yankee Stadium.
Right-hander Drew Hutchison (1-0) held the Yankees to just one run – a solo home run by Brett Gardner – on three hits and two walks while he struck out three batters in six innings.
Tanaka (0-1) sailed through the first two innings, yielding only one hit and striking out three. But he ran into trouble in the third inning when Kevin Pillar opened the inning with a single and rookie Devon Travis drew a walk.
Jose Reyes then laid down a sacrifice bunt between the mound and third base. Tanaka moved into the path of third baseman Chase Headley and Headley ended up throwing wide of first base for an error that allowed Pillar to score, Travis to reach third and Reyes to second.
Martin followed with a single to right that scored Pillar and Reyes, One batter later, Encarnacion blasted a 2-1 fastball into the left-field bleachers to make it a 5-0 margin.
Tanaka was charged with five runs (four earned) on five hits and two walks with six strikeouts in 82 pitches covering for innings.
The Blue Jays added their final tally to begin the seventh inning when Travis belted his first major-league home run to left-field off left-hander Chasen Shreve.
The Yankees were limited to just three hits and three walks in losing their fourth consecutive home opener.
- Gardner has always hit the Blue Jays well and on Monday it was no different. Last season, Gardner hit two of his 17 home runs off Hutchison so it was no surprise when he connected off the 24-year-old right-hander for blast into the right-field seats. Gardner ended up 1-for-4 but he hit the ball well three times.
- Rookie reliever Chris Martin could not have made a better debut with the Yankees than he did in the fifth inning. The 6-foot-8 right-hander faced three hitters who combined last season to hit 98 homers in Jose Bautista, Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson. He fanned all three and looked impressive doing it.
- Alex Rodriguez drew loud cheers from the sellout crowd of 48,469 as he was introduced and he ended getting more cheers as he drew a walk and singled in the game. The 39-year-old designated hitter lined out to right-field in his last at-bat to finish his day 1-for-2.
- Tanaka, 26, revamped his pitching style to put less stress on his elbow but it backfired on him on Monday. Tanaka shelved his 94-mile-per-hour fastball in order to use his lower velocity two-seam fastball. That was the pitch Encarnacion hit out. The Blue Jays basically stopped swinging at pitches diving out the strike zone and Tanaka was forced to serve up batting practice fastballs to them. He is going to have to rethink his strategy next time out.
- I bemoaned the lack of offense all spring and it reared its ugly head again on Monday. The Yankees made Hutchison look much better than he really is. They hammered him pretty good in his six starts last season. But on Monday they allowed him to use stuff that tops out at around 92 mph to make them look bad. Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira combined to go 0-for-6 in the heart of the order.
- Headley committed a costly throwing error that began Tanaka’s demise but it really was not all his fault. Tanaka sprinted after the ball and ran right into Headley’s path just as he was fielding the bunt. If Tanaka had let it go I do not think Headley would have made the error.
Manager Joe Girardi did not even try to hide his displeasure with Didi Gregorius’ decision to try to steal third base with two out in the eighth inning. Gregorius reached after being hit in the right elbow by a pitch from reliever Aaron Loup. He moved to second when Beltran drew a two-out walk. Then with Teixeira at the plate and the Yankees trailing 6-1, Gregorius dashed for third with third baseman Donaldson shifted over. But Martin was able to gun down Gregorius easily on the first pitch from reliever Miguel Castro. “You know, I’m just going to chalk it up as someone trying to do too much, and in a game like this you’re looking for a three-run homer there,” Girardi told reporters. “Your run doesn’t mean a whole lot.”
The Yankees will have a day off to wash the bitter taste of defeat out of their mouths before resuming their series with the Blue Jays on Wednesday.
The Yankees will send to the mound right-hander Michael Pineda, who was the team’s most impressive starter this spring. Pineda was 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA with 23 strikeouts and just one walk in 19 innings.
The struggling Yankee offense will face right-handed knuckleball specialist R.A. Dickey. Dickey, 40, was 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in three spring starts.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
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!