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.
YANKEES 14, TIGERS 3
Alex Rodriguez drove in five runs and homered to reach yet another milestone, Carlos Beltran hit a pair of homers and Brett Gardner came up just one home run shy of the cycle as New York routed Detroit on Saturday at Old Timers’ Day at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees pounded the Tigers with season-high 18 hits and the 14 runs tied a season high as they clinched the three-game series by winning the first two games by a combined score of 21-5.
Nathan Eovaldi (6-2), who entered the game supported by 6.2 runs per game as a starter, pitched six-plus innings to earn the victory and bounce back from his last start when he was shelled for eight runs in only two-thirds of an inning by the Miami Marlins on Tuesday.
The Yankees, meanwhile, scored 13 runs in the first five innings to put right-hander Alfredo Simon (7-4) and the Tigers away early.
Gardner started the onslaught with a leadoff triple in the first inning and he scored a fielder’s choice by Rodriguez.
Didi Gregorius led off the second inning with his fourth home run of the season and his second in two games against the Tigers. The Yankees then loaded the bases in the same inning with one out when Rodriguez hit a sacrifice fly that scored Stephen Drew.
Beltran led off the third inning with a long blast that cleared the Yankees bullpen and landed in the bleachers in right-center. With two on and two out in the same inning, Chase Headley hit an RBI single to score Chris Young, which ended Simon’s night.
Rodriguez then greeted left-hander Ian Krol with a deep blast into the left-field bleachers for a three-run home run – his 14th of the season – and the 3,001st hit of his career, which put him ahead of Roberto Clemente in 28th place on the all-time list.
Simon was charged with seven runs on eight hits and three walks with two strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings. Simon entered the contest with a 2.58 ERA in 12 starts and the seven runs he yielded was a season high.
The Yankees added two more runs off Krol in the fourth. Beltran blasted his second home run of the game and his seventh of the season with one out and later Young scored Gregorius on a bloop single to left.
The Yankees added three runs off left-hander Tom Gorzelanny in the fifth in an inning in which they sent eight men to the plate.
Young added the team’s fifth home run of the night and the final run in the eighth inning with a home run off Josh Wilson, who entered the game as a second baseman in the fifth inning and was pressed into duty as an emergency reliever by Tigers manager Brad Ausmus.
Eovaldi was charged with two runs on three hits and one walk and he left in the seventh inning having thrown 93 pitches.
The Yankees have now defeated the Tigers in five of the six games they have played this season.
The team also improved their season record to 38-30 and they remain one game behind the first-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Tigers are now 34-34.
- Rodriguez was 2-for-3 with a single, a homer, two runs scored and five RBIs. In his past four games, he is 7-for-13 (.538) with two homers and eight RBIs. That spurt has raised his season average to .283 and he has 14 home runs and 40 RBIs.
- Beltran extended his modest hitting streak to five games and over that span he is 6-for-16 (.375) with three homers and six RBIs. Just when it looked as if Beltran would never hit as he did in the past he now is batting .252 with seven homers and 29 RBIs. Teams have had their hands full handling Mark Teixiera, Rodriguez and Brian McCann. If you add Beltran to the mix and it will be even harder to navigate this batting order.
- Gardner is absolutely smoking hot with the bat. He was 3-for-6 with a single, a double and a triple and two runs scored. In his past three games, he is 9-for-16 (.563) with two doubles, a triple, two home runs, six runs scored and five RBIs. For the season Gardner is batting .282 with seven homers and 33 RBIs.
When the team is cranking out hits and runs in bunches and the pitching is solid there is nothing to complain about. The team has been very streaky this season but it is nice to see that they have now won four in a row. They are playing like a team that wants to go to the playoffs.
Outfielder Mason Williams, 23, had a MRI on his jammed right shoulder on Saturday and the rookie is still listed as day-to-day. Williams injured his shoulder in the fifth inning of Friday’s game as he dove back into first base on a pickoff attempt by Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander. Williams stayed in the game but was replaced in the sixth inning by Young. . . . On a day the Yankees honored former second baseman Willie Randolph with a plaque, the team also surprised right-handed pitcher Mel Stottlemyre with his own plaque in Monument Park. Both players wore No. 30 during their Yankee careers. Their ceremonies drew standing ovations from the sellout crowd of 48,092.
The Yankees will have a chance to sweep the three-game weekend series with the Tigers on Sunday.
Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (4-2, 2.49 ERA) will pitch for the Yankees. Tanaka is coming off a loss to the Marlins on Monday despite giving up just two runs on nine hits in seven innings.
The Tigers will counter with right-hander Anibal Sanchez (5-7, 4.65 ERA). Sanchez pitched a nine-inning, two-hit shutout against the Cincinnati Reds in his last start on Monday. He struck out seven and did not walk a batter.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 7, TIGERS 2
When it comes to building drama it was obvious on Friday that Alex Rodriguez was not really interested in that at all. He took Justin Verlander deep on the first pitch in his first at-bat to join the 3,000-hit club and then just allowed the Yankees to concentrate on winning the game.
They did just that as Didi Gregorius and Brett Gardner also homered off Verlander and Adam Warren pitched eight solid innings to help New York thump Detroit in front of a paid crowd of 44,588 who came, in part, to witness more history at Yankee Stadium.
Rodriguez, 39, entered the game 10-for-34 (.294) with four homers off Verlander and he hit high outside fastball into the bleachers in right-center with two out in the first inning to give the Yankees an early 1-0 lead.
Rodriguez becomes only the third player out of the 29 who have collected 3,000 hits to hit a home run to reach the mark. The others were Wade Boggs with the Tampa Bay Rays and Derek Jeter, Rodriguez’s former Yankee teammate.
The milestone drew a standing ovation from the crowd and Rodriguez was greeted by hugs by all teammates before he reached the dugout. He then came back out of the dugout to raise his hands to the crowd in a curtain call.
The Tigers, however, managed to get to Warren in the second inning when Victor Martinez led off with a single and Yoenis Cespedes followed with a double. One out later, Warren hit Nick Castellanos with a pitch to load the bases and Bryan Holaday slapped a 1-0 pitch into left-center to score Martinez and Cespedes and give the Tigers a 2-1 lead.
It was short-lived because with one out in the bottom of the second, Gregorius laced a 1-2 fastball into the Yankees bullpen in right-center for his third home run of the season.
The game remained tied until Mason Williams singled with one out in the fifth and Gardner blasted a hanging 1-1 slider from Verlander into the Yankees bullpen for his seventh home run of the season and his second two-run homer in two nights.
Gardner’s two-run homer with two out in the sixth inning on Thursday allowed the Yankees to tie the Miami Marlins 3-3 in a game the Yankees eventually won 9-4.
The Yankees added a pair of runs off an obviously tiring Verlander in the seventh inning when Gardner reached on a one-out bunt single and advanced to third when Chase Headley’s hard-hit grounder caromed off Verlander’s foot and rolled into right-field.
With Rodriguez at the plate, Verlander uncorked a pitch in the dirt that rolled less than five feet away from Holaday but Gardner was able to slide to home without a play.
After Verlander retired Rodriguez, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus brought left-hander Tom Gorzelanny in to face Mark Teixeira. But Teixeira hit an opposite-field single to right that scored Headley.
Verlander was charged with six runs on 10 hits and one walk with two strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings and 117 pitches.
Warren, meanwhile, was able to keep the Tigers off the scoreboard through eight full innings, which was his longest outing in his career of 16 starts. He gave up only two runs on seven hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in an effort that may have saved his job as starter.
The Yankees added another run in the eighth on a two-out double by Chris Young and an RBI single by Gardner.
Right-hander Branden Pinder, who was only called up earlier in the day, pitched a scoreless ninth to close out the game and hand the Yankees their third straight victory.
With the triumph the Yankees improved to 37-30. They remain one game behind the first-place Rays in the American League East. The Tigers dropped to 34-33.
- Though Rodriguez’s entire career with the Yankees has been shrouded in controversy, the Yankee fans did not hold back in their celebration of the moment. Though Rodriguez’s numbers are certainly tainted by the performance-enhancing drugs, the 3,000-hit milestone still means something. He did it in dramatic fashion off a name-brand pitcher and he is having a grand comeback season. He is batting .277 with 13 home runs and 35 RBIs.
- If not for A-Rod’s milestone, Gardner would have gotten all the ink for his best night of the season. Gardner was 4-for-5 with a three singles, a homer, two runs scored and three RBIs. He basically stole home off Verlander in the seventh a wild pitch that barely rolled five feet away from the plate. Gardner raised his average back to .277 and he has seven homers and 33 RBIs hitting mostly from the leadoff spot.
- Warren, 27, basically told manager Joe Girardi that he was not coming out of the rotation without a fight. With right-hander Ivan Nova pitching in a rehab start for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre on the same night, it was no secret Warren was going to be moved out of the rotation after this start. But Warren was so good that Girardi may have to rethink his plans. Warren is 5-4 with a 3.62 ERA in 13 starts. Nathan Eovaldi, in contrast, is 5-2 with a 5.12 ERA. Who would you shift to the bullpen for Nova?
Warren was sensational and the Yankees hit three homers and scored six runs off Verlander. You can’t fault that effort. The only vexing thing about the Yankees is they win seven in a row and then they lose six of seven. Now they have won three in a row. Consistency is not their thing but they are playing well now.
Williams, 23, left the game in the sixth inning after jamming his right shoulder attempting to get back to first base on a pickoff attempt by Verlander in the bottom of the fifth inning. Though he remained the game and scored on Gardner’s two-run homer, he was replaced in center-field by Young. Williams was examined by Dr. Christopher Ahmad, the team physician, and no tests are planned. Williams is listed a day-to-day. . . . The Yankees were forced to shuffle their bullpen again on Friday. The team placed right-hander Sergio Santos on the 15-day disabled list and optioned right-hander Chris Martin to Scranton. The Yankees then recalled right-handers Bryan Mitchell and Pinder from the same club. Santos, 31, was placed on the disabled list retroactive to June 15 with inflammation in his right elbow. Santos last pitched on Monday when he escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the eighth inning of a 2-1 loss to the Marlins. Martin, 29, is 0-2 with a 5.62 ERA in 18 games.
The Yankees will continue their three-game home series with the Tigers on Saturday.
Eovaldi will make his 14th start of the season against the Tigers. He also better hope it goes better than his outing against his former Marlins team on Tuesday when he gave up eight runs on nine hits in just two-thirds of an inning. With Warren’s great start on Friday he will be on the hot seat to perform against the Tigers.
The Tigers will counter with right-hander Alfredo Simon (7-3, 2.58 ERA). Simon shut out the Cleveland Indians on three hits and one walk with five strikeouts in five innings in a victory on Sunday.
Game-time will be 7:15 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 9, MARLINS 4
On a night that Alex Rodriguez moved to within one of the 3,000-hit plateau it was a pair of two-run homers hit by Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran that brought the Yankees back from a 3-1 deficit to a huge victory at Yankee Stadium.
Gardner smacked his home run in the sixth inning to tie it and Beltran added his in the seventh as New York added four more runs in the eighth to sink Miami on Thursday and earn a split of the four-game home-and-home series.
Rodriguez singled to drive in the game’s first run in the first inning and he added a one-out single in the fifth off right-hander Mat Latos to give him 2,999 career hits.
His RBI single followed back-to-back singles by Gardner and Chase Headley and Gardner scored to give left-hander CC Sabathia an early 1-0 lead.
However, after Sabathia retired the first nine hitters he faced, Dee Gordon led off the fourth with a triple and scored one out later on an infield groundout by Christian Yelich.
The Marlins claimed the lead in the fifth as Jeff Baker singled and Justin Bour reached after being hit with a pitch. Baker advanced to third on a deep fly ball by Donovan Solano and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Jeff Mathis.
Giancarlo Stanton padded the Marlins’ lead to 3-1 when he connected for his major-league-leading 25th home run of the season with one out in the sixth.
But the Yankees managed to tie the game in the bottom of the frame after Latos had retired the first two batters. Mason Williams laced a double to right-center, his second double of the night. Gardner then followed by lining a 2-0 fastball into the Yankees bullpen in right-center for his sixth home run of the season.
Latos was then removed from the game and he was charged with three runs on nine hits and two walks with six strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.
Sabathia also left having also yielded three runs on five hits and no walks with seven strikeouts in six innings.
The Yankees took the lead for good in the seventh inning against former Yankee left-hander Michael Dunn (1-4).
Brian McCann slapped a one-out single to left and Beltran connected on a high 3-2 fastball and he drove it deep into the first level of the left-field bleachers for his fifth home run of the season.
Left-hander Chasen Shreve (4-1) pitched a scoreless seventh inning to get credit for the victory in relief.
The Yankees were able to add four more runs in the eighth off right-hander Sam Dyson on an RBI single by McCann, a wild pitch, an RBI double by Chris Young and a sacrifice fly by Stephen Drew.
Dyson drew the ire of most of the paid crowd of 38,239 by walking Rodriguez on four pitches, spoiling an opportunity for those in attendance from seeing his potential milestone hit.
The Marlins added a run in the ninth off right-hander Chris Martin on an RBI single by Mathis.
The victory allowed the Yankees to improve their season record to 36-30. They remain one game behind the first-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Marlins fell to 29-39.
- Gardner’s home run was his first since June 7 at Yankee Stadium against the Los Angeles Angels. He was 2-for-5 with a single, a homer, two runs scored and three RBIs. He raised his season average to .265 and he now has six home runs and 30 RBIs.
- Beltran is definitely making positive strides at the plate after a horrible start that had him batting .162 in April. Since May 8, Beltran is 34-for-113 (.301) with five homers and 17 RBIs. It was his first home run since May 30 against the Athletics in Oakland. He is batting .250 with five homers and 26 RBIs on the season.
- Rodriguez was 2-for-4 with two singles, a walk, a run scored and an RBI and he has raised his season average to .278. In his past 30 games, A-Rod is batting .317 with four homers and 14 RBIs.
Sabathia actually pitched well but the Yankees sputtered on offense through the first five innings until they exploded for eight runs in the final three innings. Every starter had at least one hit except Drew. So this was a really good victory for the Yankees and I do not see any negatives.
The Yankees will play host to the Detroit Tigers for a three-game weekend series that begins on Friday.
Right-hander Adam Warren (4-4, 3.78 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Warren gave up three runs on six hits and three walks with five strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.
Right-hander Justin Verlander (0-0, 3.60 ERA) will make his second start of the season after being activated from disabled list. Verlander surrendered two runs on three hits and two walks with two strikeouts in five innings in a no-decision against the Cleveland Indians on Saturday.
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 7, TIGERS 0
After being outscored 16-7 and outhit 26-12 in the first two games and having to face the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner in Sunday’s series finale, the Yankees countered that by throwing a former Cy Young Award winner of their own. The result was the polar opposite of what happened in the first two games.
CC Sabathia shut out the Tigers on just four hits in seven innings to outduel Justin Verlander and the Yankees busted loose for seven runs and 13 hits as New York salvaged the third game of the series to whitewash Detroit in front of a paid crowd of 39,829 at Comerica Park.
Sabathia (1-1) put the controversy surrounding the reduced velocity on his pitches by showing excellent command of his fastball and changeup to prevent any Tiger baserunner to get past second base. Sabathia also improved his career record against the Tigers to 19-12.
Meanwhile, Sabathia received some welcome run support from a pair of unlikely run producers in the second inning.
Picking on a less-than-sharp Verlander (1-1) with one out and Ichiro Suzuki on first, Francisco Cervelli laced a line-drive double to the wall in left-center to score Suzuki with the game’s first run. One out later, Jayson Nix, who was subbing at shortstop for Eduardo Nunez, who was subbing for Derek Jeter, cranked a fat changeup into the first row of bleachers in left-field to give the Yankees an early 3-0 lead.
It was a lead that Sabathia refused to relinquish to a deep power-laden lineup that had destroyed the Yankees the past two games.
Sabathia ended his afternoon having walked three and striking out four. It was hardly a dominant outing but it did best Verlander, who left after 7 1/3 innings having surrendered seven hits and two walks while striking out four.
The Yankees then added a pair of runs in both the eighth and ninth innings off left-hander Phil Coke and right-hander Octavio Dotel, respectively.
Suzuki touched Coke with a run-scoring fly ball in the eighth and Cervelli followed with a lined RBI single to center.
Red-hot Kevin Youkilis capped the scoring with one out in the ninth off Dotel by lacing a two-run single.
David Robertson pitched a scoreless eighth and Mariano Rivera tossed a scoreless ninth to allow the Yankees to complete the shutout of the Tigers and salvage the series finale.
The Yankees’ season record improves to 2-4. The Tigers fell to 3-3.
- Sabathia hovered mostly in the 88-91 mile-per-hour range on Sunday but it was good enough to keep the Tigers at bay. The Tigers 3, 4 and 5 hitters – Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez – were a combined 0-for-9 with two strikeouts off Sabathia. More importantly Sabathia quieted the critics who ripped him after his Opening Day loss to the Boston Red Sox.
- Nix entered the game 0-for-7 with five strikeouts but he broke out of it in a big way against Verlander and Dotel. He was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBIs. Nix was pleased because he has not had much success against Verlander in the past. “It’s great. It feels really good,” Nix said. “I haven’t had a whole lot of success off him. He is who he is, you know?”
- With Nix batting ninth, Cervelli held up his end batting seventh. He was 2-for-4 with two big RBIs. That raised Cervelli’s early-season batting average to .308.
Every starter had at least one hit except Lyle Overbay (0-for-4), Sabathia pitched with great precision to shut down a powerful lineup and the team did not commit an error in the field. That is a reason not to dwell on any negatives in what has been a rough week for the team.
Nunez was unable to get back into the starting lineup on Sunday but he was able to pinch-run for Travis Hafner in the eighth inning and he scored a run. Nunez has been hampered the past two games because of a bruised right bicep he sustained when he was hit by a pitch from Tigers right-hander Doug Fister on Friday. Nunez tried to swing a bat and throw on Sunday but his right arm was still sore. He is still listed as day-to-day. . . . Most experts figured the Yankees would not succeed with a bunch of aging newcomers and journeymen starting or filling in for injured starters. But Youkilis, Hafner, Overbay, Vernon Wells, Ben Francisco and Brennan Boesch were a combined 22-for-75 (.293) with four homers and 12 RBIs in the Yankees’ first five games.
The Yankees boarded a flight for Cleveland late Sunday and will open a three-game series against the Indians on Monday.
Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (0-1, 13.50 ERA) recovered from a bruised right middle finger he suffered in the second inning of his first start against the Bosox on Wednesday and will pitch for the Yankees. Kuroda is 1-1 with a 2.40 ERA in his two career starts against the Indians.
The Indians will counter with right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (0-0, 1.50 ERA). Jimenez allowed one run on three hits, walked two and struck six in six innings in his season debut against the Blue Jays in Toronto on Wednesday. He is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 4:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
TIGERS 8, YANKEES 4
The Yankees might be decimated by injuries but manager Joe Girardi figures that in the five seasons he has managed the team that he can always count on his strong bullpen. That is until now.
For a second straight day in Detroit the bullpen imploded in the late innings as Detroit downed New York on a chilly, windy day in front of a paid crowd of 42,453 at Comerica Park.
Phil Hughes (0-1) held the Tigers to one unearned run over the first four innings in his first start of the season after missing all of spring training with a bulging disk in his upper back. However, the Tigers broke a 1-1 tie by batting around against Hughes, Boone Logan and David Phelps, scoring four runs on six hits in the fifth inning.
The injury-depleted Yankee offense responded in the top of the sixth against starter Max Scherzer (1-0) and reliever Al Alburquerque – taking advantage of four walks – scoring three runs Travis Hafner ended Scherzer’s day with an RBI single and Lyle Overbay slapped a hanging slider from Alburquerque for a two-run double.
The Yankees could have scored more runs but after Vernon Wells was initially called safe at first base by umpire Brian O’Nora on a potential line-drive double play off the bat of Brennan Boesch, but home-plate umpire and crew chief Jerry Layne overruled the call.
The Yankees’ real downfall actually began in the bottom of the sixth when Phelps remained in the game.
Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter opened the frame with singles and Miguel Cabrera drew a walk to load the bases. Prince Fielder scored Jackson on a fielder’s choice grounder and Andy Dirks later scored Hunter on a two-out RBI single.
Dirks added a run in the bottom of the eighth on an sacrifice fly that scored Cabrera off Joba Chamberlain, who helped Cabrera reach third by walking Fielder after Cabrera had singled and then uncorking a wild pitch to allow Cabrera to reach third.
The Yankees’ bullpen has now pitched 20 innings in the first five games and they have given up 18 runs (17 earned) on 28 hits and 12 walks for an ERA of 7.65 and a WHIP of 2.00.
Wit the loss the Yankees drop to 1-4. The Tigers are 3-2.
- Vernon Wells drew the Yankees even with a solo home run to left-field leading off the second inning. It was his second home run of the season and Wells is showing that he rediscovered the stroke that saw him hit 32 home runs and drive in 106 runs in 2006 when he was an All-Star outfielder with the Toronto Blue Jays.
- Overbay is proving to a valuable pickup as well. In the first five games, Overbay, 35, was 2-for-4 in the game and is hitting .267 with a pair of two-out, two-run hits this week and he is fielding first base flawlessly in place of 2013 Gold Glove winner Mark Teixeira.
- Though he had a horrible spring, Hafner is also picking it up as the season starts. He was 1-for-3 with an RBI and he is hitting .313. I guess you have to give general manager Brian Cashman credit for picking up some key replacements for the Yankees’ depleted lineup. They seem to be paying early dividends.
- The Yankee bullpen has been a shambles in the early going and it is the real reason why the Yankees are 1-4. Granted, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova and Hughes did not pitch far enough into the first starts but the bullpen has to do much better than it is doing now. The odd thing is that it not just one guy. One day it is Cody Eppley, the next it is Joba Chamberlain and the day after that it is Shawn Kelley. They have to pitch better, period!
- Brett Gardner is 0-for-8 in the first two games of the series and that kind of kills the offense a bit when he can’t get on base to use his legs and disrupt the pitcher. He is hitting .150 and the Yankees need for him to get going with the bat like he did in spring training. Gardner did make a diving catch on a sinking liner off the bat of Victor Martinez that saved two runs in the third inning. So his defense is still great.
- Phelps was excellent last season as a spot starter and reliever but he was awful on Saturday. He gave up two runs on six hits and a walk in 2 2/3 innings of work. His ERA has ballooned to 6.75 and it is hard to figure out why quality pitchers like him in the bullpen are failing.
A day after being struck in the right arm by a pitch from Tigers right-hander Doug Fister, Eduardo Nunez was held out Saturday’s game. But Nunez said it is possible that he could return to the lineup on Sunday. Nunez was helped off the field in the fourth inning but X-rays showed only a bruised right bicep. Jayson Nix started at shortstop on Saturday and was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and he committed an error in the first inning that led to the Tigers scoring an unearned run. . . . Derek Jeter fielded 41 ground balls hit directly to him, took some batting practice and played long toss on Saturday at the team’s minor-league complex in Tampa, FL. Jeter, 38, has been trying to recover from off-season surgery on a fractured left ankle. After suffering a setback in his rehab on March 23 the Yankees have not established a timetable for his return. . . . When the Yankees activated Hughes from the 15-day disabled list on Saturday they optioned right-hander Eppley to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The Yankees will try to salvage the final game of the series against the Tigers on Sunday.
If so, they are going to need for ace left-hander CC Sabathia (0-1, 7.20 ERA) to pitch better than he did in his first start. Sabathia allowed four runs in five innings in a loss against the Red Sox. He is 18-12 with a 4.43 ERA in his career against the Tigers.
He will be opposed by American League Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander (1-0, 0.00 ERA). Verlander pitched five shutout innings against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field to earn his first Opening Day victory in six tries. He is 5-4 with a 3.74 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 1:08 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS and locally by the YES Network.
This is the first of a three-part series on how the New York Yankees’ 2013 roster is shaping up this winter. There will be some changes and we will look at the starting pitching, the bullpen and the starting lineup to see what those changes might involve. This is:
PART1: STARTING PITCHING
Meat cleaver or scalpel?
That is the choice every Major League Baseball general manager ponders over the winter with respect to how to deal with their 2013 rosters.
Teams like the Miami Marlins may believe the meat cleaver approach is the way to go while teams like the Los Angeles Angels are looking to add a piece here and cut out a small piece there with a gentle scalpel.
The New York Yankees and general manager Brian Cashman pretty much have the choice made for them by payroll commitments that restrain what they can or can’t do. Long-term contracts handed out to C.C. Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter plus potential free agency down the road for Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano kind of limits what Cashman can do to repair what needs fixing.
Of course, the criticism of some Yankee fans that the team needs to “get younger” is being counterbalanced by those long-term deals and the signing of veterans like Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki.
Some factors have already played out. Catcher Russell Martin has signed a more lucrative multiyear deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates and it is a certainty that right-fielder Nick Swisher will not return.
We also know that Rodriguez, once again, will be unavailable to play a full season for the Yankees. Hip surgery scheduled for January will shelve the 37-year-old veteran until June at the earliest. That will mean Rodriguez has failed to play a full season with the team since 2007.
So what will Cashman do to address the needs of the team? Let’s look at the roster and see what the Yankees have and what they may need.
There is a huge debate about the Yankee starting pitchers. Though the Yankees won the American League East with Sabathia, Kuroda, Pettitte, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova, there are those who believe it is not strong enough to carry the team to the team’s 28th championship.
Obviously, Cashman disagrees because he re-signed Pettitte and Kuroda. One reason he may have felt it necessary to sign a 37-year-old right-hander and 40-year-old left-hander was because Kuroda and Pettitte pitched well in 2012. Kuroda posted a career-best 16 victories with a 3.32 ERA. Pettitte was 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA in his 12 starts in a season abbreviated by a broken ankle.
Cashman sees Sabathia, Kuroda and Pettitte as the core of the starting staff.
Hughes regained the form that saw him go 18-8 with a 4.19 ERA in 2010. He was 16-13 with a 4.23 ERA. Though he has won 34 games in his first two seasons as a starter and he is only 26 years old, Yankee fans want him to be more consistent. Unfortunately, Hughes is basically a fastball-curveball pitcher lacking a quality third pitch. So without a quality third pitch, Hughes will pretty much stay on the tract he currently is on.
Nova, however, has possibly the best stuff of the staff. When his fastball, curve and slider are right he can be downright nasty. But after an impressive 2011 rookie season that saw him go 16-4 with a 3.40 ERA, Nova took a step backwards in 2012.
Nova was 12-9 with a 5.02 ERA and he gave up a whopping 28 home runs and hitters hit a ridiculously high .288 against him. But the Yankees are not ready to give up on Nova at age 25. Nova still has the capability of being the same guy who was the team’s No. 2 starter in his rookie season. Why demote a guy who is 28-13 in his first major-league 55 starts?
The Yankees also have a insurance policy behind their top five with rookie right-hander David Phelps.
Phelps earned his way on to the team as a long reliever after being named the team’s top pitcher in the minor leagues in 2011 and the best rookie pitcher on the team last spring. He then drew raves for his work out of the bullpen and as spot starter, finishing the season with a 4-4 record and 3.34 ERA in 33 appearances (11 starts). At age 26, Phelps has a future as a starter.
Cashman may add a starter or two to the mix this winter but it is likely they will be along the lines of the Freddy Garcia scrap-heap variety. Yankee fans are dreaming if they are thinking Cashman is going to obtain Justin Verlander or David Price in a trade.
Of course, the prospects for this staff would have been better if Cashman’s major deal of 2012 did not blow up in his face.
The Yankees traded a power-hitting catcher compared as a hitter to Mike Piazza and Manny Ramirez in 22-year-old Jesus Montero to the Seattle Mariners for 23-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda after he posted a 9-10 record with a 3.34 ERA in 2011. Because Montero was such a heralded young prospect, much was expected of Pineda when he arrived at spring training last February.
However, it was pretty apparent that he came to camp severely overweight and the velocity he showed on his fastball in 2011 was missing. After six starts this spring and he was raked like last winter’s leaves to the tune of a 5.68 ERA it became that there was something wrong.
As it turns out, Pineda was forced to undergo arthroscopic surgery for a torn labrum in his right shoulder and he missed all of 2012. Pineda is progressing in his rehab and he hopes to be able to pitch this spring. However, the Yankees are not really counting on Pineda to be able to claim a starting spot this spring. He probably will continue to rehab at the team’s spring complex in Tampa, FL, until he is ready to pitch in a lengthy rehab assignment in the minors.
Pineda could be a big boost to the staff at midseason or he could end up working out in a full season in the minors in order to compete for a starting role in 2014.
The Yankees boasted in 2012 the team’s best minor-league pitching depth they have had in many years. Phelps was among five pitchers the Yankees believed were just on the cusp of possible stardom at the Triple-A level.
Though Phelps succeeded, D.J. Mitchell was traded late in 2012 to the Mariners as the Yankees did with Hector Noesi as part of the Pineda deal. Adam Warren struggled in his only major-league start though he remains a potential starter for the team at age 25.
But the team’s two top pitching prospects had disastrous campaigns in 2012.
Manny Banuelos, 21, made only six starts at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before being shut down with a left elbow injury. He ended up having to undergo Tommy John surgery and he will miss all of the 2013 season.
Meanwhile, Delin Betances, a 24-year-old right-hander, pitched so poorly at Scranton (3-5, 6.39 ERA) he had to be demoted to Double-A Trenton and he was not much better there (3-4, 6.51 ERA). Betances has been unable to harness his control in the minors and he needs to show some significant improvement in 2013 to maintain his prospect status.
The Yankees do have a number of pitchers that could have a long-range impact on the team.
Brett Marshall, 22, was 13-7 with a 3.52 ERA at Trenton in 2012. Though the right-hander has not been labeled as a top prospect, he is similar to Phelps in that he has succeeded at each level he has pitched. He was the Yankees’ best minor league pitcher in 2012.
Lefty Nik Turley, 23, is a tall strike-throwing machine who was 9-5 with a 2.89 ERA at Class-A Tampa. Righty Jose A. Ramirez, 22, was 7-6 with a 3.19 ERA at Tampa. Jose Campos, 20, was acquired along with Pineda in the Montero deal and he could be a real gem.
Campos was 3-0 with a 4.01 ERA in five starts for Class-A Charleston before the right-hander had to be shut down with a minor elbow injury. Campos led the Northwest League in ERA and strikeouts in 2011 and he may end up being more valuable in the long term that Pineda. The Yankees will be watching his progress closely in 2013.
Cashman and the Yankees seem to have a matrimonial allegiance to their pitching staff these days. They pledged their devotion to each other to remain in sickness and in health for as both retain their jobs. But in baseball, there are short honeymoons. The problem will manifest itself if the staff does not do its part.
The Yankees’ pledge to reduce payroll makes it hard for this team to spend a large amount of money on a Plan B. So the Yankees have to really hope that what they have on hand is enough.
NEXT: THE BULLPEN