YANKEES 6, ANGELS 2
Since 2000 there is only one team in baseball that has a winning record against the New York Yankees and it is the Los Angeles Angels led by manager Mike Sciosia. But after what happened to the Angels this weekend, that record will not stand too much longer.
Brett Gardner, Chris Young and Jose Pirela each hit home runs and left-hander CC Sabathia threw six solid innings on Sunday as New York completed its first sweep of Los Angeles in the new Yankee Stadium in front of a paid crowd of 43,178.
The victory allowed the Yankees to extend their winning streak to six games.
Sabathia (3-7) entered the game with a 5.45 ERA and in the first inning he allowed consecutive solo home runs to Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. For Pujols it was the 535th of his career and it allowed him to pass Jimmie Foxx for 17th place on the all-time home run list.
However, Sabathia recovered to retire 17 of the next 20 batters he faced until he was ejected from the game in the sixth by home-plate umpire Dan Bellino for arguing balls and strikes. Bellino subsequently also ejected Yankees manager Joe Girardi.
But relievers Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller combined to pitch three scoreless and hitless innings while striking out five batters to nail down the victory for Sabathia.
Trailing 2-0, the Yankees scored a run off left-hander C.J. Wilson (3-5) in the third inning after Pirela led off with a double, advanced to third on a flyout and scored on a groundout by Didi Gregorius.
The Yankees tied it and later took the lead off Wilson in the fifth when Young led off with his seventh home run of the season and his first since May 2. In fact, Young entered the game mired in a 5-for-46 (.109) slide that dropped his season average from .306 to .220.
One out later, John Ryan Murphy reached on an opposite-field bloop single and Gregorius followed a lined single to right. Gardner then put the Yankees ahead to stay with a long blast to right on a 2-0 fastball. It was Gardner’s fifth home run of the season.
Pirela led off the seventh inning with a deep drive into the left-field bleachers for his first major-league home run and it extended the Yankees’ lead against Wilson and the Angels to 6-2.
Wilson was charged with six runs on seven hits and no walks with eight strikeouts in seven innings. Wilson entered the contest with a 2.44 ERA in 44 1/3 prior innings at the ballpark.
Sabathia, 34, ended his day giving up two runs on five hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in six innings.
However, it was his sixth strikeout in the fifth inning that allowed the veteran left-hander to reach a rare milestone. When he struck out Johnny Giavotella looking for the second out of the fifth, Sabathia became the 31st pitcher in Major League Baseball history to reach 2,500 strikeouts. Sabathia, already baseball’s active leader in strikeouts, also became only the ninth left-hander to reach the mark.
With one out and one on in the sixth inning, Sabathia threw a 1-1 slider to Kole Calhoun that Bellino called a ball. Television replays clearly showed that the ball was over the plate and crossed above Calhoun’s right knee.
On the next pitch, Calhoun rapped into an inning-ending double play. As Sabathia left the mound he asked Bellino where the previous pitch was. Bellino said down and, when Sabathia countered by saying the pitch was not down, Bellino ejected him. Girardi hopped over the dugout railing to get between Bellino and Sabathia to pick up the argument and he also was ejected.
It was Sabathia’s first ejection since 2006 and the first of the season for Girardi.
With their victory, the Yankees are now 32-25 and they maintained their 1 1/2-game lead over the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Angels have now dropped five straight games and they are 28-29.
- You have to give Sabathia credit for keeping his composure after allowing two first-inning home runs. It was his first victory since May 16 against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium and his first at Yankee Stadium since Sept. 20, 2013. There is no doubt that Sabathia is no longer the ace that he was. But he proved on Sunday that he can provide the Yankees with quality starts.
- Gardner’s three-run blast was his first home run since he launched another three-run blast on May 25 against right-hander Jeremy Guthrie to cap an eight-run first inning against the Royals at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees won that game 14-1. Gardner was a pain in the Angels’ backsides the entire series. He had hits in each game and was 5-for-13 (.385) with a walk, a triple, a homer and five RBIs. Gardner had been slumping ever since taking over for the injured Jacoby Ellsbury in the leadoff spot on May 20.
- Pirela, 25, has always been considered the best pure hitter among all the team’s prospects. That is why it was odd after he batted .305 in 2014 in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and he hit well in spring training that he only was hitting .200 on May 25. Since then, Pirela is 5-for-11 (.455) and has raised his season average to .268. Pirela was 2-for-3 with a double, a homer, two runs scored and an RBI. He still is very weak defensively, but with Stephen Drew batting .168 he deserves to start against left-handers as he did on Sunday.
Former Gold Glove winner Chase Headley committed his 13th error of the season in the third inning. However, it was later erased by a boneheaded attempt to move up to second base by Trout on a fly ball to right by David Freese. Beltran caught the fly and threw out Trout at second before Erick Aybar could cross home plate, which means his run did not count. So the way I look at it there is nothing to really complain about because the Angels were outsmarted and outscored in the series 22-11. (Right-hander Esmil Rogers handed them five of those runs on a platter in Friday’s nail-bitter.)
Fresh off their two consecutive series sweeps of the Seattle Mariners and the Angels, the Yankees will take Monday off before opening a two-game home series with the Washington Nationals on Tuesday.
Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (3-1, 2.76 ERA) will make his second start after being activated from the disabled list. Tanaka was brilliant in limiting the Mariners to one run on three hits with no walks and six strikeouts in seven sharp innings of a 3-1 victory on Wednesday.
The Nationals will counter with right-hander Max Scherzer (6-4, 1.85 ERA). Scherzer is coming offa loss to the Toronto Blue Jays last Tuesday in which he was touched for four runs on six hits and two walks with five strikeouts in six innings.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
ROYALS 6, YANKEES 0
Edinson Volquez threw seven shutout innings and Salvador Perez homered and drove in two runs as Kansas City blanked New York on Sunday to take the three-game series at Kauffman Stadium.
Volquez (3-3) yielded just three hits, issued no walks and fanned five.
Perez opened the scoring for the Royals with a solo home run with one out in the second inning off left-hander Chris Capuano (0-1), who was making his season debut after coming off the disabled list earlier in the day from a right quad strain.
The Royals added three runs in the fourth off Capuano and right-hander Esmil Rogers on consecutive RBI hits by Kendrys Morales, Perez and Omar Infante.
Capuano was charged with four runs on four hits and two walks with four strikeouts in 3-plus innings.
The loss dropped the Yankees’ season record to 22-17, but they remain a game ahead of the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Royals improved to 24-14.
There were no positives at all for the Yankees.
- The right elbow injury to Chase Whitley forced the Yankees to rush Capuano from his minor-league rehab and it appears he is going to have to build back his stamina. He did look fine in his first three innings but he began the fourth with back-to-back walks to Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer, which led to the three-run inning.
- It appears that beginning on May 12 the Yankees have fallen back into their offensive woes of 2013 and 2014. In their past six games they have lost five of them and they scored only six runs in those games. Part of the issue is the Yankees have been placed on a killer schedule of 30 games in 31 days with most of those on the road. This team needs rest and they need to get back home to get the offense going again.
- The Yankees are going to have to make a decision soon about Stephen Drew. He was 0-for-4 and is batting .177 on the season. When a team is struggling to score runs he sticks out like a sore thumb. His days in pinstripes may be numbered if he does not turn it around like right now.
First baseman Mark Teixeira left the game in the seventh inning with a right big toe contusion. X-rays taken after the game were negative for a fracture. Teixeira was hit on the right foot by a 3-0 pitch from Volquez in the fourth inning but remained in the game until Garrett Jones replaced him defensively in the seventh. Teixeira said he plans to play in the Yankees’ next game on Tuesday. . . . When the Yankees activated Capuano, 36, from the disabled list on Sunday the team optioned right-hander Bryan Mitchell back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Mitchell, 24, was recalled on Saturday but did not appear in a game.
The Yankees will get a much needed day of rest on Monday before opening a series with the Washington Nationals on Monday at Nationals Park.
Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (3-1, 4.14 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Eovaldi suffered his first loss last Monday against the Rays, surrendering four runs on six hits and two walks with six strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings.
He will be opposed by left-hander Gio Gonzalez (3-2, 4.25 ERA). Gonzalez did not get a decision on Tuesday in giving up five runs on nine hits and two walks with three strikeouts in five innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
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 5, ROYALS 1
In the not-so-distant past the Yankees leaned upon CC Sabathia as an ace who could always end a long losing streak. So Saturday was like a casual stroll down memory lane as Sabathia helped his team end a four-game skid.
Sabathia yielded just one run in seven strong innings and Chase Headley blasted a two-out, three-run home run in the fifth inning to break a 1-1 tie as New York evened their three-game series with Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium.
Sabathia (2-5) limited the hot-hitting Royals to just six hits with no walks and five strikeouts to win his second consecutive start after beginning the season 0-5.
“Hopefully I can just keep this going,” Sabathia told reporters. “I feel good, I’ve got no problems. Hopefully I can just keep going out there and give us a chance to win.”
The Yankees managed a run off left-hander Danny Duffy (2-3) in the third inning and it was scored without the benefit of a hit. Duffy walked Jacoby Ellsbury, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira to load the bases with one out. Carlos Beltran then delivered a sacrifice fly to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead.
But the Royals replied in the bottom of the inning. Omar Infante singled, Paulo Orlando reached on a bunt single and Alcides Escobar loaded the bases with a hard-hit single to center. Mike Moustakas then tied the game with a sacrifice fly to score Infante.
The Yankees then managed to get to a struggling Duffy with two out in the fifth. Teixeira and Beltran each singled and Headley followed by driving a 3-2 change-up from Duffy into the left-field bleachers for his fifth home run of the season.
“We’ve had opportunities and we just haven’t driven anybody in,” Headley told reporters. “That’s going to happen throughout the course of the season. Tonight, it was nice to be able to come through with that swing.”
Duffy was charged with four runs on four hits and four walks with three strikeouts in five innings.
Sabathia, with help from right-hander Dellin Betances in the eighth inning and left-hander Andrew Miller in the ninth, held the Royals scoreless the rest of the way. The Royals did not have a base-runner reach base after Moustakas reached on a fielding error by Jose Pirela with one in the ninth.
Sabathia, Betances and Miller combined to mow down the final 14 batters they faced and only three balls reached the outfield – none of them after the sixth inning.
Rodriguez clubbed the 664th home run of his career and his 10th of the season with one out in the ninth inning off veteran right-hander Joe Blanton.
With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 22-16 and they extended their lead in the American League East over the second-place Tampa Bay Rays to two games. The Royals dropped to 23-14.
- In his first six starts, Sabathia was 0-5 with a 5.45 ERA. In his past two starts, he is 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA. Sabathia, 34, has allowed just four earned runs on 12 hits and two walks with 14 strikeouts in 14 innings. It appears Sabathia has been able to mix in his change-up more to keep right-handed hitters off his fastball. He also has developed much better command of all his pitches and he is keeping batters off balance. He needed only 85 pitches to get through seven innings on Saturday.
- It is no secret that Headley has been struggling at the plate this season. He came in batting only .229 with four homers and 14 RBIs. But if Headley, 31, can somehow get more consistent at the plate he could be a big help to the lower part of the batting order. Headley hit .262 with six homers and 17 RBIs in 58 games with the Yankees last season. He already has five homers and 17 RBIs in 38 games this season.
- Beltran, 38, was 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI and it extends what has been a very hot May at the plate for the veteran outfielder. After batting a miserable .162 with no home runs and seven RBIs in April, Beltran is hitting .327 with two homers and nine RBIs halfway through May.
After losing four in a row, including a 12-1 drubbing by the Royals on Friday, it was good to see Sabathia throwing so well against what has been a hot-hitting club. Headley’s big home run came with two out and a two-strike count. That clutch hit gave Sabathia all he needed to beat the Royals. No complaints here.
Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will travel with the Yankees to Washington, DC, on Monday and throw a third bullpen session. If all goes well, Tanaka, 26, could be sent out on a minor-league rehab assignment. Tanaka has been on the 15-day disabled list since April 29 with tendinitis in his right wrist and a strained right forearm. . . . The Yankees on Saturday recalled right-hander Bryan Mitchell from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and optioned right-hander Jose Ramirez to the same club. Ramirez, 24, was charged with four runs on three hits and two walks in an inning against the Royals on Friday. Mitchell, 24, was 2-3 with a 4.26 ERA in seven starts with the RailRiders.
The Yankees will have an opportunity to win the rubber game of the three-game series with the Royals on Sunday.
Left-hander Chris Capuano, 36, will make his season debut with the Yankees and his first start. Capuano suffered an injured right quad in his second start in spring training on March 11. The Yankees re-signed the veteran after he posted a 2-3 record with a 4.25 ERA in 12 starts with the team last season.
He will be opposed by right-hander Edinson Volquez (2-3, 3.19 ERA), who is coming off a rough outing against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday. Volquez, 31, gave up four runs on six hits and three walks with three strikeouts in a no-decision.
Game-time will be 2:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 4, ROYALS 2
In his major-league debut on May 15 against the New York Mets, Chase Whitley drew high praise from former Atlanta Braves right-hander John Smoltz, who was providing color commentary of the game for the MLB Network. After the way the rookie pitched against the Royals on Friday, now Yankee fans can see what Smoltz noticed.
Whitley pitched seven solid innings in his longest start of his career and he went on to earn his first major-league victory behind the hitting of Brian McCann as New York edged Kansas City in front of a paid crowd of 23,418 at Kauffman Stadium.
Whitley (1-0) yielded two runs on five hits, did not walk a batter and struck out three in his first outing to last more than five innings. Whitley threw 51 strikes out of 87 pitches for a 59 percent strike ratio, keeping the Royals off balance with his fastball, slider and change-up.
Meanwhile, the Yankees were able to break a 1-1 tie in the third inning, keyed by a one-out, bases-loaded, three-run double off the bat of McCann.
Jacoby Ellsbury opened the inning with a single up the middle off veteran right-hander Jeremy Guthrie (2-6). Brett Gardner then looped an opposite-field single into left and – one out later – Guthrie brushed the right shoulder of Mark Teixeira with a pitch to load the bases.
McCann then stroked an outside fastball into the left-field corner to clear the bases and hand Whitley and the Yankees a 4-1 lead.
Guthrie was charged with four runs on six hits and one walk while he fanned two in seven innings of work. He has now winless in his past 11 starts dating back to April 9.
Dellin Betances tossed a scoreless eighth and David Robertson threw a scoreless ninth to earn his 14th save in 16 chances this season.
The Yankees took an 1-0 lead in the second inning when Teixeira led off by lining a single to right off Guthrie. Yangervis Solarte drew a one-out walk and Brian Roberts provided a two-out RBI single to center to score Teixeira.
However, the Royals were able to tie it up in the bottom of the second when Alex Gordon laced a one-out double into the right-field corner and Salvador Perez followed with an RBI single to left.
The Royals did close to within two runs in the fifth when Gordon led off the frame with a single and stole second. One out later, Lorenzo Cain bounced a ball into left-center that he was able to hustle into a double.
However, Whitley ended the threat by retiring Mike Moustakas on a groundout and Alcides Escobar on a flyout.
The 24-year-old was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on May 15 as the Yankees lost starters CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda to injury in quick succession. The converted reliever did not get a decision in his previous four starts despite the fact he is sporting an excellent 2.42 ERA.
With the victory the Yankees have won two in a row and they improved their season record to 31-29. They also were able to pass the Baltimore Orioles to claim second place in the American League East six games behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays. The Royals, who have now lost 21 of the past 31 games to the Yankees at Kauffman Stadium, fell to 29-32.
- Whitley may end up being more than just a fill-in starter until Sabathia and Pineda are expected to return in July. His first five starts – and particularly this one – prove that Whitley deserves to stay in the rotation as long he continues to pitch this well. David Phelps is 1-3 with a 4.19 ERA in six starts and Vidal Nuno is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in nine starts as replacements. Whitley has simply been more impressive as a starter than they have, period.
- McCann has been a major disappointment at the plate this season after entering the season as a career .275 hitter with 20 or more homers in the past six seasons. But his big three-run double showed he is willing to hit the ball where it is pitched to beat the extreme shifts teams play on him. Since May 27, McCann is quietly resurrecting his hitting. He is 14-for-33 (.424) in that span to raise his season average to .231.
- Roberts entered the game in a 1-for-14 (.071) funk that dates back to May 31. But his two-out RBI single gave the Yankees an early 1-0 lead. The Yankees have been really disappointed with the production they have gotten from the free agents (Ellsbury, McCann, Roberts, Carlos Beltran and Kelly Johnson) they signed this past winter. They all need to really start picking it up soon.
After the team went through a horrendous four-game losing streak while the Blue Jays were red hot, they finally seem to have some life back in them. So after getting a huge victory out a pitcher they had not planned to use at all this season things may be finally falling into place. It’s about time, too.
The Yankees will continue their four-game series with the Royals on Saturday.
Phelps (1-3, 4.11 ERA) will start for the Yankees. The right-hander is coming off his worst start of the season on Monday against the Seattle Mariners. He was tagged for six runs on six hits and three walks in six-plus innings.
The Royals will start left-hander Danny Duffy (3-5, 3.05 ERA). The converted reliever will be making his seventh start and he is 2-4 with a 3.27 ERA in those starts. He shut out the St. Louis Cardinals on one hit and one walk while striking out five in six innings on Monday.
Game-time will be 7:15 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by FOX Sports.
YANKEES 4, ROYALS 2
If winning games is fun then the New York Yankees’ charter plane to Cleveland must be a barrel of laughs.
Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells each homered and drove in two runs and Hiroki Kuroda pitched into the eighth inning as the New York swept the three-game series against Kansas City and extended their winning steak to five games in front of 29,515 fans at Kauffman Stadium.
Kuroda (5-2) collected his third victory in his past four outings, limiting the Royals to two runs on six hits and one walk while he struck out one batter in 7 2/3 innings.
Meanwhile, Cano gave the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the day in the third inning.
With the Yankees trailing 1-0, Chris Stewart stroked a one-out single to left and, one batter later, Cano connected with the first offering from Royals right-hander Ervin Santana (3-2) on a two-run blast into the bleachers in right-field for his 10th home run of the season.
Cano was using a pink bat as part of Major League Baseball effort to bring awareness on Mother’s Day for breast cancer research and an eventual cure.
Right after Cano gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead, Wells laced a 1-0 fastball from Santana down the line into the left-field bleachers for his ninth home run of the season.
Wells added another run for the Yankees in the fifth. Brett Gardner slapped a one-out opposite-field double to left. One out later, Wells singled to left to plate Gardner.
Santana gave up four runs on eight hits and he fanned four in 6 1/3 innings.
The Royals scored both their runs off Kuroda on the strength of leadoff doubles.
Jarrod Dyson led off the first inning with a double down the right-field line and he advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt off the bat of Alcides Escobar. He then scored on a sacrifice fly by Alex Gordon.
Elliot Johnson led off the eighth with a double off the wall in right-center. He advanced to third on a flyout to deep center by Dyson and he scored on an infield groundout off the bat of Escobar.
After the Royals drew to within two runs, Gordon doubled off Kuroda. Manager Joe Girardi replaced Kuroda with right-hander David Robertson, who retired Billy Butler on a routine flyout to end the Royals’ threat.
Mariano Rivera came in to pitch a scoreless ninth to save his 14th game in 14 tries this season and it was his 28th consecutive save against the Royals, which dates back to the 1998 season.
With the victory the Yankees are now 22-9 since April 7 and they remain in first place in the American League East one game in front of the Baltimore Orioles with a 22-13 season mark. The Royals, who have now lost six of their past seven games, are now 18-16.
- Cano is way ahead of his home-run pace of 2012, a year in which he set a career high with 33 home runs. Cano leads the team in batting (.311), runs scored (22), doubles (10), home runs (10) and RBIs (23).
- Wells hit only nine home runs in 77 games with the Los Angels Angels last season. Wells is second on the club in batting (.295), runs scored (19), home runs (9) and RBIs (20).
- Kuroda pitched another gem to become the first Yankee starter to win five games. Kuroda also leads all Yankee starters in ERA (2.31) and Walks To Innings Pitched (WHIP) (1.05).
- Though the Yankees’ No. 9 through No. 4 hitters were a combined 9 for 19 (.474), the No. 5 through No. 8 hitters were a combined 0-for-16 against Santana and relievers Tim Collins and Greg Holland.
- Third baseman Chris Nelson was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and since he has joined the Yankees on May 4 he is 5-for-29 (.172) with no home runs and two RBIs in eight games.
- Jayson Nix was 4-for 6 with two walks in the first two games of the series but on Sunday he was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. When he did reach base on a two-base throwing error by Mike Moustakas in the fourth inning he was doubled up off second after Nelson lined out on a diving catch by Dyson in center-field.
The Yankees on Sunday elected to place shortstop Eduardo Nunez (left ribcage tightness) on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 6 and he will be eligible to activated on May 20. To replace Nunez on the roster the Yankees bought the contract of infielder Alberto Gonzalez from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Gonzalez, 30, previously played for the Yankees from 2006 through 2007 after being acquired as part of the Randy Johnson trade from the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was acquired from the Chicago Cubs last week in a trade for a player to be named later. He is career .241 hitter and also has played with with the Nationals, Padres and Rangers. . . . Right-hander Ivan Nova experienced discomfort in his right side while throwing at the team’s complex in Tampa, FL, and he will not be activated from the 15-day disabled list on Monday. Nova, who has been on the disabled list with inflammation in his right triceps, was being considered for a start in the team’s doubleheader on Monday. It is unclear how long Nova will remain on the DL. . . . Reliever Joba Chamberlain three 30 pitches in a bullpen session at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday and he is scheduled to pitch in a minor-league rehab game for Scranton on Tuesday. Chamberlain has been on the disabled list since April 28 with a right oblique strain. . . . Chamberlain and Rivera apologized to each other on Sunday after a intense shouting match erupted between the two on Saturday. Rivera was conducting an interview with reporters in the dugout during batting practice while Chamberlain apparently was shouting up to family members in the stands. Rivera asked Chamberlain to be quiet and Chamberlain took exception to it. Both players said it was an exchange in the heat of the moment and all has been forgiven.
The red-hot but limping Yankees will be in Cleveland on Monday for day-night doubleheader as part of a makeup of two rained out games against the Indians on May 10 and May 11.
The Yankees will open the doubleheader with right-hander David Phelps (1-1, 5.02 ERA). Phelps, 26, is coming off a six-inning no-decisoon against the Colorado Rockies in which he yielded two runs on three hits and a walk while striking out four. Phelps is making his third start of the season but he has never faced the Indians.
The Indians will counter with ace right-hander Justin Masterson (5-2. 3.67 ERA). Masterson is 2-2 with a 5.91 in his past five starts after starting the season 3-0 with a 0.41 ERA. Masterson is 3-3 with a 3,00 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 12:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
Rookie left-hander Vidal Nuno (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will make his first major-league start in the second game. Nuno, 25, has pitched only once for the Yankees, tossing three shutout innings against the Houston Astros on April 29. Nuno was 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA in four starts at Scranton before he was recalled on April 28.
Nuno will be opposed by right-hander Trevor Bauer (1-1, 2.78 ERA). Bauer is being called up from Triple-A Columbus to make this start. He is 1-0 with a 2.55 ERA in four outings at Columbus.
Game-time will be determined and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 3, ROYALS 2
A pitcher losing command of one of his best pitches is like a skilled surgeon trying to work without a scalpel. But that is what happened to Andy Pettitte in his two previous starts. He did not have a feel for his signature cutter.
But he certainly rediscovered it on Saturday as he pitched seven strong innings and struck out seven batters while Vernon Wells backed him up with a two-run home run in the fifth inning that turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead as New York edged Kansas City in front of 30,910 fans at Kauffman Stadium.
Pettitte (4-2) settled into a groove after allowing Billy Butler to break a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the fourth inning with a leadoff home run to center-field. After that Pettitte gave up a two-out single to Alcides Escobar and walked Lorenzo Cain in the fifth. But he ended that threat by retiring Alex Gordon on a groundout.
The 40-year-old left-hander gave up two runs on five hits and walk and retired 12 of the last 14 hitters he faced to pick up his first victory since April 19.
Meanwhile, the Yankees took advantage of a big mistake by James Shields (2-3) to take control of the game.
Shields hit Chris Stewart on the left triceps on a 1-2 pitch as Stewart led off the fifth. Two batters later, Wells ripped a 3-1 fastball into the left-field seats for his eighth home run of the season that gave the Yankees a lead they would not surrender the rest of the way.
Shields gave up three runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks and he fanned five in eight innings of work.
David Robertson pitched in the eighth and struck out the side for the Yankees.
Mariano Rivera came on in the ninth and gave up a two-out double to Salvador Perez. But he retired Mike Moustakas on a flyout to Wells in left to earn his 14th save in as many chances this season.
The save for Rivera was also the 70th time in his career he has saved a game started by Pettitte, which is the most for any starter and closer tandem in major-league history.
The Yankees actually took advantage of an error on a throwing error by Moustakas in the third inning to take an early 1-0 lead.
Chris Nelson opened the inning by lacing a double down the left-field line. Two outs later, Robinson Cano slapped a bouncing ball to the left of Moustakas. The Royals’ third baseman dove, got up and threw high and wide of first base to allow Nelson to score from second.
The Royals manufactured a run of off Pettitte in bottom of the third to tie it.
Elliot Johnson reached on a swinging bunt down the third-base line and he later stole second. He advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a groundout off the bat of Cain.
The Yankees extended their current winning streak to four games and they are now 14-4 this season in games decided by two runs or less.
The victory also allowed the Yankees to claim full possession of first place in the American League East with a record of 22-13. The Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles are a full game out in second place. The Royals, who have now lost five of their past six games, are 18-15.
- In his last two starts, Pettitte was hammered for 11 runs (10 earned) on 14 hits and five walks in 9 1/3 innings. On Saturday, he looked more like the pitcher who was 3-1 with a 2.22 ERA before those two dreadful outings. Pettitte had command of the cutter and he mixed his curve and slider to keep the Royals’ batters off balance all evening. The Yankees’ top four starters, Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda, CC Sabathia, and Phil Hughes, are a combined 14-9 this season.
- Wells was 0-for-5 in Friday’s 11-run, 16-hit explosion against the Royals but he bounced back nicely in this game. Wells is currently second on the team with a .281 batting average and has eight home runs and 18 RBIs on the season. It is going to be difficult for manager Joe Girardi to bench him when Curtis Granderson is activated form the disabled list this month.
- Robertson came out the bullpen firing seeds in the eighth inning. Robertson needed only 12 pitches to strike out Escobar and Cain looking and Gordon swinging. In his past four outings, Robertson has not give up a run or a hit and he has walked one while striking out eight in 4 1/3 innings.
How can you complain when the team got a great effort out of Pettitte and the bullpen? Wells hit a timely home run and the Yankees took sole possession of first place. Who said this team would be awful because of all of the injuries they suffered? Not me.
Shortstop Eduardo Nunez missed his sixth straight game because he was unable to shake nagging discomfort in his left ribcage and the Yankees may have to place him on the 15-day disabled list if he is unable to play by Monday’s doubleheader in Cleveland against the Indians. Nunez told trainer Steve Donohue on Saturday that he still is feeling pain when he is doing fielding drills.
The Yankees can use their big broom and sweep the Royals in the three-game series finale on Sunday.
Kuroda (4-2, 3.20 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Kuroda, 38, limited the Colorado Rockies to two runs on seven hits in seven innings but took the loss on Tuesday because the Yankees were blanked. The veteran right-hander is 0-2 with a 4.66 ERA in his career against Kansas City.
The Royals will start former Angels right-hander Ervin Santana (3-1, 2.36 ERA). Santana surrendered three runs on seven hits and one walk in six innings of a no-decision against the Orioles on Tuesday. He is 5-6 with a 5.90 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 2:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 11, ROYALS 6
It is getting to the point that Yankee fans may forget their injured first baseman Mark Teixeira because his replacement Lyle Overbay is doing so well in his absence.
Overbay was 4-for-5 with a home run, two doubles and five RBIs on Friday to lead 16-hit attack as New York outslugged Kansas City in front of a paid crowd of 24,521 at Kauffman Stadium.
Though starter Phil Hughes (2-2) was staked to 4-0 and 5-3 leads, he was unable to hold onto it in the fifth inning when Alex Gordon followed back-to-back bloop one-out singles by Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain with a two-run double just over the outstretched glove of left-fielder Vernon Wells on the warning track to tie the game at 5-5.
However, the Yankees had already scored five runs off former Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Wade Davis (2-3) on a pair of two-run home runs by Ichiro Suzuki and Overbay in the second inning and an RBI double off the bat of Overbay in the fourth.
So the Yankees opened the sixth with a double off the right-field wall by Suzuki and a soft lined single to center by Jayson Nix that advanced Suzuki to third and chased Davis from the game.
Royals manager Ned Yost replaced Davis with left-hander Bruce Chen and Overbay greeted him with a double off the top of the wall in center-field that scored Suzuki that broke the 5-5 tie and gave the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the night.
Chris Nelson followed with a two-run single to right, his first RBIs as a member of the Yankees.
The Yankees went on to bat around against Chen and add two more runs in the inning to extend the lead to 10-5 and dash any hopes the Royals might have had about another rally.
Hughes was the winner despite giving up a three-run home run to Jarrod Dyson in the second inning – which broke Hughes’ 22-inning homerless streak entering the contest – and a solo shot to Mike Moustakas in the sixth.
Hughes gave up six runs on seven hits, two walks and one hit batter while he struck three in 5 2/3 innings.
But the Yankees pounded Davis for seven runs on seven hits and two walks while he fanned three in five-plus innings of work.
The No. 5, 6 and 7 hitters for the Yankees – Suzuki, Nix and Overbay – combined to go 9-for-13 (.692) with two home runs, four doubles, eight runs scored and seven RBIs.
With the Yankees’ bullpen short because Preston Claiborne, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera were unavailable to pitch, the team got a strong effort out of right-hander Shawn Kelley.
Kelley pitched 2 1/3 perfect innings and struck out six of the seven batters he faced. Boone Logan pitched a perfect ninth to close out the game.
The Yankees’ victory was their third in a row and gave Joe Girardi his 500th triumph as manager of the Yankees.
The Yankees also improved to 21-13, which keeps them percentage points ahead of the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles in first place in the American League East. The Royals dropped to 18-14.
- Considering that when he signed a huge contract with the Toronto Blue Jays and was later sarcastically nicknamed “Lyle Overpaid” when he did not deliver big numbers there and he was released this season in the last week of spring training by the Red Sox, Overbay should have the moniker “Lyle Underpaid” with the Yankees. All Overbay has done in 32 games (29 starts) is hit .264 with six home runs and 20 RBIs. Oh, he has committed only one error at first base while flashing Gold Glove-caliber defense at the position. Geesh! What a pickup for general manager Brian Cashman.
- Suzuki entered the contest hitting .372 at Kauffman Stadium, which is the highest average for any opposing hitter in history. Well, he raised that average by going 3-for-5 with his second home run of the season, a double, a single, a stolen base, three runs scored and two RBIs. In his past nine games, Suzuki is 12-for-33 (.364) which has raised his season average from .247 to .282.
- Kelley was absolutely sensational when he came out the bullpen in the sixth inning. Of his six strikeouts, four were swinging and he struck out the first five batters he faced. After being hammered for 10 earned runs on 13 hits and four walks in 10 1/3 innings of work over nine appearances through May 4, Kelley has not been scored upon his last three outings covering 4 1/3 innings. In that span he has fanned nine batters, mostly on his devastating slider.
- Hughes pitched aggressively against the Royals, throwing first-pitch strikes to 22 of the 26 batters he faced. However, the Royals were able to catch up with his fastball and hit him hard. After pitching brilliantly in his last four starts in which his ERA was 1.93 and he won only one of those starts, Hughes was hammered for six runs and yet he won because the Yankees backed him with a lot of run support. Go figure!
- The Royals’ pitchers must have really wanted to bear down on Wells and designated hitter Travis Hafner. The two combined to go 0-for-9 on a night the team scored 11 runs and knocked out 16 hits. Fortunately for the Yankees, the rest of the lineup was 16-for-34 (.471), which more than made up for Wells and Hafner.
The Yankees held shortstop Eduardo Nunez out of a fourth straight game but he was available to the team in an emergency. Nunez, who has been slowed by tightness in his left ribcage, could be available to start on Saturday if he suffers no setbacks throwing and taking batting practice on Saturday. . . . Curtis Granderson homered on Friday in his second rehab game with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Granderson, who was 1-for-5 in the game, hit his home run in the eighth inning. Granderson started the game in left-field and batted second. The 32-year-old outfielder has been on the 15-day disabled list with a fractured left forearm and he could be activated within the next 10 days. . . . Because Kauffman Stadium was the scene where Rivera suffered a torn ACL in his right knee on May 5 last season, some of the Yankees decided to have a little fun with the 43-year-old future Hall-of-Famer. Some teammates drew a chalk outline of Rivera on the warning track and placed a sign on the outfield wall lined with stop signs and yellow tape that read “No Mo Zone.” When Rivera strolled out to look at it he laughed and he intends to keep the sign.
The Yankees will continue their weekend series with the Royals on Saturday.
The Yankees will start veteran left-hander Andy Pettitte (3-2, 4.06 ERA), who yielded four runs (three earned) on four hits and four walks in five innings on Sunday against the Oakland Athletics. But he loves Kansas City because he is 9-2 with a 3.72 ERA in the past 10 seasons against the Royals.
The Royals will counter with the second former Rays right-hander in a row in James Shields (2-2, 2.52 ERA). Shields threw eight shutout innings against the Chicago White Sox on Monday but he lost a victory when the bullpen allowed the Chisox to rally for a 2-1 victory in 11 innings. Shields in 7-14 with a 4.56 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
PART 2: THE BULLPEN:
The Yankees figured to have a strong bullpen as they entered the 2012 season. Perhaps the best in baseball.
Of course, having the best closer baseball has ever seen and will see in Mariano Rivera was a large part of that strength. However, in 2012 Rivera was not a big part of the team’s success.
Everybody remembers that day at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City last May when “Mo” tried to shag a ball he should not have and tore his MCL in his left knee. He later had surgery and missed the rest of the season.
But the Yankee bullpen was rescued by a fluke signing of Rafael Soriano in 2011 over the objections of general manager Brian Cashman. Nonetheless, the Yankee brass overruled Cashman and signed the former Tampa Bay Rays closer coming off a 2010 season in which he saved 45 games and a had a 1.73 ERA.
That deal looked wasted in 2011 when Soriano pitched in mediocrity and then injured his elbow before finishing with just two saves and a 4.12 ERA. He was baseball’s most expensive seventh inning pitcher in history.
In 2012, he saved the bullpen by stepping in for Rivera and notching 42 saves in 46 opportunities with a sparkling 2.26 ERA. Many thought that with Rivera gone that the Yankees would sink in the American League East. But Soriano proved them wrong.
It is no wonder that Soriano elected to opt out of his contract and seek a closer’s role of his own as a free agent. The Yankees might have panicked to find a suitable closer for 2013 had Rivera not decided to come back for one last hurrah.
Indications are Rivera will be ready to go when spring camps open in February. Rivera, 43, was 1-1 with a 2.16 ERA and five saves in six chances when he went down in 2012. In 2011, he was 1-2 with a 1.91 ERA and 44 saves in 49 opportunities. So as long as Rivera’s knee is sound, the Yankees will have no worries about their closer in 2013.
With Soriano gone, it would seem to be an issue if the Yankees did not have David Robertson, who was an American League All-Star selection in 2011 with a 4-0 record and 1.08 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings. In 2012, Robertson got off to a slow start with a ankle injury suffered in spring training.
He later had to be placed on the disabled list at midseason in May with an oblique strain. He simply was not the same pitcher early in the season as he was in 2011. But in the second half, Robertson flashed his old form. After a brief and unsuccessful trial as a closer he was shifted back to his eighth inning role and he flourished again.
He was 2-7 with a 2.67 ERA but he was finally his old self by late August and for the September stretch run. At age 27, Robertson becomes a very valuable pitcher for the Yankees with the departure of Soriano. Robertson will also have to adapt to close on days Rivera is unable to pitch. The Yankees do not seem worried about it though.
Behind these two hard-throwing relievers, the Yankees will seek to build another strong bullpen with a pair of similarly hard-throwing veterans in right-hander Joba Chamberlain and left-hander Boone Logan.
Chamberlain, 27, missed most of the 2011 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He missed the start of the 2012 season after suffering a break of his right ankle in a trampoline accident in Tampa, FL. He was 1-0 with a 4.35 ERA in 20 2/3 innings over 22 appearances late in the season.
He returns in 2013 without injury and seeking to regain the consistency he enjoyed in 2011 when he was 2-0 with a 2.83 ERA before he injured his elbow. If he does the Yankees will not miss Soriano at all. Chamberlain figures to be the logical choice to pitch most in the seventh inning. If he measures up to the challenge the Yankees’ bullpen will again be very strong.
Logan, 28, has been the unsung hero of this bullpen for a long time.
Sure he can be erratic at times. But he also has now put together three very good seasons with the Yankees. Miscast as a lefty specialist for two seasons, he was able to step out of that role in 2012 and post a pretty good season.
He was 7-2 with a 3.74 ERA and held opponents to a .234 batting average. The elevated ERA was largely due to the fact that he was pressed into service more than he had in the past and the additional innings caught up to him. He pitched in a league-high 80 games and manager Joe Girardi would like to cut that down to a more realistic 60 to 65 in 2013.
But with Chamberlain, Robertson and Rivera on the disabled list at one point last season, Logan pitched in a lot of games he would not have pitched in normally. A healthy bullpen should make him more effective as well as additional man to pitch in the seventh inning.
Girardi was able to cobble together a pair of specialists out of left-hander Clay Rapada and right-hander Cody Eppley and he was very pleased with the results he got from them.
Rapada, 31, was 3-0 with a 2.82 ERA. But against lefties he was plain nasty. They hit just .186 off him and he looks to have an inside track on keeping that role in 2013.
Eppley, who was picked up off waivers from the Texas Rangers early in 2012, turned into an effective pitcher against right-handers. He had a 1.93 ERA against righties and they hit just .227 against him. The 27-year-old veteran was 1-2 with a 3.33 ERA overall and he earned Girardi’s trust as the season progressed.
Depth in 2013 does not look to be an issue. There are a number of candidates to challenge for spots in 2013.
David Phelps, 26, is thought of primarily as a starter based on his success in the minor leagues. But he could settle into a long reliever/spot starter in 2013, the role he largely held in his rookie season as he compiled a 4-4 mark with a 3.34 ERA in 33 appearances (11 starts).
Phelps will get a chance to crack the 2013 starting rotation in the spring but he only likely will have a chance if there is an injury or Ivan Nova continues to pitch poorly. Long relief looks to be a good bet or he could be sent back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to keep him stretched out as a starter as an insurance policy on what is a veteran starting rotation.
The Yankees signed free-agent right-hander David Aardsma last season even though they knew he was recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Aardsma, 30, saved 38 games in 2009 and 31 games in 2010 for the Seattle Mariners before he injured his elbow.
He pitched in only one game for the Yankees late last season but the Yankees saw enough renew his contract option for 2013. So Aardsma could very well win a spot in the Yankees bullpen this spring if he regains his hard-throwing dominant arsenal. Aardsma could be helpful both in the middle innings or as a late-inning option for Robertson and Rivera when they are unavailable to pitch.
The Yankees also have a veteran right-hander in Jim Miller, 30, who was 2-1 with a 2.59 ERA in 33 appearances with the Oakland Athletics last season. Miller oddly is tougher on lefties than he is on righties. Lefties hit just .136 off him in 2012 while righties solved him to the tune of .283. The Yankees will see how he fits in this spring.
Cesar Cabral, a 2012 Rule 5 draft acquisition, spent the entire season on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his left elbow as he was competing for the lefty specialist role with Rapada last spring. After compiling a 3-4 record and a 2.95 ERA in the minors 2011 with 70 strikeouts in 55 innings, Cabral will get a chance to display his power stuff this spring with a chance of supplanting Rapada or earning a spot as a third lefty in the bullpen. Cabral is only 23 and he has a high ceiling as a reliever.
The Yankees do have some interesting young reliever candidates in their minor-league system but most of them have to be considered as longshots to make the 2013 roster.
Chase Whitley, 23, was 9-5 with a 3.25 ERA at Scranton and the right-hander compiled a 1.07 WHIP in 80 1/3 innings over 41 games. The Yankees like his competitiveness though he does not appear to have closer stuff.
Right-hander Preston Claiborne, 24, pitched impressively enough at Double-A Trenton (2-2 with a 2.22 ERA in 30 games) to earn a promotion to Scranton, but he may need some more work. He was 4-0 with a 4.05 ERA in 20 games there. But the Yankees still like the tall Texan and he does have strikeout stuff (78 punchouts in 82 innings).
The most impressive young pitcher the Yankees have in the minors is 22-year-old right-hander Mark Montgomery. Montgomery began 2012 with the High-A Tampa Yankees, where he was 4-1 with a 1.34 ERA. He also struck out an unbelievable 61 batters in 40 1/3 innings.
He carried that power stuff to Trenton, where he was 3-1 with a 1.88 ERA in 15 games. He saved 15 games overall in 2012 and to say that Montgomery figures to be a long-range prospect as a future major-league closer would be putting it mildly. At 5-foot-11, 205 pounds, he may not seem like your typical closer. But neither was Robertson and look where he is now.
Montgomery’s progesss is worth watching in 2013.
The Yankees 2013 bullpen prospects, much like their starting staff, appears to be in pretty good shape and fairly set. I do not expect Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild to be begging Cashman for additional help here. Soriano walked out but with Rivera back for one last season and depth at the back end the Yankees’ bullpen should remain one of its strengths.
Girardi has been a master at building a bullpen and utilizing it in a proper way. Other than Logan, no one was really overused in 2012 and that should be the trend again in 2013.
Not many teams can boast a bullpen this good and this deep.
NEXT: STARTING LINEUP
The New York Yankees have reached the halfway mark of the season and they are comfortably in first place in the American League East. This is despite some injuries to some keep players such as Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Michael Pineda, Brett Gardner and Joba Chamberlain. As we do every year, let’s look at the individual components of the team and issue grades for the first half.
RAFAEL SORIANO (2-0, 1.72 ERA, 19 SAVES)
DAVID ROBERTSON (0-3, 2.42 ERA)
BOONE LOGAN (3-0, 3.54 ERA)
CORY WADE (0-1, 5.79 ERA)
CLAY RAPADA (2-0, 3.00 ERA)
CODY EPPLEY (0-0, 2.53 ERA)
D.J. MITCHELL (0-0, 3.38 ERA)
The New York Yankees season could have very easily ended on May 3 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.
Future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera was shagging balls during batting practice, as has been his custom his entire career, when his right knee buckled as he reached the warning track. Rivera went down in a heap and the Yankees lost the best closer in the history of the game for the rest of the season.
However, on May 22 the Yankees ran off a record of 28-11 and they moved from tied for last place in the American League East 5 1/2 games behind to first place in the division and five games ahead.
The starting pitching was a big reason why. The starters who struggled in April pitched better. But there was something else that kept the Yankees going without Mariano Rivera.
That something was Rafael Soriano.
Soriano, 32, was signed by the Yankees for $12 million a season over three seasons in the winter of 2011. Soriano had just come off a season in which he saved a league-leading 45 games in 48 chances with the Tampa Bay Rays and compiled a 3-2 record with a 1.73 ERA.
But why pay so much for someone who would not close games?
General manager Brian Cashman quickly pointed out publicly the signing was not his idea and he disavowed it. But after the Yankees lost out in trying to sign left-hander Cliff Lee the front office figured that with Rivera, Soriano and David Robertson that the Yankees could shorten the game to overcome their starting pitching deficiencies.
On paper, it made sense. In practice, it did not work out entirely as planned.
Soriano was hit hard early and often at the start of the 2011 season. The fans quickly turned on him for his seeming uncaring attitude as he pitched worse and worse. Then he ended up on the disabled list for two months with soreness in his right elbow. The fans also do not like players drawing rich contracts while rehabbing injuries.
Soriano did come back and ultimately was given the seventh inning as Robertson owned the ninth and Rivera was king of the ninth. Soriano finished the 2011 season with a 2-3 mark and a gaudy 4.12 ERA. He saved two games and blew three others.
Soriano then surprised a lot of people by deciding not exercise his opt-out clause in his three-year deal. He was getting paid good money to pitch the seventh inning and he figured it was more advantageous for him to stay. As far as Yankee fans go, they may have enjoyed booing him, but Soriano saved the Yankees’ season by deciding to stay.
When Robertson failed in his first attempt to close for Rivera on May 9 against the Rays and then ended up on the disabled list for a month with a left oblique injury, Soriano was reborn as a closer. He is also proving to be very good at it.
Since he has taken over, Soriano has saved 19 games out of his 20 opportunities and erased the team’s fears they could not win without Mo.
The fans? They booed him unmercifully at Yankee Stadium when he blew his only save on June 10 against the Mets. Tough crowd.
Yankee fans should be hoisting this man up and celebrating him because Soriano will be a big component of the Yankees’ run in the playoffs. They certainly do miss Mo but they have to be thankful they have a replacement in Soriano who has saved 91 games out of 99 chances since the 2009 season. That is a 92 percent success rate.
The Yankees actually have other more pressing bullpen issues. They revolve around Robertson, who came off the 15-day disabled list on June 15.
In the 11 appearances Robertson, 27, has made beginning on June 15, he is 0-2 with a 4.35 ERA. That is a far cry from the Robertson who made 13 appearances before May 9 and was unscored upon in his first 13 innings of the season with 23 strikeouts.
The Yankees need Robertson to settle back into his groove and just, well, be Robertson again. We will see how it unfolds after the All-Star break.
The injuries to Rivera and Robertson have meant that Boone Logan has pitched in more games and for more innings than he has been used since he was acquired by the Yankees in 2009. The most innings he ever pitched in pinstripes was the 41 2/3 innings he pitched last season in 64 appearances.
But because Logan is no longer the lefty specialist in the bullpen he is being used more often and for longer stretches. Logan, 27, has already thrown 29 2/3 innings and made 41 appearances.
The strain is beginning to show. Logan’s ERA for the first three months was excellent: He was 2-0 with a 2.54 ERA on June 30. But in July, Logan has been scored upon in all four of his appearances and, if anybody deserved an All-Star break it was Logan.
The hope is that Logan will bounce back in the second half and pitch like he did before June 30. The Yankees need Logan to be good in the seventh inning so the Yankees can use Robertson in the eighth and Soriano in the ninth. Logan will be a big key to the Yankees in the second half, no doubt.
Manager Joe Girardi has been praised, and rightfully so, for his ability to maximize a bullpen. This season he has proven what a skill it is.
The Yankees found a lefty specialist in side-armer Clay Rapada during spring training and Rapada has been excellent as getting left-handers out since the 2012 season began.
Rapada, 31, is holding left-handed hitters to a .150 average this season. Amazingly, Rapada is retiring right-handers also. They are hitting .227 off him. But Girardi has wisely tried to keep Rapada as a specialist as much as he can this season.
The Yankees also got lucky when the Texas Rangers waived 26-year-old side-arming right-hander Cody Eppley early in the season. The Yankees claimed him and sent him to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Recalled on April 20, Eppley has provided Girardi with a righty specialist to twin with Rapada.
The results have been very good. Eppley is holding right-handers to a .231 average. Much like Rapada with right-handers, Girardi must keep Eppley away from dangerous left-handed hitters. Overall, Eppley has done an excellent job and he and Rapada have strengthened what already was an excellent bullpen.
That can’t be said of Cory Wade, however.
Wade, 29, was picked up off waivers from the Rays in 2011 – much like Eppley was this season – and he put together a great season. Wade was 6-1 with a 2.04 ERA last season and drew a lot of praise from Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild.
But 2012 has a been nightmare for Wade.
He compiled an ERA of 1.69 in April and an ERA of 2.92 in May. But in June, Wade hit the skids and he has not recovered.
Beginning on June 16, Wade gave up a home run to Ian Desmond of the Washington Nationals in a game the Yankees won 5-3. Since then, Wade has given up 16 runs in his last 8 innings covering his last seven appearances. Wade’s ERA has ballooned to 6.48 and he has been sent back to Scranton to try and get his groove back.
The Yankees filled out their bullpen just before the break by calling up Triple-A starter D.J. Mitchell to be the long man in the bullpen now that Freddy Garcia is being used as a starter to replace the injured Andy Pettitte.
Mitchell, 25, has a 2.45 ERA in 3 2/3 innings covering three appearances. Mitchell was 5-4 with a 5.36 ERA at Scranton in 14 starts but Mitchell may have more value as a reliever in the majors because he has the best sinking fastball in the organization.
The Yankees would like to use him in situations they might need a double play. But Mitchell is strictly a long man for now.
To replace Wade, the Yankees picked up veteran right-hander Chad Qualls off waivers from the Philadelphia Phillies.
Qualls, 33, is 0-0 with a 2.70 ERA in 3 1/3 innings over three games. That is certainly a step up from what the Yankees have been getting from Wade. We will see if he continue to pitch well in the second half.
Overall, this has been one of the best, if not the best, bullpens in baseball this season despite the loss of Rivera.
Girardi was able to slide Soriano into the closer’s role and he has Robertson and Logan to pitch in setup roles. Plus he can mix and match with the righty-lefty combo of Eppley and Rapada. Wade is the only reliever who has been a major disappointment but Qualls was picked up to fill his role until Wade finds it again or not.
RIVERA: I (for Incomplete)
QUALLS: I (for Incomplete)
MITCHELL: I (for Incomplete)
DAVID PHELPS (1-1, 6.46 as a reliever)
RYOTA IGARASHI (0-0, 22.50 ERA)
David Phelps began the season in the bullpen as the long reliever and he actually pitched much better than his ERA indicates. He was shelled for three runs in back-to-back appearances against the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox in late April.
But Phelps, 25, is more suited as a starter and is thought of that way by the organization. After two starts in place of Freddy Garcia in early May, Phelps was sent back to the bullpen when Pettitte was activated on May 13. He stayed until June 2, when he was shipped to Double-A Trenton to get his arm in shape to become a starter.
However, before the process could be completed Pettitte was placed on the disabled list with a broken tibia in his right leg and CC Sabathia had to be shelved because of a groin injury.
Phelps was recalled and pitched out of the bullpen until he was pressed into a start against the Rays on the Fourth of July. Phelps struck out eight batters and gave up only one run in 4 1/3 innings in his best performance of the season.
Now Phelps has been sent back to Trenton to complete the process of building up his pitch count so he can start. It is unclear when Phelps might return to the Yankees or what role he will assume. My guess is we have seen the last of Phelps as a reliever, barring an injury.
Igarashi was called up to fill a spot in the bullpen on May 25 and pitched poorly in the two games in which he pitched. He was sent back to Scranton and was recalled again on June 8 and he gave one run in his one inning of work against his former Met teammates.
Igarashi, 33, is 1-1 with a 2.63 ERA and three saves at Scranton this season. He is there for depth purposes but the Yankees could do better. Igarashi does not appear to be the answer for the Yankees based on what he has done in three games.
PHELPS : I (for Incomplete)
IGARASHI: I (for Incomplete)
The Yankees have some veteran relievers at Scranton, including Igarashi.
Kevin Whelan 28, is the main closer and is 3-0 with a 3.55 ERA and 12 saves.
Meanwhile, left-hander Juan Cedeno, 28, is 2-0 with a 2.38 ERA and former Red Sox right-hander Manny Delcarmen is 2-4 with a 3.86 ERA.
The most impressive young relievers the Yankees are developing are Preston Claiborne, 24, and Chase Whitley, 23.
Claiborme was just promoted to Scranton after going 2-2 with a 2.22 ERA and saving five games at Trenton.
Whitley is 5-4 with a 4.22 ERA in 27 games in Scranton.
Both are right-handers.
OVERALL POSITION GRADE: B+
There are whispers that Rivera is progressing well in his rehab after surgery on his right knee and that he might be able to pitch this season. That would be bad news to the teams in the A.L. East staring up out of a huge hole in which the Yankees have placed them.
Whether Rivera returns or not the Yankees have an exceptional bullpen that rarely coughs up leads late in the game.
Soriano has 19 saves after 81 games and he has been sensational as Rivera’s stand-in.
There are some concerns before the second half begins.
Both Robertson and Logan need recapture their early-season form. They both have a long enough track records in the majors that they should be able to rebound. Robertson just needs to regain command of the strike zone and Logan just needs rest after absorbing a huge workload in the first half.
Logan leads the American League in appearances and that is an aberration from what Girardi and Rothschild would like from him. But Rivera’s loss impacted Logan the most and he has been forced to pitch a lot of innings and it is catching up to him. Hopefully, the rest over the break rejuvenates his valuable left arm.
The Yankees also have to hope that Wade rediscovers his karma in the minors. Most of the karma he has been exhibiting on the mound these days is bad.
Rapada and Eppley have proved to very valuable specialists and they have been impressive in the first half. They just have to continue to do what they have been doing.
Qualls is a place-holder for Wade and Girardi seems to trust him.
Mitchell can be valuable as a long man but Girardi rarely calls on him. His sinker could have some value in the second half and he is the one reliever that can give Girardi a lot of innings out of the bullpen.
The biggest hope for the second half has nothing to do with any of the pitchers I mentioned.
The Yankees just sent Joba Chamberlain out on a minor-league rehab stint. Because Chamberlain, 26, is coming off Tommy John surgery in 2011 and a severely displaced fractured right ankle, the Yankees were not really expecting much out of the big right-hander.
But if all goes well in his extended rehab stint, Chamberlain could return to the Yankees within a month. That would be a big boost to the Yankees and it should make Logan really smile.
Yankee fans may have forgotten that Chamberlain was 2-0 with a 2.83 ERA in 27 games before injuring his elbow last season. If he can get back to that level, Chamberlain could a valuable piece to the bullpen in the sceond half and heading into the playoffs.
The Yankees also had high hopes for former Seattle Mariners closer David Aardsma in the second half. Aardsma, 30, was coming off Tommy John surgery himself last July and was making his final rehab appearances when he suffered a setback and had to be shut down.
Aardsma underwent some tests and is consulting Dr. James Andrews, who performed his surgery, about what his next step will be. But it looks doubtful Aardsma will be able to help the Yankees this season. That is a shame.
But the way the Yankees’ bullpen has been gong this season, they may not need him. The return of Chamberlain, however, could be a real big boost.
YANKEES 7, RED SOX 3
It took four hours and two minutes and 371 pitches were thrown but the New York Yankees were able to defeat the Boston Red Sox to win the four-game series at Fenway Park 3-1 and begin the All-Star break with both the best record in baseball and the biggest lead of any of the division frontrunners.
Two players stood out for the Yankees in this Sunday marathon in front of national TV audience and a sellout crowd of 38,270.
Ivan Nova pitched six superlative innings to notch his 10th victory of the season and Andruw Jones drove in three runs and hit his fourth home run of the series in the seventh inning to put the game out of reach.
Nova (10-3) gave up two runs (one earned) on six hits and two walks and struck out 10 very befuddled Red Sox to give the Yankees a 5-1 record against Bosox, all of the those games in Beantown.
Jones, who entered the series against the Red Sox with only three homers in 91 career at-bats at Fenway, finished the four-game series (he did not play in the opener on Friday) 5-for-13 (.385) with four home runs and six RBIs.
The Yankees opened the game much like they have in the first three games of the series – by scoring runs early. They jumped on left-hander Jon Lester for two runs in the first inning.
Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson stroked back-to-back singles and Mark Teixeira drove in Jeter with a double down the left-field line.
After one out, Robinson Cano walked to load the bases and the the Yankees cashed in another run as Red Sox third baseman Mauro Gomez fielded Nick Swisher’s bouncer stepping on the bag but he threw a three-hopper to first to allow Swisher to reach and Granderson to score.
During the four-game series, the Yankees scored 14 of their 28 runs in the first inning.
The Red Sox received a gift-wrapped run the bottom of the inning courtesy of a rare misplay by Jeter.
The Red Sox had Pedro Ciriaco on second and David Ortiz on first with two out when Cody Ross lifted a routine infield popup that Jeter dropped and Ciriaco scored to halve the Yankee lead.
The Yankees added a lone run in the third after Jayson Nix led off with a double to left-center and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia committed a passed ball just before Chris Stewart lofted a sacrifice fly to center to score Nix.
The Red Sox nicked Nova for a run in the third when Ciriaco singled with one out and Ortiz followed with a double off the Green Monster in center.
But the Yankees chased Lester in the fifth when Alex Rodriguez followed a Teixeira single with a 410-foot triple to the cutout in center in which center-fielder Ryan Sweeney crashed his head against the padded wall attempting a sliding catch. Sweeney was able to stay in the game.
After a one out walk to Swisher, Jones stroked a single in the hole between third and short to score Rodriguez and Lester’s night was over.
Lester (5-6) gave up five runs (four earned) on nine hits and two walks and fanned six in 4 1/3 innings.
While Nova settled into a groove, the Yankees put the Red Sox away in the seventh when Swisher doubled off reliever Scott Atchison and Jones followed with his 11th home run of the season, which landed well into the seats above the Green Monster.
Though the Yankees relievers showed a bit of arm weariness by giving up six walks over the final three innings, they managed to hold the Red Sox to just one run. Rafael Soriano closed it out in the ninth inning by striking out the side despite walking two batters.
The Yankees’ victory gives them a record at the All-Star break of 52-33 and they extended their lead over the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East to seven games. The Red Sox, meanwhile, fell to 43-43 and they are tied with the the Toronto Blue Jays for last place 9 1/2 games back while playing with mostly reserves and minor-league call-ups.
- I have said it before but it bears repeating: Nova is the Yankees’ second-best pitcher behind CC Sabathia because he has such an awesome assortment of quality pitches. Though his slider was a bit shaky on Sunday, he used his 12-to-6 curve to devastating effect against the Red Sox. Eight of his 10 strikeouts were on swings and misses and most of them came on the curveball that broke out of the strike zone. His major-league career record is now 26-7 and it is not all due to run support. This 25-year-old right-hander can pitch.
- Jones entered the weekend hitting .230 with seven home runs and 16 RBIs and he leaves hitting .244 with 11 home runs and 22 RBIs. His 11 home runs in just 127 at-bats means he hitting a home run on average every 11.5 at-bats. Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers, who leads the major leagues with 27 home runs, is hitting homers at a rate of one for every 11.1 at-bats. So Jones is doing well in limited playing time.
- Jeter collected another three hits on Sunday and he finished the weekend in Boston 8-for-20 (.400) to raise his season average to .308. After hitting .232 in June, Jeter is hitting .344 in July.
- Though Jeter shone brightly with the bat his fielding in the series left a lot to be desired. Besides his dropped popup he also misplayed a grounder off the bat of Ciriaco in the third that was mercifully scored a single. His error in the sixth inning on Saturday, one of four the Yankees committed, led to a three-run inning.
- It is obvious that the loss of Mariano Rivera is taking a toll on the bullpen when they are forced to work so much against teams like the Red Sox and Rays. Cody Eppley, David Robertson and Soriano walked two apiece and they threw an amazing 76 pitches in just 2 2/3 innings of work! They can use the break to rest their weary limbs.
- The Yankees were 3-for-14 (.214) with runners in scoring position and they stranded 11 base-runners. It is something they just have to improve upon in the second half.
Sabathia threw a bullpen session on Sunday and he is on track to return to the Yankees’ rotation in the second series after the All-Star break. Sabathia has been on the 15-day disabled list since June 28 with a left groin strain. The All-Star left-hander threw 43 pitches and he told reporters that he has not experienced any discomfort from the injury. Sabathia is scheduled to throw another bullpen session on Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City and a simulated game at Yankee Stadium on Friday. If all goes well, the Yankees will activate him on July 17 so he can start at home against the Blue Jays.
Jeter, Granderson, Cano and Sabathia are headed to the All-Star Game in Kansas City on Tuesday. The rest of the Yankees will get some well-deserved rest until Friday when the Yankees will host the Los Angeles Angels.
Hiroki Kuroda (8-7, 3.50 ERA) will start the game for the Yankees. The Angels have not named a starting pitcher.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by MY9.