CC Sabathia continued his fine work from spring training with six strong innings and Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira led a newly retooled Yankee offense as the New York downed Houston in their season opener at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
ASTROS 6, YANKEES 2
Somehow the Astros did not get the memo on how Opening Day was supposed to go.
The Astros scored six runs in the first two innings off CC Sabathia, including home runs by Jesus Guzman and L.J. Hoes, as Houston rolled to an Opening Day victory over New York on Tuesday in front of a paid crowd of 42,117 at Minute Maid Park.
Sabathia (0-1) was tagged for four runs in the first and two more in the second before he settled in and pitched four scoreless innings to save the bullpen. Meanwhile, Astros starter Scott Feldman (1-0) held the Yankees in check by using a series of slow-pitch softball speed pitches.
Feldman held the powerful Yankee lineup to no runs on two hits and two walks in 6 2/3 innings. The 31-year-old right-hander entered the contest with a career record of 51-56 with a 4.59.
The Yankees did not get their first hit off Feldman until Carlos Beltran slapped a one-out single to left in the fourth inning. Mark Teixeira looped a one-out single to right in the seventh for the team’s only other hit off Feldman.
The Astros did not waste any time against Sabathia when Dexter Fowler led off the first with a double to deep center. He moved to third on a flyout and scored on an RBI single by Jose Altuve. After a stolen base and a wild pitch advanced him to third, Altuve scored when Teixeira’s throw to home on a grounder off the bat of Jason Castro was thrown wide past McCann.
Guzman lined the first offering from Sabathia deep into the left-field bleachers to make the score 4-0. Guzman entered the game with only 23 career homers over the past 2 1/2 seasons.
Hoes opened the second inning with a solo blast of his own. Hoes entered the contest with only one previous major-league homer in 49 games.
The Astros capped the scoring in the second when Fowler laced another double with one out. Altuve later added a two-out single to score Fowler.
The Yankees had two chances to score against Feldman. In the fourth, Beltran singled with one out and Teixeira drew a two-out walk. However, Alfonso Soriano struck out to end the threat.
In the seventh, Teixeira’s one-out single was followed by a pair of two-out walks to Brett Gardner and Brian Roberts to load the bases.
Astros manager Bo Porter replaced Feldman with left-hander Kevin Chapman and he induced Kelly Johnson into a force out to leave the bases loaded.
The Yankees did finally break through in the eighth inning when Chapman opened the frame by walking Jacoby Ellsbury. Jeter then greeted right-hander Chad Qualls with a single to right.
Beltran advanced Ellsbury and Jeter with a groundout and Brian McCann and Teixeira followed with RBI singles.
However, Qualls ended the rally by getting Soriano to hit into an inning-ending double play.
- Two big concerns the Yankees had opening the season was how Jeter and Teixeira would fare after both players, who missed most of the 2013 season with injuries, struggled to hit this spring. But Jeter was 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored and Teixeira was 2-for-3 with a walk and an RBI.
- Give both McCann and Teixeira a lot of credit for the their RBI singles. Both decided to hit to the opposite field with shifts on against them and a ground-ball pitcher on the mound in Qualls. If you try to pull outside pitches you end up grounding into the shift. Both recognized that and hit to the opposite field.
- Both Dellin Betances and Vidal Nuno pitched an inning of relief and both were impressive. Betances struck out two in a perfect inning in the seventh and Nuno struck out the side in the eighth. The Yankees are hoping that Betances, 26, and Nuno, 26, will contribute a lot to a completely retooled bullpen that is missing closer Mariano Rivera.
- The reality is that Sabathia was NOT defeated by his reduced velocity. Sabathia was beaten because he missed location with his pitches. When he was up in the strike zone he got hammered. When he got the ball down he was successful in the final four innings. Sabathia was making his sixth consecutive Opening Day start for the Yankees and the 11th of his career. He is the team’s ace out of courtesy and you can actually make a case that he is the weakest of the Yankees five starters. Once Yankees fans accept that fact they may just be able to accept Sabathia for what he is at age 33.
- Soriano can be a maddening player. When he is red hot you can’t get him out. When he is cold he can kill your offense. He killed the offense pretty well on Tuesday by going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and a inning-ending double play. Soriano stranded a team-high five runners. Ouch!
- Though the Yankees were charged with one error they actually were extremely sloppy in the field in this game. McCann overthrew third base trying to nab Altuve. Teixeira’s throw home to get Altuve was to the first-base side of home plate and skipped past McCann. They just did not look sharp in the field with the exception of some fine plays at third by Johnson.
Before the game the Yankees purchased the contract of infielder Yangervis Solarte from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and designated infielder Eduardo Nunez for assignment. The team will have 10 days to trade, release or outright Nunez to the minor leagues. Nunez, 26, was once viewed as the heir apparent to Jeter at shortstop but he was outplayed this spring by Solarte, 26, and Dean Anna, 27. . . . The Yankees Opening Day lineup had only one holdover from Opening Day in 2013 and that was Gardner. Last season, both Jeter and Teixeira were on the disabled list and 2013 starters Ichiro Suzuki and Francisco Cervelli were on the bench on Tuesday. The 2013 lineup also included Vernon Wells, Kevin Youkilis, Ben Francisco, Jayson Nix and Nunez. . . . The Astros plan to honor Jeter with a special ceremony on Wednesday with former teammates Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens on hand. Jeter announced just before spring training began that this will be his final season.
The Yankees will have to recover from their loss as they play the second game of a three-game seres with the Astros.
Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (11-13, 3.31 ERA in 2013) will make his first start of the season. He was 1-0 with a 4.76 ERA this spring.
He will opposed by right-hander Jarred Cosart, who was 1-1 with a 1.95 ERA in 10 starts last season. He was 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA this spring.
Game-time will be 8:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
ORIOLES 4, YANKEES 3
TAMPA – Ronny Paulino singled up the middle to score L.J. Hoes in the top of the ninth inning to break a 3-3 tie on Thursday night as Baltimore defeated New York in a Grapefruit League contest at Steinbrenner Field.
Orioles reliever Pedro Strop (1-1) pitched a scoreless inning in the eighth to get credit for the victory. Pat Neshek fanned two in a perfect ninth inning to earn a save. D.J. Mitchell (2-1) was tagged with the loss.
The Yankees trailed most of the game 3-1 until they tied it up in the seventh inning when Derek Jeter drove in Eduardo Nunez from third on a groundout. Raul Ibanez drove in the Yankees’ other two runs on a solo home run in the second inning and an RBI single in the sixth.
The Orioles’ attack was led by Matt Wieters, who stroked a double and a triple and scored two runs, and Mark Reynolds, who twice drove in Wieters with a groundball error off the glove of Alex Rodriguez and a double.
With the loss, the Yankees’ spring record fell to 13-11. The Orioles are 11-11.
- The Yankees now have their lefty DH in Ibanez. With his 2-for-3 night and two RBIs, Ibanez has raised his spring average to .125 and he is showing signs he will be able to contribute to the team’s offense as he did with the Phillies last season when he had 20 home runs and 84 RBIs.
- David Phelps started for the Yankees and gave up three runs (two earned) on seven hits in five innings. However, he gets major kudos for getting out of a jam with runners on second and third and no outs in the fifth. Phelps struck out Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Wieters in succession. Phelps, a Notre Dame alumnus, will start his season at Triple-A Empire State.
- Outfielder Chris Dickerson made a spectacular catch in right-field on a long drive off the bat of Orioles DH Nick Johnson in the seventh inning. He grabbed the ball at the top of the wall as his back slammed into it at the top of his leap.
- The infield at Steinbrenner Field is hard because a lack of rain this spring but the Yankees were very sloppy in the field. Rodriguez chose to play Reynolds’ bouncer to the side and it bounced over his glove to cost the Yankees one run. Jeter made an off-target throw to first in the fourth inning that cost the Yankees another run. In the ninth, second baseman Bill Hall actually should have made the play on Paulino’s grounder up the middle that won it for the Orioles.
- Andruw Jones was 0-for-2 at the plate and is hitting .190 this spring. In addition, Jones was slow to reach Wieters’ triple in the second inning and a double by Johnson that bounced over Mark Teixeira’s head in the fifth inning. Jones can catch anything hit near him but his legs are pretty much shot at age 34.
- Nunez continues to impress this spring. he was 1-for-3 with a stolen base and is hitting .387 so far.
Curtis Granderson returned to the lineup as the DH on Thursday and was 1-for-3. Granderson has been sidelined for a few games due to some soreness in his right elbow. Manager Joe Girardi said if it had been a regular-season game Granderson would have played in the field. The injury is not considered serious. . . . Meanwhile, Nick Swisher is making progress with his sore right groin and he is expected to play for the Yankees on Friday. Swisher has been playing in some minor-league games the past few days. . . . Ivan Nova gave up three runs in 7 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays’ Triple-A team on Thursday. Nova, who is sporting a gaudy 6.86 ERA possibly could be in danger of losing a spot in the starting rotation. . . . Girardi said Thursday that the loser in the battle for starting rotation spots may not necessarily pitch out of the bullpen. That means if Nova or Michael Pineda do not win spots they could be sent to the minor leagues. It is unlikely the Yankees would send veterans Phil Hughes or Freddy Garcia to the minors.
The Yankees remain home to play their last game under the lights at Steinbrenner Field and it will be against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Yankees are expected to start Pineda in his sixth outing of the spring. He will be opposed by right-hander Michael Stutes.
Game-time will be at 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast locally by the YES Network.