YANKEES 10, PHILLIES 2
When assessing the New York Yankees in 2015 most forecasters discounted any contribution that Ivan Nova might make since he was coming off of Tommy John surgery and 14 months of rehab. By the looks of what he did in his first start back on Wednesday it looks like his potential contribution to the team could be monumental.
Nova pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings and allowed only three hits and two walks with one strikeout as New York avoided a sweep to the team with the worst record in baseball in Philadelphia at Yankee Stadium in front of a paid crowd of 45,877.
Nova, 28, quickly established his mid-90s sinking fastball and sharp breaking curveball to hold scoreless a Phillies team that had tallied 11 runs in both of their two previous games against the Yankees. Nova (1-0) navigated deftly through the Phillies to throw 92 pitches and 51 of them for strikes (55%).
It was his first victory since April 13, 2014 and his first start since April 19 the same year.
In contrast, left-hander Cole Hamels (5-6) was not sharp in his five innings of work. He was charged with five runs on eight hits and three walks with strikeouts.
With the help of a throwing error, the Yankees were able to score a pair of runs off Hamels in the second inning after they loaded the bases on a single by Chris Young, a walk by John Ryan Murphy and an infield bunt single by Didi Gregorius.
Rookie Jose Pirela slapped a grounder to third baseman Andres Blanco, but Blanco’s throw home to catcher Carlos Ruiz bounced away to allow Young and Murphy to score on the fielder’s choice.
The Yankees added three runs in the fifth inning on an RBI single by Brett Gardner, an RBI double by Chase Headley and an RBI single by Mark Teixeira, who had missed the two previous games with stiffness in his neck.
The Yankees added a run in the sixth inning off left-hander Jake Diekman on a two-out RBI single by Young and they broke the game wide open with a four-run seventh inning off right-hander Justin De Fratus capped by a two-run single by Alex Rodriguez and another RBI single by Teixeira.
The Phillies broke up the shutout with a pair of runs in the ninth inning off 27-year-old right-hander Diego Moreno, who was just called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Monday.
They scored on RBI single by Dominic Brown and Cody Asche. Moreno was optioned back to Triple A after the game.
With the victory the Yankees ended a three-game skid to improve their record to 39-33. They also pulled to within one game of the first-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Phillies fell to 26-48.
- Because of some shaky outings from Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia, the successful return of Nova was welcome on a day the team was facing one of the better left-handers in baseball in Hamels. But Nova showed why he had compiled a 40-22 record since his debut in 2010. People forget that he was 16-4 in 2011 and that he was the team’s best pitcher in the second half of 2013 when he finished 9-6 with 3.10 ERA. This was vintage Nova.
- The Yankees also could breathe a sigh of relief that Teixeira was able to play and, in addition, go 3-for-5 with two RBIs. His two RBIs give him 51, which ties him with Stephen Vogt of the Oakland Athletics for second in the American League. Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers leads with 52. Teixeira had been bothered for two weeks with a stiff neck and had to have a cortisone shot to speed the healing enough to get him back in the lineup.
- Gardner was 1-for-5 with a single, a walk, two runs scored and an RBI. In the eight-game homestand, Gardner batted .472 with three doubles, a triple, four homers, 10 RBIs and he scored 12 runs. Gardner’s .292 average leads the team and he has nine homers and 38 RBIs. After struggling initially when he replaced Jacoby Ellsbury in the leadoff spot, he has come back to post numbers that could get him into the All-Star team picture.
After two days where they looked looked like the worst team in baseball and the Phillies looked like the contending team, the Yankees finally put together a good starting pitching performance and some timely hitting against a very good left-hander. Hopefully, Nova’s return will help shore up a starting staff that has been poor of late.
Manager Joe Girardi received his second ejection of the season in the third inning after disputing a checked-swing call on Maikel Franco on an 0-2 count by first-base umpire Alan Porter. Girardi contended from the dugout that Franco swung and Porter ejected him. On the next pitch, Franco struck out when he failed to check his swing. . . . Left-handed closer Andrew Miller threw for the first time on Wednesday since being placed on the disabled list with a strained flexor muscle in his elbow. Miller, 29, threw 25 times off flat ground at 60 feet and reported no issues with his arm. Miller, 30, hopes to be able to begin throwing off a mound next week but there is still no firm timetable for his return. Right-hander Dellin Betances will continue to close until Miller returns.
The Yankees are off to Houston to begin a four-game weekend series on Thursday with the surprising Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Right-hander Adam Warren (5-4, 3.52 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Warren pitched the best game of his career on Friday, holding the Tigers to two runs on seven hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in a career-best eight innings.
The Astros will counter with ace left-hander Dallas Keuchel (8-3, 2.35 ERA). Keuchel, 27, was beaten by the Seattle Mariners on Saturday, giving up five runs on five hits and four walks with seven strikeouts in five innings.
Game-time will be 8:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
PHILLIES 3, YANKEES 1
Odubel Herrera went 3-for-4, stole three bases and scored two runs to spark Philadelphia to a victory over New York and spoil their 2015 Grapefruit League home opener at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL, on Wednesday.
Non-roster right-hander Kevin Slowey (1-0) started for the Phillies and pitched two scoreless innings to earn the victory. Justin De Fratus weathered a late Yankee rally that fell short to earn a save. Newly acquired right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (0-1), making his first start for the Yankees, was tagged with the loss.
The buzz around Alex Rodriguez started early with ESPN actually cutting away from their regular programming to show the former three-time American League Most Valuable Player taking batting practice even though they were not televising the game.
Rodriguez, 39, also drew a rousing chorus of cheers and a small smattering of boos during pregame introductions and before his three at-bats. He did end up providing the fans with a bit of a show in going 1-for-2 with a walk in his three plate appearances.
After a 17-month absence due to a 162-game suspension from Major League Baseball for being involved in a performance enhancing drugs scandal, Rodriguez was just grateful just to be back on the field.
“This is as much fun as I’ve had in a long time in spring training,” Rodriguez told reporters. “I’m just feeling really good that I get to play the game that I love.”
A-Rod batted second and was the team’s designated hitter.
In his first plate appearance against Slowey. Rodriguez took two rusty looking swings before shooting a soft line drive into left for a single. In the third inning against right-hander Paul Clemens he ended the inning by hitting into a force play.
He completed his day in the sixth with the Yankees trailing 2-1 and two on and nobody out against right-hander Ethan Martin. Most of the announced crowd of 9,673 urged Rodriguez on as he worked a walk on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases.
Kyle Higashioka was sent out to pinch-run and Rodriguez’s first day back was done.
Rookie catching prospect Gary Sanchez followed with a sacrifice fly that scored the Yankees’ only run of the game.
Rodriguez told reporters after the game that he did hear the boos but was pleased by the cheers. “Once you hit rock bottom, anytime you hear a few cheers these days, it’s a pleasant surprise,” he said.
Girardi said he tentatively plans to start Rodriguez at DH again on Friday at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates. But there also is a chance he could play the field. Either way, Rodriguez is just glad to put the suspension behind him and just play baseball again.
- Though he was the losing pitcher, Eovaldi did look good in his debut. He gave up a run on two hits with no walks and one strikeout in 31 pitches over two frames. The 25-year-old former Miami Marlins right-hander did strike out Maikel Franco to start the second inning with a split-finger fastball, a pitch the Yankees would like Eovaldi to feature more this season.
- Left-hander Andrew Miller also made his Yankee debut by pitching in the third inning. Though he gave up a single and two stolen bases to Herrera in the inning, Miller was able to strike out Freddy Galvis and Domonic Brown before retiring Ryan Howard on a groundout to keep Herrera at third base. Miller, 29, was signed as a free agent this winter and he is expected to compete with right-hander Dellin Betances for the closer role.
- Since he was drafted in the first round in 2009, Cito Culver has always shown an ability to field but his bat has held him back. Culver, 22, made a spectacular play going deep into outfield grass in left and throwing in time to get Darin Ruf by a step.
- The Yankees did not get a very good day out of Stephen Drew, who is penciled in as the team’s starting second baseman – though he has played only 34 games there. All of those came with the Yankees last season after he was acquired from the Boston Red Sox. Drew was retired on two weak infield grounders and on defense he committed a fielding error on the first play of the game. Later, he threw a routine chance into the dirt and only a agile scoop from first baseman Mark Teixeira saved him from another error.
- The Yankees seemed to sleepwalk offensively throughout the afternoon. They managed only five hits and drew two walks off some pretty ordinary Phillies pitchers. The Yankees recorded a total of five 1-2-3 innings.
- The Yankees had the bases loaded with no outs in the sixth and, after Sanchez’s sac fly scored the first Yankee run, catcher/first baseman Francisco Arcia grounded into a double play to shut down the best chance the Yankees had to score multiple runs all day.
Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka threw a 30-pitch bullpen session in Tampa on Wednesday and told reporters that he is nearly ready to pitch in a Grapefruit League game. Tanaka, 26, is trying to recover from a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Manager Joe Girardi said Tanaka will throw again in a simulated game and could make his first start in a game late next week. . . . For the first time in 20 seasons, Derek Jeter was not playing shortstop for the Yankees. Didi Gregarious, 24, made his debut with the Yankees and went 0-for-1 with a walk. Gregorious was obtained from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-team trade that included the Detroit Tigers. “It was an amazing feeling, I’m not going to lie,” Gregorius told reporters. “It was amazing for me just wearing the pinstripes, to go out there with all my teammates.” . . . Before the game, the George M. Steinbrenner High School band performed. The Yankees then introduced former Yankee greats who are assisting the team as special instructors such as Goose Gossage, Reggie Jackson, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez and Hideki Matsui.
The Yankees will travel to Bradenton, FL, on Thursday to face the Pirates at McKechnie Field.
Right-hander Esmil Rogers is scheduled to start for the Yankees. Rogers, 29, was 2-0 with a 4.68 ERA in 18 games with the Yankees after being picked up as a free agent from the Toronto Blue Jays. Outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are scheduled to make the trip.
The Pirates will counter with veteran left-hander Francisco Liriano, who was 7-10 with a 3.38 ERA in 29 starts last season.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. and the game will not be telecast. However, it is available live from station KDKA in Pittsburgh through MLB Radio.