Tagged: Mookie Betts

A-Rod Breaks Tie As Yankees Send Red Sox Reeling

GAME 88

YANKEES 8, RED SOX 6

Going into the All-Star break, the Yankees were looking to make a statement on Sunday against the rival Red Sox. Based on the results, it is clear that Boston will have a long way to go to overtake New York in the American League East.

Alex Rodriguez broke a 3-3 tie in the sixth inning with an RBI double as part of a three-run inning as New York took the best-of-three series over Boston in front of paid crowd of 37,283 at Fenway Park.

The Yankees improved their season record to 6-3 over the Red Sox (5-1 at Fenway Park) while extending their lead over them to 6 1/2 games.

Brett Gardner opened the critical inning with an infield single and Rodriguez, who had two home runs and three RBIs in the previous two contests, laced a 2-1 fastball from left-hander Wade Miley to the wall in left-center to score Gardner.

One out later, Chris Young chased Miley from the game with an RBI double high off the Green Monster in left. Chase Headley later added a two-out RBI double off the wall down the line in left off left-hander Tommy Layne to extend the Yankees’ lead to 6-3.

Miley (8-8) was charged with all three runs and he ended his day giving up six runs on seven hits with no walks and two strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (9-2) once again was the beneficiary of the run support. He held the Red Sox to three runs on seven hits and no walks with four strikeouts in five innings to win his fourth straight decision.

Eovaldi has not lost a game since June 16 in Miami against his former team, the Marlins, when he was knocked out of the game after yielding eight runs in two-thirds of an inning.

The Yankees, meanwhile, added to their lead in the top of the ninth inning when rookie second baseman Rob Refsnyder, in only his second major-league game, hit a two-run home run off right-hander Alexi Ogando. Two innings earlier, Refsnyder lined his first major-league hit to center off Layne.

It turned out that the Yankees needed that home run because the Red Sox managed to scored two unearned runs off left-hander Andrew Miller in the bottom of ninth thanks to a pair of errors by Brian McCann and Refsnyder.

It was McCann who actually got the Yankees’ offense started with one out in the second inning when he blasted a two-run opposite-field homer to left  –  his 14th of the season.

But Eovaldi was unable to hold it in the bottom of the third when he was victimized by a series of infield hits and seeing-eye singles as the Red Sox capitalized for three runs.

With Ryan Hanigan at second after an infield single and Mookie Betts at first on a ground single to right and one out, Xander Bogaerts rolled an RBI single to center. Pablo Sandoval laced an RBI single to right and Hanley Ramirez bounced another RBI single up the middle to give the Bosox the lead.

The Yankees tied it in the fifth after a leadoff double by McCann and single to center by Headley.

With Didi Gregorius at the plate Miley, according to home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez, made a movement towards home before attempting to pick off Headley at first. He ruled it a balk and McCann was waved in to score the tying run.

The Yankees reached the All-Star break with a record of 48-40 and they hold a 3 1/2-game lead over the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the division. The last-place Red Sox ended the break at 42-47.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Yankee fans are seeing a torch passed to Refsnyder, 24. The rookie was called up after batting .290 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and he likely will take over as the starting second baseman at some point in the second half. He was 2-for-4 with his first hit and first home run in only his second game. The only concern is that the former University of Arizona product was converted from the outfield and he is a work in progress on defense. But the kid can flat-out hit and he is the best second baseman the Yankees have had since Robinson Cano left after the 2013 season.
  • McCann brought his first half to a close in grand style going 2-for-4 with a double, a homer, two runs scored and two RBIs. McCann entered the day in a bit of a slump having gone only 6-for-40 (.150) since June 26. That dropped his average from a season-high .275 to .255. Despite the fact he deserved to be the starting catcher for the American League in the All-Star Game, the four days of rest may actually benefit him a lot more.
  • Eovaldi ends the first half as the team’s winningest starter despite the fact he has a high 4.50 ERA. The reason is the Yankees are averaging seven runs a game for him and he got six runs on Sunday. The 25-year-old right-hander with high-velocity heater is still working to refine his game but you have to give him and pitching coach Larry Rothschild credit for what they have done so far.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Miller had another shaky outing on Sunday. Of course, McCann’s throwing error and the other error charged to Refsnyder made it worse than it appeared. The second error should have been charged to Miller on his throw to second on a double-play ball that could have ended the game. Miller, 30, needs to get back into the groove he was in before he went on the disabled list on June 10 and cost him a month.
  • Gregorius was 0-for-4 and his batting average slipped back to .238. Though Gregorius has made great strides from his first month or so, he is still a very vexing player. In his first two at-bats on Sunday he saw two pitches. On this two pitches he hit a pair of weak flies to center. He also grounded out in the sixth to leave a man in scoring position. Aggressiveness is one thing but stupidity is another. Gregorius needs to learn patience at the plate to be successful. He has time to learn because he is only 25. Just be prepared to want to tear your hair out watching him flail at pitches out of the strike zone.

BOMBER BANTER

Manager Joe Girardi has set his rotation for the start of the second half of the season. Girardi told reporters on Sunday that right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will open the three-game home series against the Seattle Mariners on Friday. Right-hander Michael Pineda and left-hander CC Sabathia will follow him in that order. Eovaldi and right-hander Ivan Nova will pitch in that order in the home series against the Baltimore Orioles that begins on July 21.

ON DECK

The Yankees will rest for four days and resume their season Friday at home against the Mariners.

Tanaka (5-3, 3.63 ERA) will try to build on his past two starts as he opens the second half. In his last start, Tanaka yielded two runs (one earned) on just two hits with a walk and six strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings in a victory over the Oakland Athletics on Thursday.

The Mariners have not announced a starter because ace right-hander Felix Hernandez was selected to pitch in the All-Star Game.

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.

 

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Pineda’s Pinpoint Pitching Pushes Yanks Past Sox

GAME 86

YANKEES 5, RED SOX 1

The Boston Red Sox came into Friday’s opener against the New York Yankees riding a four-game winning streak and hoping to elbow their way out of the cellar to get closer that the 5 1/2 games back they were in the American League East.

Instead they ran into right-hander Michael Pineda and they may have lost their ace pitcher to a serious elbow injury.

Pineda used his laser-like control to hold the Red Sox to one run over 6 2/3 innings and the Yankees took advantage of Clay Buchholz leaving the game in the fourth inning as New York downed Boston in front of a national TV audience at Fenway Park.

The Yankees won their third straight game and not only maintained their three-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles in the division but also dropped the last-place Red Sox to 6 1/2 games back.

Pineda (9-5) only gave up a solo home run to Mookie Betts with one out in the fifth inning to bring the Bosox to within three runs at 4-1. Pineda yielded one run on seven hits and no walks while he fanned six batters to record his first victory since he defeated the Miami Marlins 2-1 at Yankee Stadium on June 17.

Meanwhile, the Yankees took an early lead on Buchholz and the Red Sox with two out in the first inning when Alex Rodriguez blasted his 17th home run of the season over the Green Monster in left and onto Landsdowne Street.

Coming into the contest Rodriguez was 11-for-27 (.407) with two home runs in his career against Buchholz.

The Yankees added to their slim lead in the fourth in an inning that the Red Sox committed two errors while the Yankees batted around and scored three runs by getting only two balls into the outfield.

Brian McCann started the rally with a bloop single to shallow left-center. One out later, Didi Gregorius laced a double off the Green Monster in left to advance McCann to third.

After Buchholz delivered a ball to Stephen Drew to even the count at 1-1, the right-hander called his catcher Sandy Leon and later the team trainer to the mound. Without testing his right elbow, Buchholz left the game in favor of left-hander Robbie Ross Jr.

That is when the Red Sox fielding issues and the speed of both Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner came into play to allow the Yankees to extend their lead.

Drew hit a ball to first baseman Mike Napoli but the ball caromed away from him and Ross was unable to get his foot on the base to retire Drew for an error, which loaded the bases.

One out later, the Red Sox had an opportunity to end the inning but All-Star infielder Brock Holt bobbled a grounder off the bat of Ellsbury and he was unable to beat him with his throw to first.

Gardner then hit another routine ground ball to Napoli. But Gardner was able to slide head first into the bag before Ross could get his foot down for an RBI single. Ross then compounded the Red Sox problems by walking Rodriguez on a 3-2 pitch to force in a run.

Buchholz (7-7) ended up being charged with three runs (one earned) on six hits and no walks with three strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings.

He left the game in what was reported later by the team as tightness in his right elbow. He was scheduled to undergo an MRI late Friday to determine the severity of the injury but there was no report on what the results indicated.

The Yankees added a final run in the eighth inning off right-hander Matt Barnes and left-hander Craig Breslow. Barnes walked Chris Young and then hit Gregorius with a pitch. Breslow entered the game and managed to retire Young at third on a botched sacrifice bunt by Drew and Cole Figueroa on a weak popup. However, Ellsbury slapped a single to center to score Gregorius to extend the lead to 5-1.

The Yankees turned to their vaunted bullpen to close out the Red Sox and preserve the victory for Pineda.

Left-hander Justin Wilson, right-hander Dellin Betances and left-hander Andrew Miller held the Red Sox hitless over the final 2 1/3 innings to seal it.

With the victory the Yankees are now 47-39. The Red Sox fell to 41-46.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Pineda managed to follow up an excellent pitching performance by Masahiro Tanaka against the Oakland Athletics on Thursday. The Yankees’ right-handed duo combined to give up just three runs (two earned) on nine hits and one walk with 12 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings. That is a 1.26 ERA and a 0.70 WHIP. If Pineda and Tanaka pitch like this on a consistent basis there is no team in the division that stay with the Yankees in the second half.
  • Rodriguez added to his totals against Buchholz with the home run and a single he hit in the third inning. He is now 13-for-29 (.448) with three home runs in his career against the right-hander. Rodriguez was 2-for-4 with a walk, a run scored and two RBIs on the night. He is now batting .279 with 17 home runs and 49 RBIs on the season.
  • Ellsbury came back to haunt his former team by going 1-for-5 with an RBI. But it was his and Gardner’s speed that set the stage for the three-run inning that sunk the Red Sox. Running out the error allowed the Yankees to load the bases and Gardner’s infield RBI single started the scoring. This is the toughest 1-2 hitting tandem in baseball, period.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Pineda was great. A-Rod got two big RBIs and the Yankees’ speed helped force some shoddy defense. If the Red Sox lose Buchholz for any length of time, which looks very likely at this point, they will have a very difficult time climbing out of the division cellar. How could things be any better for the Yankees?

BOMBER BANTER

Although third baseman Chase Headley ran in the outfield before the game Friday, the Yankees did not use him in the game. Manager Joe Girardi said it is possible that the Yankees could elect to rest Headley until after the All-Star break. Headley, 31, has missed the past three games with inflammation in his right calf. Figueroa started in his place on Friday and was 0-for-4.  . . .  Outfielder Carlos Beltran, 38, is scheduled to play a few minor league rehab games in Tampa, FL, during the All-Star break and he hopes to be able to return to the team on July 17 when the Yankees play host to the Seattle Mariners. Beltran was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 1 with a left oblique strain. Beltran is hitting .260 with seven home runs and 30 RBIs in 66 games.  . . .  With the Red Sox scheduled to throw two left-handers this weekend, the Yankees are planning to recall rookie second baseman Rob Refsnyder from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Refsnyder, 24, is batting .290 with seven homers and 37 RBIs in 81 games with the RailRiders. Refsnyder bats right-handed and Drew, who bats left-handed, is hitting .182 with 12 homers and 25 RBIs in 78 games.

ON DECK

The Yankees will have a chance to win the three-game series against the Red Sox on Saturday.

Right-hander Ivan Nova (1-2, 2.65 ERA) will make his fourth start of the season for the Yankees. Nova, 28, surrendered three runs on six hits and three walks with one strikeout in five innings in a loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday.

The Red Sox will send left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (4-2, 3.69 ERA) to the mound. Rodriguez gave up one run on six hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in five innings in a no-decision against the Houston Astros on Sunday.

Game-time will be 7:15 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by FOX Sports.

 

Power Surge Allows Yankees To Sweep Red Sox

GAME 25

YANKEES 8, RED SOX 5

If ever there was a time to showcase your superiority over a hated rival and expose their weaknesses for the rest of the baseball world to see it would be on Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN in front of a national television audience. That is exactly what the Yankees did to the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Sunday.

Brett Gardner hit a three-run homer, Mark Teixeira blasted a two-run shot and Brian McCann drove in two runs with a double to lead an offensive onslaught that allowed New York to complete their first series sweep in Beantown since a five-game sweep on Aug. 18-21, 2006.

The red-hot Yankees have now won 10 of their past 12 games and they left the slumping Red Sox under .500 for the first time this season.

Behind Gardner, Teixeira and McCann the Yankees were able to build an 8-0 lead on the bewildered Bosox by the sixth inning, doing most of their damage against right-hander Joe Kelly.

With two out in the first inning and Gardner on first, Teixeira opened the scoring by launching his ninth home run of the season over the Green Monster in left-center off a Kelly slider.

Two innings later, the Yankees again struck with two out and Jacoby Ellsbury on second and Teixeira on first. McCann drove a 3-2 fastball to the wall in right-center to score both runners. Carlos Beltran followed an RBI double of his own.

Kelly (1-1), who had beaten right-hander Adam Warren and the Yankees on April 11 at Yankee Stadium by limiting them to just one hit in seven innings, finally was chased from the game with two out in the fifth.

He was charged with five runs on nine hits and no walks with three strikeouts. It was the eighth time in 25 games that the Red Sox have had a starting pitcher yield five or more runs, which is the worst mark in the majors.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were able to add three more runs in the sixth off left-hander Craig Breslow when Didi Gregorius and Ellsbury, who was 4-for-4 on the night, singled and Gardner followed with a his second home run of the season into right-center.

Gardner’s blow appeared to put the game completely out of reach. However, right-hander Warren tired in the sixth and Gardner’s home run ended up being the decisive blow in the contest.

Warren (2-1) had allowed the Red Sox only one hit and two walks through the first five innings and he appeared to be cruising after he retired the first two batters in the sixth.

But Dustin Pedroia singled and David Ortiz scored him from first on a double off the Green Monster. Warren then hit Hanley Ramirez on a 1-1 pitch and Ramirez threw down his bat in disgust believing Warren had thrown at him on purpose.

After Pablo Sandoval singled to score Ortiz, manager Joe Girardi replaced Warren with right-hander Esmil Rogers. Mike Napoli greeted Rogers by lifting a high-arcing fly ball that just reached the Green Monster seats to draw the Red Sox to within three runs at 8-5.

Despite pitching his best game of the season, Warren ended up being charged with four runs on four hits and two walks with two strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. In his eight major-league starts Warren has yet to pitch six full innings in any them.

After Napoli’s homer Rogers walked Daniel Nava and Xander Bogaerts reached on an infield dribbler to bring up Blake Swihart as the potential tying run. But the rookie playing on only his second major-league game struck out to end the inning in which 10 men went to the plate for the Red Sox.

The game got a little chippy with one out in the top of the eighth inning when right-hander Edward Mujica drilled Ellsbury with a 3-0 pitch in the right thigh. Home-plate umpire Jeff Nelson quickly warned both benches.

The Yankees were able to keep the Red Sox from scoring the rest of the night on the strength of Rogers, Justin Wilson and David Carpenter over the next two innings. But the Red Sox decided to make left-hander Andrew Miller work some overtime to earn his 10th save.

Pinch-hitter Allen Craig drew a leadoff walk from Miller in the ninth before Bogaerts and Swihart struck out. But Mookie Betts also walked and Pedroia reached to load the bases on a throwing error by Chase Headley.

Miller then retired the potential winning run in Ortiz by getting him on a routine flyout. Miller has now extended his scoreless streak this season to 12 1/3 innings and he is perfect 10 for 10 in save chances.

The Yankees have run their season record to 16-9 and they have a three-game lead on the both the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Red Sox are 12-13 and they are a full four games back in fourth place in the division.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Ellsbury entered the game on fire and he got even hotter on Sunday. He was 4-for-4 (all singles), a walk and was hit with a pitch. Oddly, he scored only one run and he did not drive in a run. But Ellsbury now has 19 hits in his past 40 at-bats (.475) to raise his season average to .351. He also has a six-game hitting streak.
  • Gardner really put a dagger in the Bosox the past two games. He drove in three of the team’s four runs in Saturday’s 4-2 victory and on Sunday he was 2-for-6 with a single, a homer, two stolen bases, two runs scored and three RBIs. He was 5-for-14 (.357) in the series with six RBIs.
  • Teixeira’s finally proved his surgically repaired right wrist is no longer an issue anymore with his ninth homer of the season that he drove to the opposite field in left-center. Teixeira is in third place in both the majors and the American League in home runs behind Nelson Cruz (13) of the Seattle Mariners and Ramirez (10). Despite the power and his team-leading 20 RBIs, Teixeira is still batting just .202 on the season.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

I should be angry with the way Warren could not get through six, the fact Rogers gave up a three-run home run and that the usually flawless Headley committed his sixth error of the season. But because the Yankees did win on national TV and it ended with a sweep against the Red Sox at Fenway, I am willing to overlook all that just to see most of that home crowd of 33,198 going home angry with their team. There is nothing but sunshine in the Yankee Universe.

BRONX JEER

The Red Sox showed their true colors when Ramirez bellowed like a stuck pig when Warren hit him with a pitch with two outs in the sixth and the Yankees winning 8-1. Manager John Farrell obviously gave the go-ahead for Mujica to retaliate in the eighth on a 3-0 pitch after Mujica had thrown an earlier pitch that Ellsbury had to avoid. In this series, the Yankees had not hit a single Bosox batter while Teixeira and McCann both were hit by pitches on Friday. The idea that Warren intentionally hit Ramirez was even lost on Ortiz, who told reporters after the game he didn’t think Warren’s pitch had that purpose. But Ramirez always has been a prima donna with a sour attitude much like another outfielder named Ramirez who played for Boston. So the intellectually deficient Red Sox decided to target Ellsbury after he forced them for seven hits in 11 at-bats in the series. I think the move shows more a team that is frustrated their starting pitchers are getting lit up like a Chinese New Year celebration and they can’t handle the fact their team is not as good as they believe it is.

BOMBER BANTER

Backup infielder Brendan Ryan suffered a setback in his rehab of a right calf strain on Saturday. Ryan, 33, sustained a strained hamstring while he was running sprints at the team’s Tampa, FL, complex and he will have to sit out another week. Ryan first injured his back while lifting weights before spring training games started and then ended up with the strained calf in the final week of camp. For now Gregorio Petit, 29, will remain the backup middle infielder. Obtained from the Houston Astros, Petit is batting ,200 with no homers and five RBIs. However, Jose Pirela, 24, is 11-for-19 (.579) with a homer and five RBIs at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

ON DECK

The Yankees will make their first trip to Toronto on Monday to open a three-game series with the Blue Jays.

Right-hander Chase Whitley (1-0, 1.80 ERA) will make his second start of the season for the Yankees as the replacement for Masahiro Tanaka in the rotation. Whitley limited the Rays to one run on six hits and one walk with five strikeouts in a victory on Tuesday.

The Blue Jays will counter with knuckle-balling right-hander R.A. Dickey (0-3, 5.23 ERA), who lost again in yielding four runs on nine hits with no walks and four strikeouts in seven innings against the Red Sox on Wednesday.

Game-time will be 7:07 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

 

Eovaldi, Gardner Spur Yankees Past Reeling Bosox

GAME 24

YANKEES 4, RED SOX 2

When the Yankees traded infielder Martin Prado and right-hander David Phelps to the Miami Marlins for right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and first baseman-outfielder Garrett Jones they were hoping that the 25-year-old Eovaldi would develop into a reliable starting pitcher.

It appears after his performance against the Red Sox on Saturday he may be well on his way to doing just that.

Eovaldi held the Red Sox to just two runs in 6 2/3 innings and Brett Gardner drove in three of the Yankees’ four runs as New York clinched a road series victory over Boston and now have won nine of their past 11 games.

Eovaldi (2-0) yielded seven hits and one walk while he struck out two in his first career start at Fenway Park.

The Yankees staked Eovaldi to a 1-0 lead in the third inning against left-hander Wade Miley (1-3) on a leadoff single by Didi Gregorious, a wild pitch that advanced Gregorius to second and a one-out RBI double by Gardner.

The Red Sox, however got that run back in the fourth inning as Dustin Pedroia led off the frame with his fifth home run of the season.

But the Yankees took the lead for good in the fifth beginning with a leadoff double by Chase Headley and a bloop single to center by Gregorio Petit. Gregorius advanced both on a sacrifice bunt and, one out later, Gardner delivered a two-run single that scored Headley and Petit.

The Red Sox chased Eovaldi in the seventh inning when catcher Blake Swihart, making his major-league debut, drew a two-out walk. Right-hander Chris Martin replaced Eovaldi and was immediately greeted by an RBI double by Mookie Betts.

However, that was close the Red Sox got because Martin then retired Pedroia on a groundout to strand Betts at second.

Chris Young provided the Yankees with an insurance run in the ninth inning with a one-out solo home run off right-hander Alexi Ogando.

Meanwhile, Dellin Betances entered the game with two out in the eighth and he retired all four batters he faced on strikeouts to earn his first save of the season.

The victory improved the Yankees’ season record to 15-9 and they now lead the second-place Tampa Bay Rays by two games in the American League East. The Red Sox dropped to 12-12 and they are in third place and trail by three games.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Eovaldi threw a season-high 111 pitches and he only struck out two batters. But what made Eovaldi special on Saturday is the way he featured his fastball more and he worked both sides of the plate. After Pedroia’s homer in the fourth, David Ortiz and Pablo Sandoval both reached on singles with two out. But Eovaldi managed to get Mike Napoli to rap into an inning-ending double play. “I thought he pitched in extremely well,” catcher Brian McCann told reporters. “I think he’s getting better and better, I really do.”
  • Betances came in and shut the door hard on the Red Sox. He ended the eighth by fanning Napoli and then struck out Brock Holt, Xander Bogaerts and Swihart in succession for only his second career save and his first of this season. Betances has now struck out at least two batters without allowing a hit in seven consecutive appearances. He also has struck out 25 batters in 14 1/3 innings on the season.
  • Gardner was 2-for-4 with a double, a single and three RBIs in clearly what was his best game of the season. He entered the contest with three RBIs on the season. But Gardner is quietly producing big numbers behind Jacoby Ellsbury in the No. 2 spot in the order. Gardner has hits in his past five starts and is 8-for-20 (.400) in that stretch and that has raised his season average to .319.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

When the Yankees win and the Red Sox lose it is not a day to dwell on the negatives. I would be hard-pressed to find any anyway. This team is just clicking on all cylinders now.

ON DECK

The Yankees will have a chance to sweep the struggling Red Sox at Fenway Park on Sunday.

Right-hander Adam Warren (1-1, 4.35 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Warren held the Rays to a run on five hits with no walks and six strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings but he did not get a decision.

The Red Sox will counter with right-hander Joe Kelly (1-0, 4.94 ERA). Kelly and Warren faced each other on April 11 at Yankee Stadium and Kelly won the game 8-4. But since then Kelly has been tagged for 12 runs on 17 hits and six walks in 16 2/3 innings for an ERA of 6.48 and a WHIP of 1.38 in his past three starts.

Game-time will be 8:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by ESPN.

 

Fenway Quiet As A-Rod’s 660th Homer Bites Bosox

GAME 23

YANKEES 3, RED SOX 2

If there is any place where Alex Rodriguez would hear the loudest boos it would hands down be at Fenway Park. That is exactly the way it played out on Friday when Rodriguez pinch-hit in the eighth inning. But he managed to silence the 35,444 in attendance with one historically significant swing.

Rodriguez laced a 3-0 fastball off right-hander Junichi Tazawa into the seats above the Green Monster in left to break a 2-2 tie and give New York a thrilling victory over rival Boston.

The home run also was the 660th of Rodriguez’s career, which ties him for fourth on the all-time home run list with the legendary Willie Mays.

The teams remained tied into the eighth as both Red Sox right-hander Justin Masterson and Yankee left-hander CC Sabathia ended up with similar pitching lines.

The Yankees jumped into an early 1-0 lead in the first inning on a leadoff single by Jacoby Ellsbury, a one-out walk to Mark Teixeira and a two-out RBI double by struggling veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran, who entered the game batting .162.

The Red Sox tied it in the third inning when Xander Bogaerts opened the frame with a double and advanced to third on a deep fly to center by Ryan Hanigan. He then scored on a sacrifice fly by Mookie Betts.

The Red Sox then took the lead in the fourth on a solo two-out golf shot home run to left off the bat of Allen Craig for his first home run of the season.

The Yankees knotted the score in the seventh when Didi Gregorius drew a walk off Masterson. Left-hander Tommy Layne replaced Masterson and, with two out, he struck Teixeira on the right arm with a pitch and Brian McCann followed with an opposite-field single to score Gregorius.

Masterson was charged with two runs on six hits and three walks while he fanned two in 6-plus innings. Sabathia gave up two runs on seven hits and two walks and he struck out three in six innings.

Sabathia entered the game with an 0-4 record and he has not won a regular-season game since April 14 of last season against the Red Sox.

Esmil Rogers (1-1) pitched a perfect seventh inning to get credit for the victory. Tazawa (0-1) took the loss.

As has been the case all season, the Yankees relied on the “Twin Towers” of 6-foot-8 right-hander Dellin Betances and 6-foot-7 left-hander Andrew Miller to close out the final two innings.

Betances pitched around a walk and a single to keep Boston scoreless in the eighth and Miller hurled a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his ninth save in nine chances.

The Yankees improved their season record to 14-9 and they remain in first place in the American League East one game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays. The Red Sox fell to 12-11 and they are two games behind the Yankees in third place in the division.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • A-Rod has always has had a flair for the dramatic at Fenway Park. His last homer there came off right-hander Ryan Dempster in 2013 after Dempster had deliberately hit him with a pitch in his previous at-bat. This home run came on a  3-0 pitch and strangely enough it is only the second homer of Rodriguez’s career on a 3-0 count. For the season, Rodriguez has six home runs. Rodriguez did not start the game for two reasons. The first was that manager Joe Girardi was employing an all-lefty hitting lineup against Masterson. The second is that Rodriguez entered the game 2 for his past 17 at-bats, which is a sickly .118.
  • Betances and Miller have now combined to pitch 25 2/3 scoreless innings between them. They have given up nine hits and 12 walks while they have struck out 42 batters. This is shaping up to be the strongest 1-2 combination the Yankees have had since the days of Mariano Rivera setting up for John Wetteland in 1996.
  • Beltran has been scuffling all season and he recorded no home runs and seven RBIs in the first month of the season. But on the first day of May he was 2-for-4 with a double, a single and an big two-out RBI in the first inning. The Yankees badly need to get the 38-year-old veteran untracked.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The Yankees allowed Masterson and relievers Layne, Tazawa and Robbie Ross Jr. off the hook so many times that they stranded 12 base-runners. They loaded the bases with two out in the fifth inning when Masterson hit McCann with a pitch. However, Beltran hit a weak roller to second to leave the bases loaded. Fortunately for the Yankees, the Red Sox were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
  • Garrett Jones started as the team’s designated hitter in place of Rodriguez and he was 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Jones, 33, is 5-for-30 (.167) on the season with no homers and no RBIs in 12 games. After a poor spring Jones may be playing his way out of favor. He once was considered as a potential platoon DH with Rodriguez. But that ship has sailed and Jones is getting less and less playing time.

BOMBER BANTER

All the injured players the Yankees left in spring training are progressing nicely. Left-hander Chris Capuano, who is on the disabled list with a right quadriceps strain, is scheduled to throw four innings or 60 pitches at Class-A Tampa on Saturday. Right-hander Ivan Nova, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, is scheduled to throw one inning in an intrasquad game. Right-hander Jared Burton (oblique) is also scheduled to throw an intrasquad inning. Meanwhile, backup infielder Brendan Ryan (right calf strain) took an at-bat in extended spring training game on Friday. Infielder Jose Pirela (concussion) received a rehab assignment to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre and he went 1-for-4 with a walk against Charlotte on Thursday.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their weekend series against the wicked evil Red Sox on Saturday.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (1-0, 4.14 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Eovaldi, 25, surrendered four runs on seven hits while he struck out six in 4 1/3 innings in a no decision against the New York Mets on Sunday.

The Red Sox will counter with struggling left-hander Wade Miley (1-2, 8.62 ERA). Miley was torched for eight runs on five hits and two walks in just 2 1/3 innings against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.

Game-time will be 1:35 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Bosox Edge Yankees In Marathon 19-Inning Game

GAME 4

RED SOX 6, YANKEES 5 (19 INNINGS)

Anytime the Red Sox and Yankees play each other you can count on seeing something you never saw before and Friday’s marathon that lasted into the wee hours of Saturday morning was no different.

It took 19 innings and six hours and 49 minutes to play  –  not including a 16-minute delay in the bottom of the 12th inning to repair a power outage in some banks of lights  –  but Mookie Betts stroked a sacrifice fly in the top of the 19th inning to score Xander Bogaerts with the game-winner as Boston outlasted New York in the longest game played at the new Yankee Stadium.

The game was the longest played measured by time in Red Sox history and the second longest in Yankees history. The Yankees played 22 innings in exactly seven hours on June 24, 1962 against the Detroit Tigers.

The game lasted so long that Mark Teixiera turned from age 34 to 35 during the contest.

The Yankees did lose the game, however, they also were able to extend it in the ninth inning, the 16th inning and the 18th inning by answering Red Sox tallies with scores of their own.

Down to their final out in the ninth, Chase Headley homered off closer Edward Mujica to tie the game at 3-3.

After David Ortiz had homered off Rogers in the 16th inning, Teixeira answered in the bottom of the frame with a home run off right-hander Steven Wright.

The Red Sox then took a 5-4 lead in the 18th inning on an RBI single by Pablo Sandoval to score Dustin Pedroia. But the Yankees answered when Carlos Beltran doubled to score pinch-runner John Ryan Murphy.

Wright (1-0), who was scheduled to be optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket today, yielded two runs on six hits and three walks with one strikeout in five innings to get credit for the victory.

Rogers (0-1) gave up three runs (two earned) on six hits and one walk with four strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings and was the losing pitcher.

The Yankees’ record is now 1-3. The Red Sox are 3-1.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • The Yankee bullpen was superb from the time starter Nathan Eovaldi, making his Yankees debut, left the game with one out in the sixth inning. Chris Martin, Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve combined to shut the Red Sox for nine innings on four hits and six walks with 11 strikeouts. The newly acquired Shreve pitched an exceptional 3 1/3 innings of shutout baseball. This bullpen looks to be just as strong although David Robertson and Shawn Kelley have departed and Adam Warren has moved into a starting role.
  • Headley is proving to be a master of the big moment in his burgeoning Yankee career. His home run in the ninth off Mujica came on a 2-1 pitch that he drilled into the second deck in straightaway right-field. It was the first of the season for him. The downside, however, is that Headley was 1-for-7 in the game and he stranded a team-leading seven runners.
  • Teixeira’s home run was his second of the season. The oddity is that they both came off knuckleball right-handers (R.A. Dickey and Wright) and they both came while Teixeira was batting right-handed despite the fact he is a switch-hitter. Teixeira obviously has discovered the key to hitting the knuckleball for him is batting right-handed.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

There were some ugly things in this game. The must obvious was Brett Gardner both getting picked off and caught stealing and Headley getting picked off first also. The Yankees are struggling offensively and they can’t just lose runners on mistakes. Base-running has been a big problem in the early going. However, I give the Yankees a lot of credit for coming back on the Red Sox three times and pushing the game further.

ON DECK

The Yankees will play the Red Sox again on Saturday.

Warren, 27, will make his only his fourth career start and his first since 2013 for the Yankees. Warren is filling in for injured left-hander Chris Capuano is the team’s fifth starter and was 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in first starts this spring.

The Red Sox will counter with right-hander Joe Kelly, who will be activated for the game after missing time in the spring with a biceps injury. Kelley was 1-0 with a 11.05 ERA in three spring starts.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. and the game will be broadcast by nationally FOX Sports 1.

 

Yankees Poised To Finish Third In A.L. East

With spring training in their rear-view mirror and the 2015 season about to start, the question is where will the New York Yankees finish in the American League East. The Yankees have failed to make the playoffs the past two seasons and many experts believe it will be three. But with the additions the Yankees made could they possibly have a surprise in store. Here is how I project it.

NEW YORK YANKEES

First of all, let’s admit that this is not your father’s A.L. East. There is NO dominant team in the division and there is not much separation between any of the five teams in terms of talent.

That said, the Yankees come into 2015 building around the foundation they began with their half-billion dollar investment last winter with the signings of outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, catcher Brian McCann and right-handed pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.

Those free agents were added to the holdovers in shortstop Derek Jeter, first baseman Mark Teixeira, outfielder Brett Gardner and left-hander CC Sabathia.

General manager Brian Cashman actually started the rebuilding process for 2015 last summer by retaining a number of players they acquired around the trade deadline or later such as third baseman Chase Headley, second baseman Stephen Drew, outfielder Chris Young and left-hander Chris Capuano.

With the retirement of Jeter, the loss of free-agent closer David Robertson and right-hander’s Hiroki Kuroda’s decision to end his career pitching in his native Japan, Cashman was forced to shuffle the deck by using young pitchers like right-handers David Phelps and Shane Greene and left-hander Manny Banuelos to bring in right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, backup first baseman and outfielder Garrett Jones, starting shortstop Didi Gregorius and relievers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve.

Cashman also used cash to lure free-agent left-hander Andrew Miller to bolster the bullpen around rookie sensation Dellin Betances.

The result is a team that features a starting lineup of eight players ranging in age from 31 to Alex Rodriguez at 39. The former starting third baseman is returning from a year-long performance-enhancing drug suspension to become the team’s designated hitter.

Only Gregarious at age 25 is considered young.

However, the rotation features a 26-year-old in Tanaka, a 26-year-old in Michael Pineda and a 25-year-old in Eovaldi. A spring injury to 36-year-old Capuano has thrust 27-year-old Adam Warren into the No. 5 slot. So the only pitcher over 27 in the Yankees rotation is Sabathia, who is 34. When is the last time you could say that about the Yankees’ rotation?

The bullpen will center around Betances, 26, and Miller, 28, who are  –  at least for now  –  going share the closing duties. If both pitch as they have up to now, it will be a very good shutdown pair because neither have been hit hard by righties or lefties.

The concern will be with the setup spots. Warren is in the rotation so the Yankees will be counting on the right-handed Carpenter, 29, and left-handed Justin Wilson, 27, who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates with Cashman using the team’s catching surplus to deal away Francisco Cervelli.

If Carpenter and Wilson are successful, the bullpen will have a chance to be very good. If they fail, it could be a long season. Warren’s shift back to the bullpen with the return of both Capuano and right-hander Ivan Nova from Tommy John surgery in June can only be a big plus for the group.

Esmil Rogers, 29, will handle long relief. Shreve, 24, gives Girardi a third left-hander and 6-foot-8 right-hander Chris Martin has 95-mile-per-hour stuff that moves on an extreme downward plane. This trio looks solid and give Girardi credit for being a master of managing bullpens.

All spring long the Yankees struggled to score runs. It was not too much different from the way the offense struggled last season.

A pair of speed demons  –  Ellsbury and Gardner  –  are stacked on top of the lineup. The idea is to get them on base as much as possible and let them use their speed to get into scoring position for the middle of the lineup.

Both combined to steal 60 bases in what both players admittedly could call an off year. So they hope they can top 80 this season.

The whole strategy rests upon the middle of the order bouncing back from injuries and off years in 2015.

The third batter, Beltran, incurred painful bone chips in his right elbow and ended up posting the worst numbers of his career.

The cleanup hitter, Teixiera, was still limited by a sore right wrist and other injuries and posted only 22 home runs.

Although the fifth hitter, McCann, did crack 23 home runs and drive 78 runs, he only batted .232. So the Yankees would like him to hit closer to his career .272 average this season.

That is plenty of firepower but it seems like a fragile situation counting on Beltran, who will be 38 on April 24 and Teixeira, who will be 35 on April 11.

Behind McCann may be the one diamond-in-the-rough player who is primed for  huge season in Headley, 30, who hit 31 homers and drove in 115 runs for the San Diego Padres in 2012. Back issues have hampered him for the past two seasons but he seems healthy now.

He batted .305 with three homers and eight RBIs this spring and the former Gold Glove winner has been flashing some serious leather at third base.

It is unclear how much A-Rod will contribute from the DH spot. Rodriguez has not played more than 138 games since his Most Valuable Player season in 2007. Hip surgeries, nagging other ailments and the drug suspension have teamed with Father Time to make him an unknown quantity.

This spring, Rodriguez batted .267 with three homers and four RBIs and he did not look overmatched at the plate. But it is hard to know what A-Rod will provide until the bells rings on the regular season.

Nowhere did the Yankees look more vulnerable last season than at second base. After Robinson Cano took his power, his .300 average and his Gold Glove defensive skills to Seattle, the Yankees tried veteran Brian Roberts at the position.

But his batting and fielding skills eroded over four seasons of injuries and the Yankees cut him loose in July in favor of Drew, who had never played second base in the pro baseball. Drew also was dealing with a season-long hitting slump that saw him bat only .162 between the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees.

Drew started this spring very slowly but emerged to bat over .470 in the final three weeks with three home runs. Drew has been working with the Yankees’ new hitting coach Jeff Petland and it seems to have been paying some dividends. The Yankees would settle for Drew batting .250 or so with 15 homers and 65 RBIs this season. Those had been norms for Drew in his previous seasons.

Though it was sad to see the 20-year era of Jeter’s career at shortstop come to an end, the Yankees are very hopeful they have an emerging star in the making in Gregorius.

What fans immediately saw this spring is that Gregorius has outstanding range, great hands and an powerful and accurate arm. The Yankees believe his defense will be upgrade since Jeter’s range had been so limited the past several years.

Jeter batted .256 in his final season and the Yankees hope that Gregorius can possibly top that average this season largely batting ninth. When Gregorius was in Arizona, manager Kirk Gibson benched him against left-handers because he has batted only .150 in his career against them.

But the Yankees allowed him to hit against left-handers this spring and Gregorius did not seem to look bad against them. So, for now, Girardi is content with playing his young shortstop every day.

The bench is solid and features power-hitting right-hander Young and power-hitting left-hander Jones. Young, 31, had an exceptional spring and he brings athleticism to all three outfield spots he plays and a potential deadly bat against left-handed pitching.

Jones, 33, hit 15 homers for the Miami Marlins last season and he seems to have the perfect swing for Yankee Stadium. Jones will primarily back up Teixeira at first and he can also play the corner outfield spots, if needed.

Backup infielder Brendan Ryan, 33, had a spring he would rather forget. First, he was delayed at the start with a back injury he sustained lifting weights. After he returned, Ryan ended up pulling a right calf muscle last week and he will start the season on the disabled list.

Ryan brings a slick glove to second, shortstop and third base  –  although short is where he really shines in the field. But he can’t hit a lick. He has no power and he is a career .234 hitter.

The Yankees obtained infielder Gregorio Petit from the Houston Astros in exchange for cash in the last week of the spring. So Petit, 30, will assume Ryan’s role despite having played on only 62 major-league games with the Oakland Athletics and the Astros. He has batted .278 in just 151 at-bats. He will be a stopgap until Ryan is healthy again.

John Ryan Murphy, 23, managed to hold off a challenge from veteran Austin Romine this spring to remain the backup to McCann. Murphy batted .284 with a homer and nine RBIs in 32 games last season and the Yankees rave about his defense behind the plate.

But the biggest secret the Yankees are carrying with them now lies in the young players they were able to showcase this spring. For the first time in a very long time the Yankees have a number of very good prospects and some positional depth at the minor-league level that could be factors this season.

But the promise is even brighter longer term.

Right-handed starters Luis Severino and Domingo German (obtained in the trade for Phelps and Martin Prado) and left-handed starter Ian Clarkin along with left-handed reliever Jacob Lindgren and right-handed relievers Nick Rumbelow and Jose Ramirez are in the pipeline and moving quickly to the majors.

Second basemen Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela tore the cover off the ball this spring and their presence at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is just a taste of what is the horizon with outfielders Slade Heathcott and Ramon Flores also knocking on the door.

Right-hander Chase Whitley, 25, had a 1.17 ERA this spring and he still not crack the bullpen. You have to figure he is going to get a call-up to the 25-man roster at some point. Keep an eye also on Bryan Mitchell, who will be 24 this month. Mitchell drew rave reviews when he fanned Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez back-to-back in a five-inning effort in a split-squad game in Lakeland, FL, on April 2.

At Double-A Trenton will be prospects such as outfielder Aaron Judge and first baseman Greg Bird, both of whom looked undaunted by major-league pitching this spring.

Catching prospect Gary Sanchez, 23, is also not too far away from contributing in the major leagues.

Though Yankee fans and the Yankee front office never has shown much patience with its young prospects in the past, this group might just force the front office to use them and perhaps the revolving door of signing aging free agents will finally end.

Should the Yankees falter as what so many experts are predicting this season. The young players who are on the way could be a foundation to build around, It is there to see. It is just up to Cashman and the Yankee front office not to screw it up.

Here now is my brief assessment of the other four teams in the division and my prediction for the order of finish in 2015.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

This is a team that ran away with this division last season. But it is hard to see them as a “great” team.

Their ace is a very pedestrian Chris Tillman. Their offense lost outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. They also are likely to be without Matt Wieters to start the season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Ditto for shortstop J.J. Hardy, who has left shoulder injury.

With all that they still have Adam Jones, Manny Machado and they are really hoping that Chris Davis recovers his home-run stroke.

Though Tillman is not a true ace they do have Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzales and Bud Norris to form a solid foursome. The bullpen with closer Zach Britton and setup guys Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter is top notch.

They also have one of the best managers in baseball in Buck Showalter. So in Baltimore there is hope the O’s can repeat.

A lot depends on how new outfielders Alejandro De Aza and Travis Snider do to make up for the losses of Cruz and Markakis.

BOSTON RED SOX

This team flopped in 2014 and yet many are picking them to win the title in 2015.

Most of that is based on their offense. To Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, the Red Sox have added Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts and Pablo Sandoval.

They are also hoping for better seasons and health from Xander Bogaerts and Shane Victorino.

However, it is hard to look at the rotation and see anything but potential disaster.

Clay Buchholz was 8-11 with a 6.34 ERA and is considered the ace. Rick Porcello did have a 15-13 record and a 3.43 ERA with the Tigers. But Justin Masterson was 7-9 with a 5.88 with the Cleveland Indians and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Lefty Wade Miley was 8-12 with a 4.34 ERA for the Arizona Diamondbacks. A better offense will help him but he is not anything close to Jon Lester, who the Red Sox traded last season and were unable to re-sign as a free agent.

No. 5 starter Joe Kelly (6-4, 4.20 ERA with the Cardinals) starts the season on the disabled list with right bicep injury. In addition, closer Koji Uehara, who just turned 40, is also on the disabled list with a hamstring injury so Edward Mujica and his 49 career saves are it for now.

There is no doubt that the Red Sox will be capable of scoring runs. The question is will it be enough runs to cover a pitching staff and an underbelly of a bullpen that could really exploited?

Add that up to the fact that catcher Christian Vazquez is out for the season to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and you have enough doubts about the Red Sox to make it unlikely they are a good choice to win this division.

The Toronto Blue Jays tried this approach last season and it did not work.

TAMPA BAY RAYS

This team seemingly lost everything so quickly that their home radio station, WDAE, is not very enthusiastic about them.

Manager Joe Maddon and his screwy ideas that seem to work on shifting is gone. General manager Andrew Friedman, who introduced sabermetrics and advanced scouting techniques to the organization that built this team, is also gone.

The team’s best pitcher in David Price was traded last season and now is pitching for the Detroit Tigers. Their second-best pitcher, Matt Moore, is not expected back until June because he is recovering from Tommy John surgery.

This spring they incurred injuries to their best remaining pitcher Alex Cobb. Their closer, Jake McGee, will miss the first month.

They also traded away offensive contributors such as Wil Myers, Ben Zobrist, Yunel Escobar and Matt Joyce.

The team’s offense can be wrapped up in third baseman Evan Longoria and a lot of hope and praying.

They are counting on production out of rookie outfielder Steven Souza Jr., who batted .130 this spring and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who the Indians discarded saying he could not play shortstop and he was not the hitter he was in 2011 (25 home runs and 92 RBIs).

They are still hoping that Desmond Jennings just shows one little spark of the long-departed Carl Crawford. But it is not looking like it will happen.

This could amount to one of the weakest hitting teams in baseball in 2015 and it could be worse without Maddon running the show.

Granted, Cobb, Moore, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi could form a solid rotation when they are all healthy. The question is can the Rays tread water long enough to see that happen?

Though McGee, Grant Balfour and Brad Boxberger form a solid trio at the back of the bullpen, the Rays are counting on a pair of former failed relievers in Kevin Jepsen and Ernesto Frieri to help out in the middle innings.

They also do not have a decent lefty beyond McGee. Ouch!

After many years of dealing with their obnoxious cowbell-ringing fans  –  all of about 7,000 of them a game  –  it appears that the bloom is off the rose and the cowbells will eventually fall silent this season unless there is some sort of miracle new manager Kevin Cash can create.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

This was the sexy choice to win the division in 2014. Funny thing is, I would have selected them to win this season if young right-hander Marcus Stroman did suffer knee injury that will force him to miss the entire season.

Stroman would have formed a nice 1-2 punch with right-hander Drew Hutchison, who at 24 has progressed so much as a pitcher he is starting on Opening Day ahead of Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and veteran Mark Buehrle.

To that they have added a pair of young pitchers in left-hander Daniel Norris and right-hander Aaron Sanchez, who looked to be the team’s closer in waiting until the team opted to use him as a starter instead.

The bullpen is untested but it has closer Brett Cecil. There is a lot untested pitchers in the mix behind him but 20-year-old Miguel Castro may end being something special as he gets his feet wet in the majors.

Like the Red Sox, the Blue Jays never have to worry about scoring runs. Add to the thundering power of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion the bat of third baseman Josh Donaldson, who hit 29 home runs and drove in 98 runs for the Athletics in their cavernous ballpark.

You would think Donaldson will love the Rogers Centre.

Though the Jays will miss line-drive machine Melky Cabrera, they still have Jose Reyes and they have also added catcher Russell Martin, who can hit 20 homers and run a pitching staff like a pitching coach.

So there is a lot to like.

The question is after losing Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus the Blue Jays are trotting a pair of young outfielders in Dalton Pompey (center) and Kevin Pillar (left). Much of what the Blue Jays do will revolve around what they do.

They also have a new second baseman in Devon Travis.

It is hard to pick a team to win with so many new players in the lineup like Pillar, Pompey and Travis. This team is carrying six rookies!

But the real test of how the Blue Jays do in 2015 will hinge on its pitching staff. Stroman was a much bigger loss than I think the Blue Jays can overcome.

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

1) BALTIMORE ORIOLES (92-70)

2) TORONTO BLUE JAYS (86-76)

3) NEW YORK YANKEES (84-78)

4) BOSTON RED SOX (80-82)

5) TAMPA BAY RAYS (76-86)  Hello Montreal!

The Orioles will fall back to the pack but not enough to make much difference. The Blue Jays actually could have won it with Stroman, but now they will fall short and they will not win the wildcard either. I was tempted to pick the Yankees for second because Tanaka, Pineda and Eovaldi are all primed for excellent seasons. But the offense this spring was woefully lacking and it looks as if they will lose a lot of 4-3 and 3-2 games unless make a deal for a young slugger like Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees just do not have that stud in the middle of the order and it will hurt. The Red Sox will be the Red Flops mainly because their pitching is not as good as people believe it is. Their bullpen also is much weaker without Miller. About all that the “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval is good for is twining with Ortiz to advertise for a doughnut shop. Ramirez is talented but he also is moody and can give up when things are not going well. Ask the Marlins and Dodgers. As for the Rays, their collapse could not have come at a worse time for them when attendance and TV viewership is dropping. The owner wants to have a new stadium built despite the fact that they are tied to dumpy and ugly Tropicana Field for many more years. That is why it is inevitable that the team will be sold and shifted to another city like Montreal soon. Tre bien!