YANKEES 6, ATHLETICS 2
Masahiro Tanaka was well aware of the whispers after he went 0-2 with a 6.26 ERA in his past four starts. They were saying that he was not pitching well because of that slightly torn right elbow ligament.
On Thursday he got a chance to silence those naysayers and he did it in style.
Tanaka (5-3) pitched two-hit baseball over 7 2/3 innings and newly selected All-Star team replacement Brett Gardner homered while Jacoby Ellsbury added two RBIs as New York won the three-game series over Oakland in front of paid crowd of 40,084 at Yankee Stadium.
After Gardner hit his 10th home run with one out in the first inning to hand him an early 1-0 lead, Tanaka struggled in the second inning.
Josh Reddick reached on a rare catcher’s interference call on Brian McCann. Billy Butler followed with an RBI double to left that scored Reddick. Two outs later, Mark Canha plated Butler with an RBI double off the center-field wall.
Though the Athletics did not know it, Tanaka would then go on to retire the next 18 batters he faced without giving up a hit or a walk. Butler did reach first with one out in the fourth inning after striking out on a wild pitch.
So Tanaka ended his day being charged with two runs (one earned) on two hits and no walks and he struck out six in a masterful season-high 114-pitch performance.
The Yankees, meanwhile, were able to tie the game in the bottom of the third inning against right-hander Jesse Chavez.
Ellsbury drew a leadoff four-pitch walk and Gardner followed with a single to center as part of his three-hit day. Mark Teixeira then scored Ellsbury on a single up the middle for his 62nd RBI of the season, which leads the American League.
The Yankees took the lead for good in the fourth after Chavez issued Stephen Drew a one-out walk and Cole Figueroa, who was called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre earlier in the day, delivered one of his two doubles on the afternoon to advance Drew to third. Ellsbury then laced a two-run single to right to score Drew and Figueroa.
Chavez (4-2) surrendered four runs on seven hits and three walks with three strikeouts in five innings.
The Yankees added a pair of unearned runs in the eighth inning off right-hander Fernando Rodriguez.
Chris Young drew a one-out walk and Figueroa followed one out later with a ground-rule double to right. Both Young and Figueroa scored when Marcus Semien fielded Ellsbury’s ground ball but committed his major-league-leading 28th error of the season when first baseman Ike Davis was unable to catch his errant throw.
Left-hander Chasen Shreve and right-hander Adam Warren combined to throw 1 1/3 scoreless innings to close out the victory for Tanaka.
With the victory the Yankees are now 46-39 and they have opened up a three-game lead over the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The A’s dropped to 39-49.
- Tanaka’s final start before the All-Star break was just what he needed to build upon after he missed more than a month with an arm injury unrelated to his elbow ligament tear. He is 5-3 with a 3.63 ERA in 11 starts. In order for the Yankees to maintain their lead in the division it will be important for Tanaka to pitch closer to the 13-5 and 2.77 ERA he recorded last season in 20 starts. I would not want to bet against him doing it after seeing him on Thursday.
- Ellsbury’s return to the lineup on Wednesday after being activated from the disabled list paid big dividends in this game. He and Gardner combined to go 4-for-9 with a walk, a home run, three singles, two runs scored and three RBIs. They reached base in seven of their 10 at-bats. Gardner was 3-for-5 and is now hitting .303 on the season. This speedy tandem is going to create a lot of havoc on the bases in the second half as long as they stay healthy.
- Figueroa, 28, was called up to play third base in the absence of Chase Headley, who has some minor inflammation in his right calf. All Figueroa did was go 2-for-4 with two doubles and he scored two runs in his first major-league game. Figueroa was hitting .317 with three homers and 36 RBIs in 77 games at Scranton.
Nothing negative here. The Yankees got a great effort from their ace right-hander and with Gardner and Ellsbury getting on base often it is going to be difficult for teams to keep the Yankees from scoring runs in bunches. The rest of the division better watch out.
In order for the team to call up Figueroa the Yankees sent Jose Pirela, 23, to Scranton. Pirela was hitting a disappointing .212 with one home run and four RBIs in 29 games. Pirela hit.305 at Scranton last season and batted a robust .370 this spring. But he has not found his stroke with the Yankees this season. In addition, the Yankees had to designate for assignment outfielder Taylor Dugas, 25, to make room on the 40-man roster for Figueroa. . . . In the fifth inning the public address announced that Gardner, 31, had been selected by Ned Yost of the Kansas City Royals – who is managing the American League All-Star team – to replace outfielder Alex Gordon of the Royals on the roster. Gordon suffered an injured groin in a game on Wednesday and will be sidelined for a minimum of six weeks. Gordon had been selected to start for the American League in the fan vote. For Gardner it was the first time he had been selected for the team. Gardner is batting .303 with 10 home runs and 40 RBIs this season.
The Yankees will open their final pre-All-Star Game series with their hated rival Boston Red Sox on Friday at Fenway Park.
Right-hander Michael Pineda (8-5, 3.79 ERA) will start the series for the Yankees. Pineda pitched a brilliant seven innings of shutout baseball. yielding only five hits and one walk while striking out 10 against the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday. He did not get a decision but the Yankees eventually won the game in the ninth inning.
Right-hander Clay Buchholz (7-6, 3.27 ERA) will start for the Red Sox. Buchholz threw nine innings of one-run baseball, giving up six hits, no walks and striking five in a complete-game victory over the Houston Astros on Saturday.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by WPIX.
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.