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.
YANKEES 5, ASTROS 4
With the loss of some free agents and a spate of injuries to some key players most people thought the New York Yankees would have to play baseball exactly the way they played it on Wednesday night. I mean how many teams win a game by delaying the execution of a opponent’s double play?
That is exactly how the Yankees beat the Astros, though.
Lyle Overbay delayed running from first base on a double-play grounder in order to allow Eduardo Nunez to score the tie-breaking run in the sixth inning and the team’s strong bullpen protected the lead as New York edged Houston and claimed the series victory in front of a paid crowd of 34.117 at Yankee Stadium.
Nunez opened the sixth against Astros reliever Paul Clemens (1-1) with a line-drive double off the wall in the left-field corner and he advanced to third on a wild pitch while Overbay was at the plate. Overbay then was able to coax a walk.
One out later, Astros manager Bo Porter brought in left-hander Wesley Wright to pitch to Ichiro Suzuki. On a 3-2 pitch, Suzuki hit a slow-hop grounder to second baseman Jose Altuve. Overbay, realizing it would be an inning-ending double play, stopped a few steps off first, forcing Altuve to throw to first to retire Suzuki.
Overbay then broke for second and was eventually tagged out by first baseman Carlos Pena. However, Nunez was able to cross home plate before Overbay was tagged out to break the 4-4 tie.
Boone Logan (2-1) pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn the victory for the Yankees.
David Robertson and Mariano Rivera then mowed down the Astros in the final two innings to seal the victory. Rivera pitched the ninth to earn his 11th save in 11 opportunities this season.
The Yankees actually looked like they would coast to an easy victory when they got out to an early 4-0 lead by scoring singles runs in the first and second innings and adding a pair of in the third off Astros left-hander Erik Bedard.
Jayson Nix followed Suzuki’s leadoff triple in the first with a RBI single to plate the Yankees’ first tally of the game.
After Bedard loaded the bases by walking the first three batters in the second, Chris Stewart lofted a sacrifice fly with one out to increase the lead to 2-0.
Robinson Cano then greeted Bedard with a home run blast into the bleachers in right-field for his eighth home run of the season. Two outs later, slumping outfielder Ben Francisco then added another run with a line-drive solo shot into the left-field bleachers for his first home run and first RBI as a Yankee.
Bedard lasted only four innings, giving up four runs on six hits and four walks while striking out two batters.
However, David Phelps, making his first start of the season replacing injured right-hander Ivan Nova in the rotation, was unable to hold the lead.
With one out, Altuve singled, Juan Castro doubled to advance Altuve to third and Pena scored Altuve with a hard-hit single off Nunez at shortstop.
Phelps then hit Chris Carter and Fernando Martinez with pitches with Martinez getting credit for RBI for scoring Castro.
Brandon Barnes then drove in Pena by beating out a potential double-play ball by sliding head-first into first base just ahead of the relay throw from Cano.
Matt Dominguez then closed out the scoring with an RBI single to right that scored Carter to tie the game.
Phelps pitched 5 2/3 innings and was touched for eight hits and two walks, in addition to the two hit batters, while he fanned five.
While winning the series, the Yankees also have won six of their past seven games. They increased their season record to 17-10 and they are two games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The Astros fell to 8-20.
- Though Suzuki did hit into the crucial double play in the sixth, he still was 2-for-4 with a walk and a run scored in the game. Suzuki, 39, is now 13-for-31 (.419) in his last eight games and that has raised his season average from .200 to .279.
- Overbay is helping the Yankees in a lot of ways this season. Some things like his game-winning home run off R.A. Dickey of the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday show up in the box-score. Some things like his delay in running to second on a sure double play do not. Overbay is hitting only .247 but he does have four home runs and 12 RBIs. But Overbay’s biggest contribution has been his defense at first. On Wednesday, Overbay was 1-for -2 with a double and two walks.
- Some experts thought that Rivera could not recover from a serious knee injury at age 43 and pitch well this season. Well, they were dead wrong. Rivera is 11-for-11 in save chances and has a 1.59 ERA with 12 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings. It seems the future Hall of Fame closer has not lost anything.
- Phelps looked great in his first three innings, pitching to the minimum and only surrendering a leadoff single to Pena in the second. But he totally lost command in the fourth and cost himself what could have been victory. Phelps, 26, is still a talented young right-hander but it seems that after pitching as a starter all spring and then switching to the bullpen left him vulnerable as his pitch count increased. He should be able to pitch better as he gets re-acclimated to going further in games.
- Though Stewart did drive in the Yankees’ second run on a sac fly in the second inning, he really hurt them team with his last thee at-bats. Stewart made an unproductive out when popped out after Overbay led off the fourth with a double. He followed that by striking out looking with runners on first and third and no outs in the sixth just before Overbay won the game with his delayed double play. Then Stewart grounded out to third base with Overbay on first and Brett Garner on third and one out in the eighth.
- Stewart stranded five runners but Nix did him one better by stranding six. Nix popped out with the bases loaded to end the second inning. He also struck out swinging to end the eighth with the sacks full. Nix is hitting .221 on the season and the Yankees need him to step up in the absence of Kevin Youkilis.
The Yankees acquired infielder Chris Nelson from the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday in exchange for cash considerations and a player to be named later. Nelson, 27, is 16-for-66 (.242) with the Rockies this season before he was designated for assignment on Sunday. Nelson is a right-handed hitter who can play both second and third base. To add Nelson to the 40-man roster, the Yankees shifted catcher Francisco Cervelli to the 60-day disabled list. In order to get Nelson onto the 25-man roster, the Yankees are expected to option infielder Corban Joseph, who was called up on Monday, back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. . . . Youkilis told reporters on Wednesday that his strained lower back feels much better after he received an epidural injection and he expects to be able to rejoin the team when he is eligible to be activated on May 13.
The Yankees will take a well-deserved break on Thursday before opening a weekend home series against the Oakland Athletics on Friday.
Ace left-hander CC Sabathia (4-2, 3.35 ERA) will take the mound for the Yankees. Sabathia allowed four runs (three earned) in seven innings against the Blue Jays on Saturday. He has completed at least seven innings in his past five starts. He is 8-8 with a 4.56 ERA in his career against the A’s.
Right-hander A.J. Griffin (2-2, 4.65 ERA) will pitch for Oakland. Griffin has allowed 13 runs over his last 17 innings and is 0-2 in his past three starts. He is 1-0 with a 5.23 ERA in his only start against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.