YANKEES 2, TIGERS 1
With Masahiro Tanaka and Anibal Sanchez locked up in a classic pitchers’ duel and scoring at a premium the result on Thursday was decided by the quick feet of Jacoby Ellsbury.
Ellsbury used his speed to force Sanchez into a costly balk and he later hustled a base hit into a double that led to scoring the game-winning run as New York took three of four games against Detroit on another bone-chilling 38-degree afternoon at Comerica Park.
The Tigers took advantage of some early command issues that plagued Tanaka to score a run in the first inning.
Anthony Gose led off with an opposite-field double and advanced to third on Ian Kinsler’s ground out. After Miguel Cabrera drew a walk, Gose was able to score on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Victor Martinez.
That run stood up most of the day as Tanaka and Sanchez matched each other for the rest of the afternoon.
After Cabrera’s walk, Tanaka retired 18 of the next 19 batters he faced, striking out six. The only hit he gave up was a two-out double to J.D. Martinez in the fourth inning.
Meanwhile, Sanchez entered the game with a 7.71 ERA. But he was able to keep the Yankees scoreless through the first five innings, yielding only a two-out double to Chris Young while striking out five.
Ellsbury opened the sixth by drawing a walk and stealing second base. Brett Gardner advanced him to third on a infield groundout. Then with two out and Brian McCann up, Ellsbury bluffed his way down the third-base line and forced Sanchez to lose contact with the rubber on his first delivery.
Home-plate umpire Phil Cuzzi made no call as McCann and the Yankees bench protested loudly. Third-base umpire and crew chief Gerry Davis then called the balk and Ellsbury scored the tying run for the Yankees without the benefit of a hit.
Unfortunately, the late call did not please Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and he was ejected from the game by Davis.
Tanaka continued his mastery of the Tigers until J.D. Martinez laced another double with one out in the seventh inning and Yoenis Cespedes the drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch. That ended Tanaka’s day.
Left-hander Justin Wilson came on to retire pinch-hitter James McCann on a sensational diving stop by Chase Headley at third, who barely beat Cespedes with his throw to second on a fielder’s choice while preventing Martinez from scoring the tie-breaking run.
Right-hander Dellin Betances then came on to get Nick Castellanos on a foul popup to end the threat.
Ellsbury opened the eighth inning against left-hander Tom Gorzelanny (0-1) with a sinking liner in left-center and he slid into second just ahead the throw from Gose. Gardner advanced him to third on a sacrifice bunt and, after Carlos Beltran was walked intentionally to set up a potential double play, McCann hit a hard grounder that trickled off Cabrera’s glove before Kinsler retrieved it throw out McCann at first base.
However, Cabrera’s inability to field it cleanly allowed Ellsbury to score what turned out to be the decisive run.
Betances (3-0) pitched a perfect eighth to get credit for the victory and Andrew Miller came in to hurl a perfect ninth, striking out Cabrera and J.D. Martinez, to earn his sixth save in as many chances.
Tanaka was charged with one run on three hits and two walks with six strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings while Sanchez surrendered one run on one hit and four walks with eight strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.
After losing their first two series at home and one on the road, the Yankees have now won two straight road series. They also cooled off the Tigers and have now won six of their past seven games to improve their record to 9-7. The Tigers fell to 11-5.
- Between Sanchez’s pitching, the cold weather and the fact manager Joe Girardi held Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez out of the starting lineup to rest them, it was obvious the Yankees would have to be resourceful to score runs. Ellsbury provided it. He was 1-for-2 with his hustle double and two walks, a stolen base and he scored the Yankees two runs. This was Ellsbury at his very best as a leadoff hitter.
- The Tigers may have a scary offense and some good starting pitching but their bullpen is definitely their Achilles’ heel. It let them down again and lost the game for the Tigers. Meanwhile, the Yankees’ bullpen was flawless throughout the series. Betances was especially impressive on Thursday. He has shaken off a bad spring training and has his velocity back, having registered as high as 97 miles-per-hour on his fastball on Thursday. In his past five outings since April 15, Betances has yielded just two hits and a walk and struck out nine batters in six innings.
- Headley was 0-for-3 with a walk and struck out three times but his value in this game was huge. Not only did Headley save a run with his diving stop of McCann’s ground ball in the seventh, he also robbed Victor Martinez of a base hit with one out in the ninth. The Yankees may have gotten off to shaky start in the field but they have committed only one error in their past eight games.
- This is not so much a negative as it is a complaint. Girardi opted to rest both Teixeira and Rodriguez, who have combined to hit nine home runs and drive in 24 runs. I understand the reason is they are older players but the Tigers used Kinsler, Cabrera, J.D. Martinez, Victor Martinez and Cespedes after they played the night before. The Yankees had Beltran batting third and McCann in the cleanup spot. On top of that, Teixeira entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh and played first base for the final two innings. My point is that if Teixeira was going to be used anyway why not start him? Girardi got away with it because Ellsbury bailed him out. But the Yankees can’t be shocked they had only three hits in the game when they basically entered the game with one hand tied behind their back by their own manager. Rest Rodriguez or rest Teixeira but not both them, Joe. Come on!
The Tigers entered the four-game series 10-2 and they had scored 68 runs in those 12 games. The Yankees’ pitching staff allowed them only nine runs in the four games. Here is the most amazing part of it, though. The bullpen only allowed one run in the entire series. “I give our pitchers a lot of credit for fighting through the weather and keeping a really good offense down,” Teixeira told reporters. “We didn’t score a ton of runs except for last night, but we scored enough runs to win, and that’s because pitching and defense was really good this series.”
The Yankees ended their first road trip 7-3 and now the return home to open Round 1 of the Subway Series at Yankee Stadium against the New York Mets on Friday.
Right-hander Michael Pineda (2-0, 5.00 ERA) will start the series for the Yankees. Pineda defeated the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday giving up three runs on seven hits and one walk with five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.
The Mets will counter with 2014 National League Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom (2-1, 0.93 ERA), who has not surrendered a run in his past 18 1/3 innings. He shut out the Miami Marlins on Sunday on six hits and no walks with eight strikeouts over seven innings.
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.
YANKEES 3, ROCKIES 2
After watching Joe Girardi manage the Yankees on Wednesday night you are kind of left to wonder what he will do next. Will he alternate right-handed and left-handed pitchers by playing them in left-field? Will he have one of his pitchers pinch-run and attempt to steal a base? Or will he bat CC Sabathia in the cleanup spot on Thursday?
Girardi batted starting pitcher David Phelps in the eighth spot in the order and used outfielder Vernon Wells at third base in the ninth inning but somehow it all worked out for New York to edge Colorado in front of a paid crowd of 40,148 at Coors Field.
Pinch-hitter Brennan Boesch narrowly beat out a infield grounder with the bases loaded in the ninth inning to allow Wells to score the tie-breaking run and as the Yankees ended a two-game losing streak.
Wells led off the ninth with a ground ball deep in the hole at short. After Wells stole second, Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt (1-1) then walked Lyle Overbay.
Ichiro Suzuki laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Wells and Overbay into scoring position and the Rockies elected to walk Jayson Nix intentionally to load the bases.
Pinch-hitter Travis Hafner struck out. But Boesch followed with a ground ball to the left of third baseman Nolan Arenado. The rookie third baseman dove, got up and fired the ball to first but first-base umpire Phil Cuzzi ruled Boesch safe on a close play that allowed the eventual game-winning run to score.
David Roberston (2-0) pitched a scoreless eighth inning to get credit for the victory.
Because Eduardo Nunez has been sidelined with tightness in his left ribcage and Girardi had elected to use Hafner to pinch-hit for third baseman Chris Nelson, Boesch stayed in the game in right-field, Suzuki shifted to left-field and the left-fielder Wells – who had never played a single inning at any level of baseball at third – played there in the ninth.
Wells even made a nice stop on a hard-hit grounder off the bat of Carlos Gonzalez and threw him out at first to record the second out of the inning behind closer Mariano Rivera.
Rivera did give up a two-out single and a stolen base to Michael Cuddyer but he induced a routine flyout to center from Wilin Rosario to save his 12th game in as many chances.
The Yankees actually took an early lead in the game off right-hander Juan Nicasio when Wells hit a two-run homer to left with one out in the first inning.
The Rockies knotted it in the second when Rosario laced a one-out double to right-center and Todd Helton followed with a two-run blast of his own off Phelps that landed in the second deck in right-field.
Nicasio gave up two runs on two hits and one walk and struck out five in five innings.
Phelps, making only his second start of the season, pitched a brilliant six innings, surrendering two runs on three hits and one walk while striking out four batters.
Girardi elected to bat Phelps eighth and catcher Austin Romine ninth because he did not want to pinch-hit later in the game for Phelps with a left-handed hitter with left-handed hitters Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano to follow. Whatever the reasoning the result was a victory for Girardi and his Yankees.
The Yankees improved their season record to 19-13. The Rockies fell to 19-14.
- Wells entered the game in a 3-for-23 (.130) slide over his past six games but stepped up with a 3-for-4 night with a homer, two singles, a stolen base, two runs scored and two RBIs. Wells also played a flawless third base in the ninth to make Girardi look good. Wells, 34, is batting .287 this season with seven home runs and 15 RBIs.
- Phelps was simply sensational in his second start. Other than the double by Rosario and Helton’s homer, Phelps held the Rockies to a two-out single by Josh Rutledge in the sixth inning and a one-out walk to Dexter Fowler in the third. He pitched to the minimum three batters in four of his six innings and he threw only 87 pitches.
- The Yankees’ bullpen also was superb. Preston Claiborne posted another impressive 1-2-3 inning with a strikeout in the seventh and Robertson and Rivera each pitched a scoreless inning for the victory and the save, respectively. After not pitching well the first week of the season, the bullpen has been doing great work in the past month.
- Girardi will never admit it but the injuries are really hurting the offense. After scratching out four hits and not scoring a run on Tuesday, the Yankees managed only six hits and scored three runs on Wednesday. They were 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position, which includes Wells’ homer and Boesch’s RBI single.
- Cano is not helping the Yankees at all in this road series. In the first two games he is 0-for-8 with two strikeouts and he has only managed to get one ball out of the infield. Cano’s season average has dropped to a rather pedestrian .305 after he began May hitting .327.
- The decision to bat Phelps eighth and Romine ninth really did not yield any results from them. Phelps struck out swinging twice and Romine also fanned swinging his first two at-bats and then he later grounded out. Though the Yankees won I am not sure Girardi will elect to have his pitcher bat eighth again.
Nunez felt tightness in his ribcage and was held out of Wednesday’s game and it is unlikely he will play on Thursday. Nunez sustained the injury on Sunday and has now missed a total of six games due to a series of injuries this season. . . . Right-hander Ivan Nova gave up two runs in four-plus innings in an extended spring training game in Tampa, FL, on Wednesday and said he felt much better than expected. Nova, 26, who is on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his right triceps, yielded five hits and three walks while he struck five Toronto Blue Jay minor leaguers. Nova is hoping to be activated on May 13 but the Yankees have not set a date for his return.
The Yankees will attempt to win the three-game series with Colorado on Thursday.
Sabathia (4-3, 3.31 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Sabathia only gave up two runs on six hits in six innings against the Oakland Athletics on Friday but he took the loss because the Yankees did not score him any runs. In his career against the Rockies, Sabathia is 2-1 with a 5.97 ERA.
The Rockies will counter with left-hander Jeff Francis (1-2, 7.27 ERA). Francis surrendered four runs in five innings in a no-decision against the Rays on Friday. He is 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 3.10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
“Nick Punto, no one felt worse than him,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He thought it was a base hit. He didn’t pick up [third-base coach] Scott [Ullger] rounding third. He had his head down. [Derek] Jeter makes a play, and there you have it.”
“I really thought it was going to be a double, because I hit it with so much topspin,” Teixeira said. “I hit it hard, but there was so much topspin, I thought there was no chance it was going to get out. I was running hard, making sure I got two. Then the crowd started going nuts — I figured it was a home run.”
“They’ve been showing up all year,” Jeter said to MLB.com. “We’ve had a lot of fun games here, comebacks. You don’t like to fall behind, but if and when we do, we feel that we have a lot of confidence that we can come back.
“It seems like it’s been a magical year so far here, and hopefully, we have a few more great moments.”
“There’s always that element of human error in the game, and we got a little break,” Girardi said to MLB.com.
l, were treated to another on this evening. Rodriguez, who had been maligned and vilified for his failures to hit in the clutch in past postseasons with the Yankees, took a happy curtain call from the fans after tying the game.