Tagged: Ramon Flores

Tex’s Six RBIs Blow Away Chisox in Windy City

GAME 102

YANKEES 13, WHITE SOX 6

After the Yankees landed in Chicago at 4 a.m. after their long flight from Dallas most all of the players were pretty tired after a grueling four-game series in the Texas heat. But Mark Teixeira was not one of those players because he was rested on Thursday.

He definitely was wide awake playing against the White Sox on Friday at U.S. Cellular Field.

Teixeira blasted a pair of homers, including his 10th career grand slam, and drove in six runs to lead New York to a rout of Chicago and allow right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to notch his 11th victory of the season.

The Yankees jumped on rookie left-hander Carlos Rodon (4-4) for eight runs in three-plus innings and they scored five runs and sent 10 men to the plate in both the second and fourth innings to post an early 11-2 lead.

Eovaldi (11-2), who has been getting 7.09 runs of a support per start, was able to pitch into the sixth inning to earn his sixth consecutive victory over his past eight starts to lead the Yankees starters in wins.

Eovaldi yielded three runs on seven hits and three walks with five strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings.

The Yankees scored a single run in the first on a two-out double by Alex Rodriguez. Teixeira then drew a walk and Carlos Beltran followed with an RBI double.

They added five runs in the second keyed by a two-out RBI single from Rodriguez and Teixeira’s grand slam home run to center.

The White Sox drew to within four runs in the third inning on a one-out single by Adam Eaton and two-out, two-run home run by Jose Abreu, his 18th of the season.

But the Yankees chased Rodon and put the game away in the fourth starting with a leadoff double by Chris Young and Young later scored on a pair of wild pitches by Rodon with Rodriguez at the plate.

Rodriguez ended up drawing a four-pitch walk and White Sox manager Robin Ventura replaced Rodon with right-hander Matt Albers.

Teixeira then greeted the veteran right-hander by blasting a 2-2 pitch into center-field for his second home run of the evening and his 28th of the season.

With the home run Teixeira also became the Major League leader among switch-hitters who have hit home runs from both sides of the plate in a game. It was the 14th time the 35-year-old first baseman had done it to pass former teammate Nick Swisher, who was tied with Teixeira at 13.

The Yankees then reloaded the bases on Albers and Brendan Ryan stroked an RBI single and Didi Gregorius followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 11-2.

Rodon was charged with a career-high eight runs on seven hits and four walks with four strikeouts. He also threw three wild pitches in what also was the shortest outing of his career.

The Yankees added single runs in the fifth and sixth innings on RBI singles by Chase Headley and Jacoby Ellsbury, respectively, as each member of the Yankees starting lineup collected at least one hit.

In their past two victories the Yankees have outscored their opposition 32-10 and rapped out a total of 37 hits.

The Yankees have now won a Major-League-best 17 games after the All-Star break and their overall record improved to 58-44.

They lead the second-place Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays by six games in the American League East. The White Sox dropped to 49-52.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • It took this season to remind Yankee fans how valuable Teixeira was before injuries ruined the past two seasons of his career. Teixeira was 3-for-4 with a double, two home runs, two walks, two runs scored and six RBIs. Teixeira is now batting .269 with 28 homers (tied for third in the American League) and 73 RBIs (tied for first in the A.L.). You can’t do much better than what he has done, especially when you factor in his defense at first base (only two errors).
  • Teixeira was batting fourth between Rodriguez and Beltran. Those 3-4-5 hitters combined to go an unbelievable 8-for-10 with five walks, seven runs scored and eight RBIs. Rodriguez was 2-for-2 with three walks, four runs scored and one RBI. Beltran was 3-for-4 with a single and two doubles, a run scored and one RBI.
  • Ryan, 33, has been amazing ever since he was inserted as the starting second baseman against left-handers. On Friday, the career .234 hitter was 3-for-6 including a double and an RBI. In his past three starts, Ryan is 6-for-16 (.375) and he has driven in four runs. The hot streak will not last but Ryan’s bat is helping lengthen the Yankees’ lineup along with Headley and Gregorius.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The White Sox obviously used the the same game plan all teams use against Eovaldi by shortening their swings in order to foul off multiple pitches to drive up his pitch count. It has not worked in beating him. But it has kept him from pitching six innings in 13 of his 20 starts. It took Eovaldi 117 pitches to make it through 5 2/3 innings and the Yankees would prefer he go deeper into games.

BOMBER BANTER

Outfielder Dustin Ackley made his debut with the Yankees on Friday after being acquired in a trade-deadline deal with the Seattle Mariners for right-hander Jose Ramirez and outfielder Ramon Flores. Ackley, 27, pinch-hit for Beltran in the seventh inning and played left-field. He ended up going 0-for-2. Ackley will fill the role that was held by Garrett Jones, who was designated for assignment on Friday. He will backup Teixeira at first base and play some outfield. He is hitting .213 with six homers and 19 RBIs. Though Ackley primarily was a second baseman early in his career, he likely will not play there much because he only played one game there in the past two seasons.  . . .  The Yankees announced on Friday that the team’s No. 1 prospect, right-hander Luis Severino, will make his Major-League debut as a starter next week in the Boston Red Sox series at Yankee Stadium. Severino, 21, is 7-0 with a 1.91 ERA in 11 starts at Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre. He is coming off a career-high 10-strikeout performance while pitching one-hit ball over six innings on Wednesday for the RailRiders. Severino will take the place of right-hander Michael Pineda, who was placed in the 15-day disabled list with a right forearm flexor strain. General manager Brian Cashman said that Severino could get a extended look.

ON DECK

The Yankees can clinch a series victory if they are able to defeat the White Sox in the second game of their weekend set on Saturday.

Right-hander Bryan Mitchell (0-0, 2.89 ERA) will make his second career Major-League start and his first of the season. Mitchell, 24, is replacing Pineda for this start after being called up from Scranton on Thursday. Mitchell was 5-5 with a 3.12 ERA in 15 starts for the RailRiders this season.

The White Sox will counter with left-hander John Danks (5-8, 4.87 ERA). Danks, 30, is coming a disastrous outing in which he gave up six runs on nine hits and one walk in 4 1/3 innings to the Red Sox. He is 2-3 in his career against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by WPIX.

 

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Tex Hits Two Homers But Drew’s Blast Downs A’s

GAME 84

YANKEES 5, ATHLETICS 4

Sometimes an insurance run in the late innings is just a meaningless addition to the score. Other times it ends up being the difference between winning and losing.

Stephen Drew’s two-out solo home run in the eighth inning on Wednesday off left-hander Fernando Abad proved to be in the latter category.

Mark Teixeira hit a pair of solo home runs and CC Sabathia pitched into the sixth inning but Drew’s home run proved to be the difference as New York edged Oakland in front of a paid crowd of 41,626 at Yankee Stadium.

Though the Yankees trailed 2-1 heading into the fourth inning, they got a break when left-hander Scott Kazmir was forced to leave the game with tightness in left triceps.

Athletics manager Bob Melvin sent in right-hander Evan Scribner and Teixeira greeted him by blasting a 1-2 high and outside fastball deep into the bleachers in right-center for his 21st home run of the season to tie the game at 2-2.

The Yankees were able to take the lead for good in the same inning when Chris Young drew a walk and John Ryan Murphy singled to left-center. After Young stole third and Murphy was able to advance to second on a wild pitch, Jose Pirela launched a one-out sacrifice fly to right to score Young.

The Yankees added to their lead in the sixth inning when Teixeira led off with almost a carbon-copy drive into right-center on a 2-2 high outside fastball from Scribner for his 22nd home run of the season. It also was his second two-homer game of the season.

Drew, who entered the game in the seventh inning as a defensive replacement at second base for Pirela, then added his 12th home run of the season in the eighth to give the Yankees a nice 5-2 cushion heading into the ninth.

But closer Andrew Miller, who was just activated from the 15-day disabled list earlier in the day after not pitching since June 9, show some rustiness in the ninth inning.

Mark Canha stroked a one-out single and Marcus Semien followed with a two-run homer into the left-field bleachers to bring the A’s to within a run.

After Stephen Vogt reached second on a two-base throwing error by third baseman Gregorio Petit, Miller retired Ben Zobrist on a groundout to Petit in which Teixeira had to make a long stretch that barely nipped Zobrist.

Sabathia (4-8) did have a rough second inning in which he was touched for five hits. Josh Phegley and Canha hit back-to-back one-out RBI singles to score Oakland’s only two runs until the ninth inning.

Sabathia was charged with two runs on seven hits and two walks with one strikeout in 5 1/3 innings for his first victory since June 7 against the Los Angeles Angels at Yankee Stadium.

The bullpen trio of right-hander Bryan Mitchell, Justin Wilson and Dellin Betances held the Athletics hitless and scoreless for 2 2/3 innings before turning the game over to Miller in the ninth.

Despite Miller’s struggles in his first game back, he still was credited with his 18th save in 18 opportunities this season.

Scribner (2-2) took the loss after yielding three runs on four hits and one walk with three strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings. He leads all relievers in homers allowed this season with 11.

With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 45-38 and they remain two games ahead of the second-place Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East. The Athletics dropped to 39-48.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Teixeira’s potential American League Comeback Player of the Year run continues. His 22 home runs matches his total from all of last season and he still leads the league in RBIs with 61. In addition, Teixeira made several sparkling plays in the field. His selection to the American League All-Star team was well deserved. His is one of the main reasons the Yankees are in first place in the division.
  • Give Drew some credit for a nine-pitch at-bat against Abad with two-out in the eighth. His 12th home run of the season proved to be the decisive run in the game. Drew may be hitting an anemic .179, but his 12 home runs and his steady infield defense have somewhat up for it.
  • Betances was victimized on Tuesday by a 10th inning home run by Brett Lawrie that lost the game for the Yankees. But he got back on the horse in the eighth on Wednesday and looked very sharp. He struck out Billy Butler and Lawrie and retired pinch-hitter Josh Reddick on an outstanding fielding play by Teixeira.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

There was not to much to complain about on this night. Sabathia was unable to get through six innings and Miller did look shaky in the ninth. But you have to give Miller a mulligan on this one. The Yankees are in first place and Teixeira is leading them.

BOMBER BANTER

In addition to Miller, 30, the Yankees also activated center-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury from the disabled list on Wednesday. Ellsbury, 31, started the game and was 1-for-4 with an infield single. He had been on the disabled list since May 20 with a strained ligament in his right knee. To make room for Miller and Ellsbury, the team optioned right-hander Nick Rumbelow and outfielder Ramon Flores to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Rumbelow, 23, was 0-0 with a 2.70 ERA in four appearances. Flores, 23, was hitting .219 with no homers and no RBIs in 32 at-bats.  . . .  Third baseman Chase Headley was held out of the game on Wednesday with inflammation in his right calf. Headley is listed as day-to-day. Petit started in Headley’s place and was 0-for-4.

ON DECK

The Yankees will have a chance to claim the rubber game of the three-game series against the A’s on Thursday.

Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (4-3, 3.94 ERA) will start of the Yankees. Tanaka pitched much better in a no-decision against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday. He yielded three runs on six hits and one walk with five strikeouts in six innings.

The Athletics will counter with right-hander Jesse Chavez (4-8, 3.20 ERA). Chavez lost to the Seattle Mariners on Thursday after giving up four runs on nine hits with four strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Tanaka Bests Scherzer As Yanks Push Streak To 7

GAME 58

YANKEES 6, NATIONALS 1

With Masahiro Tanaka and Max Scherzer locked into an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel on Tuesday the question among the paid crowd of 36,613 at Yankee Stadium was “Which one of them would blink first?” In the bottom of the seventh inning it was Scherzer.

Stephen Drew hit a pair of solo home runs, the Yankees scored four runs in the seventh and Tanaka outpitched his counterpart as New York downed Washington to stretch their winning streak to seven games.

Tanaka (4-1) cruised through seven innings having held the Nationals to a solo home run by Bryce Harper, who launched his 20th of the season with two out in the fourth inning that tied the game at 1-1.

Tanaka yielded just the one run on five hits and no walks with six strikeouts throwing just 87 pitches to earn his second straight victory since being activated from the disabled list on June 3.

Scherzer (6-5), meanwhile, entered the seventh inning having held the Yankees to a solo home run by Drew that opened the bottom of the third inning. It was Drew’s eighth home run of the season and it was his 1,000th career hit.

Scherzer had a very close call with one out in the sixth inning when the Yankees had Mark Teixeira on third after a double and Brian McCann at first on a single. Carlos Beltran then hit a sinking line drive to Michael Taylor in center-field.

Taylor dove and appeared to have caught the ball rolling forward. However, second-base umpire Lance Barksdale ruled that Taylor trapped the ball. So Taylor threw the ball in to second baseman Danny Espinosa and Espinosa flipped the ball to shortstop Ian Desmond, who touched second base to retire McCann on what was scored a fielder’s choice.

However, Teixeira failed to make any attempt to score from third despite the fact that Taylor was on the ground in center-field. Didi Gregorius struck out to end the threat and the game remained tied.

Teixeira and the Yankees earned some redemption in the seventh inning when rookie Ramon Flores stroked a one-out single to right, one of three hits Flores’ had on the night. Brett Gardner followed with an bloop opposite-field single to left to advance Flores to second.

One out later, Alex Rodriguez hit a ground ball to the right of Desmond between second and third. Desmond dove to stop the ball and he elected to try to force out Flores at third. But the ball struck Flores and rolled away in foul territory to allow him to score what proved to be the game-winning run.

Scherzer was removed from the game and replaced by former Yankee left-hander Matt Thornton.

The Nationals elected to walk Teixeira intentionally to load the bases and pitch to McCann. However, McCann ruined the strategy by lacing a lined single down the right-field line that scored Gardner and Rodriguez while Teixeira advanced to third.

Beltran capped the uprising by lining a single to left. Fortunately, this time Teixeira did not stay at third and he was able to score on the hit.

Scherzer, who entered the game with a 1.85 ERA, was charged with four runs on eight hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. Teixeira’s run was charged to Thornton.

Drew added his second home run of the game and his fourth in his past three games while leading off the eighth inning off right-hander Taylor Hill.

Right-hander Dellin Betances, left-hander Chasen Shreve and left-hander Andrew Miller combined to pitch two scoreless frames to preserve the victory for Tanaka.

The Yankees are now 33-25 on the season and  –  combined with the Tampa Bay’s 8-2 defeat by the Los Angeles Angels  –  they have now moved to a 2 1/2 games up on the second-place Rays in the American League East. The Nationals have now lost 8 of their past 10 games and are 30-28.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • In his two starts since coming off the disabled list, Tanaka has yielded two runs on eight hits with no walks and 15 strikeouts in 14 innings for a sparkling 1.29 ERA. Those two outings lowered his season ERA to 2.48. For those of you who are thinking that Tanaka’s right elbow is being held together with balsa wood and duct tape, you may want to rethink that belief. Tanaka has re-established himself as an ace for the hottest team in baseball.
  • Drew is having a very confounding season. Even with his two-homer night he is still only hitting .175. But the 32-year-old second baseman now has nine home runs and 21 RBIs. In addition, he has been the team’s best fielder in terms of sabermetrics. The question is when backup infielder Brendan Ryan comes off the disabled list will the Yankees send hot-hitting Jose Pirela back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre? Drew appears to be saving his job.
  • Flores, 23, came up when fellow rookie Slade Heathcott suffered a knee injury on May 27. One thing he has proven since he arrived is that he can play the outfield. He already has thrown two runners out at the home plate and he also made some excellent catches. On Tuesday, he was 3-for-4, scored the game-winning run and he added another sensational catch. In the eighth inning he made a diving catch of a sinking fly ball off the bat of Espinosa for the first out in the eighth inning.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

The way the Yankees have been playing I may have to retire this blog category. When you combine good pitching, good defense and some timely hitting off a very tough pitcher in Scherzer you having the makings of great victory. The Yankees are playing with such confidence now that they are showing that they very well may be the class of the A.L. East.

BOMBER BANTER

Sorely in need of some right-handed bullpen help the Yankees have signed veteran Sergio Santos to a minor-league contract. Santos, 31, recorded a 4.73 ERA in 12 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers this season. He elected to become a free agent rather than accept an assignment to Triple-A Oklahoma City. Santos saved 30 games with the Chicago White Sox in 2011. He has been limited to just 65 innings since then due to a rash of injuries.

ON DECK

The Yankees will have a chance to sweep their third consecutive series with a victory over the Nationals on Wednesday.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (5-1, 4.16 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Eovaldi, 25, was sailing along against the Angels on Friday, allowing one run on four hits and one walk through five innings. But he walked the bases loaded in the sixth and had to be removed even though he ended up getting credit for the victory.

The Nationals will send left-hander Gio Gonzales (4-3, 4.57 ERA) to the mound. Gonzales, 29, lost to the Chicago Cubs on Thursday, yielding two runs on four hits and four walks with six strikeouts in six innings.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

 

Yankees Put Angels Away Early To Win 5th Straight

GAME 56

YANKEES 8, ANGELS 2

There a various scouting reports about certain pitchers that say, “You had better get to him early.” The 2015 version of the New York Yankees obviously are taking those assessments seriously because they did it again at Yankee Stadium on Saturday.

Brian McCann slugged a two-run home run and Brett Gardner laced a two-run single as New York scored six runs in the first inning to dump Los Angeles to win their fifth straight game.

The Yankees sent 11 men to the plate and knocked out right-hander Garrett Richards (5-4) after only two-thirds of inning.

McCann’s home run was his ninth of the season. Chase Headley also scored on a wild pitch by Richards and Mark Teixeira lofted a sacrifice fly as Richards was charged with six runs on five hits and two walks.

Right-hander Adam Warren (4-4) was the beneficiary of those runs. He started off pitching three perfect innings and ended up throwing 6 2/3 innings of two-run baseball. He gave up only four hits, walked three and struck out two to even his season record.

In his past five starts, Warren is 2-3 but he has yielded only 10 runs on 23 hits and nine walks with 22 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings for a 2.70 ERA.

The Yankees added a single run in the second inning after Teixeira and McCann stroked one-out singles off Cesar Ramos. Carlos Beltran slapped a bloop single to right to greet left-hander Hector Santiago to score Teixeira.

They added a run in the eighth inning off right-hander Cam Bedrosian after they loaded the bases with one out and Bedrosian walked Teixeira. It was Teixeira’s second RBI of the game and the 45th of the season, which leads the American League.

The Angels scored a run in the fifth off Warren as Matt Joyce doubled and C.J. Cron was hit by a 0-2 pitch. After Carlos Perez advanced Joyce to third on a flyout, Johnny Giavotella lofted a fly ball that left-fielder Ramon Flores caught at the base of the wall for a sacrifice fly that scored Joyce.

Millville, New Jersey native Mike Trout added the Angels’ second run leading off the sixth inning with an opposite field blast to right off Warren for his 15th home run of the season.

Left-hander Justin Wilson pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings for the Yankees but the toast of the paid crowd of 40,086 was left-hander Chris Capuano, who pitched a perfect ninth inning and struck out two.

On Friday evening, the Yankees led the Angels 8-1 in the ninth and right-hander Esmil Rogers and right-hander Dellin Betances combined to give up six earned runs before they could get the final three outs to win the game 8-7.

Capuano had other ideas and the Yankees were able to nail down the victory in front of a national television audience without any ninth-inning drama.

The Yankees ran their season record to 31-25 and they Yankees increased their lead over the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East to 1 1/2 games. The Angels fell to 28-28.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • McCann, 31, had a stretch in which he hit four home runs in four consecutive games from May 25 through May 29. But McCann was 2-for-14 (.143) with no homers since then. His 2-for-5 game raised his batting average to .255 and he now has nine home runs and 35 RBIs. McCann has hit 26 of his 32 home runs with the Yankees at home.
  • Teixeira’s two RBIs extended his RBI streak to five straight games of at least one RBI. His one-out single in the second inning extended his hitting streak to seven games. During that stretch Teixeira is 7-for-27 (.260) with three homers and 10 RBIs.
  • Warren finally got some run support after losing to the Oakland Athletics 2-0 in his last start. Warren has been the team’s most consistent pitcher behind right-hander Michael Pineda over the past month and any thoughts the Yankees might have had to moving him to the bullpen are currently on hold.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

The offense chased Richards in the first inning and Warren pitched his fifth consecutive quality start. The defense also was superb with Didi Gregorius turning in a gem taking away a ground-ball hit from Albert Pujols with a diving grab in the first inning. Headley made a diving stop of a liner off the bat of Trout in the fourth and Flores held Giavotella to just a sac fly in the fifth with a great grab at the wall in left. So the Yankees turned in a complete spanking of the Angels. No negatives here.

ON DECK

The Yankees will have a chance on Sunday to sweep the three-game weekend series against the Angels.

Left-hander CC Sabathia (2-7, 5.45 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Sabathia, 34, gave up two runs on nine hits and two walks with six strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday. He has not won a game at Yankee Stadium since Sept. 20, 2013, a span of six starts.

Veteran left-hander C.J. Wilson (3-4, 3.55 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Wilson, 34, yielded five runs in six innings in loss to the Rays on Tuesday and he has 5.48 ERA in his past four starts.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

 

Tanaka’s Sharp Return Gives Yanks Sweep Of M’s

GAME 54

YANKEES 3, MARINERS 1

Based on Masahiro Tanaka’s final rehab start last week and the fact that he had not pitched in a major-league game since April 23, expectations about his return were low and he was placed on a pitch count of 80 to 85.

Based on the results the Yankees received, Tanaka did not need 80 pitches because he dominated the Mariners over seven innings as if he were in midseason form.

Tanaka held the Mariners to one run on three hits with no walks and nine strikeouts in an ace-like performance that allowed New York to complete a three-game sweep of Seattle on Wednesday at Safeco Field.

Tanaka (3-1) needed only 78 pitches (58 of them for strikes) to wade through the Mariners lineup as if he was carving up a Thanksgiving turkey.

Trailing 1-0 to the Yankees, the Mariners scored their lone run off Tanaka in the third inning on a leadoff triple by Brad Miller and an RBI double off the bat of Dustin Ackley. After Mike Zunino struck out, Logan Morrison singled to left and rookie left-fielder Ramon Flores made a perfect throw to home plate to nail a sliding Ackley to keep the game tied.

Tanaka did not allow another base-runner to reach base for the next 4 1/3 innings. The 26-year-old right-hander retired the final 13 batters he faced and struck out five of them. His nine strikeouts are a season high.

The Yankees were able to take an early 1-0 lead on right-hander Taijuan Walker (2-6) on Mark Teixeira’s 16th home run of the season to lead off the second inning. It also was Teixeira’s second home run of the series and his 19th at Safeco Field, which leads all opposing players.

In the fourth inning, the Yankees were able to break the 1-1 tie on a leadoff walk Walker issued to Alex Rodriguez and a two-out, two-run home run deep into the bleachers in right-field by Garrett Jones, who had a three-run home run in the 11th inning on Tuesday that gave the Yankees a 5-2 victory.

It was only Jones’ third home run of the season but he is on a stretch where he has 10 hits in his past 22 at-bats (.455) with three homers and eight RBIs.

The Yankees, however, were unable to solve Walker other than the home runs by Teixeira and Jones.

Walker held the Yankees to three runs on five hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in eight innings. Tanaka was just a bit better.

After Chris Capuano allowed a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Justin Ruggiano and struck out Miller in the eighth, manager Joe Girardi summoned closer Andrew Miller for a five-out save.

But the Mariners made it uncomfortable for the 30-year-old left-hander when pinch-hitter Rickie Weeks reached after being plunked on the right foot by a 1-2 slider and Zunino walked to load the bases.

Miller, nonetheless, struck out Morrison after falling behind 3-0 and got Austin Jackson to bounce into a force out to leave the Mariners scoreless and strand all three base-runners. Miller was able to pitch around a two-out infield single by Kyle Seager in the ninth to earn his 17th save in 17 chances.

With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 29-25 and increased their lead in the American League East to 1 1/2 games over the idle second-place Tampa Bay Rays. The Mariners have now dropped eight consecutive home games to the Yankees dating back to 2013 and they also have lost five straight games overall. Their record dropped to 24-29.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • The Yankees got Tanaka back at the perfect time. On May 12, the Yankees were 21-12 and seemingly undeterred by Tanaka’s absence. But from May 13 through May 31, the Yankees were 5-12. Tanaka’s performance gave the Yankees a sweep of the Mariners and seems to have broken a string of some really weak starting pitching performances. Tanaka now teams with Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi and Adam Warren give the Yankees a much stronger rotation.
  • Teixeira is just having an amazing season and his 16 home runs and 41 RBIs projects out to 48 home runs and 123 RBIs for the season, barring any setbacks. The 48 home runs would top his previous career high of 43 he hit with the Texas Rangers in 2005. The 123 RBIs would be the most he has collected since he drove in 122 in his first season with the Yankees in 2009. That also was the last time the Yankees won a World Series.
  • There is a very good possibility that Jones’ recent surge has earned him more playing time. Girardi may choose to play Jones in left with Brett Gardner in center and Carlos Beltran in right against right-handed pitchers until Jacoby Ellsbury returns late this month. That would leave Flores on the bench. But he could be used as a defensive replacement for Jones late in games.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Ellsbury was injured on May 19 and Gardner became the team’s leadoff hitter on May 20. He started that stretch of games batting .291. Gardner was 0-for-4 on Wednesday and is now batting .271. In those 14 games as the leadoff hitter, Gardner is 12-for-54 (.222) with 16 strikeouts and only two stolen bases. The upshot is that Gardner is pressing to get on base, he is striking out more and he is less aggressive on the bases when he does reach base. The Yankees really need Ellsbury back badly.

BOMBER BANTER

In a shocking move, the Yankees on Wednesday elected to designate for assignment right-hander David Carpenter to make room on the roster to activate Tanaka from the 15-day disabled list. Carpenter, 29, was 0-1 with 4.82 ERA in 22 appearances. On Tuesday, Carpenter was summoned to pitch to Jackson in the sixth inning with two out and runners at first and third of a 1-1 game and surrendered an RBI double that gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead. The Yankees eventually rallied to tie the game in the ninth and won it in 11 innings. Carpenter was acquired along with left-hander Chasen Shreve on Jan. 1 in a trade with the Atlanta Braves for left-hander Manny Banuelos. With Carpenter’s release the Yankees have five lefties in the bullpen in Miller, Shreve, Capuano, Jacob Lindgren and Justin Wilson.  . . .  Catcher Brian McCann left the game after grounding out in the top of the second inning with continued soreness on the bottom of his right foot. McCann, 31, was replaced by John Ryan Murphy and now is scheduled to have an MRI on Thursday when the team returns to New York. McCann is batting .248 with eight home runs and 33 RBIs in 45 games this season.

ON DECK

The Yankees will have a day off after their West Coast swing and they will open a three-game weekend series at Yankee Stadium with the Los Angeles Angels on Friday.

Eovaldi (4-1, 4.40 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Eovaldi, 25, yielded three runs on 11 hits in a shaky 4 2/3 innings in a game the Yankees eventually won against the Oakland Athletics on Saturday.

Right-hander Jered Weaver (4-4, 4.08 ERA) will start for the Angels. Weaver, 32, gave up three runs on nine hits with no walks and three strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings to defeat the Detroit Tigers on Saturday.

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.

 

Tex’s Slam Allows Pineda To Depose King Felix

GAME 52

YANKEES 7, MARINERS 2

At one time the king held court over the young prince and showed him how to hold dominion over his rivals. But on Monday the prince outlasted the king as his army was able to storm the castle and vanquish his former mentor.

Michael Pineda struck out nine over six-plus innings and Mark Teixeira blasted a grand slam home run in the fifth inning off “King Felix” Hernandez as New York defeated Seattle at Safeco Field.

Hernandez (8-2) pitched three perfect innings to open the contest, striking out three and not allowing a single ball out of the infield. However, a heavy rain in the bottom of the third inning muddied the mound as the top of the fourth started and Hernandez was unable to command his pitches the rest of the evening.

Brett Gardner opened the fourth with a single and Chase Headley followed with a looping single to center. Hernandez then walked Alex Rodriguez and later uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Gardner to score.

Teixeira then drew a walk and Headley scored on a double-play groundout off the bat of Brian McCann.

The Yankees were able to put the game away against Hernandez in the fifth when Stephen Drew led off with a walk and rookie Ramon Flores singled to right for his first major-league hit. Gardner then walked, Hernandez’s fifth walk within the last eight batters he faced, to load the bases.

Headley launched a deep sacrifice fly to center that scored Drew and Rodriguez followed with a sharp single to left that reloaded the bases to set up Teixeira’s game-changing hit.

Teixeira entered the game with nine career grad slams. He also had posted five career home runs off Hernandez.

He was able to connect on a 2-0 fastball and sent it some 400 feet into the fourth row of the bleachers in center-field to make the score 7-0. It was also Teixeira’s 18th home run at Safeco Field, which broke a tie with Rafael Palmeiro for the most home runs by a Mariners opponent.

Hernandez entered the game with a 1.91 ERA, but left having given up seven runs on six hits and five walks with four strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings.

Pineda, who spent his rookie season in 2011 with Hernandez, coasted for six innings in his first start against his former team since he was traded in January 2012 along with right-hander Jose Campos to the Yankees in exchange for catcher Jesus Montero and right-hander Hector Noesi.

Pineda (6-2) held the Mariners to four hits and one walk and fanned nine in the first six innings. But he was greeted with a leadoff single by Kyle Seagar, an RBI triple by Seth Smith and an RBI double to Austin Jackson.

He then walked Brad Miller and was replaced by left-hander Justin Wilson, who was able to end the threat on a strikeout and a double-play groundout.

Wilson combined with right-hander Dellin Betances and left-hander Chasen Shreve to hold the Mariners to just one hit over the final three innings to seal the victory for the Yankees.

The victory improved the Yankees’ season record to 27-25 and they remain one game ahead of the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Mariners have dropped four of their past five games and they are 24-27.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Teixeira’s booming bat allowed the Yankees to put this game out of reach. Teixeira leads the Yankees with 15 home runs and 39 RBIs. He is now 20-for-66 (.303) in his career against Hernandez and that is no easy feat. Teixeira may be moving his way into consideration for the American League All-Star team.
  • Pineda seems to have righted himself after giving up nine runs on 18 hits in 11 1/3 innings in two consecutive starts. In his past two starts, Pineda has yielded just three runs on 13 hits and three walks in 12 2/3 innings. That has lowered his season ERA to 3.33. Pineda got a number of his nine strikeouts against the Mariners with a change-up that his former teammate Hernandez had urged him to learn.
  • Give Wilson a lot of credit for staving off a rally by the Mariners in the seventh. He entered the game with two runs in and runners on first and second and no outs. Wilson ended the threat by striking out Mike Zunino and getting pinch-hitter Rickie Weeks to bounce into a double play. Wilson sported a hefty 5.79 ERA on May 24 but he has not been scored upon in his past four outings covering 2 2/3 innings. That has lowered his ERA to 4.86.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

I can’t nitpick this one. Give the Yankees credit for beating a pitcher who entered the contest 9-5 against them. It is not every day that you beat one of the best pitchers in baseball on the road. So there is nothing negative to say.

BOMBER BANTER

Left-hander Chris Capuano has been shifted to the bullpen in order to make way for the return of right-hander Masahiro Tanaka from the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday, manager Joe Girardi told reporters on Monday. The decision means that right-hander Adam Warren, 27, who had replaced Capuano as the team’s No. 5 starter when Capuano was injured in spring training, will remain in the rotation. Capuano, 36, is 0-3 with a 6.39 ERA in three starts since coming of the disabled list on May 17. Warren is 3-4 with a 3.75 ERA, but he has a sparkling 2.70 ERA in his past four starts despite a 1-3 record in those outings. Tanaka, 26, will be activated in time to start the final game of the series against the Mariners. He is 2-1 with a 3.22 ERA in four starts, but he has not pitched since April 27 after sustaining tendinitis in right wrist and tightness in his right forearm.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their three-game road series with the Mariners on Tuesday.

Left-hander CC Sabathia (2-7, 5.67 ERA) will start for the Yankees. In his last effort on Thursday, Sabathia coughed up a 3-0 lead by yielding five runs on eight hits and one walk with four strikeouts against the Oakland Athletics.

The Mariners will activate 25-year-old left-hander Mike Montgomery to make his major-league debut. Montgomery, who was obtained during spring training from the Rays in exchange for right-hander Erasmo Ramirez, was 4-3 with a 3.74 ERA in nine starts for Triple-A Tacoma.

Game-time will be 10:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

 

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!