YANKEES, TWINS 3
Just six days ago the Yankees raised eyebrows when they called up 22-year-old first baseman Greg Bird. After the performance he put on Wednesday in place of the injured Mark Teixeira it is now clear just why they called him up.
Bird not only hit one two-run blast for his first Major-League home run, the rookie added another two-run homer that proved to be the game-winner as New York completed a sweep of Minnesota in front of a paid crowd of 38,066 at Yankee Stadium.
With right-hander Nathan Eovaldi pitching a perfect game through five innings, Bird provided him with some early support by connecting in the fourth inning on a 0-1 change-up from right-hander Ervin Santana and launching it into the second deck of the right-field bleachers to score Carlos Beltran, who had singled, to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead.
Unfortunately for Eovaldi and the Yankees, it was not enough.
The Twins not only broke up the perfect game in the sixth inning. They also sent nine men to the plate and took the lead.
Chris Herrmann started the uprising with a one-out bloop single behind third base. Shane Robinson followed with a hard-hit single to left and Aaron Hicks advanced both base-runners on a groundout.
Eovaldi walked Brian Dozier to load the bases and Joe Mauer followed with a two-run single to right. Eovaldi then walked Miguel Sano to reload the bases and Trevor Plouffe scored Dozier on an infield roller between home plate and third base.
Santana was sailing despite giving up the two-run homer to Bird in the fourth. He held the Yankees to two runs on five hits and no walks with four strikeouts through 5 2/3 innings until he walked Beltran in the sixth inning.
That allowed Bird to come up to the plate. Santana threw him 1-0 fastball and Bird laced it on a high line drive into the Yankees bullpen in right-center to allow the Yankees to reclaim a 4-3 lead.
After Bird rounded the bases and headed into the dugout most of the Yankees fans were on their feet urging the rookie to take his first Yankee Stadium curtain call. After some fevered encouragement from his teammates, Bird came out to tip his cap to the crowd quickly.
“We’re just trying to win games here and anything I can do to help, that’s all I’m trying to do. Nothing more, nothing less,” Bird told reporters.
Eovaldi (13-2) ended up collecting his eighth victory in a row and he is undefeated his past 11 starts. He was charged with three runs on four hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in seven innings.
Santana (2-4) pitched 7 2/3 innings but took the loss after giving up four runs on seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts.
With the Yankees bullpen without the services of Andrew Miller after he pitched in two consecutive games, left-hander Chasen Shreve and right-hander Dellin Betances combined to preserve the victory for Eovaldi by each pitching one scoreless inning.
Betances threw perfect ninth and struck out two batters to earn his eighth save of the season in 11 chances. His two strikeouts gave him 101 on the season and he became the first Yankees relief pitcher to ever strike out 100 or more batters in two consecutive seasons.
With the three-game sweep the Yankees also completed the season series with the Twins at 5-1. Since 2002, the Yankees have a record of 69-27 against the Twins – a .281 winning percentage for the Twins. That percentage is the worst in baseball for any team against any opponent (minimum 50 games).
The Yankees also also have won six of their past seven games and they are now 67-52 this season. Coupled with the loss by the second-place Toronto Blue Jays to the Philadelphia Phillies the Yankees have extended their lead in the American League East to two games.
The Twins fell to 59-61.
- I could tell when I saw Bird’s spring during the exhibition season that he was going to be something special. You can see why he has a combined minor-league average of .282 with 48 home runs in just over 1,200 at-bats. His swing is similar to former Blue Jays first baseman John Olerud and he might end up as a similar type of hitter. The question will be what do the Yankees do with Bird as long Teixeira is playing first base and Alex Rodriguez is the designated hitter?
- Eovaldi was simply lights out for five innings and then he ran into a lot of bad luck. Only one of the four hits was hit hard. But he did make things worse by walking Dozier and Sano. Now that Eovaldi is succeeding with his split-finger fastball, he is becoming a very good pitcher. Despite the great run support he has received, Eovaldi has earned his 13 victories.
- Betances stepped back into the closer’s role and did not miss a beat. If Betances had pitched better during spring training and early in the season, he would have likely been the closer. But you can’t argue with Miller’s 27 saves in 28 chances. Of the two I suspect teams fear Betances more. But they both are pretty devastating.
- Rodriguez ended an 0-for-18 slide on Tuesday with a grand slam home run that proved to be the game-winning hit. But on Wednesday it was back into a funk for the DH. He was 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout. His season average has now dipped to .259.
- John Ryan Murphy has been hitting well (.282) when he starts to give Brian McCann a rest. But Wednesday was not one of those days. He was 0-for-3 and struck out all three times.
Right-hander Michael Pineda will make a second rehab start on Friday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said on Wednesday. Pineda, 26, has been on the 15-day disabled list since July 30 with a right forearm strain. He is 9-7 with a 3.97 ERA in 19 starts. Girardi said the he hopes this will be Pineda’s final rehab start and they would to activate him before Sept. 1.
The Yankees will play host to the Cleveland Indians for a four-game weekend series that begins on Thursday.
Right-hander Ivan Nova (5-4, 3.57 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Nova defeated the Blue Jays on Friday, limiting them to three runs on five hits and one walk with three strikeouts in seven innings.
Right-hander Josh Tomlin (0-1, 2.84 ERA) will be making only his second start of the season for the Indians coming off shoulder surgery. Tomlin yielded two runs on five hits with five strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings in a loss to the Twins on Saturday.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 8, TWINS 4
Great Major-League players soar to amazing peaks and yet they also can sink to some really deep valleys. The valley Alex Rodriguez was in entering Tuesday’s game was approaching the width of the Grand Canyon, having not gotten a hit in 18 at-bats and riding a 3-for-39 slide until he came to the plate in the seventh inning.
All of that changed with one big swing.
Rodriguez laced a 1-0 fastball into the Yankees bullpen in right-center for his 25th career grand slam to lead New York to a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Minnesota in front of 38,007 fans at Yankee Stadium.
Rodriguez’s 25th home run of the season and his first since his 40th birthday on July 27 came off right-hander T.J. Graham (0-1), who had inherited a bases-loaded, one-out jam from left-hander Ryan O’Rourke.
O’Rourke entered the seventh protecting a 4-1 Twins lead but Chase Headley led off with a pinch-hit single and Brendan Ryan drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch. One out later, O’Rourke also walked Brett Gardner on a 3-2 pitch to set the stage for Rodriguez’s heroics.
Rodriguez already had passed former Yankee great Lou Gehrig for the most career grand slams with No. 24 on Sept. 20, 2013 against the San Francisco Giants. No. 25 put the Yankees in the lead for the first time since the fourth inning and received a fevered request for a curtain call from the crowd, which Rodriguez obliged.
The Yankees added three more runs in the bottom of the eighth inning off Graham to pad their lead to four runs. Headley keyed the rally with a two-run double and Jacoby Ellsbury added an RBI single.
Rookie right-hander Nick Rumbelow (1-0), who was just called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre earlier in the day, allowed an RBI single in the seventh but completed the inning by striking out Aaron Hicks to earn his first Major-League victory.
Left-hander Andrew Miller pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings and struck out three to earn his 27th save in 28 chances this season.
The game began as a pitcher’s duel between Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia and Twins right-hander Mike Pelfrey.
Sabathia opened the game by throwing 4 1/3 innings of perfect baseball and he held a 1-0 lead after a one-out ground-rule double in the fourth off the bat of Carlos Beltran and the first Major-League RBI on a single by Greg Bird, who was in the lineup replacing an injured Mark Teixeira.
However, Sabathia allowed a one-out free pass to Trevor Plouffe in the fifth. One out later, Eduardo Escobar singled to right and Kurt Suzuki followed with a double down the left-field line that scored Plouffe.
However, Escobar was thrown out at the plate on a perfect relay from Garder in left to shortstop Didi Gregorius to catcher Brian McCann, who tagged Escobar for the final out of the inning.
The game remained tied until the top of the seventh when Sabathia issued a leadoff walk to Joe Mauer and Miguel Sano hit his next offering into the first row of the left-field bleachers for his ninth home run of the season and his third against the Yankees.
After Sabathia retired the next two batters, Escobar and Suzuki chased him from the contest with a pair of singles. Shane Robinson then greeted Rumbelow with an RBI single that extended the Twins’ lead to 4-1.
Sabathia, 35, was charged with four runs on five hits and three walks and he struck out five batters in 6 2/3 innings. Sabathia has not won a game since July 8 at home against the Oakland Athletics, a stretch of six starts.
Pelfrey, 31, was charged with one run on five hits and one walk with four strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.
The Yankees have rebounded from a five-game losing streak to have posted five victories in their past six games. They are now 66-52 on the season and they have maintained their one-game lead in the American League East over the second-place Toronto Blue Jays.
The Twins have fallen under .500 to 59-60.
- Sabathia did pitch well but the Yankees never seem to score runs until after he leaves the game. It happened again on Tuesday. Though Sabathia is 4-9 with a 5.23 ERA, he has a 3.38 ERA in his past three starts. He also pitched deep into the seventh inning on a night the Yankees needed length from their starter after rookie right-hander Bryan Mitchell left Monday’s game with a nasal fracture in the second inning.
- Rodriguez has always seemed to thrive on the big stage in the Bronx, NY, and he did again on Tuesday. It is not clear of his prolonged slump is over but he came up with a huge game-winning hit just when it was needed. With Teixeira nursing a bruised right shin the Yankees need Rodriguez to provide power and drive in runs. Though his season average has fallen to .261, he is second on the team in homers (25) and third in RBIs (67).
- Headley came off the bench in the seventh and provided a single that began the four-run uprising in the inning and then he added a two-run double in the eighth to extend the lead to 7-4. Since the All-Star break, Headley os batting .327 with one home run and 20 RBIs. His clutch hitting has been overshadowed by McCann, Teixeira, Rodriguez and Beltran but he has been producing a lot under the radar.
- Just as they did last night with right-hander Kyle Gibson, the Yankees allowed Pelfrey to lull their bats to sleep with a steady diet of breaking pitches. Fortunately for the Yankees, the Twins eventually have to use their bullpen and it is a powder keg just awaiting a spark. In the past two nights, the Yankees are 12-for-32 (.375) against Twins relievers and they scored 10 runs on them in seven innings.
The Yankees placed Mitchell, 24, on the seven-day concussion disabled list after he sustained a small nasal fracture on a line drive off the bat of Eduardo Nunez in the second inning of Monday’s 8-7 victory in 10 innings. In addition the Yankees also optioned right-hander Caleb Cotham, 27, to Scranton and recalled Rumbelow and selected the contract of left-hander Chris Capuano from the same club. Manager Joe Girardi told reporters on Tuesday that it is possible that Mitchell could pitch in seven days depending how his recovery goes. . . . Teixeira, 35, was held out the lineup on Tuesday with a sore right leg after he fouled a pitch off himself in the sixth inning on Monday. Both X-rays and a CT scan indicate Teixeira has a deep shin bone bruise. But Girardi said it is unlikely to result in Teixeira being placed on the disabled list. Bird, 22, started in his place on Tuesday and was 2-for-4 with an RBI.
The Yankees can sweep the Twins in their three-game home series with a victory on Wednesday.
Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (12-2, 4.26 ERA) will start for the Yankees riding an eight-game winning streak. Eovaldi yielded four runs on seven hits and three walks with four strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings in a victory against the Cleveland Indians on Thursday.
The Twins will counter with veteran right-hander Ervin Santana (2-3, 5.66 ERA). Santana, 32, was rocked for five runs on eight hits and two walks in six innings in a no-decision against the Texas Rangers on Friday.
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.
TWINS 3, YANKEES 1
Eduardo Escobar doubled and homered and left-hander Tommy Milone held the Yankees to one run over six innings as Minnesota edged New York on Tuesday at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, FL.
Escobar stroked a two-out double off Masahiro Tanaka (1-2) in the third inning and scored on Chris Herrmann’s RBI single to stake the Twins to a 1-0 lead. After the Yankees tied the score in the fourth on Ramon Flores’ two out single scoring Chris Young, Eric Fryer followed a one-out double by Adam Walker II and a Shane Robinson single with an RBI single in the bottom of the inning that gave the Twins a lead they would not relinquish.
Escobar added a solo home run off Tanaka to lead off the fifth inning, his fifth homer of the spring.
Meanwhile. Milone (1-1), who is slated to be the Twins’ fifth starter, controlled the Yankees on four hits and two walks while he struck out five batters in his longest outing of the spring.
With the loss the Yankees’ Grapefruit League record dropped to 15-13.
- Although Flores is just 9-for-40 (.225) this spring, he has made those few hits count. He was 2-for-4 on Tuesday with two singles and he drove in the team’s lone score of the day. To prove how weak the Yankees’ offense has been this spring, Flores leads the team in RBIs with eight. Flores, 24, is ticketed for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre but he likely would be the first outfielder called up should the Yankees have an injury at that position.
- Right-handed reliever Chris Martin, 28, entered play on Tuesday with 0-1 record and a 5.63 ERA in nine spring appearances. But he looked impressive after relieving Tanaka with one out in the fifth inning. He retired all five batters he faced and fanned two in an outing that took only 22 pitches – 17 for strikes. It impressed manager Joe Girardi, who told reporters that the former Rockie showed a “good downhill angle, good breaking ball – really good.”
- Brett Gardner has not had a very good spring but he was 1-for-2 with a single and a walk. However, he was the only Yankees’ projected starter who made the trip. The Twins played a night game on Monday and used only two starters in their lineup. It used to be a unwritten agreement by teams in Florida that they would bring at least three starters to exhibition games. The home team usually played most of its starters. That somehow has gone by the wayside all this spring. I honestly believe people who are paying good money for spring training tickets are getting ripped off. I believe I am going to have to write a letter to the new commissioner about it. If you have time, you do the same.
- Tanaka was raked pretty good in what was his last tuneup before opening the season on April 6 at Yankee Stadium again the Toronto Blue Jays. Tanaka gave up three runs on six hits and no walks while struck out just one in 4 1/3 innings. Half the hits were for extra bases. I will tell you a dirty little secret the Yankees are not telling you. Much like Dellin Betances, Tanaka has pitched with less velocity this spring. He has averaged around 89 miles per hour, but has been able to get up to about 93 mph on occasion. It is not a real worry because Tanaka is more of a “pitcher” than just a “thrower,” but it may explain why he got hit a bit on Tuesday.
- Milone entered the game with an 0-1 record and a 4.50 ERA but the Yankees managed to make him look like Cliff Lee. Of course, with all but one the Yankees’ starters back in Tampa, FL, that was likely going to be the result. To show you how bad the lineup was, Austin Romine, who was just 4-for-25 (.160) entering the contest, was batting fifth. As expected, Romine was 1-for-3 with a strikeout and is now hitting . 143.
Shortstop Didi Gregorius is experiencing some swelling in his left wrist and likely will not play on Wednesday as expected, Girardi told reporters on Tuesday. Gregorius injured the wrist diving for a ground ball in the second inning of Saturday’s 10-2 loss at home against the Baltimore Orioles. He left the game in the fifth inning to undergo X-rays and an MRI, which showed there was no structural damage to the wrist. Gregorius is 12-for-40 (.300) this spring. . . . Center-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury was 2-for-5 in a minor-league game in Tampa on Tuesday and he likely will return to the Yankees’ lineup on Wednesday. Ellsbury has been sidelined since March 15 with a strained oblique.
The Yankees will return to George M. Steinbrenner Field on Wednesday to play host to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Right-hander Chase Whitley, who is 0-0 with a 0.79 ERA in six appearances (one start) will open the game for the Yankees. Whitley is among a group of relievers trying to nail down one of two bullpen spots.
The Rays have elected not to pitch any of their regular starters against a division rival either. Instead they will open with left-handed reliever Jordan Norberto, who is 1-0 with a 4.82 ERA in six appearances.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast live on the YES Network and on a delayed basis by the MLB Network at midnight on Thursday.
YANKEES 4, CARDINALS 0
TAMPA – The New York Yankees have seem to hit upon a great strategy to be successful in 2013 without most all of the power they had last season: Just shut out the opposition.
Kevin Youkilis hit his first home run as a Yankee and drove in two runs while Hiroki Kuroda dazzled the Cardinals with his split-finger fastball to rack up six strikeouts in four shutout innings as New York won its second consecutive game via the shutout by beating St. Louis on Monday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Youkilis, 33, put the Yankees on the board in the fourth inning with a high-arcing blast off the scoreboard in left-center off Cardinals starter Lance Lynn (1-2). He added an RBI sacrifice fly to score Brett Gardner in the sixth inning off Seth Maness, who the Yankees touched up for three runs on four hits and a walk in 1 1/3 innings.
Meanwhile, Kuruda (1-1) held the Cardinals off the board including stranding Shane Robinson at third base with one out by striking out James Romak and Pete Kozma to end the third inning. Kuroda, 38, threw 42 of his 63 pitches for strikes (66%) to lower his spring ERA to 1.59.
Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, Dellin Betances and Shawn Kelley combined to pitch five shutout innings to extend the Yankees’ spring scoreless streak to 18 innings and the Yankee pitchers have only given up two runs over their last 30 innings this spring.
With the victory, the Yankees have now won two consecutive spring training games for the first time and improved their spring ledger to 5-11. The Cardinals dropped to 8-7.
- While the offense has struggled through most of the spring, the Yankees’ starting pitching actually has been quite good. Kuroda, David Phelps and Ivan Nova have combined to give up six runs (three earned) on 20 hits and five walks in 24 2/3 innings over eight starts. That is an ERA of 1.09 and a Walks-to-Innings-Pitched Ratio (WHIP) of 1.01. That is without CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte having pitched an inning yet.
- Youkilis got off to a slow start this spring, going 0-for-9 before delivering his first hit on Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin. In his last two games, Youkilis is 2-for-4 with a home run, a double, a run scored and two RBIs. In addition, Youkilis played his first spring game at first base and flashed some Gold Glove-quality leather on a few plays there.
- Betances, 24, pitched two scoreless innings and gave up one hit and no walks. After being rated the team’s No. 2 prospect last season, the 6-foot-8, 260-pound right-hander is now trying to reinvent himself as a relief pitcher. If his performance on Monday is any indication, the Yankees might have found him a niche in which he can succeed after a terrible season in the minors in 2012. Betances was a combined 6-9 with a 6.44 ERA between Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Double-A Trenton, where he was demoted late last season. Betances walked 99 batters in 131 1/3 innings.
- This is real picky point since the Yankees did win the game but the team was 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. That just means they could have put the game way but failed to do so. Other than Youkilis’ two RBIs the Yankees scored runs in the seventh on a hit baseman and a walk with the bases loaded. So the 1927 Yankees they are not.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman confirmed on Monday that the team has reached out to first baseman Derrek Lee and third baseman Scott Rolen to see if they would have any interest in playing for the Yankees this season. Cashman also said he would be interested in talking with recently retired third baseman Chipper Jones. The Yankees are in the market for a corner infielder while first baseman Mark Teixeira recovers from a strained left wrist. Jones shot the down the speculation about himself saying that he is “happy with life as a bad golfer.” . . . The Yankees announced on Monday that they have signed veteran outfielder Ben Francisco to a minor-league contract and he will have a chance to earn a roster spot with the team this spring. Francisco, 31, requested and was granted his unconditional release by the Cleveland Indians on Monday so he could sign with the Yankees. Francisco is a career .257 hitter over six seasons with the Indians, Phillies, Blue Jays, Astros and Rays. . . . Austin Romine’s bid to win the starting catching job this spring has come to an end. Romine 24, option was among 11 roster moves the Yankees made after Monday’s game. Romine, left-hander Francisco Rondon and right-handers Betances and Brett Marshall were optioned to Triple-A. Left-handers Manny Banuelos and Nik Turley, right-hander Jose Ramirez, and outfielder Ramon Flores were optioned to Double-A Trenton, while right-hander Chase Whitley, catcher J.R. Murphy and infielder Luke Murton were re-assigned to minor-league camp. The Yankees have 52 players left in camp. . . . Derek Jeter said on Monday that he believes he is ready to play shortstop for the first time this spring. Manager Joe Girardi said he possibly could play Jeter for four or five innings. . . . Right-hander Phil Hughes threw 26 pitches in a bullpen session on Monday and came out of it saying he was pain free. Hughes, 26, who has been sidelined since Feb. 18 with a bulging disk in his upper back, said he is still on target to be ready to pitch by Opening Day on April 1.
The Yankees will travel to Port Charlotte, FL, to face the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday.
Right-hander Ivan Nova, 26, will make his third start of the spring for the Yankees. He will be opposed by right-hander Alex Cobb.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and there will be no telecast of the game.