YANKEES 4, BLUE JAYS 1
Going into Saturday’s game at Rogers Centre the New York Yankees knew they would be without both right-hander Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller because they had both pitched in the previous two games the team won. So the question was: Who would close for the Yankees?
Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka provided the answer. He would.
Tanaka threw his first complete game of the season and Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira both hit solo home runs as New York knocked off Toronto for the second straight day and extended their American League East lead over the Blue Jays to 1 1/2 games.
Tanaka (9-5) held the powerful Blue Jays to one run on just five hits and three walks while struck out eight batters in a sparkling 112-pitch outing. It was Tanaka’s first victory of the season over the Blue Jays in three starts.
“Up to this point, I think today was one of the most important games that I’ve pitched in,” Tanaka told reporters through an interpreter. “My mindset was, I wanted to go as deep into the game as possible. I was really satisfied that I was able to do that.”
Beltran, who was the big hero in Friday’s 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Blue Jays with a pinch-hit three-run home run in the eighth inning, got the Yankees’ offense rolling right away against right-hander Marco Estrada (10-7).
With two out in the first inning, Beltran lined a 3-2 fastball into the right-field bleachers for his 12th home run of the season.
Meanwhile, Tanaka looked every bit the $155-million ace the Yankees signed as free agent last season through the first four innings until he temporarily lost command of the strike zone in the fifth.
Ryan Goins drew a leadoff four-pitch walk and Ben Revere followed it with a hard-hit single to left. Tanaka then walked Troy Tulowitzki on four pitches to load the bases with no outs.
Josh Donaldson scored Goins with a sacrifice fly to left but Tanaka was able to wriggle out of further trouble by striking out Jose Bautista swinging and retiring Edwin Encarnacion on a infield popup.
He did not allow another hit except a two-out single by Encarnacion in the eighth inning.
Estrada, at the same time, recovered from the first-inning to hold the Yankees to just one hit – a one-out triple by Jacoby Ellsbury in the third – until there were two outs in the sixth inning.
Teixeira entered the day struggling in August, batting .182 during the month and 2-for-21 (.095) in his past five games. But he was able to connect on a 1-0 fastball and hit it into the second deck down the right-field line for his 31st home run of the season.
Teixeira’s tie-breaking home run was all Tanaka really would need but Teixeira also added a one-out RBI single in the eighth off right-hander LaTroy Hawkins after Beltran had doubled off the top of the wall in right-center.
Ellsbury closed out the scoring in the ninth with an one-out RBI single off left-hander Aaron Loup.
“Right now, the most important thing is winning,” Beltran told reporters. “It doesn’t matter how we win, we just have to go out there with the mentality of not being able to think of our personal numbers, what we’re doing. We have to think about how we can win this ballgame. Right now, we’re doing good.”
Another sellout crowd of 46,630 saw the Yankees win their third straight game after they had lost the previous five games. Their season record is now 64-51. The Blue Jays dropped to 64-54.
- Tanaka, 26, has been somewhat disappointing this season between stretches of inconsistency and a stint on the disabled list. But on Saturday he looked every bit the ace pitcher the Yankees wanted him to be. Despite the three walks, Tanaka kept Toronto’s hitters off-balance by using his slider more than usual and not giving them fastballs in the strike zone. Tulowitzki, Donaldson and Bautista were a combined 1-for-8 with two strikeouts and only two balls reached the outfield.
- Beltran’s hot month of August continued on Saturday as he was 2-for-3 with a walk, a double, a home run, two runs scored and one RBI. He now has a hitting streak of 10 games and he is 12-for-32 (.375) with four homers and seven RBIs in that stretch. He is now batting .271 on the season.
- Teixeira’s home run and two RBIs were his first of each since he homered in the first game of the series against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 7. He ended his day 2-for-4 with a run scored and he drove in the tie-breaking run and added a key insurance run. Despite the slump Teixeira is batting .261 with 31 homers and 79 RBIs this season.
I would really have to nitpick to find a downside to this game. After losing in 10 innings 2-1 to the Blue Jays on Aug. 7 on a Bautista home run, Bautista said the Blue Jays did more than beat the Yankees. They made a “statement.” Well, after losing the first two games of this series I wonder what has become of Bautista’s “statement?” You may want to put a lot of ketchup on that serving of crow, Jose!
The Yankees bolstered their bullpen on Saturday by recalling right-hander Caleb Catham from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and designating left-hander Chris Capuano for assignment for a second time. Cotham, 27, will be beginning his third stint with the Yankees this season. In 31 games between Double-A Trenton and Scranton, Cotham is 6-2 with a 1.89 ERA and two saves. Capuano, 36, had not appeared in a game since the Yankees selected his contract from Scranton on Aug. 12. He was 0-4 with a 6.97 ERA in 16 games (four starts) with the Yankees. . . . Rookie Greg Bird started at first base on Saturday to allow Teixeira to serve as the designated hitter and he singled with two out in the eighth inning off Hawkins for his first Major-League hit. In the sixth inning, Bird, 22, hit a mammoth drive into the right-field seats, which would have been a two-run home run. But it was ruled a foul ball and a review of the play confirmed the call. . . . Right-hander Ivan Nova will make his next start despite soreness in right ring finger. Nova, 28, thought he had fractured the finger after he attempted to grab a come-backer off the bat of Tulowitzki in the third inning of Friday’s 4-3 victory over the Blue Jays. Nova still was able to pitch seven innings and got credit for his fifth victory of the season.
After being swept by the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium last weekend the Yankees will have a chance to return the favor to the Blue Jays on Sunday.
Rookie right-hander Luis Severino (0-1, 2.45 ERA) will make his third career start for the Yankees. Severino, 21, has not yielded more than two runs or pitched less than five innings in his first two starts. However, he is still seeking his first Major-League victory.
The Blue Jays will counter with right-hander Drew Hutchison (11-2, 5.26 ERA). Judging by the ERA you can tell that Hutchison, 24, is living off the run support the Blue Jays are providing him. In five starts in July, Hutchison recorded a 6.93 ERA and yet he was 1-1 in those starts.
Game-time will be 1:07 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
With the opening of the New York Yankees spring training camp in Tampa, FL, we will now look at each position on the team to assess their chances in 2015. After a disappointing 2014 season with a roster riddled with significant injuries the Yankees have reshuffled the deck with a lot of fresh faces to join some old ones. Let’s look at them.
Didi Gregorius, 25 (.226, 6 HRs, 27 RBIs, 80 games)
It is tough to ask any player to take the place of a legend but it must be an even greater lift to ask Didi Gregorius to follow the 19 seasons Derek Jeter gave the New York Yankees.
Throughout the offseason the names of Troy Tulowitzki, Elvis Andrus and J.J. Hardy were bandied about in the press as the speculation on who would replace Jeter grew louder. When the Yankees elected instead to offer right-handed starter Shane Greene to the Detroit Tigers in a three-team trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Gregorius was anointed as Jeter’s replacement.
The shock may still have not worn off.
Gregorius has been a top prospect with the D-backs for several years after he was obtained from the Cincinnati Reds in 2012. His first taste of the majors came in 2012 when he was a September call-up of the Reds and he hit .300 in just 20 at-bats.
After his trade to Arizona, Gregorius played in 103 games for the D-backs in 2013 and he was a bit of a disappointment in batting .257 with seven home runs and 28 RBIs. The D-backs were expecting a lot offensively from a player that was so gifted defensively.
Looking at Gregorius’ 2014 numbers would have you surmise he was a complete failure. But the D-backs will tell you that was not the case. Instead, Gregorius was passed on the depth chart by fellow prospect Chris Owings, who hit .261 with six homers and 26 RBIs in 91 games after taking over as the team’s primary shortstop.
Ask anyone in the D-backs organization and they will tell you that Gregorius is far superior to Owings as a fielder (5 errors for Gregorius to 11 for Owings) with far superior range. They also will tell you although Owings won the job with his offense that Gregorius has a far higher ceiling with his offense than Owings.
So the Yankees were not taken. It actually may be that the Yankees took the D-backs.
The Yankees looked at lefty-swinging Gregorius’ splits against right-handers and left-handers and discovered that he batted . 262 against right-handers in 544 at-bats and only .184 in 180 at-bats against southpaws.
The Yankees are looking into the possibility of using Gregorius in a platoon with veteran shortstop Brendan Ryan this season. Ryan, 32, would take most of the at-bats against left-handers and leave Gregorius to face the right-handers he feasts upon.
The Yankees believe that Gregorius has the ability to hit double-digit homers at Yankee Stadium as he develops. Though Gregorius did steal 44 bases in the minors, including 16 for with two Class-A Reds farm teams in 2010, he has not developed into a skillful base-stealer at the major-league level.
It appears that 2015 is going to be a proving ground for Gregorius and Yankee fans obviously will compare their young shortstop to the legend that was Jeter.
But the Yankees point out that Jeter batted .256 with four homers and 50 RBIs in 145 games in his final season. The Yankees believe Gregorius could top those totals in 2015.
Should Gregorius falter to such a degree that he will have to be sent back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the Yankees would be forced to move their starting second baseman Stephen Drew back to his original shortstop position.
Drew, 31, was shifted to second base by the Yankees after he was obtained from the Boston Red Sox in a deal for Kelly Johnson on July 31. The former Diamondbacks shortstop had only played shortstop since he began his major-league career in 2006.
But with Jeter in his final season Drew was forced to move and when the Yankees made the deal for Drew it was just assumed he would shift back to shortstop after Jeter retired. But the Yankees had other ideas.
The Gregorius deal at first seemed to indicate Drew’s stint with the Yankees was over but the Yankees finalized a one-year, $5 million deal in January with Drew and they installed him as the team’s starting second baseman for 2015.
Drew is coming off his worst offensive season of his career after hitting woeful .162 with seven homers and 26 RBIs in 85 games with Red Sox and Yankees.
Though Drew has never won a Gold Glove his defense is considered well above average at shortstop. He is coming to spring training still learning the intricacies of second base.
Should the Yankees be forced to send Gregorius down and shift Drew the team would need a second baseman. They have super-sub Jose Pirela, 25, who made a great impression with the team in his late-season call-up, hitting .333 in seven games
But the Yankees seem very committed to their new shortstop who was born in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. He already appears to have the right attitude.
“You can’t replace a legend, and it’s not replacing,” Gregorius told listeners on MLB Network Radio. “He (Jeter) has been playing for a long time at shortstop and he decided to retire. The spot was open. So I’m not thinking about replacing anything. It’s just me just coming in there to try to play my game.”
The Yankees minor-league options at shortstop are not real good, hence the deal for Gregorius.
Carmen Angelini, 26, hit .212 in 110 games between Double-A Trenton and Scranton last season. Ali Castillo, 25, batted .254 with two homers and 42 RBIs in 120 games at Trenton.
Former first-round draft pick Cito Culver, 22, hit .220 with five homers and 48 RBIs at Class-A Tampa. Culver has major-league defensive tools but his offense is holding up his progress.
The big buzz at shortstop for the Yankees surrounds 19-year-old Jorge Mateo. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012, Mateo made his pro debut last June and teams are already asking about him in trade talks.
His biggest asset is his speed. He stole 11 bases in just 15 games with the Yankees’ Gulf Coast League team. He has a wiry build but he already shows an ability to hit for average and the promise provide double-digit home run power down the line.
Scouts are already saying that the Yankees have not had a shortstop at this level with as much of a ceiling since Jeter. That is high praise.
OVERALL POSITION ANALYSIS: AVERAGE
The decision to deal for Gregorius was a bold move and it will define what direction the Yankees will take in the post-Jeter era. General manager Brian Cashman has stayed away from high-priced free-agents to fill spots.
We will see if it is successful.
Gregorius can certainly field the position and that is going to be very helpful. His offense could be a problem but at least the Yankees are thinking of using a platoon in order to keep Gregorius hitting only against right-handers.
There also will be less pressure for the young shortstop batting ninth in this order. Plus, if the Yankees are correct about his power they could catch lightning in a bottle and have something very special for many years to come.
I know Yankee fans would have wanted Tulowitzki to play short so the Yankees could make a run at the World Series. However, Cashman and manager Joe Girardi may have more of a long-term strategy in mind.
Both Gregorius and Ryan are terrific defensive players and that is what you want in the middle of infield. Drew can also play the position so there is some depth.
The problem is that most of the Yankees’ minor-league shortstops are not real prospects. But keep an eye on Mateo. He seems to have the makings to be the real deal.
YANKEES 3, ROCKIES 1
With the Yankees limited in the amount of offense they can produce their pitching becomes even more important. On a day when their ace CC Sabathia could only go four innings because of a one hour and 59 minute rain delay, five relievers stepped up to shut down the Rockies in the final five innings.
Robinson Cano sparked the offense by collecting his 1,500th career hit before the rain delay and he extended the Yankees’ lead to 3-1 with a solo home run after the rain delay as New York took the three-game road series against Colorado in front of a rain-drenched paid crowd of 40,972 at Coors Field on Thursday.
Adam Warren (1-0), who came on in the fifth inning in relief of Sabathia, pitched 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief to get credit for his first major-league victory.
Rockies left-hander Jeff Francis (1-3), who gave up two runs on four hits and two walks while striking out three in four innings, took the loss.
Mariano Rivera came on to pitch a scoreless ninth inning to post his 13th save in 13 chances this season. It is the longest consecutive save streak for Rivera since he saved his first 28 opportunities in 2008.
The Yankees took advantage of a one-out walk to Jayson Nix by Francis in the first inning to take an early lead.
Nix advanced to second on a slow bounce-out by Cano and he scored an RBI single by Vernon Wells, who was 5-for-12 (.417) with a homer and three RBIs in the series.
The Rockies tied it in the bottom of the inning when Troy Tulowitzki laced a one-out single to advance Dexter Fowler to third and Carlos Gonzalez launched a sacrifice fly to left that scored Fowler just ahead of the tag of catcher Chris Stewart on a perfect throw from left-field by Wells.
The Yankees reclaimed the lead in the fourth when former Rockie Chris Nelson led off with a double to left and Lyle Overbay advanced him to third on an infield groundout. Stewart then sent a deep fly ball to right-center that scored Nelson without a throw.
Then, as they have this entire series in Denver, the elements became downright nasty after Sabathia dispatched the Rockies in order in the bottom of the fourth. In fact, Sabathia retired the final 11 batters he faced before the long rain delay ended his outing early.
Sabathia gave up just the one run on one hit and a walk and he struck out two batters.
Right-hander Adam Ottavino replaced Francis in the top of the fifth after the rain delay and with two out Cano launched a 2-0 hanging breaking ball over the wall in right field for his ninth home run of the season and his 20th RBI, which both lead the team.
The Yankees bullpen took over from there.
Warren pitched a perfect fifth inning but walked Fowler and Tulowitzki in succession with two out in the sixth. But Boone Logan ended the threat by striking out Gonzalez swinging.
Rookie right-hander Preston Claiborne then ran into difficulty in the seventh with two out when Jordan Pacheco and Josh Rutledge hit back-to-back singles. However, David Robertson came in to strike out pinch-hitter Todd Helton swinging.
Robertson walked Young to begin the eighth and Young later stole second. But Robertson got out the inning by striking out Fowler, retiring Tulowitzki on an infield grounder and striking out Gonzalez swinging.
Rivera then closed out the ninth. The bullpen collectively gave up no runs on three hits and three walks while fanning three in five innings of work.
With the victory the Yankees improved to 20-13 to climb into a three-way tie with the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles for a share of first place in the American League East. The Rockies dropped to 19-15.
- Cano entered the series 0-for-8 and was retired in his first at-bat before his milestone single off Francis in the third inning. Cano then got to Ottavino with his ninth home run of the season. Though the Yankees have been ravaged by injuries that have limited the offense, Cano has been providing solid production early in the season.
- Wells also was 2-for-4 and he also drove in a run. He had three RBIs in the series and he has 16 overall. Manager Joe Girardi is going to be hard-pressed to find at-bats for Wells when Curtis Granderson returns this month, which is a shame because Wells looks like he has recaptured his old All-Star form at the plate.
- Everyone knows what a weapon Rivera has been his entire career. But he is making in huge statement in what will be his final season. Rivera is perfect in saves and he has given up only three runs on 12 hits and two walks with 12 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings. His ERA is 1.88.
You can’t complain about this one. After getting shut out on only four hits in the opener, the Yankees silenced a powerful Colorado offense in a hitters’ park by allowing just three runs on eight hits in the final two games. They just shut them down and won with timely hitting. They also took a share of first place. Bravo!
Yankees shortstop Eduardo Nunez was held out of a third straight game due to nagging tightness in his left ribcage. Heavy rain before the game prevented Nunez from being able to get on the field to work out and take some swings to test the injury. Girardi said he hopes Nunez might be available to play on Friday but he remains day-to-day. . . . Girardi did tell reporters that he believes reliever Joba Chamberlain will be activated on Tuesday when he is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list. Chamberlain was sidelined with a mild right oblique strain.
The Yankees will continue their eight-game road trip in Kansas City with a weekend three-game series against the Royals.
Right-hander Phil Hughes (1-2, 3.60 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Hughes is coming off his best outing of the season on Saturday when he blanked the Oakland Athletics over eight innings on four hits while punched out nine batters. Hughes is 4-1 with a 5.51 ERA in his career against the Royals.
The Royals will counter with former Rays right-hander Wade Davis (2-2, 4.75 ERA). Davis held the Chicago White Sox to one run over six innings on Sunday but he did not get a decision. He is 2-3 with a 3.96 ERA against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 8:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.