YANKEES 8, RED SOX 6
Going into the All-Star break, the Yankees were looking to make a statement on Sunday against the rival Red Sox. Based on the results, it is clear that Boston will have a long way to go to overtake New York in the American League East.
Alex Rodriguez broke a 3-3 tie in the sixth inning with an RBI double as part of a three-run inning as New York took the best-of-three series over Boston in front of paid crowd of 37,283 at Fenway Park.
The Yankees improved their season record to 6-3 over the Red Sox (5-1 at Fenway Park) while extending their lead over them to 6 1/2 games.
Brett Gardner opened the critical inning with an infield single and Rodriguez, who had two home runs and three RBIs in the previous two contests, laced a 2-1 fastball from left-hander Wade Miley to the wall in left-center to score Gardner.
One out later, Chris Young chased Miley from the game with an RBI double high off the Green Monster in left. Chase Headley later added a two-out RBI double off the wall down the line in left off left-hander Tommy Layne to extend the Yankees’ lead to 6-3.
Miley (8-8) was charged with all three runs and he ended his day giving up six runs on seven hits with no walks and two strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.
Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (9-2) once again was the beneficiary of the run support. He held the Red Sox to three runs on seven hits and no walks with four strikeouts in five innings to win his fourth straight decision.
Eovaldi has not lost a game since June 16 in Miami against his former team, the Marlins, when he was knocked out of the game after yielding eight runs in two-thirds of an inning.
The Yankees, meanwhile, added to their lead in the top of the ninth inning when rookie second baseman Rob Refsnyder, in only his second major-league game, hit a two-run home run off right-hander Alexi Ogando. Two innings earlier, Refsnyder lined his first major-league hit to center off Layne.
It turned out that the Yankees needed that home run because the Red Sox managed to scored two unearned runs off left-hander Andrew Miller in the bottom of ninth thanks to a pair of errors by Brian McCann and Refsnyder.
It was McCann who actually got the Yankees’ offense started with one out in the second inning when he blasted a two-run opposite-field homer to left – his 14th of the season.
But Eovaldi was unable to hold it in the bottom of the third when he was victimized by a series of infield hits and seeing-eye singles as the Red Sox capitalized for three runs.
With Ryan Hanigan at second after an infield single and Mookie Betts at first on a ground single to right and one out, Xander Bogaerts rolled an RBI single to center. Pablo Sandoval laced an RBI single to right and Hanley Ramirez bounced another RBI single up the middle to give the Bosox the lead.
The Yankees tied it in the fifth after a leadoff double by McCann and single to center by Headley.
With Didi Gregorius at the plate Miley, according to home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez, made a movement towards home before attempting to pick off Headley at first. He ruled it a balk and McCann was waved in to score the tying run.
The Yankees reached the All-Star break with a record of 48-40 and they hold a 3 1/2-game lead over the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the division. The last-place Red Sox ended the break at 42-47.
- Yankee fans are seeing a torch passed to Refsnyder, 24. The rookie was called up after batting .290 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and he likely will take over as the starting second baseman at some point in the second half. He was 2-for-4 with his first hit and first home run in only his second game. The only concern is that the former University of Arizona product was converted from the outfield and he is a work in progress on defense. But the kid can flat-out hit and he is the best second baseman the Yankees have had since Robinson Cano left after the 2013 season.
- McCann brought his first half to a close in grand style going 2-for-4 with a double, a homer, two runs scored and two RBIs. McCann entered the day in a bit of a slump having gone only 6-for-40 (.150) since June 26. That dropped his average from a season-high .275 to .255. Despite the fact he deserved to be the starting catcher for the American League in the All-Star Game, the four days of rest may actually benefit him a lot more.
- Eovaldi ends the first half as the team’s winningest starter despite the fact he has a high 4.50 ERA. The reason is the Yankees are averaging seven runs a game for him and he got six runs on Sunday. The 25-year-old right-hander with high-velocity heater is still working to refine his game but you have to give him and pitching coach Larry Rothschild credit for what they have done so far.
- Miller had another shaky outing on Sunday. Of course, McCann’s throwing error and the other error charged to Refsnyder made it worse than it appeared. The second error should have been charged to Miller on his throw to second on a double-play ball that could have ended the game. Miller, 30, needs to get back into the groove he was in before he went on the disabled list on June 10 and cost him a month.
- Gregorius was 0-for-4 and his batting average slipped back to .238. Though Gregorius has made great strides from his first month or so, he is still a very vexing player. In his first two at-bats on Sunday he saw two pitches. On this two pitches he hit a pair of weak flies to center. He also grounded out in the sixth to leave a man in scoring position. Aggressiveness is one thing but stupidity is another. Gregorius needs to learn patience at the plate to be successful. He has time to learn because he is only 25. Just be prepared to want to tear your hair out watching him flail at pitches out of the strike zone.
Manager Joe Girardi has set his rotation for the start of the second half of the season. Girardi told reporters on Sunday that right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will open the three-game home series against the Seattle Mariners on Friday. Right-hander Michael Pineda and left-hander CC Sabathia will follow him in that order. Eovaldi and right-hander Ivan Nova will pitch in that order in the home series against the Baltimore Orioles that begins on July 21.
The Yankees will rest for four days and resume their season Friday at home against the Mariners.
Tanaka (5-3, 3.63 ERA) will try to build on his past two starts as he opens the second half. In his last start, Tanaka yielded two runs (one earned) on just two hits with a walk and six strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings in a victory over the Oakland Athletics on Thursday.
The Mariners have not announced a starter because ace right-hander Felix Hernandez was selected to pitch in the All-Star Game.
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.
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.
Stephen Drew, 31 (.162, 7 HRS, 26RBIs, 85 games)
It was not that long ago that the Yankees could boast about an infield of Mark Teixeira at first base, Robinson Cano at second, Alex Rodriguez at third and team captain Derek Jeter at shortstop. From an offensive and defensive standpoint it could have been considered the best in baseball.
Entering 2015, the Yankees may end up with one of the weakest infields in baseball because Teixeira is in a steep decline, Cano is playing in Seattle, Jeter has retired and Rodriguez is not considered the starting third baseman anymore.
But no place on the team is any weaker than second base because the Yankees declined to offer Cano a 10-year, $325 million contract last winter. Cano went to the Mariners and the Yankees opted to fill the void with then 36-year-old Brian Roberts, who had been allowed to leave the Baltimore Orioles after four injury-plagued seasons.
Roberts was nowhere near the player who had hit 18 home runs and drove in 73 runs while batting .314 for the O’s in 2005. Nor was he the player who stole 50 bases in 2007.
Instead the Yankees got a switch-hitter who batted .237 with five home runs and 21 RBIs in 91 games before the Yankees decided they had enough and they designated him for assignment on July 31 to make room for Drew.
(Roberts very smartly decided to announce his retirement this winter.)
The Yankees had dealt infielder Kelly Johnson to the Boston Red Sox in order to obtain Drew even though Drew was mired in one of the worst seasons in his career.
After sitting out all of spring training and the first two months of the season after rejecting a qualifying offer, Drew finally signed a deal with Boston and promptly struggled to hit .176 with four homers and 11 RBIs in 39 games with Boston before the trade.
Drew languished in limbo without any offers from other teams after he hit .253 with 13 homers and 76 runs driven in with Red Sox in 2013. His lack of timing at the plate was obvious all season.
He fared even worse with the Yankees, hitting .150 with three homers and 15 RBIs in 46 games.
To say that 2014 was a season to forget for Drew would be putting it mildly. Please also forgive Yankee fans to not get too excited about Drew starting at second base after Cano batted over the .300 mark for the sixth consecutive season with the Mariners last season.
Drew, who spent the all eight seasons of his career at shortstop before he joined the Yankees last season and was immediately shifted to second base since Jeter was playing his final season at shortstop for the Yankees.
There is still a possibility that Drew could wind up at shortstop this season if 25-year-old Didi Gregorius does not show an ability to be able to hit major-league pitching after the Yankees acquired him in a three-team trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Detroit Tigers on Dec. 5 that cost the Yankees 26-year-old right-hander Shane Greene.
Gregorius hit .226 with six homers and 27 RBIs in 90 games with the D-backs last season. There is no doubt Gregorius is a major-league quality defensive player. He committed only five errors in 66 starts at the position last season and he also was utilized at second and third base.
Drew, however, is considered a steady fielder at shortstop and he is still learning the intricacies of second base, having played there all of 34 games (31 of them starts). Drew registered four errors at second base and three in 46 starts at shortstop between the Red Sox and Yankees.
The Yankees are not worried that Drew will be able to pick up second base enough to start. The only major question is whether he can snap out of what amounted to his worst season in the major leagues. The late start had to have a major part in it.
But, at the same time, Drew should have been able to get better at the plate as the season progressed. The fact he never did come around has Yankee fans scratching their heads as to why the Yankees elected to sign him to a one-year, $5 million contract that was made official on Jan. 16.
But there he is penciled in as the Yankees’ second baseman at the start of spring.
“If I could take a year back and kind of restart it, it’d be this year (2014), offense-wise,” Drew told reporters in September. “Other than that, you can’t do anything about it.”
Drew, who spent the first six seasons plus playing for the Diamondbacks has averaged .256 with 97 homers and 442 RBIs in his major-league career entering 2015. The Yankees are only hoping he hits closer to that career average and that he can play solid defense at second.
If Drew should continue to falter as he did last season the Yankees will have to put a ready-made Plan B in place.
Veteran infielder Brendan Ryan, 32, is slated to be the backup at both second base and shortstop for the Yankees in 2015. Offense, however, has never been a strong suit for Ryan. He batted just .167 with no homers and eight RBIs in 49 games with the Yankees last season.
Ryan was sidelined early in spring training with a neck injury and he was not activated until May 5.
The reason Ryan was signed to a two-year, $5 million deal last season was his ability to play defense at shortstop. In fact, because Gregorius struggles against left-handers Ryan is expected to get most of the starts at shortstop against lefties this season.
Ryan is a defensive wizard at short and he is well above average at second base. He committed only four errors with the Yankees in 176 innings at second, third and shortstop in 2014.
Fortunately for the Yankees they have a pair of Plan B alternatives who will be a phone call away in the minors this season.
Jose Pirela, 25, is on the team’s 40-man roster entering spring training after he made his major-league debut with the Yankees in late September.
Pirela showed some flashes of brilliance in hitting .333 in 24 at-bats. Pirela had batted .305 with 10 home runs and 60 RBIs with 15 stolen bases in 130 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season.
There are doubts that Pirela is a long-term solution at second base but the Yankees believe that he could eventually take over Ryan’s utility infielder role at some point. Pirela is a pretty versatile player having played first base, second, short and even 45 games in the outfield.
After making 37 errors at shortstop in 2011, Pirela was shifted to second base and his fielding has improved a great deal since then. If he continues to hit well, Pirela could be a super sub along the lines of Jerry Hairston Jr.
You could see him get a call-up this season. But he likely is returning to Scranton when spring training ends.
The Yankees are very excited by 23-year-old second baseman Rob Refsnyder, who is currently ranked as the Yankees’ sixth best prospect. There is a good reason why.
Refsnyder followed up a good 2013 minor-league season with an even better 2014 season between stops at Double-A Trenton and Scranton where he hit a combined . 318 with 14 home runs and 63 RBIs.
The former University of Arizona star burst onto the scene in 2012 by hitting .476 with two homers in leading the Wildcats to the College World Series title. He also was named the series’ Most Outstanding Player.
He was drafted by the Yankees in the fifth round of 2012 First-Year Player Draft as an outfielder but was converted to second base in the minors.
Refsnyder is considered the best pure hitter in the organization and he shows a professional approach by using all fields. His power was unexpected bonus that could translate into 15-homer power at the major-league level.
His defense is shaky, at best, which is to be expected after being moved from the outfield. But Refsnyder has the ability to develop into an adequate defender at the position.
With Drew and Ryan already signed the Yankees would prefer to keep Refsnyder on track to play at Scranton to get more experience at second base under his belt. But his Expected Time of Arrival (ETA) is looking to be 2015 as a late-season call-up.
He could emerge as a starter in 2016 if he progresses as the Yankees expect.
Also keep an eye on 20-year-old Gasuke Katoh, who hit .222 with three homers and 37 RBIs in 121 games for Class-A Charleston (SC) in 2014. He was selected in the second round by the Yankees in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft and the Yankees love his speed (20 bases) and his ability to get on base (.345 OBP).
OVERALL POSITION ANALYSIS: INADEQUATE
I personally have some real doubts about Drew’s ability to bounce back from his horrible 2014 numbers.
In the past good Yankee teams have had such greats at second base such as Bobby Richardson, Willie Randolph and Cano. The decision the Yankees made to allow Cano to walk as a free agent last winter will have the Yankees paying dearly for a long time.
I doubt Drew will hit .150 again. But even if he hits .253 he is still going to pale in comparison to Cano, who is the best second baseman in baseball now. There is no doubt this position is in a transition phase and Drew is just placeholder until something better comes along.
The Yankees would be in big trouble if Gregorius fails at shortstop and they are forced to move Drew there. That would open up a huge hole at second base and the Yankees do not want to have use Pirela or Refsnyder at the position this season.
The Yankees want Drew, Gregorius and Ryan to remain healthy and productive throughout the 2014 season to allow Refsnyder to develop as a second baseman.
If they get that time Refsnyder might reward them by becoming a productive hitter with an adequate enough glove to hold the position for years to come. That is the hope anyway.
NEXT: THIRD BASE