YANKEES 5, ROYALS 1
In the not-so-distant past the Yankees leaned upon CC Sabathia as an ace who could always end a long losing streak. So Saturday was like a casual stroll down memory lane as Sabathia helped his team end a four-game skid.
Sabathia yielded just one run in seven strong innings and Chase Headley blasted a two-out, three-run home run in the fifth inning to break a 1-1 tie as New York evened their three-game series with Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium.
Sabathia (2-5) limited the hot-hitting Royals to just six hits with no walks and five strikeouts to win his second consecutive start after beginning the season 0-5.
“Hopefully I can just keep this going,” Sabathia told reporters. “I feel good, I’ve got no problems. Hopefully I can just keep going out there and give us a chance to win.”
The Yankees managed a run off left-hander Danny Duffy (2-3) in the third inning and it was scored without the benefit of a hit. Duffy walked Jacoby Ellsbury, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira to load the bases with one out. Carlos Beltran then delivered a sacrifice fly to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead.
But the Royals replied in the bottom of the inning. Omar Infante singled, Paulo Orlando reached on a bunt single and Alcides Escobar loaded the bases with a hard-hit single to center. Mike Moustakas then tied the game with a sacrifice fly to score Infante.
The Yankees then managed to get to a struggling Duffy with two out in the fifth. Teixeira and Beltran each singled and Headley followed by driving a 3-2 change-up from Duffy into the left-field bleachers for his fifth home run of the season.
“We’ve had opportunities and we just haven’t driven anybody in,” Headley told reporters. “That’s going to happen throughout the course of the season. Tonight, it was nice to be able to come through with that swing.”
Duffy was charged with four runs on four hits and four walks with three strikeouts in five innings.
Sabathia, with help from right-hander Dellin Betances in the eighth inning and left-hander Andrew Miller in the ninth, held the Royals scoreless the rest of the way. The Royals did not have a base-runner reach base after Moustakas reached on a fielding error by Jose Pirela with one in the ninth.
Sabathia, Betances and Miller combined to mow down the final 14 batters they faced and only three balls reached the outfield – none of them after the sixth inning.
Rodriguez clubbed the 664th home run of his career and his 10th of the season with one out in the ninth inning off veteran right-hander Joe Blanton.
With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 22-16 and they extended their lead in the American League East over the second-place Tampa Bay Rays to two games. The Royals dropped to 23-14.
- In his first six starts, Sabathia was 0-5 with a 5.45 ERA. In his past two starts, he is 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA. Sabathia, 34, has allowed just four earned runs on 12 hits and two walks with 14 strikeouts in 14 innings. It appears Sabathia has been able to mix in his change-up more to keep right-handed hitters off his fastball. He also has developed much better command of all his pitches and he is keeping batters off balance. He needed only 85 pitches to get through seven innings on Saturday.
- It is no secret that Headley has been struggling at the plate this season. He came in batting only .229 with four homers and 14 RBIs. But if Headley, 31, can somehow get more consistent at the plate he could be a big help to the lower part of the batting order. Headley hit .262 with six homers and 17 RBIs in 58 games with the Yankees last season. He already has five homers and 17 RBIs in 38 games this season.
- Beltran, 38, was 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI and it extends what has been a very hot May at the plate for the veteran outfielder. After batting a miserable .162 with no home runs and seven RBIs in April, Beltran is hitting .327 with two homers and nine RBIs halfway through May.
After losing four in a row, including a 12-1 drubbing by the Royals on Friday, it was good to see Sabathia throwing so well against what has been a hot-hitting club. Headley’s big home run came with two out and a two-strike count. That clutch hit gave Sabathia all he needed to beat the Royals. No complaints here.
Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will travel with the Yankees to Washington, DC, on Monday and throw a third bullpen session. If all goes well, Tanaka, 26, could be sent out on a minor-league rehab assignment. Tanaka has been on the 15-day disabled list since April 29 with tendinitis in his right wrist and a strained right forearm. . . . The Yankees on Saturday recalled right-hander Bryan Mitchell from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and optioned right-hander Jose Ramirez to the same club. Ramirez, 24, was charged with four runs on three hits and two walks in an inning against the Royals on Friday. Mitchell, 24, was 2-3 with a 4.26 ERA in seven starts with the RailRiders.
The Yankees will have an opportunity to win the rubber game of the three-game series with the Royals on Sunday.
Left-hander Chris Capuano, 36, will make his season debut with the Yankees and his first start. Capuano suffered an injured right quad in his second start in spring training on March 11. The Yankees re-signed the veteran after he posted a 2-3 record with a 4.25 ERA in 12 starts with the team last season.
He will be opposed by right-hander Edinson Volquez (2-3, 3.19 ERA), who is coming off a rough outing against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday. Volquez, 31, gave up four runs on six hits and three walks with three strikeouts in a no-decision.
Game-time will be 2:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
NATIONALS 8, YANKEES 2
Stephen Strasburg held the Yankees to one run on six hits in 5 1/3 innings and Bryce Harper stroked an RBI triple to spark a three-run first inning as Washington downed New York on Friday at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL.
Strasburg (2-1) walked one and struck out six to get credit for the victory.
Left-hander CC Sabathia (0-3) yielded three runs on three hits and two walks in the first inning. But Sabathia recovered and ended up yielding no runs on just two hits and a walk in his remaining 4 1/3 innings of work.
Mike Carp hit a three-run home run in the seventh inning off right-hander Nick Goody to put the game out of reach.
The Yankees completed their Grapefruit League schedule with a 16-16-1 record.
- At first glance Sabathia’s 0-3 record and 8.10 ERA this spring is a bit alarming. However, Sabathia was a totally different pitcher after the first inning. He retired 12 of the final 15 batters he faced, striking out two. At least it is something to build upon for his next scheduled start on April 9 at Yankee Stadium against the Toronto Blue Jays.
- It also should not surprise anyone that the two Yankee RBIs against the Nationals came from Chase Headley and Rob Refsnyder. Headley laced a two-out RBI double into the right-center gap off Strasburg in the fourth inning. Refsnyder added a two-out RBI double of his own in the ninth inning. Headley led all of the Yankee roster players in batting this spring with a .321 average and he drove in eight runs. Refsnyder led all players with 16 or more at-bats in hitting for a .372 average.
- The Yankees did not play well at all in the final week of the spring. They entered the week 15-12 and ended up 16-16. The major reason why was they did not hit well as a team. That pretty much was an ongoing theme of the spring. In their four losses this week they scored five runs on just 15 hits. You can’t sugarcoat it. This team is just dreadful offensively.
- One of the biggest culprits this spring was Brett Gardner. The 31-year-old outfielder was 9-for-56 (.161) with no homers, three RBIs and 16 strikeouts. The odd thing is that Gardner was coming off his best season in terms of homers (17) and RBIs (53).
- With such bullpen stalwarts as David Robertson, Shawn Kelley and David Phelps gone and Adam Warren being moved into the rotation due to the injury to Chris Capuano, it stood to reason the bullpen might need time to gel. But it is a source of concern leaving camp because Dellin Betances (6.14 ERA), Chasen Shreve (4.67), David Carpenter (4.70) and Chris Martin (4.50) all had some shaky moments this spring.
Because of the struggles of Betances, manager Joe Girardi again on Friday refused to name a closer. It is looking as if the right-handed Betances and left-hander Andrew Miller will share the role and will be used depending on specific ninth inning matchups. “I really think that if you do it that way and as long as you’re prepared, it has a chance to be advantageous to you,” Girardi told reporters. . . . Right-hander Ivan Nova threw a 45-pitch bullpen session on Friday without any setbacks. Nova, 27, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, will remain in Florida to continue his rehab and is expected to be able to return sometime in June. . . . In a bit of a surprise, Slade Heathcott was named on Friday as the winner of the James P. Dawson Award as the the Yankees’ outstanding rookie of the spring, Heathcott, 24, was 11-for-31 (.355) with a homer and seven RBIs in 21 games. I think Refsnyder was a much better hitter and should have won the award.
The Yankees are now in Washington, DC, for the final exhibition game on Saturday against Nationals at Nationals Park.
Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will start for the Yankees after going 1-1 with 0.66 ERA in four games (three starts) this spring.
The Nationals will start right-hander Doug Fister, who was 0-0 with 7.02 ERA in five spring starts.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast for free on MLB.com.
I started this blog in 2009 and I have vowed to my loyal readers that I would provide an unvarnished and journalistic approach to covering the New York Yankees. I feel I have fulfilled that promise and more over the years.
With the opening of spring exhibition games beginning for the Yankees on Feb. 23 against the Atlanta Braves at Lake Buena Vista, FL, through the spring finale against the Washington Nationals in Washington, D.C. on March 29, I will be personally attending 18 games to provide reporting and analysis.
In addition, I will have access to one national television broadcast through ESPN and 13 additional games through radio broadcasts to ensure you will be getting complete and authoritative coverage of the Yankees this spring.
I will provide game coverage but I also will look at how the team is shaping up as a whole. I will look at the starting rotation, the bullpen battles, how the starting lineup is shaping up and how the young Yankees and spring invitees are doing in seeking roster spots.
If there is an injury that could affect the Yankees in 2013 you will know about it fast and accurately.
Last spring, I lamented through my game reports about how poorly the Yankees were hitting with men in scoring position. As we later learned, it became a significant issue for the team in the first half of the season and it was their ultimate undoing in the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers.
I will try to provide the same analysis that I have through the past three spring training schedules. It will be done as if I was the Yankees’ correspondent for yankees.com. I was passed over for that post some years ago despite the fact I have been a journalist for more than 20 years and have worked for a number prestigious newspapers and wrote my own syndicated sports column.
But their loss is your gain because I always tell the truth about the Yankees and I do not hold punches in order avoid angering players, coaches and club executives as yankees.com reporters do. I am free to speak my mind and tell you that Alex Rodriguez and his bloated contract is an albatross around the necks of the Yankees and will be through the 2017 season.
I also have already told you my belief that Phil Hughes would be more suited and more effective of he pitched out the bullpen rather than basically a two-pitch starter.
Earlier this winter, I wrote how the Yankees are missing so much of their power from the 2012 club (Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez, Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones) that manager Joe Girardi would be wise to use a more unconventional slash and dash approach using his better base-runners like Brett Gardner, Eduardo Nunez, Ichiro Suzuki, Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter.
Call it the “Bronx Bunters.”
That would mean more bunting, hit and runs and base stealing instead of waiting for the home run. We will see if the Yankees implement that strategy this spring.
Join me for my reports direct from Tampa, FL, and I promise you will be ready and primed for my regular season game reports when the Yankees open their 2013 schedule at Yankee Stadium on April 1 when they will play host to the Boston Red Sox.
Thank you for those who have been my loyal readers and thank you to the new readers I have picked up along the way. I intend to give you the best information I can. Your feedback is always appreciated and encouraged.
Go Yankees in 2013!