YANKEES 7, TIGERS 2
When it comes to building drama it was obvious on Friday that Alex Rodriguez was not really interested in that at all. He took Justin Verlander deep on the first pitch in his first at-bat to join the 3,000-hit club and then just allowed the Yankees to concentrate on winning the game.
They did just that as Didi Gregorius and Brett Gardner also homered off Verlander and Adam Warren pitched eight solid innings to help New York thump Detroit in front of a paid crowd of 44,588 who came, in part, to witness more history at Yankee Stadium.
Rodriguez, 39, entered the game 10-for-34 (.294) with four homers off Verlander and he hit high outside fastball into the bleachers in right-center with two out in the first inning to give the Yankees an early 1-0 lead.
Rodriguez becomes only the third player out of the 29 who have collected 3,000 hits to hit a home run to reach the mark. The others were Wade Boggs with the Tampa Bay Rays and Derek Jeter, Rodriguez’s former Yankee teammate.
The milestone drew a standing ovation from the crowd and Rodriguez was greeted by hugs by all teammates before he reached the dugout. He then came back out of the dugout to raise his hands to the crowd in a curtain call.
The Tigers, however, managed to get to Warren in the second inning when Victor Martinez led off with a single and Yoenis Cespedes followed with a double. One out later, Warren hit Nick Castellanos with a pitch to load the bases and Bryan Holaday slapped a 1-0 pitch into left-center to score Martinez and Cespedes and give the Tigers a 2-1 lead.
It was short-lived because with one out in the bottom of the second, Gregorius laced a 1-2 fastball into the Yankees bullpen in right-center for his third home run of the season.
The game remained tied until Mason Williams singled with one out in the fifth and Gardner blasted a hanging 1-1 slider from Verlander into the Yankees bullpen for his seventh home run of the season and his second two-run homer in two nights.
Gardner’s two-run homer with two out in the sixth inning on Thursday allowed the Yankees to tie the Miami Marlins 3-3 in a game the Yankees eventually won 9-4.
The Yankees added a pair of runs off an obviously tiring Verlander in the seventh inning when Gardner reached on a one-out bunt single and advanced to third when Chase Headley’s hard-hit grounder caromed off Verlander’s foot and rolled into right-field.
With Rodriguez at the plate, Verlander uncorked a pitch in the dirt that rolled less than five feet away from Holaday but Gardner was able to slide to home without a play.
After Verlander retired Rodriguez, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus brought left-hander Tom Gorzelanny in to face Mark Teixeira. But Teixeira hit an opposite-field single to right that scored Headley.
Verlander was charged with six runs on 10 hits and one walk with two strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings and 117 pitches.
Warren, meanwhile, was able to keep the Tigers off the scoreboard through eight full innings, which was his longest outing in his career of 16 starts. He gave up only two runs on seven hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in an effort that may have saved his job as starter.
The Yankees added another run in the eighth on a two-out double by Chris Young and an RBI single by Gardner.
Right-hander Branden Pinder, who was only called up earlier in the day, pitched a scoreless ninth to close out the game and hand the Yankees their third straight victory.
With the triumph the Yankees improved to 37-30. They remain one game behind the first-place Rays in the American League East. The Tigers dropped to 34-33.
- Though Rodriguez’s entire career with the Yankees has been shrouded in controversy, the Yankee fans did not hold back in their celebration of the moment. Though Rodriguez’s numbers are certainly tainted by the performance-enhancing drugs, the 3,000-hit milestone still means something. He did it in dramatic fashion off a name-brand pitcher and he is having a grand comeback season. He is batting .277 with 13 home runs and 35 RBIs.
- If not for A-Rod’s milestone, Gardner would have gotten all the ink for his best night of the season. Gardner was 4-for-5 with a three singles, a homer, two runs scored and three RBIs. He basically stole home off Verlander in the seventh a wild pitch that barely rolled five feet away from the plate. Gardner raised his average back to .277 and he has seven homers and 33 RBIs hitting mostly from the leadoff spot.
- Warren, 27, basically told manager Joe Girardi that he was not coming out of the rotation without a fight. With right-hander Ivan Nova pitching in a rehab start for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre on the same night, it was no secret Warren was going to be moved out of the rotation after this start. But Warren was so good that Girardi may have to rethink his plans. Warren is 5-4 with a 3.62 ERA in 13 starts. Nathan Eovaldi, in contrast, is 5-2 with a 5.12 ERA. Who would you shift to the bullpen for Nova?
Warren was sensational and the Yankees hit three homers and scored six runs off Verlander. You can’t fault that effort. The only vexing thing about the Yankees is they win seven in a row and then they lose six of seven. Now they have won three in a row. Consistency is not their thing but they are playing well now.
Williams, 23, left the game in the sixth inning after jamming his right shoulder attempting to get back to first base on a pickoff attempt by Verlander in the bottom of the fifth inning. Though he remained the game and scored on Gardner’s two-run homer, he was replaced in center-field by Young. Williams was examined by Dr. Christopher Ahmad, the team physician, and no tests are planned. Williams is listed a day-to-day. . . . The Yankees were forced to shuffle their bullpen again on Friday. The team placed right-hander Sergio Santos on the 15-day disabled list and optioned right-hander Chris Martin to Scranton. The Yankees then recalled right-handers Bryan Mitchell and Pinder from the same club. Santos, 31, was placed on the disabled list retroactive to June 15 with inflammation in his right elbow. Santos last pitched on Monday when he escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the eighth inning of a 2-1 loss to the Marlins. Martin, 29, is 0-2 with a 5.62 ERA in 18 games.
The Yankees will continue their three-game home series with the Tigers on Saturday.
Eovaldi will make his 14th start of the season against the Tigers. He also better hope it goes better than his outing against his former Marlins team on Tuesday when he gave up eight runs on nine hits in just two-thirds of an inning. With Warren’s great start on Friday he will be on the hot seat to perform against the Tigers.
The Tigers will counter with right-hander Alfredo Simon (7-3, 2.58 ERA). Simon shut out the Cleveland Indians on three hits and one walk with five strikeouts in five innings in a victory on Sunday.
Game-time will be 7:15 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 2, TIGERS 1
With Masahiro Tanaka and Anibal Sanchez locked up in a classic pitchers’ duel and scoring at a premium the result on Thursday was decided by the quick feet of Jacoby Ellsbury.
Ellsbury used his speed to force Sanchez into a costly balk and he later hustled a base hit into a double that led to scoring the game-winning run as New York took three of four games against Detroit on another bone-chilling 38-degree afternoon at Comerica Park.
The Tigers took advantage of some early command issues that plagued Tanaka to score a run in the first inning.
Anthony Gose led off with an opposite-field double and advanced to third on Ian Kinsler’s ground out. After Miguel Cabrera drew a walk, Gose was able to score on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Victor Martinez.
That run stood up most of the day as Tanaka and Sanchez matched each other for the rest of the afternoon.
After Cabrera’s walk, Tanaka retired 18 of the next 19 batters he faced, striking out six. The only hit he gave up was a two-out double to J.D. Martinez in the fourth inning.
Meanwhile, Sanchez entered the game with a 7.71 ERA. But he was able to keep the Yankees scoreless through the first five innings, yielding only a two-out double to Chris Young while striking out five.
Ellsbury opened the sixth by drawing a walk and stealing second base. Brett Gardner advanced him to third on a infield groundout. Then with two out and Brian McCann up, Ellsbury bluffed his way down the third-base line and forced Sanchez to lose contact with the rubber on his first delivery.
Home-plate umpire Phil Cuzzi made no call as McCann and the Yankees bench protested loudly. Third-base umpire and crew chief Gerry Davis then called the balk and Ellsbury scored the tying run for the Yankees without the benefit of a hit.
Unfortunately, the late call did not please Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and he was ejected from the game by Davis.
Tanaka continued his mastery of the Tigers until J.D. Martinez laced another double with one out in the seventh inning and Yoenis Cespedes the drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch. That ended Tanaka’s day.
Left-hander Justin Wilson came on to retire pinch-hitter James McCann on a sensational diving stop by Chase Headley at third, who barely beat Cespedes with his throw to second on a fielder’s choice while preventing Martinez from scoring the tie-breaking run.
Right-hander Dellin Betances then came on to get Nick Castellanos on a foul popup to end the threat.
Ellsbury opened the eighth inning against left-hander Tom Gorzelanny (0-1) with a sinking liner in left-center and he slid into second just ahead the throw from Gose. Gardner advanced him to third on a sacrifice bunt and, after Carlos Beltran was walked intentionally to set up a potential double play, McCann hit a hard grounder that trickled off Cabrera’s glove before Kinsler retrieved it throw out McCann at first base.
However, Cabrera’s inability to field it cleanly allowed Ellsbury to score what turned out to be the decisive run.
Betances (3-0) pitched a perfect eighth to get credit for the victory and Andrew Miller came in to hurl a perfect ninth, striking out Cabrera and J.D. Martinez, to earn his sixth save in as many chances.
Tanaka was charged with one run on three hits and two walks with six strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings while Sanchez surrendered one run on one hit and four walks with eight strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.
After losing their first two series at home and one on the road, the Yankees have now won two straight road series. They also cooled off the Tigers and have now won six of their past seven games to improve their record to 9-7. The Tigers fell to 11-5.
- Between Sanchez’s pitching, the cold weather and the fact manager Joe Girardi held Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez out of the starting lineup to rest them, it was obvious the Yankees would have to be resourceful to score runs. Ellsbury provided it. He was 1-for-2 with his hustle double and two walks, a stolen base and he scored the Yankees two runs. This was Ellsbury at his very best as a leadoff hitter.
- The Tigers may have a scary offense and some good starting pitching but their bullpen is definitely their Achilles’ heel. It let them down again and lost the game for the Tigers. Meanwhile, the Yankees’ bullpen was flawless throughout the series. Betances was especially impressive on Thursday. He has shaken off a bad spring training and has his velocity back, having registered as high as 97 miles-per-hour on his fastball on Thursday. In his past five outings since April 15, Betances has yielded just two hits and a walk and struck out nine batters in six innings.
- Headley was 0-for-3 with a walk and struck out three times but his value in this game was huge. Not only did Headley save a run with his diving stop of McCann’s ground ball in the seventh, he also robbed Victor Martinez of a base hit with one out in the ninth. The Yankees may have gotten off to shaky start in the field but they have committed only one error in their past eight games.
- This is not so much a negative as it is a complaint. Girardi opted to rest both Teixeira and Rodriguez, who have combined to hit nine home runs and drive in 24 runs. I understand the reason is they are older players but the Tigers used Kinsler, Cabrera, J.D. Martinez, Victor Martinez and Cespedes after they played the night before. The Yankees had Beltran batting third and McCann in the cleanup spot. On top of that, Teixeira entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh and played first base for the final two innings. My point is that if Teixeira was going to be used anyway why not start him? Girardi got away with it because Ellsbury bailed him out. But the Yankees can’t be shocked they had only three hits in the game when they basically entered the game with one hand tied behind their back by their own manager. Rest Rodriguez or rest Teixeira but not both them, Joe. Come on!
The Tigers entered the four-game series 10-2 and they had scored 68 runs in those 12 games. The Yankees’ pitching staff allowed them only nine runs in the four games. Here is the most amazing part of it, though. The bullpen only allowed one run in the entire series. “I give our pitchers a lot of credit for fighting through the weather and keeping a really good offense down,” Teixeira told reporters. “We didn’t score a ton of runs except for last night, but we scored enough runs to win, and that’s because pitching and defense was really good this series.”
The Yankees ended their first road trip 7-3 and now the return home to open Round 1 of the Subway Series at Yankee Stadium against the New York Mets on Friday.
Right-hander Michael Pineda (2-0, 5.00 ERA) will start the series for the Yankees. Pineda defeated the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday giving up three runs on seven hits and one walk with five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.
The Mets will counter with 2014 National League Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom (2-1, 0.93 ERA), who has not surrendered a run in his past 18 1/3 innings. He shut out the Miami Marlins on Sunday on six hits and no walks with eight strikeouts over seven innings.
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.
YANKEES 5, TIGERS 2
When the Yankees acquired 25-year-old right-hander Nathan Eovaldi from the Miami Marlins they knew he would be a work in progress. After watching him throw seven-plus innings of one -run ball against the mighty Tigers on Tuesday, it appears the work is paying off.
Eovaldi (1-0) held the Tigers to a single run on eight hits and one walk while he struck four and the Yankees got a pair of solo home runs from Chris Young and Stephen Drew as New York cooled off the red-hot Tigers at rainy, windy and chilly Comerica Park.
The Yankees staked Eovaldi an early 1-0 lead in the first inning against left-hander Kyle Lobstein (1-1) when Brett Gardner drew a one-out walk and, one batter later, Mark Teixeira stroked an opposite-field double to plate Gardner.
Eovaldi, meanwhile, was buoyed by four double plays that kept the Tigers’ vaunted offense from scoring a run. In fact, the Yankees have turned seven double plays on the Tigers in the past two games.
The Yankees, however, were unable to get any more runs off Lobstein, who left after six innings yielding one run on three hits and four walks with three strikeouts.
But the Yankees were able to take advantage of a porous Tigers’ bullpen in the seventh inning as Young led off the frame with his fourth home run of the season on a 3-1 offering from left-hander Ian Krol. One batter later, Drew touched Krol for his fourth home run of the season.
Left-hander Tom Gorzelanny replaced Krol and, with two out Jacoby Ellsbury drew a walk and stole second base. Gardner then hit an infield single that deflected off Gorzelanny’s glove, allowing Ellsbury to advance to third.
Right-hander Al Alburquerque then replaced Gorzelanny and Alburquerque uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Ellsbury to score to extend the Yankees’ lead to 4-0.
The Tigers did get to Eovaldi in the bottom of the seventh as J.D. Martinez laced a one-out double, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on sacrifice fly off the bat of Yoenis Cespedes.
The Yankees added an unearned run in the ninth inning when Gardner led off with a single, advanced to second on a long fly ball to deep left-center by Alex Rodriguez and scored from second on a hard-hit ground ball into left by Brian McCann that was scored as an error on third baseman Nick Castrellanos.
The Tigers mounted a two-out rally in the bottom of the ninth with a single by Martinez and a double by Cespedes off right-hander Chris Martin. Closer Andrew Miller then entered the game and walked Castellanos and pinch-hitter Rajai Davis, which scored Martinez and brought the potential winning run to the plate.
However, Miller was able to preserve the victory by striking out Jose Iglesias to record his fifth save in as many chances.
With the victory the Yankees pulled back to the .500 mark at 7-7. The Tigers dropped to 11-4.
- Eovaldi had only one perfect inning but the double plays and strikeouts allowed him to frustrate the Tigers. The Yankees have to be encouraged by the starts they have gotten the past two nights against the Tigers from CC Sabathia and Eovaldi. They combined to yield just three runs on 15 hits and six walks while striking out nine in 15 innings of work. If Sabathia and Eovaldi do that consistently then the Yankees might have a solid rotation that will allow them to contend.
- Carlos Beltran may want to watch out for his job because Young, 31, has been absolutely sensational as a starter against right-handed pitching. Young started for Beltran in right and was 3-for-3 with a homer, a double, a single, a walk, a run scored and one RBI. In limited play, Young is 11-for-32 with four homers and nine RBIs. Beltran, 37, is batting .171 with no home runs and six RBIs.
- The Yankees turned four double plays and Teixeira turned in a gem to cut off a potential tying run in the third inning after Castellanos and Avila opened the inning with back-to-back singles off Eovaldi. After Iglesias legged out a fielder’s choice grounder that erased Avila at second, Anthony Gose hit a chopper to Teixeira at first. Teixeira froze Castellanos between third and home plate and Chase Headley tagged him before he could get back to third. Eovaldi then retired Ian Kinsler on a pop up to end the threat. Good pitching and great defense go hand-in-hand and the Yankees got both on Tuesday.
The Yankees were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position but I am not going to complain because (1) they won the game and (2) the Tigers were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The Yankees have stood toe-to-toe with what could be the best team in baseball the past two nights so I have no complaints.
The Yankees on Tuesday recalled left-hander Chasen Shreve, 24, from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and optioned right-hander Branden Pinder, 26, to Scranton. Shreve was sent down on April 11 after throwing 3 1/3 scoreless innings against the Boston Red Sox in a 19-inning loss on April 10 so that the Yankees could recall a fresh arm from Scranton, left-hander Matt Tracy. The Yankees were forced to wait a mandatory 10 days before they could recall Shreve, who now gives manager Joe Girardi a third left-hander in the bullpen.
The Yankees will continue their four-game series with the Tigers on Wednesday.
Right-hander Adam Warren (0-1, 4.82 ERA) will make his third start of the season. Warren, 27, has been a bit of a disappointment after pitching so well in spring training to earn the job as the fifth starter. He yielded four runs on six hits (two of them home runs) and two walks in four innings against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday.
The Tigers will start left-hander David Price (1-0, 0.40 ERA), who gave up one run on four hits and two walks while striking out nine in eight innings in a no-decision against the Chicago White Sox on Friday.
Game-time will be 7:08 p.m. EDT an the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
TIGERS 2, YANKEES 1
J.D. Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes stroked consecutive two-out RBI singles in the seventh inning and Alfredo Simon outdueled CC Sabathia as Detroit edged New York on Monday on a chilly, windy night at Comerica Park.
Simon (3-0) was touched for a solo home run to lead off the second inning by Mark Teixeira for Teixeira’s fourth home run of the season. That lone run stood as Simon and Sabathia matched pitch-for-pitch until the seventh.
Simon held the Yankees to seven hits, did not walk a batter and he struck out seven to lower his season ERA to 1.74.
Meanwhile, Sabathia was mowing down the Tigers and getting some timely help from his defense. Over the first six innings, Sabathia had faced the minimum despite yielding three hits and a walk.
Ian Kinsler singled in both the second and fourth innings only to be erased by double plays off the bat of Miguel Cabrera. Nick Castellanos drew a leadoff walk in the sixth but also was retired on a double play ball.
Jose Iglesias reached on a two-out single in the third inning but Sabathia caught him attempting to steal second and tagged him out in the baseline.
Sabathia also benefitted from three excellent defensive plays in the outfield. One of them by Jacoby Ellsbury and two by Brett Gardner.
Ellsbury robbed Victor Martinez with a all-out running and sliding catch on the warning track in right-center in the fifth. Gardner, meanwhile, also robbed Martinez on a running catch in left-center as he collided with the fence in the second inning. Gardner also took a single away from J.D. Martinez with a sliding catch of his line drive right after Ellsbury’s catch in the fifth inning.
In the seventh, Rajai Davis reached on a leadoff single and advanced to second on a flyout by Kinsler. After Cabrera grounded out, Sabathia intentionally walked Victor Martinez. But J.D. Martinez singled to left to score Davis and Victor Martinez scored on Cespedes’ single.
Sabathia (0-3) was charged with two runs on seven hits and three walks while he fanned five in eight innings and took the tough-luck loss.
Joakim Soria pitched a perfect ninth to earn his fifth save of the season.
The loss broke the Yankees winning streak and left them with a 6-7 record. The Tigers are now 11-2, which is the best record in baseball.
- Despite the loss, the Yankees had to be encouraged by the six shutout innings Sabathia threw against one of the best offensive ballclubs in baseball. The outfield defense and the double plays turned in the infield did help him. But Sabathia, 34, obviously has found a formula in which he can compete. He is 0-3 with a 4.35 ERA but he has pitched a whole lot better than than that. If he gets some offensive support he could have a good season.
- The defense also seems to have reversed itself from its sloppy play in the first seven games of the season. The Yankees have now played error-free baseball in their past five games and they are looking more like the standout defensive club manager Joe Girardi envisioned. Gardner and Ellsbury were exceptional covering the large expanse of Comerica Park and third baseman Chase Headley started three double plays.
- Teixeira did not hit a mistake from Simon. He actually went out and got a low sinker and drove it into the bleachers in right-center for his fourth home run of the season. It is just a shame that the Yankees could not make that run stand up. It also is a shame the Yankees could not add to that total.
- Although Ellsbury turned in an excellent defensive play, he also was a big reason why the Yankees could not come back and beat the Tigers after they were down 2-1. Headley opened the eighth with a single and he was advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Stephen Drew. Didi Gregorius singled to center to put runners on first and third and one out and chase Simon from the game. However, right-hander Joba Chamberlain retired Ellsbury on a double play. That at-bat was a killer.
- Carlos Beltran returned to the lineup after missing two games with a severe cold. But maybe he should have took another day off because he was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against Simon. Beltran, 37, is batting just .171 in the early going.
- Alex Rodriguez has been installed into the third spot in the batting order but he was no factor on Monday. He ended the evening 0-for-4 with a strikeout. After A-Rod hit two home runs and drove in four runs on Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays, he has been getting a steady diet of breaking balls out of the strike zone. The Rays walked him four times on Saturday and Sunday and Simon fed him nothing but off-speed junk on Monday.
The Yankees will continue their four-game series with the Tigers on Tuesday.
Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (0-0, 4.35 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Eovaldi has been unable to get through six innings in his first two starts despite the fact he has pitched well. Eovaldi gave up two runs on eight hits and three walks while he struck out nine against the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday.
Eovaldi will be opposed by left-hander Kyle Lobstein (1-0, 5.40 ERA), who gave up three runs on eight hits and two walks with three strikeouts in five innings in a victory against the Cleveland Indians on April 12.
Game-time will be 7:08 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 11, TIGERS 2
Alex Rodriguez and Rob Refsnyder homered to help provide right-hander Adam Warren to six runs before he even threw a pitch as New York blistered Detroit pitching on Friday at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, FL.
The Yankees greeted right-hander Alfredo Simon (1-2) with four extra-base hits in the first inning, keyed by a two-run home run off the bat of Refsnyder. Jose Pirela – hitting a sizzling .370 this spring – preceded Refsnyder with a two-run double off Simon, who was tagged for six runs on six hits and one walk over three innings.
Rodriguez launched an opposite-field shot to right-center in the fifth inning off right-hander Bruce Rondon.
Meanwhile, Warren (2-0) sailed through five innings, yielding only a leadoff home run to Yoenis Cespedes in the bottom of the fifth inning. He limited the Tigers to four hits, walked none and fanned three to stake a very strong claim on the No. 5 starter spot.
With the victory the Yankees also seemed to have set themselves as spring “road warriors.” They have scored 48 runs in nine road games in March while they have managed only 30 runs in 10 home contests.
Their overall Grapefruit League record stands at 11-7.
- After right-hander Esmil Rogers struggled in his start on Thursday it was encouraging to see Warren pitch so well against the Tigers on Friday. Warren, 27, has a tidy 2.77 ERA and has not walked a batter in 13 innings this spring. Though the decision on who will replace injured left-hander Chris Capuano in the rotation will not be made until March 28, Warren seems to be the clear leader now.
- Pirela and Refsnyder each drove in two runs in that six-run first inning and they both have had impressive springs. Pirela, 25, is an excellent line-drive hitter but he is not a real gifted fielder. He can play second, third and in the outfield. So he has some real value as utility player. Refsnyder, 23, is also a legitimate .300 hitter. But the converted outfielder is still learning second base. They both will start the season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre but you could see both of them in Yankee Stadium this season.
- Rodriguez, 39, has avoided off-field drama and played hard this spring. It is beginning to pay off as A-Rod may be winning the primary DH role. He is hitting .269 with two home runs and three RBIs in 11 games. But the real indicator that Rodriguez is progressing at the plate is the four walks he has drawn as opposed to only five strikeouts. That means the right-handed slugger is seeing the ball well.
If a team scores six runs in the first inning and cruises to a 11-2 victory there hardly can be anything to criticize. It is nice to see the Yankees score 11 runs in each of their past two road games. It would be nice if they would score more often at home.
Backup infielder Brendan Ryan made his spring debut for the Yankees at shortstop and he doubled to drive in Brett Gardner in the first inning and later scored on Brian McCann’s RBI single. He ended the day 1-for-3 after five innings. Ryan, 32, has been sidelined by a mid-back strain he sustained while lifting weights just before the start of the exhibition season. Barring any setbacks, Ryan will be the backup middle infielder behind shortstop Didi Gregorius and second baseman Stephen Drew. . . . The Yankees trimmed their spring roster of five players on Friday including outfielder Tyler Austin. The team optioned Austin, right-hander Dan Burawa and left-hander Jose De Paula to Scranton. Outfielder Mason Williams was optioned to Double-A Trenton. Meanwhile, right-hander Wilking Rodriguez was reassigned to minor-league camp. That leaves the Yankees with 48 players on their spring roster.
The Yankees return home to George M. Steinbrenner Field to play host to the Houston Astros on Saturday.
Right-hander Michael Pineda will start for the Yankees hoping to continue what has been a very impressive spring. Pineda, 26, is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two starts. He has only given up one hit and one walk while he has fanned six in five innings.
The Astros will counter with their ace left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who is 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA in two starts.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by MLB Radio through KBME in Houston.
Welcome back to one of the best New York Yankees team blogs available on the web. Because of some circumstances beyond our control this site was non-operational for the past eight months. There was a thought of suspending the site entirely. But because of some 52 years devoted to the best franchise in sports history we felt we owed our fans the ability to stay up to date with the team on a daily basis. It is with that renewed commitment we will embark at looking at the team’s prospects for 2015.
The New York Yankees have faced two significant championship droughts in their most recent history.
The first was the end of the so-called Mickey Mantle Era in 1965 that lasted until Billy Martin managed the team to a loss to the Big Red Machine in the 1976 World Series. The 10 intervening years saw the team flounder with players such as Bobby Murcer, Roy White, Horace Clarke and Mel Stottlemyre.
George Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees in 1973 and he immediately rebuilt the front office with general manager Gabe Paul, who wrangled trades for players such as Lou Piniella, Graig Nettles, Chris Chambliss and Mickey Rivers. The Steinbrenner money brought in free agents such as Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage and Catfish Hunter, which was added to a minor-league system that had already produced Thurman Munson and Ron Guidry.
The teams of 1977 and 1978 battled to consecutive World Series titles over the rival Los Angeles Dodgers, restoring the Yankees back to the pinnacle of baseball’s elite that they had not experienced since 1962. But this success proved to be short-lived.
During the strike-shortened 1981 season the Yankees qualified for the playoffs and faced the Dodgers again in the World Series. But they lost and the team soon again drifted into mediocrity. The team was unable to make the playoffs again until 1996 – a playoff drought of an astounding 15 years.
Through a parade of managers and general managers and an even longer list of failed free agents and personnel mistakes the Yankees rebuilt in the early 1990s through a farm system that very quickly produced Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera.
Meanwhile the team was bolstered by the trade of Roberto Kelly to the Cincinnati Reds for Paul O’Neill, the acquisition of first baseman Tino Martinez from the Seattle Mariners and the signings of players like Wade Boggs, David Cone, David Wells and Cuban star Orlando Hernandez.
Steinbrenner fired manager Buck Showalter after a very painful 1995 loss to the Seattle Mariners in the American League Division Series and hired Joe Torre. The rest was history as the Yankees managed to win four World Series over the next five seasons, a run of titles that has been unmatched in the modern era of baseball. In fact, Torre took the Yankees to the playoffs from 1996 until his firing after the 2007 loss to the Cleveland Indians in the American League Division Series.
Though the Yankees returned to prominence under manager Joe Girardi in the 2009 season with a World Series victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, the team has steadily declined. Age forced the retirements of all the “Core Four” (Jeter, Pettitte, Posada and Rivera) and the performance declined from such former stars as CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira.
The team that enters the 2015 season is one that has age, long-term money commitments to fading players and a new mix of players that had to be procured on the cheap because of those commitments. The farm system has not produced a regular starter since Brett Gardner came up six years ago. The pitching staff has question marks all over the starting staff and the bullpen has lost its closer from from the past three seasons: 2012 (Rafael Soriano), 2013 (Rivera) and 2014 (David Robertson).
How did this happen?
Well, one reason is the declining health and eventual death of Steinbrenner. “The Boss” ran this club with a tough determination to make the franchise a jewel of Major League Baseball. The team had to win or managers or general managers went. Players had to perform or they would be discarded for better players. It was not always a successful process but the Yankees largely have been contenders for so long it is hard for fans to remember the bad stretches that began in 1965 and 1982.
The 4-0 loss to the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 American League Division Series may have marked an end of another chapter of success and the beginning of another long series of bad seasons.
It appears that the 2013 season may be one of those years like 1965 and 1982 and 2015 could be an extension of that futility. Transition with the Yankees is never pretty.
Another reason the Yankees are in this position is because Steinbrenner’s hand-picked successor Steve Swindal got caught up in a messy DUI incident in 2008 and then later a divorce from Steinbrenner’s daughter Jennifer. Swindal was bought out from the team and Steinbrenner’s sons Hank and Hal took the reins.
There was a very good reason that the elder Steinbrenner had selected Swindal instead of his own sons to run the team. Swindal was the most knowledgeable baseball man and conformed to Steinbrenner’s desire for excellence at all costs. The Steinbrenner sons did not have that same ability and the result has been obvious after the 2009 season.
After the team had invested millions in free agents such as Teixeira, Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, the team decided to hold general manager Brian Cashman to an austere budget to pare the Yankees payroll under the MLB’s salary cap limit that forced the Yankees to have to pay a tax.
From 2010 through the 2013 free-agent signing seasons the Yankees allowed all major free agents to go without much of an effort. Even Cuban and Japanese imports such as Yoenis Cespedes and Yu Darvish barely got a cursory look. The team was determined to either trade, use farm talent or sign cheap free-agent bargains. The team has fallen under the heft of its expensive guaranteed contracts and there is one in particular that has weighed on this team like an albatross.
That was the misguided decision in 2007 to re-sign then free-agent third baseman Rodriguez to a 10-year contract. The team still owes Rodriguez $60 million over the next three seasons despite the fact that age 39 he has not played more than 137 games in a season since 2007. Injuries, controversies and dabbling with performance enhancing drugs has basically reduced A-Rod to a mere shell of what he once was.
The Yankees have to hope he can regain some semblance of that magic because they are on the hook for his contract for three more seasons. Though Rodriguez may be planning to apologize to Yankee fans for his season-long suspension in 2014, he owes the fans an awful lot more.
If this team really does perform as badly as it looks as if they will in 2015 it will mostly be the fault of the Steinbrenner brothers, Cashman and him. It hard to see the sense of providing 10 years of big guaranteed money to someone who has always felt he is above baseball and the rules that govern it.
But here the Yankees are and no one expects Rodriguez to retire with $60 million coming his way. He will gladly hit .210 with 10 homers and 42 RBIs as long as those paychecks keep rolling in. His presence also poisons the clubhouse for the other 24 players on the roster. It is pretty obvious that A-Rod will not be out having beers with Sabathia or Teixiera. More likely he and his entourage will move in its own circles.
It is shame that a fine manager like Girardi will likely lose his job if this team plummets in the standings because none of this is his fault. For the past two seasons he has been patching this lineup with duct tape when it lost players like Rodriguez, Teixeira, Jeter and Sabathia for long stretches of time. It is miracle the team has contended at all the past two seasons given their weakened roster.
Though Girardi is virtually blameless the same can’t be said for Cashman, who is the longest serving GM in Yankee history.
He was given permission to sign free agents last season even at the risk of busting past the salary cap limits. But the whole key to Yankees 2014 season was the re-signing of second baseman Robinson Cano, who was the heir apparent to Jeter’s mantle as team leader and was the best player on this aging team. But Cashman chose to play hardball with Cano instead of treating him as a respected player.
When the Dodgers and Detroit Tigers looked elsewhere for help at second base last winter, Cashman figured that the market for Cano had dried up. So instead of negotiating Cano off his 10-year, $325 million request he went out an signed Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year, $275 million deal. Cano was livid because placing his numbers next to Ellsbury’s was an obvious mismatch weighted towards Cano. He felt he was easily worth $325 million in comparison.
He also was right. Ellsbury is a fine player but he is not in the same league with Cano.
So Cano shopped himself to the Mariners and they felt he was worth the price.
Cashman’s answer to Cano’s signing: He opted to cave in to Carlos Betran’s demand for a three-year deal and he filled Cano’s spot at second with former Baltimore Orioles star Brian Roberts.
The result was very ugly. The 37-year-old Beltran developed a painful bone spur in his right elbow in spring training and he ended up playing 109 games, hitting .233 with 15 home runs and 49 RBIs. Meanwhile, the 37-year-old Roberts played in 91 games and never could get even close to what he used to be. He ended up being released in midseason after hitting a woeful .237 with five homers and 21 RBIs.
Cano, meanwhile, hit .314 for a Mariners club that nearly made the playoffs.
Cashman’s miscalculation has placed the Yankees in a position where they enter the 2015 season with 31-year-old Stephen Drew as their starting second baseman after he hit .162 with seven homers and 26 RBIs with the Yankees and Red Sox last season.
So when the Yankees begin their complete fall off the cliff in 2015 it actually should be Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner who go and not Girardi. But I am not sure that is the way it likely will play out. I can see Steinbrenner firing Girardi and keeping Cashman. That is how those long championship droughts are born. Bad choices and bad luck equal bad results. (Did Casey Stengel say that?)
There will be some bright spots on this team. After all, the team is not completely devoid of talent.
It appears that Dellin Betances could be the real deal if he can maintain his control as a full-time closer. The signing of left-hander Andrew Miller gives the Yankees a second option as a closer and fills the void the team felt when they let Boone Logan walk in 2014.
The signing of Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka proved to be a very good decision. He was exactly what the Yankees hoped he would be in the United States until a small ligament tear was found in his right elbow in July. The Yankees are hoping rest and rehabilitation will prevent him from a more serious tear that will basically shelve him for two seasons. They are rolling the dice on it anyway.
It also was apparent that if Michael Pineda had not missed most of the season with a shoulder muscle injury that he would have established himself as a rising young right-hander.
But the rest of the rotation is a litany of question marks, hopes and prayers. The bullpen has been completely reshuffled and it is not clear what pitchers Girardi will have pitching ahead of Miller and Betances.
The offense? Don’t ask.
Recently a composite ranking of fantasy baseball players came out. Ellsbury was ranked No. 22, which makes him a third-round selection. The next highest Yankee position player on that list was Gardner at 109, which is an 11th-round choice. That is an grim indicator of how much the Yankees offense has fallen on hard times.
They require bounce back seasons from Teixeira, Rodriguez and Beltran as well as for second-year starting catcher Brian McCann, who stumbled his way through a 2014 season in which he batted .232 with 23 homers and 75 RBIs.
The biggest news of all is that for the first time since the 1995 season the Yankees will be without Jeter at shortstop. Because there was no one in the system groomed to replace him (Cashman again), the Yankees acquired 25-year-old Didi Gregorius.
His reputation is that he has a great glove, great range and a developing bat. His big weakness is left-hand pitching so he likely will have to share the position with great-field and no-hit Brendan Ryan, yet another player over 30.
The Yankees also have to hope Drew can recapture his magic at the plate and that third baseman Chase Headley is better than a .243 hitter that he was with the Padres and Yankees last season.
The bench has some veterans, of course.
Former Pirate Garrett Jones has been added as a backup first baseman, right-fielder and designated hitter. The Yankees also retained Chris Young, who is a poor man’s version of Alfonso Soriano with even more strikeouts.
If you think this sounds bad I am actually trying to sugarcoat some of it.
But, hey, the Kansas City Royals made the World Series last season and who could have predicted that? Of course, they did it with a team full of young players and an exceptional bullpen. They Yankees currently have neither of those two ingredients.
But I can say that Girardi will select the best 25 players this spring. He also will put out the best lineup he can on a daily basis. You can also count on him getting the team to outperform expectations as they have the past two seasons.
Whether it will be enough to win the American League East or qualify as a wild card is an open question.
In the coming days I will examine the players more in depth and take a look forward at spring training to go over who the Yankees will likely keep on the roster and what young players are poised to make a splash for the team in coming years.
I hope you enjoy the analysis. All I can say is I am glad to be back and let’s get ready to play ball!
YANKEES 2, ATHLETICS 1
The last time the Yankees won a game, Masahiro Tanaka pitched eight innings to defeat the Minnesota Twins 3-1 on May 31 on his way to being named May’s American League Pitcher of the Month. So on Thursday all Tanaka did was pitch six gutty innings to defeat Oakland to begin June.
Tanaka weathered a home run from the second batter he faced, John Jaso, in yielding five hits and one walk while striking out four as New York ended its four-game skid to edge Oakland in front of a paid crowd of 44,346 at Yankee Stadium.
The A’s deliberately tried to press Tanaka (9-1) in the fourth and fifth innings after they could manage just Jaso’s homer off the right-hander. They decided to take pitches until they got to two strikes and shortened their swings on two strikes to foul off tough pitches.
Tanaka was forced to throw 26 pitches in both the fourth and fifth innings. The A’s did manage to post a pair of two-out singles in the fourth by Brandon Moss and Yoenis Cespedes before Jed Lowrie struck out on nine pitches. In the fifth Tanaka yielded a leadoff single to Stephen Vogt and a two-out walk to Coco Crisp but Jaso popped out weakly to end the threat.
The strategy was clear: Get Tanaka’s pitch count up to attack him in a weakened condition or force him out of the game so the Athletics could attack the Yankees’ bullpen, which has been leaking like a sieve during the Yankees’ seven-game homestand.
But the strategy did not work.
Tanaka left after 104 pitches and six innings with the lead.
Dellin Betances, Adam Warren and David Robertson did not yield a run in the final three innings to give the Yankees a 2-5 record during the homestand. Both of the victories were Tanaka’s.
However, both Warren and Robertson had to complete their innings with the potential tying run standing on third base as they recorded the final out.
Warren began the eighth by giving up singles to Crisp and Jaso and even uncorked a wild pitch to allow both runners to advance. But he escaped any damage by striking out Josh Donaldson, retiring Moss on a liner to right and fanning Cespedes.
Robertson had to earn his 13th save in 15 tries this season after Vogt muscled a bloop one-out single to center and pinch-runner Craig Gentry stole second base.
Alberto Callaspo hit a hard grounder that ticked off Robertson’s foot and bounded toward first baseman Mark Teixeira. Teixeira alertly fielded the ball and was able to retire Callaspo with a toss to Robertson covering first base.
“I was probably the happiest guy in the stadium that the ball hit me,” Robertson told reporters after the game. “I felt even more fortunate that we get an out of it.”
Robertson then finished the game by striking out pinch-hitter Derek Norris.
Tanaka and the relievers were working within a slim margin of error because the Yankees’ offense again sputtered against left-hander Drew Pomeranz (5-3).
The Yankees tied the game in the bottom of the second when Brian McCann singled and reached second when the left-fielder, Moss, allowed the ball to scoot past him to the wall for an error. Alfonso Soriano, who had been mired in an 0-for-16 slide with eight strikeouts dating back to May 25, then delivered an RBI single to right-center that scored McCann without a throw.
Brett Gardner later gave the Yankees a lead they ultimately would not relinquish with a leadoff home run in the third inning on Pomeranz’s first offering. The home run, a no-doubter that landed in the second deck in the right-field stands, was his fourth of the season and his first since May 17.
From that point on, the Yankees did absolutely nothing with Pomeranz for the rest of the afternoon.
The 25-year-old left-hander did not allow another base-runner until the sixth when Jacoby Ellsbury drew a one-out walk. The Yankees only “hit” off Pomeranz after the Gardner’s blast came with two out in the seventh when Crisp lost Soriano’s fly ball to center in the sun and it was scored a double.
Pomeranz was charged with two runs on six hits and one walk and he struck out seven in seven innings of work.
However, he could not outduel Tanaka, who lowered his American League-leading ERA from 2.06 to 2.02.
“I don’t think it was my best performance for the season,” Tanaka told reporters through a translator. “But given the fact that our team was in a little bit of a funk, and that we were facing one of the best teams in the league right now, I’m really happy to contribute to the team’s win.”
With the victory the Yankees climbed back over the .500 mark to 30-29. They are third place in the American League East and they trail the first-place Toronto Blue Jays by six games. The A’s are 37-23.
- Tanaka has bristled at being called the team’s ace but he is proving in his first season in the major leagues that he is every bit the ace the staff has needed. “A true ace stops losing streaks. There’s not another guy we want out there after losing a few in a row than Tanaka,” Teixeira told reporters after the game. The Yankees are 11-1 in his starts and it is hard to imagine where they would be without him.
- Soriano’s two hits, even though one was dubious, hopefully will get him out of one of his worst slumps in his 14 full major-league seasons. The Yankees always knew that the 38-year-old outfielder was a streaky hitter but Soriano has not really had a sustained hot streak this season. He is batting .233 with six homers and 2o RBIs a third of the way into the season. That is not what the Yankees were expecting from him.
- There also may be hope that Gardner will get going again after slumping from May 22 through June 3 on a 9-for-48 (.188) slide. Gardner finished the final two games of the Oakland series 3-for-9. This team-wide hitting slump has been very frustrating to manager Joe Girardi and the pitching staff because it left them feeling they have to be perfect in every inning to every batter on every pitch. It is hard to pitch that way.
Why dwell on the obvious offensive woes. Let’s chalk this one up as a victory thanks to Tanaka and the bullpen. The Yankees just have to hope the bats wake up before the Blue Jays run away with the division.
The Yankees did get one potentially big bat back in the lineup when Carlos Beltran was activated from the disabled list prior to the game and he was inserted into the lineup into the fifth spot at designated hitter. Beltran, who missed 21 games while dealing with a bone spur in his right elbow, was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in the game. To make room for Beltran on the roster the Yankees designated for assignment infielder Scott Sizemore. . . . Ellsbury had a two-run home run in the first inning taken away when a video review indicated that the ball struck about three inches below the top of the wall in right-field. Instead the umpires awarded him a double and placed Derek Jeter, who had singled with one out, at third base. Teixeira lined out and Beltran struck out swinging and the Yankees did not score in the inning.
The Yankees are off to Kansas City to open a wraparound four-game weekend series with the Royals beginning on Friday.
Rookie right-hander Chase Whitley (0-0, 2.37 ERA) will try to earn his first major-league victory in his fifth start of the season. Whitley held the Twins to one run on five hits while he struck out six in five innings on Sunday before Robertson blew his second save of the season and the Yankees lost the game.
The Royals will start veteran right-hander Jeremy Guthrie (2.5, 4.00 ERA) who is 0-5 in his past 10 starts. Guthrie gave up two runs on eight hits and two walks while fanning five in seven innings in a loss to the Blue Jays on Sunday.
Game-time will be 8:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.